a Slayers fanfic
Chapter 16: The Ice Capades, It's Not
Mayaki knelt patiently beside the campfire embers, keeping a careful eye on a strange stack of pots and pans. Not having an oven at her beck and call had finally gotten to her, and (necessity the mother of invention) she had put one together from her other utensils. The big cast-iron stew pot was on the bottom, resting on the coals. Inside it was her vegetable steamer. It didn't have vegetables in it at the moment, though. It was upturned, serving as more of a shelf. On it were resting every measuring cup and mug that the troupe had... Mayaki's evil side had more or less compelled her to swipe them for this little project. No one would mind, so long as her little experiment in campfire cuisine turned out all right. And Zel could suffer a little while without his coffee.
Various forks and spoons were wedged between the stew pot and Mayaki's carefully upturned skillet, keeping the heat in while allowing steam to escape so the whole monument didn't explode from the pressure.
Mayaki sniffed the air wafting out from the contraption. "Ahh, almost ready!"
She rose up, scouted around, and finally headed over to a nearby tree with a dead branch. She snapped a small twig off and whittled it down with one of her throwing knives, skinning the bark off so that it wouldn't get into the food. When she was finished, she had a reasonable facsimile of a toothpick. She skipped back to the mishmash of cooking utensils and lifted the skillet up carefully, catching the various pieces of flatware before they fell.
As the morning light fell across the plain where they camped, warming the air comfortably, Zelgaddis began to stir and sat up. He shucked off his bedroll, shook it out and folded it compactly, setting it near the tree where the horse was tied. After that, he joined Mayaki by the dying fire. "Good morning," he greeted cordially.
"Morning!" Mayaki grinned sweetly, without a trace of evil about her.
"You're up awfully early," he said.
She gazed east toward the sunrise. "Yeah, I guess I am, a little." She giggled. "I had to bake something or I was gonna go crazy!"
Zel laughed appreciatively and stirred the coals with a stick while Mayaki pricked her creations with the makeshift toothpick to check their doneness. "They're ready!" she cheered, carefully hooking the cups out of the pot with the bent handle of a ladle.
"What in the world are you making?!" Zel asked, puzzled by the odd setup. He smelled the air, trying to place the delicious scent. "Whatever it is, it smells wonderful...and hey! What are you doing with my coffee cup?" He sounded a little hurt at having his possession snitched.
"Mayaki Avi-Sora's soon-to-be-famous campfire-cooked brambleberry muffins! And hush, you can have it back in a minute. Coffee won't be ready for a little while anyway." She quickly took her apron off and spread it out on the grass, turning the cups over onto it and letting the muffins drop out, each fluffy as could be with a slight golden-brown crust to them. "Here," she offered, holding the apron out toward Zelgaddis before folding it up to keep the warmth in. "Better have one before they get cold, or Lina and Gourry wake up and eat the rest." As Zel took one and held it up to his nose, savoring the aroma of the fresh, hot berry juice, Mayaki bustled around, putting the stew pot away and setting the coffeepot on the iron spider over the coals to boil. (Yes, there is such a thing and yes, that's what it's called.) She carefully measured a scoop of grounds into it, then was off again, cleaning up the dishes, making sure the horse was properly fed and watered, and taking care of other little chores around the camp until there was absolutely nothing left to do. Zel watched her thoughtfully as he chewed on his muffin, trying not to gobble the whole thing down at once. On the other side of camp, Lina groaned and buried her head under her pillow, blocking the light. Everyone else would be awake soon, and Zel didn't know if he would get another opportunity...
"Mayaki," he called softly, motioning her over. She looked up at him curiously and hurried over, sitting beside him.
"Yeah, Zel?" She saw the worried, anxious look on his stone face. "What is it?"
He spoke softly when he answered, careful that no one would hear him. "I want you to stick close to me today, okay?"
Mayaki blinked at him. "But..."
"Please. It would just make me feel better."
She gave him a deadpanned look. "I know how to take care of myself."
Zel gave her the barest of grins in return. "I never doubted that. But will you?"
A warm smile spread across her face. "All right."
"Hey, wow! Muffins!" Gourry interrupted them, taking one in each hand from Mayaki's apron and eating off of both. "Mmm! Really good!"
