Welcome to my first Gaia AU. I've never done one of these before, but back in the height of popularity this was one of my favorite types of Escaflowne stories to read. This starts before the series and is not a direct retelling, though I do have an idea for one of those in the works. I don't want to say too much here, but more will be at the end.
Blades and Bellflowers
Chapter One- Hiding in Plain Sight
I don't want to go to the tournament. It's always more fuss then it's worth, and though there is some beauty to the prance of war trained horses and the deadly dance of blades; the needless violence of it all turns my stomach. Every year knights come from all over Asturia and some from beyond travel to Palas in search of honor and prize money. The streets flood with challengers and spectators alike. An event brings out high emotions and that could be very dangerous for me.
From a young age I would have hunches that always came true. As I grew older, they became stronger turning into full visions of the past and future. Being a seer isn't something that should be announced unless attention is what you seek, because most of it will be negative. I've been able to avoid the tournament these last couple of years, but I can't bring myself to let anyone know how strong the visions have become. If I were to have one in public the reputation of my whole family could be ruined.
Whispers of dark magic, curses, and suspicion. As if the bad fortune is created by the unlucky seer and not just witnessed by them. What would people say if they knew that the daughter of Lord Kanzaki was so cursed, or yet that it has been passed down through all the women in my mother's line as far back as our history goes. Grandmother Yuri was the strongest, until now, and I can't let anyone know. Not even my family who loves me despite this unnatural ability.
Sure, it would get rid of the pesky talks of marriage that annoy me, but I still dream of romance and sweet words like any normal girl my age. A kind man who is understanding and chivalrous. Who is gallant even against his enemies but treats me as though I am something truly special. A personal fairy tale come to life.
If the truth were to get out that I am not normal, well a man like that would never look in my direction. The only thing worse than being a seer would be a Draconian, though they all died out a few generations back. No, it's best that no one finds out what I am.
Which is precisely why I don't want to go today. All those people, high emotions, and stressful environments always bring out the visions. How could I hide with so much that could go wrong? Still part of me wishes I was like every other noble-man's daughter today. That way I could truly enjoy seeing Sir Allen Schezar in his element.
As the youngest man to become a Knight Caeli he is the embodiment of every little fantasy my mind could make up. A tall, handsome fighter who is gentle and charismatic. With his long cloak of shimmering golden hair and cornflower blue eyes, what heart doesn't flutter when he passes?
True it will always be nothing more than a girlish daydream. Allen has a host of other admirers and only shows me polite disinterest each time we meet, but I try to fool myself that it's only because a person can not fall in love in a few short moments.
It's also not like I'm some amazing beauty like Princess Millearna who he has more interaction with. My long hair is straight and mousy, the color of sand not sunshine like the other girl. She has eyes of lavender with a mischievous yet intelligent glint; while mine are large, green, and see far too much. I am slender not curvy, making me normal and not stunning. No, I could never compete in the looks department.
What do I have that other girls don't? Well other then the one thing I hide, nothing. I guess I'm nice in a common way. Somewhere on Gaia is the one guy who'd love me regardless of my affliction, but I know I haven't met him yet. What man wants a wife who sees the past as faded dreams and the future in vibrant clarity. Living a comfortable life in the upper-class I've been sheltered from true tragedy, but sadness is universal. The worst part about my visions is knowing there isn't anything I can do to change them.
If I interfered everyone would know my secret, and despite the truth no one would believe me. Its as though doubt protects them from a negative future. Doing nothing to help when bad things happen bothers me more than if my unwanted talent came to light.
Still without an actual reason not to attend the tournament today I find myself in a lacy pink dress that doesn't suit me. Hair pulled away from my face with silver filigree clips. Every preparation by my maids in the vain hope that someone of an acceptable rank, wealth, and bloodline would take a fancy to me today. Being out in public at festive occasions like this most girls my age attend just to be seen by their future husband. Me on the other hand, I would rather not be noticed.
Colored banners wave in the bright spring morning, flittering like a spectrum of light trapped in a row, unable to escape their position. The carriage passes many who continue about their happy ways chattering with excitement. Leaning a little further out the window I relax thinking about how if I try to enjoy being out of the house the day will pass faster. Just then as though he could read my drifting thoughts eyes lock with mine.
