Categories > Anime/Manga > Slayers

Until the Last Petal Falls

by BeccaStareyes 0 reviews

On a spring vacation, Amelia is troubled by odd dreams which seem to tie back to events fifty years in the past and a spirit that seems to taken an interest in her. (Zelgadis/Amelia)

Category: Slayers - Rating: PG - Genres: Drama, Romance - Published: 2006-07-26 - Updated: 2006-07-27 - 5469 words - Complete

Well, I never! Of all the ungrateful things -- the Noble House of Roisin can die of this plague for all I care! I was asked to cure their eldest son of the disease. It proved to be quite resilient to normal white magic and herbal remedies, clearly why it was giving the priests in the area such problems. I suggested something unorthodox, and actually rather desperate -- a graft of lesser demon. I warned the Baronet and his wife that there would probably be unintended effects, nothing harmful, and possibly even beneficial. In a small way, I /was creating a chimera, after all. They were all for it -- the even joked about things like increased speed and magical acuity -- until they saw the results./

I could maybe understand the son being a bit surprised, since he was delirious for the entire thing, but all of a sudden I was a horrible witch that turned their son into a monster. They even told me, in front of their son, that they'd rather he died. It's not even like he looks that bad, though hopefully he doesn't take after his parents in vanity. He certainly looks better than he did lying in his bed, clammy with fever and covered in a blotchy rash!

Perhaps someone talented could reverse it -- it's pretty localized for something of the type -- but I'm certainly not going to bother. Let them learn to live with it. If they survive

Zelgadis had found the journal in an old bookstore. The sorceress, Bridget the Gold, was one of the few white magic users who had studied chimerism. There were even rumors that she had known enough on the subject to be able to reverse it. Unfortunately, he was having a devil of a time tracking down her writings. This was his first lead in a while, and he was dutifully retracing the steps of her travels in hope some of her more technical writings would surface. Even if she came across as an egotistical self-righteous woman in her writings, she did seem to actually give a damn on chimeras -- he could believe she might have worked on a way to restore one's original form.

He had become a bit of a connoisseur of abandoned ruins. Roisin Castle, whose outer gates he had just walked through, certainly wasn't the creepiest place he had been, but there was something disconcerting about it. He scanned the courtyard, trying to figure out what it was. The place had been abandoned for long enough that the grounds had started to mesh with the forests outside and start the slow work of returning the land to the woods. Vines -- roses, judging by the bright red flowers -- were already covering the walls, prying the stones apart to get closer to the sun.

He ventured inside, casting a light spell, and began to search the ruins. Local legend was that a sorceress had killed off the noble family living here, and then she had been been killed by her own chimera -- he didn't even have the confirmation as to who the sorceress was. No one had been back since -- the chimera had been reported around, and people had been afraid. So, hopefully, this was the right castle and Bridget's notes were still there, protected from the elements by magic.

He pushed one of the tower doors, and it fell apart, revealing what he had been looking for -- a magical laboratory. Or what once was one. Most of the glassware was smashed, and Zelgadis saw the remains of destroyed books littering the ground. He brushed them away, revealing runes and circles all over the floor. "Well, damn."

He searched the room anyway, just to make sure that he hadn't missed a book. And, for good measure, he searched the surrounding rooms. The only thing he found was a bound stack of letters, sitting on a nightstand in the bedroom above the lab. Leaning against the wall, he read the first page.

This is the journal of Conri Daire, and I am currently Baronet of Roisin. This might be contested in the world outside these walls, as I am no doubt believed to be dead there. What really happened is thus...

Zelgadis flipped ahead. It was going to be a long night. The place was quiet, though, and cooler than outside, so it would be a good place to camp. He could get back on the trail in the morning. And, maybe the letters had some kind of clue as to what happened here. He continued to read under his light spell as the shadows fell across the room and a breeze smelling of snow ruffled the pages.


"I've heard this inn is haunted," Amelia said as she went to pick up the key to the inn room.

"You shouldn't believe everything you hear, Your Highness," the innkeeper, an older man, replied. "Where did you hear that?"

"Oh, I read it in a book." It had been an impulse buy a couple of towns back, a small paperback on the ghosts of the area.

