(For more detailed Author's Notes and Disclaimer, see Chapter 1 and the end of this chapter.) This story is set in the same universe as my "Chapter of the Duck," although it can stand alone if one understands a few points. It takes place about a year and a half after the battle with the Raven, around late April or early May. Duck once again became human, and is studying ballet at the Academy; Fakir is away on a tour with many of the seniors in the Dance and Music divisions.
To those who get this far: Thank you for reading! I wasn't sure I'd post this; it was written for my satisfaction, and until Autor came up with something to do about the villain I was stuck for an ending. Then LunaSphere paid me the great compliment of beta- reading, and I decided to share it.
Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas and all!
Somehow Autor managed to get through three hours of classes in the morning and one after lunch, but practice was hopeless. He took out his new composition and played it through, and that was worse. He didn't want to have his fears thrown back at him, not after last night.
Last night he had felt wonderful, as he never had before, while he was with the Oak. Ancient and wise, accepting him at last as not even his parents had ever done, with all the rich mystery of Myth and Story spread before him– but then, the pain of the axes, a wild cry, and being ripped from her embrace–
It was dangerous, of course. He could die like that, within the Oak, as Fakir had nearly died; and he could accept such a death, being lost forever in her knowledge.
He found that his left hand had been playing a few notes, over and over, a comforting sequence. Part of a suitable motif for the Oak. That was the answer, of course. By the time Duck came to look for him he had something that he liked. This time he had no qualms about playing it for her.
And he had an idea about something he could do, but it was not for Duck's ears, or Charon's. At the very least, it would be dangerous; at worst, criminal. Nonetheless, even the prospect of such a little bit of control over the situation was to be seized. He felt that he was being stalked, that this stranger was hunting him and driving him into a trap, and that Fakir and Duck and Charon and the Bookmen might end up trapped with him. It must stop.
"I'll do it."
The church bell had not yet chimed midnight. Autor had simply dodged Duck and Charon long enough to leave a note at the bookshop, and sneaked out of the dorm after lights- out.
Vendetta had kept the appointment. Now he named a staggering sum for a composition of some length, enough to live on here for years.
"I need details, though. Your Spinner's name, and any works of his I can see. Then it will take time for me to do the research, and make sure I don't cause any unintentional harm." Autor's voice was shaking a little. That much money! But if he was right, it would never be paid, would it? Or if it was, it could be immediately recovered. No, it would be a small down- payment, maybe a stipend, and the balance would never need to be paid.
"You need not worry about that, I think. If you were to write, it might be necessary, but one can set music against chaos without that."
"I will need to know something of him, though, and his own writing is the best way to do that."
A pause. "I will leave a list with the man at the bookshop. He will have any that you do not."
Autor hesitated in his turn. This was the dangerous part, but he felt himself on firm footing now. If the bookshop had any author's complete works, it would be those of Goldkrone's most famous son. Even with the original endings gone and new ones substituted. Even though they were all in the Study as well.
"If you won't tell me, I'll make a guess. It's Drosselmeyer himself, isn't it? You want to heal all the harm he's done."
"Your Writer doesn't seem to have thought of it." Vendetta seemed to be weighing his words. "Goldkrone has had small details repaired, but the great rents in its past, no. History has not gone as it should here."
"You can see so much of this," said Autor, unable to keep the awe from his voice. "I don't think even Drosselmeyer could do that. Why don't you do this yourself?"
"Because, like you, my gift is not to write," said the tall man. "I can See, but I have no ability to undo what I see. Writing is the best and surest means to do this, but music is the most grand. It may be that your gift will prove the better after all."
"What is it, exactly, that you see?" asked Autor. He didn't need to feign his interest. Disordered history? How would that appear? Shouldn't the past remain what it was, maybe just a few bits in some people's memories blurred? How would stopping a young Drosselmeyer fix the past and present without causing worse harm? That was still a really good question.
"I am a Seer... It is difficult to speak in words, of course. I see a thing or a person as it might have been, as it ought to be. I can see people and happenings as strands, and the tangle centered here cannot be unraveled unless Drosselmeyer's work is removed first of all."
"So... how am I to avoid creating worse things than this tangle you see? Won't it just sort of heal itself in a generation or so?"
"It will never completely heal without surgery, if you appreciate the medical arts. It has... formed a cyst, and indeed some strands have begun to straighten around it. But this place will remain an offense to all who value the present and the past as they should be, proceeding as all else proceeds around them.
