Damsel in Wartime - Chapter 13

Printer-friendly version

IMG-20240507-WA0000(1).jpg

[TW]

The months that followed for Elara were worse than she could have ever imagined. She could never prove it but she believed Catalina or one of her ladies were spreading rumors about her. Rumors made all the more believable by Olmund who favored her presence more and more and disregarded that of his betrothed's.

The nightly summons continued to the point where she rarely slept in her own bed. While she was grateful that nothing more sinister ever happened, talks went rampant throughout the castle that she was trying for a baby with the King.

The ladies of the castle snickered at her passing, both noble and servants alike. Whenever she raised her concerns with the King, he dismissed her like he always did. Olmund remained innocent in all the proceedings, of course, content to play the part of the bewitched.

Princess Aurelia's coldness towards her was seen as proof of her insidious character and it wasn't long until Alicent and Sybil distanced themselves as well, preferring to feign ignorance when asked if the rumors were true.

Through no fault of her own, she had built up a terribly villainous reputation but still she managed. With each victory Olmund's troops secured month after month, she was able to steel herself in the hopes that her trials were almost over.

She simply had to hold on a bit longer.

Olmund simply had to claim victory and with each passing triumph allowing his army to advance deeper into Sigurd's territory, relief for Elara seemed within reach.

That was until Winter arrived and King Luis' soldiers who were from a much warmer climate stalled and simply refused to march any further in the snow.

The troops had settled in for the winter in some captured castle putting a dent in Elara's hopes of salvation.

The constant ridicule alongside the news of the halted battle sent her running to her room in a crying fit. She was tired. She wanted to go home. She hated everyone in that castle, except the one person that had always been on her side.

Aoife walked into the room that evening as she was crying and sat on the bed beside her.

"Enough" Aoife had said, "Elara, haven't you had enough?"

Elara turned to her with teary eyes, confused, "What do you mean?"

"The lying. We've all tried to be patient with you. I defended you even though you kept insisting you didn't like the King or want him"

"I haven't done anything wrong" The confusion on Elara's face slowly morphed into a look of disbelief.

"It's been months, Elara!" Aoife raised her voice, "You've been sleeping with him for months! Did it ever cross your mind that you're unmarried and no one will want you now?"

"I haven't--" Elara had begun to argue but knew how ridiculous she would sound. Who would believe that she'd spent countless nights in his chambers and remained a virgin? "I didn't want this. It's his fault. All of it is his fault!"

The tears she thought were dry flowed freely again. She felt trapped, cornered by all the misconceptions about her and none of it was her fault. She was doomed to this fate from the moment Olmund glanced in her direction that first day. Was there anything she could have done differently?

"It's the King's fault" Elara pleaded for Aoife to believe her. The person who had summoned her to his chambers night after night was left unscathed. Everyone in the castle took to punishing her as if she had any power where the King was concerned. The princess who knew the truth of the reason behind her proximity to him did and said nothing to help her.

"Don't play dumb" Aoife hissed at her, "Everyone knows Princess Catalina asked you to keep away from him and you refused. I know the truth now, I can't believe I ever defended you"

"What was I supposed to do? I can't tell the King 'no'"

Elara felt betrayed and hard done by. She didn't deserve any of it.

"You keep pretending to be this innocent girl and I've had enough. I should have known all along," Aoife continued, "You knew how Sybil felt about Lord Beorn and still you threw yourself at him. All those archery lessons, what a joke. Was the King not enough for you? Who else are you lusting after?"

Elara was tired of crying. She focused on stopping the tears and to do that, she knew she had to harden her heart. There was no one else on her side. She stared with a blank expression at Aoife as she clamored to her heart's content.

In her mind, she repeated the words, 'I have done nothing wrong'.

She repeated the words in her mind until Aoife finished pouring her frustration.

"How shameless" Those were the last words she heard the girl who used to be her closest friend say.

At that moment, Elara decided to accept the role everyone so easily forced on her. She would be their villain.

=^..^=

It took four more months for the winter to pass and for the Luis' soldiers to resume their conquest. Four months that were the loneliest she'd ever been. With the war halted for so long, Gawen scarcely visited leaving her with not a single friendly face.

She often thought about Thurstan and about where he might have been holed up. She tried her best to fight away the thought that he might be dead already, one of many casualties of war.

It was as plausible a scenario as any. After all, Olmund's troops had devastated much of Sigurd's army in the months leading up to winter. The thought that she might have delivered a letter to Olmund that aided in Thurstan's demise was too much to bear.

She could withstand the hostility and snide remarks from the women of the court but Thurstan's demise was something she couldn't bear to think about.

She often thought of Beorn who had set out months earlier with his troops. As much as she missed his presence in court, she found solace that he wasn't there to hear the things people said about her.

