Title: Le Conte de Fées: "The Boy who could Keep a Secret"
Rating/Warning(s): PG for a crazy kid, assassins, and MURTHER. ... |D
Word Count: 2,899
Author's Notes: I... chose Belphegor, for this, obviously, and I kind of also used the prompt "swirl," at least in spirit (and maybe "cord," though that's even more vague XD;). This will... probably end up being just part of a longer fic, in the end. I have four (and a half) more sections planned out, but ran out of time to write them. So here's part one, of a Fairy Tale in Five Parts (and an Epilogue). Also, warning for the simple fact that my version of Bel is rather. Different. You'll see. ♥ I hope you enjoy it!
Summary: Once upon a time there was one twin.
Le Conte de Fées
“The Boy who could Keep a Secret”
it always starts ‘once upon a time’; what is a ‘prince’; what is identical; we are alike, we are just alike; the kingdom falls under the curse; the nature of wolves; a fairy tale cannot end
And once upon a time there were two little boys.
Princes, golden children with fair skin and fair hair, and pretty-pretty eyes, and their mother would brush their hair gently out of their eyes so that the Kingdom could see them better. The elder twin, the boy who would be a King when his Father died, had eyes that were soft and guileless, wise for such a small child, with innocence befitting his age. The younger's eyes were bright with intelligence, were sharper than his twin's, but did not focus.
Their eyes were as golden as their hair, and their mother brushed their hair to show their eyes; but they were boys, and ran, and jumped, and played, and gold fell into gold until their souls were hidden. They wore their pretty clothes well, and the younger did not make the efforts his older brother did not to ruin them, so as always, the older watched the younger. Took care of him. And they both took special care of their shining silver crowns.
Once upon a time. The words were comfortable in the boy's head, fitting into the hum of his thoughts, the spiraling purr of stories. Once upon a time, that was how all the stories started, then danger and adventure.
Noble Princes, and Important Things, and then Happily Ever After. Once upon a time led to happily ever after.
And then there was another story.
Once upon a time.
Happily ever after. Once upon a time...
His Mother read to them, sometimes, and when Mother couldn't it was the servants, tucking them in and telling them bedtime stories. Telling them, reading them, teaching them about Kingdoms and Royalty, Magicians and Wolves, fair beauties and darkness and blood and Princes. Always about Princes. And when his Brother learned to read, he would tug at his sleeves sometimes, ask to be read to, and when his Brother had the time (less time later, when he started doing other things, things which the younger Prince- the true Prince, not the Prince-King, the King-to-Be, like his brother was, just a Prince, but not just because a Prince was best- could not do and was not allowed) he would read.
Teach, about Princes. About once upon a time, and what it meant to be Right, and Royal, and strong. To be good, and to triumph over blood.
"Is it good? Did you like it?" Brother said, amidst the smell of paper and ink, as the story fit into his head, and he grinned, clean white baby teeth, and giggled, ushishishishi~
The brothers were smart, and learned very quickly, and thus it was at a young age when the eldest learned to read, tracing his finger across the words and sounding them out with growing ease. This was not the only thing the younger could not do, and in his sharp mind a curiosity grew- nothing of his own fault, but when his Brother took his hand and led him, when they held one another snugly or hugged close at night, Brother carried different scents, sometimes faint and sometimes strong.
People said they were identical, in hair and eyes and face, in size and in the way they wore their pretty clothes and crowns, in their voices. The younger knew that this was not the case.
They were the same in size, his Brother's hair was as soft as his, his face felt out the same, his clothes the same nice fabric and their voices fell together like bells. But two Princes could not be identical. Identical- he picked up words, though he could not read them, absorbed them lightning-quick maybe because he could not read them himself, but he listened, listened, listened- that meant that they were just the same. In stories, sometimes there were two Princes, or sometimes three, but one was Eldest and was most likely to become King. But the Young Prince was the important one, the one who had adventures, did what was brave and good, returned with a Princess and sometimes took the Kingdom~
He liked being the Young Prince. He knew he and Brother were the same age, but he was still the Young Prince, he was told, and so they were not Identical.
His brother smelt of paper and ink, and of horses, of sharp metal and sword polish, from the lessons the Young Prince could not take and the things he could not do; and so they were not Identical.
But the younger brother, the Young Prince began to feed his curiosity, to follow his Brother, the elder, the Prince-King. He could not take part in his Brother's lessons. He could not ride the horses, unless led, but he sat in the grass and listened to his brother ride, and sometimes touched the horses on their smooth flanks, pet their noses and ears with his fingers, while he waited. He could not learn to fence, as his Brother did, but he ran his hands over the foils and helped him polish his 'weapon', heard the tinny metal noises and clashes as he practiced.
