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Even now, as his sister danced outside with every ounce of hope and determination she could muster, even as his mother suffered within the Raven’s belly, even as the entire town was enveloped in darkness and despair and the caw-caw’s echoed through the air …
… He couldn’t write.
The duck-feather quill quivered as his hands shook, fear and dread and doubt flooding him. He had never done this alone. Not without his mother’s hand holding his own or his sister’s smile to spur him on. His heart reached out to the cries of his family, but his fingertips simply would not move–!
Tears stung his blue eyes as he gripped his wrist, trying to force the action. He needed to get something down! Anything down! It was up to them! They were supposed to make a difference and save everyone!
And there he was, leaving his sister alone to shoulder the burden.
He released a sob, his shoulders heaving. The sky grew darker. His sister grew tired. His mother’s voice in his heart grew quieter.
When he felt creeping surrender slip around his mind, his fingers loosening around the quill, the clock nearby stopped ticking. Gears began to creak, groaning with resistance. Bells chimed, and the sound of drums drew his attention to his left.
There was a little girl with mint-green hair, drumming as she watched the cogs spin backwards. She pointed with one drum stick to a spotlight that hadn’t been there before. “Going back again, zura~!”
Under this spotlight was a man.
He had his face–no,not quite, those were his sister’s green eyes. And he was wearing an ink-stained shirt and white gloves.
Behind the man, scenes flashed across the stage–of a duck, sitting on the man’s lap as he wrote; Mama, young, dancing with him (so like the way she danced alone at night); a wedding, where Uncle Autor played the piano and Aunt Raetsel and Grandpa Karon were crying.
When the scenes began to fade, the spotlight remained. Beneath it, the man was cradling a baby next to a startlingly familiar bassinet, rocking the child to sleep.
“Once upon a time,” the man whispered, his voice deep heavy with emotion and stifled sobs, “there was a man who loved his son.”
The young man watched, tears streaming in silent rivulets down his freckled cheeks. When he felt the gentle, supportive press of a gloved hand upon his shoulder, time resumed, and so did he. His quill began to fly across the empty page, fingers pouring out the words and emotions he never knew and never heard–of undying devotion, care, and love; of fierce protectiveness, loyalty and pride.
That day, the town was saved, and the story ended. And Papa’s feelings finally reached them.