Hello! Here I am again with a new OS on The Dragon Prince ... And it's still about Claudia, yes. Definitely, I love her.
I remind that in my vision of the series, raven symbolizes Viren and by extension of his family and the values he defends; just as the lion for the Lannisters. I also invented names to give relief (like the Viren's surname, Alderyn, or the name of the village that serves as theatre at the end of season 2, renamed Valletaille).
Occurs immediately after season 2.
The cart was shaking on the roads of Katolis.
It squeaked, rattled, dragged on every pothole like on a mountain, and had a broken axle since leaving that morning, delaying the trip. Thus, for two gold dragons, the coachman had agreed to cancel all the detours he had planned. Of course, the other travellers had copiously grumbled before leaving, but as long as Soren could rest on the road that led to the royal castle of Katolis, all these people could well choke in their own bile.
"Come on, Clo." he had pleaded with his puppy-dog eyes as she counted the gold coins in her purse to pay for the trip. "These are just two small broken ribs, just two small ribs, nothing that will stop me from riding!"
"No way." Claudia retorted in a disenchanted laugh. "No, I mean, have you seen yourself? You're barely standing on your crutches!"
"That's not true at all! And what about the boat, then? The port is only half a day by horse! We will surely find a captain who will agree to take us!"
"I've already been to check, what do you think?" Claudia had replied with a mocking smile. "But the only one I found was completely blind! He had two eye-covers and a simple parrot to guide him! You imagine a little, a blind man and a bird! No way! "
It was already a miracle that this imbecile had not ended in Davy Jones's locker from his first trip, and she was going to entrust their lives to him?
Claudia had been inflexible, and so her eldest brother was sulking in the cart, as motionless as possible. Despite all his efforts to keep it from showing, Soren could not stop his hand from twitching around his ribs at every jolt. As for the few jokes they had tried to make, they had obviously done more harm than good to Soren, if Claudia relied on the frightful grimace that distorted his features where a laugh should have burst.
"No, I'm kidding, she tells him. Actually, he did not hang in the attic but in the cellar! Haha! Haha, it's funny, no? ... Soren?! Are you all right? "
"Yes, yes, I am fine ... Don't worry."
"Are you really sure you are all right?"
"Yes, I assure you!"
"You are absolutely sure, aren't you? you can tell me, you know, I won't ..."
"Yes, for Xadia's sake" retorted Soren in precisely the same tone as father, where the fun was disputed with exasperation. "Stop looking at me this way, Clo, I'm not put together with flour paste!"
As Claudia didn't wish to talk about everything else, paralysis, Callum, Ezran, the Dragon Prince, the Moon-Shadow elf or especially Father, the journey was done in silence heavy, interspersed with drinking songs from the coachman. Claudia asked him to change the register: no doubt it seemed to be agreeable to them, and having recognized the embroidery and the silver brooch adorning Claudia's mantle, he had then sung the hymn of their family.
King asleep amidst the silk
Crow watching over his sleep
His black eye stays wide awake
Banning the elves, and dragons, and wraiths
The song had a new resonance in the ears of Soren and Claudia, like a diffuse, latent discomfort. But it was probably due to the country accent as sharp as a knife. And it was still better than this heavy silence.
Above the pages of her book, a treasure of astronomy lore, Claudia saw Soren staring into the air with his black eye (whereas he never looked into the air, before, never), then linger on the wallet she had placed near her. The leather of the bag, although of excellent quality, deteriorated hour by hour under the long, sharp and solid tip of its load.
Could this dragon's horn be enough to pierce the wrath of lord Viren Alderyn after the failure of their respective missions?
Would Claudia stop one day seeing the moment when Soren's spine had just broken in front of her eyes while she had been standing there?
These questions still croaked in Claudia's mind when, at nightfall, the horses brake in front of the inn at Clock-Town, from which emanated the rumour of some late-night customers and strong fumet of bacon and hydromel. Of course, it was hard for Soren to get off the cart with his crutches, but she did not expect him to collapse squarely halfway up the stairs to the bedrooms.
