a Slayers fanfic
Chapter 35: Splashdown
The inland tidal-wave crashed through the canyon, fill the banks of the small river to overflowing immediately. Despite their best efforts to escape the flash flood, the six travelers were caught up in the powerful rush of water.
Zelgaddis kept his grip on Amelia tight, the force of the wave even bearing up and tossing his stone body around effortlessly. He saw the princess's terrified face once or twice as the furious waters whirled them end over end. Somehow he managed to get his free hand around a limestone outcropping and pulled Amelia toward the wall of the canyon. "Climb!" he told her as soon as she'd found a solid handhold.
"But..." she started, turning to look back at him, even as she obeyed his order. He began fighting against the current and gravity to pull himself up without losing his grip.
* * * * *
"Gotcha!" the sorceress sputtered and coughed as Gourry hauled her toward the closer edge of the canyon. He was lucky enough to have caught sight of her red hair as she almost sailed past, caught in an undertow. "Good thing you're so small," he told her, hoisting her onto higher ground. "Otherwise, you'd've been pulled down for sure."
She stared lovingly at him through the wet strands of orange that hung over her eyes. If she hadn't been coughing up water at the time, she might have had some witty retort ready to fire at him. But until she caught her breath, she was more than willing just to cling to him.
* * * * *
Mayaki powered herself up out of the water, looking more like a wet chicken than any proper water bird. She cursed to herself about the water and losing her companions as she hovered in place, scanning the current and both walls of the canyon for her friends.
"Xellos! Xellos, where are you? Lina? Zel??" she cried, swooping over the raging river. Of course, it came out as, "Shhhkkrreeeeii! Kawwwk!" but in her panic, she'd forgotten that none of them would understand her. Not that her voice-human or wyvern-could be heard over the roaring waters. Even so, her sharp ears picked up the slight shrill of a girl's voice. She flew downstream quickly, blinking at the upcast drops of water that hit her eyes.
A blast of wind knocked her head over tail, and she let out a squawk of both surprise and irritation. *What the hell was that?!* she thought, instants before another large wave (though not as large as the first) crashed through the canyon.
"Mister Zelgaddis!!" She heard Amelia's scream, closer this time, and determinedly powered herself forward, scanning the swells of the rapids and the nearer side of the canyon. There! She caught sight of the princess's ivory garb, standing out from the deep red of the rock. The girl, though holding fast to the rock, was struggling to keep her hold against the water that had risen up to her calves. Panic-stricken, she stared wide-eyed at the water.
"Kraaa!" the wyvern hailed as she adjusted her flight to float beside the little justice warrior.
"Mayaki!" she shouted, pointing frantically to the water. "Zelgaddis! The wave knocked him in! He can't swim!"
"Awk!" the wyvern responded, sounding half in a panic herself, but she executed a steep dive and plunging beneath the surface.
"Please find him, Mayaki, please find him..." she wailed, spurred more or less by her panic since Mayaki was already gone. Then she took a deep breath and began climbing once again. She might have even made some progress before a swell engulfed her and she lost her grip, carried away unseen.
* * * * *
The overwhelming speed of the current almost took Mayaki down the river before she even caught sight of her chimaeric compatriot. Despite the extra weight of his stone body, it was tumbling him along the bottom. Mayaki could only watch as he grabbed for a hand-hold on a firm boulder planted in the riverbed, only to be knocked loose-and unconscious-by another rock being propelled down the rapid flow.
*NO!* was her only thought as she angled herself toward the bottom and spread her wings, letting the current carry her faster to catch up to him. She found that the current required her to kick her legs and frequently alter the angle of her wings, which threatened to spin her off-course with any false move. Wyverns, she noted mentally, were designed for the air, not the water.
The stone man finally fetched up against an outcropping of rock-one of the strange-looking sandstone formations the group had marveled at earlier from above. Mayaki thanked Cephied that she was able to catch up at last as she angled herself toward the formation. She didn't want to collide with the pillar of rock as Zel had; if she got injured, there would be little chance she could save herself, much less Zelgaddis. Her best chance, she figured, would be to try to snag him as she was whisked past... but that didn't give her a lot of time. Half a second and she would be up to and past him. She aimed her claws to latch onto his shoulders, but missed. Half of her breath escaped out the sides of her beak, bubbling up and away with the river rush. Flailing as she was twirled around by the current, her claw bumped against his ankle, and she latched onto it. The extra weight underwater snapped her back around, nearly making her lose her grip on him. Trying to steady herself, she hooked her other foot around one of his arms. That did it. She regained her control in the current, turned herself around to face the oncoming water, and flung her wing open, using the added force to carry herself and her chimaera cargo to the surface. She took a deep gasp of the sweet air her lungs were crying for once she reached the surface. She turned back onto her stomach, using the river once again to help power them up out of the water.
The chimaera dangling limply from her claws in an undignified way, Mayaki swung around in the air, wings flapping wildly. Dear gods, he was heavy! She hadn't noticed it before, when she'd carried him through the Astral Plane... there was no weight there. Here, she found herself struggling with every wingbeat, losing inches without the added velocity from the floodwaters. She feared that his weight would eventually drag them both back into the drink as they dipped steadily back toward the water. *NononononoNoNO!* she shouted with an accompanying shriek. Only one option occurred to her now, and dangerous though it was, it looked like she would have to use it. She let herself fall into Astral space and easily soared upward.
* * * * *
Xellos kicked hard against the undertow that had him. Eventually he found the effort useless as he was whirled down to the bottom, then just as quickly cast back up to the surface and sped downstream. He did his best to keep his head up, though occasionally another waver came along and he was left with a mouth full of salt water.
