Those dang people.
So here's a little thing I started working on yesterday after having its full-blown intricate plot written out in a notebook at midnight just before vacation. It's been steaming inside of me amidst the Peter Pan fanfiction that I'm adding my own OC into, and another little thing that I thought of whilst on vacation...but that one needs more plot. Otherwise it's just really bad fluff.
Anyways, I'm sucking up my pride and taking a chance by putting this out there, simply because I'm terribly proud of how it's coming along so far. I never thought it would be this good--my OC seems to have a mind of her own and is making her character development so easy for me. She's got layers, and I love layers.
Still haven't come up with a decent title for it, but it'll come. Or it better--else I'll have to write some obscure thing for a title on fanfiction.net....since I'M POSTING IT THERE ONCE I'VE GOT A FEW CHAPTERS OUT. GO ERAGON FANDOM AND THE MANY FANS THAT COME WITH IT!!!
Title: Subterfuge, pilot chapter
Rating: G...PG...nothing bad happens, but writing G stuff is lame.
Summary: After being captured by Galbatorix's soldiers after a rally she started in her village pub, Clover is taken to the king's castle and is held as a prisoner there whilst awaiting her sentence for opposing the king.
I own nothing except for my OC, Clover. Everything else was thought up by the brilliant Christopher Paolini, without whom I could not even begin to write this brilliant piece. ;D
When at last she was allowed release, the sun had set far past the horizon and had bid its goodbyes for the night. Her stomach clawed and gurgled for some form of sustenance, but Clover denied all of the provisions that the guard had given her—not even a bite of the half loaf of bread nor a tiny sip of the water. She would not take anything given to her...to do so would symbolize her acceptance of her imprisonment, and she wasn’t planning on staying in the king’s castle for very long.
It was king Galbatorix himself who had requested her presence in his court that night, when her eyes were tired and had grown bleary, and her body ached for respite, and Clover agreed to go with the guard from her cell up to the second floor, where she was to have an audience with his Majesty.
Even if it went against every fiber of her being to do so.
The guard who shuffled grudgingly ahead of her was a thickset man with grimy brown curls and flesh almost rotting with the amount of sweat and dirt coating it. He almost panted with each step, jerking the silver chain that clipped to her hands—bound in cuffs of a similar metal—almost on a whim, stopping every few moments to tug fiercely enough to send her stumbling forward. Clover kept her eyes on the greasy stone walls, scanning each tiny pillar of light that came from upstairs, taking care to memorize everything she could. She needed options if she were to escape soon, needed to know where every exit was. And the guard was enjoying pulling her forward every now and then a little too much, a filthy smile marking his dark face. She could hear the friction of his leather armor between his legs as he walked, could smell the foul odors reeking off of his skin and hair; but she said nothing while they came down the tunnel.
“The king said he had something of a surprise for you, girlie,” said the guard, and Clover averted his eyes as he flashed her a grin of rock-like teeth, ground and yellowed from...well, she didn’t want to spend too much of her time dwelling on thoughts of the guard’s hygiene issues. “Don’t know what it is, but he said you might like it better than what you have now...whatever that means.”
A surprise? For her? What could king Galbatorix possibly give to her, not that anything he could give would hold anything of value to her, his prisoner? She was the captured rebel that had been striking up hundreds of people into a full-blown rebellion, catching attention in pubs and standing on tables of bars, pressing close to groups of strangers to whisper her complaints and messages of a better way of life for them. They were practically enemies now, since she had said so many things against him, and with the level of hatred crossing inside of her chest for him, she could only wonder what it was that he had for her.
Perhaps it was a job as a lover—no, that was something she could never be, for she abhorred the thought of even being in his presence; someone to polish his dragon’s scales whenever he wanted, or a keeper otherwise; a maid to fold his robes and tend to his soldiers and guards...no. She could not possibly be reduced to any of that, with her background in...well, everything else.
