TonDC – The Demon is an old Friend
The sound of crying wakes Clarke. It isn't just any crying, it's the sound of children crying. The blonde tries to shift her position only to find herself unable to move. She is still laying on Lexa, the warriors arms slung around her, holding her close and tight. "Leksa." Green eyes level on hers, wide awake. Lexa hears it too. They leave their tent hand in hand, followed closely by Phobos.
"Indra!" Lexa's voice thunders through the village and silences everyone; the general appears in an instant. "Heda." Lexa doesn't look at her general but instead towards the group in front of her. "What is the meaning of this?"
Six warriors are circling a group of children; most of them are dirty and many of them are sobbing. Indra raises her hand and the warriors stop in their movements and relax their stances. "Heda, those children entered the village just before you appeared. I could not be sure that they are not poisoned as the boy had been. I have my warriors looking for Eko to confirm they are no threat."
"Eko is not here." Clarke's voice is flat and empty. "I will check them." Clarke steps forward, Phobos on her heels. The wolf is calm. Lexa turns to face her general. "Indra, send for Raven and Okteivia to meet us. We have much to talk about."
Clarke steps closer to the group of children. She ducks down a little and tries her best to smile. "Hey there, I'm here to help you." She keeps her voice soft. "Don't be afraid, you are safe now. Nothing will happen to you." She stretches out a hand and looks into the boy's eyes in front of her. He has his arm around a girl, you suppose is his twin sister. "It's okay." His eyes are glossy and he is pale as all of them are, but he seems to be healthy.
The blonde feels a hand on her shoulder. "They are okay, Leksa. Hungry and tired I'm sure, but okay. They are not poisoned." Lexa squeezes her shoulder slightly. "Can you be sure?" The blonde nods. "They aren't showing any symptoms. More than that, I don't believe she is one to lie. She may be a monster, but she is honest."
"You called for me?" Both women turn and see Raven approaching, determination in her eyes. Clarke's eyes flicker briefly to the mechanic's hands, furthermore her fingers. They are dirty, covered with green smear. Raven spots the group of children and stops in her tracks. "Jesus… are they okay?" She lets her eyes roam over the little ones. "I just finished a bunch of antidotes, but I don't have enough for all of them…."
"They don't show any signs of poisoning." Clarke rises, turning towards her friend. "Where is Okteivia?" Raven hugs the blonde tightly, only for a moment, before shaking her head. "She didn't come home last night- I mean I didn't see her since yesterday when she headed out to see Lexa." Clarke narrows her eyes, looking at Lexa to ask, but is interrupted by Raven. "Clarke, the boy is still sleeping but seems fine as far as I can tell."
Clarke looks at her, her blue eyes wide. "The boy?" Indra speaks to explain what happened. "Ai Kwin, we found the boy at the river's shore south." You nod once to show your thanks. You and Rukh had been at the shore of the northern river. If Indra wouldn't have had her warriors search both shores, the boy would be dead. "Raven nursed his poisoning and his wound since we couldn't find Eko."
Lexa orders her people to tend to the children in a low voice before addressing her queen. "My love, we need to talk. Raven, Indra – join us."
In the safety of their tent, with Phobos guarding the entry keeping eavesdroppers away, Lexa fills them in. "Okteivia was certain that something is off with the Flamekeepers. I asked her to take Deimos for protection and keep an eye on them." Clarke shifts and takes Raven's hand into hers.
The mechanic looks back and forth between Indra and Lexa. "But she hasn't returned and there's been no word. Please, we need to find her."
Lexa nods and addresses her general. "Indra, take four of your best hunters and head out immediately. I want Okteivia safe and back here as fast as possible. I do not accept anything else."
"That won't be necessary." The general replies, pointing over to the entry of the tent, where Octavia is standing, eyes big and slightly out of breath. Her dark hazel eyes resting on Raven, she addresses Lexa. "We need to talk, Heda."
"Are you okay?" Clarke narrows her eyes and looks the young warrior over, not seeing any wounds.
"I'm fine, Deimos is too. He is outside with Phobos. Are we free to talk?" the brunette replies, looking around nervously. Lexa closes her grip around the hilt of her sword at her side. "We can, but it is crucial to keep everything you hear absolutely secret." Her green eyes roam over to her general, Raven and Octavia, and she is answered by quiet nods. Lexa relaxes before addressing the warrior again. "Speak, Okteivia."
