Perchance to Dream
When Lina opened her eyes, she was lying comfortably in bed. The ceiling above her was the one she’d opened her eyes to see for the past six nights. Hadn’t she meant to leave last night? And something… someone had stopped her. But who…? She turned and saw Sylphiel standing there and sighed softly, wincing as the memory washed over her. It must have been a dream. She saw Sylphiel turn to her and offered the cleric a weak smile. “I’m sorry… did I oversleep for breakfast, Sylphiel? I had the strangest dream… I think… I think he came to tell me that it was time I stopped moping…” She knew now why she’d dreamed it. It really was time that she stopped feeling sorry for herself, stopped being stupid, and let him go. Her unhappiness could only make his spirit unhappy too.
Sylphiel gave her a strange look, then shook her head. “No, Lina… That’s not what…”
Lina’s eyes widened, and her breath caught in her throat. His voice. That was his voice…! She sat upright, looking to Sylphiel, who only offered a faint little smile.
The cleric moved aside, and Lina saw him standing there looking at her lying on the bed with such intensity that she felt that she couldn’t breathe under his gaze. She didn’t see anything but the fierce emotions in his eyes, the pain and longing. Sylphiel’s presence was quickly forgotten as Lina sat up and looked at him with tears in her own eyes. “Zel…” Her throat choked up, and Lina forced herself to take a deep breath and try again. “Zelgadis…?”
He moved forwards to the bed, not stopping until he had leaned down and gathered Lina completely into his arms, pulling the sorceress into an embrace that Lina found herself returning.
Blushing, caught by the intensity of the emotions in the room, Sylphiel stepped backwards, moving away only to be caught at the door by a surprised Gourry. In a hushed voice, the swordsman asked, “Is that…?”
“Yes, Gourry dear, it would seem that he is. But let’s let them talk…” Sylphiel said as she steered her husband out of the room and closed the door behind them.
As the door closed, Lina opened her eyes as she rested her head against his neck. Pink skin… soft hair... He was human… It struck her like a bolt. Zelgadis is… human! But… “Zel… how…?” She brought up her hand to feel the silkiness of his hair, to feel the warmth of skin. His scent had changed slightly, too. There was something different now, a scent of spiced earth. She took another breath, trying to prove to herself that she wasn’t dreaming.
His breath was warm against her cheek as he spoke. “It’s… something that even I don’t truly understand… but… it’s real. It’s as real as the…” He paused. “As real as the fact that I love you,” The words were quiet, emotions that she couldn’t see running deeply within his eyes.
She sighed softly, lowering her face into his shoulder, breathing in that tantalizingly new scent. “Zel… it’s just a spell. You can’t love me… you’ve never shown anything that would tell me that you did. There wasn’t anything there between us until after Rezo’s spell caught us both.”
He shook his head, and his hair tickled her cheek. “No, Lina. I simply never said anything. How could I, knowing what I am… what I looked like?”
She pulled herself away from him, resting her hands on his shoulders and looking at those aquamarine eyes, feeling herself falling into them. He’d always been easy to love… but now that she’d missed him for three years, and thought that she had lost him… he was even dearer to her now. “Zel… the only one who cared what you looked like was you.” She watched the blush creep across his cheeks. “And besides… Amelia thought you were pretty cute.”
“I know,” came his reply. “But she’s changed now. So have you, Lina. In fact…” Zelgadis’ reply was broken off by a loud and excited voice on the other side of the bedroom door.
“He’s in there? Let me through! Zelgadis!”
The ex-chimera in question sighed heavily, sitting up and allowing Lina to get a good look at him as he turned his head. “Yes, Jedah. I’m in here. You don’t have to shout…”
The door burst open, Sylphiel vainly trying to keep the exuberant young man in check. Unfortunately, her grasp slipped, and the sudden release of force caused Jedah to go flying gleefully towards Zelgadis.
When the dust cleared, Jedah was happily half on the bed, half on Zelgadis. Zelgadis had been shoved fully onto the bed by the sheer force of brotherly impact.
As for Lina, her hand could be seen sticking out from under both Zelgadis and Jedah. A moment passed, then her hand twitched, and from somewhere under Zelgadis, she started to rant. “Get off me! You’re heavy!”
