Mythos and Fakir were alone in the royal gardens
Ahiru's True Form
Mythos and Fakir passed under the large heavy stone archway with its iron-wrought gate into the royal private gardens. The public gardens were much larger and grander in size and design with large synchronized fountains and elegantly arranged flower beds, coordinating by color and feel. But what the royal private gardens lost in mapped out grandeur they made up for in rustic beauty. While the private gardens were cared for daily, it always looked over grown and wild. Ivy branched out and embraced stone-mason walls that enclosed the gardens from public view. Flower beds were strewn with wildflowers like Babies- Breath and daisies as well as more sophisticated flowers like petunias and roses. The garden was obviously in the deepest part of the fortress, but Fakir felt that he had been transported to some hidden paradise from the minute he stepped on to the loose pebble path. The garden radiated a feeling of safety and seclusion.
"This place is beautiful," said Fakir. "It feels like, like a home. Do you come here often?"
Mythos shook his head. "I'm afraid I haven't gotten much chance to relax and enjoy myself since I returned. From the minute I arrived my identity has been challenged at every turn. I've been working hard to recover my memories and build my reputation in the court. My cousin has been helpful, but he's very busy. I've spoken with him only once in private, and we weren't able to talk for long. He accepts me, however, and his support has been a great help, but it will take more if I'm going to be able to achieve my primary goal."
"What goal is this?" asked Fakir, sitting down on a stone bench slight obscured from view by an overgrown bush. Mythos shifted on his feet but did not sit.
"I want to establish myself as the true Prince Siegfried, without any question or doubt in anyone's mind, and secure my birthright as the heir to the throne," said Mythos. He shifted on his feet again. "I don't think that is too much to ask."
"I see. That is an admirable goal, but why are you working so hard? Why is this so important to you?"
"I can't explain it very well. I want to be acknowledged, that is all. Perhaps if I can convince every other person in the court, I can convince myself of who I am."
Fakir looked up confused. "What do you mean 'who you are'? Why do you have any reason to doubt yourself?"
"My memories," Mythos said, "remain elusive. I can't remember anything before my time in Kinkad Town."
"I thought you said some fragments of memories were slowly returning to you," Fakir replied with suspicion.
Mythos shook his head and shifted again. "I lied. I even told Rue the same thing. My old tutor has been teaching me the outline of my life before I fell under the spell. I listen to what he says but it doesn't mean anything to me. Nothing he says feels like it happened to me. He says I learned to ride a horse at the age of 4. He says it was a chestnut-colored pony with a blonde mane. He tells me all these facts and dates but I don't remember them. Then Rue turns to me and asks what I think of all these things he's telling us, and I have to lie to her so I do not shame her."
"How could you shame her?" demanded Fakir. "Isn't lying to her even more shameful? And what blame can you place on yourself for not being able to recall your childhood?"
Mythos shook his head again and clutched his arms. "I thought I was Prince Siegfried and I told her that's who I was. But know I'm not as sure. What if I can never recalls my memories? What if they're really gone? What if I never had them to begin with? How could I face Rue then, I would have let her down. I have made her believe she's a princess, when in truth she's just a girl in love with a boy with no memories and no prospects. I can't let her know how I am failing to recall anything before the spell."
"Mythos! You are being ridiculous. Stop saying these worthless things. You are Prince Siegfried. If you are not sure of it, I am. Your memories will return in time, you just need more time."
"No," Mythos moaned. "I'm running out of time. I don't know what I'm doing anymore. I can't take it anymore. Fakir, please, you have to help me!"
"What," Fakir asked, startled. "Help you how?"
Mythos bent over and grabbed Fakir's shoulders roughly. "Your power," Mythos whispered frantically into Fakir's face. "Please, if you are my friend, you will help me. Write a story about my life before I ever heard of Kinkad Town and then turn it into my memory. Or, even better, write a story that will make everyone belief I am Prince Siegfried. It would help me emmesely and it wouldn't be too hard for you. Please, Fakir, I need you to do this."
Fakir was speechless with shock. He couldn't belief what his friend was demanding of him. He gazed up to Mythos's scared wide eyes. Amber eyes were foggy with dismay and sorrow, but also by something else. A scarlet shadow was visible in the dark recesses of Mythos's eyes. An eerie familiar feeling returned to Fakir as he realized the cause of Mythos's anxiety.
"Mythos, get a hold of yourself. You aren't acting like yourself at all. You're being affected by the Raven's blood still!" Fakir yelled.
Mythos stepped back and sneered. His face was now the angry mask he wore when he was under Clarie's influence in Kinkad. "I am under no influence but my own. I decide my own fate and nothing can deter me from my path. If you will not help me of your own free will, then you have to right to call me your friend."
