Title: Crowning Tristan
Rating: PG-13 / T
Summary: We've seen Tristan grow from a boy to a man, but how does that man become a king? A gapfiller between the end of the battle and the coronation. Movieverse, with elements from the book. Canon pairings. Discontinued; final chapters summarised.
Disclaimer: I do not own Stardust in any way. This is just for fun.
Author's Notes: This story is based mainly on the film and is set in the movieverse, but where possible, I use additional information from the novel – place names, descriptions and so on – though there are exceptions. For instance, I have made Dunstan a book-keeper, as a desk job seemed to fit his clothes and mannerisms better than a farmer. Also, I have given Humphrey the surname "Banks" as his father is supposed to be a banker, and given a name to the guard at the wall – Samuel Edwards.
Many, many thanks to my two lovely beta-readers: Mererid, who helped me out from the very beginning, and Anna Fay, who has stuck by me for nearly two years now. Ladies, I could never have done this without you.
Revised and reposted April 2012.
On the morning of her eighteenth birthday, Victoria Forester woke to a bright, sunny warmth reflecting softly from the wood of her bedroom. The white curtains glowed as light peeked in sharp bursts around their edges, and from outside came the faint, familiar sounds of morning activity in the village. She smiled and rolled over, stretching a little, drowsy and comfortable as she considered the day ahead.
It would be wonderful. Today she would become engaged.
With a little squeal of delight, Victoria pulled her blanket higher and took a moment to simply be lazy, curling up on her pillows. A silly smile was fixed on her cheeks.
Humphrey Banks was exactly the sort of man for her. Handsome, courteous, talented – wealthy, of course – able and willing to buy her the best of everything. They were a beautiful couple, and though Tristan had brought her wildflowers and a nice picnic, Humphrey bought her a dozen roses and dinner on fine china.
Oh, Tristan. Well, it was sweet of him to try so hard – charming, really – but they both knew he just wasn't the same as Humphrey. Still, for the past week Victoria had found herself smiling secretively every time someone mentioned Tristan's name. Where did he go, Mrs Brown? she thought to say. Why, he went to bring me a star.
Victoria laughed. A star! That would have been nice. Poor, sweet, silly Tristan. How long would it take him to come back? And really, where was he? If that star fell into the land beyond the wall, he couldn't possibly reach it. ...Could he? No, no, of course not, and certainly not in a week. He'd have to give up eventually, but that was all right; better that he be late. There was no need for Humphrey to embarrass the poor boy yet again.
Ah... Humphrey. And a ring from Ipswich. Victoria stretched out her left hand, admiring her skin as it glowed in the light. She pictured a lovely ring on her finger, gold band glimmering as the stone twinkled and sparkled in the sun. Would it be a sapphire, to match her eyes? Maybe even a diamond? Or perhaps both! Small sapphires circling the diamond... and emeralds, maybe...
At last it occurred to Victoria that as long as she stayed in bed, she would never find out.
No more than two minutes later there was a knock on her door. Victoria fussed over her hair and nightgown, wishing she had more time to dress, but did it matter? Soon they would be married and anyway, Humphrey had brought her midnight gifts before. She opened the door.
It was Tristan. "Happy birthday," he said.
But... this wasn't the same Tristan that left Wall a week ago. He looked so... so much better. Gentlemanly. Dashing. His hair had grown – somehow – and he looked older, but he still had that same sweet smile.
"Tristan – what happened to you?" Had he given up so soon? Or had he actually managed it? Had he really gone into the land beyond and somehow–?
"I found the star."
For a moment, Victoria marvelled, awestruck. "I can't believe you did it..." Then eagerness took over. "Where's my star?" she demanded. "Can I see it? Is it beautiful?"
Tristan smiled and reached into his coat pocket. "Yes."
A star! A real star, all her own! Oh, wouldn't that be better than a diamond on her ring! Just a small part, of course; a proper ring could not be too heavy. The rest could be made into a necklace or bracelet – or both! Did stars still shine after they'd fallen? She would be married wearing jewels that glowed!
Tristan offered her a folded handkerchief.
She stared. "Well it's awfully small." A ring and earrings, perhaps.
"Well, that's just a little piece," Tristan assured her. "A token for your birthday."
But suddenly the token didn't interest her anymore; the fact that he'd crossed the wall for her... that did.
