Chapter 1: The Knight Returning to The West
The Eastern Prince, The Western Knight
Earth 53: Prince Snart/Knight Lance
Part I: The Knight Returning To The West
Sara makes camp along the north shore of Storm Lake, just outside the capital of the Eastern Empire, Central City. It would only take another hour or so to reach the city and subsequently an inn, but she has no intention of getting pulled into the recent strife.
The King and Queen have been killed in their beds by assassins, the Crown Prince is missing, presumed to have fled for his life and the Princess is squared away in a secure summer home until she comes of age to take the throne. In the meantime, various heads of state are volunteering their services to run the kingdoms until either the prince could be found or the princess came of age.
Either way, Central City and the entirety of the Eastern Empire are in for a rough few years while the government reorganized themselves, and, assuming none of the other empires decide to take advantage, that alone could stall everything from trade and commerce to simple peace keeping.
Sara doesn’t envy them and it isn’t her concern anymore. Even though admitting that breaks her heart just a little bit more.
With a fire warming her camp, her horse watered and grazing, and her fresh kill cleaned and cooking on a spit, Sara sits back with her knives and begins the process of sharpening each one. By the time she finishes, neatly replacing each knife in their proper hiding place, her dinner is ready. Slicing her kill into pieces she eats quietly, keeping a careful eye on her surroundings. She doubts anyone from the city would travel beyond the wall, especially with everything that has been going on, but it won’t do to be caught off guard. The last thing she needs is to get pulled in, not when she has her own mission to finish.
With that thought in mind she tenses as she notices her horse begin to react to the brush around the camp. The loud snap of a branch draws her attention behind her and she stands, drawing her sword.
“If you’re looking for trouble, you will find an abundance of it.” she calls into the darkness. The rustling of movement halts for a moment before beginning again, this time closer. She coils, her muscles ready to strike out at a moments notice. The tension builds as the rustling continues and then, all at once it passes, the foliage parting to reveal the most beautiful snow leopard she has ever laid eyes on. “A little far south aren’t you?” she mutters, knowing it can’t understand her.
Sara lowers her sword. She isn’t foolish enough to think it isn’t dangerous, but with the way it’s eyeing what’s left of her dinner, she supposes it could be worse. Without taking her eyes off the animal she leans down, scooping up the old wooden bowl that holds the rest of the meat and then in one graceful movement, throws it toward the animal, landing just at its feet.
The animal stares her down for another minute before snapping up the meat and scarfing it down. When it is done, licking the grease from around it’s muzzle, it watches her, and for a Sara worries it will make a move for her horse, or worse, her. But then just as quickly as it arrived, it leaves, disappearing back into the brush.
When she is sure it’s gone, she re-sheathes her sword and retakes her seat, adding logs to the fire. In the silence, she finds herself fixating on the cat. Even with winter so close, it’s strange to see snow Leopards so close to the capital. Between regular travel on the trade routes between the Northern Empire and the Empires to its south, and Central city’s recent expansion, the leopard population has stuck mainly to the mountains in the North, avoiding people where possible. This one must have been desperate to approach her.
As the fire begins to die, Sara secures her belongings and prepares for bed. As the embers die she slips beneath the animal skins and drifts into a light sleep.
Waking to the frost is the most prevalent sign that winter is coming. The grass and brush around her camp are coated in a weightless white ice, silencing the world. It is a sharp and a welcome contrast to the all too real nightmares that plague her.
Sara rises and goes about her morning routine, deciding to skip breakfast in order to push on. She packs up her supplies, loading her horse and climbing up into the saddle, spurring the black steed gently forward. Debonair, a name her sister had given the beautiful black horse, moves at a sedate pace through the Eastern Wilderness, conserving energy for the long journey ahead. They have several weeks worth of travel to go, regardless of how fast they move, and after everything that has happened, Sara is not entirely eager to get home.
When the sun is high in the sky, Sara is traveling through a short, but deep canyon. The high walls provide some shade from the glaring sun, but it also makes her vulnerable to ambush. It is because of this that her awareness is heightened, and because of that she notices her tail.
The snow leopard from the previous night is several hundred yards behind her, ducking in and out of rocky outcroppings. It’s not stalking. She knows if it were it would not be in the canyon with her, rather the cliffs overhead. She can’t get a very good look at it without letting it know she’s aware it’s there, so she pushes on, carefully picking out the sound of its enormous paws better suited to the snow than the gravel strewn canyon.
Near the end of the canyon, the tiny stream that flowed down the center opens into a small lake, crystal clear and refreshingly cool. She decides to stop to let her horse drink. She’ll need to eat soon as well, but for now, she’s more interested in taking advantage of the cool water. Her leather armor and chainmail are thick and trap the heat in rather well. At night this is a good thing, but now, with the sun beating down on her, it is anything but.
She notes that the leopard has moved in closer, watching her with cool blue eyes, but she still does not acknowledge it. She does, however, notice that it’s carrying something in its jaws, though she can not see what it is. Ignoring it, she strips from her armor and under wraps and slides into the cool water, sighing as the sweat and dirt washes away. She swims around a bit, eventually diving under the surface for one final cool down. When she surfaces, the leopard is sitting on the rock ledge around the lake, watching her closely. On the ground in front of him sits an enormous fish, dead, obviously, and from the looks of it fresh.
Sara moves through the water slowly, but quickly realizes the leopard isn’t going anywhere. When she’s close enough to reach out for it, he uses its snout to push the fish toward her, indicating that it’s for her. She’s confused to say the least, but she smiles softly at him.
“Well aren’t you sweet.” she says, watching him look away as she hoists herself from the water. She smirks. “And a gentleman too.” she continues, leaning closer to scratch at his ears. There’s a deep rumbling purr as he leans into her touch. This animal is surprisingly emotive, and she considers that it could be touched by magic. It’s not unheard of for animals to have some magical property to them, either an understanding of humans or an affinity toward sorcerers.
Sara let the thought go though, there’s no reason to be alarmed by a magically inclined animal. She braids up her hair and lays out on the rocks to dry, fully aware that the leopard will not look at her.
After a quick doze in the sun, Sara stands, redresses and packs the fish away in an empty rations bag. She’ll have to stop again in a few hours and she can eat it then. As she mounts Debonair, she notices the Leopard watching her again and as soon as she begins to move on, it follows, this time with her, instead of at her back.
“Tagging along?” she asks, though she doesn’t expect an answer, magical or not. “Better stick close then, it’s a long journey.”
The leopard merely picks up the pace to stay at her side.
It’s a little surreal, having a snow leopard following her around, but she supposes it’s better than something that isn’t quite so friendly. She sets up camp, gutting and cleaning the fish before sticking it on a spit to roast while she goes about her other chores. The leopard watches her, laying on a log near the fire and flicking his tail back and forth.
By the time she finishes, the fish is cooked and she slices it up, giving the larger portion to the leopard. They eat in companionable comfort and when they finish, Sara cleans up, and then crawls into her bed. She’s just dozing off when she feels the leopard move up beside her, curling against her side and purring softly as it too falls asleep.
The next few weeks continue on in much the same way. They travel forward, they eat, they sleep, they push on. Sara’s single minded determination to get where she’s going allows for no detours. They don’t stop in villages for more than a meal, they don’t detour into passing cities and they don’t interact with other travelers to do more than exchange information about the road ahead and behind.
Within a month they’ve crossed the border between the Eastern and Western Empires and it is here that the autumn leaves are the most vibrant red Sara has ever remembered seeing them. They used to be her favorite, the colors dancing in the cooling breeze, twirling, blending like the colors of her favorite court gown. Now they appear blood soaked, dripping with the nightmares that plague her, with the sins she’s committed in a desperate bid for revenge. She can feel the emotions trying to overwhelm her, but she won’t let them, not yet. There’s still a ways to go before she can give in to that.
The leopard is a steady presence at her side, a friend she did not know she needed. It has only been herself and Debonair for so long, the presence of another makes her feel like she’s not quite as alone as she’s felt for nearly a year, maybe longer. She spares a look down at him and he looks back up, those crystal clear eyes rather grounding in their intensity.
The first clap of thunder startles her. She’s been so caught up in her thoughts she’s failed to notice the dark clouds rolling in. Before the first drops can fall, Sara has the saddle canopy set up, shielding her from the coming downpour. She halts Debonair without forethought, gesturing for the leopard to join her in the saddle. He doesn’t respond at first, but with the first drops of rain he jumps up in front of her, curling up behind the saddle horn and against her stomach. She chuckles, listening to him purr as she removes a riding glove and runs her fingers through his thick spotted fur.
“Alright, let’s find shelter.” she says, spurring Debonair on.
Shelter comes in the form of an abandoned waystation. The roof of both the internal structure and the horse rest are intact surprisingly enough, and Sara ties Debonair up under the canopy, removing her belongings and the saddle and dries him off as best she can before wrapping him in a horse blanket. Once he’s taken care of she joins the leopard inside, immediately getting a fire going in the firepit at the center of the room. The rain would prevent her from hunting tonight, so they would have to settle for the dried rations she’s kept for moments like this. Luckily she hadn’t needed to cut into them before now, and she has plenty to keep the leopard fed.
He’s clearly not thrilled with the arrangement, and she tries not to laugh as he wrestles with the tough deer jerky. Judging by the very cat like glare, she failed miserably.
They manage to make it through dinner and Sara sits quietly for some time, staring into the flames. Her journey is coming to an end. Another week and she’ll be home, ready to tell her family about her travels. Another week and it’ll all be over… and then what… and then nothing. There is no afterward for her. Her life in the last two years has been a long and angry stretch of revenge. She’s dark now, her soul twisted, the ideals of the knighthood she worked so hard for thrown aside.
There is nothing left after this.
Sara startles from her thoughts at the feeling of the Leopard, digging his head under her arm. He rubs against her side, laying his chin on her thigh. She smiles softly.
She supposes there has been some good to come from all of this. She’s made a friend, as strange as that seems, in this creature. Perhaps it senses that they are kin. Dangerous, deadly, predators. Though she can’t imagine an animal that prefers it’s meat cooked and likes to cuddle, is a cold blooded killer. Maybe she’s spending too much time overthinking it. It’s hard not to dwell on certain things, but perhaps she’s overestimated the darkness inside her, because she’d be damned if she said she didn’t like when he cuddled up or if she had ever eaten raw fish.
Sara sighs and lays down on the bench around the firepit, curling around the leopard and drifting off to thoughts of a dark and dismal future.
Sara grew up the second daughter of Quentin Lance, second councilman to the king of the Western Empire. Sara was groomed from an early age in the ways of the state and the etiquette of ladyship. But Quentin Lance, like most of the King’s council was an open minded man and the knights of his territory were not limited by gender. It was in watching the knights on the practice field, that Sara fell in love with knighthood.
Her father hadn’t been thrilled, but he knew Sara was a free spirit, she always had been, so he let her train with the knights as long as she agreed to continue her studies in politics and edicate. Sara readily agreed and her training began in earnest. And like all things in life, Sara threw herself into it full heartedly. To her she saw nothing but benefit, but her parents and family lamented, at least in private, the loss of a marriageable daughter. Bless them, they would never say that to her, or suggest that she needed to marry, but her father wanted lots of grandchildren at the very least.
Eventually they made a deal. Sara would wait to take the knighthood until her twenty-first birthday, four years later than most young squires began proceedings. In those four years Sara would continue her training, but she was also expected to attend state dinners and political functions, including accompanying her father to the Capitol for council meetings.
At first she hadn’t liked the idea, but she quickly grew to like it. She hadn’t been aware that her father had fended off offers of marriage on her behalf, informing the nobles that she was in training as a squire and would decide for herself to marry or ascend to knighthood. So there was a grudging respect among them whenever she was near. She had also made a name for herself as a protector. Never backing down from a fight when someone needed help. This put her in favor with all classes of people.
There was no peasant class in the Western Empire. The king was a fair and just man who didn’t believe any individual should horde wealth they didn’t need nor would ever use, so taxes and resources were distributed, not necessarily equally, but no one ever had to live without so long as there was surplus. There had been unheavel when he took the throne and implemented these laws, but soon the empire began to thrive, outshining the south, north and eastern empires, and the discord settled. The Eastern Empire, the West’s closest ally, had followed suit and they too thrived, ensuring a lasting peace and lucrative trade between the West and East.
Unfortunately that peace did not extend to the South.
