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 descriptive. PG for minor swearing.
Many thanks to my friends Shell Presto and Marie!
Note: The magic spell 'Dragon Slave' used to be known as 'Dragon Slayer' in ancient times.
Chapter Twelve: Return of the Sea Dragon! /
Amelia's Having a Ball
Outside, the darkness was broken only by a few large lanterns hanging from various spots. Zelgadis heard familiar running footsteps behind him. "Lina! Gourry! It's back!"
"I know, I know!" Lina yelled as she and her ever-present shadow materialized out of the darkness. "Why couldn't it have waited a couple more hours? We were almost to land!"
"I think it knows that. I suspect it was only waiting to heal before trying again, but it must have noticed we're not sailing parallel to shore anymore."
"Damn! It was hard enough to fight in daylight. It's got us at a real disadvantage now," Lina grumbled.
"I bet he figured on that, too. Like I said before, this is one smart dragon." Gourry pointed upward in the classic 'teacher's' pose.
"Cunning, maybe, but not sentient," Lina corrected him absently, already thinking up fighting strategies.
"What's sen-shent?" Gourry asked, puzzled.
Lina gritted her teeth in sudden exasperation. When would she learn not to use big words in front of him? "It means having the mind of a person, not just an animal, who only thinks of eating and sleeping." She gave him a sideways glance. "Come to think of it, there are times when I wonder if you're sentient."
After a long pause, Gourry got it. "Hey!"
"This is no time to be squabbling, you two." Zelgadis was annoyed. Why do I always have to be the referee?
"Go for its other eye. That's its most vulnerable spot," Lina ordered.
"Right. Flare Lance!" Zelgadis cast, his voice deepening.
"Bram Gush!" Lina chanted at the same time.
Twin bolts of bright energy, one of flame, the other a concentrated burst of wind, streaked toward the dragon. Unfortunately, in the darkness the agile dragon avoided them easily.
"Damn it!" Lina cursed. "The darkness helps it as much as it handicaps us!"
"I've got an idea." Gourry took off, disappearing below deck before his startled companions could react.
The chimera and the sorceress exchanged bemused glances. This'll be interesting, Lina thought before turning her concentration back to the problem at hand. "Zel, do you think you could distract it long enough for me to cast a Burst Flare?"
"I'll try. Digu Volt!" The chimera cast several blasts in a row, shooting electricity from his extended palms, while the small sorceress next to him began chanting. Her red hair lifted upward, flying around her.
"Source of all power, crimson fire burning bright! Gather in my hand and become an inferno! Burst Flare!" Huge triple swirls of magenta energy burst from her hands, rocketing toward the dragon.
It tried to dodge. The Burst Flare was the most powerful fire spell taught to most mages, though, and the gigantic creature was caught across the side of the head, perilously close to its remaining eye. It screamed in pain, retreating.
"Nice work, Lina," Zelgadis commented, watching the dark shape of the dragon ducking its head to relieve the burns.
"Thanks. But I doubt that'll stop it for long."
"I've got it!" Gourry came pounding up from the lower deck.
"This." Gourry's arms were full of food- several large baskets full of bread, fish, and vegetables. "If we give him this, he might leave again."
For just a moment, the two mages considered his idea. That's actually a somewhat logical plan, considering what happened the last time. Zelgadis thought with surprised respect.
Lina smiled at her friend. "For once, that's actually not a bad idea, Gourry, but I don't think it'll work. That dragon's out for revenge this time."
For a moment Gourry looked wilted. "Are you sure? You said it only thinks about eating and-"
"Animals will go after people who hurt them, dummy!"
"Oh." Gourry looked crestfallen, then brightened. "Well, at least we can eat while we're trying to think of a way to stop him."
Zelgadis suppressed a snicker, allowing the corner of his mouth to twitch upward a bit.
"You're right." Lina snatched some of the food from the baskets. "I'm gonna need some energy. It looks like nothing short of a Dragon Slave is gonna stop that thing." Lina turned to Zelgadis and asked, "Are we close enough to shore yet to fly the rest of the way there?"
Zelgadis felt a chill go through him. "I'm not sure. I'll ask the captain-and have him get the lifeboats ready, too."
What was that? Amelia shivered. She looked around quickly, but saw nothing out of the ordinary.
"Excuse me, Princess Amelia? I was hoping to have the next dance with you-if you're not too footsore from your previous partners," a young man's voice came from behind her, edged with laughter. Amelia turned around, and blinked in shock.
