The Stars We Sew pt. 4
TRIGGER WARNING: mentions of non consensual sex
“From Lorcan’s expression, I take it you didn’t find Athril’s ring,” Fenrys said as he slid into the blood sworn’s typical booth at The Fire Drake, one of their favorite pubs. Lorcan snarled at him, but Fenrys only spared him a passing glance before turning to Kosmina. There was a tankard of ale in front of her, but she was nursing her flask instead. He wasn’t sure if he’d ever seen her without it somewhere on her person. Her hair was in the typical wily braids she used for battle, this time with two smaller braids by each ear, the rest plaited back from her face, which was wearing a mask of cruel amusement.
He considered Mina a friend in the same sense that Lorcan and Rowan were friends: through alcohol and bedding women (and men, in Mina’s case) and bloody victories. He’d never seen her without it, though; that mask of cruel indifference. Only Gavriel and Vaughan and occasionally Lorcan saw her without that mask. He knew it was a mask, though, knew her better than she’d probably be comfortable with.
“Oh yes,” she drawled. “We’re all quite put out by it.” She took a long draw from the flask. “There was nothing note worthy in Rune at all, unless you call skinwalkers note worthy.”
“Hardly,” he said as he grabbed her untouched ale.
She glanced at him. “I’m not done with that.”
He grinned, but slid it back to her. “Do you even drink regular ale, Mina?”
“I do when I’ve been in the thrilling company of Lorcan for too long,” she said, but he knew she did not mean it. If there were a person the bastard Commander could call a real friend, it was Kosmina Moreno. Ignoring Lorcan’s crude gesture in her direction, she asked, “Vaughan left, correct?”
Whitethorn had once told him that Mina and Vaughan had been as thick as thieves for as long as he could remember, though Fenrys didn’t know why Mina was so apt to befriend moody bastards who hated almost everyone. Vaughan was more morose in the sense that Lorcan was standoffish, but did it really matter? They were both still assholes. “Did you really think he’d be waiting around for you to come back, or is that REALLY all that he does?”
“Careful,” she purred.
“No, please, go on,” said Lorcan. “Antagonize her. Maybe she’ll do us all a favor and FINALLY mist your tongue and lips.”
Fenrys grinned at him. “Mina likes to look at me too much to mar my handsome face.”
She shrugged one shoulder. “I’ll still have Connall’s pretty face to gaze upon in my most dire hours.”
Lorcan’s smile turned nasty. “I wonder who Maeve would have to warm her bed if you were… permanently damaged.” A low blow. They both knew Maeve would simply use Connall.
Fenrys went lower. “Well, we certainly know it won’t be you.” It was a known fact among the blood sworn and some outside of their inner circle that Lorcan was in love with Maeve. Fenrys had no rutting clue why, but he DID know that Lorcan had once offered to bed their Queen, and she had laughed in his face. He’d learned that little tidbit from a drunk Vaughan decades ago, who had undoubtedly learned from Kosmina. And, since Mina’s alcohol tolerance was somehow higher than all of theirs and none of them had actually witnessed her drunk, she could not blame alcohol for spilling Lorcan’s secret.
She remained quiet during this exchange and as Lorcan’s eyes darkened, and Fenrys knew she would not interject until the subject had changed. She never partook in mocking him about his duties in Maeve’s bedroom, just as he never mocked her for her duties to whoever Maeve told her to bed. That was their silent understanding, their code; because they were the same. Maeve’s whores. Lorcan’s lips pulled back from his teeth, and he was obviously about to retort something scathing when Whitethorn stalked through the crowd, grabbed a chair someone had been about to sit in, and joined their table.
“Group therapy?” He asked, and Lorcan rolled his eyes.
“You’ve saved me,” said Mina. “Lorcan was about to leap over the table to strangle Fenrys. They would have spilled my ale.” As if to make a point, she finally took a gulp of it, chasing it with her flask.
Lorcan jerked his chin at his General. “When do you depart for Varese?”
