A/N: So I've hit a wee bit of a block while working on one of the major scenes in my next update for Time Served. When that happens, I tend to work on other things until I feel ready to come back to it with a clear head. But I think I've now figured out how to work that scene so the update should be coming along fairly soon. Apologies for any spelling or grammar errors.
For the Realm
In the beginning, before the dawn of man, there were the gods; and in their midst stood one of their most powerful: Antioch. He was petty and foul, seeking pleasure in the ruination of the firmament in which they dwelled. The art of creation would never truly be undertaken while such wanton destruction went unchecked.
Seeing no other course, the gods joined forces and with their combined might, they vanquished Antioch, sentencing him to becoming part of the earth they would create; his body the very land upon which one of the world's greatest dynasties would rule one day. And upon that land they created the First Ones and from them, mankind.
But the land proved to be as harsh and heartless as its namesake and all life suffered. Chaos reigned until the gods chose a young girl named Amara to become the heart that Antioch lacked. They blessed their priesthood with the knowledge and tool to create a bond between Amara and Antioch; one that allowed the true nature of the girl to augment the nature of the god.
As she was, so would the land be.
From this bond a covenant was formed. Only those bearing Amara's likeness would assume the role of Blessed Keeper. From her line the shadows of Amara were born; each becoming the Blessed Keeper; each playing a role in defining the nature of both the land and its people.
But after nearly one thousand years, the Age of the Shadow Selves was finally nearing its end.
The pungent scent of incense stung her eyes and made them water. Its heavy smoke billowed around her; enveloping her and offering nothing save discomfort and dread.
The priests intoned their spells as they shuffled about, beseeching the gods for what at this point could only be considered a miracle; the royal physician having already exhausted the length and breadth of his knowledge and coming up empty.
Elena Fleming, Queen and Blessed Keeper of Antioch...was barren.
The queen's thoughts drifted as the priests continued their work. Five years ago, she returned to this, her ancestral home and supplanted her aunt Katherine as both Queen and Keeper while avenging herself for her kinswoman's treachery.
Upon learning that an infant Elena would grow to become her successor, Katherine raged-driven mad by a lust for power and an addiction to the dark magics she'd used to extend her life—and convinced herself that only she would ever be fit to rule.
She was so convinced that she conspired to murder every member of House Fleming.
It was Lord Alaric Saltzman, a trusted friend of Elena's parents, who managed to spirit the infant away; fleeing Antioch for unknown lands to the East. There he raised her in the manner that befit her station; instilling in her the desire to avenge her family and take back the throne that was her birthright.
When Elena came of age, she returned to Antioch with an army of 50,000 at her back and eventually mounted Katherine's head on a spike.
But the realm she inherited was broken. The lords of the North, East and West had been in open rebellion against Katherine's tyranny and showed no sign of interest in bending the knee to a newly installed queen. It had taken two years and even more bloodshed before the lords of the East and West agreed to terms and pledged their fealty to their Southern queen.
The North not only remained uninterested, they'd chosen to harken back to the time before Amara and named Niklaus Mikaelson, the heir to their ancient line as King.
Niklaus Mikaelson, the so-called Wolf King.
Niklaus Mikaelson, the savage who'd sent one of her most trusted emissaries of peace back to her as nothing more than a head in a basket.
They crowned that heathen despite the fact that he was a bastard born of a dalliance between Lord Mikael Mikaelson and some Wildling chieftain who'd been afflicted with the Wolf's curse. She died in childbirth, leaving her son to inherit her affliction.
The boy grew to live a life of no consequence and would have remained so were it not for Mikael's decision to lead the lords of the North in an open rebellion against Katherine's madness; a decision that would not only cost him his life, but that of Finn, his eldest son and heir. Governance of the North would have fallen to his second eldest, Elijah had the young man not already committed himself to the priesthood. With one daughter who openly refused position, another bound to the Faith and a youngest son still a boy and sickly, the duty fell to the young wolf to bear the standard of House Mikaelson.
The Wolf King managed to rally not only the greater and lesser houses of the region, but he also rallied a number of the Wildling clans through their loyalty to his mother's memory. And with the whole of the North at his back he continued his father's campaign, withstanding the Mad Queen's bloodiest efforts to bring the region to heel and cementing himself as a figure of open defiance.
The high priest moved towards her and Elena held out her hand in response. She wrinkled her nose in discomfort as the blade the priest held sliced across her palm and her blood flowed into a small wooden bowl.
Like Katherine before her, Elena forces battered themselves against a wall of knights, soldiers and wildings to no avail. The North was vast and wild and no Southern army could withstand the harshness of the region for an extended period of time. The Wolf King seemed fully prepared to hold them off indefinitely.
But in her role as the Blessed Keeper, Elena simply could not allow such a bitter division of the realm to continue indefinitely. She was linked to the land and as such felt every pain that was visited upon it as keenly as if it were her own. The land required peace and she would provide it in whatever way she could.
Which brought her to her current predicament.
Mikaelson had made it abundantly clear that the North would never again submit to Southern rule and had the means to maintain that position. However, in the words of Alaric...there was more than one way to breach a castle.
Arranged marriages to end conflict were not uncommon and a queen was an offer no one would refuse. But the truth of the matter is that while an arranged marriage brought the promise of peace, only the fruit of such a union can actually guarantee it.
Which made her barrenness a bit of a problem.
"Majesty," the high priest called, gaining her attention. "The portents are unchanged. The path before you is set. The gods will brook no argument."
"They won't?" she asked dryly. "Then why don't they come down here and tend to this mess themselves? I could really use the rest at this point."
The elder man opened his mouth to speak only to be waved off.
Elena pinched the bridge of her nose and sighed, already bracing herself for the difficult conversations that would take place over the next several weeks. One in particular being the most difficult of all.
