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!
Note: Dais-pronounced day-iss
WC stands for water-closet (toilet)
PG-13 for mild language and lime-i-ness
Chapter Sixty-Five: The Flight of the Woodwind
"So how are we going to use this gem?" Gourry asked.
The group was sitting around one of the tables in the inn's big dining room. Amelia and Zelgadis had blushed when they first saw each other, remembering how they'd recently seen each other naked. Lina had commented on the chimera's new clothes, about which he had been quick to point out, "Amelia got them for me. They suit me, don't you think?"
Lina had looked at him in surprise for a few seconds, as if she was surprised that he was making sure that Amelia got the credit for his attractive new outfit. "Yeah-blue is definitely your color."
They were trying to decide the best way to use the flight-enhancing gem that Xellos had loaned them. "He suggested that we use some kind of craft," Lina remembered. "But we're in the middle of the mountains-are there any craft her big enough to hold four people, a horse and a dragonwolf?"
"I doubt it," said a man two tables away. "We ain't got any lakes hereabouts."
"You could have the village carpenter build you one," another man suggested. "He could probably do it in about a week."
"That's too long." Lina dismissed that idea with a sharp gesture. "We're late already."
"Well, the only thing big enough fer what you's talking about is... is... the town dais."
"The what?" Zelgadis asked.
"The dais-you know, where the mayor gives speeches. It's plenty big enough to hold all a' you. You could even add a coupla walls ta keep yer animals from fallin' off."
"Hey-that's perfect! I always knew I'd make it on stage!" Lina declared boastfully, grinning at her joke as the others groaned at her pun.
They got into a lively discussion about how to turn the town's center stage into a workable flying craft. Zelgadis was in favor of practicality. "We're going to be flying for a long time. From sunrise to sunset, if possible-we won't make any progress if we have to land every time somebody has to go."
"Privacy," Amelia mumbled, writing it down on a piece of paper that the hostess had given her.
"In that case, we're going to need a pitchfork to muck out Sunshine's area," Gourry piped up.
Lina wrinkled her nose but had Amelia add that to the list of demands. "We're going to need a lot of stuff, but we did them a favor, getting rid of those sickos."
"As long as we don't ask for money... " Amelia suggested tactfully. Lina scowled at her, then smiled.
"Of course not. We have your crest... as a matter of fact, if they give us any grief we'll just flash that and let them know they're providing aid to the future Queen of Seyrune."
The other three developed sweatdrops. Amelia's was the largest, for she had just remembered that Lina now knew about the crest that the princess had promised her father that she would hide from the red-haired big spender.
It took a lot of negotiating, (or in Lina's case, browbeating), but eventually the party of six acquired not only the large wooden platform, but a generous supply of food, hay, water, and the cooperation of all of the town's best carpenters.
Some hours later their temporary 'home' was complete, and the intrepid travelers were ready to depart. As Zelgadis prepared to board, Lina seized one blue-clad arm and held him back. "Wait a minute, Zel, we have to name it first."
Zelgadis looked annoyed. "Do we have to waste time on this?"
"Of course! A good name will bring us luck."
The chimera sighed, grumbling, "Fine. How about the Quest?"
"Too common," Lina said promptly. "I think we should call it the Sorcery Genius."
All three of her companions rolled their eyes. The petite sorceress looked at each of them and then said petulantly, "Well then, what would you pick?"
"The Port." Zelgadis looked around at the befuddled expressions. "You know, 'any port in a storm'... "
As they got the pun, there were groans of appreciation, but no one seemed to favor his name, so he added, "Or the Shield?"
Amelia said tentatively, "The... the Swan?"
"Swans are graceful. Does that look graceful to you?" Lina demanded.
"No," Zelgadis said bluntly. "The words 'unwieldy' and 'blocky' spring to mind."
"How about the Stone Avenger?" Amelia suggested.
"We want it to fly, not sink," Lina said scornfully.
The discussion threatened to take longer than the construction, but then Gourry, who had remained unusually quiet, said softly, "The Woodwind?"
