So the saga continues. I actually started this in December 2011 and finally finished it in April. You finally meet Magellan Lange. He reminds me (and with good reason) of another character in a similar situation–John and his quandary with Zora–and I cannot completely hate or love him, as nothing is truly black or white… No, that was not a pun. I think some of the best characters are well-meaning with good intentions because, after all, the way to Hell is paved with them.
(The featured image from this post was created by Asuka111 from deviantART–gorgeous, isn’t it?)
“Standing up for someone is like dancing in the rain. It may seem like a great idea at first, and there may be a pretty damn good reason for it, but then at some point you end up with putrid street water on your face.”
– The Warrior
The Lady in Black could tell when her inverse was unconscious when the weight pressing on her chest had eased fractionally. She neared her own quarters and became surrounded by her fellow soldiers, which was more comfortable than the alabaster trappings of the Lady in White. She was at home in the metal and the chaos.
Lockehart walked beside her, easily matching her ground-munching stride with his long graceful legs. He had been with her since they left the quarters of the Lady in White and had not uttered a single syllable. She figured he was wary of anyone on that side overhearing what would be exchanged between them. On familiar ground they now were, so Lockehart finally spoke.
“I have the feeling you do not plan to show him any mercy,” he remarked. The mouth of the Lady in Black merely tightened, but no words came forth. “Careful, my dear friend, that you do not forget yourself.”
“That he should be so lucky,” the Lady in Black said viciously, sidestepping a group of her officers deliberating trouble in the southern lands. They saluted as she went past, and she nodded and responded in kind. Lockehart gracefully followed her lead, not missing a step.
They entered her suite, which was far less elaborate and spacious than that of the Lady in White. The floor was black marble as pure as onyx. A gilt-edged table covered in maps and books took up an entire wall, while her darkly clothed bed seemed meager in comparison. However, judging from the armor and weapons strewn around the room, it appeared she didn’t spend much time lying down.
The Lady in Black began to undo her current armor and cape to change into something heavier and more forbidding. Lockehart watched quietly for a moment, then spoke again.
“Would you be content in ending his life, Yamiko?”
Her fingertips froze. Something in Lockehart’s voice gave her pause. Dimly, she understood the phenomenon; it meant that Lockehart may have had a different idea about the end of this situation. Something inside her faltered a bit, but it did not show on her face. She turned to face him.
“Would there be any other way?” the Lady in Black queried. Lockehart merely stared at her inquisitively. “I would like to ensure that he pays for what he did–and that he does not return.”
Lockehart made a gesture of uncertainty. “Ah…but perhaps we could just forcibly bar him from our lands and set fire to his workshop. That seems like a less violent and more lasting punishment.” A bit of mischief came into his tawny eyes. “And rather satisfying. He would be sure to never forget you then.”
The Lady in Black grunted as one side of her mouth twitched. She cast aside her former armor and it fell to the marble clamorously. “I would not like to drag this out, Lockehart. I told her that I would take care of him in my own way if he broke our agreement.” She picked up an iron breastplate fashioned in her honor. “She chooses not to fight, instead to languish in her woe and tears. I would rather pick up a weapon and end it promptly.” She maneuvered herself into the breastplate. “Don’t you agree?”
Lockehart shrugged uneasily. “I can see the merit in your approach,” he responded. “But I fear…”
The Lady in Black raised an eyebrow. She moved toward him slowly. “Out with it, Lockehart. If you can’t tell me, no one else will.”
The silence hummed between them for a few beats.
“I fear you are giving him too much of your energy and attention,” Lockehart revealed. “You are reacting as passionately as the Lady in White–only with fury instead of grief. To set out to kill him is rather extreme.”
The air crackled at Lockehart’s statement. The Lady in Black cursed ferociously and kicked at a bronze shield that had been in her path.
“He besmirched her honor, Lockehart,” the Lady in Black snapped. “He took advantage of her good heart and did nothing to temper her foolish illusions.”
Lockehart didn’t falter. “And she let him.”
The simple remark, and the truth behind it, was more staggering than a cannonball fired at close range. Underneath her armor, she felt like the wind had been knocked out of her. It was not a pleasant feeling.
Quietly, she felt the air change, as if she were going back in time. The floor segmented into a checkerboard pattern of alternating black and white; the light dimmed and she found herself bathed in near-darkness…
* * *
The ballroom was dimly lit. It was not in official use, therefore the grand flames that gave it light were at rest. The only constant was the middle chandelier the Lady in White illuminated to give light as she scribbled furiously in the red journal in her lace-covered lap. She was completely bathed in light. On the edges, sliding in and out of the shadows, was the Lady in Black. Pacing. Plotting. Predicting.
