The Twinned shall fall from the Sky.
A Broken Land shall rise again;
Vengeance and Hunger as Guidance.
The Wheel of Fortune turns.
Feathers tipped in Blood;
The Dragon's Sword forged in heated Battle.
Thy Kingdom's Heart it shall possess.
CHAPTER XI "Reunions"
Dryden cleared his throat and looked around the table full of men and women who
were more than familiar with hardships and war¾Van,
Allen, Kerr, Chid, Millerna, Rayden, Calder, and Merle. Having gained the title
of the Beloved's Messenger, Seiki was present as well. She also had something
personal at stake if there was a war to come.
"King Aston has requested the reconvening of the Great War Council. He asks that
the leaders of their respective countries or their representatives attend the
Summit that will take place in Palas three weeks from now. He feels that there
are concerns that need to be addressed concerning the former country Zaibach,
its citizens and refugees. If the situation is left unchecked, it will leave our
countries vulnerable to attack, and we should prepare inevitably for the
prospect of war once again."
"King Aston feels that we are this strongly threatened?" Van frowned as he
considered the message.
Dryden shook his head. "No, but he doesn't see the harm in addressing the
situation now. The rebellion may be small, but if we prepare ourselves now, we
may be able to prevent larger bloodshed."
"But bloodshed all the same." Seiki commented shrewdly.
Dryden turned and met Seiki's green eyes. "Yes. King Aston seems certain it
won't be avoided. He believes that those who lead the rebels hold the Allies
responsible for their downfall."
"Is there no way to treaty?" Allen questioned. "Surely the situation is not so
out of hand that negotiations have become an option we can't use."
"No, but we suspect that there is more strength behind the Rebellion than what
meets our eyes. Much more. Do you remember, Van, about the man that returned to
us after being kidnapped with the hijacked ship?"
Van nodded, remembering the details of the letter Dryden had sent prior to his
arrival in Fanelia.
"He was raving when we found him, so long he had gone without water. What we
could discern from his ramblings, we gathered an impression that the Rebellion
is gathering supplies, and building an army under the leadership of one ‘Fallen
One’. We're almost certain it exists, but still don’t know where it would be."
Millerna frowned slightly. "Can we trust such a source? If he was in that much
distress and raving no less, how much can we trust this information?"
Kerr sighed. "We can't, but we can't ignore any warnings either. It's better to
check out the information and protect ourselves best as we can given the
"And the Allies need to pound out and revise the war treatise, and find out what
we can do cooperatively to face any possible threat from the remains of Zaibach."
Allen added. "I understand now where King Aston is going with this."
Dryden nodded. "Already three weeks is longer than he wishes, but even he
understands he can't summon all the leaders of Gaea on intuition and fear. The
illusion of time to prepare will allow the leaders to arrive with more open
"What I don't understand is why it's necessary for a full scale summit that
includes all the Allies? Zaibach had been broken six year ago, they are
obviously not the power they once were." Rayden fidgeted impatiently with his
notes in front of him.
Dryden sighed bitterly. "That's just the thing, Advisor. Zaibach shouldn't have
been broken. Not to the extent where we barred trade with the remaining
communities within her. As much as I would like to think that The Fallen One's
followers are simply vagabonds, their success at pirating despite the increase
in security and precautions tells me that they have at least someone intelligent
enough to keep them out of trouble...for now."
Rayden shook his head in disbelief. "But a full Summit? I'm concerned about the
pirating...but the complete council? Do you think this is really necessary?"
Allen sighed and rubbed his forehead as if it pained him. "I think King Aston
doesn't want to take any chances. If there is a rebellion brewing, big or small,
he wants to make sure it's squashed before any real damage is done."
Millerna grimaced at Allen's comment. "I would have to agree with you there. My
father would be very concerned over something like this. After what happened
with the Great War, I don't think he wants to be caught unawares again."
Millerna stared out of the windows. "He refused to take a stand last time and
look at what we all lost. I think he regrets...many things."
