AN: Greetings readers! I've decided to consult my Necronomicon and resurrect this fic. There will be quite a few changes to it but I'm confident that these will be changes for the better. But before we continue on, I just wanted to make a few points.
This story is about Dilandau and his struggles to find a life of meaning and freedom. You can think of it as character analysis and exploration. The same goes for Celena. She was such a blank slate in the series and she's begging me to give her life.
Hitomi will not appear, but she will continue to have an influence on certain characters. Sorry to say that this story will not have much in the way of either Eries or Millerna, at least not after a certain point.
This story is also about Refina, a character little known in the fandom, but she is a canon character. (She's from the video game that only was released in Japan and did quite poorly even there.) I also wanted to explore and flesh her out because I see her as having so much potential for impacting both the story and other characters, specifically Dilandau. That being said, romance and shipping will be minimal. Refina is canonically in love with Dilandau, but I don't expect much from his end, what with all of his...special problems...
Anyway, now that that's settled, let's get this show on the road, shall we?
Tiny motes of awareness dancing, floating, falling. Coming together and apart as they struggle to reach full sentience, a boiling sea churned by the howling gale of a rampaging storm.
Here and there a vivid flash of memory permeates the void, this blackness that is a nowhere locked deep beneath the closed eyes of a restless dreamer. The images probe, seek, then slowly emerge into a nightmarish clarity; A red guymelef. The feel of a smooth coat of protective gel sliding over a body. The cries of battle dulled through the thick armor of a guymelef helm. The scent of fear wafting through the air followed by the electric anticipation of seeing spilled blood.
Another guymelef descends from the heavens, it's armor stainless and shining. It's white as snow and as deceptively pure.
The Escaflowne. The mere sight of it ignites a hot surge of hatred for the one piloting it, an inferno that can only be quenched when his body lies broken and ripped apart by greedy Crima claws.
Van Fanel. The name coats his tongue like bitter metal as he runs it across his gritted teeth. That bastard king of Fanelia who had, in a single rainy afternoon, destroyed everything he, Dilandau, had ever loved. Now he was about to return the favor, his fingers clenching at his melef's controls, itching to pull the triggers, aching for that moment to see a graceful liquid ribbon of metal slice into that shimmering carapace. The very knowledge that Van continues to exist, continues to breathe the same air as he, makes Dilandau all the more thirsty for Van's death. Today, Dilandau vows, his pain will end. Van will learn what it is to taste misery and despair. Today Dilandau will not stop with just the little king. His wrath has set its sights on the girl, the one directly responsible for all of this. His claws will find her too, wherever she's hiding. And if the Knight Caeli decides to intervene for her, Dilandau will gleefully add his body to the pile without hesitation. Allen deserves his punishment just as much as the rest of them.
The red guymelef explodes into action in a sudden, murderous leap, eager to thrust its crima claw through the tender flesh hiding inside the metal shell.
But it doesn't make it.
Van, thanks to the teachings of his Mystic Moon bitch, has evaded the attack, fending Dilandau off with an ease and grace that makes him sick,and backing the red guymelef into the base of a cliff, leaving it nowhere to go. Escaflowne raises its mighty sword, about to make the final blow, when the air shimmers in front of it, revealing a blue melef as its stealth cloak deactivates, jumping to protect its master as the giant blade comes crashing down...
Blood spurts from the driver's helm in a fountain of violent red, splashing onto the ground below.
The motes disperse under the violent agony of the memory, unable to bear the brunt of the grief at losing the last being on Gaia that had meant anything to him. The only one who had been there with him since childhood like a shadow, ever watchful, ever loyal. But now he is gone in one horrific instant; a single and precise strike has snuffed out his life as a wind extinguishes a candle flame.
It's over. Dilandau sees the excruciating truth of it. He has nothing more to fight for. Not even his own life seems enough to strengthen his will into action. His guymelef stands there in silent shock as he looks on, beads of cold sweat rolling down his face made sallow with terror. His vision rocks sickeningly, forcing him to squeeze his eyes shut. He dimly hears another guymelef land nearby, voices screaming at each other, but he cannot make out what they are saying. Gradually they fade away along with his sight and the dreamer is dragged again into infinite darkness.
