AN: I have this love of really old legends and the like, so I decided to try basing a story off of Tam Lin. It probably won't be M for a few chapters, and this probably won't be very long, but I've grown super fond of it. It's a little out-there, but if you give it a chance you could like it.
Warnings: Kinda incest (It's complicated, but I'll explain it later on. It's not Hummelcest.), and a darkish Blaine.
Into The Woods
It is three days before the wedding, when she makes the mistake that haunts her for the last few years of her life.
She'd grown up being told to stay far from the wood, as did most of the children from Pest. It's been the way for centuries, with the story of the woods dating back almost since the beginning.
"Now, pheasant bird, you must promise your dear old mother that you will never go into the woods. The woods, they are not safe for the young virgins. Only the brave warriors of the king are allowed passage without price, and only if they follow his rules."
"They say that he was once a king's warrior, his best! He went on a special mission to discover why the forest was hurting, and the dryads so upset. There was an accident; however, no one's sure what happened…."
"He died, he did, but the dryads had taken a liking to 'em. They turned 'em they did, into something more than man."
"He protects the forest nowadays, making sure that whatever had happened afore don't happen again."
They never had told her what problem he'd fixed that made him so special, but that's probably because she'd never asked. Tam Lin and the faeries were lies, the priests had said, and everyone was to listen to the priests. You had to.
So she goes to the forest, not worrying of Tam Lin. He isn't real, and no imaginary being is going to keep her from the flowers that grow only in a grove at the forest's center. Kathryn was always so headstrong…
She was but a few feet into the forest when he appeared, crouched on the large stump of a tree with his cape of moss and his head protected by magnificent antlers. She tried to run.
It didn't end well for her.
The stories were true, it seemed, and the great Tam Lin expected his payment. He took what they said he would take, breaking her and using her as they all said he would.
It's what came after that was different, a surprise the stories did not prepare her for.
"He'll be perfect," the creature breathed, and she could feel his eyes on her despite her own being closed. "My own little starburst."
He's gone then, and she lays there for a while, breathing deep and refusing to shed a tear.
After a while, not too long, she picks herself up and rearranges her skirts to look more presentable.
Then she goes to retrieve her flowers.
There are eyes on her the entire time.
The wedding is beautiful. Kathryn's ensured it would be, and with Burt's new, prestegious position with the King it would look bad if their nuptials weren't magnificent.
The pregnancy comes soon, with her showing only four months after the wedding night. It's not highly unusual or suspicious, and the entire town buzzes with the news. Nobody is as delighted as her husband. Burt comes from his old workshed nearly every Sunday with some new item he's made for his future child, including the cradle he's bothered to burn with shapes depicting the legends of the wood, complete with nymphs, dryads, and an imposing Tam Lin standing above where their tiny child's head will go.
"Who better to protect him?" he husband had said, smiling with a hand on her stomach. "Besides myself, of course."
She can only clench her teeth and smile.
When Kathryn has the child, the town rejoices. It's not every day that the town's General Advisor has a firstborn son, after all, and especially one so handsome. There are flowers brought in the little one's honor.
Kurt has his Burt's eyes, colorful and gorgeous. He's small, but the priestesses say that he will go strong despite.
Kathryn knows what the others don't, and it breaks her heart to see her husband cradle her son with so much love, because there is no doubt in her mind who put the child in her womb, and it wasn't her husband. She watches from her imposed bedstay as Burt carries the little one around the room, showing him the flowers and trinkets the villagers had brought for him.
"Kathryn, lookit him!" he exclaims with a laugh. "He likes this one!"
The irony is not lost on her, when the flower her tiny son clutches matches the ones from her wedding.
Kurt is only five years when his mother passes, on a day not particularly dramatic in weather. He cries in Papa's shirt, relieved that he gets to keep him. The Holy One took mother somewhere special, the priests had said, and he doesn't know what he'd do if He'd decided He wanted to take Papa too.
He'd never say it out loud, but he's grateful it was mother taken instead of Papa. Papa loves him more, mother had always said too much.
He turns six four months after mother's death. He wakes up excited, because birthdays are the most fun days of all, and he thinks he and Papa could use a fun day. Everything's been so sad since mother died, but birthdays make everything better. Papa spoils him, mother always said he did, and on birthdays he always gets special cakes and toys Papa makes him in the workshed. Some of the villagers send him things too, but it doesn't mean as much since he doesn't know them.
He waits in his bed for a bit, because usually Papa likes to wake him up. It occurs to him, after a while, that Papa must be waiting for him to get up on his own now that he's older. He goes down the stairs excited, because Papa shouldn't have to wait on him for so long.
