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 descriptive. PG for minor swearing.

Many thanks to my friends Shell Presto and Marie!

Note:

Chapter Forty-Three: Miss Zelgadis?

"Why don't you leave your horse near the entrance?" suggested the guard. "I'm sure she would prefer to be where she can see outdoors."

Amelia was glad to see that not all of their enemies' men seemed to be as brutish as the ones they had run into before. "Why, thank you. That's very thoughtful of you." She smiled sweetly at him, turning on the charm.

"It's nothing." The man smiled back, putting a hand behind his head as if he was embarrassed at this praise. The princess knew it was also probably that he was feeling guilty about escorting an apparently innocent girl in to be interrogated by his leader.

Amelia followed the man whom she had approached down a long, torch-lit corridor to an area that was honeycombed with caves of assorted sizes, some of which had been converted to living areas. Multiple futons were rolled up in many of the chambers; several others held stacks of wooden crates-probably various supplies.

The dark-haired princess was invited to sit down on a small carton to wait while a runner was sent to fetch their leader. One of the men offered her a mug of hot tea, which she accepted. She took a moment to study the handle-less mug she had been given. It was slightly asymmetrical and its green finish had a somewhat blotchy appearance, but it was nonetheless a respectable example of homemade crockery.

As she took careful, dainty sips, she tried to prepare herself for her upcoming 'interview'. She recalled her recent conversation with Zelgadis. '"Amelia, can you bring yourself to lie to them?"' he had asked. '"You aren't exactly experienced at deceiving people."'

'"I won't need to lie. As long as no one asks me outright if I'm Princess Amelia of Seyrune, I'll be fine."' she had answered, smiling reassuringly.

I hope.

Within a short time she was being introduced to 'Ponmar', a tall, dark-haired man with keen blue eyes. She noticed that unlike some of his men, his dark brown beard was neatly trimmed, and he carried himself like a king. She thought it a little odd that he was not introduced by any particular title.

Ponmar surprised her by formally extending his hand to her. "I am pleased to make your acquaintance, Miss Amelia."

She set down the cup and rose to her feet, her princess training taking over. "I am glad to meet you as well, Mister Ponmar." Then, remembering her idea to appear somewhat childish, she blurted out, "It sure was a surprise to see your men outside. No one's lived here in ages!"

The dark-haired man smiled pleasantly. "We don't get many visitors. If you don't mind my asking, what are you doing here? You must be aware that this region has no magic."

"Oh, of course, but that's why this is the safest route for traveling. There aren't any trolls or demons or things to hurt me."

Ponmar nodded. "Still, it's quite a long journey for a young girl, alone."

Before he could bring up the subject of traveling companions, Amelia pouted indignantly. "I can protect myself." She patted the sword hilt on her hip, glad now that Zelgadis had insisted that she train with it. I hope he doesn't ask me for a demonstration.

"And I'm not alone. Sunshine is great company. I'm going south to return her to her village, and then after that I have to go home to be married." She stopped, aware that she had begun to babble.

"I see." Ponmar gave her a odd look.

"It's an arranged marriage," she added quickly. "There's another man I really want to marry, but-" she stopped herself. I don't know why I'm telling him all this! He doesn't need to know! She looked down at her feet, feeling her cheeks grow hot. Well, at least I'm putting on a good act as a silly, naive young girl. He doesn't know what to make of me.

Ponmar gave his head a shake as if to free his brain from the irrelevancies, cleared his throat and asked the question Amelia had been waiting for. "Well, anyway, Miss Amelia, as a newcomer to this region I have heard many interesting rumors. What do you know about a sorceress named Lina Inverse?" His face and voice were completely calm, giving no hint to the importance of his query.

Amelia nervously took a sip of tea to give herself time to think. What should I tell him? Mister Zelgadis says I'm a bad liar...but I need Mister Ponmar to trust me. Well, I can't tell him the whole truth, but...

"Why, it's funny you should mention her." Amelia's face was the picture of innocent delight. "I've met her-and you know the strangest thing? She's not nearly as much of a fiend as the stories make her out to be."

Judging by the look on Ponmar's face, her answer was not at all what he expected. He probably expected me to say I never heard of her, or else repeat some of the stories people tell about her. Amelia elaborated blithely, "Oh, she can be rude and pushy and has the worst table manners, but she never hurts innocent people. Well, not on purpose. She's really smart and brave and very loyal to her friends."

Ponmar probed, "I've heard that she's in command of an army of mages that have set their sights on controlling the outer world."

