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.
Note: I got the name 'Mellesande' from the awesome movie 'The Flight of Dragons'. Pronounced 'Mel-eh-sahnd', with the first two 'e's as in 'elf' and the last one silent.
Chapter Nine: How It All Started
Only Gourry and Captain Barrig remained seated. "Ah, Mister Zelgadis, are ye sure ye want to continue with this voyage? What with a mazoku lurkin' around, I mean."
"Oh, don't worry about Xellos. If he says he's only here to watch, he's only here to watch." Lina laughed nervously. Zelgadis noticed she didn't mention anything about what else they might run into on this quest.
The captain looked at Zelgadis. He nodded, reassuring the man. It didn't occur to him until later that he really was the leader of their group in the captain's eyes.
After Barrig left, Lina turned to Zelgadis. "So, Zel, what can you tell us about this 'Temple of the Ancient Oracle?'"
Lina was disgruntled at having to ask. She had planned to know a lot more about their situation before they left, but there hadn't been time.
Several months ago, she and Gourry had been visiting Amelia. Gourry had gone off to stroll around the palace when Amelia had asked if she could speak to Lina alone. As they walked through one of the little palace gardens, the young girl hadn't been her normal cheery self, and Lina had asked what was wrong. Tearfully, Amelia had answered, "Oh, Miss Lina, I don't know what I'm going to do! They're making me marry some stranger because of tradition!"
"What? What tradition? What stranger?" Lina spluttered.
"One of the royal suitors. The tradition in Seyrune is that all royal children have to be married by their seventeenth birthday, or they lose the throne."
"Since when?" Lina demanded.
"Oh, it's been like that for generations. I've always known about it, but I never really gave it much thought. I mean, seventeen years is a long time, you know? Plenty of time to look for-" the young girl broke off, her lower lip trembling.
"Oh, Amelia," Lina murmured. "And you haven't found the right guy yet, huh?"
"No-I mean, yes. There's someone I really want to marry, but there's no way I'd be allowed to."
"You have? Who?"
"Really? Zel?" I knew she had a crush on him, but...marriage? Understanding hit her. "Oh, and you won't be allowed to marry him, because he's a chimera," Lina said delicately. Amelia nodded miserably.
Another thought occurred to her. "Does he want to marry you?"
"Ohhh, I don't know!" Amelia wailed, throwing her arms around the startled sorceress. After a moment, Lina put her arms around the sobbing younger girl, who was her little sister in all but blood. Poor Amelia. Sometimes I forget all the responsibilities that come with being a princess. At least when I get married, it'll be to somebody I really want.
She stroked Amelia's sleek black hair to soothe her. "Calm down, Amelia. Let's talk about this."
"Okay," the princess sniffed, releasing Lina and pulling out a pink handkerchief with red hearts on it. She wiped her eyes dry and blew her nose with an unprincessly snort.
They sat down together in the grass. "Amelia, you're sure about this? I mean, Zel's a great guy and all, but somehow I can't picture him being especially...romantic." Lina's mental image of Zelgadis was of him as a friend, or a brother; a trusty comrade who would back her in a fight unquestioningly.
"Oh, yes," Amelia beamed, gazing off dreamily into the distance. "He's brave, and smart, and honest... strong and caring and handsome and-"
"-he looks so cute when he blushes..."
Suddenly Lina snickered. "He does, doesn't he?"
Amelia gave a weak giggle. "That's more like it," Lina said approvingly. "Problems don't get solved by being a crybaby."
The younger girl sighed. "I know. It's just that ever since I overheard a conversation between two of the maids..."
The two of them talked for some time, working out a plan of action. "It's really in two parts," Lina decided. "One: we don't know for sure if Zel wants to marry you, so we need to find out if he's in love with you, or if he's only capable of seeing you as a friend. Two: whether he loves you or not, it becomes a moot point if you're not allowed to marry him. Besides..." Lina flushed a little. "I'm sure both of you would... be much happier, if Zel was...well, normal..."
