AN: Welcome to my new story! If y'all just read my Bound to You story, I'm happy to tell you this is completely different. Basically, Catherine is the daughter of a powerful (but sexist) king in a faraway land and is to be queen if she marries Lord Marks. Vincent is a knight demoted to guard the princess after he fails to catch the vigilante who has been tearing through the criminals of the kingdom. Vincent is a Beast in this story as well, but he's learned to control it from a very young age.
Warning: this fic contains violence, graphic sex scenes, profanity, and misogyny. If you are bothered by any of these, you don't have to read it. It won't hurt my feelings at all, I promise.
War was always something that fascinated Catherine. Something about the brutal savagery, the raw violence and the noble sacrifice for one's own people, the glory of a nation riding upon the shoulders of an army was alluring to her. The pride of victory, the rush of adrenaline, and the joy of the war cries were things that Catherine wished she could feel in her lifetime.
But as a princess, as a daughter of King Chandler, she would never be anything more than a figurehead. The closest she came to battle was from watching the troops march in great lines away from the castle, the sunlight glinting off of their freshly polished armor. It would be the cleanest the army's armor would ever be, right out of the castle gate, for soon their steel panels would be tarnished, dented, and spattered with blood.
The castle itself was a sight to be seen: standing gloriously atop a halved mountain; the mountain was something the gods themselves had split open for the royal family at the time. Its walls were carved of the most brilliant limestone, shining like a gem when the sun ensnared the castle in its rays in just the right angle of light. It sprawled over twenty acres, with four spires reaching up as if to touch the heavens. There was one large wall wrapping around the interior structures, connecting them through a series of hallways.
To most looking in, it was a haven of opulence, but to Catherine, it was one gigantic prison. She was born there, and there she would stay for the rest of her life, serving the men she was told to serve under. She was fiercely brave and loyal, and if she were a man rather than a woman, she would've been able to defer her duties to her younger sister and join the knights. But she was not a man.
The only way she could taste freedom was by using the hidden, underground passages beneath the castle to visit the valley, where most of her subjects inhabited. Her father forbade her to go anywhere near the city below the mountain, for fear that she may join the ranks of the vigilante's victims. Little did the king know, but she had nothing to fear from the vigilante.
Knighted Vincent Keller, son of Michael Keller and Nyssa Keller, stood stock still in front of his superior, his dented armor and scarred face often the subject of respect among his fellow knights. His helmet and sword lay at his feet as he stared straight forward, not reacting to the insults his superior was spitting into his face.
"Keller, you impotent shit, I would like an explanation as to why this vigilante continues to wander the streets of this kingdom freely," Master-of-arms Joseph Bishop snarled into his face. His dark face contorted with rage as he perceived his failure of a soldier. "You were my best man. I assigned you solely to the task of apprehending and prosecuting of this bastard known as the vigilante," Joe (as he was known by those he cared for) brought his steely eyes level to Vincent's. "He killed my brother."
"He is much better at evading capture than I had expected, sir," Vincent interrupted. The knights standing watch outside of the Army's station at the base of the castle mountain cringed at his insolence.
Joe's jaw clenched and his voice shook. "Mice evade capture, Keller. Our enemies do not tremble in fear as they take sight of our battalion because we let mice slip through our fingertips. This army serves under the House Chandler, the mightiest kingdom on this continent, and we do not gather our reputation from failure, you arrogant prick. We are respected by all because those who cross us do not live to tell the tale."
Captain Bishop stepped back from Vincent, his own armor shining like the brightest of gems compared to Vincent's in the light of the fire. The loss of his brother, Darius, was obviously taking its toll on him, making the prospect of Vincent's failure all the more painful.
"You will be demoted, Knight Keller, from infantryman to castle guard. A position just opened up in the princess' personal guard, because whoever held that job before now gets your responsibility." Vincent didn't show it, but on the inside he was furious. He had worked hard for years since boyhood to become a knight and join the King's Army, and now he had been demoted to be some spoiled, pretentious bitch's chamber guard.
"Yes sir," Vincent choked out through clenched teeth.
"You are dismissed, soldier," Joe commanded. Vincent saluted his now ex-commanding officer, grabbed his sword and helmet, and exited the stone Army station. The knights who had been listening in from the doorway were sorry to see their comrade go: he was an excellent fighter, and the only reason he was being sent away was because of Captain Bishop's delusional state.
The sky hovering above the kingdom reflected Vincent's own dour mood, the dark clouds pregnant with heavy raindrops, which were soon to fall. His anger picked at the lock he kept his Beast hidden behind, his eyes flashing golden momentarily before anyone else could notice. He pushed his demons back, back into the cage he had built for himself over many years. He was nothing if not a master of monsters.
It took Vincent less than ten minutes to gather his things from the knights' quarters, merely a section of tents a mile from the village, which sat in the valley in the shadow of the castle. He always traveled lightly, so packing quickly was a breeze. He didn't want to speak to any of his fellow soldiers: the shame of his demotion still fresh upon his damaged ego. The one person he did stop to speak to was his old, childhood friend JT (short for James-Thomas), who had been the medicine man tending to the army's wounded for as long as Vincent had been a knight.
