Summary: Sam's life has never been easy. He lost his father at a young age, joined the knighthood in order to be close to his half-brother Adam, was saved from a monster by a shapeshifter wolf named Dean, and now is being haunted by visions of a dragon. Turns out there's a legend for just about everything.
Disclaimer: Not mine but a girl can dream, can't she?
Author's note: Knights, wolves and dragons. Oh my.
Previous Chapters: One, Two
Adam nearly jumped out of his skin as the birch rod struck the top of the table. He straightened and glowered up at the man standing in front of him. Despite the wordless threat, Adam knew that Aldous wouldn’t dare strike him. He was the prince, not some common student.
Aldous Rudhale was a man of advanced years. His hair was as white as pure snow and his thick beard reached the belt around his narrow waist. A musty smell encased him like a shroud from time spent in the castle’s extensive but rarely used library. Numerous years of study had filled his head with the knowledge of the kingdom’s history nearly three centuries passed. Aldous had recorded several tomes himself of Queen Katherine and the late King Tommen’s rule, his fingertips permanently black from the amount of ink he’d gone through.
“Am I boring you, your highness?”
His eyebrows look like old, fat caterpillars, Adam reflected to himself for the umpteenth time. Out loud he said, “no, Sage Aldous. I apologize.”
He didn’t look convinced. “I’ll have you know that these lessons are far more important than whatever you’ve been staring at out the window. You’d do well to pay attention.”
“I find it hard to believe that my being a good ruler depends on whether or not I know the names, origins, accomplishments and failures of all thirty-seven kings that came before me,” Adam rolled his eyes. “I know just what it takes to run a kingdom.”
“Do you?” Aldous challenged. “Every person makes mistakes. It’s only through learning from them that we can better ourselves and our ways so that those errors in judgement are not repeated.”
“I’m not foolish enough to betray my allies like King Gerard Mauntell did, or try to convert my people to the worship of demons like King James Crane.”
“Ah, so I see some of my lessons have managed to stick in that gaping cavity between your ears.”
Adam smirked at the light insult. “I know the importance of history because it’s where we come from, but I’m not going to let the dead control my every step. Once I’m king things are going to change.”
“Because I’ve been doing such a terrible job thus far?” Katherine asked as she sauntered into the room. She was dressed in a light purple dress, the lace sleeves only covering down to her forearms and the hem lightly trailing against the floor at her feet.
Sir Gordon trailed along behind her, and Adam was pleased to note the bruises on the knight’s face. His brother had given the older man exactly what he’d deserved.
“Your Majesty,” Aldous greeted. His old bones would only allow him to bow slightly, or else risk falling over onto his face. “I’m humbled by your unexpected presence.”
“My dear sage,” the queen acknowledged him sweetly, giving him one of her hands. “I trust my son isn’t giving you too much trouble this morning?”
His thin, dry lips brushed against the backs her fingers. “No more than usual.”
“I hate it when you talk about me like I’m not here.” Adam rose to his feet and moved to embrace her. “Of course you’ve done well, mother. But make no mistake; I will be doing things my way.”
“I expect no less,” Katherine sighed as she released him with a touch to his soft, sandy-colored hair. “Every new person who takes the crown believes their ways will improve things. I do hope you’ll take my counsel under advisement from time to time, though.”
He smiled. “I promise.”
“Good.” Katherine kissed his forehead. “I trust you’ll also give your wife the same courtesy. King or no it’s a husband’s job to--”
“My what?” Adam pulled back. “Who said anything about a wife?”
“Well of course you’ll have a wife, sweetheart. You’re expected to have heirs to rule after you.”
“There’s plenty of time for that! I’m only seventeen.”
“As we learned from your father and the late king a lot of unexpected things can happen, and we must be prepared. Besides, you need someone to help you make decisions. Someone you can trust.”
“I have Sam.”
Katherine crossed her arms loosely in front of her. “He should be relying on you, Adam. Not the other way around. Sam is not an advisor and he has no real power. He doesn’t know how to rule a kingdom. He does as you tell him.”
“My brother is the only one around here besides you that is honest with me. He doesn’t tell me what he thinks I want to hear just to get on my good side. Getting married is out of the question.” Adam brushed passed her and left the room without a backwards glance.
