12 july 2009 -

Based on a dream I had.

The Slayers don't belong to me, blah-di-da-da, etc, etc.

Don't Look Back!

by Zuzanny

lionette AT mailcity DOT com

Zelgadis didn't know how it happened, only that he had been traveling with Lina and Gourry (which meant that Amelia was also with the group. AND Xellos, when ever the damed mazoku decided to pop in to harrass them).

Since reading Rezo's journal explaining that the true reason behind Zel's transformation into a chimera was actually because he was an incurable haemopheliac, Zel had been... kind of hanging around with Lina and her group while they went wandering the countryside looking for treasure and bandits to kill- *cough-choak* round up and steal from. So this day was not really different to the last few weeks in that regard. Only this time, Lina happened to over hear in the little village a few miles back that people had started going missing from the area when ever they went into the forrest. Which was probably why they ended up traveling through said forrest in the first place. Lina, being the person she was, loved a mystery, and if there was a chance she got to blow something up on the way, even better. Zel, having nothing better to do now days, tagged along.

The forrest stretched across a number of mountain ranges, with the main road connecting villages trailing at it's outer edge. That was not the road that people had gone missing from though. It was the numerous short-cuts through the forrest that were no longer looking like they were the short way anymore. The forrest it's self was made from huge trees that blocked out most of the sunlight, and smelled of earth and moss and water. The birds flew about and sang happily in the branches, completely ignoring the group of travelers walking below them.

Lina consulted with the map one of the villages had given her that had all the tracks marked out, as well as the good camping spots. "We'll head for this one tonight." She pointed to one somewhere in the middle of the page. So they did.

"Do you think there's a monster involved?" Amelia asked after a few hours of walking, where the site they were after came into view. "Or just that people are getting lost for some reason?"

"I don't think people are just getting lost." Zel piped up. "These are people who know this forrest who are going missing. Unless they are under some kind of enchantment."

"I agree." Lina said. "Bandidts would tend to send out ransom notes, so my money's on some kind of monster. Unfortunately that looks bad for the missing villagers. What do you think, Gourry?" She turned to look happily up at him, only to find he was not there. They all froze in their tracks. "Gourry? Gourry?!" Lina yelled out, before turning to Zel and Amelia in a panic. "What-?"

"Don't panic." Zel said firmly, continuing to step into the circle of ground that was designated for camping and dumping his pack. "You and Amelia set up camp here. I'll go back and see if I can find him. Take turns with a protective barier spell, just in case."

"But what if-?"

"I'm not as vulnerable as either of you are." his mouth twitched with a small smile. "We'll be back before you know it." he paused. "But if we're not back by morning, leave. Promise me."

Both Lina and Amelia understood that if Zel was to go missing, there was nothing that would keep the two of them safe.

"Stay safe." Lina said softly, while Amelia stood behind her starting on a protection spell.

Zel waved, then using his super speed, shot off back down the track.

As he ran, Zel observed for Gourry's footprints in the dirt, and listening out, consentraiting hard to try and hear any sign of his voice or even his heart beat. He was not far from the camping area when Gourry's foot prints suddenly stopped. Just vanished mid-step. Zel skidded to a stop and stood at that point, looking past the trees listening hard.

"Gourry!" he called out. There was a muffled noise from off of the track, which Zel followed until he found a dirt mound with an opening hidden by some reeds and bushes. "Gourry?" Zel called again, moving to peer into the darkness of the opening, one hand on his sword just in case. Zel was surprised, then worried when as he stepped closer to the opening, he saw well used stone steps leading down. He cast a light charm and bounced the ball down into the depths, and watched it fall down a few meters of steps before rolling across floor and vanishing out of sight, it's light illuminating the dirt floor. Zel drew his sword and slowly made his way down.

The room at the bottom of the stairs was carved from earth and rock, and was completely empty, despite the fact that he could hear a heart beat down there. Zel felt his hair stand on end, a strange sensation considering his body,and once more called out Gourry's name.

"MmmmFFPH!" Came from the far wall, and Zel rushed over, pushing on the dirt wall with his hands, feeling for any hidden doorways.

"Gourry! Hold on, I'll get you out."

More muffled noises, and Zel was horrified to find dirt easily coming off the wall in his hands, until he started to dig in earnest, fearing that Gourry had been burried alive. A few moments of digging later confirmed this, as Zel uncovered Gourry's hand.

"Gods." Zel breathed, before he had uncovered Gourry's face and pulled the gasping man out of the hole in the wall for more air. "Are you alright? How did you get in there?" "They're at the camping grounds, not far from here." He pushed Gourry out the doorways, just as a flash of movement out the corner of his eye had Zel turning to look back down into the dimly lit room below. "Was that a-" He paused, frowning.

"Was that a what?" Gourry asked, dusting himself off.

"Nothing. I thought I saw a child out the corner of my eye, but that can't have been right. Come one, the others are this way."

He was about to leave the area when Gourry pointed out that Zel was no longer carrying his sword. Zel cursed softly. "It's alright Gourry, the girls aren't far. Just around that bend, actually. I'll be back out in a minute and meet you there, ok?"

Gourry nodded and headed off. Once he was out of site, Zel ducked back into the stairway, and down to the hole in the wall. His sword was there half burried in the rubble. Zel picked it up, sheathed it, and was almost up the stairs when he heard a noise behind him. He turned, drawing his sword, just as a strong hand grabbed his sword wrist, another arm wrapped around his chest, a hand covering his mouth. It happened so fast he didn't have time to think, and by the time he did, he found he couldn't move. /Immobility spell!/ He identified with horror, and fought unsuccessfully against it to move.

"Well, well well..." Came a soft, amused whisper in his ear, accompanied by a cold breath. "What an interesting catch you are! Much better than that other cutlet."

Zel's heart spead in his chest as the hands that held him immobile pulled him tight against a body, and dragged him back down into the now complete darkness below. Zel found himself thrown to the floor where he rolled a few times, and if his skin wasn't made of rock, he would have been bleeding pretty hevily from the impact. He couldn't see through the darkness, but he could sense his captor bending over him, examining.

"First thing is first." Zel felt cold fingers touch his brow, then run through the wire on his head as though he had normal hair, pausing at the very top of his head. "I can't have Xellos bothering us." The captor did something that felt like he yanked a piece of Zel's hair out. "Oh, you didn't know?" He chuckled. "All mozoku mark their favored targets. Makes them easier to track. Too bad, little cutlet, he won't be able to feast on you tonight. And I don't share my meals."

Zel once more struggled against the spell that was holding him, and actually managed to arch his back slightly. His captor leant back, thoughtfully, before Zel heard the sound of a blade being drawn.

"I am impressed that you are not only conscious, but that you are able to fight me. You must be rather powerful indeed. I look forward to consuming you."

Zel could do nothing as with terror he sensed the blade descending towards his throat.

to be continued?