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by Edmondia Dantes
Disclaimer: No money, not mine save original characters, no sue, me have no money.
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- Chapter Three -
So this other was him.
Strange, to be sure, but he was quite certain of the truth. How could he not know himself? Hadn't he dreamt of this before? The child frowned, snuggling further into his father's touch. Maybe - but had they been mere thoughts of what he could be? Or what he already was? This other one was... different, not just older, but - sleeker, perhaps more clever, perhaps more brilliantly formed. He liked him already, liked the easy grace, liked the clear brightness, and loved the shadowy depths. How could he not know his own self?
Puck smiled over at him, his eyes sparkling like jewels. The child smiled back, stifling a giggle.
How odd! How very wondrously odd!
* * *
Titania stared down at the child, wondering what he was planning. The smile the two Pucks had exchanged had not gone unnoticed. The smaller of the two looked up at her with an innocent expression, and she turned her attention back to her husband. "I wonder what got your mother in such a tizzy."
He rubbed his forehead, mussing his already frazzled hair even more. His tone was distinctly grumpy as he replied, "I have no idea."
"She's mad at someone." A soft, young voice interrupted. The two turned their attention to the little boy, still snuggled in their arms. His pale eyes looked inward and outward at the same time, a disconcerting expression, but one to which they were becoming slowly accustomed. Titania hated it, but the child still had a tenuous connection to his creator. Mab had poured a little too much of herself into the boy.
"More than one someone, actually." An older voice picked up. The other one looked just the same, tilting his head thoughtfully. Apparantly time had little effect on such a thing.
The boy tilted his head, an unsettling echo of his elder self. "Those around her palace..."
His elder frowned. "Were scattered away by the wind..."
Both of them bit their lips, pouting. "Because we don't know." They muttered in unison.
Titania rubbed her temples. Looking between the two had gotten her dizzy.
* * *
That was decidedly nasty. Aliel plucked up the tattered edges of his cape and leaped lightly over that extremely messy bit of one of his cousins. It was still icy, but when that portion of the ceiling had caved in, he'd decided movement was better than getting squished.
He rubbed his nose, surveying the wreckage detachedly. It would take several days to repair, as usual, and meanwhile the queen would be yelling and throwing things at them to encourage them to hurry up, as usual. Last time he'd wound up lying dazed in the depths of the fountain, having been thrown headlong through a window. He hadn't liked that, even though someone had been unusually kind and fished him out of the water and dried him off.
Grandmother was scary when she got into moods like that. And ever since papa had left with so many of the others, it had been worse. Aliel hadn't actually fought in any of the battles, but grandmother often told him of what happened. Very loudly, while throwing furniture and people through the walls.
At times like those, he rather wished he'd gone with his parents. Though that really hadn't been an option.
Mab would have killed him.
* * *
"He's being creepy again."
"Hmm?" Fox glanced askance at her husband, who was looking at the Pucks with a furrowed brow and a hint of a pout.
"Creepy. Him. I don't like it."
Aha. David always got fussy when he felt the situation was out of his control. No wonder he was sulking so much. Avalon definitely didn't agree with him. Not that it exactly agreed with her, but... It felt familiar, like something out of a dream that she barely remembered from her childhood. Something about starlit skies and the wind... she thought. Or perhaps not. Maybe it had been a hallucination? Not childhood, but those long days when she slagged her way through endless stretches of hell for a cause she didn't believe in, but money that she did.
But David was right, it was kinda creepy. The identical posture, a slightly detached look, and pouting. The little one was absolutely adorable, while the larger just looked cute. And speaking of looks - her mother looked a bit disconcerted, an expression she'd never dreamed could grace Titania's visage. Or Anastasia's, for that matter. Was there a difference?
This could get very confusing.
* * *
Someone's arm was sticking out of the chandelier. Aliel floated up, curious to see if the rest of the body was there too. It was, though there was a dazed look in the clear amethyst eyes and the silk-clad legs were twisted oddly.
"Um..." he poked her in the shoulder. "You okay?"
"Are you listening?"
She smacked him in the face. "Frengmm."
Enough was enough. He reached over and yanked hard on her silver-laden tresses.
"Ow!" With that, she promptly tumbled out of the chandelier, landing sideways on top of what had once been a very ornate fountain. Grumbling incoherently, she straightened up, tugging her scanty outfit into place and looking around for her left boot.
"Aliel, what the hell are you doing?"
He drifted down hesitantly, afraid she might hit him again. "You were in the chandelier. It woulda broken. Gramma wouldn't like it."
One of the great doors of the hall splintered apart, then fell over. Cobweb and Aliel both stared soundlessly across the room, only blinking when a roiling cloud of dust blew over them.
"Aw crap." Cobweb muttered succinctly.
Aliel could find only one thing to say. "Gramma's really not gonna like this."
"Gramma, as you call her, is a psycho bitch from hell," Cobweb grumbled, brushing dust out of her hair. "And she hates everything and everyone except you. No, wait, that's not true. I think she likes cheese. But other than that, she hates everything, the violent, deranged, homicidal lunatic that she is."
