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!
Note: A kiosk is another word for a display booth.
Chapter Fifty-Two: Return to Tollik,
the Land of the Rainbow Sheep
As the princess and the chimera approached the village Amelia commented, "Look at those things."
"They look like some kind of flags or banners," she answered. Zelgadis took note of the multiple brightly colored pieces of cloth that fluttered from many of the buildings but were mostly concentrated in an area that looked like a marketplace.
"They weren't here the last time," Amelia explained. "Maybe they're having some kind of celebration?"
Soon it was obvious that she was correct. The people of Tollik seemed to be in a state of great activity. Everyone was wearing bright colored clothes, talking and laughing as they wandered here and there among the kiosks, which displayed everything from clothes to foods to craft items.
"I wonder if Rilloban's family has a kiosk among all this," Amelia said. "Or Toban. I'm sure they'd know who I'm supposed to give Sunshine back to."
Zelgadis pulled up his mask and brought his cowl up to cover his head. Amelia gave him a curious look. He said quietly, "I told you back at the palace; people are more frightened of demons than they used to be. I don't feel like being made part of the attractions. Let's just find someone you know, give Sunshine to them and get out of here."
He turned to face forward, but not before he caught the look of forlorn sympathy on her face. "I thought you wanted to talk to Sunshine's owner," she protested.
"If he's here. It's not important."
Amelia frowned and looked away. You said you wanted horses for Seyrune, as if you planned to live there. Now you say you don't care? She sighed. I don't understand you...
As they approached the crowd several people noticed them and stopped walking. Amelia signaled the golden mare to stop and slid down from the saddle. "Hello there!" she said brightly, smiling and waving. "My name is Amelia, and this is my companion, Mister Zelgadis. I'm looking for Toban, or Sanre, or his son Rilloban."
There was silence for several seconds, then a woman at the edge of the crowd replied, "Toban is running a food kiosk at the other end."
Another voice came from within the crowd. "Sanre's family has a kiosk about halfway down. They're selling clothing."
"Thank you very much!" Amelia beamed at the crowd. As she began to lead Sunshine toward them, Zelgadis recalled the last time he had been with Amelia in the middle of a crowd. His cowl had been accidentally removed, and after they'd had a good look at him... well, the situation had not been pretty.
He stopped. "Amelia, why don't you let me hold Sunshine while you go look for your friends," he suggested uneasily.
She turned to look back. "Huh?"
At her perplexed look, he elaborated. "I just don't feel comfortable around that many people."
The raven-haired girl almost snapped at him in annoyance, but then she noticed his eyes and took a step closer. He almost looks-afraid. Like a skittish horse. Is this how he's been the past year, wandering around on the outskirts of towns, afraid to be with people? The wariness in his eyes was not that of a warrior who expected battle, but rather that of a human soul which had been hurt, rejected, spurned, until he turned from human contact, unwilling to trust, to take chances.
She walked back to stand in front of him. "You don't have to come with me if you really don't want to, Mister Zelgadis. But... it would really mean a lot to me. I want you to meet my new friends. And I'll be right here with you the whole time." She couldn't help herself; she reached out to put her gloved hand over his bare blue one.
He had never asked for his half-gloves back. She had healed her own blistered hands soon after they'd gotten out of range of Varxin's Realm, but had worn his gloves anyway because they made her feel closer to him.
Slowly he looked down at their hands, then back up at her face. Amelia blushed, but instead of removing her hand she shifted her grip until it was firmly holding his, clasped in mid-air between them. Her deep blue eyes were staring fiercely into his as she were trying to convince him of her sincerity. "I won't leave you alone," she said solemnly.
Her sapphire gaze was so pure, so intense that all he could do was nod, and let her lead him by the hand through the crowd. He felt a little foolish, but another part of him was warmed by her considerate gesture. And somehow the crowd did not look as intimidating as it had only moments before.
Lina was standing in front of him with her hands on her hips, glaring at him menacingly. "Care to explain that comment just now?" Her voice was biting, acidic, and full of threat.
