a Slayers fanfic
Chapter 29: Ever the Trickster...
"You're bluffing." Tamric reached his decision confidently, and spoke in a manner that excluded any other possibility as if they were impossible from the get-go.
Xellos feigned nervousness. "Oh dear. Am I bluffing, or am I only pretending to bluff?"
"Don't try to fool me with your twisted words, Beastmaster. You don't have your staff, you don't have Master Zelas backing you-You have no power at all! The mighty most certainly have fallen..." In an instant, the human façade had dissolved and in its place appeared the towering snake-headed creature that had followed them out of the Astral plane. "I have been waiting a millenium for a chance like this, Xellos... the chance to destroy you and your insolence!"
Xellos sighed. "My, my... and we were getting along so nicely just then, Tamric. But, you've forced my hand..." He waved at the beast flippantly even as he began making gestures in the air and chanting lowly.
"Keep up the ruse, if you insist on it, Xellos. It won't save your worthless hide."
The priest-general smirked. "Oh, won't it? Do say hello to Master Zelas when you reach the other side, Tamric. It's been a pleasant chat." He opened his hands, revealing a brilliant blue light.
"What in th- " the Mazoku was able to get out.
"Elmekia Lance." The light surged forth from Xellos's hands, sizzling through the air as it cut through the monster's body, destroying it in both physical and astral planes. Tamric wailed briefly and vanished as if he'd never existed at all.
The others blinked, astonished. "Xellos cast an Elmekia Lance?" Lina gasped.
"And a very high-power one at that," the chimaera added.
"But how is that possible? I thought Mister Xellos lost all his powers when Zelas took all that dark energy out of him," Amelia queried.
The red-haired sorceress nodded. "That's what I thought too... but what's more, that was Shamanist magic he was using. Hey, Xellos!" she shouted. "How did you manage that, Mister Completely Defenseless?"
Xellos scratched his head as he gazed at the spot Tamric had previously occupied. Then he shrugged and wandered back to the group. "I have no idea," he said and smirked.
Lina all but fell over. "Huh? Wha??" Her eyes turned from saucers to dinner plates. After the initial surprise, though, she fell back on familiar ground, which for Lina was to get angry at what she didn't understand. "You mean you just risked all our lives on something you didn't even know would work?!"
The priest looked insulted. "You do it all the time."
"Yes, but I at least know when my magic will work!"
"Well, it worked, so why complain?"
The girl clutched at her head in frustration. "Ohhhh! But... but you.... Oh, nevermind..." she whimpered and walked off.
The rest of the group was silent as they watched her stalk off. Zelgaddis finally turned back to Xellos. "You really didn't know what you were doing?"
Xellos shrugged, as if this was no big deal. "Well, yeah."
"Then where did that spell come from?"
"Yes.. I haven't even seen Miss Lina cast a Shamanist spell that powerful..." Amelia added, puzzled.
The priest thought deeply with his chin held in his hand. "I'm not entirely sure," he said at length. "It's like I've known the spell all along, but it was really deep down... like a memory I didn't know I had."
Gourry nodded. "I understand perfectly." The other two turned amazed glances at him, but were interrupted by Xellos's continued train of thought.
"It's like I don't really remember anything about myself... like Zelas blocked it from my memory, or something... And now that she's out of the picture, things are starting to resurface. But slowly. As if they have to be triggered by something."
"Exactly," the blonde swordsman confirmed.
Xellos gave him an obscure glance. "Dear gods, please don't let me turn out like that..." he mumbled to himself.
Zelgaddis sighed and steered the priest up the beach toward the spot where Lina and Mayaki were already splayed out. "We should probably sit and discuss this with everyone," he sighed. "We obviously aren't going any further tonight."
"Right," Amelia affirmed.
"You're sure about that, Zelgaddis?" Xellos teased, sounding more like his normal self. "Not like you to want to stop for any reason."
