TITLE: The Fable
Warnings: Bad language and M/M sexual situations.
Disclaimer: The Bee owns none of the characters used
in this story.
Summary: A new take on the old fable of Rumpelstiltskin.
Xander is held in the tower prison of the evil King Liam and has
been ordered to spin a roomful of straw to gold. Can he do
it? Is there someone who can help?
Author's note: This story is not betaed or spell checked by anyone but me.
If there are errors that you simply have to point out, feel free but don't be upset
if I don't care.
Thanks to Naughty Fae for the pre-read and encouragement
"Xaaaaaander! Xander, where are you?" The old woman's voice called out in competition
with the crickets and night creatures of the forest. The wind moaned pitifully through the
branches capturing her words and causing them to fade before they reached any distance
at all from the small cottage.
Nervously, she clutched her tattered shawl around her bony shoulders as she stood in
the doorway of their ramshackle home while her weak eyes strained to see into the woods
hoping to spot her beloved son. She prayed he would soon come hurrying up the path on
a footfall of apologies that would to ease her fears. "Where is he, husband? Our son is
always home before the sun sets and yet tonight he is no where to be found. What could
be keeping him at this late hour?"
Anthony hovered near the hearth where a large hammered pot swung by a chain over
a well-built fire. He peered into the bubbling cauldron and was slightly disappointed to see
it was a stew of potatoes, carrots and turnips again. No meat. He snorted his answer to
his woman's concerns. "The lazy slug is probably off sleeping under some willow tree. He
gives no thought to his mother who needs wood for the fire or his father who must have meat
in his supper."
Tony's constant complaints and criticisms sailed high over her head. They were a mainstay
of her life and easily ignored since, at the moment, his belly was not her concern and she
knew his accusations of her boy were baseless and untrue.
Without responding to him, Jessica continued to ring her bony, small hands. Tentatively,
she took a step outside the cottage to stand on the small rock step as she leaned her body
forward and again called out. "Xander! Alexander!" When her only answer was the
nearby howl of a hungry wolf, it sent her scurrying back inside. Quickly she closed and
secured the door with the wooden bar that dropped into the side slots.
Spinning around, she twisted the hem of her apron in her shaky hands as the orange light
that glowed from the hearth fire accentuated the wrinkles and worry on her face. In
conservancy of the precious lamp oil, the firelight was the only illumination in the
room. "Please, Anthony, won't you go out and look for your son? He may be hurt. He
may need our help and..."
Tony avoided looking her in the eye as he warmed himself by the flame. He refused to
appear weak in front of his woman by admitting to his fears of the things that roamed in the
dark forest at night. Instead, he adopted a stance of parental firmness. "I most certainly will
not! The boy knows his way home. I will not reward his irresponsibility by seeking him out
and holding his hand as I lead him back to his mother."
Jessica pushed a wiry strand of grey hair back from her face as she begged. "Please,
husband. My heart tells me..."
Tony had had enough and his tone warned her against pursuing this further. "NO, woman! I
will not! Now, serve me some of that stew. Your husband is hungry and it is your duty to see
to my needs first. He will come home when he is ready. You will see. Your fears are for naught."
Jessica looked between the door that separated them from the murky abyss of the forest and
her husband who now sat at the hand hewn table. He had a bowl and spoon in front of him
and an expression on his face that told her the conversation had come to an end. She knew it
was fruitless. No amount of pleading or crying would sway him and so, slowly, with a
reluctant nod of her head, Jessica shuffled across the room and she served her husband his meal.
"Hup. Hup. Hup. Hup. Hup." The lead soldier chanted almost under his breath giving
the cadence the others marched to as they entered the outer spaces of the imposing castle.
During their time in the forests of the kingdom, they had traveled almost casually at
varying speeds and in seemingly no particular order. They joked and spoke freely
amongst themselves. The shirttails of their uniforms had as often as not been untucked
and their trouser legs left out of their boots to drag through the mud and collect the thistles
and prickles of the underbrush.
Now, however, their mood underwent a drastic transformation. They fell into an
obviously predesignated line by rank and their chatter had stilled. Their boots stomped in
a coordinated pace and their formation tightened up as they escorted their prisoner toward
the interior of the great, imposing structure.
Their demeanor was now formal and their attire correct and exact. Their heads were held
high and their eyes stared straight ahead. Their faces were blanked of any expression. The
breast plates that they had carried or slung over their shoulders by the handles were now
strapped on their bodies and their short, hand swords were sheathed at their waists.
With Riley Finn taking point, the lesser officered soldiers marched at the sides of the tight
group while the lowly footmen took the rear. In the center of the pack with admittedly no
hope of escape, Xander's feet moved on auto-pilot to keep in step. After three days of nearly
no sleep or food, he was exhausted, hungry, cold and still numb from grief at the news of
his parents demise. If he had been brought on this miserable journey to be executed for
some perceived crime or fault, Xander would welcome the peace of a final sleep.
