lb_lee: A tiny MSpaint drawing of Princess Judith from the Princess and Her Monster, frowning and shouting, "I DISAPPROVE!" (judith)
[personal profile] lb_lee
Broken Cup
Series: the Princess and Her Monster
Word Count: 1000
Summary: After a transformation, Gad deals with his new body.
Notes: Wow, it's been a long time since I posted a proper PaM story!  It was prompted by kaylin881 and sponsored by the Patreon crew! Like other Judith and Gad stories, this story is named after a Jason Webley song, which is my PaM music. Also, if you're curious, the fortress's layout is here; it's a rough square, with the courtyard at the center.  I also have an old drawing of Gad before and after his change.  More notes at the bottom.

At first, Gad hardly noticed his transformation. He didn't want to notice. Too much had happened, too quickly, and all he wanted was to focus on the task at hand—removing the dead from the fortress.

It was slow going. His center of gravity had shifted drastically, and his legs felt as though they'd fallen asleep. He blundered into doorways, walls, and furniture, which splintered under his weight. Even using corpses as ballast, he tripped and fell constantly—in his new form, it didn't hurt, but it was tedious, and combined with his newfound strength, sometimes ended gruesomely.

He was glad he didn't have to sleep. He was certain he would've had nightmares. As it was, he was strong and tireless, and that was all that mattered.

Once he had moved the corpses out to the courtyard, he prepared to drag them out to the woods. It wasn't the godly thing to do, but a shovel was beyond his current dexterity, and besides, these men had intended to kill him and possibly his princess as well. Unfortunately, it turned out there was another unpleasant facet of his transformation; he couldn't leave the fortress. Not only did it hurt, but the fortress shook and started dropping stones if he tried. After a roof tile narrowly missed him, he decided not to take any further risks. He returned to the living quarters, to the window seat, where Princess Judith had stayed since the violence.

Her eyes were hollow, far older than her nine years, and she wore the same bloodstained dress from before. She didn't acknowledge Gad's presence, only stared out the window.

“Princess,” he said, “I can't leave the fortress.”

She didn't move.

“I can’t remove the dead. We have to get them out of here, or we'll get scavengers.”

Still no response. The child sat like an island, far from him.

“Please, Judith. I… I need you to move them for me. I'm so sorry.”

For a moment, Gad worried she had withdrawn too deeply into herself for anything to reach her. Then she turned from the window, stood, and walked to the gates in silence. Gad followed her, as he always had, ever since she was a grim little toddler and he'd been assigned as her personal guardsman, under the presumption that a gentile would have no compunctions.

Judith looked over the bodies of her would-be captors, face blank.

“To the woods?” she asked.

It was the first she'd spoken since the deaths. Gad nodded.

She closed her eyes, and one by one, the dead lurched to their feet, eyes glazed and unfocused but filled with mute accusation. The strong picked up those too damaged to walk, and then they limped and lurched away, an army of broken puppets. Into the woods, out of sight, and when the last one left their view, Judith turned away. She looked into his eyes and took a grip on his fingers, like she had when small.

“I'm hungry,” she said.

They thought of the hall, and the bloodshed therein.

“Let's eat in the kitchen,” Gad said, and Judith nodded.

In the kitchen, the coals of the great fire were easily stirred into crackling flames and the walls were comfortingly close. No one had died or fought in here, and so the only smell that hung in the air was that of herbs and spices. Everything was clean and ordinary.

Gad took a kettle to hang over the fire, only for there to be a shriek of metal. When he opened his hand, the edge of it was warped and bent to the contours of his hand.

“It seems you’ve not gotten a handle on your strength yet,” she said.

He sighed. “No.”

They stared at the kettle for a moment, as though it held all of life’s answers. Then Gad started to chuckle, with a hysterical edge.

“No, no,” he said, seeing her alarmed face. “It’s just… we’ve been through a great deal today, Princess. We've defeated the most powerful witch in the seaside kingdoms, showed his corpse the door, and here we are, bested by supper.”

She stared at him. Then she started to giggle. Soon they were both shrieking with laughter. It was not a happy sound; it was raw and broken, a desperate attempt to make the horror into something small and mean and manageable.

After a few horrible minutes, they calmed down. Gad wiped a tear from his eye.

“You're my hands for now. First lesson on running an estate: making soup.”

It took some effort and a few broken cups, but they finally had dinner, Gad carefully sipping from his bowl. He could only catch the barest glimpse of his new face in the reflection, but he avoided looking anyway.

Judith noticed. “You don't look bad. Just different.”

“Mm. How about a bath? You need one.”

While she searched for the soap and clean clothes (he knew better than to try handling them), he heated water and filled the tub. He started to look away from his reflection again, then took a deep breath and bent to look himself in the eye.

His features were hairless, and weathered like an old monument, but essentially the same. His eyes were unchanged. When he carefully ran his hands over his face, it felt about right, though oddly smooth. When he opened his mouth and squinted, his tongue remained pink and soft. That was something, at least.

Judith came in, carrying a new, clean dress that was obviously intended for someone older and of much lower station. “You don't look bad,” she insisted. “Just different.”

He stroked his smooth chin. “My beard. Ach, I look like a boy.”

“It wasn't a proper beard anyway.”

“Shame on you.” But he was smiling. His charge still saw him the same. His face was mostly the same. They were alive, and that was more than their attackers could say.

They set to scrubbing the blood and the despair from each other.

Notes: Baths in Gad and Judith's home are social, communal matters, so bathing together isn't nearly as weird. (Though bathing with your guardsman is, but they're both really upset.) Also, going without is just socially embarrassing.
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