Aliel looked horrified.
Cobweb glanced down at him, eyes going wide. "Argh! I shouldn't have said that in front of you!"
"What's a - " His words were cut off, mainly because she slapped a hand across his mouth.
"Bad word. You shouldn't know. Urg. I'm lousy with kids. And that damn door just had to fall down, didn't it? And I probably broke the chandelier, too. Fabulous. Argh!"
The chandelier trembled violently before plummeting down and shattering on the stones, sending a fine spray of crystals in their direction.
Cobweb buried her head in her hands. "Why me?"
* * *
It was a bit tricky to translate, but the Puck was the world's greatest trickster. "Fox and David."
Three pairs of blue eyes blinked. "...What?" Incredulity.
He sighed and flipped a lock of hair over his shoulder. "Fox and David."
English this time. "What?"
This time he rolled his eyes. "I told them your names, Davy-boy."
"You better not have said Davy-boy."
Puck brushed his mind against his younger self's, and comprehension dawned on his tiny face. ~They're different.~ he marveled, looking over them with a keen eye that would serve him well once he was grown.
Titania wrinkled her nose elegantly. ~It's hard not to notice. They smell disgusting.~
~They're mortals, for the love of Avalon, of course they're different!~
~...And just what are you doing in the company of mortals?~ Oberon questioned coldly, eyes narrowing in suspicion.
Puck just stared at the prince, a hint of a smirk tugging at his lips. "Wouldn't you love to know."
* * *
Half an hour later, and they'd managed to wake up enough others to get the castle in working order again, although the fountain had really suffered this time around.
And it was just in time for the queen's swirling return, grand and becoming as she swept through the room, plucking her grandson from Cobweb, who became very, very still and quiet.
Mab settled on her throne as if she'd never left it, Aliel plunked down firmly on her lap. "We're attacking now," she announced silkily, "On the hour. Be ready and go. Understand? Take prisoners, if you like. And if you happen to encounter a little boy, don't kill him, bring him to me."
"My lady?" someone who undoubtably lurked at the fringes of the crowd ventured.
"On the hour," she hissed, and her children were quick to depart. Only a young girl with silver in her hair and a scowl on her pink lips hung back, watching.
Mab lifted a hand and stroked her grandchild's pale hair, her lips pressed to a thin line, the ground around her slowly cracking. She was showing remarkable restraint at the moment. Aliel winced and closed his eyes as her nails dug hard into his skin. They felt rather like what he imagined poisoned claws to be.
Cobweb scowled at the queen, but darted into the darkness anyway.
* * *
David Xanatos was not a happy man. He turned to his wife and said flatly, "Your mother is glowering at me."
Fox poked him. "Sit up straight."
"She's still glowering at me."
"Well...fix your hair."
Puck paused in his rapid-fire conversation with Oberon to glance over his shoulder at them. "Titania doesn't much care for mortals yet. Give her a millenia or eight and she'll get over it."
"Lousy first impression to make on your mother-in-law."
"Daaaavid," Fox sighed, "Did the thought ever occur that she might be glowering at you because you're glaring at her?"
* * *
Puck turned back to the prince, who had paused when he did.
He shrugged. "Nothing you need concern yourself about."
Oberon threw a skeptical glance at the two humans. "And they can help us?"
"Yes. And stop being a brat about this."
"I seem to recall having said that to you many times."
"That's as may be, but it's still a frog."
"...What?" Now they were doing it in a chorus.
* * *
A tiny thing that glowed a painfully bright shade of orange streaked into the tent, ruffling Fox's hair.
"Attack! Attack! Unseelie in the forest! Highness come quick!" It shrieked in a high-pitched tone that the mortals were lucky they couldn't hear.
Oberon flung everything aside, striding out of the tent, snatching the pixie as he went. Titania grabbed her hair, twisted it into a ponytail, seized a short sword, and was out of the door a second later.
Two humans faced two pairs of brilliant blue eyes that had gone from bright to deadly in an instant.
And during that instant...
~For them? What are they?~
~Doesn't matter. Lightweight. Any iron?~
~Good, get it and give it to them. Now.~
A burst of scarlet flame, and the smaller was gone, while the larger hauled the two to their feet.
"Mind telling us what's going on, Puck?" Xanatos questioned sharply, glancing outdoors at the mayhem Oberon's followers were causing on their way into the woods.
"Don't you just love parties?"
Fox cocked an eyebrow. "The kind with cocktails and food it is physically impossible to eat?"
The smile she got was both devastatingly handsome and devastatingly mischevious. "Not quite."
A large, two handed sword dropped into her arms, followed by a light chain metal shirt.
Xanatos raised a rapier and laughed. "My kind of party."
"That's just what we wanted to hear. Well? Hurry up!"
Fox scowled. It was kind of hard to keep up when he - they- argh! - both versions - were already out the damn door.