The North was the smallest empire on the continent, and was harsh and cold. The people of the north were well adapted to the living conditions and they lived off the land and sea. They traded with the West and East and occasionally the South, but they had no interest in war or extending their borders, so they minded their own, the monarchy attending gatherings as expected and nothing more.
The South was another story altogether. Years of strife and intolerance had bred hatred in the South. Those who were thought of as different or not useful were shunned or castout, forcing them to seek refuge in the East or West. They were hostile at their borders and their trade with the East and West was stilted at best. They over taxed traders importing and exporting until finally very few traders were willing to work with their own traders any longer. This impacted their economy astronomically and in retaliation, civil war broke out. From the strife rose a leader who only saw an opportunity for his own benefit.
Using the backs of the disenfranchised he stoked their fears of difference and poverty, promising them wealth and glory. He built an army and that army overthrew the monarchy. He then proceeded to bleed the empire dry in the form of “necessary” laws and taxes. He told the people that what he took would rebuild the empire and in the long run they would thrive, but the money only filled his own pockets and the laws ensured a distraction from his deception.
It was Sara’s father who spoke openly against him. The yearly gathering of the four monarchs was tense, at best, to begin with, and it was only made worse by the blatant disrespect Darhk had for his peers. Many of the West’s high officials spoke out that day, but none spoke louder than Quentin Lance. Darhk did not appreciate the accurate accusations made against him and two months later, a small contingent of his army marched from the southern border into her family’s territory of responsibility and slaughter every man woman and child they came across, making their way like a plague toward the city center where they overpowered the guard and executed her family alongside every servant and soldier. They burned the city to the ground, slaughtered the cattle and destroyed the crop. By morning only her family’s castle remained, protected from the flames by the mountainous hill it was built upon.
Sara had not been there, she had accompanied her step sister to the Capital, Star City, summoned by the prince who had been courting Felicity for nearly a year. It was supposed to be a happy time, a time when her step sister was to finally be betrothed to the man she loved. Instead, it was a time of sorrow and misery as word spread throughout the continent.
There was no doubt to anyone who had committed the atrocity. They had not tried to hide their affiliations. The three remaining empires were furious, even the North pledged support in what promised to be a bloody conflict. The council of the Southern Empire saw what was coming and decided to cut their losses. No amount of wealth he could give them was worth the pikes waiting for their heads, so they overthrew him, imprisoning him and the soldiers who had marched into Western Territory. They promised to deliver the prisoners to the Western Capital as reparations for Darhk’s crimes and the council’s complacency in allowing him to run wild.
Darhk had seen the move coming though, and he formulated a plan. Upon transport, he and the majority of his men escaped, disappearing into the East. A contingent of hunters and soldiers were put together, most of them volunteers, and were sent out after the escaped prisoners, but while they found his army and defeated them, Darhk was still nowhere to be found.
Sara’s friends and stepsister had struggled against her will for months, trying to keep her in place and away from the fight, but Darhk’s final escape was the last straw and in the dead of night she rode off on Debonair, her finest sword and most faithful weapons in tow and for a year she tracked him. Tracked him through every empire, across open terrain and thick forests. She tracked him up mountains and across rivers. And then she found him, in a little seaside town. Having bought passage across the sea, he was preparing to leave the continent, but he wouldn’t make it.
Damien Darhk was an expert swordsman. As a con artist he’d spent years learning various trades and skills to better his cons and combat was among them. He almost beat her, almost, but the more she fought the more her rage slipped away and the seething, boiling of anger that had driven her all this way quieted. It was in that moment that she saw her opening and she struck, killing him instantly.
When it was fully understood by witnesses what had happened she was heralded a hero, but she did not feel like a hero. A messenger was sent from the nearby city to spread the news of Darhk’s demise and with him rode Darhk’s head, proof of her revenge. His skull would undoubtedly be displayed as a spoil of war in the Capital.
She was given free room and board until her wounds could heal and when she was fit to leave she did, thanking the villagers for their kind hospitality.
She was recognizable wherever she went on her trek back to the West. It was hard not to see the young woman in white leathers and chainmail riding a massive black horse. So she avoided people wherever possible, and continued the slow trek home to tell her family of her victory.
Castle Lance is stark white compared to the blackened scorched earth that surrounds it. The black shingled roof is dusted with snow giving the castle a look of peace and serenity. If she couldn’t see the burned out remains of the city or the numerous new headstones in neat straight lines along the city’s edge, it would elicit that serenity.
She rides Debonair in a slow line passed the graves, paying her respects to each and every one as they pass. She knows these people, she knows them all by name. They are just as much family as her flesh and blood. They were innocent people, working hard to feed their families, to have happy lives and it was all taken away in a single night.
The ground still smells of ash and blood as she rides the path up the mountain side. The gate is still in splintered pieces, hanging off of its hinges and she weaves Debonair through the broken structures.
The Leopard, who has been dozing in the saddle in front of her, sits up as they stop and she moves to dismount. He watches her as she makes her way through a stone archway, pushing the wrought iron gates open and stepping through. He jumps up onto the wall to the left of the gate, laying out on the top and watching as she kneels before a set of graves.
“It’s over.” she says to the stones. “I got him. He’s dead.” she continues. The emotions she’s been holding back for months are welling up and here, in this place she knows she can let them go. “I’m sorry I wasn’t here to protect you.” she says, tears slipping down her cheeks and she struggles to hold back a sob. “But I got him. I stopped him, he can’t hurt anyone ever again.”
Sara doubles over as the sob breaks free, her body shaking as she loses grip on the control she’s struggled with since this all began. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.” she whispers gasping for breath. She repeats it over and over again until she can’t breathe.
Sara startles as a big furry grey head intrudes in her vision. She looked down, surprised to see the leopard staring right back at her. For the first time since they’ve crossed paths she catches something familiar in his eyes. A familiarity in the glassy blue orbs.
He nuzzles under her chin with his snout and cuddles up to her chest, purring gently. Sara wraps her arms around him, running her fingers through his fur and finding the well of emotions finally settling.
It’s in the quiet of the late afternoon as they sit at her family’s graves that clarity trickles in. An overwhelming idea that seems too crazy to be true. She unwinds her arms from around the leopard, pulling back to look him in the eyes again. The familiarity is stronger than ever now, and the longer she stares, the less she doubts herself.
“Len?” she asks, her voice a hoarse whisper. She watches as the cats eyes grow larger in a too human expression of surprise, and she knows, she knows she’s right. “Oh god, Len.”
Chapter 2: The Prince Running From The East
The Eastern Prince, The Western Knight
Earth 53: Prince Snart/Knight Lance
Part II: The Prince Running From The East
Zaman Druce will die by Leonard Snart’s decree. He will watch him with a sadistic glee, begging for his life, for the mercy he did not show his parents, on the execution grounds. Leonard will revel in the sniveling coward’s cries, and he will watch in satisfaction as he is made to face the ultimate judgement.
Leonard Snart, Crown Prince of the Eastern Empire, Heir to the throne in Central and responsible for the well-being of all its people, would have to wait for his revenge however. At least until he figures out how to break the curse Druce’s ally has placed on him.
Leonard has been adept at magic for years. It’s not a well known fact, except by those he trusts most. Most of his magic is spent on little things, most notably shapeshifting. He likes taking the shape of the animal that most suits him, a snow leopard, and sneaking around the castle grounds and city proper. As a prince he does not get the luxury of interacting with his people in a way he would like, but as a cat, no matter how rare one like him is in the city center, he can see and hear all the things he would not hear, locked away in the castle. Things, he was angered to discover, that were being kept from him and his family.
There was something foul rising up in the empire, a coup not unlike the one in the south nearly a decade before. Leonard was confident that the people would see passed the disodents, but in the meantime innocent people were likely to be hurt. He brought all of this and the evidence he had uncovered to the attention of his father who was angered to know that his most trusted advisor was working against him. He told Leonard to keep it to himself for now. He wanted to get Lisa out of the city in case something happened and only when they knew she was safe would they rid the world of Zaman Druce.
Unfortunately, Druce struck first, murdering his parents in their bed. Druce’s own ally, Declan, whom Leonard had trusted with his secret of magical proficiency, came after him, forcing him to shift and locking him into the form. He’d just barely escaped capture, undoubtedly intending to ship him off on the animal trade where he would be lost for the rest of his life, bounding into the woods. They didn’t pursue him, most likely under the assumption that he was helpless and using their mistake, he slipped away.
Zaman would come to regret that decision, Leonard would make sure of it.
Three days later he’s starving, and he considers that they may have been right about his helplessness. Despite being in animal form he’s still human and the dangers of consuming raw meat are unknown. He can’t risk eating anything without knowing for sure how it will affect him, not while he is out of his element and alone. It’s on the third night, around storm lake to the west of the city, that he smells cooking meat. He should probably be more careful, but all he’s eaten for three days are berries and non toxic mushrooms.
Her voice breaks through the hunger and he freezes. “If you’re looking for trouble, you will find an abundance of it.” at that moment it’s the most beautiful sound he’s ever heard and after a moment more he continues forward, pushing through the brush.
Sara Lance, daughter of second councilman, Quentin Lance, stands before him like an avenging angel in white leather armor and the finest silver chain mail Eastern craftsman could forge. Chain mail, he’s proud to say, that he gifted her on her eighteenth name day. She’s as stunning now as the last time he laid eyes on her, the night she left the western capital in her quest for vengeance.
His stomach pulls him from his thoughts and his eyes find the bowl of meat sitting beside the fire. He stares, salivating at the smell of it. Her movement catches his eye and he watches as she puts her sword down before scooping up the bowl and tossing what’s left of her dinner toward him. He hesitates, watching her before he throws away all princely perceptions and scarfs it down. Desperately he licks the grease from his muzzle, watching her watch him. It occurs to him that she probably thinks he’s a threat so, he turns and walks away, disappearing the way he came but sticking close to her camp.
Leonard watches her sleep from a tree in the shadows, lamenting the loss of life in her eyes. There was a time not so long ago that Leonard remembered the spark in her brilliant blue eyes. The edge of mischief that drew him to her to begin with. There was no sign of it when he met her eyes earlier, no joy, or mischief. She was haunted and quite frankly he couldn’t blame her.
When he’d gotten word that Darhk had escaped the hunters looking for him, his thoughts immediately went to Sara. He was in Star City when the messengers brought word and remembers all to clearly the seething rage that boiled behind her eyes. There was nothing he could do, no amount of pleading or confessions of love could convince her to stay, he knew that, so in the morning when he awoke and she was gone, he wasn’t surprised. He only prayed he would be lucky enough to see her again.
This wasn’t what he had in mind for their reunion however. In fact, in his mind he had seen a lot more imported silk and a lot less fur.
In the morning he watches as she packs up her camp, making sure her horse is watered before mounting him and pushing on. It does not escape his notice that she hasn’t eaten breakfast. He stays put as she rode out of sight, confident that he can find her again, and dives into the lake, fishing out the biggest one he can comfortably carry and trying not to think about how raw it is. He decides, as he carries the fish in his jaws, that picturing exactly what he’s going to do to Druce and Declan when he sees them again helps him ignore the taste and smell.
He’s not trying to hide the fact that he’s following her, so he’s not surprised that she notices him, nor is he surprised that she doesn’t seem concerned with his proximity. She surprises him as she strips off her armor and undercloth, and by reaction he bites down on the fish a little too hard, forcing him to drop it as he gags.
When he looks up again she’s in the water and he reluctantly takes up the fish again and inches his way forward. He reaches the edge as she dives under, and after a quick drink to get rid of the taste he lays down, watching the surface as he waits for her to come up again. When she does, she seems surprised to see him so close and she swims a little closer. When she’s in reaching distance of the ledge, he pushes the fish toward her with his snout, feeling proud when she smiles at him.
“Well aren’t you sweet.” she says.
“Damn right I… oh shit.” he thinks to himself, looking away as she hoists herself out of the water and sits beside him.
“And a gentleman too.” her voice is teasing and he wills himself not to think about the last time he was blessed enough to see her this way. The way she scratches behind his ear does not help and he finds himself not only leaning into her hand, but purring like a kitten. He was fairly certain he had never purred before in the form.
She’s lying out beside him, still bare, enjoying the sun and dozing and his will power is tested. He may have seen her like this before, but she doesn’t know it’s him in this body, and it feels wrong to take advantage of that, no matter how wonderful her fingers feel stroking through his fur.
Seriously, why does that feel so good?
Leonard finally relaxes as she gets up and redresses, stowing the fish and mounting Debonair, he’d always liked the name Laurel gave the enormous black steed, before moving on. Leonard falls in step with her and she looks down.
