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. K+
Chapter Ninety-One: Musical Tea Party / Kerrin's Gift
The impromptu tea party seemed to relax everyone. The four friends were soon laughing and joking as always, finding comfort in familiarity. Gourry looked around the white marble table at the smiling faces of his friends. Everything's changing, for all of us. Zelgadis and Amelia are married, and Lina and I are going to be. Lina's finally growing up, and-
"Let me get that for you, Amelia," Zelgadis said, reaching for the young girl's face with a green cloth napkin. He rubbed it against the little spot of white frosting that Gourry had noticed on the girl's cheek, which the blonde swordsman had politely pretended not to notice.
A pink blush appeared over the girl's nose, and they all chuckled. Gourry glanced at the young man next to him, glad to see him smiling. ... And Zelgadis has learned how to laugh.
"Thank you," Amelia said in an embarrassed tone.
"Just returning the favor," Zelgadis said warmly. "Do you remember just before I left to board the ship?"
Amelia nodded, her eyes unfocused as if she was reliving the memory. Curious, Gourry tried to recall the last time they had been here-and a vague memory of a tense scene between his two friends surfaced. I think she said something that got his attention. Even Lina stopped to listen. Can't remember what, but... He looked back and forth between his two friends, and grinned. It must've have something to do with romance. Look at the lovey-dovey looks on their faces!
He leaned back, humming quietly to himself, fully enjoying the chance to relax after the frantic haste they'd been in to get here. Anyway, a lot has changed over the last few months. We have new friends, like Shiran, and Zelgadis' little brother-or is it his cousin? Oh, yeah, and Zelgadis isn't a chimera anymore, and he's going to help Amelia rule Seyrune when Phil gets too old. Like Amelia, he had never particularly cared what type of skin his friend had, although Lina had said something about other people not liking it, for some reason.
Lina glanced at her fiance. "What are you singing, Gourry?"
Only then did he realize that he had begun to sing softly. "I don't know. Something happy, I guess. Not real words, just sort of a la-la-la thing."
"It's nice," Amelia said, smiling at him.
"Yeah," Lina agreed.
Then the petite sorceress glanced at Zelgadis. "Hey, Zel, weren't you going to teach Gourry some songs?" A band of pink appeared over her nose as she looked at the blonde swordsman. "Not that I don't like what you sing now, but, you know... "
"It's always fun to learn new songs." Amelia piped up, and Lina gave her a grateful look. "I love to sing," the midnight-haired princess added. "Would you mind teaching me, too?"
The young man who was Zelgadis looked at the girls, then turned his attention to Gourry, who shrugged. "I'm not much for learning stuff, but I don't mind."
Zelgadis agreed to give lessons to whomever wanted them, and their tea party turned into a private music lesson, with the former chimera teaching Amelia first, a gentle, slow-paced song that seemed to match the peaceful beauty of the world around them.
The first time Zelgadis sang it, the girls looked surprised. Gourry just smiled, watching the slim young man standing straight and proud, his warm, rich baritone a pleasure to hear. The long, clear notes were as smooth as butter, and even on higher notes his voice never broke, flowing easily, like water, and Gourry found himself looking at his friend in admiration. I never knew he could sing like that.
The girls were both gazing at the blue-haired, elfin man with half-closed eyes, as if he had cast a spell on them. Amelia had her hands clasped together in front of her chest. Gourry imagined Lina looking at him that way, and suddenly wanted very much to learn to sing the way Zelgadis did.
The tall swordsman paid careful attention when Zelgadis began to instruct Amelia. He learned that one must stand properly, to let the air flow smoothly, and to let the lungs and muscles do the best job they can. He copied the stance Zelgadis showed Amelia, his spine straight, focusing on using his stomach muscles to help draw breath all the way down, bringing depth and resonance to his tone.
Then Zelgadis began on breathing exercises, which he told them to practice every day, and many other things that Gourry had never known, but that Zelgadis said were the basics every singer should know.
Even Lina was caught up in the action, standing beside Amelia with a look of concentration on her pretty face, her slender red brows drawn together. He noticed how standing properly made him notice her chest more, since she usually slouched a bit from the weight of her massive shoulder-guards. I wonder what Lina would look like if she wore women's clothes. His eye was drawn to the way Amelia's frilly white dress fluttered in the gentle breeze.
