|Owning a Storyteller
Author: xanthofile PM
Slash One traveling storyteller. One king. Which is the hero of the tale? One-Shot prize for wizzan, contest winner.Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Fantasy - Words: 5,469 - Reviews: 10 - Favs: 18 - Follows: 1 - Published: 05-02-06 - Status: Complete - id: 2165669
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
this one shot is finally written for wizzan, as the last one shot contest winner. how long has it been, a few months? or more. er....... (falls to knees and wails) "please forgive meeeeee!" wizzan, if you still read my fics, i hereby apologize for being a lazy arse and making you wait so very long. (truly sorry) and i also apologize that not quite all of your requirements was met, but...i just can't do riddles. i'm sorry. i tried, but it didn't cut the mustard. - -
i also apologize for the length of this...i managed eight pages in word with huge paragraphs taking up most of the page each...who knows how long it'll come out to be in quickedit. (dies) and if i don't quite pull off the whole 'fairytale' theme i'm sorta shooting for...you can chew me out and make me cry. i deserve it. (if i were anime'd, i'd be a cat with drooping ears right now) heh, can you tell i watched the first four episodes of Loveless for four hours straight today???
oh, and garrett...apparently, i posted this anyways. sorry for spazzing on you before. you should learn to ignore me when i get freaked like that.......
well, not much to say, other than there's not one curse word in this. not one. O.o but there is a vague mentioning of sex. i swear that this is the cleanest one shot i've ever written. oh, excuse me: there is one profane word. my mistake.
Tuesday, 2 May, 2006. 1:40 am.
This thirst continued to play at the back of his throat as the sun reached its zenith, declaring it to be midday and still he'd had no luck with water. Well, he's had to go longer without, and was prepared to force his body to do so again. That is until he realized that the track he was following through the forest was beginning to show more wear upon it, declaring that the track would soon be joining a decent road. And thus it did some ten or fifteen minutes later, annexed by a proper road that would lead him to civilization once more.
And his mind raced with tales he could tell for sustenance, for tales he'd never told before. His grandmother had once told him that a tale is perfect only for the first time, and dies every telling thereafter. It had awakened the thirst within him to challenge himself and seek to tell tales for a living. It had eventually spared him, his constant travel; news finally reached him a year or so back that his home village had been decimated through a Raven attack, a vandal pack from a neighboring country, bent to keep the war between the two countries from dying at the mentions of peace. War was everywhere these days, even though he was far from home, countries away from the one he once called his. He declared no country anymore, no political foundings. No religion to tie him to a people, although he had once been devout in the ways of his forefathers and of the people who came even before his ancestors.
All that was gone long ago, lost during his years of travel and seeing things one would only believe through tale.
Tales of glory and courage, of romantics between nobles and peasants, of kings and queens, princes and princesses, evil sorcerers and good witches. Of beasts of animals and men, of horror and laughter. Of gods and spirits and infallible glory-be. Of tragedy and happy endings, of murder and good deeds and morals. He told it all, and delighted any who listened. His favorite subjects were the children of the towns he passed through, their open minds eating up his every word as they pressed for more, pressed their hands against him in awe, thinking him immortal. He entertained nobles and peasants alike, all those who had the time to listen to him, the coins to give, or the food to supply. If these were not needed for him to continue to survive, he would refuse to take them. It is true that a beggar/storyteller has no greed within them, for their pay comes from the joy they receive from telling their tales. Of being good at what they do.
And after stopping in the town to refill his supplies and tell a tale or two, Roka was on his way.
And was soon crossing into the Vindrow Kingdom, recently from a state of war and still suffering from the brutal aftereffects. These were the people Roka felt needed his presence the most. Even if they didn't want to realize it.
--- --- ---
"Sire, more hangings are scheduled on the morn."
The man addressed seemed as if he'd not heard as he frowned down at the many sheaves lying on the table before him; the many reports from all corners of his kingdom. Of course he knew there were hangings for him to attend in less than six hours, but some things were more important than appearing well-rested upon the occasion of hanging assassins. So many assassins since his decision to go to war, and they have not ceased in the month since he submitted his defeat and withdrew with as much pride as he could muster. He was being burned in effigy all across the kingdom, but if it helped distract the common people from their woes, then so be it.
"Sire, you must retire forthwith." The lowly official seemed not to notice when his king's hand went up to tuck back the long yellowish-auburn hair from his face, a sure sign that his temper was rapidly draining away.
"Sire, I implore you to-,"
Head still bent down, the lightly tanned King lost his temper, shouting, "I will not be swayed, Mynah! Now leave me be!"
