Disclaimer: Nothing recognisable is mine. I am simply playing with the wonderful world of Manjipoor.

Summary: Vashan is faced with a choice. My take on why he didn't return for season 2.

Life's not fair

Life, decided Vashan, was not fair. The more cynical side of his mind chided him for resorting to such a clich├ęd statement. The sliver of conscience he had not quite succeeded in crushing said that life was, in fact, giving him very much what he deserved. But Vashan was easily able to ignore both as he stared fumingly into the expectant faces of his dear cousin and Omar (he refused to give the man a title).

By his sides his hands clenched. Not too hard; even now he was careful not to break his overlong nails. But hopefully hard enough to give the two people staring at him so expectantly a sign that he, Vashan, was most displeased.

The problem was that after defeating Diva his cousin wanted to be queen. The fact that the people of Manjipoor also wanted this mattered very little to the irate Lord. He had long since perfected the art of ignoring the wishes of his future subjects. The fact that the council wanted this could be disregarded with equal ease; the girl had been foolish enough to sign away her rights to the throne in a fit of pique. Only a monarch could revoke such documents once signed and what sort of a fool would do so if it meant losing the crown?

He allowed his nostrils to flare, and noted that neither of the two whom he faced seemed overly impressed. Bother. The cool silk of his black, knee length tunic failed to sooth him. He decided that five baths were simply not sufficient to remove the filth of the dungeons. Perhaps another bath would help? No, he was getting off topic.

Because, of course, the problem was that his cousin had magic and he did not. Blasted elephant, he cursed. Internally, naturally. She should have returned it to him, the rightful ruler of Manjipoor, not the girl. The more logical portion of his mind protested that in chains he could have done little with his magic, and reluctantly he listened. But why not later? Was he truly deemed so unworthy of the gift he had spent a lifetime cultivating? With practiced ease he dismissed such thoughts, focusing on the more palatable alternative. Life was just unfair.

He allowed his eyes to narrow slightly.

"Just to clarify, cousin," he began, speaking softly, "You wish me to allow you to retain your rights to the throne, thereby rendering you the rightful Queen of the Kingdom once more. And for this you will return my magic to me?"

"Yes, that's right," said Alex, staring at him firmly but kindly.

She's practicing her 'benevolent queen' look, Vashan mused. The effect was ruined when the girl added, somewhat unnecessarily he felt:

"I mean, it's not like anyone actually wants to be ruled by you. You'd be toppled in a day without your magic, and then we'd have, like, some Manjipoorian republic or something."

About as subtle as a sledge hammer. One eyebrow rose superciliously and his lip curled, but there was not much he could say to that.

"And I suppose, dear cousin, the option of simply restoring my magic to me is not one you are willing to consider? I did help you against Diva after all."

A bit of a long shot, to be sure, but he could cope with employing a bit of diplomacy with one of his least favourite people if it got him his magic without the cost of his throne.

Alex shook her head.

"You'd crush the people if you were king and you had your magic. I have to consider them first. That's why I'm making you this offer. I am aware of your help," Vashan's eyes flicked over to Omar who nodded slightly, then back to the former-princess, "and I'd like to say it made up for all those times you tried to hurt me and my friends," fond memories, reflected Vashan, particularly the opposite-effects enchantment, "but to be frank I'd rather not have you near me. So here's the deal. You sign a document thing which says I am allowed to be Queen again, I give you your magic back, and then you leave the kingdom. Never to return. Got it?"

Someone had to have told her how much he valued his magic. That was the only explanation for her smug self-assurance that he would do as she wished. Or perhaps she had deduced it from the way he spoke of the art, the contempt he felt for those not blessed by such power? Or had she felt a little the same and only guessed at the sense of loss a man who had learnt it from his cradle would feel to have it gone...

Exile and magic or the throne and a nagging emptiness inside nothing quite seemed to fill.

"I must consider this," he said abruptly, and left the room. As good as a yes really. What good was the throne if his magic was gone? But he would be leaving soon. He could sense that the people wanted a ruler. No. A Queen. Not him. Never him. But he needed to calm down, to relax. He needed to be in control when he made the agreement to leave his home forever. Anala would not allow him back after all.

