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-I just like to know someone's interested. There are a few minor spoilers, but nothing really descriptive. PG for minor swearing.

Many thanks to my friends Shell Presto and Marie!

Note: Here's a guide to help with name pronunciation:

Shiran-Shi-rahn, 'i' as in 'chip'

Sanre-sahn-RAY

Rilloban-RILL-oh-bahn

Gerrik-gehr-rick, 'g' as in 'great'

Toban-TOE-bahn

Savari-sah-VAHR-ee

Tollik-tol-(rhymes with ball)-ick

Chapter Twenty-Three: Shiran's Story

Amelia woke up from a much-needed nap when the furry pillow she'd been using suddenly moved. "Huh?" She sat up, becoming aware of a group of shouting men coming toward her on horses.

The lavender beast snarled at the men, her thick fur bristling into spikes on her neck and shoulders, her long slender ears laid back and green eyes blazing. She crouched at the princess' side for a moment, then bounded away. Several of the men pelted her with rocks as she ran. "Come back!" Amelia called after her.

The men began to dismount from their horses, surrounding her. Still disoriented from her abrupt awakening, Amelia cringed away from them before realizing that their faces all had identical looks of concern. "Miss, are you all right? You're lucky to be alive!"

"Huh? Oh, you mean those horrible cats? I know; if it weren't for-"

"No, that wild dragonwolf!"

"The what?" Amelia blinked.

Several of the men answered her. "That savage brute!"

"...dangerous creature..."

"That huge beast with the light purple fur."

She shook her head, thoroughly bewildered. "But-but she's not dangerous-when the leapers attacked me she protected me. I would have died if not for her!"

Most of the men looked at her as if they thought she was lying-or crazy. It was enough to trigger her fighting spirit. She clenched her fists. I'm a princess of Seyrune! What reason would I have to lie? She almost revealed her identity, but since that usually caused more complications than it solved, she only ground her teeth together and snapped, "I wasn't brought up to be a liar!" She leaped to her feet with her hands on her hips and demanded indignantly, "How do you explain the fact that I'm still alive, if this 'brute' was so 'dangerous'?"

She would have continued to browbeat them on her favorite subject: Do Not Judge Others by their Appearance, but another voice from the crowd interrupted her. "You-you see? Th-that's what I've been s-s-saying all along. It's n-n-not Shiran who's been attacking our flocks-it's the leapers!"

"Shut up, Rilloban-everyone knows they don't attack on the plains," retorted a short, stocky man with bushy black hair and an aggressive attitude.

"They don't?" Amelia asked.

An older man with light brown hair plaited in a short braid answered her. "No. Everyone around here knows that this forest is their hunting grounds-and any fool who chooses to walk among these trees is-" The man broke off, apparently realizing that he was insulting her. He had the grace to blush.

Amelia scowled. "What about travelers? The least you could do is put a sign up!"

There was an awkward silence. Then another voice from the crowd shouted, "We wouldn't need to put a sign up if that damned dragonwolf hadn't gone rogue!"

The crowd exploded into argument, some people trying to calmly state their opinions, some bellowing, red-faced. Suddenly Amelia felt as if she were back home, trying to mediate a complicated, emotional problem. She drew in a breath, about to verbally launch herself into the melee, when another man beat her to it. "All right, quiet down, everyone! Gerrik, Sanre, Rilloban, everyone-be quiet!"

The speaker was the largest man Amelia had ever seen-even larger than her father, though he looked about the same age. His powerful bass voice boomed from a deep, muscular chest. He looked strong and capable, with wise brown eyes, dark red hair and a shaggy orange-red beard. The young princess trusted him immediately. She also felt the crowd's respect for him, as most of them immediately fell silent. Finally, when all the attention was focused on him, the man continued, "I can see that this matter has become a serious one. We must bring this issue to the Council to decide."

Most of the crowd seemed mollified by this. They began to disperse, heading back the way they had come. The red-haired man stepped up to her. "Are you all right, miss?"

She hesitated, taking mental stock of her current condition. "Yes, I'm fine." The sleep had done her good.

"Then would you like me to borrow a horse for you to ride back to our village?"

"Oh-Gallant!" The young girl turned, remembering her father's poor horse. He was lying on his side, his noble white body quite still. Great red slashes on his throat and rump displayed the mute evidence of his heroic efforts to save her.

Her lower lip trembled, and she burst into tears. "Oh, poor Gallie!" She buried her face in her hands. What will I tell Daddy?

She felt a large, gentle hand on her shoulder. "Died trying to protect you, did he?" the auburn-haired man asked quietly. She nodded tearfully, looking up at him with watery blue eyes.

"I'll have some of my men give him a proper burial." His brown eyes showed his sympathy and regret.

Amelia nodded gratefully. "Thank you..." Her voice trembled.

