Hallo to you all... this is my first attempt at writing fanfiction for this wonderful videogame. As you might have guessed, it is based upon Valine's module A Dance with Rogues, but I'll try to make it so that even someone who has never played it can appreciate this reading. The nature of it is very, very dark and gritty, and some of the topics treated here might be triggering; I'll try to warn for each of them whenever they come up, but I also will try to keep it classy and not explicit (at least as far as sexual topics go, since it's against the rules after all). There will be lots of moral ambiguity, but please keep in mind that my main character is not meant to voice my opinions.
This particular chapter features a rape scene, several murders, descriptions of violent acts and harsh language.
A word about the Princess, now. I didn't want to write about this game with a blushing, innocent flower or a nymphomaniac as my main character, even though I tried both in different playthroughs. My Princess in this playthrough was named Eris Alastor: this fanfiction will be completely told from her point of view. I also didn't write this with a pairing in mind, because I want to wait for an updated second part to come out before going on with the plot. I don't think I need to remind you this, but I own absolutely nothing apart from Eris.
One last thing: please tell me if the grammar or wording are awkward. I've had a friend of mine beta-read it, but I'd be glad to fix whatever he missed if you point it out. This isn't my first language. Thanks for your attention, I think I've spoken too much: just enjoy it, and please drop me a line or two if you have found it entertaining enough (or terrible enough). You would make me absolutely delighted.
During those days, even my reflection in the mirror looked quite pale.
I hadn't missed the looks of anguish on the guards' faces. Nor the grim tone of Father's voice, nor the dark rings around Mother's eyes, nor the occasional words exchanged between the servants. They spoke of invasion. They spoke of armies too big and powerful to be defeated, whispered of plans to leave the city while they still could. Still, they only spoke to each other; for some reason, they refused to answer my questions, and kept denying there was anything wrong.
I almost wished for something to happen, more horrified by the long wait than the terror of the unknown. Had I known, would I still…?
Then, on a rather uneventful day, Shira opened the door to my room to inform me that the bath was ready. She was wearing her hair up, like she always did during the ten years she spent working as my maid, and one of those long, fluttering dresses she liked so much, and even a bracelet made of cheap coloured stones, one of those inexpensive, cute treats Benjamin kept bringing her whenever he had a coin or two to spare. He was an errand boy, and she was a maid. They thought I didn't know, but of course I did. The funny thing was everyone thought I didn't know or didn't see what was happening around me. I knew we were going to be at war soon, and I knew Shira and Benjamin had a secret affair, just like I knew that my mother kept a diary hidden in the back of a drawer, or that the stable boy took every chance he could to steal from the kitchens and bring the food to his grandma in the city. And still, everyone thought that Princess Eris Alastor, future Queen of Betancuria, was either too busy or too dumb to understand.
At first, I didn't even look at her, the hopes of something actually happening and waking me up from that dazed state of boredom and subtle anxiety having died long before that day. Now I remember how, once, Mother had jokingly told a younger, more impatient me, that "nothing happens until it happens". It's true. Nothing was out of the ordinary, that day, until I looked up from my book, and saw the empty, frenzied look of fear in the young maid's eyes. She was pale, her healthy, rosy cheeks now were as white as my own, and the smile on her face was too forceful; she was scared. For a few seconds, I thought she had fallen ill.
"By the Gods, Shira, aren't you pale… you'd better take your leave today… did you fall ill on me?" My voice was calm as usual as I reached out to touch her cheek, but her skin wasn't feverishly hot. Actually, quite the opposite. She shrugged, her smile tightened even more for a second, before she shook her head. For once, I really didn't know, and my suspects, usually very loud and clear, had fallen silent for a second too long.
"It's fine, my Lady, it's just…" She sighed, and that was the moment when I realized that something had happened. Finally. It wasn't nearly as satisfying as I would've thought a week before. "We're at war, my Lady. With the Dhorn. His Majesty your father has given orders to the troops to defend the reign… I… I don't…" She covered her face, and the smile was gone. She was sobbing in her hands. "I'm so sorry... I'm scared".
