Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Cinders Post #11

Notes:  Next to last post, right here.  Oh yeah, baby.  You will have the end before the 16th, if I can manage it.  Which I'd better, scheduling for submissions taken into account.  And then...who knows what will come next?

Title: Cinders

Part Eleven: For Whom The Bells Tolls


The narrative is approaching its climax.  This is a tense time for the story threads, woven in and out of their hero, tugging but not outright pulling him along.  He’s got to pick a direction, and depending on what he decides to do, the story may end in triumph or tears.  This is where early efforts at being non-traditional when it comes to the roles laid out in the fairy tale might just rear up and bite.  This time, our hero can’t rely on being pursued back to his home by his handsome prince.  He’s got to make all the right connections himself, he’s got to follow through and then he’s got to have that personal climax that allows this story to tie itself off, satisfied, and seek out a new situation.

Taking a boy like this was a risk, but a story can’t evolve it if never takes risks.  Stories that don’t evolve fade into nothingness, no more myth or legend to support them, no belief to feed off of.  They may be parasites of the human condition, but at least they serve a valuable purpose.  Humanity has to believe in something, and fairy tales are better than some of the narratives out there.

It registers the pounding hooves of its hero’s transformED horse, and waits to see where they go.


Luckily the mouse-horse seems to know where it’s headed, because it’s all Asher can do to keep his ass in the saddle.  Fuck how the West was won, Asher way prefers his steel horse to the real version.  It bounces weirdly, it smells and it also…well…fine, so he might be just a little scared to be up so high on something that lives and breathes and could throw Asher off at any second and trample him into the ground.  Asher hopes that weeks of bread crumbs bought him some goodwill with the little dude.  Big dude.  Whatever.

They ride at a breakneck pace through a forest, then into more fields on the other side, fields that steadily give way to buildings on either side of the road.  It all looks pretty normal, except where it’s dark now and there are no street lights, only candles in the windows.  Eventually they hit an upward slope and the horse slows down to a canter, then a trot.  The trot really fucks with Asher’s balance, and by the time he figures out how to post they’re at the top of the hill, and spread out in front of him is a castle encircled by an immense stone wall.  It’s like…like something out of a fairy tale, Asher thinks with awe before his sarcasm catches up.  ‘Cause, yeah.  What else would it be like?

There are…he doesn’t know the words for all of these things, but Asher’s seen pictures of Notre Dame and Neuschwanstein and he can see aspects that remind him of both of those, high pointing towers and swooping arches and flying buttresses, and it would be pretty cool if there were gargoyles too, but he can’t make any out.  The white castle walls look almost blue in the moonlight, and are well lit with torches.  The horse starts to move and Asher lets him, still a little stunned by the view, and more than a little nervous now that he can breathe without his lungs bouncing into his chest.  Somewhere in that place is Ty.  Asher just has to make it to him.

“If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you be?” Ty asked idly one morning, a late morning with no classes for him and a long night to recover from for Asher.  They were sitting together on the couch, drinking instant coffee and eating potato chips.  There was a commercial on TV featuring a sandy white beach and girls in bikinis windsurfing. 

“I mean, like, anywhere,” Ty continued, going on to answer his own question.  “You don’t have to limit it to Earth.  When I was a kid, I always wanted to visit Hobbiton.”  He flushed slightly.  “Which I know sounds kind of dumb, but it was supposed to be a happy place, right?  With animals and farms and people living under hills and not really worrying about big stuff.  I always worried about big stuff as a kid.”

Asher thought for a moment, weighing his options, before picking up one of Ty’s giant feet and putting it in his lap.  “You’ve got the right kind of feet for Hobbiton.”

“What do you mean?”


“Dude, shut up,” Ty laughed, digging both of his feet under Asher’s ass.

“No really, I bet you could walk around without shoes and you’d develop awesome calluses and then you could be one of those guys who walks over hot coals and doesn’t feel a thing.  That’s some shit people would pay to see, man.”