The medical tent was at the mouth of the Army's camp, strategically placed so the wounded wouldn't have to walk all the way through the camp to get tended to when they arrived home from battle. JT had a very sorrowful expression on his face when Vincent poked his head inside of his tent. JT ushered his friend inside, where no one else currently was.
"I heard about you getting demoted to handmaiden," JT said, pulling Vincent into a strong, firm hug.
"I'm not going off to war, JT. I'm just heading up the mountain," Vincent replied, trying to put his friend at ease but embraced him back nonetheless.
He pulled away from Vincent. "Don't you get it? You're not going to be able to leave her side. The only way you could restore your honor is if you bring that vigilante's head to Joe on a silver platter. Half of me doesn't want you to, though. No offense to you and your comrades, but the only person really keeping crime down in the kingdom is that vigilante."
Vincent grunted in agreement. "Only the naïve still fear the king's justice. But I have no other choice, my friend. I must kill the vigilante so I may return to the ranks. Even the gods know I'm a damn good fighter." JT laughed, the smile not truly reaching his eyes when he clapped Vincent's armored shoulder.
"Humility was never your best suit, brother. I'll miss your arrogant, pompous ways. Don't let some precocious princess get the best of you, you hear? Don't speak out of turn, especially when you're around the king, gods bless his soul." He smiled sadly at his friend.
"You sound like my father," Vincent huffed, before hugging his surrogate brother once more, his armor impeding his movements slightly.
"On the plus side," JT wheezed in Vincent's metal embrace, "You won't have to wear this shit at all hours of the day." Vincent laughed once more and bid his friend goodbye. He didn't want to hear JT's frustrated huffs behind him as his childhood companion choked back tears. They had been inseparable for years until now, and parting with each other was like parting with a piece of themselves.
As Vincent began his trek away from the King's Army, he bid his old home one last glance. His brothers-at-arms would go on to accomplish great deeds and earn glory for themselves whilst he was stuck babysitting the king's spoiled brat. Perhaps it was rather irrational of him to hate her so: it was not her fault that he had been demoted, but he harbored a strong resentment against the crown. He had unwavering loyalty for the kingdom, not the king, serving the subjects rather than the royalty.
The walk along the road which snaked treacherously around the mountain up towards the castle was made ever the worse by the pinging of raindrops against his armor. After ten minutes, he was completely soaked through and absolutely miserable. His clothing beneath his armor would take hours to dry out, for it was spun with wool to keep his skin from chafing against the chainmail.
It took him approximately one hour to walk the road against the wind and the rain. By the time he was admitted through the castle gates, he was shivering so hard the separate plates of his armor rattled against his muscled frame. One of the gate guards asked him what his purpose was once he was inside.
"I've been transferred to be on the princess' personal guard," Vincent replied, trying to make his demotion more appealing and glamorous than it actually was. The gate guard nodded and escorted Vincent to the royal family's dwelling inside of the walls. There were hundreds of apartments in tenements lining the wall in a ring around the inner buildings. The apartments on the walls were for the castle guards and servants, whilst the gigantic main building housed the royal family and council members. Everything was linked together by passageways, the floors of which were made of cobblestones to make clean up easier.
They headed past the hundred foot high apartment buildings (a great feat of engineering), and waltzed straight inside of the royal palace, its four spires careening towards the sky like demons shooting themselves from hell. It really was a palace inside of a castle, its stone archways and grand, detailed murals screamed of wealth and affluence. The throne room was in the center of it all, its gilded architecture and grandeur all fell short of the magnificence of the throne itself. Or so Vincent had heard, as he was led left instead of towards the throne room.
"Magnus! Magnus, you silly bastard we've got a newcomer!" The gate guard shouted at the top of his lungs.
"Coming," replied a man running towards them, one hand hiking up his black, floor-length robes. His hair was gray and cropped short, a style adopted by the king himself but one Vincent hadn't particularly liked. "You must be Knight Keller. We've just received a raven that you've been selected to protect the princess. Oh, and Kurt, be a dear and get supper started once you get home," Magnus added to the gate guard, obviously intimately familiar with him.
Kurt, the gate guard, nodded and pecked Magnus on the cheek before retreating back to the main gate where he was stationed. Magnus gave Vincent an once-over. "You have a problem with Kurt and I's love for each other, then you'd best stay clear and keep your mouth shut."
Vincent grinned good-naturedly. "Love comes in all forms, sir, especially in the least expected ones."
Magnus brightened instantly. "Good! Follow me, then. You won't have time to change before you meet the princess, so try to make yourself as presentable as you can. Supper is on in two hours in the dining hall. You'll be able to eat leftovers once the princess had been put to bed. Be mindful of her little sister, Duchess Heather, she can be quite a nasty one if she catches guards or servants eating before the royal family does. You'll be keeping watch over her during the daylight hours and you'll be sleeping in a room adjacent to hers during the night.
