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Of Gods and Swords

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Kingdom of Northumbria (present day, August 15, 793 A.D.

 

 

The king sat at his study, busily scratching away at the parchment before him, ignoring the cramping of his writing hand as he pleaded with the neighboring kingdoms to join with him against their common enemy- the Vikings.

           

            To the Kings of Mercia, East Anglia, Bernicia and Deira; I write to you as a fellow Christian king, asking that our differences may be cast away so that we may take up arms against the Devil, for he has made his face known to me and my people. I fear that I am just the first stop on his quest for world destruction and implore you all to hear my plea.

            The Devil came by three ships upon my northeast shore, carrying with him his demonic heathen followers- brutal, pagan men. Their souls were as black as the night, their eyes as hollow as their hearts. The pagans marched on Lindisfarne, our most holy monastery, defiling our holy church with their acts of violence, slaughtering men of God and blasphemously removing our most sacred relics from His holy ground.

            My Lords, I beseech thee, as men of God, ourselves, is it not our duty to stand for the Word of God and His people? Should we not take up arms against the Devil and do God’s work, casting this wickedness from our shores? The Devil comes swiftly upon the waters and I fear we have not seen the last of the Northmen. Join me, my fellow brothers of Christ, for it is in Christ Jesus that we take up our arms against these sinners. For it is written: If God be with us, who could surely stand against us?

            Come to my table and drink from my cup so that we may work together to rid our lands from these devils. Bring your wives and your children so that we may all present a united front as God-fearing men. We will feast and drink for what lies ahead is surely our the Day of Judgment.

 

            May the Lord bless and keep you,

            King Lucian Garroway of Northumbria

 

Lucian, intimately known as Luke by his most intimate relationships, leaned back in his hard, wooden chair. He pinched the bridge of his nose with two fingers of his left hand while the right hand laid his quill down gently, the weight of his fevered writing heavy on his shoulders. If the kings of the neighboring countries did not join arms with him against the pagans, all would be lost. Now more than ever, the shaky alliances of the four main kingdoms needed to join together in complete solidarity against these foreign invaders or their way of life would be pillaged and plundered just as Lindisfarne had.

“Alaric,” Luke called, waiting for his second-in-command and best friend to come through the doors of his study. He knew that Alaric had been standing guard outside his door, a silent sentinel, protecting his King from any threat, foreign or domestic.

When Alaric quietly opened the door and walked into the study, Luke gave his friend a small smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes, “Alaric, you are my most trusted and loyal servant,” he began and at the slight bow of Alaric’s head in thanks, Luke continued, “We have fought and bled for each other on the field of battle. You are like a brother to me.” He put a strong hand on Alaric’s shoulder, gazing at him fiercely in the eyes, “You are the only one who I trust enough to carry out this God given mission has placed on my heart.”

“If it is my King asking, I will obey as it is my duty,” Alaric said, his deep voice genuine and steady, “However, if it’s my friend asking, I will gladly lay down my life in his service.” He removed his sword from its sheath and held it out to his king, “As God as my witness, this sword is your’s Lucian Garroway, King of Northumbria.” He laid down one knee and bowed his head in respect for his majesty.

Never one to show his emotions easily, Luke chuckled, rolling his eyes at his friend’s overly zealous form of loyalty. “Get up, my friend,” he said heaving the bulky male off the floor. “For Heaven’s sake Alaric, age hasn’t done you any favors lately has it,” he breathed, almost breaking a sweat under the weight of his best friend laden down with his cast iron armor.

Alaric gave a good laugh, “Alas it has not; I was praying you would help a friend upon his feet, I’m afraid my legs are not as young and athletic as they once were.” He cleared his throat after a genuine smile was shared between the two tired, old men, “Now, what is it that I can do for my king?”

Rolling his eyes once more, Luke walked around his desk and pushed the parchment he had been writing on towards Alaric to read. He watched as the smile on Alaric’s face turned from unburdened happiness to one of solemn silence, a frown burrowing into his forehead. When he looked up from the parchment, Luke held his breath waiting for Alaric’s thoughts on his willingness to ask for aid of the other Kings.

“Are you sure we can rely on our neighbors to help us against the Vikings, Luke,” he asked, again skimming the letter in his hand. He looked back up at his king and sighed seeing his own worry looking back at him. “Alright, I will leave at first light and ride to the other kingdoms in your name, for it is my sworn duty as your second in command. But as your friend, I caution you to be weary of these men, my Lord, for we know the limits of a man’s loyalty and his quickness to place his own gains above the lives of others.”

Luke thought about this and nodded his head in agreement, “You are certainly right about that, Alaric, however, we have no other choice. The Devil is here now and if we expect to survive his army of darkness, then we must put our faith in the Lord and take up our sword with our Christian brethren.”

Alaric bowed his head and swiveled on his heal, eager to plan his departure for the morning and to be on his way in haste as time was not on their side. As he opened the door, he stopped in his tracks as a woman on the other side was raising her hand to knock on the wood- Queen Jocelyn.

She had stunningly, soft, fiery red hair, a nod to her Irish decent and piercing green eyes that no man could resist falling for. She was a remarkably strong woman and was a highly respected and beloved Queen by all accounts.

“Your Grace,” Alaric said bowing his head before he swiftly walked around her figure and down the hall.

She watched his retreating figure down the hall, a nervousness creeping into her bones as she turned to her husband’s own worried face. The weight of the crown was slumping his shoulder and making the dark shadows under his eyes stand starkly against the whiteness of his skin.

“Luke?” she inquired softly, coming quietly into the room, closing the door off to listening ears. It was only in her presence, that his posture became fully relaxed, the years of youth that being king had taken away, would once more return to him as she circled him in her strong, yet feminine arms.

“What is it, my love?” she asked, rubbing her hands soothingly up and down his powerful biceps. He placed his hands on her hips and drug her to him, placing a soft kiss on her head as he held her in his arms.

“Our judgment is here, Joss,” he said her shortened name with a mix of sadness and love, “And it is my duty as the King to protect my people, to protect our daughter from these vile men who walk our shores.”

Jocelyn lifted her eyes to her husband and placed her hands on his neck, cupping his head in a lover’s embrace, “Through divine providence, God chose you, Lucian Garroway, to lead His people and now, it seems, He has chosen you to lead His army against His enemy. Will you deny Your Lord his commandment?”

“Never,” Luke whispered, looking down into her loving eyes. He brought his lips down lightly onto her’s, savoring the sweet perfume that adorned her lips. “How did I get so lucky to have such a woman in my life?”

Jocelyn smiled warmly up into her husband’s face, “Ever since I was a little girl, I prayed to God that I would one day find a man who loved me as an equal and when our paths crossed, I knew my prayers had been answered.”

They shared a smile with one another as only lover’s could and just let the presence of each other’s company soothe them. It was Luke who first broke the tender moment with his tempered volume.

“Where is Clarissa?” he asked, a light in his deep brown eyes always catching when he spoke of his daughter.

The Queen laughed, “You know our daughter, Luke, she can never sit still long enough to finish her studies. I heard your sister, Amatis, yelling her name, threatening to lock her in her room forever if she didn’t return to her lessons.”

Luke chuckled, his sister had a hand full with his free spirited daughter who often reminded him of his own youthful days, never wanting to waste a beautiful day cooped up in the castle listening to old drones speaking of the days past, hoping he would get some sort of lesson out of their boring stories. He supposed Clarissa was a lot like him in the fact that they were souls of action. But he feared for his daughter, for society was not ready for such a bold and care free woman. Women were to be seen and not heard from unless spoken to by another man, but Clarissa was anything but calm and submissive.

“I hope she is allowed to remain a child for as long as possible, Joss,” he said, staring into nothingness over the top of his wife’s head, “For in our world, we are cruelly ripped from our childhood fantasies and thrown into the world of chaos and hurt. I wish to be able to protect her from it always, but alas, one day she will be forced to grow up and I am powerless to stop it.”

Jocelyn nodded her head in saddened agreement and laid her head on her husband’s chest. They both stood there, arms linked around each other, soaking in this brief moment of togetherness as they knew that in the days to come, no such moments could be spared. Their world, their way of life was being threatened and it would take all their time and effort to keep the piece among the kingdoms as they waged a war against the Vikings.

 

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

 

A week later in the Kingdom of Mercia

 

King Valentine Morgenstern of Mercia sat with the hand written letter from King Garroway in his clutches. He silently read the letter as the knight, formerly known as “Alaric,” second-in-command for the King of Northumbria, waited for his decision regarding the message of the letter.

Valentine could feel the tension in the room and had to chuckle inwardly. He knew that Alaric did not trust him and the feeling was mutual, both men knew what the other way capable of, still, Valentine recognized the threat of the pagan worshippers and took King Garroway’s pleas for aid seriously.

Valentine looked over the parchment in his hand and looked to the heavily muscled man in front of him, his long, gray hair showing his age and yet an air of wisdom that so few could pull off. He regarded him with some thought before he straightened himself up in his chair and directed his next words to the knight.

“I will acknowledge King Garroway’s plead for a mutual laying down of arms with each other as it is my duty to protect good Christian men and women, here or anywhere.” He stood up, handing the parchment back to Alaric as he continued, “My son, Sebastian, and I will accompany you back to your home where I may speak personally with King Garroway. We will feast and talk of the battle plans to destroy the heathens that threaten those that dare to stand against us.”

Satisfied with his decision, Valentine began ordering his servants around, commanding that the best food and drink to be packed for their journey the Northumbria.

“And fetch my son,” he called out to the last of the servants scurrying out of the thrown room after the final of his commands were shouted. He turned once more to Alaric and looked at him with a smirk on his face, “I am assuming that Jocelyn will also be in attendance to welcome me and my son into her home?”

Alaric schooled his features to betray neither his anger at this foreign king for showing such disrespect for his Queen nor the disgust he felt when he saw the openly lustful gaze in his eyes when King Morgenstern said her name, as if they were intimate with each other in a past life.

“Yes, my Lord,” he uttered between clenched teeth, “Both the King and the Queen will welcome you into their home as their guest,” he emphasized the key words, hoping that his meaning was clear to the foreign king not to cause any unwanted trouble.

“She could have been mine, you know,” Valentine muttered, his eyes fixed on days past, “I would have given her anything she ever wanted; our children would have been beautiful.”

At Alaric’s clearing of his throat, he was thrown from his reminiscing and focused on the present, “Alas, we better get going. I am eager to see how Northumbrians welcome their guests!”

Alaric followed the king out of the lobby, his jaw tight with fury and his stomach a little nauseous in being in the company of such a man. King Morgenstern was known for his fanaticism when it came to ruling his people and dealing with his enemies. Often ruling with a cruel hand and a harsh heart, he found it easier to rule as a feared monarch more than one that was loved.

It was said that his only son was an exact image of his father, growing up without a mother’s unique love, as she had died in childbirth. Sebastian, Prince of Mercia, was following in his father’s footsteps and even developing his own unique way of ruling. He used the emotions of men and women to gain what he wanted, knowing that no one would cross the son of a king, and he reveled in the power.

Alaric kept quiet as he watched the servants of the house bustle with movement, silently praying that the war would come to an end swiftly in their favor so that King Valentine’s support would no longer be needed and that he and his son would return to their dark corner of the world and not bother them again.

After a week’s worth of planning, Alaric, Valentine and his son, Sebastian, mounted their horses, ready to start on their journey to see the King of Northumbria.

 

 

~*~*~*~*~*~

 

The King and Queen of Northumbria stood up as the doors to their throne room opened. The priests and council in the room parted, allowing the guests, led by Alaric, to pass them through the middle of the room, ending just in front of the dais.

“Your Majesty and your Grace,” Alaric spoke, his voice firm and steady, “I present to you, King Morgenstern and Prince Sebastian of Mercia.” He bowed his head and moved to the side of the dias, to the Luke’s right hand side. The two Kings studied each other for a moment, each calculating the trust they could afford where the other was concerned.

Putting aside his prejudice, King Garroway proceeded to step down from the dais and greet King Morgenstern, his wife following him a couple of steps behind, as it was expected of her.

“King Morgenstern, Prince Sebastian, welcome to Northumbria, I trust your travels were without troubles?” He stuck out his hand in a welcoming gesture and shook King Morgenstern’s hand as he too let out his hand.

“Please, Lucian, call me Valentine, after all, are we not equals?” he said, grinning. When Lucian nodded in agreement, he continued, “Rest assured, your Majesty, Alaric was an excellent guide. Never was their a doubt in my mind about my and my son’s safety while in his care; I am jealous of the fierce loyalty he has for you,” he smirked looking at the knight.

“Yes, he is a true friend of the crown,” replied Luke, he motioned towards his wife, “You remember, my wife, Queen Jocelyn.” He watched as Valentine’s eyes slid from his best friend to his wife, not at all unaware of the sultry look in his eye as he gazed over her finger.

“How could I forget such a beautiful woman?” he said, his eyes never leaving her’s. He took her had in his and kissed it tenderly. He felt the Queen stiffen under his touch and he laughed to himself.

“My husband and I wish to welcome you into our home,” Queen Jocelyn said, her tone not betraying the disgust she felt towards this man, nor the shiver running up and down her spin at his touch. “I hope that you found your accommodations pleasing?” She would not allow this scoundrel of a man to ruin her good naturedness, especially not in font of her subjects who looked to their Queen for poise and gentleness.

“Yes, my lady,” Valentine said, bowing his head in thankfulness, “I am sure my son and I will be quite comfortable here.” He let his eyes rake her form in front of him once more before he turned to Luke once more.

“Where is your daughter, Lucian? I’ve heard many tales of her beauty,” he grinned, “Something she must have gotten from her mother, eh?” he said jokingly.

Luke just grunted, “She’s out in the courtyard with her childhood friend, Simon. She doesn’t much care for all this pomp and circumstance. I’m sure she’ll be around for supper.”

“Beautiful and willful, a dangerous mix, Lucian,” he said, letting his eyes swerve over to the Queen’s, whose green eyes held a fiery inferno, but her lips remained sealed.

Valentine turned to his son, Sebastian who had remained quiet this whole time, surveying the exchange between the two kings and making notes to himself for future reference.

“Son, why don’t you introduce yourself to the princess, while the grownups talk business,” he laid a hand on his son’s shoulders and gave it a squeeze for him to not disobey him. Sebastian nodded in acceptance of the command and bowed his head to the foreign King and Queen. He turned on his heel and left the room, eager to find this princess whose beauty was foretold as beyond anyone’s imaginings.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*

 

Clary wiped her forehead with the back of her hand, the sun beating down on her bathing her in sheen of sweat, but she loved it. She took a step forward and thrusted her wooden sword out, connecting with her foe as the wooden planks clashed against each other.

“You’re getting tired, Simon,” she teased, unyielding from her offensive attack. She made him recede a couple of step before he paried and had her on the defensive once more.”

“Never!” he shouted, delighting in his brief victory over his red headed, best friend. He heard her giggle and it stopped his heart, momentarily taking him off guard. This allowed her to get the best of him as she maneuvered her sword against his hand, knocking his weapon to the ground.

“Kneel,” Clary commanded, pointing the tip of the wooden sword, playfully, at the center of his neck. Simon bowed his head in defeat, sinking to the ground on his knees. Clary giggled again, but quickly cleared her throat and turned her grin into a frown.

“You know what I want to here, Simon,” she said in a low voice, sending playful shivers up and down Simon’s spine. He took in a shaky breath and said the only words to guarantee his survival.

“I, Simon Lewis of Northumbria, do hereby surrender my life to Princess Clarissa Garroway of Northumbria, for she is both beautiful and the victor here today,” he smiled up at her and watched as her lips turned up at the sides.

Clary finally let the laughter bubbling in her chest out and fell to the ground in a fit of laughter. Simon rolled his eyes when her laughter didn’t stop after a while, but couldn’t help his own chuckles escaping him as he watched her in her fit of happiness.

“Simon Lewis,” she said, shakily around the laughter still threatening to overwhelm her, “I hereby pardon you of your crimes and order you to a lifetime of servitude.” She placed her small wrists on his hips and turned her nose up towards the sky. Simon just groaned and fell back against the earth with his back against the ground.

“A fate worse than death, the horror,” he moaned earning another giggle from the redhead.

A slow clapping from a short distance sounded and both of their heads swiveled in the direction of the on comer. Quickly they both rose to their feet, Clary had to straighten her dress as it was hanging off of her unceremoniously from her rough activity just now.

The newcomer let his eyes rake her figure appreciately and grinned down at her when he stood just feet from her.

“You must be Princess Clarissa,” he said, his voice low and sultry. He took her hand in hind and placed a chaste kiss on top of it, “I am Prince Sebastian of Mercia, a guest of you mother and father’s.”

The boy was beautiful, Clary’s mind wondered, he stood probably a good foot above her head and had a slim, yet powerful frame about him. He had hair a light as a dove’s feather, but his deep black eyes made him look dangerous and unpredictable. Clary swallowed seeing that his eyes were only focused on her.

Clary tugged her hand out of his grasp, discreetly wiping his smear of saliva on the side of her dress. This wasn’t unnoticed by Sebastian and he couldn’t help but chuckle inwardly.

“I’m Simon,” the other boy said, outstretching his hand to greet the older boy. He looked to be about fifteen, where Clary and him were only thirteen years old. Simon coward behind Clary as Sebastian’s onyx eyes turned upon his.

“Run along, Simon,” he said, spitting out his name, “I came to speak with Clarissa.” Before Clary could argue, he held up his hand, silencing her in astonishment at his brash movement, and added, “Alone.”

Simon looked helplessly towards Clary and seeing her nod in acceptance, he scurried away towards the castle. He could tell that the newcomer was bad news and went in search of his adopted mother, Amatis, to rescue his best friend from this Sebastian character.

Clary watched with saddened eyes as her friend disappeared into the castle and instantly grew pissed at someone, a guest no doubt, treating her friend with such disrespect. When she had turned her attention back to Sebastian she was caught off guard as he handed her the wooden sword that once had been in Simon’s hand.

“Let’s see how you fight a real man, Princess,” he said coyly a step back, preparing himself to spar with her. The anger still bubbling in her chest and exhilarated at the chance to knock the smirk of this boy’s face at the forefront of her mind, Clary let herself smile and took her stance.

“I’m not going to be a lady about it,” she quipped.

“I wouldn’t think so,” he said before he made the first move. He had her immediately on the defensive, his advanced techniques forcing her to concede her ground to him. It took all her concentration to match his blows and her arms were getting weak from the force of his strikes, but she used the angry fire within her to keep up against his attacks.

Sebastian was impressed as the fiery, red head matched each one of his strokes, but he already grew tired of this game. He switched his footing suddenly and had her backed up against a large tree trunk, effectively trapped between it and his sword across her throat.

Clary gasped as the wood leaned against her windpipe, her eyes growing large with a tint of worry.

Sebastian allowed himself so close to her that their bodies were firmly pressed against each others and her almost moaned against her petite breasts moving up and down his chest as he gasped for air.

He slowly removed the sword from her throat, but did not remove his body from her’s. She was still trapped beneath him.

“Get off of me,” Clary seethed.

Sebastian chuckled, his free hand slithering up her waist to cup a cotton covered breast in his hand. Clary gasped against his aggression and went to scream, but Sebastian’s free hand cupped her mouth, silencing her against him. She wiggled against him, but he just laughed at her futile efforts.

“Fire, I like it in my women,” he laughed and watched as she stilled her movements against him. Her eyes turned a frosty, green, not unlike the look her mother had given her father earlier in the throne room. I guess apples don’t fall far from the tree, he mused.

“I’ve decided that I’m going to have you as my wife, Princess,” he said massaging her breast in his hand. Clary’s virgin body began trembling against his form, her legs suddenly feeling like jelly as a foreign sensation crept along her spine.

“Never,” she muttered, willing herself not to show the fear that was forming in her stomach. She needed to get away from him and his eyes that were eating her alive. She moved with lightening speed and brought her knee into his groin, forcing the boy to momentarily let go of her form as he bent down to one knew, howling against the pain.

Clary ran for the door leading into the safety of the castle and came skidding to a stop when she almost bumped into the familiar figure of her Aunt Amatis, sister to the King, and her nanny. Simon peaked around the tall woman’s slender figure, a questioning in his eyes. Clary just gave him a reassuring nod and then looked up to Amatis.

Amatis, however, was not looking down at Clarissa. Instead, she was watching the blonde haired boy in the yard, stalking in the opposite direction with a scowl on his face. When he was finally out of site, she let her features rest as she turned her eyes upon the young girl she had come to love as a daughter.

“Be weary of that one, young Clarissa,” she said as she gave one last fleeting look toward the direction Sebastian had took before she lead the teenagers into the castle, “It’s always the good looking ones that are the most trouble.”

Clary shivered and nodded her understanding. She felt her skin crawling around her and couldn’t wait to scrub herself head to foot, not leaving any trace of Sebastian’s unsubstantiated claim over her body. Clary made a promise to herself right then. She would never marry that monster in this life or any other.

Chapter Text

Three years later…

 

Jace Herondale, prince of the Vikings, stood at the front of his vessel, nothing but the sound of oars splashing against the water’s surface, propelling them closer to home. He leaned his hip against the cool surface of the boats wood and closed his eyes as the wind brushed softly through his hair. The air smelled of home against his sense of smell, tugging at his heart as he yearned to see the familiar shore of his home through the water’s mist.

“Land!” a Viking warrior shouted before the ship erupted in applause as battle worn eyes feasted on the land that was their home. Jace opened his eyes and smiled, sure enough, as the mist parted, a large port opened up into view, a scattering of people, fisherman and the like going about their day not noticing the vessel approaching their shores.

A horn sounded behind Jace, signaling the boat’s approach to the dock and Jace could hear the cheering along the shore, as the workers laid down their instruments and gathered along the waterfront to welcome the warriors home. His heart seized with the love he felt for his kin, never knowing another settlement to have such loyalty for each other.

Caught up in the emotion, Jace turned to his comrades, male and female alike, and gestured towards the approaching land, “Sons and daughters of Odin, feast your eyes upon your home! Celebrate our victory over the Saxons for you have earned it.” His voice grew solemn for a moment, “Mourn those lost in battle,” and then his voice picked up, “But not for too long, for they dine in Valhalla!”

A great cheer erupted from the boat and warrior cries carried them through the harbor. Jace smiled and turned to once again face the land he would die for. He wanted to memorize every wooden plank, every stonewall, every blade of grass…

Jace felt a hand rest on his shoulder and did not have to turn around to know to whom it belonged to. This hand was slender, but held great strength in each finger, courtesy of the great skill it carried with a bow and arrow.

Jace turned his head to look at the boy now standing behind him, his hand still resting on his shoulder. Alec Lightwood, childhood best friend, and his best archer in the great Viking army.

As there was only a year separating them at birth, Alec and Jace had immediately bonded as brothers, seeing as that Jace was an only child and the only heir to his father’s throne. Alec was like the older brother he never knew he needed. He was always there to pull Jace out of any trouble of his own doing and there for a good sounding board when Jace’s infamous temper made an appearance.

Jace looked into blue eyes and smiled, “We are home, brother.”

A man of few words, Alec nodded in agreement and squeezed his shoulder in solidarity before it was ripped away by a flurry of dark, raven hair.

Jace was startled out of his thoughts when the young girl hurtled between him and Alec, lifting herself onto the boats edge, hanging off the side to her brother’s chagrin.

Jace watched amusingly as Isabelle “Izzy” Lightwood, sister of Alec Lightwood, called out to the gathering audience on the shore waiting for their return. He grinned at the fearless shield maiden, her beautiful, raven hair rippling against the wind. He guessed that she filled that little sister void in his heart and always made it his life’s mission to protect her against unwanted, and sometimes wanted, advances.

Alec only muttered, covering the distances between himself and his sister in quick easy strides and begged her to get down before “Loki, god of mischief, made her his next joke and sent her overboard.”

When Izzy finally allowed her brother to manhandle her back into the boat, and not a second before, she danced over to Jace’s chuckling figure staring at her humorously and smiled widely up at him.

“Isn’t it wonderful, Jace?” she breathed, “We’re finally home!” She twirled around delightedly gaining the attention of their comrades, their yells and shouts of encouragement only aiding in the girl’s excitement.

“Yes, wonderful,” Jace whispered in reply, taking his eyes off the young girl in front of him. He looked again at his home, Hedeby, the center of trade for both the north and south trading routes, making it the most profitable city in all of Scandinavia.

Already, a mass of people congregated along the pier, eager for the return of their warriors once again to their shores. They yearned for the tales of the victory over the Saxons, awaited to see what plunders they brought back with them, and wished to celebrate and thank the gods for another successful raiding party.

Jace swallowed, involuntarily, as he was reminded of what laid waiting for him on the other side of that port- his mother and father. This whole raiding party had been a test of Jace’s skills as a leader and soon-to-be king. His father wanted to see if he could handle the responsibility. Jace was known to shirk his responsibilities on the occasion that the pleasures of the flesh seemed more suitable to his needs at the time, so his father had banished him to the sea and to only return when he had successfully raided a Saxon town.

His father, now blinded by old age and the use of his legs all but gone, was unable to join them in their raiding party and so it had been completely at the mercy of Jace’s decision making and that had made him grow up.

Well, only a little, he mused.

He still enjoyed the pleasures of the flesh, a lot of Saxon women had been at his mercy, but now he had a new understanding of what it meant to lead his men and his shield maidens into battle.

Wanting to prove to his father that he had what it took to lead their people, Jace had been merciless in his dealings with the Saxons. He ordered that all were to be slaughtered save a few to tell the story of the mad, Viking prince, to stir fear into the hearts of the other monasteries and cities that were his next targets.

He sacrificed many Saxon men and women to the gods, thanking them for their victory over the Christians. He allowed the raping of men and women in their own homes, taking their religious relics and burning them down into piles of ash in front of them, laughing as they wept in the face of their fate.

Jace couldn’t help the air that stuck in his throat, all of a sudden, he wasn’t sure if he had been hard enough of the Saxons, brought enough spoils of his raiding back home with him, or killed enough Christians to satisfy his father. He didn’t know now if he was ready to face him, not knowing if he would accept or revoke the gifts he was bringing him.

When the boat finally docked, Jace was the first to step foot onto the sturdy, wooden planks and onto the pier. The villagers, their voices rising higher in volume as they tried to talk over one another, congratulating him on a successful raid, instantly greeted him. He mostly nodded his thanks and reminded them that it was the gods that led them to victory over the Saxons.

The crowd cheered, praising Odin, the All-father, for safely returning their men back to their homes safely. And now, it was a time of celebrating and feasting. Jace lost count of the number of pints of ale that were thrown his way and he chugged every one, the buzzing in his head, drowning out his worries from earlier.

To his surprise, two women wrapped their thin arms around his larger ones and steered him away from the crowd. Jace, a little high from the emotions of the day and slightly drunk from all the ale, allowed them to take him far away, never wanting to disappoint a beautiful woman, let alone two.

Alec watched, eyes narrowing as he saw Jace’s retreating back going into the shadows with a whore on each arm. He made a move to go after him, but he felt a small, yet strong hand on his forearm, stopping him from advancing.

“Let him go, Alec,” Izzy whispered looking in the same direction as Jace had just disappeared into. “He will see the King and Queen when he is ready.”

Alec nodded his head in agreement and turned towards the sounds of shouting and chaos as their victory was celebrated in the streets. Izzy took her brother’s hand and led him deeper into the streets, certain that after a few pints of ale, her brother would be uncharacteristically singing a warrior’s tune with the rest of them.

 

 

~*~*~*~*~*

 

Clary rode threw the castle gates, into the open air, clicking her heels against the sides of the powerful beast beneath her. The horse picked up his speed as they sailed over the stone bridge leading to the open forest.

Clary held onto the reigns in tight fists and bent her small frame over the horse, allowing the wind to whip through her hair, a trail of fire behind her, the horse as black as charcoal galloping beneath her.

When they finally past through the trees, Clary carefully relinquished the reigns and carefully retrieved a bow from her back. Steadying herself atop the moving horse with her petite, yet strong legs, she aimed a perfectly narrow arrow at her first target. She inhaled deeply and let the arrow fly on her exhale, sinking the wooden stick deep within the tree a couple of yards away from her.

She smiled as she retrieved another arrow from her back and steadied herself once more on the still galloping steed. She let this arrow fly a greater distance, but the result was just the same- sinking deep within the wood of her target.

Once she had used up all her arrows, she led her horse to a small river to drink. She allowed herself to take in the calm surroundings of the forest. This is where she did her best thinking and could be herself. There were no royal expectations to uphold here; it was just a girl and her horse.

She stroked her horse, named Shadow, along his silky, black main. She admired his strong, yet delicate beauty. She rubbed his face with her hand and smiled. Besides Simon, Shadow was her only friend.

“We’re going to be free of all this one day, Shadow,” she said, peering into the wilderness, only guessing what lied outside. “I have to know that there’s more out there besides rules and expectations.”

She felt a heaviness on her shoulder as Shadow laid his massive head on her shoulder, instantly warming her heart. She turned and wrapped her arms around his thick neck. She stayed there for a moment before deciding it was best to head back towards the castle; if she stayed out any longer, her father would surely send out a search party.

Hoisting herself into the bridle, Clary clicked her heels against either side of Shadows frame and once again she felt the familiar breeze wash against her face as they hurtled towards the gates of the castle. She let her eyes clothes as she let her senses stretch out, hoping that this brief relief would suffice until the next time she could escape her rigorous princess training and come out here.

When the guards recognized the horse and the woman’s fiery, red hair, they immediately opened the gate for the princess. However, Clary made her horse come to a complete stop on what lay on the other side of the gate- her mother.

Clary gulped, knowing that she would get an earful from the Queen about how a princess never runs off on a whim or that a princess never goes anywhere alone blah blah blah. She looked again at her mother’s stern face and straightened her posture atop her horse.

“Good morning, mother,” she said cheerfully, hoping that her good mood would soften her mother’s features. Her smile faded from her lips when her mother remained silent and just looked at her with identical green eyes.

Jocelyn had to school her features. As a mother, she wanted to berate her young daughter for being so careless with her own safety, but as a Queen she had to remain calm and poised at all times. She closed her eyes as she inhaled a breath of air and opened her eyes on her exhale.

“Walk with me, Clarissa,” she said and turned on her heel, not waiting to see if Clary followed, she knew she would.

Clary pursed her lips and slid from the horse, handing the reigns to a guard and silently thanked him for returning him to his stable. She quickly closed the gap between herself and her mother in a few quick strides and waited for her mother to speak.

“Clary,” her mother began, making Clary’s stomach tighten with anticipation, “You know how I feel about you going off on your own.”

Clary blew a strand of hair out of her face, “Mom, I had to get away! Amatis was going to make me take dancing lessons with Simon! He has two left feet!”

Clary could have sworn she saw a small smile creep across her mother’s face, but the Queen cleared her throat and continued.

“Clary, you are the heir to the thrown and as such, you have responsibilities,” she gazed at her daughter perhaps for the first time that morning without a scowl on her face. “We are charged with the sacred duty of leading our people, Clary, and we must take every opportunity to better their lives. They look to us for guidance and we must not fail them.”

“What if I don’t want to be Queen?” Clary barely whispered, but Jocelyn still heard the barely audible question. She let her shoulders fall, her daughter’s words ringing unbearably close to memories past.

When they were safe inside the castle, Jocelyn turned towards her daughter, “We are whom God made us to be, Clarissa. God has given you a caring heart and a strong will. Use those gifts to help those around you; help your people.”

“I don’t know how to help them,” Clary said as she turned away from her mother, her brows creasing into a frown.

Jocelyn placed her hands and her daughter’s shoulders and took a breath, “As a woman there is little we can do on our own, Clarissa. This world is not ready for women like us to step out of the shadows. However, if we align ourselves with powerful men, there are endless opportunities to help those we are charged with.”

Clary spun on her heel to face her mother, “You want me to get married?” Her heart was pounding into her throat, her hands shaking with anxiety and a tinge of anger, “I won’t do it mother.”

“Clarissa,” Jocelyn spoke through gritted teeth, “You have no choice. It is your duty as a Queen to find a husband and produce an heir.” Jocelyn knew the words she was saying would crush her daughter’s spirit, but it was the way of the world. She knew that better than any one. She had been lucky. Her arranged marriage with Luke had turned out like a fairy tale. She knew that a lot of women in her role were not as lucky. She prayed to God every night that her daughter was able to find a man that was as kind and loving as she had found in Luke.

“Gah!” Clary shouted, “Doesn’t anyone care what I think? What about father?” she pleaded, her eyes filling up with angry tears. Her mother just bowed her head.

“He has sent word to the surrounding kingdoms asking that all the available suitors come here to champion for your hand.

“Champion?” Clary choked, “For my…” she just stared at her mother and then swiveled on her heel. When her mother shouted her name behind her, she picked up her pace and ran through the corridors in search of her father, praying that all this was some sort of mistake.

 

~*~*~*~*~*

 

Alec walked along the rows of Viking huts, searching for his best friend and pain in the ass. He knew Jace had been led in this direction by the two whores and so he knew he couldn’t be far.

It was the fifth hut that he had let himself into where he found a sleeping, and all naked, Jace, the two women curled up in his arms. They stuck heavily of ale and sweat and Alec had to stifle a gag. Clearing his head, and sense of smell, he rolled his eyes and went in search of a bucket and water.

When he returned to doused Jace’s naked torso with the cold water sending him spluttering awake and the two girls screaming in shock. Alec threw the bucket to the side and pulled the curtains open, letting the natural sunlight stream in through the room.

“Are you alive?” Alec asked, gruffly earning himself a glare from his prince.

“I’m delicate, Alec,” he said, smirking as he laid back against the animal skin bedding. He threw an arm over his eyes to block out the light and smiled, “Have you come to join us, brother?”

Alec ignored Jace, paying the girls for their services and told them to get out of there. Alec stood at Jace’s feet, not letting his tempting eyes to focus anywhere else but his best friends face.

Jace felt Alec’s eyes on him and took his arm from his face, smiling up at his brother, “What is it that you want, Alec?”

“Clean up and go see the King and Queen. They are anxious to hear about your victory over the Saxons,” he replied, throwing Jace’s clothes and weapons at him.

Jace let out a huge breath, “Fine, I’ll go. But,” he said, holding up his hand, “I’ll be drinking a few pints of ale first, I want to be ready for anything.”

“Of course,” Alec muttered under his breath. He excused himself from the hut, knowing that Jace would soon follow in his wake.

 

 

A few hours later, Jace was stumbling into the Great Hall, living quarters of the King and Queen and the feasting hall of the town. He was immediately greeted with shouts of praise and strong hands slapping his back in congratulations.

“Skol!” men shouted, raising their pints of ale, toasting Jace’s victory against the Christians. Jace took the pint of ale thrusted into his hands and drank it down fast. He through down the cup in celebration, smashing it into pieces, earning more shouts from the men and women around him. He smiled at the people around him, feeling the presence of the gods surrounding them, here in the place. He knew that Odin was here somewhere drinking with them, reveling in their victory in his name.

“My son,” a deep, male voice penetrated the shouting and all became still and quiet. Each member of the party stood at attention as their King made his way across the hell. Parting to the sides, to let their blind King through, all eyes trained on father and son as they met in the middle.

“Father,” Jace said, reaching out to grab onto his father’s strong upper arms. He squeezed his hands and let his eyes slide over to the Queen, Celine, his mother. “Mother, you look beautiful as always,” he said, smiling down at her. She nodded towards her son and then placed her hand on her husband’s shoulder.

“My son, “ his father, King Stephen Herondale, began, “Why have you waited so long to make your presence known to your mother and father? Were you not eager to see us and tell us of your triumph against the Saxons?” He unseeing eyes gazed into Jace’s orbits, knowing full well that his father saw enough without the actual seeing part.

“Of course not father,” Jace smiled, hoping to hide his true feelings of doubt behind his words, “I just got caught up in the celebration and had too much ale. If Alec had not woken me, I would still be underneath not one, but two beautifully naked women.” When he heard the whistles and jeers from the audience he continued, “However, the gods were with us in our raiding of the Christian villages, helping us to find immense treasure and wealth, father. I was hoping to find you pleased with the bounty.”

King Herondale gazed a little past his son’s shoulder, taking in what he had to say. True, he was proud of his son’s raiding party, showing leadership and his affinity to lead his people safely back home, but there was something else he wanted his son to learn and that was for him to find out.

“It is true, I am proud of you, my boy,” King Herondale began, “Odin came to me in a dream last night. He spoke to me and told me to send my fighters once again to the land of the Saxon’s. He said that what my son may find there may be the greatest treasure of them all.”

Jace was speechless, not only was his father praising him, but Odin, the All-father, wanted him, to invade the Christian town once more in his name. He heard the cheering and the shouting as if from a distance, a smile slowly forming on his lips.

“Then we shall go in two weeks time,” Jace said turning towards his comrades. “Eat, drink, and fuck, my friends, for by the new moon, we sail towards Northumbria!” There was a collectible gasp from the crowd. They had never ventured that far into land before. The men looked around and at precisely at the same time, the yelling and the shouting for raiding began all over again, echoing off the walls.

Jace cheered and yelled with the rest, until he felt the smooth, delicate hand of his mother on his forearm. He allowed her to lead him to a quieter corner away from the loud warriors drinking and toasting Odin.

Queen Celine brought her hands to her sons face, cupping his head in between her hands, “Odin has chosen you, my son.” She peered into his eyes and smiled, “Your father and I are so proud of you.”

Jace brought his hands to his mother’s and laid them on top of her’s, “Why do I feel like there is a long winded discussion coming?” He smiled down at his mother, prepared for any words of wisdom.

“You should take a wife.”

Except those words.

“Mother,” Jace warned, “We’ve been over this before. Women,” he saw his mother’s eyebrow raise telling him to be careful with his next words, he cleared his throat, “Women complicate things.”

You complicate things, my son,” Queen Celine said, eyeing her son, “It is your duty as the future king to take a wife and produce heirs. There must be a clear line of succession for our kingdom to prosper.”

“You are the only woman I need in my life, mother,” he said, his tongue firmly in his cheek as his mother struck his upper arm.

“I just want you to know that there is more to life than battle, Jace,” she said placing her hand on his cheek. “You have such a caring heart. You should show it more often.”

Jace grunted before he placed a kiss upon his mother’s forehead. He turned towards the crowd and quickly joined in the celebration and the feasting.

Queen Celine watched her son as he shouted to the gods, ale in his hand, and a smile on his face. She felt a strong hand clasp her shoulder and looked behind her to her husband, the king.

“I worry about him, Stephen,” she said, watching her boy become drunken with booze and women.

“Odin has showed me his path, Celine,” Stephen breathed into her ear, “It will be a test for him. A forging of sorts- from a boy to a man.”

Celine looked at her husband and then turned worried eyes to her only son, “I certainly hope you’re right.”

Chapter Text

Five days before champion is crowned…

 

Clary stared into the crowd gathering in the throne room, her stomach tightening with anxiety. They were all here to compete with each other for her hand in marriage, like she was some fair game to be won.

Clary felt a familiar hand on the middle of her back and turned towards the young man standing beside her, Simon. He was her best friend and new her so well. He gave her a sympathetic smile and turned his eyes to the main floor of the room.

“There’s an awful lot of them down there,” he muttered taking in each of the princes lined up to seek his best friend’s hand in marriage. If he was completely honest with himself, he was a little jealous. Sure, he wasn’t a warrior, but he loved Clary, always had. Alas, his station did not afford him the dowry big enough for a princess of Northumbria. So, he remained her best friend, her confidant, and often, her morale compass when that fiery personality decided to peak through.

“I will not be someone’s prize,” Clary muttered between her teeth, her back stiffening against his hand. Simon sighed, knowing the situation was helpless. He brought his friend into his embrace.

Clary let herself sink into Simon’s thin frame. Why couldn’t she take him as a husband. Sure, she didn’t love him, not in that way, but she knew she would be at least a little happy with him and she knew that he would treat her well. She looked down once more into the room below and the overwhelming feeling of helplessness was brought up within her once more.

She turned on her heel, wanting to hide away in the depths of the castle, praying that her father wouldn’t make her stand in front of these men.

When she turned a thin, yet strong chest in front of her abruptly stopped her. Clary looked up and saw the loving eyes of her father- King Lucian.

Luke bowed his head silently to Simon and nodded his head, asking Simon to quietly leave as he wanted to speak with his daughter. When Simon was out of ear shot, he glanced at his daughter, her eyes cast to the floor.

“Nervous are we?” Luke said, laying an understanding hand on his daughter’s shoulders.

“I don’t want to go down there, father,” Clary said, looking into his eyes and pleading with him to call this whole, barbaric thing off.

Luke sighed, he was just as nervous as his daughter was and truth be told, he hated himself for turning her into some sort of prize for the men to fight over. He did not want that for her, but it was the only way.

 “Clary,” he cupped her cheek with his strong hand, “The time of the next Viking invasion is upon us; I have to know that who ever you are married to will protect you. I will not always be here to do so myself.” He let his eyes fall from her’s and swallowed the lump in his throat.

Clary brought her hand to his, “I can take care of myself, my king. I don’t need a man to defend my honor as I pick up my skirts and run. I want to be in the fight.”

Luke chuckled to himself. He wrapped his daughter in a hug, “And that is what I’m most afraid of, Clary. You have such a daring heart and I’m afraid its going to land you in dangerous waters.” He placed a kiss on her forehead.

Luke led a reluctant Clary down the steps and onto the dias where her mother was already waiting for them. Her mother gave her a small smile and Clary returned it with a smile of her own that didn’t quite reach her eyes.

“You look beautiful, Clarissa,” her mother said softly enough so only she could hear, “The color really brings out your hair.

Clary looked down at herself. Her dress was made of a dark green fabric, tightly hugging her curves to show her delicate frame and that of a woman capable of bearing children. Clary thought it was too tight. She had trouble breathing and she felt stiff as a board whenever she moved this way or that way.

“Thank you, mother,” Clary whispered back afraid that if she said anymore that she would regret it. She sat down on the other side of her father and fixed her eyes on the back wall behind the princes and their guards, all carrying the banners of the foreign kingdoms. However, she wall all too aware that each man and woman’s eyes were fixed on the princess in the room, whose beauty was legendary.

Seeing that all eyes were starring at his daughter, Luke cleared his throat, shifting the eyes to him, “Ladies and gentlemen, I welcome you to Northumbria. In a few short days your young sons will compete for my daughter’s hand, joining our two kingdoms against the Vikings. If you would please introduce the young warriors so that Princess Clarissa might know the suitors who will vie for her hand.”

Clary felt her heart quicken in her chest as the young princes and their fathers, Kings of great power and wealth, made their way to the dais. The first to step up was King Julius of East Anglia, a tall, thin, but strong man, his black hair reaching the tips of his armored shoulders. He bowed his head and presented his son.

“Your majesty, this is my eldest son, Erik,” he proudly began, “He led our vast army against the Vikings and with his own sword, slaughtered a thousand warriors!” Resounding cheers from their men echoed off the walls of the throne room as Erik stood there with his chest puffed out. His eyes slid to Clary’s and she had to do her best not to roll her eyes.

Clary took in Erik’s form, he was a younger version than his father, but where his father was thin framed, Erik was broad and muscular. He must have stood over six and a half feet tall, he was a mountain of a man and he wouldn’t drop his gaze from her eyes. Clary bowed her head, as a sign of respect, but in reality giving her any chance to break the awkward eye contact.

“I wish you luck, Erik,” Luke said and gestured for the next King to present his son.

“My Lord,” a short, fat man bellowed, King Benedict of Bernicia, “I present to my only heir, Prince Phillip. He alone vanished two thousand Viking foes,” he paused for what seemed to be dramatic effect, “with his bare hands!”

There was complete silence throughout the hall as all eyes were trained on Prince Phillip of Bernicia. He was just as round and stout as his father, but where his father had pride, Phillip had nervous anxieties. It was clear to the hall that Phillip couldn’t find the sharp edge of a sword if you shoved it in his beefy hands.

Clary felt sorry for Prince Phillip, understanding that he wanted to be here as much as she did. She gave him a small smile, but he just scooted closer to his father. The King, annoyed by his cowardice in front of the other kingdoms, pushed his son away from him and back to their soldiers.

Luke cleared his throat once more and beckoned the next suitor from Deira.

“Gracious King, I am King Alfred of Deira, and I come before you with my only male heir, Prince Athelstan. With one hand he brought down three Viking ships and with the other, he shook his mighty sword!” Clary cocked her head to the side as she looked upon Prince Athelstan. He couldn’t have been more than thirteen years old where Clary had just turned sixteen. She didn’t think she could stomach marrying someone so young.

“Three Viking ships?” a male voice from another camp rang out, “He’s barely been taken away from his mother’s breast!” Half the room erupted in laughter while the other half brandished their swords.

Luke quickly arose from his seat and commanded the room to be silent, “Gentlemen, we are not here to bicker with one another. We have enough enemies to the north without making ourselves enemies of each other. Now, we still have one more introduction.” He turned to the last royal pair and gestured for them to begin.

When Clary saw who it was, she gasped, feeling herself shrink back against her chair. It was him, Prince Sebastian of Mercia. Her mind unwillingly flashed back to their first meeting three years ago to where he claimed her as his as he molested her young flesh. Just the memory of it sent her skin prickling with goosebumps and her heart in her chest thudding against her rib cage like a rabid animal.

She cast her eyes down, unable to make contact with the piercing onyx eyes that she knew were staring at her right this moment.

“King Lucian of Northumbria,” King Valentine said, smiling a toothy grin, his eyes flitting over the silent Queen before him, bowing his head in her direction, “I believe the princess has already met my son, however, formalities will not be ignored.”

He gestured to his son, “This is Sebastian, crowned Prince of Mercia. I do not have to boast about his accomplishment, I have nothing to prove. Sebastian is his own man now and I could not be any prouder.” King Valentine step back from the dais and gestured for his son to speak.

“Your Grace,” Sebastian spoke, sending shivers down Clary’s spine. She had not heard his voice since their first encounter all those years ago, but she heard them almost every night in her dreams. She swallowed the bile in her throat as the familiar fear in her veins began pumping through her system. She gripped the edges of her seat, her knuckles turning white. She felt the color drain from her face when his black eyes slid to her, a smirk on his face.

“Princess,” he said bowing his head, “I’m looking forward to winning your hand, my lady, and taking you as a wife.” He smiled at her, a sinister smirk on his face that stopped her blood cold in her chest. She began to feel a hint of anger within her, berating herself to let this animal turn her into some sort of helpless prey. She stared back at him, her eyes piercing into his, her back straightening as she pushed the anxiety deep down, concentrating on her burning anger so that she wouldn’t run from the hall in a fit of tears.

“God commands us to be humble, Prince Sebastian, might I suggest a passage from His Word?” Clary said, a fake smile on her face. There was a collective gasp from the crowd, but Sebastian’s smirk only grew.

“Clarissa,” Luke muttered in between his teeth before turning back to the crowd. “I think it is time that we all retired to our respective chamber and rest up. Your young warriors will need it.”

 

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*

 

“Well that went over well,” Valentine said to his son, pouring himself another glass of wine, “You seem to have made quite the impression with the young princess.” He turned to his son who was staring into the roaring fire in the middle of the wall across the room from him

Valentine continued, pouring his son a drink before her he walked over to where he still gazed into the fire, seemingly in deep thought. “Like her mother, she is both beautiful and gifted with a sharp tongue.” He handed his son his cup and drank his down in one gulp. Wiping his mouth with his sleeve, he waited for his son to speak. When he did not, he rolled his eyes.

“What is it, my boy,” Valentine said, his hand gripping his son’s shoulder.

“I will have her father,” Sebastian said not taking his eyes away from the flames. They reminded him of her. The flames were the exact color of her hair they he yearned to grasp in his fist as he fucked her in their bed.

“Yes, of course you will my son,” Valentine chuckled, knowing that once his son put his mind to something, he always got what he wanted. “All you have to do is win Lucian’s petty, little games.”

Sebastian turned to his father, a knowing smirk on his face, “I’ll play the game, father, but only for a short while and then I’ll take what’s mine.” He turned once again to the fire, getting lost in it’s heat and flickering light.

Valentine peered at his son, his eyes taking in his son’s posture and look of intensity, “You’re planning something, aren’t you, my boy?” He smiled as he saw the grin turn up the corners of his son’s mouth.

Sebastian smiled against the rim of his cup, “Let’s just say that when the opportunity presents itself, this charade will end and we will have take who and what we want.” He, like his father, took the whole contents of his cup in one gulp. He set the empty glass on the mantle and walked off towards his bed chambers.

Valentine watched his son walk away two thoughts running throught his head. The first was that he was immensely proud of his boy, not wanting to play other’s games, but wanting to make other’s play his games. And the other feeling, a deep seeded feeling, that he would have to watch his back with his son. For if he ever fell out of favor with him, or by chance his son found no use for him, he knew that his son wouldn’t think twice about killing him.

A brief shiver ran through Valentine’s spine, knowing that his son was his own man that he couldn’t control. He had created him this way, not wanting him to be a puppet for anyone, including him, but now he thought that maybe he had signed his own death ledger.

Valentine walked over to the table once more and poured himself another drink, hoping that the wine would help his mind to relax. He knew that his son wouldn’t do anything, yet, and besides, whatever he was planning would surely benefit him as well. He had said that the would get whatever they wanted. Whoever they wanted.

Valentine let his mind wander to Queen Jocelyn. She had looked so stunning in her midnight blue dress, her red hair off her shoulder and fastened behind her head. Her eyes were a bright green color that he swore saw straight through him every time they past over him. She hadn’t let herself look at him longer than a second, but he had not let his eyes off of her’s for a single moment.

Valentine coughed and had to readjust his trousers as his shaft began to tent. He brought his hands to the table and leaned against the hard wood, the edge of the table pressing into his groin. His head fell down in between his shoulders, a groan slipping from his lips.

“Jocelyn,” he muttered, gripping his bulge in a strong grasp, imagining it was her hand wrapped around his growing girth, “I will have you in my bed, this I swear.” He wretched himself away from the table and made haste towards his own bed, eager to rid himself of the growing ache between his thighs while picturing her naked body beside his own.

 

~*~*~*~*~*

 

Jace stood on the dock, watching the last of the supplies being loaded onto his raiding ships. He felt the familiar feeling of anticipation grip his chest at the thought of raiding Saxon towns once more, taking their spoils and their men, women, and children for slaves. But at this moment he felt another feeling, this one relatively new, he felt uncertainty of the task that laid before him.

He felt Alec come up beside him, but didn’t say a word to him. The men often not needing to fill the empty silence with meaningless words, but just knowing that the other was there for support.

Jace needed answer and he needed them now.

“I wish to consult the gods,” he said, not taking his eyes off of the men before him, “I have to know that they are for us and not against us.”

Alec thought about what he said and turned to him, “Was it not Odin himself that set you on this path?” They both were reminded of the king’s dream that was the catalyst for the newest voyage to Northumbria.

“Yes,” Jace agreed, “However, Loki, the god of mischief, has led stronger men into battle under similar circumstances. I will not let Loki make me into one of his fools. No, we must ask the seer.” Jace turned around and started walking away from the pier, his feet taking him where he needed to go. He did not need to turn around and see if Alec was following him, he knew he would. Alec would follow him anywhere.

“I’m coming with you, then,” Alec said, “If only to make sure you don’t disrespect the gods with your tongue.”

Jace heard the smile in his friend’s voice and chuckled, “What would I ever do without you, Alec?” Jace turned around and flashed a smile at his comrade.

“Suffer at the mercy of Thor’s hammer comes to mind,” Alec muttered under his breath and he joined Jace as they laughed together.

For the rest of the way up the soundless hill, Jace and Alec walked, side by side, in their own silence. When they came upon the ancient caves of the gods they both stood before the threshold.

Jace straightened his shoulder and took a breath before he led himself over the threshold, Alec on his heels. The cave was dark, dimly lit with candles. Bones of animals and ancient symbols decorated the walls of the cave, speaking to the restless energy about the small space.

Jace’s eyes searched the dwelling for the seer, the Vikings link to the gods. He found him once his eyes adjusted to the darkness, sitting at the small wooden table in the center of the room.

“Jace Herondale, prince of the Vikings, I’ve been expecting you,” the seer said, his cat-like eyes almost glowing in the dark, reflecting the firelight of the candles surrounding him. “Sit,” he said gesturing towards the two chairs opposite him.

“You knew I was coming?” Jace said, his spine tingling. He never liked coming here. He felt closed in and yet so vulnerable, like he was at the mercy of what ever lie in the walls.

