The Poet and the Pendulum
Notes: The characters are not mine and the story is! This was written for the prompt Luck at the Tutu Contest community on Livejournal. It takes place during the final episode and tries to tie up a plothole that should have been addressed on the show. Thanks to everyone who has provided plot help!
There were many thoughts racing through Autor's mind as he and Uzura struggled to hold up the bookcase that was their only shield against the Bookmen's leader. But as he felt wood cracking and splintering behind him, and knew that the heavy door was giving way, the first thought that came to him (after a despairing curse) was Why do I always have bad luck like this?
The last few weeks had been particularly filled with it. Fakir had been granted the position of Story-Spinner that Autor had coveted for so long. Autor had been sent flying sky-high after being electrocuted by the oak tree's force field around Fakir. The Bookmen had refused to acknowledge that Autor even had the qualifications for also being a Story-Spinner. The girl he had long admired and loved from afar had laughed in his face when he had confessed his growing feelings for her.
And now he was trying to help Fakir write the final battle of the Prince and the Raven while an insane old man with an axe was breaking down his front door.
He leaped away from the teetering bookcase as the sharp weapon plunged into its back. Uzura jumped with him, her blue eyes wide and astonished. Not fully understanding the danger, she was more curious than anything else as the bookcase shattered. But as the crazed and haunted Bookman pushed aside broken wood and mangled volumes, his axe gleaming as he stepped into the foyer and then the study, the little girl gasped.
Autor's heart was racing as he stood in front of Fakir, pleading with the Bookman to not get violent. What sort of madness was this? He was not a skilled fighter. How would he possibly protect Fakir against this threat? The other Bookmen had become crows, they were told. And that had seemed to snap the last threads of their leader's sanity. He did not intend to only cut off Fakir's hands. Autor did not even want to know what else was planned.
Instead, as the axe swung wildly, Autor defended with the only weapon he could think of—a thick book. The blade embedded itself within the leaves, pushing further downward at the Bookman's insistence. It was all Autor could do to grit his teeth and hang on. The axe was stuck for now, but that would not last long. And once it was free, the Bookman would lunge at Fakir again.
Perspiration trickled down Autor's face as he forced himself to keep clutching the tome. The axe was cutting down further, further. . . . The Bookman charged without warning, sending the damaged book flying and forcing Autor to the side as he lost his balance. He crashed haphazardly into a small table and the wall, sending the table's contents to the floor.
Uzura stared at him, about to ask if he was alright. But he was pushing himself up before she could speak, diving at Fakir just in time to get him away from the next swing of the axe.
The wind from the blade blew his hair about, the axe having barely missed striking Autor in the back before cleaving the pages on the desk. He gasped, breathing heavily as he and Fakir looked up—Fakir in stunned shock, Autor in alarm.
Would he die here? Was that to be his final fate in the Story?
His eyes narrowed. Drosselmeyer's tale had to be brought to an end. Fakir was the one chosen, the only one capable of finishing it right now. Autor had to keep him alive at all costs. If that meant forfeiting his life, well . . . then it was forfeit.
Letting go of his distant relation, Autor lunged at the rampaging Bookman, tackling him back into the vestibule with only his bare hands.
For a moment the old man was shocked at the sudden move. Yet despite his new injuries, he had no intention of giving up his self-appointed mission. He swung his axe, the boy once again only scarcely missing the full feel of the blade. But he was not fortunate enough to dodge it altogether; the weapon cut into the sleeve of his jacket and also into his shirt underneath. Crimson began to stain both.
Autor winced. Trying to ignore the flaming pain in his arm, he threw a punch at the wrinkled face, grimacing again as his fist took a good deal of the damage. But as the axe flew again, he grabbed a nearby book and heaved it, sending the weapon spinning out of the Bookman's hands to embed in the cobblestone outside.
"Ironic, isn't it?" Autor panted, smirking at his opponent. "You're the leader of the Bookmen. But I've just disarmed you with, of all things, a book."
