Silence loomed in the Commander's tent as Clarke could only stare in disbelief.
A truce had been something of a distant dream only a day earlier but, with Lincoln's recovery, she had foolishly allowed her hopes to reach towards the seemingly impossible prospect. Now the world was crashing down around her once more.
"You can't be serious?"
The Commander's expression was impassive as ever. "If you want a truce, then Finn must die. The choice is yours."
Clarke should have known that it was too good to be true. Saving Lincoln never would have been enough to satisfy the bloodlust of the vengeful clan. They wanted Finn to suffer for what he had done, but could she sacrifice him in the name of peace?
She bit her lip and shook her head gently. "No, we can find another way."
Lexa felt impatience creeping over her like a tide, a taint of disappointment blooming into existence at the girls lack of vision. This was the only way. It had always been the way.
"Would you rather take his place?" she said with a touch of venom, drawing the girls conflicted gaze back to her. "As I recall, three hundred of my warriors died at your hand."
Rather than be cowed by the statement, Clarke straightened with renewed defiance, a glitter of anguish in her eyes as she brushed aside the insinuation.
"You sent them there to kill us. We were at war and you left me with no choice."
"And now I have no choice. This is the way of war Clarke, hard decisions must be made for the greater good."
The decisive words hung in the air, a reminder of the sacrifices that had already been suffered and those that were yet to come. It was no choice at all, not for the blonde leader. She could not abandon Finn to such a fate, not when she knew what it would entail. No one deserved to suffer like that.
She was unable to voice her dissatisfaction when a cry went up from outside the tent, an unmistakeable cascade of angry voices streaming inside to reach the leaders. Their conversation would have to wait.
Eyes once locked with a clash of anguish suddenly shifted into mutual concern for a fractured moment as their attention shifted to the chaos outside, only a heartbeat before an agitated warrior called through to his leader.
"Heda! Miya snap! Em laik fraga!"
His words words sparked something far greater than concern in the Commander's gaze and Clarke was left to catch up when she swept from the tent without further explanation, an indecipherable expression firmly held in place.
They emerged into a sea of furious faces and sharp cries that were being thrown towards an approaching group. The newcomers were virtually forced to fight their way towards their leader. At first Clarke couldn't understand the cause of the commotion, that was until she saw who was being dragged along between two of the Grounders, the boy virtually stumbling to avoid the jostling warriors and meet the fast pace that had been set.
Clarke's confusion dissolved into heart wrenching fear as Finn caught her eye, a gleam of relief overcoming his terror to finally recognise the girl that he had done so much for, had given so much for.
She saw his lips move briefly but he couldn't be heard over the gathered warriors, their furious uproar filling the air as each looked ready to kill the boy without hesitation.
"Hosh op! Chil yu daun!" Lexa roared with power that only a leader could muster, her voice tearing through the cacophony of noise to restore order to the chaos. The reaction was instantaneous. Voices faded, yet the intimidating glares lost none of their fury.
Clarke couldn't tear her eyes away from Finn's pleading gaze, silently willing her to step in and save him from this disaster. Little did he know what the Grounder's had planned. He shouldn't have come here. He should have run far away, anywhere else but here, to leave this madness behind. Instead he had walked straight into his own funeral.
The boy was forced down onto his knees as the Commander stepped forwards with an icy expression and glared down at the captured prisoner, her words cutting through the air like a knife, her warriors hanging onto every word.
"Finn of the Sky People," she said scathingly, every eye watching the scene unfold with eager anticipation. "You massacred eighteen unarmed villagers. Men, women and children, or would you deny your guilt?"
The boy stared up with what scrap of courage he could muster, although the shine of fear couldn't be hidden entirely.
"I'm guilty," he uttered, almost too quiet to be heard but with the weight of someone who knew the subsequent consequences. His head dropped low, strands of hair falling across his face to partially conceal his regretful expression. "I..I'm sorry that I-,"
"Enough," Lexa cut in, her tone piercing through his empty words to bring the spectacle to an end. She addressed her subjects next, her attention sweeping away from the cowering boy as if he were nothing. "Tonight, the boy will die for his crimes. Jus drein, jus daun."
