This week, I’ve got a flash fiction post that gives a glimpse into the lives of Leo’s parents before he was born. This takes place just after Leo’s father won Anne in the Equinox Hunt. The piece does contain some mild content that makes it best for those 13 and up. Nothing is shown or described. Just some mentions of violence and assault, but I know some readers may not be comfortable with this.

~~~

Anne ducked her head and watched the festivities go on around her. She’d tried her best not to end up here. But it hadn’t been good enough. She’d still lost, and now she was his. His wife. His trophy. Caladhor’s gaze roved over her, bringing with it reminders of the violence in the forest. Why hadn’t she run harder, faster?

She dropped her attention to her lap, refused to give him the satisfaction of her focus. He’d taken everything from her, just like the slavers had. Oh, he promised her that life would be better now that she was his. But she knew it wouldn’t be.

She knew what really went on behind closed doors. The tent walls were thin in the encampment. And no woman ever stayed completely silent when being forced. Even if she knew no help was coming. Instinct demanded that they at least try.

And she’d tried.

The men streamed up to their table, congratulated Caladhor, and leered at her. She shrank back in her seat. Caladhor didn’t rebuke them for their openly lustful gazes, but he also didn’t encourage it. Would he let them have her if they asked? Other women had suffered that fate after being crowned the Equinox Queen. If her King wasn’t pleased with her, he might loan her out to other men until she learned to please him as demanded. Ann bit her lip. Most women who were placed in that situation didn’t make it.

She stole a glance at Caladhor. He met her darting gaze with a wolfish smile and raised his wine glass to her. She stared down at her hands where they rested in her lap. Her fingers trembled, and her stomach flipped. What would he do to her if she didn’t please him?

“You look miserable.”

Her head snapped up. “W-what?”

“You look miserable.” Caladhor crossed his arms, nodded to a few passerbys who congratulated him. “You’ve been given one of the highest honors a woman of Ishtral can gain, but you look like someone has sentenced you to death.”

She turned her head away and choked back a sob. What did he expect? She had less freedom here than she’d had as a slave before Kiarhsu bought her, forced her to become a part of the Argosian chapter of Ishtral. Things had seemed better until Caladhor and other men started taking interest.

“What’s wrong, then? Not me, certainly.” He snorted. “You’re now the first wife of one of the elite of Ishtral. You’ll never want for anything.”

Except freedom. Affection. Tenderness. Everything that mattered in life. She gritted her teeth, and her fingers curled into fists.

“Answer me.” His voice deepened, threatened violence if she didn’t obey.

Tipping her head up, she turned to look at him. “How could you think this is an honor? I’m more a slave than ever before.”

“Nonsense. You’re going to be given the best the world can offer. I’m a generous man, Anne.”

What was his definition of generous? Certainly not hers.

“You don’t believe me. But I can be. If you’re good, if you do what you’re told, I’ll give you anything you desire. Anything at all. Even if you ask to keep any daughters you bear me. I’ll grant that wish too.”

Generous, for an Ishtralian. Girls were pawns at best and chattel at worst as far as Ishtralians were concerned. She narrowed her eyes. Was he serious? Or was he simply saying it to placate her? “I thought girls were useless burdens.”

“Not in my position. I can afford them, and I can get a high price from whoever wishes to wed our daughters.”

That was it then. She stiffened. It always went back to the money with him. Their daughters might be well-groomed, but they’d still be no better than property. She lowered her head again to head the tears welling up in her eyes. What had she done to anger the gods so greatly? Why would they allow such awful things to happen to her? To the world?

The events of the evening ran through her mind like cold water. She trembled as the festivities continued and more and more couples broke away from the fire to find their beds. Soon, she’d spend her wedding night with Caladhor. If the rough handling in the forest was any indicator, it wouldn’t be a good night.

A tear slipped down her cheek, and she closed her eyes with a deep breath. This was life now. She’d just have to make the best of it and hope for an escape. Maybe if she bore a son for Caladhor, he’d leave her alone. It was a long shot, but it was better than nothing.

She wiped away the tears when Caladhor wasn’t looking and squared her shoulders. There was no other choice. She would endure, and she would fight in the shadows to make sure that her children never became a monster like the one sitting beside her. She would wage war in her own way and pray that it would close in freedom or death.

Because if she couldn’t have her freedom, she would rather not live at all.

~~~

That’s all for this week! If you enjoyed it or would like to comment on it, please leave your feedback in the comments below. Have suggestions or things you’d like to see in future Flash Fiction Fridays? Leave those in the comments too!

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