"Send word to Mikaelson," she ordered, turning to her secretary. "Tell him I demand an audience."
Over the course of his life he'd visited the South only a handful of times and remained as unimpressed now as he'd been then.
King Niklaus Mikaelson rode through the city gates flanked by an accompaniment of knights bearing a banner of truce. Mystic Falls, the capital city of Antioch, had changed very little since he'd been there last. Networks of cobblestoned streets where the masses teemed about like ants. The sights and sounds irritated his heightened senses as the riot of scents assailed him.
Whores draped themselves from balconies; their wares fully on display as they beckoned to the terrors of the North suddenly in their midst. City guardsmen eyed them warily as they made their way undeterred to Whitmore, the great castle of House Fleming.
Once they arrived, they were led into the throne room—an expansive space adorned with colorful depictions of great Fleming victories over the centuries. Atop a dais sat Elena on her questionably ornate throne.
It was common knowledge that Amara had been a great beauty and by extension the shadow selves that followed her. But seeing Elena now and knowing that the same face had sat upon that throne for a thousand years made such beauty redundant. Simply another rose on a bush filled with them.
It didn't help that a queen bearing that very same face was responsible for the deaths of both his father and one of his brothers along with countless others.
This had better be good.
They exchanged their pleasantries stiffly and made their vows before gods and men that no blood would be shed for the duration of their conference. The Fleming queen then invited him to retreat with her to an antechamber to speak privately.
"Something tells me you won't be offering terms for your surrender," Klaus said as he took a seat at the large table that had been prepared for them.
"Ha!" Elena scoffed. "No Fleming has ever surrendered and I'm certainly not about to start now." She reached for a carafe of wine and began to fill two goblets.
"If not surrender, then what do you propose?"
"An arrangement," Elena replied, taking a sip from one before offering the other to him.
The Wolf King's eyes narrowed as he accepted the goblet. "What kind of arrangement?"
"The marital kind," Elena said simply.
He was silent for a moment before laughter erupted from his chest and shook his shoulders.
"My brother Elijah said that might be your thinking when we received your message. I told him all that incense from those bloody rituals had finally addled his mind."
"Is such a thing so far from the realm of reason for you, Mikaelson?" Elena asked.
"Why?" Elena asked, keeping her tone mild.
"Because I have no need of a Southern queen," Klaus replied. Common sense dictated that he would need to make a proper match and begin their work of making heirs. But after having no choice but to return from the sea to avenge his father and brother and after having no choice but to accept the mantle of king that had been placed upon his bastard shoulders, he did not want the choice as who would bear his name and his children to be made to due to outside circumstance.
"I wouldn't be too sure about that," Elena smirked.
"Then let me put a finer point on it then," Klaus said, leaning forward. "I don't want you for my queen, Elena."
Elena saluted with her goblet and a smirk. "That makes two of us," she snorted, drinking deeply before reclining in her chair.
"I'm going to tell you something that only a handful of people know at the moment,"" she declared finaly, trailing the rim of the goblet with a lone finger.
"I'm all ears," he replied and reached for a bowl of figs that had been set out for them. If nothing else, Southern produce was unmatched.
"I will be the last shadow of Amara.".
Klaus chewed slowly, the furrow in his brow deepening at the implication of Elena's statement.
"How is this possible?" He asked suspiciously. Something that outrageous and unheard of must be part of some gambit the Southern queen intended.
But if it wasn't…
"You're relatively intelligent, Mikaelson," Elena sighed. "I'm sure you can figure it out if you give it your best effort."
Klaus' eyes narrowed at the dig, but understanding came swiftly nonetheless. It appeared the gods had finally grown tired of the unending saga of House Fleming. Katherine had all but succeeded in slaughtering every avenue from which an heir could ascend the throne and now Elena, the sole survivor of Katherine's efforts was unable to produce one of her own.
It was justice, if he was being honest. For countless years, the fate of their people rest on the whims of one face and if history were to judge, the Shadows of Amara had proven to be a mixed bag of the gracious and the grotesque. The idea that there would be no more would feel oddly liberating were it not for the gaping maw of dread that accompanied it.
"What does this mean for Antioch?" He asked finally.
Elena countered his question with her own, "How versed are you in the Mysteries?"
"I admit that I slept through a significant portion of my education," Klaus confessed wryly.
"I'm not surprised." Elena muttered, pouring herself another drink.
"Long story, short," she continued. "If I die and there's no Keeper to replace me, Antioch will fall. The land will return to the chaos that reigned before Amara and the people will suffer for it. All of them. Until the end of days.
While he was not as versed in the Mysteries as his brother Elijah, he did have a vague knowledge of the time before Amara:
The Doom of Antioch it was called.
A time when the creatures of the Darkness roamed free and preyed upon mankind. The earth shook and cracked, giving way to even fouler beings that rose to the surface. The seasons attacked with a vengeance and lingered for years at a time while the seas turned treacherous and offered no means of escape.
Hell on earth.
"And you think our marriage can prevent that?" Klaus asked suspiciously.
"Ha! No," Elena scoffed. "A marriage between you and I would be almost as horrendous as a second Doom.
"Then why am I here?" Klaus demanded, his patience wearing thin.
"Because the gods have shown my priests a way forward," Elena answered. "And while I will bear no issue, I have every intention of naming an heir. It is for her that I wish to arrange a marriage."
Bonnie sat upon a stone bench in Elena's private garden; a book laying open on her lap. The massive tome was on loan from the Chief Preceptor and provided a detailed analysis of one of the five sciences: Blood. While she was in no position to become a preceptor herself, she'd always been fascinated by the wealth of knowledge at their disposal and managed to persuade Chief Atticus to provide instruction whenever his duties permitted.
She shut her eyes tightly before opening them again; returning her attention to the words on the page. Normally she'd be deeply engrossed in the teachings of Elian the Younger, but today her mind could only wander towards Elena and the conversation taking place between her and Niklaus Mikaelson.