The brunette steps closer and shifts from one foot to the other. "Heda, I found a small fire pit half an hour east of TonDC a few days ago. I went back there last night and waited. The Flamekeepers met there after midnight. All of them." Indra grits her teeth. "Natronas!" Lexa raises her hand to silence her general. "Let her finish, Indra."
"They talked about Rukh. It sounded like they killed her when she was a child and that Rukh shouldn't be here. Her being alive is somehow messing with their plan to kill you, Heda. They are not here to help you with controlling your powers, they wanted to suppress them. It was… my fault that this failed." Octavia lowers her eyes, looking down at her feet. She remembers painfully how she angered Lexa, twice by now, and by doing so forcing her to discover the strength she really possesses. Ultimately that was a good thing, but she still felt remorse.
Lexa puts her hand on the young warrior's shoulder and squeezes gently. "Continue." The brunette nods. "Now they want to play you out against Rukh. They believe they can use her to kill you."
"Why?" Clarke's eyes are lost in thought. Octavia throws her hands in the air, a slow and helpless motion. "All I heard was that they want to vanquish the whole structure of politics to evolve a democracy."
Raven snorts. "Yeah, because it's the totally convenient solution to put power hungry, angry white males on top of the food chain and call it democracy when really they just killed and bribed their way up. Reminds me of that moron with all the big talk being handed nuke codes, starting the war and releasing the bombs in the first place." The mechanic rises, her features determined. "Lexa, we need to stop them."
"We will, Raven." Lexa takes Clarkes hand into her own, brings it up to her lips and kisses every one of her fingers. "We will play along for now."
"Heda, I don't think this is wise." Indra steps a little closer. "We should capture them now and eliminate the threat."
Clarke considers the general's opinion. "We don't know how deep their connections are running, Indra. And we still have to face Rukh, especially given their desire to use her as a pawn."
"Do you think she knows, Klark?" All eyes shoot over to Octavia, Clarke responds with a confused look. "What are you talking about?" The young warrior rolls her eyes. "Do you think Rukh knows her death wasn't an accident…that the Flamekeepers killed her?"
Realization kicks in and the memory of what Echo shared with them weeks ago comes back.
"It just so happened, that a girl in our village was to be a commander. The spirit chose her, and she was celebrated by our people and began her training. However, this girl was in an accident, she drowned in a lake when she was just nine summers old. She was pulled ashore but was believed to be dead. I mean," Echo shakes her head and huffs out a humourless laugh, "she was dead. At least momentarily."
"Somehow one of the healers brought her back, but everyone knew. We all knew that even in those few moments of death, the commander's spirit had already moved on and chosen the next." She turns and looks to Lexa, a soft smile on her eyes. "But no one told her that. After she woke, her eyes once so full of life, a bright green, were so pale that they didn't look natural. Her hair, previously a light shade of reddish brown was an unnatural shade of red in the days that passed. She was changed somehow."
"Oh my god." Clarke covers her mouth with her hand, shaking, when she connected the pieces with what Rukh shared with her.
"I died, years ago. I was raped of my life, my purpose and my destiny. And even death – the one thing granted to everyone – was torn from me."
Lexa pulls the blonde into her arms softly. "What is it, ai hodness?" Clarke presses herself into Lexa, still shaking. "Leksa, she doesn`t know that she was murdered. If we can somehow make her listen and explain to her that we know who did this to her…" Lexa cups Clarke's cheeks in her hands, softly stroking them.
"So what's the plan, Heda?" Octavia straightens herself. Lexa doesn't look at her or the others, her focus is on Clarke. They look into each other's eyes, and as if they are discussing the matter, they nod at the same time and Lexa continues. "We will withdraw the scouting parties and prepare for war. Rukh is playing with us and by now it is obvious that we won't find her this way. She is wearing us out by playing hide and seek. We gather around TonDC and let the warriors rest and recover. We will play along with the Flamekeepers and let Rukh come to us."
"Are you sure she will come here? That's like a suicide move." Raven narrows her eyes, not yet convinced.
"She will, Raven. We have everything she wants. If we don't come for her, she will come for us." Clarke backs the plan up. "She is a brilliant tactician, but she is impatient and impulsive. She will come. And when she does, we have her and the Flamekeepers on our ground. We will be prepared."