Merle snorted. "And so he should. I love you to death Mill, but I can't forgive
him for what he tried to do to Van and Hitomi."
"He was simply trying to protect Asturia's interests." Millerna protested.
"You mean his own profit! He wanted Escaflowne for the money it would bring in,
and Hitomi as a gift for his sidekick!" Allen injected hotly.
Van slapped the table in front of him. "Enough! What lies in the past should
remain there. We don't have the time to bicker. We must concentrate on our task
at hand and address the problems we face today." He frowned and drummed his
fingers. "It is settled then. We will travel to Palas for the Summit."
He caught Kerr and Chid's eyes, looking for affirmation. "We still have time to
prepare for the worst. I suggest Basram and Freid take the opportunity to send
back representatives in order to give warning at home and prepare for war
themselves. We can't allow the rebels any advantage of surprise. We must be
ready for them."
"Do we have enough time?" Seiki asked softly. "How do we know there won't be an
attack before the Summit?"
"We don't." Van answered grimly. "We can only hope that this is smaller than we
Everyone nodded their agreement, the expressions on their faces somber and grim.
In the Great War, Zaibach always had the advantage of surprise. None in Gaea had
imagined that Zaibach would be capable of marshaling such an incredible force of
"Then I adjourn this meeting." Van stood up and stared at his comrades. His
friends, his family¾they
would see this through until the very end.
People drifted out, until only Millerna, Allen, and Van remained behind.
Millerna sighed and leaned back in her chair. "There are too many details I have
missed. I appreciate that you've allowed me to sit in on council so I can get up
to speed with events so far. Father is not well enough for another war, and I'm
afraid for him."
Van smiled. "You are always welcome, Millerna. Your opinion is greatly
"Perhaps," Allen pointed out coldly, "if you had remained home, your father
could have informed you of the events in further detail. Your place is with him,
Millerna grew still and then straightened, visibly drawing up her cloak of
authority. "When your opinion is required I will ask for it." She paused as she
stared into the blues eyes she had always adored, trying hard to forget that
this was the man she had loved forever. "You forget your place, Ambassador. I
hold rank here."
Van cleared his throat, clearly anxious that a full-scale brawl didn't break out
in front of him. "Allen, please leave. I need a moment to speak with the
Allen rose and left the room without a backward glance. Millerna closed her eyes
briefly against the sting of contempt he left behind.
Van reached over and gently patted her hand. "I'm sorry, Millerna. Allen was
very upset to discover that you came to Fanelia, especially after news of the
last raids came to us. He is worried."
Millerna drew her hand away and took a steadying breath. "But it doesn't give
him the right to treat me as if I haven't got a thought in my head. He forgets
who I am."
Van studied her quietly. "No, he doesn't have the right. He shouldn't have said
what he did. But haven't you forgotten who he is, Millerna?" He paused as she
flinched. "I have known that you loved him for longer than we have been close
friends, Princess. Always, you have put your love for him before your country.
Before your duty. Can we, as allies, count on you to be the leader your King has
asked you to be, or will you once again abandon your responsibilities for a love
that cannot be?"
Millerna shuddered, unable to deny what Van softly accused her of. Her marriage,
her escapades, they were all motivated by her love for Allen. In the end, she
had until this very moment, allowed her obsession to rule her, abandoning
everything that was asked of her.
Millerna stood, and Van rose with her. She lightly punched the King's arm and
then hugged him desperately. He held her gently and she realized that Van had
grown again. He was much taller, much broader than he once was. *All grown up*
she thought as she pulled back.
"Thank you," she whispered, "for being a friend."
Van shrugged and grinned. "I have higher rank than you."
Millerna laughed and shook her head. "When did you become so eloquent?"
Van raised his eyebrows in surprise. "I'm not." His face grew serious as he said
thoughtfully, "I just don't like to see my friends hurting, that's all." He
threw a friendly arm around the princess's shoulders. "And you have to remember
that you will always be my friend."
