Disclaimer & Notices: See Prologue.
by Red Hope
Lexa remained bent over the table in the meeting tent. On the table was a map of the local area. Lexa stared darkly at Mount Weather, which Clarke had defeated just yesterday. She had personally supported Clarke and the Sky people then returned to her own people after the extermination of Mount Weather. To Lexa, it felt rewarding to be rid of the Mountain Men, who turned her people into monsters.
Sharply Lexa’s attention was pulled from the map after she heard Indra’s call for entrance. She allowed it and turned towards her officer.
Indra strode into the tent with purpose. “Heda,” she greeted. “You sent for me?”
Lexa leaned until her side pressed against the table to hold her weight. “Today Octavia of the Sky people and Lincoln will rejoin us.”
Indra stiffened at the news.
“You are to take Octavia as your second again.”
Indra stared hard at the commander. “Heda, they are-”
“Are what?” Lexa cut off. She folded her arms and tilted her head. A dangerous glint shined in her eyes.
Indra remained quiet and studied the commander’s dark eyes. She sensed she was balancing on a dangerous ledge with the commander. For once, she dipped her head in respect.
“You may speak freely, Indra… but I advise carefully.”
Indra moved closer to the commander so that she could keep her voice low. “The generals speak about what you did yesterday.”
Lexa tasted a hint of worry in Indra’s tone, which was unusual. Indra was one of her most loyal officers in the army.
“They feel you dishonor your own word.”
Lexa was quiet as she weighed Indra’s information. She pushed off the table and took a few steps away from her officer. “What do you think, Indra?” She kept her back to Indra but turned her head sidelong. “Speak true.”
Indra shifted on her feet and rested her hand on a dagger’s hilt at her hip. “Your judgment has been off concerning these Sky people.” She paused and added, “Your judgment is clouded by your care for the girl.”
Lexa turned her head forward and stared at her empty throne several steps in front of her. It was a throne and leadership that she had earned and fought for but never asked for over the years. She considered Indra’s words. “Why did you take Octavia as your second?”
“Heda.” Indra struggled with her own answer.
Lexa faced the officer and approached her again. “Tell me, Indra.”
Indra inhaled slowly and released it as she held the commander’s stern gaze. “I saw promise in the girl.” She faintly nodded and added, “She would make a fine warrior in our clan.”
“She still will,” Lexa reminded.
“After Mount Weather, I am uncertain.”
Lexa darkly smiled and argued, “You should be proud, Indra.” She strolled over to the table. “She fought well.”
“Perhaps so but her loyalties are lacking.”
Lexa turned and folded her arms. She understood Octavia’s loyalties to her brother. Her dark smile grew wider as she focused on Indra’s features. “Are mine lacking, Indra?”
Indra narrowed her eyes and countered, “That girl changed you… and I do not know if for the better.”
“Then you side with the generals,” Lexa tempted.
Indra clenched her freehand at her side. “I side with our people, who whisper about your weakness for the Sky people.”
“We cannot continue to war with them,” Lexa argued. “Do you wish for more of our people to die in a war against the Sky people?”
“No,” Indra quickly answered. She lowered her hand from the dagger hilt and softly added, “But some generals wish so.”
“And that is why they are not commander.”
Indra kept a neutral expression, but her eyes gave her away. “They say you are no longer commander… that you have lost the spirit.”
Lexa stilled at the news. Such words were incredibly dangerous to their army and people, and Lexa had to extinguish their doubt. She brushed past Indra, her gait wide.
Indra was startled and chased after the commander. She was unsure what her commander had in mind, but she slowed when Lexa started yelling for the generals.
One by one the generals emerged from their tents or stood from their campfires. They encircled their commander and waited for their orders. To their surprise, it was a challenge rather than a command.
“Who among you is now the commander?” Lexa demanded of them. She held out her arms and turned in a circle. “The new commander must challenge me,” she hollered at them. Nobody stepped in front of her.
Indra stood off to the side and carefully watched the generals’ faces.
