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!
Chapter Thirteen: A Silent Cry for Help
"Zelgadis!" Lina shrieked. She and Gourry had ended up landing near the crowd of sailors at the end of the ship. Immediately she had cast a large light spell in the air above the ship. She and Gourry watched, horrified, as their friend was snatched up by the gigantic beast. Neither of them noticed the white glow coming from the edges of the dragon's mouth.
"Darkness beyond twilight, crimson be-"
"Lina! No!" Gourry grabbed her arms from behind, slipping his arms under her upper arms and lifting her up off the ground; one of the few ways he knew of that was sometimes effective in stopping her when she got too reckless. "You can't Dragon Slave him while he's got Zelgadis in his mouth!"
"Let me go, Gourry!" Lina was kicking her feet frantically. "I've gotta do something!"
They both froze as they heard the horrific grating rasp of teeth on stone. Gourry's grip loosened somewhat, letting Lina slip to the ground, but still holding her back protectively against him with his hands in front of her shoulders, his wrists under her arms.
They looked up to see the dragon trying to bite their friend in half. It had clamped its teeth around his waist with the poor chimera's top half trapped inside, his legs sticking out awkwardly. Zelgadis' cape was dangling over the monster's chin, looking like a fancy cloth napkin.
They could see it was having trouble, thanks to the chimera's stone skin. An almost human look of perplexity crossed the beast's face. It shook its head like a dog, and tried biting down harder. Zelgadis' legs jerked spasmodically, but the only result was that a small fang broke off in the dragon's mouth with a resounding snap. It froze, blinking its gold-green eyes, apparently deciding whether to just swallow or not. Finally, it turned its head to the side and spat the chimera out-ptui!-like Lina spitting out a piece of gristle. The stone man was propelled through the night in a high arc, radiating a stream of white light as he came down with a huge splash about a hundred feet from the ship.
The dragon looked at the rest of the people on board. It snorted a hot gust of air at them in disgust, and pulled itself to the side of the ship with its tiny front legs. The huge beast slid over the side of the ship and back into the water, leaving a trail of slime behind.
Everyone just stood there for about a minute, stunned. Finally, Gourry spoke up. Predictably, his first words were, "Lina, what just happened? Why'd he just leave?"
Uncharacteristically, Lina was silent. After a few more seconds, Gourry looked down at her. It hadn't occurred to him yet to release her-he was still holding her against him, the top of her head coming to his collarbone. He could just make out her profile in the dimness. She had an odd, thoughtful expression on her face.
She blinked, and turned to look at him. Gourry looked at her uneasily-her face was strangely emotionless, her ruby eyes wide and solemn. Then, almost as if he was watching a magical transformation, her face slowly took on a familiar annoyed look.
"Let-go-of-me." She didn't say it loudly, but it was enough for him to remember what he was doing, and to whom. He jumped back, prepared to start apologizing, but Lina simply walked over to the side of the ship, looking down toward where the dragon had vanished. Then she answered his question as if no time had passed since he'd asked it.
"I figure the dragon assumed we were all made of stone." She snorted. "That's so cliché-I'm surprised it worked. I guess his curse saved his butt again." She smirked, looking toward where the chimera had landed, expecting to see him swimming irritably toward the ship.
"Right, Lina." Gourry chuckled, relieved that Lina didn't seem angry about him holding her. "Say, where's Zelgadis?"
He should have come up by now. Maybe he's hurt. The petite sorceress scanned the dark waters with a growing sense of dread forming in the pit of her stomach. Where is he?
Pain. When the dragon had seized him in its mighty jaws, he had almost passed out from the agony. Its teeth hadn't penetrated his skin, but the enormous crushing power in its jaws had almost been enough to finish him off. After all, his insides weren't made of stone. On its second attempt, Zelgadis would have screamed, except that all the air had been forced out of his lungs. He had lain there in its mouth, gasping helplessly, until a new compression forced him out into the air.
The chimera had had no chance to recover, no chance to cast a flight-spell, and as the dark waters loomed before him he had only had enough time to take a hasty, painful breath and reach out blindly, grabbing hold of something solid as he hit with a huge splash.
His lungs burning, a bright white light blazing all around him, Zelgadis had mindlessly clutched the object to his aching chest. His head buzzed. Trying to swim was futile-he had no idea which way was up-but he found himself instinctively kicking, anyway.
Suddenly, he became aware that his head had broken the surface. Like a starving animal, he gulped air gratefully. Gradually, his head cleared. What happened? He looked at the object he was holding. It was a medium-sized, jagged piece of wood from the nearly-destroyed ship. It was just barely large enough to keep him afloat, if he treaded water.
There was a source of light coming from somewhere near him, turning the water a brilliant turquoise color. Off in the distance, he could see a bright ball of light high in the air, with the dark mass of the ship below it. "Li-" Zelgadis broke off into a fit of coughing. He could taste blood in his mouth.
