Chapter Six

Rothbart

The Prince galloped out the gate as thought the fires of Hell were upon his hooves rather than above his head. He rode forth, just as his father had ridden forth, years before, alone.

Siegfried would risk no more lives, and make no more sacrifices. He had lost everyone who had ever cared for him and who had ever protected him. He in turn would not now lose anyone whom he protected. His cloak flew out about him and cracked in the wind with his speed. The desperate cries of his people to come back and spare himself were whipped out of their lips by the pace of his horse as he passed them, and lost before the words ever reached his ears. Siegfried raised his eyes to the heavens, and there he truly did see Hell. The Monster Raven was smiling down upon him as he approached with the speed of a flying arrow. He was waiting for him. The Prince would not make him wait much longer.

He tore through the lines which his men had already decimated. There were none of the Owl Clan left alive to stand between the Prince and the Raven. As his horse brought him back to the talons from which his army had fled such a short time before, the pain in Siegfried's heart redoubled at the sight splayed out before him. Lying unmoved from the time that he had fallen was Lohengrin. His face was almost completely hidden beneath that black mane of hair which was still held together by the ribbon which he tied into it every morning. His body…

Siegfried felt nausea ride through him. He gripped into his stallion with greater fervor as the beast moved beneath him, every moment bringing him closer to the body of his best knight, and the form that his knight's destroyer. But Siegfried would not give into despair. He was done with that emotion. He may very well soon be done with them all.

"Well Prince," the Raven boomed across the land, its tone resonating with delight. "Do you admire my handiwork?"

His jaw set, he waited for the precise moment and, as they passed the spot, Siegfried swung down along the body of his horse and snared Lohengrin's sword from his severed belt. It was still sheathed. His noble knight had died without striking a single blow upon the Raven. [1]

Siegfried did not slow his horse's pace. He would strike more than enough for them both. "Not so much as I dare say you will admire mine," he yelled back, strapping the second sword upon his own belt. He would destroy the Raven this day. Or else… It was strange that, even with the balance of two swords, Nothung still felt so much the heavier. Siegfried's throat tightened. Or else I will do my duty as my father's son. As a royal prince. As the keeper of a heart-shatterer.

He brought his white stallion to a halt, and drew it alongside the Raven. It pawed the ground, though whether with fear or mettle Siegfried could not say.

The Prince stared up into the hellfire red eyes of Monster that had plagued his lands, transformed his people, and destroyed his family. That had brought with him this endless, bloodied blackness. Yes, Siegfried would restore his land, just as he would restore his people. He could not fail them. Not after so many had gone to their deaths so that he might live. If the need arose… if Siegfried could not defeat the Raven… His hand once more rested upon the hilt of his sword, intricately decorated with beautiful swan feathers.

At least by doing so I should bear it alone. I alone should suffer… in that I will not even know what suffering is. Or joy. Or happiness. Or anything.

"You have come alone I see." The Raven cut through his thoughts with a sound of deep satisfaction. "Truly, you are a foolish Prince! One who tries to protect the weak, but shall only end up hurting yourself and losing your heart, which I shall gorge upon!" [2]

Siegfried could have smiled at how, one way or the other, the Raven was very right in the prediction of his fate, though the Monster of course could not know that yet. "You did not actually believe the rumors of the Owl Clan did you?" he called out bitterly, wanting to know the reason behind all of this, if reason of any sort there could be. "That my heart had a power to grant any wish?" The idea seemed too ludicrous to entertain. And yet here, staring into the mouth of Hell itself, anything seemed possible. "Did you actually believe that my pure heart could create miracles?" he cried out, a wry and broken smile twitching at his lips. The only miracle his heart could perform was by the breaking of it. And it would spell their doom together. "Heal wounded animals, as the Crows whispered!?" Siegfried remembered every stay pup, cat and waterfowl whom he had clambered after, not through any miracle, but through the sheer act of limb and life. Had that also been his heart? Perhaps. The sound of Lohengrin's exasperated cries as he chased after Siegfried still followed him now. [3]

It was like the lonely howl of a ghost knight upon this ravaged field of battle.