Millerna smiled and slipped and arm around him to hug him again. "Van," she said
softly. He looked down at her, a question in his eyes. "You can count on me. I
promise you this." Van grinned and nodded.
* * * * *
"You're going to send me back?" Jessa shrilled. "You promised me that you
wouldn't leave me behind."
Kerr winced at the new octave his sister's voice reached. He was glad that the
door to their room was closed. He shook his head. "Jessa, this isn't going to be
a social occasion. There is real danger here, and I need you at home to make
sure that everything is okay."
"Isn't that what your congress is for? I'm useless back there; everyone sees me
as the President's bubble-headed sister-Lady Good-for-nothing." The last word
Jessa uttered wavered uncertainly.
"Enough, Jessa. No one thinks of you that way."
"Bullshit, Kerr. Do you think I'm blind? That I can't see them looking at me
with contempt?" Jessa pounded the window she stood by with her fist. "You are
the only one...the only one who sees me as I truly am. Do I have to lose you
Kerr sighed and scratched his cheek. He needed a shave. "Jessa, you won't lose
"Won't I?" Jessa spun around and glared at her brother. "You just told me there
was danger. How am I to know I won't lose you like Mom and Dad?" She stopped
abruptly and stuffed her fist in her mouth as tears spilled through her lashes.
"Jessa," Kerr hugged his sister and carefully wiped away her tears. "Why do you
isolate yourself so much? Can't you find companions you can trust?"
"What's wrong with my friends?"
"You keep them near so you can keep an eye on them and away from Van. They
aren't your friends, and you know it."
Jessa sniffed. "Trustworthy people are hard to find. It would be easier if you
didn't go around agreeing with Lady Merle's opinion."
Kerr groaned. "Are you serious? Are you forgetting that you were the one who
insisted your mask must be perfect? You're the one who suggested I play along
Jessa crossed her arms and pouted. "Well, it wouldn't hurt if you didn't listen
to me every once in a while."
"Jessa," Kerr scowled at her, "why do you insist on this charade? If you made
peace with Lady Merle, you could truly be who you are instead of pretending and
hiding all the time. Instead you run around with people you care nothing about
and force your company and false personality on the one man, other than I, you
truly care for. Where is the logic in any of this? Why must you torture
"How else am I going to survive? You know what happened when you first came into
office! That man, Dian, he tried to get to you through me! He used me to try and
kill you because I was too stupid, too trusting, to see him for what he
was. These noblewomen, they're monsters! If you don't belong, they eat you
alive. I'm no blueblood. If I don't hold my own, they'll do everything they can
to ruin us when your term is up." She shivered, "You know the élitists are
pissed off at your last batch of reforms...they want you out...really bad. Any
one of those bitches could be sent to try and get rid of you again."
Kerr gently shook his sister's shoulders. "Jessa, enough! Don't work yourself up
like this or your condition will act up again." He forced her to sit down on the
window seat and brushed his hand against Jessa's forehead. "Did you take your
medicine?" Jessa shook her head and Kerr sighed again. "Have you been coughing?"
Jessa grimaced and looked down. "Jessa? Let me see." Kerr coaxed softly, holding
his hand out. Trembling, Jessa reached inside her long sleeve and pulled out a
bloodied kerchief. Kerr turned white at the sight of the drops of blood.
"Is it bad?" Jessa asked quietly, fear in her eyes.
Kerr smiled sadly. "You would think that I would have it too, since I've been
tending you when your symptoms first showed." He sighed heavily. "We've been
seeing a mutation of the original disease. I knew we should have kept you on the
medication even when the symptoms were gone."
“But I was feeling fine.” Jessa protested.
Kerr shook his head. “Fine, yes, but not cured.”
"There’s still a chance for a cure?" Jessa asked hopefully.
Kerr pulled out a tiny vial out of the wooden box that sat on the dressing
table. He wrestled with the small cap and handed the vial to his sister. "It
would help if you took your medicine like you were told to," he said grimly.