“And your friend,” the seer whispered, his eyes glancing toward Alec, a slight sparkle twinkling in his slightly glowing eyes, “I know what the gods allow me to know. See what they allow me to see. Feel what they allow me to feel.” Jace heard Alec clear his throat, but he didn’t say anything.

“Right,” Jace muttered and took a seat in the proffered chair in front of him, eager to get his answers and out of this space. It was messing with this mind. Alec slid into the chair next to him, his eyes finding anything to settle on but the man in front of them. Jace was a little worried about his friend, he had never seen Alec look away from anything in his life. Alec was known for his silence and piercing blue eyes often making others turn their gaze away from his, but this, this was different.

Jace looked away from his friend and decided now was a good a time as any to get his business out of the way.

“Tomorrow we sail for Northumbria, Saxon lands,” he leaned towards the seer, ignoring the feeling in his muscle to pull back, “What do the gods say about this? Is it my fate to conquer the Saxons once more? Tell me, seer.”

“First of all,” the seer said, holding his hand up in protest, “Call me by my earthly name. Magnus.” He smiled, “Seer was my mother. Lovely woman, mind you, but she had an affinity to curse me as a child and therefor, I go by Magnus and not seer.”

Jace, a little caught off guard by the changing of the atmosphere around him, could only nod, “Right, what do these gods say, Magnus?”

Magnus closed his eyes bringing his hands into his robes extracting what appeared to be small animal bones. Jace guessed bird and small rodent bones, used by the seer to communicate with the gods. Magnus began humming, ancient mumblings only he understood slipping from his mouth as he rattled the bones in his hands.

Jace and Alec flinched when Magnus’ hand shout out from his chest, throwing the bones across the table in front of them. Magnus’ eyes snapped open, narrowing upon the table, searching the bones for the secrets they held.

Jace waited with baited breath, his fingers splayed out against the table as he leaned over the surface attempting to read the bones himself.

“What do you see?” he whispered, afraid that talking in a normal tone would somehow ruin the line of communication between the gods and the seer.

“I see a woman, skin as light as the frozen water, eyes as green as the spring grass and hair, like flames, burning the souls of man,” the seer spoke with such intensity that Jace had to remind himself to breathe. The air around him felt as if it was closing him off.

“Is she a witch or a demon I must face?” Jace said, confused as the gods would send him across the seas to fight a woman.

“No,” Magnus said, “you will be consumed by her.” Magnus’ eyes flicked to Jace, his yellow eyes looking at him, but at the same time not. Perhaps he saw this meeting of Jace and this woman the gods spoke of behind his eyes in a place Jace could not reach.

Jace, tired of the riddles, slammed his hand on the table, ripping Magnus from his trance-like state, “I shall strike her down with Thor’s hammer!” He arose from his seat, his heart beating a heavy rhythm against his ribcage. He felt the familiar strong grip of Alec on his forearm and regained his composure. He slid back into his chair.

Magnus hadn’t moved an inch from when he was ripped from his trance. He simply looked at Jace, prince of the Vikings, no emotion in his face, “There are other ways to be consumed by a woman, young prince.”

Jace scoffed and pushed away from the table, “This is a waste of my time. I will go to this Northumbria and I will kill every woman by this description. Mark my words, Odin will have his glory or my Thor strike me down.” Jace turned on his heel and swiftly exited the lodging, not waiting for Alec to accompany him.

Magnus dragged his eyes from where Jace abruptly left and looked to Alec, his eyes downcast, “You care for him?”

Alec’s eyes flicked to Magnus’, his eyes cold, challenging, “He is like a brother to me.”

Magnus smiled, throwing his hands up in surrender, “I did not mean to imply anything else, Alexander.” His eyes softened as he watched Alec straighten when his full name was used. “Your friend will be tested and he will need you to keep a clear head. It is the wish of the gods that you keep their warrior on the path to his fate.”

“And what is that faint?” Alec asked earnestly, subconsciously leaning forward, his hand outstretched in front of him.

Magnus laid his hand atop of Alec’s, “I only see what the gods allow me to see, Alec, nothing more.”

Alec felt a strange energy pass through his hand as he gazed into the glowing, feline eyes of the man sitting in front of him. He jerked himself away from the table, nearly stumbling over his seat as he stood.

“I should, umm, g-go,” he mumbled, “Thank you for, uh, your help.” Alec never did anything ungracefully, but he couldn’t seem to walk out of the cave with tripping over his feet at least twice. He closed his eyes and concentrated on finding his balance. When he was once again restored to his normal, silent self, he walked out of the room, leaving a smiling seer behind him.

Magnus watched after the young man with piercing blue eyes, a flickering of curiosity deep within his slit irises. He shook himself out of his thoughts and new that it was time for some serious praying to the gods. He got up from his table and began blowing out his candles one by one, plunging the small room into complete darkness.

Chapter Text

The ship waded through the water, the air thick with fog, blocking their view on all sides of the boat. The men in the boat used their arms and back to gently row the oars in and out of the water. They had to slowly glide through the water. The fog would mask any obstacle in their path until it was too late.

Some of the men were sleeping, gathering there rest for the raid they knew was lying ahead, while other sharpened their axes, swords and other weapons.

Alec was wildling away at his arrows, marking their shafts with the archaic symbols of the gods. Some of the runes were ones he had seen in Magnus’ hut; they had spoken to him. They spoke of steady hands, forging a straight path and a clear mind. These were the building stones of an archer’s mind. He chipped away at the slender length, praying to Odin to bless her arrows.

Izzy sat, one hip hitched on the side of the boat, her arms crossed over her full breasts, her eyes searching through the fog. Her hair braided back in the typical shield-maiden way keeping her hair out of her face in battle, but a few loose strands managed to unbind themselves and framed her beautiful face, billowing in the wind as it caressed her soft features.

Jace stared into the bucket next to him, his sun dial floating on the surface. This was there way to land, cleverly using the suns rays and the shadows it cast, the Vikings were able to navigate the vast regions of the open water. However, the sea was overcast with clouds, blocking the sun’s rays from hitting the dial. They were floating blindly further and further into the sea, not knowing exactly which direction they were taking.

He looked up into the clouds, the pit in his stomach growing steadily deeper as each hour passed without site of land. This couldn’t be how it ended for him, not when Odin, himself, had put him on this path. He suddenly thought of Loki, god of mischief and he clenched his jaw in irritation. He had to close his eyes and steady his breathing before his temper got the best of him. All his crew needed was to see their leader lose his shit.

Jace looked out into the boat, seeing the solemn faces of his brothers. Some were shaking their heads, while others stared out into nothing.

“There is no land,” he heard a man speak to his right. He looked and saw the unmistakable, burly figure of Ivar. His eyes were burning with anger and a tinge of fear as he tirelessly rowed his oar in and out of the water.

“We aren’t sailing towards anything,” he began again, “just an open void.”

Jace ignored this, knowing that it was just his nerves talking.

“Ubbe, Lief,” he called to his brothers, “We have been persuaded by Loki, god of mischief to sale against the sea.” All eyes turned to Ivar and the rowing stopped by Jace still stood his ground, ignoring the mad man’s ramblings.

“Be quiet, Ivar,” Alec’s voice said, coolly, “Do not disturb the piece with your childish fears.”

“Childish fears?” he growled, rising from his seat. The atmosphere in the boat shifted, electricity sparking in the air. Thunder was heard in the distance and all eyes turned towards the sound, seeing lightening strike in the distance.

Ivar slowly turned his gaze back to Alec, his eyes narrowed to the ground, “Odin is angry with us. He sends Thor to punish him with his mighty hammer, Mjolnir.”

Alec looked to Jace, just the slightest amount of panic in his eyes. To any other person it was just like staring into his cold, icy blue eyes, but Jace knew. Jace barely nodded his head to Alec giving him a silent signal.

Alec stood from his seat and began bellowing orders to the men and women on the ship, “Everything that can be lost, must be thrown overboard, tie down any essential with rope, raise up the sails and take up your oars- we're in for a long night."

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*

 

Clary moved through the halls of the large castle in a bit of a trance. Today was the day- the day that she would be claimed as a prize to one of the princes of the kingdoms vying for her hand in marriage.

She placed her fist against her stomach, hoping the pressure would relieve the growing uneasiness deep inside her gut. Her hand brushed against the smooth, baby blue silk of her gown that her mother had ordered her to wear. Much like the dark green dress she had worn before, this dress was confining and she could hardly breath. She groaned in frustration at the whole situation.

She stopped in her tracks as her ears perked up to the sound of heavy boot falls coming up behind her. Thinking it was Simon, she straightened her shoulders and put a smile on her face.

“Simon, where have you—“ she froze. It wasn’t Sebastian that had walked up behind her, but Sebastian now stood in front of her. “Go away,” she muttered as she made to turn around and stalk off from his smirking face.

“You should do that more often,” he said, stepping into place right next to her, clearly not going to head her command to leave her alone.

Without looking at him, she spat, “What show disdain and horror at you presence. No problem.” She heard him chuckle under his breath and that only fueled her fire.

She turned on him, pushing against his too close physique with her small hands. She was rewarded when he took a few shaky steps to right himself upon being caught off guard by her aggressive movement. When he straightened up, he no longer had that stupid grin on his face, but his lip was in a hard line and his eyes seemed to turn all black.

Clary swallowed the nervous lump in her throat and took a step forehead, ignoring the voice screaming in her head to run!

“Listen, I don’t know who you think you are but—“ again her speech was caught off in a flurry of movement that landed her sailing backwards, her back slamming against the wall behind her. His body was against her’s in a second, her own hands trapped between her back and the wall, unable to free herself from his grasp.

Sebastian’s hand flew to her mouth to stifle her scream and his legs wretched her’s apart, preventing her from raising her knee between them. He had learned how feisty this one could be the first time they met. He was pleased to see a hint of panic in her lovely, green eyes when he narrowed his own at her.

He lowered his head to her’s and spoke, his voice barely above a whisper, “I’ll tell you who I am princess. I am your future husband, you future king and you will respect me.”

He watched as her eyes turned from frightened to enraged as he let his hand slither up her hips and cup her left breast. He laid his forehead on her’s and moaned as caressed the petite mound in his hand.

“Just think of the things I could do with this body,” he said, running his thumbs over her hardening nipples. She gasped underneath his hand, feeling electric tingles shoot through her body and then feeling the heat rise to her cheeks as she was mortified by her body’s response.

“And to this mouth,” he said, slowly bringing his hand away from her lips.

“Get off me,” she seethed, not wanting to give him the satisfaction of her screaming for help, like the poor defenseless bird he wanted her to be; she would not be caged by the animal, not if her life depended on it.

“When I am ready,” he said, lowing his head to her’s. She knew he was going to kiss her and she renewed her struggles. The word “no” stumbled from her mouth like a mantra as he got closer and closer.

Just then, a clearing of a throat was heard and both of them still. They both looked to the man standing few feet away, Simon, his hand on his sword at his side, and a look of disdain towards Sebastian. Clary’s heart fluttered in her chest and she almost lost it right there.

“Get away from her,” he whispered angrily, his knuckles white from the grip he had on the hilt of his sword. He watched as Sebastian calculated in his mind, the odds of killing him, hiding the body, and keeping Clary quiet and decided that now was not the time. He was a patient man and so he conceded.

Clary felt Sebastian’s slender frame ease off of her, freeing her hands from their prison behind her. She slid past him, her breasts rubbing against his chest as she made her escape. She knew he’d done that on purpose. She walked over to Simon and stood at his side.

“Are you okay, Clary,” he said, his voice a hair softer, but his eyes still trained on his foe ahead.

“Yes,” she said, placing her hand on his arm, still gridlocked on the hilt of his sword, “Let’s just go, Simon.”

Sebastian smirked, “Yes, run along, be her hero in shining armor while you can. For when her place is solidified by me, you will be the first to go.” He sneered at the pair and turned on his heel and disappeared through the halls.

Clary couldn’t help the shiver run down her spine, she prayed silently to God that he would deliver her out of this evil. She felt Simon turn towards her and lifted his chin with his hand.

“Are you sure you’re okay? I could tell the King and Queen that you’re not feeling good?” he asked, sympathy deep within his eyes.

Clary took her hand and held it against his cheek, “You’re such a good friend, Simon, but no, I must do my duty. Besides, when did my mother and father ever believe our false tales?”

Simon chuckled, taking her hand on his arm as he escorted her outside the castle, “Well, there was that one time…”

“Don’t,” she laughed, “Just don’t.”

Simon smiled over at his best friend and led her in silence towards the magnificent tents set up in honor of the festivities, a crowd of people already gathering to cheer on the champions.

Clary straightened her shoulder for the second time that morning and trudged through the grass, pulling Simon behind. She would not let Sebastian’s intimidation frighten her into herself, no, she would appear before him, appearing unfazed by him. Yes; that was what she was going to do. She was Clarissa Garroway, Princess of Northumbria and it was going to take more than a good-looking golden boy with a chip on his shoulder to make her fall to her knees.

 

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

 

The shaking of his figure by two thin hands roughly awakened Jace. When his eyes finally adjusted against the light, he made out a curtain of hair around him, a young girl’s face staring back at him, smiling from ear to ear.

“Jace! Wake up! Land!” Izzy squealed. She pulled him up into a sitting position by his hands, his mutterings of her too high pitched voice this early in the morning lost on her ears.

Alec squatted down next to his friend’s still seated form and handed him a cup filled with ale, the last of their supply.

“We did it, Jace,” he said, a small smiling forming on his own lips. Jace quickly got to his feet and peered out of the boat. Sure enough, in the distance, a beach could be seen. Its bank full of white sand, the waters rushing up and down the coastline. He smiled, they actually did it.

He turned to his brothers and sisters in the boat. “Look,” he said gesturing to the land in front of them, “Odin was not mad at us after all; he sent Thor with his mighty hammer to beat against the sea and steer our ship to land.”

Jace’s eyes locked with Ivar’s and smiled, “The gods have not abandoned us yet.” Ivar nodded his head in silence conveying his apologies and Jace accepted with his own slight nodding of his head.

“Stretch your legs, ready your weapons,” he bellowed, “For when we land on the shore, we march!” His cry was rewarded with the shouts and yells of his comrades as the anticipation of raiding and pillaging again fuelled their Viking blood.

The boat rocked with the movement of bodies hustling around, readying there supplies for their advancement upon the kingdom of Northumbria. Jace watched as the shore came closer and closer, the choppy waves serving to propel them further and further into the harbor.

His mind flashed to the words of his father and that of the seer, Magnus. He was fated to find something, or someone, during his time here and the mystery intrigued him. He would take any treasure or kill any enemy. He would not lose sight of his mission, to be the best Viking, warrior king that ever lived. He just had to keep his friends close and his enemies…closer.

 

~*~*~*~*~*

 

Clary said her goodbye to Simon as she was led up the steps to the dais where her mother and father were waiting. They each greeted her with a huge smile and it was all she could do not to fall on her knees and beg for them to stop this madness. She wanted to point her finger at Sebastian and tell them of his clear disrespect for her, but she knew that would only bring shame upon her family for a princess to act in such a manner and there was no way she was going to give into him like that.

She gave them a small smile and nodded her head in greeting, taking her seat on her father’s left side. Her mother was in her place, to his right. Seeing her father take a deep breath, Clary’s own breath stuck in her throat- here we go, she thought.

Luke arose from his chair and stood towards the front edge of the dais, his boots hiding the wood in decisive steps, steps of a king. He raised his hands the laughing, cheering crowd, instantly silenced. It always amazed Clary how her father could command a room. Just with his presence, he had there respect- their love.

She watched and listened as her father welcomed the guests of Northumbria to the festivities and again thanked the foreign kings and their son’s for taking part in the games.

He turned his head towards his daughter and smiled, warmly, “This series of events is not about giving my daughter away to just any man,” he proclaimed. “It is about securing her safety for we live in dark times. The Vikings draw near and in this time, we need to seek alliances with one another if we ever hope to defeat them.”

The crowd mumbled, a nervousness descending as it did whenever someone mentioned the barbaric north men. Luke through up his hands to silence the crowd once more.

“Now without further delay, let the tournament begin!” his fist rose in the air, succeeding at turning the crowds whispered worries into cheers and laughter once more.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

 Jace led his army though the hills among the trees, bordering the city behind the wall. They waited and watched as a crowd gathered among tents of bright colors, hearing voices of shouts and laughter drifting over the cool air.

“What do you think is happening down there?” Izzy said as she came up beside Jace, a curious look on her beautiful face.

“I don’t know, maybe a ritual for their god?” Jace replied not really caring what was going on below.He was searching the settlement for any weaknesses that they might exploit.

“All of this for one god?” Alec said coming up between the two, taking in the scene with his own searching eyes.

Jace grunted, half listening to his adopted brother and sister and half not listening. He couldn’t see hardly anything from up here, so he turned to his friends and spoke, decisively.

“I’m going down there,” he held up his hand to Alec before he spoke a word against the idea, “I can’t see anything from up here.”

Alec sighed, knowing that when Jace was right, he knew it and there was no going back, “Fine, but I’m going with you.”

Jace nodded.

“Me too,” Izzy said as she followed the men down the slopes.

Alec whirled on his sister, “I don’t think so, Izzy. Its too dangerous.”

Izzy stomped her foot like the little sister she was in the face of her controlling older brother, “You’ve got to be kidding me. I can go to battle, but I can’t walk into our enemy’s camp to collect intel?” She crossed her arm’s refusing to back down and smiled when she saw the familiar slump of her brother’s shoulders in defeat. She leaned up and gave him a peck on the cheek and mussed his hair.

Alec scowled, wondering why he was given the two most annoying, bull headed, younger siblings to deal with.

They shed their animal furs and all their weapons but their swords, not wanting to draw attention to themselves as Vikings. The made there way onto the dirt path leading to the gate, keeping a weary eye on the guards that kept a look out for any signs of danger.

Jace was a firm believer in the notion that if you made it appear to other’s that you knew what you were doing, that you belonged, they would have no other choice but to accept anything you threw at them. So, with this in mind, he strode up to the nearest gatekeeper and told them that he and his siblings were farmers come to join in the festivities. He didn’t break eye contact with the guard.

The guard looked at him, not seeing the man before him flinched, and decided that they were allowed to pass. He hollered up at his comrade to open the gate and the three Viking warriors were granted access into the stronghold.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*

 

Clary barely watched the games as they took place before her. She spent her time either counting the blades of grass or picking at the hem of her sleeves. Every once in a while her mother would bark at her to pay attention, but Clary would quickly lose interest again and her mind would wander.

She knew what was happening and it was because the crowd was cheering his name either. She knew that he was a far more experienced fighter than the other suitors combined, and she supposed, to some of the men commissioned into her father’s army.

She heard her mother mutter an idle threat under her breath and Clary sighed bringing her eyes to the scene before her. Just as she lifted her head, Sebastian’s sword found the naked shoulder of Prince Erik, slicing into his skin, a river of blood trickling down his arm.

The crowd cheered Sebastian’s name as Prince Erik walked out of the ring, head heavy with defeat. Clary just stared at Sebastian, hoping that God would give her the gift of Holy fire and she could char him on the spot with her gaze. But, like it was with the last couple of prayers regarding the murder of Prince Sebastian, none of her wishes had been granted.

She would have yelled and thrown her tiny fists towards the sky, but drawing that kind of attention, especially from a princess, was unheard of. As a lady of the court, she was to be seen and rarely heard from unless another male addressed her specifically. Clary had to literally close her eyes, preventing herself from rolling her eyes in disgust.

Her eyes snapped open when she heard her own mother and father clapping their hands in recognition of Sebastian’s victory over the other contenders in the latest game of sword skill.

Her eyes flew to Sebastian and her blood ran cold as she locked eyes with his. He had that smirk on his face again and her hand twitched to smack it off his face. He turned to her and bowed to his waist. The crowd continued it’s cheer until Luke once again stood at the forefront of the dais.

“And now ladies and gentlemen, for our final contest, may I direct you to our archery range,” Luke yelled from his standing position. “Would the contestants please pick up their bow and arrows and proceed to their marks.”

Murmurs of excitement surrounded the young princes as they stretched the lines on their bows, testing their strength. When they were all at the ready, the first prince, Prince Athelstan, let his arrow fly.

Clary watched with baited breath as it soared through the air. She nearly had to stifle the laughter when his arrow sailed clear over the target. The crowd laughed as Prince Athelstan walked back to his seething father in shame. Clary immediately felt ashamed for having laughed at his error, but only slightly.

She watched as the second prince, Prince Phillip, loaded his arrow onto his bow and fired at the same target. The arrow in bedded itself into the outermost ring of the target and the crowd cheered. The prince turned around and opened his arms to receive their praise. He walked back to his father and got a firm pat on the back.

Prince Erik took his arm and his arrow flew though the air and dug itself just outside the red circle in the middle. Clary blew out the breath she didn’t know she had and felt the sweat forming on her forehead. Things were just getting a little close for her comfort.

And then he stood up to the mark. Sebastian loaded his arrow and without even taking a second to eye his target, he let his arrow fly. Clary watched, as if in slow motion, the arrow gliding through the air, straight and true. Her instincts told her that this was a good one and her stomach fell.

She heard the whizzing of the arrow before it sunk into the very center of the target. The crowd went wild as their new champion turned to face them.

The King and Queen clapped the congratulations again for the Prince of Mercia, Valentine not far wear they stood. Valentine turned towards the dais and looked right into Queen Jocelyn’s piercing green eyes.

“It looks like we’re going to be in-laws, Jocelyn,” he smiled crookedly at her, but Jocelyn held her composer.

“That’s Queen Jocelyn, King Valentine,” she said through gritted teeth.

“Of course,” Valentine said, reluctantly before returning his attention to his son’s victory. If only for a little while longer, he added in his own mind.

The Queen turned away from Valentine, stifling a shudder that threatened her composer whenever he was around and decided to focus on her daughter. She turned to her daughter with a nervous smile, but stopped immediately upon seeing the empty space beside her husband.

“Where is she?” Jocelyn hissed and Luke turned to find that Clary had gone. Both the King and Queen shouted Clary’s name, which stirred a fuss among the crowd.

Sebastian smirked, thinking that the little princess had run away from him. If she thought she could outrun him then she would sorely---

“My name is Clarissa Garroway,” a strong, feminine voice rang out. There was a collective gasp among the crowd as Clary emerged as a hooded figure from the mass of people, bow in one hand and arrow in another. “And I’ll be shooting for my own hand!” She ripped off her hood and stood her ground.

She went to lift her arms, but her dress prevented the movement of her arms high enough to properly fire a bow. Frustrated, she arched her back and crossed her arms in front of her. She was rewarded with the sound of her dress ripping down her back.

She didn’t let the fact that she was exposing her corset to everyone around her bother her. She stretched her arms up and heard the same ripping coming from the seems under arms. Able to move freely now, Clary shook herself and concentrated on the task at hand.

Sebastian stood back and watched the fire in this young girl’s eyes and he felt something stir beneath him. He observed her using the bow and arrow like it was a natural extension of her arm. He would have to watch her around sharp objects from now on. He chuckled to himself and watched the events as they followed.

“Clarissa!” Clary heard her mother yell from across the way, but Clary just placed her arrow against her bow, the familiar feeling of wood against her hands. She closed her eyes, took a deep breath and let her arrow fly.

Chapter Text

“Welcome to Eoforwic,” the guard spoke, leading the travelers through the fortress gate. Jace, hands clasped behind his back, listened eagerly as the guard told them about the capital of Northumbria, Alec and Izzy behind him, flanking him on either side.

“Eoforwic is Northumbria’s epicenter for trade, linking most of the greater Saxon countries with foreign lands, such as France and the Rhineland.”

Jace found this piece of information very interesting. “Eoforwic must see a lot of valuable merchandise pass through its gates. How do you protect it against those who would be willing to steal from you?”

“You speak of the northmen?” the guard asked, turning his head slightly towards Jace. At Jace’s nod, the guard continued, “These walls have never been breached by the pagan heathens. It is well guarded and we have the will of God on our side.”

“And what did the priests at Lindisfarne have?” Jace smirked, before he heard Alec hiss his name. The guard, having taken great offense to Jace’s harsh reminder of the fate of Lindisfarne, quickly turned on the three travelers, sword pointing directly at Jace’s neck.

No sooner had the guard’s sword left his sheath, Alec and Izzy had drawn their own weapons. Jace slowly raised his hands in surrender, “We don’t want any trouble, sir.”

The guard’s arm, holding the broadsword, shook a little, “You’re one of them, aren’t you? You’re pagans?”

Before the guard could yell for help, Jace moved with lightening speed, knocking the guard’s sword out of his trembling hand. He covered the guard’s mouth with his hand and forced him into a small, dark alley. Izzy and Alec quickly surveyed their surroundings for any witnesses and once they were certain there were none, quickly followed Jace into the darkness.

“I am going to take my hand away from your mouth,” Jace whispered, his whole body tense and ready for a fight, “If you scream or call for help in any way, we will slit your throat.” The guard slowly nodded his head in understanding and Jace slowly removed his hand from the guard’s mouth.

“Dear Father in Heaven,” the guard whined, looking towards the sky, “Do not forsake me in the presence of thy enemy, oh Lord. Deliver me from these shadows or shepherd this servant to his salvation.” The man began to weep, tears spilling over his cheeks. He sank to his knees, his palms turned upward, begging his god to hear his pleas.

Jace looked to Alec and Izzy and saw his own startled look on their faces. He looked to the blubbering male in front of him and decided that all this noise was going to attract the wrong kind of attention.

“I’ll deliver you to your god, Saxon,” Jace said, bringing his sword over his head. The guard cried out as Jace brought down his blade, instantly burying it into the man’s upturned skull. The man’s cries instantly ceased as Jace removed his weapon from the man’s bleeding head. His body slumped forward, hitting the ground with a thud.

“Jace!” Izzy squeaked, sheathing her sword and crouching down next to the twitching body. “Dammit, this was not the plan- in and out, no blood was to be spilt.”

Jace shrugged his shoulder, “He was of no use to us, Isabelle. It was either kill him or take him as a prisoner.” Jace looked to Alec to help defend his actions, but Alec was silent, placing his own sword back into its holder.

“It was reckless and stupid, Jace,” Alec said, his hands clasped behind his back, as he covered the small distance between him and the other two. He looked to the ground where the lifeless body of the Saxon laid. “But what is done is done; we need to do something with the body. We don’t want them finding him and shutting this whole place down.” Jace agreed, shaking his head, thinking of what they should do next.

Izzy stood up, placing her hands on her hips, a frown creasing her beautifully, sharp features. She turned to the men, deep in thought and spoke, “Alec and I will take care of the body. Jace, use the armor to blend into the crowd. You’ll be less likely to be bothered if you appear to be one of their guards as opposed to a single man walking the streets yourself.”

Alec frowned, “I don’t like the idea of splitting up, Izzy. What if something happens?”

Izzy rolled her eyes, “Oh please, Alec, Jace can take care of himself. Besides, I can’t dispose of this body all by myself!” She folded her arms against her chest and waited for her brother to continue to argue with her, but like always, to his chagrin, Alec saw his sister’s point and relented.

“Fine,” he muttered, “Jace, are you okay with this plan?” The two Lightwood siblings looked to Jace, their identical, thin eyebrows arched in question.

Jace had been cleaning his blade with a piece of his cloak and pursed his lips. He looked at the two before him and gasped, dramatically.

“Oh, you’re talking to me?” he said, sarcastically, “For a second there I forgot I was the one in charge.” His stared back at them, a hit of playfulness behind his sparkling, golden eyes.

Alec rolled his eyes, “Just put on the damn armor, Jace.” Izzy bit her tongue, not willing to encourage Jace. She was trying to be serious and right now she should be mad at her adoptive brother and his rash decisions.

Izzy helped Alec and Jace to switch Jace’s clothes with the guards, hoping that his appearance upon being found would make the public think he was a drunkard. They knew murders ran rampant in the alleyways of these Saxon towns, but unless the victim had any importance, most of it went unnoticed.

When Jace fastened the last buckle in his armor, he looked to Alec and Izzy, “Once you get rid of the body, find me. I’m going to see if there are any weaknesses in the outside wall.” He peered out of the alleyway and looked back towards the way they came. “The wall itself is too high to climb; we would be sitting ducks on any ladders we built to scale the walls,” he creased his forehead in concentration.

Alec, eyes cast down in thought as well, spoke when an idea sparked, “But if we can somehow get inside and take control of the gate, we can let ourselves in with minimal fatalities.”

“Exactly,” Jace mused, “We will have one shot at this and we mustn’t waist it.”

“Then it’s settled,” Izzy piped up, “Find this weakness so we can get back to camp.”

Jace nodded his head before turning on his heel and stalking out of the alleyway. Alec watched his retreating figure and sighed, nothing ever good came out of Jace going off by himself. Alec turned when he heard his sister’s over exaggerated clearing of her throat. He looked her way and saw her eyebrow turned upwards at him.

“What?” he asked, a little snap in his tone.

“I’m just wondering when you’re going to stop worrying about him, Alec,” she said, her eyes softening under her brother’s slumping shoulders. She reached out to touch his arm, “I know how you feel about him, but I’m worried you’re closing yourself off to new opportunities because you’re holding out hope for something that isn’t your fate.”

Alec looked at his feet, unable to look into his sister’s eyes, “What is my fate, Izzy?” His voice cracking on her name, causing Izzy’s heart to shatter into a million little pieces for her brother.

Izzy pulled his chin up with her small, yet deceivingly strong hands, so she could look into his eyes. “I don’t know, Alec, only the gods know our fate. But I have to believe there is someone out there for you. There has to be, for all of us.”

Alec smiled at his baby sister, for all the times she made him moan and groan in annoyance, there were these small, intimate moments where he was grateful to have such a loving and caring person to share his most protected thoughts. Sure, he trusted Jace with his life and thought of him as a brother, but there was a unique connection with his sister, that made him feel safe and he cherished that.

“I don’t know what I did to deserve such a special gift from the gods in you, Isabelle,” he said, pulling her into a hug. He rarely showed his affection for his loved one’s in physical contact, but on some occasions he just needed it.

Izzy was shocked when her brother pulled her into his arms and she wrapped her arms around him, “I don’t know either, brother; all I know is that I will always be here for you.” She allowed herself to breathe in her brother’s sent. He smelled of wood and grass and she committed it to her memory. They stood like that for a brief moment, letting the love between them wrap a protective barrier around themselves.

Izzy was the first to break away from the embrace, wiping her eyes quickly, careful not to mess up her eye paint. “If my paint is running, making me look like a sea witch, then you’re the first person I’m coming after, Alec Lightwood,” she threatened, light-heartedly over her shoulder, as she walked back over to the paling body a few yards away. Alec chuckled as he followed his sister towards the body, both of the Lightwoods bending down on opposite ends and heaving the corpse into their arms.

“Lets just get rid of this dead body before you start making new ones, hmm,” he said, smirking at his little sister.

“Fine,” she said, hauling the man’s legs up and around her waist, “Lets be quick about it; it’ll be dark soon and Odin only knows what Jace has been doing this whole time.”

“And now whose worried?” Alec said, arching an eyebrow at his sister.

Izzy rolled her eyes, “Just hurry up,” she muttered and the two of them picked up their speed as they smuggled the corpse down alleyways searching for a place to stash the body.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*

 

Jace made his way through the streets of Eoforwic, the sounds of his chainmail clinking under the swinging of his arms. He wondered briefly how the Saxons were able to effectively maneuver their bodies on the battlefield. The armor he wore was both exceedingly heavy and constricting. He was dying to rip it off and free his movements, but he kept up his charade and held off.

Jace admired the tall, stone buildings lining the cobblestone streets, his boots clickinging against the hard ground. He nodded his head towards the occasional passerby as they headed in the opposite direction. That’s when he noticed why he felt something was out of place. He looked around; the streets were nearly empty. For a place that was supposedly the center of Saxon trade, the marketplace was relatively deserted.

Jace stopped a man and a woman walking towards him, both dressed in clean clothes and their skin free of dirt. They looked to be a couple of wealth and Jace took the opportunity to ask where all the people were. The man and the woman looked at each other before turning surprised eyes back to him. Jace had to refrain from gulping at the realization that maybe this seemingly innocent question was an obvious one to these people.

Jace straightened up to his full height, “Well?”

The man gaped, clearing his throat and answered, his voice shaking under the soldier’s harsh inquiry. “Well, uh, the King has invited the townspeople to join himself and the Queen,” he began, “You see, today is the day the young princes will compete for the princess’ hand in marriage.”

Jace thought this amusing, “Is this how you settle all your marriage disputes?” Upon seeing the confused and frowning looks these people were giving him once again, he added, “Sorry, I am new here. Still trying to learn the customs.”

The couple seemed to understand this wayward man’s excuse and settled back into themselves, comfortably.

“No,” the gentlemen said, “This is so much more than a simple marriage proposal; this is a much needed alliance between the kingdoms as the threat of the pagans is upon us.”

“Charles,” the woman gasped, “You know I don’t like it when you say that word out loud.” Jace watched through laughing eyes as the man and woman crossed themselves over their chests in the Christian symbol of the cross.

“It is what it is, Elizabeth,” Charles said, “Choosing to ignore our dangerous reality by hiding in fear of a name, will not protect us against their impending threats.”

“Have you ever fought the northmen?” Elizabeth asked, her eyes barely flicking to Jace’s, as if she was almost too embarrassed to ask the question, “I heard their eyes are as black as the night and their hands or not hands, but demonic talons, distorting their bodies as they do the Devil’s work.” She crossed herself again, a look of horror crossing her face.

Jace had to carefully school his features as he replied, “I’ve seen my fair share of northmen, my lady.” He looked around, making sure they were alone. He watched in amusement as the man and his wife did the same. He waved them in closer and waited as they stepped closer to him, leaning their heads in his direction.

“I do not know about talons,” he whispered, “but what I do remember are the battle cries.” He watched as their eyes dilated in fear.

“What of their battle cries?” the man whispered, holding on to his wife. Jace briefly wondered to whom he was trying to comfort more, himself or his wife.

“It was like nothing I’ve ever heard before,” Jace murmured, looking past the man and woman, as if remembering a far off memory. “Just before they attack, the northman call out to their pagan gods, the sounds in the air making men claw at their own ears.”

“Dear Lord in Heaven,” the woman whispered, her eyes narrowing to the ground, “Have mercy on us all.”

Jace took pity on the man and woman before him, “This town isn’t safe anymore.” He watched, as their eyes grew wide with fear. “Take what you can carry and head east. Do not look back, do not tell your neighbors. We do not want to create mass hysteria.”

The gentlemen eyed Jace cautiously, “Who are you again?”

“Someone who is trying to save you from a fate worse than death,” Jace said, growing tired of the couple, “Do with my warning as you please. But know, the pagans will show you no mercy.”

“Charles,” Elizabeth pleaded, “Lets take this kind man’s warning to heart. I’ve always wanted to visit my cousin in France. Lets just go now, while we can.”

Charles let his eyes fall on his wife and Jace watched as they softened against the clear fear staring back at him. He took his wife’s hands in his and nodded.

“Very well, we leave tonight for France,” he turned to face the soldier again, but he was gone. A shudder running down his spine, Charles led his wife back to their home, packing lightly as their trip would be long and dangerous.

 

 

 

Realizing he had spent too much time with the Christian couple, Jace once again returned to his original mission. Sticking to the outer boundaries of the town, Jace ran his hands along the stone infrastructure of the wall. Jace would be lying to himself if he didn’t admit that he was impressed with the Saxon fortification of their city.

His hands ran across a section of the wall that was worn away from old age and he let his mind wonder over all that this wall had seen- years of settlement, a growing city blooming within it’s walls, countless battles fought for it’s land.

Jace was brought roughly out of his thoughts when his ears perked up to the sound of running water coming from down below. Stepping back a few feet, Jace observed the wall’s foundation and was pleased to see iron bars, surmising that this could be his way in.

Jace fished in the ground for a rock and tossed it through the bars, hearing the rock splash against the water’s surface, he guessed that the underground sewer couldn’t be more than five feet tall. He tugged on the iron bars and heard the creaking of the bars between his hands. This was the weakness he was looking for.

]“Perfect,” he muttered as he made his way to turn back to find Izzy and Alec when a voice sounded behind him.

“Solider, why are you not at your post?” a male, and telling from his Saxon coat of arms on his armor, Jace presumed that this was some sort of general, coming up to him with a stern look on his face.

            His mind whirling with a possible excuse, Jace cleared his throat, “I thought I heard something and thought I would check it out.” Jace eyed the general and tried to appear as if he really meant his lie. “Sir,” he quickly added. The general seemed not to believe him, but decided to let the young man off the hook; he had other things to worry about.

“Very well then,” he said, “Now that you’ve seen to your business, how’s about you pick up your skirts and go protect your king and queen.”

“Sir?” Jace asked, momentarily confused.

“At the bloody festival, you idiot,” the general fumed and he stalked off muttering something about insubordinate, young morons and how they were slowly killing chivalry.

“Right,” Jace muttered. He supposed he would check out this great festival that had the whole town gathering in one place. It might be in his best interest to observe the townspeople and their leaders in their own habitat. It was always a good strategy to know your enemies in times of peace and war.

Jace walked towards the town’s northern most section, letting the sounds of a crowd cheering lead him through the streets, quickly becoming curious about how the Christians entertained themselves.

Coming upon a vast clearing, Jace was met with several red and yellow tents lined in rows, people walking here and there, chattering with one another, and laughing in some cases. Men held pints of what looked like ale and the woman whispered behind their fans, giggling as they eyed other men and woman joining the festivities.

Jace walked among the tents, downing his own pint of beer, free of charge to the good, sir, he had been told and made his way to the center of the grounds. The closer he got to the yelling and cheering, the more he was able to see that a crowd was gathering around a spectacle that sounded to Jace like the clashing of weapons.

Intrigued, Jace sauntered over to the crowd and moved about for a better view of what held everyone’s attention. He himself was a little amused when he saw what appeared to be a sword skill competition between two men, one being exceedingly tall and muscular, while the other was slightly shorter, but had the footwork of a true swordsman.

Jace found himself cheering for the smaller, blonde male. He always liked the underdogs in any given situation. Any chance to throw fate a blow when the underrated came out on top gave Jace a thrill through his veins. He found himself cheering for the blonde when the rest of the crowd did so and throwing heinous slanders when the competitor dealt his blows.

Jace actually raised his fist in unison with the other Saxons when the blonde boy drew first blood. A great cheer sounded through the crowd and Jace found himself slapping other men on the backs and sharing in their delight. He had to mentally check himself as the mood of the crowd was swallowing him whole. He had to keep his mission in check. What the heck, he thought to himself, seeing one Saxon kill another can’t be that bad.

Turning to enjoy the fight once more, he was greatly puzzled when both men put their swords down, the bigger male walking off in what seemed like shame, his head sunk below his shoulders and the other male welcoming the audience’s applause and whistles. Was this not a fight to the kill? Why were they stopping when the good part was only just the beginning? Jace was about to stalk off, when he heard the crowd hush as a strong, male voice rang out above them.

Jace moved closer to the voice, wanting to get a peak at this Saxon leader. A man, maybe in his late thirties stood on a dais, not a hundred feet where Jace, himself, stood. Before him, Jace took in the appearance of the Saxon king. He had brown hair and aged, blue eyes that looked to have immense wisdom and maybe a little good naturedness. The way he spoke to his subjects gave Jace the insight that maybe he respected his people and maybe that respect was returned in the way that the people hung to his every word.

Jace looked to the king's right and saw a woman sitting on a wooden thrown. She was remarkably beautiful, her own age showing her class and her eyes sparkling as she listened to her husband speak. Jace saw her red hair and something in the back of his mind. Shaking off the nuisance, he craned his head to try and see the other figure on the dais, but the king’s large figure was in his way. He supposed it was the unlucky princess, the poor girl, being auctioned off as a prize so her father could secure an alliance against the Vikings. Against him. Jace just smirked and turned his attention back to the speaking king.

Jace listened to this king and noted that he was directing the audience to the next competition- archery. Jace nearly snorted. He wished Alec was here to see this. He knew, without a doubt, that his best friend could out skill any man or woman with a bow and arrow. Still, he was planted to his spot, his curiosity preventing any and all movement with his feet.

He watched and laughed with the crowd as the first two contestants shamed their families with their clear lack of archery skill. He even gasped in genuine surprise when the third contestant flew his arrow dangerously close to the target. There were murmurings in the crowd and then all went silent as the blonde boy from the sword skill fight emerged and settled on his mark. Jace’s eyes widened as the young man took his stance and immediately let his arrow flow from his bow, not taking the precious moments to align his arrow with the target a couple hundred yards away.

Jace waited with baited breath, as it seemed he watched the arrow flying through the air. The crowd erupted in a victorious cheer as the young man’s arrow buried itself in the dead center of the red epicenter of the target. Jace’s hand flew to his forehead in amazement, that guy is good. If he weren’t a fucking Christian, Jace might consider recruiting him for his army, might, being the operative word.

Jace was momentarily brought out of his celebration when a small, yet determined figure ran past him, bumping his shoulder, nearly spilling his ale down his front. He whipped his head to the side, the crowd’s vibe making his own warrior blood boil for a flight. However, all her saw was a small figure, maybe a foot shorter than he was and a good deal thinner in frame, a bright blue cloak billowing behind the offender.

 He watched as the figure disappeared into the crowd, most likely seeking a closer look and Jace just shrugged. Seeing as it was probably the best time to catch up with Izzy and Alec, he started to turn when he heard a feminine voice ring out over the crowd- instantly swallowing them into silence.

“My name is Clarissa Garroway,” the feminine voice called out.

Jace craned his neck, seeing he exact blue coat that had earlier brushed against him be pulled back, the hood falling away from a head full of fiery, red tendrils. His mouth gaped open and dried instantly, his eyes unmoving from the petite woman, commanding the attention of every soul within the foreseeable distance.

He watched her load her arrow into her bow, defiantly against the expressed wishes of the king and queen. He suspected that she was, in fact, the princess. He saw her take in a steadying breath and released her arrow into the air.

Jace watched as her arrow tore through the shaft of the blonde boy’s perfect shot, shredding the arrow into shreds. There was no yelling, there were no shouts of victory; there was only silence.

Jace felt Izzy and Alec position themselves behind him, but he didn’t move, didn’t acknowledge their presence. His eyes were still glued to the arrow, still humming with the vibrations of its sudden halt in its trajectory.

“Jace,” Alec muttered, placing his hand on his friend’s shoulder, “We need to go.”

“Be silent,” Jace hissed his command. He froze in place as he watched the woman spin on her heel and head straight towards him. He gulped seeing the fire deep within her green eyes way before she even got within yards of him, but he still could not move from his spot.

The crowd parted down the middle, allowing the princess to maneuver through them with ease. It took him a moment to register the fact that she was no mere feet from where he stood, looking at him incredulously.

“Move,” the command was faint, but Jace heard it and obeyed, forcing his legs to move with all his might. He watched her as she brushed past him once more, this time staying clear of his shoulder. He and the other members of the crowd, including Izzy and Alec watched as the princess’s figured disappeared among the tents, guards quickly following in her path, their king and queen quickly in tow.

Jace felt Izzy’s light touch of her hand on his forearm, tugging him lightly, “Jace, lets go, please.” The soft begging in her voice is what took him out of his trance and he slowly nodded his head in acceptance. He needed to get out of there, the walls felt incredibly constricting and the armor was all but crushing him on the inside. He needed to feel the fresh air again and shake him of this heavy beat that now pumped through his veins. Whatever he had just felt, staring into those piercing green eyes, flowing red locks, bristling in the wind…he didn’t want any part of it.

Chapter Text

Breath in. Steady yourself; this is your moment.

Breath out. You are the master of your own fate.

Let go. Oh God, please let this work!

Her eyes shut, not needing them to see, but allowing her other senses and instincts to take over, Clary released her arrow beneath her fingers. She felt the movement of air beside her cheek, a kiss of wind, as the arrow’s momentum propelled it forward. The smooth, narrow wood grazed against her fingers as the arrow left her bow, straight and true. Her ears buzzed with the arrow’s vibration as it ripped through the air towards its target. It was beautiful, so natural, so…freeing.

A harsh sound brought her out of her thoughts, her eyes snapping open. She watched as tiny splinters of wood fell to the ground. Her arrow had cut cleanly through Sebastian’s, leaving it the only arrow embedded in the target.

She finally released the breath she had been holding, her shoulders slumping as all the air rushed out of her. She felt a flurry build in her chest, a smile playing on her lips.

She turned her eyes to the dais where she knew her mother and father would be standing, no doubt a little embarrassed, but hopefully, more proud of her taking her fate in her own hands.

Her heart stilled when she saw their angry looks, both ashamed of her outburst and humiliated in front of the townspeople and their guests. Clary’s forming smile quickly disappeared from her lips, her eyes hardening as she felt that she had just lost so much more than her own freedom- but she had also lost the respect of her own parents.

Her heart dropped to her stomach as she felt the last hope of saving herself slip right through her grasp, just as she had let her arrow slip through her fingers. It was all so unfair. She felt angry tears burning behind her eyes and had to ball her small wrists into tight fists in order to keep her crumbling demeanor in check. She straightened her shoulders, forcing herself to accept whatever was to happen next, but she cringed when a very familiar throat clearing scraped against her ears. Sebastian.

Clary’s green eyes swiveled to Sebastian, all the hurt, anger, disgust, pouring from her through her gaze, but he didn’t flinch. He merely stood there, a smirk across his beautifully, sharp features. He knew she had lost to him, they both knew it and he was pleased to see that they both were now acknowledging it.

Clary knew herself too well. She knew that if she let her anger get the better of her, she would be reduced to a sputtering, crying mess. This would no only humiliate her and her family, it would show Sebastian that he had won and she would be disgraced by her people for her poor behavior.

With one last look at the dais, Clary turned on her heel and stalked back through the still and silent line of onlookers. She did not have to utter a single word to the townspeople as she moved through their ranks; they made way for the glowering princess, none of them willing to get in her way. Clary’s eyes remained narrowed on the ground as she walked, unable to meet any of their eyes, not wanting to see their sympathy or their embarrassment of her behavior. It was all too much. Clary just wanted to get as far away from here as possible.

Her mind focused on nothing but her retreat, Clary nearly stumbled into a pair of boots that quickly came within her view of the ground. She halted, waiting for them to move out of her way, but they stood there, planted in the ground, like two oak tree roots, not budging.

Clary let out a small growl under her breath, her blood boiling beneath her skin as the person was stopping her from making her escape, fleeing the humiliation she had brought onto herself.

Slowly, Clary dragged her eyes to meet the man’s eyes, gathering her wits to order him out of her way. As her eyes travelled his figure, she became acutely aware of the man’s appearance. He stood tall and confident, even under the heavy weight of his armor. The breadth of his shoulder made her mouth momentarily dry, whispers of golden hair falling just below their surface.

When Clary finally glued her eyes to his face, she was struck by the brilliant shade of gold within the stranger’s eyes. She suddenly found herself swallowing against a rather large lump in her throat as she felt totally surrounded by the man, his gaze pulling her in. His eyes shown like the sun, his beauty somehow working as it’s own gravitation pull, her own body wanting to get closer.

Whoa, Clary thought, shaking herself out of her trance. Get a grip, Clarissa.

Clary straightened her posture and narrowed her eyes to his broad chest, unable to meet his eyes a second time.

“Move,” she commanded, not meaning for it to come out so harshly, but it did it’s job. The soldier stepped to the side, allowing her to move around his finger and disappear into the crowd. She picked up her pace, the anger sitting just below the surface causing her to feel volatile and unpredictable. She let the breeze run through her hair, billowing her cloak, as she made her way to the safety and privacy of the castle. She needed those walls more than ever now. Never before had she felt so unprotected outside those walls, but right now, she couldn’t think of anywhere else she would want to be.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

 

Watching his unwilling, future bride wade through the crowd, trying to escape her fate, sent a light dancing in his eyes. You can run, Clarissa, but you can’t hide forever, he thought to himself. A small smirk pulled at the edges of his mouth; she wasn’t going to make it easy for him, he knew that, but Sebastian could never back away from a decent challenge. She would see that he was the one in control and that obedience was her only option.

Bending down to retrieve his belongings, his mind kept playing the moment when his blushing bride realized that even after her dramatic show of disobedience and disrespect, he had still one. They both knew now that her fate had been sealed. She was his now. His to own, his to enjoy, his to corrupt.

He smirked seeing the king and queen run after their daughter, their own faces ones of humiliation and apology. This was all too easy, he thought, it was almost a pity.

Sebastian stiffened immediately upon feeling the familiar hand of his father clap unceremoniously atop his shoulder. His face set into a scowl as he turned his head, his father smelling of stale beer. His father was drunk, his eyes glassy, but held the same light his own eyes had held just moments ago

“She’s going to be quite the handful, my son,” Valentine spoke, squeezing his son’s shoulder slightly. He leaned in, his mouth close to his son’s ear as he watched the last of the soldiers disappear from view. “The ones who put up the most fight are usually the ones who are the most worth it,” he ruffled the back of Sebastian’s hair, as a father would to his young son.

Sebastian reeled from his father’s touch, his black eyes blazing with disgust, “I can handle Clarissa, father,” he spat. “She won’t have anyone else to fight for or run to but me, just you wait and see.”

Valentine wasn’t listening to his son, instead he watched as the familiar figure of Queen Jocelyn disappeared among the tents, closely on the heels of her escaping daughter. His mind wandered to the other night when he had pictured her, naked in his bed. She was a magnificent woman, Jocelyn. Even in the face of her daughter’s humiliation, she handled herself with the poise of a queen and the grace of a woman. He could feel his pants growing tight once more and had to shake himself out of his thoughts, before someone noticed.

Valentine’s eyes fell back to Sebastian’s. “I’ve been waiting long enough, son,” he muttered, “You’ve told me nothing of what you’re planning.” When he noticed that Sebastian was ignoring him, he dropped his hands, in defeat, his eyes growing cold with suspicion and maybe, if he was completely honest, distrust.

Sebastian’s attention was pulled back to his father as he felt his icy stare sink through his skin. He looked into his father’s eyes and smirked, “Planning?”

“Don’t patronize me, Sebastian,” Valentine warned, his voice even and cool, “I am still your father, your king. I think it’s time you let me in on your little scheme.”

Sebastian’s eyes narrowed on his father’s as the word “scheme” made it sound like his big plans were nothing more than childish games.

“Careful father, I wouldn’t overestimate your role in my plan to succeed,” Sebastian gritted out between clenched teeth. Seeing his father’s stance become rigid and his eyes impossibly harder, Sebastian visibly relaxed his posture, careful to keep his smile turned inwardly. “I need to get moving, father, I assure you that whatever I am planning, it benefits the both of us.”

“Then let me go with you,” Valentine said, a little pleading in his voice, “I want to see this plan through at your side. Let me be apart of this!”

“No,” Sebastian said sternly, “You have to remain unaware, father. You must stay behind and celebrate my victory as any father would in your place.”

Valentine crossed his arms, “Fine, I’ll do as I’m told for now, Sebastian, but at least have one drink with me, son! Is this not want you wanted? The princess as your future wife? This is something to celebrate!”

“I can’t,” Sebastian snapped, “This plan is bigger than making Clarissa mine; what I have in mind will change everything, father.” At his father’s gaping mouth, he continued, “I need you to distract the townspeople to my absence. Lie to them; tell them I’ve gone off to pray, or something ridiculous like that. I need an alibi to cover my absence as I put the next pieces of my plan into action.”

Valentine, furious that he was going to be left behind once more, couldn’t keep the venom out of his own voice, “I don’t like being kept in the dark, son.” Ever since he and Sebastian had come to Northumbria, he felt the need to stay within his son’s good graces. A small voice in the vast reaches of his mind kept pulling him back to the dark thought, reminding him that if he ever found that Sebastian no longer considered him an asset, he would surely find him at the wrong end of his sword.

“You’ve waited this long father,” Sebastian said, “I only ask that you wait just a little while longer. The end is closer than you think.”

Valentine had to visibly shake himself from his thoughts as he watched his son walk past him and head towards the edge of town. Getting paranoid now would not serve to help Sebastian in whatever he was planning. No, he would bid his time with his son. Do what it is he wanted him to do, for now. He couldn’t afford to lose his son’s trust in this foreign land, unable to command his army, not knowing how many were loyal to him over his own son in the few guards that they had brought with them to Northumbria.

