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 really 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.
Chapter Two: Blue Eyes on a Balcony
He’s just like I remembered him, Amelia thought as she hurried to put on her new gown. Except I think he’s grown even more handsome. She recalled the expression on his face when he’d thanked her. She’d wanted to throw her arms around him, to show how glad she was that she’d made him happy. He’s still as serious as ever. And he still gets embarrassed over the silliest things!
She took one last look in the mirror. Well, here goes nothing. I just hope he doesn’t try to leave tonight. He has to stay at least until morning!
Meanwhile, Zelgadis was wondering whether to follow Phil’s example, but then his sharp ears heard hurried footsteps. “Well, it’s about ti-” he began in annoyance, but surprise stopped him.
Amelia was wearing a long white sleeveless gown. A delicate golden tiara with a sparkling blue gem sat amidst her shining black hair. Several bracelets chimed sweetly as she moved.
Zelgadis stared at the transformation. The last time he’d seen her so dressed up had been at the ceremony he and the others had crashed--literally--at the start of their last harrowing adventure. But the outfit she’d worn then had reminded him of a little girl’s dress--all pink lace and flounces. This gown, however, showed off her curves in a more demure, adult fashion. She was, quite simply, beautiful.
Almost instinctively, Zelgadis slowly rose to his feet.
Amelia flushed a delicate pink, smiling. “So, how do I look?”
Lovely, flashed through Zelgadis’ mind, but his tongue seemed to have turned to the same stone as his skin.
Prince Phil’s comment saved him from having to answer. “Why, you look beautiful, as always.”
Amelia sat down across the table from Zelgadis. As he reseated himself, she gave him a warm smile. He hurriedly looked down and began eating his lukewarm food, barely tasting it. He could feel yet another blush on his nose and cheeks.
A pair of servants brought Amelia some food. As she began to eat, her father asked, “So, daughter, have you acquainted Zelgadis with his traveling information?”
“Good!” Phil turned to Zelgadis. “In the last several months Amelia’s done nothing but look for that cure of yours. She even got her former tutor to instruct her in the older writing styles, just so she could decipher some of that old nonsense.”
“It isn’t nonsense, Daddy; just because it happened a long time ago doesn’t mean it’s not true.” Amelia protested.
She and her father got into a loud discussion over traditional ways versus non-traditional ones. The Crown Prince himself was a well-known tradition-breaker in political circles, but, it seemed, he was a little more conservative where his family was concerned.
“Do you know, Zelgadis, that this daughter of mine hasn’t even chosen a suitor yet?”
Zelgadis was startled out of his silence, practically spitting his drink out all over the table. “A--a what?”
“Oh, it’s a tradition in Seyrune that all royal children have to be married by their seventeenth birthday.” Amelia said scornfully. “Supposedly it sets the kingdom’s mind at ease to know that the next ruling couple is prepared to take over in case something happens to the current ruler.”
“Yeah, like that would ever happen! AH-HA-HA!” Prince Phil guffawed, apparently to reassure his daughter.
Zelgadis looked from father to daughter. Little Amelia--betrothed? Married? “But you still have a lot of time yet, don’t you?” he asked her.
She gave him a rueful look. “Not really. My seventeenth birthday is in two months.”
Two months? “Oh. I hadn’t realized--you were so old already.” he replied gracelessly. For some reason the news disturbed him, even though he knew royalty often married early.
“You’re telling me.” Phil interrupted his thoughts. “Why, I remember when she was this high. I used to take her for piggyback rides all around the palace. And one time--”
“Huh? Oh, sorry, my dear. I guess you don’t want your father embarrassing you in front of your friend.” Prince Phil laughed. “At least now you can return to the duties you’ve been neglecting for so long.”
“But Daddy!” Amelia protested. “I want to go with Mister Zelgadis! What if he needs me?”
“Now, Amelia, he’s proven he can take care of himself. And you know perfectly well that the only reason you’ve been allowed to set aside your royal obligations is because of all we owe our good friend here, but there are other people who need you, too.”
Zelgadis watched Amelia struggle with herself, wanting to protest more, but her sense of duty was too strong. She subsided into silence, pouting.
They finished the meal quickly, without a lot more talk, for which Zelgadis was grateful. Amelia invited him to go to the Upper Balcony, a vantage point for looking over the city. He accepted before he remembered that he wanted to be on his way. Well…I can spare a few more minutes.
He was surprised to see that it was sunset already. The evening was fairly warm, with a gentle breeze that ruffled his cape, Amelia’s raven hair, and her long white skirt. The two of them stood looking out over the city, where Zelgadis could see the remaining devastation caused by Lina’s amplified Dragon Slave.