Jessa's face reddened and meekly drank the greenish fluid. She lowered the vial
and stared at her brother pleadingly. "Don't leave me behind, Kerr. Please. I
don't think I could stand it."
Kerr met Jessa's eyes seriously. "I have a couple conditions and there are no
ifs, ands, or buts." Jessa rolled her eyes. Kerr waggled the empty vial at her
grimly. "No jokes. I'm serious." Wary now, Jessa met her brother's eyes
solemnly. Very rarely was Kerr ever this serious with her unless it was really
“You must always take your medication. If the sickness comes back, it can spread
to the others. You must ensure that you don’t forget.”
Jessa nodded. She understood the importance of it and would not forget again.
"You have to offer a truce with Lady Merle."
"What?" Jessa shrieked and stood up so quickly, she had to sit down again. "How
can you ask that of me? She has only to see me and her claws come out!"
"It's instinct," Kerr said dryly, "you're both trained to instantly hate each
"Great, you make us sound like trained attack animals."
"At this point, you may as well be."
"Enough!" Kerr slapped his hand against the dresser, startling Jessa enough to
make her jump in her seat.
"If you can't make peace with Lady Merle, you’ll be sent home. This is an
international DIPLOMATIC mission. I want you with me because your health is
deteriorating, but it will put a lot of stress on you. Plus, I will not have you
playing the ridiculous games you do with Lady Merle and causing and
international incident because your affections for Fanelia's King blinds you. It
would be even better if you tell Lady Merle of your condition."
Kerr held up his hand to forestall Jessa's protest. "Use common sense! I can't
be with you all the time. The diplomatic situation is desperate. Lady Merle WILL
help if you are in trouble and your condition worsens. She has had training with
Princess Millerna in healing and can keep an eye on you."
Jessa blinked in surprise. "Healing?"
Kerr laughed. "You don't seriously believe that all those etiquette lessons with
Princess Millerna were only about etiquette. The Princess would have been bored
Jessa started to nervously fiddle with the gold ring on her finger. It was her
last souvenir of her dead mother, her mother's wedding ring. "How?" she
"Yes, that is a problem, isn't it?" Kerr mused. Jessa kicked his shin
dejectedly. "You ask me to do this and you don't even have a plan?"
"No plans, but a suggestion." Kerr rubbed his shin ruefully. "Approach Princess
Millerna. You may find that you have more in common than you may think."
* * * * *
It seemed almost obscene that the day would be so nice after contemplating the
possibilities of war. For Celena, she had not seen friends and family die, or
experience the horrors of witnessing thousands of people die to protect
something they believed in. Her fate had been held by another who was the
instigator of much destruction-Dilandu, the Dragon Slayers' leader.
At the end of the Great War, Celena's body rejected its altered fate and
returned to its natural form. Most of Dilandu's memories, thankfully,
disappeared as well; however, a residue of Dilandu still remained.
Celena never discussed these ghost memories with anyone, especially Allen. She
feared that Allen would panic and send her away. In the first few years, the
residue memories were strong. Coping with them were difficult, and often Celena
felt like she was living in a waking nightmare. Ghosts images haunted the edges
of her vision and Celena heard echoes of screams in her sleep.
Rumors quietly swirled questioning Celena's sanity, although Allen quickly and
brutally crushed them. However, he was not quick enough to keep them all from
For solace, Celena would spend her time in the gardens and sometimes wandered
around the practice grounds to watch the soldiers in training. Slowly, but
surely, Celena befriended the soldiers she watched, and to pass the lonely days
Allen was away, Celena began training the residue instincts that remained from
Dilandu's formidable skills.
Instinct turned into true talent, completely free of Dilandu's malicious intent.
Eventually Allen learned of her training and, to Celena's surprise, approved of
it. It eased Allen's mind that Celena was now capable of protecting herself to
some extent unlike when she had been kidnapped so long ago.
