Perchance to Dream
She only ate because Sylphiel forced her to. She only slept when she absolutely had to, falling into unconsciousness in the chair on the porch of her rooms. She didn’t leave the palace grounds, didn’t attend the daily functions of the royal family. She hadn’t even caught up with Prince Phil. Instead, Lina Inverse drifted through as if she were the memory of someone else caught in the moment. Somewhere, hidden in the very back of her mind was a small thought that she shouldn’t be like this, that she shouldn’t languish away over the loss of Zelgadis. That he wouldn’t want her to do this to herself. But, as mentioned before, it was a very small thought and it was buried under a great deal of other concerns.
One of those concerns was the fact that Amelia hated her.
She’d seen it when Xellos has showed her the time that had passed during her absence, and everything that had happened. She knew that Amelia hated her because she had hurt Zelgadis, hated her for what she’d inadvertently done to her sister… hated her for abandoning them all and vanishing to the four winds of the world.
Worst of all, Lina hated herself for it.
She sat in the garden, quietly watching the waterfall, the unknowing and uncaring orange koi swimming smoothly under the lily-pads of the reflecting pool. Very slowly she became aware that she herself was being watched, and she looked over to see a person in the distance. He could stay there, for all she cared. Probably some guard that Amelia hired to keep me from killing myself. She’d rather keep me alive and prolong my suffering so that she can do away with me herself. Oh no, Amelia. I won’t let you win that one. I’ll give you the others, but I won’t ever give you the satisfaction of my blood.
She turned away from him, looking back to the water and the rippling caused by the falls. Maybe if she ignored him, he wouldn’t bother her, and she could pretend that he wasn’t there.
“Excuse me. You are… Lina Inverse?” The voice was quiet, familiar.
She turned at length, looking at him without any real interest until she saw how very close he looked to her fading memory of that man with the gold-trimmed hood who had looked like Zelgadis. As she stood, the first rush of emotions in a long time crashed over and through her, the blend of anger and sorrow threatening to burst the fragile hold she still claimed on sanity. “What do you want? You made it clear that you wanted nothing to do with me. So go away and leave me in peace,” She turned on her heel to stalk away, when a hand caught her arm.
“My lady, you do me discredit. I don’t think that I am who you think you address.” His hand fell away as he spoke, as if he had realized what he had done.
What? She turned, looking at him. Long violet hair was tied back at the nape of his neck, and eyes of the same shade of blue and shape as Zelgadis’ looked back with curiosity. She blinked, stunned out of the haze that had settled upon her. “Who… are you?”
He smiled faintly, far more easily than Zelgadis ever could have, she decided there on the spot. “My name is Jedah Graywords. I came for the funeral… I’m… well… I was Zelgadis’ little brother.”
Every thought in Lina’s head came to a screeching halt as the words ‘little brother’ came crashing unceremoniously into place. She stared at him. She stared at him some more. And just when he thought that she’d completely lost all hold on reality and was going to faint, she lifted a hand to her forehead and shook her head slowly. “Little… brother…?” Her hand slipped from her brow, down her cheek, cupping the side of her chin as she looked at him again.
He shook his head slowly. “Don’t ask. It’s a long story and not very relevant. Anyway, I came to ask you a question.” He paused, looking at her curiously. “Are you Lina Inverse?”
She nodded slowly, looking at him and seeing little differences now. The shape of his jaw wasn’t exactly like Zelgadis’… and Jedah’s ears were definitely round.
“I have something that I was to give you if I ever came across you. I don’t think this was how he imagined we would meet… and I’m pretty sure that he meant for you to find him after this was given. But his death… makes it all the more important now.” Jedah held out his hand, in which Lina could see a leather-wrapped object. He offered it to her quietly, himself unsure of the content.
Slowly, she unwrapped the object, gasping in abject shock when she saw clearly what it was. Is this…?
“Lady… Miss Inverse?” Jedah asked nervously, for she had gone as white as a sheet, and he feared that she would faint before him. He didn’t want to upset her… he remembered the warnings Zelgadis had given him three years ago…
“So you must be very polite to her, do you understand, Jedah?” his older brother handed over the small leather bundle.
“I think so… but if she’s so destructive… why do you like her?” Jedah asked guilelessly, blinking wide eyes at his brother, who wouldn’t remove his hood and cowl, no matter how hard he’d tried to talk Zelgadis out of his hot clothing.
