"Damn it!" Zelgadis Graywords growled in frustration. His fist fell upon the nearest object in his rage. Unused to such treatment, the stone pillar cracked under the force of the blow. A spidering network of fractures defacing the detailed stonework. Pebbles and dust rained down in a small cloud, scattering upon the marble floor of the ancient temple.
"Damn it! Damn it!" His cries echoed hollowly off the walls of the long abandoned religious sanctuary encompassing him. With each exclamation, the force of the condemned chimera's strikes escalated. The falling debris grew in size until great chunks of the limestone column crashed to the floor. Unable to hold itself upright against the assault, the decorative pillar toppled over. The eerie groan of stone crashing against stone filled the musty air.
As the dust settled, the temple's innards stilled. Sections from the ruined pillar lay strewn about, like a disemboweled murder victim. The ragged breathing of the tortured chimera was the only sound marring the moment of silence.
He'd been so sure this time. So sure. All of the clues had been there. Every rumor matched. His painstaking research, all pointing positively to this location.
Yet, again, he had nothing to show. The Fates were laughing at him. Dangling the promise of a cure before his nose before quickly snatching it away.
He only wanted his humanity back.
He didn't care how. He'd use any means. His hands were already dirty.
He wanted it back.
These hands, his hands, they were the very things he despised. Stone and lifeless. Even now, after smashing his fist through the column, his fingers were unaltered. They should be bloody. Flowing with the red pain that such an action would cause to normal flesh. Instead he felt nothing. Only a slight throbbing in the strained muscles of his tightly clinched fist. A sensation completely overlaid by the flames of anger that clouded his vision. His temples throbbed as he was swamped, once more, with the raging frustration that ate at his soul
"DAMN IT ALL!" His hands found another stone pillar to vent his anger upon. Aged limestone was torn into with callus disregard. The motions becoming slightly spasmodic as he thrashed the stone.
Physical pain would be a blessing. A pain that would distract him from the despair that was slowly bubbling up to cool the fires of his temper. Distract him from the fact that his haggard breathing held repressed sobs.
Sinking down to his knees, he knelt among the powdery grit caused by his destruction. Fists slammed into the marble tiles. Hunched over, he gulped in air eagerly as his anger drained way leaving him momentarily exhausted.
"I just want to be human again."
As the tranquillity lengthened, the cool night breezes swept into the ancient, decaying temple once more. Moonlight riding on the wings of silence floated down through the gaping cracks in the ceiling. The white light pooled over the marble floor to be lapped up by the prolific mosses and lichen.
Though there was not much of the ancient structure left, it was obvious by the remains that it had once been magnificent. Pale, worn marble tiles lay underfoot as to provide a smooth walkway. The many rooms filled with crumbling statues of nameless deities. Where there was now, heaps of rubble, there once would have been row upon row of support columns, accompanied by numerous, ornately carved, decorative pillars.
Man and time, however, had all but forgotten this spot. The passing of seasons wore away its beauty, leaving a hag in place of a maiden. Now, it was nothing but an empty shell. Whispering secrets of times past into those who's ears had grown deaf in arrogance.
Resting in the dust Zelgadis forced himself to breathe in an even, calming pattern. His intellect dripping in slowly to regain command of his body. Pushing himself back onto his feet, he removed the silvery, clinging dust from his beige pants with several well-placed pats. Giving the empty ruin a parting glance, he turned. Stepping over piles of rock he made his way towards the exit.
As his footsteps echoed faintly against the stone encasement of the dying temple, Zelgadis' sharp ears detected an intrusion in the fallen temple's silence. Slowly and almost inaudible at first the sound grew to a rhythmic tap. Narrowing his eyes, the chimera quickly scanned the room he was in, nothing. Despite this fact, the steady tap continued. The sound echoing almost teasingly off of the stone surfaces making it impossible for his ears to pinpoint the exact location.
Slightly vexed, he left the main chamber of the temple. He walked down the twist of hallway that would lead him to the way out of the temple. Even moving the noise seemed to follow him. As the great splash of light that was the exit came into view, Zelgadis became aware of a faint undertone accompanying the tap. A slight hum that the chimera was sure he recognized…
Then he was out, stepping out of the ruined rubble of the temple into the cool night air. The echo immediately disappeared. Whipping his head around to the source of the tap, Zelgadis readied the words for a fireball on his tongue.
