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 really descriptive. PG for minor swearing.

Many thanks to my friends Shell Presto and Marie!

Note: The name Gaderi is pronounced GAH-der-ee

Chapter Nineteen: Surprises! The Oracle Reveals All

"...I can give ya the spell ya want, but is it the one ya need?..."

The Oracle's voice echoed in the chimera's mind. "Is there a difference?" he asked after a long pause for thought.

The Oracle explained, "Ya want ta be human again so badly that ya never even let yerself consider the benefits of yer chimera form. Now, I got a couple options ya might want ta consider..."

The conversation over the next several minutes caused the thunderstruck chimera to take a good long look at his life's ambition, to rethink his entire mindset, about himself, and his curse, and how it related to his friends and the world in general. The Oracle waited patiently, glimmering a soft bluish-white.

Eventually, he decided in favor of the Oracle's suggestion. She cautioned him that no matter which way he chose, it was not a one hundred percent sure thing. He nodded. "All right, but what does Xellos have to do with this? And...you mentioned a shrine maiden who-ah-" he stopped, blushing. He hated to ask, but the suspense was killing him.

Zelgadis had tried to avoid thinking about that little tidbit of information, but... His hard hand came up absentmindedly, his fingers touching the stones in his chin as he wondered, Who could it be? Filia? His eyes widened. Sylphiel?

The Oracle's globe flashed orange irritation for a moment, then faded back to blue. "Zelgadis, sweetie," she said in a stern motherly tone, "I know yer used ta suppressing the whole idea, but in this case ya really gotta stop fooling yerself. Deep down, you know who I'm talking about."

His face was expressionless as he slowly absorbed her statement. Could she be right? Have I really been hiding the knowledge from myself? Am I so addicted to misery that I would refuse to see... Closing his eyes, he hesitantly began to look deep inside, seeking, trying to leave himself open to whatever might come along. It was like poking a sore spot...he twitched, fighting it, his fists clenching, squeezing his eyes tightly shut as he tried to stop his reflexive mental shield from forming.

It's no use. He was shaking, a few rare drops of sweat clinging to his forehead. "Zelgadis...yer trying too hard." The Oracle's soothing glow filled the chamber with a soothing deep pink light. "Relax...and look with yer heart."

He forced himself to ease up, deliberately taking slow, deep breaths, focusing on his breathing for several minutes until he felt that he was calm enough to try again. This time his mind was closer to how it felt just before he fell asleep-unfocused, receptive, with random images appearing and disappearing from the corners of his mental eyes.

A mental waft of warmth drew his attention. It enticed him to it like a flower turning toward the light. The same feelings of acceptance, of unconditional support, of pure, joyous love and devotion that he'd felt when he was drowning surrounded him in a cocoon of rose-colored light. Again, he noticed the vague feeling of familiarity, but caught himself as he reflexively he began to banish it. The vision strengthened, taking form in his mind...and his heart. And he knew.

"Amelia," he murmured.

He didn't realize he had spoken aloud until the Oracle replied, "Got it in one."

Instinctively he recoiled, his blue-green eyes widening. "No. It can't be her. It-it shouldn't be." The feeling that this was wrong, harmful-not to him, but to her-made him pull back mentally and emotionally.

"And why not?"

He burst out without thinking, "She deserves better than a monstrous creature like me! She's a princess. An innocent young girl who..." He couldn't go on. Already the familiar shadow of melancholy was reaching for him, as it always did when he was reminded of the things he could not have, the hopes he could not nourish, the dreams he could not reach for because he was different. His stone hand came up to cover his face.

"So ya do like her!" The Oracle said knowingly, jogging him out of his self-imposed despondency.

He froze, a multitude of emotions running rampant through his head-astonishment, then wonder, and finally solemn contemplation. I've never allowed myself to think along those lines before...but maybe... He let his hand drop down to his side.

"I-I think I could-care for her," he admitted slowly. "If I let myself. If I dared." He was trying to put into words something that he had only dealt with by instinct in the past. "But she's still so young. And-if this cure doesn't work, I'd stand to lose so much. I don't think I could bear it."

