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Title: The Mystery of Love Is Greater
Fandom: Princess Tutu
Pairing: Mytho/Rue, Autor/Rue
Warnings: Creepiness, great piles of it.
Notes: Based (loosely) off Oscar Wilde's play Salome. Points to anyone who can identify which other works I borrowed from.


It was the sort of night fairytales often began with; dark, cold, and filled with the sort of emptiness only winter could bring. The land was covered in white as far as the eye could see, trees looked like twisted glass sculptures, and life seemed to have fled that place for good. Yet, resting in a valley between two great mountains was an ancient castle, built of stone black as the cruel beak of the Raven god that ruled that land.

The castle had four courtyards within the walls surrounding it; one facing each direction. The north courtyard held a beautiful garden, filled with apple trees and rosebushes in the summer, and now only bare branches, tipped with white. The east and west courtyards held large statues, made of heavy iron, each crudely depicting the Raven in flight. They were utterly horrifying things, making young women shudder, and children dare each other to touch them.

The south courtyard was the least magnificent of all. It was overgrown with weeds and vicious thorns; even in winter, one had to wear thick boots, or else have their foot pierced by the thorns lurking beneath the snow. In the very center of this courtyard was an ancient cistern, once used to store water, which now held a most peculiar prisoner, a young man, a prophet, some said. What sort of prophet they were less willing to say, since the king had strictly forbidden speaking of any god other than the mighty Raven.

Even without stories of his god, still many other tales of the young prophet began to make their way through the halls of the great castle. They said he had come into the city with an ivory-hilted sword, given to him by a swan maiden in the glass lake on the other side of the valley. It was said he shattered the priceless sword into many pieces, and, with the help of a wandering sparrow, delivered them to the poor and suffering of the city.

Others, of course, maintained that this was simply nonsense, a fantasy spread by those who were poor, and wished for a savior to come from afar.

Having learned so little from hearsay, the young princess had resolved to see him herself. Her maidservant at her side, she made her way down the long, narrow staircase that led to the courtyard.

“You know, I heard from Lilie that he once brought a dead sparrow back to life!” the maid, Duck, chirped as they made their descent into the moonlit courtyard. “Do you think that’s true, Princess Rue?”

“Of course not,” she said without hesitation. “Things like that just don’t happen. And if they do, then a mere man could certainly not cause them.”

“So you think he’s just a man?”

Rue looked at her curiously.

“What else would he be?”

Before Duck could speak, however, Rue held up a hand to silence her. From the cistern, strange sounds were rising up, soft murmurs of speech too low to understand. To her, they seemed like the gentle coos of the mourning doves who nested by her window in spring, a sound far too soothing to come from the mouth of a supposed prophet.

Slowly, the two moved into the moonlight, stepping out onto the fresh snow. Around the cistern stood six guards, clad in thick leather and furs to ward off the cold. The young man at the front of them  stepped forward, his hand on the hilt of his sword.

“Who goes there?” he barked, his voice cutting through the silence of the night like a knife.

“I do,” answered the princess, holding up her lantern. His expression did not change.

“Why are you here so late?” he asked, tone still filled with suspicion, even for her. He was a vigilant young man, and the king appreciated this trait, which was why he had become captain of the guards at such a young age. He trusted no one, and the king’s only folly was that he did not realize that the captain trusted him least of all.

“I could ask the same of you, Fakir,” she said, her tone cold and biting to match his. “Have you been demoted, or is this prisoner really so dangerous that only the captain of the guards himself is capable of watching over him?”

“The king requested that I did,” he snapped. “Not so much for preventing his escape than for his safety.”

“His safety?”

“There are quite a few people, even besides your father, that might want him dead. There’s extra protection surrounding the castle gates. I’m here to make sure whoever gets past those doesn’t get into the cistern.”

“Father really thinks he’s in so much danger?” Rue asked, leaning forward to peer into the cistern. Even on a night like this, when the moon was bright as a glittering silver charger, it was impossible to see anything on the bottom. It was like a tomb, she thought.

