By Jonatan L
..in which we find out that...
while (Luc == TooDamnTired)
TryingToThink != AGoodIdea
We also find out that..
while (Luc == TooDamnTired);
if (Luc == SittingNextToABeautifulWoman)
TryingToThink == AnEvenWorseIdea;
No, I don't speak the language. It's probably screwed up. But you know what I mean.
Short note: Hero2 = Riou for the time being. Likewise, McDohl = Tir. That's because everybody seems to recognise those names. The S2 castle is, however, named Phoenix Castle, simply because I like that name and used it in my game. Deal with it. ;-P
How does he do it?
Luc tapped his fingers irately against the stone floor. I don't get that guy...
And that, of course, was the worst of it all. He didn't get it. Luc didn't like not getting things. It made him feel insecure, which was one of the few things he liked less than not getting something.
Quite frustrating, in fact.
He should head off to bed. The recent battles had left him exhausted; he needed sleep. But he still had some time left before the watch changed and the place started crawling with guards, and from his place, sitting on the floor right beside the niche in the wall where the Stone Tablet of Promise stood, he could see a piece of the night sky through a window near the ceiling. Dim stars glimmered against the deep blue background, but their light was swallowed up by the stronger shine of the full moon hovering just outside his field of view, above and slightly to the right. It was a nice view, something calm and unchanging to rest his eyes on between the chaos of battles.
He really ought to be getting to his bed.
I just don't get him.
If the guards found him here, they wouldn't be happy. They never were when they found people wandering about the castle during the night.
Ah, who cares... Everybody knew who he was, so it wasn't as if they'd take him for an intruder and skewer him on those ridiculous-looking - but nevertheless quite sharp - spears they toted around.
Of course, even if they did try, they wouldn't get far.
Luc glared at his left hand, as if the appendage had offended him Guess it's out now, huh. He'd promised lady Leknaat that he wouldn't use that Rune in public unless lives depended on it. From the way she spoke of it, he had got the impression that "lives" in this case meant "a great many lives", but it was hard to be certain about what to think when it came to Leknaat's words.
Still, it would had been little more than a massacre if he had allowed Sasarai - and with him, the True Earth Rune - to reach Riou and the others.
And I don't get this thing either. Of course, anything else was of little consequence compared to his Rune. Riou... might be the leader of the army, but that didn't change the fact that there was only one complete True Rune under the roof of the Phoenix Castle, and that one was embedded in his, Luc's, body.
He glared at his hand again. He had transferred the Rune there just before facing Sasarai, and never got around to returning it to its usual place on his chest, right over his heart. The faint pattern of the Rune seemed to hide itself from his eyes in the pale moonlight, but he was so used to its shape, he would probably think he saw it even in pitch blackness.
Purpose, he scoffed. Fate. I get that all the time. You'd think that at some point, someone would actually tell me what it's all about. But nooo... His hand clenched into a fist. He pounded it against the stone floor.
He was just about ready to get up and go off to find his bed - if some stupid craftsman hadn't demolished his room in his eagerness to expand the ever-growing castle - when he heard the sound of what would probably have been soft footfalls, if only the floor had been carpeted, or perhaps if whomever it was who was walking around here had been wearing shoes that allowed for soft walking. It sounded... not like armourclad boots or greaves, he decided after a few seconds. It wasn't a rattling of metal on metal; simply a click noise of hard soles striking stone. Definitely not a guard, he concluded as he waited, not so sure who - or even what - he was waiting for. Maybe it wasn't shoes making that sound at all... There were certainly some odd people hanging around the castle. Vampires and werewolves... unicorns... flying squirrels - his head still spun when he tried telling the fuzzy little creatures from one another, especially with those names - a wolf... and a griffin, of all creatures in the world... And to make things even worse, the stupid creatures liked him, too. Maybe it felt the presence of the True Wind Rune - here Luc paused to punch the floor again - or something like that... Griffins were supposed to be creatures of the wind, or maybe he'd just read the wrong page in those dusty books Leknaat had him studying all the time...
Idiot, he told himself. Look at you, too tired to know what you're thinking...
Shut up, he shot back. Like you're one to talk...
