The forest has been Lexa’s home for the whole of her life. For her people, it is the very source of life. It provides shelter, food, water, medicine, and clothing. She learned this at a very young age. Knowledge of the forest is as much a part of her people as their braids, their tattoos, their fierceness in battle, and their loyalty to one another.
For her people, there is no such thing as youth or childhood; there is only survival or death. The Trikru are born into responsibility. It can be daunting, overwhelming, but it is necessary. But for Lexa, as she grew, as she learned, as she thrived, she began to find solace amongst the trees. They became more than just her home and her livelihood, they became her sanctuary.
And as such, when she finds herself in need of quiet, in need of calm, in need of clear-headedness, it is not uncommon for her to take to the forest, to seek out a friend that is just as implacable and honest as she is. And this day, as she puzzles over the current situation of her people, is no exception.
The Mountain Men are gone, completely obliterated, and it’s all because of Clarke.
This in and of itself is not what concerns her. In fact, she respects that Clarke was able to accomplish something that her people never could. She is also thankful that the threat of the Mountain Men is no longer hanging over her people like a sword ready to drop at any moment.
However, she is having a difficult time determining if she had misread her alliances and the inherent dangers associated with choosing the Mountain Men over the Sky People.
It had seemed the only logical choice.
She had known that the Sky People were dangerous from the moment that they had fallen to the ground. They were loud, disrespectful of the forest, disrespectful of one another, and disrespectful of the Trikru. Anya’s scouts had reported many occasions where they killed one another without cause and killed her own people for rightly trying to remove the threat from their home.
They were like children, lacking discipline, diplomacy, and skill. They lacked a leader, and as such, they seemed to lack purpose. Without purpose, Lexa had known that their days were numbered. It was only a matter of time before the Reapers, the Mountain Men, her warriors, or exposure claimed them.
But the Mountain Men did not lack purpose or skill. They were powerful and they knew how to survive. She knew what they were capable of. Unlike the Sky People, they were not weak. They were cunning, organized, and ruthless. How many of her people had been lost to the monstrous capabilities of the Red? How many more viciously bled for immunization or doused in a burning blanket of acid fog?
The Mountain Men were the real threat, the more important threat. If nothing else, with the help of the Sky People, she might finally lead her people to an end of their oppression. So she united with the Sky People, the lesser enemy, to conquer the most powerful among them, the Mountain Men.
And it would have worked. She is sure of that. She can find no error in joining with Clarke and her people. That isn’t her predicament. Her predicament now lay in her betrayal, her decision to take the offer presented to her by the Mountain Men.
It had been a cogent offer. They would release her people and stop making Reapers. In return, she would stand down and call her people to retreat, leaving the Sky People to their fate. It was a harsh move, a calculated move, but it had given her the ability to not only save her people inside, but also save them from a war that had been raging for years and further decimating their numbers.
Yes, it meant the destruction of some of the Sky People, of Clarke’s emotions, but they were not her concern. They couldn’t be. Her loyalties would always be with her people. It had to be that way. She was their Heda, chosen to protect them at all costs, especially personal ones.
That did not mean that she desired to hurt Clarke. It was quite the opposite. She relished her time with the girl. But the truth of the matter is that she and Clarke are different, separated by the chasm of birth and survival.
And survival is everything. So Lexa accepted; she took the offer given her by the Mountain Men, knowing that it would eliminate all threats. But she had underestimated the Sky People, Clarke specifically.
Lexa had resigned herself to the fact that the Sky People would not survive. That had been determined the very moment that they had landed. With them gone, and the Mountain Men no longer hunting her people, she would secure safety for the future of the twelve clans.
But the Sky People had not died, and it was all because of Clarke. It seemed to Lexa that everything always came back to Clarke, and she understood why.
Clarke had an enigmatic quality to her. Lexa had experienced it herself on numerous occasions. She was… surprising. Lexa would often catch herself taken off guard by the things that Clarke would say and do. Clarke challenged her and that challenge made her feel… just feel. The Sky People had been drawn to Clarke’s leadership, and Lexa had been drawn as well.
She did not like the choices that had been presented her, but unlike Clarke, she was able to make decisions for the good of her people regardless of the cost. That is how she should be, how she has to be, because life depends on it.
