OH NO! Zelgadis Used Demon Claw on Nepha?!
Zel's about suicidal, and Netalia finds out a dark secret about her past...
Hiya! Lina Inverse, once again, here with the latest on our situation. Things have come a long way since we first met Nepha, and we’re all up to not only the fact that Zelgadis has a twin sister, but also that Nepha and Zelgadis are in LOVE with each other! (Yech.)OH NO! Zelgadis Used Demon Claw on Nepha?!
Well, as luck would have it, we barely managed to get Zel out alive after Nepha was kidnapped by Ralfo’s gang, and of course, the White Priestess is back together with our old friend, the Red Priest. I don’t even wanna know what’s gonna happen now. . .
Princess Nepha of Feli’s ears twitched back and forth nervously as she thought, her eyes dark. There was danger nearby, and she knew it.
“Guys, maybe we should stop here,” she said softly. “It’s dangerous up ahead.”
“Don’t worry so much,” Zelgadis Graywords comforted her, taking her hand and squeezing it lightly. “There’s a village through the woods ahead, and we can stop there for the night.”
Nepha lowered her head and pressed up against Zelgadis’s side. Zoey Graywords made a face and elbowed her twin. Zelgadis only grinned at her.
Suddenly, a group of men jumped out of the woods.
“Not this again,” groaned Lina Inverse. “Ralfo’s men.”
“Damn straight!” one man shouted. “Now, give us the girl!”
Zelgadis stepped in front of Nepha, grinning devilishly, eyes flashing.
“You want Nepha, you go through us,” he growled.
He drew his sword. Gourry Gabriev, Zoey, Nepha, and Lina did the same. The phoenix named Netalia raised her hands in preparation for a magic attack.
“Be careful, Lina!” she stated. “These guys are tougher than they look!”
The group was fighting valiantly, heads high and spirits soaring. With Vrumugun’s daughter helped them, the fight seemed easier. Lina could almost feel the power radiating from the glowing Pyrestone on Netalia’s forehead.
Zelgadis jumped back, sheathing his sword and raising his right hand as a man rushed towards where Nepha was fighting, a red glow encasing it.
“O Dark Spirit that exists within me, guide my hands! Release thy power, take shape and form! Help me defend those with whom I am allied!” he uttered. Lifting his head, his eyes glowing as red as Tannah’s ruby, he brought his hand down as if he were clawing something, releasing the spell. “DEMON CLAW!”
He heard a startled cry from the midst of the battle and his heart stopped. He knew that cry. Nepha!
Unsheathing his sword, he charged forward, slashing feverishly. He felt hot tears in his eyes and blinked them back. He couldn’t have hit Nepha! The one who was hit must’ve hit her somehow with a hand, or at the very least, a sword! She couldn’t have been hit with Demon Claw!
When he arrived where Nepha had been standing, he found her lying on the ground, five glowing marks on her arm that looked as if she had been clawed. A man was reaching down to grab Mystic Blade from her still hand, but Zelgadis was much quicker, kicking the man into a tree and taking his life with one bold slice of the sword. He turned to Nepha, the breeze from the motion blowing his cape back from his body.
“Ohhh... it’s so dark...” Nepha groaned.
Zelgadis pulled her into his arms, holding her against his chest, examining the claw marks on her arm. Demon Claw.
“No,” he uttered. “No, not Nepha, no...” He threw his head back in a tortured cry. “NEPHA!”
The battle slowly waned on, finally ending as Gourry, Lina, Zoey, and Netalia ran off the stragglers of the group. Lina ran over and watched solemnly as Zelgadis tried his hardest to heal Nepha’s arm with a spell. A gesture of hope, yet so utterly futile.
“Zel. . .” Zoey murmured.
“I. . .I used Demon Claw. . .” Zelgadis finally explained, trying to hide the heavy emotion in his voice. “She’s dying.”
“It’s a rapid spreading poison.”
The phoenix shook her head and lowered her eyes as she stood over Nepha’s shivering body. She looked at the group.
“Is there anything you can do, Talia?” asked Gourry.
“I’m afraid not. There’s only one thing that can heal Demon Claw, and it’s found in the kingdom of Mythica,” responded Netalia, shaking her head. She looked at Zelgadis, who was seated beside the bed, tightly holding Nepha’s hand, his eyes shut tight. “It wasn’t your fault, Zelgadis. You were only trying to help. You didn’t mean to hurt her.”
