Hello there! Here I am with a translation from my OS Magie noire et Tarte à la Groseille.Claudia is eight, Ezran is not born yet so Sarai is still alive.
Enjoy this piece of awkwardness as much as you would for a jelly tart!
I hope you like this!
Undoubtedly, Claudia thought, we did well to move from the dining room to the west wing lounge.
The architects of the royal castle of Katolis having rathered the magnificence over comfort, left the monumental banquet hall too high, too long and too broad. As the cold season approached, the castle's five centuries were freezing to death, in spite of the hearth at the back of the gallery. It was such a waste, Queen Sarai was pitying, that the Banther Lodge was still undergoing renovation, forcing them to spend the winter in this crypt where the slightest whisper sounded like a scream! Claudia, meanwhile, questioned herself. Maybe the cold would eventually freeze the stone itself? Perhaps someday the vaults would crumble over their heads? Perhaps they would be left to dance until the end of time, on the snowy ruins of their former glory, as in the song Jenny of the Oldstones ...
A few weeks earlier, at a dinner in the grand gallery, Father had renewed his proposal for a dark magic central heating system so that the courtiers, ambassadors, nobles, diplomats and officials would stop giving up their mouthfuls of food from their forks by dint of trembling. But of course, as every time that one evoked dark magic, King Harrow and Queen Sarai did not want to hear anything about it. It was pathetic.
"The royal family," the king had sighed between two spoons of pumpkin and nutmeg, "is fortunate enough to possess a luxurious mansion to spend the winter. But out there, at the gates of the castle, hundreds of thousands of other families are pierced by frost and don't even have enough to afford a bench to spend the night. Kalengrad, the Devil's Acre, the Path of the Mist, so many muddy districts dying out of cold within our own capital! See, then, this winter, as, how would I formulate this… see this as a moment of sharing, solidarity, fraternity, even as a communion in the winter bite! "
The queen had shook her head, with that sorrowful grin only she knew, the one Claudia found almost indulgent.
"By Xadia," echoed Father, "it is like we are listening to our dear Opelie. I will speak to the chief of the intendants to open the gates of the castle to the less unfortunate among us, Harrow. But if you don't stop this sanctimonious claptrap immediately, I will be forced to leave your table."
"Well, leave, Viren, since my language is so unbearable to you! Come back and snuggle between your five velvet comforters, three silk pillows, and ten flannel cushions!
"You seem curiously aware of the personal linen of our counsellor, my dear husband," said the queen. Should I worry? "
Without Claudia's understanding, the king laughed out loud below the stone vaults, and her Father formed a tight smile. Claudia glanced to her left, but seeing Soren's head, he did not understand either. Anyway, he was too engrossed with his soup to listen to the conversation.
"Yes, well, Viren is not entirely wrong," Queen Sarai went on once her laughter's echo had subsided. "It's still ridiculous to freeze at the king's table, right? Besides, Harrow, I attend no offence to our common friend, Lady Justice, whom you venerate with so much consideration, but such a long table seems to go against her very principles. "
It was a strange game they both had: to quote Justice in any conversation, at any time, in any context, which gave rise to intense verbal sparring where little teasing pricked high ideals. Although he was very close to them, Father did not seem to be involved in their exercise, since each occurrence brought on his features a sad expression, almost wounded, that neither the king nor the queen ever noticed:
"That is to say?" asked the king raising an eyebrow.
The queen had lapped her cup of wine with studied slowness. The light and warmth from the torches and made her skin and black hair shimmer. She rested her cup on the table, weighing a reflective look over the king:
"The system of which you dream, the one where everyone has access to the same opportunities, whatever the context of his birth, seems to be somewhat contradictory with the very form of this interminable table …"
She tapped the leather covering, and the sound resonated for a long time in the extensive gallery. There was no guest that evening, like most nights, and Claudia loved to dream of the ghosts of courtiers, queens, nobles, and bannerets, still feasting in the shadow of the old stone like if the epidemics, the wars and the centuries having decimated them had never taken place ...
"... Where one can find himself in an uncomfortable angle or at the banquet chair at the end, without the slightest possibility of changing places, and all of this according to an utterly arbitrary protocol. "
Claudia had not understood everything -she still had trouble understanding their discussions following the mention of the said Lady Justice. But Father had smirked, and the king had looked very pensive, scratching his beard for a long time.
And that evening, they took supper in the large living room of the west wing, closer to the kitchens, with a large fireplace where a fire crackled happily beneath a lower ceiling. But it was equipped with a novelty.
A large round table stood in the middle of the room, in such a perfect circle that one could only admire the painstaking work of cabinetmaker at the origin of this marquetry. A big seven-pointed star, each with a symbol of the seven sources of magic, bloomed in the center. The Sun, the Moon, the Stars, the Sky, the Earth, the Ocean, and the Quintessence.
Running at the edge, a frieze finely encrusted with ivory allowed the dragons to perform mysterious and splendid dances. Each scale was so delicately crafted that Claudia, letting her fingers run over the different woods, the ivory, and the brass, could not repress an admiring exclamation. She had almost the impression that the fabulous beasts were going to tear off their frieze. They would scream, spread their mighty wings, take off, leap into the sky, roar and reduce all humanity to ashes.