Lexa lowered her arms and continued scanning her generals. “Then I shall challenge myself.” Her anger thickened her voice. “Tomorrow at dawn, I will walk the gantlet.” She listened to the whispers around her. “And you shall be my gantlet.” She returned to the tent.
Indra blew out a quiet breath and listened to the generals speak amongst each other. She revealed a slight grin and cut her eyes to Lexa’s receding figure. Indra had to admit that Lexa had more strength in her thumb than all the generals put together. A heartbeat later, she sensed a presence behind her, and she canted her head when Octavia came to her side.
Octavia dipped her head in respect.
Indra eyed her former second then she looked over to find Lincoln at Octavia’s side.
“What has happened?” Lincoln asked in Trigedasleng. He caught that a commotion had been stirred earlier.
“The commander has issued a gantlet.”
Lincoln was surprised and asked, “For who?”
Octavia had a deep furrow across her brow. “A gantlet?” She peered up at Lincoln for help.
Lincoln switched to English and explained, “It is a challenge where the one challenged must walk between two rows of warriors and survive their blows.”
Octavia grew wide eye. “Why would she…” She realized her own answer and felt guilty about the situation. “Will she survive it?”
“Sha,” Lincoln softly answered, “If she is the commander.”
Octavia was startled by the gantlet and what it meant for Lexa. Yet, she agreed that the commander could triumph over it. She stilled her thoughts though when Indra faced her.
“Okteivia kom Skaikru, oso na hit choda op nodotaim.” Indra’s features were stony, except her eyes burned at the Sky girl.
Octavia dipped her head and replied, “Toli oso dula op.”
Indra huffed at Octavia’s expanded Trigedasleng. However, she switched to English and promised, “I will teach you loyalty first, this time.”
Octavia took that as a hint to her position as Indra’s second, but it was too early to tell with Indra. “Sha,” she agreed in Trigedasleng.
Indra brushed past the pair and resumed her duties.
Octavia watched Indra before she peered up at Lincoln. “Word must have spread about the commander helping Clarke.”
“Yes, and she must pay the price.” Lincoln was concerned because if Lexa failed the gantlet and another took command then it changed everything.
Octavia was still confused and asked, “But why would she challenge herself?”
Lincoln ruefully smiled. “To prove that she is still the commander.”
Octavia had a thin frown. She started for the commander’s meeting tent.
Lincoln accompanied her and ducked into the meeting tent after the guard allowed them to enter it. He and Octavia discovered the commander on her throne with a sword.
Lexa drew a whetstone down the blade but paused as the two approached her. She set both the sword and whetstone aside and stood up. She came down the few steps one by one.
“Heda,” Octavia greeted and bowed her head. She noted that Lexa’s war paint from yesterday was long gone, and the blood.
Lincoln mimicked his lover’s posture.
Lexa stood in front of the pair, and she studied them. She recalled her promise to Clarke that she would reinstate the pair’s position in the clan. However, it required punishment first.
“Octavia, you disobeyed direct orders.” Lexa cut her eyes to Lincoln. “And you went against the treaty with Mount Weather.” She placed her hands behind her back and started over to the central table.
Like the commander, Octavia had to pay for breaking the treaty. She glanced at Lincoln before she turned on her boots and watched the commander head to the table on the left.
“I can promise a lot of patrol,” Lexa started. She studied Mount Weather for a beat before she faced the pair again. “And a scourging.” Her features were calm.
Octavia’s lips parted, but she remained silent. She had heard other clan members speak of scourging, which was a harsh punishment from a whip.
Lincoln shifted on his feet and peered down at Octavia in worry.
“But,” Lexa continued, “You can avoid this by returning to the Sky people.”
“And not rejoining Trikru?” Octavia checked. She sighed after Lexa’s low nod.
“It is your choice.” Lexa started over to the throne.
