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 for mild language
Note: guiolin- A stringed instrument like a cross between a violin and a guitar. Pronounced gee-oh-linn, with the 'g' as in 'great'. Accent on the first syllable.
Philionel - fil-yon-ell
Sorrel - a coat pattern for a horse. Red with a light blonde mane and tail.
Tuupa rodent - TOO-pah - sort of a cross between a groundhog and a beaver, but larger.
Chapter Seventy-Seven: Female Comfort / Male Bonding / The Triumphant Return?
Zelgadis? Where are you?
A small sound of dismay escaped the young girl as she frantically glanced around, and then Amelia sighed in relief to see him crouching down next to the still-sleeping Sunshine, almost hidden in the wet knee-length grass. For a moment I thought he'd left us again. When he's in a bad mood he tends to want to go off on his own... but right now we can't afford to go looking for him. There's just no time.
She knew him well enough to know that he was still bothered by the loss of the Woodwind, and was silent as she tended to her friends' injuries, thinking about how to make him feel better.
"Thanks, Amelia," Gourry said, breaking her out of her reverie as he lifted one arm and moved it in a circle, testing it for soreness. "It feels fine now."
"Oh-good." She smiled and turned away to look for Zelgadis. The chimera had moved some distance away from the group, kneeling amongst the wet grass as he directed a wave of Recovery toward Shiran, who sat calmly in front of him. Sunshine was on her feet and seemed none the worse for her enforced sleep; at the moment she was standing over the stone man with her nose almost nudging his back, asking for attention.
What a cute picture they make! Amelia thought in delight, until she noticed the tightness of his shoulders, and the slight frown on his lips. The happiness ebbed from her eyes, and then she felt a hand on her shoulder. She met Lina's gaze and saw that her friend shared her concern. The red-haired sorceress inclined her head in the stone man's direction and Amelia nodded. No words were needed. I need to go talk to him... but what do I say?
Slowly she began walking, hearing the wet grass swish against her already drenched pants-legs. Vague thoughts of using a heat-spell to dry all of their clothes flowed around the edges of the girl's mind, but at the moment she was concentrating on what she could possibly say to soothe her poor disheartened chimera.
The palomino mare greeted her with a soft nose in the girl's face, and she smiled automatically and stroked the horse as she gazed down at Zelgadis, who suddenly looked rather small and vulnerable with only his head and shoulders emerging from the waist-high grass. He almost looks like he's hiding...
Shiran wagged her fluffy, slightly damp lavender tail in greeting, but did not move as the stone man completed his healing spell and then continued to sit there with his back to her, motionless. He knows I'm here. Can't he face me? Is he afraid I'll blame him for what happened?
Even for a man made of stone, he looked rigid, his shoulders slightly hunched as if to protect himself from her condemnation. Her heart melted. Instinctively the raven-haired princess dropped lightly to her knees and reached out to hug him from behind, crossing her hands over his chest and setting her chin on his firm shoulder. "Darling... " she murmured lovingly, her tone hushed, meant for his ears alone.
Zelgadis twitched at the endearment, and simultaneously Amelia had to stifle a yelp as her cheek suddenly began stinging fiercely. Ow-his hair scratched me.
Zelgadis must have heard her soft involuntary sound. "What is it?" he said sharply, his suspicion overcoming his embarrassment.
"Oh-nothing." The last thing I need is to have him getting upset over his curse, too. She tightened her hold, pressing her body firmly against his to make sure he could feel her embrace, taking care this time to keep her face just out of reach of his wire hair. "I just wanted to thank you."
"Thank me?" Zelgadis was astonished. He stared at the small rocky stream in front of him, still unable to meet her eyes, feeling himself blushing at the way Amelia was embracing him in front of the others.
"Of course-without you we'd all be dead now."
He was silent, unable to refute her statement, but finally his guilt forced him to speak. "But it's my fault we lost the Woodwind in the first place. If we'd only stayed on the ground and waited out the storm... if I'd only remembered about the altitude... "
"If Mister Gourry hadn't suggested we fly above the rain, if I hadn't asked you to fly us even higher, if I'd recognized the symptoms right away-if, if, if... Don't you see, Zelgadis? It's not completely your fault. The results would have been the same, even if Miss Lina or I had been doing the flying."
