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Oathbreaker

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INTRODUCTION PAGE

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"Was there ever a trap to match the trap of love?"

- Stephen King

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Credits: PandaCapuccino

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‧͙⁺˚*・༓☾ Kylo Ren is the last surviving member of the Knights of Ren and a loyal protector

of King Vadon Snoke, conqueror of the known world and supreme leader of the realms.

One night, Snoke’s failing general, Armitage Hux, brings home a gift to placate the ruthless

king, a captured elf maiden, but not just any elf; a rare omega. King Snoke is intrigued,

though he isn’t the only alpha captivated by this feral maiden. For the first time in years Kylo

finds himself questioning his resolve, but most dangerous of all, his loyalty . ☽༓・*˚⁺‧͙

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Chapter Text

CHAPTER o1:

Blood Moon

 

 

 

- ✧ ❊ ❊ ✧ -

 

He is not disloyal. If nothing else, at least Snoke can say that.

Atop the rose-colored horizon a soft breath of dying starlight gives way to the coming dawn and a westward moon falls behind the black line of featureless hills. He watches the sun rise, a swelling fire on a bed of kindling set to catch even the farthest reaches of the heavens ablaze with crisp orange light. His breath inevitably catches and he thanks the gods for his helmet.

“My lord, what are your orders?” a voice calls from behind him, disturbing his reverie.

He chooses not to answer right away, not to take his gaze from the sky and the brightening sun.

“Lord Ren?”

“Move the infantrymen to the south of the dry river mouth, captain. I’ll lead the riders in from the north to surround them.”

“But my lord, General Hux ordered—”

Ren turns his horse abruptly to face the man, cutting him short. “Would you prefer your general’s wrath, or mine?”

He shrinks before Ren’s question, though the answer is plain on his wan face: neither. Nevertheless, one potential for wrath currently sits upon their horse in front of this captain with a skilled hand resting across the hilt of their sword. Ren emphasizes his question further with a flourish of his gloved fingers over the hilt, allowing it to catch the light, letting the inlaid rubies mesmerize the other man.

To be quite frank, Ren scarcely recalls his name.

“I’ll see to the infantry, Lord Ren.” he stutters at last, turning on his heel and hastening away.

Ren watches him, knowing beyond certainty that he will never see this man again.

Though they are few, the fighters of the Resistance are fierce adversaries. In the previous years King Vadon Snoke had his armies beat their forces all the way back to the rocky coasts of the Ahch-To Sea, seemingly conquered. Lately however, they have resurfaced, winning several small battles along the Empire’s borders with the help of their desert allies; much to King Snoke’s vexation.

And this is precisely why Snoke called him back from his pilgrimage to Mustafar—to remedy a potential catastrophe one General Hux should have alleviated months prior. Ren, to put it mildly, was not enthused.

Once a year for the last decade, he has made the arduous journey beneath the Red Mountains and over the Lake Country’s rolling hills, through the old elven woodlands and past the empty Saltlands to the blackened volcanic region of his ancestor’s resting place. When his fellow knights were alive they made the journey with him, but that was some years ago. Now, he bears it alone.

Ren will never dare voice this aloud, but he finds comfort in the solitude. It spares him a moment of peace from under the king’s impressive shadow. This is not to say that the Master of the Knights of Ren, the last surviving exponent of the dying sect of Ren, loathes his king. Never.

A Knight of Ren is subject to the old code, to the oath sworn before his king and a knight will serve under his liege unto that knight’s dying breath, be it by the sharp end of a sword or the odious, conniving thief, old age . No command exists above the king’s, and to dare such an iniquity is to invite a traitor’s death.

His horse suddenly stirs at the blare of First Order war-horns and Ren pats its neck reassuringly. “No na sîdh, mellon nîn.” !

The animal’s neck muscles quiver, his sooty ears pricking to-and-fro and his body practically vibrating with apprehension. The magnificent beast has never fancied war, Ren knows, but they have survived this long. What is one more conflict? He pats the animal again, his hand lingering.

Takodana, the abandoned home of the Nymeve Elves. A once grand fortress of towering tree houses and glimmering ceremonies, a place rich with the white magic of its people; that was where he’d found him, galloping through the trees like a devilish whirlwind of smoke and ash, driven half mad by the baser phantoms of the earth. That was all that was left in the deserted halls of those ancient peoples, only ghosts, only demons.

“Darthog thorn adh nîn, Sudal.” ! Ren whispers, his gentle tone lost behind the heavy metal of his helm, but his companion hears him.

With a skeptical knicker of acceptance the horse raises its head to look out over the dead grasslands with his master as the sun crests the earth, piercing it with blinding light. Ren gathers Sudal’s reins and hurries him in the direction of the waiting horsemen, their helms all turned to face the approaching knight and their spears winking like lethal fireflies.

He halts in front of them, wrapping his hand around the pommel of his sword, buoyed by it. “You fight for the king of the Empire! Your king! Mine! We fight in his name and the name of Order! Remember it and die well!”

A united pounding of spears against the ground as the men shout. “For the Order! For the Empire!”

With a sharp nod Ren whirls, his cape billowing, his ebony raiment glittering, and he leads them into battle.

 

- ✧ ❊ ❊ ✧ -

 

It was over before it even began the men are already saying. One swipe of his mighty sword! Did you see? Yes! Yes! The dark knight of our king is a savage force! It should be decreed that he accompany us in every battle! Then, dangerous whispers. He is a far better leader than our general… maybe even our king. A true alpha. Look how he cut down his enemies. Look how they ran from his shadow.

Gazes drop to the ground as Ren passes, but they linger after him; some grateful, most terrified. The murmurings, however, continue regardless of his presence or not. Some wonder at his age, his appearance, if he was birthed from the pits of hell as the rumors say, or if he indeed does possess the ancient blood of those long dead immortals from the mythical isles across the sea.

On the lonely road back to Coruscant the sun sinks below the trees, casting the world in late summer bronze and dusky rose as Ren leads half of the battalion home. The other division remains on his king’s borders to rally with General Hux at the abandoned watchtowers of Niima near the rim of the Jakku desert. Anymore uprisings from these Resistance allies could bolster would-be conspirators among Snoke’s court to call the king’s rule into question. Be that as it may, Ren still disagrees with leaving this responsibility up to a general who has allowed such uprisings to occur, let alone lose a number of them.

He will speak with his king, suggest that perhaps it is time for a new general, that Hux has outlasted his usefulness, but Ren knows better than to suspect much. The king is not without eyes and understands well his knight’s intrinsic hatred for the general. It is this very hatred which governed Ren’s decision to go against Hux in battle; a battle—by no short stretch of the imagination—that he had won .

For Ren is loyal… if nothing else.

“My Lord Ren?” a man draws up beside him, dark eyes wary on his small face.

“Lieutenant Mitaka.”

“My lord,” he repeats, bowing his head with his hands folded on the horn of his saddle. “Our men are tired. May we not rest for the night?”

“Resistance allies and feral packs of orcs roam these desiccated plains. Which would you prefer we fight first, lieutenant: the starving orcs or the enemy’s allies?”

“Forgive me, my lord, but—”

“We keep moving until we reach the safety of our outposts along the Theed River,” Ren interjects coolly.

The lieutenant swallows his next words and fades behind to join the others again, leaving Ren to himself. He wonders fleetingly of his mother, an errant thought that seems to flutter just out of reach. She flares like a beacon at the edges of his mind, willful and ever-present, a fixture he has tried doggedly to carve out of himself…

Yet she remains.

Like the face of his father.

Like the pure white of the Simbelmynë flowers which had graced his crib, their scent the scent of home .

Throughout his childhood, his mother would venture west to the moorlands of the horse lords, her homeland, to pick these flowers. Fearing for her son she would weave circles of protection, hanging them at his cradle, his door, even upon his head. He remembers finding the petals in her woven hair and being struck by the sudden, undeniable child need to put one in his mouth. From that day he has associated the flower with her , and he always will.

Rumors tell of a Resistance stronghold in the far north beyond the Empire’s borders, hidden somewhere deep beneath the tundra of Glymer-en-Lysstelaith. If such rumors are true, then this is where his mother hides.

The king’s warning echoes in his mind. “Remember that she is our enemy, Kylo Ren.”

“Of course, my king.”

“Remember as well that she is part of the disease plaguing this land. Her ideology is a deadly one. Never forget that, my Knight of Ren. Never forget your place. You chose to serve me.”

“Unto my death, supreme leader.”

They reach the river Theed well into the predawn hours of the next morn, the whole of the company spent and the horses dragging their hooves. Ren dismounts to greet the man on watch, a fellow alpha old in age with a ruined face and a killer’s eyes. He bows lowly to Ren, his dominant hand sweeping wide in a customary gesture of respect.

“The king’s Knight of Ren. We have heard word of your victory in the Badlands.”

Ren ignores the praise. “The men tire. They have need of food and rest.”

The watchman nods. “We receive supplies next week, but we can spare a portion for our fellow soldiers.” He turns to the side, motioning for Ren to follow. “You are no doubt weary, Lord Ren. You may take my quarters.”

“No. I will continue on. Lieutenant Mitaka will lead the men the rest of the way back to Coruscant.”

From behind him, the lieutenant makes an apprehensive noise, a quick raspy intake of breath, while the watchmen looks out across the company and whispers, “As you wish, Lord Ren.”

 

- ✧ ❊ ❊ ✧ -

 

It’s another six days before he reaches Coruscant. Six days to think. Little solace is found however with the hushed gossip from the men echoing in his mind. He will never be greater than the king. He is a Knight of Ren and he serves the king. Nothing more.

At last, he reaches the narrow crevasse at the root of the city, his horse slowing near the cliff edge with a satisfied nicker. Over the crevasse arches a precarious stone bridge adorned with dark statues which hoist many-spoked wheels above their monstrous heads—the symbol of the First Order. Far below the mists from the falls rise up like a thick silvery plume, blanketing the bridge in wet, sightless fog.

Beyond lies the city. Coruscant, a magnificent stack of marble and stone terraces hewn into the mountainside, spires of pearl and obsidian, dancing blood-red banners and the Citadel perched at the very top.

Ren urges Sudal onward, hurrying him through the bustling market and surging streets; then up, up and up. Once reaching the king’s courtyard, he dismounts and sees Sudal’s reins off to one of the waiting stable boys before turning back to the Citadel. Its shadow looms long over the city, casting half of it in darkness, but Ren breathes a sigh of ease, grateful to be back under the gravity of it.

“Lord Ren.” a woman approaches, her hooded attire shimmering violet, a six-pointed star branded into her forehead and her sybilline eyes assessing him openly.

He pauses, matching the pointed stare through the slits of his helm.

Halting in front of him, the priestess judges his appearance from head to toe, nakedly betraying a flush of rose in her cheeks. Their eyes lock again and he finds a glint of reverent heat concealed behind them.

“The king requests your presence in the temple library. Promptly.”

So Snoke is pouring over esoteric books again, searching for any sliver of information he can find on the weapon . Ren sweeps past her, ignoring the way her attention follows after him, how her beta pheromones spike and tease under his skin, only serving to agitate him further.

His king sits in the low sanctum, golden robes coiled around his chair in rolling waves and long gnarled fingers spidered over yellowing parchment. The desk he occupies lies adjacent to the far shelves and scroll cubbyholes at the back of the chamber. A single ray of sunlight cuts through the air from a high stained-glass window and dust mites dance aimlessly in its wake.

He lingers near the threshold, hands dutifully at his sides.

“My knight has finally returned.” Snoke’s low rumble greets him. “And he has returned victorious, I hear.”

“The allies have been beaten back, my king.” Ren confirms.

The elder man turns, arctic gaze bidding him to enter.

Ren obeys.

“Hux’s raven also spoke of dissension among leaders, a deliberate contravention of the original plan.” Snoke’s withered lips pinch into an accusatory line.

Ren remains undeterred by the words, his chin high. “My king needed a battle won. I achieved that, which is more than the general has offered in many moons past.”

Snoke turns his attention back to his desk. “Be that as it may, Kylo Ren, I expect such a leader under my banner to never forget his place, to never forget who gave him the will to live.”

Ancient memories threaten to assail Ren’s mind, but he pushes them down, burying them far below in the shadows. Snoke glances over his shoulder at the younger man’s hesitation, arctic eyes calling him again to dare closer. Ren obeys without question and kneels at his king’s feet. The frigid eyes soften a mere fraction as Ren removes his helmet, looking up to his king with unveiled fealty.

“My child. You came to me, my son. You were lost and I found you. I helped you discover your true worth. For who is you father if it is not me?” Snoke’s whisper sinks deep into his skin, reminding him, centering him with purpose.

“My place is at the foot of your throne, supreme leader.” Father. A bitter pang somewhere deep inside claws at his innards, but he disregards it, keeping his eyes solely on his king’s. “A Knight of Ren lives to serve.”

“You are the last of Ren, the last of your kind.” Snoke whispers even quieter. “Had I my palantir, complete victory would have been reached years ago. Had I my seer, he could have foreseen this growing threat in the north. But as fate would have it, I am without my eye and my oracle is without his sight.”

Shame seeps up from an old wound and he drops his head, for hadn’t he been the one to shatter his king’s palantir? Was it not he who had witnessed the girl in the glass and lost his ability to see ?

“My king—”

“Alas, one must work with what he is given.”

The disappointment stings and Ren bites into his tongue.

“Rise, Knight of Ren. See to some rest and good food. Despite your deliberate disobedience, you won me a small battle.”

 

- ✧ ❊ ❊ ✧ -

 

He paces along the outer ramparts, irritated—more at himself than anything else. The surrounding mountains fall red, then pink, their frosted caps glittering like diamonds as the sun dips beneath the world and the ghostly moon rises in the east. There will be a blood eclipse tonight. He should be in Mustafar to pay homage to his ancestor, especially on a celestial event like this, but he is here.

