The Holy Place

 

Author’s Note: Hi again! It’s been quite a while since I’ve written anything in this universe, but the characters have been with me all this time. This is a scene I wrote today. As with most everything I’ve written in this story, it takes place right in the middle of everything, so it’s a bit difficult to come in as a reader, having no idea who anyone is. The only really important things to know, here, are that Lucas is our main character, a prince with the power of Fire Magick. The Libra are a race of people who look a bit like humans crossed with cats, this isn’t an entirely knew concept, but I really like it, and I’ve always enjoyed the idea of people having tails. Right now in my mind they look a lot like the Miqo’te from Final Fantasy XIV, or maybe Rei from the Breath of Fire series. The Lufian Witches are a sect of humans who follow the teachings of their goddess Lufia, and who are reflective of real world Pagans, though with a bit more Magick power. Sanrin is a leader among the Libra, and Ioan is a friend to both Lucas and Sanrin, he’s something of an outcast and a maverick among his people. This scene takes place right in the middle of things, but I hope it isn’t too jarring. Enjoy!

“There was no standing against the combined might of Alexandria and the Church in Augustine, so the king at the time, Magnus Cornelius, who was a supporter of the Lufian’s way of life, was faced with the choice of joining in the genocide of an entire people, or fighting a war with Alexandria he could not possibly win and have his entire army killed. So, the king abandoned Dulhan, abdicating the throne and is rumoured to have disappeared into the Mist Lands of the north, where he was never heard from again. This led to an internal struggle for the crown of Dulhan, and the throne was eventually assumed by Revlan Cornelius, the second cousin of King Magnus, whose son sits on the throne today.”

“That’s a fascinating history lesson you’re giving him,” a voice called as a figure leaped from the shadows of the rock face and landed squarely in front of Sanrin. The figure’s black ears twitched and his tail flicked as he stood up straight, “But you should probably get to the point.”

“Hello, Ioan,” said Sanrin calmly.

“Ioan,” breathed Lucas in surprise, “Where have you been? How did you-“

“I’ve found my way out of worse situations,” interrupted Ioan with a grin and a wink. “So,” he said, crossing his arms and turning to Sanrin, tail swishing confidently behind him, “You going to get to the war or keep talking internal Dulhanese politics? Because frankly, that part is boring.”

Sanrin sighed and shook his head knowingly, as though he had had this conversation with Ioan before, “One must understand the past to know which path they should walk today,” he said, “Lucas must know the whole story, not just the information that pertains to our people.”

Ioan rolled his eyes, “Well get to the mass murder already,” he said.

Sanrin sighed again, and turned to look at Lucas, “As Ioan has so eloquently pointed out, the war began in earnest when Dulhan joined Alexandria in their religious quest to rid the world of the Lufians, claiming their Magick to be an abomination against the Angel of God. It was at this point that the Libra stepped in.”

“To their eternal regret,” said Ioan.

“We don’t regret it, even now,” replied Sanrin calmly.

“Well it didn’t turn out well for us.”

“What happened?” asked Lucas.

“Take a look,” said Ioan darkly.

They continued walking and crested the hill. Below them lay a deep valley, surrounded by cliffs, with paths leading down into a massive lush vale, dotted everywhere with large, grey stones.

“What’s that?” asked Lucas.

“Can’t you guess?” replied Ioan cheekily.

“It’s a graveyard,” said Sanrin somberly.

Lucas eyes opened wide. The valley looked like it could be a mile wide, and the stones of all shapes and sizes jutted out from every corner. “It’s so… big…” he said, unable to think of an appropriate word.

“Aye,” said Ioan with his eyebrows raised.

“The Libra,” said Sanrin, “Stepped in to defend the Lufians, who were not warriors and who possessed no real offensive power with which to defend against an army. Their Magick has always been a peaceful Craft, a philosophy based in reverence for nature and a desire to become one with it. This is a value the Libra have always understood and respected. Though the Lufian Witches were human, they were like us, and we chose to defend them.”

“Not all of us, I might point out,” said Ioan.

“No,” agreed Sanrin, “Not all. There was much debate among the Libra, but there was little time, and it was before either my time or yours, Ioan, so we can’t know exactly what transpired. What we do know is that enough of the Chieftans among the tribes agreed to help the Lufians, and the war began.”
“It wasn’t much of a war,” said Ioan bitterly.

Lucas stared out at the massive graveyard. “The stones,” he said,” It looks like they’re all blank. There aren’t names or anything written ont hem.”

