ONE BLACK FEATHER
Chapter 8: Black, White and Gray Skies
Phos and Lux came home. The Goddess Palutena saw them descend like a bolt of lightning on one of the outer-islands of her domain. She greeted them, calmed them and examined their empty chariot.
"Where is your master?" she asked Phos as she took Lux's tracings. "He really isn't coming back, is he?"
The goddess blinked back tears that threatened to spill from the edges of her eyes. She led the unicorns to where they had been previously stabled. It wasn't a good sign for them to come home without Pit. She wondered if he would summon them again. Perhaps Pit just needed a little time alone.
Palutena looked at Pit's laurel crown as she teleported back to Pittoo's grave. She rested it atop the stone sarcophagus. She looked up at Dark Pit's statue. It was in its proper position – "guarding" Skyworld, looking out into the star-dappled expanse. Despite its stillness, the goddess was sure she felt a bit of Pittoo's presence radiating from it.
She heard his voice inside her head, so faint she nearly missed it: The connection is broken. Remember that you are the one who broke it.
The goddess' mind flashed back to the night she had replaced Pit's failing organs with those of his doppelganger. She remembered with utter clarity her poor little Pittoo's sleeping face, gently breathing. She'd stroked his cheek before she got to work on him, her soft hands already bloodied from prying Pit open and fixing him for the exchange. She winced as she remembered the hitch in Pittoo's breath when she'd made her first cut and how she worried that he might have felt it. She'd used her power as a goddess to send him deeper into sleep. She tried not to think of the eye "looking" at her as she took it from him. She bit her lip and hunched over the stone coffin as she remembered how Dark Pit's mouth and throat had instinctually struggled with stopped-breath as she took his lungs. She was careful to keep the heart beating after that – the final piece, which was exchanged very swiftly.
Palutena wept as she remembered closing the harvested body up, stitching it gingerly. She tried to remind herself how overjoyed she was when she saw Pit breathing easy for the first time in weeks. She had focused more on the living angel, then, than the dead one.
"Were you right, Pittoo?" she asked, not expecting any answer. "Could you have saved your brother if I had only waited?"
She received no answer.
"So, Icarus… I never thought you went for places like this."
She had found him after some weeks and decided to pay him a visit. This was awkward for them both.
"Well, strange times call for strange places," the cloaked boy who was being addressed as "Icarus," answered. They sat at a table in a small restaurant with dirty walls.
"I like the cloak. It looks like it belongs to someone we met once."
"More like a pair of someones," Icarus said ruefully, "Kind of like I used to be, hum? Two sets of wings that will never fly together again? Magnus and I made a good haul on our last job, so I was able to afford a coat like the Robins from Smash to hide my wings. You seem to be having a hard time hiding yourself. Everyone is looking at you."
"It's the way it used to be, Icarus… you and your Minerva, out touring the towns and shrines."
Indeed, Palutena had made herself out to be as plain as possible in her mortal guise, but something about her smooth skin and the luster of her long hair always made her look overly noble for almost any area she tried to visit on the surface-world. Even with its color changed to a dull brown, it always gave her away as "someone a little different." Pit, meanwhile, was sitting there with a long duster-coat hiding every inch of his back and a cowl resting a dark shadow over his face.
He just didn't look right.
"It can't be that way again," Pit said lowly. One red eye shone from beneath his hood.
"Pi-Icarus, please," Palutena said, "Be reasonable! I had to save your life. You are… more precious to me than you will ever know! I regret what happened."
"Do you regret killing him?"
"Y-yes. Very much so."
Pit pulled back the cowl and gave her what she took to be a hopeful look. He then put the hood back over his head and looked away. "I…I just can't trust you yet."
Palutena noticed his voice breaking. "Can't trust me? You've always trusted me."
"Life takes us on funny paths," he answered. "Not like a clown, either – though clowns are creepy, so I guess I'm glad…"
"You're going off on a trail again," Palutena reminded him. "You're still my Pit."
