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: A few musical terms you might be confused about:
Soprano-a female voice at the high range of the scale
Alto-a female voice at the lower end (I'm an alto.)
Tenor-the lightest of the male voices; tenors can often sing higher than altos (that makes me so jealous!)
Baritone-medium range male voice
Bass-think Mufasa on 'The Lion King'-very deep
Falsetto-when a person sings or speaks in a fake, high-pitched voice
Scale-aw, come on, everybody knows this one! 'Do, ray, me, fa, so, la, ti, do.'. An ascending scale is when you start low and go up, and descending is when you start high and go down.
Octave-every set of eight notes like the scale above is called an octave
Chapter Sixteen: Finally We're Here!
...Now How Do We Get In?
"Congratulations on managing to find the Temple of the Holy Oracle, even after the tragic loss of your guidebook," the mazoku priest said, smiling away as usual.
"Why do you always have to show up at the most inconvenient times?" Lina complained.
"You didn't have anything to do with that, did you?" Zelgadis demanded suspiciously.
"Of course not. I was as eager as all of you to find this place. You see, over the millennia, certain pieces of information get...lost, or misplaced...such as the location of this temple. Now, shall we enter?"
Zelgadis growled under his breath. Short of an all-out battle, there's no way to get rid of the treacherous little spy-especially with Lina's magic being out of commission for the time being. Even with her full powers, it's doubtful that we could manage to destroy him.
"There's no doorknob," Lina pointed out while the chimera was fuming. "Can you read what it says on the door?"
"Hmm..." Xellos stood in front of the door with his index finger touching his chin. "These marks don't seem to be words at all. Perhaps they're in some sort of code. Let me see..." He frowned thoughtfully.
"If I had my sword, we'd have no problem getting inside." Gourry's voice was uncharacteristically glum.
"I know how you feel," Lina spoke up unexpectedly. "I hate feeling practically helpless."
"Oh, you mean because it's your time of the-"
"Gourry!" she screeched, clenching her fists. It's bad enough that I had to tell Zelgadis. Does everybody have to know?
Xellos merely looked at them with one eyebrow raised, as if taking note of Lina's current state of inability, then went back to contemplating the markings on the door.
Silently, the four of them stood in the meadow, studying the door as the warm breeze swirled around them, playfully tugging at their clothes. It was a lovely day, with birds singing, insects chirping, and the relaxing aroma of sun-warmed grass and flowers all around them.
Gourry began to get bored. Idly, he reached out to trace his finger in the first groove of the door. As he finished, the sign suddenly began to glow, and a chiming sound was heard. He pulled his hand back.
The entire door began to glow softly. In the air was an array of delicate musical notes, sounding very similar to those created by tapping a hard object against several glasses filled with water of varying amounts. "Listen!" Gourry said unnecessarily.
The notes stopped. The door glowed for a few more seconds, as if waiting for something, then faded. "Of course!" Xellos exclaimed. "A musical code! Why didn't I see that before?"
The trio exchanged glances. "So what you're saying is, we produce the right musical notes, and it'll let us in?" Lina said thoughtfully.
"Looks that way," Zelgadis answered. "The question is, which kind of music do we need to use?"
All three of them looked at Xellos expectantly. He shrank back, sheepishly putting a hand to the back of his head. A sweatdrop appeared at his temple as he said, "Don't look at me. You know most music is anathema to my kind."
Figures. A thousand years old, and still useless when it comes to things like this. You can't count on him for anything, Zelgadis thought sourly.
Lina was applying basic logic to the puzzle. "Well, it's a key, basically. And if it's like most keys, it should be something fairly simple and easy to remember." She turned to Zelgadis. "You're a musician who picks locks-think about it."
The slender chimera felt a flicker of surprise that Lina knew about his skills, but he was too caught up in the mental puzzle to wonder about it. From his training in picking locks, he knew that Lina was right about keys. And the musician in him was pondering the idea of using notes to make a lock. "Simple music...simple musical notes...basic notes..." he murmured aloud. "Of course. A scale."
