HoM: Can Vei La Lauzeta Mover

February 25, 2018:

HoM. After disciplining Pietro for his disobedience, King Magnus turns his attention to Wanda. AU-Magneto played by Pietro.

Castle Magnus, Genosha


NPCs: Magneto



Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

The twins might have cause to wonder why their father still left Pietro's access to Wanda's tower intact. Surely, if he wished it, he could have the prince's credentials removed within minutes of his son's departure from his presence.

Yet he doesn't, for his inscrutable reasons. Even though Pietro isn't able to visit his sister immediately, he makes it up to her prison eventually. She had made much of his hurts, wiped them away without a trace, but both of them had feared to let their visit drag out overlong. He left, presently.

Silence descends again, in the metal cage of the princess. There are no clocks in her room, and nothing to tell her the passage of time save the celestial movements of sun, moon, and stars out her single window.

They cycle a few times before something happens to interrupt the dreary tick of passing minutes. The sealing door that shuts her away from the world clanks to life, shifting its internals with the deep grind of slithering metal. It would be a welcome thought, to imagine that her solitude will be broken, even if only for a little while.

It would be — if not for the fact that this particular way in which the door is opening heralds only one thing.

The keypad which typically controls access to the princess's cage sits at the heart of a web of associated mechanisms and monitoring devices. It makes soft electronic noises, when activated; it lights a little panel on Wanda's side of the door, to alert her someone is coming.

Now, it is dark and silent. Whoever it is at her door is opening it the direct way, and only one person has the fine control to manipulate all those intricate internals to the exact configuration necessary to push it open.

After all, only one person was responsible for the mazelike design of its bolting mechanisms, and remembers it perfectly.

Darkness covers the room like a shroud.

Some nights, there is light — permitted to Wanda by small lamps. They never seem to last long with her, however, always shattered, always shorted, when some pain or pressure distorts her ability out on her few things.

Some nights, there is the wink of the moon, briefly at position to shine in through her only, lonely window — where its silvery light bathes her cage's steel walls and makes them shine. Makes it look like Wanda is imprisoned in a room of mirrors, no longer in the Bastille but Versailles itself, a princess in flesh as true as her name, her dancing steps framed by walls of glass.

And the rest of the nights, there is this. A hanging dark, thick and oppressive, no light for her — taken away with Pietro's last visit. It was not long, never long — only enough for him to assauge her fear to see him alive and whole, only enough for her to whisper his pains away. No more injuries.

She did not even need to look deeply into his head to understand what happened; the look in Pietro's eyes ratified it.

Now he is gone. Now it is only her — Wanda Magnus, alone with her thoughts, in the dark.

In hours, what stirs her is the sound of her cage door: its many bolts hissing and clicking, a symphony of locks moving in complex surgery. She lifts her head, and tension tides out her sensory powers, ghosting along who comes to seek her.

She does not need to. Only one person lets himself in this way.

The mad Magnus princess sits in the dark on her elaborate poster bed. She wears her heavy layers, and her headdress weighs down her head, concealing her face to her mouth.

It covers her eyes, but even now, it's palpable they are watching the door, for the guest in attendance. Wanda's silent, burning anger can be tasted on the air.

The door eventually grinds fully open, and framed in the only way out of her cage stands a familiar figure. Backlit, its features are lost in shadow, and the brightness of light shining through silver hair is the first thing to be seen.

At first blush, especially in the dark, her visitor could be mistaken for her beloved brother… but a second glance is more than enough for all the differences to leap out in stark relief. Pietro is not built this way, solid and unyielding as an oak, roots dug immovably deep. He does not stand this way, replete with the relaxed command of total rule — though these days, he's almost getting there. Ambitious boy.

The figure steps into the dark with her, and the door grinds shut. The returned darkness blankets down over all, washing out color and contrast to a uniform twilight grey, and the features of the king slowly become clear. He regards his errant daughter with a cold, appraising calm, absorbing her demeanor within a single look.

Her gilded headdress — and its purposeful core of steel — tugs lightly. Then it pulls away from her face, drifting through the air to come to a delicate rest on the end table beside her bed.

"Sulking in the dark does not become a woman grown, Wanda," her father observes, a faint reproof in his even voice.

He seats himself, untroubled by the gloom. The reason why becomes evident when the metal ceiling of her room reconfigures above them both, slithering apart from a sheet of solid metal into a series of interlocking cage bars. The wan light of the stars shines through, alternately lighting and pooling deep shadows along the sharp angles and planes of Erik Magnus' face.

