Greetings, friends and erstwhile strangers!
Chapter 15 and no end in sight : D! I know I'm setting a length record for VG fiction, but I'm having a ton of fun and can't seem to stop myself T-T. Well, you see long fics in other fandoms : P so I won't fault VG just 'cause it's not Sailor Moon or RK. My only hope is that I don't loose readers because of the length...
Speaking of, thank you Phoenix To Flame and Aiko no Kaze! I'm glad you're liking the story : D
On with the story!
The woman rested her hand on her stomach, red nails standing out against the purple of her dress. She lowered her eyes apologetically.
"Sharlen…" she said gently. "My precious Sharlen… There is something… that I must do."
Her voice echoed against the darkness.
The throne room doors closed behind the three teens, like some kind of physical manifestation of their sealed fate. They stood in the middle of the hall accompanied only by the doormen and the guards.
Thisbe was staring at Duzell. Duzell was staring at Thisbe.
The seconds ticked by.
Phelios shifted uneasily, casting cautious glances at the mute palace servants. Just because they were dutifully silent in his presence didn't mean they'd be the same when with their peers… He placed a hand on each of the unblinking teens' arms, subtly prompting them to move. They got the hint and let Phelios guide them down the hall.
"Let's not do this out here," he suggested firmly, glancing around for a safe haven.
They passed one of the antechambers for the throne room. Perfect. No one was allowed in there without clearance. He smiled and nodded at the guard standing by the door and gently pushed the two teens inside. He quickly shut the door behind him, locking it, and then leaning tiredly back against its heavy oak surface.
Duzell and Thisbe were staring. Again.
"I don't know what you think you're going to gain," Duzell started, coldly. "You weren't able to force me into marriage and you've got no other legs to stand on. You should go home," he intoned, regarding her as one would a stubborn, disobedient child.
"I am here because I have nowhere else to go, my lord," she answered, matching his gaze without hesitation.
"You can go back to La Naan. You're family's there, isn't it?" he pointed out. Thisbe gave him a slow smile.
"No, my lord. You do not understand. I am only here because of you. I only came back for you. With you, I would have been content even in Hell," she uttered, voice firm, though the tremble in her hands belied her confidence.
Duzell floundered. He looked almost helpless under the weight of such overbearing devotion, like he couldn't even fathom what to do with her obsessive love. She might have only been alive for seventeen years, but her memories made her ancient. She seemed so far beyond him as he was now. How could she want a clueless fifteen-year-old human prince? One that was a descendent of her King's killer!
"I'm fifteen, Thisbe," he began, sounding half-defeated. "I'm human. I don't remember you. I'm a descendent of Phelios. I must be completely unlike the Duzell you fell in love with, and if I don't regain any memories, then I always will be. You can't love me because you don't even know who I am," he explained.
Thisbe was quiet for a few minutes, her face twisting into a frown. Yet, she kept her own council. Some indefinable emotion rippled across her features. It was gone in an instant. Her eyes hardened and, finally, she nodded once.
"I see," she said. She didn't even flinch. With that elusive reply she turned and fled the room. Phelios stepped aside and the door closed behind her. The prince didn't bother relocking it.
They stood in perplexed silence. Duzell looked disbelievingly to his brother.
"That's it?" he asked as if Phelios magically had all the answers. The fair prince cocked his head to the side.
"I don't really think so," Phelios admitted. "If I came back from the dead for somebody, I probably wouldn't give up at the first road bump." Duzell glared. He didn't much appreciate his current disdain for the girl being categorized as a 'road bump'. Phelios suddenly grinned, turning impish eyes on his twin. "I must say, though, that was a very well composed speech," Phelios praised. Duzell looked blankly at him. "I never knew you were such an eloquent speaker. So passionate, too," he teased.
Duzell scowled. "Shut up."
The next few days passed without event. The twins resumed lessons. Darres took a party of soldiers to subdue bandits that had sprung up along the southern part of the Main Road. Ishtar was busy. She was always busy. For one so seemingly immature she was very devoted to the demands of her station. Phelios mastered yet another Holy Magic spell. Duzell didn't.
