kethni: (Matt/Mo)
[personal profile] kethni
Name: Blood Red – Part One
Pairing: Matt/Mohinder
Rating: PG-13
Warnings: Character Death, Violence, Cannibalism, Borderline Bestiality – kinda.
Word count: approximately 8000 in this part.
Note: boudecia7 asked for a Snow White and The Huntsman style story. I actually started this before either [personal profile] boudecia7  or I saw the movie so it’s more inspired by the tone than the specifics of the story. 

There are certain tales in which the good are pure as snow and always prevail while the bad are heartless and are always vanquished.

This is not such a story.

There are certain tales in which princes marry princesses they have only just met and do not know, and they live happily ever after.

This is not such a story.

There are other stories in which the prince ravishes Sleeping Beauty’s unconscious body, and the visits of Rapunzel’s prince to her tower leave her with his child.

This is such a story.

There are other stories where the wolf first ravishes and then devours Red Riding Hood; where fathers so sated with the pleasure of new spouses abandon their children.

This is such a story.

Past the gnarled, snarled dark and dripping forest, beyond the tired, worn farms and, nestled in the cold embrace of the city, is the palace. The guards at the gate chitter together as the cold morning shines off their skin. In the kitchens the scullery maids scurry to and fro, their piping voices shrill in the near silence.

The huntsman prowls through the corridors, sniffing the air as he goes.

The king lies idle and stupefied in his bed as his consort dresses. The consort is a young man, far younger than the king, and fired with dark and deadly ambition. He walks into his dressing room and admires his reflection in the mirror.

‘Magic mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?’

The mirror image, so like his own image and yet not, hesitates. ‘Your Majesty has ensured no woman remains more beautiful than he.’

The consort preens. ‘And men?’

‘No man, no.’

‘Gabriel, cease your mewling and explain,’ Sylar demands.

The Magic Mirror sighs. ‘You are as fair as the moon.’

‘Who is fairer than I?’ Sylar demands. ‘Tell me that I may ring the cockerel’s neck and eating the still beating heart.’

‘The son of your new husband will one day rival even the sun for its glory.’

Sylar tries to bring the image of the boy to his mind. ‘The brat is barely out of swaddling clothes. His heart would be hardly a mouthful.’ He raises an eyebrow and considers the mirror thoughtfully. ‘His father is still too close to the boy to kill him now. How old will he be when he first flourishes?’

‘When he comes to his maturity in ten years’ time.’

Sylar smiles. ‘Then we shall have to find somewhere for the young prince to spend the time. The king is easily distracted and after that much time he will barely remember the brat.’

In the vaulted throne room, surrounded by silently appalled staff, some dumbed with rage and others never able to speak, Sylar lounges on the throne. The portrait of the late queen has been torn down and in its place is a painting of Sylar astride a horse. He means to replace the portrait of Chandra as soon as possible. Before too long not even the palace staff will remember Chandra’s face, let alone his son’s.

The heavy doors swing open and the huntsman prowls through, wary dark eyes watching all around. Being indoors makes his hackles rise. A number of the scullery maids shiver and quiver but dare not flee without Sylar’s command.

The huntsman stops before the dais and looks up at Sylar enquiringly.

‘Bring the boy in!’ Sylar orders.

Young Prince Mohinder, sullen and sulking, is brought into the room. He glares at Sylar, then turns his back and scowls at the huntsman. ‘Who’re you?’

‘Mohinder, this is Matthew the huntsman, he’s going to take you to your tower and,’ Sylar waves a hand vaguely, ‘make sure that you have…’ He trails off and smiles nastily at Matt. ‘Couldn’t you just eat him all up?’

Matt looks at the young boy appraisingly and then shrugs.

‘You have had your dinner, haven’t you?’ Sylar teases.

Matt nods silently.

‘Good boy. Off you go then.’

Matt jerks his head for Mohinder to follow him and walks away. Without meaning to or knowing why, Mohinder runs after him.

The forest is dark and full of strange animal sounds; foxes shrieking, owls hooting, and the disquieting steps of some creature rustling through the undergrowth.

Matt starts as Mohinder’s small hand slips into his own. He looks down into the little upturned face gazing at him.

‘I’m scared,’ Mohinder says.

Matt shows Mohinder his crossbow, his net, and his sword. Mohinder, placated, nods.

‘I’m thirsty,’ Mohinder announces as they fight through some brambles.

The huntsman nods in agreement and sniffs the air. He leads Mohinder away through the trees, disturbing the dark and hungry birds which scatter at their approach. The birds fill the air with frantic wings and shrieking caws as they briefly block out the sun. Mohinder grips Matt’s hand tightly. His heart cheers at the sound of the stream and the sight of the deer drinking peacefully.

He runs to the stream and catches water in his hands to guzzle. ‘Come and have a drink, silly!’ he calls to the huntsman, hiding in the darkness of the trees.

A deer passes heedlessly by the tree. Matt springs forward, and moments later the deer’s carcass drops onto the grass. Mohinder puts back his head and bawls.

The moon is heavy in the night sky and its light casts the trees into hideous, deformed creatures.

A spit turns slowly over the fire as Matt cooks the deer. Small rivulets of fat dribble down the deer’s flank and splash into the flames.

‘I’m hungry,’ Mohinder says quietly.

Matt checks the meat and cuts off a hunk of the tenderest flesh and holds it out to him.

