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!
Chapter Thirty-Four: Dreaming of You /
The Art of Sword Fighting
As the night progressed, the little fire Zelgadis had made dwindled, as he had gotten distracted while he was building it (by a certain princess who shall remain nameless) and hadn't banked it right to last the night. Amelia began shivering with cold. She rolled over in her sleep, instinctively searching for the missing warmth, and ended up lying against Zelgadis' arm. He was sleeping on his back, with his arms at his sides. The princess sensed the solid warmth nearby, and grew still.
A dream began. The raven-haired girl was walking down a bustling street in Seyrune when suddenly a wall appeared in front of her. What's this? she thought, puzzled. Well, no matter. "Visa Frank!" she chanted, imbuing her fists with magic energy. Then she smashed her way through the wall as if it were rice-paper.
The sleeping Amelia's arm lifted into the air and wavered for a second, then flopped down across the chimera's chest. Her palm was resting just below the red jewel that his cloak-cords were tied to. Her fingertips twitched a little, picking up the distinctive texture of thick, somewhat rough cloth.
The dream-Amelia found herself in a large shop that sold various types of fabric, and was struck by a delightful idea. Why don't I choose something to make Mister Zelgadis some new clothes for when he returns as a human? He probably won't have the same color skin...and he'll likely want something a little lighter and softer than the heavy cotton he wears now. Let's see...he seems to like beige...
The dream-Amelia enjoyed herself as she went from table to table, examining material of all types and patterns and colors. She picked up a piece of plain tan cloth that was similar to his old clothing, but wrinkled her nose. He ought to have something a little nicer than this. After all, if everything goes right, he'll be my...he'll be the next crown prince. She passed by a table with brightly colored cloth. Miss Lina would love some of these, but I think Mister Zelgadis would prefer something a little less...flashy.
She stopped at a table with a selection of slightly higher-quality material. Why, this is perfect. Her hand went out almost of its own accord to stroke a light blue bolt of fabric with a simple but elegant geometric pattern in purple along one edge. She envisioned her beloved in a tunic made from this material, with the pattern adding a bit of decoration to the sleeves and bottom edge.
Amelia's hand, which was still resting on the chimera, moved gently across his chest as her dream-self touched several types of cloth.
Pleased with her find, the dream-Amelia picked up the entire bolt of cloth to bring home to the castle's tailors and continued shopping. Soon she had added some slightly heavier fabrics (one in a medium shade of blue, and the others in beige and forest green) from which to make trousers.
Hmm...what about red? she wondered, admiring a rich maroon fabric with a golden-yellow pattern. She twisted her mouth to one side, picturing Zelgadis in it, and shook her head. No, he doesn't look good in red at all. At least, if his hair doesn't change he won't. Even if it does turn out to be some other color-she could not imagine what color that might be-that just means I get to go shopping again-with him.
The princess decided on a bolt of muted purple with an ice-blue pattern on one edge, and another in light tan with deep teal-green edging that matched his eyes. Her find of the day was a very lightweight linen in a pale cream color. She planned to have it made into an old-fashioned billowy-long-sleeved shirt with a charming gathering of lace ruffles down the front, and at the cuffs. He can wear it to formal gatherings. Oh, he'll look so elegant!
The sleeping girl's hand stroked the stone man's chest, eventually ending up under the overlapping layer of cloth from his cape. Gradually, feeling the extra warmth, her hand relaxed and stopped moving.
Though the weight of her arm across his chest wasn't great, Zelgadis' sleeping mind sensed some kind of restraint, and it was enough to trigger his Rezo nightmare. A younger version of himself was alone in a thick forest, practicing his swordsmanship. He chanted his mantra: I want to be strong! over and over. Suddenly he heard a familiar sound-the metal rings on the head of his grandfather's staff ringing out as Rezo approached. The sleeping chimera's heart pounded, and his chest began to rise and fall quickly as his breathing grew heavy with the terror of what he knew was to come.
