Good evening ! (at half past three in the morning)
This is a text that was very close to my heart. Indeed, even if it is fascinating, the world-building of TDP lacks a bit of depth - particularly with regard to religion, and I wanted to make my modest contribution ...
Happy Birthday, Viren, two weeks before...
It's a Viren x Reader ... a sort of. You will see what I mean ;)
Translated from French, so please let me know if I made some mistakes !
Despite everything your parents may have said, you enjoyed attending mass.
In the shade of the semicircular vaults of the sanctuary, in the sweet coloured lights of the stained glass windows, in the golden halos of the candles, under the benevolent eye of the saints, surrounded by six chapels for the six sources, the atoms themselves seemed to be scented with incense. Carved in stone, the acanthus flowers and strange fruits decorated the column's capitals, reminding the lost blessing of Xadia. Everything felt so dignified, so humble, so respectful, so soothing, so reliable and so reassuring that it was easy to get enveloped and carried away by the choir of the nuns. The wise sermons of the High Prelate Opeli, in particular, procured such fervour that you had more than once been caught raising your hand to your chaplain when the ringing of the coins gathered for charity was heard between the rows of benches. However, it was not your habit to pay for strangers, even less for beggars. The Katolis Crown was funding enough leprosariums and hospitals to make it unnecessary for you to contribute. It was always their Majesties Harrow and Sarai who completely emptied their purses filled with gold in the baskets of the Sisters. Even the royal bastard ... what was his name again? Calleon? Callus? Caramel? Chameleon? Anyway, even he did not fail once to loosen his chubby little hands.
Thus the honour of sharing the same bench as their Majesties paid for a similar purse on pain of incurring the royal contempt, and after Their generous contributions would clink no more than mountains of little dims, pennies and piecettes... which was explaining, among other reasons, why you were sitting at the last rank.
Led by the warm alto voice of the High Prelate Opeli, the choir of the nuns spread in pious solemnities.
Et lux fontes duce nos
Defendat nos temptationem
Salvos nos fac de tenebris
Nos, agni decidantur
Dimitte nobis debita nostra
Dona nobis gratia Hi autem de Xadia
On your right, Lady Vassileia yawned. You gave her a nudge:
"Ouch!" she protested softly enough not to interrupt the psalm of the High Prelate. "I wasn't even asleep!"
"Liar," you whispered to her. "Raise your head and listen."
Vassilea had a broken pout that her lace mantilla could not conceal:
"After our phenomenal bender last night, I wonder by what miracle I was able to drag myself to the sanctuary."
You could hardly blame her. In the euphoria that followed your tenth perfect execution of the complex Jarnac move, you had invited your fencing master and your best friend to celebrate the event with a glass of fine wine, a secular cuvée stung in the cellars of the castle in the provinces. One glassful had become a fifth, a tenth, a fifteenth, and to the wise and poignant melody of Who covets the lady the husband must kill had succeeded the bawdy and raucous notes of A sublimated dead for my rising athame, and this until very late at night.
"And not just any rotgut, please!"
"Some Sang-Réal! Heavens, are you insane!" cried Vassilea, seeing you go up from the cellars with two bottles under each arm. "But what will your parents say?"
"Nothing, as usual: they are buried in their books!" had you retorted. "The courses at the University take so much and so much time and energy from them, because who, yes, who will be able to deliver the little people from the sterile dogmas of Faith if not Their Nobility and Their Bookish Knowledge ?!"
The Royal University of Katolis had only opened its gates fifteen years earlier, - it was the late King Harrow's father who inaugurated it. Still, its fame was already reaching every corner of the Pentarchy. Students were taught about everything, aside from dark magic, of course. Mathematics, geometry, geography, politics, history, philosophy (King Harrow had insisted so this precise field could have a prior place amongst the others), astronomy, ancient draconic, neolandian, evenerian, delbarian, durennian, rhetoric, logic, literature, theology, accounting. Even corpse dissection was taught in this place, despite being legalised only twenty years before- the Faith had uttered loud cries, and it was necessary to double the theology courses to calm their whinings.
"After the hollering that the Faith gave when the Toreha was printed," joked your lord of a father, "no one wants to suffer its snivelling ever again !"
"Everyone has their own copy and everyone can now interpret it in their own way!" added madam your mother. "Obviously, the Faith does not want to lose its grip on consciences!"
