Author: Ayaia of the Moon
Fandom: Diadem: Worlds of Magic
Theme: #10: #10
Disclaimer: I own Diadem! Really! Am I lying? Yes! But I wish I weren’t…
***Strong PG-13/T warning! Contains scary stuff! You have been warned!***
Prelude to Calamity: Part Two
Score was usually a very relaxed soul. He’d grown up in New York. If he’d spent every waking moment restless, or stressed…then he’d have exploded. His philosophy in life usually had to do with witty cynicism and, God forbid, a little humor. But he had never had this amount of stress piled on him before. It was one thing to be hurt himself and quite another, he’d come to realize, to watch someone so close to him be hurt.
Especially when it was Helaine.
He swatted angrily at a purple tree, annoyed that it could be such a buoyant color in the midst of his frustration.
Sometimes he felt traces of the old Score when he got like this. Little voices that told him this is what came from him having friends. If he’d just not made friends with them in the first place, he wouldn’t be feeling like this right now, would he? He wasn’t supposed to trust anyone. He’d trusted his mother and she’d died. (Sort of) He’d felt he could then trust Tony, and all he’d gotten was multiple threats to his person and his life.
But he vehemently shoved the thoughts from his head. Because he knew that counting Helaine, Jenna, and Pixel (not to mention all the other beings he’d met since moving through the Diadem) as his friends, was well worth the heartache he felt when something happened to one of them. As he’d once said to Tony – having friends like he had was better than the sort of respect the mob-leader had tried beating into his son.
Pixel had tentatively asked whether Score would prefer to stay home while he went with Jenna to the hospital that day.
Score had shaken his head, offering a lopsided grin that was his trademark. Jenna was persuading the doctors to discharge Helaine today, so that she and Shanara could finish with the healing she still required.
It would be best for everyone to be there with her as she crossed through the portal to Rawn.
“Let it go?” Score looked up from the huddle he and Pixel were in, looking at Jenna like she was insane.
“Sometimes it’s best to just move on. We know that what happened was terrible, and we know that it is painful for Helaine…so maybe we should just leave it alone. Do you think I held on to every grudge that every person on Ordin ever had against me? If I had, it would have torn me apart. Sometimes…it’s better to just let it go.”
Score continued to gape at Jenna with an incredulous look. He opened his mouth, and Pixel shot him a look.
“You…you don’t agree?”
“Jenna,” Pixel said gently, “if there is someone on Dondar who did that to Helaine…don’t you want to find them?”
“What for?” Jenna insisted. “Who are we to exact vengeance?”
“I thought we were her friends,” Score said bluntly. He might as well have slapped her, for the look of hurt on her face. He felt a stab of remorse, wishing he could take it back. After all, Jenna was the last person to preach to about being Helaine’s friend, after the time she’d had gaining Helaine’s friendship in the first place.
“Finding this person won’t do anything to take back what they did,” Jenna said firmly.
“But…not trying to find them would be worse,” Score said, adopting the same gentle tone Pixel had used.
Jenna just sighed. “Maybe we should ask Helaine.”
Score copied the sigh. “Maybe.”
“Maybe you should think about going back to Ordin for a while.”
“What?” Helaine looked up, startled, at Score as he wandered into the courtyard. Helaine trained sometimes in the courtyard to keep herself from accidentally dicing up the few pieces of actual furniture they had in the castle. Not that it stopped her from taking her exertion out on some of the defenseless multicolored trees.
“You heard me. Clear your head. Relax.”
“Right,” Helaine said, turning her attention to the tree she’d decapitated. She hadn’t asked to see Flame. She’d been training alone in the courtyard in the time she usually spent with her unicorn friend. Score didn’t miss how strange that was.
“I’m serious.” Score went on.
“I’m fine!” Helaine said, whirling around and glaring at him with an intensity he wasn’t sure he liked. “Your incompetent healers on Earth pronounced me fit to leave their tortuous facility, did they not?”
“Jenna had a hand in that and you know it. Besides; those doctors don’t know the stuff we have to deal with – who are they to pronounce you fit for everyday life when they don’t know what we do every day?”