"Soren!" she exclaimed, abandoning the innkeeper's desk, where she was checking out their board and lodging of a night. "Are you all right ?"
Luckily, he had wedged his leg between the balusters and prevented a fall. His crutches were not so lucky and lay at the foot of the stairs. Dazed, his rib pierced with pain, he stammered:
"But what - what has happened? What- "
"Don't worry," Claudia told him as she was assisted by the innkeeper, a flushed, muscular young woman, slipping her arm under his shoulder to help him get up. "It's going to be fine, well, are you up?"
Soren opened his mouth to answer, but his rib had struck again, and he only managed to grimace horribly.
"Humph!" grumbled the innkeeper, scrabbling down the steps that were screaming under their weight. "Not very light, your brother! Not only -humpf! Not only does he weigh a ton, and I'm not even talking about his -humpf! his armour, but also -humpf! He can't bloody stand up! Come on, kid, walk! I'm not going to carry you all night long! "
Claudia saw Soren's blue eyes panic in their sockets, then cling to her like she was a kind of rope.
With the help of the innkeeper, she laid him on the shabby bench in one corner of the room. And to say that he wanted to ride a horse that very morning, that idiot!
"- Claudia, I-I ..." stammered Soren, "I do not understand, I- I can't move. I can't anymo - Yet, yesterday, did you have ... "
The innkeeper, with a peasant pragmatism, declared that no room was free downstairs and that it was unthinkable to disturb the guests at this late hour; of course, there was still a room on the ground floor under the stairs, but she was not sure that the gentlemen-ladies of the court were able to be satisfied with this wretched place.
"Alderyns, besides! Your father of a lord would be furious if he learned that I had you sleep in a rat hole! And then, there is only one bed, and m'lady is not going to sleep on the floor, especially she paid for my best chamber upstairs! And by all accounts, just yesterday, ser defended the village of Valletaille against a bloodthirsty red dragon! Oh no! I won't let this hero rot in this shabby pad, still! "
Claudia didn't listen to anything. Claudia frantically paled her brother's body. There was still muscle under the skin, but he was desperately flaccid. As a matter of fact, Claudia's new lock of white hair came back to dance before her eyes. No, it was not possible.
No, it was not possible!
"Are you in pain there?" she asked, pinching her forearm with all her strength.
"- No ... Claudia, it's all happening again, I ... I can not move ... It's like yesterday ... I can't feel anything. I feel nothing."
Claudia dropped her arms along her body, leaving her silk mantilla on the dirt floor, "It's like yesterday," the raven croaked echoing. "It's like yesterday, he does not feel anything anymore, because you missed that spell, why did I think you could do it? It was so simple, though." Her fingers clasped convulsively on her purse with ingredients hanging from her belt. It was useless, she knew it.
She ordered the innkeeper to help her transport Soren to the ground floor room.
"But there is only one bed, ma'am, I wish to propose you a room on the first floor, but you don't want to be separated from ser in his sorry st- "
"Well, get a mattress in your closets! And if you were going to tell me," she added as the innkeeper opened her mouth, "the only mattress you have left is eaten by the moths and that sir our father is not going to appreciate that, you can keep your comments to yourself! "
Claudia had not let go of Soren's hand long after he finally fell asleep.
The fear that he had manifested at first was quickly extinguished to give way to that kind of calm and tranquillity that he had displayed the day before, and which resembled him so little.
"- Don't worry, Clo," he said between two bites of bacon, which she had insisted on bringing herself on a tray. "It isn't too late. I can still resume my career as a poet."
"If I still hear a single line coming out of your mouth, I have you swallow your crutches, have I made myself clear? come on, open your mouth."
Soren looked at her while he was chewing his piece of lard. In his black eye, his blue eyes, Claudia recognized her own look, the one she had sent to him since they had left Valletaille. The one which Soren replied, "Stop worrying for me, I am not made of sugar !"
