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.

Many thanks to my friends Shell Presto and Marie!

PG-13 for minor swearing and references to bodily functions, rape and violence.

Note: Onegai- 'please' in Japanese

Arigatou- 'thank you' in Japanese

Gomen- 'sorry' in Japanese

WC-water-closet- see Author's Notes

Chapter Fifty-Nine: Treachery at the Inn

It took four days to reach the next good-sized town, and none of them enjoyed the trip. Lina had decided that if she couldn't punish Zelgadis, then she would ostracize him. She completely ignored his presence, especially when it came to handing out food at mealtimes, and refused to allow Gourry to speak to Zelgadis either, although the blonde swordsman had not been offended by the chimera's insult and would have preferred peace between all of his friends.

Amelia's behavior worried Lina. She didn't say much to Zelgadis, but then, she didn't say much to anyone else, either. Amelia did offer Zelgadis food from Sunshine's saddlebags, but the young girl was more quiet and reserved than anyone had ever seen her, almost as if she had aged overnight. She never sang or skipped or commented on the unusual features of their surroundings, as she always had in the past, but she denied that anything was wrong when Lina questioned her.

"I'm older now; it's not proper for a princess to indulge in juvenile antics," she told the astonished sorceress. Gourry and Zelgadis both stared at her with wide eyes, though the stone man looked away quickly when Amelia turned to him as if looking for approval.

Every now and then the red-haired sorceress noticed Amelia reaching into her fuzzy pink waist-pouch and pulling out what looked like some kind of blue stone carving. The formerly lively, cheerful princess would cradle the small object in the palm of her hand and gaze at it, her face troubled, pensive, wistful, but when Lina asked her what it was the younger girl hastily slipped the thing into her pouch, muttering, "Oh, nothing…"

Lina's automatic reaction was to make a grab for the pouch. It was right in front of her face, since the princess was riding on Sunshine at the time-an easy victory-but the look on Amelia's face stopped her. The princess was flushed, as if embarrassed, staring down at Sunshine's white mane with both hands clenched into fists around the reins, but her expression was oddly despondent, as if looking at the statue had made her sad.

This has to be Zelgadis' fault, Lina thought in exasperation. What'd he do, give her lessons on how to be gloomy, prim, and proper? To Lina, the chimera seemed to have reverted to the cold, uncaring mercenary of three years ago. He barely spoke to anyone and behaved as if he was only tolerating their company.

Yet if Amelia's behavior worried Lina, it did even more to Zelgadis. He was plagued by more guilt than he'd ever felt in his life, (not that he let it show), even more than when he'd worked for Rezo, because this time he was unable to wall off his emotions. He had a hard time sleeping at night; Amelia's grave, sad little face appeared in every dream.

The chimera did not want to act as if he was miffed at Amelia, but it seemed to be the best way to make a clean break of it. His genuine anger toward her had long since burned out-any lingering embers of resentment had been quenched by Amelia's obvious remorse. He would have forgiven her in a heartbeat, had he felt free to do so.

Every now and then he caught her giving him a forlorn, sorrowful glance, which always made him wince. It's not my fault, he told himself repeatedly. I didn't ask for any of this. All I wanted was my cure, not…not romantic entanglements. I didn't ask for Amelia to fall in love with me!

Then he sighed, his resentment fading. It's probably for the best. I can't commit to her the way things are, and the price of changing those factors is too high. This way is less cruel, in the long run. She'll marry young what's-his-name and live a normal life. It's for her own good.

So why didn't he believe it?

They met several nervous-looking travelers who all warned them to beware of a pair of vicious thieves who were known to prey on travelers in this region. Amelia's route north had been slightly different, so she had not heard of this town's troubles, but with this news she began to behave a little more like her normal stomp-evildoers-into-the-ground self, to the amused relief of her companions.

Lina, of course, was not only not worried, but already planning ways to spend the loot she would acquire from this new batch of bandits. The men were not as enthusiastic, but neither were they particularly worried-they could take care of themselves.

The town looked ordinary enough- main street of packed earth, with assorted homes and shops scattered around behind the ones facing the street. A large wooden platform, obviously a gathering place, had been raised about five feet above street level at one end of the street.