"Well then, forget about the star," said Victoria, stepping closer and looking him over, running a hand up his arm. This was a Tristan she wanted; so far from the puppyish shopboy, he seemed to have suddenly become a real man, and a man handsome enough to rival even Humphrey – how had she never seen that before? Victoria was a decent woman, not all insensitive; she appreciated the effort he'd made to be worthy of her. Yes, she decided, she could marry this Tristan.
"It's not the star that I want." She smiled temptingly. "You know what I want."
The look in his eyes was unreadable. "Yes," he said. "I do."
Victoria leaned back dramatically, allowing him to hold her up just as a romantic prince should before kissing the princess, and waited, waited...
"You want to grow up–"
Her eyes snapped open.
"–and get over yourself."
Then, without warning or courtesy, she was dropped onto the dirty street.
She stared at Tristan, who straightened and looked down at her as though he hadn't just done something outrageously wrong. She couldn't take it in; Tristan – sweet, eager, shopboy Tristan, however handsome he had become – was rejecting her. Victoria was stunned, speechless.
Suddenly another thump came from the corner, and there was– "Humphrey," Tristan said pleasantly.
Humphrey! With a large red parcel – for her, surely... Victoria smiled brightly, but it was forced. She toyed with the handkerchief as her Humphrey drew his sword–
But then Tristan swung his sword – where had he gotten it? – and Humphrey's cool confidence vanished. "...Ah."
Victoria hurried to unfold the cloth. Even if it wasn't an engagement gift, it was hers now – he'd given it to her – and no humiliation would take away her very own star.
But... there was no hard shape in the cloth. No rock. Nothing to put in a ring. Flicking back the fabric, she stared in furious horror at the 'prize' for which she had succumbed, then snapped her head up as Tristan cheerfully declared them to be a "perfect couple" and offered his congratulations.
"Well, why would I want this? Just a measly handful of stardust!"
The men looked at her as she threw it back at Tristan. He was horrified. Dust sprinkled from his hands, sparkling as it fell, and he said something Victoria couldn't make out. "...can't cross the wall."
Tristan took off running, vanishing around the corner within seconds. He left behind two very confused, humiliated people, and a decidedly unromantic mood.
"Victoria?" Humphrey said at last. "Are you all right? May I help you up?"
Always the gentleman. Victoria accepted his hand, smiling as he fussed over the dust on her clothes. "I'm quite fine, Humphrey, thank you. You're very thoughtful."
He was smiling at her now, holding her hands, but his cheeks were tinged with red. It didn't suit him. Had she known it, Victoria herself was dishevelled and mussed, but Humphrey always made her feel like a princess.
She and Humphrey stood in awkward silence for a long moment, until at last he said, "Quite early for visitors."
His tone was mild, but Victoria was ashamed. She could not allow Humphrey to be misled. After all, she'd never been unfaithful to him, had she? Just indulged a poor boy's adoration. "Tristan brought me a present," she said. "For my birthday. He said it was the shooting star that fell last week."
Humphrey snorted, annoyed – with Tristan? "Shooting stars don't land, Victoria. They're just lights in the sky. Don't believe everything shopboys tell you."
Now thoroughly humiliated, Victoria had no wish but to go back to bed and start the day over. She couldn't meet his eyes, and prayed that Humphrey would understand. "I should change my clothes," she said at last.
"I'll wait here."
Victoria nodded and walked in. At the door, she suddenly turned around. "I thought he deserved a kiss," she said quickly. "For bringing me a present. I didn't... I only thanked him, Humphrey, I swear. You know he's always been in love with me and–"
Her words were rushed with embarrassment, but it was worth it when Humphrey shook his head, to interrupt, and smiled. "I understand." He stepped closer and kissed her cheek. "I have a surprise for you. Will you come for a walk with me?"
The last 'surprise' from a man had been cause for disaster. Still, she smiled and nodded, then hurried in before anything else could go wrong.
Despite its bitter start, most of Victoria's day went quite well. When she emerged, dressed properly with her hair brushed, Humphrey had greeted her as though their earlier encounter had never been. The red-wrapped gift had indeed been for her, and was a collection of chocolates and expensive fabrics from Ipswich. Humphrey's surprise, of course, was no surprise at all. They walked across the quiet, grassy paths until reaching a suitably beautiful spot, where Humphrey had produced a lovely ring and proposed.
