A Vision of Escaflowne Fanfiction
The standard disclaimer: Yeah, okay I stole these characters from the marvelous creators of The Vision of Escaflowne...and Rurouni Kenshin too. Yadda yadda yadda. Please don't sue me ^_^ The main story line is of my own delusional imaginings. Blah blah blah. Please do not distribute. Thanks.
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 IV "Introspection: Merle"
Merle woke up to the sounds of birds singing and the sight of sunlight from her window. The maid must have come in while I was sleeping, Merle thought tiredly to herself. It was truly early in the morning, the sun barely peeping over the horizon.
She stretched, purring in the warmth of the light. The sounds of feathered animals tickled her feline senses making her whiskers twitch. Her stomach grumbled in response to the morning songs.
She rose from her bed and while she delicately washed her face she contemplated her wardrobe. She had just returned from Egzardia late last night and was unable to see Van before turning in. Merle would go see Van today. With his birthday tomorrow the whole country would be attending the festivals in the market squares in his honour. After his special birthday dinner, Van himself will probably go and join the festivities down below. It would be next to impossible to have a moment alone with Van.
Selecting a honey-coloured dress that had small pink flowers embroidered on the bodice, Merle wondered if Van would let Raden choose his clothes tomorrow without complaint. She slipped on the dress and then looked in the mirror.
Six years since the Great War and the cute little cat-girl named Merle had grown up. She was now known as Lady Merle, close friend and confidante of King Van Fanel. Tall and graceful, her fur a luxurious gold, her hair a delicate pink, Merle had become a feline beauty.
Though she had mellowed quite a bit from her mischievous, hyperactive thieving days, Merle never lost her passion for life. Every once in a while when court became too much to bear she would go on solitary hunts, reveling in her dexterity and heightened senses.
On her occasional visits, Celena would join her on those hunts, practicing with her bow. When Merle had first learned that Celena was once the psychotic Dilandu, the dreaded commander of the Zaibach elite Dragonslayers forces, she had been nervous of being around Allen's sister. As time went by, Merle had come to realize that Celena was nothing like Dilandu and was instead a very caring and gentle woman. She had a great sense of humour too.
Merle grinned. She wondered if Allen had figured out where all those women's undergarments that had appeared in his bedchamber came from. She had to agree with Celena. With his long blonde hair and pretty looks, Allen would look great in a dress.
Her smile faded. More often than not, the reason Merle felt the need to leave was the King himself. They had been together so long, Merle could not only read Van like an open book, she could read between the lines as well.
Merle had long ago resigned herself to the fact that Van would love her only as a sister. It didn't diminish the ferocity of her love for Van at all. She would do anything for his happiness.
She was in fact determined to find her king a woman he could love freely. Someone he could love other than Hitomi. It would help if Merle could like her as well. She would never tolerate a woman who didn't understand Merle's relationship with Van.
Merle sighed heavily and touched the silvery wrapped package sitting on her dresser.
Merle had gone to Egzardia, the city famous for its fashion (where Raden got Van's redesigned clothes) and art in search of the perfect birthday gift for Van.
By the end of her third day Merle was ready to call it quits and go home in defeat. Egzardia was filled with wonderful things. Unfortunately Van didn't have much use for flashy things, preferring simpler things in life. With ears drooping she had shuffled down a small street, lacking the vivacity she usually exhibited.
At the end of the street was a tiny store with glittering trinkets and ornaments in the window. Curious (as all cats are) Merle walked in. A creaky old man who resembled a shriveled grape more than anything else greeted her warmly.
"Ah... hallo hallo, welcome young lady to my humble little shop!"
Instead of screaming at the appearance of the unusual looking dwarf, Merle smiled. Scary though he seemed, Merle liked his "scent". It meant that he was a good person.
Before she could return his enthusiastic greeting, a sparkle caught her eye. By the merchant's counter stood a beautiful crystalline sculpture. Merle walked over to it, gaping when she saw what it was.
A slender woman stood on the edge of a cliff with her long hair flowing and crystal wings flowed from her back, stretching out as if poised in flight. The light in the shop played off the details of her wings, sparkling so it dazzled the eyes. The tips of the wings were blood red, making the piece all the more startling.
The instant Merle saw those wings she knew she had to buy the delicate figurine for Van.