And then there is no more.
Celena Schezar jolted awake, arms flailing and hands reaching as though she were a drowning swimmer making their last desperate grasp for the warmth of the sun as the water crashed overhead. She gasped and panted as though tasting her first breath, lurching forward with a violent shuddering in an attempt to escape the last echoes of her nightmare. Fingers white and trembling skittered over her arms as she pulled them close about her as she waited for her heart to cease its mad liquid throbbing and for the faint taste of bile on her tongue to disappear.
Shivering again, she rested her forehead on her knees, willing herself to concentrate on the softness of her blankets, real and immediate upon her skin and fighting to rid herself of the sickening images that had just moments before blazed so garishly across her vision.
It wasn't the first time. How many had it been now? A dozen? More? She'd lost count after the first few weeks. Her nights had blurred into a single torrent of the same events, the same faces over and over in a loop of fire, blood, and death that seemed to be doomed to never reach an end. Her dreams had contained nothing else ever since she had first come here, all those months ago. No happiness, no peace, no warmth could be found in her unwaking life. Celena dreamed only of faces she did not know and of places she had never seen.
A soft, muffled sob escaped her as she once again wondered, how many?
More than Allen or Eries certainly knew about at any rate. They had only seen the aftermath of the most violent; nightmares so crisp, so vivid and horrific that she had woken shrieking like a demon and clawing viciously at those who had run to her rescue and attempted to hold her down. Allen himself would later recall the feral gleam in her eyes as she had raked her nails across his forearm with a strength that had seemed too great for her; a line of small, ugly bruises had blemished the skin for a week afterwards.
Celena screwed her eyes shut against that particular memory, shaking her head to bring herself back fully into the real world, the motion sending her blonde curls flying. Slowly she slipped out of her bed and shuffled towards the fireplace, the fire long since died down to its last embers, providing her with little warmth against the chill of the bare wooden floors. She threw a few more pieces of wood onto the pile, knowing that it would be a long time before she would even entertain the idea of returning to sleep. Still, she found herself reaching for the herbal concoction on her nightstand and pouring herself another cup of it more for the comfort of the motion than its efficacy at lulling her mind. The pleasant taste of rose petals, valerian root and hops quickly chased away the lingering scents of acrid smoke and the iron tang of sweat and metal. She sipped, letting it coat her tongue, and walked to the diamond-paned window of her bedroom to peer out into the stillness of the night. It was early spring, and she could see the faint flashes of a distant thunderstorm to the west, the first of the season, the soft growl of thunder mingling with the gentle rhythm of the sea. She caught the flickering of torches on the palace watchtowers in the near distance, but other than those lonely sprites of fire, there was nothing but the dark.
The dark, and the Mystic Moon.
Celena raised her eyes, taking in the Moon's swelling brightness, its light describing faint silvery outlines of the familiar towers and roofs of the Asturian royal palace. It was said that not long ago there had been a girl that had come to Gaea, descended from the Mystic Moon like a goddess from the heavens, bringing with her an alien and immense power that had helped Asturia win the war. The War of Fate, they now called it, for the girl had had command over human desire, her will having been strong enough to turn the fickle tides of fortune to her favor. In the end, the Moon had called her home, or so her brother had told her. No one could be certain that she would ever return again, but in her wake, she had left the balance of this world unhinged and unsettled; entire nations had been devastated, their people left with no one to guide them, driven to starvation and anarchy without king or army. Asturia and her allies may have won the war, but they had only just begun to realize with a perverse clarity that the true battle was now at hand, the battle of picking up the pieces and trying with all their might to make the jagged pieces of ruined lives fit back together again.
Celena continued to gaze at the Moon, her idle curiosity prompting her to wonder what sort of place it might be, or how the girl who had come from there had looked like. She'd never bothered to ask before and truly she didn't really care. Allen rarely spoke of her at all, making her seem to Celena to be less of a person and more of a myth, a construct born out of human imagination. Celena wondered if all of the Moon's inhabitants wielded the same power, that power over human wishes. She rather hoped not; considering how the power of only one girl had laid so much waste to the world around them and how it had fallen to her brother and so many other people to take what was left and build it back. That was where Allen was now. On his airship out there, somewhere, flying through this same sky with the Mystic Moon to light his way. In his absence, he had left her in the care of Princess Eries and the Queen Regent Millerna.