Duzell and Thisbe acted like a couple going through a divorce. They avoided each other and when they did interact it was with coolness bordering on hostility. Phelios didn't understand it. True to his guess, Thisbe had stuck around. However, he'd expected her to attempt to at least seduce his brother, but she didn't appear to be putting any effort at all into impressing the second prince. Phelios briefly wondered if she'd given up on Duzie, but was simply to spiteful to admit defeat and return to La Naan.
The family and their guest took dinner together. Darres treated Thisbe like she was a dangerous criminal liable to attack at any given moment. Ishtar babbled on about any and every topic she could get her hands on. Her 'baby's' change in hair color seemed to have convinced her that he was ready to hear all about the tumultuous events of twenty years-ago. Duzell learned a great deal over these meals. He learned that his past life had started as a kyawl, that Lady Lailis was famous for her betrayal and subsequent execution, that Illsaide was half-monster and had been in love with Queen Falan, and any other fun facts his mother cared to divulge.
All this glib divulging succeeded in doing was traumatizing him. Former vampire King or not, a fifteen-year-old boy is a fifteen-year-old boy. Duzell subsequently spent a great deal of time hiding from anyone that might know him enough to converse.
Phelios took it all in stride. Probably because none of it directly involved him. He did his best to curb his mother's tell-all attitude at dinner and put a special effort into making sure his brother didn't have a complete meltdown. Which was all he could really do for his overwhelmed twin.
Then, one evening, to all but Darres surprise Ishtar announced that they'd be doing the Sidia test the next day.
She explained it with a, "Might as well get it over with." And that was that. She instantly resumed the prior thread of conversation as if she hadn't said anything at all.
Later that evening the twins sat in the private sitting room that adjoined Duzell's bedroom, spending the time before it got to dark to see together. Phelios was in the habit of dropping by his brother's rooms whenever they had down time. The elder prince wasn't particularly fond of being alone.
Phelios was relaxed across the sofa, sock-clad heels propped up on the cushions. Duzell had sunk into a chair next to the flickering fireplace.
"I wonder if she'll be able to draw it," Phelios mused, tilting his head back over the sofa arm.
Duzell winced. "Hope not," he responded.
Phelios rolled his head to the side so he could see his sibling. "I dunno. She had to get the Ci Xenith crest from somewhere. Plus, how likely is a man to remain abstinent for twenty years? Accidents happen," Phelios reasoned.
Duzell sighed, knowing the blond was annoyingly right. There really was a reasonable chance that Thisbe wasn't feeding them lies. If she'd been able to manipulate her way into being reincarnated, what was to stop her from controlling the circumstances of her birth, Duzell thought with a shudder.
"Besides," Phelios continued with a teasing grin, "if this doesn't work out you can always marry Princess Ranee," Phelios reminded him.
Duzell groaned, banging his head against the soft back of his chair. The thought of the six-year-old monkey disguised as a Princess was not very soothing. He believed his situation squarely fit in to the 'between a rock and a hard place' saying. Duzell raised his head, glaring challengingly at his brother.
"And who are you going to marry? We're rapidly running out of female relatives," he asserted.
Phelios smiled and shrugged. "Maybe Illsaide's got another bastard daughter somewhere. And we could always do what Mom did and just invent one," he replied.
"Okay. So, how about you marry Ranee and I'll invent a relative," Duzell smirked.
Phelios rolled his eyes in mock admonishment. "Ah, ah, ah…" he chided. "I'm not going to take over Ci Xenith. I don't need the political reinforcement of marrying someone from the Ci Xenith branch." Phelios was clearly enjoying this exchange.
Duzell sent him a particularly venomous glare. "When I poison you, I'll be crown prince and wont have to marry either of them," Duzell threatened.
Phelios laughed outright, having a good chuckle over his brother's menacing words. "As if! 'Cause then you'd actually have to inherit the throne," Phelios giggled. "You complain about being bored now? King is about one of the biggest desk jobs you can get and there's no retiring, either," he teased, knowing Duzell would rather eat glass than be made to suffer the stuffy intricacies of palace politics for the rest of his life. Duzell was both intelligent and ambitious, but he hated monotony. Being put in charge of Ci Xenith was going to be enough of a trial for younger prince.
