Even in Asgard, Weeping Lilies are quite rare. There is only one small meadow in which they grew, atop a cliff near the hall Valhalla, and a dangerous place for a mortal.
At least those delicate, white-petaled, sweet-scented flowers appeared to be the same as the deadly deceivers that grew in the valley of Midgard. It was not as if Lezard could claim to be any sort of expert concerning flowers. Botany had never been his strong point, and the flowers of Asgard were simply not a topic that he had thought to ask about.
One might wonder what a mortal soul, unClaimed by any Valkyrie's touch, could possibly be doing in Asgard, or how he had managed to breach the unseen barriers that only the gods themselves, and those who had been Chosen, could have passed. But then, one might not realize who that soul was, or what powers he had managed to gather to himself in such a fleeting life. Of all the mortals who had ever sought godlike powers, Lezard was perhaps the only one who had attained anything resembling them - a thought that constantly filled him with pride. As for what he was doing there, the fact that the Lord of Creation, a creature once known as Lenneth Valkyrie and now recognized by all as something much greater, was standing in the meadow below might have served as an explanation. Her eyes were still closed, her skirt swaying gently in the wind, and her back was turned to the mortal soul that floated high above. Obviously she had not yet seen him; had she seen him, he would not have been able to stay there unmolested.
The last rays of the twilight lent the meadow a pale kind of luminescence that seemed to suffuse the darkening sky, and made his love shimmer in its brilliance as if she radiated with her own inner light. And perhaps she did. She still wore her blue armor, despite her new place in the world, and her hair shimmered like a waterfall; she stood in that meadow as if she were a part of it, a part of that beauty. Even the jagged rocks seemed somehow symbolic of her, an edge to her perfection.
It had been a very long time since he'd had the chance to actually look at her, in person, without some pressing matter or another on his mind. He could not resist taking the opportunity then, while she was still ignorant of his presence. She was just as lovely as ever, a perfect match for the deceptive beauty of the flowers. Deceptive, of course, because he knew well the power that she possessed; while the entire world knew that she had been the one to save it from its destruction, he had been the only one who'd actually seen its salvation. He was in danger, simply by being there; he was powerful, yes, but it was very possible that she could overwhelm him.
It was not the first time that he had put himself in mortal danger because of his love for her, although this was considerably less risky than before. At least this time he'd have a chance to defend himself before his soul was blasted to oblivion. Ancient magicks were, as he'd said, ridiculously difficult to command; he couldn't help but wonder why the ancients had not at least tried to make things more convenient for themselves. He couldn't see the appeal of making the spells so dangerous.
Ah, well. He had cast the incantation, had completed a transfer of souls that most believed only the gods could accomplish - not only that, but he'd done it twice. Mysty's help didn't count; she'd been following his instructions, and therefore had merely been an extension of himself. No, it had been his knowledge that had guided their hands, not the irrelevant acts of now-dead gods.
I wonder, do they hunt me? Do they consider me a threat, or is even that too much respect for my dear, arrogant beloved to grant me?
She had never thanked him. She had never as much as acknowledged his aid - merely crying out for another, the man who had been so foolish as to force Odin to tear her soul away in the first place, and digging frantically for a faded, worthless trinket. No, he was not a man, he was a snivelling child with no understanding of the consequences of his pranks....
It had quite understandably enraged him, of course. His lady love had vanished, in mid-scream, disappearing with the drifting petals and riding the winds to the hills of Asgard; of course those she had held in thrall had gone with her. And Lezard himself, why, he'd been left standing in the meadow, face a tightly-controlled mask of solmenty that had shattered the moment that she had left.
It was quite careless of me, really, he chuckled to himself. I came quite close to destroying the valley altogether. I was fortunate that I managed to regain my senses before the Orb was invoked.
But he could hardly be blamed for a bit of anger now and again, could he? Casting spells that were so dangerous - twice - had been quite draining, and he'd quite frankly been at the end of his considerable power. Not that he would have admitted it to his beloved, or to anyone else, of course.
But that is the past, he reminded himself. And what is the present? The Lord of Creation, standing in a field of flowers... and I, waiting to make my presence known to her. I suppose that now would be as proper a time as any, would it not?
Softly he drifted down to the meadow, landing gently on a patch of soft green grass. The petals seemed to sense his presence as the winds rose, drifting into the sky as if seeking some higher plane than even Asgard. It was just as well that they were not capable of disappointment. His manifestation was much like the man he had been, short and unkempt; he did not believe that enhancing his appearance was necessary. And he was quite proud of the way he'd managed to remake himself so perfectly - right down to the black cape that billowed as the wind blew, the slightly rumpled robes, or the glasses that glinted in even the twilight.
