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 descriptive. PG for minor swearing.
Many thanks to my friends Shell Presto and Marie!
Note: Note: Lann is pronounced lahn.
For those of you who have read Susan Cooper's book The Grey King, (from The Dark is Rising series) where she describes how to pronounce things in Welsh, Lann's name has the slightest bit of a sloshy 'th' sound in front of the lann-Thlann. Press your tongue to the center of the roof of your mouth and blow out the sides. Neat, huh?
Verisimilitude-=truth /realism /realistic (Sorry I couldn't resist-it's the first time I've ever written anything where this word would work. ^_^)
Chapter Forty-Four: Where It All Comes Together
Zelgadis had put his own tan clothing into his pack to carry. He was oddly conscious of the large, ruggedly masculine boots he wore, but he could do nothing about them. The only alternative would be to go barefoot, which would look too odd for a traveler even if he'd had normal feet. He'd also grudgingly borrowed Xellos' smooth gray gloves to hide his hands, and after a few second's musing he had slipped Amelia's ward bracelet over the glove on his left hand. He did not feel comfortable letting it out of his sight, for some reason. Besides, it added to the costume's verisimilitude.
He had debated leaving his sword behind, but it went against his instincts to walk in completely unarmed. Xellos had unexpectedly volunteered to carry it, which he wasn't too happy about, but it was better than leaving it with Shiran in the clearing.
The chimera had improvised a large kerchief for his head by cutting off a piece of Amelia's heavyweight dark blue ground cloth, which had been treated to be almost waterproof on one side. He kept his head down, trying to keep the rain from washing the makeup off of his face and neck.
Amelia's dress had long sleeves and a round neck that was-thankfully-not as low-cut as some of the gowns he remembered seeing her in. The now-ankle-length pink skirt flowed around him, fluttering in the storm's wind in spite of being dripping wet. He worried for a time that his artificial bosom might try to shift, but fortunately, between Amelia's...undergarment...and the material of the dress itself-which was double-layered over his chest area-the heavy melons were well-supported and showed no signs of independently relocating themselves.
I don't understand how women can stand to have such a burden hanging from their chests. Lina should be thankful she's got less...unlike Amelia- His face went dark red as he realized he was picturing the young princess's generous anatomy, though he had never actually seen her unclothed... If you don't count the time she was wearing that swimsuit...
He shook his head and looked up to see that they were at the edge of the forest. The daylight had been reduced to a gloomy twilight that suited the rescuers' needs admirably. Zelgadis noted that the guards had built several large fires underneath tall wooden platforms that kept out most of the rain. Those men who had to patrol between the platforms looked cranky and miserable as they slogged their way across the now muddy yard.
Xellos turned to him and winked. "Showtime, my dear 'Lulu'."
With a scowl the chimera followed his 'husband' out of the brush. Almost immediately a shout went up from some of the guards, many of whom charged toward the 'couple' with weapons drawn.
"Remember, you're a frightened woman," Xellos murmured.
Zelgadis glared at him. Is that a smirk? He had to force himself to not drop into a 'ready' pose. Instead he cringed, trying to look vulnerable, curling his arms into his chest with his fists clenched under his chin in an imitation of Amelia.
"Don't forget to scream," Xellos reminded him.
He's enjoying this. When this is over I'm going to get him for this!
As the first of the guards drew near, the befrocked chimera cried out in a loud falsetto, "Eeek! Horrible men with swords! Help! Save me, darling!" He ducked behind the mazoku in a deliberately clumsy scuttle, though he could not bring himself to clutch Xellos' arm or shoulder as a real woman would have. Amelia and Lina would roll their eyes at this overacting, but I can't take any chances. Some men really do respond to a woman's distress.
The guards encircled the pair. "Is there something I can do for you, gentlemen?" Xellos asked calmly.
Zelgadis listened with grudging admiration as the apparent man, without ever telling an actual lie (as he had informed Lina back on their ill-fated sea voyage), managed to get the guards to believe that they were a young married couple traveling to visit some friends.
Though not without some snags. Zelgadis heard one of the men mutter, "What are those things on her skin, warts?"
He made himself whimper as if mortified, and ducked his head behind Xellos' shoulder. The mazoku answered simply, "Skin condition. It's not polite to mention such a thing in front of a lady."
