It was the day that their parents had died. Vaati and Octavo were only six years old, mere children, when someone arrived to bring them the news. For a moment, both children could only stare in shock… but then, suddenly, Vaati passed out.
It was a sudden change to the past that had once been written, a change that arrived from the soul and memories of the fallen prince returning to his distant past self. Ten years of memories, of emotions, of everything had been too much to take in all at once, and the child had simply collapsed.
His sleep was restless, his mind attempting to process all of these new experiences the best it could. It certainly was not any sort of easy task, but he had to wake eventually… and when he did, he found his brother and a group of clerics watching him.
Though their mouths were moving, he couldn’t hear anything… his world was still completely silent. He squinted a little bit, trying to force himself to hear, to understand, but that obviously didn’t work. So after a few moments he just shook his head, frowning.
“I… I can’t… hear you?”
His words made Octavo and the clerics all pause, his brother looking immediately concerned.
Funny, he found himself thinking, it’s been so long since I’ve seen a face like that…
Which, of itself, was an odd thing to think. Though he’d returned to the past, his mind still needed time to sort through his memories- there was much he didn’t recall. Perhaps for the better, he didn’t even yet remember that he’d died… he only had a vague feeling that he’d wished to turn things back, to try again.
“’Tavo… will you… hold my hand?”
Vaati was scared. He was scared of a future he didn’t remember- of the vague threat of a tragedy he didn’t understand, looming far off in the distance. He was scared of whatever had happened, whatever had let him remember these things that didn’t make sense… he didn’t understand it.
He was scared, terrified even, but he at least wasn’t alone. Octavo was still here… even if their parents were gone, he had his brother. They would always be able to rely on each other.
He had to change things, before it was too late again.
The thought pushed its way into his mind, and he couldn’t stop how his heart started to race in his chest. Anxiety felt like it was going to overwhelm him- that’s right… something had been… had been bad. Really bad. But… but whatever it had been, he was here now. And they were only children… everything would be fine. Just fine.
“Thank you, ‘Tavo…”
Vaati just forced himself to smile as he felt his brother squeeze his hand, trying his best to not let the worry show. Whatever was going on… he would figure it out, and he would fix things. Everything… everything would be alright. He’d be sure of it. He had time, at the very least.
Finally, it's time to begin! It's sad to see that this'll be the last fic in the twin princes AU... but I've been really happy to work on this whole thing, and I can express enough gratitude to everyone who's taken the time to read it. As usual, a massive shout out to luckystarman for helping me with this au! I couldn't have made this without you, so thank you!
As well, thank you everyone for dealing with the wait- school's been pretty heavy for me, but I had to still get this fic done. It's something I've been passionate about making, so seeing it finally ready to post has me really happy.
Thank you, and I hope you enjoy the fic!
Chapter 2: Reliable
“…Cleric Mu?” Octavo’s eyes didn’t leave his brother even after he’d fallen asleep, still holding onto Vaati’s hand. “What… what’s going on? Why can’t Vaati hear anything?”
“It is… difficult to say for certain. However, it’s possible that when he passed out, he may have hit his head… as well, the body can respond in surprising ways to stress. “
“Then… then will he be able to hear again?”
“I could not say. It’s possible this may go away quickly, or it may be permanent… only time will tell.”
Octavo wasn’t sure why, but he felt… guilty. After all, he was the older between the two of them- didn’t that mean he was supposed to look after Vaati? They were all alone now… he had to be reliable. To be a good brother, to be someone who would help Vaati. To look after him.
Why did their parents have to die? Why did they have to leave them all alone?
Tuning the cleric out, Octavo found himself mostly dwelling inwards on his own thoughts. He wondered if Vaati would be able to read his lips, if that would help any- and he could always just write notes. His brother was really good at reading, better than Octavo was at writing… but this would just be further encouragement to improve, right?
As well, Mu did eventually bring up the topic of sign language- Octavo had never heard of it before, but it made sense. Really, it seemed like a good option. And they could learn it together, so they could help each other understand it… and that way, neither of them would fall behind.
About an hour passed before Vaati woke up again, but when he did, Octavo was ready. He’d gotten someone to grab some paper, standing next to him- whatever he said, they’d write down, and then Vaati could read it. That seemed like a solid plan.
“How are you feeling, Vivi?”
It took him a few seconds to read the page, squinting for a moment. It was only once he realized what was going on that his brother’s face lit up, watching Octavo with a smile.
“I feel okay… I can’t hear, but it doesn’t hurt.”
“I’m glad… are you hungry? It’s close to dinner time.”
“That’d be good… can we… can we eat in here?”
Octavo looked over to the head cleric, who just nodded. Seeing Mu’s casual approval got the prince to smile, nodding to Vaati.
In this manner, the two princes spoke for a good while. It never seemed to be about anything complicated or terribly important, but it didn’t have to be- the conversation was really just meant to be a distraction for the both of them. It was a way to forget about what’d happened, forget about how dramatically their lives had just changed… it was a way to feel like children, and to deal with things later. When they were more ready for it, when the world felt more ready for it.
“Oh, that’s right! Vaati, have you heard of sign language before?”
His brother paused a moment, tilting his head in thought, before nodding.
“A bit, yes.”
“Well, we should learn it! Then we won’t have to rely on writing things out.”
“I would too, dummy. It’s not much use if you learn a language that nobody else around you knows!”
“…’Tavo…” Vaati paused a moment, before smiling. “Thank you, brother… thank you.”
“Hey, don’t thank me! It was cleric Mu who told me about it.”
“Then… thank you Mu.”
They just smiled, and Octavo couldn’t help but feel content. Things had changed too fast, too much- but… he’d figure a way through things. He’d make it work. Surely, he’d be reliable.
