Hello ! Here I am with a thing I just pulled out from my drawer, written before the third season aired.
Quite a depressing thing, actually. Playlist: Atonement, from GoT season five, by Ramin Djawadi.
The stone was cold. It smelled of urine, shit, sweat and the passage of time.
How long precisely, Viren could not have said. Only a jug of water had passed the cell door, stale, dirty water that had barely quenched his thirst, much less his hunger.
"For... for how long did ..."
His voice was mushy, dry, hoarse; he was even surprised to have been able to utter a single word.
"Shut up, you traitor!"
It was as dry as the guard who threw the pitcher at him from the other side of the iron bars. As dry and unfair as the word "traitor" itself.
"Pl ... please! My children..."
But already he heard the echo of the boots fading away ...
And his leg ... At first, the pain was unbearable. It prevented him from sleeping, thinking, rehashing regrets or building castles of hope; it clenched his teeth enough to shatter them to prevent him from screaming; it exploded in thousands of nothingness which crushed his lungs, panicked the beating of his heart and reduced his brain to ashes, then he woke up suddenly ...
And then the pain was silent, he didn't know since when; the pain left him alone in the stinking cold and feverish heat, alone with an unbearable smell of putrefaction, and he heard his leg crackle like deadwood in the hearth ... He could not make out the colours in this darkness; but his leg was becoming mud under the black silk spattered with blood, and at this square, it had probably taken a purplish or even black, swollen, oozing shad. Between two comas, he put his hand to his forehead, it was wet, too wet.
No need to be a prominent doctor to recognize these symptoms.
As for his hand, the cut wasn't a great deal. Even if he hadn't been able to change his bandage, at least he wouldn't end up hand-crippled... But that mere stab had already cost him too much, far too much; and probably would cost him even more once on the other side ...
How can I serve you? asked a voice so deep it seemed to come from beyond the grave - maybe it really came from? or maybe he was there already? in which case his soul - or what was left of it, was surely already just mash for demons, ghouls and elves ...
"Leave," he said hoarsely between the walls of the cell; but no one - not even a worm - answered him.
And then he began to curse them all. Opeli and Ah-Ling and Fareeda and Florian and Aanya and Ezran and Callum and Amaya and Soren and Claudia and Harrow and Sarai and Anika and Neha and Cornelia, the living, the dead, all of them guilty, all of them unable to see what was obvious, all of them blinded by their righteousness, their tradition, their good-heart.
And then he ended up cursing himself. Fool, a hundred times a blind, arrogant, incapable.
"Blind, arrogant, incapable" repeated the dead, those of yesterday, those of tomorrow, those he had to kill, those he had sublimated, those he had believed he could save.
"Blind, arrogant, incapable" echoed a mocking baritone echo which made him want to tear off his ears so as not to hear anything more ...
He was trying to open his eyes, but no difference. No horizon, no perspective, no more up, no more down, no more meaning. Just rotten voices and hands that rose to take him away - some still chubby, some frozen, others that smelled horribly burnt ... "Just because I'm chained up doesn't mean I'm chained down..." laughed someone somewhere in the darkness. "Don't you see I am already dead ?" answered another voice, echoed by a third "I resigned to pay the price for my mistakes..."
Why that for ? Why ?
A gurgling sound from his stomach startled him, his chains clinking. So he was not dead, not yet. He was being starved, thirsted, deprived of light - he was wanted exhausted, drained, in despair, but alive. Why was that? To see him perish on the scaffold under the blessing of the High Prelate? or to strip him of his last defences before his trial - which ultimately amounted to the same ...
But he knew it, he would only have a short lead over his judges. He elves and the dragons were perhaps already sweeping over the Pentarchy at the present time; perhaps the whole world was resonating with their massacres without he could not hear them from his cell. Unless, of course, the nobility of Katolis planned to deliver him to Xadia as the dragon-kingslayer, to have a tiny chance of saving their precious skin. Unless, of course, the elves slit his throat in his cell after invading the castle. Unless, he ended up dying of hunger and thirst since High Prelate Opelie refused to do anything, before the king's arrival -the toddler one, who was currently savouring his reunion with his idiot father ... So a trial for treason, it became almost a joke ...