"Who, Miss Lina?" She pretended to think for a moment. "That doesn't sound like her at all. Her favorite thing to do is travel around with Mister Gourry and eat a lot." With a giggle, she added, "She always has plenty of money from attacking bandit gangs-I think she gets a kick out of robbing the robbers."

Imitating Zelgadis' thinking pose, Amelia rubbed the side of her index finger on her chin. "But I don't think she'd want to get stuck in one place for very long, even to rule it. She'd feel like she was missing out on an adventure somewhere."

At this, the dark-haired man raised an eyebrow. Amelia couldn't help smiling in satisfaction. There. That's given him something to think about. "Mister Ponmar, where did you live before you came here?" she asked without thinking.

At his sharp look, she gulped. "Well, you asked me!" she protested with girlish logic.

Zelgadis watched as Amelia was taken inside. As she had predicted, no one had tried to attack her, or had even been rough with her, and judging by the smiles on several of the men's faces, many of them had taken a liking to her right from the start.

He sighed. Maybe I'm searching for the wrong thing. I should've asked the Oracle how to make me look female. All they have to do is smile, and they get results. One side of his mouth turned up in a wry smile.

He watched the cliffside for another few minutes, then turned to go back to camp. A whine from Shiran got his attention. The lavender dragonwolf was staring at the entrance that Amelia had disappeared into, her shaggy ruff lifted slightly, her body tense. Zelgadis closed his eyes for a moment. "I know how you feel," he said quietly. "I'm worried about her too."

The large animal turned her gracefully tapered head toward him, her glowing emerald eyes flickering with worry. He found himself reaching out reassuringly to touch the top of her head as gently as her could, not wanting to bruise her. To his surprise, the dragonwolf tilted her head as if to say, Scratch me here. Obligingly he did so, taking care not to rub too hard. Shiran's response was a combination of a growl and a moan, her eyes closed in bliss.

It made him smile. You've never been this affectionate before, he noted, at least, not to me. Actually, no one's been this affectionate since... His smile faded as a feeling of bereftness settled over him as he recalled just how little real love he had actually received in his hard life

With a final scratch on the darker purple fur between Shiran's delicately pointed ears, he patted the side of his leg and said, "Shiran, flank." He couldn't allow Shiran to range free to hunt herself a meal in case the guards spotted her, and it had just occurred to him that Amelia might have left some food in the bags she had left behind.

The two of them headed back to the tree where some of Amelia's saddlebags had been hung, as Zelgadis had thought it prudent to make it look as if Amelia was only carrying enough supplies for one person. She had chosen which bags to leave behind, one of which he had not had occasion to open as of yet.

He unhooked the leather bag from the tree limb and opened it. Inside was what appeared to be a large amount of pink cloth with white lace. Curious, he set the bag down and took a handful of the cloth, then stood up to shake it out. It turned out to be one of Amelia's fancy gowns, the kind she wore when she was dressed up for one formal function or another. Why would she bring this along? In case there's a party? He sighed, a wry smile on his lips. Females.

Idly he let his eyes wander over the dress, noticing that the cut of the dress was a little more conservative than the gowns he remembered her wearing in the past. Amelia wanted to look young and innocent-she should have put this on before she left. It practically shouts femininity. There were two long thin pieces of white cloth at the back of the dress, presumably for tying into a bow. They fluttered in the wind.

In fact, the entire dress was flapping in his hands. He noticed Shiran's fur was also being ruffled by unseen hands, and looked up to the sky, noticing that it had grown somewhat overcast since this morning's sunshine. He spotted a dark storm bank approaching rapidly. Rain? Hmm. That could be useful. The stone man stood unmoving, his solemn expression betraying no hint of the rapid consideration-and-reject process taking place behind his deep teal eyes. Maybe I can use the rain to hide my approach...

"Trying on Amelia's clothes, Zelgadis? My, my, I wasn't aware that your tastes ran in those directions..."

"Xellos!" The startled chimera spun around to face the mazoku, unconsciously clutching the dress to his chest. Shiran leaped in front of the chimera and snarled fiercely at the apparent man, her long fur lifting into a lavender corona around her neck and shoulders as her eyes lit up with green fire.

"Halt, Shiran!" Zelgadis commanded, though he dearly would have liked to see how the mazoku fared against the formidable creature. But he knew that Xellos, as one who had slain an entire tribe of dragons, could make short work of her if he cared to.

