The end of it, right after season 3 :)
Hope you enjoy it !
Soren has always loved this painting, she thinks, passing her hand under the chin of the purring kitten, with a mechanical gesture. He thinks the king is all about a hero in his big armour and his ceremonial sword in his hand. And on this portrait, daddy smiles.
He is easier to look, on this chart. The original always seems a little sad. His oil-painted reflection is easier to look at than the original, sitting at his desk, blackening pages and pages of paperwork in the halo of candles - feather scritching, thrill of paper, lapping of the wax and blow of the seal on the parchment; avoiding to look at her except to repeat "Kill it, Claudia".
Dad told her to kill the kitten, telling her that she would not be allowed to attend birthdays if she could not, but she knows that's not true. Papa always attends the king's birthday, whatever happens, and he will never leave her at the castle all alone. What was the word already? Black-meal, black-miller...
If it was, it was a funny-tasting meal !
There were still three days left before Soren's birthday, leaving her two full days to do what her father asks her to do.
If she had been a rat as usual, she would not have asked questions, since she would sublimate him to do something useful, or, failing that, splendid or amusing; even if it's always amusing to feel the bones crunch between your fingers after watching it squirm and squeal as if it had the slightest chance of escaping from the big march of Progress, to escape from her ...
Even without dark magic, without the possibility of redeeming the sacrifice, she would not have hesitated, since the said sacrifice did not weigh very heavily, and would not be wanting to a great world, would it? Except maybe to his fleas to mourn him. Or King Harrow and Queen Sarai. It was only these two to be interested in the fate of a simple rat, as the elves elsewhere. Except that her father strangely put a Primitive Stone in her hand, and instead of the ugly beast, put a deaf, two-month-old kitten in the other.
Claudia, sitting on the ground, raises the fragile animal in her arms-it looks at her with its big blue eyes that make you want to drown, and it pushes a little meow adorable. It is so cute when it is angry. So she puts it down, and it takes the opportunity to make its claws on the carpet - an annoyed sigh from the desk can be heard.
Her father is always present at the rare executions. Of course, he is not the one to execute the sentence. But he keeps and preserves the soul and body of the condemned, and he keeps them to prepare incredible spells ... And the more the criminal is mean, the more the spell will be powerful. So it's even better if the convict is an elf.
But this kitten is not a criminal, and she is not allowed to use dark magic. She knows very well that it's not for its soul that Dad wants her to kill it.
Claudia remembers very well her first capital execution. It was supposed to be the last execution the Katolis kingdom would be known, and it was a decapitation - the king had ordered that death be quick and painless. Even if she was an elf, Harrow wanted to keep her a certain dignity. It was strange. Everyone knows that elves are bloodthirsty monsters.
She remembers having insisted a lot to attempt to the show. Papa and the king did not agree at first. Father said that she was too young and that Soren would be jealous, since the execution would be held during his training hours; and the king said that no one should attend, except himself, Sarai, the Lord Viren and a columnist responsible for reporting the event. Perfom in secret. Hide. Be ashamed. Be ashamed to kill, because it's not fair. "This is a page of justice that is turning today." the queen said. "The Justice of Katolis will no longer be a murderous justice. You are the last one to be sentenced to death in the history of this kingdom."
Of course, Queen Sarai was wrong, because she was "too idealistic to see the reality" (it's an expression her father uses to talk about the queen. Claudia does not know exactly what " Idealist " means, but it must be a pretty violent insult) and afterwards, Claudia saw many Elves lose their lives under the ax of the executioner. But for her first performance -she was still small, seven-year-old, neither her father nor Harrow had first agreed to her attending.
But Claudia, by dint of insisting, insististing, please, please, please, had finally convinced her father, and she had jumped for joy. Okay, maybe the thing about beating the body with her riding crop was a bit too exaggerated, but she was so eager to see if the blood of the Moon-shadow elves was slightly luminous, if the magic of the elves had a mass that left the body after death, if the traces of their Arcanum were visible to the naked eye immediately after death occured. All the experiences she could do with the body! And father would surely be happy if she showed her curiosity about how the elven body worked - they were after all magical creatures. But he looked almost sad, and when he told her that the king had expressly forbidden the body and soul to be sublimated or studied in any way, she had been very disappointed. Not to say that all her good humor had settled like a failed plumbed soufflé, but still. Right away, it was a lot less interesting to go, but she could not go back.
