Chapter Two

A Sword of Old Magic

Prince Siegfried grew into everything to make his royal parents proud beyond their wildest dreams. He was fearless in combat, elegant in manner, and had the gentlest heart and most noble soul of any young man in the kingdom. What had once been a prophesy which made King Mime and Queen Sieglinde fearful, had grown into a reality that gave them boundless joy. With the banishing of the ravens, the kingdom had become peaceful beyond anyone's imagination. Crime and war vanished, and in a single night the land had become orderly and constant, like a well-cared for watch. And all of the people remembered this day as the day of their Prince's birth. [1]

"Are you excited, your highness?" The old nursemaid who had tended to him for years now lovingly fastened the cape around the young Prince's shoulder.

"Yes," he smiled, doing his best to stay absolutely still. "I've looked forward to this for weeks. You know, I could hardly sleep last night because of it." He was aquiver with anticipation. He looked above the fireplace in his room, to where his family crest hung – a crest on which was emblazed a beautiful, crowned swan with rainbow colored wings, set against a blue background, as clear and as bold as that of a lake on a summer's day. The swan itself perched upon a greater crown, embedded with precious gems. [2]

Siegfried fidgeted with a golden thread from the swan embroidered on his own white tunic. A rising, soaring swan.

He smiled, his honey colored eyes transfixed. "From this day forward, the crest of our kingdom will be mine to carry." Today was the day of Prince Siegfried's coming of age; what for other boys was knighthood, and for him was the shouldering of all his princely duties.

The hour struck. The bells rang through the kingdom. Siegfried smiled, resolution in his face. He was ready. I have wanted this for so long, he thought. I want to be awarded my sword and shield. I want to be able to protect everyone. …To love everyone.

In every other moment of his life, he was Prince Siegfried. He was the destined King, the promised Prince. The only heir to the throne of this fair Kingdom. However, when he trained and sparred, and studied, and struggled with his peers, he was a boy of noble birth like any other, seeking the most honorable state of knighthood and duty.

Siegfried paced one of the corridors adjacent to the Great Hall, where the ceremony would commence. He took a deep breath, and straightened his back. Nervously, he ran his fingers through his wisp-like blond hair. [3]

Conversations came in and out of focus as courtiers traveled down adjacent hallways, moving to the Great Hall to find themselves seats. The Prince's coming of age was not a spectacle to be missed.

"So, how many are being knighted today?"

"I hear it will just be the Prince, and one other."

"Oh, who?"

"That surly fellow. You know the one. Parsifal's boy." [4]

The trumpets sounded, and Siegfried's undivided attention returned the Hall. Just one turn around the corner and it would be upon him.

Such events were never well attended. The king would take an hour out of his day to knight a boy or two. Perhaps the boy's family would make an appearance, to see and be seen in the courtly circles. However, this time it seemed as though all the court had turned up for the occasion. Wooden stalls had been erected to line the walls. The Prince could hear the noise, the whispering, and the laughter all die down with the trumpets' swell.

It was time. Taking a deep breath, he stepped out of the corridor and into the Great Hall of the Swan Stone Castle. [5]

All eyes were on him. At the end of the Hall were three small archways, within each of which was nestled a throne. In the center sat the king, and Siegfried could see from here how the man was attempting to check his fatherly pride beneath that well-trimmed beard. On his right sat Siegfried's mother, who was holding his father's hand in an attempt to give him support, even as she herself had eyes that glistened so that they caught every spark of light from the chandlers that lined the Hall. [6]

"Your Royal Majesties," the caller began to slowly announce in his sing-song baritone, "my Lords and Ladies of the Court, here stands before you Siegfried, son of Mime…" The caller announced him, his rank and his lineage five generations back, and all of his ancestors' great deeds. Siegfried walked at a steady pace across the length of the Hall. Just as the crier called out, "We come here to honor him for his bravery and his chivalry. Amen," Siegfried came to stand before his parents. He smiled up at them both, before sinking down on one knee.