“Obviously the brat has no idea that his betrothed is already on her way here,” Gordon stated dryly.
The Queen smiled smugly. “He’ll find out soon enough.”
The dragon was easily the size of the castle it was perched upon; the stone walls had begun to crumble beneath the force of giant, sharp claws and strong feet. The tough onyx scales that coated the large body seemed to glimmer in the bright sun, making the dragon’s body resemble a moonless night.
Dark, piercing eyes locked on him with an intensity that hit him like a sword to the gut. Smoke emitted from the beast’s nose, coiling up towards the sky while its mouth parted to reveal sharp, jagged teeth. Large, webbed wings unfurled towards the sky and blocked out the sun as the dragon leapt from its perch.
Sam sat up with a start, his naked body slick with sweat and his heart pounding against his ribcage. He buried his face in his hands for a second to catch his breath, then shoved his blankets aside and climbed out of bed.
Though the water in the basin was lukewarm, it still felt good as Sam cupped it in his trembling hands and splashed his face. He leaned over the bowl to let the droplets fall from his skin as he looked at himself in the mirror. His heart raced, his breath ragged. Sam ducked his head and cursed at himself; he felt stupid for letting a nightmare affect him so deeply. He wasn’t a child and he wasn’t about to let his imagination get the better of him.
However, sleep seemed out of the question so Sam figured he might as well make some rounds of the castle. Back before he’d won his place at Adam’s side he had spent many nights in the corridors; his only company was the comfort he’d taken in the tiny, flickering flames of the torches along the walls, and the scuffle of his own feet on the cold, stone floors.
Solitude had been a big part of his life growing up. He had been permitted to play with Adam mostly while Queen Katherine was preoccupied, and with John gone so much Sam had entertained himself more days than not. None of the other children in the village wanted much to do with him, and the only other children who resided within the castle walls worked just as hard as their parents: mucking out the stables, chopping vegetables, or removing the feathers from dead chickens to prepare them for supper. They had no time for play.
Sam nodded to the guard stationed outside Adam’s door. “All is well, Sir Jaime?”
“There have been no disturbances,” the knight replied. “Though his highness is still awake.”
Jaime Thornton was Sam’s equal in years, but not experience. He had been passed over several times for knighthood before Adam had intervened. The Prince saw potential in Jaime and convinced his mother to allow the man to join his ranks, not only earning himself a new knight but Jaime’s eternal loyalty and vigilance as well. Only second to Sam, of course. His blond hair and blue eyes gave him a look of innocence that matched his inexperience, prompting the other knights to mock him with nicknames like ‘Angel’ and ‘Purity’. Jaime took it all in stride and admittedly, Sam envied him for that. His own actions were often more rash than not.
“You’re sure?” Sam automatically moved for the large double doors that led to his brother’s room. He could count on one hand the number of times Adam had trouble sleeping, and the last time had been after their father passed away several years before.
Jaime shifted aside with a nod. “He’s been talking to himself, though too low for me to make out the words, plus the glow of the candle beneath the doors has not extinguished. But he didn’t respond to my knocking.”
Nodding his thanks to the other man, Sam entered the room and closed the door behind him. Adam barely noticed, muttered to himself as he continued to circle the room with steady strides.
“Brother?” Sam walked over and grabbed Adam’s wrist on his next turn, forcing the younger man to look at him. “It’s nearly dawn. What troubles you?”
“A number of things,” Adam replied vaguely, pulling from Sam’s grasp.
“Start with the biggest one, then.”
“No surprise there.” Sam sat on the side of the large, four-poster bed. The emerald covers were soft beneath him. “What did the Lady Queen do this time?”
Adam wasn’t fazed by the snide tone. He knew very well how his brother felt about Katherine, and vice versa. He moved to the bed and sat beside him. “She wants to see me married.”
The brunet chuckled. “And that is what’s keeping you up all night? Adam, you’re going to be king very soon and all kings get married.”
“Not all,” he replied stubbornly. “I’m sure Aldous could name at least seven that never took a wife.”