"Let us have your lesson," her father decides. "They have lapsed too long."

In the dark, he could be her twin brother —

— a glimpse of what could be, what will be, when age calcifies Pietro in his father's image, and the last fire burns out of his blue eyes. But Wanda knows better, and sees far more — far deeper and true — than with the limit of the human eye.

The life and soul of her father is sharp even to ephemeral touch, like to handle a cold gem of razor cut edges — heavy in the hand, unyielding, and ready to bleed her if she lets her hands linger too long. Pietro feels like this in shades, that same capacity for the chill, the same steel-tempered edges, that same howling hunger, a drive to conquer and possess: though she could pull it all to her chest and never fear a single hurt. Her twin brother has never, could never, harm her.

Their father, on the other hand?

She lacks the trust to reach out long to his soul; she dares not even touch his mind, not when she made that mistake once before, years ago.

The mad princess holds still, seated on her bed, eyes covered, mouth shut.

A familiar tug comes to her headdress, a light, but inexorable force unpeeling it from her head, as Wanda bows her head, falling locks of her dark hair framing her exposed face. She breathes in, then out, very carefully, still even as her father changes her cage all around her —

He weaves the steel ceiling into a birdcage that grants her the freedom to look up and see the stars. Her eyes burn to do so, but she resists, because she knows better than to think this a gift — also knows better than to accept one. She keeps her head bowed, face shadowed in the veil of her hair, until her metal room echoes Erik Magnus's voice, crisp and clear.

He wants a lesson. It finally lifts her head, turns her eyes. They are red. Wanda, a young mirror image of Magda, with her same judgment smithed into the corners of her features.

"He's your son," she says, anger thinning her voice. "All he has ever done is love you."

It is no gift. Wanda is quite correct to assume it is not one. It is done for his own convenience, as his daughter has seen fit to ruin all the lights in her room, and live in the dark like a beast.

The low light makes it easy to mistake father and son… and so too does it make it easy to mistake mother and daughter. He knows he ought not, and each time he tells himself he will not, but today he does again as he has done countless times before; he unveils his daughter, and puts aside the headdress that hides her face, and looks at her.

For a few moments, Magda's ghost regards him again with accusing blue eyes. This face belonged to the first woman he loved. The first one to judge him with revulsion and fear in her eyes. The first one to turn away, and leave him behind.

How did she presume to pass judgment on him? He avenged their child. Did that mean nothing to her?

Wanda's thin, sharp voice recalls Erik's distant attention. Her father looks on her with the sort of controlled dispassion that is studied, not natural. He's your son, she says, her voice tight, and all he has ever done is love you.

You're a monster, a similar voice tells him, decades distant.

"Would that it were easier for me to love him," says Erik Magnus. His eyes regard her pointedly. "But disobedience and failure demand an answer. Perhaps if he were not so distracted with other matters, he would better learn the things I require him to know. I had held such high hopes."

Life, or its inherent punishment, seems a cyclic thing, its hurts cursed on a forever repeat.

And Magda's disquiet, horror, and contempt repeat again on the face of his daughter, Wanda staring through the dark — starlight shining off the lenses of her red eyes. In a single, brief look, she looks to weigh him with those eyes alone: every atom, and the space in between.

Her long fingers curl slowly into the heavy layers of her robes, red light flickering — here and gone again — in the seams between those gestures. She does not dare do more, not in his presence, but she is sorely tempted.

The pain that ran through Pietro. Pain, and his perpetual reaching — reaching to something that only turns his back.

But the twin daughter does not reach as desperately as the son, and she has always been braver with their cold father: Magda's little mirror to the end, the first woman who stepped beyond the boundary of his presence, rejected his command, and looked him dead in his blue eyes.

Wanda does that now, silent and steely, brushing boundaries as she asserts herself in what little ways she can: no territory to her name, no domain, no part even in this cage that belongs to her — manipulated freely by the father and reshaped by his will. She still refuses to look up at the sky.

"He has always obeyed you," Wanda snaps back. "He would break himself to —"

But the king's voice overrides hers. Her jaw tightens. The words are a knife through the heart. He could have loved, could have given a kingdom already to a prince — who was not preoccupied with something else. With her. He had hopes.

It guts her. Her anger vents out, already lost, and the guilt left behind draws Wanda in. She didn't mean to be this way. But she is. "Then punish me. I don't mean to — please love him."

