a Slayers fanfic
Chapter 34: Once too slow, now too rapid
Xellos shucked off his bedroll, glaring at it when it shed the night's condensation all over his feet. Zelgaddis's bedding lay unoccupied, but Gourry was still asleep in his, so Xellos dressed quickly, threw his poncho over his shoulders, and exited the tent. He yawned by way of greeting the sunrise, looked around, then ambled over to the fireside where Mayaki was busily rolling out biscuits on a board on her lap.
She looked up, hearing someone stirring. "Morning!"
He quirked a smile at her. "Just like a little bird, up with the dawn every morning!"
She shook her head at him, but laughed appreciatively. "I've always had to be up early in order to get things done for the day, before..." sadness grazed her features. Xellos didn't have to ask to know that she was thinking of her troubled life. Zip-zop, and another four biscuits fell onto her apron. She arranged them carefully in her favorite stew pot and set them over the coals. Dusting her hands off on her apron, she changed the subject, unspoken though it had been, "So, what was the dream last night?'
Xellos crossed his legs and sat beside her, stretching his arms behind his head. "Mother took me to the local priests, to have my aptitudes tested. He chuckled slightly. "I doubt they expected what I had to offer."
He nodded. "I could cast some pretty high-level spells, for being nine. And a few spells that I hadn't ever heard before, I mastered in minutes. "They told Mother, 'He's powerful. He must be educated in the magic arts at once!' Mother didn't want me to go, for some reason, but the priests convinced her that she was doing the right thing by giving me up to them. They said that it was better to have me trained early, so that I wouldn't be a Dragon Slave run wild..." He added in a whisper, "...like a certain sorceress we know." Mayaki tried not to giggle, hiding her smile behind her hand. "So they put me in a training program. But I didn't need their training. My magic was above the level of some of the journeyman sorcerers and sorceresses. And just before I woke up, they introduced me to another boy, a couple of years older than me. I don't remember what his name was, but he didn't look too keen on my being there. I think because I'd just outdone him, or something."
"Hm," the girl replied. "Well, that explains a little bit, like that big spell you used against that Tamric guy..."she mused. "Do you remember any more spells yet?"
The priest shook his head. "Not yet, not really. But I know they're in there somewhere, waiting to be unlocked."
Mayaki nodded, guessing that she understood, mostly anyway. "Are... are you still worried?"
"About your memories returning, especially the bad ones."
He hung his head, but only slightly. "There isn't a day that goes by or an evening that set in that I don't worry about those memories coming back to me fully, but there's nothing I can do to stop them from coming or block them out. I have to accept that I was the one who instigated and accomplished these horrible acts, but I choose to see it, now, that I was another person then. Someone else, another part of my soul, or a previous incarnation of sorts. I've been given another chance, to live my life right." He stroked his chin thoughtfully. "So no, I'm not worried exactly, but..."
"But?" she offered tenderly.
"Not worried. But afraid, and ashamed. I can't even imagine the extent of..."
"Mmm.." she sighed with him.
After a moment of tense silence, in which both tried to come up with a lighter matter of discussion, Xellos decided to bring up his tent-mate's whereabouts.
"Oh, he's gone scouting ahead for us. You think I'm an early riser? He left just after I got up."
Xellos smirked. "He's getting really anxious."
"Well, wouldn't you be, if you were in his place? He's waited a long time to find this cure... and me, every morning, I feel like I'm bubbling over. I can't wait to get there, to see if it's real or not."
He nodded, then paused a moment to turn a thought over in his mind. "Do you think you really need a cure?"
She was turning the biscuits out of the pan and onto another clean apron. "What?" She looked up, pan still in her hands, and could only blink at him in shock.
"your disposition has been a lot...mh, sunnier, lately," he said, choosing his words carefully. "Maybe, since you're not feeding it, the Mazoku in you is slowly starting to die off."
Mayaki bit her lip. Tears leapt into her eyes, and she ducked, trying to keep him from seeing them.
"Mayaki?" He reached toward her, but she suddenly snapped her head up and glared at him, watery drops still clinging to the corners of her eyes.
"Don't ever say that to me again!" she half-shouted at him. "Every day it takes all my will to push that part of me down, and it sits there, waiting for some opportunity to take hold of me again. That's why I need to find my father!"
The priest looked abashedly toward her. "Hm, I hadn't considered that. I'm sorry." He ran a tender finger up the line of her jaw and tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear. "Forgive me?"
She sniffled once and sighed. "Of course I do," she admitted with a small laugh, and wondered how his every word could manage to change her mood so rapidly.
"I still love you," he whispered in her ear, and kissed her on the forehead.
She blushed demurely. "Thank you," she mumbled, slipping her arms around his back, clinging to him tightly.
He returned the embrace, stroking her hair lightly, giving her the comfort she needed. "It's all right... it's all right..."
A few moments later, their private time was interrupted by Lina and Gourry, who emerged from their separate tents simultaneously.
