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, 'cause I like to know people are interested. There are a few minor spoilers, but nothing really descriptive.
PG-13 for lime-i-ness
Many thanks to my friends Shell Presto and Marie!
Chapter Twenty-Nine: A Time of Closeness
While their friends were ensnared in the land of lullabies, Zelgadis and Amelia spent the entire day following the princess' locator spell. When night came, the chimera provided light for the group, especially the horse, who was somewhat skittish to be traveling at a time when her instincts told her to be holed up somewhere safe.
Still, a few hours before dawn Amelia had to ask for a break-not for herself, but for Sunshine, she explained, who was unable to travel as indefatigably as Zelgadis, or even Shiran, especially carrying a rider. "She's not a long-distance horse," Amelia said apologetically. "She's meant for gentle trail rides and short, fast trips. I can feel that she doesn't have much stamina-at least not yet."
The chimera chafed at the delay, but he had to acknowledge the wisdom in not tiring the horse out completely. Besides, most other horses would have balked by now-it's only because of that unusually willing temperament that we got this far. "Can you tell if we're any closer?"
She closed her eyes in a way that had become familiar. "No...they had a really good head start, and the horses they're riding must be the right kind for fast travel over long distances, because I think...I think we're falling behind."
Zelgadis could not hold back a growl of frustration. "Well, that's just perfect." Where in the world are they taking them?
Amelia lowered her head. "I'm sorry."
He looked at her with one stony eyebrow raised. "For what?"
Well, for..." She seemed to be trying to think of something. "Nothing, I guess." She put a hand behind her head in embarrassment. "I'm just being silly." She yawned, turning her head away and covering her mouth with her hand.
Zelgadis realized that she was tired, but was refusing to admit it. She's pushing herself. If it was only me I could keep going, but I need her finder spell to locate them as soon as possible. And that means I need her able to think properly. It galls me to say it, but- "Amelia, why don't you lie down for a few hours? You might as well get some sleep while your horse rests."
She gave him a weary smile. "That's all right. I'm not tired."
"Mister Zelgadis, how could I possibly sleep at a time like this?" She looked indignant.
"I need you able to concentrate!" he snapped back.
She faltered. "But...but..."
He caught her hurt expression and mentally groaned. "Look, I'm sorry, all right? I want to find them as much as you do, but I'm a chimera. I can go for long periods without sleep; you can't. So would you please just humor me?"
In the harsh glare of his light spell, he watched her face go from rebellious to undecided, and finally, to surrender. "All right," she murmured unhappily. "I'll try." The young girl chose a comfortable spot on the ground and lay down, wrapping her cape around herself. Within moments she was asleep.
Shiran appeared out of the darkness like a pale wraith, padding quietly over to lie down beside her mistress. Silently, Zelgadis watched the pair sleep, still not quite sanguine about the dragonwolf's presence, but now that he knew her background he was less inclined to be suspicious. Wolves, at least, tended to be extremely loyal to those they considered to be in their pack, and if Amelia had been told the truth about Shiran's breeding, the dragon part of her had only been used to increase her ability to follow commands.
Of course her creator, Savari, might have made a mistake, but judging from her appearance-Shiran was the most beautifully amalgamated chimera he had ever seen-the old mage had really known what he was doing. It had also eased the stone man's suspicions considerably when Shiran had not taken advantage of their afternoon slumber to harm them. Not that her teeth could have done much damage to him, but as long as the beast seemed serious about protecting Amelia he wouldn't have much cared if Shiran had decided to use him as a chew toy.
Now his mind went over everything they knew about their friends' disappearance. All we know is that they've apparently been kidnapped by someone with the power to incapacitate Lina, even though it's nowhere near her time of the month. Where they're taking them or why is a mystery, but at least as long we know they're alive we can assume that they'll be kept that way-at least until they get where they're going. I just wish we could travel faster!
He looked down at the slumbering princess, curled up in her pale cape, looking like a child. The only good thing about this mess is that she seems to have forgotten about my cure. It's just as well-I really don't feel like getting into all that right now. The chimera sat down to rest on a large rock that was nearby. Why did Amelia decide to meet up with us? I thought her father wouldn't let her come...she must have convinced him to let her have one last jaunt through the wilderness before she gets married. Hmm...and she must have used her locator spell to find us, since we were supposed to be returning by ship-
Just then Amelia rolled over away from him, her cape sliding off of her shoulders to the dark earth. At least she's a fairly quiet sleeper, Zelgadis mused. He didn't envy her the chore of sharing various sleeping accommodations with Lina, who was well-known for her restlessness. Only Lina could manage to give someone a black eye in her sleep. His mouth formed a wry half-smile.