It was a diamond. A very small diamond.
Act One: Wall
For as long as anyone could remember, the village of Wall had been a slow, quiet place where people lived out their slow, quiet, and largely happy lives. Aside from the minor if mysterious problem of that ancient wall nearby, very little of interest had happened in Wall for several hundred years.
On one bright and cheerful day in April of 1896, all that changed.
It was a day that began calmly, like so many others. It was the day that Humphrey Banks made his grand and very expected proposal to Miss Forester, and but for a poor shopboy named Tristan Thorn, their engagement would have been the talk of the town for weeks. It would, of course, have been forgotten eventually, and after the wedding no one would have cared at all, but what was remembered instead... well, that was something they talked about for decades.
What was remembered instead actually began rather quietly, shortly after Victoria and Humphrey began their romantic stroll. The old man who had been on guard duty – a Mr Samuel Edwards, who somehow enjoyed the duty and filled much of the village roster – left his post early, stumbling distractedly through town. More people were awake then than had been when Tristan ran through, and a few paused to wonder why Mr Edwards looked so ashen. On the other hand, no one found it odd that he should be knocking on the door of Mr Dunstan Thorn; Mr Edwards had taken a liking to that family some fifty years ago, striking up a friendship with Dunstan's father, and it continued quietly through the generations in the background of Wall society.
That morning, Dunstan was running late for work, distracted as he had been for the past week. He still wasn't used to living in an empty house; Tristan had been brought to him only weeks after his own father's death, and there had always been someone else walking over that creaking stair or helping to make breakfast. Dunstan didn't care to be alone, but more so he worried about his son; clever though Tristan was, he was wandering through a world of magic, and magic, he knew, could be dangerous. He could only hope that Tristan's mother would be able to protect him.
The knock came as a complete surprise.
It couldn't be Tristan – Tristan would just walked in. Frowning, Dunstan checked his pocket watch again; he really was quite late. Mr Banks genuinely liked his bookkeeper, but wasn't known for his patience. Dunstan opened the door. "Samuel?"
The old man stumbled in and settled heavily in a kitchen chair.
"Sam," Dunstan said, "I really don't have the time to–"
"What did you see over there, Dunstan?" Mr Edwards wheezed, head in hands, sounding very old indeed. "What's really out there?"
Dunstan frowned again, worried. He closed the door and took the opposite chair. "It's very different," he said slowly, "I saw many things. I can't explain most of it. I don't really know more than anyone else in town. What's happened?"
"Oh..." moaned Mr Edwards, "Dunstan, I wish I knew. There was shouting and magic and I couldn't make heads or tails of it. I came to ask you."
"Why would I know? I was only there once. Did something happen on the other side?"
Mr Edwards looked startled, and it was all the more worrying. "He didn't tell you?"
"Who – Tristan?" Dunstan felt his blood run cold. "I haven't seen him since he left town."
"But he came back from the village! He appeared in the meadow at dawn and ran back through less than an hour later – he must have told you who they were. Never, in hundreds of years, has anyone from over there–"
Bowing to the obvious urgency, Mr Edwards said, "I don't know – I just heard voices, saw bits and pieces... Something about stars and death and a witch shot green fire and captured them–"
"Captured who? Tristan?"
"No, Tristan went after them–"
Dunstan shot to his feet and snatched up a coat. "Where did he go? Hurry, Sam – tell me where he went!"
"He took a horse," Mr Edwards said quickly, "I saw him riding north. You'll never catch him, Dunstan!" the old man called, following Dunstan out the door. "He was riding full gallop!"
It was no use and he knew it, yet Dunstan still hurried to the infamous wall, not quite running but unable to keep to a normal pace. He settled for a brisk walk and ignored the greetings of his neighbours. Without doubt, something had gone awfully wrong with Tristan's visit to his mother, and whatever had happened was out of his league – out of both their leagues. Beyond that of anyone in the village, really. There was nothing he could do, but the father in him just couldn't go to work and spend the day writing in Mr Banks' account books.
The wall wasn't far away. The trees between it and the fields were little more than a screening barrier, and Dunstan arrived quickly. Not, of course, quickly enough. Tristan was long gone, and if Mr Edwards hadn't said so, Dunstan would never have known that his son had been there at all. He sighed, feeling tired and unreasonably old.