Another trumpet sounded.

"Your Royal Majesties, my Lords and Ladies of the Court, here stands before you Lohengrin, son of Parsifal…" and once more, on and on the proclamation went until, out of the corner of his eye, as his head was bowed, Siegfried saw a pair of well-made but simple black boots come to stop by his side.

"Amen."

The owner of the pair of boots bowed to the king and queen, and then he too took a knee by Siegfried's side. As they set themselves so, with their heads bent, the two young men caught each other's eye.

Siegfried smiled. The other boy, Lohengrin, merely raised an eyebrow before returning his stare to the ground. Siegfried kept his gaze on his companion one moment longer before looking away as well. He was a black-haired boy, of what appeared to be Siegfried's own age and stature. He has such storm-filled green eyes, was all that Siegfried had time to think before his father rose.

"Do you, Siegfried of the House Mime, and Lohengrin of the House Parsifal, swear on your lives to protect the innocent, defend the weak, and serve the royal line of this kingdom with justice, honor, and love?"

"My lord king, this I do swear," the two boys chorused as one.

Siegfried sensed rather than saw how his father took up one of the two swords he had leaned against his throne. He heard the metal sing as his father unsheathed it.

"Lohengrin, Parsifal's son, you took a knee as a boy. Rise now as a man." Mime set the sword to rest first on one of the boy's shoulders, and then on the other. "Sir Lohengrin, protector of the realm!"

The crowd clapped politely as Lohengrin stood once again. Mime sheathed the sword once more and gave it to him. "This sword is yours to name. The duties that you perform by it will be its history. If they be great, they will become its legend." Lohengrin took the sword, and pressed it to his heart in a salute.

Mime nodded. He then returned to his throne, took up the second sword, and turned to look upon his kneeling son. Siegfried again heard the sound of a sword unsheathing. A thrill went through him.

"Siegfried, Mime's son, you took a knee as a boy. Rise now as a man." Siegfried could hear how fiercely his father tried to control his voice. How desperately he tried to keep it from cracking. In the next moment he felt the weight of metal, first upon one shoulder, and then upon the other. "Prince Siegfried, protector of the realm!" A knot formed in his throat.

A hand gripping into his knee for support, Siegfried put himself back onto his feet, and finally looked up at his father, before his eyes slid onto the sword he was holding. He blinked at the hilt. It was staggeringly beautiful. It took the form of two swans exquisitely worked in white silver, on whom every feather could be seen. [7]

"This sword is named Nothung. It has been carried by a member of the royal line for as long as this castle has stood. It is a sword of the old magic. See that you are worthy of it." Siegfried took in hand the sword his father offered him, and pressed it to his heart ardently. [8]

Yet, at the very same moment, there echoed in his mind the subconscious observation that perhaps the reason that he had never before laid eyes on this, his father's and his bloodline's sword, was that since the very day of his birth, there had ceased to be a need to carry swords.

It was a strangely ominous thought, and Siegfried banished it from his mind.

All thought and words was drowned out by the cheers and claps that reverberated off all the walls of the Great Hall and made the chandeliers tinkle merrily.

The well-wishers and luck-givers had all finally dispersed. After the ceremony Siegfried had been positively swarmed by his people. The day had been exhausting, but incredible. Siegfried had been summoned to his parents' chambers for that evening. For now, however, he had a little while of leisure.

With his sword strapped to his belt, Siegfried meandered through the castle. Occasionally he would meet a stray courtier who would congratulate him, and to whom he would smile back. For the most part, however, the halls were cleared, the display over. So he wandered for a long, long while. Finally, more from habit than conscious thought, he found himself in the courtyard, where he had spent his years of training. He smiled as he looked about it. It was a beautiful open space, with the castle's elegant walls rising about it. In the center there stood a single dogwood tree, whose white flowers were in full bloom, and whose petals, with every passing gust of wind, floated down to rest upon the surface of the pond bellow. A few swans and ducks glided across the water.

