Laying the Dead
by Jaelle
***

A Slayers Fanfic

***

The characters herein are not mine, do not belong to me and I am making no money whatsoever off of this. No infringement on copyright is intended by this fanfic. Kay?

***

PART THREE:

***

Zelgadis brewed some tea as he tried to ignore the shade who had come to speak to him last. "Well, my day has just gone from bad to unspeakable."

The shade of Rezo, the Red Priest, regarded him with eyes that remained closed even in death. "Zelgadis..." He sighed.

"Don't talk to me!" Zelgadis rounded on him. "I don't want to see OR speak to you ever again!"

"I know that," Rezo said. "But there are things that we MUST discuss."

"I don't HAVE to discuss ANYTHING with you anymore," Zelgadis said bitterly. "You're dead, and I all I have to remember you by is this monstrous body you cursed me with. And once I have cured that, then I'll never have to think of you again!"

"Zelgadis..."

"So if you came here wanting forgiveness or to apologise or anything then it's too damn late!" Zelgadis shouted at the priest. "The only thing you could possibly have to tell me that I would want to hear is the way to reverse the chimera spell you cast on me!"

Rezo observed Zelgadis for a moment.

For a brief second, Zelgadis felt a flare of hope in his heart. "Is that... why you're here?"

Rezo sighed, and shook his head.

Zelgadis' face fell. "You can't mean that. There must be a way! You were the great priest, you could do anything!"

"Yes I could," said Rezo sadly. "Heal the sick, cure the blind, raise demons from the netherhells, banish ghosts, destroy evil, kill anyone who dared oppose me... and transform my only remaining heir into a chimera, permanently."

"That's... no... it can't be." Zelgadis blinked as tears formed in his eyes for the first time in years. "I don't believe you! I WON'T believe you!"

"Believe what you wish, but I have never lied to you Zelgadis, and I have no intention of starting now." Rezo sat down. "Therefore: to the best of my knowledge, your transformation into this form is permanent. There is no going back. It may be that there is some power on this world which CAN turn you back, but if there is, I do not know of it. And Zelgadis, I know so many things..."

Zelgadis sat down. "The Clair Bible..." he said weakly.

"Does not contain what you seek," Rezo said. "Zelgadis. This was no mere transfiguration spell. It was not simply a cosmetic effect. You were transformed right down to the very core of your genetic structure. That is why you heal to the same form you are in now."

"Well, if it can't be undone can it be re-done?" Zelgadis demanded. "Why can't I use the same spells you used to alter me, to alter me to being a human?"

"You could..." Rezo admitted. "But setting up the spells I used on YOU took me most of YOUR life - nearly fourteen years! Additionally, it takes a toll on the body. You might succeed, but the process would probably kill you, at best."

"And at worst?" Zelgadis demanded.

"You would wind up even worse than you are now," Rezo said. "A true monster."

Zelgadis turned away, freezing the shade out.

Rezo sighed. "And the final reason that I doubt you can reverse the process is that... the _original_ process was a failure."

"What?" Zelgadis turned around. "A failure? What are you talking about?"

Rezo looked at him. "Think for a moment Zelgadis. Do you REALLY think I would have transformed you into a creature who hated me? I wanted a strong and loyal servant. Instead I got..."

"You got what you deserved." Zelgadis interrupted. "So how did you mess this up? My appearance?"

"No. You were supposed to look this way." Rezo admitted. "I'm actually still not entirely sure what went wrong. The entire transformation was an incredibly complex and delicate process. Remember, despite the physical changes you retained your original memories and most of your mental processes. That required keeping the structure of your brain more or less intact whilst still integrating the mazoku and golem material. Afterwards, you still thought like a human, but you became both more aggressive and more intelligent after your transformation."

"I became those things because YOU trained me to be that way," Zelgadis accused.

