T I E S O F B L O O D

an Escaflowne fanfic

by Serenade


--- Author's notes ---

Spoiler warning:
This story is set after the end of the Escaflowne series. If you haven't seen all the episodes, you may encounter a number of significant spoilers.

Spellings:
I have tried to keep to the official romanisation of names, at least as far as I can discover what they are. There are two exceptions to this. I have chosen to render 'Eries' as 'Elise', in part because this is the form I was originally most familiar with, and in part for aesthetic purposes. I have also chosen to render 'Celena' as 'Serena', because this was the form more widely used by fans at the time I began writing this story.

Disclaimer:
I don't own most of these characters. They belong to the creators of the Escaflowne series, who are wonderful people for bringing us such a brilliant show. This is a non-profit work for the enjoyment of fans.

Dedication:
To all the Dilandau fans out there. This one's for you.


--- Part 1: Faces in Shadow ---

He woke sweating, the bedsheets twisted about him, the scream barely stifled in his throat. It was the nightmare he could never remember, the one that always left him shaking with a nameless dread.

He sat up, fumbling for the bedside lamp. The movement brought a wave of sickening pain crashing through his skull. He gripped his head in his hands, knocking over the lamp in the process. He could hear raised voices in the corridor, as he lay hunched over, gasping.

Footsteps approached, stopping by the bed. He lifted his head gingerly, trying to focus on the figure standing before him.

"How do you feel?" the man asked, smiling not unkindly. It wasn't a face he recognised, although the thick brush of a moustache obscured its lower half. As he stared, the stranger added, "It's all right. I'm a doctor."

He didn't particularly trust doctors. For him, they bore unpleasant associations: the yellow delirium of illness, or brutally cold medical treatments. Their garments were always laced with the smell of death. But this man seemed to expect him to be reassured by his words.

In any case, there was nothing for him to do right now but acquiesce as the doctor carried out his examination. "What's wrong with me?" he managed to ask. "Was I--was I wounded?"

"You've been ill with fever." A woman's voice, calm and level. He craned his neck to see her. She was standing at the doctor's shoulder, her slender form poised, her even features expressionless. Her pale gold hair was drawn back into a careful arrangement, held in place by a finely embroidered cap. Hers was not a familiar face either, although it was an exquisitely graceful one. She regarded him with an assessing gaze. "You're in Palas."

"Palas?" he repeated. The capital of Asturia. Why would he be here? While he struggled to shape his next question, the doctor turned to address the woman.

"His fever is gone, your Highness, but he is not yet recovered. He will need plenty of rest before his strength returns. Too much exertion, and he could suffer a relapse."

"I see. Thank you, doctor. You may leave us."

"But Princess Elise--"

"There is no danger to me. Please." She inclined her head towards the door. With a sigh, the doctor picked up his bag and left.

"What am I doing here?" he asked, as soon as the door had closed. "What do you want with me?"

"You were originally brought here from the battlefield. Your guymelef was badly damaged during the fighting. You yourself were not in the best condition." She paused, a hand tapping the bedpost thoughtfully. "But that was some time ago. There is someone else who is better suited to answer your questions." Elise gestured, and a figure separated itself from the shadows. The man who stepped forward was tall and lean, with a fall of blond hair sweeping past his shoulders.

And *his* face was instantly familiar.

Despite the headache and the nausea, he managed a sneer at the newcomer. "Allen Schezar. I suppose I am your prisoner now."

"That depends." Allen's face was just as unreadable as Elise's. "Do you remember who you are?"

He cast Allen a look of scorn. He wasn't *that* disoriented. "I am Dilandau Albatou, commander of the--" He faltered. He didn't have a command anymore. The Dragonslayers were all dead, weren't they? All except for him. He swallowed angrily, and lifted his chin. "I am an officer in the army of the Zaibach Empire."

Allen appeared unmoved by this small show of pride. "Zaibach is defeated. The war is over."

"What?" It was impossible. How could Zaibach have lost? He swung his stare from Allen to Elise, searching for signs of deception.

"We are not lying to you," Elise said, in her calm clear voice. "The surviving remnants of the army have surrendered."

He couldn't find it in him to doubt her words. Instead, he stared dully at his hands. The promised victory had been so close. But now it was all over.

He raised his head. "Are you going to execute me, then?"

"No," Allen said sharply, while Elise compressed her lips. They exchanged a glance. "Subject to certain conditions," he amended.

"Conditions?"

"Taking an oath of allegiance to Asturia, to begin with."

*To serve side by side with Allen Schezar?* "I think I would sooner die," he said.

