A/N I'm so excited to start this sort of sequel to A Court of Beasts and Beauties in Edward's POV, and a day before A Court of Wings and Ruin releases! For those Sarah J Maas fans, I can probably promise parallels between this fic and her new book. Updates will be every Monday, and thank you to my beta SunFlowerfran. And otherwise, I hope you enjoy.
I do not own the Court of Thornes and Roses Series
Fifty years, Edward, I curse you with fifty years of living death…because if I can't have you, then no one ever will.
Edward's eyes shot open, but the words only continued to repeat over and over inside his skull, squeezing his mind like a vice.
The recurring nightmare only served as the reminder that he surely didn't need, at least not today.
He knew the bitch would be happy that she starred in his subconscious; Gods know she tormented all his every waking hours.
Letting loose a groan, Edward barely roused himself from bed only to find the sun lifting above the horizon.
He squinted as a sliver of light broke through the sky to officially start a new day. But it wasn't just any day, for it started the final length of the deadline that was set.
There was only one year left.
Edward watched numbly as the sun's beams bathed the land in warmth, but instead of a symbol of hope and a new beginning, it only served as a reminder of what he had lost.
Glancing to his wardrobe, all he saw was shades of gray. To his bedspread, more dull shadows. Apparently, it hadn't been enough for Victoria to take his magic; she also had to steal every ounce of color from his life.
So Edward could only actually guess what the sunrise looked like.
And with color gone, so was warmth. Or perhaps that was the feeling left after being drained of his power. Either way, Edward was only a shell of the male he had once been.
The instant Victoria had leeched out all his magic, his heart had stopped pumping, and his skin had turned a sickly gray while his bright eyes had gone completely black.
There was a time he was the High Lord of two courts in his continent, a breach between two great lands. But now he was left with nothing but guilt and his obsession to save his people.
Even though, for all intents and purposes, he was dead.
But when there was no happiness, no lick of anything but the endless depth of apathy, Edward did feel as if he was already in his own personal hell. But perhaps the only reason he was alive was because Victoria wished it.
It had been a while since he had even allowed himself to think of who he used to be; usually having enough discipline not to allow himself to wallow in such ideas.
But alas, today was a particular day, and he had no idea what he was going to do about it.
There was one year left, and his land and court were only suffering more each day; all because he refused to submit.
And even when she threatened to curse them all, he and his spiteful pride told her to rot in hell, which of course was why they were in this mess in the first place.
But if Edward had one solace, one sliver of happiness that he continued to cling to for dear life, even after everything, was that he had kept Victoria from completely destroying their world.
He would doom himself over and over if it meant his people were kept safe.
Oh stop moping, and just confront the witch already…
Edward squeezed his eyes shut at the voice ... his other voice that had once been used to enter his victim's minds. There had been a time, when, with a flutter of his magic Edward was once able to know their every wish and memory, and if need be, to control them. But now the voice only served as his personal demon.
"No, it would just lead to more destruction," he groaned, not caring which servants heard him talking to himself.
No, you're meant for more than this.
"No," he shuddered into his hands, "No, stop talking!"
Give in, Give in, GIVE IN!
Edward clenched his teeth, ready to claw his own eyes when there was a knock on the door.
"What?" he growled, only to find Jasper's wary face.
"Excuse me," his friend grumbled, "Sorry to disturb you, but they're acting up again."
Edward let loose a sigh, "Damn it," could he just have an uneventful day for once?
"l guess I'll have to take care of them myself."
"It's fine, Jasper." Edward snapped, pushing himself from the bed's edge to throw on the first shirt he found, "I needed to let off some steam anyway."
"Am I supposed to accept your foul attitude, just because today is the anniversary?" Jasper replied.
Edward leveled a glare at his friend before he wisely let himself out of the room.
Trees flashed behind him; the rocks, earth, and plants serving as nothing but mild inconveniences as he propelled himself further through the dark forest. This was the only way he could experience freedom from the feeling of being cooped up in that wretched castle.
Thankfully, the woods of the Spring Court were expansive, or Edward would have gone mad a long time ago.
Finally, he saw the black cloaks of the Oillteil, the greasy, foul creatures that Victoria enjoyed throwing his way. And even though he still hadn't figured out exactly why she kept sending monsters to him for slaughter, it at least gave him an outlet for his anger.