His king demanded him here.

The light dims, washed out gold emptying from the cloudless sky like a guttering candle.

Hours pass.

Torches walk the sleeping streets, trek along the trails beyond the ramparts and ascend the towers around him as he stares solemnly at that brightening moon. The elves had called it Raun , which meant Wanderer in their lost tongue.

‘Tis fitting. He muses.

The elves had long since sailed to the Undying Lands some centuries ago. Very few remember them and fewer still know how to read their language, let alone speak it. His uncle, as little as Ren would like to remember of him, had served to teach Ren much of the antiquated ways of men and elves, but Snoke had taught him vastly more.

He caresses the pommel of his sword, recalling the first lesson he had learned in combat.

“You must first learn to fall. When you learn how to fall, then you’ll know how to stand.” his uncles voice echoes gruffly.

Ren glares into the darkness, willing it to be the face of his enemy. For a man so sure he knew how to stand, you fell quite easily, uncle.

A flicker of another face abruptly reaches out to him, causing him to stagger backwards and draw his sword. Distant laughter spirals up from the depths of his subconscious, light and carefree—a child’s laughter… and a man’s. They cascade over his nerve endings like frothing water, filling him with a painful sense of newness before settling in his heart and remaining there.

“Higher papa! Higher!”

“If I toss you any higher you might reach the clouds and not come back down.”

“Higher!” the child voice persists through giggles.

“Alright. But you have to promise not to tattle on me this time, B

Ren violently severs the memory, choking it with such ferocity his hands quake. Above, the moon brightens, tempting him somehow, favoring the world with its sweet pearly light. All at once, his helmet feels heavy, so very heavy. Exhaling a gust of hot air, he focuses on the solidness of the rampart beneath his feet, remembering himself and where he currently stands.

This is his home. Gods be damned. Damn his sword and his soul. Cast it all to the fire. He will never go back.

Never.

Across the bridge near the falls Ren suddenly spots a dancing ball of light—a torch light. Behind it, a small fleet of familiar guards. Hux . Ren squints, noting the lead horse with its familiar armor, but the animal isn’t only carrying the general. There is another: small, bound with a burlap sack over their head.

A Resistance prisoner? He wonders.

It appears fortune favor’s Hux’s neck after all. Ren scoffs. Pity.

A bell overhead sounds as they cross the bridge and Ren turns to the Citadel, knowing Snoke will be roused for his general’s arrival. Ren grins at the thought. This could be quite entertaining.

Sheathing his sword, he walks briskly to his king’s throne room. By the time he reaches the chamber, Snoke is already seated at his lofty perch, black crown atop his head and lavish robes spilling down the rounded steps. Snoke’s eyes meet him when he enters, the double doors booming in his wake.

“Punctual, Kylo Ren. Come to see the show, no doubt.”

Ren does not answer and instead bows silently in front of him before taking his appointed place beside the throne.

Snoke chuckles, though says no more.

Minutes pass and others enter the hall, servants and high ranking First Order officers, curious courtesans and delusive noblemen who have come to see Snoke’s treatment of his failing general. Kylo watches them all behind his helmet, a frown of disdain on his lips.

Ugly vultures.

Without warning, a storm of commotion thunders beyond the doors, making the entire room still. Furniture crashes. A shout rings out—indefinable, feminine and defiant. Followed by a roar from Hux.

Then, the doors fling open and in comes the general with his quarry, a spitting belligerent girl in a stained and tattered dress. Ren notes the exhaustion under the general’s eyes, the pressed quality of his lips, how his arms crush the girl’s ribs. Despite this, she puts up a vicious struggle, kicking and snarling like a wild Sandtiger.

As Hux nears, Ren notes something else, a growing stain of purple at the general’s hairline. Perhaps, a lucky shot from the flailing girl? He smirks. Wouldn’t that have been a treat to see.

Hux stops several paces before Snoke’s throne, yanking the girl down to her knees.

Ren spares a glance at his king and sees the older man’s eyes glinting with interest.

“King Snoke! I have brought to you a curious find, something you will be quite pleased to see!”

“Is that so, General Hux?” Snoke purrs. “An oddity that might dissuade me from chastising you for your recent string of failures, you think?”

“Yes.” Hux grins wolfishly.

Ren glances back at the wrestling girl as a spell of unease rolls in his stomach and the hairs on the nape of his neck stand at attention. Something about the girl agitates him, something

“Presumption is a dangerous notion for someone in your position, general.” Snoke’s tone drops to a bone-chilling growl.

Despite this, Hux’s expression does not falter. In fact, it intensifies. “Will my king allow his general to show him the find?”

 

Snoke muses for a moment, sitting back lazily and tapping his skeletal fingers on the stone of his chair. “A Resistance spy will not save you from the wrath I’ve planned—”

Swiftly, Hux rips the burlap hood off the girl’s head, instantly killing the subsequent words on Snoke’s tongue. A knotted curtain of hair tumbles down her shoulders concealing her face and Ren catches a strong wave of her scent, not unlike the sweetened breathe of summer wind. He inhales it thoughtfully at first, studying it; then decadently, finding his body suddenly trembling . Slowly, she lifts her head to bare her teeth at Snoke, revealing her face and the realization slams into Ren like a wild gale .

An omega. By gods. She’s an omega.

Her scent spikes and all eyes in the room are unable to look away, enthralled by such a rarity. She turns hastily in an attempt to bite Hux and the threadbare dress she dons exposes a scant patch of skin at her shoulder. Kylo swallows back a groan as a sharp primal clench radiates through lower belly.

“Behold my king!” Hux bellows. “An elven omega!”

Ren’s mouth falls open in utter disbelief.

 

 

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Chapter Text

CHAPTER o2:

Grimchild

 

 

 

- ✧ ❊ ❊ ✧ -

 

Ologhên.

Ill-fated.

Grimchild.

Her people had long ago left her with that word. Rey can scarcely remember their faces any more, but the word… 

She had etched it onto every stone wall of her home back in the wastelands of Jakku. Like her skin, the word is a permanent fixture of her being, having shaped her as a forge shapes steel. And steel is cold. Steel can cut

There were many a lonely nights in the desert, the rich shroud of stars glittering like strings of precious jewels, reminding her that her people were gone. More importantly, though, was the glaring fact that she was not with them. 

Steel can cut, but she is not steel. 

How many decades since their departure? Does it matter anymore? 

She supposes not. 

Kneeling in a foreign land, in an enemy’s house with her hands bound, a cruel fist tangled in her hair and her throat aching for water, she supposes it does not matter at all. After days and nights of riding on horseback with ropes eating into her wrists and a burlap hood over her head, Rey has accepted that she is indeed cursed. 

She lets out an abrupt cry as a hand yanks the sack from her head, ripping hair along with it. Golden torchlight floods her vision and she hastily ducks her face, unwilling to look into the eyes of this king without first marshaling her wits. Her gaze fixates on the geometric patterns of silver inlaid into the black marble floor, how crisp and harsh they glint in this liquid light. 

“Behold my king! An elven omega!” the general announces, giving a grand flourish with one hand and lifting Rey up by her hair with the other. 

She feels the throb of agony down to her toes but refuses to cry out again. Instead, she glares directly ahead, assessing this king . He is perched several steps above on a heavy throne, an old and withered alpha with eyes like winter. The thick musk of him assaults her senses, stronger than in the corridor when she had first smelled it. Now so close it almost overwhelms her, the muscles of her body whispering to obey, to please

Witnessing elven alphas and their omegas in her childhood, infrequent as they were, had presented a fleeting opportunity for understanding the kind of power alphas held. Her child self had thought it mystical, but she could never have fathomed the depth of that power through such an innocuous frame of mind. Now a maiden, Rey finally apprehends just how crippling their presence — their scents —can be, and she does little else but bare her teeth, fearing anything more will lead to some shameful form of omega prostration. 

She cannot admit weakness. 

She will not.

General Hux shoves her roughly to the throne and she prepares herself for that terrifying gnarled face, but her eyes unexpectedly stray, centering on the hulking shadow behind the face. This shadow stands perfectly still, like a proud stag caught in a hunter’s line of sight. Regal black armor, unending shoulders and a crimson cape draped at his back. 

How had he escaped her notice? A curious effervescence bubbles in her chest as her gaze crawls up to his ebony helm. 

What lies behind it? she wonders.

A dark knight. 

A warlord. 

An alpha, a voice in her whispers.  

The musk she scented earlier had not been the presence of one alpha, but two. A second laced just beneath the obtrusive note of the king’s. Spiced autumn, the same aroma as the liquor her people brewed during harvest when the fall moon shone bright. Elves dared to journey into the more ancient hollows of their wood during this time, drunk and merry in celebration. Rey recalls the flickering fireflies, the glow lamps of kyber and the nightingales’ song, so soft and low. 

Home.  

She inhales the alpha’s scent decadently, eyes slipping closed of their own will. Not since her childhood has she witnessed an alpha let alone two.

“An elven omega.” 

Rey eyes snap open at the king’s musing tone and she discovers his stare intent upon her. Pink suffuses her cheeks and she wants to look away, to conceal her embarrassment, but her pride refuses her. Instead, she forces all the hatred she can muster into her glare and lifts her chin defiantly.

He grins. “It appears you may have potentially redeemed yourself, General Hux.” 

The hand wrapped in her hair pulls tight, forcing her further up on her toes. “Thank you, King Snoke. My men found her living in a pitiful hovel near the Niima watchtowers. She had scarcely any belongings, but I felt her a relevant prize for what she is.” Hux brags. 

Rey’s blood freezes. She has heard of this king and she knows the fear his name brings. Her insides curdle with dread. This is the castle of King Vadon Snoke, Demon Serpent, World Ender. False King.

Though one would never utter the latter in his presence.   

Snoke’s non-existent brows lift in surprise. “What would a wood elf be doing so far away from her forest? And to not have traveled to the Undying Lands with her kin...” He pauses, expression thoughtful. “You are cursed.”

The unimpeded directness of his statement takes her by surprise and she flinches. His calculating gaze sharpens, twisting her already twisted stomach into countless knots and she shamefully averts her gaze, focusing on the first thing that catches her attention—the clenched fists of the knight. The alpha who smells like winter fire. 

She fixates on him, registering the wideness of his build, even in his cumbrous armor, and the weight of such a large sword girded at his hips. He appears so rigid next to the serpentine ease of his king. Then, she notes something else, a marker in his scent she cannot quite place, yet somehow… an ancient part of her understands. 

He is going into rut. Right now.

On the blood moon , the omega in her whispers. Iârithil.” !

Salacious heat pools in her belly at the revelation and her thighs squeeze together as a near painful throb radiates from her core. She attempts to conceal her reaction, unfortunately too late. Both alphas smell her at once, the ravenous sweep of the king’s eyes filling her with disgust, while the near impossibly motionless bearing of the knight is interrupted by a single, minute jerk of his helmet.  

However, instead of commenting upon the turn of events, the king ignores it and turns back to Hux. “Does she bear any strange markings?”

“Yes, my lord. A blackened mark stain upon her shoulder.”

“Show me.”

Reaching with his free hand, Hux takes hold of Rey’s right sleeve and fear erupts in her. For years beyond memory she has avoided that mark, and she will not allow it to be seen tonight. Wrenching suddenly in his grasp, she cranes her neck, aiming to take a chunk of flesh out of his check. The general reacts in the nick of time, angling his head away and yanking viciously on her arm. Her body pitches off balance and the rude snap of her shoulder makes her cry out at last. Her sound fills the room, echoing off the walls and tainting her with humiliation. 

Hux lets out an annoyed snarl and rips the threadbare fabric of her dress sleeve to reveal the ugly blemish. She turns her face away from it as he moves her closer to the throne, maneuvering her up the steps with a cruel hand. In the silence she finds a momentary escape into her thoughts, unwilling to lay eyes on the mark.

Her people had called it an ill omen, the very reason why her parents’ lives had been stolen. A tragic thing none could remedy. She was to rot here alone. Left behind…  

A hand curls under her chin, forcing her to look into the hungry eyes of the king. His touch is dry, cold. She disdains it.

“The elves were known for their white magic, but some among them bore strange birthmarks when conceived. These children were known to possess certain talents of which their elvish kin found abhorrent, so they cast them out.” Snoke pauses, his scholarly purr punctuated with a tilt of his head. “She can scream, but does she speak?”

“It is unclear, my king.” Hux answers.

Rey’s pulse hammers at her throat, her heart pounding so hard it might burst. What does he plan to do to me? Unconsciously, her eyes flit to the faceless knight again. 

He stands perfectly still, a statue of darkness; however, she finds that one of his feet have slid forward, and there—along his shoulders—an almost imperceptible tremble. Rey stares openly, curiosity burning in her chest. Despite his ebony helm, she can feel his glare upon her, heavy like the oppressive shadow of a storm.

Who are you?  

The smell of him is nearly impossible to resist and if not for Snoke’s icy clutches and the cruel grip of his general, Rey would have advanced on him, trapping him however she could. The insatiable desire to take from this stranger lingers in her mind, kindling like the glowing coals of a fire. The longer she stares the brighter the feeling grows until she fears it will consume her.

A desperate moan escapes her before she can swallow it back and her eyes slam shut in humiliation. Why does her body act against her will? 

 “I must say, this is quite a gift you present to me, General Hux.” Snoke asserts pleasantly.

“Thank you, my king.”

He then turns his attention back to Rey. “Give us your name.” 

In defiance of her fear, she rips her chin from his grasp, lips peeled back in a snarl. 

Hux moves to deal her an instructive blow, but Snoke’s raised hand stops him. “She is a willful one.” he grins. 