"So, everyone," explained the king before taking his seat, "is henceforth lodged in the same boat, the prince as the cup-bearer! "
Claudia noticed that the cup-bearers did not sit with them, however, and she found that her seat was much less pretty than the king's, which was all decorated with entangled geometrical patterns while hers was almost naked. But as future co-lord of the house Alderyn, high dark mage and prime minister, she made no comment.
Too bad Soren is sick, thought Claudia sucking her last honey snail. He would have loved it.
To inaugurate the round table, she had selected a black brocade dress with short sleeves embroidered with plum, to highlight her green eyes. On hear heart was croaking the Alderyn family crow, stitched in a silver brooch, and a brass snake wrapped around her right wrist.
To her left, the empty seat, free as her own from any decoration, seemed disappointed as if it was so happy to inaugurate this beautiful table. But by dint of gulping butter and nocturn stolen jelly tarts … Well, he just reaped what he had sowed, didn't he? At any rate, that left more lamb chops for her and prince Callum: juicy, melting and embalming herbs of Provence: She was not going to deprive herself for that fool, though?
"Harrow, with all due respect," said her Father sitting to her right, "this crisis cannot be solved by your intervention alone, without the approval of the military nobility." Queen Sarai, as sick as she is, your sister Amaya can't remain deaf to the growing insubordination, even to the mutiny that gangrenes our armies little by little. Ho, I beg your pa-".
"The mutinies will be solved quite well without the ears of my sister, Viren," said the queen, whose crimson surcoat embroidered with lions raised the indignant accents of her voice. The fifteen lieutenants under her command know her well enough to understand that they have every interest in regaining the confidence of the soldiers before her return from convalescence next week if they do not want to be in serious trouble, and this is a euphemism.
"Sarai, honey, admit if your sister had not fallen headlong into battle, she would have lost neither an eighter of her soldiers, nor the confidence of another eighter, nor would she have received this wound to her stomach, which without her ginger-haired first officer's intervention would have cost her her life! And if you think that a week's rest will be enough for your sister to recover, you're mistaken! "
The discussion was heated, but it only reached Claudia from afar, as if her head was underwater. She did not listen to what the adults were saying. She preferred to think of the novel she was reading, full of arranged marriages between nobles, palace intrigues and assassinations in the corridors. The hero, she recalled, dropping her silver plate with a piece of bread, to restore his family's honour, was forced to marry the mother of his sister's husband, who happened to be the king. So he would be his sister's father-in-law, and by this, in a way, his nephew's grandfather.
In any case, perky as he seemed to be, and given the number of pages remaining, the hero would probably put an end to his days before the wedding ... All the more despairing that he didn't know anything about the conspiracy to assassinate the king who demanded the union he was so teary about. It remained to imagine the reaction of the other characters, which the authors generally tended to ignore.
"Dad, my tummy aches."
Claudia turned in her chair, the conversation stopped. Soren was standing in the doorway. He was wearing his nightgown, and his complexion was pale, almost green, and he was shaking on his legs. Besides, seeing that the change of room was a surprise, he had probably wandered a long time in the corridors before finding them, particularly given his deplorable sense of direction ... Father rested the glass of wine he was drinking, got up from his seat and bowed his head:
"Please excuse me. "
The king waved his hand, then Father strode toward the door, his elven scepter tinkling against the carpet, and dragged Soren down the halls.
Claudia followed her brother with her eyes, her face marked with he who was unable to sit quietly on a chair, keeping the bed was a real torture. Usually, Father was always reduced to putting him to sleep with spells, the milk of the poppy was not enough,so much energy he had to spend despite the fever. Sublimate Soren, Father used to repeat with an exasperated tone, and we would heat the castle and the capital during all the cold season. However, given the pallor of her brother, the proverb, unfortunately, did not appear to be relevant ... Especially given that the king had forbidden father to use dark magic to cure Soren.
The king cleared his throat. Claudia had not even noticed that the discussion had stopped suddenly, leaving only the clatter of the silver cutlery and the crackling of the logs in the chimney to resound between the tapestries adorning the stone walls.
"So, Claudia? What great things did you do today?"
"Did your Father show you lots of new fabulous tricks?" the queen purred.
Claudia felt her face light up at once:
"Oh yes, plenty !" she exclaimed. "For example, this morning, he tested me about healing spells against the effects of aconite."
"Would you look at that? So he does have good ideas sometimes" remarked the queen, carrying a juicy piece in her mouth. "At least you will be able to react if it turns out that these lamb chops are poisoned. "
Claudia did not dare answer that she also would have to choke on her own gall since the chops were all from the same plate. However, as it would have been discourteous to contradict the queen, she thought it prudent to agree her:
"Hm-hm, that's what Father explained to me. He had me learn the whole chapter about poisoning in Spells, Potions and Healing ointments. "
The queen seemed impressed. It changed so much from the routine (she did not even speak to her) that Claudia forgot to be surprised and she strut to the king's compliments: /pr
"Really? But this book has at least fifty pages per chapter!"