The rightful queen of Antioch meant to marry the northern brute in a final attempt to bring peace to a land that bore the wounds left by years of conflict.
It was unfortunate, really. Her dearest friend, through a matter of obligation was willing to offer herself to little better than a savage for the sake of her kingdom. As one of Elena's chief advisors, she should have been inside with her as the two set terms for their marriage, but the queen had insisted on overseeing the parlay herself. It made sense Bonnie supposed. Their possible marriage may be political in nature, but the joining of two people in such a way was most certainly a personal matter.
"Oh look...Bonnie's reading a book that's bigger than she is...must be a day like any other day," she heard Elena say as the queen strolled up to her.
"Knowledge is power, Elena. You know this," Bonnie replied setting the book aside.
"Power is power," Elena countered, coming to sit beside to her. "Knowledge only guides the way in which one wields it."
"Is he still here?" Bonnie asked.
"No," Elena sighed. "I offered him the hospitality of the castle but I'm afraid he has no fondness for our Southern climate. He much preferred to begin to journey home and seek out lodgings along the way. I suspect it had more to do with not fully trusting our tentative peace enough to sleep under so recent an enemy's roof."
"But the deal has been struck?" Bonnie gently pressed.
"Yes, it has," Elena replied softly.
"I know you do this for the greater good," Bonnie said, throwing an arm around her friend's shoulders. "But this is something I never would have wished for you. Marriages should be for love, not duty. And to be married to one such as Mikaelson...was he terrible?"
"Remarkably, no," Elena confessed. "A bit churlish perhaps, but overall he was receptive to my proposal."
"The terms?" Bonnie asked, curiously as to what all Elena offered to sway him.
"The court will return to the North where it had been in the days of old," Elena explained. "A lord of the North will be selected to come here and govern the southern region and the royal wedding will take place in a month."
Bonnie nodded, "Well then...I suppose the seamstresses are going to be working day and night to have your wedding finery completed. I don't envy them."
Elena reached for her friend's hands and held them tightly.
"Bonnie, I-" she began before she sighed in exasperation. "I've been trying to figure out how to explain this to you for weeks and now that it can wait no longer, I don't know what to say."
"Elena, what is it?" Bonnie's brow furrowed, concern filling every word. "You know you can tell me anything."
"The seamstresses won't be working on my wedding finery, Bonnie," she explained. "They'll be working on yours."
"What on earth are you talking about?" Bonnie asked laughing at the absurdity.
"The marriage agreement isn't between Mikaelson and I," Elena answered. "It is between Mikaelson and my heir...you."
"Elena that doesn't even make sense; I'm not your heir," she scoffed, her eyes wide as she continued to wait for the punchline to this painfully unfunny jest. This had to be a jest.
"No…but you will be. The royal decree is being drawn up as we speak. I need but sign it to make it so," Elena explained glumly.
A chill began to settle within Bonnie's bones, one that Elena's forlorn countenance only intensified.
"What have you done, Elena?" She whispered, pulling her hands away.
"What I had to do," Elena answered firmly. "There's no point to me marrying him, Bonnie. No heirs would come from our union. I've been poked and prodded by the Preceptor for months; the priests have conjured every magic at their disposal and yet the results are the same: no life will ever quicken in my belly. A marriage between the Wolf King and I is pointless without heirs."
"So, you decided to offer me up as a brood mare instead?!" Bonnie lunged to her feet; her blood pounding in her ears. This couldn't be right. Elena had been her friend, her confidant and champion since they were five years old. She couldn't possibly be doing this now.
"Bonnie, no! I'm making you queen. I'm leaving all of this to you. Even the gods know you'll do better with it than I ever did."
"What is that supposed to mean?" Bonnie snapped.
"It means that while the priests don't see a future for Antioch through me, they do see one through you. The gods have chosen you to continue the covenant between the land and the people."
Bonnie's mouth dropped open.
"The priests say that the reason it must be you hasn't been revealed to them," Elena continued. "But I have an inkling that I know why and so do you, Bonnie."
The chill in her bones grew, causing her blood run cold with dread.
"You didn't say anything…did you?" She whispered, unsure if she could endure the betrayal of having Elena divulge the greatest secret between them.
"No! And I never would," Elena cried. "And neither would the gods it seems. But it doesn't change the fact that what you are sets you apart from everyone. You can't possibly believe that it was never going to be a factor in your life." Her eyes followed her friend as she turned away.
"Take it from someone who was compelled to duty for no other reason than having the same face as a woman long dead," Elena continued. "The thing that makes you special, is also the thing that will be called upon most often. At least this way you avoid a fate you have every right to fear."
The thing that made her special. They'd discovered it not long after Bonnie's eleventh name day when a nightmare caused her bedlinens to burst in flames. Elena had rushed to her room and helped hide the damage but that night revealed to them both the truth of things:
Bonnie was a witch.
Witches were a rarity in this day and age. There hadn't been a witch born in Antioch in several hundred years and they were becoming even scarcer throughout the world. Priests of the faith along with others were able to learn lower forms of magic, but a witch was born with actual magic flowing through their veins. The things that beings such as Bonnie were capable of had been known to boggle the mind.
If Lord Saltzman had discovered Bonnie's secret, he would have sold her to the highest bidder.
And a witch was worth a king's ransom.
Because of her youth, whomever purchased her would have begun grooming her to do their bidding by whatever means necessary. She would have become the bird in a gilded cage, compelled to sing sweetly whenever a demand was made.
They kept Bonnie's secret between them even as they discreetly sought out ways for her to learn as much as she could learn about her gifts without detection.
"A witch alone is a hunted creature, Bonnie. But a witch who is not only queen but Keeper of Antioch and bound by marriage to the dreaded Wolf King in the North…there is no greater safety that can be offered to you and in exchange all you're being asked to do is rule."