The old man came up beside her nodding eagerly. "Ah, yes, isn't that a lovely piece? It is my favorite from this artist." He gently lifted the angel to show Merle the artist's scrawl on the base.
"I believe he said that he was inspired by a dream he had of it."
Merle touched a claw-tip to a tiny feather. "Isn't it rather unusual for someone to make a likeness of a Draconian? Don't people believe that they were cursed?"
The old man snorted and placed the sculpture back on the counter. "Superstitious nonsense. There may be some out there who believe that, but here in Ezgardia it's how a vision manifests itself through the artist that matters." The old man enthusiastically thrust his fist in the air to punctuate his point. "That is TRUE art!"
"Why we even have artists who try and depict life on the Mystic Moon. THAT place is cursed if anything else!" He lowered his voice conspiratually. "Besides, I hear the King of Fanelia is a Draconian himself! All who met him say he is brusque, but is noble of heart. It was that cursed Moon that took his beloved away!"
The merchant sighed bringing his hands up to his face imitating a young lovesick girl. "It's sooo romantic."
Merle laughed. "To think an old guy like you reading shameless romance books."
The merchant's face wrinkled up as he chuckled and shrugged his shoulders in good humour. "A person as aged as me needs a way to pass the time away during slow hours, my Lady Merle."
Startled to be addressed by her title, Merle eyed the old man suspiciously.
He merely smiled and gestured to her fine clothes. "There are not many of your people who wear fine clothing, exhibiting noble manners and bearing as you do, Milady."
Embarrassed, Merle fingered a pointed ear. "I had a patient teacher."
"Of course." The old man nodded towards the sculpture. "Should I wrap that up for you?"
Merle had agreed without hesitation. The decision to buy the sculpture was made long before he had asked.
Merle sighed, shaking herself out of her reverie and stared at the silver package again. Her stomach grumbled angrily, reminding her that it was definitely time to eat something.
As she padded out the door and down the hall, Merle wondered if Van would like the gift. Taking into consideration Van's preference for practicality, maybe the sculpture just appealed to her so much because it reminded her of Van's heritage. She had always loved Van's wings.
Merle turned the corner only to feel something bowl into her legs and slam her against the wall. Someone shouted from far away. She felt a burning sting on her forearm and she sucked in a sharp breath.
Casting blurry eyes where the wagon that ran over her went off, Merle started seeing red when she saw the tail of the little orphan cat-boy who was the Advisor's ward. Her mouth opened in shock when she saw the glitter of steel in his claws.
"Sosa!!" she snarled. "Get back here!"
A touch on her shoulder called her attention to a silver-haired young girl standing beside her. "Are you alright? You're bleeding. Should I call someone to help you?" the young girl asked, concern in her deep, green eyes.
Merle shook her head, trying to shake a strange feeling of familiarity. "Don't worry about me. Grab Sosa if you can. He's a fast little bastard, but he's running around with a knife that isn't his.
The look of concern faded from the girl's eyes, replaced by a harder expression that made Merle shiver.
"I know. That's my knife he ran off with. Where did he go?"
Merle hesitated, wanting to know why a girl as young as her had a knife in the first place. Merle shrugged and pointed in the direction where Sosa the cat-boy ran off. There would be time for questions later.
The girl glanced in the direction Merle indicated. "Thanks." She took off after him.
Merle looked around the hallway. There was no one else around, even with all the commotion. Ignoring her cranky stomach, she followed the green-eyed girl and the trouble making cat-boy.
* * * * *
By the time Merle found both the girl & cat-boy, the girl had cornered Sosa. He was holding the knife out threateningly. Mentally, Merle tagged the white-haired girl as "Green Eyes," at least until she found out her name. Merle sighed in frustration. In his little baggy pants held up with straps, and tufts of blonde fur sticking up on the top of his head, Sosa would actually look like an adorable kitten. That if one didn't take into account that the adorable kitten was waving around a dangerous weapon at another person.
"Give the knife back to me. You had no right to take it," Green Eyes said softly. To Merle, Green Eyes seemed too calm.
Sosa sniffed in disgust and tossed his head arrogantly. "Why should I? I don't see why a girl should have a knife anyway." His fist tightened on the hilt of the blade. "I'm a boy! I should be training to be a soldier right now!" Sosa cried out in frustration. "A stupid girl like you shouldn't have a knife!"
