(Pre-story A/N—just to warn you guys, I've been dreading this chapter for a while, because I don't think I'll be able to get all the quotes from the movie right. So if I skip some or mess up the wording, please bear with me. I'm scared enough as is :( )
In the next five days it took to reach the States, Naveen quickly forgot the conversation he had overheard and the wish he had made to the star. Every day—every hour, really—he became more and more excited about their arrival in New Orleans. Not to mention there were distractions abound, what with the women onboard, the music, and the dancing. Needless to say, the days went by fast. But…every night, as he lay in bed, he couldn't help but think about the two options that he faced: get married, or get a job. Either way, his freedom was slowly waning, and he needed to find a way to make it last.
Finally, they made port, and there was a battle unfurling in the royal suite.
"Sire, I must insist!" Lawrence cried, holding up a solid-gold crown and a jacket adorned with sashes and medals. Naveen groaned
"But I want to see the city normally! Not by parading around like a peacock!" he argued.
"At least wear it for the pictures! This story is going to be in all the American newspapers."
"All right, all right! I'll wear it." He frowned and took the coat and crown.
"Do you need help, sire?" Lawrence asked, sounding a bit condescending.
Naveen laughed. "I have proven I can dress myself. Go get our luggage, Lawrence, and I will meet you outside when we dock."
Lawrence huffed—the manservant hadn't been happy this whole trip—and walked out of the room. Naveen grinned and pulled on his old shirt and plain brown vest. In the past week, he had taught himself to tie on his ascot by himself, and, while not perfect, it looked presentable. Laughing to himself, he pulled on the gaudy jacket.
"Perfect," he murmured to himself. "No one will notice." He ran to the window and looked outside.
"Achedanza…" he murmured as land greeted him.
There it was, New Orleans. Oh, what a beauty! The buildings were mismatched and the streets were crowded, and yet it was so welcoming! Much more so than the organized, quiet streets in Taize—the capital of Maldonia. He could definitely see himself living here…maybe if he worked as a musician…
His musings were interrupted by an impatient knock on the door.
"Sire! We are docking in ten minutes, and you need to be out here!"
"All right, Lawrence, I am coming. Do not worry so much, my well-rounded friend…" He laughed. "Did you hear my joke?"
"Yes, sire. Hilarious," came the dry response on the other side of the door.
Naveen grinned, then placed the crown on his head. His smile was replaced by an annoyed huff. It was much too heavy. As he walked toward the door, he grabbed his hat and stuffed it in the back pocket of his slacks. He opened the door, and met the annoyed gaze of his manservant from underneath all the luggage he was carrying.
"Well, Lawrence? Am I regal enough?" he asked. Lawrence frowned.
"Well, at least you look the part."
"Good, then I can get this over with." He snuck behind Lawrence and grabbed his ukulele, then strode quickly to the bow of the ship, leaving Lawrence behind. He reached the gate just as the ramp was being set up. There were an awful lot of photographers…but also a number of pretty ladies in blonde, brunette, and redheaded varieties. The photographers he could tolerate, but the women were good. Very good.
The gate opened, and he automatically posed as the cameras began to flash: feet shoulder-width apart, hands on hips (with ukulele deftly hidden behind him), stiff smile. So routine…the exact same thing happened in Maldonia. But it made him all the more impatient; he wanted to explore the city now…
Finally, the flashes stopped, and he tore off the coat and crown, then hurried down to the dock, where there was a convenient flock of women with different shades of skin, hair, and eyes. I wasn't lying when I said New Orleans was diverse…he thought as he grinned at them and pulled on his hat. But his attention was diverted when he noticed a small band of jazz players walking down the street. He quickly hurried to follow them, easily picking up the tune they were playing.
I could definitely live here for the rest of my life…he thought blissfully as he played with them. Music, atmosphere, women… He noticed a pretty girl with chocolate-brown skin clearing a table in a nearby café. He walked over to her and took off his hat, grinning. She glanced at him, then turned away. For a moment, he was stunned. That had never happened before. But then he shrugged. I suppose even I cannot win them all, he thought, then went on his way.