A cheer went up from the masses, the haunting sentiment echoed by the warriors as they propelled their weapons into the air with violent promise. It was a chilling sight.
Lexa instructed two warriors to secure the prisoner in the underground cells before turning away from her people, only to find herself the subject of Clarke's pained gaze. She remembered the feeling well. A long time ago she had known such misery, the agony of loss and betrayal always close at heart. Except she had used it to grow stronger, to evolve into a powerful figure that would never again feel such crushing emotion, never again would she be that weak. Clarke would do well to do the same.
"He did it for me, to find me," the girl all but choked, unable to watch the boy she had once loved being dragged away mercilessly. "Please, don't do this."
"Then he dies for you. My decision is final."
She spoke without empathy, her words absent of sympathy or regret, without even a glimpse of humanity beneath the imposing mask that was projected for all to see. Clarke had never seen anything like it.
Tears burned at her eyes incessantly but the blonde girl refused to show her weakness, holding back the flood of emotion as the Commander swept by without another word. What more was there to say. Finn's death was inevitable now, he had made sure of that.
"Let me at least talk to him, please," she called after the woman, spinning on her heel in a final act of desperation to resolve this situation. Blue eyes burned with emotion, masking none of the pain that dwelt there.
She thought for a moment that the Commander would refuse when she paused, considering the possibility before offering the slightest of nods. The boy would die either way, there was no harm in letting them have a final conversation.
Clarke descended into the dull depths where the dismal cell was located, her heart breaking to see Finn abandoned to the dark confines. His back was to the longest wall, head hung in defeat as he stared at the ground with a vacant expression.
The warrior escorting the blonde glared distastefully at the accused murderer, a lingering stare that hungered for violence, but he eventually turned away and trudged back to the surface where he was posted at the entrance, leaving the two Sky People alone.
Finn clambered to his feet with a half smile, dusting away the dirt that had infiltrated his clothes as he approached the bars. The smile was not returned by the blonde, a haunting anger gracing her expression instead.
"What the hell are you doing Finn?"
His smile faltered, replaced by a slight frown as he recognised the surge of anger that was directed towards him.
"I came for you, to make sure that you were okay."
Clarke could've screamed, or perhaps cried, one of the two. Had he lost his mind?
"I was fine without you," she snapped, regretting the sharp tone when surprised shock widened his expressive eyes. "You should be back at camp, safe, not rotting in this cell waiting for your execution."
She wasn't angry with him, not entirely, but at the situation that he had unknowingly stumbled straight into. Had it not occurred to him that it was a terrible idea considering his crimes against the Grounders?
"I knew what I was doing," he said softly, unperturbed by the frustration pouring from the blonde as she tried to comprehend what was happening. Her streaming thoughts were forgotten for a moment as she registered his comment.
Clarke narrowed her eyes, wondering what he was alluding to.
"When I came here, I knew what I was doing" he continued in a quiet voice, surprisingly calm considering his situation. "I'm not an idiot. After what I did, to those people...there had to be consequences."
The sentence died as he exhaled sharply, his head dropping as if weighed with the horrific memories. Clarke couldn't hold onto her anger any longer, overwhelmed with only sorrow as she lifted a hand to grip to metal bars between them.
"Then why come here? If you knew they wanted you dead then why not run in the opposite direction?"
"Running away and destroying any chance of peace with the Grounder's isn't an answer," Finn reasoned, a sad smile creeping onto his face. "There was no other option."
Clarke sighed heavily. She had heard that more than enough times today already, but there was a sense of finality when it came from his mouth.
"Besides, there's no place for me here anymore," he continued, his vision lost again in his own thoughts. "My own people no longer trust me, they wouldn't hesitate to hand me over if the Grounder's demanded punishment and you know they won't stop until blood has been spilt."