With no friendly faces left, she turned to the one person who still smiled as she approached. Olmund had isolated her until she began seeking his company. To his own surprise, he relished every last moment they spent together.

He began rushing through his daily kingly activities to hurry back to his chambers to find Elara lying on his bed reading a book or feeding the birds that perched by the window.

She was beautiful, perhaps the most beautiful woman that he'd ever seen. She was submissive yet opinionated, demure yet outspoken, all the things that made a perfect woman, and yet she wasn't one.

It was madness.

When he returned that evening and found her in his bed singing to herself while staring at the ceiling, he couldn't help but smile.

"That's a beautiful song" he commented.

She stopped immediately and sat up, allowing him a good look at her pretty lace chemise. The sight of her bare shoulders shouldn't have been so exciting.

"I wasn't singing it for you" she replied coldly.

No 'Your Majesty', no 'sire', no nothing. Nobody in the kingdom would have dared speak to him that way. It was part of her charm.

"Keep singing" he ordered.

He knew her game. She would pretend to scowl at him and show her discomfort, but she knew her place. After going through the motions of defiance, right on cue, she began singing.

As the beautiful sounds left her lips, he was reminded once again of just how much sin he wanted to commit with his hands on her body. But he never did.

He quietly took a seat on the bed as she concluded her song with an air of sorrow. He hung on her voice as it trailed away with the final note.

"My army is closing in on the capital city" Olmund began as soon as the air was quiet between them, "I leave tomorrow to join them and regain my throne"

There was a brief pause between the two before they spoke at the same moment.

"You're coming with me"

"Take me with you"

Neither one needed any convincing. Elara, least of all. There was nothing else there for her. Aurelia, Catalina, Alicent, Sybil, and Aoife. She wished to never lay eyes on any of them ever again.

=^..^=

Elara could finally breathe as she and Olmund left the city at the head of a company of around 80 soldiers. She had no regrets about how she left things with the girls that she once thought were her friends.

Judging from their sour expressions as she departed the castle that morning with the King, they didn't regard her any better than they'd done the past few months. As far as they were concerned, she still had Olmund in her clutches. Why else would he take her on his victory lap and not his future wife?

Elara was done taking their opinions into consideration. She breathed in the clean countryside air and settled for the long journey to the nation's official capital.

At first, she was greeted by the beautiful outdoors of the nation's countryside. It had brought her peace to be heading in the direction of home, but the farther the company traveled and especially as they crossed into Sigurd's territory, the more they were met with the destruction that the foreign troops had wrought.

Elara was distraught at the sight of burnt homes and hanged men. The real story hadn't reached Elara's ears in the castle. The common people of the kingdom had put up a resistance to what they perceived as an invasion from a foreign army that took from them as they pleased.

Just as Catalina had no control over the man she was to marry, Olmund had no control over the army she'd brought with her. It was turning out to be a dysfunctional misalliance but Olmund didn't care. The army had brought him everything he desired.

They had brought him to Fort Dunn, a massive stronghold seized from Sigurd's troops a few months before Winter. It was a highly strategic location that allowed Olmund's forces to limit the supplies that reached the capital city leading to a harsh winter for those that lived in it.

Olmund couldn't contain his excitement as his carriage rolled through the gates of Fort Dunn and found his soldiers well-rested and preparing to take the Capital City. His throne was within his reach.

"Lord Beorn, my good man" Olmund exited the carriage happily and greeted his Grand Marshal, "You have done well"

"At your service, my King" Elara heard Beorn reply as she too stepped out of the carriage and their eyes met for the first time in months.

He looked haggard and exhausted, not at all like a man who had rested comfortably throughout Winter.

"Are the boys ready?" Olmund forced his arm around the larger man's shoulder and patted his back.

"At your order, sire" Beorn replied, "Sigurd looks to be preparing an offensive of his own"

"A foolish endeavor" Olmund laughed, "How many men does he yet have?"

"Five to seven thousand able-bodied, but this is their home, they know they land. I expect they will plan to use that advantage"

"I'm sure there's nothing to worry about," Olmund said heartily, "How many men do we have? Thirteen thousand?"

"Eleven" Beorn corrected, "But ours are disjointed armies that are better suited to fighting separately. We intend to separate the enemies' attention by attacking on two different fronts. I have deployed scouts to identify where Sigurd plans to make his attack and plan accordingly"

"Good, good" Olmund nodded.

"There remains the wildcard of peasants joining Sigurd's effort--"

Olmund patted his back twice before stepping away, "I trust you will bring me victory. I trust you"

Beorn paused his report and bowed to the King.

"If my uncle is foolish enough to meet you on the battlefield, I want him alive" Olmund stepped back towards Beorn and warned him.