He took a side passage out to the gardens, people instinctively parting for the Lord. Finally, he cleared the perimeter of the crowds and instinctively his pace quickened. He was aware of a growing need to run, as though that would somehow get rid of his problems. Ruthlessly he suppressed this desire, forcing himself to walk towards the denser shrubbery at a sedate pace. Once within the shaded perimeter, he began to pace restlessly.

Half an hour of pacing later he was calmer, though his shoes were spattered with mud. At least, he hoped it was mud. If he had had magic he could have cleaned them... but no. He would have magic soon.

With a faint sigh, uttered only because no one was in sight to notice the weakness, he turned and began to walk back to the palace. He found himself noticing the grass, the texture of the trees, even the carpets. Everything had a transient vibrancy to it now he had a time limit on appreciating it.

He pushed the doors to the hall open and entered once more. His cousin seemed to be talking with that inept boy, Kuru. The soft looks they kept sending eachother made him feel nauseous. Fortunately he had not been fed in the dungeons and had not cared to eat after the experience.

He decided to do the Kingdom a favour and interrupt the pair.

"Cousin," he said, and watched her turn sharply to face him.

He knew her too well to think her... friend... would be unaware of what was transpiring. The damnable boy seemed to know everything that went on with the girl. No... the Queen.

"When precisely will you give me my magic back?" he asked, refusing to say the other part of the deal. The humiliation alone would give him nightmares for weeks.

She seemed to grasp the situation, fortunately.

"Tonight would be good, right after my coronation," she replied, grinning.

"Your decision will give great joy to your people," smiled Kuru, somehow managing to make that sound serious.

Vashan wondered idly whether the boy was talking to him or her. Probably her, he decided. He had yet to hear the boy acknowledge his right to rule.

Well, he had done it. He retreated from the room to arrange a suitable document to rescind the abdication of his cousin, inwardly lamenting a thousand shattered dreams of tyranny and domination, while behind him he heard her launching into a speech. Most likely about her getting to rule the kingdom.

Six hours later she was still partying after what had to have been one of the shortest coronations in Manjipoorian history. He would certainly never admit it aloud but she was not entirely terrible at her guitar. He even caught himself clapping a few times to the rather catchy tune. More people smiled at him than he could remember at any point in his life, and a few actually tried to shake his hand for abdicating. A chilly smile and a gently drawled 'indeed' put paid to them.

Three hours later the party was still going strong but he had developed a headache and was sitting outside on a park bench. It was damp, but he figured that having dirtied his white tunic already by sitting down he might as well remain there.

A shaking sensation on his shoulder alerted him to the fact that he had dropped off to sleep.

"It is the Queen's desire that you follow her," said a deep, serious voice.

"Hmm..." was the eloquent reply as Vashan struggled to emerge fully from the realms of sleep.

He staggered to his feet, steadied himself, and began to follow the Queen. She seemed rather more used to excessive amounts of alcohol and loud music than he, because she seemed to have a bounce in her step despite the fact that it was now two in the morning.

Finally, she reached a clearing. In it stood Anala. Ah. Time up then.

She stared at him seriously for a moment.

"If you mess with anyone I care about, you're dead."

"I'll keep that in mind."

Because, really, what could he say?

Delicately, her fingers traced the rune he had showed her that morning. Just that morning? It seemed a lifetime ago already. And suddenly all his numbing languor was gone and he felt alive. Every nerve was tingling and if his mastery over his features had not been complete he would have been grinning. As it was, he could not prevent his lips from stretching into a thin smile.

A moment later the process was complete and they were left staring at one another. She looked determined and kept giving pointed glances at Anala.

He gazed at her thoughtfully. He could lie now. Flee, remaining ever present as a threat in Manjipoor. Her powers were stronger than his but she lacked experience. He could outwit her.

But she had trusted him. She could have taken him to her land before restoring his magic but had chosen not to. This was a test of sorts, to see if he truly would turn on her.

In the end, pragmatism won. There was nothing left for him here. Regardless of if he won or lost, the people loved her and the blasted elephant could probably drain his magic anyway.

He stretched his hand out and touched Anala's flank, vanishing as he was sucked into another, unfamiliar world. Life was unfair.