Episode 038: Family! Souls Are Stronger Than Blood
In the Slayers' world, Fang was with Fili Algar at the Seyruun courtyard when Filia, Val, Jillas, Elena, Palou, Gravos, Naga, Philionel, Amelia and Zelgadis exited the castle. Fang was in his monster fox form, playing with the smaller wolf-dog. "Fang," Filia voiced softly and Fang looked at her curiously. Algar went over to Val, whimpering as if asking what was wrong, wanting to console him. "Please take us to Sairaag." As it could be deduced by Fang's presence, Lina and Gourry were back. They were found at the royal kitchen and informed about the recent happenings as well.
After their last goodbyes to Solex, his tragic fate finally felt absolute. There was no energy, no life, left for him to cling to that world. Sylphiel and Pokota were there as well. After it all ended, everyone returned home with heavy hearts.
xoxox xox xoxox
At Wolf Pack Island, to say Xellos was busy was a big understatement. For all the planning Beast Master put into her inevitable departure, a disarray still broke loose when it sunk in for her monsters that their master was gone. They couldn't even appeal to Dolphin or Dynast for protection because they were gone as well. "For the millionth time!" Xellos growled, losing his patience in a way that was very much unlike him. "The dragons are not going to attack. We have confirmed that they put practically all their energy into Darkstar's summoning of Beast Master, Dolphin and Dynast. They don't have the strength to fight and by the time they recover enough to make a move, Beast Master will be back and we'll be perfectly safe, so quit making such a fuss before I destroy you myself!"
The monsters were projected in various shapes and sizes, most resembling some type of land dwelling animal. They had gathered around Xellos asking him more questions than he cared to count. At his outburst, which sent ripples of dark energy to echo in the area around him, they backed off and quieted. At least they had a strong general priest to follow, but he would be gone soon too, off to join their master in battle. They could only wait for his swift return with their victorious master.
Xellos finished his trek down the hallway and slammed shut the large black double doors adorned with amethysts. "Eros..."
The monster that sat behind the large black desk looked up from his files. "My name is Erosnum; please do not use that terrible abbreviation. Do you have a task for me, Xellos?" His eyes only met Xellos for a moment before they returned to his papers. This was the monster in charge of handling Zelas' business matters with the humans under the guise of a business tycoon. His hair was violet, much like Xellos', albeit in a shorter style. A patch of cyan hair was located on the right side of his head and his eyes were golden with long pupils. His ears were long and elf-like; he wore a single earring on the left ear with a black dice with white dots. His rectangular glasses along with the earring were another of his prominent accessories. He wore a navy blue army-like uniform with a black tie, reminiscent of something that, in later eras, would be called a modern day attire.
"Yes," Xellos didn't even bother to close his eyes and put on a cheerful mask. He was pissed off; everyone knew it and it would serve no purpose to hide it. "Since you're so good at keeping things in order, keep things in order here when I'm gone."
Erosnum looked up from his papers once more and pushed up his glasses, a habit of his that he thought made his projection more realistic. "I will do that task if you must insist, but my forte lies in organizing numbers, I am Lord Beast Master's accountant, after all."
"You also have experience in dealing with human affairs and right now the monsters out the door are just as unruly as them. How could something that feeds on fear be so stressed, so afraid?" Xellos huffed mockingly. "They're so stupid; of course Beast Master is perfectly fine. We'll regroup in the over-world, gather power, destroy Darkstar and that will be that." He just had to keep telling himself that it would all happen exactly as planned.
"Of course," Erosnum's voice seemed to be more so to fill in the silence than to confirm anything. "Although, isn't your trip to the over-world still not for a few days?"
Zelas didn't want her reinforcements to arrive in the middle of a battle that they couldn't handle. She wanted to make sure they could slip past Darkstar, so they had to wait a little while before they followed her. "I'm speeding things up." It wasn't exactly what Zelas had instructed, but it was all in her best interest and she did leave him in charge, Xellos internally reasoned. That meant that if he thought there was something that was better for her goals he should do it. Besides, Xellos was becoming very impatient. "The sooner this gets done the better. I'm leaving you to oversee matters at Wolf Pack Island in my absence."
