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Chapter Sixteen: Race
"Here's the wall," Victoria said. The wall in question was the boundary between Heaven, where the righteous lived their deaths in peace and comfort, and Hell, where the wicked were in eternal torment.
"And how are we going to pass through it?" William, her husband asked, "Only Death Angels can pass through."
"Unless, you are already one, Victoria," Rezo added.
"The truth comes out at last," Victoria shut her eyes.
"I was just kidding, Victoria, I never thought..."
"YOU'RE A DEATH ANGEL?!" William and Hannah yelled in unison.
"I was. Not anymore. But I still have some of my powers and I can get us through the wall," Victoria placed one hand against the wall, which rippled like gray water, "Take my hand, Rezo, and William, take his hand and Hannah, take William's hand." They did as she requested and she pushed the rippled wall, "I'm sorry, but this will sting."
They passed through with no problems and Hannah was about to complain about the unnecessary precaution when her heart exploded.
To be more precise, her heart was stabbed by an invisible knife and the blood rushed everywhere. The worst thing is since she was already dead, she had an endless supply of blood so she would never pass out.
She looked around and Rezo was screaming and clutching at his chest, "My eyes! I'm blind again!" William's skin was burning and some parts blacken and peeled off, only to be replaced by new skin which began to fry as well. He was running around in circles, screaming in agony. Victoria had fallen to her knees and looked very pale.
"What... the... HELL... did... you do?!" Hannah demanded, since no one else could. Her dress was blood-logged and more was coming.
"I didn't do this. This is Hell, remember? Since we did nothing wrong, there is no punishment for us. In Hell, unlike Heaven, your pain from death never goes away. Your ailments never go away. Nothing changes," Victoria gasped, "We must get going. I'll support Rezo. Don't touch William or you'll catch on fire as well." Victoria grabbed Rezo's arm and called out to William. William managed to compose himself long enough to stay near them, but he writhed and scratched at himself.
They walked on and on, for ungodly miles, each in unspeakable agony. Hannah slipped in her own blood many times during their journey. She heard many moaning in agony. Their fates were sealed but she wished them a better future anyway. She thought she heard someone calling her name but she ignored it. But the voice came again. She looked for the source, "Aunt Hannah!"
"Alfred!" She ran towards her deceased nephew, "My dear Alfred!" She hugged him, Blood gushed from him as well, the wound he had received from his "helpers".
"Aunt Hannah, what are you doing here? You're supposed to be in Heaven. This isn't right," Alfred coughed up more blood.
"I'm here to go to the Death Angel palace. I'm going to save that Zelgadis boy."
"I have reasons." She stroked his hair.
"Aunt Hannah, your group is leaving without you!" Alfred pointed after the group, who were quite some distance away.
"My Goodness! Good-bye!" She stumbled (she couldn't run with a big hole in her) after them.
When she caught up, she breathlessly demanded, "Couldn't you wait ten seconds?!"
"We don't have the time. As we speak, my boy is being led to the Death Angel Temple where he will be taken, willingly or not, to that palace to become one of them. And when that happens," Victoria stared at her straight in the eyes, "your daughter will most likely marry some fat guy and kill herself in a bathroom." She smiled, "You act so shocked that I knew about that. I check up on his friends' fates once in a while, that crossed my path a couple times. Don't think for one second that I truly believed that you really cared about my 'hopeless situation' and are doing this out of the 'kindness of your heart'. I wasn't fooled!" Victoria turned away and kept walking. Hannah stamped her foot in the dry dust and ran to get in front of her.
"You're right! I don't care about your stupid son! I think he deserves to become a Death Angel, I really don't care and if I could find a way to stop my daughter's suicide, I would do it. But, let me tell you one thing! I gave up everything for my daughters! I knew that man was coming for my little Gracia, I went in her stead! You wouldn't UNDERSTAND my pain!" Hannah paused to let that sink into the other mother's head. Victoria just shook her head.
"No," she said, quietly, "you listen. I gave up my station and the only family I had ever known to be with William. You didn't. My mother cursed my womb to produce no children. Your mother didn't. I still had my little Zelgadis and fought to the bitter end with his illness. You didn't. My sister told me that they were going to take away my little boy away forever or kill me. You didn't have to make that choice. Now, even though I did all that, they're still taking him. You don't understand my pain right now."
Hannah stopped in her tracks, "You made yourself sick?"
"My sisters did it but I agreed to it. It doesn't matter now."
"I thought... I thought..."
"I forgive you already. Just keep walking. We don't have much time."
The group walked in silence. But before they knew what hit them, the air churned and Victoria grabbed everyone and jumped inside.
Expecting another whiplash, Hannah screamed but there was no pain. Her dress was now clean. William was no longer burning and Rezo's eyes were open. Victoria stood up straight.
"Here we are," she announced, "the courtyard of the Death Angels."
Indeed, it was a courtyard. The palace loomed over them and the grass was unnaturally green. Hannah bent down to touch it and it felt like balls of cotton rather than grass.
"We must hurry, if anyone sees us, we're doomed."
"What will they do to us?" William asked.
"They will throw us into Chaos where we will become nothing," Victoria answered solemnly.
"Oh, that's nice!" Hannah chirped sarcastically.
They sneaked around in the shadows, cautious for footfalls. They entered the main hall with was covered with golden paintings and sculptures. The hall was very narrow, only two abreast could walk it and the jade floor made them very loud creepers.
"We need to get to the Transport Chamber, that's how we'll go to save Zelgadis," Victoria whispered.
"Have you used it before?" Rezo asked.