The dragonwolf turned her head to look at him and made a noise of protest but quieted down, though her fur continued to bristle. "What are you doing here, Xellos?" Zelgadis asked curtly. "Don't you have other people you can bother?"

The mazoku gave no sign that he had noticed the negative feelings directed toward him. "If you don't mind my opinion, pink is not your color." His tone was half apologetic, half sardonic.

"What? Oh-" The slender chimera looked down at himself. Shining chiffon and delicate white lace adorned him to his knees. Flushing hotly, Zelgadis held the offending garment away from himself. "Why, you-what do you want now?" he sputtered. Shiran's snarling increased in volume.

"I've come to offer my assistance, of course. Now for starters, I think you'd better cover your skin with some makeup-"

With a growl as loud as the dragonwolf's Zelgadis drew his sword in a lightning-fast motion. In a fraction of a second the apparent man had a length of sharpened metal an inch from his throat. A shaft of light reflected off of the blade, then faded as the last of the sunlight disappeared behind the approaching storm cloud.

Xellos held up his hands in a conciliatory gesture, though he showed no fear. "Now, now, Zelgadis, there's no need for violence. Besides, you know perfectly well you can't really hurt me with that sword."

"No? How about one charged with Rah Tilt energy?"

Xellos paused, his lips pursing in a little pout. "Spoilsport." He sighed. "All right. Our good friend Lina is being held prisoner inside that cave complex, is she not?

"Yes," Zelgadis answered suspiciously. "So are Gourry and Amelia. Just how do you know that? Are you-"

Again Xellos held up his hands. "I've had nothing to do with this. I merely came to offer my services for her-ahem-their rescue before something-unfortunate-happens."

"Since when do you care about my friends' safety?"

"Oh, I couldn't care less about them personally, but Lina is just so much fun to tease; it would be such a bother to have to look for someone else as...entertaining. And as I said on the ship, eternal life does have its drawbacks. Eternal boredom, for one."

Slowly Zelgadis lowered his sword. "So rescue them yourself."

At this Xellos looked uncomfortable. He put one hand on the back of his neck. "I'm afraid I'm not allowed to. You see, most of my higher powers are only for use at my master's directive. If she learned that I was entertaining myself between assignments by helping humans, she would be...displeased." The tone of his voice left no doubt as to the serious nature of a Mazoku Lord's displeasure.

"Also, Varxin's Realm has a tendency to nullify most of the minor magic that I can access. Even teleporting myself here was a bit of a strain to do without calling on any of my higher powers."

Hmph. A straight answer for once. Zelgadis was slightly surprised. Maybe he cares for Lina more than he wants to admit, even to himself. Though I'd guess it's her phenomenal temper that really attracts him, he thought with a wry quirk of his lips and one raised stone eyebrow.

"Fine. Then I need a way to cause a distraction," he said abruptly. "This damn null magic zone's blocked most of my options. I assume you can't act openly either, or your master will notice magic where it shouldn't be, so what do you suggest?" The last few words came out in a challenging tone.

"I think your idea is a splendid one."

"Huh? What idea?"

Xellos un-blinked at him in mild surprise, his pale purple irises eerie, as always. "Why, to disguise yourself as a woman to gain access right under their noses, of course. It worked splendidly that time in Femilia, didn't it?"

A large vein popped up on the chimera's temple. On the verge of an apoplectic eruption, he suddenly stopped his forward motion as the thought hit him: Damn it, he's right. As much as I loathe the idea, our disguises did fool the inhabitants of that blasted town, even the crossdressers, who of all people should've been able to tell the difference.

He ground his teeth together and growled under his breath. "Why don't you be the girl? You seemed to like it well enough before!"

Xellos didn't seem to hear the insult. He smiled innocently and held up a finger. "Well, there's only one dress. Though I flatter myself to say that I look better in pink, I'm not the one they're looking for."

Zelgadis slowly ground his fingertips into the palms of his hands, realizing that the mazoku had backed him into a corner. He made a last weak protest, "Amelia's clothes won't fit me."

"Well, I admit the fit will be a little on the snug side, bit if you let out a few seams and wear some of her stockings to cover up your legs, you ought to be able to pass a cursory inspection."

Head down in sullen acceptance, the stone man looked at the wad of pink and white cloth clenched tightly in his blue fist. I hope Amelia understands the need for this, he thought, picturing his friends' reactions when they saw him dressed once again as a woman. His cheeks burned. If any of them laugh, I swear I'll leave them to the kidnappers!

