I'm just going to say this again, I do not own the rights to The Slayers or Jim Henson's Labyrinth. I'm just a fan of both, and do not seek to make any money off of this fanfiction. I also do not own the rights to Underground, which is property of David Bowie, Jim Henson Records, and whoever else owns the actual copyright laws to the song. I am only using the song due to the fact that the it's from the Labyrinth soundtrack, and only took literary liberties to change some of the wording in the song to make it fit the fic better, (since my main protagonist is male). Again, I don't want to sell or profit from any of this. I don't own it. Period.
If he had decided to walk around the city, it would have taken him two hours to get there. If he had walked through the city, it would have taken him only one hour, but by flying, Zelgadis managed to arrive at the gate in around thirty minutes. In fact, he was touching down at the small crater of melted snow in front of the gate as he noticed a charred individual limp out of the woods, using a fallen branch as a support and holding on to two halves of a broken spear.
"Abominations..." the burnt man murmured, "Abominations are everywhere..."
"You know, I'm really getting tired of hearing all this 'Abomination' talk." said Zel with a low growl in his voice.
"N-n-no!" trembled the guard in horror, "You're the Abomination from last night! The one who came with the She-Abomination!"
Chapter 2: Underground! Where The Heck Am I?
"She-Abomination?" Zel asked.
"Y-y-yeah!" said the guard that Zel finally recognized, "Y-you're little girlfriend went and blew me into them woods..."
"W-what?" Interjected Zel, feeling his face burn red for the umpteenth time, "She's not my girlfriend!"
T-then th-those other two monsters blew me up again," continued the guard, not paying any attention to the chimera, "The whole lot of you t-trying to get into our Old Capital.."
"So I take it that this is the enterance to the ruins, isn't it?"
"A-And now..." The guard took the branch he was using as a crutch and limped over to the chimera as fast as he could, getting ready to slug him.
"And now I'm gonna finally kills you to keep more of you from getting in!" he laughed maniacally. It was plain to see that after being blown up twice, he had lost his mind in the process.
"Oh please," groaned Zelgadis, "BOMB DI WIND!"
"NOT AGAAIIINnnn..." the bear-like guard screamed as he was, for the third time, shot into the air.
"Oh you'll live," said Zelgadis as he continued through the gate. Hovering several feet above his head, watching the whole ordeal and unbenounced to Zelgadis, was a certain Monster with a cheshire-cat grin, shaking with quiet laughter at the poor guard.
"Wow, this was too perfect," Xelloss chuckled, wiping away a tear of laughter, "But unfortunately, I really do have important work to take care of." And with that, Xelloss phased out of the sky.
On the other side of the gate, all that Zelgadis could see was the temple. Unlike Lina and Gourry, Zel took a moment to admire the architecture. At the front of it were columns topped with Corinthian capitals, which were were supporting a pediment decorated with numerous jet owls against an arabesque relief made of various types of marble. The marble entabletures also bared the same owl-and-foliage relief in the frieze, abate with marble owls rather then jet. The actual doors, which seemed to be of solid oak, were ajar, although that was probably due to the fact that one of the doors was only hanging by one rusty hinge. Between the pediment and the roof of the structure were several, Gothic-inspired stained-glass windows; most of them were broken, but the few that were still intact had depictions of people, angels, and owls. On the top of the temple was a colossal copper onion-shape dome, now green from oxidisation. The entire building seemed to stand several stories tall, but it was difficult to tell if it ended at the foot of the mountain behind it, or if it extended into the mountain. Despite the grand size and structure, it still seemed far-fetched that this was the entirety of the Old Capital's ruins.
"Is this seriously what is left of some great city?" Zel asked, again, to nobody in particular. He did see three different sets of footprints in the snow leading to the door, and could already tell who all three belonged to. He was beginning to feel annoyed with the notion that Amelia would have gone to the ruins with Lina and Gourry, but not Zelgadis; yet he couldn't shake off the notion that something was off about the whole senario.
His thoughts were interupted by the screech of a black owl that decided to use the edge of the temple's pediment as a perch. Indeed, it would have been almost impossible to distinguish it from its stony brotheren if it weren't for its feathers that moved with the slight breeze, and its brillant eyes; its left eye was a vivid poison green, while its right eye was a deep blood-filled red. The owl seemed to scrutanize the chimera as much as said chimera scrutanized it.
But Zel had more pressing matters to deal with then heterochromial owls, so he mentally cast the owl aside as he went inside the temple.
"Amelia?" Zelgadis called out through the hall that seemed longer then the exterior of the temple alluded to, "Lina? Gourry?"
He called all three of them out as he continued down the hallway, noticing how the wall was lined with lit tourches. However, no one answered back.
"Lina!" Zel continued to call, "Gourry? Amel-!"