“All I know is what I’ve been told,” Fakir said, moving in front of her to prevent her from getting any closer.

“Princess?” Duck said hesitantly from behind her. “Princess Rue, it’s late, isn’t it? Shouldn’t we go back up to your room?”

Rue ignored her, as she strained to listen to the strange words the young prophet was speaking. It was in their language, she was certain, but the dialect was such that she could not make out the words. There was a musical quality to them, like a hymn, or a prayer. Yes, that was it. He must be praying.

“I want to see him.”

“I can’t let you do that,” said Fakir, his eyes narrowing. Rue sighed. She had been expecting that answer. “It has been forbidden for anyone to see him.”

“Surely when Father made that proclamation he did not mean me,” she said. “Open the cistern.”

“He won’t even let the high priest see him. What makes you think you’re more important than that?”

“Your Highness,” Duck whined. “I’m cold. Aren’t you? Don’t you want me to go start the fire back up?”

“Be quiet, Duck,” said Rue, not taking her eyes off Fakir. “Let me see him.”

No.”

“I shall tell my father of this. You will be punished for your insolence.”

“He was the person who ordered this,” Fakir said, scowling. “And I’m not going to punished for indulging the ridiculous whim of a girl like you.”

“Open the cistern, Fakir. Now.”

The captain opened his mouth to protest, but was interrupted by the sharp crunch of boots on snow nearby. Rue whirled around. Walking towards them in his scarlet cape and spectacles was the ancient magistrate’s son, Autor, an entourage of soldiers trailing behind him.

“Princess, what brings you out here so late?” he asked lightly. “Surely you weren’t so fascinated by that ridiculous prophet that you came all the way out here?”

“I was,” she said simply. “Everyone has been saying so much about him I wanted to see him for myself.”

“Well, I’m afraid we can’t let you do that,” said Autor, pushing up his spectacles. “The king has strictly forbade it.”

Rue sighed, looking up at him, her expression carefully opaque. Reaching up, she removed her hood, letting her dark curls fall to her shoulders. Snow fell and hit her face, wetting her eyelashes as she stared him down.

“But you will let me, won’t you?”

“I can’t, Princess,” he said, looking away from her.

“Surely you have more authority than Father now,” she said, a touch of bitterness laced through her pleading words. “And he’s sick in bed now, so he’ll never find out.”

“It would be a breach of trust if he did,” the young man mumbled. “A diplomatic nightmare.”

“No one has to know,” she said, taking a slow step towards him. “These slaves will keep our secrets well if they don’t want to end up in the cistern themselves.”

The servants were silent at this, although she could hear Duck squirming uncomfortably. Again, Autor avoided her gaze. She continued.

“You will do this for me, Autor. I know it.”

“And how is that?” he asked, his outraged tone lessened by the wavering of his voice.

“Because tomorrow, when we feast with the warlords, I shall sit next to you, and you and I shall drink sweet mead together while the fires from the great hearth warm our bones.”

He said nothing, his eyes now trained on her as she moved even closer.

“And I shall wear my hair down,” she breathed, watching the steam rise from her mouth. “Just like this.”

She was close enough to see her reflection in his glasses. Slowly, deliberately, he took a step back from her, adjusting them.

“Open the cistern,” he ordered his men quietly. Fakir immediately began protesting.

“You’re going to let her see him?” he asked, voice. barely containing his fury. “Just because she’s willing to humor you?”

Autor said nothing, merely watching as his men gathered around the cistern.

It took all four of them to finally get it open, and two to drag the lid away from the opening. When she heard the rope ladder fall against the stone walls of the oubliette, Rue felt the pace of her heart quicken. What would he be like, the owner of that deeply-praying voice; now silent, as if he knew his prayer was going to be cut short?

Her heart in her throat, she watched him slowly rise from the cistern. Every part of him was pale, fading into the moonlight so easily, it was almost as if he was not there at all. His clothes were a faded gray, worn down with age and covered in filth. His hair was white-blond, messy, falling about his face in a way that made it hard to see his eyes. His skin seemed to give off a strange sort of dull glow, like the shining marble of the temple roof.

