a Slayers fanfic
Chapter 27: Like Sands in the Hourglass...
Zelgaddis could not be coaxed from his room that evening, even missing out on supper. Instead, he tried to take refuge in sleep, but was only able to doze fitfully, his dreams full of nightmare images. There was the usual presence of Rezo, making him relive his painful transformation into a chimaera, and yet, they were not the same as before. Other images were intermingled. In one, Amelia was with him and they had both been turned into chimaeras. In another, Rezo controlled his body, forcing him to slaughter his friends one by one... Lina, Gourry, Xellos, Alemo, Mayaki.
No matter how much he protested inwardly, he could not stop his arms from plunging his thin double-edged sword deep into their hearts. None of them made a move to fight back, completely and innocently trusting in his bond of friendship. He fought most when it came down to Amelia. She was the only one left, standing there amidst the blood and gore, not seeing any of her slain friends, smiling a welcoming smile at him. She never suspected him of anything, even though his body moved toward her on its own, blood-slicked sword aimed to kill her. Zelgaddis was merely a puppet, forced to watch as he murdered the girl he loved.
*No, NO!* his mind screamed, though his lips said nothing and his feet moved closer to the ever-smiling form of the innocent little princess. She barely flinched, only straightened a little as the sword bit through her soft stomach all the way to the hilt. Too late, Rezo released him, and Zel dropped to his knees as Amelia's body collapsed, the sword sticking out of her at a strange angle. The dark red stain of blood pooled behind her on the ground and profaned the pure white of her clothing. She looked up at him in shocked betrayal, and mouthed with her final breath, "Mister Zelgaddis, why?"
"Amelia! No! I didn't mean to!" he cried, holding her up with one arm.
"Why?" she repeated as the life left her eyes. "Why did you hurt me?"
"No, Amelia! I never meant to hurt you!" The dream ended with those words, giving way to other broken dreams that came and left in snippets of nonsensical horror. Mayaki, carrying her own severed head. Gourry, piercing Zel's stone body with the Sword of Light. Voices screaming at him. Eventually, it was too much for his mind to cope with and he started awake in a cold sweat.
He cast a small lighting spell and sat up in bed, breathing harshly. "Gods," he rasped, shaking his head. What time was it? Well past dark, he guessed, though from the castle's windowless inner rooms, it was impossible to tell for sure. Despite having skipped dinner, he wasn't terribly hungry. Zelgaddis had never been a big eater like his travelling companions, especially Lina and Gourry, though he had certainly taken a liking to Mayaki's unique cooking. For the moment, though, he just wanted a glass of water. Nothing could dispel a bad dream like cool drink.
He wandered out into the hall and rummaged through the group's remaining travelling supplies, mourning the loss of his coffee cup in the whirlpool. He eventually came across a canteen, drained half its contents and screwed the lid back on tight.
As he was headed back to his room, he noticed that his spell light was not the only light burning in the castle. From Mayaki's room, it seeped out from beneath the door. No one else seemed to be awake. Curious, Zel approached and gently pushed the door open. The candle's light flickered, welcoming him.
"Mayaki?" he asked in a whisper. "Are you awake?"
The girl snapped up from her book, startled for a moment, then focussed her eyes on him and smiled. "Yes, Zel. I'm still awake," she replied, being sure to keep her voice low. "Come in."
He accepted her invitation and sat beside her on the bed, which was done fittingly in burgundy and green. He noted how much it-and the rest of the room-matched her personality. "What are you doing up so late?"
She blinked. "Is it really that late?"
"Everyone else is asleep," he informed her. She seemed shocked.
"I had no idea," she said. "I just got caught up in my father's book."
Zel smiled slightly. "I imagine you would. Is he any good s a writer?"
Mayaki grinned back at him. "He's quite good, actually. A very literary wyvern." She sighed. "No definite traces of his whereabouts, though."
Zel scanned through the page she was reading, kept scanning as she turned it. As the words came together in his mind, he grabbed the book from her. "This is it!" he exclaimed.
"Here!" he pointed. " '...when someday I will return to the Darisalito Mountains, where my fellow wyverns reside.' Mayaki! This is IT! We know where he is!"
"Yes!" she squeaked. "Yes, yes, YES! Oh, Zel!" She threw her arms around his neck.
"Mayaki!" he laughed back to her almost amorously as he scooped her up off the bed and spun her around. She shrieked with laughter.
That was when the door opened. "What the hell are you two doing?! It's two in the freakin' morning!" Lina squalled. The chimaera and wyvern looked embarrassed. Zel set Mayaki back on her feet.
"Um, sorry, Lina. We didn't mean to wake anyone up..."
"Well, you did!" Xellos retorted, shoving his way into the room. "What exactly were you two up to?"