There was a sound of something hitting the floor. I didn't even realize it was the book I was holding, I only knew I had stood up, and placed my hand on her shoulder, and I was finding it really hard to wrap my mind around the fact that we were about to go at war against our closest, strongest allies, the Dhorn, and in my mind I kept repeating myself that I had seen less and less red uniforms visiting us during the past few months.
"Shira…" I whispered, speechless, and I tensed, a cold shiver running down my spine. "I need to speak to my Father".
Even my reflection in the mirror looked dreadfully pale. Father always took great pride in my white cheeks, considering it proof that the glorious blood of his ancestors was more powerful than ever in my veins, and indeed my grandmother's portraits sported the same pale complexion, but now mine looked like wax from a candle, and my eyes were distant and always lost in thought; around them I could spot the same dark rings I had seen until that day on Mother's face.
Before I knew it, several days had passed. Before I knew it, the Dhorn were at the city walls. It really didn't seem that long, but thinking back, I realize it must've been whole months. My life went on as it used to, and even when I spoke to my father I couldn't find it in myself to accuse him for the way they had kept everything hidden from me. I was simply astonished. I had been taught, since I was a child, to face every difficulty with the decorum and calm a queen needed, and so I found myself at a loss for reactions.
I just had no idea about how to handle it.
Now that the enemy was at the door, everything started slowly to fall apart. The façade of peacefulness my family and servants had somehow managed to build during the previous months started to rot. It's funny, really. Everyone was frantically living, as if they had the certainty, deep in their mind, that those would be their last chances to. Everyone kept saying that Castle Alastor would never fall, and still they acted as if they had already seen, in their heads, the day it would happen, too. They probably had, several times. I hadn't. I kept trying to convince myself that nothing was happening, that it would never happen. Castle Alastor had never fallen before. The Dhorn weren't slaying anyone I cared about. I was still healthy, ate everything I wanted, took baths and wore the finest silks.
Nothing happens until it happens.
That was the truth.
I felt like a pillar in the middle of a storm. I could see the thrashing and swaying of those before me, and it barely affected me – I didn't allow it to. I was to be the next queen, I couldn't allow it to.
Then something broke, and I had to kneel.
I never knew the exact moment they stormed through the main hall, but I remember the way my skin crawled when I heard the first scream. It was a wail of terror, not the scream of someone dying.
I was told to retire to my rooms, and I quickly did, with Shira right behind me, her face a mask of fear just as it was on the day she revealed the truth to me. But this time she wasn't crying, and that made it all the more jarring. The silence between us was chilling, because now I could hear the sounds of battles in the other rooms. The castle had fallen.
The funny thing is how your mind starts playing tricks when you're frantically trying to get a grip. My whole body was cold, icy cold, but I could feel a sharp heat pooling at the base of my head and neck. I felt faint. I kept thinking of possible ways to escape the situation alive, and in the brief time I spent walking to my room I think I came out with at least twenty different possibilities. Funny. My brain worked better when I was scared than when I was calm. Not so funny, actually.
My apparent calm seemed to be intimidating, because Shira, still behind me, still shivering and chewing on her lips, didn't dare to speak a single word until I broke the silence – and didn't stop until the end after that. Idly locking the door, I sighed, looked around, prayed that my body would not fail me there. What if I fainted? I couldn't waste my time unconscious…
I sat down on the bed. The world kept spinning around me, I muttered something in frustration, and that's when Shira fell to a shivering mess on the ground and started weeping. The sound of her voice, so strained and loud, hurt my ears. Of course I couldn't yell at her… a queen couldn't lose her cool all of a sudden, and…
That's when I realized I would never be the queen again.
"Shira… stand up. Stop it".
I was tired all of a sudden. I wouldn't die. I couldn't die.
"Stop wailing, you'll guide them here".
She didn't. I sat still, hands in my lap, trying to think of something concrete and real, something that could take the both of us out of there… or just me. I was ready to sacrifice my own father, if that would help me live another day, and I loved Father as dearly as a princess could.
"If you really have to kneel there, then just pray the Gods".