Chapter 3: A similarity
Time passed quickly by, and Vaati found himself… happy. It was almost a surprise to the young prince, the sort of lightness in his chest- he couldn’t understand it, not entirely. Perhaps it was because he still vaguely remembered those things from before… but he and Octavo were getting along well.
And that was what he’d wanted- so surely, everything would be fine this time.
The two of them had spent a lot of time focused on learning sign language, Vaati ever-grateful that his brother had cared to learn with him. He’d also tried to learn how to read lips… it wasn’t easy, and he felt he was best at it with Octavo, but it helped.
In fact, there were a lot of things he’d figured out. First had been his magic- though it’d never been terribly strong the last time, it seemed a little stronger now. Perhaps it was to compensate for the loss of a sense, or perhaps for some other reason, he didn’t really know. But he wouldn’t complain- it was helpful.
The ways the air moved were things that he learned how to sense, how to feel. Though he couldn’t hear his own voice, he could tell how loud he was by the way the air moved by his mouth- and in much the same way, he could sense the same for others.
Air moved in different ways when people were approaching him from behind, and there were plenty of interesting things he’d been able to figure out from that. He didn’t really have much luck reading body language of people, it’d never been a skill of his- but at least he was able to tell something, and that was enough to make him happy. Of course… it wasn’t perfect. He could see the pity on people’s faces, something that he hated. He didn’t want to be pitied- but there was a limit to how much he could truly do.
“Hey, Vivi!” His brother had bounded up to him with a smile on his face, signing quickly. “It’s gonna be our birthday soon! Are you excited?”
“The day we were born? Hello?”
“I know that. I just… didn’t realize it was so soon.” Vaati shook his head, trying to dispel the frown that was settling onto his face. “That means… we’ll have to be around a bunch of people again, doesn’t it…”
“I know you don’t like crowds, but it’ll be ok, I promise! I’ll stay with you, Vaati. You can rely on me, remember?”
“Y-Yeah… of course.”
He did remember- he knew that was the issue. That was the problem, wasn’t it? Even with how things had changed, he was still relying on Octavo far too much… that was what the problem had been.
He didn’t remember how things had ended yet… his brain still had yet to sort through those thoughts. But the words you can rely on me set off a chill down to the depths of his soul, pushing a frown onto his face that seemed to make Octavo upset.
“What’s wrong? Why do you look upset?”
“Don’t lie to me, Vaati. I can tell when you’re lying.”
“No… no, it’s nothing.” He couldn’t explain it- hell, he didn’t really understand it himself. He knew there’d been a ‘last time’, but he didn’t even know what that meant- just that he’d been through this before, and things were going to end poorly… and that he didn’t want that. Not at all. “I’m just… sad… I… I got thinking about mama and papa……”
It was a lie and he felt terrible, but he said nothing as his brother pulled him in for a hug. For the moment, at least, it didn’t matter- it was true, anyways. It felt like so long since he’d gotten to see his parents… so much longer than had actually passed. He couldn’t even remember their voices any more… too much time had gone by for him.
Hopefully, they would forgive him for that.
Chapter 4: A broken memory
Vaati was ten when he first had the nightmare.
It was always ‘the nightmare’ whenever he mentioned it, or anyone asked. It wasn’t like he’d never had bad dreams before, but this one was different- because he knew down to the very depths of his soul that it was a memory, not a dream.
Every time, it started the same way. He was in a room of the palace, surrounded by darkness. It was cold and empty, too empty- but then, there was a light. A tiny, flickering candle, off ahead of him…
Naturally, he walked towards it. He could see Octavo smiling at him, his brother older by a good many years- he was saying something, although he couldn’t make out the words. It wasn’t for lack of hearing, he could hear his brother speaking- the words were simply too distorted and nonsensical to be made out, and it made Vaati’s head hurt if he tried to understand what was being said.
He walked closer and closer, but his eyes would catch on something wrapped around his brother’s hand. Confused, he looked up- but his brother only smiled, waving him closer.
Ignore that, he thought, it’s nothing. Surely, it’s nothing. He’s my brother, I trust him.
“I’m your brother,” Octavo would echo, “you can trust me.”
And Vaati did, getting closer and closer until the smile on Octavo’s face would break, distorting into a sick approximation of a human grin. It wasn’t natural, it wasn’t normal, it wasn’t right- he tried to run but couldn’t move, his feet caught in the web and his heart pounding out of his chest.
“I’m your brother,” Octavo would grin, “so I know what’s best. Just rely on me, Vaati.”
That was when he could feel his brother wrap the lute string around his neck, pulling it as tight as he could. Vaati scratched and clawed at his skin, trying desperately to snap the rope- but nothing worked. Nothing fixed it.
He was dying.
I’m sorry, he could feel himself thinking, though it wasn’t quite him. I’m sorry, brother… I’m sorry I made you hate me this much…
With each word, the string would pull tighter. With each word, his vision grew blurrier and his body weaker, eyes stinging from the tears he cried. He was dying. He was being killed. His brother was killing him.
And just before his body would hit the floor, he woke up.
His throat was raw, and he kept clawing at his neck, trying desperately to get the rope off, to breathe, he couldn’t breathe, he needed to breathe—
Someone was shaking him but he couldn’t think enough to look to see who it was, still choking so desperately for air. It took a good few minutes before he finally managed to calm his racing heart down enough to recognize the head cleric. Behind them, though, was Octavo… his mind instantly flashed to the man in the dream who had murdered him, and Vaati found himself cowering.
“Vaati? What’s wrong?”
He couldn’t bring himself to respond when his brother started signing, his hands shaking too much to even bother with an attempt.
“Vaati? We heard screaming- please, answer! What’s wrong?”
“N… N-Nightmare…” he forced the word out, hands still held close as he tried to get himself calm. “B-Bad… nightmare…”
Vaati just nodded, curling in on himself the best he could. His entire body was trembling, his lungs still burned with a lack of oxygen- it felt as though he really had been dying, and it was taking his brain too long to realize that he was still alive.