“Because seven’s a huge number,” Sam rolled his eyes, amused. He reached up and ruffled Adam’s soft hair. “Why is this really such a big deal? Don’t you want to have your own family one day?”
“I already have a family, Sam. You.”
“It’s not the same and you know it. Besides, I won’t be around forever. Knights are a dying breed, don’t you know that?”
“You made that up,” Adam accused. “As long as there is kingdoms there will be knights to defend them.”
He shook his head. “What is this really about?”
Adam slid off the bed and went to the window to look into the darkness below where the village was sleeping peacefully. “I’m a little nervous, I guess. Part of me knows I’ll be good at being king. I’ve been raised into this, after all. But the other half of me… well… what if I’m terrible? What if I become a tyrant that the villagers hate?”
“I don’t think you have it in you to become a tyrant.” Sam stood and walked over, grasping the younger man’s shoulder. “Even if I didn’t know that was true, the fact that you’re worried proves it. You’ll have your crown, a lovely wife, and eventually some healthy little babies to dote on. Your people will love you, your family will adore you, and everything will work out.”
“But where will that leave you? You’ve given up so much for me.” Adam turned towards Sam and reached up to gently touch his scar. “I want to do the same for you.”
“You have done the same for me. Adam, you believed in me when no one else did. It’ll be okay. Even after all is said and done I’ll still be by your side as your brother and your guard.” Sam smiled at him. “Nothing will come between us.”
When Mary was younger, she was fascinated by humans. Every time she got a chance to sneak away from her father’s pack she would make her way to the edge of the forest. The village was smaller back then but there was no lack of every day activity. Mary would crouch behind a thick oak tree, her hands rested against the rough bark, and watch with rapt attention.
Humans had strange, but interesting, interactions. Wolves knew their place with their own, going by status and scent as to who was allowed to voice their opinions, stand watch over the others and earn priority over food and space. Humans were different. Each one seemed to believe themselves as important, if not more so, than others. They sold different kinds of food and wares to anyone who was interested; both the strong and the weak haggled over prices as though it was their right. But it was those differences that made them interesting.
For a species that Samuel Campbell despised and constantly belittled, Mary didn’t see a problem with them. Sure, humans had their flaws. She’d once witnessed a fight break out over a supposed chicken theft that resulted in one man losing an ear to a knife. But wolves had their flaws too.
Mary was so entranced with watching the village that she failed to sense the human approaching until his deep, inquisitive voice broke the silence.
“Are you alright?”
Her whole body tensed in preparation for a fight, and she barely resisted the urge to bare her human teeth in a warning growl as she turned her head to look up at him. The man was obviously what she’d overheard as ‘knights’. Thin metal armor covered his body from the base of his neck to the bottoms of his feet, the gloves on his hands fingerless. A belt secured his sword to his waist and a shield depicting a painting of a red sword and a black sword crossed over each other was secured to his back. The man’s hair was short and dark as coal in the warm, morning sunlight. His chest was broad beneath the armor and his waist was narrow, arms strong and muscled. He would be a force to be reckoned with by human standards and Mary’s heart sped up a little, though from trepidation or nervousness she couldn’t be sure. She’d never been that close to a human before.
“Yes, I’m fine. I was just…”
“Anyone else who saw you hiding and watching like that might get a little nervous,” his smile was kind, “but I’ve seen you before.”
“You have?” Mary didn’t know how to take that. She was obviously not being careful enough if she had never realized her weekly visits to the village had not gone unnoticed. Samuel would be very angry if he knew. “And you never did anything?”
“No, why would I? There’s no crime against watching people.”
“Oh.” She cleared her throat uncomfortably. “I mean, of course.”
He had to know that Mary wasn’t a resident of the small village, but the fact he didn’t care about where she was from or what her purpose was just made her more confused and slightly annoyed. Didn’t he know that she could be trouble if she wanted to be?
“I’m a threat,” Mary blurted in annoyance, startling both of them. “I mean I could be if I wanted to.”
The knight blinked at her, unsure how to take the outburst. He looked down at her body, noting the lack of weapon at her small waist, the fact she was wearing a dress instead of armor, and that her stance seemed more defensive than aggressive. His brown eyes met Mary’s blue and he smiled softly. “I’m sure you could be if you chose to,” he placated with raised hands. “But you aren’t today. Right?”
