Edited 23/03/2011. Written for (and winner of!) the Tamora Pierce Experiment: Writing Challenges' December 2010 Challenge. Adapt a fairy tale as it might have taken place in either Pierce-verse, in a way that complies with canon. The link is on my profile - go check it out!

By icecreamlova

- : -

In the distant land of Tortall, there lived the great sorcerer Lord Thom of Trebond. He was attractive, powerful, fairly wealthy, and hugely influential through a friendship with His Royal Highness, Prince Jonathan; and through the contacts of his twin sister. Copper-haired, violet-eyed, tall and scholarly, Thom looked like a fine catch. Thom himself was cool and aloof, as arrogant as Roger ever was without the charm Roger used to hide it. Every other sorcerer save his twin was jealous of his prodigy; every other man was a rival. Every other person was a distraction from his proper work of attempting to figure out how the world worked.

It so happened that during an impressionable stage of life, Thom had the dubious honor of meeting Duke Roger. Thom looked into Roger's eyes and saw a man of great power, brilliance and knowledge, everything he wanted and would not hesitate to take. Thom looked deeper still for the source of Roger's power so that he could surpass Roger, and saw the abundance of natural aptitude, which he also had; he saw decades of learning, which Thom would enjoy acquiring; he saw a man who would do anything at all to meet his ends. And this was great difference between them. Thom, despite general disdain for the world, loved Alanna, or near enough that thought he would die for her.

But he also loved his power.

Separated from his twin by years, her influence grew looser and looser, until power was all he saw, all he could see. Seduced by the promise of great power, brilliance, and knowledge, Thom dismissed his morals, his conscience, his heart, and began his search for the edges of his potential. And so the years passed.

- : -

In the distant land of Tortall, there lived the great courtesan, Lady Delia of Eldorne. She was beautiful, influential among the ladies, and wealthy in the old way. Though un-Gifted, she stole the breaths of many who gazed upon her shining green eyes and flowing mane of chestnut hair, who heard her charming laughter - something as useful as the Gift. Delia herself used her gifts to great effect and hid the insatiable hunger within her to control everything and everyone like she might a string of puppets; to be able to do anything she wanted without consequence, without retribution, without the withdrawal of acceptance.

It so happened that during an impressionable stage of life, Delia had the incredible luck of meeting Duke Roger of Conte. She looked into Roger's eyes and saw a man who could make her bow even as others fought for the privilege of kneeling at her feet. She looked into Roger's eyes and found someone with the power she lacked, a king that could make Tortall tremble if she became its queen. She looked into Roger's eyes and found a man searching for a similar ally, a similar tool.

Delia looked into Roger's eyes and saw raw passion reflected by the mirror that was his gaze, attracting Delia like a moth to flame. Love, or near enough that she would live a lie for him.

The future lay open before her like an oyster ready for plundering, and with the promise of ruling by his side, Delia honed her skills for use on Tortall's heir and his merry band of fools. And so the years passed.

- : -

What makes you think you're good enough?

The Masters didn't say it, but Thom could see it in their rows of accusing eyes. The fool, the dunce, the failure. The one who had fallen beyond even Duke Roger's help, not quite a disgrace to their teaching system, but close enough. His grades were terrible; his projects useless; his aloofness more hindrance than help, because independent study improved his skills as much as no study at all.

His application to attempt the Master's robe would have no support from them. The incredulous silence indicated succinctly just what the reply would be: he oughtn't to even try it; he would and look the fool; there was danger. Why would he contemplate reaching for something so obviously out of his league?

Thom clenched his fists and forced himself into silence - for anger still burned him, even as he reveled in how conscience did not. Six months until Alanna was ready. He had waited years for his father's death, the anguish of others at the passing of a parent proving his choice to starve his heart had been right.

Six months, and then he would make the Masters pay, he said in the privacy of his mind.

- : -

Why are you doing this?

Squire Alan's didn't say it, but his eyes were extraordinarily colored and extraordinary transparent. Anger, resentment, jealousy. Mooning after the Prince when Delia had him wrapped around her little finger. What luck! What entertainment! And Jon himself, the idiot, as blind to Alan's yearning as he had been to Delia when she turned Gary against Raoul like Roger had advised.

