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The Tale of the Prince of Caelor

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Long ago, in a land of foregone times, there lived four kings. These four kings were not human folk, such as you or I might be used to, for human folk as we know them today did not exist. The kings and their families were people of great beauty and power, and their land was a land of magic.

Its name was Melior, but to its people it was plainly paradise. It was so beautiful that when, thousands of years after its fall, the Ancient Greeks ruled the earth, their tales of the Elysian Fields came directly from Meliorean scripture, and the poetry describing its charm. There was never anything so beautiful which came before Melior, and try as our modern Greeks and Romans and Egyptians did, there has never been anything so beautiful since.

But, like any great beauty, there must exist therein a flaw. And so it was; in the beginning of time, Melior was ruled by one king only. But after the great war on Mt. Altus, at which four armies rushed into battle, the land was split into quarters, the king beheaded and four new ones crowned.

The land in the South was called Rutilē, and it sat at the foot of Mt. Altus and was ruled over by the ancient line of Prewett. Their king was a kindly, agreeable man, and the people of his quarter were known for their natural bonhomie, their red hair and their great number. Their quarter was the most populus of the Meliorean Four. It was a dry land, with the reddest trees and the hottest air, and their element therefore was Fire.

Next, in the West, was Bellator. It was reigned over by the mighty King Harold and his gallant son James, heir to the throne. The Potters were the bravest and most loyal family in all of Melior, and would fight mercilessly to defend their quarter, often to a foolish degree. But the king was benevolent, and his son was free-spirited and good, and their quarter was full with meadow and tree and grounds which delivered the best crops every single year, and their element was Earth.

To the East came Liberon, the most fantastical of all four lands. There lived a people of great freedom and spirit, and of great kindness too. They were immediately recognisable by their large, thoughtful eyes and bright white hair, a trait found even on the king himself and on his young heir, the whimsical Xenophilius. They lived on the coast of Melior, before a vast ocean, and as they encouraged freedom and independence, their element was Water.

And now to our flaw, which soured the goodness of these three great kingdoms and brought to Melior an unforgivable badness. In the North lay Caelor, perhaps the most beautiful land of all. It possessed the most magnificent architecture, buildings which soared over a thousand feet into the air, embellished with marble sculptures and concrete curves. Even the common streets were laid with the finest mosaics, depicting star and moon and planet, so that all around the land they were surrounded by the sky. And so their element was Air.

To look at, Caelor was indeed heavenly, and its people were the most strikingly beautiful. But it was ruled over by a family of great darkness, as their name did suggest. The Blacks were a cruel and merciless family, potentially great in battle but corrupt, too, so that they would only sacrifice their people unless every other clandestine method of personal gain had failed. And the reason they so valued their people was because they were all pure of blood.

The magic of Caelor, the Blacks maintained, was the finest out of any of the lands, and they believed this to be so because of the peoples' purity. Before the great stone gates of the land, which were a thousand feet tall, stood a mighty and beautiful marble rock, into which had been carved the words: Toujours Pur.

The only impure inhabitants of this grotesque land were the slaves, and the crimes committed against them were so heinous and so foul that it would be an offence to go into great detail about them.

Orion Black was a jealous and fearsome king. To look at, he possessed none of King Harold's impressive physical build, but in many ways Orion was feared more than the great warriors of Bellator, for he had a quiet, brooding voice and an impossibly calm demeanour, which made his crimes against the impure seem even more terrifying.

His wife Walburga was a dire woman, who had accepted Orion's marriage proposal out of the stirring of greed in her soul and a lustful hunger for power. While Orion was capable of extending favour to his family and closest companions, Walburga seemed completely void of compassion for anyone but her youngest son, Regulus.

Her eldest son, Sirius, she claimed to detest.

Now, Sirius Black is where our story begins, and where ultimately it shall end. It is difficult to begin to describe this boy, because he himself was a difficult member of the House of Black. What is true, however, is that Sirius possessed a spark of hope which shone quite obviously through the darkness of Caelor.

That is not to say he was entirely free of flaws himself – he could be just as cruel as his family when the moment took him, and he sometimes found it difficult not to treat certain slaves with disdain – but he hated Caelor's pureblood ideals, and he hated his mother, and he hated being a prince.

