A/N: Just written for a class, thought I'd clean it up a bit and put it up here.


The Faceless Prince and the Three Masks

Once upon a time there lived three brothers in a small home on the edge of a forest. They had no friends and no real contact with the outside world. Their father was often seen asleep in the living room surrounded by amber bottles. The boys did everything they could to entertain themselves. Not having friends they often played together or wandered outside alone.

The eldest was David who never joked and carried a video camera around and recorded everything he could. He was the favored son and his father often bought him new cameras without being asked. The middle son was Isaac who never laughed and loved to take photographs of nature. Whenever he needed it his father would buy him a new camera. The youngest son was Edward who never sparkled. By the time it came down to him the family was often low on money so Edward simply asked for paper and pencils and with his notebooks he sketched and wrote about the world around him and what it might be like if it were different.

The brothers were often rather lonely and as such they used their hobbies to keep themselves distracted. Any given day the eldest brother could be seen recording animals that come by and the middle could be seen photographing the trees and the plants that could be seen near their home. The youngest could be found every day sitting out on the front porch writing and drawing whatever came to his mind. His brothers often teased him for his imaginative stories and pictures saying that he cared too much about things that weren't real.

The three boys' father had only two rules for them. They could never be out when the sun began going down and they were to never under any circumstances go into the forest. Still that didn't stop them from occasionally crossing the line into the little forest or waiting until they saw the top of the moon peek over the horizon to come inside. Fear of both the night and what might be hiding amongst the trees kept them all in check and not tempted to break their father's rules too severely.

One evening, much to the brothers' confusion, their father did not return home from work. The trio, finding themselves for the first time in their lives quite on their own sat out on the porch together as the waning sunlight sank behind the Earth in the distance. The eldest brother was recording the sunset on his camera, the middle brother was taking photos of the trees and bushes around their porch and the long shadows they cast. The youngest brother sat on the other side of the porch, a notebook in his lap staring into space as he thought about sun rise and sun set. Thus it was that the youngest brother was the first to notice the man who came out of the woods as the failing light grew ever darker. Thinking the man—who doubled over very quickly—injured, the boy rose from the porch and ran out into the yard.

The two older brothers followed at a quick pace and when the three reached the edge of the yard they were met with quite a sight. The man who had come from the forest was covered from head to toe in dirt. Still, sounding jovial but for the raspy voice that comes after a coughing fit, the man greeted them all by name. Cautious the elder brother queried the man.

"How do you know us, stranger?" The dirty man smiled back and with no hesitation gave the boys an answer.

"I know your father very well." While the youngest and middle child breathed matching sighs of relief, the oldest was suspicious. "He's in a little trouble in the woods and he sent me to get you, he needs your boys' help." The eldest brother was still concerned by invited the man onto their porch. They sat on the opposite side of the porch as him and listened to his tale.

"When your father and I were both very young we met a stranger in these woods. He was a very tall man who was dressed in all black. He didn't have a face that we could see but we could still hear him talk all the same. He told us that he was going to take us very far away unless we accepted his challenge and passed his test." The man's face grew sad. "While I decided to try the test your father ran away instead. Until today he never went back into the forest because of that very reason. Now the tall stranger has him and the only way to get him free is if one of you can beat his challenge."

Seeing no other way to free their father the eldest son stood up and said, "I will take his challenge." At the man's bidding they waited until morning. While his younger brothers slept, the eldest sat up on the porch all night, not yet feeling trusting of the man from the woods. In the morning he got up and entered the house where he borrowed one of his father's old bags. In it he packed his favorite video camera, it did well in low light and had never failed him once, and he packed two sandwiches because after all his father had probably not eaten since the morning before. He roused both his brothers from their sleep and bade them goodbye.

When he stepped outside he was instructed to follow the main path deep into the woods he would know where he was supposed to go when he reached it and that the 'faceless prince' would be waiting. Bravely he shouldered his bag and headed into the forest. It all looked very normal and nothing was out of place from his brief jaunts into the edge that his father would surely have scolded him for. He walked most of the morning and marveled that the forest was deeper than he had expected. By what felt like an hour or two after he would normally have had breakfast the eldest son reached a clearing.

In the center of the clearing, standing still as a statue was a tall man who looked to be dressed in a business suit. His pale skin was unmarked and where a face or a head of hair should be there was nothing. To the tall man's right, up against a tree sat his father—the eldest son knew him at first by his clothes—wearing a mask that looked to be made of pure gold. On the tall man's left was a stump which held three more such masks. Though there was no mouth to move the eldest son heard the Faceless Prince speak within his mind.

Step up and take a mask , the large man bid. Gathering his courage he approached with his head held high and though it hurt to look at the Faceless Prince he tried to stand, head tilted up and see into its face. Finally after a second he grabbed a mask from the stump and, surprised at how heavy it was put it in his bag. You may keep the mask and your father if you can achieve this task by sundown. Someone must be able to picture me clearly in their mind without ever having been brought here to see me and you must make that happen. If you cannot I will take you and your mask back. Knowing he had no choice, the eldest brother, David, accepted the challenge. After a second of thinking he pulled free his trust video camera and thinking to himself how easy the task was going to be he began recording. After but a minute the Faceless Prince started forward and gave a loud shout of GO! Which echoed in the eldest brother's mind as he turned. The eldest brother ran from the forest as quick as he could.