“But I did,” snapped Zelgadis, lifting sad eyes. “Nepha was hurt in my lust for battle.” He suppressed a sob and his shoulders shook violently, eyes focused on the wizardess. “I did this to her.”
“No, you didn’t,” Zoey encouraged. “It wasn’t your fault, bro. She... Nepha wasn’t hurt by YOU.”
“Thanks for the encouragement, guys, but I know when I’ve done something wrong,” Zelgadis countered, lowering his eyes again. Carefully, he removed Mystic Blade from the sheath. He swallowed hard. “I have to go to Mythica. I have to save Nepha.”
“If you go, I’m going with you,” Netalia stated. “I know my way around Mythica. You’ll never survive without an escort.”
“I’m going too,” voiced Zoey. Everyone looked at her. “Hey, if the green kid can go, I think I can too. Besides, he’s MY brother.”
“Thank you, both of you,” Zelgadis said quietly, standing, carefully unhooking Mystic Blade’s sheath and hooking it where the sheath to his own sword usually was. “We only have three days to cure her. We have to get moving.”
The group of three were walking through the woods quietly, none of them speaking. There was no telling what was on each of their minds, the two chimeras and the phoenix.
Suddenly, a noise in the bushes caught their attention. Each one prepared to fight, until a young woman clad in white sorceress regalia stepped out.
“Tannah?!” cried Zoey. “What’re you doing here?”
Tannah Wyndstarr smiled gently.
“Hello, children,” she murmured quietly. “Do you mind if I join you?”
“I don’t get it,” sighed Netalia. “I just don’t get it.”
“You will in time, child,” Tannah stated. “Only I can provide you with safe passage into Mythica. You are a phoenix, true to the Pyrestone which adorns your forehead, but they will not allow you passage without a great priest...” She smiled a bit. “Or a great priestess, as the case may be.”
Zelgadis kept his head down.
“Zel?” Zoey murmured quietly. “You okay, bro?”
“I killed her...” he whispered in quiet response.
“No,” disagreed Netalia. “You didn’t kill her. We still have a chance, we can still save her.”
“Yes, I did. There’s no way we can get the cure from Mythica in time... She’s going to die, and it will be my fault...” Zel responded quietly.
Tannah looked at her grandson sadly, her pale blue eyes glittering with compassionate tears. The pain he was feeling, she could feel it. It was deep, like a knife that was being shoved into his back and twisted. So painful... he could kill himself before this was over.
And Zelgadis was considering this.
Up ahead, the mountains of Mythica rose to meet the sky like pillars of color, reaching for their heavenly master. They had arrived.
A young draconish looking girl was standing at the gates, guarding the city upon their arrival. Using her wings like a cape, she bowed.
“You have no need to bow, Draca,” smiled Tannah. “It’s good to see you again, child.”
“Who are they?” questioned Draca warily.
“These are my friends, you have no need to fear them. The twins are my grandchildren, Zelgadis and Zoey. The young girl is a phoenix,” responded Tannah with an unnerving calmness.
The dragon wrinkled her snout, then sniffed.
“Chimeras, and definitely of the Aka Houshi bloodline,” she said, “and the phoenix decends from a VERY powerful bloodline... she is related to the one they call Vrumugun, is she not?”
“His daughter,” Tannah stated.
“Then you are all welcome!” Draca chirped happily, her wings spreading wide.
As they followed her into the city, a pair of mysterious green eyes watched from the shadows.
“Perfect!” purred the figure of a young Felinic woman, the one who had been standing in the shadows. “The White Priestess has brought my own daughter here...” She peered into the crystal ball, looking at the cheerful face of Netalia as she walked with the other three, following Draca. “By getting to her, I can get to the father. Vrumugun’s Pyrestone will be mine, and once I have his, I shall get Netalia’s as well...”
She grinned devilishly, then laughed evilly as the sun set, and the last rays of sunlight in the room faded away...
“We thank you for assisting us, Princess Jacqueline,” Tannah said with a bow as she stood before the faerie princess.
“There is no need to thank me,” smiled the golden haired faerie. “You have helped our kingdom many times before, great priestess. It is wonderful that we can finally repay our debt of honor.”
As Tannah was about to say something else, a bright flash of light exploded in the room.
“By the Ancient Ones...” groaned Draca. “An attacker!”
The dragon turned, her wings spreading wide as her eyes flared red. There stood the Felinic woman, her jade green eyes flashing devilishly.
“Who are you?” demanded Princess Jacqueline.
“My name is Jana,” answered the Felinic. “I have come here to speak with one of you, and only one.”
The patrons of Zelgadis’s group exchanged glances.