In a moment I've taken in the whole view of him, a young knight with a nest of hair dark as a raven's wing. Between the seamless tan and the slight almond shape to the mahogany orbs watching me make it clear he is not from around here. Not dark enough to be from Freid, Basram maybe, or Fanelia but I don't know of anyone from that small closed off country. We get people from all over here in Palas, but I've never seen someone like him. It has to be more than his thin lanky build or loose crimson tunic that makes this boy special.
At fifteen moons I know I'm not a beauty, but the way we seemed connected despite the distance is like something out of a story book. His eyes were not full of instant love, but a sort of pull neither of us understand. What concerns me more is the dark shadow just over his lean form, looming and visible only to me. With difficulty I broke the connection and sank back into my seat, but somehow, I could still feel those uncanny eyes follow the carriage until it was out of sight.
We arrived at the tournament fields while people continued to stream in. I trailed behind my family returning the few greetings of peers sent my way. I've always been considered friendly, even easy to talk to, but in the last year or so I spent most of the time outside normal social circles. All my so-called friends seemed to have forgotten me. It was alright even if I felt a little lonely in the crowd.
Sitting near the royal section my family sits near the Uchida's and I make small talk with Yukari who I'd once been close friends with before distance became my best defense. Her red hair clashed slightly with the bright yellow of her dress but being direct was more her way than mine. It took some side stepping in our chat to avoid the questions about my withdraw from society. In a way it was a relief when the festivities started for real, that way I could pretend immersion in the activities to avoid more uncomfortable conversation.
The archery competition which came first was fascinating, and it was easy to let the excitement practically churning through the air draw me in. I wondered what it would take to learn to use a bow but dismissed the thought almost as quickly. When jousting started, I wanted to close my eyes, the speed and danger making me afraid of seeing an accident before it happened. Each time the galloping yorkles charged, their knights determined, I felt the possibility of misfortune. Still nothing bad happened beyond one of the favorites losing to an unknown knight in plain armor.
Despite the bulky padding of his hauberk he seemed young, like his body had yet to grow into what it was meant to be. Even with the helmet visor down he seemed familiar, but the few knights I knew wore recognizable emblems. Sir Allen's was a painted red rose, and the symbol fit his grace perfectly. This newcomer wasn't flashy at all, but there was just something about him that drew the eye.
Even during sword-fighting the young knight advanced steadily. There were other events but the final one I watched was a the highly anticipated guymelef duels. Again, the unknown fighter rose through the ranks like a wild card. He wasn't the most elegant, but there was something mesmerizing about the way he moved. A determination that surpassed years of skill every time, natural talent maybe.
The last match was between the nameless fighter and Allen, betting started throughout the crowd with enthusiasm. Scherazade the golden-haired knight's melef stood proudly, the blue cape swept stylishly over only one metal shoulder. On the other hand, the challenger used a plain armor, one that was rented to competitors without the coin to own one of their own.
Seeing the temporary suit enter the field to face Allen's custom one, wagers were placed, all of them against the younger fighter. I felt bad for him but was determined not to cheer for either man. Even if most thought the battle would be over in less than three moves. That wasn't decided yet. I would know.
The two suits bowed slightly, saluting with their long swords, ones that were the length of a dragon's tail and just as deadly. Moving into a ready position the challenger turned his long sword and placed his free hand out. With a sudden shift of weight, he charged forward, blade dragging behind him, a deep gouge scored into the ground. Allen seamlessly blocked the strike, their swords clashing. The knight pushed forward on the locked weapons, neither man giving into the stalemate, but the challenger strained against the opposing force.
With a yell he pushed forward knocking the other steel wide and performed his own charge with far more confidence. A swift downward attack could have ended the match right then, but the nameless fighter blocked at the last second, swords clashing again. The crowd around me murmured at the rare defense against the skilled knight. Another battle of wills where they pushed against each other not giving any ground.
