The Crone

I wrote this on the spur of the moment with absolutely no idea what it would be or what would happen. I had the first couple of paragraphs in my head and the rest of it happened on it’s own. It was written just for fun and isn’t intended to be the beginning of a story or anything, it’s just a scene that happened organically. I hope you like it.


Every old crone was once beautiful. Her face, though crumpled now like rolled up paper pulled from a wastebasket and unfurled, was once taut and shining, with the bloom and promise of youth and hope. Not all crones have lost hope, and not all crones have lost youth, either.

The symmetry of the woman’s face, the plump lips, the wide nose, the almond shape of the eyes, with creamy brown and gold irises just a shade lighter than the woman’s hair, which make them seem even brighter by contrast. These features grow and gain experience, and though they are covered by wrinkles and lines and warts, these too are additions to the woman’s features, not detractions.

From the point of a view of an infant, an adult face is a hideous thing, with its oily texture and its small dark hairs sprouting from every surface, and the irritated bumps and sores that sometimes appear on it. From the point of view of an infant, an adult face is not an improvement whatsoever. But that point of view is incorrect. Age only adds, it does not subtract. From the point of view of the adult, the face an aged crone is disgusting, but this point of view too is wrong. And from the point of view of the crone, the face of a corpse is repellant, and fearful.

And from the point of view of the corpse, well, corpses keep their silence so well that it would be hard to know.

It was on these thoughts that the mind of the witch Samantha ruminated, as she sat atop her nightly gazing spot, high on the hill that overlooked the plains. She knew without checking the time that it was nearly midnight, because the moon was shining full, and silver blue light splashed across the deep green grasses, and the grasses did that curious thing that the grasses of the plains do, they began to light up at the touch of moonlight, bioluminescent stalks of green that shone with a white glow. There were flowers out there, among the grasses of the fields, and they too began to glow, the blue and red and purple petals glowing against the moon. It was not a trick of the moonlight, it was the strange habit of the flora of these plains, and it was why Samantha still believed she chose the perfect spot to retire.

It wasn’t so much a retirement, at least not at first. It was concealment. Samantha had fled the purges of her sisters, though she helped as many as she could get to safety, but there came a time when she could do no more to help the others, and she accepted that it was time to go into hiding. That was forty years ago. She was thirty-seven years old then, still in the bloom of her youth, and only just beginning to get lines in her face.

She sighed quietly. She had been so beautiful then. She tried to remind herself that beauty is an illusion, but it didn’t help much. She could feel the wart on the side of her nose itching, but didn’t bother with scratching it. She didn’t want to pull her finger away and see the puss. She had become such a tired cliché of a witch: an old crone in a black cloak, the hood pulled around her face, the gray hair that fell out of the hood flapping in an ungainly way in the night breeze as it caught it in a draft, and she was bent, holding to an old wooden cane, and it was the wart on her nose that completed the storybook caricature of the old witch.

It was a kind of irony, really. In her youth Samantha’s beauty had been the thing that helped the most in convincing others that her people were not monsters to be feared. An old and ugly crone is easy enough to hate, but a beautiful woman, who isn’t going to transform into the crone after a night of passion, and who doesn’t steal the youth of young girls boiled in her cauldron to remain young? Much more difficult to pass judgement on her, especially from men.

It’s very easy to destroy prejudice. Simply provide someone beautiful who fits the prejudiced criteria. As soon as the admirer finds themselves ensnared by desire, their prejudice is broken. It’s a bit like breaking a spell. Except spells don’t work like that in real life, that’s yet another storybook idea.

And yet, here she was. In hiding and alone, the bent crone with her cane, watching the moonlight at the witching hour. Well, some things from the storybooks were true, at least. The witching hour was certainly real, and the moon was a great aid in casting magic.

And that is why Samantha had come. Sitting at her feet was an immense book with a deep green binding that might have been leather, but Samantha couldn’t really be sure. The book had been made by fairies after all, and it had been crafted and bound in another realm, so whatever substitute for leather a fairy might provide could have vastly different qualities. At any rate, Samantha knew from experience that getting the book wet did not smudge its pages, although it did wear a bit on the binding.

The buckled clasp that held the green book together had been undone, and presently a strong gust of wind blew in just the right direction to flip the front cover of the book open halfway, and Samantha gave it a gentle nudge with her shoe. The book opened to the center, at a page where it often liked to open itself, when unguided by Samantha’s hand.