"You believe I have the managerial skills to keep things together here?" Erosnum rhetorically inquired. "Very well, if that is your wish."
There was something off about Erosnum, Xellos quietly mused. He didn't say anything though; it was probably just the tension of the whole situation. The general priest nodded and teleported away.
xoxox xox xoxox
Xellos reappeared in the palace's private interior garden where he was greeted by Galathia. "Xellos, I finished watering Beast Master's flowers." The flowers were beautiful, but deadly. Inhaling their sweet aroma for too long could kill a human and inflict severe poisoning to a dragon, which would also result fatal if it was not immediately treated. "The low ranked monster that usually takes care of the garden had a nervous breakdown and went into hiding. It's so hard to find capable servants sometimes. Ah, you look so terribly stressed. No need to worry, our amazing leader is just fine, I'm sure."
Xellos chuckled lightly. "At least someone is optimistic... It's a sad day when a monster so openly welcomes optimism of all things."
"Let's call it confidence then," Galathia suggested. "Even better, let's call it pride."
"Pride it is," Xellos agreed. "I've decided to leave early. Eros holds a high enough rank to oversee things here at Wolf Pack Island. Lieutenants Zenki and Neuro are busy running around all over the world, making sure we don't lose any territories anywhere. I want you to keep an eye on Eros."
"His chosen projection is rather pleasing to the eyes," Galathia voiced. "But he's not as hot as dragons, not even close. There's just something about fleshly creatures that makes their attractive features more attractive. Take Milgazia for example-"
"Galathia, focus," Xellos reminded, though with little scorn. At least Galathia was loyal; he couldn't doubt that, even if she was odd. Erosnum was capable, but Xellos' instinct didn't feel the same loyalty he perceived from certain others.
"Right, right, Erosnum is okay to look at, I'll be glad to keep even both eyes on him," Galathia assured.
"Make sure you do," Xellos teleported away again. He had to talk to Celo about speeding up the trip to the over-world.
xoxox xox xoxox
Xellos reappeared in an area of the surface of Wolf Pack Island where only a few were allowed. It was right above the laboratory below ground. The space held a large circular platform with many gears under it that remained still for the time being. Runes were carved into the borders of the circle and jewels containing chaotic energy levitated round about the magical device. Celo was busily checking over everything over and over, continuously making sure that everything was in working order. He didn't even notice Xellos was there until he spoke, "Celo."
Celo looked away from his examination and at Xellos, "yes?"
"Get everything ready," Xellos commanded. "I'll get Lina and the others and we're leaving."
"It is not yet time," Celo politely reminded.
"Isn't the machine done?" Xellos demanded impatiently.
"Yes," Celo begun, "but Lord Beast Master said-"
"Lord Beast Master left me in charge," Xellos interrupted. "I'm not going to let you risk the mission. I know you're the only one who can serve as a sacrifice. The energy of a monster to open the path to the astral side and from there, the energy of the power between darkness and light, of a human, to break into the over-world."
"You forget the other aspect that is needed," Celo reminded. "The power of a strong wish. My wish to serve Lord Beast Master. Any other monster human chimera who doesn't hold a strong enough wish wouldn't be able to do this."
"Then why are you stalling?" Xellos argued, his eyes now open and glaring. "Do you not have confidence in your wish? Would you not give up your life for Beast Master? Are you still bitter about your dragon?"
"Xellos Metallium," Celo glared, his eyes were a mirror of Xellos' eyes and somehow his long black hair seemed to spike slightly as his expression changed and his vampire-style fangs became more prominent. "Tiffany willingly sacrificed herself to fuel the defeat of the Stillness over a year ago. I am aware of the fact that Beast Master did not pressure her into it; she was the one who volunteered. Besides, it was Lord Beast Master who allowed me to be with her in the first place, just as she allows you to be with Filia. Another monster lord might not have permitted it. Do not," Celo growled, emphasizing every word. "Do not doubt my devotion to our master or, I must, Xellos, regardless of our difference in rank, confess that I will lose all the respect I have for you."