"That it could complete my own body?" The Raven boomed, completing the rumor which the Crows had seeped throughout the land. His smile cracked the skies in two as it stretched from one horizon to the other. "What can I say, Prince? Every rumor has a heartshard of truth." [4]

Siegfried's grip tightened on the hilt of his sword and in one sweep and sound of metal on sheath, he drew Nothung.

"You think you do your people a service?" the Raven eyed the Prince's sword. Though Siegfried could not be certain that the Monster knew the true weight of its power, he could not miss the wariness in the creature's eye. Perhaps because he himself looked upon the blade with that same wariness. "Negative emotions like the ravens were meant to skulk within the heart of every living creature." Those red eyes trailed from the sword and back onto the Prince. "You do none of them a service in the denial of the natural balance." [5]

"This!" Siegfried swept across the land with his sword. "Is no balance!" It seemed impossible, and yet the Raven's smile widened. "And it is not balance that you want!" the Prince yelled on. "Not balance! Perhaps if it was, then yes! The ravens as well as the people of my kingdom would be my responsibility!" He brought his sword sweeping down to stay in front of him, pointing upon the foe. [6]

The Raven's eyes narrowed.

"But it is not balance that you seek!" Siegfried accused down the length of his sword. "And I have no raven within me for you to cry 'corruption!'" [7]

The deep rumble of the Monster Raven's laughter rolled across the smoldering fields and rattled the cracked earth. "No… I dare say you do not." If Siegfried did not know better, he would have said that the Monster's eyes looked positively gleeful.

The time for talk was over. Siegfried grit his teeth. "You will pay, Raven, for all the lives that you have tainted!" The Prince set his heels into his stallion's flanks and it reared in a mane of white.

The red gaping beak stretched across the sky as the mouth of the Monster widened and he laughed openly across the heavens of what had once been a fair kingdom. "I am no more a mere Raven than you are a mere Prince, Siegfried. It seems your knight had a quicker wit than you." The beak curled into a sneer. "Or perhaps he was just most adept at recognizing darkness, having so much of it dormant in himself."

Siegfried lowered his sword a fraction. "What are you?"

The skies rumbled. "I have had many names," the Raven thundered. "Darkness. Despair. Monster. But truest of all of them, and best liked by me, I must say– my name is Rothbart!" With the terror of a thousand lightning bolts, that name streaked through the sky, and the horror of it struck Siegfried's heart with so familiar a fire that, save that he had never heard it, the name might well have been his own. He was the Prince Siegfried. This was the Monster Raven, Rothbart. Together, they were Siegfried and Rothbart – two named creatures with unnamable power. The Prince and the Raven. [8]

With his left hand he pulled Lohengrin's sword from its sheath. He stood double-edged.

The light and the darkness, which should never have been rent apart, slammed back together the one against the other, entwined by sword and talon, once entwined by a single heart. Two faces of the same mint, they bore upon each other, eyes locked, with neither giving ground before the other. For every lethal peck there came Nothung to save the Prince's hide. For every lunge of Lohengrin's sword the feathered hide could not be pricked. The Raven Rothbart would have the Prince Siegfried's heart. He would not be denied. And yet, with every sing of metal, Prince Siegfried denied him. [9]

Siegfried felt the blood run down between his eyes from a gash across his forehead. He blinked through the red, his lashes drying crimson with the color. He grit his teeth and fixed his grip upon his swords. This would not become the story of the kingdom drowned in darkness. This would be the story about the Prince who vanquished the crafty Raven. [10]

With this thought the brave prince hurled upon the foe.

Though he should suffer days of endless fighting to once more descend upon him– Siegfried once more locked in combat with the talons of Rothbart– on top of all the years that he had already suffered– he screamed as he pushed through, inflicting another wound upon his enemy–though he should never find peace from this feud– and though it should take his own heart, he would never yield. [11]

Black feathered and bleeding, Rothbart would not yield either.