"Good morning!" both called at the same time, looking at each other afterwards with strange glances.
"Did you guys plan that?" Mayaki asked dryly.
Lina stared at her blond companion. "Actually, we didn't. which makes it really weird."
"Not that weird," Gourry corrected, "considering how long we've been travelling around together and getting up at the same time."
"Eh?" the sorceress responded, but Gourry took no notice of her confusion. The swordsman plucked up two biscuits from Mayaki's spread apron and immediately handed one to Lina. She tore it in half and took a bite out of the top part. "Ahh, nothing like a hot, sweet biscuit in the morning... especially if it's with eggs and bacon and pancakes and sausage..."
"Don't count on it, Lina," Mayaki warned, extracting herself from Xellos's embrace.
"Darn," Lina pouted. "Oh well, at least I can have something sweet. Pass the jam."
"You finished it off yesterday," Xellos pointed out.
Lina looked slightly miffed. "Well, pass the honey, then."
"Ran out two days ago," Mayaki said, poking at the coals with a stick. "Also thanks to you."
"Cinnamon and sugar?"
"Little bit of cinnamon left, no sugar."
The petite redhead growled. "Fine, I'll just have some butter, then." Silence hung thick in the air. "No, don't tell me, we used up the butter on the potatoes last night, right?"
"Yep," Xellos nodded.
"Ohhh, it just figures," she complained, being sure she could be heard a mile in all directions.
At that moment, the girls' tent rustled and Amelia emerged, yawning widely. "Good morning everyone!" she announced cheerfully. "It's a beautiful day, isn't it?"
Lina's head dropped into her lap. "The gods hate me, don't they?" she mumbled.
"Huh?" the princess asked. "What's wrong, Miss Lina?"
Xellos clapped his hands slowly. "Perfect timing, Amelia. Perfect."
Despite her continued confusion, Amelia snagged herself a biscuit, then secured another for her stone beau. "Where's Mister Zelgaddis? Didn't he get up this morning?" she asked, then began to panic. "He's not sick is he?"
"Chill out, Amelia. He'll be back before long," Lina brushed her off.
Gourry corrected her. "Actually, here he comes now."
The sorceress looked around, perked up her ears, and still heard and saw nothing. *How on earth does Gourry do that?* she wondered.
Seconds later, the blue and beige blur that was Zelgaddis whipped into their camp like a bolt of lightning. As he stopped dead in his tracks, the wake of dust and wind he'd generated flew into the seated group, causing everyone to shield their faces and food and complain at Zel loudly. He smiled lightly in amusement. "Sorry. You all have got to see this place!" he said with unprecedented excitement. "It's..." he searched for words, "...it's mind-blowing!"
"You found the canyon?" Mayaki all but demanded, springing to her feet.
Zel nodded. "I'd say it's about half a day's journey at the normal rate we travel."
"Hurray!" she bounced, clapping her hands. "It's really there! I was beginning to think we'd never make it out of this frigging forest!"
"Well, I knew it would be there!" Amelia proclaimed. "In a quest as just as ours is, we couldn't possibly be headed in the wrong direction. The Spirit of Justice is our guide!" The rest of the group merely stared at her. "What?"
Lina got up and retreated into the girls' tent to roll up her bedding, muttering something including the word "sweet" on the way in.
The whole group stood at the edge, looking down and down...and further down, at layers upon layers of multicolored rocks and formations that edged the enormous canyon. A tiny green trickle of river marked the bottom, barely a thread from their vantage point.
"Ohhh, it's so pretty!" Amelia finally gasped, breaking their awed silence.
"I guess we should have expected something grand if even Zelgaddis was in awe of it," Xellos noted.
"Yeah," Lina echoed. "Zel wouldn't make a fuss over any usual hole in the ground."
Mayaki crossed her arms. "You really can take the grandeur out of things sometimes, Lina."
"Oh, sorry," the girl replied, scratching her head, then looked down into the vast canyon again. "I guess not having anything sweet with breakfast really puts a damper on me..." Her eyes caught on something just over the canyon's rim, a large, rounded oval of bright pink, sprouting off the top of a flat, green paddle covered with spines.
"Lina?" Mayaki prompted when the sorceress failed to finish her sentence. Lina's eyes fixed on the fruit and dilated.
"Miss Lina?" Amelia also prodded, at her friend's continued silence.
"Fruit!" she finally crowed, triumphantly leaping over the edge and casting a levitation spell. "Yummy, sugary spinefruit!" She squealed as she cut the pink ball loose with her dagger and sliced the prickly skin off. She was all but singing as she bit into the flesh, succulent juice from the pulp dribbling down her chin.
"But... this isn't a desert," Gourry protested. "Spineplants don't grow anyplace else, do they? So what's this one doing at the edge of a forest?"
"Well, this is the western side of the canyon... it probably gets more sun and less water than the other side," Xellos stated matter-of-factly.
Gourry turned his head toward him. "Sorry, did you just say something?"
