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, just 'cause I like to know people are 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: In Japanese 'sama' is added to someone's name when you're trying to say you hold them in high esteem. In English it would be like adding the title 'Sir' or 'Master' to their name.
Chapter Thirty-Three: Broken Vow /
Allure in the Firelight
After waiting a few moments to make sure Xellos really had departed, Zelgadis commented suspiciously, "I wonder what sort of game he's playing now."
Amelia turned to him. "I think he really does want to save Miss Lina."
"You do?" he asked skeptically, raising one stony eyebrow.
She nodded. "Even if it's only because she tends to stir up the kinds of trouble mazoku love. But I have a feeling either he's not allowed to help us openly, or he just doesn't want to admit it to himself."
The stone man blinked. "What makes you say that?"
Amelia shrugged and then used a phrase he'd heard Lina use in the past, "Women's intuition, I suppose."
Woman? Zelgadis raised a stone eyebrow, not remembering the princess ever referring to herself that way before.
Amelia gave him a blank look. Then she brought her right arm up to rub her hand uncomfortably up and down over her left one, and stared at the ground. "Um, Mister Zelgadis." Her voice was high-pitched with uncertainty. "I-I was wondering if I could take you up on your offer...you know, to train me how to use a sword-to help you rescue Miss Lina and Mister Gourry?"
Amelia's thoughts were a mixture of regret and resolution. I feel horrible about breaking my oath, but Daddy was right. I never should have kept on with it after I found out it wasn't necessary...and I would never have been able to forgive myself if anything had happened to Zelgadis!
The chimera's first impulse was to agree, but then he realized with a shock just what she was doing. Her entire countenance was almost guilty, as if she felt ashamed of her action-something the Amelia he remembered had almost never done. She's breaking her oath not to use weapons.
"I-" he stopped, truly at a loss. If he agreed, he would be helping her break that vow, but if he did not, she would have no way to defend herself against whatever dangers lay ahead. After a moment Amelia looked up at him, her shadowed blue eyes full of a kind of regretful determination that told him she would not volunteer to stay behind again.
As they continued to stare at each other, the stone man started to feel uncomfortable. I don't know her anymore. He realized that his confidence in her had been shaken by her recent actions. Though he was glad she had chosen to help him rescue their friends, that very decision made him uneasy. He had not thought she was capable of such mercurial behavior-one thing he had always drawn unconscious comfort from was her strict adherence to her ideals.
First she betrays my trust by refusing to help me, and now... If you break a vow to yourself, does it count? Or is it really only that you've changed your mind? Somehow while he had been away she had changed much more than he ever would have thought possible.
Conflicting emotions battled for control inside him. Part of him wanted to acknowledge her sacrifice-to use a sword in battle is very much a loss of innocence-and part of him wanted to glare at her in righteous contempt for her sudden capitulation. He was touched that she had cared enough to come after him, even if he hadn't really needed rescuing, and yet he was furious at her because she had put him in the position of having to chose whether or not she became an oath-breaker, even if the vow had been a foolish one.
Zelgadis also discovered he felt embarrassed and defensive that she had taken the role of the Rescuing Prince, leaving him in the unwanted role of the Helpless Damsel. All of that, on top of his own recent state of uneven emotional footing was so overwhelming that in the end, he turned away from her and coldly spoke the first words to come to mind. "I was fine, you know. I could have walked away at any time. I didn't need you."
As soon as the words emerged from his lips he wanted to take them back. Behind him he heard a gasp. He did not turn around-he discovered he did not want to see the presumably devastated look on her face.
Amelia fought to hold back her tears. How could he say such an awful thing to me after I was so worried about him! He must really despise me now...but I can't let that keep me from doing what I know is right. He's going to need all the help he can get to save our friends. She struggled to compose herself. The least I can do I is not embarrass him by acting like a baby.
Zelgadis listened to the young girl take several short, shaky breaths, as if about to burst into her famous waterfall of tears, but again she surprised him and only said softly, "Does that mean you won't teach me?"
Stunned, the stone man swung around and stared at her. Amelia's expression was serious, with only the slightest hint of tears glimmering in her eyes. His stone skin was no barrier to the shards of guilt and remorse that stabbed through him. His narrow shoulders slumped, and he lowered his head. "Of course I'll teach you, Amelia."