The man roared. No longer calm enough for coherent talk, and abruptly filled with an animalistic strength, he rose up and caught hold of Autor with his shaking hands, shoving him hard into the opposite wall once, then twice. Autor let out a cry, his breath forcefully knocked from him as his glasses clattered to the floor. His vision blurred, his head throbbing from the blows he had just taken.
No, he could not fall unconscious. He had to keep going. Somehow, he had to.
He forced himself to retaliate, shoving the Bookman across the entryway and into the other wall. This time it was his opponent striking his head against something. With a last dazed, angry look at Autor, he went still.
Autor fell back, dizzy, the pain sweeping over him. Somewhere in his mind, he knew that Fakir had not yet collected his senses enough to pick up the threads of the story. He looked to where the light was shining, mumbling one last plea, one final encouragement to Fakir, before his strength was gone and everything was fading to black.
My luck never does improve, does it, he decided as he hit the floor.
Fakir admittedly lost all conscious thoughts of Autor's plight when the other's words spurred him back to the Story. He knew there were no longer any sounds of fighting, so he could only assume it was over and Autor had won.
And Ahiru. . . . The more he wrote about her, the more the Story revealed to him what was happening to her, the more his heart was being shredded. The Raven's claws did not have to physically rake through his body to tear him in two; Ahiru's suffering was already doing that. He wanted to do something, to stop the cruel attacks on her fragile body! He did not want to feel so helpless, writing only the words that were flowing from the Story itself and being unable to change their outcome!
But then, miraculously, the course of the Story began to turn. Ahiru refused to give up even though she could barely stand. Her last, desperate effort to break through the hearts frozen by the Raven's blood succeeded. Hope was rekindled, as Mytho observed, and he saved Rue and destroyed the Raven at long last. The battle of the Prince and the Raven had ended.
Ahiru, however, was badly injured. The last Fakir knew of her was her collapse. Then he did not wait to hear more. He flung down the pen, crying out her name as he sprang from his chair. He had to get to her! He could not delay another minute. How serious were her injuries? What if . . . what if she was too badly hurt to . . . to live?
No, he would not think that! That was not even a consideration!
He stopped short as he ran into the vestibule, stunned into silence at the scene before him. Splintered wood was everywhere, some splattered red with spilled blood. The Bookmen leader had apparently come to at some point and stumbled off, as both he and the axe were gone. Autor was laying on his stomach, not moving. His eyes were closed. Uzura was kneeling beside him, poking him in concern. She had apparently discovered his fallen glasses, as she had placed them back on his face.
"He doesn't wake up zura," she pronounced. She looked up at Fakir, her eyes wide with confusion and concern. "Why won't he wake up?"
Fakir stiffened. Autor had spoken to him only a short time ago. He was . . . he had to be alive! He had not defeated the Bookmen's leader only to die from injuries he had sustained . . . had he? Fakir had not even realized he had been badly hurt; he had been so focused on his writing.
He dropped to his knees. "Autor," he whispered. Now he was torn. He wanted, he needed to go to Ahiru, but he could not leave Autor here like this, if he was alive. That would not be right. His conscience could never let him rest if he abandoned Autor. Especially after all that Autor had done for him . . . for the Story. . . .
"Is he dead zura?" Uzura asked sadly.
Fakir examined the severity of the wound to Autor's arm before carefully turning him onto his back. "Where did you hear about death?" Fakir frowned, though he was only half-listening for her reply. Autor was badly bruised and scratched from the fight with the Bookman. Further investigation revealed what felt like a painful bump forming on the back of his head.
"These people going to the strange park zura," Uzura said. "They said their father had died and that he wouldn't wake up anymore."
Autor groaned. Fakir let out a breath he had not realized he was holding.
"He's not dead," he said to Uzura. To Autor he queried, "Can you hear me?"
Autor's eyes flickered and opened half-way. "Fakir . . . what happened . . . with the Story?" he mumbled, his voice rasping. "Why aren't you writing?"
"The Story is over," Fakir said gruffly. "We won. The Raven's dead."