‘I don’t want to eat that! It was a deer and you killed it and now it’s dead!’ Mohinder’s lip quavers. ‘I’m hungry,’ he says again.

Matt offers him the meat again. Mohinder takes it this time and eats it silently.

‘I’m cold,’ Mohinder says as the fire dies down and the cold draws in.

Matt takes off his coat and wraps it around Mohinder.

‘My daddy isn’t going to come for me, is he?’ Mohinder asks, looking at Matt with soft, sad eyes.

Matt shakes his head.

‘I’m tired,’ Mohinder says quietly.

The huntsman curls up on the ground and the young prince curls up beside him. He wriggles close, putting his head against Matt’s shoulder.

‘Goodnight, Mr Huntsman.’

Matt looks up at the moon and bays softly.

‘Where are we going?’ Mohinder asks in the morning.

Matt scoops him up onto his shoulders and points at the tower they are fast approaching.

‘Is that for me?’

Matt nods.

Mohinder rests his chin on the top of Matt’s head. ‘Who’s going to look after me?’

Matt hesitates and then shrugs.

The bottom of the tower is surrounded by a thicket of nettles and a wall of thorns. Matt fights his way through to the door and then lifts Mohinder down onto the ground.

‘I don’t want to live here!’ Mohinder wails as Matt unlocks the door.

Matt pats his head awkwardly as he carries him up the long, winding staircase.

‘I’m not a baby,’ Mohinder complains.

At the top of the tower is a single room with a bed, books, and toys.

‘This is a girl’s room!’

Matt forces the window open and clears away the ivy and remains of woven rope.

Mohinder tugs at Matt’s sleeve. ‘Who’s going to look after me?’

The huntsman shakes his head sadly.

Mohinder tugs his sleeve again and Matt looks down at the huge brown eyes and innocent, open face, and sighs.

‘Will you look after me?’ he asks. ‘Please, Mr Huntsman? I’ll be good. I promise!’

Matt sighs again and nods.

Mohinder looks at the man who has never spoken, who has killed animals with hands and teeth, and knows that he’s safe.

Ten Years Later

The young prince walks cautiously into the throne room. Each wall is covered in portraits of the regent, one as tall as the wall, and the creeping guards are coiffured in his image.

The young prince makes his way to the throne and waits for the regent’s capricious attention to fall upon him.

‘My, my,’ says Sylar, ‘what a handsome face. Not too handsome, fortunately, or I’d have to kill you.’ He smiles to show it is a joke and the rest of the court laugh mindlessly. ‘You must be Prince Peter.’

‘Yes, my mother sent me to make my suit.’

‘To me?’ Sylar asks sweetly. ‘How charming. Although King Chandra isn’t quite dead yet. That’s not an insurmountable problem though.’

Peter laughs, and then realises that no-one else has. ‘I’m to pay my suit to the prince.’

‘What prince?’

‘The crown prince, Prince Mohinder, comes of age soon.’

‘Oh him! I suppose he might still…’ Sylar smiles. ‘We’ll be sure to have Prince Mohinder ready to receive your addresses when he can. He’s a terribly popular young man.’ Sylar looks Peter up and down. ‘In the meantime please take advantage of our hospitality.’

Sylar storms into his chambers and over to the wall. ‘Magic Mirror on the wall, does Prince Mohinder endure at all?’

‘Prince Mohinder endures very well.’

‘Show me.’

Mohinder, eighteen years old, long-limbed, and as beautiful as the sun, attaches a length of rope to a spear. He ties the other end of the rope to a hook by the window before sighting along the spear. He hurls it from the window and it curves into the air before plunging into the foliage of the forest. Mohinder pulls in the rope smoothly, hand over hand, hauling the spear back into the tower. He grins as he pulls in the spear which is now studded with heavy fruit.

Sylar frowns. ‘Chandra looks like a softened potato, how on earth could he sire a stallion of that worth?’

‘His mother was renowned for her beauty,’ Gabriel offers.

‘Chandra is tiresome. I grow weary of pretending to nursemaid him. But the boy is nearly of age and if Chandra died he would challenge me for the throne. What to do. What to do.’

‘His beauty is great and he is the rightful heir. Many men would follow him.’

Sylar smiles nastily. ‘Not if I turned them into worms. Transformations work very well.’

Gabriel shifts uneasily. ‘Ware the creature made human too long, Majesty.’

‘They know to whom their allegiance lies.’

‘The form moulds the mind,’ Gabriel warns. ‘A human too long left as a beetle will be a man no more whatever his shape. A mouse made man will eventually cease cowering at every cat.’

‘He’s been in the tower these ten years with no company but the huntsman,’ Sylar says with a smile. ‘The poor child will be starved of intelligent company and personal contact. I could mould him into a perfect plaything. Get rid of Chandra, marry the son, and continue to rule. That could suit me well.’

Matt troops up the long and winding staircase with his arms full of a dressed deer and vegetables from the palace kitchens. It is a warm, clear day, and the air in the tower is full an intriguing scent that Matt cannot quite place.

He unbolts the door and Mohinder opens it at once, as if he had been waiting. The sun is shining through the small window and casting Mohinder in a warm, golden glow. Matt visits every day. Sees the boy he expects to see. Now he sees a young man, tall, graceful, and beautiful.

‘I had another strange dream last night,’ Mohinder says, taking an armful of vegetables. ‘This time we were wrestling by a waterfall. Isn’t that odd?’

