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-I just like to know someone's interested enough. There are a few minor spoilers, but nothing really descriptive. PG for minor swearing.
Many thanks to my friends Shell Presto and Marie!
Chapter Twenty Two: Amelia's Adventure
Birds were singing, a warm breeze was blowing, and the princess of Seyrune was singing too. I didn't realize how much I've missed traveling on days like this, she mused cheerfully. What a lovely day! The sky was a pure crystal blue, with only a few bright white clouds adorning it.
She leaned forward to pat her father's horse, Gallant. "You're enjoying this, too, aren't you?" She had gotten into the habit of talking out loud to him. He was good company even if he couldn't talk back. He twitched his small white ear to show that he had heard her.
They were approaching the base of a long, low mountain, more a large hill than a mountain. Amelia used her knees to signal Gallant to stop and closed her eyes. The blue-eyed princess had discovered that if she let her body relax, and cleared her mind, she could often sense in which direction Zelgadis was located, or at least, where her other bracelet was. She wasn't sure if her own bracelet was helping her. Over the last week the direction had changed a bit from northeast of her position to almost exactly north.
At this rate, I should meet up with them in about a week. How she looked forward to seeing Zelgadis again! It'll be just like old times. Well, except that I'm hoping he'll be cured. He's got to be! After everything we've all been through, him not finding his cure would be terribly unjust!
Hmm...I wonder what he'll look like? As her mind drifted with the lazily rolling clouds, an image of her 'fiance' Kerrin slowly formed behind her eyes. She blinked, a little surprised-she had barely given the young man a thought all through her journey. She remembered his gentle, sensitive face, his boyish tenor voice, his slender, graceful form-so like her dear chimera, and yet so different-and smiled wryly. Somehow I just can't picture Mister Zelgadis with reddish-brown hair. But he has to be cured. He just has to be! Otherwise Kerrin and I will have to get married, even though he knows I love someone else.
Gallant snorted and shifted his weight under her, sensing her disquiet. She leaned over to hug his broad neck. "It's all right, Gallie. I'm sure everything's fine." She tried not to think about the strange dreams she was having every night-odd dreams that she could never quite remember when she woke up-just flashes of faces and creatures and scenes, always with a shining spot of periwinkle-colored light in the background, like a miniature sun or something.
They were quite unlike her normal dreams. She wondered if the bracelet might be causing them-or even sending them to her from Zelgadis. Now that I think about it, before I left the palace I woke up every morning thinking I was on a moving ship. It made her feel a little guilty that she might be inadvertently spying on him, but she had no way of knowing if her suspicion was correct.
Sitting up, Amelia took up the reins. "That way, Gallie. North, over that bluff." She squeezed his sides with her knees, and he broke into a trot. When the powerful white steed reached the beginnings of the foothills, he took her up easily, his hooves sure and swift.
A few hours later they reached the summit, looking down at the spectacular spread of land surrounding them. Ah, what a view. I wish the others were here to see it. When we return we'll have to come back this way. She decided to stop and give Gallant a rest while she ate her midday meal.
With a sigh, the dark-haired princess settled herself under the shade of a leafy tree. She was looking forward to her meal, made from the supplies she had bought in the last town she passed through. Everyone I met in the area told me Jiruans made the best food around-and they were right. The young girl dug in with enthusiasm, enjoying the freedom to eat how she pleased with no one but Gallant to see her.
She didn't notice her steed lift his head several times, sniffing the air, as though momentarily alarmed. After a while, he seemed to relax, gradually moving away from his young rider in search of the best grass. Amelia finished her meal with a happy sigh, leaning back against the tree to rest for a few minutes before calling Gallant to her.
They were both taken by surprise.
The only warning that Amelia had was when the branches above her swished violently. She looked up and reflexively tried to leap out of the way of the dark projectile. A tremendous blow on her shoulder spun her around and knocked her backwards. Her bracelet lit up in a blast of white light, momentarily driving the attacker away. A cry of pain escaped her lips as her head cracked against the tree, and the world went black.
A challenging whinny echoed in the air. Gallant was already on his way to his mistress' rescue, eyes blazing, teeth bared in the manner of a fighting stallion. The horse had scented a few faint traces of the attackers, but trees do not hold scents nearly as long or as well as the earth does. He had known the enemy had been here, but not whether they had been here recently, or if they were still around. Instinctively suspicious, he had not wandered too far away from the girl.
Gallant charged toward the group of vicious felines surrounding her. He plunged in among them, rearing, slashing with his sharp front hoofs, aiming deadly kicks with his powerful hind legs, biting deep gouges when the opportunity presented itself. The most careless of his enemies fell quickly to his fury. Some of them retreated into the woods.
