Chapter 2: Luana

The Day She Died...

It was a fairly cool evening, nice, but quite foggy. The time was just after 5:00 p.m. when Ellis left the main entrance to Leonhardt's estate home to buy some vegetables at the local market. Ellis carefully opened the mahogany doors and shut them as quietly as possible- she didn't want another scolding for slamming such an expensive door shut when Winfield infuriated her, like he did about 10 minutes ago. Ellis carefully shut the door and surveyed her surroundings- it was very foggy, though the fog seemed to end at the last step; Ellis could see for miles ahead, but everything below was all swallowed up in the thick white blanket. Ellis paused for a moment and tried to peer through the fog, and it was during this pause that she heard something, something faint, but persistent. Ellis heard huffing, huffing and gasping for air, as if from someone who was in the middle of running a marathon. Ellis listened closer, and it seemed like the source of the voice was coming closer, if a little bit at a time. Ellis began down the steps into the fog, and soon after she began, she heard a loud clap, like 2 halves of a coconut being clapped together, just once, but very loudly, then a loud whimper in pain.

Ellis hastened her pace downward, aiming toward the source of the whining, Ellis was hardly 5 feet apart from the source when she spotted something odd crawling its way up the stairway, slowly, and evidently in a great deal of pain, but it was still crawling upward at a vigorous pace. It was a distinctly man-shaped figure, though it seemed to be crawling it's way up like a dog; it was also covered in bandages as far as Ellis could see, like a mummy. Ellis's curiosity got the better of her, and she quickly rushed to see what this odd creature was, and to help whoever it was if they weren't a monster.

The crawling figure looked up at Ellis when she neared, and just after halted it's advance and simply lay down on the marble steps. Ellis rushed over, and she finally could distinguish more details of the figure once she came within reaching distance of the figure.

The first most distinguishable characteristic that Ellis could see was that the bandaged figure was female, and clearly not a monster. The bandages covered most of her body, and all of her face save for just her left eye and a bit of skin around it; her left arm was wrapped tightly in a sling, obviously meaning it was broken. The girl had messy and frayed blonde hair, as if it was last cut with someone's teeth- or more appropriately, something's teeth- something seemed distinctly familiar about this girl, though Ellis certainly didn't know anyone who was a mummy-cosplayer, or anything of that nature.

"Are you okay, miss?" Ellis asked as she offered her hand to help up the familiar stranger. The mummy-girl looked at her hand, but didn't immediately take it.

"Where... where is Leonhardt?" The mummy-girl asked, her voice was hoarse and raspy, and her words slow to come out, as if speaking put her in a great deal of pain.

"Leonhardt? Do you know him?" Ellis asked, evidently this girl didn't know that Leonhardt had... passed on already.

"He... he is very famous-" She paused, then re-thought her response quickly. "He saved me once, I never got a chance to thank him..." The mummy-girl said, again in her slow, dry voice. Her change of response told Ellis she was probably lying, and maybe even an assassin in disguise, albeit not a very good one since Leonhardt was already dead.

"Leonhardt has... passed on, I'm sorry." Ellis said as she again offered to help the girl up, though suddenly she didn't seem to want to get up at all.

"I... I see..." she said, it seemed she was about to cry out of her one visible eye, though instead of crying she simply sighed and lay down again, this time in a more defeated mood.

"Please, I think you need to go to the hospital; your wounds look serious." Ellis suggested in a concerned tone, though the girl seemed to ignore her, or she just didn't hear her.

After a long, painfully silent moment, the mummy-girl finally took Ellis's hand and started to stand up; it was an arduous task, twice the mummy-girl stumbled back to the ground, probably on account of the uneven ground to stand on; the third attempt she shakily stood up, with the assistance of Ellis, though it wasn't to last long.

Ellis and the girl began to walk up the stairs very slowly, to ensure that the girl wouldn't fall again.

"So what's your name?" Ellis asked kindly as they both took another simultaneous step upwards- if either went ahead, the injured girl would probably fall again.

"I am Lu-" She paused, then continued after not even a second of thinking. "Lyra, my name is Lyra..."

Lyra stumbled on the next step, not quite raising her leg high enough to match the slope of the stairs and tripping over one of the steps- but she didn't quite fall, as Ellis caught her before she did, and good thing too, in her condition, she probably would've broken a few bones with just a simple trip like that; with Ellis's help she quickly regained her balance and continued onward.

5 steps later, and only 10 more steps to go. After going about 1 step a minute for the past 10 minutes, Ellis and Lyra hastened their pace- a definite bad decision. Lyra tripped on the very next step, this time falling hard on the marble floor and leaving a red stain on both her bandages and the step where she hit her jaw.