"Such exquisite flowers," he called to her as he appeared. She turned to face him almost at once, crying out wordlessly, her hand on her sword. "Are these as deadly as the ones that grow on Midgard?" he continued, unhurried. He reached out and snatched one of the drifting petals out of the sky, clenching his fist and squeezing it tightly. "Or are they harmless? Although I suppose it matters little... no one in Asgard could possibly be vulnerable to such things."
He opened his fist. The petal floated away, whole and untouched.
"You..." She was staring at him, obviously taken aback. "How did you... what are you doing here?"
He stared back at her evenly for a few moments, then shrugged. "I did not come to attack you, although I will of course defend myself if necessary," he said, quite calm.
"Why else would you come here, blasphemer?"
Such coldness... it had been becoming, once. It had been who she was. But no longer; things had changed. He had watched the changes with his own eyes, and aided in those divine processes with his own hands. "I only wish to speak with the one that I love. Is that such a horrible thing - "
Lenneth turned her head, a mere fraction, and his eyes caught the vague, dusty glitter of some ornament that distracted him for a moment. He let the sentence trail away, finding himself staring at them.
She was wearing small, simply decorated silver earrings. They certainly didn't appear to have been divined, unless these new gods had acquired a taste for things shabby and worn. Lezard, despite all that he'd learned from the Stone before its destruction, had never lost the humble Alchemist's knack for identifying elemental fields, and he knew that there was little precious about those earrings. Besides, the one that he could see had apparently spent too much time under a rock.
"Those are shoddy ornaments for a Lord of Creation, beloved," he murmured, reaching out as if to trace the curve of an earlobe. "Surely much less than you deserve."
He was not visibly fazed when she pulled away. "Who are you to say that?" she replied coldly, almost like the goddess that she'd once been. Her eyes had softened, however, and her heart was quite obviously warmer than it had once been, else she would not have clung to such trinkets. "You know nothing, mortal. You are merely a lost soul."
"Ah, but aren't we both, Lenneth? Both created by a dead god, stranded in a world that was not the one we were born in... is that not true? Surely, the power of Creation couldn't have prepared you for such a thing."
"You speak in foolish riddles," she answered. And he noted that she had not said his name - had never said his name. I am unworthy of being named by you, am I, Lenneth? he thought, vaguely angry and yet amused at the same time. Unworthy of even that tiny bit of respect. Ha!
"All words are riddles, to those who deny the truth. If you did not miss that world, then why would you wear those battered relics as if they were jewels?"
He knew what her answer would be, of course. He'd seen her mad search for those same worthless trinkets. But knowing the answer did not steel him for hearing her speak his name. "I wear them because... because they're Lucian's. Because he gave them to me."
"Hmph. Is he that much to you, Lady? A mere mortal? I thought that you once told me that mortals were not meant to exist alongside the gods. And yet you seem to have formed quite an attachment to such an insignificant - "
"Insignificant!" His words goaded her into anger of her own. "He is nothing of the sort! Lucian is my savior! It is you who has no place here!"
The vague feeling of anger was growing stronger. Lezard was never one to control his temper; he'd always felt it was much healthier to give into it at the proper time, rather than displacing it. Unfortunately, he knew very well that this was not the proper time; that knowledge did not calm his anger. "Savior? And how did he save you? By blindly following the advice of one that he had no reason to trust? By attempting to fight a battle that he knew he could not win?" His voice rose as he continued, and his face flushed with what he considered righteous anger. He could feel aether gathering around his fingertips, flowing through his body, ready to summon whatever magic he wished. "Did he stand against the thief who had torn your body away? Was he the one who knew the forgotten magicks that plucked your soul from the edge of oblivion?"
If Lucian had been standing with them, Lezard was sure that he would have killed him, in that one brief instant, with forces that the boy would not have been able to comprehend. How dare that... that brat steal his place in his lady's mind?
"He is fit only to be called a fool!" he shouted, face illuminated harshly in the light of the magic that had gathered about him.
Lenneth shouted, leaping away from the madman with no small amount of fright; the holy sword of revival fairly flew from its scabbard. Lezard regarded it, and his anger faded almost as quickly as it had appeared. No fear was visible on his face, only curiosity and a bit of consideration. He supposed that he should be flattered that she feared him, that there was something other than contempt and hatred.
The glow of aether faded, diffusing back into its own plane as the mage chuckled ruefully, the anger evaporating almost at once. "Forgive me, Lenneth. I must learn not to let anger and indignation influence me so." He watched the goddess relax a bit, sword still out and ready, but not quite so ready that she could attack him before he could react appropriately. Only then did he let his smile fade. "Regardless of my outburst, however, I would very much like to hear your answer."
She watched him warily, still. "How.. how did you know?"