Fakir stood up and grabbed Mythos by his shoulders. "Mythos, this isn't you. I am your friend and I know you better than to belief you would ever say anything like this. Please, Mythos, please realize you are being controlled again."
Mythos's sneer deepened and knocked off Fakir's grip. He took a step back but faltered. The mask of fury melted away into Mythos's natural smooth, regal face. As his normal features returned a look of sorrow and embarrassment grew.
"I'm sorry, Fakir," Mythos said pleadingly. "You didn't deserve that. I don't know where all that anger came from. Honestly, I haven't said anything like that to anyone here since I arrived."
"It is fine with me," said Fakir. "I know you didn't mean it."
Mythos raised his hand to his forehead. "No, it's not alright. I promise you, I didn't mean anything I just said. I was completely out of line. Please, do not think these are my true feelings."
"I know it was the affect of the raven's blood still inside you," replied Fakir, sitting back down on the stone bench. This time, Mythos sat down next to him.
"The whole time I've been here, I've felt something growing inside of me. I'm not used to my feelings yet, so I have trouble knowing exactly how I feel about certain things. I know I was happy to see you and Ahiru arrive. I'm satisfied when I'm with Rue. I like the general and Strosser and the King and Queen are good to be too. But the longer I stay here, the greater this feeling becomes. It is hard like a stone in my gut, but it also attacks my throat and burns my heart. It is one of the most unpleasant feelings I'm experience yet, but I don't know what to call it."
Fakir nodded. "It's probably frustration. You are frustrated that you can't recall your memories and you can not prove yourself to your doubters. But that shouldn't be your concern now. It does not matter if a person believes you are the true Prince. It is much more important that you learn what you need to about this kingdom so that you can become an effective ruler. You are thinking of too many worthless things. Please take better care of yourself."
Mythos turned and stared into Fakir's face. "I do want to take better care of myself but I can not do it alone. If I was not convinced before I am certain now more than eve. I need you here as my advisor. Please, reconsider my offer."
Fakir waved his hand as if he was flicking away the idea. "You do not need me here. I am not knowledgeable enough to act as an advisor. I'm sure there are more qualified people here in the palace for that job."
"In that case, stay here as my knight. You are a powerful swordsman. You would do well in a military position. I would see to it that you would rise through the ranks swiftly."
Fakir frowned. "You know full well that I am a failure as a knight. I would not want to travel that path again. If I were to fail again, something far worse could befall you then a spell that stole your memories. I'm sorry; I can't trust myself to do that."
"If you refuse to be my advisor or my knight, then please be my friend. I beg of you, Fakir. Stay here at the castle with me."
Fakir stood up and turned to face Mythos. "Enough of this already. You don't need me here in the castle. I would just get in the way. I've told you over and over again, I don't know anything about this world. My council would be without substance. I am not what you need now."
Mythos stood up with him, angry again, but without the slightest glimmer of scarlet in his eyes. "But I do! I do need you here. You do me a discredit by your overestimation of me. I am a prince but I am also a boy. I've lived more years that I can recall but none of it mattered till I had you for a friend. If it wasn't for you, I would still be wandering alone in the streets of Kinkad Town, search for my lost heart. Perhaps 200 years passed since I broke it apart but only the time I spent with you mattered to me. And now, here I am, ignorant and confused in a place I can't remember, no matter how hard I try. Rue is kind to me, but she relies on me too much. I need someone to challenge me and set me right when I make a mistake. I want that person to be you. You came for me once at my time of need and now when things are at their darkest, will you abandon me?"
Fakir stared off into the overgrown flowerbeds sheltered by impenetrable stone walls thick with ivy. The sun was sinking in the sky so that you could only see half of the yellow disk over the castle walls. The feeling in the garden was serene and peaceful but the emotions with him were tumultuous and noisy.
Finally Fakir turned back to Mythos. Mythos's face was hopeful and expectant. Fakir almost gave in at that moment, but managed to let out, "Please, give me sometime. I plan to stay a two weeks. Please give me till the end of that time to decide."
Mythos looked a little disappointed at first but then smiled. "I suppose that is the best answer I could have hoped for. Very well then, I will wait to hear your response. But if I might ask, why are you so reluctant to decide right now?"
Fakir thought absent-mindedly of Ahiru. "There are a few things I still need to attend to. I'm sorry, but that's all I can say."
Mythos nodded solemnly. "I'll have to accept that response but I wish it were more satisfying. Come on now, I see people gathering over by the doors to return to the deliberations. We should be getting back."
Fakir nodded and silently followed his friend out of the gardens. He glanced back as they left, taking in its wild uncontrolled beauty one last time.
