This story takes place between episodes 11 and 12.
"I'm sorry about this, Clare," Raki said for the seventh time, limping and leaning heavily against her for support. "God, I feel so useless."
"If it bothered me to be slowed down by you, I would have left you behind a long time ago," Clare said curtly. For her, that was downright affectionate. They walked into an inn. "This boy needs a room until he is healed."
Raki couldn't help but notice the words this boy. "You're leaving?"
"I have a job to do in the next town," Clare said.
"I'm coming with you!" Raki said.
"No. You're injured," Clare said.
Clare cupped his face in her hands. "I'll be back in three or four days, Raki," she said.
Raki nodded. "Three or four days. Right."
Clare threw some money at the clerk.
"This is way too much!" she protested.
"That's for his room, board, and other assorted expenses. I'll expect my change when I return," Clare said flatly, turned an about face, and left.
Two days later, another pair of travelers arrived at the inn. A blonde man with a bandage over his eyes like a blindfold, a lute over his back and a pair of daggers at his waist, and a woman with red hair and a sword about the same length of Raki's sword, the one Sid gave him in Rabona.
"We'd like to stay for a couple of days," the man said.
"Do you have any money?" the clerk asked.
"Yes, actually, but it's a bit distasteful, a bard paying for his room instead of singing for it. Of course, if you've not enough guests at this I-assume-fine establishment to make it worth the investment, I'll not complain about having to pay in coin," the blindfolded blonde said.
"I'll have to ask the innkeeper—"
"It's alright!" said the innkeeper, who was eating dinner with Raki and a few of the other guests. "It's been a while since we had a bard to entertain us."
The blind bard bowed in the direction of the voice, and came over. "So, what kind of yarn shall I spin for you tonight? Romance? A saga of heroes and villains? Comedy?"
"How about a tale about the warriors called Claymores?" Raki asked.
The bard smiled, blindly but not clumsily patting him on the head. "A Claymoraphile, I see. Well, there's nothing wrong with that. As a matter of fact, I'm a bit of one, myself, and it just so happens that I know stories about the warriors dating back to the beginning of their organization. This story is about the warrior who was number one in the last generation. She was known as Teresa of the Faint Smile…" The bard proceeded to tell of many deeds of Teresa, putting the story to music. Raki, who had been paying attention, started paying rapt attention when he mentioned that she picked up a girl named Clare (everyone else would start paying closer attention when Teresa slaughtered the bandits). Surely, it's a coincidence! But no, it wasn't. At the end of the story, Clare took Teresa's severed head to the man in black and asked that Teresa's flesh be put inside of her. "…and in an unorthodox move, spurned by the desire to preserve Teresa's power, they did as the girl asked, but as they feared, the girl then became the weakest of the next generation of claymores, being only one-fourth yoma instead of one half. And that is the end of this saga." The next story did not involve Claymores, and besides, Raki wasn't listening. He was thinking about Clare, and what he had just learned about her past.
Clare returned the next day. "Are we leaving, Clare?" Raki asked.
"Are you healed?"
"Not completely," Raki admitted.
"Then not yet," Clare said.
"There's a bard here. He told us a story about a warrior known as Teresa of the Faint Smile, about how she took care of a girl named Clare, and about how she died," Raki said. "I want you to know…that I know how you feel."
"I feel…disconcerted. I was not aware that that story was public knowledge," Clare said.
"Generally speaking, its not very well-known, but I am adept at finding these stories," the bard said, coming down the stairs. "So, is dinner ready, yet? Shall I sing for my supper?"
"Not for a few hours yet," the innkeeper said.
"Excelent. I wanted some time to speak to our new Claymore guest. You're Clare, right? Sorry to overhear, but I happened to be coming down the stairs as you were having this conversation, and, well, my ears are very good."
"What do you wish to speak to me about?"
