"Eric!" Iris cried. "Eric, where are you? Come out this instant! I mean it, I am not kidding young man!"
Iris sighed as she walked the halls of the castle. She'd tried being sweet, and now being strict was not getting her anywhere.
"Eric, please," she said softly, mostly to herself as she began to despair. "I just want to know you're safe-" Iris stopped as she heard noises coming from outside. She hurried across the great hallway to the nearest window and pulled aside the heavy drapery to look outside.
Her heart skipped a beat at what she saw.
Soldiers. Freidian guards swarmed from every direction and charged towards a melef hanger in the courtyard of the castle.
"Gods," Iris gasped, realizing that that must be where Dilandau and his slayers were hiding. "They'll be slaughtered."
Dilandau screamed as he cut down two more soldiers, and tried his best to keep an eye on his soldiers. He'd seen Guimel go down already, and Chesta was backed into a corner with three men around him. Dilandau grunted as he shoved past the three guards that had moved towards him and made his way towards Chesta.
"Chesta!" he called as he walked towards the frightened slayer.
"D-Dilandau-sama! Ugh," Chesta called back as he parried two swords at a time.
"What is one of the first things I taught you?" Dilandau said as he made his way still closer. He stopped behind Chesta's three attackers and raised his sword, lecturing as he attacked. "Never," he grunted, knocking the sword from the first guard's hands. "Let your enemies," he continued, stabbing the man through the chest and disarming the next guard with a swift kick. "Corner you!" he finished as he yanked his sword from the first man and plunged it deeply into another guard. He kicked his leg up and grabbed his dagger from his boot and reached behind him, stabbing the guard who had tried to attack from behind. He pulled his dagger and his sword out of the two now dead guards and sighed. He wiped the sweat from his forehead and sheathed his dagger back in his boot. "Ever." He raised his sword and tapped Chesta's cheek with it, leaving a small cut.
Chesta could only blink at his master, Dilandau's skill and speed still baffling him. "Y-yes, Dilandau-sama. Thank you."
Dilandau turned from Chesta and yelled for his slayers to stay out in the open where he could see them. "Away from the walls!" he yelled, decapitating a guard to his left. "Use your timing! Attack together and take out more at one time!"
Miguel and Gatti looked at each other. "Count of three?" Miguel asked.
Gatti grinned a bit and gave a sharp nod. No harsh feelings in battle.
"Three!" Miguel said, and they struck down three guards each. They both attacked at the same time, taking the Freidians by surprise.
The Dragonslayers held their own like this, but Dilandau knew, as he lopped of an arm of some soldier who held his blade to Dilandau's neck, that it would not last. They were tiring, he could sense it already. Their attacks slowed, and they struck less accurately.
"Folken!" He screamed, his focus beginning to slip as he felt a blade pierce his side. He growled and turned, taking the man's head from his shoulders. "Where the fuck are you?!"
You should be thinking about Iris.
"Why? She's not trying to cut my head off right now. These guards, however, are. I think I'll concentrate on them, ok?" Dilandau sneered at the voice, the girl he now knew as Celena, and relieved another guard of his sword arm. He wiped the blood off of his sword and turned, looking for his next victim.
You care for her.
"You are really getting repetitive, you know that?"
You MUST realize your feelings for her!
Dilandau narrowed his eyes as the voice lost its innocent undertone and became almost vicious. "What do you want?" Dilandau asked, now feeling that this little lost girl in his head was not as naïve and pure as Folken had made her out to be.
I want my goddamn body back you bastard!
Dilandau's eyes widened as he felt pain explode inside of his head. He grabbed it between his hands and yelled. He felt as if his head was trying to implode and squeeze his brain out through the cracks. It wasn't a good feeling at all.
"What…are you doing?! S..STOP!" Dilandau screamed, falling to one knee.
"Dilandau-sama!" Miguel cried as he saw Dilandau fall.