"Ah, so you are an expert on books about poisoning, now?" the queen interposed, doubtful.
"Claudia is not the only one to browse the libraries, dear friend. "
Facing her, Prince Callum watched her with wide eyes. He wept, almost, with admiration. It was always fascinating to watch how cute he was when he looked at her like that. He wanted to say something, but he had to try it twice. He often stammered when he spoke to her, sometimes with a charming blush on the cheekbones.
"And ..." He finally articulated, "and you ... you really learned it by heart?"
Claudia was almost sad at having to shatter his dreams, but it would have been unworthy of a mage to lie to a member of the royal family. She turned around briefly to check that Father was not in the hallway. He would be furious if he heard what she whispered to them in her hands:
"Father must know nothing. "
They nodded gravely and leaned over the dishes on the round table to hear her better. She trusted them. She knew that this royal family had nothing to do with novels: they would never betray a secret, not even to their closest friend."
"But in fact, I wrote what I did not retain on my sheet and sprinkled hallucinogenic selenium powder on it."
In the halo of the candlesticks, the shadows raised their astonished features, fixed in the flesh, making them look like masks of tragedy from before the Exile. That they were trustworthy was a good thing, but that they were so ignorant about alchemy was on the contrary disturbing ... that being said, as she had read in Whispers at Wizyma Palace, "one doesn't shout on the roofs what was not understood."
"I beg your pardon... what? "Stammered the King.
"It's moon-shadow elf-horn residue," she explained to them, "mixed with ceriline of imperatur with a drop of my blood so that magic would obey me personally. "
Although she had articulated as much as the whisper allowed, the royal family still seemed so troubled. The masks had frozen in the stone. Therefore, she added further clarification to her remarks:
"The elves use this powder to hide and blend into the setting until the one whose blood has been mixed with the powder decides to dispel the spell. Since the moon from which they draw their power is itself an illusion, it is not surprising that their bodies are also a source of illusions, right?"
"Yes," muttered the king. "Yeah, yes, it makes sense, yes."
"Bu-butt," stammered Callum, still whispering, "uh, that's, hum, dark magic, right? "
His six springs were floating in a blue surcoat, but talking about dark magic already made him look disapproving. Although his clothes were, like all the members of the court, cut to his measure, Prince Callum seemed incessantly stretched. Usually as silent as a grave, he wrung his hands, looking at his feet, and stammering when asked what day it was. Only his sketchbook and his pencil were able to calm him, and a pouch specially sewn for this purpose hung permanently on his belt. The idea came from Father, Claudia was absolutely sure: only dark mages had a similar system for indispensable ingredients. Claudia liked Callum, so she decided it was not worth it to bother him more by telling him how wrong he was to despise her field of study.
"No," said his mother, "of course not. If I understood correctly, it was the elves of Xadia who developed this ointment."
The remark had gone off without notice. Six astonished eyes turned to her, Claudia bit her lip as she realized she had thought aloud.
"This powder," she said, "your Grace. "
On an indulgent smile from the queen, Claudia pecked a piece of meat on her plate, quickly as possible, since Father could return in an instant. Then, she continued with a conspiratorial air, as in novels:
"A pinch of this powder and an elven formula made my writing invisible, with the spell Mystica Nihilis, until I decided to dispel the spell and Dad didn't notice anything. "
This time, it was the queen who showed a reproving expression. Claudia knew this face well, her Grace often wore it when Father suggested "creative solutions" to the problems of the kingdom ... and the king, if he did not always follow his advice, invariably took his defence.
"As far as I can see," growled the queen, "your father did not fail to teach you the mysteries of lies, shortcuts and easy ways. "
Claudia, disarmed before so much frankness, opened her mouth to protest, but it was the king who took it quickly:
"It's nothing more than a little control of knowledge, Sarai. Nothing that jeopardizes the proverbial, what do I say, the model, the legendary righteousness of the members his house. "
So saying, he was so proud that the queen gave up her arms immediately, giggling, for she did not count the bad faith among her faults:
"And then?" King Harrow resumed, grabbing a piece of bread in the basket. "I guess this little test did not take the day? "
Claudia felt no more joy.
Usually, when she spoke of alchemy or dark magic, the other boys, girls, ladies of the court or the adults (and especially the High Prelate Opeli) concealed with a polite smile their boredom or disgust, even yawned or diverted the topic. More generally, they now avoided speaking to her, but she did not suffer too much. Father, Soren, Callum, and her dear books easily replaced their friendship. But this time it was the king himself who questioned her, and better still, he did not seem politely repulsed! Father was going to be so proud!
"Oh no!" she exclaimed, forgetting to cover her chirp. "As I passed the test on healing spells, Father continued the lesson on the exact causes of death by hanging. We had already studied theory, so we went to practice. "
As the king froze on his seat, and the queen choked on her mouthful of wine, Claudia realised the truth of her words.
"What is hanging?" Callum asked in a small voice while his mother was coughing in her napkin.
"Nothing, nothing," the king hastened. It means nothing at all. "Here, take a little water."
"But, uh ... what exactly is it? It makes you sleep? A-like-like, milk of the poppy?"
