The Dragon Prince: Reflections


Written by Joe Corcoran
Illustrated by Caleb Thomas & Emily Marzonie

The rope burned the skin of Soren’s wrists raw.

He struggled for a while, twisting against the thick knot bound behind him, until it was clear that not even his muscles could get him out of this one. The cloth gag in his mouth wouldn’t budge either, despite his gnawing and spitting. Soren was trapped.

He thudded his head back against the thick trunk of a tree and stared out into the night. The void of the Uncharted Forest seemed to go on forever, obscuring everything beyond its canopy. Even the waning moonlight struggled to pierce its veil.

Somewhere out there were his friends. His duty. His king.

Two years before, when the world had seemed darkest, Soren began to imagine Ezran as a kindling flame, a bright little light holding back the abyss. When he’d named Corvus a Crownguard, he’d told him that the young king was not only Katolis’ hope, but all of Xadia’s, too.

Soren had sworn to protect and tend that light. To nurture it. And in his darkest moments, that oath gave him a reason to feel strong again, a way to keep smiling.

How easily it had all fallen apart. How easily he’d chosen to chase the dark instead when he’d found his sister still lurking there. Soren thought he was done chasing, done reaching—reaching for people who turned their backs on him, who closed doors in his face, who disappeared over the horizon and never returned.

But Claudia had appeared and he’d done it again, a little boy chasing after his sister, and found himself tied up in the mud wearing dirty pink pajamas.

Soren bit hard at the cloth, pulling at it with his teeth. When it failed to yield a second time, frustration gripped his chest like vicious jaws, and he struggled to breathe. The fear was familiar, but he couldn’t let it get the best of him. He was strong. He could control it.

In through your nose, out through your mouth.

Someone snapped a twig nearby. The jaws at Soren’s chest bit deeper.

He had ignored the other man in the camp—the stranger—as long as he could.

Left to stand sentry over Soren, the stranger cracked another small branch in his pale hands and tossed it onto the fire between them. Clad in ragged white robes and a threadbare shawl, he moved stiffly. Unnaturally. Like something broken and put back together by clumsy hands.

The old man stoked the embers of the dying fire. The flames crept back to life and cast a flickering glow across his face. That face—

Soren turned his focus back to the darkness. On breathing. 

In through his nose.

The stranger was not his father. He couldn’t be. The man sitting across from Soren in the woods was something twisted, a distortion.

Out through his mouth.

Soren couldn’t bear to look, but he did anyway.


He could see the simple wrongness of the figure before him. The pallidness of his skin, and the way it hung from his bones…


It had to be another one of Claudia’s awful tricks—a puppet, or a shadow—like the cat she’d spun from smoke when they were young.

Because Viren was dead.

Viren was dead.

Viren was—

“How could you?”

Soren’s eyes snapped open.

The stranger stared back, brow furrowed, the firelight casting jagged shadows across his features. Soren gaped at him, cloth pulling tight in the corners of his mouth.

The man had spoken, hadn’t he? That voice –

A cough snared his breath. Soren struggled against the gag again, but he could not find a reprieve. He needed his hands free. The rope dug into his wrists again as he clawed at the ground below, pulling up wet clumps of grass.

The stranger stood up. Approached him.

Soren’s heart crawled up into his throat. He slammed back into the great tree and tried not to look, tried to keep the world still, tried to breathe—but in moments the stranger stood over him, gaunt and gray. His eyes burned, dark and terrible pits, and his cracked lips broke into a sneer…

How could you?

The forest around him seemed to spin, twisting the stranger’s visage with it. But the world spun too fast, and the face became other things, other memories in an endless torrent. His mother at his bedside. His father’s back, hunched as he read useless tomes by candlelight deep into the night. His sister, crying in her room ‘til morning.

Soren gasped the darkness like water into his lungs. He could not breathe.

He was drowning.

It’s over.

Dusk and smoke cloud the battlefield, but Soren can finally see the Storm Spire again and the blue sky beyond. The battle has been decided. It’s finally over.

And yet –

Soren’s sword sinks easily into his father’s chest. He is, after all, still flesh and blood. A stolen crown and a beaten army can no longer save him from simple steel. Viren staggers backwards, his last breath shuddering through the blade. His white robes turn red at his heart. Something in Soren’s own chest shatters along old cracks, but he cannot look away. It’s over, he tells himself, it’s over now. It has to be over.

But Viren does not die.

His eyes stay open, suddenly a deep black, boring into Soren. Bloody and breathless, the man rises from death itself. Viren grows larger—or perhaps Soren gets smaller—until Soren must crane his neck to look up at him. His father’s face, stretched and stained and contorted by the magic that poisoned him, becomes the sky.

How could you?

How could you?

How could you?


Footsteps thudded the earth beside him. Hands grasped his shoulders. Soren tried to lean away, but they gripped him firm. He felt one reach behind his head and tug deftly at the knot, releasing the soaked rag from its suffocating grip.

“Soren, breathe.”

Even as the gag fell into his lap, Soren still strained for air. His heartbeat pounded in his head, and his chest screamed in pain, but still he could not pull in a breath. It was as though he’d forgotten how, as though he’d never learned at all. He squeezed his eyes shut.

Breathe. You know the way.”