The war council was held in the King's apartments. It was a long and open room lined with floor to ceiling windows divided by elaborately designed pilasters. Above the door, a large portrait of King Byron's father, the previous king of Sachsan, hung looming above their heads. The senators and advisors, including Mythos and Fakir, sat around a long, elegant, rectangular table on red velvet cushioned seats. At the head of the table King Byron sat in a slightly larger chair with velvet coated armrests.
To the King's immediate right sat the Baron of Tilly and Senator Klaus sat to his immediate left. Fakir frowned to see the Baron sitting so close to the King. The General was there as well, as was Stressen, standing slightly behind him, scribbling furiously in his notes. Fakir felt relieved to see their familiar faces. He was at least reasonably sure that the General supported Mythos.
Hopefully the decisions made at this meeting, a preliminary hearing more than a true war council, would sway in Mythos's favor. Fakir would try to help him, but he didn't know what he could do to help him in a room of men like the Baron and his men.
"Let us get right back to business," started off the King, in a deep comforting voice. "How has our military standing changed with these events?"
The General spoke up, "This was a large blow to our defenses but we can still recover. Our surprise attack was blocked, but we still have forces ready to be moved in the area, less than a two day march away."
The King nodded. "In that case, do you recommend that we proceed with our previous plans to proceed to Innsbruck and take the city by siege?"
The General stroked his chin. "A victory at Innsbruck would certainly bring us much closer to victory. With an important border city under our control we would be in a better position to threaten the Tirolian royals in Vorarlberg."
"Leave discussions about political negotiations to the political advisors, General," the Baron of Tilly droned. "You were only asked to assess the current military position."
The General, rather than become blustered or offended, smoothly answered, "It is in my opinion that the situation is not hopeless but not preferable. With the right direction, victory is still attainable. However, if any mistakes in planning will likely wipe out our troops in that area, a count of nearly 4000 soldiers. That is current military position." The General glanced briefly down at the far end of the table where Mythos and Fakir sat, and rolled his eyes. Mythos and Fakir smiled back but not enough to draw attention to the General's inappropriate expression.
"But how did Tirol know that we were going to move toward Innsbruck?" asked Senator Klaus. "We kept the operation as secret as humanly possible. No one outside this room should have known our troops were going to be approaching Innsbruck yesterday afternoon."
"This isn't the first time a surprise attack on Tirol has been anticipated," said a nasally voice across the table from the General.
"No, Duke Hermann is right," replied Count Reider. "This isn't the first time Tirol has seemed unusually prepared for an attack."
"So what does this mean?" asked a skeletal thin gentleman from the middle of the table. "Has there been some kind of information leak?"
"Perhaps Tirol has placed a spy in our midst," suggested the Count. "It wouldn't have been the first time they bribed a maid or kitchen servant to sneak around the castle and report back any important information they've picked up."
"No," said the Baron. "But it would be the first time they used someone in this room." A hushed murmur of indignant surprise flooded the room.
The King considered this idea with dark eyes. "One of my most trusted advisors? A spy? I hope you have some evidence to support your wild claim."
The Baron wasn't shaken by the King's disproving gaze. "It is evidence enough that Tirol knew to anticipant our attack. This was a secret operation, to be known only to those in this room. It follows then that someone at this table is a spy for Tirol."
The General grunted a shallow laugh. "I hope you do not include his majesty the King in your generalization."
The Baron stared down his long nose at the General furiously. "Of course not! What a preposterous notion!"
"What of the boy?" called out Senator Klaus. "He is the only one here who has not proven his worth to the Kingdom ten times over as the rest of us has. Why is he even here? He was probably sent here by Tirol to infiltrate our secure fortress and break us down from the inside."
Fakir thought at first the Senator was referring to him but his temper almost snapped when he realized the Senator was referring to Mythos. The General flushed red and growled in indignation. Several others around the tabled jumped up in fury. "Uncalled for! How dare you!" came the calls up and down the table. The Baron sat back in his chair silent but smiling softly to himself.
The King low resonating voice broke through the din like a knife through cheese. "I will not accept such allegations. Prince Siegfried was not aware of the secret attack on Innsbruck and thus could not have warned the Tirol army before hand. As to his worth to the kingdom, that will be decided after he has succeeded me as King."
Mythos let out a sigh of relief and leaned back slightly in his chair. Fakir and the General smiled softly. This was it. The vote of confidence they had waited for from the King himself. Mythos's position in the court was safe for now.
Other faces around the table were not as calm. The Baron has gone sickly white and when he spoke, his voice came in pained gasps. "Do you mean to say that you, the King of Sachsan, have accepted this boy to be your dead cousin, Prince Siegfried, whose apparent death lead us into this war in the first place?"
