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 ...And found, Dum!

There are no strings on me.

Jun 8 2017, 09:13 PM Quote

evon Tweed did not know which way was up half the time, and that suited him just fine. Only scavengers on side roads had the best vials full of alcohol. The sweet, fleeting alcohol of Allutheria, a gleaming jewel in the hell of this Blighted world.

As of late, Devon would go days without touching a drop. He’d be on the straight and narrow. Then, depression would kick in. Like a swift kick to the stomach. Reminding him of everything he lost. Dumas. Hatter. The will to carry on. Often he’d do unspeakable things for a quick chug, but it took away the pain for a little while.

If he found Dum, everything would be fine. He wouldn’t feel like a lost puzzle piece. Stumbling on a dirt road a stone’s throw away from danger, he felt utterly abandoned. Where was Dumas? Possibly with his Queen, or with his fairy girl. Didn’t they all die? No. Everything was a bit jumbled. He took refuge in an abandoned barn, waking up to a harvest’s downpour. After a good vomit in the bushes, Devon realized he could not keep doing this to his body. Sickness overpowered his body half the time. He’d end up crawling to the refugee camp. They’d give him a warm meal or two, then he’d take off. Insistent on finding Dumas. Find a new distraction, in a partner, or alcohol, then forget. It was a giant, ridiculous circle.

The changeling needed to try to regain his strength. His courage. He had to fend for himself, and Dumas from an early age. It was him and Dum, against the world. Now it was just him, and he felt powerless. That’s the thing, Dum was the piece that made sense. Devon without Dumas, just did not add up. Using a mint leaf to freshen his teeth, Devon wrapped in his coat and started down the same dirt path that turned into a blurred image the night before. He probably looked like hell. With no anchor, no home, Devon was a wandering creep. Getting into fights with travelers. Stealing alcohol, or worse. He was a nuisance. The hope that he’d find Dum kept him going.

He kicked some gravel along the way, recalling getting lost as a child with Dum. That was what led to their fate. Changelings. Immortal, in a way. A terrible curse, at times. Devon wasn’t as naive as Dumas, but he had lots to learn. He kept to himself, close to the outskirts of the main villages near Calladahn. Not quite near the gates, but close enough where he could hear people being rejected.

Two guards on horseback were conversing outside one of the gates, Devon skidded past but their glares said it all.

Hey boy, didn’t we just tell you! No one gets in without special permission from the Queen! I don’t care if your brother is missing. Go on, get.

Dee’s head snapped up, and his eyes darkened. Brother? Dumas had been past here? Why had he never bothered to ask the idiots who guarded the city? Pride, perhaps. The fact that he once thought he and Dum had twin telepathy. Clearly, neither had any special powers. Just the power to annoy the living hell out of anyone around them. And so, Devon put his talent to good use.

After a lot of begging he wasn’t proud of, the men pointed in the direction Dumas went in. No promises, because it was a day or two ago they spotted the look alike. Dee took the gamble and started after his twin, hoping to catch up.

He ended up making camp on the side of the road. A fire kept him warm at night. Devon’s voice, hoarse from calling his brother’s name. They’d find one another. Somehow.

He was just about to fall asleep when something snapped in the distance.

My reason to be brave.

Jun 11 2017, 05:32 PM Quote

After spending most of his life in Allutheria, Dumas had become accustomed to its unchanging nature. True, the paths through the Labyrinth frequently shifted, but the structure itself remained eternal. Despite the growing madness of its monarch, the Court of Hearts had persisted for untold centuries before it finally fell. In a realm without seasons, inhabited by creatures who never visibly aged, it was easy to ignore the procession of time -- to let days slip through your fingers, uncounted and unmourned, like sands through an hourglass.

But Ga’leah. Ga’leah changed.

When he returned to that mortal realm for the second time, Dumas thought he must have been away for years. Everything was so much worse than he remembered. During his first visit, the threat of the Blight hovered over the world like an executioner’s axe. But it hovered no longer. It had swung down, bringing death to several kingdoms, and ruination to others. Corrupted monsters roamed the countryside without fear. And anyone who avoided being killed by supernatural horrors soon succumbed to mundane ones. Illness. Starvation. Insanity. Surely it must have taken a long time for things to get this bad.