It was a page with a picture of a creature that Samantha had never quite been able to make out. It was a chaotic assemblage of limbs, eyes, mouths, and wings, in such an order that it was difficult to tell how many heads or limbs or wings the thing might have had. She wasn’t even entirely sure it was a creature, but she just had a feeling. There was writing all over the rest of the page, in a beautiful script that glittered in the light. Samantha had not the faintest idea what the words said, because they were written in the language of the fairies, which cannot be read by anyone who attempts to understand it.

Fairy writing, like fairies themselves, is a creature of chaos. It does not have reason and it does not make sense. Trying to make sense of it only makes it more indecipherable. The letters were also not bound to a single shape, they would rearrange themselves on the page when the book was closed or when Samantha looked away, and sometimes there would be fewer words on the page than before. In all her years with the book, Samantha had been able to understand only small slivers of information, and this page in particular always told her different things when she felt she was able to decipher it. But fairies are indecipherable, and so is their writing, and so, incidentally, is their magic.

Samantha shook her head softly. So much time to think about all this, so much time to weigh what to do and not to do, and here she was, at an impasse, unsure of how to proceed.

“Well,” came her voice, a raspy croak, “I suppose we’ll let the fairies sort it out themselves, eh?” She asked the question of the book, and it did not respond, nor did its letters speak to her. “Bah,” she grumbled, and gave the book a little kick.

Then it began, as Samantha knew it would. She had awakened this morning knowing this would happen, and she was sure it was the book telling her somehow, although on this day of all days, she couldn’t read the damn thing. But still, she knew it was time. Time for whatever happened next.

The book began to glow, it’s pages and its letters and even the weird creature with its various appendages, glowing just like the grasses and the flowers of the fields below, and the full light of the moon caught the book in its grasp, and the thing began to gently lift from its position on the ground to hover in the air. Samantha cocked an eyebrow. Her heart began to beat quickly. This was the exciting part. She had no idea how it was going to happen, but she knew it was going to happen.

This was the night that Samantha would die.

She had no idea if it would be painful, or joyous, or rapturous, or completely dull. She hoped there might be a bit of everything. She hoped that after these years of silence, living alone, she would finally have earned some kind of reward. Like the nuns in the old days who draped themselves in black robes and took vows of silence, so to better open their ears and their awareness to understanding their creators words, spoken through nature, here she was, hoping in some way that the same rules might apply to a witch, who did not believe in any particular creator, and did not believe that there was necessarily an afterlife, but who stood here on this cliff in the middle of the night with her heart beating fast in her chest and her face flush with life and excitement, and she hoped against hope that maybe there was something more.

She hoped that maybe the old witches had been right about being reborn when one dies, even though most witches long ago dropped that idea. She hoped that there might be some promise of reunion. That she would see her daughter again. Her daughter, whose memory was still as sharp as a poisonous sting that left fresh wounds every time she turned over the stone in her mind under which the memory was kept.

The books glow became a shining light, so bright that it hurt Samantha’s eyes, but she didn’t look away. You don’t have to worry about staring into the sun and going blind if you’re going to be dead in a moment anyway. She didn’t know what would happen next, and for some reason, that gave her peace.

Because it was over. No more wondering, no more considering, no more thought for what would happen next. It was in the book’s hands now, or in the hands of the fairies, or the old goddesses, or the moon itself, or whatever was making the decisions now. She had worried for so long that the end would bring with it the total annihilation of everything, that she would die fearful and alone, but suddenly she felt that she might come to know the most deep and satisfying peace. It had no occurred to her until this moment that death might actually be a relief, not in a morbid and lugubrious way, but in a genuine and sincere way, that death would be safe, and comfortable, and perfectly peaceful.

She thought that maybe she could finally set down all these burdens that had hunched her back and lined her face and grayed her hair and dried her skin.

She hoped, even now, that she might see her daughter again, even if for an instant. If there were any gods in existence, let them give her that. Just a moment, and then she’d ask for nothing more, she’d be content. Just a moment to see her daughter, to see her daughter as she might have looked when she’d grown past the age of eleven in which she died, to see a young woman with deep caramel eyes and brown hair, and a wide nose and full lips.

A woman with tan skin and strong, wide hands. A woman with one leg slightly shorter than the other, and ears that were too big for her face. A woman who had retained those childhood features but added to them, as time does, as age does. A woman who would one day become the old crone in the cloak.