"Yes, what?" Amelia resounded from the door, also trying to crowd her way past Lina, who fought to keep her out.
Zel scowled at them all, blushing furiously. "Nothing happened."
"Sure, Zel. We all heard you. Why not just admit it?" Lina insisted.
"Admit what?!" the chimaera sputtered. "There's nothing to admit!"
Xellos eyes him suspiciously. "Then what are you doing in Mayaki's room in the middle of the night?" There wasn't so much as a hint of humor in his voice. There wasn't much doubt about what he was angry about.
"I saw the light burning and came to see what she was doing still awake!" he half-shouted, half-groaned, more than a little flustered.
"Oh, you just happened to come into her room."
Zel ground his teeth. "She invited me in."
"I'm sure she did. Especially if the two of you had planned this little rendezvous ahead of time."
"What are you saying?" he wailed, exasperated. He was beginning to wonder if this wasn't just another bad dream.
"That must have been exactly how it went, Zelgaddis. You saw her light and came into her room, and she was so excited to see you that she leapt right into your arms and started screaming...'yes, yes, oh, Zel, yes!' "
"Just like you to misconstrue everything!" the chimaera snarled, half-consciously dropping into a fighting stance with his fists balled.
Mayaki was beside herself, trying to interject, but she couldn't be heard over the two shouting men. "Xellos, Lina, He's telling the truth! Won't you listen??"
Amelia had to have her say in the matter as well, adding to the din. "Don't you try to defend him, Mayaki! I see exactly what's going on here! It's just like that night that you both went off into the woods and then wouldn't talk to each other the next morning! It's all so clear now!"
"What? What are you talking about?" the little wyvern replied, utterly baffled. Mayaki froze to the spot, trying to figure out what sin she had committed.
"You know exactly what I'm talking about, you-Lina! Let go of me!" The princess was distracted by her comrade at arms, as well as Gourry and Alemo (who had been just casual observers up until this point), who were trying to keep her out of the fray. "She pointed an accusing finger at Mayaki. "Admit it, you tramp!"
"...the hell?!" Mayaki blinked.
Meanwhile, Xellos and Zelgaddis were face to face, having not yet come to blows, but on the brink of it. "What were you doing with her, you monster?"
"ME! You, of all people, dare to call me THAT?!"
Mayaki turned her attention to this half of the fight, hoping to sort things out there first before the two men ended up killing each other. She grabbed Xellos's shoulder, trying valiantly to turn his attention to her, but he shrugged her hand off. "Xellos!" she wailed, "Please, stop this!"
"Stay back, Mayaki," he snarled. Mayaki recoiled instantly. She had never seen this side of the priest, and it frightened her.
"Xellos..." she tried once more before switching to Zelgaddis, hoping for better results. "Zel, please, stop! This is ridiculous!"
"Stay out of it, Mayaki. This is between the coward priest and I."
"Coward, am I? See how you stand up without that stone armor, and we'll see which one of us is the coward!"
"Tart! Tramp!" Amelia screeched from the hallway as the other three attempted to keep her contained.
Mayaki panicked, looking back and forth between the princess, the chimaera, and the trickster priest, all ready to slit each other's -or her-throats, and still, she wasn't even sure what she or Zel had done wrong. It was later than she had thought, and the lack of sleep at this point was certainly not helping her to focus any. The din of the three shouting voices made her ears ring. She clapped her hands over them to block the noise, still piteously staring at them all, about to kill one another. And she snapped.
"STOP IT! SHUT UP! SHUT UP, ALL OF YOU!" she screamed, her voice straining over the other three. "Stop this nonsense before I have to kill you all just to get a little PEACE and QUIET and CALM!! Since when did you all get so damned petty?! If this is what it takes to be human, if this is what it is, then I'm better off being a wyvern!" She threw the book against the wall and stormed past them all, down the passageway to the courtyard.
There was dead silence as she stomped away. All had looks of guilt on their faces-even Lina, Gourry, and Alemo, who hadn't really joined in the fracas at all. "I think we made her mad, " Lina said softly.
"Well, whatever gave you that indication?" Zel snapped back at her. He breathed an irritated sigh and moved to pick up the book. He winced; several pages of the ancient tome had come unglued and fallen off the spine on impact. It was a shame for such a rare and precious book to be treated so poorly.
But then, he thought, it was a shame for such a rare person as Mayaki to be treated so badly...
Xellos looked abashed. "So... I guess this means you weren't...er..." He twiddled his fingers.
"If you had listened to me instead of assuming you knew everything, you would have known that from the very start," Zel growled at him, fitting the pages back into place.