Three months. He’d been gone for just three months.

Desperately, Dumas searched for his Queen. Searched for his brother. Searched for anyone he’d ever cared about, even when he couldn’t remember their names or their faces. Often, it seemed impossible to believe that they might still be alive. Terrible dreams showed him their deaths, over and over again, in unending variety. But Dumas refused to give up. If this was a madman’s quest, then he would be a madman. He would be anything at all to save the people he loved.

Night had fallen across the land. However, the moon was partially full, providing just enough light to illuminate the road beneath Dumas’s feet. So he kept going. He always kept going, until darkness or exhaustion forced him to stop. And, when he spotted a campfire ahead, he began walking even faster. Someone else to ask. Someone who might have information about a former fairy queen or a bitter changeling.

A figure lay on the ground beside the crackling flames. For a moment, Dumas hesitated, unsure if he should disturb the traveller or not. Then he recognized the man’s face. Could it possibly be? After all this time and searching? Or was his mind playing tricks on him? Part of Dumas didn’t want to speak, for fear that he might be proved wrong, and this precious fragment of hope would be snatched away from him. But he forced himself to speak anyway. “Dee?”

Even as he asked, Dumas knew. But his joy at being reunited with his beloved brother quickly became became tainted by grief. Dee looked horrible. He was gaunt, his skin displayed a sickly tint, and the scents of bile and alcohol soured the air around him. How could this have happened? Dee had always been the stronger twin, the one who sheltered Dumas from the hardships they faced. How could he have fallen so far? Yet, once again, Dumas knew the answer to his own question. Dee was strong, yes. But inflexible. Dumas bowed to forces that blew against them. Dee insisted on standing tall. He didn’t bend. He broke.

All this raced through Dumas’s mind in a single moment. Then, he was on the ground, hugging Dee in his arms. He didn’t care that his twin was filthy, he didn’t care that he stank like the garbage pile behind a cheap inn. He just wanted to hold him. “Dee! Oh gods, Dee!” Tears rolled down Dumas’s cheeks, just as they had after their last fight. But this time, instead of watering the Queen’s garden, they were caught by Dee’s dirty curls as Dumas buried his face in his brother’s hair. “I was so afraid that I’d never see you again. I was so afraid that you were…”

I was so afraid that you were dead.

There are no strings on me.

Jun 14 2017, 06:40 AM Quote

evon heard his name but it could have just been the wind. He laid next to the fire, staring into it. Trying to figure out what went wrong. He reeked of vomit, alcohol, and a little mint. Devon Tweed needed a good scrub down, and a reality check. Looking up, his twin stood before him. Silence filled the space between them. Dee, lying there, Dum, coming in on a white horse. Where Devon should have been, but their roles seemed to be switched.

Dum should have been down on his luck, but he only seemed bewildered. Still the same Dumas, but wiser. Dee felt stupider. Weakened by alcohol consumption and refusal to eat. He was a lot thinner than Dum. The contrast was clear between the twins. Dee, who never thought of himself as weak, was a weakling. Getting weaker without a support system. Without someone to protect.

Devon protected someone his whole life: Dum. Without his twin, or even a stable lover, he was off kilter. A compass without a direction. He was the equivalent of a wandering Neanderthal. Barely speaking, voice hoarse, body sore. Doing whatever to escape the pains of reality. Ga’Leah, his home as a child, was a decimated hell hole. He was without his twin. What else could he do, but crumble?

Dee! Oh gods, Dee!

Shame and joy wafted over Devon as Dumas flew down to embrace him. Shame that he had fallen so far. Joy that they had finally found one another. He never thought it would be possible. Dumas had great loves in his life. Great memories, painful memories, but he overcame them. He was a phoenix from the ashes. Dee always thought himself stronger, but that was not true. Under pressure, he shattered into a thousand pieces. He no doubt smelled terrible. He hugged Dum anyway, tears rolling down his cheeks.

It was like someone breathed life back into Devon Tweed.