"The political situation in Rabona," the bard said dryly. "You're one of the warriors called Claymores—what do you think I want to talk to you about? As a bard, I feel that it is my duty to at least attempt to learn your story. Tell me, how did you join up with the boy? Is it a tale of drama? Action? Adventure? …Romance?"
Clare and Raki both blushed at this, which the blind bard could not have seen, but seemed to know, anyway. "It's nothing like that," Raki protested weakly.
"That's ambiguous if I ever heard it," the bard proclaimed. "But fine. I swear to you on my bardic word and the Order of Skalds that I will not say that there is a romantic relationship between the two of you when I retell this story unless you tell me that there is one."
"Order of Skalds?" Raki asked.
"It's what we call ourselves," the bard said.
"Bards have a way of implying things without saying them outright," Clare said.
"Bards are expected to imply things that would be a breach of the bardic code to speak, in order to add flavor to the story. No one will think anything of it if I do imply that you are using him to, shall we say, take the edge off."
"There is implying, and there is implying," said Clare.
"I promise to do only the former, and not the latter," said the bard. "Besides, what does a warrior of the organization, a feared half-breed, care about her reputation? Its not as though anything human can touch you, even in those places where they look down on that sort of thing, and besides, don't you want Raki to be envied by boys and men wherever you two might go?"
"If you wish information from me, you are going about it the wrong way," Clare said. "Shouldn't you be trying to make me like you, instead of trying to annoy me?"
"You don't strike me as the type to take kindly to being buttered up, but if I am mistaken, please tell me, so that I might proceed with sucking up to you."
"You're not wrong, and besides, it would be a little late for that by this point," Clare said. "I'll tell you what: I have a few questions for you, and if you answer them, I shall tell you my story."
"A straight up swap, eh? Alright; shoot," said the bard.
"From where did you hear the story of Teresa of the Faint Smile?"
"I pieced it together from many accounts. From witnesses, fellow warriors of the organization who happen to be familiar with the annals—"
"You have sources within the organization? How did you manage that?" Clare demanded.
The bard grinned lecherously. "I wooed them with my masculine wiles," he teased. So, you said you had questions for me…I assume that means more than one."
"This is an awfully remote place for a bard," Clare observed. "What are you doing here?"
"I'm looking for Claymores."
"I seriously am, or rather, a specific warrior who escaped from the organization, whom some have said live in a remote area around here. I believe she is Flash Sword Irene."
Flash Sword Irene…she was part of the group that was sent to kill Teresa. "Why?"
"Because being a bard is just a cover; I am in fact an unAwakened male ex-Claymore from back in the day, looking for other exiles so that I can recruit them into a community of people not unlike ourselves."
Clare just glared at him. Somehow, the bard felt it.
"Because I want to talk to her, of course, I wish to hear her story straight from the horse's mouth, as it were. True, I have lots of second- and thirdhand sources, but none of that would compare to dealing with her firsthand," the bard said. "Have I satisfied you?"
"Not yet, but before we continue I feel I must see to Raki's wounds. Come outside, Raki, where there is light enough to see better by," Clare said. She and Raki left the inn. She then sat him down, kneeled in front of him, and started prodding at his pants. "Does this hurt?"
"No," Raki said. And then he winced as she applied pressure to a bruised area of his upper leg. Clare noted this, and continued to work her way down his leg.
"Tell me the story he told you," Clare said. Raki proceeded obediently, and Clare silently compared his version of Teresa's tale to the one from the annals she had memorized. She found that Raki's story tended to be far more detailed, and what's more, where it differed were places where she could easily see the organization lying, and had sometimes even suspected it at the time. Particularly shocking was that the battle in which Teresa died was portrayed exactly as Clare remembered it and in more detail than she had ever put into writing, considering that there were no other witnesses, she was sure of it.
Finishing her inspection, Clare rolled Raki's pant leg back down (which she had rolled up during the inspection so that she could see it with her eyes). "You're nearly healed enough to walk," she proclaimed. "We will leave tomorrow morning. For now, it's about dinnertime. I think I should be interested in hearing some more of this bard's tales."