As the group moved through the entry area, the sound of the chanting in perfect syncopation
with the soldiers boots slapping against the flagstone floor echoed off the huge cavernous
walls and bounced through Xander's brain. It was a repetition that struck his ears, sank
past his pounding heart and landed in the pit of his stomach with a sickening thud.
Despite his grief and his resolve to remain impassive, Xander couldn't help but look around
as they marched and he was shocked to see how mammoth the building actually was. It was
like nothing he had ever imagined and it far surpassed any of the stories he had heard as a boy.
His eyes darted upwards towards a ceiling that seemed to reach almost to the sky. It was
arched and held up by carved beams of a dark wood unfamiliar to him while the walls
were constructed of massive rocks and perfectly chiseled stone. It was perplexing to
Xander how many men working how many years it would have taken to create a structure
such as this.
It was all so startling in scope and scale that Xander's own thoughts and physical
discomfort temporarily took a backseat to the shock and awe of what he was seeing.
The castle was an experience that touched every one of his senses and sent his thoughts and
fears spiraling. The cold and damp of the slab floor and stone walls seeped into his body
and triggered a series of shakes and shudders that probably had more basis in terror of
the unknown than temperature. The smell that clung to the soldier's backs and floated in
to the castle with them was that of rotted vegetation and dead fish from the rancid water
of the moat outside.
At first, the odor was so pungent and prevalent that it hung inside Xander's nose and coated
his tongue causing his mouth to frown and his face to wrinkle in disgust. Soon, however, as
they moved deeper into the belly of the great stone beast, the sights and sounds and
As they traveled on down the wide, vast hallways, Xander couldn't help but glance into each
of the countless, spacious areas that led off in all directions. Each room they passed
appeared larger than the last and as the group continued further into the interior, the
spaces adjacent to the main walkway began to morph from cold, stark and functional
to something that was clearly more designed for habitation.
The quick, passing glimpses that he was afforded told him that the ceilings in the bailey's
were lower than the hallways while the far wall of each room was constructed out of
gigantic, round river stones and into deep, wide fireplaces. In fact there were so many and
their scope so large, that Xander couldn't imagine how many trees would have to be felled
to supply the logs to fill them all and, following that progression of thought, he wondered if
any of the wood he himself had cut for the King was used there.
It was a question that left a sour taste in his mouth when he recalled all the days of back
breaking work only to be allowed to keep a few of the undesirable, porous, thin, pine
log remnants for his family while the solid oak and hot burning maple was loaded onto
ox carts and dragged away by the regional soldiers.
Recalling the restraints at his wrists and his present predicament, Xander realized that
concern over the King's wood tax was probably a moot point and he returned his focus to
his surroundings. Surroundings that again had shifted as the walkway they traversed now
Here, the castle halls were adorned and decorated with heavy, colorful tapestries woven
into scenes of wild animals crashing through the trees of the forest or men in full-dress
armor. They blocked the dampness from the stone walls and they held the heat from the
various fire places. Because of that, the air around them was warmer and more comfortable.
In addition, there were displays of crossed swords and numerous shields emblazoned with
what Xander recognized as the O'Connor family crest. It was something that King Liam
clearly took great pride in. Xander had seen that same crest stamped on the coins in his village.
As they continued, one of the things Xander found peculiar and frightening were the
numerous, immobile suits of armor that appeared to be standing guard. Their face shields
were down and Xander was unsure if there were men inhabiting the suits or if the metal
frames themselves were enchanted. He physically cringed as he passed them for fear they
may leap out in attack, swinging their swords in an attempt to lop off his head.
When his feet fumbled and he hesitated, one of the soldiers marching behind him, poked
Xander in the back in a nonverbal order to keep moving. Xander glanced fearfully over
his shoulder. His hair flopped and his wild, saucer-shaped eyes blinked as he nodded
his compliance while his boots struggled to again find the pace.
Just then, Xander's ears began to pick up the far off din of countless voices. It sounded
like Sunday afternoon in his village and every step of the way, Xander noticed an increase
in the number of people moving about in the peripheral of the castle.
They were people that seemed to be arranged almost in conjunction with the castle decor.
Just inside the drawbridge, Xander had observed several old men sitting on the ground
holding out their hands and begging the passing soldiers for coins. Their clothes were dirty
and torn and their teeth were rotted and foul. They stank of disease and hopelessness as
they called to the soldiers in raspy, hungry voices. They were largely ignored.
It tugged at Xander's heart as he thought of his own dear, lost father.
But then, further on into the castle, the groups milling about were dressed in what
Xander assumed to be servant's wear. The faces were smudged and their attire was bland
and uniform. The women wore grey dresses whose hems were soiled and frayed. Their
hair was severely pinned back with white lace caps perched on top.
For the most part, the men were similar as their shirts and trousers were grey, loose and in
need of mending. Irregardless of their actual age, the men all looked old and bent of
back indicating they were used for labor until they were well used up.