“Dumas? It’s really you.”

Dum smelled like rain and the mountains. He smelled clean. His curls impeccable. Dee’s were a travesty. The second they embraced for longer than a few moments, Dee realized he had to clean up. Everything. Devon put himself through hell the past few months.

I was so afraid that I’d never see you again. I was so afraid that you were…

“Do not even say it.” Dee whispered. “I feel dead without you, brother, but I could never die. I’m too stubborn.” Devon smiled a sad smile.

Despite everything, happiness filled his veins. He felt reborn. Even with the disappearance of Hatter, Dee’s will to live did not diminish. He lost himself along the way. Not all who wander are lost, but Devon knew better. With Dum by his side, he could find his way again.

“I’m so glad you’re okay. You look so much better than me.” Devon laughed a little, embracing his younger brother (by a few minutes) a little longer.

Until he pulled away, he simply smelled too horrible. “There’s a stream nearby, I need to wash up. Come with me. Tell me about your journey.”

Devon pulled himself up with his twin. He rummaged in his knapsack for Hatter’s soap. He had been avoiding using it, because of its scent. He was ready now. Ready to move on, and embrace his future. With Dumas. It all needed to start with a cleansing. In the middle of the night.

Dee grabbed his makeshift torch and held out his hand for Dum.

“Shall we, Dumas?”

My reason to be brave.

Jun 17 2017, 02:46 PM Quote

Dumas? It’s really you.

“It’s me. It’s me. It’s me.” Dumas repeated the words over and over, like a magical incantation. Maybe if he spoke them often enough, if he held Dee tightly enough, he would never lose his brother again. “It’s us. Together. The way we’re supposed to be.”

Dumas laughed through his tears when Dee insisted that he was too stubborn to die. They were each stubborn in their own individual ways, and that stubbornness had helped them survive a great deal. But Dumas had seen the Blight consume far more powerful people, and he knew that stubbornness was no longer enough. Now, more than ever before, they needed each other. Two sides of the same coin, finally spinning in unison once again. Ready to land on heads or tails as the situation demanded.

A guilty nod acknowledged the fact that he’d coped with their separation considerably better than Dee had. This was all his fault. His twin had suffered horribly, had sunk to this state of sickness and despair, because Dumas chose his Queen over his own brother. At the time, Dumas believed that his Queen needed him more. And maybe she had. Maybe she’d be dead if he hadn’t guided her out of Allutheria. But that still didn’t excuse the terrible price Dee had paid for the decision.

Before allowing Dee to pull away, Dumas cupped his brother’s face in his hands, his touch as gentle and tender as any lover’s. In so many ways, they were closer than lovers could ever be, joined together from the moment of their conception. Dumas didn’t speak, for fear of damaging the pride that had always been so important to Dee. But he silently vowed to make this right. During their time in the Labyrinth, there had been so many times when Dee comforted him, or went hungry so that he could have a little more food, or endured cruel punishments so that he would be spared. Now, it was Dumas’s turn. He would nurse his brother back to health. Whatever it took.

A bath sounded good to Dumas. Getting up, he eagerly took Dee’s hand and began walking alongside his brother. But he hesitated before speaking about his journey. Dumas didn’t want to admit that his memories of the last year remained hazy and conflicting. That would just make Dee worry about him -- and right now, it was clear that Dee needed all his mental energy focused on his own recovery. Under other circumstances, Dumas could simply flip the question around, asking Dee about his own adventures. Unfortunately, Dee’s current condition suggested that his story was not a happy one. It would be better to wait and let Dee tell that tale when he felt truly ready.

“When the Mad Tea Party came, I was hiding in a closet.” Best to start at the very beginning. Dumas’s memories of his last hours in Allutheria remained clearer than the ones which came after. Although, many times, they were the ones that he most wished would vanish. “I know I should have fought. I know I should have tried to do something. But I was too scared. I just curled into a ball and clamped my hands over my ears.”

It was not Dumas’s first moment of weakness. It was not the only regret he wished he could rectify. But it was the one that haunted him the most. The one that drove him to try and do better, to never again let his cowardice prevent him from helping people he cared about. “After the screaming finally stopped, I crept out. Everyone was dead. Everyone except Tsaritsa, who was nearly mad from grief. I stole some jewelry from the corpses and got us the hell out of Allutheria.”

