Kapitel von Schwan
AKT 4 [Oktoberfest]
~Petruschka: Der Fasching Messe~
(Petrushka: The Shrovetide Fair)
Once upon a time, there was a little straw puppet. The puppet was in love with a beautiful ballerina, but the ballerina rejected him as she found him weak and pitiful. She instead pursued the attention of a much more violent suitor. When the puppet tried to protect the ballerina from the suitor's intentions, he was slain on the spot. In the end, perhaps it would have been better if he had never loved at all.
Fakia woke up with ink stains on his face.
Smudged and gray, hopeful yet ineffective words were written backwards across his left cheek, curving from his ear to the corner of his mouth. Though he hadn't realized their presence until he saw Ahiru's face.
She had greeted him enthusiastically when he came into the room, then made a comic expression when she saw the splotchy writing. He had just noticed the words in the mirror when she hopped up on the dressing table to get a closer look, squinting at the text as she tried to decipher the reverse lettering. He wondered a bit nervously if she could still read. Flapping her wings in frantic pantomime, she quacked excitedly to the point of squeaking. She paused for a moment, her already hard to read face completely inscrutable.
Then she flew at his face.
Alarmed, Fakia stepped back to dodge but stumbled over the foot of his bed. He instinctively tried to block her with his hands, but wasn't fast enough. She landed gently on his collar bone and clumsily pecked his cheek.
Fakia sat up, perplexed but unharmed. He touched his cheek, looking hard at Ahiru. She wasn't looking him in the eye. Then the meaning behind her actions dawned on him, and he felt his face grow warm. After several minutes of silent gaze avoidance, her eyes slowly met his and she waddled to where he sat on the bed. Never breaking eye contact, she placed her wing on his knee and quacked.
And he understood.
Reaching out, he carefully patted her head in response.
"Oh, look who decided to stop moping and take initiative! Yes, let's write a story because it turned out so well last time."
"Shut up, Autor."
"In case you forgot, despite your lineage you are almost totally inept as a writer. Oh, probably due to the fact that you decided to refrain from developing your skills these past ten years or so."
"Shut up, Autor."
"Hey, did you ever get around to finding out if the Bibliothek Trolle are still in action? You know, just in case they might try to come in the night and chop off your hands for meddling with reality?"
"I said shut up."
Fakia didn't know why Charon had let Autor into the house, or why the scornful boy had shown up in the first place; but eventually he was able to tune out the ranting taunts and focus on the page before him.
"Once upon a time..."
He leaned his forehead on his hand, feeling the cool ink smear just below his hairline.
"...there was a duck."
His hand paused. Already, it didn't feel right. He didn't know if it was just due to the lack of clever wording, or because Ahiru was so much more than a duck. He clutched his bangs, trying to think. What is it then? A piece of the prince's heart? But he's gone, and that would defeat the purpose. A piece of my heart? Can I even do that? We do seem to be in a different reality than before...
He brought his chin up to rest on his palm.
Then how do I make a fairy tale? But Autor's right, if it affects the rest of the town too much, I'll rouse suspicion on the part of the Bibliothek Trolle. How do these sorts of things go in books?
He squinted at the fibers in his quill, one he had made sure did not come from a duck.
Swan Lake was a declaration of love, but that one still ended badly. Sleeping Beauty was a kiss, though that seems unlikely. The Nutcracker was a promise to cherish despite appearance and form...that might work...though I believe I've already done something of the sort...
He began to gnaw his lip.
But those were all to break spells, not cast them. Though...I suppose I'm not trying to cast a spell exactly, just change a fate...
The irritable whine of Autor's voice broke his concentration.
"Autor, shut up."
"Geez, I didn't think you'd get so disgruntled over the idea. Are you sure you're even Bavarian?"
Fakia just looked at him. Then he noticed that Charon was standing there too. The older man raised a brow, looking a bit more amused than concerned.
"I don't think he was even listening, young man. Why don't you try again?"
Autor gave a dramatic sigh, pushing up his glasses. "I said that maybe your mind would loosen up if we went out and got a drink."
Fakia blinked again. "...Oh...September 17th is today, isn't it?"
Charon laughed. "Good thing you weren't in town yesterday. Even with such a small imitation of the festival there were plenty already passed out in the streets."
Autor smirked, turning to the older man. "You'd think they could tell the difference between a pint and a liter stein, though even then, Märzen is definitely stronger than most beers."
Fakia turned back to his writing desk. "I don't feel like drinking, it'll only slow me down in the long run."
"Ah, then it will be just the two of us."
"Two? Charon's going as well?"
"Who said he was?"
Fakia glanced over his shoulder to see Ahiru between Charon and Autor. She looked very eager and very clueless. He felt his eyelid twitched.