What am I doing? What I've BEEN doing for THIRTEEN YEARS, Dilandau. I'm WAITING! Waiting for you to realize your feelings for Iris! You have to let your heart win this time, Dilandau. You have to. Once you let your heart love, then you'll have admitted human feelings. The Dilandau Albatou that Zaibach created was not made to have human feelings. You'll be weak, weak enough for me to live again! I want to live again, Dilandau! But you are too fucking stubborn! I won't wait anymore. I refuse to be locked away in your sick mind any longer. If you won't let me out, then I'm coming out by FORCE!
Dilandau shrieked again and fell to his side. He curled into a ball and held onto his head as if it was about to fall off.
"Gods…" Dilandau couldn't catch his breath. The pain was so immense, it was nothing he'd ever felt before. He was sure that his head would explode at any minute. And right about now, he was hoping for that exact thing to happen as soon as possible. Whatever it took to end the pain.
Eric shook. He watched from his hiding spot as all around him men fell, bloodied and some without their heads on anymore. He backed away from the mess on the floor that he had made. He'd vomited, twice. But he was too scared to be embarrassed about it right now. He turned his head when he heard a frightening scream. He saw Dilandau fall and curl on the floor, still shouting in pain. Eric winced as he watched the warlord tremble. That just scared him more. He crept out of his hiding spot and made his way over to Dilandau.
"Hey," He said, leaning over the shaking warlord. "Are…you ok?"
Dilandau's eyes shot open and Eric could see the horrible pain in them. Eric gasped and stepped back as Dilandau fought to stand up. Dilandau's arm shot out and he grabbed Eric, hauling himself up and taking Eric with him.
"W-What are you doing?" Eric stuttered as his little legs flailed in the air.
Dilandau tossed him over his shoulder and winced, making his legs work. He climbed up on the shoulder of a melef and brought Eric off of his shoulder, and set him down in front of himself. He put his sword to the little boy's neck, making Eric gasp again.
Dilandau closed his eyes, steeling his nerve and fighting for his focus. He had no idea if this would work, but he had to try. It was their last chance. Forcing Celena's pain back with all his might, he stomped his foot on the melef, creating a loud and echoing sound.
"ENOUGH!" he screamed, his voice cracking with effort.
All of the Dragonslayers stopped and looked up at him, and most of the Freid guards did as well, taken by surprise by the sight of Dilandau holding his sword to the young prince of Rolowen's throat.
Iris ran. She didn't know what she was going to do once she got to the battle, but she couldn't care about that right now. Holding her long skirts in her hand, she tore through the courtyard towards the hanger. She could hear the clashing swords within, and the horrific battle cries and screams of pain and fear.
When she heard one scream in particular, she only ran faster.
She slowed when she got to the hanger and steeled her nerve before looking inside. She peered around the corner and paled at what she saw. Dead bodies and bloodless limbs lay on the ground, and Dilandau stood atop a melef holding his bloodied sword to Eric's neck. Iris's vision swam, she didn't understand what was happening. It was all too much for her senses to take in at once, and her mind threatened to just shut down on her, but she couldn't leave Eric like this. Iris swallowed thickly and walked inside, her eyes never leaving Dilandau and Eric.
She stood, tears beginning to gather in her eyes, and feelings of hurt and betrayal swimming in them. Dilandau stood with his sword never wavering, and his chest heaving up and down. "Now, I believe that you all know little prince Eric, here, and unless you want to get to know his insides, I suggest you all put your goddamn swords down and back the fuck away from my slayers."
The Freid guards looked around at each other, trying to decide what to do. Suddenly, a ripple effect seemed to go through them as they each noticed Princess Iris's presence. There was no way they could allow Dilandau to hurt Eric while she was here to witness it, so one by one, the cursed and dropped their swords.
Dilandau looked down at the scene, his face a stone smirk, but inside he couldn't believe they were listening to him. Then he saw why, and something inside of him jerked at the sight.
Iris stood looking up at him, disbelief and hurt clear on her face. Her mouth was open a bit, her lower lip trembling. The sides of her face were wet as tears slid down her cheeks and throat.