And suddenly, in a flash of gold, the king’s hand cracks her cheek so hard she falls back into Hux’s unforgiving arms. Tears sting her eyes as liquid heat blooms across her face and her chin trembles, but she cannot cry. She will not. 

“Give us your name, elfling .” Snoke’s tone pitches low, threatening.

The word is a calculated jab to further antagonize her, she knows. In truth, she is likely thrice this heinous king’s age and he knows this. 

“Perhaps the dungeons will loosen your tongue.” he strokes his chin in mock consideration.

Without warning, the knight suddenly lurches forward, an unhinged tremor in his tone. “My king, sending such a find to the parasites of the dungeons would be a waste.”

Rey feels her body respond to his voice at once, the mating glands on her neck and wrists itching with the restless desire to be touched, licked, bitten . The feeling is new and entirely unknown to her, bringing with it a terror that coils in her gut. She knows from early memory that omega’s present upon reaching the proper age, but Rey has not witnessed an alpha since the fifth summer of her birth. 

Now she stands before two.

Ignoring the pleasant sensation coursing through her veins she compels her body to stillness, peering directly at the knight from the corner of her eye and fixing him with a determined glare. Tears wet her cheeks as she focuses all her will upon silencing the rapacious urge in the pit of her stomach, though she ignores them.

He feels it, too. 

How she knows this, she isn’t sure.  

Meanwhile, Snoke surveys his knight wittingly. “Have you foreseen something, Kylo Ren, a new vision after all these years? Or perhaps it’s something else? I dare assume she is quite a pretty thing underneath all that filth. What say you?”

He does not respond at first, the eyes around them watching intently. “I think she is elvish , the last of this world, and she could be the greatest asset to your rule.”

Rey’s insides turn to ice at the possible connotation behind his words. He cannot mean… 

“I think you might be right.” Snoke says, glancing at her. 

Another long silence. 

Rey’s nails bite into her palms as she waits.

Then, the king nods to the crowd behind her, calling out two names, “Kaydel! Rose!”  

Two ladies step forward, well dressed but plain. Servants of the castle, Rey surmises as she strains her neck to see them over Hux’s shoulder. They bow lowly, their silken skirts spilling over the floor.

“Where is Paige?” Snoke inquires tersely.

The dark-haired one of the two rises, her face downcast. “She is with the other nurses seeing to the arriving soldiers, my liege. She had volunteered—”

“Retrieve her.” he interjects rudely. “The three of you are to remain by this elf’s side from henceforth. You will attend to her wardrobe, her appearance and her teachings.”

“Teachings, your majesty?” the other girl frowns.

“I cannot have my future wife presented as some menial desert rat. She is to be refined, taught in the arts of a proper lady.”

Sound stops. The world around her falls in entirely and her heart sinks like a stone. Future wife? Desert rat?  

Hatred floods her veins, though her malice and contempt aim not at the king or his vile, ruined face, but the knight just beside him. Kylo Ren. By all the stars of Ainur she will kill him. If it is to be her last act upon this Earth she will drive a sword straight through that armor and into his heart. She would choose rotting away in the dungeons with whatever monstrosities linger there then wedded to such a king.

No. No! NO!  

This is his fault!

Despite her inner turmoil, she spots a very visible spasm that passes through the knight, his fists clenching and unclenching on reflex. Had she not looked at the exact moment, she would have missed it entirely.

And were I not bound I would slay you here and now! Then, I would use your own sword on your beloved

“A wife my king?” Kylo Ren stutters. “Is this be wise? She could be a Resistance spy who allowed herself to be captured, a potential assassin with you as her target.” 

“All the better to keep her close.” Snoke counters with a grin, letting his words sink their prurient meaning into the room. “I doubt a Knight of Ren knows anything about the wiles of women. Your purpose is to serve me, not to question my decisions. Perhaps, something has clouded your mind?”

The words strike hard and Rey herself recoils at the divisive show of rank between the two. To mention such intimacies with the knight going into rut this very second is beyond reprehensible. Alphas are meant to respect certain boundaries despite their adversarial disposition, even in battle. It is an ancient and unspoken understanding, going deep into the blood memory. But this king is no true alpha. 

But why should she care? This knight is the one who suggested an arranged marriage to the king. 

She tells herself she doesn’t care and, for a moment, it feels true. 

The knight steps back in humiliation, seemingly biting his tongue for now. But he never quite stands still again, his hands fidgeting inconspicuously with the armor plating at his thigh, readjusting his sword belt, head tilted ever-so-slightly at the king. Or perhaps in her direction. She cannot be sure—

—but she can feel his glare on her—

“I suppose it only natural that an alpha recognizes a fine specimen of omega.” The king laughs, clasping his hands over his lap and looking to the women behind Hux. “See that she is properly washed and clothed. Take her to the west tower. A guard will be posted there shortly.”

They sink lower in their bows and Hux releases her, though she does not miss the ravenous sweep of the king’s eyes over her body as the ladies lead her away. A shiver of revulsion crawls down Rey’s spine and she turns away, wishing to all the stars of the sky that she was home. Back in her small hovel near the Niima watchtowers, the dry heat of the Jakku desert wafting over her face. 

One final look to the throne betrays the expressionless helm of Kylo Ren swiveling in her direction and she quickly turns away.

 

- ✧ ❊ ❊ ✧ -

 

“You will need to undress, my lady.” Rose admonishes. “Have you not bathed yourself before?”

Rey ignores her from her spot near the window, eyes intent on that blood moon. The eclipse is fading now, but the night is still dim, the shadows larger than they should be.

Kaydel purses her lips. “Do not be vulgar. The king’s betrothed was found in a desert. In such a dry place, I doubt she considered wasting what little she had with bathing.”

“Do you speak?” Rose asks Rey, ignoring Kaydel’s chiding. 

Rey glances over at the girl, her eyes drifting for a moment to the adjacent room where her bath water awaits. Steam wreaths through the doorway, the fresh scent of freesias decadently enthralling to her senses. She has not smelled flowers in years. 

“Leave her be for now.” Kaydel instructs. 

“But did you see Lord Ren? Never have I witnessed him question our king before. Do you think he has taken the rumors to heart, that he intends to supplant the king?”

Kaydel’s index finger presses to her lips. “Shh! Do you want either of them to hear you?”

“Do they live in the walls now?” Rose jests.

“The king’s spies dow. Now, go outside and fetch your sister. See that she hurries with our lady’s night garments.”

Rey watches the younger girl vanish out the door, the flurry of her skirts like that of dust-glittered moth wings, then looks back to the sky, a stab of pain radiating through her heart as the door slams shut. Trapped.

Kaydel steps near, careful as she speaks. “The lady must bathe, or risk anger from her king again.” 

He is not my king and I am not his to wed! She wants to scream. 

All the decades in her desert, secluded and alone, scarcely a soul to share in her endless days and now she is to be forced into a marriage she does not desire to an alpha who intends to make her his. Bile rises in her throat and she closes her eyes. In the desert she may have been alone, but at least there, her life was hers.   

But those days are gone…

A finger light touch creeps up Rey’s shoulder and she jolts, throwing her back against the wall and her heart thundering in her chest. 

“I mean you no harm, but you must come.” Kaydel whispers, her offered hand appearing milky in the slant of moonlight filtering through the window. 

The tears threaten to fall again and Rey swallows them down with an angry grimace. Kaydel’s touch halts her as she attempts to turn away.

“He will hurt you if you refuse to abide by his rules.” she says.

Peering askance at Kaydel’s hand, Rey begrudgingly takes it and allows her to lead. The washroom is lavish, outfitted with a massive lacquered tub at its center. Red draperies, geometric pillars, coiling serpents and filigree tracery surround it. The steps up to the tub are made of pure gold, too, beautifully contrasted to the black marble of the floor and Rey tugs unconsciously at the material of her dress. 

It is magnificent and the smells around her make her want to wrap herself in the room’s warmth like a blanket, but it would be a poisonous one. The room is a lie, like the rest of this castle.

She takes a deep breath to slow her raging heart, but her mind travels then to the knight by King Snoke’s side and her heart can do little more than stutter before leaping into a fatal gallop. The pull she felt in that throne room still lingers, moving over her skin like liquid heat and she rubs uncomfortably at the mating glands on her wrists. The king’s voice had commanded the omega desire in her to please, but the knight’s voice... 

She bites her lip at the memory of it.

Warm and low like a bedroom whisper. 

It is he who got you into this, she reminds herself bitterly and shoves the image of him from her mind.

Kaydel kneels down in front of her and reaches for the hem of her dress. At once Rey jumps away, her stomach churning. Not since her childhood has she seen nakedness and only then had it been with her mother as a young babe in the hot springs of her homeland. 

The woman glances up at her, eyes intent. “It must be done, my lady.”

Rey allows her, eyes pinched shut and teeth buried in her tongue. The distant tang of blood fills her mouth and she opens them warily as she feels the threadbare slip of material pulled over her head, unsure of the expression she might find. Kaydel pauses, looking at her curiously, the slight tick of her brows causing Rey to blush profusely. 

Her scent has changed, sharpened in a way that she has never smelled before.

Is this what happens to a mature omega? 

Rey is no stranger to heat cycles, but in the presence of fellow alphas who have reached rutting age, she is wholly ignorant. And the more she tries to drive the faceless knight from her mind, the more insistent his image becomes.   

Kaydel helps her up the steps and into the tepid water. Rey sinks into the water as far as she comfortably can and thanks the stars that the water comes above her breasts. 

From the other room the sound of the door opening and shutting give both women pause, and Rey instinctively tucks her legs against her chest. Though her apprehension slackens as she observes Rose’s smiling face enter with a woman of matching stature and black hair.  

“So this is the one our king has at last decided to wed? She looks no more than a child.” the newcomer remarks derisively.  

Kaydel brings a pitcher for Rey’s hair, saying simply, “It is the choice of our king. We are not to question it.”

Paige steps closer, wonder hidden beneath her shrewd glare. “Is she truly of elf-kind?”

“Of course!” Rose pipes up excitedly, gathering soaps and oils for the bath. 

“She is quite lovely.” Paige murmurs, then speaks directly. “Can you understand our tongue, my lady?”

Rey stares blankly up at her, unsure whether or not to answer the question. Remaining silent would be her safest route, especially if she intends to escape this place and she will . Rey cannot trust these women. They will run to their king the second they catch wind of her desire to run.

“She is a piece of lost history! There are no elves in this land anymore. No dwarves, no dragons, only men and orcs.” Rose gushes. “She is a treasure!” 

“What shall we call you then?” Paige asks, keeping her attention on Rey.

Rey clamps her teeth shut, looking down at her knees.

“Do you suppose she understands us?” Rose queries. 

“Of course she does. Her expressions give her away.” Paige remarks sitting down along the steps of the tub and unbinding Rey’s hair. 

Rey wants to pull away from her, but she knows doing so will only confirm Paige’s suspicions, so Rey sits silently and lets them wash the years of desert grim from her flesh. 

Later, Rey stands next to the bedchamber window once more, finally alone—save for the guards posted at the door—and freshly dressed in an ornate shift. Her long hair cascades down her back, brushed free of tangles, and her skin feels soft to the touch. But none of these things can conceal the ugly sorrow in her swollen eyes. 

The tower Snoke has her caged in rises too high above the trees to risk a climb down, but the view over the mountains is enough to ease her pain for the night she supposes; a beautiful image of cleanly jagged snowcaps cutting into the velvet night, the stars shimmering sweetly to her. She calls to them as the tears fall, begging for freedom…  

… even if freedom means death.

 

 

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Chapter Text

CHAPTER o3:

Loyalty to His King

 

 

 

- ✧ ❊ ❊ ✧ -

 

“Go now, Ren.” The memory of Snoke’s voice moves over him like poison. “You can scarcely serve me in your current… condition. That, and the hour groweth late. Go now. I wish to discuss matters with General Hux alone.”  

He had fled the throne room in utter humiliation, his muscles wanting to crawl out of his skin and the thick scent of his arousal like a tangible cloud betraying him to anyone he passed. And the itching

Itching often precedes a rut, a bothersome side effect, though not entirely unmanageable. Over the years, Ren has developed a simple yet effective method in dealing with a coming rut: meditation, meditation, fight training, meditation, more fight training and, eventually, an execution or two. Usually, the method works flawlessly and ruts are far and in-between, but this one is unlike anything he has ever experienced. 

Prowling through the corridors and up the spiraling staircases until at last reaching his quarters, he nearly rips the door off its hinges as he enters, slamming it shut behind him so hard the walls tremble. He grips at his helmet, his head pounding, though he will not remove his armor. Instead, he crosses the room, pausing momentarily at his window, then retraces his steps only to repeat the process again. He does this over and over, lingering each time at his window and looking out across the ramparts to the west tower. 

The warm gold of her window beckons him like a flame, reminding him of her tangled chestnut hair as she had writhed in Hux’s arms, how her scent had infected him, imbuing him with the indescribable need for summer heat—

—throwing her down onto a bed of lush meadow grass beyond the shadow of the castle where the wildflowers grow, tearing her clothes from her lithe body and taking her, claiming

No!

Flashing green-gold eyes, like moss caught in sunlight—

No!  

Cheeks, so fresh and tinged pink like those snarling lips. Soft lips…

NO!

The hollowness in his gut gives an agonizing lurch and he grits his teeth against the hook-like pull below his navel. His skin crawls and the urge to storm up the tower where the ladies-in-waiting are no doubt washing her filthy skin clean drives him mad. He groans, thinking of the elf maiden naked in the steam and bathwater, and his cock twitches earnestly. 

The madness grows as he allows salacious fantasies of her tongue teasing his mating glands to consume his mind, far-fetched imaginings of how she would sound as she yanks him flush to her body, hands thoughtless and hungry. And her teeth. He longs to know what they feel like sinking into his skin. 

