A Vision of Escaflowne - A Girl In Gaea fanfiction
Notes: This fanfiction picks up where the movie left off and centers around Celena and the surviving Dragon Slayers. Expect Celena/Dilandau goodness ahead! Special thanks in this chapter to Hiwatari-Angel-15 and sesshouluver for the beta. I hope you enjoy reading this fic as much as I enjoyed creating it!
Disclaimer: Vision of Escaflowne is not mine. Duh.
01: First Vision
I once heard that each person would only ever have one great love in a lifetime. People aren't particularly good for the Gods to grant us more than that and, even so, it's proof of the Great Creators' mercy and kindness that they extend this gift to all who live under the sun and moons.
I can attest to the truth in these words, for I have experienced it first-hand.
It happened decades ago, when I was still a young woman on the verge of adulthood and trying to survive in the aftermath of the war that nearly destroyed Gaea. My brother, the leader of one of the factions, the Abaharaki, had sent me away to stay with some old family acquaintances in a remote little village. It was far away from the dangers of war, but also removed from everything and everyone I knew and loved.
It was a peaceful afternoon, not long after the Black Dragon Clan had been officially defeated, when four weary riders found their way into that old, rickety town...
The unnamed village had been a stage of war only months prior. The Black Dragon Army had shattered its peaceful existence, coming in with their ships and tanks, as brutal and inevitable as a tsunami sweeping the plains. The people had had no warning. Then, after the damage was done, the Black Dragon had suddenly left, driven away by the utter poverty of the place, and the inhabitants had been left to live through the destruction. Cracked buildings lined each side of the litter-strewn streets as if they had been there for millennia. Their fronts were yellowed and dangerously tilted forward, like they had weathered many a sand storm but had finally met the limits of their resilience.
The after-effects of the war could also be felt on the people. The men gave the mounted party a wide berth for passage, regarding them and their swords with distrust. Women kept their heads lowered and a protective arm around their younglings' shoulders to stave off their enthusiasm at the rare sight of horses and any impulse they might have had to run over to the strangers. Most of them were not native to these parts, but refugees from other countries who had tried to escape the war by hiding in this Gods-forsaken place. The fear that these newcomers would bring unwanted trouble into their already difficult lives was a lingering presence.
The travellers' mounts were reeking of stale sweat and grime by the time their masters led them into a stable. Displaced families had made a home for themselves there, making use of any and all spots of relative shelter they could find and benefiting from the palfrenier's lack of business. The travellers paid them little attention as they dismounted, even when a small group of hopeful children came over to ask for some food or water, staring at their possessions with wonder.
The sounds of a commotion on the street were suddenly heard through the termite-infested walls. Voices were being raised and shouts cut through the general noise. Three of the travellers inside paused and shared a meaningful look. Dreading what might follow, they turned to their leader, who was calmly relieving his horse of saddle and provisions, and waited to hear if there would be any change in plans.
"Chesta, are you still sure about what you said before we came here?" the leader asked without turning from his work, having sensed his companions' silence behind him.
The addressed young man – a short blond with an outdated bowl-like hair cut that did little to hide the strange symbol tattooed on his forehead – let his shoulders sag and lowered his head. His straight hair fell forward to hide his face, but any one of his friends had seen him perform the very same action enough times to know exactly what was happening behind the fair tresses.
Chesta was a seer, which meant that the gods had gifted him with special psychic powers. What exactly those powers entailed, no one but the seer himself – and possibly their leader – knew, for the others had never dared to voice that question. It was a subject that made them nervous, no matter how close they were. Chesta was also the youngest of their group by a few years, however that did not lessen his companions' respect towards him. If anything, it counter-balanced their natural fear of the unknown and made them more protective of him than they normally would have been to someone in his position – or maybe, that was just a reaction to his soft temperament.
Each time their friend entered a state of trance to make use of his abilities, as he was doing at the moment, the group held their breath, unwilling to disturb the supernatural spectacle due to a mixture of trepidation, superstition and curiosity as to what the little blond's powers would reveal this time.
Chesta trembled as if he were at the top of a snow-covered mountain. His breath hitched and, with what looked like a tremendous effort, he gasped out:
"I see peace... their minds are clear... no one recognises us... Lord Dilandau..."
"Good. I would hate to go through Chatal all over again," he laughed, dismissing the true depth of what had just transpired and turning to lend Chesta a supporting shoulder. The boy was always exhausted after Seeing anything. "Well, what are you two waiting for? Get our things. We're going to look for somewhere where we can rest."
