Scars on the
A story inspired by The Vision of Escaflowne
By Sarah Dove
Oceans of stars
Down by the sea
That's where you drown your scars
- Courtney Love, 'Malibu.'
They woke up, somewhat blearily, late in the morning. Celena woke first, then woke Gaddes while trying to get comfortable so she could go back to sleep.
'I thought you couldn't sleep in an untucked bed.' Warm, lazy morning kisses.
'It's not my fault it's untucked. I can sleep nearly anywhere when I'm tired enough.'
'Yay, me ... I made you tired.'
'Tired and cheerful. And achey in some funny places.'
'Oh, I ache too. It's just wear and tear.'
'I don't think anything of yours got torn.'
'I didn't hurt you that much, did I? You're not going to be revengeful, are you?'
'Is revengeful a real word?'
'It's a special word you're only allowed to use if you scored last night.' He started kissing her neck, gentle nipping kisses.
'I don't know why I feel so comfortable like this.'
'Because I love you so much and you know I'll take care of you?'
'Probably. Roll over and I'll write a message on your back and you see if you can read it.'
'Um.. hewo? Are you saying I'm your hewo? Weally?'
'It's hello.' She dug a knuckle into his shoulder.
'You're saying hello after you've had me?'
'You're a twerp.' She started writing again.
'But I love you. Thank you.'
'My beloved twerp,' she said, hugging his back, her arms right round him. Sunshine was streaming in through the uncurtained window and the painted walls seemed as open as the wide world. She pressed her cheek against Gaddes's olive skin and breathed in deeply; he smelled a little like sweat, a little like her, a little like the slightly musty sheets and mainly like his own dear self. He was just a little tacky with sleep, and she thought how nice it would be to bathe or go swimming together. He must love me. One less thing to worry about so many less things to worry about he'll stay with me and help me and we can depend on each other.
'So ' he said, 'what shall we do for the rest of our lives?'
'We will have to go back.' A little of the light seemed to fade out of the room. He lifted her hand from his chest and kissed the inside of her wrist.
'I know. You don't regret any of this, do you?'
'I know it's made things worse. But it's made other things better. Allen said something about that and I see what he meant now.' She paused. 'I wonder what in the world he'll think about this?'
'I don't want to sound like I'm hiding behind a woman, but will you promise not to let him kill me?'
'He would be a complete hypocrite to go mad at us for this.'
'Yes, but '
'Yes, of course.'
He turned back towards her, kissed her, wrapped her up with his body. 'Everything will somehow be all right. Look how lucky we are.'
'It's when you start to depend on luck that it deserts you.'
'I think if you believe in luck you draw it to you.'
'What happened to not being superstitous?'
'You're my luck. I don't believe in it absolutely but you're persuading me just by being here.'
'Can we at least have a swim before we go back?'
Allen knelt before his mother's grave marker.
'I lost her again.'
A silk skirt swished beside him. Eries looked down at him.
'I keep meeting you here. You can't live among graves, Allen.' She bent and placed a posy at the foot of the marker. Straightening, she gazed out at the skyline.
'Gaddes is missing too,' Allen said. 'I suppose he must have helped her. I wonder if he realises the harm he's doing to us both?' A soft wind stirred the grass between the stones. Eries looked at his bowed golden head with something not far from pity.
'Your sister does not strike me as a foolish person,' she said. 'She must realise she cannot escape forever.'
'She escaped from me,' Allen said. 'She wanted to escape from me.'
'That air boat,' she said, distracted, 'is coming awfully close and low. I wonder if it's in trouble?'
Allen looked up. 'I think it's coming in for a landing,' he said. 'Who would try to land in a graveyard?'
'I remember when that Zaibach guymelef appeared here,' Eries said. 'I never had such a turn in my life. It was such a wrong thing to see in this place. In a way, it startled me more than what happened to Celena.'
The boat came all the way down, landing in the clear space yet to be filled with Asturia's departed. Allen's eyebrows went up. 'That's ' he said.
Gaddes climbed down, helping Celena after him. They had obviously seen Allen and Eries before landing, and looked at them somewhat guiltily.