"Iris!" Eric spotted his sister in the sea of soldiers and blood on the ground. Dilandau tightened his grip on him and climbed into the melef he stood on, ordering his slayers to do the same. He shoved Eric in, and watched closely as his slayers carried Viole and Guimel into a guymelef with another unhurt slayer. Once they were all safely in, Dilandau ordered them to open the hanger doors.
Once the doors were open, Dilandau spoke through his guymelef's speaker to the Freid guards. "Once I am sure we are not being followed, I will leave the prince unharmed at the edge of the forest. He'll be able to follow our tracks back to the palace. No one is to come for him, is that understood?"
A few Freid guards grudgingly nodded, while others just spat on the ground and got out of the guymelefs' way.
Dilandau glanced once at Iris, then moved forward and ordered his slayers to follow. He forced whatever the feeling in his gut was back down where it had come from. If he let her get to him now, Celena would win.
That's the only way that Iris could think to feel right now. Just feel nothing. Just shut down and everything will make sense.
"Nothing makes sense," she whispered to herself as she sank to the floor of the hanger. She was shaking, and her skin felt cold and clammy.
'Empty,'she thought. 'I'm just empty.'
She's shown him. She'd shown him her feelings, bared her heart and had even given her first kiss to him. And he took her brother. He brushed her aside like an annoying insect, and took her brother. Again.
She felt hands pulling her up, and felt herself lifted into arms. This didn't register to her as important right now, however.
Hurt, I should feel hurt,she thought. 'Then why am I numb?'
A half-hour later, a Freidian nursemaid was combing out her wet locks of hair after giving Iris a bath. Iris hadn't uttered a single word the whole time, and had been as lifeless as a doll. She only stared at nothing, and let an occasional tear slip from her eye to her cheek.
"Poor dear," then nurse tsk-tsked as she slipped the comb through Iris's red waves. "You're just too young to be dealing with all this. It just isn't right."
Iris merely blinked in response.
Something was happening inside of her. A slow leak was being filled even slower by something else. Something blacker.
Rage dripped into her hollow shell as she sat in front of the vanity mirror in her borrowed chambers at the Freid castle. Her hands tightened on her dark plum colored taffeta dress as she became more and more infuriated at the world.
How dare the Gods continue to torment her like this? What else did they have in mind? Why didn't they just leap from their damn high horses and strike her dead? What had she ever done to deserve this kind of fate? Why did Gaea hate her so?
Fuck them. Fuck the Gods and fuck Gaea. She was going to make her own goddamned fate.
Iris stood and surprised the maid who had just finished plaiting Iris's hair into one long braid down her back. "M-mistress Rolowen, where are you going?" she asked as Iris slipped into her matching slippers and pulled her dagger out of her dresser.
"To get my brother back."
Dilandau and his slayers trudged towards the forest in complete silence. All except for the pained moans from the injured slayers and an occasional whimper from a frightened Eric.
He wiped the wet hair from his ruby eyes and cursed the fact that these melefs were old and outdated and couldn't even keep the rain out.
Dilandau thought back to what had happened to him at the battle in the hanger. He was furious with whoever the hell was in his head, Celena or whatever. How dare she try and manipulate him like that? No one did that to Dilandau Albatou. No one. The fact that he couldn't kill her because she was him only irritated him further. He had an itch and he couldn't scratch it. Things like that royally pissed him off.
"Dilandau-sama?" a voice asked carefully and broke Dilandau from his thoughts.
"What?" he growled.
"We're at the edge of the forest sir, do you want to put the prisoner here as planned?" Chesta spoke calmly, knowing the slightest edge in his voice would set his master off.
Edge of the forest? Dilandau looked up. So they were. He hadn't realized that they'd been traveling that long.
"Slayers, move twenty paces into the forest and wait for me there, understood?"
Dilandau turned his guymelef around and took it down to its knee, swearing at the grinding and squeaking sounds the old melef made. He opened the cockpit and grabbed Eric, dragging him out and to the ground.
