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: Notes: A palomino-colored horse is one with a golden body and a white mane and tail.
Varxin is pronounced var-zin
Chapter Forty-Six: "I'm In Love With You"
"What about a hostage?" Zelgadis said abruptly.
Everyone around the table looked at the chimera, who continued calmly, "Amelia and Lina both need to attend the wedding in Seyrune, and Gourry can go to protect them, especially since Lina's injured. Suppose I volunteer to stay behind? If I am Lina's second-in-command, as you believe, she would hardly abandon me here."
Amelia had a growing look of horror on her face. She burst out, "No! You can't! I need you; I need you to-"
Lina snapped, "Amelia, not now!"
"But Miss Linaaaa!"
Zelgadis blushed at the scene the princess was making. Her pink lips were trembling and tears threatened to spill from her liquid blue eyes. He closed his eyes as a throb of empathy went through him, quite unaware of the look of anguish on his own face. I'm sorry, Amelia. It's better that the two of us separate before we get back to Seyrune and I have to refuse you... I'm glad now that you and Lina kept all of this a 'secret' from me. Then I can pretend I don't understand why you're so upset, to spare us both the awkwardness of parting...
Liar, an accusing inner voice spat. You just want to spare yourself the pain of having to refuse her love. The stone man winced, noticing a crackling sound somewhere nearby but not really paying any attention to his surroundings. You're a coward. You don't want to look into those eyes and say 'sorry, Amelia, you don't mean anything to me' or 'I'll always value your friendship, but it can never be anything more'.
Slowly Zelgadis forced open stone eyelids that would much rather have remained sealed against the painful scene before him. Amelia had stood up and walked away from the table, facing away from the group, her spine rigid, her shaking fists clenched at her sides.
Gourry was looking back and forth between the chimera and the princess with his typical bewildered expression. Lina got up and hobbled over to the girl, reaching out to touch her back, but at the last second her fingers curled and she dropped her hand to her side, staring helplessly at the grieving princess.
Lann the guard had apparently found something interesting on the wall to look at. Xellos was watching everything with his usual blank smile, but of course, the mazoku was undoubtedly enjoying the taste of all the negative emotions in the cavern. Zelgadis restrained the impulse to smash his stone fist into the apparent man's smiling face, and looked away to meet Ponmar's gaze.
He was met with a look of deep understanding. The bearded leader inclined his head toward the young princess, and suddenly Zelgadis became aware that his own expression was probably a mixture of anguish and regret.
He walked toward the dark-haired girl, not knowing what to say. "Amelia..."
She whirled around to face him. Her cheeks were wet with the tears streaming from agonized blue eyes. "You promised to come to my wedding!"
His surroundings seemed to fade. All that mattered was Amelia. "I promised to try," he said gently. "And I have. But now it's more important to get you back home where you belong, to fulfill your obligation for the good of your people."
He felt a sharp twinge of guilt as he spoke, well aware that he was using her sense of duty against her. He recalled that her father had used the same tactic against her, to try to keep her from accompanying their party.
This time, however, she did not back down. Instead she advanced on him, an intense, almost fervent look on her face. "But there's something you don't know."
Inwardly he tensed, his mouth going dry. Amelia, no!
Lina echoed his thoughts. "No, Amelia!"
Again he vaguely noticed the odd crackling sound, which seemed to match his own internal stress level perfectly-strained to the fracture point. "Amelia," he whispered, hoping to ward off her intention, "I don't think-"
"I'm in love with you."
Dead silence. Those people who had been politely looking away all snapped their gazes toward the suffering couple. They saw the stone man stagger as if struck by a physical blow. In contrast, the small dark-haired girl stood straighter, a timorous smile managing to shine through her tears.
"I've loved you for a long time now. I think you're the bravest, smartest, handsomest man there is, and it's you I want to marry, not some stranger." Her hands, still wearing the half-gloves of the chimera, were clasped under her chin, and her eyes were shining.
Lina protested weakly, "No, Amelia, you can't confess! You're gonna screw everything up."
"Ahh, it's a little too late now, Lina," Gourry said, ambling forward to stand beside his companion.