Many of the people of Caelor whispered about Sirius, claiming him to be a changeling. Others spread the rumour that he had been greatly influenced in terrible ways by his Uncle Alphard, which accounted for Sirius's roguish attitude and lack of proper ideals. Upon the spread of this rumour, Alphard had mysteriously passed away. Many whispered that Walburga had seen to it that he was done away with, lest the man corrupt her son any further.

But whatever had caused in Sirius this rebellious streak, Walburga seemed unable to fix it, no matter how hard she tried. And that is where our story truly begins, with a mother and her son, in the great Grimmauld Palace, in the highest fortress in Caelor. The language the people of Melior spoke was an intricate language no longer used in this world, confined now to ancient scripture, but for the sake of storytelling we shall relay conversation in English, and start first with Walburga Black.

“It seems, mysteriously, that your ligōn has broken again. Your brother found it in the music room.” Walburga tossed the destroyed instrument in front of her, so that it skimmed across the marble floor to Sirius's booted feet. “Crushed.”

“Perhaps it fell off its stand,” Sirius suggested, innocently toeing at the broken wood and snapped catlin strings.

“Perhaps you took it upon yourself to destroy what was a treasured instrument of this family, out of frustration at your own pitiful lack of musical talent,” Walburga snapped. She stepped and leaned in close to her son's face. “It was your great-great grandfather's, and it is now completely unsalvageable!”

“Use magic,” Sirius said breezily, knowing full well how much it might rile her.

“Our magic is confined to the air, you stupid boy! Only those half-wits in Bellator could rectify such fine wood.”

“Why don't you ask them?”

Don't play the fool with me, boy. You may be a cretin when it comes to possessing anything near musical ability, but I did not raise you to be a complete imbecile.”

“I could ask Prince James for you.”

“You will do absolutely no such thing!” Walburga screeched. “If you dare ever leave the walls of Caelor to visit those blood traitors again, I shall see to it that both of you stültums are faced with a very disagreeable mess.”

Walburga always spoke clearly, almost spitting with the precision of her words as she ground them out between her small, white teeth. But, for a shrewd woman, she was surprisingly easy to provoke, a fact which the young prince took great delight in. It was not difficult to grow bored and restless within the walls of the palace, especially when, as his mother so rightfully pointed out, he possessed nothing resembling musical talent.

All royals, in every land, could play some instrument to a decent degree, but Sirius had tried many different ones, including the angelabra (a kind of ancient harp), the ventë (a flute), and now the ligōn, a type of rebec, and had had no luck with any of them. It was not for want of trying either; his mother made him practice with various different tutors up to four hours a day, and the only way he could gain momentary freedom from this was by destroying his instruments one by one.

Walburga clicked her long fingers to summon a servant, who whisked the mess of wood and string away. Then she stepped close to her son and let out a sharp breath through her nose. Her thin lips were pursed as she busied herself with adjusting his silk overshirt, the neckline of which dipped in a casual curve about his collarbone, as was the fashion at the time. He fidgeted beneath her touch until she batted at him in annoyance and shook her head.

“Have you prepared well for your epülo tonight?" she asked in a low voice, still dusting off flecks on his clothes that were not really there. Epülo meant banquet, one of which was being held for Sirius that evening in order that he might find a suitable girl for marriage.

“And how am I to prepare for such a thing, Mother? Shall I ask Kreacher to extend the waistband on my breeches? Or perhaps fetch me a new instrument so that I might serenade the company?”

The last suggestion peeved Walburga greatly, clear when she all but growled at Sirius to get away. It was usual and proper for princes to perform at their own banquets. To not do so was a great social embarrassment, and the fact that it would be more humiliating for Sirius to perform than not said much, and distressed his mother greatly.

“Go and practice your scribes,” she ordered him crisply. “Leave the slaves alone and don't disturb your brother. Don't eat either. I shan't have you refusing food at a party again. If I catch you bribing the cooks, you'll be starved for a week.”

*

Caelorean banquets were famed for their lavishness. It took fourteen days to prepare the Grimmauld Palace Great Hall for Sirius's magnificent repast, but when he entered into the room that evening, he was not at all moved by the scene before him.

