The After Effects

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Saddles Sores

It was official, next time I get kidnapped, I'm going to demand that I change my clothes. My inner thighs screamed and burned with every shift of the horse beneath me and I had to hold back the whimpers that threatened to surface.

Ever since I regained feeling eight hours ago, it's been torture. My jaw, ribs, chest, and thighs made sure that I did not enjoy the trip at all. My body burned with pain and I had to clench my jaw to keep back the barks of pain that tickled my throat every so often.

My short nightgown was filthy and torn, the once beautiful and silky fabric was irrevocably ruined. I frowned down at the deep red gown. Shame, I pouted. I imagined that the red of the gown matched the angry red of my poor burned thighs.

The paint I rode snorted as I once again shifted in the saddle, hoping to relieve some pain.

Rolling my eyes at the horse who seemed to be just as dramatic as Ragnar, I shifted my gaze to the swiftly-approaching, white-gleaming, towers of the North. Four identical and towering towers sat in each corner of the Castle of The North. The stereotypical castle, I snorted as the gleaming white walls of the castle snagged my attention.

"Welcome back, Acer." Magnus sneered in my ear as he rode past me. I glared at the Vikings' back though it did no good. Dread pooled deep in my stomach.

Merida and Magnus led the group to the front of the castle, where several helpers stood, waiting to take the horses.

Despite the looming castle, my eyes drifted to the right where I locked on to a way too familiar building that haunted my dreams. The arena. More dread pooled in my gut and nausea started to swirl my puny dinner.

Memories started to make my heart race as I fought to keep a mask of indifference, even though I was not paying any mind to my surroundings. Hands pulled me down from atop my horse and my bare feet were stabbed by gravel.

"Feeling sentimental?" The Viking that had grabbed me sneered into my face, managing to pull me from my own mind.

"Something like that." I made eye contact and tried to appear confident. It must've worked as the Viking grew frustrated at my lack of reaction.

"Now, which one of you brutes will be taking me to Dear Old Dad?" I set my hands on my hips and mustered a courage I shouldn't have been able too.

Merida and Magnus were the obvious answer as they started towards the castle, not even checking to see if I was following. Stuck-up Bastards.

My feet whimpered at the gravel digging into them, but I managed to strut across the painful surface and into the Castle.

Suffocatingly cool air blasted my face as I entered the ancient walls. Even though I technically lived here since I was ten, I was kept in the dungeon of the arena for most of that time, therefore the decorated walls and halls of the castle were fairly unfamiliar to me. Meaning that I had lost the advantage as soon as I entered these walls.

My twin escorts kept walking straight, which I knew led to the throne room as that was the main room I was in, whenever I was in this castle. The dining room and the throne room where the only two places I had seen while I was fighting my one-hundred battles.

I stamped down the rising panic that wanted to crumble me as I entered the throne room behind the twins.

The whole room faded around me when my emerald green eyes clashed with forest green eyes. Years of hate had soured the expression in those oh so familiar eyes. The perfect mix of Locke's and I's eye colors.

"Your Majesty," The twins bowed and said simultaneously, like I had seen them do hundreds of times before.

A nod of acknowledgment was all they got, before I was under that scrutinizing gaze again.

I didn't bow. I didn't tremble. I didn't even nod. Instead, I smiled a dirt-eating grin and spoke for all to hear, "Hello Father."

The King of The North's eyes flashed with the challenge. After all, that's exactly what I was doing, challenging him.

"Kneel." One word boomed from my father's powerful voice.

"Oh father, you know me," I managed a light chuckle, taking the chance to take in my surroundings. "I don't bow for anyone."

The tilt of my fathers head was a command, not for me, but for his right-hand-man. My father's puppet, Flynn, stepped from his side and stalked to me. Flinching from him, or moving in general, would be stupid, so I stood deathly still as my Father's dealer-of-punishments approached me. I noticed the whip hanging from his side a little too late, as he disappeared behind me and an insane amount of pain suddenly knocked the wind out of me.

My back burned and knees threatened to buckle, but through sheer stubborn will, I stood standing. A smile, that should've never been possible, crossed my face as I said to my father, "You'll have to do better than that, old man."

Let's get one thing clear, I'm not a smart woman, nor have I ever claimed to be. So when I was gasping for air, crumped on the floor of the throne room with my back shredded, I could only laugh at my horrible change of luck.

Things had been going so well. I had found my real family and a guy that I could see myself growing old with and in the course of one night, all of that changed. How stupid of me to believe that I had an actual chance of being normal.
"Again," my father's annoying voice hissed.

Without restraint, Flynn brought his steel-tipped whip down to my poor back for the twenty-third time. Yes, I kept count, what else was I suppose to do? Cry and obey my father? Not likely. My back had gone numb at the eighteenth hit, so at this point, I knew I was in shock.

"Why..." My voice came out in breaths as I tried to manage my breathing. "did you bring me back?"

Despite my near whispered words, my father had heard me just fine.

"Well isn't that obvious?" His teasing voice brought with it so many memories of pain. "I want my kids by my side when I dominate the world."

Crazy old bat. I rolled my eyes. "News Flash," I said as I attempted to lift myself from the floor. My arms collapsed immediately and I fell back to the floor. "You've got two kids and only one of them before you." Each word was a struggle, but I tried my best to speak clearly.

A dark chuckle sent a shiver down my spine.

"One is all I need. The other one will follow behind soon enough," The King said, sadly, making a lot of sense.

"Why not kidnap him then, after all, he's your favorite?" I asked my father, turning my head so I could see his face.

"Because you're more dangerous than him, so if I would have kidnapped him, you would've come in swinging and causing problems. He'll follow along easily like the good son he is." Why do the villains make so much sense sometimes? I wish I could call him crazy, but this was a well thought out plan.

Silence followed as I processed his words, pain ripping through every last inch of me.

"Why war?" I asked, hoping to get the most out of him before my fight for consciousness was lost.

"Because war feeds the wolves, and I've got a lot of hungry wolves." A shiver rolled down my beaten and nearly exposed spine.

War would destroy the South and most likely the other two territories. War would kill so many innocent people and soldiers. War would disrupt the settling dust around our strange new world. Determination started to fill me despite my broken and crumpled body. I could not let the war happen. I had to stop this before it happened.

An idea tickled my brain. An old memory of how much my father enjoyed bargains and bets, almost more than he did killing.

"How about a bargain?" I managed to quirk my eyebrow in question as my body shook with exhaustion.

Even from where I lay on the floor, I could see the flicker in his forest-green eyes. "Do tell," He said.

"I'll fight you're best warriors three times, magical or not. If I win, you call off the war and stand down. If I lose, I'll..." I had to steady my voice before I spoke, dreading the words I had to speak. "I'll lead your army." My including "magical or not" had a sparkle dancing in my father's eye. I had just opened the floodgate for so many horrible possibilities.

He barely processed the deal, his eyes alight with excitement, before he agreed. "Deal." The sinister grin on his face, nearly made me groan.

I've made a deal with the devil, and there's a good chance I may lose.

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