Lina heard the strange crackling noise again, but ignored it, grumbling sulkily, "I know, but geez! All that planning, all that work, and she just blurts it out in the middle of a hostage negotiation! What is wrong with that girl?"
Suddenly Lina felt Gourry's hand on the back of her neck, stroking her hair. She didn't have to look up at him to hear the smile in his voice. "She's in love, Lina," he said simply.
Zelgadis put his own hand to the back of his neck in embarrassed discomfort. "Amelia...this really isn't the time or place for this..." he muttered weakly, looking at their watchers. He tried to suppress a rising sense of panic. Not here, not now! What am I supposed to say to her? He knew his face was as red as stone could get.
Amelia looked around, seeming to notice their audience for the first time. Then she, too, blushed. "I'm sorry, Mister Zelgadis. I didn't want to propose to you like this-I was supposed to wait until-"
She broke off, throwing a wide-eyed glance at the glowering Lina. "I-I mean, I was going to wait until after you'd found your cure and had time to adjust to being human again. We-I didn't want to pressure you."
Several of the men's faces softened. Lina could practically hear Lann thinking, 'Isn't she a sweet girl? So considerate!'
Zelgadis was stricken voiceless. He had been half-expecting something like this to happen for quite some time... So why is it suddenly so hard to think? Amelia was staring at him with hopeful, liquid blue eyes which somehow drained his mind of all thought, leaving behind only a mass of conflicting emotions. A sense of pressure weighed him down, yet a surge of urgency made his body tense and buzzing with energy. He became more desperate as the seconds passed, trying to tear his gaze away from the young girl's radiant face so that he could think, but it was more difficult than he would have believed possible.
His face must have shown his angst. He watched helplessly as the hope faded from her face. As more tears gathered in her eyes, she spoke in a trembling voice, still trying to smile. "I'm sorry I've embarrassed you, Mister Zelgadis." She whirled suddenly, running for the cavern exit.
She was past the guard before he could react, but Ponmar said quickly, "Let her go."
"Oh, Amelia," Lina murmured. She felt Gourry place his hand on her shoulder to give it a comforting squeeze.
And the stone man stood frozen with a strange, tight feeling in his chest.
No one moved for almost a minute. Finally, Ponmar stood up from the table and began walking toward the cookfire, passing Lina and Gourry. Lina assumed he was going to get some tea to offer to the poor chimera.
Gourry looked down at her, then began walking toward the stone man. "Zelgadis?"
The chimera did not move. Lina noticed that his face had set into the same deadened, unfeeling mask he'd worn the time he'd emerged from the Oracle's cavern. She opened her mouth to say something, anything, to snap him out of it, to comfort him-
CRRRACKKK! The sudden noise shattered the silence. Lina discovered that her subconscious mind had already long identified the source of the odd crackling sound (which she had mistaken earlier for the sound of a lobster being cracked open) for she instantly looked upward to see the stalactite that Zelgadis had collided with hurtling to the floor-directly at Ponmar.
Her muscles reacted before she even had time to call out a warning. The petite sorceress threw herself forward at the man, and both of them went flying to the floor, rolling painfully over the rough stone. The leader's home-made tea mug shattered on the floor, splattering its contents everywhere.
Less than a second later the thick stone column smashed thunderously to the floor right where the man had been. The reverberation boomed though the cavern, deafeningly loud in the enclosed area as the ground shuddered in reaction.
Within seconds Gourry and Lann were leaning over the prone bodies. Lina gritted her teeth from the pain of her battered ankle plus a dozen new cuts and bruises and opened her eyes. She spotted a worried-looking Zelgadis peering over Gourry's shoulder and chuckled weakly. "I should have done this the last time. Nothing like a little life-or-death situation to yank your mind away from your romantic problems."
Zelgadis gave her a startled look, then acknowledged her humor with a sickly half-smile. Gourry helped her sit up. "Lina, are you all right?"
She groaned. "Yeah, I guess so. What is it about this place? I've been bashed around in here more often than during our fights with mazoku!"