“Who?” asked Zoey.
All eyes shifted to the shocked phoenix girl, who blinked and flattened smoky gray cat ears against her head.
“It... could be true...” murmured Draca. “The phoenix IS a half-cat...”
Netalia shook her head slightly.
“Father never spoke a word about who my mother was or what she looked like,” she breathed nervously. “How do I know I can trust you?”
“You feel it to be true, and you know it to be true,” stated Jana with a slight smile and a soft purr. “Talk to me... I can help you all...”
Lina sighed as she soaked a cloth in cool water, then laid it across Nepha’s burning hot forehead. The princess was slowly dying from the poison. The fiery red-headed sorceress gently prodded the area around the claw marks, which burned even hotter than the half-Felinic’s skin.
“They’d better hurry,” she sighed. “Nepha’s not doing well.”
“This is awful,” sighed Gourry. “What if she doesn’t pull through?”
“She has to!” Lina cried. “Nepha can’t just die!”
“What do you think Zelgadis will do if she does?”
“He may not take his own life, but heartbreak just might...”
“So... that’s why you left when I was so young...” Netalia purred quietly, not looking up at Jana as the jette black Felinic stepped in front of her.
“I didn’t want to hurt you OR your father, but I wasn’t sure if I was ready to be a mother,” she sighed. “I didn’t mean to leave so abruptly, but I was frightened. I’m sorry I missed so much, Netalia...
Look at you. Vrumugun has raised you well.”
Netalia couldn’t help but feel that this woman wasn’t bad at all. She was being so nice to her, treating her like a mother should treat her daughter. Especially after being separated for 21 years.
Jana was immortal too, however not a phoenix. She said that her fear of becoming a mother was what made her leave when Netalia was no more than 4 weeks old.
And Netalia believed it.
Meanwhile, in the camp where Jamal was stationed, it was late night, like it was everywhere else. Vrumugun was in a fitful sleep, something terrible wrought on his mind.
Suddenly, he bolted upright, beads of sweat standing out on his cheeks and forehead, his stringy dark brown hair plastered to his forehead.
“Netalia...” he breathed. “Jana’s found her... By the gods, no...”
The next morning, the morning of the second day, Tannah began to worry. Vrumugun had shown up in the early morning hours, an absolute mess and exhausted. He explained Jana’s true intentions, why she had left, why he had hidden Netalia from her.
Jana was evil. In the Felinic language, her name meant Devilchild, Demon Spawn, Dark Heart, or Dark Lady.
He admitted to being extremely naive when he agreed to marry her, and told how the only good thing that came from the coupling was Netalia... the only person he cared about more than his own life.
“By Ceiphied,” breathed Tannah. “What would she want with an innocent child like Netalia, then?”
“You know we phoenixes seal all our power in the Pyrestone on our foreheads,” Vrumugun explained, lowering his head, but his eyes never shifting from the priestess. “Jana wants that power. She’ll stop at nothing, not even killing her own daughter, to get it.”
“We have to do something,” Tannah stated.
“Indeed,” Vrumugun said, nodding his head in agreement. “Where is my daughter now?”
Tannah’s breath suddenly caught in her throat.
Jana looked out the window with a slight grin, noting Vrumugun, Tannah, Zelgadis, and Zoey’s approach.
“We have visitors, my daughter,” she laughed.
Her wry glance shifted to where Netalia was tied up, unconscious in a chair.
“Jana!” Vrumugun yelled angrily as he blew the door open with a fireball. “Where is my daughter?”
“Your daughter?” questioned Jana, blinking in a few inches above the ground. “Don’t you mean _our_ daughter?”
“You would’ve killed her the instant you had the chance,” growled Vrumugun, narrowing mysterious blue eyes. “I made no mistake in keeping her from you.”
“It’s just so... wrong to keep a child from her mother...” Jana pouted fakely, giving a mock look of innocence to Vrumugun.
“What kind of mother would kill her own child?” bit out Tannah, her small fists clenched tightly.
“One who is trying to survive herself,” Jana snapped in return. “Now, die! All of you!”
She released a powerful wave of energy from her hand, but Zelgadis was quick to counter with a Valus Wall. Zoey and Vrumugun came from behind, casting a fireball and a flare arrow at the same time.
Jana easily knocked it back at them. Zoey and Tannah were taken out by the blow, but Zelgadis and Vrumugun remained standing.
“Damn you to hell, Jana,” Vrumugun snarled, lifting his hand. “Fire wave!”
