Perchance to Dream
Three little words.
I love you.
The last words whispered in her ear before he turned and walked away.
I love you.
That tiny little phrase that meant her life and her soul.
I love you.
The words that she’d once whispered to him.
Lina steadied herself in the doorway to the darkened room, closing her eyes, lifting her hand and silently calling forth a light spell. As the sphere of light lifted from her hand and gradually lit the room, she opened her eyes and looked, afraid of what she might find.
The room was empty.
There were signs of disturbances, the dust illustrated all too clearly that someone had been in the room… and the charred signs left from the explosion indicated that whoever had been sitting in the chair…
Shattered remnants of a red crystal were scattered around the floor, and for a moment, all Lina could see was her mental image of Zelgadis’ cloak clasp shattering into a million pieces. It felt like her heart was that very crystal.
Lina sank to her knees, convinced of her worst fear: Xellos had come for Zelgadis, and won. Stress and fear overcame her, and she heard only the footsteps of someone rushing up to her as she fell, the voice a far and distant echo of her heart’s cry.
Sylphiel was the closest, and she managed to cushion Lina’s fall, casting a healing spell on the sorceress. Looking up to those still in the doorway, she sent Gourry a silent plea.
Jedah beat Gourry into the room, looking around and bending over to pick up a fragment of the red crystal on the floor. “This… was…”
Gourry paused long enough to look at Jedah, and then picked Lina up off of the floor. “Let’s go… there’s nothing in here now, and it’s only hurting Amelia and Naga.” He looked to the princesses who were cringing in the doorway and then back to Sylphiel. “Sylphiel… was…?”
The Cleric shook her head. “I can’t tell, Gourry. There’s a powerful spell in this room. It’s best if I left it alone.”
Gourry nodded, taking Lina out of the room and Sylphiel caught Jedah’s sleeve and firmly escorted the young man out, closing the door behind her.
They were walking along the road together, headed back for the hotel after the sword practicing which had become a routine with them now. It was quiet, only the leaves rustling in the trees as they walked side-by-side. She found herself leaning into him, smelling the intoxicatingly earthy scent that seemed to follow him. It would be so easy just to give in…
She leaned in a little and it startled him at first. He wasn’t used to anyone wanting to be near him… not like this… and yet, here she was. He looked down, only to have her hair brush at his chin, that tantalizing spiced greenwood scent all too alluring. Hesitantly, he brought his arm around her, resting his hand on her arm. Maybe that wouldn’t get him hurt too badly…
She’d stopped right then, turning into him and reaching up to his face with her hands. His eyes widened as she touched his cheeks. Her fingers were light and gentle as she pulled his face downwards towards hers. Her lips ever so soft against his ear as she breathed a set of words that he almost didn’t believe he heard.
But he had heard them, and she’d turned and walked quietly off into the night, leaving him standing at the edge of the forest, looking for all the world like a lost little boy. He was entrapped in a spell that she’d cast without knowing, and he had no way of escaping. Not that he wanted to escape. Rather, it took everything that he was to keep from following her…
When Lina opened her eyes, she was in her bedroom, and for a moment, the earlier explosion was unremembered, lost in the weavings of a half-remembered evening. But the minute she focused on Sylphiel’s worried face it all came rushing back to her and the pain of having lost Zelgadis once more was breathtaking. It brought the feelings back all too sharply, and somewhere within herself, she finally made the decision. No! I am not going to let this go without a fight! It’s time that I stopped playing the games.
She sat up in the bed, the old pain returning to her eyes, etching new hard lines on her face. Swinging her feet around to the side of the bed, she stood up and looked at the startled Cleric. “Sylphiel, go get everyone. I’ll meet you in the Dining Room.” Her voice was cold, all traces of her normally unbeatable humor gone. Sylphiel froze for a moment, then nodded and fled the room.
Lina sat on the edge of the bed, gathering herself. It was hard to accept that when she left the room he wouldn’t be there. But she’d done that before, hadn’t she? Stood in this very room and come to terms with the fact that he was dead? She reached up and touched the necklace that he had given her. The stone was strangely cold, and she had very little doubt of what it meant. She closed her eyes and reached with her mind to try and feel the link that the stone had with him, to grasp at any chance there might be. But there was nothing, as if she had picked up a stone from the road outside and tried to find a source of magic within it. It was simply an aquamarine now.
She let the necklace fall and walked over to the closet, tying her hair back into a ponytail, pulling it out of her eyes. She took a breath, and then steadied herself as she opened the closet door and focused on what she would have to do.
Lina’s usual costume was waiting for her, but she didn’t feel like the pink and yellow. The magic guild days were gone, she’d learned a lot more since then, and she was going to prove it today. Bypassing the pink, she reached instead for the black ensemble that she had bought in town after learning of Zelgadis’ ‘death’ at the hands of Xellos when she’d returned to Saillune. It was nothing as ornate as her pink costume, but she didn’t feel ornate anymore. She wasn’t in this for anything other than business, and the harsh lines of the black shirt and pants indicated that.