She didn’t understand how he could be so kind. And yet she couldn’t help but find it charming. “No, not today,” she admitted with a soft smile of her own.
He seemed delighted. “Can I buy you a drink?”
Mary hesitated and glanced back towards the forest. Part of her wanted to, but the rational part knew that if her father caught wind of it... “I don’t think so.”
The knight’s smile dimmed slightly in disappointment. “I’m sorry to hear that, my lady. Perhaps another time?” he asked hopefully. Without waiting for her response, he bowed slightly and walked away from her towards the heart of the village.
Mary watched him go and once he had rounded the corner, she disappeared back into the thicket of trees.
For the next week, the young man was all Mary could think about. She found herself wanting to know more about him. She wanted to know the sound of his laughter, if he lived with family or alone, what his beliefs and dreams were. Or at the very least, she wanted to know his name. Names were a good starting point.
It was several moon cycles before Mary was able to sneak away from her pack again. Once more she crouched by her tree and looked out over the village with a desperate hope for any sign of the knight. Every time she saw a human with dark hair a surge of anticipation went through her, but it was soon followed by disappointment when each time turned out not to be him.
The sun slowly sank lower in the sky. The merchants had begun to close their stands for the night and Mary rose to her feet, disappointment coiled low in her stomach, but just as she was about to return home the wind changed and a familiar scent caught her attention.
The knight smelled like leather, sweat, and strangely enough… burnt wood. She spun around quickly followed the trail into the village. Everyone else was dismissed as unimportant as she made her way with quickened steps passed carts and crates, people and animals.
The knight was walking with another man, slightly older but similarly dressed in light armor with a sword at his side. They talked and laughed with an easiness that spoke of how well they knew each other and Mary stopped short, suddenly feeling like she didn’t belong. Awkward, she had just decided to turn back when her knight suddenly stilled. He turned on his heel and their eyes met.
The next thing that Mary knew she was sitting with him in the alehouse. She had never consumed any liquid besides water before, and truth be known the alcohol tasted absolutely terrible. She only sipped now and then at it to keep from standing too much from the other patrons as she and her companion tentatively got to know each other.
They had been talking for about an hour, just friendly chatter, before the knight suddenly laughed. “I’m sorry, how stupid of me. I just realized we never exchanged names.” He took her hand in his with a soft smile. “My name is Jonathan Winchester. May I have yours, my lady?”
“Mary Campbell.” She returned his smile, glad to finally put a name to his face. “A pleasure.”
“The pleasure is mine.”
It wasn’t until they parted ways some time later that Mary realized John had never released her hand. The notion sent a warm thrill through her and sent her heart pounding.
After that day, Mary and John spent a lot of time together. Her father was suspicious, of course, but as soon as she would return to her pack Mary would bath in the cold water of the nearby lake to wash away the human male’s scent. Without any real evidence Samuel had no argument against her except to protest that she kept going off on her own. But as an alpha she was within her rights and they both knew it. Father and daughter still argued of course, but Mary would vehemently deny any involvement with the humans and her father was forced to drop the subject each and every time.
Everything changed months later when Mary realized, to her absolute horror, that she was with child. She spent hours by herself overwhelmed with fear and no idea what she was going to do. Mary knew that if she told John he would want her to marry him so they could raise the baby together. Lots of wolves in the past had chosen to live in their human forms, forsaking the wolf and the pack. The idea did have appeal if it meant spending the rest of her life with the man who owned her heart, but Mary knew she could never do that.
As much as she loved John she had never even told him what she really was. There was no guarantee he would accept her, and even if he did, it would not change the loyalty she had for her own kind. It wouldn’t be fair to put her knight through that.
Another option was that she could destroy the growing life inside of her, or after the birth leave it in the woods for predators to feast upon. Both ideas made her feel sick… It wasn’t the baby’s fault that Mary was completely and utterly foolish. Besides, if she couldn’t have John by her side, at least she could have the child they made together.
Her decision was made. She would raise her little one with her pack, and John would never know. Both the village and he were lost to her now and forever.
