#107: There Are Three Sexy Pictures In This Post

Before we begin, check out this sexy picture of Pan I found on Google Image Search. Yowza.

Fairy Tale. It’s the name of the novel that’s been brewing inside me for about three years now, the novel that I attempted to start last year, gave up on 50,000 words in to try and redesign the plot, and which I’ve spent months and months outlining, outlining again, and picking apart. I’ve added completely new characters and taken them out before they even had a chance to be written down, I’ve changed the setting, the character’s names, I’ve tried to merge Fairy Tale with another story, then decided not to, then tried to do it again, all without writing very much of it down. I find myself with probably half a novel’s worth of concept material and unfinished scenes, but very little in the way of a serious book. I’m not even ready to look over the 21 chapters I wrote for the first draft of the novel, because I know that the “action” scenes are terribly written, the plot is confusing and ill-explained, and there’s a serious lack of direction.

In fact, that’s the main issue with Fairy Tale, there’s never been any direction. Even the title is vague. I thought it was clever before, but I’ve also considered going with The Fairy’s Awakening or something else; I decided to call it Fairy Tale before I even added a fairy to the story, and then I was upset because my plot resembled Final Fantasy and Bravely Default too much. In fact, every time I get inspired and add something new to this story, I feel like a fraud, pulling too much material from someone else. At heart I’m kind of a fanfiction writer, I love having my own characters, but it’s so much easier to put them in someone else’s setting, someone else’s world. And Fairy Tale even has it’s own word, vague and somewhat shapeless though it is, but I’m not good at describing it.

The truth is, I believe I’m a good writer, but I’m not good enough yet. I’ll know when I’m good enough. But when I put down the first draft of Fairy Tale, I decided to step back from it, take some time, think some more about where I wanted to go. What I ended up doing was coming up with practically an entirely new plot, and now at this point I don’t even know which version of the story (of which there are about seven to ten completely different outlines) to start with. But I realized something: I’ve written a lot of conceptual material for this novel, and probably more concept scenes than the actual first draft itself. I’d even decided to just let the first draft go, start all over, and rewrite what needed to be rewritten. But that’s just… not fulfilling to me. In fact, a few days ago I felt sure that I was ready to finally start on this story again, from scratch, and then the next day I woke up and suddenly my desire to write this story was gone. There was just too much. I’d thrown in so many ideas that the entire story was just as vague and devoid of true meaning as it had been when I’d first imagined it.

Ultimately, I wanted to tell an adventure story about magic. Magic was always the central focus. There were a lot of themes and messages I wanted to get across: Lucas has a terrible relationship with his father, Chancellor Elliot Varner, and I based that relationship on how I feel about my own father, who is abusive and distant. Bronwen appeared in my story and I didn’t even realize that she was transgender at first. Imogen and her adopted mother appeared in the story when I was still Pagan, before I became an atheist, or at least something close to an atheist. Lucas is in love with his straight best friend, an experience that I believe is probably very common for young gay people. Drosselmeyer is the leader of a corrupt religious organization that mimics the Catholic Church and worships a deity called the Unknown God (a phrase borrowed from Gregory Maguire’s ‘Unnamed God’ from Wicked). A character called Dexter who’s been a part of the story for a long time but has rarely ever shown up in any scene I’ve written was raised in an aristocratic family but hated wealth and power, fell in love with his adopted brother who he didn’t yet realize was a transgender female.

These are all great places to explore themes about love, about boundaries and whether they’re appropriate, about the power people exert over others, and about being honest with yourself about who you are. I don’t think there are nearly enough gay characters, much less gay heroes, in all of fiction, much less written fiction, and even less in fantasy, which is still mostly dominated by a straight-male perspective, despite it’s penchant for outlandish geekery and misfit-acceptance. But there isn’t REALLY a central story. It’s just an adventure. I’ve been asked over and over again what this book is about, and the truth is I don’t know. If so many elements of this story are so easy for me to pick up, throw out, and replace with something new, then maybe there isn’t really a glue holding all of this together. I’ve managed to throw in every single idea for a story I’ve had, and what I’ve gotten is a stew that’s made up of too many ingredients and I just don’t know where to go, this story has no direction at all.

So I’m at a weird place. Part of me wants to just drop Fairy Tale and start on something completely new, then come back to Fairy Tale when I’m a better writer and I can find some sense of direction for this book. Maybe I’ll do that. Another part of me thinks that it’s better to have a crappy draft that is FINISHED than a brilliant scene that is unfinished, and that I should just pick up where I left off on the first draft, and worry about rewriting and changing things later. I may do that too. All I know is that I’ve got to choose SOME course of action, because now even I’ve lost my direction.