From the glad tone of her voice he expected her to throw her arms around him, and he braced himself for the impact-which never came. Instead he blinked as the top of her head came into view as she bowed deeply before him. "I will do my best to be a good student, Zelgadis-sama."
As she stood upright, the black-haired princess assumed a ready stance. "What do we do first, sensei?"
The chimera did not speak for a few moments, trying to adjust to the newest set of changes, while in the back of his mind he was aware of some measure of disappointment that Amelia had not embraced him. "Well, first I want us to put some distance between us and these soldiers."
Amelia nodded and began heading back the way she had come, presumably to retrieve Sunshine.
"Here," Zelgadis called after her. He strode over to the smallest of the slumbering soldiers and picked up the sword scabbard from the ground next to him. "Wear this from now on."
The young girl approached him slowly, and accepted the blade with a solemn expression. As she buckled it around her softly curved hips, Zelgadis forced himself to look on in stern approval. "Good," he said curtly. "We'll start your lessons tomorrow. Let's get moving."
Moonlight shone gently on the forms of the four travelers as mile after mile passed. It was their second night with little sleep, and Amelia, especially, looked as if she would fall asleep in the saddle. Not wanting a repeat of last night's argument, Zelgadis called a halt while there were still a good six hours of darkness left. "We'll sleep in this clearing for the rest of the night and get an early start in the morning. After we've put some more miles behind us we'll stop for our midday meal and have your first lesson."
Amelia nodded silently and dismounted from her horse. While she removed Sunshine's saddle and bridle Zelgadis collected some wood and used an old trick he'd discovered by accident-he tapped his sword against his stone hand at a sharp angle to create sparks. It took several strikes and a bit of maneuvering to get enough sparks to land where he wanted them, but within a few minutes he had a small fire burning nicely.
"That was so cool!" He started and turned to see Amelia sitting on her knees nearby, watching him avidly. "Where did you ever learn to do something like that?"
The open admiration in her eyes cooled the heat of resentment that calling attention to his altered form usually caused. Instead of snapping at her to mind her own business as he normally would have, he only sighed and said, "I've had occasion to notice sparks are created when someone manages to strike me with his sword."
Amelia flushed as she recalled that sometimes misguided people would attack her friend upon sight, assuming from his appearance that he must be evil. She still felt somewhat nervous about speaking to him. I'm not sure if he's still mad at me or not. Oh, I've got to remember to think before I speak. Now I've embarrassed him. She cleared her throat. "Well, um...it's sure a lucky thing for us! I've never tried to start a fire without magic. And it is getting awfully cold out."
Oh, that reminds me...
In the flickering firelight Zelgadis watched as the young girl went over to her saddlebag and pulled something out of it. "What's that?"
"It's a ground cloth," she explained, shaking out the stiff fabric. "You use it to sleep on-it's supposed to insulate against the cold . I haven't needed to use it before now, but tonight feels even cooler than last night." She bent over to spread it out on the dark earth, scattering shining pine needles with the wind she made. "And it is nice not to wake up with dirt and things in your hair."
The princess knelt on the dark-blue cloth, leaning over to smooth out the wrinkles. The stone man's eyes followed her actions, idly noticing the graceful movements of her arms as they swept over the material, as well as other gently moving portions of anatomy...
Amelia was aware that he was watching her. She wondered what he was thinking. He's quieter than usual. Is he still upset with me? Or is it just that he's worried about Miss Lina and Mister Gourry? Or...She bit her lip, remembering, He hasn't mentioned his cure even once. Does that mean he didn't- Peeking at him out of the corner of her eye, she caught a glimpse of an odd expression on his face. Why is he watching me like that? she wondered innocently.
And then, realizing where the stone man's eyes had strayed: Oh! Amelia felt her face redden, but she wasn't sure what she should do. She was caught in the kind of conflicting emotions that made her wish she could ask her mother or sister for advice. Is he looking at me? I mean, really looking? It's not the first time a man has stared at me, but I always knew what to do, then-wallop him a good one. It's really hard to fight old reflexes, but I...I WANT him to notice me. ...But I don't want to be brazen, either; I want him to think well of me. How do I show him I don't mind if he looks? She closed her eyes for a moment. It makes me feel really shy, and nervous too. I wonder if Miss Lina feels like this around Mister Gourry?
The black-haired princess continued to smooth the already wrinkle-free cloth until she couldn't stand it any longer. Finally she sat back on her heels and looked up at the silent chimera. "Mister Zelgadis, is-is something wrong?"
