For more detailed Author's Notes and Disclaimer, see the end of this chapter. This is set about half a year after the events in my "Chapter of the Duck," although reading that entire work should not be necessary; Duck is once again human since the events therein, Fakir is out of town for a week or two, and Autor has taken to opening Drosselmeyer's Study as a museum.
It was inevitable, Autor supposed. No matter how low a profile he kept, news like a descendant of Drosselmeyer and a new storyteller was bound to get around, and to the wrong sort of people.
Since the Raven's defeat a year and a half or so ago, Fakir had been kept busy trying to mesh Goldkrone into the outside world as painlessly as possible. Autor had to admit that he had had some success. Of all the things that could have happened to a somewhat quaint and antique town suddenly interacting fully with the world at large, the worst things– being preyed upon by organized criminals or governments, or overrun by machines and real- estate developers, or any number of other things, had been kept at bay.
The Academy was still a smallish but very well respected school, in a town that had suddenly turned itself into a bit of a tourist trap. This brave new world had its benefits. The Academy had more frequent guests now- dancers, musicians, authors, poets; there was talk of expanding the curriculum to include a drama division. The town theater had a full schedule now, and the Academy hosted more public events. The interest might pass once the novelty of rediscovery wore away, Autor knew, but for now Goldkrone benefited. People came now for market days: tourists to gawk, and locals to shop and gossip.
Once in a while, though, there was someone who watched, and listened, and asked innocuous questions, and eventually had Autor pointed out to them as docent of a one- room museum dedicated to the man who had written stories that came true. He hated it. They almost never had a properly reverential attitude. But there was a little money involved, and that was most useful. For that he could answer a few inane questions; and really, what else was to be done? If he didn't make use of it somehow, his parents would dismantle the place and fit what was once a shop into a boarding room for travelers or students once he was out of the Academy. And so, like today, he had opened the Study as soon as he was out of his last class, and sat down to his homework for the afternoon. It had been a busy day. Two people had come at once, a granddaughter of some notable who had bought a story from Drosselmeyer decades ago, with her husband; they had gawked, made polite conversation, and gone. So had three others over the course of the day. Another day like this and he'd have enough for that book he'd been wanting.
On other days, however, there came ones he was learning to pick out, the ones who wanted stories written. They were told that the power had died out, but they wouldn't leave Drosselmeyer's Study, ever, without telling why they wanted a tale of their own. Some few had genuine needs, and Autor had passed details of a few such on to Fakir. Very few. It wasn't the kind of thing he'd thought about much, but relief from pain or disease was the hardest sort of need to turn down. Greed, thwarted passion, indolence, and anger were so much more common.
Autor and Fakir did not particularly like each other; and that, thought Autor, was probably why they spent any time at all in each other's company, just to irritate the other. They were both still at the Academy, thankfully in different divisions; they usually spoke only when Fakir couldn't be bothered to research his gift, as Autor had for so long. But of course such research on Fakir's part would be redundant, since Autor had discovered practically everything that could be known about Drosselmeyer and the power to make stories come true.
Fakir was lucky, Autor felt, being out of Goldkrone on tour. They would be back in a few weeks, and then maybe Fakir could be persuaded to dodge his own would-be clients. For whatever reason, he hadn't wanted to leave town anyway. Since his aim was to achieve a balance where his intervention was unnecessary, and as quickly as feasible, Autor had been a little puzzled; surely the town could survive a few months by this point.
Such a waste of power, Autor thought. Responsibility was all very well, but so much more could be done. Fakir had no concept of that. For instance, disbanding the Bookmen would be an excellent move.
And then there was Duck. One couldn't think of Fakir any longer without thinking of her too.
Autor had gotten the shock of his life when he had seen Fakir after the battle between the Prince and the Raven. He had expected to find him with that clumsy red- haired underclass girl, who was also somehow Princess Tutu, not a yellow duckling with cracked ribs and a broken wing. Thereafter, whenever Fakir came to Drosselmeyer's Study, Duck came with him. It had taken a lot of getting used to, and a good bit of old newspaper. Autor soon learned not to praise Drosselmeyer too much in her company. She was most comical when she lost her temper, but it was rude to laugh at a guest, especially a la- er, gir- er, female.