The dream-Amelia was walking home happily, carrying her stack of purchases when suddenly she was no longer on the street in Seyrune. Huh? Instead, she was standing on the balcony at the palace, and in her arms she was holding not a bundle of cloth, but a living, breathing person. She was wearing the same sleeveless white gown she'd worn the last time the two of them had stood on this balcony together, and it was sunset again.
The Zelgadis in her dream was silent, but this didn't bother her much, as that was normal for him. He was holding her wonderfully close, with one hand behind her shoulders and the other at the base of her spine. She had her arms wrapped around his waist and was resting her head on his shoulder, feeling his heart beat even through his stone skin. Slowly the princess tilted her head up to look at his face. His gaze was fixed off somewhere in the distance, his expression full of longing. Amelia knew that he was looking for his cure.
She sighed. I wish he would forget about that stupid cure, and just be happy! But she knew if they were ever to be married, he would have to find a way to become human again, and so she relaxed, composing herself to be patient for as long as it took. Anyway, it was very comforting to have him holding her like that-she knew that it was his way of showing her that he cared about her and would return to her just as soon as he could. Giving in to her emotions, she snuggled deeper into his chest, feeling the warm breeze billow her dress and Zelgadis' cape around them.
In the waking world Amelia was cuddled against the chimera's side, her arm still on his chest. She sighed happily and murmured, "Dear Zelgadis..."
In Zelgadis' dream-world Rezo's chimes faded, and in a burst of pinkish light he found himself not in a dark forest, but instead sitting in the same beautiful clearing where he, Amelia, and Shiran had slumbered so peacefully a few days ago. He sat up and looked around, spotting the princess sleeping on the thick green grass beside him. As he gazed at her, her eyes opened and she smiled up at him, her face so full of love that he felt his heart flutter in his chest.
He held out his blue-skinned hand to her, and smiled as she took it and lifted herself to her feet. They wandered here and there, holding hands, laughing and having fun, completely at ease with the world. The raven-haired princess collected wildflowers and made a crown for him-and then squealed in delight as he chased her in a silly game of who-wears-the-crown? When he finally caught her he scooped her up in his arms, and swung her in circles, both of them laughing with joy.
It was a perfect day with a sky of clearest azure, but nothing came close to the incredible sapphire blue of her eyes. They flew together, Zelgadis rediscovering through Amelia the exhilarating freedom of soaring through the air, of swooping and diving, interweaving imaginary patterns through the heavens. They played another game of Chase among the treetops, until somehow it became a kind of art form: synchronized flying, with each of them trying to match the other's moves in a wonderful dance through the sky.
With the coming of dawn, the sun's first rays filtered in through the trees and woke him. As Zelgadis lay there with his eyes closed, his dream slowly came back to him. I've never had a dream...quite like that before. Or thought of being with Amelia like that, as if I were a normal man, doing the kinds of things a normal man might do with the girl he...cares about.
Suddenly he stiffened, becoming aware of the girl, who was still breathing peacefully as she lay half on his right arm with her right arm draped across his chest. His suspicions from the previous night came back to him-she had apparently decided to test him, to see if he would respond to her advances. "Amelia," he said quietly as he felt her begin to stir. "What do you think you're doing?"
The princess took a deep breath and murmured something unintelligible, still more than half asleep. He felt her hand move on his chest, then stop, then move again, patting a couple of times as if she wasn't sure of what she was touching. Suddenly she bolted into a sitting position, staring down at him with such a shocked expression that he began to doubt his assumption. "Mister Zelgadis, how did-did I-did you-"
He got to his feet, only then noticing that the fire was out. "I think you must have been cold during the night." That was what he would prefer to believe, at any rate. He still did not want to think of her as someone capable of such duplicity.
"Oh...I must have..." Her cheeks went pink, enhancing her attractively disheveled appearance. Zelgadis' eyes were drawn to a curl of dark hair that lay across her cheek.
"It's all right. I guess I didn't bank it to last all night." Zelgadis tried not to remember his dream, determinedly shoving it to the back of his mind. "Are you ready to leave?" he asked her.
