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

Chapter 4

by BeccaStareyes 0 reviews

A disastrous battle, a strained sibling relationship and Celena's own fears... and now Fanelia is getting involved. Something must break

Category: Escaflowne - Rating: PG - Genres: Drama,Fantasy - Characters: Allen,Van - Warnings: [!!!] - Published: 2010-11-06 - Updated: 2010-11-07 - 4719 words - Complete

The world stopped when Celena saw her brother fell. Her field of view narrowed until all she could see was the hole left by the enemy's claws, trailing parts like the great machine was as wounded as the man inside. She smelled blood and heard the pause as her heart skipped a beat, in step with her brother.

Someone was screaming. It took the pain of her throat for her realize it was her. Without thinking, she felt her arms and legs tense, launching the stolen guymelef towards her attacker. "How dare you! How dare you!"

Celena didn't remember how to use the weapons, but it didn't matter. She was going to tear that Alseides unit apart. The enemy pilot was saying something, but Celena couldn't make out words, just the high mocking tone of his voice that made her want to gut him like a fish. She could hear the sound of strained metal, and wasn't really sure if it was hers or the enemy's.

He turned, and she realized he was leaving, could almost feel the exhaust from the heated levistones that allowed flight as its own separate blow to her. "Get back here!" she screamed, in a voice that could barely form the words. She leaned back in her seat, a sprinter's pose, and felt her dress strain against its seams to follow her motion. She leapt towards the opponent.

She felt her guymelef overbalance, teeter and fall, and she landed, hard, against the leather straps keeping her in her seat. She swore, a mix of Zaibachian and whatever she had picked up in Asturia, and could feel the hot tears streaming down her face. "Damn you! Face me, you brother-killing coward!" Celena struggled against her straps, too angry to think of how to get herself standing again.

She could hear the heavy thud of footfalls outside, and she screamed at them. It wasn't good enough to attack Brother, but now he was coming for her. Celena put all her remaining shreds of self-control into moving her arms and legs, to pull her stolen guymelef to its feet. If this was how it was going to end, she wasn't going to die on her stomach. If she couldn't avenge her brother, she would at least face his killer on her feet.

She could hear voices -- more than one? -- outside, and her bobbing viewpoint showed her the source of the footsteps. Melefs. Fanelian melefs. Celena knew this without thinking about how she recognized the design, a thousand little things jumping out. She hurried to get back to her feet, to face this new threat, in case they tried to stop her from chasing down that bastard that had attacked her brother and her.

"Hey, you! Asturian guymelef!"

Celena ignored the person calling out. She looked around, almost losing her balance again as she tried to spot where the Alseides and her pilot had gone. "Damn you, you have to be somewhere."

"Open up so we can talk to ya! You got a man down, and one of our logging camps was burnt to ashes! Hey, are you even listening to me?"

"Celena?" The voice was reedy, but it was her brother. "Young lady, you get down here this instant."

Celena's heart stopped. Had he survived the blow from the fight? "Brother!" Her fingers fumbling, she started to undo the straps and open up the cockpit to exit, not caring about anything she learned about proper cool-down procedure. She stumbled down, feeling the fabric of her dress catch and tear on some bit of machinery.

There was a small party of beastmen, with a pair of human men wearing the crest of Fanelia sewn on otherwise unremarkable sets of clothing. That and the pair of melefs -- small ones, ones she could easily imagine had been built since the war, and looked like they were made of mismatched parts covered with a slapdash coat of paint -- were the footfalls she had heard. They had opened up the damaged Sherazarde, and pulled Brother out. Celena could see the cut-away, darkly-stained remains of his Knight Caeli coat and white shirt set aside like a pile of rags, as one of the men worked on him. She hurried to his side, as if to reassure herself that he really was alive, that this wasn't all some kind of awful hallucination.

The man looked up as she walked over. "Miss, this is no sight for a young lady," he replied.

"That's my younger sister," Brother replied. He had been laid down on a sheet covering the ground. "It's all right Celena. I'm all right."

"Liar." She could see the too-pale color of his skin and the way his breathing sounded raspy. His arm was hanging at a funny angle, and his side and forehead were bandaged, with blood already soaking through the latter. She remembered that even grazes could bleed a lot, and put her own hand to her right cheek, swearing she felt something liquid run down her face. But it wasn't blood, merely sweat... or tears, she couldn't tell.

Oh, heavens, what had she just been doing? It had felt like someone else, some rageful spirit had taken over her body when she had seen her brother fall, and it would have torn the forest, and the Fanelians, limb from limb to get at the one who had hurt him.