"Look, there's an inn," Lina cried gladly, breaking into a run with Gourry hot on her heels.

"Food!" both of them shouted together.

Zelgadis traded amused glances with Amelia, who rolled her eyes with a bit of her usual good spirits before sobering abruptly. She dismounted from Sunshine and tied the mare's reins to the fence in front of the inn before going in after their friends. Zelgadis followed her inside, wondering if the inn's owners would try to make them keep Shiran outside. He also wondered how Shiran would react to being indoors. Is she even housebroken?

They had arrived at the supper hour, and the place was packed. Nearly thirty small tables filled the long room to capacity, all of them crammed full of noisily jabbering customers. They might have had some difficulty getting a table to themselves, but Lina, with her usual brash manners, managed to 'persuade' a group of middle-aged men who were sitting at the table closest to the kitchen door into giving it up.

While Lina bellowed for the waiter and then proceeded to freak him out by ordering her usual staggering amount of food, Zelgadis looked around the room, checking for alternate escape routes other than the door through which they'd entered. He had chosen to wear his hood and face mask, but with Lina along, caution was always a wise choice. You never know when she's going to start a brawl. Besides, the sheer noise level of so many people was disturbing to the chimera, who was accustomed to the gentle background sounds of nature.

The long building had two main rooms-the kitchen and the dining area. The crowded dining area was L-shaped, with three doors-the one from which they had entered in the center of the long front wall, the one that led to the kitchen, and another door in the back wall facing out to the yard where the stable was. The table Lina had gotten them was at the opposite end of the building and around the corner from the back door, so Zelgadis hoped there wouldn't be any sudden need for an escape. We'd have to fight our way through nearly all of the tables-and customers-to get to it.

A set of stairs in the corner led up to the second floor, where the guests presumably slept. It was a fairly nice inn, by Zelgadis' standards, clean and decorated with a modicum of good taste. There were even a few pictures on the walls.

The waiter's voice went from flabbergasted to desperate as he asked Amelia what she wanted to order. Zelgadis listened as she reeled off a list of food that was twice as much as she probably intended to consume; she had learned that the easiest way to have enough food while traveling with Lina's group was to have plenty of extra rations.

She also ordered some raw meat for Shiran, who looked as uncomfortable as Zelgadis felt. The dragonwolf had taken refuge under the table, away from curious/nervous eyes. The waiter sounded dubious, as if he wanted to ask Amelia to leave Shiran outside, but the princess was quick to reassure the man that Shiran was under control and would not be any trouble.

When Zelgadis' turn came, the waiter, on the brink of a nervous breakdown, almost fainted when all the chimera ordered was a small steak and some greens with a hot tea. Over the years Lina had finally learned that his reaction times were faster than her greedy fingers; for the most part she left his food alone.

"Miss Lina," Amelia said to the red-haired sorceress, who was drumming her fingers impatiently on the heavy wooden table, "I'm going to make a quick run to powder my nose-don't eat my food, okay? Shiran-remain." She slipped out of her chair before Lina could answer, and began weaving her way through the people-filled tables toward the back door, where most inns kept their water-closets. Zelgadis watched her until she disappeared around the corner. A shaft of sunlight appeared briefly, announcing her departure.

"Where's she going? The food's going to be cold," Gourry commented with a puzzled glance toward the back door, apparently not having heard the first part of her statement over the crowd's loud jabbering.

Zelgadis watched as Lina's face flushed slightly. "She has to take care of-something."

The stone man wondered for a moment about her blush, then felt his own face grow warm as a sudden notion hit him. He looked away, staring at one of the pictures of a man riding his leaping gray horse over a brightly-painted brush-covered fence, obviously engaged in a hedge-hurdling race.

Zelgadis was reminded of his last friendly conversation with Amelia. He had reminisced about his youthful escapades with great enthusiasm-of all the things he missed about being human, riding in competitions was one of the things he missed the most. Amelia had been eager to hear about it all-but then somehow the conversation had gone terribly wrong and the next thing he knew, he had managed to turn them all against him.