Strange, Celena thought, it was a day like this she met Drydan Fassa. Once
again, Celena had been in the gardens, only this time she was practicing with
the long bow, shooting at a target. Many of her new friends at the armory were
amazed at Celena's incredible accuracy and her ability to easily pull the
difficult long bow. After a couple weeks of regular training, she was splitting
arrows in the center target.
On this particular day, Celena had successfully split three arrows before she
realized that she had an audience. Drydan had been quietly watching from the
bench off to the side. It was through chance meetings like the first one that a
friendship began to grow between Celena and Dryden.
Dryden was one of the few survivors from the Great War who was aware of Celena's
previous identity. However, he lacked the fear that the other had, including
Allen, that she would one day revert to her altered state.
Eventually the others, like Van, Merle, and Millerna, were able to see what
Dryden had been aware of from the beginning. Celena was a separate individual,
apart and different from Dilandu.
Because Dryden was the first to see and understand Celena's loneliness, he
became the first and only one to hear of Celena's residue memories from Dilandu.
Dryden didn't shrink away from her in fear, instead he comforted and reassured
Celena's individuality. From there, Celena and Dryden's friendship grew into
something more. Many in Asturia were aware of their friendship, but ironically
enough, no one thought that romance between the two would flourish.
Their romantic relationship enjoyed a certain kind of privacy that many did not
have in the higher social circles. Celena's friends in the barracks, Van, and
Merle were the only ones who knew of what had grown between Dryden and Celena.
Celena supposed that Allen knew subconsciously that something more was going on,
but he had simply refused to acknowledge it due to the fact that Allen had
issues of his own to deal with.
Celena sighed as she came out of her reflection, and Dryden stirred beside her.
They had been sitting quietly in Van's private gardens, staring at the
growth-covered shape of Escaflowne, Van's decommissioned Ispano guymelef.
Dryden brushed a stray lock out of Celena's eyes. "What's wrong? Fifty million
for your thoughts."
Celena chuckled. "My thoughts are not worth that much, my love. You are far too
generous as always."
Dryden smiled lopsidedly. "The smile is worth it even if your thoughts aren't."
He ducked a playful swat to the head. "Seriously, your mood's dark. What's
Celena tucked her head under his chin and wrapped her arms around Dryden's
waist. His arms closed around her comfortingly. How could she explain the sense
of dread and the feeling of darkness that was approaching.
Dryden stroked her hair affectionately and hugger her hard. "I know. I feel it
He looked at the quiet Escaflowne, dark in the shadows of trees. Somehow, he
thought, I'm not sure if I would feel better if Escaflowne was alive or not.
* * * * *
Millerna was feeling like...how would you say...crap. Crap, crap, crappy, crap
crap. Her conversation with Van gave her a lot to think about. Understatement.
It was a harsh wake-up call that she no longer had the luxury of doing as she
It's time to put aside childish things, she thought sadly.
She knew she couldn't leave things as they were with Allen. The situation
between them was barely civil. She didn't think she could pretend to be
pretentious constantly in front of Allen if she was to be any use to Van. If not
for herself, Millerna still needed to sort things out with the Ambassador for
the sake of her promise to Van.
She needed Allen's cooperation, not contempt, if she was to successfully take on
the increasing responsibilities her father was leaving her.
Now if only she could find the stupid bastard.
She'd been wandering around the castle chasing Allen-shaped phantoms. "Oh, he
was just here, your highness." "That's funny, I just saw him." "You just missed
him, my Lady."
It was like trying to tack pudding to the wall.
Millerna turned the corner of a particularly deserted hallway, chasing the
latest Allen rumor, and accidentally ran into a smaller woman.
"Oh, pardon me," Millerna exclaimed. The smaller woman shook her head and smiled
"No, it was my fault. I was too busy woolgathering." Millerna laughed and took a
closer look at the young woman.
"You must be Lady Jessa, President Basram's sister?"