A tense pause hung in the air. Then Xellos' face morphed to his usual cheery smile. "I see, so you do have a strong conviction." At least he could count on that much. "However, I must insist that we leave early. My business here is complete. Everything is set up for my absence."
Celo sighed, his face taking on a more human appearance. "To be perfectly honest, I keep checking over this contraption because I can't wait to use it. It is true that it will mean my death, but I wish for Beast Master's backup to be with her as soon as possible. If she called for such a plan, it's because she knows she'll need an ace up her sleeve and I don't want her to go without it."
"Then it is decided," Xellos concluded.
Celo nodded in agreement. "Yes, let's do this. I'll be here at the ready. Gather the elite that Beast Master has chosen and march into battle."
xoxox xox xoxox
Back at Seyruun, Val had finally fallen asleep after much sorrow. Filia needed a moment to herself and went out for a sort walk. "Miss Filia," she heard a voice she didn't quite recognize calling out to her and turned around.
She looked at the man, who was dressed like royalty. Then she perceived his true nature, her senses somewhat slow after all she had endured. "You're a dragon." She stated with a mix of perplexity and alarm. What would a dragon unknown to her be doing in Seyruun?
"Yes," he confirmed. "A black dragon, if you want to be specific. My name is Topaz Ebony. You are a dragon as well and a friend of princess Amelia, correct?" Topaz shifted uncomfortably, which puzzled Filia.
"Yes," Filia's senses were more alert now. Topaz was obviously uneasy; he kept looking over his shoulder and shifting his weight nervously from one foot to the other.
"I would like to speak to you, if you don't mind, privately," Topaz requested.
Filia wasn't sure what this was about, but she intended to find out. "Very well, please come this way." She motioned towards a lonely alley, inviting him to walk in first so as to not box herself in.
Topaz eyed the alley with distaste. "Ah, I was thinking about somewhere more comfortable. Perhaps a tea room, a nice cafe, the castle courtyard, or somewhere similar."
"You're urgent, are you?" Filia's tone and expression made it obvious that she was suspicious of him.
Topaz let out a nervous shaky breath and nodded. He walked into the alley, to where the people walking down the streets wouldn't see them. Filia walked in after him and stood impatient. "Miss Filia, I will be direct, as I know there is no point in trying to trick you. I want you to assure the dragon council that everything is alright and that the incident with Luna was only the doings of the monsters. Because of your..." how could he express it in proper terms? "Your connections with the monster race, they'll believe you."
"What incident? What happened to Luna?" Filia demanded, her mind suddenly going on overdrive.
"Please, calm yourself, Miss Filia!" Topaz begged. "I... I will tell you the truth. After us dragons gave our energy for the purpose of ridding the world of the monster lords, Luna... she... She started acting strangely. She said that 'he' didn't care if his plans were known anymore so she could tell us, that 'he' wouldn't stop her. From what she said, apparently she was being controlled by Darkstar and the one speaking through Luna's body wasn't even Luna herself, but Vorfeed who had been taken prisoner by Darkstar."
"What!?" Filia exclaimed. "And with all that you want me to tell everyone that everything is okay?"
"Please," Topaz begged in desperation, "Miss Filia-"
"That's Mrs. Metallium to you," Filia growled. She didn't normally call herself that, but she said it to spite Topaz because she was pretty sure it would bother him.
"Right..." Topaz couldn't help it but to wrinkle his nose. "Mrs. Metallium, I'm only trying to prevent a panic from spreading. We gave our energy to the Knight of Ceifeed so she would rid us of the terrible monsters and the dragon race is in a weak state right now. Even the strongest warriors are exhausted and we'll all need a long rest to recover our magical capabilities."
"So that's why your energy feels so weak," Filia realized. "You're drained too."