And now for an abrupt change of topic. Check out sexy Bolin!
I need to blog more, because I’ve spent literally YEARS wanting to talk about what’s going on in my life here on my blog and just not doing it. So I’m going to talk about what’s going on in my life right now, and I may even keep peppering in random pictures of sexy men.
First of all, I started doing video blogs, and so far there are two. It’s about time for a third. In the first, I discuss the fact that I may not actually really feel all that male after all, and I certainly don’t feel like “man” is a pronoun I would ever want used to describe me. It’s possible that I’m closer to agender than anything, but I still feel a bit male. That’s why I’ve always liked the term “boy,” and why I don’t feel odd wearing gender nonconforming clothes and why I loathe gender roles. In the second video blog, I sob about how upsetting it is to live with depression.
I’ve had anxiety and depression for years now, and I’m currently switching to a new antidepressant (or should I say, my DOCTOR is putting me on a new antidepressant). So far I’m hopeful. However, on the one hand, the new antidepressant is helping me feel a little more positive (despite constant mood swings, feelings of hopelessness, dread and uselessness), but I remember that a couple of months ago I tried quitting my antidepressants cold turkey and I was amazed at how much I FELT everything. I hadn’t realized how numb I’d been for so long. Now that I’m on my meds again, I feel numb again. I can still feel things, but in general the thing I really feel most of all in a need for love, and an overwhleming loneliness.
I’m making changes in my life. I’ve started walking. That seems small, but it isn’t. I’ve done a bad job for the past week at sticking to my new walking plan, but I got back on it today. Whenever I feel bored, or I want to to do something, usually I pick up a video game, or get online, but I’m trying to go for a walk whenever I feel that way. It isn’t always a brisk semi-jog, sometimes it’s just a walk. But it’s something, and today I walked a mile and a half and I’m proud of myself for it. I’ve also quit soda. Now, I’ve slipped up the past few days because I’ve drank soda a few times, but it was usually because there just wasn’t much else to drink, and I didn’t even really enjoy it that much. In general, I’ve quit soda, and I think that alone has caused me to lose weight.
And I have lost weight. I weighed 250 pounds give-or-take for about a year, and I’m down to 237 pounds if I remember correctly from the scale at the doctor’s office (which, oddly, weighed me lower than all of the household scales I’ve stepped on at different houses, but since it’s at the doctor’s office, I’m giving this one credence, nevermind the fact that it has the lowest weight). I am beginning to FEEL healthier. I’ve gone through all of my clothes and boxed up the ones I’m too big for. I’m not going to keep staring at clothes I can’t fit into, or suffer the indignity of putting on a shirt only to see that it clings so tightly to my body that it’ll never fit, and then whipping it off in a rage as shirt after shirt do exactly the same thing. I’m also trying to eat better things. Though I’ve been pretty bad this past week, I’m avoiding fast food in general, and trying to eat things like fruit and nuts, and maybe not so much bread, which I was surprised to learn isn’t really good for you. I’m drinking water or juice, and having tea at night. Hot tea, with a teabag, not sweet iced-tea which is what “tea” is generally shorthand for in the south.
I’m trying to avoid getting online. I’ve gone a day or two without really looking at my computer. That’s a huge step for me. I even put my computer in the office area so that I can only use it when I have a need to, and not waste time with it. I’ve been more productive about cleaning around the house. And most importantly I made a resume and I’ve submitted a couple of job applications. The first place I applied to is something that I believe is akin to a call center, and I think I would enjoy working in an office, sitting at a desk in front of a computer, rather than standing all day in retail or, god forbid, working in food service. I have a phone interview with the company in a few days, I’m hoping it goes well. I’m going to try getting a job or two, and I’m also going to finish applying for college.
There have been some other circumstances as well. I live with my family and my mother may be involved in a deal that will include my sister and I each receiving some money to help us go to school, and a really nice camper for me to stay in that my mom assures me will be HER property and not her husbands, so he won’t have the authority to kick me out of his house anymore. Interesting for her to say that, because it’s always been HER whose told me that I have to go, but whatever, it sounds like a good deal for the moment, and my goal is to get myself a small apartment, to work, to go to school, and to continue bettering myself. Read more, write more, exercise more, use my brain more. Things that used to entertain me like inanely grinding for levels in an RPG for hours and hours don’t do it for me anymore, I’d prefer to listen to a podcast or an audiobook, have my brain working. I don’t enjoy comedy on some shows like Family Guy or American Dad as much as I used to because I’ve become used to things that make me think.
I think, in a general sense, I’m getting better. I feel like I’ve made a real change in how I approach things. I need to get bed soon because I’m going to be up early tomorrow to go clean a couple of houses, which has been my job for a year or more now. I’m glad to have finally gotten some of this down. Let me go find another sexy picture to round out this post with.

