There was an early fall chill in the air by the time that the envoy took to the South over six hours ago. They had loaded Clarke into a cart, having determined that riding a horse would only further exasperate her injured leg. She had fallen asleep immediately, or perhaps passed out, but while concerned for Clarke’s health, Lexa had been thankful.
She had many things to consider, and she knew that if Clarke were awake, she’d see right through Lexa’s carefully built walls, exposing and challenging as was her way. Normally Lexa would crave that dialogue, but she could not afford to lose any more face in front of her people, especially those of the warriors surrounding her just now.
The Trikru have been growing steadily unsettled. The fact that Clarke and Lexa had been in the forest during the missile strike had not gone overlooked, especially by the Ice Nation. Her people are not prone to rumors, but there had been speculation, and while no one would dare to make accusations without proof, the air of unease is palpable.
The Ice Nation is still seeking answers, but mostly, they’re seeking blood.
Lexa has gone over the scenario a thousand times or more in her head just on this excursion alone, and she always comes to the same conclusion. But she cannot convince herself that her people would see her motivations for what they were: to put an end to the threat of the Mountain Men once and for all. And even if they could, the Ice Nation would not care. Theirs is an uneasy alliance at best. Lexa believes that all would see it as Clarke does: a betrayal.
Lincoln’s disappearance only further compounded matters. She knows that it was Indra who had given him the means of escape, but she chose to believe that he’d escaped on his own, at least publicly. She does not wish to kill one of her strongest warriors, a leader in her own right. But Lincoln is seen as a threat. If he is caught, he will be tried and executed without a word of protestation. And if Indra’s assistance is found out, she will meet the same fate.
The fact is that trust is an immense factor for the Trikru, and once it’s gone there’s no getting it back.
Lexa knows that she’s putting a tremendous amount of trust in Clarke. She looks over at the girl, this keeper of secrets, noting how peaceful she seems in rest. Truly, she finds Clarke to be inspiring, an immense challenge wrapped in breathtaking beauty. But she is also terrifying. Her soft mouth concealing a blade-like tongue, and she knows that with one carefully placed word, Clarke could send her to her death, send Indra and Lincoln to their deaths, and plunge her people into war.
Either way, Lexa would make the same decision again. The lives of two-hundred and ninety-eight people do not compare to countless lifetimes of capture and torture. And even if her people did find out, label her a traitor and put her to death, she would die knowing that she did everything in her power to protect them.
So why can’t she quit thinking about it? She knows that what she did was what she was supposed to do, but she can’t seem to stop analyzing it. The blood of her people is on her hands, but that is the burden of a commander, a burden that she was born to bear.
And if she allows herself, she can feel that burden; she can feel just how immense it is. And she does. She has to, even if only for a moment, because to do otherwise would be to dishonor those sacrificed. She remembers that day, the horrific wailing and blazing agony. Like a wound that won’t heal, it bleeds, and brings other horrors from her past to light.
She remembers Costia left to be tortured and murdered for secrets that Lexa had never trusted her with. She remembers the Sky People standing at the opening to a mountain where she turned them over like lambs to slaughter. She remembers Clarke’s face, her tears, her broken-heart…
In this moment, she gazes down on the girl from her horse unabashedly. Clarke is unlike any person that she’s ever met, both physically and emotionally. And like a salve to stop the bleeding, she allows herself to feel that too.
The color of Clarke’s eyes is not something that is common among her people. It’s a rarity, just like her own. But Clarke’s seem to be a fragment broken from the very sky, encompassing it in both color and endlessness. And the amber of Clarke’s hair reminds her of the wheat grass in the summer. She has often walked through the fields to the West to center herself, her arms extended to let the thin stalks whisper over her palms as she marvels at how something so soft, so delicate, can defy the strength of the forest to overtake the terrain.
Clarke is all of these things for her: unfathomable beauty and gentle strength. Lexa remembers what it feels like to be so utterly, so irrevocably affected. She remembers a challenge, a push, a fall through a moment just like this one. She remembers a warm embrace and soft kiss, because unlike any other she’s ever encountered, not even Costia, she trusts Clarke with her heart. And though she conceals it, it is not without fracture of its own.
She gives herself over to this moment, but it is just a moment, fleeting and perfect in its imperfection. These are the moments that keep her going, keep her alive, because these are the moments that remind her that it’s true. Even if it is weakness, it doesn’t matter; no one gets to know, not even the girl, not really.