The man borrowed a sturdy chestnut mare from one of the other men, and began helping the anguished young girl transfer her supplies from the stallion's body to the mare's. When the task was completed, Amelia knelt beside Gallant's head and tenderly pushed his unruly forelock away from his eyes. "Oh, Gallant," she murmured, "Thank you...I will always remember your sacrifice." She felt her throat closing on the words. "Goodbye, Gallie," she whispered, and stood up quickly.

With tears streaming from her eyes, which she made no move to wipe away, the young princess accepted the red-bearded man's hand up onto the mare, and took up the reins.

As they waited for the other men to settle themselves on their horses, the red-haired man said to Amelia, "Forgive my rudeness-I am called Toban. What name shall you be known by?"

Does he know who I am? Startled out of her tears, she looked closely at him, but he gave no sign that he had meant anything out of the ordinary. It almost sounded as if he expects me to give a false name. For a moment she hesitated, but with a toss of her head she replied, "My name is Amelia." I haven't anything to hide, after all.

"Amelia." he repeated as the man with the brown plait rode up to them. "Well, Miss Amelia, this is Sanre, my second in command."

Then another brown-haired man rode up to them. He looked to be about sixteen or seventeen years old. He shared similar facial features including deep green eyes with Sanre, although his face looked more delicate, and his shoulder-length light brown hair had golden highlights. "Miss Amelia, this is my son, Rilloban." Sanre gestured to the young man.

"Hello, Mister Sanre, Mister Rilloban," Amelia nodded to them.

"M-miss Amelia...I r-realize that you've been through a lot," Rilloban began hesitantly in a light tenor voice, "but would you m-m-mind if I asked you some questions about Shiran-the-the dragonwolf, I mean?"

"There he goes again. My son has a one-track mind. If he only devoted this much attention to his studies...or to girls..." Sanre teased affectionately.

"Father," Rilloban groaned.

"Ril, why don't you ride with Miss Amelia?" Toban suggested. "I'm sure she has a lot of questions, too."

"Okay," the green-eyed young man replied, moving his sleek black horse alongside Amelia's mare. She smiled at him, and he surprised her by blushing and looking away.

The group began moving downhill, along a winding path to the west. "You can call me Ril." The young man said, glancing at her shyly. "I'm s-sorry about your horse. It sh-shouldn't have happened. It wouldn't have, if everything hadn't g-gone all wrong these past few months!"

In spite of the pang in her heart at the mention of Gallant, Amelia quickly became engrossed in Rilloban's woeful tale.

"Our v-village, Tollik, is a few miles from here. Most of this plain used to be a s-sheep farm, you see, and Shiran was the flock's guardian."

"'Shiran' means 'purple orchid', doesn't it? It's beautiful... Why does everyone call her such horrible names? Did something happen to the flock?" Amelia asked.

"Well, yes, b-b-but-it-it wasn't Shiran's f-fault!" Amelia blinked at his vehemence, and noticed that his stutter got worse when he was upset. The young man caught her glance and visibly tried to calm down, taking a deep breath and letting his shoulders droop. One hand came up to scratch the back of his head in embarrassment. "It's a long story."

Rilloban explained in a soft tenor, "Y-you see, long before I was born a m-mage named Savari came to live up here. He wasn't your t-typical recluse-he was kindly and wise and everyone respected him. He came to the Council m-meetings, and eventually announced that he had come here because he wanted to do some experimenting. He s-said he had always wanted to create a type of sheep that w-would grow colored wool, all the colors of the r-rainbow and more, and save the cloth-makers the work of having to d-dye it." Rilloban smiled sadly. "He also said that he loved the b-beauty of rainbow-sheep grazing in the green f-fields."

"It does sound lovely. I can almost picture it." Amelia closed her eyes for a moment to do just that.

"Mister Savari wanted to make sure the v-village people didn't object, so that he could use the wool in trade for whatever he needed from town. Eventually they agreed, and for many years our town b-benefited from the exotic wool, which became a m-much-sought-after trade item. He was always very generous in his trades with us, because he had a large flock, and didn't really need much other than f-food, soap, candles and the like, and sometimes extra c-caretakers for his sheep. M-most of our families are well-off because of him."

"It sounds wonderful. But where does Shiran fit into all this?"

Rilloban turned a grave look on her. "Several years ago the l-local l-leaper pack started getting very b-bold. Even though they usually hunt from t-trees, this whole area has a lot of little grassy m-meadows that sheep like. Mister Savari lost a lot of sheep to them, b-before he decided to create the ultimate guardian."

"Create? So then...Shiran is a..." The word stuck in her throat.

"A chimera."

As the word struck so close to home, the blue-eyed princess was silent, looking down at the chestnut mane in front of her. She had been absolutely repulsed by the ghastly chimeras under Eris' control which she had fought years ago. It had given her a jolt when she realized that Zelgadis could have turned out like them.