"Follow the trail straight back and you shouldn't have a problem. Got it?" Dilandau began to climb back into the stolen melef when Eric's voice stopped him.
"Don't push me kid, I don't know why I'm even letting you live. Shut up and start walking."
"She'll come for me, you know," Eric said, trying his luck. Dilandau stopped his movement. "Iris will come. She always comes for me when she says she will. She'd never leave me alone."
Dilandau closed his eyes and gritted his teeth. He heard someone deep inside of his begin to chuckle. No. No feelings. Stop. He focused all of his rage and balled it up inside, and the voice quieted down again. He vaguely wondered how long this would go on.
He turned and smirked at Eric. "Not if she knows what's good for her."
"What would you know about what's good for me?"
Dilandau and Eric turned at the same time.
Iris stood in the middle of the path, soaked and breathing hard. In her shaking hand she clutched her dagger, making to effort to hide it from Dilandau at all.
Once again, the jerking feeling filled his gut, and this time it crept up his torso to spread through his chest as well.
He forced a cold smile onto his face. "Come to kill me, princess?" He turned and leaned his back against the melef.
Iris was not amused. "If that's what it takes. I want my brother back."
"Did you not hear what I said earlier? He'd be returned to you unharmed…if I was not followed." He cocked his eyebrow. "You must not have understood me."
"No deal." Iris said, her face free of any emotion.
"I don't recall offering one." Dilandau said coldly, drawing his sword.
They both moved at the same time. Dilandau lunged for Eric as Iris latched onto his arm and pulled him out of Dilandau's reach. She shoved him behind her, holding her dagger out in front of her. "Go, Eric." She instructed.
"Eric, go! Turn around and run back to the city." She turned and looked him in the eyes, the look in her own scared Eric. "And I swear to the Gods that if you look back I'll kill you myself."
Eric paled, and backed away from his sister slowly. He turned then, and began to run, and never once looked back over his shoulder.
"Obedient little bastard, isn't he?" Dilandau smirked.
"Shut up! Gods, Dilandau just shut the fuck up!" Iris yelled a bit unstably. Dilandau blinked at her, caught off guard by her reaction. She was breathing rapidly, and she wiped the hair that was plastered to her wet face out of her eyes angrily. "How could you do this to me?" she whispered, her voice small and defeated.
"What are you talking about? I let him live, didn't I? I could have killed him," Dilandau watched Iris carefully, confused by her mood and not able to judge her next move.
Iris chuckled darkly. "Is that supposed to be some sort of favor?" she narrowed her eyes and smiled at him, a sadistic smile that looked odd on her face as she walked nearer to him.
"Iris, go back to Freid. Go back to your heroes. This is the last chance I'm giving you."
"I don't want to go back to them, dammit!" Iris shrieked, waving her dagger wildly. "Are you blind, or just stupid?"
Dilandau narrowed his eyes at that.
Iris stood directly in front of him now. She looked straight into his red orbs and unblinkingly let out the truth that had been hidden inside of her for so long. "I love you, Dilandau. I want to be with you." Iris said slowly. "I don't want to be in Freid, I don't want to be protected, I don't want to be alone. I want…to be…with you." Iris swallowed and closed her eyes for a moment, feeling relieved to have that off of her chest. She opened them again and waited for a reaction from Dilandau.
She got one.
Dilandau winced as if he was in pain. He grabbed his head and pushed her aside as he stumbled forward. The girl in his head had gone completely ape-shit on him. It was as if Iris's words had handed Celena an axe and now she was swinging it like crazy around inside Dilandau's head.
Celena had found her opportunity when Dilandau was taken unawares by Iris's words. She fought with all her pent up power and anger, pushing to break out of her cage that was Dilandau's mind.
And Dilandau screamed. He shrieked in pain and anger and frustration and fear. It scared Iris. When Dilandau fell to the ground and began to roll in agony, she knelt next to him and tried to pry his hands away from his head.
"Dilandau what's happening? What's happening to you? Please, tell me so I can help!" Iris yelled at him, tears gathering in her eyes as she saw his agony.