Jedah peered at the hand while still perched on Zelgadis. “Oh no! Is that… Lina?”
Zelgadis smirked a bit as he started to work his way out from under the boy. “Yes. And I’d suggest that you move. Quickly.”
Neither Zelgadis nor Jedah managed to move fast enough. With a snarl, Lina stood up on the bed from underneath the both of them, sending the two males flying out towards the balcony. Eyes blazing, she growled. “I said get off!”
Zelgadis had his ray-wing spell. Jedah simply had Cepheid’s own luck, and came to a delicate halt on his feet just inside the balcony door.
Sylphiel stood at the door watching with her hands pressed to her mouth. Oh no…
“Well… it’s good to see that things are fairly back to normal,” Zelgadis said wryly from his floating position by the ceiling.
Lina, for her part, only shot Zelgadis a look.
A few hours later, everyone except Lina was collected in the dining room. Sylphiel had managed to get the over-excited Jedah to sit at the table and sidetracked the boy with food.
Zelgadis stood quietly by the door, caught in his old habit of brooding. His hood was up, those ice-blue eyes focused off somewhere on something that only he could see. Across the room, Amelia watched him quietly, her own gaze hardened over the years.
Lina finally walked into the room, the heavy skirts of her black gown trailing on the floor. Long tight sleeves ended at points on her wrists, and the bodice was dramatically laced and rather tight, a slender black ribbon at her throat offsetting the lack of ribbon at her forehead. A delicate gold chain vanished into the neckline of the dress, pendant unseen. Her hair still tumbled loosely about her shoulders, and as Zelgadis turned, Jedah piped up rather loudly.
“Hey Zel, she almost looks as good as you do in black!”
Startled into embarrassment by Jedah’s impromptu compliment, Lina looked to Zelgadis… and found with hidden delight, that he was blushing as well. She gave a half-laugh and as she shook her head, saw the unmitigated fury hidden in Amelia’s eyes. Her laugh broke, and Lina looked to Amelia quietly. Oh no… I’ve done it again… without even trying! How long have I upstaged her… it’s so clear that she hates me…Don’t the others see it? Lina opened her mouth to speak to the princess, but Amelia turned away, looking instead to a servant, giving orders without speaking.
With a sigh, the sorceress shook her head, smiling feebly to Zelgadis. “Well… he’s right. You do look pretty good in black, Zel.” The blush deepened on his cheeks, and she giggled in spite of the bad vibes emanating from Amelia.
“I’ve requested lunch. I hope everyone is hungry,” Amelia said icily, causing almost everyone in the room to stare at her. Only Jedah was unaffected by the tone of her voice, and he smiled brightly to the princess.
“That sounds great, Amelia! A lunch to celebrate the return of my brother! What a wonderful idea!”
Lina stared for a moment. What is it with this kid? Can’t he tell how angry Amelia is? Oh no… don’t tell me that he likes her!?!
Sylphiel broke the moment by laughing nervously. “Yes, what an excellent idea, Amelia.”
For a moment, Amelia didn’t look convinced. But it passed, and she smiled graciously. “Then we agree. Come, let us take our places at the table and they will serve us.”
While the table was being served, a violet-haired figure waited for the cover of night to come. Damn you, Zelgadis. You will not win her. That which I want, I get. Isn’t that right… little Princess…? What you promised me…
Amelia shivered for a moment, then frowned to a nearby servant. “Go close the doors. There is a draft disturbing us.”
The servant scrambled off to do as she was bid, but before she could get to the door, she was interrupted by a boisterous voice that set every nerve Lina had in her body on edge. “Is it lunchtime? I swear… time flies by so fast…”
The woman in the doorway wore practically nothing. The leather bikini left very little to the imagination, and the tiny little skull that she wore began to bounce as an ear-splitting laugh began to bubble out of the well-endowed chest.
Instantly, Lina was cringing, curled up in her chair, whimpering. “Somebody shut her up…”
Zelgadis looked from Lina over to this scantily-clad woman and immediately made the wrong association. Is that her sister…?
