a Slayers fanfic
Chapter 21: In the Doghouse
Somewhere beneath the Demon Sea, the others were having a nice spot of tea and discussing their escape options when Deep Sea was out of earshot.
"We've got to get out of here," Alemo mumbled to Zelgaddis.
The chimaera nodded. "I think we've established that. The problem is, how?"
"Why, 'how,' Mister Zelgaddis? Can't we just look for a door or something?"
Zel shook his head at the diminutive princess. "We're too far under water for that. Even using magic, the pressure would probably squash us flat."
"Deep Sea must know of some way out..." Lina tried.
He shook his head again. "If she could use the Astral Plane, she wouldn't ever have to."
"So... we're stuck here?" the blonde swordsman checked.
"Looks that way. Unless Deep Sea really wants to help... er..." Lina broke the conversation off as the Mazoku trotted up with a tray of snacks.
"Would anyone care for a crumpet? I've just baked them myself! Crumpet? Crumpet?"
Alemo took one cautiously with a polite thank you, while Lina and Gourry dove into them instantly, squabbling over the food. Deep Sea was more than a little pleased, watching them fight each other. She soaked up the extra bit of negative energy with a wide smile. Then she sighed. "I admit they came out rather dry... and a bit on the salty side. But they always do, I suppose..."
Alemo looked up with interest. "Perhaps my sister could help you with that. She's a rather brilliant cook, for as young as she is. If you'd let us go to rescue- "
Deep Sea snorted. "Posh. I won't hear of it. I so seldom get visitors down here, and I do so enjoy the company. Come along, I'll show you boys to your rooms at the other end of the palace. Us girls need our privacy, after all. And we can stay up late tonight and talk about men behind their backs and paint our nails!" she chirped excitedly.
Lina huffed. "I don't believe this! We're never gonna get Mayaki away from Xellos at this rate!"
The Mazoku lord froze in place. Her eye twitched. "Xellos?" she said with a rather frightening edge to her voice. "Xellos Metallium?"
"The very same. You know that pain in the ass?" Zel queried sourly.
Deep Sea didn't so much as look at him for a minute, then opened up and screamed her lungs out. Lina had to look up to make sure that the glass wasn't going to crack and let the sea in on top of them. Deep Sea's tray clattered to the floor, adding to the racket and sending crumpets flying in all directions. The Mazoku clutched her silvery hair in her fists, threatening to tear it out. Everyone was staring at her, but she didn't seem to notice or care.
"Yep, that's Xellos's work all right," Zel muttered to himself.
"He sure isn't good at making friends, is he?" Gourry mused.
Alemo tapped a finger on his chin. "You don't get along with this Xellos creature either then, Deep Sea?"
She screeched again. "I can't stand him! If I ever catch him setting a foot in my house-no, my whole ocean-ever ever again, I'll... I'll... I'll...well, I don't know what I'll do exactly, but I can tell you there won't be many leftovers afterward!"
Alemo put a comforting hand on her back and walked her around the room to calm her nerves. "As a matter of fact, my dear Tsarina Deep Sea, we were on our way to kill Xellos ourselves when we got swept up by your whirlpool-a lovely touch, that. Very scenic. You see, he's the one that's taken my sister away. If you could get us to the surface again, we could..." -he made a cutting gesture at his throat-"...amend the situation."
Lina blinked at him. "Spoken like a true assassin, Alemo." He glared scathingly at her.
In any case, though, he had Deep Sea's attention. "You'd do that for pretty little me?" she giggled.
Alemo nodded his head once. "I'll even draw it out, make it a slow death, but only because it's you, Dear Tsarina Dolphin. I'll drive him absolutely mad with the pain."
Deep Sea's eyes glimmered with the prospect. She squeaked happily.
"But, it's a pity... he's at Wolfpack Island, up on the surface, while we're down here having tea and biscuits..."