The Oillteil were nimble, he had to give them that, but they were also stupid, not having a mind of sense beyond their instinct.
He caught one by their slithery hide and slammed it against a rock with one hand, "No—" the creature didn't have time to finish as Edward sliced off its head with one blow.
Thankfully, he still had access to wisps of his magic, enough to use his talons whenever he liked. And they sure came in handy when one fellow monster or another needed beheading.
The other two tried weaving through the brush to escape him, but with a bounding leap, Edward met them at the other end with a feral grin.
"Stop—" again, before it could utter another syllable, he had the last of them gasping by their throats. But he only looked at them with dead eyes. Oh, how beyond bored he was with it all.
"Listen to us, High Lord, we have something you will want to hear," one managed to choke out in resonse.
Edward only forced his grip tighter, making their pathetic faces clench in pain. But the leader still pressed on, "Even you cannot ignore our news."
"Speak," was all he said.
"We come bearing a message," the monsters shared a slithering glance at one another.
"I don't have the patience for games. Talk, or I kill you now." Edward wished he could see into their minds and pull out the information himself, but since he couldn't, he would have to settle for the hard way.
"Victoria knows where you hide your mate," the first one spewed through his teeth, "And she wants you to know that only the human holds the key to your freedom."
The very sun itself seemed to freeze with the lethal calm that consumed Edward; and after years of feeling nothing but numbness, his body started sparking back to life.
He promised himself never to think of her beyond that one day, eighteen years ago. But he hadn't even entertained the thought that she could have been the key.
No, it couldn't be…he had driven himself insane hunting for any possible loophole; every bylaw and countless legends had never mentioned it. So much so, that it drove him to the brink of apathy.
But now, having heard that there was still hope. Just that ounce of possibility made his heart lighten.
You are too late. You are too stupid, too cowardly—His demon voiced quickly responded. Perhaps the outcome from only being locked in the Spring Court with no outlet to his powers. But Edward only focused harder on the sniveling creatures he held in each hand.
"Why has Victoria chosen now to reveal this? Tell me, or I will enjoy ripping you to pieces." He said darkly.
"Our Queen reveals nothing. Everything is the way she wishes," the second one's voice broke into a howl as Edward swiped its head off in one clean stroke. And before breaking a moment of concentration, he pressed the second one against a tree.
"That was the wrong answer," he slammed the creature against a nearby rock, making it heave for breath, but he only pushed harder, "I know the bitch wants something for the information. And you'd be wise to tell me," he ordered.
"That, High Lord," it drew out the name sarcastically, "You will find out soon enough." The creature somehow smiled through the blood that oozed from its nose,
Edward just killed the being with one quick snap.
Then he was running.
"What should I do?" Edward slammed his hand against the stone wall. He was back in his room, doing his best not to pace a hole in the floor, "What am I supposed to do? This could be a trap. Victoria's toying with us, I just know it, Jazz."
"Either way," His friend picked at something at his sleeve, "You have to go to the human realm, Edward. Even if there's a minuscule chance that she could save us, you have to take it. You'll hate yourself if you don't."
"Please, tell me something I don't know," Edward groaned.
Jasper only shrugged, "Then why do you hesitate?"
Edward peered outside the window and mulled over the answer. But all he was thinking was how he could be there in a few hours if he ran.
"Beside the fact that Victoria probably plans our doom by the minute, the Gods also decided to saddle me with a human mate," Edward threw his hands, "How could someone like her save us when even I can't? You know how weak humans are? And they hate faeries, Jasper. What motivation would she have to even lift a finger to help our people? She would enjoy our suffering more."
Jasper held up a finger, "None of us can choose who the Gods fates for us, you should know that better than anyone."
"I see we're not holding anything back tonight," Edward repressed a growl, "But we're talking about a girl here, Jasper. Not some magical soul mate."
Jasper only shrugged.
Edward's mother hadn't been able to choose the mating bond when it came to his father. The man was an absolute tyrant when it came to his kingdom and his wife, yet somehow she chose to stay with him even up to her death. And it left a mark on Edward. He would never mate as long as he lived.
"How can I even retrieve a human?" Edward said with a sigh, "I'm banished to the Spring Courts, and she lives in the human realm."