Amelia slowly came to, her head throbbing in agony. The sounds of a battle going on practically above her made her wince, opening her eyes as tears of pain formed. Everything looked blurry, out of focus. There was a blazing light coming from nearby, which didn't help her sight. She recognized Gallant's white body as he whirled and leaped, somehow managing to avoid stepping on her, fighting the dark shapes that surrounded them.
Gallie! She tried to lift herself up, her concern for her steed overriding the drumming in her head. Her arms wobbled as a surge of dizziness hit her, and the ground came up and hit her painfully in the face. I must have a concussion. She managed to move one hand to feel her head, and hissed at the burning sting of the open wound on the back of it. Her black hair was sticky with blood.
The princess managed to turn her face to the side, to try to see what was going on. They're some kind of animals, I think. At least, they walk on four legs. I've heard of big cat-like animals that attack from trees...leapers, I think they're called. I didn't know there were any around here... Oh, Gallie, look out!
Amelia screamed as two of the mottled-coated leapers attacked the horse from behind, digging their claws deeply into his haunches. As he whirled to try to shake them off, the remaining leaper was at his throat, opening a great gash and jumping clear. The stallion's scream became a gurgle. He staggered as the other two leapers joined the first to wait.
"Gallieee!" Amelia's scream became a wail, as the blood-streaked white body collapsed to the ground next to her in stages, first his hindquarters, then his front half, and finally, his straining head was laid to rest. He shuddered, snorted once, and was gone.
"You vicious brutes!" The dark-haired girl's voice was raw with anguish. She tried again to get up on shaking arms. As the pack of leapers closed in on her, her anger turned to fear, and she screamed.
Zelgadis was walking behind the other two when he felt twinges of an emotion other than the indecisive numbness that had engulfed him all week. Something was tugging at him, pulling him out of the emotional cocoon he'd been in for so long. His eyes narrowed. Danger?
He looked around. Lina and Gourry were in front of him, having a conversation on the pros and cons of different towns they'd passed though, citing which ones had the best restaurants, etc. Aside from the fact that they'd run out of food yesterday, the flat, sandy plain between craggy rock cliffs was peaceful; he'd no sense of danger in the area at all.
Except...He was nagged by the growing sense that something was not right. He finally recognized it as concern, not for himself, but for...a young girl? A-Amelia? He turned his head sharply, almost expecting to see her nearby, in some kind of trouble.
What are you doing? She's not here. He snorted at his own foolishness. She's in Seyrune, about to get married to... He shoved the thought forcibly from his mind, but it stubbornly came back, insisting that Amelia was in danger. Just then he noticed an odd glow coming from behind him. No-from underneath his cloak. He pulled it aside, and cried out involuntarily as an intense white light emerged, momentarily blinding him.
"Zelgadis!" Lina came pelting back to him, with Gourry hot on her heels. "What's going on?"
"Some kind of spell!" He reached behind him, and his hard fingers encountered the familiar shape of his canteen. He grabbed it and yanked, breaking the leather strap that attached it to his belt, and flung it away from him. It landed a good thirty feet away, its glow fading.
He was breathing heavily from reaction. "What was tha-" he began, but cut himself off as Lina made a dash for the canteen. He used his chimeric speed to beat her to it, standing in front of it with his arms thrust out toward her. "Don't touch it!" he ordered, flustered. Has she gone crazy?
"It's okay, Zel, I know what it is." Confused, the stone man stepped aside to allow the young sorceress to pick it up. He was even more astonished when she pulled the ward bracelet Amelia had given him off, holding up in the palm of her hand. "Hey, it's not working."
Gourry asked the same question Zelgadis was thinking. "What's not working?"
"The bracelet, you simp!" Lina bit her lip, studying the small round metal ball in her hand. Her ruby eyes lit up. "Oh, of course!" She took the chimera's stone hand and turned it palm-upward, placing the bracelet into it.
Immediately, it flared again, making them all squint, and Zelgadis was conscious that the urgent sense of peril was back, even more powerful than before. He almost dropped it again. "What's going on?" he demanded of the petite sorceress.
Lina's eyes were worried. "I'm not sure, but...I think Amelia's in danger."
"The same thing happened that time you almost drowned. The ward lit up like a beacon. That's how I was able to find you underwater."
Zelgadis looked at her with an incredulous glare, under which the young girl, embarrassed, put a hand behind her head. "Ah, well, I guess you had to find out sometime. I figure the ward bracelets were created to call for help if a person wearing one is in danger." She turned concerned eyes to the serene blue sky, watching a fluffy white cloud roll lazily past. "What scares me is, if I'm right, Amelia's in trouble...and there's nothing we can do to help her." The breeze blew a few strands of her red hair over her cheek.
"She is in danger. I can feel it." He closed his hand around the small metal ball, all at once alarmed and frustrated. "What could have happened? Isn't she-" His breath choked off in a loud gasp, as overpowering emotions of fear and helplessness swamped him.