He noticed a little boy in a sideways cap, probably only a little older than Ravi, dancing to the music of a nearby band. He grinned and quickly walked over.
"Not bad," he said to the little boy. "But can you best me?" He kicked up his feet and did a few steps.
"Are you kiddin'?" the boy asked with a laugh, then matched Naveen's steps.
"All right, all right. You are pretty good," he said, holding up his hands in mock-defense, then gave him a challenging grin. "If you can keep up with me, I will give you a prize."
The boy's eyes widened. "You serious?"
The boy matched Naveen's grin. "A'right, let's go!"
The prince started playing on his ukulele, and the band behind them quickly joined in. In a matter of minutes, a crowd had gathered around to watch the two, and the competition was soon lost in the fun the two were having.
"Yes…yes…yes!" Naveen laughed as the boy kicked his feet into the air and spun around. "Achedanza!"
Naveen recognized that voice. What a shame…he had lost the portly manservant for a good hour now. Lawrence, still laden with all the luggage, ran up to him, panting.
"Sire…I've been looking for you everywhere!" he gasped. Naveen merely laughed as he danced around him.
"Lawrence! What a coincidence; I have been avoiding you everywhere!"
"Sire…I must insist…"
"Sh sh sh…do you hear that?" Naveen took a moment to soak in the music, then sighed and spun around. "It is jazz music! It was born here!" He leaned on Lawrence's head and grinned at two ladies. "It's beautiful, no?"
Lawrence pushed him off, very annoyed. "Sire, we need to get to the La Bouff estate…we don't want to be late to the masquerade ball…"
"All right, all right." Naveen glanced back at the boy, then smiled and tossed him the ukulele. His dark face lit up, and Naveen grinned and pulled off his hat as he looked at the crowd. "But first I buy everyone here a drink!"
A cheer rose up, but Lawrence quickly spoiled it. "With what?! Sire, you currently have two choices: Marry a rich young lady, or get a job!" For emphasis, he pointed to a poor man who was cleaning up horse…manure. Naveen shuddered.
"All right, all right…but first we dance!" He kicked up his feet and started a few steps, then noticed Lawrence's sour look. He laughed and grabbed the chubby man's arms. "Dance with me, fat man!" he cried, then pulled him out to the middle of the circle, laughing at the whoops and guffaws coming from onlookers.
"Sire, I…" Lawrence gasped.
"For someone who cannot see his feet, you are very light on them," Naveen noted, then let go of Lawrence's arm. The manservant careened out of control and landed, headfirst, into a tuba. The prince laughed.
"You are finally getting into the music!" He walked up to the tuba. "Do you get my joke? Because, your head…it is in the tuba," he said into the mouthpiece.
"Get me out of here!" Lawrence cried.
Naveen looked up at the tuba player, then grabbed Lawrence around the middle, barely getting his arms around. He pulled the manservant, and the tuba player pulled the tuba, until Lawrence shot out and sent both Naveen and himself rolling into the streets.
The prince was laughing hard enough to hurt; this sort of thing never happened in Maldonia! Lawrence got to his feet and pried off his bowler.
"How degrading! I've never been so humiliated…"
As Naveen sat up and put his hat back on, he noticed a long, thin shadow creep over them. He looked up and saw a human version of the shadow smiling down at them; a dark-skinned man with a tall hat and keen violet eyes.
"Hello…" he said cautiously.
"Gentlemen!" the man said, then extended the end of his cane toward the prince to help him to his feet. "Enchanté. A tip of the hat from Dr. Facilier." Dr. Facilier took off his hat, revealing a mop of curling black hair, then pulled out a card, made it disappear, then made it reappear as he held it out to Naveen. "How y'all doin'?"
He started walking, and the prince walked with him, reading the card aloud.
"Charms…Potions…Dreams made real…Achedanza…" he breathed. The doctor quickened his pace and took Naveen's hand, examining the palm intensely.
