Prologue – Once Upon A Crime
9 Years Ago…
She ran down the dark forest road, her red cloak flapping wildly behind her. Beneath her breast her heart pounded with a profound fierceness that was almost overwhelming. She didn't want to believe it. She couldn't. It just couldn't be true. She couldn't believe the watch captain's words. She wouldn't. She had to see it with her own eyes. Until then, it was just a terrible mistaken on his part.
"Katherine! Kate!" her father shouted behind her. "Please… Katie! Stop!" He was falling behind, but she couldn't wait for him to catch up with her.
She had bolted out of their house before the watch captain had even finished delivering the terrible news. Her long legs gave her an advantaged over her father, who'd lived a softer life as one of Yorkshire's resident barristers. She ignored all his calls and shouts, focusing all her attention on pumping her legs harder, running faster.
The clouds shifted above, and moonlight flirted through the canopy of gnarled and twisted branches overhead. Just enough light was allowed through to illuminate the well-trodden forest road. The watch captain had said that it had happened at the Golden Oak. It pained Kate that such a place filled with happy memories seemed fated to be tainted by the worst sort of event possible. She could still vividly recall the joyous family picnics from her childhood in the meadow behind the Golden Oak. She would pick wildflowers and hide them shyly behind her back before presenting them to her mother.
With great heaving gulps of air, Kate spurred herself onward, trying with all her might to stifle the rising tide of tears that wanted to flow down her cheeks. She wouldn't cry. Not yet. Not before she had irrevocable proof. Her mother had taught her that. "Follow the evidence, and that'll lead you to the truth," she'd always said. Kate desperately hoped that tonight the truth would be that the watch captain had been horribly wrong.
She rounded a bend, and saw them. Silver breastplates and helmets glimmered in the moonlight, long capes cascaded behind them in waves of green wool, high-grade, sheered from flocks owned by the prestigious Peep Family just west of the Hood, in Tuffet Hills. Several soldiers from the nearby garrison were milling around the Golden Oak, which glistened as always in a shimmering display of light. They were standing watch as the local Yorkshire guards—heads bowed and shoulders slumped, looking dispirited—surveyed the scene of the crime, so to speak.
Kate shoved down the wail of grief that wanted out as she bounded towards them. The soldiers were startled by her sudden appearance, and most were slow to react to the unexpected arrival of a young nineteen-year-old. A dark skinned soldier, with the insignia of a sergeant, was the one who caught her. He grabbed her before she could make it around the large tree and into the meadow beyond.
"No!" she cried out, fighting against the strong arms that wrapped around her. "No! Let me go! I… I have to see her."
"No, you don't," the soldier whispered, trying to shield her from the sight in the meadow. "Trust me."
Kate ignored his warnings. She pushed and kicked, punched and squirmed; yet the man's hold was too firm. He wasn't going to make it easy on her. She struggled harder, scanning what was visible of the meadow beyond with frantic eyes. And that's when she saw it. Strewn across the ground was her mother's hooded red cloak, nearly identical to the one Kate wore. Except her mother's cloak had jagged tear marks down one side and dark wet splotches soaking the rich fabric.
Her eyes drifted up a little further and…
"NO!" Kate's voice cracked and she broke down into sobs. She lost all her fight. Her body went limp. She had nothing left. She was spent. How could this have happened? Her mother had just left that afternoon to visit Kate's great-grandmother. It was so simple. Just over the river and through the woods. Nothing too complicated about that.
"Come here," the soldier whispered sympathetically, turning her away from the bloody sight, and tucking her into his chest. He rocked her gently, trying to soothe her with comforting words. But none came. Never would. Not for her. Not now. Her mother had been killed. She was dead. And nothing could change that.
This wasn't supposed to happen, not in real life. Such terrible things should be reserved for the nightmares parents told their children at night so they would behave. Be good, or the Big Bad Wolf will come and get you. But no. It was real. All too real.
"Montgomery!" an older soldier with a crested helmet called out. "Leave the girl be. McCallister and Raglan need help moving the body."
"Sir," the soldier— Montgomery—responded in an even tone, remaining respectful to his superior. "It… that's her mother."
"I know… and I'm sorry," the captain said, brow lowering in apology. "But we need to move the body before it gets too late. The commander wants this done before midnight."
"I see her father coming down the road, let me at least get her back to him first," Montgomery pressed.
The captain narrowed his eyes, his brow lowering in thought. "Fine, but no delay," he relented, glancing about nervously as a lone wolf howl sounded in the distance. "I don't want to stay out here a moment longer than necessary."
"Yes, sir," Montgomery inclined his head, shifting his hold on Kate and turning her away from the Golden Oak and her dead mother.
She swallowed down a sob, and blinked her eyes. Through her blurry vision, Kate could just barely make out her father huffing and puffing down the road. The sight of him struggling to maintain a decent speed tugged at her heartstrings. She'd just lost a mother, but he'd lost his wife, the woman he loved. And what had she done? She'd just ran off without a second thought as to anyone but herself.
He had one hand at his side, soothing an old injury from his younger years, but managed to keep his pace. As soon as he was close enough, Kate launched herself out of Montgomery's arms, diving straight into the familiar embrace of her father. He hugged her as she buried her face into his chest, wrapping her arms tightly around his torso, needing to be as close to him as possible.
Her father squeezed his arms around her, and she let the tears flow, no longer holding back. She shook in his arms with each sob that rocked her body. He tried to soothe her, but even he wasn't able to take away the pain. Nothing would. Nothing could.
Kate's heart couldn't take it anymore—all that pain and grief. It wasn't worth the risk anymore. She'd let herself grieve. But then she'd lock away her emotions and focus on doing what needed to be done to avenge her mother's death, because she didn't believe for a moment that a "random animal attack" could account for the amount of brutality she'd seen.
Someone was responsible for her mother's death.
And Kate Beckett would make them pay.
*A/N: This will be my 50th fanfic posted on FFN. And I wanted to do something fun and different. So I decided to combine my love for Castle and fantasy/fairytales. Even though they won't be exactly the same as they are in the show, I'll try to keep them as close to in character as I can. So here's Caskett in a fairytale world. I've also made a map of the fantasy world they're inhabitating, the link is on my profile page.