Red eyes wide with a hunger that was so much more terrifying than any hatred, the Raven opened his already gaping maw and fell upon him. Siegfried threw himself from the horse and as the stallion galloped off the great beak imbedded itself in the dirt by Siegfried's heel. The Prince was engulfed in a cloud of dust and the sting of razored feathers. Siegfried cried out against the pain and embedded Nothrung into Rothbart's flesh, and Rothbart cried out with him. [12]

In the darkness of the Raven Rothbart's pelt, their blood mingled as one. The Prince and the Raven were equally matched in strength, neither able to gain dominance over the other. Siegfried knew that there would be no option except that which he had been assured all his life he would never have to make. Nothung, the heart-shatterer, would have to find a heart, and that heart would be its wielder's. Buried in the heat of the Monster's feathered flesh, Siegfried allowed his eyes to slide shut for a moment, and he exhaled.

For a single moment the gentle prince felt something akin to selfishness. In truth, he did not want to lose his heart. All the laughter and tears, loving someone. Images of his parents, of Lohengrin, of Princess Tutu and of his people rose within the darkness about him. He would throw that all away to protect people's happiness. But that is who I am. Siegfried opened his eyes upon the darkness once more, his heart hardening to the task at hand. I am the person who possesses such a heart. [13]

With a mighty yell he pushed upon Rothbart with his blade, forcing the Raven to recoil. In response the monster let out a bloodied screech and fell upon him once more. Still, Siegfried thought in the numbness of his own mind, torn asunder, I do Hope that… someday…it should come back to me. [14]

He conjured in his mind the great white feathers that his father had described to him from the legends – those of the Swan deity. How they would come down in a flash and seal Rothbart into a prison from which he could never escape. Siegfried blocked yet another onslaught, and countered. Yet, even as the memory gave him new strength, he remembered too that he would never be able to have his heart back.

For it would become the only key to unlocking the prison of Rothbart, which could never be opened. Tears streamed down his cheeks and, in a swell of emotion, he bellowed up onto the blackness. "Raven! Taste now the final lesson that my father, King Mime, protector of the realm, imparted onto his only son!" And, with these words–

"All's up. Continue–"

EDITOR'S NOTE.

Dear Reader,

As you may well see for yourself, it is here that Herr Drosselmeyer's manuscript cuts off. There is much speculation that the last three words do not actually pertain to the story, but are rather intended as a message to the reader instead. Regrettably, as the author passed away before the book's completion, there is no further information on this, or on the intended conclusion of The Prince and the Raven.

We hope you have enjoyed this last, though unfinished, work of a masterful literary genius.

Footnotes:

[1] As Charon has Lohengrin's sword in Princess Tutu (anime), Ep.10, it must have been taken from the fairytale at the same time as the Prince, his own sword, and the Raven. When Fakir finds the Prince he no longer possesses the sword, which means that he took it from the story as Siegfried but, upon losing his heart, forgot its value and discarded it for Charon to find.

[2] That Siegfried is a foolish Prince is a sentiment expressed in the Princess Tutu (anime), Ep.9

[3] This notion, which in this story is no more than an Owl Clan rumor, is drawn from Princess Tutu (manga), Vol.2 Ch7. P.13

[4] That the Prince's heart could perform miracles, heal small animals, and that it could complete the Raven's body is all drawn from Princess Tutu (manga), Vol.2 Ch9. P.5

[5] This sentiment is drawn from Princess Tutu (manga), Vol2. Ch10. P.13

[6] The idea that even the ravens within the kingdom are the responsibility of the Prince is drawn from This Pendent Heart, Ch18. p.158

[7] The idea that there is a Monster Raven within us all is drawn from This Pendent Heart, Ch14. p.114

[8] Neither Lohengrin nor Siegfried are referred to by name throughout most of Princess Tutu. They are merely "the Knight" and "the Prince." It seemed fitting that "the Raven" should also have such a name which exists only within the confines of the story.

[9] That the Prince and the Raven are two sides of the same coin, and that the two vied for mastery, is drawn from This Pendent Heart, Ch15. p.120

[10] The narrator states that this is the story of how a brave Prince vanquishes a Raven in Princess Tutu (anime), Ep.1

[11] That days of endless fighting descend upon the Prince is drawn from Princess Tutu (anime), Ep.13

[12] The sequence of this clash is drawn from the nightmare that Mytho has in Princess Tutu (anime), Ep.7

[13] That Siegfried did not want to lose his heart is drawn from Princess Tutu (anime), Ep.13

[14] That, before the Prince shattered his heart, it was his will that he would someday get it back is drawn from Princess Tutu (anime), Ep.24