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, 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-Five: Amelia's Tragic Tale

Amelia took a deep breath. "When I was little, the palace was the whole world to me. I was allowed to roam anywhere I wanted, to explore everywhere from the dungeons (which were rarely used) to the highest towers. I remember thinking if I were just a little taller I would be able to touch the clouds.

"But there was one place I wasn't allowed to go. The armory. As I got older the temptation to enter it grew, until one day I gathered my courage and managed to sneak in. I was caught almost immediately, of course, but in the brief glimpse I had of the place the impression I got was a room full of shining metal, sparkling with jewels and looking nothing like the little wooden toy sword I had been given to play with. There was one sword I remembered in particular that had its own stand to display it, with a beautiful bright emerald set in the hilt.

"My daddy sat me on his knee and explained that even though he understood that I was curious, and that curiosity was a good thing, it was a bad thing for me to go inside that room."

FLASHBACK:

Little Amelia: "But why, Daddy?"

Prince Philionel: "Only grown-ups can touch those weapons. People can get hurt."

Little Amelia: "So when I'm a grown-up, I can touch them too?"

Prince Philionel (lifting his child into the air, a big smile on his face): "Yes, Amelia, that's exactly right. What a smart girl you are!"

END FLASHBACK

Amelia smiled ruefully. "My father thought that ended the matter, but he had forgotten how a child's mind works. You see, a few weeks later there was a rumor that one of the more ambitious kings far to the west had decided to expand his borders. My father was chosen to go and confront this man, to inform him that Seyrune and those kingdoms allied with us were prepared to balk his attempts in order to keep the peace that had existed for several decades."

FLASHBACK:

Prince Philionel (dressed in traveling clothes): "I'll only be gone for a little while, Amelia, don't cry."

Little Amelia (sniffs): "But why can't I go too?"

Prince Philionel: "I need you here, to look after your mother and sister for me. I'm counting on you to be a big girl while I'm gone."

Little Amelia (gives a little smile): "Okay, Daddy. I'll take good care of them!"

END FLASHBACK

Zelgadis noticed that the longer she spoke, the more she sounded like the child she had been.

"For the next few days things were normal, if dull without Daddy around. Then one day there was a terrible rainstorm. I was supposed to stay in my room and play with my toys, but when I heard a big fuss out in the hallway I got up to listen at the door. There were guards rushing back and forth, talking about an intruder who had managed to get past the outer defenses.

"I was very excited. One of the games I played with my daddy was where the brave swordsman fought off the mean intruder and rescued the helpless prisoners. I knew exactly what I had to do. I opened the door a crack, ready to leap out and confront the evil man, but I only saw the grim faces of the guards passing by. I think it was then that I realized how serious the situation was. I knew most of the men passing by, and not one of them smiled at me, or even noticed that I was there. I knew then that this was no game.

"I was afraid, but I also remembered the promise I had made to Daddy to protect my mother and Gracia, my big sister, and I knew that I couldn't protect them with my little toy sword. Then I remembered the armory. Without hesitation I headed off, slipping in between the guards. A few of them asked where I was going, and I lied, saying I was going straight to my mother's rooms.

"None of us knew that my mother had sent my older sister to get me. She panicked when she found my room empty, searching through the halls until a guard told her where I'd said I was going.

"Meanwhile, I had managed to enter the armory unnoticed. Most of the shining swords were gone, but the special one, the one on its own stand, was still there. I stood and looked at it for a little while, because I knew my daddy had told me not to touch the swords. I knew I was disobeying. I remembered his exact words: 'Only grown-ups can touch them. People can get hurt.'

"But as I stood there, I also remembered when he said, "I need you to look after your mother and sister for me. I'm counting on you to be a big girl while I'm gone."

"'I am a big girl, Daddy. I'm grown up!'" I said out loud, full of confidence. "'I'll protect them with this sword until you come back, just like I promised.'"

"And then I reached out and wrapped my little hands around the hilt of the sword and tried to lift it. It was much, much heavier than I thought it would be. The hilt hurt my hands, so I let go and blew on the spots that hurt. Then I set my teeth and squared my little shoulders and gripped the hilt and tugged with all my might. I felt the stand tip, and scrambled out of the way as it fell. The sword landed with a clatter, the metal ringing deafeningly on the stone floor.

"'What was that?'" I heard a man's voice yell.

