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Chapter Seven: Mirror
"Oh, he's so cute!"
"Do you want a cookie?"
"He's just like my little bro back home!"
The maids in the laundry room were discussing their visitor, a young boy who had found himself in a laundry basket after escaping from his supposed "naptime", an activity everyone else assumed he was doing.
Zel did very much want a cookie but they were strangers and you are never supposed to take gifts from strangers. Of course, no one was actually doing work and this was soon discovered by the head maid, Eve.
Eve was 200 lb. of pure muscle, and was the only servant that could dare to boss even Prince Phil around, on a good day.
"You ragamuffin! You go on and git outta here!" She grabbed Zel by the collar, "Out wit ya!" She swung open the door and threw him out, much to the other maids' dismay and disappointment.
Dejected, Zel went to find his fun elsewhere. He wandered the palace looking for amusement and soon became very lost. He found himself in a lonely hallway, and started investigating the various abandoned rooms. In most rooms, there was nothing inside. In others, the furniture was musty or covered with white sheets. They were boring rooms and provided little interest to a hyper six-year-old Zel.
At the end of the hall was a fancy door. Fancy doors usually led to fancy rooms and perhaps interesting rooms. He turned the gold diamond-studded knob.
Meanwhile, Gourry thought it would be a good time to wake Zel up from his nap. What he found was an empty, untidy bed. He soon realized that Zel had run off, much like his adult counterpart, "Old habits die hard, huh, Zel?"
When Lina and Amelia were informed, they were very distressed. After Lina had sufficiently beaten Gourry, and Amelia had worn a really nice ring into the foreign rug, they decided to hunt for Zel.
"It never once occurred to you to stay by the door to make sure he stayed there?" Lina asked Gourry.
"I always took my naps. I was a good kid."
"This isn't the time for excuses! We have to find Master Zelgadis before he gets himself in trouble!" Amelia answered, hoping to delay a brawl in her palace.
"If I were Zel, where would I go?" Lina asked.
"To the library," Gourry answered.
"How do you figure that?"
"Because that is what Zel always does."
"Adult Zel, yes, but probably not Little Zel."
"Well, when I was younger, I always went to the maids' chamber rooms," Amelia replied, "I learned most of what I know from those visits."
"Let's go there. Show us the way," Lina gestured.
This room was less musty but it was still clear it had not been used in years. The furniture was not covered in white sheets. The queen-sized bed was made, the windows were spot-less, the wood was polished, if a touch dusty. It was taken care of but clearly not used.
To Zel's left was a dresser with a vanity. He turned to walk over to the vanity when he heard something unsticking nearby. The back of his shirt felt moist but it had not been moist seconds before. He reached his right hand behind him and felt moisture. He pulled his hand back out front and looked at it. It was wet. Wet with fresh blood. He glanced behind him. The entire back of his tunic was covered in fresh blood.
He turned back to the closed door. There was splat of blood that was the size of his back. Before his eyes, the splat grew and reached out until it covered the entire door and it kept growing, reaching out to the walls around the door. The splat ran downwards, to the floor, rushing towards him.
Zel stepped backward to get away from the horrible sight and slipped. He got up and saw he had slipped in a growing pool of blood. His pants were also now covered in blood.
Zel rushed on to the bed, to get away from the surrounding blood and suddenly pinned to the bed by an unseen force. He looked up. There was now a man on top of him, holding a dagger at the zenith, readying it to strike straight at his heart.
He screamed and rolled off the bed. When he had stopped screaming, the man was still there but there was a curly haired woman under him. She was screaming and she wouldn't stop. The man wouldn't move from his position, frozen in
time in that pose. A woman kept screaming and screaming, louder and louder until Zel's ears were about to bleed.
He covered his ears and closed his eyes, "#This is not real! This is not real! This is not happening! This is not happening!#"
The growing blood on the floor was nearly to the bed, the blood on the walls had reached the drapes and now the white drapes were spotted with blood.
"#Dead spirits, dead memories, you have no business here! I HAVE NO QUARREL WITH YOU! LEAVE ME ALONE!#"
The screaming stopped, the couple were gone, the blood had vanished. Zel's clothes were clean and fresh again.
The vanity, he had noticed, had been untouched during the whole affair. He went up to it and looked into it. It was an ordinary mirror reflecting an ordinary room. The frame was of ivy leaves and hearts. It was polished cherry
wood. Zel ran his hand along the frame. The reflection clouded...
His "guardians" were in another wing when they heard his screams. They rushed to the source of his voice.
"Please, don't say he's hurt himself," Amelia thought. They went into an abandoned hallway. Amelia did not want to be in this hallway. The reason for her distaste of the hall was at the end of the hall was her sister's old bedroom, it was now untouched mostly, except during its yearly dusting. It was in that room that her mother had died. She hoped Zel had not picked that room to entertain himself.
Lina and Gourry swiftly opened and banged shut the other rooms that were unused. All were empty of any children. When they reached the last door, Amelia stopped them, "He wouldn't be in there."
"Why not?" Gourry asked.
"Never mind, I'm going in and he better be in here," Lina scowled. She swung open the door and found Zel looking intently into a vanity mirror.