"Were I a bettin' man—and I'm not, I stay away from games of chance—"
"Sire!" Naveen could faintly hear his manservant behind him, but was more preoccupied by the palm-reading.
"—I would wager that I'm in the company…of visiting royalty!" Dr. Facilier bowed respectively. Naveen grinned and turned as he saw Lawrence catch up to them.
"Lawrence, Lawrence!" he said, excited. "This remarkable gentleman has just read my palm!"
Lawrence frowned and looked behind Dr. Facilier. "Or this morning's newspaper…" he muttered, then pulled Naveen aside. "Sire, this man is obviously a charlatan. I suggest we move on…"
There he went again with that quick, low voice! Naveen couldn't understand a word the manservant had said, though he thought he heard "Charleston" thrown in there. And here I thought Lawrence did not like dancing…he mused.
He was snapped out of his musings when Dr. Facilier snapped, "Don't you disrespect me, little man! Don't you derogate or deride…You're in my world now, not your world; and I got friends on the other side…"
He pointed at a door in the wall, above which was a sign that read "Dr. Facilier's Voodoo Emporium". The door opened on its own, and Naveen swore he could hear an eerie voice repeat, "He's got friends on the other side…"
"That's an echo, gentlemen," Dr. Facilier said, putting an arm around the prince and the manservant's shoulders. "Just a little somethin' we have here in Lousiana—little parlor trick, don't worry."
He brought the two inside. Naveen looked around, completely enthralled with the surroundings. He was further impressed when his hat and Lawrence's were plucked off their heads and set on a nearby shelf, atop a skull and a doll's head.
"Sit down at my table, put your mind at ease. If you relax it will enable me to do anything I please…"
Lawrence, looking a bit harried, took a seat, while Naveen looked around. This was completely unlike any place he had ever been before. The main thing that caught his eye were the large masks on the walls.
"I can read your future, change it 'round some, too." Facilier walked up to him and pushed him to sit down; Naveen was too caught up in catching every detail of the room to think it rude. "I look deep into your heart and soul…" He leaned toward Lawrence. "You do have a soul, don't you, Lawrence?" Then he jumped up on the table. "Make your wildest dreams come true…"
"Wildest dreams come true?" That was exactly what the prince needed! This witch doctor must know how to get money back…or a charm to win my parents over…he thought excitedly.
"I got voodoo, I got hoodoo, I got things I ain't even tried! And I got friends on the other side…"
"He's got friends on the other side…"
There was that echo again, coming from behind them. Naveen and Lawrence looked behind them, but only saw a few more masks. For some reason, it made the hairs on the back of Naveen's neck stand up. But his attention was soon diverted by Facilier shuffling a pack of odd-looking cards.
"The cards…the cards…the cards will tell…the past, the present, and the future as well. The cards…the cards…just take three…"
Facilier fanned out the cards. Naveen took three, then nudged Lawrence, who took three as well.
"Take a little trip into your future with me…" Facilier took the cards from each of them and placed them on the table, face-down and side-by-side. He flipped over Naveen's first card. There was a crude little picture of a castle, a king and a queen, and a prince in clothes from the Middle Ages. Naveen's eyebrows drew together. The prince bore a strange resemblance to himself…
"Now you, young man, are from across the sea…You come from two long lines of royalty…I'm a royal myself on my mother's side," Facilier said as he plucked a shrunken head with a crown from a nearby shelf. He flipped over the next card, which showed the same prince laughing with a couple of ladies. "Your lifestyle's high…" He flipped the card upside down, showing the prince frowning at his empty pockets. "But your funds are low…" He flipped the card face-down again, but instead of the design that had been there before, there was a picture of the prince kneeling in front of a blond princess in a pink dress, with a red-headed king behind her. "You need to marry a little honey whose daddy got dough." Facilier looked up at him, violet eyes half-closed and a knowing smile on his face. "Mom and Dad cut you off, huh, playboy?"
Naveen shrugged with a half-smile. "Eh, sad but true."