Both of his companions spoke at once, alarmed at the utter horror in his eyes. His fist was clenched in front of his chest, with streams of light escaping from between his fingers, creating dark and light streaks across his face.
"She's terrified! I-I think she's wounded..." His eyes were squeezed tightly shut. "She needs help...head hurts...there's a battle...can't move!...noo!" His eyes snapped open. The pupils were mere pinpoints in a blank white background. "Dead!" His voice broke.
"Amelia's dead?" Lina screeched hoarsely.
"No...someone else..." A wrenching sob forced its way from his throat. "A great loss..."
"Where is she?" the fiery-haired sorceress demanded.
"A long way off...too far. Too far!" With a sharp crack, the chimera punched his stone fist into his other palm. "Argh, she needs my help!" he bellowed in impotent frustration.
Amelia only had time to feebly hold up one arm in front of her, palm out, fingers splayed in a useless gesture of self-protection. She screamed in terror as the leapers came at her. Suddenly a flash of pale lavender appeared in front of her, accompanied by a furious snarl. She tumbled backward, assuming it was some new threat.
When her whirling head cleared, she saw that a powerful-looking beast with glowing green eyes and sharp white fangs was standing between her and the pack of leapers with its back to her. It almost seems as if it's defending me. I don't know why, but I hope it's not because it thinks I'm its next meal! What ever the reason, she lost no time in placing both hands to her aching head and chanting, "Recovery!"
One of the leapers made a furious dash toward her, but the great beast slashed at it savagely. It fell back, bleeding from a wound in its chest. As the princess healed, she realized that more of the pack was making its way toward them from the woods. The animals were not really that big-but they had razor-sharp claws on all four feet as well as teeth, and definitely outnumbered her. Oh, hurry, she thought urgently to herself. Any moment now they're going to try the same trick they used on poor Gallie- Her eyes stung with hot tears as she glanced at the still body of the stallion.
"Look out!" the young girl shrieked, as four leapers appeared out of nowhere, covering the lavender-furred beast. Amelia ceased casting her healing spell, and gathered her strength to attempt a magical attack...but hesitated. What could she do to the leapers that wouldn't hurt the beast?
She was saved from the decision as the besieged animal executed a phenomenal leap of its own, straight into the rest of the pack. The ones clinging to the beast did a good job of battering their packmates, losing their grips in the process. The lavender beast did not give them time to recover, attacking swiftly, ripping, tearing, slashing, with excellent white fangs. Soon, the entire group, cowards at heart, turned tail and ran, howling their fear and pain.
Shaking, her heart pounding, Amelia knelt on the churned-up earth, trying to adjust to the fact that she was safe. Or was she? She tensed as the great beast turned its pupil-less, glowing green eyes on her. It took a slow step toward her.
Amelia's voice was wobbly. "Oh, you're not going to try to eat me, are you? I really don't want to have to hurt you..." She unconsciously held her loosely-curled hand in front of her chin.
The beast stopped, and ducked its head, its eyes dimming to a mere glimmer. The young girl relaxed a little. "Are you trying to be friends?" she wondered aloud. Just then she noticed the spreading smears of blood in the thick lavender fur from a dozen cuts the brave creature had taken in her defense. "Oh, you're hurt!" Biting her lip, she thought, I wonder if she'd let me heal her?
The princess barely noticed her mental switch from 'it' to 'she'. She took a good look at her rescuer. The first thing she noticed was that her fur wasn't really lavender-it was white, with light purple highlights, except for a darker streak of purple starting from a point between her long pointed ears, down her back to the base of her fluffy tail. The overall impression was a very pale lavender, or lilac. As for her species...I've never seen anything quite like her before. She looks something like a very big wolf, or fox, but I've never seen a wolf as big as a pony! Her feet aren't paws, exactly; they're more like dragon's feet. And...her head is shaped more like a dragon's. Those eyes...
The beast was watching her warily. "Um, I want to thank you for saving me." She wasn't sure if she could understand her, but just in case... "You're hurt. I can help you..." Cautiously, her hand trembling, she reached out toward the beast. Emerald eyes followed the path of her hand, but the beast made no attempt to move away.
"Recovery," Amelia whispered as her hand came within healing distance. As the warm white light surrounded her, the beast jumped a little, a tiny sound of surprise emerging from her muzzle. Blue eyes stared into glowing green ones. Looking deeply into the emerald depths, the young girl could see the gentle soul that lay behind them, and was fascinated. She really seems to understand me...and she's not afraid. In turn, Amelia tried to let the beautiful animal see her gratefulness, and her earnest desire to help.
For a long minute, Amelia's body was tingling with apprehension, until, with a whimpering groan, the lavender beast suddenly lay down on her stomach. Her eyes took on look of contentment, and the last of Amelia's fear vanished.