And, Gods forgive me, did I sound unconvinced. The young woman lifted her head, still sobbing, and looked straight into my eyes. Damn her. She was trying to undo me, and I couldn't allow her to. "We're going to die, Lady Eris! Oh, what can we do?!" Damn her. Damn her. She couldn't be right.
Soon after that, I would learn another thing. Life and death aren't as dramatic as we like to imagine them. Not everyone gets a decent death scene, quite the opposite: we die like animals, without even realizing it, still clinging to the last shred of conviction that we're going to make it somehow. We don't get the time to do long speeches, to say goodbye. Shira is a good example. A few minutes, and she was to die an unimportant death.
Even if someone had told me I wouldn't have believe it, not even a few seconds before it.
I kept thinking and waiting, sitting on the bed. Thinking and waiting, with her in the background crying and speaking to me and worrying. I barely listened. I didn't reply. Instead, I just stood up when I heard the sounds of battle getting closer, and approached the library to inspection it, my heart beating in my chest wildly, everything else losing importance. There was no way to hide behind it.
"Lady Eris!" She almost shrieked. In that precise moment, for the first time in my life, I hated her. "Lady Eris! Oh, may the Gods protect us… they're here, they're here!" I glared at her, and I was shivering. I didn't even know why I was angry at her. I didn't move from the spot, just stared as she stormed to me and clinged to my legs, having fallen to the ground in a kneeling position.
"What are we going to do…" She sobbed, her slender shoulders shaking, and I didn't move. Now they really were at the door. I could hear the sound of something banging at it, rather with the intention to destroy it than to attract the attention of those inside the room. "The guards… oh, my Lady, we're done for… I don't want to die… no…" I couldn't stand hearing her, and now I know why. She was voicing my fears, the fears I didn't dare acknowledging. Now I know.
Another loud bang, and the sound of cracking wood made me sick at the stomach. They were about to enter. It would only take one second before I would see the red uniforms. Instead, I turned around while Shira uselessly crawled behind the bed, crying, chanting Benjamin's name. Help me, she said. I felt like I was about to empty my guts right there. They stepped in, I heard them, and didn't turn around.
Nothing happens until it happens.
I forced myself not to accept the idea that they were already inside until I couldn't help seeing those armours and blood-covered swords. They were circling the both of us, and I could only stand still and look at them. The one who looked like their leader spoke up, staring at me. His eyes were like black pits, or maybe I was just feeling faint again.
"Kill the maid".
I helplessly turned to look at Shira, and I'm sure I was just as shocked as she was when the swords stabbed her again and again. I couldn't see the wounds very well, but there was black blood pouring out. Her eyes rolled back into their sockets as she fell to the ground. Like a puppet.
The nausea increased. I kept trying to stare at the corpse, but the Dhorn were in front of it, and the only thing I could see was her arm. She was wearing a bracelet, it was blue. I hadn't noticed it before. Who knows why, I noticed it only then.
"This one looks like a noble…" I didn't even turn around to look at him, just staring in disbelief at what once was Shira, trying to convince myself that it wasn't her anymore. Not easy to wrap my mind around it. "Bend her over".
That's when something snapped. Now I wasn't a beholder anymore. I was forced to act, and I felt as if every movement… hurt. "Don't you even dare, Dhorn…" My heart was beating too fast. My hands were shivering. I would've rather driven a knife through my heart. That sounded like the kind of thing a queen would do. I wouldn't give them the satisfaction. I would just go on my own terms…
Only, I didn't have a knife.
The next thing I knew, I was kneeling on the ground, and my arm hurt. They were forcefully keeping me in place. Their leader got close to me, and said something, and I didn't listen, and he raised his sword, and, oh Gods that couldn't be it, I had to do something…
"What are you waiting for? Strike them all down already!" I yelled towards the door. They'd never fall for it. Of course, if they came here, they must've slayed all of the other guards already…
As the soldiers dumbly turned to face the door I managed to squirm free, my long dress making my dash to the door a bit clumsy; and yet somehow I succeeded in not falling over and got out. I wasn't sure about where to go, but the thought didn't even occur at me, at least at the moment.
What did occur to me is that I was right in thinking that they had slayed everyone. They really had. Too much red around me. Those were corpses, the corpses of men who had sworn to protect me and Father with their lives. Dead men.