Before Xander could ponder if this was to be his fate too, the hallway itself became
noticeably more elaborate. Now, there were polished candelabras mounted on the walls
and huge, round ones hanging overhead with what, to Xander seemed like a thousand
flickering candles to light the way.
At the same time, the far off voices of the people were becoming more distinct. There
was laughing, talking and the clatter of cups and plates. The men and women the soldiers
passed were dressed in fine, colored silks. The women wore dresses with tight bodices
that squeezed and revealed a good deal of their bosoms while the men wore snug, laced
vests over white shirts with big billowy sleeves and cowhide trousers.
Hurrying in the same direction as the military assembly, all the guests gave no more than a
brief glance of disgust and curiosity for the soldiers and their prisoner as they cut them a
wide berth. To Xander, the entire setting was perplexing and he again wondered why he
was here. He had heard the old men of the village talk about the castle and the dungeons
that were dug deep into the ground below it and Xander wondered if that was to be his fate.
Was that his fate? Was he to be tossed into the bleak, dank, hopeless pits to starve and
die? What sin or offense could he have committed that would result in all these soldiers
being sent to not only murder his parents but to bodily bring him back to face this horror?
The unknown was the worst.
Xander wanted desperately to speak to one of his escorts. Not to beg for his life or cry about
his predicament. No, Xander resolved to stand tall and face his future and like the man that
his family would have been proud of.
But what he really craved was simply an answer. He needed to understand.
"Sir. Officer." Xander's whisper was low and raspy.
"SHH!" The response was stern and issued with a sharp snap of the head.
Before Xander could try again, the hallway suddenly and without warning, turned and the
convoy found themselves approaching a dead end in the face of a set of huge, floor to
ceiling, solid wooden doors. At that point, the conclave came to a stop and Xander knew
with absolute certainty that his doom lie beyond this imposing portal.
A shudder of fear sent a cold flush racing through Xander's veins as he watched Officer
Finn break away from the tight group and goose-step forward. He lifted the great brass ring
and he slammed it down three times creating an incredibly loud banging sound that
echoed repeatedly throughout the entire castle. Xander lifted his hands but the rope
binding prevented him from covering his ears against the noise. He was sick to his stomach
and felt his heart pounding in his chest.
Then, before he could consider the advisability of attempting an escape, both gigantic
doors swung wide open and Xander was almost physically knocked backwards by the
most incredible explosion of activity from within that he had ever seen.
The cavernous room was filled to capacity with what must have been hundreds of people all
of whom seemed to be enthusiastically caught up in the throes of some joined celebration.
They laughed and talked. They milled around and some danced to the music of flutes, harps
and drums. They clustered around long, tables laden heavy with enough food to feed
Xander's entire village and they drank from large, silver steins.
The perimeter of the space was round and the ceiling too high to measure. The walls were
a series of beautiful, bright stained glass windows that stood nearly twenty feet high and
flooded the room with a sparking, amazing combination of dancing lights and colors.
The only exception was on the west wall where a huge, deep recess made of stone contained
a blazing fire that warmed the air and almost made the room uncomfortably hot.
Before he could absorb any more of the amazing spectacle, Xander was again poked in the
center of his back while the soldier to his left hissed, "Keep your eyes downward boy and
walk until you are told to stop."
So, entirely out of his element, Xander had no other recourse but to comply. His face
tipped downward and he simply put one foot in front of the other as did the soldiers
who accompanied him. He watched with fascination as his soft, goat-skin boots tread
over a floor whose surface was smooth, grey and perfectly constructed of flagstones that
had been hand-rubbed and polished to a high sheen.
He found it so fascinating that he didn't hear when his guard quietly instructed him to halt
which caused him to run, face first into officer Finn's back, knocking them both off balance
in an undignified move that horrified the King's captain.
"You stupid dolt!" Riley Finn spun around and grabbed Xander by the front of his tattered
shirt shaking him roughly but when Finn lifted his hand to slap the prisoner across the face,
his action was immediately addresses by a loud booming voice.
"DON'T YOU DARE!!"
All the air seemed to be sucked from the room and every voice fell silent. Cautiously,
Xander peeked through eyes that had been squeezed tightly shut in a flinch against
the impending, anticipated assault. When the attack didn't happen, he was more stunned
by it's abortion than he would have been from the stinging pain. When he tentatively
glanced up, the expression on Finn's face told the frightened prisoner that the guard was
Fearfully, Xander shuddered with trepidation as Riley Finn spun around again turning his
back to the prisoner before dropping down on one knee with his head bowed. "Your Highness.
I have returned and, as ordered, I have brought you the magical boy."
At that point, Xander scowled and his curiosity took the edge off his terror. A magical
boy? They had brought a magical boy? Xander peeked first to his left and then he looked to
his right. Finally, he shuffled his feet in a series of short choppy steps as he turned in a full
360 to see who the hell the guard was talking about.
It hadn't yet occurred to him that he was the subject of the odd conversation.