"The Faith lost it a long time ago already" snickered sir, "and despite all High Prelate Opeli's booing and hooing to the Council. On the contrary, even, that only demonstrates the truth: if It struggles, it is that it's dying! But, (name), my darling", he added conspiratorially, "won't you shout it all over the place, hm? You know how much displaying scepticism is frowned upon. "
Only the nobles had the privilege of teaching at the Royal University of Katolis, for the moment at least. On the actions took for the education of the little people, to lower the cost of paper and to improve printing techniques, invented some two hundred years earlier, returned the credit for the meteoric increase in the number of students. Even if most of them came from the bourgeoisie and the nobility, and even if the printing works were strictly supervised by a censorship council which limited as much as possible the dissemination of pamphlets and more or less fraudulent wisdom, it was inevitable that this storm of knowledge would trickle over each layer of the population, from the marquis in his castle to the boggy swamp. The Toreha will kill the Church, they said, from murmurs to pamphlets to late drinking in manors, and Human will kill the old Gods of Xadia ...
The nuns' choir continued its hymn in the triforium:
Mors, et vita in morte Fontes nos in deliberationibus
De veteris Dryadalis Xadia quidem apostolos luminis
Accipient in humanitate
Et propitius ero peccatis nostris
Et pascam eorum magicae
Vassiléa yawned to unhook her jaw:
"And then what idea you had of placing us in the last row!" she whimpered as the High Prelate Opeli piously licked a finger to turn a page of the Toreha. "I can't see a drop of it. As if ancient draconic wasn't enough..."
"It's not my fault that we arrived late," you whisper with dignity. "If you had stirred a little earlier, maybe we would be ..."
" You little liar," whispered Vassiléa. "Look at me all these splendid attires. It is surely not to honour the Holy Sources that you took all this trouble ... You have always disdained mass, like your bookworms of parents. Well, I grant you", she added, her eyes bright with mischief," having a job requires a lot of energy ... "
"It isn't even a real job," you protested, feeling the shame rising to your cheeks. "It's generosity, and it has absolutely nothing to do with it."
Vassiléa ignored you royally and whispered in the same mocking tone:
"It is not in the first row that you have the best view, but in the last…"
"I beg your pardon ?"
"… you are not at mass for a priestess but a priest…"
"Vassilea!" you squeaked as silently as possible.
There was no priest to be seen in the Holy Faith of Pyrenees, and it has been this way since as far as one could remember. The white habit had always been worn by women. If men could regroup in monasteries or abbeys, it would be forever impossible for them to say mass and to pronounce even a single parody of the sacrament. Unless, of course, the reform project discussed for years by the Conclave finally comes to an end, but given the Prelates mulish brains, that was not for the next day ahead.
"You are our soul, our hope and our salvation, Lost sources of Xadia," babbled Opeli far ahead under the stone vaults. "You who were generous enough to give us life and teach us forgiveness and mercy, may you forgive the arrogance of some black sheeps and bad apples ..."
"… a divorced priest moreover," persisted Vassilea, "willingly perjury about the vow of chastity, decked out in two brats, dressed endlessly in black and not in white, versed in goety, dissection, the dark arts, spells, occult practices and hmmm, anatomy… "
" Blah, blah, blah, I can't hear anything, the sweet voice of the High Prelate lifts me up in the divine light of the Sources ... and then all that is part of his charm..."
" ... whose arrogant air makes him barely bearable to almost half the court..."
" Not even true..."
"… whose endless snoring invariably prevents the whole court from hearing mass ..."
" Vassilea!" you exclaim loud enough to attract a "hush!" imperious from this old cold-fish of Lord Thibalt, sitting in front of you.
"… and whose huge ivory cane that he drags everywhere," replied Vassilea when the gargoyle had turned, "most certainly serves to compensate for a little something."
You suddenly turned your head to your right. Fortunately, the handsome, oh, so handsome subject, who even in his slightly snoring sleep could not leave those, oh, so concerned features, had heard nothing of it. His daughter, on the other hand, a frail brat about seven years old, stuck to her father, looked up from her enormous book and threw a glance at you and your companion, so cold that you both shivered.
"Dirty little mongrel of a chick-crow," you thought, and you tightened your silk mantilla around your carefully braided bun.
