Only Stone on the Outside

by Dreamsinger

Only Stone on the Outside

a Slayers fanfic

by Dreamsinger

2003

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 Eight: Things Get Interesting When

Lina's on the Move

A tough-looking older man met them at the top of the gangplank. "Mister Zelgadis, I presume?"

You see any other chimeras around here? he thought in automatic sarcasm. He nodded.

"Aye'm Cap'n Barrig. Aye was told by Princess Amelia that ye were in charge of this expedition."

"What?" Lina burst out, looking dumbfounded.

"It is my quest, you know," Zelgadis reminded her snidely, a little indignant at her presumption. "Besides, Amelia didn't even know you were going, did she?"

"Oh-right. Gourry and I just happened to drop by for a visit." Lina laughed, with her hand behind her head.

Gourry added his two cents: "Yeah, out of nowhere, Lina decides we ought to come here and see Amelia right a-"

Lina's elbow in his stomach folded him over. "Quiet, Gourry, I told you not to-please go on, captain." Zelgadis gave the pair of them his best impassive you-realize-you're-making-a-spectacle-of-yourselves stare, then turned back to the captain.

The man was looking a little doubtful, as if he wasn't sure it was a good idea to let them on board. Zelgadis nodded his head slowly in a dignified greeting. "I apologize for the interruption, captain. My full name is Zelgadis Greywyrs, and my companions are Gourry Gabriev, and Lina Inverse."

As he'd expected, the mention of Lina's name caused those crew members within hearing distance to react in shock and fear. "The Dragon Spooker?"

"The Bandit Killer?"

"Seyrune's Demolisher?"

That's a new one. Zelgadis glanced at Lina, who looked exasperated. He heard her mutter under her breath, "One little mistake! Never mind all the times I've helped out, they always have to bring that up."

Privately, he was surprised at her restraint. Normally, she would have been blasting fireballs at the name-callers. He could only assume she felt guilty for her catastrophically miscast spell which had destroyed about a quarter of the main city.

Grrr, if we didn't need this ship and crew to make it there and back before Amelia's betrothal ceremony, I'd fireball the lot of them. Lina gritted her teeth, and smiled. "That's me. Pleased to meet ya."

After a moment, the captain relaxed a little. "Aye need to see to the casting off. Our cabin boy, Shellis, will take ye to your quarters."

As the young man was leading them to their quarters, Lina commented slyly, "Hey, Zel. Nice bracelet." Damn! He'd forgotten he was wearing it.

Lina watched, amused, as the blushing chimera pulled the bracelet off his wrist and hid it in his fist. What's he doing with Amelia's bracelet, anyway? And where's his guiolin? I can't ask, since I'm not supposed to know about it. Did he refuse it? That jerk! After all the trouble Amelia went through to get it for him. He must have broken her heart. Argh, I'm going to fireball him the first chance I get!

She could feel her face growing red with anger. Wait a minute. If he broke her heart, why does he have one of her bracelets? The diminutive sorceress recalled a conversation of nearly two years ago.

FLASHBACK

The four of them are sitting around a campfire in the woods. Lina comments on Amelia's new bracelets: "They're really nice-looking, but how come the bands are different from each other?"

Amelia (beams): "It's traditional to have them unmatched. You see, they're not just bracelets; they're wards. Family heirlooms, in fact, passed down through the female line of my family for generations. They're supposed to have been made by a powerful sorceress-ancestress of mine."

Gourry: "Really? What do they do?"

Amelia: "Well... we think they're protective wards. Actually, no one's sure, because they're so old. But you can sense some kind of spell on them if you concentrate. No one can identify it, but it's supposed to be a passive spell, which activates at need. All of my ancestresses have worn them into battle, and come out alive, so our best guess is that they're for protection."

Zelgadis (actually coming over to take a look at them): "That's interesting. I always thought they were just for decoration."

Amelia (looking pleased at his interest): "Oh, no. They're very special. This is the first year I've been allowed to wear them."