Yes, Dilandau, tell her so that she can help! Let your ladylove help you, Dilandau, because you can no longer help yourself! You are weak and now it is my turn to live. Goodbye Dilandau, goodbye…
Too much. Too much was happening. He could hear Celena mocking him in his head, and he could feel her trying to push herself to the surface on his mind. He could hear Iris yelling at him and could feel her hands on his face, trying to calm him. He could hear his own cries as well, as Celena's words cut his mind like daggers…
He could stop this. It had to stop. He had to stop it.
Stop it, stop it, stop…
"Dilandau," Iris called again.
"STOP IT!" Dilandau shrieked and sat up quickly.
Suddenly everything was quiet. No voices in his head, no screams coming from his throat, and no pleas coming from Iris.
Iris looked at his eyes. Blue…was the only thing she registered. His eyes aren't blue…what's happening?
She felt something warm trickle over her thigh and down her knee. She looked down slowly and began to shake.
Dilandau's dagger was imbedded to its hilt into her ribs, and his hand was still closed around it. Iris coughed, her lips suddenly covered in her own red blood.
Dilandau looked down at his hand, at the dagger, then back up to Iris's eyes.
He looks lost, Iris mused. He looks so lost and confused.
She watched as the blue faded from his eyes and the red pooled back into them, just as her own red essence was pooling around both of them on the rain soaked ground.
"I…am not…weak," Dilandau choked out quietly, his voice shaking just barely.
Iris placed her hand over his on the dagger and pulled it up to her face. She took quick and painful gasps now, her life slowly fading from her. She kissed his hand, leaving the mark of her lips in her blood.
Dilandau seemed to snap out of the stupor he had been in and yanked his hand away from Iris. His eyes darted down to the dagger in her chest, and recognized it as his own. "Gods…" he looked back up into her face. "You don't understand," he began, suddenly desperate to make it right.
Iris closed her eyes and sank down to the ground on her side. Dilandau caught her and tried his best to support her shoulders. "I-Iris…" he tried again.
"Just stay with me, until…it's over…" Iris whispered, coughing again.
Dilandau looked down at her, his face emotionless again. He nodded.
It didn't take long. Iris's breathing became rapid and erratic. Her body went into spasms and her back arched violently. It then relaxed, and Iris's last breath gurgled out of her, spilling blood out of her mouth and down her cheek.
Dilandau brushed his hand over her face, gently closing her eyes with his fingers.
The skies suddenly opened and lightening screamed out of the sky, igniting trees around Dilandau and Iris. The fire leapt from tree to tree, finally surrounding the warlord and his fallen princess.
Dilandau stared at the fire, suddenly hating it for cutting in on his last seconds with Iris. He stood and screamed at it, he swore at the flames until his throat was raw and bloody. Still he damned it, cursing every little spark that fell into the clearing. Finally exhausted, Dilandau dropped to his knees in the clearing, and passed out. Only then, when he was unconscious, did one tear escape from beneath his eyelid.
And all around him, the fire raged hot.
The slayers had gotten worried after a while and had gone back to look for him. The rain had put out the fire in the trees by then, and all that could be found was ashes and mud.
They found Dilandau sitting on a fallen tree stump. He sat with his elbow resting on his knee, and his hand fisted and supporting his head. His eyes stared straight ahead and never moved, barely ever blinked.
Chesta was the first to hop out of his melef. He approached Dilandau carefully, trying to gauge his mood. "Dilandau-sama? Is everything all ri-"
A cry suddenly rang out from Miguel's melef and Chesta and the others turned towards it to see him jump from the cockpit and run towards the middle of the clearing. He fell to his knees beside Iris and lifted her head out of the mud, cradling it in his lap.
Chesta followed and so did Dallet, the injured slayers craning their necks to see what had happened.
Before they could get there, Miguel had removed the dagger that still protruded from Iris's chest and stood. He knew whose dagger it was, and he turned towards Dilandau, his eyes full of confusion and anger.