"Will you go to dessert, Callum? "
Claudia stared at Callum, gaping. The cup-bearers swirled around the round table, bringing the plates and dishes back to the kitchens, filling the goblets with wine while the leftover lamb chops gave way to a large red gooseberry dariole placed right in the center of the seven-star branches. Callum glanced secretly at Claudia, while the king and queen, helping themselves with lavish portions, had bifurcated the conversation about literacy in the remote countryside.
Was that possible? So there were people on this side of the Breach who did not know what death was? The elves of Xadia not being part of the equation, these bloodthirsty monsters inflicted it at the drop of a hat without having to undergo it themselves for several centuries, thanks to their exceptional longevity. A baby, it was understandable, but a six years old human ... and a prince, what is more!
Recovering from her astonishment, Claudia noticed a slice of the gooseberry dariole in the small plate placed in front of her. She chewed a few bites thoughtfully. No, it was impossible. Callum knew fairy tales, he knew the fate of the wolf who had eaten Little Red Riding Hood, he knew the fate of the wicked queen with the mirror who had murdered the princess, and he knew the fate of the blue-bearded Elf. He knew what dark magic was, for all the disgust he could draw, so he knew what he was returning to ... only the term "hanging" had an obscure meaning for him.
Not wishing to attract the attention and the wrath of the queen, Claudia pecked a few bites of gooseberry dariole (moreover tasty) to give the change, tapping her foot gently against Callum's ankles He jumped in contact with the ballerina under the round table, he looked around as if he had heard a spectre whisper in his ear. Claudia smiled at him, tranquillising him immediately. It was like in novels, a real conspiracy. She was not Claudia, she was a spy charged with transmitting vital and secret information to a high dignitary, she was a raven as on the emblem of her house, she was a little bird whispering state secrets in the ears of greats of this world.
She removed her napkin-a complete with Katolis' colours, red and gold geometric patterns, from her lap and began to tie it below the edge of the table, as Father had taught her the week before.
"The Count of Carmelite informed me that his last census was extremely alarming," said the king. "Despite the laws put in place, most farmers prefer to keep their children working in the fields while the preceptors just wait for the sunset in empty rooms."
"Alas, nothing astonishing about that," Sarai answered, slicing herself another slice of dariole. "Winter is coming. It seems to them more reason to collect wheat and to tread the grapes as long as the warm season lasts, especially as it looks particularly harsh. In Duren alone, the famine has been on for six years now ..."
"Yes, but on the other hand, it is the children, and by extension, the very future of Katolis, who suffer from the violation of the laws, and there can be no justice where ...
"Where gleaner," purred Sarai, singing her husband, "does not comply with the same laws as count, and this in spite of ancestry, feats of arms, or wealth. You repeat yourself, my dear."
"And so sometimes I find myself thinking that perhaps, to increase the yield of the crops and thus balance the balance, it is likely that there might be some creative solutions ..."
"Do not even think about it," growled the queen, "and stop talking this way, I think to hear Viren. By the way, if you happen to say one single word about this to hi... Claudia, what are you doing? "
Claudia jumped, lifted her head from the book -the thickness and size of the napkin made it harder than she had initially supposed, and served her most innocent look.
"I beg your pardon, your Grace?"
"Do not take me for a fool," she replied. What are you doing with this napkin? "
So much severity emerged from her face and voice that Claudia felt her body as a victim of a paralysis spell. The spy was spotted.
Loosening the fingers, twisting the wrist, moving her elbows and resting her hands on her knees ... all this made her lift anvils. Callum had unexpectedly absorbed himself in the contemplation of the dragons adorning the round table, while the king sank into his reflection distorted by the wine carafe.
She did not notice until then that the Father's and Soren's seats framed her. There was nobody to occupy them. Claudia lowered her nose to her plate, where the remains of red gooseberry dariole formed casings from a decaying body, and she no longer moved, motionless as well as a lying recumbent statue.
"Answer me, please," said the queen, in a softer voice. I won't bite you. "
As Claudia did not answer, the queen sighed in dismay and glanced around the table. Claudia heard the wine sinking back into the cup. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the king reach out and close his fingers on the object of the offence, she opened her mouth, put out her arm to prevent it, but it was too late. The king was already manipulating the red folded fabric and twisting it between his fingers ... Claudia lowered her head again and wrung her hands. She would have flogged herself for her imprudence. And in front of King Harrow, what is more! Oh, Father was going to be furious ... she did not dare to imagine his pain when he heard of the disaster. The stigma would be thrown on the house Alderys until the last generation ...
Claudia, therefore, believed in a new illusion spell-though she did not know any formula concerning only the auditory faculties when she received a mocking laugh:
"Frankly, Sarai, is it for a simple noose in a napkin that you put yourself in such anger? "
Claudia looked up and wondered briefly if the morning illusion spell did not have an uncontrolled impact. A jaded smile twisted the queen's lips, and more unbelievably, she shook her head:
"No, you're right, it's... it's ridiculous. It's wine, I think ... it's too heavy. "
She rubbed her face for a long time, straightened her head, shook herself, then inhaled a great breath of air.