"What kind of hosts would we be if we didn't exorcise any ghosts we found in the building, anyway? It's bad enough there's rumors of something in the area scaring the farmers, I can't imagine how a ghost will go over." The innkeeper looked nervous -- hauntings must not be good for business.

"I'm not going to go elsewhere if there is, sir. I just wanted to know if I could help."

"Don't you worry about it -- I've had the people in the temple look it over. Let me take your bags." That was all he was going to say on the matter of ghosts.

The inn room was clean and spacious, the late-afternoon sun shining in on a bed, a dresser and a small table. After she put away her bags, she got out pen and ink. It was too late in the day to get started investigating the city, or exploring the countryside, but she could catch up on her correspondence, which had been neglected since she left Saillune. She managed to get a letter to Miss Lina and Mister Gourry done, and then a postcard to her father, before she had to light a candle. She started on a letter to Mister Zelgadis, chewing on the end of her pen thoughtfully. He was supposed to be in the area, but his contact recently had been sporadic. It was probably nothing, though, and he'd probably just crankily dismiss her concerns once she found him.

She drew out the writing of what should have been a very short letter, mulling over what to do about this. /I'm just going to have to check the local rumor mill for him, if he doesn't bother to contact me, and if he doesn't like it, he can remember next time. And I'm going to have to rewrite the letter in the morning/, she thought, yawning as she blew out the candle.


It was one of those dreams where she was both in it, and observing it. She watched as the wagon drove over the bumpy road, draped in the colors of illness, warning those who came near that it housed the sick, at the same time seeing inside of it. She heard the crack of an axle and felt the wagon shudder to a stop.

There was snow now, mostly in the low places and shadows, as she walked. It felt like it was cold, and maybe if it wasn't a dream, she'd be shivering. There was a castle in front of her, covered in vines and a figures standing in the door. She stared at him -- the clothing was old-fashioned and a bit worn, but looked suited to the castle. At first she thought it was a trick of the fading sunlight, or the shadows cast by the man's cloak, but something about him looked off. /His skin... he's a chimera/, she thought.

There was a jump, and then she was in a stone hallway, running. There was the smell of blood in the air. She turned, heading down a flight of stairs, passing through squares of sunlight into the courtyard full of roses. Then she awoke. At first she wasn't sure what had woke her. Then she realized she was cold -- like the blanket had fallen off the bed while she slept. But I didn't leave the window open, she thought sleepily. She opened her eyes, blinking.

At first she thought it might be a trick of the moonlight and shadows. But, as her eyes focused, she saw that the translucent female form was far too distinct to be her imagination. It was hovering by the dresser, looking down on her possessions. Amelia sat up quickly. Why did these things have to happen when she was half-asleep in the dead of night, rather than, say, around sunset when she was awake? "Who are you?"

The ghost turned to look at her. It was definitely a woman, or had been. It was about her age, and was dressed from about the same era as the man in her dream. /Well, that would explain the weird dream/. It started to fade out. "Wait a second! I just want to talk to you!" But it was already gone.

The rest of her night was untroubled by dreams, and she had to wonder if the entire thing -- including the ghost -- was a dream when she woke up the next morning. I did hear this place was haunted -- it won't hurt if I ask around a bit while I'm out today.

The innkeeper hadn't seen Mister Zelgadis when she had asked yesterday, before she had brought up the ghost, so she saw no point in asking again. He did notice her heading out, and looked up from the ledger he was holding. "You be careful, your Highness. I heard yesterday that something's been wandering around outside of town after dark. Like a troll or something."

"Did anyone get a good look at it?" Amelia asked, not mentioning that she could easily handle a 'troll or something'.

"Nope. There's a search party heading out tonight -- the priest is arranging it."

"Thank you, sir." She had already planned on stopping at the local temple. Now she had an excuse.

The temple itself was a simple building -- most of it actually seemed to be workspace and hospital. It was built of the same grey weathered stone that all of the town's buildings were made of, and was covered in ivy leaves. She ventured inside, pushing the door aside gently. "Hello?" No one was present. Her footsteps sounded on the stone floor -- the silence and the lack of candles in the entryway made the place feel much bigger than it looked. She turned down a hallway, wondering if this might be a bit rude. Perhaps it was just the faded tapestries covering the walls, but the place felt deserted.