“Seriously, though.”  Ty flexed his feet a little, sending a shiver up Asher’s spine.  “Where would you be?”

Asher lifted a hand and pointed towards the screen.  “There,” he said, but what he really meant was, “Here.”  Ty seemed to get it, giving Asher a smug half-smile until Asher was forced to wipe it off Ty’s face with one of the couch cushions.

He rides in through the main gate, and the closer he gets to the actual castle the more well-dressed people he has to dodge, mostly women strolling as fast as they can to the ball when hampered by tiny, fashionable shoes.  Carriages were stopped back at the gate, but Asher makes it almost to the front steps of the place before he’s asked to dismount.  He does so awkwardly, feeling self-conscious as his slippers hit the ground, but the groom takes his horse with a little bow.  Apparently meeting the dress code is all it takes to get in through the front door, because Asher’s not asked to prove that he’s supposed to be here, no need to display an invitation.  He fingers the wax seal he’s carrying in his jacket, walks in through the high marble doorway and enters an internal courtyard filled with people wearing every color of the rainbow, flitting about like exotic birds of prey.  Every person here is on a mission. 

Asher really does fit right in.

Fitting in isn’t good, though, Asher has to stand out.  First he’s got to find Ty, though.  He hops up onto a decorative but useless little wall, ignoring the scandalized looks as he scans the crowd.  Nothing promising.  Ty is tall in the present day; among these people he’s gotta be a veritable giant, and there are no humongous dudes in this crowd.  Maybe inside.  Asher jumps down—

A hand on his arm turns him.  Asher’s pulled around and suddenly is face to face with Pinky.  She looks puzzled.  Puzzled is good.  If Asher were looking at Envy or his evil stepmother right now, “puzzled” would not be the look.  They’d be more likely to be incensed, maybe murderous. 

“Have we met?” Pinky asks coquettishly.  “You seem very familiar, sir.”

Don’t recognize me when I’m not covered in mud and wearing burlap, huh, bitch.  Asher makes an effort to deepen his voice.  “No.”

Pinky smiles, not at all put off by his brevity.  “Then it’s high time we make each other’s acquaintance!  Are you a member of the prince’s entourage?  I don’t recognize your regalia.”

“Actually…”  Asher considers it for a second.  He steps closer and lowers his voice and prepares to bury them both in bullshit.  “I’m here on a mission.  I work for His Majesty’s secret service, and we have intelligence stating that an assassin has been sent to kill the prince.  It’s a man wearing a—” He mentally casts about for a moment, “a rose in his…um, cravat.”  That’s a real thing, isn’t it?  “Whoever apprehends this gentleman will have the personal gratitude of the prince.  The very, very personal gratitude of the prince.”  Pinky’s eyes light up, and Asher has to suppress a snicker.  “But please, don’t do anything to endanger yourself,” he adds.  Because I don’t deserve to be that freaking happy in this life.

“Oh,” Pinky breathes happily, “I shan’t!  I, I’m sure I can help without putting myself in any danger.”

“I’m sure you can.”  Asher squeezes her hand a little too hard and then pries it off his arm.  He watches her flounce off eagerly, and seeing the back of her is a beautiful thing.  Then he heads up the steps into the main castle.

He enters the equivalent of whatever a courtyard with a ceiling is, a great stone hall with long folds of cloth covering the walls, swaths of blue and red, the prince’s colors.  The crowd is even denser in here, but dense can’t hide height, and Asher can finally see Ty now.  He’s standing on the other side of the room and surrounded by his posse, which has taken on the role of screening the crowd that’s trying to mob the poor dude.  And it’s a big crowd.

A really, really big crowd.  Asher tries to press through it, but the velvet and taffeta is almost suffocating in close quarters.  And there are bustles.  Who the fuck invented those?  Why did someone feel the need to make asses bigger than they already are?  It’s like giving shoulder pads to people who aren’t playing some sort of impact sport.  Asher tries and tries again, going at one route or another for more than ten minutes, but it’s pretty much impossible to do this politely.  Hell, with the corsets these girls are wearing it might even be impossible to do it impolitely, his elbows will probably just bounce off the whalebone.  He grits his teeth and prepares to do his best to bull his way through. 