"You can admire yourself later, do you know...?" Lina never finished. She found that Zel was not admiring himself since his reflection did not show and neither did hers. What he was so intently watching was a man with a dagger stabbing a woman with black curly hair. Blood was spewing everywhere. Somewhere off the field of vision shown from the mirror, someone was casting a spell. This was only known because a shot of light shot from a side and hit the man. Blood splattered on the wall and a few drops landed on the mirror's surface.
The other two had also come in. Gourry's face was a mask of horror and disgust. Amelia's face wore a mask of sadness and fury. She grabbed Zel by the shoulders and turned him to face her, while screaming, "How dare you enter this room and show us this? To torture me?! I hate you!" Sobbing, she ran out of the room. Zel, after a moment of hesitation, quietly followed.
Amelia went to the library to have a good cry, "I thought I would never have to watch that again. I hate him."
"#There was good stuff, too.#" Zel's tiny voice interrupted.
Amelia lifted her head out of her hands. Zel had his hand on her knee, looking up at her with naive child eyes.
She sharply snapped, "Don't try that being cute trick on me! It's not going to work!" Zel said nothing. Amelia shoved Zel's hand off her knee and stood. She strode over to the window. She noticed where the new wall had been placed after Zel so carelessly blew it up. She scowled. She wasn't even in any danger at the time! She said to Zel, "Don't say you understand how I feel, because you don't!" She turned to him. Part of her was distressed that she was screaming at some poor kid that didn't even understand death yet, much less assassination. "You're just some stupid kid who grew into an uncaring, cowardly adult. He wanted too much of what he didn't feel like earning and deserve every torment he gets. So, don't you dare try the cute trick!"
"#Who was the curly haired lady?#"
"My mother! Alright! My mother was killed by an assassin hired by one of my late uncles! Why am I even bothering?! This going straight over your head and it's not like you care, you selfish brat!" She again turned to the window.
"#Was she raped, too?#"
That caught Amelia off guard, "What did you say?"
"#Was she raped?#"
"Where did you find out what rape is?"
"Don't you lie to me! Tell me where you found out about rape!"
"#One time I was at Grandpapa's house and I heard a woman screaming, calling, 'Rezo! Rezo! Help me!' and I ran to the source of the screaming and there some blue haired lady I had never seen before and there was this man... rubbing her up and down. And she was screaming and no one came so I got my Grandpapa to help but when I brought him there... he asked why I brought him there, he seemed confused. So, I got Mama and told her about the lady. But
everyone said there was no lady, no one was screaming but she was still there, she was still screaming, and the man was taking her nightgown off and was taking a knife out and he was shouting too, 'Shut the hell up! Shut up you little whore!' And I told them what the man was saying and... Grandpapa slapped me and asked where I heard those words and I told him, 'Just now! Just now!' But then they were gone. Mama told Grandpapa I probably had an overactive imagination and to go to sleep. When he was gone, she told me she believed me and that woman and man were really there and I was not a bad boy. Then she told this little chant I should say when I see things that no one else can see and they will go away. Then I asked Mama what the man was doing and she said, kind of soft, 'He was raping her, honey. That means he was forcing her to play a game that married people play when she didn't want to play.' I found out that the woman I saw was really my great-grandmother and she died the way I saw.#"
Amelia sat in silence, absorbing all Zel had told her.
"#When I went into that room, with the mirror, I thought it was weird because it was not musty or covered with white sheets. When I got in, blood got on my shirt and blood was on the door and it grew and spread all over the walls and I got blood on my pants. I tried getting on the bed but I was pinned down and suddenly there was a man there, holding a dagger. I rolled off and I saw the curly haired lady. Then I said the chant and they went away. The blood too. When I touched the mirror, I saw things. Past things. Ghosts of strong emotions. Not ghosts themselves, just imprints of their emotions.#" Zel looked at Amelia. She said nothing. "#You think I am lying, right? Rezo looked at me the same way when I told him about the lady.#" He began to cry, "#I do not know why I see things! I do not want to see them, they are scary. They always seem to be screaming. Why do I have to be the only one to see these people? Why do they come after me?!#"
He ran for Amelia's lap and Amelia put his head on her lap, "I believe you. Children never lie. I'm sorry I yelled at you. I miss my mother very much and I didn't want to see her being killed again. I never fully recovered from the experience." She stroked his hair, "I won't tell anyone what you told me, unless you want me to. Do you want me to?"
"You mentioned 'good stuff'. What did you mean by that?"
"#Good memories. People laughing and playing.#"
They got up and left the library just as Lina was entering the library.
"Amelia? Are you okay?"
"I'm fine. Zel said there was other things in the mirror. Want to come see?" Amelia didn't wait for her answer, just continued onward towards the dreaded room.
Gourry ran up and looked from Amelia to Lina. Lina shrugged and gestured that they should follow.
Zel ran his hand along the wooden frame of the mirror. The rest of them were sitting on the bed, staring intently. The image fogged up and suddenly cleared.
In the mirror was a young man. He had black hair and the early stages of a tiny mustache. He was thin and fragile looking.
"Is that...?" Lina asked.
"Yup, that's my Daddy!" He was trying and failing to tie his bowtie. An older woman entered the frame, turning Younger Phil towards her. She was speaking to him, her face showing joy and calm. She tied his bowtie. She picked up a comb and combed his hair. The woman said something. Phil responded. They laughed. Phil said something else, his face serious, questioning. The woman responded, her mouth forming "Fine, fine. Don't worry." Phil looked relieved. Phil bowed to the woman. The woman curtsied to him. They smiled at each other.