"That is not all I'm being asked to do, Elena," Bonnie snapped. "I'm also being asked to be the dreaded Wolf King's wife and bear his children, am I not? What do we know of him aside for his penchant for blood and carnage?"
"We know that when presented with the peril we're all in, he put aside his disdain for an alliance and has agreed to terms for the sake of the realm."
Elena turned Bonnie towards her and grasped her shoulders, her eyes pleading to be understood.
"I know this is unfair," she said. "I know this isn't what you wanted for yourself. But as your queen I must charge you with this and as your friend I beg you to accept. This land and its people need you. Please say yes, Bonnie."
Green eyes met brown and Bonnie cursed under her breath. The love she bore her friend had always made her unwilling to deny her…
…but marrying Niklaus Mikaelson?
"Has anyone checked the Mikaelson crypt lately?"
"Whatever for, Stefan?" Klaus murmured absently, looking up from the letters on his desk.
"You're about to become king of all of Antioch. Surely Mikael has spun out of his grave by now," Stefan smirked.
"Now that you mention it, I do recall hearing a faint drilling sound upon my return from Mystic Falls," Klaus replied, leaning back in his chair. "How go the preparations?"
"Nearly complete given the taskmaster your sister has become."
"Become?" Klaus scoffed. "She's been that way since we were children and you know it."
"I'm trying to ignore that fact given that you're marrying me to her," Stefan explained, the warmth in his voice betraying his words. The youngest lord of House Salvatore was to marry Lady Rebekah Mikaelson three months from now and while he somewhat mourned the end of his bachelorhood, his affection for Rebekah began the day she nearly cracked open his skull with a bowl of mutton as punishment for cutting off one of her braids when she was ten.
"We've received word," Stefan said finally, "Elena's court has been sighted. Your bride will arrive by nightfall."
"Excellent," Klaus murmured, returning his attention to the letter. "The sooner we have done with this the better."
"You aren't the least bit excited?" Stefan teased.
"Excited to be marrying a total stranger? Hardly. The only positive is that I won't be marrying Elena." As wary as the his people were of the notion of a foreign queen, swearing allegiance to one of Amara's bloody shadow selves was simply out of the question. The wounds inflicted by Elena's predecessor ran too deep to suffer her kinswoman.
His betrothed may now bear the Fleming name, but she bore a great deal less of the baggage that came with it.
"What do you know of her?" Stefan continued to press.
"Sold into slavery as a child, purchased by Lord Saltzman to be Elena's companion and freed by Elena several years ago. The south credits her with rallying the people behind Elena after Katherine's death." If the stories were true, Elena's most trusted advisor had managed to endear herself not only to the people of Mystic Falls but to the lords to the east and west of the great city.
"Let us hope that she can be equally as persuasive here," Stefan mused. The greater houses would abide out of loyalty to the Mikaelsons but accepting this new bride would be easier said than done.
"Are you at least curious about her?" Stefan asked.
"If I must have a Southern queen, then all I require is that she be at most a mildly irritating bed warmer and bear my children; the rest will take care of itself."
"Spoken like a king," a new voice replied.
"Don't encourage him, Damon," Stefan chided as his older brother entered and joined them. "Indifference is probably not the best position to take in marriage or in political alliances."
"Perhaps, but how can he be anything but indifferent when both the marriage and the alliance are only necessary because Elena Fleming can't produce an heir? In essence, our king is being asked to be the solution to a Fleming problem."
"But he isn't the only one being asked," Stefan pointed out. "His betrothed is also part of the solution. As far as their current predicament, our king and future queen have more in common than not and it would be in both of their best interests to build on that commonality for the sake of the realm."
"Be that as it may," Damon continued, dismissing his brother's comment with a wave. "I have nothing but sympathy for the king's unfortunate, yet wholly selfless circumstance."
"It pleases me to hear you say that, Damon...given that you'll be experiencing your own unfortunate yet wholly selfless circumstance," Klaus smirked, watching as the elder Salvatore's brow furrowed in confusion.
"I'm afraid I don't know what you mean, Your Highness..."
"Well..." Klaus sighed dramatically. "I intended to speak to you after this bit of business was over, but I should probably reward myself with your discomfort now." He motioned for the now wary noble to sit.
"One of the terms of my alliance with House Fleming is that Fell's Church will return to its position as the capital city of Antioch upon the end of Elena's reign; which will leave Mystic Falls without someone to govern her. In light of that, she and I have agreed to one of lords of the North being selected to fill that role. That lord is you, Damon."
"You're sending me to the South and putting me in charge of Mystic Falls?" Damon asked incredulously.
"I can think of no one better suited for the position," Klaus answered.
"Neither can I," Damon nodded. "But I fail to see how such an honor would cause discomfort." The North was his home, but he couldn't deny the allure of the southern port city. The place teemed with activity and each new day brought trade from foreign lands.
"That's because I haven't gotten to the best part," Klaus pointed out. "A position of such stature isn't for one with a penchant for scandal. And while I have no doubt that the city will be safe in your hands...I can't have you taking up residence in every whorehouse or seducing every sea captain's daughter. It's time you were wed, Salvatore and I have just the person in mind." He almost laughed at Damon's expression as it was something akin to someone dying of thirst only to be given a goblet of spoiled milk.
"Three months hence, you will wed Lady Aurora Martel of House Martel."
"Your whore?!" Damon exclaimed, his ice blue eyes nearly bulging out of his head.
"I believe it's inappropriate to refer to your betrothed in such terms, brother," Stefan offered, struggling to contain his smile.
"What the fuck, Klaus?!" Damon demanded.
Klaus turned to Stefan and raised an eyebrow at the lapse in decorum, "Funny how quickly we've gone from 'my king' and 'Your Highness' to 'what the fuck, Klaus?'''