He was interrupted by the sound of music, comming from down the hall. Zelgadis stopped dead in his tracks, not sure if he should follow it to the source, or if he should try to avoid it. Before he had made a decision though, he noticed something rolling on the ground; a small, crystal sphere, big enough to fit in his hand.
"What the hell-?" he stammered, chasing after it before he realized what he was doing. The ball continued to roll just out of Zelgadis's reach, until it got to a circular impression in the floor. As soon as the ball dissapeared from sight, a male voice joined with the music that was still ringing in Zelgadis's ears.
"It's only forever," it sang,
Not long at all
Lost and lonely..."
Xelloss was a very powerful Monster, but like almost all Monsters, he fed off of the negative emotions of living things; particularly humans. So when he saw the bear-like Guard crawling back to his post with the two halves of his branch in each hand, he couldn't pass up the opertunity for another helping of missery, fear, and panic before a large treck through mysterious ruins.
The poor Guard had bearly managed to crawl his way back to his post; here he was, battered, bruised, burnt, had a black eye and was probably posessing a broken rib or two after crashing down through trees three times in one day.
"K-keep p-people out of the O-o-old C-capital," the guard muttered to himself, shivering from the cold. "J-just stand o-outs-side the Gate, a-and t-tell people t-to keep out... D-d-don't let anyone g-go U-underground... T-that's all the j-job discription s-says... And then all of these Ab-b-bomin-na-nations..."
He gritted his teeth in anger at the thought of the Capital being invaded by Abominations, and in said fit of anger, he managed to reignite his resolve.
"W-well, I'll be d-d-damned if I l-let another one in!" he exclaimed to the Heavens. "B-by the G-g-great Hero, I'll sh-show whoever else tries to get p-p-p-passed me into the Underg-ground!"
Thus, in his state of mental health, he had decided to go to extreme measures to do his solomn duty to keep people from going inside the ruin... by setting a series of complicated and rather excessive traps using items he found in the artilary shed that was intended for those who protected Belleros's Old Capital. All in all, he managed to effeciantly construct, fix, and camofloge them in a relatively short ammount of time... and each one of them was linked by a single trip wire that would trigger them all in one foul swoop.
"There!" the Guard proclaimed as he dusted off his hands. "All done!"
He took a second to admire his handiwork; From the right was a large log, big enough to sweep through the entire pathway, that had wooden spikes affixed to it, perfectly camoflauged and suspended by ropes tied to other trees in order to allow it to swing towards the victim. To the left were several cross-bows, well hidden in tree branches and poised to launch their arrows. Behind the guard some ways was a collsal snowball, almost bigger then a large boulder. The only thing keeping it from rolling onto the guard (and anybody else standing before the Gates for that matter) were a couple of firelogs and a single wedge, ready to topple over as soon as they were triggered. Finally, there was Lina's Fireball crator, which the guard had converted into a spike-filled pit that was hidden benieth a layer of twigs, weak timber, and snow to hide its existance.
The guard found himself chuckling as he tried rubbng the warmth back into his fridged hands.
"Now the next time an intruder, Outsider, or Abomination even tries to enter the Old Capital," said the guard maniacly, "They'll never even know what hit them!"
He took a quick glance to his left, his right, and then behind him, and decided to take the opertunity to let loose a haughty laugh. A laugh so haughty, in fact, that he was oblivious to the purple-haired man who suddenly appeared out of thin air behind him and tapped his shoulder.
"Excuse me," said the man as the guard gave a yelp and jumped like a startled cat... landing right on his own trip wire.
The guard had only a single second to see the polite, yet creepy smile on the intruder's face before realizing that the spiked log was swinging straight at him.
The guard plastered himself to the ground as flat as he possibly could (which was difficult, due to his bulk), narrowily missing the spikes while the smiling man simply raised a finger, and created a jet of light that cleaved the log in half. The guard was too close to the gournd to notice what the stranger had done, and soon felt his cape become tangled in the spikes that were on his half of the log. After being dragged a couple feet, he managed to tear it off of the spikes, feeling winded after being nearly strangled by his own garment.
Pulling himself back to his feet, massaging his neck, his eyes widened when he saw Xellos still standing where he was.
"You should be more careful about where you step, sir," said Xellos cheerfully. "There are apparently a couple of traps here."
As he said that, it was the crossbows turn to do their duty. A shower of arrows flew at the two men, the guard trying desperately to dodge each one of them, with several of them catching at his clothing, and some even meeting their mark in his backside. Xellos easily darted between the arrows, even catching a few in his hand.
"So I was wondering," asked the Monster pleasently as he pointed to the Gates, "Would this happen to be the enterance to the Ruins of the Old Capital?"
"Are you some other kind of Abomination?" the exasporated screached, noticing how the priest-like man was a couple of feet closer to the gate then he was, was completely unscathed, and happened to be holding a decient number of arrows.
