Perchance to Dream

Chapter 4



            It was sometime later in the day, and he had a shadow. Worse yet, he knew the raven-tressed maiden who followed him none too skillfully. Perhaps because she was who she was, he allowed her to think that he didn’t know that she was there. Sylphiel, after all these years, you still haven’t changed, he thought as he rounded a corner and turned around, coming to such a quick halt that she ran into him with a startled squeak. After all, Sylphiel would never swear. She couldn’t even cast a flare arrow.

            “You,” he began coldly. “Are following me. Why?”

            She looked up into the aquamarine eyes that were like frozen ice crystals, and blinked. “Oh, Mister Zelgadis! I’m so glad it’s you! I was following a strange man in a black cloak who might have known something about what’s happened to poor Lina. You haven’t seen him by any…” her voice trailed off as she saw the coldness in his eyes and the gold trim on the black hood. “Oh… dear… You’re not Mister Zelgadis…”

            He arched an eyebrow, fighting a fierce internal struggle. Part of him wanted to race to Lina’s side, to do whatever he could to help. But the other part of him wanted nothing more of it. That life was over, had been over since that day so long ago now, that day when she walked out of all of their lives. It had taken that fight with Xellos only days before for him to realize it. And it was with the dismissive side that he answered the raven-haired cleric, voice and eyes as cold as ice.

            “If you mean the red-haired woman in black, then I will tell you what I know.” He paused, as if for her confirmation, even though he knew that it was her. “I was preparing for my trip when I saw her in NightWisp’s Tavern. She was at the bar with a drink, though not really seeming to drink it. She fell out of the chair and was picked up by a priest with purple hair. I did not trust his intent, and relieved him of her at first chance. I took her to the Royal Guards and was done with it.”

            She blinked. “You mean you… oh no… not Xellos! Why, he must be up to nothing good! Would you please come with me to the Palace? I’m certain that Amelia would want to hear this…”

            “No, I cannot. There is somewhere I must be. Do excuse me, I must go,” he replied, instantly wary. If Amelia saw him… she would know.

            “Oi! Sylphiel! Who’s that?” Gourry called as he walked up from across the city’s square.

            She turned to look to Gourry, and as she did so, failed to see the mysterious figure draw up his hood and seemingly vanish.


            He took three quick and successive steps backwards, fading into the shadows. That was entirely too close, he decided. But what had that damnable Xellos done to Lina? No, he mustn’t think about that. Mustn’t think about her. Anything but her. Anything, anything at all…


            They’d been heading towards a new town after leaving the confused citizens of the Lost City that was above Ishii, walking companionably together. Neither was saying a thing, yet each was keenly aware of the other. Behind them, the blonde swordsman and the brunette princess exchanged worried looks. Something was wrong, and it looked like the relationship was going to crumble. An uneasiness lay between the chimera and the sorceress like a heavy black cloud.

            At length, Lina stopped, and turned to Amelia. “Amelia, I want you to cast the strongest disenchant spell you know how to, okay?”

            Amelia blinked, looking around in confusion. “But… why, Miss Lina? I didn’t sense anything…”

            Lina sighed with barely hidden exasperation, hands clenching. “Just do it, Amelia…”

            The young princess looked at the telltale signs of imminent fireball, then nodded at Lina and focused her will for a moment, then cast the disenchantment spell.

            Nothing happened.

            Lina sighed, shook her head, and turned away. “That answers that, then. Well, let’s go…”

            Zelgadis walked up alongside Lina and looked to her. “What was that all about?”

            Lina shook her head. “I thought that maybe I had sensed something like what we found in Ishii. But fortunately, I was wrong.” She was lying, and she knew it. Unfortunately, so did he.

            He reached out, catching her arm and drawing her to a stop. “That’s not it. That’s not it at all, Lina. You’re still afraid that I’m under Rezo’s spell, aren’t you? That I’m not really in love with you. Isn’t that it?” Anger and hurt colored his voice as the golem aspect’s emotions went rippling through him with startling intensity.  He still hadn’t learned to integrate them fully. That would come with time. Except that it was doing damage to the strained relationship right now.