“Tagging along?” she asks, though he suspects she doesn’t expect an answer. “Better stick close then, it’s a long journey.”
He picks up his pace.
Sara moves around the camp, doing various chores. She’s already gutted and cleaned the fish which was an experience all on it’s own. Leonard considers, not for the first time, that he may be a bit sheltered, possibly spoiled as he watches her do things he doesn’t ever think about needing done day to day. He’s seen Sara on the practice fields, he knows she can fight, he knows she’s a skilled warrior, but watching her now, here, it’s different. It’s more proof of how versatile she is. Here in the light of the campfire she’s a stark contrast to the beautiful noble woman he met so long ago in his father’s court. He finds his affection for her growing in these moments.
Sara came into his life like all noble women come into his life. At a feast. She’s laughing with her sister, her sapphire blue gown catching the light. She’s absolutely radiant as she smiles and laughs, dancing with her sister to court music and enjoying the court jesters antics.
He works up the nerve to speak to her near the end of the night, requesting a dance, something he never does, he hates to dance, usually ignoring the women who try to catch his attention. She smiles up at him, mischief cutting across her gaze and drawing him in even further. She agrees and just like that they’re in each other's lives for good.
She’s in Central for the next two weeks and they grow close in that time. He’s surprised to hear about her squire ship, but it fits. This vibrant, strong willed young woman being proficient with a sword, or any other weapon for that matter, sits perfectly well with the picture of her. There's zest for life in her eyes, a kind soul in her body, and a fierce spirit that burns bright.
He falls in love with her in those two weeks, though he won’t admit to it. She’s determined to be a knight and she can’t marry if she succeeds. And he wants her to succeed, his mother tells him that’s how he knows he loves her. He wants her to be happy, even if it’s not with him. He resigns himself to the idea that she’ll only be a close friend. It’s certainly not the worst outcome. He could never see her again, something he could imagine even less than hoping she fails. So he’s fine with their friendship, because having her in his life is better than nothing at all.
Except, Sara’s resolution in her goals seems to waver slightly the more time they spend together. She doesn’t train any less or work any less hard, but when they talk about her future knight ship, because there is no doubt in his mind that she will succeed, she doesn’t speak on the matter with the same excitement and vigor as before.
Soon enough she tells him why. She loves him too, and for the first time in her life the idea of marriage and a family and the idea of living like her father always wanted, but would never force on her, doesn’t seem so bad. But she’s worked so hard to get here and she can still see herself as a knight of the Western Empire and Leonard simply tells her he will support her no matter what she decides. Because in the end all that matters, as all that has ever mattered to him, is that she’s happy.
They continue their friendship, moving closer and closer until one day he’s certain she’s going to tell him that she’s decided to stay with him. He’s trying so hard not to get his hopes up, but she’s on her way, escorting her step sister who’s on her way to complete her betrothal to Prince Oliver of the Western Empire and he hopes she’ll use this opportunity to tell him she wants a courtship.
He’s waiting with Prince Oliver as they arrive at the castle, and heaven help him, that loving smile and that twinkle of mischief in her eyes gives him so much hope. Hope that comes to fruition that night, only for it all to come crashing down around them the next night.
The messenger bursts into the hall with wild determined eyes and tells them everything. Felicity is inconsolable, her mother was supposed to come with them, but she stayed behind to help Laurel with the young girls she was tutoring in state matters. Tommy Merlyn, who was courting Laurel, has to sit down. Not even his mother and father at his back can comfort him now. And then there’s Sara who stands at his side, expressionless, the only sign that she’s heard the news is the boiling cauldron of rage in her eyes. She’s short tempered, she always has been, it’s another thing he loves about her, but in mere moments she must be physically restrained as she demands to know who did it.
The messenger is terrified, he’s nearly Leonard’s size but no one can stand against Sara’s will in moments like these. Her reputation is strong, they all know what she’s capable of, they all know not to cross her.
“Witnesses at the southern border report a contingent of soldiers bearing the crest of Damien Darhk.” he tells them and again he must restrain her from running out. If he lets her go, let’s his guard down for even a moment she’ll flee, running headlong after Darhk and certain death.
He can’t lose her.
She rages in the court, demanding blood, and it takes Leonard and Malcolm Merlyn, the king’s first councilman, to drag her out before she causes anymore of a scene. She does not cry, not even when they’re alone. She is only rage and anger and righteous fury.
In a week Darhk is arrested, the other empires demanding his head. In another week he escapes with his men and in a month his army is defeated and he is nowhere to be found.
Sara tells him that she loves him that night. The night that Darhk escapes justice, seemingly for good. She tells him that she has loved him for so long and she regrets wasting time. He tells her they’ll never waste another moment and when she smiles at him sadly he knows she won’t be there in the morning. So he resigns himself to this last night with her, the possible only night with her. He tells her everything, tells her how much he loves her and that he’s loved her from the moment he laid eyes on her that night in his father’s court, when she was sixteen and carefree and he was seventeen and surly. He tells her that he would do anything to make her happy, and a small part of him hopes these confessions are enough to keep her there, in his arms, forever.
Within days of her disappearance, the King decides he won’t send anyone after her. He knows what she wants and her strong will, will not be tamed. Even if they manage to find her and bring her back to the capital she will only leave again, determined in her mission of vengeance. They pray for her, resolute that no matter what she will always be welcome there.
A week after her disappearance, Leonard and his party make their way back to Central City. His mother has a sympathetic smile and kiss for him, his father a firm hand on his shoulder and a promise that he won’t insist he marry until they’re sure Sara is never coming back. Leonard doesn’t tell him that he plans on waiting forever, just like he promised.
He will never stop waiting. And he never did. Even as he put the pieces together of dissonance in his empire, he was always waiting for her. And now here she is. Utterly changed and yet still the same.
Sara cuts the fish into portions, giving him the larger pieces and they eat in companionable comfort. A comfort he hasn’t felt in so long. When they’re finished she cleans up and then crawls into her bed of animal skins. He watches as she dozes off and then, as if a force is pulling him forward, he pads over to her, curling up against her. She smiles softly as she drifts off to sleep, and Leonard isn’t far behind.
As the weeks pass Leonard finds himself becoming reacquainted with Sara. Everytime she does something it brings back memories of before, of the happy times. He finds himself thinking of their final night together when they go to bed; he’s now curling against her even before she starts to drift off. Sometimes she’ll curl up around him and he has to remind himself that she doesn’t know it’s him, that she thinks he’s just some big loveable animal, touched by magic. It’s not a thought he enjoys but it’s necessary.
This form has its benefits however. Sara has always been a private person. Despite her outgoing nature she prefers to keep her emotions bottled up and locked away. So, he knows were she not completely unaware of his presence here, she would not let him see the toll her nightmares are having on her. He wishes he could ask her what their about, maybe then he could help her, but until he’s able to again, he’s forced to watch her toss and turn, crying out in the dark and startling awake, only to fall back to sleep and start all over again.
Across the border in the Western Empire, fall takes a different approach. In the east it’s cold in the mornings and evenings and ranges between comfortable and hot throughout the day. In the west the skies grow dark suddenly, filled with storm clouds. It’s on that first day across the border that he learns this the hard way, though riding in the saddle with her under the canopy is a more wonderful experience than he would have thought.
When they take shelter, the euphoria of her running her hands through his fur for nearly an hour as they rode is lost when she presents him with their dinner. He’s never hated deer jerky, it’s not his favorite, but he doesn’t hate it. However, all the times he’s eaten the tough meat he’s had thumbs. Now, not even his sharp teeth are any match for the gummy, thick jerky. He hears Sara stifle a laugh and his first instinct is to glare, but then he realizes she’s actually laughing and any hard feelings fade away.
She falls still when she finishes eating, her mind off someplace far away. He doesn’t like that, especially when he notices the despair that fills her beautiful blue eyes. It’s like she’s caught in another one of her nightmares, but she’s awake this time and he despairs the pain of knowing that she can’t seem to escape them. So he gets up and he forces his head under her arm, pulling her from her thoughts. He rubs against her side and rests his chin on her thigh, relaxing against her and soon feeling her relax as well. There is a soft smile on her face as she runs her fingers through his fur-he doesn’t even have any hair when he’s human, preferring to keep his head closely shaven, so why the hell does this feel so good- and eventually she lays down, curling around him and drifting off to sleep.
Starling City is the sister city to the capital of the empire. Her father has governed there for decades, first under King Robert’s father and then under King Robert. He had always preferred Starling to Star City. It had the air of a bustling city but the cosiness of the country side. It was a calming place where everyone knew everyone else, where they greeted each other by name and no one ever struggled so long as their neighbor had a say in it.
Castle Lance is an elegant piece of construction, passed down through the Lance clan for generations. It’s stark white, stone facade and pitch black roof contrast of each other, but no contrast can compare the castle to the burned out remains of the city around it.
A few days after the massacre they arrived in Starling to survey the damage and bury the dead. It was the closest he’s ever seen Sara come to crying. The soldiers had burned the city to the ground, but not before pulling each and every body from the city and laying them out in the fields around the structures. The message was clear, here are your people, you couldn’t protect them. Something in Sara brakes that day, something that she had barely held on to since this all began.
Sara went to each body and identified each citizen, the men, the women, the children. She helps dig their graves and place their stones and no one argues with her. These were her people, these were the people she worked toward knight ship to protect; they were her family in all but blood. Each grave was perfectly straight, each stone set with care. She wouldn’t allow it any other way. Her people deserved the dignity of a royal burial, not the haphazard fitting of a civilian cemetery.
Her family was buried on the castle grounds like her mother and ancestors before them. Felicity wanted to keep her mother close, so her body was wrapped up and taken back to the capital where it would rest in the castle’s cemetery waiting for Felicity to join her, hopefully after a long and full life.
Sara’s father was buried next to her mother and her sister on her mother’s side. The grave to her father’s side was reserved for her. Leonard tried not to think about how she could very well have been buried there too, that a matter of days were the only thing that kept her and Felicity from being here when it happened.
Sara had stayed behind in the cemetery long after the funerals were over and Leonard dutifully stayed with her. He never thought he’d be back here so soon.
He’s pretending to sleep in the saddle in front of her, the pain of losing his parents and not yet having been able to properly mourn hitting him suddenly. He understands Sara’s rage now more than ever.
When Sara dismounts he sits up and watches her walk into the graveyard. The high walls around the area are flat on top and Leonard jumps up, laying out along the top and watching her. For the first time since everything happened, he watches Sara cry. Heavy, heart wrenching sobs tear through her and she doubles over, gasping for breath desperately as she finally allows the pain to overtake her.
Leonard can’t watch her go through this alone and not for the first time, he curses Druce for trapping him like this. He’s at her side in moments, and he can suddenly hear that she’s not just crying; repeating over and over “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.” once again blaming herself for not being there to protect them, as if she would not be buried right here with them if she had been.
Leonard intrudes, cuddling up to her and there’s something strange in her eyes as she looks down at him surprised. He nuzzles under her chin and cuddles against her chest, purring. She wraps her arms around him and cries into this fur, her fingers carding through it in what he quickly realized was just as much comfort for her as it was for him.
He feels her start to relax soon enough, but something is different now. He feels her pull away and he looks up, catching her eye. That strange thing is still there but it’s stronger now. It takes him a moment to realize it’s recognition.
“Len?” she questions, and his heart skips a beat, eyes widening a fraction. It all becomes clear to her, he can see it cross her face. “Oh god, Len.”
Chapter 3: The Curse of Sealing
Sara makes a plan to help Leonard and old allies appear just in time.
The Eastern Prince, The Western Knight
Earth 53: Prince Snart/Knight Lance
Part III: The Curse of Sealing
“I can’t believe I didn’t notice Len, I’m so sorry.” Sara tells him. They’ve moved from the cemetery to the bath chambers under the castle. Sara is currently waiting for one of the springs to heat and in the meantime, she's turned her full attention on him. “And you haven’t changed back, which means you must be stuck that way.” she continues. He makes a sound which she takes to mean she’s right. “Does this have to do with what happened to…” she pauses, pain crossing her face. He doesn’t let her finish, making that same noise. She takes a deep breath, letting it out slowly. “God, I just rode right by. I didn’t even stop to make sure Lisa was okay.”
Leonard crawls forward, resting his head in her lap. “I’m so sorry. I let myself get caught up in all of this and I just… I turned my back on everyone else.” Leonard rolls over and looks up at her with big grey eyes and she has to fight back the smile. “You were always so feline, even before you learned to shift.” she teases him, though it’s half hearted at best. He purrs as she scratches under his chin.
