WITH EACH PASSING SECOND
Edited 24/7/2011: First reedited version. For a certain anonymous reviewer and her very useful critique, I hope this version is less bumpy and lighter on the grammatical errors, pacing issues and character inconsistency of which she spoke of. It's nowhere near perfect, but I do sincerely hope it is improved and a little less purply. Happy reading!
Once upon a time in a kingdom far, far away, there lived a prince who was known throughout his kingdom as the most handsome and fairest of all the princes in all the land. The Prince grew vain because of this, and more so with time. He came to be so obsessed with his appearance it was said that on his eighteenth birthday, the Prince sold his soul to a kindly faerie queen to relish forever in eternal youth. In the years that then passed, the prince was said not to have grown a day older.
On the eve of the Prince's twenty-first birthday and with much pestering from the Prince's father, the King, the Prince set off to find a suitable bride. And so the King bequeathed his son with three blessings to help him on his journey: a trusted knight, his swiftest steed, and a box full of treasures in hope to woo the princess of his choice. The Queen was saddened by her eldest's departure, but the vain Prince's many sisters were quite glad to see him go – the princesses tired of having their brother outshine them in every ball and every party. Maybe if he finally had himself a wife, he would settle down and stop flirting with their courtiers.
It took a few days to get out of the city and the kingdom to reach the colossal forest that covered an expanse of every direction. The Knight had led the way, guiding the royal steed on which the Prince sat lone and graceful. With quite an uncomfortable bulk of backpack lodged behind him, the Prince would often complain of this in very routine intervals. Furtively, however, the Prince was really quite happy to be free of the King and his Court, for he and his companion shared the most scandalous of secrets: a love affair.
To hide his own shame, the Prince would sometimes curse his father; proclaim that he was a foolish man. He could not bring a hundredth of his most beautiful garments, or even a millionth of his kingdom's fortune—if ten tiny outfits were all he had been permitted to bring, how was it that he ever hoped to woo princesses with such squalid garments?
That was when the Knight would cut in, begging for the Prince's mercy on behalf of the King. The Knight would then remind him that the kingdom's economy declined in their time of need. Perhaps that was why their King sent the boy on that quest, and after all, his father must have loved him for he had at least given the Prince a choice. A specific range of choices, but a choice no less.
But then of course, the Prince often retaliated by informing his lover that he did not wish to be wedded, because he only one he could ever want was him. And with those words the Knight would go weak in the knees and slack in the jaw. But that exchange of words—so sweet in their content—only fuelled both their lust for flesh that was only satiated one night in a small clearing by their campfire. There, His Highness's porcelain body yielded, was stripped and then shattered under the touch of the gentle Knight.
As that firstling of passion passed, the Prince felt himself soften each time he and the Knight spent the night within each other's company. He soon found himself referring him to such titles as my dearest, and radical ideas began to bloom in his blue-blooded mind. He sometimes discussed with the Knight plans to escape to the northeast, where we the bohemians dwelled. He spoke of how they could live out the rest of their lives out there, and how the Knight could pretend to be his brother and do something practical while the Prince did for him all the things expected for a wife. The Prince insisted that if they trekked long and hard enough, even a legitimate marriage could have been a viable option.
The Knight would nod along, and remind his Prince that he would follow him wherever he may want to go.
"I shall shield you with my life, and whisper your name with my dying breath," he said, one night.
And the Prince answered, "Why ever so morbid?" with a coy lick of the lips.
After countless nights in which they camped and did the tangy things lovers do best, the Prince and his Knight hiked through a good portion of the great forest and neared the realm of the fae. The Knight had to button up a coat for his Prince as it got quite chilly near those areas, which was unfortunate since the unsheathed Prince was so much lovelier under a glistening faelight—not that he needed to have been any more beautiful than he already was.
It was some time prior to their exiting of the woods that the lovers found themselves entangled in a sticky situation yet again. The Prince's face was lost somewhere deep amid his lover's legs. The Knight had no sooner tossed his head back, simply unable to bear it any longer as he twitched it out and the Prince swallowed then he had heard a howl in the distance. The sound had certainly sounded like wind, but the Knight was troubled by it, placed his head on his Prince's silvery head, and asked him if he had heard anything at all.
When met with a soft "no," their activities resumed and the mystery pushed to the following morn.