I was very torn about which sexy Dylan O’Brien picture or GIF to end with, but this one shows off his eyes, so we’ll go with that.
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Magister

The long hem of the woman’s skirts flew up behind her as she marched headlong down the corridor to where she was expected, and running late. Sheets of light sliced through the tall ornate widows lining either side of a corridor whose walls were painted in murals containing fantastic sea creatures suspended in a blue sea of paint, and whose marble floors, hedged by aqueducts carrying running water along the sides of the hall, echoed with the steady click, click of the woman’s boots. 

Pink silk curtains parted and fell away to the sides as the woman strolled in, head held meaningfully and pointedly, blue eyes stone serious, lips pressed together in what may have been annoyance, or a lack of emotion altogether. The vast room was a circular chamber whose walls also were adorned with murals of fish, leviathans, whales and mermaids, in every corner were shelves of hard bound volumes, and on pedestals of stone stood busts and statues of all manner of polished and beautiful men and women in states of undress, here a bronze woman whose hair flayed out behind her and whose silken robe wound lazily around an exposed chest with nipples bare and pointed, there a young man whose bronze curls framed eyes that stared out longingly from the position where his completely nude form stood on his pedestal.

A grand archway was cut into the wall, around whose curves wound more sculptures of nude men and women, interspersed with one another, climbing over one another’s forms, those on the western and eastern sides reaching, hands outstretched, longingly for one another, faces chiseled into expressions of anguish, or love, or something between the two. Framed by this grand archway was a view of the city below, upon whom the early morning sun flashed across it’s many small rivers that wound along its streets, and whose tall stucco buildings sported and tall stone spires, kissed in the blinding reflection of morning light.

In the center of the room was a stone platform, and the aqueducts lining the hallways and the edges of the room turned inward at the archway and fed a tiny river surrounding the platform, in which swam coy of every color, and a countless assortment of other small, colorful fish. The platform was connected to the blue limestone floor by a single walkway stretching out from stone peninsula, and on this platform itself were lounges, couches, armchairs and benches decorated with silk pillows, in which sat a dozen or so men and women, all resplendent in robes, jewels, headpieces, gloves and shoes as varied in color and texture as the fish swimming around them in the pond.

At the far end of the platform, his back to the early morning view, stood a man whose hands were tucked neatly into the folds of his dark robe, his pitch-black hair falling in shaggy tresses about his shoulders. He fixed his gaze upon the woman who had entered in a hurry, charcoal eyes assessing her. When he spoke, his voice was both compelling and terrifying, “You are late, Magister Nero.”

The woman’s steely blue eyes flashed with something between resentment and amusement, and a smile, cold and coy, played at the edges of her lips. “One is never late in one’s own home, Magister Sylmire.” She strolled nonchalantly across the bridge and over the coy pond to the stone peninsula, and arranged her flowing skirts about her as she seated herself in a downy armchair. There was a long silence as something unspoken passed between these two, the woman sitting with an ease of comfort, yet rapt with attention, and the dark-haired man, as he always did, taking the measure of her with his eyes. Between the two was something that was not quite tension, and not quite rivalry. To the dozen others who had gathered, their breath held in anxiety, there was a nervousness in the air.

The man with the dark eyes, Magister Sylmire, spoke up, “I was just beginning to brief our esteemed council on the matter of the fated ‘lost continent’ to the north, long held to be unreachable by sea or air, due to the mists and storms which surround it and permeate the sea.”

“Yes,” responded Magister Nero calmly, “You may go on.” The permission given in this statement to Magister Sylmire, who was her superior, was not unnoticed by the gathered council, who collectively shifted in their seats. Sylmire betrayed no visible sign of having noticed the slight, however, and continued.

“As you all know,” he began in a louder voice intended for a crowd, and beginning to swing his gaze around the circle of attendees, “The mists surrounding this ‘lost continent’ recently disappeared, and the storms brought to an abrupt halt. The exact cause of this phenomenon is still unknown, but it has given our nation a chance to finally being airships and sea ships to its shores, to explore this lost land, and as it happens, to make introductions of ourselves to the natives.”