“Hey… what happened to your neck? Vaati?”
He couldn’t see it, but he could feel it- his neck felt raw, and after a few moments, he realized he must’ve actually been scratching at it.
“I couldn’t… breathe…” his signs were slow and deliberate, but he wished he didn’t have to see how upset his brother looked. “In the dream… I was… trying to breathe…”
Vaati didn’t mean to flinch back when his brother reached out for him to see, but he couldn’t help it- the worry on Octavo’s face only seemed to grow stronger, and the guilt in his heart was overwhelming. It wasn’t Octavo’s fault that he’d had that nightmare…
But Octavo was the one who’d killed him. He knew that with certainty.
Eventually Mu just took the time to carefully heal the scratches on his neck, leaving him more time to rest. That was what they'd said he needed- he just needed a little time to think, and to rest.
Things would be fine after that.
Chapter 5: Unraveling
Octavo was worried.
Ever since that nightmare that Vaati’d had, he’d been worried. There was a strange twisting feeling in his gut, something that always led to a frown on his face and an uncomfortable mounting suspicion.
Vaati had been scared- of the dream, yes, but also of him. He’d seen it on his brother’s face, he’d seen the way he’d cowered and trembled… but why? Why had he been scared of him? What had he ever done wrong?
Of course, the answer was nothing. He’d done nothing but be helpful to his brother. He took the brunt of the attention whenever they made public appearances to help his brother from getting too stressed out, he would sign to him what people were saying, and he was always trying to help Vaati where he could.
And yet, Vaati had been scared of him.
In his mind, he knew that it was just a nightmare. That things like them didn’t have to make sense, and that it wasn’t Vaati’s fault he’d had a bad dream. It was just bad luck, it was just unfortunate- but then Vaati’d had the dream a second time. And a third. And each time, he could see it… a moment of panic as he’d look at Octavo, his neck red and his breathing weak.
In all honesty, it made him mad. For all Octavo did for him, he was really going to be scared of him? It was ungrateful! What had Vaati ever done for him, anyways?! His brother was too soft and timid, it was annoying. Just… just annoying.
But whenever he let the irritation and annoyance build, he found himself overwhelmed with guilt. Why was he getting so angry at his brother? It wasn’t like it was his fault that he was having those nightmares, whatever they were. Vaati was frustratingly unresponsive about any questions regarding them… all Octavo knew was that in them, his brother couldn’t breathe.
So it was worry and annoyance and guilt that were eating at Octavo’s heart, all masked behind the time he spent studying in preparation for the crown.
The only thing that drew him from his thoughts was the sound of someone eventually entering his study, the sound of delicate china signifying that it must’ve been his tea. Turning his head, he was surprised to find Vaati carrying it- that was surprising. Octavo would’ve imagined he’d be too clumsy to do something like that, but it looked like he’d been wrong.
“I figured you were busy… so I brought you some tea.” Vaati wasn’t looking entirely at Octavo- he looked anxious, and Octavo found that he had no desire to alleviate that anxiety. “It’s mint tea… you like that kind, right?”
“I’m surprised you remember.” Octavo’s signs were flippant, dismissive, but he still nodded his head. It felt so easy to be rude- and honestly, what had Vaati ever done for him? His brother could deal with a little attitude. “Thank you, Vaati. Now… I’m busy, so…”
“Right. I’ll… see you later, right?”
“Maybe. I have a lot to do.”
He didn’t understand why the look on Vaati’s face made him feel guilty. He’d only told the truth- he did have a lot to do. Vaati couldn’t possibly understand, he wasn’t crown prince. Sure, he still had lessons of his own… but they weren’t like what Octavo had to do. His brother had it easy, nightmares or not.
With all of the emotions that he didn’t want twisting in his gut, Octavo found it easiest to just… ignore them. If Vaati was going to make a habit of things, then he wouldn’t mind- that would be a way for his brother to make up for relying on him so much. Even if he was supposed to be the reliable one, it was a little pathetic just how much his brother needed…
With thoughts that only made him feel guilty twisting in his gut, Octavo simply attempted to push them away and continue with his work. He didn’t need any of that right now- he could deal with those sorts of things later.
Besides, they were brothers. No matter what happened, they at least had each other.
Chapter 6: Drift
The nightmare was something that he could never truly get used to, but he did still find himself acclimating to the thoughts it would bring. He hadn’t wanted to accept it at first, his brain hadn’t wanted to process it- but he knew it now for certain.
In another lifetime, he’d died.
He had been killed by his brother.
That was what Vaati wanted to stop, the fate that he wanted to alter. Things were different this time, but not enough- he could still feel the rift forming between them, feel the way that Octavo was slowly getting colder. He found himself wondering if his brother just hated him- if he already hated him, just like he had before.
Two years passed by before his mind wanted to recall the important thing, though. The words he’d been told, as he’d reached back to the past-
Seek the ones who wait… they rest in their castle, they shall aid you…
He knew that obviously, ‘their castle’ couldn’t be this castle. If there was someone mysterious who was waiting for him here, he would’ve run into them by now. However… the only other place he could think of was Old Windhm castle, and that place was long since abandoned. He’d read about recent talk, considering a historical restoration of the area… but nothing like that had actually started. It was as abandoned as ever, which meant Vaati could think of no possible way to reach it.
And so, he’d wanted to turn to magic. The records of those who’d shared his name before had very mixed levels of detail- but the most recently born man to share the name of Vaati, the one who’d aided in stopping the demon’s curse and reuniting the kingdoms of Wind and Rhythm, had some fairly detailed accounts. Within them was mention of the magic that would be most useful to Vaati, if he could only figure it out: teleportation,
There was only one record he’d found that had any sort of description of what the magic had been like to him, a transcription of a few entries from his journal. Vaati thought it rather rude to transcribe a person’s private thoughts like that, but he also couldn’t really complain- this book was the closest he’d get to just being able to ask the man.