There are no strings on me.

Jun 24 2017, 04:58 PM Quote

ow could Devon blame Dumas for his choices? Essentially Dee made the same call. Choosing to travel with Hatter and not make much of an effort was just as bad. Dee would never understand Dum’s interest in tiny fairies or Queens, but he didn’t want guilt to tear Dumas apart. Dee felt whole again with Dum by his side. It felt like an eternity since they were together. As they walked side by side, Dee’s torch lighting the way, the world settled on its axis.

Devon wanted to hear all about Dum’s journey. His own was pretty obvious. Abandoned, enjoying too many vices, not finding his twin like he should. Despite Dum’s taste in women, he always had a genuine story to tell. That tiny shadow thing appeared to Dee once, a while back, but he didn’t think it was the right time to bring it up. The last thing he wanted was an angry Dum. He wanted a happy go lucky brother this minute. Dumas always lifted Dee’s spirits. And, Dee always risked everything to keep Dum safe.

When the Mad Tea Party came, I was hiding in a closet.

Dee listened to his brother as they approached the water. Devon squatted to dig a hole for the torch. He listened to Dumas while making their only light source stand still. Dee had fled the Court of Hearts before the terrible tragedy Dumas described took place. The Mad Tea Party. Devon heard rumblings about them. Being there and not there. If he had gotten deeper into depression, he had a feeling the Mad Tea Party would be his home right now.

Thankfully, he wasn’t going anywhere without Dum now.

Devon shook his head as he started to discard his clothes. “I think hiding was the smartest thing for you, Dum. From what I hear of them, Mad Tea Party is connected with Chaos. Where there is chaos, there is trouble. It was better than you risking your life.”

Now it all made sense. Dum took care of Tsaritsa. It was a noble thing, and Devon regretted the things he said eons ago, in the stable. Before he took off for good. How could he pass judgment on Dum? Pure, lovely Dumas. The Good Twin. It was ludicrous to think he was so harsh to Dum, when Dum was always true to himself. He never backed down from emotions. Even with how broken everything seemed, Dum never forgot who he was. Dee lost himself along the way.

His expression softened. Dee discarded his clothes and waded into the pond. Soft mud beneath his dirty bare feet. He started scrubbing every inch, including his hair. Dirt pooled around him in the water, but the soap smelled incredible. Devon did not realize how ragged his body had become. Gods. He needed a good scrubbing for weeks, at this rate.

“Dumas.” He paused and met his brother’s gaze. “I am so, so sorry for the way I acted in the past. In regards to your love. I had - have - no notion of true love, the way you do. What you did for the Queen was noble, and incredible. You protected her, and you learned how to survive. I am so proud of you.” Devon said with sincerity.

“Whichever you choose. A fairy girl or a Queen, or none at all, I support you. I’ve been through hell, but we found one another. That’s what matters.”

Then, Devon Tweed dunked his head under the water and washed out all the dirt.

He smelled better already.

My reason to be brave.

Jul 4 2017, 03:16 PM Quote

Dumas lingered at the edge of the water, watching his twin wade in. It was an old habit, so deeply ingrained that Dumas didn’t even question it. An order established from the moment of their birth. Dee always went first, offering himself to any unexpected danger. Dumas always followed, made safer by his brother’s sacrifice.

“I know,” Dumas agreed, when Dee reassured him about his actions during the massacre. He did know. Trained knights and magical beasts died trying to defend their queen, so what chance did a Tweedle have? If he’d left his hiding place, the Mad Tea Party would have butchered him, just like they butchered the rest of the court. His death was the only thing he could have offered anyone that day, pathetic and useless. Just another body on the pile of corpses. Dumas knew that. And knowing should have eased his conscience, should have stopped the nightmares that haunted his sleep.

But it didn’t.

