Hey y'all! So I first wrote this as an original story for an English project, but I wanted it to be read and shared: so I decided to use this as an xxxHolic alternate universe story on the site! I will not deny that the idea of non-linear storytelling was inspired from an excellent xxxHolic fic by Thimble, but the story idea itself is completely original!!
The title of this fic means (as stated by Merriam-Webster): "A theory of history: political and social crises arise from the deliberate actions of evil or misguided leaders rather than as a natural result of conditions."
The castle looms large over the faded watercolors of the horizon, the cold and black jutting architecture of stones set on the edges of a vast marshland encompassing the borders of the next kingdom leagues away.
The servant boy thinks it was made that way to stay secluded from the outside world, drawing its cloak of misty fog and gloom close around itself for fear of discovery.
He watches the cloaked figure vigilantly glance around before darting down the stone path leading from a door in the castle wall. It stops at the main gate. His window is angled so that he can see the person emerge from a smaller door onto the other side of the gate. As it turns to shut it, the hood falls back to reveal long, flowing hair. This is quickly concealed once more under the dark fabric and the woman disappears into the inky night like a phantom.
He is quite sure that this is a dream and mentions it to no one come morning.
"Poor judgment," the witch murmurs as he pours her more wine, the cut crystal gleaming dully against the deep crimson.
He blinks at her words, shifting his gaze warily to hers and tactfully ignoring the disheveled burgundy embroidered robes and slurred speech. He smells smoke and wispy cobwebs on her breath.
"What?" he asks.
She sighs as he watches her expectantly and reclines further on the tasseled cushions, her many bracelets and intricate charms clinking together as she moves and her posture strangely reminding him of a cat.
"He should've known the rumors that would catch on," she drawls. "Like moths to a flame, they feed eagerly on mistakes and such… especially in delicate times of war."
She gestures vaguely as her voice trails off, the ornate ring on her finger catching what little light there is in the darkened chamber. The sparkling shadows briefly illuminate the two young girls beside her, the light flickering over their identical, flat eyes and bleached skin before dying like an extinguished candle.
"You mean the king?" he asks hesitantly, uneasily looking away from their prying stares.
The witch's calm expression changes to annoyance and she frowns at him.
"Poor judgment for choosing poor wine," she snipes, and gripping the neck of the goblet, she pours the contents onto the stone floor.
"Poor judgment and poor wine," the child-like girls breathe, clinging to the witch. Their eyes seem to mock his silently and the pitcher feels slightly heavier as he carries it back.
"She is mad," the flitting shadows whisper to one another, fanning themselves despite the chill of the damp chambers. "They say she refuses to stay within the castle." Silk and satin rustle audibly as someone rearranges their stiff pose; their hushed voices grow louder as he approaches.
"How could he refuse the princess of Llerounge? A petty whim in such times…"
"I hear the king even allows the queen to mingle outside with commoners."
"Well what would you expect from such a girl, a-"
He sets the tray on the table, pastries turning to ash in his mind, and bows before leaving. The alien, white powdered faces stare, unmoving, at his retreating back, a picturesque scene of lacy parasols and ruffles. The whispering resumes as his footsteps echo loudly in the empty hall.
The day he first saw the queen is a vivid memory in his mind. A slight, pale figure with dark thickly curling hair framing a thin face and large eyes. She stood small and frail beside the broad-shouldered king, his angular features distinctly contrasting with her doll-like ones as his low voice spoke clearly to the murmuring crowd. She was staring blankly above the heads of the people and he had wondered why she looked so…detached, as though she wasn't really there. Her eyes had stayed trained on the weak filtered sunbeams escaping from overhead clouds before wavering below for a second.
He liked to think that her eyes exactly met his.
He notices the presence behind him but ignores it, accustomed by now to the irregular and eccentric demands and visits.
"The ties that bind will fray in time," the witch mutters in an undertone. "I have foreseen it and it shall occur."
He stills from washing the window and turns to face her, wondering if he should inquire as to what she means. She notes his silence and tosses him a sharp look so that he flinches.