"Say no more!" she cackled, making a strangling motion in the air in front of her with her long fingers, no doubt imagining Xellos's neck caught between them. "I have an idea! I could send you all back to the surface and let you get rid of him for me!"
"Brilliant idea, my lady," Alemo bowed, ever the tactician.
Deep Sea caught him around the neck and bent him down to her level, though he towered over her. He ducked obligingly, noting her apprehensive glances around the large hall. "But," she whispered confidentially, "you must hurry, brave knight..." Her eyes flicked wildly from side to side, making sure no one had heard her except Alemo. "...the beetles are coming!" she whispered in a paranoid manner.
Alemo started to stare, but covered his expression with a trusting nod. "I'll keep that in mind, m'lady."
"Goo-ood!" she sang. "You'd best be on your way then!" She summoned an extravagantly large bubble around them. The whirlpool once again began its whirling above the main hall, an impressive sight from the underside. With a gesture from Deep Sea, the bubble rapidly accelerated straight up, sending its five occupants to the floor in surprise. Once it had cleared the opening of the deadly whirlpool, she made a motion of throwing something over her shoulder, as if she didn't particularly care where the object landed. Above, the bubble mimicked her action, as if it was held in her hand. When she tossed it, it shot over the water with unheard-of speed. The sphere's passengers shouted and complained as the change in inertia sent them sprawling over one another uncomfortably. Still, they were moving so much faster now that they didn't dare make a fuss.
Below, Deep Sea thought aloud to herself. "Nice bunch of kids. Real nice to come for a visit." She crossed her arms and smiled satisfactorily, then raised one arm and waving goodbye to the speeding bubble. She stood and stared at the wall in front of her for a few minutes, not seeming to realize she couldn't actually see the projectile at all. "I'll tell you what, though, Margaret," she said to the empty space on her left, "they were every one of them completely insane."
* * * * *
Mayaki snatched up a knife in each hand. She pressed herself half against the door and half against Xellos. Wolf snarls came at them from all sides. Mayaki, being raised in the woods and warned time and again about how dangerous wolves were, felt like every nerve in her body was about to shatter. "Well," she asked nervously, feeling only slightly secure with the Mazoku against her back, "what're we going to do?" Furry muzzles lined with teeth peeked out from the growing darkness.
Xellos held his chin in one hand interestedly. "Hmm," he said, irritatingly calm.
"What, 'Hmm?"' Can't you float us out of here or something?"
"Well, I could, but..." The wolves formed a tight half-moon around them.
"But? We're gonna get ripped to shreds! What 'but?'"
A deafening shriek tore through the castle, echoing across the little island. "XELLOS!!!" it screamed.
"...that," he grimaced by way of explanation. "She might have the same thing in mind for me as she did for you: strip me of my powers and then... Well, in any case, it's best that we stick to the ground."
"Oh," Mayaki blinked. "Right." She pressed herself further against him, holding one arm out and brandishing her knife at the wolf nearest her.
"Zelas is not exactly pleased with me," he chuckled nervously, trailing off as the wolves began closing in. "Hm," he snorted disdainfully, then threw a rather large fireball at the pack. The wolves that weren't instantly incinerated by it retreated rather quickly, howling and yelping. The smell of burnt flesh and hair hung heavy in the air.
Mayaki covered her mouth and tried to keep from gagging, staring at the charred remains of the closest wolves. She felt sick.
Xellos grabbed her wrist and towed her along behind him. "You can admire my work later. For now, run!"
"Eeep!" she responded, desperately coaxing her feet into motion.
* * * * *
The bubble Deep Sea had summoned screeched to an abrupt halt once it reached the shore, throwing its five occupants into the front wall in a pile. Then it burst, dropping them several feet off the ground and letting gravity do the rest of the work. The group let out a short collective scream before they had the wind knocked out of them by the beach rushing up to meet them. After a few motionless moments, someone found the strength to groan. Lina, at the top of the pile, finally sat up and complained loudly. "What kind of kook is that Deep Sea Dolphin?! Is she trying to kill us?!"