"She is not going to the beer festival. At least not today. It's the most chaotic when all the first-timers are finding how hard it is to hold their liquor. Maybe in a day or so, it lasts more than two weeks anyhow."
Autor snorted. "Is that so? With all the anxieties you hold for her, how do you know she'll even live that long?"
Fakia stood forcefully, but Charon had stepped between him and Autor. The aging blacksmith eyed Fakia piercingly.
"What's got you so riled?"
Fakia clenched his jaw, looking to see that Ahiru had waddled off to investigate the wood pile by the stove, apparently having missed the most recent exchange. He swallowed, trying to find the right words.
"Charon...do you think the house still feels empty?"
The older man thoughtfully stroked his chin. "Not so much, now that you mention it...but there's still someone else that should be here..." He shook his head, eyes sharpening as if he had just remembered something important. He held up a hand to indicate that Fakia should stay put, then exited the room hurriedly.
"So the old man doesn't remember, eh? He doesn't even seem to know who I am."
"Well, I don't recall you ever coming here before."
Autor gave an offended sniff. "You should have told him. I am likely the only blood family you have left, after all."
Fakia grunted. "In theory."
"I'm rarely wrong."
"You were wrong when you thought Drosselmeyer was a 'magnificent master of his craft'."
"That is not so. True, he may have had some malicious intent, but he is still the very epitome of eloquence and genius. This you cannot deny."
Fakia felt very much like denying Drosselmeyer along with the rest of whatever family tied him to this biased encyclopedia.
Charon returned, carrying a lumpy package wrapped in thick brown paper. "Folks at the mill gave this to me yesterday. Said Retzel had sent it for you."
Fakia unwrapped the package slowly, finding another parcel wrapped in bright blue tissue and a note written out in Retzel's curvy script. He furrowed his brow and unfolded the paper.
"It's been a while, hasn't it? Though not nearly as long as before, it still feels like ages since I've seen you, especially since it seems I don't remember much of what happened during our last visit. Have you become that unmemorable?
"Hans and I have been happily married for a few weeks now, and he found us a lovely little cottage on the outskirts of Munich. I was unpacking my things and found that I had bought this package when I was leaving town last, but I don't seem to recall why. Stranger still, I was sure that it was for you, though goodness knows why. Did you find yourself a girl, Fakia, and I simply forgot her? You don't seem like you would have a single forgettable person in your life. Maybe you'll tell me?
"It's odd, but I somehow forgot the name of the town. I was sure that it was called Goldkröne, but the delivery service said there was no town of that name in the area specified. They told me the closest there came was the walled city of Nördlingen. Where has my memory got to? It's not as if I'm an old lady yet!
Being careful not to rip the tissue, Fakia unwrapped the parcel, then stiffened a bit at its contents.
Charon grunted, "Now why would she send you a thing like that? Something you forgot to tell me, Fakia, or is she just being Retzel?"
In his lap was a pale yellow and carmine Dirndl, made to fit a young girl of twelve - maybe thirteen. The little dress certainly would have looked nice with blue eyes.
Fakia had only recently reached an age at which he could drink without the company of an adult, but hadn't taken advantage of it as he had been too busy trying to figure out how to avoid death without abandoning his responsibilities. Especially after the story ended, there was no way he could allow himself to indulge in such things with his current emotional state. He too often found himself with the desire to escape reality, after all.
Autor, on the other hand, seemed to have already spent a great deal of time building up a resistance to alcohol's depressive qualities, claiming Drosselmeyer had done so himself out of paranoia. Fakia had never pegged the studious boy as the drinking type, though once he thought about it, it seemed Autor was very good about moderation, when it came to certain influences, and was adept at enjoying quality over quantity.
He had accredited the empty streets the day before to a Saturday market, but now realized that the majority of the population had migrated to Munich for the Oktoberfest celebration, the rest concentrating in the local square for an imitation festival. Goldkröne, though small, was not a community to skimp when it came to merrymaking. However, Fakia found his memory oddly blank concerning this particular event, even though he knew exactly what went on, and turned to Autor for information.
"Did I miss the beer festival last year?"
Autor guffawed. "Of course not. I doubt you would have noticed during your full-time occupation as the prince's nanny, but there hasn't been an imitation since before you were even born."
"That's odd, they seem to have these sorts of events all the time, the Fire Festival was less than two months ago..."
"The Fire Festival does not exist."
"Doesn't exist? But I remember that day, when..." When I locked up Mytho and made Ahiru cry. His conscience snapped at him. Kind of difficult to forget that. Autor interrupted his thoughts.
"You may remember that day, I do as well, but in the place we are now, that day never happened"
"...What are you getting at?"