The slender young man who stood before her bore a striking resemblance to Zelgadis. He had the same big-eyed, elfin look, the same slender, graceful body, the same fluffy hair-although his was a rich reddish-brown color. He was human, of course, with bright brown eyes, now staring at her hesitantly.
"Um, Princess? Are you all right?" His voice was higher than Zelgadis', making her realize he was hardly older than herself.
"Oh, ah, yes. I'm sorry for staring. It's just that...you look like someone I know." For a moment, her heart had leaped, hoping it was her Zelgadis-human. But it was too soon, and the innocent eyes staring back at her bore none of the pain in the chimera's.
"Oh, really? That's interesting. I've heard that everyone has a double somewhere. Oh, by the way, my name's Kerrin."
Amelia accepted his offer to dance. To her surprise, she found herself chatting easily with Kerrin, who turned out to be a year younger than she. He was a prince from a neighboring kingdom. He seemed very young to her, friendly, eager, and emotionally open-almost completely opposite from the man she loved. It was interesting to see what Zelgadis might have been like if not for his curse.
He also loved to talk. "My cousin Li and I used to be best friends. Then he went off to study under some old relative of his, and I was sent away to school for four years. I just got back a few months ago."
Amelia laughed for the first time in days when he sheepishly admitted he had a crush on her. It was not the first time a man had told her something along those lines, but most had come on strongly, with a 'let me sweep you off your feet' attitude that made her want to Diem Wind them away from her. But she didn't want to lead him on, so she confessed, "Well, you see, the man you resemble is ...someone I care for very deeply."
His eyes widened. "I didn't know you'd chosen someone already."
"I haven't-not officially. The way things are, I can't marry him."
"Why not? In Seyrune a princess isn't required to marry a prince, is she?"
"No, but-well, you see, he's under a curse. His body was changed, so he isn't-that is, he doesn't look quite human."
Kerrin looked shocked. "That's terrible! Who would do such a wicked thing?"
"His grandfather, actually." She decided not to complicate things by mentioning Rezo's name.
"His own grandfather? The fiend! Why don't you just make him change him back?"
"Oh-he can't. He's dead now. My-my chosen one has been searching for a cure now for more than three years. That's where he is right now." The princess frowned. "The really stupid thing is, I don't even want him to be cured. I think he's the most handsome man I've ever met. It's only because other people are afraid of him because of his appearance that he's even looking for a cure."
Amelia wil Tesla Seyrune drew herself up to her full modest height, trembling with indignation. Striking a heroic pose, with her index finger piercing the heavens, she cried, "Oh, I wish I could take all the prejudice and intolerance in the world and smash it all into oblivion with the hammer of justice!"
The prince looked at her with wide eyes, impressed. "You are so cool. But what if he doesn't return with a cure before you have to marry?"
"Then I'll be forced to-" she couldn't finish.
Kerrin was silent for a few seconds. "Is there anything I could do to help?"
Amelia smiled at his earnest offer. "It's sweet of you to offer, but my friends already searched your kingdom. The only other problem I have is all these unwanted suitors."
The young man brightened. "Hey, what if everyone thought you'd chosen? Wouldn't they leave you alone then?"
The princess was surprised. ""Why-yes, I suppose. But that wouldn't be right. I couldn't lie to someone and tell him-"
Kerrin interrupted her cheerfully. "I'd volunteer. I already know you love someone else, so you wouldn't be lying to me."
Amelia gave him a suspicious look. "This wouldn't be a sneaky way of getting me to pick you, would it?"
The prince put his hand behind his head, a sweatdrop appearing on his temple. "Okay, you caught me. But...you can't blame a guy for hoping." She couldn't help but grin at his sheepish smile.
"Kerrin, why would you want to marry me after I just told you I'm in love with someone else?"
He looked down at his hands, twiddling his index fingers together. His face was an interesting shade of pink. "I really like you. I've seen you at parties, and ceremonies, and I really liked what I saw. I was always too shy to introduce myself before. But tonight, I saw you turning away one man after another, all more rich or handsome or powerful than me. I thought, 'maybe you're looking for someone different...maybe someone like me'."
He looked into her eyes, and his brown ones were warm, and sincere. "I really admire you, and want to get to know you better. If not as a betrothed, then maybe...as a friend?"
Amelia was flattered. This shy boy was very different from a lot of the slick men who had been hitting on her all night. "I can always use a good friend," she admitted with a wry smile. "But as for choosing you...I wouldn't want to get your hopes up, or lead you on, or anything."