"Indeed," Stefan nodded. "To go from mewling sycophant to near treasonous in the blink of an eye…it's impressive."
"What offense did I cause to warrant such a punishment?" Damon asked.
"Punishment?" Klaus scoffed. "This is by no means a punishment, Damon. Governance of a major port city and marriage to a highborn lady of a noble house; this is a reward for your loyal service."
"Stefan gets rewarded with a marriage to your beloved sister while I'm getting your…mistress. I think that says something about my place in your esteem."
Klaus considered the disgruntled noble's words for a moment. "Yes, I suppose it does," he replied matter-of-factly and heard Stefan chuckle in response.
"Listen to me, Damon," Klaus continued. "I can't have you going down there to wind up with more of your bastards littering the realm. Any attempt by you to do so would be akin to taking your life into your hands with a wife like Lady Aurora. Moreover, while I remain fond of her, I've also begun to tire of her company. Better to end it now and see her sorted with marriage to a loyal friend while also avoiding the headache of having my bride and the woman who's shared my bed living under the same roof." The eldest daughter of House Martel was a handful to be sure. But her sharp tongue and quick wit had been successful in keeping him entertained while also enjoying the pleasures of her body.
Klaus watched as Damon stewed over the sudden turn of events. He would agree and be grateful. How could he not?
"Very well," Damon relented finally. "But if she is to be my wife, then she will be my wife."
Klaus caught the young lord's meaning and barked out a laugh in reply.
"I am your king, Damon," he reminded him coolly. "Your marriage means nothing to me if I want her. However, I don't want her and I don't see that changing. Besides, if I'm being honest, Aurora keeping you in line will probably go down in history as her truest service to the realm so it all works out in the end."
"She's a shrew," Damon complained.
"She knows her own mind," Klaus countered.
"She's conniving," Damon returned.
"I'd prefer to call it crafty," he answered.
"So because you've been roped into a wedding for the sake of the realm, I have to be roped into one too?"
Klaus clapped Damon on the back good naturedly, "Shit does have a tendency to roll downhill, my friend."
Bonnie studied her reflection as her new Lady-in-Waiting fussed over her. Lady Caroline Forbes of House Forbes had been appointed by Elena shortly after Bonnie had been named her successor. The young woman's ministrations were punctuated with sighs of admiration as she smoothed down the rich fabrics of Bonnie's wedding attire.
The seamstresses commissioned for her new wardrobe had indeed worked day and night. Some had even travelled from the South with them as several pieces had yet to be completed; sewing along the way. Bonnie would have been content to maintain the clothing she already possessed—even when they were children Elena insisted that she be dressed as well as any noblewoman—but her protests were quickly rebuffed.
Her hands nervously ran over the finely made golden lace of her gown. Without the undergarments that accompanied it, the delicate item was nearly see-through save for the deep burgundy overdress in which Caroline now dressed her.
Burgundy and gold. The colors of House Fleming.
Bonnie Fleming of House Fleming.
In all honesty, it doesn't roll easily off the tongue, she mused.
In the weeks since she agreed to marry, Bonnie barely had a moment to herself. The priests had set themselves to preparing her for the Unification; the ritual that would pass Elena's ordination as keeper to her. For the Shadows of Amara, the transfer was naturally occurring. One died and the ordination awakened within the next. However because Bonnie was not of that line, the priests concluded that the best course of action would be to recreate the ritual that granted Amara her ordination one thousand years ago.
She'd known instantly that the ritual had been a success. She'd felt the moment when the Power that gave life to their land connected with her own. Her fear nearly propelled her from the altar on which she lay, but the possibility of her secret accidentally being revealed kept her in place. She lay there as all that was Antioch seemed burn itself into her blood; into her very being.
Was this what Amara endured?
Once her screams died off, all that remained was a trembling, crying mess of a newly royal heir.
She felt…different. From the moment her powers first presented themselves, her magic had felt like a constantly low hum of lightning in her veins. But now that lightning felt anchored to a reservoir of power so great as to feel burdensome. She felt heavier; as if even the mere taking of one step brought all of Antioch with her.
Later, she'd brought her observation to Elena for comparison. According to the queen, her connection to Antioch bore no resemblance to what Bonnie described. She suggested that perhaps the difference truly lay in Bonnie being a witch. Amara as well as her shadow selves possessed no magic. Perhaps their connection—while vital—was rooted in the mundane whereas Bonnie's was rooted in magic.
Bonnie saw the truth in her theory. She saw it in how much stronger, she began to feel with each passing day as the Power of Antioch became more tightly woven into her own.
A knock at the door, pulled Bonnie from her thoughts as Elena entered.
"How do I look?" Bonnie asked dryly.
"Like a queen," Elena replied.
They'd arrived in Fell's Church the night before and the Northerners had extended a surprisingly smooth reception into the Mikaelson castle, Dragon's Nest—so named for the mythical beast believed to slumber beneath the mountain from which the castle was carved. Over the centuries, the ancestral home of the Mikaelsons had fallen into neglectful ruin by Southern decree. But with the Mikaelson rebellion against Katherine and the subsequent crowning of Klaus, the task of restoring Dragon's Nest to its former glory was now taken well in hand.
As was tradition with arranged marriages the bride and groom must remain unseen by one another until the time of the ceremony. So, Bonnie was escorted-heavily veiled-to her new apartments within the castle's east wing. She took her supper there and would remain cloistered until the wedding.
"I don't feel like a queen," Bonnie grumbled.
Though her every comfort had been attended to, she hadn't slept a wink. Her breakfast went untouched and her mind remained unable to focus on anything even remotely connected to her upcoming nuptials. She barely registered the grandeur of her new apartments let alone acknowledged the fact there was a massive door that connected them to the bedchamber she would later be tossed into with her new husband.