He sat with his hard chin on his stone fist, idly thinking about his friends' various eccentricities, letting the cool, dark peacefulness of the night calm him. The moon was nearly full, shining down through the trees on the two of them as if to cloak them in angel dust. Their light-colored clothing and Zelgadis' hair were almost shimmering, lending a gentle, ethereal atmosphere to the small clearing.
A while later Amelia moved again, turning to face him. Blissfully sprawled out, she was lying partially on her back, partially on her shoulder, with one small hand moving up to curl loosely against her cheek. The elbow of her upper arm had remained on the ground behind her, with that hand coming to rest on her chest.
The chimera watched her for some time before he realized that he was staring at her hand, which was curving gently over her full breast, rising and falling softly with her breathing. Immediately a hot blush spread over his pale blue cheeks as he tried to tear his eyes away, but the allure of the womanly body sleeping before him drew him like a moth to a flame. He kept glancing at her, short, guilty glances at first, then longer ones, his entranced gaze tracing the curve of her hip, the length of her legs, the smooth clean line of her jawbone back to the graceful arc of her neck.
Smooth flawless skin...pink lips, curving into a smile even in her sleep, dainty ears...slender arms...her small hand, so innocently resting on the marvelously full breasts that nature had generously endowed her with...slender waist and full hips...
Not really thinking about it, his mind unconsciously compared her to all other females he had ever come into contact with, and found them lacking. In his eyes she was perfectly formed, a small well-proportioned woman with a sweet face and wonderfully curved body that would be a pleasure to hold.
Zelgadis found himself imagining kneeling down next to her, reaching out to her and running his finger gently along her cheek. Her eyes would open, and she would smile up at him, her deep blue eyes full of the love and adoration that was for him alone. She would open her mouth to speak his name, but he would gently place a finger over her lips and then lean down ever so slowly to kiss her...
So deeply was he immersed in his waking dream that he started and almost fell off the rock when Amelia moved, curling into a ball on the hard ground. The spell broken, the stone man blinked and looked at the girl with wide blue-green eyes, his feelings of just moments before rapidly disappearing into his unconscious mind. I must have been half-asleep, he told himself. Why else would I think about kissing Amelia?
Unconsciously he moved the side of his index finger up to touch his chin, mulling over what had just happened, trying to explain it away. Maybe I'm finally accepting that she has feelings for me-but it's too bad I can't return them, he mentally hastened to add. He gazed down at her small form, feeling his lips want to smile affectionately at the young princess. She'll make someone a fine bride someday.
His almost-smile faded as he remembered that she would be married as soon as this journey ended.
After several seconds he noticed that Amelia was starting to shiver. Is it that cold out? He hadn't noticed any change in the temperature, but then his stone skin was naturally insulative. It would take a significant alteration-at least twenty degrees-for him to feel any difference in the ambient temperature. Zelgadis eyed her cape, now mostly underneath her body. Suppose she wakes up with me trying to reach under her... A brief flicker of his fantasy came back to him, and he blushed.
Eventually he sighed and reached up to unfasten his own cape. His feet seemed to crunch unnaturally loudly on the loose pebbles underfoot as he approached the dark-haired princess. Cautiously the stone man set one knee beside her on the ground, and draped his cape over her, tucking it loosely around her shoulders.
Task accomplished, he should have moved away at once, but instead he stayed there for a moment, noticing the slight frown on her face relax back into serenity. He watched her take a deep breath and stretch out a little, smiling. Idly the chimera wondered if she could smell his scent on the cape, which must still have been warm from his own body heat.
Without thinking Zelgadis reached out and brushed away several stands of her midnight hair that had strayed across her eyes. "Good night, Amelia," he murmured in his softest tone.
The young princess heard a voice speak her name, drawing her up through the layers of sleep.
"Amelia." She felt a light touch on her shoulder, and a sudden cool bite of morning air.
"Yes?" she managed to reply, recognizing Zelgadis' voice.
"It's dawn. We need to start searching for our friends."
Her eyes snapped open. Miss Lina! Mister Gourry! She scrambled to her feet, not noticing the chimera donning his cape. "Yes, of course. Where's Sunshine?"
"Right there." He pointed to where the silhouette of the horse was grazing nearby.
She headed toward the mare, but stopped as she realized something. "Um, Mister Zelgadis, I think I'd better go use the bushes first." She blushed, embarrassed, as he nodded. "I'll be right back."