He looked towards the thinning crowd, their laughter and cheers settling over his ears. He took in a deep breath and sauntered over to where their cheers were coming from. He resigned himself to his given task, to “celebrate as a father would.” Perhaps tonight he could drown himself in beer and woman, numbing his deep seeded feelings concerning his son. After all, Sebastian had said that the end was closer than he thought.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

Clary’s chest heaved as her sobs threatened to overwhelm her. She threw herself into the doors leading into the throne room, needing a place to collect herself, not trusting that her composure would last down the maze of hallways leading to her own chambers.

She brought her shaking hands to the base of her neck, fumbling with the draw string, feeling as though it would strangle her into unconsciousness if she did not get the offending object off in time. Her hysteria was only making her shake harder, sobs bubbling just beneath the surface. She tore at the string until it loosened, the cloak falling around her shoulders and grabbing it between her fists, she hurled it across the room. The precious material landed softly against the steps that preceded the thrones on which the royal family sat atop of.

Clary felt her body move slowly towards the steps, her legs dragging like heavy stones as she willed herself across the room. She ungracefully let herself fall against the third step, burying her head in her hands. She tried to breath in through her nose steadily as she forced her body to quiet down. She needed to regain her composure for what was coming next. She could feel sorry and afraid for herself later, but right now, there was a storm coming- her parents.

Clary’s ears perked up to the sound of her mother and father approaching the throne room and gulped, resigning herself to her fate. She could hear her mother shouting orders to the guards and household servants, demanding them to give her family some privacy.

Clary cringed inwardly as the door was roughly opened, two sets of feet furiously gaining ground on where she sat on the stone steps. She waited with baited breath as her parents advanced on her. Knowing that she couldn’t escape what was coming, she summoned every once of strength she had left and waited.

“Stand up, Clarissa,” her mother ordered, not too kindly. She stood mere feet from where Clary’s crouched position waited on their steps. She watched as her daughter slowly rose from her sitting position, her eyes not daring to meet her mother’s furious ones.

Clary could feel their eyes on her’s, waiting for her to say something, anything to account or her earlier actions, but her tongue was tide, in guilt or shame, she wasn’t quite sure. Instead, she just crossed her arms over her chest and narrowed her eyes to the floor, not even willing to look at their shoes in front of her.

“I’m disappointed in you, Clarissa,” her mother said in a low voice, her voice no longer harsh, but true, “You have acted childishly today and have such behaved selfishly.”

Clary’s eyes brimmed with tears, she knew that she had brought great dishonor on her family and the reputation of her people, but she had done what she felt like she had to.

“Mother, I—“ Clary began, but her mother cut in.

“Enough,” Jocelyn ordered, “You will say nothing. You will publicly apologize for your outburst, to both our community and Prince Sebastian.”

Clary’s eyes flashed to her mother’s, her own emerald, green eyes looking at her’s expectantly. She felt her heart beat a little faster, her stance move a little straight and bit back the urge to scream.

“How can you make me apologize to him?” Clary nearly yelled, but kept her voice tempered, “You don’t know what his is. He doesn’t treat me as a person, he treats me as a prize to be won! He’s a cold, hearted bastard and I won’t marry him!”

Jocelyn gasped as her daughter’s harsh words sounded across her ears, signing herself with the Christian cross, she back away from her daughter, her own eyes brimming with tears of anger and disappointment.

“Enough,” the cool whisper of her father’s voice spoke breaking the silence. He had been silent up until now, trying not to let his own anger and disappointment get the best of him. He realized that yelling and arguing was not going to get them anywhere, but he knew that his daughter needed to know that people like them didn’t always get what they wanted.

Clarissa swiveled her eyes to his and shivered when she saw his cold stare looking back at her. “God did not give us the power or the willingness to rule over these people so that we could do and say as we please, Clarissa. He charged us with the sacred duty of protecting His people from the Devil and his constituents.”

He walked over to his daughter and placed his arms on her shoulders, bending his head down so he could look directly into her eyes, “With this great responsibility we are often asked to make great sacrifices. Your’s is to marry the Prince of Mercia so that our kingdom can survive against the pagan armies that plague the known world. This marriage will symbolize that alliance.”

He looked into his daughter’s eyes and saw that he wasn’t getting through to her. He fixed his eyes on her’s, unflinching, “You have the chance to protect and honor the lives of the people were are sworn to shepherd for our Lord.” He gripped her shoulders, in a tight squeeze to make sure his point was heard, “Do you not understand what you nearly cost us today?”

“And what of my honor and protection?” Clary yelled, standing from the stairs in defiance, “That bastard terrorizes me every chance he gets, don’t you care about that?”

Her mother gasped against her daughter’s cruel tongue, crossing herself, but her father just remained silent, his own anger, bubbling inside of him.

“That is enough,” Luke seethed, trying to keep the anger within him tempered to only his voice. “Your false allegations will not be heard again, is that clear?”

Clary felt a sob slip from her lips; burning tears sliding down her cheeks, “But I—“

“You are dismissed to your room, Clarissa,” her father’s cold voice spoke, stopping her words in her throat, “Prepare yourself for the victory dinner tonight.” Luke turned his back, unable to look into his daughter’s shattered eyes. He hated this whole situation, but as her father, he had to protect her and as the king, he had to protect his people. If he could not accept making his own sacrifices, how could he expect Clary to do the same?

Clary swallowed hard against the lump in her throat, her heart shattering in her chest as she watched her father turn from her. Her father never spoke to her as he had just now. Even as a child, he spoke to her with respect, always making sure that they never walked away from each other angry. This was different. She could feel her legs shaking beneath her and she knew she had to go now.

Swiveling on her heel, Clary headed directly for the door leading to the residential part of the castle, roughly wiping at the tears that were now sliding down her cheeks. She couldn’t wait to feel the safety and security of her chambers, the ability to throw herself against her bed and scream into her pillow until her voice was hoarse almost numbing her with her need to let it all go.

The hairs on the back of her neck stood straight up before her ears picked up to the heavy footsteps directly behind her, alerting her to another presence in the hallway. She didn’t have to turn around to know who it was advancing on her retreating figure.

“Go away, Simon,” she muttered, her eyes still looking straight ahead as she navigated the hallways on autopilot. She felt his cool hand trying to interlace with her’s, but she couldn’t let him sooth her. She couldn’t let him try to make things all better because nothing could make this all better. She retched her arms away from his and barked, “I said go away!”

“I just want to help,” Simon whimpered, trying to take Clary’s visibly shaking hand in his, but she just ripped it away from him.

“You can’t!she screamed and was instantly mad at herself for yelling at her best friend. She couldn’t look at him as she bolted from his side, not stopping as she passed a few guards and other house servants peaking their heads into the hallway curiously. She needed to get out of here, the walls were closing in on her, she needed air. Shadow, she thought, I need Shadow.

Simon stared after his best friend, his own tears prickling behind his eyes as he watched Clary disappear around the corner. Unsure of what happened next, Simon felt helpless as he imagined the fate of the princess. Perhaps for the first time in his young life, Simon Lewis, best friend and comforter, was afraid for the future. Not just for his best friend, but for the whole kingdom of Northumbria.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

           

Sebastian hurried through the streets of Eoforwic, noting that the time of his next engagement was quickly approaching. He carefully maneuvered from street to street, most of the crowds of people too drunk to notice their new hero and future king walking among them.

Sebastian ignored them as they cheered and sang drunkenly of his victory. He felt neither the need nor the desire to celebrate with these people- these drunkards and whores. He was on a mission and nothing was going to keep him from finishing it. He kept his head up and his eyes forward as he passed building after building.

He had nearly broken free of the chaos and excitement of the townspeople when he felt an arm wrap around his shoulders stopping him dead in his tracks. He felt a white, hot flash of anger rip through him and had to still the urge to break the man’s arm. He murderous thoughts were tempered by knowing that he didn’t want to cause unwanted attention just yet.

Sebastian stepped out of the man’s embrace and faced him, straightening his shoulders and stood to his fullest heights. His eyes narrowed on the man’s face, his eyes glassy and his smile a little crooked, his teeth yellowing and grungy looking. Sebastian’s eyes flicked quickly to the man and the woman behind the drunkard, their eyes too were glazed from too much ale.

“My Lord Sebastian,” the drunkard slurred, “You’re one lucky bastard.” The man smiled as he staggered on his feet, the other man and woman giggling as they righted him upon his feet.

“Mary Beth, give this man a pint, wouldya?” the man spoke eagerly, “He’s going to be king!” The woman, Mary Beth, Sebastian presumed, nodded her head eagerly and was about to fetch him a pint when Sebastian held up his head.

“I have importance business to report to, good people,” he groaned out, this was certainly a waste of his precious time, “I have neither the time or the desire to drink with you.”

“To be so young and eager,” the drunk man bellowed, raising his own pint to Sebastian, bringing it to his lips and downing the brown liquid in a few gulps. Sebastian watched, disgusted, as the man wiped his wet mouth with the back of his hand. “Tell me,” the drunk murmured, coming dangerously close to Sebastian, “Do you think the princess is as tasty as she looks?”

Sebastian responded by putting the blade of his sword through the man’s throat. Instantly, the man dropped to his knees, the pint cup crashing to the ground, breaking into hundreds of pieces. The man startled gurgling, chocking on his own blood, but Sebastian just stared, fascinated. He didn’t hear the screaming from Mary Beth or the whispered prayers from the other man behind him.

“Tell me, good citizen,” he asked condescendingly, “How does the blade of my sword taste? As good as it looks?” Sebastian ripped the blade from the man’s still figure, the light gone from his eyes, his figure slumping to the ground. “She belongs to me now.”

Finally hearing the commotion coming from the man and woman behind him, Sebastian turned his attention to them, silencing them immediately. “You will not speak of this to anyone,” he muttered dangerously, “If you do, your deaths will not be as quick as his.”

Sebastian watched their fleeing figures as they ran from him. Bending down next to the drunkard’s body, he began cleaning his blade with the man’s shirt, eager to clean the filth from his blade. Satisfied when his sword once again show like new, Sebastian held it by the hilt and held it up to examine its sharp feature. He smiled, remembering the way it cleanly sliced through the man’s throat. Nothing was quite like the feel of piercing living flesh. It felt nice; it felt calming. Placing the sword back into his holder at his side, Sebastian stepped over the corpse and continued his path towards the edge of town.

Sebastian picked up his pace as the looming stable housing the royal steeds and mares came swiftly into view. He would need a horse to make it out to his meeting point in time. He wasted no time in shuffling through the doors to find the man in charge, ordering that his horse be made ready. When the man asked if he needed an escort, Sebastian waved him off, dismissing the tenant’s suggestion.

“My business is my own,” Sebastian said sternly, “I must go alone.” He took the reigns from the elderly man and quickly mounted his horse. He clicked his heels against the underbelly of the beast beneath him and steered him towards the main gait.

As he neared the gate, he ordered the guards to let him pass, pleased to hear the resounding yells of the guards shouting to open the gate. He led his horse through the doors and waited until he was a couple yards away from the partition, separating the city from the countryside to pick up the horse’s pace. He kicked the horse into a gallop, smiling as the wind whipped through his hair.

In the distance, he could see the lining of some trees, the entrance to the woods beyond the castle. This is where he was to meet the man he had been corresponding with secretly ever since he arrived in Northumbria. His gaze focused ahead, he listened to the beating thunder as the hooves beneath him, pounding into the dirt road.

The horse broke through the lining of the trees with ease, the smell of the forest hitting Sebastian nose all at once, his nostrils flaring. He pulled back on the reigns, slowing his horse down to a light trot as he took in the scenery around him. It was still daylight out, but the thick trees on either side of the dirt road made his visibility within their depth almost non-existent. He leaned back in his saddle, stilling the movement of his horse and let his senses reach out farther than his eyes could see.

Before his ears picked up on the sound of movement, the hairs on the back of Sebastian’s neck rose, signaling that he was no longer alone in the forest. He carefully turned his horse in the direction of the noise and let his right hand fall to the hilt of his sword at his side.

“If you value your life, show yourself to me, traveller,” Sebastian demanded, his eyes constantly moving from tree to tree, searching for even the slightest amount of movement.

Sebastian’s eyes snapped to a moving figure moving out from behind a tree, his eyes wide, visibly shaking as he raised his hands up in surrender. “Lord S-sebastian, it is I,” he stuttered, “H-hodge Starkweather, your m-most faithful servant.”

“Starkweather,” Sebastian greeted, narrowing his eyes against the aging man before him. True, Starkweather was loyal to a fault, but Sebastian knew that his was loyal out of fear and not respect. Taking his hand from his hilt, Sebastian cross his hands over the reigns and leaned forward in his saddle, flicking his eyes to the rather large, black bird that sat on Starkweather’s shoulders, “I trust Hugo delivered my letters to you? I was very specific in my instructions. ”I trust you have done as I have asked? I was very specific in my letters, was I not?”

Starkweather gulped visibly and Sebastian couldn’t help but smirk, considering that it was better to be feared than loved after all.

“Of course, Your Highness,” Starkweather replied, bowing his head, making Hugo squawk, digging his talons into his shoulder. Starkweather screeched, muttering under his breath something about “the devil’s bird.”

Sebastian ignored Starkweather’s mumblings and waited for him to continue. When Starkweather saw that Sebastian was waiting for him to explain, he went on.

“I have marched your army across the Mercia-Northumbria border, sir,” Starkweather said, wiping his brow with a shaky figure, “We shall be at the city’s gate by tomorrow morning.”

“No,” Sebastian cut in, “We strike tonight.”

“Tonight, my Lord?” Starkweather squeaked, “The men are tired and hungry. They will need a decent night’s rest and food in their stomach’s if they are to attack Northumbria on their own turf!”

“Tonight, Starkweather,” Sebastian seethed, “Or do I need to find another commander of my great army?”

“N-no, sir,” Starkweather stuttered once again, “We will march on Eoforwic tonight.”

“Excellent,” Sebastian said, turning his horse back towards the castle. Seeming as though the conversation was over, Hodge Starkweather turned back towards the way he had come, Hugo still firmly attached to his shoulder.

“Starkweather,” Sebastian said over his shoulder, waiting for the man to stop and look at him, “You will show no mercy to the king or his household, except the princess. I want her alive and brought to me, is that understood?”

“Understood,” Starkweather muttered before turning on his heel and heading into the thick brush of the forest.

Satisfied, Sebastian turned his horse back down the dirt path he had just come from and smirked, “Long live the king.”

Chapter Text

If you asked anyone who knew her, Isabelle Lightwood would be described as a fierce and badass shadowhunter. She was known for her beauty, her calm and collected appearance, as well as being fiercely protective of the ones she considered her family. She could often sense the changes in mood and behavior when it came to the people closest to her and this time wasn’t any different.

Izzy’s spine buzzed with tension, keeping her on edge. No one had spoken a word since they left the Christian village and it was unsettling. She trained her eyes on the back of Jace’s figure in front of her, noticing his shoulders taught with tension, his body moving mechanically forward. It was uncharactistic of Jace to be so quiet, if not only to fill the silence with talk of himself and how good he was in whatever he was doing.

Izzy let her eyes track the movements of her brother walking to Jace’s left. She watched for an unspoken minute as Alec let his eyes take small, seemingly unnoticed glances towards the golden-haired male next to him. Izzy could see the concern in his eyes and in his posture. She knew her brother, both of them. The vibes coming off of them was almost unbearable. She had to do something or she was going to scream and never stop.

Deciding that action, not overanalyzing, was her strongest asset, Izzy quickly picked up her pace and planted herself directly in front of Jace’s path. She held up her hand to his chest, stopping him dead in her tracks. She watched him through steel eyes as he quickly recovered from her sudden appearance in front of him. The fact that he had been caught off guard, Jace caught off guard, furthered her suspicion that something was going on.

“By the gods, Izzy, what---“ Jace stammered, still trying to pull himself from the mind-numbing hypnosis he had been caught up in ever since they left Eoforwic.

“Do you want to talk about it?” Izzy interrupted, her hand smoothing over his chest and resting on his shoulder, “You haven’t said a word since we left that town and I’m worried about you, brother.” Izzy stared into her brother’s golden irises, not willing to back down when she saw his inpenetrable steel mask wash over his face. She felt Alec step up behind her, a silent ally behind her.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Isabelle,” Jace said, his voice steady, but Izzy saw that his eyes held much deeper thoughts than what he was revealing.

“Izzy’s right, Jace,” Alec stated, “What happened back there?”

Jace rolled his eyes and placed his hand on Izzy’s shoulder, “Nothing happened.” He looked into her eyes and into Alec’s and knew that they wouldn’t be satisfied until he came clean.

“Fine,” Jace exhaled, “Let’s just say that ever since we left the town, my mind has been elsewhere, okay?” Jace ran his hand through hair, searching for a way to explain his thoughts and not sound crazy at the same time. “It’s that girl, you know the one with the fiery, red hair and the wicked aim,” when neither Alec nor Izzy said a word he continued, “She in my head and I can’t get her out of my head.”

“By the gods!” Izzy squeaked, her eyes sparkling, a huge grin growing from ear to ear. She drilled a finger in the center of Jace’s chest and squealed, “You have a crush!”

“I do not!” Jace bellowed, playfully knocking Izzy’s slender finger from his chest, “I don’t do crushes, Isabelle, they are beneath me.” Jace didn’t miss the snort coming from the older, male Lightwood and he swung his steel gaze to Alec.

“I don’t,” he said between his teeth and he watched, un-amused, as Alec fought the forming grin on his face. Jace loved that grin, he seldom saw it, but he loved it more when it wasn’t at his expense.

Jace moaned as he realized that he façade was not working on the two people who knew him the best. He squared his shoulders against the impenetrable Lightwood wall preventing him from continuing his journey back to the camp and exhaled as he mustered up the courage to continue.

“That girl, when I saw her standing before me, her eyes locking with mine, it’s like I couldn’t move- couldn’t breathe,” Jace spoke, lightly, losing himself again to the memory of the encounter, he quickly orienated himself to the present and continued.

“Just because I found a girl, momentarily attractive, doesn’t mean I have a crush!” He crossed his arms over his chest and raised an eyebrow, hoping that this would show his adoptive siblings that this whole idea was ridiculous.

Knowing that this was probably the most they were going to get from Jace, Alec took pity on him and decided to give him an out. He cracked a smile and nodded his head in agreement.

“Of course not,” Alec mused, “That would require you to actually admit you had feelings.”

“Precisely,” Jace grinned, his posture relaxing under his friends kind escape clause, “I’m a cold, hearted bastard!”

Izzy rolled her eyes at her brothers, “I hate you both for ruining my fun.”

Jace wrapped an arm around Izzy’s shoulders and kissed her on the temple, “I love you, Iz, but I also love myself too much to share me with anyone else.” They both chuckled, Izzy embracing him, wrapping her thin, strong arms around his waist.

“Now that my love life has been thoroughly investigated, how about we talk about the raid?” Jace offered, lightly, turning the conversation from casual to business.

“Good idea,” Alec agreed, “I’ve been doing some thinking,” Alec stated, turning back into his typical, analytical self. “Having the influx of Saxon’s in the town may not be such a bad thing.”

Ducking her head to look at her brother a quizzical look on her face, Izzy asked, “Our numbers may be many, but even the gods know that their presence outweigh ours.”

Alec nodded his head in understanding, his eyes gazing into the distance, not at a single object in front of him, but in some far away place. His pace slowed as he swung his hands behind his back, a sure sign to Izzy that her brother was in deep thought.

Years of fieldwork with Alec, allowed Izzy and Jace to gracefully slow their own strides to match Alec’s as he was in deep thought. By now it was mechanical for them to subconsciously observe each other’s pace and gates to match each other’s.

“You’re not wrong, Izzy,” Alec offered, “However, the vast majority of the people were commoners- merchants, craftsmen, and entertainers, not soldiers of war.”

“I agree with Alec,” Jace added, “It seems that only a small fraction of their numbers are capable of fighting, the others will just be collateral. Besides, bringing foreign armies into an unsuspecting kingdom is quite dangerous, and I would like to think dastardly brilliant.” Jace chuckled at that last bit, but the Lightwood siblings just rolled their eyes.

“This is a time of peace and union,” Jace mentioned, “Not war.”

Izzy accepted this form of thought and raised her eyebrows, “Good, all we need is to walk into a war that is not our own. Our objective is to get in, take what we want and get out.”

“Precisely,” Jace said, enthusiastically, finally making his move to once again head towards the trees, “Although, getting through that wall is going to be a tremendous task.”

“One that is going to require a lot of thought and analysis,” Alec reminded Jace, easing into a steady pace beside him, “Not just brute strength.”

Jace made an overly dramatically sound, “Now who is ruining all the fun!”

Alec’s mouth tugged upwards as a smile snuck across his face, “No worries Jace, I’ll do all the thinking for you.”

“Thank the gods!” Jace laughed, “We all know I can get a little…distracted.”

“More like impatient, irritable, reckless…” Izzy mused, in a mocking serious tone.

“Okay, Iz, I get it!” Jace teased, messing up her hair on top of her head with his hand.

“Jace!” Izzy yelled, swatting at his hand, laughing, “I’m going to kill you!”

“You’ll have to catch me first,” Jace smirked and took off at a sprint towards the lining of the trees in the distance.

“Done,” Izzy barely whispered and took off, hot on Jace’s heels, her long, black her creating a trail behind her.

Alec watched as Jace and Izzy’s figures disappeared behind the lining of the trees, masking the Viking settlement just behind the forest’s edge.

“Children,” Alec muttered, “I’m surrounded by children.” With one last look behind him, toward the city, Alec turned back towards the trees and picked up his pace in a light jog, hoping to catch up to Izzy and Jace before anyone got seriously hurt. After all, someone had to be the adult.

           

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

 

As soon as Clary’s figure disappeared from the room, the door slamming shut behind her, Queen Jocelyn fell against the stairs, her shoulders shaking with both rage and a deep sadness for her daughter.

King and Queen sat in silence for what seemed to be an un-measurable amount of time before the queen’s sobs became short, quiet pants for air and the king’s temperament had cooled to barely simmering.

Jocelyn brought her hands away from her face, her eyes trained on the ring adorning her left finger. She subconsciously twisted the smooth metal around her digit, her mind forcing the memories of her own union with her husband before her eyes. Usually these memories were remembered with love and joy, but in these circumstances, it only compounded her misery in her daughter’s upcoming nuptials.

Having mothered a young girl, Jocelyn always found herself dreaming of the day she would give her daughter away in marriage. She often found herself wondering what kind of a young man would steal her daughter’s heart. Would he be as spirited and adventurous as her young daughter or would he keep her grounded in her duties? But most of all, she found herself wishing that above all else, Clary would find her someone who looked at her the way she found Luke staring at her from time to time. Even with the weight of the world on his shoulders, Luke still found the little moments to remind her just how much he admired and loved her. She was never so much in love with him.

Jocelyn was pulled from her thoughts when she felt her husband lower himself beside her on the steps, placing a hand on her shoulder. She lifted her hand to his and gently stroked the top of his strong hands with her thumb.

“Are we doing the right thing, Luke?” she asked, using the name that only she called him. She brought her eyes to look into his and saw his own sorrow burdening his stare. She squeezed his hand, urging him to say something.

Luke pulled his hand from his wife’s and sighed, “I have to believe that I am doing the right thing, Joss,” he answered, but she could hear the strain in his voice. “I have to believe it if not only for the fact that I must live with the decision. I have to know that Clary will be safe should I fall in the wake of The Great Viking War.”

Jocelyn let her eyes fall to the floor, a single tear spilling over and onto her cheek, “I just wish she had more time.”

Confused, Luke let his hand rest on the small of his wife’s back, “More time for what, Joss?”

“To be a kid,” Joss muttered, the tears flowing freely, but quietly now, “I thought she would have more time to be a kid.”

Luke nodded his understanding, gently stroking his wife’s back as she silently mourned the loss of her daughter’s youth and innocence all too soon.

Jocelyn cleared her throat, wiped her eyes free of the tears and turned to Luke, taking his hands into her own.

“I was so lucky the day that I was asked to be your wife, Luke. You’ve shown me nothing but respect and love since our first union. I wanted that same thing for our daughter. I cannot help but mourn that loss.”

Luke looked to his wife’s delicate, yet strong hands in his masculine ones. He brought them each to his lips and placed a delicate kiss on top of them both.

“I have loved you since the very beginning, Jocelyn, you have not only given me a beautiful life, but also a beautiful daughter who I love and adore just as much as I do you. I would do anything for either one of you.” Knowing what he had to say next, he slowly took a deep breath and continued, “However, we live in desperate times, Joss, a time in which we are forced to make decisions and sacrifices if we are to survive this great threat.”

Jocelyn stared at a distance, somewhere over her husbands shoulder, “I just wish it wasn’t at the expense of our young daughter. There is so much she hasn’t seen or experienced in her young life.”

“She is still young, Joss,” Luke said, cupping her cheek softly, raising her face slightly so she could see his encouraging smile, “Just because she is getting married, doesn’t mean she will be imprisoned.”

Jocelyn couldn’t help the cold laugh that escaped her lips, “Luke, you have no idea what a woman goes through when she is made to marry a complete stranger. The horrors that keep her up at night wondering if she is going to marry Prince Charming or a monster.” She looked into her husband’s eyes, “I am afraid that we may have just subjected our daughter to the ladder by forcing her to marry a Morgenstern male.”

Luke’s shoulders slumped, but his eyes remained hopeful, “Just because Sebastian is a Morgenstern, doesn’t mean he is anything like his father, Joss.”

Jocelyn cringed at the mention of Valentine.

“It doesn’t matter. Valentine corrupts everything around him, Lucian,” she said, using her husband’s full, Christian name to enforce the importance of what she was saying. “I know first hand what its like to be at the center of a Morgenstern’s obsession. I do not wish our daughter to live in the same fear.”

Luke’s eyes grew cold, “Has Valentine over stepped his boundaries?”

Jocelyn set her jaw, “I can handle Valentine, but what if Clarissa can’t handle Sebastian. If he is anything like his father, Clary is going to need our help.”

Luke thought about this and then for the first time in what seemed like forever, a genuine smile came across his face. “If Clary is anything like you, my love, Sebastian isn’t going to know what hit him.”

Jocelyn chuckled, “She’s going to be fine, isn’t she?”

Luke thought about his next words, “I have a feeling that Clary is going to show us all what a courageous and strong young woman we have raised her to be. For is it not written in Proverbs the she is clothed in strength and dignity and…

“And she laughs without fear of the future,” Jocelyn finished for her husband.
God is good.”

“God is good,” Luke repeated.

Luke got up from the steps and helped Jocelyn to her feet, “For now,” he added, “We will order that for the first year of the marriage, Clarissa and Sebastian must stay with us here, in Clarissa’s home, surrounded by people who she trusts and loves.”

“Do you think that will honestly work, Luke,” Jocelyn chuckled without humor, “The Morgenstern men rarely take orders from anyone, especially other men.”

“They will have to if the Prince of Mercia wishes to marry our daughter,” Luke said through clenched teeth.

Jocelyn nodded her head in agreement, “Then it’s settled, Clary will know that she is not alone in this. With God and her loving parents by her side, who can surely have victory over her?”

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

 

Her mind numb from the fight with her parents, her heart aching with the guilt from taking it out on Simon and her soul beaten at the prospect of marrying Sebastian, Clary let her feet mechanically take her to a place where she could get away.

Clary brought her arms across her chest, her hands hugging her elbows as she shielded herself from the cool breeze coming through the outdoor stable. Walking through the stables like a ghost, hoping to silently move through the shelter without having to speak with anyone, she quickly made her way through the rows, searching for the only thing that could lessen all the pain.

Rounding the finally corner leading her to Shadow’s stall, Clary picked up her pace as she saw her best friend waiting for her to draw closer. Shadow blew air swiftly through his nose as she approached a steady build up of energy building around him as he watched her draw near. It was clear that Shadow had missed her and Clary’s heart leapt with pure joy and love for the male steed.

Feeling a small tug at the corners of her lips, Clary reached out her slightly shaking hand to stroke Shadow’s long snout, whispering her greetings to the magnificent creature.

Bringing her hand away from his snout momentarily, Clary opened the gate, allowing herself to walk into the stable and wrap her arms around the massive girth of Shadows neck. She draped herself against the lean muscles of his upper neck and torso and, closing her eyes, felt the tears slide down her face.

Shadow allowed his head to gently rest on her shoulder, sensing the sadness from his master. It is said that animals can sense the emotions that run through humans and it was no secret that Shadow was perfectly in tune with his human to know her moods very well.

At the touch of Shadow’s head on her’s, Clary felt her heart momentarily ease under the pressure that had been slowly crushing it ever since the fateful loss at the tournament. She gave one last, strong embrace around Shadow’s neck and then slowly extracted herself from beneath his tall, powerful frame.

Using the back of her hands, she quickly wiped away the tears from her eyes and smiled into the eyes that she somehow knew could understand her perfectly. She gently rubbed the bridge of his nose once more, giggling when Shadow neighed silently showing his excitement once more in seeing her.

“I need to feel the wind in my hair, this world at my back. Do you think you can help me with this, my friend?” Clary asked, stepping back, she laughed, actually laughed when Shadow through his head up and down, as if he knew exactly what she was saying. “Perfect, let ride.”

Having placed the saddle upon Shadow’s strong back and the reigns securely fastened in his mouth, Clary secretly and carefully led Shadow through the stable, hoping not to be disturbed by any of the workers with inquiries as to way the newly engaged princess was going for a ride without her new fiancé.

Clary could taste the fresh air as they approached the final turn before appearing outside the stable, feeling the excitement of feeling the fresh wind on her her face she quickly picked up her pace. However, she stopped immediately in her tracks, feeling all the blood rush from her face as she heard the unsettling, all too familiar voice of Sebastian.

“I trust you can keep a secret, sir,” Sebastian sneered, his voice low and threatening, “I’d hate to have to revisit this lovely, little stack of wood should I find out that you have divulged my comings and goings.”

Unable to move in either direction, fearing that Sebastian would hear the slightly boot scuff or even her lightest breathing, Clary positioned herself and Shadow against the wall, willing to wait until Sebastian went away.

Clary, always the one to let her curiosity get the best of her, snuck a peak around the corner. Sebastian’s back was to her, but she could clearly see the stable keeper, his eyes wide in fear, his posture folding in on hisself, no doubt from the piercing black eyes that were tearing into him.

“No, your majesty,” he replied, “I will tell no one of your travels.”

“Good,” Sebatian said clearly pleased, “I do not enjoy unneeded messes,” he said allowing his right hand to rest against the hilt of his sword, a clear indication of what he meant by “messes.”

Clary gasped and immediately swiveled around the wall, hoping that Sebastian hadn’t heard the gasp. She waited for a moment and noting the silence, decided to take another peak around the corner.

To her surprise, both Sebastian and the stable worker were no where to be seen. Her breathing slowly forming a normal pattern, her heart beating a normal rhythm once more, Clary sighed and again took up the reigns and led Shadow towards the stable doors.

At the edge of the stable, Clary placed her boot into the stirrup and bounced on her other foot to gather enough strength to hoist her into the saddle. However, half way up she felt two iron bands wrap around her waist, stilling her in midair. She knew those hands, not only by the immense power they radiated in their touch, but by the sickening feeling engulfing her stomach whenever she was subjected to their touch.

“Clarissa,” the cool, crisp greeting sounded from Sebastian’s lips and Clary could hear the sly smile forming on his lips, “Running away already, are we?”

“Put me down,” Clary seethed between clenched teeth, she may have been frightened of his presence moments ago, but now that they were going to be face-to-face, she felt the fire within burn with a savage force. She would not let herself to reduced to a pile of whimpers and obedience to this monster, not to anyone.

Sebastian chuckled as he slowly lowered the feisty, red head back to the ground. He didn’t remove the grip from her hips as she settled back on the ground, he enjoyed the possessive message it should be sending her way in magnitude. He left the cocky smirk in place and spoke like a condescending parent to their child.

“Now Clarissa, is that any way to speak to your husband?” he asked, the light in his eyes dancing. He moved one of his hands to her hair, stroking his slender fingers through her fiery red curls, the feel of their smoothness sending warm pleasures through his being. She was powerless to stop him as her petite body was trapped between his and the steed behind her. He watched amusingly as her bright, green eyes, flashed with resentment.

“We aren’t married, yet,” Clary seethed, trying to exude her disgust and loathing of him through her stare. But to her disappointment, it seemed that this show of hostility only turned him on more. He was thoroughly enjoying himself, the bastard.

Sebastian didn’t respond verbally, but he let his eyes rest on his hands as they slowly and sensually rubbed up and down her small arms, enjoying the goosebumps they left in their wake. She was so small in stature compared to his looming height and build, but he knew that her fiery temper more than made up for that. He couldn’t wait to have her in his bed, he would make her kneel to his will.

Clary couldn’t look at him as he lazily groped her, she thought about yelling for help, but her scream was silenced as she reminded herself that she had suffered enough embarrassment today because of him. She closed her mouth and stilled herself against his ministrations, waiting for him to finish.

Feeling his growing erection in his pants, and yet having the presence of mind to know that now was certainly not the time, Sebatian knew he had to cut this meeting short. He let his hands rest on her shoulders and bent his head down so his eyes were directly in front of her’s.

“Clarissa, you were just engaged to the most eligible bachelor in the world, should you not be preparing yourself for our enagagement feast?“ He smiled at her as he watched her roll her eyes.

Clary fixed her stare on his, unwilling to show any signs of weakness, “Not that it’s any of your business, but I needed to get some air.” She turned her back on Sebastian, shaking off his hands across her shoulders and busied herself by fussing with the harness on Shadow’s back. She prayed that Sebastian would take the hint that the conversation was over and walk away, but she knew that this prayer would go unanswered.

Tired of this young woman continuously disrespecting him, Sebastian took an impossible step forward, crushing Clary between his frame and that of the horse. Sebastian ignored the threatening rush of air coming from the stead and lowered his mouth until it was just outside the tip of Clary’s ear.

“You are my business, Clarissa,” he spoke with a deadly purr in his tongue, one that made her shiver to her very core. She couldn’t lie, she felt fear swell in her stomach and her life quickly flashed before her eyes. One of a scared wife, constantly doing what she was told in order to keep her husband happy. She cringed inwardly, fighting back to the tears threatening to spill from her eyes.

Clary was quickly brought out of her thoughts when she felt the cool, crisp touch of his lips against her cheek. She felt her cheeks blush hard as he pressed his growing erection into her plush, round globes. She wanted to thrash out at him, kick, scream, anything, but the enormity of what was to become her fate, was keeping her glued to this spot.

Satisfied that he had finally gotten the last word, Sebastian took a couple of steps back and watched as Clary mounted her horse, not saying one word. He watched as she straightened her shoulders and knew that his quick victory was going to be short lived, but this is what he loved most about her- her fight.

Clary turned her shoulders, squaring up to Sebastian, he unique view of looking down on him, giving her the courage she needed to speak with courage and strength.

“I may not have the choice in marrying you, Sebastian,” she said coolly, a pure light shining from her emerald eyes, “And you may take this body for your own, but you will never take my spirit. That is mine to share with whoever I chose, not your’s to take.”

With that last phrase, Clary kicked the underbelly of the powerful beast beneath her, sending Shadow into a burst of speed, leaving Sebastian in their literal trail of dust.

Sebastian could only smirk. He was entertained by a dramatic exit as the next person, but still, he would ready himself for the biggest challenge to come- breaking his little red head to his will.

Sebastian watched from the door as Clary’s flowing, red hair disappeared behind other wooden shelters heading towards the city’s gates. Once he could not seeing her fleeing form, he swiveled on his heel, eager to get back to the castle in preparation for perhaps the best night of his life.

Chapter Text

Later that evening…

 

            A Viking warrior’s greatest victory is not over his fellow man, but in the very act of death on the battlefield. For in the death of his mortal body, new life, that of his immortal self is to be preserved in Valhalla, the place of the gods. Once slain, Valkyries ride amongst the dead, claiming the souls of those worthy enough to enter Valhalla. Here they will feast and drink with Odin, Freya, Loki and the other gods, sharing stories of their plunder while on Earth, but when the feasting and the drinking is over, they will once again go to battle only to be slain once again in the glorious afterlife. And so this cycle will continue: eating, drinking and fighting. All until Ragnarok comes to slay them all one final time.

           

            As the cool winds came from the water’s edge, the night held an air of cool crispness. The moon hovered over the land, its light illuminating what lied beneath it. Under the cover of the trees, within the darkest shadows, the crunching of fallen leaves could be heard under the heavy boot falls of a vast army. An electrical current buzzed through the forest, the coming battle on the minds of those seeking glory and a seat at the coveted table.

            His hair, bright as the sun’s rays, glistening in the moonlight, Jace led his army through the shadows of the trees. He could feel the electricity in the air filling his veins, like a burning fire threatening to consume him if he could not tame it with his sword.

            Coming to the edge of the forest, Jace raised his fist to signal to his warrior to stop walking. Within seconds, the only sound that could be heard was the slight breeze rustling the trees. Jace looked out into the clearing, the moon’s light perfectly cascaded the town of Eoforwic in a white glow, giving Jace a perfect view of the grounds.

            Not hearing, but feeling the static around him change, Jace sensed the familiar presence of Alec and Izzy taking their designated places on either side of him. Years of fighting in battle with one another allowed them to communicate, not verbally, but almost telepathically. This allowed them to effectively and efficiently lead their people to victory.

            Having decided that their waiting was over, Jace turned his head towards Alec and low, commanding tone.

            “Alec, you and I will lead a small party into the sewers and breech the wall from the outside in,” he turned to Izzy and addressed her in the same way, “Izzy, I need you to stay with the others and wait for our signal to attack.”

            “What the signal,” Izzy asked, not taking her eyes off the city in the distance. She supposed that the night’s eerily glow and chill lent a little bit of a flare for what she assumed would be the ruins of yet another Christian town. Not having heard Jace’s answer, she turned to him, eyebrow cocked, “Well, what will it be.”

            Jace felt a smirk forming at the corners of his mouth, “I’m sure we will think of something, Isabelle.”

            Izzy looked from Jace to Alec, Alec shrugging his shoulders as if to ask why she would think things would go any different under Jace’s leadership.

            “Fine,” Izzy muttered, “Just don’t get killed before I get to slit some throats, okay?”

            “Always the charmer,” Jace smiled, turning away to address the others. Alec followed him with Izzy bringing up the rear.

            “Brothers and sisters,” Jace said, looking into the eyes of the men and women he had fought side-by-side with for so long, “The time has come to take the city of Eoforwic. Our attack will come in two waves. The first being that of a smaller party which will be responsible for taking the front gate and allowing the rest of our numbers to effortlessly fill into the city.”

            There was a general grumbling sound among the soldiers, some agreeing with the plan while others preferred to take the gate by force. However, they knew that whatever their leader decided, they would obey, until death.

            Alec held up his hand to silence the crowd, “The smaller team, under the leadership of Jace and myself, will seek entry into the town through the sewers tunneling under the wall and into the city. The rest of you will wait here with Izzy and wait for the signal to attack.”

            “I will go with you,” Ivar said, stepping forward away from the crowd, “I yearn to feel the blood of the Christians against my axe.” A general clanking of swords, axes and other metal being pounded on the wooded boards of the Viking shields could be heard all around them. It served to get their blood pumping, the beating of the steel on wood synchronizing with the beat of their hearts. It was intoxicating.

            Jace had to shake his head and focus, they could not divulge their whereabouts so close to the city now. They had come from so far and were too close to mess things up now.

            “Thank you, Ivar,” Jace said, again silencing the crowd with a single hand, “I need five more volunteers.”

            One by one, each Viking stepped out from the cluster and into a line, facing Jace and Alec, their shields at their chest and their weapons in hands, a sign that they were ready for battle.

            “Excellent,” Jace said, “We better get moving.”

 

~*~*~*~*

 

            The dining hall was brimming with laughter as cheers were shouted to the newly engaged royals, a long awaited union between two powerful nations. Drunken men and women made toasts in their honor and for their country, chugging down the stale, dark liquid in their tankards.

            The King and Queen were kept busy as nobles from the far reaches of the kingdom walked up to the table to personally congratulate them in their daughter’s pending marriage and what that would bring to the people of Eoforwic. Graciously they accepted their congratulations and wished them well.

            Valentine was enjoying himself, more so with each pint of ale he was given, emptying each tankard every time a new toast was made. He was quickly becoming drunk, but nothing seemed to slow him down. He was quickly becoming a town favorite as he mingled with the commoners and drank with them. A king among the people, he thought, who would have guessed.

            As was expected of them, the royal family raised their chalices in thanks to the people and drank small sips of their wine. However, none of them were so taken with the celebration as the Prince of Mercia.

            Sebastian played the part of the victor very well as he graciously accepted each and every cheer and toast to his good fortune. He kept his left hand firmly around his bride-to-be’s neck, his chalice hung high in the air in his right.

            Clary just stared straight ahead, pinpointing a single piece wooden plank on the wall and glued her eyes to it. She was afraid that if she looked out into the crowd and saw the cheering faces, the grandiose toasting in her name, she would surely lose her mind. These people had no idea what kind of a life she was going to lead as this monster’s wife, his slave, his to do whatever he wanted with. Just the thought of her wedding night alone made her want to flee at this very moment. No, she couldn’t do it, she couldn’t embarrass herself or her family once more. So she sat stock still, not once accepting any praise or worship for her engagement.

            Noticing her silence, and in his slight drunkenness, Sebastian lead his head to the side, pulling Clary’s closer to his mouth, he said, “Clarissa, you haven’t said a signal word since dinner started, I will not be made to look like a fool,” Sebastian placed a small kiss against the side of her head and in a low and sinister tone, he said, “Say something.”

            Clary, never having moved her eyes from that same wood plank, immediately stood up, her chair sliding inches behind her making a harsh, screeching noise. The crowd noticing that a royal was no at their feet, immediately quieted down and their eyes focused on the princess.

            Clary swallowed the small lump forming in her throat; she absolutely hated speaking in front of a large crowd. Even in her schooling, she hated reading allowed even when it was only Simon and Amatis listening to her. Clearing her throat, she opened her mouth the address the people.

            “Ladies and gentlemen, thank you all for your kind words and warm sentiments towards my nuptials. It is with deep sadness that I must part ways with you at this moment. I am not feeling well and must retire to my chambers if I am to be presentable for the wedding tomorrow.”

            A man in the crowd raised his tankard in the hair, making a toast to the princess and the crowd cheered her. Clary bowed her head in appreciation and turned to leave the table, but she felt an iron band clasp around her wrist still her movement. Ice formed in her veins as she turned to Sebastian, her icy stare matching his deep onyx eyes.

            Leaning down, she placed the same chaste kiss he had placed on her head earlier, but not before she said, “Those are the last kind words I will ever speak regarding our union.” She gave a small yank of her wrist, freeing it from Sebastian’s hold. She could tell by his tightened jaw that she was in deep trouble, but at this precise moment, she couldn’t care less.

            Clary walked along the table, stopping to say goodnight to her mother and father before she walked out of the dining room, waving a last goodbye to the people of Eoforwic.

            Sebastian watched as Clary once again ran away from him. His eyes never leaving her figure as she disappeared behind the door. He was sick of her blatant disrespect of her duties as his betrothed. It was time that he, once and for all, showed her who was in charge and what a wife’s place was.

            Sebastian stood up from his chair and exited through the same door as Clary had, not stopping to address the King and Queen, nor the other people in the dining hall.

            Valentine, drunk from the toasts and cheers of the night, raised his chalice in the air and sang, “To young love!” The crowd cheered with this and they all drank from their respective cups, cheering as they slammed them back on the table.

            Queen Jocelyn did not raise her glass, instead, her eyes had not moved from the door in which both Clary and Sebastian had disappeared through. She whispered to her husband that she was going to check on Clary and made a beeline from the door.

            Unbeknownst to the King, who was busy talking with many of his nobles, Valentine stole away moments later, seeking the beautiful and elusive Queen.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

            Starkweather stood, with his horse at his side, his gaze casting out from behind the forest line out to the glowing city of Eoforwic. Even from where he stood, there was a rumble among the breeze. A noise carried over from the village filled with laughter and shouting as the inhabitants celebrated the union of two powerful countries.

            Starkweather felt an aching low within his stomach following the thought of the heinous act he would commit under the command of Prince Sebastian. To storm into the fortressed town heavily armed and with no formal declaration of war was not only a coward’s move, but also, one without honor.

            Starkweather thought about this. To think that the single most important task he was given was to commit a most dishonorable act. Could he live this way for the rest of his life?

However, a small voice in his head reminded him of Prince Sebastian’s earlier threat of finding another commander capable of preforming the tasks that were given to him. Starkweather knew that his dismissal would not end with him simply walking away. No, he would be put through the most evil of punishments at the hand of the prince, never to be seen or heard from again.

The alternative, acting as a much needed motivator, Starkweather straightened up and turned to his horse, making sure that the saddle was securely fastened before he hoisted himself on top of the strong horse, ready to command his army at the whim of their soon-to-be-king.           

            As Starkweather grabbed the reigns, he heard the distinct sound of hooves pounding on the ground coming towards him. He braced himself for the newcomer, his right hand grasping the hilt of his sword.

            When the interloper came into sight, Starkweather relaxed his posture, but kept his eyes on the newcomer. It was one of his Captains, a look of fear on his face.

            “Captain,” Starkweather spoke, “I thought you were to be with the men, gathering them so that we might storm the city?” He didn’t hide the air of annoyance from his subordinate, but it didn’t seem to phase the captain.

            “Sir, I have just gotten word from our scouts,” the Captain’s face drained of color and his voice shook, “Vikings, General, the Vikings are here.”

            Starkweather could feel his own blood drain from his face. His heart pounding in his chest, his hands already trembling with fear.

            “Vikings? But…How?” he stumbled, unable to form a coherent sentence as his mind was too overwhelmed to function.

            “I don’t know sure,” the captain spoke, “But a small group of them are moving towards the city, General.”

            Starkweather turned his gaze toward the city, a feeling in his chest tightening around him. They had to protect their brothers and sisters in Christ, shouldn’t they? Was this not the greatest calling to settle their differences and fight the Devil?

            His mind made up, Starkweather turned to the captain, “Gather the men, we are leaving now. We fight the pagans tonight for it is a most holy of duties to protect those who cannot protect themselves against the forces of evil.”

            The captain saluted Starkweather and rode back into the trees towards the men. Starkweather breathed in a deep breath of air, the feeling in his stomach relaxing. If he died this night, at least he would die a hero, protecting the unsuspecting town of Eoforwic and not committing acts of war, killing hundreds of innocent people. Yes, he felt much better about what he was to do this night. Getting the encouragement from his moral compass, Starkweather turned his horse around and made his way back to his troops.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~

 

            Using the cover of night, Jace led the small group of warrior towards the fortressed city, his eyes peeled for any danger. The Vikings moved with stealth, careful not to alert any of the remaining guards who weren’t passed out drunk of their position. When they came upon the wall, Jace moved quickly around the city, his eyes searching for the weakened portion of the old and strong structure. Jace used his hand as a guide, searching for the spot he knew would help them enter the city unnoticed. The roughness of the exterior brushed against his hand and Jace couldn’t not help but to feel the history behind this powerful wall, the years of war it had endured, all the while providing protection for all those behind it’s stronghold. It was almost a shame to find its weakness. Almost.

            Jace smiled to himself, no matter the obstacle, physical or mental, he always came out the winner. He stopped in his tracks, feeling the stone beneath his hand crumble slightly, signaling to him that he was getting close. Soon, he heard the small, but steady stream from below and knew that he had found his spot.

            Jace held up his hand in a fist, silently telling the others to stop. He bent down on his hunches and peered through the iron bars. He reached out with his hands and grabbed onto the iron bars, years of aging having turned their iron structure to rust. Gently pulling against the bars, Jace was pleased to feel the movement of the bars. He smiled, “This is it.”

            Silently, the men got to work on pulling the iron bars from their centuries old resting place, eager to infiltrate the city of Eoforwic. Once all of the bars were rooted from their spots, one by one, the fully-grown Viking warriors slipped between the opening and into the sewer below.

            Jace was the last to pass through the opening, making sure that all of his men made it through without alerting the Christians to their presence. Once they were all safe inside, Jace slipped through and with a harsh splash of his boots hitting the wet ground, he stood.

            “A shit hole,” Ivar muttered, not five feet from where Jace stood, “Your brilliant idea was to wade through literal shit?” Ivar couldn’t hide his annoyed tone or the look of disgust on his face.

            “I would suspect that you would have felt at home down here, Ivar, after the shithole of a dwelling you call a house back home,” Jace said, a smile once again forming on his face.

            Ivar just gruffed, but remained silent.

            Jace turned from Ivar, searching in the dimness for his second-in-command. When he spotted Alec, he made his way across the sewer to stand next to his oldest friend.

            “Now what?” Alec asked, seeing Jace walking up to him, his bow and arrow already in hand.

            “I had the chance to watch the guards as they moved through the city,” Jace answered, “To the best of my ability, I tried to clock their passing time in order to give us a good estimate on how long we had to get everyone out of here before we were spotted.”

            “Would it not be easier to just kill the guards when they come around,” one of the men said from behind.

            “No,” Jace replied, “If we upset the timing in any way, it could become suspicious and alert the other guards to our presence prematurely. We must allow them to stick with their usual schedule until we are ready to make our presence known.”

            And so the Vikings stood their ground, in the sewer, watching as the guards patrolled the grounds, counting the minutes that ticked by in between passing. When they all agreed on the timing, they set to work on the last set of iron bars in front of them, the only obstacle in between them and the city. After the iron bars were released from their holding places, the Viking entered the city of Eoforwic, a renewed sense of victory coursing through their veins as the first phase of their plan was successful.

            Jace had been the first of the pack out of the sewer, eager to get a look out into the darkness. His mind was buzzing with all of the possible outcomes of tonight. He had to choose the right course of action if he wanted this raid to be successful. Never before had a Viking taken on such a huge task in plundering a town the size of Eoforwic, this night would either make or break his reputation as a fearless leader and perhaps, put him in favor with the gods.

            “We need a distraction,” Jace muttered, knowing Alec was right beside him without looking, “So the guards at the gate don’t see us coming.”

            “What do you propose,” Alec asked, keeping his head and eyes on a swivel.

            Jace looked around and spotted something in the distance, a smile forming on his lips. Alec knew that smile and moaned internally; he always grew anxious whenever Jace formed a plan on the fly, not having time to properly analyze the situation and go over every outcome.

            “I have an idea,” Jace muttered, but Alec could hear the smile in his voice.

            “That’s what I’m afraid of,” Alec whispered harshly.

            Rolling his eyes, Jace turned towards his warriors and signaled them to come in close so that he only had to whisper.

            “You are all to follow Alec to the gate, but wait until you see my signal before you attack,” he said, “Because we don’t know how many guards are up there, it is in our best interest for me to cause a distraction so that the majority of the guards will be elsewhere when you take the gate.”

            “Do I really want to know what kind of distraction you’re thinking of?” Alec asked, but deciding that he really didn’t want to know.

            “Let’s just say that I’m going to light a fire under their Saxon asses,” Jace mused. And with that, Jace turned on his heel and headed in the opposite direction as the gate, disappearing into the night.

 

 ~*~*~*~*~*

 

            Izzy paced, her stomach tightening with anticipation. Every now and then her eyes flickered to the moonlit city, searching for the signal that Jace and Alec promised. Each minute that passed, she felt herself becoming less and less patient. She felt the same energy from her comrades. They were ready for battle- now.

            A stirring in her peripheral eyes made Izzy stop her pacing immediately, her head whipping to the side, her eyes piercing the night. In the distance, a slow, but gradually building light was emanating from the town of Eoforwic. Izzy squinted to get a better idea of the source.

            Izzy tightened her jaw in annoyance. Fire.

            “Idiots,” she muttered, “Complete idiots.” By the gods, she thought if the Christians didn’t know they were here before, they did now.

            Izzy turned to the warriors at her back and raised her sword into the air.

            “This is it! Shield Wall!” she shouted, earning cries of battle echoing around her, the shuffle of shields grating against each other as solid Viking walls were formed, “For Odin! For Freya! For Valhalla!”

            Tribal pounding of axes and swords beating against wooden shields filled the forest with a dangerous tune, filling the blood of the Vikings with renewed bloodlust and menace.

