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.
Many thanks to my friends Shell Presto and Marie!
PG-13 for swearing, and descriptions of bodily functions, rape and gory /violence.
Chapter Sixty: A Princess in Peril
There was no blood.
Amelia stared at the hand holding the knife in her stomach, and then slowly turned her gaze up toward the hand's owner. The pudgy, harmless-looking young man sneered at her in a way that made her more indignant than fearful.
"You-beast-" she hissed, her breath coming shallowly from the pain. The man frowned at her as if disgruntled that she did not beg for mercy, and viciously jerked his knife out of her body, ruthlessly twisting his knife hand as he did so to open a wide gash in her stomach. Amelia staggered back against the wall, crying out as white agony lanced through her belly, though her shriek was faint and breathless, and went unheard in the riotous din of the crowd.
Instinctively she put a protective hand over the raw wound, feeling the sickeningly familiar sensation of hot, sticky blood coming out of her. She stood on shaky legs, gasping shallowly for several seconds, trying to block out the pain so she could cast a healing spell.
To her surprise, instead of continuing their attack, the men ignored her, as if she had become of no consequence. They began to gather their cards together from among the dirty dishes on the table. The fat one who had stabbed Amelia made a scornful 'tch' sound and sneered, "That'll teach 'er, uppity wench. Stupid sluts don't know their place."
The other man laughed contemptuously, "You got that right, brother! We should go after the one that came in with this one an' teach her, too."
"What other one?"
"This little redhead, came in with two guys who looked like swordsmen."
The fat man showed the first signs of fear, sitting up straight in his seat, which faced away from the front door of the inn. "Swordsmen? Why din't ya tell me that earlier?"
"Dunno. I was mostly lookin' at the redhead... "
"Shit! Let's get outta here before they come lookin' for her-"
Amelia closed her eyes, only dimly aware of the men as they scrambled from their seats and rushed through the back door toward the stable, feeling the long slippery-hot gash in her stomach leaking blood all over her hand and saturating her tunic. She focused her attention inward, trying, straining to use her newly-enhanced healing powers to close the terrible jagged rip in her belly, clenching her teeth in the effort not to scream from the searing agony.
The pain eased, and she relaxed, though she was aware of some dizziness, probably from the blood loss. She kept her eyes closed for now, knowing that if she opened them black spots would be swimming in front of them. She could hear the faint sounds of hoof beats outside, as the men made their escape, and smiled grimly. They won't get away that easily. She brought her free hand up to wipe her sweaty face and let the other hand drop away from where the wound had been. It was still sticky, but it did not occur to her to wonder why for several seconds.
Suddenly, over the crowd's noise, she heard a terrifying animal howl. Amelia's eyes popped open, staring down for one horrific instant at the ghastly bright red mess all over her tunic before her vision went dark. She didn't realize she was falling until her knees painfully hit the floor, and her arms reflexively went out to keep from her falling the rest of the way. Then her stomach began to burn anew, and as she instinctively put up one hand to cover it, she did fall, landing heavily on one shoulder and cracking her head with a sickening thud on the wooden floor.
Simultaneously her ward bracelet lit up with a glow so dazzling that she could see it even through her closed eyelids. No, she whimpered in her mind as she felt a new rush of hot blood pouring into her hand, I don't want this... I don't... want to bother... Zelgadis...
Zelgadis had heard Amelia's raised voice for a few seconds over the crowd's din, but had
recognized the tone-her justice-lecturing mode-and had tuned her out. For a few moments everything was normal, but then the chimera had begun to glance around tensely, sensing danger, but seeing nothing to account for it.
Then, just as he lowered his mask to eat the food in front of him, Shiran had howled-an ear-splitting, fearsome howl of rage/fear/anguish, and had burst out from under the table to bound across the room. There was instant chaos. People everywhere screamed as the huge lavender beast with glowing green eyes and fierce white fangs rammed whoever was misfortunate enough to get in her way.
"What's going on?" Lina yelled above the crowd's hysteria.
Zelgadis was on his feet about to follow Shiran when the ward bracelet on his canteen burst into a brilliant white light. Waves of pain/fear/distress cascaded over him, causing him to stagger momentarily, though he felt no actual physical pain. He knew the source instantly. "Amelia!" he whispered hoarsely, and took off after the dragonwolf, his hood flying back off of his hair.