Her new husband.
She looked down at her hands. Caroline adorned each finger with delicately fashioned rings save for the forefinger of her left hand. There the Wolf King would place the signet ring of his house.
She'd only been a Fleming for a matter of weeks and now she would a Mikaelson before nightfall.
Elena excused Caroline and continued on with applying the final touches to Bonnie's attire.
"Do you remember when we were children and we would imagine our lives as adults?" Elena asked once Caroline left the room. "At first you said that you saw yourself with a family—with a husband and children. But that changed as the years passed...why?"
"After a while—and despite your best efforts at folly—I realized that knowledge was my calling; learning and perhaps teaching," Bonnie answered. "What husband wants a wife who has the heart of a Preceptor? One more enamored with ancient texts than needlework? Add to that the discovery of what I am—a truth that if told would cost me not only my freedom but my life? What husband could I trust with it? Moreover…who would I be to subject children to the same jeopardy? It was a dream that reality would not abide."
"And yet here you are, about to be married and likely to have a babe in your arms within the year," Elena mused.
"Indeed," Bonnie nodded. "But make no mistake: the only reason I haven't run off into the wilderness never to be seen or heard from again is the fact that you're right. My place as your successor protects me from all that my kind fear. And despite how few and far between we are throughout the world, perhaps I can use this position to protect those like me as well."
It was the only true bright spot in the chaos of her circumstance. Yes she was committed to the survival of Antioch. But having been compelled into service by the machinations of others, she needed a reason that was for her and her alone.
Antioch would have its Queen and Keeper... but those like her would also have their defender.
"What about you?" Bonnie asked finally. "Has the path you saw for you ever changed?"
"No," Elena answered simply, giving Bonnie's waist length tresses one final swipe of the brush and smirked at the irony. Deep down, she'd never seen or even wanted the idyllic life her friend once craved. From childhood on, her eye remained ever fixed on Antioch.
"It was the realm for me," she explained softly. "Always the realm."
Klaus stood on the dais and looked out upon the hall as the court musicians softly played. Those present represented every noble house throughout Antioch along with delegations from lands with which they traded. Mikael would have been positively apoplectic over an assembly of such notoriety convening on behalf of his bastard son. The thought alone brought a smirk to Klaus' face as he and the High Priest waited for the doors to open and his bride to arrive.
As if on cue, the doors to the rear of the hall opened and revealed her; her face hidden behind a veil of gold lace. Her hand rested atop Elena's as the queen escorted her heir forward.
When they reached the steps, Elena turned and carefully removed the veil from Bonnie's head and Klaus suddenly found himself brought up short.
Clearly Stefan's concerns regarding his ambivalence toward his future wife were unfounded. Any curious ponderings would ultimately have been a waste of time as nothing could have prepared him for the diminutive young woman the veil revealed.
Large green eyes peered up at him from where she stood. Their color was startling in that he couldn't recall having ever seen eyes of such an unusual shade. They gazed out from a heart-shaped face with fine cheekbones. Her skin, being a golden brown, seemed to warm beneath the light of the torches and braziers throughout the hall—the burgundy and gold of her gown making it glow.
Her gown was also kind enough to reveal the delicate swell of full breasts that tapered down to a small waist that sat atop gently curving hips. She was also a great deal shorter in height than Elena and more delicately formed.
She was lovely.
Klaus extended his hand and watched as Elena placed Bonnie's within it before he guided his bride up the small steps to join him.
Over the past several weeks, Bonnie tried a handful of times to get a clear assessment of Niklaus Mikaelson out of Elena. Was he handsome? Did he possess all of his teeth? Did bathing appear a common activity? Her responses to such inquiries were: "Depends on what you find handsome; I'm certain he's been punched in the face repeatedly and he seemed relatively fresh." Her friend's willful ambiguity regarding her questions caused her a moderate amount of worry, but now having seen him she understands a bit more.
How did one describe Niklaus Mikaelson?
He stood nearly a foot taller as unreadable midnight blue eyes peered down at her. An impudent smirk revealed a pair of dimples and Bonnie surmised that her betrothed bore not only a werewolf curse; he was positively wolfish in his demeanor.
He may have been a bastard, but it was clear that he'd been provided proper instruction in the ways nobility; and yet he still exuded a wildness and brutality that only confirmed the tales of his bloodthirstiness on the battlefield.
He was not handsome by Southern standards; his brow too prominent, the fullness of his lips bordering too closely to the obscene. Unruly golden blonde curls reached his shoulders while a dark blonde scruff of beard clung to a strongly chiseled jaw.
No, he was not handsome by Southern standards…but she supposed he was handsome all the same.
Klaus continued to hold her hand as the High Priest began to drone on about the importance of marriage. His words went unheard as he continued to size her up. They were adversaries suddenly made allies. There was no trust between them and no benefit of the doubt. Now was the time for poking and prodding and discovering the chinks in one's armor; to find some way to win an advantage. The very nature of their union depended on it.
Let the priest blather on; she will recite the words as will I and Stefan will pass me the ceremonial cloak of House Mikaelson. I will drape the bloody thing across her shoulders and place my family's sigil upon her finger. They would be pronounced man and wife but it would be of no matter; for now,the realization that you've bound yourself to an enemy you have not defined and now call her wife must take hold. You must not take your eyes off of her. You must remain alert for any means to gain the upper hand.
Klaus continued to gaze at his bride while the ceremony played out. Yes, she was lovely, but it was her eyes that sent a rush of energy up his spine and put his senses on alert. Oddly colored eyes that even now gazed back at him with an intensity that matched his own and revealed an intelligence that left little doubt that her thoughts matched his own as well.
Stefan had been right after all…
He should have been more curious.