"I'm not!" Pit blurted out, the available light catching the red eye beneath the shadow again. "I mean… I am… oh, I'm so confused!"
"You don't have to be," the goddess gently said. "We can go back home and we'll figure out what to do next, okay?"
Pit shook his hooded head. "No," he said softly. "Pittoo doesn't want to. Neither do I. We're free now. I… I miss you, but I'm hurt. I need to figure things out on my own for a while, okay?"
Palutena sighed. "Okay. I'll respect that. However, if another war with the Underworld comes up, I don't think I'll be able to give you a choice. I need you, Pit."
"If another war like that comes up," Pit answered, "I'll fight – but it will be for the people. I'm not sure I'm ready to really give it my all for you again, yet."
"That won't bring Pittoo back."
Pit and Magnus found that living and traveling together had an effect on both their morale and their morality. For his part, Pit felt more "manly" just being around Magnus. He felt himself "toughening up." He learned from him many of the ways the mortals he'd always protected loved – about strength-of-heart and pain and life in general. He did not learn anything "out of his league" according to Magnus. The man refused to try to get Pit any kind a date or a bed-partner, but Pit didn't really want one – not even for Pittoo. The one time he'd tried had been merely a whim of Dark Pit's when they were drunk.
Magnus, for his part, felt that Pit was making him a bit "soft." He was refusing to take jobs he'd normally not have a problem with – jobs that would require the killing of men. Magnus had always been careful in the past regarding the jobs he took – it just wouldn't do to wind up owing a debt to a bad band of organized criminals or to wind up working for a tyrannical warlord, still, having Pit as a traveling partner made him even more wary. Magnus had no trouble "taking out the trash" for the right price, but he worried that Pit would have a problem with it. The kid might not have been under the employ of an aloof protector-goddess anymore, but Magnus knew that he was still attached to the idea of "protecting human life."
It wasn't so much that he worried about destroying him – it was a matter of thinking that he would hesitate in a fight. Even if Pit's rejected goddess saw fit to bring him back before his soul flew or to protect him from a fatal blow, Magnus knew he was just a man and did not have that same luxury. He had an aging body, no pretty wings to hide and he was unwilling to take unnecessary risks. He remembered how Pit was when he'd first met the kid – how distraught he was at the thought that he might have killed his ex-partner, Gaol. The sellsword decided that it was best, as long as they were together, to stick to work involving monster-slaying and artifact hunts.
That was how they wound up on a fateful job – one that would put them at risk of both killing and being killed - but one that Pit was willing to take. Keeping their ears open around one town led them to stories of a "magic mirror" a local noble was keeping in his manor. Tracing the rumors of this mirror with a bit of detective work – something that Pit was surprised that Magnus was good at, since he had the look and mannerisms of a "more brawn than brains" type, they learned that this mirror, much like the Mirror of Truth, was designed to make copies of things.
"We don't know if the copies are meant to be living things, Angel Face," Magnus cautioned as they stood beneath a dark wall, looking up at the towers of the manor in the moonlight the night they chose to try to infiltrate the structure.
"We've gotta try," Pit replied, giving Magnus a pleading look. "This could be my chance to set things right again – to give my brother's soul its own body like it should have. He wants to try it."
"Well, alright. I think we can scale the wall, and then you can just glide on into that west window if you think you can jump that far."
Pit flared out his wings proudly. "Oh, I might not be able to fly on my own, but I've got gliding covered!"
"I'll go below and keep the guards off your back. Don't give me that look. I'll just knock 'em out. I don't wanna kill anyone I don't have to. If all goes right, this will be a quick break-in-and-go, nice and simple."
"Thank you, Magnus."
The plan went off without problems as the manor was full of sleep. Magnus even found the front-gate guards to be lackluster. They'd been very easy to sneak up upon, even with his large frame. Then, as large as he was, he'd gained a knack for being stealthy when he needed to be.
Pit, being small and light, was decidedly stealthier by nature. He ran down the halls, ducking in shadows and behind whenever he heard a noise. He was spooked by a rat running along a hallway in the darkness. "I guess even the rich have these problems," he said to himself.
