Pale September -- Fiona Apple

Don't you just wish I'd stop this? hehe. nevar! I will never stop writing!

Pale September, I wore the time like a dress that year
The autumn days swung soft around me, like cotton on my skin
But as the embers of the summer lost their breath and disappeared
My heart went cold and only hollow rhythms resounded from within
But then he rose, brilliant as the moon in full
And sank in the burrows of my keep

Amelia looked at her extended waistline in the mirror. She'd already told her father, she just hadn't told him who had done it to her. The princess hung her head, her eyes closed, one hand resting upon her stomach. She felt she should be mad at Zelgadis for leaving again, but he hadn't known. He probably didn't remember what he'd done. Or if he did, he was too embarrassed by it to return.

She shook her head, Amelia wasn't going to tell anyone who the father was. Once Zelgadis saw, she was sure that he'd beg to marry her. Amelia just hoped that he hadn't gone too far from Seyruun that he wouldn't hear about the contest for her hand in marriage.

And all my armor falling down, in a pile at my feet
And my winter giving way to warm, as I'm singing him to sleep

Four months had passed since the night of the ball. Amelia had taken to wearing dresses once again, this time ones with the skirts starting just under her breasts to hide her pregnancy. The day of the contest had finally arrived and Amelia was decked in a dark red dress that kept the warmth. Her hair was pulled up in red and white ribbons with her tiara placed in the front of the circled braid. In the crowd she saw Lina and Gourry who were snacking on the various foods being vended at the gathering.

Prince Phil paused, looking at his daughter. "Are you sure you'll marry whoever wins all the contests?" he asked and she nodded. He stood then, stepping forward on the platform himself and Amelia were sitting on. The king was busy with the usual affairs of the kingdom, though he had given his blessings to his son and granddaughter for the contest. "Ladies and gentlemen!" Prince Phil proclaimed. "I'm sure you all know the reason for this contest," he said loudly in the hush that had befallen the field outside Seyruun's capital. "My daughter, Princess Amelia, has agreed to marry whoever should win all the rounds of this contest."

The audience gave a cheer and clapped at that announcement, none truly knowing why the princess had suddenly decided to take a husband. The men were simply glad for a chance to show off and the women were glad to have an excuse to gather and watch the men make fools of themselves. In all the people were happy and that was part of what gave Prince Phil such a good reputation, despite what he looked like.

"Now we start the first contest! Melee Sword fighting! The rules are quite simple! Whoever has beans in the end wins!" Phil announced then sat down in his chair beside Amelia to munch on some of the strawberries she had in a bowl beside her. The contestants arranged themselves in a line to bow to the prince and princess. They all had small sacks of beans tied to their backs, chests, and thighs. The moment all your bags had been cut, you were out of the game. If you drew blood then you were out of the game. You could wear whatever armor you wished to. Amelia just hoped that one of the men was Zelgadis.

Her gaze flicked over the nobles and peasants who had gathered to try their luck, seeing quite a few were masked. This somewhat amused Amelia as she watched the men start their 'battle'.

Within a few moments, one man had managed to cut the sacks of three others. His sword was a blur of motion as he fended off another masked man attacked him. The women arranged on the sidelines gushed.

Another man with only the bag remaining on his chest rushed at the two, breaking into their duel. One of the masked man dressed completely in beige with a mask over the lower portion of his face and a his hair hidden by a length of the same colored cloth that cast a shadow over his features. He was tall and lithe.

The other masked man had just as much chance of being Zelgadis as the first. He was wearing deep blue with silver trim and his hands were covered by gloves. His face was concealed by a cloth mask that covered his entire head except for his eyes, which Amelia could not see from where she was.

She watched as the two remaining masked men worked together to slit the bags on the man who'd interrupted them. Amelia smiled slightly at Lina and Gourry who were cheering from the sidelines, the sorceress throwing popcorn into the air much to the annoyment of those around her except for Gourry.

Amelia's fingers clenched the arms of the chair as the man in blue snapped his sword out in a quick move, slitting the bag on the beige man's chest as well as making him drop his sword. The man in blue grabbed up his opponent's sword, coming at the man in beige with both, flipping the blades in quick circles, showing off. The princess watched as the beige man's bags were cut one by one as he was chased around the roped off area.

The man in beige got hold on someone else's sword and went back into the fight, fending off the man in blue deftly. Suddenly, in a fury of movement, the man in blue slit the thin cloth of the remaining bag on his opponent, the beans fell to the ground. The man in beige looked rather ticked off as the man in blue bowed deeply to Amelia and her father.

Amelia had the feeling that she may end up marrying someone other then Zelgadis and the thought scared her. She forced herself to relax, it wasn't good for the baby to get so tense. "Good sir, might I request your name?" she called out but the man lifted a finger and waggled it at her in a 'That is a secret' gesture. Amelia had the sudden horrible thought that the man was Xelloss in disguise, but she'd never known Xelloss could fight with a sword.

The man disappeared into the crowd without giving his name or taking off his mask. Probably to rest before the next contest. Amelia fretted. What if there was more then one man who could do the things Zelgadis could do? What if the man in beige had been Zelgadis?

"Hi Amelia! You look scared." Lina said, she'd somehow gotten up onto the platform with a bag of popcorn.

"Ah!" Amelia screamed then settled, a hand to her heart. "You scared me, Lina! Don't do that!"

Lina smirked, "What's got you so nervous?"

"You DO realize that I have to marry whoever wins all the contests, don't you!" Amelia about shouted at her friend.

Gourry grinned and was about to say something but Lina elbowed him and she said, "Don't worry about it, Amelia, I'm sure the contests will sort out the weak minded and you'll get the best."

Amelia looked carefully at Lina and Gourry, eyes narrowing slightly. "I think you're both nuts."