A table was in his way. Without hesitation he leaped up onto it, scattering dishes and food all over the place, causing the table's occupants to shriek in terror as he continued on, bounding from table to table, leaving a trail of ruined food and broken crockery in his wake. He was dimly aware that his friends were following him, but the overwhelming terror that something had happened to Amelia drove him to utilize his full chimeric powers in his effort to reach her in time, leaving his two companions behind. Not again! Not again! his heart shrieked within him.
It took him mere seconds to blaze a path from one end of the long room to the other, but by the time he turned the corner his heart was in his mouth, his eyes wide with fear. That fear was dreadfully justified at the horrific sight which greeted him. "Amelia!" he cried out, his agonized voice a terrible thing to hear.
The young girl was alone, curled into a ball on the floor, her eyes closed, a pool of redness rapidly spreading under her. Her skin was chalk-white, her lips and fingernails blue from shock and blood loss. Her ward bracelet was blasting white light like the beacon it was.
A frantic Shiran was trying to get at the wound, her tongue making licking motions as she whined and thrust her large head at the girl's stomach. She only succeeded in smearing vivid red blood all over her lavender fur.
Zelgadis caught Amelia's cry of pain from Shiran's frenetic ministrations. "Back, Shiran!" he bellowed, dropping to his knees beside the girl and shoving the animal's huge head aside. He grasped the girl carefully by her shoulders and lifted her onto his lap on her back. She was as
limp as a rag doll, with her head lolling to the side and her arms trailing on the floor. The sharp metallic stench of blood flooded his nose as he frantically scanned her red-soaked midsection, searching for the source of the blood, and spotted the long jagged slash in her tunic on the right side, just below her ribs.
Amelia's eyes fluttered open. "Zel-gadis," she whispered, her breathing coming in ragged, painful gasps. In the harsh white light from the ward bracelets, her face looked as ghastly-pale as death.
NO! She can't die on me again. She can't! The chimera held his right hand just above the terrible wound while continuing to support her shoulders with his left arm. "Don't try to talk, Amelia," he said fervently, his hands already glowing with white healing light.
She shocked him by feebly trying to push his hand away. "Don't-worry about me. I'll-be okay. I'll-do it. You don't-have to-"
What is she doing? he thought in horror. He ignored her weakly shoving hands and kept the spell aimed at her injured stomach, putting forth all his effort, bringing a sheen of rare sweat to his stone forehead as he willed that horrible red stain to vanish.
Slowly, it did. First Amelia's ragged breathing began to smooth out, and her body grew less tense as her pain eased. By the time he realized that Lina's hands were also hovering over Amelia's body, the sickening red stain on her pale cream tunic was receding, as the blood was absorbed back into her body. Gourry was nearby, his arms around the furry neck of the struggling dragonwolf to keep her out of the way.
Gradually, the glaring lights from the ward bracelets faded out. Zelgadis and Lina continued to bathe the princess in healing magic until every last trace of red was gone from her tunic, and her face began to resume its normal coloring.
Lina checked the girl's stomach through the tear in the tunic to make sure the wound was completely gone, then sat back on her heels as Zelgadis continued to hold the young princess, waiting for her to regain consciousness. "Thank the gods," she breathed, putting a hand over her heart, which was still racing from the sudden fright of nearly losing the girl she thought of as a sister. What's going on? Who did this, and why? Are they still here? ... Maybe we'd better get Amelia away from here-she doesn't look like she'll be waking up anytime soon.
She suddenly became aware of the ring of people around them, whose faces were uniformly full of concern and curiosity. "Zel," she said abruptly, causing him to notice the crowd for the first time, "Why don't I take her up to our room so she can rest for a while?"
He looked her in the eye, and nodded, understanding immediately that Lina wanted to move Amelia someplace more easily guarded while she recovered. Also, while theoretically healed, a person who had had a very serious injury needed rest and some nourishing food to recuperate from the substantial energy loss, since the spell worked by tapping into the wounded person's own natural healing process, speeding it up, forcing the wound(s) to heal before their injur(ies) could kill them.
Suddenly the midnight-haired girl stirred, whimpering, "Zelgadis?" in a tiny voice.
"I'm here," he murmured reassuringly, expecting to see her beautiful blue gaze upon him once more. Instead, the young girl lay limply in his arm-she did not move or speak or even open her eyes, and her expression slowly became forlorn, anguished, distressed.
Her friends exchanged alarmed glances. "Amelia, are you all right? Are you still in pain?" Lina demanded anxiously.
"What's wrong, Amelia?" Zelgadis felt a jolt of apprehension at her atypical apathy.
