Categories > Anime/Manga > Escaflowne > In the Shadow of the Flames

Chapter 2

by BeccaStareyes 0 reviews

Celena finds out about Allen's new assignment and is displeased.

Category: Escaflowne - Rating: G - Genres: Drama,Fantasy - Characters: Allen - Warnings: [!!!] - Published: 2010-09-23 - Updated: 2010-09-24 - 2407 words - Complete

Celena hadn't known what a young lady 'of quality' was supposed to do with her time, since she had been too young to notice what her mother did, and Dilandau Albatou was exactly the wrong sort of person to be allowed near young upper-class ladies, even if Zaibach had them and he had given a damn about anything outside the military.

Most of what Princess Eries thought a young lady should be doing was staying somewhere quiet and looking pretty, and Brother normally left things to the princess's judgment. It made Celena wonder how Queen Millerna had done things like study medicine with such a nursemaid for an older sister, but perhaps around Millerna, Eries didn't act like she was going to eat the house plants if left unattended.

Celena shifted uncomfortably, certain that whoever designed women's dress clothing had no idea what it was like to actually wear it. She had spent the first week home with Brother in cut-down versions of his own cast-offs until he could bring in a seamstress to make her 'proper' clothing. She had gotten used to most of the clothing that had been sent over, but anything that she was allowed to wear to the palace was usually overly decorated, loose in places where she'd get extra fabric caught in things and tight in places where she'd have to move. She had heard that Queen Millerna was trying to encourage Egzardian women's fashion to take hold in Palas, and as far as Celena was concerned, it couldn't happen fast enough.

Celena had put her book down when she'd realized that she had been reading the same page over and over, and now was involved in staring out the window and wondering if she could slip off without Eries noticing. There had to be something interesting going on elsewhere.

The door opened, and Queen Millerna entered, waving off any attempt of either woman to stand up before Celena could so much as figure out how to stand without tripping. "We've finished up," she explained. "Allen asked me to tell you he would be prepping the Crusade for some business I asked him to look into."

"Business?" Celena asked.

Millerna nodded. "A military matter I asked him to help with. He has a few things to do in the city before he sets out, so he asked me to tell you."

Celena nodded. "So, he's leaving soon?" She knew it would come eventually. Brother had some kind of leave because of her, but that couldn't last.

Eries cleared her throat. "Is this a matter for polite conversation?"

Millerna gave her sister a cool stare back. "Allen asked me to tell his sister what I could."

"What can you tell me?" Celena asked.

"He'll be patrolling the northern border. We've had some trouble there."

"Is it Zaibach?" Celena asked. She knew that the mere subject would make Allen uncomfortable. Any acknowledgement of what came from Zaibach might poke holes in the family he had been trying to reconstruct for her. But Zaibach was to the north, and Celena couldn't think of what else could be causing trouble there. Maybe if Brother and Princess Eries let her learn a bit more about Asturia's politics...

Millerna nodded. "It shouldn't be a big problem, but we're trying to not draw attention to it. I'm sure Allen can tell you more details later."

Celena met the queen's eyes. Surely she didn't actually believe that. Millerna had to know what kind of person Brother had become, even better than Celena herself. "Do you really think so?"

"I'm certain Sir Allen will tell you," Princess Eries replied for her sister.

"Celena," Millerna said. "will you walk with me?"

"Of course," she said, standing up and straightening the arrangements of skirts so she could walk comfortably. "Thank you for spending time with me, Your Highness." Celena managed a curtsey in her direction and she nodded stiffly.

The Palace halls were well lit, and Millerna guided her on a route towards the gardens. "How are you and your brother doing?"

"Well enough, your Majesty," Celena answered, not sure what the queen was getting at.

"Really? Allen can be a bit..." Millerna paused, waiting for Celena to fill in the blank. When she stayed silent, Millerna continued, "well, I'm sure you know how he is. He means well, though."