"That dress makes you look very pretty, Amelia," he said impulsively, suddenly curious to see what her legs looked like. She usually wore pants, like Lina. He took a step toward her, about to follow through on his half-thought-out whim, when suddenly he noticed that both Lina and Zelgadis were glaring at him. "What?"
The two of them looked, if anything, even more murderous. He broke out into a sweat, realizing that once again he had said something wrong, and was about to get pounded-or fireballed-for it.
"Thank you for the compliment, Mister Gourry!" Amelia said loudly. Her voice seemed to distract Zelgadis' attention from him long enough for the younger man to calm down a little.
Lina, on the other hand, was beginning to glow with a fierce red aura, and he felt his knees turn to jelly. She shouted, "What are you doing, looking at another man's wife with me standing right here?"
Desperate, Gourry used his last resort, throwing himself down on his face on the lawn, apologizing for all he was worth. "I'm sorry, Lina; I didn't mean it," he babbled, "I was just noticing how pretty you were and I was wondering if you'd look even prettier in a dress like Amelia's, and then-"
"What?" Abruptly she was looking at him in shock, the red aura fading.
"So that's it," Amelia said, and both she and Zelgadis looked at each other in relief. Gourry glanced from one to the other in confusion, and Zelgadis looked down at him and crossed his arms. "For the record, Gourry, it's considered a insult for a man to make remarks about another man's wife. People might think you were interested in stealing her away from her husband."
Slowly Gourry stood up. "Oh. Yeah, I sort of knew that, but that was the last thing on my mind, you know? I mean, sure, Amelia's pretty, and nice, and a rich princess, and she's got a great body... ," He didn't notice Lina clenching her fists behind him, her teeth bared. "... but I've got Lina, and she's as bright and sharp as-as a sword, you know? No other girl can compare to her."
That seemed to stun all of them. The wind whistled through, making all of their hair and clothes ripple, and somewhere in the hedge a cheerful songbird began a melody. Finally Lina, with a soft, tender look on her face, said, "Oh, Gourry," and everything was all right again.
Zelgadis went on with the lessons, teaching the first four lines of the soothing tune, which served to calm everyone down. Gourry was astonished to discover that he could memorize the words just as fast as the girls. It must be the music! It helps me remember.
What a wonderful discovery! He couldn't stop grinning at everyone. When at last Zelgadis called a halt, saying that it wasn't a good idea to strain their throat muscles since they weren't used to such hard work, Gourry was disappointed, but, being a swordsman, he understood about sore muscles. "Can we do some more tomorrow?" he asked eagerly.
His friends laughed. "Of course," Zelgadis said with a smile.
"I've never seen you so eager to study before." Lina came up and put her arm through his, smiling up at him.
"That's 'cause I've never been this good at studying before. This is fun!" he said enthusiastically, not minding when they all laughed again. "Hey, maybe someday I can be a minstrel. Without the Sword of Light there's not much need for me to be a swordsman, after all... "
Everyone was looking at him in surprise. "You don't want to be a swordsman, Mister Gourry?" Amelia asked.
"Oh, I don't mind it." He thought for a few seconds. "Then again, Lina gets into so much trouble-she needs me to protect her."
"Why not do both, Gourry?" Zelgadis suggested. "Minstrels travel around the same way swordsmen do. There's no reason you couldn't do both."
Lina rolled her eyes. "Oh, brother. I can see it now. 'The Singing Swordsman.' " But the smile she gave him was indulgent.
As his first day as a human progressed, things faded into a blur for Zelgadis. Three things, however, stood out. The first time he'd felt the wind was one of them.
The second memorable scene was when he and Amelia decided to check on Sunshine, to see how she was adjusting to her new stable. To their surprise, Kerrin and Prince Philionel were there, in front of the stall of Sunshine's neighbor, a handsome red sorrel stallion with a cream-colored mane and tail.
"Hello, daughter, son-in-law," The prince greeted them with his usual enthusiasm. He swooped down on Amelia and gave her his usual bear hug. Instinctively Zelgadis hastily backed off before the man decided to hug him, too. He went to Sunshine, who sniffed at him and let him stroke her nose. He wondered if she knew who he was, (not that it mattered with a horse this friendly,) and let himself enjoy the marvelously silky-soft skin under his fingers.