A day after they had left the woods and onto an open plain, the strange calling began yet again. Fearing for the worst, the Knight advised they make haste to the nearest village and purchase an extra steed so that they might travel faster and hope to escape from whatever dastardly creature pursued them. The Knight had miraculously, eventually convinced the stubborn Prince that something was not right in the least, and as soon as he did, they cantered to the next village. The Prince had then opted for himself a chestnut mare with some of the gold the King had bestowed him with.
And all seemed well for the rest of that day. The two elopers carried on with their usual pleasantries, and eventually decided to stay at a respectable inn for the night.
Alas, even though they were allowed a few precious moments to feel fresh and revived after washing down, misfortune rained upon them soon after they spotted a dark, hovering shape writhing in the spot of sky by the village.
"My father told me many a tale of dragons," the Knight had remarked—rather calmly—after seeing it, "he told me that it is impossible to penetrate the armour any drake, and that the only way you could hope to defeat one is by blinding it and then striking its adamantine underbelly.
"Thus, I deliver that our priority is to flee as quickly as we are able."
But the Prince argued, "But you are a blasted knight, for heaven's sake! Is it not your inborn duty to slay dragons and rescue the damsel in distress?" The damsel who, in that case, was the Prince.
"My love, I will not lie to you. It is not all that easy to slay a dragon. My sword is nothing but the most ordinary of metal, it will chip and dull easily if I choose to duel the dragon. No, if I hope for victory, I daren't face him alone. But if my liege wishes its demise, I will die trying." He had stopped then, to loosen the Prince's collar and touch his face, softly. "And, sweet Prince, please bear in mind the fact that you are not a damsel, no matter how pretty you may be; you are very much a man. But that is fine by me."
"Then—then we shall simply flee?" He trembled. "But what of the civilians? I... I liked this village," he added; though in a voice so hush that even the Knight could not hear him.
"Aye, but before we do, we should rest," the Knight suggested, fumbling with something on his ankle. Without a another word, the Knight had the charm pressed to the Prince's ankle. He looked up at the Prince for confirmation of assent. "It will do well to protect you from harm."
"It's beautiful," the Prince remarked, perhaps the first time he had ever said such a thing sincerely about anything other than his own face.
The Knight had replied, "Not as beautiful as you, sire – Nothing ever could be," while he still wore that gentle smile. "This anklet is our family heirloom. The woman I would marry was supposed to be the one to wear it, but I suppose that since you are the man I will never leave, it shall be yours instead."
The Prince nestled his nose against the Knight's stubbly mouth with gratitude. "Thank you," he whispered. The Knight took his heel and kissed it. "But you must swear that you shan't ever take this off. As now, you are mine. You'll swear that you are. There is no escape from me once you do," The Knight warned him.
"I understand. Right then, I swear," the Prince promised, before he began his daily routine of undressing. The bedclothes slipped off easily, but the strangeness of the evening did not. It was only then after the lovers tore apart from their viscous mess the Knight came out with cuts across his back and the Prince with purpling around his ribs and hips.
Though the Knight was downright horrified, The Prince seemed less burdened. His knees were curled up to his chin and he smiled frailly at the Knight with swollen, dark lips. Not with sorrow, but with brutal affection. "Why apologise? I rather liked it." And there that smile became a smirk.
"Blast, we just got ourselves cleaned up too," The Knight sighed. Embarrassed, he tried to dodge the Prince's grin as he wiped his own tackiness off the Prince's groin. And that was when the petite man began to cry princely tears, as it finally settled in that noble crown of his that the Knight truly loved and cared for him. He had given up his own interests in favour of the Prince's selfish habits, and he had never—
"Hush, my sweetness," the Knight said. He wrapped a big, lean arm around his lover, rocking him back and forth like a baby. "I will never let harm come your way, ever again."
"Yes, and that is why I am afraid."
"Why are you afraid, love?"
"I did not sell my soul, as they have accused me of," he said, a hand against his Knight's side, "no; I let it be that whoever became my lover and touched my wretched body shall die in return eternal youth. But I regret it now; I want to die with you at my side. I fear you will die on me, be it today or the morrow. Just like that. So it should do you well to stay away from me."
"My silly Prince, if what you say is true, then it has already happened. I've already become your lover and touched you. There is nothing wrong with dying; we all do in the end.