Sara takes a deep breath to clear her mind and when she looks back down at him that determined spark he loves so much is back. “Alright, so I’m guessing you were cursed.” he nods. “Presumably by the person who killed your parents.” he nods again. “Alright, we need a plan. First we need to get you someplace safe, find a curse breaker. Noone we don’t trust can know about you being like this or that you’ve made contact with allies.” she continues. “So we’ll rest tonight and then head to Star City. Sorcerer Wells should be there for the solstice. Assassination or not, it’s a bad idea for any magic wielder of status to miss the feast. He should be able to break the curse. Then you can tell us what’s going on and we can take all of your testimony to King Robert.”
Leonard watches her as she lays out her plan, marveling at the spark of life that’s returned to her eyes. She’s still not quite where she was, and he doesn’t think she ever will be again, but for the first time in a long time the hope he’s been holding onto doesn’t seem quite so frivolous. A part of him preens a little when it occurs to him that she’s laying out her plan in much the same way he lays out his own. He’s rubbed off on her.
Eventually she finishes and she looks down at him. He’s been more than happy to hang out right where he is while she talks through her ideas. This position brings back such lovely memories of warm spring afternoons in his mother’s rose garden, his head in her lap, listening to her talk about her studies and her training. He loved those days, and the memory of them never fails to calm him.
“The bath is ready. Why don’t we get cleaned up and then I’ll cook dinner. We should get to bed early so we can leave as soon as possible tomorrow.”
Leonard rolls off of her lap and she gets up, beginning to strip the outer layer of her armor. She lays it out, only to notice he’s watching her intently. “Where has the gentlemanly attitude gone so suddenly?” she asks, taking off the next layer. He does not look away, even as she strips to her underwraps. “Why your majesty. Did you refrain from peeking because I didn’t know it was you?” she teases, stepping closer and kneeling in front of him. He’s certain that he looks proud of himself, if the amused smile on her face is anything to go by. She shakes her head, laying a kiss on his muzzle. “Come along now you little deviant, I think we could both stand a scrubbing.”
Sara watches Leonard as he curls up on the end of her bed. She remembers the first time he told her about his magic, about his talents, but she’d never actually seen it until now. She wishes she had, she’d feel a lot less guilty thinking about how cute he is in this form. Who is she kidding, she’ll feel guilty no matter what. No amount of cuddling up or purring is going to make her forget that when she heard about Leonard’s family, about his parents, about going missing, she just walked away. She convinced herself that because she walked out on him, he wouldn’t want anything to do with her and therefore, it wasn’t her concern anymore. She’s so consumed by the ghosts that haunt her, she missed the people who were still alive, the people who were still here to love her.
For a year she pushed aside all thoughts of Leonard, or that last night together, the look in his eyes, the resignation. He knew she was leaving, he knew he couldn’t make her stay and he loved her anyway. He opened up, he told her everything… he waited for her.
Sara rolls over on her side, looking down the bed at Leonard. “You actually waited for me didn’t you?” her voice is so soft, almost a whisper. The candle beside her bed flickers in the slight breeze that invades her no longer secure home.
Leonard looks up at her, the candlelight reflecting in his eyes. There’s something about the way he looks at her that tells her all she needs to know. “How did I get so lucky?” she whispers.
Leonard gets up, moving up the bed and curling up beside her. She smiles at him, kissing him on the top of the head. “I love you Leonard Snart.” she whispers into the night, feeling him begin to purr as they settle down and drift off to sleep.
It’s only a few hours later that Sara wakes with a start, the echo of Damien Darhk’s laugh still ringing in her ears. Her heart is pounding and despite the chill she’s sweating. She startles at the movement beside her, only to remember it’s only Leonard. “I’m okay.” she speaks softly, settling down again. She can’t see him in the darkness, but she can feel him move the smallest bit closer. “I’m okay.” she repeats, but she’s not.
She’s had nightmares for months, haunted by the specter of Damien Darhk and the innocence he stole from her. It seems being here, in this place, surrounded by the ghosts of her family and friends, she feels the darkness that Damien Darhk carried with him rising up further to suffocate her. She wouldn’t call what she’s been feeling guilt, not for killing Darhk anyway, but his memory haunts her as if she does and no amount of time seems to have weakened his hold on her.
The morning sun can’t come soon enough and as soon as Leonard begins to stir she gets up, dressing in a simple day gown she found locked in a trunk in her chamber. She won’t make them leave without eating first, and cooking in her armor just isn’t practical in the castle.
“Breakfast Len?” she asks heading for the door. When she receives no response she turns to find Leonard crouched down, facing the door. His pupils are blown wide, his posture screaming danger. Quietly she grabs her sword, never taking her eyes off the door. When she’s armed, she crept forward, laying a hand on the door pulls and looking back at Leonard as if to ensure he’s ready.
Sara rips the door open, barely stopping herself from lunging at the woman on the other side. “Fee?” Sara questions the startled young woman.
“Oh thank the heavens.” Felicity replies. “We were so worried. We thought you may have gone to Central City to look for Leonard.” she continues, stepping forward and pulling Sara into a hug. Sara goes willingly, sinking into the comfort of her step sister’s embrace. She’s missed her and the comfort she brings in her familiarity.
“No, I came back here.” she replies, then stops. “Wait, why is going to Central a bad thing?” she asks, but Felicity has caught sight of Sara’s company and she’s having trouble focusing on anything else.
“Sara, why is there a Snow Leopard in your chambers?”
“It’s kind of a long story. You didn’t come here by yourself did you?”
Felicity finally looks at her again. “No, Olie, Tommy and Lord Malcolm are boarding the horses in the stable.”
“Good, we need to discuss a few things, including why it’s not okay for me to go to Central alone.”
Tommy, Oliver and Malcolm are in the kitchen when they descend the stairs at the back of the castle. They all look relieved to see her, which affects her more than she lets on.
“There she is, The Avenging Angel of The Western Empire.” Malcolm says when they notice them. Sara smiles half heartedly. It’s not a name she’s proud of. The people of the village where she slayed Darhk had given it to her, using the messenger to spread it around the four kingdoms. She had been less than thrilled, but they were hospitable and she didn’t want to be rude.
“Lord Malcolm.” she replies.
“How are you my dear?” he asks.
“Curious.” she simply says. “I gather you have a lot to tell me.”
“You could say that.” Oliver replies. “Where do we start?”
“Bluntly.” Malcolm says, taking on the persona of one of the king’s most trusted advisors. A markedly different man when compared to the humorous father figure he is to all the young nobel children. “Information has been uncovered that leads me to believe the assassination in Central is connected to the massacre of your family.” he took a breath, softening a bit. “I’m sorry to say this Sara, but I think there is a very real chance that Leonard is dead as well.”
“He’s not.” she replies matter of fact. “What information have you uncovered?”
“Darhk’s rise to power appears to have been orchestrated long before the civil war broke out.” Malcolm explained. “The council in the south has admitted to allowing him to reign unchecked because he shared the wealth he was collecting through taxes with them, but one advisor slipped out of the capital during all the upheaval after Darhk was arrested. From what we can tell, he was in power long before Darhk made a bid for the throne and he may have been working behind the scenes of the old monarchy in order to create the instability that would later give rise to Darhk.”
“Are you suggesting there’s a spy in every kingdom. That the same unrest that unsettled the south is going to happen everywhere else? To what end? The south’s strife ended in tragedy. It’s become a lesson to the people. They’ll see something like this coming and turn on whoever is responsible.”
“Which is why, I believe, there was an assassination instead of an outright coup.” Malcolm explains. “Whoever manages to worm their way in as acting ruler will either be a pawn in the plot or the perpetrator.”
“What about Lisa?” Felicity asks. “She’s the rightful heir with her parents gone and Leonard…”
“Leonard’s not dead.” Sara replies. “She’s too young. She’s only ten. By Eastern law she can’t take the throne until she’s at least sixteen, preferably eighteen.”
“So she’s in danger then?”
“They won’t let anything happen to her, it’ll be too suspicious. They’ll most likely wait a few years, make it look like an accident, or maybe that she ran away, unwilling to be Queen.” Tommy suggests.
“Most likely the second. Three dead royals is bad enough, if the last one turns up dead under any circumstances the people will question it.” Malcolm explains.
“Two,” Sara adds. “There’s only two dead royals.”
“You’ve said that multiple times now, what makes you so sure he’s not dead?” Tommy asks. “And don’t tell me it’s hope or intuition, we need solid proof he’s alive, because chances are he knows what’s going on and who’s behind it.”
“It wouldn’t surprise me at all if he figured it out beforehand, and not gotten the chance to act.” Malcolm adds. He’s praised Leonard’s intelligence on multiple occasions. Most people do. In fact, Leonard’s tactical brilliance is one of the many things he’s known for throughout the East and West. Should the empires ever unite to go to war, Leonard was chosen to lead the strategic council.
Sara hesitates. “Leonard is a magic user.” she explains.
“Truly?” Oliver asks, mirroring the surprise on all of their faces.
“He’s kept it secret for tactical reasons. He mainly uses it for defense, but he discovered an affinity for shapeshifting. He’s found an animal form and he uses it to stalk about the capital and castle unseen.”
“What animal?” Tommy asks.
“A snow leopard.” Felicity replies with dawn realization. All eyes land on the cat, who, for most of the conversation has been sitting quietly and listening, largely ignored.
“Wait, but you didn’t know anything about the possible coup in Central. Why hasn’t he said anything?” Oliver asks.
“Because whoever killed his parents cursed him. He’s trapped in this form. We intended to leave for Star City today in the hopes of finding Harrison Wells at the solstice celebration. He knows of Leonard’s magic, he helped him tame it in secret, we hope he can break the curse.”
“Well then,” Malcolm steps forward, the advisor having returned. “Let’s rest up quickly and then get back on the road. There isn’t any time to waste.”
Sara sets a bowl of rabbit stew on the floor in front of Leonard before turning to the stairs she and Felicity had descended not long before.
“Aren’t you going to eat Sara?” Felicity asks. She, Oliver, Tommy and Malcolm are sitting around the large butcher block prep table eating the rest of the stew, Sara’s own portion sitting untouched.
“I’ll get to it. I just want to change.” she calls over her shoulder, ascending the stairs. Malcolm looked to Leonard.
“Does she skip meals regularly?” he asks. Leonard looks up from his own meal and nods. “Everyday?” he nods again. Malcolm hums and turns back to his meal.
“What does that mean?” Felicity asks worried.
Malcolm hesitates. “I’ve seen the reaction before, from newly minted soldiers and knights fresh from their first battle, or after their first kill.”
“Will she be alright?” Felicity questions.
“Most are. Sara’s strong and she has people who will look after her, make sure she doesn’t keep to herself too much.” he looks to Leonard again. “I bet having a new mission to focus on will help.”
“You don’t think she’ll be distracted?” Oliver asks.
Malcolm glances at Leonard again. “Given the stakes, no, I think she’ll be focused and driven.”
Sara returns to the kitchen some time later, redressed in her white leather armor. They all pretend they don’t notice her pass up her meal as she heads for the stables to bridle Debonair. Within the hour they’re back on the trail, heading north to Star City.
Chapter 4: Allies Conviene
The party makes it back to Star City
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
The Eastern Prince, The Western Knight
Earth 53: Prince Snart/Knight Lance
Part IV: Allies Conviene
The trip between Star and Starling takes two days and one night. By supper on the second day, they are riding through the front gates of the city, drawing attention as they ride through crowds of people who have heard word of Sara’s return. They chant her name and cheer for her accomplishments and she ignores the concerned glances from her company when she looks less than enthusiastic about it.
“Mother and father want to see you before anything else.” Oliver tells her as they make it to the stables. She simply nods and Oliver turns to the stable hands. “Call for the porters. Have them take all of Lady Sara’s gear and equipment to her chamber.”
With that, the group moves out of the stables, taking the back halls through the castle and into the study where King Robert and Queen Moira are waiting.
“Sara, welcome home.” Moira tells her, pulling her into a hug. Sara happily sinks into the embrace, allowing the comfort she’s been keeping at arm's length since this all began.
“Thank you, your majesty.” Sara replies.
“Now dear, there’s no need for that.” she tells her. “How was your journey back? Did you run into any trouble?” Robert questions as he too, greets her.
“I suppose that would depend on your definition of trouble.” Sara replies, glancing over her shoulder at the newest additions to her traveling party.