Octavia was quiet as she weighed her options. The idea of returning to the Sky people caused a chill to settle over her. She had first joined the grounders because she believed she could fit in with them. She was never truly one of the Sky people but merely known as the girl under the floor. Her childhood under the floor mattered nothing to the grounders.
“Octavia,” Lincoln softly started.
“I refuse to go back to the Sky people,” Octavia firmly stated. Her eyes shined with conviction. She would pay the price to stay with the Trikru.
Lexa had returned to her throne and watched how things played out between Octavia and Lincoln. Indra wished for Octavia to learn loyalty, and Octavia was clearly demonstrating it now.
Lincoln had taken much worse than a scourging in his life. However, he was worried for Octavia, who was still learning to handle pain.
Octavia touched Lincoln’s forearm in silent assurance, but she settled her gaze on the commander. “I accept the punishments, Heda.”
Lexa rested her elbows against her thighs then threaded her fingers together, near her chest. She gave a low nod. Slowly her eyes centered on Lincoln for his answer.
Lincoln inwardly sighed before he met the commander’s stare. “I too.”
“Then it is done.” Lexa crossed her legs. “Indra will administer the lashes tomorrow. For now, you will directly report to Indra.” She lowered her hands to her lap. A slight shift in her demanour signaled a chance of thought patterns. Her stormy eyes centered on Octavia. “Before you left Camp Jaha, did you see Clarke?”
Octavia narrowed her eyes and honestly replied, “No.” She tilted her head. “My brother mentioned she went to the old drop ship… to get away for awhile.”
Lexa said nothing and simply nodded.
Octavia sensed the conversation was over so she quietly left with Lincoln.
Lexa remained in her seat and stared at the tent flap. Her mind was on Clarke. When she and Clarke had parted ways, it was obvious that Clarke was shaken by how everything played out in Mount Weather. Clarke led with her heart. Lexa knew the death of the innocent people was a large blow to Clarke. Clarke’s parting words unnerved Lexa the most.
“Mebi oso na hit choda op nodotaim,” Lexa murmured in Trigedasleng. She suddenly popped up from the throne and crossed to the tent flap. She ordered the guard in Trigedasleng to bring her Caris. As she waited, she returned to her sword and whetstone.
Caris arrived shortly and bowed to Lexa, who was seated at the throne. “Heda.”
“I have a mission for you,” Lexa prompted. She placed the whetstone on the throne arm but kept the blade’s handle in her right hand.
Caris nodded and carefully listened to the commander’s orders. She promised to carry them out quickly and return at first light.
Once Caris was gone, Lexa focused on sharpening her blade. She felt she hardly had a chance to use her sword against Mount Weather. However, she still brought death to the Mountain Men, who plagued her people for generations. Now thanks to the Sky people, she and her people were free of the Mountain Men. Even though it was a celebration, Lexa still held her anger for the Mountain Men. She told Clarke that the deal with Mount Weather was nothing personal and yet the same deal had made Lexa seethe so deeply. Lexa had made the deal with her head, not her heart.
The satisfaction Lexa felt when she pulled the lever in the control room helped her sleep better last night for the first time in years. She had served justice, as a commander, a daughter, and as a sister. Lexa was void of any drop of guilty about the deaths. Yet sadly, she knew Clarke was suffering with guilt and the responsibility.
“Jus drein jus daun,” Lexa murmured. Blood for blood and an eye for an eye. That was her people’s way although it was hardly the way of the Sky people, like Clarke.
Lexa placed the whetstone at the top of the blade and hesitated as her thoughts went to Clarke. She dragged the whetstone down the blade with excessive force. Lexa clearly remembered Clarke’s distraught after she realized Lexa had made a deal with Mount Weather. Lexa believed the betrayal hardly compared to the deaths in Mount Weather. To Clarke, it was genocide, not justice. Clarke was known for her fire, but it was smothered by hundreds of deaths.
