A/N: Fifty words over. Oh well!
Written for Bekuh. =)
Read the previous part of this story here.
TOWER, TOWER - [Part XLVI]
When she was before threatened by the actions of a proficient assassin, Bubblegum turned to a childhood manuscript for guidance. Faced now with the prospect of having an evil body-jumping, mind-possessing, and thoroughly murderous witchking loose in her castle, the princess proves herself a creature of habit and does much the same thing. The only variation of her strategy this time, in fact, is in the number of books she consults.
To be fair, she also switches genres.
“I was the first child among the many my parents created who took to alchemy,” Bubblegum tells her knight. She clears her throat. Sensing her desire to move, Marceline loosens her arm: the princess leans forward, fumbling to strike another match. With its lambent light she ignites her candle, and by that candle too she sets ablaze the torch in its sconce on the wall. As a warm, ruddy glow floods the bedchamber, she continues, “That was fortunate, because I was also the last child they created. They taught me as much as they could before they died. How to change metals. How to mold stone. And how to put spells into things, a bit, though that was admittedly bridging toward magic…”
She trails off—blows out the match. Striding to her bedside then, she rifles through the scatter of books there, her fingers dancing over covers glossy and worn alike. Finally she settles on a medium blue-bound volume. Flipping it open, she thumbs through the pages. Marceline’s shadow spreads over the mattress in a spool as she sidles slowly up behind the monarch.
“Wait,” she says. “Wait. If your parents created others like you… you’re telling me you have siblings? That there are other almost-bubblegum people out there just running around Ooo—”
“Magic,” interjects Bubblegum briskly, “is really only the highest form of alchemy, the sort wherein the equations and the transmutations blend within the user at a rate that is nearly immeasurable. I was so young during those first lessons about it—I remember very little. But,” she maintains, “I’ve managed it before almost by accident: Lemongrab was evidence enough of that. And I am certain I can glean enough from these texts and my recollection together to fashion something as simple as a—”
Methodically and for the second time in so many minutes, Marceline reaches around the princess. She closes the blue tome—which happens to be a rudimentary spellbook—gently on the smaller woman’s knuckles. “Bonni,” she repeats. “You have siblings?”
Bubblegum hesitates. “Had,” she agrees at last, looking over her shoulder and up to the knight. Marceline blinks inquisitively. “Had,” the princess allows again, and continues, “most died very early on, I think.”
“You think?” splutters her companion. “How can you only think—”
“Six years old. I was six years old when I lost my parents.” Gingerly Bubblegum turns to face the taller woman, leaving only her thumb in the book to mark her place. “I don’t remember much about them save that they were kind, and they were gone before they could tell me about the other children. But I know,” she insists, “that there were other children. Because there are paintings of them just in the hallway outside. And rooms in this castle too, Marceline, rooms full of things that were never mine and never will be. Clothing. Cribs. Toys. And I know most of them must have died”—she glances toward the window—“because my parents never said otherwise and while I don’t remember much about them, I do remember how they wept over me the first time I escaped my nurse and managed to get outside.” Drawing a shaky breath, Bubblegum shakes her head. “They found me in the gardens, playing in the rain. I remember how they touched me. Like—like I was glass. Like if they pressed too hard or moved me too quickly, I would just—”
She stops: closes her eyes. Over fifty years the alchemists who made her have been gone, buried in the very gardens she spoke of not a moment before—and still she misses them so.
There is a slow, creeping movement nearby her elbow: Marceline shifting her weight from one foot to another, probably. Opening her eyes again to meet her knight’s scarlet gaze, Bubblegum offers, “That’s the terribly unfortunate and vulnerable thing about sugar.” She swallows. “If it is not reinforced in just the right manner, eventually it… it melts away.”
Marceline gives the monarch a stricken look. “Geez, Bonni.” But then, “Most. You said you thought most of the other kids died early. Does that mean you believe…” Cautious now, she leaves it there.
Bubblegum smiles, an expression that feels drawn and must look it too, if Marceline’s frown is any indication. “Does that mean I believe there might be others who didn’t?” At her knight’s murmur of assent, she supplies, “Of course some of my parents’ other children survived, as I have, into adulthood. Some must have created the treaties that still maintain my kingdom’s peace today. Still others left this place to explore Ooo, I’m sure. Maybe a few even”—she says this speculatively, quietly—“traveled far enough to see places that were dark, yes, but not dark-dark. Maybe they met the kings of lands where there were shadows but stars to go with them.”
The torch in the sconce crackles. Scuttering through that sconce’s thin mesh, a clump of ash sifts to the floor and makes a gray comma-shaped swoop there.
“Marshall did have a thing for pink,” Marceline whispers. “There was this guy, Bonni, this guy he was with all the time, and now that I think about it, that guy did kinda look like y—”
“Marceline?” Biting her lip, Bubblegum holds up her free hand: presses it to her knight’s chest. “Enough of the past for tonight. Please.”
Lacing her fingers over the monarch’s, the vampire squeezes them. With the smallest nod she flicks her eyes to the book on the bed. “Sure. So, uhm—magic. You were saying you could, what—maybe make something that’ll help us with the Lich?”
Lifting that book, Bubblegum cups its thin spine in her palm, opens it to her marked chapter, and spins it to show Marceline.
The knight’s grin a moment later is all teeth.
Read the next part here.