"In a minute," she replied, scrambling to her feet and heading off into the forest where the vegetation was thickest. Zelgadis glanced at Shiran, who was waiting patiently at the edge of the clearing, giving no sign that she sensed enemies around. Good. She ought to be safe enough. He went over to the saddlebag and pulled out some travel rations to keep their stomachs from complaining too much until they could catch some game.
They traveled for the next six hours, covering a good amount of distance before Zelgadis called a halt for the midday meal. "We ought to be far enough away from them now. Even if the soldiers wake up early, it'll still take them a while to follow our trail."
Amelia only nodded. She had been unusually silent all day, which had at first been a relief to the chimera. He had been very grateful that she had seemed to sense he didn't want to talk about what had happened between them the night before, but as the day wore on, he realized that he missed her usual cheerful commentary. He could tell something was bothering her, but he did not inquire. It was not his way. I usually leave things like this to Lina. It's out of my depth.
Amelia had been beset by inner qualms all day. The forest had gotten very thick soon after they started out, so to save time Zelgadis had taken to using his sword to clear a path for the horse, slashing through overhanging brush and thorny bushes as if they were paper. He hadn't responded to Amelia's thanks, so after a while she stopped, discouraged.
She worried that his silence meant he was still upset with her for refusing to help him by learning to use a sword. He is a man who does not forgive easily. Look at how much he still hates his own grandfather, even though Miss Lina says it really wasn't Rezo's fault.
She also worried that he found her contemptible for breaking her oath. He probably won't understand if I try to tell him why I made that pledge. No one ever does. They just look at me and say, 'Why would you make such a stupid vow? You going to stand there while somebody hacks away at you?' They thought I was just being childish and irresponsible-or worse, crazy like...my sister, unfit to rule. After feeling the stings of many such reproofs, twelve-year-old Amelia had gone to her father and asked to train as a priestess of white magic, and in hand-to-hand combat.
She wasn't sure whether Zelgadis' reticence was significant or not. He had always been quiet; had never spoken out as often as the rest of his companions, but now his silence was unnerving. Amelia was an expressive person. She had been raised to assert herself, which clashed with her unconscious knowledge that Zelgadis would not appreciate a lot of empty chatter, at least not now. This is a serious situation, she told herself firmly. It would be inappropriate-juvenile, as he said before, to act as if nothing was wrong.
It was frustrating in another way. This was the first time the young princess had ever been completely alone with Zelgadis for such a large amount of time, and she chafed at the invisible barrier that had somehow grown between them. How she longed to reach out to him, to talk with him about their fears, to soothe and reassure him that everything would be all right, and be soothed in turn.
After they shared a silent meal, Zelgadis stood up and turned to face Amelia. "All right, Amelia. Now I want you to watch me carefully. I'm going to demonstrate the basic moves."
Her uncertain gaze sharpened, and she nodded. "Yes, sensei."
Amelia enjoyed his demonstration-it gave her the perfect excuse to watch his body attentively as he moved. He was all fire and lightning and grace as his slender body effortlessly did whatever he asked of it. She was so enraptured at the sight of her chimera leaping and whirling and posing just for her that she hardly took in the names of the moves.
Shiran thought it was a new game and leaped at Zelgadis with a wolfish smile, and had to be told to sit aside. The dragonwolf watched her bonded ones and panted happily, her long tongue lolling over lavender fur.
"Now you try it." Zelgadis ordered. Amelia hesitated, then began to emulate his actions. If she had not just seen the way he moved, she might have had trouble. It's like a kind of dance, she realized. With patterns and balance playing a big part. Slowly she repeated each of the stances, the blocks and parries and thrusts. Zelgadis was more patient than she would ever have thought, verbally correcting her and giving a satisfied nod of approval when she got it right.
The princess was surprised to find herself panting after a short while, and soon began to sweat. It sure takes a lot of energy! When Zelgadis called a halt after an hour, she dropped gratefully to sit on the ground. "You can rest for a short time, and then we'll practice sparring."
Inwardly she winced, only now noticing the sore places on her hands that would soon become blisters, but said nothing. I don't want to look like a complaining child. Besides, she knew she had only a day or two to learn enough to be able to protect herself in battle, at least until Zelgadis or Shiran could come to her defense.