Kerrin smiled and greeted his cousin and Amelia, then said hello to Shiran, admiring her large yet graceful appearance. The red horse snorted suspiciously, but settled down once Shiran had sniffed noses with him. Then the lavender dragonwolf came over to Kerrin and nudged his hand. Obligingly, he stroked her head, idly trying to smooth down the sheaf of dark purple fur that stood up between her ears. It reminds me of a horse's mane when the horse is in the middle of a leap, or maybe a dragon's neck-spikes. Not surprising, considering what she was bred from, but boy, did she turn out beautiful! And she seems to like me. I can't help but feel honored.
From the depths of her father's chest Amelia's muffled voice rose. "Good morning, Daddy-or is it afternoon?" As her father set her on her feet, she said enthusiastically, "You got a new horse? He's beautiful."
"Actually... " Kerrin looked at her apologetically, running his hand through his red-brown hair, making it stand on end. "I brought him here for you. Your father said you didn't have a horse of your own... "
"Oh," Amelia said. "And now I have Sunshine. Well, why not give-"
"By the way, Amelia, where is Gallant?" her father interrupted.
The young girl froze. As Kerrin watched, her eyes filled with tears. "What's wrong?" he asked worriedly.
Zelgadis stepped forward. "I'm sorry, Phil. He's dead."
Amelia was silent while the former chimera explained how the valiant stallion had given his life to save Amelia's. Kerrin looked back and forth between each of them. How awful! Poor Miss Amelia. I remember the horse she left with-he was magnificent. And now he's... The young man bit his lip. "Miss Amelia, is there anything I can do?"
She gave him a sad smile. "I'll be all right. Thank you, Kerrin."
Prince Philionel looked terribly sad, but resigned. "Don't cry, Amelia. I'm sorry Gallant is gone, but I'm more glad that you are safe. And as for you, Shiran-" Suddenly he dropped to one knee in front of the large lavender beast, who stepped back warily, not looking nearly as large next to so big a man. Philionel held out a hand, palm up. "Thank you for keeping my daughter safe." The man's dark blue eyes were perfectly serious. "I hope that you will continue to do so."
For a long moment, Shiran looked up at the man with flickering green eyes, then took a step forward and put a paw on the hand Phil was extending to her. A soft whine was heard. "Oh, Daddy," Amelia whispered. "She's accepted you. I think she means to protect you, too, just like Miss Lina and Mister Gourry and Kerrin."
Zelgadis suddenly gave the princess a wry smile. "We're gathering quite a flock," he commented, and for some reason Amelia giggled.
"You mean she thinks of us as sheep?" asked Philionel as he stood up, his shaggy black eyebrows raised, and Amelia laughed again. Kerrin was glad to see her smiling. I don't think any of us likes to see her sad.
"Oh, Daddy, while Miss Lina isn't around, I want to give you back Seyrune's crest." Amelia reached for the fuzzy pink pouch at her hip. "It really came in handy-that's how I paid for Sunshine." She rummaged through the pouch, pulling out a flat piece of bronzey metal engraved with the design of the house of Seyrune. She handed it to her father and then reached into the pouch again, pulling out a little blue stone statue and what looked like a metal arm-band.
"Remember this?" she said to Zelgadis, holding out the two-inch carving of a swordsman holding a rose over his heart. The stone was a beautiful shiny medium-dark blue with delicate white lines running through it. "I bought him because he reminded me of you."
His cousin looked embarrassed, but pleased. Kerrin smiled. Girls can be so sweet.
Prince Philionel leaned down to look at it. "Not bad work."
She handed the swordsman to her father. "Yes; I bought it from a man in Tollik, at a craft fair kiosk. That's also the town where we got Shiran, and Sunshine, too. We made some wonderful friends there."
"Tollik, you say?" Her father handed the statue back to her, and then she surprised Kerrin by offering it to him. "Thank you," he said, accepting it. A knight in shining armor-that's how Miss Amelia thinks of Li. He smiled fondly, noticing how smoothly it had been polished-no rough spots at all. I wonder if the carver used magic? He handed it back to Amelia, who put it back in her pouch.