Maybe he would end up being forgotten there, kneeling in the darkness where his arrogance had thrown him ...
A carcass emptied from the inside by an insatiable aspic soul eater.
The flickering light of a torch suddenly tore through the darkness.
However, light no longer existed for him, nor for anyone. It was not possible. Viren blinked twice, ten times, then managed to lift his numb neck. The chains clinked against the flagstones. And then the gongs of the iron door began to rattle, squeak, squeal, howl like the blaze of the dead that he had been unable to save. Viren closed his eyes. His head was torturing him horribly, but through the mist of his fevered brain, he perceived the familiar tap-tap of black boots.
- Cornelia? he croaked.
She did not answer him. Surely because the dead never answered anything. The chains tinkled like a cacophony; he pressed his wet back against the stone - the white linen shirt of death row prisoners rubbed gently against his skin, and he weighed his full weight on his left leg. The right one, all encrusted under black silk, would not be of any help to him to remain upright. He let it drag on the slab soiled with piss so he could straighten his two meters-long skeleton, to face not Cornelia, but Claudia, on the other side of the bars ...
That alone had made him so dizzy.
Claudia gilded by the halo of the torches, Claudia who stared on the ground, did not wear any jewel, just a long black dress too dull for her and which dragged on the stinking pavement; Claudia whose a lock of white hair hung against her cheek. The roar came from the deep of his throat without the thirst or relief could refrain it :
- What were you thinking about, you foolish child? Have you forgotten the first lesson I taught you, the very first? There are sublimations that you should never, ever, ever try to do!
She began to tremble, as the flickering light of the torches. Surely she already knew what the spell had cost her in terms of life expectancy. Suddenly he realized what his anxiety must have sounded like; so he cleared his throat and tried to velvety his voice as he did to tell her bedtime stories.
"Claudia," he began (his tongue was dry like parchment). I'm not ang-"
"What did you expect, Dad?"
He swallowed, and a block of stone rolled down his throat.
"What did you expect?" repeated Claudia, in a strangely cold voice which the stone amplified with echoes. "Should I do nothing? Should I leave Soren like that?"
Viren felt what was left of his heart missing a beat.
"Ex-excuse me? he mouthed. What do you mean exactly?"
Given the types of sublimations leaving these traces on the body of a mage, he had to expect the worst.
"You don't know, said Claudia as if she had said "This bottle of wine is empty" or "There are no more jelly tarts in the oven". "I should have known. From where you are, you must not be aware of much, am I wrong?"
"What... what are you even talking about? Explain yourself, I'm not bilingual in Claudia, Claudia ..."
You know it very well, don't you? sneered the dead; Viren thought he recognized an additional voice among the crowd ... No ... Not that. Not that.
Claudia suppressed a sniffing by twisting her black belt. She had the same tick as him when they were uncomfortable. Look for ingredients to sublimate in the purse. Except that she had nothing. She certainly had been disarmed, for safety, before letting her enter the dungeons, hence the absence of jewellery to sublimate. And in the same way, there was surely a guard who was listening to them, before running to report everything to the High Prelate Opélie like a little puppy ...
"A dragon attacked us after burning a village near the border to the ground," she finally replied. "Soren did try to fight back, but he got a sweep of its tail which ..."
"Which smashed his bones."
You know it very well, repeated the crowd, and the too-familiar voice dominating the choir seemed to take shape to tear away from him what was left of his soul. It couldn't be true, no, it couldn't ...
"He's only paralyzed for life," Claudia added, "and delighted to be so. And I couldn't leave it like that, despite what you ordered me to do. Oh, don't worry about him, do as usual. The spell didn't work, but that didn't stop him from being in the best of moods.
The relief almost made him fall against the wall. His right leg started to burn again, and it was with a grimace of pain that he managed to let go:
"Well ... At least that's always good to hear."
"Always good to hear" repeated Claudia, her voice suddenly cracking. "Do you hear yourself talking, dad? Do you realize what you did to him?"
"I ... I had no choice," said Viren.
