A Raven without Feathers


'Master!'

Gilbert sat on the cold marble floor, barely registering what was going on around him. He couldn't understand his brother's rushed words, couldn't even hear his strained voice. He didn't care about his chest, wasn't even aware of the fact that he had been injured.

All that mattered to him was the severed head in front of him. His eyes wouldn't leave the sight of his master's face, now painfully familiar.

He remembered.

One night there was a thunderstorm, and he and his brother lay pressed against each other beneath their bed sheets. It had been half a year since their master had taken them in, and yet they still were frightened at night. Vincent had clutched his nightshirt, not willing to let go. And Gil tried to soothe his brother, despite the fear that resurfaced with each striking lightening behind their curtains. Then there was light. Both children poked their heads out from under the covers and cautiously looked around. The candle that threw its light underneath their chamber door soon turned out to belong to their master. He stood in the door, the soft light illuminating his calm features. They almost didn't trust their eyes, believed him to be a figment of their imagination. But as he came forward and greeted them with one of his rare smiles, they knew he was real.

Gilbert finally remembered him.

He reached out his hand and in an agonizing slowness came to touch the raven strands of his master with his very fingertips. The world around him was bleak and mute. He didn't register his brother's pitiful gazes as everything came back to him. He couldn't feel the gloved hand that lay on his shoulder, Vincent's attempt at comforting him. All he could see was the Baskerville's serene face; a face that had withstood a hundred years.

Vincent watched his brother finally recognizing their master. He hadn't wanted this. Everything he had done, he had done it to keep Gilbert happy; had done it to keep him from remembering.

Truth was a cruel thing. One couldn't live without it. He had hated lying to his brother, didn't want to keep secrets from him, and despised deceiving him. He had built high walls between them, had separated them and done absolutely everything to keep the truth from him. And Gilbert had hated him for it. But now that the truth was out it had destroyed everything. Gilbert's happiness was built on lies. And Vincent had tried all his life to uphold those lies, even if it meant that his brother hated him. But eventually those lies fell apart, just like a house of cards. And his beloved brother, whom he had sworn to protect at all cost, was lying in the empty ruins.

'Gil...'

Gilbert didn't hear him. He was caged in his memories, trapped like a bird without feathers. There was no place for Vincent, the Baskervilles or Oz as he relived his past.

He remembered the cold, dirty streets, had never forgotten them. But the face of the person reaching out for him changed. The golden locks darkened and the bright green eyes faded into a dark violet. This man did not wear a bright and sunny smile. He did not hug the two boys and held them against his chest. He did not get them candy and hot chocolate on their way home. This man just gazed at the two pitiful lives, looked, really looked into his brother's cursed eyes. He didn't cry out at the cruel fate that haunted the two innocent children. He simply said 'Come'.

And he took them by the hand, carried Vincent as he stumbled and fell. The ride in the coach wasn't filled with stories and songs, there were no flowers. But he was there, the man who had rescued them from the streets. He had them bathed and dressed, had them eat something for the first time in days. He had made them his servants. And although they didn't know it from the start, he had cared deeply for them.

They were the only ones allowed in his study when he worked. He taught them how to read and write. And sometimes, when he played the piano, he would do it just for them.

A cold tear-drop escaped Gilbert's eye. He desperately clutched the Baskerville's head between his arms and held it to his chest. He knew that it wouldn't help him, wouldn't change anything, yet he couldn't think of anything else. All the memories that had been locked away in the depths of his own abyss flooded his head like the pool of tears. So he held onto the only thing that was left of his beloved master; the man he had failed to protect twice.


Game Over?