Continuing Tales

If I Apologised

A MirrorMask Story
by Caitastrophe8499

Part 7 of 29

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When Valentine heard the signs of the Princess' army returning, he jumped up from his chair. It was his first movement in hours and managed to startle the dead guard just enough that Valentine evaded his grasp and got down the stairs. He ran through the ranks of guards, none of them even glancing at him.

He got to the end of the line, where the Princess and the other Valentine were returning. Valentine watched the other, worser, him lift off the edge of his own face. With a ripple, Valentine vanished, being replaced with a dead guard. He handed the Princess a wrapped object, the Mask resting on top of it, and marched off, not before Valentine saw the guard's sliced armor. It looked like someone had thoroughly trounced the false Valentine. The other Valentine - no, the real Valentine, he was glad that the Princess' plan hadn't worked.

It still disturbed him, however, to see the Princess smirking. "Here, Val. Picked this up for you."

She handed him a long wrapped object. He took it, at a loss for anything else to do.

"It's Helena's," she told him.

Valentine watched the Princess leave, not remotely concerned about him. He glanced down at the object in his hands, pulling the burlap off of it. When it lay bare, Valentine stared down at it, unable to get his brain functioning for a moment.

It was a sword without a sheath, the blade smeared with copper stains.

Valentine tried to figure out what it meant. The guard had been injured, but he hadn't seen any signs of blood. He wasn't even sure if the dead guards bled. And this was a lot of blood. A deadly amount of blood. Only the living could bleed and-

"It's Helena's."

His fingers shook as they tightened around the sword. The fake Valentine had done it. He'd hurt Helena by pretending to be him. Just one day after standing up to this monster and Helena was gone. Nothing Valentine could say or do or think or juggle could bring her back. He felt hot and cold at the same time. There was a roaring in his ears and he clenched his eyes closed, hoping that if he opened them again, the blade would be clean.

It wasn't. It blurred in front of his eyes, but it was still red.

She'd been out there, apparently. Fighting. Or at least in the thick of battle. Why had the Queen put her out there? Helena wasn't trained or-

Not that it would have mattered. The Princess had smuggled them into the City. It wouldn't have mattered if Helena had been in the process of evacuating or fighting or running. The army had been dropped right in the middle of the City, without warning. After they'd been promised a day to get out.

Valentine found that his fingers had wrapped around the sword's hilt, holding it properly though he could count on one hand the number of times he'd held a weapon. Or even seen one. Suddenly, without his say-so, his feet were moving, chasing after the false Princess. He couldn't quite say the exact moment he caught on to his brain's motives, but when Valentine finally figured it out, he was in complete agreement.

He was going to kill the Princess. The best part was, it was so completely daft, so mind-bogglingly mental, so incredibly insane and shockingly suicidal, that she would never see it coming.

He lifted the blade, just mere yards away from her. He was taller than her, so it was actually quite easy to aim downwards and sideways, to cleave her head from her shoulders. There wasn't anything she could do to avoid it. He would still hit her even she managed to move.

In the seconds before his blade cut flesh, Valentine realized that he was grinning.

He also realized a moment after it happened that he hadn't considered another possible option. His sword slashed into the dead guard at the Princess' side, who moved faster than Valentine thought possible. Immediately as the sword struck flesh, the spider on Valentine's wrist sliced deeply. He would have dropped the sword, had it not embedded itself somewhere between the guard's shoulder and neck.

The Princess turned and Valentine saw a brief moment of shock on her face. Did she really believe that he didn't want her gone?

He couldn't follow that train of thought much farther, clutching his wrist and trying not to collapse. She glanced at his sword, "Bone is so much more difficult. If you knew any better, you would have gone through the softer bits."

Valentine muttered out a collection of swears, too distracted to pay any attention.

"Language, juggler," she told him, squeezing his wrist harder before relaxing the spider's grip.

The dead guard walked away, the sword still sticking out of him. Valentine felt warm trails working their way down his hand as he straightened, cradling his wrist.