Mayaki looked over her shoulder at him. "'Morning, Gourry."
"Did you say muffins?" Lina jerked up from under her pillow. She smelled the fresh baked goods and drooled slightly. "Eee! Gimme!" She was out of her bedroll and into the muffins in a flash, fighting Gourry for them as usual.
"Hey, wait a minute! Don't eat them all! I haven't had any yet!" Mayaki screeched, trying to garner a few muffins from the batch. "And neither has Amelia! You guys better save her some!"
Zelgaddis sighed at them all. "I'd better go wake her up," he muttered. He got up and headed around to where Amelia was sleeping. He stooped to one knee and gently shook her by the shoulder. "Amelia..."
Amelia sighed and rolled on her side. "Mmmm..."
"Come on, Amelia. Wake up," Zel said softly.
"Mister Zelgaddis, you're being very naughty... now call me queen..." she muttered in her sleep. "...in the name of Justice..."
Zelgaddis recoiled with a little yell. He blushed deeply. His yelp startled Amelia awake, and she sat up. She looked around in panic and caught sight of Zelgaddis, who stared back at her in embarrassed bewilderment.
"Aaaah! Mister Zelgaddis! I'm so sorry!" She turned bright red and tried to hide behind her pillow, scooting out of and away from her bedroll. "I was doing it again, wasn't I?
"Um..." he replied, trying not to make her feel bad. "I-it's okay, Amelia... it's not your fault. It's not like you could control what you were dreaming or anything..." He looked up slightly, eyes focusing on a spot where they really shouldn't have, just above where the pillow she was holding ended. For as young as the Seyruun princess was, Zel observed, she was showing a good amount of cleavage. He blushed deeper and snapped his eyes downward, squinching them shut. "A-anyway, I came to see if you wanted some breast-I mean, BREAKfast..." He looked back toward the campfire. Lina, Gourry, and Mayaki all stared at him, the muffins temporarily forgotten. Lina smiled bemusedly. He groaned. At least Xellos wasn't around to heckle him this morning. "Excuse me, Amelia. I think I'll just go find a tree to bang my head against..." he muttered to her, getting up while still keeping his eyes firmly shut.
Amelia watched him go, still embarrassed herself enough to burst, then looked down at her chest and squeaked, clutching the pillow even tighter to her chest once she realized where he had been looking. "I want to die..." she said, dropping her face into it with a puff.
* * * * *
"Looks like it's gonna be a nice day," Zel commented once they were on the road.
"Yeah," Mayaki grinned. *Pity,* some part of her complained, making her smile turn to a grimace. "Where are we supposed to be headed again?"
Zelgaddis shook his head. "No telling, really, though I think the map said something about a town called Erelim within about two days' walk."
In back of them, Amelia trodded along quietly. Mayaki knew she was brooding over her morning's embarrassment, and just for that reason, took Zel's hand as they walked. Zelgaddis looked slightly surprised, but said nothing. Mayaki didn't have to turn around to know Amelia had seen her make her move; she could taste the bitter jealousy Amelia was full of... quite delicious. Mayaki soaked the raw emotion up like a sponge. *Soon,* she thought, *soon, I'll be a Mazoku like Xellos, and we'll live together forever!*
Amelia burned inside while she glared at Mayaki and Zelgaddis. *Why does he like her so much over me?* she thought. *I hate Miss Mayaki. I wish she would just go back to her stupid little inn and leave Zelgaddis for me.*
She was occupied in thoughts like these for the better part of an hour. In fact, she was so occupied that she didn't notice a sharp rock embedded in the rutted old road they were traveling down. It registered as she was falling that something had caught her toe and she'd tripped. She hit the ground and skidded on the gravel a few inches.
The entire group heard her hit with a little "Mmf!" as the wind was knocked out of her and she bit her tongue, making it bleed.
"Amelia!" Zel gasped, dropping Mayaki's hand.
"Oh... poor Amelia..." Mayaki said sympathetically, thought it sounded more than a little cynical. Nevertheless, she knelt to help the girl back to her feet.
"Amelia, are you all right?" Zelgaddis checked her over with concern, standing her up and dusting her off.