A sudden panic seized him as he fought for air, choking, gasping, coughing, his lungs burning painfully. Desperately he struggled to cry out, to call for help, but could not utter a single syllable. Several minutes passed before the spasms calmed enough for him to take cautious, shallow breaths. He experienced a surge of helplessness. What am I going to do? I can't use my magic! And...the water...The liquid surrounding him felt like a maw, ready to swallow him whole the moment his strength ran out. He fought the urge to moan in fear, feeling the muscles in his chest and throat on the verge of more painful convulsions.
Don't think about it. With the same fierce courage that had kept him alive this long, he forced his thoughts away from the dark expanse of water all around him, glancing upward again at the distant ship. I've got to stay afloat long enough to be rescued. I just hope Lina and the others are still alive...
"I have to go to him!"
Amelia turned from Kerrin and bolted from the ballroom. Her father called after her, "Amelia!"
She didn't even pause. I have to go now! He's hurt-he's afraid. He needs me! She was burning with urgency, and his fear.
Her bracelet was blazing on her wrist, putting out light but no heat. She was too distracted to pay any attention to it, tripping on her gown, stumbling, almost falling. She recovered and clutched the skirt in her hands, running as fast as her legs could carry her to the stables.
Zelgadis was slowly losing strength. Shafts of agony were clawing their way through his body, from broken bones and other internal injuries. Every breath was torture. It was nothing a powerful healing spell couldn't fix...provided he was rescued in time. Come on, Lina, he thought, using annoyance to cover his own growing trepidation-the fear that his friends had been killed, and alarm at the growing refusal of his body to obey his commands. Where are you? Why did I bring you along on this farce if not to help me in situations like this?
And where is that light coming from? I don't remember casting a light spell. The water around him was still shining with turquoise light as if somehow lit from beneath. Forcing himself to tread water, he scanned the skies once more, coughing, every jolt tearing at his chest. He spat metallic-tasting blood into the water. No Lina.
Gradually, as his hope dimmed, his kicks became more intermittent, more jerky. A splash of water in his face alerted him to the fact that he had nearly fallen asleep. He could feel a warm, numbing haze around the edges of his mind. The sleep of death.
It didn't seem so abhorrent, somehow. After all, what has all of this gotten me? My friends are probably dead; maybe all of the sailors, too. I may have helped in the past, but it looks like associating with me has brought about the very fate I feared when I chose to befriend Lina-her death.
The silver-haired chimera pictured her in his head, grinning and holding up two fingers in the sign for 'victory'. He thought about Gourry, always ready with a smile, accepting their differences in his simple way. He closed his eyes in pain, but not from his wounds. Maybe everyone would be better off if I was gone.
He relaxed his grip around the wood almost gratefully, ready to let go and slip quietly away under the water. The light shining around him suddenly got brighter.
'Promise me you'll come back, no matter what...'
Amelia? The chimera blinked. Her voice seemed to echo in his ears. It was almost as if he could see her, feel her anguish at the thought of his impending death. He could practically hear her speak, urging him not to give up, to keep fighting, to have hope.
He had a sudden vivid recollection of how happy she had been to see him, running toward him with her arms outstretched to embrace him, and his own unaccustomed feeling of contentment to be in her company. Amelia...The last time he'd seen her, he had vowed to return, to play his guiolin for her again. And...she had kissed him...
With effort, he tightened his grip on the wood, curling his forearm up over its rough surface. Have to hang on. I promised her I'd return.
"Where is he?" Lina repeated out loud.
"Gee, I hope Zelgadis can swim," Gourry said out of the blue.
Lina gave him a scornful look, and opened her mouth to say something. She paused. A worried look appeared on her face. "You know, I'm not sure I've ever seen him really swim."
"Maybe he can't. With his skin, you'd think he'd sink like a stone." Lina winced at his unintentional pun. What if jellyfish brains is right? Oh, no!
"Rei Wing! Zelgadiiis!" she bellowed, taking off in the general direction the dragon had spit him in.
Kick. Kick. Kick. Exhausted, his head drooping with his chin in the water, eyes closed, Zelgadis no longer bothered to summon the energy to spit out the blood that each laborious breath brought, simply allowing it to run from the corner of his mouth. A small dark cloud had gradually formed in front of him, slowly dissolving in the bright water.
The muscles in his forearm twitched as he struggled to keep his grip on the bobbing piece of wood near his head, while forcing the leaden weights that were his legs to move. He had long since gotten used to the occasional knocks on the side of his head from the unwieldy piece of wood in this unstable environment, as well as the cool laps of water that sporadically rose up to wipe his face clean.