“My arm no longer pains me, and Shanara said I should start my routine to get the muscles used to it.”
“Shanara also said that you should take it easy and that –” Score indicated the once glorious tree that was now destined to join its multicolored brethren in their woodpile by the kitchen – “is hardly taking it easy.”
“I don’t want to fall behind my training.”
“Training for what, Helaine?! You’ve never trained this hard before, and you’ve been acting really paranoid. What do you think is out there to get you?” Score exclaimed.
Helaine narrowed her eyes. “I don’t want to fall so behind that even you can beat me,” she said arrogantly. Score was reminded of Eremin. It disconcerted him.
“Helaine,” he tried again, his voice gentle; “All I mean is that after something like this…we wouldn’t think less of you for a little hiatus. And it would probably do more good for you than you realize –”
“But I need none of this ‘hiatus’ because I’m perfectly fine!”
“I disagree,” Score said firmly. “You’re not fine. I can name about ten things off the top of my head that prove you’re not fine.”
“Your definition of ‘fine,’” Helaine muttered.
“You haven’t told us what the hell even happened,” Score said, counting down a finger, “not to mention the fact that you haven’t left the castle grounds since you got here.”
“I was merely obeying orders.”
“You haven’t come within a mile of Flame or any of the other unicorns, and they probably think they offended you or something.”
“I’ve been busy.”
“You don’t leave your room unless you come out here to train, and you haven’t been eating properly.”
“What number are we on now? Seven?”
“Six, actually. Jenna told me you’ve been sleeping in your chain mail.”
“I want to be well-protected.”
“That’s when you sleep at all. Usually, you don’t sleep, you pace the castle at night, checking windows and locking doors.”
“Who told you that?”
“Pixel. He also said that he saw you sleeping in the armory, of all places –”
“Your reasoning seems to be somewhat flawed, since you just said I don’t seem to sleep.”
“And Jenna told us that whenever you’d fall asleep at the Hospital, you’d never sleep peacefully. Restless sleep is the sign of a troubled mind.”
“That’s only nine things.”
“You haven’t told me what happened.”
“You already said that.”
“No. You haven’t told me anything.”
Helaine frowned. “You don’t think me fit to do what we need done. And now you expect me to just agree with your foolish reasoning?”
“Better my foolish reasoning than your pointless paranoia.”
Helaine said nothing. She did, however, scowl fiercely, throwing her dagger into the heart of the forgotten tree. Then she brushed past him to go back into the castle, harshly checking his shoulder without apology.
Score punched the tree angrily when she had gone, wishing suddenly for a sword of his own to cut something up with.
“Does that feel better?”
“It feels like my arm was broken in two.”
“Funny how that works, isn’t it?” The nurse laughed and twisted Helaine’s arm gently, moving it up and down. “How about now?”
Helaine wiggled her fingers and grinned. “I like the movement.”
The nurse turned toward Score, who had requested to be present for all of Helaine’s physical therapy. Jenna was there as well, albeit invisible, and Pixel was getting some much-needed rest on Rawn. “That’s her way of a compliment? That’s what you said, right?”
Score grinned. The nurse was probably in her mid-twenties, chewing gum like a high-school kid, and talking with a thick New Jersey accent. “Something like that.”
The nurse – Delia – turned her attention once more to Helaine, who was attempting to slowly shift her fingers into a fist. “Good job. Keep doin’ that – flexin’ your fingers, and you’ll be outta here in no time.”
Then she turned from Helaine, gesturing for Score to come in conference with her. Score leaned in obligingly and Delia whispered to him in concern.
“I’m not sure if this…delusion that she’s some kind of Xena: Warrior Princess is normal, or if it’s residual emotional trauma from the incident – I’ve ordered a psych consult and –”
“That won’t be necessary,” Score said quickly. “It will probably go away.”
Delia gave him a look, but then her eyes seemed to lose their focus. “You’re probably right,” she said at last, nodding in an absent way. “I’ll call them off.”