END FLASHBACK

Anyway, what does Amelia think she's doing? Lina thought as she followed the cabin boy with her companions. If anyone should be in charge, I should. And I can't even say anything about it because I can't let Zelgadis know that Amelia and I have been planning his courtship all along!

The red-haired sorceress looked up at the slender chimera walking in front of her. She frowned, disgruntled. I suppose if Amelia wanted Zel to believe that Gourry and I are only coming along by chance, it would make sense to put him in charge. But I don't like it! Lina sighed. Well, at least I can ask about the bracelet. "Hey, Zelgadis, how come you have one of Amelia's bracelets?" Unable to stop herself, she shot the questions at him rapid-fire. "Isn't it a family heirloom? And what did Amelia want to show you, anyway? What happened back there?"

He glanced at the sailor in front of them. "Uh, nothing happened. Nothing at all. Just... oh, forget it." He sounded flustered, and turned away from her with his shoulders hunched as if to protect himself from more questions.

Pretty big 'nothing', I'd say. Look at him-he's blushing like crazy. I'm gonna find out what happened back there, or my name's not Lina Inverse, Sorcery Genius!

Alone, Zelgadis took stock of his small cabin room. It had little furniture beyond a bunk built into the wall and a flat-topped trunk at one end of the bunk. An oil lamp hung from a hook in the ceiling.

Leave it to Lina to say something to embarrass me, he thought grumpily. But then, what do you expect? Traveling with Lina tends to put you in humiliating situations on a distressingly regular basis. I most certainly will not tell her about how Amelia... how she...kissed me.

Closing his eyes, he imagined the feeling of Amelia's kiss. Though in actuality his stone skin had barely felt the touch of her lips, he had realized instantly what she was doing and his imagination had filled in the details. Vaguely, he knew it ought not to have happened, but somehow he just couldn't bring himself to regret it. It was the most intimate experience he'd ever had.

In his youth, his position and small size had hindered any real relationships he might have enjoyed. It had probably been his own fault. All his life he had had great things expected of him because of his ancestry, and turning out so physically unimpressive had inhibited him. He had tried to compensate by training harder with his sword, but around women he had remained stiff and formal, unable to let himself open up. Then Rezo had cursed him, completely destroying any possibility that a woman could come to love him in spite of his emotional armor.

What had she meant by it? A kiss for luck? Friendship? She had run from the room afterward, suggesting that she was sorry she'd done it. Probably, it had been just another one of her girlish curiosity-induced impulses, perhaps brought on by the shared music.

Ah, the music. His mood lightened as he recalled the joy of playing that magnificent guiolin-and the unexpected pleasure of watching Amelia dance to his melody. She had been transformed, no longer his slightly-clumsy female comrade, but a being of ethereal grace and beauty.

His keen hearing picked up a man's rough voice shouting, "Cast off!"

As the ship began moving, Zelgadis was forcibly reminded that he would soon be out in the open sea. He disliked traveling by ship, for one simple reason-his cursed body made it difficult for him to swim. He usually coped with water by levitating over it, or using a modified Rei-Wing bubble under it, but in open water with nothing to climb... He'd had some nasty experiences-Amelia had once had to rescue him from a deep pit full of giant slugs.

And of course, that demeaning experience when Lina had volunteered him to be the anchor of that old dragon-chef's boat had not made him crazy about water, either. The memory brought with it a sharp feeling of betrayal. All of them, even Amelia, had completely ignored his protests and tossed him overboard with a rope around his waist. Although the young princess, at least, had cared enough to find him a breathing tube.

Utterly degrading. No one should treat another person like that-like a thing, with no feelings. Although, to be fair, it probably didn't even occur to them that I can't swim well, or how... frightening that can be. He shivered involuntarily.

Several hours later, Zelgadis was sipping some tea at the largest table in the tiny meal hall. Captain Barrig was sitting at its head. The chimera watched in amusement as the man's square-jawed face took on a look of incredulity as he watched a typical Food Wars Chowdown, starring Lina and Gourry.