I'll try not to be gone too long, he'd said on the day he left, tenderly smoothing a stray lock of hair behind her ears as he'd smiled down at her, his eyes so loving, yet so bittersweet. Asturia needs me, Celena. Please understand. You'll be safe here, I promise.
Then he'd turned, long golden hair fluttering a breeze coming in off the sea, and disappeared into the clouds. Allen hadn't looked back, hadn't seen the unspoken plea in Celena's eyes as she'd watched him walk out of her life.
I need you too.
But he'd been true to his word. She'd been safe, spending the last six months or so with Eries and Millerna and taking instruction in court etiquette, dancing, embroidery, and other womanly arts that Eries had explained a noble woman of her station was expected to learn. Celena had learned, though not with any amount of interest or enthusiasm. Embroidery needles felt clumsy in her hands, and her dancing had been ungraceful at best. Too rough, the instructor had critiqued with a disapproving shake of her head. The woman does not lead, Milady. You must not be so aggressive.
As she continued to gaze upwards, Celena was overcome by a sudden surge of longing for her brother, his calmness, his strength. She wanted someone to hold onto, to save her from her fears. Someone with whom she could confide in. It wasn't as though she did not get along with Eries or Millerna; indeed they had been very kind and patient with her in spite of her shyness and awkward attempts to hold herself to their ideas of proper womanhood. Still, she felt not unlike a square peg being relentlessly and haplessly jammed into a series of round holes, never quite comfortable in her own skin.
Allen, she thought. Where are you? Why do I keep having these horrible dreams? Why is there no answer?
Sighing quietly, she drew her arms tighter around her. The herbal tea had finally started to calm her down enough that she moved away from the window and climbed back into bed. No answers would be found tonight. No answers had been found at all, even when she'd asked the court physician, Dr. Teschen.
I'm sorry, Milady, he'd said with an apologetic shrug of his stooped shoulders. There are any number of reasons people have nightmares. It could really be anything.
Then he'd handed her the blend of rose petals and valerian root and urged her not to dwell on the matter too much, that the nightmares would go away in time. But that had been three weeks ago and Celena was now harboring doubts that her nights would ever be quiet. There had to be a reason. People didn't have the same sequences of violent dreams for months at a time. Normal people did not have a ten year gap where there should have been memories of a life lived by Allen's side. Normal people didn't wake in the dead of night howling out their revenge and attacking those closest to them, wild-eyed and savage, without any recognition of who they were and then wake up the next morning without recollection of their own madness.
There was a reason. There had to be.
Celena set her cup down and closed her eyes, ignoring the small whisper of fear in the back of her mind warning her that her nightmares would return. She grimaced, turning over and burying her face in her pillow in an effort to suppress that nagging voice, willing her mind to silence and sleep. Tomorrow she would try again. She would ask Dr. Teschen. She would even ask Eries. Someone had to know. Someone had to have the answers she needed.
Rest eventually found its way to her, carrying her off into a place where there were neither dreams or nightmares, an empty oblivion where at last there was solace.
And while she slept, unknown to her, there lay another dreamer, deep in the belly of the palace, locked away in punishment for her crimes. Under her closed eyes she dreamed of days now passed, of glory that no longer was. She felt her sword grasped in her palm, saw the faces of the ten young women under her command as they stood at attention, perfectly attuned to her words, their efficiency having made them one of Zaibach's most deadly forces. She dreamed of the rushing fall as her guymelef had descended to battle and of the enemies she had brought down with such cool ruthlessness.
She dreamed of him.
The boy with eyes like blood. The boy dressed in red, with hair of glinting silver who destroyed all in his path within a sea of blazing fire. His laughter, gleeful and poisonous, rang out in the halls of her mind, leaving her aching with the keenness of unfulfilled desires. She twisted on her pallet, body taut, and breathed out his name…
Far overhead, in the depths of the night sky among the veil of stars where the Mystic Moon hung, the air around it, in an instant so brief that one might not even have seen it, a pale aura glowed, rippling and twisting before vanishing as if it had never been.
Beneath its gaze, a dragon's heart began to beat.