It took only moments for her to dress, and once again, she caught up her sword, cloak, and talisman pouch, slipping out of the room and moving for the dining hall. Only this time, Zelgadis wasn’t here to talk her out of going after Xellos. And that was precisely the reason why she was going after him.
She left the room, slipping the cloak about her shoulders and fastening the inner clasp absently as she thought out what she would have to do. The difficulty in fighting Xellos is that I’ll have to do it on his terms. That means I’ll have to go to him. Which puts me at a disadvantage… because my strong spells won’t work where I’ll have to go. It won’t be a fair fight… and I probably won’t make it back alive. A silent voice in her heart asked her if she wanted to… and she couldn’t answer herself.
As she walked into the dining room, the cloak flipped about her ankles. She latched her belt and set the pouch and sword on the table as the others looked at her. “I’m going after Xellos. None of you have to come. In fact, it would probably be better if you didn’t.”
Sylphiel opened her mouth, but the expression on Lina’s face gave her cause enough to keep whatever thoughts she had to herself. Instead, the Cleric offered her thoughts to Cephied, invoking what blessings she could on the petite sorceress. If Lina was intent on doing what she thought Lina was going to do… every little blessing would help.
One by one, Lina clasped the talismans on, wrist, wrist, belt, and finally cloak. Without looking, she knew that Jedah was about to volunteer himself to tag along. “Jedah, you aren’t going, so don’t even try. Amelia, you stay here and keep an eye on him.”
Jedah looked at Lina, his expression much akin to a whipped puppy dog. “But I…” Amelia put a silencing hand on his shoulder. She knew why Lina was going, knew all too well the feeling of losing someone dear. Jedah was still young… he would learn in time. Amelia wasn’t certain that it had occurred to Jedah that Zelgadis probably wasn’t ever coming back.
Lina cut him off, crimson eyes glinting as she looked to him. “No buts, Jedah. Xellos outclasses everyone in this room. If anyone has to die today, I’d rather it be just me.” She gave her cloak a tug to resettle the clasp at her neck.
“Die…?” Jedah echoed, the word only a whispered fear within the minds of those watching Lina.
“Lina, you can’t possibly think-“ Amelia started, but backed down the moment Lina’s hard-edged gaze shifted to her. She’d never quite seen Lina this pissed off. This went way beyond anything Amelia had run into with Lina before. Was this how Lina looked when she called the Lord of Nightmares against Phibrizo? And would she cast the Giga Slave again?
“Amelia, I have no choice.” Amelia jumped slightly as Lina’s reply came, perhaps not in answer to her thoughts… but it was too close for comfort. “What Xellos has done goes beyond anything that anyone has ever done to me and lived to regret. He’s taken away someone that I love.”
Silence filled the room, for while everyone except Naga had felt that Lina indeed loved Zelgadis, none of them had ever heard her so much as openly acknowledge the possibility. And there she’d just said it.
Lina reached for her sword on the table, but a hand caught her wrist. The grasp wasn’t forceful, and she looked sharply to the blue eyes that looked back at her calmly. “Lina,” Gourry said. “If you’re going to fight Xellos alone, take this.” The hilt of the Sword of Light was pressed into her hand, and she looked at it quietly for a moment before fixing it at her waist with a silent nod.
Naga looked at Lina. She’d never seen Lina this way. Sure, she and Lina had been in some scrapes before… and it wasn’t like there wasn’t rivalry between them… but Lina… Naga stood up and walked over to Lina. She was still taller than the redhead, but it didn’t matter now. She placed her hand on Lina’s shoulder and looked hard at the woman that Lina had become.
For a moment, Lina’s expression softened. She offered the ghost of a smile to the woman who stood before her, then turned to the door. Naga’s hand slipped off of Lina’s shoulder and the elder Princess of Saillune suddenly understood how much Lina had changed since that day at the beach.
Lina put her hands out in front of her, a brilliant sphere of light forming. The spell had no words, nothing to give a clue to an observer what it was. But everyone in the room knew what the spell that she was casting was intended to do.
Lina was leaving.
“Lina! Be careful!” Sylphiel called to the sorceress’ back.
They hadn’t noticed Amelia stand up and walk around the table until she was beside Lina. But Lina didn’t turn, didn’t acknowledge either Sylphiel’s words or Amelia’s presence.
Amelia extended her hand, her voice a whisper. “Forgive me, Lina.” There was a pause, and then her voice drew on an inner strength. “Infinite power, the Light of the Spirit… I call upon thee in our time of need. Heed my call and open the door to the Astral Plane!”
Amelia’s spell caught up and absorbed Lina’s spell, the Door opening like a brilliant rift in the archway of the dining room. Around it, they could see through into the hall beyond, but within the opalescent shimmer was the Astral Plane, revealed to each onlooker as something entirely different.
The only reaction from Lina was a light touch of her fingers to Amelia’s outstretched hand. And then she stepped into and through the Door, hair swirling in the immense magical forces held at bay by Amelia’s spell.
The Door dissolved, the hallway beyond the wooden arch seeming somehow less impressive, the room emptier.