a Slayers fanfic
Chapter 5: No Longer a Secret
The man fell backward in terror, beholding the horrible sight that had once been a timid young girl. Its two feet, at the end of backbent legs, ended in three terrible claws. A tail tipped with what liked like two scythes back to back lashed behind the beast. It whipped around the tree in a smooth stroke and cut the rope that held the creature to the tree by its two-clawed wing talons. Freed, the creature spread its long thin wings out to its sides, revealing the golden-yellow plating that ran up the length of its tail to its jaw, which was easily two feet long and, to the robber's dismay, filled with close to a thousand sharp, needle-like teeth. The creature's eyes blazed an angry gold as it breathed heavily down on him, glaring through a frame of russet-burgundy manes. It shook its head slightly in disapproval, showing off two long and sharp demon's horns, which curved back through its hair along the line of its forehead.
"Airrraaaaaaak!" it said, buffeting him with a gust from its wings as it closed them.
"Aaaaauuugh!!" the bandit answered, scuttling backward like a crab, fearing that this horrible image would be the last that he ever saw. He was right. As Race called out, "What in the world is that?!" Mayaki reached out with one clawed foot and with a downward swipe, slashed him across the eyes with it.
The man screamed in panic and sought to find the ground with his feet. He ran blindly into the forest, feeling his way with his hands and not doing very well at it. Mayaki glared at him and turned away with a snort, deciding that was satisfactory, and leapt into the clearing to save her friends.
She crashed into the center of the little field like a spear of lightning, immediately the focus of everyone's attention. "Raaaakk..." she said harshly.
One of the mages, arguably the dumber of the two, was first to challenge her with a Freeze Arrow spell. She used the same tactic Xellos had to turn the bolt of magic around and send it back at its caster. The bolt struck the lad in the chest, freezing him solid.
"Onni!" his friend shouted, approaching to try to rescue the frosted mage, but having other thoughts as Mayaki sizzled reptilianly into his path, hissing like water on a griddle. The young man immediately reversed his course. Many of the other bandits saw this as a good opportunity to retreat and did so, fleeing into the woods in many directions.
Race and his remaining few comrades circled up around their new opponent, swords and daggers drawn. Mayaki's golden eyes flitted from one to the next, waiting for the attack. Finally it came, from a young and probably still green marauder. He rushed at her from behind, sword lifted in an intent to sever her legs off. Mayaki wasn't about to let that happen, however. She turned and met the full swing of the sword with her belly, the plating turning the blade as if it had hit metal armor. The youth stumbled past her and she kicked him in the gut, loosing his entrails and sending his dead weight sprawling into one of his friends.
Attacks came from all sides then, the robbers enraged by the loss of their comrades. They'd lost two of their number already, not counting everyone who had fled into the woods. The remaining five slashed and hacked at the creature with all their skill, and it still wasn't enough to save their hides. One met his fate when he found his neck trapped between Mayaki's teeth. Another was scratched across the face by a wing-talon and subsequently trampled in the battle as she ran over the top of him in a counterattack. The creature spun around like a whirling dervish and caught another brigand in the chest with her tail, which sunk in deep like a pickax.
Race saw his chance as the monster beat her wings and tried to grab her foe in one of her claws, preventing him from striking. Her own wing prevented her from seeing him coming up behind her. He plunged his sword into her haunch and ran for the trees as she snatched the other man's head in her jaws and easily snapped his neck. The beast screamed in agony and lashed its tail frantically in back of it. Race dropped to the ground and rolled until he was out of its range, then bounded to his feet and ran for the cover of the trees. Race Quim hadn't lived this long without knowing how to live to fight another day! And fight he would... no creature, human, Mazoku or God, would get away with killing six of his best, bravest men. The beast would pay with its own life, Race swore it.
* * * * *
Mayaki was nearly paralyzed by the waves of pain from the sword piercing her unarmored leg. She and her last opponent fell at the same time, one dead and the other in pain. She tried to twist around and pull the sword out with her teeth, to no avail. She just couldn't get the right angle to pull it free, and even though she could hook the hilt with her scythe-tail, it wasn't strong enough to pull it free of the wound. Every time she moved in a new direction, the blade only felt like it was cutting deeper. "Aaaiirrrk!" she wailed.