Rilloban continued, "He n-never would tell anyone exactly which animals he used to c-create Shiran, but I know he wanted her to have a lot of power, with enough intelligence to be able to t-tell friends from enemies. Most people think he used d-dragon for that. I think he used a bit of troll, too, because I've seen Shiran heal much f-faster than usual from injuries. But most of all, he wanted Shiran to be ab-absolutely loyal, and gentle with the sheep and any other helpless creatures, because he didn't w-w-want to end up creating a monster. So we think Shiran is mostly w-wolf."

"No...no human..." She could barely make herself say it.

"Oh, no, M-mister Savari refused to experiment on humans. He said that was why he'd come here, to create b-beautiful works of nature in peace. The sheep were more or less normal, except for their coloration."

"Oh," Amelia was relieved. "So then how did Shiran get such a lovely coat?"

"No one knows. I'm n-not sure even Mister Savari meant it to come out like that-b-but you're right-it is nice." Suddenly he gave her a charming half-smile, transforming his serious countenance into endearing handsomeness.

"Mister Savari didn't lose a s-single sheep after Shiran became the flock's guardian. Some of our p-people were afraid of her at first, but over the next three years she proved herself." Rilloban's green eyes shone with enthusiasm. "She's amazing-brave and strong and so s-smart sometimes it's as if she can understand everything we're saying. I know a lot of p-people who would've liked to own her, but she was bred to be the ultimate protector, as loyal as can be. I used to help Mister Savari shear sheep wh-when he needed some wool to trade, so I saw a lot of Shiran. We were friends-b-but Mister Savari was her only master."

"Was?"

Rilloban hung his head, his light brown hair coming forward to hide his face. "Mister S-savari passed away in his sleep a few m-months ago. We-we think he died of old age, but we can't be sure."

Amelia was puzzled by his comment. "What do you mean?"

"Shiran won't let us near the body." A haunted look spread over the young man's delicate features. He continued softly, "For a l-long time I really b-believed Shiran was sentient, but no matter what any of us s-says, she s-still goes on doing what she's been trained and b-b-bred for-p-protection. Even when it doesn't m-matter anymore."

Amelia had tears in her eyes. "Ohhh, that's the saddest thing I ever heard!"

Rilloban shrugged sadly. "It gets worse. Not only can we n-not give Mister Savari the kind of burial he deserves; now we've got to worry about these animal attacks. P-people k-keep saying it's Shiran, gone savage w-without Mister Savari to lead her. No one will l-listen to those of us who can tell from the marks on the b-bodies which kind of animal did it!"

"Bodies?" Horror was written on her face, in her open mouth and wide blue eyes.

"Herd animals, mostly. Sometimes it's somebody's pet. It's never been a person-yet."

"So now they'll think she's started attacking people because of what happened to me?"

He nodded affirmatively. "Mm."

"Oh." They rode in silence for several minutes; the only sounds were the creaks of the saddle leathers, the thumps of the horses' hoofs on the earth, and the occasional half-heard comment from the line of men in front of them.

"Um, Mist-Ril?"

"Yes?"

"Who takes care of the rainbow-sheep now?"

She was immediately sorry she'd asked the question as the young man's face twisted in grief. "N-nobody. Shiran's flock is gone now. Not long after M-mister Savari died, there was an epidemic of some kind among all the f-flocks in the area. Shiran wouldn't let us n-near them to treat them, so they all d-d-died, one after another. The only t-things Shiran guards now are the g-g-graves of the dead."

Amelia's heart ached for all the pain that noble beast had suffered. And to be misunderstood on top of it all! It's so unjust! "Poor Shiran. And poor Mister Savari, to die all alone and have all of his wonderful creations lost-or hated!"

"Well, not quite. I think M-mister Savari knew he didn't have long to live, because the in last year or so he'd b-been trading some of his newborn sheep to our villagers, instead of j-just the wool. As long as Shiran hadn't b-bonded to them she didn't try to steal them b-back. It happened once or twice, b-but Mister Savari figured out ways to prevent that. He w-was the smartest man I ever knew. I r-really m-miss him. He never m-made fun of my s-st-stutter."

Amelia wasn't sure if she ought to comment on that. An awkward silence followed.

Fortunately Rilloban continued after a few moments, "Now that Shiran doesn't even have the sh-sheep to guard anymore, p-people have been afraid she'd go w-wild, and this whole leaper business is just the excuse they've been looking for to 'p-put her out of her m-misery'. They don't want to believe it's not her."

Amelia stared straight ahead, her eyes unfocused. In her mind's eye she saw again that noble, powerful animal, driving the leapers away with incredible ferocity and then becoming calm and gentle as she allowed Amelia heal the wounds the mottled felines had inflicted. Though the dragonwolf's unusual glowing eyes could look wild and fierce, Amelia had also seen them reflect intelligence and patience. The mental image of Shiran turned to look at her, and her eyes seemed to say, Please help me.

Author's Note: How do you like Rilloban and the others? They're the first original characters I've created who've have more than bit parts. I drew a couple of pictures of Shiran-I'm much better with horses and dogs than with people-so keep checking back at Shell Presto's site for fanpics!

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