The mirror fogged.
"#The next part is kind of boring. I do not think you really want to...#"
"We're seeing everything," Amelia responded. Zel sighed and averted his eyes.
The image cleared. It was night. Phil was in the bed.
He apparently wasn't wearing a shirt. He had a very nice torso.
"Your Dad was a stud! What happened?" Lina said.
His hands were covering his eyes. His mouth formed, "Can I look?" He pouted. He stuck his tongue out.
"What is he doing?" Lina asked. Amelia shrugged. Gourry's eyes went wide, "I think we should skip this one, guys."
"No! We're watching all of it! I don't care if you're bored."
Phil waited. He tried to stretch his back. He smiled and uncovered his eyes. His eyes bugged out. His mouth formed, "Where?" He was probably shouting it but it was silent so they couldn't tell. Zel covered his ears.
"Can you hear them?" Gourry asked.
"#Yes.#" He nodded.
"Well, tell us what he's saying!" Lina ordered.
"#He just said 'Where'.#" Amelia translated as he spoke.
Phil was stifling laughter.
"#A woman just said, 'I am not your wife. I am Gracia, the White Serpent! You are now my captive!' He says, 'Gracia? I have never heard of you.'#"
Phil was crossing his arms, apparently playing along.
"#She says, 'Never heard of me? I am Gracia, the mighty warlady! You should be honored to be captured by the beautiful Gracia, the White Serpent!'#"
Phil cocked his head, looking at the invisible speaker out of the corner of his eye.
"#He says, 'Well, I am. But what shall you do to me?' She says, 'Make you my slave, of course!'#"
Phil cocked his head to the other side, his eyebrows rose up.
"He says, 'Slave? Like do your cleaning and such?' She laughs. I can not do the laugh for you. It is painful to hear though. She says, 'No! How barbaric! You shall be my love slave! You shall be the father of all my children and I will have many.'#"
Phil puts a dramatic hand to his chest and melodramatically pretends to be faint.
"#He says, 'Oh, what a cursed fate! I must be forced to lie with you every night and produce children with you. Oh, the horror!' She laughs. She says, 'Now, you shall know the mighty will of Gracia, the White Serpent!'#"
The speaker came into the frame. It was a curly haired woman, she was laughing.
"Mom... Mommy?"Amelia asked.
Amelia's mother (for indeed, it was she) was wearing a leather bikini with skulls on it. She was rather well-endowed, although not as much as her first born daughter, and the leather bikini made that rather obvious. Especially to Gourry.
Lina hit him while Amelia screamed, "That's my MOTHER!"
"She looks nice! It flatters her very well! I was admiring the...uh,... craftsmanship!"
Lina took a second look at the "nicely crafted" bikini. Where had she seen that before?
Lina jumped up, standing on the bed, "Oh my Gods! I've seen that bikini before! I traveled with someone who wore a bikini just like that! Skulls and everything! How did two completely unrelated people have the same outfit? And same nickname! They both call themselves, 'The White Serpent'! This is too weird!"
Amelia stared at her mother, "That can't be her! She never dressed like... that! She never acted like that! She was a wonderful, timid person who wore beautiful dresses that covered most of her body! Who is this strange woman?"
"#Gracia, the White Serpent.#"
"Gracia" had walked over to the bed, obviously describing Phil's "torture" to him while put his hand to his forehead, melodramatically, pretending to bemoan his "horrible fate".
"Gracia" laughed. She struck a ordering pose, obviously giving him commands since he was her "slave". Phil clasped his hands and made a big show for demanding something else. She looked insulted and pointed at his nose, repeating the order and turning her back to him. Phil suddenly looked honestly gleeful and started untying the top part.
"AAAAAAAA!!! I don't want to see this! I don't want to see how we were conceived!!!!"
"#I warned you.#" Zel stroked the frame again and the image clouded to everyone's relief.
The image cleared. It was dark. Bumps were moving under the sheets...
The image clouded. The image cleared. It was something they didn't want to see. They went through five such events.
As the last image clouded, Gourry said, "Well, at least, you know your parents had a really good relationship!"
The image cleared. Amelia's mother was sitting on the bed, combing her hair. Phil's backs would peek from the bottom of the frame.
"He's probably doing push-ups," Lina reasoned.
She was smiling and looked down.
"#She says, 'I have a surprise for you.' He says, 'What?'#"
She laughed. "#She says, 'It would not be a surprise if I tell you. Guess.' He says, 'You are going to have a baby.'#"
She looked disappointed.
"#She says, 'How did you know?' He says, 'Simple. You have not used magic in a while. I know you were not having your "womanlies" so I asked Entela what else makes women lose magic. One, curses. Two, babies. I guessed the better of the two.'#"
Phil got up. He looked like the Phil they all knew. He picked up Amelia's mother and swung her a little, but stopped, realizing that spinning could be dangerous.
The couple kissed and ran out.
The image clouded. The image cleared.
There were maids all around the bed.
"#She is screaming. It sounds like she is in pain. And she hates 'Phil'.#"
Image clouded and cleared. The new mother held a baby, Phil was looking at it. He picked it up. Its face contorted into a crying face and started kicking its feet. Amelia's mother wore a mixed face of sympathy and amusement.