Autor managed a smile. "Excellent. And that girl?"
Fakir's expression darkened. "She's hurt," he said.
"You should go to her," Autor told him.
Fakir wanted to. Oh, how he wanted to! "I can't leave you here like this," he said.
Autor lay silent for a moment, as if either evaluating his injuries or gathering his strength. "I'm fine," he said then.
"Uzura couldn't wake you up," Fakir answered. "She thought you were dead." He tore off a strip of his shirt, pressing it against the slice in Autor's arm. "You're hurt too."
Autor winced at the sting. "Fakir . . ." He grasped Fakir's arm with his other hand. "The girl is most likely injured worse than I am. I can take care of myself." His eyes narrowed and his voice darkened. "I won't be responsible for keeping you here when she needs you."
Fakir hesitated, debating with himself. But Autor was right. He did not even know if Ahiru was alive. He had to go to her before any more time passed.
"Alright," he said at last. "But I am going to get you to the couch. Uzura can get you anything you need after that."
"I don't need to be coddled!" Autor snapped. Grabbing the edge of the wall with a shaking hand, he tried to pull himself upright. But the sudden movement sent the room spinning out of control. He swayed, nearly falling to the floor before Fakir caught him.
"Idiot," Fakir growled. "It's not coddling if you need it."
Autor muttered something unintelligible. Fakir just grunted, awkwardly bringing an arm around Autor's lower back. "Come on," he said.
Autor let go of the wall, limping toward the couch with Fakir's help. This really was ungodly embarrassing. Making it worse was the fact that it was the second time he had needed Fakir's help after a misfortune. But he went in silence, though his face was flaming red.
Fakir lowered him onto the couch, perhaps quicker than he had intended, but the strain and stress of his worry over Ahiru was clearly showing in his eyes. He looked to Uzura, who had been watching the proceedings with great interest.
"Look after him while I'm gone," he ordered.
"Leave it to me zura!" Uzura chirped. "Are you going to get Ahiru zura?"
Fakir nodded. "Yeah." He glanced back at Autor, who still looked a bit disoriented. "Don't do anything stupid," he said. Before the other boy could protest, Fakir was already walking away. But he paused again, uncomfortable with what he still needed to say. He did not want to leave without making some acknowledgment of what Autor had done for him. Without Autor's help, he knew he could not have finished writing the Story. He would probably be dead.
"Autor . . . thanks," he said at last.
A look of surprise flashed across Autor's face, but only Uzura saw it. Then he looked away, his arrogant attitude resurfacing. "It wasn't for you," he said. "It was for everyone you needed to write for." For Rue, even though she rejected me. . . .
"Of course." Fakir walked quicker now, not wanting to use up any further time. Soon he was gone, leaving Autor alone with the strange little girl.
She looked at him, watching as he raised his injured arm to stop the flow of blood. "Fakir said for me to get anything you need zura!" she said with a childish air of importance, proud to have been given such an assignment. "Do you need anything zura?"
Autor looked back at her, nightmarish images going through his mind of his belongings falling down and being routed through. "No," he said. "I'm fine. I just want to sit here for a while. . . ." Or perhaps lie down, if he could get the bleeding to stop. The cut did not seem to be very deep, at least—though he could not help but wonder how clean that axe was.
"I'll stand guard zura!" Uzura declared, beating on her drum.
Autor grimaced, a hand flying to his forehead. "Could you please be a little quieter?" he said as his headache raged. What had Fakir been thinking, leaving her alone with him? Was Fakir trying to drive him out of his mind?
Uzura blinked, but thankfully set down the drumsticks. Now she just looked at the frazzled boy, intense curiosity on her features.
Her gaze was making him uncomfortable. "What is it?" he asked at last.
"Why don't you like Fakir zura?" she blurted.
He had not expected that. "Excuse me?" he said in disbelief.
"Fakir's nice zura," Uzura said. "You should like him zura."
Autor looked away. "I don't dislike him," he said.
"You act like you're mad at him zura," Uzura said.