"You don't know that." But he could not help being somewhat mollified. Her arms felt good around him, solid and comforting, despite his embarrassment at being hugged in front of his friends. He glanced over at Lina and Gourry and was relieved to see that they were rummaging through the supply packs, politely ignoring what was going on.
After a moment Amelia said quietly, "You're right, I don't... but if it hadn't been you wearing the gem, we probably wouldn't have survived. We may have lost the Woodwind, but you saved what was important, when it counted."
Slowly Zelgadis smiled, feeling his dark mood lightening, unable to stand against her emotional sunlight. He reached up to put a stone hand over hers on his chest, gratefully accepting her comfort. "I-Thank you, Amelia."
She tightened her arms around him even more, reminding him from the strength of her grip that she was Phil's daughter, and then she stunned him by pressing her lips briefly to his hard cheek. When she pulled away, he heard the small but unmistakable sound of a kiss, and then she was whispering, "I love you," in his ear before pulling away.
He sat still for a moment, assimilating everything that had just happened as a slight smile slowly appeared on his lips. I wonder if I'll ever get used to hearing someone tell me they love me?
He glanced up to see Amelia beaming down at him, and then he frowned, noting the red line marring her cheek. A tiny drop of blood further defiled her beauty. Wait a minute. I just healed her. A sudden unpleasant notion struck him. "Where did you get that?" he demanded.
Her hand went to her cheek, and a white light emerged, closing the scratch within moments. Her big blue eyes looked earnestly into his. "It's nothing-see?"
Zelgadis looked away, his lips tightening in disgust; not at her-at himself. Damned chimera-when are you going to get it through your head that you're not normal?
"Why do I always hurt those I care about?" he said aloud, not caring that Lina and Gourry had turned to stare at him. Slowly, heavily, he got to his feet, a blue cloud of dejection hovering over his head, and began trudging southwest toward Seyrune.
Lina and Gourry exchanged bewildered glances, then turned questioningly to Amelia, who was staring after the depressed chimera with a desperately unhappy look in her eyes.
No one spoke. Each person picked up a damp supply pack and began to walk.
In the palace of Seyrune, Prince Philionel wil Seyrune paused dramatically in the middle of telling yet another joke to his (maybe) future son-in-law, Kerrin, and then finished, "So the researcher shouts, '"Of course! It only stands to reason!"' Ah-ha-ha-ha!"
Young Kerrin chuckled. "That's a good one, sir."
Phil beamed at the boy, with whom he had spent a considerable amount of time over the last month, getting to know him. I can see why Amelia chose him... the resemblance to Zelgadis is remarkable. But aside from that, I like this kid. He's got a good head on his shoulders, even if he hasn't had as much experience in vanquishing evil as my Amelia has. He's excellent with a sword, can out-ride most of my best horsemen, and can even play the guiolin. Best of all, he has a strong sense of honor and is willing to learn about my philosophies on life. Amelia could have done a lot worse for herself.
The big man sighed. His dark-blue eyes, so much like his daughter's, held a melancholic shadow. It's too bad she doesn't love him. I saw the look in her eyes that night-when her ward bracelet lit up like one of Miss Lina's fireballs and she realized that Zelgadis was dying... I've never heard my Amelia speak of a man in that tone of voice before.
His gaze turned inward. She's so much like me... when I fell in love with her mother, there was no one else for me. I've never been able to think about another woman in the same way. Amelia's got her heart set on marrying Zelgadis. If their quest fails, will she be able to open her heart to Kerrin, or will she forever pine away for the one true love of her life? Oh, what mischief the heart can play!
Kerrin was looking at him questioningly; his intelligent bright brown eyes showing his keen perception of Philionel's unusually quiet behavior. "Is everything all right, sir?"
Phil snapped out of it, putting a hand behind his head and guffawing in embarrassment. "I'm fine; I'm just wondering what's taking them so long."