Papa isn't there.
Kurt sits at his place at the table for a very long time, so long he starts to get actually hungry, and why aren't his cakes out?
Papa must have been called in to speak with the King, Kurt finally realizes, because Papa wouldn't leave him alone otherwise. He's been called in a lot since mother died, and he says sorry a lot, so Kurt knows he feels bad about missing today.
It makes his heart fall in his chest, but he holds his head high. Hummels don't cry over silly things.
He gets bored after a while, but then he's struck with a very clever idea. If Papa's at work with the King, then that means the workshed is out of watch. Which means his presents are probably unguarded. Which means, he can go see them.
The workshed isn't very far from their house. They have their own piece of land atop the biggest hill in their small village, and the house and workshed are at the top. They have some sheep flocking at the bottom, but Kurt isn't supposed to go down there. (Another little boy in the village got his legs trampled when some of his family's flock spooked a few years ago, and Papa has since forbid him from getting near such creatures.) It only takes him a few minutes to walk over, and he gets there even faster today with his run.
He opens the door to the workshed with a sneaky giggle. Once, Papa took him with him to the castle to meet Princess Quinn, and she and the stableman's son, Noah, taught him how to play peepers.
"When ya play peepers, ya gots to be real quiet and nosey. That's why Quinn's so good," the little boy had whispered. After Princess Quinn hit him, he continued. "You run around and hide behind things and look and listen until ya figure out secrets."
Kurt remembers nodding along avidly.
"I love secrets. Papa tells me some sometimes. Mother too, but I like Papa's better."
The other boy had nodded at him.
"Good, because I wanna find out what keeps making those crazy sounds behind the strawpiles."
They'd had loads of fun, but Papa won't let him go back to play because he doesn't like Noah for some reason. He's also not supposed to talk to the Princess for ten more years, but Papa wouldn't say why. Something about bees in a trough, a metaphor for something probably. Papa likes those metaphor things.
It doesn't matter now though, because he learned a lot from Noah and so now he can sneak into the workshed very quiet. He looks around, little blue eyes taking all of Papa's tools in with interest. He's going to learn how to use them soon, Papa used to always promise he'd teach him after he turned six.
He gasps when his eyes come across a large figure in a chair in the corner.
The man startles when his young son hurls himself into his arms, smiling and giggling happily.
"Papa, I thought you had to go to the castle! Were you waiting for me here the whole time?"
His head hurts from the beers he's had, and his little boy's squealing in his ear isn't helpful. He closes his eyes.
"Kurt, I thought you were supposed to stay inside when Papa's out," he says as sternly as he can, but it's really more of a groan. He doesn't want the child to see him like this.
"I was playing peepers."
Of course he was.
"That's nice. Go back inside now."
There's squirming against him, and a little head manages to squeeze through his crossed arms to press their noses together.
"But Papa, why can't I stay with you?" he asks. "We could play knights, or I could watch you build something."
Burt pushes him away roughly, startling Kurt and nearly sending him to the floor. He feels bad about that, somewhere in his head, but it's not his number one worry. Don't let him smell the drink on your breath.
"Kurt, go home."
The little boy looks up at him with questioning eyes.
"But I am, remember?"
"Well find a new one!" he yells, and Kurt looks so shocked he laughs, he's so far gone. "Find one where you're not around me."
He watches the kid nod and run off with tears in his pretty blue eyes, his own eyes.
A minute later, he kneels over and empties his stomach.
Something flashes in the back of his mind, a conversation in the aftermath of one of the houses below burning through the night.
"What would we do if we lost our house, Papa? Where would we be safe and warm?" Kurt's only four when he asks this, looking with wide eyes as a little boy his age is given breath by one of the priestesses.
"Where do you feel the safest and the warmest?" he'd asked, because he's not sure how to even begin to explain these things to a child. Kurt had climbed up into his arms, big blue eyes smiling.
He'd laughed, holding his little boy tighter.
"Then you figure this is your home, not that house. Houses are important, but they aren't homes."
It had satisfied Kurt, and he remembers smiling back at Kathryn, proud he'd navigated so well. He can't recall her smiling back.
Kurt runs past the house and down the hill. He runs by the sheep and he doesn't even feel afraid, because Papa's stupid so he probably doesn't know how sheep work and Kurt shouldn't be scared.