The image clouded and cleared. There were few more "unmentionable activities", shots of Mother reading to Gracia, Father tickling Gracia, Amelia's mother explaining to an unexpectingly excited Gracia that she was going to have another child. Shot of labor (which they skipped), shots of Gracia and Amelia playing hide and seek with their mother pretending not to see them, shots of the three jumping on the bed, shots of their mother telling them "not to judge of book by its cover", shots of Gracia being applauded for doing a light spell for her very tired parents very early in the morning right into their faces. Almost all were pleasant and made Amelia very sad.
As Amelia's mother was finishing telling the moral of a story, Zel said, "#The next one is the scary one. I will stop now.#" He tapped the mirror and regain its normal conditions. Zel turned to Amelia, "#Why are you crying?#"
"Master Zelgadis, I am crying because I miss my mother and sister very much. I wish we could have moments like that again but I know we will not. I'm not sad. I'm happy that I was able to see these things again." She stood up, "We should finish planning our trip to Hayla." She went to the door and opened it. The others walked through and she added, "Could you not mention that we were in here or what we saw in the mirror to my Daddy?"
"#He can not understand me anyway.#"
"Thanks a lot."
The door closed with a hollow click.
To be continued...
Author's Notes: How did you like my allusion to Naga? I'd like to thank Pairaka for writing "Desperado" because now I don't have use the "S" word. C&C are welcome and needed at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Chapter Eight: Expected
"There! It's done! We have a route!" Lina screamed after having an all-nighter with the map to Hayla. Red lines criss-crossed over the page, almost making the map unreadable.
"Great. Too bad we can't see Hayla any more," Gourry remarked.
"You, shut up. It's there, I can see it." Lina then fell on her face and slept, snoring.
"#Why are you people in such a big hurry? Hayla is not going to run away.#" Zel asked Gourry. Gourry looked at him blankly, "#Never mind.#"
The next morning, Amelia said farewell to her father, made up some excuse about finding Master Zelgadis' birth parents and ran away as fast as she could without looking suspicious.
"I am so happy that we don't have to spent another night there. One week is too much," Lina whined. Gourry had dragged her out of bed, regardless of her protests. "You said you wanted to leave and be gone by 9! It's now 10!" After Lina had gotten dressed, eaten, and moaned and groaned at Gourry for being unreasonable, they left at 11:30am.
As they were heading towards the gates, they ran into the Millay shepherds. "Are you taking him to Hayla? How are going to explain what happened to him?" Michelle asked, rubbing Zel's hair.
"We're in a really big hurry, so if you don't mind," Lina said, grabbing Zel out from under Michelle's touch and tossing him to Amelia. She grabbed Gourry's arm and led him out, heading north. The shepherds continued walking, but they headed south. The children were still singing their little song. Zel chimed in (in his own language) at various lines that he knew.
After the song of the children had faded and Saillune had become a dot, Gourry asked, "Hey, Lina? What _are_ we going to tell his relatives about what happened to him?"
"Um... well... I'll think of something to say," Lina brushed it off.
"Miss Lina, couldn't we just tell them the truth?" Amelia asked.
"Amelia," Gourry answered before Lina could, "if you were sitting in your room one day and three people you've never met come in with a six-year-old and tell you it is your long lost relative, wouldn't you be a little dubious?"
"Well, I guess..."
Lina added, "Look, his aunt is not a moron. She is not going to believe we say. We have to prove to her that he is Zel."
"But, Amelia's got a point. Honesty is the best policy. Maybe she'll know him on sight. Maybe she'll believe us..."
Gourry tapped his chin with his forefinger.
"Maybe she'll call the men in white suits to take us away. If I was her, I would not believe us," Lina replied.
"But what are we going to say to her, Miss Lina? It will do us no good if we lie because then she can't help us!" Amelia cried.
"I'm voting for just telling the truth. There's an off-chance she'll believe us," Gourry raised his hand and Amelia raised hers. "You're out-voted, we're going to tell her the truth."
It took a week to get to Hayla. Hayla was on the coast of the Gulf of Cephied which, apparently, looked like Cephied's head. Some say during the War of the Monsters, he had fallen during one of the battles, but not the Big
Battle, and left an imprint of his head.
To the north of Hayla was the endless desert, Firebrand, to the south was flatlands. It was very hot but not as hot as the Firebrand desert. It was a trade port, smelling of spices and dried fruit.
There were fortune-teller booths and snake charmers. Preachers of minor religions preached of ever-lasting torment to those who didn't convert. Exotic animals were seen from cages, nearly hidden in the darkness of the tents they were sold from. Prostitutes stood in barely nothing (actually, lots of women were in barely nothing. Went up to the 100s in this place), tattooed with faux religious symbols, offering their "wares" to the men walking in the streets. Upper class prostitutes stood outside whorehouses, telling men what kind of "entertainment" they could get, and at what cost.
Lina glared at Gourry, daring him to say something. Gourry simply kept walking. He had no desire to go to one of those places. His father, when he had reached puberty, strictly told him, under no uncertain terms, that men who went to those places, "Are lower than spit. The women can't help it, they have no where to go so they must offer it to live, much like a milkmaid must milk cows to live. The men who go there, they do not need it. They are selfish and encouraging bad behavior. If they need it so bad, they should just find a girl, court her and marry her, like the rest of us!"