The attention of several council members was caught by this remark, and some sat forward expectantly. Sylmire allowed a slight grin to play at his lips; his statement had had the desired effect. Nero internally marveled at his ability to control a crowd, and noted to herself to beware of this particular talent. “Yes,” he said, answering the unuttered question collectively asked by everyone in the room, “There are people on the lost continent. And as our nation’s first expedition of ambassadors and anthropologists have learned, they are a remarkable people indeed.

“I’m told that they are in many ways primitive, living in small, roving bands, and where population is dense, congregating in tribes. They practice ritual ceremonies, apparently upon the changing of seasons and other local holidays, but unlike our own history these rituals are far from blood-soaked or sinister in nature, in fact these people appear to be cheerful and inviting, frolicking in orgiastic ceremonies revering nature. Our explorers happened to come upon them during their autumnal celebration and, upon making acquaintance with a particular tribe, our ambassadors were welcomed with wide arms and permitted to take part in their joyful, if somewhat juvenile festivities. Dancing, drinking of local grape, even some vulgar displays of sexuality. However, it was during one such festivity that one of our field members noted something absolutely remarkable.”

Here Sylmire paused. Nero raised her eyebrows expectantly. “Go on,” she said placidly.

Sylmire looked directly into Nero’s eyes, and said in a voice so intimate that it was difficult for those on the edges of the platform to hear, “They practice White Magic.”

Some council members heard, and expressed their understanding through sharp gasps, while others whispered and chattered, asking if they’d truly heard correctly. Nero nearly lost her composure, but, resting her hands on the edge of the armchair and attempting with great difficulty not to tighten her grip, only said cautiously, “Careful, Magister Sylmire.”
Notes: Yes, it ends right in the middle of things. I can’t remember if that’s because I got interrupted or because I got bored. Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the latter, this scene is boring. I’ve never been good at “descriptive language” or “setting the scene,” in my mind I can see what the setting looks like, but it’s kind of a pretty blur, and I’m focused entirely on what’s being said between the characters.

In this version of events (and there are MANY versions of events in Fairy Tale; as with the last post, more on that later) this is intended to be a prologue. Nero is a character that was inspired by Kate Mulgrew’s performance as Flemeth in the Dragon Age series, and Nero both looks and sounds like Mulgrew. Interestingly, I happened to have been reading Kate Mulgrew’s autobiography while writing this chapter, and by reading I mean I listened to it on audiobook, because the only way to hear a story about Kate Mulgrew is to hear her tell it in her own voice.

It’s pretty clear that I was mimicking a style here that wasn’t my own. I tried to spend some time setting the scene, but ultimately it felt boring to write and boring to read, and I wasn’t very good at it. I do have a clear vision of what this very odd-looking room looks like, but it’s just too hard to describe. Maybe I’ll figure out how to do that soon. Seems like an important skill as a writer.

At the risk of writing almost as much ABOUT this scene as there is content of the scene itself, I mainly wrote this because, in this version of events, everything begins far away from Lucas, and far before his time, when Drosselmeyer is a mage among a nation of mages, and at the ending of the book, I was going to have Nero make another appearance as a much older woman, and something of a mentor for Lucas. Now? I’m not sure, maybe I’ll save Nero for later. I’m still trying to figure out exactly what this world looks like. I will say that I’m glad I wrote this just so I could get down the cattiness between Nero and Sylmire that goes on in my head, particularly the line, “One is never late in one’s own home,” even though I’m not sure that’s true at all, but still, I like it.

Oh! One final thing. If you’ve read some of the other concepts scenes, you may have noticed that the setting of this scene was very similar to Madeena, the City of Water, from another scene. That’s because it is, only this time Madeena existed outside of the area of the world where Lucas lives. Still getting it sorted out. I know, it’s confusing, but maybe one day all of this will make an interesting read when the book is finally finished and, hopefully by that time, has some direction.

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.

The Prince and the Chancellor

1

Varner sat with his legs crossed and an arm stretched out lazily on the fallen trunk. The fire crackled between them. Lucas narrowed his eyes. Varner grinned.

“I’ve come to offer you a deal,” said Varner.

“I don’t make deals with you,” seethed Lucas.

Varner raised his eyebrows and nodded, “Probably a good policy, but this one may be beneficial to you.”

“What if I just kill you instead?” said Lucas through gritted teeth, glaring across the clearing and through the flickering fire.