Sitting at the base of the tree and on the bank of the pond, Siegfried saw a familiar figure.

As he approached Lohengrin from behind he saw that his dark hair was in fact rather long and that, for the occasion, he had pulled it back into a tail with a dark green velvet ribbon. He was slightly bent over his newly acquired sword, running a wet stone along its edges to sharpen it. Siegfried now saw that, while the sheath and the grip of the sword were bound in a dark leather, the sword had a bright, violet gem embedded at the top of its hilt. The knight did not mark the prince's approach. [9]

But then, he did not blanch when the Prince announced himself either. "Sir," he said with a smile as he too set himself on the bank of the pond. "I thought that we might be formally introduced, as we have just both been knighted in one hour."

Lohengrin looked up at him and, without a word, made to rise before his liege lord.

"Oh no, please! Don't get up."

Usually when Siegfried said this, or some such phrase, the person he addressed would insist on getting up none the less, and bow most ardently. Lohengrin however shrugged, and allowed himself to fall back onto his backside.

Siegfried blinked at him.

"So," he finally said, attempting to restart the conversation. "You are Parsifal's son, and-"

"Lohengrin. My name is Lohengrin," the boy said without looking up.

"Yes of course." Siegfried said. This Lohengrin was not the easiest conversationalist. The Prince clasped his hands behind his back and rocked in place for a moment as he surveyed the pond and the birds upon it. "My name is Siegfried," he offered brightly.

Lohengrin's hand, which had been rhythmically running the rock along the sword, stilled. He looked up at the Prince with such a gaze that the latter felt like a complete idiot. "I know. You are the crowned prince of my country."

Siegfried turned pink. "Yes of course." He swallowed, looked away, and then looked back again after a moment, his mouth open with a new conversation.

"Look, I'll spare you the trouble." Lohengrin once more interrupted his attentions to his sword to look up at the prince. "I'm a second son, and thus of little importance. I am here to be a knight, and a good one, because the alternative would have been the cloister. I'm an unpleasant fellow by everyone's account, and I know this because everyone has told me so. Ergo, there is no need for you to be agreeable to me. I am sworn into your service and that of your family, and will do my duty with honor, regardless of your chivalrous attitude. So you may as well lavish it elsewhere." With that, and with an acknowledging nod as a bow, the young man went back to his sword, while the young Prince stood with his mouth now fully open, and with no conversation to speak of. [10]

"Prince Siegfried!" a voice called out to him across the courtyard. The Prince turned to see his nursemaid waving to him to get his attention. "Prince Siegfried, your parents are waiting for you!"

Siegfried turned once more to look at the sitting knight, who had now sheathed his sword once more, and was wrapping it in a traveling cloak. He did not spare another glance at the Prince. Siegfried turned again, and swept out of the courtyard. [11]

"Ah, Siegfried," his mother smiled at him as he entered the room, lowering her glass of wine. She sat at the small, round day-table at which she and his father usually liked to play cards. His father stopped his pacing of the room to look at him. Siegfried bowed to his parents respectfully.

His mother inclined her head in turn. His father indicated to one of the two empty seats that remained at the table, taking a seat himself. The prince joined the king and queen.

"Son," Mime finally said. "Please unclasp your sword and place it upon the table."

Siegfried blinked at him in surprise, but then dutifully did as he was asked. The hilt, with its superbly crafted swan wings, caught the already waning light which pooled in through the long windows as he rested it on the table.

Mime sighed, and placed a hand upon the sword. "This day you became a protector of our kingdom, sworn to defend all those in need, with this sword." He nodded to himself, composing his own thoughts. "However, this is no ordinary sword. It is not like the sword which we bequeathed to the other young man knighted on this day."

Siegfried's thought flashed back to Lohengrin by the pond.