With a start, Zelgadis realized that he'd been unconsciously staring at her. "Uh, no. I, ah, I was just thinking that you haven't seemed as clumsy lately." Inwardly he winced at his lame-and insulting-reply.
To his surprise, Amelia didn't seem to mind his answer, as she smiled broadly and said, "I told you all I needed was a little exercise." So he's finally noticing me again! Suddenly buoyed by the realization that she had somehow managed to gain back some of the ground she'd won back in Seyrune, Amelia bounced to her feet. "I want to show you something."
With a small sound of surprise the chimera watched her turn and dash away from him, her face beaming like a child's. What is she up to now? As the girl neared a large tree at the edge of the clearing he began to get a notion. In spite of himself, a small smile tugged at his lips. She'll never learn.
Amelia sprang an impressive distance up into the tree's lowest branches. "Okay, watch this!" Holding out her arms to the sides, the young girl threw her body forward, her cape flashing in and out as she executed a complicated series of spins, twists and turns in midair.
Zelgadis actually felt a little awe as she came flying through the air toward him, though he also expected her to land on him, or hit the ground face first, and unconsciously braced himself to catch her. Incredibly, her body sorted itself out just in time to land neatly on her feet in front of him.
"Well, what do you think?" Amelia wore a pleased-with-herself expression that somehow managed to be cute and bold at the same time.
He blinked at her, not wanting to seem too impressed. "Not bad," he admitted, letting a little of his surprise show. "But your cape's almost in the fire."
"What?" She threw a panicky glance over her shoulder to see the brilliant orange flames flickering dangerously near the hem of her cape. "Ahh!" she yelped, leaping forward instinctively-right into Zelgadis.
"Oof!" Her outthrust hands hit him hard in the chest, knocking him off-balance, his arms windmilling, and the next moment the two of them were lying together on the ground. Amelia had managed to absorb most of the shock with her arms, which were now pressed between her chest and his as she lay sprawled full-length on top of him.
The two of them stared at each other with wide eyes, frozen in place. Amelia's cheeks were flushed, and she was breathing a little heavily from her aerobatic activity-even through his stone skin Zelgadis could feel every breath she took. He watched the alarm in her dark blue eyes fade away, to be replaced by a very different expression. He was captivated at how they seemed to deepen, pulling him in, holding him within their shining sapphire depths. A faint memory of a vast blue sea, a rose-colored light, and a comforting, devoted presence stirred within him.
Amelia forgot the pain of her abrupt landing as she was caught up in his gaze. For once, he wasn't trying to avoid her eyes; indeed, he seemed to be searching them, attempting to look into her soul. Oh, Zelgadis... The young girl felt her love for him surge up inside of her, threatening to overflow. Gladly, she let herself fall into his blue-green eyes, wanting with all her heart for him to understand how much he meant to her.
Eyes as blue as the sea. The chimera who had once been a man looked into a vast ocean of feelings, slowly realizing that the emotions he was used to seeing in others' eyes were absent in hers. No fear, no hate. No contempt, or even pity. Her eyes were shimmering mirrors, reflecting clearly to the stone man everything he had tried to ignore. He felt a twinge deep inside, as the stone wall around his own feelings weakened in the face of her powerful devotion to care for him in spite of all the obstacles in her way.
There was something else in her eyes, something more than loyal friendship and unconditional love and support. It was as if she needed him somehow...needed something from him that he was not prepared to give. Faintly, he could sense her longing...
Amelia gradually became aware of his warm breath on her lower face and throat, and realized that he was breathing faster than usual. She could feel his chest, rising and falling beneath her, and wondered if his heart was beating as rapidly as hers was. Instinctively, she slowly began to lower her head, her eyes drifting closed.
Amelia felt the lightest of touches, no more than the brush of a butterfly's wing over her lips, and then suddenly she found herself with a faceful of fur, and a large wet tongue had left a slick path of slobber on one cheek. "Shiran!"
The large dragonwolf affectionately gave her another rather forceful nudge, and turned her muzzle toward Zelgadis, licking him on the cheek as well. He suddenly came to life under Amelia, twitching from Shiran's kiss and making a wordless exclamation of protest.
The mood was broken. The princess slid her hands off of his chest to the ground on either side of him, and pushed herself up, suddenly feeling awkward about looking at the chimera. She stood back as Zelgadis got to his feet, and then went to get some food from her saddlebag, more as an excuse to avoid his gaze than because she was hungry.