"Don't be a fool, Dilandau. Why throw your life away? We need not be enemies."

"I don't want your mercy."

"You're only fifteen," Allen said with quiet gentleness. "What about your family?"

"I have no family." The reference to his age rankled. He was always having to defend his authority against those who thought he had no business holding a command.

Allen was not put off. "Everyone has a family."

"What business is it of yours?" he asked bluntly. "Is this an interrogation?"

"No. Merely a conversation."

"I have nothing to say to you." He turned his face away deliberately. He hoped they would simply lose patience and leave. Perhaps if he could close his eyes and lie there in silence, the persistent throbbing in his head might go away.

But Allen was not affected by Dilandau's display of hostility. "I'm sorry to hear that. I had hoped we could find some common ground."

He couldn't refrain from responding to that. "I hardly think we have much in common."

"Oh? And why are you so sure of that? After all, you hardly know me." Allen hesitated, as if weighing up some gambit. "For example, did you know that I once had a sister? Her name was Serena."

"Do you really think I care?" Dilandau said. It was pathetic to listen to, this fumbling attempt at connection.

"She went missing when she was very young," Elise said quietly. "Allen has not seen her in many years."

"Am I supposed to feel sorry for him then?" He waited for Allen's reaction--anger, reproach, disgust--anything to break out of this strange, tortuous exchange. But there was no trace of animosity in Allen's eyes, only a grave sorrow.

"It happened ten years ago, but I've never stopped wondering about her. Wondering whether she was alive or dead. Whether she was happy where she was. Wondering if I could have... Well."

Elise let out a soft breath, as though his words stirred up memories of her own. Dilandau suppressed a cutting comment. So Schezar had a tragedy in his past. It still didn't win him any points. Meanwhile, Dilandau's headache was subsiding into a distant grinding ache. He wondered when they would leave and let him sleep.

"She reappeared last month," Allen said unexpectedly.

"Well, good for you," Dilandau said, but his sarcasm lacked some of its usual bite. "Is that the end of the story? Because I'm very tired."

"Oh, no," Allen said, his tone reflective. "It's only the beginning. I don't know the end yet. There's a lot of the story I don't know, actually. Serena couldn't tell me much, because she didn't remember what happened. But I've managed to piece together a fair amount nonetheless.

"One of the things I've learned was that she had been taken to Zaibach."

Dilandau felt a cold finger of apprehension trace its way down his spine. "I'm really not interested in your family history, okay?"

Allen went on as if he had not heard. "She was given into the keeping of the sorcerers. They used to do experiments on people--"

"I don't want to hear it!" The blood was suddenly pounding in his ears.

"They used the fate-changing machines on her," Allen continued relentlessly. "They erased her past, altered her body--"

"*Shut up!*"

"They gave her a new name." Allen's eyes were locked on his own. "Dilandau."

He stared back into Allen's intense gaze, unable to speak, bereft of response. There was nothing he could summon up to shift this absurd, impossible moment back into normality.

Helplessly, he began to laugh. He laughed and laughed, uncontrollably, until his lungs spasmed in a fit of coughing which brought the taste of blood into his throat.

* * * * *

His head lay back on the sweat-stained pillow. The headache had retreated, but his chest still ached. There was a cup of some draught on the bedside table. He gathered it was meant to soothe the pain, but he left it untouched. He didn't trust them not to drug it.

A wan circle of light leaked in from the corridor. He could hear their conversation in the next room, low but distinct.

Elise was saying, "I'm not totally satisfied with the arrangements you're proposing. You must know that he is a security risk."

"The war is over, your Highness. I'll take responsibility for him."

"That may not be enough."

"I have to do this. Don't you see? I failed Serena before. I won't fail again."

"There was nothing you could have done, Allen. You're taking on blame that isn't yours."

"But there is something I can do about it now. And if I do not, then the blame *will* be mine, and deservedly so."

"Allen..."

"Elise, whatever enmity may lie between us, he is my blood kin."

A sigh. "Very well. He is your charge, and under your protection. And you will be held responsible for his actions."

"Understood, your Highness. I thank you."

"Save your thanks. You may yet come to regret this decision."

A brief silence. "I know."

Their voices drifted in and out of earshot as his concentration ebbed. Already, it seemed almost like a dream. This whole thing ought to be a dream, he thought drowsily. Some vivid, insane nightmare.

It couldn't be true, what Allen was saying. It had to be some kind of plot, a convoluted scheme to neutralise him. He tried to work out the reasoning in his head, but before he could untangle it, sleep reached out and took him into its dark embrace.


--- continued in Part 2 ---