Now, Claudia got why he retorted so aggressively to her concern.
Claudia had never realized how massive a head could be. She had wrist pain. She supported him so he could drink and eat. She had taken off his armour herself, piece by piece, leaving only his shirt on his back. Blond hair had remained between her fingers.
Once Soren's calm and steady breathing had resounded for hours, she put her hand on his chest. The night breeze whistled through a broken pane, awkwardly clogged with a rag, but the candles lit up the slab held on tight. And then, it was not so cold under the covers and the nightgown.
Claudia crushed her thumb against a cockroach which was trying to sneak under the mattress. That was dumb, but she did not know any spell that required the death of a simple cockroach. Aranao igni, or simple slugs or earthworms, but no cockroach. And it was useless to think of sublimating it to enable Soren to get up the next day; because it was nothing but a cockroach, small, weak, insignificant, insufficient. Claudia looked at the blackish porridge that stained her thumb. This vermin was dead for nothing.
She straightened up, threw down the covers of her mattress, and reached in a step the table where a pitcher and a bowl were placed. Painted porcelain and a chiselled mirror hung on the wall clashed with the room's seediness. For the heirs to the house Alderyn, the innkeeper had insisted on bringing out her finest knick-knacks from the cupboard. The icy water that Claudia sprayed with her brightened her thinking: she brushed, brushed, brushed, brushed her raven hair so carefully that they soon found back their shining reflections. In the mirror, her skin seemed strangely pale.
She lifted the wick that hung in front of her forehead. This one was white like her nightgown. White as snow. White as light. White as void. White as death.
Something in her had broken with this wick, she knew it. What she had done the day before was a madness. An appalling madness. It was not as usual, when she and father killed some creature and sublimated its essence still fresh, no: there, she had torn off the essence of a living being, a being still alive. She knew something was also torn from herself that day because dark magic always has a price to pay. A tear in within her soul, a tear which had emptied this lock of hair of its colour and his life, and left nothing but nothingness.
How long did Claudia Alderyn had left to live?
Thirty, twenty, fifteen, maybe?
She did not know.
She chose to not know.
Claudia got up from her stool, put on her pair of slippers; she passed her black silk shawl over her shoulders, the agrapha of her spindle in the shape of the Alderyn's family crow, grabbed a candle, then came out of the shed without closing the door behind her. Soren was still sleeping peacefully, too peacefully.
She crossed the deserted room, dodging her feet in the stools. The torches were extinguished, and the little hearth only housed ashes. Up to the counter room, darkness had invaded everything. A strange ballroom, so different from the ones she knew at Katolis Castle. There, candles were on all night long. But here, there was no music, no bursts of laughter, no cups filled with heady wine, no delicate rustling shoes on the floor, no light. Her long white shirt, her jet hair floating in her wake, her silent steps in her slippers ... an extraordinary ballroom in truth.
The freshness of the outside took her by surprise. Claudia shivered and tightened her black shawl around her shoulders.
"Clock-Town Inn: bacon and beer every day at all hours of the day." squeaked the iron sign in the wind. A full moon, its features devastated by laughter -or was it anger? served as the emblem for the establishment. Claudia grimaced as the hostile features of the Moon-shadow elf escorting Callum and King Ezran swept past her eyes. Rélie, Rawle, Raula ... She shrugged. She couldn't even remember her name.
Her steps carried her through the maze of alleys, and silence enveloped her.
Here a bakery, a place with a well, a shoemaker, then a dilapidated hovel, and another, and another ... or a veterinarian, she already didn't know.
The long white nightgown flapped against her ankles.
The freshness of the night was blowing on her cheeks.
The torches were painfully throwing their halo on the filthy pavements.
And the shadows held her hand like the old friends they were.
Suddenly, her ears picked up a sound, right at her feet, and her nose wrinkled with an acid, fetid, strong smell. Claudia stopped, sniffed, bowed her head. There was nothing. She narrowed her green eyes, frowned, and forced herself to look more closely at the darkness that the torches were barely catching. And it was there that she saw something. Right there, on the floor, against a slum's wall.