Though he never let on, Autor had almost immediately realized that she still thought. Fakir would ask her questions, and she would answer. Autor had addressed her once or twice while he had set her wing and bandaged her ribs that morning, just to make sure; and he had found that she was indeed rational, and certainly Duck.
That had shaken him. She could move, she could waddle and eventually fly a bit and of course swim, but– it was horrifying, in a way. To be rational but to have given up the ability to talk or write or dance, as Princess Tutu or the girl had done; it was sort of like Fakir was taking care of an invalid, even after her body had healed. Autor was not accustomed to feeling pity, though they didn't seem to be particularly unhappy. She had, after all, done this to herself. The worst thing was that it was Drosselmeyer's doing, an unnecessary complication which Fakir could never use his gift to ease. He simply wasn't good enough or strong enough, and by the time he might be, Duck would be long dead of old age. Autor felt he ought to keep a discreet eye on the situation, although Fakir never showed any signs of wanting to try to write her out of her condition. He knew his lack of ability, and Duck, Autor suspected, might not have permitted such a dangerous attempt.
After all, Autor had had his own disappointment in love, and he could afford to be sympathetic toward their plight. He still could not say whether it was his own feelings or the demands of the Story that dictated his swift rush of passion for Rue; but in either case, it had not faded for a long time. He hadn't wanted to tell Fakir about it, but he had. Fakir's abrupt reply was that it had likely saved his life, and the horrific tale that followed, however dispassionately told, left him with very mixed feelings indeed.
He had striven for much of the next year to deny or suppress his memories and feelings, finally realizing that he was simply reacting in the usual hackneyed manner; since the common approach had proven unsatisfactory, he had made himself find other ways to face his losses, both of Rue and of an innocence he hadn't even known he possessed. By the time he was put to the test, when next he met her, he had been able to wish her happiness without jealousy. Mostly, anyway. Very properly, she had not referred to the incident, save for a graceful and sincere apology for her behavior at that last encounter. He had accepted it with just as much propriety. Somehow it had worked as intended; it had closed the book, for him. He had finally been able to let her go, to live a happier life than he could ever have given her.
Then they had all gone away. While the Prince and Princess were in Goldkrone late last summer there had been all that research into classical mythology and medieval bestiaries and natural histories, Russian folklore and current events, and anything at all about a particular area in the mountains to the south; then one morning they were- just gone. They had come back, a few weeks later. Autor was one of the first to know that Duck had metamorphosed back into a girl, and one of the few who would ever know the whole story. Duck had been civil to him since, even friendly, even after he had asked her what it had been like to see Drosselmeyer. She had spoken to him more than anyone, had seen his lair, had had more time in his presence than anyone else living.
She had given him a complete account, if not a concise or entirely objective one. Then Autor had asked her what she had thought of Drosselmeyer...
... And the reply, in her irritatingly sweet little-girl voice, had been shockingly unladylike for all its brevity. She understood very well that the terms of her pact with Drosselmeyer had been fulfilled precisely, but there had been blood spilt and needless suffering all through the town. Drosselmeyer's love of tragedy had hurt her and her friends, and she would not forget easily.
He'd never heard her use such language since. He had a feeling no one ever would. Not even Fakir, who had sat there, smiling a little, watching Autor's discomfiture. Of course, he'd thought at first, she would share his thoughts; but he eventually realized that that was mostly a desperate self-deception. They disagreed on too much for her to simply parrot Fakir's opinions, and she was never shy about contradicting either of them when she felt like it.
Autor was slowly coming to terms with the idea that, puissant or not, Drosselmeyer might not be worthy of all the adoration that had been lavished on his memory all those years. Ignoring the evidence would be unsound scholarship.
He had long since finished the Composition homework and had been sitting and ruminating for quite some time now, the music he was working on running through his mind, until the market should break up and there was no chance of anyone else paying to see the Study today. Soon he would be called for dinner, and then back to the school to practice. It was overcast and getting dark.
