Secrets Best Unknown
Notes: navy = flashback sequence
A rope slithered and slid down the incline like a snake, dropping coiled onto the dusty
ground. The rope was soon followed by a figure who dropped from the fissure in the ceiling,
slid down the rope, and then dropped to a crouch on the stone floor. Hah!
The figure paused for a moment of triumph before digging within the folds of it's ivory
cloak for a torch and means to light it. The flames sprang up quickly, casting a harsh
flickering light over the tunnel in which the figure stood. The torch was raised above it's
holder's head, as it to provide more illumination.
The figure stood in a tunnel. Old and cracked with age, the roof had let sands and dust
slip through to pool in small mounds and folds along the floor, creating a miniature desert.
The air was ancient but good, the many fissures had let in more than sand, as testified by the
brightly burning torch. The tunnel stretched far in front of the figure, decorated with
designs and fading paints, bracketed by holdings built for torches much like the figure's, and
built of the old strong stone from the days long past. Stone that shone like marble, but
tarnished like silver. That held up under wind and weather like no other stone quarried in
the figure's life.
For a moment, the figure took this in. A moment it held it's breath, standing in a
moment of silent appreciation. If not for the design, then for it's durability, for it's
age. It began to walk, slowly moving from shadow to inky shadow, pausing now and again to
gaze at the scenes depicted on the ancient walls. Scenes of wars long forgotten and cities
long crumbled to dust, of creatures and peoples no longer remembered even in myth and lore.
Sometimes, the figure would pause, pressing a gloved hand to the mural, as if to absorb the
knowledge and stories held within the walls, a moment in which the figure would scrutinize,
hoping to decipher the ancient script. Then the figure would hurry on, as if driven by some
unseen force, as if to linger was to be lost to whatever demon dogged it's steps.
The sluggish air seemed to part and swirl around it, as if trying to impart some last
wisdom or warning about the passing of age and the lore held here beneath the cold and heavy
earth. Softly, almost whispering as it moved down the passage, stirred by the movement of
life within these long forgotten halls. The murals were a legend now, a painted history of
the city that lay here, of the civilization that had once called the ruined tunnel home.
Hunts and royal processions, weddings and funerals, wars with winged and fanged foes,
emblazoned suns and rising moons, marketplaces and mansions, maps and ancient scripts. The
figure moved slowly now as it broke into the antechamber of some sort.
Silver veined, black marble pillars concentrically lined the walls, stretching to a
ceiling several lengths above, meeting each other at a rising sun, etched in gold, at it's
center. The domed ceiling was also made of the black marble, almost sterile in it's
simplicity. The floor was a solid sheet of the same marble, another golden sun etched within
the center, rays stretching out to touch the walls. It was a startling contrast to the
The figure glanced around the room once, absorbing every minute detail, before moving to
the large double doors at the opposite end of the chamber. The doors were also of dark
marble, but unlike the marble of the antechamber, it was pure ebon black. It seemed to suck
away the flickering flames of the torch, as if a pulsing darkness lay beyond those doors,
eating away at life and light.
He ran a hand hesitantly down the smooth marble of the door. He felt uneasy. Almost as
if some malevolent force was waiting, watching, stalking, prepared to pounce. He shivered and
tried to shove the unease out of his mind. This city was the location of his cure. The lower
Mazoku he had trapped had been adamant.
But Mazoku lie, he had learned that unfortunate lesson from Xellos. Didn't matter. The
Mazoku was dead now, he had found out everything he needed to know. So close, so very close
now ... He just needed to push open the doors. So why couldn't he push away that nagging
Zelgadis paused for a moment as a thought struck him. How had that
Mazoku known about this place? How did it know there was a cure here? He considered
it. Did it really matter how it knew? It gained nothing from tricking him and everything in
telling him the truth. There was an irony in that. It's everything was freedom, but he had
destroyed that with it's death. Vengeance was sweet.
No more stalling. He gathered his will and pushed against the doors, feeling
his stone skin crawl at the touch. The torch flickered for a moment and he caught his
breath. The doors swung silently inward. He let the breath out, feeling stupid and paranoid.
There was nothing there except another chamber. The chamber.
Unlike the room before it, it was made of solid, white marble, the pillars creating a
similar effect as the "sun" room. There were no suns etched into the ceilings and floors,
however. Plush, blood-red, velvet curtains hung between the pillars from floor to ceiling,
cloaking the room. It was like the inside of a chest cavity, white bone sheathed in red
muscle. The unease was stronger now, almost stifling. Zel's gaze alighted on the object of
It was a book. In the exact center of the room, a white, needle-thin column rose from
the floor, impossibly holding up a flat, round slab of white marble. The book sat on the
table, dull black cover seeming to suck in the light from his torch.
Zel tried to push down the unease again as he stepped up to table. Careful not to
disturb the precarious balance of it's construction, he lifted the book off the slab and
carefully set it on the floor. Setting the torch down as well, he took a moment to gaze at
the soon to be author of his redemption.
The book was covered in a odd, dull black cover. It wasn't any substance he knew and
felt odd to the touch. A silver sun-in-glory was engraved on the front, very much like the
suns engraved in the black room. Words were written below the sun, an ancient script that
flowed and merged, doubling back on itself, yet holding the measured precision of his own
written tongue. The aura in the room was stifling now, as if to choke him, but he ignored it
as he reached out a hand to carefully open the heavy, silver clasp that locked the book.
The clasp was warm, throbbing beneath his fingers. He blinked and pulled back. The
metal shouldn't be warm ... Zel swallowed hard as the words suddenly writhed and then
blurred, swimming in the black cover. Almost like debris or a body ... floating
to the top of a lake, words he knew seemed to superimpose themselves over the ancient script.
He swallowed hard. This could not be where his cure was hidden. It couldn't! Could
it? Where better place to hide it? He steeled his nerve again, forcing himself to open the
lock and then to slowly and carefully open the book.
Zel steeled himself as he went through the book page by page, the ancient words squirming
and swimming, scripts he knew floating up to be read before sinking back into whatever pit
they had come from. The unease has transcended to a horrified terror now, a knife-like buzz
in the back of his mind that he barely controlled.
There it was, his cure, words so plain as they floated on the page, bloated words, fat,
bloated, bloody words ... swimming in darkness ... he swallowed, trying to control the mind
numbing terror and the urge to vomit. The curtains were writhing, the thick, bloody shrouds
squirming and thrashing as they tore away from the bone white marble, splashing into pools of
crimson on the floor, dripping down the walls. Dripping, dripping, dripping, the book was
bleeding, drips and splashes, slowly pooling and flowing off the page ... the words were
bleeding, broken white and black gashes ... words so obscenely plain ... "Chimera's Cure"
Did he whimper? Was he reading what he thought he was reading? The image was burning on
the page, flames reaching up to take him, burn him, consume him in it's fire. This was his
cure? It couldn't be. He wouldn't let it be. Oh blessed, merciful Gods
He wanted to rip the picture from his mind, tear away the awful words, stop the horrible
images, the dripping, the truth from picking and eating through his brain, consuming his
soul. This was his redemption? No, no, please no, no no no nononononononono
The flood of crimson life was surging from the walls now, the muscles long ripped away,
the bleached bones stained red, garishly bright. He bent over the book, desperately hugging
himself, tears streaking down his blood splashed cheeks. A dull thumping, an eternal measured
throb, like a heartbeat was beating within the chamber, behind his eyes, in the back of his
mind, beating and burning inside of the book as it bled, throbbing and pulsing along the
writhing words and the burning image.
Sliding down the rope, she realized that he had been here, even if he wasn't
here now. She landed with a thump, cursed cutely, and proceeded to rub her aching posterior.
I really need to work on my landings.
Lina got up, summoned a magelight to light her way, and stalked determinedly down the
hall, muttering under her breath, "Zel! What the hell was he thinking? Running off like
that. Always heading off on his own whenever we get another lead. Geez ... "
She glanced around the tunnel, curious. It was rather impressive in it's scope, if
nothing else. Brightly colored murals covering the walls, the shifting sands brought by time
softening the floor. She couldn't believe he had run off like that. Especially considering
that Xellos told them where to find the place. Oh, yeah right, like Zel'd believe
him .... unless he's getting desperate for a cure ... "Hey now? The tunnel's
Stepping from the tunnel was a shock. Black marble walls, golden engraved suns, a
ceiling that stretched farther up than she could believe, considering how shallowly buried
this place was. It was a startling contrast to the tunnel. That had shown the effects of
time and exposure, this place did not. Odd ...
Lina shrugged off the thought as she spied the open double doors ahead. He has been
Stalking through the open black doors, she opened her mouth to give Zel a thorough tongue
lashing ... and saw no one. She looked around. This room was the exact opposite of the room
before it, made of white marble instead of black. Lush red drapes covered the walls,
fluttering sluggishly in an errant breeze. Her eyes were drawn to the center of the room, the
site of the most bizarrely constructed table she had ever seen. A white needle spire topped
by a marble slab. I wonder how they managed that.