"They should have been back by now, shouldn't they?"
He nodded his shaggy black head. "Oh, yes, at least two days ago... "
The young man's eyes widened in alarm. "Really?" His voice went from baritone to tenor."Do you think something's happened to them?" he asked, his normally cheerful expression giving way to anxiety. "Should we send out search parties to look for them? What if they've been attacked by bandits, or-"
Hastily Phil interrupted. "You forget-Amelia's traveling with Miss Lina, who is known as the Bandit Killer. My daughter has done plenty of adventuring with Miss Lina and her friends, and she has always come home safe and sound."
"But today is her birthday." Kerrin ran a hand through his short, fluffy red-brown hair, making it stand up in wild spikes. "If she doesn't return by midnight tonight she'll lose the throne, won't she?"
The genuine concern in his voice touched the big man's tender heart, making him want to reassure the boy, mentally pushing his own worries to the back of his mind. "Well, yes, that is true, but it's only mid-morning... she still has plenty of time. All of the preparations have been completed, so we can begin the ceremony the moment she arrives. Don't worry, Kerrin." He reached out and put a large hand on the boy's narrow shoulder. "Miss Lina has never let me down yet. I have complete faith in her."
Kerrin said no more, but Phil noted with approval that the slender young man seemed more worried about Amelia's safety than that he himself would also lose the chance to claim the throne someday. I have no doubt that Zelgadis would make a fine, strong ruler, but my boy, I would like to have you as a member of this family. We've lost too many...
Throughout the day, Philionel's thoughts were with his daughter and the other brave young people with whom she journeyed. I can't give in to despair; I must have faith that Amelia was able to find her friends and that Zelgadis was able to acquire his cure. I just know that they're safe, and hurrying home to Seyrune at his very minute. He closed his eyes and winced as a daunting idea hit him. I hope Miss Lina didn't find out that I gave Amelia Seyrune's crest!
His schedule had been cleared due to the expectation that he would be spending the day with his daughter, so Phil had the uncommon burden of having extra time on his hands. He spent a lot of that time watching from a balcony as Kerrin practiced riding his sorrel horse over a set of jumps that had been set up in one of the grassy paddocks. Kerrin said he's training that horse as a gift for Amelia. He's certainly a fine animal, well-mannered, with a big, bold personality that Amelia should like. It's about time she had her own charger, anyway. I wonder if she'll like his color? She's always liked white horses like my Gallant.
The tall stallion had a red body with a creamy-blonde mane and tail, and white socks on his forelegs. A small white star decorated his forehead. Phil watched as Kerrin spoke to the horse, who flicked his small ears and broke into a graceful yet powerful trot, his long cream-colored tail held high and proud. Truly a beautiful horse.
The palace was full of waiting guests, dressed in the fabulous finery of many different cultures. Some wore glorious bright silks, some wore delicate filmy fabrics in pastel colors, some wore handsome furs or exotic feathers. Some of them-those who lived too far away to make it worthwhile to return home-had been here for nearly a month, since Amelia's last ball. Phil winced at the thought of how much it had cost to feed them all. Thanks goodness I only have one wedding to pay for...
He had already been accosted by so many messengers sent from the visiting dignitaries concerning the beginning of the ceremony that he had finally had to make an announcement. He stood in front of the crowd in the ball room, where most of the guests had congregated, and smiled, a trifle sheepishly. "Sorry about the delay, my good friends. There appears to be a problem that needs to be addressed before the wedding can take place. It could be some time, so I suggest that you all relax for now."
"What kind of problem? Does it concern that mysterious fiance of hers?" called a burly man from the middle of the crowd.
"How much longer must we wait?" asked a tall thin chancellor with a fringe of gray hair.
Philionel laughed nervously, putting a hand to the back of his head. Experience had taught him that there was no point in upsetting people needlessly. Not when there's still enough time for all of this to work out... He answered the second question. "Midnight. It will all be decided no later than midnight." For better or for worse. Please, Amelia, hurry!
The day dragged on, and the long afternoon shadows grew. Phil was debating whether or not to take Kerrin's suggestion and send out search parties when a shout went up from one of the tower guards. "Something's coming! Look over there! It's flying toward us!"