            Feeling the flow of energy sinking into her bones, Izzy turned on her heel and started into a light jog towards the burning city. Hearing the thunders of hundreds of Viking feet behind her giving her wings to soar against the night.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~

 

            Starkweather kicked his heels against the strong underbelly of the horse beneath him, urging the stead to quicken its pace. Leaning forward, his heart pounding in his throat, Starkweather rode ahead of his army, eager to see with his own eyes the fate of Eoforwic. If half of what the scout reported was true, Starkweather knew that this night would change the course of history forever.

            Coming to a clearing among the trees, Starkweather pulled back against the reigns slowing the horse’s long strides into a gentle prod. Starkweather fixed his gaze in between the trees, looking out into the night, finding the city of Eoforwic under the same moonlighting as he had before, however, now there was a flickering light coming from within the city that turned his stomach.

            “Mary, mother of God,” Starkweather whispered between panting breaths. Years of experience on the battlefield and a lifetime of following his instincts told him that this particular light source wasn’t here by accident, but a clear and purposeful act.

            Letting his eyes focus else, Starkweather blanched when his eyes landed on the hoard of shadows advancing on the vulnerable city of Eoforwic. Seeing the straight rows of warriors and the undeniable shape of their shields, Starkweather knew immediately who he was looking at- Vikings.

            Crossing himself with the Christian symbol of the cross, Starkweather sent a prayer to God for a strong hand and a mighty sword against the devil before her turned his stead around and headed straight for his army.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~

 

            Barely holding back the angry tears threatening to spill onto her cheeks, Clary swiftly made her way through the corridors of the castle. Eager to put as much distance between her and the light cheers and laughter in her “distinguished honor,” Clary didn’t hear the quick footsteps quickly gaining on her.

            Roughly shaken from her tunneled vision and thought, Clary had a brief moment of recognition that someone was right behind her before she felt a cold grip wrap around her upper arm throwing her backwards into the wall.

            Seeing black spots dance before her, blocking her vision, Clary had to focus her concentration to not pass out at the moment. But she didn’t need her sight to tell her whose arms now caged her against the cool, stonewall behind her.

            Her eyes began to clear of the black spots, her lungs filling with the air that had been so crudely taken from her moments ago. Sebastian’s looming, feral face, inches from her own could be seen staring down at her.

            Every fiber in Clary’s body wanted to cower in fear against the menacing, black eyes that bore into her own, green emeralds. She wanted to throw up her hands in an effort to protect herself from their soul-engulfing presences, shield her eyes from their piercing stare. But a deep, still voice in the far regions of her mind, sparked a fire deep within her. A fire that longed to take control and burn all those who made her feel weak and helpless.

            Clary could feel her blood moving through her, her breathing evening within her chest, smoothing out the rhythm of her chest, her eyes unflinching under Sebastian’s onyx gaze. To her slight embarrassment, Clary could have sworn she heard a deep growl sound from somewhere deep within her chest. She used this animalistic energy to put as much menace and authority into her voice when she finally spoke.

            “Get off of me, Sebastian,” she breathed, in a low and slow timber. She had had enough of his possessive manhandling. That was going to stop now.

            As if her tone had barely registered in his mind, Sebastian ignored the pissed off red head under him. His eyes stayed focused on her’s, making him seem taller than her actually was.

            “That is the last time you will walk away from me, Clarissa,” he stated, his body as still as a statue, looming over her like a dark cloud. Taking one of his hands off of the wall behind her, Sebastian began running his hand through Clary’s soft, red hair. He watched delightfully as his fingers slid effortlessly through the length of her hair. When he sensed the young woman stiffen beneath him, he returned his gaze to her own.

            “I will not tolerate such disobedience again. Is that understood, Clarissa?” he asked, bringing his hand from her hair to rest firmly against her neck. He applied a slight pressure against her neck. Not enough to stop the air from flowing into her lungs, but just enough to get his point and seriousness across.

            Clary felt her hands clench into fists as a heavenly fire coursed through her veins, her adrenaline blinding her in rage.

            “I told you to get off of me,” she barely managed to speak before her nail came down in a fiery arc across his face, leaving a bloody trail in their wake. Sebastian reared back with a surprised cry of pain.

            Using this brief window, Clary literally leapt at the chance to make her getaway, but before she got a few paces away she was hauled backwards against another strong wall, but this was undeniably human.

            “You bitch,” Sebastian seethed as he held a struggling Clary within his grasp, he quickly slapped a hand across her mouth, stifling the scream he could feel was coming.

            Sebastian lowered he mouth to Clary’s ear and whispered, “This ends tonight, Clarissa. Tonight you will learn who your master is.” Clary’s renewed struggle as Sebastian hauled her against his form only increased his insatiable hunger for her submission.

            Clary’s mind whirled with horrific visions of what lie beyond Sebastian’s chambers as they neared. Her fear blinded her sight into a haze, her arms and legs shaking with alarm, but she was useless against his taller and stronger frame, dragging her into Hell with him.

            His mission at the forefront of his mind, Sebastian stopped in his tracks when he felt a shift of energy around him. He looked behind him, at the way he had come and listened, shaking the woman in his arms and demanding her silence. Nothing. He heard nothing.

            Suddenly a loud and piercing scream came from the direction of the dining hall. Clary’s heart jumped into her throat, renewing her struggle to get out of Sebastian’s arms, no longer concerned for her own safety, but that of the people in the dining hall, most importantly- her parents.

            Clary began to hear steal clashing together and shouts of terror and battle fill the air, she was scrambling, but Sebastian had the grip of death around her. She didn’t process his lack of surprise as anything, she could only focus on her need to get to her mother and father.

            Barely registering the fierce movement of the female in his arms, Sebastian stared towards the sounds of the commotion a few yards away from where they stood.

            “They’re early,” he muttered, a little annoyed that his immediate plans would have to be put on hold, but Sebastian new that his priorities must be spot on if this night was to be victorious. Focusing his attention back to the squirming red head, he turned her petite form around so that she was standing on her own two feet, facing him. He didn’t let her speak, but instead looked at her with a knowing smile.

            “I’m afraid that our evening plans will have to be put off a while longer, Clarissa,” he said, looking around them, searching for something that Clary couldn’t follow. Finding what he was looking for, he quickly through Clarissa over his shoulder and took quick, easy strides towards the door to his left. He felt Clary’s small fists pounding on his back and heard every swear word falling like a flurry from her beautiful lips, but he ignored her, swatting her on the ass to quiet her.

            He let himself into a modestly furnished room for guests and deposited his heap onto the bed, not staying to watch her beautiful form bounce on the bed, knowing that time was precious.

            Before Clary could gather her wits, Sebastian slammed the door behind him and wedged a door under the handle, effectively locking her in the room. He heard the yelling immediately from the other side of the door, as the angry, young woman approached the door. With a grin forming on his face, Sebastian laid his palm against the doorframe, feeling the pulsation of a door being shaken from the other side.

            “Stay put, Clarissa,” Sebastian chuckled, the doorframe rattling like the bars of a cage, “I’ll be back for you later and we will finish what we started.”

            Hearing Sebastian’s footfalls grow increasingly farther away, Clarissa renewed her pounding against the door. Her throat started getting sore from her loud shouting begging Sebastian to let her out. She knew it was useless, but she didn’t know what else she should do.

            Finally accepting that Sebastian wasn’t going to come back any time soon, Clary looked around her, furiously looking for a way out of this predicament. She didn’t know what was going on, but she had to make sure her mother and father were all right. Clary made a promise to herself right there and then. She would not be remembered as a princess who just ran in the presence of danger, but a warrior who would do anything to protect her home and those she loved.

Chapter Text

            His face slick with his own sweat and the stench of strangers’ blood, Jace tore through the streets of Eoforwic. The sound of metal clashing, men yelling, women and children crying, the song of battle washed over his ears. He moved with a graceful quickness, his light hair flowing behind him.

            Jace could see the gates to the grounds of the castle just a few yards away from where he stood fighting a man twice his build, but with half the sword skill he had. He thought it curious that his arms and legs hadn’t grown the least bit tired since the battle began, but he also couldn’t ignore the force driving him towards those gates. Was it something inside of him pushing him forward, or was it something outside his control pulling him to it?

           Never allowing anything or anyone control him, Jace shrugged it off as his Viking instincts coming out when in battle. He quickly jabbed his sword through the weakest part of his enemy’s armor and killed the man instantly. Jace wiped the blood from his axe on the man’s armor and made his way to the gates.

            Eager with the hunger to claim victory for his father and Odin, the All-Father, Jace stepped over the threshold, on the castle grounds.

            Jace was engulfed in a rush of chaos. It appeared that Christian men were fighting other Christian men with a view Viking men and women thrown about fighting whoever they could get there hands on.

            Jace only smiled, more enemies to kill.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*

            Jocelyn quickly stepped through the great halls of the castle, eager to find her daughter, but as she rounded each corner, not finding her, she grew more and more restless. A once small knot in her stomach now grew beneath the surface as the guilt and shame she felt for forcing her daughter into a marriage that even she was now beginning to be weary about.

            With no one around, Jocelyn felt her shoulders slump. She couldn’t keep up the façade right now. She needed to be a mother at this moment, not a queen. She had betrayed her daughter’s happiness. For what, she didn’t know.

            Jocelyn’s pace slowed as the hairs on her neck began to prickle with static. Coming to a complete stop in the middle of the hallway, Jocelyn straightened to her full height and smoothed her facial features.

           She slowly turned to address the person stalking behind her, her eyes resting on the leaning figure against the wall. Valentine.

          “Valentine,” Jocelyn muttered, her head barely bowing in his direction, as a queen should address a king, but her voice dripped loathing and annoyance. She turned back in the direction she was headed and quickly set back down her path. She closed her eyes when she felt his unmistakable presence fall into step beside her, she could smell the ale he had been drinking rolling off of him in waves.

          “If you were mine, I would never let such a priceless jewel as yourself walk back to your chambers alone, Jocelyn,” he sang, the stench of his breath making her stomach turn.

          Jocelyn’s eyes grew cold, never leaving the path in front of her, through clenched teeth she spoke, “You will refer to me as Queen Jocelyn or you will not address me at all, is that clear?”

         Valentine only chuckled, “There’s that fiery spirit that I love so much about you, Queen Jocelyn. You are as fierce as you are beautiful.”

        Unwilling to play his games, Jocelyn sighed, “Is there a purpose as to why you are following me, my King, or are you lost?”

        “Mmm, my king,” Valentine spoke smoothly, rolling the words around in his mouth, “It sounds so good coming from your beautiful lips, my Queen.”

        Jocelyn stopped dead in her tracks, swiveling to face Valentine head on, her green eyes piecing his eyes like a thousand sharp swords. She commanded her body to still, not allowing it to show any signs of weakness when she really wanted to scream for her husband and run into his arms.

            “Enough with your word games, Valentine,” Jocelyn seethed, watching as he came to a halt a couple steps ahead of her. She watched him turn towards her, a devilish grin across his drunken face. “Say what you will and then be gone, I have important matters to attend to before tomorrow.”

            “Ah, yes, the royal wedding,” Valentine cooed, slowly stepping until he was standing right in front of Jocelyn, his taller and bulkier form drowning her in his shadow, “How fitting that my son is to marry you daughter.”

            Before Jocelyn could respond, she felt her back brush against a wooden door, leading herself backwards into a steady. She hadn’t noticed her subconscious steps backwards as Valentine advanced towards her.

            Not about to be trapped, alone with Valentine, Jocelyn moved to step around Valentine’s figure, but Valentine was ready for this. Though his words were slurred with drunkenness, Valentine’s reflexes were sharper than ever. His hand reached out beside him, blocking Jocelyn’s escape. He could only smile down at the beautiful, red head before him, her eyes sparking with flames.

            “Stay awhile, my love,” Valentine said slyly, his free hand coming to her face to remove a single strand behind her ear, “Couldn’t you spare a few moments for an old friend?”

            Jocelyn jerked away from his hand as if it were a hot, branding iron, “We aren’t friends, Valentine and you’re being to forward.”

            Valentine sighed, dramatically, faking a hurt expression on his face, “You are the only woman in the world who can hurt me the way you do, Jocelyn. We used to be so close growing up, do you remember? We were practically betrothed since birth.”

            Jocelyn’s eyes flicked downward for a fraction of a second, instantly transported back to when she was a teenager. Yes, she had been a young girl once, impressed by the handsome and strong Prince Valentine, but it was later that she found out how cruel and possessive he could be, especially towards her.

            “I remember a young man who never learned the meaning of word no,” she muttered, her eyes again looking back into his dark pools. She looked past his figure and to the waiting and open door, “It seems nothing has changed.”

            Valentine’s lips curled into a smile, his eyes falling to her barely parted lips, “I seem to remember an occasion when the word no did not fall from your lips.”

            Jocelyn’s eyes snapped back to Valentine’s, angry clouds gathering in her irises, fueling Valentine’s excitement and lust.

            “Enough,” Jocelyn growled, “This is far too inappropriate, Valentine, now let me go!”

            Moving at lightning speed, surprising even himself, Valentine to the queen’s head in his hands and planted a wet kiss on her unsuspecting lips. His tongue cruelly dug at her tightened lips, demanding entry, but Jocelyn steeled herself against him. When all of her senses came back to her, she was able to move her hands between them and she pushed against his large chest, but he was unmovable.

            To her horror, his hands slithered from her head as he placed them behind her back, when he started back her smaller frame farther and farther within the study. He was relentless as he assaulted her face with his eagerness, but Jocelyn stood like a impenetrable statue.

            Finally, Valentine came up for air, allowing Jocelyn to take her shot. With all the hurt, fear and anger she could muster, Jocelyn slapped the side of Valentine’s face with the palm of her hand.

            “How dare you,” she screeched, her whole body trembling, but her voice as strong and enraged as ever, “I am married to the King, you fool! You will not disrespect me in this way ever again!”

            Jocelyn turned to make her exit but was thrust backwards when a pair of strong bands wrapped around her waist, pulling her feet clean off the ground.

            “Jocelyn, please,” Valentine playfully begged, “Let me show you how good we can be together.” He enjoyed the feel of this strong-willed woman thrashing against him. He was already hard with lust and her small, feminine frame was beginning to make him dizzy with need.

            “No,” Jocelyn shouted, tears beginning to form in her eyes, “Valentine, stop. You’re drunk, don’t do this.”

            “I would do what the lady asks,” a cool, deadly voice said, instantly stilling the movement in the room.

            Jocelyn’s heart flew in her throat as her watering eyes landed on her husband’s enraged features appeared before her.

            “Luke,” she croaked, her chest rising and falling with her labored breath as she yearned to run into his arms.

            Luke’s eyes briefly rested on his wife’s, her green eyes telling him everything he needed to know. His eyes slid back to Valentine’s and Luke could feel every muscle in his body tensing for the fight that was to come. He would kill this man for what he put Joss through, he swore it to himself.

            Valentine’s eyes slowly raked the figure standing in the doorway, all of his senses going on high alert as his body realized he was in danger. Never one to show any sign of fear, Valentine smiled as he slowly released his hold on Jocelyn’s waist. He watched as she sprang from his grasp and hurried to her husband’s side. Valentine’s eyes flicked to the king, taking in his tensed shoulders, his right hand resting gently over the hilt of his sword.

            “Lucian,” Valentine greeted, not hiding the fake timber in his voice, “The queen and I were just getting reacquainted.”

            Luke took a step forward, pulling his sword inches out of its holster, but stilled when he felt a firm tug on his forearm. He knew it was his wife signaling to him that this fight wasn’t worth it. He looked at Valentine and saw that he was drunk and that even if he killed Valentine, it wouldn’t be honorable to kill a drunken fool. He would deal with this man in the morning.

            “I’m giving you your life, Valentine,” Luke said through clenched teeth, “I do not have time for you this night.”

            Valentine smiled cruelly, his eyes swinging over Jocelyn before his eyes rested on Luke’s, “On the contrary, my King, “I think it is the perfect time.” Valentine pulled his sword from its sheath clean out and held it out with both hands, his legs parting in a fighting stance.

            “That’s enough,” Jocelyn shouted, Luke’s arm outstretching to keep his wife from advancing on the menacing king.

            “Valentine,” Luke warned, “You do not want to do this. The pagans are here, we need to fight them together.

            “I think I’ll take my chances,” Valentine sneered and before Luke could react, Valentine jumped at Luke, his sword swinging in the air.

            Inches from his face, Luke was able to deflect Valentine’s advances. Never taking his eyes off of Valentine’s movements, Luke shouted for Jocelyn to find Clary and to get somewhere safe.

            “No,” Jocelyn cried out to her husband as she watched him narrowly deflect each of Valentine’s advances, “I will not leave you here alone!”

            Angry that his wife was being stubborn at a time like this, yet even more frightened for her safety, Luke turned to make a demand as her king to leave, but this brief moment of distraction gave Valentine the window he needed to cut Luke across the chest.

            Luke fell to his knees, his hands instantly coming to his chest, he could hear Jocelyn yelling his name somewhere in the distance. His eyes flew to his hands atop his chest, his eyes growing big as the blood poured around his fingers.

            “Luke!” Jocelyn cried, a burst a strength launching her to her husband’s side, but she was stopped when Valentine’s sword swiveled up to face her.

            “That’s close enough, my love,” he said, watching as the tip of his sword nestled against the smooth skin of her throat, “I want you to watch as I take your husband’s life right in front of you. I want you to watch the light fade from his eyes.”

            “You bastard,” Jocelyn whispered, her eyes leaving her silent, bleeding husband. She spat in Valentine’s face, probably the most un-lady like thing she had down all her life, but she didn’t care. Valentine was no man; he was a monster.

            “With death comes new life, my love,” Valentine cooed, looking down at the wounded king at his feet, “You’re new life starts with his death.”

            “I will never share a life with you, Valentine,” Jocelyn said cruelly, the weight of her tears making her voice shake, but her tone was final.

            “Oh my dear,” Valentine said sweetly, looking at the beautiful queen in front of him, he admired her spirit, he would enjoy breaking that spirit even more, “Like you have a ch—“

            Valentine was harshly cut off from finishing his sentence, when a large bulk launched into him from the ground sending him hurtling to the ground. His sword was knocked from his grip in his surprise.

            Hearing his wife being threatened gave Luke the energy he needed to defend his wife from the evil man. Luke was able to pin Valentine instantly to the ground, his knees digging into his chest as his closed fists connected with every part of Valentine’s face.

            Luke was uncontrollable; he saw red flash before his eyes and briefly wondered if it was his rage of Valentine’s blood. He hoped it was the ladder. He could faintly hear Jocelyn shouting his name in the background, but the rage inside of him was consuming him whole.

            Like a switch, Luke suddenly stopped when he felt the cool tip of a blade against the back of his neck.

            “I would do what the queen asks, Lucian,” a young man’s voice said.

            Luke turned his head, his eyes resting on Sebastian Morgenstern, his black eyes peering into his own like fathomless pits. Luke slowly picked himself off the floor, his eyes never leaving the young princes’.

            “Sebastian,” Luke pleaded, “Now is not the time to fight amongst ourselves. The pagans are here, we must fight them if we wish to survive.”

            Sebastian didn’t move this tip of the sword away from Luke’s neck as he thought about what to say next.

            “I’ve decided that now is the perfect time, Lucian,” Sebastian said, cooly, “The pagans can have there fun pillaging and raping, but when they’re bored, I will be here to pick up the pieces of this poor, pathetic kingdom- my father as king.”

            Sebastian watched with a coy smile as his words registered in King Lucian’s head. He enjoyed the look of surprise turn into anger, the emotions so fleeting across the defeated king’s face.

            “Excuse me, boy,” Luke seethed, stepping toward the boy prince, but was met with twenty armed guards he did not recognize brandishing their swords in his direction.

            Sebastian sheethed his sword into his sheath, a knowing smile playing on his lips, “Escort the king to the dungeons, I am done with him here.

            “No!” Jocelyn yelled from behind, thrashing against the guard that held her to let her go, “Guards!”

            “Shut her up!” Sebastian demanded. The guard holding the struggling queen wrapped a single arm around her waist and his free hand clapped against her mouth.

            Sebastian smiled as the queen’s eyes locked with his in outrage, he could see Clarissa in her mother and it made him chuckle.

            “There’s no use shouting for help, my lady,” Sebastian sneered, “They’re being slaughtered by the pagan scum.”

            Eyes wide, Jocelyn breathed a single word, “Clary.”

            Sebastian smiled coyly, “Don’t worry about Clarrisa, I have seen to it personally that she is out of harm’s –“

            Sebastian was cut off when a animalistic growl sounded from behind him, as if a wolf lived inside a man. Sebastian turned to the source and found a seething King Lucian behind him.

            “As God as my witness, Morgenstern, if you harm my daughter in anyway, God Himself will forsake you after what I will do to you in return.”

            Sebastian laughed cruelly, holstering his sword at his side, “As last words go, Lucian, those weren’t bad. Wasted, but not bad.”

            Sebastian walked until his was directly in front of Lucian, “I wonder what Clarissa will say when she hears her father’s last words,” he thought about this and added, “She won’t care when she’s screaming like a whore beneath me.”

            Lucian launched himself at the boy prince, anger exploding in every cell of his being, but was no match for the strong guards holding him back from the sneering prince.

            Sebastian watched with a smile on his face as the struggling king was ushered out of the room and down the halls. When the king’s shouts of anger could no longer be heard, Sebastian turned his attention back to the queen.

            Sebastian placed himself firmly infront of the queen, her tears leaving wet tracks on her face. She was beautiful, like her daughter. She too had fiery, red hair and green eyes, but her eyes were wiser and held years of womanly experience, where Clarissa’s held youthfulness.

            “Jocelyn,” Sebastian cooed, placing stray stands of smooth hair behind her ear, “If you wish to keep your family alive, you will give my father whatever he wants, after all, he is your king now.”

            Sebastian watched as his meaning registered in the queen’s mind, her eyes flicking to his father’s just behind him. Sebastian saw a brief glimpse of fear spark behind those cool, green eyes, but watched as they disappeared just as suddenly behind a strong wall of green glass. This woman was strong, he thought. I guess he and his father had the same taste in woman.

            “She is your’s now, father, do with her what you will tonight,” Sebastian said, turning to his father behind him, quickly losing interest in his father’s affairs, “For tomorrow you will be King of Northumbria.”

            Valentine slowly came to stand in front of the queen, even with her face covered in tears, she was still beautiful. He looked her over, slowly, until his eyes came to rest on her lips. He reached out, his hand cupping the back of her neck, pulling her to him, he switched his direction and placed a small kiss on her forehead.

            “Take the queen to my bed chambers where she is to wait for me until I come for her,” he said to the guards and watched as the struggling queen was taken from the room.

            Growing tired of his father’s presence, Sebastian turned to his father, “If your childish games are over, father, perhaps now we can focus on the bigger issue- the pagans.”

            “Was this your plan all along, son?” Valentine asked as he followed his son out of the study, “I am impressed.”

            Sebastian scoffed, rolling his eyes, “Just play your part. I made you king, don’t make me regret that.”

            There it was, that cold feeling again deep within Valentines gut, forcing him to involuntarily swallow the raising lump in his throat. He cleared his throat, unwilling to show his son any sign of weakness.

            “I’ve worked quite an appetite up already,” Valentine laughed, “But I suppose freeing the world of a few hundred pagans would really get me in the mood.”

            Raising his sword in the air, Valentine heard the cries of war from his men and led them out into the halls, spilling all pagan blood in their path. 

Chapter Text

 

 

Cursing loudly, Clary kicked the locked door in her frustration when she realized Sebastian wouldn’t be freeing her from her makeshift prison any time soon. The sounds of battle gradually closing in on her and the high-pitched screams of women and children grating on her ears, Clary’s own panic started pressing in on her chest, making it hard to breath for a couple of moments.

The suffocating feeling forced her to take a couple steps away from the door, wanting to place herself as far away from whatever lied on the other side of the threshold. Wrapping her arms protectively around her middle, Clary yearned to be in her father’s strong embrace, the sound of her mother’s voice telling her that everything was going to be okay.

As if the thought of her parents was a punch to the gut, Clary jerked, the blood draining from her face immediately. Her parents. They were out there in that chaos, somewhere, possibly hurt or worse.

Clary shook her head, pulling her mind from jumping to any unnecessary conclusions. She swallowed against the rising lump in her throat; she was not some hopeless damsel in distress. She didn’t need any to rescue her, she was Clarissa Garroway and she held her fate in her own hands.

Now that her mind had something to focus on, Clary felt her breathing even out, her eyes scanning the room’s contents for anything to help free her from her confinement. The room was scarcely packed with furniture, a general room for guests that didn’t have the station or reputation deserving of a more impressive room. Still, it had a nice sized fireplace, a table and chairs, a few dressers and desks, a bed, and finally, Clary noticed gratefully, a small, wooden sofa.

Perfect, she thought. Rushing across the room, Clary began dragging the small piece of furniture through the room, stopping when she was satisfied at it location just feet from the door, one arm of the couch perpendicular to the door’s center.

Sending up a quick prayer for the strength, Clary dug her feet into the floor, leveraging her full body weight against the opposite arm of the couch, steering the couches direction towards the door. With each step, the couch moved a little faster, the momentum picking up.

With a final grunt, Clary pushed with all her might, sending both the couch and herself hurtling towards the doors. With a loud thump, simultaneously, Clary was tossed over the arm of the chair, her momentum suddenly obstructed by an unmoving couch, but not before she heard the unmistakable sound of wood cracking.

Clary scrambled off the couch, a small ounce of hope raising in her chest at the thought that maybe this sporadic plan to free herself could actually work. She moved the couch away from the door, and sure enough, a chunk of wood was missing from the door, a sign that her plan was working.

With a squeal of excitement, Clary took her place once more behind the couch. Her brows furrowing in concentration, Clary made sure that the couch’s arm would penetrate the weakest part of the door. Once more planting her feet against the floor, Clary launched herself and the couch forward.

A loud splintering sound accosted her ears, startling her, the brief distraction forcing her to lose her balance, falling to the floor. Unwilling to lose a second of time, she quickly bounded to her feet, her eyes immediately focusing on her progress. She let out a sigh of relief, seeing that the couch had slid through the couch-sized hole between the doors. She could see shards of wood littering the floor of the hallway just outside the door and gave herself a nod of approval.

Pulling the couch out of the hole, Clary made quick work of checking the hall for any immediate danger (it was not lost on her that she could have very well put herself in more danger just by causing so much noise just now, but her only thought had been to get out.)

When the coast had been deemed clear, Clary gingerly walked into the hallway, her senses on full alert. She kept to the sides of the hallway, using the shadows to hide her movements as she made her way through the castle, eager to get to her room to fetch her bow and arrows. She wasn’t naïve enough to think she could move through the halls without some sort of weapon. She would need every advantage she could get her hands on, even if that meant taking the precious time away from looking for her family. After all, she wouldn’t be any use to them if she was dead, or worse, captured.

Though ironic, Clary briefly thanked Sebastian for locking her in a room that was just a few hallways down from her own bedroom. Just for that she would let him live, miserably, but he would still be living after she was done with him.

She quickly entered her room, her eyes narrowing on the bow and arrow lying haphazardly on her bed from when she’d thrown them down earlier before the banquet. Her mother always hated her leaving them out like that, but at this present time, she was glad for her laziness earlier. She immediately strapped the arrows to her back, feeling the familiarity of their weight between her shoulders, making her body come alive underneath it.

The smoothness of her bow was welcoming in her otherwise shaking hand, but once the wood made contact with her skin, her hand stilled, the stillness of a seasoned archer settling in. Feeling a bit of her self-control slip back into grasp, her mind was finally able to focus at it full capacity; she new what she had to do.

Turning towards the door, Clary jogged to her door, disappearing into the hallway, silently praying that she wasn’t already too late.

           

 

~*~*~*~*~*~

 

 

No amount of sword training or hours spent studying tactical advantages and strategies could have prepared Simon for what was happening before him. He supposed that nothing could ever truly prepare someone for battle, but the chaos around him was certainly something he would have never truly understood until coming face-to-face with it.

Bodies littered the halls, men, women and children, their eyes looking back at him, the light of life diminished from their faces forever. He kept his eyes forward as he ran through the halls, searching for his best friend, but the smell, the smell of blood, permeated the air and threatened to double him over as he spilled the meager contents of his already churning stomach.

He tried to focus on finding Clary, but something in the back of his head kept gnawing at the surface. Something wasn’t right here, well, something other than the castle being overran by the pagans.

Simon slowed, coming to a hallway filled with men fighting each other, some in metallic, shining armor, the crests of kingdom close and far etched into their chests, while others wore more earthy tones, their clothing resembling sheep cloth and other furs. Pagans.

However, and this was very ironic, the fact that his fellow countrymen and allies were fighting the pagans wasn’t the strangest thing going on at the present moment. In a couple of instances, Simon had realized that Northumbrian knights were becoming increasingly entangled in small skirmishes with knights from Mercia.

Simon stopped dead in his tracks as a single name crossed his mind, Sebastian. Could he really be so calculating and cold to use the threat of an invading pagan army to his advantage, hoping to steal the kingdom of Northumbria while it was under attack?

Simon scoffed to himself, as if the thought needed to be answered. Of course it was well within the realm of possible actions taken by the dark prince. Sebastian was diabolical and cruel, conniving and evil. He’d use any advantage he had to take what he wanted.

Simon’s eyes widened in horror. “Clary,” he whispered, his breath catching in his throat as her name flitted across her mind. He wants Clary.

Using the fear for his friend’s safety, Simon let the thought of getting to her soon, propel him forward, doubling his speed and effort to get to her. He was making good time, swerving around small skirmishes in the hallways, careful not to engage in any battles; he wasn’t stupid enough to think his skills with a sword could outmatch any man here today.

His worrying thoughts nearly blinded him to the group of Mercian soldiers walking in a huddle towards him. He brushed up against the wall, hoping they would pass him without noticing him, letting him skim by as he searched for Clary.

If the soldiers had noticed him, they didn’t acknowledge him. Exhaling a breath he hadn’t known he was holding, Simon turned to start running again, but a flash of red stilled him in his tracks.

Turing with wide eyes, fearing that the enemy had caught his best friend, he felt a cold rush zip through his body. Before he was thinking clearly, Simon cleared his throat.

“Halt in the name of the King,” he said, his voice a little shaky, but held with enough fake authority that he hoped that maybe he had a slight chance of them listening to him. What he was going to do after they “halted” he didn’t know, but he was thinking on the fly, one step at a time, something Clary had told him repeatedly that he wasn’t very good at. He let her do all the quick thinking as they grew up, sometimes it getting them in trouble and sometimes it got them out of trouble. Right now, it was up to him.

Noticing that the guards hadn’t even stumbled at his command, Simon jogged so that he could walk next to them.

“I said—“ he started, but was interrupted when a feminine voice called out between the soldiers.

“Simon?” the voice said and he immediately recognized it as Clary’s mother, Queen Jocelyn.

“My lady?” Simon choked, having to walk briskly to keep up with the long strides of the guards, “What’s going on? Do you need help?”

“No, Simon, listen to me,” her voice growing high with concern, “You have to find Clary. She isn’t safe, Simon. You have to find her.”

Simon slowed his pacing as he watched the guards drag his queen away, his honor as a future knight warring with his duty as a best friend.

“What about you?” he called, taking a few steps in his direction. Clary would never forgive him if something happened to her.

“I’ll be fine, Simon,” she yelled over her shoulder, “Just find Clary and run. GO!”

Simon swiveled on his heel, the urgency to find his friend nearly sending him into a blind panic. Things were so much worse than he had feared and he’d thought he had pretty much pegged tonight as the worse night of his life. It turns out, this night was going to be one of the longest as well.

 

~*~*~*~*~*

 

Quickly growing frustrated by the amount of time it was taking her to find her parents, Clary eased herself around yet another corner, using the shadows of the walls to conceal her presence as small battles were raged all around her. She quickly sent a thank you to God, perhaps for the first time ever, thanking him for her small stature, which allowed her maneuver through the shadows undetected.

Finding her parents was her first priority, and using the guards that were no doubt surrounding and protecting them, then and only then would she turn her thoughts to engaging in battle. Though she knew she would have to convince her parents to help, she knew it was something that she had to do.

When her mind finally caught up with what she was seeing in front of her, Clary stopped dead in her tracks, her next breath firmly lodged in her chest. Her mouth dried immediately as she watched the small skirmish take place in front of her, the sounds of metal clashing against metal, sparks flying in different directions.

She recognized three of the fighters as her own, each of them proudly displaying her family’s crest on their blood splattered armor, not to mention her families forgotten banner on the ground.

However, it was the three foreign invaders that pulled her attention, and seemingly stopped her body in every way possible, save from the rapid beating of her heart, otherwise she remained perfectly still, her fear planting her feet in her place.

The three foreigners, based on their apparel and homemade weapons, fought for the pagans, but that wasn’t the most bizarre and dangerously intriguing thing about the trio. To Clary’s astonishment and, to be honest, a hint of intrigue, the three young people fought with the charisma and balance of a team. They worked as a team cutting down the men in their paths one by one. It would almost be poetic if Clary hadn’t grown up around these men, knew their wives and children.

Still, she couldn’t seem to move a single inch of her body, seemingly frozen to her spot as she watched the chaos ensue. Her eyes fell immediately to the two dark headed figures- one male and one female. They raven dark hair, tall statue, and blue eyes were strikingly similar, leading Clary to believe that they were somehow related.

The older male constantly had his eyes on the younger woman, seemingly watching out for her, but to Clary, it seemed as though the girl, probably a year older than her, could handle herself just fine. She wielded her weapon against her opponents as if it were a mere extension of her arm. A brief moment of jealously and awe ran through Clary, wishing that she’d had this type of training, but the moments she stole to work on her sword skill or archery, were eons short of the grace and fluidity the dark-haired girl presented in front of her.

Clary’s eyes shift to the other male in her room and suddenly her eyes grew even larger. She recognized him instantly, it was him, the one from the archery contrast. She remembered those eyes, their brilliant shade of gold, giving lightness to his eyes that she had never seen before. His movements were fluid and calculating, besting his opponents one by one. He seemed to enjoy it as a smile was plastered to his blood splattered face.

The dimly lit chandelier feet above them made his blonde hair glow, reminding Clary of an avenging angel sent her to purge the world of all its evil. It was ironic, since his very existence was the epitome of evil.

Clary was immediately pulled from her thoughts when all noise in the room disappeared. Her mind pulling from her thoughts, registering what her eyes were seeing before her, she swallowed audibly. Three pairs of eyes, two blue and one gold, were staring back at her, the bodies of her countrymen at their feet.

It’s as if time stood still, the breath she took into her lungs seeming as though it took years to exhale. She couldn’t move if she wanted to. The logical part of her mind was telling her to run, but something was blocking the command from her legs and so she stood there, her eyes wide in fear, her hands shaking.

           

           

Jace studied the young, red head. He hadn’t heard her approach them as they fought, a note of annoyance brush over him at the thought of leaving him, Alec and Izzy vulnerable. He wouldn’t make that mistake again. Eyeing the girl, standing there, he saw the way she stood, facing them, bow in hand. She didn’t immediately take aim at them, which was intriguing in itself, but they way her eyes flashed before him, the green irises darkening, caught his attention.

He felt a smile turn the corners of his mouth upward, she’s afraid of us. As well as she should be, he thought, he knew that with Alec and Izzy beside him, the trio was a formidable foe- especially for some palace princess with a bow and some sticks.

He took a step towards her, unsure of what he was going to do once he closed the distance to her, but still took the step just the same. However, it was the only step he took before an arrow was knocked into place and aimed at his chest.

He stilled, not missing the knocking of another bow, Alec’s, just over his shoulder, no doubt pointed back at the one pointed at him.

Jace shifted his gaze from the arrow leveled at his chest returning to the green eyes before and was startled to see the resolve behind them. Gone was the look of fear behind her gaze and in its stead, stood determination and maybe a tinge of rage, darkening her irises into an emerald green. He couldn’t move his eyes from her’s, mesmerized by the change he saw before him. She was a fighter; he could admire that about her. Useless against him and his partners, but he could respect her on putting up a fight.

Not taking his eyes off of the archer before him, Jace turned his head to the left, shaking his head, signaling for Alec to drop his aim. Jace didn’t miss the grunt of frustration slip from Alec’s mouth, or the muttering under his breath, but he was pleased to hear the loosening of the bow’s string over his shoulder. He turned his full attention back to the girl in front of him, expecting her to lower her arrow in good faith as he had just ordered Alec to do, but to his amusement, her posture remained straight and poised, ready to let the arrow fly at a moments notice.

 

 

Not taking her eyes from the boy she had her arrow trained on, in her periphery she saw the older, dark-haired boy lower his arrow. A moment of irritation flashed through her mind. Surely these brutes wouldn’t surrender so easily would they? No, that couldn’t be it. Could it be that the golden-haired boy didn’t see her as a threat?

Clary had to physically restrain herself from rolling her eyes. She was tired of people, mostly men, underestimating her because she dared to be born a girl. She with that thought, she kept her stance planted to the spot and kept her arrow pointed at the young boy’s chest.

His eyes bored into her’s and she felt as if he could see directly passed her fake façade of bravery. He gaze slid over her form as if he was gauging whether or not her arrow would hit it’s target or not, but still, his eyes on her were beginning to make her weak in the knees and that really pissed her off. So what if he was gorgeous to look at? He was a murderous, godless man and he deserved to be put down for the death and chaos he had brought down on her home this very night.

As if sensing the train of her thoughts, she watched as the boys eyes grew a shade brighter, his mouth quirking up in the corners, a smirk forming on his stupid, beautiful face. Temper flaring, Clary did the only thing she could at that precise moment (okay maybe not, but she had to wipe that smirk off his face).

Simultaneously exhaling, Clary relinquished the arrow from its notched, the arrow buzzing straight for its intended target. Its as if time stood still for the second time that night, as she watched the arrow pierce the air honing in closer and closer. Her heart skipped a beat; a brief moment of clarity nearly choking her when she realized this could be the night that she kills her first person. Something cold and dirty claws in the pit of her stomach, but all of her senses are trained on him.

In a flash, quicker than her mind can follow, the blonde haired boy knocks the arrow away from its original trajectory. The only sound in the room is the clanging of her arrow hitting the ground and her rough breathing. She just stares at him for another minute, unsure of what to do next. She desperately begs for her fight or flight response to kick in, desperate to have some sort of action to focus on, anything, she can’t stand here any longer under his unwavering gaze.

Gold irises fell on her’s once again, this time with slight amusement and curiosity, that same damn smirk on his face, his devilishly handsome face. Its not until he takes another step forwards, that Clary is able to move her limbs voluntarily again.

Before she fully registers his renewed advancement on her, she knocked another arrow into her bow, her drawing hand lightly resting on her cheek, poised for another round of shooting. This one wouldn’t miss her target; she wouldn’t let it.

“That’s far enough,” she muttered, her own voice, low and firm, sounding foreign to her own ears, but she didn’t let it show on her face. She kept her eyes trained on the boy who came to a brief stop, looking back at her quizzically.

           

Clary briefly calculated her odds at taking at least one of them out before they pounced on her and new that the odds weren’t in her favor. Not only were the boy’s reflexes remarkably fast, but just by the shear talent and expertise they exerted in their fighting capabilities left her firmly in the notion that her luck was the absolute worst. Still, she had to hope that there was some justice to be done here; someone had to pay for the lives taken today. She wanted it to be here to give a little bit of that justice to these heathens, even if that meant never seeing her family again. As her mother had told her, sometimes we have a bigger duty to our people than the hopes and dreams that they harbor for themselves.

 

Jace was growing more amused with the young woman before him the more he studied her, her stubbornness in the face of certain death, one of the most intriguing things about her. He had half expected her to turn tail and run as soon as they had acknowledged her presence, but as soon as the initial shock and fear had washed away, a warrior, someone with a lot of fight in them stood before him, and that’s all he needed to know.

Jace couldn’t help the smile crossing his face, something that he was sure to piss her off anymore. It hadn’t escaped him that his smirk earlier, might have been the tipping element that initially sent the first arrow flying. Typical woman, his smirk was both a blessing and a curse when it came to the opposite sex.

“Are you sure you want to try that again, woman?” he asked, nodding his head towards the arrow, trained once again at his chest. He had no fear of the arrow trained at him. She was a good shot, but the momentum behind the arrow was typical of an archer who wasn’t properly trained, therefor allowing his quick reflexes to block any of her blows.

When the women narrowed her eyes at him, he continued, “It didn’t work out so well the last time.” He watched amused as green eyes darkened in her anger and could only smile wider in return. He enjoyed pissing her off, he thought, it was fun. She had so much passion just in the small pupils of her eyes and it fascinated him.

“Shut up,” the woman scowled, her anger stirring something in him that he couldn’t quite name.

Jace’s eyes narrowed in thought, pressing his lips in a line of mock thought, “But how would we discuss you surrender if we cannot converse?” The fakeness in his own tone grating against his own ears, but he was having entirely too much fun.

“This is the only communication you’ll get from me,” Clary muttered, sending the second arrow hurtling towards his chest. She should have expected it, but when the infuriating boy knocked the second arrow from its target, Clary had to restrain herself from stomping her foot like a child and sticking her tongue out at him.

Watching as the trio advanced on her, Clary took another arrow from her back, training it on him once again, an idea forming in her head.

“By the gods, woman,” the golden haired boy muttered in disbelief, “Give it up. You’re outnumbered and out-skilled. Surrender.”

“Never,” Clary muttered and with a flash of movement, she trained her finely tipped arrow towards the ceiling.

Letting the arrow fly, all eyes in the room swung upwards as the arrow cut through the single chain link holding the very heavy chandelier to the ceiling. Instantly, the single light source in the hall was extinguished, plunging the space into darkness, the threat of a heavy chandelier falling towards the trio below.

Chapter Text

Letting years of growing up within the walls of the castle, Clary gave into the pure instinct that let her pass through the hallways unnoticed as she searched for her parents. That was all she cared about, finding her mother and father and making sure that they were okay. Then, and only then, would she allow herself to mentally process what was going on around her: Sebastian’s cryptic words, the apparent Viking invasion and perhaps the worst- that insufferable Viking boy. If she were completely honest with herself, it was becoming harder and harder for her to sweep him under the proverbial rug of her mind as she raced through the halls, searching, constantly searching for anyone she knew, anyone she could trust.

            Forcing all feelings accept the dull pounding of her legs against the hard ground, Clary picked up her speed and kept her focus forwards, so much so that she didn’t hear her name being called behind her. What happened next really wasn’t her fault, directly. It was just pure instinct taking over once more.

            Clary felt a hand wrap around her forearm yanking her back on her feet, but years of training in battle moves had her twisting into the pull, allowing her to switch her footing so that she was facing her attacker. Her hands immediately grabbed onto the offending grasp on her arm and used it to send her assailant to the floor.

            An arrow nocked against her bow, poised in front of her and ready to aim, Clary stuttered when she heard the all too familiar grunt as the solid body connected with the ground.

            “Simon?” she whispered, her own relief like choir music to her ears. She dropped her bow to the ground, the arrow rattling along the floor, as she fell to her knees beside her best friend. “Oh my god,” she said, wrapping her arms around the young man’s familiar upper torso before he could so much as sit up properly, “Thank God you’re okay.”

            “Oh ya, perfectly okay,” he grunted, the feel of her petite hands squeezing his already sore ribs forcing him to grit his teeth against the pain. He felt her loosen his hold, hearing the pain in his voice and his was appreciative, especially when green eyes clashed with his and he could see the very obvious tears of joy in her eyes. He felt leap in his chest at the outward sign that she was so happy sign to see him, he was just as happy to see her, but he didn’t know how to express this into so many words, so he did what he always did and covered his emotions with humor.

           “But if you asked me where my dignity went,” he pondered theatrically, searching around for his fictitious self-respect, “I’d say I was forced to part with it after I was crudely thrown to the floor.”

            “Oh, Simon,” Clary giggled, wiping the unshed tears from her eyes, “What would I do without you?”

            “Probably find some other poor boy to beat up,” he muttered, starting to stand now that he’d finally found breathing coming to him normally instead of shallow gasps for air.

            Clary rolled her eyes as she wiped the imaginary dirt from his armor, straightening a few things here and there before she turned her eyes back to his, the look of relief at seeing him slowly transforming into a combination of worry and foreboding.

            “Have you seen my parents?” she barely whispered, and he could hear the desperation in her voice, her eyes pleading with her to give her the answer, the reassurances that he couldn’t give her and it broke his heart.

            “I haven’t seen the King,” he said slowly, watching the worry escalate behind her emerald eyes, “but I’ve seen the Queen.”

            Clary’s eyes lit with relief, but quickly dimmed at the worried expression on Simon’s face. He couldn’t lie to Clary. For one, she was his best friend and he would never lie to her and second, she’d be able to see right through him.

            “Where is she?” Clary asked, an urgency in her voice. When Simon didn’t answer right away, her hands flew to his shoulders, shaking them, “Where is my mother, Simon?”

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

 

            “I think I’m in love,” Jace chuckled as he stood facing the direction in which the young, red head made her escape. He admired her courage in the face of imminent danger and her ability to think on her feet. He had been caught off guard by her brazen act of dropping a chandelier on them, but he was no less impressed.

            “You should have let me shoot her,” he heard Alec grip as he pulled himself off the ground. Alec and Izzy had fast reflections, but not fast enough and subsequently ended up sprawled on the ground behind him inches from where the now shattered chandelier sat, diminished, on the ground.

            Jace turned to his friends, a small smile on his face, “Now where would be the fun in that, Alexander?” He didn’t miss the low muttering under Alec’s breath, but turned, instead, towards the younger Lightwood as her voice spoke over her older brother’s words.

            “I like her,” she said, coming to stand beside Jace, her own smile grazing her lips, looking in the same direction he had been not two minutes ago, “She’s brave and very beautiful; she’d make a badass Viking.”

            Jace hummed in agreement, turning his eyes in the same direction as Izzy’s, a small idea forming in his head. He looked back at the young girl beside him, finding her eyes already trained on him, a knowing gleam staring back at him.

            “It’s too bad she’s already fled from our grasp,” he mused, a smirk sliding across his features, “What do you suppose we do about that, Iz?”

            “I always did like a good chase,” she replied, her eyes zeroing in on the other woman’s escape route, “I say we keep her.”

            “I like the sound of that,” he grinned, devishly, before jogging up the steps from which the young girl fled, “Quickly! She’s getting away!”

 

            Alec stood there, annoyed, as he watched the two pains in ass disappear from view. He crossed his arms over his chest, his jaw working overtime.

            “I’m not coming after you,” he yelled, knowing that it was useless. Once Izzy or Jace got something in their heads, it was a lost cause to sway them either way and put them together? Even the gods wouldn’t be able to change their minds.

            “Oh for the love of Odin,” Alec muttered, bringing his bow and a single arrow in front of him, jogging up the stairs, knowing that there was no way he was going to let Izzy or Jace anywhere without him backing him up. He knew that one of these days it would be the end of him, but dammit if he wasn’t going to protect them with his life, even if it was to protect them from themselves.

 

~*~*~*~

 

            As soon as the words tumbled from Simon’s mouth, Clary bolted towards the last place he’d said that he had seen her mother, accompanied by Mercian guards of all things. Why was her mother being escorted by strangers, dangerous strangers, no doubt, in her own home? Where was her mother’s protective detail? All of these unanswered questions left a sour taste and her stomach, but right now she couldn’t think about any of that. She needed to see her mother with her own eyes, what came after that she would deal with at the moment.

            Feeling Simon not too far behind her, Clary picked up her pace desperate to have her mother’s arms wrapped around her as she told her that everything was going to be fine and that she was all right.

            Barreling around the next corner, her mind somewhere else, Clary didn’t see the massive brick wall until she smacked right into it. Sending her spiraling backwards, she was sure she was going to land on her ass amongst the debris of the chaos around her, but two beefy hands wrapped around her shoulders preventing her from falling to the floor.

            “What do we have here?” a deep, male voice slithered, his hot breath coasting over her face, making her stomach heave. She looked up at her captor and immediately saw that he was a northmen. She tried to take a step back from her prison, but the already hurtful grasp around her arms became even tighter making her hiss in pain.

            “Not so fast, kitten,” the man drawled, bringing her flush against his large chest, “The party is just getting started.”

            “Let go of me,” Clary demanded, ignoring his request for her to stay still as she wiggled in his grasp, “Now!”

            “Feisty, aren’t we, little one,” he purred, “I like it.”

            She heard the grin in his voice and she physically recoiled, something so deep, so primal screaming at her to run.

            “What you got there, Ivar?” a second male voice was heard, turner her captor’s attention, Ivar she supposed, behind him before he looked back at her with a salacious grin on his face.

            “It seems I’ve found my entertainment for the evening, Ragnar,” he mused before his lips coming dangerously close to the shell of her ear, so that his next words were only for her, “I’m going to enjoy tonight, kitten, and so will you, for a time.”

            Clary felt all the blood drain from her face as his words came crashing down on her like the violent waves of the sea. Her legs nearly buckled as she heard the soft laughter in her ear as he slowly pulled away, his big beefy face once again coming into her voice, his toothy grin not inches from her face. She could feel the acid bile in her stomach growing and was sure that she would be forcibly retching at this moment if she had eaten anything in the last several hours.

            The second Viking, Ragnar, he had been called, came up behind Ivar looking at Clary over his friend’s shoulder and made a noise of appreciation from the back of his throat.

            “I hope you intend on sharing, brother,” he spoke, not taking his eyes off of the petrified, redhead still clasped in his friends embrace.

            “Perhaps,” Ivar mused, “If there is anything left to be shared, that is.” Clary didn’t miss the suddenly hardening length pressing into her stomach and immediately felt the burning of tears behind her eyes. She wanted to yell, to scream, but the tears were clogging her throat, rendering her useless, voiceless. And she knew in that moment, that she had never been so scared, so helpless and it terrified her.

            “I’d let the lady go if I were you,” a familiar voice said and Clary physically stiffened. Simon.

 

            Ivar’s roaming eyes slid from her heaving chest to the young man who had materialized from where the young maiden had just moments ago. He took in the young man’s stature, sizing up his would-be foe and came to a conclusion. The boy was just that, a boy. Young and inexperienced.

            Ivar slowly turned the young woman in his arm so that she faced the young intruder, feeling her stiffness in his arms as she reconized the young lad. Yes, he could use this to his advantage.

            He felt it the instant her youthful behind connected with his cock, making a low growl slip from his chest. It had been a while since he’d had a bitch this young or fair skinned. Her skin felt so smooth, so soft underneath his fingertips, he couldn’t help but knead it beneath his fingers. He didn’t miss the way she tried to recoil from his touch; he basked in it.

            Soon, kitten, he thought, soon you will crave nothing but my touch.

            Turning his attention back to the young bastard who dared to ruin his fun, his eyes fell on the slightly shaking, but determined stance of the young male before him.

            “Let me guess,” he mused, an air of boredom in his voice, “You’ve come to free the helpless, fair lady from the clutches of the evil monster?”

            The young man unsheathed his sword and even Ivar had to give him props to the steadiness of his hand.

            “Clary is never helpless,” he said, grasping the hilt of his sword with two hands, “But I’d die before I’d let you harm her in any way.”

            “Simon,” the young woman squeaked between his hands, the warning and pleading evident in her voice. She cared about the young man enough to plead with him not to take his chances with the big brute behind her. How delicious.

            Ivar steadied the young man before him and briefly thought that maybe he’d underestimated the young boy. He was momentarily brought out of his thoughts when he heard Ragnar from behind him.

            “Let me get rid of the little runt, Ivar,” he said, the grin all but confirmed in his voice alone, “I’ll take care of him, while you get our girl warmed up.”

            Ivar chuckled, his hands running lazily up and down the young woman’s arms. Clary, he remembered the boy saying her name. He inwardly rolled his eyes, what a very girly name.

            “Patience, brother,” Ivar counseled, looking back at the young male in front of him. Simon, he corrected himself. That is what Clary had called him.

            “I think I’ll let the young lad fight for the fair maiden,” he mused, “After all, I’ll need a little something to wet my whistle for what will come afterwards.”

           

 

            Clary gasped as she was roughly handed from one set of beefy hands to another as Ivar advanced on Simon.

            “Simon, run!” she yelled, twisting in Ragnar’s grip. Damn, she thought, what did they feed these men in the north?

            “Quiet, you!” Ragnar sneered, caging her against his expansive chest with one hand as the other clamped across her mouth. She struggled against his hold, but it was no use. She stilled when her peripheral saw Ivar reaching for the axe in his built, heading directly for Simon.