"I beg you to excuse me for the interruption, Claudia," she smiled, looking straight at her. Would you still like to explain what you learned today? And to all of us, of course. No need to make so many mysteries. "
Decidedly, there had been a malfunction in the spell. It was not possible otherwise. Claudia closed her eyes, her fists, and murmured the formula of dissipation of the illusion "Rotsputza seleniae dissipendio." When she raised her eyelids, nothing was changed. The gooseberry dariole sat still half-cut in the centre of the round table and exhibited its organs devastated by the cake server. The queen rubbed her hands together, her face deeply solicited, and the king even leaned a little forward on the round table, as they had all done earlier ... Callum had resumed his usual attitude, looking at her like a magnificent sculpture that one is afraid to spoil. Claudia opened her mouth, but the king got ahead of her and handed him the napkin:
"Thank you, your Grace," she smiled timidly.
She untied the square of fabric, then began again to make a jugular knot:
"Well, hanging is suspending a victim by a part of the body, usually the neck. Driven by its weight, the body falls at once, but the exact cause varies according to the type of knot ... "
The smile went back to Claudia's lips as her presentation continued. With her tongue drawn, she always applied herself to the briefcase, trying to remember her Father's gestures:
"-For example, in one of the cases, death occurs by a jerk!"
So saying, she pulled sharply on the ends of the napkin, and her smile closed her fist to illustrate her point, perhaps a little too firmly because Callum jumped.
"... from the end of the spinal cord. Thus, the brain is no longer able to control the heartbeat or breathing, and the subject's death occurs almost instantaneously. "
Carried away by enthusiasm, the terms grew in precision, the sentences were racing, and her hands were moving in all directions like wings as her smile widened:
"About dark magic," she chirped, "this hanging presents minimal difficulty compared to the so-called incomplete hanging because the essence escapes from the body at a precise moment. Admittedly, it is necessary to know how and when to seize it, but it is much more delimited, more precise, than for the trickier rat or scalding millimetre where the agony can last several hours. And, alas", she exhaled with a sigh that she hoped gracious enough for their Majesties, "no dark mage can maintain his concentration so long. Not even father, I'm afraid. "
In front of her, the flesh was transformed again into stone, seemingly one with the centuries of the castle. The halos of the candlesticks placed on the round table, framing the bloody dariole, magnified the picture.
Well, what an odd thing she could have said this time? Perhaps a noble was not supposed to doubt the skill of the lords her parents in public? She glanced anxiously at the empty chair to her right, then to the corridor door behind her, and bit her lip.
Lords! She remembered the meetings of the Small Council, from which Father only came out very late, well after dark, where members debated the repression to adopt against the refractory to the laws against torture. Although it had been abolished for two generations of crowned heads, there were still fools, usually, baronets whose lands were far from the capital, to circumvent the royal decree.
"A too strong repression policy will not distinguish us from the executioners or criminals we want to chastise, or worse, from the elves of Xadia!" sighed Father, letting himself fall on the divan of their quarters, in an irritated and weary tone, which he used in reprimanding Soren. "Harrow and I kill ourselves to remind this but this foolish High Prelate -may the elves take her, and the provincial delegates remain deaf to our incitement, and why, I pray you? Local traditions or respect due to authority! Certainly, the death penalty remains indispensable, profitable to the community, and even more so if we consider sublimation by dark magic, but it is the royal law that they pass besides by their stupid zeal ... and there is no need to remind you, Claudia", he added, passing a hand through her hair," that the very essence of a kingdom is obedience to the king, hm? Kill a king without heirs, or challenge his authority, and his kingdom will disintegrate of itself! "
It would have been unfortunate, Claudia thought, to mislead the royal family into such low digressions as they graciously took the trouble to listen to him. They were so courteous, so polite, so kind, but they were above all crowned heads, who had a kingdom's weight on their shoulders. They had no time to lose. She cleared her throat as her Father used to do, straightened her back, and resumed the thread of her presentation before the statues of flesh goldened by the candelabra glow:
"Father then signalled the few spells taking their source from the corpses of hanged men. They are varied, of course, but as I was good, Father decided to start with the most spectacular: the call of strangulous shadows ... "
"Spectacular", oh, the word was very weak. It had been grandiose, magnificent, fabulous. Claudia was still all turned over and barely kept a trembling hand. It was indeed fascinating to observe the incredible diversity of spells allowed by a single modus operandi. The strangulous shadows, for example, were summoned by the formula Tniartser taorht, mściwy cień, matched to the ashes of the body and a modelled candle of dragon ear wax and lunar phoenix blood. It was an emanation of rancour, seeking to inflict upon the victims designated by the mage the death that had struck it. And again, it was only the most spectacular spell allowed by this modus operandi. Oh, she still had so much to learn ...
While Father was preparing the necessary ingredients for the realisation of the spell, scattered on the shelves of the good old laboratory, Claudia, seated legs hovering above the ground, had interrogated her as a good reader of ghost stories:
"But is it not necessary to use a personal object of the victim, such as a handkerchief, a lucky charm, a trinket or a dagger? Like a sort of bait?"