Something drew her attention to the floor. An open book was lying beside the stand,
pages turning, fluttering, in a sudden sharp breeze. The breeze caused her cape to flap
around her, blowing her hair in her face. The drapes rustled, sounding like dry paper being
moved. Curiosity pricked, she went over and knelt down to look at the book. It was opened
to ... something. One side was almost darkened, dull, ancient script etched into the old
paper, a faded, blurry, undecipherable picture heading the page. On the other page was a
blurred picture of a mighty tree.
Lina shrugged, closing the book with a snap and tucking it within the folds of her cape.
She stood, taking a moment to look around for treasure before walking out.
He stared at his drink. The rich, dark red wine swirled in his cup as he swished it
absently. Did I see that? Was it just a dream? An image? No. It had been real,
the words all too the plain, the instructions all too precise. How ironic. The curse was
simplistic to cast and convoluted to reverse. How delightfully typical of Rezo. The perfect
punishment and the perfect leash. Damn you Rezo.
Zelgadis felt the eyes watching him, burning to his soul. I'm only dreaming this.
It's just a ... a ... flashback ... just a memory, not reality.
"Neh, Zel-chan, drinking liquor?! Never knew you had it in you," Xellos stated
cheerfully, slapping him on the back and his face conveniently into the cup. He jerked his
head up, blinking away the stinging alcohol, furious.
"Kisama!" Zelgadis snarled at the Trickster, powering up for a nice, painful, magical
Xellos playfully wagged a finger at him, grinning. Ensconcing himself in a seat just out
of reach of the angry chimera, he snatched up a rib and chewed, watching Amelia and Gourry
devour the last bit of their meal. Lina wasn't eating. Instead, she was watching Zel with a
searching look, as if trying to read the thoughts behind his azure eyes. Damn.
The night before had been an argument. She yelled at him for running off after Xellos's
lead and he yelled at her for getting in his life. Amelia and Gourry had suffered a stroke of
brilliance and decided to hide behind rocks until the fight was over.
"ZEL!!! WHAT THE HELL WERE YOU THINKING!?!?!" she screeched at him,
stalking into the camp. He glanced up. He guessed he had left just before she had arrived.
Luck, that, he didn't want her to know about IT.
"What?" he asked, voice cold as he moved his attention from the fire to her. That's when
she got a grip on his cloak and yanked him up to her eye level.
"You know exactly what I mean, you idiot!" she ground out between clenched teeth. "You
ran off on your own again! Damn it, Zel, we're a team! Don't you understand that?!?!?"
"We are not a team. This is a diversion for you three and a mission for me, " he
retorted coldly. She flinched as he struck a nerve. Yes, Lina, this is all just a game
"Yes it is. It doesn't matter anyway, I don't take orders from you. I can leave any
time I please, Lina." He knew he was being cruel and he didn't care. The fires was flashing
eerily as Gourry and Amelia hopped behind some rocks in preparation for Lina's inevitable
explosion. The wind was keening in his ears, the eyes like daggers at his back.
Lina ground her teeth for a moment. Unable to counter this with anything convincing, she
resorted to yelling, "YOU'RE STILL BEING A OVERCONFIDENT, BLUE IDIOT!"
The yelling was beginning to hurt his sensitive ears, especially at close range. He
pulled back, jerking his cloak out of Lina's grip and stepping back, crossing his arms over
his chest. "And your point?"
"Errrrrrghhhhhhhh!!" Lina fumed for a second before smacking him a few times with her
bunny slipper in frustration. He caught her wrists, bringing her uncomfortably close, voice
mild, "Do you mind?"
"ZELGADIS!!!" she shrieked at him, squirming a little, before subsiding into dark mutters
and unladylike curses. He released her when he judged she would no longer try to smack him.
Realizing she was getting no where, she dropped to a sitting position on the ground, clearly
in a huff, before popping the casual question, "So, find what you were looking for?"
"No." A direct, bald-faced lie.
"No." Even more of a lie and she knew it.
"Fine, fine, being uncommunicative," she muttered, stirring the fire moodily.
"I will be." With that statement, Zel turned away from them and walked into the forest
to spend the night. Lina just glared.
The night before had decided one thing for Lina: Whatever Zel had found he
wasn't saying. The other was more a matter of deduction: She had a sneaking suspicion that
the book she still carried had the clue, and Xellos most likely held the answer.
Lina watched the Trickster bait Zel again, watched Zel get ready to blow Xellos to
kingdom come, think better of it, and then return to his wine. That was a little odd itself,
usually Zel drank coffee or tea, not liquor. Something was wrong, she just couldn't figure
"Xellos, I need to talk to you."
He glanced up as Lina rose, telling Xellos she needed to talk to him and them asking him
to join her upstairs. Zel didn't like that too much, but he also didn't have a choice.
Xellos smiled brightly and followed her up, chattering inanely. Zel returned his attention to
Dark and sparkling in the dim light of the inn, it seemed to glimmer, flashing in the
candlelight. The unease was there, slowly building on the edges of his mind, a buzz behind
his eyes. The wine was darker, more rich now, the flames from the fireplace growing and
flickering, casting a ruddy glow along the walls, tinting his skin a dark violet. A light
steam rose from his cup, smelling of brimstone and blood, metallic in it's scent. Without
thinking he drew it closer, a sick fascination behind the terror as the once-wine grew thick
and dark as blood.
The walls of the inn keened. The rich amber wood warping, crimson black life dripping
from the knotholes and the grain lines, staining the floor and walls as it slid slowly down.
Was his heartbeat louder? It seemed to be, beating from outside instead of within, from above
him, beating, beating, beating ...
Dripping, dripping, dripping, won't it stop dripping?! The thought was laced
with hysteria as he drew the cup closer, an intense, sick urge to drink nearly overpowering
his will. An inky ooze, a shadowed darkness was slowly creeping up the table legs, tendrils
of black sliding over the table top, reaching for him, entwining around his arms and legs, as
soft and caressing as a lover while the dark crimson within his cup bubbled, heat washing over
his face. Flames licked along the edges of his vision, in sync with the heartbeat, sickly,
green fire burning on the edges of the slowly pooling blood that slid dripping from the
walls. Dripping, dripping, dripping ...
The inky tendrils caressed his face now, probing lightly at his lips, entangling in his
"Zel?" He jerked his head up, startled. Amelia looked at him, concerned. "You okay?"
He blinked, covertly looking around the inn. It was normal. So was the cup of wine
before him, as well as the walls, his hands ... his shaking hands. IT was gone. How? Was he
the only one that was seeing this? "Yeah, Amelia, I'm okay. I think I'll go to bed now."
Zel stood, shoving away the feel of being watched, of the faint beating behind his eyes,
the faint sound of dripping. Am I going insane? He prayed not, he pleaded it
wasn't so. But ... what else could it be? "Good night, Amelia, Gourry."
Zelgadis slowly climbed the stairs to his room, ignoring any looks that might have
followed him, as well as his growing sense of unease.
Lina could almost sense the Mazoku's curiosity as he followed her. She knew he knew that
she didn't trust him. Not an inch, not a finger, not a hair, nothing. Yet she still asked
him to talk. Alone. He was almost had to be curious.
Ignoring the prickling along the back of her neck, she twisted the doorknob and stepped
inside, holding it open for Xellos. He stepped inside cheerily and made himself comfortable
on the bed, leaning his staff against the bedpost. Closing the door, she nabbed the only
chair in the room and sat down, taking a moment to study him.
Even after all this time in his presence, she still couldn't shake the feeling of danger,
like a knife was poised at her back, ready to strike. Instinct screamed danger with the very
nearness of his aura. Was this the way Zel felt around him? Possibly. Xellos broke the
"Neh, Lina-chan, what do you feel like talking about? Our dear chimera? Your fight last
night? Or perhaps something more ... pleasant?" he asked jovially, opening an amethyst eye.
She ignored the pleasant bit, and didn't bother to ask how he knew about the fight. She
wouldn't get an answer out of him anyway. "It's about that city, Xellos. Why?"
He opened the other eye for a moment, "That is a secret."
She beaned him with her bunny slipper as soon as he closed his eyes, "DON'T START THAT
"Yare, yare, Lina-chan, do you have to hit so hard?" he whined, rubbing his head, a pouty
look plastered on his face. She just waved the bunny slipper at him, flames burning behind
her. Right before she sat down with a thump and pulled the book from hiding.
Xellos's face changed immediately. Both eyes opened, the face lost it's smile, the voice
was dead serious. "Where did you find that, Lina?"
"The city, idiot. Where else?" she snapped, setting it on her lap, "It's what you wanted
him to find, wasn't it? What you wanted us to find."
"Why would I want to do that?"
"You tell me."
He sighed dramatically, "Really, Lina-chan, if I wanted the book so bad I would have
gotten it myself. It would have been much quicker."
"That is - "
"IF YOU SAY IT, I'LL WRING YOU'RE SCRAWNY NECK!!!!!!" she shrieked, getting him in a
"Yare, yare - urk"
Lina let him go, taking a moment to clear her throat in a ladylike fashion, cross her
legs, toss her hair over her shoulder, and then look back at him with a confident smile.