Zel scowled back. "Well, it's apparent that Mayaki needs the rest, even if the rest of us don't. There's no way she could travel efficiently, and we can't exactly carry her the whole way. Besides, Alemo is probably still in the middle of the ocean. He'll have a lot of catching up to do as it is." He knelt and sat easily on the warm, salt-smelling sand, stretching his legs out and leaning back to relax, manners be damned.
Xellos eyes him strangely. "You'd better me careful, Zel. That stone exterior of yours is going to start flaking off if you get much softer."
The chimaera leaned up on one elbow looking shocked. He stared open-eyed at the priest for a second, then began laughing. It wasn't a ringing laughter; low, like the rustling of leaves, but pure and honest. He laughed because on some level, he knew that what Xellos had said was true. He knew that Xellos occasionally obscured the truth, but he never lied. And if it meant his hard heart was getting softer, he didn't mind it. It caught everyone's attention. Even the exhausted wyvern-girl raised her head, narrowing her eyes in a lizard-like smile.
Amelia, lying on her stomach and propping herself up on her elbows, smiled as she watched him. "Mmm," she sighed, "Mister Zelgaddis has such a nice laugh, doesn't he, Miss Lina?"
"Yeah," the sorceress grinned back. "I guess he does. We sure don't get to hear it often enough, though. Maybe he's finally taking my advice to lighten up! Hey, Zel!" She tossed a beach stone at him, hitting him in the back of the head.
He whirled around and glared at her, rubbing the back of his head. It occurred to Lina that the stone had not been her smartest move. She gulped. Zel smirked evilly at her. "NO!" she shouted, throwing her hands out in front of her in a warding-off gesture.
The chimaera's smile widened. "Wake Burs," he cast. A baseball-sized bubble of water appeared over Lina's head. "NO!!!" she shrieked, throwing her arms up above her head as the bubble popped and flooded her with much more water than could be contained in a sphere that size. Lina sputtered and dropped her arms as she was soaked through.
She seemed frozen in place, wearing the same expression as when the water had hit her. When she didn't move after a few seconds of silence, Gourry got concerned, and reached over to shake her out of it. "Lina..."
Amelia started laughing at her. "Miss Lina, you look hilarious!" she managed before she broke down completely in a fit of giggles.
Her jaw finally hinged shut and her eyes lost their plate-like appearance. Her hair hung down over her face in thick wet red strands. She glared at Zelgaddis with all the ferocity of a mad cat (which is a lot, in case you've never been glared at by a cat). "Yoooouuuuu..." she growled furiously, eyes flashing fire.
Zelgaddis and Xellos's eyes shot open. They both dodged aside as a fireball landed between them and caused a substantial explosion.
* * * * *
Alemo breathed heavily, at the end of his energy. His wings flapped meaninglessly, refusing to hold him in the air another second. He barely had the use of them to control his descent into the sea, during which he wondered what it truly felt like to drown. He fell in and awkward somersault, the water swallowing up his red form in a circle of foam. A few seconds later, he bobbed back to the surface, letting his extended wings support him on the water instead of the air now. He kicked futilely as a wave crashed over him, pushing him opposite the direction he wanted to go. It occurred to him that wyverns were not made for water travel, and that he made a lousy duck. He panted and stopped kicking. *I don't know why I even bothered... I don't have the energy to keep this up all night. I'll have to sleep sometime, and then I'll probably just slip under...* He let himself float and tried to rest his head on the waves, snorting once as a larger swell broke over him, filling his snout with stinging saltwater. *I'm so tired...* he thought *Wonder what it's like to die?* He chuckled at the irony. *All the people I've killed in my life, and I still don't know what death is like.*
Absorbed as he was in these bleak thoughts, he didn't notice the slow spiral he was moving in, and didn't notice the whirlpool he was in until he was dumped into its core. The sudden plunge underwater caught him off guard, and he spluttered and coughed as he instinctually sought the surface. Salt stung his eyes as he tried to orient himself in the dizzily spinning world he found himself in, but he didn't regain his equilibrium for several moments after he had been dropped soggily onto the marble floor of the underwater palace.