Phil let out a wordless bellow of triumph as what looked like a bubble of some kind came flying slowly through the sky. It wavered erratically over the enormous hedge-maze, then headed toward Philionel, who stood in the middle of one of the small flower gardens that surrounded the palace walls.
Instantly several guards leaped in front of him, their weapons ready. "Wait!" Phil commanded. "I know who it is."
They gave him dubious looks, but fell back. Ever since those mazoku kidnapped me, they've been vigilant to the point of paranoia. Phil felt a twinge of annoyance at the way they treated him like spun glass, but he had to acknowledge that their caution was proper.
The bubble slowly settled to the grass, and then vanished, leaving behind what looked like a jumbled pile of old clothes. Phil blinked. What in the world... ?
Suddenly one of the bundles moved. "Daddy!" it shouted, and hurled itself directly at him.
Phil found himself clutching his beloved daughter to his chest, laughing and swinging her around and around as he gave vent to the tremendous emotional strain that he had been under for the last month. "Amelia, my Amelia! I was so worried about you! But I-"
Phil jerked around to face a lavender blur that was bounding toward him, but before he could experience more than a quick flash of fear the huge animal stopped, skidding hard enough to gouge the grass from the brown earth underneath. The big man set Amelia down behind him, then turned to look at the pale purple beast. "What is that?"
Then he realized that he had recognized the voice that had spoken, and turned back to the colorful pile, which was sorting itself out into Amelia's other comrades, several large supply packs, and a palomino-colored horse. All of them looked fine, and he breathed a sigh of relief... and then it hit him, like a shaft of ice between his shoulder blades. Oh, no... Zelgadis... He's still a chimera!
He turned to look at Amelia, his dark-blue eyes stricken, and met her troubled gaze. She looked to be on the verge of tears, her lower lip trembling the way it used to when she was little. The big man felt his shoulders drooping, and had to blink away the hot feeling in his eyes. They failed? No... this can't be. My darling daughter...
Before he could say anything, Lina darted up to him and said breathlessly, "How much time do we have?"
Phil gaped at her for a moment, unable to comprehend why that should matter, then said, "Until midnight tonight."
Before his eyes, his beautiful daughter transformed from miserable to ecstatic. "Really?" she squealed, and clapped her hands, spinning in a circle.
"Well, yes... Usually the ceremony takes place at sunset, but I managed to convince the council to allow you until midnight to take care of-" Suddenly he looked around, aware of the growing crowd of people around them. "Uh... why don't we talk about this inside?"
Amelia glanced around her, then nodded. "Right. Guards, will you please see to my horse? Her name is Sunshine."
"Right away, Princess."
Zelgadis spoke the words required to revive the sleeping horse, who rose to her feet and was led away peaceably to her new home.
The new arrivals each picked up a pack, then began heading toward the nearest entrance. The large shaggy lavender creature trotted by Amelia's side, looking warily at everything with strange, glowing green eyes.
Phil followed, still not understanding what was going on. "Amelia... are you sure you want to bring that... uh, animal? Inside?"
Amelia tossed a careless glance over her shoulder. "Oh, Shiran's all right. She's going to be living with us from now on."
"What?" He hurried after them.
Amelia led the way to one of the smaller council chambers. It had no windows, only two doors one each at either end of the room, and a medium-sized table with eight chairs. Amelia dropped wearily into the nearest chair, Zelgadis sat next to her, and the large purplish beast sat between them. Lina and Gourry took chairs on the opposite side of the table, leaving the end chair for Philionel.
As he strode into the room, Lina looked up and asked brashly, "Hey, Phil, have you got anything to eat around here?"
"Oh-of course." He turned to the guards who had followed him and sent one to the kitchen with orders to bring as much food as possible. Fortunately, the cooks had spent all days preparing dishes for the guests, so there was bound to be something available on short notice.