"Scales? Like fish scales, or dragon scales?" Gourry wanted to know.
The chimera frowned in mild annoyance. "No, Gourry. A music scale! The eight basic notes all music is made up of." Normally his comrade's vacuousness didn't bother him-much-but the day had started off so well, and now it was rapidly going downhill.
"Ohhh," Gourry said, obviously not understanding, but not particularly caring to make an issue of it.
Lina interrupted before the two men could veer off the subject. "Um, Zel, how are we supposed to produce eight separate notes?"
"I should think it would be obvious," Xellos interjected with one eyebrow cocked at her, a slight smirk on his lips.
"You mean..." Lina swallowed hard. "One of us is gonna have to-sing?" She and Zelgadis eyed each other. "Too bad Amelia isn't here. She loves to sing."
"Hey, I can sing, guys, let me do it." Gourry spoke up unexpectedly.
"You can sing, Gourry?" Lina looked skeptically at her longtime companion.
"Sure I can. I'm a good singer."
After a moment, Zelgadis decided not to get sidetracked into a debate about his comrade's musical competency. "But you don't know what a scale is. Lina-" the chimera began.
"Hey, it's your quest, Zel," Lina interrupted with a 'don't look at me' hand motion, her palms facing him.
His shoulders drooped. The stone man sighed, accepting the inevitable. Turning to face the door, he put out one hand, his palm facing the door as if about to cast a spell. Taking a deep breath, he sang an ascending scale, in perfect pitch. His rich, resonant voice almost seemed to echo a little in the surrounding hillside.
Birds chirped in the silence that followed. Well, that didn't work, Zelgadis thought. He covered his face with one hand, discouraged. "I was sure that was right," he mumbled.
"You shoulda let me try." Gourry grumbled.
"Try something else," Lina said encouragingly. "Maybe you need to sing it an octave higher."
"I'd have to sing it falsetto. Why don't you sing it an octave higher?" he retorted.
The two of them got into a long, boring discussion about the basics of music, completely ignoring Gourry's suggestions. Eventually the blonde swordsman tuned them out, humming idly to himself as he took off one boot to shake out a pebble that had somehow ended up under his heel. Without realizing it, he began to softly sing the same notes his stony friend had just sung, first starting out low and going higher, as Zelgadis had, then automatically singing the same notes in reverse, from high to low.
Everyone jumped when the door suddenly began glowing brightly. It played several pretty chiming tones with matching patterns of light across the door, then a dazzling white light engulfed it. When the radiance faded away, the travelers saw that somehow the door had vanished as well.
"What just happened?" Gourry asked, standing up with his boot in one hand.
"It was you! You figured out the key notes!" Lina's face held a look of amazement. "What did you sing?"
"I think he sang a descending scale," Zelgadis said thoughtfully. "Which would make sense...one scale to open the door, the other to lock it."
"Excellent work, Gourry!" Xellos patted the taller man's shoulder. "It's amazing what a little luck at the right time and place can do. But now, if you'll excuse me-" Before anyone realized what he was doing, the dark-robed mazoku had lifted off the ground and started to zip through the doorway at top speed.
"Hey!" Lina began indignantly.
Splat! The eyes of the three comrades bulged in surprise. Xellos looked as if he had smashed face first into a solid wall, all flat and stretched-out like a pancake. "Oww..." he whined.
"What happened?" Gourry asked, watching the mazoku slide slowly to the ground and pop back into normal shape.
"This temple is protected against invasion by mazoku, apparently," Xellos answered, standing up and rubbing his nose. "Some of the oldest temples have very powerful levels of holy magic, unlike today. Back then, there were a lot of priestesses who could call on Cephied herself."
Amelia mentioned something about that once. She said the shrine maidens of today are just shells of what they used to be, Zelgadis recalled thoughtfully, watching Gourry put his boot back on. But that was before the Barrier came down. Things might be different now.
