Interlude 11 – Valondrac

If there was one word that could describe Claire Valondrac at the current moment, it would be exasperated. Half her life she spent building up her forces and plotting to creating an endless army to fight and finally win against the Light Lands.

And then the Lightning Core broke. 

Not immediately, fortunately. She was still able to form some of her new army–about thirty-two new soldiers, made up of golden samurai armor possessed and powered by lightning–that, while they certainly weren’t anywhere at the level of her generals, were rather strong. But that wasn’t her main problem at the moment. No, that would be what happened right after the core broke. 

Specifically, that a lightning elemental formed.

Normally, that occurrence would leave her rather ecstatic; a full-blown elemental was considered legendary at least–the sort of thing people only saw when wandering the most wild, dangerous parts of the world–and she could easily tell the elemental’s magic nearly rivaled her own in terms of sheer power. 

It was like a trade from the gods; sure, she’d lost a way of producing infinite soldiers, but she’d gained a powerful soldier that she could actually afford to send on the front lines! One so grand that they almost made up for the massive hole in Sieda’s laboratory!

If it wasn’t for the fact that said elemental lacked most of her mental faculties. 

Meaning she–Claire had defaulted to calling the elemental a ‘she’ due to certain aspects of the green-eyed entity’s anatomy; mainly the hips, since her chest was pretty flat and she lacked nipples and genitals–seemed more like a humanoid puppy than an intelligent warrior.

Staring down at the six-eyed lightning elemental–who, for simplicity’s sake, was named Lightning–Claire kept her eyes on her electrified guest as some of her guards approached the four-armed humanoid composed of pure, golden electricity. While not outwardly hostile, it was still best to approach with caution given that–and there she went, pouncing on one and shocking him unconscious. 

Hm, probably best to give Moel a few days off now. Regardless, the other guards managed to pull him away and leave behind the food they were bringing her. 

Interestingly enough, the elemental did appear to eat in some form, whether it be from simple curiosity of what was placed before her, or actual hunger. Either way, she grabbed the tray before her, tilting it in her hands, then shoved the entire thing in her “mouth”. Not but a few seconds later, the tray, plates, and cutlery that were consumed were all spat out, seemingly not to her tastes. She did seem to appreciate the steak though, judging by how her green-blue tongue was licking around her…not really lips, but…hm.

Honestly, the more Claire observed, the more questions she had. For starters, why the fuck did an elemental come out of a temple core?? Was Lightning just someone who formed over time in the core? If not, why was she in there? Did the Rakuli gods seal her away? If that was the case, why use something so dangerous for their temples?

It certainly didn’t help that she couldn’t get any answers from Lightning. Even when she attempted to probe her mind–which was tricky considering she needed to touch her temples to do that–all Claire got was a mindless void. So either she was newly formed, or she was just running on instinct after being freed.

Damn it, she didn’t have time to deal with this shit. As it stood, Julius was probably already on his way from the Light Lands so she needed to prepare her forces for a full march to Naloriva. Really, she was lucky she wasn’t an idiot that set her capital at the farthest point from Ebkai, since it would give her some more time to prepare compared to the new heroes, who had to come from Divica. 

Sighing as she brushed back her hair, Claire turned away from the balcony she was on, set above the wide cell they were keeping Lightning in for the moment, and headed back to her room. She really needed to call her generals together so their final plans could commence. 

At least, that was her plan before she felt Mother–and damn did it ever get confusing that all three gods she had as sponsors wanted to be called that–calling her. Pausing at the sensation, she sighed before sitting on her bed, and heeded the call. 

“Was there something you needed?” she asked as the room melted away into…Huh. Not the forest, but Marrow’s actual throne room, with the bloody sky and floor and all that. Weird.

“Julius is in Maleficaba.” 

“Ah, I see, that was fa–” Her brain caught up with her mouth. “–wait, what?”

“Your boytoy is in Maleficaba,” Marrow replied as she reclined on her throne, her helmet off and her heavily scarred face looking totally neutral, “And probably heading to Plachor.” 

Claire could only stare, dumbfounded, at what one of her matrons was telling her. If she didn’t know any better, she would think Marrow was trying to prank her. And if she wasn’t, then she was just lying because there was no way that was possible.

“…Excuse me?” she finally said after a long pause.

“Long story, that I don’t know, short, he was exiled for something. Which really shouldn’t be possible for the Rakuli to do but when have those hypocritical bastards ever held true to any of the rules they call so sacred?” Marrow explained in that same neutral, if annoyed, tone. So she was being serious. Hm. Well, that would explain why he was APPARENTLY IN HER FUCKING DOMINION– 

“WHAT!?” 