She gestured at the book, motioning for him to take it. He picked it up, serious again,
carefully weighing it, as if to find some secret on the cover. A single touch and the lock
popped open. He flipped the pages, scanning them in her estimate, pausing at one page
approximately in the center of the book. Tenderly, like a lover, his gloved fingers stroked
the page, brushing across the blurred, undecipherable image with a odd smile on his lips,
whispering under his breath. He snapped the book shut when he caught her peering over his
shoulder. "Lina-chan, curiosity killed the cat."
"AND IT'S GONNA KILL YOU!!!"
He smiled and wagged a finger at her, touching a kissed finger to her lips, "If you would
be so kind." Lina proceeded to slam his face into the floor, beet red.
"Well?!?!" she demanded when he'd pried his face from the floor.
Xellos opened the book to the page again, laying it carefully on the floor between them.
He smiled brightly, though there was a decidedly dark cast to it. He tapped the blurred image
and the page it dwelled upon. "This is our dear chimera's cure."
"Really?!?! What's it say? How do you work the spell? How long does it take? What do
we need? Does Zel know?" she blurted the questions out in quick succession, temporarily
forgetting the odd smile that danced across the Trickster's lips.
He smiled wider, lifting a finger, "Some secrets are best left unknown, Lina-san."
Lina slammed a fist into his face. It went straight through him as he smiled again. She
glared, "Okay, you heartless bastard, what the hell are you talking about?"
"Dese dare, richiphre catera deme ne', Lina-chan."
"WHAT?!" she yelled, prepared to do him bodily harm, only to find that he had already
faded out. "Damn."
Xellos smiled. The information he had told Lina was the truth ... it just wasn't the
Lina glared at her room for a bit, daring the Trickster to show himself so she could
fireball him back to the Beastmaster. Xellos must have sensed her intentions, however, and
did not deign to reappear. She sighed. Damn! What the hell do they know?!
If Xellos actually did know something, he sure wouldn't tell her until he
felt like it. Sadly, the same was true for Zelgadis. Men!
Lina gazed down at the open book. This had to hold the answer. Somewhere. What
did you see, Zel? She bent down, as if proximity could imbue her with some sort or
revelation. The image was still too blurred to make out. Whoever painted this sucked.
There was a dark blot to one side, a blue and white blob in the middle, and a
multicolored blob to the other side. The whole thing had a fuzzy cast to it, like one was
looking through an incredibly dirty window. This is about as clear as mud.
The odd, archaic script covered the darkened page, so old she didn't even know what
tongue it was, let alone be able to read it. Xellos knows it. Just how old can it be?
From before the War? That was another puzzle. Had Zel read it? If he did, then how?
Could the book give it's reader the power to read the script? It was worth a shot.
Lina closed the book and locked it. Then, feeling incredibly stupid, she pressed her
hands to the cover, "Oh book, give me the power to read you."
Nothing happened. Lina cracked an eye to glare at the stubborn black cover, feeling like
an idiot, "Fine, fine ... stupid book."
Opening it again, she went back to studying the "cure". She pressed a gloved finger to
the picture, wiping downward. Maybe it's dirty. She lifted the finger, glancing
at the glove. Odd, why's it have that stain on it? Lina looked back down at the
page, nothing had changed except now her glove had a spot on it, which it could have acquired
at dinner. Lina decided this was going no where, shut the book, and climbed into bed. She'd
deal with it tomorrow. A rather persistant thought floated to the top of her conscience as
she drifted off. What did you see, Zel?
He climbed the stairs slowly, feeling the weight of unseen watchers at his back. Almost,
he wanted to run and hide, to get away, but they'd find him, follow him, just as they had when
he ran from the city. Reaching the top of the stairs, he started down the hall to his room.
Zel paused for a moment in front of Lina's door, wanting to see her for some vague,
indescribable reason. He felt a need to see her, a compulsion, but firmly pushed it away,
heading to his room and slipping inside.
Gods, what's happening to me?, he thought as he sunk to a sitting position on his
bed, his legs suddenly giving way. Why am I seeing IT? What's the matter with me?
Beating, beating, beating, was his heart beating faster? Was it even his
Suddenly, he needed to be moving, to find a way to push the thoughts from his mind, get
control of his fear again. Zel stood, unclasping his cape and tossing it onto the bed. The
cape was quickly followed by his shirt, sword belt, and this boots. Grabbing the assorted
clothes, he carefully put them where he could find them in the morning. Boots beside the
chair, sword by his bed, shirt and cape thrown over an arm of the chair, and his brooch laid
on the dresser. He was very glad there wasn't a mirror, because he did not want
to see himself. Zel clenched his fists, The temptation ... . The thought was
quickly followed by another, The price, oh blessed gods, the price!
Shaking a little, the chimera climbed into bed, hoping sleep would give him relief.
It was just a drip, a very singular drip. The blob of inky darkness held there for a
moment, poised over the dresser, clinging to the ceiling for an imperceptible space of time
before dropping onto the blood red brooch. It didn't splatter. Instead, it sank into the
stone as if it were thick water, causing an odd ripple across the smooth surface as it
vanished into the red.
Zel drifted back into the waking world as something wet hit his cheek. He blinked as
another wet something splattered against his chest. Opening his eyes, he looked up. Is
the roof leaking?
The ceiling was no longer a ceiling. Instead, it was a seething mass of creatures.
Shadow creatures. Slime covered darkness, oozing across one another as they fed, legs and
wings folding and unfolding with each bite. Biting and tearing at each other and the ceiling,
the sickening sounds of their teeth rending the pulsing flesh underneath them as well as the
screams of their own dying permeated the room. Another wet something fell with a splash to
the floor, pooling redly on the varnished wood.
Zel sat up quickly, feeling an unnamable fear as the creatures writhed almost in sync,
causing more blood to fall. They were eating the ceiling, teeth tearing into
some sort of flesh, causing the steaming red rain. Tiny screams erupted from the flesh eating
mouths as they fell to the floor, burning alive in black, blue tinged fire. Flame licked
wings beat uselessly as they fell and were consumed before they even touched the quickly
Even as he watched, unconsciously pressed against the wall, the room warped,
the view bending and twisting like oil on water to the faint throbbing that sounded in the
room. Without the shadow creatures, the ceiling was clear to view, a pulsing, beating wall of
smooth, glowing tissue, numerous holes eaten into it. With each beat, steaming crimson life
gushed from the punctures, a waterfall of red splashing to the floor and igniting into black
fire. Slowly rising, the vicious red murk swirled and bubbled, the heady scent of fresh blood
seeming to hold him silent captive to it's dark spell.
The red waterfall of blood was coming thicker and faster now, splashing into the rising
lake, even though the heartbeat was steady. Then the ceiling burst, the sudden rush of blood
filling the room and sending him close to panic. The throbbing heartbeat was louder now,
beating along every nerve, pulsing and pounding in the liquid as he attempted to swim.
Attempted and failed, sinking down into the glowing heat.
Zelgadis was rapidly running out of air, verging on drowning when the inky darkness
swirled out of the red depths, oozing into a humanoid shape, beckoning him with scythe shaped
limbs. The previously checked terror flared up in him as it darkness swirled around him,
gliding across his exposed skin, entwining tendrils of ebony curling around his body,
The blurred, shapeless form that could be it's head swayed within his red-tinged vision,
huge whitish spots for eyes. Like the oil-shine in hot water, the eyes flowed and warped
across it's surface, never still. Zelgad~issss ... Was
it calling him? Was the voice out there or in him? It was a horrible parody of human sound,
the pitch and depth changing with every syllable, like a dead thing given the ability to
breath, but with no knowledge of how to produce the sound. But then again, Zel doubted that
this had ever been alive.
He thrashed, trying to get away from the black corruption, using his remaining air in the
attempt. The voice was horribly wrong as it resounded in the thick liquid. This was horribly
wrong. The vague temptation that had touched him before evaporated into nameless fear. He
opened his mouth to scream, to cast Raywing, to do something, and the darkness
flowed inside, the revolting, black sickness sliding down his throat, into his lungs, filling
every pore of his being, consuming him from the inside out. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
Then he was falling into the dark embrace that rushed up to replace the red.
Zelgadis carefully cracked an eye. He no longer felt what he had before, holding the
weight, feeling the black sickness inside him. A beam of sunlight struck his face, causing
him to quickly shut his eye before opening it again, quickly followed by the other. He was in
a field of thick, green grass stretching as far as the eye could see. The sky was cloudless
and the sun was hovering at noontime, as if poised to pause for lunch. He sighed in relief.
No voices, no shadows, no blood, no heartbeat. Thank you! Lifting a hand to push
the hair back from his eyes, he paused in shock. They were human hands. Pale skinned, fine
boned human hands. Zel grinned, happy with this turn of events as he touched his
cheek, wonder marking his face as he felt more skin and not smooth, pebbled rock.
Giving an uncharacteristic whoop of joy, he cartwheeled. I haven't done this since
I was tall enough to hold a sword! he thought with a grin as he ended up in a heap in
the grass. Delightfully silky grass. He squirmed a little, getting comfortable as he gazed
into the sky. Raising a hand, he looked at it, wondering, How did I become human
again? The thought brought a flash of memory. Oh ... gods ... A room, a
book, blood ... so much blood, then ... then ...