Score looked meaningfully at the slab of empty air by Helaine’s side that he knew Jenna occupied and shot her a wink.
Helaine, having missed the significance of the bullet Score had deflected for her, looked up, frowning. “I can move my hand…was this healing venture successful? Shall we take our leave?”
“It’ll take more time,” Score said. “It’s not that easy – there’s someone else’s bone in your arm.”
Helaine frowned. “I had figured that out already.”
Helaine opened her eyes abruptly, brows furrowed unattractively when she felt sweat dripping down her back.
She sighed, biting back a curse. She shoved the dream into a little corner in her mind – the same dusty corner she stored most of the advice her father gave her – and decided that it wouldn’t do to make a fuss about the nightmare she’d had. Especially if it meant dealing with Score’s smug ‘I told you so’ attitude or Jenna’s forceful, sickeningly sweet attempt at female companionship.
She instead, set about changing the tunic she wore under her chain mail. She didn’t spare a glance to her bedclothes, deeming the chore of washing them appropriate for another time.
She didn’t even entertain the notion of leaving her armor off once she had changed. She pulled her gauntlets on last, though, not sure how she felt about the new leather that covered the skin on her right arm. She was unused to the feel of the scar on her arm – spider web-thin, it spanned the length of her wrist to her elbow.
She touched her bare feet to the cold stone floor, and, preferring silence to comfort, she left the room sans foot-coverings.
Her usual activities after having a nightmare like this usually involved checking the locks on all the doors and windows – but since her encounter with Score, she’d been wary. She felt now, though, a most inexplicable urge to check again – just in case.
She turned the corner, heading for the lower level of the Castle, gasping when she spotted Pixel on the stairs.
“You scared the life out of me!” she hissed angrily, punching him in the arm when he was close enough.
Pixel looked calm. Not at all tired, which was somewhat odd – like he’d been lying in wait for her, just waiting until she –
No. That would be Score. Not Pixel.
“I thought you’d stopped checking the locks. You haven’t done it for three days.” His statement was far from accusatory, but Helaine sighed nonetheless.
“So Score’s having me watched?”
Pixel shook his head. “Score isn’t me.” He leaned against the wall casually. “Nightmares?”
“Why doesn’t everyone just leave me alone?” Helaine growled. Was she really so transparent?
“We’re worried about you. We’re your friends,” Pixel answered simply.
Helaine felt something change. She offered up a notquite smile. “Don’t be daft. I don’t need you worrying about me.”
Pixel grinned in return. “Sorry. That’s what we do. We worry, even when you say there’s no cause for it.”
Helaine rolled her eyes, turning to pad up the stairs. She didn’t even care that she’d neglected to check the locks.
“When are they supposed to get here?” Score whined, sounding much like Blink when he was being cranky. Which was most of the time.
Shanara chuckled fondly, stroking the red panda, asleep in her arms (big surprise). She shared a knowing glance with Pixel and winked. Her hair was black as Jenna’s Obsidian today, and Pixel couldn’t help but think that she looked like she could be Jenna’s older sister.
“I think he’s excited,” Shanara was saying, scratching Blink absently between the ears.
“I think so too,” Pixel said, allotting himself a chuckle of his own. “He’s been waiting for this.”
“I think it’s safe to say we were all waiting for this,” Shanara replied, looking over at Score and smiling.
Pixel nodded, looking out the grand window of Shanara’s library at the perpetually snowy mountaintop. “When did they say they’d contact you, Shanara?” Pixel asked then, but Shanara had started shaking Blink awake.
“Blink, help me with the portal. Blink, wake up! You lazy creature!”
Blink muttered something incoherently into Shanara’s arm, flopping stubbornly and refusing to be awakened.
Shanara sighed. “I hate to do this Blink, but…”
And with no warning whatsoever, she dropped her arms, depositing Blink on the floor, and effectively waking him up.
“That’s not very nice, Shanara,” Blink pouted, scratching behind his ear nonchalantly.
“I just need your help to form the portal – Pixel and Score need to conserve their strength to form the next portal to Dondar.”