"What's to lose? Ya already got her love." The Oracle answered firmly.

Zelgadis bit back a sharp retort, and took a deep breath. "She's young and foolish. She may have been able to fall in love with a chimera, but she's still a princess. If this cure doesn't work, there's no way we could ever be together. Unlike the princess in your story, Amelia is a definite candidate for the throne-someday. She has responsibilities to her kingdom. I won't ask her to shirk them."

He hesitated, crossing his arms in an unconscious gesture of self-protection, looking down at the stone floor, mumbling, "It's better not to get involved." Most of his face was hidden by the wide sheaf of pale blue hair. "Although I wouldn't mind helping her with those responsibilities..."

The Oracle's orb went a deep, respectful golden tone. "You are a man of honor, Zelgadis Greywyrs. Amelia chose well."

Automatically he dismissed her praise as irrelevant. She continued, "But yer forgetting something. Amelia may be young and impulsive, as ya say, but she's got her own mind. Her decision wasn't a whim-she's had plenty of time ta get ta know ya. Ta learn ta respect and admire yer good points, and accept yer bad ones. Obviously, she liked what she saw. She chose ta love you-and I think she made a good decision."

Her simple honesty unsettled the stone man. This time he was forced to consider her words, finally allowing the reality of the situation to sink in. Closing his eyes, he pictured Amelia in his mind running happily to him, her arms spread wide to hug him, smiling her beautiful smile.

She loves me. His heart expanded as if a cage around it had burst open. For several precious moments the joy he experienced was like a brilliant white light, a dazzling star in the blackness of the night sky. He smiled slowly, savoring the bliss. He hadn't been this happy since...since before Rezo cursed him.

His smile faded. He couldn't allow himself to get carried away-not until he knew for certain that his cure was achieved. But if-when-it is...A sudden awful thought struck him. "What am I thinking? She's supposed to be married in less than six weeks. She must have-"

Judging from the odd mixture of pink and orange swirls in the globe, the Oracle seemed to be caught between amusement and annoyance. "Ya know, for a guy who's so smart, ya sure manage ta miss the obvious. She hasn't chosen a suitor yet because she's waiting for you! Who was it who arranged this whole expedition in the first place?"

Oh. Zelgadis thought back to the last day he had seen her. At the time, her odd behavior had confused him. But now he realized that she had been trying to get his attention in a shy sort of way, not sure whether he would welcome her advances. The memory of her tentative attempts made him smile again. Fondly, he thought of the concert, the guiolin, her goodbye kiss, and the gift of her heirloom ward bracelet. So many little signs that now made sense.

Then his doubt began to return. Still, even without the curse, I find it hard to believe she could really love me. I'm not the easiest person to get along with. I'm cold, selfish, demanding... Maybe the Oracle's wrong. She's only seen her through my eyes; it's not as if she's read Amelia's mind. Maybe she mistook her overenthusiastic friendship for love.

The thought was sobering, but he didn't want to question the Oracle's word, so he kept his fears to himself. He ignored the tiny spark of hope in the back of his mind that whispered that the Oracle always spoke the truth...

"And as for subconsciously believing that Amelia will be forced ta choose between you and her kingdom-yer assuming that the cure's gonna fail. Ya gotta stop that, my boy. Yer way too young ta be so pessimistic."

Ordinarily Zelgadis would have bristled at being addressed so familiarly, but her voice had such a genuine warmth to it that somehow he didn't mind. Besides, she was presumably much older and wiser than he.

"You should take lessons from that Amelia of yers." the Oracle added, glowing a playful pink.

That got a smile from him. He raised a stony eyebrow, clearing his throat. "I wouldn't go that far," he replied, his voice taking on a rich note of amusement. Hearing the Oracle refer to the young princess as 'his' was both startling and comforting, encouraging him to hope she was correct.

"That's the spirit!" The orb's pink glow brightened with enthusiasm.

If she'd had a corporeal body, I'd have expected her to slap me on the back. Lina would have. Zelgadis smiled, remembering the last time Lina had enthusiastically-and painfully-done so. Suddenly reminded of Lina, Gourry, and Xellos, who were waiting outside for him, he asked,

"Now how exactly does Xellos fit into all this?"