A shrill scream of triumph echoes off the stone, and Asher turns just in time to see a huge puff of pink sail through the air and triumphantly tackle a nearby man.  “I have him!” Pinky shrieks.  “I found him!  Your Highness, you’re safe now!  I have him!”

Eyes naturally gravitate towards the display.  Asher takes advantage of the lull to slide through the courtiers, ducking and dodging and finally making it to the thin red and blue line.  He comes face to face with the same man who delivered the invitation to his former prison, who looks at him with surprise and some suspicion.  “I don’t know you.”

“You wouldn’t,” Asher says, deciding to play it straight.  From what he saw, this man has no love for any of Asher’s transplanted family.  “My mother and sisters usually keep me in the kitchens.  It was sheer chance that I made it this far tonight.”

“Oh.  Them.”  Distaste twists his face.  “Are you as desperate as they are to meet the prince?”

Yes, yes, I’m so desperate I could die if you don’t let me talk to Ty right the fuck now.  “I would like to meet him,” Asher says, “but I don’t want to make him uncomfortable.  If you think I would…”  You better not think I would, let me in, let me in, let me in before I lose my fucking mind…

“He is supposed to be socializing tonight,” the man muses.  He looks over Asher’s shoulder and his eyes widen a little.  “What in God’s name is your stepsister doing?”  The noise is coming closer.  Apparently Pinky is a lot better at elbowing her way through these kinds of crowds than Asher, even when she’s towing a semi-conscious guest behind her.

“She’s insane,” Asher says with complete certainty.  “I’d lock her up if I were you.”  He brushes past the man and a second later he’s face to face with—

Ty.  God, it’s Ty.  Not Ty the cartoon character like so many of the other people here are, not an unnaturally bright creature from some fever dream.  It’s Ty in a weirdly poufy costume, wearing awkward shoes and an awkward expression as he talks awkwardly to an obsequious socialite, but he looks real.  Asher doesn’t see any of that, though, all he sees now is the face that he loves.  His mouth dries up and he doesn’t remember how to speak, but it’s okay, because Ty seems to be in the same situation.  He does that thing where his mouth opens and closes over and over again, and his big brown eyes go wide.  He brushes away the hand curling over his shoulder and steps a little closer.

 “Hello,” he says at last.  His voice is…it’s just what it should be.  Gorgeous, throaty, a little tentative.  Sexy as hell.

“Hi,” Asher says.  He balls up his fists to keep from reaching out and touching Ty.  He doesn’t want to spook him.  Ty seems to know him in some way, not the immediate recognition Asher was looking for but something is better than nothing.  He just needs some more time.

“I’m Prince Tyler.”

Asher smiles.  “I know who you are.”

Ty blushes.  “Of course.”  He tilts his head a little.  “Have we met?”

Yes, we have, you know me.  “I have a familiar face.”

“No, you’re like no one I’ve ever seen here before.  I would remember knowing you.”

You will.  “Can we talk?  Somewhere else?”

“Of course.”  There’s a wooden door behind them, partitioned off by Ty’s entourage.  They head to it, their escape covered by Pinky’s cacophony.  The door takes them into a hall which emerged on a private balcony.  The noise is distant now, a murmur of voices that seems far away.  The moon is out, illuminating both of them, and Asher can’t look enough.  Ty appears equally captivated.

“What is your name?” Ty asks.

“Asher McKellan.”  Asher waits for any additional sign of recognition, but there isn’t one.

“Where do you come from?  Why have I not met you before?”

“It’s a long story,” he says after a second, not really wanting to explain the whole ‘servant’ thing.

“Are you a member of my kingdom?”

“I’m definitely your loyal subject,” Asher replies earnestly.  Ty looks down for a moment, shy, and it’s so endearing Asher feels like he might explode with the need to touch him.