"Oh, what did I catch this time?" Deep Sea scrutinized him carefully. "You're not a shipful of sailors," she decided finally and sighed. "There sure aren't many sailors in these parts anymore..."
"Wraa-eck..." Alemo coughed, temporarily forgetting he was still in wyvern form.
"Oh, I know it's not your fault." She moped for a moment before springing to her toes again. "I know you! You're my dear brave knight, aren't you?" Using her magic, she picked him up and upended him, at the same time turning him back to his human shape. He noticed how long his hair had gotten as it flopped away from his face, then back into it as she turned him over again. "Yes, it's you all right," she confirmed, whirling triumphantly across the smooth floor.
Alemo stared blearily at her for a second before turning on his charm. He hoped she would still buy it, for as tired as he sounded. "Of...course I would want to come back to you, my dear Tsarina Dolphin- "
"No, no... it Pharaoh Deep Sea. Or didn't I tell you that? Hm.. must've slipped my mind."
"... er, naturally. Pharaoh Deep Sea. It's surely your loveliness that keeps drawing me back to you." He stood and snatched up her hand, kissing it gallantly.
She batted her eyelids at him in a confused manner. "I thought it was my whirlpool."
"Well, er, yes.. and that..."
Deep Sea brightened. "That's what it's for, you see. It'll pull down anything that gets within a hundred leagues of it! I caught a whole ship with it once, with most of the sailors still intact, too!"
"I seem to recall you saying that..."
"SILENCE!" the Mazoku suddenly commanded. "How dare you insult me so, sir! Such insolence! Guards!"
Alemo put a hand to the hilt of his sword, panicking at the potentially deadly wrath of the Mazoku lord.
"GUARDS!" the silver-haired woman demanded again, with a slight note of impatience. Alemo's ears eventually heard something dragging itself down one of the insanely long corridors in their general direction. The intent look on Deep Sea's face never faded during the ten minutes it took for the guards to schlump their way to their mistress. Their smell preceded them by at least six yards. The half-wyvern fought to keep from gagging. The sailor zombies had obviously not held up well since Deep Sea had caught them. The one on the left smelled of gangrene and had to constantly pick up and arm that refused to stay in its socket. The face of the other had mostly fallen off, but it still owned the one eye between the two decomposing skulls, even if it didn't ever seem to focus on any particular point, more or less rolling around sightlessly from the motion of the rest of the body. A few ribs protruded where the muscle had dropped away. Blue mould covered the remaining bits of flesh on both corpses.
Deep Sea turned her eyes back to Alemo to observe his reaction and wilted. "They're really much less impressive than they used to be..." she apologized.
Alemo waved a hand at her. "Don't be silly... their scent is really still overpowering." The Mazoku glared at him. "It's quite... striking," he explained, trying to block his nose by not breathing. He was beginning to regret not having lungs full of seawater.
"GUARDS!" the Pharaoh demanded, jabbing a finger in the air. The zombies did their best to snap to attention. The left one picked up his arm as it fell again. Deep Sea dropped her hand and asked sweetly, "Be dears and go get my crumpets out of the oven, would you?"
"Still with the crumpets..." Alemo muttered.
The Pharaoh gave him a nod. "They're still too salty...I just can't seem to get them right. Oh!" she suddenly remembered in a moment of half-sanity, "What did your sister have to say about that?"
Inside, the assassin balked, though he steeled himself to keep a calm and collected front in front of the Mazoku. How much would she buy from him? "Er..." he began, "she says to add less salt to the batter."
"Add less salt?! ADD LESS SALT?!" the diminutive queen shouted up at him, almost seeming to grow taller. Her eyes burned into his very soul, and a shiver ran over his skin. He tried not to look nervous, but began to break a sweat under her intense stare. With all the power of a Mazoku lord at her beck and call, insane or no, she could squash him like a squid any time she chose. "She's a genius!" she chirped ecstatically, clapping her hands in delight. Alemo's composure dropped a notch.
*Oh, for Pete's sake...* he grumbled in his mind.
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. ;)