"To give you an example, though, since you cannot See.... Your Spinner wrote in The Prince and the Raven that the Prince took a bride from this place. That should never have been permitted. In exchange a mere fantasy of Drosselmeyer's has been allowed to exist here, and that is an abomination. Because of them the story can still touch reality, tainting it, infecting this place with the unreal and the fantastic."
Autor digested that for a few minutes, as he was obviously expected to. He could put names to Vendetta's 'infection,' of course. Rue had gone with the Prince, and Autor wished her well; it was Duck who had stayed– Fakir had mentioned once that he thought Duck might have been written rather than hatched. Autor couldn't think of anyone who would really wish her ill once they knew her. Wishing her out of sight and earshot, maybe, and frequently... but calling her an abomination and denying her the right to exist was... what? Extreme prejudice, at the least. He tried to avoid the word 'evil' and failed.
This man had far more in common with the Bookmen than with any Spinners. But even the Bookmen could see reason, so long as someone could command their attention long enough to drive an argument home... such as Prince Siegfried or Princess Tutu. This man, Autor was now certain, saw only his own desires, as egotistical in his way as Drosselmeyer himself. To be fair, perhaps the Seer's ability he described led to a little madness, seeing imperfection with no capacity to mend it, no means to lessen the offense against a Sight he could not put aside or ignore. After all, one could walk away from a piano or a desk at will, but not from one's eyes unless one was as desperate as Oedipus.
Was he envious of such gifts, just as Autor had been of Fakir's? It was difficult to comprehend that anyone wouldn't be, much less someone with such a need to change what he saw.
"All right," he answered the man. "I've thought for a long time that something more needs to be done in Goldkrone, but I wasn't sure exactly what. I'm just beginning to appreciate the scale of it." Would Rue, whom he had once called magnificent, be granted a normal life and a loving family if Goldkrone were purged of Drosselmeyer? No. She would be someone else entirely. There would be no Rue.
"I have no real idea of how long this will take, you must understand that. I will have to put Goldkrone as I've always known it into this, and Drosselmeyer– I know more about him than anyone else does, including the other Spinner– and then I have to resolve it so Goldkrone is perfectly in harmony with the rest of the world. At least three major ideas. No, four. It may be a full- length symphony, you know. Maybe a choral piece. Months of dedicated work, some composers take years. And.... I will have to consult the Oak." Autor fell silent.
"The Oak." Vendetta broke Autor's silence in his flat voice, slowly. "The Spinners of Goldkrone had a secret that they guarded. That is why those with the talent elsewhere are more common but less powerful. What is this Oak?"
Autor turned away, focusing on the stone at his feet. This was perfect; he could not undo it by betraying eagerness now.
"The secret is right here," he said, half turning back. "Once upon a time the Spinners were taught by an oak tree, and we still are. It's why I was here last night...."
Vendetta was still alive. Autor had left him where they had spoken, wandering the streets nearby until the last chime of midnight had faded, quite certain that the Bookmen were watching them both. Against Autor's advice, of course, as soon as he was out of sight, Vendetta had taken hold of the rock that led to the Oak.
When he returned, the man was still there. Autor had leaned close and bellowed in his ear, but gotten no response. He had thought he wouldn't. He didn't know what the man's real name was, and so could not use it to call him away. Neither, when he called them out of hiding, did the Bookmen know. They didn't seem inclined to interfere, and when Autor confronted them they no longer seemed interested in harming him. They dealt best with words, after all, and now they had seen worse than either of Drosselmeyer's descendants. It had been pure coincidence, though, that Autor had chosen last night to attempt communication with the Oak, just as Vendetta had persuaded the Bookmen that a show of force was needed to persuade Autor.
In the end, Vendetta was either very strong or very weak, they never knew which. His body didn't freeze into a tree, as Fakir's had done; he just fell over when Autor prodded him with the man's own cane, and his hand slipped off the stone. Eventually he simply rose and staggered off. Autor and the bookshop owner trailed him as far as the Square, and then the head of the Bookmen sent Autor back to school while he led the unresisting stranger to Goldkrone's tiny hospital.
A stroke, said the message the next morning, a brainstorm. The man still wasn't speaking. His boarding- room was found, his identity determined, his next- of- kin notified. The shop owner reported to the hospital that he'd awoken in the night to hear the man fall in the street but had noticed that he didn't seem to be drunk, and had then helped him to the infirmary.
Try as he might, Autor couldn't feel a great deal of guilt, and that made him wonder if he were no better than the man he might have killed. Even though the stranger would have had him write himself out of existence at best, and at the worst Vendetta might well have let the Bookmen murder him had they really wanted (and he was very relieved indeed that they hadn't been so inclined.) Vendetta had put him and Duck and Charon– and probably Fakir, and heaven forbid, the whole tour group because of him– through one of the most nerve- wracking weeks he'd ever experienced. Nor was it over yet.