The other slayers saw the dagger as well, and recognized it. They all stood before him, waiting for an answer and praying for any acknowledgement at all. It frightened them that their leader looked so…lost.
Miguel stood in the middle of the group, Dilandau's dagger in his hand. "Dilandau-sama?" he asked quietly.
Dilandau's eyes flickered up to him. Miguel held up the dagger in silent questioning and Dilandau lowered his eyes again.
"I had no choice. She gave me no choice. She was a weakness that I couldn't afford." He looked up into the faces of his slayers. It may have hurt him to see the accusations and anger in their eyes if he could feel. But he couldn't. He pushed himself to his feet and looked at his slayers again, who didn't move. "It was her or me," he growled, daring anyone to challenge his story.
The slayers all lowered their eyes from their leader.
Dilandau scowled in disgust. "Let's go. Move."
The slayers followed their leader and climbed back into their melefs. All of them except Miguel. He stood in front of Dilandau's melef, beside the fallen Princess Iris.
"Are you just going to leave her here?" He demanded angrily.
Dilandau's eyes snapped up at Miguel, but Miguel didn't flinch.
"Her brother will come for her." He said quietly and began to climb into his melef. Miguel looked down at Iris and took deep breaths, fighting back his emotions. He leaned down and kissed her on the cheek, whispering goodbye in her ear before he turned and climbed into his own melef.
"Let's go home." Dilandau's weary voice echoed through his melef and the others acknowledged it with a chorus of quiet "Yes, Dilandau-sama" 's and followed their leader out of the forest.
The Vionne was located and came for them as promised. Later that evening, Dilandau sat in his room, an empty bottle and a half-full bottle of Vino on the table next to him. He cast a glance towards the broken mirror in the corner of his room. He saw only his face, not half his and half Celena's but his whole face stared back at him, lifeless and stone cold as Iris was.
The thought made him cringe and he took a deep swig from the bottle on his table.
A knock at his door startled him, and he set his bottle down.
"What is it?" he called, his voice still not carrying the authority and edge it normally did.
"May I come in, sir?" Miguel's voice came from behind the sliding metal door, as monotone and emotionless as Dilandau.
Dilandau closed his eyes and sighed. "Come in," he finally answered.
Miguel walked into the room silently, and held something out to Dilandau. Dilandau opened his eyes and looked at Miguel curiously. Miguel just gestured with the hand that was extended to Dilandau, not quite meeting his master's eyes. Dilandau took what Miguel held out to him.
Miguel turned to leave, but hesitated when he heard Dilandau's voice call out to him softly.
"I'm sorry, Miguel."
Miguel turned and looked at his leader. "So am I," he said quietly back, and exited Dilandau's room.
~*~*~*~7 years later~*~*~*~
"No, move it over to the left, there, that's good. Thank you, Benason, it's beautiful. You captured her perfectly."
"Oh, your highness is too kind!" the young artist blushed.
"You are truly a wonder. My servants shall give you your pay on your way out. Thank you again, my friend. You don't know what this means to me."
The artist placed the painting where his king had requested and bowed before turning to leave.
The king stared at the picture and sighed. She truly was beautiful, he thought.
Just like mother.
It had been a long and hard climb back, but Rolowen lived again. She was rebuilt and more glorious than ever. The palace sparkled on its hill as it overlooked the city below like a proud and watchful parent.
King Eric looked around his new throne room with pride and awe. The new palace was nearly twice the size of the original.
Although, the walls were not purple…
Eric chuckled as he remembered when Iris always used to tease him and tell him when she was queen she'd paint all the walls purple and all the ceilings pink, and make him live in a 'girly' castle.
"Your Highness, the people are assembled to hear you speak," an Advisor bowed and delivered news to Eric.
"Thank you, Refan. I'll be there in a moment." Eric took one last look around before starting down the steps. He chuckled again.
Sorry, Iris, but perhaps I'll put out some purple throw rugs for you…
Eric grinned before greeting his people and took one last glance at the smiling portrait of his older sister, knowing that if she were there, she'd have cuffed him over his head for a comment like that.