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The Lost Dragon Chapter 13.2 (LMS VI)

by soundofmind


Chapter 13: *Record Scratch*

James had leaned away from her, and he was watching her with wide eyes, his brows furrowed tightly. Clandestine noticed that he'd set his bowl of food to the side like he'd given up on trying to eat during this conversation. If Clandestine hadn't already finished her food, she'd give up on eating too.

She hadn't thought about all of this in years. To be particular, exactly five years, ever since she woke up from it all.

What was she supposed to do with it?

Silva had been the one person Clandestine had trusted most in the whole world. And she... she left Clandestine without an explanation. Without anything.

Clandestine had woken up decades later to a world completely changed, and she didn't even know why. Even she hadn't been able to read the text on the front of her coffin.

And now James was telling her it said something about a dragon?

This didn't make any sense. She didn't want it to.

Dragons were gone. Right? No one had seen them since before the Great War. That's what she was told, at least.

She shook her head, pulling up her knees as she leaned forward, burying her face in her hands.

She knew she couldn't just leave James hanging, but she didn't know what to say to all of this. She wished she could offer some kind of explanation, but she felt like all she had were broken pieces of a story that Silva never told her.

"...Are you alright?" James asked softly beside her.

Clandestine laughed weakly into her hands.

"I don't think so," she said sadly.

There was another long silence that felt like it dragged on, and Clandestine couldn't help but feel like she'd ruined everything. She'd thought this conversation was just going to be about James. She hadn't expected any part of his story to be connected to hers. Why would it be? He was a soldier from the Moonlight Kingdom, born in a different age, and was a wanted criminal. She was expecting his story to end with him ending the war, and him quitting.

Instead, his victory led him and the soldiers with him into finding her.

Her mind started racing.

It wasn't like she wanted the mages to lose - but what would've happened if they did? Would the mages have buried the bodies of the soldiers? Would Clandestine have even been found? If she hadn't been found, would she have woken up six feet underground, buried alive, never to be discovered?

She didn't know the answers to any of these questions, but all of them seemed to have terrifying implications.

"So you were the person in the coffin," James said quietly.

Clandestine rubbed her face with both hands and finally looked up, feeling small as she sat curled up beside him, her overgrown bangs falling into her eyes.

"Yeah," she said.

There was a beat of silence. Clandestine could hear the crackling of the fire behind her like a heartbeat, reminding her it was there.

"Can I ask how you ended up in there?" James asked hesitantly.

It was a fair question, especially considering how much he'd shared in return. She just didn't know how to explain it as succinctly as he'd been telling his story. He seemed to be able to streamline everything into the most important parts, meanwhile... her head felt like it was a mess.

"My mentor put me in there," she said.

James blinked.

"Your monster-hunting mentor?" he asked.

"Yeah," Clandestine said.

Clandestine watched as James looked out into the field ahead of them, his face pinched in deep thought.

"Why?" he asked quietly.

That, she wished she knew.

"I can guess," she said, her mouth hidden behind her arms, still hugging her legs. "But I don't really know for sure. All I know is that one day, everything was normal. And then the next, the whole guild was bustling with worry. No one would tell me why, but I could tell everyone was freaked out, even if they wouldn't tell me what was going on. Maybe it was just because I was young at the time - but I wasn't that young. I was 19, but I guess I was still a child in their eyes."

She sat up a little straighter, frowning as she looked over at Billy.

The horses were fast asleep, now. It was late, and she was starting to feel it.

It had been a long day. A long two days. And it was only feeling longer.

"There was a woman who came rushing into the guild, wanting to meet with Silva. At first, I thought it was because Silva was the guild leader," Clandestine said. "But I think it was actually about me. Silva was my guardian and had been ever since I was a child. She was like a mother to me, but never let me call her mom. Even though I always thought of her that way..."

She sighed, frowning deeply as she swallowed down a lump in small her throat.

"I overheard them through the walls. They were talking about me," Clandestine said. "I couldn't make much of it out because their conversation was so hushed but... it was all just so weird. I'd never seen that woman in my life. I knew of her, but I'd never met her. She was some really powerful fire mage, named Svida. She was really well-known because she was the leader of the Burninghead Guild up north, and--"

Clandestine hesitated, realizing that there was a key piece of information that had gotten lost in translation.

James was staring at her, deep confusion filling his wide eyes as his brows knit together even tighter.

Clandestine had forgotten.

For years, she simply never talked about where she came from, or about how she woke up in a graveyard, moments before she was buried alive, and managed to be heard soon enough to be freed from the coffin.

But because she'd never spoken of it, she also never mentioned when she came from.

"You're talking about the mage guilds," James said. "From before the war."

Clandestine let out a nervous laugh.

"Yeah," she said.

"That was over 100 years ago," James said, still staring at her in bewilderment.

Clandestine couldn't help but feel awkward, shriveling under his gaze.

"Yeah," she said defensively. "I know."

James raised his hand up to his face and held the bridge of his nose, rubbing his eyes for a second before he rapidly shook his head. Staring now at the ground, he blinked like he was trying to blink away the confusion.

"But you're alive," he said. "And you look--"

"Young?" Clandestine interjected with a stiff smile.

James looked up at her letting out a deep sigh.

"You said you were 19. Was that how old you were when your mentor... put you in the coffin?" James asked.