"Yes, Lord Dilandau!" The remaining two chorused and gladly followed their companions out of the shack-building. They were imagining what it would be like to sleep again on beds with nice, clean sheets after weeks on the road. They did not even mind carrying the two extra packs.
After leaving the horses behind in the hands of hired caretakers, they were finally able to see what all the agitation in the street had been about. A caravan full of provisions had just arrived, and most of the townspeople were helping to unload and hand out the medical supplies, food and basic necessities for the refugee camps that were based on the outskirts of town.
"What a mess," Dilandau commented, voice laced with disdain.
"There are so many of them..." Gatti said, in reference to the amount of dislocated families to whom the goods were being distributed. "I never imagined..."
"Yeah, wonder how they can all fit in this tiny little hell-hole," Ryuon remarked, looking on all the activity with distaste. "By the Goddess' pearls, I cannot wait till we get back to civilization!"
"Better get used to it, buddy," Gatti countered, Ryuon's reaction not surprising him in the least. After all, his purple-haired friend had been born and bred amongst the finesse of some conquered country's aristocracy. He had never bothered to learn the name since it just fell under the designation of "the Empire" anyway. "By the look of things, we might have to spend quite some more time roaming these out-of-the-way towns."
"Ack, Gatti, shut up! Don't jinx it! Our luck's bad enough as it is... Lord Dilandau, we are leaving in the morning, right?" asked the Slayer hopefully.
"I haven't decided yet. I want to see how we're treated here first. We'll probably stay for a few days, if the food and beds are good."
At this point, a little kid running after his dog bumped into Ryuon and almost sent him and his bags tumbling onto the dirt. Luckily for him, Gatti was behind him to steady him, so it was the sandy-haired Slayer who lost his balance instead.
"Aw, man, he touched me! I bet he passed me all kinds of stupid diseases," the purple-haired ex-soldier grumbled, dropping his bags so he could dust himself off. "Please, Lord Dilandau, after we eat, can we leave? Even sleeping on the road beats this!"
Dilandau's eye twitched in preparation for a heated reply – his Slayer almost appeared to be coming out of his way to incense his travel-worn patience – but it was Chesta who delicately answered.
"Ryuon, we've been riding for at least a week now. The horses are so tired they cannot go any further and, honestly, neither can I. Besides, Gatti is right. With everything that's happening at Torushina, we should stay out of sight for a while longer, which is why we've been avoiding all the big cities."
Ryuon tried making peace with his luck, but Chesta noticed the bulge on each of his cheeks that meant he was gritting his teeth and gave him an encouraging smile. Gatti had apparently tuned out the conversation right after his trip to the ground and was instead absorbed in gazing round at the troubled faces of the refugees.
As the leader, Dilandau was trying to look over everyone's heads, scouting for the inn or any place that looked like it could serve a decent meal. After much peering and some asking around on Chesta's and Gatti's part, the four remaining Dragon Slayers managed to track down a house that displayed an ancient-looking sign at the front window spelling the phrase "rums for rent".
"See? It's not so bad, they have drinks," whispered Chesta close to Ryuon's ear as they walked in. The second Slayer just gave him an odd look, not really sharing in his friend's humour.
The ground floor turned out to be a pub, with round, wooden tables big enough for mugs, but too small for plates, spread throughout the room. A staircase at the farthest wall led upstairs, presumably to where the "rums" were located. The keeper stood behind the counter wiping some glasses with a rag that had seen better days. Despite his baldness, the man's moustache was thick enough to hide most of the bottom half of his face. He turned his attention from his stuporous patrons to the new customers when he heard the doorbell jingle.
"Ah, newcomers," he exclaimed, approaching the group. He might have been grinning, but Dilandau's well-trained eye had no trouble catching the tell-tale signs that the man was less than comfortable with the entrance of four armed strangers into his establishment. "What will it be?"
The silver-haired captain stood silent, appraising the location and trying to decide how likely it was for them to be attacked in the middle of the night should they stay, or whether or not the food served there would be edible. The innkeeper was stealing nervous glances at their swords, by the time Dilandau spoke.
"Do you have rooms available?" he inquired. Put at ease by the prospect of business, the man was more than happy to meet Dilandau's eyes and answer. He managed to hold the red gaze for less than a second before becoming unnerved and addressing the plated armour on his shoulders instead.