But it is only a moment, and then it’s gone, all such things silenced in the face of what is yet to be done.
“Rider,” Indra calls from the front of the caravan.
Without a word the envoy stops and their warriors assume a defensive formation. The woods are far less treacherous now that the Mountain Men are gone, but they are vigilant nonetheless. The sound of hooves beating hard against the soft earth reaches her ears as the rider comes into view.
It’s Kenya, one of Lexa’s scouts. Lexa sent her ahead to inform the Skaikru of their impending arrival, Clarke’s condition, as well as to watch and report. Her appearance means that they are close. The rider pulls to a hard stop alongside Lexa and nods her head in greeting before debriefing in their native Trigedasleng.
“I’ve informed the Skaikru of your arrival, Heda. They have agreed to meet you in peace.”
Lexa nods. “And after you left?”
“I did as you instructed and observed undetected from the trees. Their council does not trust you, but the one they call Kane convinced them to listen.”
Kane always had noble intentions from the very start. And while she trusts what she saw in the holding cell, she also knows that there is little that he can do to sway them.
“You know what to do if anything happens once we’re inside?”
“Go then. Take three others with you and prepare yourselves.”
Kenya sharply turns her horse and speeds away just as fast as she rode in, and the caravan continues. If the report had been anything less, they would have turned around, but she has Clarke. She knows that they would see her to collect the girl if for no other reason.
Indra holds back until she’s beside the commander. “You trust the Skaikru.”
“I trust what I know,” Lexa replies.
“And what is it that you know?”
Lexa keeps her eyes ahead. She may have saved Indra’s life out of respect, but she is tired of the constant second guessing.
“If you do not see, why should I entertain your ignorance?”
“I only wish to protect our people, to protect you.”
Lexa finally looks over at her. “You wish to question my authority and make your disapproval known.”
“There was a time when you respected my council.”
“There was a time when you did not wish to start a war and condemn more of our people to die. But now is not that time.”
“No,” Indra faces forward. “Now is not that time.”
They ride quietly for several minutes before Indra speaks again.
“If you’re wrong, we’ll all die.”
Lexa looks at Clarke again, but this time as nothing more than a bargaining chip. The Skaikru will not attack them until they’re certain that she’s safe. They do not believe in sacrificing one for the whole. And in another brief, fleeting moment, Lexa envies them their emotions.
“They will not attack us as long as we have the girl, Indra. But if you’re frightened, you can stay in the trees with Kenya.”
“You dishonor me,” Indra fumes. “It is you that should not be risked. If you die-”
“Then you will have your war.”
That silences Indra for the remainder of the ride, though it’s a tense silence. Lexa knows that Indra thoughts are caught in a war of their own. She does not believe that Indra is entirely wrong, but she has always had to temper Indra’s council. The warrior is more distrustful of outsiders than most, and for good reason. But Lexa isn’t quick to hasty decisions, even if she knows that some of what Indra says is true. Ultimately, the safest course is to eradicate the threat without a word.
But the best chance of saving what’s left of her people would die with the Skaikru. It is not her duty to take the easiest way out and just protect herself. It is her duty to choose the path that saves the most lives, even at the cost of her own. She will not condemn anyone without cause and she will not hide from confrontation if that cause can be avoided.
Before she knows it, another two hours have passed and the mangled edges of the Ark’s ring peak out from the tops of the trees.
Indra she speaks once more. “I’m with you, Leksa, to whatever end.”
She glances at Indra and nods once before the warrior cantors back to the front of the caravan. Lexa sits up straighter in her saddle, her sharp eyes alert as they scan the forest and the Ark’s perimeter for anything to cause alarm. She can only find her scouts, each making calls to indicate that nothing is abnormal. And while there are armed guards in great number at the gate, the sight of Abby and Kane waiting just inside affirms that, if nothing else, she is right about the leverage that Clarke represents.
They approach the now opening gate slowly, and Lexa climbs from her horse with practiced ease to reach into the cart and wake Clarke. She places a hand to the girl’s shoulder and shakes gently.
“Clarke,” she says.
Clarke is unmoved, her breathing labored and her cheeks flushed. Lexa places her hand to a warm forehead and feels a pang of panic sweep through her, but then the girl’s eyes open reluctantly and it dissipates.
“We’re here,” she tells the girl.
Clarke feels a wave of panic all her own. She’s not ready to face her friends, her mother, any of them, not yet. But then she doesn’t have a choice. Lexa made that patently clear.
“Clarke,” Abby calls out as she strides up to the cart.
