[ Once upon a time... a man died. The stories that the man spun all came true, so the king, the nobles, and the wealthy all called upon him to write stories for them.
However, when their wishes were granted, stark terror of his powers seized them, so they came to hate him. When the man died, the people rejoiced, thinking that the wellspring of misfortune had dried up.
No one heard the echoing sound of the dead man's scornful laughter. ]
Autor's fingers nearly slipped on the piano keys as the door to the music room creaked open. Finally! the writer thought, giddy. After all these years!
"You're late," Autor said cheerfully, raising his fingers up and back so as to not end Mendelssohn's Spinnerlied on a discordant note.
"What sort of joke is this?" Fakir demanded, holding up a book Autor had left for him earlier that morning.
"I think you will find it useful," the music student said as he stood, "when you write your own stories as well."
"You," Fakir snarled, stepping forward to lay the novel on the piano. "What do you know?"
Oh, this is too much. Autor laughed, short and sharp, as he curled a hand around his hip. "Everything that you've been dying to know!"
Fakir grunted disdainfully. "What?"
"You want the power of Drosselmeyer, correct?" the aspiring Spinner said, crossing around to the side of the piano to better face Fakir. Autor could no longer remember how many times he'd practiced and prepared for this moment. There was no way he was going to mess it up now.
Thankfully, each word emerged clipped and precise, hiding his frayed nerves. "The power to turn stories into reality--stories which have had their endings torn out by a group called the Bookmen! Isn't it thrilling?"
"To stop the stories from becoming reality, they take the endings..." Fakir started, resting his head on his loosely-closed fist. "That's what you were doing with all of those torn books in the library."
"Yes!" Autor said, grinning enthusiastically. "After they seal away the original script, all we can get are copies. But even then, Drosselmeyer's power is still so strong..."
Autor's lips curled into a smirk, a shadow of his vicious, inward glee at everything falling into place. "If you want this badly enough, I'm not averse to helping you. However," he said, leaning forward on the piano, "you must be completely obedient to my orders, and you must be prepared for death if you fail."
The door slammed open, startling both boys. "What's that?" Duck squawked, stomping into the room.
This would be almost comical, Autor thought, watching her useless flailing through narrowed eyes, if she didn't just interrupt the most important meeting of his life.
Unfortunately, she continued to shriek. "Asking him to be completely obedient, or be prepared to die! What are you talking about!"
"I am giving him a warning. Do not look upon Drosselmeyer's power too lightly," Autor told her, tilting his chin up. Irritating girl. You don't have anything to do with this, so why do you keep butting in?
Autor adjusted his glasses. "Making errors when using it can lead to unexpected consequences. That's why I'm saying that there may be casualties as well."
The two in front of him seemed stunned to silence. Typical.
Heart thudding in his palate, Autor shot a glare at Fakir. "I'm simply telling you that you must be prepared for all of that. If you don't want to do it," he said, lips curving into a smile, "I'm not going to force you."
"No," Fakir said, sighing. "Please show me."
Duck whirled to face him, pleading. "Fakir..."
"A wise decision," Autor said, smirking at his new apprentice and his tag-along, hiding the fierce triumph welling up in his chest. "Come to my house tomorrow. I'll be waiting, Fakir."
The next day, Autor waited outside his home for Fakir, who, of course, was late. Now, why would he be on time when he could be late? Autor thought uncharitably. Even more aggravating was that he showed up with Duck and another little girl with green hair who kept saying, "zura."
"I'll have to refuse any retinue," Autor explained with smug satisfaction.
But Duck just had to protest. "Are you talking about me, Autor-san? I'm..."
"Don't make me say it again," Autor said, adjusting his glasses. "Inside here are collected many things related to Drosselmeyer. It is a sacred place!"
The little girl toddled forward. "Are you the weird Autor-zura?"
Weird? Annoyed, Autor picked her up by her suspenders and carried her back to Duck. "You people who have nothing to do with this are not allowed inside! Now, come on, Fakir!"
"Nothing to do with this..." Duck said, pouting.
Fakir chuckled softly. "Take Uzura and go on home."
"Ah, okay," Duck said, placing a hand on Uzura's shoulders. "Do your best, okay?"
Autor opened the massive, wooden door with a creak and then shut it once they'd stepped inside. "This room has been accurately recreated based on Drosselmeyer's study and his materials."
He peered into the dimly-lit room and sneezed at the scents of dust and ink. Books and parchments were scattered everywhere. A writing desk sat in a corner with a family chart spread out across it, and there was a delicate-looking teakettle nearby.
"The paper has been made out of ten-year-old reeds. The ink is a seven to three ratio of blue to black," Autor explained, pride welling up in his chest. "The best pen would be the feather of a white swan who has been in the sea, but... I've substituted a duck's feather for you."
"And so--" Fakir started, but was interrupted by Autor splashing him with the contents of a water pitcher. "What are you doing?"
"Purifying you," Autor said, picking up a rag. "It is said that Drosselmeyer always purified his body with water before he wrote stories. You didn't know that?"
Autor crouched on the floor before Fakir, wiping up the spill. He scoffed. "That's all that a direct descendant of Drosselmeyer has to offer?"
"A direct descendant of Drosselmeyer?" Fakir said, startled.
"Hey, now," Autor said. "You're not going to say you didn't know that either, are you? That's a fact about yourself! I'm shocked."
He stood, and reached for a rolled up parchment on the nearest shelf. "This is something that I investigated and wrote up myself, a genealogy for Drosselmeyer," he said, spreading the sheet out on the floor. "Take a look. Drosselmeyer is here. You're down here."
Autor glanced up at Fakir, who had gone pale. "I think that I'm probably connected through this branch over here," he said, "but I still haven't found any proof. However, the person who saved my father when he got lost when he was young... Are you even listening?"
Fakir shook his head slightly. "What?"
Autor scoffed again and wished Fakir were anyone else. "Honestly, you're appalling," he told his wayward pupil. "Straighten up. Now I have to put you to the test."