“Well,” said Varner with a calm look, as though considering this, “I suppose that would be difficult for you, because my soldiers have surrounded your camp site, and if they don’t hear back from me in…” Varner pulled a pocket watch from the breast pocket of his coat and glanced down at it, “…about ten minutes, they’re to attack immediately and take no prisoners.”

Lucas glared and the fire between them jumped, taking on new abstract forms, growing wider and burning hotter, “I can burn you in that time.”

Varner smiled, “You can certainly try.”

Lucas clenched his fists but remained standing still.

“Now,” said Varner in a calm voice, “As I was saying, I may have a solution to all of our problems that involves little to no bloodshed.”

“I highly doubt that,” replied Lucas, “You’re a deceiver and a fool. I won’t let you win.”

“It isn’t a matter of winning, Lucas,” said Varner with a collected smile, “It’s about surviving. And right now, your friend Hephaestion is being held in a cell beneath Baelfire Castle, and in two days he will be executed for your abduction, and then the crime syndicate he handed you over to will be hunted down and killed as well.”

“Except that none of that is true,” said Lucas, “Hephaestion didn’t abduct me, men you hired tried to abduct me, and they failed.”

“Well yes,” said Varner, “But only you and I really know that, and there’s no reason they have to know it.”

“King Baelfire will listen when I speak,” said Lucas, “I will find a way to talk to him.”

“You may yet,” replied Varner, “But it won’t be soon enough to save Hephaestion’s life. Look around you,” he gestured to the campsite, “You have no horses, no carriages, no way of getting to Baelfire within two days, and no matter what shortcuts you’re trying to use, getting there and preventing an execution are two entirely different matters. Do you know the process you must go through to speak to a King directly, even if you are a Prince yourself? They’ll think you an imposter and throw you into the cells along with Hephaestion before you get a word in.”

“It’s better than doing nothing,” said Lucas, “I will not let him die.”

“You may be able to do that in an easier way,” said Varner, and he leaned forward with his elbows on his knees, his hands pressed together, “I’ve come to offer you an arrangement.”

Lucas paused. “Spit it out,” he said.

Varner grinned, “So cordial. Alright, here it is: I contact the King, which I can do much faster and more effectively than you can, and call off the execution, saying that I’ve found you and the real culprit, and Hephaestion is released into my custody. I take him back to the castle and he remains there under house arrest for as long as I like.”

“So you can use him as a way to keep me in line, right?” said Lucas.

“Would that not be preferable to his death?” asked Varner.

Lucas remained silent.

“And either way, there’s more to it than that. You can be reunited with him. You come back to the castle with me, and there, you and Hephaestion will remain comfortably in the castle, under my close supervision. You can spend all the time you like reading books in the library or frolicking about the Royal Wing with your friend, I don’t care.”

“So you want to silence me,” said Lucas, “And you’re going to use Hephaestion to do it.”

“Sweet prince,” said Varner with a twinkle in his eyes, “Why do you ever think I allowed him to sneak into your caravan in the first place? Don’t you think I have enough watchful eyes that I saw him steal the paperwork and enter your retinue? But I allowed it, because I knew he would prove useful to me. You’re a stubborn boy, Lucas, but I do know how to play my cards, and we both know you have very few friends in this world. It isn’t hard to kill one, or to control you by threatening to kill one.”

The flames roared. They were burning the entirety of the logs now.

“I have friends now,” said Lucas, “And we are not going to let you, or the Church, take over this continent and turn it into your own personal dictatorship.”

Varner burst into laughter. “Dictatorship?” he said, “Lucas, you’ve got me all wrong! What I want is the best for everyone! Alexandria will flourish and I will claim my rightful place as King! You will be Prince, the Church will have it’s power restored, but they’ll be under my thumb! They can enforce their religious law as much as they like, so long as I allow it,” he laughed again, “Everyone benefits! Can’t you see that what I’m doing is genuinely best for everyone?”

“No,” said Lucas, “You’ve been killing people, blackmailing, manipulating every angle, so that you can put yourself in power. Why? Why is being King that important to you?”

Varner’s smile dropped from his face. “Because it is my rightful place, it is where I belong. It is what I have deserved from the moment I was born. It’s what your mother wanted-”
Lucas held out a hand and the fire shot forth to lick at Varner’s boots. He pulled his feet back hastily. “Don’t you dare speak about my mother,” Lucas whispered.

“But Lucas,” said Varner calmly, “She wanted the best for you. Don’t you think you would be better served with me as the rightful King?”

“So that you can return to expansionism?” asked Lucas, “So that you can claim every territory as part of Alexandria? Then what, move onto the Eastern Continent? The Islands? Will you then march the armies of Alexandria up to the Barrier itself and try to tear it down, so that you can claim the Other Realm for yourself to?”