Omega, an ancient part of him chants. My omega. Mine!  

Clamping his eyes shut, he presses both of his gloved-hands down onto the crown of his helm, relishing the pressure of weight on his skull. The uncontrollable desperation crawling through his bones rings like a bell, but the needed pressure centers him, reminding him of his body, his feet… and where they stand. 

He is the king’s Knight of Ren.

He stands by his king.

Despite these words a furious jealousy flares through his chest, the want to claim more profound than he has ever experienced with any past rut. And on its heels— fear. This sensation coursing through his veins is more than meer alpha desire. This elven omega is more. 

Snoke’s palantir appears in Ren’s mind, its shattered pieces reflecting back the same moss-gold eyes on the broken face of a girl; her, he now understands, a preadolescent elf maiden. Yet she wore a smile then. 

He had dreamed of that smile countless nights… and he had hated that face, blaming it for his misfortune of destroying one of his king’s prized possessions. Though he had also longed for it, wondered at it. 

“What be your name,” he would ask each night before drifting off into uneasy sleep. “ Do you have a family? Do they miss you?”

He even sometimes imagined her answering back, asking questions of her own. “ What of your family? What of your mother? And your father? Is he a sailor, a soldier of war?”

Ren’s answer was always simple. “None of those things. I killed him.”

Her reactions to his reply often varied in his dreams. Sometimes she would stare at him in horror and accusation, other times she would turn away in disgust, but sometimes, on the rare moments when he felt his loneliest, she would reach for his face. Her hands would be soft and warm like a balmy breeze, and he would allow himself a moment of weakness, for he hoped to find no judgment in her eyes.  

The years after joining his king, betraying his family and choosing this life, the face of that little girl had been a fantasy, the one thing Ren had successfully kept concealed from Snoke.

The last private piece of himself.

Now to find the face of this very child on an elvish woman, an omega. What is he to think?

Apparently nothing in light of his alpha instincts roaring through his veins like an obnoxious beast with a seemingly insatiable appetite. He attempts to bottle it away, relying on an old tactic that has never failed him before. Counting. 

After much of his training, Ren had learned to compartmentalize his emotions and, in his youth, as an alpha coming of age, he had learned quickly to focus on simplicity. Solitary meditation and counting had often kept his mind where it needed to be.  

But try as he might each number wonders back to her. 

He growls in frustration, realizing distantly that he has begun pacing again. 

Restlessness.

This rut is dangerous, the itch in his body all-encompassing, right down to his bones. It thrums deeper than any rut he has ever endured before and he bites off a frustrated groan, the hollowness in his gut unlike anything he has ever experienced before. He longs to fill it, to wrap himself in warmth, her warmth.

Shaking his head, he nearly rips his helmet free and throws it across the room, but he stops himself. He must remain composed. He cannot lose control for a simple elf maiden… regardless if her face has haunted his dreams. 

Omega. My sweet omega.

He wonders what she might feel like once all the sand and grit is washed from her skin. It should be him taking care of her, not those useless handmaidens. It should be him. 

Ren walks over to his window. A part of him hopes he will not to see her, yet squinting against the dark, he looks to her window regardless…

There is no one.

Only an empty rectangle of darkness. 

Relinquishing a bitter sigh, he makes up his mind, turns on his heel and exits his chambers. He continues walking, down the spiraling steps, through the darkly lit corridors, across the open courtyard and to the animal stables. He saddles Sudal quietly, the animal watching him with concerned eyes. Ren offers him a single pat, then mounts his back and the two hasten into the night, leaving the king’s city and disappearing into the forest.

 

- ✧ ❊ ❊ ✧ -

 

He is gone for days, wandering the wilds, hunting, meditating. Until at last, the gnawing, biting, burning need drives him to a baser means of alleviation. Masturbating. A debauched and redundant effort which leaves him only more agitated, his chest aching and his knot swollen at the base of his dripping cock. He loathes how it feels.

It is weakness, his mind growls. 

Yet her face dances before his mind’s eye and he touches himself over and over, howling into the night and tearing at the trees with his sword come each morning. He wishes they were flesh and blood and bone, his desire to crush everything seeming to be his only means of relief. He inevitably rides himself raw, lips bitten sore and the hours of his swollen knot cold in the naked wind without the heat of her leaving a bitterness he cannot shake. 

How can fate do this to him?

After all these years, to find out the girl from the palantir is real…

When it’s too late?

His hips cant up to the waning moon and he comes hard, his shaft twitching earnestly in his hand as his knot throbs with each ejection of his seed. Minutes pass and the night grows quiet, his ragged breaths the only sound around him. Wiping the mess from his hands he lies naked on the forest floor, wishing for any other life but his.

The rut eventually ebbs the next morning.

He rides back to the city, making it by nightfall. The grime of the forest clings to his skin beneath his armor and Sudal shifts listlessly beneath him as he crosses the bridge over the falls. He longs for a bath, though that hope is dashed when Mitaka stops him in the courtyard.   

“The king requests your presence, Lord Ren.”

He nods curtly, swallowing a curse as he allows one of the stable boys to lead Sudal away and hastens up to the Citadel. 

A short time later he kneels before his liege, voice resonating throughout the chamber. “How may I serve you, my king?”

“You were gone a considerable number of days, Kylo Ren.”

The statement makes his teeth grind, but he disregards his frustration, bowing lower and keeping his eyes on the floor. “A necessary absence,” he whispers. 

Silence. 

The lack of reply prompts Ren to spare a glance upward. He instantly berates himself when he finds the older alpha’s eyes on him, a knife-like grin twisting those old lips. The grin widens as the silence grows heavier, Snoke holding Ren’s gaze hostage as he studies his blank helm. Ren bites the inside of his cheek in shame, knowing the king can read his emotions as plainly as if Ren was wearing no mask at all. 

After an eternity, Snoke blinks, releasing Ren from his probing stare and looking lazily up to the ceiling. 

“I have considered,” he begins, “a great many things over these past few days involving my betrothed with your necessary absence. My situation is precarious. I am intimately aware of the dissention in court. I hear their treasonous whispers. They mean to destroy any chance I might have at maintaining my throne and any royal line I may sire.” He pauses, rising from his seat and coming down to Ren’s side. He circles him slowly, his tone musing. “I trust you with these matters not to carry them beyond ourselves. Only you, Kylo Ren.”

Ren deepens his bow. “Do you wish me to dispose of these traitors, my lord?”

“No. Such things are not necessary, not at this very moment. Besides, we have no clear evidence. As long as they are plotting, not acting, they maintain their usefulness.” Another pause. This time Snoke’s hand lands on Kylo’s shoulder. “What I require of you, my knight of Ren, is much more vital.”

The door to the throne room suddenly bursts open and three figures enter flanking a fourth. Heat ignites over his flesh in prickling, suffocating waves and a sharp cramp of desire radiates out from his gut as he rises to his feet with her approach, led by the hands of Rose Tico and Kaydel Co Konnix. 

Ren has not seen her in days, and her appearance now leaves him utterly speechless. No longer draped in rags with gnarled, stringy hair and dirt-stained cheeks, she stands with the elegance of a doe, chestnut locks wrapped in decorative buns about her head and pristine skin accentuated by the cyan-colored dress falling off her shoulders. He draws a sharp inhale as his body betrays him, his cock hardening beneath his armor with renewed lust. 

“My bride-to-be is punctual.” Snoke chuckles. “A fine quality in a wife. Wouldn’t you agree, Kylo Ren?”

He stumbles over his words, unable to reply fast enough. “I—I would not—I am a knight, my king.” A furious blush imbues his cheeks, which he knows cannot be kept hidden by his helmet and he ducks his head, trying again to keep his focus on the floor.

But her scent is so distracting.

And her skin? Bewitching.

“Ah yes, I always forget. Your vows of celibacy deprive you of such pleasures. My apologies.” Snoke intones.

The elf maiden’s glare centers on the king accusingly and Kylo wonders secretly if her ire might be due to his scalding embarrassment. A part of him hopes so, but he knows better. The ladies-in-waiting behind her keep their heads bowed, their hands interlaced and unbecoming in front of them, though they are not statues. They hear every word. 

Ren’s hand reaches for the hilt of his blade, needing to distract himself with something so his fists will not give him away.

“I have called you both here for a rather important matter,” Snoke says. “I realize the danger this young maiden is in now that she is my betrothed. Many will not trust her. Some may try to kill her. She needs protection.”

The elf’s face betrays a hint of indignation before she wills her mask of indifference back into place, but Kylo catches it, his gaze only drifting back to Snoke when the man circles around them and forcibly takes her hand. She appears ready to yank it away, but a squeeze from Kaydel’s fingers on her arm stops her. 

What has happened since I have been absent, he wonders. 

The thought of anyone hurting her sends an abrupt and bothersome flare of possessiveness through his blood, though he quells it. He must maintain control. 

Snoke’s pale blue eyes turn to him and he stills. “You are my most capable soldier, a paladin of the old code, trained in the ancient arts of combat. In fact, you have trained most of General Hux’s men, have you not?”

Ren looks from the elf to his king uneasily. “I have, my king.”

“Then I trust you to remain her guardian until I say otherwise. I expect you to ghost her every step. Is that understood, Knight of Ren?”

His mouth falls open. “Forgive me your majesty? You expect me to…”

“Be the shadow protecting my future wife. I am your king, am I not?”

Ren ducks his head obediently, too discombobulated to make much sense of Snoke’s words. “Of course.” he murmurs. 

The old alpha approaches him, leaning close to his ear. “And was it not I who saved you?”

Ren’s eyes seal shut and he nods meekly, hating how he has suddenly regressed to his adolescent self, desperate and seeking for a father figure to show him his true potential. Yet how terrified he had been. Always terrified. “It was you, my king.” His voice is barely audible.

A long-fingered hand clamps around his shoulder. “I would be nothing without you. Never forget that.”

“Never,” Ren assures him, eyes snapping open and meeting his.

“And you will guard my betrothed as you have guarded me.”

A sharp tug pulls at his chest, but Ren answers. “I will.”

“Thank you my son. I could trust no other with this task.”

Another tug.

Ren bites the inside of his cheek and bows his head. “What is yours must be protected.”

The words taste like acid in his mouth and he finds the elf’s eyes burning into him, the enmity he sees there directed at him alone. She blames me for this, his realizes. He almost chuckles, but it would be a humorless and empty sound. 

This is his fault.  

Snoke smiles. “One day, Kylo Ren, your loyalty will be rewarded generously.”

The elf maiden bares her teeth and Ren emits a halfhearted chuckle. “I want for nothing, my king.”

 

- ✧ ❊  ❊ ✧ -

 

Later that night in his personal chambers as he soaks the filth from his skin, he contemplates the recent events, wondering if perhaps this is merely an opportunity to prove himself… to erase the faults of his past with Snoke and win his king a true victory.  

Ultimately, it was Snoke who had rescued him from himself all those years ago, Snoke who had shown him his true potential. After all his failures and his scars, Snoke never gave up on him and Ren owed his king a debt. 

He would pay it, gladly. 

However, the elf maiden’s face floats up from his subconscious, taunting him with those soft petal lips ripped back in an animal sneer. 

“You are nothing to me,” he deadpans. “You are my king’s betrothed, my charge. No more.”

“Am I now? Are you sure?” her reflection atop his bathwater seems to tease. “Or perhaps you would like to disclose to your king of what you saw in the palantir. That is what a loyal knight would do, is it not? Tell his king the truth? But you are not loyal, are you?”

Ren thrashes the water, destroying the illusion from his mind. “I am devoted to my king. My actions will never jeopardize his rule. Ever.”

But the words are spoken to a vacant room, full of bath steam, clove oil and faceless walls… and they mock him.  

He lingers in the water for hours, long into the night and even after the predawn glow has touched the horizon in the east. He thinks on his past and his future, but most intently, his present.    

 

 

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Chapter Text

CHAPTER o4:

A Prick of Essence

 

 

 

- ✧ ❊ ❊ ✧ -

 

Rey awakes with a start, her body hot and sticky with sweat. 

By Ainur she can smell him even in her dreams like the alluring scent of a notorious animal buried in the leaves, one that comes out only at night to feed. Warmth crawls up her thighs and she suppresses a shiver at the thought of his mouth, what it would look like, how it would part as he kneeled over her under the treetops with his hands spreading her legs wide and licking away the ache. 

Nevertheless, she only knows the mask. Black, expressionless steel staring down at her with no warmth, only cold hard edges.

Yet he is a man. He must have warmth… and by the smell of him the night before when he had arrived to receive the unexpected news of his new charge—her lips peel back at the memory of it and the outrage that still boils her blood—he had smelled like the finest bouquet of forest musk. Pure animal energy beneath all that black armor.   

Wrenching away the sheets from her body, she skims her hands down her shift and gathers the hem, pulling it above her hips. The cool morning breeze from the window feels pleasant against her heated skin and she hums distractedly. Dream images surface, whispered grunts and groans, how she would imagine this mysterious alpha to have pleasured himself all alone in those obscure hours of his rut.

Her glands throb painfully as the scent of her arousal weaves through the air and she closes her eyes, sinking into the familiar hunger echoing through her blood. Hîr, it whispers. Dail dúathîr. She grazes her fingernails along the insides of her thighs as the need builds, welling up in her like a storm. An abrupt moan escapes her when she feels the tips of her fingers tease the lips of her cunt and her eyes snap open.

Sunlight blinds her as she pulls her hand back, gazing at the transparent film glinting off her skin. Already so wet. She bites viciously down on her tongue and forces the hand into her sheets, wiping the evidence away with hasty jerks. She cannot give into this. She must control it.  