Lina, Zelgaddis, Gourry, and Amelia all stared at the monster that moments before, had been their friend. It was all a mystery, but it was one likely to go unsolved unless one of them could somehow get free.
Lina finally voiced an idea, going solely on the chance that Mayaki was still in there somewhere. "I can heal you if you can cut the ropes on my hands free, Mayaki. Can you make it over to me?"
"Aaak..." the creature replied weakly, nodded once, and began pulling herself along the ground by her wing-talons. It was a struggle to haul her body along by her fragile wings... they certainly weren't designed for ground transport. To help herself along, she stuck her long beak out as far as it would reach and used her stronger neck muscles to aid her frail wings.
When she was close enough, she maneuvered her tail into place, set against the rope on Lina's wrists. Lina did her part to saw the rope back and forth against the razor-sharp tail. She flinched slightly, wary that the monster might just be leading her on. Mazoku and their relatives were, more or less, pretty consistent at doing just that.
The rope finally cut through and Lina was able to free her hands. Mayaki carefully lay her tail down in the grass, exhausted from the effort and losing blood from her haunch to boot. The redheaded sorceress sat up on her knees and unknotted the bonds on her ankles. She stared at Mayaki, and then at the trail of blood that she'd left in crossing the field. She'd lost a lot of blood... it was practically a miracle she was still alive at all. The monster lay spread-eagled, breathing shallowly. She didn't seem to be weaving a deception, at least, but then again, you could never tell until you were caught in one...
"Lina! What are you waiting for? Heal her!" Zelgaddis demanded, struggling against the ice that still encased him.
"All right, all right! Don't even give a girl a moment to get her bearings!" Lina reached out and pulled the sword from Mayaki's haunch, careful not to damage the muscle further. Tossing the blade aside, she focused her energy and directed it toward Mayaki. "Healing!"
The muscles in Mayaki's leg writhed and knit themselves back together, good as they had ever been. The skin sealed itself as well, leaving not a mark where the horrible injury had been. The pain lessened immediately, and was soon gone altogether. Mayaki both looked and felt a lot better... except that as she was fumbling to stand back up, she realized that the current crisis wasn't over yet.
As Lina hurriedly cast low-grade fireballs at Gourry and Zel to thaw them out, Mayaki trotted over to Amelia, who shuddered slightly in fear. The creature let out a long snort that could have been interpreted as a sigh and held its tail toward Amelia for her to cut the ropes with. After a motionless moment between them, Amelia realized the creature's intent and used the tail to saw through the ropes holding her. "Thank you," she said softly. The monster looked back at her. Its golden eyes seemed so soft and full of sadness. After a moment, the Mayaki-creature turned away and crossed the clearing in a kind of hop-walk, its legs not designed for striding. "Oh..." Amelia uttered, feeling sympathy for the beast.
Mayaki hopped up on a stump and preened herself embarrassedly once she saw that everyone had been taken care of. Lina approached her as she nipped at an itchy spot on her wing, but startled back as Xellos appeared out of nowhere between them.
"Well, it looks as if everything is all sorted out here again," he chirped merrily. "Except for Miss Mayaki, of course."
Zelgaddis snorted. "No thanks to you on either count."
Xellos brushed him off and floated over to Mayaki, who glared at him hatefully. "Congratulations, Miss Sora! You certainly seem to have won the day. Pity you weren't better at keeping this a secret, though. You really could have had a lot of fun with it." He tapped her playfully on the head with the end of his staff.
"Reccck!" snarled Mayaki.
"Now, now, Miss Sora... what a rude thing to say! It's very unladylike."
Lina blinked, but Amelia said the exact words crawling through Lina's mind.. "You can understand her? That's really still Miss Mayaki?"
The Mazoku priest chuckled. "Of course I can understand her. She IS part Mazoku, after all. Aren't you, Miss Sora?" That earned him another glare. "Perhaps Miss Mayaki herself would like to explain it?" he offered.
