Disclaimer: I don't own W.I.T.C.H. I'm not really sure whether this fanfic is more faithful to the Disney animated version or the original comics; it's a sort of bastard child of the two, I suppose.
Author Note: There may or may not be specific romance when I develop this. I'm not starting it with any pairings in mind. Flames for any pairings that pop up are not acceptable. (There will most likely be some very ambiguous moments, though :3)
Version crap: Phobos and Cedric will be their Anime forms as opposed to their comic selves. Sorry, but I know the anime a bit better than I know the comics, so I can better describe their screen versions.
A fanfiction by amidoh
Chapter 1 - The One that Reeks of Blood.
The morning sun cast golden hues on the umber bark of the trees that littered the outskirts of Meridian city. The bustling streets were filled with tradesmen selling their wares, bustling shoppers, beast-trainers and grooms with their steeds and mounts; all kinds of humanoids were out with friendly greetings for each other, blissfully dwelling in the utopia maintained by their beloved queen and her royal consort. This was life everyday, now. The beauty was a permanent fixture. The queen was powerful enough to maintain her own life-force and that of all the citizens with only a little help from her husband. The guards stationed at the castle on the crag and at the entrances to Metamoor's capital city were little more than a precaution against monsters, as there had been peace for as long as any living creature - and some of them lived for centuries - could remember.
Not everybody could appreciate the beauty of the wonderful morning. There was always someone who would have had terrible news, or who would have some other reason to grieve; without sadness, happiness cannot be appreciated, even in a wonderful place like Metamoor. It was a philosophy that the Metamoorians had learned to live with and value as their own.
Today's bad news had delivered itself to the Crown Prince Phobos, next in line for the throne of Metamoor - or, at least, until this morning, that was what he had been. This morning, his position had been taken from him in one fell swoop and given to an unborn baby - a little sister that he would have in perhaps half a year's time, apparently. After five hundred years, his mother was pregnant again, with a girl. The ancient customs of Metamoor decreed that a female would always have priority to the throne, no matter whether she was firstborn or not.
Phobos was not unpopular in Meridian. He was famous enough, as one would expect, but whenever he was out walking, people's eyes would seem to glide over him, or see straight through him, as though he was not there at all. He was handsome enough, with long, carefully braided platinum hair and soul-searching steel green eyes, but he was almost always seen with the same expression. It was a mix of boredom and lethargy, and it seemed to create an aura about him that dissuaded anybody from getting too close to him.
Today was no different, though perhaps the air very close to him was half a degree cooler than usual. Today, the prince walked the streets of Meridian to try to calm himself, though he was as languid as usual, never betraying anything on his attractive face. He hardly knew where he was going, just that it was calming to hear the ordinary people go about their morning life. Without a care in the world… gods above, he wished that he could be like them too.
Hmm, what was this? Something had bounced off his foot. Phobos looked down absently - it was a piece of bloody meat, grimy with the dust from the road. A startled exclamation caused the cold grey eyes to rise from the meat to light upon a small child - a boy, by the looks of it, clad in filthy rags. His golden blonde hair was matted with dirt and fearful purple eyes looked up at the aristocrat as the little pauper cowered.
How strange. The stench of death had filled the sorcerer's head, so strong that, at first, it threatened to overpower him. That couldn't possibly come from this child… could it?
Phobos stared down with what could have been disdain or pity. It was obvious that this boy had been chasing the hunk of flesh - his hands were bloody - and that it would probably end up as his breakfast. He watched with interest as the child's eyes went from fear to hope and then straight back to fear.
"S-sire?" It seemed that the little street rat had recognised the great prince. His voice was nothing more than a whisper. Phobos' expression didn't change at all; he wasn't a kind man by nature, and today he was in a much worse mood than usual. Perhaps having a little fun would alleviate his temper?
"How dare you speak to me, you vermin?" Phobos thrust his pale face towards the unfortunate boy, keeping his voice soft, silky and dangerous. A flicker of a smirk showed itself. "You'll have to be punished…"
The words seemed to have a strange effect on Phobos' terrified victim. Instead of tearfully grovelling, as the prince had assumed he would, the child clutched at himself, backing away until he hit the wall of the building on the opposite side of the street. Upon seeing Phobos come closer to him, the nameless blonde let out a grunt of what appeared to be pain as his muscles rippled. His hands clenched into fists, a flash of claws appearing momentarily. For a split-second, Phobos thought he saw fangs and a forked tongue, and then a tail seemed to grow, disappearing before he could get a proper glimpse at it.
The prince stared at the boy, who seemed to have got himself under control. A shapeshifter - they were unusual these days, or at least, they were outside of the boondocks.
…This had lost its fun. Phobos turned away. At least he was now calm enough to return to the castle without cursing his parents for what they'd done.