            “No, no, no!” she cried into the filthy hand covering her mouth, she could feel the tears openly falling from her eyes, not caring how weak it made her look. This couldn’t possibly be happening. Not Simon, Lord please, not Simon!

            As Simon took his first step, Clary turned her head away, unable to watch the blow that undoubtedly end her brave, stupidly brave, best friend’s life. However, the rough hand over her mouth grip her jaw and forced her eyes to connect with the seen before her.

            “Nice try, kitten, but that’s not how it works,” Ragnar breathed against her ear, Ivar’s disgusting nickname making her sour stomach return ten fold, “You’re going to watch as my friend cut’s down your brave rescuer like the dog he is.” Clary felt there barest tip of a wet tongue slowly slide up the shell of her ear, “And then we will see what’s between those unblemished, Christian legs.”

            Clary renewed her struggle to release herself from the Vikings embrace, his maniacal laughter at her effort spurring her own. She was about to stamp down on his large foot, but the sound of Simon’s cry of pain had her frozen in her spot, her eyes immediately seeking her best friend.

            Clary’s own cry stuck in her throat as she watched Simon fall to his knees, a giant gash across his chest. His armor had obviously been cut away as Ivar teased him with death blows, keeping him alive as he danced around the young man’s own ineffective swings.

            Clary watched with horrified eyes as Simon blood poured out of the massive abrasion along his chest at an alarming speed, his name coming to her lips is a rasped whisper. She followed the blade of Ivar’s sword as it slid beneath Simon’s chin, lifting the smaller man’s chin upwards so he could look into his eyes.

            “I’m not going to kill you yet,” he snarled, the edge of the blade cutting into Simon’s neck, but you’d never know if it stung or not since Simon’s eyes had already closed, “I want you to watch as my friend and I sink ourselves between the legs of your pretty friend here. Doesn’t that sound like fun?”

            Ivar released Simon from the blade’s grip and she watched as his body slid to the floor. From this distance she couldn’t tell if he was breathing or not and it terrified her to no end. She picked up her struggling once more, not caring if it was useless or not, she had to do something. She had to get to Simon.

            She was forced to look into Ivar’s devouring eyes when his bulk obstructed her view of Simon’s prone body on the floor. Her eyes lingered on the way his tongue swiped his lower lip as he took in her struggling form. He got off on her pain, her struggling, her helpless, the bastard.

            “Now,” he said, coming to a hault immediately in front of her, his hand coming to caress the hair on the side of her head as if he was touching a lover, “Where were we?”

            Clary was about to scream, feeling it deep down to her toes, the feel of worry for her mother and father, her kingdom, the hopelessness at seeing her friend fall lifeless to the ground and the very real fear she felt for herself in that moment, but it all came to a sudden stop when a voice rang straight through her.

            “That’s enough, Ivar,” a cool, male voice commanded, making the hairs on Clary’s neck stand on end. The voice immediately gave way to a face, one that she nearly forgot about in the moments that had followed their last encounter not fifteen minutes ago. She felt Ivar grip the back of her neck as he pulled her to him, effectively claiming her as his. From here, she could see the golden haired boy and his companions and was silently thanking the Lord that her plan to squish them beneath the chandelier hadn’t worked out. Between the three of them and Ivar and his pal, Ragnar, she’d take those three any day. She was ripped out of her momentary relief when Ivar rough voice sounded over the top of her head.

            “Piss off, Jace,” Ivar growled, “Get your own whore; she’s mine.”          

            Her eyes flicked to the young boys, it seems the nights advanced had rendered her speechless and so she just stood there, her eyes observing, her mouth closed like the damsel in distress she had always hated in all the stories she had been told as a young girl.

            She saw something flash in the young man’s eyes, Jace he was called, but she couldn’t quite put a name to it as he physically cooled his features and gazed back at Ivar, seemingly unaffected by the other man’s warning.

            “I’d hardly call her your’s,” he said, the edginess in his voice giving him a dangerous aura.

            Clary felt Ivar’s grip tighten against her neck and had to stifle the urge to howl and pain. Instead, she just tamped down the need to release any sort of outward motion, saving it for when it really mattered. Right now, the immediate attention was not on her and so it gave her time to think. Of what, she didn’t know? A plan? An escape route?

            Ivar’s hand that wasn’t currently holding her hostage swept out expansively to his left, “I fought and one the rights to her body, Jace. I could fuck her now or kill her, but either way, she is mine.”

            Clary watched as Jace’s eyes looked in the direction Ivar was sweeping, ghosting over the prone form of her best friend. Seemingly unimpressed, his eyes found Ivar’s once more.

            “You call this a win, Ivar?” Jace scoffed, shaking his head a little, “Odin is not impressed. He couldn’t be; you fought a boy! A useless, Christian boy!”

            “Hey!” Clary spat before she could really think of the consequences, “That boy happens to be my best friend and has more courage and honor in his pinky finger than all of you combined.”

            As the room fell silent, the realization that she had pulled all the attention back to her, make her clamped her mouth shut with an audible snap.

            “Some best friend if he can’t even save you from Ivar, here,” Jace smirked, his golden eyes finding her’s for the first time since he had made his appearance. She remained silent, not trusting her voice at the moment not to get her further into trouble.

            “I’m sick of all this talking,” Ivar barked, “I don’t give a rat’s ass what you or the god’s think. I’ll take what I want and what I claim is mine.”

            Clary felt the immediate disconnect that moment it happened. The moment her mind seemed to snap, separating itself from her body, unrepentant rage fueling her movement, the fear for her best friend, the yearning for the physical touch of her mother and father’s arms burning a fire in her that spurned her into action.

            With all that she had, Clary fisted her right hand tightly and swung her body to the side, feeling the crunch of bone as her fist collided with Ivar’s nose. The surprise overwhelmed the massive man, freeing her from his grasp, but she wasn’t done, not by a long shot. She shoved the now sputtering giant in the chest, using her rage like a physical force, propelling her forward. She was elated when Ivar’s huge balk fell backwards until he noisily fell to the floor. She was about to go after him when she felt iron bands around her, pulling her father away from her intended target, a familiar laugh in her ear. Ragnar.

            “You did say you liked them feisty, Ivar,” he sang, watching his friend sit up nursing a clearly broken nose.

            Clary ignored Ragnar’s steel grasp as she made to move towards the brute again, he was the single focus of her rage at the moment, nothing else couldn’t penetrate her thoughts.

            “You bitch,” Ivar seethed, the crunch of his nose being forced back into place making her stomach turn, but she pushed that feeling down, letting the sweet feeling of pride at doing some damage wash over her.

            “I may be a bitch,” Clary countered, “But there is no way in hell I will ever belong to you.” She had to forcibly restrain herself from sticking her tongue out at the Viking, wanting to keep her air of violence in tact, such childishness would ruin her whole façade.

            She didn’t have to try long as a deep laugh penetrated her ears, “I guess she told you, Ivar.” Jace, that mother-

            “Would you just shut up already, you egotistical bastard,” she yelled, focusing her narrowed eyes on him, “Or do you just like the sound of your own god damn voice?”

            “Damn, I like her a lot,” the only other female in the room, said. Clary had almost forgot about her and the other dark haired male in the room, they hadn’t said a word since they arrived, seemingly letting Jace do all the talking.

            Clary eyed her now that she had captured her attention. The young girl was very beautiful maybe a year older than Clary herself, but she carried herself with the self-esteem of a woman double their age. Her smile was genuine enough as she gazed back at Clary with her own blue eyes. Perhaps in another life, she and Clary could have been friends.

            “Well, I barely know you lady,” she said slowly, “and so just by association with him, I’m inclined not to like you either.” She was answered with an amused lift of the other woman’s eyebrow, but she remained silence. It was Jace who broke the silence. Typical.

            “Well, I like you Red,” he commented as if it was the most obvious thing in the world, “You’re coming with us.” He turned on his heel as if no one would argue with him and if that’s what he truly thought, then he wouldn’t like her for long.

            “Excuse me,” she said, trying to keep the dumbfoundedness from her voice, hanging on to the very real anger gripping her, “I’m wont be going anywhere with you, willingly.”

            The boy named Jace turned to her, a curious glance of her not-so-threatening form raking over her, “That can be arranged.”

His eyes flicked to Ragnar who still had a hold of the little spit fire and turned on his heel once more.

            Fury that this boy would turn away from her, yet again, and forgetting about the very large male gripping her, Clary made to run after him, no doubt to give him a piece of her mind if he thought-

            She didn’t get to finish that thought as a pressure was felt against a very sensitive spot on her neck. She briefly remembered a lesson in pressure points as her vision narrowed, a deafening blackness closing in on her until all she felt was oblivion.

           

           

            “By the god’s,” Alec muttered, finally breaking his silence, “I didn’t think she was every going to shut up.” He watched as the young woman’s body was bodily thrown over Ragnar’s large shoulder as the giant walked their way.

            “Are you sure bringing her with us is a good idea, Jace,” he asked, coming to step beside Jace’s form as he took in their surroundings, no doubt planning their escape. He had gotten what he came for he supposed; now it was time to go.

            “It’s probably a really bad idea,” he agreed before fixing his eyes on Alec’s, a knowing grin on his face, “But won’t it just piss her off?”           

            Alec raked his hands tiredly over his face, the tiredness from the whole day’s events finally sinking into his bones, “Jace—“

            But he was unable to voice any reason in the younger male when Jace immediately walked around him. Turning to see what had caught his attention, Alec’s eyes immediately fell on his sister’s kneeled body next to the kid who had fought Ivar.

            “Is he dead?” Alec heard Jace asked, his voice not masking his indifference, “Perhaps he wishes he was if he is not.”

            Ignoring Jace’s barb, Izzy ran her hands through Simon’s dark brown hair, her eyes searching for something that Alec couldn’t exactly place. He had an uneasy feeling growing in his stomach. He knew that unnamed look in his sister’s eyes.

            “You couldn’t even kill him, Ivar,” Jace teased, looking around to the silent mass of rage just feet from them.

            “I hadn’t gotten to that part yet,” he spat, “I wanted him to watch me fuck the bitch first.” He looked over at Clary’s still form and spit the blood that had pooled from his nose into his mouth in her direction.

            Alec felt more than saw Jace’s physical restraint next to him. He could sense the growing stillness in his friend, his brother and when Jace became still, he became dangerous. What was it about this girl that brought this out in him, he wondered.

            “We’re leaving,” were the only reply that came from the younger male before he turned towards Izzy, expecting her to obey his insinuated command for her to leave the body.

            Without looking up, Izzy’s strong voice filtered through the air, “I’m bringing the boy with us.” She immediately began to hoist the boy into her strong arms, ignoring the disapproving looks from her brothers.

            “Absolutely not,” Jace breathed.

            “Izzy,” Alec warned.

            “He was willing to lay down his life for the girl,” she argued, “and Odin has seen fit to spare his life. I wish to know more about him.”

            “I won’t allow it,” Jace growled, his eyes narrowing in the lifeless form in his adoptive sister’s embrace.

            “I choose him,” her own growl in her voice, as she stared defiantly back at Jace. Damn her for their stubbornness, Alec thought.

            Jace was quiet as he gazed into Izzy’s eyes. For what seemed like an eternity they waited. Then, as if coming to a decision, Alec saw the brief relaxation of his adoptive brother shoulders.

            “Fine,” he muttered, “But he’s your responsibility, Iz. If he dies, you’ll burry his body alone.” He motioned for Ivar to take Simon’s body from Izzy’s, which earned him a glare from his subordinate, but in the end, Ivar knew that Jace was the commanding officer and so he obeyed.

            “He won’t die,” she responded, letting a very irate Ivar take the body from her awkward grasp.

            Jace grunted as he turned to survey the rest of the area around him, his eyes once again connecting with the slumped form of his redhead over Ragnar’s shoulder. Izzy was right, she was very beautiful, but she was never as beautiful as when he brilliant green eyes were trained on him, all her passion and fire aimed directly at him. He felt something shift in his chest, almost making the breath catch in his throat and the unwavering thought that he couldn’t wait until she woke up again. If not only to see her face as she realized he had her right where he wanted her, but to have her fire burn him from within.

Chapter Text

 

 

 

My name is Magnus Bane, Seer of the old gods and the new.

 

I see what the gods allow me to see and feel what they allow me to feel. Men and women make the long and arduous journey to my doorstep in hopes that the gods will show favor on them, promising their futures with victories in battle, or the healthy births of strapping baby boys, but either way, the wanderers never seek the answers to the presence, which is how our stories are told- in the present.

 

Perhaps it is the wavering uncertainty of the future that draws the attention of those that seek there answers, perhaps it is the thought we believe we already know all that there is to know if the present, that keeps us from focusing the path we currently find ourselves. All I know is that the gods have seen fit to show me our Present, the here and now, and I am shaken. Never before have a seen such travesty in my nearly centuries worth of memories, yet here I stand, begging you to head my warning as to tread cautiously through the tales ahead as we wade through the waters of betrayal and death.

 

Sometimes my Sight is a curse, my eyes made to See what other do not, could not see. Sometimes the cruelty for which I am made to suffer, the games the gods force me to play, are so heinous, so vile that I wonder if the gods think me a mere child’s plaything. A being completely malleable, forced to cruelly bend in the most unnatural ways, yet otherwise durable, centuries worth of resilience able to remake myself, physically and mentally just as I was before.

 

You would think that this ability would be a gift, but in fact, it was also a curse, for it allowed the gods to snatch me within the sharpness of their claws, digging into the very fabric of my soul again and again. Nearly a hundred years of their molestation of my body, my mind, buried deep within my psyche.

 

There were moments when the time between occurrences would span a decade or two, the gods seemingly moving on in one form or another, whether it be in the Silence, or their abundance of inconsequential sights into the future. But just as he began to lower his guard, perhaps daring to hope that their talons were as buried beneath his skin as they once were, he was again ripped from his faux safety.

 

He could almost hear the amusing laughter of the gods, stringing their favorite puppet along, only a light jarring to dust him off, before he would once again be propped up on their ethereal stage. My screams of agony would be heard as songs and ballads, the cruel twisting and breaking of my body and mind dances and beautiful displays in which the mortal body should and should not bend.

 

Their games of torture and humiliation cost me greatly, both physically and mentally, as their sick minds grew aroused with every force of dominance against the lesser creature, a potent aphrodisiac at the least.

 

I wonder momentarily if there isn’t one being, one who looks upon my quivering mass of flesh beneath their torment as they laugh as my body convulses, fighting itself to purge the liquid fire being forcibly poured behind my melting eyelids.

 

I’m begging, if there is but one of you who looks upon your ever-faithful servant and see’s the injustice, please, spare me this unjustified punishment. Surely you are not all pleased with the senseless torture and humiliation of your chosen conduit on Earth? If there is but one, shield me from my personal torment, I beg of you!

 

Silence.

 

I am Alone.

 

I am Afraid.

 

Today is different from all the other. The gods, in their silence, have turned their backs on their favorite form of amusement, for what I cannot See. For once, my pain and suffering is not the source of their manipulation and craving.

 

With this bit of knowledge, I find what little capability my addled brain has for even a minute ability to think outside the agonizing pain, I also feel fear. Not the familiar fear of what I have endured for most of my life, but the fear of the unknown. For if the gods are not behind this torment, who or what has me in its clutches?

 

My voice grows hoarse from the curses I slew from my lips in names of the gods, each and everyone of them. How dare they turn their backs on me! How dare they forsaken me to this unknown force, pulling at my insides as if tethers of ropes were pulling at me from opposite sides.

 

My eyes are beginning to bleed with the tears from the visions of the fallen and the dying as their broken and lifeless bodies plague my mind, one evil apparition at a time. My head threatens to burst with the pressure of the wailing and the calling out to any deity out there willing to listen to the endless prayers begging to spare ones life or to end it all the same.

 

I’m gasping for my own life, the air moving through my lungs just as a sharpened saw moves against a great, white oak tree, the wood dusting coating my throat, choking me from the outside in and it is all I can do to not collapse under the strain.

 

I am Alone.

 

I am Afraid.

 

But I do not falter, never do I falter.

 

For I see what the gods allow me to see and feel as they allow me to feel and if I forced to suffer the consequences of such a gift, such a curse, then I must also believe that there is also an equal or a greater purpose behind it all.

 

Sucking in a painful bit of air, I grit my chattering teeth and focus on my inner eye, forcing myself to open up to the pain and suffering I am feeling, hoping to find the meaning of it all, but all I find is a void, a greatness so unless any other, that it threatens to suck me in and to never let me go.

 

The gods have left me on my own and in so doing, my inner eye searches for something, anything to gain a foothold in the great abyss, but there is nothing, just cold, darkness. I can feel my inner mind curling in on itself, the weight of the vast darkness so immense, it threatens to crush my bones into the very dust for which they originally came. I await the sound of my dying scream, but the crushing blackness swallows it just as it leaves my lips, Silent. Always Silent.

 

And then, I feel it, an ache so raw, so pure, it threatens to steal the life right out of me, my breath freezing in my otherwise heaving chest, I can feel the light of my soul in my eyes dimming, swallowing me up further into the darkness.

 

I try to hold on, to latch on to something, anything to keep me from the looming darkness. My mind continues to fight a battle it knows it will lose, but as surely as an animal is driven by its instincts to live, my mind will demonstrate the same amount of resilience when being forced to fight for its right to survive.

 

This cannot be the end. Not here, not now, when I have so many unanswered questions. Even as I begin to feel a physical manifestation, pulling me towards the abyss, my brain continues to fight. Even when the last of my reserved air in my lungs is forcibly pulled from me, I fight.

 

But it is not enough. Soon I am falling. Where to and how, I am not certain, but it is just as well.

 

Death, you are a welcomed friend, a savior of sorts. Pull me from my wicked and tortuous imprisonment; send me to the gates of Valhalla where I shall truly find rest and not this agonizing humiliation.

 

Are you there? Will you not put me out of my misery, old friend?

 

I am Alone.

 

I am Afraid.

 

Perhaps I was right in thinking the gods think me a mere fool for the pleasure, yanking the chain of their favorite pet seer over the dangerous fires below, threatening to split his mind into madness.

 

Is this what immortality and immeasurable power turned one into? A sadistic and cruel individual whose arousal lusted after the dominance of a weaker creature at their wicked disposal?

 

Well, fuck them! Fuck the gods, the old and the new! Fuck them all!

 

I began to feel my consciousness begin to lift me from my dreamlike state, the aching void once again seeping into my bones and I resign my self for the same cruel fate I endured only moments ago.

 

But it never comes.

 

I risk opening my inner eye out into the ether, searching for the source of so much turmoil that it threatens to crush any and all things in its vicinity, even down to the tiniest atom. For I see what the gods allow me to see and feel as they allow me to feel and even though my body aches for the absolution in death, my journey is far from over- I can feel it, just as surely as I feel everything else around me.

 

A movement so small, so fleeting as a swirl of wind, captures the intense focus of my mind’s eye- eager for something, anything to hold on to. In the distance I see what can only be described as a movement of molecules, a shimmering of sorts along the bleakness. I briefly wonder how it is that I missed such a hauntingly beautiful sight beforehand, but then a sense of immense power halts my thoughts. Perhaps this thing, this being has only just allowed me to see it.

 

The knowledge threatens to double me over, spilling the meek contents of my physical body onto the floor beneath me, but I hold firm, my own turmoil of emotions immobilizing me both on the physical and mental plain.

 

I feel a wave of power once more push right through me, this one stronger than the last and I know it is but a taste of the real power this entity holds and I buckle. The stinging of my physical knees hitting the floor jarring be out of my thoughts once more, honing my inner eye to see what this being is wanting me to see.

 

Show me, I plead with it, Show me what it is you want me to See.

 

Another wave crashes into me, sending me on all fours, my back arching with the shock of unprecedented power gripping me in its hooks… and I finally understand.

 

Its Him.

 

The Christian God.

 

The one they all talk about. The one that strikes fear in the hearts of men and women alike, the one whose name sends the very Devil quivering in the darkest reaches of hell.

 

I bow my head low to the ground, unable to bring my eyes upon such a presence, the mere thought of being in the same space, the same realm as such a powerful being nearly sending my mind back down the looming abyss.

 

I shut my physical and inner eyes, begging to be set free from this hell, that I am unworthy of such a gift as to See what no other mortal hath seen before.

 

But my release never comes, it’s as if the very wish is but, a wish that will not be granted, not a moment before those much more stronger than me deem it time.

 

And so I wait, but not for long, for I start to felt a sort of psychic echo in my mind, an unheard voice in my own head, beckoning me to open my eyes once more, and so I did. Gently, oh so gently, weary of the unsettling vastness of nothing I was about to subject myself to once more.

 

However, when my inner eye focused on the blackness just before me, I felt a jolt to my solar plexus as the picture forming before my unbelieving eyes turned my inquisitiveness curiosity to utter devastation.

 

I wasn’t looking at the God of the formidable Abraham, Isaac, Jacob or Moses, but I was looking at the Creator. A Creator of worlds, of men and women alike, whose soul had been ripped to shred under the devastation befalling His people. He was a Father, hearing the whispered prayers of the broken, the wailing cries of the forsaken calling out to him in their hour of need.

 

He allows me a brief glimpse of the future, the devastation the Present will have in the days, the weeks, the years to come if we do not deviate from this path. I focused once more the rich, the poor, the weak and the old, calling out for their Creator, who did not heed their call.

 

I didn’t understand. Why not answer their cries for help? For what was the use of his immense power if not to be used when the very creations he held most dear called out his name in pain and suffering? Perhaps all gods were selective when it came to performing miracles. Perhaps the mind of a god was something that us mere mortals were never willing to understand, not in this life anyways.

 

I am trapped here, a mere conduit between immortal giants and the chaos driven mortals, forced to endure the Sight, a gift and a curse given to me by those who twist and intertwine our very fates as they see fit- herding us like lazily driven cattle onto one path or another, prodding us with the whips of faux approval and the promise of a better future.

 

And yet, we believe the lies as we blindly follow their commands, their every whims are life’s pursuits, searching for their approval, bending over backwards to gain their favor as they lead us to the slaughter. They dine and feast on our carcasses as we waste away into the very dirt in which we were conceived. Picking their teeth with the bones of our broken backs, praying hands and misshapen feet, all in their service for the miniscule moment of time we are allowed to roam in their world.

 

How easy it is we make it for them to plump us up, ripe for the picking, our blood seared with the taste of false righteousness, our bones dipped in the waters of betrayal and lust. The fill our heads with the sense of control and having a hand in our own fates, while they laugh at us and taunt us from above, planning their next course.

 

And yet, I find myself still between worlds, a messenger of sorts, a vigilante seer trying to find even an ounce of sense in it all. I am afraid I will be left waiting in this dark abyss for longer than my bones can carry me in this lifetime, and maybe in the next…

 

But I carry on. I must always carry on…

 

For I am Magnus Bane, Seer of the gods, the old and the new, and I see what the gods allow me to see and feel as they allow me to feel. And in this horrifying hour, I See only one thing- the pain, the suffering- it has only just begun.

 

The gods have forsaken us. They’ve turned their back on us, proving to us that we know nothing past the swords in which we so desperately cling to.

 

For once, my eyes do not wish to see the coming days- for what is to come- because what we are about to face may prove to be the single most important crucible of our lifetime, but there are two things for which I am certain.

 

We are Alone. And…

 

We should be very Afraid.

 

 

 

~*~*~*~*~

 

 

Alone.

 

Afraid.

 

Those were the faces of the many he passed as he strode, sure footed, through the corridors of the once vibrant hall of the formidable castle. The wounded and the dying reached for him with their weak and bloodied hands, begging for the passerby to help staunch there bleeding, or to merely offer them a life saving drink of water.

 

However, the shadowy figure had no use for their mangled and broken bodies and so he kicked at their outstretched hands, snarling at them with his hateful words as he hastened his pace forward, towards the only one he did have use for, a very physical use for anyway.

 

Feeling a smirk form across his face, Sebastian pictured the very willful and cunning woman laying in wait for him just on the other side of the castle. She, no doubt, would take a considerable amount of his patience and attentiveness if he ever desired her to only and truly his.

 

He wasn’t fooled into thinking that she would give up so easily, no. Even in his fast moving mind, often multitasking in his pursuits realized that this particular endeavor would require a different sort of finesse than he was used to.

 

Yes, Clarissa would prove to be a most impressive opponent. The ones that challenged you, made you work for every scrap of winnings usually made for the best prize of all.

 

Sebastian took a moment to look at his surroundings, most of the bodies strewn in this section of the hall were dead, their eyes opening and unseeing. He took in the smell of death around him, the rotting and already decaying bodies in through his nose, exhaling with a deep contented sigh. This is what victory looked like- red painted walls and floors with the blood of your enemies, their bodies strewn everywhere, mere filth rotting under your feet as your boot crushed their withering bones into the stone flooring beneath their lifeless bodies.

 

He can still hearing the echoing wails of the people a few corridors back, the sound of the living, wounded and dying alike mourning the loss of seemingly endless night. It’s a beautiful sound, really, the sound of souls crying out in torment as the light of their loved ones vanishes into nothingness. The sounds of the hopelessness, helplessness culminating to forming a melody of pure despair that reaches his ears like a warm caress.

 

Let them weep for those who have gone from the world, he thought, let them mourn the dead in their naïveté. For in the morning a new dynasty shall rise, the Morgenstern dynasty and they will know that it is not the dead they should mourn, but the living.

 

Morgensterns lead with an iron grip, demanding loyalty above all else, the consequences of disobedience too severe to print. He will not tolerate insubordination, not from anyone, not even his lovely bride-to-be.

 

Focusing once again on the young woman who plagued his every thoughts since her was fifteen years old, he felt the burgeoning hardening of his arousal through his pants, the tightening forcing him to shift himself around in order continue to walk straight. However, he jokingly thought, at this rate, he’d have to relieve himself before he even made it back to the princess, which would ultimately ruin his plans to make her his as soon as he got his hands on her and nothing, nothing, was going to stop him this time.

 

His mind swirled with thoughts of the trapped little bird inside her cage, fluttering around the room as she anxiously awaited his return, hoping he would set her free in search of her loved ones.

 

How wrong she was. She would be lucky if he let her out of his sight, let alone there marital bed in the next week…at least.

 

Perhaps she had tired herself out enough in her worrying, and no doubt attempt to escape, that she had retired her small, weary form upon the bed he had originally deposited her earlier. He imagined her body lying across the coverlet, her hands folded across her the small, flat plane of her stomach, her eyelids shut against her cheeks as her face, the beauty of an angel, slept on in peace.

 

As much as he would love to find her in such a vulnerable state when he approached her, he knew his Clarissa better than that. The odds were more likely to see the young, willful sprite laying in wait for him to enter unaware as she charged him with some sort of hand-made weapon.

 

Yes, that was more his princess’ style.

 

Either way, he’d get what he wanted from the young hellion, her cooperation was not needed, just suggested for her pleasure, not his. He’d enjoy making her his lover whether she was screaming in ecstasy or fear. Either way, he would win. He always won when it came to getting what he wanted and Clarissa Garroway was at the top of that very exclusive list.

 

There was no escape for his beautiful captive. Not now, not ever. She was his, now and forever.

 

Sebastian was not above using blackmail or unveiled threats that were at his disposal. At this very moment, he knew he held two people in his grasp that he could undoubtedly use to bend Clarissa to his will.

 

This was why love was such a useless emotion, Sebastian reminded himself. The only thing it gave you was something for your enemies to use against you. It made you weak and Sebastian Morgenstern was not weak, not for anybody.

 

Clarissa could physically fight him or use her words to hurt him, but at the end of the day she would surrender to his every whim, his every pleasure if it meant her mother and father would see no harm. Sebastian planned on using that piece of knowledge to do his bidding, knowing that the circumstances surrounding the predicament regarding her parents would certainly galvanize her into action, but he surmised that what little Clarissa Garroway didn’t know, would certainly not hurt her.

 

His mind once again ran away with his thoughts as he pictured the many ways he would assert his dominance over his new lover. His mouth watered at the ways he intended to test the strength and resilience of her smaller body, hoping that her virginal status would survive the barely contained hunger for her innocence.

 

He wanted to bend her in so many ways, physical and emotionally, molding and manipulating her to serve in heightening his pleasure as he took from her what he could and more. Always more.

 

He wanted to test her boundaries of her youthful and pliant body, picking and prodding at the delicateness of her unmarked skin, testing the strain he could put on her in both pain and pleasure before she fractured. He wanted to know what made her moan in pleasure, gasp in shocked arousal, scream in pain and pleasure.

 

He craved for her to be a willing lover in his bed, but Sebastian was just as content as to have her as his whore, a plaything designed to pleasure himself with when he saw fit and occasionally bore him a son or two. That decision would be up to her, perhaps the only choice he would willingly allow her to make in their relationship because, as he saw it, no matter which way she decided, he still got her where he wanted her- under him.

 

Sebastian moaned as his growing cock pressed eagerly against the cotton confines of his pants, his growing arousal begging for release from its soft prison. Slowing his pace to a stop just around the corner of the room where the object of his infatuation lie, Sebastian allowed him a few precious moments to stroke himself through his pants, wanting to be ready at a moment’s notice to pierce himself through the wet and waiting folds of his dear, awaiting bride.

 

A few strokes and an angrily weeping cock later, Sebastian righted himself from the wall and proceeded around the corner coming to a rather abrupt halt at the disheveled mess before him.

 

Sebastian took a moment to blink away his surprise, something that he was reluctant to admit, he hated surprises, quickly brought himself to the now obliterated door that once held his most prized possession.

 

Stepping through the couch-sized hole in the still shut doors of the forgotten bedroom, Sebastian swept the apparently empty room, devouring every inch of its space with his predatory eyes.

 

In a fit of pure anger, Sebastian unsheathed his sword and laid waist to the scarce bit of furniture unlucky to be in the path of the weapon he wielded. It wasn’t until most of the wood, chopped small enough for kindling, laid at his feet that he allowed himself a couple of relaxing and calming breaths.

 

“So the little birdie has taken flight,” he mused out loud, allowing the heavy sound of his footsteps to carry him further into the room. Taking a seat on the bed, he smiled as the forming of a new plan began to populate in his head.

 

“I guess its time that the predator to give way for the hunt,” he smirked, caressing the very evident bulge in his pants- his arousal making a very mean and demanding reappearance. He had to admit, the thrill of the chase was arousing, the fear of the hunted as she realized the predator was closing in on her, the look of defeat when he once again had her in his clutches and thrill of devouring his prey once he had her all to himself.

 

He’d give his elusive prey a small leash to hang herself with, allowing her to believe she had freed herself from her fate, fled the temporary cage he had stuffed her in, but when he decided that the hunt was on, she would understand what it meant to be pursued by a predator so lethal, so focused, that it would provide the basis for nightmare for years to come.

 

Satisfied with the minutes he was allowing his prey to get the head start she craved, Sebastian allowed himself to dabble in a little self-pleasure before the main event.

 

Unfastening the confines of his cotton pants, his erect cock springing from his imprisonment, Sebastian fantasized about how he would punish the little bird’s disobedience, her actions sealing her fate and those of her harsh punishment to come.

 

Sebastian let his eyelids close, his hand stroking languidly down the soft velvet sheath of his cock, gripping the hot steel of his arousal as a beautiful picture started forming in his mind…

 

 

Sebastian stood at the doorway to his bedchamber, a chalice of the finest wine in the kingdom at his lips, drinking in the cool liquid and the amusingly arousing site on his bed. He leaned against the doorframe, his sleek and stroke shoulder supporting his body as his legs crossed at the ankles, content to just watch the withering girl, gagged and bound on his bed.

 

Even in the eleventh hour, the unaware damsel continued to wrestle herself against the coverlet, her petite frame sliding sensuously against the sheets, providing an erotic display of sexual prowess in such a young and nubile body.

 

Sebastian chuckled to himself at her stubbornness to set herself free, but there was no escape. Not for her, not ever. He had won this little battle of theirs and so it was his time to reap that reward, whether she was a willing participant or not.

 

Still, he couldn’t seem to move his body an inch closer to her’s as if the mere sensual sway of her wiggling hips rendered him temporarily immobilized and so he allowed himself another moment to just watch the unsuspecting girl. Voyeurism, after all, was one of his favorite hobbies.

 

A small whimper caught his attention as she unwittingly tightened the bonds that held her in place. It was such a delicious conundrum for his little birdie- to give up on her escape, therefor lessening the tightening of the bonds, was to also concede, to surrender, to her fate.

 

Pleasuring in the knowledge that her fate was sealed, had been since they first met, Sebastian found the inner strength to finally detach himself from the room’s doorway. Walking the last few remaining yards of space between them, Sebastian drank down the last of the smooth liquid in his cup, throwing the now empty chalice behind him in earnest to have his hands completely free of any and all objects.

 

The sound of the cup hitting the stone floor, coupled with the sound of approaching footfalls had the withering, young woman still almost immediately, every muscle in her body freezing in place as the hairs on the back of her neck rose in the presence of a very real predatory stalking up to her.

 

In her nakedness, the vulnerability of such a state almost overwhelming her, the young girl tried to curl in on herself, protecting what little body mass was exposed to the hungry gaze of the breathing monster looming above her.

 

Sebastian smiled as the young woman tried to hide her nakedness from his view, but he would see every inch of that beautiful body, every inch of glowing white skin, every strand of fiery red hair decorating her otherwise unmarked skin.

 

Sebastian’s knees brushed the edge of the bed, alerting the female to his very nearness, the slight jostling of her body a teasing of sorts from a predatory to its trapped prey. It was a cruel taunting, but one he enjoyed, forcing her to realize that she was very much in his grasp and at his mercy, no ending of her personal nightmare in sight.

 

Letting his eyes trace over the smoothness of the young woman’s back, the curve of her spine deliciously curving outwards to reveal the rounded mounds of her firm buttocks sent jolts of electricity straight to his aching cock, which he firmly pressed against the edge of the bed. Moaning, as the pressure against his cock sent teasing shivers of pleasure through his system, he smiled once more down at the figured huddled in a small ball in the center of his bed.

 

“Clarissa,” Sebastian finally spoke, her name a sensual demand from his lips, “I will not tolerate you hiding yourself from me.”

 

In her insistence of staying just so, in a huff of frustration, Sebastian bent over the side of the bed, grabbing the bonds that held the girl in place, dragging the weightless girl across the sheets, on her back, until her hip bumped against his very erect penis.

 

“That’s better,” he cooed cupping her cheek in his hand as his thumb rubbed in small circles, “Let me look at you as a husband has the right to view his wife’s body at his leisure.”

 

Hardened, green eyes found his and the pure contempt in them did not disappoint. If that very fire, which he was looking into, ever chose to physically manifest, he knew that he stood no chance against its power.

 

However, that sort of magic didn’t exist in their world and she was very much under his control and so he only gazed down at her with amusement at her frosty attitude.

 

“There she is,” he teased, “I was beginning to think I was going to have to start the fun without you. Tell me, lover, are you happy to see me?”

 

The muddled sounds coming from the maiden’s mouth were surely the unprintable kind, but he simply stared at her as she struggled once more in the bonds, eager to get her small hands his throat. However, he imagined breath play was still a little too much out of their wheelhouse for the first couple of months of their sexual relationship. He was an animal in bed, but even he understood the necessary step in training someone to be a valuable mate in bed.

 

“I hope you don’t mind the extra accommodations, Clarissa,” Sebastian smirked, trailing his fingertips along the bonds that held her in place, “Your unwillingness to cooperate in our coupling has forced me to bring other means of restraint into our marital bed. However, once I have your unyielding loyalty, I assure you these restraints can be used for far better, more pleasurable pursuits.”

 

The mumbled growl behind the gag didn’t go unnoticed by Sebastian’s sensitive hearing; he actually smiled down at her, unwilling to let her uncooperativeness dissuade him from his good mood.

 

“Clarissa, if you insist on talking dirty in the bedroom,” he teased, running his fingertips over her parted lips, “please save it for the foreplay, which I suppose can started with your very intriguing show you put on for me mere moments ago.”

 

Clary’s eyebrows furrowed in confusion and Sebastian smiled wickedly, “Ya, I watched you, little birdie, as you flapped your wings, struggling to free yourself from your bonds… from me. Knowing that no matter how hard you tried, how determined you set yourself up to be, that there was no escape for you beyond my grasp was the biggest turn on.”

 

Sebastian grabbed his bobbing erection through the cotton of his pants, noticing the way Clarissa’s eyes followed his abrupt movement as if there was an invisible rope between his hands and the pupils of her eyes. He watched as said pupils dilated, in both fear and unwilling arousal as he caressed himself in front of her.

 

“Oh yes, little birdie,” he moaned, feeling the wetness of his precum soak through the confines of his pants, “This is all for you. For you to hold, to stroke, to suck, to pleasure in any way I command. Every day of your naturally long life will be in the service of this cock, do you understand?”

 

“No,” Clary muffled behind the gag, shaking her head furiously in the negative. She proceeded to wiggle her frame in a desperate attempt to place a greater distance between her and the very daunting and terrifying realization of her sealed fate, to forever be the on the receiving end of his pleasure. He didn’t let her go far, she would never again feel what it was like to be free. She would forever be chained to his side, constantly reminded of her duty to him as his wife, his unwilling lover, his royal whore.

 

His eyes sparkled with glee as he dragged her retreating form back to him, in a slow and teasing pace, smiling down at her when the very real fear in her eyes made her pupils blow so wide, they near encapsulated the greenness of her eyes.

 

“That’s the last time you’ll ever run away from me, lover,” Sebastian whispered, his nose nearly brushing against hers as he climbed the bed, resting his frame just above her’s, “Never again will you keep from me what is rightly mine to take, to have and to use until I say we’re done.”

 

The little insolent whore began to struggle in earnest once more, testing his patience to not simply ram his weeping cock into virginal body, but he had other means of making her obey.

 

“That’s enough!” he commanded, poking a sharpened knife just below the woman’s carotid artery, “You will do as I say or we will see if the little birdie bleeds red.”

 

The young woman stared into his eyes, undoubtedly sizing up her opponent and his willingness to go through with his threats. Sebastian was not above carving her up a bit, not in a way that would prevent him from pleasuring himself, but in a way that would force her to submit him.

 

However, if by the way her smaller body suddenly began to relax beneath his own, he surmised that she believed that he was just sadistic enough to carry out the very real threat.

 

“That’s a good girl, Clarissa,” he murmured, trailing the flattened edge of the knife down the column of her neck, “Your cooperation is for your benefit alone, not mine. Whether you give yourself to me willing or unwillingly is up to you, my pleasure will come either way. It is for you to decide if you wish to follow me in that pleasure, if I so choose to share in the fun.”

 

“I can make it pleasurable for you too, you know,” he said conversationally as he trailed the blade along her skin, content to watch the peppering of goose bumps form in the wake of the coolness of the blade. He was particularly intrigued in the way her nipple became aroused as the knife delicately teased its sensitive nerve endings.

 

Wanting to feel the weight of her arousing breast, Sebastian cupped her aching mound in his hand, delighted in the way it sat perfectly in the palm of his hand, his long, thin fingers manipulating the pound of flesh in his hands to his enjoyment. He tweaked her budding nipple between his fingers, the mangled sound of her muffled moan making his hips buck into hers as a jolt of lightening hit his cock.

 

“Fuck,” he breathed, slowly the sensual massaging of her breast, “The things I can make this body do, pulling every reaction I desire with just the flick of my wrist, or the twist of my hips…”

 

He ground his hips against her own, delighting in the strangled gasp he pulled from her lips, not missing the way she bit down on them, hoping to stifle her own treacherous responses to his manipulation of her body.

 

“As I said before, lover,” Sebastian reminded her, “Your cooperativeness is up to you, but I always get what I want in the end.”

 

He let his words and their meaning sink into her beautiful green orbs as his hand began to map the single curve of her left hip, his palm washing over the flat plane of her abdomen. He allowed himself the brief pleasure of feeling her withering body beneath him as he teased the sensitive flesh of her naval before he lowered his searching hand for the real prize.

 

Letting her aroused gasp wash over him as he cupped the dampening folds between her legs, Sebastian buried his head in between her neck and shoulder, the temptation to take her all at once, hard and fast, nearly galvanizing him into action. But years and years of fantasizing about this very night, kept himself in check, his steel discipline over his body, allowing him to gain the much-needed control over his actions going forward.

 

“Before I force you to take my cock, fast and hard,” he whispered sensuously in her ear, “There is work to be done in order to get you primed and ready. For instance,” he continues, running his fingers up and down the sensitive slit of her folds, guarding the entrance of her molten core, the juices of her forced arousal already coating his fingers, “I’m going to make sure that your cunt is so wet, so ready for penetration, that my cock will just be another welcomed piece of my flesh pumping into you.”

 

He heard the moan escape her lips as his words undoubtedly shot moisture through her core and he welcomed it, spearing his fingers through her folds in an attempt to catch every last drop of her juices on his fingers as her forced her to ride him in such an intimate way. Her hips began to move, whether she wanted them or not, her body recognizing this primal form of dancing, unable to distinguish whether the mind was willing and able or not.

 

“That’s it, little birdie,” he cooed, as he rocked his fingers further and further into her heat, fly for me!”

 

“Oh God!” he heard her shout, the words muffled by her gag, but he heard the none-the-less.

 

“That’s right, Clarissa,” Sebastian smiled, “I am your god- the only one to have the right to bury you in pain and pleasure, to use your body to soar to the tallest mountains or fall in the deepest crevices of sweet pleasure.”

 

“I want you to remember this night, Clariss,” he urged her, slowly his pace for a fraction of a second so her mind could focus on his words, “ I want you to remember that I took you because I wanted to, that all those who would oppose me are now under my control and that you belong to me.”

 

Spearing his fingers until even his knuckles were buried within her, Sebastian pumped his fingers slowly in and out of her tight canal, imagining how the tight warmth of her pussy would feel against his cock.

 

“When I’m pushing my aching cock into your tight core, I want you to shout my name,” he rasped against her should, just the mere thought threatening to send him over the edge of early release, but his bit back his escalating release. Instead he sated himself with the brushing of his lips over the sensitive skin of her neck, trading between nips and licks along her collarbone as his fingers pleasured her weeping cunt.

 

“I want this whole kingdom to hear your surrender to me, to only me, as only a bride can surrender to her husband,” he demanded, quickening the pace of his fingers as he pressed in on her throbbing clit with his thumb, “I want them all to know that you’re mine, that this whole kingdom is mine and all of you belong to me.”

 

“Yes,” he heard the sensual rasp of a female voice below him. He felt her petite body rise off the mattress, long enough to press into his angry, weeping cock as she stretched to find purchase for her fast approaching climax.

 

“Say it,” Sebastian commanded, his eyes honing in one her’s, as the daziness of arousal coated her otherwise sharp, green eyes.

 

“I belong to you,” she whimpered, he could feel she was on the precipice and so he pressed his thumb against the bulging nub of her clit, sending her spiraling over the cliff, rivers of juice flowing down his hand as he continued to milk her shaking body.

 

“That’s right,” Sebastian cooed, as her body finally came down from her forced high, aftershocks of the orgasm still sending jolts of pleasurable tingles through her skin, “And it will only ever be me.”

Chapter Text

 

She starts to feel something move along her skin, something cold, something scaly. She tries to move away, but it wraps its body around her’s like an icy trap, caging her in its grasp.

 

Her eyes open to reveal the large head of a snake peering down at her, smiling having caught his prey. She feels a pull as the serpent brings her closer to him, his eyes devouring her nakedness in his possession. She turns her head away, disgusted as she feels the hot, sticky brand of his tongue slithering along her skin, marking her as his next meal.

 

She wonders how long she will last against such a beast? Will his torment of her mind and body drive her to madness or will fate allow her the gift of a quick death? She doesn’t know. But what she does know is that she cannot let it end- not here, not now.

 

The serpent watches on as the young girl struggles against her cage, her warm nakedness sliding against his coldness like an aphrodisiac. He tightens his hold on her, a silent reminder that there will be no escape for her, not ever.

 

He delights in the slow stilling of her figure, the only movement beneath him the shallow gasps of her lungs working to pull air into her burning lungs. He recognizes the slow sagging of her once proud and determined shoulders as a sign of defeat and that makes his smile spread further. He’s won. Just as he always knew he would.

 

He can taste her rising fear permeating the air around him, starting a fire deep within his belly. He can see the slight shudder of her lashes against her face as she resigns herself to her fate, knowing that she was truly at his mercy.

 

His mouth waters with the images of feasting on her flesh for all eternity, taking her again and again as his own without the threat of interruption. He images what it will feel like slicing into her skin for the first time. The image of his sharpened fangs sliding through the warm skin of her inner thigh just as a knife cuts through butter is enough to tell him that his wait is over.

 

The time is now to strike. He wonders how long she can survive him and the torment. She will not be allowed the mercy of a quick death; there will be no escape. All he knows it that it ends… now.

 

*~*~*~*~*

 

Clary’s eyes flick open in an instant, her senses on high alert as her mind slowly processes her surroundings. She feels the slight sway and weightlessness of being carried, by someone unfamiliar, the heavy footfalls beneath her not her own. She’s being held against a large chest, two iron bands beneath her shoulder blades and legs.

 

Lucid enough to know that the only element she has to her advantage would be that of surprise, Clary quickly takes a mental scan of her physical body, wanting a clear picture of what she had to work with. She knew she only had one shot of escape as she didn’t know where she was or where she was- that thought alone begging her to kick and scream at her captor.

 

Careful not to alert her jailor of her new conscious state, Clary went from head to toe checking her body for any wounds that may prevent her from making her escape. As far as she could tell, she hadn’t sustained any major injuries. She had a bit of a headache and her throat was insanely dry, but otherwise, she felt like she may have a shot if she played this right.

 

The dryness of her throat she immediately attested to the rough cloth that had been forced in her mouth while she was asleep, so the earlier appeal of her screaming for help was out of the question. Naturally, she went to bring her hands up to her face to relieve herself of the gag, but she quickly found that her hands had been tied together at the wrists. This was yet another disadvantage to her possibility of escape, but Clary Garroway, Princess of Northumbria, was no quitter!

 

Seeing as that any immediate escape was not in her near future, Clary resigned herself to think about her options. Flashes of memory started to form behind her eyes as she slowly started to remember the events that led up to her kidnapping.

 

She remembered Sebatian’s cryptic words about someone “being early,” and then being locked in a room at his hand. She became infuriated, thinking that it was Sebastian or his men that had kidnapped her, but then she remembered freeing herself of that imprisonment to search for her family.

 

Flashes of finding Simon, the immense relief of seeing her best friend unharmed were quickly shattered when she began to remember the events that quickly unfolded.

 

She remembered the heathen warriors that threatened her as they toyed with Simon. She’d begged him to leave her, to save himself, but her best friend stood by her, even when certain death was staring him straight in the eye.

 

She remembered the scream lodged in her throat as she watched Simon’s body fall to the ground, the Viking warrior having tired of this brand of entertainment. He had turned all his ugly attention on her and she had been sure that she had met her fate, but then a voice, like that of an avenging angel had stopped it all.

 

Jace, she remembered, that motherfuc—

 

Clary was fuming. This was all his fault, that arrogant, extremely good-looking, but still a complete jerkoff’s fault. He thought that just because he had swooped in to save her like some mystical, avenging angel that he had a right to take her against her will.

 

Well, she thought, Sir Smirks-a-lot has another thing coming, right after I tell him to go to Hell!

 

However badly Clary wanted to wipe the smirk off of Jace’s gorgeous face, she knew that her more immediate situation garnered her full attention. Clary had never been a patient person, her inability to focus on anything for too long always getting into trouble, she forced herself to push Jace’s smug face from her mind in order to form a plan for escape.

 

Clary turned her eyes up to gage her captors awareness of her state, but felt her blood run cold, her body going rigid as black, beaty eyes were staring down at her from above.

 

At the slight movement of his mouth into a smirk, Clary tried scrambling out of his arms, her sounds of protest against his tightening hold on her muffled by the gag still lodged in her mouth.

 

“You’ve been awful quiet, kitten,” the familiar, rough voice purred down at her, “I’m glad to see you finally decided to bring out the claws.”

 

Kitten, the word sent a vicious tremor down her spine to the amusement of the very man who particular brand of pet names rang eerily familiar as well.

 

Ivar.

 

Clary began shaking her head, renewing her struggle against the very man that might have killed her best friend, but it was no use as his larger formed closed in around her, chuckling at her useless attempts of escape.

 

“I’d settle down if I were you, Kitten,” he teased, tossing her in his grip to get a better hold on her, “You wouldn’t want to give me a reason to put you over my knee, would you?”

 

Clary instantly stilled her moments, self preservation at the forefront of her mind when dealing with the very real threats of the man, who moments ago, wanted to do her real harm. Still, she wouldn’t take his threats like the defenseless damsel he mistook her for.

 

Narrowing her eyes at him, Clary called his bluff, “You wouldn’t dare.”

 

Clary tried not to role her eyes at the way the gag distorted her words, taking the very real threat in her own voice if he dared to cause her harm in any way, but when she saw the smirk spread further along her face, a pit of ice grew in the pit of her stomach.

 

“Wouldn’t I?” he question, the hand beneath her legs twisting to brush against the roundness of her ass just to the right of where his hand had been resting on her outer thigh, “I still owe you for the broken nose earlier.”

 

Clary’s eyes immediately fell to the black and blue blotch of skin around the Vikings nose and felt her own swell of pride spread across her face in seeing that she wasn’t as defenseless against such a monster like so many would assume she would be. Perhaps that was her ticket out of this very situation.

 

A look of annoyance passed over Ivar’s face as he stared down at the smirking girl in his grasp, why wasn’t she terrified at being held against her will and at his mercy. Perhaps there was something wrong with her. Shaking his head, he turned his attention away, hearing his name being called from a distance.

 

As Ivar’s attention left her for a split second, Clary began to formulate her next move, she had one shot at this and she had to make it count, but she needed his attention on her.

 

Knocking her bound hands against his chest, Clary demanded Ivar’s attention back on her. When he turned back to her, teasing her about wanting all his attention on her, Clary purposely muttered something into the gag so Ivar couldn’t hear what she said.

 

Instinctively, Ivar lowered his head towards her own, asking her to repeat what she said.

 

That’s all she needed…

 

Grasping her bound hands together in one, tight fist, Clary swung with all her might towards her captor’s already bruising nose. As soon as her hands connected with her target, she immediately felt the snapping of his nasal bones for the second time that night, blood instantly falling from his nares.

 

Ivar howled in pain, instantly dropping Clary to the ground as his hands naturally sought to cover his bleeding face. His eyes were shut tight against the pain and so he didn’t see the young girl on the ground before him, struggling to get to her own feet.

 

Having been ready for Ivar’s abrupt release of her body, Clary had been ready for the impact of her fall; however, the feeling of soft sand beneath her was a welcome cushion against the fall. On the other side of things, the sand proved to be a slight inconvenience when it came to getting her feet set underneath her, her bared feet sinking far into the sand as she struggled to stand.

 

Luckily, Clary found quick footing and was bounding through the sand in no time, the sounds of Ivar’s angry shouts and threats disappearing behind her as she made haste along the shoreline. Pulling the gag from her mouth, Clary pulled in the salty air of the sea into her lungs as she geared up for the fastest run of her life.

 

Her bound hands kept her from running at her usual full speed, but tucking them against her chest, Clary pushed forward with the speed of one of her arrows, the wind blowing her tousled hair behind her.

 

As her bare feet took her across the sand, her eyes scanned her surrounding trying to ascertain the exact part of the shoreline she had been brought to, perhaps there was still a way to find herself an escape route. She had to get back to her family, to make sure they were okay. And Simon, she had to find Simon and make sure she hadn’t watched her friend die.

 

A familiar form of rocks along the smooth slop of the cliffs before her rose into her line of sight, instantly taking her back to the days where her and her best friend would play pirates, watching as the ships passed along the waters taking goods to and from the market just a short ways into the city.

 

Clary grinned as she remembered smaller boats towing along this very shoreline, eager to take their meager catch of the day into the city via a small set of steps carved out of the rocky cliff. If she could just find those secret stairs, she had her escape.

 

Clary could feel the achiness of her tired muscles threatening to turn her legs into jelly as she forced her legs to move under her, but she couldn’t waist a single moment of reprieve, not when she was so close to freedom- to her family.

 

Finding it in herself to put on a final burst of speed, Clary took a big and st—oomph!

