The Dragon Prince: Reflections

“Deep Below”

Written by Paige VanTassell
Illustrated by Caleb Thomas and Emily Marzonie

WHOA! WHOA! Whoa! whoa!”

Ezran’s voice echoed into the pit in the floor of the Storm Spire as he peered over its edge. The precarious spiral stairs leading down into the Arcus Vault disappeared into a deep and endless dark. Zym chirped and his voice followed Ezran’s echo into the abyss, too, and he thumped his tail excitedly against the stone.

Standing beside them, Soren gawked. “So this whole time, that wasn’t a table? It was a…”

“A button,” Ezran finished for him, grinning.

The Crownguard’s eyes went huge. “Corvus. It’s a dragon-sized button.” 

Corvus folded his arms. “I am aware.”

Zubeia’s shadow fell across them as her voice rumbled through the chamber. “Some of the treasures held in the Arcus Vault are dangerous. It has long been our charge to keep them protected.”

Ezran craned his neck to look up at the archdragon. “Will we be safe down there?”

Zubeia nodded. “So long as you stay close to Pyrrah. She knows where the Siren Stone is kept.”

At the Dragon Queen’s side, Pyrrah was little more than a streak of scarlet in the gloom of the Storm Spire. She looked down at Ezran with her usual expression—sharp, focused, and a little bit intimidating. Ezran nodded to her in mutual understanding of why they’d come here: without a map to Aaravos’ prison, they needed more knowledge, another lead to pursue. Zubeia believed that such knowledge might lurk beneath the waves of the sea.

Somewhere deep within the Arcus Vault was the Siren Stone, the singular key to an ancient beacon they could use to call another archdragon to their aid: Domina Profundis.

Soren elbowed Corvus in the ribs. “Race you to the bottom.”

Before his fellow Crownguard could respond to the challenge, Soren scooped up a less-than-enthusiastic Bait and charged down the perilous stairs. Zym sprinted and dove in after them. Corvus sighed, unperturbed, and climbed upon Pyrrah’s back. “Let’s go, King Ezran.”

But Ezran held up a hand. “One second,” he said, and looked back to Zubeia. She gazed down into the pit in deep thought, and did not look at him until he’d addressed her.

“Zubeia? Won’t you come with us?”

The Dragon Queen smiled, but her eyes glimmered with something sad. “The vault can be a painful place for me, Ezran. It is filled with all the treasures and marvels of history, but much of that history is complicated.”

Ezran frowned, thinking. It reminded him of something his father had once said about the paintings in the castle with all of their war heroes and bloody, vicious battles. They’d frightened him, but King Harrow had explained them in a way Ezran echoed to the Dragon Queen: “It’s better to see that past for what it was than to hide it.”

Zubeia nudged him towards Pyrrah with a gentle push of her tail.

“You will understand someday, young king. Now go.”

Argh,” groaned Soren, gasping and wheezing on the ground. “That was so many stairs.

“You may not have won the race,” noted Corvus as he slipped off Pyrrah’s back to the floor. “But I concede that you won the workout.”

Soren flexed an arm. “I never lose those.”

While Zym snuggled against the recovering Crownguard, Corvus reached a hand up to help Ezran down, too. Stepping onto the stone below, Ezran looked around the vault in wonder. Magical torches along its cavernous walls illuminated the space in an eerie green light. Shining gold artifacts, sparkling jewels, and sealed chests piled in abundance all around them.

The king’s eyes wandered. The treasure here was a far cry from the sheer size of Rex Igneous’ hoard, but the Arcus Vault held a different kind of majesty, something ancient. It made Ezran want to hold his breath and take careful steps, and he took it all in with reverent awe: magnificent elven armor glimmering on faceless mannequins, a gnarled wooden staff that grew flowers as Ezran passed, and weapons from all across Xadia, some of them strangely familiar.  That deadly elegance, that sharp-edged beauty—they almost reminded him of Rayla’s blades…

“Soren!” Corvus groaned.

“What?” Soren said, his voice strangely muffled. “I think it suits me.”

Ezran looked back at his guards and could not help but giggle. Soren stood at attention as usual, but a bucket-shaped helmet sat upon his head, covering his face entirely.

“I think you’d better hope that helmet isn’t cursed,” said Corvus. “Take it off.”

“Only if you try it on.”

Pyrrah snorted, and her voice stung into Ezran’s mind.

“This way,” said the red-scaled dragon. Ezran winced. Pyrrah so rarely spoke to him, and her voice felt like a sudden burn. “We are wasting time.”

She folded her wings and maneuvered through the crowded vault with a surprising elegance. Ezran followed her. The odd green glow of the torches fell behind them and his shadow looked long at his feet. He breathed in the musk and dust of old things, rotting wood and damp stone, and thought of the way his clothes smelled in their drawers when he’d first come back to Katolis after months away.

Pyrrah’s tail brushed against a stack of tomes. They toppled over, kicking up dust, and Zym yelped and dodged. His flailing tipped over another stack of chests—and, in their cascade, something resting atop them clattered to the ground.

Ezran blinked down at a long black arrow.

Zym leapt to his side and snarled at the thing as though it were an enemy. Ezran placed a soothing hand to his fluffy white mane. “It’s alright, Zym. It’s just an arrow.”

But it wasn’t just an arrow. Its tip leered up at him with the face of a hawk: a curved beak, a crest of black and red metal feathers, and a gleaming ruby eye. For a moment, Ezran thought it looked like a dead bird lying on the ground with a red ribbon tied to its leg.