"Can I help you, miss?"

Amelia nearly jumped out of her skin. Turning around, she saw a rather elderly gentleman in robes, leaning on a staff. A basket was in his other hand -- she spotted various herbs sticking out of it. She hadn't heard him walk up behind her, and suddenly felt rather embarrassed. "Oh, are you the priest here?" After a nod of confirmation from the man, she added. "I'm sorry. I'm a traveling sorceress." It was true enough, and she didn't feel like getting into her full background. "I was told by the innkeeper that you were investigating something in the area."

"Mmm-hmmm, yes. Some of the farmers south of town have spotted someone moving about in their fields after dark. It's probably just some of the local boys being prankish -- there's been no theft and no one's been hurt, thank the gods."

"Has anyone gotten a good look at this person?"

"Not as such, no. Most of the sightings have been a shadow in the dark -- I couldn't even tell you if it was human. Rumors about town are already spreading about trolls or bandits or the Roisin Beast."

"Roisin Beast?" That sounded interesting, or at least unusual.

"An old legend -- the baronetchy used to be run from the castle to the south of here, but it was struck by plague fifty years ago. The baronet brought in a sorceress to try to find a cure, but..." the priest shrugged. "I'm afraid it was too much for her -- the entire castle was wiped out, and the title passed to a cousin in town. Legend has it that the sorceress brought a creature with her, and that it was the only survivor. But legends say a lot of things -- I'm afraid it was slightly before my time; I was away studying when the plague struck, and couldn't break through the quarantine until after the fact."

"What do you think?" Normally white magic specialists, even those who were not part of the priesthood, didn't dabble in summoning demons or making chimera, the two most likely candidates for having an unusual follower. Maybe a desperate noble would try his luck with a black magic specialist, but most wouldn't even bother taking the job, unless they were unscrupulous. Which this one very well could be -- nice people didn't make intelligent chimera.

"I think that it's very difficult to identify something at the dead of night from far away. And that if someone is prowling around at night, they deserve a good scare from the people whose land they are on. You're welcome to join us, miss -- we'll be leaving around sunset. The moon's only a day or two from full, so there will be plenty of light."

"Thank you, sir." Amelia paused. "I have a few more questions."

"You're a very curious young sorceress. Ask away."

"Well, a friend of mine was in the area, and I wondered if you had seen him. He's normally pretty standoffish though, but he might have stopped in town for supplies. He usually wears a heavy tan cloak, and matching pants -- hard to see what he looks like under it, but you remember the cloak."

"I'm sorry, miss, I haven't seen him. At least, I don't remember seeing anyone like that -- it's possible he still passed this way."

"Thank you anyway, sir." Amelia turned to go. "Oh... sir? Do you happen to know about the inn? I heard it's haunted."

The priest smiled. "There are a lot of tales like that, yes, but Mister Quinlan asked me down to his inn and I found no ghosts. I even cast a few spells to keep them away. I suppose it's understandable-"

"Why?" Amelia didn't normally interrupt, but it sounded like the old man was going to go into a long-winded story.

"-Mister Quinlan lost his elder sister, Tegan, to the plague fifty years ago. The family had sent her to the city for better care, but her carriage never made it there. They found her about two months later, half dead from exposure. I don't know how she survived that long -- she barely lasted a week at home, or so I was told."

Amelia shivered a bit, remembering her dream. So perhaps it was from the ghost. "Thank you, sir. I'll see you tonight."

The rest of the day passed in a blur. She was enjoying being away from the capital, and it was nice being able to not think about work she needed to be doing, and just walk around the public gardens -- which would start boring her soon, but was a pleasant enough thing to do for one day -- but the whole business sat in the back of her mind. What was the ghost doing? What did it want -- spirits usually didn't hang around for no reason. And was Mister Zelgadis in the area or not? What if he was the thing people were seeing -- it wouldn't be the first time that he caused rumors of monsters in the area, because he never thought it worth the time to simply /explain himself/.

If it was him, she was going to be rather tetchy with him when she found him. She met the group in the square at sundown. It wasn't a very large group -- a couple of farmers holding swords that probably had been hanging over their mantels since the Kouma War, a bored-looking guard, and the priest. The priest nodded towards her. "Shall we go then, now that everyone appears to be here?"

