a Slayers fanfic
Chapter 26: A Gripping Best-Seller
Amelia practiced her words as she approached Zelas's library. Maybe Miss Lina would lay off her for a while if she got her way about the furniture. "Mister Zelgaddis, we need to... no. Mister Zelgaddis, we would really like it if... Mister Zelgaddis, could we...? Ohh, this is really going to be hard," she moped. After another rehearsal or two, she was ready to face him with the question. "Mister Zelgaddis, we were wondering if you might have someplace to..."
She stood beside the library doors, grimacing again at the gruesome carvings. She turned to look over her shoulder at Lina and Gourry, both peeing around the corner at her supportively.
"Go on, go on!" Lina shooed cheerfully. It was more than obvious what her ultimate motive was. Amelia balked, but steadied her resolve and was reaching for the twisted iron handle of the dark, heavy door when it suddenly flew open in her face. She squeaked fearfully and leapt backward to avoid being squashed between the wood of the door and the stone wall.
"Mayaki!" Zelgaddis shouted, hurtling explosively through the corridor. "Mayaki!"
Amelia flattened herself against the wall to save herself from being trampled by the chimaera. He shot past using his demon speed, so fast that the wind he generated in his wake stirred her cape and ruffled her hair out of place.
"Mister Zelgaddis!' she cried out to him belatedly. He was already gone, moving faster than any human was capable of, even using magic. Her eyes teared up. "He didn't even notice me," she sniffled.
Lina and Gourry joined her. "Geez, where's he off to so fast?" the sorceress asked.
"Yeah, what's the rush?" her companion added.
Amelia wiped her nose. "He's off to see Mayaki."
* * * * *
"Mayaki! Alemo!" Zel burst through the door to the dining hall, where the two half-wyverns and Xellos sat, discussing this and that while dinner cooked out in the central courtyard. Zelgaddis's arrival was so sudden and so vehement, almost panicked, that the three of them jumped to their feet. He startled Mayaki so much she let out a short, sharp scream as she leapt up.
"Zelgaddis! What is it?" she squeaked, scolding herself for her childish reaction.
"Are we under attack?" Alemo drew his long sword, holding it at the ready. Xellos looked around confusedly, still unused to the dullness of human senses. Ordinarily he would have heard an attack coming quite literally a mile away, possibly further if they were especially loud. But no more. The thought of mortality asserted itself as his mind raced, searching futilely for some sort of weapon to defend himself with.
Zelgaddis looked up at him in tome to see the expression on the priest-general's face. He smiled wickedly. *How does it feel to be human, Xellos?* he thought, thoroughly amused.
Xellos, though he did not hear Zelgaddis's inner thoughts, could rather sense them in the proud smirk the chimaera gave him. The priest scowled, partly at Zelgaddis, though mostly at himself. He had no power now, he was no longer a Mazoku. That was no reason for him to become a coward, and he chided himself for acting so foolishly, attack or no.
Zel drew his attention back to the matter at hand, speaking excitedly, and quite out of character for one who played the part of the heartless swordsman and sorcerer. "No, no attack," he said, "but look at this!" He laid the book on the table before them. It immediately shed a thick layer of library dust onto the table and into the air, making everyone cough and wave their hands to clear the dust away from themselves. A disappointed silence pervaded the room as the other three stared at Zelgaddis. Alemo lowered his sword slowly. Mayaki brushed a loose strand of russet-burgundy hair out of her face and behind her ear.
"Zel," she started, quietly and calmly, "You.. scared.. THE HELL out of us! Do you ever do that again!!" she screamed at him.
The amused, wry grin never left his face as he pushed the book across the table to her. "Aren't you going to see what I've brought for you?"
With a snort of irritation, she picked up the dusty tome and wiped it slightly with her apron. She held it up in one hand (though it was rather heavy) to read the title. " 'The Origin of the Wyvern Race,' " she read nonchalantly, promptly looking more dazed at the rest of the title. " 'An Historical Account of Wyverns, as told by...Elric Debarro'?" Mayaki's jaw slacked open.
