He’d been only six when it’d happened. Vaati and his brother Octavo had remained at home while their parents had left… it was only supposed to be a short journey. They had left to go visit the neighboring kingdom, it shouldn’t have been more than a couple of days. It wasn't even the first time their parents had gone on a trip like this, so they hadn't thought at all to worry.
However, fate was not to be kind to them.
Though it was just a simple journey, tragedy struck. It was late in the afternoon when someone finally returned with the news, the lone survivor of the group that had been travelling with the king and queen.
Of course, neither Vaati nor Octavo had been present upon his arrival- they’d been off in Octavo’s room, talking and playing as children would. The twins had both turned their heads, looking towards the knight who’d entered the room, neither able to discern why he’d looked so distressed.
“It something wrong?” It was Octavo who’d spoken first, standing up. “What’s wrong?”
“Young masters… I have… I have horrible news.”
“What is it?”
“Your parents… have passed away.”
“I’m sorry, young masters… but they will not be returning home.”
Octavo was quick to push away the knight, closing the door behind him and just staring at Vaati. He’d been frozen in place the entire time, not knowing what to say or do…how could he know? Their parents were… were gone now.
“T-Tavo… What… what’re we gonna do?”
“I… I dunno, Vivi…”
Once things really started to sink in, Vaati found himself crying- tears rolled down his cheeks, and he didn’t even have it in himself to attempt to put anything further into words. What could he put into words? There were no words to describe this- their parents were dead now! Gone!
“H-Hey… Vivi, c’mere, don’t cry…” But despite his own apparent strength, Octavo was no better off- he pulled Vaati into a hug in an attempt to hide his own tears, ensuring that Vaati wouldn’t be able to see his brother’s face. “It’s… it’s gonna be okay, Vivi…”
The two children cried for quite a long time, nobody daring to intrude on their mourning. Vaati was too lost in his own sorrow to even think about anyone else in the castle- there was nobody else to think of, not right now. Not when everything in his life had just come crashing down in an instant like that.
“…’Tavo? What… what’re we gonna do?”
“I… I donno, Vivi… but it’s gonna be alright, okay? I promise.”
“But… but ‘Tavo… w-we’re all alone now… we’ve got nobody… nothing’s ever gonna be okay again… I… I miss them! I wanna see them again! I wanna see mama and papa!”
“I do too, Vivi, but we can’t! They aren’t here anymore…”
“I don’t wanna be here without them… I don’t wanna! I wanna see them! I wanna see them!!!”
“Vaati!” Octavo grabbed onto his shoulders, his grip strong as iron. It didn’t make Vaati stop crying, but it did stop his shouting for long enough for him to look up at his brother. “You can’t! You can’t go see them! But I promise, I’ll make sure things will be okay! I promise!”
“You can’t promise that! You just can’t!”
“Listen to me, Vaati! I’m your big brother, right?”
“But I was born first. I’m older, Vivi, so you can rely on me. I promise.”
“Y-You… you promise…?”
“Yeah. I promise. Things are gonna work out okay.”
“’Tavo… okay… okay. I’ll believe you, ‘Tavo… I trust you…”
He wouldn’t be completely alone, and that’s what mattered- he still had his brother, at the very least. And Octavo wasn’t going to just go away… so he’d cling to Octavo’s words, because that’s all he had to hold on to.
It was much later in the evening when the two young princes finally spoke to someone else, Octavo running and grabbing one of the royal guards. There were people in the castle who’d already started with preparations for the funeral, and trying to figure out what was to happen next… neither of the princes were really certain what to do, but now was hardly the time for that.
Vaati followed along, but he didn’t speak a word the entire time. He didn’t know what to say, and he felt like opening his mouth would only lead to crying- he didn’t want to be a burden. He didn’t want to just weigh Octavo down, by just continually crying… so he forced himself to keep his mouth shut.
He could hear the whispering, though- the people of the castle were all pitying them, speaking as if he couldn’t hear them. And by the goddesses, he wished he couldn’t- no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t shut the voices out. He simply had to deal with it, to pretend like he didn’t notice how everyone who stared at them was going to say something.