            She looked at him, something somewhere between despair and fear caught in her eyes. “Why else would you be this way, Zelgadis? This isn’t like you!”

            “And it isn’t like you to have a discussion like this out in the middle of a forest with an audience!” He motioned to the all-too-obviously not-watching Amelia and Gourry. “So while we’re at it, this not acting like ourselves…” Acting purely on the aspect’s emotions, he pulled her close into a kiss, which he would later reflect on as his least brightest move.

            Years later, the memory of that slap still stung. She’d hit him, and she’d hit impressively hard, considering his stone skin. She’d even actually broken her own hand on his stone skin… a fact that still hurt to think about.

            That had been the beginning.

            He’d wanted to prove it to her, that it wasn’t a spell or a change. That he’d always been in love with her, but never been able to say it. He wasn’t very good at it. The fierceness of the emotions kept getting in the way. More times than not, he’d offer what he’d meant to be a compliment, but it would come out wrong and he’d end up insulting her. It was difficult for him to express the true intensity of his feelings, and he knew it. He never even thought that she might have the same difficulty with her own emotions compounded by the belief that he was only acting still under the spell.


            He paused in the shadow where he had hidden, watching Gourry and Sylphiel react to his sudden disappearance, and again told himself that it was for the best. After all, how could he possibly explain what had happened? He didn’t even quite understand it himself.

            He turned, drawing the cloak around himself, and walked quietly away.


            Sylphiel sighed. “He was just here… that strange man that looks like Zelgadis. Lina was right. I tried to get him to come to the Palace, but he refused. Oh, Gourry dear, it’s Xellos behind this. That man said that he had taken Lina away from that Mazoku priest.”

            Gourry blinked in his most intelligent fashion, which admittedly depended entirely upon the circumstances at the time. “Well, we’d better go tell Amelia.  She’ll need to know about Xellos.”

            Sylphiel nodded quietly. “Yes, she does…” That man looked so much like Zelgadis… Oh, I wonder what has happened this time? She broke free of her thoughts and taking Gourry’s arm, headed back towards the Palace.


            Amelia stood silent with rage as Sylphiel told her story. The last time Gourry had seen anything near close to that level of rage was when Lina had called the Laguna Blade on Garv with practically nothing held back. But then, he’d missed a lot of other times when Lina had completely blown her temper. Particularly at Hellmaster Phibrizo. And while he knew what to expect from Lina… Amelia was a completely wild card to him. Especially now, after the events of the past year had hardened the princess.

            He stood there, watching her tight control, watching the anger and fury collect into her eyes. Sylphiel, beside him, sighed and shook her head. “So Xellos really isn’t dead.”

            A strange sound caused Amelia to look up, and Sylphiel and Gourry turned to see Lina standing in the archway like a ghost.

            “Lina?” Sylphiel asked, but the sorceress simply stood there, eyes seeing but unseeing.

            “Lina…” Gourry said, frowning. She wasn’t Astral. That was clear, even to him. What she reminded him of was a broken spirit wavering in the wind.

            The redhead turned and walked out of the Hall, footsteps light and strangely even. She drifted across the room beyond, and disappeared into the stairwell.

            “Poor Lina…” Sylphiel breathed softly.

            “Poor Lina,” Amelia echoed dully. It was clear that she didn’t share the same sentiment as Sylphiel. Her voice chilled somewhat. “Lina will learn to go on. Life keeps moving, whether you want it to, or not.”

            Gourry looked at Amelia, seeing the anger and distrust, remembering the reasons that Amelia felt this way, and shook his head. “Maybe it would be better if you just talked it out with her, Amelia…”

            Amelia turned chilled blue eyes on him. “Mister Gourry, because you have worked with me in the past, I will forgive you that comment.”

            Gourry wasn’t going to leave it be. “But doesn’t Lina deserve that same forgiveness?”


            She stood in the room that had been granted her while she was in the Palace, looking out of the window over the waters by Saillune. Thoughts floated incoherently through her mind, unconnected and unbidden. She missed him so badly that her heart hurt. She could feel nothing else, not even the feel of the green velvet of the dress on the bench beside the window.