So she did went, refused to hold anyone's hand, even that of the king and queen who had offered her, and she had watched, fascinated, amazed, the white-haired Elf mount one by one steps of the scaffold creaked under her pounds of squat muscles. She was not only an elf, a savage creature, deceitful, cruel, bloodthirsty, but also an assassin whom it was not long before she became regicide (Claudia loves this word, "regicide", it sounds like ancient novels of chivalry, bewitched heroes, arranged marriages, perjured oaths, blood baths, dark conspiracies and heavy secrets).
She walked with the insolence of the one who feels little concern. Her left horn was broken. In her capture, the guards had sliced her one of the four fingers of her hand. Her dirty, white hair fell into braids tangled in front of her face. Her eyes too bright, highlighted by tribal tattoos that ate her face, were already staring emptiness.
Claudia had promised to keep her eyes open when the ax fell, but she could not. She just hoped that father did not see that she had wamp out- if he was going to be disappointed and he was going to tell Soren who was going to make fun of her for days.
And if she's not even able to look at an ax falling for an elf, what kind of Dark Mage and Prime Minister will she do?
Even if she has since seen quantities and quantities of elves rise to the scaffold, observed the fateful moment with the curiosity and fascination befitting a real dark mage, and did not have any nightmares, nevertheless: she could not watch her first execution, and it was bad, not to say frankly pitiful.
On the wall facing her, the king and father, painted side by side, wait. She still has two days, but she has to hurry.
After all, a kitten is like a rat.
Bigger. Softer. Friendlier. Cuter. Everything-er, actually. It is white, frail, light and warm, in her hands. A simple twist would be enough to break its vertebrae in a crack. But when the animal meows, she just wants to press it hard against her, to forget the ball of her throat, to let all her tenderness explode, to call it Caligulon, Neronius or Learis and to hold it tight forever. After all, the double-hatched door is right behind her, open, it is calling her. She can be there in a few steps. She just has to turn around. Claudia takes a deep breath, she turns her head, the door is there, massive, and vertigo, and it's the head that turns.
Get out ? What for ? Go to her room to prepare her case for Banthere, of course, or go in the library to read a novel (Scarlet Marauders or The Sleeping Bard that have been making her thirsty for months), or revise her irregular verbs in Neolandian, or reclassify jars from the laboratory, or steal a piece of blackberry pie in the kitchen, or find a birthday present for Soren?
As soon as she puts her eyes on the door, she feels as if she is standing at the edge of the abyss.
But in the icy roundness of the Primitive Stone of Heaven, Claudia can see her reflection. Outside, it's dark now. The candles that gild the office are reassuring. But despite their light, or because of it, its reflection is distorted on the glass, too deformed. The trapped storm fades her, swells her, she has a huge head, her face is swollen and purple, her green eyes are huge and globose, as if she were on the autopsy table of the laboratory ... And just put your eyes on the little beast, so fragile, so adorable, to feel a lump in her throat. Like another stone ready to strangle her.
As for killing the little animal by dark magic, it's not worth thinking about it. Father took away from her her purse, which she had to unclasp from her belt, and put it on his desk. Claudia is not experienced enough yet to sublimate without any ingredients. Without the familiar weight of the leather hanging by her side, Claudia feels strangely light, she does not like it, and her fingers pat themselves on her belt where hangs nothing but emptiness ...
But if she gets out, if she does not cast the spell, what will dad say?
Claudia wonders which of the two abysses, the door or the stone, is the most terrifying. Since eleven hours that she's been languishing in this study, she still has no answer.
To stop seeing them, there is only one thing to do.
Do as usual. Take the Stone of Sky in one hand, draw the dragon rune in the air, and pronounce the formula. With rats, it's done alone. But as he said father, as he never says, rats too had the right to live.
She puts the kitten on the floor. It is falling asleep. Its breathing is regular. Its eyelids are closed. Its hair quivers with every little gulp of air that his small lungs.
She kneels down. She's choking. She chokes. It's like a heavy iron collar that squeezes her, strangles her, crushes her. She is not used to this posture, and her knee hurts. She has trouble looking at her hand. Suddenly, the blood that beats in her veins shames her, so ashamed that even the sight of his feet is unbearable. She is not supposed to be ashamed, let alone ashamed of killing an animal. She is a future lady of the court, by Xadia, the daughter of a great lord, the future High Dark Mage of Katolis who will discover the cure for leprosy. She must not be ashamed. So she frowns and squeezes her lips. That's what she does when she has to concentrate. She feels her throat knot even more, water blurs her vision, but it is out of the question that she wheeps for this cat.
No soul is waiting for the sacrifice of it to spring back into the light. But, as the king says, he must leave with honor and dignity.
This animal does not deserve to die from a whiner's hand. Neither animal.
