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28 January 2008 @ 01:37 pm
[Fic: "Diaspora", Rated T. Last Unicorn, Haggard genfic]  
Title: Diaspora
Author: sionnain
Fandom: The Last Unicorn
Character: King Haggard, mentions of Lir/Amalthea
Rating: Teen
Summary: All he ever wanted was beauty that would not die.

AN: Thanks to onlyonechoice for the beta.



Diaspora

"His firstling bull has majesty, and his horns are the horns of a wild ox; with them he shall push the unicorns, all of them, to the ends of the earth." --The Butterfly, Misquoting Deuteronomy 33:17.

In the beginning, his land was verdant; lush hills rolled into the horizon in gentle waves, dotted with purple blooms. In the summer the land blossomed into a thousand colors, and a thousand scents wafted on the light breeze. Amidst this beauty Haggard stood, unmoved, face as set as the stone from which his castle rose in the horizon. At first, the people came with shy smiles and ribbons in their hair, carrying casks of wine or honeyed cakes to court his favor. He did not return their smiles, their good wishes, as mad King Haggard had no favor to court. The casks turned to dust in his dungeons and the cakes became stale hard things, in which no sweetness remained.

The death of the land was slow and sure. The spring brought fewer flowers, fewer bright blossoms. Winter's death outlasted spring's fragile touch, until even summer was not enough to loose its terrible grip. The people left his lands, taking their smiles and their ribbons with them, never to return. Unused and untended, the fields grew wild, and the land slowly succumbed to weeds choking life beneath the soil.

And thus beauty fades, and dies. There is no other end but this.

Haggard turned his back on the broken plains and barren fields, and looked towards the sea. The sea was eternal, the waves a constant. Nothing withered or died, and for a time, it was all his eyes could bear to see.

* * *

He named the child Lir, after the sea. He found him on a doorstep on his passage home from some unknown land, a squalling child left alone and untended. Haggard slowed his horses and demanded his men-at-arms wait; they were shocked when he returned, the bundle cradled in his arms.

The child had eyes the color of the waves beyond the castle. Some whore's get, obviously, and yet, the baby was faultless and perfect, of sunny disposition and strong of limb. As he grew, laughter filled the walls of Haggard's dank and drafty home. It was a fleeting thing, a child's laughter, drifting like a sunbeam across the dirty, dusty floors. He smiled and, for a time, Haggard smiled back.

Then the child began to grow, and with time's forward march came the realization that Lir, too, would die.

Joy seeped away slowly, until all he saw when he gazed upon his son were bones, rotted and bleached-white like those draped over the ancient clock in the dungeon. Long after Haggard ceased finding joy in the child who called him father, he would still awaken to the child's cries. At night, Lir dreamed of death by the sea, of the sound of hooves and the flash of hellfire on his face.

Haggard had no solace to offer the child.The castle was cold and there was no beauty in the gray rock. When Lir rode away to the wars, Haggard hoped he would not come back.

Better for Lir to die in some field of poppies than by the sea as he dreamed, broken and alone, in front of Haggard's pitiless eyes.

* * *

When he saw the unicorns, the joy came swift and terrible, like an arrow to the heart. There was an old tale of a hero brought down by an arrow in his tendon, and just like that fabled warrior of old, Haggard stumbled and nearly fell on the soft grass. He was driven to his knees by the unicorn's pure beauty, by their glorious alabaster grace. Their eyes were pools of azure, in which swam eternity; there was no reflection there to see his aging face. Death seemed but the faintest of possibilities, the most ludicrous of circumstances.

When they bent their smooth necks to drink from the cool spring water, bubbling in gentle swells from the heated earth below, Haggard knew he had found joy at last. Pure joy, the kind that could not wither and die and turn to dust. And he knew that he would move the heavens above and the earth below to have them as his own, these glorious creatures, and he would spend the end of his days surrounded by the most perfect contentment, never to be ruined by death's inevitable touch.

There were books in his library. Old books, tomes with pages turned yellow with age. In it there were spells, horrible spells, binding fire and fear. Haggard muttered words in languages that time forgot, and brought forth something that was never meant to be. It raged across the ruin of his once fecund land, hooves a terrible thunder in the darkness, seeking to imprison that which should always be free.

When Lir returned from the wars with medals shining like stars on his breast and the hope for approval naked in his eyes, the red bull slept wreathed in shadows beneath the castle floors. At night, it tore through the darkness in a fury of flame, and the cries of the unicorns split the night in twain. Haggard stood on the casement each night as the bull covered their tracks, as the moonlit creatures were driven past him and captured by the sea.

* * *

Year followed year, and Lir stayed with him, though Haggard did not understand why. His adopted son was renowned and brave, and yet as mortal as any man and just as doomed to die. The aging magician bored him and the castle reposed silently on the crags, towering and shivering from the weight of years. Haggard's only joy was found in that turbulent surge of water, in which the slightest hint of white shone through as his beloved unicorns danced in the waves.

When he saw the girl walking towards the castle with her two companions, he felt the sureness of some terrible prophecy settle like a mantle over his shoulders. She came out of the darkness of his failing vision and his aging land, this woman who embodied in her every step the purest, shining light of innocence unbound. She came bearing ruin on her brow, and he knew it, knew it as certain as he knew his fate lingered like a storm in the horizon, gathering and waiting to engulf him.

He knew what she was the moment he looked into her eyes, because he could not see death. His own, the falling remnants of his once-grand castle or the land dead beyond. Just her wide, glassy eyes, in which eternity gleamed like a promise. He recalled the day he stood and watched the unicorns, before he had them driven into the churning frothing sea, and he thought with certainty, you, you are the last, you are the one for which the bull hunts, restless and persistent. When the waves take you it will be over, and the world will know your kind no more.

