Prologue

The poor girl stumbled forward on the slippery stairs. It really wasn't fair that it should be so troublesome for her, once she made the decision of climbing the road, but it had been this way since ancient times and Ghorr knew not to trifle with such things. Thousands of women had done this before her and she did not look to be one of the few who had failed.

Darkness still covered her, yet to his eyes it didn't matter; he could see her clearly, ascending from the cave where they had put her to awake. That was only a few hours ago, but enough time for Ghorr to feel unsure of whether she would ever open her eyes and afterwards decides to make the decision to live on. He had never asked his mother why she did it, and now he wouldn't have the opportunity to ask her until after the ceremony, though he did not expect she would answer him. His mother she may be, but she was yet a dignified prisoner with a few secrets left which she wished to keep.

Ghorr closed his inner and outer lids and hoped that ignoring the world would make it move faster. When he opened his eyes after what felt like a long while she was still panting and fretting towards him. He sighed and looked backwards to where the majority of his people were gathered. In the mountainside a tribune was built, from which lots of grozoners could watch as their future queen was made a part of their race. At the moment it was a cloudy midday, cold and wet, but his magic kept out the rain which would otherwise have bothered them all, and probably further complicate his bride's ascend.

His people had been waiting since morning. In the damp mountain air he could hear the few honored children complain and being shushed by their noble parents. Impatience filled the area, but despite how much it filled Ghorr he must not let it show.

There was a halt in the monotonous gasping that had filled the plateau for the past ten minutes. He looked into the hole and saw the girl staring wide-eyed at him as horror crept over her body and made it tremble.

"No," she cried, and tears welled up in her eyes. She made a hesitant step back down. There was a possibility of her slipping and spending the next while taking the decision yet again, this time knowing what awaited her at the top. It would be a long wait, then, perhaps days, in which the king and his people would wait tirelessly until she starved or decided to see her fate through.

He pressed his lips tightly together in order to prevent himself from saying something to her to make her follow him across the plateau and through the ceremony. One single word would ruin everything, and he must be patient, he must.

A full five minutes passed by in which she continued to hesitate as if she liked being a bother. He put his hands on his back and thus hid the fists he was forming in exasperation. With empty eyes he stared at the air and tried to ignore her pleading glances.

Finally, after a long while, she slowly continued on the road towards him, and as the moonlight overflooded her and more became visible to her the dread painted itself deeper into her features. When there were only ten steps left she leapt. Without a sound she jumped across the threshold and tried to make a turn around the corner to escape from him. Either she had not seen the thousands of grozoners in the mountains - very likely considering her poor, tired eyes - or she was just desperate. Either seemed likely and they were both unimportant, for one of the guards grasped her and put the first chain around her forearm. She shrieked and tried to hit him but when that did no good she began to run the opposite direction. The guard made no attempt to keep her there, except holding onto the chain, which, when it reached its full length, dragged her violently backwards.

Then the next guard grabbed her and put another chain around the last forearm, and she was a captive in both figurative and literal meaning.

The guards dragged her over to him and bent down on their knees to present her. This symbolized the past offerings of a bride as a gift, which he could turn or smack down right then without any consequences on part of the giver, but today the bride was captured on his own command, and largely due to his own hands, like the many past brides before her.

Another guard stepped forward and took the two ends of the chains and locked them together, forming one united chain, which he then held forward to Ghorr. With a sure claw he took the chain, and the guards stepped back and let the king handle his bride.

The girl finally lifted her eyes to meet his gaze and for the first time he wondered if he could be happy with her, or at least content. Her quivering bottom lip told him no, but at least she had stopped wailing-

When he turned around she grabbed at the imagined opportunity and tried to attack him, but Ghorr didn't need to turn around to know that the guards were reaching out to hold her.

And then came the crying.

The tears continually rolled down her cheeks as Ghorr dragged her to the carved symbol of blood, where her chain was yet again separated and fastened to the ground in order to keep her in place. The chains' ends were so far apart that she was forced to get onto her knees, bringing her eyes down to his height.

"Please," she cried, but he turned his back on her and went to the stone table where knives had been laid out for his dispute.

When she saw the blade she fainted. While they awaited her return to conscience Ghorr put a small bowl by her side. After a small while her head began to lull and she lifted her face to him. Pale, that she was. Very pale. If there was any blood left in her for him it had to be a miracle.

"Please," she moaned weakly when he grabbed her arm, but he ignored her and cut a long, deep slash in the soft skin. Blood started to run, despite his expectations, and he put the bowl beneath the wound in order to gather it. Not much was needed.

While the last drops fell from her forearm, and she grew increasingly faint headed, he went to the table and brought back another bowl filled with the puree of herbs. He smeared it across the wound and poured his magical energy into them, sealing off flesh and fluids from the air. A crust appeared over the cut at first, then the skin crackled and stretched and, accompanied by her pained gasp, the wound was healed.

It was a short process to cut into his own arm and to fill the bowl with it. Afterwards, when the herbs and magic drew the skin around the wound like a cape, he wondered how the slightly irritating ache had been able to make her moan aloud. Then again, he told himself, trying to justify her, I have tried it before.