He looked around and walked down to the wall, to the yellow caravan beyond. Stepping through the gap, he paused a moment and realised – yes, this was the same caravan that held, for him, very pleasant memories. Dunstan hurried to climb up, looking inside with the vain hope that the old witch might also have left, that perhaps she was still...
But no. There was nothing alive inside – nothing human, anyway, and if Tristan had raced off following some witches' battle, it must have been because he'd found his mother here, and she'd been the person captured. But why?
Aware that literally anything inside could be magical, Dunstan backed away. He looked around the jumbled mess, hoping for any sort of clue, but could only conclude that the driver had been taking some rather spectacular risks. Beyond that, it was all guesswork; he knew so little of this world. For heaven's sake, he didn't even know his lover's name.
For lack of anything better to do, he paced, circling the caravan and looking around – mainly north, occasionally east. Eastwards was the only place he actually knew, the market town where he'd spent a single night, but there was no reason to think Tristan would go there, nor that he could find help there.
No, Dunstan concluded, clenching his fists. There was nothing he could do but wait in a place where his son would be able to find him. His pacing turned to frustrated, childish stomps–
Which ended abruptly when he found himself standing on the burnt outline of a headless human body. He jumped back in shock, praying it had just been his imagination, but no, the figure was unmistakably a person. Arms, a broad middle and a skirt, with two protrusions that could have been feet. And– Oh, God. There was the head. Or the burnt circle that was left of it, a few feet away.
Dunstan liked to think he had a strong stomach, and in all fairness, he did react better than others might have – no nausea or hysterics, just a shuddering acceptance – but he felt cold and ill, and lost. Helpless. His son was out there, possibly chasing whoever had done this...
Once, as a boy, Dunstan had been witness to a parent losing their child. Old Mrs Harper, already a widow, had lost her grown daughter to a riding accident. As his mother had been a friend of Mrs Harper, Dunstan had been raised with regular visits from the woman, and had always known her to be a jolly old lady. After the funeral she rarely smiled again, and when she did, when she was helping a young father learn to care for his baby boy, it was always a half-smile, a pained smile; a smile that was twisted by memories.
Only now did Dunstan come close to truly understanding how she felt.
No! he scolded himself. No, Tristan was not dead. Not yet.
Wrenching his mind away from morbid thoughts, Dunstan leaned against the wall, searching for anything else to think about. Once again he reviewed what Sam Edwards had said, trying to picture it, trying not to think of his son fighting murderous magical women, and something didn't quite fit. What was it he'd said? He came back from the village. That was it. He appeared in the meadow at dawn and ran back through less than an hour later.
Tristan had come back – back from town. Running. But he hadn't been to see his father. An hour was long enough to get anywhere in Wall, and Dunstan had been home, where he always was at that time. Where had Tristan been?
Infused with purpose, Dunstan left the caravan behind, ignoring the hoof prints and burnt grass as he returned to Wall. His mind spun with possibilities.
Tristan had almost certainly gone to see a person. Nothing else would have been so important as to come first if he had – as Sam had implied – come into Wall without any particular fuss or hurry, and if something was already wrong Tristan wouldn't have gone to church to pray. Neither of them were particularly devout followers, and Tristan rarely turned to God or Reverend Myles for help.
No, it had to be a person, someone he had to talk to. Dunstan ducked under a large branch as he marched out of the thin woods, watching the village houses grow larger as he crossed the fields. He silently listed everyone in town bar himself that Tristan was close to. Frank Monday came to mind first – Tristan's closest and only real friend, they both worked in Frank's father's shop. Mr John Monday was unlikely, but he was friendly with Dunstan and could certainly be asked. Miss Victoria another option, as was Mrs Harper. But there was no reason for Tristan to seek any of them before greeting his own father.
Dunstan peeled off his coat as he hurried back across the fields; the sun was warm and he was moving fast. Early-rising farmers furrowed their brows as well as their fields when they saw him, wondering what could drive quiet Mr Thorn all the way out here. "His boy, probably," they said to each other. "Poor man's wonderin' what happened to Tristan."
Mr Monday was grumbling as he puttered about in his shop, making lists and filling orders while it was still early enough for customers to be scarce. The breeze from the east was making his fireplace flicker. He frowned at it.
