I am my own. Never anyone else’s.
Aeryn Thorne stood strong at her ship’s prow, her bright red hair sailing behind her as the wind caressed her face. There was no longer simply the vast ocean before her. The waves now crashed against the shores of Rosehill, the royal city.
“It’s cruelly beautiful, wouldn’t you agree?” Aeryn didn’t turn as her brother came to stand beside her, keeping her focus on the looming fortress that was the Iron Keep.
Even at six feet tall, Arlo Thorne was still an inch shorter than his sister. He had once been a great warrior, the best in the Acres, the sprawling rich expanse of rolling hills and deep blue rivers that held almost as much wealth as the royal city itself. Perhaps, he had even been the greatest in all of the Six Kingdoms. Arlo had once defeated Ren Tarren, the young prince of the Drowned Forest, in his own territory - underwater - no small feat for a mere human. Caldwell Aramont, owner of the Last Hearth, the most raucous tavern and the best known in the Six Kingdoms, had roared with laughter when Arlo and Ren had stumbled in, soaking wet, Ren glowing with embarrassment, Arlo with pride. The challenge made between them had not been to the death however, and Arlo was a kind man, offering to share a meal and a drink with his opponent, no matter the outcome. They could learn from each other. The pale-skinned, white-haired tavern owner had poured them his finest ale and then a few more and when the night sky began to turn pink with dawn, had taken the two young warriors to bed.
Arlo smiled faintly at the memory. But he was no longer that great warrior. He was just a shadow of the man he had been before. A limping, brooding shadow. His sister, the tall and glorious, newly-appointed Lady of the Acres, was the one who the kingdoms had their eyes on. He watched her dark eyes narrow as they took in the Iron Keep. The castle glowed in the evening sunlight, beautiful browns and golds glinting in their eyes. Stained glass windows and ornate statues of past rulers, warriors, and their animal companions decorated the massive building. It was a sight to behold and still momentarily stole the breath from his mouth every time he laid eyes on it.
Aeryn did not seem to find it as enchanting. Only fury crossed her face as she took in the city. She looked at her brother, blonde, rugged, beautiful, crippled. His bright green eyes met hers with a look that said, Control yourself.
“I will try my best.” She replied, aloud.
“Our lives depend on this visit. Our people’s lives depend on this visit.” Arlo urged.
She nodded but said nothing more as her ship cut through the waves towards the docks. She had once been her father’s. The cruel Lord of the Acres. His to play with, to use. She had once been Weston’s, the smirking son of her father’s closest advisor. He had played with her in a different way, a more brutish way than her father had.
And then she had been hers.
Sweet Lady Zaden’s. Zaden had not played with her. She had not beaten her, she had not used her. Zaden had loved her so completely, she never wanted to be anyone else’s. She never imagined that she could be. That was all over now though. The King of the Six Kingdoms had ripped Zaden away, so harshly that she had felt as if her body had been pulled into two pieces. She still felt that loss, ringing through her bones, calling her and reminding her of a time that had been so good to her. Aeryn had been hers. And then she had felt as if she had belonged to no one, wandering through darkness that threatened to consume her. Crawling like a helpless babe in the woods, praying that one day something wild would come and devour her, end her, end this life without Zaden.
Nothing had come. Nothing ended her misery. She had learned though. She had learned to find her legs again, to stand up, to lead. She had been his, his, and then hers. She had learned to be grateful for those ownerships, whether they had been harsh or beautiful. Aeryn Thorne had learned to be her own person. And she would never again be anyone else’s.