Escaflowne episode 3 "Magnificent Swordsman"
(the Death card)

Is it a dream? ...or an illusion?
Hitomi summarizes the last episode.

A beam of light has rescued Hitomi and Van from the destruction of Fanelia. They are separated when Escaflowne loses its grip on Hitomi. Upon landing, Van can tell he's still on Gaia, but where is the girl?

Alone in a twilight forest, Hitomi is frightened. Not knowing what to do, she asks her pendant to show her the way. Before it can, she is set upon by a grinning Moleman.

Van heads toward her resounding scream.

A white owl attacks the Moleman, driving him back. The owl's tall, blond master arrives on the scene. "You again," he says menacingly, "I'm sick of chasing you through the mud; and now you attack a delicate lady . . . unforgivable!" He KO's the Moleman in one punch, then turns his attention to Hitomi. "Are you hurt, miss?" He kneels down to her level. "Why are you here? How did you get here? What happened?"

In Hitomi's eyes, her dashing rescuer becomes Amano, and she reaches out to him. "Amano, I was so scared!" she cries, before stress overcomes her and she passes out in his arms.

Van finally arrives. "You bastard! What have you done to her?!" he spits, reaching for his sword.

The blond man picks up Hitomi, saying, "Rash and hostile talk is unseemly." Van begins to draw his sword. "Don't move!" snaps the blond, "If you draw your sword, you'll die." Van hesitates. "Be certain, I will oblige you, blade for blade, " continues the blond, "I do not play with swords." Van draws his. "Foolishness." The blond puts Hitomi down and allows Van to attack. Dodging effortlessly, he says, "Good swordsmanship . . . However!" he knocks Van out with one stroke, "your breathing is weak. Since I would regret killing you, I used the flat of my blade." He picks up Van's sword. "What are you two doing out here?" he wonders, as he contemplates the sword's insignia.

Above the smouldering ruins of Fanelia, hovers the floating fortress, Vione. Within, the pilots of the invisible gaimelf have reported back to their captain, Dilandeu.

"Two Alseides . . . two Alseides were damaged by those backwater samurai . . . " The responsible pilots apologize profusely. "Come forward!" The unlucky pilots get slapped for their failure. "Even after I gave you stealth mants (invisibility cloaks) . . . You should be ashamed of yourselves! Do you want to tarnish my reputation?" Again, they apologize. "I don't want good for nothing pilots who chase ‘the dragon' away. I won't tell you again, understand?" They do!

Later, Dilandeu speaks with the Vione's strategist. "Dilandeu, all of Fanelia was burnt to the ground. I want you to use the stealth mants in ways which justify your having them."

"I'd expect as much from you, Folken," responds Dilandeu, insolently, "the man who sold out Fanelia."

They enter a large room, new to Dilandeu. Folken soon demonstrates its purpose; a gigantic screen lights up with the image of an old man. Dilandeu immediately prostrates himself; the image is of Dornkirk, Emperor of Zaibach. Dornkirk tells Folken that the shadow of ‘the dragon', the dragon which causes the future of Zaibach as a world power to crumble, is still invisible. The dragon of Fanelia has run away and Folken MUST catch it. Also, the pillar of light, which was related to the Vione's military action, affected their ‘fate forecasting machine'. To help in their search, Dornkirk tells Folken that the dragon is close to the Astorian border. The dragon must be captured, repeats Dornkirk: for the sake of the rebirth of the legendary powers of Atlantis.

Elsewhere, Hitomi seems to wake to a monochrome world. Amano is there. He tells her she passed out on the track. "I had a dream."

"What was it like?"

"It was a scary dream," she begins, "No, a sad dream. I couldn't find you."

"Don't worry," he replies, "I'll always be with you."

Then, Hitomi really wakes up, to the blond man's face, instead of Amano's. Behind him, a rough looking bunch greets her: ‘So the princess has awakened', and other sarcastic comments. The blond man chastises them; it's bad enough that she has to wake up to their ugly mugs. Hitomi turns to the window. The Earth and Moon still hang together in the sky. "I wasn't returned. This isn't Earth," she mutters, despairingly.

"What's wrong?" asks the blond. "If it will help, you can tell me about it. I am a knight of Astoria, Allen Schezar. You are a guest of this castle. As the person in charge, I will protect you. It is my duty as a knight . . . no, as a man."

"Ah, his charm's showing," starts one of his men, but their fun is interrupted by Allen's second, Gadeth. He's come to report that ‘the other one' is awake. Van is shoved into the room. His look is grim.

Later, as the sun rises, Allen finishes hearing their story on a private porch. "The Moon of Illusion?" says Allen. "This young lady is a native of the Moon of Illusion?" That is what Van said. "Well, if the King of Fanelia says it's so," Allen unsheathes the crest on Van's sword, "I must believe it." He turns to Hitomi. "What's your name?"

"Hitomi . . . Hitomi Kanzaki."

"What a pretty name . . . "

"Allen," interjects Van, "I apologize for entering your country without notifying you first . . . but give me back my gaimelf!"