"Suddenly I was a frightened five-year-old, and I scrambled up and hid behind the door just as someone opened it. The wooden door swung toward me, trapping me between it and the wall. I held my breath, trying to make my heart beat more quietly, because it was so loud in my ears. I could hear the man breathing too, but after a few seconds he must have assumed the sword stand had fallen over on its own, and that the space behind the door was far too small for an adult intruder to hide in. The door closed.

"I took a deep, shaky breath, and decided to find my mommy. I forgot about being a grown-up protector, and just wanted to feel her warm, safe arms around me."

At this point, the Amelia standing before Zelgadis seemed to shrink a little, crossing her arms and rubbing her hands on her upper arms as if to ward off a chill-or something worse. The chimera felt a twinge of concern, a desire to reach out to her, but held himself back, reminding himself he would be doing her no favor by coddling her.

"Suddenly there was a huge uproar from the guards, and the thunder of booted feet all charging in one direction. I waited until everything was quiet, and then slipped out of the armory and made my way down the empty corridor toward my mother's rooms.

"I knew something was wrong as soon as I saw the group of women servants weeping in the hall outside my mother's chambers. From the depths of the castle there were men's shouts of rage, screams of pain and fear. I felt a heavy lump form in my belly, and dashed through the women before they could stop me, determined to find my mommy."

Zelgadis the Cold-Hearted Swordsman winced, and closed his eyes for several seconds. "And you saw-"

Slowly, the young princess nodded, her eyes dark with misery and remembered horror. "The intruder was an assassin sent by the king my father had gone to talk to. My mother...wasn't my mommy anymore. The intruder's weapon had..." She stopped, covering her mouth with her hand, her throat spasming as she tried to hold in the sobs, to finish the story that had long gone untold.

The chimera's resolve evaporated. "Amelia," he murmured, reaching out to hold her, but to his astonishment it was she who held out both hands in a 'stay away' gesture.

With tears running down her cheeks, the brave young girl continued in a wavering voice, "Her entire body ...had...cuts and slashes all over...ribbons of skin and flesh were hanging from her like...and her throat was a wide-open wound, with bright red blood in a pool all around her..." Amelia stopped, seeming to choke for a moment, as a sob emerged from her throat.

"As soon as I saw her I screamed, "'Somebody help her!'" I knew there were healers who put out their hands and a white light came from them and made my boo-boos better. "'Help! Save her! Mommy!'"

"I was surrounded by the women who pulled me away. I screamed and fought and cried, but deep in my heart I already knew that my mommy was dead."

With the childish voice still echoing in his mind, Zelgadis watched as Amelia's eyes slowly focused, bringing her back to the here-and-now. She was trembling violently, and looked to him to be on the verge of collapse. Tentatively, remembering her earlier rejection, he took a step toward her and opened his arms. She only hesitated for a moment before throwing herself into them, weeping wholeheartedly. He stroked her midnight hair and rubbed her back lightly, wishing there was something more he could do to ease her anguish.

After a few minutes her deep, wrenching sobs eased. As her breathing steadied, he became aware that she had her arms around his waist, and was resting quite a bit of her weight against him. He tried not to think about the feel of her chest pressed against his still-bare torso, thankful for once for the duller sensitivity that his stone skin provided. He breathed in her scent, strawberry shampoo and warm skin and a tang of sweat from all the training practice.

With her cheek pressed against his hard, warm shoulder Amelia said softly, "Remember what I said about the way a child's mind works? I knew about magic-my big sister Gracia was being taught white magic, which is sometimes used to lift curses, and I remembered what my daddy had said about the swords-if I touched one, someone would get hurt." Her voice trembled violently. "I thought it was a magic sword-that I must have cursed my mother when I disobeyed my daddy and touched it..."

"Oh, Amelia," Zelgadis said softly, tightening his hold on her as much as he dared. She believed she was responsible for the death of her own mother? How did she cope? She's always seemed so bright and happy and confident in herself... Would I have been able to go through something like that at such a young age and emerge from it relatively unscarred? I was verging on adulthood when Rezo cursed me...and I, more than anyone, know how deeply my scars run.

The young princess took several deep breath and continued, "Right then I made a vow to never, ever use a sword again, as long as I lived. Even the sight of one was enough to give me hysterics for months afterward... although now I think it was due more to my secret guilt than to fear. I didn't want Daddy to hate me-so I never told anybody what happened. They all had their hands full with my sister anyway. Daddy did what he could to ease my fears, and we grew even closer than we had been, especially after Gracia ran away from home, years later."