“So Malcolm told you everything then?” Robert asks.
Sara nods. “Yes Sire.”
“There is more to it my lord.” Malcolm speaks up, drawing their attention.
Malcolm looks to Sara to explain. “I know where Leonard is, and he needs help.”
Relief swept over the King and Queen.
“Where is he? Is he injured? We can have a contingent sent to him immediately.” Robert tells her.
“That won’t be necessary, Robert.” Malcolm adds. “He’s here.”
All at once the traveling companions turn to find the snow leopard, sitting aside and listening with rapt attention. When the King and Queen turn to him as well, he bows, earning a startled gasp from Moira and curse from Robert.
“What happened?” Robert questions.
“All we know for sure is that someone took advantage of their knowledge of his magical ability and trapped him in this form.” Oliver explains.
“We were hoping Harrison Wells would be here already for the Solstice Feast, he helped Leonard tame his magic and he trusts him.” Sara continues. “We don’t want anyone to know that Leonard has made contact with us, not so long as whoever did this is still out there and could come after him again.”
“A wise decision.” Moira agrees.
Robert turns to Oliver. “In the spirit of secrecy then, Oliver, Lord Wells and his apprentice are in the temple, preparing for the feast. Bring them back here.”
Oliver bows. “Yes father.”
When he’s gone, Moira turns to Leonard who has come to sit at Sara’s feet. “Don’t fret dear, we’ll have you back to normal in no time.”
“Once he can tell us what happened, we can work up a strategy to root out the rogue faction that infiltrated the empires. Have you received word back from the North?” Malcolm directs at Robert.
“Just this morning.” Robert confirms. “Queen Snow has confided in us that she has suspected disodents in her kingdom for quite some time now. Since well before the last summit gathering. She and her closest allies have been working to discover the truth, but now that she knows the other kingdoms are an active part of the plot, she’s willing to lend aid and support for the same in return.” He continues. “I’ve confirmed that we will lend aid and to look into Council members that have been there the longest or who have come to power through tragedy.”
At Sara’s feet, Leonard growls, gaining their attention. He shakes his head in disagreement, but before anyone can question him, Harrison Wells bursts through the throne room doors.
“Where is he?” Harrison asks, his eyes darting around the room. They finally settle on Sara and the Leopard beside her. He sighs, relief flooding through him. “My lord, you are a sight for sore eyes.” Harrison tells him as he approaches. He reaches out, laying a hand on Leonard’s crown only to pull his hand away quickly as if he has been burned. “Cursed,” he says. “That would explain your disappearance.”
“Can you break it?” Sara asks.
He looks to her and nods. “I can, but there are things I will need and it will most likely take until morning to retrieve them.”
“Then we shall retire for the evening and reconvene in the morning. Lord Wells, we shall acquire anything you need. Merely say the word.”
“My apprentice Bartholomew will know what I need. I can send him into the sorcerer’s district.” Wells explains.
“He shouldn’t go alone.” Oliver adds. He turns to Tommy who simply nods in agreement. “Tommy and I will accompany him. The people are aware that we are friends, it won’t seem strange and if anyone questions what we’re doing we can tell them that Sara needed treatment.”
“Excellent. Barry should be on his way to his chambers, if we hurry we can catch him before he begins his meditations.” Wells replies, leading the men out of the throne room.
“In the meantime, have any of you eaten supper yet?” Moira questions in a tone that brokers no false responses.
“No majesty, we pushed on through the day.” Felicity tells her.
“Them come along. You need to keep your strength up.” she turns to Malcolm and Robert. “That means both of you as well.”
“Yes ma’am.” Malcolm replies as Robert says;
Leonard curls up on Sara’s bed while he waits for her to come back from the baths. With the weight of his concern off his shoulders he finds his mind wandering to darker places. He hasn’t had time to mourn his family, but with the silence surrounding him, the knowledge that he’s safe here in his allies home, he can’t stop the immense sorrow that wells up inside him. He can smell his mother’s perfume, he can hear his father’s laugh. It’s not their smiles he sees in his mind though.
Before he can fall too deeply into those thoughts, the door to Sara’s chamber opens and he looks up to find her there. She’s wearing a long blue linen dressing gown, his favorite shade on her, and soft blue slippers. In one hand she carries a platter of pastries and tea. Around her waist, her sword. He wishes he could speak to her, to tell her how beautiful she looks. The perfect juxtaposition between a high bred woman and a warrior.
Sara sets the platter on the bed and Leonard peeks up with interest. The scent of his favorite pastry cake catching him off guard.
“Lord Wells says that since you're human, you can eat human foods that real Leopards can’t.” Sara explains, unbelting her sword and setting it beside her bed. She climbs up beside him and sets one of the cakes in front of him, which he does not wait to dig into. She smiles as she watches him, sipping her tea. “Feeling better?” He purrs, leaning into her hand as she scratches between his ears. “I think I might miss being able to reduce you to a purring ball of fluff so easily.” she teases him.
He can’t believe she thinks he needs to be a cat for her to be capable of that. Surely she hasn’t forgotten their last night together so quickly. When the cake is gone, he crawls over to her and lays his head on her thigh, letting her run her fingers through his fur.
“It won’t be much longer, Len, I promise, we’re going to figure this out.” she says to him, her voice as soft as the light from the candle on the bedside table. He purrs in response, letting her words wash over him, her gentle touches lulling him to sleep.
He wakes hours later to the images of his parents lying in their bed, the stark white sheets soaked in blood, their eyes, staring lifeless at the ceiling and Druce, standing over them, the bloody knife in his hand.
The candle is still burning on the end table, bathing the room in the same warm glow. His head was still pillowed on Sara’s thigh, the young warrior lying out on top of the quilt of her bed. She looks so peaceful lying there, relaxed for the first time in as long as he can remember.
Carefully, Leonard shifted off the bed, padding across the floor. Sara had hung a strip of fabric around the door handle allowing him to pull the door open and slip out. Beyond her chambers is a long dark hallway lit by torches every few feet. He follows the hall to the right, weaving through corridors unseen, listening to the sounds of the castle. Before long he finds himself in the garden, prowling between bushes that have started to brown with the early fall. It’s here that he finds the King and his first advisor.
“I don’t like this Malcolm. I don’t like it one bit.” Robert says, pacing the walking path in short steps. Malcolm is standing along the edge, his eyes focused on a persistent rose bud that refuses to succumb to the frost. “Too many lives are at stake to make educated guesses.”
“I appreciate that Robert, truly I do, but the princess is locked away out of reach, I have confirmed that it was the king who sent her out of the city before his assasination, so it stands to reason that he knew there was a coup coming, or at least assumed it was a coup.” Malcolm explains. “In the absence of all other evidence we must assume that she is safe and focus our attention on returning the Prince to himself and rooting out the disodents in this plot.”
“That is the problem I am having trouble wrapping my mind around. None of this makes sense.” the king tells his oldest friend. “If this is a larger plot than why did Darhk attack Starling? Surely if they intended to overthrow the monarchs of every empire they would have been better suited to wait until all of the thrones were usurped thus ensuring there would be no retaliation for the masacre.”
“It does seem odd.” Malcolm concedes. “It would seem Darhk’s actions have made the rest of this plot more difficult. The people are now weary of dissonance, and any attempt to overtly take over will be met with riots and unrest, but then why would Darhk have made his move on the throne before the other monarchs were overthrown then.”
“Unless he saw opportunity in the upheaval and took his chance.” Robert replies.
“Or, frighteningly enough, he may not have been part of the plot at all. Perhaps he came to power outside of the plan and he was left there while the conspirators wove their plan around him to compensate.”
“You’re right, that is a terrifying thought. It would make their next moves unpredictable.” Robert sighs. “It puts us right back to square one.”
“Not necessarily. We have the prince and you know as well as I do that that boy is far too intelligent to have not seen this coming or worked out at least something that could be useful. We can only hope now that Wells can release him and there’s no lasting damage.”
So I'm almost finished with this story. If I manage to get it done soon, I'll increase the post rate.
Chapter 5: The Plot Thickens
So here's what happened...
Since Christmas Day falls on Wednesday this year, I'm not going to post that week.
The Eastern Prince, The Western Knight
Earth 53: Prince Snart/ Knight Lance
Part V: The Plot Thickens
Sara wakes from an intense nightmare alone and an indescribable panic settles into her chest. She sits up and looks around, finding the door cracked open just slightly. She’s set the bolt to lock from the inside, so she allows herself to believe that Leonard left of his own volition and intends to return.
With that in mind she lays back down, intent on returning to sleep, but it eludes her. Her mind can’t stop racing, her thoughts jumping from one to the next, a painful dance of what ifs. What if Leonard was hurt while he was out. What if he was captured by the enemy when he left. What if he’s not coming back. For a moment she considers that he may have felt like this when she left him to chase after Darhk and she’s never felt more remorse for it. She had to do it though. She had to leave, to find Darhk and stop him once and for all. She would never have been able to live a long happy life with Leonard as she intended with the constant worry that Darhk would return.
None of that meant she didn’t regret leaving.
Sara sighs, rolling over and closing her eyes, trying to find the calm she needs to drift off. She’s finally close to sleep when she hears the door close and the bed dip beside her. She grumbles lightly as she feels Leonard burrow himself under her arms, laying himself along her body. She curls around him, burying her face in the fur of his neck. Even as a leopard he still smells like himself. That cooling bite of his frosty magic and the comforting scent of sandalwood and pine. As she breaths it in, she finally takes those last steps into morpheus, sleeping peacefully for the first time in almost two years.
“I’ve sent Thea and Roy to your family’s summer home to protect Lisa.” King Robert tells Leonard the next morning as they gather in the throne room. The only truly private place in the castle at the moment. “Since we don’t know who we can trust, it’s best that we rely only on those we have no doubt in.”
Leonard simply nods once before turning his attention on Harrison Wells as he prepares his spell before them. His apprentice, Bartholomew Allen, is one of Leonard’s closest friends, and Leonard’s confidence grows knowing they’re working together.
Sara is seated beside him on a long bench, her fingers running through his fur in an effort to calm him, though Leonard suspects it’s just as much for her as well. They awoke this morning eager and nervous, ready to free Leonard and put an end to the people who hurt his family.
“Alright, Leonard, if you would please sit in the circle, we’re ready to begin.” Wells spoke up, drawing his attention from his thoughts. Leonard hops down from the bench as Sara stands, padding across the room and sitting in the dead center of the seal Barry had drawn on the floor. “This won’t be simple.” Wells continues. “Breaking another sorcerers curse is tricky. Don’t leave the circle.” he tells him. He looks at everyone else. “And don’t interfere.”
With that final directive, Wells looks to Barry, giving him a non verbal queue to begin. The two sorcerers stand across from each other the chalk lines on the floor begin glowing lightly around Leonard. It feels like hours as they stand there, their hands out, eyes staring unseeing. They watch in tense fascination as sparks rise from the chalk lines, dancing around Leonard’s feline form.
Leonard didn’t know how much time passed before he felt energy ripple along his skin. Electric sparks tingle across his nerves, eliciting an unpleasantly persistent feeling. As the light began to fade, Leonard felt the tingling ebb, and by the time it was gone, the electric buzz was nothing but a faint shadow of its former self.
“That should do it.” Wells finally speaks. “Try to change back.” he instructs Leonard.
Leonard does just that, reveling in the familiar feeling of shifting bone and flesh. As he comes back to himself, he doubles over coughing and struggling to catch his breath. Despite how much he made the shift between forms he’d never spent more than a few hours as a cat, coming back to himself now was disorienting in a way being in his own body should never be.
He felt hands on him, looking up and catching Sara out of the corner of his eye as she rubbed soothing circles into his back. He hears Lady Anna speak.
“Does he need medical attention?” she asks.
“He’s just getting used to being human again. It’s not wise for any magic user to remain in animal form for too long.” Wells explains. “He’ll be alright, though I recommend he take it easy for a few days.”
Leonard sits up when he finally manages to catch his breath, letting Sara help him to his feet. Before long he’s back on the bench with Sara at his side practically holding him up.
“It was Druce, Zaman Druce. He killed my parents and then had Declan curse me when I caught him.” Leonard explains not waiting for anyone to ask. This needs to be sorted and it needs to be sorted now.
Wells stares in shock. “Druce I can understand, but Declan?” he questions. Leonard simply nods. “I was his apprentice, I’ve known him for decades.”
“Are you sure?” Robert asks Leonard.
“I know what I saw.”