"My acceptance of this boy will depend on his ability to prove concretely to me that he is in fact my cousin. I am still refraining from judgment on his identity, but he strikes me as a trustable personality. I will allow him the opportunity to impress me." The King stared down the table pointedly at Mythos. Mythos nodded politely and smiled.
The Senator backtracked, sensing events were not going in the direction he and the Baron wanted them to. "But that still leaves the identity of the spy a mystery. If it is not the young Prince, who I admit was not present when the plans were made, then who could it be?"
A dark cloud of suspicious murmurings grew about the table. Up and down, whispered names and past suspicious deeds passed back and forth. Never did anyone out rightly accuse another, but suspicions grew and Fakir felt a dark betrayal growing in the oily black gaze of the Baron and his attendant, the Senator. The General and the King alone stayed silent, quietly disproving of the distrust in their comrades' eyes.
Mythos shook his head in disgust. "This will lead to nothing more than a pointless witch hunt," he murmured to Fakir. "We need to change the topic before an innocent is set on a pyre to burn."
"It won't be you," whispered back Fakir. "The king has already seen to that. What do we care if one of these men gets accused? It is likely that one of them is a spy. Let them flush him out."
Mythos shook his head again. "No, that's not it. The spy is probably not one of these men. Everyone in this room is here because of their massive resources of wealth and power. Anyone here would gain very little from being under the influence of Tirol. If anything, they fear what a Tirolian victory would do to their status and estates. This spy-hunt is nothing more than a way for some of the vultures in the room to sweep out an unwanted member. We have to stop this."
Fakir raked his brain. He had no idea what to say to these suspicion torn men. Finally, he burst out with the first question that came to mind. "Was the Tirolian response to the attack any different from their usual way?"
A hush fell over the table. Several pairs of eyes stared down the table, past Mythos, to look at Fakir at the very end of the table. The General looked to be considering the question very seriously, looking up to the ceiling and stoking his chin in concentration.
"Who are you, boy?" asked the Count, who was not seated far away from Mythos and Fakir. "And what is your business here?"
Fakir opened his mouth to respond but was cut off by Mythos. "He is my chosen knight and trusted advisor. He served me well during my time in Kinkad Town. He is here with my permission."
The King nodded his acceptance of Fakir's presence then turned to the General. "Well, now. Do you have an answer for the boy's question? You seem to be considering it very seriously."
"The fact is," started the General. "There were some strange reports from the men down on the field. The Tirolian forces were divided up into smaller groups than usual. They would attack from one direction then retreat while another would spring up from another location. This is very unusual for the Tirolians. They are generally very straight forward in their tactics and rely on their large numbers to overwhelm their enemy. This new development could mean that there has been some change in their military leadership."
"New leadership?" questioned a stocky figure sitting next to the Count. "What does this mean? Have they recruited a new general?"
"Small bands, attacking from multiple locations," muttered an older handsome man near the head of the table. "Sounds like mercenary tactics. They are usually few in number and rely heavily on indirect strategies. If Tirol has hired outside help to assist them, their royal purse must be much deeper than we thought. We had just begun to think their accounts had all run dry."
"There was a rumor that John Way had come to visit with the royal family of Tirol," replied the Count haughtily.
"John Way?" cried the General. "General John Way, the greatest mercenary leader of our time? When did you hear about this?"
The Count put up his nose at the question. "I don't have a head for dates. It was such a trivial piece of nonsense that I put it out of my mind. What would General John Way have to do with our war? He's currently in the employ of the King of Wales."
The Baron nodded gravely. "Yes, that is true. However, isn't it also true that John Way's has ties to the royal family of Tirol?"
Mutters from around the table grew up again in an anxious din. The King looked tired as he rubbed his eyes wearily. He began to raise his hand for silence when a voice called out calmly, "This could be a very good sign for us."
This time every pair of eyes looked down to long table to rest upon the young Prince's face. Fakir stared at him also, completely flabbergasted.
"What do you mean, Prince Siegfried?" called out the Baron from the other end of the table. "How could this possibly be good for us? The Tirolians now have one of the greatest military minds of the modern age. He is working for them, and has personal ties to their family. You must explain yourself."
"A mercenary is nothing more than a solider for hire. While they may have personal ties to one family or another, it is their nature to work for the highest bidder. Greed can be a very powerful ally. If we were to hire General John Way, or at least bribe him with enough money that he agrees to discontinue his employment with the royal family of Tirol, we could eliminate him as a threat. Also, we know that Tirol is becoming desperate, and no longer feels that she can stand against us alone without professional help. After we have bought off John Way, we can off to enter into talks with Tirol. They will likely be responsive to peace negotiations if they no longer have adequate means to fight."
The table was quiet. The King looked thoughtful. He turned to the older handsome man and said, "Well, Treasurer Johaness? Do we have the funds to buy off one of the greatest military minds of our time if it means we may finally put an end to this war?"