Prince Philionel said, "I think I've heard of that town. Some kind of special cloth... "
Amelia explained about Tollik's rainbow sheep and Shiran's origin as the flock's original guardian. "That's where I was when I was attacked by the leapers that killed poor Gallant." She paused sadly, then straightened her shoulders. "But Miss Lina and Mister Gourry took care of them, so I don't think the people of Tollik are in any danger now."
"Oh, good," both Kerrin and Phil said together.
"Show him Ponmar's crest," Zelgadis suggested, nodding at the object she was holding.
"Oh, right." She handed the prince the golden arm-band, which had three beautiful dolphins leaping from the sea in a surge of plumes engraved on it. "Mister Ponmar said he wanted you to have this, as a token of his intent to pursue relations with Seyrune. It has the crest of his rulers on it."
Her father studied it. "I don't believe I've ever seen a crest quite like this. Where did you say he was from, this... .Ponmar?"
"The outer world."
It took Amelia and Zelgadis a while to explain, but eventually Prince Philionel was hugging Amelia again, full of praise for how she and Zelgadis had managed to open relations with one of the leaders of the outer world. I guess no one has been successful up to now, Kerrin realized.
Then he and Amelia both burst out laughing at the look of horror on the former chimera's face as the prince lunged at Zelgadis and seized him in a massive bear hug. "I knew Amelia made the best choice! That's why I let her go look for you after you called for help. Good work, Zelgadis, my boy, good work!"
Kerrin could see from the shocked look on his cousin's face that he hadn't known about Amelia's ward bracelet lighting up in the middle of her last dance. I'll tell you the story sometime, Li. He grinned up at Zelgadis, who now wore a long-suffering expression, his arms and legs twitching feebly. But right now I think I'd better rescue you!
He stepped forward. "Sire, would you like to have this horse? Miss Amelia already has Sunshine," he continued as the prince released Zelgadis and turned to face him. Kerrin added, "She's a very fine mare, by the way... "
Amelia smiled happily. The prince looked pleased as well, but before he could answer, Zelgadis took a few shaky steps toward the red stallion's stall. "Rin-if I'm not mistaken, this horse is... "
"Part of our family's stock, yes. The best bloodlines. I grew to be as fond of horses as you were, Li," Kerrin said with a grin. "I kept out of people's way out in the stable. I used to take my lessons out there and do them in the shade of an apple tree. I love fresh apples. So did the horses. See, the school I went to had some fine horses to train with."
"And you've become a superb rider. I've seen your skills, and I'm very impressed," Prince Philionel said enthusiastically. "You can accompany me on trips. I can always use a good guard."
Kerrin nodded his acquiescence. "We learned how to fight on horseback. It took me forever to get the hang of it without falling off. I always had bruises from the wooden swords."
"It paid off, though, didn't it?" His cousin gave him a look of pride. "Here you are, a fine swordsman just like I always planned to be, but never became... " There was an uncomfortable silence. No one wanted to comment on what had interrupted his training.
Suddenly Amelia spoke up. "Well, while I'm practicing swordsmanship, you can practice with me. You're still my sensei, right?"
Her father looked astounded. "Amelia? Are you saying you're finally over your sword phobia?"
"Oh, Daddy, it wasn't a-" Amelia looked embarrassed. "Let's just say Zelgadis convinced me that it was important to learn to protect myself without magic."
The prince scratched his bushy black head in puzzlement.
Zelgadis reached out to stroke the neck of the red stallion, who eyed him but was steady under his touch. "I used to ride horses like him in hedge-hurdling races. It was such a thrill-" Suddenly he turned and gave Amelia the kind of boyishly enthusiastic grin Kerrin remembered from his childhood. "You've got to try it, Amelia. You're an excellent horsewoman-you'd love it."
"Oh, yes! You told me about it-it sounds like such fun!" She beamed back at him.
Kerrin enjoyed seeing the rare happiness on his cousin's face. Look at him smile! It makes his whole face light up.
He noticed Prince Philionel was watching as well. For a moment Kerrin saw a look of regret pass over his face, but then the big man smiled. "Kerrin here was asking if I'd like to own this fine horse, but I already have many of my own. So, Zelgadis, would you like to have him?"
Amelia gave her father an astonished look, then softened. "Oh, Daddy, you're so sweet." She gave him a tender smile.