"Ugh, I feel sick," Amelia moaned, picking herself up next.
A muffled voice interrupted the girls. "Not to trouble anyone, but I can't breathe down here..."
They both looked down. "Oops," Lina giggled innocently.
"Sorry, Mister Gourry!" Amelia added, trying to scramble off the heap of bodies. "Ouch... Mister Zelgaddis, your elbows are really hard!"
Zel blushed deeply as he stood and calmly brushed himself off. "Er, that wasn't my elbow, Amelia..." he tried to explain. Her eyes nearly popped out of their sockets.
"Waaaahh! I want to die!" she wailed, trying to hide behind Lina. "I want to die! I want to die!"
"Ack! Amelia, cut it out!"
Alemo looked irritated as he dusted sand off his trousers. "I don't suppose anyone here would actually care to rescue my sister like we came here to do?" he grumbled.
Lina frowned at him, then cracked him on the head with her fist. "We were getting to that! Come on, they must be around here somewhere."
"Better be ready in case they attack. You saw how Mayaki was the other night. She might not want to listen to reason next time," Zel warned sourly.
"Yeah, yeah, I know," Lina snapped at him. "We were all there, Zel."
"Miss Lina," Amelia asked, trotting to keep pace with her, "what will we do if Miss Mayaki is all Mazoku? Do you know how we can change her back?"
Lina stopped mid-stride. "Um... no..." the sorceress confessed.
"What?!" Alemo gawped.
"Lina, you really don't know?"
"No, Gourry! I kinda figured Amelia's de-possession spell might work..."
"MIGHT work?" Zel groaned. "Lina..."
She huffed back at him, "Well, what was I supposed to do? Just let Xellos do whatever he wanted while we were off doing research? Yeah, right!" She stalked forward, the other following at a slight distance.
Amelia suddenly wasn't as full of hope as she usually felt. "What if we can't get her back?" The group stopped dead in their tracks, shocked at the princess's sudden pessimism; where she was normally a ray of sunshine every minute of the day, she seemed not only subdued, but depressed, and probably with good reason. No one had wanted to bring up the question that had occurred to all of them at some point, weighing heavily on them as a whole. It wasn't something that any of them wanted to think about. Amelia looked about ready to cry.
Zel set a hand on her shoulder. "We'll find a way, Amelia. And if we can't," he paused carefully, "...well, it was her choice to begin with... she'll have to live with it." He sighed heavily.
"But... that's not- "
"I know it's not right, Amelia. I know it's not just or fair or anything you would like it to be," Zel snapped at her, "but life sometimes doesn't work that way, and we just have to deal with it." He gave her one of his bare smiles. "Don't worry. This will turn out right somehow."
The princess was suddenly enraged. "You'd just leave her here?!"
"It's her choice! Let her live with it like I've had to live with mine!" He gave her a scouring glare, locking eyes with her.
"Zelgaddis, she loves you!" the young woman shouted at him, skipping her usual pleasantries.
The chimaera looked shocked for more than one reason. Amelia herself seemed stunned that she'd actually had the courage to say such a thing, but she wasn't about to back down, her posture straight and defiant as a princess's should be. Zel kept staring. He had no idea what he could say to her... he felt completely helpless.
"Hello... Zel, Amelia... hate to interrupt this romantic interlude, but we're in a very dangerous, very open place right now... Do you think you could break this off long enough for us to get Mayaki and go?" Lina tapped her foot impatiently, bracing her fists on her hips.
Zel blushed. "She's right. We can talk later."
"Grr.." said Amelia, storming toward the castle at the center of the small island when the south tower suddenly exploded.
* * * * *
"Aaaa!" Mayaki squealed as the force of the explosion sent her off her feet and into the muddy ground. Beside her, Xellos had met a similar fate, though he was already sitting up.