Mayaki closed her eyes and nodded her head once, then began reverting to her human form. Wisps of pale green mist swirled around her as wings shrank back into arms, the horns retreated, and jaws and teeth drew back into her face, leaving it human once more. Her tail lashed about wildly like a rope being jerked about by some unseen force. The scythe at its end eventually folded closed on itself and the tail withdrew beneath Mayaki's skirts as her legs finished transforming back into human ones. The mists vanished and she looked up sadly, especially at Zelgaddis. "This is why I left my village. I'm sorry, everyone, I really am..." she whispered.
"Sorry? You're SORRY?? You save all of our lives and you're SORRY??!" Lina shook her head and laughed. "Maybe I'm a little biased here, but I think it's kind of a good thing"
"Yes!" Amelia added, springing up into a tree with a dramatic pose. "Life is wonderful and everyone should live to enjoy every moment, every breath! It should be treasured above all things! Isn't that right, Mister Xellos?"
Xellos shuddered and began backing away from the little justice crusader. After a moment he even put his hands over his ears to block out the sound. "Please... someone make her stop..."
Mayaki made it a special point to ignore him. "I should have told you all before. I'm sorry."
Gourry patted her on the shoulder. "Don't let that get you down. Xellos traveled with us for a whole two months before he admitted he was a monster. But he can't cook to save his life." Lina elbowed him in the ribs. "Ow! What was that for?"
"You're not helping any! Go find some firewood. We may as well set up camp before Mayaki gets into her story."
"Right!" The swordsman ran off cheerily to gather an armload of wood.
Mayaki looked around at the carnage of bodies and parts of them, as well as the blood littering the field, then brightened. "I'll get some things ready for dinner!" she giggled, heading for the packhorse.
Lina stopped her for an instant. "Are you sure you're up to it, Mayaki? I mean, we can always get by..."
"'Course I'm up to it! Wielding a knife at some defenseless vegetables always helps me to relax!" She took out a sharp-looking knife and a frying pan, holding both up with a brilliant smile. "I know right where we can get some steaks too, if anyone wants." She pointed the frying pan at one of the dead bodies on the ground. Everyone froze, looking stunned and disgusted, except for Xellos, who raised his hand and waved it eagerly over his head. Mayaki wilted slightly. "It was a joke, you guys. Somebody wanna clear out our friends the bandits?"
"On it..." Zel and Lina said simultaneously, dashing away from Mayaki. Amelia began berating Xellos afresh until the poor Mazoku was cowering on the ground, not even able to move. Mayaki made it a special point to step on him as she bustled about the camp preparing things. He didn't even seem to notice, darn him.
"Make it stop...." He whined.
* * * * *
"My mother was human," she began, once the group had been fed and was sitting around the fire waiting for her tale. "She lived in Telgen City. Her cooking was famous around the area. Everyone knew who Talia Avi-Sora was. If you didn't, you soon got directed straight to her restaurant! Not a tourist or traveler passed through without trying her food. And all of them-every last one-swore it was the best they'd had in their lives.
"One dark, rainy night, a man came to the restaurant. They knew he was a sorcerer because when he stepped inside, he was completely dry. He wore a traveler's cloak and walking boots, and carried a long walking staff. His hood covered his eyes and he never took it off or pushed it back... he was quite a mysterious character. My mother waited on him herself, asking if he would like something to eat. He declined, but asked for a glass of water and inquired about a place to stay. Then he took out a small book and appeared to read it. My mother never asked the man any questions, just gave the customer what he wanted and went about cooking and serving some of the patrons, checking back with him now and then to see if he wanted to order anything. 'Nothing,' he said. 'Nothing but to sit and rest awhile.'
"He stayed long into the night, until my mother approached him to let him know that the restaurant was closing. He got up, kissed her hand, thanked her kindly, and headed back into the night.
"The next evening, there he was again. Same cloak down past his eyes, same book, same request for only a glass of water and to rest for a little while. And, right before closing, he thanked my mother and kissed her hand graciously. He was there the following night as well, and every night for the next week, and the next. Never wanted food, despite the entire town's recommendations. No one ever seemed to see him during the day, and no one saw him coming or going. My mother even asked around at the various inns in the area to see if she could find out where he was staying, or if anyone knew anything about him. It irritated her to no end that she could find out nothing about him, not even his name!