"It's only advisable. "Father then sniffed in contempt. "Alas, the nuns or monks having happily helped themselves, as usual to their charity, in the personal belongings of the unfortunate, we must do without it this time. "
He had a real aversion to clerics, but Claudia wondered if the cause was more a scientific contempt or more simply the many conflicts that, in the room of the Small Council, opposed him to the High Prelate Opelie. She did not dare, however, to formulate the question aloud, especially since what Father was preparing was much more enjoyable.
"And it is also crucial to know the exact circumstances of the death of the sublimated," he explained in the waltz jars clashed. "If it's a suicide, the shadow, for lack of target to shoot down, will turn against the mage ..." Father had provided a dramatic silence as he knew how to do them well, and Claudia held her breath. "... whose survival is unfortunately not guaranteed." Of course, Father had designated a mere rat as a victim, since it was impossible to summon a strangulous shadow without giving him a target to shoot down. However, the sumptuousness of the show had primarily compensated for the ridiculousness of the victim.
Father lit the candle with a snap of his fingers, sprinkled a pinch of ashes on the small flame that took on a purplish hue. The ashes brought specially from the Kalengrad morgue rested in a saucer. "Tniartser taorht, mściwy cień," said Father, his eyes purple with sublimation, then he blew on the candle in the direction of the ashes.
Then arose, under the eyes of a marvelled Claudia, a dark mass where one discerned here a shoulder, there a hand. It was all in velvets of black smoke. In the songs, ballads and novels, spectres floated. But the feet of the spectre-or what looked like feet-stood firmly on the laboratory slabs, as if desperately trying to anchor themselves in the world that had once been theirs. Its limbs scarcely covered with a thin sheet of skin so thin that it fell into dust, moved in a silence of a tomb, its miasmas dancing in the air with the grace of dark magic ...
There was no face, no hair, no voice. Only the mark of an equally violet braid adorned his neck, engraved in a simulacrum of misty flesh. Who had hugged it around the artery? Who had knotted the piece of hemp? Who had lowered the lever? What crime had the unfortunate man committed? And why? A thousand questions pressed in Claudia's mouth, but her fascination prevented her from saying a single word.
The spectre opened on them two violet wounds, blind. They emitted a faint glow in the darkness. The smoke was too indistinct for a face to be discerned. However, it seemed to Claudia that these two abysses were haunted by an infinite sadness ...
As it put its hand to the rat squeaked pitifully in his cage, smoke swept away from its arm. Claudia had expected miasmas of decay, but oddly enough, the creature did not smell. The creature released nothing except fascination and a tiny hint of apprehension because a dark mage is never afraid. The shadow grabbed the grey fur ball-its hand was gaunt and the fingernails long, and the two naps shone with a strange glow when the fingers tightened.
Those gaping purple wounds that could barely be seen in her eyes, Claudia could never forget them. They were too desperate, too dulled, too beautiful for this shroud to cover them. Oh no, they were magic ...
Claudia pecked of the dariole on her plate, and seeing around her the funeral statues of the royal family staring at her with an attentive eye, she jabbed:
"So we used the ashes of a body, which was, of course, dead by hanging, and then Father lit a candle ...
"Halt, wait a minute" suddenly cut the king by raising his hands as if to control some wild beast.
So saying, he put his hand on the queen's mouth, whose features, Claudia only noticed at this moment, were visibly outraged. The somewhat flushed face, of an oddly red complexion, seemed almost about to roar. He let a few seconds pass by a tense silence, then the queen released his hand with a small slap. She had a smile that Claudia could not tell whether it was a gambler or bitter.
"Claudia," he went on, "you are talking about a rat's body, do you?"
"Oh, no," she replied. "Ashes of a human body, which we received from Kalengrad morgue. The unfortunate was found in a slum of the suburbs, probably victim of a settlement account between thugs, or unpaid debt, or dark family history or even better, love. Unless ..."
"Callum," said the queen, "it's getting late. Maybe you should go to bed."
"But, Mom, I - I have not finished my dessert ..."
"All right, but hurry up. "
Claudia filled her silver goblet with water, where the Alderys family crow spread its wings and began to sip it peacefully, but glanced around when she noticed silence was surrounding her. Even the clang of silverware no longer sang. Oh, no, she corrected, Prince Callum had moved, he had curled up a little in his seat, but his pretty green eyes were still fixed at her. It was out of the question for her to abandon the unfortunate to that unpleasant note of morgue and the wretched districts of the capital, too vulgar to deserve the attention of a prince. It was the first time he had heard so many details about dark magic, and he should not be disgusted with this passion:
"Besides," Claudia chirped, "I still have only theoretical knowledge of the hanging. It would be really exciting to see how things go, to see them with my own eyes ... It would be enough to take a criminal or an elf, and I'm sure everything will be much more transparent! Bright, even; do you not think, your majesties? "
She did not hear their answers, nor did she see the gracious smile that crossed their features or the worried look that Sarai gave to little Callum. Her eyes went beyond, beyond the recumbent, and lost somewhere between the tapestries, the Kalengrad gallows and death. The hangers at the end of their ropes moved above the abyss. Their limbs were convulsed with joy, they danced a jig to the glory of sublimation and treasures of knowledge, culture, science, poetry, Knowledge that concealed the least pore of their parched skin, for who knew how to decipher them ...