Rumours and speculations concerning the kinship of Lord Viren's two children (Soren, nine, and Claudia, seven) were rife at court. They had been assigned for example the High Prelate - she and Viren bickered with such ardour that it could not have happened something between these two. His legendary aversion to clerics added to the strict prohibition of the latter from carrying offspring only made the thing spicier: The Dove and the Crow, what a beautiful heading for a song! Amongst the candidates were also Lady Esmeraldine, because she had black hair and green eyes like Claudia and, as the Queen's servant, some contacts were far from improbable; Erichtoë, a luscious Durenian servant who was said to know something about dark arts; and many others ... Even Queen Sarai had not been spared by hearsay. You had just arrived at the court when this stupid idea had crossed your mind. In your eyes, there was no doubt that a passionate threesome stood at the top of power.
« I don't know where you get these wacky ideas from," your mother sighed when you told her about your suspicions, "because it's common knowledge that the know-it-all crow Lord Viren divorced just two years ago."
You had shrugged. This version was not a very compelling one. Or, perhaps mentioning the difficulties opposed by the Faith to this still new way... but that was not worth the pepper of the love triangle.
"And then," continued your mother, "It is enough to look at the queen to see that she refrains from strangling our High Mage as soon as he pretends to approach his majesty."
"Precisely," had you insisted, "Is this not proof of bold jealousy between these three? The tension is, at the very least, overwhelming. They spend all their days stuck together. They've known each other for years. And the little prince gets along wonderfully with Soren and Claudia, the age gap matches and he has green eyes like her, and ... "
"Listen, my dear," sighed your mother again, for she spoke only with a sigh, "you better get down to something useful. Or upping your nose with a rubber hose, because in case it escaped your piercing gaze, which I very much doubt, I try to analyse this most boring theology work for my next conferences. "
"But come on, mother ..."
"Frankly," she continued without even listening to you because she never listened to you, "I thank the printing press every day for existence. I can hardly imagine the despair of the unfortunate copyist who had to spend whole years on this crystal-waving nonsense ... "
Whether their progenitor was the fairy queen, a whore from the Suburb of Pillows or a laboratory test tube, little Soren and Claudia were both brought up and raised at court. Despite their promptitude to sneak into the kitchens to raid the jams, to giggle at jokes of a very bad taste or understood only by themselves and to enrage the castle's guards with their tricks; each of them was promised to more than prominent positions.
By the-Sources-knew what bewitchment, thanks to his craft or to his silver-tongue, Lord Viren had even obtained a very express favour from Their Majesties, however renowned for their intransigence: Soren could miss Sunday Mass (a privilege that the whole court envied him) to participate in the training of the royal guards. Or to parasitise, depends on your allegiance. Claudia meanwhile was required to attend sermons - and as her father's daughter and rightful heir, did not listen to a word of it and always brought enormous books to pass the time. Without willing the fantasy as far as becoming their second mother, you would readily see yourself as a benevolent and affectionate but firm chaperone. A veneer of manners would not do them any harm, did you dream in the secret of your room, and then their father would undoubtedly be delighted to see them find back a semblance of balance.
"Love your enemies," announced the High Prelate far to the other end of the nave, "do good, and lend without hoping for anything. And your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the All-Mighty Sources, for They are good even for the ungrateful and for the bad. "
Her Holiness licked her finger again and turned a page of her copy of the Toreha. Someone in the audience yawned loudly. Several had begun to doze. Viren jumped, fell asleep again, snored more and Claudia horned a corner of her book.
You reached into your pocket and felt the silk of the honey candy bag. Without a doubt, Soren and Claudia would appreciate this little something special. It was a well-known fact that every child loved honey candies. Viren, on the other hand…
Your hand came to curl around the second gift. You did not have to dig your brains too hard to find it, this one: it was the magic oyster from which came out the few precious pearls that you had sown here and there during this memorable evening, two weeks ago ...
Of all the balls celebrating the arrival of spring, Lord Viren had deigned to present himself to only one. However, he distinguished himself by his ease. His tall stature and haughty manners frightened the dancers, but you had not been intimidated. Oh, you still had chills just by thinking of the way his arms tightly surrounded you, hugged you gently as he spun you in music and a storm of silk.
"You dance marvellously, my lord," you had extricated yourself.
"You too, madam."
Then, silence. You had the most considerable difficulty speaking, breathing and thinking while you were in the arms of the High Mage. Not to mention that you have to unscrew your neck to be able to look at him into the eyes. I'm dancing with him, he is talking to me, he is touching me. You could perceive the warmth and the firm muscles of his long body through the black brocade.
"Are you always this charming, or is it my lucky day?"
"Do you talk as a rule while dancing?"
