*And here's where it gets good…

I hope my writing has improved. I re-read some chapters, experienced hopeless Writer's Block, then decided to kick myself back into motion.

Chapter Seven

The bare fact in Zeal was that their Princess, strong in magic and sweet in demeanour, was also quite famous for her placid temper. Schala was more renown as a saint; she was the healer, the giver, the patient matron figure of their unruly and temperamental Prince Janus (every day, the people of Zeal depended on Schala to reign in Janus for his mischief, and teach him the proper ways to act like the heir). Schala was known to have endless advice, to be a beacon of composure, and having a strong sense of moral diversity. She was fair and stern in her ethics, and she would always be a ray of light to the people.

This, however, was not one of those days.

Schala stormed around the palace, a scowl upon her usually peaceful features. All of the sorrow that built on her from previous days, and the confusion that came with being acquainted with Magus, the gaining and eventual loss of hope had pivoted on a fragile point that lead into deep, endless ire. She lurked in her room, shutting herself away, which was a clear sign to any residence of the Kingdom of Zeal that Princess Zeal was not happy at the moment, leave a message, and please try again later.

A maid attempted to enter her room. The maid came outside, and when asked how the Princess was doing, that's when they realized that the maid had been mercilessly bound by Silence. How she had the brunt of such a spell, no one questioned.

When said maid failed to retrieve Schala for the praying session, Queen Zeal couldn't have made a more perfect noise for Enhasa's encyclopaedia's word for "annoyed".

"Dalton," she said, in a voice that sounded like she was on the brink of actually doing something herself, "Go get her, for the love of Lavos." She fanned her neck, tossing her blueish hair back in annoyance. The Queen worked day and night, slipping through the traps set by the planet, bypassing and fighting the guardians of the world, tearing through layer and layer of the flesh of their earth to get to Lavos. She worked for the eternal life she'd thirsted for, the need first a seed that was implanted into her head after she found the Book of Lavos deep in Enhasa, after her husband... Couldn't the girl do something right, and show up for measly prayers? She almost snarled, snapping the fan shut with a definitive crack.

The shaded figure at the side of the room shifted.

"My lady."

"What is it, Prophet?" She sounded bored and edgy.

He swallowed the moment.

Magus spoke hastily, seeing it as his one chance to speak with Schala again—perhaps for a while, without causing any mishaps. "May I retrieve her, instead? You need me not currently, and I believe Lord Dalton and your highness were speaking of… important issues. I will be of no service to you, and I wish to be of some use." Silently, in the back of his mind, Magus congratulated himself for the submissive tone he managed to slide into his voice. He was finding it harder and harder to tolerate the queen.

A distant part of him echoed the word "Mother", but the echo stayed only that.

The queen paused for thought, looking at Dalton. In truth, the general always looked forward to forcing Schala to do anything, but what the Prophet said was, in every sense, true. He stalked the floor of the meeting hall, to the statue and back.

"I agree with him, my lady." Dalton grumbled, finally. Somehow, agreeing with the shady man felt like surrendering to him in a sense, and Dalton's pride was unhappy with the connection. He thought briefly about showing that high-and-mighty wraith some manners with his latest Golem, and then thought Why bother? He'll be fodder for Lavos the minute I can talk some sense into the Queen. And then, he stood still at the bottom of the steps to the throne, eyeing the silvery man.

She nodded. "Go, then."

Magus turned without a second's delay, and was gone.

---

Schala was sitting at her table, her head in her hands, hair free and flowing down her back in a river of blue and silver. Her eyes were closed, but she wasn't asleep; she basked in the light of the moon, running over old hymns of Zeal in her head that calmed her restlessness. On nights, when the moon was out and the rare clouds were all hidden, she would do a different sort of prayer—one that would fix her, instead of pulling all of her insides out. She focused on cleansing herself of the negative emotions that plagued her, and focused on the meagre wisps of optimism that hadn't forsaken her. Perhaps there would be some other way to save the gurus, some other shred of hope…

"Sweet light, holy light, chaste forget that binds me whole..." She sang, quiet, under her breath. It was an old hymn; one with many, many words, lyrical and scanning and rhyming with one another until it built a web of light around her skin. The light rippled off of her, built off the gentler light of the sun reflected off the moon, sending water-waves around her room dancing in their struggle against fading.

The cleansing hymn—she used it often, delighting in the song and more delightful still at its effectiveness... He knew it before he even entered. He knew it as he heard the low thrum, at the end of the hall to her chambers.

She heard the knock on the door, three raps that were firm. She stopped her singing short, feeling the light fade away from her almost scathingly at the aura of the intruder. Schala wondered, how she wondered, if she could ever be as calm and as serene as she was not too long ago: a fire flared in her stomach, angry at the world, angry at her world, and angry that someone interrupted the only time she had to fix herself, finally realizing that she was just angry in general.