Merle felt her lip curl back in a snarl. She had never liked the cute-looking Sosa, finding the cat-boy stuck-up and overly aggressive. He had been found as an orphaned kitten after the end of the Great War. Now at the age of 6 and the ward of the King's Advisor, Sosa considered everything his business.
Merle had complained more than once to Raden about the behavior of Sosa, particularly after his raiding episodes whenever there was a new visitor staying in the castle. Raden always waved it off as normal behavior for a cat-boy his age. After all, from all the stories Raden had heard about Merle's antics when she was younger, the behavior would seem expected.
Merle never liked Raden much either.
Apparently Green Eyes had more than enough of Sosa's posturing. She looked genuinely peeved at the little cat-boy. Before Merle could bat an eyelash she heard Sosa scream and the girl was standing over Sosa, knife in hand.
Green Eyes examined the blade of the knife critically. Her lips thinned. Abruptly she spat on the floor in contempt, missing Sosa by a scant hair. Sosa's hackles were fully raised due to his bruised ego...and derriere.
Merle winced thinking the girl would need a little refinement. The gods help her if the bluebloods caught her doing THAT casually.
"Grow up before you start to think about becoming a soldier," the girl growled. "If you can't even respect a blade like this," she brandished the knife and Merle could see the large nick in the steel, "what makes you think you deserve to wield one like it? What on earth makes you think you can handle a sword?!"
Merle frowned at the girl's strange phrasing and stepped forward. "Sosa, give back everything else."
Platinum hair flew as green eyes turned to stare at Merle. "There's MORE?!"
Merle rolled her eyes. "There's always more."
Sosa crossed his arms and turned his head away. "I didn't take nothing. Can't make me even if I did." He said stubbornly.
Green Eyes' hand snaked out and grabbed Sosa by the ankle. She pulled him up and dangled him in the air. Merle had to admire the girl's strength as trinkets, odd articles and items fell into a noisy pile on the floor.
"You *bleeping* little klepto!" Green Eyes muttered in disbelief as she used her toe to nudge the growing pile at her feet.
"*Bleeping*?" Merle thought to herself. What a strange expression.
Letting the cat-boy fall in a disgruntled furry heap, the girl looked at Merle and asked wearily, "Does he do this often?"
Before Merle could respond, Sosa scrabbled back and then launched himself at the girl, pushing her back against the wall. Merle noticed that the girl didn't seem surprised at all. Green Eyes simply watched the cat-boy make his escape with an almost bored look on her face.
The silver-haired girl walked to the window that overlooked the fountain by the entrance of the private gardens. Merle concluded rather quickly that Sosa would try to make his escape into the gardens, Van's PRIVATE gardens. Somehow Merle wasn't surprised at all.
Several noblewomen were milling around the fountain entertaining hopes of running into the young king. Often he would go for walks into his gardens and the young women would hope to catch him when he returned to the castle. However, even the most ambitious noblewoman would be reluctant to follow Van into the garden. The last one who tried was banished from social events on the public grounds of the castle.
Only those with the permission of the King, Merle being one of them, were allowed free access to the private gardens. This was because the gardens were home to the monuments and tombs of Van's family.
Merle grimaced as she clenched her fists in anger. Just wait until she got her hands on that little brat! She glanced down at her bloody arm. There was no way Raden would be able to talk his way around his ward this time!
She spotted a familiar ample figured woman who was returning with some hand maidens from the market, their arms laden with packages. Merle grin turned feral and she shouted out, "Yana! Yana dear! Could you do me a favour?"
Yana was a wonderfully kind, warm and when need came about, intimidating woman. She was the head of the castle kitchens. She had been there for as long as Merle and Van could remember going back to even the rule of Van's father, Goau. The night Fanelia was attacked in the beginning of the Great War, it was Yana who made sure that Merle didn't run heedlessly into the fighting in search of Van.
After shooing off the help, Yana looked up spotting Merle in the window. "Yes, Merle dear. What can I do for you?" she sang, waving back.
"If you see Sosa running around, grab him for me will you? I'm afraid we have to go see the Advisor for a little talk."
Yana snorted. "In trouble again? No problem my dear. As soon as I see him, he's as good as caught." As soon as she finished saying that, Sosa came streaking by Yana, heading straight for the garden's entrance like Merle expected.