The princess had not forgotten about Zelgadis' quest. At first, she had been so glad to see him that she had completely forgotten that he was supposed to look different, and then her composure had been thoroughly shattered when he'd yelled at her-she had reverted to a hurt child again and run off in tears. After the double surprises of Zelgadis' apology, and his bonding with Shiran, the thought of his cure hadn't crossed her mind again that afternoon until just before she fell asleep.
Of course, waking up to find Lina and Gourry missing had done a good job of making her forget again. She was simply too familiar with his appearance; to the young girl he looked perfectly normal. Even the sight of her own ward bracelet on the strap of his canteen seemed right, ordinary. What with one thing after another the question of the chimera's cure had been driven to the back of her mind and given low priority in the light of her friends' peril.
As she headed back, she thought, I wonder what's going on with Mister Zelgadis' cure? I've got to remember to ask him.
When she returned, Zelgadis had already saddled her mare, and was saying something to her in a soothing voice. As she approached him, she asked curiously, "What are you saying?"
He glanced at her casually. "Just noticing how friendly she is. I've never seen a horse so easy to catch."
Amelia smiled. "Oh, yes-the townspeople told me she was too people-oriented to be a good workhorse. That's how come she was loaned to me-no one needed a riding horse just now."
"Loaned to you? She isn't yours?"
Her face fell. "No. She's a replacement." She bit her lip, as bitter memories of Gallant's death suddenly threatened to make her cry.
"A replacement?" Zelgadis looked down at the dark-haired girl, who had suddenly gone quiet, and a notion dawned. Oh, Amelia. "What happened?" he asked gently.
She answered in a low voice, without taking her eyes from the ground, as if ashamed. "I-I wasn't paying attention-I got attacked by a pack of leapers-"
Shocked, he glanced quickly up and down her body. Leapers? They were fierce killing machines, but she didn't seem to be any worse for wear, so he kept quiet and let her finish.
"-hit my head and I couldn't tell down from up, and Gallant tried to save me but...they killed him..." Her voice trembled on the last word, rising in distress.
"Who got killed?" The memory of the searing pain of loss from the ward bracelet suddenly imprinted itself on the inside of his skull.
Her face twisted. "Gallant-my daddy's horse. He was-trying to protect me from them...and they...they tore his throat out. The beasts!" Her voice cracked as she fought back tears.
Zelgadis' eyes widened, remembering. "I could feel your pain," he said, half to himself.
Her imminent tears were stalled. "What?"
Zelgadis reached around behind his waist and unfastened the ward bracelet from his canteen. "I could feel when you were in danger, with this. It lit up-"
"-with a bright white light-" she added slowly, looking up at him, then down at the matching bracelet on her wrist, then back at him again.
His voice was barely above a whisper. "And it was as if whatever was happening to you was happening to me, too. I could feel your pain, your terror, your grief...even sense which direction you were in, but somehow I knew you were too far away to help."
Amelia spoke with a quaver in her voice. "You were-you were dying, fading away in my mind, and there was nothing I could do to help you." The next thing he knew, the stone man was being clutched in an awkward embrace. "Oh, Mister Zelgadis, I'm so sorry!"
"For what?" He had managed to lift his arms out of the way in time, and now he stood with them hovering over her, not sure what to do with them.
"For the bracelets! I didn't know that would happen! I'm so sorry you had to go through such awful pain-it felt like I was dying, too, when you were drowning. And I was scared, so scared that I would lose you..." Her voice trailed off in a whimper, and even through his stone skin he could feel her trembling against him.
Without thinking he put his arms around her, gently holding her close to him, suddenly wanting nothing more than to comfort her. "Amelia...you couldn't have known what would happen. Didn't you tell me once that the spell on the wards was ancient, from one of your ancestors?"
"Then how could you possibly have known what would happen?"
She was silent, huddled against him as if seeking shelter from all the hardships of the world. The chimera looked down at the top of her head, experiencing a fierce, unexpected rush of protectiveness for this vulnerable young girl. He swallowed hard, and continued after a few moments, "Lina figured out that they must connect the people who wear them, so that if one person is in danger, the other will know and be able to help."
Amelia was silent for a long time within his careful embrace, her arms around his waist, and her cheek pressed against his chest. He could hear her rapid heartbeat gradually slowing. "Yeah, only we got too far away from each other to be able to do any good," she finally added in a wry tone.
Zelgadis abruptly realized that her trembling had stopped; that she was relaxed against him. Then he chuckled softly, unaware of the affectionate smile on his face as he looked down at her, for the moment completely unselfconscious about touching her. He breathed in the warm living scents of her hair and skin, and suddenly felt the urge to clasp her even closer to him, to tuck his head over hers and enfold her inside his protective stone embrace. Only the conditioned reflexes he had developed to avoid hurting others over the years kept him from obeying those impulses. Thank goodness nothing happened to you!
