I’ve made no secret about the fact that my novel To Have Loved & Lost started its life as a fanfic of The 100. Some people turn up their nose at that and feel annoyed about it, but I really don’t know why. (Also, I’d like to make the argument that a lot of famous literary works are essentially fanfics, and that part of what is to blame over the dismissiveness of fan-based work is pure sexism.) Other than borrowing a few starting ideas from The 100, which I think all authors do anyway, my work is completely original.
But before I wrote To Have Loved & Lost, I started on a more traditional fanfic based in The 100 canon universe. Here’s how it went…
Lexa sits in the high back chair in the great hall of the Commander’s palace, so immune to the buzz of conversation and laughter around her that she might as well be in the room alone. Around her are her generals and lieutenants, her advisors, a few favored warriors and seconds. Even the Natblidas are here tonight, permitted to stay up past hours to celebrate their Heda’s bloodless victory.
It is the second night of such celebrations in Polis. The second night of her people congratulating her for her wisdom and devious diplomacy; the second night of plentiful plates of roasted boar and freely flowing bootz, the Grounder version of moonshine.
Lexa has even had a glass of bootz herself, and she sorely desires more but never drinks more than one. Never. Not even out of the public eye, by herself. She wishes she could break that rule tonight, disappear to her room, sit on her balcony, drink bootz until she tumbles into her four-poster bed and blacks out.
But she won’t. She’s the Commander, the Heda, and a Heda must always be ready, must always have a clear head. Otherwise how could a Heda save lives through wisdom and devious diplomacy?
Lexa dips her head forward, rubbing the spot below the golden star between her eyebrows that marks her rank. “Heavy is the head that wears the crown,” echoes the quiet voice of Becca Pramheda inside her head. Lexa is used to hearing the counsel of the previous Commanders inside her mind — it is the privilege of bearing the Flame — but most counsel comes in sleep, during dreams. She supposes her inability to sleep for the past two nights has made Becca Pramheda and the others desperate to hear her, and so now the original Commander intrudes into her waking thoughts.
Nevertheless, Lexa welcomes the familiar voice. Becca Pramheda knows what none of the warriors or advisors or little Natblidas do: In winning the battle for the Mountain, Lexa lost the war for her heart.
“You did not lose a war, Lexa,” Becca corrects. “It was merely a battle. The war is not finished yet.”
Lexa nods acknowledgment of the Pramheda’s words, but regardless of her ancestor’s gentle admonishment, she feels she lost everything two days ago, when she betrayed Clarke Griffin of the Sky People.
“What is this?” Clarke had asked Lexa, but something in her voice, something in the way she glanced back over her shoulder nervously, told Lexa that Clarke already knew the answer. And then, a moment later:
“What did you do?”
The words reverberate in Lexa’s head again and again, they echo through her empty chest. They echo more loudly than the previous Commanders’ voices ever have.
“What did you do?”
“What did you do?”
There is a shadow of movement at the far end of the great hall, and the Commander’s warrior instincts, alert even when she allows her mind to wander, jerks her eyes towards the ripple of motion.
Tariq, one of the three scouts she left behind with Javas to keep an eye on the defeated Sky People, strides into the room. When Munson, Lexa’s advisor, scurries over to him, Tariq bends down and whispers something in the smaller man’s ear. Even from her place at the head of the table on the other end of the room, and even in the weak illumination of candle and firelight, Lexa sees how Tariq’s dark eyes glitter with something. She tries to decipher what the shine means — excitement? Blood lust? It’s not fear; of that, Lexa is certain. So many men and women have looked at Lexa with fear in their eyes that she recognizes it in an instant.
Munson’s answering look is easy enough to understand — it is one of surprise. Shock, even. He says something to Tariq, and the big bearded scout nods vigorously, confirming whatever he just said.
Munson spins and walks with firm, purposeful steps towards his mistress. Munson isn’t the type to smile — Lexa believes she’s only seen him do it once or twice in the two years that she’s been Commander — but now a smile struggles to break loose onto his face.
