Elseworld (inspired by The Princess Bride and the Edgar Rice Burroughs Barsoom books)
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the CW and DC Comics, not to me.
Read the previous chapter here.
Read the story from the beginning here.
Chloe had worked in the castle for years, but she had rarely caught sight of Prince Lex in its vast halls, and had never spoken to him. On those rare occasions when she had observed him, however, she had noted a cold silver gleam in his eyes that she did not care overmuch for.
King Lionel, who ruled in Metropolis, was reputed to be a cruel ruler with a heart of ice and a bootheel of iron. She strongly suspected that Lex was developing into the same sort of man.
They were escorted into the audience room by the royal guards. Lex was slouched in his ornately carved throne, looking bored, but at the sight of them, he abruptly sat upright, alert interest stamped all over his features.
Chloe realized that it was Lana's naked body that had arrested his attention so completely.
Clark stopped before the throne and made a leg, bowing deeply. Chloe reached for her nonexistent skirt, blushed to realize she was still wearing boys' breeches, and curtsied anyway.
"My lord," Clark said, his manner respectful, "we bring you this criminal, who has been killing travelers in the woods."
Lex arched a regal brow. "Is this not one of the village girls?"
"Yes, my lord." Clark raised his eyes and looked at Lex steadily. "She has been affected by the green rocks, as so many others have. She possesses a necklace with a green rock, and when she puts it on at night, she transforms into a lizard and slaughters whomever crosses her path. She nearly killed both of us last night."
Lex's eyes lit. "A lizard," he mused. "My father spoke of an enormous green lizard. He had plans of sending men to the forest near Smallcroft in order to capture it for his menagerie."
"Those men are dead, my lord." Chloe could hear the sorrow in Clark's deep voice. "If you will send your own men to the woods, they will find the proof of it. They were killed last night, and their corpses litter the forest floor."
Chloe frowned, remembering that the men had burned the Langs' farmhouse. King Lionel, then, had not only been after the lizard-- he had known the lizard's identity, or at least suspected it. And yet he had not shared that information with his son. She wondered why.
Lex nodded. "I will do that. In the meantime..."
He gestured to his guards, but Lana struggled, making frantic noises, clearly trying to speak through her gag. Prince Lex stared imperiously at Clark.
"Let her speak."
Clark hesitated an instant, then reached up and lowered the gag. Lana spoke in a rush.
"My lord, they lie! I am not the monster. He is!"
"My lord--" Chloe began, but Lex waved her to silence. His eyes were very intent upon Lana, and once again Chloe noticed they were not focused on her face.
"If you have a defense," he said, "now would be a good time to offer it. Explain your words, Mistress Lang."
"I have harmed no one." Lana fixed Lex with huge, dark eyes, and Chloe saw a tear roll down her cheek. "But this man--" She jerked her head back toward Clark. "He possesses very strange powers, my lord. He can set fire with his eyes. He can run exceedingly fast. He is the one who has been altered by the green rocks, my lord! He is the monster!"
Clark had not reckoned on Lana insisting on her innocence, nor yet on her accusing him. He had already noted Lex's clear interest in Lana's beauty, and he realized abruptly that he had, however inadvertently, led Chloe into danger.
There were dead bodies in the woods, which he had thought would be more than enough proof for Prince Lex to convict Lana. But now he realized too late that they might be used to convict him instead.
And because Chloe had been traveling with him, she might wind up imprisoned in a dungeon along with him.
"It is not true!" Chloe snapped, as if asserting the truth loudly enough would somehow make the prince believe her. "She is the criminal, my lord! She killed twenty men last night!"
"He killed them!" Lana cried dramatically. "And he would have killed me too, had the sun not risen! I saw his transformation! In the darkness, he is monstrous!"
Lex stared at them all, frowning. At last he said to his guards, "Put them all into the dungeon. I will ride out to the woods and observe the evidence, and see if I can render a fair verdict as to who is guilty here. In the meantime... guard them all closely."
Clark felt a stab of fear as the royal guard pressed around him. Not fear for himself, but fear for Chloe. He knew he could easily catch her up and run with her to safety-- but that would mean lifelong exile from Smallcroft for both of them. If he fled with Chloe, she would never see her father again.
He decided the most sensible option was to wait and see what the prince decided. If Prince Lex determined that Lana was guilty, then he and Chloe would be released. If Lex felt that he was the guilty one-- well, he could easily enough escape at that point, and take Chloe with him. Even solid stone walls could not hold him.
As the guards pushed them all roughly toward the door, he hoped against hope that justice would prevail.
But another glance over his shoulder showed him the lustful way in which Lex was staring at Lana, and his heart sank.
He had a very bad feeling that justice was not at the top of the prince's mind.
Read Chapter 14 here.