"I'm fine!" she snapped, pulling away from him. "You don't always have to treat me like a little kid!" Tears in her eyes, she ran ahead of them. Zel's jaw dropped open.
Lina tried to stop her as she all but flew past, hiding her eyes with her arm. "Amelia! Hey, Amelia!"
Gourry blinked as she passed them. "What was that all about?"
"I dunno..." answered Lina, just as puzzled. "Why the hell is everyone acting so weird lately?" she groaned.
A few minutes later, as they entered a more wooded area, Xellos dropped out of a tree and joined them. "What did you guys do to Amelia? She tore past here a few minutes ago spitting blood and she was practically boiling over with negative emotions! What did I miss?"
"She tripped," Zel said flatly, putting an arm around Mayaki's shoulders. "It would be nice of you to start showing some compassion, you know." He led Mayaki past the rather stunned Xellos. Mayaki kept her head hung guiltily, but she met his eyes briefly as she was steered quickly down the road. It was a look of utter mischief. Xellos caught it and nodded approvingly.
Somewhere up ahead of them, Amelia let out a short scream.
"Amelia!" Lina yelled, running toward the source of Amelia's shriek. Gourry drew his sword and followed, right on her heels.
"Lina, you should probably know something before we get too much further.."
"What is it, Gourry?"
Lina stopped running, slowing to a halt as Gourry's words sunk in. "Great. I really wish you would let me know these things a little sooner, ya know?" She glanced up the road to see Amelia being held at knifepoint by an old acquaintance. "Hello again, Race."
"Miss Inverse, always a pleasure," he nodded slyly as Zel, Mayaki, and Xellos caught up to Lina and Gourry. "I really must insist the wyvern girl comes with me this time, or the little princess here will have one less means of breathing."
"The hell she will!" Lina snarled, getting ready to throw a fireball at the bandit leader.
"Lina, stop! You'll hit Amelia!" Zel shouted at her.
Lina nodded. "Hate to admit it, but you're right. Gourry?"
Gourry growled at Race as he stepped forward, ready to attack. "Tut," Race warned. "I wouldn't come very much closer if I were you, and I wanted her to live. I might get nervous and cut the girl's throat by accident."
Gourry stopped to sort the jumbled sentence out. "Uhh.." He turned back to Lina. "What does he mean?"
"He means get your ass back here," Lina grumbled.
Amelia whimpered and struggled, trying to get out of the headlock Race had her in.
"Let her go, Race," Mayaki spat, stepping forward. "Your quarrel's with me, not any of them."
"Ah, Miss Wyvern! There you are! And yet, these friends of yours always seem to insist on poking their noses into business that is just between you and I... Not very polite of them, is it?"
Zelgaddis stepped up next to her. "Now your fight is with me as well, Race. That's a very dear friend of mine that you're holding hostage there." Amelia gave him a look of appreciation. He acknowledged it, catching her eyes for less than a second, but it reassured her immensely. "If you'd care to settle things like a man, not hiding behind an innocent girl, you'll at least die with some honor."
"Zel, let me handle this," Mayaki insisted, only to be waved back.
Race guffawed. "Really, Zelgaddis, do you take me for an idiot? To let go of such a precious bargaining chip?" He pinched one of Amelia's cheeks. "And she is a precious little doll, isn't she?" Amelia snarled in disgust and ground her foot down hard into his instep, then kicked him sharply in the shin and made a run for it, stumbling back behind Zelgaddis.
"Way to go, Amelia!" Mayaki cheered, sapping Race's pain and hatred. She was pleased that Amelia was all right, of course. Evil though Mayaki was, the crusading princess was still on her side... at least for the time being. Race cocked his head at them, rubbing his painfully sore shin. "I suppose we will do this the hard way after all, then. Now," he said to the bushes around him.
Four young sorcerers appeared from the brush, surrounding the group. Three were young men, the fourth was a woman. "Freeze Array!" they shouted in unison. A coating of ice spread across the road and the forest floor, creating a slick, hazardous pond.
Lina scoffed. "You really think that's going to work??" she jeered. "Fireball!" She summoned the spell, and blinked when nothing happened. "Fireball!" she tried again. Nothing. "Lightening?" she attempted. A tiny speck of light appeared at her fingertip, then fizzled and died like a shooting star. She watched it with a certain measure of disgust. "Shit. I'm early this month... looks like I'm out of the running."