Well, not against me, exactly, not Amelia and Gourry anyway. But it seems in order to keep Amelia safe, I have to be at odds with the only other people in this world I can truly call my friends. At least until after Amelia is safely married; then I can explain everything to Lina. She's tactical-minded; she'll understand, and help me make Xellos use the Oracle's cure-I hope.

"I'll have a glass of water, if you don't mind," came a familiar cheery voice.

"Xellos!" three voice cried simultaneously as their owners jumped and turned to stare at the mazoku, who was sitting innocently in Amelia's vacated seat. Shiran made them all jump again as a fierce snarl emerged from under the table.

"Shiran, remain!" Zelgadis ordered gruffly. The last thing he needed was to have the dragonwolf create a scene, though he understood her animosity perfectly. It was the same way he himself always felt when Xellos appeared.

"It's about time you showed up!" Lina pounded a fist on the table, demanding, "Where's that transportation you promised us?"

Zelgadis was silent, caught by conflicting emotions. One the one hand, he wanted the mazoku to stay with them this time, so that later he would be able to have Xellos on hand to help with his cure, but another part of him wanted to give into his instincts and get rid of the powerful nuisance as soon as possible.

"I'm glad to see you're looking well, Lina. My, my, but you had a nasty time back there in Varxin's Realm, didn't you?" Xellos replied with his perpetual smile, just as if Lina had welcomed him with the most cordial of greetings.

It's a little disconcerting to have someone who's slaughtered whole races of people have better manners than you do, Zelgadis thought, understanding Lina's sudden confounded expression.

After a moment, she shook it off and repeated, "Well, anyway, Xellos-where is it?"

Wordlessly, the apparent man reached into his black cloak and pulled out what looked like an oval-shaped gem of some kind suspended on a thin cord made of leather. The gem was about half the size of an egg, with sparkling facets in a rich blue color. "This crystal will enhance certain magic powers. For example-"

"I've already got gems like that, remember? You sold them to me," Lina interrupted impatiently, "and they aren't any good for making us travel faster."

"Ah, but this one is different." Xellos' voice began to take on his storyteller/teacher's cadence, and Zelgadis found himself listening along with his comrades as Xellos explained the gem's properties. "You see, this gem enhances the wearer's ability to control the wind, magnifying his or her power to fly. Thus, if a person wearing this gem chose to do so, he-or she-could transport several people in addition to-"

"Well, that's fine for short term use," Lina interrupted, "but you can't expect us to do it for days at a time-flying is really exhausting, you know?"

"And scary," Gourry added, a worried look on his face.

"On the contrary, this gem will greatly reduce the effort needed to carry multiple passengers." Xellos reassured Lina. "Any of you, aside from Gourry of course, would be able to use this gem for hours at a time, or longer. You would even have the energy needed to carry the princess' horse, and that other…pet." For a moment his face became almost sulky, causing Zelgadis to wonder if the mazoku found the idea of a companion animal repugnant, too imbued with the one emotion that all mazoku couldn't bear-love.

"Really?" Lina snatched the gem from the mazoku's gloved hand and tucked it away in a pocket of her cloak, away from any curious eyes in the crowd. Then her expression became suspicious. "So then what's the catch? What do you want for it? Money?"

"No," Xellos waved a hand sideways in front of his face, "No money. I will require you to return the gem once you reach Seyrune, however-you might say I borrowed it without the owner's knowledge, and she would be quite…vexed if she were to discover it missing."

Something made a connection in Zelgadis' mind. "You mean Beastmaster Metallium, don't you? Your mistress? She hasn't found out that you're helping us yet?"

Lina's ruby eyes widened. "You mean this gem belongs to her? One of the four Dark Lords? Hmm…"

Zelgadis could see the greed growing on the petite sorceress' face, and judging from the alarmed look on Xellos' face, he could see it too. "N-now, Lina, please don't go getting any ideas about keeping the gem," the apparent man said uneasily, placing a hand on the back of his neck. "I can't allow that."

Lina gave Xellos a hard look, then astonished Zelgadis by switching mental gears-indeed, her very name, inverse=opposite/contrary-and said sweetly, "I wouldn't dream of keeping it, Xellos. I'll give it back as soon as we get to Seyrune-if you'll answer me one little question."