"Xellos has the basic words ta the spell. Of course, since every chimera's different, each spell has ta be customized, but since it involves shape-changing ya need some mazoku influence."

His amusement abruptly dissolved. "Don't you know the words?" the chimera demanded in frustration. What kind of an Oracle are you, anyway? he wanted to say, but stifled it. He was on the verge of attaining the knowledge he'd sought for so long, and being sarcastic wouldn't help.

Her globe went a serious dark blue, with a hint of orange annoyance. "Of course not. I'm a white magic oracle, created by holy magic from the gods. I don't got access ta mazoku secrets, any more than they got access ta mine. Remember how ol' Xellos got flattened when he tried ta zip in here?"

That makes sense, I suppose. Disgruntled, he asked grumpily, "Does it have to be Xellos?"

"How many other mazoku do ya know?"

"Well..."

"Besides, only high-ranking mazoku have this kind of info."

"How do you know that?"

"Zelgadis, dearie, I am an oracle. I may not know specific information, but I know where ta find it."

A thought occurred to him. "How did Gaderi get the words from Xellos?"

"He didn't. He used an ancient scroll I told him about, left over from before the War of the Monster's Fall. It crumbled ta dust during its last use, which is why I didn't mention it before."

"Oh." Dead end. Sourly, he asked, "And how would you suggest I ask him? Trying to pry information out of Xellos is harder than trying to get Lina and Gourry to leave an 'all you can eat' restaurant while there's still food left." Besides, he's likely to try something to foul this up. I wouldn't trust that mazoku to treat a hangnail, let alone my whole body.

Surprisingly, she had an answer for him, flashing a mischievous deep pink shade. "Get yer friend Lina ta beat it outta him. For some reason he seems ta respect her-or be intimidated by her."

"You know...that just might work." Zelgadis murmured thoughtfully, once he got over being surprised. "So what about the other types of magic?"

"You guys already got enough knowledge of shamanism, and Amelia knows white magic, which is gonna make up the main component of the spell. Of course, Amelia's the one who's gotta cast it." she said matter-of-factly.

"Amelia?"

"Well, yeah. I said ya needed a shrine maiden, didn't I?"

He paused to assimilate this new information. "I suppose I just assumed that I would be the one casting the spell."

"Sorry, buddy. The one thing a chimera can't do is unmake himself. You're lucky that little princess of yours is such a good sorceress."

Lucky. I've never thought of myself as lucky, the eternally pessimistic chimera thought in surprise.

"Here-this will play the right music." A small globe, the size of a piece of fruit, appeared in the air in front of him. It was a soft golden color, glowing slightly. The glow faded as he closed his stone hand around it. "To activate it, all ya gotta do is focus your will on it."

Pensively, Zelgadis looked at the small globe for a few moments. "Thank you," he said finally. He squared his shoulders and added, "I suppose I should be going. I want to get a hold of Xellos before he takes it into his head to disappear again."

As he turned, the Oracle said, "Wait...there is something else you oughta know."

The stone man froze. I knew there was a catch! "What is it?" he asked, slowly turning back to face the globe, his face outwardly calm. Underneath, he braced himself for the answer.

"The spell might be dangerous," she admitted slowly, her glow changing for the first time to an apologetic yellow.

Is that all? "I've faced danger before. Dangerous how?"

"Not ta you. Ta the shrine maiden who performs the spell."

Amelia? Now he began to worry.

The globe had swirls of yellow and blue flowing over it. "Ya see, only really powerful white magic can control the black and shamanistic forces of yer curse. The danger is that the exposure ta the dark forces could overwhelm her. Some shrine maidens are more fragile than others. Some just don't have enough gumption. That's why it's important that she loves ya. If her love is pure, she'll have all the power she needs."

Zelgadis pictured Amelia in his mind, carefree, happy, skipping along without a care in the world. Could I ask her to put her life in danger to help me? He beseeched, "Isn't there another way?"