Or perhaps he was going to kill her, feed her to his precious Shruiken as a treat, or use her as a subject on some new torture device. But then again...Galbatorix was a magician, and a skilled one at that—he could torture people himself without the use of tools of torture devices. Then...why would he waste a spell on her, a simple girl whom had been unfortunate enough to be caught by three soldiers after being the cause of death for a hundred others?
“You will show him the utmost respect, girlie, or it’s back to the dungeons with you.”
The raspy growl of the guard’s voice interrupted Clover from her thoughts, and as she recollected herself, she realized where she was. The room made her own house seem miniscule in comparison, with walls of gold that spread out with wide arms, sconces set beside torches, a grand chandelier dripping strings of diamonds and various other jewels that Clover couldn’t quite place. Enormous windows twice the size of the ones in the largest pub matched each other on the far side of the room, revealing a blue, almost black sky that loomed beyond the spidery branches of trees the color of white smoke and ash. Beneath her lay the finest rug she had ever seen, an ornate silken piece that rolled out from the door a few yards behind her and the guard and ended just before it reached a set of tiny, pristine golden steps. One...two...three? There were only three steps in the set before they flattened out to a second platform, repeating until they stopped abruptly at the leather buckled boots of Galbatorix himself, his eyes glowing darkly in the center of his lowered head.
“Ah, at last I can gaze upon the face of the lady who rebels against me,” said Galbatorix, and Clover took in the sight of him. His black hair swept over his coppery flesh like a raven, and his eyes resembled the regarding stare of a soaring bird of prey; his robes were also dark, and defined his broad shoulders nicely; a cape was fastened around his throat, several jeweled rings on his fingers, a gold band around his smallest finger. A trim beard and mustache outlined his lips, and there was an earring in his left ear, a tiny spike that was almost unnoticeable.
Clover shook off the guard, who was holding her by her harness rather close to her waist, his hand dangerously near her rear, and stepped forward. “And finally I can see the coward who gives us reason to rebel.”
“Oi!” The guard jerked her back, his meaty hand pressing on her shoulder, his free hand tightening his hold on the metal cuffs. “I said respect his Majesty, or you’ll be sleeping in the dungeons for a week!”
But Galbatorix raised a hand, undeterred; the black holes he called eyes never leaving Clover. “No, no; let her speak.”
Clover paused a moment, her face sullen. He was letting her speak? It was hard not to let a sliver of a smile creep to her face, but she quickly suppressed it—she didn’t understand Galbatorix, and perhaps by showing her little moment of triumph, she was only making matters worse for herself. The hulk of a guard harrumphed, but let go of her, now holding her out like a sheep to the slaughter.
“And what reason is this?”
She ran her tongue along her lips, and then said, “Because you have killed so many of us, your Majesty”—she said the word almost like an insult—”and hundreds, perhaps thousands of people have suffered at your hands. Your soldiers go through villages, plundering houses, catching rebels, and forcing young men to become a part of your troops. Anyone opposed to your reign is automatically silenced. Killed. Your control over us is only because of your own selfish ways...nobody seems to remember how you rose to power. You killed and cheated, and you forced your way up. And now, as you search for Eragon...you put all of us in danger. Over what—a simple dragon egg? If it wasn’t meant to be yours, then it wasn’t meant to be yours, Galbatorix. It wasn’t meant to hatch for you. If this reign of stupidity and useless violence is simply in anger, then you are only killing your people with spite. Find him if you must, but for heaven’s sake, let us innocents continue with our lives. Let us be safe, or at least not have to worry or fear about what our king will do to us next.”
The room fell into utter silence for a long moment, and Clover wondered if in the next she were to be killed. Even with the lack of Shruiken in the room, it would take a simple thought from the king to call the mighty dragon to end her right then and there. A simple thought. It could be as small as a single word—eat; or perhaps the king would show his dragon an image of where he was, of who she was, of what he wanted from her, or wanted done to her...