“Not for two days,” Rowan said. Then to Mina, “I need you to winnow me there.” Winnowing- it was an incredible luxury, and the favorite of Mina’s powers among them all, though misting was quite nifty, too.
She did that casual one shoulder shrug again. “I am needed in Varese anyways.” Translation: Maeve was forcing her to fuck Galan one more time before the Prince went blockade running. A pause, and then, “Do try not to kill that princess.”
“Good riddance,” sneered Lorcan. “Shameful, abandoning her country to become an assassin.”
“Yes,” said Mina thoughtfully. “Almost as shameful as us not aiding Terrassen.” Lorcan’s head whipped to her, and Fenrys didn’t bother to hide his snicker. The Commander often forgot that though she did not publicly protest, Kosmina was no fan of their Queen.
“Careful,” said Lorcan, repeating her earlier word. She only smiled softly and took a slug of her flask.
Come to my bed. The words snaked through Fenrys’ brain, and he stiffened. Rowan and Lorcan were busy bantering back and forth, and even if they had noticed, they wouldn’t have cared. But Mina… their gazes met, and though the rest of her face was impassive, there was understanding in her violet eyes.
“I’m needed,” he said tightly, and she nodded. She did not ask if he wanted to be winnowed back, knew he would want to walk so he could delay Maeve as much as possible. He tossed a copper on the table for his drinks, nodded to the three remaining at the table, and wove through the crowd, a sour taste already in his mouth.
She is sixteen.
She’s also pretty sure Lorcan is TRYING to make her hate him with the brutal morning sessions before she’s off to learn battle plans and Wendlyn culture and what not, whatever the tutors decide she is most inept at for the day. What Lorcan does not understand is Mina can’t possibly hate him. He’s prickly, but he saved her life. Gavriel once told her that it had actually been him who had seen her fall from the sky, and if he hadn’t, then Gavriel wouldn’t have even found her and healed her. She’d be dead.
So no, she cannot hate Lorcan.
He walks next to her, scowl on his face, but she knows him well enough to know that it will dissipate into something an inkling softer as soon as they enter Maeve’s court room. Mina can understand why. Who could ever hate Maeve? Mina still wakes up screaming for her brothers or her mother or even her father. She still feels phantom pains every once in a while, in her back where two mighty wings should be. She still cannot look at the sky the same. Maybe she never will. But at least she has a place here, in this strange world.
Maeve is on her throne, pale legs crossed, the picture of elegance in her long black gown. Kosmina smiles just to see her before her eyes slide to Gavriel. He looks in pain. Has something happened?
The Queen first addresses Lorcan. “How is she fairing in training?”
“Her form is poor, Majesty,” answers Lorcan, but before she can bristle because she STILL doesn’t see how Fae fighting stances are so superior to Illyrian ones (even if she barely remembers the stances Cas taught her), he adds, “But she is improving greatly.” He’s never complimented her before.
Maeve seems to realize this as well, because her lips curl. “Come here, dear.” Mina does so eagerly, curtsying at the foot of the throne. She’s still surprised when Maeve brushes her hair from her face. She’s sweaty and grimy and there’s a little blood on her left temple, yet the Queen doesn’t seem to mind. “And how do you think it is going, my Mina?”
My Mina. Such a motherly thing to say to the girl without a mother. Mina beams. “I think it is fairing well, Your Majesty. Lorcan is a great teacher.” He rolls his eyes at her at that, but not maliciously.
“That’s good to hear,” Maeve says. “I’m sure you’ll be glad to hear that your afternoon lessons have been cancelled.”
HELL. YES. Still, she tries to school her reaction. “Thank you, my Queen. May I ask why?” She glances at Gavriel, who is averting his gaze. “Has something happened?”
“You need not worry. I’ve only a mission for you, since you’ve been so eager to repay me for my gratitude.”
Mina immediately perks up. “Anything.”