Leonard can’t sleep. News of Darhk’s demise has come and gone and there’s a well of emotion that threatens to consume him. Between the thought that Sara could be coming home soon and the danger that’s brewing in Central, he’s struggling to keep the calm he’s known for. The thought of Sara coming home brings a kind of joy he has not felt since the night she accepted his courtship of her. He had spent all night crafting a letter of intent to her father and it is that energy, that enthusiasm mixed with fear and dread that keeps him up this warm late summer night.
As Leonard turns to get comfortable once again, the sound of footsteps outside his chamber door draws his attention. The steps stop just outside, and instinct kicks in, forcing him up and behind the tapestry that hangs against the wall. He’s just concealed himself when the door swings open and whoever owns the footsteps enters his room.
“He’s not here m’lord.” a voice sounds. He vaguely recognizes it.
“Then search the castle, he can not be allowed to escape. None of this works without everyone dead.”
That voice he knows for sure. He’s heard it since he was a little boy, speaking in council meetings, advising his father. Zaman Druce, first advisor to the king of the Eastern Empire.
When Leonard had realized there was a faction of usurpers within the Central hierarchy, he’d started looking into who they might be. His research led him to a list of potential leaders, suspects that had the means and motive to put something like this together. Zaman Druce was near the top of the list, though his father had vetoed that when he finally confronted him. Leonard had never liked Druce, there was something about him that didn’t sit well with Leonard, but his father trusted him as much as King Robert trusted Merlyn and Lance. Druce’s father had advised Lewis’ father and now Druce advised him. He was trained for it. Instead of turning him off the idea, Lewis’ claims only strengthened them. A lord of one’s own province held a great deal of power like Quentin Lance himself, but a lord within city limits held no more power than a tiered politician. Imagine being trained all your life, raised to be limited. To never be more powerful than you are, to never expand your influence as you’re capable. Leonard was sure, for a man like Druce, the idea was infuriating.
Leonard hears footsteps leave his chamber and after waiting a moment longer he slips out from behind the tapestry. The shadows beneath his door tell him that he can not escape that way, so he climbed out the window and onto the roof, delicately picking his way across clay shingles until he makes it to the far side of the castle. Carefully, he swings himself through the window and into the antechamber of his parents rooms. The door to their sleeping chamber is open and he can see someone moving around inside.
Leonard steps out, only to stop short at the sight before him. Bloody and lifeless, his parents lay in their bed. Their assassin had not awoken them with the act, and they lay there as if simply sleeping. He feels the churn of bile in his gut, but forces it back down before he can expunge it.
As Leonard steps further into the room, catching sight of their killer looking over his work, he tenses, ready to strike out. “Druce.” he grinds through his teeth. Leonard takes some small measure of satisfaction in knowing the advisor was not expecting him to appear here.
“Clever, little prince.” Druce replies, laying the knife beside his father’s body. “How did you figure it out?” he asks.
“It wasn’t as difficult as you seem to think.” Leonard tells him. “When I caught rumors of a dissident faction I simply asked myself who had the strongest motive to overthrow my father.”
“And what made you think I had that motive?”
“You did. Everything about you.” Leonard explains. “Your arrogant, self congratulatory, unsatisfied with the lack of defined class systems. And then when I told my father I suspected it was you, he reminded me that you were born to advise him. Imagine, growing up learning about the power of a king and being told you could never achieve that, you could only coach it. Guide it, but never touch it, never have it for your own. It must be frustrating to be so intelligent and have to bend the knee for a man you think is beneath you.”
“He was beneath me.” Druce snapped. “My family has advised yours for generations and for what? So we can watch this empire crumble the closer and closer it moves toward democracy? Every generation that passes, the people gain more and more liberties and with each new grant, they move closer to knowing they can do better, be better than any monarch. They must be put back in their place and the only way to do that it to show them that you hold the power. Keep them dumb and ignorant and they shall never question your authority.”
“Ignorance breeds hate and intolerance, have you not learned that from the South. They refused to educate their lower classes and they fell to revolution and tyranny. The southern empire is in ruins and now you wish that for the east?”
“I will not allow that to happen. The people loved Darhk. Letting them love him was a mistake. They should have feared him, feared what he was capable of, feared that he could never be stopped. Feared what would have happened if they managed to overthrow him.”
“You’ve lost your mind.”
“No, Leonard, I am very much sane.”
Druce cuts his eyes to the door and Leonard turns to find Declan standing there. “Clearly you didn’t look hard enough.” Druce tells him before Declan can say anything. “Change of plans, death is too good for him.”
Before Leonard can react he feels the twist and pull of his body, the shift of muscle and skin as he’s forced into another form.
Chapter 6: The Resistance
Sara and Leonard reconnect and the allies put together a plan.
The Eastern Prince, The Western Knight
Earth 53: Prince Snart/ Knight Lance
Part VI: The Resistance
“As the king’s first advisor, Druce is in the perfect position to usurp him. In the event of the King’s death he’ll be the first person they consider to take his place if the next in line is also not able to take the position.” Malcolm explains.
“You say he didn’t acknowledge Darhk as an equal.” Robert questions. Leonard simply nods.
“I doubt he considers anyone his equal, but at least in this instance, no, he sounded as though he didn’t approve of Darhk at all.” Leonard replies. He’s still leaning heavily against Sara beside him, his strength not fully returned.
“That certainly fits your theory.” Robert turns to Malcolm, who doesn’t seem thrilled to be right. Leonard can’t blame him, this is not something one wishes to be right about.
“What theory?” Sara asks.
“Based on everything that’s happened its entirely plausible that Darhk was not part of the plot against the four regions.” Malcolm explains. “In fact, I find it very unlikely that he was. A plot this wide spread, this coordinated would be calculated to the last moment, leaving no room for someone who would take revenge against an entire city over harsh words. Someone like Darhk is too self serving to be considered a good leader to an organization that requires coordination to pull off their plan.”
“Do you have suspicions on who the other dissidents could be?” Sara questions.
“A few, but we need to be careful. Accusing the wrong person or focusing on the wrong person can only benefit these conspirators.”
“So what now then?” Oliver asks.
“Now, we get Leonard to a chamber to rest and we all go about our day as if nothing has happened. Lord Wells and Bartholomew have preparations to make for the feast tonight and Malcolm and I need to meet with the council to discuss how we’ll handle whoever Central appoints.” Robert replies. “As far as anyone is concerned, Leonard is still missing and we are none the wiser to what happened to him or the plot against the four regions.”
“Discretion is still key.” Malcolm adds. “Once we have a plan we can worry about what happens next.”
Sara stops short as she enters her sleep chambers that night. Leonard smirks at her from his place leaning back against her bed’s headboard. She hasn’t seen Leonard since the meeting with King Robert and the others. After discussing the events that led to Leonard’s curse and the information he had already gathered on the coup, they had separated, tending to their other duties. Deciding it would be best to keep Leonard’s presence a secret until they could formulate a plan, he was spirited away through the secret passages to a bed chamber where he could hide until the next morning when they were to reconvene and devise a plan.
In the meantime, Sara went about checking on Debonair in the stables and getting a bit of training in with the squires. She ate a quick supper and went back to the bathing springs to relax. Now it was time for bed, an early morning ahead of her.
“What are you doing here?” she asks, bolting the door behind her. The last thing they need is someone bursting in on an emergency errand and finding Leonard.
“I wanted to see you.” he tells her simply. She tries not to let him see how sweet she finds that.
“You shouldn’t be walking around. It’s too risky.” she tells him, crossing her arms.
Leonard looks smug. “I guess I should just stay here then.” he tells her. “For my own safety.”
Sara rolls her eyes. “Leonard.” she sighs.
“I’ve missed you.” he finally says growing serious.
“I missed you too.” she replies. They share a moment, staring at each other across the room until Sara looks away.
“You know,” he says, drawing her attention. Sara looks up at him again. Gone was the soft, longing look, replaced with his usual smirk. “I’ve had to behave myself for weeks now.”
Sara huffs, rolling her eyes. “You’re incorrigible.”
“Tell me you haven’t thought the same Sara and I’ll go back to my chambers right now, leave you to the rest of your night.”
Sara takes a deep breath, letting it out slowly. He watches her, daring her to tell him he’s wrong. His smirk grows when he sees the resignation in her eyes.
Sara loves Leonard’s smirk, she’ll never admit it to him, but she finds it very sexy. At the moment though, that fact irks her and she decides to wipe it off his face. Something she succeeds at as he watches her untie the sash of her dressing gown. Slowly she opens it, letting it slide down her arms, pooling on the floor at her feet.
“Fuck.” Leonard breaths as Sara saunters up to the end of the bed, crawling up his body until their face to face.
“Behave yourself now.” she challenges him, leaning in like she’s going to kiss him. Leonard leans forward to close the distance, sealing his mouth against hers. When she pulls away she slides into his lap, wrapping her arms around his neck.
“Who says I need to be a cat for you to reduce me a purring mess.” he says, his voice a low rumble as he runs his hands up her bare sides. Sara gives him a smirk of her own, leaning in again.
“You should be resting.” she tells him as he trails bites down her neck.
“I’ve been sleeping all day. If I sleep any more I’ll never need to sleep again.” he tells her. Sara’s chuckle turns into a gasp as he rolled them over, trapping her underneath him. “I’d much rather be right here, with you.”
She smiles up at him as he pulls away, studying the lines of his face, memorizing all the little changes that she’s missed since she’s been gone. “I’m sorry.” she finds herself saying, whispering in fact. “I’m sorry that I walked out on you.”
Leonard stares back at her, taking a deep breath. “I understand.” he replies. “Now more than ever.” she looks at him with sympathy and he shakes it off. “No, not right now.” he tells her. “My sister is safe, and there isn’t anything I can do for my parents. Right now is for us.”
Sara smiles and pulls him down to her.
Sara wakes with the sound of Damien Darhk’s cackle echoing through her head. She turns over to find an empty bed, the sheets cool beside her. For a moment she panics, until she catches sight of the parchment on the nightstand. She sits up, reaching for it and unraveling the paper, reading Leonard neat scrawl inside.
I’m sorry for leaving you without warning, but you looked so peaceful and I didn’t want to disturb you. I have gone to meet with King Robert and Counselor Malcolm to discuss the next course of action. Please come to the throne room when you wake to join the discussion.
Sara tossed the parchment into the fireplace to avoid it being found and quickly dressed. When she was ready she made her way to the throne room where two guards were standing watch at the closed doors. As she approached one guard turned, knocked three times against the heavy wooden door and then stepped aside, letting her push her way through and close the door behind her.
As she stepped through she noticed Malcolm, Robert and Leonard looking toward her. “Glad you could join us.” Malcolm greets her as she stops among them. She simply nods.
“We believe we have a plan if you’d care to weigh in.” Robert continue, as she takes a seat on the bench beside Leonard.
“I’m all ears.”
“We’re going to wait until the Eastern Council announces their appointment. There will be a ceremony to induct the appointee, and all of the monarchs will be expected to attend.” Malcolm explains. “Using that as an excuse to enter the city without rousing any suspicion, we’ll sneak Leonard in cat form and begin an investigation of our own. The Queen in the North has already pledged her support in whatever plan we devise, she only asks that we give her a heads up so she and the King Consort aren’t caught unawares.”
“Makes sense. At this point, this far away from Central, everything we know, save for what Leonard has told us is speculation at best. But, with all the monarchs out of their respective territories, couldn’t the conspirators use their absence as a chance to take over.”
“We’re hoping they will.” Leonard replies beside her and she turns to look at him. “King Robert and Queen Snow both have people that are loyal to them and only them. If the empire were to fall those loyalists would let it so long as their monarchs were safe.”
Sara nods. “Right, the inner circle of the Imperial Guard. Should I assume the two guards outside are apart of the inner circle.”
“Exactly, while we’re in Central they will keep an eye open for disodents. Lord Merlyn is leaving Tommy here to lead them in this task. If the conspirators make their move, the inner circle will strike them down.”
“Queen Snow has her own inner circle and has agreed to the plan. Mick will have to travel with her as King Consort, but she trusts Lord Fries implicitly and intends to leave him in charge of the inner circle’s forces.” Malcolm finished.
Sara had to admit it was a good plan. She was itching to get to Central to begin and ensuring they would need to be inside the city for the plan to work, she was more than happy to go along.
Sara turns to Leonard. “Are you going to be alright as a cat again?” she asked. It was hard to imagine him willingly shifting again, especially after being trapped for months.
“No, but it’ll be worth it to take out Druce once and for all.”