Just as he was about to lock up a few minutes early, there came a visitor. There was no knock, only the faint creak of the door and slow, halting footsteps in the stone passage. Autor stood, automatically gathering up his books and homework and placing them silently in the file drawer he reserved for his personal use when Drosselmeyer's Study was on display; then, as always, he betook himself to the spot by the desk, across from the hallway, where he could greet the customer without impeding anyone's view.
"Good evening. Welcome to Drosselmeyer's Study," he recited. "My name is Autor. If you have any questions, please ask."
Here he paused, as always. If the visitors nodded or said 'thank you' at this point, Autor would merely efface himself until they had their fill, asked about trivia, and left. Some, however, had more questions, ranging from the offensive 'who was Drosselmeyer, really?' to sincere and occasionally detailed inquiries about the man's life and work from true scholars. Or, alternatively, distracted confidences and desperate hopes about his power.
This one was different.
The visitor hung back for an instant as Autor tried to get a good look, which meant that the man's face was in the shadowy entryway while Autor was in full, well- lit view. The man did not speak until Autor had realized that fact, and had reacted by straightening his posture.
"Where is your Storyteller? I must speak with him. I have a task for a Writer." The voice was vaguely foreign, but beyond that there was something wrong about it. The intonation was oddly flat, almost mechanical, as if the man had no music about him.
"I'm sorry, sir. Drosselmeyer's power has died out. I'm one of the few left connected to the family, and-"
"No," contradicted the man. "No. There is a Writer at work in this town. You are not he; your power is of the wrong kind." The man stepped forward into the Study, leaning heavily on a cane. A plain, ordinary cane. Autor finally got a good look as the man turned slowly, taking in the display. He was growing uneasy; nothing about the man's dress was at all distinctive, although the collar of his ordinary buff- colored overcoat was still up, and the ordinary hat was pulled down low, and the ordinary glasses were somewhat tinted. The trousers and shoes were likewise unremarkable, as were the plain leather gloves. All that could be seen plainly of the man himself was the nose below the glasses. A brown moustache and neat beard partly hid the mouth, and Autor thought with a start that they might be fake; the hair seemed to lack life.
There had been people here before, looking for stories, who dressed in clothes and manners that they did not know how to wear well; people hoping to gain something that would shame them if others knew, or people who wanted to do others ill. This man wore his disguise as if born in it.
The man strolled the few paces to and fro in the Study, asking no questions as Autor observed him, inscrutable and seeming to know, perhaps to enjoy, that Autor could not pierce his defenses. Autor was at the point of speaking first, of conceding defeat, to ask how the man knew of tale- spinners; but the visitor forestalled him.
"When you see him, you will tell him that he has a client who can pay well. You may refer to me as Vendetta. I must stop a man, but he is beyond the grasp of the law. Only a Writer can reach him and halt his unholy work, and visit justice and retribution upon him. I will have my just vengeance. For this I am willing to pay much."
Autor grew more uncomfortable by the second. The man seemed to be of stocky build and average height; he limped a little as he leaned on his cane. His accent was different- a little Italian, perhaps, to go with the name. The man offered no anger and certainly no violence in his flat voice. It was wildly frustrating to be confronted with such an obvious disguise that yet could not be penetrated, and Autor stubbornly resisted the urge to give in to the man, to ask him to stay and explain. He could not do that without betraying Fakir, and this man had given no assurance that he meant no harm. Quite the reverse.
"Well. You will see me soon," said the man abruptly. "Inform your Writer of my requirements."
He left. Autor sat down, shaking a bit; Vendetta had unnerved him badly, and the worst of it was that Autor wasn't quite sure why. Five minutes later it occurred to him that that he had been visited by a villain from the cheapest of comic thrillers, and still he sat, wondering at his own fear.
There was a knock at the door. When he didn't answer, the door opened further and he realized it hadn't shut the whole way behind the visitor. Of all the people he didn't want to see just then, it was Duck.
"Do you always barge into other people's houses?"
"No, just yours," she said absently, sorting a few papers in her hands. "The door wasn't closed and the sign is still out. Fakir sent you a letter."
"Well, why didn't he just send it here?"
"He just did." Duck handed him a folded and sealed paper. "I took Charon's over already. Fakir was down to his last stamp, that's all. There's something funny about that man who just left here, did you notice?"