The wedding festivities began with a receiving line for the new couple. As most were more curious about his bride, he'd been able to watch as the lords and ladies of the North introduced themselves and offered up gifts in honor of the occasion. She accepted them all gracefully; a demure smile fixed upon bow-shaped lips.
When the members of his own house approached her, he had to admit that he was curious as to what they could have possibly thought to give her.
His sister Rebekah presented her with a dagger; its blade said to be made of dragonsteel while its handle and sheath were both made of a mosstone that matched her eyes. The beautiful piece was gilded with tiny jewels that formed lovely floral patterns.
His wife's smile grew in appreciation of the both the weapon's craftsmanship and its rarity; but she truly beamed with excitement when presented with the Personal Accounts of the First Northern Queens by his sister Freya along with several illustrated volumes of northern history presented by Elijah. Bonnie had practically danced in her seat at the gifts and eagerly promised to arrange time to discuss the writings in depth.
She seemed so genuinely pleased that for the briefest of moments, Klaus wanted to snap both his brother's and his sister's necks for not enlightening him to their cleverness while also wondering if he would have been able to elicit such a response from her.
They later adjourned to the dining hall-was a hive of activity—for the banquet. Several dozen long tables bearing nobility from every house in Antioch dominated the room as servants weaved between them bearing massive trenchers filled with an abundance of regional fare. Entertainment was also in great supply as fire dancers and petty magicians charmed the wedding guests. In a stroke of genius, Stefan commissioned one of the most well-known theatre troupes in the realm to perform a retelling of the death of Queen Katherine; a less than subtle reminder to any Northern lord that despite their conflict, Elena's truest service to Antioch had been her removal of the Mad Queen's head.
Klaus sat next to his new wife at their long table and watched as her curious fingers reached towards several of the food-laden trenchers before them; adding choice bits to her plate and going back for more. Her healthy appetite amused him, but his chance to engage her arrived once she reached for one trencher in particular.
Bonnie gasped in surprise at the hand that suddenly wrapped itself around her wrist, stopping her.
"Have a care, little wife," Klaus warned. "That there is called lumpbread and it isn't for the faint of heart." He nodded toward the trencher in question.
Bonnie's eyes widened in amusement. "Forgive me but…I just married you…how faint of heart could I possibly be?" Her tone gently mocked him while it coaxed a smile in response.
"Well, when you put it that way…" he demurred as he released her wrist.
He made certain to maintain the bored expression on his face as she reached for a helping of the lumpbread and added it to her plate.
Bonnie wrinkled her nose and found the dish ill-named as it didn't resemble bread at all. It smelled of meat and stood as stiffly as the sea sponges she used when bathing.
She popped a morsel into her mouth and was immediately met with a sudden and intense rebellion of her senses at the foulness she'd ingested. Her eyes watered, her ears burned and she fought valiantly against the urge to retch. She reached blindly for her wine goblet and drained it.
Klaus leaned towards her and spoke lowly near her ear, "Lumpbread is made from the entrails of winterbeasts. They leave them out in the sun for several days to spoil before the dish can be prepared," he explained. "While it is an honored delicacy that dates back to the First Ones, most Northerners have it at their tables in deference to the past while having no intention of actually suffering through such awfulness." He fought the urge to laugh at her discomfort and continued to school his features.
"No matter," he went on, smugly. "We'll call this your first lesson in heeding the wisdom of your husband."
Bonnie's eyes narrowed in response before a sugary sweet smile bloomed on her lips.
"Why husband, I don't know what you mean," she replied innocently. "I find lumpbread to be as tasty as all of the fare I've sampled tonight." To punctuate her point, she slowly began to eat every bit of lumpbread that remained on her plate; her pride alone keeping her from falling apart into a trembling mass of disgust.
Klaus quirked an eyebrow at her defiant little performance.
Oh joy, he thought ruefully. The gods have blessed me with a stubborn wife.
They were clumsily pushed into their bedchamber by a rush of arms. Lady Caroline and Klaus' manservant Aiden stayed behind; each tending to their charge. Caroline ushered Bonnie over to the vanity in a nearby corner; her fingers making quick yet practiced work of removing the newlywed's jewelry before unlacing the ties of her of her overdress and freeing her from her undergarments.
By the time she finished her ministrations, Bonnie stood wearing only her golden gown.
Caroline came to stand before her and clasped Bonnie's hands in hers. Blonde curls bobbed around her head as she gently squeezed Bonnie's hands before offering up a smile of encouragement and quick curtsey. She then turned and made her way toward the Bonnie's apartments; Aiden followed suit in the direction room that belonged that belonged to Klaus.
The sound of both doors creaking shut suddenly made the massive bedchamber feel terribly small.
Bonnie closed her eyes and gathered her wits about her. She steeled herself against the nerves that clawed at her insides and turned to face her new husband.
The firelight from the hearth made him question if she was real as it illuminated her in a way that made her hair gleam turned her eyes into jewels. Without undergarments, her gown was nearly transparent; the delicacy of the lace outlining her curves in a way that made his hands thrum with the urge to touch her.
Her own were clasped before her; the ring bearing the Mikaelson sigil visible on her left forefinger. The sight of it caused a twisting in his gut as he considered her plight.
All of a month ago she'd been a free woman; a scholar as well as a diplomat it would seem. And in the blink of an eye she'd been compelled to rule a people who weren't her own, bound to a land not her own and wedded to a man not of her choice.
Yes, the gods had made great sport of his tiny wife.
He moved towards a table and filled two goblets with wine. "You look like you could use it," he said as he drew closer and held one out to her.
Bonnie accepted the goblet with a tight smile; but when he expected her to sip demurely, she instead turned the goblet up and began to slowly drain its contents in one gulp.
Impressed when she didn't drop like a stone after the feat, he refilled her goblet and drank from his own.
"Better?" He asked.
"Yes, thank you," Bonnie replied as she studied the contents of her goblet.