Seated comfortably on the overhang of the temple entrance was a young man. Trapping his foot against the stone structure, he kept time as he absently strummed the strings of an aged, black guitar. His tawny colored hair was tousled. The young man's attire consisted of a threadbare silver vest over a faded black shirt and pants. His eyes were closed as though he were lost deep in thought.
Before Zelgadis could do anything the young man spoke up softly. "You're looking in the wrong places." Opening his gray green eyes he stared down at the chimera with an unreadable expression on his face.
"What?" Zelgadis froze. Confusion etched in every stone of his countenance. Anger began rising once more in his chest at the audacity of this young man.
"For, your humanity, that is." Twisting his guitar around so that the strap secured the instrument on his back, the musician leapt nimbly down to the ground. "That's what you said you were looking for. Isn't it?"
Emotion overrode the chimera's senses for the second time that night. Ignoring the warning flares that were lighting in his brain, he acted. With something akin to a growl, Zelgadis seized the man's shirt. "Who are you?!"
"I'm not anybody." The young man replied raising his hands in a gesture of surrender. Giving a disarming smile, he tugged from the chimera's hold. "I simply am," he paused as though searching for the proper term, "myself."
With an annoyed huff, and the realization that picking a fight with a stranger in the middle of nowhere would be a bad idea, Zelgadis turned to leave. Irritably, he tugged his hood up. As he began walking down the slopped path, his ears could pick up the faint thrum of a guitar being retuned.
"You know I'm right though," the statement followed after the chimera's retreating back. The glare Zelgadis gave the musician would have killed a lesser man. The young man was completely unfazed by the chimera's obvious irritation. Twisting his tuning pegs until the guitar's strings were acceptably taut, he continued amiably. "If you cared enough to listen you would have realized it by now. Yet, you stumble around blindly in a darkness of your choosing. Rather ironic, isn't it? That you've searched over such distances, when the answer lies so close to you soul."
All thoughts that Zelgadis had previously possessed about leaving dissolved as his ears were assaulted by the young man's quiet voice. The knowing tone behind the statement put Zelgadis on his guard. When he regained his voice, the chimera rephrased his earlier question. "What are you?"
The guitar was settled comfortably within the young man's arms. Pulled from his pocket, a tarnished silver coin became an impromptu pick. His callused fingers danced softly, deftly over the neck of the instrument. The time signature set by the habitual tap of his foot. A tiny smile played upon the young musician's lips. "A messenger."
Slowly, with each stroke of his fingers, each chord, a melody was formed. Single notes melding into song. Underlying the soft euphonious tune hid a gentle undertone. The chain of song twined about the chimera, leaving him rooted in place, just as securely as if the chains that bound him were of metal. Every fiber of his being seemed to slow as the music rose to bury itself like a warmed coal in his chest.
After a moment, Zelgadis realized that there were words. The musician's silky, tenor voice rising in unison with the guitar's hum. The lyrics faded into a distant corner of Zelgadis' soul as the world around him abruptly blurred.
"Zel!" The chimera started. That voice! The owner of was a voice he someone knew all too well. But that was impossible.
"Zel!" Zelgadis looked up from the dust road beneath his feet. His eye's met the red gaze of Lina Inverse. The sorceress supreme stood several feet down the road, the afternoon sun reflecting off of her shoulder guards. Her blonde protector was positioned by her side; giving all of them his usually cheerful smile despite the obviously miffed tone in Lina's exclamation.
"Hurry up will ya?" She resumed walking impatiently. "There's an all you can eat buffet ahead I wanna hit before they close down for the night!"
This conversation, this road, he'd had this conversation years ago. Not long after meeting Lina and Gourry for the first time. While his mind lay frozen in the distant haze of confusion, his feet obediently took to motion. The footsteps were dictated. His body running in the prerecorded track of the reawakened memory.
"This is the place with that really good chicken too, isn't it Lina?" Gourry remarked, looking down at the diminutive sorceress for a second.
"Yeah," she nodded enthusiastically.
The swordsman looked back, over his shoulder at Zelgadis. "They'll probably have lots of coffee for you too Zel."