...or perhaps the beast already knew everything, or had suggested her death itself. Perhaps it already knew what the king was thinking as he sat in his great throne, his brow raised, his eyes dark and beady as ever. His hand curled and uncurled ringed fingers on the armrest while he stroked his beard, appearing to be thinking deeply. And perhaps he was. After all, she had said quite a mouthful, and all of it had been cursing his power, his reign. His everything. At least she had spared the words about his dragon. Those grounds she knew well enough not to trespass on—a Rider and his dragon. They were on and the same, apart and somehow different. And that was not the way that she wanted to die, being eaten or cursed because she had muttered some insolence about the king’s loyal dragon.
But the guard had his own idea of things. “Shall I take her back to the dungeons, my king, and kill her there? Or will right here be suitable?”
The king said nothing as the guard held a jagged knife to the rebel’s throat, his rancid breath in her face. As the moment of nothingness subsided, Clover felt the pressure of the blade against her neck, already drawing blood. Somehow she stayed calm, though her heart was racing—surely the king would kill her now. She wondered why she had even dared to say such things...and yet...they needed to be said. If she was to die anyway, why not her? Nobody else would have had the tenacity to stand up to Galbatorix like that...never in a million years, unless they had magic themselves, and even then...
No. She held no regret for her words. The only regret that she felt was the pang of guilt for not taking better care of her sisters, the two girls left behind in the village an infinite amount of miles away. Both unable to look after each other or provide means to survive...Clover was the one who had been their surrogate mother after their parents had been killed a number of years ago by Galbatorix’s soldiers, and now with the two on their own...she could only see their faces as she closed her eyes and waited for the slitting of her own throat.
She relaxed her entire body. She could do this.
“Release her, Maddox.”
Her eyes opened wide in disbelief. No, it was real—Galbatorix was rising from his throne, twisting a gold ring on his finger as he did so. “You heard me, did you not?” he said, and now his tone was harsh. The guard blinked several times before fumbling to free the rebel from the silver bonds clasped around her, hurriedly replacing his knife and shoving her forward.
The guard knew better than to go against the king’s wishes.
“Come here, child.”
Why Galbatorix was calling her a child, she couldn’t say, for the king couldn’t be any older than thirty...thirty-five? His age was hard to place, but still she obeyed his orders, feeling a touch of relief, a tiny sliver of...was that gratitude? No. She wouldn’t feel anything but hatred for this man, this coward, this...evil magician who was killing everyone in Alagaesia, who had killed her parents and separated their family. She was going to escape as soon as his back was turned, and she was going to start a revolution, a rebellion so large that no magician could stop them. Not even Galbatorix, as sly and cunning as he was. But Clover could be sly and cunning, too, and she would be. Her life depended on it.
The king was much taller than he looked, though he was only half a head taller than she was, and the black of his eyes was intensified by twelve up close. She could almost touch him, could reach out and knock the rings off of his fingers one by one, could grip him by the throat of his cape and strangle him...with a clean punch, she could knock him out. But she knew better than to assume something as simple as a punch or kick could injure this man, and her knowledge was verified as she stopped three feet from him. A strange aura surrounded him, like an invisible shield coating his body, impenetrable and daunting; his eyes seemed to dance before her, daring her to try and hit him, to strike him. But she wouldn’t. She needed magic to kill this man, and magic was the one thing she didn’t have—magic, and now she didn’t have her sisters, wherever they were now...wherever she was now. The king’s castle was far enough away from her village that she didn’t know the distance...only that it was a great journey to get inside or near it unless one wanted to be spotted, taken, or killed by soldiers and guards.
There was a cold air about him, too...a darkness that she couldn’t identify. She wasn’t familiar with magic, but she knew faintly what it felt like to be in the presence of it. And Galbatorix oozed...dripped magic, so much that she almost didn’t dare breathe before him.
“What is your name, rebel?” asked Galbatorix. His voice was strong, full of power that she still was feigning as he looked her over. Clover stopped for a moment—it didn’t seem like lying to him would do any good, and if the truth had gotten her THIS far...and it was only her name.