The Hall was truly astonishing; the vaulted ceiling scaled a height of over one hundred feet. Great marble pillars lined the walls, and a vast floor depicted the entire galaxy as the Malioreans thought it to exist. The vast dinner table, made only of the strongest and most beautiful carved wood from the forests of Bellator (for though Bellatoreans were blood traitors, their furniture was the finest in the world) seated five hundred, and four hundred and ninety six guests from the highest ranks of Caelor had been invited to the event. The remaining four seats were reserved for Sirius, Regulus, Walburga and Orion.

Sirius did not try to mask his contempt for such cold and lofty surroundings. The Great Hall was a severe and impressive place, but it was not beautiful, not warm and sweet like the pretty wooden hall James feasted in at Godric's Palace, which itself was made also entirely of wood.

“Do you like it, Sirius?” Orion was obliged to ask.

“Very much, Father,” Sirius replied, his listless tone prompting a narrowing of his mother's eyes.

They were seated by servants who took care not to touch any of the guests, and the food was brought on great silver platters encrusted with emeralds forged in the depths of Mt. Altus.

Surprisingly Sirius had decided to obey his mother in not bribing the cooks to deliver to his room that afternoon, and so he was hungry and ate properly. The food was not the kind he enjoyed, though – there was little meat or sweets, just folip and brassica and raddiöt, all of which were thin, tasteless vegetables grown in Caelor, along with a few fish off the coast of Liberon.

The wine was good, as one thing Caelor grew well was grapes, but Sirius wasn't allowed much due to his not being able to handle the drink properly. The thought of him attempting to court any lady while drunk was a mortifying thought, and so the king allowed Sirius one gobletful and nothing more.

Not, of course, that the prince was concerned with any sort of courting. He desired not one girl in the room, nor any girl in Caelor, not even any girl in Melior, and he certainly did not wish to confine himself to the strangulation of marriage. The thought of it!

He didn't want to be King of Caelor; he hated enough being its prince. But his parents would not listen, and when the meal was over and the plates and cutlery and goblets and, finally, the tables, were deftly removed by the servants, Sirius was obliged to lead the first dance with his cousin Narcissa.

There was nothing amorous about it; Sirius had been used to dancing like this since the age of thirteen, and Narcissa certainly did not desire him, but a young pale man named Malfoy whom she was doing her very best to catch the eye of, even as she danced with Sirius.

When other people began to join, heads held high like peacocks as they floated to the centre of the majestic hall, and Malfoy asked, sneering, if he could take Narcissa from him, Sirius slipped away all too gladly. His mother didn't notice, having engaged Rodolphus Lestrange in a conversation concerning lead sprinklers.

“You're very foolish, you know,” came a voice, as Sirius crept behind a pillar and out of sight.

He turned, and there stood his younger brother, who was less beautiful, less light of heart and altogether more obedient than Sirius.

“Do you think so, brother?” Sirius asked cheerfully.

“You must remember how she turned during my last banquet, when you escaped to Dimīd to meet with the Bellator boy,” said Regulus (Dimīd was a place halfway between Caelor and Bellator which Sirius and James could both reach within an hour by horseback).

“I remember it well. 'The Seven Doomed Nights'. She cursed me to have nightmares of a terrible storm for a week,” Sirius replied. “I have to say, it lost some of its charm after the first two days.”

Regulus shook his head. "It's fortunate that we live in Caelor. There's no telling what Mother would do to you if her magic was Fire."

“Speaking of smoke, I'm about to step out for a puff on this pipe.” Sirius produced from the pocket of his breeches a small wooden object with a long, curly jade spout. “Care to join me, brother?”

When he looked up from the pipe Regulus was gone, and as Sirius inched further into the darkness behind the pillars to the door of the kitchens and, beyond that, a small castle exit, he did so chuckling to himself.

*

Sirius was not like his family in many ways, but one thing they did share was a common love for the sky. For his ancestors, and for his parents and his brother, their love for the heavens came from a widespread belief that intelligence and power and greatness, all of it was to be found in the sky.