"Are you a little upset, Val?" she asked him.

He wasn't going to give in. He wasn't going to amuse her by arguing or speaking. Valentine turned on his heel and started off.

"Val!" she called after him. He ignored her.

He could not, however, ignore the shadows that snaked around his arms and ankles, stopping him completely. The Princess walked in front of him, eyeing his unusually silent self. "What's gotten into you?"

He felt an unhappy desire to laugh in her face, but it would only encourage her. "Let me go."

"Go where, Val?"

"Anywhere else that isn't here."

"You're being a tad overdramatic, aren't you?" she said, canting her head.

"Piss off."

"Val, you really need to control your language. It's not becoming." She glanced at her nails, "With the Creator gone, the rest of the City of Light will soon fall. Soon, I'll have everything."

"Brilliant. Let go."

She sighed, "If we two are going to be the only ones left, don't you think you should try to be civil?"

At this, Valentine did laugh. Loud, harsh noises that had absolutely nothing to do with humor. His chest and eyes were burning, but he just kept laughing. He must have managed to unnerve the Princess, because he found that the shadows on his skin slunk away, leaving him free again. He didn't move just yet, but dragged in a deep breath to try and control himself, "Princess, if we two are the last ones left, I promise you it won't be that way for long."

"With Helena gone, there's nothing better for you. Just me."

"Then I'll take the nothing!" he shouted, feeling a little satisfaction as she jumped slightly.

Her eyes narrowed as she tried to gain control over the situation, "Watch it, Val. You're walking a very thin line. Your veiled threats are-"

"Who said anything about veiled?" he interrupted, too far gone to listen to whatever vague sense he had left. "I want you dead. Even if everyone else is gone or shadows, and it's just the two of us, I'll never stop trying to get rid of you. There is no ending where you get what you want. No way in which you'll force me or anyone else into caring about you. If I have to end my own life to prove that you can't get your twisted happy ending, then I'll do it with a smile."

He took a step forward and she took one back. Valentine enunciated his next words very carefully, certain that she wouldn't miss anything. "You disgust me."

She raised her hand, shadows swirling with sparks in her palm. Oh good, he'd managed to piss her off.

Valentine went for for the throat then, leaning forward, "And even though she's gone, you're still only second best."

The Princess snarled at him, the shadows reaching towards him with miniscule tendrils. Valentine didn't move, staring right into her black eyes and hoping she knew exactly how he was feeling at this moment.

She clenched her fist and the shadows vanished. "Death is too good for you, Val," she told him. "I believe you. But I also know when to get rid of dead weight."

Valentine rolled his eyes, not that she could see, and stalked off. For a moment, he forgot what started the whole altercation, but as soon as he hit the door to his Tower, he remembered again.

He thumped into his armchair, ignoring the rattle of the dead guard. He assumed it was some kind of reprimand. He leaned his head back against the wing of the armchair, the burning behind his eyes getting worse.

A faint image swirled behind his closed lids. Brown hair, hazel eyes, a face that wasn't like any other face he'd ever seen before. And now she was gone.

There went the only hope this world had. And he couldn't help but feel responsible for everything. He really was an awful, awful man.

Helena hated this.

She grimaced as she sat up, the pain in her shoulders and back nearly sending her back to the ground, but she was too stubborn to let it happen.

She should have died, according to everyone's reports. Drag said she fell from the building and it was only the painful help of the ladder that kept her from smashing on the ground. It also managed to knock the sword loose from her body, though that might have done more harm than good. When she did hit the ground, it was luckily not in such a way that she broke anything, which is a minor miracle. The major miracle was that Drag and Mags had still been nearby and pulled her away from the encroaching shadows, and the fake Valentine that had been climbing down the ladder. Somehow, the trio had escaped the City before it was destroyed, along with about forty of the Queen's army. That would have been impressive, had they not begun with over a thousand.

The Princess' first attack had been devastating.