Duzell, as well, couldn't keep the amused smile off his face. "Fine," Duzell sniped. "Then you can wait for Laphiji and Elenor to have a kid and marry someone sixteen years younger then you," Duzell said with saccharine sweetness.
Phelios gave a 'humph' and molded his angelic features into an innocent pout. "Mom married Dad," Phelios defied, knowing his brother's weakness for anything involving their mother. "They're twelve years."
Duzell got that unhappy look on his face that manifested whenever he was reminded that their mother was actually married to General Darres. "Yeah, 'cause she's got an Electra complex," he muttered, not even conscious of the irony of that statement, coming from him.
Phelios didn't contest this and indifferently rolled his head back on the arm of the sofa, looking up. "It's rather silly, anyway," the fair prince observed. "I mean, if I'm really Saint Phelios' reincarnation then why would we bother to keep marrying into the family? Wasn't the whole point of keeping the bloodline pure to facilitate Phelios' return?" the boy queried.
Duzell raised a white eyebrow at his brother's very relevant questions. "God, Phel! Why haven't you discussed this with Mom?" Duzell postulated, sitting up so he could get a get a good look at his twin.
Phelios grunted noncommittally. "Probably because we can't really prove it. Sure, I look like him, but I could have just inherited recessive genes," Phelios pointed out, "and my Holy Magic's good, but that's practically a family staple. Even if I do get memories, no one's there to verify that they're genuine. All people know is what's written in history books. There'd be absolutely no reason to believe me. Mom's word is less than useless. Everyone thinks she's a nutter anyways. Everyone in the bloodline can draw and use Sidia. So, really, how am I supposed to prove I'm Saint Phelios reborn?"
Duzell stared at his brother. It was true. He'd have a heck of a lot easier time proving he was the Vampire King Duzell than Phel would proving himself Pheliosta's ancient savior. Shape-shifting and Blood Magic were both on the side of 100% vampire. As soon as Duzell switched forms and flashed his fangs, people'd run screaming for the hills.
"You could always valiantly defeat an overwhelming hoard of vampires," Duzell suggested with faux helpfulness.
Phelios snorted. "Yeah. You go get the vampire army and I'll meet you at the border settlements. It'll be a blast," the crown prince quipped.
"I'd say 'it'll be like old times', but I don't even know what happened beyond Sir Saint casting that spell and saving humanity from inevitable doom," Duzell drawled.
His lounging twin lightly chuckled. "Inevitable doom? You'd like that, wouldn't you?" Phelios snickered out.
Duzell smiled broadly. "Oh, definitely," he affirmed.
"Still," Phelios said, continuing with their joke, "if you do summon the vampire hoards, I'm afraid humanity's in for it. I'd fight on whichever side you were on," Phelios declared happily.
"Yeah, yeah," Duzell said quickly, hoping to avoid Phelios' usual vow to cast a suicide spell for his little brother's sake. He switched topics as fast as he could. "Anyway, I'm not big on either option, fiancé wise, and I'd still be happy if she can't draw Sidia. One less entanglement," he said, steering the conversation back to their original discussion.
Phelios nodded sagaciously, sort of tucking his chin to his chest in order to properly convey the move in his restricted position. He folded his arms on his stomach, just laying there for a while. Eventually, he turned his head again to look at his younger brother. Duzell was absently watching the fireplace, lost in his own private thoughts.
"You know," Phelios set in, drawing his brother's attention back to him, "Sidia's what triggered my memory," he confessed in a subdued manner.
He was still uneasy discussing his one half-remembrance. Duzell's eyebrow's shot up in silent surprise. He waited patiently for his brother.
Phelios brought his knees up so the soles of his feet pressed down on the sofa cushions. "When we had to draw it for our thirteenth birthday," Phelios elaborated.
Duzell remembered. It had been the first time they'd been allowed near the sword. It was part of some ceremony everyone in immediate line for the throne had to go through when they turned thirteen. He nodded for his brother to continue.