"Any assassin you catch trying to kill her should be executed immediately. The only time you shall leave her be is during her baths and her rendezvous with Lord Marks, however short they may be. Lord Marks is betrothed to Princess Catherine, even though the princess seems to wish death upon her future husband every time he enters the room." Magnus scarcely took a breath as he led Vincent down the torch-lit corridor, rain darkening the sky outside of the palace as it pattered against the windows.
They climbed a spiral staircase which swirled and snaked its way to the top of one of the palatial spires, and stopped when they reached closed double doors at the top. Magnus bore his intense, emerald gaze into Vincent's eyes. "Do not, under any circumstances, let your prejudice get in the way of protecting the princess."
"I don't have any prejudice against the princess, sir," Vincent sputtered.
Magnus pursed his lips. "I'm going to let you in on a little secret, Knight Keller. There's a lot of really good liars in this world. Most of them are on the king's council. But I am the best liar out of all the snakes in this kingdom. It's the only reason Kurt and I can live the way we live without being sodomized and thrown over the castle walls. One of the perks of being so good at what I do is the fact that I can smell bad bullshit from a mile away. You, Keller, seem to have predetermined that you will hate this castle and everyone in it."
He indicated the closed doors they stood in front of. "The only true person in this castle sits behind those doors. I'd like for you to keep that in mind whilst you keep her safe. I care for the princess a great deal, and not only because I am paid to. You will protect her with your life. Even with the hounds of hell snapping at your heels, you will take on armies single-handedly to keep her safe." Magnus leaned in close. "Even if that means betraying the King, you will save Catherine. 'Tis better to be a traitor than to have her blood on your hands." He stepped back and resumed his smiling façade while Vincent made a mental note to never cross the palace guardsman as long as he lived.
The door was flung open by none other than the King himself, someone Vincent recognized immediately from the King's periodic pep speeches he delivered to his army. The King was in a rage about something, the subject of which Vincent couldn't have heard through the thick oak doors, but he could hear His Majesty's heart thrumming angrily inside of his chest. His hair was cropped short, gray mixing with white, and his wrinkled face was fraught with frown lines.
Vincent assumed his attention automatically in the presence of the King, who was paying him no mind as he swept past both him and Magnus, his violet cape streaming behind him as he stomped down the spiral staircase. A small, unbelievably striking woman stood in the doorway to yell after him.
"That's it, you insufferable fool! Strike fear in the hearts of your enemies by running away!"
"Princess!" Magnus admonished. "Should anyone else have heard you, you'd have been severely punished. I know you can't bear some of the things your father does but he is the King, and you must pay him respect."
So this was the princess, her dark brown- almost black- hair braided into a pleat down the side of her soft, yet angular face. Her almond-shaped eyes were the brightest amber, not unlike liquid gold. Her stature was much smaller than Vincent's, igniting his protective instinct almost immediately.
"Who the hell are you?" She demanded, putting out his protectiveness just as soon as it started. Magnus groaned in frustration and stomped off in the direction the King had swept away to, obviously getting nowhere with the princess.
Vincent bowed. "Knight Keller, Your Grace. I am the newest addition to your guard."
The princess scoffed. "You are my guard, brave sir Knight. Come in," she sighed, ushering him into her bed chambers.
The chambers themselves were the epitome of luxury to Vincent. Her room was much bigger than what it looked like from the outside, signifying how high up it was in the spire. Her bed (large enough for three large men) was on the far left side of the room, a silken canopy hanging from the ceiling to drape gracefully over her down comforter. A cherry wood wardrobe stood ostentatiously next to it, presumably filled with the finest gowns in the kingdom. A set of double doors, obviously leading off to the balcony were straight in front of him, and a claw-footed bathtub sat on the far opposite side of the room. In between the doors to the balcony and the bathtub was another door.
"That door leads off to your room," the princess said as he strode across the room to open it. "Well, when I say room…"
"It's a broom closet," Vincent scoffed. His room consisted of nothing more than four dank walls, a cold stone floor, and a rickety cot that looked like it could collapse at any second.
"You'll take what you get and like it," the princess stated coldly. "There are thousands of people in this kingdom who would kill for that room."
"I know," he replied, throwing his bag onto the cot before turning to look at her, meeting her gaze defiantly. "I used to be one of those people…Your Grace."
The princess flinched at her title on his tongue. "Don't call me that. I'd rather you'd call me 'whore' than remind me of my station every five seconds."
"Well I'd rather not call you anything at all if you don't wish for me to refer to you by your station, m'lady," Vincent retorted, still somewhat respectful, even though he was a bit taken aback by her brashness. She seemed to be okay with 'm'lady', so she left it at that.
Vincent could tell that this was going to be a very treacherous journey in his quest to protect the princess. Gods give me strength, he prayed silently to himself.
I know this is literally one day after I finished writing 'Bound to You', but I couldn't stop and I didn't feel like doing my homework so I made this instead. Let me know if you have requests for characters or sub-plot bunnies (because I already know what I'm going to do for the main plot). Reviews and constructive criticism are, of course, always appreciated.