When it came to preparing for the funeral, at the very least, neither of them had to do anything. Vaati and Octavo just needed to be present- they were still only children, nobody would’ve put the responsibility of leading a funeral onto ones at their age. Vaati had just done his best not to cry- he didn’t do very well, but he at least managed to cry silently. It hadn’t shut out the way people had continued to speak, though- by the goddesses, they didn’t stop. The wind carried every word of it to his ears, a constant reminder of his new life situation that he hated.
“What… what’s gonna happen now…?”
He was holding his brother’s hand tightly after they’d finally been allowed privacy following the funeral, trying to pretend like he hadn’t been crying.
“We’re gonna be okay, Vivi. I promise. Okay?”
“Are you… gonna be king?”
“I don’t think I’m allowed to, yet. I’ve still got a lot of things to learn.”
“Th-then… then who’s gonna look after the kingdom…?”
“There’s a lotta advisors and people who worked for mama and papa. They’ll take care of things for us, until we’re old enough.”
“Y-You’ve got this… all figured out…”
“Didn’t I say? You can rely on me, Vivi. Rely on your big brother.”
Vaati bit at his lip, finding it impossible to really just be calm or okay with things. How could he be, honestly? But, that was why Octavo was so reliable… he was a lot better at dealing with things than Vaati was. Especially considering the fact that he didn’t have the wind to tell him things, like Vaati did- he didn’t have to hear all of the extra things. He was safe from all of the whispers, as far as Vaati was aware.
And hopefully, it would stay like that.
And, it's time for another fic! I didn't mean for it to take so long to get this one out, but school tired me more than I'd expected. Thankfully though, this one's done! So I'm looking forwards to getting it all up, and I hope you all will as well. The trilogy I have planned out for this series is the final arc of Twin Princes AU, and I'm really excited about it.
As usual, a massive thanks to luckystarman for helping me with these fics!! You helped make this au what it is, and it's been so fun to write.
Thanks for reading!!
Chapter 2: Nothing ever lasts
Time continued to pass by, but things didn’t seem to change quickly at all for the two young princes. In particular, everything felt so slow to Vaati- even as a year passed, time still felt like a slow crawl forward, nothing moving at the right pace. His mind worked too quickly, but everything else was so slow- he only made himself anxious, a fact that he tried desperately to hide.
The looks that people gave never seemed to go away, and neither did their whispering. It only seemed to get worse, in fact- he hated it. He really did hate it, but there was nothing he could do to stop things or change things. After all, he was just a child- what power did he have? Perhaps Octavo could’ve, if he’d known… but Vaati didn’t want to make him just as aware of things. It would only put further burden on his brother, something he didn't want to do...
So instead he just had to listen, and pretend that he wasn’t.
“The poor thing, he never seems to smile anymore…”
“What happened really was such a shame… the king and queen were such kind folks…”
“It’ll be a miracle if he grows up normal, now…”
“His brother’s doing so much better… he must have to be strong to look after Vaati…”
“Poor boy has to be his brother’s parent, when they’re the same age… how sad……”
“Stop it… please, just stop it…”
He hadn’t meant to the words out loud, but thankfully, nobody had heard him. They just continued, even as his head hurt- he hated the gossip. He hated the whispers. He hated the fact that he knew he’d never be free from this, because he was a prince and it was his duty to remain in the eyes of others, no matter how their whispering would hurt his ears and make his head hurt and everything hurt and how much he wished he could just stop it all.
Quick as he’d been able to, Vaati had gone to shut himself into his room. He hadn’t run, he couldn’t allow people to know what the matter was- but his room was his only safe place in the entire castle, the only place where he could really have quiet with the hope of it not being interrupted.
When things got loud, Vaati would always close the door, climb onto his bed, and hide himself under the covers. He would usually press a pillow over his head, too- anything to just cover his ears, to give him quiet and peace of mind, and enough space to actually think again. And he would stay like that for a long time, just trying to regain his focus and thoughts.
Of course, he knew people spoke about him doing that, too. He’d heard them whispering- saying that he was weird or strange, wondering if he was broken, if there was anything the clerics could do to fix him- but there wasn’t. It was just how he was, and the only way he knew to deal with it was just to go into his room, and revel in the silence for as long as he’d get.