"Oh my, was it really that obvious?" asked Xellos, scratching the back of his head and laughing it off mildly.
Before he could properly react to this news, he heard the sound of firelogs rolling down a snowy hill, and slowly (chibi-mode still) turned his head to see the giant snowball coming right at him.
He let out a girly scream as he tried to out-run the snow-boulder, Xellos floating close next to him.
"You still didn't answer my question," grinned the humanoid. "Does this lead to the Old Capital?"
"What the heck kind of Abomination are you?" squealed the guard like a frightened pig, now trying to escape both the snowball and Xellos.
Unfortunately, he forgot about his last trap, and stepped right on the layer of snow and brush that concieled the pit of spikes. At the very last moment, the guard managed to grip the edge of the pit to avoid getting skewered. The giant snowball tumbled over him and went right into the chasm, completely covering the spikes.
It took a while for the Guard to realize that the whole fiasco was over. In fact, he might not have found out if he didn't lose his grip on the ledge. He fell into the pit with a slight plop in the snow, screaming the whole way towards what he believed would be his death.
After a couple of short beats in time, he slowly opened one eye, assessing weather or not he was in the afterlife.
"Am I dead?" he asked himself aloud in almost a whisper. He looked around, and then gingerly opened his other eye (the bruised one) to take in his surroundings. Everything seemed calm now, save for the screeches of a nearby owl. There was no sign of Xellos anywere, either.
"Is he gone?" the Guard continued in that same near-whisper, gingerly getting back to his feet. "Did I manage to keep him out?"
With no one responding back, and the lack of a Xellos in direct line of sight, the guard gave a series of triumphant cries, ranging from Woo-Hoos, to Allelujias, to Woot Woot's, all the while dancing goofily and periodicly kissing the blessed terra-firma.
"I'M ALIVE!" the Guard yelled in delight as he jumped in the air. "I'M LIVE AND I KEPT THE ABOMINATION OUT OF THE CAPITAL! I KEPT IT OUT! I KEPT IT-"
Before he had even finished his sentence, the other half of the log that wasn't spike-infested had made contact with him in the backswing, and he was once again thrown into the air, vanishing in a slight ding.
"So this is the way to the Capital, then," Xellos smiled as he reappeared just outside of the gates. "Thank you for your time sir! Have a nice trip!"
With that, the Monster proceeded through the gates and towards the temple. He could already hear the strange music as he went through the old, broken doors, and his smile began to somewhat falter.
"Oh, I do hope I'm not too late," he mermered under his breath as a crystal sphere rolled passed him.
'What's happening?' Zel tried to think, but his body, as well as at least part of his mind, was still compelled to capture the crystal ball that vanished into the circle. That was when the tempo of the music began to pick up.
"No one can blame you," came the voice, much louder and clearer this time,
"For walking away.
Too much rejection...
No love injection."
He set foot on one of the tiles that made up the circle, and ws shocked to find that his foot dissapeared into it. His other foot fallowed, and he found himself decending into the floor as if he were mearly going down a tightly-wound spiral staircase.
"Life can be easy," the disembodied voice continued to sing,
"It's not always swell.
Don't tell me truth hurts, my friend,
'Cause it hurts like hell..."
At this point, Zel had completely phased through the seemingly solid floor and was now in a strange space filled with dark, shifting colors and brightly glowing spheres, the only thing solid besides himself being the spiral stare he was still decending down, and the crystal ball that was still bouncing down the stares. Tink, tink, tink, went the ball in time to the beat of the strange music.
"But down in the underground,
You'll find someone true.
Down in the underground
A land serene,
A crystal moon. Ahh-Haa!"
The sound of the bouncing ball finally stopped, and not too soon afterword, Zel reached the end of the stairs and thus level ground. It didn't take too long to find the crystal, as it was the only sphere that was neither a significant light source nor beyond the confines of the space he inhabited. Finally, he could reach it! He bent down and felt his stoney fingers eclose around the smooth, cool, glass-like serfice of the ball.
"It's only forever
Not long at all
Lost and lonely
Bringing the crystal to eye-level, Zelgadis gazed into it deeply. What he saw inside of it snapped him out of whatever trance he was in: It was his own reflection, but with skin the color of normal skin without a single pebble in sight, and purple hair like normal, human hair instead of wire. He pulled down his hood and mask, and sure enough, it was his old self staring back at him, now older to match his current age.
"Daddy, daddy, get me out of here!" the voice continued to sing as Zel stared in disblief.
Ha ha I'm underground!"
The ball in his hands began to swell, but Zelgadis couldn't take his eyes off of it. All he wanted was to be completely human again, and here was something showing it. As it swelled, he felt his hand turn cooler, cooler, and cooler, before finally realizing that his hand was being ubsorbed into the crystal... And when his hand was completely immersed in the seemingly solid mass, he could see and even feel his rock-like fingers turn to flesh, rubbing them together to conferm what his other senses were telling him.