The argument had resounded so much between the walls of his brain that it resembled a poem learned by heart:
"It was the fate of humanity that was at stake, Claud-"
"Yes, yes," she cut him, obviously not determined to let the nail be nailed. "I was talking to King Ezran earlier, and he told me something that struck me."
Within seconds, Viren's numb brain got the situation. Soren, paralyzed by the dragon attack, had failed in his mission. Prince Ezran was back to seize his father's throne, and probably Prince Callum as well. Opeli had undoubtedly made the abortions aware of her alleged felony the moment they put their boots on the palace. She was bursting with joy, undoubtedly, the crystal churchmouse ...
That's why Claudia had come so far. There could be no other reason. Even being his godson and a gentle toddler, the young prince Ezran was not going to disregard and pronounce his pardon ... And even less if the High Prelate Opelie was perched on his little shoulder, to whisper the hatred that she always had for him ...
"What about the egg?" he heard himself ask.
But he probably didn't have enough voice left because Claudia hadn't finished:
"According to him, there cannot be much humanity in someone who abandons his children for power."
"What about the egg?" he repeated, ignoring the new tear inflicted by Claudia's words. "The dragon egg, did you get it, yes or no?"
Green eyes threw him a look full of horror. She did not understand.
"Uh ... no" she ended up saying. "Prince Callum continues his journey to Xadia to bring him back to the Queen of Dragons. And ..."
In the darkness, he saw her wiggle a lock of her hair.
"It's no longer an egg. It hatched. Sorry, dad, sorry, I know I promised to bring it back, but ..."
Claudia started to get confused again, but Viren couldn't hear her anymore. From the feverish mist resurfaces his silhouette, his roar, his lightning, his wings, his mouth, his eyes. The nightmare resumed, it rumbled, spread its wings, tore itself from the ground, uttered a roar, terror, fire from heaven, butchery, carnage, massacre, and it struck down all of humanity for the pure pleasure of reigning over the ashes...
And to escape the nightmare, one needed dreamless sleep.
Viren leaned against the freezing wall, eyes closed. Thirst tore his throat. Perhaps that was why the tone he spoke on seemed so detached:
"... All right, the -HUNG!"
"What's the matter?"
Alarmed, Claudia had seized the cold bars. The spots that blurred his vision seemed to drown her there, right in front of him.
"Leg ... Injured during my arrest, and no one cured it..."
"It has been burning and crackling for ... for ages. Gangrene ... I can't even move it anymore ..., not to mention the smell ..."
Another lie. Between piss, sweat and shit, he didn't even feel it anymore.
"But since when ministers languish in such a state?" cried Claudia, who apparently still had enough energy to get angry.
It almost seemed like she was blaming him. He had actually been arrested like the dumbest amongst the imbeciles :
"Since they are accused of high treason, I imagine."
"A deserved accusation, if I understood the whole thing. Are you hungry? Thirst? Sleep? Fever?"
A gurgling sound from his stomach took his usual eloquence's place.
"Okay, don't move."
How on earth could he have moved?
"There must be something in your laboratory. milk of the poppy, laudanum, whatever. Just tell me everything I need to take, and don't worry about Opélie or the guards, it won't be a problem. King Ezran officially released me and gave me the title, the castle and the Alderyn county, since Soren is not in good condition and you ...you know. Everything will be alright. Everything will be fine, do you understand?"
Panic forced the new Countess of Alderyn to chain the sentences faster and faster. She was surely on the verge of reciting her soothing formula that annoyed Viren so much. There-is-no-synonym-for-cinnamon-there-is-no-synonym-for-cinnamon-there-is-no-synonym-for-cinnamon...
"... There is something. It won't cure me, but it will ease the pain."
A glass of poppy milk, minced celandine, five drops of ducal water, boiled kratom, three reduced toffana roots. The ingredients burst on his dried lips, like prayers. None of them involved any sublimation, of course. They had to be chosen so as not to arouse suspicion, either spy guards's or elf's, and even less Claudia's.
"Powder from twenty flowers of what?" asked Claudia, who kept repeating each name between her teeth to keep it in place. "The name vaguely reminds me about something."