There was a shaggy mass of hair and beard. They were so long that what was underneath was almost gone. Shadows and hairs seemed to have devoured it. Still, snoring and the smell of urine and sweat came from there, she was sure. There, the hairs swelled and deflated to the rhythm of rumblings and hisses. There, a long white bone bent in two still exceeded. Claudia approached. There was an empty bottle, which was convulsively squeezed by five finer bones.
And, approaching again, while kneeling, taking these bones in her delicate hand of high-born (her black shawl dragged on the pavement), Claudia saw marks. Fine, long marks that zebraed the wrist as claws. According to the redness and their sharpness, they were recent.
And snoring continued, they disturbed the sympathetic silence of the shadows, they prevented her friends from comforting her, they prevented Claudia from thinking. The Alderyn's family raven, clutching her shawl around her shoulders, was croaking so hard that she could no longer hear herself think. "The egg," said a familiar voice, too familiar, that gave Claudia a sudden desire to cry, her throat tightened. "If you have to choose," said the deep, reassuring, resolute, thorn, torn voice, "choose the dragon egg."
But she did not listen to him, the raven whispering in her ear. She did not listen to him. She did not listen to him anymore.
The life that these snores so insolently portrayed was an insult to the reassuring calm of the darkness. It was an insult to the red welts on the wrists of this thing. It was an insult to a dead one the day before in a forest at a cart day away. It was an insult to another too peaceful and too silent breathing, which was because of her, somewhere in the warren, in this damned village ...
Claudia put the white lock of nothingness behind her ear.
And in the alleys, in front of the shoemaker's shop, in front of the bakery shop, in the central square where the well was no longer flowing, in front of the shabby inn, in the deserted hall, in the shabby slab of the ground floor; the shadows began to dance.
They danced and danced under the purple storm which Claudia held in her feverish hands.
They danced, danced, danced, and danced when the inn at Clock-Town rang with howls.
The mirror and the painted porcelain pot had broken into a thousand pieces. The guests and the innkeeper would certainly grumble. And all the villagers, no doubt. But as long as Soren could stand up, all those people and the whole world with them could all choke on their own bile.
Claudia's mouth twisted into a radiant smile. Her body collapsed on the dirt of the room. Her heart was tearing her chest. Before her eyes, there was nothing but snow. Nothing but light. Nothing but death. Nothing but nothingness.
Every hair, every thread, every fibre was nil white, the raven-like black was dead.
But when she stood up staggering, trembling, coughing red, her breath cut by the dagger that pierced her chest, she saw Soren standing on his mattress, all factitious peace away from his face, his chest rising at a frantic pace, he looked at her horrified like the day before. He was alive, and he was moving. This vision was well worth all the nothingness in the world.
Perched on the sign of the inn, a crow croaked, then flew away to the stars.
I summarize what just happened in case it was unclear: to rescue her brother from paralysis again, Claudia has just killed a human being.
But hey, it was an alcoholic tramp who had just tried to commit suicide. A cockroach in human form. It's not so bad, is it? Okay, she has lost life expectancy again ... but Soren can walk again.
Claudia does precisely the opposite of what Viren ordered her (symbolized here by the raven, do you understand?). Instead of leaving her brother behind to recover the dragon egg that could - according to Viren, save humanity from the slaughter, she kills people to save her brother.
Claudia is a scale, like her father. But a broken scale.
And stars symbolizing Aaravos, I leave you to drawn your own conclusions. ;)
Did you notice the reference to Majora's Mask? : p Hint: it is not discreet.
(1): "a blind man and a bird". You will, of course, have recognized Villadz as the blind navigator from season 2. But remember that a blindfold makes it just as blind and that Villadz is not the only character in the series to own a bird ...
Well, it was stream-of-consciousness, so a pretty confusing style, but I hope you enjoyed it anyway! : D