"Great! Just perfect! What if you screw up?" Hannah whispered back. They continued down the straight hall. After a mile or so, they came to a fork.
"Which way?" Hannah asked.
"I never actually even went to the room and I don't know where it is in relation to where we are..."
"I believe you want to head down the right way," a monotone voice responded.
The four jumped in the air. The speaker was pale and had dark brown eyes. Her wavy black hair fell to her shoulders.
"We're doomed!" William shrieked.
"Aurelia!" Victoria gasped. She knew they were doomed.
She was her middle sister, the most impersonal of them all. She could see into the future and knew everyone's destiny. She cared little for mortal and immortal alike. "What is deserved, is deserved" was her philosophy.
"You're far from doomed," Aurelia said, in her monotone voice, "I have been waiting for you. I will guide you to the Transport Chamber since I know Victoria does not know the way." Her smile was not pleasing. It was more frightening than pleasing, a smile that made one want to run away screaming.
Hannah clung to Victoria, "She's... scaring me!"
Rezo said, "It's a trap! Look at her smile!"
Victoria laughed, "That's her happy smile! You're really helping us."
"This whole business with your son is utterly pointless and childish," She shrugged slightly, "I could not stand by and watch this idiocy continue." She beckoned them to follow her down the empty hall.
"Where is everyone?" William asked.
"They're either collecting souls or preparing for your son's arrival," Aurelia answered in the same monotone voice, "They won't come near here." At the end of the hall, it forked again. This time they turned left.
"Um, is this place nearby?" Hannah asked.
"No, it is quite a distance," Aurelia answered, her expression unchanged, "but no one will come near us. I made sure of that."
"Basically, you told everyone you would going to the Transport Chamber and everyone made sure not to be heading anywhere near there?" Victoria asked, although it wasn't really a question.
"You remember us well, Little Sister."
They continued down the winding corridors that didn't seem to go anywhere until they came to two gargantuan bronze doors labeled with diamond stars. Aurelia opened it with only a word and the door did not make any sound, not even a creak.
"I must leave. You understand that if I'm found now, Ursula will show no mercy. She'll understand when this is all over but for now, I must leave." With that, Aurelia turned and left. She soon vanished into the dark.
"We might as well go in," Rezo said.
"Do you know what to do, Victoria?" Hannah asked. Victoria shook her head. "So, we're just going to WING it?!"
"They might have instructions inside," Rezo said, walking into the room.
"Hey! Wait up!" William ran in after him. The women followed. When everyone was inside, the door immediately shut.
"We're trapped!" William pushed at the door while Victoria looked for any instructions. The room was gigantic and was dome-shaped. It was lit by an unknown source and made of bronze. In the center of the room was a large platform. The platform was round and inside was filled with blue electricity, that noisily crackled and popped. Victoria stretched her head to take a closer look into the energy but the energy pulled at her, nearly dragging her down. She managed to raised herself up again.
"This is most likely the Transport Platform," she announced. William ceased his pushing, and asked, "How does it work?"
"I believe it pulls you downwards."
"I don't know."
"You're a great help. You lived here for who knows how many centuries and you don't even know how this thing works?"
"I never used it. I used the AfterLife Tunnel. It was quicker and easier."
Hannah looked at the table along the left wall and discovered papers. Most were just maps with red dots on them. Most of the red dots were crossed out but some dots were untouched.
"Hey," Hannah asked, indicating the maps, "what do the red dots mean?"
"They're old Death Angel temples."
"What does it mean when they're crossed out?"
"There was a temple there but it was demolished thus not usable."
"Why are the temples so important in the first place?" William asked.
"Because the temple are the destinations of the Transport Platform."
"So, you only go to one of these little red dots that aren't crossed out?" Hannah said, taking new interest in the maps. "Look!" Hannah ran over to Victoria, "the red dot on Mead isn't crossed out! Isn't that where our children are?"
"I believe so. But I knew that already. The problem is I don't know how this works."
Hannah replaced the map and searched the stacks of papers. One books was labeled, "Manual", which she flipped through. Inside was pictures of the room, the platform and the controls right in front of her, to the right of her and in the back corner of the room.
"This might tell what to do!" Hannah said, handing Victoria the book.
Victoria brightened, "Good job. This is the manual." She read through it and she frowned, "Uh oh."
"Uh oh? What do you mean, 'uh oh'?" William asked, coming closer.
"It says that 'one participant must be at each of the three control panels'," she pointed at the controls in the room, "'while the others travel through the Transport itself.' Meaning," she looked up, "only one of us can go."
William sighed, "I can't go. I'm not a sorcerer and I'm not strong enough to fight to get Zelgadis back."
Hannah shook her head, "I specialize in white magic and I can't fight."
"And Zelgadis won't accept Rezo as his savior," Victoria interrupted before Rezo could volunteer, "so I guess it's up to me." The rest agreed and crowded around her, she smiled, "We have some cramming to do."
After they were positively sure they knew the drill, they were ready to let Victoria go. They only had one shot, if anything went wrong, Victoria would be tore apart, atom by atom.
The controls panels all only had one function; one panel could not do the work of another. The panel to the right of the doors made the energy intensify and separate, creating a gap to jump through and made the traveler get pulled into the hole. The traveler then had to keep hold of the sides of the platform or get pulled apart.
The controls at the back on the left side determined position, where the destination was so the traveler wouldn't just float in Chaos forever.
The controls on the right side pushed the traveler to the destination because if the traveler just jumped in, they would be pulled into the energy and get ripped apart rather painfully.
They were ready at the panels, William at the front right, Hannah at the back left and Rezo at the back right, or at the platform, Victoria, who was holding on for her dear death.