Treasurer Johaness looked thoughtful as well. "I can not say for sure, your majesty. I will have to consult my records. I will say that it is likely we still have the reserves, but I can not speak with certainty just yet."
The King nodded with a smile. "Very well then, we will disband for now and allow you to consult your books. Please be very careful in your calculations so that we have an accurate answer by tomorrow. As for the rest of you, this council adjourned until Treasurer Johaness has completed his estimates."
"That was very stressful," remarked Fakir as they left the hall.
"I suppose so, but you handed it very well," replied Mythos as he led him back towards the princely apartments.
"So did you. The idea about buying off Way was genius. And the timing was just right too."
Mythos was too regal to shrug so he smiled politely instead. "I just spoke my mind. Honestly, I didn't even think about what I was saying before it was already out of my mouth."
"That is a very bad habit to start on," retorted Fakir, smiling back. "You'll have to watch out for that. The next council meeting you could end up talking about cucumber sandwiches instead of military tactics."
Mythos laughed and waited for the servant to open the door to his private chambers. When they entered they saw Rue and Ahiru, feasting still on muffins and tea, reading a small note that had just arrived with a maid in a brown dress.
"Hello Mythos," Rue said, smiling. "Did the council go well?"
"It went brilliantly," interrupted Fakir, sitting on the coach next to Ahiru and reaching for a muffin. He ate it ravenously with undisguised hunger. Rue frowned slightly at him but turned about to Mythos with a smile.
"As he said, brilliantly," replied Mythos, sitting down next to Rue.
"What happened?" asked Ahiru over the rim of her teacup.
Fakir waved his hand dismissively. "It was a lot of old men, babbling on about the war. They got themselves all worked up and just when everything was about to fall apart Mythos spoke up with the voice of reason and sorted them all out."
Mythos picked up a teacup and sipped calmly while Rue beamed at him. "That's not exactly accurate. You helped me out a lot by changing the subject at a crucial point."
Fakir picked up another muffin and bit into it. "I didn't even know what I was saying until it was said. But one very good thing came out of today. The King openly declared his support of Mythos as Prince Siegfried in front of all the advisors."
Rue turned delighted to Mythos and put her hand on his arm. "It that true? Mythos, that's wonderful!"
"Again, Fakir is being inaccurate. He merely pointed out that I was in a position to prove myself and that he still needed some kind of proof of my identity. However, he did stand up for me when some of the advisors tried to tag me as a spy for Tirol."
"A spy?" cried Ahiru and Rue.
"How could they? What an insult," growled Rue.
"Mythos, a spy? Never!" cried Ahiru.
Mythos raised his hand calmly to silent their protests. "It does not matter. The King has given me his support and that is all that is important. The identity of the spy, however, remains unknown. All we know is that it had to have been one of the King's most trusted advisors."
"Or someone in that room," added Fakir.
Rue sat back in her chair, staring off in to space intently, thinking very hard.
"Oh yeah! I almost forgot, a message came for you while you were away," Ahiru said brightly. She handed Mythos the small piece of paper. He read it then smiled and stood up.
"I suppose that was the entire break we'll get. The Professor wants to meet my friends; he requests that you be brought down as soon as possible."
Fakir grumbled as he got back on his feet but made no verbal complaints. Ahiru bounced up, accidentally hitting the coffee table and spilling her tea cup. Rue glanced up at Mythos, her face still tough from concentration. "Mythos, did he request that I come down by name?"
"No, he did not, why?"
"I think I'll stay up here, there are a few things I need to attend to."
Mythos nodded then motioned for Fakir and Ahiru to follow him out the door held open by men in blue uniforms.
Mythos knocked on the cast iron door three times. He waited silently until a rough voice with an age-enhanced vibrato cried out, "Yes, yes, come in already! If you wait out there any longer I might die before you get in here."
Mythos laughed to himself and opened the door for Fakir and Ahiru to step inside.
"Greetings, professor," he said. "I hope you've been well."
"Well at my age means you're your heart is still pumping and your back doesn't hurt enough to kill you," he replied brightly. He was moving around odd glistening objects on his desk while consulting a large tome propped up by other books. "Now what are you here for? And who are these people?"
"These are my friends from Kinkad Town, Fakir and Ahiru," Mythos answered smoothly. "You sent a note asking me to bring them hear so you could meet them."
"Send you a note, did I? Ask you to meet your friends, did I?" The old man shrugged a little and put down the magnifying glass in his hand. "I suppose that's a likely enough story. Please, come, come! Sit down all of you. Tell me all about yourselves! Not that I'll remember in an hours time. I'm older than dirt, you know."