Mortal omegas—when they were plentiful—were known by nature to be significantly more inclined to their alpha counterparts, unlike elves. Elvish omegas possessed the inborn willpower to govern their physical responses, even going so far as to withhold heats. Elvish alphas likewise were blessed with this strength.

And Rey has spent decades perfecting her ability to stave off a heat. 

But with that always comes a price. 

A part of her wonders, however, just how far she will go to resist this mysterious Kylo Ren… and what that cost will be. Never in her life has she experienced such a pull, a drive to be near someone, to possess them. And what of the king, the horrid alpha she is intended to wed?

Tears prick at the corners of her eyes and she smears them away. Staring up at the ornate ceiling of stone, her hand slides down along her neck to the feverish patch of skin below her ear. The mating gland pulses earnestly under her fingertips and she clamps her hand down over it hard enough to hurt. 

Pouring all her focus into the words, she speaks them aloud, letting them wash over her like ice water. “I am in the world of Man, a dark and treacherous country. Tears will not serve me here.”

Sounds outside her door suddenly alert her of approaching visitors and she leaps from the bed, thrusting the sheets about in an attempt to disperse the heaviness of her scent from the room; unfortunately, with little effect. Her ladies-in-waiting bustle in seconds later, allowing only a fleeting glance through the door before it slips closed. Two guards stand in the hall, two more—she knows from routine now—stand at the bend at the end of the hall near the stairs. One walks the corridors, circling back each time to her room and beginning again.  

Escape is impossible. 

An irritated grumble scratches Rey’s throat and she observes the other women’s hasty movements with little interest. After a week of being trapped in this lavish cage, she has yet found her opportunity to escape. She dares to venture Snoke has her monitored more closely than a captured assassin out for the king himself. 

The handmaidens scarcely leave her side, either. 

Rey needs but a single opening, only one, and her feet will not stop. She will run day and night until she reaches Jakku and the safety of her home. 

“A lovely morning is it not, milady?” Rose greets softly. 

The girl’s voice brings an instinctive smile to Rey’s face, though she quickly suppresses it. Not fast enough, regrettably. Rose catches a hint of it before it disappears and her expression falls a little. Rey’s heart squeezes painfully in response. After more than two centuries of isolation, she is presented with an opportunity of friendship only for it to be in this cage. 

She cannot trust anyone.

“Is the queen-to-be still not speaking?” Kaydel asks. 

Naturally, Rey holds her tongue. 

“You will speak eventually. Best do it now before the king takes matters into his own hands. Such things would be… unpleasant.” Paige says, glancing over from the wardrobe as she picks out a dress for Rey.

“Is it not surprising that the king has yet to pay his fiancé any attention at all?” Kaydel opines casually.

“The king is busy dealing with his kingdom,” Paige replies, throwing a sideways glance at her friend.

Rey senses the warning of her words but elects to ignore them and instead walks over to the window where the sun casts golden rays across the waking city. Rose follows after her and gets to work on her hair, sometimes leaning up on the tips of her toes for a hard-to-reach tangle. A sigh gusts past her lips at one point and Rey conceals a smirk.

“This would be a lot easier if you sat down in a chair, milady.” she murmurs, unable to conceal her exasperation.

Holding to her silence, Rey takes the lock of hair from Rose’s hand and pulls it over her shoulder where she begins to comb her fingers through it. She tucks her lower lip between her teeth, an old habit that never died, and lazily smooths out the gnarled mess, then casts it back over her shoulder with a curt flick of her wrist.  

The room goes silent and Rey feels all eyes on her. Doing her best to ignore them, she focuses her attention on the trees beyond the city walls. They sway in the wind as if beckoning her and she swallows a tight lump in her throat.

“Make haste, Rose. Lord Ren does not like to be kept waiting.” Paige scolds her sister.

At the mention of the knight’s name Rey’s stomach lurches and she abruptly recalls her activities before the girls came bustling in. Red tints her cheeks and she frantically hopes beyond hope that no one has noticed the faint musk of her scent lingering in the air. A quick glance over her shoulder reveals each of them thankfully distracted with their tasks, but the silence still weighs heavy upon her. 

She has to escape from here.

 

- ✧ ❊ ❊ ✧ -

 

Rey loathes the mortal realm of Men. She loathes their petty, conniving nature, their shackles, though most of all, she loathes their sense of excess. The dress she wears is velvet jacquard fabric with layer upon layer of material draped in a train out behind her. A hazard for the feet she has deduced, even for those of nimble means. And the corsets. More like torture devices. 

Up ahead the corridor widens, grand doors opening to a neverending courtyard atop a shoulder of rock that bisects the entire city. This courtyard ends in a sharp spur cliff that overlooks not only Coruscant but miles of forest and the Theed river winding its path through the trees until disappearing behind the Seregon Hills. 

Beyond them lies the Badlands… and then Jakku. 

From this place, it does not look all that far, Rey muses. Her heart swells with hope.

But it is quickly snuffed out at the sight of the hulking black silhouette waiting at the entrance, his cold ugly helm gazing at her with that heartless stare and his imposing armor glinting in the sun. He is a vision of death. She lifts her chin, eyeing him frostily as she and her ladies approach. They stop six paces from him, Rey choosing the distance. His helm swivels from side to side slowly as he surveys them, the chattering birds and whistling wind the only sound.   

The ladies-in-waiting glance between each other nervously, though Rey keeps her glare centered solely on Kylo Ren. 

 “Is not the king’s affianced to be receiving lessons of proper etiquette?” He questions bluntly, the snap of his voice like a silken whip. 

Paige speaks up. “She is, my Lord Ren. Though today, we felt it proper to allow her a morning walk.”

“Did the king consent to this?” he asks skeptically.

“The king’s energies are more appropriately focused upon the whispers of rebellion within his own kingdom, my lord. A future wife’s courtyard stroll is hardly the subject of treason. Would you not agree?” 

If Ren is shocked by Paige’s boldness, he chooses not to show it. Whatever expression crosses his face remains hidden beneath his helmet and his shoulders do not so much as move. “A future wife who is also a prisoner of war,” he whispers. 

“Yes, Lord Ren. She is a prisoner. That much is clear.”

At Rey’s opposite side Rose’s hand quakes in the folds of her handmaid's dress, the tremor of fear riding up her arm into her shoulder and she averts her eyes from the scene. Her elder sister is bold, far too bold.    

“She will not go near the edge.” Ren finally growls.

No one argues, their silence a unified agreement to his terms. Without another word he turns and strides ahead. Rey catches a whiff of his scent on the wind and her insides curl delightedly. The edge of rut has been washed away and the feral notes have lessened back to that lovely spice of liquor.  

She shakes her head to clear it.

“Are you alright, my lady?” Kaydel inquires. 

Rey offers only a blank stare, then walks on ahead. 

They hurry to keep pace with her, but Rey has already reached the knight, stepping up beside him awkwardly with her hands holding the excess material of her skirt above her shoes. He barely acknowledges her, his shoulders stiff and his raiment clinking with each step. Fellow guards patrol the walls, countless bodies of armor glittering off the ramparts as well as down in the massive city. 

Guards everywhere.  

The more cynical side of her doubts she would even make it out of the stone metropolis. 

With the King’s Citadel at the very center, the city flows outward in several expanding tiers, each one more ambitious than the last, each wall guarded by a multitude of soldiers. On the days of training when she was cooped up in the study with the girls learning how to walk and curtsy, she had tried counting along the walls, hoping to find a weak point in the sentries’ pattern, an opening when no one would see a lone elf escaping into the woods.

But there was never any such opening. 

Rose’s whisper suddenly catches Rey’s attention. “What could have possibly prompted Lord Ren to vanish for nearly a fortnight?” 

 “I know not,” Kaydel whispers back, “but Finn mentioned he saw the knight disappear into the forest.”

“The forest? What madness drove him into that awful place?”

“Conspiracy?” Kaydel offers, her tone only half-joking. 

“Quiet!” Paige hisses. 

Rey peers furtively up at Ren for his reaction, but he seems dismally unaware of the girls’ exchange. Not that his ears could have discerned it, anyway. With the wind so high up here and his hearing only a third as capable as her own, the girls could have been muttering curses at him and he would not have noticed.  

Guards walk past them, inclining their heads respectfully.

“Can you speak the common tongue?” Ren asks.

The inquiry catches her off guard and Rey nearly offers him a venomous ‘yes’ , but she catches herself, hauling back her emotions and locking them away. His helm tilts down at her expectantly. When she still refuses to answer he looks ahead again, the hand closest to her at his side furling into a fist. 

“Best you speak now, my future queen, lest you desire the king to loosen your tongue.”

Rey inhales a careful breath, centering herself. If only she could see his facial reactions, get a clearer sense of his thoughts on the king’s decision to assign him as her protector, perhaps then, she could better navigate the situation. But he is stone, empty stone with only his shoulders and his hands as any expression to his character. The nakedness of her face feels so unfair in comparison, especially given that, as much as she is loath to admit it, concealing her true thoughts remains her weakness. 

It is her eyes. Expressive things.

I chind gîn, ti cenedrillath."  one of the nursemaids often said when she was an elfling. 

How she hated it, the words burrowing into her child self like a thorn in her armor. She had equated them to poison. 

She still does. 

Ren expels a sigh he thinks no one will hear. “You hate me, but this is far better than the dungeons. That I can promise you.”  

She grits her teeth, lifting her chin higher as they walk. 

The ladies-in-waiting also seem to have gone abnormally quiet, listening for his next words. 

“Elf-kind were well renowned for their wisdom. You know you are trapped here. One who is wise would understand that capitulation is not always surrender.”

She cuts her eyes at his helm, finding it facing her fully.

His voice summons the warmth under her skin like a flame and she swallows, averting her gaze to the treetops of the forest—the place where Rose and Kaydel said he had disappeared to. The place where he had endured his rut. Her lashes flutter as the hum for alpha pulses in her blood. A sharp sound of stuttering boots draws her attention and she finds that both she and Ren have come to a halt. His shadow bears down upon her and she opens her mouth…

… intending to speak to him, to call him? As an omega would an alpha?

The ancient part of her blood wails inside her and she lets out a strangled gasp. Despite their distance, his scent carries on the wind, wrapping around her like a veil and drowning her. She wishes him to remove the mask so she can look upon his face and see his eyes. 

What color are they? 

What haunts their depths?

When Rey looks into them, will she see an old and vulturous cruelty akin to his king, or something else?

“Milady?”

Paige’s voice thankfully breaks the spell over her and Rey shuffles back a step, glaring accusingly up at Ren. His remains motionless for a breath; then his shoulders heave, his hands clenching and unclenching, and he turns, starting along the path once more. 

“Are you alright, milady?” Paige asks as the handmaidens walk up beside her.

Rey ducks her head, her cheeks flooded with embarrassment. 

“He takes some getting used to.” Rose smiles reassuringly.

“I doubt anyone will ever get used to him .” Kaydel declares.

“He is the king’s best.” Paige argues. “Our lady is fortunate to have him watching over her.”

They continue their conversation as Rey sinks deeper into her own thoughts, unaware of her slowing pace. She scowls after Kylo Ren’s retreating form with pure vitriol. How dare he speak to her in such a manner after it was he who landed her in this mess to begin with! How dare he treat her as if some ignorant child and he the teacher! He is the child! He is also an enemy, pleasant scent or not and…

It abruptly occurs to her that she has fallen behind. Everyone ahead also seems caught up in their own distractions. She bites her lip as her gaze drifts along the wall, noting a significantly less number of guards. The night company is changing shifts with the day company and at once, realization slams into her. 

She spots her opportunity, a narrow but open path no more than twenty paces behind her near the south end of the wall which leads down through the market. She spares a quick glance ahead. No one is looking. If she can make it through the market to the main gate, then she can disappear into the crowd winding their way in and out of the city. 

The guards will see her before she ever enters the market, but she is a fast climber. She has a chance if she does not hesitate. Do not think, only act, she tells herself. Thoughts waste precious time. 

With one final look around her, she bolts.

Wind whips at her hair and the cursed hem of her skirt gets caught under her feet as she makes it to the cliff edge, thrusting herself over the side. A yell rings out from one of the girls, Rose, she suspects, but she is already half way down the wall, working her way through fissures and runaway vines. Her shoes unexpectedly slip, however, and she loses purchase, tumbling down into a hedge of bushes which thankfully breaks her fall. On her feet again in a blink, Rey rids herself of the clumsy things and continues on barefoot into the throng of city-goers. 

Men, women and children hurry around her with bags of potatoes, shucked corn, peas and various other harvest vegetables, one of them colliding into her and almost knocking her off her feet. Then, blaring shouts from the guard rise up through the air and the streets erupt into chaos. Rey presses her advantage, letting the outflow of bodies drag her down through the midway to the main gate. 

Her mating glands throb as she runs and she scratches ceaselessly at her wrists, the image of his dark helm burning into her mind’s eye like a brand. She can feel him. He is closer than the other guards. She swears she can almost hear his thundering heartbeat, or maybe it is only hers. 

Almost there.

Just a few more paces!

Her lungs burn as she breaks through the gauntlet of merchants and farmers and barrels for the drawbridge. A host of soldiers appear before her, but she outmaneuvers them, her being smaller and faster without the heavy armor weighing her down. Though one does grab ahold of her hair, pulling it loose and taking some of her scalp with it. Rey howls in surprised pain and spins on her heel, tripping the guard’s feet out from under him and shoving him into the others. They fall in a graceless heap and she darts away, crossing the drawbridge, flying past the falls and into the safety of the trees. 

But she is not safe yet. 

He is pursuing her.  

And this confounded dress is snagging on every nature of bramble and tree branch it can find. She pulls viciously to free herself as she flees deeper into the wood, her calloused feet scampering over jutted roots and biting thorns. The impending thunder of horse hooves sends her heart into her throat and she pushes herself to run faster.   