A woman who was standing, right now, in front of Samantha, stark naked and glowing, glowing with the light that effused the book hovering above the ground, a woman who was smiling at Samantha, a woman who Samantha suddenly realized in a rush of disbelief was not an image projected by her imagination, but who was really standing in front of her.

A woman who was smiling, and who reached out her left hand.

Samantha’s grip loosed on the handle of her cane and she let it fall. She’d never really needed help walking, she just liked having something to hold on to, because it made her feel safe, and somehow, less alone.

“Evgenia?” Samantha asked, even now still a little surprised by the crackling sound of her own voice.

The woman opened her mouth, and Samantha heard a voice that she had been sure she would never hear again, the voice of a little girl who had reached puberty and grown into the beautiful naked woman who stood before Samantha now, a voice that said “My mother, my sweet and patient mother, I’ve come to take you home.”

Samantha put one foot forward and then hesitated, realizing that this was the moment, that it wasn’t out of her hands after all, that she had to make the choice to take the next step, that she had to decide to take Evgenia’s hand, and go wherever it was that they would go next.

To her immense surprise, she realized with a pang of guilt that some part of her didn’t want to go, didn’t want to take the hand of her impossible daughter standing before her.

Evgenia smiled, and kept her hand outstretched. There was understanding in her eyes.

Samantha didn’t step back, but she did lower her hood and take a look around.

She was surrounded by the glowing grass of the plains, and she could still see far below the cliff those endless fields of glowing grass, swaying in the wind. She smelled the cool night air of autumn turning to winter, and in a motion quicker than she knew she was still capable of she loosened the tie of her cape and flung it off, and it caught up in the wind and flew out over the plains. She laughed, and then she pulled loose the tie around her waist that held her cloak on, and she slipped it off, and let it fall to the ground.

The old crone stood naked, bent, and she straightened her back, though it caused her a great deal of pain, and she held her head up and she took a deep breath. She could smell the night air, the coming winter, her own skin, her own musk, and the faintest hint of something she hadn’t smelled since the day Evgenia died, the sweet scent of her daughter, who had now grown into a woman, and whose smell had changed and matured and been added to by time.

Samantha opened her eyes and with a satisfied smile she lunged forward, and Evgenia laughed as her arms grasped her mother, and as Evgenia tumbled backward and Samantha tumbled forward, gravity stopped and they were floating too, in the light suffusing the book, and Samantha placed her lips against her daughters lips and kissed her, and Samantha’s heart swelled and swelled and swelled until there was a burst of sparkling light, and everything Samantha had ever known became one with her and her daughter, and all the fear, all the pain, all the love and hatred and suffering and trying and failing, sex and food and water, blood and tears and pain and excrement and urine and sweet flowers in the spring and chills in the winter, and breezes that drifted in through the crack in the window, and two men who slept on each side of her and whose breathing matched her own, and her mother leaning down and handing Samantha a little white stone which was to become her heart stone and which would hold her magic, and these things and many more things which hadn’t happened but which might have happened, all the possibilities entangling in a light that shone brighter and brighter, and the warmth of her naked daughter pressed against her body, and Samantha’s arms were holding the woman her daughter had become, and she didn’t have let go of her this time.

And the light shot toward the sky and then all that was left were sparkling motes of light in the air like fireflies, and the book landed hard on the ground with a thud, it’s cover closed, and the belt fastened around it.

And the book slept.

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Fairy Tale: Lucas’ Origin Story