"Heard about a place today!"
His hand was completely human!
"Nothing ever hurts again!"
And as the ball expanded and took in the rest of his arm, so was the arm!
"Daddy, daddy, get me out of here!"
Zel could feel his feet lift from the ground as his entire body was swallowed by the glass bubble!
"Ah ha I'm underground!"
He was finally turning human! He could imagine his friends' reactions to his new form. Their smiles, their congradulations. Amelia's eyes dancing like they did last night, full of joy and amazement.
"Sister sister, please take me down!"
This was too good to be true!
"Ah ah I'm underground!"
Wait... This was too good to be true...
"Let me out of here!" roared Zelgadis in sterio to the last line of the song.
The chimera drew out his sword and sliced at the bubble, which shattered upon impact. As the glass shards decended slowly into the strang landscape, his body returned to its usual rocky form, anger and adrenaline rushing through his vains. But he was no longer standing on anything solid, and his anger had morphed into fear of impending death as he began to plumet through the strange space.
"AAAAAAAAAAHHH!" he screamed as he continued to fall, right hand still gripping his sword for dear life, left hand grasping for anything that would stop the fll before impact.
"Gotchya!" exclaimed Xellos as his gloved hand wrapped tightly around the chimera's wrist.
"Xellos?" gasped Zelgadis, wondering what the heck was going on.
"It seems that I wasn't too late after all," Xellos grinned as he slowly hovered downwards, until Zel could feel his feet make contact with solid ground again, crunching in a layer of snow. Xellos landed next to him while Zel took a look around, still seeing nothing but dark swirling colors, snow, and glowing spheres.
"Oh, what a pity," came a somewhat deep, husky voice from everywhere. Xellos and Zelgadis whirled around, trying to find the speaker, but couldn't see anything other then a black owl... the same black owl Zel saw earlier that morning.
The owl zoomed around the stretch of space, making several circles around the two humanoids, before flying at them kamikaze style. Xellos didn't even flinch when the bird of prey came at him, mearly phasing out and back again after getting dive-bombed. Zelgadis put his arm about his face, trying to keep the owl from clawing his eyes out while brandishing the sword at it. The owl then ceased his attacks, and then flew back up into the void before landing a couple of feet before the duo. As it landed, the snow began to blow and swirl around it, along with several sparks, shimmers, and green-black flames. The flame-snow-and-shimer swirl bacame larger and larger until it was about seven feet high, at which point it dissapated in a sudden burst of light. Zel had to shield his eyes from becoming blinded, but when the specticle was over, the owl had been replaced by a man.
The man was nothing like Zelgadis had ever seen. His skin was onyx-black, almost like burnt metal, but the skin still shimmered as if he had glitter set into every facit of his body. He had long, ghost-white hair that was tied at the base of his neck, save for a single lock that came across his face and ended at his pointed chin. His ears were pointed, not near as much as Zel's, and had gold hoops going through the lobes of each ear. His face as a whole was thin, but regal- somewhat luciferion. Yet his every feature seemed to be dripping with charisma. The poinytail came across his shoulder, revealing a slightly-bare chest that was also black and glittery, and had a white, semi-ruffled shirt that stood out against the rest of his attire. Aside from his loose-fited shirt, the stranger wore long, tight pants that excentuated his masculenity, black leather boots that had a slight heel, long, black leather gloves that went up to his elbows, and a long, robe-like coat that looked purple against his skin, and was decorated with black feathers and a stylized collar that resembled flames. The only evidance that proved he was the owl, besides the feathery robe, were his eyes. Like the owl, his left eye was bright green while the left was a deep red. Both eyes had thin pupils, similar to that of a snake's and were accentuated with white and purple marking. While Zel was good at hiding it, it was the man's eyes that freaked him out the most.
"It's such a pity that you would cast asside the gift I was trying to give you," said the drow-like man with the same deep voice that echoed out earlier. Zel immediately recognized it as the same voice that was singing earlier.
"Who are you?" Zel demanded as he sank into a fighting stance. "And what the hell is this place?"
"What the hell indeed," mused the man, smiling about the dark void. "Hell is actually quite appropriate from my perspective, but for someone from the Outside comming here, such as yourself, this is paradise." The stranger gestured towards the swirling colors around them, and they instantly morphed into different landscapes that shifted into each other, ranging from vast deserts to snowy mountains, to lush woodlands and, tropical rain forests, to cloudscapes and underseascapes, to scenes that were unlike anything Zel had seen anywhere other then in dreams.
"As for who I am," the man continued, "Names serve no purpose for my kind. But since you asked, you may call me Ifrit." Ifrit finished his introduction with a deep bow.