He is almost upon her!

And this confounded dress is snagging on every nature of bramble and tree branch it can find. She pulls viciously to free herself as she flees deeper into the wood, her calloused feet scampering over jutted roots and biting thorns. The impending thunder of horse hooves sends her heart into her throat and she pushes herself to run faster.   

He is almost upon her!

She dares a glance behind. A mistake. Her foot misses its intended destination and she is suddenly pitching forward headfirst into a ravine. Her shoulder connects with a protruding rock on the way down and she screams, swallowing a mouth full of dirt and leaves as she hits the muddy bottom. Agony blooms throughout her skull as she pushes herself up, nausea twisting her insides.  

Clip-clop! Clip-clop! Clip-clop!

Shaking her head, she wrenches herself to her feet and lunges forward, weaving disorientedly through the sodden gully, though all too soon she realizes her error. The mud is absorbing her feet, rooting her to the spot and making it impossible to run. A scream of desperation rips from her throat, but she knows it is too late.

The sound of shifting armor and a body dismounting from a saddle alerts her to his arrival and she whirls around. Ren approaches smoothly and without hesitation, a coming shadow determined to spirit her back to her prison. Tears distort her vision and she bares her teeth at him, cornered prey. 

“The lady should not make this any more difficult than it has to be,” he says evenly. 

Rey shakes her head, nostrils flaring. 

“I do not intend to hurt you,” he assures her as he takes a step forward, his own boots adhering to the mud.

She growls at him like a feral animal. 

Another step— 

—and she pounces, stumbling as her feet drag in the mud, but landing solidly on his chest and knocking him backwards. He hits the ground with a startled grunt and she crawls over him, aiming to make it up the ravine and up on his horse. 

Though, she never does.

Ren’s hold anchors her to his chest instantly and he rolls her under him in one swift motion, pinning her arms above her hand and straddling her hips. Rey howls, pulling against his hold on her wrists and hating how the fine leather of his gloves grate across the sensitive patches of skin, how his scent utterly suffocates her, but, most of all… his eyes. 

She can finally see his eyes. 

They are dark like the rest of him, a sea of amber and night sky. 

He pants heavily, the forest around them fading away until it is only his body above hers and the mud soaking into her back. She blinks, feeling the pull of her omega blood as he speaks.

“Stop struggling omega .” 

Rey gasps in horror, the whispered designation like a slap to the face. How dare he! Her knee comes up on instinct, smashing the unprotected organ between his legs and he yelps in surprise. She breaks free of his hold, wriggling out from beneath him and hurrying for his horse. 

The animal regards her warily as she teeters up the side of the ravine, it’s dusky ears pricking to-and-fro. Offering him her hand, she hums softly in a bid to calm him, but before she can climb the saddle a hand jerks her off balance and she falls to her knees. At the same time an unforeseen flash of white catches her eye and she is suddenly looking at the deadly edge of a knight’s sword abreast to her cheek.  

“Do not test my patience.” Ren snarls lowly. 

Rey glares up at him in outrage, but her fear holds her perfectly still. 

“Now, we will return to the city and you will not cause any further unrest. Rise.” 

She obeys, gritting her teeth as the sword follows her up to her feet and hovers near to her face. Tears fall unimpeded down her cheeks and she loathes herself for displaying such weakness, but her heart is breaking… and she cannot stanch the flow of her sorrow.

 

- ✧ ❊  ❊ ✧ -

 

Snoke sits atop his throne as the two enter, Rey still draped in her ruined dress and tracking mud all the way. Ren’s grip on her bicep has yet to relent, and she is certain bruises now dot her skin in the shape of his hand. The audience of court members watches on with hungry eyes as Ren stops short of the throne and Rey bows her head in shame.  

“When I heard the news of my betrothed attempting to escape, I knew you, Kylo Ren, were the only one who could bring her back,” Snoke announces with a pleased smile, which is more a morbid twisting of thin lips. “Intact, I am sure, though still a filthy animal, unfortunately.” He motions to someone behind them.

Paige, Rose and Kaydel step forward, curtseying low.

“My king.” They say in unison.

His smile diminishes. “I was certain I made clear the importance of teaching my future wife the tenets of a proper lady. Why is it then, that she has been brought back to me covered in silt?” 

Paige speaks: “We ask forgiveness, your majesty. The queen-to-be will learn the necessity of these tenets. We only ask for more time to teach her. ”

Rose peers nervously at her sister as Snoke considers her words, his fingers steepling before his chin. “More time? Perhaps… or perhaps one of you should pay the price for her escape. Were you not supposed to be at her side? Were you not supposed to be watching her?”

Kaydel looks up. “Your majesty—”

“Rose,” Snoke points at her. “Step forward.”

Paige shakes her head. “My king whatever the punishment is, I shall pay it! Ten times over!”

“Rose.” Snoke repeats, his tone dipping to a growl. 

She complies, her limbs shaking and her face blanched white.

“Twenty lashings for your failure.”

Paige shoots to her feet. “No! Your majesty, please! I beg you! I will take her place!” 

Snoke scarcely notices, turning to another guard and ordering Rose to be hauled away. Rey watches in consternation as Paige fights against Kaydel’s arms to get to her sister who looks back at them with dread before she is led from the chamber. Paige’s cries fill the room, reverberating off the ceiling.

Kaydel attempts to seek reason with her king, though he merely waves his hand, ordering them to retreat to Rey’s chambers and make ready a bath. They have no other choice but to obey. Rey glances at them as they depart, her guilt like acid in her mouth. 

“Now… what to do with you.” The king grins, catching Rey’s gaze.

She retreats unconsciously, bumping into the solid width of Kylo Ren’s chest at her back.

Snoke’s grin widens. “Mitaka, find my witch.”

A servant of a mousy nature nods and skitters away.

Rey has a matter of seconds to contemplate Snoke’s punishment for her when the doors burst open and she turns. What she expects is an elderly woman, drab, grey, stooped, yet that is not what glides into the throne chamber. A tall, scantily clad woman of proud and savage bearing saunters up beside them, headdress woven with all manner of feather and bone. The crooked staff in her hand is set with an upside-down stag’s skull and stitched at its center—a wolf’s heart. 

This is no mere witch. This is a Scyre, a necroseer. They are not so far in blood from the wild goblin men of the Black Claw Foothills; unrelenting, ruthless and cannibalistic. Rey’s elvish people had once battled these practitioners of the Dark Arts… and nearly lost.  

She gapes at the witch who smirks in return, her predatory eyes glinting like chips of ice. 

“Phasma.” Snoke purrs.

“You summoned me, my king.” Teeth filed down to sharp points flash in the sunlight from the overhead windows.

“I did indeed, my venomous pet,” he hums. “I have a task for you.”

“To remake your pretty bride-to-be…” 

Phasma spares Rey a ravenous glance and takes a threatening step in her direction.

Rey, however, has no time to consider the meaning behind the witch’s words when Ren bursts forward, wrenching her behind him hard enough her injured shoulder pops and she relinquishes a yelp. His grip on her arm is so tight she wonders if he might actually crush her bones. 

“No, no.” Snoke chuckles, dampening the intensity between them and, for once, Rey is thankful for his voice. “I have need of your talent in making finely jeweled baubles, Phasma.” 

The Scyre witch glances at Rey, then back to her king. “Anything you wish, I will see it done.”

“A ring, my dear. A wedding ring for my lovely elven bride.”

Rey’s heart sinks. No… not a ring for my finger.

“I shall need a prick of the woodland sprite’s blood.” Phasma sniffs, no light amount of disdain in her tone as she caresses her macabre staff. 

No, Rey realizes, not a ring for my hand, but for his. A binding ring.

“You shall have it.” Snoke sneers, his stare fixed on Rey. 

  

 

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Chapter Text

CHAPTER o5:

Sharp Tongue

 

 

 

- ✧ ❊ ❊ ✧ -

 

A tremor runs down Ren’s fingers, ghosting all the way to their tips and he fails to fight off the spasm that follows through his hand. His hold on the elf maiden tightens and she feels it. Her head shifts ever-so-slightly, chin turning up and lashes dropping as her eyes crawl back to him and the sensation to protect, to shield nearly overwhelms him. He wonders briefly what she must think of him with that glare.

Curses probably.

Death wishes certainly.

Phasma smirks from her place beside Snoke, interest flickering in her gaze. 

Upon the mere mention of the Scyre witch remaking the maiden, Ren had bulked at the horror of what such a statement implied. He has seen the grisly aftermath of Phasma’s favorite pastime —the crudest form of a fledgling necromancer’s endeavors. Monstrous.

The elf abruptly jerks in his hold, reminding him of exactly how tantalizing she smells and he suppresses the urge to lean forward, if but a little, and sniff her. Even through the helmet, her scent is annoyingly… intoxicating. What’s worse? Phasma and his king would catch the action. Her presence has already triggered a rut. The last thing he needs is acting out of accordance with his vows.

“Bring her forth, Kylo Ren.” Snoke orders.

He complies without hesitation, legs stiff as he steps forward and drags her resistant body alongside his. Every cell inside him thrums under the nagging pressure of his alpha instincts to disobey, but he withstands the compulsion despite his mind flitting momentarily to his sword. He hastily stifles that thought, too, and realigns his attention back on his king.  

Naturally, the girl resists, wrenching around and banging her fists against Ren’s armored chest, teeth bared, color high in her cheeks and the brunt of her vitriol saved solely for him. Ren grabs hold of her wrists, jerking her hard enough to cause a cry from her and something like pity rushes through him. Her shoulder—it had been injured during the fall down the ravine.

Just the same, he shouldn’t care. She belongs to the king and she attempted to run; more have been killed for less. Still, the look of terror in her forest eyes gives him pause.

This will be the second time he condemns her to suffer the humiliation of bondage, only now, she is not only a bird in a cage. She is a bird in a cage being stripped of her wings.  

Phasma stands by patiently, absorbing the whole exchange, much to Ren’s chagrin, then strolls forward, hunger cutting every hard edge of her expression. She reaches out, grasping one of the omega’s hands and tugging it from Ren’s hold. An almost inaudible sound wavers in her throat, one only he can hear. She glares back at his helm disdainfully before turning to Phasma and Ren who, noting the telltale undulation of muscles in her throat, jumps forward and clasps his hand over her mouth.

Snoke chuckles. “It appears the girls will have to work harder at their lessons to train her.”

Phasma, on the other hand, snatches the elf’s chin from Ren. Leaning close, Phasma dares her to finish what she started. “You are lucky the king’s knight stopped you. If you had spit on me, grimchild , I would have cut out your tongue. A king does not need his wife with a tongue…” she glances over her shoulder at Snoke.

He simply grins. 

Ren remains motionless, willing his instincts to subside and hoping the foolish elf will keep her mouth sealed . She thankfully does, yet the glittering quality of her eyes leaves a bitter aftertaste in his mouth. Their corners waver with pricks of light, though her tears never fall, not once. He cannot help but admire her courage.  

She is so very strong .

Phasma draws a long hair-pin needle from her headdress, its deadly tip coated a venomous black. The omega recoils, shuffling back into Ren’s cuirass and he refrains from steadying her because, if he does, he fears he might make a choice he cannot come back from. 

The tip pierces her index finger and she chokes back a startled howl of pain, her legs buckling beneath her. Ren does reach out then and scoops her up into his arms with fluid ease, the impulse striking him without words, without fanfare. He gapes down at her in his arms, shocked by his involuntary show of chivalry. She blinks up at him dazed, her hatred ebbing as sleep overtakes her and her eyelids drift shut.  

Phasma grips her weeping finger, squeezing droplets of blood into a small vial before stoppering it. Afterward, she places the elf’s hand prettily atop her chest, watching Ren the entire time. That smirk appears again, this time with a hint of savage teeth.

“It appears, my king, you will need more than a simple binding ring for your feral elf rat. She could benefit from a bridal muzzle, too.” 

“Such an innovative suggestion, my pet,” Snoke croons. “Perhaps, you may be right.” He turns his attention to Ren. “Take her to her chambers to rest. Her servants will wash her of that… filth . When she wakes, you will take her down to the temple. My bride-to-be must learn of our realm’s customs as well as the art of being a queen.”

Ren bows his head, still confounded by the sensation of the unconscious omega in his arms. Her scent surrounds him like a cloud and he takes a shallow breath, answering tersely. “As you wish, my king.” 

The walk up the tower to her chamber proves unnerving, especially with everyone’s eyes on his back. First Snoke’s and the Scyre witch, the gossiping court, then the subsequent guards… and the handmaidens. Their eyes never leave. At the door of her room, Ren stops, allowing one of the servants to open it for him. Their furtive stares as they sweep past him are anything but furtive. 

He carries the elf into her washroom, her tresses of mud-caked hair draped over his arm in a tangled mess. The ladies-in-waiting gather around him as he offers her over to them and they take her, easing her to the floor in front of the bath. He turns quickly, hastening out into the hallway before her scent convinces him to do something foolish. 

Shaking his head, he inhales a fresh breath of air untainted by the perfume of her skin. It offers him a moment of reason and he berates himself at once. Thoughts like these are unfit for a Knight of Ren, especially when they involve the woman his king has sought to marry. 

So he should stop having them!

Far more easily said than done.

Perhaps this should have been considered before his rut in the forest and his frenzy over her. Now he cannot seem to wash the thoughts of her clean, or what her scent does to his nerve-endings. Ren’s neck glands pulse at the memory of her under him in that ravine; she had been so feral and filthy, so perfect. The way her eyes had burned into his with rage and how the adrenaline had colored her cheeks that delightful shade of pink…   

And that sad dress, once so pretty—

He had merely wanted to rip it to shreds and witness her tanned skin covered in mud. What would it have looked like?

Pretty , the alpha in him groans. 