"What?!" Alemo exclaimed, pouncing on the book to see for himself. Mayaki gazed back to Zelgaddis in confusion. "My father wrote this book? But...how can that be?"
The chimaera shook his head. "Who's to say?"
Xellos, trying to look bored, sat on the table, resting his feet on the back of one of the chairs. "Well, you know how it is... when you live forever, you'll do just about anything to amuse yourself." He looked at the nails on one hand and buffed them lightly on the shoulder of his cloak.
Alemo snorted. "You sound like you speak from personal experience."
"Naturally," the priest grinned back at him.
Mayaki ignored their conversation, scanning through the book's contents, noting bits of the tales about wyverns that her mother had always told her. She blinked and realized that they had probably come straight from Elric himself. A certain passage caught her eye as she skimmed through the pages. She read aloud for the others, but softly enough that they had to lean in to hear her. "Contact with the human race is infrequent, though wyverns may change their form to a human one in order to walk among them unnoticed. Relations with humans seem to be even rarer, and, sadly, often end in disaster. This may be attributed to wyverns' attitude toward humans, or the humans' general opinion of wyverns. Such relations, if ever found out, are highly disproved of by both races."
"Well," Alemo interrupted, muttering to himself, "at least we know that we'll be hated by both sides..."
Mayaki shot him a scathing glance and continued without comment. "The offspring of these rare unions capture the best and worst of both worlds: of humans, they gain the wonderful capacity for thought and emotion, freedom of spirit, and the perspective to see life as new and fleeting each day: something overlooked by those races that live aeons, who have all but forgotten what it is to live in the moment. Yet thus they also inherit the brevity of human life, living only the span of seventy years or slightly more. On the other side of the coin, half-wyverns will inherit the powers of the wyvern: breath of flame, flight, claws, horns, tail, use of the Astral Plane, shapeshifting, etc-however, this has been observed to be coupled with the insatiable lust for blood and black emotions which plagues every member of the Wyvern Race." Mayaki paused for a moment, digesting the text and also swallowing harshly over the lump in her throat. "At first, this may seem utterly hopeless to the half-breed offspring, though one must recall, as I discussed earlier in this volume, that wyverns are masters of the corpus mutato, the changing of form. The Race is such masters of this art that they may, with permission, change not only the forms of themselves, but also the forms of those around them. This was the sacrifice of the Wyvern Race; in exchange for the power of shapeshifting, all wyverns shed their forelimbs, and to this day stagger upon two feet not designed for walking upright. Thus, a wyvern may take or give any form but that of a member of the Dragon Race." Mayaki looked up, locking gaze with Zelgaddis. She could tell simply by looking that he had not known about this, had not read through that chapter himself. His face was consumed by a look of excruciating, desperate hope. She knew his thoughts as well as her own, because, in a way, they were her own. A cure. A way. A miracle. To be human, that was all that either of them wanted. No one else in the room existed in that moment.
"Where?" he asked, his voice the barest whisper.
Mayaki had to tear herself away from his eyes, she was so hypnotized by the pools of deep, hungry, endless blue they held. Deep Sea herself would have been envious of the ocean they held. Mayaki stammered slightly as she broke free, glancing around to Xellos and her half-brother, then focused back on the book. "Let's see...it...doesn't seem like it says here... Hold on." Once again she began skimming the book's contents, a page at a time. Xellos made an attempt to read over her shoulder while Alemo simply sat across the table from them, watching her like a hawk. The mention of their father had him stewing. His expression told that much. The news hadn't put him in a very good mood.
At that point, three more bodies entered the room at a run. Ignoring the rapt silence in the room, Lina burst out with, "Hey, Zel! Can we store some of this great furniture at your place? How big is your place anyway? And don't worry, this is just until we can get back and sell it off." Lina was wringing her hands anxiously, anticipating the moment of sale.
Zelgaddis only looked confused. She might as well have asked him to take his head off his shoulders and roll it across the room. He cocked his head at her curiously, one eyebrow dipping much lower than the other. "What?" His mind wasn't even in the right gear to process her question. Lina, of course, didn't recognize this.