Autor gave an uncharacteristically weary smile as he led Fakia into a tent that reeked of specially brewed beer. "How many times have you left this town's vicinity?"
Fakia felt like scoffing, but halted as Autor's words set in. "...I never have, have I?"
Autor shook his head slowly, almost sympathetically. "No, you haven't."
The sole instance that Fakia could recall of ever going outside the town was on that last night when he had pursued Ahiru beyond the broken down wall and into the lake of despair. Being one of his more private experiences, he didn't intend to alert Autor of this exception.
Fakia stood there quietly as the other young man filled two liter-steins of dark Märzen before taking them to a secluded table, away from the other occupants. Fakia followed him past rowdy drunks, careful not to drop Ahiru whilst being jostled continuously. He sat across from Autor, who was calmly sampling his drink. Fakia looked down into the foaming brown liquid in his own glass, his stomach turning a bit at the smell; Ahiru, however, was full of curiosity. She slowly peeked over the edge of his stein, and before he could stop her, dipped her bill in. He sat in a moment of dread, wondering whether or not ducks got drunk or just died when consuming alcohol, but was soon put at ease when she promptly spat the liquor out again, spluttering indignantly across the tabletop. Fakia snorted, but Autor did not take the incident as kindly.
"What'd you think it was going to be, sparkling cider? Beer especially is an acquired taste, you know."
"One I may not want to develop," Fakia looked warily into his drink once more, suddenly wishing he were not old enough to drink, "I don't think I can trust myself with this."
Autor took another draught before answering. "Märzen is intentionally stronger than your everyday beer, it's made especially for this time of year within strict regulations. Try to appreciate it."
"That's what I'm afraid of. This isn't exactly the ideal time to lose my head."
"Surely Charon has adapted you at least a little bit by now? I don't think it'll slow you down that much."
"Better safe than-" Fakia was interrupted as the whole tent resounded with a loud whump. The trio looked back at the keg circle to find that a bedraggled and evidently intoxicated young man had somehow clambered to the top of a barrel and was now preparing to address the crowd that had gathered about him. The boy cleared his throat before proceeding to spout his expected nonsense in an eloquent, albeit influenced, speech.
"I ask you, how come all the boys these days never stick to one flower? They're always plowing through other peoples gardens, snatching up the roses without a vase to put them in, and letting every last petal fall before they toss it to a dog and pluck up another. How come none of the boys these days are taught that a decent flower needs a decent vase and a decent watering? The boys these days couldn't grow arugula, let alone orchids." He leaned over and coughed a bit, causing the crowd to step back a bit. Some, thinking the speech either too dull or lengthy, shambled away from the group, muttering. The boy finished hacking and straightened up, red-faced but stoic.
"I tell you," he continued, "I tell you I used to work in a garden that cultivated the most beautiful black-eyed Susans, with lovely silken petals and thick, prickly stems. A few times there were some little urchins that would sneak into the garden while the owner wasn't looking, and they'd try to pick the flowers by whittling away at the stems with their little penknives. Tell the truth, I wanted one of the yellow flowers there myself, a long slender one that was tall enough to catch the wind and twirl a bit in the breeze. I had some shears of my own that I could have clipped it with, but I knew the gardener wanted the flower to grow a bit more. He said he had a special pair of shears that could cut the stem without damaging the cells, so as not to hurt it.
"Sometimes, I'd get a little impatient and try to coax the stem into breaking away in my hands, so it looked like an accident, or like the plant was ready to deadhead anyways, but I always got pricked and rebuked by that yellow flower. Then there was another boy," he gave another cough, wet and wheezing, "a boy from a little ways toward the equator. That boy didn't have any shears, but he had his own knife, and he used to walk past the garden, whetting it on a little stone. Then, one day, the boy hopped the wall." The boy was on his hands and knees now, spluttering between words. Fakia was slightly perplexed by his odd condition, considering the boy had probably not been allowed more than a liter of Märzen, but felt his heartbeat quicken when he noticed a dark, wet-looking stain just below the young man's rib cage.
"He hopped the wall and made for the black-eyed Susans. I thought maybe the gardener had given him permission to come in, but then I saw him pull out his knife. A blade like that would kill the flower, and I-" he gulped, putting a hand to his stomach, "I just couldn't let that happen. So I threw down my gloves grabbed him by the wrist. I grabbed his wrist, an' he-" the boy took his hand from his stomach, and, to Fakia's horror, revealed it to be smeared with blood. The boy coughed again, this time tumbling off of his platform completely. The crowd, which by this time had grown in size as well as energy, rushed forward to catch him. There were spatters of expletives and outlandish explanations, but Fakia soon worked his way to the front to get a better look at the adolescent's wound, calling Autor over to identify it, leaving Ahiru to guard their beer.