William pushed the buttons in the right order and pressure, but before he was finished, Victoria called over the loud crackling, "Start, Hannah."
Hannah worked furiously to put in the right coordinates in the right order. Before she finished, Victoria screamed, "Rezo, start it now!"
Rezo worked quickly to finish. Electricity ran through Victoria's hair. She struggled to remain standing and crawled to stand on the edge of the hollow circle, ready to jump.
"Everyone, push the clear button! 1, 2, 3! Now!"
The only button that was on all the panels was a clear button which made the traveling process begin. All of them had to press at the same time that the traveler jumped. When Victoria said, "Now" she flew in the air and everyone pushed the button. She was sucked in the tunnel of energy and vanished.
To be continued...
Author's Notes: This is getting so easy now! We're near the end and I hope you're excited because I sure am and I know what's going to happen already! Tell me what you thought at firstname.lastname@example.org! See you next time!
Chapter Seventeen: Guilt
This was not some joyful romp through the forest. They were not heading towards some lovely open valley where little butterflies and fairies dance around singing their little cheerful songs to have a lovely picnic. Cerberus was flying at top speed, caring little if Zel could hold on or not. Cerberus had other more important things to do than to cart around the little Zelgadis, who was screaming at the top of his lungs.
"Screaming at me is NOT going to help you!" The left head turned around and shouted at him, "I don't want to do this either. I'd rather be doing something more productive but neither life nor death is fair!"
"#Where are we going?#" Zel whimpered.
"Didn't I already tell you?!"
"#I do not know!#"
"We're going to the River of Guilt which encircles the Temple of the Death Angels. You must cross it to get to the Temple!"
"#Why do I have to go to the Temple in the first place?#"
"I don't know! But Ursula told me to bring you there and that's where you're going! Now shut up!"
"#Who is Ursula?#"
"I SAID 'SHUT UP'!"
The trees were just a gray blur. Not a green blur, like nice, happy trees where little birds fly but dark, gray blur of trees that are forever chilled and drooping. The lower branches whipped at Zel's face and the dry, decaying leaves scratched him.
Eventually, the trees parted and Cerberus stopped in front of a green-brown river. The area smelled like old vomit and feces. Zel retched.
"#This is disgusting!#" Zel cried, covering his mouth to block the smell. It didn't help.
The middle head took a big breath, "Ah! I love that smell!"
The right head nodded, "Nothing better."
The grass around the river was brown and very, very dead. It crackled when Cerberus walked on it. The left head noticed Zel's disgust and said, "It's the grass that makes most of the smell, if that makes you feel any better."
"#It does not!#"
Zel looked at the structure in the distance. It could only be vaguely seen, since it was shrouded in fog. The structure seemed massive with many steps leading up to tall double doors, which appeared shut.
"#Is that the Temple?#"
"Yes, that is the Great Mead Temple of the Death Angels. You are the first human to stand at its borders for over two hundred years."
"#That is a really long time.#"
"Yes, it is. It could have stayed isolated for longer, in my opinion, but no one ever listens to me."
"#I am sorry.#"
"It's not your fault. Anyway, I got other more important things to do so, I leave you here!" The left head commanded while the middle head reached over and grabbed Zel by the collar. The middle head swung and threw him into the murky water. Zel hit the water with a plop (since the water was so thick) and it went up to his neck. Cerberus, seeing that its work was done, immediately turned back to the gray forest and fled.
Cerberus had been right about one thing: The water wasn't producing most of the smell. It didn't smell great but it smelled a lot better. The problem was Cerberus left something out. There was a reason why the water was so thick, murky and such a strange color.
Zel was surrounded by decaying bodies. They were not zombies. Zombies have no purpose, they just exist and are mostly annoying. These undead figures had a purpose. To make whoever got in their path suffer. A lot.
"#Nice dead bodies. Niiiice dead bodies!#" Zel tried to swim out but the water was so thick with the undead protectors, he didn't have an opening to shore. And as the song goes, the river is wide and it's too hard to cross.
Of course, the undead noticed his presence and turned towards him. They waded in the direction of the little boy as bits of yellow decaying flesh flicked off and floated downstream. Their matted and stringy hair had bits are other corpses in it. Their eyes were gone, in the sockets was glowing green fog. The nails on the bony hands had gone long and sharp in the murky depths of the river.
The undead laughed eerily and moaned. Before his very eyes, the undead turned from the carcasses of strangers to the decayed bodies of people he either knew in life or from his dark nightmares. Mama, Papa, Granpapa Rezo, Eris, Auntie Veronica, Jer, Malcolm, Lady, Big Guy, Red, and even those two guys he just saved from being ghosts, everyone was represented in the gruesome mob. One of the undead grabbed his hair and dunked him under. A murder flashed through his mind. A murder he committed.
Lina Inverse lay against the tree, coughing.
"You're supposed to," she coughed, "take it easy on girls."
Zel was outside himself, watching the chimera self answer, "Oh well!"
He then picked her up like a rag doll and she screamed as he bashed her skull against a nearby jagged rock until her head was a bloody mass.
Zel tried to beat his way to the surface and he managed to take a breath on the stagnant air but another undead pushed him under and he saw another crime.
"... for the cause of Justice!" Amelia was finishing another Justice speech in a nameless inn. The chimera Zel slammed his hand against the wooden table. The little Zel watched himself in horror, wondering what was wrong.
"You know, I'm really sick of your happy, bubbly attitude! This is the LAST straw!" With that, Zel pulled out his sword and chopped the unsuspecting Amelia's head off.