After several minutes, Barrig asked Zelgadis if his friends were also part demon. "No offense," he added quickly. "It's just that Aye've known large men with big appetites oll me life, and never 'ave Aye seen anybody pack away so much in one sitting. Did ye go for a spell without food, then?"

"No," he answered calmly. "We had breakfast this morning." He enjoyed the looks of bulging-eyed surprise that appeared on the faces of the nearby sailors.

"Why, yes, Lina and Gourry always eat like that," came a familiar voice from behind the chimera.

Zelgadis spun around. His blue-green eyes, wide with surprise, narrowed as he identified the owner of the voice. "Xellos!" he spat.

"Hello, all," Xellos' face wore its usual sunny smile.

"Xellos? What are you doing here?" Lina paused with a piece of chicken in her hand.

"Oh, just idle curiosity."

"Yeah, right. Try another one," Zelgadis said flatly.

"Who is that? How did he get on board?" The captain had recovered from his surprise.

"Oh, that's Xellos. He's a friend of ours-well, sort of." Gourry piped up. "He can appear and disappear out of thin air."

"A mazoku?" The captain and several sailors nervously reached for various weapons.

"Gentlemen, gentlemen, no need for that." Xellos held up his open hands in an 'I'm harmless' pose. "Truly, I only came to see what Lina was up to."

"Why?" Lina's eyes narrowed suspiciously.

"Because things tend to get... how shall I put it... interesting when you're on the move." The mazoku wagged one finger in Lina's direction, opening one pale purple eye in a kind of reverse-wink. "Don't think I haven't noticed all the traveling you've been doing lately. And seeing as how you're headed to the holy Temple of the Ancient Oracle, I've decided to keep an eye on your progress."

Xellos continued in a conversational tone, "Being an immortal can be extraordinarily boring at times, you know, and you all can be so very entertaining." His voice became jovial.

Lina gave him a hard look, under which he seemed to go all meek and submissive, as he often did in her presence, for some reason. He put his hand to the back of his head, a drop of sweat appearing at his temple.

Perhaps she reminds him of his master. The thought popped into Zelgadis' head.

"That's really the only reason you're here?" the fiery-haired sorceress probed.

"Why, Lina, I'm hurt," he pouted. "You know I've never lied to you. Sometimes there were things I couldn't speak of, but I've never told you anything false. Why should I, when the truth is so much more fun?"

Fun to torture us with, Zelgadis realized. "So how do you know where we're going?" he challenged.

The seemingly-benevolent trickster held up one finger. "That... is a secret." He vanished.

Lina snorted. "Like we couldn't see that one coming." She gave Zelgadis an amused glance. "You know he never answers questions like that."

"So, do you believe him?"

"About why he's here? Well, I've been trying to remember if he's ever lied to us, but you know, I can't think of a single example." She looked thoughtful. "He's always deceived us in the past by just leaving out some of the details, not telling us something that wasn't true."

"So, you do believe him?" Zelgadis asked again.

"Yes," she said slowly. "And that worries me. What would a mazoku find interesting?"

"You, apparently." The stone man frowned thoughtfully.

Lina flushed, and suddenly turned to look at the watching sailors. "All right, guys, the show's over! Quit staring!"

The seamen came to life, scrambling over each other to leave the room.

Author's Note: I wouldn't go so far as to say Zel has a phobia of water; for one thing, he's too stubborn and controlled to let something like fear make him useless in any situation. He avoids water when he can, and deals with it when he has to, but I really think he's more scared than he lets on. In episode 25 of Try he has to ride in a Lina-powered rowboat for a short distance. Everyone knows it's wise to sit down in a moving boat-why is he standing up as if he was ready to leap up into a Rei Wing spell, and why is he holding onto the little boy? Who is he bracing-himself or the boy, who is sensibly sitting down?

So, thanks to Xellos, we now know where our heroes are headed. But how does he know? Sore wa himitsu desu! ^_^

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