You were not going to let yourself be dismantled for so little. You get a new sense of ease in the rhythm of the flute, the viol and the tambourine before responding.
"Only if I consider my partner as worthy of this honour."
Oh, he was worth all the trouble in the world, actually. Particularly draped in this half-cape of black brocade stapled in purple, in this tunic embroidered with sand arabesques, which espoused its movements and muscles so gracefully. His beautiful grey eyes narrowed:
"You are too kind. In comparison, my ignorance makes me feel ashamed. I cannot even remember your name."
Had you been a sort of chippy, you would have taken offence and left him there, but you only managed to emit a charmed chuckle as the music sent you to rotate each on its own:
"Oh, your remarkable brain must simply take note of too many things essential to the prosperity of Katolis ..." You accepted his gentle hand around your fingers. "... to think of cluttering up such trivialities."
He laughed, visibly flattered. What a charming laugh he has, you thought.
"Imagine, madam, a demarcated space that you divide in half. You can always divide the two halves into two other halves, and so on."
You were well aware of this paradox. Your parents had been bending your ear with it for years; but now that it was spoken in such a low voice, with such gallant inflexions, you found in it all the charms of the world. What could be more normal, coming from a dark mage, and therefore an expert in charms, bewitchments, spells and incantations?
"So this is how memory works, in your opinion: infinitely expandable?"
Viren drew you close to him, and you found that this slightly entranced expression suited him perfectly.
"Would you be so fond of paradoxes, my dear ..."
"(name)," you confessed, and you felt yourself blushing even more.
He looked thoughtful, but the two of you jumped at the cry from the pastry buffet: "Hey, father! Try "Cumulonimbus "!". You looked over your partner's large shoulder and the dancing couples to see the two chick-crows, Soren and Claudia, who, spurting out a storm of jelly tarts crumbs, giggled and exchanged elbows.
"Uh, I beg your pardon me, my lord," you stammered, disconcerted, "but ... what did your son just say ?"
Viren then rolled his eyes in the most exasperated expression you had ever seen:
"Something stupid, I'm afraid."
You separated for a few measures before coming back into each other's arms. Oh, those severe features... you felt like his solid arm around your waist was about to leave you, for all your beautiful assurance had abandoned you. Dirty brats ... a pox on them and their incomprehensible bellowings!
"Madam, tell me something."
You thought you heard it wrong. "I beg your pardon, my lord?"
"Tell me something." he went on, in the satisfied tone of someone who had spared his small effect. "If what you say is true, I will give you the next dance. Otherwise, I will leave you there."
You were propelled on a small primitive candy pink cloud while the viol flew away in the treble. The magic of Sky surged through your human veins, and that of Star sparkled your eyes. It was one of your parents' favourite paradoxes. Viren made it easy for you. He rolled out the red carpet for you, he tore the Breach apart for you. To believe that he really wanted to feel your hand pass through his well-groomed hair, caress his sharp cheekbone, flatter his so baroque beard, follow the outline of these oh, so concerned eyebrows, pass the alliance around this ring finger…
Just as you were about to mischievously pronounce the magic formula "You are going to leave me there", the music abruptly slowed down and stopped. The dancers were already bowing, including yourself, and looking up, Viren looked at you with such contemptuous features that you were left breathless. Oh, but what made me wait so long? you vexed yourself, watching his black half-cape fall gracefully as he walked away towards the-Sources-knew-where, probably towards the cheese buffet, or pray her Grace Sarai to honour him with a dance, or interrupt the last marvellous idea of his brats. He took my silence for hesitation and foolishness. Oh, I ruined everything ...
And today was the perfect opportunity to correct the situation.
Having taken great care to your hair - carefully twisted by your maid in a braided updo in elven fashion, your outfit - purple silks embroidered with red, a gold brooch and your arms bear, and your perfume - you had tried one half a dozen before setting your sights on a rose fragrance; in short, you had carefully put all the odds on your side.
Of course, you were under no illusions: your good looks were not your only asset, far from it. Lord Viren was known for his unconditional love of libraries, being buried in books very late at night to the point that he had lost the use of beds to prefer that of the oh-so uncomfortable benches of the Sanctuary. So your hand caressed the little volume in your pocket with all the kindness in the world. Enigmas, paradoxes and insoluble problems, headlined the cover page. And, calligraphed just below by your quill pen: "except perhaps for you." You had hesitated with "except, for you, perhaps", or "for you, except, perhaps", and to finish off with a "my lord", which gave a choice: "except perhaps for you, my lord "," except, my lord, perhaps for you "," My lord, except, for you, perhaps "and "for you, my lord, except, perhaps.". Then you realised that the formula would probably be too full to suit the close friendship to which you aspired, which made you set your sights on the first attempt. A close friendship, and maybe more. You simply added your first name and tenderly blew on the still fresh ink. Just your first name: there was no doubt that the dance was still as vivid in his memory as it was in yours.