“Hey,” Clarke’s voice cracks out.
Mother and daughter just look at one another, seemingly sharing a private, unspoken discussion. The worry on Abby’s face gives testament to the words that she’s not saying, and the same goes for Clarke.
Lexa finds this amusing. They may as well just say what they’re thinking, maybe share a few desperate hugs, noisy tears, and kisses. There is no need to hold back on her account. The weakness lies in feeling the emotions, not just in showing them. But unlike Lexa, they do a poor job of hiding it.
“Right then,” Abby says after a moment, and then her doctor’s instincts kick in as she starts to examine Clarke with quick, clinical precision.
The head wound is dismissed given Clarke’s ability to wake after sleeping, and the various superficial scratches and cuts will heal, though a couple of them may need sutured. But the leg, well, the leg earns Lexa a look that kills her minute bout of levity. Abby’s eyes are accusing at the very least, perhaps scornful or loathing.
“What happened,” she asks Clarke, though her eyes don’t leave the commander.
Clarke frowns, searching her mind for answers where only murky snippets can be found. She looks to Lexa who speaks for her.
“She’d fallen in the forest and tumbled into a ravine of brambles. We retrieved her.”
“And you couldn’t reset the leg,” Abby asks in annoyance.
“I’m not sure what you mean,” Lexa replies looking over to Nyko who raises a shoulder to indicate that he’s not sure either. He’d done what he could, what he’d have done for any of his own: he stopped the bleeding and fought the infection.
“Nevermind,” Abby says with a sigh. “Thank you… for pulling her out and bringing her home.”
Abby doesn’t look at Lexa when she says this though; and Lexa believes that Abby’s gratitude is disingenuous. But she is not here for kind words.
“One of you needs to get a gurny and be quick. The rest of you, help get her up,” Abby calls to the armed Skaikru standing stiffly within the gate.
They look to one another before warily moving to do as bid. One runs back towards the Ark and the others struggle not to hurt the girl. Lexa is astounded by how oafish they are, how graceless. Clarke cries out in pain and they stop, so Lexa steps forward. They move aside without a word and Lexa lifts the girl gently. Clarke doesn’t protest and Abby’s a little nonplussed by the show of sheer strength and tenderness.
“Uh, the gurny should be here shortly,” Abby stutters.
But then several awkward minutes pass with no sign of the guard, and with a sigh, Abby starts walking ahead.
“This way,” she says.”
Lexa follows with Indra, Kane, Nyko, and the armed Skaikru pulling in behind. When they start to move, Clarke reaches up and fastens her hands around Lexa’s neck. It’s a weak grip, but it helps to keep her from being jostled.
“You’re stronger than you look,” she says wearily to the commander.
“You’re heavier than you look,” Lexa replies.
Clarke frowns. “Did you just tease me?”
Lexa’s face remains implacable. “Tease?”
“Nevermind,” Clarke sighs out.
Clarke’s head rolls to Lexa’s shoulder and rests against her collarbone. The girl isn’t looking at her anymore and she allows herself a small smirk. For all of Clarke’s ability to see through the pomp and bravado, it’s the little things that she misses entirely.
Of course Lexa was teasing, and of course she knows what the word means, but Clarke really can’t seem to believe that Lexa’s not cold when she doesn’t have to be. And Lexa takes no small pleasure in allowing her that disillusionment, even as she finds it frustrating.
The guard with the gurny meets them at the opening to the Ark, a grimace on his face. Without a word, they shuffle past him, following Abby into the immense, rounded structure that appears to Lexa to be made of melted swords. It seems sturdy, much sturdier than the wood and skin of Trikru architecture. It’s also a labyrinth, she notes. It would be easy to get lost, to be trapped. Everything looks the same and the pasty grey color is oppressive. She much prefers the riot of color that is her forest.
Lexa rests her chin lightly against the hair of Clarke’s head, cataloging every step she takes while allowing herself this moment of… she’s not sure what it is. But something about holding Clarke when she’s vulnerable and having Clarke relax into that embrace is heartening. And that’s the very reason that she pulls her head away and straightens her shoulders. She cannot afford to be heartened just now.
“Right here,” Abby says, gesturing to a table in a large room filled with various strange vials and chrome objects that Lexa has never seen before.
She lays Clarke down gently. The girl is half-in and half-out of sleep, and Lexa hovers over her for just a moment before pulling away.