“Maybe it’s because she is so destructive… will you please stop asking me all these questions, Jedah?” Zelgadis asked, exasperated. “You’ve done nothing but pester me incessantly since I got here.”
“I’m sorry… it’s just that a lot has happened for you since you left… I’m curious, and jealous. I mean, not everyone has fought Shabranigdo, Zanifaar, the Demon God Garv, Hellmaster Phibrizo, the Lord of Nightmares Herself… Dark Star of another of the Worlds…” Jedah counted on his fingers as he named those that Zelgadis had stood against with Lina. “I mean… I’d have given anything to be with you!”
“I’d rather have been somewhere else during all those times. Jedah, my life isn’t exciting. It’s dangerous. And all those times, Lina was the one who rose above the odds and beaten back that which wanted to destroy us,” Zelgadis said, shaking his head. Jedah’s going to have to meet her in order to understand…
And now he stood before her, and he did understand. There was something about her that he could sense, some intangible force that he knew could reach out and change reality. He knew that she was well-deserving of every respect he could offer her… and because Zelgadis had loved her… he would grant her the same respect that he would of the Lady Lord of Nightmares.
She shook her head silently, silencing her thoughts and closing her hand around the leather and its unknown contents and looked away, to the water again. Tears threatened her eyes, that now-familiar tightness forming in her throat. Looking up to the sky in an attempt to fight the tears and force her throat to relax, she gathered herself and spoke. “You should tell the others that you are here. Go inside and speak with the Princess Amelia.” Her voice was hollow, she knew that he could hear the tears that she fought back.
“If… if you insist, Miss Inverse…” He sounded perplexed. She honestly didn’t blame him. But she heard the footsteps as he walked away, and sighed softly. Oh… Zelgadis…
She closed her eyes and collected herself for the return walk to her rooms. She’d had enough of the garden today. She’d retire to her rooms until Sylphiel dragged her out of them. And she knew beyond shadow of a doubt that the cleric would.
He stood silently in the shadows of the garden, pale and shaken. If Jedah was here… there would be no hiding for much longer. The boy would sense him the instant he put half a mind to it. Damn! And he gave her the gift. I can’t fault him for it, I told him to do it…and he did it well… but… He paused as Lina came out onto the balcony where he’d watched her for the past several nights, and leaned on the railing, looking out over the garden and off over the water. Will she stay there all evening? No, she’s turning, someone’s calling her from inside. His hearing picked up the soft female voice, and he smiled faintly. It’s Sylphiel. Bless her… without her, I think Lina would simply fade away…
He watched her turn away from the balcony railing and move back into the room proper. But what would he do? He had to do something, anything other than stand here and watch her. Angst was one thing. Torture was another, and he wasn’t a Mazoku.
Tonight, he would leave. He had to. He couldn’t stay, not after Jedah’s arrival. He would say goodbye tonight, and go. I can’t stay. With all that’s happened… I’m not the same. She’s in love with someone who died… and I can’t bear to keep watching her. She’ll forget me. She’ll have to.
But would he forget her?
Lina picked at her food all through dinner. Sylphiel, sitting beside her, was constantly reminding her to eat. It worked every so often, for Lina would take a small bite and chew it slowly before swallowing only because it shushed Sylphiel for a few minutes. It was just that food wasn’t all that interesting to her right now.
Between Sylphiel’s admonishes to Lina, Jedah was talking animatedly about his strange claim to brotherhood with Zelgadis. As far as Lina could tell, Amelia was hanging on every word that Jedah uttered. It was distracting, even if sickening.
“Lina… you’re not eating,” Sylphiel said as softly as ever.
With a sigh, Lina stuck another forkful of steak into her mouth. The food wasn’t bad… she just didn’t have her old appetite anymore. She continued to listen to Jedah and Amelia, at length forgetting to eat.
“Lina…” Sylphiel began warningly.
Amelia looked up to Sylphiel. “Sylphiel… if Lina still isn’t feeling well enough to eat, why force her? Lina… you don’t have to stay if you don’t want to.”
The redheaded sorceress, unlike Sylphiel, knew better than to think Amelia was being nice. She knew the moment she left earshot, Amelia would be telling Jedah how awful she was for leaving Zelgadis like that. And Amelia would be right.
Without word, Lina rose from the table, walking silently out of the room. She could feel Jedah’s curiosity and Gourry’s worry, but they’d just have to deal with it. She wasn’t in the mood to be sociable, nor was she feeling particularly welcomed.