Varner raised his eyebrows, “Now that is surprising. I honestly hadn’t expected you’d figure that part out on your own.”

Lucas was taken aback, “What?”

“The Barrier, yes,” said Varner, “That’s exactly what I want to do. It’s the reason I’m helping the Church. Their so-called Angel wants exactly the same thing I do: the removal of the Barrier.”

“The Barrier keeps our world from being sucked into an ocean of chaos!” shouted Lucas, do you want to unleash darkness upon the world and become some kind of demon king?”

Varner laughed again, “What an imagination you have! Demons? Darkness? No, sweet prince, the Barrier is simply that: a force that divides us from the world outside. There is an entire world outside of the Barrier, and all of us are trapped within it! When I bring it down, I will be the ambassador for this continent, and for all of it’s people. I will lead Alexandria into the next age, I will free all people from being caged within it’s magic.”

“You don’t know if anything you’re saying is true,” said Lucas, “The Church itself claims the Barrier keeps darkness at bay, and they’re allying with you to help destroy it?”

“The Church says what it thinks it knows, Lucas,” said Varner, “Their ‘Angel’ thinks differently. He has proof of a world outside, and I believe it. When the Barrier comes down, I want to be standing at the forefront with a hand outstretched to greet the rest of the world.”

“Or you want to unleash dark magic upon the entire world, and make yourself it’s ruler,” said Lucas.

Varner shook his head, “You oppose the Church, and yet you believe their doctrinal teachings? There is no evil in this world, Lucas, there is only courage and fear. I will not be afraid of old magic, I will not be afraid of the Barrier, and whether the world likes it or not, I will release it from it’s prison.”

“And how am I going to help you do that?” asked Lucas, “How does keeping me trapped inside the palace help?”

“Because no one outside of the palace will know you’re there, of course,” said Varner, “They’ll still believe you gone. Oh, the people have their doubts about me, but they rally around the Royal Family as they always have. If they believe someone has abducted you, they’ll support me in any decision I make to rescue you. They needn’t know that someone is pulling the strings, they just need to give me the power to take action.”

“And what will you use me for?” asked Lucas, “Conquering every neighboring country and territory, accusing all of them of abducting me, until you’ve finished the entire continent?”

“Now that isn’t a very reasonable course of action, Lucas. I have my own designs on how to go about it, but all that matters now is that you’re going to take my offer, return to Alexandria with me, and your friend will be saved.”

“And as for my other friends?” asked Lucas, gesturing toward the tents.

“Yes,” said Varner, “I’ve given some thought about what to do with them. As of now they really aren’t any threat to me, but I don’t doubt they’d try and rescue you. I suppose exiling them to the Islands will have to do. I could kill them, of course, but I’m letting all of your allies live to show you that I truly mean well. They can carve out a life for themselves on the Islands, don’t worry, and you and Hephaestion will go back to Alexandria. Everything will go back to the way it should be.”

Lucas took a deep breath.

Varner stared at him.

There was a silence punctuated by the crackling of the fire. It wasn’t burning so hot or so strong anymore. In fact it had returned to it’s original state and seemed to be dwindling. Lucas felt a sinking feeling.

“There’s nothing else I can do, is there?” he asked himself quietly, aloud.

“No,” answered Varner, “There really isn’t. Either you accept my offer, or I have my soldiers kill all of you, and that includes you, Lucas. I can pin your murder on agents working within Baelfire just as easily as I can your abduction. A crowd rallies around a murdered monarch far easier than an endangered one.”

“I…” Lucas felt lost for words, “I don’t understand… why not just kill us all?”

“Because,” said Varner, “I want what is best for you, and for all of Alexandria. I may seem malevolent to you, but believe me when I say that you are young and naive. It’s easy to believe my hand is always working toward a dark purpose, because it gives you a reason to keep hating me. But even if we don’t like one another, I still will do what is best for you.”

“Wait…” said Lucas, “If you’re going to make yourself King, what about me?”

“You’ll remain the Prince, and my heir,” said Varner.

“But they don’t know-”

“They will, eventually,” said Varner, “When the time comes.”

Silence.

Two men, one very young, one aged, staring at one another from across a clearing, a dwindling fire between them. The young man’s scarf blew in a light breeze behind him, the older man sat still on a fallen tree.

“You had better make your decision quickly, Lucas,” said Varner, “Because our ten minutes will be up very soon.”

“You won’t really let them kill me, will you?”

