Rated K. Written for LiveJournal's challenge "Luck". Reflections on a life from which luck has departed.
The danseur remembered the day his luck ran out.
It wasn't that he particularly loved dance; but it was much more enjoyable than following his father's trade, he smelled better and dressed better and met more girls. By the time he was an upperclassman he was quite competent and steady and had a regular partner to whom ballet was nearly everything.
They made an odd pair, people said; she was beautiful and fair, tiny, with wavy yellow hair and bright blue eyes, and never had to work to be the center of attention either on or off the floor. He, in contrast, was simply there: quiet, solid, strong, affable, hardworking. The hard work was perhaps the only thing others would grant that they had in common. Still, when the instructors needed an example of dance- partnering, they were the best the school could offer for two years running. For much of that time they were also, as his father put it, walking out together.
Then, one morning, a single bad step. A botched landing. He had been alone, warming up before class, and lay on the floor clutching his leg for what seemed a long time before there was anyone to help.
The cracked ankle would heal; it was the twisted knee that ended the dance.
He was still in the infirmary when his roommate dropped by to visit. They talked for a few minutes, then:
"I'm going to go. I think you have a letter to write," said his friend. "Has she come to see you since this happened?"
"Not for a few days," he admitted. He had a good idea what he was supposed to write.
"I don't think there's any way to sweeten this, but she's looking around for a new dance partner. That's only to be expected, of course, she needs one since you're out of action. But somehow I don't think she'll have any time for you when she settles on someone. So, you can either break it off now and save face for both of you, or let things go and spoil a few reputations."
He had long had a feeling that, unless they were hired together, their understanding would not last. Nonetheless, it was a hard blow to take, for a while. He wrote the letter, and she came to visit him one last time, and that was the end of it as far as she was concerned.
He moved back home to the house by the town wall over term break, and did not go back to school. There the third misfortune struck. He was able to stand on his own and help in the family business, and was thinking of re- enrolling next term for sculpture, when his father died. After that there was no question. He was the head of his family and heir to the business. He took over, taking care of his mother for the next few years until she, too, passed away.
She had lived to see him married, though, to a steady girl and good housekeeper. He was happy then, for the few years they were given; but then she took ill, and passed away in her turn. It only added to his sorrow and regret that they had had no children.
For years after he tried not to dwell on his lost luck. He did well enough on his own, he had a steady clientele; he was not rich but he was far from poor; his knee held up well enough even through the contortions of trimming and shoeing horses. He had friends and a few relatives of his own and his dead wife's. On the whole, he was content, if a little lonely. Every bit of happiness, he was starting to think, comes at a price, and it could be a terrible price for others, not just for himself.
Then, another flurry of events. His deceased wife's cousin and her husband, the last of their families in the town, were killed. The ravens that haunted the place had been worse than ever for weeks, but this attack was unprecedented. Their son was still alive, though, and in the end it was Charon who took him in; there was room, and time, and money enough.
There was little thought of luck for a while, one way or the other. There wasn't time. Fakir was just old enough for school, and his energy astounded his foster- father. It didn't take long for Charon to ascertain from his friends that the boy's capacity for trouble was merely average, and that everything from bruises and scrapes to broken bones was quite normal; but it seemed overwhelming for some time.
Fakir loved Charon's stories, and the antique armor that migrated to the shop whenever some patriarch from an old Goldkrone family died. He loved to learn about horses. Charon always kept a steady old horse for his carting, and now there was a succession of large ponies; still capable of the work he needed but small enough for Fakir to be reasonably safe and close to the ground. There was the old Spanish saddle as well, deep and solid like an old knight's saddle, that he felt was safer for a child than the usual flat kind. Charon was somewhat embarrassed. He could shoe and doctor horses, he was a fair judge of one and a decent driver, but he had little idea of how to ride one– his knee saw to that– and he had even less skill to explain the art. But others did, and they came to the forge for shoeing anyway.
Nothing could come of a boy's fantasies of heroism, thought Charon, until the day that the budding knight found a prince lying in the street.
That the white- haired boy was yet another stroke of bad luck didn't show until they discovered who he was. The Prince Without a Heart had come to life again in Charon's own house, and Fakir's new self- appointed project was to look after him.