Gourry knew he could be dumb sometimes, but not that dumb. "Um... how Zelgadis is shy, and he-"
"No, you numbskull, the part about me being shy. What do you think I am, some kind of coward? Some weak, dithering, frail flower like Sylphiel?
"Huh?" Gourry's eyes widened in surprise, his fear over her sudden fury fading. "Lina, no one could ever call you weak." He shook his head emphatically in denial, his long blonde hair streaming around him. "Or a coward. You're the bravest, smartest, strongest girl I know; nobody else can ever compare to you." His tone was honest, sincere, reassuring.
It seemed that he had said the right thing for once, judging from the way her eyes softened. "Really?" she asked softly.
Gourry blinked. "Well, yeah, of course. Why do you think I said yes when you asked me to marry you?"
Her jaw dropped. "I WHAT?" she roared in his face, practically lifting him off of the ground with the force of her bellow, his yellow hair whooshing out behind him.
Amelia led both of her friends through Tollik's crowd, looking for the kiosk that was run by her friend Rilloban. However, being female, she couldn't help looking longingly at the other kiosks, hoping to have a little time later to shop. Her head turned rapidly, trying to take in as many things as possible, as vivid colors and delicious-looking foods caught her eye.
"I've never seen so many bright clothes before!" she said enthusiastically to Zelgadis, who was still holding her hand. He had Sunshine's reins in his other hand, to let Amelia concentrate on searching through the crowd for her friend.
"That's because a' the wool from our rainbow sheep," an old man with a long gray beard interjected. "Yeh never has ta die it, nor will it eveh fade. An' it's so soft e'en a lady with skin soft as yers c'n wear it-no itches!" He held up a woven sweater of a soft pink color. To please him, Amelia reached out and took a corner between her thumb and forefinger. Her eyes widened. "Why, you're right! I never would have guessed that this is wool-it's so soft!"
The old man chuckled in a squeaky voice. "Innerested in tryin' it on, miss?"
"I would love to... but I must meet my friend, Rilloban, at his kiosk. Maybe later-I'd love to bring this home as a souvenir."
The man nodded. " 'Is old man's kiosk's 'bout six o' sev'n down on the right."
"Thank you." Amelia squeezed Zelgadis' hand in a way that he somehow knew meant she had been humoring the man, at least a little. He gave her a wry half-smile, careful not to let anyone else see his face. Then it occurred to him that she must be gripping his hand hard enough to be uncomfortable for her, if he could feel it. She must have figured out how much pressure he could feel, though he had no idea how. Perhaps just by tightening her hand around his until he reacted.
He almost tried to release her hand, but just then she stopped and pointed with her other hand. "I think I see him! Yoo-hoo, Ril!"
A man with light brown hair in a short braid turned around. "Oh-Mister Sanre, hello!" Amelia stopped up to his kiosk, which had neat stacks of multicolored clothing of all types and weaves, from smooth cotton shirts and dresses to plush wool stockings and sweaters.
The man calmly watched them approach, then smiled slowly. "Miss Amelia. Well met. I see you have a companion this time."
Zelgadis realized that for all his genial manner, this man was lean and tough and had deep green eyes that missed nothing: hunter's eyes. Undoubtedly he had already looked for Shiran, who had been banned from the town. He felt the man's gaze upon him, assessing him as a potential threat, and was careful to make no sudden moves. He knew the man had undoubtedly noticed the areas of stone skin that showed around the edges of his facial coverings, and tensed inwardly, ready to put himself in front of Amelia if the man denounced them as demons.
Then Amelia squeezed his hand again, smiling up at him encouragingly. He suddenly remembered something she had told him once-'When you're a young girl, people want to help you and take care of you. It's easy to like them.' He realized then that she probably saw Sanre through very different eyes.
To Amelia, this man was most likely a father-figure, someone from whom she could expect help if she ever needed it-and being the adorable, spunky girl that she was, she would most probably receive anything she asked for. It would never occur to her to question it, or to believe that if he, Zelgadis, asked for the same help, his answer would most likely be very different.
