Friday, February 16, 2007
Storybook Love, Chapter 1
Manip by Khyla. Used with permission of the artist. Thanks!!
Elseworld (inspired by The Princess Bride and the Edgar Rice Burroughs Barsoom books)
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the CW and DC Comics, not to me.
Come my love, I'll tell you a tale
Of a boy and girl and their love story
And how he loved her oh, so much,
And all the charms she did possess.
-Mark Knopfler, "Storybook Love"
From the journals of Chloe Sullivan:
Sixteen years ago, fire rained from the sky, and with it a dark-haired, emerald-eyed child. Wandering lost in the fields, the boy was found by the Kents of Smallcroft, who raised him as their own. Before long, the simple farmers were shocked to discover the child had powers beyond those of mortal men, powers of strength and mystery such as the world has never seen. Fearing the reaction of their neighbors, they hid the child's powers from the townsfolk and raised him to seem as unremarkable as possible.
When the Kents died in an outbreak of smallpox in the boy's eleventh year in Smallcroft, he left his adopted home and went to work for the neighboring farm. There he met a girl of surpassing beauty and worth, whom he adored. But she scarcely noticed him, nor spoke to him for any reason but to order him about. To her every order, he responded only, "As you wish." She began to realize that these simple words meant, "I love you," but she cared not, for she was beautiful and ambitious, and she sought a higher alliance than with an orphaned farmboy of no known lineage.
In his spare moments, the boy wandered the village, and he grew to be great friends with a servant maid in the prince's castle. But she was plain, and he thought of her as only a friend, because his heart was engaged elsewhere. She would have given up the world for him, yet he noticed her not.
By the time five years had passed, the servant maid had realized the boy was a fool and an idiot... but she continued to love him anyway.
"What are you writing now, Chloe?"
Chloe Sullivan dropped her quill into the grass and hastily closed the journal she was scribbling in, heedless of the wet ink. "I'm merely writing down more of the stories the townsfolk have told me," she answered, smiling up at her tall friend.
Clark Kent sank down beside her on the grass. Behind them stood the vast stone castle in which Chloe served, its towers rising high into the blue sky. She lay sprawled on the emerald sward outside the stone walls, under the shade of an old oak tree, her long homespun skirts spread out around her. Her blonde hair was coming free of its pins and straggling around her shoulders, and her fingers were stained with ink. She realized she was not at all the picture of a lady, but she cared not. Nor did Clark, for he was scarcely aware she was female. He certainly didn't think she was a lady.
She knew he'd been working hard all morning, as he always did, tending to the Langs' horses and cattle, yet he didn't reek in the summer heat, the way most men would. In fact, there was no hint of perspiration marring the white linen shirt he wore. It was the first thing she'd noticed that was peculiar about him, the fact that he didn't sweat. But she'd known him for five years now, and she knew well enough there were many peculiar things about him. His inability to sweat was the least of his oddities.
He quirked a dark eyebrow at her. "Why do you write, when you know no one will ever see your writing?"
"Because someone must record the peculiar history of Smallcroft," she answered promptly. "Strange things happen in this town, Clark. Strange things have happened ever since the fire rained from the sky. People act in most peculiar ways, and do horrible things. Someone must record the unusual events that occur."
His green eyes darkened, as they always did at the mention of the fire from the sky. She wondered once again if he somehow thought he was responsible for the fire. They had never spoken of it, but he obviously realized he'd arrived in the rain of fire-- and yet he must also realize he'd been a mere babe at the time, so he could not possibly bear any responsibility for the event.
"Few in this village can read your words," he pointed out.
"I can," she said simply.
He smiled, shrugged, and threw himself down upon the sward, heedless of grass stains on his linen shirt. His broad, muscular shoulders strained the seams of the shirt, and his overlong, dark brown hair waved wildly around his face. "Chloe," he said, staring away from her, at the town that spread out below them. "I'm thinking of leaving."
"You heard me. I don't belong here, Chlo. I never did."
She stared at him for a very long moment, deliberating. At last she said softly, "Because of your powers?"
He jerked to a sitting position and stared at her, his eyes wide.
She nodded, meeting his gaze without flinching. "I know you are not an ordinary man, Clark Kent. But do not fear. I will never tell anyone your secrets."
He stared a moment longer, then looked away. "How did you discover my... differences, Chloe?"
"I have suspected for a long time," she answered honestly. "But my suspicions were confirmed when you walked into the Hunters' hut last year while it was afire, and rescued their baby."
He shook his head ruefully. "I thought no one saw me."
"I happened to be in town, and I saw you walk into the hut despite the blaze. I was terrified for you, and relieved beyond measure when you walked out again unscathed. Even your clothes were intact."