Phil nodded to the rest of the guards as a cue to remain outside, and closed the heavy wooden door. As he sat down, he began, "Now what is going on here? Why isn't Zelgadis cured? What took you so long? Where is Gallant? What-"
Lina interrupted him. "We don't have time to tell you the whole story, Phil, so let's just get to the important stuff... ."
The days after the loss of the Woodwind were tense as the stress of traveling ever-faster took over their minds. Lina became more and more irritable, Amelia alternated between arguing with Lina and silent worrying, Zelgadis was still brooding about the loss of the Woodwind, and even Gourry became grim and silent.
Despite Zelgadis' reluctance, they ended up having to use the Rei Wing bubble occasionally, to fly over large lakes, rivers, chasms and some of the steeper mountain peaks, especially after they learned that they were indeed more than a week away from Seyrune. An old farmer had told them the day after the Woodwind's destruction, and ever since then, speed had been the one thing on everyone's minds. Somehow they had to condense eight days' worth of travel into seven.
They took the most direct route possible, although that often meant that they were nowhere near a town when the humans could no longer keep their eyes open. Lack of sleep added to their short-temperedness, and Gourry had already had to stop Lina from casting her Dragon Slave twice.
Their food supply had run out after the third day, and they'd had to detour through a town to buy more. That had been the only night that they'd been able to find an inn to sleep in.
Lina had wanted to share a room with Gourry, but knew that for herself, at least, it would be too much of a temptation. "Not yet, Gourry." She'd said to him when they were alone in the girls' room while Amelia was out. "We'll share a room once we're married."
Gourry had looked disappointed, but compliant. "Okay, Lina."
"Now kiss me good night."
He brightened. "Okay, Lina!" he said, and obeyed enthusiastically.
There were some bright points. Sunshine had proven helpful, as the horse willingly carried anyone (except Zelgadis, of course) who needed a rest, and Shiran's hunting skills became prized after the first time she'd brought a large tuupa rodent to Zelgadis. "Why didn't we think of having her hunt for us before?" Lina had asked as they gathered around the fire to wait for the rare delicacy to cook.
Zelgadis had merely shrugged. "I don't know if she'll do it on command, but we can try to make her understand what we're asking of her."
"She's smart; I'm sure she'll learn quickly," Amelia had added with a bit of her usual enthusiasm, even though Lina had known that the princess was not enamored of this particular type of violence.
Shiran had proven to be an excellent hunter, providing several small animals for each evening's meal. "She'd sure be a great help to me and Gourry. Are you sure you want to keep her locked up in that stuffy old palace, Amelia?" Lina had wheedled, and then pouted when Amelia had given her a firm 'yes'.
Xellos' gem had helped during their brief bubble flights, which the three mages had taken turns casting, and thankfully Sunshine had quickly gotten used to taking 'naps' that resulted in her waking up somewhere completely different from when she'd fallen asleep. None of them enjoyed the rides, as the inside of the Rei Wing bubble quickly became overbearingly hot and humid, and all of them had to watch out that Sunshine didn't roll over in her sleep and crush one of them.
Lina had overheard a quiet conversation between Zelgadis and Amelia one night as they all lay together by the snapping yellow bonfire. "Amelia, what happens if we don't make it in time?"
"They'll designate someone else as the heir-from one of the lord-families of Seyrune. Someone who would be considered more reliable than a princess who can't even be bothered to show up at her own wedding." Her tone was uncharacteristically bitter, showing the tremendous strain she was feeling, and Lina felt her own resolve stiffen.
They had to get Amelia there in time!
Toward the end of the journey, as their anxiety spiked they'd begun using the bubble for longer periods of time to pass over large settlements that were in their way, and finally, on the seventh morning, they'd passed a town that Amelia recognized as being one day from Seyrune.
They had spent most of the last day crammed into the small bubble, only dropping down every now and then to get some fresh air and to give all of them a chance to relieve themselves and stretch their legs. Amelia had become increasingly withdrawn and distressed as the day had progressed, but as the sun dropped down to just above the horizon...