No, it didn't felt like some/one/ else, it had felt like some time else, her own other lifetime.

Celena felt like she was going to throw up, and the other human Fanelian put a hand on her shoulder. "Easy there, Missy," he said.

"Celena, go sit down," Brother said.

"Might be best if you can take her a bit away," the medic added. "I need to set this bone, and I've seen hardened soldiers faint watching that. Unless she's a healer or midwife, she'll be more harm than good."

She managed to get about five steps away before throwing up. The other Fanelian handed her his canteen. "Here." She took it and swallowed. It was water, warm and with a funny aftertaste, but it got the nasty taste of vomit out of her mouth. "If you really were fighting, most people have that reaction on their first fight." Celena wanted to say that it wasn't her first fight, that she had been doing it since she was a boy... child, dammit, but she wasn't going to tell a Fanelian she was... remembered being... Dilandau. So she nodded, and let him make her a seat, and tried not to listen too much above the camp sounds for the medic.

"There should be people following us," she said tiredly. "Other Asturian soldiers. And my brother's airship."

The Fanelian nodded. "You heard the lady," he called to the beastmen. "Keep an eye out for them and show them in. And send a runner back to camp." The leader of the beastmen nodded, waving his own people off.

"Since your brother, was it?" Celena nodded at the Fanelian. "Since your brother is going to be out with the medic, would ya mind telling me what you two were doing so close to the border?"

"We were at Green River," Celena replied, suddenly aware of how awkward this was. "Someone saw smoke and the commander mobilized the troops. I think he knew it was close to the border, but not which side. Brother was assigned to help by the queen at Palas. There were rumors-"

"Humans don't normally send their women into battle," a passing beastman commented. Celena wasn't sure if she was meant to hear that. The Fanelian man waited for a response, but she had had long practice at staring Brother down at awkward questions.

"We've heard the rumors," the man eventually picked up the conversation. "Zaibach will never put so much of a fa- whisker over the border while any Fanelian draws breath. The king himself is coming up to meet with Asturia on the subject. I thought you all might be the honor guard, which is why I asked. You're not the queen, are you? Last I recall, she didn't have any brothers, though, unless her husband has some."

Celena mutely shook her head. Van of Fanelia was here? She remembered him so hard that Celena's cheek started burning, as if the newly-healed scar remained. No, that was Dilandau. Celena had only seen him in passing. Brother spoke of him often, though.

It meant that Brother would want to speak to him now. Perhaps organize something from Fanelia, but mostly to greet his old friend. And, now, Celana would be there as well, instead of back at the garrison.

She buried her head in her hands, murmuring something to the Fanelian nursemaiding her about being tired. And she was, though it was more the bone-weary feeling that all passion had fled from her. Right now, she just wanted to wish her and her brother home.


Allen didn't know what the foul smelling stuff that the medic made him swallow was, but it had knocked him out cold. When he woke up again, he could still feel the sharp pain of a thousand scrapes and bruises, not to mention his arm, now set. He was on the Crusade though the airship wasn't in flight -- he might be half-drunk on painkillers, but he still knew his own ship -- but he wasn't entirely sure how he had gotten here.

His bandaged side informed him that sitting up was a terrible idea, and Allen lay back against his bunk, wincing at the sudden jolt of pain up his arm. The door opened, and he turned to see Gaddes. "Welcome back to the land of the living, Boss."

"Don't even joke about things like that," Allen said. It was unprofessional to be lying on his back when his second was giving a report, but his side had made it clear that he could either stay down or suffer the consequences. He was mildly surprised that the medic -- he remembered a medic, even if it was just hands and a voice giving orders -- wasn't in here to tie him to the bed until he healed. If it had been Millerna, she might have tried. Which made him wonder if the medic was needed elsewhere. "Report, Gaddes."

Gaddes pulled the stool over to Allen's bedside. "When we were getting the Crusade ready, and were just about to cast off, Sir Dahlgren came running up the gangplank, screaming about how someone had stolen his guymelef."

"Celena," Allen said. What had she been thinking, doing something so crazy? It was so unlike her, to not only ignore his instructions when trouble happened, but to do so in such a... spectacular... manner.

Gaddes nodded. "Guess piloting and crazy heroic stunts runs in the family, Boss. Anyway, we moved out, and found the battle site. It was pretty badly scorched."

"I've seen it."

"Dahlgren said he thought we'd crossed into Fanelia, but he didn't have a map with him to be sure. We saw a couple of their melefs with Scherezade and Dahlgren's guymelef, so we landed."

