a Slayers fanfic
Chapter 18: Terms of Service
Amelia sat by herself, brooding. Every now and then she looked over at Zelgaddis, who had refused to say so much as a word since Mayaki and Xellos had disappeared. She had wanted Mayaki to go away so badly, even though she'd known it was wrong... Amelia wanted Zelgaddis all to herself. Well, she'd gotten her wish, and Zel was miserable. She hadn't wanted him to be unhappy-that wasn't how things were supposed to be! And since Zel wasn't happy, she couldn't be either.
Mayaki was the missing piece of the puzzle, and at the same time, a barrier to what Amelia was after.
She tried rationalizing things. *I'm not happy because Mister Zelgaddis isn't happy. Mister Zelgaddis isn't happy because Miss Mayaki isn't here. Miss Mayaki isn't here because Mister Xellos took her to Wolfpack Island. So if I want to be happy...*
"I've got to go to Wolfpack Island," she muttered aloud.
*But if I go to Wolfpack Island to rescue Miss Mayaki from Mister Xellos, she'll come back. And if she comes back, Mister Zelgaddis will be happy again. And if he's happy because she's back...*
"...It means he loves her."
*And if he loves her...*
"...then he doesn't love me."
*...and I'll be miserable. But if I don't bring her back, Mister Zelgaddis will still be miserable, and I'll be miserable if he's miserable...*
*...and I want Mister Zelgaddis to be happy.*
*I'll be miserable either way,* she concluded. "So I have to bring Miss Mayaki back. After all, it's the right thing to do." She began gathering her things up. She cast a look at the mournful chimaera and blinked back tears. "Poor Mister Zelgaddis..." she whispered. She could be content so long as he was, and that would be enough, even if she wasn't the one in his favor. She'd never forgive herself if she didn't go. Daddy would be proud of her.
She strode away with her jaw set and determination heavy upon her shoulders.
Lina looked up as she trooped by. "Hey, Amelia! Where ya goin'?"
"I'm going to get Miss Mayaki back!" she announced.
The sorceress blinked. "Hey, hold it, wait a minute! You're not going on your own! Prince Phil would have my head if anything happened to you!" Lina scrambled to her feet. "Besides, she's my friend too. I'm not just gonna let that creep Xellos hijack her from us!"
Amelia met her eyes and nodded.
"Come on, Gourry," the little redhead commanded. The swordsman looked up confusedly from his spot on the grass.
"We're leaving already?"
"Yeah, Gourry. We don't exactly have a lot of time to spare here."
Baffled as ever, he stood up obediently and picked up his sword. "Where exactly are we going, Lina?"
"Right where Mayaki said they were going: Wolfpack Island. If she's not all Mazoku, there might be a way to bring her back."
"But... what if she is all Mazoku?" he asked. "Will we have to fight her?"
Lina stopped walking. "Er, let's not think about that right now," she laughed nervously. She yelled back over her shoulder. "Hey, Zel! Come on! We're leaving!"
Zelgaddis sat beside the road like a stone lump, not so much as acknowledging Lina's shout to him.
"Zel! What are you, deaf? We're going to get Mayaki!"
"Well, fine, then! Be that way! We'll just go without you, then!" Lina humphed. She hated being ignored, even if Zel did have a good reason for ignoring the whole world at the moment. She stomped off down the road, Gourry and Amelia following her. After a few minutes, she stopped in her tracks. "Does...anyone know...how to get to Wolfpack Island?"
"No, Miss Lina."
"We were just following you."
The sorceress let out a long, deep sigh, drooped, and trudged back the way they'd just come. "Zel still has the map. Why me?"
Zelgaddis hadn't moved an inch when they got back. Lina approached him while Amelia dug the maps out from the packhorse's load. "We're back! Didja miss us, Zel?" After a moment of silence, the sorceress sighed again. *Ohh.. he's all depressed again...* she groaned mentally. "Hey! Answer me when I talk to you, Zel!" she shouted at him, kicking him over with one foot.
"Knock it off," he finally said, sulkily righting himself.
"You coming, or what?"
Lina brightened, marching down the road happily. "That's the spirit, Zel! Let's go! - huh? No?" she gaped, stumbling.
"Go on without me," the response came.
Lina growled. "Look, buddy, it's your girlfriend we're going to rescue here..."
That got a reaction. "She's not my girlfriend!" he snarled at her violently, balling his fists and clenching his eyes shut. The silence that followed was much too deep.