The scent is Mohinder. The soft milky aroma of his childhood has slipped away and been replaced by the musk of a man.

‘I could do with some more water tomorrow.’ Mohinder stashes the food away in the little area of the room which he has set aside for his kitchen. The previous inhabitant of the tower had been happy to passively wait for her meals to be provided, but Matt provides only ingredients, and besides Mohinder despises passive waiting. ‘I was reading one of the cookery books and I’d like to try using oil. Do you think there’s any chance you could get some oil for frying?’

Matt nods but his expression is hunted and his body is tense.

‘Have a glass of wine and I’ll fetch the parchment and quill.’

Matt drops his head miserably but obediently draws a beaker of wine and sits down on the floor.

‘I don’t know why you make such a fuss.’ Mohinder sits next to him and spreads out the parchment, quills and ink. ‘It must be frustrating for you not being able to make yourself understood.’

Matt growls and grumbles to himself as he takes the quill. He startles as Mohinder covers his hand with his own.

‘Don’t behave as a child,’ Mohinder chides, and smiles, and fills the small confines of Matt’s life with want, need, and confusion.

Prince Peter hides hurriedly behind the bole of a tree as the huntsman exits from the tower. It had taken him three days to find a servant who could speak, and then cost him four pieces of gold to discover the means of finding Prince Mohinder.
The door to the tower creaks open slowly and the huntsman walks out. He turns and acknowledges the person waving from the window before shutting and locking the door to the tower. Peter cringes back as Matt stalks away from the tower and then pauses to sniff the air.

Peter waits for him to look around but he doesn’t. He merely smiles slightly and passes on without looking back. Once he has gone Peter takes the sword from his scabbard and hurries to the tower.

His mother has made it clear that he is expected to marry well. If not Mohinder then some other prince, and there are few enough of them around.

The lock to the tower gives way under a dozen blows from the hilt of the sword. Peter holsters it quickly and runs up the stairs. At the top of the stairs there are a series of bolts which are well oiled and slide open easily.

‘Who the hell are you?’ Mohinder demands, flourishing a breadknife.

Peter steps back and bows. ‘I’m Prince Peter and I’m here to rescue you.’ He smirks. ‘This is where we kiss.’

Mohinder lowers the knife a little. Matt is the only person he’s seen since he came here and to suddenly be confronted by an attractive young man demanding a kiss is the stuff of fantasy. Yet here he is.

‘Why would we do that?’

‘Because I’m your prince and I’m here to rescue you. We should go though before someone sees that I’ve broken down the door.’

Mohinder redoubles his grip on the knife. ‘You are not my anything. I’ve never laid eyes on you before. What do you want?’

Peter pushes the hair back off his face. ‘I want to rescue you! Your evil… stepfather has you locked up in a tower. Don’t you want to get out of this place? There’s a whole world out there.’

‘Well, yes, but I don’t know you.’

‘I told you, I’m Prince Peter from the next city. I’m a youngest son so I have to rescue someone or nobody will marry me.’

Mohinder squares his shoulders. ‘I fail to understand your logic.’

‘Can we discuss this on the way to my mother’s palace?’

‘That would be kidnap not rescue,’ Mohinder snaps. ‘If I am leaving here then I will return to my father’s palace.’

‘The regent locked you in a tower! What’s to stop him killing you?’ Peter runs after Mohinder as he gathers up his meagre belongings and heads towards the door.

‘Nothing I suppose which is exactly as much as has been stopping him from killing me these past ten years.’

Peter hops down the stairs after Mohinder, trying to keep up. ‘A rescue should not proceed in this fashion.’

‘I beg your pardon. I have spent the last ten years in a tower. The appropriate way to behave when a complete stranger breaks into my home and announces that he is rescuing me and wants a kiss was not included in my education!’

‘You could say thank you!’

Mohinder walks out into the sunlight and closes his eyes. He takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly. ‘Thank you.’ He turns back to Peter. ‘Do you have a horse?’

‘You’ll have to ride up behind me.’

‘Does your kingdom not have more than one horse?’

Peter flushes slightly. ‘I would have raised suspicion taking two horses and besides…’

‘Yes?’ Mohinder asks tartly.

‘It’s more romantic,’ Peter says sheepishly.

Mohinder rolls his eyes. ‘Romantic.’

‘The whole thing is quite romantic. Rescuing you from the tower and escaping.’

Mohinder walks over to the horse and tentatively strokes his back. ‘I think it might be more romantic if we had actually met before, or if you had any idea what I even looked like.’

‘I can’t complain there,’ Peter says cheekily.

A little warmth rises in Mohinder’s cheeks. ‘Do you think I’m attractive?’

‘I should probably not tell you that you’re the most beautiful man I’ve ever seen as that might make your head swell. So I’ll say that you’re very attractive.’

‘Oh.’ Mohinder smiles to himself. ‘We should be going then.’

‘You should put your arms around me tightly,’ Peter says.

‘I don’t embrace men I don’t know.’

‘You’ve been in a tower for ten years. You don’t know any men.’

Mohinder shifts position. ‘I know Matthew.’

‘Who’s that?’

‘The huntsman,’ Mohinder explains. ‘He looks after me.’

Peter looks over his shoulder at Mohinder. ‘He’s the one who was keeping you in the tower!’

‘Sylar was keeping me in the tower. If it wasn’t for Matt I would have died or gone mad.’