Allen sighed as he thought of the fight. He took a moment to gather his thoughts, listening to the sounds of Crusade -- not many, besides the occasional voice, when the airship was in port. "I wish I could give a better account of the fight. You'll have to get the details from my sister." He grimaced at questioning Celena. She wouldn't be able to answer most of their questions without training in tactics. "But I imagine that the incoming reinforcements from Fanelia may have startled the pilot." Granted, the pilot didn't seem to be quite all there. Allen was a bit surprised that he hadn't followed up on the blow that had disabled Scherezade.

Gaddes shrugged. "Whatever happened, the pilot got away. Dahlgren sent out sweeps to pick up the trail, and he and the Crusade escorted the Fanelians back to the garrison. They were on the way to Palas anyway, and Dahlgren offered to put them up for the night."

Allen frowned. "I thought the route between their capital and Palas was to the south."

"It is," Gaddes said. "Didn't ask why they were detouring north. Anyway, their doc and the medic here argued a bit, but said to wait until you slept off the drugs before getting you out of the Crusade and about. And to tell you to not move before then." The last was said with a bit of an eyeroll, and Allen smiled. He and Gaddes both knew what medics were like.

The sound of the voices -- people having an argument, from the muffled tones Allen could hear -- increased. "Gaddes, who is making that noise?"

Gaddes stood up. "Dunno." He had gotten up to undo the hatch, when someone knocked at it. Gaddes looked to Allen, who nodded. Whoever it was, he was willing to put up with another visitor. It was probably just the medic, with something foul for Allen to drink. Or maybe a meal. He could do with one, even if it was just tea and some bland gruel.

Gaddes opened the door. The first thing Allen heard was the sound of the Fanelian medic's voice, "You have five minutes. I'm already keeping half a dozen people from his sickbed, and I don't mind adding one to the list, Your Majesty."

Allen suffered a moment's confusion -- what was Millerna doing out here? -- before someone who was most certainly not Millerna entered his room. He smiled. "So it seems the group of Fanelians weren't out in the wilderness alone. We have to stop meeting like this, Van."
"Good to see you too, Allen," the young king of Fanelia said.

Allen looked at Gaddes. "You could have informed me the party we encountered was a royal procession."

"I was getting to that," Gaddes replied. "Sorry, boss." He remained standing, and passed the stool to Van, who set it by the bunk with a fluid, practiced motion, and sat down.

"The trouble has you out here too?"

Van nodded. "Our borders are suffering as well. Though this was the first attack on Fanelian territory, our scouts have been seeing things for days now. I came out this way to talk to the beastmen who live in the mountains."

"So that's what you were doing so far north," Allen said. "It was a bit out of your way."

Van shrugged. "Had a hunch I should detour up here to check things out. And someone who is attacking human settlements might not notice a group of nomads. Or beastmen, even if Zaibach did use them as soldiers."

"Well, I do appreciate it," Allen said. "From what Gaddes tells me, your melefs drove off the attack after I fell."

Van shook his head. "Maybe, but I can't imagine that anyone would be scared of them. They're all we've been able to piece together from spare parts and makeshift forges. If they got into a real fight, they would only get killed."

Allen nodded. Fanelia's capital city had been destroyed in the first salvo of the war, and he couldn't imagine a small, agrarian country had much in the ways of resources. Most of Zaibach's attack had been centered on killing or capturing Van and dismantling the Fanelian military, and less focused on destroying the farms and fields. Otherwise, Fanelia might have a lean winter; at least Asturia could buy food from countries less touched by the war, and rely on the bounties of the seas.

Melefs could be rebuilt, crops could regrow. The cost of life would be harder to replace. Which reminded him. "What was done with Scherezade?"

"We hauled her back here for repairs, and Dahlgren walked his home," Gaddes said "His wasn't too badly broken, just upended."

Allen cursed under his breath. "We'll have to see what facilities there are for repairs. If we hurry, the enemy won't move far."

Van and Gaddes exchanged a look. "I'm not a doctor, Boss, but I don't think you can pilot Scherezade with that broken arm."

Allen inclined his head towards Van, as best he could without moving his body much. "In that case, Van, I know you are an excellent pilot."

"I haven't worked on anything like Scherezade. I learned on small scouts and then had Escaflowne," Van said. "Ispano controls were... different. But I don't want this to go on any longer. It ends here, if we can end it. If you can repair Scherezade, I can pilot it, even if I have to spend every waking moment practicing."

"Thank you, Van. I knew I could count on you."