Xellos, who had looked relieved at the beginning of her sentence, now stiffened suspiciously. "And…what would that be?"

"Why are you doing this?"

"…"

"Why would you risk antagonizing your mistress by helping a bunch of worthless humans like us?" Lina looked serious; Xellos looked as if he wanted to squirm away-and he did so.

"Ah-that is a secret. Now, I really must be on my way-I'll meet you in Seyrune-" he said rapidly, and dematerialized before Lina could grab him.

He's gone again. Zelgadis knew he had missed out on asking Xellos about his cure, but he discovered that he was more relieved than dismayed at the mazoku's departure.

Quietly, he watched the red-haired sorceress pound her fist on the wooden table. "Damn it, I hate it when he does that!" she said furiously. "Now I don't know whether or not to trust this stupid gem or pitch it in a lake. Who knows what Xellos is really up to?"

The stone man watched her silently for a few moments, his face thoughtful, and then he said, "Amelia has a theory that Xellos is fond of you."

"What?" Lina looked absolutely flabbergasted, her cheeks beginning to glow.

"At least, as much as a mazoku can like anybody. Or rather, he approves of the mayhem you cause wherever you go." Zelgadis noticed that Lina was finally speaking to him again, and decided not to call her attention to that fact. "So he acts to facilitate your activities, enjoying the chaos you tend to leave in your wake." Pensively, the chimera rubbed his index finger against his chin. "Perhaps he's interested in the results of your treasure hunts, too. He could be hoping you'll find some long-forgotten weapon of destruction the Ancients left behind."

Lina's face had gone an interesting deep red color. She looked as if she couldn't decide whether to be insulted or embarrassed. "Amelia thinks he likes me?"

Zelgadis watched as Gourry's face took on a rare expression-a frown. The blonde swordsman pressed his lips together in a thin line and said, "I don't think we should use the gem, Lina. Xellos is nothing but trouble."

"But, Gourry, we-" Lina broke off, staring at the face of the tall man sitting next to her. Zelgadis saw a look of comprehension dawn in her eyes. His own eyes widened as he watched Lina, the most skittish girl he had ever met, reach over to cup Gourry's cheek gently in her hand and say softly, "It's okay, Gourry. Don't worry about Xellos."

The blonde swordsman's hand came up and covered the small hand on his cheek, then pulled it down and wrapped his fingers around hers. He didn't say anything, but the soft look in his eyes

was clear-he was very much in love with her.

Instead of violently yanking her hand from Gourry's, as Zelgadis expected, Lina merely smiled at him reassuringly and continued, "And don't worry about the gem-we'll test it carefully before we use it-I promise."

"Well, okay, Lina…" Gourry said, sounding as if he had reservations but was willing to trust the petite sorceress. Zelgadis remembered how much Gourry hated flying, since he always had to be carried by someone who was liable to drop him-especially in battle.

So…Amelia was right about them, too. The stone man stared at his companions, his teal irises quivering slightly with emotion as he realized, They've taken the final step, and admitted their feelings for each other. I've never seen either of them look at each other like that before!

For a long minute he watched his two friends gaze into each other's eyes, until eventually he became uncomfortable, as if he were intruding on something private. Unconsciously he cleared his throat, breaking the moment, and had the satisfaction of seeing Lina react the way he was used to-she whipped her hand out of Gourry's and threw the chimera a look of near-panic.

For a long moment Zelgadis stared at the couple, smirking, enjoying the tension in the air. He opened his mouth to say something snide, then hesitated, remembering the tender look they had shared, and sighed. Who am I to ruin someone else's love life? Even Lina's, despite all she's put me through.

He fixed his longtime companions with a solemn, sincere look and said simply, "Congratulations, you two."

Both of them looked surprised. Then, as his comment sank in, Zelgadis watched as Gourry smiled affectionately at Lina, who blushed fiercely and looked shyly down at the table, but, significantly, did not burst into flustered denials.

"Thanks, Zelgadis," Gourry said after a moment, his tone quietly grateful.