Autor frowned. Well, that was true, he supposed. He was angry Fakir had been chosen instead of him. But . . . it was not Fakir's fault. If anything, Autor could blame himself for having decided to teach Fakir about his powers. The sting from not being chosen in spite of all of his meticulous research would not easily go away. Still, Fakir had brought the Story to a conclusion at last. And Autor had played some part in it. He had to be grateful for that, anyway.
Especially since he had come out of it alive. He had not known if he even would. It had been somewhat a surprise to suddenly hear Fakir's voice through the darkness.
Uzura abruptly pulled herself onto the couch beside him. "Even if you're weird, you're nice too zura," she said.
Autor gave her an odd look, not certain which part of her statement to address. ". . . So they say I'm weird?" he said then. It was certainly not something he had not heard before. He took it in stride; after all, they just did not understand. And what did it matter? He would have the last laugh in the end. At least, he hoped so.
"Yep! I don't know why zura," Uzura said. "They just do zura."
"And I'm nice," he said, mostly to say something. He did not know what sorts of things to say to this child. But he was afraid if he did not keep her occupied, she would start banging on that accursed drum again. "What makes you say that?"
"You wouldn't have helped if you weren't nice zura," Uzura said.
The innocence of a child. Autor had not particularly wanted to help Fakir write this Story. It had further injured his pride, to have to be the assistant while someone he had taught struggled to perform the task that should have been his.
But he could have refused Fakir. What had made him agree, however grudging of an agreement it had been? Had it been his determination to see everyone released from Drosselmeyer's control? His longing to be able to do something to help, even if not the way he had wanted?
. . . Even if he had been reluctant at first, he had pushed his personal feelings aside when the final battle had gotten underway. He had put his heart and soul into assisting Fakir. And risking his life in the fight against the Bookman had not been a half-hearted effort, either. He had given his all.
"You lied to Fakir, didn't you zura?"
Autor started. "What are you talking about?!"
Uzura looked at him knowingly. "You wanted to help him too zura," she said. "You didn't want him hurt zura."
"Of . . . of course I didn't want that," Autor said, pushing up his glasses. The motion was mostly a cover for how uncomfortable he was sure he looked.
"And not just because of the Story zura!" Uzura exclaimed in delight.
Autor's shoulders slumped in defeat. "No, not just because of that," he conceded. He valued human life too much. Even if he was irrationally angry with or jealous of Fakir, he would not want anything to happen to him.
Uzura leaned against him, much to his shock. "I'm glad you didn't die zura," she proclaimed.
Completely taken off-guard, Autor just stared at her. But when she did not say more, seeming content just to stay where she was, he found himself relaxing into the couch, weary and outright exhausted from the day's events. He closed his eyes, letting his thoughts wander.
If someone had told him that he would nearly die fighting an axe-wielding maniac, and that he would attract the attention and affection of a strange child with a drum, he would have said they were crazy. But at least things seemed peaceful for now.
Maybe his luck was changing.
He could hope, anyway.
He sighed, falling deeper into his thoughts.
Fakir stepped through the open doorway, Ahiru's small body cradled in his hands. He had done all that he could to tend to her wounds in town, but he had tried to hurry back as soon as possible, knowing he would have better access to what he needed in a secure building. Hopefully Autor would have a place where she could rest; he did not think she should be moved again tonight.
As he stepped into the living room he again took pause, but this time for a different reason. The last thing he had expected to see was Autor and Uzura on the couch together, dozing. They looked peaceful. And in the short time he had known Autor, Fakir did not remember ever seeing him so relaxed. Fakir had half-expected to come in and find Autor screaming for Uzura to be quiet, as he had so often in the library. It had been a disaster waiting to happen, but Fakir had not known what else to do but to leave Uzura with Autor, since he had been injured. Fakir had not wanted to leave Autor there alone. And in spite of his concerns, it looked like he had not made a wrong decision.
He allowed a slight smile of amusement to grace his worried features before going to look for something soft for Ahiru.