After the fight with Shabranigdo, none of them had been in the condition to travel. Daddy and Mister Wizer and Miss Sylphiel had brought enough supplies for feeding and healing the people of Taforashia, but they didn't realize that the wholesale destruction of the town meant that no shelter either. Daddy and Mister Wizer had turned around almost immediately to bring back tents and carpenters, though Amelia didn't know who could be spared from the reconstruction of Saillune.
Miss Sylphiel had looked at their injuries, and had spared some attention from the Taforashians, many of whom were on the mend, to check on her arm and Mister Zelgadis's ribs. The healing had helped, but Miss Sylphiel had told her to keep her arm immobilized until further noticed. And a couple hours later, it had start to hurt again, right as she was going to sleep.
And, of course, she was sharing a tent with Miss Lina, who was the world's most unpleasant person to be in a cramped space with. After several jabs in the arm, Amelia sighed and got up. She could sit by the fire with some warm milk and willow tea, and maybe that would help her sleep.
The fire had burned down to embers, but some fresh fuel brought the heat up enough to boil water. Amelia started hunting through their supplies to find the tea and see if they had any leftover cream on-hand, when she heard something coming from the guys' tent. She paused, her bag of tea leaves in her good hand.
It sounded like someone tossing and turning in his sleep. With Mister Pocota with his people and Mister Xellos off doing whatever it was that he did when not baiting them about world-altering events, it would either be Mister Zelgadis or Mister Gourry. "Sorry! I'll be quieter," Amelia said. She didn't think her moving about was that loud, but both men had pretty sharp hearing.
Mister Zelgadis stuck his head out of his tent at the sound of her voice. He looked like he had just woken up, with his hair looking like a wire scrub-brush that had just handled clean up after Miss Lina's and Mister Gourry's family reunion, and eyes that were still half closed. "Amelia, what are you doing up?"
"Oh, just thought I'd make myself some willow tea," she answered. "Miss Lina was poking my arm in her sleep. I know she didn't mean to, but..."
Mister Zelgadis stepped out of the tent, bringing some of the blankets with him. He offered one to her, and Amelia wrapped it around her shoulders. "Right. Mind some company?" he said "I can make the tea, since I still have use of my arms."
"I don't mind, but don't stay up just on my account," Amelia replied as she handed him the tea leaves.
Mister Zelgadis filled the kettle and removed two of their travel mugs. He moved smoothly, as if he was already healed. "No, it's fine. Better to sit out here than lie down in the tent and pretend to sleep."
Amelia settled herself in near the fire, watching the flames crackle around the kettle. "Are you feeling all right?"
"I'm on the mend. A lot like most of our battles -- battered, but still alive." She couldn't make out his face as he checked the kettle, but she could hear the wry half-smile in his voice.
"Sleep would help more," Amelia said. "Not that I don't want your company, but..."
"I know, I know." He placed the mugs near the fire and stepped back, sitting down next to her. "Just remember this the next time I stop you from going to fight evil with a broken arm."
"That's different," Amelia said. "I'd at least remember to not use my arm. Probably. Maybe."
Mister Zelgadis chuckled. "Right." He paused, and Amelia wondered if she should break the silence when he spoke again. "Last time we fought Shabranigdo, it was near a tower Rezo had hijacked for his experiments. There was a town nearby, but the worst it got were some trolls and orcs who had sensed what was going on. That was bad enough for the townsfolk, I suppose. But they didn't have to rebuild from the ground up."
"I didn't realize you were in a town at the time," Amelia said. Truthfully, she didn't know much about what had happened before she had met Mister Gourry and Daddy had met Miss Lina on the road. She knew that Mister Zelgadis was a friend of theirs, and that they had fought Rezo, the Red Priest, who had secretly housed a piece of Shabranigdo. But, more than that hadn't really come up. Miss Lina occasionally dropped details of previous adventures without telling much about why she knew so much about necromancy or vampires or whatever, but both of the men were close-lipped. Amelia wouldn't be surprised if Mister Gourry just didn't remember a lot of it, but Mister Zelgadis was more... sensitive was a good word, after seeing how he was when they found Rezo's soul jar.
"We had gone there after Shabranigdo awakened. We'd just seen Zolf and Rodimus killed and Shabranigdo had let the rest of us go, even though I had attacked him too. Zolf and Rodimus were part of my gang, the one I worked with under Rezo. They were the only ones who stayed on after I betrayed Rezo and left. Rodimus wasn't even a spellcaster, and he didn't have a magic weapon." He paused, and Amelia placed her good hand on his shoulder, trying to comfort him over a loss of a friend that she had barely known about. He turned his head towards her, and she thought he might say something, but she just caught the hint of a smile in the firelight.
