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.
Note: Mallie-rhymes with 'alley'
Chapter Eighty-Nine: Meet the Newlyweds
The young couple stopped by the room with the mirror so Zelgadis could change back into his old clothes and boots. Although they were technically married and had even seen each other in the nude before, Amelia elected to wait outside with Shiran. He appreciated her thoughtfulness, which gave him the privacy to carefully study his new body in the full-length mirror, comparing it to his stone one.
His new body was much as he remembered it-a small, thin man who looked even younger than nineteen, with pale skin and the kind of muscular body one normally saw on strong thirteen-year-olds. He recalled how bitter he had once been when he'd realized that no amount of training could make him grow the massive, bulging muscles he had wanted so badly.
He turned to the side, flexing the long, wiry muscles of his arms. I should be disappointed. I wasn't particularly large even as a chimera, but now I'm even less noteworthy. The kind of man people tend to unconsciously overlook. But you know... He caught sight of his own youthful grin in the mirror. Damn, it feels good! 'Ordinary' people shouldn't waste their envy on those who happened to be born physically impressive. I can tell them right now that nothing is as enviable as feeling like you belong. I can walk into any shop in the city and no one will look at me twice.
Hm. My hair needs a trim, he thought absently, combing it with his fingers. It was no use-it sprang back into its usual gravity-defying mass, as thick and springy as he remembered from his youth. He shrugged and gave up on it for the moment, pulling on the clothes Amelia had bought for him, still grimy and travel-stained but full of precious memories.
The last thing he put back on was the wristband of pink cloth with the Star Sphere that symbolized his marriage with Amelia. I never thought to ask her what the customs for getting married are here. I know some lands exchange rings or other jewelry... He gave the awkwardly large metal sphere a wry look. I suppose this counts as jewelry-the priest last night seemed to accept it, anyway. I wonder if I could get it set into a band of leather sometime, or something else that's not so flimsy and girlish-looking?
He gathered the pale blue wedding suit into a bundle, tried to smooth his hair down one last time, and headed for the door, trying to ignore the way the insides of his boots felt like sandpaper. He'd never bothered to wear socks as a chimera, and the ones he'd worn last night had disappeared somewhere. As he emerged from the room, he asked, "Amelia, do you know where I can get a comb?"
The young woman smiled. "Sure. Is your hair giving you trouble?"
"It's too long-and it won't stay in place. I usually trim it with wire cutters every couple of months, but... "
Amelia giggled. "'Wire cutters'? Really?"
He frowned. "Of course. What else could I have used?"
Her smile faded. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to offend you." She patted his arm, and he felt better. I suppose it is pretty funny, at that. Amelia was still looking a little anxious, so he gave her a smile that made her brighten and give him one of her beautiful smiles in return.
As they turned to walk down the corridor, the former chimera was surprised when the young woman touched his arm gently. As he turned wide blue-green eyes to hers-still getting used to the fact that they were almost eye-to-eye with each other-she asked, "Zelgadis, did you ever think about growing out your hair? Not as long as Mister Gourry's maybe, but how about waist-length? You have such beautiful hair. So thick and wavy, and such a gorgeous, shiny deep blue color."
He was startled. "I don't know... I've always had short hair."
"Oh. Well, I was thinking about growing mine out, you see, and then I thought about what you might look like with long hair, and then I remembered a girl I know who has very thick hair. She had it cut once, and it looked awful because it wouldn't stay flat, so she keeps it long so its own weight holds it down."
"Oh, and you think mine might be like that?" That had never occurred to him. All the men in his family traditionally wore their hair short.
She gave him a sweet smile. "It couldn't hurt to try. And besides... I could brush it for you every night before we go to bed. You can brush mine too, if you want. I really loved how it felt when you brushed it before, when we were flying on the Woodwind."