"I understand." They began dancing again. "You're really in a bad position, aren't you? Even though you're the princess of the capital city, you can't have the one thing you really want." His brown eyes were sympathetic.
The young princess didn't want to think about that prospect. She said stiffly, "It's not impossible. My chosen one is following a really promising lead to a cure. If everything works out, he should be back a couple of weeks before the ceremony." Her mind veered away from her other great fear-that he would return human, only to declare that he wasn't in love with her.
"Well, there's always hope." Kerrin said cheerfully. Amelia gave him a sharp look, wondering if he was talking more about his hopes, or hers.
"The captain said we're still over an hour from shore." Zelgadis reported tensely.
Lina nodded grimly. "So we're gonna need to stall for time, if we want to get everyone to land alive. Ohhh, I wish I could just cut loose with a Dragon Slave!"
"I know." Zelgadis paused, looking at her solemnly as something that had been in the back of his mind for a while now suddenly came into focus. "But Amelia put me in charge, which means I'm responsible for looking after these men. She trusts me. And anyway, they wouldn't be here if it wasn't for me."
Lina looked resigned. "Yeah, I know." She took a deep breath and drew herself up to her full diminutive height, smiling determinedly. "Well then, what's a good way to spook a sea dragon?"
Zelgadis smirked, raising one stony eyebrow, a rare spark of humor in his dark blue-green eyes. "You're asking me? It's your nickname."
Lina's face turned red. She opened her mouth to say something, but froze as Gourry yelled, "He's coming baaack!"
Even in the dark, it was easy to see the murderous glint in the sea dragon's single remaining eye. It was swimming toward them at full speed.
"Everyone, get back by the lifeboats!" Zelgadis shouted at the terrified sailors, who were scattered in clumps around the ship. They obeyed instantly, all of them crowding into one end of the ship near the lifeboats, which had been readied for instant use.
Zelgadis felt a moment of gratification at their willingness to obey him. Vague thoughts about trust and respect flitted around in the back of his head as he positioned himself near Lina and Gourry. He exchanged grim glances with his two friends, all of them realizing that the time for banter was past.
The enormous beast didn't slow as it reached the ship. To the watchers' horrified astonishment, just before it would have hit the side of the ship, it leaped straight up into the air, incredibly high, showering the trio on the deck with water.
Zelgadis heard several of the men cry out in fear. He had a brief instant to wonder why they didn't all stay down below, but the answer flashed through his mind as the dragon descended, apparently aiming for the mostly empty main deck. If the ship sinks, no one wants to be trapped below, practically helpless in the dark.
"Look out!" Gourry bellowed, grabbing Lina around the waist with one arm and leaping out of the way as the huge creature crashed downward onto the ship. Part of the deck gave way under the dragon's colossal weight. Showers of water, both from the dragon's wet body and from leaks in the no-longer-seaworthy hull rained down on everyone, making it impossible to keep their footing. Zelgadis heard the frightened screams of the crew as they tried to cling to parts of the ship
Those lanterns that had survived the impact were put out from the sudden deluge, plunging everything into darkness.
Zelgadis stumbled as the part of the deck he was standing on pitched steeply, sliding him directly toward the dragon's body. He experienced a feeling of speed, of something whizzing through the air toward him, and then he was caught in a grip of agony. His torso was being crushed between what felt like two sets of giant pikes.
Teeth, he realized.
Amelia was laughing at something Kerrin had said when she suddenly gasped and froze in place. Her eyes were as wide as saucers.
"Princess Amelia, what's wrong?" Kerrin asked worriedly.
The metal ball on her wrist band suddenly lit up, radiating a brilliant white light. Kerrin backed away, watching Amelia. All the color had drained from her face. Her eyes were huge dark shadows, dominating her small face. Her lips moved, but no sound emerged.
"Amelia!" The young prince was agitated enough to take hold of her shoulders and shake her, trying to rouse her from what seemed to be a waking nightmare. Her head rolled loosely for a moment, but then she shook herself and seemed to see him.
Zelgadis! she thought, tears coming to her eyes.
Author's Notes: Who is Kerrin? My very first original character. Don't worry; this isn't the start of a love triangle...though Kerrin is being honest when he says he cares for Amelia. I just get tired of all the seemingly friendly characters who turn out to be villians...I wanted someone who is genuinely nice, ya know? Amelia naturally doesn't want anyone to know who she's in love with, which is where the whole 'chosen one' thing comes in-it might reach her father's ears, and she's still not sure how he might react-he's so emotional.
So who is Kerrin? No, he's not Zel's twin brother. You'll just hafta wait an' see!
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