"Your mother and I now feel that it is time to tell you of the true nature of the duties that you have been given," Mime added heavily. He exchanged glances with Sieglinde who, with a hesitant nod, encouraged him to continue. He looked to his son once more. "This sword is a heart-shatterer. It is the only one left of its kind." [12]

Silence hung heavy about them for a moment. Siegfried did not know what the words meant, but a shiver went up his spine at the mention of them. He wondered if, perhaps, everyone would have known what a heart-shatterer was… back before the day of his birth.

"It is, as I said at the ceremony, of old magic." Mime's eyes traveled back to the sword which had, until that morning, been his. So many wars fought with this sword. And yet, strangely, he could hardly remember any of them, as though all that he had felt in those turbulent times had flown from him.

Perhaps he was the better for it.

"It is a relic of a bygone era," he finally added. "And it is a power that is granted only to our bloodline through this, our ancient sword." [13]

Siegfried sat before his parents, stunned. He looked upon the beautiful sword again, now with new eyes. A power granted only to him? Such a thing seemed beyond imagining. That morning he had known that he was being granted the responsibility of the protection of his realm. However, this was something else entirely.

"It is a forbidden power – the breaking of hearts." [14]

His father's voice halted all thought that had been racing through his mind. Once more he looked up into his father's face. Mime nodded. "Our own ancestors forbade the use of it. It was too great a power, at too mighty a cost."

There was a long moment of silence between the three that sat at that table.

"However," Mime continued, even as Sieglinde looked away, "it is a power that you must be taught."

Siegfried flinched. "Why?" he whispered. Why would his father want him to learn such a power that sounded so terrible, even in the utterance?

"Because, Siegfried," the king answered, "this too is one of the burdens of our rule. Though the breaking of hearts is a terrible power, it is one which our line must always be aware of. We, who are its only keepers, and its only guards… My son," Mime now reached out his old, wrinkled hand to grasp that of his much younger son. "It can be a power of terrible evil. But it is also a power of terrible sacrifice." He swallowed, willing himself to continue. These were memories he had not thought on in a long, long time. They were difficult to conjure. He had grown unaccustomed to pain. "To shatter another's heart is an act of unspeakable cruelty, and one from which you must always guard this sword. You must protect it from ever being turned to such a purpose. However," he gathered his thoughts. "However, with this sword one can also shatter one's own heart. And the shattering of one's own heart… It can subdue the greatest darkness. The legends say that, by the magnitude of such an act, one of our bloodline may invoke the greatest of powers. Any evil that opposes him is brought to heel, imprisoned by the shimmering feathers of the purest, great swan – the god who first granted our family this sword." [15]

Siegfried's grip tightened on his father's hand. He stared at the hilt of the sword which, mere hours before, he had seen for the first time. After a moment he looked above his parents' fireplace. Here too hung the emblem of their house. Their family crest. The white swan atop a crown. A feeling of resolve took hold the Prince. "Very well father, mother. I will do as you ask. I will learn this power, and shoulder the responsibility of our house, as a Prince should."

His father nodded at him, forcing a smile. His mother simply stared. Siegfried gave his father's hand a last squeeze. Then he stood and, with a final bow, took up his sword again, and left his parents' chambers.

"You know this may well be the means by which the prophesy comes to fruition," Sieglinde said after the door had closed behind her son. Her eyes stayed fixed upon it.

"That will never be," Mime said resolutely, getting up to pour himself a glass of wine. "Darkness has been banished from this kingdom. We live in peace. There will never be so great and terrible a threat in our son's life that he should have to give so great a sacrifice."

In once swig, he swallowed the bitter taste.

Some months passed.

Siegfried met with his father, unbeknownst to any save his mother, and learned from him the art of shattering a heart. On this day, more so than on any previously, he was preoccupied. Today, at long last, his father had taught him the words by which to invoke the sword's power.

"Speak the words after me," Mime said to his son. Again they sat at the little card table which had, mere months before, seemed such a harmless place of frivolity to Siegfried. As before, between them lay the sword. Neither touched it. "Into this sword…"

"Into this sword…"

"Which broke apart a prince's heart…"

Siegfried swallowed, and his eyes again chanced down at the sword. He took a deep breath, and met his father's steady gaze. "Which broke apart a prince's heart…"

"…and destroyed the wicked…"

"…and destroyed the wicked…"

"Bestow power once again."