They entered. "Is it dinnertime? Yes? Good!" said the bard. "Friends, ladies, gentlemen, and my honorable hosts; tonight, in honor of our esteemed Claymore guest, I'd like to tell a very special story…she is here, right? Not still playing with her boy in the woods?"
"We were right outside, and all she was doing was checking my wounds," Raki protested.
"Ah, they are here. Good," the bard said. "The story I'm about to tell you is completely fictional. It is something that I made up. The characters, while many of them are composites of many factual people, represent no one in particular. It is simply an expression of the way I view the warriors known as Claymores. Anyway, with that caveat in mind, here is the fictional saga of The Claymore and the Prince…"
The story started out with a Claymore who battled yoma and was feared by villagers. She was so powerful that, in fact, she was feared by the organization itself, and so being feared was all she expected. And then, one day, she met a man, a good, pure man, who was not afraid of her, but instead proclaimed his love for her, even though his family, Rabonan nobles who had planned on sending him to the priesthood, threatened to disown him if he continued to pursue her.
He managed to warm her heart, but then was kidnapped by Easley of the North. "a voracious eater who was once himself one of the warriors known as Claymores, back when there were male warriors within the organization, and in fact achieved the number one ranking before he awakened." The Claymore pursued them to the north, in direct defiance of orders from the organization to take care of some yoma in another direction, and was cleverly able to free him, and they escaped from Isley together.
But the organization had declared the Claymore a deserter, and sent warriors after her head. After many valiant battles, she was subdued, and brought before representatives of the organization. The prince threw himself onto the Claymore, shielding her with his body, declaring that if they killed her, they'd have to kill him, too. They pulled him off of her and proceeded with the execution, killing her right in front of his tear-stained eyes. The prince swore revenge on the organization, and headed north. Towards Easley. "And that is the end of this saga."
"That story was…interesting," said Clare.
"It is a sad fate, the lives of those we call Claymore, don't you think? Feared by the very people you are sworn to protect, a life consisting of nothing but battle, used as pawns by an organization that lies to you and does not value your lives," the bard said.
"Lies to us? What does the organization lie to us about, prey tell—and how do you know the truth?" Clare asked.
"To answer the latter question first, common sense and deductive reasoning. As for what they lie about, do you happen to know why there are no male Claymores? The story they tell is that men awaken easily, that it's like sexual pleasure, that they can't help themselves. Anyone with common sense can see that that story is a load of crap, though; I'm not bragging about my abilities with women or anything, but it has been my experience that women really enjoy sex when in the act of it, that when they orgasm…well, it's something for us men to be jealous of. Besides which, do you know the story of the Dwellers of the Deep? Three tragic times in the history of the organization in which number one ranked warriors awakened, and have since turned into voracious eaters, one of whom, the aforementioned Easley, was a man. Tell me—if we're so unreliable when we become Claymores, how did a male ever reach number one status? As I said, deductive reasoning and common sense," said the bard.
"What is the real reason, then?" Clare asked.
"Quite simple, really: they don't want you breeding," the bard said. "Can you imagine if Claymores bred true? Imagine, a race with the powers of they yoma, and the human ability to unify in order to accomplish something for the greater good of themselves, even to the point of sacrificing themselves in the name of their goals? There's a reason that in spite of being stronger, faster, more powerful, and arguably smarter than us, that yoma have consistently failed to form any sort of real civilization: they are simply not biologically hardwired to stand together and form social and emotional bonds to one another. A race of Claymores, however, whatever they might decide to do, would be unstoppable."
"That is…an interesting theory," the innkeeper said.
"I apologize for boring you with my rantings. Shall I get back to work? What kind of story would you like to hear this time? Action? Romance…"
Clare went downstairs late at night, and saw the bard and his companion preparing to leave.
"Hello, Clare. I didn't see you there," the bard said.
"Ha, ha. I heard you leaving, and there are some questions that I wanted to ask you."
"How did you really learn Teresa's story?"