Then, she decided it was time to put her temper aside.

She took a deep breath.

"Come in…" She called, tiredly, not moving.

She was expecting a maid, or a manservant of some sort. (In her opinion, Schala did not like to call them such as she viewed them just as people, but her mentality was too stretched to stop the discrimination.) Her door opened, silently, and not betraying a wisp of sound. Magus was basking in the last lights of the hymn, letting the familiarity and the homesickness—damn his homesickness—toil around inside of him. He forgot to move, but quickly remembered, and she didn't recognize who it was until his aura enveloped her.

She spun around, her aqua eyes meeting his vermillion ones.

The navy-cloaked man stood, observing her, his gaze piercing her as usual. She was still sitting, only half turned to look at him, and the two stayed that way for what was almost an eternity. Schala realized that they were doomed to be forever bound in speechlessness when together, after that escapade, and she wondered briefly if the awkwardness that came over them would ever return to the ease of a few days prior.

She broke the silence, after her thought process turned to "the few days prior". The Zeal princess flipped back, tearing her heated eyes away from his, and harshly bit out through dry lips, "Please leave."

"The queen sent me to retrieve you," came his smooth reply.

"…And?" Her tone was icy; Magus was surprised. Schala rarely ever used harsh tones.

She must've been really angry.

He regained his composure, and coughed. "She wants you at the Ocean Palace right now."

"It is what she always wants. Please tell her I am tired, and please leave at once." Her tone was just as sharp as before, like the edge of a razor, and she didn't once turn from her spot at the table to show him a shred of apology for cutting him.

So she is serious.

Magus paused, and sighed.

"Princess, please."

Some part of her felt... a sting?

"Or what?" Her voice was still cold, but it quivered from where she hung her head in her hands. "There's… no possible way that Lavos will be delayed, now, with the danger gone. Why can I not rest?"

He walked near her, footsteps quiet. Schala looked like a despairing ghost, pale head bowed in the submerged evening light; he knelt beside her knee, searching her face that was buried from his sight. Magus faintly recalled, long ago, being Janus. What had he done then to comfort her? The memories reminded him of hugging her around the waist, or crawling into her lap, or perhaps fiercely grabbing her head and stringing his awkward arms around it in haphazard comfort; no, no, and no. Before he could let the moment stretch and have more tension come on, he had to think fast. He reached out a gloved hand, and delicately stroked the gentle rise of her cheek.

She shivered.

Then, she looked at him.

Perhaps Schala always searched his eyes. She didn't know for sure. What she saw was warmth, and a sort of pleading, and the ever-present shadow that she couldn't see past. His gaze never faltered, nor did hers, as he raised and clasped her hands in his. Lukewarm heat leaked in around her colder hands from his gloves, failing to comfort her in any sense; she was just staring at him, as he spoke, out of the hope that he would not be deceiving her. "What have I done to offend you, Princess?"

"You... you interfered with my... plans." She didn't know why the words had trouble, struggling out from between her lips.

"And?"

It was hard to speak, when his eyes bore you down. She swallowed, trying to find the reason why she didn't want him there, and what that soreness in the pit of her stomach was from. She wanted to tell him to get out, and then she wanted to tell him to stay with her, stay just a little longer.

She fell silent for a while. Magus almost scowled, and he let go of her hands. "Princess, if that is what—"

"You..." She interrupted him, and he watched her eyes grow dark. Oh, she could match fire with fire.

"Yes?"

She opened her lips, and the fire extinguished. Well, perhaps she couldn't fight fire with fire, but she tried.

"You... are calling me Princess again..."

Oh.

...Oh.

"Schala." He breathed, frowning when she lowered her head again. He wanted to look at her; he wanted to see her smile. What could he do to make her smile?

"... I..." She swallowed the lump, forming in her throat, cursing her own emotional imbalance. She hated the feeling; around him, she felt helpless and needy, and she sought something that she couldn't understand. She wanted something—she wanted... him to comfort her...

Silently, the need slipped into her mind.

As if by some sort of magic, or perhaps it was because he was a prophet, Schala let him cradle her head in his hands. He brought her face up to look at him, again, and his heart constricted to see her eyes filling with tears.

More tears, he thought, angrily. More of Schala's tears.

The leather on his thumbs brushed them from her eyelids. The silence, now, was not as strained, though equally heavy and heart-wrenching. She sat in her chair, fisting the skirt on her knees, as he knelt in front of her and held her face, catching the tears that threatened to fall from her eyes.