All eyes turned to him. "What did you say?" Lina asked in surprise.
"The Woodwind. My old friends Thornrose and Stara Maijka once said if they ever had a boat, they'd name it the Woodwind. This thing's made of wood, and we want it to fly on the wind, right?"
They were all silent for several seconds, repeating the name under their breaths. "I like it," Lina declared. "It's descriptive, yet artistic, and, well... pretty. "
"I like it, too," Amelia added. "It makes me think of music."
Zelgadis nodded in agreement.
"Then I hereby designate this craft the Woodwind!" Lina shouted triumphantly, and leaped aboard. The others followed, somewhat less dramatically, but gladly.
Amelia, who had been off running a last-minute food errand, got Zelgadis to show her around the ship while Lina and her swordsman headed for the front section. The first thing the dark-haired princess did was inhale deeply, smiling. "Mmm, I love the smell of new wood, don't you?"
He looked a little surprised, but nodded, making a small sound of agreement.
The front and back ends of the ship were enclosed by sturdy wooden walls and partial roofs, like small sheds. The front looked as if someone had decided to build the shed with only three walls instead of four, one of them almost entirely a pane of glass, in front of which Lina was sitting.
"Wherever did you manage to get such a big piece of glass?" Amelia exclaimed, pleased. "I know how expensive glass like that is."
"A local shopkeeper had this in storage. Since glass is so expensive, nobody could afford to buy it, so Lina offered to 'take it off his hands'." The stone man cracked a smile. "He couldn't say no."
"Not if he wanted to live," Lina interject, looking smug.
"Ah... right." Amelia gave her friend a dubious glance, not sure if she was joking. "But it's wonderful-we can see out and not have to worry about the wind making our eyes all sore and watery."
The middle of the craft had no side walls, but a section of cloth made a partition between the different areas. "I see Miss Lina got the tailor to give her that material she wanted," Amelia commented with a wry grin.
The petite sorceress had set her sights on one of the most gaudy bolts of cloth that the princess had ever seen-bright shiny red, with enormous yellow stars scattered across it. It had been treated with oils to make it waterproof, to some extent, which would be useful when it rained. Then Lina had gotten the carpenters to nail two long thin pieces of wood between the roofs of the 'sheds' to connect them, and then she had fastened the cloth over the entire craft, as if she were making an enormous bed.
"It makes us look like a circus sideshow," Zelgadis gave Amelia with a sour look. "But at least it's a heavy, sturdy material. I suppose we can put up with it until we get to Seyrune. I hope you won't be too embarrassed to have people see you arrive in such a contraption."
The thought hadn't occurred to her, but then, she liked bright things too, if not quite as bright as those Lina preferred. "It's not that bad," she replied, trying to cheer him up.
More sheets of stiff, heavy material in various vivid-sometimes garish-colors had been fastened securely to the Woodwind's interior to separate the front of the ship from the small storage area just behind it, which was piled high with food, containers of water, and bundles of hay.
Amelia couldn't decide whether to be amused or awed. I think that tailor must have given Lina all the material no one else would buy. I can't believe the color combinations of some of these!
The back end was completely enclosed. It held Sunshine's large stall and a tiny room next door with a chamber pot for bathroom breaks for the humans. "This is nice," commented the young princess. "It's just big enough for Sunny to be able to walk around a little and still be small enough to make her feel secure. I was a little worried about her-sweet-natured or not, she's still a horse. When she felt the ground moving under her feet I was afraid she'd try to run away, and fall off."
"I know," Zelgadis answered. "That's why I made sure her stall is well-built."
She smiled up at him to show her appreciation and continued to look around at the rest of the odd structure.
Finally, Zelgadis showed her how the overhead piece of cloth could be removed. "See," Zelgadis pointed out, "This way we can watch for dragons and other threats from the air."
"How clever!" Amelia beamed. "I like it. It's unusual-looking, but it's just what we need." Sort of like our own little house, she thought with unexpected tenderness, giving Zelgadis a fond glance.