“And what are we going to do about the fact that Druce will know it’s you?” she questioned.
“He won’t be able to admit he knows it’s Leonard, then he’d have to admit how he knows that and I doubt he’ll be able to spin a believable lie to suit our suspicions.” Robert says. “I believe if we act as though we do not know its him, perhaps in the same way you did not know it was him when you first met on the road home, he may believe he found you and is choosing to stick close in the hope that someone will figure it out.”
“Do you really think that will work?” she asks Leonard.
“I do. Druce is far to full of himself not to gloat. In fact, I think we may be able to trap him into confessing if we can convince him that none of you know.”
“That’s certainly an option we should consider.” Malcolm replied. “Whatever we decide, however, you’re never to be left alone with him. No one is.”
They easily agreed.
Three knocks sounded at the door before any of them could answer and they all turned just as the door opened, admitting Oliver, Tommy and Felicity. When the door was closed behind them again, Tommy spoke up. “A messenger bird just delivered a scroll. The Eastern Counsel has appointed a leader.”
“Who?” Robert asked.
“Just as expected.” Sara replied.
“Lord Wells and his apprentice are expected to head back to Central as soon as the solstice feast is finished tonight. Wells has been chosen to perform the Coronation ceremony.” Oliver explained. “The message also came with an invitation to the Coronation.”
Robert sighed. “Well then, we best prepare for the journey.” he turned to Leonard. “Rest as much as you can, Leonard, I’m afraid you’ll have to put on the act all the way there.”
Leonard opened his mouth to protest, but Malcolm cut him off. “We don’t know who could be watching us. If they see you and report back to Druce we’ll lose the element of surprise.”
Leonard sighed, relenting silently. Sara leaned into his side discreetly, a small comfort he was grateful for. He stood from his seat. “Well then, if we’re done here, I’ll head back to my chambers.”
Leonard slipped out of the throne room through a panel in the wall behind a tapestry. When he was gone, Robert turned to Sara. “I know I don’t have to explain to you what he’s going through.” he says and Sara nods. “Keep an eye on him.”
Chapter 7: The Nightmares Take Ominous Shapes
They begin their journey toward Central and meet with allies along the way. Leonard and Sara finally manage to have some semblance of a conversation.
The Eastern Prince, The Western Knight
Earth 53: Prince Snart/ Knight Lance
Part VII: The Nightmares Take Ominous Shapes
Leonard didn’t know what his cat face looked like at the moment, but he hoped his glare was coming across. Judging by the way Sara and Bartholomew were laughing he was certain it was. “You’ll be fine.” Sara tells him, climbing into Debonair’s saddle. A few paces away, Barry climbed into his own. “I know it’s awful right now, but it’ll be worth it.” she continues. The truth in that statement does very little to alleviate his annoyance at once again being in this form for an extended period of time. Sensing that she wasn’t helping the situation, Sara patted the saddle behind the horn, offering him the spot. “Come on, you can at least ride for awhile.” Leonard pouted for a moment longer, before deciding it was the best offer he was going to get for the foreseeable future and hopped up.
Once saddled, Sara and Barry walked their horses over to join the rest of the riding party. Francisco Ramon, who Harrison had called in from Central the night before was preparing everyone for portal travel. Francisco was another of Bartholomew and Len’s close friends. A talented sorcerer himself, he specialized in interdimensional magic, including portal travel.
“It will take sixteen hours at this distance. I can get us half way there in four and then we’ll have to rest for eight so no one feels any ill effects and then another four the following morning to finish the distance.”
“Where will we be coming out today?” Sara asks.
“About two hours ride from Gotham City.” Malcolm replies. “I’ve sent word ahead, Lord Wayne will be prepared for us.”
“We should arrive around supper.” Cisco continues. “When we’re moving through the portal, don’t touch the walls, don’t stray from the path, you may pop out in the middle of nowhere and it will take several scrying spells to find you again. It will feel like only a few minutes has passed but it will be nearly four hours, maybe more depending on how rough the pathway is.” he paused a moment to make sure no one had any questions. “Is everyone ready?” There was unanimous agreement and as Cisco moved into the empty space in front of the caravan, the rest of them shuffled around, moving into formation around the royal carriage.
After a moment of concentration a large ring of roiling blue energy formed in front of them, large enough for them to pass through. They waited for Cisco’s queue and then as one moved through the gate. The trip was strange, but Leonard always thought traveling this way was strange. He’d traveled back and forth from Central to various other ally capitals this way and he’d disliked every trip. He couldn’t deny how convenient it was though.
“How did Cisco get to Star in a few hours if it takes so long to go from place to place?” He hears Sara ask, feeling her shift ever so slightly toward Barry.
“The more people that travel along, the longer it takes. If he travels alone or with one or two people, he can double the distance traveled and reduce the amount of time he has to recover from the conjuring.” Barry explains.
Just as Cisco said, it feels like mere minutes when Leonard notices the opening to the other side appear and he sits up as they break through, taking in the last of the fall foliage that still clings to the trees. He feels Sara’s hand on the top of his head, her glove gone as she digs her fingers into his fur. He purrs, leaning back against her, her hand shifting under his chin as he does so.
At some point he falls asleep like that, and when he wakes he can see the towering dark structures that make up the midnight city known as Gotham. Sheltered in the shade of the largest mountain range of the east, the sun shines on Gotham for only a quarter of the day. In order to conserve the benefits brought to the world by the sun, Gotham’s structures were built with the pitch black stone mined from under the mountain. The idea came from Thomas Wayne, the late Lord Paramount of Gotham city. His son, Bruce Wayne, is the current Lord Paramount, and standing at the gates of the castle alongside his wife and oldest ward as they approached.
The Waynes welcome them, leading them through the gate and down toward the stables. Once there they dismount, their bridles taken and their possessions sorted toward their lodgings. From there, Bruce, Selina and Richard lead them up into the castle. A feast is being prepared for them, but in the meantime, the party needs to rest. A deep exhaustion has settled into Sara’s bones, a familiar feeling in the last few months. She wonders if tonight she will finally be tired enough not to dream.
Robert and Bruce break off from the group, Malcolm, Richard, Oliver and the magic wielders of their group, save for Cisco, trailing behind. When the hall is clear, Leonard pads after them, leaving Sara and Selina alone.
“You look exhausted, Sara, come along, I have just the thing to give you a boost.” Selina tells her and Sara follows without argument. She leads the younger woman up into the family solar, which they find empty, and sets about making tea. “How are you faring these days?” she asks, looking over her shoulder as Sara takes a seat at the table.
“Well enough I suppose.”
“Not very heartening to hear. I can’t imagine coming back to this mess has made things any easier.”
Sara huffs humorlessly. “That’s putting it mildly. I’ve never felt so helpless. Before I had a goal I could see. Now, I feel like a carriage wheel stuck in the mud.”
Selina hummed. “And what does Leonard think of all of this?” Sara looks up at her surprised, muscles coiling as though prepared to strike out. “Relax darling, Bruce told me. And even if he hadn’t I’d know those icy blue eyes anywhere.”
Sara relaxes back in her seat, leaning her head back. “I haven’t really talked to him about it. We’ve been so preoccupied with all of this coup business, it hasn’t really felt right to discuss it.”
“And if none of this were an issue, would you want to talk about it then?”
Sara looks up at the woman, her catty green eyes watching her, studying her. Selina Kyle had been a spy in the employ of the King of the East for years before she settled down in Gotham. She was an expert in stealth and extracting information, so even though Sara didn’t wish to talk about it, she found she couldn’t help herself.
“Probably not. I’ve never really been known to talk about certain things. This definitely fits.”
Selina finishes brewing the tea and moves to the table with a tray. She fixes two cups and places one out for Sara and takes the other for herself. “If you won’t talk to Leonard, talk to me.” Selina continues. “I think Leonard would be the better choice, but I understand you don’t want to burden him right now.”
Sara sighs, taking a sip of her tea and very carefully returning the cup to the table. “I have no idea where to begin.” she says. “Everything is a muddled mess.” she huffs. “When I left I thought, hoped, when I was done, if I ever finished, that everything might go back to normal. That I would ride home and Leonard might be there waiting for me and we… we could get married and live that happily ever after my sister was so fond of. But the longer I was out there, the longer it took, I started to think I would spend the rest of my life wandering the continent hunting him, that I would grow old and bitter and if I ever finished there would be nothing left to go home to.” she paused. “But then it was over, and that satisfaction, that freedom I thought I would feel wasn’t there. I felt empty and alone and lost, and despite everything I couldn’t picture a future anymore. I used to picture our life when I got home, Leonard and I, but even finding him on the road I couldn’t see it anymore. It was dark and unclear and focusing on it for too long just makes my head ache.”
“Are your memories like that as well?”
“I haven’t really thought about it. I’ve been making an effort not to remember the past.”
“I think it would be wise if you did start thinking about it.” Selina tells her. She doesn’t elaborate. Sara merely nods and takes another sip of her tea. Selina was right, she does feel a bit more energized.
“I know what our mission is, I know what needs to be done, but I can’t shake the feeling that something awful is going to happen.”
“Your instincts have always been strong, Sara, listen to them now.”
Leonard pushes past Barry as they enter Bruce’s study, climbing up onto an empty high chair in the corner of the room. The other men gather among the tomes and artifacts, maps and diagrams. Bruce perches behind his desk, his oldest ward Richard leaning against the inset shelves behind him. Robert and Malcolm take the seats across from the desk and Oliver, Barry and Leonard sit around the edges of the group, listening intently to whatever Bruce has to say.
“How has your research gone?” Robert asks. The Wayne family has run the largest network of spies in the four regions for centuries, all in service to the Snart Family and the Snart Family only. Centuries before the Snart family took power from a totalitarian monarch, the Wayne Foundation as it was loosely referred to, was an independent network that worked for the highest bidder. After the rise of the Snarts, the Wayne’s had pledged their loyalty to the Eastern Empire. It was after the death of his parents that Bruce, for reasons he would not say, pledged his loyalty to the Snarts and only the Snart family. When whispering of dissidents met Leonard’s ears at the beginning of the year, he had thought first of Bruce. The man had a massive network of spies at his beck and call and was trained in various ways himself. His actions after the death of his parents lent Leonard to believe he may know something he had not divulged to them, or that perhaps he merely suspected something foul and could not prove it.
“Well, my spies have shifted their positions all over the continent, reaching out wherever they could to gather information.” Bruce explains. “What they’ve found so far doesn’t exactly answer a lot of questions.”
“Such as?” Malcolm questions.
“The information King Lewis requested on Damien Darhk.” Bruce replies. “From what we can tell he was capable of magic use. Not all that surprising however, there’s evidence to suggest that he’s gotten free from various other similar situations using that magic.”
“I believe you’ve lost me.” Robert says.
“By account, he faked his death multiple times.”
“How could he possibly have faked his death this time? If that’s what you’re implying.” Oliver asks.
“I’m not implying anything.” Bruce tells him. “I’m simply reporting the facts.”
“And the facts are, there’s a good chance Darhk has faked his death, yet again?” Malcolm adds.
“Alright, but how?” Oliver questions again. “We have his head, literally, sitting in court.”
“Do we though?” Bartholomew speaks up, drawing their attention. “I had no reason to question it until now, but I did sense a modicum of arcane energy on the head. I assumed it was form the preservation spell and refrained from probing further, but if he did in fact fake his death, it could have been an illusion spell.”
“And what about Sara and the town all this happened in?” Robert asks, looking between his Wells and Malcolm.
“Any number of spells could account for her belief that she killed him.”
Oliver shakes his head. “I can’t believe he’s still alive, not after all that Sara went through to beat him.”
“Whether he’s alive or not, no one can speak of this conversation to Sara.” Malcolm says.
Robert agrees. “I won’t watch that poor girl driven to rage again. She’s been through enough. If he is still alive, we’ll deal with it quietly.”
“In the meantime, there are dissidents to worry about.” Bruce draws their attention again. “There are a few potential suspects you may want to look out for.” he continues. “In the south Prince Thomas is working on putting the empire back together. And there is the matter of the councilman who disappeared.”
“Do you think the councilman is a conspirator?” Robert asks.
“No, I think he’s being set up.” Bruce replies.
“Why do you think that?”
Bruce and Richard share a look.
“Because he’s one of ours.” Richard tells them. “He’s been a part of the network since the late Lord Wayne brought him on.”
“Any theories?” Malcolm asks.
“Nothing I can back up with evidence, but I have suspicions.”