“Oh, I will,” said Varner, “I want what’s best for you, but if you’re going to be defiant until the end, so be it. My heart is cold enough not to lose any more sleep over your death.”

Lucas narrowed his eyes. The fire jumped back to life. “That’s why I’ll never follow you,” the fire leaped skyward and sparks flew, “That’s why I’ll always oppose you. You are a heartless, thieving, capricious liar!”

There was a rumbling sound.

Varner grinned. “There’s a small army approaching, Lucas.”

Lucas looked around in panic. The trees were shaking.

From the tents, Bronwen and Dexter shot out to Lucas’s side, each holding swords. Imogen and Eric stepped out tentatively from one of the tents, Imogen clasping the Green Book close to her chest.

“Told you,” said Dexter to Bronwen with a smile as they each joined Lucas on either side of him, “I knew he wouldn’t comply with the Chancellor.”

“I suppose I really was wrong about you, Lucas,” Bronwen said quietly, taking up position next to Lucas with her sword ready, “You are braver than I thought.”

Varner narrowed his eyes and stood, drawing his sword. “You will all die as fools.”

The rumbling came closer.

Lucas glared at Varner. “Bring your armies, I don’t care, I will save Hephaestion, and I will stop you.”

Varner drew his sword with a shink! And held it out toward Lucas, “You can try and stop progress all you like, Lucas, but it will happen, whether it’s I who leads the charge or not.”
The rumbling stopped as they stepped out of the forest and into the clearing.

Not soldiers. Wolves. Bears. Stags. Foxes. Wildcats. All of them growling, all of them posed in expressions of hunger.

Varner’s eyes widened as he looked around the clearing.

Sanrin stepped forward from the trees, his white catlike ears pricked up tall, his tail swishing cheerily behind him. He smiled. He spoke.

“Your army is dead, Chancellor Varner.”

2

“You know,” said Dexter cheerily, “I like him much better this way. He isn’t nearly as threatening.”

The sky was lightening as the daylight approached. Eric yawned sleepily as he propped himself up against one of the tents. Imogen sat by the fallen tree, studying the Green Book. Lucas stood with his arms crossed next to the warmth of the fire. Sanrin sat in the clearing, petting a lynx that lay purring happily next to him. Dexter and Bronwen were both towering over Chancellor Elliot Varner, who was bound with ropes and gagged, sitting propped against a tree, his eyes open but issuing no sound, his face betraying no expression of shock or outrage.

“The question remains as to what we do with him now,” said Bronwen, “More soldiers will be on their way when they learn of what happened.”

“How exactly did they die?” Dexter asked, turning to Sanrin.

Sanrin’s ears pricked up and he glanced up at Dexter, a careless and easy expression on his face, “Well, the animals, naturally. These soldiers have been hunting the wildlife for months, often for sport, and destroying habitats to build strongholds. All the creatures who attempted to protect their homes were ruthlessly murdered. It wasn’t hard to ask them to rally together to stop the soldiers.”

“How did you convince animals that prey on one another to work in collusion?” Bronwen asked.

“Well I suppose it’s a part of what we do,” said Sanrin, “My people communicate with the land itself, as well as it’s creatures. On their own, the inhabitants of the forest wouldn’t have attacked head-on and together, but I was able to convince them to put aside their differences momentarily, and when the fighting was done, I brought them here, and as you saw, they all went home without much fuss.”

“You people really are remarkable,” said Dexter, awestruck.

“I’d like to think so,” Sanrin replied coolly, “It’s a pity the predecessors of people like Chancellor Varner decided to inflict genocide upon us.” Varner shifted in his place but said nothing. The lynx looked up curiously at the sound, then closed it’s eyes and resumed napping.

“Still,” said Bronwen, “You may have stopped his retinue of soldiers, and those already stationed nearby, but more will come, and we need to decide what it is we do with him.”

“We could bring him with us,” said Dexter, “Have him confess to Baelfire his involvement in his crimes, then we could free Hephaestion and depose Varner as ruler of Alexandria.”

“I doubt it would be that simple,” said Bronwen, “It’s still a long journey to Baelfire, and when the Church learns of this they won’t be keen on losing him. We will have two factions, the Alexandrian army and the forces of the Church, looking for us, while we travel with a prisoner in tow. Even if we made it to Baelfire, he could still deny his involvement in his crimes, we have no proof, and we can’t count on his testimony. Showing up with both Lucas and the Alexandrian Chancellor bound and gagged just makes us look the more guilty.”