Yana's chubby arm shot out with alarming speed and snagged the back of Sosa's straps as he whizzed by.
Merle smothered a laugh with her hand as she saw the straps snap off as if they were barely attached by a thread. In the front AND back.
With Yana holding a couple strips of fabric that normally holds pants up, there was nothing to keep Sosa from showing that he didn't use underwear.
Merle turned to see Green Eyes leaning against a window sill howling with laughter. Catching Merle's glance, she help up the knife with a toothy grin and said, "Notched or not, my knife still has a keen edge."
Merle wondered when Green Eyes had the chance to cut the straps so precisely.
Outside, Yana picked Sosa up by his fallen pants and carried him under one big arm, lecturing him all the way back to the castle where Merle waited for them.
* * * * *
Merle had the immense satisfaction of seeing the Advisor furiously admonished Sosa for his thoughtless actions. Merle supposed that even Raden couldn't ignore the fact that Sosa could have really injured someone in his recklessness. She figured though that Raden was also piqued because Sosa accidentally mooned half of the noblewomen staying in the castle.
Merle was surprised to see Raden turn to Green Eyes, who accompanied Merle, in embarrassed apology.
"Lady, I regret the atrocious behavior of my ward." Raden glared at Sosa who cowered in a corner. "Rest assured, it will NOT happen again!" With that Raden grabbed Sosa by the ear, dragging him away. Sosa was forced to listen to his third lecture of the day.
Green Eyes turned to Merle with an amused smile. "Ah, I guess I never introduced myslef did I, running around like a crazy woman."
Merle chuckled and shook her head. "There wasn't exactly time for introductions. My name is Merle."
Something like recognition flickered in the girl's eyes. It was gone so quickly Merle wasn't sure if she even saw it.
"My name is Seiki, Himura Seiki."
Merle raised an eyebrow. "Seiki? What an unusual name. Reminds me of some..." Merle's eyes narrowed as she broke off suddenly.
Seiki frowned. "Are you alright?" She glanced at the cut on Merle's arm which was still bleeding. "Ack! I forgot about your cut! Come! We'll go back to my room. I think I have something to put on it. I keep my knife clean, but there's no telling what that brat did to it before he got to you."
Seiki gently took hold of Merle's arm and led her back to Seiki's room.
Merle followed mutely, letting Seiki think she was dazed from the wound. Her mind was far from dazed, working furiously. The hair colour was wrong, but the eyes! The unusual name and if Merle concentrated, there was a hint of a friend lost 6 years ago. Could it be?
Something prevented her from blurting out the question, but her mind screamed it out.
Why do you remind me so much of a girl I knew from so long ago?
Who are you, Himura Seiki?
* * * * *
Merle sat on the bed in the guestroom Seiki had been installed in. She looked around in dismay at the mess Sosa left behind. The glint of a strange, familiar object caused a memory of Merle digging through a bag to flash through her mind. Merle drew a sharp breath.
Seiki looked up from tending Merle's wound. "I'm sorry, did that hurt?"
Merle gave Seiki a shaky smile. "A little," she lied though her reaction had nothing to do with her cut.
Merle gestured around her. "If you don't mind an extra hand I can help you clean up." She grimaced as Seiki finished tying up the bandage. "It looks like Sosa really messed up everything."
At that moment, Van walked by the open door. He paused when he saw Merle sitting on the bed. Sticking his head into the room, he said in an amused voice, "I heard that there's been a fallout between Raden and Sosa."
Van glanced curiously at Seiki who was cleaning up the bandages and putting her medicine away in a white box with a red cross on it.
"Here for less than 2 days and already causing trouble?"
Seiki straightened and glared at Van. "Nothing of the sort. It's not exactly my fault you have thieves hanging around the palace, your HIGHNESS." Merle noticed the slight stress Seiki put on the title and wondered at it.
Her ears perked up when Merle noticed that Van actually blushed. Looking at Van, then to Seiki and back to Van again she asked, "Okay, I smell something here. You've met?"
Seiki looked at Merle with an expression that was a cross between exasperation and laughter. "His HIGHNESS, failed to mention when he offered me a ride to Fanelia that he happened to be the KING of Fanelia."
Seiki impaled Van with her green gaze. "I found out when the Advisor insisted that I didn't call Van by his name but by the title 'Your Highness'."