The official stood still as he waited for his king's coloring to fade from the red of his anger, before saying, "You said yourself this very morn, that you wish I persuade you to retire early, Cygnus."
The king's fingers tightened around his pen, turning white as he attempted to defuse and remember that those had been his own words, so many hours ago. Finally, with a resigned sigh, he gave defeat and rose to his feet, his pen clattering down and splattering ink against the blotter on which it'd landed. And he allowed himself to be escorted to his chambers, to rest himself before he would attend the hangings of more unsuccessful assassins. They'd not even gotten to the castle before being apprehended, the stupid fools. If you're going to attempt, you might as well realize whether or not your fellow men are actually trustworthy. If not for the fact that it was his life they wished to take, he'd almost be moved to disgusted pity.
But he was not.
--- --- ---
For the third time in an hour, Roka barely managed to escape his pockets being pilfered, the third time by a small boy looking to be around the age of six or seven. The boy had wrenched from his grasp after being caught by the storyteller, running off empty-handed and spitting vile curses over his shoulder before he was lost in the unfriendly crowd of the capital of Vindrow, Oche de'Mar. An ancient city founded even before the country was united from scatterings of noble holdings. The buildings were tall and imposing, beautiful in some sections, downright slummy in most. This was the section Roka was in, having been shunned by the nobles in the more bountiful sections of the city. Which was strange, as most of these larger households were more likely to be in want of entertainment of some sort. But he'd been met with suspicious stares and slamming of doors in his face at the few houses he'd ventured to ask for the day's employment.
These people seemed to suffer an inner turmoil and depression; if the food he'd seen in the slums had anything to do about it, he could see that the country was indeed suffering harsh times. He heard the king and government openly slandered, and saw a royal officer dragged from his horse and spit upon as his pockets were plundered as he lay unconscious and helpless. He'd gone over to help the young man, and had been rudely shoved away by passersby, until he gave up and left the scene behind.
Pausing for a moment by a vender's stall, his eyes tiredly flicked over one gaunt face after another, seeing women towing child after child, seeing men leading downtrodden animals on ropes and harnesses. Saw children half-naked and filthy playing wherever they found the entertainment, most of them in rags and probably without homes. And a young boy stopped in front of him, looking up with unabashedly honest eyes, even though they held the streak of wear and wariness that all street rats posses, the ones who survive, anyway.
Roka stared down at that boy, and smiled, crouching down in front of him and beginning to talk in a low and soothing voice about a princess who was born from the moon and a star, a princess so beautiful that her own reflection grew jealous of her and cast a magic spell to make her ugly. By the time Roka got to the part where the young woman was hounded from town to town for her apparent deformity, more children had arrived to listen, quiet except for the tiny gasps of shock or delight as he became more animated in his telling. He saw the rapture in their eyes as he continued to spin his tale, his eyes alit as he introduced a blind beggar man who was also hounded, who met this princess and fell in love with her. And she wept with joy when his words of love fell upon her ears, and the spell wore off, leaving her even more beautiful than before. Roka's face became poetically tragic as he told of the betrayal that beautiful princess did to her blind love, as she had him hanged while she skipped off to marry a handsome prince with more money than anyone else in the entire world. But alas, she was not happy, for every time she caught sight of her own reflection, she only saw the ugliness that was hidden by her beauty. And driven to madness, she threw her body over the highest cliff in the entire kingdom by the sea, dashing herself to death upon the rocks and returning to the world of the stars.
By the time Roka was finished, children were not his only audience, although it was their reactions that he treasured, not the praise from adults and offers of gold that he nonetheless quickly accepted.
And thus his reputation grew.
--- --- ---
Patricians flit about Cygnus as he moved through the elegant ballroom, as well as many who were supposed to be his concubines, if he only had the patience to deal with their ways. Men and women alike were at his disposal, but he found himself far too busy to pursue even so much as occasional romantic encounters with such an empty-headed lot. Not that they cared overly much, as they were well kept and able to service whom they pleased, and often did. They still pandered to his every command, hung on him in the hopes that for one night, they could know their king in ways that few others had. There were tales that he was extremely demanding in the bedroom, that one could be worn out twice before even making it to the bed at all. Those he chose were known to have trouble walking, be they men or women, for a full two or three days afterward, drugged into sleep to still their cries of pain. But yet they would return and would be willing to go through it once more, just to share those intimate moments with their lord.
Cygnus ignored his courtesans and the pampered nobles he was forced to be sociable with to save his kingly grace, even though inside he seethed and wished nothing more than to see nearly half of them to the chopping block or the gallows. Preferably both in short order.
