01 June 2011 @ 03:29 pm
Fic: Black Spider Howl  
Black Spider Howl
11 Things Howl Would Rather Not be Made Public Knowledge

Howl's Moving Castle (book). Warnings for excessive male ego, true love terror, spiderwebs and the Goblin King.


Howl loves Sophie. This is fact; incontrovertible, unassailable, monolithic, and he would quite like to return it to sender, because he never signed up for true love, and it makes being a creature of pure narcissism fairly difficult to maintain.

Sometimes, in his darkest moments, buried deep down beneath geographical layers of ego, wrapped in the super-gravity of arrogance, through the forests of his beauty, power, intelligence and irresistible charm, and down past the chasm of his gleeful, smug self-satisfaction, he wonders if he’s still in love with her precisely because he’s never been sure that she loves him in quite the same way that he loves her.


When Calcifer had his heart, everything was distant, like he was living through crystal walls. Women would captivate him only for so long as it took for them to try to start oozing through those walls. Nothing seemed to matter much at all, except that he be beautiful and unhinged.

Being hinged, he’d thought, would be a catastrophe akin to losing his magic. He enjoyed playing with people like they were toys. Leave them guessing, to watch which way they would jump, to see how far he could charm them into doing things they would never have done otherwise.

He still plays, but now at least he has a care for broken dolls.


The Witch still haunts him. Every night, when it is dark and still, and the stars mock him with their celestial vigor, he sweats in bed and tosses and turns until his hair is quite obscene. The roaring, heaving flush of magic hurls through the nightmares that edge in on his mind, and the power they wove together itches beneath his fingertips, begging to lay waste to all that would see him made human again.


The May Day that he’d first seen Sophie, she’d been a small swathe of grey in a riot of colours and lights, creeping around the edges of the crowd. He’d walked right past at least three peacockian beauties to get to her, and barely noticed them at all, which was unusual enough for him to check his temperature for a fever.

It was the magic, he realizes now, it was always the magic, his addiction, his blessing, and it had been winding around the grey girl like a purring cat, while there she was pretending to be a mouse.


Howl cannot stand to think of a creature so noble and vicious as a spider being killed.


He and Sophie each have their own bedrooms. She had insisted upon her own before he’d even managed to insist upon keeping his just as dirty and messy as he liked. Apart from everything else, it made fighting all the more fun, what with them each having their own doors to slam dramatically and walls to yell through and bang with fists. And as much as he would deny it, one of his favourite things in the world was the wondrous feeling of sneaking into her room, where it always smelt of flowers and grace, and climbing into her clean, over-stuffed feather-down bed, whereupon she would pretend to be greatly irritated, even as she pressed up against him, warm and silky, and whispered grumpy nothings into his skin.

Then of course there were the days he would find the castle empty, when he would pass through the old kitchen, look through the empty bedrooms and sigh in spite of himself in her absence. Sometimes she would be in right behind him, collapsing beneath the weight of hundreds of flowers, skin flushed with the wind and sun of flower meadows of the Waste.

Sometimes, though, she wouldn’t come home for days, which he couldn’t fairly begrudge her – though he did anyway – seeing as how he would often do the same himself. She would come in, dirt smudged across her cheek and ingrained in her fingernails, a walking stick clutched in one hand and story on her lips, bristling for a fight.

Some days, though, he would walk through the empty castle and up to his room, where she would be lying on her stomach down the centre of his bed, his exotic, embroidered bedclothes draping around her shoulders while she intently studied some book of magical theory or another that he hadn’t so much as cracked open since he’d finished his thesis, and only maintained so that his room would look appropriately wizardly.


Howl has fits of psychopathy. He doesn’t mean to, but sometimes he just goes mad, and there’s nothing in the world that can stop him. It’s always things that other people never think is important that set him off. Big things he can deal with, though he will always take the opportunity to be flamboyantly craven and sullen, because being flamboyant about it makes the fact of it a little easier to bear, and distracts people from the truth hidden in the center like a rotten core.

He likes to sidle out the side of power and heroism; that way, he’s sure to never risk being mistaken for a good person. Sometimes he worries that someone like Sophie could love him, but then she’ll turn around and do something reassuring, like defenestrate a royal genie.

It’s the little things that bring on the madness, they take a grip on his mind; an irrational, sordid hold that pours out of him, feeding the milling shadows of grotesquery that glom onto his magic and threaten to eat his mind away.