Celena nodded. "He does." But Brother lived in his own world, one that ran mostly according to reality, but seemed to have a sister-shaped hole in it. A hole that pinched Celena when she tried to fit herself into it. "Will he be gone long?" She wasn't sure what answer she wanted -- Brother might be stifling, but a world without him nearby scared her. He had been the one constant in her life since she returned home, and the one tie to her early, happy days. Before Zaibach, before the sorcerers, and before being Dilandau.

Millerna shook her head. "I don't know. As long as it takes."

"I see. This isn't just a 'make sure there are no more stray bands of soldiers that need to be sent home, is it? It has a purpose."

"An Alseides unit escaped destruction, so Allen will be helping in the search."

Celena narrowed her eyes. "That's..."

That's crazy! Allen had fought such things before, but it scared Celena to think of him along. I could help. I know more about Zaibach than anyone here. She could keep Brother safe, or safer. But it would mean getting Brother to accept what she had been.

Millerna put a hand on her shoulder. "It's all right, Celena. He'll come back fine."

"Thank you, Your Majesty," Celena said, honestly. "I just wish there was something I could do." She could try to tell Millerna what she knew. But she remembered that Dilandau was a war criminal. Brother was safe, because Brother loved her unconditionally, to the point of risking death from Dilandau, and death from Van Fanel for protecting her. Millerna was harder to tell. Could Celena convince her she knew what Dilandau knew, remembered what he remembered, but she was not Dilandau any more? She'd have better luck with Brother.

"It's not easy, but I'm sure you can find a way to be of help," Millerna said.

Celena nodded, a plan starting to form in her head. "I think I will."


Allen had sent a runner back to ask Gaddes to bring the Crusade out from the countryside to Palas's airship docks, and to supervise the loading. Allen had already checked that Sherazarde had been secured, and the spare parts for the guymelef -- those that could be replaced in the field -- loaded and checked. Now he was at liberty, since Gaddes could handle the crew and didn't need his superior officer looking over his shoulder.

He thought he saw a flash of color dart between the pallets. Probably just a bluetit, he thought, but it happened again, enough to make him wonder how big the city birds were getting.

The third glimpse of the 'bird', he started walking towards the pallets himself. Most of his crew was wearing worn clothing that didn't match the brightness of the color he had seen. He waved Gaddes off when the other man noticed his approach. "I thought I saw something," he explained. "Please, continue with loading."

Gaddes shrugged. "Whatever you say, Boss."

He circled the pallet of crates he last saw the blue disappear behind, and thought he heard the sound of footsteps slightly above the noise of the docks. A half-turn around, and he was mostly out of sight of the Crusade's open hatch, but whoever had been there wasn't. "Hmm..." Allen said. He examined the boxes, which were only piled to about chest height. Someone could crouch behind them, if they were small. Placing his hands up onto the crates, he vaulted over them, landing on the other side.

Celena straightened up from a crouch, looking quite surprised to suddenly see him land in front of her. It had been her blue skirts that he had seen earlier, out of the corner of his eyes as she had been moving about. "Good afternoon, Brother," she said, curtsying.

"Celena," Allen folded his arms. "What do you think you are doing?"

She straightened her clothing and smiled at him, the picture of a young lady, aside from the smudges from her skirts training on the ground. "Right now? Talking to you."

"You know what I mean." It was the kind of smart answer he hadn't expected from Celena.
"Actually, I'm worried. I spoke to Millerna and..."

"Her Majesty, not Millerna. You spoke to her and...?" Millerna had promised that she wouldn't speak of Celena's connection to Dilandau, but he wasn't sure if her promise applied to speaking to Celena herself of the connection. All it would result in was worsening Celena's nightmares, and Allen hoped the queen was wise enough to realize this.

"She couldn't tell me much, but it still sounded very dangerous. I was worried about you, Brother, and thought that coming along would make me feel safer. I could even help."

Going into a dangerous situation was the last thing he wanted Celena to do. "It would worry me/, Celena. I couldn't protect you /and do what the queen asked me. If you got into danger, I don't know what I'd do." Probably disobey orders, rescue her, and then deal with the trouble this would cause later. It wouldn't be the first time he'd have to deal with the repercussions of his gut reaction, and it wouldn't be the last.

