"You know something about this mazoku." Zel looked askance at Lina, who was sitting in a chair near the window. The sorceress had been remarkably quiet after sending Amelia off. "Don't you? You've never been at a loss for this kind of information before." His suspicion was confirmed as she turned to him, a serious expression on her face.

"Yes. I do." Tapping her fingers lightly on the windowsill she continued. "I think I'd better clear this matter up a bit, though. I don't believe what this mazoku said..."

"That Gourry is this...Ghurrevin?"

It's just not possible. You know Gourry pretty well, Zel . He's as human as I am. He bleeds the same color I do."

Zel caught her hesitation. "But?"

"But that doesn't necessarily mean Ornanth was lying either." Lina stood and began to pace, cape fluttering behind her. "You remember Rezo."

Oh yes... Zelgadis remembered the red priest, the cause of his cursed body. "What about him?" No matter how he tried, his words still came out sounding bitter and frustrated. The very mention of Rezo was like rubbing salt into an open wound.

"The demon lord, Shabernigdo was sealed in his eyes, remember?"

Ah, so that was her theory. The pieces rapidly settled into place. "And you think something similar could be the case here."

Instead of answering, Lina started to talk about the mazoku -- seemingly deliberately changing the subject. "I don't know much about the mazoku, Ornanth, so I double checked the name. It came up under an alternate spelling in an old history book. There still wasn't very much information, even so. According to legend, Ornanth was a go between in talks between the Mazoku and some kingdom."

"Working under this Lord Ghurrevin." Zel tapped at his chin. "Who exactly is he?"

"I'm not too sure. According to one story, he showed up one day out of nowhere in a kingdom known as Tureva."

"I've never heard of that kingdom before." The chimera ventured cautiously.

Lina's voice was flat. "That's because it doesn't exist anymore." Obviously the place hadn't just crumbled for no reason, or so he gathered from the look on her face.

"What happened?"

"Well, don't quote me on any of this, but I think I've pieced together basically how it happened. One day -- sometime in early summer -- this strange man showed up in the capital. Somehow he got himself invited into the palace, and things went downhill from there. Tureva was under the rule of this queen -- I forget her name." She waved her hand dismissively when Zel started to speak.

"It's not important, Zel. Trust me on this. Anyway, he had the queen's ear, so to speak."

Something about this was unsettling Zelgadis. "Would you quit pausing? I don't need this kind of suspense to get the whole impact!" He was getting snappish, and he knew it, but Lina's look cut him off before he could even think about apologizing over it.

"Look..." Lina grimaced, "I'm not TRYING to make this difficult. I'm just having a hard time really making sense of it all." She was pacing again. "This didn't happen like most reported mazoku activities. It was subtle... and most mazoku aren't good at being subtle.

"Over a couple of decades the place became a waste. People were being taxed into starvation while the royalty lived the high life. Finally there was an uprising. But something went wrong even then, and there was nothing left afterward. The theory was that someone among the rebels was using powerful magic and lost control, but since nobody was alive afterwards there was nothing to prove it."

The words were coming faster and faster, tumbling over each other until Zelgadis could barely understand them.

Finally, Lina came to a stop, fists clenching at her sides "It makes no sense, and it's impossible to tell just what happened, but one thing is certain." She turned to point a single finger at the chimera. "The strange man who showed up before it happened was named Ghurrevin."

Zel mused on this information for a second, running one hand through his wire hair. It was hardly what one could consider conclusive evidence, but given the circumstances... "What should we do?"

"I don't know, Zel... I just don't know." The petite little sorceress sank down in a chair, resting her head in her hands.

A soft sound caused the chimera to glance in the direction of the door, where Amelia was entering, winded and ruffled. In one hand she was holding a book with loose pages of parchment sticking out messily, as if she had jammed them in there as an afterthought.

"Mr. Zelgadis, Miss Lina! You'll never believe what I found!" Zelgadis recoiled, nearly falling over Lina's chair as Amelia shoved a handful of paper in his face. He wobbled, one hand snagging the back of the chair that had tripped him.

"And what is this?" The paper was so close that he couldn't make out what was on it. With a frustrated grunt, Zel caught Amelia's wrist and managed to extricate his face from the yellowed parchment. His action had apparently startled the princess, because her grip on the paper loosened.