Her father's cool blue gaze weighs her as she sits there, red-eyed, fingers sparking briefly with light. He seems unconcerned about her upstart flares of temper, about the color of her irises, even though they are as blatant a threat for her as a naked sword would be in a man's hand.

The reason for his indifference becomes plain when he speaks. However strong his daughter's powers, however outraged she believes herself to be, she is still not the one in control here, because he knows her… and she does not know him. How do you control two powerful, willful children?

You control them with one another.

In a few brief words, he reminds her where the true blame for Pietro's unsatisfactory existence lies.

He observes the result calmly. It is nothing he does not expect. His daughter always did defy him, the same way her mother did — she never reached for him the way his only son did, and so was harder to lead — and so he found ways around that long ago. "He has," Erik finally remarks, in belated reply to Wanda's insistence Pietro has always obeyed. "In all respects except those which matter."

He leans back in his chair, right ankle crossing over his left knee. His keen blue eyes look through her guilt and her pleas, moderately impatient with the emotional display. "The purpose of today is not punishment, Wanda," he dismisses. He seems to have already put aside the topic of his son. "It has never been. You are my daughter. I would be remiss not to give all this another chance, before I am forced to consider other accommodations for you. Far from your brother."

His blue eyes seem to look through her. "Be good, and you may not have to go."

Kind words should not be cold. They should not be spoken by a man with such calculating eyes. They return to focus upon her eventually, expectant. "You know your lesson," he says, an absent gesture pulling forward all the little items furnishing her room. Every last one has some seed of steel hidden somewhere within it. "Go through its steps. Show me control, Wanda, and I may reconsider your confinement."

And wouldn't Pietro like that? If she is good, he will be good, and there will be no reason for Erik not to love his firstborn then.

The defiance rots off her. Wanda bows her head gone heavy with guilt, looking no different in that moment than some broken animal submitting to the collar.

All her fault. How could it not? She tried — tries — so hard to be good, but it never lasts for long. Her sickness pulling her brother in two different directions, when he long ago should have left her behind. Should have forgotten her like the rest.

She spent so many years begging promises she could not keep. She gave her word endlessly that each episode would be the last, until her word was worth ashes, and the pain would come back, and the whispers straiting through her mind —

Again and again with the proclamation: none of this is right.

But what if it is? What if the one bit of wrongness in all this world is her? The mad princess born a mistake? What if her malinger is to drag her twin with her, away from the love of his family, away from the kingdom he should possess, the rule what is his right?

Her thin arms cross over her chest, and her fingers curl the bones of her shoulders. Her eyes sting, and between blinks, red gentles back to blue. Wanda holds onto herself as her father speaks — over her, through her, his voice always had a way to make her feel small — and she has no guard left but to listen.

Another cage. Away from Pietro. She will have nothing left if she loses him. She will be nothing left.

"I can be good," she whispers thickly, a promise she's given so many times before. Her voice sounds brittle to her ears, and not even Wanda is convinced.

But — her lesson, her father reminds. Of course she knows it. The little time spent with the king were always exercises of control.

Her hands tighten on her shoulders. She's so tired of them. So tired of control. So tired of everything. So tired of the pain, the slow, rolling ache that persists even now, like acid injected in behind her eyes — but she defers, loosening, sitting straight, her hands palm-up in her lap.

"Yes," she answers obediently. The room flares bright scarlet, it source glowing through the play of her fingers. They curl and twitch and weave it into a growing sphere between her palms, like a small, red, burning sun given birth.

Objects tugged forward by their embedded steel lift into the air — simple things, a handmirror, a book, a paper flower — and she turns them surgically. Her hands slap down together, bending the light, and they disappear, lost from the world. The steel inside them disappears from any last trace.

The defiance leaves her. The red light leaves her. The king watches both depart her, body and soul, and then he looks away. Her small attempt at a threat dealt with and dismissed, he has already moved on: his keen mind thinking multiple steps ahead, as it always does. He does not trouble himself to look on either the tears threatening her eyes, or the small, defeated way she hugs onto herself for some comfort.

A good father would not suffer his child to have to comfort herself. He would have long since put his arms around her to protect her and soothe her. Erik Magnus, however, never had time nor patience to spend doting on anything that was not of some practical use towards the one and only thing that has ever truly mattered to him, in the end. The one thing for which he sacrificed everything else he has ever had…

The one thing he now has… and which he may now have to fight to keep. He will need power to hold the empire he has taken.