Many things would have turned out differently if Lexa’s army had marched into Mount Weather, under the original plans. However, it was the commander’s army, not Lexa’s personal army. Her desires knelt down before her people’s needs. If she had refused the deal from Mount Weather then she needlessly endangered her people. It seemed as if Clarke understood her choice, as a leader. Yet, it proved to damage what trust Lexa and Clarke had built over the weeks. Lexa hoped her personal support of Clarke and her Sky people would be enough because tomorrow Lexa would pay the price. She always paid a price when she followed her heart.
Lexa slammed the sharpening stone on the throne’s arm. Her frustrated thoughts were cut off by the low boom. She stood up and swung the sword behind her back. In fluent motion, she sheathed the sword and stepped off the throne. The commander had much to check over with her army, especially the preparations for a grand celebration that would begin tomorrow. It would be a celebration that started with Lexa’s gantlet challenge followed by Octavia and Lincoln’s scourging and then finally the feast.
The army’s warriors were already having toasts and excitement after the defeat of Mount Weather and the return of their people. Yet, their success was due to the Sky people’s cleverness and determination to find the safest way to bring down Mount Weather. In kind, the commander and her army left them to die. Lexa hardly understood how it was worth celebrating, except for the safe return of their people thanks to a lowly deal.
Throughout the day, hunts were carried out and the kills were skinned then the meat was processed for the celebration. A variety of other foods were organized for the celebration. And there was plenty of mead that would sweeten the feast.
A candlemark prior to dawn, Lexa had a visitor at her tent. She had already donned most of her attire, except for her armor. She was pleased when Caris entered her tent.
“What is the news?” Lexa prompted.
“I…” Caris paused but quickly stated, “There is nobody there.” She placed her hands behind her back. “I checked inside the ship as well.”
Lexa kept a neutral expression and gave a low nod. “No signs of activity?”
“None.” Caris shook her head. “Not in awhile, Heda.”
Lexa picked up her sheathed sword. “Speak nothing of this, Caris.”
“Sha, Heda.” Caris started to the tent flap until the commander called for her.
“How does Selena fair?”
Caris faced the commander and replied, “Better… each day. She will be herself again in a fortnight.”
Lexa was pleased and also grateful that those who were locked in Mount Weather were healing well. She received continually updates from Nyko about the former imprisoned people’s health. “Enjoy the celebration today, Caris.”
“Mochof, Heda.” Caris quietly left.
Lexa returned to preparing for the day. She put on her finest warrior attire then exited the tent. It was nearly daybreak, and she had to uphold her own challenge. Word had spread about the gantlet, and a crowd encircled the lined up generals. The twelve generals had split in half, one faced the other. They formed a corridor that made many warriors tremble. Each general had earned their position through blood.
The commander stood at one end, and she turned her head when Indra came to her side. Slowly, Indra started disarming the commander, and she handed off the items to a warrior. After the weapons were gone, Indra unhooked the commander’s armor and again gave them to the nearby warrior.
From the side, Octavia and Lincoln watched Indra strip the commander of her weapons and armor. Her own chest tightened as she studied the generals’ faces, which were mostly stoic. Like Lexa, she and Lincoln would pay debt to the clan for their betrayal.
“What happens?” Octavia whispered.
Lincoln leaned in closer. “Heda will walk between the generals. Each general may strike her, and she cannot strike back. There are no weapons though.”
Octavia swallowed hard and peered up at Lincoln. “Can they not hit her?”
“Only if they still believe in her… do not fault her,” Lincoln softly explained. His eyes travelled back to the gantlet because Indra announced the challenge. Random cheers from the crowd filled his ears, and he warily focused on the commander’s stern features.
Lexa stood at the mouth of the gantlet. She had been stripped down to her thin black shirt, tight black bottoms, and left with her boots. She fisted her hands slowly as she stared down each face of the generals. Indra’s words echoed in her ears then the cheers made her clench her jaw. After a tense silence fell, Lexa stepped up to the gantlet and paused for a heartbeat. With her first step, she entered the gantlet at a slow pace. Her first two generals bowed to her in respect and allowed her to pass without harm.
