Title: Glass (1/??)
Disclaimers: The Lady Rosanna, Deneb, Warren, and all other unit leaders belong to Quest, Enix, Imagineer, Nintendo, and all others involved in the production of the SNES game Ogre Battle. Feedback: Considering this is a new area for me, and I'm not sure if an audience exists, it would be greatly desired and usually responded to.
Spoilers: Takes place at the end of the Deneb's Garden stage of Ogre Battle, usually Stage 6, "Glass Pumpkin"
Distribution: If you want it, just ask.
Summary: Doing the right thing by not killing a defenseless woman. Getting the Glass Pumpkin. Good reasons to spare the Witch Deneb's life. What if they're not the real ones?
"I didn't mean to hurt anyone! Please forgive me!"
Warren observed to the side with satisfaction as the leader of their army, prophesized hero (or rather, heroine), stood before the forlorn witch, her sword in one hand.
If there was any doubt that the Lady Rosanna had come into her own as a leader and warrior, this occasion had banished such doubts. She'd led her team against the monstrosities created, through black magic foreign to even the aged wizard, by the witch Deneb. Rosanna had used her ability to generate enveloping clouds of freezing ice around her enemies, freezing the pumpkin-men into grotesque statues which her knights then hacked into pieces.
She hadn't even used the Tarot cards she'd been hoarding. There were some who'd whispered Rosanna couldn't win without her powerful magic deck. Those whispers could also be silenced now.
As for Deneb, she was a sad spectacle compared to the vision she'd been when the battle began. Even to Warren's eyes she'd been a great beauty, clad in a bright pink dress that left her shoulders bare and an oversized hat that was as much for affectation as for announcing her profession. Deneb knew she was beautiful too. She obviously thought herself more beautiful than the Lady Rosanna based on flippant remarks she'd made. Perhaps she was even right.
But you didn't win battles by being beautiful. You won by being strong, bright, and quick.
Now Deneb trembled as she knelt on the garden soil, surrounded by frozen shards of broken gourds. Her clothes hung in tatters, her hat about to fall off. She was seriously injured from the battle, but not so weak that she couldn't make one last plea for her life.
Rosanna was no longer untested, however. She'd fought her way through the Pogrom Forest and seen the horrors behind Sirius' lair. She had the will to take a life when needed, when it would thoroughly unite the people from the local towns behind the Liberation. They hated her for her misdeeds, and would rejoice at this act of vengeance.
"I'll be good!" Deneb pleaded, as if she were a child. For all her power, she'd struck Warren as not the most mature person he'd met. "I'll give you whatever you want!"
It was a good thing Rosanna wasn't a man. Otherwise Deneb's beauty and her vulnerability might prove hard to deny. Sparing a hated public figure because you wanted to get her into bed wasn't exactly the way to the commoners' hearts.
Rosanna looked down at her. "Forgiveness?" she asked. "I can't forgive you. Only the people you governed can do that. And I don't think they wish to."
Deneb's head dropped.
"Stand up," the Lady said after a moment's hesitation.
The witch struggled onto her feet. Most of what still clung to her body gave up the fight, leaving her nearly completely naked. Deneb squawked, cheeks burning brighter than before as she grabbed her hat and covered her chest with it.
A smile twitched at Rosanna's lips. "Are you all right, Lans?"
The knight had been behind Deneb, and had received an unobstructed view of Deneb's backside and derriere. He was studiously inspecting the ceiling now. He coughed. "Er, yes, milady, I'm f-fine."
Deneb had flaunted her body before. She didn't seem too proud now.
Rosanna's sword tip brushed the air by Deneb's throat. Then she sighed. "Someone find Yulia."
"She's coming with Canopus now, milady," Eliza spoke up from behind.
Turning, Rosanna's eyes followed where the valkyrie unit leader was pointing. She spotted the eaglemen (and woman) high above. "When she arrives," the Lady said, "you and she will take Deneb to her chambers. Find her something - decent to wear. Lans, go with them. You can wait outside the door in case the witch tries something."
Deneb was far from the only person who was surprised, but she was the only one who spoke up. "You're - not going to kill me?"
Rosanna slid her sword halfway into its scabbard. "Not unless you make trouble," she replied. She drew the sword out so that only a few inches remained sheathed. "Then I'll turn you over to the magistrate in Baljib, and they can decide what to do with you."
Deneb paled, but she ducked her head. "Thank you," she whispered.
"My Lady?" Yulia asked as she landed, shaking her eagle's wings.
"Take her," Rosanna said, gesturing indifferently to the witch. "Eliza and Lans will accompany you. They know what to do. And get one of the clerics to look at her."
"Of course," Canopus' sister replied. She looked distastefully at Deneb, who looked eager to get out of sight.
When they were gone, the Lady Rosanna turned around to receive Canopus. "Report?"