“Clover,” she said.
“Clover,” he repeated, testing how the name sounded on his lips. He raised a brow. “That’s a man’s name. Have you lied to me, or is that your given name?”
She frowned. What did it matter to him what her name was? “No, that’s what my parents named me.”
“And your parents, are they still alive?”
She turned and saw that the guard, Maddox, had long since scuttled back into the dungeons, and had shut the door on his way out. It was just Galbatorix and her left in the room. She shook her head, and looked straight into his black, black eyes. “You killed them.”
He nodded and pulled his lips into a straight line. A strange sensation swept through her body, a light tickle at first, but then a probe, like an enormous finger digging into her head...scraping her brain. She saw the faces of her sisters, of her parents years ago, of her home in the village now—
“Stop it!” she cried, stepping back. There was no way that Galbatorix was going to enter her mind, not for all the money in all of Alagaesia, not for her freedom...not for anything. “What do you want me for?”
“You have sisters,” the king noted. “Interesting. And you can feel magic...and detect when it is doing something...also interesting. Many people do not know when their minds are being invaded, only that they are reliving certain memories or experiencing a rather unfortunate ailment or particularly nasty headache. Congratulations, you have proved yourself useful to me.”
Clover clutched her head, her eyes wide with horror, the aura of calm she had summoned before slipping away in an instant. She slowly moved back from the king, feeling a throbbing in her head and a foreign feeling in her stomach and heart. It felt like hatred, and guilt and sorrow all at once...she had been violated by this man; he had just gone inside of her head without even asking—
“What,” she repeatedly slowly, “Do you want with me?”
“Oh, many things, but we will get to that in time. Most rebels who are captured like this are killed long before they come to see me. They don’t even get to try their luck at a memory search. You, my dear,” he reached out and tapped her nose. Clover stared at his long ringed finger before returning her glare to his eyes. “Are special.”
And then Galbatorix reached out again with his hand and gripped her beneath her chin, tilting her head up to look at him. She could make out the beautiful tapestry handing above the throne before images swam around her head, images that were like memories...someone else’s memories. But they weren’t memories at all, she realized as her eyes closed for a second time; they were thoughts that Galbatorix was sending her way. It was like a speech, a lengthy speech condensed into a matter of images.
She saw Galbatorix standing in a different room, a room with blank stone walls and a few torches on the wall, another beautiful tapestry gracing the space with its presence. There was another man that he was conversing with, a man with crimson hair falling in a straight plunge down his back, letting his maroon eyes steal the focus of his white face. Strange symbols were inked on his seemingly bare forehead, in light and faded streaks of every color, mostly tan and orange and brown waves sprouting foreign messages above his sharp, angled brows. Somehow, Clover found herself memorizing every feature of this man, noticing every nuance and slight that he possessed. Was something important about him? There was a heavy emphasis on the other man as the image played, crossing into new images that showed that man in a new room lined with clay shelves, bent over an enormous metal kettle. He wore a cape that matched his eyes, and had a slim build; his arms were muscled like an athlete as he reached out and tipped the contents of a jar into the large pot. He wasn’t ugly, she thought, but there was something different about him, a sense that she could feel from the images Galbatorix was showing her that he was like the king. He was...magical. But there was something far darker about this red haired man than the king, as hard as it was to believe...
He was a Shade, she came to realized. This was Durza, a...friend of the king’s, who did his bidding and used dark magic to have his way. Soldier feared him, villagers and other innocents died at a single twitch of his hand, and he was, in a word, deadly. Deadly and violent, a force to be reckoned with. This man was dangerous, and he killed for fun. There was no mercy inside of his cold, maroon eyes, not a single glimmer of hope for those who crossed him. She watched through the tinted glasses of foreign images as Durza whispered words and a roaring blaze erupted through a clearing in the woods, tearing down everything and engulfing anything that crossed his path. Another image: villages being overrun with soldiers, people screaming, praying and pleading, begging for mercy, to be spared...Durza smiled a vicious snakelike smile and blasted them with a whirl of darkness, some of them falling to the ground without another sound before the blast hit their bodies. Some of them outside stumbling and dying within seconds of being yards from the Shade’s presence.