No blighted horrors had been stirred by Dee’s bathing, so Dumas began stripping off his own clothes. They were an odd motley these days: the red pants that had been part of his uniform at the Court of Hearts, the white silk shirt Tsaritsa bought him before they attended the fancy dress ball, and a buckskin jerkin with a rabbit-shaped brooch pinned to it. The only unifying factor was their tattered condition.

Dee’s next words caused Dumas to blink in surprise. Tilting his head, he regarded his brother with a mixture of worry and wonderment. “You’ve changed.” Not just on the outside, which was obvious. But on the inside as well. This was exactly what Dumas had hoped might happen after Dee left the Court of Hearts. Time spent apart had allowed them to grow beyond the rigid roles that defined them for so long. Dee no longer needed to be the the hardened cynic, Dumas no longer needed to be the helpless child. Yet, even though this was best for both of them, Dumas still felt a prickle of concern. Growth always came with a price, and he hoped Dee hadn’t paid too dearly.

“But then, I suppose that I’ve changed too.”

Carefully, Dumas stepped into the pond, shivering as the cool water lapped at his ankles. Dee’s approval meant so much to him. The words ‘I am so proud of you’ made his heart swell like a balloon. But his brother’s apology touched him even more than his praise. Pushing forward, Dumas joined Dee in the deeper water.

“You don’t have to be sorry -- not for anything. You’re the reason I can love as deeply as I do. All those years in the Labyrinth. One of us needed to go down a dark path, or neither of us would have survived. I can be hopeful because you carried the weight of our of despair. I can be kind because you accepted the burden of our cruelty.”

This far from the shore, they were just silhouettes in the faint torchlight, just dark reflections on the surface of water that flickered orange and gold. Shadows that could never again be bound by chains. “But we’re free from that place now. No more Goblin Kings or Fairy Queens to own us. And, even though things are pretty bad in the mortal world right now, I believe we can build a life here. A life where we can both be ‘the good twin’. A life where your soul can heal. A life where you can find someone to love, the way that I love Tsaritsa and Isis.”

Dumas didn’t know if he’d ever see either woman again, since he couldn’t even remember exactly how or why they’d parted. But he did know that loving them had made him happier than anything else, no matter how things ended. And he wanted Dee to experience that joy.

There are no strings on me.

Jul 11 2017, 06:18 PM Quote

or most of his existence, Devon felt like a mouse. Chased by cats. All his and Dumas’ lives, they were always mice. Dumas was the nice one, Dee had to be the mean one. Years of protecting Dum hardened him. Not for the best, either.

During their time apart, Dee realized his truth. Anger radiated through him for so long. It fogged everything else from view. Now, despite his severe condition, he could see the light. Beauty in all things. His wrongdoings. All of it. Exposed to him. Once a festering wound, now healing.

It was one giant cat and mouse game. Born free, put in chains. On strings, like silly puppets. Always controlled by someone else. Jareth. Queen of Hearts. It took a long time for the twins to regain full control. Even then, Dee followed Hatter like a love obsessed puppy. Dum did the same with shadow girl, and then the Queen.

You’ve changed. Dee nodded, dunking his head again. Dum joined him in the deep water. He owed Dumas so many thank yous. Too many apologies. For being so judgmental and rude about Dum’s pure love. Who was he to judge? Devon was more of a deviant than ever, for his love of men, and dislike of women. Stealing, alcoholism, it was all un-Tweedle like. For a long time, Devon did not wish to be on anyone’s strings. He wanted to be free.

“You are worth it all, brother.” Devon said with sincerity, nodding. He scrubbed more dirt off of his elbows, scaly with dirt now. It pooled all around them.

Hatter’s soap made Dee sad, but it also filled him with pride. Owning something so beautiful. His clothes were as tattered as Dum’s. They both needed a makeover. A fresh start. Dumas’ words filled his heart with love, and warmth. The first in what felt like centuries.

Devon nodded, tears rolling down his cheeks. Dum's words made him so happy. Free of all manipulations, they could strike out on their own. Together. Them against the world. Dee could be nice, for once. Dum had hardened over their time apart, in a different way. He seemed stronger. Dee couldn’t have been prouder of his brother.

“There are no strings on us, Dum.” Dee splashed his brother a little.