He was absent minded as he drank the wine offered to him from a servant, vaguely listening to the conversations going on around him until his ears sharpened with sudden interest upon hearing another tale of a mysterious traveling storyteller within his city. This man, it was said, could entrance the executioners themselves into losing themselves in his words and voice, that he could soften the coldest of soldiers into openly weeping as he spoke. The point that interested Cygnus the most was talk of how these feelings lingered long after the young man had departed, going off to search for others to tell his tales to, never the same as before.
Snapping his gaze up, he caught the eye of Mynah, who nodded as he quickly trotted over to his king.
"I want this storyteller found and brought to me."
His voice was quiet but authoritative, and his official nodded with a, "Yes sire, as you wish."
And was then leaving the ballroom, off to make sure his sire's orders were carried out posthaste, or someone was sure to lose their heads. And he'd lived too long not to know just whose head would be the first lost.
--- --- ---
Roka was awakened from his sleep by the sounds of soldiers marching past his dark alleyway, and he cursed at the disturbance, as his mind was rapidly losing grasp on the dream he was certain he'd been having before their arrival. Something about a slave slaying a…worm…to become a…woman? No, that was all wrong! Growling with frustration, Roka pulled himself to his feet and stretched the pops from his body before slipping from the alley to see what all the commotion was about. And realized his mistake when a shout was heard, his eyes widening to see the soldiers advancing upon him.
And he did what anyone smart would have done…he turned and fled back down the alley, scaling the loose bricks in the wall at the end and easily making it to the roof.
Whatever it was he had done in offense, he was not going to end up at the end of the rope, or thrown down in this mad king's dungeons. For only an insane king would openly ignore the unrest of his own capital city, would ignore that his effigy was ritualistically stabbed and mutilated before being burned…in the main square, no less. Only someone foolish would allow such things to occur. Thus, he lightly leapt from rooftop to rooftop, slipping once or twice on shoddy tiles, and there was one brief scare in which he thought he'd tumble to his death before he managed to regain his footing.
And thus, he was able to avoid capture.
--- --- ---
"Unacceptable! I told you I wanted him brought to me!"
Cygnus' long hair flared out as he whirled and backhanded a cowering officer of his own special forces, knocking the tall man to the ground at his feet.
"You are meant to be the best in my kingdom, and yet you fail to bring me one storyteller! Pathetic."
The bleeding man was already on his feet, his eyes staring ahead of him with crumbling stoics, itching to moan and flee before his own king ran him through with the sword clearly placed at his sire's hip. "I-I'm sorry, Sire, my men are searching the city and neighboring countryside. We'll have him, I swear to it."
Cygnus approached his officer, his eyes cold and hard as they bored into the man. "You had best do that before the morn, or your ass will be mine before I take my pay in having your head. Clear?"
The man nodded with wide eyes before quickly retreating when his king gave a barely perceptible nod of his head, his anger still visible in the way his jaw moved beneath the skin of his face.
"Incompetent fools" His glower was ill company, even to himself, as he stared out the window and swallowed some perfumed water.
--- --- ---
It was nearly sunrise when the king was informed that the storyteller was being escorted to his throne room, and he smirked a cruel smile as he waved his official away and strode down the halls to his entrance to the throne room. The man was already being held before his throne, and he slowly entered the room, taking in the man's dirty clothing and face, be as handsome as his features were underneath that grime. The storyteller had short hair, an oddity even amongst peasantry, but Cygnus would be loath to say that it did not suite the man. It was the eyes unabashedly meeting his with bitter anger that were what caught his attention, their brightness unusual and reminding him of childhood days spent out in the summer sun.
"Ah, the storyteller, at last." His voice was coolly amused, especially when the man struggled against his holds and spat lowly, "Call off the fools."
"The only fool here seems to be yourself."
"I am no fool! I tell tales."
Arrogance bled across Cygnus's face as he mockingly ceded, "My apologies, sir. But since you tell tales…why do you not tell us one?"
The dark haired man glanced disdainfully at the men holding him to his knees on the floor, before his eyes flicked back to the vaguely amused brown ones of the king. As Roka had thought before, he decided that this king really was mad. Even if he was the sort of king one would expect within a fable of bravery and heroics. Of saving damsels from dragons and conquering whole kingdoms with his righteous hand of iron. He certainly didn't seem the type to stand by and let his subjects speak against him.
"Did you not hear me, peasant? I asked for a tale."
