It was the smell that entered into Zelgadis' conscious first. A familiar, strong, and ultimately nauseating odor. He didn't know why, exactly. Nor did he know where he could be to smell such a thing. Did they camp outside again?
The second thing Zel noticed was that he was moving. Or more precisely, someone was carrying him. A deep sense of dread washed over him. His subconscious refused to let his eyes open. Whatever was out there was just too bad to look at.
Zel tried moving, only to find himself tied by some strange bond of magic. Great, no chance of using his strength to break out of this...
"Ah, you're awake." Zel felt himself laid on the ground. Warm breath fell on his face, carrying the smell of death and pain. "Open your eyes, beautiful one."
The voice wasn't anyone he knew, yet no one he could forget. Fear invaded his clouded mind. Zel opened his eyes, and stared into his worse nightmare.
Red slit eyes set in a dark, wolfish face stared back at him. His captor was as huge as Zel remembered. His mane of reddish-brown hair framed his face, falling over his shoulders. Pointed ears stuck out at the top, completing the whole wolf/man look. His body was pressed close to Zel. Zel fought back the urge to scream, his eyes never leaving those of the Mazoku above him.
"I was afraid you were going to sleep the entire trip." Ahriman ran a clawed finger through Zel's hair, chuckling as it bounced right back. "I wanted to see your eyes at least once this evening."
Zel was frozen. Even knowing this was suppose to happen didn't help the terror that trapped his soul. He didn't struggle; his body wouldn't move. A small sound emerged from his lips, small and fearful. The attack from earlier replayed over in his mind, and Zel was sure it was going to happen all over again. He waited to see the other Mazoku he knew were coming.
"What's wrong, little one? Oh, you don't have to worry. The others aren't here. I'm not sharing you this time. It's just you and me. No one else. I bet Mo`re think's I'm going back to his place, but he has another thing coming. I'm not letting him take you either. You're mine, dear chimera. You are all mine."
Oh gods... Zel felt his body trembling. Ahriman wasn't going where Mo`re said. Mo`re wouldn't be able to help him. He was trapped with an insane Mazoku who was obsessed with him. It was too much. Zel did scream now. Loud, long, horrific, and dreadful...
Ahriman shoved a piece of Zel's cape into the chimera's mouth, muffling the sound. "No, no. Not yet. You may tell someone where we are if you scream now. Save that for later. Then, you can scream just for me, enchanter. You realize that is what you've done, don't you? You have enchanted me. Me, a Mazoku. You must be very strong to accomplish that. But it doesn't matter. I have you now. You are all I need." Ahriman picked Zel up, carrying him in his arms now. He ran, his demonic speed taking them swiftly through the forest to gods only knew where. "All I need, for eternity..."
Zel closed his eyes. Nothing mattered now. He was in hell. Doomed to be a plaything to some sadistic demon. Never see his friends again...
Crystal drops trailed down his face as his thoughts turned to the motley group he considered his surrogate family.
I never thought I'd ever miss Lina bossing me around. I know she's mainly out for herself, but I know she feels responsible for us sometimes, like a mother hen. Amelia, I was hoping to see her grow up. Maybe get out of that whole fixation with justice. Or maybe not. The world could use someone like that, if she learns how to temper it with common sense. Xelloss. I never trusted him, but I guess I kind of liked him. Wonder what he'd say if he heard that? Probably use it against me. I sometimes wondered about him. Maybe if... Naw, too dangerous. Who knows what type of trouble he'd get me into. Still, I'll miss him too.
Zel sobbed openly against the gag as he lastly remembered the blond swordsman he held close in his heart.
Oh gods, I'm never going to see him again. Will he be okay? Will he find someone who cares for him like... This hurts... I can't imagine not seeing him. He's always been there, through all of it. I never told him, I was too scared. I didn't want to lose him as a friend. Now I'll never know. I should have... now it's too late. Gourry, I'm sorry.
Ahriman let loose another howl, running quickly through the night as the chimera wept in his arms.
Mo`re frowned. Something was wrong. The energy of Ahriman and Zelgadis suddenly changed direction. Using his link, he found the cause, and frowned even more.
Ahriman, you fool. Are you that far gone? You really think you can keep the chimera from me? And here I was going to end your service to me quickly. Now I'll have to make it long and painful. You know I hate dragging things out unnecessarily.