For the young prince though, the sky meant something else. To his eyes, it was freedom. He looked to the stars and the waning white of the moon as a Liberonean might to the ocean. The confines of Caelor did not seem so great when such a beauteous landscape with no walls nor rules nor fortresses hung in the air above him. How could his parents focus on the pettiness of blood purity and properness, when their own beloved sky proved just how small they really were? Why should anything matter, when they were all of them, all Melioreans, mere specks before the heavens?

It was as the prince was pondering this, at the foot of the vast gardens of Grimmauld Palace, that movement lit by the glow of hovering lanterns caught his eye, and he turned with a lazy smile, his attitude made soft and boyish by the smoke.

Before him there stood a lowly servant. He was holding a tray of small goblets of fine silver, and he did not look at Sirius but bowed his head, as was custom. Seeing this as a sign of great discrimination, Sirius would ask them to look up, and he did so now. And so the servant did look up, and he was very beautiful.

Sirius had never seen such loveliness in all of his time, which was a significant claim given that he was prince of a place famed for its beauty, both in person and in place. He took a goblet from the tray, and then requested that the boy sit down beside him.

“What's your name?” Sirius asked, having to stoop slightly for the boy had a habit of looking down. He appeared no more than seventeen, and had lightly curled brown hair and pale skin. He was very slender, too, with long fingers, but his eyes were what were most wonderful, for they were brown but appeared orange in the light of lanterns.

“Remus, Your Highness.”

“No, don't call me that.”

“Remus... sir.”

Sirius laughed in surprise, and when Remus looked at him he seemed to be smiling too, though nervously and hesitantly, as though fearing that he may be berated for the action. The younger servants had a difficult time concealing their emotions, and it was a talent which came only with age and practice.

“Please just call me Sirius. It's my name, after all. How long have you lived here? Are you hired just for the evening?”

“I've lived half my life here, sir,” Remus replied, but this came as no great surprise to Sirius (who also did not remind him again not to call him 'sir').

The fortress was so vast that the number of servants within it reached into the thousands! With the exception of a personal footman, it was unlikely to ever see the same slave twice in a year. There were families of servants who were born into the fortress itself, in the bowels of the castle where they lived, and would stay there all their lives.

“I see. And are you enjoying my banquet, Remus?”

“Oh, very much, sir.”

“Sirius.”

The boy's eyelashes fluttered in an odd mixture of nerves and amusement, and he twisted his head slightly to check no one was behind them, as though the prince had tricked him into such a casual meeting while the queen stood watch, ready to pounce.

But there was no living thing there in the garden besides themselves and the purpuras, the fair birds of Caelor.

“Would you like a go?” Sirius offered cheerfully, holding out his twisted green pipe.

Remus appeared to consider it. “I'm not accustomed to smoking, I'm afraid, sir.”

“Nonsense. How can you not smoke? Everyone smokes! Smoking is what I do best.” Sirius took a pleasant puff on the pipe, glancing out at the sun dropping low over the land, before turning back to the servant with a friendly smile. “Well. One of the things I do best.”

Endearingly, this appeared to rustle the boy, who stood abruptly and almost let a goblet topple over. Quickly righting it, he said, “Is there anything else I can get for you, Your Highness?”

“Well,” said Sirius, “the only thing I really desired was some company, but since you seem hesitant to supply me with any perhaps you'd better be off.”

“Shall I come back to fetch you when you're required?”

“Yes, I think you shall.” Sirius smiled at him behind another drag on the jade pipe. “I think I'd like to see you again.”

*

As much as Sirius tried to pretend otherwise though, he was a prince, and like all princes was brought up to believe that he could have whatever he desired, whenever he desired it, for as long as he liked.

And so he did not just see the servant Remus again, once, he saw him many times upon demand, because the boy was so beautiful and even when he did not speak (though he was considerably chattier than many of the other servants) Sirius liked to look at him to appreciate his rare beauty. It was not a Caelor beauty, and indeed upon enquiry Remus revealed that he was originally from Bellator, which accounted for his big, soft eyes and earthy-pale skin.

He also claimed to have been brought up by wolves in the woodland of Bellator, but Sirius was dubious; he discovered, after a whole week of cornering him for conversation, that the servant had a penchant for storytelling.