Helena got to her door and opened it up, seeing the crowds moving around on the streets. Wesleytown was not fit for all of the Queen's refugees and they'd created a sort of perpetual market to keep everyone covered. Tents lined the streets as what was left of the guard attempted to create some sort of defense.

Helena clung to the door frame for a few moments, breathing in the fresh air to steady her spinning head.

"What are you doing up?"

Helena bit back a groan. Talia had appointed herself Helena's personal caretaker, despite Helena's hand in her sister's death. Neither one of them had talked about it, not after the first night. But Helena still felt guilty every time she looked at the tiny woman.

It had been two weeks without an attack from the Princess and Helena knew they were working on borrowed time. She had to get somewhere to see the Queen or the council or someone. She didn't know what she was going to say or do, but she hated lying here being useless.

Someone, however, had made it their personal mission that she do just that.

"Get back into bed. You aren't ready," Talia demanded.

"I'm fine," Helena argued.

"Queen's orders. She'll come and see you later, but you have to be here and lying down."

Helena clenched her fist, not wanting to yell but...wanting to yell. "Please? I'm going crazy in here doing nothing."

"That's why I brought you a present," Talia said. She reached behind her and got a package that was leaning against the wall. She handed it to Helena with some effort (it was nearly as tall as her).

Helena opened the plain brown paper to find a large sketch pad and pencils. She was surprised that Talia had been so thoughtful. "Thank you."

"Not me, the Queen," Talia said. "She hoped this would keep you busy enough until she got here."

Helena didn't want to admit it, but it would probably work. She hadn't really drawn in ages. Maybe it would help her clear her head of images of jugglers and swords. She hugged the notepad and headed back inside her room. Just before the door shut, she heard Talia heave a sigh of relief.

Valentine sat in his armchair, unsure what day it was. He knew it had been at least four days, but he was sure more had passed when he wasn't paying attention. He'd been left alone in his Tower, having not moved in several days, no one felt the need to watch over him. Valentine was sure that there would be someone outside the door, but he didn't have the heart or energy to get up and go look.

He kept staring out his window, wondering when the Tower would be told to go and do something. The end was inevitable. He just had to make up his mind if he was going to go after the Princess or just off himself and keep her from getting her twisted fairy tale ending. The former would be harder but more satisfying. The latter was easier and could happen right now.

Something rustled against his chest and Valentine pulled out A Book of Useful Things and opened it up, barely reading what it had to say.

In the end one needs more courage to live than to kill himself.

"Yeah, well," he murmured, his voice hoarse with disuse. "Don't have any courage."

The Book fluttered at him in annoyance and Valentine found that he didn't feel quite so numb any more, "What do you want from me? She's gone. She's the one that you should have been with. Not me. I'm not the Creator and the maskless one or anything. I'm just me."

Snapping across his knuckles the Book opened again, Anything worth having is worth fighting for.

"I don't have anything. So go find somebody who does. Somebody who's got a reason to keep going, because the option I have right now is to off myself sooner or later. So...piss off and go find somebody else."

It gives me strength to have somebody to fight for; I can never fight for myself, but, for others, I can kill.

Valentine sighed, letting his head fall back. "What do you want me to do?"

Knowledge is power.

"Wonderful. See how much power I have. I know about the Mask, but I can't do anything about it from here. Go bother someone who can help."

In vain have you acquired knowledge if you have not imparted it to others.

"Who am I supposed to tell? Who can I tell, stuck here."

The Book flipped open to an empty page.

Valentine stared at the crisp page. He could write it all here. The Book could get out. He didn't know where it would go, but it might get to someone who could help. And if not, he'd at least have the knowledge out there. It made sense.

Still, his fingers shook as he reached for a pencil. What if he was caught? What if the Princess found out? The Book sensed his hesitation and flipped once more.

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.

Valentine nearly smiled. Well, what could she do? Kill him? He grabbed the pencil and turned back to the empty page, writing out all he knew.