The chancellor addresses the commander but starts to pull at the material of Clarke’s pants to further expose the wound. “I need to look after Clarke,” she says, removing Nyko’s bindings. “Kane and the guards will see to your needs.”
Lexa easily reads the dismissal in Abby’s demeanor, and while she does not wish to leave Clarke, she also feels the urgency of seeing to Clarke’s health. The most immediate needs of the Reapers will have to wait. She also does not wish to upset the Skaikru any further. She understands that the first gesture of trust falls on her shoulders given the circumstances. But if she leaves the girl without having settled something concrete, she loses the leverage that Clarke provides.
Abby scrutinizes the wound. It’s not a clean break. Part of the bone has pierced the side of Clarke’s leg and is sticking out through the skin, but she should be able to pair it back up with some work. The wound itself is clean though, surprisingly, and she realizes that her ability to save her daughter’s leg is because of the care that the commander provided. She does not voice this though, merely sets to relieve her daughter.
Seeing this, knowing that Clarke is the immediate concern to these people, Lexa makes a decision. It is one of trust that she doesn’t feel, but she will give this once, hoping that it will be enough.
“That’s not necessary,” she replies. “We’ll set up camp along the tree-line. Once you’ve finished, send one of my warriors to find me.”
Abby nods, bracing her hand against Clarke’s knee as she grabs her ankle to twist it slowly. Clarke groans and with a last look at the girl, Lexa turns to leave. Indra steps forward, purposely speaking in their tongue so that Abby cannot understand.
“You let them take Clarke without having secured the treaty?”
Lexa looks to Indra, ready to slam her down for again getting in the way, but Clarke lets out a scream so blood curdling that the guards outside come rushing in guns raised. Kane raises a hand to quiet them but Lexa finds herself rushing forward, pushing the hair from Clarke’s forehead and looking into her pain-glazed eyes.
“She has to hold still,” Abby says to Kane. “I was hoping she’d stay asleep while I reset it. I can’t do anything for the pain.”
Abby comes up on the other side of Clarke, giving Lexa a strange expression that backs her away before looking into her daughter’s face. But Lexa is forced to stop her backward momentum when she finds that Clarke has retrieved her hand and that weak grip is nowhere to be found.
“Clarke, you have to hold still. I’ll make it as quick as I can, okay?”
Clarke swallows thickly and nods once before turning her eyes on Lexa. The commander feels a flush of something unidentifiable but steps closer to the table. In the corner of her eye she can see Abby preparing to move the leg again, so she speaks to the girl, saying the first thing that comes to mind in an attempt to distract her.
“Tell me, Clarke, what is it like in the sky?”
The girl starts to jerk as Abby pulls on her leg, and Clarke starts to pant, her grip tightening on Lexa’s hand.
“Do you- do you like the stars,” Clarke asks breathlessly.
Lexa nods and Clarke gives a faint smile that quickly becomes a grimace. Sweat starts to bead on her lip and forehead as her lungs struggle to find the air, but she’s thankful for Lexa’s attempt at distraction.
“From space, the stars are… bigger,” she grinds out through her teeth. “And brighter than they are from the ground, and they’re every- where.” She stops to breathe, the jerking intensifying. “And sunrise- it happens sixteen times a d-“ Clarke squeezes Lexa’s hand and Lexa squeezes back. “A day…”
Clarke heaves and looks like she might vomit as the sucking sounds of bone scraping through flesh fills the room.
“You’d hate the sky, though,” Clarke continues. “It’s so… confining. I can’t picture you confined. You have to be free-”
Clarke cries out, and thrashes. She can’t help it, but Kane reaches over to pin her thigh down as Lexa places a strong hand to her shoulder. Clarke can’t talk anymore; she can’t even think clearly, so Lexa gets right in her field of vision, her deep eyes commanding Clarke’s attention as she picks up the slack.
“When there’s snow on the ground, there is a place not far from here to the North where lights overwhelm the sky. It starts out as a green haze with a single line. But as you watch, the line seems to grow and take shapes, as if becoming riders, great warriors so fierce and untouchable that they are made of mist. And then finally it explodes in a great battle. Bright beams of red and pink and purple shoot out as the war in the green rages around them.”
Clarke lifts her head to gaze down at her mother as the pain becomes unbearable, as her leg is twisted and jerked back into shape, but Lexa’s grip is unmoved. Clarke’s head snaps back hard back against the table as tears roll from her yes and Lexa moves her hand under Clarke’s head, holding her down but also cradling her. Clarke jerks as one last scrape of bone on bones echoes hollowly in the cavernous, metal room. Her eyes roll but she hasn’t passed out yet. Lexa tries again to get her attention, turning Clarke’s face to her and gazing into cloudy eyes.
