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, 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!
Chapter Forty-Five: Is This a Rescue or a Circus?
In the doorway stood two figures whom both girls instantly recognized. What is Mister Xellos doing here? Amelia thought. And then, her face going pink- Is that my dress?
Lina bit her lip, holding back a snort of mirth. She felt her face go red with the effort, and was helpless to stop it. Zelgadis in gray satin is one thing, but in lacy pink chiffon...!
The two rain-soaked people were herded into the room by another guard, who told Ponmar that they had been found walking near the cave. "Thank you," the leader said, "Please take up a position halfway between here and the main entrance." The new guard nodded and then retreated back down the corridor.
Amelia couldn't take her eyes off of Zelgadis, knowing it was he although he had his head wrapped in a scrap of blue fabric and kept his head down so that his face didn't show. Fortunately, the light in the eating hall wasn't very bright.
She looked at her friends and blinked as she watched Lina apparently trying to hold back a fierce urge to laugh, her face bright red and her clenched hands actually trembling a little. She saw Amelia looking and immediately unclasped them, looking away from the newcomers.
Ponmar asked the pair to approach the table. They did so, heading toward the two empty seats on the opposite side of the table from Lina and Gourry. "Please sit down," Ponmar said, though anyone could tell it was an order, for all that it was politely phrased.
The 'woman' in the long pink dress sat on one of the crates. I hope my dress doesn't catch on a splinter and tear, Amelia thought as she stared at the chimera.
The leader gestured to Amelia to sit too, and seated himself at the end opposite Lann. Amelia approached the table hesitantly, but stopped as she heard Xellos pipe up, "I'm afraid we really can't stay. Not that I care, but my friends here are on a very tight schedule and they're running behind. And if I know Lina, she'll try to make me help her find a faster way back to Amelia's home, and she's a very difficult person to say 'no' to."
"Who are you?" Ponmar said sharply, half rising out of his chair. The guard at the door took up a 'ready' position.
"Forgive our rudeness-my name is Xellos, the high priest of Beastmaster Zelas. And this, of course, is Zelgadis Greywyrs. I believe you've heard of him."
The 'woman's' head jerked up. "Xellos! You traitor!" 'she' shouted with a very masculine voice.
The chimera stood up, and Amelia winced as she heard a loud ripping noise as a large split appeared in the pink skirt. My new dress!
"That is Zelgadis the Desperado? Seize him!" commanded Ponmar.
Zelgadis' friends reacted instantly. "Oh no you don't! Gourry!" Lina shouted. Her blonde companion instantly intercepted the door-guard as the man passed. As Gourry grappled with the burly man, Lina tried to stop the other guard Lann from getting up from the table by latching onto his arm with her full weight, despite her injured ankle.
Ponmar's shout had alerted more guards. Within seconds another one had burst through the door and stopped. "Seize him!" Ponmar pointed toward the 'woman'.
The man began to move, then stopped and looked back at the leader. "Who?" he asked.
"Him!" Ponmar pointed again.
Amelia screamed, "No!" and leaped into the path of the guard. Simultaneously Zelgadis crouched slightly and threw himself into the air feet first in a graceful backflip.
Time seemed to slow drastically. While still in the air he saw Gourry and Lina running interference, saw Amelia get in the way of the guard and watched as both of them ended up crashing into Xellos, who went down under them. Even as a smirk began to form on his face at the mazoku's bad luck, a shadow loomed past the edge of the kerchief he'd forgotten to take off.
Too late, he snapped his face forward and his eyes popped. Oh no!
The unmistakeable crack of stone on stone caused all the brawlers to freeze and look up. Several mouths dropped open at the sight of the hapless pink-frocked stone man locked in a bear hug with a good-sized stalactite. Upside down, with his arms and legs stretched out stiffly in front of him.
Koala, Lina couldn't help thinking, noting the network of cracks that had appeared in the stone column. All eyes followed him as he slowly slid downward, and everyone winced as he landed with a clatter on the stone cavern floor. The heads of the watchers developed large sweatdrops at the sight of the chimera sprawled in an ungainly heap amidst a pile of frilly pink chiffon. Small spirals over his eyes advertised the fact that he'd literally been knocked silly.
"Okay, now that's embarrassing," Lina commented with a wince.
As his head cleared, Zelgadis realized he was sprawled on his face with his rear end in the air. Instantly he was on his hands and knees, looking up to see a ring of faces staring at him. (Staring! Always staring at me!)
Most had blank or slightly apologetic expressions, but Ponmar merely looked grim. "If you're finished with your circus diplay, I suggest you surrender yourself. It will only go harder for you if you resist."