Ahiru's eyes bulged opened and turned to Fakir in wonder. He merely shook his head and she looked back down, disappointed.
"According to the story, Fakir was my knight and closest fried. Ahiru was Princess Tutu, who I have told you about before," explained Mythos.
"A knight and a ballerina," repeated Professor Krinkle. "Forgive me, but I am very old and I've heard a lot of seemingly crazy things in my time, but this story you were in still amazes me."
"They are both ballet dancers. They were my classmates at Kinkad Academy for the Fine Arts," said Mythos.
"Mythos and Fakir are fantastic ballet dancers," said Ahiru. "They were both in the advanced class. I was just in the intermediary class. I'm actually a very bad dancer, but when I was Princess Tutu I could dance as well as them."
"I see," said Professor Krinkle. "This is indeed a very strange spell. Who did you say was the sorcerer?"
"A children's book writer named Dosselmeyer," replied Mythos.
"Dosselmeyer? But he died years ago. I used to read his books to my nephews when they were little. He was very popular a while back among the children, but the stories always ended poorly in my opinion. He was one for tragedies, that author."
"It was the same man. His power made every story he wrote become real."
"Every story? Became real? Was he aware of his own power?"
"Yes, he was aware," replied Fakir. "In the end, when he was no longer able to write, he used a machine to write his stories for him. It seems that he designed everything so that he could com back as a character is his own book so he could finish the story and avoid death."
"How ingenious! What a marvelous idea! Though you would think that if he knew his stories were going to be real that he would give them better endings." The old scientist's entire face glowed with fascination. Years seemed to drop from his figure and new found energy radiated out of him. "But please, do go on. This power, what were the limitations? The power to make stories come true, what wonders you could do!" Professor Krinkle marveled at the idea.
Mythos gestured to Fakir. "I do not know the answer to your questions but Fakir might. He knows much more about Dosselmeyer then I do."
The professor turned on Fakir. "Ah, do you now? Well, well, let's hear it then. Speak up, speak up. Don't be shy."
Mythos turned to Fakir. "Please, tell him everything. He is within my confidence. Hold nothing back, especially for my account." Fakir nodded and considered what to say.
"What Mythos is too polite to say is that I am a descendent of Dosselmeyer and that I have in fact inherited the same power as him."
Professor Krinkle stared at Fakir in shock. His eyes scrutinized him with all their power of intellect and analysis. He took in his youth, his slight but athletic frame, and his arrogant stances. The light that radiated from his eyes upon hearing of Dosselmeyer's power dimmed and it was a very serious voice from a experienced old man that said, "If you do not mind, my prince, allow me to question this boy. There are many things I wish to speak with him about before I can be satisfied."
Mythos nodded and placed his hand on Ahiru's shoulder. Ahiru looked from Mythos to Fakir with a concerned expression but followed Mythos out the door without a word.
"Boy, please come closer and sit down in front of me," said Professor Krinkle, motioning to a chair in front of his cluttered desk. "My eyes are not what they used to be. Getting old is a terrible ordeal. I suggest you avoid it if you can."
In the hallway, Ahiru was left alone with Mythos. He was very different from the heartless, apathetic boy she had first met. He now stood regally in his navy blue uniform. His face was composed and serious but his expression was gentle as he asked her "How have you been in Kinkad Town? I left so quickly with the general that I didn't get to give you a proper good-bye. I apologize."
Ahiru blushed and clasped her hands together in front of her.
"I've been well. Fakir and I went back to the academy to continue our dance studies. I got to see my friends again. It's much different there now. We have a new teacher and everyone is human. I miss Neko-sensei though."
"He was a great teacher," agreed Mythos. "I learned a lot from him. I truly enjoyed studying ballet with Fakir, Rue, and you. I miss the ballet school. Everything was much simpler there." Mythos's face was clouded and worried.
Ahiru asked in a concerned voice, "Are you alright, Mythos? Is there something troubling you?"
Mythos's face changed to a calm regal mask quickly. "Yes, I'm fine, it's nothing. I hope Fakir is okay alone with the Professor. There are times he can be easily aggravated."
"I see." Ahiru continued to watch Mythos's face. He didn't seem unhappy but she could sense his emotions stirring within him.
Those are emotions that I gave back to him, she thought. This is a whole and complete Mythos.
"Hey, smile, will you?" Ahiru blurted out. Immediately she was embarrassed but she couldn't stop the words now.
Mythos looked at her in surprise.
"It's just," Ahiru stuttered, "I want to see you happy. Back then, when I first saw you, you looked so sad all the time. That was because you had no heart to feel anything, but now it has all been returned to you. I don't want to see you sad anymore."