He nodded, his eyes very serious. "I cannot be burned by fire," he admitted. "Nor stabbed by a blade."
"And you can set fires with your eyes." He turned his head and looked at her, his eyes narrowing in suspicion, and she smiled, amused at his obvious dismay. "No, I have not been spying on you, Clark. But I am not blind, either."
"You are far too observant for your own good," he grumbled.
"I also know that you can get from one place to another far faster than a horse. And that you are as strong as ten men."
"More than ten, I think." He sighed heavily. "Obviously I have not been as cautious as I intended. I wonder who else knows my secret?"
"I believe I am the only one. I listen for talk, and I have heard none about you. Besides, you know you are not the only person with strange powers in Smallcroft, Clark. There are others. Although most of them are somewhat more... malevolent."
"I think perhaps I am not like those others," he said softly. "I know it sounds strange, but my parents believed I came from the sky."
"I know." She nodded. "I tended your mother while she was ill, if you recall, and she spoke of many strange things. I thought at the time she was merely delirious, but once I discovered your secret, I pieced together what she had told me. You arrived in the fire in some sort of... wagon?"
"A wagon without horses. A wagon made of some sort of metal that cannot be broken or melted, even by me."
"So you truly do not belong here. You want to leave because you are different?"
"No." He shook his head, so that his hair rippled around his face. "I want to leave because I want to learn more about myself. I know not where I came from, but perhaps if I travel beyond this small town I can discover more about myself. Perhaps somewhere in the world, there is a city of people with powers just like mine."
"I have spoken to every traveler who has ever passed through Smallcroft in the past ten years," Chloe said. "But I have never heard of such a city."
"But there must be one, somewhere." He drew up his legs and rested his chin on his knees. "Or perhaps like the others, I was somehow changed by the fire. Perhaps there is truly no one else like me in this world."
He sighed, and his gaze fell upon a farm, some distance beyond the village. She saw a wistful glint in his eyes.
"You are not being entirely honest with yourself, or with me," she said softly. "You do not seek to find out more about yourself. You wish to make something of yourself so that Lana will be more receptive to your suit."
"She has never noticed me, Chloe." His eyes were sorrowful, and he didn't look away from the distant farm. "I think she hopes that someday the prince will see her, and ask for her hand. And perhaps he will, for although she is not of noble birth, her beauty is beyond imagining."
Fortunately I don't have to imagine it, Chloe thought glumly. I hear of Lana's beauty at least three times a sennight, from your own lips. Aloud she said, "And what exactly do you wish to make of yourself?"
"I do not know. But I do know that she deserves better than a mere farmboy."
Chloe leaned forward and placed a hand on his arm. "Clark," she said softly. "You are not merely a farmboy. You are the best man I know. You are a hero."
He turned his head and gazed at her for a moment, then his mouth curved into a smile. "I am glad you think so." He looked away, staring at the farm in the distance. "Perhaps she will never notice me, no matter what I make of myself," he mused. "Perhaps I am a fool."
"Of that I also have no doubt," she said tartly, but with a smile to ease the words. He looked back at her and grinned, his teeth white against the golden skin of his face.
"I shall miss you, Chloe."
"No, you will not. Because I am coming with you."
His eyes went wide. "Don't be absurd. An unwed maid may not travel with a man, and you know it as well as I do. Your reputation will be ruined."
"As if I have ever cared aught for my reputation." She shrugged, unconcerned. "I will disguise myself as a boy."
His gaze slid down to her breasts, very briefly, then flickered away. "I should think anyone with eyes could readily penetrate such a disguise."
"I will be convincing. I promise. But I know much more of the outside world than you do, for I have spoken with every traveler and written down their stories. You cannot go alone. You need me."
"I can go faster without you," he said.
"But you will be lonelier without me," she answered, smiling.
An answering smile tugged at his mouth. "I suppose that is true. In truth, Chlo, I was not looking forward to leaving you. I would miss you terribly."
"Then it is settled. We will leave Smallcroft together."
He looked at her, his eyes very serious. "Can you be ready by sundown tonight?"
For a brief moment, she hesitated, thinking of her father. But for Clark, she was willing to leave everything she had ever known, everything she loved, at a moment's notice. She nodded. "I will meet you at our meeting place by the river tonight."
His face lit up in the wide smile that always made her feel like she might just float away into the clouds.
"I am glad you are coming with me, Chlo."
She smiled back, because she was incapable of not returning his brilliant, beautiful smile.
"So am I," she answered.
Read Chapter 2 here.
Posted by Meg at 2:47 PM