Twilight belongs to S.M.
Dedicated to Ali, the most amazing witch I know.
Which isn't an amazing feat, considering she's the only witch I know, but still ...
Happy birthday, Ali!
All mistakes are my own.
Warnings: Rated 'M' for some citrus.
Huge age-gap between B/E (keeping with the time period inside my head).
If this makes you uncomfortable, please feel free to stop here.
One should never make deals with devils.
Arising before the rooster crows, I forego my gown and slip on my brother's britches, smiling to myself as I think of my mother's face the last time she caught me out of my skirts. Seth, my brother, is an exceptionally slender boy at eighteen, older than I am by only two years. His britches and belt fit me well, cinching easily around my waist.
Once completely dressed, I pause near the doorway of the cottage, my fingertips resting on the wooden door. Seth sleeps near the fireplace on an old, bearskin rug. An empty bottle of mead remains in his one hand, his bony fingers twitching against the bottle. His cheeks appear as hollow as mine; starvation eats away at the lot of us, my family that is. Seth suffers more than my mother and I ever could, using what little food he acquires to feed the ladies of his house. Ours is a battle to remain alive, a battle my twin sister lost as a mere infant.
Sorrow fills my heart at the thought of a sister I do not remember, but I push my woes aside, using the emotion to beckon me to my destination. I slip from the inside quarters of my home, closing the door behind me. Smoke curls from the chimneys of the other homes in our village. The air stinks of hog and horse manure. Chickens scatter out of my path, skirting away from my quickening steps as I clamber away from the village and through the forest, the worn backs of Seth's old boots loose against my heels.
Early morning sunlight lights up the pale sky. Cool wind nips at my exposed skin as I perch atop a hill. I tug my cloak lower over my head, hiding my face from the chill of the air. From beneath the shadow of the hood, my eyes search the land below. I can hear leaves and bracken crunch beneath the footfalls of an animal, and with my stomach grumbling and complaining, I grip the bow in one hand, silently removing an arrow from the quiver strapped to my back. With one eye steady and keen, the other closed, I hone in on my target, which is entering the forest before me.
Instead of the tawny fur of a buck or doe, a man, wearing a deep, emerald-green robe enters my view. Lowering my weapon, I gape at him, at the simple elegance his gait allows. Following the well-worn trail of fox and wolves, he travels the packed earth with his head held high, adventure in his eyes.
The garb he wears is royal in nature, and what a fool he is for wearing it. I rub my eyes with the back of my arm, blinking and half expecting the illusion of this man to disappear, yet he is still there. A hint of sunlight catches the sheen of his hair, the strands as ruddy and unkempt as a fox's coat. Although I'd never seen this man with my own eyes, his identity is nary a secret. The sharp planes of his face are well known. The whispered rumors of his beauty are not only notorious, but also atrocious—in my humble opinion. Beauty and intelligence rarely go hand-in-hand. Intellect is a far greater quality in a man. Feeble minds make for tediousness.
And I despise nothing greater than tediousness.
Curiosity creeps into my brain. The very idea of this man, the crowned prince of our land, strolling through the forest without his guards flanking each side is an impossible concept to fathom. Yet there he stands, near the banks of a babbling brook, a wistful smile on his face. In this moment, as I lay my weapon on the ground and hide behind the trunk of a great oak, I understand what those ridiculous girls in the village giggle about.
Prince Edward is glorious.
Glorious, yet ignorant.
I follow him undetected for miles. Palace life has made him spoiled. He is obviously unaware of the dangers surrounding him. Has he not heard of the gypsies roaming the woods? Is he oblivious to those who wish to see him hanging from the gallows as payment for his father's unconcern of the famine destroying the land?
Not until he abandons the narrow trail and heads west does the niggling fear set in. The path he walks is one I know well. It's one I've traveled many times myself, although this is something I'd never admit aloud to anyone for fear of death.
The path he travels is death.
With swift feet and a low curse upon my tongue, I climb the hills. The prince is no longer in view. Briars cling to my cloak, tugging the coarse fabric with their natural resistance. Somehow, I make it ahead of him, my lungs burning from the sheer exhilaration bestowed upon my body by my sore legs. Bow and arrow in hand, I aim, blowing out a shallow breath as the crowned prince grows closer to my line of fire.
The arrow cuts through the air, the feathers whispering through the wind. Prince Edward lets out a gasp as the sharpened arrow sinks into a tree, missing the tip of his nose by a hair. Drawing his sword, he spins on one heel, his eyes darting in my direction. I feel the weight of his gaze once it is upon me, and even in the great distance, I can feel its power. Wielding his sword in one hand, he unclasps the cloak from his neck with the other. The rich material falls away, pooling on the ground near his boots.
"Show yourself," he yells. His voice echoes, bouncing off the trees as if the forest washis theatre. "You're arrogant enough to fire your weapon, but too cowardly to show your face? Show yourself!"
Ducking lower on the hill, I remove another arrow from my quiver. This time it sails through the air, landing directly in the packed earth between his parted legs. He sucks in a breath, staring down at his groin. The expression of pure horror on his face is so comical that I fail to contain my snickers.
"Cease fire! Who goes there?" His demanding voice does little to alleviate the smirk on my face.
Hidden in the shadows of trees and hills, and quicker on my feet than this man could ever dream of, I feel powerful for the first time in my life. No longer am I a starving villager searching the woods for the wild game we lack by living so close to the king's forest. I am Isabella Swan, the girl who startled the crowned prince with two slivers of wood.