"Wow... I haven't seen her do that for at least three hundred years... she is severely pissed now, I'd say," he observed.
"So I noticed." Mayaki scanned the underbrush for a suitable place to hide, coming up empty. Zelas had probably designed things that way; she would be able to see everything on Wolfpack Island with the barest glance from the air. Looking back toward the remains of the south tower, she let out a squeak of fear. Soaring over the rubble, straight for them, was a gigantic black wolf with golden wings. "Is that.." she stammered, "..that can't be..."
"Zelas," the Mazoku priest finished for her. For the first time in hundreds of years, and the first time in human memory, Xellos looked truly afraid.
The wolf sped across the sky like a bolt of black lightning and stopped just as suddenly, not so much hovering as simply hanging suspended in the air above the two refugees.
"A thousand years I look after you, and this is the thanks you show me," the wolf snarled, opening and closing its mouth as if it were speaking human language, though the source of the sound was not from its throat, but rather the very air around them. It surrounded them in much the same way that the wolves were encircling them now, hundreds of pairs of starving, wild eyes focused on the intruders to their island. Their stomachs made them braver by the minute. Zelas gave them a nod with her canine snout, and every one of them obeyed her, sitting obediently on their haunches to wait for her signal. Mayaki peered around anxiously at the gleaming eyes, dangerously calm, waiting.
Zelas continued her tirade. "Still, Xellos, you have been a good servant for the majority of that time in my service, and even a Mazoku lord is not without mercy." Mayaki's heart leapt at those words. Was Zelas really going to let them go? It couldn't be that easy. She glanced to Xellos for confirmation. He didn't look so thrilled.
*Oh,* she thought, *She's going to offer him another chance to kill me and come back to her... lovely. Here we go again... how many times is she going to try this, honestly?*
"So," Zelas continued, "I've decided to kill you first... before I let the wolves tear your little wyvern whore to pieces." The fang-filled jaws moved in a panting motion as the Beastmaster's cackling filled the night sky.
"I decline your mercy," Xellos answered sourly, voice flat with rage.
The wolf stopped laughing. "Oh, have it your way then. Really, I thought you had a sense of fun, Xelly." She made a motion, tuning one paw over, then snapped her jaws on the air in front of her with a canine snarl. The Mazoku priest fell to his knees, clutching at his chest in sudden agony.
"Xellos!" Mayaki yelped, trying to help him back to his feet again. The hovering creature jerked backward like a dog tearing at a rag. Mayaki saw it for what it was: the equivalent of what Zelas, in human form, had done to her.
Except that it wasn't. It was much, much worse, and she realized it as Xellos screamed again and again as Zelas's loaned power was torn from his person. Unlike Mayaki, it was more firmly attached, the blackness of it merging and becoming his soul. The tiny amount of evil that Zelas had ripped out of her had only been in her system for a few weeks and it had nearly been enough to make her pass out. Xellos, on the other hand, had been attached to his share of evil for quite a long time, and by now it was extremely resistant to being torn away from him. Mayaki watched in horror. He must have been feeling that every nerve in his body was doused in kerosene and set fire to, or fed through a mincer, piece by piece of himself being shredded and falling apart... and yet the agony was not enough to make him fall into unconsciousness. Mayaki realized that Zelas was taking her power back slowly, prolonging the torture as long as she wanted. The mist that emanated from his body was like a thousand snakes, black even compared to the moonless night.
Mayaki could only watch as the Mazoku lord drained the energy out of the priest, utterly helpless. "Xellos!" she cried again, watching him weaken further. He dropped his staff, the blood-colored crystal striking a rock and shattering on the barren ground, releasing streams of even blacker mist-the color of Nothing-which flowed to the wolf's body like a river of evil. She laughed darkly, the sound of a grave being dug in her voice. A thousand wolf eyes gleamed red.