"Bestow power once again."

His father had nodded solemnly. "Commit those words to memory, my son. And, upon the completion of the verses, grip the sword over a lake, or some such body of still water, so that the sword will cut your hand, and the blood will mingle with the water. The water will blacken. Then allow the bloody tip to sink into the mixture. The mixture will take hold, and climb upon the blade all the way to the hilt. It will become a sheath in and of itself. Draw the sword from the water with purpose. By this act, the black sheen upon the blade will shatter, and the sword's true power will be awoken." Mime stared at his old weapon and, after a long moment, whispered, "May that never be…" [16]

It was in such an unsettled mood, dwelling on this latest lesson and sitting on his own throne to the left of his father the king in the Great Hall, that he and his parents heard from a messenger that the Lady of the Owl Clan had arrived at the castle, and wished for a royal audience.

Sieglinde made something of a derisive sound. Mime gave her a look. This was all lost on their son, however. Indeed, until the trumpets within the very Hall sounded to announce the Lady's arrival, he was entirely lost to musings. With the trumpets, however, he jolted to attention.

The oaken doors on the other end of the Hall opened wide and in swept a tall, imposing woman, with hair that fell down well past her waist. She was beautiful. Siegfried could see that much, even from here. A curving body and a striking face, she swayed her hips as she made her slow, easy walk across the entire length of the Great Hall. Her hair was pigmented to have a sheen of green. On her right shoulder sat a small, brown and black owl and, as she walked, she raised a porcelain hand with long red nails to scratch it under its chin. The woman was adorned in deep brown fir. At least… patches of it. Her clothing left little to the imagination. [17]

Following her was an entourage of four men and one lady in waiting. Each one of them wore the same fur, though in more ample quantities. Siegfried had heard of the Owl Clan. They were a powerful family. However, they were not well loved at court. Siegfried felt that he could understand why. In their presence he felt an emotion that he was unaccustomed to. Uneasiness. Some said that, before the purge, they had practiced dark witchcraft. Upon reaching the few steps that led up to the thrones, the Lady and her party made the appropriate bows and curtsies.

Still, he thought, I am sure that the Lady is a noble leader of her tribe. He gave her a warm smile.

"Lady Eule, to what do we owe this surprise?" the queen said with a smile. If Siegfried had not noticed before his mother's displeasure at the arrival of these guests, he noticed it now. [18]

"Your Majesties, Prince Siegfried," the woman flashed him a disarming smile. She seemed lovely. "I hope that you are all in good health, and good temperament."

"We have all been extremely well. What is your pleasure?" the queen responded coolly.

One of the men in the Lady's entourage made a deep bow and spoke. "The Lady Eule comes before your graces now with a proposition."

"…We are listening," King Mime answered.

What a strange emotion, this disquiet. Siegfried was wholly unaccustomed to it. He looked about him. Was he the only one so affected?

Lady Eule smirked at the king. "A union," she stated, "between the houses Swan and Owl." Again, her eyes fixed upon Siegfried. "The Prince became a protector of the realm months ago. He is of marrying age. He now possesses Nothung. And I… Well, I am still a woman of great beauty." She looked back to the king and queen. From what Siegfried could tell she was thoroughly reveling in the look on his mother's face. "I do not think that an offer from the head of the Owl Clan is anything short of a match well struck."

The king opened his mouth to answer.

"No."

Son and father looked to Sieglinde. She sat erect in her throne, yet poised. Though she was so much older than many of the mothers at the court, Siegfried was suddenly struck with how beautiful she was, with her silver hair and arresting blue eyes. And she was now surveying the Lady Eule with all of the disdain of a protector in her own right, not of a kingdom, but of a single human life.

Lady Eule's smirk wavered. She again turned to look at the king, her mouth open with more words.