A sharp click-tak noise echoed through the great room, and the clicking sound stopped. Right above him, it seemed. He turned his head, but there was only blackness above; the shadow of the dragon statue Jude had made could be hiding anything. He wasn't going to ask.
Dragon statue... that wasn't the most intelligent thing he'd ever heard either... Who had heard of a dragon guardian a castle named after the phoenix? It should have been a phoenix... only no one really knew exactly what they looked like. Well, Viki had said something about a lot of birds mixed up and set on fire, but something like that was more likely to end up as Chicken Surprise in Hai Yo's wok than a legendary bird of life.
He choked down a laugh. Bloody idiot... this had better be enough to convince you that you're ready to hit the damn hay...
But there's no hay in my bed...
Before he had a chance to tell himself how stupid he was, something above moved a bit; there was a rustle of cloth. And then there was a voice.
"Oh my, is someone there...?"
It was a deep, husky voice, and reminded Luc of parting silk curtains.
There was only one person with a voice like that in the castle.
Oh no... not now... I can't handle her in this state... the more sane parts of Luc's mind told him, temporarily gaining the upper hand and taking some ground in the battlefield of his head. The less sane parts, the ones that only made themselves known when he was so tired he could fall asleep walking, might even have agreed, had they not been quite busy at the moment entertaining very detailed mental images of more silk curtains and other things.
"Luc, isn't it...?" the voice asked. Another swish of cloth - probably silk, the latter parts of Luc's mind pointed out - and more clicking of - and this time he pushed the unruly thoughts back where they belonged, deep in a pit somewhere in his head, before they could remark on this - metal-capped, decimetre-high shoe-heels against stone told him that she was descending the short staircase from the platform where the dragon statue stood.
Before long she was standing right next to him. Luc stared at the night sky outside the window.
"What are you doing out here at this time of the day?" The question was expected, of course. Anybody over the age of twenty seemed to think he was a child who couldn't decide for himself where to go and when to do it. It didn't sound as much as Go to your room, young man! this time, though, but more like Fancy meeting you here, any reason you're in these parts?
"Nothing..." He stole a glance to the side. She was mostly shadows to his eyes. He returned his gaze to the window. "I could ask the same."
"Mm? Oh... yes, I suppose you could." A sudden, surprising rustle made Luc turn his head - and then quickly turn it back again as he saw her sitting down, slowly and carefully; those shoes must be a pain to move around in...
But she sure does look good in them, doesn't she...? a part of his mind told him.
Shut up! I don't need to hear that from you!
"Huh?" Luc blinked.
"I said, 'I couldn't sleep, so I went out to have a look at the stars'," she told him, without even the slightest tone of annoyance in her voice. "But they tell me all the gates are locked at this time of the day, or, should I say, night."
"Hmh." Didn't everybody know that? But... "How did you get past the guards anyway?" Now there were some people who took their jobs too seriously... He'd even seen one of them stop Riou from entering the courtyard... or maybe just suggest that it would be better if he would consider staying indoors instead, but that would be the same thing for Riou. The kid - Luc couldn't help but think of him like that, even though he was the younger - seemed to do whatever people told him. Of course, he had been walking around like in a daze the last few days... not that anyone could blame him...
I... just... don't... get... him.
"Did you say something?"
He started. "What? No..."
"You know, I've been thinking."
"Is that supposed to surprise me?"
She chuckled. "Was that supposed to be sarcastic, or was it a compliment?"
Quiet laughter again. "You sound more tired than you look. And you look like you're only awake right now out of spite."
Luc nodded slightly. "Probably because I am..."
More laughter. "I can't argue with that, I suppose. Well, to answer your question... there's not much they can do, unless they're stupid enough to stand in the way. I live here, you know... it's not as if they can stab me for walking around my own home. None of them them has had the nerve to try and grab me. There isn't much left for them to do."
"I'd like to be around when one of them does try that," Luc muttered. He didn't mutter enough, though. He wasn't sure if the sound she made was even more laughter, or if she snorted.
"Are you insinuating that I would do something... rash?"
"No," he said, suddenly feeling strangely clear-headed. "I don't know, which is why I would like to find out."
This time it was definitely laughter. "You could try, if you wanted. That would get you your answer quicker than sitting around waiting for it to happen, you know..."