That night Mary cried herself to sleep.
Terrified of what her pack would think, the first one she told was Ellen. They had grown up together and the other woman was her best friend and confidant. Mary had kept John from Ellen up until then, but as soon as she decided to talk about him she couldn’t stop until the whole story was out.
Ellen listened patiently and quietly, and when the story was over her eyes immediately went to Mary’s stomach. Ellen grasped the blonde’s hands in hers with a sympathetic look. “Are you sure this is what you want to do?”
“No,” Mary replied, cheeks wet with tears, “but it’s what I have to do.”
Ellen nodded and pulled her into a hug. “You have my support, both with Samuel and your baby. No matter what he says, I’ll help you raise the little one even if we have to do it alone.”
With her friend at her side, Mary told Samuel the news in front of everyone. A stunned silence fell over the pack and simultaneously, all eyes fell on their leader.
Samuel’s lip curled in disgust. “You’ll get rid of it.”
She had expected that, but still the demand stung. Mary held her head high and gave her father the most defiant look she could muster despite her broken heart. “Never.”
Her father narrowed his eyes and growled. “Mary, this is not up for debate.”
“Good, because I’m not looking for one. This child is mine, father, and I’m keeping him. Or her.”
“It’s an abomination! I will not have it in my pack.”
“Then I’ll take over.”
Samuel barked out a loud laugh. “You’ve got to be joking, Mary. Not only are you not ready mentally, but you’re clearly in no condition to lead with that thing inside of you. No one is going to pick you over me.”
Mary looked around at the figures watching them. Some avoided her gaze, or shared the same look of revulsion that her father had. But to her relief there were others who had nothing but respect in their eyes. Confident, she turned back to Samuel. “I think you’re wrong. The time has come for us to part ways, I think. Thank you for your guidance and security over the years, father. Perhaps one day we can reconcile.”
Samuel didn’t bother to answer as their pack split and he left with those loyal to him, but his bitter silence spoke volumes on its own.
Mary looked at her son with a sigh of frustration. Dean was sometimes just as much of an uncontrollable force in adulthood as when he was growing up. The support of her pack had been the only reason she had been able to raise him.
Dean was a handful at the best of times. There was an anxious, tense feeling inside of him that reflected on the actions he took. At times he sought out his family’s company, while on others he took every word against him as a formal challenge.
That day the pack had hunted and successfully killed a large brown bear. It was enough meat to feed everyone’s bellies. Everyone should have been sated, both physically and mentally. And yet Dean was more on edge than ever.
He and Bella had never truly gotten along. They pushed and prodded each other with stinging words and actions so often since childhood that there was always a fight. Whatever Bella had chosen to say that day had especially gotten to Dean with disastrous results.
The two wolves fought, per usual, but it ended bloody when Dean had nearly taken a chunk out of the female’s throat. Enough was enough.
He sat alone in the center of their camp staring down at the ground in front of him. He didn’t even attempt to turn as Mary approached; a blatant sign of disrespect and she sighed as she sat down beside him.
“Do you want to tell me what that was all about?”
He looked as horrific as he smelled, skin and hair stained with both Bella’s blood as well as his own. She had only gotten a few scratches and lighter bites in before his jaws had clamped down on her neck.
“You nearly killed her, Dean! Do you have any idea how serious that is?”
He snorted, disinterested. “Her wounds weren’t fatal, mother. She’ll live.”
“Only because Rufus and William pulled you off. If you had bitten a little deeper--”
“But I didn’t, did I?” He scowled at her. “Am I just supposed to take her snide attitude? Maybe now Bella will learn her damn place and keep her fucking mouth shut.”
Mary shook her head. “No. You need to learn your place. I’m leader, Dean, not you. I’ve let you get away for too much for far too long because you’re my only child. But that ends today. If you don’t start listening and showing respect not only to me, but to everyone else, then I’m going to force you out of the pack.”
Dean had the audacity to look shocked. “You wouldn’t…”
“But mother, I--”
“No excuses, Dean. Just do as I say for once.” She stood and walked away, feeling his eyes staring into her back as she went to check on Bella’s wounds.
Her heart was heavy. John… what is our son becoming?