* * *
by Edmondia Dantes
Disclaimer: Not mine, sue me not, broke am I, have naught but Mountain Dew on which to survive...
AN: Bree wrote an absolutely *gorgeous* poem to go along with chapter three. Go read it. *blows kisses* THANK YOU!
* * *
- Chapter Four -
David Xanatos fell gracelessly onto a sheet of clear ice. He growled, rubbed his backside, and glowered up at the fey king, who merely gave him a look that seemed to say 'I saved your puny little mortal life, what more do you want?' and promptly ignored him.
He clambered to his feet, squinting against the glare that was unchanged in its intensity. "Go Owen!" he muttered to himself, trying to see what was going on. The fact that he hadn't the foggiest idea didn't bother him in the least. He took a glance at Oberon, noticed *he* didn't seem to be having any problems, and grumbled.
An errant breeze sent him hurtling through the doors and into the great hall, where he was promptly knocked out by a large chunk of falling masonry.
* * *
Had he mortal eyes, he would have been blinded. Oberon surveyed the scene and scowled.
Light swirled, shattered, clashed, rent the skies open. The winds and rain howled, twisted upon themselves and shrieked an agonized breath. Trees bent beneath the onslaught, the streets wiped bare of human life. In ponds and on Manhatten Sound, the seas boiled.
The gods were at war once again.
Violet, the color of royalty - his son. Emerald, the color of the deep forests and hills - his son. One Esau, one Jacob. And they were tearing the
world apart. The last war had seen the death of Atlantis at the hands of the Children...
So he watched, and waited, as around him, the world fell down.
* * *
They hovered at the heart of the storm, twin figures lighting the chaos.
For the moment, they had forgone finesse.
Slim hands locked together, ablaze with fire, reality starting to warp as they strained.
Aliel did not speak. Puck did not speak.
Words had no true meaning.
Nothing mattered except winning.
* * *
It was just as it had been all those millenia ago. Except no longer was the fight between mother and son, but his son and his most favored one.
And it looked like they were playing 'uncle'. Oberon shook his head in exasperation. They were alike in power, so simply flinging all of it at each other was extremely intimidating and entirely pointless.
He extended his influence, soothed the mortals who were paralyzed with a fear so ancient it was a part of their blood. But he could do nothing for the source of the fear. He would not interrupt this duel until absolutely necessary.
It was a matter of honor.
Only one of the two would survive. Puck would not hesitate to kill Aliel...he had power enough, for Mab had wished her trickster brilliant and
incredibly strong. But the other was strengthened by insanity, and held power, albiet flawed.
But how long until those powers, so alike yet so wildly different, started to destroy that which they were not intended to?
Until that point, he would wait for his child, whichever one it truly was.
* * *
The upstart, the thief, the enemy.
And he was too, he knew it. The hobgoblin was a perversion of magic, a creation that his grandmother had crafted out of boredom and a fit of fancy.
Aliel pushed against the glimmering emerald, but couldn't get a firm grasp.
He hissed through his teeth, like a cat.
* * *
Aliel was holding up. Stronger than Puck had thought, but it was his own fault, he supposed.
Puck sent a smirk towards his enemy, prodding delicately at the warped shield which sparked and flared to match.
An equal was a rare thing indeed.
He got in a lucky blow, felt the other waver. Then Aliel whipped back, flinging an uncontrolled bust of magic towards him. He flipped artfully out of the way and retaliated in a similar fashion.
Pity about the homicidal tendencies, really.
But if they truly were equals...then he might be pushed into...
He snarled as a sliver of power slipped past his shield. It hurt...
Puck narrowed his eyes, trying desperately to ignore the pull of his true powers...if he gave in to those desires....
Atlantis had been quite pretty before he'd lost his temper.
* * *
This wasn't working. He was too strong. Even - equal - with him, of all people! It was outrageous! Not fair! How could he - OW THAT HURT DAMMIT!
He tackled the smaller fey, who gave a startled cry and immediately started trying to bash his head in.
For someone so little, he was incredibily vicious. What had grandmother said? Never trust tricksters?
His vision blurred. Poor grandmother. She was all alone. It was their fault..their fault? Father and...his favorite trickster, the one who teased him and distracted him enough that he paid no attention whenever the little prince wished to speak with him.
Aliel was horrified to realize he was near the verge of tears.