There was some kind of message underlying in the images, like a voice speaking to her. More images meant more understanding. And now Clover understood.
This was Durza, a Shade. A killing machine. A monster. A ruthless man possessed by dark forces. And she was to tend to him, to be his sort of handmaid, to be his servant. His loyal servant, as was emphasized by Galbatorix, who would do whatever he wanted her to do, to serve him. She was to become an entirely new person, an individual much different than who she had been before being captured by his soldiers. She was to become someone else, and never go back. She would stay in the castle forever and ever, for eternity or until she died, and would serve Durza, and if she ran away, the price was death. And not just her death—
“The death of your sisters would be a tragic thing, yes?” asked Galbatorix, examining his fingers as if he hadn’t just shown the rebel all of this. Clover scrambled back into reality with a sharp gasp, tears threatening to fall from her eyes. “Your name is now Diana. You will serve only Durza and myself if I require any services...but do not get excited...I have servants of my own. He is expected to arrive sometime tomorrow, and until then, you will wait in the dungeon until I call upon you again.”
Clover looked at the king, trying to absorb the tears back into her eyes. She would not show weakness, would not cry in front of the king. Galbatorix had humiliated her enough, and she would not give him the satisfaction of seeing his efforts pay off. Why he wanted her as a servant when she would make a much more handsome coat or meal for Shruiken was beyond her, but she simply nodded and turned away from him.
“And do not try and run, rebel, because I will find you. And you will die.”
His last words fell against her back like a sheet of ice, each one stabbing her heart with utter pain and fear as she fluttered down the steps and almost ran out of the throne room and into the hallway, back in the direction of the dungeons downstairs.
That night she could barely sleep; only toss from side to side on the bench chained to the wall as time crept on. She finally surrendered to the rumbling of her stomach, since she hadn’t eaten before going to her small rally at the pub before she was captured. How long she had been inside the castle, she couldn’t say; she remembered being bound with ropes and tossed into the back of a carriage, the bumping of rocks on the road, the jostling of the horses and the fluttering of their manes. But she couldn’t place how long it had been since her capturing, so she flipped over on the wooden plank again and sighed, reaching for the tray where the half loaf of bread rested by the pitcher of water.
Well, if she was going to be here for a while...and the bread tasted so sweet between her lips, so thick and lush...she downed another bite with a swig of water, which wasn’t as good as the bread, but satisfied her thirst.
This time tomorrow, she would be in the service of Durza, the Shade that the king had been so gracious to show her among the images in his head. Serving, cleaning, sweeping, folding, cooking, and perhaps kissing...Galbatorix had said that she was to do whatever it was that the Shade wanted...but if it came down to any of that, she would run. She didn’t care that she would be killed within seconds of fleeing—she wasn’t going to sit around and become another one of the castle’s love-slaves. She had things to do, sisters to take care of, and people to rally into a rebellion. Even if the king was beginning to strike the smallest amount of fear into her heart—she wasn’t going to do whatever he said. Now that she was alone and away from the intimidation, she could think clearly without having to worry about masking her emotions. Galbatorix couldn’t influence her here, and she wouldn’t let him tomorrow. Whatever it was he wanted from her, he wouldn’t be having anytime soon...or ever, if Clover had her way.
The hour was impossible to discern from looking around her cell in the dreary dungeon, and Clover had finished the loaf of bread, leaving most of the water in the pitcher. She supposed that she should have rationed out the food for the next few days, as she didn’t quite know when it would be coming again, but she didn’t care. Her belly was full, and she was as happy as a prisoner could be. She stood and walked around in the tiny confines of her cell, barely three yards across, unable to see much in the low light of her prison. It smelled of blood and urine everywhere, and of rotting flesh. It was all most unpleasant, and she didn’t know if she had been anywhere worse in her entire life.