Lann was assisting Ponmar to rise. He gave Lina a warm smile. "Bad luck for you, miss, but it's a good thing you was here-otherwise my leader here woulda ended up through the floor like a nail."
"Yes..." Ponmar said slowly. He was bleeding from a cut on his forehead, but he looked oddly preoccupied.
"What happened?" Amelia came barreling into the room. "There was a tremendous crash, and-" She skidded to a stop, her eyes and mouth wide open in surprise as she took in the piles of broken rock and the two bleeding people being helped to their feet. "Oh, my gosh; Miss Lina, are you all right?"
"She'll be fine," Gourry reassured the girl as he picked Lina up in his arms. He spoke to Lann. "I think we'd better visit your healer's chamber again."
As Amelia followed, she noted with interest that Lina made no protest whatsoever of Gourry carrying her.
Half an hour later the group was gathered around the crate-table, which had been prudently moved to a spot with no stalactites over it. Several of Ponmar's men had removed the chunks of rock from the broken one.
Zelgadis had taken advantage of the hiatus to change back into his own clothes, much to his relief. His hands were still bare, since Amelia was still wearing his half-gloves to help cushion the blisters she'd gotten from her sword-fighting lessons, but other than that he was back to normal attire. Amelia's ward bracelet was once again back on the strap of his canteen.
Lina's ankle had been wrapped securely, freeing her cape from bandage-duty so that she was able to wear it again, although it was sadly smudged and wrinkled. She was also sporting several white dressings on her face and arms. Her ruby eyes contrasted dramatically with the bandages as she turned her curious gaze on Ponmar when he began to speak.
"Miss Lina, I want to thank you for saving my life. I realize that if you had done nothing, not only would you have escaped injury, you would also have had a good chance to escape in the confusion."
Lina shrugged, then winced in pain. "Yeah, well, I just reacted without thinking, I guess. But if you really want to reward me, you could let us all go."
She had spoken the last remark flippantly, and so was astonished when Ponmar nodded his head and answered, "Agreed."
"I owe you a life-debt, but equally as important, your instinctive reaction to save my life has indeed convinced me that what you have all been saying is true. I no longer believe you had anything to do with the attacks on our kingdoms."
Lina and her friends sat dumbfounded. Finally Amelia said, "You-you mean, we can go? Just like that?"
Again the bearded man nodded. "Yes. I deeply regret the trouble I have caused you, and wish you well. I do hope that all of your difficulties are resolved amicably." He said the last bit while looking back and forth between the chimera and the princess.
Amelia had avoided looking at the stone man ever since she had rejoined the group. Those who noticed this, Lina included, were too polite to say anything.
"Miss Amelia." Ponmar held out an attractive golden arm-band. "Please take this as a token of my intent to pursue relations with your kingdom. It has the crest of the royal family on it."
Amelia took the wide ring of smooth, gracefully curved metal. It was too large for her to wear, but she admired the engraving, which had three beautiful dolphins leaping from the sea in a surge of plumes. "Thank you, Lord Ponmar. I am glad to have met you. Seyrune needs all the allies it can get...and if you had been a less honorable man, things wouldn't have worked out so well."
Lina nodded. "It is nice to meet somebody reasonable once in a while. Oh-and don't worry about those rouge mages. Once our current situation is resolved," she threw a quick glance at Zelgadis and Amelia, "Gourry and I will be hunting down those slimy name-wreckers-you wait and see!"
Most of the people at the table (except for Xellos) shivered to see the expression of potential revenge light up Lina's eyes. Ponmar looked as if he was reconsidering his decree to release her.
Hastily Amelia stood up. "Well, we really must be going."
Lann asked, "What? In this storm?"
"What storm?" Gourry started to ask, but Zelgadis overrode him.
"Yes, well, we left some things back at our last camp. I need to recover them before some animal gets into our supplies."
Soon the five travelers were on their way. The rain had thankfully slowed to a mere misting, which offered no real deterrent to the travelers. Amelia and Lina rode double on Amelia's palomino mare Sunshine while the three males walked.
Almost immediately Lina began to interrogate the mazoku. "So what are you doing here, Xellos? Don't tell me your boss sent you here to get in my way again."