The prince took to accompanying him on chores, and while Remus tended to the garden or polished the ancient silver or changed the silk bedsheets in the sleeping chambers, Sirius would sit and listen to stories of Melior, of every land, of the volcanoes and fire-breathing dragons in Rutilē, the sea monsters swimming in Liberon's oceans, the elves and pixies, fox-squirrels and wolves in the forests of Bellator, and of all the stars that shone high and unreachable above Caelor.

On nightly chores, such as when Remus had to snuff the lanterns outside, he would point out constellations that Sirius already knew, often times becoming so terribly passionate that a charming pink flush would cover the bridge of his long nose.

And slowly, the prince fell in love, because the servant was so beautiful, and they had a word for such beauty in Melior and it was venet, which meant a very great beauty of the body and the soul and the mind. It was easy to see that Remus, who had no last name and no possessions, was venet, and the prince found it very easy to love him and came to consider him a wonderful friend.

One day, while Remus was allowed to indulge in a rare bout of rest, Sirius asked if he might kiss him. This, of course, was out of the view of the king and queen, in the depths of the fortress where Remus lived. His chambers were humble, and Sirius had only visited them twice as Remus feared the suspicious glances of the other servants who knew them to be growing friends.

But that day there was no one else in the small chamber shared by eight, and Remus allowed with a shy smile for Sirius to press a kiss to his lips, and it was sweet and soft, and after it Sirius thought never of Remus as a servant again, but as a boy whom he loved.

*

“I'd like you to come away with me,” Sirius announced. They were outside in the Palace grounds, smoking the jade pipe that Remus had developed a strong fondness for.

“I'm afraid my only day off is Sunday,” said Remus. “And you're not allowed to ride on Sundays, are you?”

“Not a day out. Not a pony ride to the market. I'd like you to come with me to Bellator. And then onwards. I don't yet know where.”

Remus appeared almost to tremble. “But why? Have you been taken ill?”

And by reply the prince told him that he loved him, and that he did not want to marry.

“And I don't want to be King of Caelor. I've always looked for a reason to leave, and now I have it. It's you. You are my reason.”

“I cannot lead you into danger,” Remus protested.

“The danger is here,” Sirius said urgently. “This land is infected. If we stay here we grow old and bitter and wrong like all of them. If we stay here, I marry and you remain a slave. You cannot lead us into danger, my friend. Only away from it.”

And so the young servant accepted, for however much Sirius loved him, Remus knew he loved the prince more.

*

They set off at daybreak. The sky was painted the glassy orange and pale pink of true dawn, the misty bulk of the distant Mt. Altus faded beneath early morning cloud. The cold morning air came sweet as they quietly passed on horseback across the fortress drawbridge – not the main path at the front, but one to the right of the castle which led into the Eastern part of Caelor.

Sirius wore a black hood, and Remus a blue one, though naturally it was more difficult to disguise a prince than a slave. But the streets of Caelor were empty, for they had been purged of beggars and vendors long ago, and the pure all slept in their towering homes, too close to the sky to notice the two boys and their horse moving fervently through the streets below.

They did not speak until they were past the city gates, and past the sign of Toujours Pur. But it was only when they reached Dimīd and met with Prince James that their alarm melted some, and they smiled at each other as they dismounted for the shortest of rests.

Sirius had written to James long in advance, and James had assured him that he would look after the pair in Bellator until they determined where it was they would be travelling to. He also confessed that he would have liked very much to have joined them on their adventure but, as fate would have it, he had just become engaged to a Rutilēan girl named Lily and could not stand to leave her.

They spent only one warm day in Bellator. Conscious that footmen in Caelor would already be out searching for the prince, the decision was made with haste: they would travel out of Melior and onwards to the surrounding realm of Sperce, with its sparkling deep rivers and boneless blue skies, and after that to many places yet undiscovered.

And now to our end. It is not known what ultimately became of the two, except that they were skilled in their escape, clever and never caught. As far as legend goes, they lived out the rest of their lives together in peace. They became travellers and swore it to be enough to have, if nothing else, each other. From the moment they stepped free of Godric's Palace, they were no longer prince and servant, but men of Melior on an endless journey.