I see a glint. Idiot didn't even lock up that room.
"You're right, Pittoo," Pit said to other presence inside his head. "I see it, too. I wonder if this is it!"
The rat entered the room and was caught in a beam of moonlight. It shone pale off the surface of an ornate, floor-length mirror with a frame decorated in a motif of carved bones and trailing serpents. The thing certainly had the look of a thing crafted by dark sorcery. The rat stood up on its hind-limbs and sniffed the mirror, letting its whiskers brush against the glass. It squeaked and jumped back as a shadow materialized from it and ran out across the floor.
"A black rat!" Pit softly exclaimed. He kept his voice to a whisper for fear of waking the lord of the manor or his servants. The original gray rat wandered off to corner of the room. The black rat glared at Pit with a shining red eye and slinked off into the shadows.
Couldn't have had a better test, Dark Pit said. That was lucky.
"It sure was! Okay, Pittoo, are you ready to get your body back?"
Pit stepped before the mirror. He beheld his image within it. It was darkly colored – dark hair, dark clothing, dark wings and red eyes. While there was a time when such an image of himself would have frightened him, having gotten to know that image made him smile.
"There you are, Dark Pit," he said softly as he raised a hand to the mirror and gently pressed his fingers to the image. Immediately, he felt his heart rate speed up. His middle ached. All of the breath was sucked from his lungs. His head hurt as his right eye started bulging out, threatening to slip its socket. Pit slammed his eyelid shut, trying to keep it in. He grabbed himself, trying to will his heart and his lungs stop pounding against this sternum and ribcage.
Stop it, Pit! the Pittoo-voice inside him cried. Get away from the mirror! It's not working right! Something's wrong! Something's wrong!
Pit felt like the image in the mirror was trying to re-harvest everything that had been Pittoo. He fell to the wooden floor and saw, out of the corner of his eye, the gray rat. It was in a similar position, fidgeting on the floor with blood and foam coming out of its mouth. The red-eyed black rat was busily nibbling into the nape of its neck, trying to eat it and to drag it away at the same time.
Pit was in agony. He could taste iron in his mouth. His center throbbed. He was curled up in a fetal position and could not get up. He felt a mighty wind above him and heard the shattering of glass. He saw a few slivers of mirror slide down to the floor, skittering next to nose.
"Angel Face!" came a familiar deep voice. Magnus took his sword out of the mirror, which he'd swung before the enchanted glass could register his image or even the sword's. He stowed the massive blade on his back and caught his breath as he heard footsteps approaching. He grabbed up Pit roughly. Pit moaned.
"Sorry, kid. I'm gonna get you out of here. Just hang on, okay?"
Everything was a blur for Pit after that, a blur and random stabs of pain as Magnus moved with him. His eye was staying back in, so at least there was that. It has difficult to see anything with one eye washed in tears of blood.
"I'm taking you to one of Palutena's shrines!" Magnus said. "Maybe she'll find you and be able to help you."
"N-no!" Pit protested weakly. He was already laid out upon an altar before he was able to choke it out.
"I'm sorry, kid," Magnus said. "I don't know how to help you and I don't wanna watch you die! Besides, these shrines are sanctuary! I've used them plenty of times to hide until the heat's off!"
"No…no…" Pit struggled as he saw and felt a beam of light. The embrace of it was warm and familiar. His bloody vision faded into that light.
Pit awakened to the gentle chirping of birds. He lay on his back upon his soft wings and upon an even softer pile of cushions, sheets and pillows. His bed was in the open air near columns. The ceiling was a dome above him. He felt well, like he'd had a great rest. Everything smelled nice.
It was familiar and this was what alarmed him.
We are home. Dark Pit said within. It is okay, Pit. The mirror we found was a fraud. The magic was unstable. Someone was probably trying to use it to breed shadow-soldiers or something – something short-lived, something expendable.
Pit felt a stab to the heart with that. Pittoo apparently felt it.