I fire three more arrows in succession, one after another. Each of them land where I intended: one by each foot, the third landing beside the one between his parted legs. Still, the prince stands his ground, never moving, never flinching. I stand with one lonesome arrow inside my quiver. My only other weapon is a slender knife tucked inside my belt.
I contemplate firing the last arrow, but hesitate. It's during my brief period of hesitancy when Prince Edward charges forward; barreling up the hill, I stand upon as if he's an angry bull. Boastfulness ebbs away and I no longer find myself to be very brave nor bold. Stumbling backwards, my boot catches on a root and I fall to the forest ground. A sharp, stabbing pain slices into my upper thigh. The pain is so instantaneous, so harrowing, that I freeze. Redness seeps to the surface of my leg, staining my brother's britches.
"Taken down by your own unsheathed knife," a condescending voice remarks. "You're not as clever as I previously thought."
The silver tip of his sword touches my chin, forcing my head upward. The hood of my cloak falls away with the movement, leaving my head feeling light and weightless. I meet his eyes for the first time, immediately impaired by the emerald-green color matching his abandoned robe. Shock graces his features, twisting his face. Straightening his posture, he returns the sword to his belt.
Sheathed, of course.
"A lady?" he whispers, slowly shaking his head. Images of fair maidens in lavish gowns, dancing under the moonlight enter my mind. The thought disgusts me.
"I'm no lady, I assure you."
"I'm afraid I have to agree with you on that, Madame." Prince Edward laughs and I hate the sound. The rich, musical tone is captivating.
"You mock me with your laughter, Your Highness."
"And you waste valuable time arguing with me when you could be tending to the wound on your leg."
Not until he speaks of the wound does it begin to sting again. Prince Edward crouches down and moves the small slit in the fabric of my britches. My breath stills inside me as he dips his fingers inside the slit and rips the britches open even further. Heat erupts inside my body, cascading from the top of my head to the very tips of my toes. There has never been a time that I can recall revealing so much skin above my ankle. Prince Edward touches my pale skin smeared with blood, unhindered by the crimson staining his fingertips.
"We should clean the wound," he murmurs. "There's a brook in the distance."
I say nothing, too transfixed at the way the pads of his fingers massage soothing circles on my bare, wounded skin. The cut is superficial at best, barely bleeding by this point. I scoot across the ground, missing his touch as soon as I lose it.
"I must go," I mutter. His bewitching touch has filled me with unease.
"Madame, you transpired to murder me, yet you believe I would easily let you scurry off into the forest? Do you know the punishment for what you've done?"
"Your Majesty, I wasn't attempting to kill you."
Prince Edward stands, his face stoic. Placing one hand on the handle of his blade, he leans back on his heels, a smirk creeping across his face.
"Please, Milady, enlighten me."
I struggle to stand, the pain shooting through my leg almost unbearable. "I was saving you, Your Highness."
"Saving me?" The prince breaks into laughter. Birds abandon their nests at the sound, their wings flapping in the cool breeze. "How heroic of you, but pray, tell, how were you saving me?"
"You don't know what evil lurks and lingers inside the darkest depths of this forest."
Prince Edward's hand leaves the handle of his sword and laughter no longer dances in his eyes. I shift away just out of his grip as he crouches back down, reaching out toward my britches.
"Please," he insists, concern softening his tone. "Allow me to clean and bind your wound, Madame.
Afterward, you can share more information concerning this evil of which you speak.
Shaking my head, I scurry back farther from his advances. "Such details shouldn't be spoken aloud. I must go, Sire."
Climbing to my feet, I limp in the direction from whence I came. He then grasps my wrist, turning me to face him, and I stumble into his chest, my hands upon his shirt. I can feel the planes and lines of hard muscle that lay beneath my fingers.
I can barely breathe.
My heart seizes inside my chest, my tongue wetting my parched lips. His hand cups my face with a tenderness I've never felt.
"I must say, I admire your stubbornness. What is your name?"
"You shouldn't touch me with such familiarity, Your Highness," I choke aloud. "Although, I shouldn't be surprised by the crude nature of a royal."
"Crude nature of a royal?" He chuckles, his thumb continually stroking the contours of my cheek.
"Rumors of the royals' conquests' spread quicker than the famine destroying your people."
"Do you always speak with such an unbridled tongue?"
"Always." I attempt a smirk and fail. His touch renders me into a dumbstruck stupor.
"And do you always believe rumors spread by silly commoners?"
Suddenly the fuzzy haze of my mind clears. Stepping back, I close my eyes for a moment, my skin feeling foreign without his hand brushing across the surface. "Let not this silly commoner waste any more of your precious time." Stepping forward, those entitled fingers of his stop me in my tracks once again.
"I assure you, any time spent in your presence is not a waste, but a precious gift, Butterfly."
"Butterfly?" I ask, taken aback by his boldness.
"Yes, Butterfly. If you refuse to tell me your name, I must provide one for you," he insists, stepping into my space, that hypnotizing hand of his coming to rest upon my cheek again. Stepping back, I jerk away from it. "As quick as you are beautiful, Butterfly. A perfect fit."
Emerald-green eyes flit across the bridge of my nose and rest upon the part of my lips. This time when I turn, he doesn't follow me. Standing near the base of the great oak, he keeps silent, not speaking even as I leave him one last fair warning.
"Stay out of the woods, Your Majesty," I say. "Unless inevitable death is what you seek."
Pre-read by Rumner and Jonesn who drive me completely insane. Beautiful banner also made by Rumner. Beta'd by SunflowerFran. For AliCat0623. I hope she isn't too scared to read it. :D
The time and place of this fic exists in your imagination. This isn't the type of fic I normally write, so please be gentle with me. I'm a fantasy virgin.