And he didn't stop there. He chopped the Princess' body in little pieces and sprinkled the bits on to his garden salad like bacon bits. Then, he used the blood as a gruesome steak sauce. He took a bite, "Hm, it's good! Try some!"
"#AAAAAA! Get me out of here!#" Zel screamed as he reached the surface but the undead attacked him with their claws and beat him down.
"So, you've NEVER done it?" Gourry asked in the bath house.
"No, never. Why, have you?" Zel asked, getting fed up with this conversation.
"Duh! Of course! I've had," Gourry counted on his fingers. He ran out of fingers, "Well, more than ten girls. You must be a real freak if you haven't done AT ALL!" Gourry laughed.
Zel fumed, "How dare he question my manhood!" He "accidentally" dropped the soap.
"Hey, Gourry, could you pick the soap for me? It's closer to you."
Gourry tried to stop laughing to say, "Huh? Where is it?"
Zel pointed vaguely, "There. I think."
Gourry looked for the soap, "Are you sure it's near me?"
"Oh, very sure. You might've moved it while you were laughing."
Gourry bent towards the water, his nose brushing the water line.
As Gourry searched, Zel cupped his hand around Gourry's head. Gourry felt it, "Zel? Why are you touching my head?"
"Look! It's right there!" Zel screamed as he pushed Gourry's head under the water.
Zel managed to fly his way out of the water and he screamed, "#I killed all those people! I killed them!#" The crowd bit at him and tried to drown him again. They clawed at his clothes and arms. One undead managed to drag him under again.
"You've served your purpose! Time to die!" Zel shot a red beam of energy at Eris. Blood exploded all over the marble floor of Rezo's laboratory. She fell, limp and nearly lifeless. She fell to the ground with a soft thud.
She reached out her hand towards Zel, "But... why?" The blood poured out, undaunted, forming a deadly cape underneath her.
"You're just a liability now!" Zel laughed as he realized his triumph and Eris' despair.
He readied the spell that would wipe every trace of her existence...
Zel crawled his way up but the bodies fell upon him, suffocating him with their ungodly stench.
"Do not fear, Little One!" A woman's voice inside his head soothed him. Zel looked around but could not see the source of the voice.
"#Who are you?!#"
"It matters little who I am," the voice answered, "I realize now that you need my help, and thus I'm giving to you."
"#Okay! Whatever! Just help me!#"
"Do not struggle against the bodies. Push through them. Do not think of them pushing against you. They will drown you if you do not try to get to the other shore! The images you see are false. You have killed no one! Run! Fly with all your might!" The voice left him and he was alone again.
Zel used all his remaining strength to push his way out of the creatures' grasp. As he swam through the murky water, the undead pulled at him, sometimes dragging him under where he would again see his unspeakable crimes. Again and again he would push his way out of the depths and slowly swim towards shore.
The decayed creatures began to howl and moan and began to resort to violent measures. They clawed at him with no mercy, letting his young blood flow into the water. They bit at him and left marks of their attack. But he continued to push himself away but the undead followed, screaming. One jumped on top of him with full force. Zel ripped the decayed man's arm off and the slime that served for its blood spewed all over him.
Finally, the shore was in sight and he touched the brittle grass but the creatures tore at his clothes and ripped off chunks of his skin and he felt faint from the loss of blood. He tore at the shore but again and again, he slipped because of the slime of the corpses.
The undead howled and screeched and toppled on top of him. He knew he was going to die, in this river and be reborn as one of these decayed things for the rest of eternity. He managed to push the top of his head above water and he could faintly hear Lady call his name.
He was not going to drown Lady, Red and Big Guy as well. He wouldn't be able to bear it. In a burst of new-found energy, he threw the bodies off him and crawled his way up to shore. He was on dry land.
The grass smelled like regular dead grass which was comforting but he probably smelled like...
He examined himself. He was dry as well. He was also very clean when he should've been covered in slime. He had suddenly regained all the flesh that had been ripped off his bones.
The three adults were retching at the smell of the grass on the other side, Zel called out to them, "#It is just the grass! You have to cross the river! You just to run really fast or the undead things in there will get you and drag you under and make you see terrible things!#"
Lady translated for the other two and all looked evasive. But all got up and readied themselves for a long, hard run.
Big Guy jumped in first and the undead tripped him as he began to run and he fell under. He jumped up, screaming as the undead tore at him. He was covered in slime and gore from his own body but he kept running while the decayed forms hung on to him.
The girls screamed as they saw Gourry's state but jumped in as well and were also dragged under. Lady and Red had a harder time getting up again and the undead did much more damage to them. The girls fell under many more times that Big Guy and their blood ran like a fountain.
Big Guy fell under once again near the shore as the undead bit at him but his hand got a hold of the shore and pulled his body up. The undead on him screeched as they were pulled along with him. They increased their clawing and biting. It was futile because when Big Guy got his upper chest on land, they could do no more in that area and had to work on his legs. That's when he swung his right leg on land and the undead had to abandon their victim. Big Guy crawled on the shore and lay there, panting.
"I... never... want to... do that... ever... again!"
The girls were still struggling with their captors. Half of Lady's hair was gone from her scalp and Red's face was a bloody mask from all the scratches. They were lucky, however, because when they fell, their arms were already on land. Big Guy, with Zel's help, pulled the arms up. The blood and slime burned their hands painfully and the screeching nearly made their ears bleed. The girls managed to get pulled on shore and they were as good as new. The burns, as soon as they let go, were magically healed.
The girls lay there panting. Big Guy looked down on Red, "Are you okay?"