Oh, so that's what she's really after. Zelgadis smirked knowingly, but just then Amelia reached up and gently slid her fingers through his hair. He stopped walking, surprised at the sudden shivery sensation, half exciting, half relaxing, that swept through his body in long, tingling trails of pleasure, right out to his fingertips. She did it again, and he found himself leaning in to her hand, his eyes half-closing, pulling in long, slow breaths in rhythm with her stroking. Ahh. So this is what she felt back then. He felt himself relaxing little by little, his breathing slowing even more. No wonder she kept pestering me to brush her hair...
"See?" Amelia smoothed his hair down gently, her voice softer, and somehow richer, enticing. "And I have the feeling that you'll look even more handsome than you do now."
"Maybe I'll try it." I can always cut it if I don't like it. He smiled a little and reached up to pull her hand down over his cheek, covering it with his own, enjoying the warmth and the touch of her soft, smooth skin. He closed his eyes to better concentrate on the feeling. If nothing else, it will give the people something to identify their new prince by. I know enough about royalty to know you have to look impressive sometimes... and not many men in this city seem to wear their hair long, so... He knew he was talking himself into it mainly because he wanted to please Amelia. I wonder if I'll ever get used to being called 'handsome'?
Zelgadis felt Amelia put her free hand on his other cheek, and opened his eyes to see her face, very close to his, her eyes soft and shimmery, lips slightly parted, her face full of love and longing. He felt himself sinking down into that familiar welcome warmth, that cocoon, the same loving cocoon he had felt the time he'd been drowning, being enveloped in something soft and warm and rose-colored...
Shiran let out a quiet woof. "Ah, so the young couple didn't get enough last night, eh?" came a man's voice, full of roguish humor.
Blushing, Amelia pulled her hands away from her beautiful, oh-so-tempting Zelgadis, turning to face the pair of servants who were approaching. One was Mallie, the tough-talking head maid with a heart of gold, and the other was her husband Pergar, a middle-aged man who did various odd jobs and had a rather randy sense of humor. "It's okay, Shiran," said Amelia. "Remain."
Pergar was grinning at them. "I rememba 'ow it was with the missus and me. Couldn't get enough of each other! Ah, newlyweds."
Amelia felt Zelgadis tense, but before he could start anything, Mallie said, "Stop it, Pergar. You're making her blush." Mallie swatted at the man's head, and he put up a hand to ward her off, chuckling.
"Ah, but that's 'alf the fun of being newlyweds, ain't it? Besides, the princess 'ere knows I didn't mean nothin' by it. Just glad she's finally settled down, aren't I? An' not just me-the whole kingdom can relax now."
"Whatever. Just keep your naughty comments to yourself. And get back to work." Mallie pointed down the corridor past the newlyweds.
"All right, I'm goin'... " As he passed the young couple, he bowed slightly, beaming at them. "Congratulations, darlin'," he said to Amelia. "Lovely animal," he added with a nod at Shiran. "I 'eard you had quite a time of it last night. You let me know if you need anythin', you hear? And that goes fer you too, young sir." With another small bow, he ambled past them down the corridor.
Amelia exchanged a look with Zelgadis, who looked as if he couldn't make up his mind whether to be amused or insulted.
"That man! Always wanting to gossip." Mallie put an arm around Amelia's shoulders, giving her a quick, rough hug. A large strong-looking woman many inches taller than her husband, Mallie had been like a mother to Amelia since she was a little girl. "Don't pay him any mind, 'Melia, darling. He just wanted to get a look at our new prince."
"I hope he doesn't act like that around visiting dignitaries." Zelgadis' voice held a mix of disbelief, disapproval, and a touch of anger. "It's too easy to offend the wrong person in negotiations."
"Oh, I keep him away from visitors, believe you me," Mallie said in a tone that agreed with Zelgadis' opinion of her husband's character. "That man can't open his mouth without putting his foot in it." Then her expression softened. "It's not his fault. He's just impulsive. But he's absolutely loyal to Prince Philionel, and he's strong, a willing worker-give him a task and he'll plug away at it until it's finished, no matter how long it takes."
Zelgadis was watching the woman with his customary solemn expression, obviously assessing both Mallie and her husband. "And I'll bet you're just the right person to provide guidance for him." Amelia was relieved to hear a note of amusement in her new husband's tone. He had apparently decided not to take offense at Pergar's words.