In an attempt to fill the conversational void, Amelia called out, "Miss Lina, I got the map! Where are we at?"
Lina shook her head at Zel's stubbornness and strolled over to the others. "How should I know?"
Amelia blinked. "Well, in that case, which way is north?"
"Uhhhhh..." came the answer.
"I think that's west," Gourry put in.
"Who asked your opinion?!"
Zel watched them bicker over the map and all four points of the compass and almost laughed at how ridiculously lost they all were. He sighed and shook his head, trudging over to them and snatching the somewhat mangled map away from them. "Give me that! You guys are really pathetic, you know that?"
"Oh, so you wanna come along now, huh, Zel?" Lina teased.
"Only because you all couldn't find your way to Wolfpack Island if you were standing on it."
Amelia smiled brightly. The journey wouldn't be the same without Zelgaddis.
"Great!" Lina cheered. "Let's go, then!" She marched down the road again, humming triumphantly. Zel tugged her back by the cape.
"For starters, Wolfpack Island is to the south," he groaned at her.
"But... but... we just CAME from that way! You mean we have to go BACK?!"
Zelgaddis glared at her. "You can keep heading north if you want, but you won't get to Wolfpack Island that way."
"Ohhhh..." Lina moaned.
* * * * *
Mayaki became increasingly nervous as she and Xellos approached the island, soaring along the Astral Plane. Her thoughts mostly revolved around Greater Beast Zelas. Would she think Mayaki was evil enough, even though Mayaki wasn't certain herself? What if she didn't? What if she DID? What if...
"Something the matter, little bird?" Xellos asked, gliding closer to her.
Mayaki shook herself out of her thoughts. "Oh, just a little anxious, I guess."
"I told you before," he said, gently stroking her hair behind her ear. "I'll take care of it. You haven't a thing to worry about."
"Hope you're right..." she muttered to herself. "...or I'm history."
The island rose up out of the ocean beneath them, so quickly that Mayaki barely saw the shore at all as it whizzed past. It wasn't a large island, by any means. Zelas preferred it that way; it was virtually impossible to stumble onto it through chance alone, and only slightly less difficult to find it if one was looking for it. Of course, Zelas had accounted for any contingency of unwanted visitors. Mayaki peered down at the huge fleet of wolves roaming the forest below them. She wondered how such a small area could support so many carnivores, since there didn't appear to be any large prey roaming about. Aside of the none-too-frequent lost sailor for a meal, she didn't imagine there was near enough meat to go around.
...unless they ate each other. Constantly having to fend off their own pack would make all the wolves especially vicious.
*Or Zelas-MASTER Zelas, Mayaki-might keep them fed. They certainly are thin, though... their ribs are showing. Look at that one! Skin and bones! If she feeds them, it must not be enough...*
A high-pitched yelp made Mayaki turn her head to see the pack tearing apart an older, weaker member to pieces-a sacrifice made for the greater good. Survival took priority over family here, even if it meant cannibalism.
A thought suddenly dawned on her. *If Master Zelas doesn't like me... I'll be-*
"Ah, it's nice to be home," Xellos interrupted her mind. "I admit, it's rather a long way off, even through the Astral Plane."
"That was long?"
Xellos thought. "I suppose it's quite fast for you, this being your first time and all," he smirked, "but after a while, you'll see... it's just another way to get where you're going. And dull, at that." Mayaki was more focussed on the wolves shredding their comrade and fighting over the scraps, looking back over her shoulder at them. "Ah. Master's little pets," he quipped, rather unenthusiastically.
"They're her pets?"
Xellos shrugged. "Beastmaster Zelas has a soft spot for wolves." He glanced at the pack rather indifferently. "Not that I blame her. I'm really more of a cat person myself, but it's not a good idea to argue these things with one's master."
"Noted," Mayaki nodded with a slight shudder.
The pair of them circled the walls and inner courtyard of the palace. Mayaki touched down lightly on one toe as they floated down for a landing. Xellos caught her around the waist and gave her a little peck on the cheek. "Come along, Miss Sora. Your new master awaits."
Mayaki hesitated as if she was about to say something, but obediently followed Xellos into the depths of the castle.
In traditional fashion, most of the castle was dark, what lighting there was from dimly burning torches that cast flickering shadows, hardly enough to see by if you didn't have a Mazoku's night-time vision. The halls seemed especially designed to make you feel watched by unseen eyes.