Elliot sat across the wooden table from Lucas, the setting sun peeking through the high window. “It’s time we had a talk, Lucas,” he said calmly, his hands folded in his lap.
Lucas sat quietly in the chair opposite Elliot. “You apprehended me,” he said, “You stole me away from my companions, and God only knows what you did to them.”
“They’re all being held in custody, for now,” said Elliot, “And their identities haven’t been released. I haven’t yet decided what to do with them. I suppose it depends on your actions now.”
“And what does that mean?” asked Lucas.
“Well,” said Elliot, “You’ve had your little adventure, running all about the continent in an attempt to cause me an unending amount of trouble, but that’s over now. And I think it’s time you took up your role as Prince and started doing some work around here.”
“I’m not a Prince,” said Lucas, “I’m the son of a traitorous liar who impregnated the queen and refused to claim his own son.”
Elliot chuckled, “I suppose it isn’t surprising that you’re misinformed. You’ve never been told the story of how you were born.”
“I’m sure I know well enough what happened,” said Lucas.
“You’d be surprised, actually,” replied Elliot, “But before we get to that, we need to talk about your friends.”
“Let them go, they aren’t part of what’s happening between you and I,” said Lucas.
“But they are, actually,” said Elliot, “And I could have them all executed for conspiring against me, and by proxy the Alexandrian government, but that depends on what you do next.”
“You want me to stay quiet,” said Lucas, “Like I did before. Never revealing your little secrets. And you’re going to use them to bargain with me.”
“Actually not so simple, not this time,” said Elliot, “I’m going to ask you to take a seat as my right hand on the Council, and you’re going to be so close that I can see what you’re doing at all times, and you personally will carry out my edicts that will diffuse this little situation you’ve created. In exchange for agreeing to this, I’ll let them go free, and I won’t pursue them, as long as they never cross back into my territory.”
Lucas was silent. “You’re a monster, a coward, and you deserve to die,” he spat.
“But I wasn’t always like this,” replied Elliot, and he laid his folded hands on the table, “Once I was respectable. I was a Councilman and I fell in love with a woman, I was young and foolish and all I wanted was to reform this country, to make real change, to bring Alexandria to greatness.”
“A woman,” repeated Lucas.
“Yes,” said Elliot, “Your mother, the Queen. She and I spoke several times in Court, and we began to spend time together, she would invite me to the castle to paint, to sing for her, to play instruments in the conservatory. She would invite me in groups, so it was never suspicious, and I was clueless that she shared the affection that was growing within me for her.
And then of course I discovered that she cared for me, because back then I was just a normal man who wanted nothing more than to be happy, and to help my country, and I was not a monster. It was late one night when she asked to stay after the other guests had left, and having been left alone by her servants, she revealed her affections to me, and we stole away to her bedchamber, silently, and when it was done she showed me a way out over the balcony, which was low to the ground and right above the palace gardens. She’d crawled out this way herself, before, to walk around the gardens unsupervised at night, adventurous thing that she was.”
Lucas said nothing, only listened. He’d never heard any detail about his mother before.
Elliot continued, “Of course, things immediately became complicated. Your mother had a weak body, she was prone to sickness ever since she was a child, and after three years of marriage to the king, who you never knew, but who was a gluttonous sloth of a man, a wretched king who did nothing but dine and throw parties and who took no interest in the running of his country, even without any power in it’s rule, after three years of marriage to this indolent slug, she had not produced a child, and it was assumed that she barren. But soon we learned that she was not, because she had become pregnant, and only she and I knew that it was my child.
“Well of course something had to be done. I couldn’t very well allow the child to be born, and I told her that it was within my power to find a doctor, to spirit her away in the night and to have the procedure done, the child removed, and the pregnancy averted. She wouldn’t hear of it.”
“Why did you want her to stop the pregnancy?” asked Lucas. He felt himself nearing tears, feeling so isolated, so neglected, so unwanted, “Weren’t you happy to have a child?”
“No,” came Elliot’s swift reply, “I was not. I wasn’t against the idea of having a child, but I wanted to have a child on my own terms. This baby would be raised by the king, not me, and would never know it’s true father. It would be born in an Alexandria where poverty and squalor were commonplace, not the lofty grandeur of the Alexandria I wished to create. It wasn’t time yet, not for either of us. I spent months trying to convince her, but she wouldn’t listen, and I was so desperately and foolishly young, and in love with her. I couldn’t bare to fight with her. Our arguments turned into passion so quickly, we were so eager to be in love with one another, she who was wed to a pig and I who had pent up my passion my whole life, and never known a woman as my lover.
“But even then, I was determined. I knew I couldn’t convince her to have a procedure done, and by now, the whole palace, and the whole kingdom, knew she was a pregnant. It was being celebrated as a miracle, divine intervention so that the king could finally bare a son. Had the only known the intervention came at my hands. But no matter, I decided I would go for the next best thing.”
“What was that?” asked Lucas angrily.
“I found a witch,” Elliot replied coolly.
Lucas was stunned for a moment, “How did you do that?”
“Oh it wasn’t too difficult, I’m resourceful and I cultivate the proper relationships when they become necessary,” said Elliot, “It wasn’t too much of a challenge to discover an old crone living in the backwoods on the border of Alexandria and the Free Lands, and I found her little home all on my own too. I asked for what I sought: a potion that would kill an unborn child, but allow the mother to live.