He wasn't wrong, but Clarke couldn't give up. Not without a fight. She took a step back and adopted a demeanour of confidence, nodding briskly to herself as she ignored Finn's disappointed gaze.
"I can speak to the Commander again, get her to listen to me,' Clarke insisted, desperately fighting to find a way out of this mess. "We can find another solution, anything else."
"Clarke, please," Finn uttered, reaching up to the bars to gain her full attention. "Let me do this."
The tears that drew a path along the blonde's cheek were impossible to fight, summoned by the inescapable reality that was unravelling.
"To keep our people safe, to keep you safe. This is the only way for my to help," he continued, desperately trying to break through the girls defensive walls. This was his decision.
Clarke smiled through the tears and shook her head, backing away reproachfully at the resignation that seeped into the boys voice.
"No, I'll find a way. You'll see."
Without waiting to hear his arguments, Clarke turned away and ascended the stairs towards daylight. She had no plan, no idea how she was going to convince the Commander, but she had to try.
A Grounder brushed past her silently when she arrived at the entrance, forcing her to hurriedly shrink against the wall before they could collide in the narrow space. She was barely even aware of the instinctive action, the warriors footfalls fading as she stepped out into the early afternoon light, sucking in a deep breath as if it could dissipate the pain in her chest.
What if she couldn't save him?
There was no easy answer to the question, but another thought seared to the forefront of her mind as she became more aware of her surroundings, tearing herself away from the prospect of Finn's fate.
There had been two guards stationed outside the cell when she had entered but now the entrance lay abandoned. The Commander would never have left the prisoner unguarded. No, something was wrong.
Clarke was already turning when the answer came to her, virtually throwing herself towards the stairs without consideration of what awaited her within. The world around her was a blur as she descended into the cell in what felt like slow motion, her heart pounding like a drum when she finally skidded into the enclosed space.
The Grounder who had rushed by her was unlocking the cage, a murderous expression clear to see as the only obstacle standing between him and the prisoner swung open. He paid no attention to the blonde, gripping a knife tightly in one hand as he sneered down at the surprised boy.
Clarke had barely registered the movement before she was hurtling forwards, a screech of desperation echoing from her lips before she collided with the large man, hands scrabbling desperately at his large form to either disarm or distract him from the target.
The action achieved nothing more than riling the warrior into a heightened rage, throwing back a muscled arm to fling the incessant girl away, barely noticing as she was hurled back against the wall with a muted thud. She was not the target of his attack, not unless she got in his way.
The blonde lay gasping on the floor, her ribs aching from the impact. She squinted through the curtain of blonde strands that had fallen across her face to see the warrior reach down and pick Finn up by the material of his shirt, slamming the boy firmly against the wall.
Clarke staggered unsteadily to her feet as meaningless words spilled from the warriors mouth, accentuated with rage as he recalled the death of his brother, demanding vengeance for the merciless attack on his people.
It was just a blur of angry words when the girl advanced forwards once more, lip curled with determination as she threw her full force against the warrior, barely managing to rock the huge man to one side, just enough to throw him off balance and release the boy from his iron grip.
The warrior growled furiously and directed his fury towards the blonde leader, swinging a forceful blow at her face to decisively drive her to the ground. He had not intended on killing her, but she was becoming a hindrance.
Clarke tasted the blood in her mouth, aware of the looming presence over her even as she desperately pulled herself across the ground, gaining barely a few metres before she was flipped roughly onto her back, unflinching hands closing at her throat before she could even think to scream.
Her hips bucked wildly in defence, scrabbling with terror at the choking grip but she was no match for the warrior, his strength immensely overpowering. Her vision began to blur as the futile attempts weakened, eyes watering as his figure shimmered into three separate entities, each sharing the same vile expression.
