My feet ache as if my shoes had somehow found a way to give my stone skin blisters. It is more of a spiritual thing than actual pain really. I am mentally exhausted from my journeys and so I believe I feel physical pain in my feet. Whatever the case, it is nearly dusk now and traveling is always more difficult under a new moon so I plan to stop now in the hope that a little rest will ease these phantom aches. I rather doubt my plan will be successful, but the cliff beside the path I was traveling at least has a pleasant view of what looks to be a truly spectacular sunset.

The reds in the cliff and over the plains below remind me of a desert I traveled through once. The landscape is barren and desolate and yet somehow it manages to be breathtakingly beautiful at the same time. I suppose you have to have a warped perspective on life to see the beauty in complete emptiness, but one could say I qualify for that bit of required insanity with a vengeance.

But these are not the thoughts I want to be thinking when I have a sunset to watch. For just a few moments I know I can be at peace with myself. These moments are so rare I treasure them now more than anything else. Letting my mind drift free, I unclip my canteen from my belt and bring it to my lips. A blinding stab of light pierced my eyes as the dieing sun reflected off the gem of a small bracelet I had been keeping on my canteen. I lowered the canteen without drinking and stared at the offending object. To be honest I cannot really call the bracelet offending, a painful reminder of everything I have ever lost would probably be a better description. And yet for some reason I cannot bring myself to burry it in a pocket where it will never see the light of day again.

For such a tiny little ornament, it holds a phenomenal amount of pain. Everything I hate about myself and everything I ever dreamed about for myself are all wrapped up in this one tiny little bauble. As gently as I can, I trace one finger across the surface of the stone. There is still nothing for me to feel, just as I could not feel the kiss she placed on my cheek when she gave me the bracelet. Her passion shone so bright when she asked me to come back to her that I could not help but wonder what things might have been like if I had been more human than not.

What little humanity is left to me is enough to realize that there is something special about this woman who could love me in spite of all my darkness. She may not be grown into the queen she will be, but I see hints of that woman every time she stands against some injustice. I know that if I let myself, I could learn to love her and it frightens me. She is so bright and innocent compared to the darkness that I carry within me.

The dark god ripped away most of my humanity leaving only my soul and the outward shape of my body before filling the empty spaces with his own brand of darkness. Every day the remains of my human soul must fight to keep the corruption from the brau demon and rock golem that replaced my humanity in check. This is a war of darkness that I dare not loose, but it leaves my soul eternally shrouded in shadow. A darkness that I greatly fear will taint anything that remains too close no matter how pure it was to begin with. I refuse to allow myself to be used as a conduit for the darkness to blacken the purity of her spirit.

If there was a chance I might find a real cure, I might take the chance of walking beside her, but it has been nearly thirty years since I was changed. Thirty years in which I have not aged. So there is yet another reason to stay away from her. How could she still love me when she ages every day and I will remain in this false eternal youth? And that is if she could even love me knowing that I am fifty-two instead of only twenty-two.

There are so many thousands of reasons to stay away from her and yet if I let my heart guide me I would find my feet walking up to the gates of her palace. If only magic could cure me as it had once created me. I suppose in a sense it could but I am not ready to face that solution. Magic could remove the demon and golem from me, but the rest of my human self has already crumbled to dust. All that would remain is my soul, released to drift upon the winds of time. My cure is death.

Death is my only salvation, and yet there are only two things in this world that might kill me. But then the Sword of Light is gone from this world now, given into the hands of the gods from another dimension so that they might save their world, leaving only a single spell that might be strong enough to shatter this rocky form I wear. And the one woman who could cast the spell, calls herself my friend. I doubt she could plunge the blade through my chest in cold blood even if she knew the truth, leaving me to face the long years of my life that stretch out into eternity before me.

If the gods of light still walked the realms, maybe things would be different. I might have had a chance at a cure that would leave me with a life to live. A light god should be able to undo a spell cast by a dark god. Cephied might have been able to separate my humanity from the darkness that shrouds my soul and give me a chance at life. But fate is a cruel mistress and Cephied has been dead for centuries.

So there it is my life is my curse and my darkness. I am the next best thing to immortal, leaving me with nothing better to do then search for a cure that does not exist. An exercise in futility but it keeps me from dwelling on my daily war for the salvation of my soul. In the end, no matter how much I may wish it were otherwise, that is all there will ever be for me. For now, all I can say is that I have the courage to bear my punishment in solitude. No innocent shall ever be forced to shoulder the burden I have brought down upon my own head in a fit of adolescent stupidity.

Certainly I could never allow myself to taint a woman whose heart is so pure and noble that she can see what lies beneath the surface. She is truly without compare and all I can ever offer her is her freedom. The only thing that I can give her is my absence. Without me to drag her down, she can fly free to reach all the heights of ascendancy I know are waiting for her.

This is all the affection I can ever give her because I am more monster than human. As much as I hate him, the self styled Mysterious Priest could probably understand what I mean. He is pure Mazoku and the desire to destroy everything beautiful must rage a thousand times worse in him. But somehow he manages to seem more human than I have ever managed to feel. So all I can do is wish

I wish her the best of luck in all that she may do. I wish for her joy and laughter, sunlight to shine upon her face after the rain. I may be more monster than human these days, but there is still enough that is human in me to give her this.

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Author's Note: For those who are interested, this was based off the shot of Zelgadis at the very end of Try where he's sitting on the cliff. I've cleaned up a couple of awkward sentences and grammatical errors, but this is still unbetaed. Many thanks to everybody who has left me feedback, I love hearing other people's thoughts on my work.

Disclaimer: For you legal nuts out there, I do not own Slayers.