Mallie gave the small man standing beside Seyrune's beloved princess a long, shrewd stare. Amelia watched him blink, then stand straighter, as if he were a soldier being inspected by a general. She smile to herself. Mallie does have that effect on people.
The former chimera met the tall maid's gaze steadily, not challengingly, but not backing down either. Suddenly the large woman clapped him on the back, almost making him drop the clothing bundle. "I like this one, 'Melia!" Her booming voice filled the corridor, startling another bark out of Shiran. "Not a silly, useless dreamer, nor a blustering, incompetent bully. You chose well."
Amelia winced in sympathy as she watched a pained, slightly confused look pass over his face, as he obviously wondered who this woman was and why she was qualified to pass judgment over him. Ooo, that must have hurt. His skin is still so sensitive. She was glad when he simply shrugged and said, politely, but with a note of the humor she loved in his tone, "... Well, I'm glad you approve, Mrs.-"
"Mallie," Amelia said quickly. "This is Mallie, the head of our maid staff, and that man was her husband Pergar. And Mrs. Mallie, this is Shiran, and this... is my... " My beloved, my darling... She felt her cheeks grow warm. "My new husband, Zelgadis, of the Greywyrs clan."
"Zelgadis, is it?" Mallie gave him another appraising look. Amelia wondered if she recognized the name from the few brief times he had stayed at the palace. If she did, she apparently decided not to mention it, instead asking, "A relative of Rezo the Red Priest?"
"Why, yes." Zelgadis blinked. "He was my grandfather."
"I hear he did a lot of good, traveling around, curing people."
Zelgadis looked stunned, and Amelia knew he was remembering the insane, inhuman sorcerer who had cursed his young grandson, then later taken control of his mind and used him like a puppet. Slowly he said, "Yes... he did. Now, Mrs. Mallie, what did Pergar mean about 'quite a time of it last night'?"
Mallie raised an eyebrow at his changing the subject, but answered, "Well, Prince Zelgadis,"-Amelia blinked to hear him called by his new title-"Everyone knows something's been going on for the past month. First little Amelia's ball gets called off, then the rest of 'em are cancelled and she's nowhere to be found. Then that sweet young man starts living here, the one who looks a lot like you-"
"My cousin," Zelgadis admitted.
"-And naturally we all assume he's to be our new prince, although nothing is officially announced. When the big day arrives, still no Amelia! Then, just before sunset, (which has traditionally been the time for the Seyrune heir to marry, by the way) suddenly here you all are, plus this strange-looking beast something like a purple wolf-" she gestured at Shiran, who flinched at the abrupt movement and eyed her warily, "-and yet, still no marriage! Instead you all lock yourselves away in one of the meeting rooms and eat like you haven't in a week."
She crossed her arms. "The cooks have been quite overworked this last month, I can tell you. Anyway, so the entire castle is on pins and needles, wondering what's going on, and why Prince Philionel announced that the wedding would take place at midnight. Midnight! What kind of time is that for a wedding, anyway?"
She glared at the younger people severely. Amelia blushed a little; Zelgadis looked uncomfortable but finally spoke up. "It was necessary."
She snorted. "Some family custom of yours, maybe? Anyway, so everybody's gathered in the Great Hall, waiting with sweat running down our backs for something to happen, when the clock strikes twelve and nothing does! You should've seen the commotion some of those people kicked up. That's what comes of holding parties past people's bedtimes-you get a lot of cranky guests who've definitely overstayed their welcome."
Again, she glared at them, but this time Amelia was trying to hold back a grin. Mallie can be so funny sometimes. It's like watching a play.
She caught Zelgadis' eye and watched his demeanor change as he noticed her amusement. He stopped looking like a little boy being scolded and said solemnly to Mallie, "I apologize for all the trouble, Mrs. Mallie. It really couldn't be helped."
