Only Stone on the Outside
a Slayers fanfic
I do not own this terrific series; I just wish I did. Please let me know if you'd like to print or archive my story, though, because it's a real boost to the ol' faltering ego. There are a few minor spoilers, but nothing too descriptive. PG for minor swearing.
Many thanks to my friend Shell Presto, a wonderfully talented writer/artiste (check out her A/Z story One Third Human) for her invaluable editing commentary. Thanks also to Marie, for being my faithful sounding board and offering ingenious solutions to convoluted plot problems.
Note: I prefer the spelling 'Seyrune', because a rune is a sort of magic chant, which would make sense in this case.* * * * *
In the kingdom of Seyrune, in the depths of the royal palace, a single candle casts its light over a young black-haired princess. She is crouched over a weathered old book, surrounded by hundreds more, on shelves and tabletops and floorboards.
Suddenly she glances up, a triumphant look on her face. She leaps to her feet, pointing two fingers skyward. "Victory!" Her shout of joy echoes up and down the palace's dark corridors.
Chapter One: A Reunion in Seyrune
Zelgadis Greywyrs sat on the stone ledge and looked at the object he held. Amelia's ward bracelet. It sat there innocently in his hand; just a dark-blue metal ball with a star engraved on it, threaded through a scrap of pink cloth. He had a decision to make, however, and the meaning imbued in this bracelet would count heavily toward his conclusion.
Musing, the silver-haired chimera recalled how he had come to be here. Ten months ago, he'd been with Lina, Amelia and Gourry, caught in the battle between a Golden Dragon, and an Ancient Dragon, with demons and gods and other assorted riff-raff thrown in. As usual, Lina had managed to pull off another miracle, and saved the world. As usual, he'd not even gotten so much as a hint as to where to find his cure.
After they parted ways he discovered, to his surprise, that he'd grown used to the company, to having people around to talk to, if only to grumble at. And the acceptance-to be able to just be himself, to not have to hide his face... To have people look at him as if he were normal, without the slightest consideration that his features were disfigured or monstrous. Friends. Real friends.
He'd spent ten months traveling around, following obscure clues that led nowhere, learning all over again to hide his face. To be a silent observer, never involving himself in the lives of the people he met.
He'd come to realize that people like Amelia and the others were rare. While most people could control themselves enough to strike a business deal with him, he could still see the suspicion, the fear, and most of all, the disgust in their eyes when they looked at him. He was careful not to tell anyone just why he was on his quest. He'd learned through bitter experience that people would take advantage of that knowledge.
Now, about ten months after he'd parted ways with his friends, a runner delivered a message to him. It was from Amelia. Surprised, he wondered how she had managed to locate him. After a few moments, his curiosity had him opening the seal. The message was brief:
Dear Mister Zelgadis, I've been searching for a cure for you ever since I got back, and yesterday I came across something in a very old White Magic book that mentions a man with a condition like yours! Please come back to the Palace as soon as possible. It was signed simply, Amelia.
His first reaction was flaring hope. A cure! Then, cynical as usual: It figures. Whatever you're looking for is always in the last place you were going to look. Finally, bemused, he stared at the letter, written no doubt by Amelia herself, in rounded feminine hand script. Good old Amelia, he thought. So she did do some searching on her own.
He was unprepared for the fond gratitude that rose up inside him, a tender affection that took him by surprise even as it warmed him. He realized that he'd missed her. I'm not even sure why. Whenever I think of her, I remember how incredibly annoying some of her habits were. But... He also remembered how quick she'd always been to come to his defense...her irrepressible effervescence...the look in her big dark-blue eyes when she'd said goodbye to him.
The slender chimera set out immediately, no longer bothering to wear his cowl and face mask. It would take him four days, setting a pace no normal man could have matched. He barely took time out to eat or sleep. On the third night, he dreamed of a conversation he'd had over a year ago with Lina. Actually, she'd been teasing him about Amelia's supposed 'crush' on him, because she loved to see him blush.
Amelia had gone off with the others to buy some provisions for the next leg of their trip. Zelgadis and Lina were waiting for them-where else?-in the dining hall of their inn. The chimera could tell Lina was up to something when she looked at him with a wicked gleam in her eyes that made him nervous-on general principles.
