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 descriptive. PG for minor swearing.

Many thanks to my friends Shell Presto and Marie!

Chapter Fifteen: Sally Forth, Amelia! /

Aberrant Notions of a Red-Haired Sorceress

Amelia set out on her journey the next morning. Her father had prevailed upon her to wait until then, saying that he wanted to prepare some traveling supplies for her, and that she should try to get some sleep.

An experienced traveler, the dark-haired princess had not taken long to pack. Shouldering her bag, she paused in the doorway to take one last look at her familiar room. Her gaze fell upon the wooden box containing Zelgadis' guiolin, at the foot of her bed. Amelia set her bag down on the floor and went over to the box. Lifting the lid, she revealed the beautiful instrument, its golden wood shining warmly. Extending a finger, she plucked at a string. The guiolin gave out a discordant thrum, as if it were sighing longingly for its owner.

I miss him too. He was worried that something would happen to you. Instead he's the one who needs looking after! She set the lid back in place and picked up her bag, an uncharacteristically somber expression settling on her face. I will find him and bring him back to Seyrune, alive and healthy. I swear it.

Only her father and Kerrin were waiting to see her off when she arrived at the stable at dawn, dressed in her usual cream-and-pink traveling outfit. Her father's best long-distance horse, Gallant, a lovely, white, well-muscled animal with a friendly temperament, had been saddled and stocked with plenty of supplies. As Amelia approached the two of them to say goodbye, Prince Philionel surprised her by holding out a familiar item.

"You're-you're giving me Seyrune's crest?" The golden crest of her family could be used to charge food and goods, in the event that she ran out of money. Her father had taken away the privilege of its use after Lina had charged up an astronomical amount of food bills on it. Amelia had been humiliated.

Her father nodded solemnly. "May the gods speed you on your journey," he said, smiling. Amelia noticed he looked anxious, though, and guessed he was imagining what Lina would do if she got her hands on it.

Tears stung the princess' eyes. Her father was doing everything he could to make her happy. "Oh, Daddy!" Amelia threw herself into her father's arms. "Thank you! I promise I won't let Miss Lina know I have it."

"Thank you, daughter," he replied, not bothering to hide his great relief. "I just wish I could do more to help."

The thought came unbidden to her mind. You could allow me to marry Mister Zelgadis, she thought guiltily. But even if you did, that wouldn't make him happy. He doesn't want to be a chimera, so marrying him would only make me happy.

Her father wanted her to bring an escort along, but she vetoed the idea vehemently. "I can fight as well as any of them."

"But you don't know how to use a sword," he pointed out.

She ignored that. "I've traveled by myself before, and besides, none of them can do magic. They'd just attract attention and slow me down."

To her surprise, her father backed down, lowering his eyes. Maybe I'm getting the hang of this diplomatic arguing after all. Amelia took advantage of the break in the conversation to climb into Gallant's saddle.

"There is one other ahem-detail..." Prince Philionel put a hand behind his shaggy, black-haired head in embarrassment. "If you should be unable to attain a cure for him in the time you have left, you ah, that is, you need to choose a..."

Her face fell. "I need to choose someone to rule with me," Amelia said, resigned. Her throat stuck on the word 'husband'. Frowning, she looked away from her father. Her gaze fell on Kerrin. She was struck by his appearance once again. He looked so like, and yet so unlike, her love... but if she was to be married to someone other than Zelgadis, she might as well make someone else happy.

With her heart as heavy as Zelgadis' skin, she uttered, "Kerrin."

The young prince came forward, his expression curious. "Yes?"

Amelia took a deep breath. "I-I don't think I could ever love you the way you want, but...if you would be willing, I would..." Oh, Zelgadis! She closed her eyes for a moment. "...marry you, and try to give you whatever happiness I could."

"Really, Miss Amelia?" He beamed at her, his bright brown eyes reflecting his happiness.

The sight of his smile, so much like the one she longed to see on her poor chimera's face, caused a stab of agony to lance through her chest. She closed her eyes again. "Yes," she whispered, her throat tight.

She heard him move closer. Opening her eyes, she was surprised to see that his face was solemn. Looking her in the eye, he said sincerely, "I hope you find him-and his cure." His voice was gentle.