"I guess I'll just have to wait for you all out here." Xellos' smile seemed a little forced.
"Just what were you planning to do in there, anyway?" Lina's ruby eyes narrowed.
"Well, you know...that is a secret." He vanished.
"Xellos!" Lina huffed, annoyed. "Oh, well. At least he can't spy on us in there. Come on, let's go." The diminutive sorceress walked unmolested through the doorway, proving that the invisible barrier did not keep out human workers of black magic. The two men followed. She cast a small light spell as she entered, glad that that was one spell she could still achieve, even in her current weakened state.
The corridor ahead was the typical large-bricked tunnel, although its age was not apparent, as there seemed to be no dampness, no slowly rotting cloth decorations or animal carcasses. Cautiously the explorers went forward, their boots clomping on the stone floor.
Thirty minutes later they were still walking, as the tunnel seemed to have no end. "Just how big is this place, anyway?" Lina complained.
"You notice that the passageway has been sloping downward." Zelgadis pointed out. "It's gradual, but I think we've been heading underground for a while now."
Gourry began humming variations on the scale he had heard earlier. The other two glanced at him, but did not protest, as there seemed to be no real reason to keep quiet. Lina was surprised to realize that her longtime companion had a nice voice-a baritone, but lighter than Zelgadis', verging on the tenor range. He doesn't sound half bad. She wondered what he would sound like if he were to sing a real song.
At the same moment, both Lina and Zelgadis realized that there was a second voice humming along with Gourry, matching him perfectly. "Who's there?" they both said simultaneously.
Gourry stopped humming, but the other voice continued. Lina drew her sword. "Show yourself!" she demanded.
On the wall beside them, a face materialized. It was green, with rather sharp, pointed features, vaguely elven in appearance. Its eyes opened. "Welcome to the Temple of the holy Golden Oracle," it said in a high-pitched male voice. "I am the Gatekeeper. Please state your reason for being."
"Well, we're here because-" Lina began, but the face interrupted her rudely.
"No, not your reason for being here, your reason for being!"
She blinked. "Why?"
"Because this is an oracular temple, idiot," the visage sneered. "You can't just walk right in. There have to be questions to screen out the riffraff!"
The chimera's lips curved in a small smile. "He's got a point there." He couldn't resist teasing his red-haired companion. "If I were an oracle, I wouldn't want to be bothered by a lot of stupid questions, either." She glared at him, then sighed in resignation.
"Fine. What's my reason for being? Well, it's..." The petite sorceress paused. "I..." Her mouth closed, and a thoughtful look crossed her face. "That's a pretty deep question."
Zelgadis didn't even try to answer yet. Both of them stood there with frowns, trying to decide how to answer in an suitable way that would gain them access to the Oracle.
Gourry looked from one to the other. "Why do you guys look so serious? It's easy-we help people, and hopefully get paid for it."
A small bell-tone was heard. "Acceptable," the Gatekeeper sighed, looking annoyed at their success. "Not quite the ideal answer, but believable."
Lina was astonished. "That's acceptable?"
"Yes. Humans are such liars-they'll say anything to get in. That, at least, was an honest answer."
"Huh," the redhead commented, nonplussed.
Both Zelgadis and Lina wondered if Gourry's answer applied to them. True, in the past they'd done many things to benefit others, but more because it was necessary, than because they wanted to. The chimera mused, maybe that doesn't matter to the Oracle, as long as the people who need help receive it.
It's just luck that sometimes the things that need doing also happen to have large rewards involved, Lina thought.
The green Gatekeeper asked, "So which of you needs to see the Oracle?"
"Well, we all want to see it, but technically, it's Zelgadis' quest." Lina spoke up. She had decided honesty was the wisest choice.
"Then you go forward." The face turned a disdainful look on Lina and Gourry. "The rest of you rabble have to go back and wait outside." The Gatekeeper's high-and-mighty attitude triggered Lina's temper.