"Though I'm surprised you didn't ask your sister, given that my men say they pulled a blonde woman from the other guymelef." There was a bit of an edge to his voice, and Allen sunk against his pillow. Of all the things he didn't want to deal with, it was Van's understandable enmity with Dilandau. He thought they had resolved things and laid Dilandau to rest, but seeing Celena must have opened an old wound.

"If this is about Celena..." he glanced over at Gaddes.

Gaddes nodded. "I'll go ask the medic if he needs anything," he said. "Maybe a pair of strong arms to help you get out of bed, Boss."

Allen wanted to throw his pillow at Gaddes. "I've a broken arm; I'm not an invalid."

Gaddes chuckled as he slipped out. From the other side of the door, he heard the medic shout. "One minute before I'm coming in and dragging you out by your ear. Your Majesty."

"If it's about Celena," Allen continued speaking, once Gaddes was outside the room, "she doesn't remember a thing, except nightmares."

"And that explains how a fifteen year old who has a ten-year memory block can pilot a guymelef through miles of forest?" Van asked pointedly, crossing his arms and leaning back on his stool so far that Allen thought he might fall over.

"Well," Allen admitted, "she does have some skill memory too. She's able to do sums, which she hadn't learned before she vanished."

"Sums," Van said, in a flat, skeptical voice. "I'm not talking about /sums/, Allen."

"But the point is," Allen said, nearly bringing up his hands to gesture before a sharp pain made him remember his injury. "The point is, she does have memory of skills. But nothing else. So you can stop taking that tone towards my sister. She's not Zaibach, Van. She's not Dilandau."

"And how sure of that are you, or is this just another case of you just seeing some young girl you want to shelter? If I could accept Folken, you better be able to deal with this, Allen." Van said, standing up. "The knight... Dahlgren said to tell you some duke is screaming up a blue fit, and he wants you and me there when he talks to him. I can have the doctor tell them to not bother you."

"Just tell them to postpone it until I can get some rest. In an actual bed." It sounded like Duke Veris was still around and probably upset about their failure to catch the rogue. He was already sick and tired of having to defend his sister to Van, having to defend his own plans -- and his failure to notice Celena's last minute substitution -- made him even more tired.

Besides, setting the irate medic on Veris might bring some joy into a frustrating and irritating day.

Van nodded. "I'll tell him. But the doc probably wants you to get that rest. We'll talk about this later."

"There's nothing to talk about, Van," Allen replied. "Not about Celena. And if you're so sure that she's deceiving me, then why don't you talk to her yourself?" He shouldn't have said that. In the mood he was in, Van might scare Celena, especially after she had been in a battle and had seemed lost inside her own head.

"Maybe I will," Van answered. "Someone has to keep a level head around here." And, unaware of the irony, as he left, he closed the hatch a bit harder than he must have intended -- it slammed shut.


After changing her torn and stained dress for a new one, Celena had helped set up Brother's room in the garrison as Gaddes and the doctor moved him from the Crusade. It was simple enough work, there already being a place for wounded soldiers to recover after a visit from a surgeon, so it allowed her mind to wander.

She had piloted a guymelef. It had been... well, it had been thrilling, until near the end. Like the first snow in winter, returning to something wonderful after an absence had made her realize how much she missed it.

The fight, not so much. She sat down on the newly-made bed. At first there had been the fear of not knowing how to work the weapons on the guymelef. Perfectly reasonable. Something she should have thought about before she went with her impulse to follow Brother. But when he had been hurt...

... /admit it, you lost all semblance of control/. And Celena didn't know what to do about it. She could name the red-hot feeling of fury rising from within her -- Zaibach had given it a name and a form -- but that didn't tell her what to do about it. Dilandau certainly had never bothered to reign it in.

And she was afraid to tell Brother. As much as she wanted him to acknowledge she wasn't the little girl he remembered, she didn't want irrational rage to be what he took away from that.

She chuckled dryly. Am I protecting him from Dilandau still? It looked like it, even though she knew that the rage was hers, so it would never be turned towards Brother.

She heard footsteps outside, and Celena stood up. Was that the medic and Brother? She reached for the door, opening it for them, and paused. It was the knight, Sir Dahlgren, and someone she didn't recognize -- a richly-dressed man.

"Who are you?" the stranger asked.

Before Celena could answer, Sir Dahlgren turned to his companion and said, "that's Sir Schezar's younger sister, the Honorable Celena Schezar. Miss Schezar, this is His Grace, the Duke of Veris"
"But what's she doing here?" the duke asked. "Schezar's family holds land near Palas."

Celena straightened. "Since my elder brother is my only remaining family, I asked to accompany him, Your Grace. He agreed, provided I stay behind the front lines." It was one thing to say about formality. It may chafe like a net, but it gave her control over her words. Just push them into set patterns, and channel her tone into ice over the fixed words, instead of fire.