“I should wonder why you never married,” said a voice, and with a start, Clover turned her attention to the guard nearest to her cell, the only one left in the dungeons. This one had a kinder voice, and a rougher build to him; unlike Maddox he was quiet and didn’t try and croon and probe his fingers through the bars in the door of her cell, and that alone was enough to gain favor with her.
The guard moved over to the door, where she could see a pair of blue eyes in the darkness—gentle blue eyes that bore her no ill will. “I mean, a pretty girl like you, at your age...you weren’t wearing a ring when they caught you, so I assumed you weren’t married to anyone.”
She probably didn’t look as pretty now, with her hair tangled from tossing back and forth on the bench and her face smeared with dirt. There was a faint line on her throat from where Maddox’s blade had caressed her skin, and she touched it now, almost nervously as she spoke to the guard. “Nobody ever asked me,” she said. “I suppose if a gentleman had asked me, I would be married by now. But I had people to take care of—I still do.”
The guard raised a brow. “Who?”
Clover shook her head in the gloom. “It doesn’t matter now. I left them behind when I was captured. You’re not like Maddox—why is that? Are you the only one who guards at this hour?”
“Maddox only has one thing in mind when we capture girls like you. Even when we don’t bring them to the castle—and you’re about the first one we’ve bothered to take to Galbatorix—he still usually has his way with them.” The guard shivered. “It’s hideous—he’s hideous. I’m not like him because...well, I didn’t choose to serve here with the king; the soldiers came and took me away from my family, almost nine years ago today. I’m just here until I can get released back to my city...I’ve never liked killing or torturing, anyway, so I just do whatever I can to stay out of it.”
“I’ve been so accustomed to violence these past few years that I hardly even notice it anymore,” said Clover, and then she thought of something. “Do you have the time?”
“My shift starts at daybreak, and I’ve been down here for an hour or so.”
“It’s already morning?”
“Time passes quickly down here, I know,” said the guard, and then he sighed. “You haven’t slept, have you? You sound tired.”
Clover sat on the wooden bench that was too small to be a real bed and rested her head in her hands. “I am. I’m supposed to meet a Shade tomorrow—ah, today, I guess.”
“You’re meeting Durza?!” the guard cried incredulously, his eyes wide behind the bars of the door. “The Shade?! Are you being sent to get killed?”
“I’m going to be his servant.”
She raised her head and looked at him with sad caramel colored eyes, barely able to see him through the dirty gloom of the dungeons. Saying it made it seem much more final, much more...real, as if it were actually going to happen. And it was, now that she thought about it. Where was she going to run to when she was in the presence of a Shade? She had seen what he could do, had seen the people he had killed without a second thought. Just a few words—that was all it took. And then they were gone.
“I’m...sorry,” said the guard. “I didn’t know what Galbatorix had planned for you--he rarely shares his plans with any of us. I understand where you’re coming from, if it makes you feel any better--I know a little of what it’s like to be away from home, in a strange place serving someone you don’t want to or don’t even like.”
She heard the clinking of metal against metal, and recognized the sound as keys rustling against one another on a large ring. The guard sighed again, and turned to leave.
“My name’s Marcus, by the way,” he said quietly over his shoulder. “Marcus Livingston. And you have a few hours left before they bring you food and take you out if you wanted to sleep. I find that thinking of someplace quiet and happy--someplace away from all of this--helps.”
And with that, the guard shuffled off--much quieter than Maddox, with steady breaths instead of labored ones--and Clover was left to herself. Silence filled the dungeons, broken only by the trickle of water from the cracks in the ceiling, pooling drop by drop in the corner of the stone hallway. She lay back on the bench and turned towards the wall, curling up as tightly as she could in an effort to get comfortable, and drifted off to sleep with thoughts of warm hills and beaches floating in her head.