"The last of these pumpkin creatures are gone. There may be scattered ones in the mountains. We'll find them sooner or later. We also recovered a good sum of Goth from Deneb's study. These governors get richer every time," he said, smiling.
"What about these books we've heard about?" Rosanna asked. "The ones Deneb got from Rashidi?"
Canopus frowned. "We found some. We didn't touch them. They looked tainted. We don't know how many there are altogether, there could be more hidden somewhere."
"I'm sure Warren can handle it. Can't you?" Rosanna said, looking for the first time at the wizard who had contributed much of their original forces.
"It will be my pleasure," he said.
Rosanna chuckled. "Then I guess the army can stand down for now. We'll spend our latest windfall on them later. Get them healed up."
"As you command. What shall I tell them about the witch?"
"Tell them - that she has been dealt with. No use letting rumors spread to the townspeople."
The eagleman bowed his head and departed.
"You'll help me search the castle for Tarot cards?" Rosanna asked calmly when they were alone. "Deneb's too weak to invoke them, but she's a witch. You witches and wizards love stockpiling magic, don't you?"
"Do you think it was wise to spare her life, Lady Rosanna?" Warren answered with another question. Few used her name. "The people won't like it."
"When I conquer Zenobia, they won't care," Rosanna replied.
Warren nodded. "Yes, a few more victories should ease any bad blood, but why make trouble to begin with? Gain their undying trust now, I say!"
"Undying? There's an ironic choice of words. Would you have me murder a defenseless woman?"
"She wasn't defenseless when she fought you."
"She was no longer a threat when she pleaded for mercy," Rosanna said. "If she knew any offensive magic, she would have used it against me. All she has is that stunning spell, which didn't strike me as very effective."
"That may be, but she's no innocent, Lady Rosanna. She's committed crimes against the people here, taken men and twisted them into things you were forced to kill."
"Yes, and I won't be forced to kill yet another!" Rosanna retorted. "So my reputation takes a hit? Fine. Better my reputation than my soul, Warren. I was merciful just now, and I feel better for it."
"And what will you do with her?" he asked quietly. "Leave her in charge when you go?"
Rosanna snorted. "Having a sense of decency isn't the same as being stupid, Warren. You and I will discuss this again tomorrow. In fact," she added, "send a messenger to Patricia. Tell her I'd like her opposing viewpoint. I'm sure she would approve of my decision."
"I'm sure she would," Warren agreed. He glowered, thinking of the seafaring cleric. "May I retire to her study then?"
"Yes, please," Rosanna told him. "I will see to camp and spoils, and then I will check on my 'guest'."
Warren sighed and left the garden, heading for the castle. Four heads rose up from the earth as he approached.
"Yes, boys," Warren murmured to his faithful twin hellhounds. "We're finished here."
The great canines softly stood up and padded after him.
Rosanna paused when she and Alison arrived at what the cleric had told her was Deneb's chambers. Lans was not standing outside, as she had commanded. She drew her sword out slightly and gestured Alison back. It had been a long day seeing to a hundred minor matters, and she was not in the mood to discover that Deneb had abused her mercy.
The leader of the Liberation Army chastised herself for her words. Was mercy her only motivation in saving Deneb? Not if she was honest with herself.
She approached the door and yanked it open.
Deneb was sitting inside. Yulia and Elisa calmly watched her from more comfortable positions, as the witch sat mutely on a plain wooden stool, her hands tied behind her back. Her face bore signs of a cleric's healing, and her body was now hidden from view by coarse brown servant's garb that must have made her skin itch.
"Where is Lans?" Rosanna asked.
Yulia tossed Rosanna something that she caught in midair. Inspecting it, the Lady noted it was Deneb's wand. "I told him to see to his men. Without her hands or her rod, Deneb is powerless."
"I said to put on something decent, not a nun's habit," Rosanna reminded Yulia with a smile.
Yulia laughed. "It seems her entire wardrobe is composed of frilly things like that dress she was wearing earlier. None of it struck me as entirely decent. This was the best I cared to do on short notice."
Rosanna nodded. "Has she behaved?"
"She's smart enough to have, yes," Eliza said, pointing her footman's lance in Deneb's direction. The witch glared at her but said nothing.
"Very well. Leave us now. You have better things to do than baby-sit."
"Alone?" Yulia asked.
"I think I can defeat her again if needs be," Rosanna said, and Deneb winced at the recollection.
"As you wish, milady," Eliza said, jumping to her feet. She went out the door with Alison, while Yulia simply flew from Deneb's balcony.
"Sumptuous," Rosanna observed as she looked around at the furnishings in Deneb's rooms.
"I am not used to being treated this way," Deneb said angrily.
Rosanna held out a hand. "If you can't tame that tongue of yours, I may have to freeze your mouth shut."
Deneb looked at her anxiously. "You can do that?"
"I don't know," Rosanna said. "Let's experiment."