“…Vaati? Are you in here?”
Of course, the silence never lasted forever- Octavo had entered his room, prompting Vaati to stick his head out from under the covers.
“Over here, ‘Tavo…”
“Are you okay?”
“’M just tired…”
“You always seem to be tired, Vaati…”
“I know… I’m sorry, ‘Tavo…” sitting up, Vaati found himself clinging to the pillow. “Maybe I’m… getting sick. My head was hurting a lot…”
“It’s the headaches, right?”
“I can go get a cleric for y-“
“It’s okay, ‘Tavo… it’ll go away on it’s own.”
The two of them ended up sitting in silence for a good long time, as their conversations would often end. It felt…. awkward, often- as if neither brother really knew how to talk, or what to say. There was so much that went unsaid between the two of them, so much that neither of them could really properly express… but certainly, they knew each other well enough that it hardly mattered. They were twins, and they had each other, so everything would surely be alright.
Chapter 3: Momentary solution
“Vaati, can’t you hurry up a little?”
The prince was following after his brother, both of them on the way for fittings. Their ninth birthday was coming up soon, which naturally meant more public appearances- because of their parents’ death, the two of them had been expected to meet public eye far more than was usual for children their age.
Of course though, neither of them would complain. They were good boys, brothers with good heads on their shoulders. That’s what everyone would say, anyways- he supposed the gossip was better than being pitied, but he still wished he wasn’t just to be an object of discussion for everyone else in the castle.
Vaati just took a seat as Octavo went up to the tailor first, thankful for the closed door and open window. He could just focus on the sound of the wind in the trees- that seemed much more pleasant, in his mind. He’d much rather listen to the chattering of birds than the chattering of people, birds were far more pleasant.
“Vaati, do you think this suits me well?”
“…have you been paying attention?” Octavo frowned, gesturing to his outfit. “This. Do you think it looks okay on me?”
“O-Oh. Sorry, brother…”
“Just answer the question, Vaati.”
“Y-Yes, I… I do. Red is a good colour on you.”
“Great!” That seemed to satisfy Octavo, although the frown didn’t exactly leave his face. He waited for the tailor to finish up, before pushing Vaati into the focus. “You zone out a lot, brother.”
“Yeah, you do.”
“……sorry. I don’t mean to.”
“You’ve just gotta pay more attention when I’m talking to you. I don’t like being ignored.”
“Right, of course… nobody likes that.”
Octavo leaned back in his seat, and Vaati found it hard not to fidget. He often found himself wishing that he could just know what his brother was thinking, so that he’d not have to worry about doing anything wrong, but that was just wishful thinking. He just… didn’t want to be a burden, was all. No more than he already was, anyways.
“Do you just… not like sounds or something, Vivi?”
“I mean, you hate when it’s loud… you always go and hide away in your room.”
“O-Oh, that’s not… I just… get a little tired, is all…”
“Vivi, don’t lie to me.”
“……Well… it just… gets overwhelming, is all.” He found himself chewing at his cheek, trying to pretend as though he wasn’t quite anxious. “When there’s a lot of sound, I just…. I don’t like it. I prefer quiet, is all. It lets me think.”
“Huh… well, that’s not really something I can fix, Vivi… we’re royalty, we’ve gotta be in public.”
“I know that, ‘Tavo. Please, don’t worry about me…”
“I’m supposed to look after you, Vaati. How many times do I have to tell you that you can rely on me?”
“…but there’s really nothing you can do. It’s not like you can just stop me from hearing things… it doesn’t work that way.”
“I’ll figure something out, Vivi. I promise.”
Vaati held back a sigh, just doing his best to stand stuff until the tailor finally finished working, and he was allowed to step down.
It was a few days before their birthday when Octavo came up to him, a big smile on his face. Vaati wasn’t quite sure why he looked so happy- he’d seemed so stressed, recently. And he knew it was at least partially his fault… he kept dragging Octavo down.
“Vaati! I have good news!”
“O-Oh? What… what is it, Octavo?”
“I think I know of a way to help you! Will you trust me, and let me try something?”
Octavo waved his hands, and Vaati could feel the presence of magic- but he couldn’t hear anything. Nothing at all… only his thoughts. Even when Octavo was clearly moving his mouth, Vaati just squinted and tilted his head- he couldn’t make out a lick of it.