"No, Lord Ponmar!" Amelia was suddenly in front of Zelgadis with her arms held out to the sides. "Please listen to me! Mister Zelgadis is innocent. I know he is. I give you my word as the princess of Seyrune!"
The guards looked surprised at this admission, but their leader only looked more serious. "Miss Amelia, you cannot possibly vouch for this man. By all counts he has caused the deaths of dozens of people. My informants-"
"Are wrong." Amelia interrupted with an edge of steel in her voice. "I know this man. I've traveled with him, fought beside him in battle, seen him face the kinds of horrors most people don't even meet in their nightmares..."
She took a deep breath and continued, "The worst thing you can say about him is that he was once a mercenary. A lot of good fighters have been mercenaries at one time in their lives-that doesn't make them evil! Mister Gourry is one of the gentlest men I know, but he was a mercenary for years before he met Miss Lina and decided to devote the rest of his life to protecting her. But he does it for love, not for money!"
The red-haired sorceress let out a squawk of wordless surprise and anger. Amelia jumped, staring at her friend with wide eyes. "I'm sorry Miss Lina, I didn't mean to blurt it out like that! Please forgive me!" Desperately she bowed as deeply as she could without toppling over, spurred on by a well-developed sense of self-preservation.
Several seconds passed.
Finally, when nothing happened, Amelia opened one eye, then looked up to see a blushing Lina standing next to Gourry, who was looking down at the redhead with a tolerant smile. Slowly Amelia straightened up a little, realizing that her forehead was covered in sweat droplets. "Miss Lina? A-aren't you going to punish me?"
All eyes turned to the petite sorceress. She squirmed and grimaced under the combined gazes. "Oh, get up, Amelia," she snapped. "We'll discuss it later. Right now we've got to convince Ponmar to let us go. We're already behind schedule, in case you forgot." Her voice promised that their 'discussion' was not going to be pleasant, but Amelia was astonished that she was letting it go for now.
I can't believe it-that's the first time Miss Lina hasn't denied her feelings! Well, sort of. I wonder if something happened between the two of them...
Behind her Ponmar cleared his throat. "Miss Amelia, do you have any proof that you are who you say you are?"
Amelia was indignant. What? I thought he said he believed me! He must be having second thoughts.
"Oh, she's definitely Amelia, all right," Gourry said brightly.
Lina elbowed him. "Numbskull, he means he wants proof that Amelia is a princess."
Amelia said abruptly, "That's it! My royal crest!"
Amelia cringed as Lina fixed her with a shrewd frown. "I thought your father wouldn't let you use it any more."
"Well, after you charged up such a large amount on it last time..."
After a pause Lina waved her hand in front of her, palm out, saying rapidly, "Well, never mind that now; where is it?"
"In my saddlebag with the makeup kit."
Zelgadis looked up. "Then it's in the custody of your guards, Lord Ponmar. It's the bag I was carrying."
By now, several more guards had arrived. Ponmar sent most of them back to their posts, and one was dispatched to get Amelia's saddlebag. As they all waited for its arrival, the six of them sat down again at the crate-table. Amelia made sure to sit next to Zelgadis, and Lina and Gourry sat across from them. Xellos and Ponmar took the end seats. Lann the guard took up a position behind Lina, as if for moral support.
"Now, Miss Amelia, are you absolutely sure your father would vouch for your friend?" Ponmar asked.
"Of course." Now's my chance to show everyone how much I've learned about negotiating, she thought happily.
"Even though she is known as Seyrune's Destroyer?"
Instantly a drop of water appeared at her temple. "...Well...she saved it from the mazoku! It's not her fault that the only thing that would kill them was a Dragon Slave. And she was nearly killed doing it." A shadow appeared in her eyes. "It's the only time I've ever seen Mister Gourry cry."
Everyone went silent at this solemn admission. Amelia watched as her longtime companions' eyes met. The sober look on Gourry's face said that he remembered that occasion very well. When he reached out and put a protective arm around Lina's shoulders, she did not shrug him off as Amelia expected. Instead she only looked tired, as if she were weary of pretending.
Amelia and Zelgadis watched this display of affection in wonder, then exchanged wide-eyed glances.
Just then a guard entered the cavern. "Here is the pack you wanted, leader."
"Thank you. Please set it on the table, then resume your duties."
Amelia got up and walked around the table to Ponmar's end. She unfastened the bag and fumbled around inside, looking for the small inside pocket. "Ah, I have it." She pulled out her crest, the symbol of the royal family of Seyrune. Its gilded scrolled edges gleamed gaudily in the light from the large cookfire. Ponmar held out a hand and she gave it to him.