Mayaki wondered why they were coming this way instead of teleporting straight to Zelas's throne room. And then it occurred to her that it would be terrible manners, and having bad manners around someone with the kind of power Beastmaster Zelas had-well, the outcome wouldn't be good, she imagined.
She didn't really take notice of where Xellos was leading her until suddenly there was a huge door towering before her. Xellos looked a little sheepish and knocked.
"Huizzit?" a woman's voice slurred drunkenly from the other side.
Xellos flinched. "Oh no... not again..." he muttered nervously.
"Huzzere? C'mon'n schpeak up 'fore I get irrirr... irrertatered..." the door was flung open unnaturally fast. Zelas had snapped it open with a thought, drunk though she was.
Xellos finally spoke up. "It's me, Beastmaster," he manages to stammer out, tapping his fingers together anxiously.
Zelas lounged at an angle in her throne, one leg thrown over the arm and most of her body hanging off the other side. Her usually straight diamond circlet was fallen down into her face, the gem partially obscuring her right eye, though she didn't seem to mind particularly.
"Oh, 's just you, Xellosh.." the Mazoku slurred. "Whaddya want?"
Xellos gulped and smiled accommodatingly. "I've brought the wyvern girl, Master."
"Ah, you're a good boy, Xelly. Fry'er up fer dinner..."
Mayaki, peeking out from behind Xellos, squeaked slightly and panicked.
"Er... no, Master... Mayaki wishes to serve you. As your minion. Remember? I've turned her fully evil now. See?" He stepped aside and indicated the startled girl.
Mayaki blushed slightly as Zelas's full attention focused on her. She executed a quick curtsey, deferring to the Mazoku lord. "An honor to meet you, Beastmaster," she said softly.
Zelas stared at her for an uncomfortably long time. Eventually she pushed her platinum blonde hair out of her eyes and tipped her circlet back into place. "You're what my Xelly has been going on about?" she asked. Mayaki, with her head bowed, shot a glance at him and stuttered, not knowing what to answer, but apparently Zelas wasn't expecting one and went on. "Ya don't look so evil ta me..."
Mayaki blushed deeper, her temper rising to meet the challenge. She forced it back, remaining calm. "I am, Beastmaster... please, give me a chance to prove myself!"
Zelas held her chin in her hand, leaning against her throne pensively. To Mayaki, the moment that passed had taken years, and the thought weighed on her, *She doesn't like me...*
Xellos, plagued with anxiety himself, added quickly, "Yes, Master! Give her a chance... some sort of test! I know you'll like her. Mayaki, show our Master your wyvern form."
Mayaki nodded and quickly transformed, the green mist of magic spiraling around her body. "Raaack," she said with a reptilian bow to Zelas.
Zelas continued to stare, rather unimpressed. Each moment, Mayaki became more and more fearful as the powerful Mazoku scrutinized her. At long last, she gave in. "All right, girl, you have a chance. I have a misssh... a miss... something for you ta do fer me. Sucsheed, and I'll keep you 'round as my minion, like Xellos here. Fail, well, you don't want to fail, get me?"
"I understand, Master Zelas," Mayaki answered, transforming back.
The drunken woman nodded blearily. "This group you and Xelly 've been traveling with. Mina Inverts..."
"Lina Inverse, Beastmaster,"
" 's ezzacly what I jusht said! Lina Inverse Beashtmashter." The demon blinked to herself. "Ye never told me she had th' same last name as me, Xelly. We might be related! Related!" she cackled. "Ha ha!" Xellos was about to correct her when she went on. "Anyway, I'm using her to kill off the other two of Shabby-nigdo's chosen five. She's already taken out Maryuo Gaav and Phibrizzo, but I still need her to kill Dynast and Deep Sea for me. Now... 'bout this group. Mina 'r whateverrernamiz is doing fine, but I want her to speed it up a little, and these other idiots are slowing her down."
"Zelgaddis, Gourry, and Amelia," Mayaki nodded.
"Right, sure," Zelas waved her off. "Whoever they are, I don't want 'em slowing my girl down anymore. So your job, little wyvern Mayaki..." She paused, waiting for Mayaki to finish for her.
Mayaki blinked indifferently. "You want me to kill them."
Zelas smiled. "Atta girl," she praised. Outside, the wolves began howling.
A malicious grin spread over Mayaki's face. "Gladly," she said with a 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. ;)