He looked as if he wanted to correct her but only said, "Well, actually I just couldn't resist playacting with dear little Zelgadis over there. He looked so darling in that lovely gown."
Zelgadis frowned, then raised a stone eyebrow and said with a smirk, "Actually, he came to rescue you, Lina. He told me he couldn't bear to see you imprisoned."
Xellos lost his smug look and began to stammer, "That's not quite-I mean, I didn't say it like-uh, that is to say-"
Lina eyes narrowed craftily. "Well, you were right about one thing. So just how do you plan to help us make up for lost time?"
Xellos' eyes popped open, the pale irises clearly showing his distress. "I-I really can't, Miss Lina," he whined. "If my master learns that I've even done this much, I'd be-"
"Can you pop us all back to Seyrune or what?" Lina interrupted callously.
Xellos put a hand to the back of his neck, a sweatdrop at his temple. "I-I'm sorry, but I really think that-"
"How about if he arranges for us to get some transportation?" Zelgadis interrupted. I hate having to ask that bastard for anything. Not that I don't enjoy seeing Xellos squirm, but unless we get some help Amelia's not going to make it in time. We're at least a day and a half behind schedule.
"Why, yes, I suppose I could arrange something." Xellos looked as grateful as a mazoku could. "I can't do anything in Varxin's Realm, but further down the line I'll have some kind of help ready and waiting for you. Ta ta!" He quickly made his escape, vanishing into thin air.
"Xellos!" Lina yelled in frustration.
"I wonder what he meant by that," Amelia turned to look over her shoulder at her red-haired friend.
"Mister Zelgadis...is Shiran safe?" Amelia spoke directly to the chimera for the first time since the scene in the cavern. Lina noticed that she still did not look at him.
He looked a little surprised, but answered, "Yes. I told her to guard the camp."
It took less than ten minutes to reach the campsite. Amelia immediately slid down off of Sunshine to embrace the frantic dragonwolf, running her hands through the huge animal's shaggy lavender fur. A huge pink tongue came out and washed the princess's face before she could duck away.
Amelia giggled. "Stop that, yuck! Oh, Shirry, I missed you!"
Lina and Gourry watched the greeting with amusement, but their expressions mirrored their surprise as Shiran turned from the girl and bounded over to greet Zelgadis, who had been in the rear of the party.
Jaws dropped as the ferocious-looking beast let out a low howl that plainly meant, 'Welcome back! I missed you!', and then rose up to place her clawed front feet on Zelgadis' shoulders. On her hind feet Shiran was a good head taller than the stone man, an intimidating creature with sharp teeth, rough lavender fur and glowing emerald eyes, and yet other than looking a bit startled, Zelgadis showed none of the former wariness that Lina remembered.
Still on the horse's back, Lina grinned at the chimera, who was bracing Shiran's forelegs with one hand and running his bare hand through the longer fur on the side of the animal's neck with the other. "Looks like you've made a friend, eh, Zelgadis? I thought she was supposed to be dangerous."
The petite sorceress was delighted to see a tinge of pink on his nose and cheeks. He released Shiran, who dropped gracefully to the ground and went to sniff noses with Sunshine, who also appeared unafraid. Then Shiran sniffed Lina's booted foot and gave her a nudge. "Hello, Shiran," Lina responded at once, smiling.
Lastly Shiran approached Gourry, who smiled and held out a hand for the dragonwolf to sniff, after which she looked up into his face and wagged her bushy tail as if to say, 'Okay, we're all here. Now what?'
Author's Note: Poor Zel. The hardest lies to disprove are the ones you tell yourself. He's still trying to believe that what he feels for Amelia is close friendship.
This chapter is a little confusing-I had to jump back and forth through different characters' points-of-view. I tried to take the POV of whichever character had the least-easiest thoughts to read, so I could say them directly.
What, 'Zelgadis the Desperado'? Well, I figured Zel would have to be known by some kind of funky badass nickname, at least as far as Ponmar and his men are concerned. I think I got the name from a scene in Try where Zel learns what guns are, and almost instantly becomes an awesome sharpshooter.
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