The stone man held his face still, but underneath a smirk was trying to escape. But don't think you're safe from a little torment. Call it payback for all the obnoxious comments I've had to put up with from you about Amelia… Speaking of whom, she's taking longer than usual. I wonder if she's all right?

The water-closet was a nice one. Amelia looked around the interior of the small two-story building, which was attached to one side of the stable, and sniffed. It hardly smells at all. They must clean in here often.

She noticed a small table in one corner that held a large pitcher of clean water, a cake of pale yellow soap and a white ceramic bowl for washing one's hands. A large wooden box against the opposite wall held a substantial quantity of clean, fresh-smelling cloth that had been cut into pieces just the right size for various uses.

Her stomach twinged, reminding her of her recent discomfort, and she sighed and settled down to do her business over the long toilet-tube in the stone floor.

Her stomach had been bothering her for the last couple of days. It didn't feel as if she was ill, however. I think it's stress more than anything. Of course, when it's that time of the month you have to expect to feel a little off…but I can't stand having Zelgadis angry with me! I've been upset for days now; it's no wonder I'm not feeling well.

She bowed her head, musing, I don't know what to do. I've been trying to act mature, the way he likes, but it's really hard sometimes. It's helped me to keep from crying, though… I don't want the last impression he has of me to be of a wailing child-he'd avoid Seyrune for the rest of his life and I'd never see him again; I know it. And maybe, if I try really hard, maybe…maybe…he'll forgive me and use the Oracle's cure and let me marry him and make him a prince of Seyrune.

As the young girl crouched miserably in the darkened chamber, tears quivered in the corners of her big blue eyes. The young princess' bright candle of optimism had ebbed drastically as the days passed and Zelgadis showed no signs of the warmth he had shared with her during their search for their missing friends. What if he never opens up to me again? I couldn't bear it…

"Oh, Zelgadis…" she whimpered aloud, but instantly bit her lip, holding it all in, fighting to keep her last shred of hope. I can't give up now. Not so close to realizing my dream… I have to be strong, for him. I have to prove I'm worthy. We're almost there… There must be some way, somehow…

For one brief, wild moment the girl contemplated seducing the chimera, of tempting him with her body-not this week, of course-even though she didn't have much understanding of exactly how a girl went about doing such a thing. But he wouldn't respond, would he? He'd think I was brazen, and he'd scorn me…wouldn't he? Her face became solemn. And if he did respond…what kind of man would that make him?

A piece of her dark hair slid over her eye, distracting her. She stuck out her lower lip and blew upward, thinking, I need a trim…but maybe I'll wait until after my wedding. My hair's nearly long enough now to put up… I wonder if Zelgadis likes long hair?

She sighed and cleaned herself up, flushing the used cloths and other refuse down the tube, watching the brief torrent of water from the tank in the room above sweep it all away. Not many places have flush water-closets-this inn must be very well-to-do. I wish I could flush all my problems away so easily.

Amelia poured some water from the pitcher into the deep ceramic bowl and reached for the yellow soap. She was pleased to discover that it was flower-scented; here and there she could see bright bits of flower petals in it-magenta, deep bluish-purple and dark yellow. As she washed her hands she squared her shoulders and took a deep breath, resolving, Well, one thing's for sure-I don't want to do anything that might make Zelgadis uncomfortable. Even if I end up having to marry Kerrin, I want him to feel like he can visit me any time, to talk or play music or anything he wants…

Now I'd better hurry, or my food will be gone. She exited the water-closet, which was attached to the side wall of the well-kept stable that Sunshine would be staying in that night, and jogged toward the inn's back door. She paused as she entered, letting her eyes get used to the darker light indoors, which wasn't really dark at all but it seemed so after the bright sunshine outside. As she stood there she became aware of a rather loud conversation at a nearby table.

"So the wench says ta me," the crude male voice lifted into a mocking falsetto, "'Please, sir, I've got a husband and three children.'"

Another man laughed cruelly at this remark. The first man's voice continued, "So I smack her good for talking back ta me and then I says ta her, 'good, then mebbe you can do it right' and I put it to her hard, and she screamed and-"

"Oh!" Amelia stood there in shock, her eyes wide as she listened to the man's admission of guilt to one of the most barbaric crimes she knew of. "You-you-villain!" she sputtered, feeling the familiar blaze of justice ignite inside her, making her feel strong in a way she hadn't felt in a long time.