“…Pardon? I can’t… I can’t hear you…”
He couldn’t even really hear his own voice- he knew that he was speaking, but it felt like nothing was coming out… what had Octavo done? What was going on? But as quick as it happened, the sound was back- his brother looked quite pleased with himself, excited.
“I realized that I could do that! My magic- it can stop you from hearing things! That way, when you’re getting overwhelmed by sound, it won’t be a bother for you!”
Vaati’s eyes went wide as Octavo explained. It actually sounded like a perfect solution… they never had to talk to people at any of those formal things anyways, and Vaati would always hang back, unwilling to be in the spotlight. Nobody would even notice if Octavo did this, and he didn’t have to use any sort of visible earplugs… it was a perfect solution. Truly perfect.
“Brother… thank you!”
“Of course! I’m reliable, Vaati. You can trust me.” Octavo grinned, patting Vaati on the back. Vaati just nodded enthusiastically, smiling one of his rare smiles. “So, if we’re in public and you need some quiet, just let me know, okay? I’ll help you.”
“Okay, I will.”
“Great! I’ll be relying on you to tell me the truth about it, okay? So don’t hide things from me. I can always tell, anyways.”
He supposed that was an older brother thing- or just in general, Octavo was better with people than he ever had been. He didn’t try to leave everything to his brother, he really did want to be helpful to him… but he was just no good with any of the things he should’ve been helping with.
At the very least, he figured, he was good enough at helping Octavo in other ways. He could still support his brother, even if not with anything important to the running of a kingdom… he wouldn’t give up on helping his brother. He couldn’t give up on that- he had too important of a job to do! He was still a prince of Windhm, and he really did owe Octavo too much already.
Chapter 4: Deepening rift
“B-Brother? Are you… busy?”
Time had continued to pass by, but life had stayed relatively the same, at least on a surface level. Octavo was often busy, his time filled with lessons about his future position as king… Vaati knew he was potentially intruding, so he at least kept his voice low.
“No, not right now. Come in.”
“Oh, I just… did you want any… tea, or anything?”
“I mean, I know you have a lot of work to do… I can’t help you with that, so I figured…”
“That’d be nice, yes. I’ll call for someone to make some-“
“No, it’s okay. Let me help, I’ll make you some.”
“Oh.” Octavo paused, and Vaati wondered for a second if he’d done the wrong things. But before he could say anything, Octavo just shrugged, nodding. “Alright then. Just don’t let it get cold.”
“O-Of course not! Don’t worry, brother. I can do it.”
He’d never actually made tea before, but he was determined to do it properly- he made his way into the kitchen, grabbing a teapot and the tea. Despite his insistence on doing it himself, he still found that he had to ask for help- it was a little bit hard to reach some of the taller shelves, which was where they kept the teacups… and though he’d been embarrassed, he’d still ended up how to make it properly. It wouldn’t do to offer something nice to his brother, only to mess it up…
It took longer than it likely should’ve to make a good pot of tea, but he’d ended up succeeding in the end. The walk back up to Octavo’s room was slow, he didn’t want to risk tripping and spilling it, or even breaking the teacup or platter- but he made it, setting the tray down at his brother’s desk.
“Oh, you actually did it.”
The tone of the comment made Vaati bite at his lip- had Octavo expected he wouldn’t? Was he unreliable? For someone who depended on his brother so much, the least he could do was be reliable for such a basic and simple task.
“Y-Yes, I… I needed a little bit of help, but I did it.”
Nervously, Vaati watched as his brother took a sip. He didn’t spit it out, and there was no horrible reaction- so he supposed it must’ve been good enough. That was… honestly, quite a relief. He was glad he hadn’t messed up something that should’ve been so simple.
“I prefer mint tea, though. Next time, make it mint tea.”
“O-Oh, of course!”
He could do that- he could definitely do that! It wouldn’t be hard to get the right kind, not at all.
“You can go now, Vaati.”
“Oh…. yes, of course. Sorry to bother you.”
