|In My Name
Author: Rayless Night PM
postgame AU. Even when you have no name, no past, no home and no memory, there's still plenty you can lose.Rated: Fiction T - English - Chapters: 26 - Words: 58,421 - Reviews: 54 - Favs: 5 - Follows: 2 - Updated: 11-01-06 - Published: 05-13-06 - Status: Complete - id: 2937660
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Author's Important Note: Thanks first of all for reading my Alternate Universe story. I don't normally write them, but the plot for this one fell on me like a shelf of books and damaged my brain permanently. Three things to mention:
1. It says that the genre is General. That means it's basically about everything.
2. This story is a stand-alone from my Salome-centered story Wishes. It makes a few references to things that happen in Wishes, but they're minor, so you can read this one alone and still understand what's going on.
3. Finally: In what way is this AU? Simply this: I changed the very end. Everything that happens before Makai Kingdom's ending credits is exactly the same. Exactly. To put it in other terms, everything that happens in Wishes before chapter ten is exactly the same. The Sacred Tome, Salome dying, Zetta being changed back and writing in the Sacred Tome -none of that has changed. I promise. It's just the stuff after the credits that I've messed with.
And how I have messed with it...
Disclaimer: Makai Kingdom is the property of Nippon Ichi Software. Rating is for language, violence, and sexual themes, including discussion of rape.
In My Name
They had to rush back home to outrun the sandlions. They hadn't even been very far out, just letting the goats graze in the furthest pasture, right on the edge where the scraggling farmland surrendered to the Bet ilKarkadaam desert. That was because Kesh wanted to get her alone, before she had to go for good.
But she hadn't been at all interested in keeping in touch, or touching at all (which was just as well, Kesh tried to remind himself). And then they'd seen -much closer than was comfortable- three huge desert cats creeping along the rocks towards the herd. The mean things liked human flesh as much as anything else, and there had been a mad scramble to collect all the goats, even the stubborn little blue and black kid, and run for the village, which was a good mile away. The sandlions followed at an easy trot, thinking they had the time to play. Besides, they knew they'd need plenty of strength to bring a human down. Kesh blew on his horn as they ran for their lives, and they got back in time to see the village men rushing out with rifles. The sandlions skidded to such fast stops, they almost sat down. Then they jumped over each other in their haste to get away. She had said she remembered living in a desert before, but not near such aggressive predators. Kesh admitted that he thought it was the village's fault, herding up the sandlions' primary prey.
Still, Kesh was confident enough to lead them through the town at a walk, the goats bumbling on ahead, eager for the water trough. Kesh turned to her. "We made it just in time, heh?"
She nodded, catching her breath. Kesh studied her admiringly. She couldn't have been down south in the deserts long, not with such milky white skin. He'd never seen anything like it before, translucent as ivory and soft as...as... well, he hadn't exactly gotten a chance to touch it yet. Wouldn't ever get to, the way things were going.
No, she definitely came from the north. She looked like a lot of the northerners he'd seen, her with the pale skin and pale yellow hair. Her hair had been short at first, but now it was halfway to her shoulders, straight and thick, just a bit longer in the front. Her eyes were green with a clear, water-like quality. Kesh smiled. You only ever found those eyes in the south. He could definitely believe that she, and one of her parents, had been raised in a desert. She was tall -northern. She was graceful -southern. All of these things, he'd had to tell her. Because she just hadn't known herself.
"Hey, Kesh! Zetta!"
They both turned. Rejuul, Kesh's best friend, came jogging up, his dark skin burnished with sweat. "Zetta," he huffed as he came to a stop, "is it true? Is old Antiha kicking you out tomorrow?"
Zetta frowned wryly. "I'm afraid so."
Rejuul gave her a friendly smirk. "Aw, too bad. But still, you've been here a month. It's about time you headed back."
Zetta compressed her lips and crossed her arms. "You still don't believe me?"
Rejuul and Kesh shot each other looks then, in unison, gave Zetta their gooiest indulgent smiles.
Zetta's hand twitched to hit them both. "Why would I lie to you? I'm not from the city. I don't know anyone. I have amnesia."
No, somehow their smiles went even gooier.