His eyes refocus on his daughter. His daughter… so powerful, so potentially useful, and yet so wholly uncontrollable. She has vexed him for years with her intractibility, resisting her lessons and all his attempts to train her. But bring her brother into the picture, and —

I can be good, she promises. Erik makes no reaction, says nothing; only looks at her, brows raised, his expression connoting one thing and one thing alone. Prove it.

His blue eyes, so like in shape and hue to her brother's, watch as she defers and demonstrates the paces of her lesson. So ordered, her fingers twitch, and things vanish wholesale from existence. Her father's sole reaction is to give another command. "Now restore them," he prompts, his voice enunciating those familiar words. Her lessons have always been like this; her father giving explicit instruction after instruction, expecting her immediate execution of his word… and too often disappointed not to receive it.

Once she does, her father finally glances back towards the heavy door. It responds ponderously, grinding open again. Even that noise is not enough to drown out his voice when he speaks, despite the fact he has not raised it: Erik Magnus is a gifted orator, with no need to shout to make himself heard. "I will tell you something, Wanda," he says, finally lifting a hand in an overt gesture to beckon something beyond the opened door. "Most of the suffering we go through in our lives is all self-inflicted. We fixate upon that which has no true power over us, ignore that which does, and find ourselves hurt by both. There are voices in your head, but you need not heed them."

Drawn by his magnetic pull, a series of cages drifts into the room. Each houses a number of little birds, colorful and vivacious, hopping about and fanning their feathers to preen. Catching sight of her with their little eyes, they start to sing. "You need only heed mine."

He watches her. "Remove them, Wanda."

Now restore them.

Wanda retreats into familiar motions. Her hands relent, her interlocked palms letting go, and the stormy red light reforms back into that swirling, rotating sphere — energy burning and sparking in filament spinnerets pulling from the tips of her fingers.

It bathes the mad princess in the pouring glow of her own scarlet light.

Birth and death. Creation and destruction. They are many, recursive paths in infinite directions, endless lifetimes spent to walk only one — all to be cycled back to the start.

Wanda can see them all. Feel them all. Change them, even, if she wanted: she looks down into her scarlet and does not see light or power, but possibility. Probability, stripped down to its vital core, and lain bare.

Her eyes shutter, and the sphere pulls into a symphony of fine threads, and her walking fingers feel them, curling and plucking long lines lke notes on a harp —

She feels for the absences, and fills in the craters she forged out of reality. The objects return, brought back atom-for-atom, their steel cores singing with renewed life. They hold in the air, then drop to her vanity.

Wanda closes her hands and snuffs her light away, and her face darkens back to starlight shadow. She looks down at her own opening fingers, cold and fragile, then turns her eyes up, searching out the throned form of her father.

The twin princess does not seek praise in the way of the prince, not for her own happiness, not for her own pleasure — but in this moment, her eyes search the same way as Pietro. Acknowledgment from the king that she is good. That she will stay.

But he is not finished.

Her gaze drifts away to the sound of the door, silent, watchful, and questioning, as her father speaks. The voices in her head —

Wanda's eyes and jaw both tighten down. She doesn't understand, not at first, when her room fills suddenly with the first gift of life in years — a cacophony of birdsong, bright and sweet and small, and she looks down on so many hopping, fluttering bodies.

Bodies in cages, so much like her own. They sing to her, and she cannot look away. It's been so long since she's seen little birds so up close, and the princess rises from her bed, the hems of her robs scraping the cold, metal floor as she barefoots closer, kneeling down over the cages.

They see her with their blinking black eyes. Her fingertips run their cage bars.

Remove them.

Wanda looks up, stricken. There's an innocence in the way she looks over and up at her father moments too long, her mind not wanting to connect what he demands of her. She, who has hurt others, but never deliberately — never consciously. Never meaningfully. The thought hurts her. "I can't," she begs, voice catching. "Daddy."

Erik Magnus watches as his daughter weaves probability itself. The red light of her hexes reflects in his blue eyes, obscuring whatever expression they might wear as she obediently writes things out of and back into existence.

She makes it look so simple. For a moment, as she so easily restores what she had — moments ago — erased with even greater ease, the look in his eyes finally resolves into something recognizable, somewhere between keen interest and keener bitterness.

He feels along the restored items with his own power. Not an atom of the steel is missing.

In the wake of her extraordinary feat, the princess searches for acknowledgement… but her father is already looking away again. On to the next thing. His attention is on the door, on the things he brings through once it is open.