"So, romeo," Lina had said in an overly-casual tone, "When are you going to pop the question to Amelia?"
He'd almost sprayed the tea he was drinking all over the tabletop. "When am I going to what?"
"Oh, you mean you don't want to marry Little Miss Justice?" Lina had teased. "She'll be sooo disappointed. Heartbroken. You knowhow she hangs on your every word. How she always tries to sit next to you; how she looks to you for approval. 'Right, Mister Zelgadis?'" Lina imitated the girl's high soprano.
Zelgadis had frowned at her disapprovingly, but he'd known he was blushing as well. "It's not my fault she's developed this infatuation with me. She'll grow out of it."
Lina didn't seem to know when to quit. "I don't know, Zel, a cute princess like her? She's a pretty good catch."
He'd snorted. "Hardly. She may have the body of a grown woman, but she's still a child. I'll admit I've done a lot of things in the past that I'm not proud of...but monster though I may appear-" He stood up, glaring down at a shamefaced Lina, "I'm no pervert."
When he awoke, the memory of a half-forgotten request was echoing in his head. "Mister Zelgadis, after the battle is over, will you come back to Seyrune with me?"
At the time, he'd felt himself softening a bit at her obvious devotion. It was a good feeling, to know that someone preferred his sour company over that of his more gregarious companions. Impulsively, (or as close to being impulsive as he ever got) he'd answered, "Well, I'll think about it."
But after the world had been saved (again), and they were back on the road, he'd looked at Amelia and seen only the same beautiful, spunky child he'd known over the past two years. Certainly she would be a woman to be reckoned with, in time. But he'd realized the best thing for her was to remove himself from the picture, and let her get on with her life. There were many other places he could search, anyway.
Saying goodbye to her had been awkward. Almost, he wished he'd simply turned and walked away, as he had the first time he'd parted ways with Lina and Gourry, after the battle with Shabranigdo. But she deserved more than that. Besides, he had promised to give her an answer.
"Amelia," he said, trying to be tactful. It wasn't his way-his usual manner of speaking was cool, critical, sarcastic. But for her, he tried. "I've thought about your invitation."
"You have?" she replied, hope shining in her dark-blue eyes.
"I promised you I would. But I-I really can't come with you." He looked away, unable to meet her gaze. "I need to keep searching..." He was caught in one of those strange moments where he was actually grateful to Rezo for cursing him.
Sounding dismayed, she protested, "But-we can search for a cure in Seyrune! It's the capital of white magic-there's got to be something or someone there who can help you!"
"I did look-that time when we were protecting your father."
"But-we have dozens of temples and libraries and things. You can't have searched them all!" She sounded on the verge of tears.
He looked at her. She was standing there, her fists clenched, lower lip trembling. He regretted causing her such distress, but he couldn't change how he felt about her.
"I'm sorry," he began to say, but stopped as an idea occurred to him. Maybe she needed a distraction of some kind. "I know-you can help me, Amelia. If you go back home and check out Seyrune, it will increase my chances of discovering a cure."
She looked surprised. Then the old sparkle was back in her eyes. "Yes! I will help you. I will search every possible area of my kingdom for your cure. I, Amelia wil Tesla Seyrune, swear it!"
Zelgadis put a hand behind his head as a drop of water appeared by his temple. "Uh, yeah. You do that."
Oh, well. I'm sure she's gotten over that by now, he thought as he broke camp. After all, it's been nearly a year now. I really shouldn't be surprised that she honored her promise to help me, though-she is a princess, after all.
By the time he arrived at Seyrune's royal palace, it was late afternoon on the fourth day. Zelgadis was even more irritable than usual. His mind was entirely focused on going back out after his cure, so when a guard detained him, the chimera almost gave in to the temptation to knock the guy out with a sleep spell and start looking for Amelia himself. However, he had a feeling she wouldn't appreciate that, so he stood there, fuming, while the guard sent a runner to the Palace.