“Work, work, work,” Blink whined, stretching nonetheless and waddling into Shanara’s waiting arms.
“I’ll make you a nice dinner,” Shanara wheedled, “but you’ll have to really concentrate on a nice, big portal, all right?”
Pixel spared a glance at Score, who looked ready to drop-kick Blink out the window.
The portal formed without any further delay, however, and Pixel felt a wave of relief wash over him as Jenna’s dark-haired head bobbed into sight, escorting Helaine quickly, but gently through the portal.
As the portal winked shut behind them, Jenna beamed at Pixel, coming eagerly towards with arms outstretched.
“It was horrid. They kept us there signing things, and I think the second I put my Citrine away, they might have realized that everything we’d said was a complete lie, but by then I’d put my invisibility to work…I don’t think I’ll be of much use in making the next portal, though.” Jenna aimed this last statement at Score, who’d come forward, listening politely, but quite obviously eager to talk to Helaine.
She looked fine, though a little paler than she normally was, and dressed in an obligatory pair of hospital scrubs.
She had a long bandage running up her arm.
“How’re you doing?” Pixel asked her at last, unable to stand the palpable tension in the air.
“Fine,” Helaine said shortly
There was another span of silence, and Score met it this time. “That’s good. We’ve missed having you around.”
It took quite longer than necessary, but Helaine eventually met that statement with an expression that Pixel supposed could pass as a smile.
Score sighed. “Okay, miss Sunshine. I was going to wait until later, but here.” He thrust a package at her.
Helaine took it uncertainly, though she unwrapped it deftly, and without pause. A gauntlet. Just like the one she’d had before her arm had been sliced open. But it looked newer.
Score shrugged, showing modesty that didn’t suit him. Pixel knew how long he’d been working on this. He’d had to find the gauntlet for her left arm, duplicate it, and transfigure it into a right-handed gauntlet. Not to mention the time he’d spent polishing the leather to make it look so nice.
“Thank you,” Helaine said then. Her voice didn’t waver in the slightest, showing a cool calmness that didn’t suit her any more than Score’s new modesty.
Pixel cleared his throat. “Well, did you want to change now, or on Dondar?” he asked, holding out a bag of his own, though his was not a present, but a simple bag with one of Helaine’s tunics and the armor she usually wore. Helaine took the bag without hesitation, and started making her way to the private quarters Shanara usually had them change in. Jenna wordlessly went with her. Jenna didn’t explain the reasoning behind her actions, nor did Helaine object in the slightest when Jenna appeared beside her, and so Pixel and Score were left with Shanara and a grumpy Blink, watching them go in confusion.
“She probably needs help,” Shanara said then. “She might not have full movement of her arm down, and that would impede her ability to dress herself.
The boys flamed.
“You promised me a nice dinner,” Blink felt it appropriate to remind Shanara then.
Shanara sighed, turning towards the kitchen, chastising her charge quietly for his lack of compassion.
He glanced up, seeing Jenna, but not Helaine. Jenna smiled.
“She’s nearly ready. Do you two have enough strength to make the portal yourselves, or is Shanara coming back?”
“Jenna, what’s wrong with her?” Score asked pointedly, disregarding her question altogether.
Jenna frowned. “She is healthy, if that’s what you mean.”
“Score just means her attitude. She didn’t even insult us. It’s weird, for her,” Pixel explained patiently.
“The healers –”
Score cut her off. “Doctors,” he corrected her.
Jenna sighed. “The doctors then. They said that she might need time to get used to her old life again. They used some big, confusing terms like ‘acclimatize,’ and ‘initial depression’ and ‘paranoia.’ I managed to convince them to explain themselves better.”
Score’s eyes narrowed. “What did they mean by ‘initial depression’ and ‘paranoia’?”
Jenna adopted an expression most akin to Pixel’s face when he went into full-blown problem-solver mode. “That was mostly her…syko-logical consult.”
“What did this consultant say?” Pixel said, with much less profanity than Score probably wanted to phrase the question with.
Jenna’s eyes closed as she tried to remember the exact wording. “She lacks…closure. And if she doesn’t find it, she will not be at true rest until she does.”