"The Sources teach us that love is given without expecting anything in return," was saying the High Prelate under the vaults once the nuns had finished their pious fourths, fifths and sixths, "and that one can't buy love. They brought Xadia out of nothing, overwhelmed it with their generosity and their benevolence, expecting nothing in return for the spread of this love and this ... this ... "
You were drawn out of your flowery thoughts by the rustling of unsuccessfully turned pages, followed by annoyed mumbles. You and Vassilea unscrew your necks together: far away at the other end of the nave, Opeli was fighting with her copy of the Toreha:
"This ... forgive me, my lords, but this page ..."
She licked her finger, pinched the paper, muttered insults to the fool who had used this new printing ink which made the vellum stick, removed her richly decorated copy from the varnished ebony lectern. In the audience, there were some wonderings, whisperings, chucklings.
"Opeli, perhaps I can provide you some help…"
"No, your Grace, you, slurp, you are very kind, but ... but ..."
You risked a glance to your right. If Viren still hadn't quit his sleepiness, you found that Claudia was exceptionally agitated, all of a sudden. Her back was shaken with convulsions, and her little legs were frantic in the incense dust. Look at her fidgeting on her bench. It's as if she had the devil in her.
"Is it me or ... is she just dying of laughter?" you murmured, but Vassilea did not hear you, as busy as she was babbling with her neighbour in front.
Should I have the sleeper? You caught yourself thinking you might wake him up with a kiss. However, you were torn from your reveries by the sound of a cough that emanated from the other end of the nave. Increasingly puzzled glances were exchanged. People left their drowsiness, people quit their reverie, people stopped cleaning their nails or their noses. The concerned survey flew from look to look and from mouth to mouth. Voices and coughs rose under the vaults of the sanctuary. Some rose from their benches and gathered around the gaping High Prelate; however, Queen Sarai had removed her her hood, opened the collar of her cassock and started to give her massive pats on the back while His Majesty cried out to let her some space for she could breathe. The little prince started to cry.
"No, kof, sire, I assure you ... I swear that everything is, kof, kof, perfectly, huurng... perfectly fine!" assured the High Prelate, whose borborygmus intensified until nausea.
"Breathe, Opeli, just breathe, that's it! All right! All right', it's alright. Oh, you, just move away, you scavengers !"
However, the movement began to gain the audience, including nuns. Useless prayers were muttered, useless advice was shouted. The benches and the triforiums, began to bleat like the lambs from the Toreha. Half of them were standing, wringing their necks for a better view. The other, whether driven by the opportunity to seize or seized themselves by fear, rushed casually through the central alley and the aisles towards the portal of the sanctuary with one idea: be with the devil as soon as possible.
"(name), come on! Get up!" peeped Vassiléa, grabbing your shoulder -she was apparently part of the second category.
It would have been wise to follow her, but you were as if you were screwed to your bench. And this little chick-crow choking on laughter. Poison, did you understand. Poison on the very pages of the Toreha.
You bound from the bench and grabbed Viren's shoulder. He was the only sleeper who hadn't woken up.
"My lord, get up!" you bellowed. "We have to go!"
"What are you doing? Just drop him!" squealed Vassilea before joining the silk tidal wave.
Faced with Viren who continued to snore, you hesitated to give him a slap. Out of the corner of your eye, you saw Claudia suddenly calming down. This child is mad, you thought, stark raving mad. From the chick-crow's lips pulled out something strange, which you did not understand, something that seemed to have a life on its own. Then her eyes opened on a purple glow. An abyss of purple. You jumped, wanted to silence her, but could only remain crucified on the spot. So that's what Dark Magic is. When, in Claudia's eyes, a void of darkness replaced the purple, making her look like a fly, you knew this was the end. The Romanesque portal of the Sanctuary was wide open, and daylight pierced the nave on all sides. There was no one left under the vaults. Except for the convulsing, gaping High Prelate, the royal family, yourself, Lord Viren and ... this little witch ...
