You can have it all.
My empire of dirt.
I will let you down.
I will make you hurt.
- Johnny Cash, Hurt.
Clarke woke with a gasp, air forced from her lungs upon the impact with the packed earth of the prison cell. She looked around in the dim light, trying to gain her bearings. She blinked, stunned to see that the former Chancellors Jaha and Kane were in the cell with her, staring at her, shocked expressions matching hers. "What are you doing here?" They all asked at once.
Jaha answered first. "I landed in the dead zone and was found by a family on a pilgrimage to a place called The City of Light. They traded me for a horse, and now I'm here. Apparently there's a bounty on our heads." He said, raising an inquiring eyebrow.
"You're lucky. When we first landed it was shoot on sight." Clarke said wryly. "What happened Kane? Peace talk not go according to plan?"
He chuckled softly. "I was knocked out and thrown down here before it even began."
"What about you? What are you doing down here?" Jaha asked her.
Clarke shrugged, then winced, rubbing her shoulder. "I went for a walk."
"A walk?" Jaha asked, clearly finding that hard to believe.
Clarke nodded. "Yup, a walk." They didn't need to know the rest. How she had run like a coward after Bellamy, Octavia, Murphy, and Finn stopped for a brief rest, roasting a pair of thinly sliced rabbits over the fire. How the smell of the roasting meat made her stomach turn, made her remember... She forced the memories back, using the pain to ground herself in the present.
Kane had noticed her wincing. "What happened to your shoulder? Any other injuries?"
Clarke paused a moment, taking stock of her injuries and trying to recall how she received them. "Um... I think I hurt my shoulder and ankle when I tripped over a root. My ribs and head are curtesy of the Grounders. Nothing major."
Kane nodded, accepting the explanation.
They all looked to the door when it opened, Kane alone rising to his feet to greet the group of Grounders. Like he were an honoured guest instead of a prisoner. Clarke thought wryly.
The Commander and his guards were all men, Clarke noted, though the slave was a woman. She questioned this in the back of her mind, Anya and Tris flashing in her memories. Was she captured from a different tribe? She wondered. She noted that while the girl was thin, she was not starved, nor did her body show any signs of having been mistreated.
The Commander narrowed his eyes at her and Jaha while two guards stepped past him to force them to their feet. Clarke cried out involuntarily when the man pulled her up by her injured arm, her shoulder alight in a blaze of agony. He released her and she stumbled, falling back to the ground on one knee when her ankle refused to support her. She clutched her shoulder, seeing stars as she braced herself for the blow she knew was coming. She fell to her side as the grounder struck her head, curled into a ball when his foot connected with her stomach.
Dimly she could hear Kane begging the Commander to make him stop, that she was injured and meant for no disrespect. The Commander barked an order, and much to Clarke's amazement, the beating stopped. She coughed and gasped for breath, one hand wrapped protectively around her stomach, the other clenched over her racing heart.
The conversation was over before she could hear, the door closing behind the men, the slave girl the only grounder remaining. She took in her surroundings, hoping to piece together what had happened. Kane and Jaha were speaking too quietly for her to hear, the slave girl was seated as far from them as possible. For the moment Clarke's presence was ignored, so she watched. Her eyes widened when Kane picked up a knife. Where did that come from? And she gasped when she heard him beg Jaha to inflict his death. No! He turned the blade on himself and Jaha finally moved, tossing the knife aside, begging the slave girl for something to stop the bleeding.
Clarke started to rise, then winced at the pain in her stomache. The blade wasn't far from her. Ignoring the pain as much as she could, she stretched out her arm and grasped the blade, pulling it close to her body without anyone noticing. She pushed herself up and, using her uninjured arm and leg, half crawled and half dragged herself over to the wall. Panting from the effort, she used the wall for support as she forced herself to rise to one knee, then her feet, hissing slightly at the pain. She saw Jaha move to grab the girl.
"No!" She yelled. Unexpected, her voice stopped the man in his tracks. All eyes were on her as she revealed the blade, pressing its edge to her bicep. "You know who my mother is, trust me when I say that this is a vital spot. One cut here and I will be dead in eight seconds. Now back off!"
"Clarke..." Jaha turned as though to go to her, reaching out.
"Back. Off." She bit out, applying just enough pressure to make herself bleed. "I am not bluffing!"
Kane stepped forward and grabbed Jaha, pulling him to the wall farthest from the grounder. He looked at Clarke and nodded, eyes shining with concern for her and the promise to restrain Jaha. "Alright, we'll stay over here. Just don't do anything reckless, alright?"