Very quickly, the brothers had fallen into a routine. Octavo had a lot of work to get done, so Vaati didn’t mind it at all- he was more than happy to help in such a simple way, and he quickly found that making tea was almost… relaxing. It certainly helped distract him from the whispers, people didn’t seem to focus on him quite as much. Perhaps it was because he could focus on something 'normal'.
It almost made up for the gap that Vaati could feel deepening- almost.
He wasn’t sure what had made him notice it at first, but he knew that it was there. He could tell from how Octavo acted- he never really wanted to speak, and he’d ignore Vaati whenever given the option to do so. He’d quickly stopped even acknowledging the tea, though Vaati hadn’t stopped bringing it.
“Milord, are you sure? After all, this is hardly a job for you…”
“Oh, no, it’s fine…” He shook his head- the head butler seemed to not be the happiest with Vaati’s insistence, but it was also hardly like he could do much. “I’m not much help otherwise… my brother does everything else. I rely on him too much.”
“Well… if you insist, milord…”
Carefully, quietly, Vaati took the tea up as always. He was certain to be as quiet as possible, but even with that, he found that he’d accidentally drawn his brother’s attention.
“O-Oh? I’m sorry, brother…”
“Just hurry it up already.”
He ignored the coldness in the air, instead trying to focus on just setting the tea down. It was a simple task, something that thankfully didn’t seem to frustrate his brother any… instead, it just left Vaati feeling anxious.
“Honestly… at least it’s not cold.” Octavo’s tone brought a frown back to Vaati’s face, though he did his best to hide it. “Well, stop waiting around here. Go away.”
There was a lot on Vaati’s mind- there was always a lot on his mind. He had a lot he wanted to say to his brother, but… now wasn’t the time. He didn’t want to just say things that would make him angry, after all.
But maybe someday.
Chapter 5: As it crumbles
Time seemed to pass at a rate that was both too quick and too slow, but Vaati didn’t mind it much. The routine was one he’d accepted, it was something that kept life… stable. The same. He didn’t mind if things weren’t perfect, so long as they didn’t change.
He’d been surprised to hear that Octavo was calling for him, one day. The two of them never spoke anymore- that space between them had only grown larger as time had passed by, and Vaati had given up on hoping that could change. He’d just decided to hope that it maybe wouldn’t be so painful… but really, it was his fault. If he'd wanted to do something about the rift between him, he should've spoken up a long time ago.
“You wanted to speak to me, brother?”
“Yes.” Octavo didn’t turn to acknowledge him, still looking down at the book he was reading. “We need to have a talk, Vaati.”
“It’s been… a while. I’m gl-“
“You depend on me too much.”
The words came like an arrow, making Vaati stumble. He’d already known that true, but to hear it so… so bluntly was a bit… painful. There was a difference between hearing his brother say it, and just questioning it for himself…
“Have you grown up at all? Everything you do, you need me for. It’s pathetic.”
“Stop stuttering! Goddesses, it’s annoying!”
“…I’m sorry, brother…”
And yet, it seemed like an apology had been the wrong thing to do- Octavo finally closed his book, eyes narrowed in frustration.
“And stop that!”
“Stop- stop what?”
“Calling me brother.”
“Perhaps by blood we are, but we are nothing alike.”
“I… I understand…”
The frustration melted from Octavo’s face for a moment, instead replaced by a neutral frown. He just sighed, in what appeared to be some sort of attempt to calm himself down.
“If you want to make yourself useful, then you should be doing more than just making tea every day.” Vaati blinked, but Octavo either didn’t notice, or didn’t care. “Surely, you’re competent enough for that.”
“Right…. What do you want me to do?”
“What I tell you to do.”
“Of- of course.”
There was a very long pause, Vaati frowning and trying to refrain from biting at his lip. After a few moments he started slowly moving towards the door, hoping to just…. exit.
“Well then, Octavo…”
“Yes, of course.”
“Oh, actually- one last thing, Vaati.”
“I am to be your king. Don’t call me by my name, you haven’t earned that right.”
Vaati nodded, taking his leave quickly as he could. He kept his composure, too- something that he felt… almost proud of himself for. After all, crying… it would be unbecoming of a prince.
And even if it hurt right now, that was just because it was something he needed to hear. It was a fair criticism- it was true that he relied on Octavo too much. Ever since their parents died, he’d been far too reliant on him.