 

 

~*~*~*~*

 

30 seconds earlier…

 

Jace was just finishing tying the last of the stolen good to the floor of his ship when he heart the commotion some distance away from the ships. A howling cry pierced the night air along with angry shouts of men and women soon pulled to a standing position, his eyes seeking the source of all the noise.

 

Two things simultaneously caught his attention at once, immediately painting a rather amusing tale of the moments leading up to this not-so-surprising turn of events.

 

The first, and the less amusing of the two, was the slump of Ivar’s once large figure hunched down on his knees, one hand clasped around his bloodied nose, while the other hand, fisted, waved in the air as cries of revenge gargled from his throat.

 

Jace followed the direction of his hurled insults, bringing him to the second thing to grab his attention, and probably the most amusing site of his life. Flying across the sand like a Viking war ship on the hunt, a young woman with hair of fire ran away from the now crippled Viking, not turning around to see if anyone was chasing her.

 

Jace saw a small handful of his men and women gave chase to the young woman, but something told him deep down that it had to be him who would have to catch the fleeing prisoner and drag her back to the boats. He didn’t stop to think why it had to be him, but the thrill of the chase had him leaping over the side of the moment in an instant, his heels digging in the sand, ready to sprint after the young maiden.

 

“Let her go, Jace,” the familiar voice of his best friend, catching him just before he took off after the young women. He knew he was losing time as he looked back into Alec’s stern gaze, but something in him would not let this young girl go and he needed Alec to accept that.

 

“I have to go after her, Alec,” Jace responded, trying not to smile as Alec narrowed his eyes disapprovingly in his direction. “She’s seen our faces and can’t be allowed to give up our identities.”

 

Alec scoffed, which gave Jace the moment’s break in this conversation to take off after his quarry, knowing that his athletic skill and longer legs would catch up to the young woman in no time.

 

The closer he came to closing in on her smaller figure he called off the pursuing men and woman who had also given chase to the prisoner. It seemed that if you wanted a kidnapping to go right these days, you had to take care of it yourself.

 

He was so close now that his fingertips tingled with the urge to reach out towards the fiery swirl of her hair, he wondered briefly how the silken strands would feel against his fingers. Would they burn like the flames of the fire in which the color of her hair resembled, or would they feel cool against his skin like the air above the sea. Something in him was dying to know which one it would be, but another part of him pushed down those crazy thoughts, pushing him to end this chase once and for all.

 

Jace prayed to the gods to ensure the capture of his elusive captive, knowing that, with their help, he would never stop chasing her. She was too much of an enigma to him now, something that he couldn’t let slip from his life, not when there was so much to know about this strange girl. He just needed her out of his system and then he could focus on other, more important things.

 

As if Odin himself agreed with his plans, Jace noticed the smallest slowing of her steps, as if she found her route of escape and he knew that it was now or never if he ever hoped to capture her once more.

 

In one final burst of strength, Jace launched himself towards the running girl, his body catapulting into her smaller form, sending them both crashing into the sand.

 

He heard her breath rush out of her just as his larger frame collided with her smaller one, both of them falling to the uneven ground beneath them. In an instant, Jace had his arms branded around her small waist, twisting their bodies so his larger one took the brunt of the fall in order to protect her from the harsh impact.

 

He grunted as his back hit the sand with a dull thud, but kept a tight grip around the struggling form on top of him. They struggled together in the sand, but Jace had his strength and larger body on his side and was easily able to maneuver their bodies so he sat on her kicking legs, already having pinned her bound hands far above her head.

 

He looked down into crystal green eyes, like shards of glass cutting across his skin, as the young woman struggled beneath him. He tried not to look at her heaving breasts mere inches beneath his own heaving chest, but every so often he felt the slightest brush of her body against his and it was all he could do not to moan like a pubescent boy.

 

“Get off of me,” the young girl growled, pulling his attention once again to her beautiful face. She was beautiful, he allowed himself to admit, he would be a fool to object to that, but what he was most concerned about is this invisible pull she had over him. If he was completely honest with himself, this brief obsession with this woman was not like all the other infatuations he’d had with woman all his life, something about her was different and that both intrigued and scared him.

 

Pushing the uncertainty from his mind, Jace feared no one, especially not a woman, he smiled down at his captive, knowing that his patented smirk was sure to piss her off.

 

“I’m not sure you quite understand your role as prisoner, Red,” he teased, “I’m just merely here to remind you which role you play.”

 

“Play with yourself,” the young woman seethed, wiggling against him in earnest, but he just sat there, amused, as she struggled beneath him, “And my name is Clary, not Red.”

 

“As fun as that may sound, Clary” he replied, waiting until she stilled her movements and he was sure she wouldn’t try to escape before he moved off of her, “I think its time we get back to the ships.”

 

“I’m not going anywhere with you,” Clary said, wiggling herself into a sitting position, her bound hands settling against her lap, “Not willingly anyways, I thought we already had this conversation.”

 

“You’re right,” Jace answered, crouching down on his hunches in front of her, “That’s why you already know how it ends.”

 

Before Clary could throw another sarcastic word his way, Jace had a hold of her bound wrists, tugging her small form up and over his shoulder. Her heard the gasp of indignation leave her lips as he turned on his heel, making his way back to where many of his fellow warriors were gathered around watching the spectacle before them.

 

“You egoistical, misogynistic, “ he heard yell from behind, her small wrists pounding against his back. He smiled, finally having bested her at whatever little game they were playing.

 

“You use big words for someone who is so small,” he teased, tossing his shoulder up, making her squeak as her body jerked in protest.

 

“Ugh, you jerk! Put me down!” Clary demanded, her fist striking close to his left kidney for emphasis.

 

Jace winced but smiled in reply, “As you wish, m’lady, we’ve just arrived at your carriage.”

 

With Clary securely across his shoulder, Jace climbed over the ship’s ledge and offloaded his cargo onto the floor, quick to tie her hands against the largest pole positioning her just beneath the center mass sail of the ship.

 

Jace turned to again be greeted by a wide range of staring eyes his way, some were amused at the spectacle, while other’s were slightly annoyed at their delay in departure.

 

“Women,” he offered with a shrug of his shoulders. He was answered by murmurs of agreement and some whistling, but Jace had already forgotten about them, turning away from them and his young charge at his feet.

 

He looked out into the vast waters of the sea, watching as the hidden light beneath the water’s edge began to turn the morning sky into a ray of colors as if the gods themselves were painting a path for them to journey on.

 

“Where are you taking me?” he heard his captive whisper, not missing the small thread of fear in the question. He didn’t turn to her, knowing that she would need the privacy he afforded her to come to terms with her new destiny at the hands of the very race she was taught to fear- and rightly so.

Still, a part of him didn’t want to see the look of fear looking back at him whenever he was around her. He knew that he would instantly miss her unique, fiery brand of gaze he’d seen in her eyes before and so he chose to give her something.

 

 

~*~*~*~*~*

 

Clary waited for Jace’s answer, the young Viking warrior seemingly haven gotten lost in his staring off into the horizon. In a moment of silence, his attention not on her wandering eyes, Clary took this rare moment to gaze upon her captor.

 

Yes, she admitted to herself, he was a very gorgeous man, dangerously so. She could see the strong line of his shoulders moving beneath his thin shirt as he settled his forearms across the widen ledge of the ship.

 

She remembered the feel of those strong muscles beneath her as he hoisted her, without any effort, over his shoulder seconds ago. Her aching fists could attest that the muscles of his back were just as well defined as those of his shoulders and she briefly wondered if he was just as sharply cut along his front.

 

Her mind flashed to the moment he had her pinned into the sand, their bodies heaving against each other, little teasing brushes of contact between them as they both swallowed the air around them… and she remembered. She remembered the way his lean, muscled body had made her’s clench in an unfamiliar wanting. It had driven her to struggle underneath him, not wanting to feel this way for this strange boy who seemed to capture her attention without trying.

 

Who was he and why did he have this strange pull over her? She’d never felt this way around any other person in her life and the fact that he was one of them terrified her.

 

The gentle ocean breeze brought her attention the Viking once more, her gaze focusing on the way his hair moved softly along the wind. His hair was a stunning shade of blonde, her earlier assessment of its likening that of an angel’s halo, but the imagery seemed laughable now as she knew he was actually her own personal demon.

 

Still, she felt the intense urge to run her hands through his curls, wondering if he’d allow her the chance to weave her fingers through the golden strands. She hated mysteries, mysteries needed to be solved and the feel of his hair beneath her fingers was possible the single most pressing mystery she held before her.

 

She felt the tug of a smile along her face as she imagined his reaction to her taking fate by the reigns and running her hands through his hair, the consequences be damned. Would her smack her hand away, threaten to end her life if she ever touched him again or would he gaze down at her letting her explore the soft tendrils of his light hair through her fingers.

 

Feeling the twinge of warmth spread along her cheeks, Clary cleared her throat, perhaps pulling said young man from his own thought when he finally gave her the answer to the question she had asked moments ago.

 

“Home,” he finally said, “We’re going home.”

 

Clary felt the pit of her stomach dropped out from underneath her as a multitude of emotions came crashing over her.

 

Home, she thought, would she ever see her home again? She felt herself turning before she could even process the movement, her line of vision finally finding the looming shadow of her city’s wall in the distance. Behind those walls stood the only home she had ever known, the only people she had ever loved. Could this be the last time she ever laid eyes on the only place she felt safe?

 

A jolt beneath her sitting form, alerted Clary to the fact that the boat was being pushed into the water’s edge, drifting her farther and farther away from the safe arms of her loved ones.

 

She didn’t take her eyes off of the dark silhouette of her home until it was no more than a pinpoint in the distance. She turned herself towards the rising sun in the east, the morning’s rise beginning to peak over the horizon as if opening a door for the ship to pass through, bringing her along for the ride towards her new fate.

 

Clary closed her eyes against the brightness of the dawning light, closing herself off against the unknown, as a feeling of being along sank into her very bones.

 

Yea, though I walk through the valley,” Clary began in her mind, echoes of a prayer long taught to her to use in times of fear running through her mind, “I will fear nothing, for thou art with me.

 

A part of her felt silly for praying to a God who had never answered her prayers before, but in this instance, Clary was willing to reach out to anything, anyone as long as she wasn’t to be alone in the days to come. When all she heard was silence, Clary let out one last sigh and let the exhaustion in her body take her under.

 

But just before the last moments of consciousness took her completely, a still small voice deep in the back of her mind spoke to her.

 

Go not in fear, my child, the voice whispered, but with patience and an open mind. I Am with you always.

 

Her mind struggled to process the words of the achingly familiar whisper, wondering if she truly heard the voice of God or if it was the harsh joke of her tired mind trying to give a moment’s peace in what seemed to be an otherwise stressful situation.

 

Either way, Clary began to feel a solid piece of herself harden against the days to come. Wherever she was being taken, whatever lied ahead of her, Clary knew that she would not take whatever it was life had in store for her because if there was one thing Clary Garroway was not, she was not a quitter.

Chapter Text

Just as the morning sun began to rise in the eastern sky, Sebastian Morgenstern casually leaned his tall frame against the second story balcony overlooking the palace estate, where he watched the bustling of the activity below him.

Under the command of their king, Sebastian watched his father’s men clear the palace grounds of the dead, their rotting and decaying bodies permeating the air with a foul stench as the sun began to warm the earth underneath their feet. The bodies were piled high on wooden wheelbarrows by the dozens and carried outside the city limits, where they would be buried in mass, unmarked graves.

To bury a man, even an enemy, without the proper funeral rights was considered cruel, unjust and dishonorable, especially among the Christian community, but Sebastian could not care less. In fact, Sebastian felt aroused by the power he and his father had taken, now possessed, over their enemies- even in their deaths. For it was thought that if a man was buried without his funeral rights, he would be forever condemned to Hell and this had Sebastian grinning in wicked satisfaction. They all deserved to die, to burn in their made-up Hell they feared so much.

Perhaps, Sebastian thought, perhaps it is not the dead we should pity, but the living, for their suffering has only just begun.

Sebastian swiftly drew his concentration to those of his father’s enemies who had survived the battle overnight. He watched in fascination as once proud men of the noble, Northumbrian army were reduced to mere animals in chains, their necks and wrists bound in heavy iron as they were herded through the front doors of the palace where they would await to be read their fate by their new king.

If the Northumbrians’ fate had been left up to him, Sebastian would have seen to it that all of his father’s enemies were executed violently and publicly, their tortured and mangled corpses then strung along the town’s square as a warning to anyone who would dare to breathe a word of rebellion against the new crown. Exploiting a man’s weakness or fear, especially in the face of death, was like a drug to Sebastian and one that he rarely passed up if the opportunity arose.

Sebastian could feel himself harden beneath his armor as visions of torture and death filled his mind. He could feel the beginning of a familiar hunger grow within the pit of his stomach and knew that he would soon need an outlet for his unique cravings. He couldn’t allow his need to fester for too long, things tended to get messier the longer he let this particular hunger grow.

Turning his attention once more to the prisoners being marched into the palace, Sebastian smirked in their direction.

“My father believes these miserable beasts will actually give us their undying loyalty?” Sebastian scoffed aloud to no one in particular as he unhitched himself from the balcony, “I, however, will take great pleasure in crushing their very lives beneath my boots.”

In the responding silence, Sebastian turn his body away from the scene below and towards the inside of the castle where four men, all high ranking officers in his father’s army, stood at attention, ready to fulfill his every command in an instant.

Other than the instinctual markings on their armor designating them as officers, Sebastian didn’t intimately know the men who his father had sent to him upon his request, except one.

Sir Martin Griffin.

Born into Mercia’s second wealthiest family, the first being the royal family, Sir Martin Griffin quickly rose through the ranks of his father’s army, quickly becoming his father’s second-in-command. His instincts in battle were second to none, giving him an irreplaceable appeal in his father’s eyes.

Towering at a height of six-foot-three, Sir Martin was rumored to be the tallest man in any given room, perhaps in the whole kingdom. Standing at six-foot-one himself, Sebastian could never get over the immediate distain he felt towards the General whenever he was forced to crane his neck in an uncomfortable angle to look into the man’s battle hardened eyes. He was the son of a king and should never have to look up into the eyes of a servant. It disgusted him, for his role as the crown prince to be mocked in this way.

Not only did the height difference form a distaste for the general in Sebastian’s eyes, but also the man’s ability to seemingly see right through Sebastian was always a little bit unnerving. Throughout his life, the General had counseled his father in turning Sebastian away from their private conversations, stating that Sebastian’s reckless behavior and questionable morals had no place on the battlefield, a place of honor. Sir Martin had seen the coldness in Sebastian and had counseled his father to be weary of his son’s intentions and their consequences, both on and off the field.

Sebastian would never forget the feelings of rage and maliciousness that would consume him as his father dismissed him from his birthright- to sit in amongst the leaders of his father’s army and learn the ways of battle. He wouldn’t forget the face of the man who tried to keep him from what was rightfully his. Never again would Sir Martin question Sebastian’s place as the crown prince or what it meant to serve at his mercy.

Perhaps the most unsettling thing about the General was how well the men and women of Mercia received him. Women, young and old, ogled the man’s snow-white hair and facial hair, ached to caress the hints of youthful muscles that were shadowed by the ages. Men came from all parts of the country to hear his wise words or to be trained under his command; it was considered an honor to be in his presence. He was liked. He was loved. And that, that was dangerous to his and his father’s crown and made Sebastian highly suspicious of the man in front of him. Still, the general was a very loyal subject, something that Sebastian could not wait to test for himself.

“Sir Martin,” Sebastian began after a long pause, taking in the men before him, “I trust that it is you who speaks for this party?”

“Yes, your Highness,” Sir Martin confirmed, his deep voice aged with authority and wisdom, grating on Sebastian’s ears. Sir Martin’s crystal blue eyes were trained just above Sebastian’s head, no doubt pinning and invisible spike against a speck of the wall behind him. Sir Martin was a very disciplined warrior in his own right and rarely broke his stance when in the presence of a superior.

“As you are well aware of,” Sir Martin continued, “As second-in-command in your father’s army, I both outrank every man here and have double the skill and experience on and off the battlefield.”

“I see,” Sebastian replied, his hands clasped behind his back. He stared up into Sir Martin’s eyes that were still trained just over his head, a cruel smile settling over his own features as an idea began to form in his mind. Perhaps his hunger could be fed a nibble before the real work began.

“Before we get started on why I had my father send you to me,” Sebastian proposed, “There is one matter I would like to address.” Taking a step forward, placing him directly in front of Sir Martin, Sebastian smiled sickeningly, “It has come to my attention that your head is higher than mine, Sir Martin. Perhaps it would be in better form for you to have this conversation on your knees.”

If Sebastian would have blinked, he would have missed the barely noticeable tick of the general’s jaw. There was absolute silence in the hall as Sebastian awaited Sir Martin’s next move. Because of Sir Martin’s elevated station in Mercian society and the love his generated from the commoners, no one every spoke to him in this manner, not even the King, but Sebastian was a different animal.

The slight loosening of his jaw was the only preamble to Sir Martin’s next words, his voice even deeper than when he first spoke- a tightness present that hadn’t been there previously.

“I beg your pardon, your Highness,” Sir Martin apologized as he lowered himself to the stone flooring, “MY knees aren’t as strong as they used to be- forgive an old man for his body is no longer his own. I only live to serve the noble house of Morgenstern.”

Sebastian scoffed, “My father trained you well, Sir Martin. You truly are his most prized pet.” Circling the now kneeling general, Sebastian began to feel the spike of adrenaline coarse through his veins.

“Bark for us, Sir Martin,” Sebastian challenged, a sly smile forming on his lips after the humiliating command, “I want to hear the desperate howls of my father’s hound.”

“Excuse me?” the General started, his head whipping to look directly into Sebastian’s laughing eyes, looking over his shoulder as Sebastian walked behind his kneeling form, “I am a General in His Majesty’s army and I will not be made to—aaargh“

Sebastian boot slammed into Sir Martin’s back, cutting off the General in mid-sentence. Using his hands to brace himself from the fall, the General found himself on all forms as Sebastian’s boots came to stand before him once more.

“I said bark, Sir Martin,” Sebastian sneered, “Or I will put you down like the dog that you are.”

Silence.

Sebastian swore that Sir Martin’s men were holding their breaths unsure of what to do in this situation. Perhaps they were too afraid to do anything fearing that Sebastian would turn his sights on them- maybe he would if time allowed. He was feeling particularly playful at the moment, at poor Sir Martin’s expense.

As Sebastian waited for Sir Martin’s response, he began to debate with himself as to whether his father could deal with the loss of his most trusted advisor. Maybe the death of Sir Martin was what Sebastian needed to finally take his rightful place by his father’s side, instead of going behind his father’s back and commanding his army in their biggest military strike in their country’s recent history.

Sebastian had his hand on the single blade at his waste, ready to deliver a swift slice along the general’s throat when he heard a barely audible noise. With a smile, Sebastian sheathed his knife once more into his belt and using his other hand to grab a fistful of Sir Martin’s hair, pulling his head up so he could whisper in his ear.

“So everyone can hear you,” Sebastian commanded, “Say it with me, Sir Martin. Woof, woof.”

“Woof,” Sir Martin’s deep voice muttered, just barely louder than his first attempt.

“Louder!” Sebastian yelled, pulling Sir Martin upright on his knees by his hair.

“Woof!” cried Sir Martin, the gasp of pain at the reckless manhandling seeping through his tone.

“Again!” Sebastian demanded of Sir Martin as he listened to the old man’s barking, a feeling of raw power seeping into his bones. He laughed as Sir Martin continued his loud barking, his sides splitting with pain as his muscles stretched in laughter.

“Enough, Sir Martin!” Sebastian chuckled, releasing the old man from his tight grasp, sending the old man once again to all fours, “Good boy, Sir Martin, very good boy.”

Sir Martin slowly pulled himself to sit on the backs of his heels, his shoulders slumped forward, no longer the proud man he once was.

“I aim to serve the noble house of Morgenstern,” he whispered, a man clearly humiliated and defeated, “How may I serve you, your Highness?”

“Yes, now that the pleasantries are out of the way, I suppose its time for the business aspect,” Sebastian concluded, wiping the tears from his eyes. “I have a very important task for you, Sir Martin. A task that I myself have been carrying out all night, but now that the castle is secure, it is time that I be by my father’s side.”

“Our swords are your’s to command,” Sir Martin spoke, his eyes not moving from a single stone on the castle’s floor.

“Excellent,” Sebastian exclaimed, “Your task is to find the elusive princess. It seems that she believes that she can outrun her fate to be by my side. You are to track her and bring her back to me, alive and untouched. Is that understood?”

“Yes, your Majesty,” Sir Martin replied, “The princess will be found before the day’s end and returned to your side promptly.”

“I should hope so, Sir Martin,” Sebastian warned, “For if you return to me without her in your custody, I will be forced to focus on you in her absence, naming you my favorite pet in her absence.”

Sir Martin’s eyes widened in recognition of the veiled threat, the rumors of the prince’s darker interests in his palace “pets” stuff for nightmares. Sir Martin bowed his head, urging his prince that he would not disappoint.

“You and your men are excused, Sir Martin,” Sebastian waved, dismissively, “The more time we waste here, the more of an opportunity we give my free-spirited bride the chance to escape.”

Sir Martin made to stand on his feet, but Sebastian stopped him with a hand on his shoulder.

“No, Sir Martin,” Sebastian smiled cruelly, “You will crawl on your hands and feet out of this room and down the hall until you come to the palace doors. Once there, only then may you walk like a man again.”

Sebastian watched in satisfaction as Sir Martin once again fell to his knees and began crawling towards the door, his men walking slowly behind their commanding officer.

Sebastian turned towards the window as the last man filed out of the room, leaving Sebastian alone once again. He looked out into his new home, his eyes closing as a smile formed along his lips. The adrenaline that coursed through him at this moment was intoxicating. The power one could hold over mere men was like a drug, one that he was addicted to.

Sebastian could feel the raw need for more of that power settling deep within his bones. He knew that the time was near. Once the princess was back under his control, he could turn his focus back to the bigger picture, but for now, he was resigned to helping his father assert their claim to the Northumbrian throne, making sure that their rule would not be challenged for hundreds of years.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*

 

Seated to the left of her husband’s jailer and usurper, Jocelyn Garroway fought against the tethered bonds securing her wrists to the wooden chair beneath her. The pain was excruciating as the thin twine dug into her delicate skin, a coppery scent beginning to assault her senses as her own blood began to cake underneath the tightening bonds. Gritting her teeth against the pain, Jocelyn continued to move her wrists, hoping that her blood would help her to free her hand from their restraints.

Jocelyn was unashamed in her attempt to escape the madman to her right, making no effort to hide her efforts as she struggled against her bonds. She would rather risk the loss of both of her hands then have to sit one more minute looking into Valentine’s smug face.

She could feel the sliminess of his gaze watching her as she struggled, the light from the fireplace dancing in his eyes as he gazed on in amusement. She could hear him tearing into the plate of meat set before him, his fingers ripping the flesh from bone as he devoured the kitchen’s finest cuts. Her stomach turned as she imagined those greasy hands running over her exposed skin and through her long, red hair that he seemed to love so much. He would smile down at her, with those lips that were stained red from the wine, and they would both know that there was no escape.

Jocelyn cringed inwardly as the sound of a sharpened knife scraped against the bottom of the bread plate, pulling her eyes to the offending object. Bloody scenarios formed in her mind as she imagined getting her hands on that knife. If only…

“Your beautiful neck would feel the tip of my blade before I allowed you to pick up that knife, sweetheart,” Valentine stated before choosing to pick up the knife and set it to the right side of his plate, furthest from Jocelyn’s pointed gaze.

Jocelyn fixed her eyes on the intent look from the King, settling back in her own chair as she thought about her next words. She knew that Valentine’s strategy was to try and intimidate her, and most of the time, he would carry out his threats, but Jocelyn would not stand to be threatened.

“First and foremost,” she began, her eyes staring unblinkingly back at the man, “I am not your sweetheart and I never will be.” She let that statement sink in, feeling a flicker of her own amusement at the slight tightening in Valentine’s jaw. “Secondly, I demand that you untie me, at once. You are in my home, as a guest, do you have any honor?”

Valentine smirked at the Queen as he took another drink of wine from his cup, “Your Lucian had honor and look where that led him. He now resides in the filth of his own dungeons, completely at the mercy of his new king. Secondly,” he said before Jocelyn could fire a retort for Valentine for speaking Luke’s name, “In time you will find that we were always meant to be together. However, in your current emotional state, I can hardly trust you to give me your full cooperation.”
It was Jocelyn’s turn to smirk, the right corner of her mouth lifting a half inch, “So the great and powerful King Morgenstern is frightened of a foreign queen. A woman?”

Valentine cocked an eyebrow at Jocelyn’s condescending tone, “Oh Jocelyn, my love, we both know that you are never defenseless.” Turning his head slightly to the right, the light from the fireplace exposed a darkening bruise along his cheekbone, “However, your last attempt to escape has proved that it is in my best interest to keep you subdued.”

Satisfied with the darkening print forming on his left cheekbone, Jocelyn felt the other corner of her lips quirk up into a smirk. Images of her last ditch effort of escape before being tied to this very chair came flashing through her mind. It had taken Valentine and two of his men to hold her down long enough for the ropes to be tied around her wrists, but not before she was able to strike out at Valentine’s face with her right hand.

She glanced down at her own bruised knuckles, feeling the familiar achiness that had been growing since the incident and knew it had been worth it, even if the consequences diminished her attempts to escape. Any effort would be worth the aftermath if it meant giving Valentine even a small percentage of what Jocelyn believed her deserved.

Her eyes flicked to her captor once more, watching as he brought his own hand to his face, lightly brushing his fingertips across the sensitive skin. She saw the slight flinch of his cheekbone under his fingers, but he just smiled back at her, which made her very uneasy once more.

“You liked it rough in my dreams too, sweetheart,” Valentine purred as he leaned across the table towards her to place his hand along her bond forearm, “The foreplay itself was particularly rememberable.”

Jocelyn felt her face flush with heat as her hatred for the man began to manifest physically, her hand beneath his own tightening into a fist.

“Untie me from the bonds and I’ll show you something rememberable, Valentine,” Jocelyn muttered under her breath, her green eyes narrowed against her enemy. She could feel her blood boiling beneath her skin as her heart pumped overtime beneath her heaving chest.

Valentine continued to smile amusingly as he sat back in his chair after picking up his wine cup once more. He took a swig from the cup as he looked back at Jocelyn, observing her fieriness from his seat. He loved this side of her, it made his own heart beat a little faster, sending a healthy portion of the blood flow to a very specific part of his body that was becoming more aroused by the second, staring into the blazing, green eyes of the woman before him.
“You have so much passion, sweet Jocelyn,” Valentine commented casually before setting the wine cup back on the table. “Tell me,” he added with a bit of a smirk already on his face, “Was Lucian just as wild and passionate?”

“You bastard,” Jocelyn seethed, straining in her chair, “You have no right to speak his name!”

“I have every right!” Valentine shouted, slamming his closed fist on top of the wooden table. Jocelyn flinched against the violent outburst, but she was able to compose herself once more.

Valentine closed his eyes, reining his own feeling of rage in. He knew that yelling would not make his task of winning Jocelyn’s affections any easier. She was a logical woman, after all, perhaps logic would suffice in this instant.

“For starters,” Valentine began, “My army was able to defeat that of your’s husband’s in a matter of hours, giving me the right to seize the crown for my own.” At Jocelyn’s continued silence, Valentine continued, “I have seized your husband as my prisoner, I own him, Jocelyn. He is mine to do with as I please. However,” he added before Jocelyn could interrupt, “I am aware of your insufferable feelings for him and am willing to make you a deal.”

Jocelyn leaned as far away from Valentine as he bonds would allow, sizing up the king with her scrutinizing gaze.

“What kind of a deal?” she asked wearily. She knew Valentine couldn’t be trusted, but if it meant Luke and Clary’s safety, she knew she would pay any price.

“I want you, Jocelyn,” Valentine stated precisely, “I am willing to preserve your husband’s life if you give yourself to me, completely.”

Jocelyn felt a knot form in her stomach, forcing bile to rise in her throat. She turned her head away as the burning of tears could be felt behind her eyes.

“I hate you,” she whispered before the tears began to fall down her cheeks. She cursed her weakness to shed a single drop in the presence of this monster.

Her eyes closed as she heard a wooden chair squeak against the cobblestone flooring. She could feel the energy changing in the room as Valentine slowly walked around the corner of the table stand next to her chair. The hairs on the back of her neck stood straight as he closed in on her, like a predator closing in. She shuddered when she felt his strong right hand cup her jaw. His large hand spanned the length and width of her jaw, his thumb pressing uncomfortably into the right side of her jawbone as his other fingers dug into her left cheek.

With the discipline of a predator with his prey caught in his grasp, Valentine slowly forced Jocelyn’s head to turn his way, lifting her chin slightly so he could peer down into her moistened eyes.

Her tears may have betrayed her vulnerability in that moment, but Jocelyn stared up into his bottomless, black eyes, putting all the hatred she felt for this man into one stare. However, Valentine seemed unfazed by the Queen’s animosity, instead, taking the time to examine her unquestionable beauty up close. Jocelyn didn’t miss the swift slither of his tongue along the plains of his pink lips as his eyes fell to her own, firmly pressed into a line between his grasp.

His eyes slowly traveled up the lines of her face before he began to speak, “You may hate me now sweet Jocelyn, but if you wish to keep your family alive and safe from harm, you will find it is in their best interest to keep me happy.”

Jocelyn just stared up into Valentine’s expressionless face, not trusting her own voice right now not to crack under the turbulent emotions coursing through her at this moment. It was undeniable that she would do anything to keep her family safe, but at this moment, saying those words to Valentine seemed to be just outside her personal discipline at the moment.

Taking her silence as a form of rejection, Valentine turned his manner in more of a conversational tone, but the grip he had on Jocelyn’s jaw never waivered.

“I could kill him, you know,” he stated, causally, as he ran his left hand through her hair in a soothing pace, “It wouldn’t be quick by any means either. In fact, Sebastian is quite talented in prolonging the absolution of death.”

As if lost in a memory, Valentine continued, “I believe his personal record is thirty-seven days.” Valentine huffed out a short laugh as he ran his fingers through Jocelyn’s curls robotically, “Nearly every inch of the poor man’s skin had been peeled from his body before his heart gave out.”

Jocelyn gasped, feeling Valentine’s finger’s tighten in her hair as she instinctively moved to pull away. He eyes refocused on her’s, a cold smile playing across his face as he lowered himself down on his hunches to the side of the chair. He kept his left hand firmly planted in her hair as the hand that once held her jaw began to trace the delicate lines of her face.

“You see,” he stated, running his fingertips along her brow, “You hold Lucian’s life in those pretty, little hands of your’s.” His fingertips grazed down her temple before sliding over her cheek bone, where his palm cupped his cheek. His thumb grazed over her plump lips, pulling slightly down on her bottom lip as he spoke his final offer, “Give me what I want, my love, and Lucian will live.”

Jocelyn’s eyes closed one final time, a single tear slipping through the cracks to run down her cheek. Valentine’s thumb gently wiped the tear from its downward course before placing a gentle kiss where it had been.

“That will be the last tear to fall from those beautiful eyes for Lucian Garroway,” Valentine said in a deep whisper, the authority in his voice absolute, “There will be no room for him, even in your tears, when we begin to build our life together.”

Smiling as he took the Queen’s silence for submission, Valentine happily placed a chaste kiss to Jocelyn’s forehead as he rose to his feet once more. He turned to the plate full of food before the queen and picked up small cluster of grapes, picking one off the vine with two fingers.

“Perhaps our relationship will begin with a single intimate feeding between a man and his future wife, hmm,” Valentine cooed placing the single grape into his own mouth, savoring the juiciness of the fruit before plucking another one off the same vine. However, before Valentine could bring the grape to Jocelyn’s closed lips, the door to the hallway burst open, startling both Jocelyn and Valentine in their places.

Their eyes swiveled to the left, where a figure came bursting into the room. No sooner had Valentine reached for the sword at his belt than he recognized the invading man to be that of his son, Sebastian. Feeling annoyed at his son’s barging in what could have otherwise been a very rewarding experience, Valentine released his hand from the hilt of his sword seeing as that he and Jocelyn were not under any threat.

Sebastian came to a stop when he took a look at how closely he was standing to a bond Jocelyn. Apparently his father had had his own trouble with a particularly, feisty red head and it looked as if he had the mark along his cheekbone to prove it.

Sebastian smirked inwardly as he wondered what particular hell his own, elusive red head would unleash the minute he had back where she belonged- under his lock and key. His eyes ran over the Queen’s bonds, picturing her young daughter bound and gagged for his viewing pleasure. His body tingled with need as the images assaulted his imagination, but Sebastian wasn’t so easily distracted from the most immediate priority.

“I’m sorry if I intruded, father,” Sebastian stated, his eyes leaving the Queen’s still form to find his father’s annoyed look looking back at him, “But if you’re done playing with your newest toy, perhaps you’d like to focus on solidifying your reign.” Sebastian crossed his arms before adding, “Perhaps being King no longer interests you now that you have your whore.”

“You insolent, little—“ Jocelyn started, but Valentine’s strong hands gripping her right shoulder as he made to stand against her chair made her stop in her tracks, reminded of the very real threat these two men posed to her family.
Sebastian smirked as he watched his father effortlessly command the once proud Queen to silence with just the touch of his strong grip, perhaps his father wasn’t a total waste of power as he originally thought. Although Sebastian would never underestimate the power Queen Jocelyn had over his father, even if she clearly didn’t understand it. All the evidence that was needed was clearly displayed in the form of his bulging erection underneath his robes as he stood beside his most prized possession.

“I see the training is going well, father,” Sebastian smirked in the Queen’s direction, earning him a sharpened glance from the piercing green eyes.

“Yes,” his father replied bringing his hand to rest along the back of the Queen’s neck, “Jocelyn and I just needed to come to a little understanding. The first rule in any burgeoning relationship is good communication. Isn’t that right, my love?”

Jocelyn forced the fakest smile along her face as she tilted her head up and said, “Of course, Your Grace. Telling your impending rapist to go to Hell is much more satisfying when said out loud and face-to-face.”

Valentine smiled tightly back down at the Queen before turning his gaze back to his very amused son.

“Perhaps a little more training is to be done in the very near future,” Valentine relented as he massaged, not too gently, the muscles along Jocelyn’s neck. “But enough about us,” Valentine spoke, “Tell me of my soon-to-be daughter-in-law.”

Sebastian’s amusement quickly turned to boiling rage as he pulled a chair out from the table, throwing himself down into his with a scowl on his face.

“The princess seems to think that she can run from her fate,” Sebastian gritted out, “However, she is only prolonging her punishment when she is inevitably returned to me. I will not be made to be a fool, not by anyone.”

The silence that permeated the room after Sebastian’s statement was interrupted by a knock at the door, making Sebastian bark at a clipped “What!?”

A young guard entered the room and stood at attention as he turned his attention to the three people at the table.

“Your Grace,” he said, turning his eyes upon Valentine, “The prisoners have been gathered into the throne room upon your request. They await their fate at the command of their new king.”

All eyes slid to Valentine as he stared back on the guard, a look of consideration on his face. After a moment he seemed to come to a conclusion, nodding his head towards the guard before replying, “Thank you, Sir Jameson. You and your men will escort me to the throne room immediately.”

Jameson left the room swiftly, calling out to his men to prepare to escort the king, shutting the door behind him.

Valentine turned his attention to his son before saying, “Care to see how a true King commands his subjects, son?”

Sebastian scoffed, waiving his hand in dismissal, “I don’t need to watch you preen your feathers on a throne that I gave to you, father.” His eyes slid from his father’s standing form to that of the Queen’s silent one. A smile formed on his face as he looked once again at his father, “Perhaps it is I who deserves the throne and all its spoils.”

“Careful, son,” Valentine uttered, his voice taking a serious tone, “You speak of treason against your own House.”

Sebastian leaned his back against his seat, comfortable in his position as the crowned prince.

“Go,” Sebastian said flippantly, “Make them gravel at your feet, lick the mud from your boots, or suck your hairy cock for all I care, but leave me out of it.”

“As for me,” he continued at his father’s apprehensive look, “I would much rather have one of those little understandings with the Queen you spoke of early. After all,” he admitted, “I always wondered what it would be like to have a mother.”

Valentine looked down at Jocelyn, who had pinned her gaze on a distant wall, her face a blank sheet of emotion. Valentine was weary of leaving her with his son, Sebastian could be cruel and didn’t hold the amount of restraint Valentine did when it came to certain understandings. Still, Valentine removed his hand from Jocelyn’s neck and bowed his head in acknowledgement before he made to move swiftly towards the door.

“Perhaps,” Valentine offered as he opened the door, “During your talk with the Queen, you can make her understand the importance of her cooperation.”

Sebastian locked eyes with the Queen, a smile forming on his face.

“Please be reassured, father,” Sebastian began, “The Queen and I have a lot to discuss. The first of which concerns her absolute obedience.”

With one last nod, Valentine exited his private quarters, leaving Jocelyn and Sebastian to stare at each other until Sebastian broke the silence with four muttered words, “Her obedience to me.”

Chapter Text

The demons and their shadows began to recede with the night as the purity of the morning’s first rays of sunshine trickled through the palace windows, bathing the eerie coldness in a gentle warmth. Like a mighty hand stretching forth from the heavens, streams of light began to smooth a path through the carnage left over from the long night’s battle, the rotted and dead bodies of so many laid out amongst the fallen debris of a once strong and beautiful castle hall.

 

There was no sound or movement within the hall save the huddled figure beneath a fallen beam of debris. A lone woman sat against the once great stonewall, cradling a young boy to her chest as she rocked him gently back and forth in her arms. Words were to hard to form along her trembling lips and so the woman was content enough to hum a sweet lullaby down into the boy’s tiny face- a face she had known all his young life.

 

The tune was one her own mother had sang to her many nights while she was a young child, not much older than the boy currently gasping for each breath in her arms. She remembered the calming affects the lullaby had when her mother would sing it to her and in this moment, when the boy’s life was being cruelly taken from his young body, it was the only solace she found she could give him.

 

The woman ached to crush the boy’s small frame into her bosom, to fold him into her arms where she could protect him from anyone or anything that was sent to take him from her. She wanted let her tears fall along his angelic face, to let them wash away the dirt and blood caking his once soft features. She wanted to curse the heavens, beg God to spare this young boy’s life- to take her life instead- but even in her grief, she knew that what the boy needed most of all was a familiar touch, to know he was not alone.

 

A shift in the air around her, the lightness of it, told her that morning was fast approaching, that soon the sun’s rays would be upon them, finally revealing to her the exact harshness of the young boy’s condition. She knew that the boy would not survive the morning and so she cursed the sun, its once beautiful rays encroaching on her hidden space, stalking her young charge as if waiting for the right time to devour his young body and to take with it his spirit.

 

No, she wouldn’t allow it- not until she was sure that the boy was ready, that she was ready to say goodbye. Perhaps it was selfish on her part to prolong the inevitable, would it not be a mercy to help the young boy in his crossing? Still, she would stay in the protection of the shadows for just a moment longer, if only to give this small boy one more moment on Earth.

 

Soothing the delicate creases of the young boy’s face, the room fondly recollected the day she had stumbled upon a young and frightened, pregnant woman in the belly of the palace kitchens. Amatis had taken pity on the young widow, taking her and her soon to be baby boy under her care, helping the mother to find decent work in the palace and manageable furnishing in her own home.

 

This wasn’t the first time that the older woman had taken an innocent under her wing. An abandoned baby boy had been left at her doorstep years before, with a single piece of paper with the star of David drawn on it. She hadn’t been able to turn away from the cherub’s face and so she couldn’t bare to turn away from the young woman’s either.

 

On that special day, she had promised the young woman that she and her baby would never again face the harshness of this cruel world alone. She would be there right beside them every step of the way- and she had been. She was their for the young boy’s first baptism, his first steps and his first words. She had been there in every milestone of a young man’s life- all except when he needed her the most.

 

She hadn’t been there when the heathen and foreign enemies plagued the halls. She hadn’t been there when the young boy ran in fear from the cruel men hurling axes and slaying men, women and children alike. She hadn’t been there when he took a fatal blow to the back of his head.

 

She hadn’t been there.

 

But now she was.

 

She would be there until the bitter end. She would stay with her young charge, letting him know that even in death, he was not alone.

 

As she reached the end of her lullaby with the gentle fading of the last note, she ran her fingers through the boy’s soft, auburn curls, relishing the feel of their silk-like feel between her aged fingers. Finding it in herself to whisper one last tune, the woman had to stifle a choking noise when her fingers inadvertently brushed through a thick mass of dry, clumped hair. Startled by the abrupt obstacle within the boy’s hair, the woman peered between her fingers and had to swallow the bile rising in her throat.

 

Along the boy’s scalp lied a deep laceration, blood and dirt matting his once beautiful curls to his head. From the massive clump formed in the boy’s hair, the woman could tell that he had lost a lot of blood from just this one would, unknowing if the boy had suffered any other fatal wounds. The wound had stopped bleeding moments before she had arrived to the boy’s side, making the woman realize that all the medicine and tender care could not save the young boy from his fate.

 

Startled by the stinging sweep of her fingers over the sensitive spot, the young boy stirred in her arms, a small whimper falling from his small lips. She watched as the young boy curled further into her familiar embrace, his tiny brow scrunching as he tried to find a more comfortable niche.

 

Pulling her fingers away from the sensitive spot along the boy’s scalp, the woman began to gently trace the outer shell of the boy’s left ear, content in the soothing motion of the tip of her finger grazing along the smooth skin. Rhythmic in its motion, it helped to calm the turbulent emotions bubbling beneath the surface, threatening to overwhelm her aching heart.

 

As if the boy could sense those emotions, the woman watched his small brow scrunch in worry as he snuggled further into her chest. Delicately, she smoothed her fingers against his brow, massaging away the worry lines as he relaxed once more into her arms.

 

“Hush now, little babe,” she whispered down to the little face as she brushed a stray bundle of curls behind his small ear, “Rest now for I am with you now.”

 

The woman felt the small twitch of the young boy’s ear at the familiarity of her voice, his bruised and blackened eyes fluttering open as he struggled to look up at her with his unfocused gaze.

 

“Lady M-matis’?” a tiny voice asked, the sound of dehydration cracking his once sweet voice into small, dry puffs of air.

 

The first tear fell from her lower lashes before Amatis could reign it back it, the burden of the single droplet of water like a heavy weight along her cheek as it slid downwards. She felt the hot path of the stinging tear as it slid down her face before it fell from her trembling chin, disappearing in the short curls of the boy’s hair.

 

Tracing an invisible line from the boy’s small brow to the narrow passage of his nasal bridge, Amatis loving tapped the boy’s little nose as she smiled down at him from above.

 

“Young Jonah,” she whispered through her shaky smile, “My beautiful baby boy, it’s time to rest now.” She lowered her head so their noses gently brushed against one another, feeling another tear fall from the corner of her eyes and watched it splash against Jonah’s smaller features.

 

Jonah winced as the hot tear pierced his cold skin, whimpering once more as he sought more of Amatis’ warmth.

 

“I’m so cold, Lady ‘Matis,” Jonah whispered as his small body shivered against her own. Amatis gently covered the small boy with her body in a warming embrace, even if the simple gesture was unnecessary, she would give him this. She would give him anything.

 

“So warm,” Jonah yawned as he nestled his small face into her chest, bringing his small hand to grasp the lining of her dress along her neck. “You’re always so warm, ‘Matis. Can I just rest here for a while?”

 

Amatis choked back a sob as she reached for the small hand, unlatching it from her dress to bring it to her lips where she placed three small kisses along his fingers.

 

“You can stay as long as you like, baby,” she whispered against his hand, brushing her thumb across the back of his cold, hand, “I’m not going anywhere.”

 

Amatis felt content to watch little Jonah rest in her arms as she held his tiny hand over her heart, but her heart began to sadden when she saw his brow begin to furrow once more. A tight, sickening knot began to form in her stomach not wanting to hear whatever was passing through Jonah’s innocent mind.

 

“Lady ‘Matis, do you know where my mommy is?” he asked quietly. His eyes didn’t open, trusting Amatis enough to know where his mother was and to take him to her.

 

Closing her eyes to steady the sobs looming just below the surface, Amatis forced the slow movement of air in through her nose and out through her pursed lips. Images flashed through her mind of the broken and mangled body of a young female that laid a couple of yards from where she sat holding a small, dying boy in her arms.

 

Wide, blue eyes frozen in terror stared unseeingly upwards towards the high ceiling, her once delicate, pink lips forever stretched into a grotesque scream, echoing the young mother’s last moments on Earth. It was clear by the bruising pattern of her extremities, as well as the torn clothing, that Lucy Bennett had suffered a worse fate than death moments before her young life was taken under the cruel slicing cut of a knife along her neck.

 

Cradling the back of the boy’s hand with her right hand, Amatis gently rested her left cheek atop his head, curling his smaller body further into her to protect him from witnessing his mother’s cruel end. Even in the face of death, Amatis would protect the small boy against the cruelness of their world.

 

Amatis tried to recall the beautiful, young woman Lucy Bennett had been before fate had dealt her a brutal hand. A memory of finding a seventeen-year-old Lucy crying by the fire in the palace kitchen floated over Amatis’ mind. She remembered instantly recognizing Lucy as one of the court’s more popular courtesans, her natural beauty and advertised innocence was often the source of topic for many men with wandering eyes.

 

Unfortunately, Lucy had fallen in love with a married nobleman, who promised to divorce his wife and to make an honest woman of Lucy when she came to him with news of her pregnancy. However, when Lucy finally decided to approach the nobleman, after waiting three months, she was met by hostility and threats. She was quickly turned away, the nobleman calling her nothing but a gold-digging whore.

 

When Lucy began showing, her madam kicked her out of the working house, claiming that no man wanted to bed a pregnant whore and so Lucy was without shelter or food for her and her baby. It was a miracle that she was able to slip past the palace guards in order to seek warmth by the fire in the kitchens.

 

Here Amatis sat watching as the young, broken girl poured out her story, the real fear of bringing another life into this world weighing heavily in her eyes. Amatis couldn’t help remember her own journey of being thrust into motherhood when a small, baby boy was placed on her doorstep.

 

The young boy hadn’t been named and the note that was left upon his chest begged for Amatis to take him in as her own. The letter wasn’t signed by a single person or family, but with a lone Star of David. When Amatis looked down into the soft face of the child wrapped in a warm blanket, she knew she couldn’t turn him away and so listening to the young woman before her, she knew she couldn’t turn her or her baby away either.

 

Just yesterday, that night in the palace kitchens seemed like a lifetime ago, but now, holding that small, baby boy in her arms as he drew his last breaths, it seemed it all had come and gone too quickly.

 

Turning her face into the boy’s hair to stifle the sobs trembling from her lips, Amatis allowed herself to mourn the young woman and her small child. She mourned for the lives they would never have the chance to live. She wept for the ones they were destined to love and to be loved by, their light permanently snuffed into darkness.

 

Amatis felt small puffs of air against the column of her neck as Jonah tried to speak, “Where is she?”

 

Drying her tears as she cleared her throat, Amatis looked down into the young boy’s face and smiled.

 

“My dear, sweet, baby boy,” she cooed, smiling through the unshed tears, “Your mommy is waiting for you in your dreams.”

 

Jonah turned in her arms, struggling to get a better look at Amatis as his small irises tried to focus on her looming face. His brow crinkled in confusion as he thought about her words, his little logical mind having a hard time following this tiny bit of information.

 

“Really?” he asked still a little unsure. His voice was like a slow pounding hammer to Amatis’ chest, “How did she get there?”

 

“My Jonah,” Amatis smiled bringing her hand to lovingly cup the boy’s left cheek with her open palm, “Remember, the people we carry with us in our hearts can always be found in our dreams.”

 

Amatis gently brushed her thumb over the young boy’s cheek reassuringly as he mauled over her words. Breathing a sigh of relief when Jonah’s face seemed to relax, perhaps coming to realize that he like the sound of Amatis’ words if that meant her could find his mom.

 

However, the uneasiness in Jonah’s young eyes soon returned, his lashes lowering against his whitening cheeks as he whispered, “What if I can’t find her, ‘Matis? My dreams are so big and I’m so small?”

 

Amatis’ heart squeezed in her chest, a fresh tear falling from her right eye as she rocked the young boy in her arms just as she had the first day he was born as his mother slept soundly a few feet away on the bed. She had made a promise to that newborn baby- that as long as she was with him, he would never be alone. Perhaps it was time for her to remind him of that promise.

 

Taking Jonah’s small hand into her hand once more, Amatis gave it a gentle squeeze, looking down into his drooping eyes as she spoke to him.

 

“As long as you hold on to my hand I will be with you,” she whispered down to him, bringing his hand to rest against her heart. His hand was ice cold, but she didn’t care, she would sit like this for an eternity if it meant giving this young boy a moment’s peace and comfort.

 

“Once you find you mom,” she added, “Then you may let go of my hand so that you can take your mother’s. I am sure she is eager to see you.”

 

Feeling the tiny movement of his hand in her’s, Amatis felt Jonah wrap his fingers around her thumb, melting her already breaking heart.

 

“How come you’re not scare, Lady ‘Matis?” Jonah breathed heavily, the energy to talk taking every once of strength he had. Amatis wished he would talk, that he would conserve his energy, but she was too selfish to tell him to stop. She loved the sound of his voice and new that she didn’t have it in him to tell him to stop.

 

“You must be very brave,” Jonah added, his eyes nothing but slits as his eyes fell to her chest.

 

Amatis turned her head down to rest her cheek on the boy’s hand across her heart, smiling down at him as she whispered, “How could I be sweet Jonah when I have you to guide my way?”

 

A flicker of movement at the corners of the young boy’s lips had Amatis’ eyes staring down at the briefest of smiles. It came and went in the flash of an eye, but it was perhaps the saddest and brightest smile she had ever seen.

 

Jonah’s eyes finally closed all the way, his small voice a barely audible whisper as he spoke these last words, “Stay close and don’t let go.”

 

“Never, little one,” Amatis choked on her whisper, hugging the boy tighter to her person. Her tears fell unchecked from her eyes now as she watched the boy’s face slacken, his breaths becoming fewer and far between as the seconds ticked by.

 

An ugly sob tore from her throat as she felt the tiny fingers in her grasp come loose around her thumb, and in that moment, she knew that it was finished. Pressing her lips in the soft, curls of the boy’s auburn hair, with shaking lips she whispered, “Rest now, my sweet baby boy.”

 

Perhaps an hour two had passed by the time Amatis finally pulled her tear stained face from the small crook between Jonah’s left shoulder and neck. The time that passed could have been longer or shorter; she really didn’t know or care. In that moment, she was a grieving mother, friend and mentor.

 

Standing on her feet with Jonah still tucked in her arms, Amatis made her way across the hall to set the boy gently down next to his mother. If she couldn’t give them a proper, Christian burial, she would make sure that they were at least together on the physical plain as she new they were in heavenly one.

Respectfully, Amatis rearranged Lucy’s figure close to Jonah’s so it looked like mother and son were peacefully sleeping next to each other as she had seen them doing often in her own home. Only this time, she knew that they would not awaken to the fresh smell of bread in the kitchens or the songs Amatis would sing from her chair as she watched them sleep.

 

Eyes falling on a ripped piece of curtain a few yards away, Amatis swiftly picked up the loose fabric and gently deposited it over her surrogate children. Amatis knew she would do anything in this moment to preserve what little dignity she could find for Lucy and her baby boy. They were her family.

 

Not quite having the words to say out loud regarding the deaths of two of the most important people to her, Amatis let her eyes wander for the first time around the hall, taking in the carnage around her. Men, women and children, some she’d known while others were foreign laid around her.

 

She had seen the cost of battle before, having worked as a practice of medicine in times of war, but she never imagined that she would see this within the walls of her home. War was for far away places, not the within the safety of your own walls, a place you were supposed to feel loved and protected.

 

Their home had been invaded by their enemies, their walls falling around them as families were slaughtered one by one.

 

Feeling a lump form in the back of her throat once more, Amatis turned her eyes upon the two bodies laying at her feet. She could see both their beautiful faces as they were just a day ago and she yearned to see them that way one last time.

 

She would miss the sweet curve of Lucy’s smile, the way it lit up her face when she would whisper her love against her growing son’s tiny ear. She would miss the joyful sound of Jonah’s laughter, its carefree nature capable of lifting anyone’s spirits, especially when the young boy would make his mother chase him through the palace courtyard before a much-needed bath.