“And what the hell is that supposed to mean?” Score snapped.
Pixel frowned at him. “It means…that until she actually lets us in on what exactly must have happened…she won’t be able to put it behind her.”
Score blinked. “She has to share her feelings with us? Of when she was scared and having her arm hacked open?”
“Apparently,” Pixel nodded.
* Helaine? *
Helaine tried hard not to jump. She sighed inwardly though, knowing the all-too-familiar thought directed at her was Flame. The tree she stood in front of didn’t really resemble a tree, and the woodpile at Castle Garonath was growing with an almost alarming speed. Like it was already time for their insanely long Dondarian winter. * Did Score send you? * She thought, not turning around.
* No. I had heard that you haven’t told anyone what really happened to your arm. *
Helaine turned around at last, scowling. * This ‘closure’ they speak of? I don’t care for it. I can still use my sword. And that’s all I wanted. *
* My father says that holding this pain within you will eventually destroy you from the inside out, * Flame thought seriously.
Helaine found herself itching to stroke Flame’s mane, and was surprised when the Unicorn pushed her nose into Helaine’s fingers, still clutching her sword.
* I don’t plan on being destroyed at all, * Helaine thought stubbornly, sheathing her sword and giving in to her impulse at last, stroking Flame’s muzzle, surprised at how comforting the simple gesture was.
* Your friends in that castle agree wholeheartedly, * Flame thought. * Even if they are no good two-legged magicians, * she added teasingly.
Helaine sighed. Score’s suggestion that she go back to Ordin rang in her ears. She wagered Flame had never been asked to leave. No, Thunder wouldn’t do that. Thunder would defend Flame’s right to be in their herd to his last breath.
* Do Thunder and Nova know you’re here, talking to me? * Helaine thought curiously.
* It was my father’s idea, * Flame admitted. * You’re only lucky I kept him from coming too. Our whole herd is worried about you. *
* They don’t need to be worried about me, * Helaine thought decidedly.
* Maybe. *
* I appreciate that they’re worried, but I’m fine. I just don’t want to be pestered. I want to stay here and train. *
* And I support that. I wasn’t planning on stopping you. *
* You weren’t? *
* Staying with his normal routine is what helped my father after Darkstar – and Marmanki *
Helaine nodded. * I don’t suppose you could tell that to Score? *
* Why? *
* He has this crazy idea that I should go back to Ordin. ‘Clear my head. Relax.’ He doesn’t think I can manage. *
* Can you? *
Helaine unsheathed her sword again, and with a fierce lunge, felled the rest of her dilapidated tree in one blow. * Yes. *
This stretch of Unicorn pasture looked much like any other stretch of Unicorn pasture, Score decided, but he wasn’t concentrating on the scenery. After serious discussion, he and Pixel had come to the alarming conclusion that Helaine had been attacked on Dondar itself. The biggest support of this theory had come from Nova, in her communications with Pixel that she’d found Helaine’s gauntlet.
He inspected the whole pasture with his jasper, finally finding the area and immediately setting off for it.
When they’d initially found Helaine, it was Pixel who’d pointed out that the depth of the wound in question was not proportionate with the amount of blood they’d found on the ground around her.
The place he now looked at certainly seemed to be the opposite; the blood on the ground was not proportionate to the lack of source there appeared to be.
Spotting something, Score crouched to the ground, getting a sturdy stick and poking it into the mess, almost gagging when he withdrew what he’d been looking for. The bloodied fragment of what looked like the sleeve of one of Helaine’s tunics.
Next instant, he’d leapt to his feet in fury, extending his palm, fireball at ready, throwing it into the ground in front of him.
He watched what he knew to be Helaine’s blood burn away, not caring when small showers of sparks kissed his arms.
Then he changed the flame into hot air, and for good measure, he extracted his Chrysolite and drenched the area in water. He pocketed the gem, and after some trepidation, tore off a section of his tee-shirt, wrapping the sleeve within its folds, and pocketed that as well.
Then, without another word, he turned on his heel, headed back to the Castle.