The bearded man inspected it carefully. Then he leaned back on his crate and handed it back to her. "Thank you, Princess. I hope I have not offended you, but I must be cautious in this strange land."
Amelia controlled the childish part of her that wanted to shout, See? and simply nodded. "Now then...it seems to me that what you need are allies from our world. Friends you can trade with and learn from. I would be willing to ask my father about an alliance with your country or state or kingdom. I know that he has been interested in an alliance for some time now, but so far has not been able to contact anyone in authority."
Because a certain someone showed up at the cast-off ceremony and blew up the ship before we could make contact. Now on her best behavior, Amelia resisted sending a glare in Lina's direction.
Ponmar stated, "While I cannot speak for any region other than my own, I will bring word of your offer of an alliance. I am sure many rulers will be interested, if for nothing more than information about how to defend ourselves from magical attacks."
The red-haired sorceress yawned and looked at Gourry, who had managed to fall asleep on his box, his arms on the big crate-table. Poor Gourry. Not surprising, considering how he held me all last night. I guess Amelia convinced Ponmar I'm no threat to him, so I'll leave the treaty-talk to her. Dimly Lina caught the sound of someone cracking open a lobster.
Food? Though she had just finished eating, a few breadrolls and some stew hadn't really been enough to fill her. She glanced at the cookfire, but no one was there. She sniffed the air, but caught no rich odors, other than realizing that she needed a bath. Badly. So did Gourry. Ugh. The first pool I come to after we get out of this infuriating magicless zone is gonna be an instant hot spring.
She listened with mild interest as Zelgadis reported the apparently untrustworthy behavior of Ponmar's perimeter guards. "I had to kill one of them."
"I'm not surprised. We're had problems with that troupe since the beginning."
Amelia added, "Seyrune will make reparations for them..."
After a while, Amelia and Ponmar seemed to be winding down, so Lina sat up straight and poked Gourry in the side to wake him up. "Well, now that the preliminaries are out of the way, we need to hit the road. As Xellos pointed out, we're really behind schedule."
"I apologize, Miss Lina, but I cannot let you go." Ponmar turned a serious look on her.
"What?" Lina sputtered. "But Amelia vouched for me, and you said-"
"I said I believed that she was a princess." The man fixed his gaze on Lina. "Until I have proof that you are not the person we were sent to nullify, I cannot afford to let you go. We have expended too much time, money and resources, and now that you know of this place, you would never voluntarily return here. I am correct, yes?"
Lina opened her mouth, then closed it. He was right; she would never let herself be so vulnerable again, not if she could help it. She nodded and looked down at the table. I understand him all too well. He can't afford to let me go, but anything I do to fight my way free only proves that I am what he thinks I am. But I'm not about to let him 'torture' me with ice-water again, either. She looked up at the young princess. Amelia looks like she's going to cry. And Zelgadis has gone cold, like he was when we first met.
"Can I say something?" Gourry said unexpectedly.
"Look, sir, you're the leader of this group, right? I'm sure you didn't get there by not listening to your instincts."
Again the man nodded.
"Then you should be able to sense who to trust-us, or those mages who told you Lina was some bigshot warlord."
The bearded man nodded a third time, slowly, and answered, "But it is not that simple. I was chosen on behalf of dozens of small kingdoms, to act in their welfare. I cannot afford to make a mistake. I need Miss Inverse. If she is not the one directing the attacks, as all reports indicate, then she is still the most likely lead to finding out who is."
"It's gotta be someone with a grudge against her," Gourry pointed out. "She's being set up."
"Perhaps. But if she is, then we would need her help to find the real culprit."
"Well, what if Lina promised to hunt 'em down for you?"
Lina blinked in astonishment as she realized that Ponmar looked as if he was taking the idea seriously. Gourry's actually making some progress? "I'd do that anyway," she said eagerly. "No one sullies the name of Lina Inverse and gets away with it."
Again Lina saw the same hesitation that had been in Ponmar's eyes the day before, when she had tried to convince him of her innocence during the torture session. Finally he said, "In either case, Miss Inverse is not going anywhere. Nor can I afford to let Mister Greywyrs go."
"But my wedding!" Amelia wailed.
Ponmar turned to her. "I am truly sorry, Miss Amelia. My personal instincts are to trust you, if that is any consolation."
"What about a hostage?" Zelgadis said abruptly. All eyes in the room turned to look at him.
Ameliashook her head. No, Zelgadis!
Author's Note: 'Koala'! (From first-season Slayers) Tee hee- I wanted to put in some humor, and also add a little seed for a future bit of my story here-did you catch it? No? Well, go back and read more carefully-I wonder who'll guess right! ^_^
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