Vaguely he was aware of a voice in the back of his mind telling him that this wasn't right, but he ignored it for the moment, too busy cherishing the first real sensations of comfort-and closeness-he'd felt in years to care.
In the end, it was Amelia who pulled away first. "We'd...better get going." She hesitated, then added, "Thank you for not being mad at me."
He nodded silently, unwilling to ruin the moment with an argument over whether or not he had the right to be angry when she hadn't known about the spell in the first place.
Amelia looked up at the chimera she loved, watching him glance down at the bracelet in his palm, and wondered if he was going to give it back. He hesitated for a long moment, then said, "Amelia... would you mind if I held onto this a while longer? It might come in handy...in case we get separated, and one of us gets in trouble."
He means me, she realized, but she didn't care. Her mind was shouting joyfully, He wants to keep it! With a grateful smile, she nodded. "That's fine with me, Mister Zelgadis."
She mounted Sunshine, and they started out. As the hours passed, Amelia kept remembering his unexpected embrace. I cried on him. And he let me! I would have thought he'd pull away, but instead he held me, and comforted me, even though he must have been horribly embarrassed. I didn't even mind that his arms were sort of hard...I could tell he was being careful not to hug too tight.
She recalled the wonderful comfort she had felt, resting her head against his chest, hearing his faint heartbeat through the stone. He was warm, and I could feel him breathing...he surprised me when he laughed. I couldn't see his face, but his voice was so gentle... She sighed. I could have stayed like that for hours, but who knows what's happened to our friends by now?
Zelgadis strode along beside the golden mare, replaying recent events in his head, trying to sort everything out. I shouldn't have done that...the last thing I want to do is encourage her. He sighed. But how could I ignore someone who was in such pain? I felt her grief when her horse was killed, although at the time I thought it was a person...he realized in embarrassment.
And those bracelets... I can't decide if they're a blessing or a curse. They don't just give warnings; they actually connect the owners' minds. The last thing I want is something intruding into my head, after what Rezo did to me.
To the back of his mind he pushed away the thought of how good it had felt to be able to comfort her, and how much he wanted to keep her safe. I suppose I'll just have to put up with them-with my luck Amelia will get herself into some stupid situation and I'll end up having to rescue her.
"Aaah!" A cry of agony escaped the young sorceress' lips.
"Are you ready to tell me what I need to know, Miss Lina?" her dark-haired captor queried.
"I-ah-ah-choo! I keep telling you I don't know what you're talking about!"
Lina Inverse was no stranger to being taken captive-even tortured-but never had she been subjected to this particular type before: the 'water test'. She had been strapped face-up to a wooden board which was balanced on the edge of a huge metal cauldron. It was filled with freezing cold water from an underground stream, into which Ponmar's men had proceeded to dunk her several times, in an attempt to make her 'confess'.
"It is a well-known means in my land for making recalcitrant magic-users talk," her captor had explained. "I hate having to use it, but you leave me no choice. I must protect my land, by whatever means possible."
Author's Note: The torture device is sort of like a Salem witch trial dunking stool. Cruder, but the same principle.
Slayers Otaku-Girl asked where I got the world 'flank'-I wanted a command that meant 'stay beside me' and yet not a word that people would use in casual conversation, and 'flank' means the side or the border of something.
Crazy Elf Paladin-san and Ukchana-san have both pointed out that Flare Arrow is a more destructive spell than I had been led to believe. Would someone like to recommend a different spell? It has to have a bright flash of light and make some kind of noise and yet not damage the architecture of the music building.
Paladin-san also mentioned Outer World mages performing for children in Try as if their craft was considered legitimate/respectable. Well, when I saw them, it reminded me of the Victorian age where street performers did all kinds of things for the general public. They were not considered dangerous, exactly, but people often looked down on them. As if they were of a lower caste or something. Anyway, that's one of the reasons why I formed my theory on the magic level of the Outer World being lower than inside the Barrier.
* As far as 'Zelgadis being treated as a freak' goes, I have to say that it's not so much that other people treat him like one, it's that Zelgadis BELIEVES that they will. I cannot believe that after all the bad things that have happened over the last few years that some people will not have become more suspicious of strangers (no matter what they look like) or that Zel will not have had some bad experiences since leaving Lina's group that will have made him even more solitary and suspicious of everyone. You notice that I don't usually have people treat him badly-look at the sailors on the ship. The problem is more in Zelgadis' mind than in reality, but no less an incentive for him to want to become normal.
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