Zel caught the fluttering paper before it hit the floor and inspected it closely. It appeared to be an old picture, the colors were faded with age. "An angel?"

"No, Mr. Zelgadis! No!" Amelia jabbed a finger at the runes on the paper. "Miss Lina told me to look for anything I could find on this Ghurrevin person. Well, I found this picture, and this!" She held out the book. "Be careful..." She warned as Lina took the book. "It's fragile. I promised Senty I'd make sure to take care of it."

"Who's Senty?" Zel glanced sharply at Amelia, wondering about the sudden change in her tone.

"He's the gentleman who is in charge of the archives," Amelia chirped with a little smile on her face. "He helped me find this information on Ghurrevin."

The chimera felt a sharp jab in his side and realized that Lina had just elbowed him in the ribs. He might have growled at her if she hadn't hissed "Quit acting so jealous, Zel."

"I am not!" He cleared his throat, his cheeks reddening slightly as he caught Amelia looking at him.

She blinked twice, sapphire eyes bright with curiosity, "Mr. Zelgadis? You're not what?"

"N...nothing!" Zel blustered for a moment. "It's nothing. Um... now, what did you say you found, Amelia?"

"You're acting weird today, Mr. Zelgadis." Her comment drew a soft snort from Lina. The chimera rubbed at the back of his neck and kept his gaze fixed on the table, and finally Amelia shrugged and continued. "Senty said this book is a diary, and it belonged to a princess or a queen or something." From the look on her face she though the idea of a diary belonging to royalty to be quite romantic, which made little sense to Zelgadis, especially when one considered that she herself was a princess.

As Amelia continued her explanation, Zelgadis found he was having trouble focusing on what she was saying. The princess was a very animated talker, accompanying her words with hand gestures and occasional poses. Her eyes were bright and eater, a little catlike smile turned the corners of her lips upward as she spoke. Zel occasionally nodded when she glanced in his direction, even though he had no idea what she was saying. Just watching her talk threatened to bring a smile to his face, something that would ruin his stoic mask.

From her tone she was winding down. Zel immediately snapped back to attention. Lina was looking at him through the corner of her eye, her worry briefly banished by amusement, and the chimera didn't know whether to be insulted or simply relieved that the sorceress seemed to have perked up somewhat.

"What do you think, Mr. Zelgadis?" Amelia looked at him earnestly. Behind her and out of her direct line of vision, Lina was smirking.

"Yeah, Zel. Why don't you tell Amelia what you think?" Crimson eyes flashed at him challengingly.

"Um... I think you've done an excellent job, Amelia." He rubbed the back of his neck again, keeping his gaze fixed on a point somewhere slightly above and beyond her left shoulder.

Of course, she was not so easily fooled. "Mr. Zelgadis! You weren't listening to me at all were you?" Amelia paused, her cheeks flushing faintly pink. "But do you really think I did a good job?" Her dark azure eyes sparkled earnestly as she looked at him.

Even knowing her as long as he had, Zel was still startled by this quicksilver change of mood. From righteous anger to childlike pleading for approval in less than a heartbeat's time. All the same, his reply had to be what she wanted to hear not because it would spare him from her anger (Although it would), but rather, because it would make her happy. Of course, he would rather have been eaten by carnivorous fire breathing slugs than admit THAT to anyone. "Yes, an extraordinary job. I'm impressed."

The princess preened slightly at this praise. "Why thank you, Mr. Zelgadis." She beamed, her sunny smile seeming to lighten up the room a couple of notches.

"You're welcome." Zel enjoyed her happy attentions for a moment before turning back to Lina. "So, what are we going to do now?"

The thoughtful, pensive expression was back on the sorceress's face, and she steepled her fingers together on the table in front of her. The chimera was amazed by the change in her recently. It was like she was a completely different person than the spunky, feisty, bandit-chasing pyromaniac of only a few days ago... I don't know if I like this change or not... I kind of miss the old Lina.

"Well, right now I think the most important thing..." Her words trailed to a halt as she tapped her fingers on the wood of the table.

Zel leaned forward, his expression serious and intense. Did she know something? Have some idea? "The most important thing?"

"Is to get something to eat, of course. I'm starving!"

Zelgadis groaned, letting his head bang against the table with a loud, hollow thud of stone skin meeting wood. I was wrong... she hasn't changed at all...

06   |   Fanfiction