"And even if I should die, it does not mean I will no longer shield you from harm."
"But I have wronged you! That sound—that awful sound you heard, in the wood—that was… it was death itself. It calls for your doom. That is why, that is why only you can hear it. Alack, the guilt rings in my ears like nothing I have known."
"Could it not have been the dragon's cry?"
"He could have been summoned to kill you. I wish it not so."
"Oh, love. You worry too much. It is, after all, a knight's job to break the curse, save the fair maiden, and live happily ever after. Thus it is my destiny to be alright until I do."
"Don't get too full of yourself. And I am not a maiden, I am a prince," he corrected ironically.
"Like I have said, that is fine by me."
"Also, for your information, it is certainly not a curse, but a spell."
There was silence in the room, deafening stillness. Both contemplated what it was they should do before the Knight took one of his big, rough hands and scooped the Prince's fingers right into his palm. He said, "Well I have an excellent idea; does Your Royal Highness wish to hear it?"
To lighten the mood, the Knight had poked and tickled the smaller man until he could not contain his giggles any longer, and happily sobbed out the rest of his sorrow. "Yes, yes, but stop that! Stop it!"
He stopped tickling him right there, and his face suddenly took on a solemn stance. "Have you ever had experience with a bow?"
"Why—why yes," the Prince said, struggling to recover, "Y-Yes I have. Why do you ask?"
"Excellent." The Knight smiled so confidently that the Prince found it impossible to distrust him. "Tomorrow we will ride out and confront the dragon, you will shoot at its eyes, and I will cut it down from its soft underbelly."
"C-could we not just... run away, like you said?" This visibly frightened the wits out of the Prince, who had never killed before, save for a pheasant or two. Even if he silently agreed to go against all odds for his love, the felt the Knight had asked too much of him. The Prince's hands then began to flutter about like a hummingbird, and then he tried to clench them into fists. But before he could even stop, the bigger man had taken his hands into his own, and nudged his chin on his back. "It will be alright, I will make sure of it."
"You always say something like that." The Prince scoffed bitterly.
"And have we not been fine up till now?"
"No more doubting. You are mine now, remember? And when we kill it, we shall bring the head of the beast to the fae, and pray that it shall suffice for turning back that foolish deal you have made.
"I am so sorry that I have put such a heavy weight on your shoulders, love." The Knight tossed aside a sticky blanket that had been bothering his thigh. "We also need to get you cleaned up again, though there is nothing we can do about these sheets."
The Knight then fetched a bucket of water and a cloth, wiped his seed off many clefts and crevices of his lover. When the job was done, and the Prince obliged him a kiss, the Knight was finally able to say, "Good night, sleeping beauty," before he positioned himself on the far side of the room, and spent the rest of the night styling the Prince a basic set of bow and arrows.
In the morning the Knight was no less in a favourable mood, as he was used to sleepless spells, guarding citadels and whatnot. He had gone into town extra early, and traded the rest of their rubies in for a mythril sword in preparation for the beast. The charm ignited in him the littlest spark of hope, but apparently not in the Prince who was ineffably cranky once he woke up to his sore bottom.
"Are we a bit sore in the behind?" the Knight had said.
"No thanks to you, you no good, dastardly commoner."
The Knight laughed, patting a hand on his back. "Same for me back when I was…"
"When you were what? And with whom?"
"Oh, back when I was a young squire... As you know, we commoners have to do all that our lords ask of us. I had a Knight of my own, and sometimes he—"
"Right, I don't think I want to hear this. But I must know: did you let him do that to you, or was it rape? I demand to know! No, no, what am I saying?
"Damn you! You are lying to make me forget what I must do today. It is not a very chivalrous thing to do. Though I can't say that tactic of yours has utterly failed..."
"You believe what you want to believe, darling," laughed the Knight. He smoothed a hand over the Prince's silvery-white hair. It was quite a rare colour found in one so young, and the Knight and everyone else who'd seen the Prince thought it had cast a kind of ethereal beauty about him.
"Do not dust up my hair with filth you rogue, you." The Prince struggled with some real effort not to laugh before both leaned in for a hearty kiss.
It was not long after that the couple rode out to face the beast. As the dragon loomed over them, its menacing claws glistened under the daylight and its gargantuan body ripped through the horizon.