The Lady in White hummed a romantic tune as the quill danced over the paper. Her white silk-lined skirt fanned out around her over the white and black checkerboard floor. The only signs of her former distress were the hollowness in her cheeks and the scar along her left wrist.
The man with the map who knows the way
Through the forest of the familiar unknown
He enlightened my path with moving stars–
“Must you sprout that inane drivel?” the Lady in Black muttered. “I might just vomit at the sight of him now. It would be highly apropos.”
The Lady in White fumed as if her inverse were blaspheming a revered god. “You do not have to be present for this. I would much rather do this on my own.”
The end of the sheath of the Lady in Black hit the marble floor with a profound thud. The Lady in White jumped fractionally as the sound reverberated through the empty room.
“The storm,” the Lady in Black said meaningfully in a low tone. “Are you so lovestruck that you have forgotten something of your own creation?”
The Lady in White merely shrugged. “It was a momentary lapse. I didn’t have control over my emotions. Who could blame me?”
“That is a bleeding understatement,” the Lady in Black remarked dryly. “That would be akin to calling a monsoon a little disturbance. I cannot believe you could be so self-involved that you would overlook a basic fact. Do not forget that your state of mind affects us. All of us.”
The Lady in White pouted. “The real world is a bleeding nightmare. I refuse to take part.” She tossed her luxurious hair over her shoulder. “It gives me wrinkles.”
The Lady in Black tried to suppress an eyeroll. It didn’t work. “It would be much better if you set foot in it every now and again. At this rate you appear the eternal fool.”
The Lady in White scooped up the red journal and hugged it to her chest affectionately. “But I’m alovefool!” she giggled.
Her opposite merely growled and clenched her fists to keep her from delivering a swift backhand.
The sound of footsteps sobered them both.
Magellan Lange was not a large man. He was slightly shorter in stature than Lockehart, but they shared a similar build that boasted an abundant degree of physical conservation. The Lady in Black had fought and bested bigger men in her experience so she did not worry about his physical prowess. She was more worried about what sort of mental tactics he had in mind.
His amber-hued eyes rested upon the Lady in White first, who gazed at him with adoration she couldn’t suppress. Then his gaze slid to the Lady in Black. She merely stared at him, derision and distrust lurking in those brown depths. She was so guarded she didn’t even blink.
Lockehart began to make his departure, but the Lady in Black raised a hand. “Please remain, Captain, if it is not too much trouble.”
Something unreadable crossed Magellan’s features, but he remained silent, as Lockehart did as he leaned against the wall according to the orders of the Lady in Black.
“You must know now,” Magellan began, addressing the Lady in White, “I do not come here out of spite.”
The Lady in Black chuckled sardonically, cutting off her converse. “Oh, out of spite, sir? No. This is not an act of spite. You are merely here because you now understand the riches that you could be leaving behind.” Magellan’s mouth tightened. “No, sir, that is not spite. It is worse. Gross self-indulgence.”
“Desist in trying to make me out to be this incorrigible person who just moves from person to person and uses them at will,” Magellan snapped. He looked to the Lady in White. “I do not intend nor did intend to cause you any harm. Things happened so quickly that I got caught in the whirlwind.”
The Lady in White nodded. “I know, Magellan. I realize that some of this was my fault, as well.”
The Lady in Black whirled on her inverse. “Finally mature enough to shoulder some of the blame!” she muttered.
Irritated, the Lady in White gritted her teeth and climbed to her feet. Her skirt hem fell gently to the floor. “Bloody hell, Yamiko! If you cannot stifle your bile, please leave. Magellan was courteous enough to come here so that we could discuss this properly. At least give him credit for that.” She turned to the brown-clad young man. “Forgive her, please Magellan. She means well. She just wants to make sure that I am happy. And for some odd reason she supposes I will be happy without you.”
“Perhaps you would be,” Magellan said quietly.
“I don’t quite agree,” the Lady in White disagreed.
“Maybe you should,” the Lady in Black retorted.
A frustrated sigh. “I believe we should be left alone so that we can reach a consensus on the situation,” Magellan said to the Lady in Black. “This is not something I want to arrange in error—or malevolence.”
It was his turn to be whirled upon. The gaze that he and the darkly clad warrior shared was fraught with vehemence. The Lady in White opened her mouth to speak, but the fierce-eyed foil shot back, “You want to reach a consensus, sir? I’ll show you one—right between your shoulder blades.”
“Yamiko!” Lockehart hissed, the one word a warning of sorts. The Lady in Black backed down, but she was astute enough to catch the hint of mirth in Lockehart’s voice. Wordlessly, she slipped into the shadows. Magellan once again turned to the Lady in White.
