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, just 'cause I 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!

Chapter Twenty-Five: A Girl and Her Dragonwolf!

What's the Matter with Zelgadis?

Several minutes later, Amelia was kneeling on the ground, holding a stick out in front of her. The rest of the hunting party was gathered around her. Gerrik had accused her of hiding things from them in the council meeting: "Maybe she used her powers on the beast to keep it from attacking her."

"Be quiet, Gerrik-you got the verdict you wanted. Now leave it be," one of the other men reprimanded him.

Amelia set the stick endwise on the earth and closed her eyes, trying to feel for Shiran's location. I've never done this for real-only in practice. How did Sylphiel do it? Maybe it's like the way it feels when I use my bracelet. Oh, please...She relaxed her muscles, trying to breathe slowly and evenly, delving deep inside herself. Suddenly, it was as if a map had opened up in front of her, all around her. There were hundreds of life-forces all over, several very near, more farther away, spread out over the land like a black, featureless map with bright pins stuck in it.

She could even sense her distant friends-they were particularly vivid pinpoints of color. Lina was a fiery red, Gourry a soothing rich yellow-gold, and Zelgadis a cool bluish-purple. With her eyes half-closed, she turned her head unconsciously, like a dolphin using radar, and noticed her father's vivid, royal blue, and Kerrin's warm peach color. She sensed the colors of the men nearby-Rilloban's bright green, Toban's rich mahogany, even Gerrick's surprising royal purple. I'd have thought he'd turn out to be an ugly brown, or a nasty greenish-yellow. She could also sense Shiran, a fiery silver-white pinpoint with lavender edges.

Amelia released control over the muscles in her arms and hands, allowing them to nudge the stick in the right direction. It fell over with a dull thump, making Amelia open her eyes, feeling a little muzzy as if she'd been woken up from a deep sleep. "That way." She pointed in the direction the stick had fallen. Everyone wordlessly got on their horses, and let her take the lead.

As they rode, Amelia thought about what she had learned. It's nice to know I can find my friends without the bracelet if I have to...at least their general direction... I wonder what all those colors mean? Especially Mister Gerrik-I feel he's a good man underneath, in spite of how he acts.

A short time later one of the men spotted fresh tracks. Soon after that, the dragonwolf's pale coat was spotted through the trees. "There she is!" Gerrik pointed.

"Shiran!" Amelia called, hoping she would come to her. The beautiful creature hesitated, giving her a longing sort of look, then bolted. They gave chase, pounding after her, their horses dodging trees and each other. "Fan out!" Gerrik shouted. The men obeyed, moving their horses to the sides, with Amelia in the center, Gerrik and Rilloban on either side of her.

The dragonwolf had lightning-fast reflexes, but she had not been created with long-distance speed in mind. Slowly the horses gained on her. Suddenly Shiran swerved.

"She's heading for the river!" one of the other men shouted.

"Cut her off! We won't be able to catch her if she dives in!" Gerrik bellowed.

The men turned their horses, but Shiran managed to slip between two of them. Part of Amelia cheered for Shiran. Then she recalled Rilloban's words: If not this group, then another. Her face grew solemn as she realized that she was going to have to intervene before someone got hurt. As they approached the river Amelia raised her arms and called out "Laphas Seed!"

Instantly Shiran was entangled in a multitude of enchanted ropes, rendering her motionless, her muzzle frozen in a defensive snarl. Only her eyes moved. Wow. Amelia thought. My magic really has gotten stronger. That spell took no effort at all.

"We got her!" one of the men yelled in triumph.

Amelia dismounted, walking slowly toward her. "It's all right, Shiran...everything's going to be okay."

"What are you doing? Get away from her!" Gerrik ordered, seizing his heavy wooden spear from its holder on his saddle.

"Move it, girl! Get out of the way!" another man yelled.

Amelia stood in front of the captured animal, her arms held out to the sides. "No! You cannot kill her! It's not right!"

"I'll move you myself!" Gerrik leaped down from his horse, his face dull red with anger. He began to come toward her. Amelia hesitated. Normally she didn't fight other humans, except for bandits and the occasional assassin or warrior. These men were simple townsfolk-frightened, obnoxious, but not evil. If only I could get them to calm down, I know I could-oh! That's it!

She whispered, "Megido Flare."

Everyone in the clearing, Shiran included, suddenly relaxed. Amelia sighed as the emotional atmosphere cleared. Thank goodness my tutor reminded me about this spell not long ago. Getting rid of people's negative emotions does wonders for negotiations! But it may not last long. I want to find out- "Mister Gerrik, why do you want to destroy Shiran so much?"

