Chapter Twenty-seven - Mock marilla
Elyse’s hold was warm. It had been long since Clarice had felt physical contact like this, and it was refreshing. The moment her aunt's arms were around her, Clarice recalled the feeling of her own mother’s arms – arms she’d known only briefly, but which never left her mind. The ice in front of her was thick – she could hardly see the chaotic mage within them. Kill it, father, Clarice thought, though she knew better than to speak those words aloud. Her father was not one to command.
“I know, Clarice. I know what you want, but I fear I shan’t do it,” her father finally spoke. “For one reason – death is no punishment for this monster. We shouldn't kill it, but keep it living. I will hold it in this cell until my days run out – perhaps it and I can die together. It must watch the world from its cell – we’ll make furniture of it, and it will see our kingdom flourish. Chaos will hold no place in my kingdom.”
Your kingdom? Clarice thought. She should have figured as much, really, but she was far from used to hearing her father speak in such a way. After the rebellion years ago, he’d always spoken to her of Olander as being not worth ruling, a burden more than a power, and yet he sought to be king? I should rule, Clarice thought immediately. It’s what the true king wanted. None of these words met the air, however, and Clarice continued to enjoy the embrace of Elyse.
The rest of her family from Rainhome had now filed into the hall. She recognized her grandfather Hugo, ruler of Troutson, riddled with a few wounds - a makeshift bandage over his head, as well as a few Glenn’s she hardly knew. She wondered where her uncle and aunt were, but figured there was no good answer to be heard about such a topic. She found herself hoping Igor was okay, however, missing the little boy she’d outgrown.
Now that the madness had subsided, she found herself able to look at the others in the room. No one had moved much after the king’s death, the two red haired women still stood near the door, one with ivy burning across her face. She was reminded of Marilla the fallen mage, lost from the world. Clarice smiled at the girl and hoped to speak with her soon about her powers. Two of the life mage’s veins had turned dark like the bark on a tree, while several others still seemed to thrive up and down her face.
A boy stood beside her, not much older than the King’s son had been. He looked uninteresting to Clarice – he held a small sword and shield, but had no armour or properly fitting clothing.
She feared to continue scanning to the left. She didn’t want to see the heaped body of the king, though knew she should look at it if only for a moment. She stood up, pulling away from Elyse’s hold and stared down at the king’s body. Her emotions reflected her time in Dawnsend – anger, ranging to friendship, ranging to love. As she stood, she kicked the king’s body once in the ribs. It’s one way to check if he’s alive. Naturally, there was no reaction. As a bit of time passed, and she mourned silently to herself, afraid of what her father would say, she did the same to the boy’s body. The kick was much harder this time, nearly knocking him off of the propped up sword. She could feel the eyes of everyone in the main hall, watching her.
“What is to be done now?” She asked. To her surprise, she was holding back tears. Her voice reflected it, but she hoped that no one would notice.
“Much, I fear. The battle outside, I’m sure, still goes on. We must bring peace to the people of this city. More than that, we must do something with the bodies.” Clarice considered something more: We must do something about life and death.
It pained the girl, but she felt herself thinking that life magic shouldn’t exist. She looked into the face of the red haired girl, and saw the excessive power she held. Her beauty was incredibly to Clarice, and it pained her greatly to think of killing her, but she felt a desire to act upon it. “I know how to get the attention of the city,” Clarice spoke to the room. “Come with me.”
She led them to the staircase. She didn’t count the number of steps, she just walked. Higher and higher into the castle she went until the large wood doors at the entrance to the terrace were presented.
The group stepped out onto the terrace and Clarice looked down at the world. From where she stood at the center of the terrace, she found it difficult to distinguish between the land she stood on and the land outside the city. The dead land surrounding the north gate of the city had become a thick forest – vast and expansive. She could see light penetrating parts of the forest and believed herself to even see a few deer and bears. The city was hardly changed. The city was always beautiful, the king had just never noticed. She did notice, however faint it was to notice, that the crater had been extinguished. She could see some bats flying out of it, looking at the light of day for the first time, perhaps.