What is the nine hells is going on here?! Unable to control his jaw muscles the exclamation was shouted within the confines of his own skull. Strangely enough, someone answered.
It's as I told you, The musician's voice came lightly into the chimera's brain, as if the words were being shouted over a great distance. A messenger normally bares a message. I thought you would have caught on that fact readily enough.
Zelgadis felt the overwhelming desire to throttle the young man. What are you doing to me? Leave me alone. I don't need or want anything from you.
The young musician ignored the chimera's threat. His tone remaining friendly, addressing Zelgadis in the manner of an older sibling. These people, they accepted you readily. Although they had not known you long, save as an enemy. They accepted you as a friend.
A friend. The word worked its was in Zelgadis' thoughts, uncertain what the young man was alluding to. Yes, he had become friends with these two. Some events in life can't really be shared without creating such a bond. Despite some of their irritating habits, he would admit that he'd grown rather used to his having them as comrades. Not that I could ever escape them, they always seem to show up.
But, you insisted, still insisted, on keeping your distance. Pushing away those who wished to help. Separating yourself. Why?
Why? Zelgadis was taken aback by the question. Unbidden a response rose in his thoughts. I-, I was only through a great force of will that the chimera managed to shift his thoughts away from that path. His hesitation however, only served to perk the young man's interests. He could feel the tingle that was the curious musician peaking into his thoughts, browsing through the images dredged up by the question.
In a whirl of black, the road and his companions disappeared. In their place grew a luscious forest. Aged pines towered high overhead. Their musty fragrance dampened by the cool morning air. Beads of dew still lingered upon the mast underfoot.
If he had control of his body, Zelgadis would have broken out in a cold sweat. As it was, he was obligated to continue swinging the dull practice sword now lodged in his hands. This was a day he'd never forget. The contrast between this and the previous memory was vast. The walk had sunk underneath the subconscious of his thoughts, dulling the clarity. Here, he was completely re-immersed. The sounds, scent, everything was sharp around the edges.
"I want to be strong." The mantra played over his lips, each word falling in synch with a slash of the weapon in his hands. Words that now he regretted with all of his being.
Stop this! Zelgadis shouted out to the musician. The order coming out more as a plea. Stop playing with me! I'm not something for your amusement!
There. The soft chiming that haunted his dreams was echoing through the clearing. Zelgadis felt his body turning, welcoming, towards the sound. His human body.
It really bothers you doesn't it? The question drifted into Zelgadis' head from wherever vantage the musician was watching.
Rezo was smiling down at him benignly. The red robes that the priest had become associated with were moist from his walk in the undergrowth. "Zelgadis," his voice carried the hint of affection the Red Priest always used when addressing his grandson. "Do you really want to be stronger?"
Of course it bothers me! He turned me into a freak! Zelgadis bellowed. He-
Betrayed you trust. The musician corrected gently. He was your only living relative and he used your trust
Smiling, he was now smiling slightly up at the priest. The man who'd raised him to adolescence. Taught him spell theory and academics. Zelgadis's body ruffling sensitive fingers through his soft hair as he feigned taking a moment to think over the offer. His last experience knowing what soft felt like.
"Yes, Grandfather. I would like to be strong."
Then, there came the pain. Thousands, millions of needles drilling their way out from under his skin. His heart jumping from his throat to his bowls as his vision blurred. The pain tingling into all of his senses. Burning, like someone was pouring liquid lava over his flesh. His voice grew hoarse as he screamed out in agony. The man he'd loved so much standing by indifferently, as if he had an appointment he was eager to get to.
So you now refuse to give your trust away? The musician said somberly. That's no way to live, loneliness is the only thing you will ever find.
Zelgadis had no answer for that. His body was still feeling the aftershocks of the transformation. The hot iron that was pressing out the wrinkles in form he was to be cursed with.
But can you truly regret it? Truly? Regret what this fate has brought you?
Yes! Zelgadis immediately hissed the words out through mentally gritted teeth. Look at what it's brought me! Nothing! The stares of strangers. The looks of contempt. Bitterly his mind wandered back to a particularly cutting remark.
Instantly, the memory around Zelgadis churned dully and he was there. In Rezo's Sairagg mansion, a location that no longer existed save in memory. Beneath his feet came the crunch of broken glass as he edged his way into a face-off. His sword raised, as he stood betwixt the threat that wore the face of his deceased grandfather and the three people behind him.