"Yes," Topaz nervously admitted. "I am no threat to you, not that I mean you any harm anyway. I just want to reassure everyone at the council. I'm only a victim too!" It was a lie; a desperate lie after Darkstar abandoned him. "Luna, I mean Vorfeed, said that Darkstar intended to destroy her world and then ours, then she left Luna's body soon after saying such awful things. She didn't explain herself or anything, she just left. Everyone felt that pain that came when the monsters were taken to the over-world. They think that was really Vorfeed telling the truth, but that can't be. Luna was just exhausted, right? A monster possessed her out of spite and tried to scare us, right?"
Filia's temper was reaching a critical point. It was a good thing for Topaz that she wasn't aware of his close involvement with Darkstar and his plans to sacrifice the over-world for the sake of their own world. "How dare you? The danger is very real and the warning is exactly what's going on! I'm not going to lie to the dragons so that they can be sitting ducks. Everyone should be preparing for the worse."
"But what can we do?" Topaz cried. "Isn't our only choice to live our lives as best we can and hope Darkstar takes a long time in conquering the over-world? We can't fight in our current state. We can't do anything. Please, I want to live out what's left of my short life in peace, that's all we have left. Come back to your people and do them this one favor. Grant them this mercy and redeem yourself!"
A loud hit echoed through the alley. Topaz was a dragon and thus had a very tough skull, even in human form, so a blow like that wouldn't kill him. Filia also held back enough not to knock him out, she wanted him to hear her and hear her he would, like it or not. However, a stream of blood still flowed from his head down the sides of his face from where Filia hit him with her mace. "Redeem myself you say? Just what do you mean by that?"
Topaz had fallen to the ground from the impact and he was too dazed to get up. "You... your people... the dragons... Isn't blood thicker than water?" He babbled.
"You know what, Mr. Ebony? I used to think so, but I was wrong." Filia's voice was rather even despite her anger. "I loved my dragon family, they were not perfect, but I loved them and I've forgiven their mistakes. However, I realized that I didn't love them simply because we were related, but because of who they were. They raised me, they showed me kindness and they were good people. That is worth so much more than the insignificance of sharing a common family name. The precious memories, the good times, the support, the loyalty, that and not blood, is a true family bond. I love Val and it doesn't matter that he's not related to me, he's my son and nothing can change that."
"My people are the people who I love and the people who love me," Filia's tone slowly went from harsh and serious to fond and loving as she thought of those closest to her. "That includes dragons, humans, beastmen, elves and even monsters. What we are born as is not something we can change; it is a matter of chance that deserves no merits. Who we become, finding a way to make the best of what we were born as, rather than being limited by it, is what deserves merit. It doesn't matter what we are, no one chooses that, no one earns it. But who we are is something we must choose, earn and reestablish every single day of our whole lives. It is our evolution, our persona, our truth."
Topaz could only nod to everything that Filia said. His head was pounding with severe pain, so his mind wasn't clear enough to reflect on her words too deeply. Yet somehow, he knew she was right. What he didn't tell her was that the dragons were after him specifically, intent on interrogating him and holding him on trial. He had lost hope, but he didn't want to spend what was left of his life in jail, if he couldn't convince the council that he was a victim, which was looking pretty hard. He could even be executed if they caught a hint of what really went on. Topaz was willing to sacrifice the over-world selfishly, but he didn't mean to endanger his own world. He was supposed to be living the life of a hero.
Suddenly, Filia turned around in alarm and gripped her mace. "Show yourself!" Topaz didn't understand what was going on. His senses were still numb from his loss of energy and more so after the harsh blow to the head.
The monster that lurked about in the astral side revealed himself. "Bravo, bravo!" He clapped in a mocking sarcastic gesture. "That was quite the speech, Mrs. Metallium." The last part was filled with bitterness.
Filia glared, she had been so focused on Topaz and what he said that she didn't even notice the eavesdropper until now. She did recognize him and she thought that she should feel relieved that she knew who he was, but her instinct was still on edge. "Erosnum, why are you here? Do you have a message from Xellos?"
"Jarde or any other monster messenger bird would suffice for such a simple task," Erosnum huffed.
"Then why are you here?" Filia insisted, with the urgency in her voice growing.
"I'm not here for you," Erosnum looked behind Filia at Topaz. "I am here for the traitorous Mr. Ebony."
To be Continued