They ate in silence, carefully not looking at each other. Amelia badly wanted him to reach out and put an arm around her shoulders so that she could lean close to him, but was too afraid to break the silence, too afraid that he would tell her what she did not want to hear; that he did not return her love. I don't even know if he wanted me to kiss him, but at that moment it felt so right...oh, why did Shiran have to interrupt like that? She could have wept for the lost opportunity. If he had let me kiss him, I would have had my answer.
His long years of practiced impassiveness stood him in good stead. Outwardly, Zelgadis was as quiet and composed as ever, but inside he was a mass of churning thoughts and feelings. His mind replayed the words of the Oracle: She chose ta love you...she hasn't gotten married yet 'cause she's waiting for you! She has ta perform the spell...the exposure to the dark forces could overwhelm her...nothing's ever a hundred percent certain.
The stone man wanted to put his head in his hands and rock back and forth, to let his body reflect the same restlessness as his mind. What am I going to do? I won't allow her to risk her sanity, and without a cure I can't even let her be close to me; I can't let myself get too attached. When this trip is over I'm going to have to say goodbye to her.
Ruthlessly he suppressed the tiny candle of hope that had ignited, but he could not extinguish it, for the fuel that nurtured it was the love he had seen in her eyes.
Slowly he was able to calm down. Although he did not realize it, part of his distress was simple anxiety. Things kept happening; things he had no control over. He had felt himself responding to Amelia just now without thinking-had not even wanted to think. It made him feel helpless, as helpless as he'd once been in the power of his grandfather.
Zelgadis did not so much as glance at Amelia during the meal. He kept his eyes on Shiran. The dragonwolf was safe to look at, as she lay near the fire gnawing on a hard biscuit the princess had given her, her pale lavender coat absorbing the reddish light from the fire and turning mauve. I wonder if Amelia would let me keep Shiran, as a reminder...after all, a city's no place for a magnificent beast like her...
Making plans for the future made him feel better, more in control. After we rescue Lina and Gourry we'll deliver Amelia to Seyrune in time for her wed-her ceremony, and...I'll head off to look for someone who can cure me with the Oracle's spell. I'll need to contact Xellos, but that probably won't be too difficult with the way he's been popping up lately.
The stone man abruptly realized that neither of them had yet mentioned his cure, as if they had made a pact to let the matter lie until the current crisis was resolved. He could no longer doubt the Oracle's words that Amelia did have some feelings toward him, but he knew he could not encourage her. Eventually I'm going to have to tell her that what she wants is impossible. As for what he wanted... I don't know what I want anymore, he realized. And that thought was the most unsettling of all.
Amelia yawned, breaking the spell of silence between them. He glanced at her, noting with some relief that her allure had faded; she was just Amelia again. He gave her a half-smile. "Why don't you get some sleep?"
She jumped as he spoke, and turned to look at him. Their eyes met. For a moment he could read the emotion in them like a map, but then she blinked and lowered her eyes, nodding aquiesence. As they were already sitting on her ground cloth, she simply lay on her side and pulled her cape around her, facing away from him.
It took Zelgadis a while longer before he felt calm enough to try to sleep. He kept thinking about how much she had changed. She was definitely a more complex person that he remembered, with hidden depths and motives that he had never dreamed existed. In a way, it made her a more interesting companion, since he could no longer be reasonably sure of what she would do or say next.
Just before he fell asleep, for no particular reason he thought, We're traveling alone together. Without Lina and Gourry's presence he wondered if Amelia would try something more forward. He also wondered that if she did, would he be able to refuse her?
Author's Note: You can tell Amelia's still charmingly innocent-her idea of getting Zel to look at her was to perform aerobatics! Still, I just can't see her coming on to him...except in a very sweet, naive sort of way.
The Narrator wanted to know how Xellos was able to transport into and out of the magicless zone. For starters, I would say zones with 'no' magic actually suppress magic, not completely nullify it-otherwise Zelgadis and Shiran really WOULD have disintegrated. People just say 'null' or 'magicless' as generalizations, since to most people, if ya can't use magic, who cares about the proper technical term for it-gone is gone, ne? And as for Xellos-well, he's no ordinary mazoku-he's the most powerful of them all-and he can call upon his Lord's power as well. But since he's trying to remain incognito, he's only using the smallest amount he can get away with without attracting his Master's attention.
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