He rather liked the way that teleportation was described, too. A feeling like you’re flying, being pulled along by the wind to where you wished to go. Though he couldn’t use his magic to hear, to listen as his past lives had, he would still try to feel- to follow the wind as far as his mind would let him, feeling as it wove through trees and bushes.
Perhaps then, it would be something like that. He’d need only picture where he wished to go, and imagine himself there- that would be good, would it not? But he also knew it would not be wise to just start with trying to reach the old castle, too much could go wrong.
So instead, he’d started just inside his room. There was a balcony inside- just one teleport, going outside would be a good start… He closed his eyes and he thought, he waited and hoped and when he opened his eyes… he was outside.
He was outside!
His excitement hardly lasted long, though- before he could even attempt a step forwards, he was hit by a wave of dizziness. He only ever felt like this when he’d used up far too much magic… he’d only gone a handful of meters, but he felt like he could barely stand up.
Stumbling back to his bed was a challenge, but one that he did manage to eventually succeed at. He laid down and simply did his best to hope that the nausea and dizziness would pass… this was not going to be an easy thing to learn, clearly… but he wasn’t going to give up.
No matter what, he couldn’t.
Practicing this magic was exhausting. He wished to keep it a secret, which led to the people around him beginning to grow rather worried. He supposed that made sense… from their point of view, it must’ve seemed like he’d suddenly gotten horribly ill. He couldn’t even bring himself to admit to the clerics what was causing these “dizzy spells”, continuing to practice only in secret.
As he got better at the magic, the small teleportation attempts didn’t make him dizzy anymore. Each time he practiced, he could go a little further- and that was all that was important. The more practice he got, the better. The more practice he got, the sooner he’d be able to reach the old castle, and figure out why he needed to go there.
The only downside, the only drawback, was that Vaati could feel how his ‘illness’ seemed to be only furthering the rift between he and his brother. Octavo looked worried, obviously. And Vaati did believe that his brother was concerned, at least to some degree. But he also could feel the frustration from his brother, sense the irritation.
He was only being a burden again.
However, he couldn’t let those thoughts stop him from what he needed to go. No amount of growing despair and anxiety about his brother could stop him from wanting to fix things… as long as he had even the tiniest chance of changing what’d happened, wasn’t that enough? He didn’t want things to stay like this forever… he didn’t want to be so weak.
It took far longer than he wanted, though. He could feel time running out, but he had to move slowly- by the time he was able to teleport any real distance, he’d already turned fourteen. He found himself wishing that he was strong, like those in the past… it was unfortunate that he wasn’t. that his magic was such a joke in comparison, that he’d had to spend years developing the skill.
In the meantime, things had started ending up just like they’d been the last time. He’d since remembered far more, so many little things that’d happened last time, the time that he’d died… it was distressing. It was scary, but there was no way he could talk about something like that… he’d just sound insane.
And perhaps he was, honestly. Perhaps he was insane, thinking that he’d died before. Maybe he was making all of this up, just to pretend what was happening wasn’t real. He couldn’t say, he had no real proof that it was real… only his memories, and those could lie.
But if he was mad, he’d figure that out later. For now, he simply needed to reach that castle, and he needed to pray that once he did, everything would make sense.
Chapter 7: Homecoming
It was finally time.
Vaati was ready- he knew he could do it, and he didn’t want to delay things any longer. It was bad enough that it’d taken so long, that he’d been so pathetically weak compared to the brilliant mages of his past lives… but it didn’t matter. He’d still gotten this far, and that was enough for now.
He stood on his balcony and watched the sky, quelling his last fears and hesitations. Now was no time to be scared. He had something he needed to do.
And so, he closed his eyes… and jumped.
When he next opened them, Vaati stood in front of an old decaying castle. It was crumbling from so many countless years of being ignored- it was positively ancient, which meant Vaati had indeed come to the right place.
As he stepped inside, he could feel the wind change. It was colder, a warning- but Vaati couldn’t allow himself to be stopped. All of his work would’ve been for nothing if he just gave up now- and so he pressed on, attempting to use his magic to ward off a bit of the breeze that chilled him to the bone.
Making his way to the throne room, the wind only got stronger. It was clear to him it had to be magical- an enchantment on the palace of sorts… intended to keep out those who would raid it, perhaps. Or maybe it was the angered souls of the departed, trying to shut him out of the ‘hub’ of their kingdom…
No, he couldn’t think like that. If he did, he’d get too scared- it was best to just think of this as a weirdly strong breeze. That was all.
When he finally managed to push the door open, he found himself frozen in shock. There were two people in conversation- though it quickly became apparent that neither of them were alive. The translucency of their bodies and the way that they drifted a few inches off the floor was enough to give him understanding of that.
Their eyes were immediately on him, and once they' noticed him, it was clear he had the ghosts’ full attention. When they spoke, it was strange- it was as if it was echoing inside his head, rather than something he was actually hearing. But he could at least tell what they were saying without needing to attempt to lip read, so he supposed that wasn’t a bad thing- just felt… odd.
“H-Huh?” Vaati took a step back as the one who looked like an older Octavo drifted over to him, immediately feeling a tug of worry in his chest. “O-Oh, um… I’m… I’m sorry…”
“What’re you looking so freaked out about? I was just teasing you.”
As he spoke the other ghost drifted over to him, grimacing.
“Brother, don’t be a fool. Don’t you recall what his relationship to his brother is like? And who you look like?”
“You mean who looks like me—”
“That is not the issue here!” The one who looked like himself just sighed, putting a hand to his forehead. “My apologies for my brother. He’s got a… unique sense of humor. And, he doesn’t even think to introduce himself, first…”
“It’s obvious who I am!”