He raised his stony eyebrows in mild puzzlement at her expression, but did not respond as Lina stuck her head out through the curtain. Gourry's head emerged just above hers as she said, "Okay, people, so let's get moving. I'll take the first shift-the rest of you get the animals comfortable and make me-I mean, us-something to eat."
Already giving orders, Amelia thought, but shrugged, not caring who used the gem first. "Mister Zelgadis, what do you want to do?"
He hesitated. "If you don't mind, I'll stick close to Lina for a while. I want to see how this gem operates."
"I'll fix up Sunshine's stall," Gourry volunteered, heading for the back of the craft.
Amelia held back a smile, knowing that the blonde swordsman probably wanted to be in the security of the mare's stall. He's never been comfortable with flying of any kind. It must be so awful not to be able to do it. "I'll make dinner," she said aloud.
It had been decided that they couldn't risk an open fire in such a craft, so most of their food was dried or otherwise nonspoilable, which made for easy, if not succulent, meals. Hmm, we do have tons of jars of condiments and jams, and fresh fruit... I wonder what Zelgadis would like?
She decided to hold off on her meal preparations for a few minutes to watch as Lina settled herself in front of the huge window. The red-haired sorceress hung the beautiful faceted blue gem around her neck on a silver chain.
"Are you sure you know how to make it work?" Zelgadis asked.
"Sure. I tried it out yesterday while we were out after those... those... " Lina sounded as if she couldn't choose a word horrible enough to describe the two men who'd seriously wounded Amelia and had confessed to brutally violating several other women.
"Villains?" Amelia offered.
Lina glanced at her. "Yeah. I used the gem to fly around looking for them, and boy, was it ever easy. I went up really high, and even had Gourry hug me-I mean hold onto me to see if his weight made any difference, and it didn't." She was quiet for a moment, then added offhandedly, "Then Shiran caught up to them while they were under some trees, and we heard the screams-"
"What?" Lina stopped talking as Amelia gave her a stricken look, then turned away. No one told me it was Shiran. The princess looked at the great beast, who was in her accustomed place at the princess' side, and noticed anew the dragonwolf's glowing emerald eyes, her huge, powerful body and her razor-sharp fangs.
"Sorry," Lina said apologetically. "They really did deserve it, though... "
"I know," Amelia said, disturbed, trying not to imagine a scene with two humans being torn into bloody shreds by her beloved friend.
Zelgadis glanced at Lina, then faced Amelia. He hesitated, then stepped forward to lay a gentle hand on the small girl's shoulder, his face concerned. "Shiran was doing exactly what she was supposed to be doing, what she was bred to do-protect. Not only you, but all the people those men would have attacked in the future. It was... justice."
Amelia looked up at him, surprised to hear her favorite word come out of his mouth, and he gave her a smile. Suddenly they were all smiling, and Amelia felt warm all over. He's starting to unbend a little, she thought, and was glad.
Their first few days of travel were easy. The gem made flying so effortless that one person could use it for at least half a day before becoming too tired. After the first day or so, both Sunshine and Shiran had grown used to the constant background sound of rushing air and the gentle tilting of the floor, and spent their days drowsing peacefully.
Fortunately they encountered no dragons, but several times they were forced to make emergency stops during sudden rain squalls. The window became impossible to see through once it became coated with thousands of tiny water droplets, even when each non-pilot cast light spells ahead of them.
That idea worked, somewhat, but it was Zelgadis who soon realized the danger they were in. "Put out those lights. Not only are we flying blind, but those spells are like beacons saying, 'Here we are! Come eat us!'"
Soon they all fell into a routine. Every morning they were up with the dawn. After a lengthy breakfast they lifted off, flying over lakes and rivers, mountains and chasms and all manner of things that would have balked them if they'd attempted to bring a horse along.
They stayed airborne for most of the day, landing a couple of hours before sunset to fish and look for extra food to supplement what they'd been given. Amelia rode Sunshine as she searched, to give the mare a chance to work off some energy, while Shiran generally chose to accompany Zelgadis.