This was just… part of growing up.
Chapter 6: Only one thread left
Quickly, it was growing nearer to the time when Octavo would be crowned. Their kingdom had been without a king for almost ten years now, and they’d had to make an exception to even let Octavo take the throne at sixteen.
Before any of that, though, Vaati had grown used to aiding his brother far more significantly. He’d more or less taken the role of Octavo’s butler, but that didn’t bother him- he was being useful. He wasn’t being so horribly reliant or dependent on him, if he was helping him… and that was good. That was all that mattered. It made up for all the times he’d needed Octavo’s help when things had been too loud, back when they’d been kids- things were still loud now, but he knew better than to ask. He didn’t want to just put further burden on his brother.
He’d been expected to be present at the fitting for his brother, there to help with anything the king-to-be may want. Octavo mostly just ignored him though, allowing the tailor to finish up quickly, and leaving the two boys alone in the room.
Vaati didn’t respond- he knew his brother wasn’t looking for an answer, so he only looked downwards.
“And by the goddesses… you… you…. you!”
“I… I’m sorry, Milord…”
“Stop apologizing so much! Goddesses, I hate it- I hate that we share the same face! Someone as weak as you, always cowering behind me!”
This was new- Vaati had to wonder why his brother hated his mere existence so much. It made him feel rather pathetic, in a way… how he’d been able to do so much wrong, just by existing.
“You are not to stand as my equal during my coronation. Ideally, I wouldn’t have you there at all- but you’ll be with the other staff. Understand?”
“Good.” Octavo let out a heavy sigh, waving his hand flippantly. “Maybe if you had any sort of spine or worth, I would let you call yourself my brother. But I hate thinking about how someone as weak as you could be related to me. You’re so needy, it’s disgusting.”
“Putting everything on me- do you know how much trouble you’ve caused? I had to grow up, while you were throwing tantrums about rooms being a little too loud. Pathetic, absolutely pathetic. I hate how weak you are.”
“Now, just… just go away. I don’t want to see you again at all today. I’ll send for someone else to prepare my tea. Understood?”
Offering only a short bow, Vaati quickly spun about on his heel and left the room. He didn’t stop until he made it back to his own room- and quickly he shut and locked the door, unable to hold back the tears that were forming.
What had he done wrong?
He couldn’t make sense of it. He didn’t understand it. He didn’t know why things had changed so suddenly- why his brother had decided to start hating him. He knew that it was his fault, and he hated that most of all- why had this happened? Why him?
Sometimes, he found himself wondering what was wrong. He wondered if perhaps it could be the fault of the curse, the same one that’d once struck his own past selves- if the same demon named Wrath had managed to poison his brother’s soul, instead of his own. If that was true, then perhaps Vaati really did deserve it- after all, it had been one named Vaati who had started that whole mess by killing his brother… perhaps this was that slain prince’s attempt at revenge.
In that case, there was nothing he could do but accept it.
People in the palace would talk, he knew that. Some of them had the gall to act concerned, even- Vaati couldn’t understand why. Everything, all of this… it was his fault. He knew it was his fault. If only their parents hadn’t died, things would’ve been fine… maybe then, he wouldn’t have been such a burden on his brother. He wouldn't have been so reliant on Octavo.
But tears and regrets… they solved nothing. It wasn’t as if his brother had banned him from the coronation, either- he would still have a chance to watch. He didn’t care where from, if he still got to support his family… even if Octavo hated him, they only had each other. And that meant something, right?
…at the very least, he could hope.
Chapter 7: Achromatic
The coronation had gone smoothly, and Vaati couldn’t have been happier about that. Even if things hadn’t been the way he would’ve liked, he would’ve much rather been able to help as Octavo’s brother, his own personal desires hardly mattered. It was just good enough that his brother was king, and perhaps that meant he could be happy.
That was all Vaati wanted. For things to be peaceful, for things to be happy, for things to have even the slightest semblance of how they’d been when they were younger. Before everything had started going wrong.
It was nearing midnight when Octavo had sent for him. He hadn’t done it in the usual way, though- rather, Vaati had only noticed by hearing his brother on the wind. It was something of a surprise, but he didn’t think to question it.