Her application to resume the conversation was readily granted, the group enfolding her into its midst. Light chatter from besotted men was the perfect distraction from the daggers that were Alan's gaze following her around the room. As they beseeched her for her friends' favors, Delia contemplated the distasteful swiftness with which their affections cooled. Alan, who stood on the cusp of adulthood and undoubtedly mistook infatuation for love, would recover just as quickly.

Delia smiled beneath a gloved hand and forced herself to pay attention to the men's entreaties. It wouldn't be long until she could cease the pretense of caring: Roger, at least, was constant in expressing his hearts' desire.

"I would help you if I thought you had a heart, Douglass of Veldine!" she cried, snapping her fan.

- : -

Duke Roger was dead.

Thom stood in awe with the rest of the court as his sister fought, a forest fire, a volcano, the lioness like the one adorning her red-backed shield. Blows rained down with the fury of any of his greatest spells, Lightning flashing and gleaming as she parried and hacked and did a hundred things Thom never could. Her chest heaved with exertion as she was forced back, back, down... and just as she teetered on the edge of defeat, a second wind, a master reply that sent her sword sliding through Roger's chest! The duke collapsed. Roger was dead, his rival was gone, and no one else could ever touch him again.

Delia stood in awe with the rest of the court as her lover fought, a tidal wave, an avalanche, a titan who would crush any standing in his way. Blows rained down with the precision of years of practice coupled with natural talent, his sword dancing and sliding as he did a hundred things Delia never could. He hounded the pretentious liar without any visible sign of exertion, pressing, winning, and just as he teetered on the edge of victory... a flush of luck, a rush of impossibility as his chest was pierced by Alanna's sword! Back curving, sword falling, Roger took an age to collapse to the floor. Roger was dead, her partner was gone, and there was nothing else to do but remember their plans.

- : -

Delia was a voice he couldn't help but be distracted by, and Thom hated distractions yet he did not hate her.

He hated many of her friends, certainly. Lords and ladies who chattered on about the latest fashions as though nothing else mattered; fine horsemen who thought that a hunt was a fine way to pass the time. Imbeciles who sparred and ridiculed any who refused to join in; the more enlightened who watched with envious eyes as he thrived in his splendid solitude, in his isolation. But Delia had approached him in the Royal Libraries and had shown that her interests were vast and varied. For someone who hadn't the slightest hint of the Gift, she possessed a surprisingly wide education in the arts of necromancy.

He hated some of her insinuations, certainly. The idea of dabbling in what the Masters of Mithros wouldn't dare had occurred to Thom time and time again; he did not need someone else implying he had neither the skill nor the audacity to do it again. He did not need the only other person in Corus willing to discuss necromancy (the wide gaps in her education aside) badgering him, with strange persistence, on proving he was better than Duke Roger had ever been. He did not need to complete the most fundamental, perfect spell and become the envy of all. But he wanted to.

It took him much longer than he'd hoped to gather all the information and materials he needed. On the evening one week before All Hallow's Eve, he eschewed the library to bring her back to the equally familiar meeting grounds of his private rooms, where the ceremonies would soon take place. She navigated expertly around his paraphernalia, examining each element carefully as though she truly knew their purpose, and was vaguely surprised when she touched the crystal in the center that emitted soft orange light.

"This stone," she said softly, "it's the same color as his Gift."

Thom nodded. "The crystal was extracted from a stone that fell from the heavens, centuries ago, to what is now Tortall's principal temple to the Black God."

Delia grinned, not quite the smile that had snared many a youthful heart, but a more honest approximation of it. "Ah. What's it for? A doorway?"

"Not quite," Thom said, watching her closely. "A soul stone, if you will. To reinforce his morals."

"His heart," she whispered, and there was something very much like desire across her face as her fingertips grazed the smooth lump of rock. For a brief moment, her face was open, naked longing to hold Roger's heart in her hands. Delia really thought it was that simple.