Although she can not quite define "honor", she feels like it's like with elves, and like rats. A universal, almost natural, almost more important dignity than life, perhaps even more important than death ... but it weighs more than all the profits, benefits, benefits, lives saved by dark magic ?
She raises her head to look at the official portrait in front of her. Portrait in foot, one meter by fifty centimeters. Framed in fine wood, in dark colors of oil painting, the king and his father look far, far away, and smile at a future she can not see.
A future she has to build for Katolis ...
And so that her father is proud of her.
The heavy, round, icy stone in her hand rumbled, and the Draconic rune sizzled when she traced it through the air.
The kitten does not grow a mewing when she puts her hand on it. The light of the spell slightly blueish it white fur.
Viren has just affixed the seal of the Prime Minister on his seventh letter of the evening when he hears the red floor squeak. He barely has time to look up. From the back of the throat, with a broken, resolute voice, a Fulminis! has already sounded.
The light is so strong that Viren must close his eyes.
A short sizzle, a smell of grilled meat in the nostrils. And a brief meow.
When he opens his eyes, he must blink them several times. Colorful spots dance in front of him like so many small abysses. The strength of the spell extinguished all the candles in the office. The room is plunged into darkness. The eyes do not see anything.
There is nothing but nothingness.
Viren gets up from his chair, snaps his fingers, and the candles burn again, as if nothing had happened. The abysses left the room after the black mass they have just celebrated. In the middle of the office, Claudia is standing. Her black embroidered dress is torn in places.
The Primitive Stone of Sky rolls on the pavement. In her arms there is a little corpse.
Viren does not dare to move.
He does not dare to emit any sound. He had planned forty-eight hours. It took twelve hours to Claudia.
Claudia is standing in the candlelight, but she is shaking. Her shoulders jerk. And despite all her efforts to stay upright, like a blade of an ax or sword, like the sense of duty, like a hangman, like a minister, like a lord, like a scale, display a proud smile as on the table at wall ... despite all her efforts, she cries.
Slowly, Viren approaches her. His footsteps resonate slightly on the pavement. She does not make a move to back down. Her hand keeps coming and going on the motionless fur. When Viren gently raises the animal's body to put it on his desk (light, incredibly light), she poses no resistance. No more when he surrounds her with his arms.
Claudia cries, he is proud of her, and he hates himself so much that he would like it to be on him that she threw the Fulminis.
This humanity, this accursed humanity. Nihil homani natus, say the elves. Humans are born with nothing, no moon, no sun, no ocean, no stars, no earth, no sky to flow through their veins and burn there how they will be born, live and die. There is no element to determine humans. There is only dark magic, death to deliver to those who do not have the emptiness that is their strength. Humans have nothing to predestate them: they are free.
Their freedom. An infinite freedom, total, absolute, infamous, rotten of the inner, since it carries in itself the seeds of its own destruction: freedom, sin, guilt, and the inexhaustible thirst for repentance.
Those who are not thirsty are monsters, ghouls with human faces, putrefactors or worse, elves, and despite the proud smile she tries to maintain, because she actually did it, and twice as much sooner than expected, Claudia is not one of those monsters.
Harrow and Sarai believed that this freedom, for those who chose to seize it with both hands and drink from it, plunged it into a purple mist where the choices were guided only by madness. Where good and bad no longer existed apart from one's own decisions. Where Libra's justice, fidelity and sensitivity were drowned in madness. Where discernment was lost in the darkness, carrying with it the lives of thousands of innocents that any person of power can keep under his responsibility and under his will. Power, freedom, drunkenness, thirst for blood and for impossible ...
But they did not understand anything, oh, no, nothing, absolutely nothing. nothing. Contrary to what they assert with so much presumption, to drink the liberty with the neck does not mean to become a monster if the discernment and the morality have not deserted the veins. Claudia hesitated for twelve whole hours before resolving, and she is whimpering. If science without consciousness is only ruin of the soul, then Claudia's soul is the most unshakable of all Xadia. Guilt is etched in Claudia's flesh.
Viren is sure of it. Claudia is human to the tips of her nails. She is human in the slightest drop of her blood, in the least of her bones.
No matter what sacrifices are to be made, no matter what lives she will have to give to nothing, no matter what souls she will have to sublimate for her spells. If she knows that she will save ten times more destinies, if she knows that her father would have done it without hesitation, if she knows that she must do it, if she knows that her duty is always heavier in the balance than freedom, guilt and the natural affectivity of humans, it will do it.
But for now, she cries and he holds her in his arms.
It'll be fine.
You'll be fine.
So ? Your thougts ?
I hope you enjoyed this story :D