"Lyra! Are you ok?" Ellis cried as she carefully flipped Lyra over; after two violent coughing fountains of blood erupted from Lyra's bandages, she lost consciousness and slipped into a coma.

Zerva and Borgnine rushed out of the entrance, slamming the mahogany doors against the stone wall in the process, though that was hardly a concern now. Both peered down into the fog and immediately spotted Ellis and the bloodied Lyra hardly 7 feet away. Zerva helped Ellis stand, and he gently pulled Ellis away from Lyra as Borgnine lifted her up and carried her into the house.

Later that same day...

The doctor arrived not half an hour later, out of breath and wet from the rain that had begun falling just after Ellis and Lyra were brought back into the house.

"Doctor... can you help her?" Ellis asked, her eyes still watering, since she felt this was all her fault.

"I had feared this would happen- this girl was a patient of mine, and she had escaped the hospital about 3 hours ago, I guess she made her way here." The doctor said as he took a pulse reading- no good, she was already gone. The doctor shook his head and carefully closed his patient's eyes.

"You know this girl?" Winfield asked, thinking intently on what she must've looked like before her accident- he was thinking of some sort of divine looking goddess on earth, not likely to be true.

"Like I said already, she was a patient of mine, admitted to the hospital one week ago after an accident during her performance in the village square- surely you know of Luana and her famous performances?" The doctor asked, his response was a wave of shock and gasps.

"That's Luana?" Ellis managed to say- it's true that it didn't look at all like the Luana they had known, but she also left to travel just over a year ago, who knows what happened to her? Evidently nothing good, if that was indeed her.

"Yes, during her performance a week ago an accident happened- I don't know the details of how it happened, but there was a large explosion that killed one and injured about a dozen others, Luana included." The doctor said, recalling what he had read from the report on the accident about a week ago.

After a quick session of quiet murmuring among the group assembled in the room, everyone fell silentin mourning for their former comrade.

Luana... what happened? Ellis thought.

Many years afterward...

While Ellis and the others themselves never found out what happened to Luana, many of her more... fanatical fans spent many months backtracking Luana's performances and talking to her former comrades in the conflicts of Lucrellia to find out what had happened. 4 years after her death, a report was released on how the accident had ocurred, the findings of the 'team of experts' is generally accepted as fact.

Luana's fans found that the one-way trip to Luana's accident had begun quite soon after Luana took her leave of her former comrades, soon after they encountered the Dark Knight. It was a fairly quick good-bye ceremony, if you could call it that; Luana announced she was leaving to go back to what she had done before- a travelling performer. While Luana professed she felt she wasn't needed anymore, she actually didn't want to see Leonhardt anymore, and his child even less, so she subconsciously developed a plausible reason for leaving, and she did. Everyone tried to convince her to stay, even Leonhardt- no, especially Leonhardt, but she had already packed everything and prepared for her travels, so she was hell-bent on leaving and no one could stop her, not at this late juncture.

Luana did just as she had told her friends, she performed like she always had, and just like before, she had drawn large crowds, and all was well, at least for a time.

Like all good things, it wasn't to last long; Luana soon grew bored of her old life, and soon she wanted something to make it more exciting. Perhaps it was her having tasted the adrenaline of a real battle and she wanted more, perhaps it was more subconsciously developing anger at Leonhardt to the point of an accidental suicide, or maybe it was something else, no one could tell for sure what Luana was feeling at the time- whatever the cause, the end was clear- Luana began... experimenting in her shows, or to put it in a simpler way, Luana began to play with fire and knives, quite literally.

Luana's shows became a spectacle of incredible acrobatics and dances, skilled tricks using sharp swords, and bright and massive explosions for special effects- if she drew large crowds with her old acts, now it seemed she was drawing entire cities to her performances, and each time she gave them a show they would remember for years to come- again, it wasn't to last. Luana's daredevil performances weren't a solo act, she had employed an accomplished human mage to handle the fire, so to speak.

It was on that particular day, in a particularly cold and distant town coincidentally just below Leonhardt's estate, during a particularly cold winter that Luana's assistant mage developed a cold, a very violent cold at that; Luana mentioned to him that she planned to cancel the show on account of his sickness, but the mage was determined to press onward- a fatal mistake. The crowd was small, only about 50 or so- fewer to witness the deadly downfall of Luana.

The show began with a boom, and ended with a bang- all within 5 seconds. Luana bursted onto stage with the first explosion, then a second, much larger explosion blew the stage to pieces seconds after Luana's entrance, severely burning Luana, who luckily wasn't hit with any debris, but both killing the sick mage by way of a large wooden debris smacking into his head at incredible speed, and injuring several of the audience members in the process.