The Knight in all his orderly vigilance motioned for the Prince to stay behind lest something went wrong.
"Stay here, alright? Run if anything goes wrong," the Knight instructed. He placed a trusting hand on the Prince's shoulder as if he were a soldier under his command.
The Prince pouted, but it only took an unimpressed glance from the Knight to set him right. The Prince nodded quietly and meekly, and adjusted his splintery bow to just the right angle. He shot at its eyes with the best precision he could muster, taking a few arrows to get it right in the pupil whilst his Knight advanced forward. The Prince continued to fire arrows until none were left in his quiver, and dropped his weapon to find that his palms had been acutely scalded, but for the very first time in his life did not muster a single complaint.
Seeing the sterling Prince unarmed, the dragon swiftly lunged for the delicious prey—but alas, the Knight was swifter. He defended the Prince with his poorly-constructed shield, struck low at the beast, and struck it right through the gut – the overwhelmingly expensive mythril proved itself to be overwhelmingly efficient, and it easily cut through the dragon's solid carapace. The Prince managed to step a good distance away before the blinded dragon cried out and retaliated with a quick slash on the Knight's right side, chipping his armour and throwing him off his horse. But with quicker reflexes and a strong hack, the dragon's head was cut down, and its body fell listless to the earth.
But the damage had already been done. The Knight limped toward the corpse to grab the dragon's head by its horn, holding it up for the Prince to see. His grin was all askew, as the other half of his face was bloody beyond recognition. "I have slain the dragon, now is it not right to ask for the fair prince's hand in marriage?"
"You silly goose… what are we to do with you?" The Knight was about to collapse onto the ground, but Prince ran forward, falling to his knees to catch his weighty, armoured body. He spread his fingers wide over the unscathed side of his saviour's face.
"I told you it would be alright."
"Your cuts are going to scar, and you say it is nothing! The dragon has crushed your ribs with his mighty talons, and yet you still say it is nothing."
"Only if Your Highness takes offense." He turned his face away, as if the Prince seeing it would cause him to abandon him.
"Preposterous! How could I do such a thing? You are worlds lovelier now, than I shall ever be. My loyal, brave Knight, I am truly in your debt." The Prince paused to cup his face with battle-worn fingers. "I shall take good care of you."
"But we must—"
"Silence! Do not oppose the wishes of your superiors. You insolent fool..."
Sighing contently, the Knight was hauled up onto his retrieved steed and was bundled with the ludicrously large head of the dragon, was dragged all the way back to the inn.
"My word," exclaimed the Innkeeper once they had returned. "I-is that…?"
"If it is worth anything to you, you could buy a new house for a scale from this beast," the Prince said. It was the only payment prince could offer; the rest of their wealth had been placed on the sword and the steed.
"That pesky dragon that's been terrorising us for years! I daresay, my good lords, have the room free of charge! Please, take these bandages with you. I shall call on the village doctor immediately!"
The Prince smiled tiredly, and accepted the gift. "Thank you very much, but, would you leave the doctor's appointment till I call? I… I would like to have some privacy with my friend, if only for a little while."
And the Innkeeper could only agree. The dead weight of the Knight proved to be too much for the slender Prince to handle, and he had to borrow the assistance of the Innkeeper to lug the unconscious up the stairs and into bed to rest.
The state of the Knight was a heartbreaking one for the Prince to see. It took him a long time remove the armour if only because his wounds were a bit much to look at—bruises over displaced ribs, deep bleeding cuts on his face that never quite disappeared and broken fragments of armour wedged in the side of his arm. Every jerk that the battered warrior mustered as the Prince washed his wounds was enough to move him into tears.
Over the next few days, the Knight worsened, falling into a deep sleep as the Prince looked after someone for the first time in his life. He spoon-fed him the food the grateful villagers flung at them, and changed his blankets every night, and laid provided warmth with his own human heat. After a week or so, the local doctor discerned to the disheartened Prince that an infection had spread in the Knight's arm, who had caught a persistent fever and the most unpleasant pain possible.