Zetta sighed and rubbed her forehead. "Whenever anyone else says I have amnesia, it sounds so tragic. But when I say it, it just sounds pathetic."
"C'mon, Zetta. Square up," Kesh said, falling inadvertently into northern slang. "You can't possibly have amnesia. I mean, you showed up in that outfit. You'd have to remember putting that thing on."
"I wish I'd seen that outfit," Rejuul commented, for the fourteenth time, his eyes getting that faraway look.
Kesh went on. "You're obviously an actress. And you've been having fun driving my ma mad for the last month. But now you can tell us what it's all about."
Zetta closed her eyes in a desperate bid for patience. It was like there was a storm cloud where her brain should be, sending out jabbing bolts of lightning.
Lightning. It hadn't once stormed while she'd been here. I know what lightning is. I've been in a climate where I've seen it before. She breathed hard. What does that tell me about me? I think... Zetta held her breath for a moment, listening to her nerves. Her body remembered something, but what? Had she been struck by lightning before? Smelling the blast of thunder and ozone? Or was it just another guess?
Zetta sighed sharply and opened her eyes. "If I ever find out what it's about, I'll tell you. And I'll wear the outfit." She turned and stalked through the goats, back to the house.
Kesh and Rejuul watched her go. "Gorgeous," Rejuul said, for the fifty-first time.
"She's on the run from someone," Kesh said, for the eleventh time.
"We'll save her."
"Yeah, Rej. Right."
Zetta stepped inside the house, her eyes adjusting to the dimness. Antiha was nowhere to be found. The house only had four rooms, two bedrooms, a store room and the large common room where the Surji family ate and entertained. Zetta guessed the Surji matriarch was down at the river mouth, getting water.
Zetta thought two things: I remember indoor plumbing. I miss indoor plumbing. And then she stood in the doorway, thinking about the river mouth. She closed her eyes, trying to listen to her nerves again. But they didn't seem to remember being carried up the river.
The river flowed inland. I came from the sea, Zetta thought, though she'd thought that many times before. It didn't give her any clues this time either.
People had joked, she's a nereid, a sea-goddess, come to find a human mate. She'll get a baby and carry it back into the water, give it sea plants to eat that will grow it fins, make it ruler of the blue deep.
Zetta sighed. If any of that were true, she didn't remember.
"Hey, move it," said Antiha. Jumping, Zetta moved it and stood aside as Antiha strode in, flicked on the front light and slid her two two-gallon buckets to the floor. "Kesh back with the goats?"
Zetta glanced out the window. "He's penning them."
Antiha flashed her a hard glance. "And you've told him you're leaving tomorrow?"
"Well, he knows it, of course." Another lightning burst of anger shot through her. "I don't want to steal your son."
"True enough," Antiha replied, getting a ladle. "But he'd like to steal you."
"High and mighty. At least we all know that about you."
Zetta smiled bleakly. At least she knew that being high and mighty came very naturally to her. "Antiha," she said after a moment, "I know I've thanked you before-"
"But you don't really like me," Antiha rode over her. "And you feel guilty about it. So you act like thanking me over and over again will be like paying me extra."
"You're so perceptive," Zetta said sweetly.
"You can gut those deylas."
Zetta walked over to the basket of firm, deep red fruit, collected a spoon and commenced digging out the dark flesh. She put the black seeds in a special jar Antiha kept for them.
"Still," Zetta said, knowing how grim things could get when Antiha was just staring silently at her, "I have to thank you again. The first time I thanked you, I didn't realize how much you hated me."
"Hmph. I didn't hate you when I found you."
"But you've let me stay here a month."
"And a pretty vacation I'm sure it's been."
Zetta looked up from her half-carved deyla. "You don't believe me either? You think I'm an actress?"
Antiha didn't answer.
"What sort of actress," Zetta demanded, "lets herself get shipwrecked, hit on the head, washed up-"
Antiha gave her a long, steady glare. Her eyes were green, like Zetta's. "I don't know what happened to you. And you say you don't know either." She went back to crushing some sort of cactus into a green powder. "I just found you at the river mouth, unconscious, in some sort of harlot's outfit with a knife. Blood dripping all over you. Honestly, I don't want to know about you. And if you really do have amnesia, you should be thankful. I wish we lived closer to the city. The police and the hospitals could've dealt with you, but no."
