Perchance to Dream
To say that Lina Inverse was pissed off was at the very least a gross understatement. Her loudly voiced epithet had shaken the entire palace of Saillune, and she had stormed out of Amelia’s rooms with her anger crackling tangibly around her. She stalked out into the main hall in search of a servant of the royal family, and once she had found one, issued a request that Amelia, Zelgadis, Gracia (she actually remembered to call her that this time), Sylphiel, and Gourry to be roused immediately and brought to the dining room. As an afterthought, she included Jedah, and impressed upon the servant the need for food to be waiting for them. The wide-eyed girl stammered an acknowledgement and hurried off to do as bid.
Lina moved on to her room, but didn’t bother to close the door… she wasn’t going to be in there for long. She moved over to her chair and looped her belt around her arm, tucking the sword under her arm. Then she walked to the bed and pulled a velvet bag out from under the pillow. Most everything collected, she only paused at the door to pull her cloak off of the hook and slinging it over her shoulder as she swept out of the room.
Sylphiel and Gourry were sitting in the dining room when Lina walked in and dumped everything that she was carrying on the end of the table. Gourry was happily munching on a plate of food, while Sylphiel poked thoughtfully at her own food. Jedah popped through another door, and cheerfully grabbed a plate of assorted tidbits and began to dig in, only pausing long enough to offer greetings and see who was here and who was not.
Lina looked around as she fastened her belt and settled the sword at her side. Zelgadis, Amelia and Naga were missing. “Where are they?” she asked in an annoyed tone of voice, not truly expecting an answer, but it had to be asked.
A nearby servant overheard her question, and hurried out of the room to go find them in all due haste.
The people in question were, at that very moment, moving through a small and obviously unused doorway into a lesser-known part of the palace.
It was the old wing, where the family had lived before the princess’ mother was assassinated, after which the newer halls had been built. The girls were understandably hesitant to enter the old halls, but Zelgadis had insisted . Part of the reason was that it was quieter not only physically, but spiritually. He needed quiet in order to test his theory with Naga’s magics, and old abandoned parts of palaces suited just fine.
Naga had actually changed clothes, exchanging the leather bikini for an off-white turtleneck and black pants. With her long hair pulled back into a ponytail, even Amelia had noted that Naga looked more… normal. The resemblance to Amelia was almost overpowering now. There was, however, one exception. Naga had insisted on keeping her necklace on and the tiny skull grinned in the shadows as they moved deeper into the unused palace wing.
After moving through a series of doors, Zelgadis at length held up his hand. “This will do.” A ball of light left his fingers to raise up towards the ceiling and illuminate the room.
Both girls looked around nervously, trying to identify the room. Naga recognized it first and sighed in relief. “It’s okay, Amelia. It’s just Daddy’s old study.” She moved over to the desk, looking for a lantern or a candle.
Amelia relaxed and looked over to her sister. “It’s been such a long time since I was in here… Daddy used to write up all of his important documents in here.”
Zelgadis watched the two for a moment. That’s more like the Amelia that I remember… Out loud, he said, “Now let’s see what we can do, Naga.”
The older princess turned to look at him for a moment, then nodded. “What do you want me to do?” she asked as she walked back over to Zelgadis and Amelia, the hunt for a lantern forgotten.
Zelgadis considered. “Start to cast something. I’ll have a nullify spell waiting, so don’t worry about any backlash.”
Naga looked as if she’d refuse for a moment, but nodded and took a deep breath as she closed her eyes. “Is there anything in particular that you want me to cast?”
“Not particularly, no. Just cast something simple, and relatively small. Amelia, I want you to back me up with a disenchant spell,” Zelgadis said as he put his hand out, a sphere of a spell beginning to form.
Amelia nodded and put her hands together, frowning in concentration as she began the disenchant spell.
Zelgadis’ voice was quiet in the room. “All right. Now, Naga.”
“Source of all power, light which burns beyond crimson, let thy power gather in my hand…” Naga began, the magic building around her.
Another magic flared, and suddenly Zelgadis reached out and grabbed Naga’s necklace, tearing the cord and pulling it away from her. “Amelia, the necklace!”