As she looked through the vast forest that now surrounded the city, she felt herself feeling unsure about the decision she had made. She didn’t want to hurt Alida, surely. She was amazed at what the powerful mage had been able to do. From the good she’d seen, she quickly decided that she need not take the same tumble as Marilla had in the charming tale she'd read.
She did, however, feel the red haired mage needed to learn. She watched as Inge glanced around the world beneath them. It had been so long since she’d seen her father – he was a different man. He wasn’t the same mage who would have her drink until she felt herself unable to continue, or the man who would advise his brother on matters of state. He seemed bigger and yet, somehow, smaller. Perhaps, she thought, it is I who have grown? Whether it was she who had grown or him, Clarice could tell that he felt the same way about Alida.
She wondered about her time away. Her time in the capital had certainly been a learning experience, though be it a rather unexpected one. She greatly appreciated the access to knowledge Gerod provided, as well as the title. Clarice wondered about what would’ve happened had the king not been killed.
I would be the heir, either way. She thought. It must be best with father, though. More natural, I suppose. Hopefully the people in the city will respect a true mage like him. She put a lot of stress on the hopefully. She knew the way that the people of the city reacted – she hardly expected civility and peace after her father spoke from atop the terrace. The city wasn’t calm when Gerod addressed them. Clarice had learned from the books she’d read that the balance between mages and men had always been a waning thing – shifting back and forth, never remaining in one position long. I suppose now it falls back to the mages, she thought, associating Gerod with the men, where he belonged.
Clarice wondered if she would be a soldier. Gerod’s sword had been quite heavy for her, and she hardly remembered what it was like to thrust it through the king’s son. It felt like a distant memory though happening only minutes earlier – her mind removed much of the past few minutes rather quickly. She didn’t want to be a soldier – personally she believed herself to be better as a strategist, to plan the battles, to plan the continent. Clarice felt it more and more within her – a desire to rule fueled by the readings she’d done. For now, however, she knelt down on the terrace and felt the embrace of the sun on her skin – family surrounding her, and her king father preparing to speak.
Her father stepped toward her first. “Clarice,” he began, “Gerod wanted you to rule, did he not?” She nodded to him. She felt so much older now, and yet she still struggled to speak confidently to her father.
“Can I aid you?” He asked, holding his hand out toward her own, waiting for her to take it and stand beside him. She did, and they stood, staring down upon the city.
“Dawnsend,” Inge spoke. His voice resonated vibrantly throughout the city. With one word he managed to quell the clashing of steel and coated the city in a lull. “I regret to tell you the king has died. It wasn’t I who has killed him, and as such his chosen heir shall rule from this point on. I am Inge of Rainhome, the leader of the Lindberg family, and one of the few witnesses to the king’s death – killed by the mistakes he’d made in his past. The heir, Clarice Lindberg shall rule now, with my advising. We look to remedy these mistakes – I have already dealt with the situation of the mages in Skyhull, and we will empower mages and men once again.” Audible confusion could be heard within the city. Common people on the streets asking about mages being re-empowered, asking when they hadn't been in power.
“We need not shed more blood within this city - across this continent. Man and mage are equal, shall be equal. Clarice will rule for me and in doing so, learn what must be known. Olander will be silent no longer – the castle is a place for all to voice questions and complaints. Look to the world outside this city – the vibrant forests that have been awakened and grow ever higher. New life has covered these dreary lands, and our job is to make it thrive.”
Her father’s final words reaffirmed Clarice's belief that he had no intention of killing the red haired mage. Mock Marilla, she thought, with a human king to spare her.
She sat again in the grasses atop the castle. She hadn’t noticed that most of the party had done the same – her father still stood, but Elyse and the inn family all sat down. She laid her head back, silence had filled the city and for once she had no fear of it. It was a calm silence, the only sound was that of the wind tracing through the grass, leaves shaking loosely, and the faint, faint sound of wings flapping above them. Though she knew it wouldn’t last, peace had found her, and death had been left behind. Clarice found a deep sleep for the first time in weeks, serenaded by the flapping of wings from the crater.