"I merely enhanced what had already developed." Rezo sighed. "And as for your depressive streak - that was TOTALLY unexpected. I thought that your mazoku side would be so pleased by the extra power you had gained that you wouldn't mind the transformation. Perhaps I erred in allowing you to retain so much of your human side. But if I'd changed that, you would have been a monster in truth. As it is, you retained the ability to reason, in fact that side of you wound up being strengthened by the whole process, which was a complete surprise to me."

"A surprise?" Zelgadis stared at him.

Rezo nodded. "Yes Zelgadis, a surprise. I'd expected you to develop a sense of, well, sneakiness. Instead, your whole way of thinking did not change, it became enhanced. Your grasp of logic and mathematical problems became extremely strong."

He paused. "And that is why I don't think you can ever change back - because this was NOT what I intended when I changed you. I _expected_ an aggressive, intelligent mage who would be invulnerable to most physical attacks and who would be loyal to me. I _got_ a resentful, depressed, angry teenager with stone-skin, enhanced magical powers, an engineers brain, no sense of humour, and a stubborn streak the size of Sairaag!" Rezo ran down.

"I didn't ask you to do this to me!" Zelgadis exploded.

"No, but your acceptance of my offer to become stronger opened the gate and allowed me to do it." Rezo said. "Some would consider that a lesson learned."

"I hated you for it," Zelgadis said.

"I know you did."

There was a long pause. Zelgadis regarded his hands, and finally asked a question that had been bothering him for nine years.

"Lina told me that _you_ helped her defeat Shaburanigdo." he said slowly. "She said that she thought that Shaburanigdo had taken you over, and that the person who transformed me wasn't _you_, but _him_."

"Ah. And what do YOU believe?" asked Rezo calmly.

"I... I don't know." Zelgadis looked at his hands. "I've hated you for so long." he whispered. "And then you died, and I thought that it would go away, but it didn't. And then I met Kopii-Rezo, and I hated him too. And even after HE was dead I still... I tried to forget you, tried to blot you out of my mind."

He looked up. "But I couldn't. Because every time I looked in a mirror, every time I drank from a stream... every time a child ran away from me in fear I thought of YOU!!! And how YOU did this to me!!"

He stood up. "How could you do this to me??!! I was your grandson, your great grandson... You were all the family I had left! The only one I had left to love. And I did love you, I did!"

Tears were pouring down Zelgadis' face.

Rezo was unmoved. "In the end, it was still your choice." he said softly. "You were the one who wanted to be strong."

Zelgadis froze as the memories flowed over him again. "Yes, yes I did. And do you know why?"

He stepped forward and confronted Rezo. Shouting into his face he screamed. "I did it for YOU! I did it so that I could travel with Rezo, the Red Priest! The Great Healer! MY GRANDFATHER!!! I wanted to be with you, to protect you! I deliberately studied shamanism instead of black magic so that I wouldn't disgrace you with evil magic... AND THEN YOU TURNED ME INTO A CHIMERA!!! DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT THAT DID TO ME??? I TRUSTED YOU!!!!"

He let Rezo go. "I loved you." he said brokenly. "When you asked me if I wanted to be strong, I thought you were going to offer me a chance to join you in your travels, to learn. And then..." he stared at his hands again. Then he turned away.

"And now I'm a monster," he said thickly.

Silence fell.

Rezo bowed his head. "I didn't know." he whispered.

"You didn't care," Zel corrected.

"No, no, you're right, I didn't care. You were a useful tool, that was all."

Another pause. Zelgadis looked at Rezo. "You know so much about the human heart. How could you have failed to understand me so badly?"

"Well, we were never really that close."

"No, there was the small factor of you ruining my life!"

"Not to mention the factor of YOU trying to kill me!"

"BECAUSE you ruined my life!"

"But you killed me!"

"Yes I did. I helped kill you. And believe me - if it had been me and not Lina who had known the giga-slave I would have blown you away well before then."

Both men glared at each other. Finally Zelgadis grumbled and picked up his tea, sipping at it. Rezo relaxed.

"Speaking of Lina Inverse, how is she doing?"

"Oh, much the same as ever. She's still wandering around, getting into trouble and leaving chaos and destruction in her wake."