That proved to be all but impossible, but it kept Fakir busy. More than busy. For years, until they were both accepted at the Academy, the only time Fakir wasn't at Mytho's side was when he was looking for Mytho, who had probably been dragged off somewhere by that little waif in the black costume. If it hadn't been for Raetzel, who loved to watch over the boys, things could easily have gotten out of hand.
The boys were roommates, of course, and it was to Charon's that they returned over term breaks, but during term itself he saw them less and less. The Prince never seemed to age, but Fakir was growing up. In his mind Charon knew it was normal to see less of a child as he passed through adolescence. He had done the same to his parents. Nonetheless, it was painful; doubly so, for by now he regarded Mytho as his own, as well.
He took Fakir to task for it, though, the evening the boy came home and demanded the sword. The sword was the one thing in Charon's possession that, he felt, actually connected to the old stories; it had come to him when the last heir to the noble family that had once ruled Goldkrone and the lands about had passed away. They had had it, in turn, from connections that ultimately traced a tenuous line back to the children of the son of Parzifal. The sword of Lohengrin, the Swan Knight, had been promised by the smith to his son; but no one fought with swords now, not even rapiers or small- swords, not even in war, not outside of sport or the theater.
Fakir wanted it to use, that very night, not to keep it safe. The story, he insisted, had been set in motion; the Raven and even Princess Tutu had manifested themselves....
The shape of Charon's bad luck became appallingly clear, then. If life had seemed peaceful and prosperous for the past years, it was because this blow was being prepared, ready to strike indirectly at his sons.
Words flowed then, words that Charon regretted even as they left his mouth, words that accused Fakir of treating Mytho the same way that Charon was even then treating Fakir. Worst of all, Charon struck his son. If it came to breaking his promise or letting Fakir risk his life for the Prince– with what end Charon knew only too well– then the promise would be broken.
He blinked. Had it really happened? He had been, frankly, wallowing in his sorrow. Then the light, and the voice, and the vision miming her wish for him to dance... It had been Princess Tutu. Charon had known not only the story, but all its versions and variations as Goldkrone had told it, for all his life. And he had danced as she asked.
It had been over thirty years. His body was perhaps unable to do all it once could, but still he had danced, letting the sorrows and regrets of years past show, that he had never shown to anyone. And Princess Tutu had accepted them, not condemning him; suggesting only, now that he knew that Fakir had been right, that he should trust Fakir's judgment, and treat him like the man he was rapidly becoming....
When the dance had ended, he had faced her. He would not forget her; he was determined not to, no matter how tired he felt. There was a word somewhere, Greek he thought, for how he had felt then, cleansed of his regrets. He had thanked her, and she had curtsied, and gone.
He had set to work then. He brought Lohengrin's sword out of hiding, checked it over, wiped it and tested the edge and run the steel over it. Then he found the old leather shirt, intended to protect one from one's own armor, not from others' weapons; but as Fakir had never trained himself to wear armor, the extra sixty pounds or so would do him no good, even if any of the suits in the shop had fit him. Leather would have to do. Then a stout belt, short enough for a danseur, that would match the sheath's fittings well enough.
And Fakir had come back, and Charon had sent him off to do whatever he felt had to be done. The stable door had banged, and the mare's hoofbeats had receded into the distance.
Charon waited. He had a great deal to think about. How long had he brooded on his lost luck, he wondered, instead of concentrating upon what was good in his life, and Fakir's and Mytho's? Had his fortunes actually been any worse than any of his friends? Could Princess Tutu have changed his luck– or had there been none to change? His father, Charon knew, would have considered that the next thing to blasphemy, for a blacksmith lived by luck.
Maybe he ought to rethink that.
He sat, and thought, as he listened for hoofbeats to come back down the dark street.
Charon and Tutu dance to the Arabian dance from The Nutcracker, by Tchaikovsky.
This grew out of the observation that Charon, of all people, doesn't protest to Princess Tutu that he can't dance, nor does he faint or fall asleep after her appearance. I thought it was a bit odd, unless he not only knew the story (which he does) but maybe also knows how to dance. Just a thought.
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