Of course, there were worse wares than what the prostitutes were selling. In dark alleys, men and, yes, even women sold "Dream Teas" and "Dreamer's Sugar" and other such things. There was no person, no matter how young, that could not buy one of these products for under a gold. Indecent, yes, but they were only selling because people were buying. Supply always depends on demand.
While Lina glared, Gourry ignored the women and Amelia resisted the urge to either throw up or crawl on to some high pinnacle and make the citizens abandon their evil ways, a man was escorting a woman back to work after lunch.
The man was talking, "Is she creeping you out or it is just me?"
The woman replied, "You know how your mother is. I'm used to it, don't worry. Geez, I should be the complaining, not you."
"But, it's not like the other times. It's different."
"But you never had proof that he was dead. Maybe she's right. Maybe he is coming."
"Yeah, that I understand that but what's up with 'he will learn to be one with innocence.' I just don't understand."
"I'm just an Earth shamanist. I don't understand fortune telling any more than you do. What do you want me to say?" Someone bumped into her. She turned to scold but she found her very guilty looking brother-in-law.
"Where's the fire, Malcolm?" She asked. Malcolm was about ten years old (though he claimed to eleven). He had fiery red hair with brown eyes. He was
tanned, as was everyone here, but he was dusty as well. He wore white capri-style pants with goat leather sandals. His sleeve less shirt, which was white, had turned into a slight beige from dirt and dust. There was sand in his hair, which he was currently trying to shake out.
"Nowhere. I had to get somethin' for Mam, dried fruit from that stand over there. Did I interrupt an intimate moment?" He replied, mockingly. The couple had been married for a year and they were still in the lovey-dovey newlywed phase.
"No, you didn't, so take that smug look of your face. One day, you're going to like girls and I'll torment you about it." His brother, whose name was Jeremy, slapped him on the rump.
Malcolm soothe his raw hide with a minor healing spell and replied, "Never, never, never. They're too much work. Can I go now?" And before the newlyweds had time to reply, he was off. His sister-in-law, Elise, just shook her head and headed to the pottery shop.
Malcolm made his way to the fruit cart and ordered the dried fruit that his mother needed. As an afterthought, he bought some banana chips with the left-over money, "Eh, I'll just tell Mam that the prices changed today."
As he worked out exactly what he would say, he was toppled by an unseen force.
"AAAAA! I'm being killed! Help me! I'll give you my banana chips, just let me go!"
"Yllaer?" The attacker asked then reached over to grab the bag of banana chips but Malcolm flipped over and pinned his attacker down. He became quite embarrassed when he realized he was being mauled by a six-year-old.
"Geez, even a dog would have been honorable. Nothing more embarrassing that getting killed by a little munchkin."
He got off him. He could hear some mother calling her son. The boy held out his hand, "Spihc ananab."
"I don't understand you, kid. Leave me alone." The boy got up and kicked Malcolm in the shins. "Hey! Cut that out."
"Spihc ananab! Spihc ananab tnaw i!"
"Stop kicking me!"
"Spihc ananab em evig won, Rej, spihc ananab evah dluoc i dias uoy!"
"I don't understand you! Leave me alone!"
"He wants your banana chips," a feminine voice answered. Malcolm turned around. He looked up at a teenage girl with short black hair and blue eyes. She was sweating quite profusely.
"Oh," he answered, tossing the little boy the chips, which he began to eat.
"What is your name?" The girl asked.
"Malcolm, I'm eleven."
"#No, he is not.#"
"I don't believe you," The girl responded.
"Oh, fine, I'm ten. I'm turning eleven in two months!"
"#No, no, no. His name is not Malcolm. He is Jer.#"
"No," The girl replied, shaking her head, "I know that your name is Jer."
"Jer? You mean as in Jeremy?" Malcolm asked, wondering what exactly the boy behind him was saying, "because, if you mean that, Jeremy is my older brother."
"#Jer does not have an older brother.#"
"But Master Malcolm does!" Amelia said the boy, "Does Jer have a little brother?"
"#No. He is an only child.#"
"What are you two talking about? I've never even met this kid!"
"We're looking for someone," The girl replied, "his family, exactly."
"Well, I know a lot of people. Some might be missing kids."
"No, I mean, his relatives. His parents," the girl then whispered, as if not to scare the little boy, "are dead. We're looking for his aunt."
"Well, maybe Jeremy can help. Or maybe my Mam can help, she's a fortune teller. But I'm not sure, she's been going on about how our missing cousin is coming back to visit 'to find his innocence' or something like that."
"Well, we can always use some..." The girl began but Jeremy came up, "Flirting with girls already? You sure got out of that 'Anti-Girls' phase real quick..."
"Jer! She's looking for this kid's," Malcolm pointed to the little boy, "aunt. Know of anyone whose got a missing nephew?"
"Well, Mam does."
"He's twenty-four, you idiot, not six! And, besides, he's
not even her real nephew."
"He isn't?" The girl interrupted, "I thought he was your cousin."
"Nah," Malcolm answered, "it's sort of complicated. My Mam and his Da were cousins so he's like our second cousin, once removed or something. We just call him 'cousin' because he used to call my Mam 'auntie'. Easier for both parties."
"But," Jeremy aid, kneeling to the boy's sitting height, "he looks a lot like him. You know, at his age."