That evening, confident, he cooked a small dinner and then decided to show his brothers and the man from the forest the video. To his immense amazement when he put the video in the screen picture was terrible. A loud screeching sound surrounded by white noise pervaded the air of the house and all he could see were vague fuzzy shapes in red and black. In disgrace he retired early to bed, knowing he had failed his father.

When the house woke the next morning the eldest brother and his mask were gone. Panicked, the middle brother packed similarly. The camera that had given him the photo which now hung on their refrigerator went first into his bag followed by several bottles of water because by now he worried that their father would die of thirst. Again the man from the forest instructed him to follow the main path deep into the woods and told him he would know where he was supposed to go when he reached it and that the Faceless Prince would be waiting. The middle brother worried he heard a hint of mirth in the man's voice but vanished into the forest all the same. Somewhat quicker than his older brother he reached the clearing early. To one side of the well dressed, tall figure he saw his brother and father huddled together against a tree, clad in a dazzling golden mask. The sight of the Faceless Prince filled him with terror.

Step up and take a mask, the faceless man said. Shaking despite himself the middle brother walked closer, his eyes averted from the scene until he grabbed the second mask from the stump and like first brother stowed it away. You may keep the mask and your father and brother if you can achieve this task by sundown. Someone must be able to see me clearly in their mind without ever having been brought here to see me and you must make that happen. If you cannot I will take you and your mask back. Without hesitation he pulled free his camera and began to snap photos. The polaroids slid out clean into his hands but after a minute the Faceless Prince started forward and gave a loud shout of GO! Like his older brother the middle brother fled the forest with all of his might.

So terrified had the middle brother been that when he reached the edge to find his youngest sibling waiting for him he was alarmed to find that in his haste and fear all of his photos had been dropped or blown away from him, he had even managed to lose his bag. That evening they ate the sandwiches left by their brother and again by the time morning came the middle brother and his camera and mask had vanished. After almost an hour of worry and hesitation the youngest finally asked the man from the forest what he needed to do.

"Follow the main path into the woods. Do not stop no matter how long it is. You will know where you're supposed to go when you reach it and the Faceless Prince shall be eagerly awaiting you." The youngest son returned to the house but found he wasn't sure what to pack. The last of the bottled water was missing and he wasn't sure what else to bring. Not bothering to pack he tucked several pencils into his pocket and a notebook under his arm and hurried into the woods. It took him longer than both of his brothers to reach the clearing and once he did he stopped on the edge. He could see his two brothers and father masked by solid gold laid against one tree and he saw yet another mask on the other side of a tall, partially hidden figure. When he stepped closer he felt true horror strike his heart as he looked at a thin, tall giant who was without a face but dressed in a business suit.

Step up and take a mask, the Faceless Prince said. Like with his elder brothers he saw no moving mouth but heard the voice well within his head. Several seconds passed before he could bring himself to move at all and more than a minute before he hefted the heavy golden mask into one hand. He could not pull his eyes away from the Prince and without anything else to do with it he put the mask over his face. You may keep the mask and your father and brothers if you can achieve this task by sundown. Someone must be able to picture me clearly in their mind without ever having been brought here to see me and you must make that happen. If you cannot I will take you and your mask back. He nodded in understanding determined that he would draw a picture of this thing and show it to the man from the forest or someone in town. He took in the sight as best he could even though it somehow hurt his head to look right at it. Yet again after but a minute the Faceless Prince started forward and gave a loud shout of GO! The youngest brother turned and ran.

After getting mere steps from the clearing he chided himself for his cowardice. Now the youngest son was rather cleverer than his brothers, having spent more time imagining and thinking and storytelling than either one of them. After several minutes of contemplation he got closer to the clearing and then began to climb a nearby tree. Though the mask was heavy and hot and weighed him down he kept going. Once in the tree he tore the mask from his face and settled it in his lap. In this way, the youngest son, Edward, hid in the tree for what felt like hours, drawing the statue-still giant in the clearing.

When finally he emerged from the forest, the youngest brother hurried to the porch where the man from the forest was waiting for him, looking amazed.

"I thought that surely you had failed and wouldn't be coming back," the man said by way of explanation. Still, the youngest son couldn't help but think that in the waning light he saw displeasure on the man's face. When after several seconds the youngest brother didn't speak but only gazed—in a sort of half fear—at his own drawing the man grew irritated and snatched it from him. As the man glared down at the torn piece of paper the youngest brother asked him a single question.

"Do you know who that is?"

With a look of fury, the man hurled the notebook away and cursed at him before turning and running back toward the forest. Though scared and confused the youngest brother headed back toward his room, only a little aware he had forgotten his mask. He did not sleep that night but waited and when day broke he ran out to the porch to find the three sleeping figures of his brothers and father stirring in the lawn. Though they all remained unmasked on the far side of the middle brother there lay the mask he had abandoned in the tree, glistening in the morning light and covered with morning dew.

That evening, long after they should have been made to come inside, the brothers and father in the yard heard the echoing scream of pain from deep in the forest.

"NOT MY FACE!"