The rainstorm began soon after that. Zelgadis was just finishing altering the dress, letting out the seams as far as they would go, and being glad for once that he had such a slender build. Xellos disappeared while Zelgadis was donning the damp, ill-fitting garment, which had lost most of its former glory and now looked like a sad hand-me-down from a rich relative-all sagging hemline and ragged threads sticking out here and there.

The chimera was making a few last adjustments when Xellos popped up at his elbow, making him jump. "Ah, here you go," he said enthusiastically, holding out a pair of soft melon-fruits.

Zelgadis eyed the melons with one stone eyebrow raised. "Where did you get those? And what are those for?"

"They're to stuff your bosom, of course."

"..." Zelgadis coughed into his hand. "I had planned on being rather flat-chested, if you don't mind."

"Now, Zelgadis, if you're going to disguise yourself, you may as well do it right. Don't you think even the dullest soldier would notice such a poor costume?"

The stone man sighed, closing his eyes in misery. "Fine. Let's just get this over with."

"Excellent! And then I'll help you with your makeup..."

There was a small makeup kit at the bottom of the pouch that had held her dress. The two rescuers draped Zelgadis' cape across several overhead branches to keep the rain off while Zelgadis applied some of the makeup and made a few final adjustments to other parts of his disguise. Xellos offered numerous 'helpful' comments on his efforts.

"More powder on your chin."

"Your lipstick is smeared."

"Your right breast is higher than your left one."

The stone man badly wanted to tell him where he could stick his comments, but without a mirror he had to rely on the mazoku's suggestions. The only other alternative was to allow Xellos to touch him physically to make corrections, which made even his stone skin crawl.

It had been hard enough to let Amelia do it the last time.

His blue-green eyes softened as he recalled her cheerful, matter-of-fact attitude as she helped him adjust various portions of his female anatomy. He had almost been ready to sink into the ground in embarrassment, but somehow her easygoing nature had made it bearable. Her open admiration of him had also helped...

'"You look so elegant, Mister Zelgadis! I wish I had such fine features."'

'"Such graceful hands, with such beautiful, slender fingers; I'm so jealous!"'

'"You look good in these shoes, Mister Zelgadis; you have such nice long legs."'

Her praise had both embarrassed him and gratified him. Thinking back, he realized that not one of her comments had mentioned his stone skin or other chimeric qualities. It was almost as if she really had forgotten that wasn't human anymore. Or else she'd been tactful, for once.

Finally Xellos proclaimed him as 'pretty' as he was likely to get. As Zelgadis growled at the remark, Xellos made his staff and priestly cape disappear into the magic plane from which he usually emerged. They each shouldered one of the remaining packs to give the impression that they were innocent travelers, and set out to brace the enemy.

Author's Note: Who remember a show from the 1980's called Beauty and the Beast? It was a live-action show about a gentle man who looked part lion (Ron Perlman) named Vincent and the human woman he loved (Linda Hamilton) named Catherine. He lived with a group of people, all misfits from society in one way or another, in a large cave complex way down under New York's subways. Catherine was a defense attorney, and always had bad guys after her, and Vincent would 'sense' that she was in danger and rush to her rescue, often killing the men with his bare claws-hey, that sort of reminds me of my idea with Amelia's ward bracelets, but Vincent had some kind of psychic link with Catherine and always felt her emotions.

Very, very romantic series, even though, because of Vincent's great strength and claws, he was afraid to touch her romantically. (Once when he was a teen he tried to hold a girl he liked and she wasn't interested and he accidentally clawed her. It traumatized him badly.) Catherine was willing, but understood, and they only made love once in the whole series-which, of course, got her pregnant, but I won't go into it all now.

I have some of the episodes on tape. Look on ebay if you're interested-the pilot episode is one of my very favorites and you can usually find a VHS tape there, plus some from later episodes. They even have a few fanzines-the early form of fan fiction. I've got a bunch and I'm actually thinking about selling some to make room.

I think of that show a lot when I imagine how Zelgadis would feel if he tried to be intimate with Amelia and ended up hurting her. I picture how Vincent and Catherine would end most episodes with a long, long embrace, often looking deeply into each other's eyes, and you'd hold your breath 'cause you were just waiting for them to kiss! The anticipation made it even better when they reached a turning point in the series and Catherine turned to climb up the basement steps of her apartment building and then turned back and walked up to him and did kiss Vincent, and he just sort of melted-it was so touching!

NEXT---Chapter List---DS's Fan Art---B!'s Library---Main