They trekked over the moonlit fields. It was bright enough to walk without the lanterns, so they were covered to protect the searchers' night vision. Amelia readied a light spell anyway -- unlike a lantern, that could be willed into the distance, to allow a better look at this stranger. It had gotten chilly after sunset, and she drew her hands into the sleeves of her tunic, thankful she had worn one with longer sleeves. Aside from a few whispers between some of the farmers, there was little talk, letting the sounds of the night carry. Suddenly, the town guard, who had been in the front, stopped, listening. Then he set off in another direction. "What is it?" she whispered to the priest.

"Mister Kavanagh hears something large moving in the undergrowth," he whispered back.

A shout suddenly came from the front, and Amelia caught sight of movement out of the corner of her eye as something darted over the hill. The group broke out into a run, clumsily undoing the hoods on the lanterns. "/Reiwing/!" Running over the ground would just make her trip, and flight would be faster.

She cleared the hill well before the people on foot did, and spotted the figure running. He wasn't wearing a cloak, and the back of his head looked depressingly familiar. "Mister Zelgadis!" He didn't respond in words, but she caught the casting of a flight spell to keep pace with her own. "Don't you dare run away from me!" She tried to speed up, willing every bit of magic out of the spell before he got his spell cast.

She was only a couple of yards -- close enough to notice the moonlight's shine on his hair, and to realize that he was wearing something darker and cut far differently than his normal clothing, but not close enough to really see his face or details on his clothing -- when he lifted off the ground and started flying south. She expected him to gain altitude to clear the forest they were both rapidly approaching and started to rise up herself. They were nearly at the edges when she realized he was going to try to dodge the trees at speed. "Is he insane?" She wasn't, that was for sure. She landed at the edges of the forest and quickly sent a light spell after him, hoping to catch a glimpse to confirm that it was indeed Mister Zelgadis.

She wasn't quick enough to catch him, but she did spot a bright scrap of something snagged on a branch. She retrieved it as the rest of the searchers ran up on foot. "He got away, into the forest," she explained. "Whoever he is, he's a spellcaster." She didn't want to voice her suspicions to these people -- if she was wrong, it would just make finding Mister Zelgadis harder. She was already beginning to doubt what she had seen. Surely, if it had been him, he would have at least told her to go away or responded in some other way when she spoke up. She finally examined the bit of cloth she had found.

It had been a nice piece of fabric once -- a deep red velvet, if she could guess, with some unravelled black embroidery along one edge. Well, that settled that matter -- she couldn't imagine Mister Zelgadis wearing anything this impractical voluntarily. especially if he was searching for his cure out in the woods. Plus, the stuff looked ancient, like it had been sitting in a wardrobe for decades. She could see spots that had been holes where it had torn -- it hadn't taken much to get it to separate from the stranger's clothing.

Well, that was one less thing to worry about. On the other hand, while it hadn't been Mister Zelgadis, it had been a chimera, there was no doubt about that. Which, if the legend was to be believed, was-

"The Roisin Beast!"

"Do you think so?" Amelia asked.

The farmers nodded. "Black and red, with green accent were the heraldic colors of House Roisin, Miss," the guard explained. "If the Beast is up at the old castle, it could find plenty of cloth like that. No one ever cleared the place out -- aside from the legends about the beast, most people think the place is one of the most haunted places in the area."

Amelia was beginning to wonder if anyone in this town actually stayed dead. She would have to ask the priest in the morning more about this castle and the family that used to live in it. She turned to follow the searchers back to the village.


She was in the woods again, but this time it felt more real -- the shadows were deeper, the sparkle on the snowmelt brighter. There was a clearing ahead, and she struggled through the undergrowth at the edge of the forest.

There was a castle standing there. The road leading up to it was half-overgrown with weeds and the castle itself was covered in vines. Whatever groundskeepers that had tended it, had gone on indefinite vacation. There was a man standing in the open gate, in black and red -- the chimera from before, from last night's dream. She approached him.

"Halt. Who are you?" He had his hand on a sword.