Threatening suicide isn't reckless? Clarke wondered, then looked at his arm. It had mostly stopped bleeding, he hadn't cut anything vital. I guess not. She nodded, lowering the blade. She remained alert, ready to raise it again should Jaha misbehave, as she limped over to the slave girl along the wall. "Don't worry," she said wryly when the girl started to tense, "the blade is for my skin alone. You can hold it if that would make you more comfortable, but the guys may do something moronic if they see it."
"What do you want, Sky Girl?" The slave said gruffly.
Clarke was directly infront of her now. She smiled in what she hoped was a non threatening way. "Do you mind if I sit down? I'd prefer not to talk down to you, and honestly... My ankle hurts like a bitch."
The slave girl narrowed her eyes at her, searching her eyes and reading her body for any sign that the girl intended her harm. Seeing none, she nodded.
Clarke sighed as she slid down the wall, stretching her wounded leg out before her, being mindful to keep the weapon in the slaves sight the whole time. "Thanks."
"What is it that you want?" The slave demanded, glaring at Clarke hatefully.
Clarke accepted the hatred, letting it wash over her heart like a rock at high tide. "Your Commander. Can you give him a message for me?"
The girl thought for a moment, then nodded.
"Around the halfway point between the drop ship and camp Jaha, there's a bunker next to a river, located between two trees. The entrance is hidden behind a boulder. There's a group of children there, your people. I found them while running from the acid fog. I don't know what happened, but their caretaker was missing, and they were hurt and afraid. I took them to the bunker with me and treated their injuries as best as I could. They have enough food and water for three days.
Can your Commander send some people to get them? Women, maybe? I don't know what happened to them but they're too scared to leave."
The girl had lost her glare. Hatred changed to puzzlement as she regarded the girl from the sky. "Is that all?"
Clarke considered telling her more, about the Mountain Men and the cages, the Reapers. But she held it back, concerned that the children would be forgotten. Bellamy, Murphy, and Octavia knew what she knew, and she had given them the map. She herself was not needed. Not needed. The relief at the simple fact was a balm to her soul. "Your Commander said that blood demands blood, right? To answer for the massacre at Tondc?"
The slave nodded.
Clarke smiled sadly, eyes shining with unshed tears, and resigned acceptance. "Tell him... Tell the Commander that the massacre was my fault... I tried to stop him, but I wasn't fast enough. Let my blood pay the price for his sin. Kane and Jaha are good men. Let there be peace." And with that, she turned the blade on herself, plunging it down to the artery by her groin.
She was fast. The slave girl was faster. Clarke blinked stupidly as the blade was knocked from her hand, leaving a shallow gash in place of a life threatening wound. "What...?"
The slave was on her feet, dagger in hand, calling for the guards. The Commander and a half dozen warriors entered the room, looking only at her as she spoke to them in their secret language. They bowed to her respectfully and she turned her back to them, allowing them to don her armour.
Kane realized it first. "You're the Commander."
Clarke closed her eyes, resting her head against the wall. Shit.
"You are an honourable man, your desire for peace is true. You can go free." She turned to look at Jaha. "You will deliver a message."
Three guards stepped around her, one restrained Kane, the other two began beating Jaha. Clarke felt little sympathy for him. This was the man who had killed her father, had sent one hundred youths to the ground with nothing to defend themselves, had attempted to harm an unarmed girl. Woman. She amended. The beating stopped and his limp body was dragged from the room.
She said something to the guard holding Kane. He grunted, acknowledging the order, and began pulling Kane from the room. "Wait, what do you intend to do to Clarke? She's just a kid! She's innocent."
The Commander snorted. "Hardly."
Clarke was inclined to agree. "Don't worry about me, I'll be fine."
"You better be. Your mother will kill me a thousand times if you die."
Clarke smirked a little. Knowing her mother, she would probably find a way to do it too. "True."
Kane vanished through the door, the other guards leaving behind him until only she and the Commander were left. She didn't rise when the Commander approached her, the fading adrenaline from earlier leaving her too weak and shaky to attempt it. She looked up when the Commander stopped at her feet. "Why did you stop me?" She asked.
The Commander didn't answer. Instead she pulled a clean strip of cloth from a pouch at her waist and dropped it on Clarke's lap. She then left, the door clanging shut behind her, leaving Clarke alone.