'Good afternoon, Boss,' said Gaddes. 'We didn't expect to find you here.'
'So what did you come for?' Allen asked, stiffly.
'I wanted to visit Mother before going back into the city,' Celena said. She walked to the marker, placed one hand on its white marble curve. 'I just wanted to tell her I'm all right.'
'For how long?' Allen said. 'I'm staggered to think that you would do this. I'm going to take you back with me and hopefully we'll still be able to salvage this situation. I hope you don't think you're coming too,' he added, to Gaddes, who had stepped forward. 'Helping a palace prisoner escape is a serious offense.'
'In this case, it would amount to treason,' Eries put in. Allen looked at her. She shrugged. 'Millerna is interested in medicine. I'm interested in the law. I don't put it before the duties of my birth.'
'If you have somewhere to hide, I suggest you go there,' Allen said. 'I can't guarantee your safety in my house. I can only say how disappointed I am in you, Gaddes; that you would go behind my back like this. You may have thought you were doing Celena a kindness, but you have only put her in more danger.' He took Celena's arm, ready to lead her away.
'I'll see you later, then,' Celena said, forcing herself to sound casual. 'I'll be all right. You be careful.'
'I'll see you as soon as I can,' Gaddes said. Celena flashed him a warning look. 'Remember what I said.' He turned and walked back to Crash Test.
'Can I rely on your discretion?' Allen asked Eries.
'You know that,' she said.
In the carriage, bumping back into Pallas, Allen peppered Celena with questions. Where they had gone seemed to be his major concern. She told him most of the bare facts, assuring him that she had been in no danger.
'And Gaddes I have known him for years, and believe him to be a good man, but I wouldn't be human if I didn't worry about my sister. He didn't take any liberties with you, did he?'
'He behaved like a perfect gentleman the whole time we were together,' said Celena. He said please and thank you. Very fervently.
'You look tired.'
'I think perhaps I wasn't ready for a journey like this.' Celena leaned her head against the windowpane beside her. Her skin felt stiff with salt, from swimming in the sea. She felt as though where she had been and what she had been doing were printed all over her body, but they were completely unknown to Allen; despite his honourable suspicions, he seemed to have no inkling that she and Gaddes could be in love. She had had a feeling very like this when running away with Gaddes last night; a sort of dazed disbelief that she could move between such disparate situations so quickly, so easily, and still be Celena. Dinner table >> running away >> making love >> going back. It hadn't even been twenty-four hours. Only one person in the whole world knew she was not a virgin. It didn't look as though anyone was going to guess; it clearly didn't show on the surface. The secret was so easy to keep that she wanted to tell it. I love Gaddes and he loves me. What do you think of that?
'I'm defending a madwoman,' Dryden declared. 'Perhaps, when I told you to be good, I should have spelled it out to you that the definition of good does not include running away in the middle of the night. Actually, upon reflection, I can see that this was all my fault. If only I had made things clear to you, you would naturally have come directly back to the dining room with the young Duke, pausing only to wake the wretched cat girl and tell her to look alive, you could have escaped. Instead of which, I was lax, I failed you, this misunderstanding naturally arose.' He looked at her over the tops of his glasses. 'In case you can't tell, I'm being sarcastic.'
'Isn't it a prisoner's duty to try to escape?' Celena said.
'That will cut about as much ice as a soap hacksaw. Now, I can try to say that you merely absented yourself to the countryside to skip about in sunlit glades and drape wreaths of daisy-chains around the necks of liquid-eyed fawns, but frankly, Celena, that's not you, and all this is likely to look very suspicious in court, indeed.'
'Well, what would they think I was doing?' Celena asked indignantly. 'Laying fuses to blow up the palace?'
'I don't know. I just don't know. And I have some very bad news for you, I'm afraid. In view of your tendency to escape, the date of the hearing has been brought forward. It's tomorrow. Not only is the King annoyed that you managed to skip out, he's also annoyed that he's having to hold the damn' thing earlier than he planned, and will have to preside over the ceremonies wearing an old gown because the new, specially ordered one is not yet back from the tailor's. Also, half the people he wanted to see him looking very magisterial and grave in said gown will not see him, because they are still on the road or in the air. If there's one thing you have to learn in life, dear child, it's don't annoy kings.'