"I'm back... "
Claudia blinked her green eyes like an owl, turned in her seat and felt her face light up. Father was striding along, his elven cane tinkling on the embroidered carpets. He had changed his clothes, silk, grey tunic with puffed sleeves, black doublet; running a hand in his messy hair to appear presentable-he was accustomed to the gesture when he left at dawn from the laboratory or his office, where he had collapsed with fatigue more often than in his bedroom. No wonder, since Soren's energy, even sick and feverish, was almost that of a dragon. Claudia stepped aside slightly to let Father draw his seat, but he froze as he saw the petrified royal family.
"Hum ... Have I missed something important? "
Claudia was wrong. It was not the secular stone that formed the reliefs of the royal family, but ice. The faces had all turned to the newcomer, not to move. Father himself had suspended his gesture. Claudia had a worried look on her face, but she was reassured by the puzzled look that Father was throwing at herself, the king or the queen... and even prince Callum, who had plunged into his part of gooseberry when Father entered.
Claudia had noticed that Callum was always impressed when Father was around.
No, actually, he was terrified.
The joints of the ice statues with the effigy of the royal couple seemed to come alive when the queen finally articulated :
"No, nothing. Nothing at all."
"Noooo, of course, absolutely nothing, just as in my royal brain" Soren would have whispered, and Claudia retained a burst of laughter by frantically swinging her little legs in the void. No, no, no, she had to calm down. Euphoria made her too nervous, and Father would die off out of shame if she were to stupidly giggle by the king.
Sarai clasped her claws around her silver goblet with a lioness's face and lapped her wine.
Father gave another puzzled look to King Harrow, who had nothing else to answer than a deep, visibly inspired breathing to the wine carafe. He pulled out his chair, sat down, and had another pause before his cutlery. As a man concerned with protocol, he had just remembered that he could not sit unless invited, let alone start eating ... However the statues seemed far from etiquette, and Claudia began seriously wondering about a paralysis spell launched by an evil-intentioned elf, then the king cleared his throat and asked:
"So, I hope Soren is better?
"He couldn't be better, actually" replied Father, attacking his slice of dariole. He vomited four times, and the fever increased again.
"Oh, so that is why you changed your shirt, I guess?" taunted the queen as the silver dishes resumed their clatter. "Pretty silk, by the way. Black, anthracite, purple brooch, golden embroidery, no, really, it's new, fresh, invigorating, daring!"
"Thank you, your grace," said Father, inclining his head slightly, as if he had not understood the sarcasm. "As for Soren, I managed to have him swallowing a glass of water and one of milk of the poppy ... All we can do now is wait. But there no need to worry," he added before the expression which Claudia and the King displayed. "Indigestion, even feverish, never lasts more than two days, and the key to the pantry is now under guard. "
While talking, he had already completed his share of dariole. The few foods he absorbed were still disappearing extremely fast. Time was precious to him, as prime minister, even when he was fasting, and only Soren managed to surpass his speed on the plate.
"Well," said the queen, after a new glass of wine, "between the one who's puking with butter all night and the one who's debating obscenities all the supper along, your kids are definitely little putrefactors."
The king glared at his wife, Callum lowered his head again, and her Father's face tensed as if he had swallowed a lemon, raw with its skin; and his claws gripped his cup of wine so hard that they began to whiten.
The tinkling of the dishes had stopped again, and the recumbent people had taken their places around the round table. On the difference that of Queen Sarai of Katolis, of the house Lovencaster, protector of the Redania, supreme commander of the armies, twisted her lips with a smirk, seemed almost purring ... The King squeezed his thumbs in his eyes sighed in dismay, then signalled the cup-bearers to bring the carafe of wine into the kitchen.
Claudia could hear the Father's boot pounding under the round table, the brand-new table of Dame Justice, the round table devoted to equity and equality, where everyone was lodged in the same way, the prince like the cup-bearer, and Claudia's eyes fogged up. The putrefactors, the supreme shame of humanity, the rotten fruits of dark magic.
She lowered her head towards her knees, her hands twisted, clasping the silver bracelet, the one in the shape of a soul-feng snake, the one she had chosen so carefully for this beautiful round table.
All the joy that the story of her apprenticeship had given her fell like a leaden soufflé. For the queen to gratify her and her brother with such an insult, she must have behaved unspeakably. After vowing to behave like a great lord, to be worthy of her Alderyn name, to imitate the noble ways and energy of her father, here was threatening the humiliation of starting to whine at the king's table! She always did wrong, invariably, and worse still, she found nothing to answer to defend Soren. Her brother had just been insulted, and she was not even able to defend him.
Idiot. Imbecile, she thought. Foolish, niggard!