"Ifrit... so you're the Wonderous Granter of Wishes that the legends talk about," said Xellos.
Ifrit's eyes narrowed somewhat at Xellos, but he smiled lightly at the title.
"I have been called that, yes," Ifrit replied. "I am a Djinn, an entity made of the burning fires that created the cosmos. As such, I have the power to give anybody who says the Right Words whatever they ask for, once they enter my realm. Your wish, Zelgadis Greywords, was to become fully human again."
"How do you know-?"
"Because you made a wish," the dark Djinn answered. "Once someone makes a wish, I instantly know everything about them. You, the maiden, and your other friends all made a wish each, so I now know everything about Lina Inverse, Gourry Gabirav, Princess Amelia of Seyruun, and yourself."
"Where are they?" demanded Zelgadis, feeling his grip tightning on the hilt of his blade. "What have you done with the others?"
"Nothing they wouldn't want me to do," said Ifrit. "All that I did was grant their desires, which I have already done exactly as they wanted, save for yours."
As he continued with his gloating, he strolled closer and closer to Zelgadis, who refused to let down his guard.
"I was actually in the process of turning you human, but I seemed to have startled you while doing so. Please forgive me." He gave Zelgadis another bow as he apologized, not really sounding sincere.
"So to compinsate for... overwhelming you, I have brought you a gift," He brought his hand close to his green eye, which glowed brightly before another crystal ball materialized onto his fingertips.
"What is that?" Zel asked hesitantly, unable to take his eyes away from the ball.
"Its just a crystal, nothing more." Ifrit explained, his grin becoming wider as he could feel Zel's attention go back to the sphere. He began playing with it, contact juggling it from his left hand to his right, and back again, watching as Zel began to fall back into its spell.
"But if you look at it this way," continued the Djinn, "It will show you your dreams." Ifrit paused his juggling and held out the sphere to Zelgadis, his reflection being that of his former, human self.
"And if you hold it this way," Ifrit went on as he let the ball rest in the palm of his hand, "It will make those dreams come true." As he said that, the sphere instantly encased the Djinn and changed his form instantly to that of Zelgadis's human form, abait with a white, princely uniform.
"Mind you," said Ifrit, his voice now Zelgadis's voice, "this is not a normal gift for a sorcerer who is mearly a princess's bodyguard, or a chimera who is little more then a sorceress's party member." Ifrit-Zelgadis allowed his white gloved hand to melt through the bubble, and on the other side, the glove went from being white cloth to black leather; the crystal sphere returning to his fingertips.
"So what do you say, Zelgadis?" he heard his own voice ask. "Here's your chance to get back what you have been searching for for so many years. Forget about those traveling companions. You'll never need to hide your face ever again."
Zel could feel his body relax as he lowered his sword, hand raising slowly towards the crystal in Ifrit-Zelgadis's hand. He was just barely able to touch it when Xellos, realizing what was happening to the chimera, clonked him over the head with his staff.
"What the hell did you do that for?" Demanded Zel, slipping out of the trance. He may have been part rock-golem, but it still hurt to get hit with a Monster's staff.
"I'm sorry Mr. Zelgadis, but shouldn't you be focusing on getting Miss Lina, Mr. Gourry and Miss Amelia back?" Xellos asked, rubbing the back of his head sheepishly.
When Zel became aware of what had almost happened, he turned towards Ifrit, who was still in the form of Human-Prince-Zelgadis, giving him a harsh glare.
"As wonderful as your offer sounds," said Zel, grabbing a few strands of his own hair, "I can't let Amelia and the others remain capive here!"
He threw the needle-like strands of hair at the bubble-incased Djinn, which shattered immediately. When it fragmentalized, though, Ifrit was nowhere in sight among the falling glass shards..
"Zelgadis," came Ifrit from behind (now in Ifrit's actual voice), "Don't defy me."
Zel had just enough time to turn around and watch as Ifrit's red eye glowed menacingly, the crystal in his hand turning into a cobra. The cobra lunged at the chimera, who sliced it in two with his blade. the snake halves fell to the ground, becoming two halves of a silk scarf as it landed.
"Return the others!" Zel ordered, ready to run his sword through Ifrit's exposed chest. "Before I decapitate you as well!"
The Djinn chuckled, revealing rows of sharp, vampire-like teeth. The chuckle reverberated throughout the strange space until it became a cruel, echoing laugh.
"I see that you're not yet ready to accept my gift," Ifrit laughed, "Unfortunately, that is one wish I might not be able to grant."
"But aren't you the Great and Powerful Granter of Wishes?" asked Xellos with a slight bow, "One of the Mighty Djinn who were gifted with Phenominal Cosmic power over all of reality? Surely something as simple as returning our friends would be easily within your capabilities."