* * *
Fox stepped around the corner and kicked someone in the head. The man crumpled as she shook her head in disgust.
"They're like termites," she remarked to the baby in her arms, "Just keep coming out of the woodwork."
Alexander gurgled happily in response, and she chuckled as she started to saunter down the corridor.
She blinked as two of them fell out of the door in front of her, eyes wide and frozen. Fox leaned over, prodding delicately at the bigger one with a foot. He didn't move.
"I don't think he'll be waking up anytime soon." said a soft, amused voice.
Fox's head snapped up. "Mother?"
Titania stepped lightly out of the shadows, a familiar smirk on her lips. "Fox," she greeted warmly, touching her daughter's hair breifly.
Unconciously, she tightened her grasp on her son. Titania noticed, shooting her an injured glance which she ignored.
"What are you doing here, mother?" Try as she might, the suspicion still came out in her voice whenever she tried to talk to the strange green-skinned...whatever that had birthed her.
The queen raised an elegant eyebrow. "Why, I came to see the fight of course."
Fox paused, tossing a curious look at her mother. "What fight?"
"Didn't you notice the power?"
The fey blinked at her daughter. "How could you fail to see it?"
Fox was getting annoyed. "Mother, what are you talking about?"
The world spun.
* * *
Oberon turned, startled, only to see his lady wife materialize at his side, her woozy-looking mortal daughter with her.
Titania inclined her head slightly. "My lord."
He frowned. "What are you doing here?"
The queen gestured out towards the frozen expanse of the courtyard, and the gargoyles. "I thought that perhaps it would be better to remove everyone from the battlefield."
He nodded. "Of course. If you would?"
She nodded, grabbed her daughter's arm, and vanished, taking the mortals with her.
* * *
They reappeared in the cavernous library. Fox loosened her death-grip on Titania's arm and staggered over to a couch, clutching her son tightly to her chest.
A pale green hand found its way to her forehead as her mother frowned. "Are you all right, Fox?"
Fox blinked bleary emerald eyes up at the fey queen.
"What just happened, and why am I nauseous?"
Titania had the grace to look embarassed.
* * *
Puck was angry. So angry...
What did this intruder think he was doing, attacking his home?
Oh that's not it, is it pretty one? No, no, that's an excuse...
...and he smiled up at her and twisted his fingers, making the other scream and wail though he was barely an hour old and the child well into his hundreds...
Aliel swept forward, a blade of energy whispering in his pale grasp. Long, graceful, designed for a killing blow, one that only the skilled could craft. He would be too slow as he fought now.
Why deny it, little one? This is what you were made for...
...staring up at his prince and watching her reprimand his father but smile at him for the trouble he'd caused...
And as he ducked, twisted and spun out of the way, he felt the stirrings in the back of his mind that demanded retribution for this slight, that which he refused to acknowledge in his waking days...that hauntingly perfect otherness that was so very right and savory and so very wrong...his deepest lust and darkest, most potent power...
My Robin, my beloved child...you can win this for me, you know well what you are...
...he snatched it away from the other, left him sprawled in the dirt as he darted for the shelter of the queen's arms....
Mab's was a brilliant touch.
My baby trickster, so lovely...
...a queen's words, echoed by a wondering prince whom he knew...
And even as he gave in, let the power slide through him in a glorious, wonderful tide, reveled in anticipation...
He hated himself more than any other being on the planet.
* * *
The billionaire, newly awakened was wading through a knee deep pile of unconcious mercenaries in an attempt to get to the security room.
He smirked to himself. Fox was *very* good at what she did. He jumped over two men who were sprawled on top of each other and continued down the corridor.
A brief frown crossed his face. Funny, they didn't look as though they'd been the victims of his wife's special 'treatment'.
* * *
The king stared. He wouldn't... but he would, were he pushed too far...and that which had cost Atlantis, driven every last human to gibbering madness...
It was all he could do to block the sound from those mortals around him as his servant looked into the eyes of his son and laughed.
The sound cascaded down like a rainshower.
The trickster tossed his head, eyes flashing, hair gleaming...and still laughing, that delicate, intoxicating sound. Contempt radiated off of the child, mockery and hate and a thousand and one other things that were best left unspoken in the tempestuous night.
At that moment, Oberon would be hard-pressed to tell which one of the duo was truly mad.