Mythos smiled at her then. It was a sweet smile, just like Ahiru had always imagined. He's such a beautiful person, she thought. He belongs with Rue, but still, my feelings…
"I'm sorry, Ahiru. When I left so suddenly I didn't even get to tell you how grateful I am to you. You saved me, Ahiru, or rather I should say Princess Tutu."
"No, it was Rue who broke the spell. I was just helping her get to you."
"You are a very selfless person, Ahiru. Thank you, very much, for returning my heart to me. If there is anyway I can repay you, please let me know. I am deeply in your debt."
"You don't have to say that, I did it because I wanted to. I just wanted to see all my friends happy. I wanted to see you happy."
"Please tell me what I can do to show you my gratitude. You can ask anything of me."
Ahiru thought for a second. "Anything?"
Mythos smiled and nodded.
"There is… one thing I would like from you."
"Name it," said Mythos, "and it will be yours."
"I want you to listen. I have something very important to tell you."
Fakir sat down, alert and prepared for an interrogation. Professor Krinkle toppled down into his large leather chair and pulled out a fresh scrap of paper and a quill. He jotted down notes and numbers with such intense concentration and speed that Fakir began to wonder if he had been forgotten already. However, the professor barked out his first question without looking up, catching Fakir by surprise.
"Please describe this power of yours in full with as much detail as you can manage."
Fakir replied," My power makes any story I write become true."
Professor Krinkle looked up annoyed. "Yes, you said that already. But what are the rules? The limitations?"
"I don't understand what you mean," said Fakir.
"Must the story be written down? If you tell someone a story orally, will it have the same effect?"
"I believe it must be written. The only stories that came true for me were written by pen and paper. I doubt I could do it any other way."
Professor Krinkle nodded then continued, "Does it have to be in the form of a story?"
"Does everything you write become true or is it only your stories?"
Fakir considered this for a second. "Only my stories become true. I have sometimes answered questions incorrectly on written exams and my power does not make those false facts become true."
"What is your range?"
"My what?" asked Fakir confused.
"How many people can you control? Can you only control small groups at a time or can you influence an entire nation?" Professor Krinkle scribbled more notes on his scrap of paper.
"I suppose it would depend what the story was about," answered Fakir without confidence. He had never considered these details.
Professor Krinkle looked up puzzeled. "I wonder why Dosselmeyer's influence stayed only in Kinkad Town. I wonder if that town was the limit of his power."
"I really don't know. I'm sure that whatever his range was is the same as mine. I might be slightly weaker, however."
"Can you create people, like an author creates a character?"
"No," Fakir answered with more certainty. "I can only influence people or things that already exist. My power relies completely on manipulating reality, it doesn't create anything."
Professor Krinkle considered this for a while. He grew silent and started to scribble on the scrap of paper again. As he ran out of room to write on the scrap, he reached for a large book and opened it to a dog-earred page. Fakir strained his neck to see what the professor was looking at in the book but before he could figure it out Professor Krinkle was asking him more questions.
"Can you change a person's form or alter them physically? For example, could you switch an individual's gender?"
"Yes, but I haven't tried to do it, nor could I think of any reason why I should want to. In Kinkad Town, however, a person changing into animals or animals becoming people was very commonplace. Many of my classmates and teachers at the academy were cats, alligators, or bears."
"Fascinating! And this wasn't considered odd by anyone?"
Fakir felt embarrassed by the question but answered, "It seemed perfectly natural at the time. I didn't really think about it."
The professor stroked his chin then asked, "So when animals are turned into humans, do they still behave as the animal they were?"
"Not really. They become normal people who have certain characteristics of that animal." He thought of Ahiru. "Or, normal by Kinkad Town standards, or, really, just strange."
"What do you want to tell me?" asked Mythos, genuinely curious.
"I… that is… I did," Ahiru stuttered. She took a deep breath and stared down at the carpet. She know if she looked Mythos in the face everything would be lost. She forced herself to continue.
"When I was Princess Tutu, I rescued your heart and fought for you because I felt it was the right thing to do but as I worker harder and harder, I felt something change within myself. When I started, I just thought it was so awful to see such a beautiful person so sad. I wanted to see your smile and your other expressions. That's why I chose to become Princess Tutu but as I collected more and more pieces of your heart, I realized there was another force at work. I couldn't stop myself, even though I knew I was doomed for a tragic end if I fulfilled my role to you. I'm not ashamed of what I did or why I did it, but when you asked me, as Princess Tutu, how I felt towards you, I couldn't answer. I knew in my heart what the answer was but I could never bring myself to say it aloud."
"What are you saying," Mythos asked.
"As Princess Tutu, and as myself, I fell in love with you. If Rue had not cried out in the last battle, I would have sacrificed myself in order to save you. That was the depth of my love."
"Ahiru…" Mythos started.