"Of course I'm not! I have just been mauled by a bunch dead people! They looked like my friends and family, whether they were dead or not! I am NOT okay!"
"I was just asking, Lina," Big Guy muttered.
"Why are we all clean now? I KNOW I was covered in blood and slime just before," Lady asked, tilting her head.
"Probably an effect of the river itself," Red shrugged, "I personally don't care why I'm all nice and clean, just that I am. Where's that temple?"
"Right there," Big Guy pointed. Not more than ten yards from where they sat loomed the Great Temple of the Death Angels located on the secluded island of Mead.
Red did a double take, "What the...? It wasn't that close before! It should be miles away! How did it get so close?!"
"Maybe the fog's purpose to make the Temple looked farther away to discourage travelers," Lady suggested.
"Isn't the River of Guilt enough?!" Big Guy asked.
"It doesn't matter now," Red interrupted, standing up suddenly, "Come on, you guys! Time to put Zelgadis back together!"
The group of four headed towards the forbidden Temple of the Death Angels.
To be continued...
Author's Notes: Sorry for the bloody bits. I have been reading a LOT of Greek Mythology (I have to for required reading for English Honors 10. I really hate Edith Hamilton right now) and it's been affecting my brain. What is up with the Greek obsession with cutting up children and serving them up to the gods or fathers? It beats me. Anyway, if you're not completely disgusted with me, the story is soon drawing to a close and I'll have it written soon since I know what I want to do and I don't think it's going to be as bloody. But in the meantime, I would really like C&C at email@example.com, even flames are welcome but make sure you don't use ALL CAPS or spel thigs wrog, I mean, spell things wrong, because you want to prove you're smarter than me, right? See you soon (I hope)!
Chapter Eighteen: Child
The Temple had a hundred large steps leading up to golden double doors which stood twelve feet high.
"Wow! It's bigger up close," Gourry said in awe.
Lina tapped her foot, "You can open it anytime you want, Gourry."
"Oh. Sorry. It's just so big," Gourry went over to the Temple doors.
"Whoopie. It's a big building surrounded by a river of smelly dead people with icky puke-scented grass. Can we move along, please?!" Lina crossed her arms.
"There's no doorknobs."
"Then push them, you big wimp! What kind of swordsman are you?"
Gourry pushed with all his might, "They won't budge."
"'They won't budge,'" Lina mimicked, "That's why you keep pushing!"
"Lina, these doors will not move no matter how long I push at them."
"Oh! I'll push them!" Lina walked over, roughly pushed Gourry aside (nearly knocking him off the platform and to his untimely demise) and pushed. And pushed. And pushed.
"They won't move, will they, Lina?" Gourry mocked, "You just wouldn't believe me."
"Oh, SHUT UP! Man, what's wrong with these doors!" Lina yelled, with a good, swift kick to the doors, which were as hard as Zel's chimerical body,
"I'll try," Amelia suggested and she went over to the doors. It felt like pushing a stone wall; they would never move no matter how hard any of them pushed.
"Why don't we all try it at the same time?" Lina proposed. They all pushed at the doors, which remained shut.
"AAA! What is up with these doors! Open! Open, open, open!" Lina hopped up and down.
"Lina, calm down. We'll get in somehow," Gourry leaned against the wall surrounding the doors.
Zel looked up at the doors and went up to tap at it. It swung open.
"Hey, Zel opened the doors. Good job," Gourry patted Zel on the head.
"Only because we loosened the doors up," Lina mumbled.
Gourry and Amelia went in first with Zel and Lina tagging behind. Amelia let out a scream of terror. Zel and Lina ran in to see what had happened.
The inside of the Temple was round and small. In the center was an uninteresting altar which was clean of blood stains or nicks. The room was lit by some unknown force, not candles or lanterns in sight, and the gray stone looked drab and weary.
Of course, Amelia was not terribly frightened by dreary altars nor humdrum walls. On the walls were two figures hung up by wires. The wires went up into what seemed like a trap doors for the room above. Apparently, Amelia's presence had disturbed the traps and launched the figures down.
On Amelia's left side was Zelgadis as he appeared to them. His skin was stone and rocks framed his eyes, cheekbones and chin. He was wearing practically nothing, only a strip of beige cloth to preserve his dignity. His eyes were open but they were glazed over. If he was alive, he certainty would be the last to know.
Behind the altar, right in front of Amelia, was another human-like Zelgadis, only it had great speckled wings. The wings were open and the one wing was as long as both of Gourry's arms. Feathers from the wings fluttered about the chamber, caused by, most likely, the body's drop from the trap door above. The winged Zelgadis also wore next to nothing, only had a loincloth to keep his manhood safe from prying eyes. The eyes were also glazed over and he appeared
quite dead. If he wasn't, he kept staring at Amelia and she didn't like that at all.
"He's staring at me!" Amelia hid behind Gourry's bulk.
"I doubt he's staring at anything. I wish it'd blink though. It's starting to creep me out as well," He turned to Lina behind him, "You think he's dead?"
"Most likely but where did it come from?"
Amelia answered, "The trap door. They came swooping down when I walked in!"
"I didn't mean that! I meant, how did they get in the trap doors in the first place?"
"So, are they puppets or something like those dolls at that guy's house that we went to with Xellos?" Gourry asked.
"You mean, where we all nearly got turned into dolls? Maybe. They're not doing anything, if they can do anything. I mean, they're hung up with wires," Lina sighed, "Personally, they look better inanimate to me. Probably just here to scare us." Lina stretched, "Let's go out and see if there's a back way in... huh?"