You closed your eyes and prepared yourself to die. Ô Six lost Sources of Xadia. In the name of the Sky, the Sun, the Moon, the Stars, the Earth and the Ocean.
A few seconds later, you opened an eye.
"Ho!" resounded the voice of the High Prelate, whose inflexions no longer foreshadowed imminent death. "I'm finally breathing!"
You swivelled and watched their Majesties pick up Opélie, hair undone, the collar wide open, the silver tiara crooked and the hood in disorder, but the skin as white and smooth as usual. "May the Sources be praised -burp… ha!"
To the cry of surprise echoed a ridiculous sound ... but so characteristic.
"Is it ... a toad?" you heard. Her Grace Sarai sounded just as lost as you were.
You had a thrill of horror. You had a holy terror of toads.
The king made no answer. Opeli, back on her feet again, watched the beast hopping on the pavement of the sanctuary.
"What is... Six Sources, I..."
Hup ! A second one bound out from her lips. This is but a dream, you told to yourself, your nails clenching into your flesh. Nothing but a very strange dream, and I'm about to wake up.
"What the fuck is that..." her Grace Sarai muttered, back to her old soldiery level of language.
The little royal mongrel bent down, trembling, and picked up one while Opeli was getting her clothes together with a frenetic hurry. "It's a toad, mommy."
No one said a word, except the beasts which were going on with their grotesque wanderings under the high vaults in the sepulchral silence. From jump to jump, the little gargoyles were sauntering under the great saints' stone eyes. The incense was struggling to hide the smell of carrion with rose from the kings asleep under the marble. The candle's tiny glims almost had something pathetic. The dawn's daylight was splinting through the vitrals and the portal wide open like a wound. It was drowning the pious penumbra in a chasm of white light. Those little monsters appeared only clearer.
The stones had echoed nothing but nun's canticles, ever, but neither the Sources nor the gigantic wrapped praying statues rose to smite the outrage. The minuscule blasphemers were jumping and croaking in the holy light with complete impunity.
You took a few steps in the centre alley, towards the altar, but you stopped, unable to move forward.
King Harrow seemed to be about to open his mouth when two chuckles rose into the nave, very close to you, two high-pitched laughs, two children's laughs, joined by a third one, lower and more discrete. Apparently, Lord Viren had woken up... and was laughing with Claudia while the other crow-chick, Soren, arose from behind a pillar, spitting out all his lungs by dint of laughing. He was the one who laughed the loudest.
But wasn't this brat supposed to be paraziting the royal guards' training? you heard yourself thinking, while Opeli stammered, straightening her cassock's collar :
"Lord Viren, will you, at last, explain to me what's going on in there ?"
As he didn't answer, to busy to retain a laugh, she rose her voice :
"As if you weren't satisfied enough with disturbing the mass..."
She put her hand to her mouth, to her stomach, bent over in two: wasted effort. A third toad leaps again from her pious lads, redoubling the hilarity of the crows family. You were speechless. To see Viren laugh so bluntly, he whose features were known as nothing but deeply thoughtful, exasperated by the stupidity of others or at best the vaguely contrite or amused grin; that was at least as extraordinary as the presence of toads.
"Opeli, say something religious." suddenly said Sarai, to the astonishment of sane people.
"I beg your pardon?" Opeli said, and a fourth beast came to complete the croaking concert.
The crows chortled again. The din through the nave, the transepts, the triforiums, the crypts, the chapels, it aroused so much and so much echo that it seemed sanctuary's walls were going to crumble, collapse and fall as well.
"My lord!" intervened the queen, and her voice resounded so dryly in the nave that the waves of laughter died immediately, "Would you be kind enough to explain to us the reason for this masquerade. That you invariably spend the whole mass snoring because you are not surprised by your own grandeur, we can accept it; but I will not tolerate your preventing ... "
"Oh no, your Grace," he replied. He had risen all at once, to his full height, and had even engaged his mage scepter by banging it against the marble paving which resounded loudly under the vaults; you were amazed by the coldness, dryness of his deep voice. "Believe me, I had no idea what was going on today. I swear."
"The word of a dark mage? The big deal - burp!" spat the High Prelate as, summoned by the concept "Word", a fifth beast came to join its comrades. The king glared at her, and she remained silent:
"In this case, how do you explain this masquerade?"
"Mascewhat?" repeated the blond-haired chick-crow with a perfectly bewildered expression.