The mists of sleep were trying to descend on him again. While pushing them aside, he managed to mutter, "...I'll pass."
Not that you would mind very much-
"He he he... well... I suppose that's for the better."
There was silence for a short while. She broke it.
"I was about to tell you something, wasn't I?"
Yet again, laughter. He should probably think it was annoying, but he was too tired to care. "No, I suppose you wouldn't... but I was... You know, I've seen you sitting here almost every night... are you so afraid that someone might steal your precious stone?" She patted the Stone Tablet.
"No... nothing like that..."
"So what is it then?"
Luc frowned. Perhaps his thoughts were clouded, but they were quite sharp to begin with. "You only came here... to ask me that, didn't you."
She sighed. "Well... yes. Not only that, of course. But it was one of the questions I wanted to ask you."
Luc's frown deepened. "Jeane."
"I am... very tired. Can't this wait?"
It sounded as if she shrugged. "Well, I suppose there is no reason why it couldn't. But tomorrow there could be another battle. I may never get the chance."
Something in Luc's head told him that he should be surprised to hear words like that from her. He ignored it. He should probably be surprised to find himself sitting here, talking to her. Talking to anyone, in fact. He hated talking. But it was so easy to listen right now... much easier than pulling himself up and walking through the dark corridors, all the way to his room... which was so far away... so very far away...
"Very well then... but..."
"I won't answer any questions about this." He held up his left hand. The True Wind Rune gleamed in the semi-darkness, and for an instant their features were illuminated by a green glow. Luc closed his hand and the light died away. Was it just his imagination, or had that expression on her face been fear? No, it was probably just the light...
He's too careful... Jeane thought, not exactly certain whether she should admire his resolve, or maybe pity him for it. "You know that was one of the things I wanted to talk about, don't you...?"
He turned his head and blinked owlishly. His eyes were so misted with weariness that she didn't think he could even see her. "Not... really," he said simply and turned back to watching the stars.
"I see. ... Then maybe we should speak of something else."
Luc made no sign as to incline that he had heard, or agreed. Jeane frowned.
"What are you thinking about, sitting here all by yourself?" she asked after a while.
"Nothing at all?" the Runemaster pressed.
"...no... It's just... nothing." But that reminded him of what he had been thinking about. "It's just that I don't get him."
"Him? Get who?" Jeane queried, as curious as a cat.
"...Riou." Luc straightened his back and tried to pull his thoughts together. Most of them slipped past him without acknowledging this, but he managed to grab a few of them; enough, it seemed. "I just don't understand how he does it. Him... and Tir too... both of them... I... just don't... get them." He gestured vaguely with his Rune-embellished hand. Jeane remained quiet, waiting. Knowing that more was expected of him, and too tired to argue that he never cared what anyone expected of him, Luc took a deep breath. "I just saw... Riou lose his sister... only a few days ago. His best friend is king of Highland now... and they know those Runes they wear... will draw them to battle against each other... but still, he..." He waved his hand, as if he was hoping to catch words floating about in the air. "But he's still going on. Tir did, too. How do they do it?" His voice was becoming stronger as he spoke. "Why do they fight? What could they possibly have left to fight for? I saw Tir kill his father! I saw the 'cursed Rune' steal the souls of all those... he... loved... And..."
He let out a sigh and leaned his head back against the wall. "Ah, what's the use..."
"So that's what's been troubling you."
"...no. I just don't understand them."
"And it troubles you."
Luc paused. He had been about to say, "no, it doesn't", but the more he thought about it, the clearer it became; that wasn't true. "...yes," he muttered instead.
"...I've often wondered the same myself," Jeane said softly. "I see those boys, those children carrying burdens that would bring most adults to their knees, and yet I never hear them complain... And at the same time, I can see the world changing around them. Like a pebble thrown in the pond of Fate, I expect."
"Someone must throw the pebble first..." Something surfaced in his memory. "And," he observed, "pebbles sink."
Jeane hummed to herself. "Yes... I suppose they do... Tell me, Luc. Do you think that's all we are? Pebbles thrown in a pond? Making a few ripples and then sinking before the waves fade?"
"I... am too tired to even start thinking about that."
"There's a time for everything, I suppose. ... Luc?"