Zelgadis surprised her by commenting, "It's a good thing you're used to fighting real opponents."
She looked up at him with questioning eyes. He explained, "You won't flinch when they come at you. One of the first things you need to realize about sword fighting is that it isn't always the most skilled combatant who wins-it's the one who's most determined not to lose."
He nodded. "Look at Lina. She claims to be an expert swordswoman-and I don't deny she is skilled-but her greatest asset is her fighting spirit. She's fast and willing to take risks, but she doesn't act out of desperation or let her opponent fluster her into mistakes."
Amelia wrapped her arms around her knees and said sadly, "She's a remarkable person." Oh, Miss Lina, where are you? Everything's gone so wrong...
The stone man caught the forlorn expression on her face. He softened. "We'll get them back, Amelia. I swear it."
The young girl heaved a great sigh of unhappiness, but forced herself to say in a fair approximation of her usual optimism, "Of course we will, Mister Zelgadis."
They followed Shiran's nose to a nearby stream, where they drank and splashed their faces. Amelia thought longingly of a luxurious hot bath, but firmly turned her mind away from such thoughts. A few weeks ago I was wishing I could be with my friends. I'm glad I'm here-what if I'd stayed home and learned later that some of them had died? I'd spend the rest of my life wondering if I could have saved them.
The sparring did not go nearly as well as her earlier lesson. Bewildered, Zelgadis thought, I can't understand it. She knows the moves reasonably well now...how hard can it be to put them into practice? The young girl cooperated enthusiastically enough, but something was missing. Parry, parry, block, parry... "Amelia, you can't just keep blocking my strikes. You're not fighting my sword, you're fighting me. Come on, attack me."
Her eyes widened. "But what if I-"
"Hurt me?" He gave her a sarcastic look, one stone eyebrow raised. She looked embarrassed, a line of pink over her nose and cheeks as she obviously realized what she had just said. She smiled sheepishly, and resumed her former stance, sword held ready. Then she let the blade drop.
"What now?" he asked exasperatedly.
The princess hesitated. "If I attack you for real your clothes will get all torn up. It's not like you can buy any more out here."
The stone man clenched his fist, a growl of irritation trying to emerge from his throat. After a few moments he sheathed his blade and reached up to the fastening of his cape. He did not notice Amelia's look of shock as he pulled off his cape and the tunic under it and dropped them to the ground. Clad only in his pants, he faced her with a grim expression. "Amelia. Believe me when I tell you that I want you to try as hard as you can to kill me. Now come on!" he barked.
She jumped, her eyes widening, and brought her sword up to point it at him. He crouched slightly, and pulled out his own sword, giving her his trademark evil smirk. "I'm one of the men who kidnapped your friend, the witch Lina Inverse. I would enjoy nothing more than to kill you," he growled, "to hear your screams of agony and know that the last thing you hear as you die is the sound of my laughter."
Zelgadis watched as her eyes seemed to burn with the justice-fire he knew of old. Finally! Then she began to stalk him, circling him, searching for a weak spot in his defense. He jabbed his blade at her, and was pleased to see she was not taken in by his feint, for her intent gaze never wandered from his torso. He remembered telling her that one could sometimes predict an opponent's moves by reading their body language. Even allowing for the fact that my moves are easier to predict since I'm shirtless, I think she has the potential to be a first-class swordswoman someday.
After a few minutes he deliberately let his defense slip, to see if she would take advantage of it. No. She's still concentrating more on keeping her distance from me. She has to take the initiative if she wants to keep her life in this damned magicless land!
Lowering his head, the chimera leaped toward her, his sword held off to the side. It was the kind of clumsy attack that a drunken soldier or a berzerker troll might use. He was hoping she would try to ram her blade right through his unprotected bare chest.
He saw indecision in her eyes for a split second but then she dodged out of his way. He caught her arm as he ran past her, and skidded abruptly to a stop. Her blade went flying off to bury itself under the rust-colored pine needles.