“The old witch I’d found was a little hesitant, but when I told her to name a price, she agreed, and the potion was ready within a night. I paid her a king’s ransom in gold and took the potion back with me. I would administer it while the queen, my beloved little queen, slept. Finding my way into her bedchamber at night was a skill at which I was not unpracticed. I slipped into bed with her and she sleepily swallowed the potion when I gave it to her. She fell right back to sleep, and I stole out the balcony and waited.”
“What happened?” asked Lucas.
“The next morning I expected to hear news of a miscarriage, but when I saw the queen she was radiant, and she secretly confided to me that she felt a sudden surge of health, that the baby was kicking harder than ever, and that she was certain her weak system had not failed her child after all, that the baby was hardy and healthy. In fact she had herself examined by the doctors of the palace and reported to me later that night that she was found to be in excellent health herself, more than she’d ever been, and that the baby was doing better than had expected. They were even able to ascertain that it was a little boy, though the methods by which doctor’s discover the gender of a child seems as much to me now based on superstition and wives’ tales as it did then. I didn’t care that I now had a son growing strong and healthy inside her, I was furious that the potion had failed.”
“And then?” asked Lucas.
Elliot raised his eyebrows and said calmly, “Well I went back to the witch, of course. Told her I’d kill her myself for what she’d done, I paid her a small fortune in money I didn’t even have, money I’d taken extra care to have stolen from the castle treasury, not to mention the personal time and labor involved in killing the thief and disposing of the body to hide my tracks.”
Lucas shook his head sadly, “You were a monster, even then.”
“Not just yet, I wasn’t,” said Elliot, “I was still forming into one, but the transformation wasn’t complete. After all my plot had been foiled, the baby was alive and healthy as ever, and your mother had not only forgiven me, but perhaps coming so close to losing everything made her love everything in her life even more. She radiated with light during the pregnancy. The baby was nourishing her, protecting her, shielding her from me.”
“From you,” Lucas scoffed, “You who wanted to take away everything from her?”
Elliot’s face betrayed no emotion. “I wanted to give her everything, Lucas. I wanted to take the Kingdom from it’s corrupt governance and dethrone it’s fat, lecherous king, and give Alexandria a bright future, give the woman I loved a bright future.”
“By killing her unborn child, betraying her trust, and destroying her world,” sneered Lucas.
“Oh don’t be so dramatic,” Elliot flicked his hand noncommittally, “She had shown herself quite capable of producing a child, it wasn’t as though she’d never have the opportunity again, and besides, what kind of child would ever be happy raised with a sluggish oaf of a king, and whose true father was hidden from him, of whose affections he could never partake?”
Lucas said nothing, only felt anger boiling inside himself.
“Well as I said, I went back to the witch, and demanded to know what had gone wrong. This is when she told me,” Elliot adopted an expression of curiosity and bemusement, “that the only conceivable way her potion could have failed, would have been if the child was a witch.
Silence, only more silence. Lucas couldn’t speak, just listened, attention rapt, hanging on Elliot’s every word.
“I was stunned. When I told her that neither my beloved nor I came from families of witches, she refused to believe it, told me that somewhere in our mingled bloodlines was a drop of magic, and that the potion would have been fatal to an ordinary baby, but to a Magickal child, it would only make it stronger. Well, this had clearly been the case. Your mother radiated health emanated vigor and health, more so in her pregnancy than she had before.
“And this, of course, is when I truly became a monster.
You see, it was at this point, having been forgiven my offense, having found my child and my beloved to have been not only unharmed but enhanced and strengthened by the witch’s potion, knowing that the option of claiming the throne was still mine, but that I would just have to wait a little longer… it was at this point that I dove over the cliff and into a sea of anguish and regret from whence there could be no return.
I asked her for a potion that could kill an unborn witch, a Magickal baby.”
Elliot was silent for a moment. His tone was as noncommittal as ever, but his words seemed somehow sincere. Lucas said, “Well?”
Elliot took a breath and closed his eyes, then shrugged, “Well you’re here, aren’t you? You must know the potion didn’t really work.”
“I also know that my mother died in childbirth,” said Lucas with his eyes narrowed, his fists long since clenched at his sides beneath the table.
Elliot nodded, then picked up his story right where he’d left off, “Well, the witch said that it was an offense so grave to kill an unborn child of Magickal decent that she would prefer death. She knew I could have obliged her easily in this, but she didn’t know me well enough to realize I always have a contingency plan.
The woman’s house was an orphanage. How easy it was to threaten to the lives of one or all of her little ones. I honestly doubted there would be much negotiation, I didn’t even have to fetch one of the children and hold a knife to it’s throat, she knew the moment I made the threat that I was genuine.”
“So she made you the potion,” said Lucas, “To kill an unborn witch.”
“She did,” said Elliot, “But it took her three days, and I had to wait in town, far enough away that I didn’t interrupt her concentration. When I returned at the appointed time, the old woman handed me the vial with tears streaking her face, and as she pressed it into my hands, she cursed me, told me that if I were to ever use this potion, that she wished a thousand miseries upon me.
“It’s funny, isn’t it?” asked Elliot, shifting his gaze to Lucas.
“What could possibly be funny?” Lucas seethed.
“Well, the old crone had no problem killing an ordinary baby. She was happy to mix the brew for me and exchange it for gold, no problem. But when she learned that the baby was one of her own tribe, that it was a child of Magick, suddenly she was committing an unforgivable sin, slaying an innocent. She didn’t think the child so innocent before, did she?”
Lucas didn’t say anything, but couldn’t help agreeing, for once in his life, with Elliot. It seemed sinister beyond reason.