"It's just easier to jump to conclusions than find out what's really going on," the priest admitted, offering his hand to Zel to help him to his feet. The chimaera glowered at it and its owner. "I'm sorry, " Xellos stated, in case his apology hadn't been implicit. Zelgaddis finally conceded with a sigh and allowed the priest to help pull him to his feet, continuing to clasp the former monster's wrist in a handshake.
"You finally know what it's like to be human again," he stated boldly.
Xellos nodded once. "Jealousy, I suppose, is a basic human instinct." He dropped his head, shook it a few times, and looked back to the chimaera. "If I was still Mazoku, this would seem funny as hell."
Zel's solid expression didn't change, but he nodded, acknowledging the irony, and released Xellos's hand.
"I should apologize too, Mister Zelgaddis, to both you and Miss Mayaki," Amelia added, blushing. "I've been acting like a little kid. I'm so ashamed of myself... I was very unjust . Can you ever forgive me?"
Zel focussed his attention on the petite girl before him. He could see the tears in her eyes and hear them in her voice. She not only looked shamed, but heartbroken, and possibly... fearful? "A-amelia I..." Again, the words caught in his throat. He had meant to tell her on the spot that he loved her, her and no one else, not even Mayaki... but it just wouldn't come out. Was his heart really that hard, that he couldn't tell her he loved her? Was his heart truly as stony as the rest of him?
The delay in his answer was too much for Amelia to bear; she fled, crying, back to her room. The slam of her door echoed through the empty castle.
He reached after her, as if it would stop her from running, but it was a wasted gesture. Zelgaddis grumbled lowly, annoyed with himself even more then before. The hand not occupied with the book curled into a fist, and he beat it against his thigh pensively.
"She'll be fine in the morning, Zel. Don't torture yourself about it," Lina breezed. "That's Amelia for you."
"Hm," Zel acknowledged, not fully agreeing with her, still staring out the door.
"So," Xellos began, acting cheerful now that almost everything had been resolved, "if you weren't making love to her, what was Mayaki screaming yes about at two in the morning?"
The chimaera blushed deeply at the implication. "The Darisalito Mountains."
"Oh, is that what you're calling them?" Xellos teased, waving a finger in Zel's face. Lina whacked him across the back of the head, causing his antics to cease as he rubbed his head and waited for the stars to dance their way out of his vision. "Ow.."
"Xellos, learn when to shut up!" the sorceress scolded him. "Darisalito Mountains?" she inquired and tried to process the bit of information. First, what importance might the mountains have; second, where they might be; and third, why this had caused such a stir in the middle of the night. Her eyes fell on the book under Zelgaddis's arm. "That's where Elric is," she nodded, proud of herself. Zel's smile was enough confirmation for her suspicion.
"Who?" Gourry interrupted, ruining the triumphant moment. Lina raised a fist over her head, connecting with the swordsman's face.
"Mayaki and Alemo's dad, you jellyfish! Don't you pay attention to anything?!"
Alemo, leaning against the corridor wall, perked his ears up at this. "Elric," he rumbled lowly to himself.
Zelgaddis was the only one who heard him, his hearing acute enough to hear beyond Lina and Gourry's squabbling. He approached the assassin purposefully, eyes narrowed threateningly. "Don't you even try it, Alemo," he said deeply. "Don't you do it until Mayaki and I get our chance. I won't let you wreck this for either of us."
The taller, more muscular man stared down at him. "I will do...whatever I please."
"For Mayaki's sake, if not mine, leave him alone. Don't you see that it's the only opportunity we have? And it's your opportunity too! You could be human!"
Alemo shook his head ever so slightly. "That's not what I desire. I only want to see him dead."
"Don't you dare ruin this for us!"
"You mind your business and I'll mind mine."
The lines were drawn. Once friends, now enemies. The two men glared at each other reproachfully for a long while. It would be a race then... a race to the Darisalito mountains, and a race to find Elric Debarro.
"We'll kill you if you get in our way."
Xellos, not wanting to be part of another fight that evening, slipped his way cautiously past Lina and Gourry, careful not to collide with Zel and Alemo either. "We-ell, I think I'll obey another certain human instinct," he said with a yawn. "Sleep!" Everyone stopped, stock still, and blinked at him. He strode easily to the door of his room. "Good night... what's left of it, anyway." His door swung closed after him and there was an audible flop as he collapsed into his pillow. The remaining four exchanged glances.
"He does have a point," Lina stated, releasing Gourry.
"Does he ever," Gourry agreed, heading back to his room as well. "G'night!"
"'night, Gourry," Lina called back, turning in as well.
Alemo and Zel continued to stare at one another. "We'll be leaving in the morning."
"Don't expect me to be traveling with you. I work alone."
"I used to say the same thing, and look where it got me," Zel warned playfully, "Stuck with Lina."
Alemo snorted appreciatively. "don't count on getting your cure so soon."