While Shira's dead body had looked to me like a still living, warm thing, these made me shiver. There's something about a corpse that makes it resemble a mannequin more than anything else. Bleeding mannequins scattered all over my crazy, senseless path to salvation.
A part of my mind crawled in a corner, shivering and crying the way poor Shira had only minutes before that, and maybe that's what saved me from complete madness. The part of my brain that could feel emotions beside a desperate will to survive shut down.
Now I'm not sure whether it started functioning again with time, or it's been replaced with something else. It's probably the latter. To survive, I had to abandon everyone and everything I had ever loved. Father and Mother, and Shira, and the other maids… the old seamstress working at the castle, who was always so kind and liked to gossip while she took my measurements, the cooks who knew me since when I was a little girl, the birds I kept in a cage in my room, the books, the beautiful bed, the dresses, everything.
None of those thoughts crossed my mind as I ran like a mad woman through the rooms. None of those thoughts crossed my mind when I saw a black shadow, ran into it without managing to stop, and for a fraction of second thought that I was about to die.
Princess Eris Alastor, future Queen of Betancuria, was dead.
As I woke up, I could focus on only one thing: my head ached. I didn't get the time to wonder whether the war was only a dream or reality, simply because I couldn't even remember what had happened to me until I was too awake to misunderstand. Too awake to miss the screaming in the background. I was trembling. I couldn't remember how I had gotten in such a place, and that scared me the most.
Now I knew where I was. I'd never been there, but I knew it was a storage room of sorts, filled with crates, and surprisingly enough not dusty at all. Servants probably passed there every day – used to pass there before… I lifted myself on my elbow, and let out a distressed moan. It hurt. So much. Had I ever felt pain before? Only after a few tries I managed to stand up massaging my head, and when I saw the dark figure again I almost jumped from fear.
"Look at what a pretty little bird we have here…" His voice was deep, and it felt as if he was mocking me. It wasn't a Dhorn: no red uniform. No red at all, actually. It wasn't a servant either. I'd have known. All dressed in black, it was a tall man, of strong build, the tanned skin of his face covered in stubble. There was a harsh, arrogant virility in him. His hair was pitch black, just as his clothes were.
His eyes alarmed me the most.
"How… how did I get here?" I asked. His eyes told me to run past him and continue the crazed run for my life, but the rational part of my brain told me to stay. He would've reached me in no time. I could barely stand up still without falling from the pain, and I was tired and wearing a long dress. If he had bad intentions… who knew how much worse that would make it?
"And so… the little bird can sing. I wonder if you'd still sing, had the Dhorn caught you". Once again, I didn't like his tone. At all. I tried to stand as proudly as I could; mustering all of the dignity I knew I still had. At least at the moment. Arching a brow, I regarded him coolly. What did he want from me? Did he even know who I was?
Maybe it was better if he didn't.
"And who would you be?"
"This won't matter. The Dhorn have taken over the castle. Killed everyone in their way, chambermaids, guards, nobles…" I shivered, and he noticed that. Immediately, I wished he hadn't. His eyes now seemed to reflect a light that came from the inside. It was a mad, mad light. It only meant trouble, and I recognized it. It was the mad light of someone who wants to break something, immediately, while he still can. "Everyone's dead. Did you know Shanna? Of course you didn't". He got closer, now. A few steps and I could've felt his breath. The mere thought gave me goosebumps. "Only sixteen. Beautiful. And with eyes you could drown in. Big, innocent, brown eyes. She worked in the kitchen. She wanted me to show her the sea one day".
He didn't need to tell me of her fate. The desperate madness I could sense in him told me everything I needed to know. If I wanted to get out of there alive, I had to be condescending. That man, whoever he was, was only looking for someone to blame. Someone to break. "I am sorry about your loss", I said, carefully studying his movements. He didn't move from the spot.
"They went for the kitchens first, of course." He spat the last words with contempt, as if he tasted something rotten. "Made a mess of everything and everyone. She'll never see the ocean, now… but at least," I shivered again, tried to increase the distance between us taking a step, and ended up with my back against the wall, "at least King Alastor shared her fate".