"I believe you heard me quite clearly," the queen interrupted her before she could even fully draw breath. "Lady Eule, were I not certain beyond all doubt that all darkness had been banished from this land, I should say that you keep the company of ravens, not of owls."

In the silence that followed the small owl on the Lady's shoulder let out a piercing squawk, and flapped its wings, before settling once more. The Lady, after a moment, cocked her head to one side, and looked from the king back into the eyes of the queen.

There was no smile there now.

"You distrust me, do you?" she finally said, her hand now poised on her hip. "Well then, I suppose that certainly makes you different from your pretty, pretty son." Siegfried became perfectly still as the Lady's eyes rested upon him. She truly was an owl. And he was a mouse. "A heart that loves everything. A heart that forgives all. This is the heart we have been searching for," she sized him up. The ominous statement hung in the air. "After all, what woman would not want such a husband?" she finally added on, almost as an afterthought. [19]

"You have your answer, Lady Eule," King Mime answered, his fingers gripping into the arms of his throne. He too seemed to have had enough.

After a moment longer the Lady made her bow to king, queen, and prince. Her entourage did the same. As she straightened up, she surveyed them all one last time. The owl screeched. She and Siegfried locked eyes. He held her gaze. She smirked, "Well, won't you be just the little heartbreaker."

Without another word, Lady Eule and her train swept from the room.

Footnotes:

[1] State of the kingdom is drawn from This Pendent Heart, Epilogue. p.167

[2] Crest is featured in the stained glass window of the dance studio in Princess Tutu (anime), Ep.1

[3] An illustration within The Prince and the Raven depicts a young Prince Siegfried with blond hair, drawn from Princess Tutu (anime), Ep.3. Image on my Profile Page as P&Rno1.

[4] "Parsifal" is the father's name in Richard Wagner's 1850 opera, Lohengrin.

[5] The castle in This Pendent Heart is referred to as the New Swan Stone Castle. The Prince and the Raven takes place in the old one, before the war. Ch2. P17

[6] As inThis Pendent Heart,the castle in the story is modeled after Neuschwanstein Castle, the real New Swan Stone in Germany. Footnote from Ch2. p.17

[7] The Prince's sword is here described as it appears in Princess Tutu (anime), Ep.8

[8] "Nothung" is the name of Siegfried's sword in Richard Wagner's 1876 opera, Siegfried.

[9] The description of Lohengrin's sword is from Princess Tutu (anime), Ep.10

[10] Lohengrin's brother is drawn from the tale Knight of the Swan.

[11] Fakir wraps a sword for transport in such a manner in Princess Tutu (manga), Vol.2. Ch9. p.2

[12] That the Prince's sword is the only one that can shatter hearts is drawn from Princess Tutu (anime), Ep.13

[13] That the Prince is the only one who can shatter hearts, with the use of this sword, is drawn from Princess Tutu (anime), Ep.2

[14] That the breaking of hearts is a forbidden power is drawn from Princess Tutu (anime), Ep.1

[15] The Monster Raven is seen so pinned down in Princess Tutu (anime), Ep.14

[16] The ritual is drawn from that which Fakir performs in Princess Tutu (anime), Ep.8

[17] The Lady of the Owl Clan is based on the character of Edel from the Princess Tutu (manga). She is not to be confused with the character of the same name from the anime. In the manga this character is shown in association with owls, and is an underling of the Raven, who never makes an appearance. She is the foremost villain of the story, and is here represented as a minor character.

[18] Just as Krähe (or Kraehe) is the German word for Crow, and is the name given to the "Raven's Daughter" in Princess Tutu (anime), and just as the duck who became a girl is named Duck (or Ente, in her native German), so I thought it appropriate to name Edel's character, the Head of the Owl Clan, Lady Eule – Eule being German for Owl. It also has some echoes of Edel's name.

[19] This is a notion conveyed by Edel in the Princess Tutu (manga), Vol.2. Ch7. p.2