Mo`re stood up, snapping his fingers. A small, cat-like creature handed him his cape and staff, then scurried back to the shadows. Mo`re glanced at the staff, admiring it's intricate beauty for a moment.
First you, and soon, the Ra Lagora. Everything is working out nicely. After this, we have to see an elf about a triangle.
Mo`re tapped the ground, disappearing in a swirl of light.
Gourry, Lina, and Xelloss were also after Ahriman, thought they didn't exactly know it. They knew a Mazoku had kidnapped Zelgadis, and that was enough.
Lina was huffing. It felt like they had been running for a few miles now. Don't these Mazoku ever stop? She managed to catch up to Xelloss, catching the trickster's attention.
"So is this guy one of the creeps that attacked Zel before?"
"Probably. I sensed his power over the group Gourry destroyed, but he wasn't there at the time. It's strange though. When dealing with rogue groups, the leader seldom goes on a hunt alone. This one is acting quite peculiar."
"L-leader? Hunt?! He's going to try and eat Zel?!"
The smile was back. Lina promised herself one day to just sew his lips so Xelloss couldn't grin anymore.
"Oh no, nothing like that. More than likely, he'll just want to continue what he started before."
"But that means... that's sick! How could anyone be that perverted?!"
"He's Mazoku. Sick and perverted are requisites."
"Then why are you... wait, nevermind. Some things I just don't want to know."
"Why Lina, you don't want to know how I became a Mazoku?"
"Would you tell me if I asked?"
Lina clenched her fist, but decided not to fireball him, for now. "If this guy was there leader, why did he go off alone?"
The smile faded as Xelloss became serious. "I don't know. Hunting alone is not usually done. I seriously doubt if he thought of this himself..."
"Thought of what?"
"Of leaving his followers behind to distract us. That's the only explanation I can think of. A clever plan, actually. We're so busy killing what we believed to be the entire group, while he goes back for the chimera."
Lina almost tripped right then. "But, that would mean he knew we were coming!"
"Indeed. Which leads me to believe one of two things." Xelloss trailed off, looking thoughtful. Lina waited for him to continue, then gritted her teeth.
"What two things?"
"Hmm? Oh. Well, either this Mazoku is more powerful than I originally sensed, or..."
It was like pulling teeth. "Or?"
"Or there's someone controlling him. Someone very powerful. Perhaps more so than any of us."
Lina didn't like the sounds of that. "A Dark Lord?"
The priest shook his head. "You would have been able to feel it if it were. No, whoever this person is, they are not one of Shabranigdo's lords. I don't even know if this creature is real. I can't sense anything. I'm only guessing here."
"Great, so not only are we dealing with a big Mazoku who's got a thing for Zel, but somebody who may or may not even exist! Why do these things always happen to me?"
"Yeah, all bad."
Gourry wasn't listening. He was busy focusing on trying to get to the Mazoku. In his mind, he was already planning a slow, painful death for the demon.
Xelloss would say I was thinking like a Mazoku if he could hear my thoughts. Not that I care. The only thing I'm worried about is getting Zel back. Then, then I'm just going to tell him how I feel. Waiting around for the chance isn't working. Even he doesn't want anything to do with me, at least I'll now where I stand. Damn, I should have been there. What was I thinking, leaving him with Amelia? I should have protected him!
The swordsman stopped, causing Lina to run right in back of him, falling on her rear.
"Hey! Why'd you stop?"
Gourry kneeled down. The tracks he'd been follow were changing direction. And they were spaced even further apart. He turned as Xelloss kneeled down next to him.
"What does it mean?"
The Mazoku frowned. "He's using his demon speed now. No telling how far ahead of us he is."
Lina glared. "So you're saying this monster's getting away with Zel? No way!" She grabs Gourry and pulls him close. ""Raywing!" She and Gourry immediately take to the air, following the tracks. Xelloss floats up beside them, easily keeping speed. He spies a series of caves in a cliff further out, and points them out to Lina.
"No doubt his other hiding place. His followers probably didn't know about it. It's usual to have a place no one else knows about, in case you have to 'disappear' for awhile."
Lina nodded, "We'll be there in no time."
Gourry looked up in earnest. "Will we get to Zel in time? Will he be okay?" The blond bit back a sob as he saw Lina's expression falter. She covered it quickly, but it was too late.
"We'll get there, no problem! We'll grab Zel and be back in time for breakfast."