Aliel certainly was...for she who had raised him slowly poisoned in her flawless beauty. But Puck...
That delighted silvery laughter that burst from the trickster's lips had been known to make the stars sing and entrance even those of his own kind. He was beyond beautiful at those times, perhaps the pinnacle of what his mother had created. But...that same, sweet laughter could ring with darkest mischief and a mocking cruelty that numbed the mind and destroyed the spirit. She had been brilliant, their Mother, beyond brilliant.
His own son was just like any other of their kind, not borne of that which both he and Titania were made of. Was it any wonder that the Puck had so quickly become as his own? The three of them were of a kind...equal parts beauty and horror, shadowmist and summer light. The trickster was crafted of the same pure, untamed magic that sang of Avalon and the wildness of a storm in winter...
You could not help but love him, even as he ripped your soul from your chest, dancing on it while you lay broken and dying at his feet.
The demon lurked behind the lovely facade...even as the beauty threatened to drown it.
* * *
The nightmare laughed.
Little one, little one, such a fool...
Come thou miscreant - your mother loathes the sight of you...she is a vain, stupid thing, and cares for naught but herself...
Laughing. The distilled essence of the madness that echoed in his own soul, personified in the very being whom he loathed above any other.
Thou hast a brother more lovely than any other Child on mine isle...
So cruel. But that was the truth behind him, what grandmother had cherished above all in her Children...
Aliel? Aliel, bother him not...
Like moonlight and the summer breeze. Like home...a home that should have been his...
Why child, your papa didn't even notice you.
Gods, did the wild one even know what he was doing?! He did, the tricksters always knew....
Haha! What a clever lad!
It slid through him like an iron dagger, reaching in, seizing hold and turning him inside out, slamming into his mind with the force of a tsunami.
Grandmother, father, everything good and pure and sweet that blazed with the glory of Home - that he couldn't have. That which the hobgoblin had stolen.
I crafted him well, did I not?
Challenge him not, for he hast the love that thine parents did not bestow upon thee...
Oh gods, never again?
That son of mine seeks me ill.
No! No...don't let it be so, please...
We will not have it, you and I.
He reached out, tried to strike but couldn't because the other...the other. He couldn't try to touch such a beautiful thing, something his grandmother had sung to as she crafted it, her lovely blue eyes alight with a gleam he saw in every one of her Children, the children of the first Children.
They would conspire against me?!
He squinched his eyes shut.
You allowed this, mine child?
How could you betray me?
*He stared, terrified, at the cold look on papa's face, the child half-hidden behind him where Aliel should have been*
*Grandmother screamed, berated, but all of them were so cold, especially his papa and her favorite Child, curled into papa's side*
Loved the other better.
*"How could you do such a thing? He is but a child!"*
No. No. No. No. Nononononononononononononononononononononononono...
* * *
His rival was apparently having a nervous breakdown. He laughed again, loving it so very much...
Good, yes, perfection...watch him collapse and scream like a child, it was so damn funny he wanted to laugh again, just to see that twisted look on his face, kill him and...
Robin Goodfellow grinned and leaned over his prostrate form.
~Poor big brother...~ he purred, not at all repulsed by the taste of the amethyst magic that was crushed beneath his own. They were alike, the two...perhaps Aliel had been the innocent wronged.
The trickster never cared.
Aliel whimpered. He caught him by the chin, let him taste the power that was just barely held in check.
~It's never enough.~
Aleil gave a gasping cry and wrenched away. ~PAPA!~
Puck gave a sudden shriek of betrayal, ~Nofatherleavemebe!~
But the king had decided. And since he wasn't laughing he twisted and tried to fight it but -
* * *
David Xanatos was intercepted in the hallway by an anxious Seelie queen.
He was gone before he could voice a protest.
* * *
The haze lifted and he was himself again.
Puck blinked several times, staring around at the empty courtyard. ~....What?~
~Your work.~ Accusation and compassion, disgust and knowing...
He wanted to vomit. ~I...again?~
His eyes fell on the trembling young man in his frayed suit, his hair drooping miserably and head bowed to his chest. His knees buckled, and he absently freed himself from gravity. ~No...~
Blue eyes locked on his own. ~Yes.~
~Precisely.~ Oberon muttered, turning back to the huddling mess that was his son. "Revert."
The body shifted and shimmered in a familiar motion.