The effort of keeping himself afloat finally drained the last reserves of the chimera's strength. The chunk of wood slipped suddenly from his stiffened fingers and he went under, sucking in a hasty breath of air as he felt himself sinking. For several moments a surge of energy let him valiantly try to make it back to the surface, to no avail. Soon, his efforts slowed. Gently descending, Zelgadis watched the bright surface recede away from him.
Unexpectedly, the strange light continued to shine, letting him see a little into the deep blue-green of the sea. He listened to his own heartbeat, first racing, then thumping unevenly, slowing...Oddly, he felt no more fear, no desperation, no anguish-only a deep sense of regret. He closed his eyes. Somewhere in the back of his mind flitted an image of a pair of concerned deep blue eyes. I'm sorry, Amelia. I won't be able to come to your wedding after all...
Slowly the vision of her face faded as the weary stone man surrendered to the embrace of the water, dimly perceiving the cool liquid flowing into that hard, unyielding stone-and-flesh shell...
"Zelgadis!" Amelia slowed, suddenly dropping to her hands and knees in the corridor. Her bracelet's light flickered. "No!" she gasped, unaware of her father kneeling in front of her, reaching out to support her by the shoulders.
"Amelia, what's wrong?" he shouted, his dark eyes full of alarmed concern.
"Zelgadis-he's dying-I feel it..." she said, not answering him so much as verbalizing the horror in her mind. "It's all dark and cold and...he can't breathe! He's drowning!" Her own breath quickened in response. "Swim, Zelgadis! Keep trying! You can't give up now! Not when we're so close-"
The light in her bracelet was fading. She could feel him fading as well, the blueness in her mind turning gray, dimming...
"Noooo!" she wailed, devastated.
Lina was searching grimly, berating herself for having overlooked such an obvious drawback. And I even used him as an anchor once. It's just that Zel's never seemed to have any trouble with water before...what was that?
There was a patch of light in the water, with a splintery chunk of wood floating at its edge. Heading toward it, the red-haired sorceress realized it was coming from below the surface. It could be Zelgadis, trying to signal me. She hesitated. I'd better check it out. Closing her eyes, Lina concentrated, releasing her hold on the old flying spell as she began casting the new one. Plummetting down toward the water's surface, she shouted, "Rei Wing!"
A bubble of protective wind appeared around her, halting her fall. Mentally she guided the bubble under the water, heading for the fading source of the light. As she drew rapidly closer, she was able to make out her friend's silhouette, outlined by white light. The light seemed to be coming from him, somehow. Lina didn't waste time wondering how or why, as she noticed his head and limbs swaying limply in the current. Oh, no. He can't be!
Lina guided the bubble to envelop her friend. Zelgadis lay sprawled face-up on the curved floor of the bubble, unmoving. The strange white light that surrounded him was weak and flickering, but it was all she had to see by.
"Zelgadis?" Anxiously she leaned over to look at his face-and choked on an inarticulate cry as her breath gushed out of her. The chimera had a look the young sorceress had come to know all too well over the past few years. His mouth was slack, his eyes open, staring at nothing...and he wasn't breathing. With a whimper, Lina collapsed to her hands and knees beside her friend's still body. I'm too late! Hot tears of grief began coursing down her cheeks. Why didn't I start looking for you sooner?
For several seconds the entire world seemed to disappear, leaving her in a tiny dim cocoon of absolute silence. The patter of her own tears hitting the floor of the bubble startled her with their loudness. She shook her head, mentally slapping herself. Come on, Lina, get a grip! Stop thinking like a quitter! With a snarl of pain and anger she brought her fists down on Zelgadis' chest, and was rewarded with a small spurt of water from his mouth. Ow! That's not gonna work. I need to...
The petite sorceress stood up and stepped on the chimera's chest, bracing herself on the sides of the bubble walls for balance. His chest compressed a little more. She bounced a couple of times. More water came from his mouth, trickling down to the floor of the bubble. Lina's stomach clutched-the liquid seemed to be the wrong color for water. She stepped down and took a closer look. The water was a pale reddish color-he was bleeding inside!
She checked to see if he was breathing. No. Come on, Zelgadis! she thought in anguish, looking down into his unresponsive face, her red tresses getting caught in the fine silver-blue wire of his hair. Don't you die on me now! What would I tell Amelia?
Author's Notes: Nowhere in the Slayers anime is there a scene where Zelgadis swims completely independently, although I am aware that Mr. Kanzaka, his creator, once said in an interview that Zel can swim if he fills his lungs with air. But suppose he's incapacitated by a serious injury....
BTW, many of my chapter titles have more than one meaning. Like chapter seven-A TOUCHING Farewell, get it-Amelia touches him fairly intimately for the first time in a long while... And sometimes the action will be in two parts. Like fighting a dragon and having a ballroom dance.
Wondering about the mysterious white light? Then read on! ^_^
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