You suddenly found back all your senses and your reason. Your hand was raised, and your index finger was planted on Claudia, whose face was ravaged by a barely contained giggle:
"She did this!" you denounced, and the resonance of your own voice surprised you.
The look that Viren gave you pierced your heart.
A look to blast Justice herself.
Gazing around, you realised that even their Majesties were frankly disapproving. The betrayal was all the more burning. Here you were who found yourself making common cause with the sanctimonious clap-trap spitter...
Soren stood in front of his sister, his fists clenched, ready to fight, but the little girl released the hand that her father had put on her shoulder:
"It was Soren's idea, but I am indeed the prime contractor!" she squealed in a tone of immeasurable pride. "Well, the powder on the book, it was me, I had read it in a novel! It took me weeks to finish this selenic powder, especially since it had to stick to the pages without being seen! "
Your gaze came to rest on the Toréha, which had fallen from the lectern to crash on the ground. "After the bawling with which the Faith stunned us when Toreha was printed two hundred years ago, no one wants to undergo its whining again. Everyone has their copy now, and everyone can now interpret it in their own way!" Although only a printed copy, this book was made according to the rules of art. The illuminations were each hand-painted. The cover alone, crimson leather inlaid with precious stones, was a real work of art. Most of the pages had fallen from the fall, and the glue would render the copy forever unusable.
You had never been very fond of books, but this truth shook you.
"And we also had to put some in the holy water stoup so that everyone receives a little!"
"Ah," muttered the mage, "so that's why you insisted that I dip my hands in it…"
"Yes, and then a spot of dark magic so the prank more would be even more credible -"
"A prank?" remonstrated the High Prelate. "A prank! I almost died, your Majesties, you are witnesses! This child tried to poison me! You will not tell me that I am over-principles!"
You nodded with firmness.
"These ... creatures are from the selenial-shadowed magic," Viren explained in a low voice as if he was lecturing some of complete bonehead, "commonly known as "moon magic", which places them under the seal of illusions. Not only visual ones but also tactile, olfactory, auditory, thermoceptic, nociceptive, equilibroceptive and proprioceptive."
He put his staff against the bench with a thousand precautions - the object did not echoed less loudly, then he hunched his endless spine and bent his knee to grab one of the little blasphemers, then straightened up and began to delicately pat it with the palm of his hand:
"In other words, these toads are only the product of a gigantic collective hallucination, and Your Holiness's convulsions are nothing but the natural reaction of a human body solicited from within by primal magic mixed with a drop of dark magic. It was nothing but an illusion, my lady, which means that at no time were you in danger of death. "
A dismayed silence followed the declaration. The infamous beasts pursued their a capella which resounded under the pious crossheads of warheads. Never had they seemed so real.
You took a deep breath, wiped your hands in your fine gown, bend down in a silk frill and overcame your repulsion to catch one of those. The coldness and the roughness of the pustular skin, the fixedness of the globular eyes, the absence of muzzle, the greyish colour, the viscosity of the drool which flowed in your hand. By the Sources, what a horror ... a grimace of pure disgust distorting your features, you closed your eyes, then your fist, suddenly. You open your eyes, your hand: nothing.
Your empty palm was stared at, then the abandoned benches and triforiums as well.
The idea that the Sanctuary had been deserted, emptied and ridiculed by the fault of mere chimaeras was almost simply inconceivable.
No conversation, no essay, no pamphlet, no book or rant had ever laid bare such a decay. The printing might have dug its grave, but it was simply inconceivable that the collapse would take so little, so little ... A shiver ran through your spine. The Toreha killed the Church, and the Human killed the Sources.
Opeli put her hand to her mouth, but nothing came out.
"However," said Viren, who was still caressing his toad, in a softer voice, a fascinated and even admiring tone, "despite those being quite enormous, even for bufo guttatus, it is the first time in my life that I have seen such tangible, appreciable and precise illusions, and - "
"You, you will have plenty of others occasions to show off, but right now, stop this," interrupted Sarai as little Claudia displayed a smug smile of pride. "You two," her Grace went on to the address of the two chick-crows, "stop all this shi ... pandemonium. At once."
As if with regret, Claudia pulled out a necklace from under her collar and a shrivelled thing from her bag.
"Wait a minute!" Opeli interrupted her incisively. "I hope you don't plan on using once again dark magic in here! "
"Well, madam," said Viren, "it's either that or you spend the rest of your life spitting illusions and chimaeras. Oh, silly me, that's already the case ..."