Suddenly, startled yowl erupts behind the door and Ren turns, his hand shooting to the knob before he stops himself. He would look further the fool if he were to barge in on a whim unannounced. The servants have everything under control. More importantly, the king’s bride-to-be would not be decent. The pit below his navel tingles and his cock answers, leaving him a sweltering mess for the next hour as he waits. 

The elf emerges from her room while he is mentally reciting the Code of Ren, for the fiftieth time, in fact. His internal voice peters out midway through the commandments and his pacing stutters to a stop as he locks eyes with hers. She is clean, skin vibrant and mostly hidden under the weighted velvet of a low-necked maroon dress. The long, draping sleeves are spun with floral thread patterns down to a gold belt that cinches her waist. It is emblazoned with the First Order spoked wheel at its center.

Ren collects himself. “The king has requested you accompany me to the temple to learn more about our customs.”

The corner of her mouth quivers with suppressed anger.

“My lord?”

He shifts his attention to the elder Tico.

She swallows thickly, dropping her gaze to the floor before speaking. “My sister… I must—I cannot allow her to be alone afterward. She will need me. My lord I know it is too much to ask and I beg forgiveness, but—”

“Go,” Ren interjects crisply with a wave of his hand. “See to her and be back by your lady’s side once it is done.”

Shock crosses the girl’s features, then something close to gratitude. “No later, Lord Ren. Thank you.”

He neglects a reply, choosing instead to glare harshly at her as she departs. She never looks up, hurrying down the hall and disappearing around the bend. 

Paige Tico had known better than to make such a request to the king after it was he who had given the order for her sister’s punishment. Ren admires this Tico’s ability to remain composed and follow Snoke’s orders despite the knowledge of her sister’s suffering somewhere in the dungeons. Composure like hers is a weapon.

But should he have let her go? 

It matters little now. She is gone.

The remaining handmaiden picks up the train of her lady’s dress and the three of them traverse down to the main courtyard where the noon sun smothers them with its heat. The wind has subsided, but cumbrous thunderheads gather over the mountains, moving slowly toward the city. Tonight, it will storm.

Ren approaches the temple entrance first and is greeted by a priestess, her plum hood dragged low over her head. She bows deeply.

“Mother Tsabin waits inside, Lord Ren. She has prepared for our future monarch’s visit as requested by the king.” 

He nods brusquely as the doors open for them and a thick wall of incense rushes out, overwhelming them with frankincense and copal. The elf momentarily turns up her nose before adjusting to the onslaught of smells and glances at Ren. He stares back, deliberately holding his tongue and allowing her to figure it out for herself. She does, eventually, and casts daggers at him before walking ahead with the priestess. 

He smirks behind his helm, finding her intrinsic inclination towards anger oddly endearing. Her face is also far too expressive, betraying any given emotion flitting through her mind. She will need to learn how to conceal herself more proficiently, especially in the presence of Snoke. 

Ren continues on inside, stopping a few paces behind Kaydel as they reach the apse. A finely cloaked figure turns, her silver beaded sleeves pulled back to reveal aged hands. One of these hands lifts up to curl before a pair of wise lips, then higher to touch the eight-pointed star carved into the forehead—the sacred kiss of greeting bestowed by a Neptune Mother. Such greetings are only offered to those of royalty, or the extremely rare Knight of Ren. 

“So our king has finally taken a bride,” Mother Tsabin whispers. “After all these years…”    

The edge in her tone does not go unnoticed and Ren regards her carefully as she steps forward, extending her hand to the elf who glares at her distrustfully. 

“Im eraníron len istad, úhae.” ! Mother Tsabin assures her. 

Interest flickers in her eyes and, though distrustfully, she concedes. 

The old mother takes her hand gingerly, inspecting its lines with a quixotic quality of silence that evokes a unique calmness. It is a practiced ability among Neptune Mothers and those who study alongside the Elnost !. Ren himself had studied under their sacred tutelage, for a time. That was before his service under Snoke, before he was known as Kylo Ren. 

Long minutes pass; then, Mother Tsabin releases her hand, remarking lowly, “Let us hope for your sake, kindred, that your destiny doth follow your heart line.” 

Ren frowns as the old mother’s eyes pass fleetingly in his direction, sharp and intent with purpose, then back to the omega. 

Like with all others, the omega still refuses to speak, pursing her lips and studying the high priestess shrewdly. Something crosses between them and, slowly, realization dawns upon the omega’s face. Frankly, Ren is surprised it has taken her this long to notice. 

Mother Tsabin is a Peredhel; half-mortal, half-immortal. She is also an alpha, the only other alpha known to the realm apart from the king and Ren himself; however, unlike the king and his knight, the Neptune Mother does not recognize her alpha status, nor does she partake of the flesh. Like Ren, she has chosen a celibate lifestyle.

And hardwon it has been.

In fact, it is she he often visits for an herbal potion brewed to suppress the effects of a rut. Had he been more prepared, he would have saved himself the trouble of looking like a fool the night of the blood moon when this unforeseen problem had arrived. But how could he have known a rut would trigger so suddenly, so unexpectedly.

A rogue thought suddenly wonders into his mind. How can she refrain so effortlessly from falling into a heat? A second rogue thought boils his blood, this one far more basic: pure jealousy. 

Needless to say, he will be paying Mother Tsabin a visit later this evening for a fresh brew. He glances at the daintily spun loops of the elf maiden’s hair, his fingers itching in the skin of his gloves.

He will need it.

“Lord Ren, fancy seeing you here. The king said his bride would be visiting the temple priestess today.”

The voice causes Ren’s hackles to rise on instinct and he turns to see Armitage Hux striding up to them and shining in his full regalia. A tense silence immediately follows and Ren regards him dubious.

“General.”

“It is quite a pity, the unfortunate punishment of one from our future queen’s retinue. But discipline is a necessary sacrifice we must all endure. Would you not agree, Lord Ren?”

“I agree that order requires discipline and discipline requires strength.”

Hux nods, casting his gaze across the yawning chamber. “Wise words. Such things also breed loyalty, like the loyalty to a king and his order. You show great strength in your loyalty to our king. It is truly a thing to be admired.”

Ren’s skin crawls with unease, saying simply. “A knight desires not admiration, only the lasting rule of his king.”  

“As do we all,” Hux agrees. His attention then sweeps to the elf who stands pivoted on the balls of her feet looking back at him, arms tucked unconsciously into her sides. He smiles graciously—a liar’s smile—and extends his hand to her, “I do hope you will forgive my previous behavior. War can mold even the kindest soul into a savage.” 

She angles around completely, staring from his hand to his face, his hand, his face… and spits into his open palm. A collective gasp echoes across the room and Ren knows with absolute certainty that he will soon hear the quick and vicious crack of skin-on-skin, Hux’s hand flying up and sending the maiden backward into the temple’s altar.

But Hux surprises him.

Instead of exhibiting his quintessential outrage when affronted, he merely wipes the spittle off on his attire, leaving an obvious dark stain on his black jacquard tunic. 

Ren gapes at him.  

“I do so wish the lady could see how we rescued her,” Hux murmurs beseechingly. “You would have died there, alone, starving. What kind of life would that have been for the last elf known to this world?”

She bares her teeth, turning up her chin in defiance. 

“That is enough!” Mother Tsabin snaps. “This is a place of sacred worship and you will respect it.”

“Begging your forgiveness, great Mother. I came to speak with you about a matter of some importance to the king,” Hux clarifies, stooping low.

The priestess nods curtly. “Walk with me, general. We shall discuss them.” She then turns to Ren. “The library is open to our future queen. She may stay as long as she wishes.”

He offers his bow and watches as the two depart, the old mother’s robes jingling softly like chimes in the wind. Turning to the elf, he waves his hand in the direction of the library and she follows without so much as an upward glance.

 

- ✧ ❊ ❊ ✧ -

 

Hours pass with lessons, various scroll readings and books. Kaydel gives these lessons without complaint or reply from her student, while said student remains fixated on an ugly smudge which dots the thick wooden table they currently occupy. Paige returns by late afternoon, slipping into a chair beside Rey as quietly as she can manage. 

Ren uses his time to explore the shelves, pulling down a book here or there to scan, then sliding back into its place before walking over and checking his charge. This remains his pattern until sundown. Thankfully no further escape attempts are made. Guilt punctuates that thought like a dirty reminder.

She cannot run now.

Blood magic binds her here.

Thunder rolls as they exit the temple, the day’s earlier thunderheads now blanketing the sky and dying the world in shades of rose gold. Lightning flashes and the wind picks up, lashing through the trees and whipping them to-and-fro. Ren hurries the group inside the castle, though he pauses near the entrance, glancing up at the sky and feeling the first droplet of rain patter on the cheek of his helmet. 

When he steps inside he finds the omega watching him, her eyes two licks of hardened fire. However, before be can read further into her expression she about faces, hastening down the corridor to her tower with her ladies-in-waiting. 

He follows quickly, knowing the hidden eyes creeping in every corner will report back the details of his progress to King Snoke. That and he suddenly feels compelled. To do what? He does not know, yet his boots thump swiftly up the stairs after her, round and round, floor after floor until they reach the hallway to her chamber. 

She reaches the door and Kaydel moves to open it.

“Stop!” he says sharply.

They turn, alarmed faces fixed upon him and he feels heat travel all the way up to his ears. What is he doing?!  

The following silence hangs over the corridor like a dead weight and thunder punctuates the scene, lighting up the windows in yellowish-white light. Whatever he is doing, he better do it fast before he loses his nerve. Swallowing his unease, he approaches, each step deliberate with a purpose he hastily fashions into duty. What he is about to do is for his king, and only his king. 

Paige and Kaydel drop their gazes, but the elf holds his stare, her expression kindling with disdain. 

Ren stops three paces before her, another flash of lightning casting half of her face in blinding light. she looks positively ethereal draped in the deep blood of her dress, skin aglow with the fury of the storm— powerful omega. 

“You would be wise to refrain from such uncivilized behavior towards your king’s men,” he begins, referring to her earlier display with Hux. “There is no need to add difficulty to your life. You have already lived a life of loneliness in the desert.”

Rage flickers across her face and her lips move, trembling and pressing together; then, it is out of her mouth faster than he can blink. “Le crumguru an i naeg nîn! Le thaurúan!” !

He gapes at the sound of her pointed words, the clear ring of her voice resounding off the stone walls and filling him with its presence. It is strong, raw, and the alpha in his blood rumbles with pleasure.   

Oppositely, the omega’s eyes widen at her abrupt outburst and she clamps her teeth together, though it is too late; so she hastily turns, intent to escape him.

But his reply stops her cold. “Ni thaurúan. Ech thalion adh balch. Ech ú-grogathol i úan, nonol?” !

Her anger spits like fire and she stomps up to him, lips peeled back over her teeth. “Ni ú-grogannen! Ech úveren múl nu i tâl en rhûaranel!” !

His hand goes up before he can stop herself and he clamps it around her neck, shoving her forcefully against the wall. She glares up at him, her defiance boiling his blood to a pitch and his helm bears down on her face. “Le tiril i lam lîn, nethvia .” !

“Úni nethvia!” ! she hisses, rising to her tip-toes in an attempt to match his height.   “Ni neledlui i andrann lîn!” !

He grins, unable to help himself. It has been a long time since he has felt this alive and with the scent of her wafting up through his helm he cannot resist leaning in, inhaling the evocative perfume like a drug. But all of it is yet unfair because he does not know... 

“Man i eneth lîn?” !

She gasps at the question, caught off guard.

Ren’s heart freezes, realizing his mistake only too late. To ask the question, especially given their current state as enemies, which she clearly sees them as, is unbelievably intimate. But he has to know. He finds himself hoping… praying even.

She blinks, her scent suddenly spiking and his body responds as her pupils blow wide, the lightning flashing more brightly than ever as a crash of thunder swells around them. 

She exhales, lips parting as she whispers faintly—so faint he almost loses her to the sound of the storm. “Rey…

  

 

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Chapter Text

CHAPTER o6:

A Stranger's Confession

 

 

 

- ✧ ❊ ❊ ✧ -

 

It has been a week. An entire week since Rey fell to her weaknesses and divulged her name. She has avoided him as much as their situation allows, going so far as to refrain from even looking in his direction. Likewise, he has yet to speak to her again, following after her mutely when she walks the garden labyrinth between her appointed lessons. Unfortunately, his silence has only served to frustrate her further.

And the other day proved her most trying yet. 

The king had ordered her attendance, though it was not specified why. She along with Kaydel had hurried down to the courtyard only to witness an execution, a young man assumed to—as Snoke had so eloquently declared—be a spy for the Resistance. 

Lord Ren had been the executioner. 

The image of his sword coming down upon the man’s head still burns in Rey’s mind even now as she sits with Paige who spins her hair elegantly in a series of braids. The keen disgust and anger she had felt resurfaces, taunting her like the intoxicating notes of his scent. No matter how the omega in her is affected by him, she cannot see him as anything else but a monster. 

Rey had been stupid to think him anything else. In that corridor with the thunder igniting her blood, she had hoped for something beyond the loneliness of her life. A foolish weakness, she tells herself. For it was that desire alone, not the omega part of her, which had prompted her to speak.  

She will not make that mistake again.

Paige finishes and offers Rey a mirror. “Does it suit you m’lady?”

Rey nods, offering her a small smile. 

Since that night of the storm, Rey had felt it unnecessary to continue her vow of silence. So she has begun offering vague responses here and there, mostly verbal cues and soft hums of approval. The handmaidens do not press for more and Rey is glad of it. The last thing she needs is for them to discover she understands the common tongue, as well.   

“Rose should be well enough to come back to us today,” Kaydel says.

“I visited her this morning. She is healing rather quickly.” Paige grins brightly.