Xellos's echoing screams died down until he was only whimpering-too weak to scream any more. His jaws clenched against the ongoing pain, not taking any notice of the small woman beside him. His eyes became glassy, his vision dulled, it was becoming a challenge to keep his eyelids from falling shut...but he couldn't let Zelas win. His shoulders began to sag, and he put one hand out to steady himself against the ground. Gods, the fire...the fire he felt in his entire body-would the torment ever end?
Mayaki's mind raced. *Have to do something... she's killing him! But what could I do against a Mazoku lord? I'm only a half-wyvern and...*
Her thought would have continued if the evil river flowing from Xellos hadn't paled and ceased in the next moment. The priest collapsed fully, heaving exhausted sighs of something that wasn't quite relief. Mayaki helped him to sit up and dragged him back against the trunk of the tree to lean against. Her eyes never left Zelas.
"Now..." she chuckled wickedly, "What shall I do with you?" The wolf's face bore a horrible grin as the Greater Beast sucked up the fear Mayaki provided. With a mental command, the entire ring of wolves took a step forward. Mayaki jumped at the sudden movement. Zelas let out a peal of laughter that all but shook the ground. "They tell me I really shouldn't play with my food, but pure fear is such a tasty dish... Tell me, little wyvern, are you afraid of me now?"
Mayaki never had a chance to answer, interrupted by a blaze of light that crashed into Zelas with enough force to send her spinning head over tail in midair twice before she could recover. And about that time, the second round hit her.
A hopeful grin spread over Mayaki's face as the cavalry arrived and a plan began to coalesce in her mind. "Astral attacks, of course!" She stood just as another red half-wyvern landed before her.
"Mayaki, come on! Let's go!" Alemo commanded, eyeing the exhausted Xellos at her feet. A snarl curled his lips, revealing needle-sharp teeth and indicating the possibility of sinking them into the Mazoku priest.
Mayaki moved protectively between the two of them. "Wait. Do you know how to travel on the Astral plane, Alemo?" she asked.
"Mayaki, this is not time for questions..."
"It's important, Alemo. Please trust me!"
"We have to GO! Lina doesn't know how long she can hold the lady Mazoku off!"
The wyvern girl gave him a sly smirk. "I know how we can beat her."
Alemo blinked at her, then focussed one yellow eye on Xellos. "Well, certainly looks like you took care of this one," he growled.
Mayaki shook her head. "Zelas did that to him. Leave him be, Alemo. He's not the enemy right now."
"What? No! He tried to-"
"Would you drop it?!" she snapped at him, temper suddenly flaring up to meet his head-on. "Can you do Astral Travel or not?"
The wyvern snorted. "No."
"Damn. I'll be on my own then." She braced her reserve. "That's okay. Alemo, I need you to attack Zelas here while I attack her Astral body. Got it?"
"I don't know! Er...help the others get in some close-range shots or something!"
The figure behind Mayaki finally managed to get a word in. "Mayaki... don't... you'll be killed..."
"Xellos!" She turned and knelt by him. "Are you all right?"
"...felt better. Don't go... you'll never be able to-"
"Shush. Um, stay here. I'll be back soon." With that, she transformed to her wyvern shape and phased out. Alemo gave the priest one last hard look before launching himself off the ground powerfully and soaring back toward the battle zone, dodging magic bolts from both sides, knowing full well that an Astral attack, while harmless to a human, could do some severe damage to a wyvern like himself.
Xellos sat back hard, leaning against the scraggly evergreen for support. He closed his eyes until he stopped feeling dizzy and rubbed one of his temples to ease the headache the power-drain had caused. Then he blinked at the tight line of shining, red eyes and groaned a little, realizing he was still in a fix, but glad that Zelas had temporarily forgotten him, or more importantly, she had forgotten to sic the wolves on him. An unfamiliar feeling twinged through him: concern. He hoped to the gods that Mayaki knew what she was doing...
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. ;)