Inwardly the stone man winced, suddenly remembering his own unthinkingly cruel comment about Amelia's sister years ago, at a time when her father had been thought dead. He bowed his head down over hers, listening to her solemn words. "I didn't find out until then that she had been trapped in my mother's chambers, hiding, watching as the assassin ended my mother's life, too afraid to try to save her. She...never really recovered, mentally. I suppose I was the lucky one. I was young enough to forget, after a while."

She sighed softly, still sounding a little sad but no longer radiating such terrible pain. "We never found out if my mother was his intended target, or just someone who got in the way. The guards caught the assassin, but he fought them and they had to execute him."

The two of them stood together quietly, neither one wanting to be the first to pull away, treasuring the warm intimacy of the moment. Amelia was slowly relaxing against Zelgadis, thinking, I told him my deepest, darkest secret, and he didn't turn away from me. She breathed in his unique, comforting scent, that of sunwarmed stone with a hint of metallic tangyness, and let herself enjoy his warmth and the feel of his bare hard chest pressed against hers. She realized that she could feel the extra stones that were scattered across his body, but she was too caught up in the feel of him breathing against her to care.

Zelgadis was still trying to associate a scene of such horror with the perky, spirited female companion he'd known for years. I would never have guessed it...unless her fearsome drive for justice stems from this event. And for that I can't blame her. Eventually he commented, "I can see why you'd never want to use a sword."

Amelia surprised him with a weak chuckle. "That's the irony. You see, when I was twelve they tried to make me learn to use one. I'd overcome my fear of them, but I never quite got over the feeling that I'd somehow caused my mother's death, and I never forgot my oath. I made such a fuss that they asked my father to talk to me-and that's when the full story came out. I was terrified that he would turn away from me, revile me, maybe even disown me."

Her voice took on a tone of wry amusement. "I'll never forget what he said, after I'd managed to stammer and stutter my way through the story...he said, "But Amelia, didn't you know? The assassin didn't use a sword-he used a razor-whip."

Zelgadis cleared his throat, hiding his amusement, being tactful for once. "You mean, no one ever told you?"

"No, of course not; no one was cruel enough speak to a five-year-old about her mother's murder. And I was too afraid my guilt would be found out, so I just tried to forget." She laughed quietly, distracting him for a moment with the movement of her soft flesh in his arms. "I felt so foolish-I couldn't decide whether to be mortified at my mistake, or relieved to learn that it hadn't been my fault at all."

The chimera smiled as he looked out over her head, picturing a younger version of the girl he held fearfully confessing to her 'crime' only to end up red-faced with embarrassment. "So I assume Prince Phil never made you learn to use a sword." His voice was warm with amused affection.

She nodded against his neck. "I trained in other ways to defend myself. You see, I've never really gotten over what I thought happened to my mother, but now with Miss Lina and Mister Gourry missing, I can't just stand aside and hide behind an oath that has no purpose anymore. There never was a curse, after all."

"I see." The chimera's voice was thoughtful now, remembering how upset he had gotten when Amelia had more or less asked him to help her become an oathbreaker. Situational ethics I can live with. He closed his eyes for a moment to savor the feel of her cuddled trustfully against him, and then took her by the shoulders and pulled her gently away from him. She looked up him questioningly.

"I'm sorry I was so hard on you earlier." He tried to let his regret show on his face, though he was long out of practice at this sort of thing.

She gave him a forgiving smile. "That's all right, Mister Zelgadis. You didn't know. Nobody knows, except my daddy...and now you."

He released her shoulders and inclined his head in her direction, responding solemnly, "I'm honored that you chose to take me into your confidence. Now, what do you say we try again?"

This time her smile was her usual bright beam. "Yes, sensei!"

As he bent down to retrieve her sword from where it lay under the pine needles, Amelia put her hand on his upper arm. "And thank you for comforting me, Mister Zelgadis. I know this isn't easy for you." She released him without clarifying what she meant.

Teaching her the sword isn't easy? Or comforting her? Or this whole situation with my useless cure and missing friends and Amelia getting married before I have the chance to- He broke off his thoughts, deliberately focusing on the immediate task of getting Amelia competent with the sword.

Author's Note: I admit I based this chapter on the somewhat-well-known fact(?) that Amelia's mother was murdered. I saw a lot of potential here-so I added a lot more details to flesh it out into a real story, with the kinds of repercussions such a tragedy might have on a child. And I couldn't resist the opportunity for some more fluff! ^_^

And Now: What's been happening to Lina and Gourry all this time? Got some major changes in the status quo coming up between these two! *Rubs hands gleefully in anticipation*

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