He watched Sanre relax minutely, and felt his own body ease. Apparently he had passed inspection, undoubtedly helped by Amelia's obviously devoted endorsement. He sighed and smiled down at her, knowing that the very innocence that made people want to protect her also kept her from understanding how different life was for someone like him. Never lose that innocence, Amelia.
The young girl released his hand and gestured toward him. "This is my friend, Zelgadis Greywyrs. Mister Zelgadis, this is Sanre, Rilloban's father. He was one of the men who helped us catch Shiran."
Zelgadis nodded cordially, and echoed Sanre, "Well met."
"So Mister Sanre, what is all this? Are you having a celebration?" Amelia asked.
"We are. Three times a year we have gatherings like this to help promote our people's trades. Our village is known for our wool, which comes from the rainbow sheep."
"Rainbow sheep?" Zelgadis found himself interested in spite of himself. "A vendor mentioned something about that. Some new kind of sheep... "
Sanre nodded. "Yes. They were created by a mage called Mister Savari. He was a peaceful man, an honest man who took care to obtain the permission of the town council to do his experiments. He employed several of our people, and our town prospered due to the popularity of the wool, which grows from each sheep already colored, and never fades no matter how often one washes it."
"He created Shiran, too, didn't he?" Zelgadis asked.
The man gave him a steady look. "She was the flock's guardian, yes." He turned to the young princess. "Is she well, Miss Amelia?"
Amelia smiled. "Oh, yes, she's adjusted very well. I feel safe with her around. She likes all of my friends too, especially Mister Zelgadis."
For the first time Sanre looked mildly surprised. "Does she, now?" He gave the stone man a thoughtful look. "Well, you should be honored, Mister Zelgadis. Shiran's very choosy about the company she keeps."
With a hint of amusement in his tone, Zelgadis answered, "So I hear." He could almost feel the remaining tension in the air draining away. I guess Shiran's endorsement counts for more than even Amelia's.
"I'd love to see some of the sheep before we go," Amelia said cheerfully. "They must be so pretty."
"Well, Ril is off helping look after Gerrik's lamb kiosk with his sweetheart Kembri, if you want to stop by to say hello."
"He is? And he finally got up the courage to tell Miss Kembri how he feels about her? Oh, Mister Zelgadis, we have to go see them!" Amelia bounced on her toes, beaming at both men. "He was a such great help to me with Shiran, so friendly and kind. I want to give him my congratulations."
"We're kind of in a hurry... " Zelgadis began, but Amelia turned her large pleading blue eyes on him, and he surrendered. "Maybe we can spare a few minutes."
"How's Sunshine working out for you, by the way?" Sanre asked.
Amelia turned around and reached behind them to stroke the golden mare's shoulder. "She's been wonderful. I don't know what I would have done without her. She's been the most faithful, willing horse I've ever ridden. I'm... going to miss her a lot." The mare nudged the girl's shoulder with her soft nose in a friendly manner. Amelia turned back to the two men, and Zelgadis was conscious of how unhappiness made her face look as if a shadow had passed over it, dimming her brilliance.
Sanre was silent for a moment. "I don't suppose you'd be interested in keeping her?" he said slowly.
Amelia's eyes widened. "What? You mean it?"
Sanre nodded. "Her owner is my brother, Renbaro. He's away on a trip, looking for potential buyers for his stock. Up to now, he's been breeding work horses, but ever since he bought a new stallion he's had several horses born that are built too lightly to do heavy work all day. Some, like Sunshine, are also temperamentally unsuited-they have a tendency to bond with their owners, which makes them difficult to sell."
He came out from behind his kiosk and went to pat the mare's neck affectionately. Sunshine obviously recognized him, for she nudged his chest gently and whickered. "However, as you may have noticed with Sunshine, they also inherited his work horses' willingness-give them the right owner and they'll go until they drop. Renbaro had a hard time selling them until Ril pointed that out to him. So now he's looking for owners who want riding horses, messenger horses, that sort of thing."
Amelia gave the lean man a thoughtful look. "How much is he asking?"
