How dangerous can something like hope even be?
Enk had always wanted to be normal. He wanted to be normal so badly that when the tim came to confront anything in his life, his first thought was not what should I do but what would a normal person do? There was so much hope in him to be something he wasn’t that Enk had never stopped to consider how little of himself was anything at all.
The prince rolled over his shoulder when he heard its voice – he whipped around terrified, knowing he’d put distance between himself and the people who…
The people who can fight
… were busy. Enk balled his fists up and looked around, biting his lower lip and fretting as he tried to find a place to look that was a direction, and not just raw, roaring infinity. A tiny circle of somewhere rested under his feet – and around it, there was nothing but nothing. Twinkling stars, dull and rare, seemed to speak from the darkness.
Then something shot from it, and struck him in the shoulder, pouring onto him like a fire-hose of oil.
In that moment, Enk could see flashes; the Prince’s mind flowed into his, its voice tried to smother his. He saw what it thought, how it felt – and he saw what it knew, though only in the most terrifying glimpses. It was not ancient. It was not eternal. There was no Prince from before humanity; it was just the same, basic impulse that lay in the heart of mankind. The Prince that hovered over humanity in those early days, when magic was freshly gone was a different Prince to this one. The Prince had not always been about eternity, about absolution from doubt…
Once, the Prince had been about making sense of things. Once, the Prince had been the doubt. The Prince had been as people stared at the sky, and made a myth that made some sense. There was the Prince, that held the sky – but they sought to meet the Prince, one day. To come to understand the sky.
Memories of the past few weeks flashed through Enk’s mind, memories that weren’t his, but the Prince had no idea he was exchanging.
He felt the Prince’s gaze as it burned against Holland. Holland, someone who had, at such a young age, decided with a certainty Enk never had, what it meant to be Holland, and taken such concrete steps to change what unguided biology had done. The Prince hated Holland. Holland was full of doubt, but it was not doubt in things, it was doubt in what other people were going to do. It was doubt about other people.
Holland doubted a lot of things, but Holland never shied from examining them. Holland never doubted being Holland.
Innogen wasn’t an option for the Prince either. Innogen liked the uncertainty. The teenager had only a few weeks of age difference to Enk, but she lived her life full of joy at standing on a precipice, as if always on the ready reaping of a vast bounty of knowledge, and she was willing to fall either way. Be right, be wrong, but she was willing to find out.
Enk thought of himself as sensible. He thought that his desire to assert the world as a boring place without magic was just stating the obvious. When magic arrived, it’d shaken him deeper than he’d ever imagined. Finding the magic inside him even moreso. It wasn’t swamp gas. When confronted with something that he could prove, Enk responded by wanting to hide from it.
Cards… Cards was a new factor. The Prince could have tried for her, but she was an old soldier, someone bitter and independent. She had a mind like an old hammer, fired and dense and blunt. There was no way for the Prince to enter that mind. What doubts she had, she’d hunted down.
Angus was so similar, but so different. Angus lived a life defined by person after person who wanted to believe in things that were, then, impossible. Angus was a skeptic, down to the ground, he was a skeptic and tried to be one in the purest sense. What wore Angus down was a darker doubt; the doubt that he was doing the right thing by showing people things that were true. Angus could be pulled into that place, the strange depths of the Prince, because the doubt that filled him was the doubt of a human wanting to be moral. Unfortunately, imprisonment rarely made people doubt their moral principles. Angus was a doubter, but it wasn’t the kind of doubt that The Prince could use. Angus’ doubt was the doubt of a scientist.
Barbara hated what she was, but she knew what it was. She hated living in a world that told her she should look carefully before walking the streets, that she should be meek when she spoke, that she shouldn’t like that, that because she was white and blonde and pretty she should be like this, should, should, should, should. Barbara grew up surrounded by a very, very clear image of what she should be, and resisting that, taking the shape of the lion that stalked the streets at night and didn’t fear guns.
The black oil closed over Enk’s head. The fluid flowed into his mouth, into his lungs; when he blinked, next, he could see at the edges of his vision, stars. In the centre of his view, he could see them bright and yellow and blue and red – tinged with the colours of an expanding forever. With every blink, the stars consumed more of the world around him, and they became more
The Prince stood up again, tilting his head back, drawing the oil and smoke back into his body – his body – the body of Enk. He parted his lips, and beyond, razortipped fangs of night cut the air, as he growled. Fingers, visible, scrabbled against
“… Well well… this one knows magic.”