Amelia noticed where he was looking. “That’s one of the reasons Daddy won’t let me go with you. He says it’s good experience for me.”
Zelgadis gave her a quizzical look.
“You see, they’re still rebuilding it, and there are enough disputes over property lines and things like that to give me some practice in diplomacy. Even if I make a mistake, or upset some people, no one’s likely to declare war over it.”
“That makes sense.” The big man did know how to rule, despite appearances. “Was the area badly hit?”
“Yes. Well, it could have been a lot worse. Most of the population in that area were evacuated before Miss Lina blasted it. After all, there was a huge chunk of land just floating over them in midair for at least an hour before it fell.”
“That’s good. I’ll bet Lina was relieved to hear she didn’t kill all those people.”
“Oh, yes. She and Mister Gourry stop by from time to time. But they never stay long--Miss Lina doesn’t exactly feel welcome.”
“I can’t say I blame her.”
After a moment, Amelia looked up at him with a worried expression and said, “But you know you’re always welcome here, right, Mister Zelgadis?”
He couldn’t help smiling a little at her earnest anxiety. “Thank you, Amelia.”
She smiled back.
They were still as they looked out over the city. Zelgadis watched as the warm orange sunbeams gave the city a golden glow. He closed his eyes, feeling his stone skin absorb the heat on one side of his face. Everything was so peaceful, so tranquil, with the breeze whispering around them.
“When I was little, I used to get into all kinds of mischief here.” Amelia said softly. He opened his eyes to see her leaning on the stone ledge surrounding the balcony. Her chin was propped up in the palm of her hand, as she gazed dreamily out over her city.
“I had a bunch of friends who played games like ‘Virtue--The Girl of Justice’ with me. Of course, I always got to be Virtue.” she chuckled. “I had a wonderful childhood, really, even though now I realize I was sort of spoiled. Daddy let me do anything I wanted after Mama died, and my older sister ran away. Of course, all I wanted by then was to be close to him. He was all I had left.”
“So you took up fighting for justice as a way to be close to your father?”
She turned away from the ledge to face him. “I guess so. I really do believe in absolute justice, but…it’s not always easy to tell who the bad guys are. And, well, looking back…I’m embarrassed at some of the things I’ve done in the name of justice.”
Zelgadis blinked. This wasn’t the Amelia he remembered. Maybe she was growing up. “I understand. We all do things we regret.” A sad look crossed his face momentarily as he recalled some of his own past deeds.
“Thanks.” She smiled up at him gratefully.
They stood together in companionable silence. Zelgadis found himself oddly content to just be there, sharing this peaceful moment with someone he trusted. Gone was the urgency that had driven him over the last four days. He noticed a sweet fragrance on the breeze; Amelia’s perfume, or her shampoo, or something.
He watched her for a moment out of the corner of his eyes. She was standing with her hands on the stone ledge, her face upturned, her eyes closed, as the wind made her dark hair dance around her face. He couldn’t help smiling a little at the enchanting picture she made.
“You’re spending the night, aren’t you?” Amelia asked him.
He almost dropped to the ground in shock and embarrassment. “What?”
“So you can start out fresh in the morning.” She didn’t seem to notice his embarrassed blush as he tried to gather together the shreds of his composure.
Oh. Then she didn’t mean…“Well, actually, I’d planned on starting out now.”
“Oh, nonsense. Who begins a long journey at sunset?” The princess dismissed his answer with a bit of her old haughtiness.
“I do,” he replied in mild annoyance. “I can see perfectly well in the dark with the help of a light spell. And it’s not like there’s going to be anything around here to attack me this close to the white magic capital.”
“Oh, but--you’re not prepared; you don’t have any supplies,” she protested, sounding dismayed.
“You know I don’t have to eat that often. As long as I have my canteen I’ll be fine.” Why was she trying to keep him here? After a long pause, he asked quietly, “Amelia, is something wrong?”
She jumped nervously. “Oh--no, not really. It’s just that…” she trailed off.
Hmph. She’s probably upset because she can’t come with me, Zelgadis surmised. He hated emotional goodbyes, and it looked like that was what this was turning into. “Well, I’ll see you in a few months then, Amelia. Thanks for everything,” he said casually, trying to escape before she started bawling or something.
Amelia caught his cape as he walked away. “Zelgadis--please don’t go,” she pleaded.
He obeyed, more because of her intimate usage of his name than because of the request itself. “What did you call me?” He wasn’t sure he’d heard correctly.