But she had been wrong about Clarke. She had known that the ability to be a great leader was there, but when she had taken the Mountain Man’s offer, she had believed that Clarke wasn’t ready to do what must be done. She had not counted on the fact that whether Clarke was ready or not, she would do it anyway. She had not counted on the fact that Clarke would succeed.
And now, she has created an enemy who’s proven capable of destroying the strongest of them all, doing the very thing that the Trikru had never been able to do. Clarke has proven that she is not only stronger than the Mountain Men, but in turn, stronger than the Trikru.
With thoughts such as these, the trees do not hold much comfort or solitude for her today. She has been biding her time in the forest while the tracker’s circles narrow in on her. She knows that her time is limited and that she must find the strength to do what must be done.
She jumps and pulls herself up onto a large, overhanging branch and quietly waits. She is not sure if this person is friend or foe, but then friends sometimes make the worst of foes anyway. That is what it means to be strong, at least to her people. It is strange to think that it’s that very strength that destroyed Clarke. Lexa’s scouts had been tracking her for days, watching and waiting for any sign that the Sky People would seek retribution. But from what they’d described, she was not a threat to anyone but herself.
So Lexa had gone to see for herself, and what she saw she knew all too well. She felt Clarke’s loss because she knew it. Innocence does not die quietly. It does not die peacefully. But in this world, it always dies. It is inevitable. And Clarke was bleeding hers onto the forest floor, looking for that solitude that Lexa finds among her woodland friends and foes.
Lexa went through this herself, though anyone looking in had never been any the wiser. That was the cost of leadership. It still hurt, it still destroyed, but the luxury of allowing herself to feel it wasn’t afforded. She envied Clarke as she looked in on her, despite the fact that she’d fallen into a ravine of brambles.
At least Clarke was allowed to feel.
She’d collected the girl, and brought her back to TonDC amidst a flurry of worried murmurs and unsolicited council. Lexa already knew what was expected of her, what is still expected of her: she is to kill the girl. For her people, there is no other choice. Surely, the Skaikru want blood for blood. And while they have not yet moved to make war since the unlikely outcome on the mountain, her decision that day intended to deliver them to death.
If the situation were reversed, Lexa would not hesitate to strike at her enemies, and the Sky People would most definitely be labeled enemies for such a betrayal.
But it has been three days since, and they have made no such move. Perhaps, the reason they hold off is lying on the table in the healer’s hut. Perhaps they await their leader to give the order that will thrust them into war because they are too weak to make such a decision for themselves.
Lexa cannot be sure. She only knows that this is a very precarious situation, balanced on the edge of a blade, and any wrong move could be catastrophic for her people. She will not underestimate the Skaikru again.
There is also another situation that Lexa must consider: the Reapers. They have become more feral from the the Red. They have taken to the mountain, using the last of what is left, but it will not be much longer before they run out.
Nyko was confident that he could replicate what he had seen with Lincoln, the very reason they aligned with the Sky People to begin with, but so far, he has failed. They are losing more of their people to withdrawal, and that was the very outcome that Lexa had been trying to avoid.
She needs Clarke’s help, but she has made an enemy of her. Killing Clarke not only means that the Reapers will die, but that they will have yet another war on their hands.
Somehow, she must convince Clarke to help her, but she cannot find the words that will inspire trust.
Lexa believes this to be a farce, or at least she did, until she met Clarke.
The tracker is upon her now and she draws her dagger, waiting for that first move to break what should be a quiet, peaceful moment in the chaos. But no such attack is forthcoming.
Instead, there is merely a strong voice, one that she knows well, and in a tongue specific to her people
Lexa does not give her attention to Indra, choosing instead to keep her eyes on the misleading calm of the forest for just a moment longer. She needs the lie just now.
“She’s awake,” Indra continues, and Lexa feels a surge of something indiscernible smolder through her.
Is it relief?
Is it nervousness?
She does not know. She only knows that it doesn’t matter. It will never leave the confines of her chest, because her head will not allow it.
She nods, steeling herself for this confrontation that will determine the future of her clan. She is ready because she has to be, despite the fact that she does not know what the best course of action is. There is no more time to waste with thought. She will either convince the girl or kill her. She has no other option.
Winter is coming. She needs to prepare her people for survival.
She stands and sheathes her dagger, and without another word, the two of them make their way back to TonDC.