"If I did, what would you do?" asks Allen with a frown.

"Return to Fanelia and fight to the death with my enemies!"

"That is pointless."

"What!?!"

"Fanelia has been destroyed. Everything has burned."

"It's not true!" sputters Van.

Astorian traders saw it. Nothing can be done for Fanelia, but if they discuss it, maybe something can be done...

Their conversation is interrupted by the arrival of the Vione. Hitomi recognizes the gaimelf that drop to the ground as the same ones which destroyed Fanelia.

Allen receives Dilandeu in the meeting hall. Dilandeu announces that he'd like to restock his supplies of weapons, food and water and that he's on urgent military business. "I'll help in any way I can," says Allen, politely. While Hitomi asks Gadeth if she may watch, Van barges to the front, to see the faces of those who destroyed Fanelia.

"By the way, Allen," says Dilandeu, "you haven't seen a strange gaimelf in the area?"

"Not that I'm aware of," says Allen, smoothly. "I suppose it has something to do with your urgent military business, which requires you to use a floating fortress . . . I hear Fanelia has been attacked."

"The rumor about that scruffy little backwater? I suppose it must've been dragons that wrecked the place. A fitting end to a frontier country, isn't it? In any event, it's a country full of cowards, where even the king hides. Not that I really care, though."

"Isn't it more cowardly to fight when you cannot be seen!?" spits Van.

Dilandeu gives him a look and walks up to Van. Then, he shoves Van aside to get a better look at Hitomi. "What strange clothes . . . What country is this girl from?"

"She's my new lover," says Allen without missing a beat. "I found her in a far away place." Allen walks over, regaining Dilandeu's attention. "Her name is Hitomi." Allen kisses her on the cheek to prove his point. "As I said, Dilandeu," concludes Allen.

Dilandeu turns away. "You are just as rumor said you would be, Allen Schezar. I hope you are as energetic about the supplies I asked for," says Dilandeu, as he leaves.

"We've managed to keep out of the net, for the time being, but you may find you have a bad reputation in Zaibach," says Allen as he leaves her. "Gadeth, meet me in my quarters."

‘Him? Is it him?' wonders Hitomi. Her imagination gives Allen the angel wings from her dreams. They suit him well.

On the Vione's bridge, Dilandeu decides his strategy. "We should catch them in the act, fairly soon. There's no need to hurry." He commands one of his pilots to spy on the fort. "Allen Schezar, I want to watch when your luck runs out."

In the basement room they've been given, Hitomi snaps out of her daze about Allen and finally notices how dejected Van is. Then, she realizes she has her tarot cards. "Van, don't be so down. Try to cheer up a little." She begins a reading. "Ah, the Hermit! Even the cards are saying you should hang in there."

"What are those?" asks Van without much interest.

"Tarot cards. I'm foretelling your fate."

"You need those to tell your destiny?"

She is stung by his snub, but the next card is the Death card. A fiery vision of death comes out of the card to surround her. Van snaps her out of the vision. Suddenly, there is a strange noise. It's the Moleman, digging through the floor! "Huh. Is this the wrong place?" he wonders, unaware he's not alone.

"Aaaa! It's that lecher from yesterday!" snaps Hitomi in recognition.

Shortly, Allen is told that Van and Hitomi have disappeared. "I know where to," says Allen. "Prepare Scherazad."

In the caves beneath the fort, Moleman explains himself. Molemen dig and work with earth and rock. The other night, he just wanted a better look at Hitomi's pendant. In evidence of his benevolence, he has brought Hitomi her bag, which was somehow also transported from Fanelia. Moleman leads them to where the melf are kept and they find Escaflowne. "A remarkable gaimelf," says Moleman. "It's Ispano made, isn't it?"

"What are you going to do?" Hitomi asks Van.

"Get out of here and return to Fanelia."

Passing a hand over Escaflowne's energist, Van opens the cockpit and jumps in. Hitomi thinks they should listen to Allen, but Van's mind is made up. The huge hanger doors open and Allen is there, in Scherazad. He will not let them leave unless Van can beat him.

Dilandeu's spy spots Escaflowne as soon as it steps into the light.

Hitomi wants them to stop. Gadeth tells her not to worry and escorts her to a safer place. "Which do you want to win, Miss?" he asks. Hitomi hadn't really thought about that.

The match begins.

"Your confidence is weak, Van!" says Allen.

Allen's men enjoy the spectacle, but it's not as though Van has a chance.

"Vargas' sword would never be so weak."

"You know of Vargas?"

"Of course! He was one of the Three Master Swordsmen of Gaia," says Allen. "Vargas was my sword master!" He downs Escaflowne and tells Van to come out. Van does.

"Vargas, I lost," whispers Van, more depressed than ever.

As Allen opens his cockpit, he notices a gash on Scherazad's forearm. "When did he do that?" he wonders in surprise.

Hitomi walks up to console Van. Escaflowne's energist glows and she falls into a vision. "Allen, run away!" she calls out. "The invisible enemy--!" The vision of the fort in flames engulfs her.

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