He runs down to the edge of the town market, and then he slows to a walk. He needs to look presentable if he expects to be let in when he arrives at Princess Quinn's castle. He stays along the middle of the road for awhile, watching people run back and forth before him. He didn't know that so many people fit into the little town, but it's interesting. He feels out of place in his nice clothes. He'd dressed up for his birthday, but even his play clothes would be nicer then the simple garments on most of the people here.
He's trying to decide if he should go back for some bread before his journey, when an older boy stops him.
"Hey, kid!" he shouts, tripping over himself to get closer. "Are you new?"
Kurt glares at him, because now people are looking, and it's not nice looks he's getting.
"No, I got here six years ago. Now leave me alone."
The bigger boy frowns.
"You talk funny. And how come you're wearing that funny fabric thing?"
"It's called a cloak," Kurt hisses. "And it's a lot nicer than your potato sack."
The taller boy glares at him.
"This is a grape sack, but I bet you don't know what grapes are, because only people who are heroes and their families get sent grapes. My dad was a war hero."
Kurt matches his glare and his tone.
"Well my Papa gets plenty of grapes, thank you. I don't even like them, because they aren't as good as strawberries."
"What are strawberries?" the other boy asks. "You're making those up!"
"Am not! They're red and triangle-y and have little green hats."
"Liar!" yells the other boy. "The only things like that get sent up the hill to Mr. Hummel's house, and…." He pauses for a second, looking over Kurt's nice clothes and grouchy face. "Oh! Are you the kid from on top of the hill?"
Kurt's about to proudly state that yes, he is, but then he remembers why he's down here dealing with loud tall boys in the first place.
"Not anymore," he says quietly.
"Why not? Are you moving?" The other boy is quick to change moods, looking confused and, if Kurt has to say, very handsome.
"Yes," Kurt answers with confidence. "I'm going to travel there all by myself."
The other boy's eyes get wide.
"Really? Like, you're going on an adventure?"
Kurt hadn't thought of it like that, but it sounds better then wandering.
"Yes," he nods, head held high. "I'm going to go all the way to the King's castle."
The boy's eyes got even wider.
"But how are you going to get through the woods? My dad got through all the time, but he was under army protection or something."
Kurt hadn't thought of that.
"Well, I, um…I'll just have to be brave."
The other boy nods at this.
"That's smart. My name's Finn."
Kurt raises an eyebrow at the sudden introduction, but sticks out his hand to shake all the same.
He waits a beat, before rolling his eyes at Finn's confused look and grabbing his hand to shake.
"It was lovely meeting you, Finn, but now I need to get started. I think I can probably make it through the woods by nighttime if I start now." He turns to leave, but Finn grabs his shoulder.
"Hey wait, why don't I go with you? We can be adventurers together."
Kurt smiles at that, because he doesn't think anyone's ever asked to do something with him before.
"Okay." He giggles a bit. "But only if you can keep from tripping over the tree feet."
Finn makes a pretend-upset face, but then he laughs at him, in a nice way. They make their way across town, Finn pointing out different places and things Kurt's never seen before. They make it to the end of town, nothing but a large field with faint wagon tracks between the two of them and the forest's edge.
"We should do a sneak-crawl," Finn whispers. "That way, nobody will see to stop us."
Kurt nods, looking around.
"Okay, but what's a sneak-crawl?"
Finn grins at him.
"It's how real soldiers get across fields and pastures and places like that without getting caught. Here, I'll show you." Finn drops down on his front, and digs his elbows and knees into the dirt to propel himself forward.
Kurt looks at him like he's the disgusting dog that Papa's friend brought to the house that one time, the one who drooled.
"Finn, if I do that, dirt will get all over my clothes."
The older boy scoffs.
"Yeah, but don't they have, like, a hundred billion clothes at the castle. I bet they even have some of those silly croak things."
"I guess so."
Kurt bites his lip, falling forward onto the ground.
"And they're called cloaks, Finn, not croaks."
They sneak-crawl across the field, making it to the woods unscathed.
They stand, peering into the dark of the forest curiously.
"Do you think the stories are true?" Finn asks quietly. "The ones about Tam Lin, I mean."
"Of course not," Kurt answers. "My mother always said he was nothing but a nightscare, and nightscares aren't real."
Finn gulps, but nods. Kurt takes a deep breath.
"Alright, here we go."
And so, almost a decade after Kathryn Eliza Gurney left the woods, Kurt Eljah Hummel entered them.
AN: I'm nervous about this one, because, you know, it's got that old legendy element of wrongness. I love it though.
Give me your thoughts, please! I'm always ridiculously excited to hear any ideas/suggestions/requests.