The Prince sat beside him all day, watching his chest rise and fall, trying to find a way to fix it. Running his fingers through the contours of the handsome face and up the coarse, golden-brown hair, a million what-ifs sped through his mind. What if he would never see those olive eyes open, ever again? What if he never heard that deep, reassuring voice he had grown to love oh so fervently? What if those rough lips were never to kiss him again, remaining limp and cold for the rest of eternity? What if he will never sleep with him again, never roaming those calloused fingertips over the little nooks of His Highness's body he had yet to touch?
No, the Prince could not imagine end of it. For once he had to take action; things must get worse before they get better. It would be his turn, his once chance to protect the Knight.
It is said that the faerie queen sat high in her throne of rosemary and thyme in the very heart of the wood, by a great shimmering stream that fuelled the very vitality of the fair-folk. If the Prince could retrieve a vial of that blessed water, his love would come closer to invincible that ever before.
On his ride, the Prince headed in her direction. Though he occasionally became lost, the Prince did eventually find the Queen a second time after many a circled path and tangled vine.
"Whoa." He had hushed the mare, and given her a pat as he dismounted.
The Queen's glimmering kingdom was only as big as his smallest toilet, and so the Prince was extra careful as to not squish any fairies as he took a step and kneeled down before the beautiful, ancient Queen, who indeed sat on a throne of effulgent flowers.
"My fair Queen," he said, bowing his head and extending a hand, "it is with humbleness that I offer you this dragon's head."
The prince hauled the head down from his steed, and laid it carefully to rest at the feet of the Queen's throne.
The Queen sighed with recognition as she eyed the fresh kill, bound by magic and unable to rot. "It so happens to be a rarity when humans show such exquisite valour and courage," she said, shaking her thimble-sized head, "I knew this beast; he was always threatening to burn down my wood. My child, you have my deepest gratitude, and I shall grant you a wish in exchange, as I did the last time you were so gracious to visit me."
"That is wonderful news. I have travelled into these woods in hopes of having my wish being heard by Your Majesty. You might remember me from a few years back. You granted me a spell that cast upon me eternal life, but made it so that all who loved me shall perish. I do not wish this anymore. I wish to die by my lover's side. I want him to live. Because I—"
"Your heart is bound to him." The old faerie smiled, placing a dainty hand on the sniffing Prince's shoulder. Within a minute he was on all fours, with tears as big as faelings rolling off his cheeks. It seemed that the whole colony of faeries wept with him. To have such a beautiful creature so upset was surely a sin no living being should ever commit.
"So please, Your Majesty. I will sell my soul ten times over if he will live. I-If I can just retrieve but one vial of that water…"
The Queen took pity on the Prince, and with a flick of her wand had some of her nymphs collect for him the requested water in an ornate but transparent jar. "My child, I can see through your eyes, cloudy as they are, that you truly love this man.
"Take this sacred water and feed him three drops of it. Save some for yourself, for if this man of yours consumes this he'll outlive you two hundred years, and I have a sneaking suspicion that such a man would not want a fine young prince like yourself to abandon him so soon. Do you understand?" Though the Queen was firm, she was still affectionate.
"Yes, Your Majesty." The Prince wiped a tear and mouthed an apology to a faerie that had been caught in his tears.
"Now, you must make it by midnight, for if you don't, the spell will be irreversible and he shall die if he has yet to do so. To break the spell, you must share the kiss of true love—but if not, I shall only tell you that the fate that'll befall you both shall be a mighty unpleasant one."
The Prince wiped the remaining tears with his sleeve, waved goodbye to the good Queen and her kingdom, and galloped as fast as he could back to the village. The chestnut strained under the speed, but the Prince hushed her forward and fed her apples to spur her onward. The path to the village was lit by wood-folk who had taken pity upon the Prince, and even at the fastest gallop then, the sky was the darkest black as he exited the wood. "Please do not let me be late," he kept mumbling to himself.
A trail of faeries lit a path for him as he rode back. The Prince all but scrambled off his horse when he arrived, at town, and ignored his own stumbling as he stormed up the steps of the inn. People were looking with curious, alienated faces but there was no time to answer them as he pursued the very top of the staircase.
He ran and he ran, but his heart dropped to the floor when he saw the sullen doctor next to his love.
"He has not much time left, sir," he said.
The Prince's heartbeat picked up again once he saw the Knight was still breathing, if faintly."Please let me have a moment with him, doctor."
"Of course." The doctor quietly stepped out of the room.