*Salt water?* he thought, spitting it out as he kicked off from the crag the waters threatened to throw him into. *This is an inland river... I'm sure of it. It's the one I've seen in my dream. So why is it...?*
His eyes caught a flash of ivory and lavender. Amelia's gaze met his as he was whirled past. He saw her mouth the words "Mister Xellos" though he couldn't hear her voice over the steady roar. He would have tried to answer her had he not been thrown into a rock and lost his breath. *One thing about being Mazoku,* he thought, *it was a lot less dangerous...*
* * * * *
Amelia had been trying to save her strength. She had latched onto a passing knot of logs and debris as it floated past by luck alone, and she didn't want to chance losing her hold for favor of climbing up the canyon wall again. Yet when she saw Xellos in trouble, her first instinct was to come to the rescue, exhaustion or no.
"Levitation!" she cast, soaring up out of the water and grabbing his cape before he floated out of reach. He, meanwhile, could only clutch at the clasp which threatened to cut off his already short supply of air. The girl managed to fly them to a high ledge, where both collapsed, panting. "Are you all right, Mister Xellos?" she queried, habitually worrying about the other person's welfare before her own.
The priest coughed a few times. "Fine, I think. Thank you, Amelia."
"Sure, anytime," the girl answered, then screamed as a gigantic tsunami appeared, towering over them. Xellos followed her gaze, turning over to catch sight of the wave looming above. It moved against the flow of the current, instead seeming to aim straight for them. More disturbing was the fact that it seemed to be staring at them.
Worse yet, through its emotionless exterior, it seemed to be smiling to itself.
*No...* Xellos mused. *Not smiling. Smirking.*
* * * * *
Mayaki dropped Zelgaddis's unresponsive body to the ground, just over the lip of the canyon. It had taken her all of a half second to reach the top, travelling through the Astral plane. No monsters had taken notice of her, as far as she could tell. But currently, her concentration was focused on another matter entirely.
"Zelgaddis, wake up," she pleaded, her voice containing more than a note of irritation at his refusal to cooperate. "Wake up, Zel!" She kicked his roughly in the side, still receiving no response. "Dammit, Zel, if you don't get up, Amelia's going to have my hide! Now get up!" Tears of rage fought their way into her eyes. "Zelgaddis Greywords, GET! UP!" She kicked him harder this time, sending him onto his stomach, though he still lay lifeless at her feet. She'd bruised her toes through her boot doing it, but she was too enraged at the moment to feel the pain. "Zel, you selfish son of a bitch, don't you die!" She pounded both fists on his hard back mercilessly, repeating the motion as she worked herself into a tantrum. "No dying...mmph!...is allowed...mmph!...while I'm around, you hear me?!...mmph!" Standing up, almost blind with panic, she screamed at him. "Goddamnit, Zel, Amelia told me to save you and I'm not giving up on you, so get with the program and BREATHE, you stupid bastard!" She jammed the heel of her boot between his shoulder blades as hard as she could. The chimaera man coughed and spit up water, then continued to choke and wheeze as his lungs traded water for air.
"Amelia," he managed to gasp, righting himself.
"Right. I've got her. Sit tight." The wyvern girl didn't want to admit that she'd almost forgotten about rescuing Amelia as well. Nevertheless, the little princess of justice was first priority now. Mayaki flung herself off the cliff at a dead run, before she even transformed.
* * * * *
The tsunami seemed to pause, victorious in its smirk.
Unfortunately for the wave, it was up against someone who had perfected the smirk aver the past thousand years. Something without facial expressions was not going to out-smirk Xellos. He stood as he smiled his unnerving, unwavering smile back at it. Amelia shrieked again somewhere behind him as the tsunami crested and fell at them. She ducked, shielding her head with her hands, just as Xellos raised a hand toward the water. "Demona Kurista!"
The water instantly iced up, with the odd spike here and icicle there. The princess uncovered her eyes as the roar of the water ceased, replaced by a crisp crackling. She stared at the frozen wave. It seemed to look back with a surprised and baffled expression.
Xellos made a few more hand motions, readying another spell. "Nice effort," he declared callously, "But not foolproof. Lah Tilto!"
The wave seemed to screech as it burst into thousands of tiny, salty ice chips.
Amelia watched the bits float downstream and melt. "It was a monster?"
The priest nodded. "One of Dolphin's, I'd wager."
The two sat on their embankment, drenched and exhausted, wringing out what parts of their clothes that decency would allow for. The water level dropped slowly as the great amounts of water flowed away, until the river was reduced back to its former slow trickle.
"I haven't seen any of the others go by yet...Do you think they're okay, Mister Xellos?"
The priest slapped his soaked poncho against the rock wall. He wished he could give her a certain answer. The one she would want would be full of hope, love, and justice. Xellos wasn't up to giving her that... it wasn't his style. No, that wasn't it, not entirely. He was worried about Mayaki. "I hope so, Amelia."
"What are we going to do?"
His eyes formed into their customary squint as he thought. "Hmm. We'll wait here for them for as long as we can, but if they don't show by tomorrow, we'll have to go on, find supplies, then we'll go back the way we came. I'll escort you back to Seyruun, and then..."
He sighed. "I don't know."
Amelia sensed his depression setting in and grabbed his hand. "Don't give up yet, Mister Xellos! Everyone has to be all right, even Miss Mayaki!"
Xellos stared at her. Her steadfast hope was refreshing, and he had a hard time hiding his amusement. "How can you be so confident about it?"
She smiled humbly. "I just remembered something. They're all too stubborn to die."
The priest rook his chin in his hand. "That is very true..."
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. ;)