"Of course, Your Majesty"

Elara remained quiet as she watched the exchange between the two men. She also tried to ignore the stares she was receiving from the men of Fort Dunn.

"I will have him kiss my feet and beg my forgiveness before I cut off his head" The look on Olmund's face as he spoke terrified Elara but she did her best not to show it. More terrifying though was how easily his intense expression shifted to a pleasant one in the blink of an eye, "Show me to my room. Let's go, Elara" he finished.

Elara glanced in Beorn's direction one more time before quietly following the King through the fort's main doors.

=^..^=

Later that day, Elara took to exploring the fort and was exposed to the horrible treatment the servant women received. Whether they were being beaten for a trivial mistake of dropping something, or forced to shine the soldiers' armor until their fingers bled, the justification for that treatment as far as Elara gathered was that they were caught fighting for or aiding the usurper.

Those women were the wives, sisters, and daughters of the men and boys who fought for Sigurd either as part of his army or as part of smaller rebellions. Whatever their crimes, they didn't deserve that treatment.

It reached a tipping point for Elara when she passed a large dining hall and found two of Luis' soldiers taking one of the servant girls right there on the table. She looked no older than Elara did. It made her feel sick.

"Get away from her!" Elara screamed at them as she barged into the hall.

"Why? You want to replace her?" One of the soldiers sneered while examining her with a lustful expression. The same accent that had sounded elegant coming out of Catalina's mouth sounded foul coming from his, "Fancy whore, aren't you? You look good and clean too"

Elara's focus remained on the girl who lay exhausted on the dining table.

"Oi" The second shoulder nudged at his friend with a panicked expression.

"Come here, pretty girl," he said while stroking himself, "Let me please you"

The other soldier said something in their language Elara hadn't understood but she'd clearly heard Olmund's name among the jumble of words.

She witnessed the panicked expression form on his face as he hurriedly covered himself.

"I-- Sorry, my lady," He said finally before scurrying out of sight.

Elara paid him no more mind, her focus was on the young girl on the table. She hurried to the girl and touched her shoulder gently. She barely moved and she looked to be in a horrible state.

Elara felt her eyes water. Suddenly all her problems felt trivial in comparison. She'd been comfortable in Olmund's castle while people like this girl suffered out in the real world. She'd lamented over the unfair treatment she'd received from the court ladies while there were people subjected to such horrors.

Elara saw the girl's lips move and heard weak sounds escape her lips. It looked like she was trying to tell her something.

Elara brought her face closer to hear what the girl was trying to say and to her surprise, the girl spat in her face.

Elara had been shocked at first but when she saw the girl's weak smile as her head fell back down to rest on the table, she understood.

She used a portion of her long, pretty dress to clean the tears and saliva from her face.

Even here, they saw her as the devil. She was the woman who accompanied the wicked King, Olmund who had brought death and destruction upon them. They hated her, and they were right to do so.

Sigurd's army stood no chance in large part due to her involvement. The letters she'd passed on to Olmund for months had left these people defenseless. She was just as much to blame as Olmund, Sigurd, Cedric, or anyone else.

She'd tried to convince herself that she did it all for Thurstan but he'd suffered from her actions as well. He was somewhere in the ruined nation and she had no idea if he was alive or dead.

No, she was the only one left unscathed. She was the only one left dressed in pretty frills while everyone else wore rags. She was the only one with a full belly while everyone else starved.

=^..^=

"It's my fault," She said repeatedly under her breath as she stood atop a hill a few days later watching Olmund's foreign army decimate what was left of Sigurd's malnourished men.

Beorn's estimates were entirely off. There weren't even four thousand men in the end and many were in no state to fight. They appeared on that battlefield with only one goal in mind, to protect their home from invaders. They failed miserably.

Elara watched Olmund with a horrified expression as she observed the nonchalance he displayed when faced with the death of thousands of his supposed subjects.

He saw the carnage as a necessary evil. A small price to pay to reclaim his throne and with the total victory he'd just secured, there was just one last battle left to fight. He would lay siege to the capital city and whether they opened the gates willingly or whether he would have to burn the city to the ground, he was sure that he would be sitting on the throne of his father before the month was done.

=^..^=

That night, after what was left of Sigurd's forces had scurried back beyond the city walls and Olmund was drunk both from his victory and an ungodly amount of wine, he returned to the tent he shared with Elara.

She'd been by his side as he secured his latest victory and he wanted to celebrate with her and toast to many more victories with her by his side.

He found her sleeping beneath the furs of their makeshift bed in the tent. She looked so perfect lying there. He grew hard almost instantly. He no longer cared that she wasn't a woman. He was destined to be with her.