He'd come back to Sairagg in search of a cure. He'd known that Rezo had a laboratory located somewhere near the city. It had been his hope that something that had belonged to Rezo would bring the solution he desired. Upon his arrival, he'd heard the rumors. Rumors about the person behind those ridiculous wanted posters. So he found himself here.
"And who's he?! He's so creepy and suspicious-looking…" He hadn't known Amelia at that point, an unexpected first meeting. She was a stranger he'd made no move against, and yet she had been openly fearful of him because of his body. The words lashing out more cutting than a physical weapon.
See? Zelgadis mentally rubbed the musician's nose in the memory. That is what this cursed body has brought me. Nothing but the suspicion of others. People who stare at me like I'm some kind of oddity.
"Well, excuse me." His mouth moved, saying the first words that touched his tongue. Raising up the cold invisible barriers that would separate him from someone who insulted him so crudely.
That's harsh, even for you. The young man replied a hint of a frown in his voice. There was a shuffle in Zelgadis' mind as the musician delved a bit deeper. She's young at this point, this Amelia of yours, her first lengthy journey away from her sheltered life. Suddenly you come flying through a window.
"Amelia, anyone who judges people by looks or rumors just gives justice a bad name." That voice was Lina's. Her finger raised as she explained to the younger girl. "Okay, Zelgadis may seem suspicious at first glance…"
What did you expect? Zelgadis could have sworn the unseen musician had raised a finger in imitation of the sorceress. The guitar solo in the chimera's soul wavered a hint, due the un-attentive behavior of its proprietor. Of course she would have been frightened a bit. And rightly justified at that!
"Well, excuse me!" A slightly angered twitch worked over his body as he muttered at Lina's response.
You're ignoring the larger picture! The musician continued.
"…But he's sort of okay." Lina concluded.
How am I ignoring the larger picture?!
Again the memory had shifted. Now the surface beneath his feet was the blackened scorched dirt of a battlefield. Rocks lay upturned, like bones in a violated gravesite, evidence of the many spells that had missed their intended targets. Looming overhead was the massive holy tree Flagoon. Several branches smoked as they burned, flames entangling themselves around the dying growth.
Again he was before Copy Rezo, this time in the ruins of what had once been the flourishing city of Sairagg. He knew that Gourry and Amelia were nearby. At this moment their breaths were being held, tense, as Lina and Syphiel disappeared within the sheltering confines of the holy tree. The protective spell he'd cast carrying them away from the clutches of the combat. The evil creation stared down at them in frustration as his quarry escaped.
This memory, this is only days later. The musician said unnecessarily. His voice prodding into Zelgadis' skull.
What are you doing?! The chimera was completely tensed up within himself. It was not the fires of battle that churned within his mental self, but a different emotion entirely. His body was beginning to turn back to face the corrupt incarnation.
Taking a moment to prove a point….
He couldn't stop it. His body was stuck repeating the motions dictated by the memory. He was turning too damn slow.
The flaring warmth hurling towards him was the spell the Copy had launched. At the time, it was unexpected but, he may yet have had time to dodge. Instead, Amelia leapt in front of him. A shield spell flashed in her grasp as she blocked the impending attack. Her small body taking the brunt of the blast, forced backwards under the strength behind the blow.
Idiot! Zelgadis didn't know whether he was shouting at her or himself.
In the reality of the replaying memory, he could feel the harsh contact as her form came against his in a jarring jolt. He had no doubt her entire back had gained a bruise due to that encounter. A small gasp of pain sprouting from her lips as she came to her knees in the dirt. The Copy's attack dissipated as Gourry leapt into action with the Sword of Light.
"Thanks Gourry-san!" Amelia smiled, giving a wave to the swordsman as she pushed herself into a sitting position.
She saved you despite her earlier impulsive remark. Despite the fact that your own actions had been, shall we say, less than golden. The musician remarked, voice decidedly bland.
His own past self, was frozen, uncertain. The shock of Amelia diving in to save him filtered sluggishly through his veins. In its place leaving a strange new emotion…
"Idiot! What we're you doing!" He yelled down at the small princess. Startling her with the fervor behind his usually quite voice and causing her to fall to the ground once more. "Worry about your own hide!"