“Right,” said Dexter, and he drew his sword, placing it against Varner’s neck with an absent and unconcerned expression. He glanced over at Lucas, “Do we kill him then?”

Lucas looked away from the fire, “Go ahead, just don’t make a mess.”

Dexter shrugged. “Well,” he said to Varner, “Looks like you’re going out the same way those who got in your way did.”

“Wait!” shouted Eric, “We can’t just kill him! What does that say about us?”

“That we are men of action?” suggested Dexter with a lighthearted smile.

“Or that we’re no better than he is,” offered Imogen, looking up from the Book, “Murderers.”

“It isn’t as though he doesn’t deserve it,” said Dexter in the same carefree tone, “We would be avenging those who he’s murdered.”

Bronwen folded her arms and said nothing.
“Sanrin?” asked Dexter.
Sanrin shrugged, “You can do it, I can do it, I can ask a tiger to do it, however you like, really.”

“We’re being awfully flippant about murdering someone, don’t you think?” asked Eric.

“Let him die,” said Lucas coldly, “He’d kill us all himself if he had the chance. In fact, he did have the chance very recently and if not for Sanrin we’d all be dead.”

“Right,” said Dexter, “Then I’m counting three votes for killing him, two against, and one undecided.” He smiled at Varner, “Majority rules, I’m afraid.”

Varner glared silently at Dexter.

Dexter drew his sword back.

“Don’t,” said Bronwen.

Dexter sighed and rolled his eyes, “Bronwen, I was just about to kill him. Can’t I do anything fun around you?”

“He’s protected by the Church,” said Bronwen. “We kill him, and the Angel comes after us.”

“The Angel isn’t any more interested in his safety,” said Dexter, gesturing to Varner with his free hand, “Than he is in ours. To the Angel, Varner is a tool, just as the Church is a tool to the Chancellor.”

“Inevra will no doubt be here soon,” said Bronwen, “It may best to simply leave him here. If he’s found murdered, it may not help our case.”

“Actually,” offered Sanrin, “His entire squad of soldiers will be found mauled to death by wildlife. I can have him killed in just the same way and no humans will be suspected at all. The animals are still hungry.”

“He isn’t our concern,” said Bronwen, “Speaking with Baelfire is. Killing him doesn’t change a thing. If we kill him, Alexandria will be thrown into chaos, with no Chancellor to lead them, the Senate will be furiously debating who should take control.”

“What about their prince?” offered Eric.

Lucas turned to Eric, “I’m not ruling Alexandria. And besides, it’s against the law.”

“If there were ever a time to amend the law, it would be now,” said Eric.

“May I offer a suggestion?” said a voice.

Everyone in the clearing, including Varner, turned to look toward the shadow where the voice had come.

He stepped forward.

A tall man, wearing a tightly-fitted black coat, with long and straight dark hair, and eyes the color of charcoal. He wore a gentle expression, and his eyes seemed to convey innocence, peacefulness. His hands were in his pockets as he smiled toward the assembled.

“Good God,” whispered Bronwen.

“Well, not exactly,” said the man.

Bronwen lunged forward from her position and stood by the campfire, drawing her blade and holding it ready, an expression of caution on her face. “Everyone, run.”

Sanrin stood up, “Who is this?” The lynx by him stood and stretched, seemingly unconcerned.

“I am so unused to introducing myself,” said the man in a calm and soothing voice, “But I will do it,” He bowed low, humbly, with a smile, “I am Drosselmeyer, representative of the Unknown God, Angel of the Heavens, arbiter of all mankind, and bringer of miracles as well as destruction to the unfaithful.” He stood straight. “A pleasure to meet all of you. I’ve heard so much from Inevra.”

There was a communal intake of breath. Dexter came and joined Bronwen by her side, his sword ready. Lucas stared, dumbfounded. Eric stepped back in shock. Imogen stood instantly, closing her book and holding it close to her. Varner looked on wordlessly.

Notes:

This was a scene that I came up with at work, and took care to write down some of the dialogue into my phone and email it to myself. As it happened, when it came time to write this scene, I had absolutely none of that dialogue available to me, as it was still lost somewhere in my email and unavailable to me due to lack of internet connectivity. Still, I thought this scene had a lot of potential, and I really enjoyed the idea of Chancellor Varner and Lucas sitting down and having a real conversation in the midst of all the drama and turmoil. It’s worth noting that this scene contains an experimental character I named Sanrin, as I have an affinity for elf-life or otherwise non-human people with connection to the flora and fauna of nature. A cautionary note, this scene ends somewhat abruptly.