Author's Note [Waifine]: The events of this Prologue are meant to accompany the illustration in The Prince and the Raven of a little boy listening attentively at the feet of an old man. Episode: Three.
"Once upon a time…"
No. I must go further back. Or rather, I must go some ways forward, to this story's source. Not the source of the events. Dear me, no. Those I shall reserve for the chapters ahead. No. I mention the source from which I first heard this extraordinary narrative.
To you I am Herr Drosselmeyer, he who shall go down in history as the artist who outdid his fellows and kinsmen, the brothers Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. Believe me, I know.
I wrote it to be so.
However, I digress. Or rather, I progress too far.
I shall, for the moment, pause at a time between Once Upon and my own illustrious rise to literary mastery: I was some ten years of age when I met Herr Source – his identity shall become clear enough to you with time. Blond haired, brown eyed and thoroughly adorable, I had neglected school on this particular day in favor of the town library. Now, some of you children might think this a situation of "out of the frying-pan and into the fire," but no, not for me. School held nothing for me.
The library… held everything.
For its time. It's a small affair, really, the Goldcrown library. Nothing to write home about. However, in a time when when I was ten, blond, and adorable, the library in Goldcrown was everything.
Not only for its books, but shelves that looked as if they might have been hacked from Old Arthur's Antique Table, chairs that screeched as if the spirits of all those who had sat in them still lived within the joints, and the smell! Such a dizzying smell of old books, new bindings and most ancient stories. It was oppressing. Every moment I spent in that place I felt that I was being pressed upon from all sides. The closest I have ever come to such a feeling is a description I found in a book wherein a man told of how, through some hapless adventure or other, he found himself too deep underwater. The pressure, the panic, the magnitude. Goodness, to be crushed down by something so raw… But he survived. And all the better for it. I enjoyed the description.
And I dreamed of a day when I might be the one to, with my own to hands, press back against that raw, relentless power, and wield it as my own.
As I slowly pushed through the air and whispers that surged in upon me from the shelves, I came upon a man. This was not a particularly extraordinary find in itself. Goldcrown was, and I believe still is, full of men. True, this man was old. I dare say, older than I am now, and that is saying something. But that too is not unheard of. He was sitting in one of the many ancient chairs of the place, this one something of a high narrow thrown into which he fit a little too well.
And yet, he was not entirely there.
He seemed almost transparent. This was, of course, impossible. The lighting within the library was poor at the best of times, and this was winter. And his hair was so silver-spun, it shimmered evasively, like smoke. However, I can certainly assure you that the man was there, for he looked up at me.
Such strange, unnerving eyes he had. Golden, and yet blue, and yet, quite not. He seemed almost blind. ….And so…lonely. And he could see me.
I grinned at him.
It was, I dare say, beyond my control. The sight of him excited me so much. A thousand questions and ten thousand imagined answers spun about my mind. Those eyes. How had he gotten them? Or rather, how had he lost them? I took a step towards him. Had they been soiled irrevocably by splatters of blood? Another step. Had they been blunted by too long and pitiable a darkness? Another step. Or had they been blinded by too bright, glorious and terrible a light? Step. I was before him. And seeing him now, just a face away, I knew that every single one of my answers was correct.
What a wizened face! Mind you, he did not have as thick a beard as you may expect. Oh, it was sizable – a little past his chest, I believe – but not the Rapunzel-esqu (to reference the dear gentlemen Grimm) flow of beard one would expect from such a figure. No. It almost seemed that, despite his age, his face took ill to hair, as if it were that of a child. A seeded-out, hollow, haggard carcass of a child. And the distance between us was probably less that that between your nose and this page.
"Tell me your story," I said.
He blinked at me. "You can see me? Your eyes… must be very special."
"And you can see me. You eyes I know to be special." Special. Yes, such a 'special' word: 'special.' When a child was born demented or different, what did his parents call him? Special. When pity shone from every adult eye, what word was it that slipped like a viper from their lips: Special. Oh yes… Herr Source and I… we were both very, very 'special.'
He blinked slowly at me.
"Now…" I said… "tell me your story."
My grin widened, and it was then that I felt it. It was then, for the very first time, that I felt myself hold the power of all that crushing force around me. Books, shelves and Arthurian chairs, all the power seeped into them now seeped through me and from my eyes to his I seeped it into the old man – crushing him. Such a power. And he awakened it, with those eyes of his. Yes… Be warned, all. Such a power Death itself shall not rip from my soul.
"Because I will make it alive again for you. I shall return to life the friends you lost and the lands you ravished. Give me your story and I shall give you your soul back again."
"You might twist it to your will… rather than mine…" He spoke as one who knew.
Once more I grinned, now in affirmative. And he had not the heart to care.
"Then make yourself comfortable, little boy. It is a long tale."
"That's right," I cooed, coaxing him, easing myself onto the floor, prostrating myself before him, my Source, "Open up your heart to me."
A shuddering breath racked through Herr Source's frame and with one nie dissipated arm, he clutched at his chest… as if he had lost something. I propped myself on my elbows, an eager, child-like audience. In a wisp of a voice Herr Source rattled out:
"Once upon a time…"
Editor's Note: Dear readers, we include this Prologue into the unfinished story of The Prince and the Raven as both a curiosity and an explanation. It is, we fear, the only clue to the fate that Herr Drosselmeyer intended for Prince Siegfried from his story. Alas, the conclusion to The Prince and the Raven never became a reality, for before he could finish his manuscript, Herr Drosselmeyer died. Some believe that he wrote this Prologue, knowing the end was near.
We hope you enjoy this last, though unfinished, work of a great literary genius.