She didn't need to. Zelgadis answered trying to sound defiant. Mentally he winced at every new scratch he could see on Amelia.
But she did. The young man's voice was almost a whisper. Obviously she saw something human in you, something worth saving.
"Good grief." He sighed slightly with the usual annoyed huff. His words though, were softened by as a tiny grin twisted itself on his lips. The battle around them was almost drowned out as she shuffled under his gaze. Rubbing the back of her head, she gave him a shy smile, a delicate blush tinting her cheeks. Again he was aware of the new emotion that seemed to leave his skin tingling.
You don't recognize it? The heavy exhale of the musician may have been a laugh in disguise. You know yourself so poorly. Around them, a new memory built up in the darkened wake of the previous.
In a haze of royal blue, clouds billowed overhead. The air held the already moistened feel of a dank season. Below his booted feet, the ground Zelgadis tread upon was a layer of churned up mud, almost unidentifiable as a road. Walking jauntily behind him, in defiance of the obviously negative weather was Amelia.
What are you talking about? Zelgadis asked irritably. He was becoming quite anxious to relieve himself of the prying musician. His mood was not improving with the young man's knack for talking in circles.
The two of them had split up from Lina and Gourry for the day in an effort to cover more ground in the search for the ever-elusive Clair Bible. Returning unsuccessfully from some nearby temples they were on their way back to the town that lay several miles down the road that they were to spend the night at. It had grown dark quite quickly and they found themselves late in heading back.
All these years you've been searching for your humanity. Did it ever occur to you that you already had what you desired?
His hands were stuffed indifferently within the folds of his cloak as he kept up a brisk pace. Zelgadis was not at all eager to become caught in the certain downpour the clouds above promised. A discrete glance backwards every once and awhile reaffirmed that the princess was still behind him.
What I desire is my cure! Zelgadis shot back. Look at me, I'm a chimera. I'm not human.
Thunder struck out overhead. The booming sound rolling over the countryside ushering in the proffered precipitation. Skipping ahead of the intermediate procedures, the cold rain burst forth from the sky as if a dam had broken in the heavens. Talking became obsolete as the roar of the watery tempest filled the air.
Human, chimera, both are simply physical forms. The young man's voice seeped evenly into Zelgadis' head. Are our bodies not simply empty shells; vessels in which to house the complexity of the soul within? His voice rose heatedly. Your humanity, your soul, that was never taken from you. You have never been anything but human.
The revelation came like an arrow into Zelgadis' brain, a shock that washed over his mental self like the rain was washing over his memory. Sinking into a stunned silence he absorbed the musician's words.
Within a matter of seconds, the two of them were well on the road to becoming completely drenched. The mud slid treacherously from under their feet, splashing up in great globs to cling to the unfortunate duo. As they ran down the road in a hastening attempt to reach shelter it was only a matter of time before the inevitable happened. Amelia, with all of her usual grace, stumbled in the gooey slush of the wet earth abruptly introducing herself to the ground.
Zelgadis, spotting her predicament, quickly made his way back to the mud stained princess. A deft tug and he'd helped her back to her feet. With an embarrassed laugh, she gave him a grateful smile.
Emotions, it's the soul, the heart that makes up the very core of humanity, whispered the musician quietly. And yet, you seem to have effectively blocked emotions out from your rational. His tone gained a touch of urgency. Learn how to feel again. Happiness will not come simply from regaining your body. Learn how to feel or you truly will be lost.
Shaking his head slightly Zelgadis released Amelia's hand. Turning back to the sea of rain, he led the way down the road again. His pace more reasonable this time.
Walking astride the soaked princess, he felt his conscious tugging at him. Being as the rush of the pouring rain would drown out any attempt at speak, he tentatively gave Amelia a tap on the shoulder. His cloak raised pointedly, an offer to protect, to shelter. The motion was futile really, simply because they were both already drenched to the bone, but the gesture was there. A gesture that spoke beyond mere words.
Your form doesn't hinder you nearly so much as you think, and it has helped you more than you know... The musician's voice was still clear inside Zelgadis' head even as the scene around him faded.