Zetta went back to carving, trying not to let any of the other woman's words hurt. "And you called me Zetta," she said, concluding that chapter of the story.
"You called yourself Zetta," Antiha insisted. "We asked you for your name and all you kept saying was 'Zetta'."
Zetta couldn't help herself from looking up again. "I wasn't even half-conscious at the time. That's what Kesh says."
"I could've been calling someone else's name."
"If you say so."
With a tired sigh, Zetta went back to carving. "I've... just never felt that Zetta was really my name, that's all."
"It's probably your stage name."
Zetta gritted her teeth, anger building in her. But maybe Antiha was right. Maybe she was a stage harlot. She could be anything, anyone.
So who was she right now?
After she was done with the deylas, Zetta rose and retreated to the storeroom, where she'd been sleeping for the last four and a half weeks. She sat down on her cot. Aside from the gift of health, food and shelter, the Surjis had given her three things. First was the long gray dishdasha she wore, a shapeless, sexless garment that Kesh had outgrown and that was common everywhere south of the Azthayo City metropolitan area. Second was the cot, though Antiha had stressed that Zetta couldn't keep it. Third was a limp leather sack. Zetta opened it. In it were the articles she'd been found with. A lump of emotion in her throat, Zetta stripped and redressed herself in the bag's contents, willing her mind, willing her body to remember. Mind, one day, four and a half weeks ago, you decided you would wear this outfit. Why? Body, you remember this fabric. What were you doing when you were wearing it?
There was no mirror. Zetta looked down at herself, examining herself from all angles, trying to get a complete picture of what she looked like. The "harlot's outfit" didn't offend her, though she recognized that no one else in the village dressed this way. She ran her hands along the form-fitting black body suit, running up from her toes to her chest. It was split in the front, clear past her navel, leaving both breasts mostly bare. Over this was a long white skirt, slit to both hips, its hem trailing several inches across the floor. There was a broad, cloth-of-gold belt around her hips. There were two black bell sleeves that hugged her upper arms, ending in wide cloth-of-gold cuffs. There was a pair of leather high-heeled sandals. There were earrings, four slim identical bars of gold. Zetta fingered her ears, feeling the two holes close together on each lobe. And then... Zetta frowned as she extracted last few items from the bag. Some of these she just didn't understand at all. There was an impossible loopy gold contraption... after a lot of thought, Zetta realized that she was supposed to put her arms through each large hoop. The hoops were attached to gold cups that fitted over her breasts. And then there were the two black things. One black thing looked like the back of a chair, arched with a series of vertical rungs. There weren't any clasps, and Zetta couldn't see how to attach it to herself. Or where. The other black thing was a large flat slab of something curved into a crescent. It was more than a yard from tip to tip. Again, no clasps. Zetta put both black things on the bed.
She ran her hands over the long, silky white skirt. It was an expensive harlot's outfit, that much was obvious. Probably Antiha was going to ask to keep it, so she could sell it. That definitely wouldn't happen.
It had been covered in bloodstains. Antiha had labored with salt to bring the stains out (better price that way), and Zetta couldn't see any traces. My blood? she asked her body. Do you remember if it was my blood? Tell me what happened!
I was somebody! Tell me what happened!
Stomach tight with frustration, Zetta bent and withdrew the last object from the sack.
It was a knife.
This, Antiha had said, had not been bloody.
Zetta stared at the knife, slowly soothed by holding it. She recognized this, even if she didn't remember it. The long, straight blade, the bone hilt, the gold ankh set into the pommel. Unlike the name Zetta, she knew this knife had belonged to her. Holding it, her palm recalled its contours, her body remembered how to stand, how to parry, to thrust.
When you stabbed someone in the heart, the knife blade scraped past the breastbone, so hard, so grating you felt it through your own bones. And then it entered the heart, which would still be beating. The knife jerked with each desperate pulse. And then the enemy spat his blood into your eyes, warm and-
Zetta remembered to breathe. Is this me? Is this my memory? Was I a killer?
She felt frightened, not appalled. She was a killer. Her mind accepted it. She was a killer. Her body remembered how to kill.
Zetta bit her lip. Well and good. Now if she could only remember her name.