            Without truly considering it, she changed into the dress, leaving out the hair ribbon, her long red hair cascading where it would, tumbling down her back like untempered flames. There was a muted wildness within her appearance… and a strange emptiness in her eyes.

            For a long time, she stood before that window, staring at the water beyond the docks where she once set sail, eyes dulled and spirit absent. The passage of time had no relevance to her. She simply was.

            And yet, she was not.

            Being so, she did not sense the presence of the Mazoku who stared at her covetously.


            He couldn’t leave the city. It was not for lack of trying, it was the simple matter that every time he set his feet in the direction of the nearest gate out, he ended up lost in such a horrible muddle of thoughts that he ended up turned around and heading back towards the Palace.

            It was extremely irritating, but he finally decided to let it drop, and instead stay in the city and see what that damned Mazoku was plotting. Having decided, he turned down a street, finding the small tavern nearby, and upon entering it, hailing the bartender.

            “Ah… you have returned, traveler. What is it that I can get for you?” Arendil asked congenially.

            The reply was quiet. “If you have coffee, I will drink it. Beyond that, it is information that I want.”

            Arendil chuckled and turned away to bring the stranger a mug of coffee. As he returned, he set the mug down and looked over the customer. “If it’s information that you want, you have come to the right place. What is it that you look for?”

            “The woman who was here. What did she want?”

            “Woman…? Oh. The red-head who’d had a bit much to drink?” Arendil replied, studying the other.

            “Yes. Her. What was she here for?” he asked, reaching out to pick up the mug of coffee and sip from it.

            “She was here asking about some guy with stone skin and wire hair. And then she was asking about the missing Crown Princess Gracia.”

            There was a soft exhale before he replied to Arendil. “I see. And what do you know of either of them?”

            Arendil shook his head. “Nothing about the guy with stone skin, though I think I ought to. Sounds somewhat like that bodyguard that Princess Amelia had for a while. But he’s been gone for a while now.  As for Gracia, no-one knows what happened to her. She just vanished one day after the Queen was assassinated.”

            “Hm.” He set down his coffee mug and nodded.

            Before he could say anything, however, Arendil had a question of his own. “I saw you depart shortly after the Priest took the young lady.”

            Blue eyes flickered to the bartender. “That was Xellos Metallium, the Trickster Priest. The young woman did not remain in his possession for long. She was returned to the Palace Guards.”

            “And Xellos?” Arendil pressed.

            “He is around, quite possibly cursing me, for what good it would do him. The reasons for his actions are known only to him.”

            Arendil nodded, knowing that this information needed to be brought to the Knight’s attention. Something was beginning in Saillune, and he wanted to make sure it wasn’t unnoticed. Just then, someone at the bar hollered over for service, and with a patent apologetic smile, Arendil took leave of the quiet stranger and moved to the bar.

            He picked up his coffee again, contemplating the new information. So… Lina is looking for Zelgadis. I’m sorry, Lina. He isn’t here anymore…


            Lina had missed lunch. Concerned, Sylphiel had gone looking for her, and found the sorceress sitting on a concrete bench in the middle of one of the many gardens around the Palace. As she approached Lina, Sylphiel saw that Lina was wearing that green dress that Amelia had given her years ago, and her talismans were nowhere to be seen. The redhead did not look over as Sylphiel approached, and finally, Sylphiel was forced to call out to Lina.

            “Lina...? You missed lunch.”

            Lina finally looked over and simply nodded. “Sylphiel…” her voice was quiet. “Have you ever done something that you regretted so much… and been unable to do a thing about it?”

            Sylphiel thought about it as she sat beside Lina. “I regretted moving the Blessed Blade once… but I think maybe somehow I was supposed to move it. It wouldn’t have been there if I hadn’t.”

            Lina shook her head. “I can’t think of anything good that’s come out of my leaving, Sylphiel. Not a single thing. And I don’t know why I did it.”

            Silence fell between the two girls who were unable to sense the presence of the Mazoku watching them.

            Oh, I know why, Lina Inverse. But that is a secret…