"I know a great many things, Lenneth. I know more about this Creation than any other soul that still walks upon Midgard; I saw it come into existence, after all. I am the only soul to survive Loki's mad vengeance. And you can surely see that I am free from the cruel bonds of flesh; therefore my power knows no mortal boundaries." He smiled again. "I believe that we are equals. I am certainly closer to an equal than those that you hold in thrall, don't you agree?"
"You are a madman, and nothing more!" she answered. Never once did she let her sword tremble. Quite admirable, really.
"I never attempted to deny that, my love," he answered placidly, with a small laugh. "But this grows tiresome; will you not give me your answer?"
"He returned my past to me. That is how he saved me. If he had not, I would still be just a... a Death-Goddess." And she lowered her sword, as if it had become too heavy to bring to bear.
"Perhaps. I suppose I cannot claim that you are wrong," he murmured. The winds around him died, and the petals that had not made it to their Heavens began to drift down yet again, raining gently on their barely-corporeal bodies.
"He... it was his love for me," she whispered. Lezard fought to keep his anger in check as she continued, unnatural as it felt; another outburst could prove fatal. "That was why he restored me." She looked back up at the Necromancer, her voice hardening. "I owe him everything."
"Hmph, do you. Then explain this to me - how is it that you have not been sealed away? Wasn't that the price for failure? Or perhaps you would be nothing, now, your soul shattered by your sister's magic. Isn't that how it went?"
She was silent for a moment. "Lucian..."
He shook his head. "Must you speak his name so often? He is unworthy of you."
Her eyes narrowed. "And you claim that you are worthy?"
"Actually, yes, I do," he answered. "If I believed in fate, I would say that it was destined to be. I have known that you would be mine since my first vision of you. Would you like to know what it was?" But he did not give her a chance to tell him that she did not. "It was a very long time ago; long enough for me to forget you, had I chosen to allow it," he murmured, lost in the memory. "It was the Philosopher's Stone that showed you to me - I had grown frustrated for the moment, and had threatened to destroy it if it did not show me something worth attaining. But I never would have imagined such a vision of beauty.
"I saw you, love, floating in the air, power flowing around and through you, a single mote drifting down to revive a ruined land. And I saw that same vision again, only a few short months ago..." He smiled. "It was, of course, my homunculus that allowed you to reach such heights. You know that the very nature of godhood does not permit such growth."
"Nonsense. It was... nothing more than...." But she trailed off, and Lezard knew why. It was only her pride, the one thing that had remained unchanged throughout her transformation. It was her inability to admit that he had done anything that she could not have done herself.
"Nonsense? I saved you, Lenneth. Do you think that it was some blind chance that led me to the single incantation that could restore you in your moment of need? I could have ignored the vision; I could have allowed Odin to seal you away for countless millennia, or allowed Hrist to destroy you. But I chose to bring it about, as a token of my boundless affection for you. You would do well to remember that, Lady, before questioning my worthiness."
He rejoiced at her confusion, her shock - she had obviously not forseen this. But after a moment, she seemed to remember herself. "It means nothing." She stepped still further away from him, as if she feared the look in his eyes - how naive of her, to think that he would actually take her against her will! "Even... even if you did all that you claim to have done, you are not the one who reminded me of who I am."
"I think that it means something, Lenneth. I think it means everything."
"No!" she screamed, yet again, growing ever more emotional and more out of control. It almost pained him, seeing her reduced to that; he would have to rectify that situation whenever he had the ability. "It was Lucian who saved me, not a cursed defiler who cannot see past blind human obsessions!"
Lezard laughed at her, maniacal and long. He couldn't help himself, really; the whole situation was laughable, if one was capable of looking at it that way, and after all it was far better than a show of anger. "Do you still believe, after all that I've told you, that such a being could possibly deserve your affections? Do you still wish to waste your love on a mere puppet? I will not say it again - that man is unworthy of you!"
It was not the Lady Valkyrie that answered him; it was the child Platina. "But Lucian... It can't be true. He saved my... my memories. And I know he loves me."
"Of course he does." Ah, but this was his trump card, this was the theory that he had gleaned from long hours of thought, the one that he knew she would be unable to find a flaw in. The Valkyrie might have been able to, rather, but this emotional Lord of Creation was something else entirely. "I suppose it's no great surprise that he loves you. After all, you created him, did you not?"
"Of course not!" And he could tell that she was about to repeat the same thing she'd just said. It was pitiable, the way that the human side of her had latched upon that one concept, as if she were some ghost. "He saved me, and I -"
"But you made him, Lenneth," he said again, stressing the words that she was trying so hard to ignore. "He had been slain, his spirit lost in the Orb's fires - there was nothing left, and yet you recreated his image from your memories, and gave him life. So tell me - is he the same man who fell in love with you? Or is he merely a puppet that you created, to ease a lonely heart?"