"Forgive me for contradicting you, Your Grace, smiled Father as best as he could, but to be the heir of a high lord and an incorrigible gourmand does not prevent my son from remaining irremediably human, with his strengths, his flaws... especially his flaws if you want me to stay honest. And that, he hissed, unlike some others. "
So saying, he jumped out of his seat (the latter scolded with discontent), raised his hand; it only lasted a second, a whisper, but Claudia thought she had heard the words "Mystica Nihilis", Father snapped his fingers, and the last part of the dariole disappeared from the round table, as if it were not would have never existed. Flicked, the contents of a glass splashed his face, hair and trimmed beard.
"Your lordship has wine on his august face," the queen warned him with a broad smile.
The king burst out laughing and her Father, steadfast at the table, wiping his face with his napkin, growled:
"As I said: your greed makes you ... inhuman, your Majesty. A true lioness.
"Then, admit that you deserved it, kitty," the king chuckled.
"The kitten would ask you to shut up, dear husband, if you do not want to take a claw on your nose."
The queen beckoned, the cup-bearer came running and filled her wine cup:
"You know I would kill for the sake of a dariole. It's not worth the jelly tarts, but even. "
The supper ended amid the jingling of silverware, jeers, and jokes, and one would soon forget the vomit, the hanged, the strangulous shadows and especially the putrefactors. They remained safe behind Claudia's misty eyes. The delicate topic of the colonelle Amaya did not come back to haunt the conversations, and from "Codex on legs" to "Parrot protocol" through "Deus Lex Machina", the queen and Father outdid each other in finding nasty nicknames to the High Prelate Opelie. The walls of the west wing salon echoed so well the laughter that it was thought to be able to rise high and high up to the ghosts of the vanished kings, to the primal energy of the sky and the stars ...
When Claudia got into bed that night, nearby a Soren stunned by the sleep-spell and the milk of the poppy, (taking care to avoid the basin placed near his bed), she was surprised to discover, carefully wrapped in a napkin, a piece of dariole resting on her bedside table. In every way, similar to the one that had disappeared from the round table.
By the light of her candle, Claudia examined it, touched it, sniffed it, tasted it, pecked it, ate it: without a doubt, it was real. The hallucinogen-selenium powder left no taste ... But the dariole, despite oil, milk, sugar, cinnamon, gooseberry, filled her mouth with bitterness and salt.
That night her dreams were peopled with spectral shadows and crowned putrefactors.
All of them smelled like a gooseberry.
And now, this OS is over!
As for putrefactors, I know they do not exist in the TDP universe (I'm in a mood The Witcher right now). In fact, I thought something was missing to justify the widespread disgust with the black magic that not only elves but almost all humans are experiencing. Certainly, the ethical and moral issues it raises are thorny, but it does not deserve such distrust ... So I took the liberty to do a little world-building. Here is a passage that I tried to integrate into the OS, but impossible to fit into the narrative. I hope it will interest you more alone! :)
Putrefactors were now feeding legends and fairy tales, but their past existence, and the following ravages, were still a vex in minds.
They came from the hazardous experiments of the first black wizards, so called "putrefying" centuries before The Dragon Prince. After the Exile, humans having until then always benefited from the elves's primal magic, an existence without magic was simply inconceivable to them (a bit like we were cut off from oil, electricity and coal from day to day). So, dark magic developed fast ... too fast in the case of putrefactors.
These humanoid-looking anthropophagous, claws, fangs, grey skin and pointed ears in addition, bore an unbearable odour released by their vomit, blood, mucus and various secretions. But they were not content to stink: the colourless miasmas emanating from the traces of their passage prevented the grass from growing, the lungs from filling with air, and the essence of maintaining itself. Whoever breathed these vapours for too long suffocated himself, then rose inevitably after hours of agony into a new putrefactor and swelled the army.
Years of effort were needed by humans, warriors, mages or soldiers to eradicate gangrene, at the cost of millions of civilian casualties outside the arts of war. It was with such reluctance that the humans agreed to stomp their pride and begged for help from the elves of Xadia, arguing that the threat would eventually rush to their doors if it was not eliminated. However, the elves, although responsible for the fall of humans, considered it unworthy to mingle with their scum, and allowed thousands of victims to add up. They just barely agreed to give them twenty-four Primitive Stones (including the one that Callum owns in The Dragon Prince).
The army of putrefactors was eventually eradicated at the cost of hundreds of thousands of victims. But the dark mages who were at the origin were conspired, humiliated, lynched, tortured, delivered to the fury of the crowd: not only for the millions of dead who stained their hands of "putrefactors makers", their hands of putrifiers, but also for trampling the pride of humanity by forcing it to beg the elves.
Even though the putrefiers have all been dead for centuries, their names are banned from story books, their graves are desecrated, and dark mages now have enough power to save millions of lives; the involuntary ravages of the putrefiers are still hovering in the minds of humanity, nearly five hundred years later ...
To qualify a black magician as a putrefrier is to squeeze a five centuries old plague, always painful, burning, purulent ... even more so if the magician in question has the misfortune to have not we telling putrefactors that they are the rotten fruits of dark magic?
To treat a dark mage of putrefier in the world of The Dragon Prince, which happens centuries after the Exile, would be the equivalent of treating a Nazi a lambda German.
I hope you guys enjoyed this !