About ten minutes later, an escort arrived to show him in. Zelgadis didn't like the man. Oh, he was cordial enough, in a snooty, upper-crust sort of way, but in his eyes Zelgadis could read the same emotions that everyone got when they looked at him. The fear, the disgust, the condemnation. What right do you have to feel superior to me? He scowled at the stout, balding man, whose veined red nose was a dead giveaway that the man was a heavy drinker. Because you're human. And we both know it.
Lord-Something-or-Other stopped and knocked on the door to the library, if Zelgadis remembered correctly. He remembered the last time he'd been inside the palace.
Amelia had been with Lina, crying about the (false) death of her father, with Lina trying awkwardly but sincerely to comfort her. He'd been standing outside the door, trying to decide whether to go in, too. He remembered feeling odd twinges of sympathy and regret for her pain, and an even stronger one of protectiveness for the girl who had always been so cheerful. But even as he was deciding regretfully that he would probably be useless in a comforting capacity, an intruder had appeared and the chimera had reacted with swift ferocity to defend the young princess.
Now Amelia's voice called out, "Come in!" Zelgadis shouldered past the portly lord and opened the door to see the young princess kneeling on the floor among stacks of dusty tomes, looking at a book laid out open on the floor. He paused as she looked up, and their eyes met. She was wearing a blue dress, and her hair had a small blue ribbon tied in it. Even though it wasn't a particularly fancy dress, somehow she seemed more feminine than he remembered.
He smiled a little. "It's good to see you again, Amelia," he said, realizing it was true.
He was unprepared for how her eyes lit up at the sight of him. "Oh, Mister Zelgadis, you're here!" she exclaimed, jumping up and throwing herself toward him. Unfortunately, some of her old clumsiness chose that moment to return, and she slipped. "Oops!"
Zelgadis caught her shoulders just before she would have crashed into him. Suddenly they were standing there holding each other, her arms around his waist, looking into each other's eyes. Amelia's were full of surprise. Then after a few moments, her cheeks turned pink and her eyes became softer, with a look of...
Zelgadis released her shoulders and stepped back a pace. "Are you all right?" he asked to cover up the fact that his own face was warm. He didn't remember her being so...lovely.
"Oh, I'm fine." She laughed, a bit nervously. "Same old clumsy me, right?"
He felt an odd desire to reassure her. "But still as pretty as ever." He stopped, startled. He hadn't meant to say that!
Amelia looked stunned for a moment. Then her face beamed with pleased surprise. "Why, thank you, Mister Zelgadis! I didn't think you noticed."
Zelgadis felt himself blushing again, but she looked so happy he couldn't bring himself to take it back, so he did what he was good at, and was silent.
Amelia dismissed the escort. Then she carefully lifted the battered old leather-bound journal onto a table covered with papers and scrolls. The book was handwritten, in very old-style script, but thankfully still legible. "After we got back from fighting Valgaav, I looked through all our libraries, and posted a reward for anyone who had information about your cure. I sent word to all the libraries in the neighboring kingdoms, and to a bunch of other likely places, asking for their help in locating your cure. Some of them chose to do their own research; it took months to get replies from them."
Zelgadis realized that he was paying more attention to Amelia herself, than to what she was explaining to him. He realized that he'd missed the sound of her voice, her eager way of speaking, her earnest desire to help. She really did have a heart as big as her kingdom. He found himself surreptitiously smiling at her again, using muscles under his stone skin that hadn't been used in a long time.
He wondered what had possessed him to say that to her. Complimenting others was not his way. It had almost sounded as if he'd been flirting with her. Which he hadn't. Of course not. But it was good to be with her again. He felt himself relaxing, almost unconsciously, in the ambiance of her easy acceptance of him.
"A lot of people just sent me all their old manuscripts and things. I'm sorry it took so long, but I've finally managed to go through it all. This journal was one of the last I tried; it's very old and in bad condition, but still legible. I knew the moment I began reading it that it was what you've been looking for. The town it came from is one of the ones Rezo is supposed to have passed through."
"Rezo?" Suddenly he was listening intently.
"See here, Mister Zelgadis, where it says, 'And Thus began the Quest of the Chimerae'd Man: part Man, part Beast, part Mystikal creature.' And here's his map and everything." Amelia frowned thoughtfully. "The chronicles say he journeyed for nearly five years before discovering the place he was cured at. Or-the word they use means 'altered' or 'changed', I think-but afterward he doesn't say much at all, just that he's happy because he can be with his lovely betrothed, who waited for him all that time."