"Ah," Zelgadis gasped, staggering. His eyes opened. Gourry moved to grab the chimera's shoulders to steady him.
"What is it?" Lina demanded. "What's happening?"
The chimera put a hand to his forehead. "It's-it's gone. It's over."
Lina and Gourry exchanged horrified glances. Gourry began hesitantly, "You mean...Amelia is-"
The stone man looked up at them. "No, she's alive. The danger's gone." He was breathing raggedly, his teal eyes bloodshot. His friends both realized that they had never seen him so haggard-not even after their toughest battles.
They had all undergone minutes of tense waiting, with vague, terse reports from the chimera, mostly repetitions of fear, pain, and grief. Zelgadis had repeatedly spoken of the urgent, futile desire to go to her, to do something about the danger that was menacing her.
Now their friend visibly tried to compose himself, drawing in a deep, shuddering breath. "She's not afraid anymore." His quiet statement seemed to echo within the canyon's walls.
"Thank goodness," Lina's entire body sagged in relief. Sympathetically, she inspected her stone companion. "Hey, Zel, you wanna take a break? You look really wiped out."
After a long moment, Zelgadis turned a cold, fierce glare on her. Lina winced at his expression. Even Gourry could sense the crackling tension in the air. "No, I do not want to take a break! What I want is for someone to tell me what's going on!" Zelgadis snarled.
Even though the diminutive sorceress was its recipient, she was actually glad to see him showing some spirit at last.
"Why didn't you tell me about the ward sooner? Did you know about this from the beginning? Have you-"
"Hold on a minute, Zelgadis." Lina held up her hands. "I didn't know anything about that spell until you almost drowned. Then I figured all it was was a beacon-I didn't know it conveyed emotion, too. I'm not sure if Amelia knew, either." She paused, remembering. "When she first started wearing them, didn't she tell us that there was some kind of spell put on them by her ancestors? A spell no one could figure out?" Her voice went husky. "I guess we found out the hard way." She dropped her eyes to the dry earth.
Surprisingly, Gourry ventured an observation, "Um, Lina? Does that mean Amelia was drowning with Zelgadis?" His face wore a rare, serious expression.
The chimera's bloodshot eyes flashed wide open in shock. "Oh, no... "
After a stunned silence, Lina turned to the chimera. "I've been meaning to ask you, what exactly did Amelia say when she gave you that ward bracelet, anyway?" She tried to hide her burning curiosity under an innocent guise.
Zelgadis gave her a frown that said 'I know what you're doing'. For a moment, she thought he would tell her to mind her own business, but instead his face took on a bemused look. "She said...she only said that she wanted me to have something to remember her by." Interestingly, he flushed.
And then she kissed me, he thought privately. Come to think of it, she did seem a bit dazed at the time...I wonder if the bracelet had anything to do with...
"Why would she do that?" Gourry asked innocently.
Girl and chimera exchanged mutual pained glances, and spoke together: "Never mind, Gourry."
The blonde swordsman blinked.
Suddenly the stress of the last few days, combined with the intense events of the last few minutes took their toll on the emotionally battered chimera. He turned and began walking away from his companions, wanting nothing more than to be alone so he could think.
"Hey, Zel, where are you going?" Lina called after him.
He didn't answer.
Silently, Lina traded glances with Gourry, and they both began following after their troubled comrade.
Author's Notes: I've always disliked it when a fanfic author creates a new character (or several) and then makes him/her/them the stars. I've always said "If I wanted to read about original characters, I wouldn't be reading fan fiction!" So while I do introduce several new characters, don't worry; they will not take over the story. I did try to make them feel as real ( 'three-dimensional', my friend and beta reader Shell Presto says) as our heroes, of course...I hope you like them.
Here Amelia gets a few chapters mostly all hers, as the other three aren't doing anything exciting and her 'adventure' lasts only a few hours. Took way longer to tell it than I expected, but I dearly hope people in Zelgadis Withdrawal won't be bored enough to skip ahead or stop reading.
You might say this is the start of a new storyarc-first we had about seven chapters of Zel/Ame getting acquainted again, then there was the ship's journey, then the Oracle's cavern tales, and now we switch to what Amelia's been up to. My fic tends to divide itself up neatly like that.
One last thing-I can't draw worth beans and I would dearly love to have a fanpic of Zelgadis as he stands with Amelia's ward bracelet clutched in his fist as it glows with streaks of light through his fingers. I think it would be awesomely dramatic-his fist in front of his face and his expression stricken as he feels what Amelia feels but can't do anything to help her. Shell Presto's site ( Inspiration Stemming From Sleep Deprivation) is hosting my fic and any fanpics people may want to send. Arigatou!
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