He means it. He wants me, but he wants my happiness more. Amelia realized in wonder. A true friend! A burst of elation overcame her misery. Impulsively, she leaped up onto the white steed and held up her fingers in a 'v'. "Victory!" she cried out, rearing her horse dramatically, and thundering off in a trail of dust. Her soul was singing with joy. Though she was facing a long journey, alone, she was following her heart.

Prince Phil beamed. "My little girl's all grown up. Not long ago she would have fallen off. I taught her that trick myself. That reminds me of the time..."

Kerrin developed a big sweatdrop at his temple as he followed the crown prince inside the castle.

Eventually the sun came up, lighting the beach with the pale colors of the dawn. Lina woke slowly from an interesting dream, something involving Gourry, having fallen asleep in spite of herself. Yawning, she sat up and watched the sleepy sailors preparing breakfast over the campfire.

Across the clearing with his back to her, Zelgadis was talking to the captain, no doubt planning something without consulting her. She was about to spring to her feet and join them when she noticed Amelia's bracelet, still attached to the canteen the chimera had taken to wearing at his waist.

The young sorceress was suddenly assaulted by the image of the bracelet's metal ward-glowing, providing the eerie light she had used to find her friend the previous evening. She wanted to ask him about it in the worst way, but, uncharacteristically, she held back.

What is it with that thing? I've wondered about that ward since the beginning, but I'm still not sure why Amelia gave it to him. Did she put that spell on it, for some reason? Or is it that ancient spell that's supposed to have been put on it by Amelia's ancestors? What's it supposed to do, anyway?

I can barely sense anything from it, now, but something made it glow last night! Does Zelgadis know? He didn't say anything about it last night, but he was pretty out of it. He might not have noticed. The redhead ground her teeth. It's so frustrating! I can't afford to make a big deal out of this, because if Zelgadis really doesn't know what's going on, he'll probably get all embarrassed again, and might even decide not to wear it anymore. And if Amelia gave it to him for a reason...

She frowned thoughtfully. As far as I know, it isn't dangerous. Actually, it really saved his butt last night. Maybe I'd better keep my mouth shut for now.

Again the petite sorceress made as if to rise, only to discover that Gourry had apparently clasped her ankle in his big hand sometime in his sleep. She huffed in annoyance, and started to kick him to wake him up, and to make him release her.

The look on his face made her pause. The blonde swordsman slept on his back, with a small smile that somehow managed to look peaceful despite everything they had gone through. He had pulled her calf over to his face, resting his cheek against it like a small child with a stuffed animal. The material of her boot had prevented her from feeling his touch, although now, as she drew her leg away from him, she noticed a cool feeling replace the warmth where his skin had touched her.

Lina shivered a little, reminded of something she had noticed the night before, when Gourry had held her back from using her Dragon Slave spell. Both of them had been frozen in shock when the sea dragon had tried to crush Zelgadis in its jaws, and then they had remained standing together in astonishment as the enormous creature simply left of its own accord.

Lina remembered noticing for the first time how rapidly Gourry's heart was beating, as she stood with her back pressed against his chest. With the danger gone, and her mind not yet out of the hyper-sensitive mode, she had detachedly cataloged random things that impacted on her senses: the splashing from the multiple leaks all over the ship, the cool breeze, helping to dry their damp clothes, Gourry's particular male scent, the racing of his heart, the feel of his chest rising and falling against her back, slower than his heartbeat, but more noticeable.

She'd realized she could feel his breath on her head, stirring her red curls. He was warm, too, she'd noticed, as the wind picked up, blowing a cold gust over her. He was still holding her against him, with his large hands on the front parts of her shoulders. Somehow, she had sensed he was not trying to hold her back, but rather, trying to shield her from harm.

For the barest instant, Lina had had a desire to lean against him, to let him scoop her up into the safety of his arms, to wrap her arms around his neck and breathe in his scent, to- It had so surprised the young sorceress that she had barely heard Gourry speak to her at first, marveling over such a weird impulse. She hadn't even bothered to bash him for restraining her, shoving the incident into the back of her mind for later analysis.

She wasn't going to get the chance now, though, as Zelgadis was approaching her. "Good, you're awake," the chimera said. "Captain Barrig and his men are almost ready to leave." He cocked his stone eyebrow at her. "For a while there I thought something was wrong with you."

