Home > Bend Her (The Transformation Trilogy #1)

Bend Her (The Transformation Trilogy #1)
Author: Cassie Alexander








I woke up to utter darkness.

That wasn’t so unusual—the women’s chambers of the palace were underground, to protect our quarters from the eyes of enemy mages—so my whole life, I had been a creature used to candlelight.

But I wasn’t accustomed to my own breath hot against my face, or the rough feeling of fabric against my cheek—or knowing that my wrists were tied behind my back, painfully tight.

I blinked furiously, trying to wake up and remember what had happened to me, and why I was trapped like this.

The last thing I could recall was being in a carriage, with Castillion the Spiked sitting across from me. We’d been running away from the Deathless . . .

And now I was here.

Wherever here was.

Tied up, in the dark, on the ground, with a bag over my head.

The very thing my father had been afraid of for me for my whole life—and the reason I lived in a gilded cage, only getting to leave the palace when I had throne-sworn mages by my side—had apparently happened.

I had been kidnapped.

My panic became a living thing inside me, scurrying like a mouse from my brain through my throat to my heart and back, making it hard to think and breathe in turns. My hands throbbed as all the blood my heart was pounding fought to get beneath the ropes that bound my wrists.

But I made sure to let nothing show, as I fought against every instinct I had to sit up and run.

I didn’t thrash, nor did I scream for aid.

I was a princess.

I would give no one the satisfaction of seeing me frightened.

No matter how dangerous I knew lying on the ground could be.

And so I lay still for hours.


For Deathless to crack open the earth and pour through.

And when that didn’t happen, I waited for someone to come and check on me. To name their price. To touch me in ways they shouldn’t.

Only no one ever did.

I slowly moved to kneel on the cold stone floor.

My entire life I’d been told that I was precious. Too precious to see the sun unguarded, too precious to see the stars at night. It was what my father told me, and my brother, and the mages that guarded our doors, and my mother too, up until the Deathless killed her.

I’d wanted to believe them with all my heart, but the ties that bound me—and my captor’s ongoing neglect—felt far more earnest and resonated with what I’d always feared to be true: that once precious things were put away, they were easily forgotten.

And if they’re forgotten long enough, nobody notices when they break.



Three days passed . . . I think.

I managed to wriggle the bag over my head off, but the knots around my wrists never slackened, not even after me twisting enough to make my skin burn beneath them.

There’d been a bucket of water down here with me, and I’d drank from it awkwardly, with my hands tied as they were. It only occurred to me that I might be better off drowning myself in it after there wasn’t enough water left in it for me to do so.

I even dared to use the one spell I knew, creating a small pool of light in my hand, hoping that it would attract someone’s attention—women weren’t allowed to learn much magic, lest it turn us barren or set us aflame—but no one came to chastise me.

In fact, no one had come to check on me all that time. My own waste was on my skirts; I was starving, weak, and whatever ill thoughts I had had about living windowless beneath the palace, well, now I knew how wrong I was. At least the palace had life and color and candlelight.



Whereas here . . . I was in a room made of stone just like my father’s throne room. Only instead of a room where half the space was taken up by a statue of a woman's face crying an emerald tear overlooking his massive, ominous carved throne, this room was small and ill-lit by just a weak gray light, which showed dull gray stones, a low uncomfortable wooden chair, the bucket of water I’d finished—yesterday?—and three stairs up to a door that never opened.

Until now. The door creaked open and I jerked up.

“Hello?” I asked quickly, then was instantly ashamed. Hello was what you called to someone you were friendly with, not a jailer. It was a peasant’s greeting from someone who was unsure of their place, not the greeting of a princess under dire circumstances.

I rocked to sitting, from where I’d been attempting to sleep on the floor. The space behind the open door was dark; the gray light didn’t reach that far, but I knew someone was there.

There had to be.

All of this was happening for a reason, wasn’t it?

I struggled to stand, balancing on stiff legs, dizzy and weak from hunger and dehydration, and I didn’t know what to do next, honestly. I had been traveling incognito, so there was a chance whoever had killed my mage and guards then captured me didn’t know my rank.

Was it better to announce who I was and claim my lineage, or lie and seem incapable of producing ransom if they knew no better?

Which approach was more likely to get me out of here alive?

I decided neither, more immediate needs were first. “I’m thirsty, I’m hungry, and I need to bathe.” I swallowed, staring into the darkness, willing something there to answer me.

“Do you think you deserve any of those things, Princess of Tears?” asked a low and menacing voice.

They knew—no, he knew—who I was. Drelleth, my homeland, was shaped like a teardrop, my dead mother was known as the Queen of Tears, and my captor was now mocking me.

I swallowed dry, my throat parched, as I grit my teeth. “I would like to think that any human does.”

He made a thoughtful sound. “And what of your father, sending soldiers to fight the Deathless? Or his many wars before that? What of them? Or are his men, his humans,” he said, mocking me again, “only fit to die?”

I took a deep and steadying breath. “My father does what he thinks is best, at all times. And I assure you that he cares for his soldiers, perhaps as deeply as he cares for me. As for the war itself . . . he has the best men and mages working on it.” If he knew who I was, he knew how my mother died, and why my father fought so hard.

The disembodied voice watching me snorted, and I feared I was losing his attention. If he closed the door again and left me here, I didn’t know what would become of me. I couldn’t stand being trapped in these walls another moment, the pain of the sores opening beneath the rope around my wrists, or the stench of my own befoulment.

As scared as I was for whatever lay beyond it, if I stayed here . . .

“If you know me, you know my father and brother will pay good money for my safe return.” I tried my best to sound proud when I said it, but I wasn’t. I wanted to be stronger, and I was certain that three days prior I had been, that I would’ve spit at a captor’s eye. But now, my entire world seemed to be collapsing into the darkness outside the door, like a tunnel I needed to crawl through to find light. And when there was no response, when the thought of my station or my money wasn’t enough to guarantee my release, a part of me broke. “Please,” I asked my captor, not even sure what I was asking for anymore. I licked my lips with a sandpaper tongue. “Just . . . please.”

The moment between us stretched out uncomfortably long. If he closed the door again, I would die; I was sure of it. Then I heard him release a sigh. “Yes. You will have to please me. To survive.”

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