“It lasts for hours, Clarke, until finally, the battle is over, the mist turning yellow as the sun rises and sends the warriors back to their graves.”
“To the- North,” Clarke asks breathlessly, her face contorted.
“Yes,” Lexa says. “Someday, if our people can find peace, I will take you there.”
Lexa smiles when Clarke’s eyes focus and the tears subside. She glances down at Abby to see her cleaning and preparing to sew up the wound. The leg looks almost normal now, and Kane releases his hold as relief seems to fill the very air. The worst is over.
“The Aurora Borealis,” Clarke mumbles, and Lexa looks back to her. Clarke is obviously dazed and tired but less pained. “That’s what it’s called. I’ve seen it before from Space, but I’d like to see it from the ground.” Her eyelids flutter shut. “Everything’s more beautiful from the ground. More free… like you.”
Clarke finally succumbs to agony and exhaustion, her hand going slack against Lexa’s. But the commander lingers, just simply holding the girl’s hand, holding her, even as Lexa’s thoughts are buffeted by so many emotions that she can’t discern one of them from another. So all of them get held back. It’s Abby’s voice that reminds her of who and where she is, effectively backing her away from Clarke.
“Her leg will be fine once I get it stitched and fitted into a splint.” She turns to one of the guards still standing in the door. “Talk to Raven and Wick. Tell them I need a brace for Clarke’s leg.” She nods and leaves, and Abby turns back to her work. “I need to sew up a few of these cuts too.” She looks pointedly at Lexa. “It’ll take about an hour. I’ll send someone to find you when I’m finished.”
Lexa can tell that her presence is making Abby uncomfortable, so with one last look to Clarke, she leaves, the remaining armed guards escorting her and her group to the gate where it clanks shut behind them.
Indra wisely chooses not to say anything. Instead she gives Lexa a look that could melt steel before venturing to the tree-line to help set up camp. Lexa’s tent is already up, so she seeks solitude inside.
Indra announces herself before throwing back the tent flaps and entering the small, but functional space.
“The Skaikru council is ready, Heda.”
Lexa tosses back the last of her water and sets the cup on one the table that she’s been leaning over for the last hour and a half. She rolls up the parchment spread out on the surface, the same one she’s been pouring over since her return to her tent.
The terms of this treaty are fairly straight forward: the Sky People will help cure the Reapers. In return, they will be given territory and citizenship that will be respected by the twelve clans. The other clans can hardly protest. Each will have some of their own returned to them. They may still see the Sky People as interlopers, but that is something that Lexa plans to address in roughly two weeks’ time when they travel to Polis.
Every year, the heads of the different tribes meet before winter to discuss different issues. It is necessary to keep trading lines open as well as to gather supplies to prepare for the upcoming winter. It also allows Lexa to be well informed of any power struggles that might be occurring within the different clans. By that time, she hopes that the treaty will be secure with the Sky People, and the Reapers rehabilitated.
It’s an odd system, but it works for the most part. For all intents and purposes, all of the clans are the same people and the same bloodlines, but a difference of opinion many years ago saw them split. People chose their loyalties and each went their separate ways. Since then, people are born into their clan. If they choose to defect to another, it is permitted. However, it is not an easy transition and most choose to stay with their respective families. Each clan is self-sustaining, with its own head, but the main differences lay in political and moral standings.
The woods clans are more noble. They respect the forest and are fiercely loyal to their own. The same could be said of the coastal and desert clans. The Ice Nation is probably the harshest of the twelve, and also the most problematic. Their people are brutal and cruel. Perhaps that is why they choose to live in some of the most unforgiving terrain. Their loyalties are not an affectionate bond so much as a means to survive, and their distrust is not only for outsiders. That is their way, their culture.
Indra is the head of Tondc, and Anya was the leader of Lexa’s clan, the Trigeda. Tris would have stepped in after Anya’s demise, but she was killed by the explosion on the bridge. A new leader has yet to be chosen, and while the yearly summit in Polis will rectify the situation, the greatest of Lexa’s worries is the Queen of the Ice Nation, the Azgeda.
She did not show at the summit where the missile hit. She sent someone else in her place. He was found dead in the wreckage, and Lexa cannot help but wonder if Andrea somehow knew that this would be the case. Either way, she disrespected Lexa by not appearing as she was bidden.