“As you can imagine, I was beside myself with guilt this entire time,” continued Elliot, “Oh I sat up all night, every night, in that little inn in town, weeping like a child, wondering what had become of me. I kept telling myself, ‘it isn’t too late to stop,’ but somehow I knew I wouldn’t. I knew I would follow through. It was in my nature. I would have Alexandria, I would have the Queen, and she would be mine, and then, when I had built a world worthy of a child, I would bring one into the world.”
Lucas was bothered by the implication that it would Elliot bringing the child into the world and not the child’s mother, but he said nothing.
“If I had a child now,” Elliot continued, “It would be discovered to be mine. I have dark hair and dark skin, the king was red-headed and pale, even though his wife was fair and blonde, it would be too easy to see, especially since we knew the child was a boy, and there were already rumours across the court about the queen having an illicit affair. Shadowy figures had been seen lurking near her dressing room balcony at night. And here I had been so careful not to be seen. No one knew it was me, but if there was a suspicion, it would be confirmed all too easily the moment the boy was born.”
Another long silence. Always a silence between them, the boy and the man. This silence seemed to contain more than any previous quiet that befell the two, in it was anger, resentment, pride, hatred, too much to ever speak, to much to ever truly understanding, from either side.
“I did as I had done before,” said Elliot, and he sighed, a sad sound, an emotional sound, a completely unexpected sound, “I slipped her the potion while she slept. I cried, and she remained asleep. I stayed by her bed all night, tucked into the shadowy corner of her chamber. In the morning I slipped into the closet and watched, expecting her to awaken that large belly deflated, I expected the tears and the blood, and knew she would never forgive me, but I also knew she wouldn’t stop loving me. I knew she would eventually move on. I was making a cut in her skin that could never heal, but in the end, we would still have our life together. I’d made my decision, I was following through.”
“And then?” asked Lucas, unable to stop himself.
Elliot was gazing down at his folded hand. His eyes flicked up to look directly into Lucas’. “And then, my son, you were born.
“She awoke to gasps of pain, as I knew she would. But when the nurses, the servants and the handmaids flooded into her room, it wasn’t what I expected. The baby hadn’t been miscarried, instead the nurses announced gleefully that a little head was poking through, with a face, that the child was not only being born, but he was coming fast. The birth happened like lightning, so fast was it all. I thought she was miscarrying. But the doctors found their way in, the baby was born, the chord was cut, and I heard the crying. Her child had been born a month and a half early, tiny but resilient, and his cry was loud and strong. He was placed into his mother’s arms.
“She wasn’t dead, she’d survived the birth. I saw her, through the slit the open wardrobe door, the morning light falling in beams on her and her child in the bed, she cooed to him softly, whispered things I will never know to him. And then she did a curious thing, she looked directly at me.
“No one in the room noticed. They were all too busy fussing in the corners with fresh clothes, bedding, setting up a makeshift bed for the baby who had not been expected yet. But she looked directly into the wardrobe, and right at me, I could see her pale blue eyes reflected in the sunlight. Her expression was something between pity and sadness. In the days and years since, I’ve often pretended that it was an expression of forgiveness. I’ll never know. Because at that moment, her eyes rolled back, and quite suddenly her head lolled and she fell back onto her pillow, the baby still safe in her arms, and died.”
Elliot was tracing a finger nervously along the table, something he’d never done in Lucas’ presence. He was looking down at his hand with an expression that was difficult to read. His voice had not cracked, his eyes were not wet, but there was a sadness there, Lucas suddenly saw, and it was a deep and unreachable void.
“When the servants realized what had happened they shrieked in terror, they grabbed the baby and fussed about her, ran off to find the doctor, to see if there was yet some way to rouse her. But they knew. And so did I. I stood there, my legs aching from standing all night in that closet, staring at my beloved, laying dead in the bed where we had created this child, this child that had taken her life not because she was too weak to give birth, but because I had MADE her too weak to do it. The first potion strengthened the baby so much that it strengthened her as well, but the second potion, which was meant to kill the baby, only spurred him to leave her body too soon, and perhaps all the strength she’d had left was in that child within her.
“When the servants had fled, there was a moment when the room was empty, and I ran out of the wardrobe, sealed the door with a plank, and fell onto her body on the bed. I touched her face, wept loudly, not concealing myself for fear of being heard. There was banging at the door, the king was outside, demanding to know who was in the room, what had happened to his wife. But I just laid my head against her naked breast, which had not even suckled her newborn yet, and she was well and truly dead. In agony, I pulled kissed her dead lips, and pulled myself away, leapt out over the balcony and into the gardens, and no one ever knew how the door had been barred, no one ever knew it was me.
“Perhaps it’s because everyone was so caught up in grief over the loss of their queen, or perhaps it was because the baby had had the fortune to be born with his mother’s hair, eyes, and skin tone, that no one suspected me. At her funeral, I saw the king weeping, and I saw the little baby boy being held by a nursemaid. I still hadn’t seen his face, hadn’t seen the face of my son.
“It was easy enough to creep up to his bedchamber, because the king was foolishly sleeping the apartments near Court, not in his own well-guarded chambers. The mystery of the crying voice within the queen’s chamber had now been chalked up to the supernatural, they believed it was the ghost of the Queen’s father weeping for her, that he had barred the door and held his daughter in his arms as he wrenched her, tearfully, away from her child and into the next life. Such foolishness.