"Warnings should be heeded," is all she says, annoyed, before sweeping away in a musty gust of incense and trailing black hair, vibrant against the pallid flesh.
The two little girls follow closely behind and one turns to study him for a moment. She parts her lips as if to say something, then seems to think better of it and walks away, slippered steps muffled on the ground.
"You haven't been here very long, have you?" the kitchen girl asks softly, tucking a stray blond lock behind her ear as the hem of a dress swishes out of view beyond the doorframe.
"No," he admits, running a sheepish hand through his already tousled hair and staring after it before glancing back. "Is it that obvious?"
She is quiet for the pause where she dips another dish into the sudsy water and rinses it. The murky bubbles slide away and she wipes the plate clean, putting it to the side before starting another one. The repetitive process is oddly hypnotizing to him.
"You were staring at the queen like you'd never really seen her before." He flushes at the comment and she lets out a short laugh at his expression.
"It's understandable," she says gently, turning back to the dishes and wiping a smudge off her cheek.
"Is she… always so withdrawn?"
Her mild expression turns thoughtful and she is quiet again, musing over the soap suds. When she speaks up, the tone is haltingly cautious.
"She has a great burden on her shoulders," she says. "Sometimes I wonder if she…"
The voice dies and he wonders if she speaks to him or herself.
He is aware that she watches him with hooded eyes, idly fingering the material of her extravagant dress as he sweeps at the dust coating the floors. He pointedly avoids the small space surrounding the chair where she sits and shifts uncomfortably under her gaze, trying not to stare at the mass of curls elaborately pinned away from the nape of her neck as he moves behind her.
"What is your name?" she finally asks.
He jumps slightly at the quiet voice and stammers before giving it. He can't see her face from his current position and she doesn't move. When it appears that she will say nothing more, he continues with his work, paying close attention to the precise motions the broom makes. Back and forth and back and forth. He wants to ask her name but prefers to keep his head on his shoulders, knowing the whim defies etiquette and common sense.
"Tell me something," she says suddenly, the voice faltering. He jumps again and this time he can see a faint twitch at the corner of her mouth before quickly lowering his gaze. "If you were chosen out of… several hundred people to bear a heavy weight you were not expected to… in fact it was completely unforeseen, would you take that responsibility willingly? Despite knowing that there would be disputes and skepticism aimed at you for as long as you undertook this? Because you simply weren't… raised for it?"
"…why would I be chosen, my lady?"
"What if… what if you didn't know why?"
He looks up. The queen is now watching him with an almost hungry expression- as if his reply will somehow determine the very fate of her existence. And for a moment he believes it will.
"I suppose I would undertake it if the circumstances placed me as the most suitable candidate," he says as eloquently as he can, quickly running over the words mentally, then dropping his eyes back to the dusty floor to wait for her response. She says nothing.
Stealing a furtive look at her again, he notes, apprehension curling in his stomach, that her lips are trembling and her fingers clench at the arms of the chair, the knuckles turning white and shoulders sagging minutely. In the same instant her composure is regained so he is left wondering if she ever lost it at all.
"You may leave," she intones unexpectedly, staring into the fire leaping in the sitting room's grate.
She blinks at him owlishly, inclining her head so that she can properly see his face, and narrows her eyes. The new jewelry she seemed to have acquired since the last time they met tinkles with the movement, elaborately molded gold and shimmering gems embedded. He thinks that she is dressed a bit too richly for a mere sorceress; she reminds him of a gaudy peacock, bright colors spread too wide in too little room.
She would outshine even the queen, he thinks. The colorless voice and wallflower mannerisms would be dim in comparison to the outlandish costume jewelry and sheer peculiarity.
"You spoke with the queen," the witch says, voice strangely monotone. He scowls at the statement and she looks amused; he is starting to get tired of how easily he can be read.
"What of it?" he asks irritatedly. "Is that all you called me here for?"