Rezo smiled briefly. "Admit it, you enjoy it sometimes."

"Yeah well..." Zelgadis grinned. "Sometimes it's not so bad. At least she and the others don't mind my appearance."

"I'm glad you have some friends again," Rezo said. "Are you meeting up with Lina and the others later?"

"No, why?" Zelgadis felt the beginnings of suspicion forming. "Why so interested?"

"Oh well, you know, I may be dead but that doesn't mean I don't want to see the Greywers line continue."

Zelgadis spat out his tea.

"Lina is certainly powerful enough..." Rezo mused. "And it's about time you settled down and started having children..."

"AGH!!!" Zel choked. "You have GOT to be kidding me!"

"No? How about that little Princess then? She's got a crush on you you know."

"I am NOT discussing my love-life with you!" Zel spluttered. "Of all the people..." He wiped his chin.

"You should talk it over with SOMEBODY though," Rezo said in a concerned tone of voice. "There's no reason for you to hold back. You're perfectly capable of functioning in that manner."

"I'm AWARE of that!"

"So then you've..."

Zel blushed. "I've done a little experimenting, yes..."

Rezo smiled. "Thank goodness, I'd been worried about your apparent lack of sex drive."

Zel spat out the mouthful of tea he'd just taken. At this rate he was going to finish off the cup without actually _drinking_ any of it. "Do you mind? Sheesh."

"Zelgadis, I do have certain common human desires," said Rezo. "I want to have great grandchildren." He paused. "And, I suppose, great great grandchildren."

"Please, don't remind me," said Zel.

Rezo raised an eyebrow. "I take it you've never explained that particular little... er... family hiccup to your friends."

Zel snorted. "The fact that you're both my grandfather AND my great grandfather? Are you kidding? It's way WAY too embarrassing. I don't even want to think about it."

"Very well." said Rezo.

There was a pause.

"How could you not recognise her?!" Zel suddenly burst out. "I can't believe that the wise and all-knowing Rezo the Red Priest couldn't recognise his own..."

"It was dark!!" Rezo protested.

"You're BLIND! It's ALWAYS dark!!!"

"Zelgadis, it was a long time ago, it was one time, it was an ACCIDENT!!!" Rezo said in exasperation. "SHE never held it against me, why do you?"

Zel grumbled under his breath.

"Even your father got over it, eventually..."

"Just shut up about it, alright?" Zel fumed.

"You're the one who brought it up," said Rezo mildly.

"Anyway, it doesn't matter anymore. I have no family now. You were the only family I had left! Now, there's just me." Zel smiled bitterly.

"You turned out alright," shrugged Rezo. "A bit selfish, but I suppose that runs in the family."

"Oh for..." Zelgadis turned away. Rezo regarded him for a little while and then cleared his throat. "I wasn't going to bring this up, but perhaps it would make you happier to know that you're not _entirely_ without relatives."

"What?" Zelgadis was shocked. "You mean you had OTHER..."

"No no no," Rezo waved his hand. "Not me... but Zelgadis, when I performed the spell to transform you into a chimera, didn't you ever wonder where I got the, er, materials?"

"Materials?" Zel had an impending sense of doom.

"To create chimeras, one requires genetic material," Rezo said. "You already had the human material, and the golem materials were easy enough to procure, as I had already been experimenting with them for some time."

Zelgadis remembered the golem warriors he and the others had run into in Rezo's laboratory.

"But the mazoku material was much harder to obtain," Rezo sighed. "I didn't want any old low-level mazoku. No, no, nothing but the best for my grandson/great grandson. So I went to some trouble to obtain genetic material from a very powerful mazoku."

"No... you didn't..." Zel paled. "Tell me it isn't true. It CAN'T be true!!! I don't want to hear this."

Rezo paused. "Very well then, I suppose the origins of the genetic material shall remain..." he put his finger to his lips. "A secret!"

"NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!" Zelgadis howled. "Oh yuck! Why? Why did it have to be HIM???!!! WHY????!!! WHY????!!!!"