Sure, you say that, but you don't believe it. Gourry watched the landscape whiz by, his heart sinking. Why Zel? He never really hurt anyone. Why are the gods punishing him?
Xelloss floated over to Gourry's side. His smile still present, but something else was there as well. It almost looked like... compassion.
"Don't worry, Gou-kun. I don't think anything will happen to Zel before we get to him."
Whether Xelloss was saying it for himself, or to just try and cheer him up, Gourry was grateful just the same. He gave Xelloss a thumbs up, and stared over at the fast approaching cliffs.
You'll be okay soon, Zel.
Ahriman walked into his place. It looked like a regular cave, but Zelgadis sensed a powerful spell in the area.
"We're home. Oh, don't worry, this is just to keep the curious away. It's much nicer in the back."
Back? Zel saw Ahriman approach the far wall of the cave... and walk through it. On the other side was a bedroom that would put most royal halls to shame. Decked in red and black, the decor was out of a harem's nightmare. A large, oversized bed sat in the middle, the centerpiece of the room. It was here that Ahriman laid the chimera down carefully. He played with a strand of Zel's hair, smiling when he flinched away.
"You don't have to be afraid. I'll be gentle this time. I'll teach you slowly. There's great pleasure to be had in pain. Perhaps one day you'll find yourself wishing to give pain as well." Ahriman laughed. "Well, at least give it on the pretense of pleasure." Ahriman leaned close, his lips hovering less than an inch above Zel's. "I think we should start your lessons now, don't you?" He chuckled when Zel turned his face away. He's just shy, Ahriman thought as he laid on top of the chimera, nuzzling his neck.
Zel felt the tears again. This is my life now? Fine. He just wants a body anyway. Then let him have a body. No one said I had to be conscious for this. Zel closed his eyes, his mind going into deep shock. The outside world no longer registered on his awareness.
Ahriman didn't seem to notice Zel's forced state. He was too busy divesting Zel of his shirt. It was halfway gone when his fur stood on end. Ahriman jumped away from the chimera. He felt it, like a spear of dark power hitting his senses. He turned, frantically looking for the source of the disturbance.
"Who are you? Show yourself!"
Ahriman saw a flash of light in one of the corners. His black heart trembled as Mo`re stepped out into view. Mo`re glanced at the bed, then frowned at Ahriman.
"I'm disappointed in you, Ahriman. I made it clear that the chimera was to be brought to me. Why have you not done as ordered?"
Ahriman stood in stark terror. He could do nothing as Mo`re stared at him with cold green eyes. The fear shot through his mind, until something snapped. Ahriman's fragile hold on sanity was completely gone. His eyes grew dark, and he watched Mo`re with an expression full of hatred.
Mo`re felt all of this. He was not surprised. After realizing that Zelgadis was the living embodiment of Ra Lagora, Mo`re knew it was only a matter of time before the power bleed would cause Ahriman to lose it completely. He had seen the signs with the Mazoku's growing obsession with the chimera. Now Ahriman was beyond reason. Mo`re shrugged and walked over to the bed to check on Zel.
Ahriman attacked, claws and fangs prepared to ripped Mo`re apart for touching his property. The previous caution and fear were gone, replaced by an unnatural bloodlust.
Mo`re saw the attack, and swung his staff at the last possible moment. Ahriman was knocked to the wall. Mo`re wondered if he would feel any remorse for his actions, almost hoping he would. He gazed with dispassionate eyes as Ahriman struggled to his feet. Mo`re felt a twinge of guilt. Not for what he was about to do, but because he really didn't care one way or another. Once again, he'd fail to find someone who could inspire a sense of conscious within him. With a sigh, Mo`re hit the Mazoku with a beam of light from his staff.
Ahriman's body began to twist in on itself grotesquely. The demon watched in horror as his limbs snapped and turned. His skin pulled away, exposing the dark energy inside. The energy began to escape, consuming him. Ahriman screamed, pain beyond pain bombarding his senses. With a grunt, the misshapen body fell to the floor, eternally still.
Mo`re walked over to the bed. Zel was still in a deep state of shock. This wasn't good. Mo`re knew he could attempt to get Zel to release the Ra Lagora now, but it would be too hard to control. No, he needed Zel awake. Mo`re scooped the chimera in his arms. He gazed down at the unconscious form, his green eyes softening for a moment.
Well, I can see why Ahriman wanted you so badly. But you'll serve a much higher purpose than a sex object.