He is aggravated and exhausted and impatient. Earlier that day he had been reprimanded for not carrying out orders fast enough and had to skip lunch in order to polish silverware as punishment. His back aches and his hands ache and he is starting to develop a headache from the witch's stuffy, perfumed chambers. Her two girls seemed to notice this and, abandoning a large picture book spread on the ground, watch him interestedly as though he would faint any second.
"What did you say to her?"
"What does it matter to you?" he snaps, the conversation with the queen burning fresh in his mind. Instantly he bites back his tongue, suddenly aware that she is capable of turning him into a toad or something of even lesser rank.
"It matters," is all she says, face serious.
He is rather taken aback by her answer, but something tells him he shouldn't speak of what transpired. He glares at her while mentally debating what he should do. Her gaze never leaves him and he squirms slightly under it, finally looking away.
"The weather. We talked about the weather."
"You must promise," she hisses, eyes wide and pleading. Her hand has never left his since she pulled him down the dank, winding halls in the dead of night to the door he had first seen her exit the castle from; she squeezes it now. "Promise me you will tell them! He needs to know!"
"But the penalty-"
She makes a strangled noise and quickly looks over her shoulder, hands fluttering like distraught butterflies. Her eyes, the same color as the night sky, flash as she turns back.
"You must be able to defend yourself," she whispers.
Standing up from her kneeling position, she brushes off her skirt and pulls the hood of her cloak over her head. Slowly, she turns the knob of the door and steps into the evening, a light breeze slipping in through the narrow space. Her face shines as he catches sight of it and she pauses before smiling at him. It is soft and sad and sweet so that his heart stops beating for an instant.
"Thank you," she breathes. And then she dissolves into the black.
He steps back at the sound of shattering glass behind the door, startled and fist raised to knock.
"What is the meaning of this?" The voice is deep and emotionless and the one that answers it is high-pitched and wild.
"Why did you choose me?" it shrieks. "Menial birth! Refusing a marriage that would make an alliance for this war! Don't you know how everyone talks about it? Don't you hear what they say? I have to creep like a thief to visit my own family because it's improper to bring them here! I don't belong, you fool, how can you be so blind?"
Something solid is knocked over with a crash and a thud precedes whimpering sobs. He backs away slowly, fingers curling into a fist, then takes to his heels, running as fast as he can away from the bedchamber, heart hammering and breathing erratic.
"She is gone."
"But you knew this would happen."
The king shifts awkwardly in the cramped space of the hall so that he disappears momentarily from the servant boy's line of vision behind the wall tapestry. He reappears quickly, stare still even with the witch's and traces of sorrow and confusion visible. The servant boy tries not to sneeze at the ample dust on the ancient material, praying that the witch and king will leave soon.
"I knew…as did you."
His answer takes him by surprise and he focuses intently on the king's expression in the wan light. His face is young, but tired, premature lines etched into the brow and around the mouth. He seems lost somehow, as though it was he who left and not the queen, and the servant boy can't help but feel a semblance of pity for him.
"Why did you choose her?"
The witch's voice is neither accusatory nor sympathetic and the king drops his gaze. There is a brief pause before he speaks up again, voice heavy.
"…she looked so sad in that crowd… I wanted to be the one to make her smile."
The witch says nothing, but turns, slowly in time with the ticking second hand of the great clock behind her, to impassively watch the wall tapestry.
"I will repeat the question to the accused," the voice booms from overhead. "Did you or did you not assist the queen in her attempt to escape the castle?"
Perspiration slips down his temple and under his shirt's collar. It itches, but he cannot move to scratch it, absently rubbing his wrists together instead and wincing at the rope that chafes his skin. He can feel the witch's solemn gaze boring into his back, the silence in the room stretching to the point that he frets it will snap with the excessive tension. He closes his eyes briefly, listening to his own even breathing and the sound of fabric fluttering to fan ghostly white faces.
When he opens his eyes moments later, it is the king he focuses on as he answers.
Notice how I didn't write his answer...
Notice how I didn't write his answer...
Reviews and polite criticism are much appreciated!