Heart of Darkness

Chapter 5


            Morning dawned on the city of Saillune, a brilliant sunrise casting yellows and pinks across the white buildings. On most mornings such as this, the younger Princess of Saillune could be found perched in a window, watching the morning bloom into the promise of a beautiful day.

            But not this morning.

            This morning found Amelia wil Tesla Saillune standing outside the door to her bedroom, along with Jedah Graywords, conversing with her older sister in a hushed voice. Naga had very nearly screamed loud enough to wake the entire castle when she’d knocked on her sister’s bedroom door and Jedah had answered. It had proven most awkward until Amelia had staggered out from the room on the other side of the hall and blearily asked her sister what all of the commotion was.

            It hadn’t occurred to Amelia to ask why Naga’s strangled holler hadn’t woken Lina. Nor did she think to wonder why Naga hadn’t shouted longer than she had.

            For that, Jedah was thankful. He knew, however, that he couldn’t keep Lina asleep forever. Indeed, her own magic was working to wake her, probably a protective spell that she’d crafted for just such emergencies. He’d have to allow her to wake soon, and then it was bound to get… interesting.

            With an inward sigh, Jedah reached out and tweaked the spell, allowing the tight magical hold to slip. Sure enough, it was the opening that her spell was looking for. Suddenly, Lina Inverse and the rest of the palace awoke with a very loud bang.

            Jedah and Amelia burst through the door of Amelia’s room to find Lina sitting up in bed, looking at them in terror. Naga stood in the doorway, ready to divert any and all of the palace’s security guards who may have heard the noise. Amelia wasn’t sure what had made the banging sound, but it had been decidedly successful. Several seconds passed, and Amelia took command, seeing Lina staring at her in shock.

            “Lina… it’s us. You’re in Saillune. Jedah brought you here last night…” her voice trailed off and she glanced over to the young man as if to ask him how he had done just that, but there was such a sheer desperate look of ‘don’t ask me that’ in Jedah’s eyes that she filed the question away for later and looked back to Lina. “Lina…?”

            Lina’s eyes were wide, and for a moment, Amelia felt as if she was going to watch the redheaded sorceress retreat into herself again. But then Lina blinked, and awareness crept back into her crimson eyes. “Amelia… Jedah…” Completely against anything that Amelia had ever seen in Lina, the sorceress burst into tears.

            There was a movement next to Amelia, a quick motion that was caught back by Jedah, who had moved as if to comfort Lina, but realized that it wasn’t his place to do so. Hiding a smile at Jedah’s sweet tendencies, Amelia moved forward and put her hand on Lina’s shoulder. “Oh, Lina…” It wasn’t fair, Amelia decided. Lina and Zelgadis had every right to be happy, and every time she turned around, one or the other was hurting. Sure, Zelgadis wouldn’t show it, but Lina had hurt him deeply when she’d pulled her vanishing act way back when. But now, she was certain that Zelgadis hadn’t left willingly.

            Naga glowered at both Amelia and Jedah, giving her sister a not-so-gentle shove as she sat down beside Lina on the bed and pulled the sorceress towards her. Lina crumpled, sobbing, against Naga, and Amelia blushed inadvertently at the glare in Naga’s eyes. Jedah saved her from having to say anything, however, by tugging at her sleeve and pointing to the door. Silent, the two walked out into the hallway, the door swinging shut behind them.

            Amelia stood helpless, looking back at the ornately carved wooden door as Jedah leaned his arm up against the wall and then rested his forehead on the back of his hand. For a moment, she was oddly struck at his resemblance to Zelgadis, and that brought her train of thought back to the missing older brother. “Jedah… what do we do?”

            He stood back up, looking at her with guarded eyes. “We don’t do anything right now, Amelia. ‘We’ can’t.” He looked off behind her, towards the guards that peered anxiously down the hall at them. “Lina will have to react, and get through to the point where she can help us. She’s no good to anyone like that,” he tilted his head to indicate the room they had just left. “Naga’s good for her.” He turned and leaned his back against the wall. He hadn’t slept at all, instead feeling around his network for information while watching over Lina all night, and it was starting to take its toll on him.

            “I hadn’t realized that Grac-Naga was so close to Lina…” Amelia said quietly, still looking at the door sadly.

            “We’re all close to each other, Amelia. We just show it differently,” Jedah said, and Amelia turned at the edge in his voice.

            “Jedah…? Didn’t you sleep at all last night?” She asked, noting how pale and drawn his face looked.

            He opened his eyes and looked upwards toward the ceiling. “No… I didn’t. I was too busy trying to figure out what had happened to my brother.”

            “You go rest. I’ll send word to Sylphiel and Gourry in Sairaag. No doubt they will want to come help, and maybe by the time they get here, Lina will be able to tell us what happened,” The worried young woman was replaced by the Princess who could take charge when she needed to. She’d have a courier set out at once, as fast as he could for Sairaag. But when Jedah didn’t move, she looked at him, surprised.

            His eyes had slipped closed, and he was sound asleep against the wall.