"Hey, stoneface! No offense, Zel." Lina threw an apologetic glance at her stony comrade. "Suppose I don't feel like waiting outside?" she challenged him.
Offended, the Gatekeeper spluttered, "If you're going to be like that, you can just try to get past the temple's defenses, wench!" He faded out.
"Hey, come back here! I'm not done insulting you yet!" Lina shouted petulantly. "Boy, what a jerk. Oh, well. Let's go, guys."
"Um, Lina, where'd Zelgadis go?"
"Huh?" She whipped her head this way and that, her red hair swirling around her. "He's vanished! He's probably gone on ahead of us. Come on, Gourry, we've got to catch up with him!"
They began heading down the passageway. Almost immediately, the two adventurers discovered what Mister Wall had meant by 'defenses'. The ground shook. Above them, the ceiling of the tunnel was suddenly covered with stalactites. They traded panicked glances.
"Run for it!"
The two of them took off as if the Lord of Chaos herself was after them. Huge columns of stone began smashing to the ground all around them. Gourry let out a yelp as one of them went through his flowing blonde hair, tugging at it as he passed.
"I wish we had your sword!" Lina yelled to him, beginning to pant. "It could cut-through this stone-like butter!"
"Look out!" Gourry shoved her to the side. She hit the ground hard enough to bruise both knees, as a stalactite impaled itself into the ground where she'd been running. "I wish you had your magic. You could just blast all these things."
Biting her lip at the pain, she answered, "Not really." She forced herself to get to her feet, and they began running again, Lina limping a bit. "Any spell strong enough to destroy them would probably collapse the tunnel."
Not long after that, Gourry called out, "There's the exit!" just as a truly colossal column of stone crashed sideways across the passage, blocking off the path to the doorway.
Even without sore knees, I'd never be able to jump that! The red-haired girl thought in despair. Without even pausing, Gourry scooped the tiny sorceress into his arms and took a running leap. Lina clutched him around the neck as they rose high into the air, their hair flying out behind them, red and gold, up, up, and over the pile of rock and through the doorway.
The swordsman landed in a crouch, holding the young girl in his lap. For several moments, neither of them moved, gulping air greedily. Finally Gourry stood up, still cradling Lina in his arms. She rested her head against his neck, her eyes closed.
Suddenly she stiffened, and pulled her arms from around his neck. "Put me down!"
He complied. Lina faced away from him, trying to hide her blush. "Well, I guess we can't go back that way." She turned and began walking stiffly down the corridor, wincing at the pain in her knees. She tried to stop thinking about how it had felt to be in his arms.
"So you passed the physical threat, did you? I thought you might." Mister Stoneface's sneering voice echoed around them. "I suppose we should move on to the next challenge-the mental riddles. I love those!"
"M-mental?" Lina looked nervously at her companion. Gourry's great for physical dangers, but in a mental battle he's a liability. How am I going to get out of this?
She had an idea. Deliberately assuming a sassy pose, she scoffed, "Oh, please. Not another one of those boring contests where an omnipotent figure asks the poor hapless questers an impossible question, and if they don't answer within a set time limit, they're doomed. Am I right?"
"Well-yes," the Gatekeeper sounded a bit taken aback.
Lina let a note of long-suffering enter her voice. "You'd think an oracle's doorman would be more original."
"I am not a doorman!" The Gatekeeper's high-pitched voice became even more shrill. "And if you're so smart, what kind of challenge would you establish?"
Gotcha. The red-haired sorceress put one hand on her hip, closed one eye, and held up the index finger of her other hand. "Suppose we ask you questions? And if we come up with one you can't answer, we win."
"There is no question I can't answer," the voice said pompously. "Very well-begin."
Author's Note: In the last chapter Lina mentions Ancient technology. I figure that would include anything that was created before the War of the Mazoku's Fall. It would have to be something to be in awe of, just because it survived for so long, and it would probably still be powerful, since it was created in the time before the Barrier that, in my fic at least, weakened the strength of White magic.
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