“This is very strange,” Ty says after a beat.  “I feel as though we’re connected, as though we’ve known each other for a long time.  How can I feel such trust for you without knowing you better?”

Now isn’t the time to talk about alternate dimensions.  Later, when Ty’s memory is back.  “You should go with your instincts, Ty.”  He almost bit his tongue using the nickname.  “I mean, Tyler.  Or Highness, whatever you want.”

“I would rather you not call me Highness, it seems foreign coming from your lips.”

“Would you like something familiar instead?”

“What do you have in mind?” Ty asks raptly.

“A kiss.”  Aren’t kisses supposed to break spells in these things?  “One little kiss.”

His mouth drops open again, and Asher can tell he’s blushing.  “You are very forward, Asher McKellan.” 

Asher notes that that’s not a no.  “I can be, but only when I know what I want.”  He moves a little closer.  “Please.  One kiss.”

“That’s all?”

“That’s all,” Asher promises.  Unless you want more.

“I think I can grant you a kiss,” Ty says, his voice deeper now, his body drawing in.  They close the distance, and before Ty has the time to reconsider, Asher puts his hands on his hips and kisses him.  His lips are warm and soft, and after a surprised moment they open.  Asher tastes Ty’s mouth, and it’s sweet and hot and…

Wrong.  It’s wrong.  The taste is off, and when his tongue explores Ty’s teeth, they’re all perfect.  Asher actually feels a familiar chip form on the incisor while he’s pressed to it.  He draws back, leaving Ty breathless and beautiful and shaking.  Except it isn’t Ty.  He knows now, and he has to leave fast, before he traps himself in this beautiful lie.

“That was perfect,” Ty says softly, and Asher nods his head even as he’s readying himself to run.  It was perfect, and that’s a sure sign it isn’t right.  Real life isn’t perfect.  “Asher McKellan…I wish to know you better.  Will you stay with me?”

“I—Highness, I—”

“A moment ago I was Ty,” the copy says sadly, and Asher can’t bring himself to be mean to any incarnation of the man he loves.

“Ty, there’s something I have to do.  Once I’m done with that, I’ll come straight to you.”

“Can I not send a servant to attend to it for you?”

“It’s something only I can do,” Asher tells him.  “Please.  It won’t take long.”

“You swear to come back to me?”

“You’re all I want,” Asher promises him, the words ringing hollow even if they are true.

“I believe you.”  The prince points towards the slender metal staircase at the end of the balcony.  “Take that down.  Turn left once you hit the grounds and you’ll end up by the stables.”  He smiles shyly.  “I will leave the door open for you.”

“Thank you.”  Asher turns and walks away quickly, needing to be gone from this almost-Ty, close enough to remind Asher of exactly what he’s been missing this whole time.  He feels empty, hopeless.  He doesn’t know what to do; he only knows he can’t stay here.  He can’t go back.  He walks despondently to the stables and finds his horse.

“Where did I go wrong?” he asks it.  “What did I miss?” He hears a bell begin to toll and figures it must be midnight.  His horse suddenly hits him in the chest with its bony jaw.  “Ow!  What?”  The second bell tolls, and the horse hits him again, and suddenly Asher remembers that kisses aren’t the only things that can breaks spells in fairy tales.  The stroke of midnight…he needs to be out of the castle before the change.  Because something’s gonna change.  “Shit!”

It takes two more bells to scramble into the saddle, and another two to get out of the stables.  Asher leans forward and gives the horse its head, lets it race towards the castle gate.  Guests dodge frantically as Asher speeds towards the spot that might be, just maybe, the portal that he needs.  Nine bells.  Ten.  Eleven, and they’re so close he can almost taste it through the tears on his face.  On the twelfth bell, they charge through the gate.

And the world…changes.


  1. At least Asher knows what he wants now and can be happy with having it.

    1. Exactly. The last part is basically going to be final resolution followed by loving porn:) Something to look forward to!