"Zel!" Startled, he sat up. It can't be ... "Zel! Oh, there you are!"
Lina smiled and waved at him from a couple meters to his side, before dashing over and
pouncing him. The impact caused them to tumble over in the grass, ending up with Lina
sprawled on top him. She's ... the thought petered out when Lina bent her head
to kiss him hungrily on the lips. "Neh, Zel, you look nice human," she murmured around the
play of their lips.
A long moment later, he reluctantly pulled back, a little confused, "But you're - "
Lina grinned and covered his mouth with a hand, the other tangling in his dark blue
hair. "Of course not!" she said, snuggling up and laying her head on his chest. Lina
murmured something else, but without his enhanced hearing he didn't catch it. It's not,
it isn't ... His mind was a jumble and Lina pressing up against him wasn't helping
much. Zel did catch hold of one fact, however, a fact which brought a rush on relief. I
can cast it! I can be cured!
Sliding an arm hesitantly around her waist, Zelgadis pulled Lina closer, burying his face
In her silky red hair, smelling the sweet, flowered scent of the soaps she used. She giggled
and squirmed at this display of affection, tilting her head up for a kiss. A kiss he happily
obliged, not bothering to wonder why she had become so affectionate towards
him. Does the spell do this too? Is that even possible?! Once again, Lina cut
off his train of thought with a kiss.
She pulled back, grinning mischievously as she suddenly pushed him back into the grass,
hands gliding across the smooth expanse of his still bare chest, laughing at the look on his
face. Bending to get nose to nose with him, she pouted, "You don't want to? I thought you
"I do ... ", he squeaked, taken aback.
"Good, " she said, eminently satisfied, "because I love you too."
With this pronouncement, Lina smiled, before engaging both of them in another kiss. A
kiss that soon led to ... other things.
Zelgadis didn't have enough clear thought left to question how Lina had suddenly
appeared, or why the sun was tinged red, or why the rich green grass suddenly darkened into
black as living tendrils moved to entwine the two in a loving embrace. Only that it was
suddenly, entirely wrong.
After an immeasurable length of time, Lina snuggled against him, looking as exhausted as
he felt, but radiating a pleased contentment as they finished and relaxed back into the waving
ebon grass. A rather odd thought flitted through his head, Xellos would be so
jealous ... Zel absently ran a hand through Lina's hair, brushing the damp strands away
from her face. She looked up and smiled, placing a final kiss on his lips before resting
against him again, unnaturally still.
Still caressing her hair, his hand slid down her back, pausing as it touched something
that felt ... odd. Zel pushed himself up on an elbow, feeling Lina's stillness as he pulled
his hand back to look. L-sama ... His hand was covered in blood. A sticky,
half-dried mess of blood and sweat slickly coated a gaping hole in her back. "Lina?"
His whisper got no answer as he carefully pushed her up by her shoulders. Her head fell
forward limply, the vibrant, red hair dull and lifeless as it slid forward to cover her
chest. A matching hole was oozing on her stomach. Zel lifted a shaking hand to touch her
cheek, finding it cold. A cold that is only possible in bodies long dead, after death has
sucked every vestige of life and warmth from the soul's shell. What have I done?
The thread of thought slid through his frozen mind like a snake, leaving turmoil in it's
"What have I done?!" Even as the horrified moan broke the stillness, the
waving grass hissed and whispered across itself, a dark marble stone rising out if the ebony
sea. Words swam across the stone, squirming and slithering as they floated, blazing white in
the silver streaked darkness. Words he knew, had read before, in another place, where a heart
beat in sync with rushing blood. Images blazing across the surface, beckoning,
Someone screamed in the stillness, and he didn't even know if it was himself or a
creature caught in the wicked talons of a predator, shrieking death with it's last throes.
The feel of being shaken like a rag doll woke Zelgadis up.
Lina sat bolt upright at the sound of the screams. Who-wha-whe- Her mind was
a jumble as she blinked in the sudden silence. Another scream ripped through the silence like
a knife through butter, a scream that didn't end, setting every nerve on edge as the sound
raised in pitch, higher and higher till she thought her ears would burst, singing and razing
through her bones as it went into supersonic levels. Dogs began to howl in the inn yard as
she lowered her hands from her ears. Zel!
The sorceress practically fell out of her bed in her haste to reach his room, deathly
afraid of what she might find. Never in her life had she ever heard him scream like that, a
sound so filled with agony, anger, and fear that it seemed to leave aftershocks in her heart.
Not surprisingly, the door to his room was ajar. Gourry and Amelia were already there,
trying in vain to hold the lightning blur of blue and crackling light that was Zel down. A
finger tapped her shoulder. Lina whirled, ready to slap the perpetrator silly.
"Oya, oya, Lina-chan, having difficulties?" Xellos asked cheerfully, peering over her
That was the last straw for Lina. She never was a morning person, and that coupled with
the sudden occurrence of this had shortened her tolerance of the smiling
Trickster to diddly. Lina had Xellos in a headlock in less than two seconds, "WHAT THE
FRICKIN' HELL DO YOU THINK, YOU HEARTLESS, SMILING BASTARD!!?!?!?!?!?!?"
"That is - gurk" Xellos lost the ability to breath as Lina attempted to strangle
the life out of him. Then he vanished.
"Wha - ?" Lina looked at her hands for a second, caught off guard, then turned to look
at Zel. The dogs' howling had petered off into tortured whines as Zel's scream reached levels
that even set human nerves to agony, the glass in his window vibrating and shattering into a
shower of glittering dust. Then everything was silent.
Lina's gaze was drawn up to the form that floated above Zelgadis's bed. Xellos grinned
and waved at her, before returning his concentration to the now-still chimera. Dropping a
gloved hand he gently pushed Zel's hair away from his face before pressing a hand to his
throat. Xellos smiled darkly. "He's dead."
Xellos fell over with when a bunny slipper hit his head at warp speed, "DON'T EVEN JOKE
"But, Lina-chan, " he whined, anime tears streaming down his footprinted face, "Here I
went and slapped a still spell on him and this is the way you repay me?! Wahhhhhhhhhhh! You
never let me have any fun!"
Lina pushed down the very pleasant image of a dead Trickster Priest before
darting over to Zel to check on him. He's so still ... Unable to stop herself and
needing reassurance that he was alive, she pressed her ear to his chest while her
hand searched for his pulse. The faint sound of breathing and the slow muffled beat of his
heart sent a almost painful rush of relief through her. Then she started to shake the
stuffing out of him while screeching, "Don't you EVER scare me like that again, Zelgadis
That woke him up.
Zel blinked as the world rushed up to greet him. Light and color spinning sharply into
focus, so fast he almost felt sick. Unfortunately for his stomach, it didn't seem to stop
"Um, Lina, he's awake now, you can stop shaking him, " Gourry said, edging around to hide
behind Xellos should Lina decide to take out her fury on him.
Lina looked down the limp chimera. His eyes were all swirly and little stars were
spinning around his head. "Eh heh ... sorry Zel."
Quickly releasing his shoulders, she pulled back as he kinda swayed and then sagged
forward into her arms. Two things came to her attention with him pressed against her, the
little stars spinning around them. One, he was shirtless and she wasn't wearing much more
than a nightshift and Two: It felt awful nice being this close to him.
Xellos grinned lewdly as Lina blushed seven shades of red.
The world slowly swam into focus again, the chaotic swirl of light and color settling
into calm, normal patterns. It took him about three seconds to figure out where he was, what
nice thing he was propped against, and who that nice thing was. He choked and
jerked back, eyes big as saucers as he searched Lina's face, looking for the cold touch of
death and finding only blazing life. Thank L-sama, he thought as a flood of pure
relief washed over him. She wasn't dead.
Lina blinked as Zel jerked away suddenly, staring at her with wide, frightened eyes.
Almost as if he's afraid of what he'll see ... Then relief so intense it wiped
away all other emotion flooded through those ice blue eyes. Before Lina could figure it out
though, his cold, apathetic mask fell back into place, hiding his heart from her eyes.
His voice was cool and measured when he finally spoke, "Lina, could you please get off
Xellos grinned wider as Lina blushed seven more shades of red and quickly
scrambled off of Zel. This whole escapade is just getting more and more interesting ...
He glanced over at the now far too calm chimera. I wonder just how long it'll take
before you break, Zelgadis. Just how long can you stand the temptation?
Lina watched, silent and pained, as Zel rebuffed Amelia's attempt to talk to him for the
fifth time that morning. Why does he have to be so cold?! But she already knew
the answer, To block out whatever's wrong. Whatever he saw. The thin shield of
uncaring that covered his heart was slipping more and more often. If only I knew ...
Her mind flew back to their conversation after he had screamed them awake, a
conversation a week ago.
"What's wrong, Zel?" she asked as they finished their usual massive
breakfast. A breakfast that all three had eaten with one eye on their food and the other on
Zel. His eyes were locked to a place over their heads, almost as if lost in another world of
his own creation as he slowly swished the coffee in his cup.
He glanced over at the sound of her voice, unseeing. Zel blinked for a moment before
asking, "Did you say something, Lina?"