Facilier shuffled his cards. "Now y'all gotta get hitched, but hitchin' ties you down. You just wanna be free, hop from place to place. But freedom takes green." He spread the cards on the table, then flipped them over. Instead of pictures, they all looked like one dollar bills. "It's the green, it's the green, it's the green you need…" He flipped over the last card in front of Naveen. The little painted prince was reclining on what seemed to be a pile of American dollars, laughing. Naveen's eyes widened. "And when I look into your future it's the green that I see."
Achedanza…this man is incredible…Naveen thought, looking closely at the card. He looked up as Facilier looked to Lawrence.
"On you, little man, I don't wanna waste much time. You've been pushed 'round all your life." He flipped over Lawrence's first card, which showed a jester (which looked suspiciously like Lawrence) holding what looked like a lot of firewood. Facilier took the card and began to flip it, somehow making it look like a little flip-book. "You been pushed 'round by your mother and your sister and your brother." As he spoke, a mother, sister, and brother landed on the jester's shoulders. "And if you was married…" Lawrence's face lit up, then fell as Facilier flipped over his next card. "…you'd be pushed 'round by your wife."
Naveen suppressed a snicker, which got him a dirty look from Lawrence. Oh, he knew it was rude to laugh at the manservant, but it was so likely that his wife would push him around…the prince just couldn't help but laugh.
Facilier crept around Lawrence, until he was beside him. "But in your future, the you I see…" He held up the card so only Lawrence could see it. "…is exactly the man you always wanted to be."
Lawrence smiled wickedly, and Naveen suddenly felt a chill go down his spine as Facilier stood between the two chairs. "Shake my hand," he said to both of them. Naveen hesitated; an uncomfortable knot—even worse than the one he had felt before his parents cut him off—formed in his stomach, but Facilier insistently added, "Come on, boys, won't you shake a poor sinner's hand?"
Lawrence eagerly pumped the voodoo man's left arm, and, finally, Naveen cautiously shook his right hand.
"Yes…" Facilier released their hands and ran his own across his face, leaving skull-like makeup behind. Naveen gasped in fright as two serpents seemed to grow out of his chair and tied him tightly to it. He struggled, but the snakes were strong and kept him in place.
"Are you ready?" Facilier cried.
"Are you ready?" came the echoes, much louder than before.
"Are you ready?"
The largest mask on the wall opened its mouth, and a strange necklace floated out into Facilier's hand.
"Transformation central!" he cried, holding it up.
"Transformation central!" came the echoes, getting steadily louder.
"Reformation central!" The echoes were positively shouting now. Naveen broke into a cold sweat.
Facilier began walking toward Naveen, holding out the necklace. The prince's heart thudded wildly in his chest, and he struggled harder against the serpents.
"Transmogrification central!" He held out the pendant on the necklace, which was shaped like a little mask. Its mouth opened and bit Naveen's finger. The prince let out a cry of pain; what should have been a prick felt like thousands of white-hot knives piercing his body. "Can you feel it?"
Naveen looked in horror as his fingertips bulged, then his whole hand grew smaller. He let out another cry as he felt the rest of his body begin to shrink; his skin grew cool and damp.
"You're changin', you're changin', you're changin' all right. I hope you're satisfied…"
His was soon struggling to get out of his shirt, now several times too big for him. His legs had grown longer, and kept getting in the way. He finally peeked out the collar. Lawrence's face swam above him; he couldn't get his eyes to focus.
"But if you ain't, don't blame me…you can blame my friends on the other side!"
He could barely make out the masks on the wall, but he heard their sinister voices.
"You got what you wanted!"
"But you lost what you had!"
Dr. Facilier's wicked laugh rang through his ears, then his world went dark.
(A/N—hoo…okay, I know that was a long chapter, mainly because of the song lyrics. But…if I didn't have them, then I wouldn't have the scene, now, would I? Anyhoo, thanks again for all the reviews, guys! If I could, I'd give you all huge hugs! Seriously, I would. And I would like to dedicate this chapter to fantasylands for the "Charleston" idea. It's brilliant...and not mine...
Well, that's all for this chapter. Abinaza, my froggers!)