"Come on, Zel! We know you've gotta have a mansion or palace or something somewhere! Why not let us use it to store stuff in while you look for your cure, huh?" She aimed a winning smile-and-wink combo at him. "We'll even cut you in for fifteen percent of the profit! Whaddya say?"
Amelia paused, doing the math in her head. "Wait a minute, Miss Lina! That's not fair for Mister Zelgaddis at all! Even if we split it seven ways, we'd each get fourteen percent!"
"Quiet, Amelia," Lina instructed, holding a hand over the princess's mouth. "Twenty percent then, Zel."
"What are you..." ...talking about, he would have said, except that Lina cut him off.
"Fine, twenty-one percent, but I'm not going any higher."
Zel's mind finally caught on and clued in. "How do you even know I have a palace to put your stuff in?" he queried with a smirk.
"Oh, come ON! You don't think we're that dense, do you, Zel?
The smirk dropped. "Huh?"
"Traveling with someone for three years gives you a lot of time to get to know them. Even if they don't come right out and tell you about their past, there's some things that you can just tell about a person." Lina's smile never broke.
Zel glared at her out of the corner of his eye. "Such as?"
"Such as, you have servants. More than just Zolf and Rodimus, I'd wager, since you sent so many to look for the Philosopher's Stone for you."
The chimaera's eyes widened at the mention of his compatriots and minions. It had been a long time since he had thought of them, and he was slightly ashamed that he hadn't. The battle with Shabranigdo had been three years ago, the battle when they had both been killed. "Rest their souls," he murmured.
"Second," Lina continued, oblivious now that she was on a roll, "you don't act like a commoner like Gourry or I. You're not as formal as Amelia or Phil, so I'm guessing you're not royalty, but you're still a higher-up. It's in your posture," she explained at Zel's rather dumbfounded look. "You can take the prince out of the castle, but you can't... mh, well, you get my meaning. Plus, you're Rezo the Red Priest's grandson, um, sort of, so I bet you and your family are pretty well-taken-care-of. When you tried to buy the Oryhalcon statue from me, you said that money was no object. So you're pretty rich. And given the choice of saying mansion or palace right now, you chose palace, which tells me that living in a simple mansion is out of the question for you." She paused triumphantly before asking, "Am I right?", knowing full well that she was.
Zelgaddis sighed, defeated.
"Twenty-one percent," said Lina.
"I'll hold you to it," Zel grinned back to her. Then he turned back to the table. "Find anything yet, Mayaki?"
The girl kept turning pages without looking up. "Not yet," she said sourly. "This isn't going to do us any good if we can't find out where the Wyvern Race lives..."
Lina blinked at them. "You... you found a cure?" The idea completely astounded her. Before, it had been just an abstract goal to her... something that was out there somewhere, ideally, that they were trying haphazardly to find. But the blurry image had just become startlingly clear.
"Maybe," Zel confirmed, eyes fixed on the book. He didn't dare be more optimistic, lest he change their good fortune.
"Zel, That's great!" Gourry shouted.
"Hurray!" Amelia echoed.
Zel whirled on them quickly. "I said maybe. We haven't confirmed anything yet and it's still a matter of finding out where these wyverns are." The room was silent as every pair of eyes focussed on him. He banged a stone fist on the heavy table in frustration. The impact left a gouge in the varnished wood, exposing the original color within. Zelgaddis stared at it and winced.
"Well," Xellos ventured awkwardly, "at least now you know it exists ..."
The chimaera seized him by the neck. "You shut up! You're the last person I want to hear this from!" He threw the priest into a chair. Xellos let out an "oof!", followed by a yelp as the chair tipped over backward from his momentum. Zelgaddis stormed out of the room, slamming the door behind him.
Amelia started after him, but stopped, her words catching in her chest. She was getting a better idea of when Zelgaddis needed to be by himself. She stared piteously at the door.
Xellos and Mayaki exchanged a glance. Lina watched the door slam and shrugged. "So, what's the book about, Mayaki?"
"I'll tell you in a second," the half-wyvern snarled acidly.
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. ;)