"Wrong with me?" Her mind flashed back to her strange thoughts about Gourry. She also realized that he had been in the dream she'd been having when she woke up. She could feel a guilty, panicky look spread over her face.

"Of course. I expected you to wake up as soon as the chef began cooking breakfast. It's been nearly half an hour now. What happened? Lose your sense of smell?" His smile was playful. "Or do you just have a cold from all that water?"

He doesn't know. Relief warred with indignation. As usual, her anger won. "Wake up, Gourry!" she yelled, taking it out on him. It was his fault for making her feel so weird. She grabbed him by the front of the shirt and shook him violently.

"Wha-what's going on?" He came awake with a start, his eyes rolling wildly. Lina dropped him to the sand with a thump.

"Get up, lazy! Breakfast's ready."

"It is? Well, why didn't you say so?" He leaped up and made a beeline for the group of sailors gathering around the stewpot.

"Hey, wait for me!" Lina raced after him, all thoughts except food lifting from her mind.

An hour later, the three friends lined up to say goodbye to Captain Barrig and his men. Zelgadis was a little surprised to realize he would miss the positive interaction. While it was nice to have the camaraderie of close friends, it was refreshing to have the kind of respect the captain had given him-respect without fear. Of course, the captain was a well-traveled man who had seen a lot in his lifetime-a man with stone skin was probably not the strangest thing he had come across.

The captain held out his hand to the chimera. Surprised, Zelgadis took it, being careful not to grip too hard. As they released each other, the captain asked, "Have ye got any sort of report ye want me to give them back in Seyrune, then?"

Zelgadis paused. "Well, of course you should explain about our change in plans-how we're returning overland, instead of by sea. If nothing goes seriously wrong, we should be back in Seyrune a few days before our deadline."

He noticed Lina frowning at him. "Maybe sooner," she added.

Captain Barrig nodded. "Do ye have a message for the princess?"

The unexpected question floored him, even though it was a perfectly logical request. Amelia had commissioned Barrig's ship herself, so she was, in effect, his sponsor. But somehow he could not come up with a single thing to say to her, as his mind filled with images of their last days together.

Lina stepped up beside him, a naughty gleam in her eye. "Tell Amelia that we're fine, and that we miss her." She nudged the chimera's ribs with her elbow. "All of us. Right, Zel?"

She's getting back at me for teasing her. "Right," he said weakly, not wanting to make an already embarrassing situation even worse by protesting. He was blushing furiously.

Over the next week, the trio traveled inland rapidly. For the most part, things went smoothly, as they were all experienced travelers. They did have to spend some time hunting food once the last of the ship supplies ran out, but the forest they were traveling through had an abundance of small game, and many sparkling streams in which to catch fish. Zelgadis had heard of a technique used by the people in the outer world called a snare, which would catch food for you while you slept-no magic involved. Needless to say, both of his friends were glad to learn about it.

After a few false starts, the map was turning out to be more accurate than he had dared to hope. As the week progressed, Zelgadis often thought about Amelia without realizing it. He would spot an especially beautiful flower, or an unusual rock formation, and expect her to comment. He would turn to look for her, and then catch himself, remembering that she wasn't there. It never occurred to him that he missed her.

In the latter part of the week, he found himself imagining a reunion scene of sorts:

A slender young (human) male approached the dark-haired princess of Seyrune as she knelt among the bright flowers of a nameless garden, her white gown swirling around her. Hearing his footsteps, she looked up, and broke into that wonderfully welcoming smile of pure joy that always warmed him. Time seemed to slow down as she scrambled up and threw herself into his arms. His imagination always faltered at this point, from a combination of inexperience, guilt, and sheer nervousness.

Every so often Zelgadis had an unusual dream-instead of his standard Rezo nightmare, or the new 'drowning' one, he would dream about enjoying some kind of sweet desert, or riding an animal through a forest while singing (singing?) a happy tune. When he awoke he would have a vague image of a face or an object; sometimes he would remember no more than a vivid emotion, or a hint of blue. At first he was merely bemused, but soon he grew to treasure these dreams, to look forward to the wonderful feelings of hope and happiness, of the simple joy that came from being alive.