The prince beamed back at her, his regret at giving up the magnificent stallion obviously more than assuaged by the gladness on the faces of his daughter and son-in-law. Kerrin smiled tenderly. I'm so lucky to be a part of this family. He wasn't used to people who made such sacrifices.
Apparently, neither was his cousin. "Thank you, Phil... and Rin." Zelgadis turned toward the stallion, but not before everyone had seen the look of gratefulness shining in the former chimera's eyes.
For a long moment everyone watched Zelgadis, who stood facing away from everyone, stroking the red horse's nose, apparently too overwhelmed to speak. Kerrin glanced at Amelia, then at the prince, who nodded understandingly. "Well, son-in-law, I have some business to take care of, so I must be on my way. Care to join me, Kerrin?"
"Yes, sir." He took a step toward his cousin. "Li, I think we'll leave you alone so you can get acquainted with your new horse."
"What's his name?" Zelgadis spoke softly, still not turning around.
"His registered name is Greywyrs' Fire Spirit. He's really smart, and full of fire, just like his name. And he loves to jump." Kerrin traded smiles with Amelia. "We'll see you at the wedding."
He followed Prince Philionel outside, where the sight of the bright blue sky made him smile. "Isn't it a beautiful day?" he asked, giving in to the urge to take a deep breath of the crisp, refreshing autumn air.
The prince agreed, a broad, contented smile appearing beneath his bushy black mustache. He turned to shut the barn door, but before it was completely closed Kerrin heard Amelia's voice. "Sorry about that. Did Daddy hurt you? Sometimes he doesn't know his own strength. I didn't know he was going to hug you, or I would have warned him about your skin. "
Both of them froze. Kerrin felt a twinge of alarm. What's the matter with Li? And why didn't he tell us? Prince Philionel looked concerned.
"Well... it wasn't fun." Zelgadis' voice was quieter than Amelia's. Kerrin and the prince moved closer, peeking around the edge of the door to see the young lovers standing together in front of the red horse's stall. Zelgadis added with a wry smile, "But I think I'll live."
Amelia smiled back, a beautiful smile full of love and appreciation for the kind of subtle humor Kerrin remembered seeing in his cousin when they were younger. We never met a girl who understood his jokes before. She really is the perfect wife for him.
He tried to ignore the twinge of wistfulness that hit him whenever he remembered that she might have been his own wife. She was already in love with him when I met her. He reminded himself. And she looks so happy when she's near him. So does he, happier than I've ever seen him in our entire lives...
Kerrin watched, wide-eyed, as Zelgadis moved to stand next to the raven-haired princess and put a gentle arm around her waist, holding her close to him. Look at that. I don't think I've ever seen him voluntarily hug anybody before. Well, besides me, when I was a little boy. But he stopped doing that a long time ago...
"What call-name are you going to give him?" Amelia reached up to stroke the stallion's nose. "He's red, so how about Apple, or Cherry? Maybe Bright Star? Or-"
Zelgadis said, "I think I'll call him Blazer."
"Huh?" She cocked her head slightly to the side. "Why 'Blazer'?"
"Partly from his color and markings-he's such a bright red, like fire, and the white spot on his forehead looks like a lightning bolt, but mostly because he's symbolic of my new life here. You see, the phrase 'to blaze a trail' means to break new ground or to lead the way... "
"I like it! It's a bold, beautiful name, perfect for a stallion." She looked thoughtful. "I wonder... if Blazer and Sunny like each other, what would their foals look like? Baby horses are so cute!"
The two observers watched the former chimera smile with tender, indulgent affection at the princess' puppyish enthusiasm.
"You'd never know he was the same man," Philionel murmured.
Kerrin watched for a few more moments, then backed away from the door. The prince gently closed it, then turned to head back to the palace. Kerrin followed him, remembering the way the young lovers had looked at each other. His heart grew lighter as he felt his desire for the lovely young princess easing. They're perfect together. I wonder, he thought wistfully, Will I find someone who looks at me that way?
Author's Notes: Another reason Zel picked 'Blazer' is because it's a tougher, more masculine name than anything Amelia would have come up with. He's not all that keen on girly names.
DS-My next vacation is almost here-the first week of April. Aside from some Psychology homework and a couple of days' worth of shopping, I'm going to be devoting a significant chunk of time to my fic-hopefully, finishing it.
|Chapter List---DS's Fan Art---B!'s Library---Main|