The yellow was dominant again. "I wish I could help ya, kid. Fact is, the curse yer under is probably the most complex, most powerful, best-made spell of its kind I've ever seen. But then, whadda ya expect; it was concocted by a piece of ol' Shabranigdo himself. No ordinary white magic purification spell will touch it."

"Shabranigdo. Not Rezo?" Zelgadis said sharply.

"Nah. Like yer friend Lina said, there wasn't much left of the original Rezo by the time he cursed ya."

He paused to let that sink in. The Oracle, now glowing a more encouraging pink, continued, "But I wouldn't worry too much about it. That Amelia's a real kick-ass sorceress, ya know? I really don't think she'll have any trouble. I only mentioned it because, like I said before-"

"Nothing's ever a hundred percent certain," he finished for her, his voice hollow. "I see." Briefly, he buried his face in his hand again. He had his answer, and it was worse than he had imagined. Without another word, he turned and left the room, ignoring the called farewell of the Oracle, "Sorry I couldn't be of more help to ya, kiddo! Good luck!"

As they traveled through the maze of stone corridors, Lina found her thoughts focusing not on Gourry or their astonishing revelation of love, but on something he'd said that disturbed her. How long has Zel known about this? "Hey, Gourry?"

"Yeah?"

"What did Zelgadis say about me and you?"

"Huh? When?"

"When you were talking about us being lifelong companions."

"Oh. Ummm..." His face scrunched up into a thoughtful frown. Finally he said, "Mostly, he did the talking. I think he said he was glad we had each other...and...and...he was sad that no one wanted him. I was going to tell him Amelia likes him but you said not to talk about romance in front of him, right? I remember that."

Lina's eyes widened. Thank goodness he actually listened to me for once. It'd wreck our whole plan if Zelgadis knew we were trying to get him cured so Amelia can marry him! I remember what Zel acted like back when she first developed a crush on him-what if he rejected her now, based on what he knew of Amelia then? He hasn't really seen her in a year, and she's really grown up a lot-I know.

She sighed. I really wish she could have come with us, to give Zel the chance to get to know her again after so long. With the ship out of commission we're going to lose almost all of the time we'd planned on. She bit her lip pensively. Maybe I should talk to him about her. Tell him how much she's grown up, how much she's learned about governing and all the other stuff royalty has to know. And then maybe casually mention that she needs a husband who will be able to help her with decisions, someone who can think analytically and who will balance her tendency to think with her heart. Someone who has the ability and personality to enforce those decisions, someone she cares about, who cares about her...

"Hey, Lina, look at that."

The red-haired sorceress came out of her reverie to see that they had discovered what looked like a peaceful meadow in one of the caves. Gourry took it as a sign that they were getting near the surface. "Can't we just leave, Lina?" he pleaded. "The doorman thingy said only Zelgadis could see the Oracle, right? If we leave, he probably won't bother us anymore."

"Are you crazy, Gourry? This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. We can't give up now. Besides, no little greenfaced, squeaky-voiced doorman is gonna chase Lina Inverse away with a couple of lousy parlor tricks!"

Gourry gulped as the ground trembled slightly. "You shouldn't have said that, Lina."

The green face of the Gatekeeper appeared in the air in front of them. "He's right, Lina." He sneered. "You should listen to him. He's obviously the more intelligent one of you both."

"What?" She squawked, reacting instinctively. "There's no way he's smarter than me!"

"Oh, really? Well then, let's make this more amusing. The threats in this room will only be dangerous to people of high intelligence." The ground under their feet trembled again. The Gatekeeper vanished, laughing devilishly.

After a few moments of silence, Gourry sighed ruefully. "Well, I'm probably safe, at least." He glanced at his small female companion. "I wish you hadn't said that. You can't use your magic right now, remember?"

For a moment, the young sorceress looked pensive under his gaze. Then she shrugged. "Well, we can't do anything about it now except be extra vigilant. Come on."

Author's Note: BTW, each chapter takes me approximately seven hours to write, sometimes much longer if a scene is giving me trouble. I was wondering how long it takes other people?

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