"Their lands are still technically under your power. Before your father, there was a time when the Spring Court was allied with the humans," Jasper reminded.
Edward tried not to roll his eyes at the fact. Now the Fae only shared contempt towards the other race after the war, an opinion the humans shared as well. " Thank you, but I need to make this decision alone."
Only after hearing the near-silent footsteps of Jasper leaving, did Edward allow himself to again look out.
It was a moonless night as he gazed out at the barren gardens ... barren, thanks to him. And it would only get worse if he did nothing.
His mind ached with the decision: should he take a human for the sake of his people? Or leave her to her own life but perhaps waste the only opportunity he'll ever have of breaking the curse?
The voice mocked.
Edward groaned at the demon voice, wishing more than ever that he could shift into his beast form, if only to be without his consciousness for a while.
Coward, it spat back.
You know what needs to be done.
Edward barely had enough sense to clean himself up: but he managed to wipe the blood from his face and hands from the Oillteil. But that was all.
He told no one and did nothing before he was running again.
And after spending hours sprinting through the woods, he had found her measly village.
Thankfully, he was present enough to know he needed something else than his thrice-slept in shirt and trousers if he wanted to blend in. The only quick fix was breaking into a nobleman's house to retrieve the first shirt and pair of pants he could find: a high-risk move in a town that spoke legends of creatures like him.
Edward couldn't help but notice the iron swords and daggers that scattered the nobleman's house. And he couldn't help but wonder if she put stock in any similar weapons against faeries.
He knew the stories that spread through villages about his kind after the faerie world lost contact with the human one. And after half a millennia of discourse, those same stories that had once been passed down with pride, had slowly been twisted into fear.
Fear for Fae kind.
No doubt if anyone caught sight of Edward's lethargic skin and black eyes, he would most likely insight a manhunt. Which was the last thing he needed right now.
So he made sure he kept hidden, even as snow was already coating the ground, prefacing the harsh winter that was sure to come.
But as Edward finally approached her home; a place he hadn't seen in nearly eighteen years: the house was dark and empty.
He cursed colorfully, rushing the front door to try and get any sign of her or the family.
"Looking for the Swans?" A voice called from behind.
Edward spun to see a man, finely dressed in a rich overcoat and top hat. Apparently, he had been so overcome in his pursuit he hadn't sensed the human's approach.
The man was weak and clearly not a threat as he observed Edward openly, stiffening slightly when the human noticed how odd his eyes and skin were in the dim lamp light.
Edward blinked against the thought of killing him right then and there so save rumors from spreading, but instead, he forced his face into something pleasant.
"I am an old family friend. Tell me, did they move to a different part of town?"
"I'm afraid so," the stranger said warily, "Their father came onto some hard times, now they live on the other side of town,"
"Really?" Edward pressed his lips together, "Uh, thank you."
The man scurried away, hopefully only back home and not to the town square to start an uprising. But either way, he left Edward to try and figure why Charlie Swan had uprooted his family.
And where he had taken them.
Edward turned back to the old house. Slowly, he ran a hand along the door, the smooth wood somehow warmer than his skin. But when he pressed against the handle, it creaked open.
It revealed a lavish foyer; marble floors spread under finely dressed walls, but cobwebs masked the ceilings, and white sheets covered dusty furniture. Clearly, they had been gone for not months but years.
His silent steps still echoed against the bare walls as he climbed the stairs, observing the home he thought he had left her in. But if Charlie had fallen onto hard times, where would they have gone?
Edward sniffed the air like an idiot, but he only had one way to find her… so if his Fae nose would lead him to her, then he would use it no matter how animalistic he felt.
Finally, he reached the last room, every crevice filled with dust and cobwebs, but a particularly different scent clung to the furniture: sweet and floral.
It was her.
Then Edward was again running.
After searching what felt like every neighborhood in the bloody town, he stood where the smell had led him.
It was a dirty, run-down place; where homes were pressed too close, where the streets were lined with excrement and animal guts.
And after years of harboring nothing but cobwebs and dust inside, Edward felt as if he was going to be sick.
The place so brutal and ugly, and it actually made him want to crawl out of his skin and kill something. But somehow, over the smell of rotting meat and shit, he still smelled her ... The girl; the human salvation for his people.