The priest drooped. "Never mind..."
"You're right, Xellos," Lina called as she swooped like a hummingbird to the next fruit. "It's nice and warm down here, and out of the wind."
As if to illustrate her point, a numbing blast of air hit the group still standing on the rim.
"Maybe we should go down in," Amelia suggested.
"Sounds like as good an idea as any," Zelgaddis agreed, casting a Ray Wing and grabbing Gourry by the back of his shirt. Amelia followed suit with a spell of her own, and Mayaki transformed into her wyvern form. She allowed Xellos onto her back and began a slow, spiraling descent into the canyon, occasionally being carried back up over the lip by the warm updrafts.
Lina, with roughly thirty of the prickly ruby fruits gathered into her cape, looked over her shoulder as the tip of Mayaki's wing came within a few feet of her. "Hey, wait! I'm not done here yet!" She waved a fist at them angrily. As she did, the knot she had tied in her cape fell halfway apart, spilling bouncing, splattering fruits down into the vast ravine. "No! no! Stop!" the girl screeched as half her store toppled away.
"There's bound to be more further down, Lina! We'll see you at the bottom!" Xellos waved as they passed again.
"My fruit!" she wailed. A small explosion followed. One of the more unstable rock formations crumbled and fell into the depths.
Alemo and the two Mazoku stood on the rim, shortly after the miffed sorceress departed. "Are we going in after them?" the human asked skeptically.
"Don't be an ass," Naia chided. "Really, for an assassin, I thought you would have figured it all out by now."
He snarled back, "I'm an assassin, not a psychic, and this 'plan' of yours, which you insist upon keeping me in the dark about, is hardly like any I've previously encountered, so please forgive me for not reading your minds." He frowned bitterly at her. She turned her nose up and grinned, soaking in the negative emotions.
"Never you mind that," she breezed. "Just make sure you get downstream and find Xellos, whether D'saani takes care of him first or not."
"Whatever you intend to do is your business, but I want my half-sister left alive, or at the very least to have that book of hers recovered. Understood?"
"Clear as ice," Naia assured him smoothly, yet somehow the reassurance of a Mazoku was less than comforting.
Mayaki reverted to human form and fell the last six feet of her descent, Xellos toppling off her back in the process. With a yelp, he landed butt-first in the soft riverbed sand. The wyvern-girl managed to keep her feet as she landed in a crouch. She stood up, angrily dusting fireball soot of her right arm. "Are you out of your mind?! You could've killed us!" she shouted at the little witch.
"You made me drop my food, and that's completely inexcusable!" Lina fired back at her.
"Maybe if you'd stop thinking about your stomach once in a while, you'd realize that if you'd hit either of us, our map would be injured or dead!" She jabbed a sharp finger in Xellos's direction.
"He's fine, and don't you go making Xellos your excuse for being careless!"
"Careless?! Who's the careless one here? Why, if I..."
Zelgaddis, Gourry, Xellos, and Amelia watched from the sidelines, eyes shifting from one combatant to the other, quick as a game of Brass Racquets, until the two stopped taking turns hollering and started competing for a dominance of volume, each screaming furiously over the top of the other.
"Miss Lina... Miss Mayaki... Miss Lina..." Amelia couldn't get a word in edgewise to calm either of them down.
Gourry contemplated something for a second, then volunteered rather absently, "Hmm. Maybe it's both their time of the month."
"What did you just say?!" they both screamed at him in unison and began pounding the poor swordsman into a fine paste.
"Oh, for..." Zelgaddis started to say, but stopped as a faint sound reached his sensitive ears over the girls' and Gourry's yelling. "What..."
Amelia stared at the chimaera or a second, watching his expression alter. He wasn't watching the fight... it looked as if he was listening for something. She tried to listed past the three screaming banshees without any luck. The whole situation was getting on her nerves. She balled up her fists and took a deep breath. "QUIE-YET!"
The three froze in place, shocked by the polite little princess's sudden burst of assertiveness.
Zelgaddis took the opportunity to focus on what he had heard before. "Do you hear that?" he asked cautiously.
"Hear what?" Lina asked, reluctant to say anything.
"Sh," Zel stopped her.
"I hear it," Gourry said, after a moment.
"Me too," Mayaki added quietly, straining to listen.
"It sounds like ocean waves," Amelia guessed quietly. "Maybe we're close to the sea."
Xellos shook his head. "The ocean isn't anywhere near here. Otherwise, this canyon wouldn't exist."
"Maybe a waterfall then?"
"No, everything's too level..."
Zelgaddis looked over to the surface of the river. "It's getting louder." The surface of the calm water rippled violently, then seemed to surge backward. A dark cloud of mist blocked the sun. "Oh gods..." he exclaimed, then grabbed Amelia's wrist. "Everyone fly, quick! Get up as high as you-"
He was cut off and his heart dropped into his stomach as the roar increased tenfold and the largest tidal wave he had ever seen rounded a corner and came straight at them.
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. ;)