 

However, it was the peaceful moments that Amatis would miss the most. Moments when she rocked Jonah in her chair while she told him stories of princesses and dragon as they stared into the mesmerizing flames of the fire. Or perhaps she would miss the quiet nights of listening to Amatis practice her own reading while she brushed her sleeping son’s curls from his face.

 

The deepening sadness in her heart spread like wildfire in her veins, hardening into rage as she cried out for vengeance and justice. Her soul yearned for the blood of the person responsible for such utter destruction, to her family, to her home. She wanted to shake her fist and curse, demanding answers from God as to why these things had to happen. Why couldn’t he save them? Why couldn’t have been her? She was old. It could have been her time; their lives had only just begun. The pain of it all was so raw, that she found herself rooted to that very spot, unable to speak in fear her mind would splinter into a thousand pieces, just as her heart had moments ago.

 

“Amatis.”

 

Amatis looked around for the gentle voice whispering her name, but with a quick swivel of her head, Amatis found she was still the only person alive in this corner of the castle.

 

“Amatis,” the voice repeated, an eerie familiarity perking Amatis’ inner ear.

 

“Mother?” Amatis whispered out loud, wondering if perhaps her mind had already splintered and her first sign was that of her dead mother’s voice ringing in her ears.

 

“Amatis, my child, you know that in everything there is a time,” her mother counseled in her warmest voice, “You know the words in which I speak.”

 

Amatis closed her eyes unsure if she was capable of forming the words along her lips, she was certain she was not prepared to hear in their harsh reality.

 

“I don’t know if I can,” she whispered out loud, “Its too hard.”

 

“For everything there is a time…”

 

Taking a steadying breath through her nose before releasing it slowly through her pursed lips, Amatis gently began to recite the verse her mother spoke of reminding her that there was, indeed, a time for everything, no matter how difficult.

 

 

“To everything there is a season,

and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

A time to be born, a time to die;”

 

“A time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

A time to kill

and a time to heal.”

 

“A time to break down, and a time to build up;

A time to weep, and a time laugh;

a time to mourn, and a time to dance,”

 

“A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;

a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

 

A time to get, and a time to lose;

A time to keep, and a time to cast away;

A time to rend, and a time to sew;

A time to keep silence, and a time to speak;”

 

“A time to love, and a time to hate;

a time of war, and a time of peace.”

 

 

A lingering silence once again fell over the hall as the poem came to its conclusion. Amatis closed her eyes and bowed her head, in respect, as she began to say her last goodbyes.

 

The harsh sound of steel boots hitting the concrete flooring not too far away had Amatis twisting around to see who was approaching her, careful to hide the bodies behind her.

 

Two men, laden with heavy armor quickly moved towards where she stood, the emblem across their plated chests identifying them as Mercian knights.

 

“Woman,” the first guard on the left spat, “Why are you not in the throne room? Your new king commands his new subjects to head to the throne room for a special announcement.”

 

Momentarily caught off guard, Amatis lifts an eyebrow, “New king? What on God’s green Earth are you talking about?”

 

“Do as your told, woman,” the second knight said on the right, taking a threatening step forward before adding, “Or we will make it our business to move you ourselves.”

 

Outraged, Amatis took her own step forward, almost matching the guard nose to nose, even though he had four to five inches of heart on her.

 

“How dare you speak to me in this way,” she snapped, “I am Amatis Garroway, sister of the King. This is my home.”

 

The guard immediately in front of her sneered down at her as the one behind her chuckled setting Amatis stomach into a sickening swirl.

 

“Garroway no longer holds the Northumbrian throne,” the knight stated matter-of-factly, “Under the clever leadership of His Royal Highness, Prince Sebastian has successfully led our army into your very bosom and unseated Garroway as the King.”

 

Gasping, as she was unaware of the extent of the ramifications of the long night’s battle.

 

“I don’t understand,” Amatis whispered as her mind spun in a million different directions, “You were our guests. We offered you food from our table, beds beneath our roof...”

 

“Garroway was an idiot to believe that the Mercian King and his son would overlook such an obvious invitation,” the knight spoke down to her, “What better way to beat an enemy than to become his friend?”

“This is madness,” Amatis whispered, her mind still unable to comprehend the graveness of the situation her family and now her home was subject to.

 

“I need to see my brother,” Amatis said out loud, not looking at the knight in front of her as she tried to walk around her broader frame, but was stopped when his large hand grabbed onto her upper arm.

 

“Let go of me this instant,” Amatis commanded as she tried to pull her arm from his grasp, but it was no use, the man’s grip was like iron.

 

“I’m afraid you are misunderstanding who has the power here, woman,” the first guard said as the other came up on the other side of her, taking the same punishing grip on her other arm, “You are to await with the other subjects in the throne room by the command of you new king.”

 

“I have only one king,” Amatis said, struggling to free herself.

 

“That’s too bad,” the knight on her right said as they began to drag her away from the silent figures of mother and son, “If you do not bend the knee for your new king, you will be sentenced to die.”

 

All the hurt, anger and sadness that had been pushed down inside of her as she held young Jonah and spoke the poem over their bodies began to bubble to the surface and Amatis welcomed it. She tried hard to pull herself free of the knights grips as they drug her through the halls, but their hands were wrapped around her like a vice.

 

At one last tug, she was able to pull herself free, a fleeting moment of satisfaction quickly led to trepidation as she realized they had brought her to the throne room.

 

The once vast room was now overcrowded with castle servants, guests from the party and an abundance of Mercian knights. Amatis looked around to see if she saw any recognizable faces, but it was hard to get a good look at those who were in attendance with every available inch of flooring taken up by the countless present.

 

“Ladies and gentlemen,” a male voice boomed over the room, immediately hushing the whisperings and murmurs of those crowded into the room.

 

Amatis moved through the crowd, trying to get a look at the voice speaking about all the other heads in the room. Being at a slight disadvantage due to her height, Amatis had to fight through the crowd to get a closer look.

 

“For those of you who are unaware of who I am, my name is King Valentine Jonathan Morgenstern of Mercia,” the now familiar voice said, ringing in her ears, making her feel uneasy and light headed.

 

The view of Valentines tall figure came into view, standing proudly upon the dais on which her brother had sat on not long ago. A fire licked within her veins at the sight of a foreigner on her brother’s throne, but Amatis kept quiet, smart enough to want to hear Valentine’s words completely before she formulated a plan.

 

“It is my soldiers who patrol the halls of this once great castle, who eagerly await the next command of their king,” Valentine supplied, a smirk forming along his lips, “Should I decide to kill you all they will carry out my order swiftly and effectively make no mistake about that.”

 

Gasps and murmurs could be heard throughout the crowd, but at the raising of Valentine’s single hand, the room fell eerily silent once more.

 

“I hold within my grasp the power to condemn your very souls, to send you all straight to hell should the idea fancy me in this moment,” Valentine spoke as if he were commenting on the sunny disposition of the day.

“However,” he interjected as the low murmurs of the crowd began to pick up at his frightening words, “I have found it in my heart to give you the chance to save your immortal soul.”

 

Smiling as he looked at the fear-stricken and grieving faces within the crowd, Valentine continued.

 

“Give yourselves to me- your bodies, your hearts, your minds and I will spare you the flaming pits of Hell,” he offered, sweeping his hands in an outstretched arc around him, encompassing the whole room as if in an embrace.

 

“I want everything you have to give me- your fear, your love, your loyalty- I want it all,” Valentine stated simply, “Give in to me completely and you shall live.”

 

A pause in his speech created eeriness within the room before he spoke once more.

 

“But,” he added, “Deny me even an ounce of what I’ve asked and you will beg for the Mercy of a quick death.”

 

More silence followed as Valentine let his threat sink in to the minds of the people below him.

 

Amatis looked around, holding on to the single hope that these good, Christian people had enough courage to stand up to this tyrant, to stand together as they demanded that the rightful king sit once again upon the floor.

 

However, the moment did not come. Instead, Amatis watched with tearful eyes as her fellow Northumbrians feel to their knees, head bowed as a sign of respect to their new king.

 

Acting quickly, amongst the commotion of those moving to have a place to kneel, Amatis was able to make her way back against the door where she effortlessly slid though the entry way, unable to stand in that room a single moment longer.

 

She could feel her heart breaking beneath the rising and falling of her chest as the tears stung behind her eyes. It wasn’t until she was far enough away from the throne room, unable to hear Valentine’s sickening voice that she could think more clearly. She had to form a plan before it was too late. No way was she going to submit to the man who took the throne away from her brother.

 

Luke.

 

Amatis stopped mid-step as her mind rattled with all the situations her brother could be in now that Valentine had control.

 

Knowing that Valentine would never kill her brother without an audience, Amatis hoped that she would find her brother, relatively unharmed in the palace dungeons. Quickly turning on her heels, her body and mind forming as one as she finally had a destination in mind, Amatis flew through the castle, not having to think of where she was going as she knew the layout perfectly, having lived here her whole life.

 

She tried to think of her next steps once she found her brother, but the task proved to be too overwhelming, her mind just on the task of finding her brother and making sure he was okay. After all, she was the big sister and her first priority would always be the safety of her baby brother.

 

She just hoped she wasn’t too late.

 

 

~*~*~*~*~*~

 

 

Jocelyn narrowed her eyes at the young man sitting to her left who seemed content to watch her with his cold, black eyes. Even the warmth from the fire cackling behind her chair couldn’t protect her from the coldness the prince’s presence permeated. She tried to force down the shiver threatening to run up her spine as the weight of his gaze settled on her, a slight smirk on his face as if he knew that his silent stare made her feel uncomfortable.

 

Trying to appear unaffected by his gaze, Jocelyn attempted to straighten her posture in her chair, but the bonds that held her wrists to the arms of the chair prevented her from much movement, but sent licks of pain up her arms as the rope ground into her already sensitive, raw skin.

 

Feeling like an animal trapped, Jocelyn became hyper-aware of just how vulnerable she was in this moment, exposed as she was, to the prince’s unclear intent. The young man’s last words to his father echoed in her head, making her heart race just a little faster than before, her chest rising and falling with every shallow breath she took.

 

“Here obedience to me…” he had said with a chilling smile forming along his thin lips. Her stomach had immediately soured, watching as the cruel smile drew the corners of his lips up, his too white teeth glaring in the light of the fire. Her gut told her that whatever Sebastian’s intent was behind those words- it would prove to be just as cruel and evil as he was.

 

Still, Jocelyn would never intentionally show fear, especially in front of a predator like Sebastian or his father. These types of men fed on the fears of others, often using a person’s emotions to manipulate them and Jocelyn could see them for who they really were- evil.

 

Unwilling to play the helpless victim to entertain Sebastian’s perverted amusement, Jocelyn decided that she would be the first to speak, breaking the silence that had gone on for too long in her opinion. Perhaps it was a test from Sebastian, to see how far he could push her before she snapped. If it was, she would give him the win, but only on her own terms. If she could keep the conversation under her control, maybe Sebastian’s intentions would become clear.

 

“Why are you here, Sebastian?” Jocelyn asked coolly, willing her voice not to shake with the beginning feelings of unease.

 

“You invited me, my Lady,” Sebastian answered with the same temperament, but Jocelyn could her the sarcasm in his voice. She could see that he was toying with her and felt great amusement at her expense- it only made her resolve stronger as he continued his game.

 

“Your husband invited me here to compete for your daughter’s hand in marriage? Do you not remember?” he asked, faking concern, before adding with a smile, “Of course I know the past hours have been a little chaotic, so I suppose a bit of confusion is to be expected.”

 

“Do not be coy with me, Sebastian,” Jocelyn gritted as she dug her nails in the wood of her chair to keep her anger checked, “I do not take kindly to be made a fool in my own home.”

 

“And yet,” Sebastian smiled, his eyes falling to her reddening wrists beneath the tightening bonds, “You find yourself my father’s prisoner, his new favorite toy strapped to a chair at your own private table, forced to endure his presence and advances.”

 

Jocelyn attempted to cover the feeling of uneasiness that came with the memory of Valentine’s hands touching her, the way he let his fingers rove over her body as only a man should touch his wife. She forced herself to stifle the need to crawl into herself by straightening her spine and tilting her chin up a degree. She would not let Sebastian’s words manipulate her in anyway, force her to play his game. No, she was better than that- she was better than him.

 

“What goes on in my home and with your father is my business and none of your’s, young Prince,” Jocelyn stated, keeping her gaze locked with his own amused one. Jocelyn could have sworn she felt a twitch along her wrists to strike out at the young boy’s face, to see that ugly smirk fall from his face, but as the stinging of the ropes reminded her- she was truly at his mercy.

 

Sebastian quirked an eyebrow, letting the Queen’s words soak in as he studied her. He knew that the Queen was a strong woman, something he knew his Clarissa was surely to get from her mother, and so he found himself in an old, but familiar game. Like her daughter, Jocelyn had a strong heart and an iron will to match, which to some men, would prove unwavorable, but if Sebastian knew anything about these infallible characteristics, it was that they had the greatest weakness- love.

 

Satisfied with the idea forming in his head, Sebastian carefully stood from his chair, closing the distance between himself and the Queen as he rounded the table. The Queen never broke his eye contact, something that he found admirable since he was told that his own gaze could bring a grown man to his knees if he so chose.

 

When he found himself standing right up against her chair, the Queen’s head tilted up to keep her gaze on his own, he couldn’t help but to bring the very tips of his fingers to the brilliant strands of red hair along her face. They were as smooth and soft as the finest silk, the color of blood running along his fingers as he thread them through her hair.

 

“I have plans for you, mother dearest,” he said in a near whisper as he watched the strands thread through his fingers, their sleekness almost putting him in a trance. He caught himself before he made a fool of himself, bringing his eyes back to hers.

 

“My father seems to have decided to let you live,” he said, “When I would have let every one of my men fuck you before I sentenced you to hang.” Sebastian’s hand came to rest along her neck in a choking position, his thumb just resting over the top of her pulse.

 

“Such a pretty neck,” Sebastian cooed as he tightened his hold, squeezing just enough to make the Queen’s chest heave a little harder to breath in enough oxygen. Sebastian continued to smile as the Queen’s eyes began to water, her chest rapidly rising and fall as she sucked in whatever air she needed. He could feel her body jerk beneath him, her arms struggling to reach for his own, to release her neck from his cruel grasp.

 

“It’s thrilling,” Sebastian offered as his watched the Queen’s mouth open wide, struggling to gasp air, “to hold one’s life in the literal palm of your hand.” With those last words, he released the Queen’s neck from his grasp, her immediately gasping and coughing thrilling him beyond belief.

 

Jocelyn tried to control her breathing, but the hysteria of being nearly choked to death proved to be too overwhelming. She began to hyperventilate, the shock of it all making her hands tremble beneath their bonds. The cool tip of a blade to her neck was the only thing to break through the chaos, her sense of survival immediately stilling her as she gazed into the smirking eyes of her torturer.

 

“Do it,” Jocelyn croaked, her own voice sounded strange to her as she struggled to breath around the soreness of her throat. She could feel the tip of the knife dig a little deeper into her smooth skin, but didn’t let her self move- even to flinch under the spark of pain.

 

Sebastian smiled.

 

“No, not today, mother,” he said, “Remember I have plans for you.”

 

“I will not be made into one of your puppet’s, Sebastian,” Jocelyn seethed, leaning forward into the knife, “I would rather die than to do your bidding.”

 

The smile from Sebastian’s face fell as he leaned down into the Queen’s eye line, “You will play your part in my plans if you ever wish to see your daughter again, my lady.”

 

The mention of her daughter had Jocelyn freeze where she sat, her mind whirling with the worry of not knowing the fate that her daughter found herself in.

 

“Where is my daughter, Sebastian? I swear to God if you hurt her, I’ll—“ she started, but was cut off by the further advancement of Sebastian’s blade.

 

“You will do what, my Lady?” he teased, “I have all the power here, so it would be wise of you to listen to what I have to say.”

 

Jocelyn stared at the young man in front of her, an endless amount of scenarios running through her mind, but one thought stuck out from all the others.

 

“If I do what you say,” she started, knowing that their would never be any other choice, “You won’t harm my daughter.”

 

Sebastian smiled as the Queen surrendered to his control, a giddiness within him rising at taming such a formidable woman.

 

“Your daughter has proven herself to be a formidable opponent when it comes to bending her to my will,” Sebastian admitted, “But rest assured, once she is properly back in my grasp, not one hair will be harmed on her pretty, little head as long as you do as I command.”

 

“What is it that you want me to do?” Jocelyn asked, resigning herself to whatever fate Sebastian had in store for her.

 

“that’s more like it,” Sebastian smiled, as he dropped the blade of the knife from the tip of throat to the tops of her dress. “I want you to make my father very happy.”

 

Confused, Jocelyn couldn’t help but ask, “Happy?”

 

“Precisely,” Sebastian responded as he gently cut away at Jocelyn’s dress, “I want you to play the part of my father’s whore. No doubt an easy job as my father is already so smitten with you.”

 

Jocelyn had to swallow the vile rising in her throat, she couldn’t think of a worse fate than to willingly allow Valentine to defile her own body in such a cruel way. But then she saw the face of her daughter, terrified, as found herself surrounded by unfamiliar people and a husband the could rival the devil, himself.

 

Sebastian could see the turmoil along the Queen’s face and gazed down amusingly as he began to see her come to terms with his proposal.

 

“Why?” was all the response he had, letting him know that she would do it.

 

Sebastian knew exactly what the Queen was asking. He supposed that he could let her in on some of his motivations and let her make her own conclusions. The Queen was as smart as she was beautiful and so he had no doubt that she would be able to put the pieces together.

 

Sebastian busied himself with cutting away at the strings of the Queen’s dress, one by one as he spoke.

 

“Valentine is a bad father and an even worse king,” he stated, releasing her breasts inch by inch as he cut away the strands that held her dress in place. She knew that she was unable to stop him and so she tried not to think of the humiliation he was putting her through and concentrated on his words.

 

“He is incapable of leading his own people to glory, to rightfully take what is meant to be ours,” Sebasian continued, an edge of anger in his voice, “My father is incapable of thinking beyond where he will put his cock next.”

 

Sebastian smiled as his eyes took in the half exposed, rising chest of the Queen before him, “It would seem I have also done that thinking for him as well.”

 

Ignoring the prince’s crude comments, Jocelyn pushed for Sebastian to keep talking, eager to find his true motivations.

 

“You don’t strike me as a person to ask this sort of thing or anything really without it somehow benefiting you,” she said, “What is it exactly you wish to accomplish.”

 

“That’s easy,” Sebastian admitted, “I need my father distracted.”

 

“Distracted?” Jocelyn asked, still confused, “Weren’t you just saying how your father is too distracted to be a good king?”

 

Sebastian smiled, “Good to see you were listening.”

 

“Planning to steal the crown from your husband’s head was only part of my plan, my Lady,” Sebastian admitted, “This next phase is to allow me to further my own agenda and when the timing is right,” he said ripping the last of the strings with one final tug, “I’ll be ready to execute the final step.”

 

Sebastian stared at the milky, whiteness of the Queen’s chest, the roundness of her breasts coming into view as the torn fabric of her dress began to fall away. He was disappointed when her nipples remained hidden behind the fallen fabric.

 

Rising a finger to teasingly trail along her breast bone, Sebastian waited as the Queen thought about his words, apparently too caught up in her own thoughts to be worried about her modesty. A shame really, he enjoyed watching them squirm beneath his touch.

 

Sebastian began to gently reach his fingers beneath the falling cloth, eager to feel the Queen’s beautiful breast within the palm of his hand, but her slight gasp brought his eyes back to her own, his hand sliding out from the fabric and down to his side once more.

 

“You plan to kill him,” Jocelyn stated, astonished at her own words, “You would do it? Kill your own father?”

 

“My lady,” Sebastian cooed, leaning down so his eyes were right in front of her’s, his hand slithering to grasp her naked breast, “I’ll do whatever it takes to claim what is rightfully mine.”

 

Before Jocelyn could tear into him for assaulting her naked flesh, Sebastian lips found her own, ravaging her as he stole the very air from her lips. When he finally let her go, she was once again gasping for breath.

 

“You’re a monster,” Jocelyn heaved, blood forming at the tip of her lip where Sebastian had cruelly bitten into her.

 

“I am your Master and your future King,” Sebastian retorted, “It would do you wisely to stay in my good graces.”

 

“You don’t scare me, Sebastian,” Jocelyn spoke, her own smirk washing over her face.

 

“Don’t I?” Sebastian said, an amusement lingering in his eyes.

 

“No,” Jocelyn simply put it. “I see a scared, little boy who has learned to instill fear in his quest for power all because he was never given the one thing that he truly desires.”

 

Sebastian’s eyes settled on the Queen’s, all laughing and amusement gone.

 

“And what is it exactly that I crave most,” he whispered, as if the Queen held a secret he did not possess.

 

“Love.”

 

Sebastian opened his mouth to speak, but was interrupted by a knocking at the door. Sebastian allowed his eyes to linger on the Queen before he answered the knocking at the door with a sharp, “What?”

 

“It is I, Your Highness,” Sir Martin’s familiar deep voice spoke through the door, “I have an urgent issue to discuss.”

 

His eyes not having moved from the Queen’s green ones, Sebastian smiled, “Come on in, Sir Martin, I am eager to learn of the wayward princess’ unsuccessful escape attempt.”

 

Sebastian watched in satisfaction as Jocelyn’s eyes widened a fraction as they flicked to look over his shoulder towards the door, where Sir Martin and his men came into the room. A brief flicker of confusedness from the Queen had Sebastian’s smile falling from his face as he turned around to finally acknowledge Sir Martin and his men.

 

“Where is she then?” Sebastian demanded, his immediate observation telling him that Sir Martin had failed in his duty to locate the princess and return her to where she belonged- within his grasp.

 

Sir Martin straightened to his full height, his chin lifting unperceptively as he answered his King’s inquiry.

 

“My men and I conducted a thorough search for His Majesty’s betrothed, “ he began, his voice steady without a lick of a tremor, “However we uncovered a little unsettling rumor as to where the young princess may be.”

 

Sebastian lifted a single eyebrow as he crossed his arms over his lean chest, his jaw setting in a tight lock.

 

“You mean to tell me that a small, slip of a woman was able to outsmart the full might of the Mercian army,” Sebastian seethed before adding, “And instead of going after the bitch you thought I would lick your wounds for you?”

 

Sebastian closed the remaining distance between himself and Sir Martin, his cold, black eyes drilling into the senior soldiers own eyes.

 

“For your sake, General,” Sebastian whispered, “I hope the princess is dead. Because if you have simply given up on my command this easily, I’ll be forced find alternative means of use for you.”

 

“Your Majesty,” Sir Martin eased, even having years of life experience as a man and a soldier telling him that Sebastian was a very real enemy, “If the rumors are true, the princess might as well be dead.”

 

A gasp from the woman still bound to the wooden chair behind him, reminded Sebastian’s of the Queen’s presence, but he didn’t allow Sir Martin’s words or the Queen’s reaction to them stir an ounce of emotion within his own mind.

 

“Explain,” Sebastian snapped, his words like a whip against Sir Martin’s flesh, making him flinch.

 

“As you commanded, my men went into the town, looking for the princess,” Sir Martin explained, “We interrogated hundreds of the townsfolk, with little to nothing to go on as to where the princess may be hiding.”

 

“I’m growing bored,” Sebastian sneered, “I tend to act out when I’m bored, Sir Martin. Please, get to the point.”

 

With a nod, Sir Martin continued.

 

“I have sworn testimony by multiple witnesses seeing a young woman by the princess’ description being taken by a band of heathens,” Sir Martin spoke, swallowing a lump in his throat, as tension began to build within in the room.

 

“My men and I quickly made our way to the coastline,” Sir Martin offered, hoping to offset the building anger rising in the way Sebastian’s jaw was set and the rigidity of his shoulders, “By the time we made it there, the boats were gone. There was a sign of a struggle in the sand, as if a prisoner had tried to escape, but then it appeared that the person was carried back to the boat against their will.”

 

“Dear God,” the whispered words from the Queen fell across an otherwise silent room as Sebastian took in the General’s words.

 

Sebastian turned away from Sir Martin and his men, leaning down against the table on top of his knuckles, standing there as he tried to calm the raging beast within him.

 

“How quickly can we sail after them?” Sebastian asked with every fiber of his being to keept his voice tethered with calmness and strength. He could feel the ties slipping inch by inch as he waited for Sir Martin’s reply, which came after a moment’s pause.

 

“It would seem that all of our naval ships have been either heavily damaged our sunk to the bottom of the harbor, Your Majesty,” Sir Martin informed the young prince, “With the cold weather upon us, it won’t be until spring before we can make any pursuit for your betrothed.”

 

Sebastian pressed his knuckles into the table a little further, hoping the pain would help him to take better reigns against the caged beast, but it was nearly impossible now to control.

 

“I’m afraid the young princess is now in the hands of the heathens,” Sir Martin said with a sadness to his voice, “She is there’s now.”

 

Snap.

 

Sebastian struck his fists against the wooden table, sending the dishes and silverware clattering in their places, but it wasn’t enough. In a fit of strength that would send streaks of fear into all those present, Sebastian gripped the dinner table on either side of him and tossed it over to the side, sending all the plates and cups to the ground in a large crash.

 

Jocelyn sat startled at the prince’s brute strength in his anger. She watched as the young man picked up the chair in which he had been sitting earlier and through it against the wall like it was weightless. She feared her ears would burst as he raged against the barbarians taking something he thought to be solely his.

 

Her daughter. Her daughter.

 

Jocelyn closed her eyes, her heart aching to hold her daughter to her, to some how protect from whatever she was about to face. The helplessness she felt at not being able to wrap her arms around her daughter was unlike anything she had ever felt before. Devastated didn’t even cusp the turbulent emotions she was currently feeling.

 

Having broken every object he could get his hands on in the immediate vicinity, but still unable to relinquish the rage within him, Sebastian turned towards Sir Martin and his men who stood still as statues, watching as Sebastian destroyed the place.

 

Sebastian walked up to Sir Martin, the small blade that he used to harass the Queen now a real weapon of terror in his grasp.

 

“She is mine,” Sebastian seethed, his voice in a whisper, “The princess is mine.”

 

“Of course,” Sir Martin quickly agreed, feeling the tip of the knife against his Adam’s apple, “I just meant that the possibility of getting her back was slim to none.”

 

“I am the crowned Prince,” Sebastian seethed, burying the knife a little farther in the General’s throat, pulling a single bead of blood from beneath the skin. “I decide which of my toys are worth risking the odds to keep just as I decide which of them I will throw away.”

 

“Yes, Your Majesty,” the General gasped as he tried to speak without digging the knife further into his own throat.

 

“You all live and die on my will alone,” Sebastian sneered up into Sir Martin’s face, “Your but the smallest of vermin unworthy of the ground beneath my feet, but I tolerate your presence because there are times when I find your pathetic lives of use to do my bidding.”

 

Sir Martin and his men stayed silent in fear that even the slightest verbal noise might seal their fate.

 

“On your knees,” Sebastian demanded before eyeing each man on either side of Sir Martin before adding, “All of you.”

 

The swishing of their long, red capes and the jingling of their plated armor mixed in the room as each man lowered himself to his knees as their prince commanded.

 

When each man stood firmly on his knees, his head bowed in submission, Sebastian finally felt his beast calm a bit, feeling the raw power of holding these men’s lives in his grasp. Slowly, he circled them, trailing the sharpened edge of the knife around their shoulders and the very exposed areas of their necks. The thrill of knowing that each man was scared that this next feel of the cutting away at their flesh would be the last thing they ever felt sent a surge of pure joy throughout his being.

 

Coming to a stand still behind the soldier on Sir Martin’s left, Sebastian roughly took the man by the roots of his short, brown hair, tilting his face up so he could look down into his eyes before he slid his knife cleanly across his skin.

 

Sebastian watched in fascination as the man’s body began to spasm beneath his grip, his hands automatically coming to his neck to stop the bleeding, but the slice was too deep and the blood was spilling by the pint.

 

Sebastian only let go when the last of the light left the man’s eyes, forgetting about the life he had taken the instant he let go of the man’s hair within his grasp, his body slumping to the ground, his white, frozen face staring into nothing.

 

Sebastian wiped the blade of his knife on either side of Sir Martin’s steel plates along his shoulders as he made his way to the man on the right of the General. The man was young, perhaps in his early twenties with curly, blonde hair, the force in which his body was shaken clear to everyone still alive in the room. By the stench arising form his kneeling body, it was apparent that the young man had pissed himself in the horror of watching his friend die a horrible death, as well as knowing that he was next.

 

Sebastian took a fascination with the young man’s hair, running his fingers through it soothingly, his first impression of the young male telling him that he was probably a lady’s man.

 

“Such beautiful hair,” Sebastian whispered, “Perhaps I’ll take a closer look.”

 

Gasping at the tightness of the prince’s grasp on his hair, the young man immediately began screaming when Sebastian’s knife began slicing away at the man’s scalp. His body going limp against Sebastian’s as he passed out from the pain, Sebastian continued the sawing motion of his knife as he peeled away the boy’s scalp from the very bones of his skull.

 

Once he was able to free the peeled portion of scalp away from the rest of the head, Sebastian through the now dead man’s body to the side, examining the curls closer in slight amusement. He had heard of barbaric men slicing their enemies’ scalps and had ever since dreamed of his first time doing so- it did not disappoint. If anything, he was disappointed in how long the man had lasted under this particular exercise. Sebastian had wanted to hear his screaming a little longer before the pain undoubtedly took over and forced him into unconsciousness before his inevitable death.

 

“Christ,” Sir Martin breathed as he signed the Catholic symbol of a cross against his chest, “They were good, honorable, God-fearing men.”

 

 

Sebastian chuckled as he tossed the sawed scalp into the fire to his right, already thinking of the many pleasure he could fulfill to torment his next victim. He had to give this one some thought, after all, Sir Martin was no regular solider in his father’s army. No, this was a man who stood in his way one too many times when it came to being at his father’s side when it had been pivotal as a young boy.

 

Sir Martin’s torment would last a great deal longer than the men who had lost their lives within this room, their deaths had been quick, a mercy Sebastian had given them, knowing that they were only serving under their commanders orders. However, Sir Martin was under the direct command of Sebastian and his father earning him a greater sense of responsibility to the crown and consequently an even greater punishment should he fail.

 

Which he had.

 

“Where was their God when I held their very lives against the blade of my knife, Sir Martin?” Sebastian conversationally as he came to stand once more in front of the general. “Your God has turned back on the people of Northumbria and so I have declared myself your new god.”

 

“That’s blasphemy!” Sir Martin whispered, outraged, “How dare you—“

 

“How dare I what, Sir Martin?” Sebastian interjected, once again holding the knife up to Sir Martin’s throat. Sebastian watched as the general automatically swallowed against the knife digging blade, a reaction that was undoubtedly as painful as the pressure he was now putting against the general’s throat.

 

“Just do it,” the general spoke, his voice hoarse as Sebastian crushed it beneath his blade, “Just kill me.”

 

“Oh no, Sir Martin,” Sebastian cooed, “I’m not ready to let you out of my service quite yet.”

 

“I have nothing left to give you,” Sir Martin spat, “I’d rather die a thousand deaths than carry out another command from such a demented spirit as you.”

 

“You flatter me, Sir Martin,” Sebastian smiled, “However, you and I had a deal. You were to bring me the princess in exchange for your life and freedom. So for now, I will just be content to be your worst nightmare.”

 

Sebastian took a theatrical look around the immediate area before continuing.

 

“It would seem that I am missing my betrothed,” Sebastian pointed out, “And therefor I must take you instead.”

 

Sir Martin’s widened in unchecked fear.

 

“Please, sir,” Sir Martin trembled, “Your father would never allow—“

 

“My father doesn’t command me,” Sebastian spat, “And as such, he will not miss your absence as he will be too busy with other more immoral activities.”

 

Sir Martin’s eyes crossed over the Queen’s form, who had remained silent this whole time, content to just be a fly on the wall, not wanting the young Prince’s wrath focused soley on her.

 

Sebastian looked over at the still form of the queen and smiled.

 

“Yes,” he said, turning once again back to Sir Martin, “My father has found himself something to occupy his time.”

 

Sebastian lowered himself down on his hunches, staring eye to eye with Sir Martin, “It would seem that in the absence of the princess, I have found something else to occupy my time in her absence until she is once again returned to me.”

 

“Have mercy,” Sir Martin choked out as Sebastian called forth the guards that stood at the door.

 

“If you would be so kind as to help me escort Sir Martin down to the dungeons,” he said, standing once again to his full height, “I want to personally see to his comfort as we will be spending a lot of time together down there in the near future.”

 

Nodding to acknowledge the command of their prince, the guards grabbed Sir Martin by the upper arms and dragged him away, the shouts of the older man calling for mercy ringing hollow in Sebastian’s ears as he followed them out of the room.

 

When the doors were fully closed and the wails of Sir Martin were finally gone, Jocelyn let out a shaky breath before the sobs over took her. She let the tears fall as she thought of the past twelve hours. She yearned to feel the reassuring brand of her husband’s strong arms around her, his calming voice telling him that everything would be okay- that he would see to it that their daughter was returned to them safely and unharmed.

 

But that thought just magnified the worry and the ache that came with the unknown. She didn’t even know if Luke was still alive. Could she take Valentine’s and his son’s word for it? She doubted it. And now that Clary couldn’t be found and was probably suffering at the hands of the Vikings had Jocelyn crying out to God- urging Him to listen.

 

“God of my fathers,” she cried out, the tears in her voice nearly making her words unintelligible, “I beg You, please protect my daughter. I will do anything You command, sacrifice anything You ask of me. Please.”

 

Jocelyn wept.

 

In a final whisper of anguish, Jocelyn pleaded one last time, “Bring her back to me.”

 

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*

 

 

It had been years since Amatis had stepped foot into the cold, dark recesses of the palace dungeons, the air caressing her skin like an old friend as she wondered down the familiar rocky paths with nothing but a dull lit torch to light her way. The air still smelled of copper from the iron bars as she remembered, the air thick with moisture from being so far beneath the suns crust where the sun would shine.

 

Even as a small child, Amatis took a fascination with the old tunnels, soaking up even the craziest of stories of men losing their way in their escape from her father’s justice to never be seen again alive. It was thought that maybe one of the tunnels would lead to the water where a prisoner could seek asylum on a passing ship, but not one story was told of such a thing.

 

Once, at only ten years old, Amatis had taken it upon herself to find such a tunnel, claiming that she alone had studied enough of the tunnels in brief glimpses that she was certain she could find her way. Within an hour of her quest, the tunnels began to all look alike and the lantern she had brought with her was beginning to run low on oil.

 

She had been crying out for help, desperate to find her way back to the castle, when she felt a familiar hand wrap around her hand. Startling her at first, Amatis had thrashed against her assailant, thinking it was a ghost that haunted the very halls, searching for lost souls to devour. But when she turned and got a good look, it wasn’t the face of a stranger, but one of her eight year old brother’s best friend- Alaric.

 

He had been looking for her and took a chance that she might be down in the tunnels as he had found her many times before- against her parents’ wishes of course. He had been searching for fifteen minutes, venturing as far out as he had known her to go before and was about to turn back towards the castle when he heard her screams. Fearing the worse he ran deep within the hallowed halls, searching for her, hearing her screams, feeling as though each one was a slice to his gut. But when he found her, terrified, but unharmed, he had wanted nothing more than to hold onto her- to never let her go.

 

From then on, they had been inseparable- Amatis and Alaric. Amatis never went into the dungeons alone again, only allowing Alaric to accompany her in such cases, but as they grew older and with age, more responsibilities, there time in the mysterious halls was left to the darkness.

 

Until now.

 

Gripping the torch in her hand a little tighter, Amatis forced one foot in front of the other as she peered in to the darkness, the light only being cast a mere five to six feet in front of her. She could feel the nervousness begin to creep along her skin, sending shivers down her spine, but she managed to keep a steady pace, her mind reminding her that she had but one goal- to find her brother.

 

She found herself wishing that Alaric was with her, to hear his soothing words that all would be okay. He always knew how to steady her nerves- he was the only one that ever good. It was a most welcoming and warming ability that had endeared him to her heart.

 

With each empty crypt, Amatis began to feel her heart pound a little harder beneath her chest. Through the torch’s dim light, she could see her breath as it passed through her lips, the chill in the air turning it into a thin fog. She felt ten years old once more as she ventured further and further into the darkness, searching for her brother. She didn’t dare turn around in fear that she may realize she was indeed as lost as she had been all those years ago.

 

“Luke?” Amatis whispered, the trepidation in her voice only allowing her a soft whisper to part between her lips.

 

Silence.

 

“Luke,” she whispered again only a little louder, the ache in her chest to see that her brother was alive a little more powerful than the very real fear of him being or hurt of worse…dead…allowing her to speak up.

 

A shifting noise behind her had her halting in mid step, her breath catching in her throat as the hair on the back of her neck stood on end. She listened in the quietness, trying to detect where the noise came from.

 

She slowly turned her body around, to gaze in to the darkness behind her, but saw nothing but the dirt path she had come through. She made to turn back around, worrying that her mind was playing tricks on her when she heard something else. Only this time, it wasn’t just a rustling noise, but that of a dull whisper.

 

“Amatis?”

 

Heart leaping in her chest, Amatis took a few stumbling step forward the torch swing left and right hoping to catch a glimpse of her brother’s face between one of the many iron bars between the doors.

 

“Luke?” she called out, “Talk to me. Let me hear your voice.”

 

Silence.

 

“If you’re even really there…” Amatis uttered as the silenced stretched on.

 

“Amatis,” the voice said again, “Is that you?”

 

Picking up on some movement to her right, Amatis let her feet carry her the rest of the way, the light from the torch illuminating the darkness just beyond the iron bars.

 

“Luke,” she gasped, a bit of relief in the sighting of her brother alive, but real terror in her voice at the site of her brother’s beaten and slouched body.

 

“Its me, Amatis,” she said, trying to force the tears from her voice, “I’ve come to help you escape.”

 

“You shouldn’t be here,” Luke said, a brokenness in his voice that had her heart aching in her chest. “I can’t keep you safe. I can’t keep any body safe.”

 

“Shh, don’t talk of such things, brother,” Amatis consoled as she set the torch in the holder just to the right of the door, “I need you to pick yourself up and be ready to run once I’ve set you free.”

 

“I’m not going anywhere,” Luke said solemnly, “I deserve to rot down here.”

 

“Lucian Garroway,” Amatis snapped, “That’ll be enough of that unless you are resigned to this fate, in which case, you should let me know so I can return to you with a shovel to beat over your stupid head.”

 

Slowly rolling his head to finally look upon his sister and rescuer, Luke’s eyes held a deep sadness in him that nearly had Amatis in tears.

 

“How can you expect me to want to leave when I couldn’t even provide safe passage for my own family in this nightmare,” Luke asked, a single tear falling from his right eyes. “I have failed- not only as a king- but as a husband and a father.”

 

“Luke,” Amatis pleaded, her hands gripping the bars in front of her, the coldness in them bringing her mind to a sharp focus amongst her swirling emotions, “Look at me.”

 

When she finally saw the blues of her brother’s eyes looking back at her, she forced the words from her mouth.

 

“What happened last night was not your fault,” she said, quick to give her younger brother a look when he went to argue. “What is done is done- for now we must fight for our very freedom- our very lives. If we give up now, the battle is truly lost.”

 

“You’re telling me that I need to have hope?” Luke asked wearily, a little sarcasm in his tone, “After everything that has happened in the last twelve hours?”

 

“That is precisely what I’m asking you to do, Lucian,” Amatis said sternly, “If not for yourself, but for your family. They need you Lucian.” She waited a minute for the words to sink in before adding, “I need you.”

 

Luke looked at her once more, a sadness once more in his eyes, “What am I supposed to do? I’m no longer the king, my wife has been taken from me and God knows where Clary is. How in the world do I come back from that?”

 

Amatis’ eyes slipped to the floor, “I don’t know.”

 

“So, it just better that you let me rot here,” Luke said, crawling further into himself, “I don’t deserve to live.”

 

“I didn’t say that!” Amatis snapped, “And I won’t have you talking like that. Its true that I don’t know what will happen next. My first priority was finding you because you’re my brother and the one true king. What comes after we will face together.”

 

“How can you say such things?” Lucian asked, “I’m not worthy of the faith you have in me.”

 

“It is faith, dear brother, that will guide us through what comes next,” Amatis whispered, “I have to believe in that- if nothing else.”

 

“Now,” Amatis asked, a little lightness in her tone, “Are you ready to stand up and fight or would you rather sit there and feel sorry for yourself?”

 

A moment of silence between them ensued, one in which Amatis was holding her breath, praying to God that the fire she had witnessed so many times in her brother was still there.

 

She was about to resort to pleading him, when she saw him begin to stir, slowly pushing himself up the wall into a standing position. He had to hold onto the stonewall for a moment to balance himself, but once he was steady, he walked a slow pace to the iron bars that separated them.

 

He stood a couple of inches taller than she, so she had to careen her neck to look up at him, but when she did she couldn’t have explained the relief in her heart or its explosiveness.

 

“You said something about an escape?” her brother asked, a lightness in his tone that made her heart leap with joy.

 

“That’s the spirit!” she smiled as she dug in her dress pocket. Sure it was uncommon for women to have pockets sewn in their gowns, but Amatis found them to be quite useful.

 

Digging around, she finally found the chain of keys she had swiped from the lone jailer at the dungeons door. She jangled the keys in front of her brother with a bright smile as he shook his head with his own small, but still there, smile.

 

“How exactly did you manage to get passed the guard and still his keys?” Luke asked amusingly as he watched Amatis toy with the different keys, searching for the right one. She had a knack for putting different puzzles together and this one, finding a certain key to a lock, was one of her favorites, especially when they were younger trying to get into places they weren’t allowed in.

 

Not taking her eyes off the keys in her hands, Amatis smiled, “I may be older, Lucian, but I am not without my secrets.” She looked up at him quickly, giving him a quick wink, “Now be quiet, my eyes aren’t what they used to be and its already difficult concentrating with these shaky hands.”

 

A silence passed over them for a moment before Luke spoke, his tone falling heaving against the lighter turn of their conversation.

 

“My family—“ he began, but Amatis looked up at him, the sadness in her eyes stopping him in mid-sentence.

 

“One rescue at a time, brother,” she whispered, threading her hand between the bars to cup his cheeks. His face was cold to her touch, but she held on for the life of her. In this moment, this man in front of her wasn’t her king, but her baby brother, his eyes searching even for the briefest of comforts.

 

Luke gave her a slight smile, leaning against her hand as he had done when he was a very small child.

 

“I’ve never told you this,” he stated as he gazed at her through the bars, “But as we’ve gotten older, you remind me more and more of our mother.”

 

“I miss her too,” Amatis whispered as she tried to hold the tears back. “Now,” she said, pulling her hand slowly back from the bars, “Its best we get to it then before we are caught.”

 

Amatis quickly went back to searching the keys, missing the slight flick of her brother’s eyes just over her shoulder.

 

“Amatis,” Luke whispered.

 

“I’ve got it!” Amatis cheered, putting the key into the lock with a triumphant grin.

 

“Amatis, wait,” Luke warned, but Amatis wasn’t listening the very real joy clouding her mind at being able to finally set her brother free.

 

She turned the key in the lock, but before she could open the gate, a thick arm came over her shoulder and barricaded itself against the door crowding Amatis’ smaller body between the gate and a broad shoulder chest. The jarring of the door sent the key falling in a jangled heap to the ground, where Amatis stared at it for a while.

 

“Get off of me,” Amatis seethed, “Who the bloody hell are you?”

 

“Amatis,” a male voice said making her blood freeze in her veins; she heard a white noise not so far into the distance, her heart pounding like a wild drum all over again.

 

“Alaric,” Luke’s voice spoke, dripping with a coldness that had Amatis’ eyes flashing up into her brother’s cool, blue eyes. Never had she’d seen him looking at his best friend like that, as if in contempt.

 

Amatis opened her mouth to speak, but no words came out. Her mind was a whirlwind of thought as her body instantly recognized the familiar shape of her brother’s best friend, but her instincts told her that his actions would not be as welcome.

 

“Alaric?” Amatis finally managed, turning her head as much as she could to gaze at him over her shoulder, hoping to see what it was that was stopping her from freeing her brother.

 

Silence.

 

“I don’t think this is the same Alaric that you and I know, Amatis,” her brother’s solemn words broke through her spell as she looked into the cold eyes of one of her dearest friends.

 

“Alaric?” she asked again, almost pleading for him to prove her brother wrong. Then she remembered the words of Valentine, asking for loyalty in exchange for lives and she nearly choked on the memory.

 

“You didn’t.”

 

Finally, Alaric’s eyes came to rest on her own and she briefly told herself that she saw something in those once familiar eyes, but when they light disappeared, she told herself it was just wishful thinking.

 

“You shouldn’t be down here, Amatis,” he said in a cool tone, “If the King caught you down here trying to free the prisoner, he’d mark you a traitor and have you killed.”

 

“Oh my god,” Amatis breathed, “You swore an oath to Valentine.”

 

Tears welled in her eyes as she realized she had lost yet another person who she held most dear to her. Was it not enough for God to have taken Young Lucy and Jonah, now he had to take Alaric too? Sure, he wasn’t dead, but wasn’t disloyalty just as bad, if not worse.

“Amatis,” Alaric started, but was cut off by Amatis.

 

“Don’t,” she spat, the emotion in her voice almost choking her. “Unless the words out of your mouth are that this is all some sort of sick joke, I don’t want to hear a single word from you.”

 

She tried to push him away, but Alaric stayed right where he was, but his hand that had been resting over her shoulder and on the door migrated to her upper arm, gripping her arm in a strong embrace. She knew it wouldn’t bruise, but the weight of the grip was just as crushing in this moment.

 

“Well now, what do we have here?” a third male voice spoke amongst them, the three once best friends stilling in the growing darkness.

 

Valentine.

 

“I came to check on the prisoner when I found his sister trying to free him, my Lord,” Alaric said, bringing Amatis around to his front so they both faced Valentine.

 

“Was she now?” Valentine asked as he stepped closer, his armed guards never more than a couple of paces away from their King. “How very unfortunate for you, my lady.”

 

Amatis could feel the slight twitch of Alaric’s grip on her upper arms, but pushed the feeling down of her ache to shake him out of whatever haze he was in and set her eyes on Valentine.

 

“Do whatever you must,” she spat in Valentine’s face, “I will never bow to any other king but my brother. He is the true king of Northumbria.”

 

“Not afraid to die, are we?” Valentine asked amusingly, “My dear that either makes you brave or incredibly foolish.”

 

“I would sooner die a fool than a coward,” Amatis spoke, the steel in her voice surprising even her, but she stood her ground.

 

“Lucian it would appear that the women in your life seem to have more spine than you,” Valentine scoffed, not taking his eyes off the woman in front of him, pulling at her captor to let her loose.

 

Luke remained silent, watching Valentine from the other side of the bars. He would not raise to the bait, giving Valentine an excuse to hurt himself, or worse, his sister in any way.

 

No. Luke knew that if he let Valentine talk, perhaps they could all learn something.

 

When Luke didn’t take the bait, Valentine once again turned towards the feisty, young woman in Alaric’s arms.

 

“And whatever shall we do with this brave soul, hmmm?” he teased, stopping to pose in a dramatic thinking stance. “I certainly can’t have your treacherous acts go unpunished.”

 

“My Lord,” Alaric spoke up, “I’ve known this woman my entire life. Please, let me have some time to get her to come to our side.” Luke pulled her closer to his chest, much to Amatis’ chagrin.

 

“She is a prideful woman, but I can get her to come around,” he added, stilling Amatis’ movement with a single twist of her wrist behind his back.

 

“You have feelings for this woman, Alaric?” valentine asked curiously, his words stilling the movements of both Alaric and Amatis.

 

Amatis swore she could hear Alaric’s breathing quicken before it slowed once more.

 

“There was a time I thought so, Your Highness,” he said, not an ounce of emotion in his tone, “But I am afraid that we both have grown apart.”

 

Amatis felt his words stab her directly in the chest as all the air was pulled from her lungs. It was a miracle that she was able to still stand on her two feet.

 

“That’s quite a shame,” Valentine said, almost sympathetically, “I know what it feels like to not be able to be with the one you love.”

 

“Still,” Valentine added, “Her crime cannot go unpunished, but she will not die.”

 

“You are most gracious, my Lord,” Alaric said, making Amatis’ heart hurt even more.

 

“Twenty lashes,” Valentine said, “She will be whipped in public for all to see what befalls traitors under my rule.”

 

“But sir—“

 

“No, please!”

 

Both Alaric and Luke’s words surprised Valentine who took an interest in their outbursts.

 

“Valentine,” Luke said first, a plead in his voice, “Focus your anger on me, not my sister. I will take her lashings.”

 

Valentine’s eyes fell on the man just behind the bars, a smug, satisfied smile forming on his face.

 

“As much as it would thrill be to flog you to death, Lucian,” he began, “I made your wife a promise. I am to keep you alive as long as she cooperates with my every demand.”

 

Luke’s hands gripped the bars in front of him so tightly that his knuckles began to turn white.

 

“Stay away from my wife,” he spoke in a dangerous whisper, “Or I will kill you myself.”

 

“Hardly a threat, Lucian, when you are under lock and key,” Valentine laughed as he bent down to retrieve the very keys that meant to free him from his prison.

 

“Now,” Valentine said, turning towards Amatis and Alaric. “Alaric, it pains me to here you object to my ruling so early after you gave me your sworn loyalty.”

 

“I’m sorry, my Lord,” Alaric murmured, “It won’t happen again. They heart doesn’t quickly forget what the mind needs it to.”

 

“That it doesn’t,” Valentine said, patting Alaric on the shoulder as if they were best of friends. Perhaps they were now, Amatis thought, bonding over their mutual betraying of the rightful king of Northumbria.

 

“I still stand by my decision,” Valentine spoke, “The woman will receive twenty lashes before the week’s end. Her crime against the crown will be dealt with publicly for all to see. You may escort the criminal to her prison cell.”

 

“Yes, your Majesty,” Alaric spoke gruffly, pushing Amatis roughly in front of him.

 

They walked for no less than a minute before Amatis felt Alaric shove her into a dark and cold space, hearing the heavy shut of the iron door behind her. She slowly turned around hearing the deciding click of the lock between them like an anvil coming down.

 

“You once rescued me from the demons that plague these walls,” Amatis said, wrapping her arms around her middle as she looked back at Alaric through the bars, “And now you are one of them.”

 

“Truly, Amatis,” Alaric said, a slight tremor in his voice, “This hurts me more than it does you.”

 

If Amatis could have found it in herself to scoff at his words, to throw a quick barb at him, she would have. But the truth was she was tired, bone tired and so she just looked at him.

 

“I can’t believe I allowed my self to fall for a traitor,” she whispered, feeling a single tear fall from her eyes.

 

Alaric’s eyes fell from her’s at that condemning word.

 

“Sometimes life forces us to become our worst nightmare, Amatis,” he said softly looking at her one more time before adding, “I’m sorry.”

 

Amatis watched him walk away from the door, moments passing before she ran to the door to look through the bars, her heart aching to see his figure one last time. But he was gone, nothing but the vast darkness around her.

 

Amatis turned her back on the door, sliding to the ground with her hands wrapped around herself, letting the tears freely.

 

“I am sorry too.”

 

 

 

~*~*~*~*~*

 

 

 

It wasn’t the heat of the rising sun that had Clary stirring from her fitful rest, but the sounds of seagulls calling up ahead. Her limited knowledge of the sailing told her that where there were birds- land would surely be near.

 

The thought of finally getting off this boat and onto secure land after the long voyage had her head lifting slowly, her eyes hesitant to open against the harsh light of the morning sun.

 

When her eyes adjusted to the light, she took in a gasp. In the near distance, she could see the outline of a shore, wooden walkways running along the shore as people walked up and down them along the water’s edge.

 

They were here- the land of the Vikings.

 

Clary’s nerves began to churn in her stomach, causing her heart to be a little faster and her breathing to come a bit shallower.

 

The sound of footfalls that stopped right next to her had a peculiar affect on her growing anxiety, a slight calmness washing over her which gave her a bit of trepidation as to why.