And soon, very soon, they were very young, and they were very much alike, and the Young Prince felt and heard that they were the same, and the only difference was the scent of books, that musty smell of paper and binding clue and old ink, that clung around his Brother from when he read, his lessons and his storytelling, which the younger still absorbed.
Then the Young Prince discovered a method of reading. Or rather, the tutor he had been given, a new tutor who was not yet unsettled by his grinning or his giggle or the lilting of his voice, the way his eyes were always hidden and when they weren't, looked at nothing in the world outside his head, he took the Young Prince's small child hands and led them to raised markings on thick paper, and told him, like someone had told his brother how it sounded years before:
"This is how an 'A' feels."
And in running his fingers over smooth surfaces, the Young Prince too came to smell of parchment, and in running his fingers over familiar features, starched clothes, soft hair, listening to his brother's voice, and to his own voice as he too grew able to tell himself stories, to teach himself about Princes-- the young boy had an idea, and thought he might know if they were Identical Princes.
So because it was raining, there was no horseback riding; and before bed, the Young Prince found his careful clever way into the kitchen and felt around for a very sharp knife, feeling very much like a hero gone to slay a dragon; he smelled of a blade, now, like his Brother after fencing, and he searched and searched until he found an inkwell, and poured the ink over his hands, the one thing, as he could not write, that his Brother had kept seperate. His Brother smelt of ink, faint, and now he did too, stronger, and strength was better; and now, he would see, if they were identical.
The Prince came upon his Brother while the Prince-King was washing up, and they were the same, exactly the same in all his senses, and others had said as well, you look alike, you LOOK alike.
'Identical', it meant the same, and the same meant One, so the second was not needed and did not, in fact, exist; a Prince-King was not a King, and he was not the -real- Prince, out of two, both and therefore neither, nothing at all~
His Brother's final imprints on his mind were his last pleas of individuality, the screaming that the Prince had never made, and the rush over his hands, thick and sticky like ink, but warm, and pleasant, and lots.
Is it good?
He grinned, clean white baby teeth, and laughed, Ushishishi!
It was Good and Right, because he was the Prince, and there was only one of him- the other shell, not more than an insect.
The Kingdom was ungrateful for his deed, which came as a surprise. He was the Prince, so he had always been praised, even as whispers had grown behind his back, that something was not right with him, besides that light in his sightless eyes. Brother had hugged him and told him not to worry, that there was nothing wrong, had told Mother what the servants had said. Mother had told Father, and the servants had disappeared from the Palace.
He loved his Brother. But they were the same. Identical. The same person-- he felt that in the blood that rushed inside him, the same blood that he had felt on his hands. Blood. So-much-blood, the servant girl had said, amidst her tears, blood that had come out of his brother and warmed his hands, slick and smelling like the metal of knives and fencing foils.
They were the same-- so if the people loved their King-to-Be, as they should, why would they speak in such hushed voices again, words of demon and evil travelling to his sharp ears?
He had slipped the knife into his vest, just in case there were demons around.
Demons... he read about them, had time to read, to learn by himself as everyone, even his very-very smart tutor, kept away from him. Demons were Bad Magic, daemons and faeries, and evil magicians, but demons were especially bad, and they could bring ruin, and possess people. They could bring the curses that plagued the stories that had grown to fit so neatly in his head, so he kept his ears open for signs of demons.
He was ready when the curse fell over the Kingdom, when his Mother succumbed to possession, or madness. When mere days after driving the knife again and again into that identical shell, she fell into weeping, tried to have him-
arrested, taken, thrown in the dungeon, banished or kilt, and his Brother had read him those parts of the story in whispers of horrified awe, so he said it that way to himself now, in his own head-
He slew the guards that tried to take him in their madness, the servents; he slew the Queen, when she grabbed at him, the demon in her driving him, and knew a curse had overtaken the Kingdom, and he would have to leave. But it was just like a story, and he was covered in the hot, sticky metal of blood when he left, so he grinned his exhuberant grin; it was the beginning of his story, the cast would be set, and he was off to have an adventure.
And would return triumphant.
There were always those people who were like wolves, he learned; wander alone in the forest, or in the hills, or in the cities, and they would find the lost child, and try to eat them alive.
The Prince did not know where he was, but he was not worried. The brute, the man-that-was-a-wolf who had grabbed his arm found himself with the Prince's knife sliding into his guts, giving a burbling scream as the boy opened him, just to make sure. (In the stories, sometimes, when you did that, the people the wolf had eaten before would come out, and he was a good and generous Prince; he was supposed to rescue his people that way.)
