Chapter 70 - Alena
“Victor realized that he couldn’t father a son, but he wanted a warrior of his line to stand beside him on the battlefield and a dutifully, refined, daughter to show off to the world. He wanted a soldier without mercy on the battlefield and an elegant, intuitive, perfect, gracious hostess in his house,” Marcus clarified.
“I accompanied him on a manhunt once. Alena refused to cut the head from a fallen enemy. Victor had her armor removed, he had her stripped of her clothes, and he ordered me to flog her while his men watched, for disobeying orders. He tied a rope around her neck and tied her hands together before he fastened the other end of the rope to his saddle and made her walk home naked. If she fell, he dragged her along until she righted herself again,” his anger at what Victor did, was obvious, but also his hatred of himself for not being able to help Alena.
“When we arrived at the Castle, he asked Alena what she learned from her experience, and she said she learned never to disobey a direct order from her master. He asked her what else she learned, and she said she learned that an enemy has no mercy,” Marcus recounted, and when Rowan looked at her sister, she couldn’t believe that Victor would do such a thing to this woman who was his firstborn.
“See, she’s learning sense, Victor said as he turned to me, and then he tied the rope to a rafter and made Alena stand on tiptoe all night to prevent the rope from chocking her. He also allowed the sun to touch her skin before he took her down,” Marcus continued, and he saw the way Rowan’s view of her sister changed in those moments.
“Victor slapped Alena if she disobeyed and he taught her combat himself. He never pulled a punch, and if she was too slow, then she got hurt, and he told her it was her fault. I watched more than once as Alena force herself to get up when I thought there was no way she could, and she did it only because she wanted him to love her,” Marcus informed Rowan, and he could see the way her view of the situation altered.
His defense of Alena wasn’t intended to make Rowan's pain seem inferior, but to make her realize she hadn’t suffered alone.
“What you did to Martin was Victor’s way of meeting punishment, do you think he spared Alena that or that he'd allow her to stand idly by? She was twelve years old the first time he took her on a manhunt,” Marcus continued in an almost gentle tone.
“Victor wanted her to kill a man with her bare hands, and when she wouldn’t, he threatened to kill her horse. Alena loved that horse. He made her feed off the human and then kill him. She did it for Victor. He took her home and made her believe it was what she wanted. He tried to make you both into himself, but he didn’t count on the strength of his daughters,” Marcus said with conviction.
“He didn’t count on the fact that you weren’t like him, that you loathed what he made you do, just as I hated what I had become,” Marcus retained control over his emotions with a massive effort of will.
“I should have trusted you,” Rowan forced the words past the tightness in her throat. When Marcus stepped forward to take her into his arms, she didn’t resist. He held her for a while before he held her away just far enough to look into her eyes.
“No, I should have trusted your judgment,” Marcus admitted and held his arm out for Alena to join them. She didn’t like that he betrayed her deepest secrets to Rowan; the things she saw as her shame and her weakness. She hesitated, and Rowan pulled from Marcus’ light embrace, took Alena in her arms despite the subtle resistance Alena offered by not moving.
Rowan held Alena so tightly that after a few moments, Alena couldn't help but relent or fight her instinct to hug Rowan back and admit their shared pain. For the first time in her life, Alena allowed herself to feel the burn of her futile love of her father, and when she started to sob, Rowan only held her tighter.
Alena never allowed herself to mourn the child, the girl, or the woman who desperately tried to be the perfect daughter, but always came up short. Marcus folded them both into his arms, and even as he soothed them, he felt blessed to have them in his care. They had a long road to travel, but they were healing bit by bit.