Ifrit's eyes narrowed at Xellos again, and it was hard to tell if Xellos was complimenting or insulting him.
Ifrit seemed to have thought it better to ignore Xellos's compliments, and just answered the inquiry.
"Ah, if only it were as simple as that," sighed Ifrit, "Unfortunately, I can never directly apose a wish once its been granted, and everyone I have ever helped has been quite happy with what I've given them."
Ifrit circled around Xellos and Zelgadis, Zel refusing to take his eyes off of the Djinn in case he tried to pull something else.
"Oh, don't look at me like that," said Ifrit with a slight pout in his tone. "All I want to do is to give you what you want! But if you insist that you want your friends to go back with you to the Serfice... I know!" Ifrit exclaimed as he ceased his pacing, facing Zelgadis and Xellos directly. "Do you enjoy puzzles, Zelgadis?"
Zel was somewhat taken aback by the Djinn's query.
"Why are you asking me about puzzles?"
"Here's what I prepose," said Ifrit, his grin never leaving his face, "If you can find all of your friends and bring them to my palace within my city, I'll let you, Miss Inverse, Mr, Gabriav, and Princess Amelia go home. If you cannot complete this task in the ammount of time I give you, then your friends, as well as yourself, will remain here for as long as you enjoy your wishes. Either way, its a win-win, if you ask me."
"And if I don't play your game?"
"That would be even more of a pity then your resolve to chalange me," Ifrit explained. "I could always just kill you. I can most certainly say that I am one of the very few Djinn who is capable of taking life, whether it be a wish or a personal whim. Shall I demonstrate?"
Before Zelgadis or Xellos could even react, both of Ifrit's eyes glowed as he conjured another sphere, dark now instead of clear, but on the inside ws a minature of Zelgadis and Xellos, standing and moving like they were now. Then Ifrit removed one of his gloves, revealing a hand black as the rest of his skin, with red and gold fingernails that were as long and sharp as talons.
He then scraped his nails on the serface of the glass, and Zel immediately collapsed as a high-pitched scraping sound worse then anything he had ever heard in his life reverberated in his skull. He couldn't even hear himself cry out in pain, it was so loud. He tried desperately to cover his ears, but it didn't help at all. He was deaf to Xellos's screams of equal agony, and the chimera could feel a warm liquid seep out of his ears and over his hands.
After what seemed like an eternity of the terrible screaching sound, it finally stopped. Zel's eyes were wide and scattershot, his blood-soaked hands still plastered to his ears as he hyperventalated, lying in an almost fetal position, and unbelieving in what he had just experienced.
"That's mearly a sample of what I am capable of," Ifrit said calmly, kneeling next to Zelgadis's head. "As you can see from your friend there, Monsters are just as powerless as humans aginst my displeasure, and I can most certainly do much worse if I so desired."
Zel managed to focus his gaze towards the shivering lump that was Xellos, who looked like he was in almost as much pain as the chimera was. True, he wasn't bleeding from the ears like the chimera, but the look of shock and agony reflected Zel's.
But you're very unique, Zelgadis." assured Ifrit in an almost soothing manor. "Very few humans wish for something as simple as to be themselves. Plus, humans are of more use to me alive and happy then dead, even if they are mearly part human. I would really hate having to kill someone like you."
Ifrit replaced his glove and lightly touched Zelgadis's head. Instantly, the pain and bodily harm that the Djinn had inflicted was reversed. Zel was still shaking from the shock of the whole ordeal, but he was able to finally remove his hands from his ears. He couldn't see any trace of blood left on his gloves or fingers as he brought his hands to his face.
"So have you changed your mind?" asked the Djinn. "Isn't humanity begening to sound so much better? Or do you still wish to challange me? Even after I returned your health so generously?"
After a few quick and heavy breaths, Zel looked from Ifrit, to the still-agonizing Xellos, and back. The idea of becoming human was his main driving force, the only thing that kept him from having a normal life without the need to hide his face.
But the thought of Amelia, Lina, and Gourry being trapped in a strange demention with a psychopathic entity was enough to strangthen his resolve.
Yet it was obvious that he couldn't just kill Ifrit. Not with power like that.
There was only one other option...
"What kind of puzzles are you talking about?"
"Glad you asked, my friend," grinned the Djinn, taking Zelgadis's hand and helping him to his feet; Zel was upright again before he could even refuse the gesture.
"My palace is located in the center of the City of Dis, what used to be the Old Capital to you humans," said Ifrit, gesturing towards a distant point beyond them. Instantly, a hot, dry, desert landscape replaced the snowy void that they were in earlier, and Zel's eyes widened when he realized that he was standing on a low mesa. "The city itself is in the center of a labyrinth, which is just over there."