Celena hardly heard the last part of this speech; it was swamped and drowned by the echoes of 'tomorrow.'
It was a very bad night's sleep, made worse by the memory of last night's sweetness. The swamp opened up under her again and this time she sank right in. I have to face them tomorrow, everything will be decided tomorrow. I've run out of time and it's too late to do anything. When they declare me responsible for anything Dilandau's done they might as well not have the real trial; it's a foregone conclusion. I don't want to die now. I have someone to live for. Why couldn't they just have killed me straight away instead of giving me time to get attached to people? I wish I could pray.
Zaibach was officially atheist, although pockets of folk religion were still thought to be practised in comparatively backward areas. Chesta had come from one of those areas and had had the tendency to make the sign of the star when he was worried knocked out of him pretty quickly. When he got older he made fun of religious people more than anyone. Celena thought she could just about remember a prayer she'd been taught as a child, a little bedtime thing which didn't seem strong enough for the present circumstances.
'Keep me safe, keep me right,' she whispered into her pillow. 'Keep me whole within thy light. Set a saint to watch my bed, and and something, I think it ended with "head."' Will they cut off my head? How do they do executions here? I'd rather have beheading than hanging, it must be horrible. They wouldn't still practise barbaric things like breaking on the wheel, would they? Will it be public? A fun and educational day out for families?
She fell into a fitful sleep around ten o'clock; Millerna had made her go to bed at eight so she would be fresh in the morning. 'The best preparation for almost anything is a good night's sleep,' she'd said. Celena dreamed of suffocating dark and people turning into bad meat and faces falling off. She woke up with wet, sour sheets and a choking feeling in her throat. It was still very dark. Aruetta's advice came back to her; think of something you like. Think of Gaddes. But thinking about him only made her more aware of his absence, that he was not surrounding her, inside her, her love and her luck. I was with him last night and there's just nothing left of that Allen told him to go and hide. He probably went back to the cabin. He'll be sleeping in that same bed tonight, our bed, our place, and he doesn't know the hearing is tomorrow I should have been smart, I should have realised we'd be separated. I wouldn't have let myself depend on him then. I miss him so much.
I'm not the same person. He's part of me now. I've had a bath anything physical will have been washed away. All those little kisses a kiss doesn't leave a mark, of course. Except that one on my right breast, he got carried away there. She put her hand to her breast and found the tender bruised spot. That's something real. That's my secret. They would be so shocked if they knew. I'd be in trouble
Secret affairs, she knew objectively, were dangerous. They made you very vulnerable. They could be distracting and destructive. When they were all about thirteen, Dilandau had started to wonder about Gatti and Biore. They didn't behave differently, there just seemed to be a softness between them, a relaxation of tension. Dilandau objected to this on principle. They had not been taught that homosexuality was wrong, but he tended to think of all sexuality as a kind of weakness. There were definite bans on masturbation; they called it self-abuse. Why would you let anyone else abuse you? Why would you want it? You'd have to be sick or stupid. Doing it to someone else, of course, could give you power, and that might be good, but you would still be giving something of yourself away.
One night he had woken up at an unusual time, vaguely aware of a confusing dream, something about gold threads or golden hair. From the far end of the dormitory he could hear breathing that was trying very hard to be quiet, and movement under covers. Dilandau was far better at being silent than they were. He slipped out of bed and made his way toward the sounds. They were completely unaware of him, and he could see them kissing. Biore must have slipped into Gatti's bed after lights out; they must have waited up until everyone else was asleep. They couldn't see him; he hovered by the bed like an invisible angel, and felt his virtue and power glowing inside him. He waited for the glow to spread all the way to his fingertips before he hauled off the covers and exposed them, tangled together, hands in each other's pajama bottoms. This struck him as particularly bizarre; as though they thought the act of self-abuse was for sharing. I am very good, he thought. He was even kind to them, in a way, because he did not tell. This was clearly a leadership situation, and he was determined to deal with it as the leader.