"Much of it, I learned from her herself. Later on, I witnessed the transformation of Priscilla into an Awakened Being, and yes, I know that in actuality all voracious eaters are Awakened Beings, but that's something I tend to keep to myself. My goal is not to make people fear Claymores, after all."
"That was seven years ago, and you can't be much more than twenty," Clare said.
"Can't I be? You know, I would have checked for survivors, had I not been so terrified of Priscilla. Her yoki…it was truly immense."
"So you can feel yoki now, can you?"
"I never said I couldn't."
"If you were there, do you know where Priscilla is?"
"I don't know everything, you know. Still, I have a very good idea of where she might be. I'm not going to tell you, though."
"Tell me, and I will tell you everything I know—about my life, about the organization, about my fellow warriors, everything," Clare bargained.
"A tempting offer, but I will not be responsible for your death. There's no way the weakest amongst Claymores can defeat the strongest amongst awakened beings. Priscilla is far and away the most powerful awakened being I have ever avoided an encounter with—and I've met Easley. Before and after he awakened."
"Now that is impossible," Clare said.
"Is it?" asked the bard. He removed the bandage from his eyes, revealing that there was nothing wrong with them except for their color. Silver eyes.
Clare drew her sword. "What do you want, yoma?"
"I'm no yoma. I am exactly what I appear to be. I'm a half-breed from days of old."
"That is not possible. There have been no male warriors in more than a century."
"Tell me, have you ever seen an elderly Claymore? No, you have not. Granted, most of us die or awaken long before we would ever reach a ripe old age, anyway, but surely, some warriors, at least, say the single-digit warriors, must be in their thirties, or even forties. Tell me, do they look it? No, they do not. Do you know why? We who are called Claymores mature, but do not age. Until we die or Awaken, we have the potential to live forever. Which makes it all the more tragic, the way the organization treats us. Ask the next senior-ranking Claymore you meet their age, if you don't believe me. They're older than they look, I guarantee you. Well, I'm off. I trust you won't spread my secret around too much, will you?"
"How can I? I don't even know your name," observed Clare.
The bard grinned. "Thank you. I'm off to try to find Irene. It's difficult. She's been hiding her yoki so long that I can't even sense it. It will be difficult, and for all I know I'm headed in exactly the wrong way, but hey, I've got time. You, however…if you ever desert the organization, do look me up, okay? It's good to have friends, and people like us don't have many.
"I try to create sympathy for you; after all, I have no animosity towards my sisters in the organization, just towards the bastards who are your bosses. That's part of the reason I want to tell your and Raki's story, it would give people the idea that Claymores can be loved, and really, lets face it: Claymores need love. If only because their lives are so sad. Too bad I don't have time to get your story, but I need to continue my search for exiles," and with that, the ex-Claymore bard left the inn.
Good bye, and good luck with your search…if anything you say can be trusted, that is, thought Clare, and then she went back up to her room.
Author's Commentary (As If You Care):
Weird little story, eh? Well, I had an idea, more of a theory than a basis for a fanfic (the theory being that the reason for there being no male Claymores is not that anything was wrong with them, but because the organization wanted to keep Claymores from breeding). I had an idea for a longer fanfic, to take place after the Witch's Maw story arch, but I didn't want to wait for the last episode of it to come out before I started to write something, so instead I wrote this story, which doesn't actually interrupt the flow of the series and gets the idea across that I want to get across. (Sure, the bard tells Clare about the fact that Claymores don't age before Irene does, but she doesn't entirely believe him.)
My favorite line from this story has got to be: (Clare) then sat (Raki) down, kneeled in front of him, and started prodding at his pants. Were there other ways I could have worded this? Probably. Would it have been as entertaining? Definitely not. Yea, innuendo! Hooray!
I guess that that is about it. Depending on how the next few episodes go, there might be another story related to this.
Thank you for reading, I hope you liked it, please R&R (I depend on your praise for a fuel source), and good bye. See you next time, readers.