“I want to express my gratitude for your forgiveness,” Magellan remarked. “You are a rare and true lady indeed. And I…” He glanced downward for a moment, nervous. “I find myself reluctant to be out of your acquaintance completely.”
The Lady in White instantly brightened; Lockehart and the Lady in Black shared a skeptical glance. They heard something different in that last admission than she did.
“There is no half doing this, Lange,” the Lady in Black told him.
“Let it be,” Lockehart said mildly, the weight of his words stopping the Lady in Black short.
“Yes, Yamiko, let it be.” The Lady in White sighed and walked up to Magellan. “Whatever you would like, Magellan, I am sure it can be arranged. We can reach a compromise on the matter.”
As the Lady in White spoke, her inverse shook her head in frustration. She was so besotted with him that she couldn’t see that he was trying to do. Others, the Lady in Black thought as Magellan made his proposal. Didn’t he understand that for her, there could now be no others with him standing so close? Why would he be so crass in asking?
The Lady in Black shared another look with Lockehart. He merely stared back. Perhaps this is for the best. Her lips tightened. This is not the way it should be. But their voices did not matter; Magellan and the Lady in White were back in each other’s confidence, albeit with a few conditions.
To reassure him that she was comfortable with the arrangement, the Lady in White grazed his face with her fingertips, as loving as ever. She floated out of the room as if she were light as a dust mote.
The door opened and closed. The air and light seemed to sneak out of the room behind the Lady in White. The tension that remained was so heavy that it had its own weight. The Lady in Black itched to draw her sword and end it, right here.
“I think we have said all we need to say,” Magellan said to her.
She squared her shoulders, lifted her chin. They stood side-by-side with the Lady in Black facing the door and Magellan facing opposite.
“If you cross into transgression once again, Magellan Lange of the Western Lands, I will take matters into my own hands. And by that, sir, I mean with my sword.” She looked at his profile, saw his jaw working as he clenched it. “I sincerely hope you do not like the taste of metal.”
She started to walk away but Magellan remarked, “She won’t let you hurt me. What we have is between us and has no room for you. Remain in your own affairs.”
At that, the Lady in Black faced his profile. “Here is some verisimilitude for you, Magellan. I allowed you to direct this without interference from me before. This time, envision me as a poisonous, bloodsucking tick. I can survive anywhere without your knowledge—and I won’t be asking for permission when I deliver that final bite.”
With a swirl of the cape, she stalked across the floor, and the door closed behind her with a final, resounding thud.
* * *
Two brunettes entered the room, one with a long dark braid in light armor brandishing a bow, and the other outfitted in a maroon dress and brandishing a cup anemometer. Drucilla, one of the Lieutenants under the command of the Lady in Black, flanked by an anxious Claire, the Weather Warden, entered the room and broke the Lady in Black from her reverie. The quiver Dru had at her back was fully stocked with bows, which told the Lady in Black she was in a fighting mood.
“Commander?” Claire began shakily.
The Lady in Black nodded for her to continue. “Yes, Warden. Report.”
“Yes, sir.” Claire inhaled as if to steady herself. The Lady in Black waited patiently. “I ran from the Watch Tower as fast as I could to deliver this news. The air pressure is falling rapidly outside. There is a treacherous storm coming from the west, and it is quickly growing.”
Those words hung in the air for a few beats. Lockehart and the Lady in Black shared a look. She inhaled and turned away slightly, mind heavy with memory.
Is it redundant to say that history repeats itself? she mused.
The Lady in Black straightened at the sounds of Drucilla and Lockehart’s voices.
“Is he alone?” the Lady in Black wanted to know.
“He is on horseback on the boundary alone, sir,” Drucilla responded. “The watchmen confirm that he is accompanied by none of his allies.”
“Then why the storm?” the Lady in Black mused, mostly to herself. She did a half turn, frowning. “He knows I hate rain…”
“It’s an obvious affront to you, sir,” Drucilla said. She balled up her fist and punched her open palm. “I say we drive an arrow through his chest for being such a—”
The Lady in Black raised a hand. “No.” Drucilla looked slightly disappointed in a way that spoke to her quarreling urges. “We must retain our honor even when others do not.”
“And what is more honorable?” Lockehart ventured, breaking in before Drucilla could protest. “Rushing off into a fruitless battle that should be someone else’s to wage or letting it pass?”
“I made a promise.”
“This will end badly, Yamiko,” Lockehart warned. “Let him go.”
The sword gleamed in the firelight at her feet. It was rather inviting it was. There were many things that she could resist. A good fight was not one of them.
She bent over and wrapped her hand around the handle of her weapon.
“I will claim his life first,” the Lady in Black murmured, then exited.