"Well," she said in a calmer tone, looking mollified. "As long as everything worked out. Those of us who didn't see the fireworks that somebody set last night were told this morning that the marriage did take place right on time, with our own head priest doing the honors, so I guess it's all right."
Amelia smiled at the large woman, who gave her a motherly smile back and said, "Well, I've got to get going. I just promised the rest of the staff I'd take a look-see at our new prince." She turned to leave, bowing formally. "A good day to you both, my lady, my lord."
The young couple bid her good day, then watched as she made her way down the corridor. Her voice floated back to them, "Although why you'd want to have the wedding outside in the dark is beyond me... "
After she was gone, Amelia threw her arms around a bemused Zelgadis. "She likes you! Wonderful! If Mallie likes you, then the others will follow her lead. Daddy always says that having the support of the servants is really important."
Zelgadis was distracted by the firm, soft feel of her pressed against him. "Yes... potential allies... hidden eyes and ears, uncovering plots, that sort of thing."
Amelia released him. "Right. If they resent you, they can get back at you in little ways, like bad food, ruined clothes, 'lost' possessions, abusing your horses so they're difficult to ride... But we haven't had that kind of trouble in a long time. Daddy requires everyone to treat our servants with respect."
"Your father has good policies. In spite of appearances, he really does know how to lead people," Zelgadis admitted, a little reluctantly. "I have a lot to learn from him."
Amelia looked pleased at his first voluntary compliment of her father. "Oh, he'll be happy to teach you! Daddy always says he's a teacher at heart."
A 'teacher' who can kill brass demons with his bare hands. It made him uneasy to realize that Prince Phil-and even that woman, Mallie-were probably stronger than he was. He didn't like feeling so vulnerable. I'd better start training as soon a possible; otherwise I'm going to start feeling paranoid. The last thing I need is more mental problems.
Just then Mallie stuck her head around the corner at the end of the hall and bellowed, "Healer Johshilo wanted me to remind you to go see him this morning! Don't forget, 'Melia!"
Zelgadis looked at Amelia, whose face had gone bright red, contrasting nicely with the frilly white dress she wore. "What's the matter?"
She looked down at her feet. "It's... it must be for instruction to prevent... "
He caught on, and his own blush matched hers. "... Ah. Well, yes, that is important. We'll... go see this healer right after we drop off these clothes with the tailors, then."
Amelia looked up at him and smiled gratefully. As they began walking, she explained, "Being a mage and a princess, I was taught about this as soon I became a woman, but in Seyrune most couples-to-be have a healer explain what to do. If neither of the couple is a mage, they're told that any healer's clinic can help them with... unplanned pregnancies. Especially if the woman still has a nursing child. It's not safe."
"Part of the reason Seyrune is so prosperous is how few poor people we have. No one has to struggle to make ends meet, with too many mouths to feed, so there's less incentive to commit crimes. I've worked in healers' clinics, as part of my training to develop empathy for other people's pain. It's very hard work... rewarding, but hard."
He understood. Hard to see people suffering. "Was that Phil's idea?" She nodded. Yet another good policy. I've never heard of another ruling family doing anything like that. "Your father really is a good ruler," he said, this time with no reluctance at all.
Amelia gave him a bright smile. "Anyway, it wouldn't hurt me to have a review of this particular lesson. I mean, I'm really looking forward to starting a family with you-" He was startled at how easily she said that. "-But maybe we'd better get the people used to you first. Besides... " She ducked her head shyly. "I don't know how you feel. We haven't really had any time to ourselves to talk about such things yet."
A sudden image came to mind, from a dream he'd had here in the palace just before he'd left with Lina and Gourry. I saw Amelia with five beautiful children, all with her hair and eyes. They looked so happy together; a loving family. I was jealous of her husband. Funny; I was jealous of myself!
Slowly he said, "Amelia... how would you feel about having a big family? Say, four or five children?"
Her look of astonishment quickly changed to elation. "Oh, yes! I've always wanted a big family!"
Her joy was contagious. Shiran wagged her fluffy tail, and Zelgadis smiled. "I'm sure you'll be a terrific mother."