He did not throw her in the sea with the others, but he thought about it. At night with the faintest silver moonlight spilling across the faded coverlet of his bed, he lay awake and thought of the strands of her silver hair, drifting silently on the waves, the blue of her eyes drowned by cold gray water.

* * *

He watches as the bull tries to drive her into the sea, talons of red flame licking out, insistent and determined, and the girl-turned-unicorn is afraid. She dances backwards in measured steps, and the sea licks at her, enticing and so very, very close.

In the waves, his beauties surge and swim towards the shore, volatile with the promise of escape from their long imprisonment. The bull, a great hulking thing of shadow and flame, presses onward. Lir lies, unconscious or dead (it does not matter) on the shores of the sea, trying to save his beloved from the bull's implacable progress. Haggard watches, and he knows when the unicorn rears up, driving the bull back towards the castle in her rage, that her innocence has been forever lost by the taint of love. His death looms on the horizon, and he can taste it in the air; heavy and thick with salt.

The bull is driven backwards as the others come forth. They spill like the most perfect of jewels, diamond-pure and wet with seawater, onto the shore. Their hooves beat a rhythmic tattoo as they thunder past, stone turning to dust in their wake, and the casement upon which he stands begin to crumble. Their exile is over, and Haggard's last sight is of earthly joy forever fleeing, racing away in silver droves over his dead land. Back to their green valleys and their perfect meadows, where they will live in harmony, and where they will fade, forgotten, into the mist.

And thus it ends, thinks the mad king, and then he thinks no more.

* * *

There are no happy endings, because nothing ends.

--Fin
 
 
touring: : work
always been so: : accomplishedaccomplished
rock and roll is: : assassination of jesse james soundtrack
 
 
 
Bean Ruabeanrua on January 28th, 2008 08:13 pm (UTC)
typo: slightest hint of whine shone through...think that should be white.

inathunderstorm on January 28th, 2008 08:14 pm (UTC)
HAHA. Yes, thank you!!
Selenaselenak on January 28th, 2008 08:38 pm (UTC)
Oh, this is beautiful. And amazing. And feels truly like a part of the novel in its poetry.
inathunderstorm on January 28th, 2008 08:39 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I have loved The Last Unicorn since I was a child. I always loved King Haggard the best, which is a surprise to absolutely no one, I think. *laughs*
pete and gabe's collaborative dicks: blossominlovewithnight on January 28th, 2008 08:56 pm (UTC)
That's really lovely and oh, SAD. (And not pretentious! ::thwaps you lightly::)
inathunderstorm on January 28th, 2008 08:57 pm (UTC)
Oh, you should watch the movie sometime. It is really sad. And we can fast-forward through the lame singing.

(Oh, it's a little pretentious!!)
Ariel: firefly-inara-healing boobieslodessa on January 28th, 2008 09:26 pm (UTC)
(NOOO YOU MUST SUFFER THROUGH THE TERRIBLE SINGING)
Ariellodessa on January 28th, 2008 09:27 pm (UTC)
I love how in this piece you've maintained Haggard's characterization but really explained it so much more fully as a fear of death/change.

This made me almost start crying... which is a sure sign you captured the feeling of the original.
inathunderstorm on January 28th, 2008 09:30 pm (UTC)
OH, thank you! I am really glad to hear the characterizations worked. Yay! Thanks so much for reading!!
Ariellodessa on January 28th, 2008 09:31 pm (UTC)
It really really did.

And thank you for writing this. It makes me wish there was more LU fic.
inathunderstorm on January 28th, 2008 09:32 pm (UTC)
There's a nice comm called last_unicorn_, where I found a very lovely little Amalthea/Molly Grue fic.
Ariellodessa on January 29th, 2008 04:19 pm (UTC)
Thanks.
Arkadyevna: Last Unicorn: squee!arkadyevna on January 29th, 2008 12:31 am (UTC)
This is just fantastic! I'm sorry I don't have better words to describe my reaction, but... wow. I've always found the character of King Haggard utterly fascinating, and he's inspired a (somewhat odd, admittedly) fangirlishness in me because of that. So I was thrilled to read this fic, which, to echo another's comment, really did capture the essence of the novel so well!
inathunderstorm on January 29th, 2008 03:27 am (UTC)
Oh, thank you! He's my favorite for his complexity (and in the movie he was voiced by Christopher Lee, yum) and I am so glad that you enjoyed the story and that his voice rang true for you. Thank you so much for reading!!
Cassandraroguebelle on January 29th, 2008 03:33 am (UTC)
*squeals delightedly* Ohhh, this makes me so very happy! It fits so nicely with the tone of the novel and the film both. Really delightful, darling. :)
inathunderstorm on January 29th, 2008 03:34 am (UTC)
Thank you!! I am so glad you like it. I had a lot of fun writing it, and I'm so pleased people enjoy it! Thank you, darling!! *mwah*
MCthreewalls on February 26th, 2008 05:19 pm (UTC)
That you've made something beautiful of Haggard impresses me very much.
inathunderstorm on February 26th, 2008 05:41 pm (UTC)
Oh, thank you! I confess he's always been my favorite character; I'm so pleased you enjoyed the story!! :)
Soniamrs_laugh_track on May 11th, 2009 04:58 pm (UTC)
Oh! Oh! OHMYGOD. This is. Wow. I've always been intrigued by Haggard and this fic is just... *flails wordlessly at you*

(nope you're not done getting random comments on old fic from me)
inathunderstorm on May 11th, 2009 05:03 pm (UTC)
<333! I watched this movie and was moved to write pretentious fic about Haggard, who was always my favorite character (predictable me is predictable). So glad you liked it!

(I am 100% okay with that. I was tagged for the C6D thing, so am WRITING THAT THING, hee.)