‘He could have let you out any time,’ Peter argues. ‘He could’ve got you away from here.’

‘You don’t know what you’re talking about. You don’t know him.’

Peter rolls his eyes. ‘Isn’t he a little beneath you?’

‘In what way?’ Mohinder asks cautiously.

‘In the way that you’re the crown prince and he’s a servant.’ Peter clucks his tongue. ‘Servants are all well and good for a bit of fun but you can’t take them seriously.’

‘Remind me why your opinion is supposed to carry particular weight with me?’

‘I rescued you!’

Mohinder rolls his eyes. ‘I am grateful for that.’


‘Nonetheless, you did so for your own purposes, not for mine.’

Peter looks back over his shoulder at Mohinder. ‘You have a strange way of expressing gratitude.’

‘I’m a prince of this realm, not some star struck milkmaid, and I have no interest in being won like a pig at a county fair.’

‘I’m not your huntsman you know, we’re equals, and you could stand to be show more courtesy.’

‘I apologise if I have been discourteous. As I’ve indicated my education may have been somewhat lacking. I do feel more natural affinity for the man whom I’ve seen every day for the last ten years, who’s cared for me since childhood, than for a complete stranger who broke into my home.’

They ride on, slowly for the horse protests the weight of two men, and unseen to either the huntsman follows at a comfortable trot. He keeps a distance of perhaps a half mile, far enough not to spook the horses should the wind change, and too far for either man to notice him, but follow he does.

The body of the young laundress is still warm. The snow around her corpse thaws and softens around her and steam rises from the ragged hole in her chest. The two guards leave her there, walking back to the palace the way they came, ignoring the squabbling of the wolves behind them.

Follow the trail of blood. It has splashed irregularly against the crisp white snow all the way back into the palace, along the cold cleanliness of the palace floor, past the two grooms lapping up the spilled blood, and into the regent’s private quarters.

Sylar sits back on his plush and padded armchair and licks the gore and gristle from his fingers. It’s almost worth the betrayal to rejuvenate himself; the only shame is that she wasn’t younger. The purging of most of the original palace servants provided him with a cornucopia but eventually the magic of so many slaughter souls ran out. He found out to his cost that the hearts of transformed animals not only lacked the power of human hearts but proved the bitterest of galls. Perhaps he’ll bespell a bird for a laundress. The grooms will torment her, no doubt, as they torment the scullery maids. They flee from the huntsman. They all flee from him. It never fails to amuse Sylar how they all know. No matter what their appearance each of them can tell the true nature of the others at sight.

‘They’re nearly here,’ Gabriel announces.

‘Has Prince Peter managed to seduce our stepson?’

‘Indeed no, Prince Mohinder appears unmoved by his charms.’

Gabriel smiles darkly. ‘Prince Peter is merely a boy. Mohinder is on the cusp of manhood. He needs someone of maturity. Someone wit h his best interests at… heart.’

Matt pads into the palace after Mohinder and Peter. The tissue thin soles of his soft leather boots are almost silent on the tiled floor. Despite Peter’s anxious casting of his eyes around he never thinks to look back, not that he would see Matt if he did. Matt knows how to be quiet and still.

Two chittering, jittering guards block their way and gesture wordlessly that they proceed to the right.

‘Why is it so many of the staff here cannot speak?’ Peter asks. He rests his hand on his hilt as they approach the throne room.

‘Sylar enchanted them.’

‘So they couldn’t speak? For what purpose?’

Mohinder looks back at the guards. ‘He turned all manner of creatures into palace staff. I forget what creatures he used for the guards. Some kind of insects I think. He didn’t bother giving them voices.’

Peter stares around in horror. ‘I’ve been speaking to them!’

‘The longer they’re in human shape the more human they are,’ Mohinder says with a shrug.

‘You know this despite seeing none since you were locked in the tower?’

‘I see Matt the huntsman every day.’

Peter shifts uneasily. ‘He’s a cursed animal?’

Mohinder raises an eyebrow. ‘If you consider becoming human to be a curse, perhaps he does. Certainly Sylar won’t have done anything to impress with human beings.’

Peter shivers. ‘If he turns me into a creature I hope that you’ll get word to my mother.’

‘I don’t know that he can, certainly I never saw it happen. However if he were to transform you into a creature it would be an act of war. I imagine he’d rather avoid that.’

The doors to the throne room open before them. Sylar’s court of transformed creatures are in full attendance, grouped by kind. A small disturbance breaks out as a groom stalks towards a scullery maid, but at Sylar’s gesture they all quieten. He is sprawled lazily on the throne. Jewels drip from his throat, wrists, and fingers.

‘Prince Peter, you have been a busy boy.’

Peter reddens and marches forward. ‘I’ve rescued the crown prince.’

‘Rescued him from what, his home?’

‘You had him locked up in a tower!’

‘For his own safety,’ Sylar chides. ‘A poor motherless boy is at such risk, don’t you think? I could scarcely care for him as I was practically a child myself and the king well… his health was never good.’

Mohinder steps forward. ‘I want to see my father.’

‘My, how handsome you’ve grown,’ Sylar says, looking Mohinder over slowly. ‘No wonder suitors are coming out of the woodwork.’

‘Not literally I hope,’ Mohinder says dryly.

‘I was here first,’ Peter protests.