That got his attention. "Okay. What did you see?"
"Well, I saw a shortish man come out of here, limping toward me with a cane," she said. "He crossed the square and passed me. He was kind of slumped and pulled in like a turtle. I looked back down the street after him and saw him again, just as he turned the corner, but he was walking upright. He was using the cane but not leaning on it, no limp at all, and his collar was down. It was the same man though, there wasn't anyone else I could see with the same coat and hat. I thought the limp wasn't right. And then you didn't answer the door. So... Anyway, it was weird."
Duck moved up a notch in his estimation. One quite small notch. "I don't know who he was. He called himself Vendetta–"
"Fakir would say that was pretty obvious."
"Yes, because it was. Don't interrupt. He was so obvious I couldn't see what he was really like. He sounded almost like he was a little deaf, though. I wonder if he could fake that like he did his accent. I'd have to ask a voice major, probably, or an instructor."
"Or someone from the drama club. So if you see him again, you'll be looking for– what?"
"A man of average or greater height, who may or may not have glasses and a well- trimmed brown beard, having well- trimmed hair because I couldn't see any beneath the hat, and a normal posture. I wish I'd seen how he used that cane."
"Like this," said Duck, going to the umbrella stand by the door. She pulled out Autor's umbrella, thought for a second, then strode to the far end of the Study and back, the tip of the umbrella touching the floor lightly at each stride as it swung casually. "Like a lot of people use canes, really. Like it's just for show."
"So nothing to distinguish him at all," said Autor, disgusted.
"What did he want? If you don't mind me asking, I mean, it's not really my business."
"Well, no, it isn't," said Autor. "But the next time you write Fakir, you can tell him everything we've discussed."
"Oh, I see. He wants a story."
"He's someone who might be a little dangerous, or wants to give that impression," said Autor. "Someone willing to disguise himself and offer a lot of money. Someone who can see what happens in Goldkrone and deduce that a storyteller works here, and that I'm not it."
"Maybe you'd better tell me what he said. I'll write Fakir tonight."
"Better yet, I'll write him myself. Do you know their next address?"
Author's Notes: This is set in the same universe as my other long story, though it should be understandable without having to read that one. Relevant points: It's been a year and a half since the Raven's defeat and six or seven months since the events in "Chapter of the Duck," and everyone's growing up a bit. Duck has been a human since the events in that story, and only human; she is back at the Academy. At an apparent age of about sixteen, she is working toward moving out of the Beginners' class. During the course of that tale Fakir needed to write for Duck once more, as he did during the battle with the Raven, but has avoided it since; he will not try again unless he feels Duck might be in danger, which has not been an issue.
The Academy has revived a tradition that fell into disuse during the reign of the Story, of preparing a tour production and sending it out for some four or six weeks; sometimes it might be an opera or (more likely) an operetta, sometimes a ballet, sometimes some other sort of combined show, depending on available talent among the upperclassmen. This time- the first tour since the end of the Story- it's a ballet, I don't know which one, and it's about a week from ending the tour. Fakir has a lead though. It might not be an actual graduation requirement as we know it, but it builds resumes and gives the students a taste of what to expect as professionals.
Five pages of exposition seems a lot, but after all we never got to see how Autor dealt with everything.
This story is unusual in that I don't have anything in mind for the music.
Many many thanks to LunaSphere for beta-ing this one!
REVISED May 2013. Should have been done earlier by a few years, but now there's the first scene with Vendetta, not just a recollection. (Although I still like the idea of the visitor not being as 'real' as the metamorhosed Duck!) A few other minor things were fixed too, paragraphs broken up and suchlike.
Disclaimer: Princess Tutu and all related characters and elements are the property, copyright and trademark of HAL– GANSIS/TUTU and Ikukoh Itoh and no ownership or claim on said property, copyright or trademark is made or implied by their use in the work(s) of fan fiction presented here. This fan fiction constitutes a personal comment on the aforesaid properties pursuant to doctrines of fair use and fair comment. This fan fiction is non-commercial, not for sale or profit, and may not be sold or reproduced for commercial purposes.