Those same firm hands took Soren’s face and lifted it. He opened his eyes to see the stranger’s face frowning down at him, lined with age and hardship and years without a smile.

Soren realized he’d imagined all of it it—the sagging skin, the hollow eyes, the corpse-like rigidity. He’d conjured up another monster to hide the horrifying truth: this stranger—this man—was undeniably Viren.

The High Mage of Katolis.

His father.

“With me,” Viren spoke firmly. “Breathe.”

Viren took slow, methodical breaths—in through his nose, out through his mouth.

Instinctually, Soren matched the rhythm. In through your nose, out through your mouth…

He remembered it easily. It was a ritual they had done countless times when Soren was young. Breathing in time with his father, his coughing would subside, and his seizing lungs would calm. Now, in the shadow of the Drakewood’s trees, it was the same: the invisible jaws slowly loosened their grip on his chest.

In and out.

In and out…

Soren met his father’s eyes. Viren watched him expectantly, his face still cold, betraying nothing.

Soren gritted his teeth. He felt his strength return, and he wrenched himself away from Viren’s hands, nearly toppling himself.

“Stop it,” Soren snapped, voice labored and half-choked. “I don’t need your help.”

Viren’s hands fell to his knees. His scowl deepened. “And what would you have me do instead?”

Righting himself against the tree, Soren held his head up. “Just— get away. Get away from me.”

Something flickered across Viren’s face. For a moment, Soren thought his father would open his mouth and say something like he always did, words that hurt—ungrateful, foolish, useless—but he merely sighed and stood up.

Viren brushed the dirt from his tattered white robe, but the stains beneath remained.

“If that is your wish,” he said plainly and turned. The coldness almost hurt more.

Soren snarled. “Why couldn’t you just stay dead?”

Viren stopped. The fire crackled before him, a chorus across a gaping silence, and made him a silhouette. A shadow. He took a deep breath—in through his nose, out through his mouth—and looked back over his shoulder.

The gentle flames caught his eyes and made them somehow warm. “Soren, I—”


The screech that rang through the camp made both of them wince. That horrible bug-eyed creature— the homunculus, they called it—leapt forward into the firelight, flinging spit in every direction. The thing blinked between Soren and Viren, tilting its head. It was absurd, but Soren found himself grateful for the creature’s sudden intrusion…until its companions intruded, too.

“Dad!” Claudia called. “We’re back!”

The pair emerged from the tangled dark. Terry carried a lumpy bundle in his arms. Beside him, Claudia held up a staff to light the way. Viren’s staff. It looked too big in her hands, too heavy, but she wielded it with the same effortless elegance as her father. The sight made Soren’s gut twist.

“Yes,” said Viren, raising an eyebrow at the homunculus. “Something told me you’d return soon.”

The creature danced around the fire, squawking, and Terry set his bundle down beside it.

“We, uh, got everything on your list, Lord Viren!” he said, peeling the wrapping open. “All the ingredients for a digging spell. We’ll be down under Umber Tor in no time.”

Soren peered across the camp to see a rodent’s skull, a clutter of beetle shells, and a tangle of colorful roots tucked within the folds of its cloth. He wrinkled his nose and looked away.

“Sparklepuff found the burrowbeast,” Claudia announced, patting the homunculus on the head.

“And now that we’ve got everything…” She held out Viren’s staff on the palms of her hands, offering it to him with encouragement. “Spell time!”

Viren did not move.

Claudia’s grin quickly became a wince. “The thing is, dad, I’m really, really tired—so I was hoping you’d do the spell this time! Last time I tried a spell while I was this tired, something awful happened. Right, Terry?”

Terry chimed in, a little too eager. “Oh, wow that’s right! Saw it myself! Whew! It was a really awful thing.”

Claudia nodded in agreement. “A really, really awful thing. So…”

Soren watched, frowning. Claudia wanted Viren to perform the spell, but why? Surely she could do it herself. He’d seen her do so many impossible things—she’d even brought their father back from the dead. What would make her balk at putting a simple magic hole in the ground?

Her eyes pleading, Claudia held the staff out to Viren again.

And Viren—LORD Viren, the usurper king, the monster in Soren’s nightmares—hesitated.

“No, no. You should do it, Claudia,” Viren said, holding up his hands. He took a step back from her, averting his gaze. “I’m still feeling…a bit weak.”

Terry and Claudia shared a look. “Okay, dad,” she said. “Whenever you’re ready.”

His sister sighed, knelt down, and got to work arranging the bundle of ingredients. Terry joined her, and that same silence settled back over the camp, broken only by the soft crackling of fire.

Soren stared at Viren’s back, his heart thudding against the cage of his ribs again. He had never, not once in his life, seen his father hesitate. For a moment, the man was a stranger again, someone unfamiliar, reborn and new and changed and—

Viren must’ve sensed his stare. He turned to look at Soren again, his gaze cold and piercing.

No, Soren thought. He’s the same. He’s my father.

He glowered back, making himself cold, too. Like steel. Like a blade.

And when Viren finally turned away, Soren let out a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding. He did not let his father hear him gasp, hear him struggle. He breathed slowly, carefully, and controlled. He just had to keep breathing.

In through his nose, and out through his mouth.

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