Everyone in the village of Arcaedia knows not to wander in the woods.

Good thing Clarke no longer lives in Arcaedia, nor does she wander when she walks in the woods.

She also doesn't walk alone. She learned that lesson, twice. No, she walks with a handsome man who's taught her how to disembowel a wolf with a sword. It's a great bonding activity.

Clarke is a Lady now, with her very own Lord, and learning to manage everything has been a whirlwind. She's still learning. Octavia helps, as she was trained to the job before getting turned into a teapot. Clarke's favorite part so far - other than decimating the overgrown wolf population - is going toe to toe with Bellamy over policy matters.

She blushes, still, every time she thinks his name. Learning that important tidbit had been an embarrassing affair...

"Everyone out!" the man bellowed at the crowd trying to push through the door.

Even sitting on the floor, practically naked, his authority went unquestioned, and his people shrunk back.

One man, lanky with dark hair and googles, started to speak, "but I wanted to introduce-"

The man rose to his feet in one graceful motion, cloak clutched tightly to his front as his slender frame slipped out of the Beast's larger clothes. "OUT!"

Even Octavia hurried out the door.

With the door slammed shut, he sank back into the puddle of fabric. "You can stay if you want. I just need to readjust to being human again. There's a few more colors and my lungs are a little smaller." He looks at her, and Clarke - who has come un-stuck from the chair - can see there is a constellation of freckles across his nose. "You could also go meet them. They'll really love you."

"There will be time enough for that. What just happened?"

"Isn't it obvious?"

"My mother's a doctor and my father an engineer. I wouldn't ask if it were."

He huffs, turning away to smile, and sounds like himself. "And don't discount your own intelligence." He turns his eyes to her. "Clarke, you broke the curse. The magic turning us all inhuman dissolved when you- wait." He ties the cloak around himself as something of a toga. He stands up again, and it holds, so he crosses closer to Clarke. "The witch said the curse would break when a beauty loved a beast. I just realized I have been truly neglectful." He sticks his hand out as if they were business partners. "I'm Bellamy."

Clarke, still cautious and honestly just wanting to go back to bed, stands and accepts it. "Hello, Bellamy, my lord. It's good to properly meet you."

He smiles, and is still lightly holding her hand - more like a sweetheart now - when he reaches up to tuck her hair behind her ear.

His cloak gives up and hits the floor.

Bellamy loves her.

It's clear as day and warms her like the sun. He picks her flowers for her study, listens to her counsel, and basically treats her like an equal partner.

Clarke, in turn, paints him nigh daily, humors his awful puns, and keeps him from going completely to one side of the law-giving spectrum, mostly because she will swing to oppose him and then they'll crash together in a compromise that actually works.

She loves him so.


Her mother's arms wrap around her, tightly, the first time Clarke returns to Arcaedia. "We thought you were dead."

Over her mother's shoulder, Clarke sees her father roll his eyes, smiling.

As she ducks into her home, she eyes Murphy and Bellamy by their horses, the two of them looking like simple woodsmen rather than the guardsman and lord that they are - though they've already started to bicker with that grudging respect for the other that keeps them alive.

"So how did you manage to escape?" Abby begins.

Clarke glances at her father. "I didn't."

Abby starts, and Clarke can see war flicker in her mother's eyes, but Jake steps in. "Perhaps you'd better explain."

With a nervous smile, Clarke tries to explain the curse. Her dad believes her, she can see it, but Abby is already trying to diagnose Clarke with exhaustion, delusions, or something.

No wonder it took Raven's "Honestly Clarke do you think some omni-potent witch would let something as simple as Stockholm syndrome break her spell" and then a few more weeks for Clarke to stop doubting herself.

"Anyway," Clarke says as she finishes, brushing her hands on her simple riding pants - simple being a relative term as she now owns dresses that cost as much as this house probably.

"Anyway I really only came to see you, assure you I'm alive, and attempt to explain. I do need to get back, as it is a bit of a ride and I have duties that need attending."

"What duties could you possibly have as prisoner?"

Clarke looks at her mother. "If you'd listened, you know I'm not a prisoner anymore. That ended once I proved I was your daughter and saved his life rather than escape with my own."

Abby's eyes narrow. "You should stay here."

"I can't, and I don't want to."

"I am your mother, and a village elder."

Clarke's spine stiffens. "And I am here, as the steward of our lord, mom. You may be a village elder, but I am in charge."

She bows towards her stunned mother, and starts to bow to her smiling father but he wraps her up in a hug. "You will make a wonderful lady. Show Lord Blake how we Griffins shine."

She leaves her parents' house and stumbles into Bellamy's arms.

He holds her for a minute, until Murphy quips, "do you want me to go punch her?"

"Murphy!" Clarke glares at him over Bellamy's shoulder.

"What? I'm just saying. She's your mom. I knew she'd be difficult." Clarke cracks, giggling at Murphy's easy honesty. He maintains a deadpan expression as he mounts his horse, but his eyes are alight with amusement. "Now hurry up. If I have to spend any more time than usual with you two lovebirds I may hurl, and that will be on you."

Seasons change as the earth turns, time passes, and people change.

Arcaedia grows and prospers under its lord and lady, as do the other towns and villages under their care.

Couples fight and bicker but they make up fast.

Children escape the shadows of their parents and etch out their own - or not.

Traditions, for all they are lauded, they change as well, though it may take a few years, a few easing of worries, and the slaying of wolves.

All this to say, with the castle brightened by love and care, the forest became a thing of beauty to match, with something wonderful around corners if you have the time to look and the wisdom to be prepared for the occasional beast.

Everyone in the village of Arcaedia knows not to wander in the woods.

Instead, they stroll.