Amelia caught on to her vague reference. "Wedding night..." she murmured, and suddenly went bright red.
"Ahem, so uh, part two is finding Zel's cure."
The plan was to get Zelgadis cured in time so that Amelia could court him, and discover whether his reserve was due only to shy insecurity, or simple indifference-and hopefully get through the barrier he had built around his heart.
So Lina and Gourry had begun a circuit of the surrounding towns, investigating every library and temple and holy place, questioning priests and healers and wise men (and women) for answers. Amelia had started her own search through Seyrune, studying ancient books and manuscripts and learning the archaic styles of writing.
It feels good to have a mission again. Sure, ridding the world of bandit gangs and claiming their treasure was fun (not to mention profitable), but Lina had to admit she was happy to be able to help one of her few real friends in such an important way.
Gourry seemed to enjoy the trip as well. He basically only knew that they were looking for clues to Zelgadis' cure, but she had tried not to mention why, as he was notoriously bad at keeping secrets. What if they ran into Zelgadis?
Every now and then Lina would think about the reason for their mission. I still can't believe Amelia's going to be married soon. I mean, she still acts like a kid half the time. I would have thought she was nowhere near ready to be married, but... she really does want this.
She shuddered. That's not for me. Not yet. Sure, I'm eighteen, but... The idea of 'marriage' brought along uncomfortable images of 'growing up' and 'settling down' somewhere, to run a business, raise a family... to be tied down. No way. Not for a long time. It's a good thing Gourry likes to travel as much as I do. He and I... Her thoughts broke off suddenly.
Gourry... and me? Did I really just think that? Startled, she turned to look at her blonde companion. He was walking slightly ahead of her with long, easy strides, looking the same as he always did. And yet, in light of her thoughts, somehow he seemed to have taken on an odd, mysterious fascination, as if she'd never really looked at him before. Idly, she noted the smooth play of muscles under his clothes, the long sweep of yellow hair swaying slightly from side to side, his faint, familiar male scent, tangy in the breeze...
He seemed to sense her gaze, and turned to look at her questioningly. She quickly looked away in embarrassment, feeling her face grow hot. What am I thinking? She mentally laughed at her outrageous thoughts. Gourry? Yeah, right. The guy's not bad looking, I'll give him that-but with his brains... no way.
As time grew short, Lina began sending word of their next destination to Amelia through couriers, so that if she needed to contact them, the message would be there to meet them. One morning she'd received a frantic, hastily scrawled message.
Miss Lina, I think I found the cure-I'm almost positive-but it's a long way from here. There's no time to lose. I sent for Mister Zelgadis already-he should be here in a few days, knowing how fast he travels. Please hurry and come back as soon as possible. I'll try to stall him if he arrives before you do.-Amelia
We're gonna have to hurry to get there by the time Zel does. "Come on, Gourry-we're going back to Seyrune."
"What, already? I thought we were looking for a cure for Zelgadis. Something to do with Amelia, right?" The tall swordsman had managed to pick up enough hints here and there to have a vague understanding of what was going on, even though no one had told him why.
Drat! Lina debated with herself to try to explain everything to him, or hope he would keep quiet about it. I'll have to tell him. He knows Amelia's in on this, and he's sure to say something to Zel. "Okay, look, Gourry," she began as they walked out of the town, following the road back to Seyrune. "I know you can't keep a secret to save your life, but do you think you could do it for Zel and Amelia's future happiness?"
"Future happiness? Aren't they happy now?"
"...Never mind that. We've got a problem. You know Amelia's a princess, right?"
"And she has to follow certain rules for the good of her kingdom, okay?"
"Well, one of those rules says that Amelia has to get married by her seventeenth birthday. And the guy she wants to marry is Zelgadis."
"Hey, really? That's great!" Gourry grinned.
"Not really. You know how shy Zel is when it comes to girls? Well, Amelia really loves him, but she's not sure if he loves her, or if he just feels he shouldn't because a chimera would never be allowed to marry the princess of the capital of white magic."