"Looks like we're up, as usual," Zelgaddis motioned to Gourry, drawing the thin blade at his waist while preparing a spell. "Flare-yaagh!" He misstepped on the slick surface and fell forward, sword rattling far away from him.
As he reached for it, the lady mage yelled "Shadow Snap!" and threw a small dagger at his shadow, effectively pinning it to the ground. With his shadow pinned, Zel was stuck, facedown on the ice. "Damn..." he muttered, annoyed more than anything else.
Gourry, on the other hand, easily accommodated to the frozen conditions, skating easily toward one of the other sorcerers. "Icicle Lance!" the man he was attacking shouted, aiming at the swordsman. Gourry quickly braked and spun around, slicing off the end of the flying icicle as he did. "Hey... look what I made!" he muttered. He experimentally pushed the piece of ice around on the pond.
From the sidelines, Lina shouted at him furiously. "Can't you focus for just a minute?!"
"You're supposed to be whomping the bad guys! Now get to it!"
Gourry skated slightly sideways, being narrowly missed by an ice arrow as he obsessed over the little disk of ice. He pushed it back and forth with the end of his sword. "Hey Lina! This is really neat!"
"Gourry!" she growled, then followed it with an "Eek!" as one of the sorcerers came after her. She ducked into the bushes and ran, trying to keep an eye on the rest of the battle. Watching the man in back of her, she sped along the outer edge of the ice, not watching where she was going so much as watching for things to dodge. The second sorcerer didn't see her coming in enough time to react either, and as he put his hands up in defense, she plowed right into him. Lina shook herself and looked down at the equally shocked mage, who (unfortunately for him) had his hands squashed right into Lina's chest. "AAAAAUUGGGHHH!!" her angry scream echoed through the area, causing everything to rattle. Lina grabbed the astonished man by the shirt and pitched him roughly onto the icy plane that had formerly been the road. He slid halfway across it before coming to a stop, then tried to carefully pick himself up without sliding too much.
"Bit slick, eh?" Gourry said, coming straight for him, pushing the chip of ice along in front of him with his sword. The sorcerer wasn't sure what do to, and in the end tried sliding away from the larger swordsman. Luck was not on his side this particular day though, and Gourry had much more speed built up. He slammed the mage into a nearby tree, himself easily bouncing off and continuing to push the little icy puck around. The sorcerer, meanwhile, went down for the count.
Mayaki, meanwhile, glided her way across the ice to try to free Zelgaddis. She pulled at the knife holding his shadow down with all her might. "It's no good, it's stuck!"
"That won't work.. the blade stays put until the spell's broken," he told her. "I need someone to cast a light spell. And Lina isn't able to do anything at the moment..."
"I'll get Amelia," Mayaki nodded and carefully skated her way off the ice toward the little Seyruun princess. "Amelia! ...Oh shoot."
The younger girl was locked in battle with the lady sorceress, dodging bolts and sending ones of her own back in exchange. There was no way she could go anywhere or even erect a shield with the battle going as fiercely as it was. Mayaki watched helplessly from the sidelines. Bolts were flying so fast and furious that even Mayaki's knives wouldn't do much good... one hit would send them off target.. and a hit in this barrage seemed pretty likely.
And then an idea struck her. She unfastened her hooded cape and took it off, and held it carefully by the sides. Creeping around the side of the lady mage, and dodging the occasional stray Icicle Lance and Freeze Arrow, she eventually managed to get directly behind her. The woman was so focused on her battle with Amelia that she didn't see or hear Mayaki at all. It was rather a surprise for her when she was yanked over backward by a hood from out of nowhere.
Amelia stopped casting Flare Arrows and waved. "Thanks, Miss Mayaki!"
"Save that for later! Zel needs your help!"
"Right!" The little justice warrior was off like a shot, gliding easily across the ice.
Mayaki looked down to where her victim should have been. "Um.. uhoh..." Out in the open, she stood, looking around for the sorceress.
"Gourry! Help!" Lina squalled, running from the first mage.