"But, it's not him, so get off it. Don't you have to work?"
"What's it to you?"
The girl cut in, "Your cousin. What was his name?"
Jeremy responded, "Zelgadis. I can't believe they named him that, he must've been teased..."
"I knew it! I've found your cousin!"
"You have? Where?"
"Right here. This boy is Master Zelgadis!"
There was a pause. A tumbleweed rolled past them.Malcolm clapped slowly.
"Uh... our cousin is twenty-four years old. I was kidding around," Jeremy laughed nervously.
"But, it is! Look, you have to believe me! Master Zelgadis was going to commit suicide but we found his note before he did it and we got in and some weird woman was there and she kissed him and then she changed appearance and there was a silent screaming woman in the mirror and the kissing woman grew wings and she left but Master Zelgadis had been turned into a six year old and I'm the only one who can understand him. You have to believe me. We don't know what to do. We need to find his family so he can have a normal life. And that's it."
Another pause. A prostitute was thanking a happy customer nearby.
"O---kay. So, our twenty-four year old cousin, according to you, has been turned into a little six year old," Malcolm said in his "I'm-ten-nearly-eleven-years-old-so-I-know- everything-there-is-to-know" voice.
"What's this with you being the only one to understand him?" Jeremy asked.
"He's speak this odd language but it sounds normal to my ears. At first, I couldn't understand but after I kissed him good-night about two weeks ago, I could understand."
"Hey," Jeremy said to the little boy, "say something."
"Say something else."
"It is him! I remember this goofy language too. I'll show you where my mother works. Come on."
"Wait! I have to call my friends!" The girl rushed to a couple buying some meat product. The red-haired woman sighed in exhaustion but the larger, blonde man sighed in relief.
The girl brought them over and introduced the pair to the couple.
"I'm Lina," The red-haired woman said, "and he's Gourry," she added before he could open his mouth. Gourry frowned then lightened up.
"Oh, dear, I forgot, I'm Amelia."
"Amelia? You mean as is Princess Amelia of Saillune?"
"I'm surprised. I never thought Saillunians would go to Hayla," Jeremy said, then his voice went to a higher pitch, "It's so corrupt!" Amelia blushed and Malcolm realized she probably had thought that at some point.
They went to a block of fortune telling booths and went pass most of them until they reached a very fine booth. For one thing, it wasn't a tent. It was a small, white-washed, flat-top building. It looked pretty permanent. They could
see dark red curtains on the inside of the window, most likely to give privacy.
The door was wood, painted red and had "Fortune teller: Gifted in tarot, palm, tea leaves, and meditation. Business days: Mon-Thur from 9am to 7pm, Fri-Sat from 9am to 10:30am, Sun from 10am to 3pm. Exorcisms only on Sundays, first come, first serve basis."
Jeremy opened the door and the bell jingled. It was dark. There were one or two lavender scented candles burning. A woman with golden hair with red streaks in the strands sat at a small, round table. To her right were various decks of tarot cards, to her left were tea leaves in a porcelain bowl with a cup next to it. In the back, there was a bookcases with a few fortune-telling books with some white magic books to fill up space. There was no crystal ball (having a ball is a sure sign that the teller is a fraud. Every fortune teller knows that those things never work!). All in all, it was very cryptic.
The woman raised her head and looked, it seemed, straight into Amelia's eyes, "I've been expecting you."
To be continued...
Author Notes: I love banana chips. I want some right now.
C&C are needed at email@example.com.
Chapter Nine: Vision
The house that "aunty" actually dwelled in was actually kind of boring. It was two-level white washed house (as was every house. You barely can tell one house from another) with a flat roof. There were two windows in the front, facing the street. The Dutch door was undecorated and not fancy in any respect.
Zel's "aunty" was named Veronica, or Madame Vanda by her customers, Scylla (by marriage) and owned the little house. She opened the door with an unlocking spell. She said to their shocked faces, "Learned it before it got banned. It's handy."
"No, actually, I was amazed that you can actually do magic," Lina answered, "I've never met a fortune teller that was an actual magic-user."
"Magic-users have to eat, especially when they have children."
"That's not what I meant..."
"I'm still insulted. I could put a hex on you, you know. Don't try me. But do try my tea." Veronica led them inside.
The first thing they noticed was how cool it was inside, "Man, you put an air-cooling spell on your HOUSE?" Lina asked.
"It's hot in Hayla. I'm not going to roast to death," Veronica put a kettle on the stove, she lit the stove with a Flare Carrot.
"Um... how is she making the house cool?" Gourry asked.
"Gourry, you know how magic-users' capes sometime blow for no reason?"
"It's powered by the spell that Veronica on her house, which is pretty impressive considering it can only cool a small area and it has to be re-cast every ten minutes."
"Actually, I have several stones that reflect the spell all over my house, over and over. I couldn't turn it off even if I wanted to."
Zel looked at his surroundings. All the toys that were supposed to out for his visits were gone. He tugged on Amelia's damp shirt, "#Ask Aunty for my toys.#"
"He wants his toys," Amelia translated for the others.
"You can understand him?" Veronica asked, not looking the least bit startled, almost as if she were asking, "So, there are clouds in the sky today, I assume?"
"Ye-ee-ah. I really don't know why... I really can't explain..."