"Do you think we were fated to have this discussion?"
She caught him off guard with that question, and his reply was a startled but honest, "What? No!"
Softly, she murmured, "...ah. That is... good."
"We're not doing what we do because of fate. Fate may have something to do with it... but it doesn't control everything. Fate may have brought us together here, but what's keeping us from leaving?"
Luc frowned. "...what are you getting at?"
"Isn't it obvious?"
"...no." At least not at the moment. It all sounded like nonsense to him... Have to sleep... damn it all...
"Tir, and Riou too, found strength as the Tenkai Star. That was fate... as was their meetings with all of us, 'Stars of Destiny'. But after that... did we not all follow them out of our own will? Did they not do what they have done so far because they saw it as the right thing?"
"Look..." Luc said. "I'm tired. Could we... talk about this tomorrow?" By now, he thought, the only thing keeping him awake was the sound of Jeane's voice. He truly hoped there wouldn't be any trouble come morning... because if there was, he wouldn't be able to sleep late. And if he woudn't be able to sleep late, he would be cranky.
Jeane drew a breath, and paused. "Would you have talked to me at all if you hadn't been too tired to run away?"
"What? I don't... 'run away'."
"But you never let anyone talk to you... never let anyone close to you."
"That's not running... I just... don't like... people."
"Oh, really. And why not?"
"They... bore me"
"Oh. Do I bore you as well?"
"Maybe... maybe if I wasn't too tired to care about that..."
Jeane chuckled again. Luc couldn't quite understand what she found so funny. Then again, he didn't think he'd be able to find it amusing to see Viktor dressed up as Mukumuku, standing on his head and singing Currents in this state. By now, he didn't even care that the floor was cold and hard. He was going to fall asleep, right here and now, if she just kept quiet for a minute.
"Well... I guess... it's time to go back to bed now." It didn't quite sound as if that was what she had intended to say from the beginning. Luc wasn't going to argue, though. He didn't turn his head as he heard the telltale rustle of cloth informing him that she was standing up. "Well, sleep well then... Luc."
"Hmh," Luc stated gravely.
And then the floor tilted ninty degrees and smacked him in the head.
Luc awoke some time later, well slept and, well, confused, to the sound of birdsong.
Unless someone had found a way to turn floors soft and springy while he was asleep, this wasn't the floor in the great hall. That wasn't an entirely bad thing, of course, but nevertheless it had been the place where he had expected to wake up.
Then he opened his eyes. Sunlight fell - nay, poured - in through an open window, which was a bit too close to his face for comfort this early in the morning. He recognised that window. And the soft springy thing he was lying on was nothing but his own bed.
He sat up. He was still dressed in his robe, meaning he had at least been spared the indignity of knowing that someone had undressed him while he was sleeping.
Of course, "indignity" was still too mild a word. Someone had carried him, across halfway across the entire castle, and the only someone who had been around at the time-
He ran his fingers through his hair, which seemed to be in the usual disorder. Yawning widely, he swung his legs off the bed and sat up. As he rubbed his eyes, he could feel a slight hint of perfume on his robe. Now that did it.
Well, it did, until he happened to glance across the room and catch a glimpse of himself in the mirror standing on his sideboard.
Slowly, he rose and walked over to it. Just as slowly, he picked up the oval slip of glass and raised it.
A familiar face glared at him from within the glass. Or at least tried to glare, as much as it is possible when you've just woken up.
A familiar face with a very unfamiliar red, slightly smeared but definitely lip-shaped mark on its forehead.
Luc sank down on a chair, still with the mirror in his hand, and leaned his head against the sideboard. This isn't my day...
Then he caught sight of his own face in the mirror again. If the word "misery" had been written on his face, it couldn't have been any clearer.
Luc blinked at himself in confusion a couple of times. Then, although he tried to make them not to, the corners of his mouth quirked upwards. Before long, he was shaking with silent laughter.
He knew, all of a sudden.
He knew he could understand what she had found so funny.
Okay, that was pointless, but remember, pointless happenings like this is what makes up our lives! Most of them, at any rate... And besides, I wanted to poke some fun at Luc. This seemed like a good way to do it. Remember to tell me how much you hated it.
Jonatan L's Fanfiction