Cages. Cages like her own, except in these hop the tiny forms of songbirds. So colorful each seems like a living jewel, they flutter from perch to perch in their little prisons, interested in their new setting — and in the young woman who comes in close to touch the bars which keep them in. Many little beady eyes turn up to her, and many little beaks open as they start to sing. Sing to her.

Her father's voice overrides them all with one command.

She does not immediately obey him.

Her plea falls on his back. He is already standing and turning away from the weakness in her voice, disappointment plain in his eyes. The cages lift, following him as he moves towards the door.

Wanda looks back into the little eyes of little birds.

So long since anything, anything in his world save one — save her twin brother — looked up on her with anything but fear. So long since anyone — save Pietro — sang to her.

Her lonely heart twists, and she loves them immediately.

So when her father turns his back on her, rises, and tugs the birdcages free from her hands by that powerful, unseen force —

She doesn't know what to do.

She can't. She can't do it. She can't kill living things, tiny and fragile and innocent — little animals so innocent they do not even know how to look on her with horror and revulsion. She can't take their lives. She can't hurt. It isn't right. It isn't right. This isn't right. Nothing here is right, nothing, nothing, nothing —

But Wanda watches her father dismiss her and cross to the door, intent to take with him any possibility for her freedom: for another day with Pietro, another chance to see him again — because to defy the king now will seal her fate.

All alone. Her brother alone too. She just has to be good. She promised she'd be good.

She doesn't want this. She doesn't want to do this.

Tears run her cheeks. Red plumes out from her hands. She looks into the little eyes of little birds, and she's sorry. She's so sorry.

They whistle and crackle and sing and make noise, agitated under a building dawn of scarlet light —

And then, all the birdsong goes quiet.

The cages are empty. Not a body. Not a lost feather. Gone, and their murderer crouched among them, looking down on her hands.

Silence descends behind him. Magneto pauses in his exit from his daughter's room. He lifts his head slightly, and considers.

In that same moment, miles away, Pietro lifts his own head as some echo of his sister's pain and sadness reaches him and twists his heart in two. His presence worries at hers, concerned at the sudden stain darkening it, hovering helplessly and asking if she's all right, he will leave Atlantis at once if he must —

Long before their father ascended to Wanda's tower, he sent Pietro far away, beneath smothering waves, and trapped him to his sense of duty. Purposefully.

There is no one to protect Wanda from him now, when he finally turns and comes back towards her. The cages set down gently — now empty — as he draws up before her, reaches down…

…and raises her back up to a stand. His blood does not cower on floors. He is looking at her now, his demeanor almost kind.

Very gently, he touches her face. Memory glosses his eyes — and he pulls back.

"My daughter acquits herself," he says. "Late, and only after prompting — but children crawl before they walk, I suppose. Do as I bid you immediately, next time. I will resume your lessons; you will have more than enough practice."

He turns away, and moves to take his leave. "Your brother may come up to see you now," he says, before he shuts the heavy door behind him.

Pain crosses the world, along great tracts of land and down deep fathoms of the sea — it whispers from Wanda's mind and leeches through the thoughts of her twin brother.

Pietro, distant and deliberately so far away, reaches back —

Wanda does not answer. Her presence cringes under his touch, pulling away, turning to try to hide the contours of her thoughts. She cowers with shame. She does not want him to see her, not now — not with this on her hands.

And here, she curls on her cage's steel floor, burnt on its cold metal as slants of starlight light her opened hands silver. She watches the last flicker of red leave her fingers, then curls them into her palms, and hides them into her robes. Tears run from her eyes. It's not meant for this. She's not meant for this. This isn't who she is. None of this is right —

Neither she moves nor her bowed head lifts until both are done for her; powerful, regnal hands steal in and guide the princess up to her feet.

Wanda unfolds to her full height, soundless save for the heavy rasp of her robes. Still, she looks down, eyes full of her own dark thoughts —

And a warm hand tilts up her face. The shape of its palm, length of its fingers pull at her heart, and for a moment, Wanda believes it is someone else — the only one who ever reaches out to her, ever wants to touch her.

Her eyes open. Not him, but the father what sources his face and eyes. She meets his, looking up, her eyes gentle with learned helplessness. There is nothing else she can do but exist this way, docile, hopeless, and accept the king's gracious gifts.

Even as she did not perform to his standard, he still rewards her. She may stay. She may have her brother. He is a fair father.

"Yes, daddy," Wanda answers, voice hushed.

He leaves her with the empty cages. The only bird allowed its life is the one who cannot sing.

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