"And you'll be a wonderful father." She looked thoughtful for a moment. "A little strict, maybe, but as long as you remember to praise them a lot, they'll do everything they can to please you. And they'll love you so much!"
The former chimera felt his eyes unfocus, trying to imagine this. I'm still getting used to the idea that there's one person who loves me. Having a whole group of people who think that much of me sounds... very good.
"Maybe I'd better find Miss Lina and bring her with me. You know, just in case," Amelia mused.
Zelgadis found himself smirking at the idea of squeamish Lina having to sit through such a lesson. "You do that."
"You should really come, too," Amelia said blithely, and he gulped.
As if Mallie's visit had broken the ice, Zelgadis and Amelia were approached by other servants. Amelia had to introduce them all to Shiran, who greeted them with varying degrees of friendliness, usually treating the weaker people gently, and the stronger, more aggressive people with wary politeness. Like wild sheep, Zelgadis realized, amused.
The people tended to treat Zelgadis in one of two ways; either they were polite but suspicious of him and his intentions, or apparently delighted to meet him. He couldn't blame the first group-he had, after all, married Amelia under highly unusual circumstances. Of the second group, he automatically assumed that most of them were trying to get on his good side as early as possible.
Many of these people expressed great admiration for Shiran, as if they thought she was a rare wedding gift he'd brought for Amelia.
The only exceptions were the youngest girl servants. Zelgadis was treated to the delightful-if embarrassing-experience of having several pretty young maids squeal and say to Amelia, "Oh, he's so gorgeous! I'm so jealous, Princess Amelia, wherever did you find him?" Zelgadis took his cue from Shiran, who treated them indulgently, like overenthusiastic puppies.
Amelia found that many of the people she had known since childhood were now treating her with a new level of respect. I suppose now that I'm married, I'm finally an adult in their eyes. And I'm officially the heir. A few people made good-natured comments about her wedding night, and Amelia blushed, even though technically she had nothing to blush about. Yet. But just wait until tonight... Oh!
Her steps slowed as a disturbing idea occurred to her. Zelgadis walked on ahead at first, then he glanced around for her and stopped walking, letting her approach him. He gave her a puzzled look, and Amelia became aware that her own face probably looked troubled. "Um, Zelgadis?"
She was suddenly horribly embarrassed. "Will you-I mean, I know-" Her eyes widened as she heard footsteps approaching, and she glanced around frantically. "Come here!" She yanked open the nearest door, which led to a supply room for sheets and towels, mostly empty, since the palace was hosting a rather large amount of guests at the moment. She pulled him in, held the door open for Shiran to scramble through, then closed it.
All the color was suddenly gone. The only light came from the cracks at the top and bottom of the door, and from Shiran's eyes. With his skin a pale gray shade, Zelgadis suddenly looked almost exactly the way he used to. Amelia felt her heart jolt in her chest.
"What is it, Amelia?" The young man gave her a concerned look that almost took her breath away. She could feel her gaze soften. I wonder if he has any idea of how beautiful he is...
She jumped. "Well, I was thinking... " The young woman scuffed her toe on the floor, making a dark mark on her white shoe. "You... your skin is terribly sensitive right now, isn't it?"
He nodded. "It's getting easier to bear, but I'm going to be sore for a while, I think."
"I hope I haven't been hurting you, touching you so much-I've been trying to be gentle."
He shrugged. "It's not that bad."
"Oh." Amelia frowned unhappily, feeling a twinge of guilt. I bet he's just saying that. He's not the type of man who complains about pain. She sighed regretfully. "Then... I guess we'd better not."
"Huh? Amelia, what are you talking about?"
Her face grew hot, and her voice was barely a murmur. "M-making love."
The young man who was Zelgadis practically fell over in shock, dropping the bundle of clothes he carried. "Wh-what? Now?" he squawked, glancing around the little room, his eyes huge in his small face.
butzko comments: Wish I had season 3, but here in Germany I'm still waiting for the Dvds to appear in the trade (I think I expressed this a little weird, English is easier to read than to write), but I'm hoping for a quick release (I'm soo curious which shape this mysterious mountain has!)
