“Can you stop?”
Amelia halted her hand abruptly at Zelgadis’s request. “Ah, I’m sorry. I was just kind of idly…”
Zelgadis looked up at her, and a quiet sigh escaped his lips. They sat beneath a tree, his head in her lap and a book in his hands, and her face was sun dappled by the light that streamed through the leafy branches. Soft grass was flattened beneath them, and it was moist enough with the dew of spring that he knew they’d both have wet backs when they stood up.
“It’s just a little bit distracting. I’m trying to read.”
Amelia scratched her temple and let out a short laugh. She’d been lazily stroking his hair, her fingers running up and down the part in the middle and being careful to avoid the prickly ends. “I sometimes forget how ticklish you really are. Most people aren’t ticklish even on their scalp!”
Zel frowned. “I guess it is sort of unusual, especially considering... “
Amelia leaned down and pressed a kiss to his nose. “What are you reading?”
Zel shifted, carefully as to not grass stain the white Saillunian robes he was wearing. His clothes were so much finer now, and although he did not particularly care much about the aesthetic of them, they were also more comfortable. Being married to a princess, as he had been for almost three years now, certainly had its perks.
“A Field Guide of Magical Maladies.” He held up the book, the emblazoned gold text on the cover catching the glare of the sun.
Amelia’s eyebrows furrowed and her lips tightened, just a bit. “Zelgadis. I’m sure you’ve read it before, and besides…”
He held up a hand. “It’s got nothing to do with that Amelia. I just happen to really like this author’s work.”
“And it’s a brand new book, so I haven’t read it. I had a copy sent over from the Atlas City Sorcerer’s Guild so I could get it right when it came out.” Zelgadis shifted himself until the weight of his head and neck were resting mostly on Amelia’s left knee. He figured her right one may have begun to fall asleep.
“Hopefully in far more just hands than it used to be!” Amelia nearly shouted. “Atlas City was a den of corruption and evil last we were at the guild!”
Zelgadis rolled his eyes. “That was nearly eight years ago. They appear to be in much better hands now.”
Amelia grinned, sheepish. “Well that’s good.”
The sun was at its height in the sky, but the cool spring breeze kept the temperature pleasant. A gust of wind caught Amelia’s hair and brushed it across her lips, causing her to make a sputtering noise. Zel smiled to himself and yawned. This wasn’t the kind of life he’d ever expected to lead, even before he’d been cursed, but it was…nice. Most of their days weren’t this idle. Being a princess was a job, and being a prince consort meant he was to be there by her side assisting her. But at the very least, they weren’t even a third as busy as Philionel. Both of them still had plenty of time for their own hobbies, and speaking of which…
“About this book though…” he cleared his throat, “I’ve been reading a lot about magical maladies lately.”
“It’s a bit of an old interest,” Zelgadis continued. “Rezo was a healer so he had a lot of books on it, and I used to read them in my free time. I never went beyond reading, but…”
“That explains why you knew so much about the Durum Plague then!” Amelia said.
Zel nodded. “Obviously the focus of my research eventually shifted to other things.” Amelia frowned. “But in the past couple of years that’s changed.” Unthinkingly, his eyes turned toward the ring gleaming on Amelia’s finger.
Her frown turned into a wide smile. “Zelgadis, I have a feeling this is leading up to something…”
“Caught.” He placed the book on his chest. “How angry do you think your father would be if we took a trip to Krimzon?”
“Krimzon?” Amelia’s eyebrows shot up. “That’s in Lyzielle. That’s really far away.”
“Is this the kind of trip where we’d go straight there and come back, or is it one of a more adventurous variety?”
“Um, probably the latter.” He grimaced.
Amelia had to stop herself from standing up in excitement and knocking Zel onto the ground. “Yes! I mean uh--- well I don’t know what it is, but I have been feeling a little bit of wanderlust lately.” She scratched the back of her head, embarrassed at her overreaction. “And I’m sure it’s a mission of justice, right? If so, Daddy won’t mind.”
Zelgadis had to stop himself from laughing at her enthusiasm. “It is, in a sense.” Amelia’s smile brightened. “I’ve discovered in the past few years that in Rezo’s quest to heal himself, there was… a lot of collateral damage.” He frowned. “Outside of the obvious case of me, of course.” Amelia caressed his cheek in attempt to comfort him. “I wondered after Taforashia just how many people had been affected by Rezo.”
“H-how many have you found?”
“It’s difficult to find out. Rezo worked very hard to keep his reputation as a great sage intact,” he explained, his lips tightening into a slight scowl. “But I’ve found a few.”
“You want to help them?” Amelia’s voice rose in pitch with each word. “Oh Zelgadis, I knew you were a warrior of justice!” she exclaimed. “As if I could have married anything but.”
And she leaned down and placed a sloppy kiss on his lips. Zel’s cheeks reddened, a habit he had yet to completely break. “Don’t get ahead of yourself Amelia. It’s just fairness. I’m probably the only person who knows enough about Rezo to be able to reverse any of the damage.”
“Are any of the others…”
“Chimeras? Not that I’ve discovered. As far as I know, I’m the only human chimera Rezo created.” He exhaled and shook his head. “I believe that as Rezo grew more corrupt, his magic gained more power and permanence.” He sighed and placed the back of his hand on his forehead. “I was one of his later experiments, as is obvious.” Amelia squeezed his hand. “I think that most of his earlier victims can be saved.”
“So we’re going to meet one in Krimzon?”
“Yes, that’s my plan. I’ve been in contact with her for almost a year, and I think I’ve got everything figured out. If you can’t go, I’ll go on my own. We’ll have to locate several items necessary for the cure along the way, and it could be dangerous.”
Amelia slapped his hand gently. “Zelgadis Greywords, you are not going questing without me. I’m your wife and partner in justice.”
Zelgadis let out a quiet snort. “Partner in crime more like.” Amelia stuck out her tongue playfully. “I know, I know. Besides, it’s only logical that I have someone proficient in white magic with me considering what we’re trying to do.”
“Exactly!” Amelia chirped. “Now when do we go?”
“As soon as possible,” Zelgadis said. “I imagine we’ll have to get some work done first to prepare for your absence.”
“Yeah definitely. I’m so excited though. I’ve really missed… traveling with you,” Amelia replied.
“Same, even if we do have quite the penchant for danger. Or maybe that’s just Lina’s fault.” Zelgadis was idly flipping through his book again, but Amelia caught him yawning. “I uh- got up early to research.”
“In the future, let me help.” He nodded in agreement. Another yawn, and silence fell between the pair. Amelia hummed a song quietly to herself as Zelgadis looked through the book, not really processing what he was reading. Within a few minutes, he’d dozed off, soft snores escaping his lips as his head rested in Amelia’s lap.
Zelgadis wanted to atone for the wrongs Rezo had committed. It wasn’t his fault, it wasn’t his job, but it was something that would fulfill him, something that would help him make peace with his past. She knew he’d never phrase it as such, but it made her heart want to burst in pride, and she knew all over again that she’d fallen in love with the right man.
Amelia leaned down and placed her lips against one of his ears. “I’m proud of you,” she whispered, and she swore that she didn’t imagine the smile that then graced his sleeping face.