Sanre's green eyes looked at her appraisingly. "I'd say... 850."
Amelia protested, "Oh, but that's much too low. Even I know that much."
Zelgadis said nothing, though he agreed with the princess. She's probably worth at least twice that-more if you count the foals she'll have. We don't want his brother to come after us, claiming the princess of Seyrune cheated him.
Sanre smiled. "Well, you're right, except I added in how much business you'll bring my brother when word gets around that the princess of Seyrune endorses our stock."
Zelgadis hadn't realized that the man knew who she was, since Amelia usually preferred to travel incognito, but now he caught on. "Advertising... people will think, 'if the royal family likes this line of horses, they must be good ones'." Fair enough. Sanre and his brother could probably even raise the prices of their horses and people will pay it willingly. He could give Sunshine to Amelia for free, and still make a sizeable profit. A shrewd man, but fair-he could have asked her to pay full price.
Amelia touched the side of her forefinger to her chin in a 'thinking' gesture that seemed vaguely familiar to the chimera, though he did not recognize it as one she had picked up from him. He didn't know if she realized that she could probably make a bargain to take the mare for free, but he knew her well enough to know that her sense of justice would not allow her to leave without paying the man something.
He turned to her. "It's a fair price, Amelia. And it would be a good idea to bring Sunshine back to Seyrune as a sample of Mister Renbaro's stock."
Amelia nodded. "I know, Mister Zelgadis. Daddy gave me the crest, but he didn't say I could buy another horse. Still, Gallant's gone... "
Zelgadis was a little surprised that she was thinking this through so carefully. He had the impression that she would have immediately squealed, 'Done!' and slapped the crest into Sanre's hand. He kept being reminded that she was growing up at the oddest times.
Amelia finished, "And even you said she's a really good horse, so it's not like I'd be buying recklessly... so... it's a deal, Mister Sanre." She gave the man a bright smile and went to dig out her crest from Sunshine's saddlebag.
Zelgadis let his eyes wander idly over some of the displays, which held clothing of all kinds, craft work, jewelry, food... It's a good thing Lina and Gourry didn't come with us. Amelia's crest would have been put to some hard use. He smirked, remembering the last time Lina had gotten her hands on it. Amelia had been in a lot of trouble over the enormous bill that Seyrune had received.
Sanre didn't waste time over the transaction, and soon the three of them were on their way. Amelia tucked Sunshine's official papers into her saddlebag, but put the crest into the pink, fluffy pouch that she wore at her hip in case she had need of it again.
Sanre had told them where to find his son, so within a few minutes they were approaching a little fenced-in area that held gamboling lambs that were-as promised-every color of the rainbow, in many different shades. A kiosk was nearby, but no one was in attendance.
Amelia was enchanted. "Oh, they're adorable!" she cooed, reaching down over the waist-high wooden fence to stroke a little bright blue lamb.
"D-don't touch them!"
Author's Note: Betcha can't guess who that is! ^_^
Right now I'm doing a scene where I need Zelgadis to look at Amelia with love in his eyes, tenderness, adoration, but I'm having a hard time picturing it. There aren't many pictures of him like that online, so I thought: Gee, it would be a really nifty Christmas present if someone could draw me a couple of sketches of Zelgadis in love. Not only so I can appreciate the pictures in their own right ^_~ it would be a big help to me to write (somewhat) intimate scenes between our favorite couple... and especially later, as Zel and Amelia grow ever-closer (lime... ).
Or screencaps, if they're easier. There's exactly one 2-second scene that had Zel looking affectionate that I can remember from the show: Season 2 (Next) at the end of the Brass Rackets episode. When Amelia offers Zel the trophy, he takes it and looks at her with a very tender, grateful expression-but only for a couple of seconds. I've never seen a single screencap of that exact pic online, and believe me, I've looked!
* Fans of Lina/Gourry rev your engines: the next couple of chapters are going to have some wonderful romantic/lime scenes for you to enjoy! Just in time for Christmas... I didn't plan it that way, really... ^_^
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