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 ONE:


Zelgadis Greywers huffed and puffed his way up the hill. His feet hurt abominably and there was an incredible ache in the small of his back. The bottom of his cloak was coated in mud and his face mask was covered with dust from the road but his pace did not slow or slacken as he trudged over the hill to the ruins of old Sairaag.

It had been a long trip. There had been no ships available so he'd had to _walk_ the entire way from Seyruun. Not that he minded walking, it gave him time to think. It was just that he was used to travelling _light_ and it hadn't occured to him to hire a pack animal until he was well and truly on his way, and then it was simply a matter of pride not to. Zelgadis sighed and cursed Xelloss again.

Xelloss wasn't actually _involved_ in this in any way, shape or form, Zelgadis just liked cursing him. It made him feel better.

So it had now been two weeks since he'd left Seyruun, Zelgadis reflected. But it still felt like yesterday.

It had been over eight years since he'd last been in Sairaag - facing Hellmaster Fibrizo. Then there had been that whole mess with Valgaav and the world outside the barrier. Then... nothing. After that the group had spread out with himself, Lina, Gourry, Amelia, Firia, and occasionally Sylphiel and Xelloss (curse him curse him curse him) wandering around the world in their normal way, following up on various clues for a cure (himself), beating up various bandits and robbing them (Lina), defending justice (Amelia), using the group for personal and evil ends (Xelloss), using the group for personal and noble ends (Firia), following the ones they loved (Sylphiel) and just cluelessly wandering along (Gourry) when suddenly something had occured to make them all immediately drop their current quest and head back to Seyruun at top speed.

An enchanted bird had arrived by their campsite one evening, telling Amelia urgently to return home.

They had gotten back just in time. Zelgadis' eyes shadowed as he remembered the way the little princess - now not so little - had wailed over her fathers bedside as Crown Prince Philionel had closed his eyes and breathed his last, finally giving in to his wounds.

Zel felt a slight pang. Phil hadn't been such a bad guy really, and at least he'd gone out the way he'd wanted - defending justice and his realm from the encroachments of evil.

Afterwards, Amelia had just fallen apart. In the end, the task of comforting her had fallen mostly to him - Lina and the others being occupied with the task of hunting down the rest of the Mazoku gang who had invaded Seyruun and healing those wounded in the subsequent attacks. Xelloss (curse him dammit!), showing a tact Zelgadis hadn't even been aware that he had, had disappeared again around this time.

Zelgadis had spent many hours cradling the sobbing princess in his arms as she mourned her father, and even he, the "heartless, mystical" one, had been touched by her sorrow, and love for her father. But nothing had prepared him for the aftermath of the invasion. Once justice had triumphed, the citizenry of Seyruun turned out en masse to mourn their fallen prince.

Zelgadis had been amazed at the number of monuments and memorials set up in Philionel's name. Seyruun was now guarded at the central gates by a gigantic pair of statues of the Pacifist Prince, and so many streets, avenues, gardens and roads had been named after him that future cartographers were going to find the streets of Seyruun somewhat dull to map. Not to mention horribly confusing. There had already been three Philionel Avenues when he'd left - one leading to the wharfs, one to a private housing area, and one to a red-light district. Zel privately suspected that the tourist trade in Seyruun was about to get a lot more interesting.

After a short mourning period, Amelia had emerged to announce that she had accepted her ascendance to the throne, and to make a short speech.

"I swear, in the name of justice, to follow the path my father made for Seyruun! To worship truth, justice, and the way of peace! For all of us... for your children, for my children..."

There had been a number of unsubtle glances in Zelgadis' direction at this point in the speech, but he'd ignored them all.

"For all the children! For all the people!" Amelia's voice had throbbed with emotion. "Justice will prevail!"

Rapturous applause had greeted this speech and Amelia had turned away to prepare for her coronation and her new life. Which is where he had left her, left all of them. Lina had just nodded when he told her he was leaving, Amelia had asked why, and then offered him supplies. The others had just looked confused. He didn't blame them, this was somewhat out of character for him.