"Are we not forgetting one thing?" Raven asks to a room full of questioning stares. "I mean sure, she released the children, but she supposedly has others as well, not just children. She threatened to kill one a day."
"Casualties of war." It's Octavia that speaks, much to Raven's surprise. "We have the children, that is what is important. At this point, maybe she has a few adults from the Ark, maybe it was a smoke screen to force our hand. I say we move forward." Indra gives her a serious yet proud look. The second is reasoning with logic and without emotion.
The mechanic nods. "Okay then. I will need a little help in gathering herbs and maybe a few healers to help me with the antidotes." Her eyes level on Indra, and the general is quick to respond. "I will send out two groups to find what you need if you provide a list."
"Sure thing, let's go to work." Raven starts walking out of the tent, followed by Indra and Octavia. Raven explains in detail which herbs she needs and Indra herself will lead the groups to gather what is required. The two brunettes start walking towards their tent afterwards in silence. They enter and as soon as the flap closes behind them, Octavia stretches out her hand to reach for the mechanic. "Raven-"
"Don't." Raven raises her hand to silence her. She turns around and her expression is a strange mixture of anger and pain. "Octavia, if you ever leave me again without telling me where you go and when you will be back, I will make your life a living hell."
"Raven, look" - "Shut it, O." The warrior is again silenced by the mechanic and she submits without another word. "You will never, ever leave me behind again. I chose you first, Octavia, and I expect the same of you. I want to be the one you talk to and come to, I want to be the one you share your thoughts and plans with. I don't need to be left out to be protected, O. It hurts me more than the truth."
The warrior drops her head, nodding. "I am sorry, muffin." Raven huffs. "Don't muffin me now, dork. You have no idea how worried I was." Octavia lifts her head again, slightly tilted. "Yeah I fucked up. I promise to not leave again without telling you." The warrior closes the two feet separating her and the mechanic and wraps her arms softly around Raven's fragile frame. She knows the strength in Raven, but she also knows that she herself is everything she has left. "Still love me?"
"Of course," Raven gives in, curls herself into Octavia, resting her face in the crook of the warrior's neck. "but you need a bath. You are… sticky?" Raven pulls back and tries to identify the substance now covering not only Octavia's neck, but also her cheek. Octavia rolls her eyes. "Pine sap… don't ask." Raven raises an eyebrow and shakes her head playfully. "Being with you is like having a kid playing in dirt all day." A sigh escapes her and she shrugs. "I like it."
The brunette blushes, only slightly. "Well, you knew what you got yourself into, Reyes. And you don't look much better after tinkering around all day." The warrior keeps talking as she walks towards next section of the tent to wash up. She undresses while she is talking. "And don't give me the 'don't drop your dirty clothes'-talk, just last week I poked my ass on one of your tools that you left in the furs, which by the way, you accused me of misplacing the day before."
Raven starts to laugh, and Octavia stops and turns. "What is so funny?" She raises an eyebrow in anticipation. "We argue like an old married couple." Octavia huffs and takes a moment before she responds. "Maybe I'll take care of the married part when we survive all of this."
The mechanic's eyes widen. "What?"
Octavia walks back to Raven, kisses her cheek and smiles. "I know you hate surprises, so I hereby prepare you for me proposing to you grounder-style when this madness is over. Who better to marry and trap into being with me than my best friend?" The warrior then turns and leaves the section of the tent to finally clean herself up. It takes Raven a few seconds before she smiles brightly and shouts after Octavia "And I hereby prepare you for me saying yes to your crazy!"
Lexa lays behind the blonde, stroking her fingertips softly up and down Clarke's bare back. "I think I found something, Leksa." The warrior hums in response. "Hmmm. What is it, my love?" Clarke scooches back, pressing herself into Lexa and holding up her grandmother's journal. "Look, here."
"The shield and the weapon, protected by the black of the night and the light of the day will be guided by the red of dawn and dusk."
"The black of the night and the light of the day... Leksa, I think that this is referring to Phobos and Deimos. Deimos being the light of the day, Phobos the black of the night… Is it possible that there is a third one representing the red of dawn and dusk?" Phobos and Deimos, curled up beside the furs, raise their heads at the same time, huffing and looking at Clarke and Lexa with expectation in their eyes.