The young man (and he was young, no older than she), looked up at her, his soft brown eyes betraying nothing. She inhaled sharply.

“Autor,” she said, her eyes still on the young man.

“Yes, Princess?”

“Have your men bring this young man the bearskin from the storage room on the second floor. We are not barbarians here; there is no need to treat him like a common thief.”

For a moment, he looked as if he might protest, but then he merely gave a signal, and one of the soldiers left.

“That is not necessary,” said the prophet quietly, with his strange, lovely accent. “What I have here is quite adequate.”

Rue smiled, taking a careful step towards him.

“There is no need for that sort of politeness here,” she said. “I have decided you need more warmth. I have done you a favor, only because I want to.”

He returned her smile, gently, but just a little bit uneasily.

“Thank you, Princess.”

Circling him, she took in his appearance further, noting his slight frame, his long limbs, and the strange, languid way he carried himself. He did not seem at all to be the great and powerful prophet the whispered stories spoke of. Why, even Rue herself could have crushed him under her heel, if she really wanted too.

A few moments later, the soldier returned to the courtyard, bearing the massive skin on his shoulders. It was a dreadful thing, black as pitch, and the smell of death seemed to perfume the air where it went. Her father had given it to her as a gift when she was ten, but it frightened her so, and she refused it. The king had the neck of her favorite swan wrung as punishment for her insolence.

The great skin nearly swallowed the boy whole, but he did cease to shiver, and thus the princess seemed quite pleased with her good deed.

“Do you like it?” she asked, her eye still trained on only him.

“It is very warm, princess,” he said softly. “Thank you.”

She smiled, taking a few steps closer to him, until she was able to brush against the soft fur of the bear’s skin. Then, slowly, deliberately, she reached out and, just barely, brushed her fingertips against his hair.

The prophet’s expression remained the same, strange, and unreadable. The young captain, on the other hand, seemed quite offended.

“What are you doing?” he demanded. The princess looked back at him, only briefly.

“I was merely admiring the prophet’s hair,” she said lightly. “It is like the white goose-down with which we fill our beds. It is like the reflection of the moon in a pool of water. Don’t you agree?”

Her query was met with silence, but that seemed to bother her little. She continued to take careful steps around the prophet, taking him in as one would a work of art. And, indeed, to him, she was.

“Tell me, prophet, what is thy name?”

“It is Mytho, princess.”

Mytho.” she breathed the name like a sigh. “A lovely name. Where are you from? The way you speak is beautiful, but strange to me.”

“I am from the lands to the south, princess.”

“Ah, yes, that would explain it,” she said lightly. In truth, of course, the princess had no idea of what the southern accent sounded like, but as a princess she realized it was her duty to sound intelligent and well-informed at all times.

“Highness,” said Autor, breaking the charming silence that had made Rue forget that there were others in this courtyard besides herself and the beautiful prophet. “It is quite late, and very cold. Do you not want to go inside?”

“You may go inside, Autor,” she said. “But I will stay. I am not cold at all. The pleasant conversation warms me quite nicely.”

The young man looked on with uncertainty, then, with a gesture to his soldiers, silently turned around and left the freezing courtyard. Looking over at her little chambermaid, who was quite obviously shivering, the princess smiled.

“You may return to my room and prepare the fire, Duck,” she said. “I shall be along shortly.”

The young girl nodded and mouthed her thanks, then scampered off. Now, the other people here besides herself and the prophet were Fakir, and the few guards unfortunate enough to share in his duty. They, though unhappily, would keep silent while she spoke. Now, she was quite effectively alone with her young prophet.

“Are you truly not cold, princess?” he asked, confusion, and, perhaps, apprehension evident on his face.

“Perhaps in the south you are not so accustomed to them, but here the winters are very bitter, and I have lived in this place all my life, and am quite used to the cold.”