Gourry wheeled around on the ice, still keeping control of the piece of ice. "Hey you!" he shouted at the mage. The man looked up at Gourry, just in time to see him draw his sword back and slap the piece of ice straight toward him. As he yelped, it hit him square in the teeth and down he went. "Score!" Gourry shouted victoriously, skating around with his sword held over his head.
"Aaa! Mister Gourry! Look out!" Amelia flinched and tried to duck as they collided and fell in a heap. The large swordsman was knocked for a loop as they hit the ice and rolled, eventually landing on top of the diminutive princess, pinning her down by force of mass alone. "Erk...Great one, Mister Gourretzky.." she mumbled before passing out herself.
"Wonderful.." Mayaki muttered to herself, carefully toddling out onto the ice to wake Amelia up. Trying not to slide too much she edged her way across the pond. Off to her right, the female mage squeaked and stood up, Lina's slim sword held against her throat. "Ha! Never underestimate Lina Inverse, ESPECIALLY when she's PMS-ing!" she crowed. She and Mayaki exchanged a triumphant grin, but Lina's expression suddenly changed. "Mayaki! Behind you!" she shouted.
An Ice Arrow cut her across the shoulder. She screeched with surprise and pain, loosing her footing and landing hard on her tailbone. She looked back over her shoulder to see the sorcerer Gourry had checked against the tree. He was still trying to catch his breath, but aside of losing a few teeth in the battle, he was ready to fight. He aimed another spell at Mayaki. She gasped and tried to pull one of her knives to throw at him...
"Fireball!" The globe of flame came to life with a whoosh and shot over the ice with a gesture from its sender's hand. Mayaki flinched...
...and watched as the volunteer sorcerer was knocked flat on his back, engulfed in flame. She whipped her head around to see the source. Zel smiled satisfactorily from his prone position, one arm outstretched to send the spell.
That made three accounted for.
Mayaki pushed herself to her feet, throwing knife in hand. She glanced around in panic.. the man could have been anywhere! By luck alone, she happened to be looking the right direction when number four popped up to cast a spell at her. She was faster with the knife than he was at spellcasting, though. He didn't so much as have time to react as the knife embedded itself in his throat. He let out a gurgle as he collapsed.
Sarcastic applause greeted her from the unfrozen portion of the road. "Very impressive, Miss Wyvern. But I do think it's a pity you can't fight your own battles very well. Oh well. Adieu, until we meet again." Race turned his back on her and began slowly striding away from her.
"Just where the hell do you think you're going?" Mayaki shrieked at him, nearly loosing her footing on the slick surface again.
Race looked over his shoulder to smirk at her, and ran.
Mayaki screamed in frustration, sounding almost more wyvern than human. She pitched a pair of her knives at him, but he was already too far away to hit. "Aaaarrrggghh! He's getting away!" She scuffled her feet, trying to propel herself toward the edge of the ice, but getting nowhere for her efforts. "Goddammit!"
"It'd be a real shame to let him just escape, don't you think?" Xellos said, casually perched on a convenient tree branch, having a cup of tea. "Go after him."
"I don't suppose you'd like to help," she asked wearily.
The Mazoku grinned down at her. "Time for you to fly, my little bird."
"Fly... Hmm, fly!" she thought aloud. Flashing to her wyvern shape with a burst of green mist and easily launched off the ice.
Zelgaddis stared from his low vantage point. He'd never seen so much hate in her eyes. "Mayaki!" he called after her as she rose up over the treetops with a few graceful swoops of her wings. Maybe he could still reason with her. "Mayaki, no!"
"Raaaaeeeeck.." replied the wyvern spitefully as she sailed after Race.
Xellos bobbed down next to him. "Well, aren't you a mess, Zel?"
The chimaera struggled against the grasp of the Shadow Snap. "You do anything to her, Xellos, and I swear on all I am, I'll kill you."
"Tsk, tsk. I was just going to ask you if you wanted up." Zel growled at him. The Mazoku smiled mischievously. "I'll take that as a yes. Lightening!" The light spell caused Zel's shadow to disappear and he quickly got to his feet, leaping off the frozen pond of road and dashing after the wyvern. Xellos smirked and tried to sound disinterested. "Oh well. I may as well go along to watch." He glided along after Zelgaddis, hovering just above the ground.
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. ;)