“Clean up, you look terrible! How are you going to win a fair lady’s approval with dirt on your cheeks?” Devon teased, an actual laugh escaping his lips.

Of course, he was dirtier than Dum, but it felt nice to joke. It felt normal. Human, even. Despite the teasing, Dee knew Dum only had love in his heart for Tsaritsa - and Isis - that was her name! Devon exhaled. He would love again, in time. For now, all that mattered was that he found Dum. Somehow. Some way. The world spun on its axis.

“You have changed. You are much stronger.”

My reason to be brave.

Jul 19 2017, 11:15 AM Quote

You are worth it all, brother.

The words made Dumas smile. He didn’t know if anyone could ever be worth the pain and misery that Dee had endured. But he would try to be. For whatever time he had left in this world, he would try to be.

When Dee splashed him, laughter burst from Dumas’s mouth like a phoenix rising from the ashes. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d laughed. The last time he’d played a game just for the sheer delight of it. Still laughing, Dumas scooped up a handful of water and flung it at his brother. “Who says it needs to be a fair lady?” he teased. “What if I want a dark gentleman instead?”

In truth, Dumas’s taste did lean towards women. But there had been exceptions. With a slightly wistful smile, he remembered Chip. Did any of that actually happen? Being seduced, drugged and robbed seemed all too likely. Less probable was the tenderness of their lovemaking and the sweet note Chip had left behind, pinned to Dumas’s pillow with the rabbit brooch. Maybe the bad was the truth, and the good was only the fantasy Dumas had invented to ease his shame.

But he still possessed the rabbit brooch. That proved something. Didn’t it?

Remembering that he was supposed to be bathing, Dumas scooped up more water and lifted it to his face, scrubbing thoroughly. It felt good to wash away the dirt of his travels. It felt like a new beginning.

Dumas was a humble soul, who shied away from anything that reeked of arrogance. And yet, even he had to acknowledge the truth in Dee’s words. He truly was stronger now. “Without you, I had to learn to stand on my own. And I did. I joined forces with a great wizard to defeat blighted monstrosities. I survived a game of questions with the Cheshire Cat. I think I even helped outsmart a dragon. Although that last one might have been a dream?”

Or maybe they were all dreams. Sometimes Dumas remembered too much, sometimes he could barely remember anything at all. But that was still something he didn’t feel like discussing with his brother. Instead, Dumas placed a supportive hand on Dee’s shoulder. “But you’re not stronger. Something bad happened to you. What was it?

There are no strings on me.

Jul 29 2017, 04:27 PM Quote

evon paused at Dum’s words. He grinned.

“Whatever you want, brother. Handsome prince, fair lady, I will support you. As long as they are good enough for you.”

In truth, Dee never liked women. It was the separation from their mother at an early age. Dee convinced himself that he could take over. That he could take care of himself, and Dumas. Of course, it was silly. A child taking care of another child. They got themselves into their own mess, Devon wanted to clean it up. They carved out their own lives. Slowly. Until they got to this pinnacle point of freedom.

True, beautiful freedom.

No one, not even Devon, could replace their mother. The care the comfort needed to parent someone. He took the heat a lot for Dumas growing up. Goblins and other changelings may have teased, but no one messed with Dum. For good reason. Devon would have knocked their teeth in, without a second thought. Live together, or die alone.

Could Mommy Dearest find them? What about Dear Old Dad? No. Orphans from an early age, Jareth became their twisted, strange parent. Creating children in changelings, and trapping them in the Labyrinth. It was one Labyrinth after another. The maze, Court of Hearts, following Hatter, and now, this. True freedom, so tangible, he could taste it on his tongue.

Devon washed himself as he listened to Dum’s list of adventures. He smiled, pride filling his insides. With Dum by his side, he felt whole. A warmth that was not there before filled him to the brim. Gods, Dee did not have as many incredible adventures. Outsmarting a dragon! Not even close. Drinking so much a broomstick looked like a dragon? Yes. Not his finest hour.

“If you say it happened, it happened.” Devon nodded. He did not care if it was all a dream, Devon believed every word from his twin.