MirrorMask: Can copy things and people. Can let you imitate people. Can open gates between worlds. Can allow travel between worlds without replacing the alternate world's person. Can ward off Shadow powers.

His hands shook, one ear tilted towards the door to make sure no one was approaching, and hissing at the book, "You can't tell anyone until they ask. Otherwise they won't believe it. They'll think it's a trap. You have to tell them only when they ask. Understand me?"

It flapped at him and Valentine took it as an answer. "Brilliant book, you are," Valentine muttered, closing it and taking A Really Useful Book, taking it into the corner by the window.

"You're an unhelpful, unfreindly, most condescending, aloof book I have ever come across and I never want to see your cover ever again," Valentine said, throwing it out the window. The book fell a few yards before halting and beginning its hover back to the Library. Valentine watched it go, flicking the pencil out the window as well. "Now, just have to hope you make it to your Librarian."

Helena pushed someone aside, ignoring the shout of annoyance. She didn't bother with the mask. Most people knew she was here and the Princess would have to be telepathic to find her in this mess. Anyway, this was more important.

She was panting already, her back and shoulders hating the movements of running and being bumped. Talia was behind her, for once not trying to keep Helena from moving, but still regretting that it needed to be done. "Be careful! Your stitches might tear!"

Helena was pretty certain they already had, but she didn't say anything. The inn had been delegated to the Queen and most of the council. Helena was on her own because she needed to heal. Now was not the time for healing, though.

She finally got to the back door - and silently thanked Talia for knowing about it so she didn't have to fight the tide that was on the street in front - and pounded on the door. She kept at it, refusing to be ignored until it was finally thrown open. Drag blocked the way, moving from on edge guard to concerned friend in a split second. "Helena, you shouldn't be up and about like this, you're-"

"I need to see the Queen. Right now," Helena said, pushing aside the cramp that had formed.

Drag stared at her, then nodded. "All right." He led her inside, making sure the door was bolted. Helena followed him into the main room, where the entire council was gathered.

The Queen rose as Helena entered, "What are you doing? You can't be healed yet."

"I know how to help," Helena said, moving the sketchpad from under her arm and laying it on the table.

"What's this about?" the Librarian asked. "This is a meeting and-"

"Just shut up for a second, okay?" Helena muttered, flipping to an empty page and grabbing the pencil.

Mags chuckled from her place next to her brother.

Quick long strokes had Helena creating a box in just a minute. She ripped it out and let the paper fall to the floor. The Librarian didn't remain quiet.

"This is ridiculous. A waste of our..."

He trailed off as Helena's drawing appeared as a real thing, the paper vanishing into the ground as if it had never existed. The Queen picked up the fully functioning box, "Amazing."

"Not just amazing. Do you know what this means?" Drag said, almost sounding excited. "Weapons, better armor, a more secure area..."

Helena flipped to the next page and showed him what she had sketched out, "You're not thinking big enough. I can create more soldiers. A bigger, better army with weapons this place has never even thought about before."

Even the Librarian seemed impressed, "We might actually have a chance, but it would mean a lo-"


A red blur clocked the Librarian upside the head. Drag and Mags both jumped up, thinking it was an attack, but Helena recognized it. "Book of Useful Things!"

"It must have gone to it's last owner, since my Library isn't..." the Librarian trailed off.

She reached up and grabbed it, the book shuddering in her hand for a moment before relaxing into her palm and falling open.

Things are never quite as scary as when you have a best friend.

"I missed you, too," Helena said. She closed the Book and traced the spine, remembering the last time she'd been with it.

"What do we do now?" Mags asked, glancing from the book to the notepad to Helena.

"It appears we have all the tools we'll need to defeat the Princess," the Queen said.

The Prime Minister smiled, "So we just need a plan."

It was silly, but with her notebook and now Book of Useful Things, Helena felt unbeatable.

If I Apologised

A MirrorMask Story
by Caitastrophe8499

Part 7 of 29

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