Easily slinking into the shadows, he made sure he was untraceable by Victoria before reaching the house. But it was more like a hovel, so worn and broken down it was a miracle it was still standing.
Edward could barely scrounge up enough restraint to knock instead of barging right in and stuffing her in his arms. But, he knocked anyway. And all he could do was wait, shifting nervously as he heard a shuffle nearing the door.
Gods boil him; he could sense her somewhere in that house. A living breathing person, not just some imaginary figure he had kept stuffed away for nearly two decades.
Yet every essence of her, from the wood of the shack, to the snow outside their door was seeping into his senses, and it made him feel… unsettled: something Edward had never felt in his five hundred years.
His ears pricked to a male voice before an uneven gait made its way to the door. As it groaned open, Edward beheld a man near his fifties, ridden with a haggard face and gray hair that aged him even more.
The human looked as if he had weathered the worst a life could offer, and it took a while for Edward to recognize this as Charlie Swan.
The man who had once been successful and strong when he met them eighteen years ago was now weak and frail as he gazed up at Edward in horror.
"I didn't expect you so early." Charlie's voice shook with false bravado as Edward ignored all manners and stepped past him.
But as he stepped into the pathetic interior, he felt nothing but boredom. So he didn't care how he was perceived or what story he had to maintain to keep in accordance with their deal eighteen years prior. He just growled, "I gave you a day, now where is she?"
It was too dark inside that shack, only a few candles were able to cast looming shadows on the tiny walls, but he saw Charlie's eyes grow wide and his mouth bobbed.
"What do you mean a day? You come in here after years of nothing, and you expect me to give up my daughter just like that?"
Edward ignored Charlie and glanced to the other side of the house where he sensed three bodies hiding behind a closed door, "I need her now, and I don't need to explain it to you," he grumbled.
"I need more time, you just can't—" Charlie sputtered.
Edward held up his hand. He needed to move this along because Victoria could be closing in on them for every second he wasted.
"No, that was our deal. Don't push me further if you value your daughter's life," Edward warned. And he hoped that was the end of it, but Charlie only fell to his knees.
Edward raised his brows when the father begged one last time with clasped hands; but his ears were turned when he heard someone on the other side of the house take in a sharp breath.
And before he knew what his own feet were doing, Edward was across the pathetic living area in mere seconds.
And it didn't matter that the one and only person the stars had fated for him was just on the other side of the door, his brain openly recoiled at the idea.
She was nothing more than a tool towards their freedom, and the mating bond didn't exist. Not between them. The mere idea that anyone could belong to anyone else made him scoff. He saw that same bond stretched to the brink with his mother and father; let alone with a fickle human heart.
But despite his hatred at the Gods, Edward was at least curious to see her.
As he prowled closer, he swore that his breath started to slow, and his nerves started to tingle just as his hair stood up on end.
He brushed it off as nothing but natural reactions to the hostile situation, until the door creaked open to reveal nothing he had ever expected.
Edward couldn't breathe, couldn't think, as she stood frozen in front of him.
He vaguely took note of two other bodies cowering the corner but—the girl that stood before him was so small and unbelievably breakable.
His supposed mate; apparently the one and only person the Gods had picked as his equal for him was barely as tall as his chest and severely undernourished.
His eyes dimly observed how there were bones that stuck out in places that shouldn't, her shoulders and collarbones were too prominent.
"What's your name, girl?" He managed to grumble.
He did his best to shake the feeling of her eyes on him, but he couldn't get rid of the feeling deep in his stomach.
Was it pity?
"Bella," Her voice was stronger than he would have guessed, but when he finally met her gaze, he hated the Gods even more.
Edward saw his own reflection in her eyes. After years of avoiding mirrors, and denial, he was forced to see the gray face and depthless eyes that were the result of the curse.
He looked like a monster.
But he only had to remind himself why he was the way he was ... why he was here. This was not a rescue for her, but a salvation for his people. But even Edward knew that was going to be easier said than done.
"What do you want with us?" Bella asked warily, but he also heard the hint of defiance in her tone.
"You obviously got your courage from your mother," he noted. And when she didn't answer, he only continued, "To answer your question, I am here to collect you."
"Yes, you." He said, searching for something to tell this girl, anything to avoid Edward from having to drag her out against her will. He had long forgotten the bargain he had ignorantly struck with his father. That was before he had lost all hope.