"You know how I dropped it?" Duzell watched his brother expectantly. Duzell remembered. "I said I'd lost my grip, but that wasn't true. If I hadn't been so surprised I would have flung it across the room," Phelios admitted. "I just picked it up and I saw it, like I was there. She was so pretty and I knew I hadn't met her before. I knew she was from… somewhere else. And then Mom just kept going on about reincarnations and I put the pieces together," Phelios confided, manner almost sullen as he stared at the unresponsive ceiling.
Duzell didn't comment. He didn't think his brother was looking for a response. Duzell knew Phelios wasn't fishing for consolation or advice. The younger prince knew what it was like to simply wish to share knowledge with someone. Actually finding a someone you could trust enough to tell was the tricky part…
Phelios was talking again. "She's really easy to remember, too." Duzell focused on his brother, surprised that Phelios was comfortable enough to continue. "She not fuzzy at all. Crystal clear, as if I saw her yesterday. I know exactly what she looks like." Phelios smiled a little self-deprecatingly. "I just wish I could remember her name," he said, turning his head to look at his brother.
Duzell gave a light, sympathetic smile. He, personally, didn't want any of the memories his purported past lives had to offer, but then again he wasn't a candidate for National Hero. However, he could understand why Phelios would want to know more. Having only half of a story was a truly aggravating plight for both princes.
They switched topics, Duzell knowing his brother had revealed all he would that evening. They rehashed the day's Magic lesson, Duzell bad mouthing Yara, their instructor, and Phelios teasing him about his Holy Magic ineptitude.
They all gathered in the chamber housing the Holy Sword Sidia bright and (for Ishtar) early the next morning. Royal family and Thisbe only. The guards and Balan had been made to wait outside.
Ishtar seemed like she was the only one not about to vomit from nerves. Even the unflappable Phelios looked antsy. Darres was still in a knot over the girl's history and wouldn't take his stalwart eyes off of her. Duzell was just praying Sidia stuck like it'd been welded into its sheath.
Ishtar, not patient or decorous enough to stand on ceremony, snatched up Sidia from its fancy sword-shrine. She pertly pulled the blade a few inches out of the sheath and, satisfied, snapped it back in. Immediately, she handed it off to Darres, watching him expectantly. The General raised a questioning eyebrow at his unpredictable wife.
She smiled brightly back at him. "Go ahead and draw it, silly. Gotta make sure it's not a fake," she explained in a bossy, 'well, duh' manner.
Darres rolled his eyes at the peculiar request, but went ahead and gave the hilt a good tug, making a serious effort to part the sword from its sheath. The blade stuck fast. Darres stopped trying and his wife grabbed it back.
"It's legit," she announced to the gathering. She pivoted and held the sword out to the redhead. "You're turn, Lailis," she chirped.
Thisbe reached out her hand, hesitating before she wrapped her palm around the middle of the sheath. She held the sword at a distance as if it were some repugnant, foul smelling animal that might try to bite her at any given moment. Her face remained neutrally blank even though her repulsion was physically obvious from the tension in her arms and shoulders. Phelios figured it had to be pretty un-cool to have to touch the sword of her former enemy. The enemy that vanquished her love and the Sword that killed more than its fair share of people and vampires on her side of the war.
The room held its breath. Four pairs of eyes -two green, two blue- stared transfixed at the red-haired girl and the sword she held with such disdain. All that was needed was a knife and they'd be able to cut the tension in the air.
For a perplexing moment, the girl didn't seem to know what to do with the loathed sword. She stared dumbly at its decorative sheath as if waiting for the sword to make the first move. The silent staring dwindled on for a very long moment.
Someone scuffed a shoe against the marble floor. Thisbe jumped, hand tightening impulsively around Sidia. She looked at the sword in mild surprise as if just remembering what it was for. She parted her lips and silently raised her free arm.
Thisbe slowly moved her hand up to the hilt of the sword, still cautious of the inanimate object. Her fingers closed around the grip so tightly that the knuckles turned white. She paused for a moment like she was making sure Sidia wouldn't try anything funny. Her hesitation was slow to fade, but ultimately the muscles in her arm contracted and, like ripping off a bandage, she yanked.
A singing noise was made and the room became silent for a completely different reason.
Sidia had slid out like butter.
8 D Ooh. Cliffy.