After a bit of squabbling from Lina, who found the task of being a pilot rather boring, even though she relished the feeling of having total power over the ship, Zelgadis and Amelia had put their heads together to work out a balanced schedule of work shifts of approximately four hours per person.
Lina watched the two of them sitting together, equably discussing work rotations, and shook her head. Look at them. I could never do that for a living, managing others... I'd get so restless that I'd be bouncing off the walls in no time.
For the first time in a long while, the petite sorceress noticed the contrasts: the chimera's shiny silver-blue hair opposite the princess' shining black tresses, her youthful cuteness contrasting with his strange features-somehow he managed to look both beautiful and ugly. I think it's because you can see what a gorgeous man he used to be, and that makes it even more horrible, to see such good looks warped. But Amelia... only sees his beauty. I feel sorry for her... and yet, there are times when I catch a glimpse of what she must see, and I'm envious.
He'd be such a help to her, if he were to marry her-gods, why doesn't he do something! Does he want to lose her? What is he waiting for?
Later, Lina was taking her turn as pilot while Gourry was napping and the princess and the chimera were in the back, grooming the animals. It wasn't very bright in the mare's stall, since the only light came from around the edges of the curtains on the sides of the ship and those that separated the supply area from the front room, but both of them enjoyed the feeling of privacy.
The little room smelled, naturally enough, like a stable, though between all of them they kept the area free of horse-pies, shoveling them up almost as soon as the mare deposited them and emptying the bucket over the side of the ship.
Amelia always checked to see if there was anyone below, although if they were over a forest she could only pray that no one would receive a most unpleasant shower!
"I haven't brushed a horse in years," Zelgadis commented, smiling as he carefully ran the brush through the golden mare's white mane. "I hope I'm not hurting her. I can't tell if I'm using the brush too hard or not."
"Watch to see if her skin ripples," Amelia suggested from where she was kneeling on the floor next to a reclining Shiran. She was using a smaller brush on the dragonwolf's lavender fur, and the animal seemed to enjoy it, closing her eyes in bliss.
They continued at their tasks for a while, until Amelia said suddenly, "Those men were really beasts."
Startled, Zelgadis looked up to see her sitting in the hay, staring off into space, her brush unmoving against Shiran's side. He knew at once that she was referring to the two men who'd attacked her at the inn.
She continued, "It's not even that they were willing to kill me... I think what bothers me the most is how they treated me... like an insect, something to be ignored, as if I were of no account-just because I'm female."
Zelgadis nodded somberly. "Some men believe strength is superiority."
"I know that." He watched her free hand clench into a fist. "But it was the first time anyone has ever really treated me like that. It was awful, like they were just swatting a mosquito... like I wasn't even a real person to them."
He could see how much this upset her, and tried to think of something to say that would make her feel better. "I understand. Sometimes people think the same of me."
"Oh!" Suddenly she was looking up at him with wide blue eyes. "I'm sorry! I didn't mean to say it like that!"
He blinked, puzzled, then understood. "That's all right-you didn't hurt my feelings. I just wanted you to know you're not alone."
"Ohh... you're so sweet, Zelgadis." His eyes widened as her expression went from contrite to adoring, her hands clasped endearingly in front of her. "You always know what to say to make me feel better."
I do? Privately he doubted that, but he couldn't resist returning her smile with one of his own. He felt an impulse to go and kneel next to her in the hay and gather her into his arms, to console her from the obvious mental trauma that she was still suffering from, but something held him back. One of the others might come back here to use the WC-she might be too worried that someone would see us...
He was projecting his own qualms onto the girl, but in reality it was his own fear of intimacy that held him back. Vaguely he realized this, but the idea that someone would welcome his touch-not just for comfort, or during special moments, but any time, was still almost inconceivable. He was literally almost completely unable to initiate intimate contact, although he could respond warmly once Amelia took that first step.
The stone man looked down at the mare's golden coat, breaking eye contact with the princess, and sighed. I'm sure she wouldn't want me to, anyway.