He fell silent again, not from any nervousness, it seemed, but rather because he had nothing more to say. More and more the princess was noticing that this seemed to be his way of things. In any other place, it would have suited her fine, for he was indeed the loveliest thing she had ever seen. But she had not been lying when she said the conversation was keeping her warm. His voice was to her like the small fire in her bedroom hearth, warming her with determination even as the chill of winter surrounded them both.

“Will you not speak again?” she asked, almost plaintively. “I love your voice; it is like music to me.”

He looked upon her curiously.

“I’m afraid I do not know what to speak of,” he admitted. “You will not heed my warnings about the sufferings of your people, and I am not certain I have anything else to say to you.”

Rue bristled at his words, both at the implications and the insolence behind them.

“Whatever their suffering may be, I know nothing of it,” she said, speaking in clipped, impatient tones. “I have never left this place to see it, and even if I could, there would be little I could do for them.”

“You have never left this castle?”

“I am a princess,” she said, her irritability now quite visible. “I must be protected from what lies beyond these walls. I cannot allow the poor to see me, or else they will know what I look like, and see me as human, and that cannot be done.”

“Why not?” he asked. The princess paused for a moment, as if in thought.

“It simply cannot,” she said conclusively.

“Are you not lonely?”

She looked away from him, growing uncomfortable. How could she say whether she was lonely or not? No one had ever asked her such a question before, and thus she could not be truly sure of what exactly the concept of loneliness was. Nevertheless, her vague idea of it suggested something she did not wish to speak of, so she endeavored to change the subject to something that suited her better.

“Will you not speak of sweeter things? You have such a lovely voice, and your mouth--” She paused suddenly, turning to look at him. “Your mouth is the most beautiful thing about you. It is like the little pink buds of the roses that steadfastly bloom at the end of every winter. It is like the pink stones from the quarries of the east.”

He did not speak as she asked, but watched her, with his clouded eyes, his handsome mouth just barely parted. To Rue, his silence seemed almost defiant, and somehow sparked a strange, furious desire inside of her.

“Let me kiss your mouth,” she said, taking a careful step towards him. For the first time, his eyes widened, in something almost like fear, and certainly like surprise. He held up his hand, and gently (but with a strength that shocked her), pushed the princess away from him.

“No, princess,” he said, his dove’s voice, an alien intensity filling his words. The prophet’s tone was nothing but measured calm, but the force behind it was unmistakable.

The princess, far from being discouraged, found herself emboldened by this, ensnared by his fiery voice. Smiling, she stepped back, as he had wished, but kept her eyes trained on him.

“Let me me kiss your mouth,” she repeated, as if his first refusal had never happened.

“I cannot,” he said, shaking his head. “You may ask anything else of me, Highness, but do not ask that.”

“I will kiss your mouth,” the princess said, her passions flaring up at each act of defiance against her. She took a bold step toward him. “You are my prisoner, and you shall do as I say.”

“I will not,” he said calmly, which only served to enrage her more.

“You will!” She reached out for him, desperately, her fingers outstretched as if in pain. But Fakir, a furious expression in his dark eyes, grabbed the boy’s shoulders roughly, and pulled him away.

“Enough of this!” he barked. “Put the ladder down! He’s going back inside.”

The men did as they were told, and Rue could only watched helplessly as Mytho slowly disappeared into that deep black hole. For a moment, she considered trying to stop them, but then, as she reached out her hand for him, she stopped. She had already humiliated herself enough tonight.

But even as she pulled her cloak around her shoulders, and began making her way upstairs, she could not stop herself from looking back, and uttering a final threat.

“I will kiss your mouth, prophet. I will kiss your mouth.”

Comments

( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
haleysings
Feb. 1st, 2011 08:50 pm (UTC)
That was absolutely lovely, and I'm shocked nobody else has commented on this yet! I could see the scene very clearly in my mind--your descriptions were very clear and nearly poetic. And although this was an AU, nearly everyone involved seemed very, very IC. I'd love to see more fic set in this world! I feel like there's a ton to explore here.