Even now, I can't tell exactly what ran through my mind in that moment. I felt stupid for doubting even for a second that he would be as dead as everyone else. A part of me wondered if he had found a way to escape, instead, and this man before me was lying. Maybe they got the wrong man. But what if he really was dead? My father…dead. We had never been too close, but he loved me, in his own way. I loved him. I'd never see him again.
I was too astonished to want to cry over his departure.
"The King… really? Did he… really?"
Even I was surprised at my voice. It wasn't sad at all. Just confused.
"When he refused to hand over the castle he knew he had it coming. It was a death sentence… for him, and for everyone else inside the castle". The dark man paused, and stared right into my eyes, getting closer. "He knew it".
I prayed the Gods, frantically, hoping he wouldn't recognize me as the princess. But a part of me knew he had already. "This… can't be true". Now I was starting to understand the true horror of what had happened. My father had died. I couldn't go back to my life. I couldn't have my family back.
It had happened, finally.
Lost in my confused thoughts, I noticed a second too late that the man had moved, and his fingers were grasping my chin, harshly. They weren't the soft hands of the men I had known, and even those had never dared to touch me in such a way. It scared me even more than his eyes. Those callous fingers scratched my skin. He was too close now. Too close to escape him.
"So, tell me. Does the little bird have a name?"
I couldn't tell him who I was, but I couldn't find it in myself to lie. Every time I said a lie, Mother used to scold me so harshly I'd cry all night over my pillow when I was a child. She said it wouldn't be fitting for a queen to bend the truth.
I couldn't speak.
"It's a dark day… for the both of us, little bird", I stared, uselessly, at him, trying to understand. What did he want from me? I could barely breath, too scared, until he let go of my chin, and even then I didn't move. I had never been so scared all my life. "You're the only one left alive. You… and a few mice, perhaps", he went on. I could only stare and tremble.
When his gaze lowered to wander over my body, I felt the panic rising to my brain. He wasn't a noble or a general. I didn't know what to expect from such a man. Commoners… Father always told me to stay away from them. They had simple, lecherous minds. You never knew what to expect from them. I flattened myself against the wall, trying to induce submission in him as I was used to, a brow arched in a questioning manner, the usual intimidating coldness I had been taught to handle so well. For once, it wouldn't work. Unconsciously, I caressed my arms, as if to shield my body from him. Being killed by a Dhorn or being killed by that unsettling man, a commoner, of all things… what would've been worse?
"You're pretty… not as pretty as Shanna, but pretty enough". Now I didn't follow him anymore. I shook my head, my lips thinning to a line.
"You must bring me to my parents at once. They must be alive. There must've been a way they've escaped…" The panic had made me forget I didn't want to reveal my identity. I was still wearing my mask of coldness, but my mind had abandoned me.
"I told you they're all dead. Are you deaf?" He replied, spitting the words like bitter seeds, and then looked at my body once again. This time, he was cold. "Take off your dress".
I will admit it, at the moment I didn't have a clear idea of his intentions. I only knew it was something lecherous, something disgusting, but my meagre knowledge of the subject didn't go into the details of what was to come. Mother had always been careful about what kind of books entered my room. I could feel my eyes widening slightly from the surprise, and could only mouth a weak "what" before he grabbed my dress and tore it off with a few cuts of his dagger.
I was upset the most about my dress, at least for a few seconds. It was my favourite. Dark, intense blue and gold. The colours of Betancuria. It fell at my feet, torn away. My undergarments followed, and I tried to push him away with a hand, uselessly covering myself with the other.
He grabbed my wrists. He was too strong, he was hurting me, and there was no way I could snake away from his grip. I glared up at him; horrified, hoping that at least my long, long hair would grant me the dignity of being partially covered. I imagined myself clawing through his face, and for some reason the thought was awfully pleasing.
"You're mine, now… by rights of what your father did to Shanna". So he had recognized me. How unlucky. I kept struggling, and he bumped me forcefully against the wall, making me hit my head, trying to get me to stand still. "You stupid cunt… do you think you're an eel or what? Stand still. I'm gonna cut that pretty little throat of yours wide open if you don't stop moving, I promise". Me, allowing him to violate me without opposing to it? Was he stupid or what?