So ends the report on Luana's demise, though Luana's story didn't end there- another of Luana's fans made a soon-after famous painting of Luana standing before a sea of fire, and just below at the bottom of the painting showed Luana of the future, staring into a mirror and crying; and Luana was used as a measure of one's fame and skill, if one was as famous as Luana, such a compliment was akin to saying one has become legendary.

One Week Before the day...

I still don't think this is such a good idea... Luana thought as she glanced once more at her assistant, who was coughing violently, but just afterward he noticed she was looking at him with a worried expression, and he gave her a thumbs-up. Luana rolled her eyes in dismay, but she also thought that he would know his health better than anyone else, so if he says he's good, why not believe him?

The music started, courtesy of the small orchestra behind the stage, Luana's entrance was at the climax of the first song, followed by the first boom from her 'Special Effects Assistant', or so he called himself. Luana and her associates in this performance practiced this entrance probably more than 100 times, though none of them made Luana feel any better now, when the single most important back-stage job is held by a sick man.

Faster than Luana could follow, the first song reached it's climax and Luana leaped onto the stage. Luana skipped up the stairs in one step, then she flew high in the air, her flight was immediately followed by a bright explosion as bright as the sun behind her just as planned, the bright light was blocked by Luana's figure, casting a massive shadow across the audience in the shape of a massive capital 'T', already the audience was cheering for such an impressive entrance.

I'm glad that went off without a hitch! Luana thought as she landed on one knee, facing the ground as she had planned, though maybe she was celebrating her good fortune a bit too early.

Soon after Luana's landing, a spark from the explosion hit Luana's back, stinging her slightly; at first Luana dismissed it as the remains of the explosion, but she noticed she surroundings were unusually bright and that her back, while stinging slightly from the spark, felt unnaturally hot; she figured that all those together couldn't have been a coincidence, and finally she directed her attention to the back of the stage. Luana stood up and looked back, to find herself facing a massive ball of flame that was about 15 feet in diameter, and still growing in large bursts.

"Wh- what's going on?" Luana cried, looking instinctively to her 'Special Effects Assistant', who held his hands up to control the ball of flame, but he also seemed to be inhaling small gasps of air without exhaling, which could only mean he was about to sneeze. Luana feared for the worst, and instinctively she lifted her left arm to block the light from the ball of flame, covering her left eye but leaving her right eye exposed in between the fingers, so she could watch carefully at the development of the fireball.

Everything seemed to slow down for Luana, she felt like she took several deep breaths as she watched in pessimistic anticipation, switching her sight from the mage, then back to the ball of fire several times a second. Luana felt... warm, like she was sitting next to a campfire with her many old friends she had long since abandoned. Memories came flooding back to her, all of them from her travels with Leonhardt and his comrades.

Leonhardt... Luana switched her thoughts to that of only Leonhardt, and everything else melted in the bright light as that warm feeling's source changed from the hellish fireball so close to her, to a close embrace with Leonhardt, albeit an imagined one.

Leo... I miss him so... just once... one last time... I want to see him again... I want to talk to him, if just once more... Luana thought to herself as she again looked at the fireball, this time with less fear than before- she would face it now, there was no stopping her from her mission now.

Within seconds of the first explosion, the mage sneezed and the ball of flame exploded like a massive fire bomb, blowing the stage to thousands of pieces, flaming wood was sent in every direction and a scorched Luana sailed into the audience, relatively unscathed. By some twist of fortune, Luana was only knocked unconscious from the explosion's shockwave and yet still burned heavily by the passing flames, but she wasn't killed.

After this incident the next time Luana would regain her consciousness would be a week later, when she heard an unnecesary and quite vague report of her accident and that she was going to die- the explosion had shattered- not fractured, shattered- three of her ribs on her right side, the shards of bone dealing fatal damage to her organs, and the fact that she was still alive and conscious was nothing short of a miracle- Luana heard none of it, she was already planning her escape to see Leonhardt, unaware of how tragically disappointed she was going to be at the only news she was willing to listen to- Leonhardt's fate.

A.N.- Well, it's done, though not really to my satisfaction. I know I'm REALLY late with this, but know this- I've done this chapter 3 times, and the first two were, quite frankly, boring as hell to write, so to read they must've been 10 times worse (also, I had this chapter finished about a week ago, but I've been too busy PLAYING Record of Agarest War as opposed to writing about it; which is probably a bad idea, but oh well, moving on)