"Amelia, you dolt!" Lina knocked him on the head. "Zelgadis is afraid he won't be allowed to marry Amelia while he's a chimera, so he's afraid to love her." At least, I hope that's true. "That's why we've been looking for his cure."
"Well, why didn't you say so in the first place?"
Lina facefaulted onto the dusty road. After a few moments, she wearily got up. "Just don't mention anything about romance when we're with Zelgadis, okay?" She decided against trying to explain why. Her face hurt where she'd hit the road.
"Got it. No romantic stuff." He was unusually quiet for the rest of the trip back, giving her thoughtful glances now and then. Several times, Lina almost asked him what was bothering him, but fearing a repetition of the previous conversation, she used the time to plan a few things instead. She also caught herself gazing speculatively at him a few times when he wasn't looking.
Upon their arrival at daybreak, she learned that Amelia had planned a couple of things on her own. While Gourry started in on the food, Lina had a quick private chat about Amelia's prior evening with Zelgadis. "A concert, huh? Not a bad idea... and he really liked your new gown? I told you he would... he actually let you touch his face?"
Amelia was much encouraged. "He seems to be happy here. At first he wanted to leave, but later, he stopped mentioning it altogether. He didn't even look at the book the whole night. Oh, and he said I was pretty!"
"That's great, Amelia! I'm really happy for you," Lina said warmly. "So, when are you going to give him the guiolin?"
"After breakfast, I think. I wanted to let him sleep in-he looked so weary yesterday."
"Well, we can't wait too long. We don't want to make it back from this trip just in time to have you pop the question on the poor guy. Zelgadis isn't the kind of guy to make spur-of-the-moment decisions that'll affect his whole life-at least not anymore. I imagine he learned his lesson the hard way."
Both girls were silent, recalling Zelgadis' strained explanation of how he had wanted his grandfather Rezo to make him a better fighter, stronger, bigger and tougher than nature had allowed for.
Amelia frowned. "Miss Lina, I love my father, but there are times when he just doesn't know when to keep his mouth shut."
Lina shot a surprised look at her friend. Since when does Amelia criticize her father?
"He told Mister Zelgadis about my wedding. I could have died-I really didn't want him to know. If he thinks I'm getting married to some other man he won't even consider-well, ah..."
"Making a play for you himself," Lina finished.
Amelia nodded. "Right. He's already so self-conscious about his appearance-even though I can't understand why-that I'm afraid something like this might discourage him even more."
Love is blind. Lina snorted in amusement. "It's probably just as well. This way he knows there's a deadline-it saves me from having to make up a lot of lame excuses about why we have to hurry."
"I suppose so." The younger girl looked doubtfully in the direction of Zelgadis' room.
Gourry had almost spilled the beans a couple of times already, even though technically he hadn't actually mentioned anything about romance. But Zelgadis had quick wits, and was likely to infer Gourry's meaning through diverse clues.
Now, she wanted to get her hands on that book herself, to see exactly what it was that Amelia had found. A couple of quick, whispered sentences really didn't tell her a whole lot. And he had read a little of it yesterday with Amelia, and some this morning during breakfast.
Zelgadis looked down at the petite sorceress and flushed a little. "Well, I don't know, exactly. I haven't had much of a chance to look at the book yet."
"I was-busy last night."
"Oh? Busy?" Lina raised an eyebrow, smirking. "And just what were you doing that was so fascinating?"
The way she asked the question embarrassed him. Then his embarrassment changed to irritation. I don't have to tell her everything I do. It's none of her business, anyway. He stood up and began walking back to the privacy of his quarters without looking back. "I'll go take a look at it now," he said, careful to sound calm, so as not to give Lina the satisfaction of knowing she'd gotten to him. For once, she was silent.
The redhead watched her blushing friend leave. The teasing grin on her face faded, a sad, serious look replacing it. I shouldn't have said that. If only he wasn't so much fun to tease! He's so skittish-I remember teasing him about Amelia's crush on him. Now I wish I hadn't.