“That’s because this is a mass grave, little human,” said Sanrin, “There are hundreds upon hundreds of Libra sleeping side by side beneath the ground, and the stones may mark individaul places where certain important members of our tribes are buried, but only their families know which stone is which, and truly no one can say who is buried where. This is the central gravesite, where my ancestors brought their dead in the war to bury them with proper ceremonies, but the bones of the Libra inhabit all of the Hrothgar Plains. Their bodies lie within the ground, the mountains, the caves, our bodies and spirits are everywhere. There are other gravesites, but this is the holiest of them, the most respected by our people.”
Sanrin crossed his arms. His white ears shivered a little against the wind, and his tail stiffened. “It is harrowing to see, but it is the truth. We stood against the armies of Alexandria, and Dulhan, and Augustine, and we fought to protect the witches. Many among their number fought alongside us, brave women and men who put down their books of spells, abandoned their peaceful ways and took up swords to battle. But they were untrained in the arts of war, and the Libra are hunters, we kill for food and clothing and shelter, we do not practice war as sport the way humans do. We were outnumbered, outclassed, and outmatched. Our people fell, and so did the Lufians.”

“So the Lufians…” asked Lucas, “They’re all dead?”

“It is difficult to say,” replied Sanrin, staring out across the valley, “I am told that there was a great effort to hide the Lufians using Magick, to take them to secret villages and keep them concealed. The greatest of these was the city of Madeena, which lay in the vast forest land to the east, but during the war the forest was enchanted, and even to this day very few have entered the forest and made it back out.”

“Or when they do, they enter on one end of the continent and are deposited on another,” said Ioan. “The eastern forests are said to be the home of the Faeries, though few have ever even claimed to have seen Faeries, and I’ve certainly never met one.”

“The problem was,” continued Sanrin, “The eastern forest and the bastion of Madeena was too far away. We Libra tried to get the Lufians there but we were cut off at every turn. It was an out and out slaughter of both our people. The armies of Alexandria and Dulhan, and the soldiers of Augustine, they didn’t care who they cut down, human or Libra, we were all idolators and heathens to them. They saw us as tools of some unseen devil, armies of darkness. All we ever wanted was to live in peace in the land that was rightfully ours, and we even accepted the Lufians who were human and who did not belong here, because they respected our land and our people. Some of the Lufians were evacuated to the eastern forests, and maybe in those twisting vines and hidden paths they found sanctuary, but most of us, the Libra and the Lufians, were killed before we made it that far.”

“But the Lufians are almost entirely gone, now,” interjected Lucas, “And the Libra still survive, there are still enough of you to constitute your own people.”

“There are probably just as many Lufian in the world as there are Libra,” said Sanrin, “But they look like every other human, so they either hid their faith or abandoned it entirely. Some Lufians defected to the enemy and helped slaughter their own people. Very, very rarely did a Libra ever do such a thing, and if he attempted to he’d have been cut down just for having ears and a tail different from those of humans. The Lufians went into hiding, but they could hide in plain sight. The Libra had no such luxury, because we were unfortunate enough to simply LOOK different than the humans.”

“They think we’re animals,” said Ioan to Lucas, “Humans have always talked about the Libra as THINGS, not people. They think of us as some kind of animal-human hybrid, when in truth there’s no human in us at all. It’s rare that a Libra can even mate with a human, and believe me, there were plenty of romances between Lufians and Libra during the war.”

“You said the war was before your time, Sanrin,” said Lucas.

“It was,” agreed Sanrin, “But I was born when the war was just ending, so as a child I never stayed in one place long, my tribe was constantly on the move. Now there are a few safe havens for our people, the three great powers who were fighting us were fighting an IDEA, the idea of Lufia and Libra spirituality, they were trying to eradicate the notion that someone could worship someone other than their Angel. As soon as the Lufians were eliminated, or as I should properly say it, as soon as the dissenting HUMANS were eliminated, they considered the war over. The Libra didn’t even merit a war, they were happy to kill us if we stood against them in favor of the Lufians, but we were always savage wild folk to them, and they weren’t interested in converting us. They didn’t want Angel-worshipping Libra walking down their streets. That, perhaps, shows the truth of it.”

“They didn’t care really about Angelism,” Ioan picked up, “They just wanted to make sure that humans knew where the power was. It was all to keep the structure intact: follow your kings, follow your Angel, follow your leaders, and do not step out of line. Once they were done with effectively destroying the Lufian faith, they were done with the war. They’ve always held animosity toward the Libra just for being different from them, but Hrothgar was our land before it was theirs. They think themselves kings, but they’re only kings over other humans.”

“Peace, little cub,” said Sanrin.

Ioan huffed.

“This,” Sanrin stretched his hand out to show the valley, “This is what your people did. You were not part of it, but they are your people, and you are their prince.”

“But I’m not really the prince,” said Lucas, “My father is Varner, not the king, and the prince has no power in Alexandria.”

“You can change that,” said Sanrin,” Not only are you of royal birth, but you have Magick within you. You can bring about a new age where humans live in peace with the Libra, and what’s left of the Lufians. Your friend is a witch, is she not?”