Which is absolutely true, even if there's no 'lady' here, Zelgadis thought.
One of the guards questioned why they were traveling in the rain, instead of waiting it out.
Xellos smirked. "This one is most impatient; stubborn, headstrong, with a vile temper when crossed."
"What?" Zelgadis screeched, managing at the last second to sound feminine. He caught several of the men giving Xellos sympathetic looks as the apparent man cringed, with water dripping from his dark hair.
"I only meant that it was agreeable for both of us to continue with our journey," Xellos said, his tone that of a man trying to placate his wife.
The stone man only just managed to contain his ire, although if one of his friends had seen him at that moment, they would have said he looked almost as frightening as Lina did sometimes. One eyes twitched. "Don't you think we should be going, darling?"
As if on cue, one of the guards interrupted and made it plain that they could not leave until they had 'met' their leader.
Zelgadis pouted as Lina would have, crossing his arms over his bosom. "Fine! Let's get this over with. I'm cold and tired and hungry and I just want to finish this awful journey!" he whined sulkily, again using his memories of Lina as an example. She could be very childish, for all her power and quick mind, even more so than Amelia.
As he stomped squashily through the assorted puddles, his thoughts wandered. So far so good. Hold on, Amelia; I'm coming. I hope you're all right...I hope they're all safe.
One inside the torch-lit cave, some of the men drew back at the sight of Zelgadis' face in the flickering shadows. "Whatever would make a man marry such a hideous wench?" one of them muttered.
"Money," Xellos answered matter-of-factly.
Understanding spread over the guards' faces. Again Xellos was beset by sympathetic looks, which irritated Zelgadis. A true answer, but unforgivably cruel to a real woman. He quickly reached out and gave the mazoku a good crack over the head with his gloved fist, which no one protested. Xellos winced, but was silent after that.
"Hey, you got the last breadrolls! These are mine!"
Lina grinned as she relieved the flabbergasted cook of the heavily laden food tray. She seized several of the meat-and-cheese-stuffed hunks of bread and continued eating ravenously. Gourry made a swipe at the tray, managing to snag two of the larger breadrolls. Lina made a growl of protest through her mouthful, but otherwise let him be. For some reason I just don't feel up to fighting, as fun as it can be. I'll chalk it up to this fever.
The petite sorceress sat at a 'table' made from a very large wooden crate that had been turned on its side. There were six 'chairs'-smaller wooden crates-two per side, and one at each end. Lina and Gourry sat next to each other on the side closest to the cave's only opening, and the sandy-haired guard whom Lina had befriended, who went by the name of Lann, sat at the end of the table on Lina's right. Another guard stood in the entry.
The three of them had been waiting in one of the larger caverns, which was obviously being used as a combination mess hall and storeroom. The back wall was stacked as high as the stalactites (which covered a good portion of the ceiling) would allow. Most of the light in the room came from a large cookfire at the far end, where a metal pipe let the smoke out through a small hole in the ceiling.
It was Lann who had ordered the meal for Gourry and herself, after learning of their difficult night coping with Lina's illness and injury. Though he was not convinced of her innocence, the big man had said, '"You're young enough ta turn over a new leaf, and live the right way. Someone's just gotta give ya that chance."' It had made her wonder if he was talking about a younger version of himself.
He had also taken the time to dose her with an outerworld painkiller called 'prin', which had an incredibly bitter taste, though two mugs of an exceptionally good, strong variety of tea helped wash away the last of it. Around the same time that she noticed that she could no longer taste the prin, she realized that she was feeling much better. The stiffness in her muscles from sitting immobile in wet clothes the cold cell had eased. Her sprained ankle, still wrapped in her black cape, was almost comfortable as long as she didn't try to move it. Best of all, her fever-induced headache had lessened considerably.
Great! Her spirits rose. I can think again! She gave Gourry a happy grin and even let him have the last of the meat stew, in a rare generous mood.
"Well, you look like you're feeling better," Lann commented.
"I sure am. Thanks, Lann," Lina said jovially. Privately she thought, I wonder where Ponmar is? Lann said he wanted to talk to me again. He didn't strike me as the type to make himself seem important by making people wait.