The third general on the right brought his fist to the commander’s stomach. He followed it with another blow from his knee.
Lexa was bent over, arm across her stomach, and she took a hit to her left from another general. Her ribs crunched under the impact. Distantly she considered whether Anya would have struck her. Perhaps a light blow for Lexa’s own foolishness, but it would hardly compare to the other generals’ punches.
The crowd cheered and chanted as their commander pressed forward through the gantlet. Halfway through, the commander went down to the ground. An eerie silence settled over the army. For a beat, the generals waited to see if the commander was truly done. However, cheers erupted when the commander climbed to her feet and smoothly ducked under punch from behind her. She nearly retaliated because it was a dishonorable attempt in the gantlet. But, she pressed forward to the ninth and tenth generals.
Each blow shook Lexa’s body and flared pain in every direction. She spit out the metallic taste in her mouth. Her breaths were rasped as if air was a premium. She saw the last two generals were so close, but the steps were many. Lexa forced her legs forward because she believed in her choices and because she was Heda. Her weakened body was fueled by her soul’s demands, and she pressed through the seeming endless hits to her body.
As the commander neared the end, the warriors started chanting, “Heda! Heda! Heda!” Each step their commander took made them see her soul. Nobody was stronger or greater than the commander.
Lexa took a hard blow to her right temple. She hissed and lifted her head after the hit. At the end of the gantlet, she saw Clarke standing there and reaching for her.
Clarke called for Lexa with her right hand extended just past the eleventh and twelfth generals. Each time she spoke, her words were washed away. Slowly her voice grew louder until it surpassed the crowd’s cheers. “Lexa!”
Lexa had never witnessed anything more beautiful than Clarke standing before her, in the morning sun. Clarke’s hair was golden in the early sunlight, and her blue eyes held promise. Each time she yelled Lexa’s name, her voice grew stronger.
Lexa started past the last two generals, who were the angriest of the twelve. She was taken to her knees. She was slammed from both sides, but she peered up into blue eyes. Lexa stretched out her right arm, her fingertips brushed past Clarke’s own.
Clarke yelled at Lexa, “You can do this! Take my hand!” Her own desperation laced her words. “Get up!” Clarke demanded.
Lexa growled low and suddenly pushed up from her knees. She dodged two attacks but took a punch between her shoulder blades. Swiftly her hand slid into Clarke’s own, and she stumbled out of the gantlet. All around her, the warriors roared for their commander, but Lexa was focused on Clarke’s smiling face.
“I believe in you,” Clarke whispered. She held Lexa’s bleeding hand. “You are the commander.” She leaned in closer to Lexa and softly vowed, “Heda.”
Lexa stood dazed in Clarke’s embrace. Her pain was intense, but she remained upright and proud that she was indeed the commander.
Clarke lifted her head, but her smile was lost as her attention went past the commander. “Heda, watch out!” Strangely Clarke sounded like Octavia, who was running from Lincoln’s side. “Behind you!”
Lexa sensed the danger, and she spun out of Clarke’s embrace. She turned to her right and lifted her hands. From the corner of her eye, she saw the metal flash as it swiped past her and sliced through her side. She felt the hot blade go through her bruised skin and nicked a rib with the blade’s tip.
The general stumbled forward because he had miscalculated the commander’s response to the attack. He grunted after an elbow landed in his chest. Before he could straighten up, his world spun out of control until he was slammed hard against the ground and stared up at the sky.
The commander was knelt beside the general, and she had the general’s short blade in her right hand. She pressed the sharp blade against his throat. “You dishonor us all,” she bitterly whispered. Lexa saw the horror written in his eyes just before she sliced his throat. His blood sprayed over her hand and arm.
Indra stood behind the commander and dead general, her sword at the ready. She let out a low breath when Lexa stood up. She resheathed her sword and looked at the army of warriors, who chanted for their commander.