His shaggy black head turned toward her. The princess was surprised to notice that without his habitual scowl, he was actually quite distinguished-looking. His face gradually took on a somewhat sad look. "Because I don't want her to suffer, the same way I did when my wife died."

"W-what?" Rilloban looked astonished.

"I understand how she feels. When my wife died, the light went out of my life. If not for my daughter, I probably would have committed suicide. Kembri was only a few years old at the time, and needed so much attention...and gradually she brought me back to life again. She was always so happy, full of smiles...I learned to enjoy life again through her.

"Now that even the sheep are gone, Shiran has no one. When Mister Savari created Shiran, I wanted her, badly...she is so breathtaking, so exquisite...nothing so beautiful should have to feel the same pain that I went through."

"But-but how do you know how she feels? She's a m-magnificent animal, b-but she's not human. She doesn't th-think the way we do!" Rilloban protested. "I know. All she w-wants is someone to protect."

"I wish I could believe you." Gerrik's face held real regret. "But she's never bonded with anyone but Mister Savari. I-"

"Y-yes, she has!" Rilloban interrupted eagerly. "She protected Amelia from the start! If Amelia encouraged her, I'm sure Shiran would want to be with her, even if it m-meant leaving town with her. And then you wouldn't need to kill her!"

All the men began speaking, each voicing their opinions, but the dark-haired princess noticed a definite change in the ambience-without the influence of pride-induced anger. Finally, Gerrik turned to Amelia. "Would you be willing to leave right now, and keep Shiran away from our town?"

Amelia looked over her shoulder at the waiting dragonwolf, who was watching everything that went on with alert green eyes. I don't know if this is the best thing for you, but it seems I have no choice. I just hope you're happy with me. And that you can adjust to living in a city. "I-I guess so. But how will I control her? I can't have her attacking everyone who approaches me."

Rilloban touched her forearm. "I can teach you the signals Mister Savari used to command Shiran. If she's r-really bonded to you she'll want to do whatever it takes to please you."

"I will tell Toban and the others we allowed you to take Shiran with you," Gerrik said. "If we haven't seen a sign of you within two days, we'll return to Mister Savari's farm and give him a proper burial."

"I see. Oh, wait-what about Sunshine?" Amelia had been looking forward to the mare's cheerful presence to dull the ache inside where Gallant used to be.

"You can release her near the town on your way back. She'll find her way home."

Amelia nodded. "I'm sorry if I sound rude, but could you please leave now? Even though I don't believe she would intentionally hurt you, it might not be a good idea to have anyone with me when I release her."

"You're probably right." Gerrik gestured to his men.

Rilloban shook his head, his light brown hair swishing around his face. "I'm not afraid of Shiran. And I p-promised to show Amelia how Mister Savari controlled her."

They looked at Amelia, who nodded. "It should be all right."

The men left. As soon as they were out of sight, Rilloban turned to her with the happiest look she had seen on his face so far. "We-we did it! Oh, thank you, Amelia!"

She couldn't help smiling back, though she felt the new weight of responsibility settle on her shoulders. "Okay, stand back. I'm going to let her out now." She canceled the spell, and knelt on the grass in front of the dragon wolf, holding out a hand, palm-up. "Shiran," she crooned. "Come here, girl..."

The great lavender-furred animal took one step back, then another. "Shiran..." Amelia said in a singsongy tone. Shiran stopped. Her eyes dimmed. Amelia, sensing her indecision, continued to call her name softly, putting as much affection as she could into her voice. Shiran whined softly, took a step forward, and then another. A shudder ran from the tip of her large purple nose through the streak of darker purple fur on her back to the end of her thick, bushy tail. Slowly, step by step she came to Amelia, until girl and beast were nose to nose. Her large wet tongue emerged and gave the princess' face a lick.

Amelia giggled and reached up to sink her fingers into the luxuriously thick lavender fur on the side of her neck. "Shiran," she whispered, feeling a large warm spark ignite in her heart, as all her reservations fell away. You chose me. Somehow the young girl knew that with that simple gesture this beautiful beast had given her absolute loyalty.

The commands were easy to learn. Rilloban demonstrated them, and it astonished Amelia to see how willingly-almost eagerly-the dragonwolf obeyed her. When the princess admitted her astonishment, Rilloban answered with a smile, "She's happy to be working again. Like m-most people, she needs to feel needed. And you can always teach her new signals if-if you need to-even some stuff j-just for fun. Like 'sing out'."