Sylar swings his foot idly. ‘I was here before you.’ He waves a hand and two guards skitter across the hall. ‘Prince Peter looks tired, presumably all that breaking into Prince Mohinder’s quarters has taken it out of him.’

Peter puts his hand on his sword hilt. ‘I’m going nowhere.’

Sylar draws himself up to his full height. ‘This is not your mother’s court, Your Highness; your peccadillos will not be winked at. You’ve already travelled to Prince Mohinder’s private royal apartments without permission, broken in, and exposed him to all manner of danger. If I were you I’d run off to the suite that we’ve graciously allowed you and consider how you’ll explain to your mother the diplomatic upset that you’ve caused.’

‘I’m not leaving Mohinder here with you!’

‘How very gallant you are,’ Sylar says.

Mohinder puts his hand on Peter’s arm. ‘I’m as safe here without you as I am with you. If he kills me then as soon as my father dies Milandria and Carmony will both claim the throne and invade. It isn’t in the regent’s interest to kill me, yet.’

‘A masterly summation, I can see that you’re going to be an excellent king come the day.’ Sylar claps his hand to his chest. ‘May Chandra live a thousand years.’

King Chandra,’ Mohinder snaps.

‘Of course.’ Sylar looks at Peter. ‘Are you still here? Guards, show the prince to his room or I’ll have to squash you.’

Mohinder stands his ground as Peter finally leaves and Sylar struts down from the throne.

‘I want to see my father.’

‘I thought the little prince would never leave. Come through to my private chamber.’ Sylar tries to take Mohinder’s elbow but Mohinder shakes him off.

‘Is he still alive?’

‘He’s very ill.’ Sylar shrugs.

‘If he wasn’t you wouldn’t be acting as regent. I’m not completely uneducated,’ Mohinder retorts.

‘You’d find it terribly distressing. Come through to my private chamber.’

Mohinder looks back over his shoulder to the spot empty of the noise coming from the court, the spot where instinct tells him he’ll find Matt, and finds the huntsman watching him with faithful patience.

‘As you wish.’

‘You’ve grown very handsome,’ Sylar says, crossing across the chamber and pouring drinks for them.

‘You said that already.’

‘It bears repeating.’ Sylar hands him a beaker of mead. ‘You’ll be of age soon.’

‘At which point you as regent will marry me off to the highest bidder no doubt. Perhaps a strategic alliance with Milandria or Carmony to strengthen your position in the event of my father’s death.’

Sylar sips his mead. ‘Astute but then on Chandra’s death the kingdom would end up amalgamated into theirs.’

‘Or theirs into ours. Such is the way of things.’

Sylar smiles and plays with the button of Mohinder’s tunic. ‘There’s a simpler solution.’

Mohinder steps back. ‘What’re you implying?’

‘A smooth transition of power.’


‘You’re a young man, Mohinder, and you have a bright future ahead of you but you have no experience of governance.’ Sylar steps close again. ‘Together we can shape this country in our images.’

‘You’re married to my father!’

‘Don’t be tiresomely conventional. Chandra abandoned you for his own fleshly pleasure without a second thought. You don’t owe him anything.’ Sylar smiles slyly. ‘He’ll be dead soon enough and you can be married off as chattel away from your home or you can marry me. I can keep a man happy.’

Mohinder’s lip twists in disgust. ‘I should rather spend the rest of my life in the tower than have any form of connection with you.’

‘That can be arranged.’

Mohinder turns on his heel and walks away. ‘Threaten to kill me if you wish,’ he says looking over his shoulder. ‘I shan’t weep and I shan’t beg no matter what you threaten.’

The room darkens suddenly and Sylar seems to grow taller. ‘Do not walk away from me!’

Mohinder pauses in the door ways and looks back at him. ‘Iam the crown prince. The only man who may command me is my father.’

‘You’re a foolish child.’ Sylar holds up his hand and a ball of fiery energy coalesces in his palm. ‘I can burn you where you stand.’

‘Perhaps you can but you’re not entirely so ruled by your anger that you will. You know that if I die Milandria and Carmony will invade. They won’t wait for my father’s death. Not when you’ve let it be known that he has a foot in the grave already. So kill me if you must and sign your death warrant.’

Sylar stalks forward. ‘I can make you vanish little boy.’

‘That will have the same effect.’

Sylar smiles nastily. ‘Worth the risk.’

‘As you like. In the meanwhile I will be looking in this house of horrors for my father.’

‘Tell me how to rid myself of this damn prince!’

‘Eat his heart,’ Gabriel suggests although he looks a little green.

‘That’s your answer to everything,’ Sylar chuckles and waves his hand. ‘Milandria and Carmony would still invade.’

‘Not if you take his form.’

Sylar sprawls back in his chair. ‘Blood magic.’

‘Make his blood part of you. Take his form when princes come and keep the other kingdoms quiescent.’

‘If I kill him here that whelp Peter will find out.’ Sylar smiles. ‘I don’t have to do the deed myself, as long as Mohinder is dead and his heart is brought to me.’

This room is full of bones. Old bones sucked clean of meat and marrow and licked clean of blood. They’re piled around the room in thoughtless abandon; skulls jumbled in with thigh bones, arm bones, and rib cages.

Mohinder shudders at the sight and closes the door. Sylar has turned the palace into a charnel house. The bodies of political prisoners and traitors are strung from the battlements and the discarded skeletons have been simply cast aside like so much rubbish.

‘Did Sylar do this?’ Mohinder asks, looking over his shoulder. ‘I know you’re there.’