He took quiet steps forward and climbed into bed with her. She woke up immediately with a panicked expression. Olmund wondered if she'd been crying when he noticed that her eyes were red and puffy.

He crawled over to her and placed himself on top of her. She didn't say any words in response but she looked terrified. It made the whole thing that much more enticing.

He couldn't wait any longer. He pressed his lips into hers and ignored her muffled cries as she fought him. He was easily able to hold both her hands in one of his and use the other to explore her perfect body. He particularly loved her waist and thighs.

She struggled to free herself which only enticed him further. Everything she did was perfect. He kissed her to his satisfaction before covering her mouth with his free hand.

"Elara please, we're adults" he smiled at her angry expression. There was a fire in her eyes he'd never seen before, and it only served to tempt him even more "I know you want this as much as I do"

In response, she let out only a muffled sound in defiance.

"I want you, Elara. I need you" he leaned in and kissed her neck.

He must have loosened his grip covering her mouth because she was able to bite his hand. Olmund winced in pain and then slapped her hard across her face. Her world spun and her eyes rang from the incredible pain. She'd had to read his lips to decipher his words.

"No, no, no, no, no, no!" Olmund repeated, "Look what you made me do! Don't make me hurt you, Elara! I don't want to hurt you ever"

She felt dizzy and soon tears rolled down her cheeks into the fur beneath her.

"Help," she said weakly. The words were barely loud enough to leave the tent, but no one was coming. Even without the victory songs being sung and the cheers outside drowning out her voice, no one would dare interrupt the King. The tears poured. "Please"

"Shhh" Olmund brought his finger to her lips before he spun her around and raised her skirt.

"Your Majesty, please don't" she begged.

"Shhh" Olmund repeated as he raised her underskirt and moved her underwear aside.

It was the most unimaginable pain that followed and it caused her to lose track of time and fall in and out of consciousness several times. Every time she came to, it was that awful moan from Olmund that reminded her what was going on. Repeated and very loudly, Olmund pushed himself into her. She buried her head in the fur, cried, and waited for the pain to stop.

Minutes? Hours? She wasn't sure how long it was before Olmund finally collapsed in the bed beside her satisfied. Without a concern in the world, he wrapped his arm around her and kissed her neck once more.

"Marry me," he said softly. Elara tried to focus on the roar of the celebrations outside the tent. Anything to keep from listening to him. Still, his voice and the meaning of his words pierced her skull.

When he received no response, he continued, "You should be my Queen, not that woman"

No response.

"Marry me and we can rule this kingdom together..." His voice trailed off.

Elara waited but there were no more words, just the soft sounds of snoring. He had shattered her into a million pieces and now he was sleeping peacefully. It angered her to no end.

"Olmund," she said his name softly at first then again, louder.

Just snoring. He was fast asleep. The bastard was fast asleep.

She carefully lifted his hand off her and rolled out of the bed. The look of his content face as he slept sent waves of anger throughout her body.

She quietly made her way towards the table where there was freshly baked bread, a cooked pheasant, cups of wine, and a sharp silver knife.

She gripped the knife hard as her tears flowed freely. She knew he had changed her forever, turned her into this person she no longer recognized.

She closed her eyes and gripped the knife harder until her fingers hurt. By the time her eyes opened once more, there was nothing left but her resolve.

With smooth, even steps, she made her way back across the room and buried the silver knife in his neck.

=^..^=

.

.

.

.

.

.

Thanks for reading as hard as it might have been. I'd love to hear your thoughts so far.

up
74 users have voted.
If you liked this post, you can leave a comment and/or a kudos! Click the "Thumbs Up!" button above to leave a Kudos

Comments

I was wondering how long it would be…..

D. Eden's picture

Before Olmund raped her. And I had anticipated Elara killing Olmund -the only question was how and when it would happen.

In my opinion, she waited way too long before doing it.

D. Eden

Dum Vivimus, Vivamus

Whoops!

Emma Anne Tate's picture

Well, that happened fast! Now Elara needs to get away, in a great big hurry. In theory, she has a great disguise. But I doubt, after all these months, she’ll be very credible.

With Olmund dead and Sigurd on the edge of defeat, what will happen? Will the cold sister continue the war? Will Catalina take over? Maybe Beorn? It’s a great deal of chaos and destruction, and while Elara did not instigate it, she definitely helped foment it. Is there anything she can do to make things better?

Great cliff hanger, Emma!

Emma

Omg amazing analysis

Emma's picture

Can't wait for you to read the rest of the story :)

Me Too!

joannebarbarella's picture

I can't wait for the rest of the story. Please, Please, finish it this time.

I think many of us were waiting for Elara to take her revenge on Olmund, and it was well deserved. Will there be a happy ending to all of this? I don't know, but I really want to.

Don't make me wait too long!