"We made it." Lina sat back in her chair, a small (for her) stack of empty plates in front of her, a broad, satisfied smile on her face. "We were going crazy, thinking we'd get here just in time for the sun to set, but thanks to you, Phil, we ought to have enough time to do the spell the Oracle gave Zel and then... "
She turned to look smugly at Zelgadis and Amelia, who both blushed a little, but just then Gourry muttered, "Gee, you still take longer to explain things than anybody I know... "
"What was that, Gourry?" she said sharply, ready to deck him, but she was floored by his anxious response.
She blinked at him, a warm red blush covering her face at his first verbal endearment toward her, and then huffed and turned back to Phil. Where did that come from? She didn't see Zelgadis' slow wink in Gourry's direction.
"So you see, Phil, we do have a cure for Zel, but we're going to need some help to cast it. Where's Filia?"
Phil blinked. "Miss Filia? ... She's not here. Was she supposed to attend?"
Amelia sat up straight. "What? But I-but I-I sent her an invitation!"
Her voiced lifted into a familiar dismayed wail, one that Zelgadis had not heard for a long time.
Instinctively he leaned toward her to comfort her, but then he stopped, watching with growing pride as she squared her shoulders and composed herself, setting her lips in a firm line.
She took a deep breath and said, "All right. Then I will do it."
Abruptly a shaft of fear drove through him as Zelgadis realized what she meant. "No!"
All of them pinned him with their eyes. "Yes, Zelgadis," Lina snarled, her manner indicating that she was itching for an excuse to Dragon Slave him, but he was beyond caring.
"I can't lose her now-"
There was a soft knock on the door, and everyone went silent. Phil had explained during Lina's long-winded story that not many people had been told exactly why Amelia had been delaying her wedding, nor why she had not been seen for a month, so every time a servant had brought more food, they had waited until the heavy wooden door closed before Lina had resumed her narration, just in case.
"Prince Philionel? Is everything all right?" came a soft voice.
The big man's face lightened. "Yes, my boy; come in!"
Amelia exchanged puzzled glances with the others. None of them had ever heard him speak to a servant in quite such a glad manner before.
The door opened and a slender young man slipped through it and turned to push it closed. "I was in the paddock when a servant arrived to tell me that Miss Amelia had finally returned, so I went back to my room to change my clothes... "
As the heavy door closed with a low boom, the youth turned around and Amelia recognized Kerrin. His fluffy red-brown hair had grown a little longer and he had acquired a cute sprinkling of freckles across his nose and cheeks as if he had been outdoors a lot, but he still had the same sweet smile that she remembered, the smile that had prompted her to choose him as her official fiance before she'd left.
"How are you, Miss Amelia?" the young man asked, looking at her with those warm brown eyes.
Amelia was struck dumb for a moment as she fought with the desire to leap up and hug him like an old friend, for all that she had only met him once before. It's because he looks so much like Zelgadis-but I must remember, he's not. He's someone who has the power to keep me and Zelgadis apart.
She opened her mouth to answer him, already trying to think of a way to ask whether Kerrin planned to force her to marry him, but just then the youth made a wordless sound of shock. She watched a stricken look passed over his face. He was staring at Zelgadis.
Amelia and the others looked back and forth between the two, watching as the chimera's face also grew pained. "Rin." His voice was almost a whisper.
The young man licked his lips, and in a voice equally as soft, murmured, "Li? Li, is that you?"
Author's Notes: Sound familiar? You might want to reread chapter 12, where Amelia first meets Kerrin.
The joke Phil tells Kerrin is from a book called Callahan's Crosstime Saloon by Spider Robinson, one of my favorite authors in the world. I changed the quote a bit-I had Phil say 'researcher' instead of 'xenobiologist' since I doubt that that term would be used in the Slayers world. Go check it out-there's all sorts of clever quandaries mixed in wacky fun and heart-breaking drama-and some adult situations, for those of you who mind. Mr. Robinson has a very unique way of looking at the world; his stories make you think.
Slayers Otaku-Girl asks: Hey, I was wondering, don't you think that Amelia would have fell in love with Zel sooner than the incident with Hellmaster and Sairaag?
She liked him a lot before then, but that incident-where she gets knocked on the head and Zel carries her-was the first time she really realized that she was in love with him.
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