Edward dimly heard Charlie let out a whimper from behind him. Yet the man didn't even take one step to protect his daughter.
But Edward was just so bored with it all; bored from the father's sniffling and the sound of the sisters whimpering that he had to make up something to get Bella to come with him.
And perhaps it was the fact that his own father also did nothing to protect his son, but either way, Edward suddenly knew what his explanation would entail.
"Your father was unwise in abusing my hospitality during his travels." The lie spun itself easily enough as Edward turned back to Bella, but she just narrowed her eyes.
"I can see that you are confused. Allow me to explain," he gestured lazily to Charlie, "When your father broke into my estate, stole food and took advantage of my good-natured servants, I demanded he pay with his life. When he refused, I offered an alternative solution: servitude from one of his children. And as you well know, that was a deal your father just couldn't pass up." Edward waited as she absorbed his words.
"Why me?" She asked after a beat of silence.
He shrugged. "I demanded either the youngest or most precious in your father's heart. You see, my kind can taste a lie."
Her eyes widened.
It was an exaggeration for sure, only a gifted Fae could taste lies, and Edward was not one of them. But it was also a tale that would make Bella second-guess her actions, and Edward needed to hurry this up before Victoria joined them.
"So when your father told me that was you, I knew he spoke truthfully," he said, hoping that her separation would be easier if she resented her father. After all, that had worked with Edward.
"Your kind?" She asked.
"A story for another time." He shrugged, too tired to elaborate, "So those are the terms. You can either agree to come with me without a fight, or I can force you. I urge you to choose the former."
He thought she would have started crying by now, but she only bit her lip in thought.
"How long do you think my father's life sentence would last?" It was such a unexpected question that Edward couldn't help but tilt his head.
"I mean," she continued, "A man like my father only has five more years left on his life, at the most. So shouldn't I only have to serve up to that? It's only logical," she crossed her arms at him.
"Nice try, but a life sentence is a life sentence, no matter how long it is," he chuckled darkly, but part of him had to give her credit for trying.
"If I agree to go without a fuss, will you promise that my family will be unharmed?"
He blinked once, and then twice, before taking her meaning; she thought he was going to kill her family.
"Fine." He waved his hand dismissively, but she pressed on.
"You swear on your life."
He could have groaned from watching her brow quirk in defiance. He would have never expected a human to be so bold, then again; she had no idea she was talking to the most powerful High Lord in history.
'Once you were the most powerful High Lord in history,' the inner voice chided, 'Now look at you, the prince of darkness is being out negotiated by a teenaged human,' it mocked.
Edward internalized a groan at the reminder before he brought his attention back to Bella.
"My Lady," He said, bending to give her an over-exaggerated bow, "I promise on all that I am and all that I honor, that your family with be unharmed."
From the clench of her jaw, Edward knew she had picked up that he was being facetious.
But she only squared her shoulders before stating, "Deal."
And the world could have been crumbling around them, mountains disintegrating; the sky plunging from the heavens, but all Edward would have felt was relief; real, pure, reprieve.
He was going to free his people.
"When do we leave?" She asked.
"Now," he turned towards the door, not caring how she gaped in surprise, "You have ten minutes to pack. Don't keep me waiting or I'll drag you out myself," he rumbled before stalking out the door.
Only after he heard her stomp to her room, did Edward fly into action.
On the way here, his head was so clouded he hadn't thought of transportation; and he had the inkling Bella would freeze to death if made to walk a night in the cold. As if her hatred toward him wasn't cold enough, he needed to make sure she stayed alive before he figured out how she worked into the curse.
Running to the nearest stables, Edward picked the most inconspicuous horse for them. But when he returned, there was no sign of Bella, as the father and sisters huddled together.
He just peered down at them, suddenly not having the energy to apologize or explain.
"Please," Charlie finally spoke, "Please, she is my youngest. Have mercy, please don't take her from me."
Edward opened his mouth, but before he could answer, his ears pricked to the quiet footsteps approaching.
Bella somehow seemed smaller with her thin traveling cloak draped across her shoulders, as she clutched a worn pack so close to her chest, Edward was sure the Gods themselves couldn't pry it from her.
But he only turned his gaze to the father, "Sir, do you want this to be the last thing your daughter remembers of you?"