"What's wrong?" she asked again, slight worry seeping into her question.
"And if I am?" a cool, unconcerned question.
Amelia's heart was in her eyes as she reached across the table to catch his stone hand,
"Zelgadis-san, please tell us." The question was almost a beg, her eyes pleading with him to
open up to them, just this once.
He extricated his hand with almost overdone care, coolly turning away from both of them,
eyes again loosing focus as he stared over their heads, ignoring them completely. Their pleas
fell on deaf ears. Or they did before Lina smashed a serving plate over his head.
"What did you do that for?!" he growled, glaring icy daggers at the unfazed Lina.
"What I should have done a long time, you idiot! You're locking us out again!" she
snarled, fury lacing every movement as she carefully set down the pot she'd been about to
throw at him next.
"We're your friends, Zel. If you can't trust us, who can you trust?" Amelia asked
softly, catching his arm, eyes once again pleading.
Zel shook her off like a leaf. "Friends? We are not friends. We just
happen to travel together. An action I'm beginning to regret," So cold, so very
cold ... His voice was like a dagger, the words cutting through both anger and fear,
leaving shocked stares.
Gourry broke the deadlock, "Of course we're friends. We fought
Shaba-uh-dingo-what's-his-face, didn't we? We killed the Kopii-thing together. We've been
through thick and thin for your cure, Amelia's quests, Lina's treasure, and keeping the
weirdoes from my sword. We are friends."
The chimera flinched visibly at the mention of his cure, the indifferent mask slipping
for a moment, raw terror and guilt painting his features before it slid seamlessly back into
place. Amelia and Lina rallied with Gourry's words, preparing another attack even as Zel
dropped the cat among the pigeons. "Never, ever, mention that again in my
They were stunned, Lina managed to give a strangled gasp as she stared at him, in shock
"You heard me."
A swirling mess of questions rose up in Lina's mind. The book, Xellos, city, black,
what? "What did you see, Zel?"
The second question was a whisper, "Did you find your cure?"
"Does it matter?"
"Zel, please! What did you find?" the last question was a beg as Lina realized she would
get blood from stones and turnips before she got an answer from him.
"Nothing. This matter is closed."
Lina swallowed to stop the bitter tears that threatened to spill over her cheeks. Amelia
looked much the same as Zel once again verbally pushed her away. Their friend was closing
himself off when he needed them the most and there was nothing they could do. The princess
slowed to match pace with Lina, her eyes pleading silently what she didn't dare say,
'Lina-san, what are we gonna do?'
Lina just shook her head, 'I don't know'.
Xellos was floating in the shadows just beside the travelers. He could tell easily that
the three following the relentless pace of the chimera were frayed and worried, a sharp
contained fear rising off them as they found themselves without recourse to act.
Zelgadis was another story. Every step was agony, every movement a walk through hell.
Xellos could read it in his footsteps as they faltered from whatever vision plagued him. His
friends might be frayed, but Zelgadis was a man about to break, walking on the ragged,
knife-thin edge of destruction.
Zelgadis was walking in a haze of blood and darkness, of black lightning and sick green
fire, barely able to discern reality and fantasy, uncertain of every step through the murk in
which he was walking, unable to read the stars when they hung like drops of blood in
shuddering, fleshed sky. It was a vision that rarely lifted, usually at the voices of those
he had fissioned from himself with his own cruel words. He couldn't allow them close now, not
when he was uncertain if the voices he heard were friend or foe. Zel ached for them, for the
comfort he so desperately needed, for the caring he knew was there if he only looked. But he
didn't dare look.
His dreams were more real than his waking daze, sweet temptations burning in dark
corruption, pulling at his soul, tugging at his heart. The dreams were like the first, but
more vivid, more jewel like, IT was getting better, smarter as time went on. IT was learning
from each vision, from each reaction, learning his mind and heart better than he did, reading
his soul like an open book as it twisted his desires into his downfall.
But if he fell, there would be no one there to catch him.
The first dream was a test... did I read that? The second: Power.
Screams and the clash of arms rang in his ears as he fought on the
weathered, battle hardened, black war-horse. It bucked and then crushed in the skull of his
attacker, blood drenching the mare's flanks even as it splattered his own ebon leather. He
grinned, cruel, blue eyes flashing as another fireball exploded among the enemy, setting the
line of protecting brush on fire. Another swipe of his sword and another attacker fell as he
charged, dark blue hair whipped back in the wind.
"Diem Wind!" A blast of air leveled a flank of his soldiers, knocking them over like
pins. Zelgadis smiled up at the flame haired sorceress of the enemy, knowing that she would
soon serve him. It was only a matter of time. She was chanting now, but he didn't give her
time as he reined in Thundercloud, hands lifting to cast his own spell. The dark laced spell
of dragon containment. Dragon Slayer, dragon heart, burning within cage of black and
gold, hold fast to these bindings as Our power unfolds! Lina never knew what hit her as
she blacked out.
Without the Dragon Spooker at their backs, the enemy fell like wheat before the scythe.
The comparison brought a smile to his cold, human features, twisting the fine lips into a
unholy grin. Amelia was a simple thing to eliminate. The Ra-Tilt blast of Shamanism did
nothing on his bespelled armor. Her screams rang in his ears as he handed her over to Xellos
and searched out Light Holder, his one true threat next to Lina.
The brooch flashed in warning. He dodged to the side, his cape speared by the blade of
blazing light. Blonde haired Gourry leaped from behind the dying embers of the brush,
lightning fast in his strikes. He was dead after the first strike. Zel lifted a hand as the
second strike descended, energy rippling around the palm, blasting Gourry to cinders. He
watched, the smile still fixed to his face, as both the now dead sword and the ashes of his
former companion fell, spinning, to the uncaring ground.
The next time he saw the fiery treasure he had sought in these lands, she was bound and
gagged in his tent, glaring hatred at his every move. He knelt before her, gently removing
the gag. "I am sorry you couldn't see things my way," he whispered.
"Like hell, bastard."
Zelgadis gently brushed her soot peppered hair away from her face. "I'm also sorry you
don't see what is plainer than the nose on your sweet face."
"I see perfectly, murdering snake!"
Quicker than the snake she had mentioned, he had her caught against him, crushing his
lips to hers in a searching, devouring kiss. She bit him. Zel jerked back, fingering his
bloodied lip, "Fire soul you are, my heart. Try to understand."
With those words he shot the death fire through her stomach, burning and searching to
capture her soul before it fled on golden wings, confining it to the blood red brooch that
hung glittering around his neck. Death glazed the ruby eyes as she sank soundlessly to the
The brooch glimmered, double shine marking it's red-black surface as he watched the
remnants of Amelia's army grovel at his feet. He held their lives in his fist, a single
squeeze and they would die, slowly and painfully as each drop of blood was dragged from their
forms. Uncaring he watched them beg and plead, seeing the fear in their eyes, the knowledge
that he didn't care if they lived or died, just as long as the living or dying
The ruby eyed temptress slipped to his side, stepping into his embrace and kiss, knowing
her presence had just twisted the knives thrust through the men's hearts. Zel smiled at her,
twisting a lock of hair around his fingers, as he sucked gently on her too-cold lower lip,
eliciting a moan from her blasted throat. Lina in the crystal screamed soundlessly as the
shell of her body bound herself to their conqueror with a single sealing kiss.
Power, indeed. Complete and absolute. Life and death held in his oh so human hands.
Chi~merrr~a issss currrr~sssse. Hu~maan isss po~wer.
The voice of IT, the singular voice of temptation, sending him screaming to the waking world
that had become less a refuge and more a nightmare.
That time he had darted out of his bedroll to check on his friends, needing the
reassurance that they were alive and not crushed by the cruel, cold monster he had become.
Then he had escaped to empty his stomach, sickened to the core, even though the promise was
hard to push away. The promise of control, of the power to do as he pleased,
Lina by his side ... it was the self-same desire that had driven him to take this form, even
though he hadn't known then the price of power.
Now he knew it all too well.
The third dream was harder to ignore, following hard on the heels of the first.
The red robes swished softly around his bound form, brushing against
the bare stone, sending shivers down his back. The memory of prior "lessons" burned in his
mind. Rezo punished disobedience with torment, imaginative and will destroying torment.
Zelgadis stifled a whimper of fear as he felt the soft, white feather brush across his
stone cheek, burning the path it gently stroked. "Zelgadis, do relax, it can be ... pleasant
if you let it."
"Pity." The pain ripped through him as the tip of the staff was slammed through his
shoulder. "Why must you make this difficult?"
Zelgadis was too busy fighting the pain and keeping silent to answer.
Then he was fighting his friends in Rezo's Tower, red eyes burning as he attacked her,
the one who would stop his controller. Her death was everything, Rezo's will must
be followed, even though his soul screamed and writhed in the grip of the ruby spell
woven into his body.
'Me~mberrr th~isss? We~ak.
The scene shifted. Rezo's sightless eyes opened wide as the sword slid through his
heart, spearing it in an instant. The azure eyes of his grandson glared hatred into his own,
cured, normal eyes, no longer slitted as a Mazoku's. Zel jerked the sword out, not wishing to
stain in with the snake's blood. He smiled, a spell forming in his pale hand as he pressed a
finger to the chest covered in bloody robes.