"What is the matter with you?" he demanded. "If I were an enemy you'd be dead by now. You're not even trying."
"I'm-I'm sorry," Amelia heard herself whimper. "This is very hard for me." She turned away from him, ashamed of her weakness, unable to look him in the eye. I keep picturing her in my head, what she looked like...
The chimera released her arm. There was a short pause. "I don't understand you." His voice was an audible reflection of the chimera's baffled frustration. "What is so difficult about this? You made the decision to give up your oath, and I know you're not afraid to fight-in fact, sometimes you're too eager for your own good. So what's holding you back?"
Underneath the impatience, Amelia sensed a note of curiosity, and a real desire to get at the source of the problem that balked him. The princess tensed, feeling as if she were about to plunge into an dark, icy lake. He...he deserves to know why. But-it hurts so much to talk about it...to remember...
Zelgadis stared at the young girl in dismay as her face slowly crumpled into an expression of such abject misery that he sheathed his sword in one swift move and stepped toward her, his stone hands carefully gripping her upper arms. "What is it, Amelia? What's wrong?"
The genuine concern in the chimera's voice brought Amelia's awareness back out of the shadowed corner of her mind where she kept all of her darkest memories. She tilted her head back to look up at him, her deep blue eyes shimmering with unshed tears. For a moment she could not speak, struck by the beauty of the man standing before her. Her eyes traced the features that she so wanted to touch-his noble high cheekbones, his lips, his pointed chin with its smooth dark stones, his unique jawline that led back to those gracefully tapered ears...
His body was just as beautiful. She could not help moving her gaze down over his muscular yet astonishingly slender frame, taking in his long slim arms, his bare chest with its smooth blue skin speckled with pieces of darker stone here and there. Suddenly curious about their texture, Amelia had to resist the sudden urge to touch them.
After a few seconds her gaze returned to his eyes. Surrounded with those same protective stones, the chimera's dark blue-green eyes were as much windows to his soul as any pure human's could be. Now they were reflecting equal measures of worry and concern as he focused his full attention on her, trying to fathom the source of her anguish. Dear Zelgadis...she thought, soaking up his emotional sunlight, the tension in her shoulders easing. She smiled up at him, a smile full of tender appreciation for his caring.
Zelgadis had watched, captivated, as the princess' expression changed from heartbreaking grief through surprise to the one that always caught him unawares-when she gazed at him as if he were the most wonderful person in the world. His instinctive response was so compelling that it was all he could do to hold himself still, to keep himself from folding her into a protective embrace. Enough of that, he told himself fiercely, forcing himself to release her arms. She has to learn to stand on her own two feet-you can't keep on shielding her...like the child she still is.
Sure enough, after a few seconds the young girl smiled weakly and reached up to brush the tears from her eyes. She sniffed a little and sighed. "Sorry. It's something I don't like to talk about."
As he gazed into her shadowed blue eyes something he'd once heard and forgotten about suddenly burst into the forefront of his brain. Even before she began to speak, he knew exactly what she was going to say. "You see, when I was a little girl, my mother..."
Unconsciously he covered his own mouth momentarily with one hand, holding up the other one in a 'stop' gesture. "No...Amelia-you don't have to-"
Though her voice was quiet, he could hear the tone of determination in it. "No, you deserve to hear the story. And maybe...maybe I need to tell it."
Their eyes met, and after a moment, he nodded.
Author's Note: Shaherezad1 and Claudia22 both asked: How did Amelia use her powers to locate her friends in Varxin's Realm of Null Magic?
First of all, wonderful! People are really thinking as they read my story! *Happy grin*And second, Amelia was using her magic right on the fringe of the Realm, not in it. Thus, she could sense what was in the Realm as long as she was doing the magic from the outside. Once she went in after him, of course, she had no powers to speak of.
BTW, when Amelia calls Zelgadis 'Dear Zelgadis' she is not calling him '-sama', like Sylphiel called Gourry in season one-or at least, that's how they translated it into English. For some reason I find it difficult to have her think of him as 'honey' or 'sweetheart'-blech!
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