AN: I thank you guys so much for all your great reviews. Really, honestly. Some of your questions and theories pushed me to make a story worthy of them. Because of that, the point and plot changed several times as I was planning and writing it, so I will probably go back and revise the earlier chapters. Thanks again--you guys are why I write this stuff :) And also thanks again to TinaAlsGirl, both for being awesome and betaing and being awesome and acting all honored and gushy, I heart you XD





A man awoke on the flat peak of a brown stone bluff. He opened his eyes just as the sun came out through a hole it had burned in the thick, gray-white clouds, and he blinked and shielded his eyes against its light as he sat up. The land the sun shone over was full of brown rock much like that beneath him, and in the gullies and the shadows of the cliffs and gorges were great floes of ice, melting into rivers that flowed in whatever crack or crevasse might pass for a riverbed.

The man's eyebrows pulled together in thought, and he ran a hand through his dark hair.

"Where am I?" he said aloud to the landscape, but he was distracted from his question by the realization that he had never heard his own voice before. That seemed like an odd thing to realize, although he wasn't sure what his basis for comparison was. He stood up.

"I am home," he answered himself, trying out the voice. It was rough, and honest. It had no music in it, but it belonged, he felt sure, to a good man, and that made him glad.

"Who am I?" he asked, since the answer to the first had come so easily.

"I am myself," he replied, but frowned. It was good to be himself, but that wasn't exactly what he was looking for.

"What am I?" he tried again. The man looked at himself for inspiration. He wore simple clothes of fine fabrics—dark breeches, a blue shirt, and a silvery vest, and on his feet were well-made boots.

"I am the Prince," he said. This pleased him. He looked at the world around him with new interest, now that he was Prince of it. He noticed for the first time the pickaxe and shovel on the ground behind him, and he took them up, one in each hand. They were heavy, but his arms were strong, and the tools felt good to hold.

"I am the Prince!" he declared to the enormous sky and the last fleeting shreds of cloud. Already the face of the brown earth was being frosted by sprouting grass. And as he watched the landscape, he saw, moving out from the shadows, animals, and creatures not quite animals, and a variety of fantastical peoples.

In some of their faces glowed cleverness and mischief, but in none of them meanness or evil. They were all new beings, like he was. He was brand new. The Prince felt a thousand choices in his heart which he would someday have the pleasure of making. He looked over the new land, and although he had never seen a book before, the world seemed to him like an unwritten page.

He tilted his head back and laughed for a long time. Then he went to find someplace to start building his castle.