Even as she accepted her dire fate, the face before her morphed into an agonised expression, the hands at her throat disappearing as his weight tipped to one side and he grunted with pain. The dagger buried in his arm was barely noticed by the blonde girl as she heaved in deep breaths, simultaneously choking and savouring the blessed oxygen that could finally reach her lungs.
It took a moment for the world around her to swim back into normality as she kicked her legs out and pushed herself back until the supportive presence of the wall at her back could prop her into a sitting position.
Through streaming eyes she watched the Commander and her war chief slink into the room, their gazes first assessing the injured warrior at their feet before the green eyes swept towards the Skaikru leader. It was not hard to visualise what had unfolded and the warrior was swiftly pulled onto his knees, forced to look up into the relentless gaze of his leader.
"Why?" she asked simply, not needing to raise her voice to convey the immeasurable fury that resonated towards the man. He had acted against direct orders.
"My brother died at his hand, as did my my friends, my family," the warrior began to explain, clinging tightly to his injured arm as blood seeped between his fingers. "He had to die."
Indra ripped the knife free from his arm without care for the howl that escaped his lips. "His execution was set for tonight, you know of the suffering inflicted to the guilty. Why would you end his life so painlessly in comparison?"
The warrior grinned wildly through the pain at the preposterous question, eyes flicking in a crazed manner between the two women as he furiously spat his explanation.
"The blonde girl preaches of peace and whispers false promises to you Heda. She would try to convince you of his innocence and I could not take the risk that it would work. My face would be the last thing that murderer sees before he bleeds out!"
Lexa was unimpressed by the man's passionate speech, her tone remaining even as she stared down at him with contempt.
"And now my face will be the last thing that you see."
Clarke had regained her senses enough to observe her wider surroundings, heart jumping fearfully when she glimpsed the still form lying in the cell. Wincing from the pain of her injuries, she discretely dragged herself away from the confrontation and into the cell.
She didn't need to watch what was unfolding behind her, the unmistakeable sound of the dying warrior reaching her ears as she ignored the execution. Finn was her only priority. The laboured breathing was only audible as she settled beside him, her heart dropping to witness the bloody wound on his torso.
She had failed.
"Hey, Finn, stay with me."
The boy could only gasp as he stared up at her tear filled eyes, his hand unsteadily reaching out to grasp hers. His eyes conveyed a peace that conflicted with his physical state, reassuring the girl even in his last moments.
His grip soon loosened considerably and Clarke choked back tears as she tried to smile down at him, cupping his face with one hand, her thumb gently stroking his cheek.
"May we meet again," she uttered, her voice strangled by emotion as she watched the life drain from the dark eyes. Just like that he was gone, eyes blank and empty of life. It was over.
The tears couldn't be held back any longer, cascading down her cheeks as she let her head fall onto his chest, her entire body wracked with shuddering sobs. It only occurred to her after a long moment that she was not alone, somehow managing to swallow back her grief, the tears hot on her face as she rocked back onto her heels.
Indra had slipped away unnoticed to gather her warriors, leaving only the Commander standing over the deceased Grounder her sword tainted with blood as she met the pained gaze of the blonde girl. There was nothing but burning sorrow in her eyes.
"You got what you wanted," she urged, surging to her feet to approach the leader with a questionable lack of caution. "Don't tell me that he died for nothing."
"His death was not in line with tradition," Lexa began carefully, continuing swiftly when her words incited a spark of anguish in the blue eyes. "However, due to the circumstances, the terms of our truce are agreeable."
Clarke nodded briefly to herself as a fresh wave of emotion offered to overcome her and she fought away a tide of fatigue, unable to decipher whether her physical or emotional pain was stronger.
The Commander was speaking again, of healers and recovery, but the blonde was hardly listening, barely aware as she was guided away from the living nightmare and out into another. At least Finn's death hadn't been in vain, he had wanted to achieve peace and he had succeeded.
I hope you liked this chapter! Leave a comment and look out for the next chapter, it should be up in the next few days :)