"Mind if we watch from up here?" Lina asked, flopping into Phil's chair. "Ou! Strawberries!" She helped herself to some.

"Actually, I do mind, Lina," Amelia said as she watched her strawberries disappear into Lina's Black Pit Stomach.

"Well fine! We'll just go get some of that ice cream." Lina said and got up, dragging Gourry away.

"Ice cream? It's the dead of winter," Amelia muttered to herself as she watched the swordsman's head bob though the crowd. She watched as they stopped to talk to the man in beige before moving off. "He WAS Zelgadis! Now I feel terrible!" Amelia kept herself from wailing by sheer willpower.

Phil reappeared at the platform and asked a servant for more strawberries then gained the attention of the people. "And now for the second contest! The Obstacle course! No spells are allowed to be used during this..." Amelia zoned out the rest of her father's words as she watched the men gather to test themselves against the winner from the last contest.

Amelia was sure that the day was going to be a long one.

The men who survived the Obstacle Course were rather tired out, except the winner, who seemed to not have even broken a sweat.

The next contest was to push a large boulder five yards. The winner of the last two contests put one hand on his hip and looked at his boulder a moment as he watched the other men trying to push theirs along. He shook his head and put his back against his boulder, rolling it along.

Amelia clutched the arms of her chair once again as it looked like it would be a tie between the man in beige and the man in blue, as it had almost been in the previous contest. Amelia felt sorry, for herself, Zelgadis, and whoever else was losing. She also felt like crying.

It took nearly ten minutes, but the man in blue was declared the winner of the contest with a close second the man in beige.

Finally, the day was waning and the last contest was with guns. The contestants were only the man in blue and the man in beige. Amelia knew that Zelgadis could sling a gun better then anyone else she'd ever seen, even if she hadn't seen that many people with guns. She'd been adamant on the contest, though, and her father had agreed.

The contest's rules were to hit all the targets on the boxes to make them open and collect the rings inside. Not very hard, but you had to do it before your opponent got there. There were two lanes, one man standing at the beginning of each.

Amelia watched with wide eyes, she'd been on an adrenaline high the whole day, her fingers clutched the arms of her chair once more as she watched the contest begin.

The man in blue started off by firing his first shot, hitting a target in dead center, he dashed toward the box, doing a roll once he got there and firing his second shot at the feet of the man in beige, making the man stumble. Blue grabbed up his next gun and the ring from the box and dashed toward his next target, shooting while in motion. Once again, his fourth shot was aimed at the feet of the man in beige.

In anger, the man in beige aimed at his rival, pulling the trigger. The man in blue pushed himself out of his crouch and ran for the next box, shooting at the man in beige once more before sweeping up his ring and next gun.

Amelia watched as they fired back and forth at each other, never hitting, but it was obvious that the man in blue would win once again. The man in blue rolled across the finish line seconds before the man in beige fell on it with a cough and gasp. The man in beige didn't move, catching his breath while the other man was already on his feet.

Suddenly, Lina bounced from the crowd and jumped on the man in blue's back. "I knew you could do it!" she said loudly, "but I think you gave Amelia a heart attack! You'd better go apologize to her before I kick your butt!"

"I will when you get off me, Lina," the man said, his face still covered by the mask. The sorceress slipped off her friend's back and he came to stand before the platform and gave a deep bow. "I hope you're still willing to marry me, Amelia."

Amelia recognized his voice, but she wanted to be sure, "I'll give my answer when you unmask yourself."

With a sigh, the man lifted from his bow and pulled his mask off. The light of the early evening sun glittered in the slit pupils of his eyes and on his wiry silver hair that he'd managed to pull back from his face, it was pressed down from being under the mask for so long.

Amelia drew herself up in her seat, "I should tell you no," she snapped at him, "But I can't because I said I'd marry the winner, it would be Unjust of me to break my word."

Zelgadis bowed deeply to her with a slight smile on his face.

He goes along just as a water lily
Gentle on the surface of his thoughts his body floats
Unweighed down by passion or intensity
Yet unaware of the depth upon which he coasts
And he finds a home in me
For what misfortune sows, he knows my touch will reap

Amelia was sitting in a chair in front of her fireplace, warming herself from being outside for so long. Her champion was sitting with a cup of coffee in the other chair nearby, his legs crossed loosely.

"Were you really that worried?" he asked after a long time of silence.

Amelia looked glanced at him then looked back at the fire, "Yes. I thought you were the man in beige."

Zelgadis bowed his head, "He did a good job. I think he deserves to get a reward of some sort for coming so close. If I hadn't shown up, he would have won."

The princess nodded, "I'll talk to daddy." Her hand came to rest on her own stomach.

Zelgadis was silent, staring at his cup, which he'd only sipped from once. "Was it a dream or did we...?" he asked finally.

Amelia looked over at him for a long moment, "Come here," she said finally and watched as he set his cup down and came to stand near her. She reached out, grabbing his hand and forcing him to kneel in front of her as she put his hand on her stomach.

Zelgadis lifted his other hand to trace the curve of her stomach with his fingers, his eyes shining. "I'm sorry," he said shortly after the silence was broken by a log settling in the fireplace. "I hadn't known. I'd thought it was a dream."

The princess shook her head as she touched his face, "Zelgadis, I love you still."

He pushed himself up and gently kissed her lips, "And I love you, Amelia, I'm just sorry it took so long for me to realize and accept."

Amelia smiled at him, "The wait was worth it, I think," she said in response.

And all my armor falling down, in a pile at my feet
And my winter giving way to warm, as I'm singing him to sleep
All my armor falling down, in a pile at my feet
And my winter giving way to warm, as I'm singing him to sleep

The End