Kneeling hesitantly on the dirty cobblestone pavement, Autor pulled the shirt away from the passed out boy's heaving chest. There, just over his diaphragm, was a bullet wound.
No one in the crowd seemed to know where the injured young man had come from, and there was no hospital or nearby physician to speak of. Fakia thought their involvement with him was just about over, until Autor volunteered to take care of the drunken youth.
"His name is Petruschka."
"You've met him?"
"Not really, he's been in the town less than a year."
"Just how do you know these things?"
"Get over your control issues, Fakia, we have more pressing matters. His life, for instance. Is that of any importance to you?"
"How in the world would we have any control over that?"
Autor grinned, "Why, Fakia, you'd have all the control in the world if you wanted too."
"Not possible, not even Drosselmeyer had that much power."
"Ah, but Drosselmeyer wasn't open to happy endings."
"Which are even more difficult than tragic ones. The kid's already a lost cause, why make it worse?"
"How could it possibly get worse? Besides, there's a chance. He's supposed to die by scimitar, not bullet. Things clearly got out of hand and he somehow ended up in a duel. I wonder whatever happened to the Moor."
Fakia took the other boy firmly by the shoulder. "Autor. Shut up about your speculations and tell me the things you do know."
"Well that's an awful vague question, Fakia. You say that as if I only know a small, insignificant amount of things."
Fakia rephrased his question slowly, through gritted teeth. "Tell me what it is you know about the boy."
Autor shrugged him away with a smirk. "Now that won't take quite as long," he adjusted his glasses before continuing. "Although you should already know about this yourself, really."
Fakia raised an eyebrow. Autor sighed dramatically, "Petruschka is a ballet."
"...You mean he comes from a story?"
"Aren't you just bright as a scherzo? Yes, it's a story."
"Well, because someone wrote it, obviously."
"No, I mean, how did it get here."
"By being a story?"
"But the story's over."
"There were stories other than Drosselmeyer's that got stuck here, you know."
"I presume you know of Herr Stravinsky?"
"...That would be The Firebird, wouldn't it?"
"Correct, composer to the Ballet Russes."
"Wait, Petruschka's a Stravinsky ballet? But I've never heard of it."
"I told you he was born this year, didn't I?"
"No, you said he came here this past year."
"Same thing, for a story."
"Get to the point."
Autor put his hands up defensively. "Alright then, have it your way. Petruschka is a tragedy about a puppet made of straw who is killed while trying to save the ballerina he is in love with, who doesn't even like him by the way, and he ends up haunting the puppeteer who allowed him to die. However, the score is fantastic. I would suggest you look over it, but I doubt you could read it."
"...The puppet dies."
"This boy is a puppet."
"In a way."
"So he's going to die."
"He would probably die from that wound even if he weren't in a story, but since he is from a story, there's still hope. That is, if you don't weasel out of it."
"What do you mean there's still hope?"
"I mean, it looks like this Petruschka got into a duel instead of being slain on the spot. That means the story is already in a bit of disarray, therefore it is susceptible to even further alterations."
"...Meaning we can now change the ending."
Autor leaned in. "Bingo."
(A/N: Sorry to leave at such a point, and just when we were getting somewhere too! But honestly, this was getting way too long. Anyone notice that each chapter is longer than the last? It's like I'm getting more and more hesitant to release. So the year is finally established, if you will bother to look up what year Petrushka was first performed, or go so far as to check the dates listed, which I was sure to make accurate. Here's a hint, this is the year following the Oktoberfest Centennial celebration.
So, yeah, I was hesitant to put a beer festival in here, but then I was like, "This is already rated teen, and it's not like I'm planning on extremely inappropriate material. None of the main characters are going to get drunk or anything." I don't even think of alcohol as negative, since I do not immediately associate it with drunkenness, I associate it with the fact that Europeans drink for pleasure, not to get wasted. So, yeah, I really wanted to weasel in an Oktoberfest themed akt, mostly because I really wanted to use this particular part of Petrushka. The story is oppressively depressing, but I LOVE the music from the Shrovetide fair. If anyone thus far has bothered to actually look up the pieces I am using the themes from, I'm sure they will agree with me on this one.
I was also hesitant to Have Autor say "bingo" because I don't know when people started using the word in this sense, but I thought is fit so well! So yeah, really throwing caution to the wind here.
And before I am corrected by anyone, I do know that Petrushka never makes a drunken speech, but some other person does during the Shrovetide fair. I also realize that the actual speech was more likely to be political than parable, but I really wanted to have a drunk speech in there anyway, just because it is my favorite motif in this particular piece. Look it up, it sounds really pretty, even if it is supposed to represent a drunk guy.)