"One night she got curious enough-or angry enough, rather-to ask him who he was and what business he had coming to a restaurant and not ordering food.
" 'Miss Sora,' he told her, which surprised her because she didn't know he knew her name, 'it is not your food I require to nourish me, though I hear it is a wonder of the world to taste. Rather, it is your company I crave and thirst for; though I ask for water to quench it, it does nothing for the thirst of a dry and empty soul.'
"My mother was completely sympathetic. She asked him what kind of a nut he was and told him to get out. He persisted though.
" 'Milady, my name is Elric Debarro. I have traveled the world 'round and never found anyone so beautiful or full of sense as you. I am a lonely man and I wish to stop my wandering and take a wife, raise a family if the fates allow. I am a man of great means, if that is what you desire, but without you I feel as poor as a pauper. Please, lady, take pity on my humblest of souls... I cannot bear to live if it is not a life with you in it.' At this point, he pushed back his hood, revealing the most handsome yellow-golden eyes to her, and asked her to marry him.
"My mother was swept off her feet by the man, and she agreed on the spot. They found a priest of one of the local temples and were married that very evening.
"Around the same time, a terrible red wyvern was terrorizing the countryside... killing people, burning crops, tearing up houses, the whole bit..."
"Wait a sec, a wyvern?" Lina interrupted. "What's-"
"I believe I can answer that," Xellos broke in. "With Miss Mayaki's permission, of course," he jeered. She narrowed her eyes at him but waved him on. "You're too kind," he said with a bow.
"I know," she growled at him.
Xellos grinned wider at her, then turned back to the group. "Before the time of the War of the Monster's Fall, a time came that the Ryuzoku, the Dragon Race, seemed to be turning their backs on the Mazoku, the Evil Race, trying to wash their hands of us completely. We couldn't just put up with that, of course... striving for chaos meant that everyone had to be involved. Ruby Eye knew this, and came up with an idea so insulting to the Dragon Race that there could never be any peace between the two races, guaranteeing the existence of chaos for as long as the world exists. He created the wyverns as a mockery of the dragons, an evil mirror of the Ryuzoku. Where the dragons honored and celebrated life, wyverns were set on destroying it."
Lina looked over at Amelia. "Remind me never to introduce Mayaki and Filia," she mumbled, jerking her head at Mayaki with an indicating nod. Amelia nodded fervently.
"They were so efficient at destroying life that the dragons were forced into action," Xellos continued. "One of their most powerful priests found a spell that gave the wyverns such a handicap that from that day to this, its equal has never been found. When the wyverns awoke that evening to begin their rampages, they found that they had no arms... only their wings remained. When they fought against the dragons that besieged them, they didn't stand a chance, not being able to grapple with their opponents. The Dragon Race drove them out, making them retreat to the Astral Plane. Though, apparently, some of them found sufficient hiding places. Human camouflage is so convenient sometimes.." He looked behind him at Mayaki, opening his eyes to stare at her. "Isn't it, Miss Sora?"
"Could we get back to Mayaki's story now please?" Zelgaddis said boredly.
"By all means," Xellos smirked.
Mayaki bowed slightly, even though she continued to glare at the monster. "As I said, it was widely known that the wyvern was attacking the countryside. The correlation that was never made was that the rampages never took place during the times that Elric was in town with my mother. When they married and he began spending more time with her, the frequency of the attacks slackened. My mother, living in the city, never heard much about this and so she could have never suspected anything was amiss. Elric was always good to her... she never could have suspected him of being so evil at heart... except that he never told her he actually loved her. He doted on her all the time that they were together, bought her trinkets, even taught her a few magic spells. But he never said outright that he loved her. He danced around the subject whenever she brought it up, and somehow always managed to convince her that he did even though he never said it."
"In fact, monsters are incapable of saying any such thing," Xellos added. "Saying..." he shuddered slightly, "...THAT... probably would have killed him."
"So monsters can't love," Lina summed up.