She opened the dining room door, and the guard outside offered her a friendly smile, but she simply ignored him and moved on up to her rooms. She just didn’t feel like making the effort to smile back.
Once in her rooms, with the door closed, she drew the leather bundle out and unwrapped it carefully, looking quietly at the glittering gem cupped in her hand. Oh, Zelgadis… Is this truly what I think it is? She didn’t cast a spell to identify it; she hadn’t used magic since the day of her return to Saillune. She hadn’t wanted to. Not since she found out about his death… no, her magic hadn’t left her. She had simply decided not to use it. So she would content herself in the thought of what the stone might have been, a way to find him, an invitation to come back to him…
She fastened the golden clasp around her neck, dropping the now-empty leather bundle carelessly on the bed and moving out onto the porch. It was quiet tonight, the moon hanging low in the trees like a lighting spell. It reminded her of any number of nights out on the road, travelling with her friends. She kept the stars for company now, they didn’t wish her ill, didn’t blame her for any of her transgressions… They did not annoy her, and they passed no judgement.
Bad enough she passed her own judgements on herself, she reflected as she curled up in the chair and looked out over the gardens. I need to pull myself together and get out of here. This isn’t like me. There’s just too much here that’s holding me down, keeping me broken like this. Amelia clearly isn’t my friend anymore… and as much as I can appreciate the fact that Sylphiel cares… she’s driving me crazier than I already am…
She must have drifted off to sleep while considering, for a tiny sound awoke with a sudden jolt. She was not alone on the porch. Two brilliant blue eyes were looking at her from a shadow, and she resisted the overwhelming urge to scream. What’s wrong with me? I never scream… After a moment, in which she fought with herself over how to react, she finally decided to resolve this without the palace aid, if she could, and allowed a tinge of annoyance to touch her voice. “Who are you?”
His head lifted somewhat, the fading moonlight catching his eyes and giving them an eerie light. The man from before, in town…those eyes aren’t Jedah’s.
She hissed, tightening her grip on the chair. “By what right have you to bother me? Go away and leave me be.”
His gaze focused at her neck, and she lifted a hand to touch the aquamarine at her throat. As her fingers closed about the stone, she felt a little steadier, but not much. What does he want from me? I let him go, left him alone… She couldn’t know of Sylphiel’s effect on him, and uncertain of his intent, she wavered for a moment, then rose from her chair to move towards the door into her room. It would be so easy to scream… “Fine. If you won’t go, I will. I haven’t started dealing with mystery men who threaten to fireball me, and I have no intention to begin tonight.”
As she turned away to leave, a hand fell heavily on her waist, the velvet of her skirt swishing around her legs as she was brought to a halt.
Angrily, she spun back, a white-hot fire catching light in her eyes. “Let go of me, this instant, or I’ll show you a fireball that you’ll live to regret! There’s only one man in this world who could ever have the remote permission to touch me like this, and you are not him!” She said as the bare beginnings of a fireball formed brightly in her hand, the brilliance playing off of her hair and eyes. I’m bluffing… aren’t I? I don’t want to cast this…
There. There she was, on the balcony, just as she had been before. But this time, she wasn’t alone. Who is with her? Xellos thought as he approached for his evening visit. He’d been watching her on the balcony for the past few nights, and it was time to see if he couldn’t pull Lina out of her depression and begin his chance with her. No… curse him! The Mazoku’s fist clenched, anger glinting darkly in his violet eyes. We are well-matched, Zelgadis. But I swear to you that I will win.
She was quickly becoming the living embodiment of her fireball. This man who looked so much like Zelgadis, who stared at her with such intensity… why was she having trouble releasing the fireball? Why, instead, did it feel like the flames were within her soul instead of in her hand?
“Let me go…” She said, trying to pull out of his single-handed grasp. Damn, he’s too strong. Like Zelgadis… I can’t get free.
She stopped struggling, snapping irritably as she broke her own train of thought forcefully. “Okay, big deal, so you know my name. Now let go of me.” A true fireball began to form in her hand this time, and she knew that she intended to cast it.
He reached up with his free hand, pulling down the gold-rimmed hood. “Lina… it’s… me,” he said in a very quiet voice. “Zelgadis.”
The fireball extinguished itself, she stared for a moment, and then she uncharacteristically fainted.