"Ah, my ill reputation precedes me then." Jessa blushed a little and looked
Millerna shrugged, torn between feeling contempt for Jessa's well-publicized
escapades and intrigued with this now almost-civilized version. She didn't feel
the hair-raising aura, similar to cats singing, that usually surrounded Lady
Jessa. Millerna blinked in surprise, realizing that she really had caught Jessa
completely off her guard. And without her mask.
It didn't take Millerna long to understand and recognize that Jessa wore a mask,
just like Millerna was forced to with her situation with Allen. After all,
didn't everyone wear masks in one form or another?
“Other than the fact that you look like a female version of your brother, I have
to admit that Lady Merle’s colour commentary of your antics has been less than
Once again to Millerna’s surprise, Jessa’s reaction was not as she expected.
Instead of replying with disdain, Jessa’s shoulders slumped and the curve of her
rosebud lips turned downward in a grimace.
Was it her imagination, or did Jessa look a little pale and thin? She definitely
looked worn out, as if she hadn’t been sleeping or eating enough, Millerna
“Well, yes, I guess most of it would be true.” Jessa replied, tiredly rubbing
“Is this some sort of ill-advised attempt to gain my sympathy?” Millerna
snapped, impatient at last with this new Jessa persona. “Because if it is, I
warn you, I’m not in the best mood to be toyed with.”
Jessa rolled her eyes with disgust and threw her hands up. “No. For once, I’m
trying to be genuine.” She sighed. “I guess it isn’t working.”
Millerna raised her eyebrows in disbelief.
“It was my brother’s idea to speak with you because you’ve been trained as a
healer.” Jessa muttered. “I told him it wouldn’t work since Lady Merle has made
it clear to everyone how much of a bitch I am.”
Something in Jessa’s tone made the bells start to ring in Millerna’s head and
Millerna eyed Jessa thoughtfully. Why would Lady Jessa want to speak with a
healer? she thought.
“Despite what you think, Lady Merle rarely tries to encourage the rest of us to
join her in agreeing with her. I think she almost prefers the opposition.”
Millerna paused and then smiled.
“Besides, I’ve always had a mind to make an opinion based on my own experiences
rather than others. Maybe that’s why I keep getting into trouble.”
Jessa’s mouth involuntarily twitched.
“What I’ve seen of you and your actions relatively describe you as a bitch, not
Lady Merle.” Millerna pointed out mildly, without rancor. “However, being born
to court like I have—I’ve seen worse. The court is nothing more than a stage to
perform on for most.” She watched Jessa appraisingly.
Jessa shrugged. “We all do what we must. It’s survival of the fittest. Sometimes
it works, other times it backfires in our faces. In this case it has backfired
in mine. My brother tells me I need to find a way to mend my...relationship with
Millerna let out a startled laugh. “How in all holy hells do you think that is
going to happen?”
“It’s not my idea,” Jessa retorted, “But he’ll leave me behind if I can’t call
some sort of a truce!”
“I can’t stay behind! I can’t!” she said desperately, no longer caring what the
princess thought. “If I lose him, I lose the only one who knows and loves me as
I truly am!”
Millerna felt herself soften as she recognized the note of sheer panic in
Jessa’s voice. Allen can’t leave, he can’t. I gave up everything for him.
Jessa was visibly shaken, holding herself as if to keep something else within
her from spilling out. It could be a trap, Millerna mused. Gods know she could
be manipulative. But, Millerna knew, as manipulative as Jessa could be, her
motives and intentions had always been transparently false. It was the false
exterior that always aggravated Merle, who preferred more straight forward
No, the Lady of Basram had many secrets that she felt she needed to hide in
order to survive. Millerna sensed a thread of fear in the way that Jessa held
herself. This first time was the most vulnerable Jessa had allowed herself to be
in front of someone else other than the president himself, Millerna suspected.
“Lady Jessa.” Jessa looked up, uncertain.
“I will see what I can do to help your situation, but I have some conditions we
need to discuss.” She paused at the looked of incomprehension on Jessa’s face.
“Let’s talk over lunch.”