Amelia looked slightly tearful. "How sad." After a moment she burst out in tears of pity. "Poor Mister Xellos! No wonder you're always doing evil things! You're only trying to compensate for not being able to love anyone! It's so sad!" Everyone stared at her, rather nervously.
"Take it easy, Amelia! It's just Xellos, after all.." Zelgaddis assured her.
Xellos peeked out from behind Mayaki. "Is she done yet?"
Mayaki screeched and pushed him over. "Get away from me!"
The Mazoku priest spun around and floated past her, tapping her on the head again with his staff. "Whatever you say, kitten."
"Agh! Stop that!!" she shouted in annoyance.
Zelgaddis sighed. "Mayaki? Your story?"
Mayaki blinked. "Oh! Right. Sorry.
"Talia soon came to find that she was with child. My father was overjoyed. He said that there was nothing in the world that would please him more than to have offspring. I suppose that much was the truth, though my mother didn't know that a wyvern was growing inside her.
"And then one day, about five months into my mother's pregnancy, Elric up and disappeared without a trace. Again, my mother asked around to see if anyone had seen him leave, but, of course, no one had. Outside of town, the wyvern attacks also stopped. She never saw my father again.
"Rumors about my parents started to spread, as they always do when a woman becomes pregnant and the man suddenly disappears without a trace. Maybe she killed him and hid the body. Maybe he ran off with another woman. Maybe there was a fight between them and they split up, or Elric did not want to support both Talia and the child... Before long my mother's name was in disgrace. People even stopped coming to eat at the restaurant. So she picked up roots and moved to Kaimer-my home. She asked around at the local inns and restaurants if there was any work she could do until she had the baby. Many people were wary of her-a drifter with a child on the way and no man meant bad news. But finally, an innkeeper and his wife took pity on her. They let her stay and work, and soon found out what a wonderful cook she was. Their names were Gavin and Kyree Gabrine, Ari's parents.
"Four months later, my mother went into labor, and she wasn't well with it at all. Kyree had some training and experience in midwifery, but she could tell that Talia was bleeding too much for a normal birthing. The local healer was called immediately to help, which he did, though both he and Kyree were shocked to find a child that cut them with its tail as soon as it was free and lashing about. The news spread around the town like wildfire... the healer's wife was more than a bit of a gossip, and in a town the size of Kaimer, well...
"Even more preposterous was my mother's decision to keep and raise the wyvern child she had given birth to. It was because she realized the connection between the wyvern attacking Telgen and Elric that she kept me, and she was afraid of what would happen if I was sent off on my own. My father could have gotten hold of me, she said, and made me evil, like him.
"I learned to turn into a human when I was about two, but of course, the whole town already knew what I was... Looking like a human was no disguise, and in fact, it offended them even more that a monster could look like one of them. Ari and I grew up together, but the rest if the town avoided us and our families and persecuted us every way they could think of... me as a monster and Ari's family and my mother as Mazoku sympathizers. Kyree was murdered in one of the attacks on our inn early on. It was an accident, really. She was hit in the head with a stone while some people were throwing rocks trying to break the windows and she never got up.
"My mother taught me all she knew," Mayaki remembered fondly. "How to read and write, how to take care of the inn's bookkeeping, and how to cook, though I was never quite as good as she was. She was taken by the crimson fever when I was twelve. Gavin took care of Ari and I until his heart gave out a few years ago. Since then, Ari and I have been running things. Somehow we always make enough money to get by on, and there's always traveling merchants who are willing to sell to us when the townspeople refuse to. And then there are those who say that a Mazoku's gold is as hard as anyone else's... they don't care who they sell to so long as they make a buck."
"So you've done all right until now?"
The girl nodded. "The economy isn't what it used to be. Travelers through our village are fewer since the road was improved for carts... there's no need to stop for the night before going on to Telgen or Jerelitz now. Plus the villagers, they're getting antsy about old prophecies coming true about Mazoku and the end of the world. They figure that maybe if they could drive me out or kill me or what have you so that maybe the Pillar of Light would go away.. or something else now that that's gone..."
"That was us!" Gourry chimed in proudly. "Look, Lina! We're famous!"