He was only halfway down the street when a commotion behind him disturbed him and caused him to stop. A loud tirade of different voices shouting had broken out.
"You monster! Get out of Meridian!"
"Slither back to the swamp where you belong, snake!"
The prince turned to see a huddle of Meridian citizens crowded around the same small boy he had just left. They were throwing stones at him, menacing him with sticks, pokers… but he wasn't the same golden-haired boy any more. Even as Phobos watched, the helpless urchin underwent a transformation into a hideous-looking green naga, with grey-ish hair down to his waist and a long, whiplike tail instead of legs. This only served to make the townspeople angrier and more aggressive.
Phobos half turned away again, his expression passive. This was no business of his. What did he care if one group of stupid people killed an inconsequential shapeshifter? But something wrenched at his mind, stopping him from walking away. Somehow, he felt that perhaps this child knew what it was to be as isolated as he was as the prince.
"What is the meaning of this?" He intervened, gliding effortlessly between the plebs and their victim. The reaction was amazing; all the hostility was gone in an instant, and the crowd was on its knees before him. "Why do you attack this boy?"
"My Prince, he is a monster." One of the men mumbled in excuse. "He steals our food and kills our livestock."
"He injured my daughter." An angry, shrew-like woman interjected.
"It's his fault that this generation of cows is diseased. He brought it, he brought it from the swamp. He's dangerous!"
"And yet," the prince interrupted coldly, "it seems to me as though he is as vulnerable as any of your children. I don't suppose for a minute that you would try to stone them to death if they ate your food to stay alive, hmm? Perhaps he is not good enough to live among you, simply because he is not the same as you, hmm? You disgusting creatures. What vile beings you are." The platinum-blonde turned and stalked away, leaving his subjects hanging their heads in shame.
The shapeshifter in question - who had managed to revert to his human form - glanced up at the vengeful people warily and then ran after the withdrawing aristocrat, trying not to be seen.
Phobos realised that he was being followed and headed towards the outskirts of the capital city. Once there, and sensing that the child still pursued him, he stopped still and commanded imperiously: "If you're going to follow me, boy, do it where I can see you."
The nervous youth trailed out from behind one of the houses. His amethyst eyes were hidden behind golden tresses. He trembled visibly as Phobos' steel gaze transfixed him.
"Mmm… 'mm… I… Th-thank y' for…" He stuttered in a tiny, nervous voice. One of Phobos' thin eyebrows raised.
"Your name, boy?"
"C-Cedric…" Came the quiet response.
Phobos sat on the soft grass, in the shade beneath one of Meridian's gorgeous sakura trees. It was in full bloom now; the blossoms were almost ready to fall. Idly, he beckoned Cedric closer. The boy complied anxiously.
"Let me guess." The sorcerer stretched back against the tree trunk. "You don't yet know how to control yourself. You transform when threatened, and that only makes people threaten you more."
"There's nothing I can do for you." He said coldly, dismissing the victim, wintery eyes closing. "Go home."
Cedric stood where he was, dolefully watching Phobos. Upon seeing no change in the prince's expression, he attempted to reason with him.
"There's no food in th'swamp, Sire, and th'people in th'town won' let me live there, they won' let me have any of their food…"
With his eyes closed as they were, Phobos could hear clearly how sibilant and… snake-like the youth's voice was. No wonder the townspeople thought he was a monster.
"Are you trying to manipulate me?" The pale-haired man's thin face arranged itself into a smile that did not reflect in his eyes, or in his voice. "Cedric, are you attempting to appeal to my conscience? To guilt me into offering you a home at the castle as my servant? I am not in the mood for mind games!"
A fearsome magical aura erupted about the prince as he snarled the last sentence. When Phobos opened his eyes, Cedric was cowering some feet away, looking absolutely terrified. After a moment's pause, the mage smirked an icy expression.
"Hrrn, you amuse me, little shapeshifter. I'll make you a deal. I'll take you in to my castle. You will live as my servant, under my roof, and you will eat my food. In return, you will give yourself to me. If I tell you to fight for me, you will fight for me. If I tell you to die for me, then you will die. Do you understand? You will have free will, but if you dare go back on this promise, I will make you regret it."
Cedric felt a touch of uncertainty. Prince Phobos seemed… unpredictable. It was impossible to tell whether he was kind-hearted or cruel, lethargic or simply uncaring, ignoring everything about him… or taking it all in with his quick, steel-coloured eyes. Yet, this offer was better than anything he could gain out on the streets of Meridian, so, with a worried glance about him, he nodded his head.
Phobos twined a loose strand of hair about his fingers, regarding his new servant cynically. That offer had been… very out of character for him. Usually he didn't spare much of a thought for the individual people of Metamoor, even though he had hoped one day to rule them. He put it down to the boy looking as alone and despairing as he felt.
It was either that or hormones.
It was spring, after all.