"But now it is all over and the spell has been broken. I don't know why I stayed a human, but I am grateful because it means that I can now tell you my true feelings. Please, I beg you, accept my feelings!" The entire time Ahiru spoke, she stared down at the floor and clenched her hands together.
There was a silence for a few moments that felt like hours to Ahiru. Then she felt a gentle hand on her shoulder.
"Ahiru." She raised her eyes to meet Mythos's and felt her heart break open in two.
"I am truly grateful to you, Ahiru. You have been one of my greatest friends in my darkest hour. You will always have a place in my heart." Mythos smiled so sadly, Ahiru couldn't bear to look at him anymore.
"I am grateful, and I do accept your feelings and thank you for them. To be loved that much by such a pure heart as yours is a true honor. However, I can not return your feelings. I have already made my choice. Please understand."
"I do," said Ahiru, a tear escaping her eye. "I do understand. You and Rue are meant to be together. I knew that. You always looked so wonderful together. You are a beautiful couple, but I can't stop these feelings I have for you. I don't know if I can ever stop them."
"I'm so sorry Ahiru," murmured Mythos as he pulled her closer. He wrapped his arms around her shoulders and held her to him. "You deserve a love to match your own and so much more. I am sorry I can not be the one to give you that. Perhaps if…" He released her and stepped back. "What is done is done. I do care for you, Ahiru, but we can only be friends. I am very sorry."
Tears began to roll down Ahiru's cheeks. Her heart felt like it had be shattered. Her shoulders began to shake with her silent sobs.
"Please, come back upstairs with me. Rue is waiting for us. I know she wants to see you."
"No," Ahiru managed to say through her tears. "I'll wait here for Fakir. I'm worried about him. I'm going to stay here. Please go up without me."
Mythos nodded and pulled out a handkerchief. He place it in her hands and whispered, "Please be okay, Ahriu." He turned and walked away.
Ahiru was left alone outside the large ornate door, crying uncontrollably, not daring to use the handkerchief, lest it got wet or dirty.
"Can you create love?"
The question caught Fakir off guard again.
"I suppose. That would be very cruel. The effect would only last as long as the story however. When I wrote, I tried to keep people's emotions as close to what they already were as possible."
"Or how you perceived their emotions to be, since you obviously could not know the depth or color of your character's feelings," the professor argued.
"No, I made sure I was intentionally vague when it came to feelings. I would use phrases like 'as they already knew' or 'what they knew to be true'."
"Isn't that dangerous?"
"What do you mean?" demanded Fakir.
"You guide people through a story without letting them develop or grow through the experience. No matter what they did, they would still be the same person as before."
"I assumed that later reflections would be sufficient to build character," Fakir argued.
"So your characters can not grow till after the story is complete. Interesting. Does it work when you do it this way?"
"I don't know," admitted Fakir. "I haven't written many stories."
"Could we try a few experiments? In controlled conditions, of course."
"No," Fakir yelled. "Absolutely not. This power shouldn't even exist.
"But then how will we know what is safe and what is not? Your powers might express themselves in channels you haven't thought of or having lasting repercussions now that you have used them.
"I will not use this power again. I have promised myself and my friends."
"If you were to practice your power and learn it well you could be of great use to your friends," reasoned the professor. "For example, you could return the Prince's lost memories, or even end this ridiculous war."
"No it's too dangerous. I can't allow this. We just had our own battle where we fought a power like mine which was out of control."
Professor Krinkle observed Fakir's stubborn expression and snapped his book closed. He looked very tired all of a sudden as he rubbed the bridge of his nose with his thumb and pointer finger.
"I see there is no convincing you, but please consider all the good you could do. I will be ever willing to help you experiment and learn your power better. Please reconsider…"
"This is enough. I won't listen to this." Fakir stood up and left the room slamming the door behind him, leaving the professor to stare after him sadly. He was so angry he couldn't see straight but the sight of Ahiru's crying face shocked him into forgetting his anger for the moment.
"Wha-what's going on? What happened?" Fakir demanded, dumbfounded. "It's nothing. I just stubbed my toe on a sharp edged. You know me," Ahiru tried to smile through her tears. "I'm terribly clumsy."
"Good lord, Ahiru," Fakir growled, relaxing back into his anger. "Try to be more careful next time." He turned and walked down the hall. She followed behind him mutely.
Author's note: Yes, yes I know. Spelling errors. I'm trying to find a reliable beta-reader still. When I find one, I'll go through fix everything up. In the meanwhile, just try to interpret what you think I mean to say. I really was just going to go on to the next part of the story but Rue's been kicking and screaming for her own character arch so y'all are going to have to sit through that all next chapter. Don't blame me, blame Rue. She was very persistent.