Her skin glowed with the light of her aura. Once again she was a fierce warrior of justice! Conqueror of demons, mazoku, even Dark Lords-no one could stand against her, especially not the two unimposing human men who sat at the wooden table before her.

She marched over to the table, which was the only one in the small area near the door, out of sight of most of the rest of the room, and stood glaring down at the two disreputable men sitting across from each other. "You…loathsome, despicable, vile piece of-filth!" she stormed at the man who'd confessed, suddenly aware of how few swear words she knew. "How could you do such a thing!"

Instead of cowering in fear as she expected, the men grinned up at her, their eyes traveling over her body in a way that made her feel contaminated. They'd been in the midst of playing cards, and now the second man set his cards face-down on the table, and sneered at her with nasty brown teeth.

"That's nuthin'," he jeered, "Last week I got me a sweet young thing, just 'bout to be married to a wealthy businessman. Fer some reason he decided not to marry her-don't know why-I taught her the facts of life good and proper! Haw haw haw!"

The other man guffawed crudely along with his companion. Amelia clenched her fists in front of her, almost literally seeing red from the force of her fury. Never had she been so livid! Later she would realize that her almost senseless rage was probably the same kind of frenzy that seemed to govern Lina during those times that the redhead lost complete control of her temper. It made her reckless-and, at times, fatally unobservant.

Amelia drew in a deep breath and prepared to rant furiously at the men before pummeling them senseless, since she couldn't use her magic. She didn't notice one man's hand slide under the table.

"For your crimes against innocent gi-urgk-" she choked, feeling a sudden hot, searing pain in her belly. Her gaze snapped down to see a fist pressed up against the front of her stomach, with the wooden hilt of a knife emerging from her tunic.

Author's Note: Gomen for leaving it at such an awful cliffhanger! ^_^ This chapter is a long one as it is!

Now, I know what it looked like, but Gourry's not really the type to get jealous, especially about Xellos, though Lina may suspect it. But after everything that's happened to Lina over the last few weeks, he's become more protective of her than ever.

For those of you who've lost track of time, (including me-I had to make up a timetable) it's now approximately a week and a half 'till Amelia's birthday/wedding. We're in the final stretch!

Slayers Otaku-Girl asks (about chapter 58) : 'The last part where Shiran growled, was she mad at Lina or something?'

** She knew that Lina was threatening Zel. Even though the dragonwolf has been ordered to protect Lina in the past ( 'watch the sheep' ), Shiran still considers Zel and Amelia to be the most important ones, so she was warning Lina not to attack Zel. Even if Shiran had to attack her former 'sheep'.

WC's-(water-closets)-I'm guessing that the Slayers' world has semi-modern bathroom facilities. Some places would have smelly privies/outhouses, but some places-especially businesses like inns-could have flush toilets if you have a big container of water set above them-gravity does the job. No electricity needed. Of course in Japan many of the toilets would be those long tube-shaped things that you squat over, instead of sitting on a round porcelain oval.

*Thanks for the names you've suggested so far for the flying craft! There have been some good ones…but so far none have been quite right. I realized over the past week that I would really like the name to reflect both the idea of flying on the wind, AND the subtheme of my fic-music. I like my names to have many layers of meanings, I guess. But bird names, for some reason, don't appeal to me, even though birds sing…but birds are alive. The craft-ship is more like a tool, something humans use to do or create.

*Oh, by the way, I'm using my computer to make a personal wall calendar for 2004. I'd really like some fanpics to put on it, to be seen and admired by me and my friends. I would especially love to see pictures (or better yet, wallpapers with lavender orchids in the background!) of Shiran, since she is my own personal creation, not something I borrowed from Slayers. I like to show off, I guess… "See that calendar? That's a picture of a character in a story I'm writing, that someone liked enough to send me this awesome picture… Her name is Shiran. Isn't she lovely?" I have a few fanpics so far, but not enough to do a whole calendar, so if anyone out there has some free time and is good at drawing, onegai-and arigatou! ^_^

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