"Sing out?" Amelia repeated. She nearly jumped out of her boots when Shiran gave a short, loud howl. Then she sat there looking very pleased with herself, her eyes back to their usual bright glow. Rilloban laughed at Amelia's startled expression.

Amelia couldn't help but notice how cute he was when he smiled. "You should laugh more often. You're too serious," she said impulsively.

Rilloban ducked his head, blushing a little. "Everybody says that. I can't help it-I'm a w-worrier."

Amelia grinned. "Maybe Mister Gerrik's daughter Kembri can cheer you up."

The young man blushed harder. "Well, at least I know her father's not so b-bad after all. I w-won't feel so self-conscious the next time I see her."

"Good for you." Amelia gave him a quick hug goodbye. "I probably won't be able to come back here, but you can expect me to write to you. And I want to know every detail about what happens between you and Kembri!" she grinned, climbing up into the saddle on Sunshine's golden back. She signaled Shiran to stay with her. "Shiran, flank."

"Goodbye, Amelia. I'm sure Shiran will be happy with you. And thank you again." The smile he gave her was happy, his green eyes peaceful.

Amelia waved to him as she guided Sunshine out of the clearing with her knees. Ah, another happy ending. Justice triumphs once again!

"I'm worried about Zelgadis, Gourry." Lina confessed as they followed behind the chimera, dropping her pace so they would be far enough away for a fairly private conversation.

"Why?"

"Come on, Gourry, you've seen how quiet he's been lately. Even more than usual. Something's bothering him." She looked up at him, her face showing her concern.

"Well, he did fail to find his cure. It's only natural that he'd be upset," Gourry pointed out.

"But we've been in situations like this before. He's usually more angry, and twice as determined after a failure. Now it looks as if he's just...given up."

"Poor Zelgadis. Isn't there anything we can do to help him?"

"I don't know, Gourry. But we have a bigger problem." She stopped walking to let Zelgadis open up some more space between them.

"Huh?"

The diminutive sorceress tugged on his yellow hair to make him bring his head down to her level. Lowering her voice, she whispered, "Amelia's wedding, remember? If Zelgadis isn't human, he can't marry Amelia."

Her blonde companion turned wide light blue eyes on her. "Oh, yeah. And we're all out of clues. What are we gonna do, Lina?"

She said quietly, "Zelgadis never actually said the Oracle told him there was no cure. It could be that there is one, but that it involves some kind of sacrifice, like making him human in exchange for his soul, or something. That would explain why he's so down-what could be worse than being told that your goal exists, but that you'll never be able to reach it?"

Gourry was silent, looking sadly at his dejected friend.

Lina let go of his hair. "He's never been this bad before. Sure, he gets depressed, but he usually shakes it off after a while. I've even given him a few of my famous 'pep talks', but it's like talking to a wall. He doesn't respond-I'm not even sure if he hears me. I even threatened to fireball him the other day to get him to wake up, but he just gave me this sad smile and said, 'Go ahead.'"

She turned to look at the figure in tan walking slowly ahead of them. "He hasn't been this bad since we first met. But then, he had some hope. Now...it's like his fire's gone out." Lina closed her eyes for a moment, shutting out the image of her forlorn comrade.

The feel of Gourry's arm across her shoulders made her jump and open her eyes to see him smiling tenderly down at her. He didn't say anything, but somehow the little reminder of how much he cared for her made her feel better. She gave him a small smile to let him know she appreciated it, and relaxed against him for a moment, drawing comfort from his closeness. What would I do without you, Gourry?

"What are we gonna do, Gourry?" she murmured aloud.

"Maybe we should've asked the doorman."

She resisted to urge to throttle him, realizing that he was trying to be helpful.

Author's Note: One of the things that makes Shiran want to trust Amelia despite of her role in chasing and capturing her is her vague memory of when Amelia healed the wounds made by the leapers. It reminds her of how it felt when her old master used to heal her-a familiar, good feeling. Shiran is not quite sentient-but she is an amazingly smart animal.

I'm trying to show Amelia slowly maturing, by introducing small changes in her thoughts and attitudes that would have been out of character for the 14-year old Amelia, but she's still the same person, with the same likes and dislikes, just getting a more realistic view of the world. For example, I think the young Amelia would have agreed to keep Shiran without thinking through the potential problems, but now she's realizing how her decisions will affect others, including Shiran.

Now on to one of the most dramatic in my story-I can't tell you how many times I rewrote it. Enjoy the ride!

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