Calling on his son to check an inventory, John was surprised to see Dunstan Thorn hurry in looking dishevelled, and more so when he turned to the boy instead. "Frank," he said, sounding a little out of breath, "has Tristan been here? Have you seen him at all?"
Frank, a stocky boy with a very round, good-natured face, just shook his head. Mr Thorn turned to the father. "John? Was he here this morning?"
John shook his white head. "No, but Charlie Banks just left," he said, and Dunstan winced at his employer's name. "Said you were late again."
Dunstan shook his head. "That was once, three days ago, and if Charles comes by again, you can tell him I'm not coming. Something's happened to Tristan – ask him what he'd do if it was Humphrey."
He turned on his heel and left the shop without another word, neglecting the second polite farewell of his morning.
Mr Edwards, meanwhile, had left Dunstan's house feeling no less frazzled than when he'd entered it. At a loss, without purpose – for what use was a guard who couldn't stop people from crossing? – Mr Edwards had resolved to calm his nerves with a good, long drink.
The Seventh Magpie was the only tavern Wall had, and it was quiet; just past noon, few were about bar Mr Bromios, who served his guest with mild concern. Mr Edwards didn't offer an explanation for his obvious troubles, and when asked he merely looked up and said, "Peter, we should repair that wall. Seal it off."
Mr Bromios, puzzled, went and asked his wife what she thought it might mean. "I don't know," she said, "but I'll ask Mary when I'm at the shop. We need two bags of flour, right? Not just one?"
He answered with a nod and off went Mrs Bromios, whose queries would only add fuel to an already blazing fire of rumours.
As Victoria and Humphrey returned from their delightful little walk, her left arm tucked neatly in his elbow and her new ring displayed for all to see, they stepped into the village square with all the airs of royalty. There should have been awed appreciation, sighs of envy from the other girls, congratulations from passing wives and handshakes from the gentlemen... but there weren't.
Instead the villagers were already gossiping intently, and the first person to speak to them didn't offer his good wishes, or even notice the ring. Instead Frank Monday said, "Victoria! Did you see Tristan this morning? Ma says you were talking to him but no one else's seen him and something's wrong and–"
Another distinct lack of compliments came from Dunstan Thorn, who appeared out of nowhere and shooed Frank away. If he saw the ring, he ignored it. "Miss Forester, I must know if you've seen Tristan."
He looked horribly afraid, realised Victoria, and the idea briefly robbed her of speech. Tristan had been rude, yes, but if he'd been hurt...
"Yes, Mr Thorn, he was here," Humphrey smoothly said for her, patting her hand protectively. "Your son offered my fiancée a gift for her birthday."
Dunstan looked unconvinced. "Why did he leave?" When Humphrey couldn't answer he looked back at Victoria. "Miss Forester, he may be in danger. Tell me why he was running."
"I don't know," she said. "He wasn't making much sense. He said something about not being able to cross the wall. He was going to try," she added helpfully. "Last week; he said he was going to bring me a fallen star."
This made no sense to Dunstan. "Tristan has crossed that wall three times."
"Actually," said Humphrey thoughtfully, with an uncommon air of earnest helpfulness, "I believe he said that someone else couldn't cross the wall."
Confused, Dunstan shook his head slowly, thanked them politely, and left, thinking deeply. Victoria watched him go. "I don't understand this, Humphrey."
"We needn't worry," he said calmly, loftily. "No doubt Mr Thorn worries for his child; it's quite natural behaviour for any parent. Your father was much the same when I asked for your hand – though of course he agreed."
Victoria smiled brilliantly, maybe at his over-educated speech or simply at the reminder. Still, her happiness was ruined as they continued their walk. Here they passed a farmer talking of how "he's not been seen in a week!", and there, a woman with her groceries who said, "No one knows who his mother was; Dunstan won't talk about it. Gypsy, I'd wager." Nearby was Mrs Bromios: "...actually left his post! Can you imagine, Mary dear? Something's got him worried, something about that wall..." And there, Mr Brown, whose farm was closest to the wall: "Not sure what it was – just a strange greenish light, really, but nothing I've ever seen before."
Humphrey merely took Victoria's hand and smiled, and they continued their walk, talking to block out the gossip of their neighbours.
At home, Dunstan Thorn knelt by his son's bed and prayed.