This isn't much faster than walking, as far as speed goes, Zelgadis mused one day as he watched a large lake dragon bellow up at them from its watery habitat, but we can keep up a good, steady pace, and it definitely smoothes out a lot of the snags.
His eyes glazed over a bit as he recalled his last encounter with a water dragon. If not for Amelia's bracelet, Lina wouldn't have been able to locate me and I'd have drowned. He remembered the cold and the dark and the pain... and then an image of a curious rose-colored light appeared in his mind. I was dying, drifting, when this shining light appeared and I felt such love and devotion emanating from it... and now I know who it was.
He glanced at Amelia, who was playing a strategy game with Lina and Gourry, using pebbles as tokens. He smiled as she laughed, and brushed her raven-black hair out of her eyes with one delicate hand. Her hair is longer than I've ever seen it. I wonder if she's growing it out? he thought idly, returning his attention to the window before the ship started to drift off course.
He didn't remember consciously figuring out that Amelia was the source of the loving light; it had just seemed obvious, in retrospect. It's because of the connection the ward bracelets give us, I guess. That night at the inn when we slept in the same bed... I woke up the next morning from that dream I have every once in a while, of that beautiful rose-colored light, and when I opened my eyes and looked at Amelia I suddenly knew-and then I wondered why I'd never made the connection before...
Author's Note: Zelgadis is thawing at last! Hooray! He let Lina see a tender moment between himself and Amelia! (that whole 'justice' bit)
There aren't any factories or industrial manufacturing in the Slayers' world, is there? So I figure the glass-making process must be fairly time-consuming and thus expensive, like it was around the (last) turn of the century here in America. Technically it should be called a windshield or a windscreen, but that reminds me too much of a car, so I opted for calling it just a window.
Did you notice that the material Lina coveted is red and yellow-hers and Gourry's colors?
Got a question for you all-what kind of endearment (love-words) would Zelgadis call Amelia, if not by her name? I'm trying to decide.
Congratulations to Stara Maijka and Thornrose for the winning name of the craft! It's a lovely name, and it helps keep my fic's subtheme 'music' alive.
Honorable mentions in my Name That Craft contest:
Jamfase- Iwa-Kokoro-Stone-Heart in Japanese
Purr- Piece of Junk / Peace Junket
Sagara Sanosuke -Amelia: Shining Victory! (complete with The Finger painted on the side of the craft)
Knid -For the ship my suggestions are Zephyr (the West wind in Greek mythology, also a gentle breeze) or Zither, which is a stringed musical instrument.
methodic madness- Windsong or Aria - it's a type of music, sounds somewhat similar to "air", and the word itself makes me think of something airy or light.
About chapter 64:
Claudia22 Thanks for the info about the manga-I'm glad Amelia's been portrayed in a way similar to how I thought she would act. The Slayers' world is pseudo-Japanese, right? And public bathing is definitely more common there than in the US, even if mixed-sex bathing is rare these days.
I guess I surprised a few people in the last chapter, ne? I thought about it for a long time, about how Zel and Amelia would react in such a situation, and decided against having them flip out. While that would be in character with their old Slayers' personas, they've grown a little, changed a little; just enough so that instead of being angry and embarrassed, they were both able to see the humor in the situation and even manage to relax a little and let themselves look at the other person's body openly, with admiration, and let the other person see that admiration.
Of course, his would not have happened if Zelgadis hadn't had over forty chapters to assimilate the idea that Amelia loves him and wants to marry him! ^_^ People like him have to take their time making any truly major changes to their mind-set, get used to new ideas slowly, for their own peace of mind. Amelia didn't have as much of a problem-she trusts Zel wholeheartedly, and plus she knows how girls can get men's attention with their bodies-not that she'd have done it on purpose, but I'm sure she was pleased to know her body could make him react (in more ways than one! ^_~
It never occurred to me that Amelia might worry that Zel would think of her physically as a child, as jadz_i_ka mentioned, but that makes sense. Of course, we know that Zel is all-too-aware of Amelia's body, but she doesn't! ^_^
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