“Milord? Are you in?”
His brother’s study looked empty at first glance, nothing aside from his brother’s lute and piles of books occupying the space. It took him a good few moments to even notice his brother standing more towards the back, occupied with something in his hands.
“……Milord? Did you call for me?”
“We haven’t really spoken since the coronation, have we?”
“Vaati, you can speak freely. It’s been a while, hasn’t it?”
“I want to have a conversation. We haven’t spoken as brothers in some time.”
“B-Brothers… yes, that’s true.”
Octavo waved him further into the room, a hint of a smile on his face. Vaati wasn’t sure what to do or say- this was… different. Unexpected. But… this was what he wanted, wasn’t it? For things to be better?
“I… must apologize, Vaati. I’ve been cruel to you… I was dealing with an immense amount of stress.”
“Octavo… no, I understand. It’s true that I… I relied upon you too much. I have for quite a while.”
“Well, yes. But, things can be different now, don’t you think?”
“I… I would like that, yes.”
“I’m glad that you agree.” Octavo smiled, and for a second, Vaati thought he saw something wrapped around one of his hands. But as quickly as he’d thought he’d seen it, he was distracted yet again by Octavo's words. “I think… I think that, in the future, you deserve to relax. You’ve done very much for me, Vaati.”
“To… relax? Oh, but I… I don’t mind helping you. It’s the least I can do…”
“No, Vaati, I insist.”
“It is time for you to sleep." Octavo took a step forwards, and Vaati found himself stepping back. He wasn't sure what was going on, but something was wrong- Octavo had never been like this before. This was different. "Goodnight, brother.”
Before he could respond, he felt his world go silent. He couldn’t hear it, but he could see Octavo’s smile start to warp- the thing he’d noticed wrapped around one of Octavo’s hands was quickly identified as a string from his lute, though Vaati had little time to ponder that. He made an attempt to turn around, to flee- but that was just what Octavo needed to wrap the string around his neck, pulling tight.
His hands raised to his neck, trying desperately to pull at the string- but there was no slack in the line, no small gap for him to pull at. All he could do was scratch desperately at his neck, struggling in vain for any bit of air to reach his lungs.
Octavo pulled the line harder as he choked the word out, and Vaati once again found himself wondering how things had ended up like this. This was… this wasn’t what he’d wanted. Not at all. Perhaps in another lifetime, things could’ve gone better… how pathetic, that even as he was dying, all he could think about were such sad things.
“I-I’m…. s-sorry…… brother………”
Then Octavo pulled the line harder still, and Vaati finally blacked out.
Octavo didn’t let up, even when he finally felt Vaati go slack in his arms. He waited for a good while longer, long enough to ensure that his brother wouldn’t start breathing again- and once he was finally certain that he was most certainly dead, he went about setting up his ‘scene’.
He felt nothing as he broke his lute in half, leaving the one string he’d used to kill his brother near the others. He figured that would make it more believable that it was a planned crime, at least- he’d figure out who to blame for this later, but that could wait until morning.
There was nobody around when he went back to his room, which was to be expected. He knew all the schedules of everyone in the palace, he knew when people were to be where, and he did not tolerate people being behind schedule. Besides, there wasn’t a single person in this kingdom who could touch him. He could’ve killed his brother right in front of the world, and nobody could’ve laid a finger on him- it was just far more straightforward if he hid his actions.
Morning came quickly, and with it, his typical routine. He made no haste about it, enjoying his breakfast and morning leisure before heading off to his study. It was only once inside that he froze, acting perfectly in case anyone was close enough to see.
“G-Guards! Come at once!!”
His screams brought the attention of a couple royal knights, who each gasped in shock at the scene in the room. His brother lay dead on the floor, his lute smashed apart against a wall- it was clear his brother had been murdered.
“Who… who did this? Who could’ve possibly done this?! Oh, Vaati… my brother…”
It was obvious to him that nobody in the room could tell that he was faking, and even if they could, it didn’t matter. It was just more fun to pretend- it was better, was it not? Then, the people of this kingdom would see him mourn, but overcome his tragic loss… they would love him all the more for it.