The dark-haired princess looked dreamily off into the distance. "It's so romantic...although I sure hope I don't have to wait five years to-" she broke off, a fetching pink blush appearing on her nose and cheeks as she gave Zelgadis a wide-eyed look and then looked away.
Zelgadis felt himself blushing as well. He'd never been able to decide how he felt when Amelia said things like that. He didn't know what to do in such situations-he hadn't been raised with much affection and the whole idea of it flustered him. Besides, I doubt she was talking about me.
"Um, anyway, it shouldn't take you nearly as long. You can use his map to go straight there, see?" She pointed to a section of the northeastern mountains.
It looked to Zelgadis to be a round-trip journey of only a couple of months' travel. To think that his cure might be so close, after all this time! He picked up the volume and closed it gently. "Thank you, Amelia. I...thank you." He was surprised to feel an intense feeling of gratitude washing over him for all she had done for him.
Amelia seemed to understand. She smiled at him, placing a gentle hand on his forearm. "You're welcome, Mister Zelgadis."
He couldn't help but smile back, noticing she was a little taller than when he'd last seen her. The top of her head came nearly to his chin now. Then, before things could get too awkward, he turned toward the door.
"Oh, wait; you're not going already?" Amelia asked hurriedly.
"Of course I am," he replied, puzzled.
"But aren't you even going to have dinner with us? Daddy asked me to invite you."
"Dinner?" Zelgadis glanced out the window at the sun, surprised to note that nearly an hour had gone by since he'd arrived. He also realized that the last four days had taken their toll, as his fierce hunger made itself known to him. Embarrassingly, his stomach growled, clearly audible in the quiet room. His face flushed.
The young princess tried to keep a straight face, but her lips were twitching, and after about ten seconds she gave in and started giggling, her hand in front of her mouth. Zelgadis wasn't sure whether to be insulted, but her joyful laughter was so different from the derisive braying of strangers that he finally relaxed, and even allowed himself a sheepish smile. "Sorry."
"Oh, Mister Zelgadis," Amelia sighed. "It's just so good to see you again." There was no mistaking the fondness in her shining blue eyes.
His thoughts were broken by the ringing of a dinner gong. Amelia blinked. "Oh, it's dinnertime already? I have to go change-I'll meet you in the dining hall, okay?" She dashed out without giving him a chance to answer.
He looked after her, his face serious as he tried to decide what to do. His first impulse was to disregard her request and be on his way, but something-perhaps the memory of the way her face had lit up when she'd first seen him-made him reconsider. She's counting on me to be there. Well...I do need to eat, after all.
The dining hall was as he remembered it. There was no one else there yet. As he wondered which seat he ought to take, Prince Philionel strode in. "Ah, so Amelia convinced you to stay!" he said in his usual booming voice.
"Hello, Sire," Zelgadis answered.
"Now, now, no need to be formal-we're old friends. Call me Phil."
"As you wish." Zelgadis hoped Amelia would get here soon. Talking to the huge shaggy-haired man was a tiring duty. He had such a forceful personality that just being in the same room with him made you feel crowded.
Prince Phil sat at the end of the long banquet table, waving the chimera into the seat on his left. He started to talk about old times, as a few servants began to bring in the food. Zelgadis tapped his fingers impatiently on his leg, wanting nothing more than to eat and leave.
As the servants retreated, Prince Phil picked up his fork and knife. "Shouldn't we wait for Amelia?" Zelgadis asked, frowning. A crown prince surely ought to have better manners than that!
"Naw, she won't mind." Prince Phil dug into his food with nearly as much gusto as Lina and Gourry would have. Zelgadis sighed.* * * * *
Author's Notes: For those of you who haven't seen the end of Slayers Try, the scene at the very beginning of my story (with Zel sitting on the edge of a cliff) is taken from the last episode. Basically, the first half of my story is Zelgadis remembering the events that have happened to him over the last month or so. We catch up with him on the cliff somewhere around chapter 20.
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