“Brother.” Sighing again, the ghost continued. “Well, ignoring him- I am king Vaati the First of Windhm. He is Octavo.”
“Oh, boo. Not going to give my full title?”
“Not if it’s so obvious who you are, brother.”
Vaati found himself a little bit lost as the two devolved into bickering, a rather… childish display, which he almost expected to see turn into full-on hair-pulling and name-calling. And yet, it never did- and neither of them ever raised their voices. It was… different. Different from what he expected, and… unfamiliar.
If ever his brother started talking to him like that, it just hurt. But this didn’t feel like the intent was to hurt each other… neither of them seemed upset.
“I-I’m sorry to interrupt, but…. I was… I was supposed to… come here. To meet… you two, I think…”
“Oh, right!” It was the ghost-Octavo who responded, turning about in place. “I forgot about all that.”
“So then… what do you remember?”
The sudden change in the ghost’s attitude was enough to make Vaati uncomfortable, trying to keep himself from taking a step back. He was too random, too unpredictable- it was… odd.
“W-Well… I remember… last time. When I was… killed…. And then, someone told me to come here, so I could fix things…”
“So you remember a lot, then…”
Vaati nodded, eyes downcast.
“Well then… we’re gonna have to get to work!” It was another sudden mood change, this time to something far more upbeat. “Let’s see… we’ll need a lute, and somewhere quiet- actually, Vivi. You’ll come along too, right?”
“Of course. You’re bound to get into trouble, elsewise.”
“W-Wait, hold on—” Vaati just shook his head, looking at the two ghosts. “What- what are you saying? ‘Get to work’? About what?”
“Helping you change things! You want to live this time, right?”
“…I just… don’t want blood on my brother’s hands…”
“Hey now.” Ghostavo (as Vaati was now calling him) shook his head, the serious look back on his face. “Your life’s important. There’s no shame in wanting to save it.”
“But… I mean… it was my fault, really…”
“No.” The word was said with such force that Vaati found himself flinching, expecting anger to come with. But none did- only Ghostavo, looking concerned. “You being killed was not your fault, I’m gonna get you to stop that train of thought.”
“But I was only ever a burden on him-“
“No excuse. That’s gonna be my first lesson to you: no blaming yourself for dying. Got it?”
“……” Vaati didn’t want to respond, so he instead decided it would be smarter to change the subject. “…why did you mention a lute, anyways?”
“Because, music is powerful. And it should be able to have an effect on his soul, especially considering he’s a rhythm mage.”
“But I… can’t play instruments.”
“Just because you haven’t before, doesn’t mean you can’t-“
“N-No, I… I really can’t.”
“I’m deaf. I wouldn’t be able to hear what I was doing…”
Ghostavo stood surprised for a moment, and it was ghost Vaati who spoke up next.
“You can feel the air, right?”
“When a string vibrates at a certain frequency, you should be able to feel it. As well, to play an instrument is to memorize a series of movements- it is something you should be able to do.” The ghost king just smiled at him, a look that somehow managed to alleviate his anxiety for a moment. “And of course, my brother is a good teacher. He knows what he’s doing, though he may look reckless and foolish.”
Vaati took a few moments to think, before eventually just shrugging. He couldn’t possibly imagine this being a good idea, he doubted something so simple could really stop his brother… but he had no other ideas in his mind.
And so that was how he’d ended up bringing along two new companions when he finally teleported home, searching for a way to fix things.
Chapter 8: Start from nothing
It hadn’t taken long for his new lessons to start- he’d had to ‘borrow’ his brother’s lute, but it wasn’t like that was terribly hard. Octavo never used the thing, he didn’t much seem to care for it. Vaati was unsure if that was because he was busy, or because he was merely more focused on other sorts of magic, but it wasn’t like he was going to ask. He’d rather not upset his brother in that manner, so he’d always just left the question to himself.
“Alright, we can start. Oh, wait- brother, can you soundproof the room?” Ghostavo was looking around, the spectral form of a lute present in his hands as well. Vaati wanted to ask how a lute could have a ghost, but felt as if that wasn’t worth the possible confusion. “We don’t want anyone listening in, right?”
“Of course I can. That’s simple magic.”
There was a slight rush of wind as the other Vaati used his magic, which settled out into a gentle stir that was honestly quite relaxing. Ghostavo looked pretty satisfied with it, turning back to Vaati and holding up his ghost-lute.
“Alright, so… just strum. Don’t worry about anything right now, let’s just make sure the lute’s in tune.”
Vaati did as instructed, doing his best to pay attention to how the air stirred around the strings. However, it seemed to be something that Ghostavo was not happy with- he started wincing, scrunching his face up in what almost looked like pain.
“Goddesses, that’s out of tune! When was the last time that poor thing was played? This is criminal!”
“W-Well… my brother is… he’s really too busy to play music, he has too much to look after…”
“Bah. He can spare a few minutes to keep it in tune. It’s shameful.”
“Anyways, l-let’s just…. move on. How do you tune it?”
“Oh, right!” Ghostavo nodded, and quickly went about helping him. “I’ll tell you when it’s in tune- you do your best to memorize how it feels, okay?”
It went better than expected, honestly. It didn’t take too long before Ghostavo seemed satisfied, and Vaati found himself feeling… happy. It was only after a few moments that he realized it was probably just him wishing it was his brother saying that… and any happiness quickly melted away, replaced by a dull sadness.
There was no time to let himself dwell on that, though- he had to figure out how to play this thing properly. It was more straightforward than he’d thought it would be, but it still wasn’t what he’d call easy… he wasn’t made for music. That was supposed to be his brother’s talent.