Matt steps around a corner and inclines his head. He sets his shoulders as Mohinder approaches him.

‘Are you following me for him?’

Matt shakes his head.

‘Are you following me because you’re worried about me?’ he asks, smiling.

A little colour peaks in Mohinder’s cheeks and he looks away and nods.

‘Do you know where my father is? Can you show me where he is?’

Matt whines softly but then nods.

Mohinder catches his hand and squeezes it. ‘Thank you.’

Two of the scullery maids come pattering down the corridor and stop, frozen at the sight of Matt, and squeaking in distress.

‘It’s alright, walk past, he won’t hurt you,’ Mohinder says firmly. He looks at Matt. ‘You don’t, do you?’

Matt ducks under a sheet of cobwebs hanging across the corridor. Mohinder tenses as a spider the size of a large cat scuttles along the floor and up the wall at high speed. Its body is covered in short, thick bristles and something thick and sticky leaks from its fangs. Mohinder edges past it slowly on to turn and find that Matt is laughing silently at him.

‘It’s huge!’

Matt points at the spider and holds up his hands to indicate its size and then points at Mohinder and holds a hand up level with the top of Mohinder’s head.

‘It’s huge for a spider, and it might be poisonous. It looks poisonous. I wonder what it eats.’ He follows Matt along through the darkened corridors, his footsteps deadened by the carpet of cobwebs, shivering at the clammy air. ‘I don’t see many flies. Perhaps Sylar turns them into footmen. I wonder if it’s confusing going from having all those legs, and wings too, to having two legs and two arms. Do they still try to fly? I think it must be very hard to be a bird or some other flying thing and then suddenly be a human.’

Matt sets his shoulder at the huge oak door in front of them and it creaks open a couple of inches. Mohinder hurries forward and joins him; together they slowly pry the door open.

The room beyond is grey with cobwebs and choking with dust. The dim shape of a large bed can barely be seen through the gloom. Mohinder leaps forward, crashing onto the bed, and frantically shakes the wizened shape in the bed.

‘Father? Father!’

Chandra remains silent and unmoving.

‘What’s he done? What’s he done to you?’ Mohinder puts his ear to Chandra’s mouth. He looks at Matt. ‘I can’t hear him breathing. Is he dead?’

Matt pads unwilling over to the bed and sniffs the air.

‘Is he dead?’

Matt shakes his head.

Mohinder sinks back onto his heels. ‘Under a spell?’

Matt nods, catches Mohinder’s fingers in his own, and tugs gently at his hand.

‘I can’t leave him here.’ Mohinder stares at Chandra’s blank, unresponsive face. ‘Does he even know where he is?’

Matt tugs again at Mohinder’s hand.

‘My father let Sylar put me in the tower,’ Mohinder says quietly. ‘Yet he is my father, and the king, and I will not let this stand.’ He turns to Matt. ‘I will find a way to break this spell. Would you… Do you…’ Mohinder licks his lips. ‘Is it better, being human? Would you stay if you had the choice?’

Matt stares at Mohinder, searching his face for some sign. Then he shrugs uncertainly.

‘Do you hate it? Should you like to stop being?’

Matt squeezes Mohinder’s fingers and tugs him towards the door.

Mohinder sneaks into the kitchens past the squeaking scullery maids but comes up short at the sight of the enormous cook, red-faced and sweating.

‘What the bleedin’ hell do you want?’ she demands.

‘You can speak.’

She wipes flour from her arms and then folds them across her gigantic bosom. ‘O’course I can bleedin’ speak. Can’t set no animal at cookin’ can ya?’

‘The huntsman cooks,’ Mohinder says firmly. ‘He plucks and joints and stuffs and cooks.’

‘Don’t be sayin’ stuff like that! I like my heart in my chest thank you very much.’ She sniffs loudly. ‘Mebbe he can chuck his catch on a fire but I don’t call that cookin’. No sauces. Everything roasted. No thank you.’

Mohinder licks his lips. ‘I’m Prince Mohinder.’

‘Yes? Well in this kitchen I’m the bleedin’ queen. What d’ya want?’

‘I’d like something to eat please.’

She snorts and turns back to the counter. ‘You’ve missed lunch and dinner isn’t for hours.’

‘Madam, I’ve been in the tower for the past ten years with only the food I can prepare myself or that the huntsman prepared. Have mercy on a poor boy who has not had decent food prepared by a cook of your skill in so many years.’

The cook snorts again. ‘Wash yaself in the sink you filthy pup. Ya covered in cobwebs.’

‘Might I have the honour of making your acquaintance?’ he asks politely, crossing over to the sink.

‘Mrs Bromley,’ she says grudgingly. ‘You can have some of the partridge pie warmed up and some roast apples and be grateful for it.’

‘I will be grateful for it.’

Mrs Bromley looks at him slyly as she puts the food on the counter. ‘Grew up handsome didn’t you?’

Mohinder smiles weakly.

Sylar lounges back in the throne. ‘You’re aware that Prince Peter took it upon himself to break into the tower and free young Mohinder? Of course you are. You know if he’s cut himself shaving.’

Matt shifts from foot to foot, watching Sylar warily and never catching his eye.

‘You’ve done an excellent job of protecting him,’ Sylar says, examining his nails. ‘Far better than I would have anticipated but I suppose there’s a tradition of your kind caring for abandoned children.’ Sylar smiles thinly. ‘You must be tired of dealing with the brat and that being the case I have good news for you.’