Thom wasn't that much of a fool. He wouldn't bring his rival back without removing Roger's greatest advantage over Thom: his utter lack of morals. He wouldn't let Roger run rampant again. If that meant giving Roger a heart, then he would do it.

He reached over and plucked the rock from her fingers, the familiar texture of her skin grazing his. Delia resisted for a moment, just a reflexive tightening of her fingers before she managed to control herself and let it go. Turning the crystal to catch and reflect light, until it blazed, Thom said, "He never loved you."

Delia jumped like a startled deer, candlelight dancing in her wide eyes as she stared at him, sudden realization setting in. Thom smiled humorlessly.

Anger quickly replaced surprise. "You knew? The entire time, you knew I... Then why...?" Delia shook her head sharply, cutting herself off. "You're wrong."

Thom raised the crystal. "He didn't love anyone or anything before. He couldn't have noticed you," he said, noting as she recoiled slightly and shook her head in denial. "I can bring him back as he was," he said. "Should I?"

She stared at him for a moment longer. "Yes. Will you?"


"It will make no difference," she insisted. Delia took another step, and the crystal tumbled from his unresisting fingers onto the bedspread. As it caught the light of one of the magical lamps, it flashed deep, murky red, the color of orange and violet combined.

Roger had been born without a heart; this one had to come from somewhere.

- : -

Thom was a voice she couldn't help but be distracted by, and Delia could not afford distractions but she couldn't quite give him up.


"Tomorrow evening," she said. "Yes."

"I expect that will be the last time you enter these rooms."

She said, "Yes."

Or maybe she could. She didn't love Thom at all, and he didn't really know her. She had little real interest in necromancy, even if she could spend hours discussing other powers, like they had. He thought she envied his isolation, and attempted ceaselessly to goad her with it, grinning at her every denial as though amused. And he had no idea at all that her desire for Roger hadn't been unrequited, or that she still planned to rule by his side.

Despite the likelihood they would never again truly converse, Thom did not broach the subject. His gaze slid past the curve of her shoulder onto the preparations, and if there was doubt, her words would sear them away.

"The greatest spell there ever was," Delia murmured into his ear, voice low, smooth, throaty. "Bards will sing about it for centuries."

He looked irritated. "I would rather that scholars remembered than anyone remotely resembling your friends."

"Well I hope no scholar attempts to sing it," Delia said, relenting, "if their voices remotely resemble yours." She reconsidered. "But the performance would, of course, be remembered just as long."

"Very funny." He sighed, eyes on the tumble of her chestnut locks, and quite suddenly, his copper beard twitched as he grinned. "How exactly do you think the bards would remember the story, if they knew the truth? There would be the mage and the lady, of course -"

"Just one mage?"

"I am perfect in my solitude," he answered briefly, in that way that insisted he was completely serious. "The hero is always alone, unless one is cast as the villain and the other the hero. And Roger and I would have to share a role, or the handsome, powerful, wealthy, influential duke would push me out of the picture."

He narrated the story for her, of a mage who refused to succumb to the limitations imposed by his heart, like his peers had, so cut his heart out to keep from listening. A choice like the one he'd made, after all, was not arcane enough to satisfy an eager audience. Despite it being proved time after time that his decision was correct, he was goaded into proving his magic. And goaded into winning a lady, because no ballad was complete without an epic romance.

"Somewhere in the story," Delia decided, "she would have to say, 'I would marry you, if I thought you had a heart.' I think you're distant and aloof enough that many a lady has wondered it herself."

Thom was quiet as he tried to frame his ideas into a coherent few sentences. His eyes slid past her again, not seeing her, just the spell that was more a product of his arrogance than any influence of hers, and continued that the mage did show the lady his heart. (And if, for a breathless moment, she waited for their eyes to meet, they never did; it was startlingly clear what Thom meant.) He raised the dead. He raised himself ("Roger," he informed her, as if she couldn't figure it out) from among those better dead than alive, by putting his heart back in his chest. He could love again. But he was still brilliant.

Dahlia turned to look over her shoulder at the crystal - now dark, murky red, which Thom assured her was not unexpected.