"No!" Deneb yelped, leaning backwards and almost falling over.
"I thought you liked experiments," the Lady said.
Deneb appeared to want to say something, but she seemed afraid at what Rosanna might do. "Why did you spare me then?" she asked.
Rosanna didn't answer at first as she sat down. "You said I wasn't bad looking earlier. How could I not repay such a magnanimous gesture?" she asked dryly.
The witch blinked. "Sure, make fun of the prisoner," she muttered.
"Would you take it back if you could?"
"If you'd known you would be at my mercy, would you still be so quick to proclaim yourself the superior beauty?" Rosanna asked lightly.
"Why not?" Deneb said, shrugging. "My winning and losing doesn't change the truth. I am the prettier one. Everybody knows it."
"And I'm a hag."
"Did I say that? You're pretty good-looking," Deneb told her. "You're just not me."
"Poor me," Rosanna murmured.
"Why did you really spare my life?"
Once again Deneb appeared to not know what Rosanna was talking about. "Who's she?"
"Me. You are my prisoner. I think I've earned the respect. Maybe if you remember to refer to me as 'my lady', you'll remember your place."
Deneb stiffened. "Very well - my lady. So why then?"
"Believe it or not, you're not the first enemy leader to make mistakes," Rosanna said. "Gilbert made mistakes, but he asked me for a second chance. You," she added, her voice growing cool, "have made bigger mistakes than he, however."
"Save your hypocrisy, my lady," Deneb said, sniffing.
"I have windows, you know. I can see your army below. Don't take me to task for MY mistakes when the walking dead fights for you. My lady."
Rosanna's cheeks reddened. "There are only a few poor souls who we found wandering alone. They will stay until my clerics are powerful enough to break the curse that keeps them here."
"But for now, you're willing to exploit them."
Rosanna sighed. "Yes. For now, I am. You and I both know that a lot of good people are fighting for the Empire. Am I to ask my noblest knights and samurai to kill good, decent people? I employ darker units to take care of them for me. That way, my people don't have to live with that kind of burden." She shrugged. "Only I do."
"And what? I'm your penance?"
"In a way, yes."
Deneb looked down. "I joined the Empire to stop the very experiments these people hate me for."
"My pumpkin men. Originally I created them by kidnapping human men as my test subjects. The research I've done in Rashidi's books, however - they've allowed me to make great strides in crafting magic that can transform the pumpkin itself into something greater." Deneb drew herself up. "In another few weeks, I think I'll be able to create all I wish without needing a single person."
Rosanna looked at Deneb and wondered whether to believe her. It did jibe with what some townspeople had told her - that Deneb had ceased taking men from the towns, and had begun raiding the harvests. And she found she wanted to believe it. The pumpkinmen were just dead fragments now, but their powers had been fearsome. She could foresee sending a unit of such creatures into battle. But not if it meant taking innocent lives to create it.
"I'll leave you," Rosanna said suddenly. "If your claims are true, I will expect your assistance in the fight ahead."
"Fight the Empire?!" Deneb squeaked.
Rosanna stared at her.
"Of course, my lady," Deneb said, wilting. Then she looked up again. "My hands?"
"Stand up," Rosanna said, tucking Deneb's wand behind her back. When Deneb complied, she drew her knife and cut the cords binding the witch's wrists. "Now sit down on the bed."
Deneb pouted at being ordered around, but she did so.
"Just so you know," Rosanna told her, "I agree."
She drew a deck of cards from her belt pouch and quickly shuffled through. Deneb saw this and stared greedily at the magic power contained in those cards.
"You are more beautiful than I," Rosanna admitted. "I chose not to destroy such beauty."
The Lady Rosanna then drew a Hierophant card from her deck. "Invoke," she whispered.
The magic blew across Deneb's face, and she fell back onto the bed, cast into a deep sleep.
Rosanna quickly left and headed downstairs. She encountered one of her valkyries there. "Who is your superior officer?" she asked.
"My Lady! That would be Jill."
"Fine. Locate her for me, and tell her I want two valkyries posted in the witch's quarters - one in her rooms, one outside them. When she wakes, I am to be notified."
"Of course, milady. Where shall I tell Jill she can find you?"
"In bed," Rosanna said, yawning. "I'm beat."
As she headed for the temporary quarters she'd located, Lady Rosanna thought of Deneb's bed. It had seemed quite soft. As the new mistress of Deneb's Garden, perhaps she should commandeer it for her own use during her stay.
Perhaps with Deneb in it.
Rosanna stopped and flushed, even though no one could have possibly heard the thought in her head. Even if the witch had said she'd do anything, the Lady would never abuse her power like that.
Guiltily she found her rooms and threw herself onto the bed, falling asleep almost instantly.
To be continued . . .
(Author's Note – the hero of Ogre Battle is known as a Lord, but the game allows you to select a man or a woman. Rosanna is my own name for her.)