He sat on a hill, the sun's last dying rays glinting metallically off his pale lavender hair. It glinted metallically because that was what his hair was – metallic. Add to that his blue stone skin and slit-pupiled eyes, and you had a figure sure to have people noticing you when you walk into town. If they don't start screaming and running for shelter first.

            It was for this reason he had been searching for a cure lo these past…hell, it had been so long he had to stop and think a minute if he wanted to get a semi-accurate estimate of the years. Last he checked, it was somewhere around fifteen years. And he had not aged a bit.

            The only thing that distracted him from his search for a cure had to be something major, such as particularly insistent assassins or saving the world from Dark Stars, Demon Kings, Pieces of Shaburandingo, etc. And since for the past…here it was with the needing to stop and think again – maybe ten years, he hadn't run into any of those, he had been searching non-stop for a decade.

            And was as close to finding one as Lina Inverse was to giving speeches like Amelia. And meaning them.

            Still, it had taken quite a bit of convincing from Irik to make him take a break from his cure-seeking. Who is Irik, you wonder? Well, even if you don't, you're going to read about him. Because I like writing descriptions. So there.

            Irik was an old man, tall, thin, and pale-skinned to such a degree Zelgadis suspected elvish blood, with snow-white hair that stuck up in odd clumps all over his head. He was a scholar, and spent most of his time researching various old tomes. The research was why Zelgadis had sought him out, looking to see if he had perhaps come across anything regarding his cure. He had found Irik's tower deep within a dark forest – perfectly stereotypical wise old hermit locale – and had climbed those Cepheid-damned stairs all the way to the top, only to see the old man waiting for him, calmly informing the bemused chimera that according to an obscure book of prophecy he had been reading, a dire threat was coming to destroy the world – and a small group of adventurers had to stop him. By their previous escapades with Dark Star, Rezo (and Copy) etc. Zel and his friends qualified. And now they were on their way to the place where he and the rest of the prophesied ones – Zel was really having trouble thinking of himself as a prophesied anything – would face the 'dire threat'.

            Zelgadis, of course, wouldn't have gone if it weren't for Irik proving several times over how his study of prophecy really made him able to predict certain things - as well as the fact that Irik did hint he had some knowledge of a cure, which he would only give Zelgadis once this possibly false quest was over. Since he had been made to do other, more embarrassing things in his quest, Zel had decided to go along.

            Now, apparently, they were to meet up with the rest of his little gang. Earlier that afternoon, Irik had reined in his sorry-looking but surprisingly enduring mule (somehow it seemed entirely appropriate that Irik chose that animal as a mount) and told Zel that his friends would be showing up in the glade later, so set up camp. Zel, who had learnt over the past few days that most of what Irik said came true, did so. Camp chores now done – Irik had done his part by tending to his mule and Zelgadis's own black stallion – the chimera sat on a hill, looked at the sunset, and tried to decide how he would feel when he was faced yet again with the friends he hadn't seen for almost a decade.

            He stood up just in time to see Irik straighten from bending over the fire and saying, quite calmly, "Ah. Here they are."

            Amelia galloped up first, mounted on a snow-white palfrey. Her looks had matured in the years since Zel had seen her – although the fact that she was dressed in practically the same outfit that she had worn before added a sense of continuity. She came alone, without royal escort or guards or Lina.

            Guess she parted ways too. I wonder when?

            Amelia got off her horse, but before she could take more than three steps towards either Zel or Irik, a thundering of hooves filled the twilight air, and a horse galloped up from the exact opposite direction Amelia had come from. Mounted on the huge roan charger was a figure in dark blue armor that Zel knew very well.

            And the figure behind him is Lin…Sylphiel?!

            The four looked at each other. "Where's Lina?" they demanded.

            Irik, surprisingly enough, was the one who answered. "Ah, I see you've received my messengers." He looked at each of them. "Yes, yes, hmm, the prophecy is right…"

He paused, taking in the question they had asked each other. "Oh, Lina Inverse? Well, apparently ten years ago you people left her, believing her to be safe with the other two. By some incredible twist of fate, you people all picked the exact same morning to leave, and further miraculous, didn't notice each other leaving." Irik shrugged. "She's been journeying without companion since then, so don't bother asking the others how she's been. None of you really know any more than the other."

            Amelia was the first to regain her speech – which was no surprise considering how often she exercised it – and demanded, "How do you know all of this?"

            Irik gave her a passing glance. "I am Irik Sarmanad, and I study prophecy. If one studies it long enough, one develops a certain affinity to the art of divination, such as studying Shamanism gives one a feel for nature or Black Magic gives one a penchant for destruction.  And I have been studying prophecy longer than anyone alive."

***