Lucas nodded.

“Do it for her, then. For the children she will someday bear, and for what remains of my people. I ask you on behalf of the Libra and the people of the Green Word: change this continent. We are secluded from the Eastern Continent by impassible storms, and on the west are only rocky crags that no ship can manuever. To the north is endless mist, and to the south are waters from whence no has returned. All that the humans, the Libra, and the Lufians have, is this continent. If we all continue to kill one another, eventually there will be no one left to rule.”

“A lot of Libra would disagree with what you’re saying,” said Ioan with his arms crossed and a look of defiance in his eyes. “Many Libra want revenge.”

“And revenge will do nothing but spill more blood into the soil, and the trees will grow with the hatred of the dead running through their roots,” said Sanrin.

Ioan rolled his eyes, “Always waxing philosophical, you. But I agree anyway. There’s nothing that another war would accomplish. The Libra couldn’t win it anyway.”

“But there are many who want another war,” said Sanrin to Lucas, “As Ioan has said, many of my people thirst for vengeance. In time, their thirst can be replaced with a longing for peace, and it is my duty to change their minds, not yours. But you have a far heavier task: to change the minds of the humans.”

“I was never appointed for any task,” said Lucas, “I’m not some hero destined to change humanity.”

“I believe that you are something of the sort,” said Sanrin, “The gods saw fit to give you the gift of Magick, among all people. And your power is far greater than any Lufian witch, or any Libra sorcerer, few in number though they both may be.”

“My Magick is something that none of us understand,” said Lucas, “The fire listens to my call, but I dont’ have infinite power. I can’t change the whole world alone, even if I wanted to.” He paused, “And I don’t,” he finished.

Sanrin lowered his head, “Then perhaps it was a waste to show you this sacred place.”

Lucas reached out a hand and touched Sanrin’s shoulder. This felt like a bold move to him, and Sanrin flinched slightly, even Ioan raised his eyebrows. “It’s not that I don’t want to help,” said Lucas, “It’s just that I don’t think I can.”

Sanrin smiled gently. “You are young, and small, and weak,” he said.

Lucas felt his stomach drop.

“But,” Sanrin continued, “You will not always be young, not always so small, and not always so weak. You have gathered around you a remarkable number of wanderers and castaways. Bronwen is a ferocious warrior, Imogen is perhaps the last of all her people, and your friends from Alexandria are brave young men. Even Ioan has taken a liking to you, and he doesn’t like many people.”

“Hey!” Ioan interjected, seeming somewhat embarrassed.

Sanrin grinned a little more and shook his head, then placed a hand on Lucas’ shoulder, “Little human, right now you are afraid. You are overwhelmed, and believe me when I say that I know the idea of leading anyone is overwhelming. You are troubled, and you want only to find your own happiness. But you have been given an opportunity, and it is the opportunity more than the gift of Magick that is truly your blessing. You may yet find that you have the power to change things. The Angelist Church is a mammoth creature, and it has many horns and teeth. One man alone cannot fight it, nor even an army, as we’ve seen. But given the right circumstance, someone may be able to destroy the beast from within.”

“How?” asked Lucas.

Sanrin removed his hand and placed a clawed finger to his chin, thinking. “I suppose, if I were in your position, I might allow the beast to swallow me, and then drive my claws into it’s heart.”

“And what does THAT mean?” Ioan asked petulantly.

“Augustine is a holy city,” said Sanrin, “But it isn’t ruled by clergyman or priests or nuns, it’s ruled by an IDEA. Angelism is a concept. Bring down the people’s faith, and you bring down the church. Without the church, Alexandria is one lone nation with no faith to strengthen it’s army, and Elliot Varner is an unelected ruler who waits to be deposed by revolution.”

“That’s a pretty lofty goal,” said Lucas.

“I cannot say how it will go,” said Sanrin, “But I believe you and your allies have the potential to change everything. Think on what you’ve seen and heard here, and remember it during your travels. I have offered what wisdom I can, and now your choice is your own. We all must make our own choices,” Sanrin glanced at Ioan as he uttered the final sentence.

Ioan shook his head.

Sanrin turned and walked past Lucas, back the way they came. “Stay here for a while,” he said, “Both of you. I want the two of you to think about where you’ve been, and where you will go. Go down into the Holy Place and let the spirits of the Libra give you their wisdom. I will wait for you at the entrance. Think, while you have leisure to do it, and rest your spirits. This is a place of rest and thoughtfulness, use it to your advantage.”

Sanrin walked off down the trail, and left Lucas standing alone with Ioan. Lucas glanced at Ioan, and

Ioan just shrugged. Without a word, they set off down the steep path into the valley, into the Holy Place, into the mass grave of the Libra.

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.