'Is that any way to treat a traveller?' is what she wanted to say, but she found herself answering. "Please, sir, I'm but a merchant's daughter, whose cart axle broke on the road. And I'm also very lost."

"You've come to a ghost castle. Better to find your way back to the road than remain here among the dead."

'He's certainly a sour puss.' "It's getting dark, and I can pay for my lodgings..."

"This isn't an inn!" The hood of his cloak fell away from his face, giving her a good look. Inky, blue-black hair framed a face that looked a pale shade of blue. There was also something about his eyes -- the whites almost blended in with the brilliant green of the irises. He very quickly grabbed for the hood, tucking it back into place. "Now, go."

Things were blurring now, and she felt like she was going to collapse. The cold was cutting to the bone...

There was a pin at her wrist, and she forced herself awake. The talisman she wore -- and had left on while she slept, was glowing. But, more importantly, the ghost was standing over her, her hands on Amelia's face. She gave a choked yelp, trying not to wake the entire town. "You who are not of this world..."

The ghost jerked away as it heard the start of the Megido Flare. "I don't care what's keeping you in this world, possessing me will not let you accomplish what it is. Now, you can either start talking like a civilized former human being, or I can finish my spell and send you on anyway."

"He took me in, the young man in the castle," the ghost's voice was as much a presence, that reminded Amelia of the wind through the trees and the damp smell of rain, as it was a sound. She took a "/I was exhausted, and fainted, so he took me in. He took care of me, and I tried to take care of him. He was very lonely, the young man in the castle was/."

Amelia saw the images in her mind's eye as the ghost talked, images of a young women, clearly the woman the ghost had been, and the young man from her dream doing various things -- sitting in a library with books from floor to ceiling, walking about a garden covered in rosebuds, sitting by a fireplace. She focused on them as much as the words -- it was hard talking to something dead, as they tended to not be too good with words without a physical body. But the feelings were there -- she felt the change from gratitude to friendship to affection. She was falling in love. That's why she was hanging around. "But you left," she murmured.

"/It wasn't my fault/!" The ghost's wail shook the window, and Amelia thought that surely someone else had heard that. Outside, away, she heard some of the village dogs howling.

"Show me."

The scene took form in her mind. They were inside, in a room that looked a lot like a mage's workroom. She identified white magic wards that would diminish the effect of black magic and contain demons. A small bookshelf was against the wall, as was a table full of glassware and more books. The smell of chalkdust and incense was in the air. The young woman -- Tegan, the priest had called her -- was seated on a chair at the center of the circle, wrapped in a blanket. 'They said she was sick when they found her again, that she had the plague'.

The young man stepped into view, holding a book. He had dark circles under his eyes, and the clothing he was wearing -- while still in black and red and high-class -- was wrinkled and missing most of the fiddly bits. "I'm sorry, Tegan, I'm so sorry."

"Stop apologizing, silly." The voice sounded hoarse, not like it had before. "It's not your fault that neither of us are research sorcerers. We'll just have to use what we know works as a cure."

Amelia frowned, trying to get an idea about what exactly was going on. 'A spell, certainly, and a complicated one. Most spells that kill diseases don't work very well on living targets. Unless you can target all the disease vectors instead of the person they are living in.'

"I'm still sorry. I never thought..." he sighed, closing the book. "Are you ready?"


He started a chant, and Amelia had enough experience to know that something was going wrong almost immediately. The energy gathering wasn't ordered at all -- it was like a forest fire waiting to leap out and burn down the entire town. 'He shouldn't be casting this spell. Not at all -- whatever it is, I wouldn't even try it.' After the first line, a bolt of magical energy leapt from the circle gathering on the floor to strike him full in the chest. "Conri!" Tegan screamed.

'He's stunned -- he'll be out cold for a couple of hours.' Amelia thought. But Tegan didn't see that -- Amelia felt Tegan's steps carry the both of them from the room, down the stairs, through the corridors and out of the castle.

"I had to get help. He was dying, he was. But no one would understand me, no one would help me."

So that's why she hung around. It's kind of romantic, but wouldn't she rather be doing something else instead of hanging around here. If that's who I saw tonight, he recovered. "Miss Tegan, can you leave here?"

"I cannot. I've tried, but I can't go to him." The ghost's voice was nearly wailing again. Amelia winced.