The outpouring of emotion for a beloved lost leader and treasured family member had surprised and touched him, and touched something else as well. Zelgadis had always considered himself apart from the world, separated from the rest of the human race by his curse. In a way, not really human at all. However, everything he'd seen in Seyruun had made him uncomfortably aware of one part of his human life that he'd been ignoring for many years now - his family.

Not that he HAD any left of course. Both his parents had died when he was young, and he'd never had any siblings. Then there was... yeah, well. As for close friends, well, his friends now were comprised of the Slayers gang, but before them he'd had two very close friends. Three really, but he'd fallen out with her a long time ago. Still... it _had_ been a long time ago. And there had been good times too... sometimes. And then they'd died and he'd just walked away without a backward glance. And now that he actually thought about them all, he felt kind of bad about it. Still mad in a couple of cases, but...

*I guess time _does_ heal wounds*, he grudgingly conceded.

All of which was why he was currently trudging into the ruins of old Sairaag, carrying a huge obsidian headstone with the names "Rodimus and Zolf - Loyal Friends" carved into it, as well as a much smaller plain stone plaque on which the names "Rezo" and "Eris" were carved. There was also a small seedling, which he was planning to plant at the former site of the holy tree Flagoon, to commemorate Kopii-Rezo.

"This is stupid," Zelgadis snarled. "I must be an idiot to be doing this." He paused just as he reached the top of the hill. "I should just..." his voice trailed off as he saw over the top. Picking up the pace, he jogged down to the bottom of the other side. At the base of the hill, on the border between the ruins of old Sairaag and the ruins of the more recent Sairaag, was a huge obelisk. On it were carved names. Many many many names. Zelgadis walked around the huge monument, occasionally tracing a name or sounding one out. The monument was surrounded by blooming rose bushes in various colours.

Finally Zelgadis found a name he recognised. It was the only one which had been adorned with something other than a birth date and death date. This one had the additional word - Father - after it. He paused a moment longer and then continued on his way, his step firmer. There was one other notable thing about the obelisk - all of the dates of death were the same.

*Poor Sylphiel,* Zelgadis thought. There was no doubt in his mind as to who had arranged this memorial. *Poor, poor girl.*

He walked deeper into the ruins of old Sairaag.

***

Zelgadis wiped the sweat from his brow as he finished settling the obsidian headstone in place. It was situated just in front of what remained of the entrance to Rezo's
laboratory. Stretching up and bending back to relieve some of the pain in his lower back he took a few quick breaths before casting the spells that would settle the headstone firmly into the ground and protect it from weathering. He realised, looking up, that he was going to have to set up camp by it - it was now much too late to move elsewhere.

"What a pain this is," he snarled. "If I had known how much trouble this was going to be, I'd... I'd... I'd have started earlier!" He put his hands on his hips and regarded the headstone, then sighed and went down onto one knee.

"Hello guys, Zolf and Rodimus, long time no see. I'm sorry it's taken me so long to put up a proper memorial. I have no excuse really, but I hope you like this one. Uhmmmm..."

Zel stared at the headstone.

"I'm not really very good at this stuff, so I'll just finish up by saying that you two were some of the best friends I've ever had, and that I never appreciated you enough, and thanks for helping out with everything and following me through thick and thin and even after I joined up with Lina Inverse, which you'd think would be enough to put any sane person off." Zel paused for breath, then stood up and brushed the dirt off his knee.

"That's all really. I hope that wherever you are, you're happy. Thank you." Gruffly, Zel turned away and started to set up camp behind some trees.

***

Zel yawned and stirred his pot of soup over the fire to keep it evenly warmed. Trail cooking wasn't his speciality, but it was much easier when he didn't have Lina and Gourry breathing down his neck. And any idiot could warm things up.

He yawned again as the wind whistled through the trees.

"Master Zelgadis."

Zel snapped to his feet and drew his sword in one fluid motion. "Who's out there?" he demanded. "Show yourself!"