"The same for me. I can take care of myself, Brother."

/No, you can't/. Celena had come back with very few practical skills, though she would occasionally surprise him. "As can I. This is part of my job, Celena, and you'll have to learn to deal with it."

"I'm just... what if I never see you again?" Celena frowned, taking Allen's arm.

"It's just a routine mission, Celena. And the field isn't a place for a young lady," Allen said. At least his men behaved around their boss's little sister. They had also learned to adapt to Hitomi, Van's beastgirl companion, and the queen.

"That doesn't change things. I know all these things, but... you're all I have left." She looked like she was about to cry.

Allen sighed. He couldn't stand the thought of Celena alone and feeling miserable as he left. "You can come with us, if you promise to stay in the Crusade/, or places /I deem safe. And no arguing."

Celena's face brightened like the clouds had suddenly parted to show the sun. "Thank you, Brother!" She jumped up to throw her arms around Allen, giving him an unexpected hug.

"Excuse me?" Allen turned, Celena shifting to stand next to him, and saw the young knight from the meeting, Sir Dahlgren. "Am I interrupting something?"

"I was discussing my absence from the capital with my sister," Allen answered, unsure what Dahlgren wanted.

"Your sister?" Dahlgren looked from Allen to Celena. Celena gave him a curious look back.

"That's right -- Celena, this is Sir Dahlgren, a knight of the realm." Allen realized he didn't know the man's personal name, and that he probably should find out sooner or later. Better yet, find out the names of all the commanders along the border, if only so he could address his messages properly. "Sir Dahlgren, this is my sister, the Honorable Celena Schezar."

"A pleasure to meet you, Madam," Sir Dahlgren bowed, and Celena gave a short curtsy.

"Brother, I left my bag in the carriage," Celena said. "I'll just go get it and load it on the /Crusade/, shall I?"

"You have your bag packed?" Allen asked. Had she played him for a fool?

"Well, I wasn't sure if you'd have me staying at the palace if Her Majesty's business ran long," Celena explained. Allen wondered if this meant she'd have his old castoffs instead of her own dresses. Surely not, despite the queen's influence on fashion -- cut down man's clothing was still nothing a young woman of breeding could wear, and she had agreed to not wear it when going out, or entertaining guests. And neither of them had known he'd be called away like this.

"Fine. Go on, then. Be back quickly." Allen waved to her, and she smiled, walking off with a bounce in her step. "Now," he said, turning to Sir Dahlgren, "you were saying?"

Sir Dahlgren nodded. "Ah, yes. That's a wonderful airship you have there. Um... I was wondering if you were heading towards Themis?"

"We might be. Why?" Allen asked. Themis was the closest sizable town to Asturia's northwestern border, where Zaibach, Fanelia and Asturia met. Allen's own former post was south of that, so he knew the area, where the mountains that covered much of Fanelia marked the border.

"Well, I'm stationed near there," Sir Dahlgren said. "With the troubles, I don't like being away from my men. I could ride back, but it would be days before I got there."

"Themis is in the Duchy of Veris, isn't it?" Allen frowned, remembering the outspoken duke had been present at the meeting.

Sir Dahlgren looked away. "Well, the duke does have his own airship, but it's not a fast model. He's asked our assistance to service it on occasion, and if yours is anywhere up to military standards, it could do circles around his. It still would be faster than riding, I suppose, unless Her Majesty or someone authorized the courier stations to assist me." Allen suspected that part of the reason Dahlgren was so reluctant to ride back with Veris was more to do with the duke than his airship.

"Fine. But I want to take off before anyone else decides I can give them a free ride out." Allen looked at the direction Celena had gone, then at Sir Dahlgren.

"Thank you, Sir Schezar!" Sir Dahlgren gave him a boyish grin that made Allen wonder how old the man really was. "I look forward to the trip. I've heard so much about your actions during the war, and can't wait to ask you some questions about guymelef combat."

It was going to be a long trip. Allen caught sight of Celena returning, bag in hand, and waved her to hurry up. Best to just get airborne and pray for favorable winds.
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