Amelia’s disenchant spell washed over Zelgadis and the broken necklace right as Naga’s fireball burst into her hand and fired off. Right at Zelgadis.
Of all the indignities that he had suffered in his life, this one had been rather mild.
That was, until Naga took it upon herself to put out what she saw as him on fire.
She shrieked, glomping him, the both of them tumbling to the ground as she hugged him tightly to put out the flames. “Master Zelgadis! You’re on fire!!”
It wasn’t truly the case, he was only slightly singed, and squashed under the taller woman. As Amelia peered at them, it was very clear that his face wasn’t where he wanted it to be. There was very little doubt in Amelia’s mind that the only heat that Naga was feeling was the heat of Zelgadis’ blush.
“Um… Gracia…? He’s not on fire… and… you’re squashing him,” Amelia began, and watched as her older sister let go and rolled off of the embarrassed Zelgadis. Naga stood up, looked over to him, saw the blush, and started to laugh.
“Oh-ho-ho-ho-ho-ho! The great Naga the White Serpent is back.”
Amelia shrank with a sigh. Her sister would never drop that, would she? But then… Amelia thought. I still run around with thoughts of love and justice in my heart… I guess it’s just her way of doing the same…
Ignoring both Naga’s laugh and his own blush, Zelgadis sat up and regarded the skull pendant still in his hand. “It would seem that someone placed a curse on this pendant, Naga.”
Amelia considered as Naga broke from her laughter to peer over at the tiny charm. “But who would do such a thing? To me? Who would dare?”
Amelia and Zelgadis both said it at the same time: “Xellos.”
Lina was losing what little of her temper that remained. The servants claimed that they’d searched the outlying areas and they hadn’t turned up the missing people. The redhead was about to take more drastic action when a door burst open and Zelgadis walked in, followed by Amelia and Naga… in normal clothing.
“Where have you been?” Lina began, but stopped when Zelgadis lobbed something to her, and she had to scramble to catch it. When she did so, and actually looked at it, she frowned. “What the…?”
“Naga’s necklace. A curse was cast on it,” Zelgadis said as he sat at the table across from her and picked up a cracker. “It cast the equivalent of a bram blazer after it absorbed whatever spell the wearer had cast.”
Amelia paused, allowing Naga to move past her and claim the biggest plate of food for herself. The younger princess looked to Lina for a moment, then turned away to move to a chair without saying a word.
Lina shook her head slowly, examining the skull on levels that only she could see.
Naga wasn’t dead. She only seemed that way for the fraction of a moment that he needed. He stood beside her, unseen by either Amelia or her armsmen. “Now, then… let’s keep you otherwise occupied, shall we? After all… it just wouldn’t do to have you getting in my way…”
The Trickster Priest kneeled beside Naga, a purple glow at the tip of one finger. Eyes glowing darkly, he touched the glow to the tiny skull, watching the curse meld into the trinket. “There… that should keep you as quiet as a cat…” He stood, looking around himself for a moment, then fading from sight.
Naga stirred slightly, and Amelia fell beside her sister, sobbing. Clerics rushed up to aid the, healing spells cascading over both princesses, the cursed necklace looking untouched and pristine…
Lina stumbled, the tiny skull slipping from her fingers and falling onto the table, awareness clattering back with the sounds of concern from her friends. She shook her head slowly, realizing what she had seen was Xellos placing curse in Naga’s necklace, and her eyes darkened. Her lips started to move, but no sounds came out.
Zelgadis leaned across the table to look at Lina. “Lina?”
Her voice started low, almost under her breath, and even Zelgadis had to strain to hear it at first. But as she went, she got louder. “Filthy, stinking rotten Mazoku. I knew that I should have killed him when I had the chance. I knew what he was capable of back then, even though I used it to our advantage whenever possible. I should have blasted his sorry ass back when he stole Galbeda from me.”
“He did help us destroy Dark Star…” Amelia said quietly, looking at the untouched plate of food in front of her.
Lina turned furiously on Amelia, crimson eyes blazing. “Just exactly whose side are you on, Amelia?! Because if you’re in love with him, or something like that, you’d damn well better tell me before I go find his miserable hide and make him pay for what he’s done!”