However, it seemed as if neither of them were intent on sticking to their roles… it was only a shame that meant that it was his brother’s turn to be a murderer. It would’ve been far nicer if things hadn’t turned out this way.
Most of the day was spent practicing, only stopping when Ghostavo finally said to.
“By the way… what song am I playing?”
“Oh, right. I guess I could tell you. It’s called Windhm’s Fanfare- it’s a song I made up when I was alive. It’s what I liked to play whenever I was returning back home from my travels…”
“And… why will it be… helpful?”
“That song is filled with a lifetime’s worth of memories. It’s got magic in the notes, a magic older than you can imagine- if anything can get through to his heart, it’ll be this.”
He didn’t really, but it did seem like his best chance. So what right did he have to argue with the ghosts? Besides… they were doing a lot to help him fix things. And he really did appreciate it, so he wanted to believe their words.
“When talking about your trips, I think troubles would be a more accurate word than travels.” Ghost-Vaati folded his arms, lips pursed into a frown as he looked to his brother. “Honestly, the ways you managed to get yourself into danger will never cease to amaze me…”
“Oh please, a little danger is expected!”
“Every grey hair I ever had was because of you, I hope you know.”
“Nah, I kept you young. Can’t let you get too comfortable, y’know?”
“Getting attacked by pirates or attempting to take down caravans of bandits alone is not safe!”
“Bro, that was ages ago! You’ve really gotta lighten up.”
“I swore to you I would never lighten up, even when I died. And guess what? I keep my fucking promises.”
“That you sure do, Vivi. It’s what makes you such a cute little brother.”
“For the millionth time, we’re TWINS—”
“Careful there! You’ll scare your reincarnation!” Ghostavo gave a cheeky grin as he went to ‘hide’ behind Vaati, who was honestly just lost. They were arguing, but they really didn’t seem angry at each other- Ghost-Vaati just sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose as Ghostavo stuck his tongue out at him. “See? Much better.”
Vaati didn’t pay that much attention as they continued their bickering, instead just finding himself… jealous. Perhaps someday, that could be him and his brother- perhaps.
At the very least, he could wish for it.
Chapter 9: Winter for my heart
Something was strange about Vaati.
Octavo didn’t often find himself too terribly concerned about what his brother wanted to do, but it was becoming clear to him that something was weird about him. He was always looking at things that didn’t seem to be quite there, eyes following things that didn’t exist… it was unnerving, almost. As if he was a man possessed.
And beyond that, every so often, Octavo would hear Vaati talking to himself. He knew that his brother did his best to keep practicing his speech, but this was different- it sounded like he was honestly holding a conversation. Octavo didn’t like it, not at all… something was wrong with him.
But, nobody else seemed to believe that. He’d asked the clerics to check his brother and they’d found nothing, the royal guard hadn’t seen anyone sneaking into his room or anything… not even any of the maids or other staff had been able to find something. As far as anyone else was concerned, nothing was wrong, which just made it feel even more off.
How was Vaati able to hide something from him?
Octavo didn’t want to care- quite honestly, he felt like Vaati was more dead weight than anything. He was barely even good at making a cup of tea, and the only talent he had was being quiet.
Eventually, he found himself getting irritated by whatever the hell was going on. He was going to be king, right? His brother was supposed to trust him, right? No, beyond trust- he was supposed to follow him. Not hide things.
So it was that line of thinking that’d made him decide to walk into Vaati’s room unannounced, interrupting his brother in the midst of talking to himself. His eyes were darting around, as if following something- but after a moment he jumped, eyes falling to Octavo.
“Talking to someone?” he couldn’t help the irritation slipping onto his face as he signed, the motions sharp and short. “You’re holding a conversation.”
“S-Sorry…” his brother’s hands were shaking, and it was clear that Vaati didn’t want to look Octavo in the eye. “I didn’t realize I was doing that. Was I bothering you?”
“I just wanted to know who you could be talking to.”
“I… like to practice, just in case…”
“It seemed like you were holding a conversation. Or if not, you’re certainly good at pretending.”
Octavo watched as Vaati’s eyes darted off to look at something behind him, and he tried his best to mask further irritation from showing. Seriously, what was his problem? Stupid Vaati, what did he think was there?!
“I suppose… I’ve gotten good at pretending…”
Still, Vaati was looking at something else. After a few moments, he spun his head around- but there was nothing there.
“What is going on with you? What are you looking at?!”
“N-Nothing… I just… I guess I zoned out…”
He was lying, he had to be lying. Octavo knew that he was lying… but honestly? He didn’t care. No, it wasn’t like it mattered. If his brother wanted to talk to imaginary friends, why should he care? His stupid twin was already such a burden, this was hardly something new.
“Fine then, I don’t care. Hide whatever you want from me, it doesn’t matter.” Octavo turned to leave, but hesitated for just a moment. “It just goes to show how trustworthy you consider me.”
If Vaati signed a response, Octavo didn’t see it- he’d already left and shut the door, walking back to his room.
Honestly… such an annoying little brother. How had he gotten stuck with Vaati? Their parents had left him to look after such a pain… he didn’t even want to consider that stupid brat his brother.
And with any luck, sooner or later he’d be rid of him.
Chapter 10: Calm before the storm
He was running out of time.
Octavo’s coronation was sure to be soon, but Vaati still felt far too unprepared for what was going to come. He’d improved in his playing, according the ghost twins… but he still felt so horribly unprepared.
“Do you think… it will really be alright?”
He found himself stopping in the midst of practicing, sighing heavily. Neither of the twins seemed to know exactly what to say in response- it was Ghostavo who spoke first though, as he often seemed to do.
“What do you mean?”
“This… even if I live, I won’t be able to change his heart. My brother… he hates me. And I’ve only been making it worse by hiding things from him.”
“Hey, he doesn’t- okay, well, maybe he does hate you. But that doesn’t mean his heart can’t be swayed.”