"I BEG YOUR PARDON?! -burps! ha, you dirty beast!"
"Enough, both of you!" growled the king, in the tone of someone who felt the headache coming.
The endless squabbles of the High Mage and the High Prelate were an integral part of court life, and they were regarded with a particular mixture of fun and lassitude, a bit like watching a brat always laughing at the same joke. Today, however, did not seem in the mood to tolerate their tussles. His Majesty, moreover, had not finished:
"Among all that you could have offered your father," he belched in a tone in which pierced like a kind of mischief, "did your choice absolutely have to fall on this farce?"
"Hmm?" said Viren, stopping to caress the toad, which landed very unsightly on the marble paving. "What?"
You suddenly remembered the weight clogging your pocket and bit your lips.
Viren frowned. Opeli would have proposed to him that he did not look more dazed.
"HAPPY BIRTHDAY, FATHER!" bellowed Soren, without taking into account the resonance of the sanctuary which made the audience wince.
"Did you enjoy the show?" asked Claudia, pulling on the velvet doublet. "You had a lot of fun, huh, right?" Then, as he didn't answer, "Did you? Yes, you did, did you? Huh? Huh? Huh, right?"
"Right, dad? Right? Right! Dadadadadadadadadadad -"
Your hand tightened around the tiny book.
"Dadadadadadadadadaaaaaad -." The croaks of toads and crows, they made quite a duet.
A true Requiem... and not only to your blended family dreams.
Your eyes turned to the High Prelate. She was just as flabbergasted as you were, judging by her stillness and her gaping mouth. The stone seemed to have swallowed her. Petrified. A new statue for the nave, you thought, holy, helpless, pious and terrified facing the march of Progress. This wasn't just the white dove reached by the toad's drool. This wasn't just some sort of priestess carrion over which crows would have a feast on among her fellows dead villagers after a bandit raid. This was the terror of the woman of the sanctuary in front of the lead letters, of the silver tiara in front of the race of time, the terror of the priesthood in front of the changing souls.
As you pinged in a whirlwind of silk, perfume, incense, discomfiture and disarray towards the portal of the sanctuary, you heard his Majesty inquiring with all the good nature of the world:
"Maybe you could stop the illusion now?"
"Yes," added her Grace, "it seems to me that you had enough fun for today. Or, wait, maybe you can tinker us some illusion of High Prelate, now that you've broken this one? "
"What? I'm not right? Look at that, darling, it's not moving anymore. Oh, Opeli, please shut that mouth, or you're going to attract flies. And then, come on, smile a little, hey! It's not the end of the world !"
"Ah, well, it seems you also broke your father, here he is petrified on the spot. They pair well, aren't they? Viren, if I say "history book", " melting camembert" or "crème brûlée torched with whiskey", will you find back the use of your smile or your legs? Aaaah, there, you see!"
"Oh, what a happy, united family... Aaaaaaw, you are so cute when you are happy, Viren !"
"Actually, no, you should stop smiling, it becomes really unhealthy. "
"Crôa, crôa, crôaaa."
"Callum, drop this notebook and this pencil at once! And you two, stop with these toads, that's enough!"
The last thing you heard before closing the gate on the tomb of the Age of the Gods was the voice of Viren:
"Oh no, Claudia."
Then: "Leave them a little longer, will you?"
And there you go! : D
Well, I warned you that it was a somewhat special Viren x reader ...
But, I mean, look at the scene where Viren takes power Napoleon style (the one where he is a thousand times sexier than all the scenes of Aaravos put together): everyone completely ignores Opélie to acclaim Viren the Savior ... Okay, everyone is terrified of the elves, all right, but that's not enough to ignore the Church, the law and traditions. There had to be some deeper reasons. Same for Harrow's communism, moreover, he is so enlightened for an absolute monarch of divine right that it can only come from an intellectual broth having macerated for decades, even centuries ... And then look all these huge libraries throughout the castle! Look at how nobody cares about Opeli throughout the series!
I hope you enjoyed the dance in the arms of the dark, tall and handsome advisor ;) and that seeing the Magefam reunited and happy put a little balm in your heart during this complicated period. Fluff, fluff: 3
The little ref 'at Notre Dame de Paris, easy to spot, this one. Another to The Name of the Rose, easy as well. One to Pride and Prejudice (aaAAAah, mister Darcy). And another at the Bourgeois Gentilhomme, but I don't know if English speakers will get this one ^^'
Reviews? : 3