In celebration of the barricade day – a response to a prompt:
The prompt was Javert – gate – dreamy; and this is how it turned out. (Thanks to Acaila for the prompt!)
Inspiration to the title and the general arc (although it’s probably barely recognizable) go to the beautiful song “quatre murs et un toit” from Benabar.
It turned out quite angsty, I am afraid...
Two pillars and an arc
I know there are dragons
At the end of the road
As a knight I would wander
Through stories untold
There had been dreamy, careless days, at the beginning of all things.
The eyes of a child don’t see like those of an adult would, and it was in silent hours that he wondered, if these days had ever happened at all.
Those were the days, when he was allowed to play in the court when no one was there, and the stone walls of the buildings surrounding became the walls of the castle, and the a maw of iron and brick was nothing else but the jaws of the dragon.
He liked to flatter himself, that even then he had found within him the need to smite all that was wicked, the need to escape circumstance by the way of a fight for justice, and thus he had attacked the bars of the gate with a stick like a sword, but a dragon would not be conquered so easily.
I know there is justice
Here for those of true heart
And for those who are wicked
Just gallows and cart
Years later, he knew that there were no such things as dragons, but there was a thing called justice.
And the gate opened to reveal a different kind of monster.
He entered through the pillars that were cornerstones of his young world; a ruin of himself, and dreams fled to be replaced by the ugly reality of the shell of a man, haggard and broken, destroyed by years in the galleys, and nothing like a knight or a dragon. The boy learned disgust in his empty green eyes and watched him die for the murder of a guard, the attempt of escape.
The maw swallowed his father again, dead now, and slightly more lifeless than when he came, and he watched the jaws open and close and wondered if the world outside was a dragon of another kind that swallowed whole those that fell prey to it.
There was a certain satisfaction in knowing that there was a price to everything
I know there are tears
But I pay them no heed
For some men are flowers
And some men are weed
She stopped talking some time in autumn. By then, he had already stopped to see her, roaming when he could and brooding next to her when he had to. He was not of her kind and they knew it both, and as the years passed he had lost his ability to lie and make-believe.
She had wilted like flowers do, the eyes sunken and dark, the skin pallid and weak, and the splendid image of snow white (white as snow, red as blood, black as ebony…) fell into decay before him.
The guard that had shared their cell at times stopped to come and he did not begrudge him for it although meals beccame scarcer. The nights were quieter now, though, and he was glad for it.
His father had gone in a roll of thunder.
His mother just faded out of life like mist fled the morning sun.
She outlasted winter and managed spring, but as the blossoms on the tree in the center of the courtyard turned into leaves again, she stopped breathing without warning, just as she had stopped talking seven months ago.
She left the gate the same way his father had, and he watched her as the dragon swallowed her whole.
Something within him thought that she had gotten the better part of their bargain.
I know there are shadows
Amidst which I live
For mine is a sun that has
No light to give
Half-child they called him afterwards, after they both had gone and he was drifting through dungeons of stone and courtyards of cold light.
Half-child, because his blood was Roussata, hated gypsy, hated whispers of a half-forgotten language in the words of her mother, hated conversations on the courtyard when there still were more of them amidst these walls and not just her, who had been forgotten in the end. Half-child, because the other part was a man from Strasbourg, another world between the worlds. Unlike his mother, his father had not imposed his unintelligible dialect on him, but he suspected that it was more due to lack of opportunity than lack of willingness.
Half-child, because he was here not by obligation and guilt, but by blood and youth, and as he grew and breathed and learned, he understood that he was unlike anyone else here. He was trapped between those that had sinned and those that had punished, and there was no place in this world for a boy like him.
Half-child, because he was not a boy and not a man, too old to play, but too young for a hunt of any kind. He drifted between them, not belonging to any crowd, a specter of the in-between that did not meddle and did not belong.
He was a half-child, because there were only two types of people that he grew up with – those who were the wicked, who had been caught and imprisoned, and those who were the watchers, clean and clear and just. But he belonged to neither and was left to roam.
As different as they were, they lived in a world of their own, the prisoners and the guards and the half-child, and sometime between the turnings of the sun he understood that they were all facing the same doom, all facing the same exile here in this place of shadows.
They were only akin to one another; and he was akin to no one yet.
It was during this time that the gate became what it intended to be, the cruelest part of the prison, because it was the key to the outside world and yet as dangerous and insurmountable as the jaws of the dragon.
He wondered, if one day, when he passed it, it would swallow him as it had all the others.
I know there are wonders
And stars shining bright
But I am a wolf and
I hunt in the night
When finally, he stepped into the dragon, the seasons had turned another time and he was no boy any more. He left behind the gate and the prison, and the only world he ever knew, the child of constant shadow stepping into cold winter light.
He found the world outside to be inhabited by all the monsters of his childhood. They wore the faces of men, the faces of fellow human beings, but behind that façade was corruption, behind the façade was sin and villainy, and again, like everywhere, he was akin to no one and a child of silence alone.
But there had been a world he knew; a world of justice and sin, and somewhere between the confusion he remembered that this was familiarity amidst all the chaos. It was the core, the ultimate truth, and it was what he turned to in his direst need.
And that was how he became what he was.
I know there are dragons
In stories of old
I have come full circle
My heart has grown cold
The gate was still the same, two pillars and an arc, and the cornerstones of a world. But where once was fierceness, now was ruin and decay and neglect. Nature had reclaimed what had been taken from her at great cost, and birds were singing where once voices had rung.
It was a place haunted with ghosts of all kinds.
He could hear the whispers, the shouts, the cries. There was a strange kind of desperation, deeply engraved into the wall, and some part of him recognized it as its own.
But he had made his weakness his strength, and what he was could not hurt him any more as it once did.
He had no idea though why he had come back here, come full circle, to the point where everything that must not be remembered had begun. There was nothing here for him any more; the place had fallen into ruin for reasons unknown to him. He had not bothered to ask. Despite his being here, the old prison meant nothing to him.
He had shed his old self, his mother and father, the life he had had, like an old skin, and become something new, the half-child turning into a hunter, and it was better that way.
For a moment, Javert hesitated, standing in the courtyard, gazing towards the gate that he had watched so often.
And then, taking a last deep breath, he stepped forward one last time.
Into the maw of the dragon.
A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world