There was suddenly no door where there once were doors. "Where's the doors go?!" Lina demanded, pounding at the solid wall.
"We're trapped inside!" Amelia cried, pounding at the wall as well.
Gourry took their shoulders and walked them away from the wall to the altar, "Guys, calm down. There must be a way to another room. Look at this place, it's much too small for such a large building and obviously, there's a second floor because the puppet Zels' wires have to come from somewhere. So, we need to calm down and let Lina think."
"Wait a minute! Why do _I_ have to think of something?!"
"Because I haven't a clue either!" Gourry rubbed the back of his neck.
"Great, you're a big help, Gourry," Lina whispered to herself.
Zel looked at the chimera Zel, "#Who is that?#"
Amelia walked over, trying not to notice the chimera's perpetual stare, "That's you when we first met you."
"#Why do I look so funny?#"
"Your skin is made of stone. You spend all your energy looking for a cure for your condition. It makes you very sad."
"#No kidding. I should be sad. It is really icky looking.#"
"That's not very nice to say about yourself!"
"What are you two talking about," Lina asked, sitting beside the altar base.
"I was explaining why Mister Zelgadis looks like that and he just insulted himself. I think he looks fine, Master Zelgadis, so you better apologize to yourself. Wait, that sounded really weird."
"I got an idea!" Lina slammed her fist into her palm, "the trap doors must go somewhere, right? So, we can climb on to the altar and climb up to the second floor through the doors."
"That could work," Gourry said, looking up through the doors.
"You mean, we have to crawl over the Mister Zelgadises?"
"Yeah, you big baby. They're not going to bite you and it's the only plan I've got!" Lina grabbed Amelia's hand and wrapped her other arm around Zel's waist. Gourry tested the altar to see if it could hold at least his weight. It supported him and he helped the others up. Lina put down Zel. Before they could figure out escape routes, they heard a blast of air below them. The top of the altar lifted up, heading towards the rock ceiling.
"Oh no! It'll squish us to death!" Lina held up her hands to make the top not bash her head in immediately.
"Please, don't let this top kill us!" Amelia prayed.
She got her wish. The top stopped before Gourry's head could be smashed to itty-bitty pieces but it also dissolved under them. They fell into the hole provided by the altar and into the darkness.
No one could clearly recall how far or how long they fell but eventually they reached the bottom of what appeared to be a giant well. The water reached only Zel's hips and was tepid. They surprisingly didn't break any bones or even bruise themselves even though they had fallen at a dangerous speed.
Before they could investigate their new surroundings, the wall pulled at the Adults of the groups. They were like nails to a super magnet. The force lifted them up out of the water and on to the wall. They could not even wriggle, only their heads remained free for movement. Zel remained in his spot, untouched.
"What is going on?!" Lina demanded. A woman laughed. "Who was that? Show yourself!"
"Okay, I will," The woman materialized. It was the blonde woman at the inn. She had no wings but her green eyes betrayed her in an instant. Her white dress showed no seams, it simply existed. The water did not even touch the dress' hem, although it was submerged.
"Who are you? What do you want?"
The woman laughed again, "Nothing now. You already given me what I wanted. My dear Prince, Zelgadis." She bent down to his height, "And how are you, my darling?"
"I want to go home."
"Hey!" Gourry tried to point but couldn't and gave up, "I can understand him!"
Lina nodded, "Me too! But how?"
"This chamber translates his tongue for your unworthy ears to comprehend," The woman answered and turned back to Zel, "You say you want to go home, my sweet?"
"Well, I can not return you to that sty you call Millay but I can deliver you to my home. Would you like that?"
The woman shot straight up in shock. This was clearly not the answer she was expecting, "What do you mean 'no'?"
"I want my mama and papa! I want my family!"
"But I am your family..." she started.
"No, you are not. You are some strange woman in a creepy building."
"Zelgadis, your words wound me in my very heart. I am your aunt, on your mother's side. My name is Ursula, I'm your mother's eldest sister."
"I have never heard of you."
"Well, we didn't get along very well..."
"Well, sisters never get along very well as a rule..."
"That is a very stupid rule."
Ursula was obviously very annoyed at Zel's questions, "Goddess of Death, what is up with this child? He shouldn't be resisting like this!" She thought.
"Did you do this to me?"
The question took her aback, "What do you mean, my precious?"
"Why are there other mes up in that the small chamber? Where did they come from?"
"No harm in telling him the truth," Ursula thought. She answered, "Yes, I did do that but I only did it because you were unhappy, Zelgadis," She moved towards him, he moved away from her, "You don't know what you were like before. You were miserable, searching for a cure that didn't exist. No home, no family, no future. I had to save you from that life. It was my DUTY as your aunt to save you from yourself. You were about to take your own life when I arrived. What a waste of someone so full of promise. I had to do it because I love you." Okay, she embellished herself a little but that wasn't important.
"You say you changed me to save me, right?"
"Of course!" Now he was acting more to her liking.
"Then why did you go through all the trouble of splitting me up, locking the other bits in a Temple and making me come here when you could have just taken me to your home?"
"But then you have had all those terrible memories!" Actually, the real reason was Rezo had tampered too much with Zel's body which made him unacceptable as one of them but that was besides the point. No reason for him to know all that.
"You are lying! You are an evil person! I am not going with you anywhere!" Zel screamed and clutched at the wall.
Ursula howled in rage, "You wicked child!" Ursula then struck him across his face. He was knocked unconscious.
Ursula would have taken Zel right then and there but she felt an unexpected ripple. "What was that?"