Clandestine shrugged, her smile waning.

"Yeah," she said. "When I woke up... I'd grown a little. But not much. When I was put in the coffin, it was 1002. But when I woke up, it was 1107. And yet, for me, it was like hardly any time passed at all."

She tried smiling, but this time, it felt too forced. It faded as quickly as she mustered it up, and she looked away.

"I don't know how to explain it either," she said quietly. "I thought... maybe it was the coffin. But... I don't know. Can lifeblood trees keep people from aging? Is that possible?"

She knew James wouldn't have an answer to that. She didn't know why she was asking it out loud.

"Sorry," she said. "You were telling your story, and I..."

"Are a part of it," James said. And there was something in his tone that was more confident. Like he was making sense of things. But Clandestine didn't know how any of this made sense.

What did he know that she didn't?

"Is there more?" she asked quietly, feeling even smaller as she looked at him.

There was an intensity in his eyes upon first glance, but when he met her eyes, his look softened, somehow serious and gentle at the same time.

"Yes," he said. "Because when we found the coffin - when we found you - we didn't leave you there."

Clandestine held her legs a little tighter.

"You... you didn't?" she asked.

"No," he said. "We took the coffin back with us to the Moonlight Kingdom capital."

Clandestine felt her chest grow tight.

"We took you to King's Peak."


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Tue Jul 04, 2023 4:29 pm
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IcyFlame wrote a review...



Part two here we go!

Clandestine had woken up decades later to a world completely changed, and she didn't even know why. Even she hadn't been able to read the text on the front of her coffin.

Bit rich of Clandestine to be calling James old, huh? What makes her think she's 25?

Dragons were gone. Right? No one had seen them since before the Great War. That's what she was told, at least.

Is this great war the same one James is referring to with the mages? If so, it seems a short time to be able to declare dragons as 'gone'. If it's a different war I think I might need a bit more clarity that it's a separate one to the one we've just been referencing.

"So you were the person in the coffin," James said quietly.

How come he didn't recognise her? Or are we putting this down to poor eyesight?

Once again, I'm left at the end of a chapter with more questions than answers but my stop is coming up so I'm going to have to continue this at a later date!

I'm enjoying all the worldbuilding and story telling and we're not feeling too info-dumpy yet as the characters are figuring things out as we do. I am feeling that we might need to pick up the pace again soon though!

Hope this was helpful!

Icy




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Tue Jun 20, 2023 9:34 pm
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Liminality wrote a review...



Hi again, sound!

General Impressions

Hmm more mysteries and questions this chapter. I wonder if Svida will turn out to have been Clandestine’s real mother or something – not a very solid prediction, but just a random thought I had. I noticed my bean-spilling prediction didn’t come true for last chapter but oh well, James still has his beans and so it’s still a possibility. xD

Would the mages have buried the bodies of the soldiers? Would Clandestine have even been found? If she hadn't been found, would she have woken up six feet underground, buried alive, never to be discovered?

That sounds like valid reasoning, though I’m not sure why Clandestine is thinking about it at this point in the story and in this scene specifically. It feels like the kind of thing you'd think about only a while after finding out something shocking about yourself.

Plot

I like how you revealed some plot points in this chapter.
"You're talking about the mage guilds," James said. "From before the war."
Clandestine let out a nervous laugh.
"Yeah," she said.
"That was over 100 years ago," James said, still staring at her in bewilderment.

For example, I like how James’ reaction clues us in to the fact that Clandestine is kind of from another time period, in a way. Even before he speaks, Clandestine mentioning a leader of Burninghead made me think hmm, that seems odd, since in James’ earlier POV chapter, Burninghead was mentioned as a thing of the past.
Clandestine felt her chest grow tight.
"We took you to King's Peak."

I presume this place is also going to be significant to her somehow? I won’t know until the next part, but that’s the impression I get.

Characters

As mentioned before, Clandestine’s approach to James’ confession still seems cerebral. She goes through a lot of causal analysis, and at times it feels to me like she’s very distanced from the whole conversation, like she’s reading a book about James’ story and it’s taken an unexpected turn.
There was another long silence that felt like it dragged on, and Clandestine couldn't help but feel like she'd ruined everything. She'd thought this conversation was just going to be about James.

I found it a bit hard to follow her thought process here. Why does she think she’s ruined something? Is it just because she interrupted him? Or is it because she opened up a new can of worms, now that she’s told him it was her who was in the coffin?
She was expecting his story to end with him ending the war, and him quitting.

It might just be me forgetting something, but I don’t really remember her having this prediction? The last thing I remember her thinking about this subject is that James did something to get himself on the wanted list, not that he quit voluntarily. If this is meant to be another thought she had while James was talking, it feels a bit like we’re jumping back and forth in narrative time again here.
I like the idea that both James and Clandestine have something weird with time going on. Clandestine considers James to be born in a different era, but Clandestine was also frozen for 100 years. That gives them even more parallels with each other.

Overall

I’m curious to see where you’ll go with all these new worldbuilding elements like the lifeblood trees and whatever happens at King’s Peak. I have a feeling there might not actually be much more about the lifeblood trees since they’re meant to be extinct, but perhaps they’ll come up again in the plot to uncover why Silva put Clandestine in that coffin.

Hope this helps – keep writing!
-Lim
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A ruler leads by example, not force.
— Sun Tzu