"I'd be a fool if I did," Zel smirked. "I've been this close a time or two, or so I thought. But, don't you plan on taking Elric out so easily. After all, he is the full wyvern, not you."
"You don't need to remind me of that," he scowled.
"It might be a warning you should remember."
"I'll keep it in mind."
The two stared each other down for another minute or more, reading each other's determination, then parted at the same time, almost as if they had choreographed it. Zel retreated to his room. Alemo made for his as well, though when the chimaera was out of sight, he closed the door and continued down the hall toward the courtyard.
* * * * *
The smaller wyvern looked up as her half-brother landed beside her on the roof peak she had decided to perch on. "Akk," he greeted.
"Akk," she replied as he folded his wings in and found his balance, using his tail to counterweight himself. This island was silent except for the occasional yapping of the remaining wolves.
"Poor things," Mayaki mused. "They'll probably starve to death without Zelas feeding them."
Alemo traced her line of sight to the small pack loping its way around the island. "You think she actually fed them? Wolves usually aren't aggressive enough to kill and feed on their own kind."
Mayaki bobbed her head in assent. "I wonder how long they'll last out here? Cannibals."
"Who's to say? I suppose if they kept reproducing and eating each other, quite a few years." He followed the movement of the pack with one eye. He clacked his beak, slightly irritated. "they'll be doomed eventually, though. Every generation will have less and less resources. The pack will get smaller and smaller until they all die out. They'll slowly starve." He huffed. "Poor, stupid beasts. It's not even really their fault. What kind of person would do this?"
"Zelas," Mayaki snorted sourly. "What I gathered about her, it was right up her alley."
"Torturing wolves was up Zelas's alley?"
"She enjoyed wolves, for one thing. After all, she was the Greater Beast herself. She probably brought them here simply as playthings to be at her beck and call. Plus, you'll have to admit that a ravenous wold makes a heck of a security guard: don't need to pay them, don't need to worry about loyalty to you... unless someone could manage to get past Deep Sea with about five hundred steaks, bribery is out of the question. And then there's the pain and aggressive energy. Being Mazoku, she probably reveled in it. It may not have been as powerful as human emotions, but it would certainly have been enough to keep her strength up."
"And she was a sick, deranged Mazoku lord..." Alemo grinned.
"Yeah, that too..." she sighed, rolling her eyes at him. Silence ensued as both of them tried to think of something else to talk about. It was Mayaki that eventually brought up what they were both half-trying to avoid. "So... how did things turn out in there?"
"Oh," Alemo began, shaking his head, "they're all a bit ashamed of themselves. As they should be," he added promptly. "The littlest thing sets them off, have you noticed?"
Mayaki smiled a wyvernish smile. "Yes."
Alemo broke eye contact with her, staring out toward the horizon. "Zel will want to leave early tomorrow... er, later toady," he corrected. "You'd better go in and get some sleep," he said flatly.
"I can see why he would. I don't blame him. I want to be fully human as soon as possible."
"Why is that?"
She cocked her head at him. "Don't you ever feel your Mazoku side puling at you? Haven't you ever given in to it, just a little? I have, and I'm afraid of it. I'm afraid that one of these days, I'll lose control completely and end up killing someone. Someone I care about." The ridges above her eyes knit together mournfully. "And it almost happened, too. I almost turned fully Mazoku, and I didn't even care."
"There are plenty of humans who are just as evil," her brother countered. "You could just as easily be evil then."
"But I'm not!" she squawked raucously. "Deep down, I'm not evil, I know, and I want the part of me that makes me act so terribly to be gone!"
Alemo had nothing to say to this. He turned back to the horizon instead. The sky was just beginning to show false dawn. "It's getting so late it's early," he quipped at her. "You'd better go in and get some rest. Sounds like there'll be a lot of ground to cover in the morning."
She yawned, showing the fine points of her teeth. "Good point. Poor Lina, I guess we'll have to leave her precious furniture behind for the time being. She'll be so disappointed," she giggled, launching into the air to glide down into the courtyard. She hovered and looked back at Alemo, who hadn't moved to get up yet. "Aren't you coming, too?"
He shook his head, "Mn. I still have some things to think about. Go on without me."
She swiveled her head in an approximation of a shrug. "Suit yourself. See you in the morning!"
"Take care, little sister," he muttered, adding silently to himself, *and hope you don't stay out of the way, for your sake.* He watched he land and change forms, heading inside and closing the door behind her. "I really am sorry, Mayaki, but my revenge is more important than your silly dream. Maybe someday you'll come to understand that. Goodbye, little sister. Please don't make me have to kill you."
With a few beats of his great wings, he lifted off the roof peak and headed northeast, toward the continent. His spirit felt much heavier than his airborne body.
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. ;)