Mo`re tapped his staff, and they both disappear a split second before Lina and the others came tumbling through. Xelloss stood up, violet eyes scanning the room. He saw the husk near the wall, walking over to it.
Lina looked around, glaring. "So where is this leader?"
Gourry glanced at the bed and cringed. He didn't want to think of what could have happened on it.
"I think we're too late." The priest gestured at the body. "This was Ahriman. I'd know him anywhere. Looks like he met with someone stronger than him."
Lina paled at the mess. "Ahriman?"
"Ahriman use to work for the Hellmaster. I guess he went rogue after Fibrizo's death. Ahriman wasn't a great strategist, so Zel's kidnapping was planned by someone else. From the looks of things, I'd say Ahriman was going to double-cross his new boss, and paid the price." Xelloss looked around. "Whoever he is, it's safe to assume he has Zelgadis now."
Gourry slumped against a wall. "Great. Now we don't even know who has him or where to look." Defeat colored his aura. Oh, Zel...
Xelloss peered around the room. He walked over to a spot near the bed, looking down. "I know who took Zelgadis."
Lina and Gourry looked up. "What?" "Who?"
"A being thought to be a legend. It's name is Mo`re Xiuh. He's rumored to be from another world altogether. Legends say he's the one responsible for the fight between Shabranigdo and Ceiphied. No one knows where he comes from, what he is, or what he wants. He was more a myth than anything, something to scare the lesser Mazoku with."
Lina fumed. "I don't care if he's L-sama himself, he's not taking Zel!"
Gourry nodded. "We've fought so many, what's one more?"
"You don't understand. Mo`re isn't a dark lord or a god. He's beyond description. No one knows what his power is. Think about it, he made two of the most powerful gods fight each other! Doesn't that say something about his abilities?"
"Lina's right, it doesn't matter who he is. Zelgadis is our friend. He'd do the same for us."
Lina looked over at Xelloss. "If you don't want to get involved, fine. But can you tell us where we can find this Mo`re?"
The smile fixed itself firmly on Xelloss' face. "Now, I never said I wouldn't help. I'm just making sure you know what we're getting into."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah. You've seen one omnipotent being, you've seen them all." Lina ran a hand through her red tresses. "We'd better go back and grab Amelia. We'll need all the help we can get." Lina stalked out of the room.
Gourry looked at Xelloss, not sure what to say. He was saved when Xelloss spoke first.
"Well, Gou-kun, shall we go save our chimera?"
The tone was odd. Gourry didn't know what to make of it. Save it, concentrate on Zel. He nodded to Xelloss and followed after Lina. Xelloss watched him, turned back to the room, and incinerated it before joining them.
In his mind, a child-like Zelgadis was hiding someplace dark. He knew the monsters were waiting for him if he came out. It was too dangerous. Best to stay in his dark space. As long as he was there, they couldn't hurt him...
A light shined on his space, and on him. He shrieked. They had found him! He whimpered, waiting for the pain.
That voice sounded familiar. Cautiously, Zel peered out from his space.
An angel came into view. Zel blinked, covering his eyes.
"Don't you remember me, Zelgadis?"
The angel knelt down to Zel's level. "Yes, it's me. It's safe now. You don't have to hide here anymore."
Zel sniffled. "But Ahriman..."
"Ahriman won't hurt you anymore." The angel held out a hand. "Won't you come out now?"
The child shook his head. "I'm scared, Mo`re!"
"I know. Just come out. You don't have to wake up yet. But I have a nice dream for you. Don't you want to have a nice dream for a change?"
"A... a nice dream?"
The angel nodded. "It has all your friends in it. I made it just for you, Zel. Don't you want to see it?"
Zel peeked out a little more. "Even Gourry and Xelloss?"
Mo`re chuckled. "Yes, even them. Come out and I'll play it for you."
Zel shyly took Mo`re's hand. Mo`re pulled him free, enveloping Zel in a dream from his memories. Everyone was there, traveling, joking, teasing, and just enjoying themselves and each other's company. Zel sighed, letting the dream wrap around his weary mind.
Mo`re slipped from the dreamscape. In the real world, he stroke the chimera's hair almost lovingly.
"Sleep now. When you awaken, I will show you how to be a god."
To be continued....
On to Chapter Seven or Back to Hibernal Heart or Back to the Thorned Roses or Back to the Roses?