Emotionally, he had managed to convince himself that this quest, finally, was going to succeed, although rationally he was still skeptical. Can't let myself get too optimistic.

They spent the last two days climbing a small mountain. On the morning of the sixth day, Zelgadis pulled out the map and checked for landmarks. A steep cliffside, hand-drawn from his memory of the old journal, was within his field of vision.

"We seem to be on track. According to what I remember, we should arrive at the temple within a few hours." He felt his voice take on an almost jovial note, and did not try to stop it. His cure was finally almost within his grasp, and there had been no sign of that annoying mazoku all week. Maybe my luck is finally changing.

"Really? That soon?" Lina sounded dismayed.

"If my memory is correct. Why? Is something wrong?"

"Uh," she hesitated, then spoke up. "I thought we had at least another couple of days' journey. This is kind of embarrassing, but...I'm not gonna be much help in the magic department for the next day or two."

It was on the tip of the stone man's tongue to ask why, when he noticed Lina's slight blush and made a connection. He felt his own face turn pink. "That time of the month, huh?" he asked sympathetically. He was struck suddenly with the memory of the phrase 'woman's curse'. "At least yours is temporary...and it means you can have children," he mused aloud.

Gourry looked stunned. "It does? Lina, are you gonna have a baby?"

The petite sorceress' face went so red it was practically glowing. "No, you idiot!" she yelled, whacking him upside the head.

"Well then, what does it mean? You never did tell me." Gourry rubbed the spot where she had hit him.

Zelgadis turned away, blushing almost as badly as Lina. He heard Lina clear her throat. "Uh, Gourry...I'll tell you later, okay?"

The blonde swordsman looked from one to the other, clearly bewildered, but thankfully quiet. There was an awkward silence.

Finally the chimera asked Lina, "Do you want to make camp for a couple of days?"

The red-haired sorceress hesitated. It's tempting. If we hadn't lost the ship I'd probably say yes, but... "We don't have the time," she decided aloud.

"Well then," he suggested, "Why don't I just go myself, and meet up with you later?"

Her fighting spirit had been triggered. "No! Maybe I'm not the strongest member of this group at the moment, but I can still watch your back in a fight. Besides, wasn't it you who showed me once that brains are better than brawn?"

Zelgadis remembered a fight where Lina was being attacked by a flying fish-man who'd been doing strafing runs over her. The stone man had simply held up his sword, and the dim-witted creature had neatly sliced itself in half.

"All right. We might as well keep moving. We can decide whether to enter the temple when we get there." If nothing else, I can always suggest we make camp, then slip away in the night. It's not as if I haven't been into hundreds of old temples by myself in the last few years.

The ancient temple, when they found it four hours later, was small and unassuming. As they neared the top of the mountain, they came across a small meadow, nestled between a bank of trees on one side, and a cliff on the other. Gourry was actually the one who spotted it-a vine-covered brick outer wall set into a grassy hillside.

"Do you think that's it?"

Both Zelgadis and Lina had been expecting something more...grand. They stared at it with twin sweatdrops. "Gee, with a name like the Temple of the Holy Oracle, you'd expect a tower, or a cathedral, or something," Lina commented.

"Well, at least it doesn't look particularly dangerous." The chimera was looking dubiously at the little pink, white, and lavender flowers growing all around the doorway.

"Come on then, let's go!" Lina said, as usual eager to explore. They began to pull away the foliage covering the door set into the hillside. Surprisingly, it was made of metal. Obsolete text was embedded into it.

"This is Ancient technology," Lina said in wonder.

"I can't make out what it says. This is probably from before the War of the Monster's Fall." The stone man paused, thinking about the sheer age of the thing in front of him.

"Did someone mention mazoku?" came a familiar voice from behind them.

"Xellos!"

Author's Note:

I decided Zelgadis and Amelia should be linked mentally partly for True Love fluff and partly because I knew Amelia would need to rejoin the group on the road and she would need a valid reason to leave home. She also needed to be able to locate them fairly easily, seeing as how there's a time limit.

The link is passive, unless one of them is in danger. No mind-reading, aside from a few merging dreams. Gotta keep some stuff secret from each other, or the story wouldn't work.

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