Something bad happened to you.

The words you’re not stronger hit Dee harder than he would have admitted. He was the strong twin, once. Strong enough to hold the worries of him, and Dumas. Now, they had their own lives. Dumas had a life of greatness. Grand interactions. Great adventures. Devon did not have many proud, fun stories to tell.

He shrugged, rubbing soap on his elbows, “I am getting stronger now that you are here.”

Devon sighed, swallowing. Dum’s hand on his shoulder meant this was a serious talk. He could not run from it, nor did he wish to. He’d make it quick, otherwise he feared the pain would swallow him whole.

“After Hatter abandoned me, I was a bit lost. Like a stray. I begged for food, found bed partners in anyone - man, or woman, I was too depressed to care.” Devon exhaled.

“I grew spineless, and weak. Like scum at the bottom of a lake, I just worked to survive. Finding you was a blessing, Dumas. I am finally renewed. I can begin again.”

“Without you, I am not whole. I am weaker. I walked around, stomped more like it, not caring who I hurt. And, that is not you. You care so much. I want to be more like you. I’m trying. I really am.”

“It’s sad. I know how hard it was for you to leave Isis. I just could not handle it. I was already feeling abandoned without you.”

My reason to be brave.

Aug 7 2017, 03:07 PM Quote

If you say it happened, it happened.

A simple statement of support, but it made Dumas feel a hundred times better. Devon was right. He couldn’t go through life questioning every memory. Maybe, as he spent more time out of Allutheria, the haze would eventually clear from his mind. But even if it didn’t, he still needed to believe something. And if he accidentally believed something false? At best, it would give him a little more confidence than he actually deserved. At worst, he might be embarrassed during an encounter with the real life counterpart of someone from his corrupted dreams.

It was hard to explain exactly how Dumas knew what his brother was thinking at any given moment. Maybe he picked up on physical signals so subtle that few other people would notice them, or maybe a mild psychic link existed between all twins. Whatever the method, Dumas could tell that he hit a nerve when he mentioned Devon’s weakness, and he immediately regretted adding new unhappiness to the misery that had already been endured. But it was time for them both to face some difficult truths.

At first, Dumas thought that Devon would brush aside his question. Admitting vulnerability wasn’t something that ever came easily to the older twin. But Devon surprised him. After only a moment’s hesitation, he began relating the story of his descent. As he spoke, Dumas listened with sadness and compassion, knowing what a difficult confession this must be for his brother to make. It was difficult for Dumas too -- each description of Devon’s suffering made his heart ache. Pride had always been Devon’s main defense against a cruel world, along with his devotion to Dumas. After both those things had been taken away, it was easy to understand how he’d crumbled.

Although questions swarmed over Dumas’s tongue like biting insects, he managed to hold them back while Devon talked. He was afraid that if his twin got interrupted he might never start up again. And these things needed to be said. This pain needed to be released, or it would never heal. However, when Devon concluded with a surprising allusion to Isis, Dumas couldn’t hold back any longer. Maybe he was interpreting things wrong, but it seemed as if Devon was equating Hatter’s abandonment with Dumas’s loss of his first love.

“Were you and Hatter…?” Dumas struggled to imagine the queen’s spy feeling anything except cruel whimsy. It seemed like an odd pairing. But Devon possessed a troubled heart, full of bitterness and anger, so maybe that had been their common ground. Maybe their disdain for romance had actually brought them together.

“I ran into him when I went back to Allutheria. He seemed pretty bad. I mean, he’s always been a little peculiar, but this was way worse.” Dumas strained his memory, trying to recall the details of that encounter. Trying to find anything that which might offer his brother a scrap of solace. “He said he had a note to give me. A note for a changeling. Then he forgot who I was and refused to hand it over. Maybe that note was intended for you?“

Dumas shook his head. Maybe he shouldn’t be bringing this up. After all, he wasn’t even certain that any of it had actually occurred. But if he could do anything to ease Devon’s heartbreak, he wanted to do it. “Obviously, I don’t know what really happened. But it’s possible that Hatter didn’t mean to abandon you. Or, if he did, he did it to keep you safe.”

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