Lexa tightens her grip on Clarke. "I think that we would know by now if there would be another giant wolf… especially a red one would catch some attention. Unless…" Clarke finishes her thought. "He is dead. Leksa… do you think this is possible?"
Rukh's base camp
She is sitting on her throne, her head lowered and her fingers stroking over the reddish fur. She hates it as much as she loves it. She remembers the feeling of her cheek against his chest, the steady and strong beating of his heart. She remembers how she picked him up out of a pack of newborn dogs. He was odd looking, too big and too clumsy. She named him Trojan because she always imagined him sneaking into the dog's mother's den and hiding away from his own kind.
She painfully remembers how she woke up, back from the dead, only to find her best friend dead. She didn't speak about it, she never worded it, but she always knew he sacrificed his life to give her back hers. She still feels his presence inside her.
"Heda." The voice jerks her out of her thoughts, and unlike usual, she is okay with that. Her response is bored, carefully voiced. "Enter." A warrior steps inside her tent, bowing down before addressing her again. "Heda, the scouting parties have been called back. It seems like they stopped looking for you."
"Mh. Interesting." Rukh rests her head on the palm of her hand. "Leave. I will give you my orders in the morning." The guard bows again and turns to leave. "Wait." Rukh's voice stops him in his tracks. "Heda?"
Rukh relaxes. "Bring me something to eat and make sure that I am not disturbed until the sun rises." The guard leaves, eager to fulfill his task, well knowing that his life is depending on it. Rukh leans back and lets her eyes roam over the room. She then rises and walks over to her table, which is covered with maps and tokens of victory. She scans the map of the area, her index finger following the path of destruction she left behind her, until the map crumbles under her finger where there is a burned spot on the map.
Rukh's base camp, two days before the Ark falls
"What is it you are telling me, fool?" Her voice is a booming roar. Jasper flinches. "I don't know, I really don't. He just wants to kill the grounders."
Rukh flips the table in front of her, the massive wooden structure slamming to the ground only inches beside him. It is then he starts to realize that this was a bad idea. "Bellamy is working with him. This should please you – they have advanced weapons and could make quick work of Lexa and the grounders."
Rukh is infuriated. "I don't want to have them killed! How do you DARE to assume what I want? As if your simple mind would be in any way able to understand what pleases me!"
Jasper steps back, his hands raised apologetically. "I … sorry."
Rukh slams her fist on the armrest of her throne with such force that the skin on her palm breaks. She takes deep breaths, her mind running. She can't let that happen. "What is this man's name?"
Jasper answers with a shaky voice. "Pike."
"How many are with him?" Rukh turns to face the boy again, her eyes wild and determined. Jasper swallows soundly. "Too many. Kayne and Abigail don't stand a chance to keep this riot from happening. We practice a democracy at the ark and people are falling for his promises…"
"False promises! He is a liar! Why are your people so utterly stupid to follow him?"
Jasper thinks about her question, he really does. "Because it is easier to believe in false hopes than the truth."
Rukh tilts her head back. She takes deep breathes, carefully considering. "Go fetch me Callie and come back here."
Jasper narrows his eyes, arguing with himself. "What is your plan? How are you planning to save my people?"
Rukh levels her eyes on him, dark and deadly. Her voice is calm and cold. "Go and fetch me Callie. Now." She wants to tell him that his people can't be saved, that their destiny is extinction, but she doesn't. As much amusement as the shattered looks of people brings her, she will not risk him running off with valuable information and spilling his guts at the wrong end. She will make use of this boy. And she will make use of Callie.
She allowed Jasper to go on a suicide mission. "Kill Clarke and your people are free to leave. Return and I will kill you. Run, and I will find and kill you and every single one of your people" Rukh knew that the boy would die at the attempt. Her Kwin was too smart and well-guarded by her wolves and warriors.
It was that night Rukh decided to send Callie back to the Ark, poisoned and contagious. A civil war within the Ark and worst case a war between the Sky people and the Trikru would most likely cost Clarke her life.
And for reasons Rukh never understood herself, this is the only thing she really values. Clarke's life. Something inside her urged her to keep this blonde girl, that fell from the sky, alive. Some voice inside her, always at battle with her bitter madness and detest about Lexa, who stole her title and her power, conflicted with her inner urge to protect her and keep her out of harm's way. Even if that means to wipe out an entire clan and breaking her heart in the progress.