He didn’t need his waste of a brother to be king. He was all this kingdom needed, and ever would. He was doing this for their own good.
Staying by the scene was honestly something of a bore, but Octavo refused to let it show. He just did his best to be ‘helpful’, to aid in things moving quickly as possible- and that would help him figure out who would be best to frame for the action. Certainly, he could always suggest it to have been an assassin- but he didn’t want for people to needlessly raise the security around him.
In the end, the one who was to take the blame was one of the royal guards. He was younger, Octavo had never bothered to learn his name- but the guard had noticed a bit of the redness on his hands that was still there from when he’d strangled his brother, and seemed a little bit suspicious of the young king.
“Is something the matter?”
“Oh, nothing. Nothing at all, your majesty.”
“No, it’s quite alright. Speak freely, it seems as if something is bothering you.”
“W-Well, I just…. did you do… something to your hands, your majesty?”
“I was tuning my lute in the afternoon…” Which was indeed something he’d done, and been sure that people had noticed. “a shame, it seems that was a waste of time. Oh, my poor brother…”
“R-Right, yes, of course. My apologies, my liege.”
“Yes, yes. Now, back to your post, sir…”
“Delta is my name, your majesty.”
“Right then. To your post, sir Delta.”
“Of course, at once my liege.”
Planting a false note from the knight into his brother’s room was child’s play- he wrote it with his wrong hand in an attempt to purposefully make it “hard to replicate”, before leaving it in one of his brother’s desk drawers. He only found the note later on, when visiting with one of the guards- there would’ve been no way for him to plant it if he was being watched, after all.
Honestly, he wished he could commend himself for his acting. None of the guards realized he was faking when he read the note, eyes going wide in shock at the supposedly incriminating evidence.
“Delta of the royal guards. Arrest him immediately for the murder of my brother.”
There was no visible satisfaction on his face as the man was brought before him, no show of emotion at all. He just stared with cold eyes, looking down on the one who was unfortunate enough to be the sacrifice to take the blame.
“Do you have any words to say for yourself?”
“Yeah- I’m innocent! I didn’t kill him!”
“Then what do you have to say to this?”
“Wh-what— I’ve got no idea what that is! I’ve never seen that before in my life!”
The knight only looked confused at the note that was held out in front of him, shaking his head aggressively.
“Lies. I know you were the one who killed my brother. And now, you can’t even take the blame you so rightfully deserve.”
“That I… liar! It was you, wasn’t it?! I could see rope burn marks on your hands- you did it! You killed him! You hated him, didn’t you?! Why else would you change your tune so suddenly?!”
Octavo’s eyes went wide for a moment, before a look of utter hate managed to slip past his façade. It was enough to make the poor fool cower back, clearly realizing he had said the wrong thing.
“I was willing to consider being kind if you admitted to it. I would’ve considered a life sentence. But… you dare suggest that I killed my brother? You dare attempt to frame me?!” One step forwards was all that was needed to have the knight trembling, Octavo’s face painted with cold hatred. “Guards, this traitor to the kingdom is to be executed. Tomorrow at dawn, it shall be public- the kingdom will see to it that my brother’s soul may know peace. And the only way he can rest will be with his murderer silenced forever, so he can no longer spew such foul words.”
“Yes, your majesty.”
The guards bowed and dragged the prisoner away from him, leaving Octavo with just a moment of silence before another guard intruded on the room.
From here on out, though… none of it mattered. He’d gotten away with it, and the one person who’d dared to question him would be executed… it was perfect.
Everything was perfect.
And regardless of what anyone might try, there was no way for this history to change.
Another fic done... and this time, we get Octavo having a chance to be the bad guy. I want to give my usual thank you to Amber for helping me with this, and giving full credit to her for being the one who decided how Vaati was killed- we both made ourselves very sad but now we get to share this with everyone else.
We're moving into the final arc of this saga, which is going to be a set of 3 fics. The next one is likely going to be a one-shot that's going to explain something... important, and then we head towards the finale... it's hard to believe it's getting close to the end.
Thank you so much to everyone who's read this, I really never can thank you enough. And hopefully school won't slow me down too much in the future, although we'll have to wait and see- but either way, thank you, and until next time!