Little things. He gets truly, ferociously, helplessly hysterical over the little things. Like when he’s spent countless hours ensuring that his hair is pristine, and some ignorant, oblivious, self-righteous cleaning lady sails on through and utterly destroys all his work, which he just knows no one will recognize as tragedy it is.

He can’t help himself, the piteous fury rings through him, hot beneath his skin, while petty frustration boils away the thin veneer of courtly cool he fosters over the screaming toddler within.

And that’s when the magic takes hold, of course, because that’s where it comes from; that squalling, primal child who simply refused to grow up. It lashes out at the world, and he revels in the power and the squalor of it.

He never apologizes. Sophie never forgives him.


Howl has no idea why the Prince Justin took such a strong liking to him. All Howl knows is that if he hadn’t had such a dratted compulsion to be so polite and amenable to his Royal Majesty, he wouldn’t have ended up knowing what a good kisser he was.

Sophie, being heartless and ego-deflatingly unpossessive, finds this an endlessly amusing anecdote to bring up at dinner parties.


The Freudian implications of going around pretending Sophie was his mother and then taking up with her have not escaped him.


He has a cousin called Jareth somewhere. Howl doesn’t much like him at all. His hair is, quite frankly, intimidatingly impressive.

How it all started was that he’d been wondering for a good long while whether he had fey blood from the old Welsh highlands; if that was why he’d been fascinated with magic even before he knew it was real, how he’d found his way through the looking glass and into Ingary, why he could spin spells like a spider spins webs. Then, all of a sudden, just for the thinking of it, he’d found Jareth stalking through his mind like a nightmare swirling into life from silky threads and sticky weeds.

‘Ickle cousin,’ the Goblin King had sneered, some strange, wierding glimmer of fondness crawling across his sharp face.

Howl had slammed back into his chair, ripping his mind out of the vision with a great and dignified terror, and promptly went tearing about the castle, drawing flaming sigils and pulling up floorboards to lay down universe-dividing magical formulae, while in the background, Calcifer whirled himself up into a reactionary frenzy.

All of which, of course, did nothing to stop Jareth from stalking him for a while - before his attention wandered off again - and Howl was definitely not going to think about where he got some of his more facetious characteristics, because down that road the perils of introspection and self-awareness lay in wait.

Jareth had called himself Howl’s ancestor and Patriarch. So of course Howl preferred to think of him not-too-fondly as the odd backwater cousin, and fiercely ignored the magical invitations to family reunions that wrote themselves on Sophie’s rose petals once in a blue moon.


Howl gets along much better with his son when he treats him like a magic spell. He must be experimented upon, treated gently, extrapolated, encouraged, researched, dressed up prettily and above all, treated with the greatest of respect for their potential for destructive behaviour.

Sophie smiles at Howl, watching him determine the learning curve of Morgan’s fine motor skills by teaching him how to weave poisonous spider webs into rune markings.

Howl looks away from her smile, and out the window to the ocean. He can’t be content. He can’t be.

That’s when Sophie dumps a pail of dirty laundry water over his head, and grins in the face of his spluttering rage.

‘You were getting morose.’ She informs him.

So they fight, they make love, they throw priceless magical artifacts at each other, she spells his clothes into polka-dot patterns, he sets fire to her vegetable patch, they go save the land from a nefarious cthulu, and then they love some more.

It’s not enough. Not for Howl. Not for Sophie. So sometimes they go walking. Sometimes they come back by the afternoon. Sometimes not for days, or weeks. But they always come back.


Comments, as always, are greatly appreciated.
theme song: Keep the Streets Empty For Me - Fever Ray
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anonymous_sibyl[personal profile] anonymous_sibyl on June 1st, 2011 05:32 pm (UTC)
I adore this, it's so very Howl. I especially like #6. The first paragraph of that section is exactly right for Howl and Sophie, right down to the "grumpy nothings." Great job!
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Something like a crossroads song[personal profile] charlieblue on June 2nd, 2011 12:30 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much!
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foursweatervests: it's light outside[personal profile] foursweatervests on June 1st, 2011 09:21 pm (UTC)
I've never read Howl fic before; I thought it was lovely. I'm very glad this is the first one I've read.
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Something like a crossroads song[personal profile] charlieblue on June 2nd, 2011 12:31 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you liked it! :)
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