“Perhaps the lady wouldn’t mind us going to see her after the lessons for this morning?”

The girls glance at Rey and she merely stares back.

“If we knew her elvish tongue, maybe then we could get a response.” Paige shrugs to Kaydel.

“If only the king hadn’t sent Lord Ren on that errand, he would be here to ask for us.”

Paige makes a face. “I doubt he would.” 

Rey’s teeth instantly clamp together at the mention of the alpha, but the girls notice little as they continue helping her with the finishing touches of her dress. She had woken this morning happily knowing his shadow would be absent for the following three days, but she had not anticipated her ladies-in-waiting discussing using him to get her to talk. Heat gathers at her cheeks and she turns her attention toward the sunrise.     

“Hold still your grace,” Kaydel complains, a pin gripped between her teeth. 

Paige adjusts the collar of Rey’s top, careful not to touch her skin. The girls had learned the first night that Rey did not like being touched any more than necessary. A product of her lonely circumstances, one of them—probably Rose—had said. 

“You’re restless today. After your lessons, perhaps we can take you somewhere special. A place maybe you will like?” Kaydel coaxes.

Paige pauses in her work. “Where?”  

“The wishing spring just outside the city.” 

Rey’s face lights up at once. 

She had heard of wishing springs from her people; they were places of peace and ancient magic where the waters sang. The elves began it, long millennia into the past when the first elvish ships had touched down on these lands. 

Paige steps back, face becoming hard. “My sister was lashed for this elf attempting to escape and you want to allow her outside the city walls?”

“She is bound by blood magic. She cannot escape and you must not fault her for trying. Would you want to marry the king?”

Paige remains silent, which is answer enough.

“None of us could have known the king would punish Rose, least of all our lady.” Kaydel continues. “It cannot hurt to allow her some time outside the walls. She did not choose this.”

Paige begrudgingly accepts, but the accusation still burns in her eyes and Rey cannot blame her. Though it does hurt. When King Snoke had ordered Rose to be punished it had filled Rey’s heart with shame. The fact that someone else had taken the fall for her choices had shaken her to the core.  

Outside the door a guard Rey has never laid eyes upon waits for them, his helmet tucked neatly at his side. He bows lowly. “My lady Rey. The king has asked me to accompany you until Lord Ren returns.”

She prickles instantly at the use of her name, but the fault is entirely hers. She should have known better than to think Lord Ren would not have reported back to his king with her name, so she simply nods. The knight has a kindly face, dark skin rich with warmth and a soft mouth meant to smile.

“Finn,” Paige greets him. “We are holding our lady’s lessons in the temple today with Mother Tsabit.”

His expression turns grim. “No. The king has requested his intended at his side for the day.” 

Rey stiffens at once, her spine going as rigid as stone.

“But he has neglected her all these weeks. Why now?” Kaydel asks. 

“Because he is the king. I only do as my king bids.” the knight Finn replies, openly offering Rey an apologetic look. 

Of course, a knight obeys his king. 

Anger flares in Rey and she has half a mind to waltz into the throne room this instant and tear that godforsaken crown off that godforsaken head, hopefully taking some flesh along with it. But who can say what power that ring possesses… The alpha king has yet to test it on her and Rey would very much like to keep it that way. 

Finn leads them down to the royal garden where the monster waits for her. His alpha scent inevitably piques her interest at once and her lip curls in disgust. 

He grins pleasantly. “I would like to be alone with my future queen. The rest of you are dismissed.” 

Finn and her ladies look hesitantly between one another, then obey his command, shrinking back into the castle with an anxious glance in Rey’s direction. Her heart accelerates. She has waited for this moment, dreaded it, but she knew it would come eventually.  

Still, nothing could have prepared her for it.

“Walk with me,” he commands. 

She considers defying him but then remembers Kaydel’s words about Rose. Who would he punish for her impudence next? The mere thought of someone taking the blame for her leaves a bitter taste in her mouth and she steps forward, taking his extended arm. 

“That’s a good girl.”

Rey’s teeth grind. 

“You still will not speak, but you will have to soon enough. You think silence is your last bastion of defiance against me.” Snoke chuckles, stopping and facing her. “I have permitted your bestial conduct quite long enough. When I call upon you again, I expect you to speak, or another will suffer for your offense.”    

They traverse the rest of the garden in silence, leaving Rey to deal with the fear his ultimatum brings. What more can this king possibly want? He has her in a cage with her body and her will bound to his ring.

 

- ✧ ❊ ❊ ✧ -

 

The next day Rose accompanies her ladies, which Rey is delighted to see. The trio greets her amiably and gets to work promptly on the morning routine. First, her bath, which Rey has successfully convinced them she can do on her own, albeit with a bit of grabbing and shoving—bullheadedness goes a long way. Second, her dress, a simple one today, thank Ainur . And third, her hair. Decidedly not so simple. Both Paige and Rose’s doing.  

They arrive at a dining hall used specifically by the king when hosting large ceremonies. Today’s lesson: dining etiquette. Rey shrinks in her chair. 

“Do not fret, m’lady. It’s not as impossible as it looks.” Kaydel assures her.

Rey’s eyes sweep over the numerous forks and spoons skeptically, picking one of them up and pressing her fingers into its tines.

“That is a meat course fork,” Rose says.

Rey drops it back onto the long table.

Paige reaches over to straighten it back the way it was beside the rest of its constituents while giving Rey a disapproving look. 

“When can we teach our lady dancing? I’ve read that elves were so beautiful and graceful in dance,” her sister mumbles forlornly. 

Interest crosses Rey’s face and Rose grins at her. 

“When she learns the proper dining etiquette,” Paige says sternly. 

The two simultaneously purse their lips, but Rose’s falters when she leans across Rey to straighten her place napkin and a sharp hiss escapes her.

Paige rushes to her side at once. “What is it?” 

“It’s nothing. I moved too quickly.”

“Should I call for Mother Tsabin?”

Rose shakes her head hastily. “No. She has helped me enough. It’s only the deeper flesh now, which will take longer to mend. You worry too much, Paige.” 

“Better me worry than you catch an infection from those cuts.”

Rey glances uncomfortably down at her hands as the sisters argue over her, but not before she catches a strange expression cross Rose’s features. Then, it’s gone. Thankfully for Rose, Paige’s attention flits elsewhere, namely to Rey’s slouching posture. 

“Sit up straighter, m’lady. You cannot very well grace the king’s dining table with those kind of shoulders. Rose help her.”

Rey nearly growls as Rose strains her arms back, shaping her spine into the back of the chair and motioning for her to lift her chin. Kaydel smirks from her place in front of Rey. 

“I cannot wait to see her reaction when we start teaching her the proper way to eat.”

Rey’s belly grumbles and she bites her lip. Yesterday with Snoke had tried her patience, which in turn had robbed her of her appetite, but this morning it is back in full swing. The food arrives ten minutes later, a sinfully delicious smelling bowl of marrow soup. In her culture, the consumption of meat had been forbidden, but a life in the harsh desert changed many things.

She reaches at once for the bowl. What need has she for a bothersome spoon when she can drink—

Thwack!

An affronted cry leaves her mouth and she looks up into Paige’s disapproving eyes. 

“You are not a wild animal. Set the bowl on the table and take up the soup spoon.”

Finn coughs back a snicker from behind them and Rey shoots him a venomous glare. He swiftly swallows the sound, tucking his lower lip between his teeth and looking to his boots. Rose nudges Rey’s shoulder and focuses her attention on the rounded utensil. She picks it up and plunges it into her soup, all the while glowering at Paige.

“Now then, a lady’s every act is an act of grace. The same can be said of her eating habits. In Coruscant, dinner is seen as a ritual of thanks. We eat our food slowly, savoring the sustenance it gives us.” Paige mimics the actions of bringing a spoon to her lips the proper way for Rey. 

Rey mirrors it, with a tinge of salt of course. Paige nods approvingly as she slips the spoon into her mouth, not spilling a drop. 

The rest of the lesson goes much the same way, slow and grueling with Rey barely left to enjoy her soup, or the salad, or the main course. She cannot even eat her fruit in peace without Paige rapping her knuckles again and mentioning not to use her hands. 

So Rey is quite grateful when the lesson ends and Paige and Kaydel fall into a conversation amongst themselves about the city’s current gossip. She makes an effort to pick up her empty soup bowl and lick the rest of it clean while they are distracted just for spite. Rose giggles from beside her and she whips around, pulling her tongue quickly back into her mouth. 

“Don’t worry. I am good at keeping secrets.” She winks.

Rey smiles, opening her mouth to say something but then closing it. Snoke is right. Her silence is her last bastion of defense yet… 

I’m so lonely.  

She wants to say it aloud. She wants to trust Rose and the others enough to hear it. She wants them to trust them, bond with them—

But Snoke is their king.

Rey averts her eyes to the floor, pressing her folded hands into her lap.

Rose watches her carefully, the concern on her face genuine, perhaps even trustworthy. Then, she leans in close, darting a quick peek at the other girls to make sure they are still talking. Something soft brushes Rey’s fingers and she looks down. A silk pouch, tied with a leather string. 

“Mother Tsabin wanted me to give this to you. She said it will help with your urges. She said she knows the magic of the elves and their power to control those urges, but she still offers you this gift. She wanted me to warn you against indefinitely resisting your…” Rose trails off, playing with the word on her tongue; then, when finding no soft alternative, using it anyway, “Heats.”

Embarrassment flares in Rey’s cheeks and she cuts her eyes at Rose, not necessarily angry with her—more angry with the situation, but the emotion needs a target and Rose happens to be the messenger. Mother Tsabin is an alpha, so it is no question she sensed Rey had not undergone a heat in a long span, decades more accurately.

Opening up the pouch Rey finds a collection of crushed herbs.

“Mother Tsabin says Lord Ren has been coming to her secretly for a similar mixture since his. Rut. They can dull the urges, she says.”

Rey’s chest trembles at the mention of Kylo Ren and tears waver in her eyes as she shakes her head, attempting to shove the pouch back into Rose’s hands. She does not need help with her heats! She has handled them in the desert long before most of these mortals were born! 

Rose resists Rey and closes her fingers around the pouch. “I know!” she hisses. “I know it isn’t fair, what the king has forced upon you. You may not believe it, but we want to help you, m’lady.”

Rey closes her eyes, a single tear escaping.

“Keep it secret. The king would not be happy knowing I gave this to you. Consider it an olive branch.”

 

- ✧ ❊  ❊ ✧ -

 

That night, Rey wanders outside the citadel on the high courtyard, Finn close to her side. Her ladies had retired for the night and Rey found herself restless couped up in her room. So when she opened the door and proceeded down the hall, Finn had followed without question. 

He wears his helm now, however, which puts Rey on edge. She rather prefers his naked expression to the gleaming hard steel. And in this moonless night, he looks even less human. 

She pauses at the sheer cliff edge, close to the section of wall she had climbed down in her attempt to flee a week ago. Guards patrol below, their golden torches lighting the snaking alleys and arches. Beyond the city, she can hear the falls roaring in the distance.

Finn steps up beside her and she peers over at him furtively. His silence is unusual and disconcerting. When Kaydel had first mentioned his name, Rey had recognized it from a previous conversation between her and Rose where they had mentioned the word ‘conspiracy.’ 

What tensions lay hidden beneath this king’s rule , she wonders. More importantly, would she be able to use them to her advantage? A dangerous notion, one she finds herself instantly clinging to. 

“It is a lovely night.” Finn’s voice startles her from her thoughts.

The quality of it, however, rings unnatural, tightly wound like a string ready to snap. Rey knows being out after dark wandering the walls is not something the king would take well to, but she cannot run so…

Pressing her palms flat onto the barrier railing she leans forward, letting the wind tease her hair and angling her head up to the sky. The stars shimmer bright and numerous tonight. Elfkind love their starlight, believing it to be the first light of all the world, the first breath of life onto the rest of creation. Rey recalls vaguely of her younger self seated at a wide round table with the elder’s scrolls poured out in front of her. Ancient stories of war, love and victories. 

She had been looking for an answer to the black stain on her arm.

What it truly meant and why her? 

“My lady…”

Rey finds Finn’s helm centered on her, the light from a distant torch flame illuminating its smooth edges. His shoulders are wound tight, pulled almost up to his ears. Why is he so nervous?

“If given the choice, would you have chosen the dungeons over your life being spared and becoming the king’s intended?”

She gapes at him, thrown by the question. Is this a trick? 

“I must know. I need… to know.” He hesitates, relinquishing a heavy sigh. “I never chose this life. I was taken, much like you, when I was only a boy. I have known no other life.” 

Rey continues staring at him in shock, her heart moved by his confession. So he was stolen away, too, though as a small child. How cruel.  

“I do not know why I tell you this, or if I can even trust you. I have lived my life as a soldier of the Order, doing as my king bids me, capturing who he wishes, killing when he commands it.” The bitterness of his tone deepens, seeping into their surroundings like a poison and his next words are scarcely audible. “I have betrayed a friend in his name.” 

Rey’s mind quickly flashes to the man executed just days before. 

“I would rather meet Lord Ren’s sword than the face of that friend again. I would rather—” he stops himself short and his helm looks out over the wall. When he begins again, his shoulders sink calmly down from his neck. “I wish the king dead.”  

It takes her a long moment to process his confession, the weight of his words coming down upon her like an ocean tide. The convicted Resistance conspirator was this knight’s friend and what’s more, this knight would rather see Snoke dead. If anyone were lingering in the shadows and happened to take this conversation to the king…  

Rey swallows. 

He would be dead before the morning light. 

The gravity of his actions leaves her flummoxed and she fixates on the streets below alit with the other First Order guards. Making up her mind, she turns back to face him. 

“Yes. I would have chosen the dungeons.”

 

 

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