"He... I... He's Lucian... he returned my... he loved me!" She screamed the last, clinging to that last bit of truth. And Lezard didn't doubt that, he couldn't - he had watched the boy before, and he knew what love looked like, having seen and felt it often enough. It wasn't that he bore any personal grudge against this Lucian; he simply wanted him well away from the goddess that he'd loved for so long.
"And so he did; I cannot deny that. But that man was one of Odin's sons. And this one that pleases you so... he is yours." And his lips curled into a twisted, ironic smile. "It feels like many lifetimes ago that you visited my tower... you frowned upon my homunculi, didn't you? You thought it audacious of me, to create a simulacrum of my desire and give it life. And yes, they were the very shapes of my desire... but I was never so deluded to claim that I loved -"
"Enough... that's enough! It's... it's a lie! It can't be true -"
"If you truly believed that," he interrupted her, voice smooth and low, "then my words would not upset you so."
Was it true? He really had no way of knowing... it was times like this that he missed the Philosopher's Stone. Quite irrational of him, really. The Stone had been conceived in Odin's world, and had all of the knowledge of that Creation, not necessarily this one. And yet he'd grown accustomed to being able to confirm his theories, once he'd learned the right questions.
He did not believe that he was wrong, and never would. But even if his notions turned out to be false, it would be worthwhile. He would do anything to have her by his side, even if his happiness had to be built on falsehood.
The Lord of Creation, the proud Valkyrie that had seen all the evils of humanity and had faced them without flinching, fell to her knees in the meadow, her sword dropped and forgotten. She began to sob, and tears streamed down her perfect face.
She was crying, because of him. He felt a momentary pang of sorrow and guilt - obviously, he'd succeeded in hurting her. Somewhere, below the facade of the mad, heretical genius, was a rather lonely young man who was capable of feeling such things, even though he had tried his best to leave such typically human weaknesses behind in the name of Knowledge.
"Do not cry, Lenneth - I have already forgiven you for everything. A devoted lover such as I could do nothing less..." Truly devoted, he thought, to want her still. She was completely different from the goddess that he'd first met, so long ago - no longer was she merely the proud Battle-Maiden, a death-goddess with eyes like ice. She had grown soft, more like a human, and yet with powers that encompassed all - a completely different person. Had he been a lesser man, he supposed, he would have denied her long ago. But... no, he was Lezard Valeth, and he would be satisfied with no other. She was his, and someday he would prove to her that there was no one else.
As he'd expected, she did not as much as acknowledge his declaration. "Just... go," she rasped, with those tears still streaming down her face. Lezard felt another twinge of guilt... but only a twinge.
"As you wish," he answered softly, a faint smile playing about his lips. "But I will be waiting for you, my beloved."
The magic circles appeared around him, converging and flaring, and suddenly the Necromancer was gone - only to reappear in the sky above them, incorporeal, light shining through the hazy outline of a wandering soul. Lenneth could have easily sensed him, he was sure, if she had been capable of it then... but she did not. She merely forced herself to stand, still crying...
And yes, he was there, of course. Lucian had appeared, and he was holding her, whispering words of comfort into her ear, just as she would have wished him to do... and she was clinging to him, sobbing. The necromancer wondered, did she feel the same doubts then as she had just a moment ago? Or did she still honestly believe that she loved him, that she'd somehow remade him as exactly what he had been before?
Her trust in him was almost disgusting, as was the way that she clung to him, hanging on every kind word. Lezard saw it as bondage, as harsh and cruel as the bonds of flesh that he had already escaped. But he could not free her, not unless she came to realize that he was right....
She will, he said to himself, smiling. In this world that she created, I am the only one who can claim that I am not enthralled by her, not in that sense. And in time she will understand that she cannot love a puppet forever.
The need for such patience still rankled him, but for a trespasser in this new world, everything bore a high price; he'd grown accustomed to it. And if the price for his happiness required cursed patience, so be it. He was willing to wait for her, and for her alone. And when she was his....
I will, of course, give her a place in that world... it would be cruel of me to inflict this fate upon her, would it not? And that place will be beside me. I would not be able to abide it any other way.
The thought brightened his mood considerably. Smiling, he allowed himself to vanish, to return home.
Who knows? Perhaps next time she may bring herself to remember my name, he said to himself, still vaguely amused.
A/N: This here's my second VP fic. Now freshly beta-read, thanks to Maggie. :)
Quite a demented little idea - I'm not sure what suggested it to my mind, but I know it's exactly the kind of thing that Lezard would think of. So I wrote it, and intend to keep going with it, once I have the time. (Which might be never. Ah, well.)