There was a whisper of movement and then a soft, "Calm yourself Master Zelgadis, I am of no threat to you."

Zelgadis snorted, "That remains to be seen." He strained his ears, trying to work out the source of the voice. How could whoever it was have snuck up on him? He was normally much better at picking people's presense up than that. The voice sounded vaguely familiar, and it knew his name, so he must have met...

His face paled as two forms stepped out into the light of the fire. His knees trembled and his sword dropped at his feet.

"I... It can't be!" he stammered.

"Master Zelgadis." Zolf sighed.

"We're so happy to see you again," said Rodimus.

Zelgadis couldn't seem to stop the shaking that ran through his entire body. "But you're..."

"Dead, yes." said Zolf. "Very much so."

"But we wanted to talk to you again Master Zelgadis," Rodimus explained. "It's been so long since you even thought of us."

Zelgadis felt a guilty flush come to his cheeks.

"We don't blame you Master Zelgadis," Zolf said immediately. "In fact, we're content in knowing that you've been happy enough not to dwell on the past."

Zelgadis thought about his obsessive search for a cure and winced.

Rodimus smiled. "Don't worry Master Zelgadis, we understand."

Zel slowly sat down, picked up and resheathed his sword. "Then, you're not here to haunt me?" he asked, feeling unaccountably embarrassed.

"No," Rodimus said, sitting down also. Zolf seated himself by his side. "We've felt your anguish these last few days, the sorrow at our passing. We've hoped for years that you'd come back here to try and sort through things. Back to where it all began."

Zelgadis looked down and remembered.

***

"Master Zelgadis, are you sure about this?" Rodimus asked, as they walked through the trees to the place they knew was near, a hint of desperation in his voice. "This is the man who... who..."

Zelgadis whirled and ripped the mask from his face, revealing his hated visage. "The man who transformed me into a chimera? Yes, I know. But I _have_ to get a cure. I HAVE to get HIM to cure me," his hands trembled in rage. "I need him to cure me... or to get into his lab and find a cure myself. And to achieve either of these objectives I must... must..."

"Zelgadis, a pleasant surprise. Why are you here?" Soft mocking laughter.

The pupils of Zelgadis' eyes narrowed. He turned to face his nemesis.

"I have come here," he said softly, calmly, as Zolf swore beneath his breath and Rodimus looked away. "To serve you..."

"To serve me?"

"Yes, to serve you..." his teeth ground out, "Master."

Rezo, the Red Priest smiled at him.

***

Zelgadis looked away, his breath hissing out. "I never did get into his lab back then. He didn't trust me enough to let me into his storehouse of secrets."

Rodimus and Zolf looked at him sympathetically as he flexed his hands, opening and closing his fists.

"Damn it all!" he burst out, punching the ground in front of him. "What right did he have to do this to me??? What right??? How DARE he!!"

They both watched as Zel reasserted his hard-won control and looked at them, and their eyes sorrowed as he pushed the grief in his eyes away, subduing it and locking it back up in the depths of his heart.

They stood. Zel started and looked at them. "You're not leaving already!" he said in surprise. "You just got here!" He stood to match them.

"We left many years ago Master Zelgadis," Zolf reminded him. "We merely came to try and exorcise some of your pain - but that was never directed at us."

"We don't blame you," said Rodimus suddenly. "Not for our deaths. We never blamed you for that."

Zel flushed. "I don't deserve your kindness," he muttered.

"Try to be happy in your life Master Zelgadis," said Rodimus. "You have strong and loyal friends now, who care about you, even when you do not. Remember that, when the others come."

Zel felt a wave of horror engulf him. "Others?" he said thickly.

Zolf and Rodimus looked at him, bowed, and left.

"Farewell Master Zelgadis..." they whispered.

Zel stared into the night in stark terror. "I wonder if it's too late to run away."

"Yes, it is."

Slowly, he turned around. Rezo regarded him out of slitted eyes, one golden, the other purple.



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