"Oh, just checking." Veronica poured tea and silently offered sugar and honey.
Lina lashed back, " 'Oh, just checking.' What the hell does that mean?" Before Veronica could respond, Amelia remembered how Veronica had seemed to look straight to into her eyes when she said she had been expecting them, "Were you... actually expecting us in particular?"
"Give the girl a cookie!" Veronica threw up her arms as if she was dealing with complete idiots, "yes, I've been expecting you for weeks! I'm a fortune teller, for crying out loud. It's my job to see into the future! You think I don't see random future events? I saw Zelgadis' birth when his father had just been born, I saw his father's death before his mother had coughed once, I saw Zelgadis' change into a chimera before he could spell his own name, I saw Rezo's death when he was still working on discovering what was afflicting his daughter-in-law, I can see your grandchildren's spouses as you stand there, glaring at me. Yes, I have been expecting you for quite some time." Veronica took a couple of deep breaths, "Sorry, I just find it frustrating when people don't understand I can see into the future and can predict the comings and goings of strangers."
"If you saw all these horrible things," Amelia asked, "Why did you never warn others about them?"
"What would be the point? People don't like hearing about those things. Also, I only get flashes of random images. Sometimes, I misinterpret those images. Besides, no future is set in stone. Everyone thinks that whatever they do, the fortune teller's word is final. But, as long as you breathe, it is never final."
"But how do you see it if it isn't final?"
"The images I see are images of what will happen if everything goes the way it has been going. Every day, you make choices. To get up or to lay in bed all day. Your future can depend on that one decision. If you get up, you may choose to have breakfast or to not have breakfast. If you choose to eat breakfast, you have to decide between eggs or bread. If you eat eggs, and they're not cooked enough, you'll spend rest of the day being ill. If you eat bread, you'll be fine and perhaps go horse-back riding. If you take one path, you might hit a beehive and get stung. And so on."
"That must be nerve-wracking," Gourry commented.
"It is. Anyway, back to what you were asking, yes, I have been expecting you. I already know what your problem is." She turned to her children and daughter-in-law, "Now do you understand what I have been saying the past week?"
"This is so screwed up," was all Malcolm had to say on the topic. Veronica turned back to her audience, "But I don't know the details. Will you please recount?"
"Um... sure, well, one night, we heard Zel screaming and it woke us up," Lina said, "I found a suicide note..."
Lina's face fell, "Well, excuse me! Anyway, we went to his room and there was this purple-haired woman with blue eyes, she was wearing this white robe..."
"Zelgadis' mother, yes..."
"She looked at us and kind of shrugged her shoulders like we weren't important and kissed him on the lips. She suddenly changed into a green-eyed blonde woman and wings sprouted out through the robe. But in the mirror, the other woman was still there and she was obviously screaming and crying but we couldn't hear her. Anyway, the blonde woman dropped Zel and he gradually turned into a little kid and the blonde woman said to the mirror woman, 'You can't
protect him forever' then said to Zel, 'See you soon, my Prince' and they both disappeared. So, we couldn't understand him at all but one night, Amelia tucked him..."
"Heard this and that is quite enough. The blonde woman.I've met her."
Gourry responded with shock, "Really? How?"
"Well, minus the wings, you described one of Zelgadis' aunts, the oldest one, mother's side. She had three sisters, his mother was the youngest. Apparently, Victoria, his mother, was adopted too."
"What's up with the wings?" Gourry asked, impatient.
"I don't know. All I know is that Victoria's family had greatly opposed the marriage and hated Rezo and Zelgadis' father with a passion."
"Must run in the family," Lina mused. Veronica laughed.
"Wish it was just that. They thought that Rezo was no one special and didn't understand why he received so much praise. 'We've seen a million of men and women just like him and sometimes better. We are not impressed.' Her mother told my father that personally when he had asked about her coldness."
"She sounds like the life of the party," Gourry joked.
"No kidding, she even scared me. I never saw Victoria's relatives after the wedding. As far as I know, they never once came to visit, not even when Zelgadis was born. It was as if they denied their relationship with her. I felt sorry for her, seeing her rejected like that, but it didn't seem to bother her." She sighed and looked distant, as if she could see Victoria behind her audience, "but that was a long time ago and they're all gone, except Zelgadis, but even he is a shadow of former self." For some reason, Amelia knew that she was not referring to their current problem.
"Can you help us?" Amelia asked.
"I believe so. Ever heard the saying, 'Ignorance is bliss'? I know that Zelgadis' intention was to stop hurting, his aunt fixed that problem by turning him back to a time before all his problems started.
But Zelgadis of today can not be destroyed completely, only separated into base parts. What you call him 'being transformed' is really him 'being split', leaving only Zelgadis of childhood here. The question is: where did the rest of him go? Though you may not realize it, Zelgadis of childhood still is connected to the other parts making up Zelgadis of today. Using Zelgadis of childhood, I can find those other parts and you three can find a way to put them back together."
"Us? How are we supposed to do that?" Lina demanded.
"I've foreseen it. You will, that's all that matters."
"But no future is written in stone, you even said that!"
"Yes, but even paper lasts for quite some time."
"What if he doesn't want to be turned back?" Amelia asked, "What if as soon as we fix him, he'll just go back and kill himself?"