“…that’s idealistic, but… just idealism, in the end.”
“No, it’s not. I mean, your soul should know it well- you know about the demon king, right?”
“Of course… the one who split Windhm apart into separate kingdoms…”
“He wasn’t defeated by power, or by being sealed away. He stopped what he was doing because there were people who managed to make a connection- who were able to find his heart and reach out to it, despite how hard he tried to hide it.”
“….How do you know that?”
“We ghosts don’t really have to follow time linearly. You know that already, don’t you? I’ve seen it happen, that’s how I know for certain! I like to see what my reincarnations get up to. It’s funny.”
After a long while, Vaati just sighed. He’d more than gotten used to Ghostavo’s general antics, and how he tended to act. He wasn’t even sure if he was being serious right now… but he found he didn’t mind. It was probably just another one of his weird attempts to cheer him up.
“In truth, I don’t… I’m not even sure what I want.”
“What I want. From my brother.” There was a long and heavy stillness, only broken when Vaati continued. “I… I want to be friends with him. I know that. But… am I just doing this to compensate for being killed? Am I just clinging to the only living family I have left? I could just as easily save my life by running away someplace else… what do I accomplish in attempting to change fate?”
“That… I don’t know. It’s something you have to decide.”
“I know that. I know that it’s something I need to figure out, but….it’s just… difficult. Part of me wants an apology, but that’s not even something I can ask for- the brother that killed me isn’t here, and it wouldn’t be right to demand an apology for things he never did. And… and I find myself wondering if I’ve created this situation- in being scared of him killing me, did I push us apart? Did I make things worse? Am I just going to damn us to an eternity of suffering, all because I can’t accept my own death?”
“…Sorry. I know that’s a lot to ask. It’s not like you’d have an answer to any of it- this is all just… me, endlessly overthinking things.”
After a long while, Ghostavo sat down beside Vaati. He was more serious than usual- it was rare to see him without some sort of goofy expression on his face, after all.
“There’s a lot for you to figure out. But… don’t blame yourself for being killed. Don’t blame yourself for being scared. It’s up to you whether or not you want to forgive- but just… pick the path that’s going to be best to heal.”
“You’ve already changed a lot, y’know? All bright-eyed and bushy-tailed now. Not trembling like a leaf whenever me and Vivi joke around.” The ghost flashed a toothy smile, floating back up off the ground. “I can’t tell ya what to do. I’m not the most clever person around- but I know a thing or two about feelings, more than you Vaatis usually seem to do. And sometimes, the best thing you can do for them is just let them out. Don’t be ashamed of whatever it is you’re feeling.”
“Just… look at me. Whatever happens, whether you run away or face your brother… just make the choice that your heart won’t regret. Put aside all that over-thinking you do, and trust your feelings- I think you already know what you want to do, don’t you?”
Ghostavo didn’t wait for an answer, leaving to give Vaati some privacy. And in truth… he did know. He knew exactly what his answer was, and what he wanted to do.
Hopefully, the goddesses would allow him the courage to follow through.
Chapter 11: Starting from scratch again
It was a week after Octavo’s coronation when he heard his brother calling to him on the wind. Vaati knew what it meant- but still, he went. In his hands he carried his brother’s lute, and he could feel the two ghosts following after him- though he said nothing, he did appreciate them staying by his side.
“Oh good, Vaati… wait- what are you holding?”
“I… I know this is yours. But, brother… I wanted to play you a song. As a gift, for your coronation.”
“What? No- get your hands off that! It does not belong to you!”
Vaati ignored his brother, though- he simply shut his eyes, and quickly began to play. The notes of Windhm’s Fanfare seemed to echo in the back of his mind; the sound of the other Octavo’s spectral lute helping him keep pace.
“Brother… I do not know why things had to resolve this way…why I was able to make you hate me so.” He’d spent much time practicing what he was going to say, and he hoped his voice would hold strong. He couldn’t see what his brother was doing, if he was doing anything. “However… I will not let you do what you’re about to do. I won’t let you stain your hands.”
He could feel the wind pick up around him, the other Vaati’s magic strong and sure. It would be enough to keep his brother from coming close to him… it would give him enough time to at least finish the song.
It was only after the last notes that he finally opened his eyes, setting the lute aside. Octavo’s face held an expression that Vaati couldn’t read- but as soon as his brother made eye contact, he started signing at him.
“Where did you learn to play like that?!”
“I had… help.”
“And who would help you?!”
“Can you… not see them?” Octavo’s eyes went wide for a moment, flitting between the two ghosts in the room before landing back on Vaati. “The first king Vaati, and the wandering prince Octavo…”
“I can see them, idiot! But why?!”
“To help me… avoid the past from repeating…”
Vaati didn’t wish to explain further, and Octavo didn’t seem to care. Perhaps he could consider himself lucky for his brother’s general shortness when it came to Vaati’s words, at least in this particular case.
“Well… whatever stupid thing you’re talking about, I don’t care. If you want to be a good brother, you’ll let me do this!”
“No, Octavo. No. I don’t want… I don’t want to die.”
“I… yes, I’m sorry…”
“Worthless brat, don’t apologize!”
Vaati just bit at his lip, fumbling with his hands and looking away. He really hadn’t fixed anything, had he… he didn’t know what Ghostavo had been thinking. One simple song wouldn’t fix things… it had only made Octavo more mad.
“Brother… I know that I… have pushed you away. And you’ve had so much stress to deal with… I’m sorry about that. I’m sorry for how I’ve hurt you. But you… you’ve hurt me, too. You’ve grown to hate me, to treat me as one beneath you… it hurts! To know that my brother wouldn’t even consider me as a friend…”
“It’s your own fault!” Octavo was immediately on the defensive, shaking his head sharply. “You’re the one who started it! You’re the one who pushed me away, after relying on me for everything! You’ve only ever been a burden to me!”