Amelia opened her eyes as if spurred by the fear in his voice and looked up at him for a brief, heart-rending moment, the blue of her eyes shadowed by tears, and then turned her head toward the wall, refusing to meet his gaze. "I'm... fine." Her voice sounded hollow, distant. "I'm sorry... "
Now all three of her friends exchanged bewildered glances. Lina scowled. "What happened, Amelia? Who did this to you?"
Just then Gourry released Shiran, who immediately approached Amelia and snuffled her newly-healed belly-rather zealously-causing the girl to twitch in Zelgadis' arms as the animal's nose tickled her, an involuntary smile brightening her face.
Then Shiran stuck her face into Amelia's and licked it vigorously, as if to show her gladness and relief that her bonded one was all right. Amelia's hand came up to brush at her face, pushing the dragonwolf's slender muzzle aside. "Ptah!" she commented, sticking her tongue out. Then she reached up and took Shiran's furry, bloodstained head in her hands. "Oh, Shirry... It's all right. I'm okay." Zelgadis was very glad to hear the familiar note of affectionate cheerfulness in her tone.
"So what happened to you? Who attacked you? Was it a mazoku?" Lina shot the questions rapid-fire at the young princess. "Xellos was just here... " she added, her ruby eyes narrowing suspiciously.
Amelia caught the look. "Oh, no, it wasn't him! It was... well... two men. They're gone now... " she mumbled, a band of pink appearing over her nose.
"Men? Humans?" Lina looked surprised.
"I know." Amelia looked down and away from Zelgadis, who was still holding her in his lap. Her wound was fully healed, her clothes free of blood, but somehow after that scare he was unwilling to let go of her. One of his arms still supported her upper back, having automatically adjusting to her squirming upright when Shiran had tickled her.
"I should have kept my guard up. I was a fool to think that normal humans weren't dangerous." Her voice was filled with something only Zelgadis had ever heard from her before-self-recrimination, and he knew that if he could see her face, if would be filled with shame.
"And even more of a fool to forget that I can't use magic today, because of-" She broke off, her face going from pink to a deep red, including her ears, which were visible to the chimera through her hair. Zelgadis suddenly realized what she meant, and knew his own face was betraying him with its blush. They avoided looking at each other, as Lina also averted her eyes and Gourry looked from one to another of his friends, bewildered.
After a few moments Amelia began to stand up, but as she did so she staggered sideways. Zelgadis was behind her instantly, catching her gently just before she banged into the wall, with one arm around her upper back and the other lightly gripping her forearm to stabilize her. "Hold on, Amelia," he said in concern, "You're still weak. You've lost a lot of blood." He avoided looking at the sticky pool of drying blood nearby.
"No, I'm fine," the girl protested, quivering on shaky legs. "Just a little dizzy-it'll go away in a minute."
Lina frowned at the two of them for a moment, then spoke up. "Look, Amelia, we don't have time to wait for you to recover-if we want to get these guys, we've gotta move now. I think you should stay here and rest while we go hunt them down."
Zelgadis met Lina's eyes for a brief moment, and he knew she could see the overwhelming indecision in his. His fury at those who had hurt Amelia had been pushed to the back of his mind while she was healing, but now that she was better he wanted nothing more than to find those man and take out his growing urge for vengeance upon their deserving hides.
And yet-she looks so weak, so shaky. What if something happens while I'm gone? Suppose those men come back?
"Zel, why don't you stay here with Amelia in case she needs anything?" Zelgadis caught the ominous glitter in her ruby eyes, and recognized Lina's trademark mayhem lurking within. Her voice deepened as a smirk of pure menace appeared on her face. "Gourry and I can take care of those-bastards. I promise you-they won't die quickly."
The chimera nodded, swallowing. He recalled that this small girl was known as the Bandit Killer. Lina can be one of the most brutal people I've ever known. But in this case, they deserve it. To carve up an innocent girl...
His own face hardened and he nodded curtly. "Fine. You take care of them. Take Shiran with you-she'll be able to trail them by scent."
Amelia pushed Zelgadis' arms away with a shaky hand. "Come on, everyone, I'm okay, really. I-"
"No!" both Lina and Zelgadis retorted, making her wince. She hesitated, then heaved a big sign of resignation, rolling her eyes but otherwise giving in gracefully. It wasn't often that Zelgadis took Lina's side, but he was mollified by the princess' acquiescence, as well as Lina's unexpected support.