That pleases Maeve greatly. “I am having a guest from our neighboring kingdom. Prince Kristoff. He arrives tomorrow.” A pause. “Prince Kristoff has been very naughty. He took an amulet of great importance to me. I need you to get it back.”
Behind her, Lorcan stiffens, as if to protest that she is not ready, but Mina speaks before he can, anger already burning in her gut at this Prince. “Of course, Your Majesty. What do you need me to do?” Behead him? Challenge him to a duel for the amulet? Sneak into his room to assassinate him?
No such thing leaves Maeve’s mouth. “Prince Kristoff has a penchant for young Fae females. I need you to use that to get the amulet back.”
Her words sink in. “You… you want me to bed him?” Maeve nods. “But… but I’ve never…”
The Queen cocks her head. “Did you not just tell me you’d do anything, my Mina? Is this not anything?”
“No, of course I-”
“You do not want to misplace my generosity, do you?” Another lengthy pause. “You don’t want to disappoint me, do you?”
And that-that is what does it. Because she is young, and so naive, and disappointing Maeve in her mind is perhaps the worst thing she can do. “Never, Majesty,” she says fiercely. “C-consider it done.”
Kosmina shook off the memory, adding more spice to the stew she was making. It was some time in the early morning, and the cooks were long asleep- not that they would stop her even if they’d been in the kitchen. She’d been cooking for centuries and was more skilled than all of them. And this was for Fenrys, who would be done servicing the Queen hopefully soon.
Her mind bounced to another memory, of Kristoff, of his hands around her throat as he-
No. No. She shook it off, forcefully added more liquor to the meat she was sauteing in a pan.
She had been so young, back when she still loved Maeve. And she had thought… she had thought that it would be a one time thing. But since she had had so little control over her ability to change emotions at the time, she’d accidentally made Kristoff fall in love with her. No, he had not loved her. He did not know how to love. What she had twisted inside him had been a sick obsession. Maeve had used it to her advantage, sent Mina back again and again and again until she finally gave the order for her to take a sword and cut off his head. At the time, it had been empowering. Now, though, it was just a reminder of what she’d been forced to do.
Because the Queen had not stopped there. After Kristoff, it was another male, and another, and another, and then a female. At that point, Maeve used the same line that she had first used-“You wouldn’t want to disappoint me, would you, Mina?”- to get her to swear the blood oath. She’d promised that if there ever was a way for Mina to get back to her universe, she’d free her of the oath. Kosmina was no longer blind. She no longer thought her Queen a Saint. Maeve would never let her go.
Her fate had been sealed the moment she’d walked into the throne room with that amulet.
There was a shift behind her, and she glanced to the door, where Fenrys had appeared. His clothes were ruffled, a hatred in his eyes so deep it surpassed even hers, but it diminished as his nostrils flared at the smell of food. He grinned tiredly. “Mina stew.” ‘Mina stew’ was a favorite dish of hers among the Cadre- in fact, she was surprised Lorcan and Rowan and whoever else wasn’t off on missions weren’t already up here for their fill of it.
“I thought you could use it,” she told him. His nod was almost imperceptible as he took a seat at the table. “It will be ready in about five minutes.” She finished up quickly, sprinkling some salt into it and basil on top as a final touch before pouring two bowl’s worth and moving to the table to sit across from him.
She didn’t know what she had with Fenrys. They weren’t exactly friends- not in the way she was with Vaughan or Gavriel or Lorcan. But they had an understanding. “Where’s Connall?” she asked him.
His mouth tightened. “On a mission.” Which meant he was stuck here for now. They were never allowed to leave together.
“When does he return?”
He sneered. “When does Vaughan?” When she raised an eyebrow, he immediately snapped out of whatever state he was in and grimaced. “I apologize.”
“That’s alright,” she said, because it was. She understood more than anyone. Thus their understanding.
They didn’t speak for a while, but despite him snapping at her, it was not an uncomfortable silence. And when the feelings of agony and hatred and something else, something deeper, finally stopped crashing off of him into her in waves, she might have slumped just a little in relief.