“The crowned prince?”
Bruce nods, “I grew up with Thomas. My parents fostered him for a few years. I’ve had more than one occasion to question his stability. I have another spy keeping an eye on him.”
“You’ll keep us up to date on that front?” Robert questions.
“What about the other empires?” Oliver asks.
“Well, we already know of Druce, but I’ve had a few suspicions that the late Eobard Thawne may have been a part of the plot as well.” he pauses to consider something and thinking better of it, continues. “I don’t believe Darhk was a part of the plot. I think he took advantage and they were forced to rework the plan around him. As for the North, Queen Snow makes it difficult to extend our network that far North, so I’ve very little to go on there.”
“And the West?” Robert asks.
Bruce hesitates. “Counselor Blood is the one who has the most to gain from over throwing you.”
Robert nods and looks to Malcolm. “I’ll send word back to Star City to keep an eye on him.”
Before anyone can reply, a knock sounds at the door and in steps Ser Alfred to let them know supper is ready.
When the door opened Leonard slipped out, he wasn’t hungry, he had too much to think about.
Leonard watches Sara move around the room securing every point of entry. She’s dressed in her nightgown, the same beautiful blue silk he’s always loved on her. She’s stunning, he thinks, her long blonde hair loose around her shoulders and face. He wants to take her in his arms and never let go, never let the world touch her again. But he knows that’s a foolish thought. She’s too stubborn, too strong to let him take care of her like that, to sit back and let others fight for her. Not when she could do it herself.
When everything is secure, Leonard shifts out of his form, laying out along the bed with an exhausted sigh.
“Long day?” she jokes, crawling into bed next to him and laying against his side.
“Too long.” he replies, his arms coming up around her instinctively. She hums, burying her face in his neck.
They lay in silence, Leonard’s head filled with questions he’s desperate to ask her. He’s just managed to work up the nerve, when she beats him to it.
“How are you doing?” she asks and though it sounds like a fairly simple question, he knows better.
“Eager for all of this to be over.” he tells her. “I finally understand how you felt before you left and quite honestly it scares me. It scares me to think you felt this much pain.”
Her arms squeeze him closer and this time, Leonard manages to get his question out first. “Will you tell me about your nightmares?” he feels her tense against him. “The nights before you knew it was me, I saw the way they plagued you, the things you said in your sleep, begging someone to stop.”
She’s quiet for a time and it’s only the way her heart beats wildly that tells him she’s still awake.
“Myself.” she tells him. “I’m begging myself to stop.” she takes in a deep stuttering breath and clings to him. “I’m attacking people, all the people I love, striking them down, but it was like I was trapped in my own body; it wouldn’t listen to me. I couldn’t stop it and the more I begged, the louder the laughter got.”
“Darhk. I can hear his demented laughter all around me, taunting me as I cut down everyone I love.”
Leonard isn’t sure what to say to that, it’s not as if he can say anything to instantly make it better. Her confession is disturbing to say the least, especially when one considers the conversation before supper. This could very well mean Darhk is still alive, watching her taunting her. Or he could have cursed her as he was dying, for the first time, unable to escape the inevitable.
Neither option was particularly pleasant to consider.
Chapter 8: Descent Into Madness
The party arrives in Central and the game begins
The Eastern Prince, The Western Knight
Earth 53: Prince Snart/ Knight Lance
Part VIII: Descent Into Madness
As the sun rises in the east, so too does the dread of what’s to come. Exhausted by the mere thought, the party rises to complete their journey, eating a filling breakfast and mounting their horses. The Wayne’s bid them luck and without fanfare, Cisco opens the portal, dropping them in almost the exact same spot Sara and Leonard reunited. He looks up at her from the saddle and she smiles softly back, running a hand through his fur. He purrs and drops off to sleep for the rest of the journey.
Being back in central is bittersweet. The city is crowded, the people preparing for the upcoming ceremony. The whispers that reach their ears tell him the people are not happy with this turn of events and it does very little to comfort him.
The castle is as he left it, though the guard is significantly larger than before, understandable given the recent deceptions. They’re greeted in the main hall by Declan, the stout, older man standing tall and proud. His status has been elevated along with Druce’s and Leonard thinks if the man should have to proclaim innocents at anypoint, he should probably stop looking so pleased with himself. There’s a moment of satisfaction as panic crosses Declan’s face just long enough for a few of them to catch his eyes cutting toward Leonard as he strolls in at Sara’s side.
“Welcome.” he says, shaking off the concern and smiling at Robert as he and his advisors approach. “We’re glad to have you in our wonderful city again, though, not under these circumstances.”
Robert nods in acknowledgement. “Yes, well there’s nothing like a tragedy to bring allies together.” he replies.
“Truer words have never been spoken, Majesty.” Declan replies. “Well, I’m sure you all want to get settled, it’s been a long journey. Lord Druce has planned a feast for the evening for all the visiting dignitaries.”
“That sounds lovely. I suppose we will see you there.”
Declan nodded in agreement and stepped aside to let them pass, waiting for Harrison, Bartholomew and Francisco to join him, before strolling off together.
“Correct me if I'm wrong, but was Lady Sara accompanied by a snow leopard?” Declan asks as they make their way through the halls of the palace. Wells has to give him credit, he’s very convincing.
“Yes, strange isn’t it?” Wells replies. “It was with her when she returned to Star City.” he explains.
“Where did you it come from?”
“You know, I never asked.” Well replies casually. He looks back at Bartholomew. “Did you?”
“Yes, apparently she found him on the trail home.” he explains. “It was starving and she felt bad so she fed it and now it follows her everywhere.”
“Interesting.” Declan hums. “Touched by magic?”
“She seems to think so and he’s fairly expressive so I could believe that.”
Declan doesn’t say anything more as they arrive at Harrison’s workshop. Declan bids them farewell and continues on as Wells, Bartholomew and Franscisco enter.
“I want to look into Thawne.” Wells tells them as he stops before his workbench and begins shifting through the contents.
“What specifically?” Cisco asks.
“Everything, but let’s start with his belongings.” he replies. “As a high ranking official with no family, all of his personal effects were sent to the archive I want you both to go down there and pull everything he had on him the day he died.”
“Yes sir.” Barry agrees.
“Stay together, I don’t want either of you to let your guard down, there’s no telling what anyone will do to keep their secrets.”
With silent agreement they went off to complete their task and Wells turned back to his work bench. It’s not long before the door to his workshop opens again and confused, Wells turns to find Druce stepping in.
“Lord Druce, to what do I owe the pleasure?” he asks.
“I thought I’d come see how the trip went. The Solstice feast is very important for the four regions as you know. Just hoping everything went off without any issues.”
“Aye, it did. Probably one of the smoothest rituals I’ve ever performed. It was an ease sorely needed after everything that’s happened.”
Druce hums in agreement. He paused, seeming to collect his thoughts before; “If I may inquire, have you had much contact with Lady Sara during your journey.”
“A bit. Why do you ask?”
“I find, I am a bit concerned with her wellbeing.” Druce replies. “A lot has happened in the last few years, and now her betrothed is missing, presumed dead.”
He sounds sympathetic, but sympathy is not an emotion Druce is used to convey and Wells sees right through his act.
“Additionally,” he continues, hesitating for dramatic effect. “Shortly after the Starling masacre, I looked into Darhk out of a sort of morbid curiosity. I knew he would be executed for his crimes and I wanted to ensure it would be that simple.”
“And you found something?”
“Mm, yes, it would seem that Darhk was well versed in dark magic and he very well could have done something to Sara without her knowledge. There’s also reason to believe, though I’m not entirely confident in the source, that he was significantly older than he appeared.”
“I see. “Wells replies thoughtfully. “Well, I’ll speak with King Robert as soon as possible. He’s taken her in since the murder of her family as you well know. If anyone can help her he can. Also he may be able to spare a few men to keep an eye on her.”
“Excellent.” Druce replies, seemingly pleased. He turns to leave, not saying anything as he does so.
Wells doesn’t have time to think on what Druce said, because Barry and Cisco return carrying a large wooden chest. Wells ushers them forward to place it on the workbench and he quickly gets to work unenchanting in. The lock pops and he opens the lid, carefully sifting through the contents.
Within the chest, Wells finds the deep blue cloak Thawne had been wearing when he died as well as the various personal tomes and papers. His purse, still filled with coin, his house signet ring and … Wells looks confused reaching into the chest, pulling a gold medallion on a leather chain, an intricate carving of jagged lines across the surface.
“What is that?” Barry questions.
“I don’t know.” Wells replies. He pockets the medallion and turns back to Thawne’s belonging, casting a spell to detect any strange magic. He finds nothing of consequence and repacks the chest. “Take it back to the archive.” he tells them. “I need to take care of a few things. Go about your business as if nothing is out of place, we’ll reconvene after the feast.”
A knock at the door draws Sara’s attention and she opens it, schooling her reaction. Leonard lays on a chair in the corner looking up briefly out of curiosity and then returning his head to his paws, closing his eyes.
“Lord Druce?” Sara questions confused.
“Lady Sara.” he replies, stepping in as she steps back. “I apologize for my appearing unannounced, but I just wanted to make sure you were alright, I know a lot has happened in the last few years.”
“I’m alright, I supposed, all things considered.” she replies. “I find remaining hopeful helps.”
“That’s good to hear.” he tells her. “I want to assure you that we are doing everything in our power to find the person responsible for all of this.”
“Thank you milord. It’s heartening to hear you say that.”
He nods in acknowledgement. “Might I make a request of you?” he asks.
“I find my confidence in Princess Lisa’s safety is waning and so I had hoped that after the coronation you would go to the summer palace and protect her until we have a better idea of who's behind this. I feel as though Leonard wouldn’t want anyone but you protecting his beloved sister.”
Sara quickly shakes off her surprise. “Of course, I will leave as soon as the proceedings are finished.”
“Thank you.” Druce replies. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll need to look in on feast preparations.”
She nods, pretending not to notice the glare he shoots Leonard as he turns to walk away. When he’s gone, Sara turns to Leonard whose now sitting up, watching her. She takes a deep breath, letting it go slowly.
“I think it’s time to put an end to this.”
“He simply wanted to know how I was fairing and to ask me to protect Lisa until they discover who killed the King and Queen.”
“To what end?” Malcolm questions. “What could he possibly have to gain by sending you out there?”
“Distraction maybe?” Oliver suggests. “Why would he go to such lengths to protect the princess if he is responsible for all of this?”
“Or he’s just trying to get you out of the way. If you didn’t know what you do, you’d be investigating this yourself, wouldn’t you?” Wells asks. She nods.
“Or maybe an ambush.” Barry suggests. They look to him to clarify. “Think about it. A hero sent to guard the princess, but she’s no match for the person or people who killed the king and queen.”
“Oliver continued. “He could feign outrage, build himself up as a sympathetic ruler, angry at the deaths of innocent people.”
“And to take it further.” Malcolm adds. “He can pick out political rivals, frame them and then use the public outrage to restructure the council and fill it with anyone who supports him or could be easily manipulated.”
“So we’re all under the agreement that he’s moving his plans along?” Robert says. There’s unanimous, silent agreement all around. “Good, what are we going to do about that?”
“I may have an idea about that, but it all hinges on whether or not it’s possible.” Malcolm says. He turns to Wells. “Now, I know there’s a way to project ones voice across the city, we use something like it in Star City.”
“As we do here as well.” Wells adds.
“Right, is there a way to change the point of origin. At the moment, someone goes into a room that acts as a point of origin for the voice that’s projected.”
“I think I see what your saying. If we can trick Druce into “bragging” about his crimes, we could set up a hidden origin point to project his confession across the city.” Wells replies, Malcolm nods.
“How would we do that though?” Sara asks. “What circumstances would make him give himself away like that?”
“Leonard.” Wells says. “He already knows it’s him, lets be honest here. If he’s alone with Leonard he’ll undoubtedly be tempted to gloat.”
“Makes sense. Where could they “run into each other” that he could feel secure enough to do that.”
“The temple.” Wells replies. “Druce’s family are staunch worshipers of Epoch, The Lord of Time. Every morning, he goes to the Temple of Epoch on the Northern end of the Palace. His routine is set, he never deviates under any circumstances.”
“Leonard could wait for him in the temple, confront him, and Harrison, Sara and I could hide in the shadows, make sure Leonard is safe and the confession makes it out to the city.”
“I think that’s it.” Robert replies. “I think that’s our best option at this point.”
No one says anything, but the mood seems resigned, ready to put an end to this once and for all.