No one came out, but there were footsteps coming up, running, as if they'd been chasing the man. They slowed now, and there was the sound of a kick, connecting with flesh, then a whisper through the air and the sound the Prince had come to know as sharp metal ripping into flesh, and the man gurgled one last time in a light sigh and stopped breathing.
The person who had been chasing said something dismissive, in a language the Prince did not know (he put it together later, with his good memory, when he learned Italian; he was sharp and remembered everything, everything, because there was nothing outside of his head to distract him; what, he really thought I'd give a fuck if he used a kid as a shield, the stupid traaaash? -a shield, yes, that was what he'd been trying, but he had not been expecting the babe to have a knife, and instead of being his shield, the 'kid'-Prince had used him as a sheathe instead).
Then there was a silence, as the Prince held his knife in his hands, and grinned.
Another few words in that language, and when there came no response, in the local tongue, sounding annoyed, disgruntled. "Heeeeeey, BRAT. You understand me?"
"Not a brat," the Prince proclaimed. "I am a Prince."
"You're a fucking loon and you smell like SHIIIIT. Where'd you get that knife?"
He laughed, "Ushishishi! I took it from my Palace, and used it to cleanse my Kingdom~ It got full of demons." And the Kingdom had been cursed, so he'd had to leave, to set out, so he could come back later, and get rid of the curse, and there would be a happily-ever-after. Of course. But this man- boy, he had a young voice, he was oooold but not that old, like an adult-adult- he hadn't earned the story, so the Prince did not add that last bit.
There was a long pause, and the boy, who had been bordering on too-loud, the Prince did not like LOUD people- he spoke, not quiet or subdued, but more normal. "A prince, huh? Shit."
But there was something odd, in his voice then, an odd quality to it that the Prince did not quite recognize, but which he would grow to know in the future. It was the sound of a grin. A grin as sharp as his own, on his older boy's features and in his words, feral and dangerous. "Looks like I found something interesting. Heeey. You killed your brother and your old lady, did you? Pretty impressive for a little brat."
The Prince frowned; the boy was quieter, but he did not like his tone. "I killed an insect~" he corrected, and his frown turned into a grin. "Shishi... and my Mother was possessed~"
"Yeah, right." Footsteps, as the boy approached- and the Young Prince struck out, lightning quick with his knife.
It connected with nothing, and he received a staggering blow across the head for his trouble, that made him stumble, made his mind swim and his ears ring and he gaped. ... No one. Had hit him before. Because he was a Prince, and he was better, he was BEST and he would kill this peasant for DARING to-
"HEEEEEEEEEY, brat! Next time you use a knife to cleanse your Kingdom, WIPE IT OOOOOFF. Blades break if they rust, got it, you little dumbass?"
The Prince paused. "... Rust~?"
"Yeah, RUST. That brown crap. Don't use a weapon unless you know what you're doing."
"..." A longer pause, and then, interested, "Brown...?"
"BROWN. What the fuuuuck, a real genius YOU are, braaaat! COME ON THEN, YOU TRASH." And that sound again, the verbal grin that he did not recognize, but unsettled him and sent the feeling buzzing under his skin. "You're coming with me. You might actually be WORTH SOMETHING if you get trained."
And the Prince realized, then, that he was in the presence of another wolf- this one a true Wolf, maybe, a better one than the man that he had killed so easily, whose blood washed over him now, washed over his blade, brought more 'brown rust'. But this Wolf did not seem to want to eat him, but to take him along; this Wolf said new words, and promised teaching.
And the Prince remembered stories, few and far between, in which the Wolf had not been an evil, shadowed figure. Wolves were not safe, he had learned, in the gentle words of his Brother, and his Mother, and his maids. But even when they were not safe, they could assist. Some Wolves were helpers. Sometimes they ate the lost girl, and needed to be split open. But sometimes they gave the hero a faster horse, and weapons, and advice.
... And the evil Wolf in stories only ate stupid people, who maybe deserved it, and the Prince was smart- and maybe he had always thought the Wolf was more.
The Prince grinned, and waited, and cursing- already teaching new things, seething but words always twice as angry as the tone to them, he'd come to learn that too- the Wolf finally crossed over and picked him up bodily; "The Prince gets to be carried!" he said triumphantly, and the Wolf hit him again, and he laughed, and laughed, and laughed.
A very good story doesn't end with the death of a Kingdom, not while the Prince is still alive. Because what a Prince does is find people, others, helpers, and he reclaims his Kingdom, or finds his own, and the story is not over until the ending is a happy one; this is what a Prince does.