Bellamy made sure I was calmed down then he pulled away. I felt cold without his arms around me, the pressure still tingling on my neck. I pulled at the blankets, watching him as he gathered himself up back. I could see the mask of the stranger I had first met fall back into place. He was pulling away, just when I thought we were finally moving to something more than friends, something less than strangers.
It hurt to realize he closed off so easily. I just wanted him to know that I was his wife no matter what. Even if this had been more than a dream. It had been so close to real I could hardly handle it. The worst part was it was a memory of that dawn a few weeks ago. When I had almost met my death.
Dying once was hard, but constantly being attacked was worse. I closed my eyes and tried to put on a brave face. I wanted Bellamy to tell me the truth. He said he would. It looked like he was closing down on me now.
I stayed quiet as he gathered his thoughts. I took in a deep breath as I watched him twist his ring around.
It was a gold band with two swords interlocked together. I wasn't sure I had seen it before, "have you always worn a ring?"
He nodded, relieved at the change of subject, "I have. It's my wedding band," he swallowed, "I actually have something for you.”
Despite everything that had just happened I laughed, "really? A present?" I looked at him through my eye lashes and blinked, "for me?”
Bellamy's smile was short lived and small. But it was still his smile that I was starting to fall for. I watched him reach towards the drawer beside the bed and he pulled something out. He sat up straighter and then cleared his throat.
"I uh. I thought of you when I found her ring. It belonged to my mother and my grandmother before that," Bellamy handed me a vintage diamond ring. I gasped at the beautiful piece of jewelry. It was breathtaking, but it meant so much more that he was giving me a piece of his past.
A tear slipped down my cheek, "Bellamy it's beautiful. Thank you," I held out my left hand and he slipped it onto my ring finger. It fit perfectly, the diamond catching the light.
"You should have a wedding ring too," he picked my hand up and turned it over. On the other side of the band there was the same emblem. Two swords crossed over each other, "we share the same emblem of he kingdom.”
I couldn't stop smiling. This was the sweetest gesture he had given me since arriving at the castle. I leaned up and kissed him. He smiled, but it was fast. It disappeared as quickly as it had come, "Bell what's wrong?”
He shook his head, "I need to tell you the truth. But once you find out you aren't safe. I just," he looked up at me with tears in his eyes, "I can't lose you. Not after I only found you.”
I reached out and put my hand against his cheek. I waited until he was looking at me again. I kissed his lips softly, "I don't care about the danger. I care about you. I love you," he smiled as I said the words slowly, "I am your wife, I will stand beside you no matter what.”
He was quiet as we sat beside each other. The nightmare from last night was long gone. I could tell he was getting ready for me to run. He was afraid if I knew the truth I would find a way to escape and leave him behind. I wasn't going to leave him, no matter what I would stay with him.
He pulled away, leaning against the backboard as he sighed. He closed his eyes, the silence was making this worse. I grabbed his hand and he opened his eyes.
Bellamy looked at me, spinning his wedding ring around on his finger. I smiled down at mine, the one he had just given me, "it started with my father. He died when I was fifteen, he never prepared me to lead this kingdom. He was already mad by the time I was of age to start learning to become the next king.”
I swallowed the lump in my throat as he went on, "I became the king with the help of Finn and my uncle. He died when I turned seventeen. He was more my father for three years than my own. Anyways I met Roma when I was sixteen and we married. We were happy, I thought I was in love. But the pressures of being a king were more than I expected and I didn't spend a lot of time with her.”
I hadn't realized he had an actual wife before I came along. He squeezed my fingers gently as he looked away, "she grew distant. I'd come to bed and she'd shy away from me. One night she decided to give us a try again and we were together. A few months later she was pregnant. She was so excited, more excited than I was. I wasn't ready to be king let alone a father.”
He wiped away a tear, pausing his story. I ran my finger over the back of his hand and he looked down at our fingers tangled together. I moved in closer, but I felt him go tense as my leg touched his.
"She lost the baby three months into the pregnancy. The doctors said she was too stressed. She wasn't happy and her body couldn't support both of them. She got even more distant after that. She was depressed and I never tried to talk to her. She never tried to talk to me either. One morning I went to the balcony where Raven told me she was and I found her hanging there."
"Bellamy," my voice broke as we sat there, "I'm sorry.”
He shook his head, “I really did love her. No one believes me when I tell them that, but I was young and new to everything about this life. Taking a wife in the beginning wasn’t the best choice any of the advisors around me made,” he cleared his throat, “I went to visit her father a few days after it happened. I felt like he deserved to know that his daughter had been unhappy with me. He was more than upset, he hated me. I could see it in his eyes, I had taken away his only child. So he grabbed my sword, sliced open his wrist and chanted a few words I didn't understand.”
I gasped, thinking about to the shadows that had held me hostage, choking me in my sleep. Murphy had tried to poison me with nothing at all. Was it possible there was magic within the kingdom? I looked at Bellamy, he looked so tired.