The Prince's slid across the floor, burning his knees. His hands were shaking as he reached for a spoon, and fed his love. The Knight sprang to life as soon as the first drop touched his stomach, with the second he let out a cough, and with the third his eyes were opened. "Hello there, my darling hero," the Prince murmured, wetting his own tongue with what was left of the water in the vial.
The Prince was on the verge of tears again, with his fingers tight on the Knight's cheek.
"S-sire, I never thought I was to see you again. I thought I was to die, alone in the dark." The Knight smiled at him, even the scarred side of his face did. He grabbed the other man by the collar and kissed the air right out of him – tongues locking, hands intertwining and all. And in the next millisecond, the lovers were suddenly encased in a glimmering purple light, zipping a shock through both of them. Unsure, of what that meant, the lovers had to confirm with each other that the spell had indeed been broken.
"How do I look?" the Prince asked.
"Your eyes do seem to have sunk in deeper. So have those cheeks of yours." The Knight examined him further, brushing his fingers gently over all the new grooves that had shifted on his skin, smiling with delight at the new man. The Knight was well enough to stand, so he did. "And the last time I checked, the top of your head only reached up to my shoulder. Look how you've grown – you are at my chin now! Even your hair is longer, see?" The Knight clutched the lustrous hair and tugged it softly, nuzzling his nose against the clenched tresses. It still smelled of cinnamon and other wonderful things.
The Prince cast his beautiful blue eyes down to his meticulously embroidered shoes, but his snowy lashes sheathed them from the Knight's gaze. "Are you suggesting that I'm no longer beautiful?
"Oh, I suppose it doesn't matter. As long as you are well, I—"
"No, that isn't it." The Knight clasped the Prince's smaller, softer hand. "Your beauty could never fade. Not for me. And you are more beautiful now than you ever were. You continue to be with each passing second."
In that very moment, the Prince gained the immortality he had always wanted. He knew that the Knight's love for him would last forever, and that though their youthful glow would someday die with time, that beauty would always remain in his beloved's precious heart. A heart that was more precious than all the splendour, crowns, diamonds and kingdoms the Prince could ever hope for.
With this in mind, they returned to the kingdom with an announcement. The Prince was not to marry some princess he didn't love. The only one he would agree to be with was his one and only Knight—and if the King could not yield to that, than the Prince swore that he would hunt down the last of the dragons in the land to prove their love worthy. This worried both the Knight and his future mother-in law. So just in case he would try it, the Knight would chain the Prince's leg to the bed and latch onto him desperately while they slept. This routine deeply frustrated the Prince at times...
"Why the bloody hell are you grabbing onto me like that? And did you chain my leg to the bed? Why in the world would you do that?"
"Because I love you and I don't want you to die chasing dragons or whatnot, just so—"
"Oh for heaven's sake, you've got to let me go!"
"No really, I can't breathe!"
"Nonsense. You know you love me too."
"I do, I do, but this is just too much!"
And then the Knight would only squeeze him tighter.
The Prince often tried to threaten the King with his plans of dracocide until the Queen was able to convince the King and their daughters to accept the two for "who they were." Though they were really more concerned with the Knight's low birth than his gender, the King his Princesses came to like the Knight. The Knight was delighted to have a son in law of such practical standing, and the Princesses loved their brother's change of heart. As they prepared for the big day, they cheered their brother on as he belatedly introduced them to handsome counts to escort them, and designed many a gowns for them to wear on the day. And the kingdom loved them too, delighted that one of their own was marrying into the royal family, and happy that their beautiful Prince had grown a heart and had turned to a life of low taxes, charity and altruism.
In a truly dignified manner the Prince and his Knight were wed and lived happily ever after. From that day on, the Prince never took his prized anklet. It managed to save them once, and the Prince believed it would do the same in times to come. The little, polished charm was always attached to his leg, as he now truly and only belonged, as promised, to his husband. The brave man who once served as his most cherished knight.
OLD NOTES: Alright, that turned out… not as I expected. D:
It was originally supposed to be about a real selfish prince who got kidnapped by a dragon, who offered up instead his knight to take up his place.
Congrats if you've made your way this far! Constructive criticisms absolutely welcome. It will be less painful than reading the thing, I assure you. Happy hunting for grammatical errors/spelling mistakes.