"You're probably bound to the place of your death. Maybe -- do you have anything of yours? Something special? Like a piece of jewelry or a keepsake or something?" That might hold enough of a bond between the ghost and the physical plane to allow her to travel.

The ghost hovered there for a second, caught in mid-wail. "Hand mirror. Upper drawer left in the attic."

"Now, if you will let me sleep, in the morning we will head to the castle and get this cleared out. Let me rest so I can help you rest. Got it?"

Thankfully the ghost seemed to accept this. At least, she faded out. Amelia pulled her blankets back over her, and closed her eyes. Wait a moment... the chimera in Miss Tegan's memory had dark hair. But the person I saw last night had light, shiny hair.

Oh... oh, drat it all...


Taking the mirror from the attic without asking the innkeeper felt dishonest to Amelia, but she had left a note explaining the situation and he apparently, out of some misplaced sense of responsibility offhandedly mentioned that he heard that she had been helping the priest with trouble last night with a disapproving look in his eyes. She had a feeling that telling him what she was going to do today would just give him a heart attack. She first stopped at the temple to pick up a few things, then headed out of town.

As she walked in the forest, the ghostly form of Tegan visible in front of her, if she knew where to look, she started to feel the hair at the back of her neck prickle. It only grew worse as they turned off into the brush. She had been in forests before, when traveling, and she knew that when one stepped off the path, the going could get difficult. But it was like there was a road opening up ahead of them as they walked. She took a glance behind her, but saw an impenetrable thicket. Someone wants me to continue walking. She touched the cool silver of the mirror, as a reassurance that she wasn't dreaming. It was too late for snow, but she kept expecting to find it in the shadows.

She spotted the castle ahead, through the trees. The vines that had covered it in her dreams had burst into bloom, covering the wall with brilliant red roses. There was a figure standing in the gate -- a gate that had collapsed into splinters. She gripped her talisman with one hand. This was probably going to /hurt/.

"I've been waiting for you." The voice was achingly familiar, even if she hadn't heard that tone before in it. Tegan gave a small cry and floated forward. 'Dammit Mister Zelgadis, you know better than to go to sleep in an old castle that could be haunted. But, you had to go get possessed, and now I'm listening to words that would never come out of your mouth being said to a woman long dead.' It helped that she had never seen that particular dreamy-joyful look on his face -- though she would like to someday, when he could give it of his own free will -- nor that manner of dress. It looked like Conri had raided his closet, without accounting for the fact even the best-kept fabrics didn't last decades, and that velvet and silk really wasn't Mister Zelgadis's style. If she looked carefully, she could see the haze of another ghost surrounding him.

She cleared her throat. "It's time to get going," she said in her level voice. "Go on -- go run off and catch up." For a moment she feared Conri might try to abscond with Mister Zelgadis's body, but then she spotted the ghost itself -- a translucent version of the young man she remembered from Tegan's memory, embracing Tegan as both of them faded out.

The castle's flowers seem to explode, covering the air with rose petals. Through them, she spotted Mister Zelgadis teetering, and she managed to ease him down. "Mister Zelgadis? Are you all right?"

She heard a muffled curse. "What...?"

"You were asleep. In a haunted castle." She spoke rather sharply, which might not have been fair, but it felt good to say.

He opened his eyes, giving her the rather intent, focused look that meant he wanted to know what the hell was going on. A very familiar look, and almost welcome. "I was possessed? Damn it... How long was I out?"

"At least three days, probably longer. You -- or the ghost -- managed to worry some farmers. What were you doing that was so important you couldn't leave the grounds."


"-for your cure, yes. And you say I'm obsessive about things I like."

"When did I ever say that? Don't answer that, Amelia." He groaned a bit, sitting up. "Am I wearing tights? What the hell did that ghost do with my pants?"

"They're probably in the castle." Amelia grinned as he stood up. "If it makes you feel better, you helped a couple reunite after their deaths."

"Lovely. Glad someone got something out of this mess." It was definitely a ghost-free Mister Zelgadis. No one else could manage that sarcasm. "Tell you what -- you tell me what you found out here, and I'll fill in what I learned. You always did like fairy tales, and this certainly sounds like one."
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