I do have two little critiques--although I felt everyone else stayed really IC, I didn't really sense that Duck was really...Duck. I don't think she was doing anything that really contradicts her character in the show, she just seemed a little more dumbed-down. I think that might just be because her part was so small in comparison to the other characters, so maybe if she had a bigger part to play in this her personality would've shone out more.

Also, I was a little thrown off by Rue suddenly switching to "thy" when asking Mytho's name, then immediately calling him "you" again in the next line. It felt a little awkward. Was there a reason she switched between the two?

I really, really do love this story though. Excellent job!
web_of
Feb. 2nd, 2011 04:26 am (UTC)
Thank you! I am definitely planning on continuing this, so I'm glad you like it. As for Duck, to be honest I'm kind of unhappy with the way I wrote her here, so she's definitely getting a bigger role in later chapters.

Rue's word switch has to do with the use it gets in the play this is based on, which I was reading at the time. In retrospect, I kinda don't like that I put it there, as it really served no clear purpose.

But thank you so much for your feedback here, I really appreciate it!
haleysings
Feb. 2nd, 2011 05:38 am (UTC)
Wow I totally missed "chapter one" before somehow. XD But I'm REALLY excited now, I can't wait to see where this goes! I'm looking forward to Duck's role getting expanded, too.
dark_therapy
Feb. 2nd, 2011 12:21 am (UTC)
Ooh, more of this, please. *_*

The opening passages were absolutely fantastic, and instantly drew me in. It reads beautifully, just like the opening descriptions in real fairytales. I love how you wove in so many references so smoothly, and your gorgeous descriptions, images and storytelling ability make me squirm with envy and admiration.

This is such a strong beginning - the opening paragraphs are so compelling and poetic, Mytho's description was wonderful, everyone felt right in spite of it being an AU (particularly Rue), you ended it at the most gripping moment, and I especially adored Rue's manipulative flirtation with Autor. I'm so curious about his role in this, and feel just as thirsty for more twisted Rue/Autor as I am for more twisted Rue/Mytho. I also really like your AU setting and how it's much darker than the usual fairytale/fantasy AU worlds I've seen written for PT. This fits just as perfectly. Everything and everyone breathes an aura of elegant fairytale and folk legend, but the tone is much blacker and bloodier (I think my favourite part in the entire chapter was Rue's recollection of her father punishing her by having the neck of her favourite swan wrung), and I find that so enticing and delicious, and perfect for a Mytho/Rue-centric story.

Anyway, this was a great start and I'm really looking forward to reading more (and finding out how closely it'll follow the tale of Salome). Loving it so far! ^_^

Oh, and have you ever seen Aida Gomez's flamenco-inspired "Dance of the Seven Veils" from Carlos Saura's ballet? It's incredible, and definitely worth watching if you're a fan of ballet and dance.
web_of
Feb. 2nd, 2011 04:33 am (UTC)
aaaaaaa thank you so much! This is a wonderfully lovely comment and I'm not sure I deserve all this praise. I am glad you like the darker aspects of it, I was kind of worried that that would drive people away. And I'm happy someone can appreciate twisted Autor/Rue with me as well!

I haven't, but now that I have I think I need to find that movie.
moonshadowmagic
Feb. 2nd, 2011 11:22 am (UTC)
Very vivid-- I can see the setting, I wish I had time to paint tonight (while I'm home Not Driving On The Ice From Work in a few hours.) The insistence upon not letting the commoners see the Princess sounds familiar, but I can't place it yet....

I did catch one verb-- Autor should say either "has strictly forbidden" or "strictly forbade."

Everyone is staying IC, too, given the changes in their roles. Well done!
web_of
Feb. 2nd, 2011 08:53 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I admit, I borrowed the whole tone of that from The Picture of Dorian Gray, since I was going for an Oscar Wilde feel.
culolapp
Apr. 9th, 2011 01:24 pm (UTC)
Super-Duper site! I am loving it!! Will come back again – taking your RSS feeds also, Thanks.

( 8 comments — Leave a comment )