He noted the tightness to the king's voice when he'd not launched into a story for the madman, and he vaguely wondered what sort of story he was expected to tell. Something with knights and sorcerers? Where good triumphs over evil, or is evil allowed to win once in a while? Or does he want a tale of gods and goddesses, of the beginning of the world? Something in that man's eyes spoke of intelligence, as mad as he may be. And thus Roka opened his mouth and began to speak of a complex universe held together by obscure principles and matters of fate and magics. He ignored his discomfort, and it eventually bled away as he was swept within his own webbing, knowing that those listening were just as enthralled.
And an hour later, when he'd spoken his last word, he slumped down and finally felt the pain of inactivity in his legs, the sheer numbness that they emanated from remaining in such a position. And he was startled when a cup of faintly-smelling water was held in front of his face, drinking to quench his parched throat before he realized that he was being given water from the king himself.
Who stared at him with strange emotions before removing his presence and ordering Roka to be taken to quarters, until he was to be summoned again.
--- --- ---
A month passed, and not a day was spent in which his services as a storyteller weren't required. Every day, he told a new tale, many of courage and intelligence. He was surprised when he was allowed to tell of cynical theories about gods and kings alike, when he was allowed to speak of whatever he wished.
Just so long as his voice was heard by the king.
--- --- ---
"You have talked of a great many things…except of one."
Roka stood motionless, clothed in the simple articles he'd been given since the very first. He had but one purpose anymore, and that was to wait until he was summoned to tell his stories, and then he was dismissed when it was clear that when not weaving his tales, he refused to speak. A small room was what he'd been given, a lock on its door and bars in the window. Forbidden to leave or be on his own, forbidden to step outside of his free will. And bits of him were beginning to whither away inside, deadening with every passing day he was kept prisoner.
"You have never talked about yourself, storyteller."
His jaw clenched as he remained silent.
"I command you to tell me from where you came, your people."
The king was in front of him, stormy eyes glaring because of his insolence, threatening tortures such as those he'd heard about from his stay in the palace.
"My people are dead, I am from no country but from the very land itself. I worship no gods; I serve no one but myself. I am Roka Trel'misho." For once, his words were curt and abrupt, his eyes staring coldly into the king's.
"Ah, but you see…I own you, for you serve me, Roka. You are my storyteller."
"You own my person, but my soul can never be kept."
And Cygnus fell back a step as he roared, "I own you! I could kill you and think nothing of it, you insolent beast!"
And he was startled to see those blue eyes meet his, the gaze broken as the man whispered, "I am already dying, suffocating in these walls. I am already dead."
Something snapped within him, some rage at being so easily dismissed by a creature as fascinating as he found the storyteller. Something snapped…and his rage lifted in time to see that body before him crumple to the floor, those blue eyes fluttered shut as the man was abruptly still. And Cygnus stared for a long moment, holding his breath as he waited for the storyteller to breathe, to show that he was not as dead as he seemed. A low sound of passing breath made his throat relax with relief, even as his fists tightened at his sides. The man deserved to be lifted off the cold stone flooring, but Cygnus was ashamed and afraid, for once in his life. He was afraid of himself.
Thus, his eyes rose and met Mynah's, who instinctively kept his mouth shut about the startling amount of confusion and regret within his lord's gaze as he came forward and picked up the unconscious storyteller himself. One arm under the man's neck and one beneath his knees as he lay limp in the official's arms, and a lightly tanned hand reached out and hesitantly brushed against dark hair before allowing Roka to be carried away. Away and out of sight, as he'd been for the entire month of his stay…of his imprisonment.
Tanned hands found the edge of a desk as he stared out a window, eyes seeing nothing as his mind looped back those words of his storyteller, those first words of truth he'd gotten.
Of keeping a body, but losing the soul.
--- --- ---
His eyes found the ceiling when they slid open, a familiar sight that settled that same depression over his bones, just like every other morning. His head ached, but none more than any other time he'd not avoided a trouncing from a person displeased with what he'd had to say. It didn't happen often, but there were still those rare times he couldn't please everyone. His cold fingers brushed his temples as he struggled upright with an inaudible grunt, frowning to see his old boots placed next to his pack upon the chair at the foot of his bed. He'd thought them to be thrown out ever since they'd been taken from him that first day…his clothing was his once more, placed on his body during his unconsciousness. Confused, his eyes flicked about the frugal room for an explanation…and skittered to a halt upon seeing his door open.