When no-one moved, Lina decided that she’d have to take things into her own hands. Picking up a dinner roll, she threw it at the woman in the doorway, who immediately stopped laughing and caught the roll in one hand, and then took a bite out of it. Around a mouthful of bread, she grinned. “Your aim is off, Lina. You’re out of practice.”
Lina’s face reddened. “What the Hell are you talking about my aim, Naga? Your laugh hasn’t gotten any better… and I thought you were dead!” In a flash, the petite sorceress was at Naga’s side, pummeling her fist into her startled sometimes-adversary.
As everyone sat watching this bizarre exchange, Amelia slowly stood and placed both hands flat on the table. “Lina… will you please get off of my sister?” She said in a tightly controlled voice.
Everyone who did not know this fact (including Zelgadis, Jedah and Sylphiel) turned to stare disbelievingly at Amelia. Gourry only nodded sagely. “The resemblance is striking, isn’t it?”
Lina let go of Naga to round on Gourry. “How did you figure it out??”
Gourry held up a finger. “Easy. When she started to laugh and you cringed in your seat, I knew that it had to be either your sister Luna, or the woman that you traveled with before you met me. Because she had a bigger chest, I was pretty sure that she wasn’t Luna. So that meant that she was Naga… and I knew that Naga was the middle name of the elder Princess of Saillune.”
This time it was Gourry’s turn to be pummeled by Lina. “What are you saying about my chest?!”
Naga walked up to the table and draped herself in a chair. “How long has it been, Amelia?” She looked to a servant, who immediately ran off to fetch the elder princess copious amounts of food.
Amelia sat quietly, looking across to her sister. “It’s been about a month. Father and I weren’t expecting you to come back to us so quickly…”
Naga waved it off as Lina returned to her seat, muttering under her breath. “The clerics were all very kind, and thought that I could do the last of my convalescing here at home.”
“Can you…” Amelia began.
“No,” came Naga’s reply, almost immediately.
Lina looked up, gaze traveling from younger sister to older sister. “Eh… let her stay, Amelia. She may be a pain, but she’s your family.” There’s something I’m missing here…
Naga started the ear-splitting laugh. “For once, Lina, I’ll let your insults slide.”
The rest of lunch was just as interesting.
Amelia retired to her chambers early, unable to put up with everything that had happened in the past twenty-four hours. She passed it off as being tired, and as she closed the door to her private rooms, she closed her eyes and leaned on the door. Damnit! She ranted to herself. I was so close… she’s becoming herself again, and there’s nothing I can do to stop it! Why did he come back? I knew Zelgadis wasn’t dead… but why didn’t he just go? I am never going to be free of this!
A hand caressed her cheek, and her blue eyes snapped open. “Xellos…” She said quietly, knowing that he savored the disgust she felt at his touch.
He smiled darkly, resting his hand on her shoulder with surprising force. “What’s going on, Amelia? We had an… arrangement, you and I. You said that you could handle it. And now Zelgadis is back. This puts a… cramp in my plans, I’m sure you realize…”
Amelia gritted her teeth, trying not to wince at the pain in her shoulder from his grip. “I’m doing what I can, Xellos. If you want Lina so badly, why don’t you just take her away yourself?” She tore herself free, moving swiftly across the room. This was his little game with her, to scare her and try to force her to darken enough so that he could corrupt her. Well, no way, Xellos. I’m not the foolish young girl that I was three years ago when we made that deal. I’ll find a way to defeat you… with or without Lina Inverse.
“You know my reasons, Amelia. We made a deal. I expect the princess of Saillune to keep her end of the bargain. After all… no-one would want to know that the youngest princess of Saillune was a…”
She spun around, angry heat flashing into her eyes. “What? That you lay in my bed at night and I am forced to endure it? Get out of here, Xellos. It’s not time for you to be here yet.” She sat on the bed, fighting the tears that she knew would fall.
With a sarcastic laugh, Xellos faded from the room.
Outside the door, the listener frowned. The entire exchange had been overheard, and soon something would have to be done. But not yet… a trap would have to be set… The eavesdropper turned and moved silently out of the rooms in search of the one person capable of setting a trap for the Trickster Priest: Lina Inverse.