Together they were quite a picture, a painting, a piece of ripped paper. It was hard to see them apart and even harder to see them together—princes shouldn't be seen by such lowly beings, after all; they preferred hide-and-go-seek.
Do you get along with your brother?, they'd always ask the younger.
Yes, he replied, We get along very well.
And with that courtesy out of the way they would hurry to have an audience with the king and queen with memories of the little imps who were perfect in a pair and wouldn't stop smiling.
Verywell, he'd add, even though there was no one there. But there was. Himself only just a little older but no different at all. And then both of them were gone.
They'd play in the castle garden. It was large and maze-like with something of a forest to boot. They'd like to think that every time they went through things would change just a little, as to keep the young princes entertained. And in they would go and wouldn't return until supper or when something else caught their fancy.
It was always They or Them instead of Him or He. They came together in a set but weren't one in the slightest. Both knew which way the corridors went (the secret ones they'd made themselves and would go here and there) or where not to go in their garden unless you wanted to meet the beast.
No one knew this, though, and they liked it like that. He she it they--- those were all the wrong words. It was really so funny, no one could ever get the right word despite how simple it was.
Mother says that one of us was born a mirror, he'd say. The only way to tell them apart was on the days they changed the colors of their crowns. Today he was wearing gold (an older color; it fit considering he was the older of the twins) and the other was wearing silver, a color, which, the other would say, was much more regal. He was laying on his belly on a branch and looking down at his brother who was climbing up the twisting trunk.
And then they would laugh and the silver twin would make it up to the branch and sit beside him.
But we're nothing alike, he'd say, And besides—
Then there was a crash and a rustle of crushed leaves and broken branches and the crack of something solid.
--I think you look much better with cuts.
And then they laughed.
Strategy, they called it. Appearances, they'd say.
But really, it was all just learning which way would kill what people and fooling everyone into doing it too. Their classes were such a bore but what was taught was not. They just had to fix their methods; and they would continue to go through all the tutors in the kingdom until they could.
He marked a little X on the castle. A little X on a room. And then he ripped it up because princes shouldn't need to rely on reminders.
Next! Next! A better class a nicer teacher try again try again!
The king and queen were locked in their own chambers marking X's on kingdoms and lands.
It was her, he said, looking down from his throne. Suddenly the room seemed too white and too gold and the air seemed so much colder and the little maid with her hands drawn up to herself shaking and trying to make herself as small as she could and disappear seemed to be crying but who could be sure? The prince looked to his father and mother and nodded. It was her. I don't make mistakes. She's the one who pushed me.
His arm wasn't in a sling—that was hardly anything royal, and his shoulder had no scar and his legs had no cast and you couldn't ask why without vanishing soon after, they'd say, but they were sorting out this mess that was simply just a bother. Didn't they know a war was coming?
It was him, he said. They had switched today and his tiara was gold though he still preferred silver, he looked down at the servant who was trying to appear calm but who's efforts were laughable. But a prince was a good ruler, so the princes always smiled.
I don't make mistakes, he continued, he's the one who tried to poison me.
Just a few days prior his soup had turned from green to blue after the one who was him but not touched it, but the food taster missed it so it was he at fault.
With a flick of her hand the queen sent them to be taken away and with a boom of his voice the king ordered their deaths.
And later they'd sing how stupid so stupid and run off to steal knives from the kitchen giggling about how ordering executions was their fa---vorite.