She didn't think he was going to continue, but he did. "Anyway, Shabranigdo said he was grateful because Lina had finally handed over the artifact he needed after Rezo threatened a whole damn town, but I think he thought letting half the group go would carry news faster than killing us all. The panic would let him grow stronger." Mister Zelgadis stared at his hands. "Gourry and I were going to head back anyway, since we'd rather die fighting than running, but Lina had this whole thing about refusing to believe she could be defeated, even by a Dark Lord."
"Well, she was right," Amelia replied.
"Yeah, but she could have told us about the Giga Slave at the time," Mister Zelgadis said. "I don't even think she was sure it would work -- she'd never used it before, and it took the Sword of Light to cast the damn thing. The Lord of Nightmares was little more than a myth that only a magic geek like Lina Inverse would know about."
The kettle whistled, causing both of them to jump. "I'll get that," Mister Zelgadis said, and he poured the steaming hot water into their mugs. "You might want to put some honey in your tea. Willow is pretty bitter." He handed her a small jar and a spoon.
"I didn't know you knew about herbs, Mister Zelgadis." Amelia let the honey dissolve in the hot water.
"I learned a lot from Rezo," he said. "There was a reason he had me following him around when we were trying to keep everyone in the city from dying before the medicine showed up."
"Mister Zelgadis…" Amelia had asked him if he was all right after the fight. Because he hadn't been all right when he found out from Mister Rezo about his cure… or his lack of a cure. And after that, they had been busy chasing after Mister Pocota, saving a city and killing a dark lord, and it wasn't like they had a chance to talk.
"Yeah?" He was preparing his own tea, stirring in honey and milk. She could hear the clatter of the spoon against the mug.
"Did you-" believe that Rezo was telling the truth? No, of course he had, or it wouldn't have hurt so much. Amelia shook her head. "What are you going to do now?"
He stopped stirring, and was so still that Amelia could only hear the sound of her breath and the crackle of the fire. "I don't know," he said. "I didn't think it would end up like this, to be honest. Actually, I - and this is going to sound silly - but the longer this went on, after Rezo died, or I thought he did, the fuzzier the picture got. Of how it would end." He set his spoon down and sipped the tea. "I'm starting to wonder if I didn't disbelieve Rezo because part of me already knew it was hopeless."
Amelia wanted to tell him that it wasn't hopeless, except they both knew it was a lie. Or at least that Amelia had no idea on the subject, and their best expert had just told everyone that it was impossible. "I'm sorry."
"It's not your fault. It's no one's fault but Rezo's, and maybe my own," Mister Zelgadis said. "It's not like anyone even remembers what I was like as a human. Rezo, Zolf and Rodimus, Noonsa, Dilgear… well, probably Dilgear - they're all dead."
"Your parents?" Amelia asked.
Mister Zelgadis shook his head. "Never knew them -- they died when I was a baby. 'Grandpa' Rezo raised me."
"Oh." Amelia said, not sure what she could do. She could talk about her own mother, and her missing sister… but she had Daddy. And everyone else in the palace who knew who she was.
"I sometimes wonder if I just dreamed that I was human," Mister Zelgadis continued. "I was just having a dream like that, that I had made up the entire thing. And, hell, even Lina couldn't prove me wrong, besides that chimera come from somewhere. For all anyone knew, Rezo could have grown me in a lab."
"But you remember," Amelia said. "That should count for something. You shouldn't write your own self off like that. And you told Miss Lina, and Mister Gourry and Mister Pocota and me what happened. It might not be the same as us remembering it, but… well, we all have had lives before we became friends."
"But you can go back to being princess. You do, regularly. Lina can go back to being a merchant's daughter," Mister Zelgadis replied. "Everything I used to have has been lost."
"Not everything," Amelia said. "You haven't lost yourself, Mister Zelgadis. Or your memories." She set her tea down and put her good arm around him, trying for a friendly hug. To her surprised, he actually hugged her back. Sort of. It wasn't a tight hug, because her injured arm reminded her that touching it made it hurt worse, and Mister Zelgadis had been injured himself.
"What was that for?" he asked.
"Hugs don't need reasons, besides that you sounded like you needed one," Amelia replied. "Ow. I better finish my tea."
"You need to be more careful," Mister Zelgadis said.
"It was worth it," Amelia said, taking a sip of tea. "Mister Zelgadis?"
"If it wouldn't hurt to talk about it, I'd like to hear more about Zolf and Rodimus. And about you, before you met Miss Lina."
Mister Zelgadis picked up his own mug, staring into the depths for so long that Amelia thought he was going to refuse. Or that he had fallen asleep and was about to spill hot liquid on his lap. But then he started talking. "So, the first thing you need to know about Rodimus is that he had the strangest code of honor..."