Viren pursed his lips. As a great reader of palace dramas, history and lore, perhaps she had ... But no, of course, impossible. She would not go deeper into the research, she trusted him too much to have even a hint of suspicion ...
"Belle dame," he repeated. "You will easily find those, on the shelf near - OUCH!"
A stroke in the leg prevented him from finishing his sentence.
"Don't worry, don't worry, I'll find out. That's all? Do you need anything else? Aside from drinking and eating, of course. Ah yes. A new bandage, of course. You can do it yourself, I guess. Don't move, I'll be back," she intimated to him, stepping back. "Do not move."
Viren didn't have time to roll his eyes. Claudia was already back in the corridor, the echo of her steps flying behind her. Tap, tap, tap against the slabs ... Opeli's snitch put on a suspicious helmet through the doorway, but Viren didn't care: he probably hadn't caught a glimpse of what had just happened, and if he rushed to the pontifical apartments to bring back the little he had retained, it was certainly not the High Prelate who was going to intervene.
In his hand, the bottle was so little.
Of course, no sign of the High Prelate. Claudia also hadn't pouted; she had just rolled the vial through the bars, telling him not to move and that she would come back with bread, cheese, mulled wine and news from Soren. And then she left him alone in the dark, alone with a mute devil in his ear, regrets, remorse, some "if only" and this bottle in his hand.
A brownish liquid that didn't take up much space. To stop the pain was not very complicated after all. No need for dozens of paper guards, or monstrous dragons, or armies of centuries-old hatred and contempt ...
For the umpteenth time, his trembling hand unscrewed and brought the bottle to his lips, just to smell it. But the solution did not smell anything. No wonder, since its components were specially treated for this result; he certainly didn't expect jam tarts just out of the oven, but he couldn't help but be disappointed, somewhere. As far back as he can remember, he had always fallen asleep at mass. No doubt that was one of the reasons why Opélie did not like him. There was, therefore, no hogwash to dwell on - and he would not have believed it himself anyway.
The chain on his wrist tinkled as he raised his arm and opened his mouth, and a laugh resounded in his right ear.
This laugh, this mocking baritone.
It was not the first time he had heard it since it had been thrown here - the fever certainly had something to do with it, but he had never heard it so clearly - and that could only mean that one single thing.
He listened and he knew.
He was listening and he perfectly understood what was going on. Since the moment when Opelie's puppies had arrested him, he was there, he had never left him, he stayed there listening like the pervert he was, and he had waited until the last second to appear ...
Viren's hand, tense with rage, squeezed around the bottle. He did not even feel the shards of glass forming in his skin, the blood mixed with the liquid dripping on the mouldy stone, did not even hear the debris clink on the ground.
Aaravos was not going to let his puppet go without making fun of him one last time, Aaravos was certainly not going to miss the opportunity to let him know how tight his grip was, oh no. Weeks that Viren hadn't heard the sound of his voice, weeks that he was sinking alone; and a mere laugh, a mere laugh was enough to make him obey.
Was he laughing at the desperation in which he had managed to plunge him? Did he laugh voluntarily to push him to fight against he-didn't-know-what?
Viren didn't know which of the two possibilities enraged him the most. But there was no more bottle, Claudia had a white wick, Soren was paralyzed, the fate of humanity was between an over-spoiled royal brat's paws, the critches were about to sweep over the whole Pentarchy, and the egg had hatched.
The pain started to flash in his hand, which trembled more than ever, and his fist clenched. He could always sublimate achilles flowers or algae glands to get back on his feet once out; but whatever the High Prelate thought, it was out of the question for him to die now. Not so foolishly, not so unnecessarily, not like His Grace the servant king Harrow of Katolis.
Not like Cornélia.
He should also tell Soren and Claudia about her one day.
When everything would be over.
Written before season three aired... I got quite a disillusion when we got this family reunion. An in-character one, but still shocking and brutal ^^'
Just imagine Claudia's thoughts if Aaravos hadn't laughed...
Hope you enjoyed this. :)
Reviews ? :3