Zel stood in a place he secretly called, "Swirly Blue Mist Place". In front of him was the chimera Zelgadis sitting with his heads and arms crossed over his knees. Behind the sitting Zel was a human Zel with speckled wings looking decidedly bored.
"Where am I?" Little Zel asked the other Zels.
The winged Zel replied in a monotone voice, "In the space between each side of Zelgadis Greywords. The line between Angel, Chimera and Human; Adult and Child; Real and Nonexistent..."
"I think he gets it," The chimera interrupted. He put his arms behind him, from there, they supported him.
"How did I get here?"
"You were knocked out," the chimera replied.
"What are we going to do?" Little Zel asked the party. They shrugged, "We have to do SOMETHING!"
"Not necessarily," The Angel replied in that same monotone voice.
"Yes, we do! What's wrong with you people?"
"Why not just let her take you? I was going nowhere anyway," The chimera sighed.
"We can't give up on myself! Or ourselves. Or ourself. Whatever! Anyway, we can't give up!" Little Zel commanded.
Chimera Zel leaned forward towards Little Zel and clapped his hands, "Good speech, Robin Hood. There's nothing to be done. There is nothing out there for us or me or whatever," the chimera stood up.
"But Mama and Papa would be really upset."
"Mother and Father left us without a thought! I am not doing them any favors!" Then Little Zel pushed Chimera Zel off his feet.
He climbed on to his chest and screamed in his face, "NO! They did not leave you without a thought! They loved us no matter what happened! That's why they'll be sad because two-thirds of me is gone and I'm not Zelgadis without you two!" Little Zel got off Chimera Zel and stood up proudly, "And you say you have nothing but you do! You have friends! You're not dead yet and you're still young enough to start a new life! And who says there's no cure?! Of course there is, you just have to look for it!" Little Zel's face was turning red from the excursion.
"It's not just that," Chimera Zel started, "I hurt! I don't want to go on anymore! I'm tired!"
"There's always tomorrow! Don't you understand? You've have good times too if you try to remember them once in a while! It's always darkest before the dawn, you just have to wait out the darkness for a little longer! Good people always win in the end, always!"
"Besides," the Angel Zel cut in, "there is no guarantee that wherever Ursula is taking us is any good for us."
"Exactly. What will become of Zelgadis Greywords? We won't exist anymore! Everything we have earned will turn to dust! Our life will be meaningless!" Little Zel added, "We have to fight back. It's the only chance you'll get your happiness back."
The chimera's eyes shone with renewed hope but quickly dimmed, "But how will we stop her?"
"We have to fight her together like we always have!"
Time in the subconscious world moves at a different pace than the real world and Ursula had barely finished her sentence before the Zels agreed on fighting back.
The Temple rumbled and Ursula fell down into the water that refused to soak her dress. Zel glowed and reached his arms up to heaven. They could hear wires snapping and with a mighty swoop, the two "puppets" flew down and merged with Zelgadis.
The full-grown, glowing Zelgadis' blue eyes opened and an inner light of defiance shone through them like the sun. The energy crackled the water and lightly shocked Ursula's flesh.
"How? HOW?" Ursula screamed in terror but then smiled, "Well, now you're useless to me. I can now kill you since you obviously not going to be a very good candidate for Princehood. So much like your father you are!" She stood up and laughed wholeheartedly, "I'll give you the first blow. I am not afraid of you! There is nothing you can do!"
Zel's voice echoed through the extent of the area.
"Source of all souls which dwell in eternal and
Everlasting flame of blue..."
"The Ra-Tilt?! You need to do better than that!" Ursula laughed but stopped when the echo had a woman's voice,
"Everlasting flame of blue..."
"NO! Not you! How can you be here? You're dead!"
In unison, the voices finished the spell,
"... let the power hidden in my soul
be called forth from the Infinite
Over Ursula's screaming, the woman's voice continued to respond, "Yes, you are quite right. He resembles his father very much!"
The Temple rumbled and shook violently. Ursula dissolved before their eyes. Before they had time to comment, Lina, Gourry and Amelia were released from the wall and a gate opened, flushing them and the water all out.
Zelgadis fainted as the gate opened but arms shot out from the wall and caught him, "I have you, my love." The arms dragged him through the wall and disappeared.
When Gourry gained consciousness, he was holding Lina in his arms and floating down a river. He was relieved to notice that there were no undead people in the water. He reached his hand down into the water and realized that he could stop and not drown himself. He flipped to a sitting position and grabbed Amelia, who was floating past him. He knocked on Lina's head until she mumbled, "What are you doing, Jellyfish?"
"Knocking you on the head to make you wake up." Lina opened her eyes and yelped when she realized he was holding her. She jumped out of his arms and into the river.
"AAA! It's cold!"
"I was about to warn you but you didn't give me a chance." Gourry answered while Amelia murmured, "What's going on?"
"We're in a river and it's cold!" Lina screeched, "AND my pants are ruined! The pants make the whole costume work! What am I going to do?"
Amelia opened her eyes and saw she was being held by the waist by Gourry, "You can put me down now."
"Okay," Gourry promptly dropped her into the water with a big splash which also soaked Gourry, "Oops."
"It's cold! And where's Mister Zelgadis?"
They all turned towards the direction of the voice. A purple-haired woman with big blue eyes was stroking an unconscious Zelgadis' hair. She smiled, "Do you realize how stupid you look?"
Lina stood up, water running down her "ruined" pants, and shook a fist at her, "Look! I have had enough with you creepy women that never seem to get wet! What do you all want with Zel?"
"Hey! Weren't you the screaming lady in the mirror?!" Gourry shouted excitedly, "Ha! I remembered something, Lina!"