Merle's eyebrows rose. "I see...and that bothered you?"
Seiki shrugged and grinned. "Not a bit. I knew the second I saw his sword who he was. I just like bugging him about it."
Van coughed uncomfortably and Merle with ever a soft spot for him thought of a way to dig him out of the situation.
"Van, I'm glad you came by this way. I was going to look for you. Will you come with me? I want to give you your birthday gift."
Van rubbed the back of his neck. "Um, yeah sure, Merle. Though why now? I have to head off for a fitting. Raden's orders. My birthday isn't until tomorrow anyway."
"Ahhh," Merle grinned, "your birthday suit!"
Seiki made a sort of choked gasping sound. When Merle cast her a worried glanced, Seiki quickly waved it off, her face a shade darker red than before.
Merle sighed. "I'll never get a chance to give my gift to you tomorrow, silly. Everyone will want a piece of you." She glanced back at Seiki who was busily picking up things off the floor. "I'll be back to help you out, okay Seiki?"
Seiki dumped a pile of stuff beside Merle and smiled. "Go, go, give the King his gift. I won't be going anywhere any time soon." She waved her hand, shooing Van and Merle out of the room.
As Van and Merle walked down the hallway, heading towards Merle's rooms, Van sighed in relief. "That woman scares me," he muttered.
Merle gaped in surprise. "A woman?"
Puzzled, Van looked at her. "Well, sure. Didn't she tell you yet? She's eighteen, though when I first met her I could of swore she was only 14."
"Ahhhh," Merle felt the light come on. "Not as young as I thought then. That would explain about the knife."
Merle's mouth twitched. Recounting the events in the last hour or so, Merle had to fight to not laugh through the whole tale.
Van looked thoughtful. "I've seen her move really fast. It wouldn't surprise me that she would know how to use her knife well."
Arriving outside her room, Merle opened the door and walked in. "Well, she's just a tangle of mysteries. I'm just going to have to spend some time with her and figure her out." Merle wondered if Van suspected what she did about Seiki. She was reluctant to talk to him about it until she found out more.
Picking up the package off her dresser, Merle held it out to Van. "So here it is. Open it."
"Yes now. Don't roll your eyes at me. The least you can do for a friend like me is to open your gift and pretend to like it even if you don't!"
Sitting down on the couch in the corner of the room, Van sat the gift on his lap and started to unwrap it. Merle sat beside him, anxiously waiting for Van's reaction.
Van opened the box. He froze, hand hovering over the open top. Merle leaned over to get a good look at his face, unsure whether or not his reaction was positive.
Van finally moved, lifting the crystal sculpture out of the box and up to the light. The wings glittered in dozens of miniature rainbows.
"Where did you find it?" Van asked in an almost strangled whisper.
"In a little shop in Ezgardia." Merle bit her lip worriedly. "Do you like it?"
Van nodded dazedly. He caught the look of doubt on Merle's face. "No Merle. I really do like it. No kidding."
Merle grinned. So her first instinct was right. Leaning back, Merle was prepared to gloat when her stomach roared its discontent. Van laughed and poked Merle in the stomach. "Still haven't eaten breakfast yet huh?"
Merle groaned. "Oh geez, I need FOOD! Join me?"
Van shook his head regretfully as he gently placed the statue back into the box. "Sorry Merle. Have to pass." He grimaced. "I have to go pretend to be a mannequin for an hour or two, remember?"
Merle giggled. "Right, your birthday suit? I forgot."
"Shut up. Not my idea okay?" he growled ruffling Merle's hair despite her protests. "Go grab some breakfast. I'll talk to you later. Don't forget that Allen and Celena should be arriving this afternoon."
Merle pulled away from Van and sniffed. "Fine, if you won't join me for breakfast, I'll head back to Seiki's and see if she's up for some food."
Van grinned as he stood up, package tucked under his arm and walked to the door. "Go do that. Maybe you can pry a couple more secrets out of her." He took a couple steps before stopping. He turned back. "By the way, I really do like it. Thanks."
The door closed behind him. Merle sat back in the couch with a contented smile before her discontented stomach reminded her to search out some sustenance.
The Prophecy, original characters, artwork and links © Melinda
Ho, dragonmmho 1999 - 2004. All rights reserved.