Gourry spoke up. "What did they look like, so we don't get the wrong ones by mistake?" The grim set of his face left no doubt that this fun-loving young man had once made his living as a hired mercenary. Amelia looked up at him with wide eyes, looking troubled by his transformation, then grudgingly gave a description of the two men.
"We know those two," said a woman in a blue dress who was standing at the edge of the crowd, at the border where the little room opened up into the main room.
Another woman in brown added, "They've been preying on women in the area for months now."
They must be the bandits we were warned about before we arrived, Zelgadis realized, and judging from the look on Lina's face, she'd caught the reference as well.
A man stepped forward. "Not just women-they've been robbing other travelers, too. My cousin got beat up real bad. But they always say it wasn't them, and nobody's been able to prove it. They usually don't leave witnesses, and them that do survive is too scared to come back here for a trial."
Zelgadis almost asked why none of the women ever came forward, since the statement of the woman in brown seemed to suggest that the criminals left them alive. Of course-who wants to admit to being violated? Many men would turn away a woman known to have been so 'despoiled', even if it wasn't her choice.
Then a shocking thought hit him. Amelia! Did they-did they try to-and when she fought them they- His hands clenched into stone fists and he almost changed his mind about going after them himself, but a glance at Amelia cooled his temper. Her righteous spirit was there in her flashing eyes, but her face was still far too pale for his comfort-she looked as if she were fighting to keep from passing out. He watched her take a deep breath.
"They're guilty, all right!" Amelia said in her ringing tone of justice, "I heard them confessing to their awful assaults on women, and laughing about it! And when I confronted them, they tried to kill me! They shall pay for their evil deeds or my name's not Amelia wil-"
"Okay, good! There's your witness, everyone." Lina stood up to her full diminutive height, and Gourry took his place next to her, towering over her, yet somehow the differences in their heights were not incongruous. Lina's personality always makes her seem like a giant, Zelgadis thought wryly, used to her dramatic posing.
"Gourry and I are going to go after them. Nobody attacks one of my friends and gets away with it!" Lina declared vehemently, practically radiating righteous violence.
Most of the crowd scuttled back a few steps, intimidated by her attitude, but one little old lady spoke up. "Be careful, m'dear."
Lina flashed her a bright smile and turned to the princess and the chimera. "Okay, how do we get Shiran to track them?"
"Have her sniff the table and chairs and tell her to... hunt the... sheep?" Zelgadis guessed, turning to look at Amelia, who suddenly grinned at him and tried to hide it behind her hand. He stared at her in puzzlement for a moment before he caught his unintentional reference, and his own lips twitched in amusement.
Lina looked from one to the other. "What?"
"Private joke," Zelgadis kept his face straight. I'm not about to tell her that we had Shiran track them by calling them 'sheep'.
Lina looked back and forth between them with a slight frown, one fine orange eyebrow quirked as if she didn't believe Zelgadis was capable of making jokes, but thankfully she let the subject drop-for now, anyway.
Amelia smile faded. "I think Shiran would understand better if we called them... wolves." Her voice was subdued now, and Zelgadis understood why. Men who prey upon others...
Shiran was duly instructed to 'hunt the wolves' and given the opportunity to smell the bandits' scents. She growled, a deep, throbbing sound of menace which caused the crowd to back away from her, baring her fangs as her hackles raised into lavender-tipped fur spikes.
"Looks like she understands her job," Lina commented with satisfaction. "Now if she'll just-hey!"
The huge dragonwolf had leaped out through the still-open back door, following the scents to the stable. "Come on, Gourry, shake a leg!" Lina dashed after Shiran, and Gourry hastily followed.
"Hey, Lina, wait for me!"
No one stirred until the commotion in the yard died away. Most of the crowd began drifting back to their tables, some already calling for fresh drinks and food. The waiters and waitresses scurried around, cleaning up the mess Zelgadis and the others had left in their wake in their rush to save their friend.
Two women stayed-the one in blue, and the little old lady who had told Lina to take care. The old woman smiled somewhat grimly at Amelia. "I hope your friends catch them-my daughter got had by them a while back and hasn't been the same since. They're vicious, those men. "
Amelia smiled back reassuringly. "Don't worry, Miss Lina is ah... what you might call a professional bandit hunter. She knows how to take care of herself."
"Lina Inverse? The Bandit-Killer?" Zelgadis noted how the women's faces brightened, instead of becoming fearful or suspicious.
"The very same." Amelia nodded.
"Bless her!" The old woman took Amelia's hands in hers, her old eyes shining. "And thank you all for coming here to rid us of this terrible scourge!"