Inside, Netalia had awakened, and managed to cut her chains. She was grumbling under her breath about Jana tricking her when she heard the fight outside.
And heard Vrumugun’s voice.
Back outside, Jana had taken the hit and had retaliated quickly. Now, only Vrumugun stood.
“Well, my dear _ex_-husband,” chuckled Jana, “it’s time for you to die.”
Netalia stepped into the doorway and watched wide-eyed as some miscellaneous, but huge, spell exploded around her father...
When the smoke cleared, Vrumugun lay on the ground unmoving, his blue eyes closed. The gem on his forehead was split with a gaping crack.
Netalia almost couldn’t contain her terror. She knew what that meant. He was dead. Her father was dead.
“NO!!” she shouted.
Jana turned in shock to the young half-Felinic phoenix who stood behind her.
“Brave, aren’t you?” she laughed. “Who do you think you are, standing up to me like this, and so unafraid?”
“I am my father’s daughter,” sobbed Netalia. “I fear no one.”
“Oh?” Jana questioned mockingly. “And just WHAT do you think you are? You aren’t powerful enough to defeat me.”
“I am a child of the Eternal Pyre...” Netalia murmured in a whisper. She lifted her head suddenly, her eyes glowing the color of fire, and fire encasing her petite form. She lifted her hands into the air as the energy enveloped her. “I AM A PHOENIX!”
“No,” Jana murmured in fear. “No, this can’t be, she can’t be casting...”
“Great phoenix whom my people call lord, aid your child!” Netalia cried. “Fill my spirit with your flames, grant fire to my fingertips!” She sobbed. “This is for you, Father...” She aimed her hands at Jana. “PHOENIX PYRE!”
Jana screamed in pain as the fire ripped through her, incinerating her body, until there was nothing left.
Tannah watched in awe as the power that had come into Netalia’s body left as quickly as it came.
The phoenix girl sobbed again, then fell unconscious to the ground.
“Netalia?” Zoey said quietly. “Netalia.”
Netalia’s turquoise eyes fluttered open to find Tannah, Zoey, and Zelgadis standing over her.
“Please tell me that was all just a dream,” she purred weakly. “Please tell me she didn’t kill Father...”
Zoey looked away as Zelgadis lowered his eyes, clutching the vile he was holding a little tighter.
“I’m sorry, child,” Tannah sighed sadly, “but what you saw was true. Your mother shattered Vrumugun’s Pyrestone. He died.”
Netalia sobbed heavily as Zoey looked back at her.
“C’mon,” she murmured. “We have the cure for the cat. Let’s get back quickly.”
It was sundown of the third day before the group finally arrived back in the small town where they had stopped. They were hurried, now, with so little time left.
“Hurry, my grandson, pour the liquid into her mouth...” Tannah urged. “Quickly now!”
Zelgadis did as he was told, gently lifting Nepha’s head and pouring the clear liquid into her softly parted lips. She stirred, then fell silent, the unsteady rise and fall of her chest completely stopped.
“No, no... this can’t be...” Zelgadis pleaded, checking for a pulse, then for any sign of breath. “Nepha, no...”
“Oh, no,” Lina whispered. “She’s dead...”
Zelgadis couldn’t hold back the flow of tears. He sobbed, holding Nepha’s limp form to his chest for several long minutes.
Suddenly, he calmed down. Gently laying Nepha’s still body back on the bed, he picked up Mystic Blade and held it tightly in his hands.
“Don’t, child,” Tannah said.
“Why not?” murmured Zelgadis, his voice shaky from crying. “I lost the one thing I loved, Tannah! Nepha was my world!”
“I know, my grandson, but as Rezo once told me...” Tannah reassured, “Remember that while to the world you may be but one person, to one person you may just be the world.”
Zelgadis didn’t look up, until he heard a soft voice whisper his name.
Turning abruptly, he saw Nepha’s soft green eyes focused on him.
“Nepha!” Zelgadis exclaimed, jogging over and embracing her tightly. “Gods, I thought I’d lost you...”
“No,” Nepha smiled, purring as Zelgadis stroked his hand over her ears and through her thick blue hair. “You’ll never lose me...”
Netalia looked at the two for a long moment, then turned away. In all the happiness, she still felt sorrowfull.
Why shouldn’t she? Her father was dead, and he wasn’t coming back.
Well, things turned out better than expected! Be things as they may, it’s an odd thing that we made a u-turn on our way to Seyruun... because Feli’s the next stop on our list!!
I just hope Netalia can make the trip in one piece...
To Be Continued!
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