DS-Wow, you're from Germany? Your English is excellent-I'd never have guessed. I have relatives in Germany. My grandfather's parents migrated from Germany and Austria around 1900.
- As for the shape of the mountain-most people's first impression is of a soft-serve ice-cream cone. One of the swirly, twisty ones. In fact I would probably never have made the connection that it looked like anything else, except for what Amelia says in Try-both in the English language track and the Japanese one. She says, "It looks like a pile of-" and the others cut her off and act as if she had said something really rude. She never finishes the sentence, but I'm almost positive she was about to say 'dog poop'. -
DS- I'm so pleased to hear that people in other countries are reading my fic! I would love to hear if there are any more-please feel free to say 'hi' and tell me which country you're from! I'm especially interested to hear if there are any people from Italy, England, Scotland, Germany, Austria, and Ireland, because I have links to all of them through my grandparents. I keep meaning to look up my relatives-I must have a lot of them by now, all great-aunts and -uncles and tons of second-and-third-cousins...
Senritsu points out: As I'm reading, I found two details that have been mentionned before, but that the character seems to have forgotten. First, I thing Zel already said he wanted to be a minstrel to Amelia, when they were alone and she was riding a horse (sorry, I don't remember which chapter). Second, Amelia knows about Kerrin's cousin Li.
DS- Good memory! You're right; it's in chapter 58. I'm always looking back at earlier chapters-I re-read my fic all the time, usually just before going to bed (I have it printed out on paper) so I can go back to those earlier days when Zel and Amelia were so cute and shy and blushed all the time...
- Actually, I deliberately let Amelia forget about how Zel said he wanted to be a minstrel. I figured that she would have forgotten all about it because of the terrible fight Zelgadis started right after that. Plus, at the time she wasn't really interested in talking about music-she was trying to awaken the feeling of closeness between them because he'd been acting so cold toward her (this was right after he'd overheard Amelia telling Kembri that she had a 'cute fiance'). As soon as he mentioned wanting to be a minstrel, Amelia could tell he was upset at having his dream thwarted, so she changed the subject in a hurry, and thus, forgot all about it.
- And as for the second thing you noticed, about Amelia knowing about 'Li'-yes, she knew Kerrin had a cousin named Li, but because I was very careful not to mention last names, she never made the connection between Zelgadis and Li. And I also had Kerrin only mention Li once, in a very offhand, casual sort of way, so as not to make Amelia become interested in finding out any more information about Li. Thus, except for a vague memory of a conversation she'd had with Kerrin about some relative of his whose name she didn't really remember, Amelia had indeed all but forgotten about Li. I try to have my characters think the way real people do.
In fact, the only reason I had Kerrin mention Li at all-I had to go back and put it in later, when I was working on a much later chapter-is for 'foreshadowing'. The writing technique where you have your characters learn a little something about a subject that will become very important to the story later. See, if I had made Kerrin walk into the room and go, "My long-lost cousin, Li!" the audience would go, "Oh, THAT'S convenient. Suddenly they're cousins now!" Foreshadowing makes your facts more believable for the audience. After all, in real life, if you trip over a rock, it didn't just appear out of nowhere, right? It must have been there all along; you just didn't pay much attention to it.
Actually, the main reason that I had Zel and Kerrin be cousins was so that I would have a believable reason for why Kerrin looked so much like Zel. All I knew at that point was that I wanted Amelia to have a fiance. It wasn't logical for her father to let her go traveling right before her wedding without some kind of 'insurance policy' that she would definitely have someone to marry when she came back. Also, I needed something else as a source of angst further down the road-something to cause Zelgadis' big fight later that would alienate him from the others-but I was sick of the stereotypical 'bad guy fiance', whose goal was to gain power and rule the kingdom. So I made Kerrin sweet and kind and generous, sort of a male Card Captor Sakura. Kawaii! I developed the whole family background later. I couldn't do anything too horrible to him, though, 'cause he turned out to be so cute. -
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