 

She knew whom it was that stood beside her without having to look up into that angelic face, his hair undoubtedly blazing like a halo around his head.

 

How infuriating.

 

“I’m glad to see you’ve decided to wake up as we port, Red,” the Viking known as Jace smiled as he look out over the sea towards his home, “Soon you will feel the hardened ground of Viking land beneath your feet.”

 

Clary finally took her eyes away from the approaching shore to look up into the face of the man that cause so many confusing and contradicting emotions within her. Shoving all of those feelings down, she asked but one question.

 

“And then what?”

 

Jace breathed a sigh. “I don’t know,” he answered honestly, his eyes searching the coastline as if he too were looking for what came next. It struck her that her kidnapping wasn’t at all planned and therefor, her captor was just as perplexed by her presence as she was.

 

“All I know is,” Jace spoke, pulling Clary’s mind from her thoughts and back to his voice, “I did as the gods asked me and now it is up to them what happens next.”

 

Clary once again faced towards her impending fate as the shoreline drew closer, the beginning seeds of anxiousness brewing within her once more that even Jace’s presence couldn’t seem to temper.

 

Clary had never before ventured outside the walls of her city, her mother and father claiming that the world was a much too dangerous place for a young, unmarried woman to travel alone, let alone a princess. However, she had heard tales of distance lands from travelers who could often be found in her city’s market, eager to tell their tales of lands far way to any who would listen.

 

Clary was all to eager. She loved to listen to their stories, each teller having his own unique experiences. However, none of the travelers had ever spoken about Viking territory before. It was often thought that anyone the Vikings took back to their lands was never heard from again.

 

This land was completely new to her as were the people and there customs. Clary briefly wondered if the gods had asked Jace to bring her here, but the absurdity of this thought was almost laughable. But if it were true, Clary had to ask- what was it about her that had a heathen god wanting a young, Christian girl on their land?

Chapter Text

Chapter 16

  

 

Leaning against the ship’s main sail post, Clary closed her eyes tightly, hoping to block out all the noise along the deck. She shifted uncomfortably against the wooden poll, its splinters digging painfully into her back. On more than one occasion she had to bite back the urge to cry out as the ship’s buoyant nature thrusted her against the jagged plank to her back.

 

Eager to think of anything but the difficult position she was in, both physically and metaphorically, Clary again concentrated on blocking out everything around her. She chose to focus her senses on the way the water moved against the boat’s siding. She allowed the gentle rocking motion to sooth her as the ship propelled through the water. Clary didn’t know how long the rhythmic timing of the waves had distracted her, but she had counted everyone for a very long time. It was the only way she could keep her mind busy from falling apart.

 

A shift in the pattern of the waves had Clary’s brow creasing in confusion as she rummaged through her memory as to why the water might begin to change its patterns. The reality hit as soon as she heard some of the ship’s crew call out- they were approaching land.

 

Clary kept her eyes closed, pleading with God one last time to wake her from this nightmare, to see her father looking down on her with love from above as her mother gently aroused her from sleep by gently stroking the sweat soaked hair from her face. She could almost feel her mother’s warm hand along her, trailing down her cheek as she slowly awakened from this bad dream.

 

However, the dream never ended. She was still sitting on the cold, wet surface of the ship’s main deck as her teeth began to chatter from the unforgiving spray of the ocean mist. A single tear had fallen down her cheek in the exact place her mother had lazily drawn a line down her face. In that moment, Clary promised herself that it was the only tear that she would allow her captors to steal from her.

 

It had been days since she had been cruelly ripped from everything she had ever known and forced to leave her family behind as she sailed away on the Devil’s vessel. She had tried to keep track of the days, but the hot, sunny days played tricks on her mind and the endless waters made any hope of finding land a distant dream. The nights were a small reprieve from the unforgiving heat of the day, but they came with their own challenges.

 

Twice their vessels had sailed, unknowingly, into the heart of a storm and twice Clary begged God for a quick death. The fear of being thrown overboard by the shear power of the waves assault against the ships siding nearly had her crying out in fear.

Twice she watched through soaked strands of hair as the ship’s crewmen worked like a well-oiled machine to keep their vessel afloat. Her captors were remarkable sailors she had to admit. Each one, it seemed, had a job that he knew very well. It was actually quite astonishing to watch if the fear of drowning wasn’t nearly choking the life out of her at the time.

 

The stormy waters had opened their bowels and swallowed five out of the nine Viking ships, each carrying its own crew and merchandise from their raid. Clary thought this news might bring a smile to her face, knowing her captors were paying the ultimate price for their evil. However, the loss of human life would never bring her happiness, no matter who they were or their transgressions and so she knew that she would have to get her revenge another way.

 

Days afterwards, the crewmen kept mentioning a man named Thor, who had supposedly sent them directly into the storm. Clary didn’t know who this Thor was or how he could harness the winds and command the Heavens, but Clary sent up a prayer to God to sooth Thor’s heart and allow them safe passage to dry land.

 

Clary’s mind began to exchange the sound of rumbling thunder with the sound of heavy footfalls as activity on the boat began to pick up. Orders were being shouted from bow to stern as men and women took their places in preparation for porting. She could hear Jace in the background telling his men to take the cargo to a place he referred to as “The Great Hall.” Was this where she would be taken too? Would Jace be there?

 

Subconsciously, Clary curled into herself as she asked herself why Jace’s whereabouts after they landed was of any concern of her’s. He was the one who had forcibly taken her from her home, from the ones she loved. She should hate him, beg God to put any amount of distance between them, but instead she began to feel a tight ball of apprehension begin to grow in the pit of her stomach at the thought that she might be separated from him.

 

She barely knew him and from the small amount of time they had spent together, she would have no problem telling him straight to his face that she thought he was a egotistical narcissist. Maybe the fact that he had saved her from a cruel fate at the hands of his men back at the castle had somehow labeled him safe in her mind and her subconscious was damned if it was going to relinquish any amount of safety in this new world.

 

Another cool spray of the sea washed over the side of the boat causing Clary’s teeth to chatter. She tried her best to pull the damp, heavy blanket she had been given a couple of days ago over her shoulders, but her wrists had been bound together in an intricate knot. In truth, it was a very impressive sailors knot that any other time Clary would have been interested in learning how to tie herself, but looking at it now only reminded her of how helpless she was.

 

Her feet had been similarly bound, but the ropes had been cut away moments earlier by a very beautiful woman with raven black hair braided along her scalp. The woman had smiled at Clary and the edges of Clary’s mind had pricked with the notion that she had seen this woman before. But before she could ask her if they had met, the woman had stood on her feet.

 

“Every warrior deserves to walk on her own two legs,” the beautiful woman said, sliding the hand sized knife into her weapon’s belt, “no matter the outcome of the battle.”

 

She was grateful for this single act restored a shred of her dignity these people had taken from her. She was not impressed with the way she had been manhandled ever since she had been taken prisoner. She supposed that prisoners of war were never treated kindly and she should not expect any different from godless men.

 

Clary’s ears began to pick up distant chatter as the ship waded through the quiet waters of the harbor. As they closed the distance to the shore, she could hear the distinction of voices- some shouting to the crew to throw anchor and secure the ropes, while others welcomed the warriors home.

 

They were here.

 

Clary begged silently for time to slow as she gathered her thoughts as to what lied for her on the other side of the ship’s siding. She focused on her breathing, letting the cool, crisp ocean air fill her lungs as she breathed in, careful to not let go of it too fast one she exhaled. If she could just be allowed a few more minutes…

 

Two large, beefy hands clamped painfully on either side of her shoulders and yanked her to her own to feet so suddenly that she immediately felt nauseous and almost spilled the meager contents in her stomach. It was the first time she had moved from that small, wooden plank she had made her home for the past couple of days. Her legs felt wobbly underneath her and it took everything she had not to fall face first at the man’s feet.

 

“For Odin’s sake,” the brute muttered, before lifting her up with the same ease as before and settling her roughly on his broad shoulder, “You better find your legs or you’ll be tossed right back in the water.”

 

Clary opened her mouth to demand he release her as she climbed out of the boat with her firmly held captive across his back, when he dropped her so suddenly that the air was once again knocked from her lungs.

 

“Walk,” he demanded, pointing in the direction of the sandy shore to her left. She followed the direction of his pointed finger and steadied the land around her. She could see different sized structures with what appeared to be dirt roads between that symbolized some sort of intellectual layout of the village and Clary would be lying if she said she wasn’t impressed.

 

At the insistence of the impatient nudge from her captor, Clary began to walk along the wooden planks making up the ship’s slip. She tried to appear unfazed as head began to swivel in her direction and eyes locked onto her. She could hear their whispers about the “girl with hair life fire” and briefly wondered how many people they watched being marched forcibly down this pier as captives. She realized, by the general lack of surprise that it was not uncommon for these people to see humans herded like cattle after a successful raid.

 

What kind of people allowed for such a injustice to occur? Perhaps these people did not view her as a person, but something to own- a slave. Clary felt the blood rush from her face and she could no longer meet their gazes with her own. Would she be forced to serve at the mercy of these people?

 

Clary wasn’t naïve enough to believe that a young woman such as herself would have any chance of slipping unnoticed among the other slaves. She knew that she was not unattractive and that insight and its consequences had her heart pounding in her chest.

 

With her knees threatening to buckle underneath her, Clary gingerly stepped onto the sandy shore of the coastline. She made to keep walking ahead of her, not sure if she could stand another “impatient nudge” from her escort when she was surprised by his hand coming to clamp on her bound wrists. Without a word, he pulled her around him until she was partially leaning against a post in the sand directly in front of him.

 

“Move from this spot and I will feed you to my dogs,” he muttered dangerously as he stared down at her. He was well over a foot and a half taller than she was making him appear gargantuan. She could feel her body subconsciously leaning away from him, but he stood his ground, obviously waiting for her verbal obedience.

 

Unable to make a single syllable fall from her lips, Clary just settled for a quick nod of her head in acknowledgment. Seemingly satisfied with her response, she watched as the man straightened up to his full height and walked away, leaving her alone once again. She could run for it, sure, but where would she go? She had no idea where she was or if there were any other people who lived on this land who would protect and help her. Besides, running while her wrists were tied was something that she didn’t enjoy doing. It had slowed her down the last time she had tried to escape.

 

Content to just sit there for a moment, Clary took in the organized chaos around her. Men, women and children both dressed in battle gear and civilian clothing walked to and from the shore along the same wooden planks and four other’s along the shore as they unloaded the ships docked in the harbor. She recognized many of the pieces brought to shore as valuables that had once belonged to her people. However, it wasn’t the inanimate objects that stole the breath from her lungs, but the line of people being pulled by a single rope down the pier.

 

She recognized the clothing the people were wearing and realized that they too had been taken from her home and were now at the mercy of their captors. She looked at each individual face and realized that they too were just as scared as she was. Some hung their heads low on their shoulders and didn’t make eye contact with the locals surrounding them while other looked around nervously at their new environment, weary of the people who stared back at them.

 

She watched helplessly as the guards liberally used their sharpened weapons to prod and poke their captives, like a farmer might direct cattle along a path. She could hear their cries of pain as a blade cut through the skin and it nearly send Clary to her knees.

 

“Oh Lord,” she whispered, feeling her eyes well up with frustrated tears, “What have we done to deserve such a punishment. Do you not hear Your people crying out to you?”

 

Nothing. No answer from a God she was told would ever forsake her. Amatis had always told her that the Hand of God is in every path we take, but in this moment, Clary couldn’t possibly find God’s Will in any of this.

 

Clary hastily used her bound wrists to dry her eyes as best as she could, not wanting to appear weak when she needed to be strong for her people. She may be a nobody in this strange land, but to her people, she was still the princess and they would look to her for leadership.

 

Straightening her back, Clary used the tip of her sleeves to wipe away the small traces of tears pooling at the corner of her eyes. Deciding to use her time alone to formulate a plan, she was easily distracted when the sound of children’s laughter had her ears picking up at the angelic sound.

 

Clary found herself drawn to the beautiful melody of the laughter, feeling an invisible tug around her middle as she swung around to search for the source of the laughter. When her eyes met two beautiful, young children running down the embankment, their smiles as wide as their faces, she couldn’t help but to smile too.

 

The oldest was a young boy about seven years old with curly, brown hiar. His arms and legs looked to be too long for his torso, but Clary saw that he would grow to be a very handsome, young man. The smaller child was definitely a girl by the look of her long, golden hair flowing in the breeze as she trailed after her brother. She laughed as her little legs struggled to keep up with him, but she never wavered in her efforts to keep with his stride.

 

She watched as the two children ran into the arms of a man whose face she could not see, but she heard his own cry of happiness as he accepted them with a loving embrace, kissing them on the tops of their heads as he held them in his arms. She watched as an elderly woman who had trailed closely to the younger children and who also held a third child on her left hip joined the little family. It was unclear from the distance if the young child was a boy or girl, but what was clear was the affection the father showed the young sibling as he cradled it’s head in his massive hands.

 

Clary found herself feeling awestruck as she watched those same hands gently caress the baby’s cheek. She wondered how many lives had been taken with those same hands. How many of her people had died and now those same hands were being used for something as so beautiful as a touch between a man and his child. It was something that Clary thought she would never be able to understand.

 

As if feeling her eyes on him, the man turned and seeing his familiar eyes made Clary’s heart stop beating in her chest. It was the same man who had, moments ago, threatened to feed her to his dogs should she disobey him. This same man who had treated her so callously, was every bit the affectionate father.

 

Clary pulled her eyes away from the scene, her mind dizzy with thoughts as they swirled around. Before, these people had been faceless monsters, godless men. Now, seeing the joy, laughter and love that greeted them as they returned home, Clary began to see that maybe there was more to these people than just death and destruction. Perhaps, they were more like her own kind than she was willing to admit.

 

Buried in her own thoughts, joyous shouting echoed through her mind and she slowly came out of the darkness of her own thoughts when she recognized the name being called out among the people gathered along the docks.

 

Jace.

 

Clary felt her heart hammering in her chest as her eyes searched for the golden haired boy, his curls wrapping around his head like an angelic halo. She knew this to be a delusion for this boy was nothing but a scoundrel, an egotistical maniac as she had proclaimed so many times before.

 

However, she could not deny the odd fluttering of her stomach when her eyes finally found him amongst the crowd. She did not want to examine how easily it was for her to pick his form out of such a large crowd, but here she was, her eyes glued to his backside, not a single thought to look away crossing her mind.

 

She wanted to be angry with him, curse his name for stealing her away from everything she ever knew, but she sat and she watched as these people embraced him as if he were a god. Perhaps he was to them.

 

She watched the visitors pull him into tight embraces, shouting his name as they slapped his back in celebration. It was a true homecoming and he was eating it all back if they way his shoulders bounced in laughter said anything about it.

 

Clary took a minute to observe her captor without his gaze on her, an unobstructed view of the very boy who had captivated her the moment they had met. She would be foolish to deny that the boy was very handsome, she wasn’t naïve of the opposite sex and the pull she felt towards him from that alone.

 

She watched as his broad back swayed under the heavy direction of his arms as they cut through the air, seemingly telling a dramatic retelling of his adventures across the sea. She supposed that he was the hero in his endeavors and had conquered his enemies and taken what he thought was his. She supposed she was one of those things now too and that thought alone sent a spark of rage within her.

 

Still, she couldn’t help but gaze at his alluring body, his muscles coiling and recoiling as the story unfolded and she found herself fascinated with their movement. She wondered how the chorded muscles might feel under her wandering fingertips, to feel the electricity of her touch against his skin sending shivers straight to her core. She briefly wondered if his tough skin was as callous as she thought or would she be surprised to find that his smooth skin was as soft as butter. She could feel slight tingles along the tips of her fingers and had to squeeze her hands into fists to stop this train of thought from going any further. It was unbecoming of a lady, especially a princess to have these thoughts of another, especially an enemy.

 

She watched as Jace was lead further into the city, his golden hair getting lost among the crowd and soon all traces of the boy was gone. She tried to ignore the pleading of her heart as she wished to see him one last time, wanting to vanquish any and all inappropriate ideas of this man from her thoughts, but this would prove to be harder than she thought.

 

She pulled her knees to her chest and buried her head into the tops of her knees, closing her eyes and waiting for whatever came next.

 

A salty breeze lifted the hair from her shoulder, startling her into sitting in a straight position, her eyes looking around her for anyone around her, but there was no one. She was about to settle back down when a slight reflection of light caught her peripheral vision.

 

Instinctually, her eyes sought out the shining object in the distance, her bound hands coming up to shield the bright sun from her eyes as she searched the docks. Her eyes saw the flash of light and it was then that she was able to focus on the object in the distance.

 

It was a person, she gathered by the shape it took as men carried it between their outstretched arms, a person in armor. She felt her mind begin to sharpen as she recognized her father’s emblem across the breast plate of the shiny metal sheathing, but it wasn’t until she recognized the tufts of curly, brown hair that she felt her breath freeze in her chest.

 

Oh god.

 

Simon.

 

Clary bounded to her feet, the urge to call out to Simon dying on her lips as her voice refused to cooperate. She bounded to the other side of her duck, holding onto the large, wooden pull with her bound wrists as she leaned out over the water to get a better look.

 

Tears gathered in her eyes as she watched her best friend being carried off the boat and half dragged over the wooden boards of the third dock a hundred yards away. She stood frozen to her spot, her mind whirling with scary thoughts at what Simon’s presence met for her. Sure, she was no longer alone, but now she had to find a way for not only her to survive here, but to look after Simon as well.

 

Clary gasped as she watched Simon’s body get carelessly tossed against a pile of bags of rice and felt anger lick its way through her veins, thawing out the muscles in her legs as she began to find that she was capable of moving once more.

 

Before her brain could command it, Clary was already sailing down the wooden dock, ignoring the soreness of her barely used legs as they pounded against the creaking planks. She ignored the heads that turned towards her and the shouts that echoed all around her. Her only focus was on getting to Simon and somehow protecting him from this cruel world they found themselves in.

 

She ran onto the beach with unsteady legs, her head turning from side to side as she searched for the familiar shine of Simon’s armor, but by putting herself in the thick of the people along the docks, she cost herself the unobstructed view she had had when she was standing on the docks. All she saw now were the unfamiliar stares of the faces around her. Some looking mildly intrigued while other looked on her indifferently.

 

Somewhere in the distance, Clary heard a familiar voice call out demanding that someone catcher her and this had Clary’s feet pounding through the sand once more. She didn’t know where she was heading, but all she knew was that she would be no help to Simon if she were caught once more. No, she would have to get to safety first and then come up with a plan to save her best friend.

 

She could hear the thundering of footsteps behind her as men three times her size chased her into the streets of the village and the thought of her capture had her putting on another final burst of speed as she barreled through the streets. However, her escape attempt was halted when she slammed into a lean figure and tumbled backwards to the ground.

 

Quickly moving to brace her hands behind her to spring to her feet once again, Clary was immobilized the second her eyes latched onto the stranger before her. His eyes glowed yellow and his pupils were not round like hers, but slits from the top of his eyes to the bottom. In fact, his eyes reminded her of the palace cat that roamed the halls back home and wandered if maybe her mind had finally cracked and she was seeing things. Still, it was simultaneously fascinating and unnerving to look at, but the intense desire to keep staring at him rendered her immobile as she stared at him from where she sat on the ground.

 

“Hello, biscuit,” the man with the cat-like eyes whispered so only she could hear him before adding, “The gods told me to be expecting you.”

 

Clary opened her mouth to reply, but the words died on her lips, when the strangers gaze lifted from her own and stared straight ahead. Turning her head to see what had stolen the man’s attention, Clary watched as the three men who had chased her into the village came to a stop a couple of yards from where she still sat in the dirt.

 

She looked back at the man before her and was surprised to see his left hand stretched out to her as if to help her to her feet. Gingerly, she took the man’s hand and let him pull her to her feet, neither one of them tearing their gaze from one another.

 

Clary didn’t know how long they stood there and looked at each other, one seeming sizing up the other and she didn’t quite know why the men behind her hadn’t already seized her, but she knew that if she kept quiet, she would never get the answers she needed.

 

“You said your gods told you of my arrival?” she asked as she worked the dust out of her clothes as best as she could with her bound hands, indifferently, almost letting a smile slip as she imagined the horror on her mother’s face at the sight of her muddied daughter.

 

A pang of sadness shook her core as she thought of her mother and she quickly had to tap down the urge to sob in front of these people. She would not give them the satisfaction of seeing her crumble. She would not give them any sign of weakness.

 

The stranger nodded in reply and Clary became a little impatient. She needed more than just a yes or no answer; she needed details. It would appear that this stranger was actually going to make her work for whatever she got.

 

“Very well,” she acknowledged, not hiding the annoyance in her tone as she glared at him, “Did they happen to mention why they supposedly brought me here?”

 

She watched as the man looked at her curiously, a small cock of his head to the right nearly sending her over the edge as she waited for his reply.

 

“My name is Magnus Bane,” the man offered, a slight bow of his back in greeting before he continued. “I am the seer, a conduit between the gods and man. I see what they allow me to see and feel as they allow me to feel.”

 

“However,” he interjectded before she could speak again, “It would appear that the gods are keeping your fate close to the chest, Clarissa Garroway. It would appear that you are a mystery to even me.”

 

At the sound of her own name on this stranger’s lips, Clary took a step back, “How did you know my name?” She didn’t remember telling any one here her name that was present and surely all this talk about being a seer was a complete joke. There was no such things as seers and magic, right?

 

Clary’s mind whirled as every possible scenario ran through her head. Was this some part of an elaborate scheme by Sebastian to keep her locked away from her loved ones until he was ready to collect her? That thought alone had her blood turning cold in her veins as she peered across the short distance between her and this Magnus Bane. Did Sebastian’s pull really stretch this far into the unknown world?

 

“We are nothing but pieces on a board, child,” Magnus replied, “The gods move us from place to place at their will and we are here to do their bidding. Do you honestly think they would bring you all this way if they did not know you completely?”

 

Clary didn’t feel better after Magnus’ reply, still unsure that this was not some ploy by her evil fiancé to punish her for rejecting him so earnestly.

 

“You will play their game or suffer the consequences, biscuit,” Magnus spoke ominously, “We must all play the game.”

 

Clary swallowed the tight ball of apprehension climbing her throat,wrapping her arms protectively around her middle as she started to feel the dozens of eyes on her, before she spoke, “Why me?”

 

Clary watched as Magnus mouth turned down into a sad smile and she didn’t flinch when she felt his hand rest on top of her right shoulder. In fact, she could feel a bit of her nervousness drain from her shoulders as he gently squeezed his hand.

 

“The gods can be many things, Clarissa,” he spoke softly, his eyes looking directly at her, but not at her, “They can be cruel and unjust, but not make no mistake, they do not pick their players irresponsibly.”

 

A silence followed for a minute before he added, “Whatever they saw in you was clearly worth the twisting of fates to bring you here.”

 

Clary groaned in annoyance, “But I don’t want to be here. I want to go home!”

The flash of pity in Magnus’ eyes was enough to make Clary scream in frustration. The last thing she wanted was his pity.

 

“The gods are jealous and territorial by nature, Clarissa Garroway,” Magnus warned, “You are their puppet until they no longer have any use for you. IT is cruel, but it is what fate has dealt you. Until then, I would try to make the most of this situation.”

 

Clary scoffed, roughly brushing the unfallen tears from her eyes.

 

“It would seem that I have traded one cage for another,” she laughed bitterly, “Am I always to remain at the mercy of my enemies?”

 

Magnus lifted Clary’s chin until her eyes were once again transfixed on his own.

 

“Fate is an illusive treasure, Clarissa,” he whispered to her alone, “Very few ever found the strength to see that the ability to take control of it was within us all along.”

 

“How do I do that?” Clary asked in a defeated voice, “I have never been able to change the direction of my fate. What could I possibly do now to change that?”

 

“You are one of the lucky ones, biscuit,” Magnus smiled down at her, “Your fate is not as fixed as you might think.” His finger brushed a single tear that fell from her eyelid and slid down her cheek, “Maybe my own fate is not as permanent as I would think it to be. May we can find the answers to unlocking each other’s fates together.”

 

Clary let out a huge breath that she didn’t know she was holding, feeling a large weight fall from her shoulders as she stared into Magnus’ eyes. She was stunned to see not even a trace of mockery or malice in his eyes and that made her certain of one thing- she wasn’t alone.

 

“I would like that very much,” she spoke in a grated voice, the tears in her throat threatening to render her physically speechless. She found herself smiling for real in what felt like an eternity, the feeling of the muscles in her face stretching and brushing off the darkness she could feel beneath her skin.

 

“Excellent,” Magnus said, stepping away and bowing to her once more, “It was a pleasure, Clarissa Garroway, until we meet again.”

 

As he turned away, Clary moved a step closer before calling out, “Clary, my friends call me Clary.”

 

“Sounds about right, biscuit,” Magnus answered as a smile lit up his face, “It was nice to finally meet you, Clary.”

 

Clary was cut off from responding with her last goodbye when two large, familiar hands clamped down on her shoulders.

“Enough of this chit chat, Magnus,” a gruff voice called above her head, “This girl is to be present to the King with the rest of the slaves. I will not answer for her tardiness because you want another pet.”

 

Magnus waved off her captor with an annoyed flick of his hand, “Do whatever needs to be done, Bjorn. Fate will not be so easily hindered.”

 

Turning on his heel, Clary watched as Magnus disappeared in between the space of a couple of buildings and the fear in her chest grew as she realized she was once again alone.

 

Her body was roughly turned by the hands that clamped painfully across her shoulders as she was steered in the opposite direction of where Magnus had disappeared.

 

“I thought I told you not to move,” Bjorn, her Viking captor growled. She recognized the voice and the strong hands as the man who had carried her from the ship and had threatened her should she disobey his order.

 

“If you are going to be my jailor,” Clary grunted as she wiggled uncomfortably under his strong hold, “You should know that I rarely do as I’m told. In fact, my mother would tell you that it is both my most charming and annoying quality.”

 

Clary nearly stumbled as she heard a strange noise fall from Bjorn’s nose, almost as if he had stifled a snort. Was this not the same person who had threatened to feed her to his dogs, alive, just moments ago on the docks and now she was making him laugh? Clary was both intrigued and stunned at this realization. Perhaps there was more depth to these people than just the ruthless, barbarians she had been lead to believe they were. However, she couldn’t waste precious moments on thoughts such as these.

 

No, Bjorn had mentioned that there were others, other slaves, that she was to join when she would be presented to the king and the reality of that sentence made her heart stutter.

 

She had been so wrapped up in her own situation that she didn’t even look to see if other’s had been taken against their will. Apparently she wasn’t the only Northumbrian to survive the harsh seas. These other people were her own, the people who she had sworn to protect as their leader, their God-chosen, future Queen. They needed her and it was for them that she straightened her back and lifted her chin as she was taken deeper within the enemy’s territory. She would not fail her people, not when they needed her the most.

  

~*~*~*~*

 

Magnus watched in fascination as the young woman with red hair being taken away. He admired the subtle way the arch of her back straightened with each step she took, the young woman’s courage something to behold.

 

He was telling the truth when he told his young friend that he didn’t know why the gods had brought her all this way. However, Magnus felt that in the small amount of time he had gotten to know their young friend, she would be able to handle whatever was thrown her way.

 

An electric pulse in the air alerted some of Magnus’ more sensitive senses, the hairs on the back of his neck standing on end. He could feel the crackle of lightning pulse between his fingers as the energy around him shifted subtly telling him that he was no longer alone. Someone or something was coming.

 

Magnus let the tension roll off of his shoulders when the being stopped just inches behind him, a small smile playing at the corner his lips, but still, he did not turn around.

 

“She should not be here,” the low, familiar voice muttered just behind his right shoulder, “We made a huge mistake in bringing her here.”

 

Magnus closed his eyes and let the timber of the familiar voice creep into his veins and settle deep within his bones. How many times had he conjured this single voice in his dreams when all he saw in the darkest were the nightmares? How many times had that voice calmed the raging storm within himself?

 

The real voice that spoke inches from his ears just now matched beautifully to the voice he had logged down days ago and he felt a slight flutter in his chest, hoping that the voice would continue speaking, if just to remain in that peaceful place for a moment longer.

 

Magnus knew that ignoring the young man would be considered rude and that if he desired to hear the deep, timbered voice one last time he would need to acknowledge his presence. Still, starting a conversation would mean that at some point it would have to end and Magnus would once again be left alone.

 

They always left him in the end.

 

“You know as well as I do, young Alexander Lightwood, that it is not our place to question the decisions of the gods,” Magnus spoke quietly, “I would be careful challenging them at all.”

 

Magnus heard the disgruntled noise leave the young archer’s throat and smiled. It would appear that the normally stoic eldest Lightwood was more affected by their young friend’s presence than he was letting on.

 

“I just don’t understand Jace’s sudden infatuation,” Alex muttered, “Why her?”

 

Magnus frowned at the hurt in Alec’s voice as he spoke those last two words. If it had been any other person, Magnus would have chastised them about bothering him with silly mundane emotions such as jealousy, but Magnus felt his heart swell in sympathy as the waves of self-doubt and rejection rolled off of his young friend.

 

“I am not quite certain that the young prince had a choice in the matter,” Magnus mused as he discreetly opened his eyes to look at the direction the young Clarissa Garroway had been taken, “It would seem that even if the young King-to-be would not have brought her here of his own accord, the young woman would have still boarded your ship and been brought to us. It is her destiny after all.”

 

“You can’t be serious?” Alec scoffed, “You don’t honestly believe that this girl is the woman from your vision, do you Magnus?”

 

“So someone was paying attention?” Magnus teased, “Good. I was beginning to think that I talked to brick walls when I spoke of the prophesies.”

 

There was a silence before Alec whispered, “I always listen to what you say, regardless of the topic.”

 

Magnus felt a smile spread his lips as the whispered words caressed his ear. He turned to look at the oldest Lightwood sibling and was nearly knocked off his feet by how breathtakingly beautiful the boy was.

 

“Before you and the young prince sailed away, I spoke of a young woman with hair as red as fire,” he reminded him as he silently gazed at the path the young woman had taken earlier, “Do you remember?”

 

Tall and slender as he was, Magnus knew that each muscle was meticulously trained and disciplined into the deadliest of weapons. Alec was also known as the village’s best archer, able to hit a moving target at an impressive distance.

 

Magnus looked over his comfortable stance with his hands behind his back and momentarily wondered what it would feel like to have those long arms fold around him in a lover’s embrace. To have the heart of a young lover so easily open to him once more, to pour his own love back into them. He missed that- human contact.

 

However, it was the blueness of Alec’s beautiful eyes that kept Magnus’ rapt attention. It was the signature Lightwood trait along with their raven-black hair; he had the most soft looking black curls that begged Magnus to run his fingers through, the tips of his fingers beginning to buzz with electricity one more.

 

His eyes told infinite secrets about the young man’s emotions, most of which he kept hidden from the others’ under a cool mask of indifference, but Magnus knew better. Beneath the hard exterior, Magnus could sense the Alexander Lightwood was just as raw and emotional as the rest of them. It was both sad and charming to see Alec fight so hard to remain stoic around the others, but Magnus wished that maybe someday, in some small way, Alec would let him in.

 

“Magnus?”

 

Magnus immediately shook himself out of his digressing thoughts and once again sought out the beautiful blue eyes that were now looking at him with concern. He tilted his head to the side to let Alec know that he was again present and that he was listening.

 

“I-its your eyes,” Alec stammered, squinting his eyes in confusion before adding, “They’re normal.”

 

Magnus rolled his eyes before he could stop him, it truly wasn’t Alec’s fault for pointing out the obvious, but nonetheless, anyone pointing out his differences always put Magnus a little on edge.

 

“Yes, thank you, Alexander,” Magnus replied, perhaps with a little more grit than he had intended, “It may come as a surprise to you, but the locals do not favor my natural state and so I hide that part of myself to make it easier for them to be around me.”

 

“I would imagine that would be difficult,” Alec murmured as if he thought the words instead of actually speaking them out loud.

 

Magnus waved off Alec’s concern, “Not really. Its not painful and I do it so quickly that no one notices that change.”

 

“I didn’t mean the physical act,” Alec clarified, “I meant having to hide who you are to feel accepted.”

 

Magnus’ eyes widened a fraction as Alec’s words sank in. No one had ever voiced their concern for him in this way and it nearly had him choking on a sob. Instead, Magnus bowed his head slightly in agreement not knowing exactly what he should say. But it would appear that Alec was not done speaking.

 

“You have a gift, Magnus,” Alec whispered, his eyes falling to the ground in thought before coming back up to meet Magnus’, “With this gift you know you have a purpose- to sit at the right hand of the gods.”

Magnus felt a cold grip around his middle and he shivered under its pressure. Alec was too naïve to know what this “gift” cost him everyday, but Magnus knew. He paid a heavy price for this so called gift from the gods. He could already begin to feel the beginning licks of the flames that summoned him to their side and he knew that this conversation had to come to an end. He would be their’s tonight, their master puppet, forced to suffer their visions as they poured like liquid fire into his mind’s eye.

 

He wasn’t gifted, he was cursed. He would move heaven and earth before he ever allowed the young Lightwood to look on him with pity if he ever learned about his secret torture. He didn’t want those beautiful, blue eyes to look on him with anything but affection, but Magnus knew that this wish was foolish.

 

Magnus Bane was cursed to live a life completely devoid of the thing he wanted the most- a connection.

 

Human connection.

 

Love.

 

“I serve at the pleasure of the gods,” Magnus softly in an even tone, his eyes focusing on a far away object just over Alec’s right shoulder. “From the time I was a young child my body was not my own, demanded of incredible things, horrible things, but I am the seer of the gods and it is my pleasure to serve. Always.”

 

Alec listened as Magnus spoke, the words falling from his lips like he had rehearsed them long ago and they now sat ready at any given moment. He could hear the threads of pain in his voice and it made him want to reach out to the seer, to give him some sort of contact, human contact, that let him know that he wasn’t alone.

 

It unnerved Alec to realize that this man’s well being was of great importance to him, that he would break the physical barrier between them to provide even just an ounce of comfort. He had only ever cared about his family- his parents, siblings and Jace- that was it. But now it seemed that Magnus Bane had somehow crept his way under the infinite number of shields that Alec had built around his heart like armor. He didn’t know when or even how Magnus had slipped through, but there he was and it was terrifying.

 

Swallowing the dry lump lodged in his throat, Alec took a slight step forward and bent his head to make sure that Magnus was looking into his eyes.

 

“I will not pretend to know what you are going through, Magnus,” he began, wetting his lips as Magnus’ cat-like eyes flashed in his directions, “But I want you to know that if there’s ever a time that you feel that your load is too heavy for you to carry on your own, I want you know that I’ll be here for you.”

 

Magnus smiled a sad smile and bowed his head in thanks before turning on his heal to walk away, the fire beneath his skin was searing in it’s intensity and he knew that he had to go before he fell to his feet in pain before the young Lightwood. However, leaving without sharing one last thing with Alec seemed to be something he could not live with and so he turned once more to the young man and looked him straight in the eye.

 

“This world is filled with unique Jewels, Alexander,” Magnus said, “However you are the rarest of them all. I hope that one day the rest of our people will see you for who you really are.”

 

Magnus loved the way his genuine words turned the young Lightwood boy’s cheeks a delicate shade of pink, but they clashed with the self-doubt that troubled his ocean blue eyes.

 

“I’m not so sure I know who that is,” Alec murmured as his eyes fell once more to the ground, “But thank you, Magnus.”

 

Magnus bowed his head one last time before setting on down the path that lead to the bottom of the large hill in which he lived.

 

Alec watched him disappear into the thickness of trees that hid the bottom of the mountain from view and briefly wondered what price Magnus paid for the life he lived. Alec couldn’t imagine the loneliness such an existence would bring on a daily basis and then to find he would only be accepted if he changed his uniqueness. It was horrible to think about.

 

Being the oldest Lightwood sibling, Alec had never felt a moment’s peace, constantly chasing after Isabel and Jace when they were younger and even looking out for the youngest Lightwood- Max. However, spending his childhood protecting his younger sibling from danger and even, at times, from themselves was a life that Alec believed was his own. He wouldn’t trade their company for any amount of peace. If Alec didn’t have the love or companionship he felt for his family, he struggled to think of why life might be worth living and perhaps this was the ultimate price Magnus had to pay on the top of that mountain.

 

Alec began to move at a steady pace down the path that Magnus had just taken, but stopped suddenly when a familiar shout assaulted his ears. Spinning wildly on the heels of his boots, Magnus looked around the area in search of a familiar head of long, black hair.

 

When he spotted his sister, he saw her facing off with not one, but three men who towered over her smaller stature, their eyes looking at her murderously. It wasn’t below his baby sister to rile up the largest brutes in the immediate vicinity, but Alec knew that when it came to Isabel Lightwood, they would have to walk over his dead body before he would let them harm a single hair on her head.

 

Quickly changing his direction, Alec was standing by his sister in a matter of seconds glaring at the men before him as their gritted their teeth at Isabel.

 

“Izzy,” he spoke softly without taking his eyes off of the three men in front of them, “What in Odin’s name is going on here?”

 

Alec heard the annoyed breath that his sister took at his side and refrained from rolling his eyes. At this moment, he had to overlook his sister more dramatic flourishes and focus on the problem at hand.

 

“Some of my valuable from the raid had been left on the boat and I had asked for help in carrying them to shore,” she explained, “However, these brutes, are incapable of handling my more sensitive valuables with respect.”

 

A bit confused, Alec let his eyes roam over the immediate ground they stood on but was stopped when he saw the leader of the three men take a menacing step towards his sister, with his beefy, pointer finger sticking straight at her. Alec moved with the swiftness of a lethal killer to place his body between his sister and her challenger.

 

Alec knew without a doubt that Izzy could hold her own, but it was his overprotectiveness as her older brother that would always put himself in the middle of harm’s way to protect her.

 

“You anger the gods by bringing that thing here,” the leader barked, “I’d sooner beat him into an ugly throw rug and watch as my dogs fucked him in his pasty, white ass.”

 

The men behind him erupted with laughter, smacking their leaders back in solidarity, which took their focus off of his very irate sister. However, Alec knew his sister and even felt his sixth sense kick in where she was concerned, allowing him to wrap a single arm around her middle before she threw herself in the middle of three men more than twice her size.

 

“Freya as my witness,” Izzy growled as she swiped at Alec’s hand to release her, “If you harm a single hair on his head I will skin you alive and wear your guts as a belt.”

 

“For the love of Odin, Isabel,” Alec muttered as he swung her smaller form around so that she was once again behind her, “Who are you carrying on about?”

 

Alec’s eyes immediately saw a prone figure lying not more than ten feet from where he and his sister stood. At first he didn’t recognize the wounded body, but the tuft of curly, brown hair covering the bloody remains of his face was enough for Alec’s brain to connect the dots.

 

“By the gods, Izzy,” Alec groaned, “You cannot be serious! I didn’t think you were serious about bringing the Christian.”

 

“Of course I was serious, Alec,” Izzy said as she threw her hands on her hips and stared up into her older brother’s eyes with the same, blue eyes. “Jace got to bring one home, so why couldn’t I.”

 

Alec groaned loudly as he pinched the bridge of his nose. He turned to the three men who still stared at the young, Lightwood siblings and waved them off saying he would take care of this and that they were dismissed. Alec waited until they were gone before he turned back to his sister once more.

 

“If you keep him, Isabel, he is your responsibility,” Alec warned her, slightly annoyed that his sister’s attention was already on the wounded boy behind her. “I don’t have time to babysit your pet when you’re done with your little project.”

 

“He isn’t a project, Alec,” Izzy argued running her fingers through his hair, brushing the loose strands from his bruising face, “He’s different.”

 

“Oh great, that makes sense then,” Alec responded annoyingly, “Just make sure you water and feed him so I don’t have to waste my time burying him.”

 

Izzy laughed as she looked over her left shoulder at her older brother and stuck her tongue out making Alec smile as well. It would seem that no matter how old the two of them were, some things would never change.

 

“First of all, Alec, he’s not a dog,” Izzy reminded him, “And secondly, I know what I am doing. You’re just going to have to deal with it.”

 

“Deal with it?” Alec asked, his eyebrows raising on his forehead.

 

“Yes,” Izzy demanded.

 

“Fine,” Alec relented, “But if he harms you in any way, I’ll kill him myself. Is that understood.”

 

Izzy let out a small laugh before turning her attention back to the wounded soldier at her feet but not before she spoke one last time.

 

“I love you too, big brother.”

 

~*~*~*~

 

In the chaos of homecoming, Jace allowed himself to be swept away by the cheers and the excitement of the crowd that welcomed him home. He shook hands, received congratulatory pats on the back and even felt the soft, plush lips of a few maidens caress his cheek. It was good to be back.

 

It wasn’t until the crowd had managed to pull him into the city’s center that Jace felt his legs slow their pace as he walked under the shadow of a familiar, looming structure. Wanting a few moments to himself before entering, Jace waved the villagers on, watching as they cheered and hollered in celebration as they joined the growing numbers on the other side of the entrance.

 

It was known as the Great Hall, the city’s epicenter for local gatherings such as political meetings and holiday celebrations. However, to Jace, it wasn’t just a symbol of the Viking way of life, it was home.

 

Jace looked over the eastern facing wall, the sunlight highlighting its weathered appearance. It was an illusion, for the structure had withstood generations of war and peace since the first oak tree was cut during the reign of the first King.

 

Jace smiled as he saw the blade marks etched into a single, wooden plank, a shadow of his younger self practicing his sword skills against an invisible enemy as Alec fired his arrows into a nearby tree. It was here that a young Isabel followed the two older boys, demanding to be taught how to fight, persistent in the fact that girls could be just as brave as boys. It was true, Isabel was one of the bravest warriors Jace had ever fought next to on the battle field. He, Alec and Izzy had always been by each other’s side, but when it came down to Jace being the only son of the King, Jace never felt so alone.

Jace’s father, King Stephen Herondale, was a noble and wise king who ascended to the throne, not by birthright, but by putting the welfare of his people above his own gain. It was Jace’s father who had challenged the old King to a duel when the King’s ambition turned against the people. It was said that if King Stephen hadn’t stepped up, the people of Hedeby would not have survived the harsh winter that year.

 

All his life, Jace was burdened with the expectation of filling his father’s shoes. All he wanted was his father to look at him and see a son he could be proud of. However, the fear of never seeing his father’s acceptance reflecting in his eyes tore at Jace’s insides.

 

The raid on Northumbria had not only been an opportunity to show his father that he could lead his people into battle, but also to show his King that he could exercise the leadership skills needed to be a fair and just King. It was a known fact that their land wasn’t healthy enough to grow enough food for the masses and so their way of life depended on these raids to be successful.

 

Like any other raiding party, the men and woman presented their King with the earnings as it was his right to choose among the treasure what he would keep for himself and his household. It was expected that once the royal family was paid, the rest of the treasure was split equally among the members of the raiding party, therefore, benefitting the whole village as a whole.

 

Jace knew that as not only the leader of the raid, but as the King’s son, it was his responsibility to present the treasure to his mother and father as it was the Viking way. However, his sense of duty did not silence the small whispers in his head that stoked the fires of his greatest fears and acknowledged his own shortcomings.

 

Taking a deep breath through his nose and straightening his shoulders as he slowly let the air out through his slightly parted lips, Jace strode through the entrance of the Great Hall with his chin up and his shoulders back. He could feel the faux smile he always carried before his father fall into place along his lips as he approached the throne along the northern wall.

 

The room began to quiet, men and women alike stopping their chatter as they watched their crowned prince enter the massive dining area. He could feel their eyes on him as he made his way down the isle in between the long tables, ignoring the urge to steal a pint of ale and chug the contents before presenting himself before his mother and father.

 

In truth, he was starving, not only for the physical food and drink that which was plenty on the tables, but also the knowledge that his parents would look proudly upon him and that is what kept his feet moving under him.

 

Jace came to a final step mere feet from the short steps that led up to his mother and father who sat regally upon their thrones. He felt the tightness in his shoulders melt a fraction at the site of his mother’s gentle smile, her eyes looking at him with nothing but love as she had always done since he could remember. He bowed his head in her direction, hoping to convey with the slight gesture that he was happy to see her before turning his attention to his father.

 

It was known that his father was physically blind, but it was also known that his father saw so much more than the physical world through his eyes. It was this that Jace feared the most- that his father might look upon his only son and see nothing but a disappointment. Still, he faced his father with a straight back and a firm gaze. It was expected that the King make the first move in conversation.

 

Not a sound was made as all eyes were focused on the father-son reunion. It was the creaking of his father’s chair that first broke the silence as his father lifted himself to stand on his feet. His mother, Queen Celine, echoed her husbands movements, but placed her delicate hands in front of her as she waited for her husband to acknowledge their son.

 

Jace watched his father’s movements meticulously, trying to discern his father’s mood before the inevitable occurred. Jace didn’t like surprises, especially when his feelings towards his father’s thoughts on his son were already in question.

 

He father accepted a walking staff from his guard before slowly descending the steps placing him directly in front of his only son. Jace could hardly breathe as his father continued to stare into his eyes as he came to stand right in from of him.

 

Jace didn’t move even as he felt his father’s large hand cup his cheek, the oddly comforting gesture from his father throwing him off for a split second as he watched his father’s stern face turn into a small smile.

 

“My son has returned!” his father called out, loud enough for all to here, “Not only has he returned victorious over the Christians, but he has his King and his father proud.”

 

Jace beamed with pride as cheers erupted from behind him, his name called out over the chaos of cups being pounded on the tables. His father brought him into a tight embrace and Jace had to choke back a sob that was building in his throat.

 

His father withdrew from the embrace and raised his hands in authority, instantly silencing the chaos that had erupted within the hall. He turned once again to his son and let his hand clap down on his right shoulder.

 

“Have you done as the gods have commanded, my son?” his father asked, “Did you find that which Odin sent you to find in this new world?”

 

Jace smiled as he waved the men in the back to bring forth the chests of gold and silver they had pillaged from the Christian village. He could hear cheers and clanking of cups in the air as chest after chest was laid at his father’s feet.

 

“I hope it pleases you, father,” Jace spoke, letting his hand rest against his father’s outstretched one on his shoulder, “Odin has never seen such a victory over our enemies like this one. Surely he will smile upon us now.”

 

His father’s eyes roamed over the glittering jewels before him, but it was the slight fall of the light in his father’s eyes that had the familiar, tight ball of apprehension forming once again in the pit of his stomach.

 

“You are not pleased, father?” Jace asked, concern etching his brow, “The value of just one jewel will feed a single family until spring.”

 

His father remained silent, which only pushed Jace further.

 

“Men and woman died, father,” he implored, “Brave warriors who gave their lives for the survival of our people.”

 

“It is not the cost of the battle nor the value of its reward that I am unhappy about, my son,” his father spoke under his breath, but loud enough for Jace to hear. “It is the fact that you have overlooked the most precious jewel of them all.”

 

Jace turned a quizzical eye back to the chests and searched their contents for what his father believed to be the most valuable piece. Sure, their were certain gems and coins that looked to be more valuable than the others, but to Jace, it was just another haul of equity they had stolen from their enemies once again.

 

“It is your’s then, father,” Jace spoke, “Whatever you wish to proclaim as your own will be your own for it is your right as King.”

 

His father’s head lifted and his eyes trailed along the walls of the enclosure, stopping at a certain point.

 

“Bring the girl to me,” he said, causing small gasps and murmurs to fill the emptiness of the hall.

 

Jace felt the blood drain from his face as the red-headed princess from Northumbrian, Clary, being brought to stand before his father. Buried in his own insecurities, he had forgotten that he had brought her here against her will and now she stood like a mythical creature before him and his father. He almost expected her to quiver with fear in the presence of such a strong force as his father, but the young woman met his father’s gaze with a steel look in her eyes. In truth, it was intriguing and hot as hell.

 

Jace waited for the moment that Clary would acknowledge him as he stood to his father’s right, but he never felt the sharp whip of her green eyes on him, which burned a little more than he thought necessary. He commanded her to look at him in his silence, but the stubborn woman kept her focus on his father.

 

“You are a long way from home, my child,” his father spoke to the young woman, seemingly unphased by her icy glare. “Tell me, was your journey here a long one?”

 

“I beg your pardon, sir,” Clary spoke through gritted teeth, “But I was brought here against my will and therefor will not speak of the comforts I received on my voyage here.”

 

Murmurs of insolence and angry voices carried throughout the room, but his father’s silent wave cast the room in silence once again.

 

“Yes,” his father agreed, “The circumstances of your arrival are, at the most, unfavorable, but you are here now.”

 

“What do you want from me?” Clary asked, taking a reckless step forward which had a few swords being pulled half way out of their sheaths before she was roughly dragged back in her place.

 

She shook off her handlers, keeping her eyes on his father before speaking once again.

 

“I am Princess Clarissa Garroway and I demand that you let my people go,” she gritted, “I will stay behind as your prisoner, but they are innocent. They are not soldiers, they are God-fearing people.”

 

His father chuckled which had Jace turning his eyes on his father for the first time since Clary had been brought before them.

 

“My dear child,” the King replied, “No one is innocent and while I admire your courage and bravery, you will do well to remember that you are a prisoner here and at our mercy.”

 

“I want nothing from you,” Clary seethed, “My father will come for me and he has the might of the One true God on his side. May He have mercy on your soul.”

 

“She is quite feisty, son,” his father murmured as he leaned towards him to whisper, “Lets pray that the gods know what they are doing.”

 

Jace scoffed as he turned to his father, “You can’t be serious. This…girl is nothing, father. I brought her hear because at the time, it seemed like a good way to piss her off. If anything, she’s been a pain in the ass.”

 

 

Jace saw the flash of anger that sparked behind emerald green eyes and begged for that fire to burn his flesh.

 

“I see,” his father replied before turning to the audience that hung on every word being spoken.

 

“It is my wish that this young woman remain with us my guest,” he stated with such authority that not a single outcry could be heard, “She is under my protection and anyone who acts against my wishes will be dealt with swiftly.”

 

“Father, wait—“

 

Jace’s response was cut off by his father’s quick hand as he held it in the air.

 

“This young woman was brought to us by the will of the gods and until then, she will remain here until her fate is spoken,” he proclaimed. He turned to Jace, “You will be responsible for her, son, until the gods have shown us her use.”

 

Jace and Clary both gawked at the King’s retreating back as he climbed the stairs once more to sit on the throne.

 

“You cannot do this father,” Jace spoke angrily, “Have I offended you in some way that you know seek to punish me?”

 

“No,” he rebuked, slashing his hand against the air in finality, “I will not accept this. I will not be made a fool in front of the whole village.”

 

“Do you second guess yourself in the guarding of this young woman’s life, my son,” his father asked, daring Jace to speak further against his wishes.

 

“Of course not,” Jace argued, “I just don’t feel that this responsibility is of my station, father. To be honest, she’s a pain in the ass and I’d sooner see her locked up or sold to the highest bidder before I’d spend even one night with her.”

 

There. There it was, the feel of her icy gaze on him that made his spine tingle and his stomach flutter, but still he faced his father with his head held high. If he wasn’t mistaken, he actually heard a growl emanate from the woman’s gritted teeth and it took all his self control not to burst out laughing, but the sobering thought of him finding that particular growl cute had him pushing all thoughts of the red-headed woman from his mind at the moment.

 

He never imagined that his actions would lead him here, to be forced to deal with the consequences of his flirtation with this woman and that’s exactly what it was. He had allowed himself to get caught up in this woman that the gods mocked him for his immature actions and punished him accordingly. Jace couldn’t help feel ashamed as he had once again allowed his boyish fantasies to come between him and the ability to show his father what a good leader he could be for their people.

 

“Perhaps your eyes do not see this for the opportunity I am presenting you, son,” his father advised, breaking Jace out of his self-depreciating thoughts. “I have found that when we are forced into the fire, we come out stronger than ever before.”

 

Jace turned on his heel at his father’s last words and found the nearest pint of ale and swiped it from the table, downing the contents in three swallows before slamming the tin cup back onto the table.

 

“It would seem that tomorrow I will become the princess’ keeper come the morning,” Jace called out as he grabbed another pint of ale, “But tonight, I will celebrate the lives of those lost and feast like Odin himself was here.”

 

He raised the glass in Clary’s direction and met her eyes for the first time across the room as cheers broke out around him. He saw her eyes harden against him and it only fueled him to grab a third pint as he joined in the celebration. If he had to walk shameless with the woman at his heel later tonight, he would certainly not be sober for it.