"Fireball!" A burst of cleansing flame and charred robes fell like leaves to the ground,
the last remains of the Red Priest. The clattering of chimes and the staff fell as well,
shattering into nothing as it struck, made fragile by the intense heat of mageborn flames.
Looking at the scorched, smoking earth, Zelgadis smiled.
If Rezo had not already been dead, he would have crumbled, giving into the blackness that
insinuated itself into the flaws and cracks in his heart. Yes, he wanted vengeance, he burned
for it, to make them suffer as he had. Rezo was only one of many, merely the figurehead for
those he wished gone. Sailoon, Xellos ... Gods, Xellos, I want him dead most of
Zel could no longer tell if the words came from a dream, from the fantasy he walked in,
or from himself. He prayed the dead voice was not from him, although he feared it was. He
wouldn't admit to it, though. He would not give it something else to use against him.
He shivered as the memory of the fourth dream washed over him. Eternity.
This time when he shut his haunted blue eyes, he was alone in the
field of battle, icy rain pouring around him as he fended off another magebolt only to turn
too late. The arrow of incandescent light pierced the stone skin, shattering it like glass,
tearing through his heart, ripping away his life in an instant. He fell to the earth like a
shooting star, wreathed in crackling light and skidded on the rain slick grass. Dead eyes
looked into nothing. Nothing left him. No soul, no thought, nothing. There was only the
eternal nothingness. But he wasn't there to feel it. End is end.
He felt the weight of time and stars, of eternity slipping through his fingers. He was
alone in darkness, the stone body dragging him down into the black, far, far away from the
singing sparks of distant stars. Alone permeated him, the complete and utter knowledge that
chimeras don't have souls like humans, that they live on and on to suffer and worry before
dying empty, broken deaths alone and unloved by gods and men, demons and dragons, left alone
in the darkness. Only pure creatures had souls, creatures that are birthed as they are.
Chi~merrr~a issss punisssh~me'nt
The words rang in the darkness, filling him, feeding the emptiness for a time before it
was consumed and the emptiness returned, consuming him. If he was human ...
The scene changed. The selfsame lance of light speared his frozen form, tearing and
ripping through his human flesh, burning a hole through his human heart. Then the fall, slow
and final as he slammed into the earth, skidding along the slick, wet grass. Through death
clouded eyes he watched as his soul took flight from his shell and spread golden wings of
light. The dragon-formed soul turned to regard the dead eyes, to consider the smoking human
form before it beat ethereal wings and soared weightless to the heavens.
Zel pushed down the tears of hopelessness, begging it all to end. Anything if only the
horror, the temptation would stop. That dream had sucked away the phantom hope of death's
release. Please, someone, Lina, anyone! Make it stop!
Lina saw Zel stagger, faltering, hugging himself, crystalline tears poised at the edges
of his closed eyes. Both she and Amelia were by his side in a moment, hugging him tightly,
but he didn't see them, caught in whatever held a grip on his mind.
"I don't need your help," he hissed, opening hate-filled eyes. Lina's heart clenched at
his look, knowing the same thing was mirrored in Amelia's eyes.
She reached out to gently brush away the crystal tears that still glimmered at the edges
of his eyes. He flinched away from her touch, suddenly shrugging both of them off in
agitation. "Leave me alone!"
His friends shares a hopeless three way glance. 'Zel ... '
Xellos smirked, seeing beyond the delightfully "touching" scene before him. He phased in
next to Zel, leaning on his shoulder and winking at the group. "They're coming."
Zel twitched. How dare that NAMIGOMI BASTA - the thought froze as the
dreamscape evaporated at Xellos's touch, fading into sweet, blessed normality. Wha - ?
Xellos smiled at him for a moment, enjoying the stunned look on his face, before stepping
back and clapping, "Oya, look! I've stunned him into silence! Not that that's too hard ... "
The Trickster found himself being strangled by a very ticked off and on edge chimera.
Lina sighed in relief at Zel's reaction. At least him trying to kill Xellos was comfortingly
normal. "What's coming?"
"That is - gurk, not so gasp hard Zel-chan!"
Zel released the Mazoku long enough for him to talk. Xellos brushed himself off, smiling
widely, "A band of freelance Mazoku, what else?"
Everyone facefaulted. Xellos looked down at their twitching forms, "Ano ... "
Lina glanced around the bend in the road. Sure enough, there was a whole mess of
monsters, obviously waiting for some unfortunate fool to cross their path. The sorceress
looked back at the others, Amelia and Gourry ready to kick butt, Zel, with one grip on
Xellos's neck and the other on his sword, and Xellos, who was smiling like an idiot.
She sighed at the sight. Drawing herself to her full four feet she grinned widely,
"Let's do it!"
Dear, dramatic Lina ... Hair flying out behind her, she hopped into the path,
waving cheerily at the Mazoku. "Hey, Ugly! Didn't anyone ever tell you that blocking the
road is rude?"
The horde of truly nasty looking monsters turned their collective head to look at the
diminutive sorceress that had just challenged them. They smiled their equivalent of a smile,
showing lots of teeth, and charged.
Lina grinned, fox-like, as she cast her spell, "Fireball!"
The first few exploded into fire. Xellos grinned from Zel's deathgrip as they leapt to
Lina's assistance, "That's our cue!"
"Stay, " Zel growled, dropping Xellos and drawing his sword. Limitations ...
"Sure thing, go and have a blast, " the Mazoku answered, propping himself up on an elbow,
tossing a leg over the other, and whistling cheerfully as the battle raged around him.
"Light come forth!" The haze in Zel's mind was astonishing clear as he threw himself
into the fight, an odd, clear calm descending on him as he noted Gourry drawing the Sword of
Light, Amelia bashing Mazoku right and left in the name of justice, Lina flinging spells all
about and having a good old time, and Xellos lounging on the ground, reading a book, drinking
lemonade, and frying any Mazoku that stepped into his reading light.
For some reason, he wanted blood, wanted to see it cover his sword and drench the ground,
as he leapt forward to strike a tentacled monster, slicing it in half in a spray of acidic
ooze. Zel spun to slice through another at his back when he saw his future in the path of the
rust edged sword of a black skinned Mazoku.
Lina turned too late to stop the sword strike that swept at her with either magic or her
own sword. She froze as it dropped, flashing, for her, seeking out her heart.
Some compulsion other than his own sent him forward as fast as the wind. Something
besides his own mind screamed at him to move, to stop the blade before their
future went out in a spray of blood.
Zel hit his full speed in less than a yard as he jumped between Lina and the sword,
slamming her to the ground beneath him. On instinct he brought his hands up to stop himself
before his weight crushed her even as the sword clanged off his back.
She cracked an eye, wondering why she wasn't dead and what had pushed her out of the
way. Her eyes widened to saucers as she realized it was Zel. He suddenly jerked his head
back in a gesturing motion. Always a bright girl, Lina quickly powered up a spell as the
Mazoku hissed and raised his sword to strike again. "Now, Zel!"
He rolled off of her and out of the way in an instant, a spell of his own at the ready,
as she let loose a fireball, incinerating her attacker. Zel stood, a growl escaping as he
glared at the remaining mess of monsters. "You could help me up, you know!", she yelled at
him, pushing herself up.
He wasn't listening.
Zel was dimly aware that Lina was yelling at him, but he was to preoccupied to deal with
it. His future was safe again and he wanted it to stay safe. Limitations ... the fifth
Grey mist swirled into his clenched fist in a spinning vortex, sucked into the shadows
burning in his palm. The memory of the dream washed over him. Chimeras are limited
creatures, based in Shamanism, bound to Shamanism, and limited to Shamanism. Mastery of the
dark arts were out of their grasp, healing a maze of nothing spells, Giga magic so far out of
reach they might as well wish to touch the stars. Creatures of magic, but bound to one art,
caged in stone. The cure ... with the cure I could master those magics ... the
The dreamscape was returning as the Mazoku died, the blood pooling and spreading.
Hissing, spitting creatures of shadow emerging from the crimson pools is explosions of blood
and black ooze, before spreading red drenched wings and slithering into the reddening sky. A
pounding began behind his eyes, pulsing along his nerves, the beating of another heart as his
brooch began to bleed, blood dripping and sliding down his clothes to the ground, pooling at
Not again! Zel let his anger and fear take him away, letting it run rampant as
he drew the star drenched power of the archaic Shaman spell into his hands, feeling the
crackling energy of plants and earth bind with sun and wind. Now uncaring about the damage or
consequences he slammed a palm to the earth, his shout ringing in his ears, "Vireh Sedre!"
Lina stared in a kind of tableau as Zel stood frozen, power gathering in his clenched
fists, the pure, mindless fury twisting the delicate features of his face into something
completely inhuman. She swallowed as he shook, the anger barely contained, before he crouched
to slam his palm to earth, a shout ripping from his throat, "Vireh Sedre!"