"He wanted my kingdom to hate me as much as he did. So he damned my name, I have to kill one hundred innocent girls, daughters of my people, in order to being justice to Roma's name. They have to die by the rope at dawn on the balcony, the same way she did. I'm not allowed to be happy, not when he lost his little girl," he cleared his throat, "before I could beg him for a cure or a loophole he stuck my sword through his chest and he was gone.”
I let out a slow breath, my heart was heavy. It made total sense and yet no sense at all. Bellamy was cursed, he was forced to execute his brides. He wasn't the monster, Roma's father was. I closed my eyes, thinking of Harper and all the others who would never learn the truth behind their deaths.
"You saved me. I'm not even close to one hundred," I whispered, my finger reaching out and running over the circle under his eyes, "I'm supposed to die to keep the balance.”
He shook his head, "I won't sacrifice you. I can’t. It’s selfish and I know it, but now that I have you, I know you, I don’t want to let you go. I will find a way out of the curse or a way to break it before I let them take you away. I need you, just as much as the kingdom does.”
I smiled slightly feeling torn between wanting him and wanting what's best for the kingdom, "that's why you can’t sleep.”
Bellamy nodded, his jaw tense, "the curse was put on my family a long time ago. Roma's father just altered it. My father went mad because of the curse. This castle is programmed to drive every king mad before their fiftieth birthday. I knew that when I was born, but her father made sure I wouldn’t go mad. He wanted me to suffer every single day. Insanity is release compared to the pain I feel.”
I forced him to look at me, "we will find a way out of it. You and me," I pressed my lips against his hands and tried to believe with all my heart and soul we would find our way out, "I love you. There has to be something that breaks the evil he put over you.”
"Finn and I have exhausted every avenue we know of. After I met you I started searching harder. I knew I couldn't just let you walk to your death at dawn. But every wizard and sorcerer we've found hiding in the shadows tells me this curse is tangled up in too many lives.”
I took his face between my hands and kissed him softly. His brown eyes were full of sadness, he was exhausted, "we will find a way to break this curse. You and me, we will I promise.”
I closed his eyes, "God I hope you're right.”
I ran my thumb below his eye, “that’s why you never tried to get to know the brides. The curse forbids you a moment of peace. No sleep, no happiness. Nothing.”
He nodded, "if I sleep I dream about them. The nameless faceless girls I've killed. I dream of Roma and the child we never got to have. I dream of you," his voice was soft and broken, "of losing you. So I don't sleep, it's easier to avoid the demons that way.”
I thought back to my village, to the whispers of magic I had once heard. Octavia had paid more attention, Lincoln had always been interested in that kind of thing. I wondered if he would know. He knew everything about history and the supernatural most people shied away from. If I could get word to him maybe he could help us.
Lincoln wouldn't question, he wouldn't pry. He would listen and he would promise to stay quiet. Everyone trusted Lincoln because he was that kind of person. I was happy my sister had found someone like him. I knew if there was anyone who could help us it would be him.
I would find a way to get to him tomorrow. Maybe Bellamy would agree and we would ride out to my village together. Maybe he would meet my family and they would see I was happy. I wanted my father to know I was happy. I wasn't in danger anymore because we had fallen for each other. Maybe they would be able to forgive him for Harper and everyone else, the way I had forgiven him.
I ran my hand across his chest, pulling him in closer to me. He didn't resist, he wrapped his arms around my waist and I kissed his shoulder. I felt him shiver under my touch, making me smile once again. The mask was slipping, the man who saved me was falling back into place beside me. I took in a deep breath, pressing my lips against his neck. I wasn’t ready to admit just how deeply I felt, but I knew I was close to falling in love with him.
"I know it's useless to tell you to sleep, but maybe you should try. You have to be exhausted," he sighed as I felt my own eyes get heavy. The dream had scared me, but now that Bellamy was here with me I was fine.
I was safe in his arms, safer than I had ever been.
He smiled, "I'm fine. You sleep, Clarke. I'm just glad you're still here in this castle, in this bed, with me.”
“A tired king can’t run a kingdom,” I whispered, a yawn falling through my parted lips. He shook his head, running his fingers through my blonde curls. He held onto me tightly, as if he could keep me safe by pulling me into his chest and making us into one person. I wasn’t fragile, but I liked being able to rely on someone else for a change. I liked having Bellamy there to fall back on.
He pressed a kiss to my forehead as I closed my eyes. I couldn't stop thinking about Lincoln and my family. I had a new plan, one that involved reaching out to my family and bringing them to the one place I never thought I would. It terrified me to let them back into this world, but I had to save him. My family would finally get to see the castle, or in a twist of fate, my new home.
Bellamy was my family now. Even if I was battling invisible forces or a curse that had been set years ago, I wouldn’t let him go without a fight.