"What are we doing, Magus?" She whispered, lost and lonely. "Why are we here?"

"I wish I could predict that."

Through the sobs that she fought, she choked out a laugh at his dry tone.

She unclenched her fists, stretching her fingers. She wanted...

Again, she knew he'd know what she needed. It was strange; she hadn't known this stranger for a few days, and already, she believed that he'd know her every move.

She could trust him. And she couldn't trust herself that she thought she could trust him.

He was hesitant, but with a little nod of her head, he embraced her small frame. He knew what she wanted; he'd seen it before. He couldn't even stop himself, so desperate in his plight to send her some form of forsaken comfort. Damn it, he embraced her.

The maiden breathed in the musk that surrounded her. It was like being eaten by a shadow; he was larger than her in every sense. He was taller, wider, thicker, stronger... She felt safer, drowning in the folds of his cape. At first, they were both stiff, and they knew that if anybody caught them, there would be hell to pay.

Magus, and Schala for that matter, did not particularly care.

He pressed her tightly against him, breathing in the scent of her hair. They relaxed, limbs melting from hard wood into soft honey. She berated herself for trusting him, a near-complete stranger, with being that close to her, but the berating was drowned out by the rush of blood in her ears. All her upbringing told her to tear away from him, send him away, do as her mother told and go to the Ocean Palace.

"Schala..."

The sweetness in his voice, the first she'd ever heard in her existence, made something in her swell. It was hard to picture someone with such a cold, abysmal aura like Magus to ever manage that sweetness; him showing it to her made it all the more... endearing.

She wrapped her arms around his chest, burying her face into his shoulder. We fit so well, she marvelled, eyes misty.

And Magus?

Ultimately, he was content with just having her against him. All of him focused solely on that moment, when he had her in his arms, and the peace simmered through them. He didn't think about the sinful things that her touches told him; he didn't dare touch upon his memory, as he pillaged the Middle-Aged world in mystic fire. All he focused on was the gentle floral fragrance of her, and he took a shuddering breath.

Schala raised her head, coming eye-to-eye with his chin. He lowered his head, leaning and bringing both of them over so his hair caged their faces in.

Her heart skipped a beat. He heard it.

What was he doing?

He looked at her, memorized her features (the ones he had tried so desperately to keep in his mind, for the many years he's lost). The paleness of her face, announced by the pretty—though faded—blush that was constantly painted on her cheeks; the point of her nose, over her softly rounded lips; and her eyes, those aquamarines that bestowed unforgettable kindness and love upon him.

She thought he looked familiar, but she tried to push it away as paranoia. As he scanned over her, she did the same. She stared at the chiselled outline of his features; his piercing eyes, magnetic with the strength of his brow and the strength of his strong nose; his lips (but she only took a fleeting look, for she didn't understand the flair in her breast); and her vision circled back to his eyes.

Their eyes always somehow locked, and Schala realized she liked how no matter what, they'd always go right back to looking at one another.

Schala pressed forward. She wanted...

And very gently, he tilted his head forward.

What am I doing?

Their lips met, very gently, both tentative. Magus was the first one to move; he had bridged the space between them, giving into the yearning that wickedly whispered in his heart. He took her by surprise, the rougher skin of his mouth swathing the softness of her lips.

What are you doing?

She is your sister.

You have waited forever for her.

Would you risk it?

All of it?

She is your sister.

He ignored his own self-disgust. Magus knew what he wanted—Gods, he knew what she wanted, the sweet and innocent sister of his who always knew just too much—and he would not deny the delicious nectar that would quench his thirst. Schala was backing away, out of shock. He walked with her, supporting her suddenly limp figure. His lips were cold, and when he gained entrance between her lips, she found his tongue hot like a piece of lively coal. It caressed hers, eliciting a moan out of her that surprised her with its wanton hues.

She tasted like pure water, or a breath of fresh air; he wasn't sure. He tasted bitter, leaving undulating sweetness in bitterness' wake. The Fiendlord's teeth were sharp, and she felt them run gently around her tongue in a raking motion, somehow shocking her shoulders in the process; she jerked, breath catching in her throat. His strong arms snaked around her waist, holding her up as her legs failed her in strength. "M-Magus..." she whimpered, eyes wide and fearful as they pulled away for air.

He brushed away the stray strands of hair that clung to her brow, sticking to the sudden sweat that coated her forehead. Her eyes were lidded, hot and foggy, but shy and confused.

The mystic took her lips again, this time a little more brutally. The force rocked the two of them off their centers of balance, and they tumbled together onto her bed. As they wrestled their tongues together, soft and delicate fingers lacing with thick and calloused claws, the soft sheets cushioned their fall.

---

Is this what they call a cliffie?