Several minutes later she and Gourry sat looking wistfully at the tabletop, where the empty dishes and licked-clean cutlery lay strewn about like dead soldiers on a battlefield. Lina squared her narrow shoulders and turned to the sandy-haired guard. "Okay, Lann, so where's Ponmar gotten to?"
He looked puzzled. "You got me. He shoulda been here by now. Somethin' musta come up. He ain't the type ta waste time."
"I didn't think so. So what do you suppose is keeping him?" He'd better not try 'persuading' me again, or sprained ankle or not, I'm gonna dump the icewater on him and see how he likes it!
Lann started to answer, but stopped at the sounds of people approaching from the corridor.
Amelia was walking slowly through one of the stone corridors beside Ponmar, who had asked her if she wanted to meet someone he was 'entertaining'. He must mean miss Lina. She bit her lip, wondering if she ought to try to talk to Ponmar about releasing Lina and Gourry, but the dark-bearded man beat her to it.
"Miss Amelia, are you afraid of Lina Inverse?"
"Well, maybe a little..." she answered without thinking. Her eyes popped, and she added hastily, "-but not because she's evil or anything! I mean, you don't want to get in her way when she's angry; she does have a hot temper... Oh, I'm not saying this right."
The man's blue eyes regarded her calmly. Feeling every bit the foolish girl she'd been playacting, Amelia continued, "Miss Lina never stays mad for long. Usually she just punches somebody or hits them with a fireball, but after that she feels things are settled."
"I see. And how many kingdoms has she attacked?"
"Oh, a few-" Again, she was flustered. I wish he'd stop looking at me like that. It reminds me of how Daddy used to look when he was making me admit I'd done something wrong. "But not because she declared war on them or anything! She's not a conqueror. It's just that some of her spells are so powerful that she accidentally destroys things while fighting dragons or mazoku or..." she trailed off, hiding her face in her hands. I'm making things worse.
After several moments, she heard Ponmar's quiet voice. "How do you know all of this?"
The moment of truth. Looking up, Amelia hesitated. A lie would destroy any hope of gaining his trust. Besides, he's looking at me as if he's already guessed the truth. But if I tell him, he might lock me up wherever he's got my friends.
Her large dark-blue eyes stared into steady cerulean ones as she tried to use every bit of her natural empathy to read him. She looked for anger, hatred, hostility, and only sensed ...indecision...hesitation...and a willingness to listen. His mind is still open, then, she thought, relieved. 'Someone has to take the first step', Daddy always says. To show trust is to gain it.
The dark-haired girl took a deep breath and squared her shoulders. "I've traveled with Miss Lina before. I helped in the battle with Kopii Rezo, when Sairaag fell. I was there when Miss Lina fought Dark Star, and Lord Phibrizzo the Hellmaster and Lord Gaav and...well, a lot of other bad guys."
Ponmar was nodding slowly as if her statements concurred with his facts. "And who are you? One of her people?"
"You mean-one of her gang members?" Amelia rolled her eyes, looking at him the way all teenagers look at adults who ask dumb questions. "Certainly not."
Her voice lost the haughty tone. "She doesn't have a gang. And my name really is Amelia...Princess Amelia wil Tesla no Seyrune." I hope I'm not making a mistake in telling him all this...
"My daddy has employed Miss Lina in the past to help us in times of great danger, and she's always succeeded in thwarting the evil plans of those who've attacked us. She's a hero, not a villain, no matter how mean-tempered she can be sometimes!" Her voice had taken on the strident, ringing tones of justice.
Ponmar looked mildly surprised at her vehemence, but continued, "And why are you here?"
The question brought back some of her caution. To rescue my friends, of course! So we can all go back to Seyrune and- "Miss Lina is missing. I'm very worried about her. She's supposed to be helping me plan my wedding-I have to be back home in time for my seventeenth birthday, or I lose the throne."
"Who else is with you?"
The young girl opened her mouth, but here caution won out. "I...don't think I should tell you. I mean, you are a stranger..."
"Sensible," the leader conceded.
"I can give you my word that nothing I've told you is false-on my honor as the princess of Seyrune."
The man was silent, looking at her with piercing blue eyes for almost a minute. Amelia did her best to return his gaze, though after a few seconds she began to shift her feet uncomfortably. "Um, I need to ask you-do you know where Miss Lina and Mister Gourry are?"