Still in shock, he gaped openly at the figure revealed in under the glimmering moonlight.
Wispy blond hair trailed over his hunched shoulders, draped in a dull navy blue. Delicately pointed ears stuck haphazardly from the pale head, the skin as fair as his own. Judging by the length of his legs, he was considerably taller than Puck, but then almost everyone was.
He drifted closer, struggling with the urge to jump the man and pound him into little bitty pieces. Oberon shot him a warning glance and he settled lightly back to the ice-encrusted ground, pouting only slightly. He shuddered slightly. No, best not even think of it now...
Aliel raised his head with an audible sniff. Puck's eyes widened. Aliel looked like a strange crossover between...well, himself and Oberon. The shape of the face was the same as his own, but the shape of the brows and set of the jaw were markedly Oberon's. And the eyes were the same brilliant blue.
That's me, he thought irrationally, that's who I could have been...and I'm who he should have been.
Aliel glanced up, accusation burning in his clear gaze. Puck flinched.
Ye gods, that's creepy, he thought, unsettled. We're each other. No wonder he hates me...I stole his life.
Like I've stolen others.
He couldn't stop the slight smile that curved his lips.
* * *
Oberon stole a glance at his servant and frowned. The Puck's almond-shaped eyes were wide, and he had wrapped his arms protectively against himself, the bracers flashing in the starlight. There was a haunted look in his sapphire eyes, and an unreadable expression on his face. He stared down at his 'brother' with an inscrutable gaze.
If it weren't for the shimmering green aura twined about his slender body, he would have believed he was calm.
Not for the first time, he wished he knew how to get past the mental shields the trickster had created.
* * *
"Would you care to enlighten us as to why you felt it necessary to attack the home of my lady's daughter?"
"Him." Aliel spat it out like a vile thing.
Puck wondered if he should feel insulted. He didn't. In fact, he felt...his own hair obscured his vision as he shook his head vehemently.
"And you interfered with mortal lives as well."
~Never mind the fact that said mortals are weirdness magnets...~
He felt, rather than heard Oberon's snicker. Which was probably a good thing, since had Oberon laughed, Aliel would have gone off of the deep end.
Desperation glistened in his eyes. "But my lord...father..."
Oberon's impassive visage did not change.
"Can't you see it's all his fault?" there was so much bitterness and agony in the statement that Puck flitted back a pace, a deep frown creasing his unlined face.
What is this guy's problem? he wondered, silvery brows knitting in confusion. He acts like I'm Satan himself! He bit his lip as he remembered. Foolish fairy...crafted a demon, or had he forgotten even as his near twin lay, still dazed by that twisted power...?
A choked sob reached his ears. Oh no, he thought, dread setting in as he looked closer at his 'brother'.
Aliel was crying.
By Avalon, what next?
He stole a glance at his king and noticed that his countenence remained unchanged.
~This is familiar.~
He started. ~What?~
Oberon folded his arms and glared at the cowering figure before him. ~He's done this before. It's exactly the same as last time.~
~The last time he tried to kill you.~
Oberon cocked an eyebrow. ~Perhaps he will have something new to say this time. He doesn't like you very much.~
~Really? I couldn't tell.~
"Stop talking about me!" Aliel suddenly shrieked, levelling an accusing finger at the Puck.
Puck gave him a malicious smile. ~Brat.~
The lunatic huffed and snarled, but remained silent under the heavy gaze of his lord.
The king paced forward, brushing past Puck and advancing on his son. "Was it not enough for you to try and kill him once?"
Aliel shrank back.
"I think perhaps exile was too gentle a punishment for one such as yourself."
~What could be worse than this...?~
He hadn't meant to transmit the thought, even as he noticed the sudden coolness radiating from his master.
* * *
Oberon's sons stood baffled.
~Papamylord?~ Their voices ran together like honey into wine as he concentrated on his power, crafting it with a skill too fine for any other to even dream of.
Enough was enough. Crime deserved punishment.
How could you punish one who wished for the death of a traitor?
....You give him what he's always wanted....
* * *
The influx of power nearly sent him flying. Puck bolstered himself on his own magic and stared as reality...
A golden vortex rippled in the air, swirling and glimmering in the moonlight. It was beautiful. It was alluring...it was bloody well dangerous!
"Son how could you-!"
