*katt peeks in cautiously, making sure no one is weilding rotten
tomatoes or battle axes.*
OK, I know I promised that there was going to be at least one more Prodigals fic but life's kind of run away with me and I haven't had the time to put it together the way I want to. Plus, I've recently developed an obsession with He-Man and Draco Malfoy (not together, just... erm... nevermind). I'm throwing this out in the vain hope that a few people out there still remember me and like my writing.
The library wasn't just for reading.
Adam discovered this fact at a very young age. As a child, going to the library was as precious a time as visiting the stables or playing in the armory. It was the time when had his beloved mother all to himself. She was just Mo-mi then, the endearment for "mother" in her home planet, Earth. Her space ship had Earth books in it and she made Eternian translations of the stories, reading them alongside the local legends. King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table sat at banquet with Baron Jang and the first troop of Air Warriors. He fished with Tom Sawyer and hovered with Tamtol, caught fireworms with Healer Numra and swung on vines with Tarzan. He danced by iambic pentameter and eterisong.
The best part, the very, very, very super best part, was that as prince, the boy Adam knew no limitations. He was loved because his parents were loved; indulged for his sweet face as well as his sweet temperament. So when he declared that he would be a scientist, a king, a warrior, and a fisherman all at once, no one told him it was impossible to live more than one life. They laughed, said "Of course, you will, little prince," and sent him into the yard with a sack of sweet bark.
The sweet dancing child grew into a gangly, bookish boy pre-occupied with lessons. Weapons training, history, law, interspecies relations, hover-driving, agricultural techniques, troop command, strategy, alliances, misalliances, merchant trading, horseback riding, protocol-- the library became his whole world. Oppressive and delightful by turns. Adam drank the information in because, you see, his father taught him a few of the lessons those days before Skeltor's machinations took up all of the king's time and imprisoned his laughter.
Adam sat on his princely desk with its carved legs and gem inlays on a velvet covered chair over stuffed with feathers, listening to King Randor recount great battles of his forefathers. The Invasion of [name]. The Day of Many Suns. The Culling of the Death Trees. The War of the Two Rivers. Those became Adam's escapes when he became He-Ro, Eternia's greatest champion and defender of the oppressed. His wooden practice sword became the Sword of Greyskull, strong and steady against any enemy even the strange new girl, Teela, with frizzy brown hair who smelled like barley water and made young Adam's stomach twist like a whirlbeetle caught in a storm.
He discovered another use for the library a few weeks after his eighteenth birthday. The Power of Greyskull had taken his young body only twice, transforming him into his long-adored hero. Afterward, however, when Greyskull took her power back, Adam the Mere Mortal was left drained, hardly able to stand up.
That night, weak from his second manifestation as He-Man, Adam staggered into the library, arms and legs shaking with fatigue. Starlight floated into the room, reaching dark crevices that the glowglobes wouldn't reach. The couches were mere silhouettes but that was enough of a focal point for the weary prince. He fell into the couches, snoring before his head hit the cushions. What seemed like seconds later, Teela shook him, clucking her teeth about missed breakfast and practice. She made a joke about his love of the library.
"You spend more time here than anywhere else," she said, chuckling. "Don't tell me all you do is sleep."
As she laughed, she caught the sun in her hair. Adam had never been able to find a metaphor befitting Teela's hair. It was so magnificent in and of itself that others should use it as a metaphor instead. This cloth is as soft as Teela's hair. The earth is as rich as Teela's hair. The horse's coat is a near rival to Teela's hair. The garden was filled with a scent sweeter than Teela's hair.
"I like it here," he'd managed to stutter back. As he stood to follow, Adam put his hand down on a side table. A book dropped to the floor-- The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orzy. An Earth story; Adam vaguely remembered his mother telling him the story of a hero posing as a conceited buffoon in order to hide his heroic yet illegal deeds from the enemy. He began reading it again, ringing for his breakfast. Before his tea cooled, untouched, Adam had made up his mind about how to hide the secret of Greyskull.
Teela inspired the idea in part. "Don't tell me all you do is sleep."
Prince Adam slept in the library. He slept during council meetings, at the stable, in the fields, on boating trips, through alliance meetings, during festivals, harvest, planting and while waiting for the tailors to measure him for new robes.
If there was a place to lie down, the joke went, Prince Adam slept.
It was difficult now to separate the joke from Prince Adam. The joke was Prince Adam, the lazy buffoon who was so brainless he couldn't handle any decisions more difficult than where to lie down next. Prince Adam, the slovenly oaf, who could only literally dream of being as wonderful as He-Man. It was fun at first to watch people's reaction to He-Man's exploits. Their praise added to the pleasant warmth in his chest that surfaced while saving lives and trouncing Skeltor. As Prince Adam, he could really hear what people thought of He-Man. He became the childhood hero he read about not so long ago.
Of course, as Prince Adam, he also heard what people thought of Prince Adam. Apparently, laziness equaled stupidity and deafness. No one hid whispered opinions when Adam was feigning sleep in the room. Cowardly, shiftless, waste of food, pitiable-- those were the nice words. The phrase, "You should have been there, Prince Adam" became less an exclamation and more an accusation.
You should have been there, you lazy fool of a prince.
You should have been there to help us, you unmitigated coward.
You should have been there instead of He-Man because you're the prince and may the gods help us my throne will go to your hands.
The library became his haven again. While the prince slept, Adam trained. He built up muscles to withstand the blows that He-Man received. He practiced swordplay so his tendons wouldn't snap during He-Man's more acrobatic maneuvers. He slathered ointment on his body-- now more blue and yellow with bruises instead of tanned. He fought off Skeletor and Snakemen, King Randor and the council members. By Greyskull, sometimes even Teela's face hovered at the tip of his sword.
Sir Percy Blakeney once cursed the Scarlet Pimpernel disguise because it prevented him from getting close to his wife. Adam wondered if perhaps Sir Percy were a bit jealous of his disguise as well.
He envied He-Man's popularity and the love he received. He loathed Prince Adam's uselessness, the snickers generated by his presence. Was Sir Percy ever confused over who was the mirror image and who was real? He-Man and the Pimpernel were too legendary to be real, their exploits deliberately short and swift. But Sir Percy and Prince Adam were unbearably stupid; they couldn't command respect with a compulsion spell. The child Adam was too far away to dance and dream. So, too, the Young Adam who thirsted for knowledge and power.
The real Adam, perhaps, was not one side of the mirror or the other. He was the phantom figure trapped within the glass seen only when the glow globes flickered at the same time that the sun's last rays became level with the horizon and the viewer stood, not directly in front of the mirror, but to the side looking into the translucent green sides.
It was just that no one knew enough to look that way. No one could unless one walked to the corner of the library to the tall windows where Adam stood now, watching Teela, Duncan, and his father practice at the lists.
He released the curtain, blocking the light, the sights, the reflections.