Where Ifrit pointed, a distant wall appeared through the vails of blowing sand some miles away from where the mesa where the three men stood, until Zelgadis could see clearly a vast hill, easily hundreds of miles wide, covered with twisting and turning lines that went in every which way... a shining, crystal structure standing in the center of it all.
"You have thirteen days to find all of your friends and meet me in my court," instructed Ifrit. "If your not there with your comrades by midnight of the thriteenth day, then you will either become one of us, or parish."
Zelgadis looked at the labyrinth, but while he had to admit it wouldn't exactly be a cake walk, he smiled to himself as he assessed his options.
"Is that all I have to do?" asked Zel, "Solve your little maze? I won't even need three days to get my friends out of there."
"Perhaps," replied Ifrit, his grin widening. "But you should know that I rebuilt this capital as my personal dominion, and since it is my realm, I assert reality here. Tust me when I say that you'll find that my palace -and your friends- are much farther away then you think."
"Also," Ifrit continued, strolling over to where Xellos was still lying, "You're Monster friend isn't allowed to use his set of skills to help you through either." Ifrit's eyes glowed again as he summoned another sphere with a mini-Xellos inside, and was about to squeeze it when Xellos held up his hand in surrender.
"I'm only here as a messenger from Beastmaster Zelas Metallium, Being of the Flame!" Xellos cried out, gingerly opening one eye as he panted. "It's only out of conveniance that I was traveling with this man, and it's on my Mistress's behalf that I came!"
"A messenger from Beastmaster?" Ifrit snarled, his complete demenior and attitude changing instantly. "Who are you, Monster, and what business would Beastmaster have with me?"
Xellos used his staff to rise slowly to his feet, and even in his current condition, he was still able to make a gesture that could pass for an acceptable bow. "My name is Xellos, Barer of the Cosmos, and as for Beastmaster's buissness," He brought his finger up in what Zel thought was a stupid move. "That is a secret."
"A lot of good a secret will do if I don't know what it is," said Ifrit curtly, contact-juggling the Xellos-sphere. "Surely its not something trifle, if Beastmaster sent her own General and Priest before me as a messenger. Give me one good reason to not kill you right here and now, Xellos, and you can save the flattering titles. A compliment from a Monster is hardly worth its weight in salt."
"I can't really say right now," answered Xellos, flancng over towards Zelgadis, "But once we're no longer in the company of others, I'll be more then willing to share it with you."
Ifrit paused for a minute, studying the Monster's features for any tale that woud reveal dishonesty, but when your dealing with someone who always has the same smile on his face, even when he's obviously suffering from savere injury, its hard to read anything off of him.
"Alright, I'll hear your piece," answered Ifrit, the ball vanishing with a twist of his wrist.
"Thank you for your kindness," said Xellos with a sigh of relief, pulling himself back to his feet with his staff. "Woops!"
As he broght himself upright, a heavy sachel came off of Xellos's shoulder. Zelgadis was suprised by how he failed to notice the bag when the Monster caught him.
"Sorry about that," laughed Xellos. "I believe this is yours, Mr. Zelgadis."
"What are you talk-" started the chimera, but Xellos had already pushed the heavy bag into Zel's arms.
"Whatever you do," said Xellos under his breath, so that only Zel could hear him, "Do not eat or drink anything while your here."
Then Xellos limped over towards the Djinn, smile unwavering. "Shall we continue on with our business?"
"Of course," said Ifrit curtly before turning his attention back to Zelgadis. "And by the way, you always have the option of taking up my offer to lift your curse at any time you wish. Until we meet again..."
And with that, Ifrit's form disapaited as if it were mist.
"Best of luck, Mr. Zelgadis," said Xellos before dissapearing as well. Now Zel was all alone, several miles from the labyrinth, and already feeling the intense heat of the sun trying its best to scorch him.
"Alright," said Zelgadis, placing the sachel over his shoulder. "I guess I can't afford to waste any time then, can I? LEVITATION!"
He felt his feet lift the ground, but when he tried to gain altitude as he started towards the labyrinth, his hovering body started moving jerkily to the left and right before loosing control completely of his flight path, which resulted in him tumbling down the mesa into a soft sand dune.
As Zel pushed himself off of the dune, spitting out sand, he heard Ifrit's laughter echoing throughout the arid landscape.
"I forgot to mention," came Ifrit's disembodied voice, "that some spells probably won't work the same way as they do on the Surfice. As one of the rules, no one is allowed to go over, under, or through any of the walls of the Labyrinth. It wouldn't be fair if you just flew over, now would it? Have fun!"
"You're one to talk about fairness!" Zelgadis spat towards the sky, desiring nothing more then to strangle the Djinn. He had to control his anger, though. If he only had thirteen days to find everyone and make it to the center, he couldn't afford to waste his energy on being pissed at Ifrit.
"Lets try this again," sighed Zel to himself as he proceeded on foot towards the Labyrinth.