After he wrote to Fakir, he told Charon what had happened. Then he had to tell Duck.
It wasn't an easy interview, even though Duck just listened. At the end she seemed relieved, which wasn't the reaction he expected. He would have felt better had she shown disgust and revulsion.
"I might have killed him. I knew that when I lured him there." She didn't seem to be taking it in the proper frame of mind. "I knew, when I told him not to, that he'd try to reach the Oak. I told him why there were so few Spinners here and why they were all strong. I figured he might be jealous, and I think that Sight of his made him a little insane."
"You warned him, even so."
"I think so. Yes."
"You told him about what you put yourself and Fakir through before you tried talking to her."
"A lot of it."
"You tried to call him away."
"You pushed him away from her."
"And you didn't kill him. He's still alive. He might even recover."
He had nothing to say to that.
"Autor, you'll survive." Duck said gently as she turned to go, when he didn't answer. "Something like this happened to me last summer, you know. I found out a lot about a murderer, more than anyone ever should have known, and I couldn't feel very bad when he was killed. I thought it was wrong of me too, since I was alive and had a lot to be happy about. This man's still alive. I know they say he's had a stroke, but that's not it, is it? His mind is still in there with her, or maybe she's with him, and he's happy. You told Fakir, you said?"
"Good. I mean it, Autor. Don't dwell on it. It won't do any good for him, or for you. I kind of wish we really knew why he wanted to erase Drosselmeyer's stories, though. I mean, what did Drosselmeyer or Goldkrone have to do with him? Was it really just because he could see that the past wasn't all as neat and tidy as he liked? Maybe the Oak knows."
"I'm not going back," said Autor, half to himself. "I can't face the Oak again. She'd never tell me, anyway. It wouldn't concern her."
"That's up to you," she replied. "Fakir knows more about that than I do, you'd better talk to him. He doesn't seek her out very often either anymore, not without someone around."
Autor seemed to come back to himself. "Not just anyone, always you. Even when you were a bird. You don't let him lose himself in there. You take care of him."
"Family," she said, apropos of nothing he could see, as she shut the door to his practice room. He wondered just what she meant.
It was raining, which suited her mood perfectly. She still had time to write Fakir before supper, even though he would be back next week, even though she would not find this easy. As she did so, though, she felt the vague tingle in her mind again. Good. Maybe he'd know that much sooner that everything was okay.
She sat back, letting her relief course through her, letting a few tears come quietly as they had not all that frightful week; but then, as she suspected of herself, there came the distress that Autor had not needed to see. No matter how she thought she should feel, she had very little sympathy for a man who had set about intimidating him, in order to change things so that they– and the others who were all the family she had– would not exist; not because of anything personal, even, just as a side-effect. Not that Vendetta's fate was unpleasant for him. She felt worse for Autor, who would never be sure that he had not overreacted to the situation and crippled a man's mind out of desperation, maybe permanently. He had never really been faced with anything like this before; not like she had faced in her year as a duck, nor in her time as Princess Tutu.
She might never have come up with a better solution, she realized, nor one so– fitting. Justice could be a terrifying thing. Princess Tutu might have found a more merciful way; but there was no point in dwelling on that. There was no way of knowing, now.
She had given the best advice she could give to Autor, and knew it would not be enough. He would not follow it, of course. That would be impossible for a while. He had wanted judgment, and penance; but she could not give either to him, any more than anyone else could have given the same to her when the shards of Mytho's heart were causing him nothing but pain as she returned them.
It took quite some time for her feelings and thoughts to run their course, but they did; and when they had, she felt better. She sat up again to finish the letter. With this crisis past she knew Fakir would not attempt to write about her feelings again, until they felt the need.
Autor stared at the piano, but that got him nowhere and he knew it. He listlessly began to pick out the Oak's theme; then, subtly, let it change into something a little different, eventually gave it a resolution.
After a moment he decided. He wrote it down. It had already happened, it was done; and so it ought to be concluded on paper, and finished, and played now and again. It didn't really belong with the first two parts, though. Two assignments for next term, perhaps.
He ought to go home for dinner tonight, as well.
Author's Note: Duck refers to an incident in "Chapter of the Duck," chapters 4 and 8; she plays an unwilling hostess to a villain's heart, and finds it nothing at all like Mytho's. Autor likewise remembers something Fakir suspects about Duck's origins, from chapter 9.
I still have no music in mind for this piece. Let me know if anyone figures out something.
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.