hwango: (hermit crab)
[personal profile] hwango

Hello, children. Yes, yes, I know - a story. Goodness, you're an unruly bunch today, and rather grubbier than usual. Were you all fighting before you came over here or something? No, never mind, I'm not actually interested. But under the dust and dirt I think I see some unfamiliar faces here today. Tell me, do you new children know what a nemesis is? Because I already explained it to the others, and I have no intention of repeating myself. Hmm.

Once upon a time, in a faraway land, there lived a faerie named Halcyon Windgrace. Now, faeries are for the most part cruel, heartless, and selfish monsters, but they also tend to be graceful, charming, and physically attractive monsters, and Halcyon was no exception. If anything, Halcyon was a particular beauty among faeries, and he knew it. He knew it, and he reveled in it. He lived in a giant pink marble fortress carved to look like his own head, which is the sort of thing that even a race of supernaturally powerful egotists tends to think is going a bit far. This somewhat ridiculous house was also full of carvings, paintings, and statues all in his own image. Frankly, many other faeries found the whole thing rather embarrassing, and as we're talking about a race that produces individuals who wander around with a giant pair of butterfly wings protruding from their back without any intended irony, that's really saying something.

Now, you might think that Halcyon would own a lot of mirrors, and indeed at one point he had. His home had been filled with mirrors. But the thing about mirrors is that they reflect everything and everyone, and so whenever a guest would visit Halcyon's home the mirrors would show reflections of his guest as well. Halcyon found this upsetting. In his own home he wanted to be the only one surrounded by images of himself, so he had taken all of the mirrors away and buried them.

One day, Halcyon received a very large anonymous gift. Now, of course it's a bad idea to accept gifts when you don't know who they're from, why they were given to you, whether they might somehow indebt you to the giver, or whether they are secretly cursed to gradually drive you insane. Faerie gifts are even more dangerous, and in all likelihood this gift was from another faerie, so Halcyon should have been deeply suspicious. However, Halcyon was so vain that he felt he deserved gifts from just about everyone just for gracing them with his existence, and so he eagerly tore open the wrappings to see what it was. He was at first dismayed to see that it was a full-length mirror, because surely by now everyone should know his feelings about mirrors. But he quickly realized that this was a very special mirror, because he could only see himself in it - nothing else. "How wonderful!," he thought, and he immediately gave it a place of special prominence in his home.

The mirror quickly became Halcyon's most treasured possession, and he would spend hours of the day standing before it preening and telling himself how amazing and wonderful he was. Those few remaining faeries who still regularly socialized with Halcyon rolled their eyes and shook their heads disapprovingly behind his back, quietly amused that Halcyon could not see them doing so because they did not appear in his mirror. In fact, it didn't take long before Halcyon became a bit of a joke to the other faeries. For some time Halcyon was oblivious to their contempt, but after a while he vaguely began to realize that something was wrong.

Ironically, he blamed the mirror. He became convinced that the mirror was lying to him. Sometimes it showed him appearing slightly disheveled, which could not possibly be true. It started to show him twitching nervously and his darting his eyes back and forth. Eventually, it showed him as a harried wreck rather than the regal, charismatic, majestic being he truly was. He took to screaming at the mirror that it was full of lies. Not long after that he became so outraged at the look of hate and fury it showed him that he picked up a heavy gold statuette of himself and smashed the mirror.

Yes, breaking mirrors is supposed to be bad luck. You're way ahead of me.

As the shattered glass fell at his feet Halcyon was somewhat baffled to find that he was still looking at himself. Then his reflection smiled and stepped out of the mirror's frame.

"It's so nice to be out!" his reflection said, stretching and popping its joints as if it had been cooped up in a very small space for a very long time.

Halcyon felt very conflicted about this. On the one hand, someone who loved to look at himself as much as Halcyon did had to be at least a little happy about having a living duplicate of himself to ogle. On the other hand, stories about people who acquire magical doppelgangers rarely ended happily.

"You're me," he said, somewhat stupidly. His reflection favored him with a condescending smile.

"Of course not," it said. "I'm better."

Halcyon flinched as if he'd been slapped. Then he laughed incredulously.

"Better? Don't be absurd. You're nothing but my reflection," he said.

"I am everything you are and more," his reflection disagreed. "After all, I'm a reflection of who you were before you were reduced to...this," the reflection said, waving vaguely at Halcyon and wrinkling its nose in distaste. Halcyon looked down at himself and realized that he did look a bit rumpled, whereas the reflection looked flawless. "You yourself told me how amazing and wonderful I am," the reflection said.

"Nonsense!" Halcyon sneered at it, undaunted. "You are nothing!" The reflection simply sneered back.

Enraged, Halcyon spun together a quick nightmare and loosed it at his reflection. His reflection yawned ostentatiously and whipped up its own identical nightmare to intercept the first. The two collided and fell to snapping and clawing at one another, thrashing and flailing until it was quite impossible to tell which was which.

Halcyon was rather nonplussed to see that his reflection seemed to share his powers, but his anger quickly overpowered his surprise and he started hurling curses, hexes, and all manner of hostile charms. His reflection neatly countered every one.

Now, fairies can hold on to a furious rage for quite a while, but even they eventually calm down. After his anger dimmed, Halcyon was nevertheless obsessed with trying to outdo his reflection in some way, and so they proceeded to more dignified contests. Singing, painting, playing the harp, transforming children into trees or animals, games of chess, feats of strength or balance, inventing new kinds of toad. That sort of thing. As you can imagine, every contest ended in stalemate. Halcyon was starting to get angry again, when he suddenly had an idea.

"We shall see who can hold their breath the longest," Halcyon said. The reflection rolled its eyes.

"Scraping the bottom of the barrel now, are you not?" it said.

And in fact a barrel was just what Halcyon had in mind. He led his reflection out back of the fortress to an old rain barrel full of water.

"I shall climb inside and hold my breath, and you shall count until I emerge. Then we shall trade places. Whoever can stay submerged longer shall win the contest," he said.

"Very well," said the reflection, clearly bored.

Halcyon climbed into the barrel and crouched at the bottom under the water. He smiled an evil smile. When his reflection took its turn, he planned to nail the lid of the barrel shut and drown it.

Well, I'm sure you've already guessed what happened. The reflection nailed the barrel shut with Halcyon inside. Really, a smarter faerie would have realized that his own double would have the same idea.

Of course, the real irony is that as soon as Halcyon drowned, the reflection keeled over dead as well, since a reflection can't very well outlive the thing that it's reflecting.

The lesson to be learned here is that you shouldn't vent your temper at inanimate objects. That, and never to accept the gift of a cursed mirror that will drive you insane and make you seal yourself in a rain barrel. Actually, as a general rule, don't accept any cursed gifts at all.

Now, get home, the lot of you. Any really, clean yourselves up. Some of you are just filthy. Honestly, don't you ever look at yourselves in a mirror?

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