"This is a red-letter day. I'll mark it down when I find a calendar. But, that's not the point!" Lina continued, "Who are you?"
"I am Victoria Greywords."
Crickets chirped nearby. The wind rustled through the trees.
"Zelgadis' mother," Victoria added.
"OOHH!" The group said.
"Was Miss Ursula really your sister?" Amelia asked, marching out of the water and shaking off the excess water from the outside of her boots. The other two followed and did similar actions.
"Yes and no. I was adopted so she is not my birth sister but she was my sister in my adopted family."
As she spoke, a hand materialized behind her.
"Victoria, look out!" Lina said but it was too late, the hand grabbed Victoria's neck and the hand's owner was revealed. It was Ursula, back from the dead.
"She's still alive!" Amelia shrieked.
"You fool! You thought a Double Ra-Tilt would kill me?!" She rasped, looking like hell.
"No, actually, I didn't. It slowed you down though," she smiled.
"Yeah, it did," Ursula agreed quietly but added louder, "But it won't work a second time! You and your bastard prince will suffer for what you..."
"Excuse me?" A monotone voice from behind asked. Ursula spun around, "Yes, Aurelia, what is it?"
"I told the Representatives what you had been doing here. They asked, I told, simple as that. You and Zoe both knew Zelgadis was a closed case. He's mortal and that's that. He's not worth our time and energy. They sent me here to tell you to drop it," Aurelia shrugged.
"I'm telling you. I offered no information to them, they asked me and it is a sin to lie to the Representatives. I'd hurry home.
Ursula tore at her hair but she phased out.
"That was a good line, Aurelia. Thank you," Victoria said.
Aurelia looked blankly at her, "I wasn't lying. They really do know what they did. It was a mistake in the first place to tell me anything about their plans."
Victoria's face scrunched up, "Um... how long did they know about this?"
"A little before you begged for Ursula's mercy. I was sent to guide you to the Transportation Room."
"They know how you and your friends broke in? Yes. They actually made sure no one would be around to stop you. Good day to you, Victoria. Good day to your son's friends as well." She vanished in a puff of wind.
"That was weird," Lina commented.
"I must ask you a favor. Please, don't tell Zelgadis of what happened to him. He must never know!" Victoria lay Zelgadis on the healthy grass, "I will send you to Aca where you can get a boat home to Saillune or Hayla or wherever you want to go." With that, she clapped her hands and the groupvanished from the island of Mead.
Zel saw sky. The sky rocked closer and farther away. He smelled sea water and shot up. He shouldn't be here. There was no possible explanation why he was in an inn one minute and on a ship another minute. He was placed beside a lean-to on the ship (probably containing the stairs leading to the bowels of the ship) and he could hear his friends talking.
"I was about to kill myself just a minute ago. How did I get here?" Zel wondered, feeling a little disoriented.
Gourry noticed him first and tapped the girls' shoulders. The girls' had a look of fear but Gourry just smiled and said, "Hey! You okay now?"
"'Okay now'?" Zel asked, then thought, "Is he referring to my near-suicide?"
"I meant, you know, 'with us' now?"
Gourry went to him, "You've been out for weeks! You fell into some sort of trance in the inn near Saillune. Your eyes were all fogged over and you just kept walking forward, no matter what was in the way," Gourry paused for confirmation from the girls. They nodded slowly, "And you kept repeating, 'Mead. Must go to Mead.' So when we figured out you meant the island Mead. You didn't sleep the entire time we traveled to get you there. When we got there, we didn't have any idea why you wanted to go to such a place but we figured your sub-conscious wanted something. So, we hung around with you for half a day while you circled the island. Then you said, 'All done' and fell down, asleep."
"I don't remember any of this."
"Well, anyway, we carried you to Aca and got you on a boat and now you're okay again!" Gourry sat down beside Zel. He cocked his head, "So, what's so special about Mead?"
Zel shook his head, "Beats me."
"Must have not been very important then," Gourry decided.
Author's Notes: Wow! It's finally over! I spent an entire year working on this fic! Before I explain everything, I want to say some thank-yous.
First, I thank the creator of Slayers (I am not going to attempt screwing up his name) for creating such a cool show!
I also want to thank my Traditional Mailing List (linagourry list) for giving me feedback. I especially want to thank Pairaka for helping me out with Gourry's characterization.
I really want to thank Naisumi for liking the entire thing and stressing "details, details, details!" I succeeded in making her feel ill during Chapter 17. And she was eating noodles!
And, of course, all of you for reading this fic.
Okay, you're asking, "Why does this fic exist?" It has many origins. Long
ago, I started writing a fic called, "The Stone Branch" which purpose was to explain Zel's family. I dropped the fic (so don't bother hunting it out) but I used some of the ideas (Man in the Stone Mask came from Stone Branch as well).
But "Inner Child" did not really come to life until I bought "Celtic Women II". There were songs in there that I felt related to Zel's past (or my perception of it.) One song especially called out to me. For some reason, I
imagined a young Zel singing it.
At first, I wanted to write a fic based on that one song but then I thought, "But how could I explain why this was going on?" So, I thought of Zel turning into a child. Then I asked, "But why?" To make a long story short, this monster of a fic was born. I started out thinking this would be six chapters, tops. I never imagined it would turn into the 18 chapter epic you just read.
Never again will I get mad at authors for not updating their stories fast enough. Writing is hard!
Yes, it ate my life, but now it's out there and I'm proud of it. Thank you for reading my fic. Tell me what you thought at firstname.lastname@example.org.
See you later (but in a different fic)!