But they raced afterwards anyway.
"What?" Amazing that he could hear so well when he was zooming by a good dozen feet above their heads.
"Who do we eviscerate?"
"The ones who try to turn you into people paté!"
The Xanatoses looked at one another and smirked. They could handle that.
* * *
There was something extremely satisfying in beating the hell out of a...well, a thing that looked like something out of an extremely bad fantasy movie. Xanatos lunged forward with a spinning sidekick, satisfied to see that the thing's bright violet wings shatter like the glass they so strongly resembled.
He and Fox were moving through the edge of the forest, away from the thick of the fighting, mainly because Puck had quite calmly told them that the amount of magic being flung around during these battles would probably cause their brains to melt out of their ears.
Fox was going in full commando mode, drop-kicking what were probably distant relatives with slightly deranged glee. To think, they weren't even her in-laws. He swung, hurting his fist when it encountered a jaw like stone, but he managed to trip the whatever and jump on its head.
Forget playing with the gargoyles, now this was fun!
* * *
Soundlessly, the boy reached over, plucking a jeweled dagger from its holder, flinging it backwards over his shoulder almost carelessly. A dull thunk let him know he'd hit his target.
Titania took a moment to ruffle his hair in passing as she staggered by, busy crushing someone's throat.
Puck jumped over a plant-thing's head, pulled on it's nose, and uttered a short verse that got the thing swallowed by the earth. He bounced off of someone's injured stomach, stole their belt, and walloped another across the back of the head with it. Someone who wore far too much makeup turned into a tiger and tried to eat him. Rather unfortunately, being so young, his shapeshifting skills were somewhat lacking. So he flew for his older self, who was hovering about a hundred yards up, locked in mortal combat with an ordinary warrior. The tiger stopped chasing him when the other warrior's head sailed by to land with a sickening thud on the grass.
A quick, silent demand. ~ToovisiblegosomewhereawayfromOberon~
The younger went, while the elder threw a wicked spell at the tiger.
* * *
His size quite came in handy, few people noticed him coming or going. Someone was busy casting a particularly nasty spell that involved the victim's insides turning into outsides. It stopped when he darted under its four legs and tripped it.
Then again, maybe it was a bad idea because whoever this was they were both big and angry and despite all his talents he was still a very little boy.
That didn't stop Puck from bashing the fellow's nose in when he picked him up, or setting six of his companions on fire.
* * *
For a single instant, he faltered. Puck hesitated, his other self's anger and confusion temporarily flooding his mind, making him almost dizzy.
The three fey he had been fighting all jumped him at once.
Emerald tendrils of energy wrapped around them like curling flame. He crushed them without a thought.
* * *
Someone else landed on the pile, grabbing his arm before he could toss a particulary nasty spell in her face.
He kicked someone in the stomach, bit someone else, pulled on somebody else's hair, and blasted someone's legs off.
And yet despite everything, he couldn't get free, and the elder Puck was entangled in a big mess somewhere to the east, and those strange little things were on the ground, and his cousins were busy and his mother was picking off the watchers, and his father was at the center of it all, hurling bolts of pure energy that seared the ground and obliterated anything in their path.
~PAPA!~ he shrieked, but the eight of them bore him down, and forced the teleportation.
They were gone as if they had never been.
* * *
Amidst the chaos and carnage, Oberon froze. ~Puck? Puck?!~ His baby. They had his baby. His mother...
His fists clenched, his eyes slitted, and he snarled, low in his throat, the aura around him flaring so brightly that every last warrior was forced to drop their weapons and turn away.
The resulting explosion decimated half of Mab's attacking forces.
* * *
When the doors slammed open, one was already dead. He was flung into a shadowy corner and forgotten. Perhaps someone would come to mourn before Avalon absorbed the residual energy that maintained a body, but most likely not. There were far more important things to attend to.
The court parted quickly before the unruly knot of warriors, seven in all, trying to hold down a squirming bundle that absolutely refused to cooperate. Even as they staggered through the great hall, another fell, a victim of his own knifeblade, wielded by a much smaller opponent.
The hair and clothing of those involved blazed with shimmering light, even as they gritted their teeth and shoved the tiny thing down.
They wrestled it before the queen, who merely raised an eyebrow. "I would suggest you release him," she said mildly, ignoring a sudden shriek of pain that emanated from somewhere near the middle of the huddle.
A moment later and they were gone, warriors and court all vanished, the hall empty save for the queen, a small boy slumped on the marble floor, and his brother.
The boy pushed himself to his feet, dusting himself off neatly, as if he'd simply been outside playing too hard. Mab leaped off of her throne, landing in a crouch before the precious tresure. She ran a delicate finger underneath his tiny chin. "Welcome back, my little one. Aren't you glad to be home?"
The Puck glared up at his creator through a curtain of milky hair and said nothing.
And behind the queen, resting on the steps, arms clasped around his knees, Aliel frowned and looked away.
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Written 2002 by Edmondia Dantes