That binding—he felt like he’d seen it somewhere before…

Ezran’s throat tightened. He peered closer at the little knot of cloth, crimson and silky, tied around the arrow’s shaft. The sight of it filled him with a sick unease that repelled him—but painful curiosity pulled him closer. He leaned down to pick the arrow up.

Soren and Corvus caught up behind him. Lifting the bucket helm from his head, Soren peered at the thing in Ezran’s hands. “What’s that?”

He showed them. “An arrow. And—this ribbon is an assassin’s binding. Like Rayla’s.”

Ezran took a deep breath. “But hers was white, and it was only supposed to fall off after she… after she killed me.”

“This one’s not on anyone’s wrist. And it’s red,” Soren observed, voice grim. “What does it mean?”

Ezran ran his fingers along the ribbon. He knew the answer, but could not speak it. If the binding on Rayla’s wrist had promised his death, then this one must have promised the death of another.

It meant…

“The assassin did his job,” Corvus said quietly. “It means—this target was killed.”

Ezran gripped the arrow tight. The thing in his hands was a terrible letter, the ribbon its message: the king of Katolis was dead.

King Harrow.

His father.

Something cold lurched inside him. He fought against it. He’d fought it before, that same hurt, years ago—when he’d found out what really happened that night in Katolis. Still, it haunted him.

He couldn’t help but imagine the scene, all of it playing out like grim theater before him, as though he’d been there, as though he’d stood by and watched it happen.vThat Moonshadow elf upon the castle ramparts, skulking toward his father’s chambers. The blood upon those exquisite elven blades. The red-tailed arrow armed with a mission declared by Zubeia herself—

Ezran dropped the arrow back to the floor. It clattered and lay still.

He stilled the hurt inside him, too. It was not a new hurt; it was a familiar one, an old one. He’d bandaged that wound, stopped its bleeding, and let it heal already.

“We’re wasting time,” he said, standing up. “Let’s get what we came here for.”

Soren opened his mouth and closed it again. Corvus only frowned.

Ahead of them and half-shrouded by darkness, Pyrrah grunted and led them onward. Soon, she stopped, lowering her head to indicate an ornate chest. Soren and Corvus hauled away its lid. Atop a soft pillow within rested an aquamarine, longer than Bait and just as wide. As though awakened from a long slumber, it began to glow, filling the dismal room with a soft blue light.

The Siren Stone.

“It’s beautiful,” Ezran said. He touched its surface and it felt oddly like water, smooth and cold. “But—why is it down here? Why is it locked away with things like…”

Like the arrow, he thought, but did not say it.

“It belongs here,” rumbled Pyrrah in his mind. “Do you think all pretty things are free of pain?”

Ezran frowned as the cerulean glow of the aquamarine caught in her eyes.

“I can smell the blood upon your pretty crown. Was it not once a blade? Perhaps you should leave it here, too, with all these terrible things.”

His frown deepened. “What’s terrible about the Siren Stone?”

Pyrrah’s voice burned into him.

“Domina Profundis once called herself a protector of all of Xadia. From the rain in the sky, to the lakes atop mountains, to the rivers that brought their waters home to the sea, she helped the other archdragons keep the continent peaceful. And Zubeia was her greatest friend.

While Domina watched the waters above, a powerful leviathan called the Empress of the Deep protected the vast oceans in her stead. But the sea is full of mysteries, and a dangerous group of hunters, both human and elf alike, believed the Empress hid treasures beneath her waves. Before long, their curiosity turned to greed.

They hunted the Empress with a hundred ships. Powerful as she was, the Empress was outmatched. Though she called for the aid of Domina Profundis, the archdragon came too late. She found the Empress dead.

In her grief and fury, Domina drowned those hundred ships in a terrible storm, but it did not sate her anger, nor her guilt. Domina declared that the sea would be her sole domain, and that she would never again leave its depths.

Zubeia begged her not to go. Bitter and cold, Domina could not be dissuaded—she turned her back on her oldest friend, leaving her only with the Siren Stone as a means to reach her.

Summon me only if you must, Domina told her. Leave me to the depths.

Leave me alone.”

Ezran considered the story, his hand still pressed to the cool surface of the gem. “It reminds her of her friend. Someone she lost.”

“A pretty wound,” Pyrrah rumbled.

“But—we’re using the Siren Stone for something good. We’re using it to call her to help us. The future is going to be different—”

“Wounds fester. They do not leave pretty scars.”  

Ezran grit his teeth. Then he reached for the heavy lid of the aquamarine’s chest and, with all his strength, slammed it shut. Soren and Corvus winced, rattled by the sound and the sudden silence that followed.

“We have what we need,” Ezran told them. “Let’s go.”

The two Crownguards lifted the heavy box between them and led the way through the Vault, back the way they’d come. Ezran followed them until he could see the distant shaft of light from the Storm Spire above—and then he stopped.

He turned back.

Soren and Corvus nearly dropped the chest.

“Ezran?” Soren called. “Where are you going?”

He didn’t answer. He didn’t wait for them. Ezran’s feet carried him back into the darkest part of the Arcus Vault, back to where the assassin’s arrow lay motionless on the ground.

It stared up at him. Ezran felt a coldness twist its way around his heart. It took his lungs, too, and for a long moment he could not breathe, could not feel anything but an unfamiliar anger so potent it seized the whole of him, inside and out.

Ezran stepped towards the arrow—

—and stomped down on it as hard as he could. He wished he were bigger, stronger, he wished his boots were made of iron and not something soft. Still, it was enough. When he pulled his foot away, Ezran glared down at the arrow’s hawkish head, flattened and broken. Its ruby eye slipped from its socket, its black metal bent like frayed feathers.

He left it there in the dark.

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