"The end," Dahlia insisted.

"And did the new man win the lady?"

She whispered, "Yes." And told herself she needn't wonder if there was more to the story.

- : -

There was.

- : -

Thom's heart stopped beating.

Delia laid her head on the chopping block.

Roger stared down at the sword through his chest.

It was a curious fact that, when one was about to die, a sudden epiphany in the last spare moments of life could mean as much as anything that came before.

That utter hunger in Roger's eyes. He should have known it then.

But he'd been foolish and arrogant, ignoring that only the Black God held sway over death. He had been so stupid to think that, suddenly gifted with emotions, Roger wouldn't drain Thom of his Gift in order to feed the shared heart that held them. Stupid to think that that frustrated with the limitations of Thom's wasted heart, Roger wouldn't try to take the greatest of all - the heart of Tortall - exposing it in the earthquake.

His knowledge was useless and his magic was a danger to everyone. His limbs lay motionless on the heatless ground, waves of cold washing over his body, black creeping into the edges of his vision. Every thought was a struggle; every word uttered from his lips a fight he could barely win. But those purple eyes stared into his, shock, pain, desperation, and love.

And he loved her, or near enough that he would hang on for just a few moments, would try to help save Tortall for Alanna's sake.

- : -

It was a curious fact that, when one was about to die, a sudden epiphany in the last spare moments of life could mean as much as anything that came before.

The determination in Jonathan's eyes. She should have known it then.

But she'd been so stubborn, so convinced that Roger would lead her to greatness. She had refused to consider failure, fearful that even thinking of it would chase away success. Refused to consider what feeling emotions for the first time in years could do to a man, or the lengths he would go to preserve them. That night beneath the palace, when he'd drained Thom's Gift and cut out his own heart to take Tortall's, she'd finally known.

The sky was stormy gray, a weather front of fleecy clouds encroaching, and she stood straight and tall before Jon's and Thayet's passionless eyes, queen-to-be regal to the bitter end. Wind whipped her bare shins and her exposed arms, roaring in her ears until she couldn't hear the voices of the crowd around Traitor's Hill. She made no speech; she swore no vows. But even in defeat she had hope.

She loved him, or near enough that she had something to cling onto as she entered the peaceful realms; that she would see him again.

- : -

In the distant land of Tortall, there lived the great sorcerer Duke Roger of Conte. He was handsome, powerful, wealthy, and regarded by his aunt and uncle, the king and queen, as their own son. With eyes like precious sapphires, gleaming with inner light, finely shaped bones, and an unmistakable air of command, Roger was a hero, a role model to the generation that followed. Every young boy wanted to be like him, tremendously gifted and famously charming; every young girl dreamed of snaring his heart, and many a fine lady paraded around the royal court to catch his eye.

What the ladies did not know, could not possibly have known, was that the likelihood of anyone at all capturing Roger's heart was zero. Because he had been born without one. He could watch miracles blooming without awe, could watch his family die without a tear being shed, and could (and one day would) watch a massacre he perpetrated without once blinking. He ran rings around his unsuspecting aunt and uncle, took ladies (and men) into bed without inviting them into his affection, and amused himself by playing with the fate of Tortall, because what else could there possibly be?

No smile moved his affections, no tragedy moved him to tears, and no love moved him to foolishness. Roger was ambitious and great and set his eyes on the throne.

It began and ended with him.

- : -

It was a curious fact that, when one was about to die, a sudden epiphany in the last spare moments of life could mean as much as anything that came before.

Staring uncomprehendingly at his own sword thrust through his heart, in plain, unadulterated shock, Roger lifted his eyes to meet the Lioness from across the room, the fragile threads of his control over his swollen Gift slipping away. And if he had felt the his heart crying to be heard, to spare Alanna, he paid it no more attention than he had in the weeks before, while consumed by the desire for more.

He wanted, strongly enough that nothing else mattered.

Whatever their other faults, Thom and Delia finally understood that it was no use having a heart if you never listened to it.

Roger never would.

- : -


So... which fairytale was it? Has anyone figured it out?