With a turn of his sword Allen drew away to cleave towards the other armor's unprotected helm, but for a second time he was countered, the strike stopped in mid-swing. With a move I felt was a little dirty for the longhaired man, the free hand of his suit collided with the heart-stone of the other melef hard enough to bring the other fighter to his knees.
Prepared to end the round Allen's sword was brought directly overhead to slice downward, but with a wordless yell of his own the challenger brought his blade up just in time to stop the fight ending move with his hilt. Decisively Scherazade turned his blade knocking the other wide and forcing the desperate competitor to fall backward, arms splayed, back thudding solidly on the hard ground. The upright suit leveling the deadly sword-point at the fallen challenger ending the fight.
With a burst of air, the cockpit opened and out stepped a slightly familiar face, the black-haired boy I spotted on the street. His expression solemn with defeat. For someone so young and apparently untried the fact that he'd been able to block the famous knight as many times as he had was amazing. There was vast difference in skill level, but I admired the willpower of the youth. Many people hadn't noticed something vital, a small break in Scherazade's metal skin, the young fighter had scored a hit after all. The way Allen's brows knitted together showed he'd seen it too.
With the main events done the atmosphere quickly turned festive with food stalls and music starting. Vendors began calling out to draw coustermer towards their goods. Those not trying to make a little profit from the event were taking the opportunity to have a good time. This was my chance to go home, before I saw something that would give me away. Already there had been a few images here and there, but the dark force around the boy was the worst so far.
To be honest I probably could have made an excuse that the crowd was giving me a headache and left sooner, but for some reason I had to watch till the end. It must have been the unnamed knight, or what ever connected us. It was the same reason I murmured to my family that I had wanted to go shopping with Yukari for a short while. With the promise to come back soon I made my way towards the area set up for the competitors, losing the other girl at the first stall selling vibrant silk ribbons.
On a normal day I might have gone to congratulate Allen on his victory, but something about today was anything but normal. As though an invisible hand was pulling me forward. If I was recognized here without an escort there might be question I couldn't answer. Instead I followed my instincts without asking for directions, I found him, with minimal strange looks. There wasn't really a door on the tent, so I knocked on the post by the opening flap.
"Who is it?" A smooth called tenor, from just inside. Before I could come up with a good explanation as why I sought him out, the flap moved aside. There stood a lean boy around my age with deep mahogany eyes and messy black hair. Behind him loomed the darkness, an unlucky future or foreshadowing of death. I hadn't seen it when he'd been fighting, but there was something terrible chasing this boy, even if he was unaware of it.
"Hello," I murmured weakly. From his suspicious expression it seemed as though he didn't recognize me, and that may be for the best. The pull I felt had to be one sided. "I just wanted to say that I enjoyed watching you compete today."
His hair cast long shadows as he glanced down, but it was only a second. When he met my eyes again that angular face showed anger and the suddenness made me take a step back.
"I lost." He grunted, speaking directly. I wasn't used to that level of disrespect. "Did you come to rub it in?" Why would a boy using rented equipment to fight talk to a Lord's daughter as though I were nothing compared to him?
"No," I blurted out stunned. "It took a lot to challenge Sir Allen, he's the most talented young knight in Austuria."
Maybe he saw something on my face, because this strange boy scoffed. "Oh, you're just one of his brainless admirers." I was so stunned he continued, waving me away dismissively. "The tent you really want is over there."
My temper flared back. "You don't need to be a jerk. Look if you want to sulk like a disappointed child that's up to you." It was as though I'd hit him, and if he'd been any more arrogant and dismissive, I might have. "I'm sorry for ever wanting to talk to you."
I spun on my heel stomping away from him. What did I care if there had been an imaginary connection between us? Something almost made me tell him about the shadow or the draw I felt, but I fought it. Never seeing him again might be for the best. I made it across what counted as the street before I hear hurried steps after me.
"Hey, wait," The rude boy calls, I was about to turn around to see him chasing after me, but I didn't need to.
Fine hairs on the back of my neck stood on end. It was a sensation I was quite familiar with, for some strange reason it often happened right before a vision, like a warning sign. I saw the boy following me, not noticing the messenger charging down the path between tents. We wouldn't hear the racket of thudding hooves over celebrating, which had already raised as night fell. Sure, he wasn't very nice, but I was just a stranger bothering him. Still I didn't want to see this boy trampled to death, not for a second time at least.