For the first time, Ponmar smiled slightly, seeming to relax and at the same time become more regal. "All right, Princess Amelia. I will return candor with candor. I am a sub-king from the land you know as the outer world, roughly equivalent to your 'lord'."
Amelia listened to his now-familiar tale of how dozens of rouge mages had been attacking various towns and travelers in the outer world. Upon capture, many had admitted to acting under the orders of a certain petite, fiery-haired sorceress. Ponmar had been chosen to head a group of men to seek out and capture Lina Inverse, and ascertain whether or not she was their true leader, and if not, who was?
He had been almost convinced when he'd entered these lands and had collected rumor upon rumor of Lina Inverse's apparent misdeeds. So he had planned her capture carefully, utilizing this magicless land-zone that an elderly farmer had told one of his men about.
"I had also planned to lure her here with carefully spread rumors of treasure, but I changed my plans when word came that she was traveling in this area. I sent a man disguised as a vendor to give her some drugged soup, and was therefore able to capture her without any bloodshed."
Amelia swallowed. "So she's here? And Mister Gourry? Are they all right?"
"They have not been harmed. As of yet I have used a fairly mild interrogation procedures. Her story of your upcoming wedding concurs with yours." The dark-bearded man hesitated. "May I offer my congratulations?"
Amelia blinked at this unexpected courtesy. "Oh-thank you." She shook herself as her feeling of urgency returned. Mister Zelgadis will be getting ready to break in here soon. Lord Ponmar seems like a reasonable man. I have to convince him to let my friends go peacefully!
They were approaching a chamber entrance. Amelia noticed a guard armed with a club standing just inside the doorway. And inside, sitting-where else?-at a table with Mister Gourry was-
"Huh?" Lina had just enough time to lift her injured ankle out of the way before a young dark-haired girl crashed into her, her arms crushing her in a stranglehold. "Ow!" she squawked as her ankle sent out a quick stab of pain.
The girls' sentences overlapped. "Amelia, what are you doing here?"
"Oh, Miss Lina, I was so worried!"
"Where's-" Lina broke off before she said Zelgadis' name. She said 'I' was worried...did something happen to Zelgadis?
Both girls took deep breaths. "Are you all right?" they asked simultaneously, letting go of each other. Blue eyes met ruby ones. Both blinked. Abruptly both girls burst into laughter, as the watching men smiled.
"Miss Lina," Amelia asked as their mirth abated, "You haven't done anything to make Lord Ponmar think you're in charge of an army of mages attacking the outer world, have you?"
Lina scowled. "Of course not, Amelia! That's what I've been trying to tell Ponmar here, but for some reason he's decided I'm guilty. Can you imagine that? Me, in charge of an army of invaders?"
Diplomatically Amelia did not comment. She went on to greet Gourry, taking his hand in both of hers and squeezing affectionately. "Have they been treating you all right?"
"We had a bad night, but Lina's a lot better this morning," Gourry said unexpectedly.
Amelia gave Lina a quick look, noticing her wrapped ankle for the first time, as well as several bruises on her face. She whirled on Ponmar. "Is that what you call mild treatment?" she demanded.
The bearded man looked surprised. "We didn't do that." He turned to the man sitting at the end of the table and spoke in a harsh, commanding tone. "Lann, who is responsible for this? Did one of the men-"
"Wait!" Lina held up her hands. "No one beat me up. I tried to escape and slipped on some loose gravel. Really," she added when Amelia and Ponmar both gave her skeptical looks.
Lina continued, "Lann convinced me to try talking to you again this morning. Maybe if Amelia vouches for me you'll believe her."
Then Amelia watched as the familiar scowl was replaced by a look of surprise. No, shock. The young princess turned toward the entryway to see what had so stunned her friend, and she, too, froze.
Author's Note: I just bet you can guess what they see...but you'll hafta wait 'till the next chapter to be sure!
Lieski Tenshi no Earth asked how Zel could use a Rah Tilt to threaten Xellos in the zone of no magic. Well, he couldn't. He was bluffing, and both of them knew it, but Xellos let him because the ol' mazoku really did want to help Lina.
Oh, and remember I mentioned the show Beauty and the Beast? If you are interested in looking on ebay you'll get the best results using the words 'Beauty Beast TV'. I forgot about the Disney movie and all its merchandise-it takes forever to wade through it all.
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