She is already sitting up straight; now her posture becomes as rigid as her wooden high-backed chair as she prepares herself for whatever news Munson is about to bring her. She wants to lean forward towards him, as if getting closer will make the news come faster. But leaning towards an advisor is unbecoming for a Commander. She remains stiff and straight, lets him lean in towards her ear.
“Commander,” he murmurs in English, “the Mountain has fallen. The Mountain Men are dead.”
“Dead?” Lexa repeats, stunned and failing to hide it. “All of them?”
“Down to the last child,” he agrees, nodding his head the way Tariq had done a moment before.
Lexa glances up to peer at Tariq, who still stands politely at the far end of the great hall. A grin splits his face like a gash.
“How?” Lexa asks.
“Your scouts are not sure. Not yet,” Munson admits. “All they know for certain is that Clarke walked out of the Mountain untouched, followed by her warriors and the ones the Mountain had trapped. The scouts waited for the Sky People to leave, and when they entered the Mountain, they found nothing but bodies. One had been shot; two were missing. The other three-hundred twenty-four of them were as blistered and bleeding as a man left out sea too long.”
“Three-hundred twenty-four. The scouts counted.”
“Tariq is here,” Lexa observes. “What of the other two scouts? What of Javas?”
“They continue to observe the Sky People and the Sky Commander, Clarke. Just as you ordered, Commander. They sent Tariq here with news that the Mountain has fallen because they knew you would want to know.”
Lexa says nothing as she processes this new information. The Mountain, the single largest threat to the well-being of her people, gone. All of them dead, just like that. And dead at the hands of —
“What did you do?”
What had Lexa done, indeed. But a better question now was, what had Clarke done?
Tariq continues to grin at the far end of the hall. Munson looks at Lexa expectantly.
“Commander?” She forces her eyes back to Munson. “Will you announce it now? While your people are assembled here together?”
She tries not to bristle at Munson’s gentle prodding, which sounds too much like he is trying to tell her what to do for Lexa’s liking. Yet she knows he means no harm. She knows it’s her who’s indecisive, who’s raw and sensitive, like scraped skin or a healing wound.
She says nothing, but she nods.
Munson gives a sharp, answering nod, then turns around and lifts both his hands high in the air, like a man stretching after a long night’s sleep. “Your Heda will speak!” he calls out twice in Tridgedaslang, and Lexa is as impressed as ever by the loud voice that comes from the small, balding man. Mere seconds later, the chatter and talk and music die away, and the whole room turns expectantly towards Lexa.
She rises — slowly, as is appropriate for a Commander. She turns her head left, meeting the eyes of her warriors there, turns her head right, repeating the same gesture, acknowledging and respecting everyone in the room, even the Natblidas sitting at the far end of the table.
“One of my scouts has just returned from the Mountain,” she says, her voice booming with authority through the full hall almost effortlessly. “The Mountain has fallen. The Mountain Men are dead.”
She waits for the cheering to commence, and it rises and falls like a great wave coming up from the ocean. Men clap one another on the back; others embrace; a few shout the battlecries unique to their clans. She sees at least a few kisses, a few more wet eyes. Lexa’s people, much like Lexa herself, aren’t often ones to cry, but many here have lost brothers, wives, children, nephews, mothers to the Reapers or to the Mountain. A few tears of relief are understandable.
When the tide of cheering falls again, a voice calls out, “Are they really gone, Heda — all of them?”
“All of them. Not even the children remain. The Mountain is gone forever.”
“How, Heda?” another voice asks.
“The Sky People,” she answers simply. Then, amending herself, she adds quickly, “Clarke kom Skaikru.”
Because even though Tariq doesn’t know how the Sky People did it, Lexa knows. Lexa knows there is only one among them clever enough, strong enough, brave enough to have defeated the entire Mountain.
In the wake of Lexa’s declaration, she hears the word “Wanheda” uttered for the first time. It winds its way around from one table to the next, one side of the room to the other, until soon it is the word on every warrior’s lips, the toast everyone drinks to, the name shouted by every man who’s had too much bootz.
Lexa raises her own glass before she sits back down, not precisely sure if she’s toasting her people or the Wanheda. And as she raises the stein to her mouth, she hears that haunting voice again, asking — imploring, pleading —
“What did you do?”