Duke Veris snorted. Apparently he didn't think she was of import enough to follow the same rules, which made Celena even angrier. "Fine. Then tell your brother I want to see him and his Fanelian friend as soon as possible. I thought the crown promised to do something about these raids, besides have our army look like a fool to foreigners."

"His Fanelian friend?" Celena asked.

"I believe he means King Van," Sir Dahlgren said quickly, shifting from foot to foot, as if someone had heated the floor to uncomfortable temperatures. Since he was being put between a duke and a king, Celena couldn't blame him, but she was standing firm.

"I will pass the message along, but the surgeon has the final say about my brother's health," Celena replied.

"What kind of knight is your brother, willing to listen to his sister and his nanny?" Duke Veris replied. Celena felt her back stiffen.

"The kind that survived on the front lines of a war that killed many good soldiers," Celena answered.

"Perhaps we could hold the conference in Sir Schezar's sickroom?" Sir Dahlgren said. "As a concession to Sir Schezar's injuries?"

"That would be acceptable, if the doctor agrees," Celena answered. "Thank you, Sir Dahlgren."

"It will have to do," Duke Veris said. "Send for me when it is arranged." Celena would describe the way he walked off as 'a huff'.

"I wonder what he was doing during the war?" she said to herself.

"I believe he was staying outside of Palas. The duchess handled most of the territory here," Sir Dahlgren answered. "I was still a squire, but I was involved in logistics."

Celena gave him a startled look, not expecting to be overheard. She realized then she was faced with the man who she had stolen from, and she might well depend on his good graces to not be slapped in irons for stealing military property right before a battle. /Really smart, Celena/.

"Who taught you how to pilot a guymelef anyway?" Sir Dahlgren persisted.

Celena looked away. 'A veteran Zaibach sergeant who had enough to lose by not exposing Emperor Dorkirk's sorcers' secret Fate Alteration project, and who could ride herd on a dozen volatile boys normally considered too young for even Zaibach's military', was most certainly the wrong answer, though she might be able to pass it off as a joke. "Here and there," she said. "Brother would rather I not mention it." She'd rather not mention it herself after the disaster. She hoped the answer would be enough for him to get the hint.

"So, that was your first fight, then? That wasn't bad, considering. I've seen recruits do worse."

"Don't mention it. Really." Celena was smiling, which she expected looked like a grimace.

"It's a shame you're... well, if you were Sir Schezar's little brother-"

Celena inwardly cursed every god she had ever heard of, and a few that she was certain she had made up. "I think I hear Brother and the medic coming, don't you?"

Sir Dahlgren paused in his unintentional... probably... attempts to compliment her fighting skills without meaning to imply that she wasn't a lady. Or whatever he was supposed to be doing, and Celena just had a chill go down her spine that, for once, had nothing to do with Dilandau or Zaibach or Brother, as she wondered if he was infatuated with her. "I... maybe?" he said.

Maybe was definitely as Gaddes and the Fanelian medic turned the corner, Brother supported between them. He still looked awful, with his arm in a sling and the bandages were clearly visible over his wounds, but his color was better and he was alert.

Celena stepped out of the way of the door, letting them pass. Brother nodded to her. "Getting my room ready?"

"It was the least I could do. Sir Dahlgren asked me to tell you that Duke Veris would like to speak to you and His Majesty as soon as you are able." She glanced to the medic, who scowled back at her.

"As soon as the medic lets me out of his sight. He gave Van five minutes. Some how I doubt he'd give an Asturian duke more. Dahlgren, could you send someone to speak to His Majesty?"

Once again, the unspoken agreement of not letting Celena and Van cross paths. Sir Dahlgren nodded, with a glance to Celena. "Ah, right."

"Come on," the medic said. "Back into bed with you. If you're going to be indulging in anything besides passing out, you'll need rest."

Celena helped Gaddes and the medic settle Brother. After both left, she found herself seated next to his bed, uncertain what to say. She felt like she owed him an explanation, but the words wouldn't come. Staring at him, watching her. She could feel the awkward silence develop a presence, as if the ten years from her life that had been taken from her had taken physical form and was crowding the room. Her venture had made this feeling worse.

"You must be hungry. I can get you something from the kitchen?" she asked.

Brother nodded. "Thank you, Celena. That would be appreciated."

She stood up, and left. As she did, she wondered what measure of cowardice would let her face down an enemy untrained and without backup, but sent her fleeing from a heartfelt conversation with her beloved family.
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