Colors flared brightly. Swirls gradually solidifying into a recognizable setting. The air became warm as a clear blue sky stretched endlessly above him. His back resting against a grassy pillow as he watched clouds drift aimlessly overhead. The spring sunshine shone down benevolently on the four figures resting upon the hillside. Zelgadis' ears could pick up birdsong. It felt calm, peaceful, as if the day had been declared a holiday.
How has it helped? Zelgadis tried to snap back but the rare moment of serenity eased a peaceful lethargy into his bones, leaving his thoughts with only a mildly irritated tinge.
This, none of this would have happened had you not been a chimera. You would have never experienced any of this without Rezo's gift. Never to have meet these people who claim you as their friend.
That's ridiculous. Zelgadis answered immediately, but, even as he began to argue he realized that it wasn't. If he hadn't accepted Rezo's offer he would never have had a reason to turn against the Red Priest. He would never have made that fateful encounter with Lina and Gourry. The thoughts all sank like balls of frost to settle as leaden weights within his stomach. Somehow it was true. His entire life had hinged on his transformation, like some twisted blessing of Fate.
He would have never met Amelia.
No…you would most certainly would not. The musician echoed Zelgadis' thoughts faintly. The memory rustled slightly as everything faded to dark once more.
[ I've been talking in my sleep ]
[ Pretty soon they'll come to get me ]
[ Yeah, they're taking me away ]
To Zelgadis' surprise, and chagrin, a new memory did not come to light. Instead everything remained dark. His body surrounded by an endless void that stretched out before him.
Glancing down, the chimera realized he could still see himself. His feet steadied against the nothingness that was the ground. Almost tentatively, he raised a hand, wiggling the outstretched fingers before his vision. To his relief, his fingers obeyed his command, signifying that he was in control of his body once more.
"So tell me truly now." Turning instinctively, Zelgadis a moment to orient on the musician who was seated at eye level, guitar still softly humming. Glancing up from his strings, the young man's gray eyes opened on the chimera searchingly. "Do you regret this path.?"
Looking flustered, eyes on the nonexistent ground Zelgadis opened his mouth. The answer came out hesitantly, as if he still wasn't sure that he could command the answer to form itself in his throat. As though he wasn't quite sure of what he was saying.
The musician smiled at Zelgadis. His fingers growing all but still on his guitar. "Then go. Rediscover your humanity."
Zelgadis sat up abruptly, sweat beaded on his brow. Heart beating furiously in his chest. Each breath coming quickly. His ears ringing with an echoed whisper. A message delivered to his no longer deaf hearing.
Immediately the chimera's eyes scanned his location, his hands patting against his body to double check the solidity of his situation. He was seated in the middle of the clearing before the ancient temple he'd entered earlier. The world around him was still bathed in pale moonlight. Calming breezed brushed against him. Rising to his feet, Zelgadis promptly turned his sights to the raised archway of the temple's entrance. The young man was gone.
A dream? The chimera wondered halfheartedly even as his insides argued the impossibility of that theory. His gaze turned down to his hands.
Past his hands, a glint of gold in the grass caught his eyes. Picking up the forsaken object he found himself holding an old tarnished coin: the musician's guitar pick. The words Zelgadis had been told that night bubbled up to beckon to him forth. 'Learn how to feel again…rediscover you humanity.'
"Not a dream, a message." He whispered to himself, putting the coin in his pocket. A new kind of determination filled his veins as he gave the temple a parting look. Turning down the slopped departing path for the second time that night he fixed a new destination in his mind, Seyruun.
Disclaimer: Alliteration is fun for you and me! I claim no ownership over Slayers or the Matchbox 20 song 'Unwell'. I do however own the Messenger/musician whom I have fondly named Eshu…though his name is never revealed in the fic ^-^0
Author's Notes: As stated above the song for this little ditty of fanfiction that was born from my warped mind is 'Unwell' by Matchbox 20. The idea of a Messenger/musician had been plaguing me for awhile thus Eshu was born. The reason I never inserted his name in the fic was: A) I had originally included a Messenger reporting back to the Sender scene in the fic that I decided was too much of a tangent and therefore cut. B)It helped to imply that Eshu's duties came first before himself…^-^0Anyway… Reviews will be most welcome! Please? I'm curious to hear what you thought.
"And you crossed that line
You can't come back, tell me
How does it feel now"
– Feel, Matchbox 20