"I was trying my hardest to not be so reliant upon you... to ease some of the burden I'd put on you."
"Don't lie! Stop pretending to be so good and perfect."
“Brother.... don’t you get it?" Vaati sighed, holding his hands close to his body. They were getting absolutely nowhere, though perhaps he'd been too idealistic in hoping he could fix things. "If we just keep passing blame… we’re never going to get along like that! It’s no wonder that we’ve failed each other…”
“You failed me! I haven’t done anything wrong!”
“Really, brother? Remind yourself why you called me here. We both already know it, you’ve admitted it.”
Just signing that was enough to get Octavo to look away, eyes shut tight and unwilling to pay attention to Vaati. The boy just pursed his lips in frustration… they weren’t getting anywhere. Not at all.
“Octavo…” He spoke, though he felt as if it was shaking by how the air was moving by his mouth. “Please, brother… we need to start over… can we?”
Octavo continued looking stubbornly away, and Vaati only walked forwards. Perhaps it was stupid, he didn’t know what his brother was planning, but… he pulled him into a hug, simply trying to keep himself from crying.
In the end, he supposed it didn’t matter if his brother killed him again. He had at least tried- he wanted things to be different. To be better. He wanted them both to be able to find happiness… but perhaps, it just wasn’t meant to be. He'd made too many mistakes, hadn't he?
And then his brother hugged back, and the floodgates broke.
He could feel Octavo crying onto his shoulder, and he didn’t even bother trying to stop his own tears- he cried freely and openly in front of his brother for the first time in a long time, not caring for any sort of consequences. What he needed… no, what the both of them needed, was just to be there for each other. Perhaps each of them had missed having a brother… but now, maybe things could change.
They stayed like that for a good long while, sobbing and holding each other and just trying to sort through the years of emotion that’d built up. There was too much to be put into words, they both knew that… but still, sooner or later they’d have to try.
“Why… if you knew what I’d planned… why did you come?”
“Because I wanted a chance… to get through to you…”
“Idiot… it would’ve been better for you to run away.”
“But… is that true? Because… look at us now.” Vaati smiled, brushing away some of Octavo’s tears with his thumb. “This never would’ve happened if I’d run away… perhaps it would’ve been safer for me, yes… but then your pain would’ve only grown.”
“Why should you care? You already brought up that I’ve been horrible to you.”
“Yes, but… people deserve second chances. I’ve had mine, and now… now it’s yours.”
Octavo only gave him a confused glance, but Vaati shook his head- it was hardly important. All that mattered now was that they’d finally both have a chance… and maybe now, after all this time, they could start to heal.
Time passed, and the days started to change for the brothers. It was slow and gradual, but Vaati could see it- his brother was making an effort, and he was too. Vaati no longer felt so on guard, so worried… and in turn, he could feel himself opening up as well. It was truly better for the both of them… it was the chance they’d both wanted.
However, there was still… something on Vaati’s mind. And that was… the twin ghosts. They were still around, though they didn’t seem to show themselves often… and not at all to anyone other than their distant reincarnations. That was likely for the best, he didn’t know how the people would respond to something like that… but still, it made him wonder.
It was early in the morning when he found Ghostavo, sitting on a ledge and playing his spectral lute. Vaati just found himself smiling- he’d quickly abandoned the instrument once everything was over, he was certainly no musician. But still, it was nice to see Ghostavo happy… and it made him hope his brother would start playing more, too. Even if he couldn’t hear it, he knew it would make him happy.
“You and your brother… haven’t left yet?”
“Oh, goodness no. That old castle was boring, this is way more interesting! Hanging around there waiting for you felt like forever. Plus, it’s fun bugging my reincarnation.”
“Your brother, duh. He’s gotta loosen up, and nobody better than me to help him do that!”
Vaati just found himself chuckling, shaking his head lightly. He supposed that if anyone was really going to help, it would be Ghostavo… he’d helped Vaati do much the same, after all. Hopefully, that would mean the best for his brother, too.
“Then… I had another question, actually.”
“Well… that song… I mean, it didn’t… do anything, right? Even after you said it was magical… so… why’d you tell me to learn it?”
“Not all magic’s something bright and flashy.” Ghostavo turned to look at him, a playful grin on his face. “Magic can be completely and utterly mundane- a smile brought to someone’s face, a nod as you acknowledge one another, a moment shared with a friend… magic exists in little ways. And that song… it’s one that was made to celebrate those moments. An ode to this kingdom… and a prayer for its happiness.”
“I see… then, thank you.”
Though the road ahead wasn’t well-defined, Vaati found himself wanting to look forward. He didn’t have any sort of memory of another lifetime to guide him, but he wasn’t searching for it- he wanted to finally be able to live in the now. He and his brother both would have that chance, growing and healing.
And that would become fate for Windhm, as well. The future was yet unwritten, but it was finally looking bright- the darkness of hate and curses could finally be cast off of the twin princes' souls, moving swiftly towards a new era. Of course, it would not always be simple and peaceful... but in believing in each other, they would certainly find a way to pull through, together.
And... wow. The end... it's been a long journey, but one that's been so incredibly fun to write. I don't think I was quite prepared for what I'd be getting myself into when I started writing these fics, but I'm so happy that they're finally done. Again, I want to give a HUGE thank you to luckystarman for helping me with this series- I couldn't have made it without you, and talking back and forth about these two boys has been so much fun.
To everyone who read this, thank you so much!!! Every interaction with these fics means the world to me, it makes me so happy that I can be entertaining other people with my writing. I can't put it into words how much it means to me, so really, just thank you a million times.
I'm not sure what's going to be next on the horizon, or when it'll be done (university work permitting, haha), but until next time, whenever that may be!