Throwing off the thin blanket from his legs, he hurried out of the bed and across the floor, pausing only just before sticking his head out and looking in first one direction then the next, looking to see if maybe it was a mistake, or if there were someone lurking just outside his door, waiting to run him through the second he stepped outside. But there were none; deserted and hushed. Not pausing to question his good luck, he hurried back and shoved his feet into his boots, fingers going through the folds of his clothing, shocked to find his tiny blade still hidden away. Even more surprising was the weight of his pack upon his lifting it by one strap, and opening it displayed that it'd been stocked with food and an adequate supply of water, and perhaps some wine as well. All his belongings were still in their place, plus some.
Someone was allowing him to flee; surely it was that kitchen lad, the one who came to sneak him sweets whenever he could. The one who whispered his life secrets in the dark through the locked door; the lad had an uncle somewhere looking for him, looking for his stolen nephew, sold into servitude by the flesh peddler who had many others boys like himself in his service. The king had seen him amongst the other young men and women when the lad had still been ten or so, and had bought him before his body could be tainted that way.
The insane king. The cold and furious king. The infuriatingly mysterious Cygnus.
For a moment, Roka hesitated, before he glared at the wall and flung his pack across his back, shoving any misgivings from his mind as he left that room and crept down the hallway. There was a garden not far from his room, if he remembered correctly, and this was to be his destination, with the instinctual thought to find a low point in the walls to scale and be free once more.
It was late evening by the time he stumbled upon the garden, cursing his memory and the complexity of the palace in the first place. He was ornery and tired, his head throbbing as he stomped his way somewhere, anywhere. And it finally came to his attention that the walls in this garden were smooth; there was no chance for even someone such as him to climb them, and his shoulders slumped as he glared at first the walls and then the ground and then nothing at all.
"Have you tried the front gate?"
His glare slid from seeing space, to his left, seeing that calm king sitting there beneath the ever-darkening shade of a large tree, more at ease here than he'd ever seemed to be in his throne room.
"I hate you." The storyteller growled this even as he eased down upon his haunches where he'd been standing, resting himself as he stared at the unruffled man.
"Feel free to do so; my subjects feel no compunctions otherwise."
"I am not your subject!"
A slight bow of the head, "True. You are Roka, serve no man but yourself. How ignorant of me to forget."
"I served you." A clipped reminder, out before he could restrain himself, hating the way the king's mouth twitched with something akin to strained amusement.
"I served you well."
An eyebrow rose at this statement, even as there was a conceding, "You did."
There was a long pause, and Roka's voice came from the shadows stealthily encroaching to envelop the both of them, "I did not find the front gate in my cursed wanderings in search of this garden."
"They are exactly opposite this place."
Another pause, and again, Roka spoke from the shadows, "Tis an awful long trek."
"I'm sure you have traveled greater distances."
And Cygnus heard an indignant snort as the storyteller returned to his feet, and all fell quiet once more. And his fingers tightened into a fist as he felt ice creeping from within, threatening to burn his eyes at their corners. His storyteller was free, leaving him. The storyteller he could never own.
His chin jerked upright when he heard the sound of a pack hitting the ground just before him, startled to see Roka fall to one knee with a bowed head.
"What is the meaning of this?" His hiss was more startled than angry, but he chose to ignore it in lieu of glaring at the other.
"Sire, I have heard that your majesty may have need of a storyteller. Mayhap I could entertain you with my tales."
Cygnus stared, at a loss.
And when Roka's face rose, he was able to make out a strange emotion in those blue eyes.
Torches were being lit throughout the palace, and with their light, shadows were finally dispelled from the garden, where it remained empty and undisturbed, but for a telling sign of some sort of scuffle amongst the grass and earth.
And an unearthly scream rent the night air, sending many a servant or official to bolt upright from their beds, unknowing of what exactly had awakened them. But those several courtesans still awake grew pale, their eyes simultaneously staring off into the distance, towards their lord's chambers. For they knew long before the others; their lord was conquered by a beast at last. A beast with a knack for words and for capturing the heart of a mad man. A mad man who willingly sacrificed himself, allowing evil to triumph just this once. Until, that is, he managed to catch his breath and force his captured storyteller back into bed. To actually fall asleep this time.
"You, sir, are a dragon in disguise." A brusque whisper against shorn hair, a throaty laugh heard in response.
"Is that the beginning of the tale, or the end, majesty?"
"Depends upon if the hero deserves his happy ending."
"Did he save the damsel he loves?"
"He released the lad he loves."
"And if the lad gave himself back?"
"Then the happy ending is theirs."
A moment's pause; "Mayhap you should be the storyteller, Cygnus."
"A dragon would quail before your sharp tongue, Roka. Mayhap you are really a demon…."