Rezo let him rant for a little longer and then shrugged. "He was powerful, and willing to be involved in the transformation of a human. I think he was interested in seeing what the result of the combination would be."

"All this time!" Zelgadis ranted. "Does he KNOW?"

"Probably," said Rezo. "Which is why I suggest that you might want to take certain precautions."

"Precautions?" Zel felt a shiver of fear run down his spine. "Against what?"

Rezo looked at him. "Recall how I was able to change you and control you so easily - part of that was because of the blood we share. And now you know that you share blood with Xelloss - that gives him a strong hold over you."

Zel scowled. "But doesn't that work the other way as well."

"Xelloss probably HAS taken precautions," Rezo pointed out. "And your magic doesn't lean in that direction."

Silence reigned once more.

"So... that's it then. I should just give up my search? It was all just a huge fricking waste of time?" Zel snapped.

"I wouldn't say THAT. You gained a great deal of knowledge, and no knowledge is ever truly wasted."

"Grrr..." Zelgadis stared at the stars, at the trees, at anything other than the man sitting across from him. "So there's _nothing_ I can do?"

"Nothing that I can think of."

"I should just try and make the best of it?!"

"Looks that way," Rezo said.

"AAAAHHHHH!!! You drive me CRAZY! I can't believe this. This was a complete waste of time, I don't even know why you all bothered to come here and talk to me," Zel shouted.

"Don't you? Don't you really?" Rezo asked.

"Can't you even guess Master Zelgadis?" Zolf and Rodimus faded in.

"Do you really not know?" Kopii-Rezo.

"Oh Zel.. how can you not know?" Asked Eris.

"I _don't_," Zel emphasised. "I just... why are you all HERE?"

"For you... because we like you," said Zolf and Rodimus, reappearing.

"To let you know we care," said Eris and Kopii, also materialising.

"To try and help you, try and repair some of the damage we... I have caused." Rezo added. "Zelgadis, you HAVE to try and move on past us."

"I have!" He shouted.

"No, you haven't. You're still... by Ceipheed you're so damned stubborn and thick!" Rezo shouted. "It's pretty obvious that you're MY relation. You have yet to move past WHAT you are... it's time to think about WHO you are. Curse it, will you please GET OVER IT!"

"I don't have to if I don't want to!" Zelgadis shouted back. "You can't make me!"

"Zelgadis, my grandson, will you just let it go!"

"I will do as I please grandfather!"

There was a long silence.

"Was it so hard to say?" Rezo asked finally.

"It's always been hard to say things to you," Zelgadis replied.

"I do care you know."

"You never used to."

"Well, I do now. Better late than never?"

"You're impossible," Zelgadis muttered.

"I know. Zelga... Zel. Please. Let it go. You've already put so much behind you. Losing Zolf and Rodimus. The deaths of Kopii and Eris. My own. Let it go, let us rest."

"It was easy to put your death behind me. It was your life I had troubles with." Zelgadis replied. "You left me alone!"

"You're not alone now, you have friends. Friends who don't care about your appearance. They care about you. Please Zel..."

"Remember the good times," said Zolf and Rodimus, and disappeared.

"But don't get bogged down in the past," Kopii added and vanished.

"Take pride in your strength. Try to look at the good side of things," said Eris, and faded away.

"And remember, that somewhere, we _did_ care." Rezo said. "Honestly."

Zelgadis turned away. "So, you're leaving now?"

"Our task here is complete. Our time in the sun has passed. Zelgadis..."

"I'll take care of myself," he muttered. "And... I'll think about what you said."

Rezo smiled at him. "You don't give an inch do you?"

"Unyielding, that's me," Zel replied. "I inherited it from my grandfather."

Rezo sighed. "Take care of yourself Zelgadis. You may have not been what I expected, but you were an unqualified success. Goodbye."

Zel turned to face him. "Goodbye."

Rezo vanished, and Zelgadis closed his eyes as the dawn broke over the horizon.

"And farewell." He whispered.

***

The End

***