As she hobbled away, the other woman stepped forward, her manner deferential but exuding deep gratefulness. "Excuse me... My name is Momoko."
Zelgadis gave her a second look, noting the smile lines around her mouth, the thick black hair worn piled on top of her head, and her beautiful dark blue eyes. I wonder if Amelia will look like her when she gets older.
Momoko continued, "My husband and I own this inn. We would be honored if you would accept a room for the night, and we will make sure to save a room for your valorous friends. Our finest rooms-no charge."
Zelgadis traded glances with Amelia. "Oh, you don't have to," Amelia protested weakly.
"I didn't do anything... "
Except take a knife in the gut. Zelgadis' face hardened. "Amelia, you should get some more rest. Lina and Gourry could be gone for hours, so we might as well settle in for the night."
"But... oh, all right. But I want to take care of Sunshine at least; put her in the stable... " As she slowly made her way across the room, Zelgadis noticed how quickly she had given in; it wasn't like her. He also observed how people made way for her, as if she were someone important. It was like, and yet unlike, the way some people avoided him, with their suspicious glances, quickly averted.
Now that he thought about it, this particular crowd didn't seem to have any trouble accepting his appearance, thankfully. He recalled that it had been similar back in the old days when he'd traveled with Lina's party-people had tended to treat him as just one of the group. There was just something about being part of a group-the acceptance his friends extended toward him was somehow reassuring to other people. Or maybe he had simply felt less self-conscious, being only one of many. And after seeing the way his friends ate, some people had actually seen him as the most normal one, sometimes...
Amelia's steps slowed further, and she began to totter. Zelgadis watched in concern as she bumped into the edge of a heavy wooden table and lurched forward. In three quick bounds he had caught up to her and scooped her into his arms. She protested weakly, "Mister Zelgadis!"
"I'll take care of Sunshine, Amelia. I want to put you to bed before you fall."
"Don't worry about your horse, miss." A boy stood up from his seat. "I'll take care of her for you. She's the palomino, right? The one tied out front?"
"Yes. Thank you... " The girl's eyes were closing already. It was obviously taking what little energy she had left to respond to what was going on around her.
Zelgadis turned to the hostess with Amelia carefully cradled in his arms, his arms under her back and knees, and gave the woman a questioning glance. Momoko nodded. "Come, I will lead you to your room, and then bring up some good, nourishing beef broth. It will give you strength."
"Oh, that's all right-you don't have to go to all that trouble-" Amelia's voice trailed off as her stomach growled warningly.
"Your stomach says otherwise, Amelia," Zelgadis commented, his voice deepening in amusement, trying to hide the smile that wanted to emerge. She gave him a sour look, but did not protest again.
The stone man became pensive. It's lucky she hadn't eaten anything, the way things turned out. She had a hard enough time healing at it was; imagine if she'd had a stomach full of food... He closed his eyes as if to block such an awful picture from his mind, having seen just such a thing happen to one of his men in the past. The healing spell they'd tried hadn't worked right, and the man's agony was so great that Zelgadis had felt it necessary to put the man out of his misery.
Amelia apparently resigned herself to being carried, as she relaxed against him, placing one of her hands against his chest and resting her cheek against his hard shoulder. He glanced down at her tenderly. It's at times like these that I want to protect her so much... She tries, but she simply lacks the kind of suspicion one needs to survive in this world. But all the same, I hope she never loses it. If she did, she wouldn't be the Amelia I know and l-
He blinked and made as if to shake his head to get rid of such a treacherous thought, but he didn't want to disturb the girl in his arms and perhaps scratch her with his hair, so he desisted.
Author's Notes: Before anybody says anything, Amelia can't use her powers during her time of the month, any more than Lina can. But Lina can cast light spells during that time, and so I figure with Amelia's enhanced white magic she could at least do something about the pain, though healing the wound herself is beyond her, for now. The sudden shock of being stabbed-not just the physical pain but the utterly casual way the man did it-made her forget that her powers were temporarily out of action and instinctively try to heal herself.
Normally being stabbed isn't too serious for a magic user anyway, since magic readily closes such wounds, as long as the person isn't unconscious or has something else preventing the use of magic, which is why Amelia wasn't really afraid at first. The ward bracelet reacts both to fear and to life-threatening peril, which took a couple of minutes to become acute.
Of course, Shiran knew Amelia was in trouble because she smelled the blood, which also took a minute or so to filter through the long, crowded room to her nose.
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