Matt rounds his shoulders and drops his head as Sylar climbs down from the throne and struts over to him.

‘Prince Mohinder needs to die. Unfortunately it would politically awkward for me to be connected to his death.’ He pats Matt on the chest. ‘I want you to take him into the woods, kill him, and cut out his heart.’ He smiles brightly. ‘Then bring me his heart. Do you understand?’ Sylar grabs Matt’s face, forcing him to meet his eyes. ‘Do you understand?’

Matt nods once.

‘Now go fetch me a nice juicy still beating heart.’

Peter, hidden by the open door, backs away quickly. He spins on his heel and finds a pair of dead eyed guards coming towards him.

‘Stay back!’ he says flourishing his sword.

The guards stop, watching him silently with their black dull eyes.

Peter backs away until he comes up against the massive ebony doors. He reaches behind him for the handle, hand scrabbling over the wood, and finally has to look back at the door.

Two sets of feet, still unused to shoes, scrabble forward.

‘Stop there!’ Peter hisses, pointing the sword at them. ‘Don’t come any closer!’ He scrambles through the doors and then takes to his heels. Along the long, and echoing corridors, past the guest suites, through the vast and abandoned chapel, he runs until he finds himself in a part of the palace that he doesn’t recognise.

A footman blinks at him with silent curiosity.

‘Where’s Prince Mohinder? He’s in terrible danger!’

The footman points and Peter runs on.

‘Madam, I am a mere boy,’ Mohinder protests as he keeps the huge oak table between himself and the cook. ‘I assure you that you would find me a most deficient lover.’

‘All of us have to start somewhere Y’Highness,’ she chortles, creeping closer.

‘I happen to be the crown prince and… and one day I shall be the king and on that day it would be well to be my friend.’

‘I want to…’

The door crashes open and Peter runs into the room. ‘Come with me!’

‘Git out of mah kitchen ya little bleeder!’

Peter clutches his knees as he tries to catch his breath. ‘Mohinder, you have to come with me.’

‘I don’t have to do anything,’ Mohinder says tartly. He skirts around the table and takes Peter by the arm. ‘I thank you for your kindness, Madam,’ he says to the cook. ‘Alas Prince Peter appears to have an urgent communication.’ Mohinder manhandles Peter out of the kitchen and manages to pull the door shut behind them as he goes. ‘Did you run here all the way from the guest suite?’

‘From the throne room,’ Peter wheezes.

Mohinder pulls Peter further away from the kitchen. ‘What were you doing in the throne room?’

‘Listening to Sylar tell someone to kill you! You have to come with me.’

‘Who? Why would he say that with you there to hear it?’

Peter leans back against the wall. ‘I was listening at the door,’ he says sheepishly. ‘He didn’t know I was there.’

Mohinder purses his lips. ‘To whom was he speaking?’

‘I don’t know. I didn’t see.’

‘That would have been useful information to have,’ Mohinder says crisply.

‘Come with me, we’ll go to my mother’s palace, you’ll be safe,’ Peter promises.

Mohinder leans forward and kisses him chastely on the forehead. ‘I thank you for the warning and for your assistance.’

‘Someone’s going to kill you!’

‘Matt won’t let anyone hurt me if he can help it,’ Mohinder says calmly. ‘He’s always protected me.’

‘What if he can’t help it?’

‘Then I don’t think running away is going to help.’

‘What if your huntsman is the one who’s going to kill you?’

Mohinder shrugs easily. ‘If Matt means to kill me then I am as good as dead. He is the huntsman. If I ran he’d find me. He’d find me wherever I went.’

‘You can try!’ Peter grabs Mohinder’s arm. ‘Don’t just give up.’

A low growl begin; quiet and low at first but quickly growing louder and deeper.

‘Let go of my arm,’ Mohinder says quietly.

‘What’s that noise?’ Peter whispers.

‘Let go of my arm!’

Peter suddenly finds himself grabbed and shoved away from Mohinder. He stumbles backwards, almost falling over his feet. Matt growls and snaps at him as he backs away.

‘All’s well,’ Mohinder says quickly. ‘Matt, he isn’t hurting me.’

Peter puts his hand on his sword hilt. ‘I’m not afraid to use this!’

‘Oh don’t be ridiculous!’ Mohinder stands between them. ‘Peter, he thought you were hurting me. Matt, Peter was merely over emphatic.’

Matt subsides but continues to watch them both warily.

‘We have to go,’ Peter says.

‘I’m not coming with you.’ Mohinder runs his fingers through his hair. ‘I thank you for your aid and assistance, Peter, and if I survive then I’m sure we shall be great friends.’

Mohinder follows Matt to a hidden door behind the kitchens. The huntsman quickly and quietly moves aside the debris blocking the door. He then wraps his cloak around Mohinder’s shoulders and urges him outside.

‘Aren’t you cold?’ Mohinder asks in a hushed voice.

The woods are close about the palace here and a suffocating silence lies over the land. Such birds as may be seen are quiet and watchful of unseen danger.

Matt takes Mohinder’s hand and leads him deep into the forest.

‘Are you cold?’

Matt shakes his head.

‘But you’re shaking,’ Mohinder says softly.

Matt looks away.

They reach a clearing lit by the fractured sunlight falling through the canopy of dark branches and fragile leaf skeletons. In silent agreement they pause to rest a while, Matt squatting on his haunches by a tree and Mohinder sitting on the black earth.