As Charlie sniffled, it was an effort not to rip out the man's throat for what squalor he had dragged his family through. Nonetheless, Edward thought Bella deserved a proper goodbye.
"There, that wasn't so hard. Now find your bearings and embrace your daughter in farewell." Edward watched as she stood in a rigid hug; her face so void of emotion it made his stomach wrench. He recognized that expression; he felt that every single minute of every day.
"Don't trust him, Bella," Charlie hushed in warning, ignorantly assuming Edward couldn't hear, "Whatever you do. He's the last—"
"Enough." Edward snapped, finally finding the end to his patience.
The horse shifted under his legs, as Bella, ever so slowly turned to him. Her previously blank face was now replaced with pure hatred as she scowled up at him. But he still saw her nerves manifest as she clutched her sack closer.
"Ready?" he quirked a brow.
"Do I have any other choice?" She answered just as fast.
"No." Edward felt the frustration fly across his features at her boldness. Who knew a human could be so problematic?
"Where is my horse, or do you expect me to walk?" she asked blatantly, and Edward pressed his lips together to repress a growl.
Her smart mouth was going to take some getting used to.
Ignoring the way she seemed to catch herself, and prepare for him to strike her, Edward just motioned with his head for her to join him.
"No, you will be riding with me," he said stiffly. But she planted her feet into the ground: she was not moving.
Edward rolled his eyes as he swung down from the horse, and in two, sweeping steps, he was at her side.
Somehow she was brave enough not to retreat, for any other, Fae alike, would run in fear if Edward approached them as he did her.
He was beyond losing his patience as this girl threw her tantrum while Victoria was most likely closing in on them.
"We need to hurry," He growled under his breath when he grasped her elbow.
But she either didn't hear or care as she blinked up at him. She struggled to keep up with his pace as her feet dragged.
But damn him, Edward fingers still twitched from her warmth, and it only grew worse as her scent drifted toward him.
Even through the layers of grime, she was tantalizing enough to make his instincts tense. They were all unwelcome reactions, but still dangerous in any right.
Giving his self-control a good lashing, he took her waist, "Sit lightly," he barely grunted before he easily lifted her into the saddle.
Gods, there was nothing to her as Bella shivered at the touch, and he knew it was only going to get worse when he joined her.
With a grumble, Edward hauled himself on the animal, his shoulder lightly brushing the back of her cloak only making her shudder harder.
Give her your cloak.
The voice purred; the part of him that perhaps wanted Edward to give in; to throw all self-control out the window and claim a human as his mate.
Edward only shook his head at his own monologue; she would most likely recoil from the gesture in any event.
And even if he wanted the good opinion of a human, what was it worth? Humans were greedy and fickle beasts, and better to be kept at arm's length.
But it didn't stop his curiosity from getting the best of him as she sat, arms crossed, scowling towards the dark woods.
"Bella?" He peered over her shoulder, but her eyes remained forward. And he took that opportunity to note how long her hair was, the tresses still shiny as they swept away to reveal delicate brows, and a slightly upturned nose.
And even though she needed a good hearty meal, Edward guessed that to other humans, Bella might be perceived as pretty.
Edward held out his hand, "Would you care to hand me the reigns, unless you know where we're going?"
"Maybe if you told me where that was, I could lead for a while," she snapped.
She was too wicked for her own good, so he simply cocked his fingers, perhaps only to annoy her further.
"Fine," she huffed, placing the leather in his palm. He could still feel her burning warmth even through his thick gloves.
"Can you at least tell me your name?" she grumbled.
Her harsh tone only continued to make the monster inside him roar.
"I suppose you can call me Edward," he replied simply.
He saw her disappointment as she turned forward to cross her arms, the swift movement sending more of her scent wafting towards him.
"No title such as Lord or Prince to go with such a name?" Bella craned her neck this time, the unbound hair almost brushing his open collar. He pressed his lips together to suppress his treacherous body's response.
"No, just Edward," he answered curtly. Of course, she would hope he was royalty; like most humans, she was obsessed with wealth and nothing else.
Thankfully, she remained quiet after that. And as Edward urged their horse forward, he felt her hold her breath as they took the first step into his world ... and what would soon become hers ...
A/N Tell me what you think. And as always, thank you for reading and reviewing :)