“Um...” She released his cape, as if only now realizing how she’d addressed him. She moved her closed hand up in front of her chin, an appealing gesture she often used without thinking when she was distraught. Her small hand cast a stream of black shadow across her sunlit skin.
As he stared at her the wind picked up again, swirling her raven hair around her face. He was captured by the look in her liquid eyes, hesitant, imploring…he wanted to look away, but found he could not.
“Mister Zelgadis, please…just wait until morning. Please?”
There was a tone in her voice he’d never heard before. He wavered, his resolve weakening. For some reason this was very important to her. The open, pleading look on her face, always so expressive, so sensitive…
He let out his breath in an exasperated huff. “Oh, all right,” he growled, disgruntled. That was the problem with letting other people get close to him; he could not simply ignore their wishes as he could a stranger’s. Giving her a sour look, he asked, “So what’s this all about?”
She smiled. “You’ll find out in the morning.”
As he continued to frown at her, she giggled, “Now don’t be like that, Mister Zelgadis. I was hoping you might care to accompany me to the concert hall tonight. You see, we have the most wonderful minstrel visiting us, and I know how much you like music.” She was back to her old bubbly self.
How does she know I like music? The idea was very tempting, but caution won out. “I’m sorry, but I don’t think it would be a good idea.”
“But why?” Amelia looked perplexed.
The chimera sighed as his almost-forgotten burden settled on his shoulders again. “Look, Amelia, you may be used to the way I look, but if I appear in public I’m likely to cause a riot. People are more paranoid about monsters than they used to be, after everything that’s happened over the last few years.”
He thought she might protest, but instead her expression became subdued as she accepted the truth of his statement. Except for--“You’re not a monster,” she said softly.
And suddenly he felt lighter again. Zelgadis smiled a little. “Maybe not to you.”
“No--never to me.” she said almost fervently.
Surprised, Zelgadis met her eyes. She looked back with a strange, serious look on her face. The playful breeze tugged at his cape, and Amelia’s white gown. The lightweight cloth fluttered over her body, reminding him of her new maturity. Looking at her solemn face, a question that had been lurking in the back of his mind popped out before he realized he was going to speak: “So, have you met anyone special, yet?”
What am I saying?
For a moment he thought he saw a flicker of delight in her eyes, but then her expression became one of wry tolerance. “That’s practically the only thing people ask me these days.”
“That’s all right.” Amelia smiled ruefully. “I have met a few okay guys, but no one really special.”
Unconsciously, the slender chimera relaxed, not noticing his relief as Amelia continued. “Mister Zelgadis,” she said thoughtfully, “Suppose you wore your cowl and we stood in the back of the concert hall. Then people wouldn’t notice you.”
He saw the flaw in that right away. “People would notice you.”
“Not if I wore a hood of some kind, too.” Amelia’s face took on an impish smile that reminded Zelgadis of Lina. “Come on, Mister Zelgadis, it’ll be fun! Besides, I’ve always wanted to sneak around Seyrune in disguise!”
Suddenly seizing his hard hand in both of hers, she began towing him after her. “Amelia!” he protested, shocked at her impetuousness. He could have refused to move, of course, but for some reason he let her lead him by the hand through several corridors of the palace to a cloakroom.
Releasing his hand, the dark-haired girl reached up to remove a rust-colored, hooded cloak from its peg. It completely covered her from head to foot. “There. This cloth is high-quality enough for a formal occasion, but not decorated enough to draw attention.” She smiled winningly at him. Zelgadis sighed, and wondered if this was going to lead to disaster.
Author’s Note: You’re probably thinking ‘Oh, no, not another Amelia-is-being-forced-to-marry plot!’ Well, two things make this choice a logical plot point. One: Considering all the upheaval in the Slayers’ world, it’s definitely prudent to require royals to provide heirs at a young age, just in case. I chose age 17 mostly because it fit into the time frame I wanted--long enough for Zel and Amelia to be apart for a good chunk of time, and short enough that Amelia would not have matured into someone too grown-up to be interesting.
Two: You get the idea from the series that if nothing happened to create a spark, as it were, Zel and Amelia (not to mention Gourry and Lina) would never admit their feelings for each other. It’s always easier (and emotionally safer) to say nothing, after all.
I hope Zel and Amelia don’t seem too out of character. There’s more than whims behind Amelia’s behavior, though you won’t learn all of it ‘till later. Notice how pleased she was when Zel asked her about prospective husbands, though! Zel…well, his main problem is that he’s determined to see her as the child she once was. Every time he notices her new maturity it comes as a fresh shock--his eyes are being opened whether he wants them to or not. That’s my major theme for this fic, actually.
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