Was she afraid to face Lexa for her crimes against Costia? Lexa hopes that this is the case. It would give her the upper-hand, but somehow, she doesn’t believe it. Andrea is a proud and ruthless woman, sly, manipulative, and unyielding. She does nothing without knowing that she can win and she will maintain that she has nothing but goodwill towards Lexa until an opportunity presents itself.
Lexa believes that she’s just waiting, biding her time for such a moment, but outside of personal grievances, she has no way of removing Andrea from power. All Lexa has is speculation, based off of years of personal experience and knowledge gleaned from less than public sources.
What she does know for sure is that a treaty with the Sky People will not be welcome. And if Andrea does show, as is again expected of her, she will most certainly incite the remaining tribes against them. Unfortunately for anyone else, Lexa is the commander of all the clans. The clans will fall in line, or protestors will be executed.
Lexa tucks the map with the new territories as well as the treaty itself under her arm and picks up her sword, taking a moment to stare at the battle-worn blade. It would be a lie to say that she does not wish for Andrea to step out of line. She wants it; she craves it, her very weapon sings with the hunger of Andrea’s blood. It would be justice, regardless of the fact that it would never account for the eternal feelings of loss.
“Are Kenya and the others in position,” she asks, sliding her sword into the sheathe that’s slung across her back.
She turns and hands Indra the parchments, and the pair quietly makes their way back towards the gates to the Ark, several warriors following them. They are met by Marcus Kane who greets them politely once the gate has been opened.
“Commander, welcome,” he says genially.
“Kane,” she says simply.
He smiles and it seems genuine, but then he gestures to a large bin.
“If you will please leave your weapons, I will escort you to where Abby and the other council members wait.”
No one makes a move to disarm themselves, and Indra vocalizes her disapproval.
“You would have us unarmed and surrounded,” she asks warily.
Kane tucks his hands behind his back, a stance that Lexa knows means he is unmovable in this demand.
“Given the circumstances, we must insist that no foreign weapons enter the camp. Of course, they will be returned to you upon you departure.”
“You did not ask this earlier,” Lexa points out.
“There were only three of you then,” Kane says. “And you had your arms full.”
He smiles as he says this, and while Lexa is unaffected by his charm, she removes her sword and places it in the bin. She gives Indra a pointed look, shutting off any further avenue for discussion. Each of her warriors follows suit, and as the clang of metal begins to rattle in the bin, Kane’s expression as he meets Lexa’s eyes shows his gratitude.
Again they start to move, Lexa and Kane at the front.
“You do know that our people are masters in hand-to-hand combat,” Lexa says.
Kane chuckles, his arms still clasped behind his back as if enjoying a leisurely stroll.
“I have no doubt,” he replies.
Little does he know that a sword is not the only weapon on any one of Lexa’s warriors, just the most easily seen. Kane leads them through the curious and baleful glares of those in the courtyard, into the Ark, and through a series of maze-like hallways, and this time Lexa is prepared. She’s mapping each turn, however slight, and adding it to what she already knows. She will not be made helpless in a potential ambush.
They arrive in another room that looks almost exactly like the one that Clarke had been laid in, only this one is oval in shape and so is the large, metal table in the middle. There are chairs tucked in around it, a few of them filled with various individuals that Lexa has never met. However, Abby is at the far end, and that is whom Lexa focuses her attention on.
She had hoped that Clarke would be present, but given her health, it appears that she will have to convince them without that additional support. Each individual stands, but it is only Abby who speaks.
“Commander, please have a seat,” Abby intones.
Kane makes his way to Abby’s side and Lexa hears more than sees that armed Skaikru are filling the gap at the door. She glances to Indra before taking the chair nearest her. Indra nods once, and the rest of her entourage remain standing, quietly spreading throughout in the room.
This unsettles Abby, but there is little that she can do other than start a war right here, so she swallows her nervousness and reclaims her seat.
“We understand that you have a proposition,” Abby starts.
“It is a solution,” Lexa corrects her. “To all of our problems.”
“We don’t have any problems outside of your people,” a man across from Lexa chimes in, anger lacing his words.
“And this would solve that problem,” Lexa says again, completely unmoved by his outburst.
“What is this solution,” Kane tries.
Lexa stands and every Skaikru in the room flinches. This is a good sign for her. If these people cannot trust her, then at least they fear her. She moves towards Abby, taking the map from Indra, and laying it out on the table in front of the Chancellor.