Lexa released an angry breath and stared coldly down at the dead general. Earc was the Trikru general, who replaced Anya. She always held a disdain for Earc, but she had chosen him for his tenacity. Lexa swore her next choice for a general would be better. For now, Indra would serve her well to fill in the hole left by Earc.
Slowly, Lexa’s dark eyes lifted and centered on Octavia, who had broken from the crowd. With a slight incline of her head, she silently thanked Octavia for the earlier warning.
“Heda?” Indra started. She edged closer to the commander. “Do you wish to see Nyko?”
Lexa turned her head sidelong. “My weapons and armor, Indra.”
Indra bit back her concern and nodded. She signaled for the warrior to bring their commander’s items. Similar to earlier, each piece was reattached to the commander by Indra’s delicate touch.
Lexa only flinched once when Indra went near her side that had been cut by Earc. Suddenly her armor felt incredibly stifling, but she would continue as if the gantlet hardly affected her.
“We must perform the scourging,” Lexa reminded her newly promoted general.
Indra dipped her head then gave out the orders.
Lexa turned and watched the generals disperse, and somebody took Earc’s body away. Her eyes remained locked on the spot where she had envisioned Clarke with her. Briefly, she closed her eyes and listened to her warriors chant for her. It filled her with purpose again.
“Heda, we are ready.” Indra indicated the post that had been setup for the scourging.
Lexa grounded her teeth as she moved with Indra to the post. “Lincoln,” she called, “Octavia.”
The couple approached the commander and prepared for their punishment. Octavia hid her fears well, but her empty stomach knotted tighter as she faced her price. Earlier she had seen Lexa prove herself as commander. Now it was her chance to show loyalty to the Trikru by accepting her punishment.
Indra signaled two warriors to join them. In Trigedasleng, she ordered the warrior’s to remove Lincoln and Octavia’s upper armor and clothes.
Octavia looked at Caris, who was removing Octavia’s armor and clothes. She was thankful it was Caris that took care of her rather than a male warrior. She considered whether Indra had set it up that way. Octavia was only in her tank top, and Caris reached for it.
“Leave it, for now,” Indra ordered Caris. She then commanded, “Lash him first.”
The warrior that had unclothed Lincoln nodded and escorted him to the scourging post. With precision, he lashed Lincoln’s arms around the post and hitched them above his head. He checked that they were tight but not enough to cut off blood circulation. He stepped away, which indicated that Lincoln was ready.
Indra reached behind and untied a cat o’ nine whip from her belt. She looked to her leader for the final command.
Lexa stared coolly at Lincoln’s restrained posture. “Ten.”
Indra nodded then started towards Lincoln. She positioned herself at the right spot and raised the cat o’ nine.
Octavia’s chest pounded as the whip came down across Lincoln’s back. She ignored the sting in her eyes while Indra, her former mentor, continued lashing Lincoln at an agonizing pace. Every lashing cut into Octavia’s heart.
Lexa remained next to Octavia. She had enough strength to stay upright. “He loves you very deeply, Octavia.”
For a moment, Octavia kept her eyes closed and listened to Indra’s whip strike her lover’s back. She continued watching and remained silent other than a sharp swallow. Lexa’s words repeated in her head several times. It was true that Lincoln would do anything to ensure her happiness and wellbeing, including a scourging so they could rejoin the Trikru.
Indra stepped back after she completed the last lashing. She ordered the warrior to free Lincoln then she returned to her commander’s side. Indra looked to Caris. “Remove her top then tie her.”
Octavia went cold and color drained from her face. She looked to Caris, who reached for the hem of her tank top. Octavia inhaled deeply and calmed her nerves. She would pass this punishment and returned to Indra’s side as her second. Octavia swore she would always be Trikru.
Trigedasleng to English
Okteivia kom Skaikru, oso na hit choda op nodotaim. – Octavia of the Sky People, we meet each other again.
Toli oso dula op. – So we do.
Mebi oso na hit choda op nodotaim. – Maybe we will meet again.
Jus drein jus daun. – Blood must have blood.