Yay! Posted Chapter 2! Finally! Took me long enough!
Sorry for having to take so long to post this thing. Between having automobile problems (I may just have to scrapmetal my poor Selene, depending on what my mechanic says) and having more viruses on the computer then the current antivirus software can even handle, this chapter took way longer then I would even like to admit. Darn it! I wanted to post while my hair was still pink! (Its wildfire red now... damn that girl for selling me the wrong product!)
So what did you think of the chapter? My biggest worry is that I may have had Zelgadis and Xellos drift away somewhat from their character nature. Please let me know if that is the case, and I'll fix it ASAP. The only thing I can't really change is the way that Xellos speaks to Ifrit (which will be explained in future chappies).
Speakin of Ifrit, what was your reaction to him? I wanted a Jareth-like guy who wasn't Jareth (since Zelgadis is pretty much Sarah in this thing, and it isn't a Yaoi or a Shonen-Ai) but had very similar powers and magic range to Jareth. During the planning of this (Because I do plan out my fics) I spent a lot of time between calls at work reading One Thousand and One Arabian Nights (Which, if you haven't read it, YOU SHOULD!), which inspired me to make my villian a Djinn (genie, for those of you who aren't familiar with the term).
An Ifrit (ee-freet) is actually a type of Djinn usually characterized by having black skin (I'm not going into futher details as to the definition of an Ifrit, since they will be explained in future chapters as well). In fact, when people of the Middle East first encountered African tribesmen, they mistook them for Ifrits in legend, and thus treated them with extreme causion (which sometimes ment severe hostility). I however, cannot stand racism in any way, so during the developmental process, I decided to make him resemble a Drow (fo those of you who have never played D&D, a Drow is a Dark Elf that serves as a very strong enemy-type. In Version 4.0 Forgotten Realms campigns, a Drow is also a playable character for those who want to play the badguy-turned-good). Think Shiny-beetle black. Or gunmetal black. The fact that his hair is white was somewhat of a coincidence to an actual Drow, as part of his insparation came from the villian from Revolutionary Girl Utena. If you didn't see it now, you will in later chappies. I like to picture Ifrit as a Drow, meets sparkily vampire (just because I like sparkily things), meets Akio Ohtori, wearing Jareth's line of clothing and shares the Goblin King's affinity for owls, singing, and contact juggling with crystalware. In some ways, I think I may have made Ifrit a bit too much like Jareth... I don't know anymore... Anyway, please let me know what you think of him.
And because the insparation came from Arabian Mythology, I tried (and probably failed) to incorperate some other aspects of Arabian culture, mostly in the temple design. I was going for a hybred of Greek Temple, Gothic Cathedral, and Islamic Mosque. For people wondering what Arabesque reffers to in archecture (its not the ballet move!), its the swirly designs sometimes seen on mosques and other buildings that tries to replicate plants and add decoration to the holy build while avoiding the breaking of the 2nd Commandment (Thou shalt not make yourself a graven image or any likingness of any thing that is in heaven above or that is in the water undernieth the Earth- quoted from a more recient translation from Deuteronomy 5:6-21) Eh, if I failed, I failed. We won't be seeing the temple for a while now...
I do apologize for the banter; what started out as author's notes turned into a freaking history lesson. Eh, my major's going to be language and Humanities. It's probably going to reflect in this thing (BTW, I would highly recommend taking a Humanities class if you haven't already. Its a lot more fun then just memorizing the dates of Caesar Agustus and the day he puked in his tent ([something he actually did before a major battle... actual fact!]))
So returning to the fic, I do hope that it is still enjoyable. Please let me know your opinions or if you have any questions reguarding anything that I didn't explain earlier, prefferabily in reviews. Reviews are nice. Reviews are fun. And reviews are a much better alternative to meth (Not that I do meth, but I am addicted to reviews). Thank you so much for reading this!
P. S. I do apologize for the spelling and some of the grammer mistakes. I am currently using Word Pad as my means of writing (which doesn't have a spellcheck program), and for some reason, the editing screen in will only show me spelling mistakes the first few paragraphs, but once I scroll down, it dosn't highlight any further spelling mistakes. Its so weird. Oh well. Spelling was never my strong suit anyway. Hope it wasn't too distracting.
P. P. S. Unfortunately, Sailor Aquarius was not able to provide her glorious imput on the fic due to frustration at the viral-infested computer. Don't worry, she'll come back once she's cooled off. But it is refreshing to not have to deal with her remarks.
Sailor Aquarius: What were you saying about me?
Tsuki-Chan: Oops! Looks like she's back already! Gotta go! See ya in the next chappie! :sprints away at top speed:
Sailor Aquarius: Come back here you pathetic excuse for a writer! How dare you post an Author's Note without me...! :goes after Tsuki-Chan: