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Secrets, Lies, and Conspiracy Theories

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You've never felt particularly smart but far be it from you to call yourself a dull minded fool. Still, it's hard to process the words just said to you. Gods above, you're only EIGHT, this isn't the easiest bit of news to swallow. So, lips numb and stumbling over words, you force out the question,

"E-excuse me? Th-this is a j-j-joke, right?"

Well, that's more than one question isn't it? But the grim faces staring down at you, cold and unresponsive - to be fair one of them is closer to genuinely warm than the other - are answer enough. And you're trying, you really are trying so hard not lose yourself but panic wells up in your throat.

Or maybe that's bile and you're going to vomit. Does it matter? You feel scared and sick and dizzy and so that is everything that you are. Your father - NOT your father, they'd just said that hadn't they? - looks frightened. He looks like he wants to approach you but doesn't know how to. So he stands there with an expression you can only think of as tentative-wish-to-comfort while your vision warps and dims and spins and the room begins to fill with a chill and a snowfall.

"Elsa?" The Queen isn't afraid to step closer despite your panic and that of her husband's. And so she does, then sinks down before you and grasps your shoulders, staring you deep deep deep into your eyes. Into the marrow of your bones. Into your very soul. "You may not be my daughter but I've raised you as such since you were just a baby. I DO love you, I can't help loving you. I've loved you since I knew of your very existence."

And how can you believe her when they've been lying all these years? How can you not with her wet teary eyes and trembling lips? How can you claim that everything you know is a lie when she pulls you against her bosom and holds you until you can't resist it any longer and start sobbing? How can everything not be a lie when the only person you've loved more than any one other person or thing is suddenly not yours to love?

Anna isn't your sister, they'd said, we aren't your parents.

Your fingers twist into the soft fabric of her gown and you press yourself closer to her, crying harder. This is all wrong. It feels like a punishment for what happened in the throne room. You hadn't meant to hit Anna, truly you hadn't. So why? Why why why is this happening? It's cruel. It's so vile so very cruel of them to do this, and NOW of all times. And you want to tell them just as much but through your frantic shaking and wailing and freezing bits of a silken gown (if accidentally), you can't get the words out.

And then The King speaks. In time you may come to understand him, his fear and hesitations. But as he speaks now and at this time you can think only that he is a monster. He says, and without remorse or a batted lash,

"You can't be around her any longer."

He might as well have struck you. It knocks the breath out of you and you stumble away from the Queen. Tears rush to your eyes anew. You blink and blink but can't dispel them, so they fall and you look up at him. Pathetic and whimpering, wishing you were anything but, and you ask him,

"What?"

Lacking eloquence and any concern for such. But he doesn't even wince. He repeats,

"You can't be around her any longer," his tone is imploring but his eyes are hard. "It's too dangerous. You must understand." He wants to love you, like the Queen swears to. He can't. Too fearful for himself. For his REAL daughter. That's what you think at least. It's what you have to keep telling yourself.

You tell him, "I do." And he looks at you for the first time tonight as if you might be something more than the epitome of insignificance. "I understand." You hang your head in a mockery of a nod. Both unable and unwilling to actually bow at this moment. Where the tears drop from your ruddy cheeks and the tip of your nose onto the floor, ice spikes up.

You're so angry in this moment, it's hard to breathe and your vision is warping again. You almost don't catch his quiet sincere thanks. The Queen begs him to leave and he has to yank the door open. You hear ice crackle and break as he does so and it makes you smile for some reason you can't exactly be certain of.

"Elsa?" It's the Queen again. Kneeling before you. Eyes still wet with tears, frowning and with actual concern. She's shivering also.

"What?" You could be kinder. She is so very genuine but it's difficult to want to pretend for normalcy when your normal is now so crushed.

"Please understand," she puts her hands on your shoulders. And it's only because she's so warm that you suddenly notice how cold you are. How numb you are to that cold. "This is for your own good. One day it'll be safe to return to your real home. And. I'm... I'm sorry. This must be so awful for you. I wish we knew any better."

In this moment she looks heartbroken. Hand warming your cheek, and with tears spilling down hers, she's like some beautiful broken angel.

"It is," you tell her, clarifying, "Awful." Because you must see her flinch, you want to witness her wince. She doesn't disappoint. "May I go to my room now?" You could say so many things after that. You could be kinder but you could always be worse and you're sorely tempted. But you resist, and when she frowns but nods slowly you then ask, "And... where is my room?"

She winces once more and another urge for rudeness almost overtakes you. How dare she continue to act as if this pains her, knowing full and well that only two people will be hurt by this and she is most certainly not one of them. You could spit. Instead you wait patiently for the directions she's slow to feed you, nodding and thanking her before leaving the room you'd just destroyed. It was their problem now.

You follow the route you'd been given and you reach a white door covered in blue snowflakes. The room beyond is decorated like the door, everything in shades of blue and white. Colors that suit you but not colors you like. Lip curling you declare to this empty room that had quite literally been made for you,

"I do not approve."

It's no wonder they'd admitted they aren't your real parents, you would have found out soon enough. For starters they hardly knew you at all. If they had, they'd know you love all the shades of green and burnt oranges and dirt browns. You like setting sun reds and buttery yellows. Anna knew that. Anna had known you consciously for about three years now and she knew that.

And if they were your real parents they would understand that taking you away from Anna is just malicious. Like unnecessary violence against her. Poor Anna. Poor you. You sink down against the door, knees curling against your chest and arms wrapping around your knees. Anna. Anna Anna. They've taken her from you. Why can't you stop crying? Why can't you stop hurting?

This isn't fair this isn't RIGHT! It's inhumane. It's. It's just.

"You're wrong," you croak out, head lifting from the circle of your arms. You're frowning and glaring at your too large bed. They'd probably planned to move you here when you were older. They'd always wanted to take her from you. Well... they're in for a big surprise... You stand suddenly, almost shaking with excitement. This is your last chance. This is your ONLY chance to do this.

You slip out of the room they'll call yours, the room painted in shades of wrong, and move away from it as quickly and quietly as you can. What's crueler still is the fact that this room is so close to Anna's. You open the door, just so, peeking through the crack to make certain all is well. No one is there standing guard. Color you surprised.

You sneak in anyway, hyper conscious of the sleeping girl in the bed you're approaching slowly, slowly, slowly... She doesn't wake. Not even when you attempt to rouse her by shaking her shoulder and calling out to her. You could cry again. You want to. But you won't you refuse to. You've cried enough for yourself. You've got more important things to do.

You brush some crazy stray hairs off of her forehead to press a kiss there. They fall back into disarray when you release them and it makes you smile. You'll miss helping her tame her impressive mane every morning. You trail your fingers over her freckled cheek, memorizing the softness of it, counting just a few of those freckles. She grumbles something and you pretend it's your name.

You lean closer and you're shaking again as you draw near to her ear and promise, "I love you, Anna. I always will." She shifts and sighs and grumbles again but it really IS your name this time. You can't stop the tears. She's reaching for you as you stumble away from her and it looks as if for just a second her eyes flutter open and catch yours. But it's dark in the room and sleep is a furious beast the pounces right back onto your sist-... Anna. So she rolls over and goes right back to it.

You can't see a foot before you back out in the hall. Not because it is so very dark so much as your tears blur your vision. They aren't for you anymore. You only just choke back sobs until you're in your room of wrong, then you fall against the door and break down until the howling of magic induced winds are all that can match your cries.

Chapter Text

When you first get the unbearable itch of an idea, it was late late at night.

It's funny how only after you're stuck in a room without a person... how much you can miss their nightly interruptions. How much sleep you lose.

But it's late late into night. Beyond that time when the sky is awake. It'd been a month since the separation and Anna bothered you as often as was physically possible. Only during the day. Always one of the Royal Bastards (but really that's only just YOU isn't it?) appears to pull her away.

"Elsa's busy." They say.

As if they speak for you. Whenever you cross paths with them you always make certain you're wearing a glare. You're keeping track of all the stupid faces they make. Pity-full is your least favorite. You much prefer the constipated look the King gives you when you stick your tongue out at him, in front of Anna. The best part is they're too scared to reprimand you. Or maybe they realize they don't deserve that anymore.

Should you be mindful of the fact that they essentially raised you to the best of their abilities for eight years? Why of course, but that still did not excuse them for their treachery. And current downright stupidity. So it struck you that night about a month after the Incident... why should you play fair with them? That respect hadn't been paid to you. Why should you give it to them?

And you couldn't sleep the rest of that night, could hardly breathe properly. Too excited. You kept freezing and un-freezing your curtains to distract yourself. To help you. The Incident had taught you that you need more control over your powers. Even if your wardens-whoops, guardians wouldn't like you playing with your magic anymore - and the King had made that incredibly clear just three weeks prior - you simply couldn't accept that advice.

What had that funny rockmanthing EXPLICITLY told you? Fear would be your downfall. Or greatest enemy. Something. You'd been a bit more focused on your little sis-err, Anna; busy hyperventilating and crying because you were almost certain you'd killed her. Your little baby bird...

You couldn't do that again. Never EVER again. So when you weren't studying or skulking about the castle trying to avoid the littlest princess, you were practicing your magic. First thing you set your mind to mastering was walking, running, skipping and dancing on ice. Both with and without shoes. And that was distraction enough. From Anna. From your own thoughts.

Until that night. Your idea. Freezing curtains - which was easy freezing anything was easy, it was the defrosting that was difficult. When the morning came and the castle slowly roused you practically leapt from your bed. You skipped to your door all smiles, humming to yourself. You hadn't been so giddy since... well those minutes before the Incident.

Waiting was easy. You made it snow, tried to make it rain but ended up with hail. You played with frost and made shapes and letters and faces with it, using the wall as your canvas. You continue to ruin those curtains because they're awful ugly things in the first place. And then you hear clumsy feet sprinting down the corridor. Towards your room. Towards you. Clumsy Feet stop just in front of your door and before they can catch their breath - they're panting quite loudly - you press closer to the door and say,

"Anna, I need you to listen to me."

It's silent and you don't need to see her to know the roundness of her eyes as they widen. Her mouth popping open in shock. Rapid blinks. She's probably nodding right now, but then she says, just as low as you had,

"Ok Elsa." Warmth is such a strange sensation. It rushes through you. That and relief.

"I need you to come back here tonight, ok? After the sky has gone to sleep?" There's no way she can. She's a night owl but not that much of one. Hope is a thing with thorns but you cling to it with all your might and it bleeds into your words, "Please, Anna?"

"O-ok." You aren't going to cry, damn it! You breathe out a thank you and press your head to the door. You imagine she's mirroring you on the other side. Little comforts... The King drags her away today.

"It's lunch time dearest," and he proclaims it so easily.

You don't have to deal with any lessons until after lunchtime. Lucky you.You slide down the door and turn to lean your back against it. Legs outstretched. Those hideous curtains really need to just die already. You go back to your work.

History is really the only thing that interests you. You meet that particular tutor in the library for your lessons. There's a quiet intensity to the man that you admire and appreciate. He captures your attention and throws you into the subject. Today when you meet him, YOU start the conversation.

"Can you tell me about the Royal bloodlines?" He gives you this long look that brings an unwelcome heat to you. Chagrin. He wears these spectacles that seem to you too small for his face. He pulls these off and considers you. His eyes are brown, set beneath an almost overwhelming brow. He smiles and it gives you very little comfort when all he says is,

"Interesting..." And then starts a normal lesson. It's frustrating. There's a gleam in his eye and a smile on his face and it is entirely, utterly frustrating. It's only at the end of his lesson that he tells you, "My dear young matriarch in the making, there are things you learn in my line of work." He ruffles your hair and you let him. You'll have to fix your headband after this. "Many things I would love to tell you. Many things I cannot. Ultimately, the Royal bloodline is a Study for Kings."

He leaves and you aren't dull. You need to go to the study. HIS study. You almost don't want to pursue it anymore but you're curious. You have to know. You have to be certain. It's unfortunate there isn't any time for that. You've got plans and you need to be ready. You need less sleep. You've noticed, it's been hard not to, but still some is necessary for you. And it only ever works for a few hours.

So you skip dinner and slip into that room you sleep in. Sleeping in it. Only until the sun has gone down and then you slip out of your room. Time to practice your walk-run-skip-dancing in the throne room. The fact that the cold seeps into the stone and keeps the room icy fresh during the day is one of the things the helps you sleep sometimes. And they never catch you doing it so it's not like they can get angry. Not like they would when even they know they deserve it.

When the sky awakens you go back to your room. The grotesque curtains are resilient and you know Anna's not always the best at being patient. Neither are you to be perfectly honest. You're just better at pretending for calm. Well usually. Mostly... Sometimes.

Anna's knocking at your door sooner than even you expected. The first is very loud and you flinch as you know she must. The second is very soft and timid and comes an eternity of fifteen seconds after the first. She hisses,

"Elsa?" And she bleeds from that same thorny hope that you do. She's afraid you won't open the door. You don't even unfreeze the trashed curtains before you throw the door open and cast your eyes upon her. You'd snuck glances when you could, small waves. Goodness you blew raspberries at her father because it made Him angry and made her laugh. But here she is with her big eyes all glossy and scared and happy and her face screaming disbelief.

And it's glorious. You hug her and it's like you've never been hugged before and you aren't going to cry (you will NOT cry damn you!) but she is and that's ok. You'll be the big sister she needs you to be even though you aren't. It's just a beautiful thing to be able to have Anna again. That's all you want.

"Anna?" You're speaking but you almost aren't aware of that. It bursts out of you without your permission. "Can you keep a secret?" But she's got that look on her face she would wear whenever she wanted to build a snow man and you were being mean just for the fun of it. She nods, serious. And you almost can't take her seriously but you bite back a silly smile. "Mother and Father don't want us to be sisters anymore."

"What!" She's gasping and you nod, morose. Trying to be. It's hard those words had physically hurt to say so keeping a straight face is understandably difficult. "But why?"

You open your mouth to tell her and tell her everything but stop. Because. Because it's... It's too soon. You aren't good enough you haven't mastered your powers. They're just growing stronger and stronger and you're so weak and. You can't tell her. You can't tell her anything. And you understand them very suddenly. Those Royal Bastards of yours. But you make a promise to yourself that you WILL tell her.

When the time is right.

"I can't tell you that just yet," you admit and her face falls so you're quick to assuage her, "But I WILL tell you. It's just."

"Am I too young?" She asks in a small voice, more squeak than anything. "Do you hate me?"

"I could never hate you," you swear and she must believe you because a smile blooms. "And it's nothing to do with you it's. It's my fault. I'm sorry." You touch the white strand of hair you'd scarred with your magic. You won't cry you can't cry you have to be the strong one for her. You swallow that and with a trembling voice tell her, "I love you Anna."

And she smiles and it's. It's beautiful. It's painful it's unfair. Before she can speak you continue,

"And I agree with them," you scowl AND wince this time. Those words had been even worse than the ones for the Royal Bastards. "I don't think we should be sisters." You might as well just kick her while you're at it goodness she's she. She stops breathing for five seconds and it's only because you're still holding her that you notice it. And it's terrifying.

She starts to squirm and you squeeze her tighter and don't let her out of your hold just yet, not even when she protests, not even when she starts crying and pulls her arms free to beat at you.

"I don't think we should be sisters," you repeat. "I think we should be best friends." You let her away from you and she backs away, glaring and wiping her face against the sleeve of her nightgown.

"Best friends?" It's accusing and you're slow to approach her because she doesn't look very accepting of you. You nod your head and smile beseechingly.

"Best friends," you parrot, still smiling. "I want to be close with you Anna. And I... I can't be your sister. So I want to be the best!" You leave out the word 'next' because calling it what it really is...

She's so confused. So uncertain. Hope will bleed the both of you dry at this rate but you'll be damned if you can help it.

"I guess?" If you had the ability to bottle relief instead of conjuring ice and snow, you might be in a much better place in life. And well loved. (Your real mummy and daddy might even have kept you then) ouch.

"Thank you," you sigh, resisting your urges no longer as you step forth and wrap her up in a tight hug once more. "Thank you thank you." Beautiful girl. Such a sweet, beautiful, forgiving, accepting girl she is. She's not yours but you're still more than nothing to her. Still her best. And you're crying. Anna looks at you and she starts to tear up because goodness, when can one of you cry without the other? So you hug each other and cry a while.

Then when you are both tired and red faced, you bid her leave you for the night and ask of her to keep secrets. And keep meeting in secret. She readily agrees. And you're warm when she leaves. When you fall into the softness of the sheets on the opulent bed that you hate, you feel warm and sleepy and heavy with love and satisfaction.

A sweet sweet satisfaction born of disobedience and double crossing gone so so well.

Chapter Text

You've been given gloves.

But they aren't a gift.

In fact when they'd been pressed into your palms and you looked up at the King with brows raised and a question on your lips, you weren't even able to ask the why of the 'gift' before he told you,

"Don't feel, conceal!" But cheery. Smiling. SMILING! Like it was a good thing, a-a kind thing to give you these gloves and tell you to hide away. As if it weren't enough they'd fired your particular favorites as far as staff went. As if it weren't enough that you aren't allowed to go into town anymore. As if it weren't ENOUGH that you aren't even allowed to (publicly) interact with your best and only friend!

You throw them as hard as you can right back into his face. One of the fingers slapped him in the eye and he staggered back, rubbing at it and blinking (winking?) owlishly at you with the other. His jaw dropped open and you decided his new name would be Designated Mouth-Breather. Pointing at the door behind him, voice low and level and full of warning, you say only,

"Get out."

"Now Elsa, please be reasonable..." There's this new trick you've learned. When you freeze something, you can move the frozen object with your magic. You freeze your door handle and open the door with a wave of your hand, making certain the door slams against the wall with all of the force of an avalanche. You repeat,

"Get. Out."

And he does. But he leaves the gloves where they fell on the floor in his hurry to leave and now you're stuck with them. You want to understand him sometimes. Anna loves him and you love Anna and spending night after night talking with her and playing games and hearing her love for all things - especially those people closest to her - makes you really, really want to understand him... He's just so damned foolish!

After he pulls the door shut behind himself, you take to glaring at the gloves on the floor. They sit there. Innocent in nature but dripping with Designated Mouth-Breather intent and it just makes you scowl and you've been angry enough to spit but this time you do it. A tiny spike of ice slices through the air and tears into the delicate fabric of a finger on the topmost glove.

Well that's new. You'll make certain to remember that. You step over to the gloves. Toeing at them. They never move but for when you kick the one with the tear in the finger. You should just rip off all the fingers. Wear the gloves that way see if he was still so smiley... well there IS an idea...

There's one good thing you can say has come out of being sequestered, besides the fun with your magic - you're finding yourself becoming quite bold. You were supposed to be this good girl, this mild creature of demure smiles and soft spoken words. You were quite good at being that girl, actually. There was something easy in doing as told and behaving as expected.

Bold was scary. Bold was exciting. Bold was downright FUN and you'd had fun before this to be fair, but never like this. It never gave you this heady rush. The fact that Anna usually got some entertainment out of it as well was just a bonus. And she'd definitely enjoy this next one.

You weren't allowed to take lunch with the rest of the, ahem, "family" these days. Those Royal Bastards of yours were quite insistent you not show up, at least. There was simply no knowing the excuses they fed Anna day after day as to why you never showed. Although considering your secret meetings with the younger princess and your admittance to the shame of those Bastards, her inquiries have probably lessened.

Well you ARE quite bold. Bold enough to freeze the cushions on the throne during your nightly escapades(which may or may not be the reason you received these gloves in the first place). Bold enough to tear off the fingers of your gloves, certainly, and bold enough to show off those gloves at lunch. With the whole family.

You push the door open and offer up the brightest of smiles to the faces on the other side of the door. Anna gasps and squeals and jumps right out of her seat to run at you, leaping into your embrace. The Queen is wide eyed and blinking rapidly. The Designated Mouth-Breather drops his fork like the undignified slob he is.

"Hello Mother, hello Father," it's getting easier to say those words since you've learned you can use them as a weapon. You coat them in sugar and dip them in poison. "I wasn't so busy today. I thought I'd join you all for lunch!"

You pause and morph your expression into something shy and uncertain. Tap into your demure side when you ask,

"If... if that's alright?" And how can they refuse you when Anna turns to them and begins to beg and plead? When surrounding servants witness it all? They can't. So they don't and you seat yourself right next to Anna. You're served food you aren't particularly interested in mostly due to the fact that... You just. You don't really eat that much and in the past two months you eat even less. It smells fine and looks delightful and you even eat a few bites but that's only for show.

You reach over and grab Anna's hand from under the table. She smiles at you, mouth full of food, you giggle and smile back. And then her brow furrows and her fingers squeeze yours and she lifts your joined hands to stare at them.

"Elsa why are you wearing gloves?" You're watching the Queen and the Designated Mouth-Breather out of the corner of your eye.

"My hands were cold," you shrug and look away from her, hiding a smile with a large bite of food. She ventures,

"Why are the fingers gone?" You glance up at the Bastards again and sure enough they're staring at your hands. The Queen looks a bit pale. The Designated Mouth-Breather is turning a most unsightly shade of puce. You turn back to Anna with a smile and another shrug.

"My fingers were hot."

You get reprimanded for your transgressions this time. After lunch you bid Anna goodbye, and she skips away with a laugh and a wink, not even trying to convince you to play. Which gives the Queen pause before she grabs you by the hand and pulls you away. And by pull, you do mean yank.

"OW! Hey that hurts! Let go!" But she doesn't, not until she pulls you into an empty sitting room and throws the door closed. She releases you only after she pulls the tortured gloves from your hands none too gently.

"What's this?"

"Trash from Father? What's the matter, Mother you-"

"It's not funny Elsa," she snaps, throwing your trash on the floor. "This little game of yours, it's not cute not nearly as hilarious as you seem to think!"

"That's only because the jokes are on you, Mother." She flinches at the word but snarls and continues,

"What you did in there was unnecessarily dangerous and negligent! Not to mention childish-"

"I AM a child!"

"REGARDLESS, I raised you better than that-"

"OBVIOUSLY NOT!"

She slaps you. You've never been slapped before, or even spanked. But she slaps you. Her eyes are fierce and wet and it seems so long ago you compared this woman to an angel. A beautiful broken angel. Now her wet eyes burn and her red cheeks glow and she's like a demon. A beautiful vengeful demon.

"You needlessly put Anna in danger. To prove to us that you could. Well congratulations, Elsa! You did it. You nearly hurt your sister-"

"She's not my sister." You're holding your smarting cheek, glaring like the petulant child you are up at her.

"She used to be but I suppose you're so grown now, hmmm? Mistakes and knowledge and your little games have made you an adult and she doesn't matter anymore?"

"... I didn't say that..."

"You didn't have to when you very clearly just demonstrated that at lunch."

"That's not true!"

"OH, isn't it!?" She's starting to sound hysterical and it's actually making you very uncomfortable. "YOU touched Anna with your bare hands! How could you when the last time-"

"That was an accident!"

"THAT'S RIGHT!" She drops to her knees and grasps your shoulders tight and squeezes. Her hands are shaking. "And accidents happen. They just... happen. Quite on their own they happen. But today? That was intentional. And if you'd gotten upset for any reason...?"

She doesn't know your control is better. Finding frozen cushions doesn't tell anything except that you were there. She can't know that your control is only getting better every day as you practice and play. So she won't know that you could never and will never hurt Anna EVER again. And you can't tell her these things. You just can't.

"But I didn't. Nothing happened. And nothing will." You intone. "But you don't even know me, like I don't even know you, so the next time you want to accuse me of intending harm to the only soul in this place that's worth a damn-" she raises her hand to slap you again, because that WAS quite bold of you to use such language, reckless even. You raise your own hand, allow magic to swirl around your palm and pin her with a stare you summon from the deepest depths of your being,

"I wouldn't suggest it a second time."

Chapter Text

You awaken with blood on your hands.

It's your own.

Angry lines on your inner arms welling up with bright burning red, but sluggish the drops bead up; knowing not what else to do and unable to remember what woke you, you freeze a bit of curtain and bring it to yourself, unfreezing to leave you a strip of pleasantly cool cloth which you rip in two. Restlessness drives you out of bed after securing your wounds. If you needed more reason than that - and should the guards stop you - your excuse would be for proper bandages.

"I'm injured," you'd tell then. Crying maybe for added fun. Not that the guards would go for it, they all quake in their boots when you walk by, but it would be an excuse they couldn't necessarily argue you back into your prison over. You ARE injured, and dirty tatters of curtain hardly make a sanitary bandage. And should they argue, threats work wonders.

Although to be entirely fair, threats put you in this position. Threatening The Warden - because her husband has a fine name and why shouldn't she? - but two months ago had encouraged her to quadruple guard patrols, and that was before they caught you sneaking out to see Anna. There's a constant watch kept at her door, also the door to the throne room, and the bedroom of those thrice damned Royal Bastards.

As if you even had the phantom of interest in bothering those pompous fools.

The library was unguarded. The gardens, multiple sitting rooms and half of the galleries were unguarded. The kitchens as well but your appetite had all but disappeared by this point. Goodness, this was your first time sleeping in four days and that's become a regular occurrence. You sleep sometimes, but not usually more than, twice in one week.

You pause at your door, pressing an ear to the well worn wood to listen for any patrols. There's nothing and you slip out into the shadows that comprise the corridor. From there, you let the restlessness that seems to have taken up permanent residence in your bones do the job of taking you anywhere but here. Of course you find yourself peering around a corner, staring miserable and morose at the guards by the door.

Her door.

Bunch of beasts they were. Armored dogs meant to snap and snarl and keep you from the gilded cage they stuffed your baby bird into. You aren't frightened of them, not as though their trembling and stuttering could ever inspire that in you. But they do have just enough backbone to stand in your way. And that's all they've got, but it's just enough to deter your advances, and hers. You still make goofy faces and call out greetings when you pass her in the hallways, but flanked by guards as she is she never bothers to lift her head.

You catch the glances she thinks are discreet. You see the misery she can't mask with any amount of skill. The door behind those shifting guards is motionless. It gives nothing away of the girl locked behind it. If but the walls could talk...

Frustrated, you pull away from that damnable corner, slinking back into the shadows you've made your own, and away away from another locked door. You swear to yourself that your first day as Queen will entail the absolute destruction of every curtain and every door in the entire kingdom. Even knowing you'll have well and forgotten petty childhood wills by the time your reigns rolls along, it makes you feel better.

It's not as though anything else does anymore, make you feel better that is. Even history lessons have lost their luster now that you are completely cut off from Her. He'd told you, that favorite tutor of yours, that you seem distracted during lessons. He'd told you it might pay to study. And as much as you do feel guilty for have become so lackadaisical in your lessons, another larger part has ceased to care.

Studies studies, what good are studies? Better left for-

You'd been proud once, and damn you, but you still are. Proud enough to believe yourself not a fool when you so clearly are. Proud enough to lose yourself in deep wallowing, and just stay there. Proud enough to disregard the advice of one of the greatest minds in this pit of despair.

A Study for Kings, he'd said once. It might pay to Study, he meant now.

For the first time in forever, you stop your aimless wandering and turn in a direction with a definite plan, a destination in mind. This was well overdue, wasn't it? Months you'd been putting this off, and quite without meaning to. No time like the present.

And color you surprised, but you certainly hadn't expected for the door to be completely unguarded. Of course, you'd never had reason to infiltrate this particular room, and both of those Bastards are rather dull witted to a startling degree, considering their power and position in this corner of the world. Given that, you suppose, as that blasted door creaks open, that it only makes sense it'd be left for you.

And although it does creak and cry in the dark of night, you shut the door behind you. Waiting with bated breath to hear the sounds of a patrol. You don't, not for an eternity of breaths. You accept that you won't and conjure up a compressed ball of wintry magic. By the pale ghostly light do you see the way the bookcases, dominating the walls on either side of you, loom up, up, up, reaching the ceiling.

A misery at the sight weighs heavy in your chest. In the spaces between your heart and lungs it swells and aches. You try to swallow it back, stepping farther into the room. Stopping in the middle to look all about yourself, deciding the right wall to be as good a starting point as any, a sigh escapes and you trudge over. You squint at the books, most without titles, waiting for something you aren't quite certain of.

A feeling perhaps, a raising of hairs on the back of your neck that surely will occur when you lay eyes upon your prize, even without you knowing it. The oddest sensation of a chill, the creeping of memories lost, anything! But as you squint and scowl and crane you neck back looking upon this great monument of monarchy past, that awful miserable feeling swells your insides again.

You might never find it. You might never know. You can't trust that you'll be told, even were you to ask, and nicely. Traitorous tears sting at the back of your eyes, making them hot and itchy. But you refuse, closing your eyes and taking deep breaths until you feel calm once more.

Your eyes open, and you grab the first heavy tome you see. Bound by leather and as large as your torso, it takes mighty heaves to pull it from the shelf, and then a great lot of huffing and puffing and red-faced teeth-gritting grunting effort to carry it over to the large desk the Designated Mouth-Breather uses. All of this, of course, only after you extinguish your light. So you do manage to trip over your own feet in the dark, and the book does hit the floor on its spine.

And the pages upon pages of parchment covered in fine strokes of ink that fill that heavy tome, they burst out. Your eyes squeeze shut, shoulders tensing up, practically touching your ears as you listen to the pages flutter down. One slides off your head. You peek an eye open.

Even without the light you can see the mess you've made all across the floor. Frustration once more stings traitorous tears at your eyes, swells the mass of misery in your chest, tightens your jaw to grind your teeth. You want to scream, you want to cry and freeze this whole damned room. But you don't do these things.

You scowl. You run trembling hands through your hair and yank at the roots. You stamp your feet. You blow out a huff and fall to your bottom, resting your face against your knees. Then you take a very deep breath - the deepest you've ever taken, you'd swear - lift your pouting face from your knees and survey the damage again. But calmly.

You summon your ghost light once more, shifting around. You grab a page. Luck is a strange thing. You'd say, on any other day, that luck is but a word. The culmination of preparation meeting the right situation. But you weren't prepared. How could you possibly be?

To be certain, you'd hoped for this. Damn you, but your thorny hope is so deeply stuck in your own side you doubt you'll ever truly rid yourself of it. And here it is! Your hope given form. You should feel something. Cold fury. Hot rage. Deep hurt, the kind of hurt that aches in your bones so much it makes your teeth throb, chokes the air from you. Even betrayal would be appropriate.

But you sit there, on your knees, staring down at the parchment with your name upon it. The names of your mother and father. The name of your sister, your actual sister. Because you do have one. You stare and your light flickers unsteady for a long moment. And you stare some more. You wait for the rush of emotion to overwhelm you. But the only thing that really happens is the slithering of a thought through your head. Slow and soft, hissing in your ears, it wonders who was born first.

It wonders if you were born first, and those nobles took a look at you and thought perhaps life would be better without you. It wonders if they were frightened, and thusly did they decide to pawn you off on the nearest kingdom. It wonders if they think of you in the dark of night while they cherish the one they kept. Mostly, it wonders, and loudly, if there will ever be a place for you, a home which you may call your own that you won't have taken from you.

And only then, finally, does the feeling creep in.


"What did you do!?" It's the fiercest King Mouth-Breather has looked in a long time, but, flanked as he is by those weak-kneed guards of his, he must feel safe. Safe to rage and roar. What an angry bear he makes. And you smile.

"What does it look like I did?" You ask, gesturing around at the mess you hadn't bothered to clean last night. Why would you ever? And maybe, just maybe, you'd thrown a few books up and blasted them out of the air with magic to create an even larger mess. But that would be childish and spiteful. Two things which you are clearly not.

"I should- I should!" He should attempt to threaten you. What else can they do but post more guards, increase the patrols? How can they possibly do anything to injure you more? They can't. This game almost isn't even fun anymore.

"My apologies, but I've lessons to attend to Father-"

"I'm NOT your father!" Ah. And finally does he admit it. You're ready for the rush of satisfaction and relief, not quite so prepared for the slight sting of rejection. You had been attached to them, hadn't you? Liars and bastards they be, but they still raised you. You don't flinch though. Don't allow yourself a wince, even bite back on the slow smile begging to work it's way across your features. You stare at him and wait for his mind to catch up with his mouth.

His eyes go wide.

"I-"

"You're right, of course," you admit, but slowly. Savoring the sweetness of the words. "I did this, all of this. And at least half of it was intentional, Father, oh! Dearest apologies, you must excuse me I'm a tad slow on these changes; shall I call you Uncle?" His cheeks are red but the rest of his face has gone stark white.

"Right then," you smile up at him, wide and sparkling. "So Uncle, I can only apologize for the terrible, horrible mess I've made! I do so hope you'll be willing to forgive me, for I must admit having no parents does put me in a foul state but! I've come to terms with it and I'm now ready to move forward with my life, and my studies."

But he's not looking at you. He's looking over at the section of wall where you'd found that dusty old tome, just scant few hours ago. The other wall's missing a chunk of about five hefty books, but not the wall he stares at, unblinking. The wall he gazes upon with mounting horror is missing only one book. The book you unintentionally destroyed. The book he knows contains the intimate information of your bloodline.

He is a colorless sheet of a mouth-breathing man when his eyes turn back to yours. And you know by his flinch, by the fear in his eyes that he's deduced what you've done. You're tempted to withdraw the crumpled parchment from within the folds of your dress, press kisses upon it, dance about him and wave it under his nose, singing all the while. But you resist your desires.

"I'd like to take tea with Anna," you inform him. Your voice is low, serious. This is not a request, this is what will happen. You take a step closer. His guards audibly flinch, armor causing a soft racket but you don't allow yourself the distraction of shooting either of them a glare. "I think that sounds incredibly reasonable, don't you, Uncle?"