I came back to the present hearing the rider only because I knew what to look for. "Watch out!" I yelled turning to see it was only seconds before I was too late. He turned to see the danger. With a burst of speed the young knight leapt towards myside of the street, because it was closer. Without even thinking I reached towards him grabbing his outstretched hand. With a yank pulled him the rest of the way out of the messenger's path.
Our combined forces being too much for my balance we toppled over landing hard between two tents, his legs pinning mine in the damnable pink skirts. The weight of a boy being greater than it looked, I struggled to breathe for a moment, before I realized how close his face was to mine. Shock wiping the arrogance away he looked somehow younger.
"Sorry," He muttered, and I could see a flush creeping up his tan neck.
"It's okay," I mumbled feeling my own cheeks burning. I've never been that close to a guy before, and somehow it wasn't a horrible experience.
He untangled first, standing smoothly. It took a second to notice the hand he held out to help me up.
"Thank you," I said taking the offered assistance, but it was all I was able to say, because this time the vision swallowed me whole without warning.
Burning heat washed over me and it wasn't from embarrassment. I saw blood like rain and smoke clouds blocking out the sky. The boy I still didn't know the name of was standing in the middle of the devastation. His tan skin scored with bleeding cuts as his back bowed, contorting with pain. Enormous white wings bursting out and scattering feathers that seemed to glow across the dark landscape, purer than snow.
I came back to reality with two gloved hands firmly grasping my shoulders, shaking me. Looking into those deep eyes, I couldn't understand half of what I saw, with one exception. The sudden knowledge burst out my mouth in a rush before I could stop myself.
"You're a Draconian." The truth of those words hit him across the face, and he jerked back wounded by me for the second time.
"How did you," He started but trailed off not quite able to put the rest into a coherent sentence. Still he didn't deny it. Taking another step away from me like I had some terrible disease, three simple words confirmed his understanding. "You're a seer."
There it was, both our secrets out in the open. It felt like the ground below me was breaking apart and any moment I would fall downward into the darkness. Before anything else could pass between us a shout went up nearby.
"There's been an attack." Allen burst out of his tent a crumbled message balled in his fist. "Fanelia has been taken by Zaibach. I'm accepting volunteers to join the fight to retake our ally's lands."
In the growing crowd his eyes found where the strange boy and I stood, but somehow like always with the knight, I was invisible. He only saw the dark-haired youth. "Asturia stands with you Van Fanel, King of Fanlia." A cheer of agreement went up.
Acid churned in my stomach. I knew more now than I did only moments ago. The black-haired boy was a king and his country had been attacked while he was away. He also knew my secret, and I his. Most of all the visions of death were only just starting, because we were now at war.
To be continued…
A/N- This a little short for my usual chapters, I generally aim at between 4,000-6,000 words per chapter. Sure, I stop wherever things sound best. I'm not huge on doing cliffhangers and I think you all appreciate that. At just over 3000 words this is the best place to stop for a little bit. I planned on cutting it off here, but as I got closer it didn't feel like enough. Still adding more wasn't right. Oh Well I plan of getting a couple chapters together before posting. Mostly because I have three active stories at the moment. I have to finish something before I start this story officially, otherwise the mob might start forming.
The idea for this story is from December when I took Meghanna Starsong to the Medieval Times Show. She was happy to watch the horses. I on the other side like watching the choreographed sword fighting. You see back in the day I was a medieval reenactor, and I always loved fighting the best. I used to absolutely destroy my friend Dusty, even wearing dresses. The group liked to call me Joan of Ark because of it.
Anyways this idea came while I was hanging out with Meghanna after the show. I didn't want to be rude, but the muse was in full force. So, I started this more than six months ago got the intro going and plotted a bit of it. Then I put it on hold. Not because I didn't want to write it, but because I had other stories that took precedence. Here's hoping I wrap those up soon because I really want to play around with this idea.
Can't wait to hear what you think.