Amelia backed down immediately, turning a violent shade of red. “Eh… no… I… don’t love him…” Her eyes sparked, and she made a face, looking back up to Lina. “That’s disgusting, Lina! How can you say that to me? You’re so mean!”
Lina smirked. “Now that’s the Amelia that I know. I’m going to kick his ass for this. Are you going to help?”
Amelia tapped the tips of two fingers together. “You really haven’t changed… have you…?”
“Amelia… I….” She sighed. There wasn’t really a lot that she could say to Amelia in the presence of everyone else. There was a good deal of reckoning to be done between the two, but Lina knew that keeping Amelia safe so that they could come to a reckoning was far more important than actually having one any time soon.
“So you can use magic now, Gracia?” Sylphiel asked softly, looking to the elder princess curiously.
Naga nodded. “Thanks to Zelgadis and Amelia… but that was my favorite necklace! And that disgusting creature ruined it!”
“I said I’d take care of him, Naga…” Lina reached into the velvet bag and pulled out one of her dragonsblood talismans. As she studied it, Zelgadis’ quiet voice intruded on whatever thoughts she might be having.
“Are you going after him now? Without a plan and on what little energy reserves you have?”
She looked across the table to him, startlement taking the edge off of her anger.
“He’s right, Lina. Xellos would defeat you in half a moment the way you are right now,” Gourry added. “He’s a monster. And even though you’ve done some pretty incredible things… you’re just a human.”
Lina stared at the talisman in her hand again. “I just can’t stand by and watch him do this… I don’t care what he does to me. Just… just as long as he leaves my friends alone…” She swayed, suddenly realizing how tired she really was. She sat down carefully, tucking the talisman back into the bag and pulling a plate towards her.
She opened her eyes. She was lying down, and a strange weight was across her stomach. She turned her head and caught her breath in shock. Soft violet-blue hair spilled onto the pillow beside her, covering the face that she knew was beneath. His breath was slow and even, and she knew that he was sound asleep. She must have fallen asleep at the table. She’d never live that one down. Especially with Naga there to see it… but that didn’t explain his presence. In her bed. With her.
She briefly considered beating the hell out of him for it.
But she looked back over to him, seeing the fine indigo-violet lashes of his closed eyes, and sighed softly. He probably decided to stay there and make sure that Xellos didn’t try to run off with me… and it’s been such a long time since…
A brilliant blue eye was open.
He realized that his arm was draped across her stomach and blushed deeper, moving his arm away very carefully. “I… er… I didn’t mean to fall asleep…”
She thought for a moment, then picked a neutral reply. “Neither did I…”
He stayed there, looking at her, still blushing. She shook her head and looked to him. “Look, Zel… we’re both adults… I mean…” She took a deep breath. “What I’m saying is…”
“Shh,” He put his fingers to her lips.
She shook her head. “Zel… this is important…”
But he wasn’t looking at her. The balcony door to her room was open, and she could vaguely see a shape on the other side of the curtain. Before she could react, Zelgadis had thrown himself over her, taking an incoming attack on his shoulder, and firing back a flare arrow that sent the intruder flying off for cover.
It was mostly over before she knew it, and she was left staring up at the somewhat comforting weight of Zelgadis, who was still staring out off over the balcony. “That is what I’m doing in here…” He looked down and realized that they were in a most compromising position, and turned scarlet.
She wasn’t annoyed, though she would have been once upon a time. He hadn’t meant anything but to protect her from the intruder, and his lack of concern for himself had touched her. He’d only done something like that once before… though not with her. She’d all but written him off when he’d taken Garv’s blow for Amelia. But he was here… and so clearly hers… She was staring, and he was sitting on the side of the bed now.
“Zel…?” She asked hesitantly, reaching out to touch his fingers with hers.
“Go to sleep, Lina. You’re going to need your strength. I’m not going anywhere.” He reached out and caressed her hair, his fingers trailing lightly down her cheek.
When she woke again, some hours later, he was again in the bed with an arm tossed casually over her. She considered him sleepily for a moment, then curled in a little closer and went back to sleep.