I wanted to live, but if I could choose, I'd rather kill myself than let him do that. Die while I still held onto my last shred of dignity. That was what a queen would've done. That was what other queens had done before me.
Too bad I couldn't reach to his dagger. It was pressing at my throat. I could feel burning, and a trickle of blood running over my skin. It hurt.
No, I had to be the one doing it. Not him. I had to take that blade from him…
I kept struggling, while he held both of my wrists with one hand, and seeing that I wouldn't give up, he threw me to the ground with a groan, shaking his head. The stony pavement against me… my head hurt even more now. Once again, I felt sick, and everything was spinning. As he unlaced his pants and pushed me to the floor, forcing my legs open, I managed to gather enough energy to struggle again and fight him back, tears of rage and shame running down my cheeks.
If I died, would I wake up in a place where I could still see my parents, where I could still live peacefully?
"I warned you, just stand still!" He growled, rage in his voice. I couldn't see his face. I was too busy madly pushing him away, and later trying to free my hands from his grip. I wouldn't give in. I wouldn't give in so easily.
I locked eyes with him the moment I lifted my leg, my knee hitting him in the groin with all my strength. That would teach the scoundrel. I heard him groaning in pain, and grinned triumphantly…
But his grip on my wrists only tightened.
"You… bitch!" He managed to growl, slapping me hard with his free hand. Twice. Three times, until I was forced to stand still. My head hit the ground once again, and it hurt, oh, Gods, it hurt so much… my vision blurred, but wasn't granted the mercy of passing away.
He pressed himself into me, and I imagined myself decapitating him. He thrust ahead, every movement of his making my body burn in pain, and I imagined myself grabbing that dagger of his and driving it between his legs, again and again. He kept me still as his hips slammed against mine, and I imagined myself clawing his eyes out and leaving him for the crows to feast upon, bound and crying in pain.
Soon enough, I told myself. Soon.
It took longer than I would've imagined, and still it mustn't have been a long time. Everything of me was sore. Everything of me felt dirty. I was laying on what was left of my dress, and when I sat up, I could see it between my legs. Blood was dripping down. Red blood and white semen staining the blue and golden fabric. Oh, the irony.
"Alright…" He begun, clearing his throat. I didn't look at him. I covered myself with my hands, outraged tears running down my face. Every time a drop fell from my chin, to my breasts, I shivered and sobbed. "I know this was rough, and perhaps your tiny brain will never get over it". Him tied up and thrown in a pit of rabid dogs. Nice. "However, think of this. Had I not been here in this damned castle, this damned moment, you'd probably be up for a really busy night. Or you'd just be hacked to pieces". Him, with each of his limbs tied to a different horse, drawn and quartered. Real nice. "Either way, I'd say those few minutes on the floor were an okay price for your life". Me over him, strangling him with my bare hands.
"… really…?" I muttered. He raised his head, surprised, and I looked up at him, smirking, even though weakly. He'd suffer for what he had done to me. Soon. "Really, you scoundrel?! Go to hell", I growled out, my voice husky from all the pain and the crying. He probably didn't expect that. He laughed, and that made me even more infuriated.
"Well you're a fierce little one. Would've guessed most princesses would be devastated to lose their precious maidenhood this way. Whatever. Let's get out of here. Someone is coming."
And after all he had done to me, he was still so certain of the truth of his words to offer me to get away together. The filthy, filthy bastard… I stared at him from the floor, not moving from my spot. I didn't even care that someone else was coming. "Go to hell!"
"Yeah, sure, just stay here and rot. Or throw yourself at the Dhorn, whatever". He shrugged, putting his dagger back into its place. Had it still been on the ground when we were done, I would've tried to drive it through his chest.
"To hell with you, you disgusting animal!"
I don't think he liked that. He stared at me. I was panicking. What would I do now? I wanted him dead, sure, but how…? Should I have just followed him and waited for the right moment to strike? No, I just couldn't stand the thought of staying close to him…
That's when he hit my head again and I lost consciousness.