What?! That's no spell I know of! Lina stared as a pulsing gray-green wave of
energy rippled through the ground in a shock wave, the earth rumbling and groaning as huge,
fat, razor edged vines surged from the broken ground. The chimera stood, face twisting in a
sick smile as the greenery grabbed the remaining Mazoku, spearing them, before crushing them
in a shower of blood. Snapping his torn cape around him, the cruel smirk still lingering on
his lips, Zelgadis went to retrieve his sword.
Xellos paused in his reading, cracking an eye, faceted, amethyst orb dead serious as he
watched the chimera cast the spell. Vine Wrap? Interesting ... that was from the book.
He smiled darkly as the plants that shot from the ground went about their gruesome
work. The temptation is growing isn't it, Zel-kun? Your control is slipping.
Zel felt the hate and fury slip away like water, taking everything else
with it, leaving an empty sickness and numbing nothingness behind. Had
he really done that? Forced them to suffer, no matter how briefly, just
so he could watch them suffer?
Jerking his sword from the bloody ground and cleaning it on the edge of
his cape, he sheathed it, ignoring the others' stares. What was a
little blood to stain his clothes after this? What was a little blood
when he was walking in a red-drenched world from nightmares? He grabbed
Xellos's hand on his way, heading on down the road, dragging the smiling
Trickster behind him, "C'mon."
"Um, Zelgadis-san? Why are you dragging Xellos-san with us?" Amelia
asked timidly after they'd gotten some distance from the Mazoku blood
"Giku!" he paused, a foot in the air, caught in the reason. He couldn't
tell her without making her think he was insane and nothing else would
"Yeah, Zel, why?" Lina grinned, nudging him with her elbow.
Xellos clapped with his one free hand, "Yes, why?"
Zel sweatdropped. "Uh ... "
"I know!" Suddenly leaning on the chimera, tossing his arms around his
neck, grinning brightly, the Trickster chirped, "You really do care
Zel made gagging noises, "Dream on!"
"You're just too shy to reveal your true feelings for me, " he purred,
snuggling up to Zel and laying his head on his shoulder, running a
gloved hand up Zel's chest.
The chimera twitched.
"And holding my hand the whole way! Oh, you're just so sweet!, " Xellos
exclaimed, catching Zel's head to give him a big, sloppy kiss.
"PERVERT!" Zel blushed furiously and introduced the Mazoku's face to
Amelia was in shock, Gourry was green, and Lina was sorta in control.
She was slack-jawed and staring, but other than that ... Getting
control of her motor functions she managed a dry comment, "Gee, Zel, I
"I'M NOT LIKE THAT!"
"Could have fooled me," Xellos purred, pressing against his back and
draping his arms around his neck. Zel twitched and slammed him into a
Lina sighed and leaned back against the tree, watching Zel slap Xellos silly over the
flickering light of the fire for getting too touchy feely. Weird ... I wonder why he's
keeping Xellos so close to him like that?
She sighed again, blowing her bangs out of her face as she absently stirred the fire.
After the day's endless round of "Pervert Xellos" and Zel inventing new ways to mangle the
Trickster, Gourry and Amelia had pretty much become immune to the whole thing, figuring it was
just Xellos finding another way to needle their friend. One good thing had come of it,
though, Zel had stopped looking like he was walking through hell. So many questions she
wished she could ask ... if only she could get an answer from him!
Curling up in her bedroll, listening to Amelia and Gourry snore, Lina tried to ignore the
sounds of the fight going on behind her, as well as a brief pang of ... jealousy?
It was all Zelgadis could do to keep from killing the Mazoku on the spot. Couldn't the
bastard keep his mouth shut and his hands to himself for one lousy minute?!?! Apparently
"Awww, sweetie pie, don't you want me to stay with you?"
"N - ...yes," the last was ground out through clenched teeth as Zel once again stifled
the urge to strangle him. He hated himself for needing Xellos like this, having to hold his
hand like a child whenever the fantasyscape started clutching at his mind, drawing him back
into the darkness. The last time he had killed just to kill and he could not allow that to
happen again, could not let himself lose control. Xellos knew the effect of his touch ...
Zelgadis could see it in the Trickster's smile, in the unguarded moments when he opened his
glittering, jewel-like eyes to watch the chimera squirm. But how?!?! How are you doing
it? How come you can make it stop?!
Xellos smiled and immediately cuddled up to Zel. He twitched before shoving the way the
Trickster was holding him out of his mind, concentrating on falling asleep as he curled up.
Xellos may have been protection against the nightmare of his waking hours, but that didn't
stop the nightmares of his dreams. A hopelessness filled him as the darkness drew him into
the sixth dream. Desire.
Xellos amused himself by draping his body over the sleeping chimera and probing his
dreams. Smiling as he fingered the darkened brooch around Zelgadis's neck lovingly, he
decided that giving running commentary on the contents of this dream might be
interesting ... considering that Lina was listening.
Lina did her best to ignore the sound of Xellos chattering, "Interesting ... how
unfaithful can you be, sweetie?! I thought I was your one true love! ... Come now, don't be
shy! What's a little friendly groping among friends? .............. Passionate, aren't we?
Repressed sexual urges can do that to a person ... "
Unfortunately, her curiosity got the better of her and she sat up to see exactly what the
heck was going on, blushing as a naughty theory flitted through her head. Xellos was draped
over Zel's sleeping form, watching the chimera intently while talking, either out of boredom
or to bother her, Lina couldn't tell, but it was irritating. "What are you talking about?!"
"Kinky ... ," he glanced up, "Lina? Did you say something?"
She glared at him before throwing off the cover of her bedroll, stalking over to the two,
and hitting Xellos upside the head. "What. Are. You. Talking. About?!"
The Trickster winked, a rather lewd smile playing on his lips, "Wanna see?"
"Ummmm ... no."
"Pity," he said, still smiling as he returned his attention to Zel, "Is that position
humanely possible? Guess so ... "
Lina shifted uncomfortably, not entirely sure what Xellos was talking about, but not all
too curious about it after that smile. "Xellos ... what are you doing?"
"Looking into his dreams," he stated cheerfully, watching her carefully through closed
"Oya, oya, so eloquent! Now I'll have to tell you, won't I?" the Trickster wagged a
finger at her, the other hand still lightly caressing the brooch, "I'm watching his dreams,
Lina-chan, they've been very interesting lately."
Lina leaned forward, suddenly interested, "What are they about?"
"That is a secret."
"I should have known," she groaned, sweatdropping, "Well, what can you tell me?"
"Dese dare, richiphre catera deme ne', Lina-chan."
"Yeah, yeah, you've said that before, WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?!?!?!"
"Not so loud, Lina, you'll wake up my sweetie-kins, " Xellos whined, protectively
covering Zelgadis's ears.
"He is not your sweetie-kins!!!!"
The Mazoku pouted cutely, "So?"
Lina refrained from clobbering him, little fires dancing behind her, "What does it mean,
"What does what mean?"
"Whatever you said?!?"
"Oh ... sweetie-kins?"
"NO! Dese, darit, richi - whatever!?!"
"Oh, that! Dese dare, richiphre catera deme ne' ... The chimera's cure will find him,
Xellos smiled as she stared at him, the rest of the phrase coming to mind, the small
detail he had chosen to leave out. Dese dare, richiphre catera deme ne' dimi nichiti
sare chela, The chimera's cure will find him, Lina-chan, and it will find you.
"What the hell is that supposed to mean?!?!?!" she growled, fuming.
He smiled for a moment, allowing a dramatic pause, before wagging his finger and opening
one brilliant violet eye, "That is a secret."
Lina flinched as she heard a door slam. Zel ... Motioning for Amelia and
Gourry to start dinner without her, she grabbed Xellos by the neck and dragged him
"But, Lina-san, I'm hungry!" the Trickster whined, arms reaching to their order of food,
a pathetic expression plastered on his face.
"But, Lina-chan ..."
Amelia glanced over at Gourry as the sounds of the two retreated up the stairs. Sighing,
the princess picked up a fork and dug into the pot of seafood, listlessly chewing on a morsel
of fish. One of Zelgadis-san's favorite ... and he didn't even bother to look at it ...
Amelia put the food down, fiddling with her bracelets nervously. What's wrong with
Zelgadis-san? He's been acting ... strange ... In fact, he hadn't hit Xellos all day,
even after the Mazoku had spent it hanging all over the chimera and flirting shamelessly. She
felt her heart freeze, Could Zelgadis-san like Xellos?! She immediately shook it
away. Of course not, he hadn't even been paying attention to the Trickster at all.
"Amelia? Aren't you hungry?" Gourry asked, looking at her in concern.
"No ... I mean, I'm just ... well ... I'm worried about Zelgadis-san," she answered,
feeling herself blush.
The swordsman nodded sagely, before stating confidentially, "Lina'll find a way to fix
She sighed, "Yeah, Gourry, I know she will." I hope.
Lina dropped Xellos on the floor and settled into a chair the minute she entered her
room, glaring at him, "Okay, I want to know what's going on and I want to know NOW!"
Xellos took a moment to sit up and brush himself off with overdone dignity, "Why?"
The sorceress twitched for a minute, before carefully removing the black book from a
pocket in her cape and setting it on the floor. With an imperious gesture, she gave the
Trickster one of those commands, "Read."