"Amelia, that is a very kind thought but personally, I don't think he has a choice right now. Call me cynical, but I don't think his aunt did this out of the kindness of her heart. Remember? 'You can't protect him forever'? Sounds like she has a plan in store for Zelgadis. I think the only way it will work is if he is in this condition."
"Figures. Why can't relatives be nice for a change?" Lina moaned.
"Anyway," Veronica said, shooting Lina down, "I will need to get into Zelgadis' subconscious to find what we are looking for." She rose and motioned for Zel to come and take her hand. He took it (after dropping the pot he had been playing with) and followed to a sliding door.
Veronica slid the door to the right and entered. There was nothing inside, except an incense stand. She put a stick in the holder and lit it. She told Zel to sit, which he did and poked her head out, "Don't come in and don't make loud noises. For this to work I need complete silence. So, go outside or something." She closed the door and sat down in front of Zel, "Now, just relax and keep your mouth shut."
She closed her eyes and she heard Zel lay down, sighing. She entered the Astral Plane.
Veronica found herself standing next to a standing Zel. He didn't seem frightened or confused. His face was neutral, his arms crossed. It was twilight and a gentle mist from a nearby sea frosted the scene, though there was no water in sight. It was a quaint town. Simple townhouses with a few candles on in the windows. Obviously, some people were awake.
It was very quiet and Zel said, "Do you hear that?" Veronica was not surprised that she could understand him. It wasn't really him, just an image of him, a representation.
"No, I hear nothing."
"The air is waiting. If you listen carefully, you can hear the vibrato of nature's wait. Listen."
She did hear something but it didn't sound like a vibrato of anything. It was panic-stricken sobbing. She looked past the fog and saw a dirty woman holding a baby in a bundle. She was obviously running from something. She looked around, panting, clenching the baby to her chest. Looking for escape.
Veronica suddenly heard singing but she knew no one was actually singing:
Gabhaim molta Bride
Ionmhain i le hEirinn
Ionmhain le gach tir i
Molaimis go leir i
"She's running from something," Zel said plainly.
"But from what?" Veronica asked.
"We shall see."
The woman's hair was noticeably coming out of place. Her dress was mud-stained and clung to her ankles. She banged on a door, "Please! Help me! There's a man following me! He wants to kill me! He has a knife! Please, provide me shelter!" But the candle that had been lit in the window, went dark. No one answered.
Lochrann geal na Laighneach
'Soilsiu feadh na tire
Ceann ar oghaibh Eireann
Ceann na mban ar mine
Again and again, the woman banged on the doors but no one came and the candles, one by one went dark. The woman sobbed in the street, looking helpless and scared.
Tig an gheimhreadh dian dubh
Gearrdh lena gheire
Ach ar La 'le Bride
Gar duinn Earrach Eireann
Suddenly, the shape of a man appeared out of nothing. He made no sound as he walked. The woman turned around and her eyes went wide. She held her baby tighter. Veronica could see the shine of a knife blade.
Brighid of the sunrise
Rising in the morning
Rising with the Springtime
Greening all the land
"What do you want from me?" The woman gasped, nearly sobbing. The man said nothing. "WHAT DO YOU WANT?! Leave me be!" The man stepped closer but paused in his tracks.
See you in the soft cloud
See you in the raindrop
See you in the winds of change
Blowing through the land
Seeing her chance, the woman turned her back on the man and ran. But suddenly, the man was right behind but Veronica did not see him move from Point A to Point B. He took out the knife and cleanly slit the woman's throat. She turned around and gurgled, "Why?"
The man responded, "That is a secret." The woman fell head first, crushing the infant.
Zel turned to his right and ran. Veronica ran after him but he was suddenly so fast.
You the red eared white cow
Nourishing the people
Nourish now the hunger
Souls longing in our land
He ran away from the town and into the thick underbrush. Veronica ran after him, screaming, "Why did you show me that? What meaning does it have to you?" Zel did not answer, only laughed as he ran.
They ran for what seemed like hours in the forest. Veronica's robe was now in tatters. Eventually, they came to a riverbank but the river was murky and green. Zel ran through the river. When he in the river, skeletal hands with bits of decaying flesh reached out for him, ripping his pants. But Zel was undaunted and ran through them. Veronica had to follow him and she too jumped in the river and the hands pulled at her as well. Their faces were of dead family members and dead husbands. She screamed in horror and nausea gripped her. She ran past them as well but didn't fail to notice that they had slashed at her legs.
Zel was still running. His destination was now apparent. It was a temple with pillars in the front and many steps leading up to two double doors that were taller than a man.
Veronica followed him but when she reached the foot of the staircase, she found she could move no further from that spot. Zel, however, had continued upwards and had mysteriously been able to open the doors.
Bird that is unfolding
Now the time's upon us
Only have we eyes to see
Zel turned to face her. Speckled feathers shot out in excess resembling a dirty blizzard. A great wind blew from inside the temple, shaking Zel's hair. From the floor, a flood of blood flowed down the steps.
Zel was unaffected and only said, "This place is my prison. Soon, it will be my grave."
To be continued...
Author's Notes: The song is actually a real song, and the "nonsense" words are actually Gaelic or Irish. The song is called, "Brighid's Kiss" by "La Lugh". Among others, it's on "Celtic Woman 2". The English words are not translations ofthe Irish words. C&C are welcome and needed at firstname.lastname@example.org