Marrow didn’t dignify her panic with a response. “On the plus side, he apparently met a dullahan, so if you’re lucky you might get one of those working for you.” No, wait, that was a response, it just wasn’t….what?

“…The more you talk the more confused I get.”

Marrow–AH! THERE IT WAS! A SMILE! “Trust me, I’m decently lost myself. I mean really, what’s that child even doing, getting exiled like that? You’d think he’d know better.”

“…I…What? How does…How would he avoid getting exiled?”

Marrow raised two eyebrows. ‘Cause four eyes. It was weird looking. “Kill the ones exiling him.”

“Oh, yeah yeah, right. No, wait, lightlanders are weird about that.” They were weirdly set on ‘laws’ and whatever, like those weren’t just enforced by the strongest people around. Though… “Were the people who exiled him stronger than he was?”

Marrow shrugged. “Potentially? I would be disappointed if they were though. He shouldn’t lose to those weaker than him, and if they were stronger, then clearly he’s not worthy of you-”

“And we’re changing the subject,” she interrupted, trying to ignore how Marrow pouted, “You said he’s in Maleficaba?”

“Yes, with a dullahan, as I said.” The blood god paused. “You don’t think she’ll try to seduce him, do you-?”

“Would you cut it out?!” Ugh. At least the red glow made it hard to see if her face turned red… “Is there anything else?”

“Hm…in order, he stated that he was exiled by an angel, whose strength I am not sure of; he appears to be growing a soul; and he was quite shirtless and sweaty when he contacted me, so–”

“He was in Maleficaba.”

Marrow shrugged. “I’m simply stating what I know. He’s very well-muscled, you know, quite the nice physique–”

“What about the angel?!” Claire cut in as she felt her face burning. Stupid god-moms, ogling her fucking fiancee…

“Hm? Oh, I don’t know. Some type of fiery one, I believe. Some of my followers prayed to me about the ‘omen’ passing overhead, though it was likely just one of those heat ones. Or fire ones? The fire ones still live in the Light Lands, do they not?”

Hm…Well, he did steal the Fire Core…maybe that god finally got angry enough to do something about it? Maybe she should target Ebkai first for payback…Though there was that dragon Julius liked fucking, so… “And what about the soul?”

“Oh, that was a demonic one, I’m certain. A mix of avarician, superbian, and iratan.” Well that made no sense. Why was Julius growing a hybrid demon soul? Though…he did destroy that Heretic Mask that Jonathan was using…Was that why he wanted the dullahan around? To add her to the…no, that made no sense. 

Why was Julius so fucking confusing? 

Claire sighed, her arms crossed over her chest. “…Fine, fine, I can work with this. Thanks for letting me know.”

Marrow smiled, as kindly as ever, and nodded. “You’re very welcome. You have a very good opportunity here, Claire. Do not waste it.” Then she paused. “Oh, and one more thing, before I forget. You may want to have a talk with Rot, she seems a little annoyed about something.”

“Huh? Ah, yeah yeah, sure, I’ll get around to that,” she replied, already focused on other matters, “See you, Mama.”

“Heh. See you too.” Marrow smiled fondly–and not mockingly, good–as the Infernal Realm faded back into Estus and Claire pushed herself up off her bed, frowning as she laced her hands behind her back and headed out again, musing on matters. 

If Julius had been fully exiled from the Light Lands, and by one of the Rakuli gods, then that put her in a very interesting position. He’d already expressed his desire to be with her more than once, and now there was a very clear opportunity to get just that! He no longer had any obligations to a home that threw him away, so she could step right up, sweep him into her arms, and bring him into a new home, a new family, where he’d actually be appreciated and loved–

Claire nearly stumbled over her own feet and immediately glanced around like someone could have heard her thoughts. Because…sure, while she thought he was attractive and enjoyed talking with him and having him around, she certainly wasn’t…L-Love was a pretty big step. A really big step. Something she should…think about more, for after she met him. In person. 

Where she could actually see his silver-gold hair and deep, thoughtful eyes and hear his warm voice and–…W-Would he still be shirtless? Marrow said he was at the moment, but he’d put on a shirt before they met, right? He wouldn’t come to her barely dressed, right? H-He’d definitely be wearing clothes, ri-

A couple black-armored guards paused in the hall as they watched their lord and master, the grand conqueror of the Dark Lands, suddenly drop down and cover her face, muffling some high-pitched noise she was making. And then they promptly turned and walked down another hall in hopes that she didn’t notice them and that they could pretend they didn’t see anything.

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