"I forgot how."
Lina facefaulted and fell over. Then she slapped the Mazoku with her bunny slipper,
"DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT MAKING THIS DIFFICULT, YOU FRUITCAKE!"
"Too la - urk." Xellos found himself in a headlock as Lina fumed.
The Mazoku phased out.
He sat up, clutching at the tousled sheets of his bed as he tried to stop his heart from
pounding it's way out of his chest. Zel shuddered and hugged himself, shaking violently as
the last few dreams swept over him Acceptance, Significance, Hope, Love. One
sweet, tempting dream after the other, burning it's dark seduction into his mind.
Zel had nodded off almost as soon as he had entered his room and the delightful darkness
had swept him away. I feel so alone. He wanted to tell someone, ask someone for
help, but after the dreams he was having he didn't dare confide in the one person he thought
would understand: Lina.
You'll have her ssss~oon.
Lina gave the room a baleful glare, fully ready to fireball anything that dared to move.
Xellos phased back in over the book, settling gently down to open the dull black cover and
turn each page one by one, lovingly. He looked up into her eyes, opening both gem orbs to
meet her gaze for a moment, completely serious before he smiled. "Let me tell you a story,
Zel froze, the cold snake of dread worming it's way through his stomach. Wha - ?
He swallowed. The voice had changed from the whispering, clinging, sound of death to a
smooth, sweet voice that reminded him of Xellos. A drop of black fell from the ceiling to
splatter on the floor, followed by a shiny waterfall of darkness. The puddle swirled and
swished, slithering, bloated white shimmers and lines snaked across it's surface before it
surged upward, shaping itself into a vaguely humanoid form. Oil-shine eyes moved across the
round knob of it's head, the scythe arms hung loosely at it's side, the lower half still
puddled from the floor, a moving, liquid pillar of ink holding it up.
"Have you ever heard of a city called Sunheim, Lina-chan?" Xellos
grinned, leaning forward over the book.
Lina swallowed, her eyes big as saucers, "Sunheim as in the "City of the
Rising Sun"? The Demon City, the City of Stolen Souls? That Sunheim?!"
The Trickster clapped his hands together, smiling, "Then you do know of
"I know it's the worst city in history! The pit of destruction! The
home of all evil!"
"Oya, oya ... that's what most people would say about you."
"Merely because one has a reputation does not make that reputation
true," he said, titling his head a little to the side, amused.
Zelgadis was floating in blood, the ebon stain stroking him. It tingled
as it moved, sliding violently into every pore. Hearing it thrum
against his stone skin, beating with his heartbeat ... and another's.
He felt it sliding across him, slithering up to encase him completely,
sheath him within the skin-close darkness. Was it bleeding from the
crimson lake he hung in?
The thought was washed away in a flood of red, another thought taking
it's place. Where will I start?
"There once was a magnificent city, Lina-chan, " Xellos started
brightly, holding out a hand as a glowing image formed in his gloved
palm, "one of the wealthiest cities of it's time, marble homes, paved
streets of the old stone, gems as common as rocks, money more common
than water. The throne room of it's palace was white Zelpher marble
inlaid in gold, the last stone of the Camzye race adorned the back
wall, lush tapestries decorated the floors, murals of gems and rare
stones covered the walls ... it was a magical place, Lina-chan," Xellos
leaned forward, nearly nose to nose with her, his gem eyes opened,
holding her captive like a snake holds a bird in it's thrall, "But the
city was created as a way to the other place, formed when the sacred
bindings of the sun had been unsealed ...In the end, the city was
destroyed by the same magics it was made from, buried deep in the earth,
sealed for an eternity. "
"So what's this have to do with Zel?"
Xellos drew back for a moment, mouth a cute little "o" as he
considered. He smiled widely. "Nothing."
Lina fell over, stifling a facefault. "THEN WHY DID YOU - "
Xellos smiled, leaning forward to kiss Lina lightly on the lips.
"Sunheim is where Zelgadis found his cure, " he whispered into her
mouth. Have you given into the temptation, Zel-chan? The Mazoku
pulled back, watching Lina blush hotly as he carefully probed the
chimera's room. It would seem you have.
Lina started as Xellos phased out at the sound of a knock on the door.
What is with Xellos?! Him and his stupid riddles! "Come in."
The door swung open as Zelgadis stepped inside, carefully shutting and
locking the door behind him. The chimera turned to look at her, a cruel
smirk twisting his features as a unnamable darkness seemed to shine from
behind the ice shard eyes.
The heartbeat pounded behind his eyes, singing along his nerves, eating into his flawed
and brittle ink stained soul. It was nothing to the hovering blackness that pressed into his
back, thrilling along his spine in sync with the heart that beat within the book before the
wide-eyed sorceress. The room was swathed in cobwebs of flesh and blood, sleek trickles of
crimson sliding down the slick, wooded walls to pool on the floor, green fire dancing along
the edges of every trickle. The moon was rising, the beautiful, scythe shaped blade of the
dying, midnight light. A scythe dipped in blood. He smiled.
Lina, heart, sweet temptress ... The sorceress's figure was superimposed by
another. A book ... no a cup. A deep, silver chased goblet of dark red stone. A gem he
noted absently ... carved from a single red gem, flawless and glittering in it's perfection,
as red as Lina's eyes.
Drink. The word whispered from the darkness that held
him, promised him escape. Unease flashed through the part of his soul that was still
Zelgadis. Something felt wrong.
A swirling, bubbling mix of red and black steamed inside the goblet. The simmering red
never mixing with the hissing black, a chaotic whirl of vicious liquid. Oddly tempting as it
pulled at his mind.
Drink. The word vibrated along his nerves,
tugging him closer to the goblet, to Lina. The unease strengthened, beating against the
heartbeat that consumed him as it rose from the ancient script.
A sweet, swirling scent reached his sensitive nose. It was a mix of blood, the taste of
the darkness that permeated every pore ... and a thrilling, phantom fragrance spun inside the
former, a light, heady aroma that made him want to close his eyes in delighted pleasure.
DRINK. The word pounded inside him, washing
across his vision, rocking the fragile world in which he stood, beating his mind ... what was
left of his mind.
Lina stared as he stepped close, a corner of her mind questioning why his brooch was
black as night, while every instinct screamed wrongness. A permeating evil that sucked at the
dim light in the room, consuming it in a splash of blood, sending the room into darkness as
Zelgadis's arms suddenly snaked around her waist and roughly tilted her head up for a
Xellos plucked the book from the floor, invisible as he gently cradled it in the crook of
his arm, watching the scene unfold before him. To step in or not to? No, he
decided, he is doing exactly what I want him to do.
It had taken years of searching after that horrible night, years of looking in every
place he could be, going over the known world with a fine-toothed comb ... but she'd found
It was a forest clearing in the middle of no where. A small stream babbled happily along
the side as bright sunlight beamed down from an opening in the trees on a carpet of
wildflowers that covered the ground as tiny white and yellow butterflies fluttering about the
carpet of blue and white. The tree was almost in the exact center, tall, dark blue trunk
curving in a vaguely human figure before divulging into millions of branches covered in leaves
every shade of blue, violet, green, and any combination there of. Splotches of darker blue
speckled the trunk, and the roots were a thick mess, spreading across the ground like vines,
wide and tall enough to use as seats.
Lina dropped down in front of the tree between two roots, the dappled patterns of midday
shade dancing over her as she leaned back against the trunk with a sigh, closing her eyes as
the bitter memory washed over her. She pulled her knees up under her chin, tears trickling
down her cheeks, "Zel ... why did you do that to me?"
A rainfall of blue leaves gently fluttered around her shaking form, as soft and delicate
as rose petals ... silent apology.
"What did you see, Zel?" she whispered softly, "What did you find in that city? What
made you like ... that?"
A leaf floated to the ground, near white veins seeming to make words against the dark
green of the leaf. That is a secret, Lina.
She sighed, turning to hug the trunk, pressing her face into the bark. "Yeah, I know,
Zel, some secrets are best unknown."
A soft measured throb beat behind the bark, gently pulsing, the sweet, delicate sound of
his heart. Lina smiled, lightly stroking the pebbled surface. "Zel? You did this for me ...
didn't you? When ..., " she bit her lip, " you ... you realized what you did ... "
She felt the tree shudder lightly, roots creaking as it shifted, another leaf hesitantly
floating to the ground, Yes.
Lina could almost see him in her eye, the soul dragging guilt and overpowering grief
etching every line of his being for what he had nearly done. Her hand strayed to the clear
crystal brooch that hung around her neck, her only comfort in the many years since that
night ... and the only thing left intact from the explosion that had left a scattering of
broken, blue, stone shards, shredded, ivory cloth, and sickening, black liquid. She could
feel it throb comfortingly, the deep, blue-green spark in it's depths glimmering at the
touch. The sorceress swallowed hard, the long held tears brimming in her eyes, nearly
blinding her as she threw her arms around the dappled trunk and sobbed a lifetime of pain into
the sweet smelling bark.
A wind fluttered through the leaves as the branches swayed and dipped, hiding Lina from