The king had only two guards outside his door, and the rest of the palace guard was otherwise occupied because the funeral for the Queen had taken place only hours before, and most were still seeing to guests from neighboring settlements and mayors of provincial Alexandrian towns. It was too easy to incapacitate the first guard, then the second, and to make my way silently into the king’s bedchamber, where I murdered him effortlessly in his sleep, not even waking him to tell him what a sorry swine he was, how he had stood between all of my goals, and how I would never allow him to win.
“It was a scandal beyond all scandals, of course. But now, the boy was the only member of the royal family left, and I offered to help with raising the child. I was thought selfless, but I agreed that I would help look after him and move into the castle. He would need care and love, after all,” Elliot’s tone was grave and solemn, “What he needed was supervision. But I’d already volunteered myself to be his caretaker, I couldn’t very well kill the damn child now he was alive, and besides the thing had done so much to ruin my life that I wouldn’t have been surprised if he spit fire in my face and charred me on the spot, and as you know, that is partially what happened.
“The first time I met the little child he was sleeping in a bassinet, the nurses had allowed me access, cautioning me to be quiet and let the little one rest. I stood over his cradle and looked in at the little sleeping thing on the cushions. A little wisp of hair that was so light brown it was almost blonde, and I leaned in and picked him up. My heart sank when I held this warm little creature in my arms. I’d destroyed my own future, and now I’d destroyed his. And I was now an indentured servant to this child, because I alone knew he had Magick within him, and it would be up to me to stifle it, suppress it, and hide it from everyone else. In order to keep this child from exhibiting his power, I would have to commit my every moment to making it’s existence so miserable, so devoid of familial affection, that he could never use his power. I would have to break the spirit of the baby my beloved had just died to bring into the world.
“A thousand miseries, indeed. And then you grew up, and now here we are.”
Lucas didn’t know what to say. Tears had long since began falling from his eyes, his fingers were no longer clenched, but splayed helplessly across his lap. He sobbed openly. He tried to look at Elliot through the blurry vision. “You treated me the way you did,” he sobbed, “To try and contain my power? My Magick?”
Elliot nodded, “It wasn’t so hard, I hated you anyway, even though you’d done nothing wrong. Your existence was a blight to me, and it was easy to mistreat you.”
Lucas pounded his fist onto the table helplessly, “How could do this to me? Isn’t it enough that you destroyed my mother with your scheming, that you kill everyone who comes near you, why would you torture me too? Did you think it noble of you?”
“What do you suppose the superstitious Alexandrians would do,” Elliot raised his voice, “If they had discovered that the Prince was another Daemon Child of legend, spitting fire from his fingertips when he wailed? Do you think they would have been merciful? Heavens no! They would have declared you an abomination unto the Unknown God and sacrificed you then and there.”
“You don’t know that!” shouted Lucas, “And even if they had, why would you not defend me?” He stood from his place at the table and slammed his fists down again, feeling more emboldened than ever before in his life, “Why would you not protect me, love me, treat me as a father should? Why would you not be my father?”
Elliot leapt from his position and pounded his fist into the table, “I was never a father!” he roared, “I was never meant to be your father, and you wouldn’t die when you were supposed to, and you took your mother out of the world when you came!” His eyes burned, his tone was vicious and seething with poison, “I hated you from the moment you were born, and despite feelings I couldn’t overcome when I saw you that first time, I vowed to be strong enough to protect you by letting myself hate you, it was better than killing you myself!”
“You weren’t strong at all!” cried Lucas, “You were too weak to kill me OR to be my father, so you chose to let me die a slow death from inside out, and now I’m a weakling because of it! I’m broken, I’m destroyed, and it’s because of you!” Lucas reached down under the table and in a fit of rage, toppled it to it’s side.
Elliot threw his head back and laughed, “You don’t look so broken to me, boy!”
Lucas threw himself at Elliot, but Elliot was quick, and with a deft hand he grabbed Lucas by the shoulder and plunged him into the floor, hard. “You were a mistake from the beginning! Your very existence is your crime, and as always, I am cleaning up your mess and paying for your sin! You are the encumbrance to me you’ve always been, but still I let you live, even in your tenacious defiance!”
Lucas glared up at Elliot, “I hate you,” he hissed through gritted teeth, “I hate you and I always have. You’re more of a monster than I ever knew. A thousand upon a thousand miseries will never be enough for you.”
Elliot bent down to his knee and swiftly grabbed Lucas by his collar, pulling him so close Lucas could feel his breath when he whispered to him, “You are my misery. You have always been. And I have accepted the burden of letting you live, but I may yet change my mind.” He shoved Lucas back down and stood to his full height, then continued, “Stay here and think on what I’ve told you, and decide who you want to become. If you wish to be a Prince worthy of the title, this is the beginning.
“You are an adult now, you’ve been told the story of your birth, and you can decide to pursue me to the ends of the earth on a quest for vengeance, or you can decide to follow my orders and lead your people. You can also stay right here in this room and cry for the rest of your life, I don’t care. I’ll send food to you if you like, and you can live right in this little cell, and die of misery. I stopped caring the moment I poisoned your mother, I stopped being human then, I lost the ability to love, or to feel compassion. Your tears mean as little to me now as they did when you were a squalling newborn. Die in misery for all I care, but do NOT stand in my way again.”
Elliot turned on his heel and marched down the steps and slammed the door on his way out. Lucas curled up and sobbed into the stones on the floor.