Not like me, Pit, he assured his original. I was your inner truth. You always knew that.
"And so you are the same, I guess," Pit replied hollowly.
Palutena walked between the arches. She held Pit's laurel-crown. "I'm glad to see you're awake, Pit," she said. She stayed apart from the bed, letting Pit get up on his own. She was treating him as though he were a wary animal. She knew that it was the only way to treat him right now.
Pit sat up and swung his legs over the edge of the bed. "I'm not going anywhere," he said, looking at the floor. "You don't have to treat me like I'm going to bolt." He then began crying softly. "I don't have anywhere to go!"
"I can send you back to the surface if you want me to, Pit," Palutena said softly. "You can even take Phos and Lux. I won't keep you anywhere you don't want to be."
"I don't have anywhere to go!" Pit said again, drawing in a sharp breath. "I… I had this hope, and…." He put a hand to his heart. "Pittoo isn't going anywhere. I can't bring him back. I don't think I'm that great at being a mortal, either."
"I need you, Pit," Palutena said. She was surprised when he let her walk up to him and gently wrap her arms around him. She stroked the bases of his wings the way she used to do whenever he was sad. "You have no idea how much I haven't been able to get done without you. I miss you."
"It doesn't erase what you did," the angel said bitterly.
"No, it doesn't. There's no taking that back."
"I'll stay," Pit said, looking up and drying his face, "It won't be like it was before, though. It can't be. I'll stay until I can find a place to be, okay? That's all… a place for me and Pittoo."
"And the humans. They're worth fighting for…. But I need to know that I can be free."
"You can come and go as you wish," Palutena decided. "I will give you no less."
She stroked one of his wings. "Hey, what's this?"
"Leave it alone!" Pit yelped.
"Your one black feather is back." The goddess smiled.
"I'm keeping it. It's my lucky feather."
A year passed for residents of Skyworld, drifting for them as though it belonged in a dream.
Pit's wings grew out in a mottled display. The tops remained as white as they ever were, but the bottom feathers, the flight-feathers, eventually grew in all black. Pit no longer had just one "lucky feather" to remind him of Dark Pit, he had wings full of black feathers.
He watched over Skyworld with a kind of strained loyalty. When he thought about it, he did still love Lady Palutena, but he served in a professional manner now. He was only here until her new head-angel grew up. She had created a fresh child. After that, he wanted to take to wandering. It was the Pittoo in him that wanted this. Pit never could give the goddess the childlike trust he used to. He found out that some things that had been broken really could not be mended without scars. He thought about this as he whenever he touched the light scars on his chest beneath his toga.
As it was, though his body looked the same age as it had before he first fell sick and lost his brother, Pit felt older. He was an immortal who felt old. He also was a little wiser and a little sadder.
Pittoo stopped "talking" to him. The inner-voice of Dark Pit became more seldom until it seemed to "fade away" over time. Pit caught himself saying, of his own accord, very "Pittoo" things every once in a while, but it wasn't the same as having his twin's will assert itself. Pit felt, perhaps, like he had before Dark Pit was born – that the elements of himself that his twin had been made from had integrated into him again. It was a lonely feeling.
Pit knew, however, that Dark Pit was still there – a part of him, always. After all, whenever he saw his reflection in a normal mirror or a pool of water he had one red eye and many lucky feathers.
This started out as a Trillian / AIM roleplay between 23 Blenders and myself. We decided that the basic story was interesting enough to make into a fanfic, so here it is.
The premise of this was initially inspired by an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 I saw. The show made fun of a 1970's-era film called Parts: The Clonus Horror. It was a low-budget, poorly-acted movie that deserved the riffing, but unlike a lot of their movies, had a plot that I actually found interesting. The film was about a man who learns that his society is a people-farm for the clones of powerful politicians and that they are being groomed to provide organ transplants. We find Pittoo to be fiercely-unique among hero-clones and shadow archetypes, so the tired old "expendable clone" trope of science fiction was especially fun to play for drama on him.