‘It’s nice to be out of the tower, I’m glad I got to see a little of the world.’

Matt snuffles and hides his face.

‘It’s a blessing being a prince. I’ve never been hungry or without clothes or shelter.’ Mohinder scrubs his eyes with his sleeve. ‘I should have liked to hear you speak.’ He looks at Matt and manages a smile. ‘If he would let you I’m sure you’d have a wonderful voice. The insects that he turns into people are far too stupid to speak but you’re not stupid. Not at all.’

Matt whines softly.

‘Did Sylar say why he wants you to kill me?’

Matt shakes his head.

‘I suppose it matters not. I’d be no less dead for knowing.’

Matt throws his arms around Mohinder and hugs him strongly.

‘You behave in that fashion and it becomes difficult for me to be manly and brave,’ Mohinder says tightly.

Matt loosens his grip a little and Mohinder sighs against his neck.

‘I don’t want to perish as a boy.’ Mohinder lifts his head and looks into Matt’s stricken eyes. ‘Make me a man?’

The huntsman, heavy tears streaming down his face, stares at him.

Mohinder kisses him tenderly and around them the air takes on a golden hue.

In Sylar’s dressing room the magic shatters into a shower of shards.

It is dark when Matt awakens. A fox is sniffing at his arm, confused by the mingling of scents.

‘Brr grr!’ Matt waves an arm, and then wonders at the strange sounds.

Matt’s sword is so heavy that Mohinder can barely lift it. He had to drag it all the way and now he is uncertain how best to proceed.

He looks up when he hears the quiet rustle of leaves presaging Matt’s arrival.

‘You’ve forgotten your apparel,’ Mohinder remarks, ‘though you’ll hear no complaint from me.’

Matt nods at the sword.

‘I meant to spare you the burden,’ Matt says quietly. ‘I thought to plunge in into my heart but… found I was uncertain of its location.’

Matt patters forward and carefully takes the sword from him.

‘How will I end myself now?’ Mohinder protests.

Matt shakes his head and gently pulls Mohinder to his feet.

‘Must it be some particular spot, is that the issue?’ he asks as Matt leads him back to the clearing. ‘Please tell me what is in your mind!’

Matt puts the sword down and dresses quickly. He hands Mohinder his small purse and after a moment’s hesitation his crossbow.

‘I would be hard pressed to injure myself with this beyond striking myself on the head,’ Mohinder says dryly. ‘And what do I need money for?’ He thrusts the purse back at Matt. ‘If I don’t die Sylar will do something terrible to you.’

Matt shrugs. He takes the purse and tucks in inside Mohinder’s pocket.

‘Don’t do this. I’m ready. I’ve made my peace.’

Matt shakes his head. He holds his hand out to Mohinder.

‘What will you do if he finds out?’

Matt shrugs again and leans down to pick up the sword.

On the edge of the forest, Mohinder can see nothing but fields and a few small holdings. It will take hours to walk there and there aren’t hours of daylight left.

‘Will you visit?’

Matt hesitates and then shrugs.

‘Does that mean you’re worried Sylar might follow you to me or that you think he might kill you and you would want to keep that from me?’

Matt smiles sadly and shrugs.

Mohinder sets his shoulders and turns to face Matt. ‘You could come with me? We could… we could pretend we killed each other or… no I suppose not.’ He looks up at the sky and blinks until his eyes stop stinging. He looks back at Matt. ‘If you… if he knows that you’ve let me go then you have to run. Don’t remain and be punished.’ He throws his arms around Matt and hugs him tightly. ‘I’ll find some way to come back and fight Sylar.’

Matt buries his face in Mohinder’s hair and breathes deeply.

Sylar stirs broken glass with the toe of his shoe. The fragments dance momentarily as if only tentatively infused with some remnants of an elemental spirit. He squats in the midst of the glass and picks up a single piece of glass which he turns over and over in his hand.

It is already growing dark as Matt finds a stag. It’s an adult, tall and strong with full antlers. The stag fears only the shape of men when they hold bows or crossbows and this man holds only a long sword. The antler lowers its head as if to charge the impertinent human daring to stand his grown in front of it.

Matt meets the stag’s eyes and, for a moment, it realises the mistake it has made. That moment is its last.

In the uncertain starlight the stag’s heart shines almost black with blood. Matt wraps it carefully in leaves and butchers the body, preparing to roast it for his dinner. Anything that will distract his mind from Mohinder is most welcome.

When he has finished jointing the carcass he builds a small fire and uses the antlers to hold the meat he is cooking. The smell wends through the small clearing in which he is seated.

Matt cuts off a piece of venison and stares at it. Mohinder had tried a new recipe the week before, cooking venison with cider and mustard. He’ll never eat that again.

Matt closes his eyes.

End of Part One

Kind of a Snow White and the Huntsman thing—with perhaps Gabriel as the evil queen and Sylar as the mirror? Matt is dispatched to capture or kill Mohinder, but after catching up with him, Matt falls in love. Mohinder could love him back, or if you wanted to make it more complicated there could be a side plot with Peter as the prince whose affections Mo stole from Gabriel. Dwarf casting—should you choose to pursue it :P—is up to you. Humor’s nice, but something dark and sexy (not necessarily sexual) in tone would be awesome.

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kethni: (Default)

December 2012

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