Notes: So I finally did it, I finally wrote it down. I’ve had this origin story for a while now but refused to write it down. There’s a lot in Fairy Tale I haven’t written down, but more on that later. If you notice any kind of spike in writing quality halfway through, that’s because I began this scene in the middle and wrote to the end, and by then I was a little drained but I forced myself to go back and write the beginning. Reading back over it I can tell that the beginning of the scene isn’t as eloquent (is it pretentious to refer to your own work as eloquent? Because I’m inferring that the second half is eloquent. Fuck it, we’ll call it eloquent) as the second half, but the lesson I learned? I would rather have a crappy finished draft than a wonderful unfinished draft. I can DO something with the first, and I can’t do a damn thing with the second. Again, more on these issues later.

Also I’m aware that there are some continuity errors in this story, I can only spot one and it’s not hugely important, and some other things were clearly making-it-up-as-I-go-along. That’s why it’s a draft, people. Stop judging me!

And finally, no, I’m really not comfortable with the fact that every scene between Lucas and Elliot/Varner/Braeg (yeah, his name changes a lot. I can’t frickin’ figure it out) ends with Lucas crying. I don’t need him to be a super strong protagonist, and an important part of the story is how weak he feels, but I’ve gotta stop ending every chapter with him either crying or sleeping. I get that writers project themselves onto their characters, but he’s not allowed to be THAT similar to me.