"Well, nothing I can do about it now." Lina said aloud in a soft tone. "Come on, Gourry. Let's go look around the ship."
"Sure, Lina. Hey, did you know they keep a crate of live chickens up on deck? That means we can have fresh eggs, and fried chicken every now and then, instead of just seafood..."
Zelgadis had chosen to stay in his room mainly for the privacy, since he kept everything he owned on him. Unfortunately, his room only had a tiny porthole in the door, which let in very little light. He preferred not to take chances with a candle or oil lamp on a wooden ship, which left him the option of going back out, or using a lighting spell. He chose the spell, deciding he wanted to avoid distractions. Distractions named Lina.
For three days the chimera deciphered the journal and studied the map, only emerging once a day for food. At the beginning was an encouraging message, written on the inside cover, obviously written later than the rest of the journal.
'As I write this, Six Years have Passed. I and my Beloved Mellesande have been Blessed with three beautiful, normal Children. I Rejoyce in their innocent, carefree Joy and Vigour. May they never have to know the Trials their foolish Papa had to undertake.'
The journal was full of bits of poetry, and phrases like 'Ah, Mellesande. My other half, my life's companion...'
He'd managed to decipher about four-fifths of the book, and keep himself occupied during the passage of the ship from the river to the open sea. By the third day, he'd had enough of being cooped up in his tiny cabin, so he joined Lina and Gourry for the noontime meal. Besides, he felt a little uneasy with the idea of being trapped in his quarters in case something should happen.
"How's the translation coming?" Lina asked after greeting him.
"I can understand why Amelia sought more instruction in deciphering some of this. I'm nearly through, but it's taking longer than normal because the language he uses is so archaic. I've had some experience with this sort of thing before, but-"
"So what does it say?" Lina interrupted impatiently.
"The man seems to have been a bit of a romantic. A lot of flowery phrases, and endless descriptions of the woman he was betrothed to, but the gist of it is, he traveled from village to village for nearly five years, searching for a cure."
Zelgadis settled back in his chair and rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "Now, because he wasn't a particularly powerful mage, even as a chimera, he didn't get a lot of help from most of the people he met. Actually, he spent a lot of time running from people trying to kill him, mistaking him for a mazoku. This was only about a century after the War of the Monster's Fall, you understand, fairly fresh in the mind of the collective populace. People had little sympathy for anyone who didn't appear human."
Lina piped up, "Hey, so you're one-up on this guy already. You have an entire ship at your disposal, and the backing of the royal house of Seyrune."
"Oh, so did he-at least, the woman-his betrothed-was a princess of Seyrune."
Gourry made one of his rare astute observations. "You and this other guy sure have a lot in common."
There was an awkward silence. Slowly, the chimera turned an odd shade of lavender. "Ah... yes. Well, actually... if I hadn't met you all, I suspect my fate might have been distressingly similar to his."
Everyone in the room was silent for a long moment. Then Lina spoke up boldly. "Well, you did meet us. And now we're gonna find your cure and-who knows? Maybe there'll be some unclaimed treasure lying around!" She had miniature stars in her eyes.
Zelgadis half-laughed, a single syllable which came out more from his nose than his mouth. She'll never change. But then, I wouldn't change either of them if I could. Just as they accept me the way I am.
"He left a map, right?" Lina got up to take a look.
"Yes. I've been studying it. It's actually not that badly drawn, considering. Of course, most of the towns are irrelevant, since humans tend to move around a lot-but you can get a pretty accurate idea of where to go using the other landmarks. You see-here, where he-"
A piercing blast from the crow's-nest watchman's horn cut short their conversation. "Sea dragon!" the watchman bellowed, his voice hoarse with terror. Zelgadis scooped up the journal and slipped it into the deepest pocket of his cloak, and took off after Lina and Gourry.
Author's Note: So that's the Plan-to cure and court our elusive chimera! Amelia will be appearing in many future chapters, for those of you who might have worried. Plenty more Z/A moments along the journey.
And Lina is starting to suspect that Gourry may be more to her than just her best friend.
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