Lina corrected him. "Well, we did something famous... we aren't famous really if no one knows that it was us that did it."
"Oh..." the swordsman replied, obviously lost.
Amelia suddenly burst into tears again. "Poor Miss Mayaki! You've had such a hard life and I've been giving you such a hard time while you've been traveling with us! I feel just awful!"
Mayaki smirked, a little puzzled. "That, I'm used to. Don't worry about it. If anyone should apologize, I think it's me. I mean, it's kind of a big thing to know..." She morphed her hand into a wingclaw and back again.
"Mayaki, don't beat yourself up about it... It was your secret to keep," Lina said, leaning back on the log where she sat.
"That's right," Zelgaddis added. "And not a one of us here has a right to pass that information on, or reveal it by inaction." He glared coldly at Xellos, who managed to look innocent as ever. Then he turned back to Mayaki. "Your secret's safe with us."
She grinned widely. "Thank you... all of you. You're the best friends a Mazoku could have."
After an appreciative silence, Zel declared, "I think it's about time we all got to sleep... it's been a rather taxing day for us all." He gazed at Mayaki meaningfully before he got up, refusing to meet her eyes again. It was a look full of unanswered questions.
Amelia followed him with her eyes as he rose and peered around, choosing a direction and heading away from the camp into the darkness. "Mister Zelgaddis? Where are you going?" she asked, worry tinting her voice slightly.
He turned to answer her. "Just for a little walk. To clear my head a little. I'll be back before too long."
Mayaki stood up and jogged a few paces toward him. "I'll come with you," she announced brightly. Amelia bristled.
"No." Zel turned and resumed walking away from them. "Stay here, Miss Sora. Get your rest. You'll need it for the journey tomorrow, if we're going to make up the time we lost today."
He didn't even look back. "I need some time alone to think."
Mayaki stared after him confusedly, then, when he was out of sight range, she turned, shaking her head and prepared for the night's rest.
"You should go after him," a voice said from above her, followed by a gentle tap on the head.
Mayaki sighed, irritated. "And why should I do that? He said he wanted to be alone. Oh, and by the way, thank you soooo much for all your help during the fight earlier, you little worm. Is that your idea of keeping a secret, then?"
Xellos smiled and drifted down to the ground cross-legged. "You're very welcome! It was quite an entertaining battle, except for the part with that Race character getting the better of you. I dare say we'll see him again eventually."
"Again, no thanks to you. Why do you even hang around if you aren't going to help your friends when they're in trouble?"
"I never said we were friends," Xellos grinned, squinting at her. "I'm just keeping an eye on Lina."
"Why, Miss Mayaki, that is, of course..."
"A secret," she chorused with him. "Yes, of course." She threw her hands up in the air and wondered why she even bothered asking.
She stared again in the direction that Zelgaddis had gone. Was he mad at her, she wondered? The look he'd given her certainly made it seem like that.
"You'd better go after Zelly-boy before he gets himself in trouble, don't you think?" the Mazoku coaxed, still smirking calmly.
"He said he wanted to be alone," Mayaki snapped again.
"Miss Mayaki, are you really that naive? When was the last time you said you wanted to be alone? Didn't you want someone to be there with you more than anything else?
"How do I know you're not just trying to trick me into going?"
"Why would I do that now?" He grinned, shifting his staff around.
"I don't know.. it's probably a secret." Xellos blinked, looking as if she'd beaten him to the punch. She didn't notice. She was too busy staring off into the woods.
"He's not happy with you, you know."
"Yeah... I know." An uncomfortable silence filled the clearing, disturbed only by Gourry's occasional snores. "Maybe I should..."
"Go on," whispered Xellos. "He needs you."
Agreeing at last with a nod, Mayaki got to her feet and ran out of the clearing, switching to her Mazoku form once she reached the road. It would be easier to find Zelgaddis from the air.
Meanwhile Xellos waited for her to go, then disappeared with a slight chuckle.
Disclaimer in short: Slayers and related characters aren't mine. Mayaki and various other incidental characters are.
Thanks for reading! Please leave me some feedback; I live and thrive on criticism! (not to mention, I'm a perfectionist. ;)