Her, voice like a waterfall, high and sparkling with fury. But Oberon stood firm, calling for Avalon's aid to restrain her, keep her away from all her Children, beaten, exhausted in the wake of battle. He hovered behind his prince, more tired than he had ever been in his young life, gazing in awe at the warm, sun-bright glow of the portal forming in the clear night sky. What was it?
Puck remembered, and laughed.
* * *
Laughing again he was laughing again what was papa doing he'd seen it before when....grandmother? Yes, when grandmother....
Aliel screamed over the sound of his twin's gleeful laughter.
He flailed helplessly as his body disincorporated and melted through the swirling portal.
* * *
The light flashed, dwindled, and was gone.
Oberon blew out a breath and sighed, turning back to stare at Puck, who folded his arms and gave him a blank look.
He resisted the urge to look uncomfortable. This was...his only pureblooded son... "Well."
"Don't do that again."
"I haven't done anything."
"As I thought."
"Next time don't go insane."
"Was I the nutcase here?"
"Should you need to ask..."
"Hmph. I get it."
"Do you?" Pale eyes softened. Was everything a reflection of Mab? His child by birth and his...other...child were both so like she had been...
"Clean this up."
"All right, all right."
He tilted his head, steepled his fingers. "Why?"
Oberon shrugged. "You are still one of my children."
He ran a hand through the child's hair, something he hadn't sone for centuries. It was still soft and white as a cloud, though he hadn't expected it to change at all. Puck gave him a wary glance, looking far too young for his many centuries. Deliberately. Sneaky little brat.
"My son." He hadn't meant to sound that affectionate.
"I do hate you." Why, then, the wistful tone? They knew each other far too well, he and his trickster.
"As do I you."
"Just so long as we understand each other."
He stepped back, and called to Titania. Finally, he inclined his head. "Good eve, my Puck."
The trickster bowed gracefully. "Good eve, my lord."
* * *
David blinked fuzziness out of his vision and stared up at Owen Burnett.
"You're still here," he muttered dazedly.
"...Where else would I be?" he said softly, hauling him to his feet.
His touch was cool as an autumn breeze, and his eyes were wild. David couldn't help the frown that formed.
The mortal blinked. "What just happened?" he questioned, glancing around the library. Everyone in the castle stood rubbing their heads and staring at one another in the flickering firelight. The last he remembered was Titania...
Owen raised an eyebrow at the tone.
"Nothing of importance to you, sir."
Xanatos couldn't read the look on his face. To me? he wondered, clenching his fists. To me? God, Owen....
The man in question caught his gaze with those fathomless eyes, and the businessman felt something get tight in his chest.
What happened to you? he questioned silently, certain that he would hear.
Owen turned away without a word.
* * *
The dawn broke over New York in a glorious display of color.
Elisa, Fox, and Xanatos bade a good day's sleep to the clan.
A fresh breeze sprang up as they walked down from the towers and nearly ran into one another in surprise.
Owen Burnett stood in the middle of the courtyard, staring up at something no mortal eye could see. Xanatos frowned at him, bathed in the radience of the sun, an eerie echo of the previous night.
"And as this shadow has offendened,
Thus hath this fair morn it ended...
Now glory's dawn hath painted the skies,
And in mother's embrace my brother lies."
Xanatos stared, heart in his throat. He won't leave, he stayed... "...Owen?"
"Sir?" The tilt of his head, the inflection, it was all Owen, no trace of the fey save the gleam in his eerie gaze.
Xanatos shrugged, shook his head, and regained his composure. "Well detective, care to join us for breakfast?"
Elisa gave him a skeptical glance. "Will it be poisoned?"
Fox chuckled. "Don't worry, I keep him on a tight leash. No cyanide today, David."
He mock-pouted. "Aww..."
Things were back to normal again, at least in their world.
* * *
A day later, a large group of disoriented and handcuffed mercenaries were found wandering around in the park.
None of them had any idea how they had gotten there, or where they had been for the past several weeks.
It was most peculiar.
* * *
Cold so cold he was dying but how could they die they would live forever immortal perfect why why why why why not fair to be abandoned why why why?
What what whatwhatwhat?
You disgust me, child.
A space that did not exist had no walls from which a scream could reverberate. A being without a body should not have been capable of destroying another without a body. But one does not say such things to a god.
And the queen sang in a space that wasn't there to a child that could not hear.
* * *
On to the next story, Shadows
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