He took a rearing stick and made the blood blend. The girl stared in mortification and continued to whimper, but there came no more pleas or speeches like he had expected. Whether this was due to weakness or cleverness he knew not.

Back at the stone table he took a decanter and poured the content over their blood. His mouth grew dry as he watched his own blood mix with hers and the magical water, which united them perfectly. There were no lines dividing the fluids anymore and he lifted the bowl for all to see and jubilee and triumph thundered above him as all the grozoners stamped their feet and shouted in excitement.

She shook violently and tried to hold onto herself. Eyes wild and lips trembling she looked across the mountains and tried to fixate on the people cheering, but her eyes would only so faintly make out the holes where they stood, much less allow her to see their features. Apparently realizing there was no point to staring at them she turned a glare so malevolent on him it almost knocked the breath out of his lungs. She spat at his feet and growled deep in her throat like he had never imagined to hear a human do.

He ignored the outburst and instead took a good swallow from the bowl and felt the thick mixture run down through his throat and out his body. Then, with a firm claw, he grasped her hair and tried not to scrape her scalp with his nails. He dragged her head backwards and she screamed and that only made it easier for him to press the mouthpiece of the bowl into her mouth and pour her blood, along with his, back inside her. He threw the bowl away and grabbed around her jaw to close the mouth and waited until she was forced to swallow the little that hadn't already made it down her throat.

When he released her she coughed and trembled in a way that made him worried for her well-being. He wondered if she might get sick afterwards, though her clothes were warm enough, except a bit torn. But there had never been a necessity for beautiful bridal garments, and so the king's bride was always wedded as she had been captured. The grozoners were nothing if not traditional.

Now that the first part of the ceremony was over, he moved back to the stone table and opened a little cubicle in which a magical fire was burning hotter than any natural one.

Resting in the middle of the fire was an iron pen, and as he reached for it the fire parted to make room for his hand. Fingers unscathed he brought out the stick. It was glowing bright red.

The moment he turned and she saw it a thick silence took hold of her. Then she burst into a heartbreaking sobbing and she quivered all over, so much in fact that he called for one of the guards to hold her. Their blank faces made him feel sorry for her. She'd find no compassion here.

He forced her left leg out and stretched the ankle. She tried to writhe free but with a single touch he had fastened her to the spot with a merciless magic. She could struggle all she wanted, from the knee and down her body made no move.

With magical guidance he drew the signal of his home and people perfectly, forever connecting her to the grounds under his protection. When he was done he released her foot and took in her face. It was red and smeared in blood that had been freed when she bit her tongue during the stigmatization. When her eyes caught his she held them, and if he could read feelings he would have read hatred.

To ensure she would not drown in her own blood he stopped the bleeding but did not use the herbs to close the wound entirely. Instead he brought out her right arm and prepared to burn on her the drawing that would bind her to him.

As the pen hovered above her skin he hated himself for not having thought of something yet. He had spent hours wondering what her scar should be, only to leave it be, thinking the moment would tell him what to do.

He drew a circle. Simple, perfect and beautiful.

Two thirds of the ceremony was over. Left were only the protective spells keeping her from the worlds, hers and his harm. He took the chains off her and saw the will to fight flicker in her eyes, but the moment he put his arms around her she grew numb and would not move again until he allowed. She had closed her eyes to the world, he saw as he moved over the plateau towards a swirling pool of water, and she looked almost asleep. It won't be over faster just because you close your eyes, he wanted to warn her.

He stepped into the pool and hot water took a hold of them and dragged them under the surface. Old magic pressed them down and even he felt helpless in this stream. Still, they emerged in the other end, unscathed. She was now weaved in protective wards, just as he had been covered in spells that would always oblige him to remove harm from her path, or her path from harm.

He carried the limb body to the opening of a cave, which had just come into view, while his people's applause bobbled inside him. Inside the cave five women were waiting, wearing blue or green robes. He placed her in the opening and they flocked to her side and sat down around her in an awaiting circle. Then he stepped back and the mountain rock closed her away and it was over.

With a brave face he looked up at his people. Their joy made a sting of pride blossom in his chest.

AU:

I've previously been peevish about putting anything original on the nets, but as this story is an idea inspired of a particular book (though I assure you there are no plagiat/copyright problems) I thought it would be the perfect story for this experiment.

The Hollow Kingdom ::

That is the story I am inspired by. In this story Kate, one of my favorite heroines of all time, is hunted by a goblin king who wishes to steal her and make her live underground for the rest of her life. There she is to have one son only and watch him become the next king. The king must have a bride from outside or his magic will die. (Long story short.) Of course Kate does not want to follow him freely, issues ensue blah. blah.

My idea was this that Marak, the goblin king, must have also had problems with having to marry a woman who is sure to hate him. And he also has to be patient with her and hold her when she cries and make sure she doesn't commit suicide and all that ... how did he feel during all the craziness of hunting down a girl who would hate him forever?

The grozoners are quite inspired by the goblins, yet not enough to call them the same, especially since Dunkle's goblins were quite original to begin with, only being called goblins because the folklore called the wife-stealing creatures that.

I hope you will read and comment and also go read The Hollow Kingdom by Clare B. Dunkle, an amazing story which I have signed on my bookshelf.