“This is the territory that you currently reside in. It belongs to the clans of TonDC, the Trigeda, and the KruWoda.”
Kane leans into Abby and they both study the map as the others can only get a glimpse of it. Lexa puts her finger where they currently are.
“This is the Ark, and these lines,” she traces the dotted lines that indicate the various territories. “Are the boundaries for each clan’s claim. As you can see, the clan territories intersect where you are. What I am offering you is this territory.” She runs her finger in a circle around the Ark, giving them roughly a two square mile radius.
“In exchange for what,” Abby asks ominously.
“Your assistance in saving the Reapers,” Lexa replies, looking Abby right in the eye.
“And if we refuse?”
“You will have two days to vacate.” She points back at the map. “But you will have a long journey ahead of you.”
And it’s true. Based on the territories for all twelve clans, nearly half of what used to be America is already owned. To further punctuate this point, Lexa continues.
“The areas outside of our territories are the deadzone. They are wastelands and they are lawless. That is where criminals and fugitives often go. I cannot speak on what circumstances you will find yourselves in should you go there, but it is the only area not claimed by one of the twelve clans.”
“I refuse to listen to this,” the same man as before spits out. “These savages have no right to come in here and make demands after what they did. They cannot be trusted.”
“Councilor,” Kane interjects. “You will hear what she has to say or you will excuse yourself.”
“No,” Abby says. “He’s right.” She looks up at Lexa and decides to stand. This time the Grounders flinch. “How can we possibly trust you after you abandoned us to Cage?”
This is where Lexa feels Clarke’s loss the most. Clarke would help her people see that resistance is folly. But she is not here. And while Lexa felt the need to explain her actions to Clarke, she does not feel that need with those assembled.
“I’m not asking you to trust me, Abby. I am telling you what your options are.”
The very vocal man from earlier huffs to his feet and braces himself on the tabletop.
“Chancellor,” he says smoothly, completely ignoring Lexa. “Let’s end this now.”
Lexa knows a veiled threat when she hears it. So she studies this man for a moment. He’s trim, and probably capable with one of the weapons that the Sky People brandish, but he would not have time to draw said weapon. One of her warriors is only a few feet behind him and she is not an easy target.
“If you wish to have war,” Lexa addresses him, waiting for him to look at her, and when he does, she continues. “Then I will give it to you.”
He pushes up off of the table, rocking it with his weight and anger.
“And what makes you think that you’ll live long enough to incite your people? Without you, we have the advantage.”
A woman to the right of the table pitches in. “He’s right, Abby.”
Another councilor stands, opposing the other two, and an argument breaks out. Kane gets to his feet and joins the fray, only he’s trying to stop the arguing. Everyone is talking over each other, some for and some against executing Lexa where she stands, all of them up in arms except for Abby.
She is just as cool, just as calm, as she looks Lexa in the eye. Those eyes, so much like Clarke’s in their beauty and defiance, say a million things. They speak of anger, and hurt, and confusion, but they also wish to be gentle again. They long for peace.
“Heda,” Indra whispers their native tongue in her ear. “We should leave… now.”
Lexa considers everything happening around her, even as she doesn’t blink or look away from Abby. She does not wish to further injure the Sky People, but that is becoming a less and less likely option as the shouting continues. She wonders why Abby doesn’t put a stop to it, but then maybe Abby doesn’t know if she should. Maybe she’s trying to reconcile the monster standing before her with the gentle caregiver from earlier. Maybe she’s searching for the way out as well.
She cannot decide though, and Lexa is not one for indecision. She makes one, and quick as lightening pulls the blade from the belt concealed beneath her duster and slams it hard, burying it deeply into the map, right through the Ark, and into the metal table beneath with a bang that echoes off of the industrial walls like a gunshot.
It is this sound, this action, this realization that the Trikru are not unarmed, that brings a screeching halt to the shouting. Even the guards at the entrance, with their weapons raised and barrels aimed at Lexa’s heart, don’t quite feel confident that they have this situation entirely under control.
Lexa looks back at Abby. “If you cannot trust that I will honor the terms of our agreement, then trust that as commander, I have no choice but to do what is in the best interest of my people. This…” she taps the map. “Is in the best interest of my people. It just so happens to be in the best interest of yours as well.”
“I do trust that you will do what is in your best interests,” Abby replies pointedly. “And that includes dishonoring this treaty, as you’ve done before.”
“I did not dishonor our previous agreement, Abby. We had no treaty outside of uniting to take down our common enemy. We fulfilled that arrangement.”