'Don't ever let me catch you practising these perversions again. You don't touch each other. You don't look directly at each other if I say so. You sure as hell don't touch yourselves. We're Dragonslayers. We have to be pure. If you can't be pure like me, I'll have to tell someone. It would be my duty. I'm giving you a chance. Don't waste it.'
They had agreed to everything, terrified and ashamed. Of course they were ashamed of their sins. Dilandau had said nothing more about it, but he had certainly not forgotten it. Sometimes when he thought they needed pulling back into line he'd just give them a certain significant look and they would knuckle under. And they were so grateful to him for not telling. No-one but Dilandau-sama knew that they weren't as good as the other boys. He was keeping their secret, protecting them. Had they but known it, Dilandau had every one of the Dragonslayers in his pocket in some way. He had confiscated Chesta's chain of stars when he found it under his pillow. He knew Migel had taken the cooking sherry from the kitchens. Everyone had some shame or sin that Dilandau was keeping quiet for him, and only he was exultantly free from any defect that could be used against him.
He felt particularly glad to be free of sex, that nasty time-waster. All right, necessary and natural, but beneath him. Frustration might keep the others awake at night but Dilandau slept the sleep of the just. The thrills of battle just weren't the same thing; surely they weren't, because they were his feelings and they were good. Some day they would want to breed from him, but hopefully he could get that over with pretty quickly and return to something interesting. Physical arousal in the cockpit didn't mean anything; it was just the result of excitement, strong virile spirits. An orgasm could be dismissed as the surge of power and satisfaction a warrior should feel at defeating his enemy. Besides, he was clean; his feelings were all inside, without the outer messiness he knew the others had to deal with. Why that should be was a mystery, but why question such good fortune? Destiny had made him perfect and beautiful. Some of the others referred to their Oreades as 'she,' anthropomorphised them as though they were women. Dilandau wouldn't think of it like that. The machine was part of him, not another person. It was the physical manifestation of his power, too much to be contained by his own body.
Besides, as the Human Biology teacher had droned at them, normal sexual activity was the result of the gravity of love between men and women. What brought on the battle rush was hate, clear, strong, hot hate, that showed him what do to and who to do it to. That was a different gravity. He was free of the weaknesses of men and women and had only the strengths.
Celena, turning over these memories, was baffled and a little disgusted. She had not realised there was so much distance between her and Dilandau now, but when she thought about it, she realised she had not been dwelling on his memories for several days now; she had been immersed in her own world and his had become less relevant. What was more, she could remember talking about precisely these things with Allen on her first day home, but she had remembered them wrong; she'd remembered and repeated the biology teacher's drilling that sex was natural and necessary, but hadn't recalled Dilandau's real feelings about it; and yet a couple of times that day, she had said 'I' when talking about something Dilandau had done. Before she had started making a conscious effort to separate them in her mind Dilandau's battle rush was not the same as what she had felt with Gaddes; he was exactly right about that, but she couldn't help feeling that it had come from the same source, before being sublimated and twisted into something Dilandau could use. If they had gotten to the stage of breeding from him, they would probably have had to use some sort of artificial means; she couldn't imagine him even getting near a woman, let alone doing anything Gaddes had done.
I wonder if I'm always going to be obsessed with sex now? What a way to go. Maybe I'm not so much obsessed with sex as obsessed with everything bodily. Parts of this really are bodily memory perhaps that's why it wasn't clear in my mind on the first day. I still don't know. Why wouldn't I remember that properly until now?
Looking back on poor Biore and Gatti now, she could only feel sorry for them; seeking the only love and comfort that was available in their world. The first experimentation must have been so wonderful to them, even if it was furtive and guilty. They were exactly as guilty as she and Gaddes were. It could only get her into trouble. But it was her sweetest memory, the one most wholly her own, and nothing could make her regret or disown it. It beat the hell out of a good fight, after all.
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