She looked up when he moved away; finally taking full measure of him. He was bare-chested having apparently shunned the traditional night shirt worn by the men of Antioch in favor of the linen breeches favored by those from the Isle of Orleans. They hung loosely about his hips; drawing attention to both the pair of veins that sat near his hipbones and the faint trail of dark blond hair that began at his navel and disappeared beneath his waistband.
She knew him to be a great warrior who'd found countless battles, but his flesh bore no scars; another sobering reminder that she'd married someone not entirely from the world of men.
"Elena tells me that you are unspoiled," Klaus remarked.
His words caught her off guard and she frowned in response.
"A fresh jug of milk is unspoiled; salted pork is unspoiled; despite the evening's festivities, my gown is also unspoiled. However,I am a virgin."
"Indeed," Klaus replied, smirking at her cheekiness. "And a remarkable feat considering what I know of the Southern realm."
"I suspect that what you know of the South could easily fit inside of this goblet, Northerner," Bonnie returned, her voice dripping with fool's honey.
"Careful, wife," Klaus warned. "One wouldn't want to rile her husband when such delicate business is still at hand."
He was right and she knew it. Husbands weren't under any obligation to be kind to their wives regardless of their station. She'd certainly seen plenty of cruelty and indifference meted out to the wedded members of her sex.
But her pride rebelled against any perceived danger. Yes, he could hurt her, but she could hurt him as well if need be. The truth of it coursed through her veins and fueled her as she remembered the vows she made as well as the ones she didn't make.
She vowed to honor him.
She did not vow to bend to his vanity.
She vowed fidelity.
She did not vow meekness.
"As I said," she reminded him. "I married you; how faint of heart could I be?"
Klaus cleared the space between them as Bonnie lifted her stubborn little chin. He peered down at her, still searching for the chink in her armor. Her shoulders were straight and her spine stiffened with courage, but despite the defiant tilt of her chin, her eyes told the truth of it. Their unusual green was both steady and resolute. But she couldn't hide the flicker of doubt that lived within their golden flecks.
To his surprise, he found he didn't like it.
Instead, he reached out a lifted a lock of her hair and felt its softness between his thumb and forefinger.
"I suppose we'll find out, now won't we?" He asked, letting the lock fall and nestle itself against the curve of her breast.
He held her gaze for a moment longer before he turned away and felt her eyes follow him as he made his way to the bed—their bed—and tossed back the bedding on his side.
Bonnie turned away quickly, her face flaming red as she saw him begin to step out of his breeches before slid beneath the covers.
"Come to bed…wife," Klaus quietly beckoned.
Bonnie swallowed hard and she steeled herself anew before she crept slowly towards their bed; trying to ignore the fact that it was currently occupied by a naked man…beast…manbeast.
She opted to keep her gown on as she slid beneath the covers and lay on her back; her breath struggling to remain even as she focused on the ceiling above her and waited for her husband's advance.
Instead, he merely rolled over until his back was to her and fluffed the pillows beneath his head.
Bonnie stared at his bare back in confusion. What game was he playing? Was he attempt to lull her into a false sense of security before pouncing and terrorizing her?
"Sleep, Bonnie," she heard him mumble. "Your virtue will still be yours in the morning."
Elena paused from her writing to drink deeply from her goblet. She'd stayed around long enough to see Bonnie pushed into her new bedchamber before she made her way to the rooms that had been set aside for her; her personal guards flanking her as she walked. Once safely inside, she shoo'ed away any attempts from her Ladies-in-Waiting to help her prepare for bed.
Instead she called for quill and paper and drained goblet after goblet; absently using the sleeve of her gown to wipe at the blood that had begun to drip from her nose more frequently.
The nosebleeds had begun a scant few days after Bonnie's Unification ritual.
There was no help for it, really. Because of the ritual's success, Antioch now had two living Keepers. She'd instructed the priests to assure Bonnie that there would be no consequence to such an event, but the truth was shared among them:
In order for the covenant to be made with one, it would be severed with the other.
Severed was a good word for it. To cut the bond between Antioch and its Keeper prematurely was akin to the crude amputation of a limb. The body endured the shock, the wound cauterized and a hopeful some form of replacement found. But the limb itself, divested so unceremoniously, merely bled and withered until finally cast aside.
So too had Elena, Queen and Keeper of Antioch, last Shadow of Amara…begun to wither.
Her quill flew across the page as she wrote. There was much she needed Bonnie to understand about her bond with Antioch. It wasn't all burden and duty; there was a wonder to it that Elena herself had never truly been able to grasp, a wonder more suited to one such as Bonnie. She was certain that despite everything, her dearest friend would not only thrive, she would change the face of Antioch for the better.
Elena almost wished she'd be alive long enough to see it.
A/N: Full disclosure: When it comes to GOT my crackship is Jon x Missandei (I STILL say Dany and Drogo are endgame dammit.) and last summer I came up with a speculative scenario that could bring my little ship to pass: Dany choosing to do what many have done throughout history when a sovereign is likely to leave a throne heirless while also needing to form alliances: adoption. Dany adopts Missandei, names her heir and then arranges a marriage between her and Jon, thus joining a loyal and trusted friend to a much needed ally.
But since my muse's ass apparently belongs solely to Klonnie, I'm not the least bit inspired to write a Jon x Missandei fic despite my affection for the ship and my affection for the idea of all the classism bullshit in Westeros ending with a former slave and a bastard ruling the Seven Kingdoms. So I've taken that speculative scenario and applied it to Klonnie instead and this is the result.
Hope you guys like the start of this. I can tell you right now that this will be a relatively quick fic involving only a handful of chapters. I'd really love to hear what you all think.
Also if you haven't already, please be sure to check out Anastasia-G's A Case of You. Between that fic and Six2VII's The USS Spock, these Klonnie hoes are out here playing with my emotions.