Abby’s insulted; it’s written all over her face. “You consider leaving our people to be slaughtered honoring our agreement to unite?”
Lexa shakes her head. “I did not leave your people to be slaughtered. I sacrificed forty-eight people to save countless others, both yours and mine.” She does not admit that the missile was known, though she knows that Abby is aware. Instead, she looks to Kane. “Did you not do the same while in the sky?”
Kane spoke of it in the holding cell. She was there. She heard the words and saw the shame in his eyes. She saw how desperate he was to sacrifice himself to atone. The room is utterly quiet now. So quiet that breathing isn’t even discernible.
“That was different,” Abby says.
“Was it,” Kane asks in an uncertain voice.
Abby wants to say it again, wants to believe that she believes it, but she can’t because it’s true. They sacrificed some for the whole. The commander did no different. But the circumstances were incredibly different.
“It’s different because you didn’t have to do it.” She looks to Kane. “We had no choices up there. It was some or all.”
“On the Mountain it was some or more,” Lexa says, bringing Abby’s attention back to her. “I had a choice. It wasn’t a simple one, but it saved the most lives, your people’s included, and I would do that again. If you can’t see that, then I accept your anger and distrust. But you do need to realize that this treaty will include the safety of your people under the guidelines of your territory. As commander of the twelve clans, I am bound by that treaty, as are my people. To break it is treason. My people would put me to death.”
“Wait a minute,” Kane says. “You’re saying that if any of your people break this treaty, they’ll be executed?”
Lexa merely nods to him and lets that information settle, but she can tell that they’re not sold. And it’s because they aren’t understanding the full ramifications of their refusal.
“You have two options,” she says. “You’re either under our protection – becoming one of our people, or you are our enemy.”
“This is ridiculous,” the more outspoken of those assembled tries again. “There’s no reason to see us as an enemy. You’ve been the attackers from the start.”
Lexa does not wish to placate him, but at least this addition to the conversation is rational. So she faces him and answers him with the respect that he’s been lacking.
“You cannot fall from the sky and expect those already here to operate as you see fit. Whether you find it ridiculous or not, those are your options. It will not change because you will it to.”
“And if we accept,” Abby asks. “Does that mean that you’re our commander?”
“Our clans are independent. You, as Chancellor, would be the head of your clan, but yes, you would be accountable to me, and you would have to familiarize yourself with our principles. As to how you run your clan, that’s at your discretion so long as you maintain those principles.”
“And what are those principles?”
Indra steps forward to provide Lexa with the treaty, and it joins its counterpart on the table.
“All of the actual terms are there. In times of war, you will fight with us to survive. In times of peace, you will trade with us to survive. You do not kill without just cause because survival is dependent upon numbers. You will respect the forest and yourselves, because our survival depends on that as well. You will always protect your people, be loyal to your people, and find strength in your people. But mostly, you will survive. That is what it means to be one of us.”
Abby considers these words for only a moment. “And when you give an order, it’s to be followed without question.”
“Forgive me, Commander, but I don’t trust you enough to submit to your rule.”
“I serve my people, Chancellor. I do my best to protect them no matter the cost. I would do the same for you.”
“You’re just a child,” Abby almost shouts.
Lexa could smile at this. The children in her clans are far more experienced and capable than those standing before her. Her people have very different ideas about what it means to be young and naïve.
“And so is Clarke,” Lexa replies. “Yet she seems to be the only one among you capable of seeing past her personal desires to do what needs to be done. She is your leader, regardless of title, because it is in her to be such. She bled for you, destroyed what she holds dear for you. The same is true of me and my people. How many of you can say the same?”
There are so many angry fumes seeping into the room that the seemingly impenetrable walls almost bow and groan with the effort to contain it all. But Lexa has never concerned herself with placating tantrums. There is neither time nor resource to waste. And she sees now that this was indeed a waste of time.
She pulls the knife from the map and the table, re-sheathing it about her waist. “You have until morning to accept. If you fail to do so, you have two days to vacate. You know how to contact me should you find yourselves reasonable.”
And with that, she leaves the room, her warriors following and leaving the Sky People in a tense, stunned silence. From this moment on, she will prepare for war. There are too many egos in that room to accept the humility of following someone else’s lead, even if it means their death. And if that is what they choose, she will give it to them. She has no other choice. She only hopes that Clarke can survive it, because she is quite possibly the only one who has earned the right to survive.