"Why, yes, young master! I've two rooms on the first floor, with two beds with fresh clean sheets each, just waiting to be taken. Our cook is also here, in case you'd like a nice, hot meal before heading up." The man tried being charming at this point and widened his grin, only for Ryuon to cringe at the back of the group at the sight of his teeth. He whispered something about refusing to eat the same thing as the innkeeper, but the others either did not hear him or they ignored him – which was far more likely.
"How much for the night and food?" Dilandau asked.
"Four hundred pieces," he said. Noticing how three of his customers-to-be widened their eyes in shock, he hastily added, "Please understand, these are difficult times. There are few patrons, and I have a family and employees to look after."
Uncaring of the man's arguments, but feeling the weight of their travels on his shoulders now that he had allowed himself to stop, Dilandau sighed and acquiesced.
"Two rooms and four warm meals, then. Bring the food up to the rooms."
"Why, certainly, sir," the keeper beamed, suddenly unafraid of Dilandau or of any swords on the party's belts. "If you'll just step up to the counter, so we can set up everything?"
"Hot meal, my ass!" Ryuon was to be found huffing indignantly one hour later, while chewing on a piece of meat. "I've had warmer and better food on the road!" The two other Slayers gave off indication that they agreed by either humming or nodding.
The group of four was relaxing in the same room, plates and trays of food and drinks strewn about within easy reach of any of the occupants. Ryuon was half-sitting, half-lying on one of the beds, hogging a tray, while Gatti had stolen all of his pillows and was sitting comfortably on the floor, munching on a chicken leg. On the bed across from theirs sat Chesta, neatly perched at the foot and sipping from a glass of juice – occasionally stealing a potato from Gatti's plate – and Dilandau. The silver-haired captain had already unstrapped the bits and pieces he retained of his old armour and put up a pillow against the wall to lean on. His garnet eyes were shut and he appeared to be deep in thought.
"Ack! And this meat is almost raw! How can anyone be expected to eat this?" Ryuon continued.
"Now you're just complaining for the sake of it, Ryuon," Gatti replied in-between bites.
"No, I'm not! Try it! And to think we were charged four hundred pieces for this... the nerve!"
"Lord Dilandau," Chesta spoke quietly, deciding to let the other two bad-mouth their tiredness away in the background. "Is everything all right?"
The captain cracked his eyes open just enough to look at the fair-haired seer from under snowy eyelashes and sighed. Chesta worried even more. He did not remember ever seeing their usually unflappable leader looking so weary.
"Shouldn't you be the one knowing the answer to that, Chesta?" he replied half-heartedly, in no way reassuring his Slayer. "We are running short on money. We'll have to find a paying job tomorrow." Catching on to their leader's discussion of plans for the future, the other two Slayers quietened to listen in.
"Do we have enough to afford another night?" the blond Slayer asked.
"Just one more, what with the horses and the stables. Heh, we could probably take on the whole village, but I'd rather not resort to pushing these hicks around just yet. Don't want us to end up getting kicked out like in Chatal."
The trio listening in collectively cringed, remembering the incident Dilandau was referring to. Chesta was the first one to recover, flashing their silver-haired leader an amiable smile.
"Ryuon and I will be on the lookout downstairs tomorrow. One of the patrons is bound to have a need for four pairs of hands, or know someone who does. Don't worry, Lord Dilandau. My visions told me we would do fine here."
"Good. And while you two are at it, Gatti and I will take a look around town, possibly find somewhere where we won't have to dish out this much money a night. We should make good use of your favourable predictions and stay in town for some time. It will be hard to find places that welcome us from here on out."
Despite the ominous forecast, Chesta's smile held firm. Realising how truly tired their Captain was, he cued the others to clear away the food and let Dilandau rest. Before leaving himself, though, Chesta left the red-eyed Captain with one more thought for the night:
"When we were still in the Black Dragon Army, sir, you always looked after us Dragon Slayers and nothing has changed since then, even if we're no longer bound to you in the same way. So don't worry, Lord Dilandau, you could never fail us. We trust in you."
After closing the door behind him, Chesta distinctly heard Dilandau mutter back at him to "stop being such a wimp". He smiled, taking no offence at the rebuke. After all, the seer had always been the one in the group tasked with saying out loud what the others needed to hear but refused to admit out of embarrassment. And every Dragon Slayer knew what their Captain was like when it came to sentimentality.