"The boy's just simply crazy/ suffering from delusions/ we honestly think that maybe/ he might need an institution/ he lives in a world of fiction/ he really could use some help/ we have just the place to fix him.... To Save Him From Himself! Curled up in the darkness, searching for the light. Smell of stale sweat and shit steaming through the night. Random urine testing, pills red, pink, and blue. Counciling and therapy.... finding not a clue. Still they cage me between these hollow walls.... hoping to find in me the answers to The Test That Stumped Them All." -The Test That Stumped Them All, Dream Theatre'

Talon was having another restless night.

With anyone else, this might have been construed as a sign of nervous tension or stress. While it is true that Talon had many things on his mind, (his plans for the future were as well constructed and impenetrable as a spider's web, but as any spider will tell you, a spider's web is only impervious to the antics of insects.... a single careless giant can destroy countless hours of work in an instant) he was not one to worry over things he could not change. Talon subscribed to the belief that if one lets one's opponents get under one's skin, one is apt to lean towards poor decision-making. Remaining calm in the face of adversity is the hallmark of a true master of chess, and of life. Hence, it was not stress that caused him to be restless.

No, Talon remained awake into the quiet hours of the night for a very simple reason. Most of the Shards consisted of a mix of human and Mazoku that was more human than Mazoku. Their subsequent mortal body was therefore more fragile, and needful of certain human necessities that even the weakest Mazoku could do without. In Talon's case however, the small sliver of a human soul he possessed was so far outweighed by the darkness of his astral body that pieces of it constantly intruded into his everyday life (sort of like a Mazoku version of Halitosis.... SOUL Halitosis. Fear it! MWAHAHAHAHA! Ahem. Sorry. -DT). Astral energy, especially what essentially amounts to anti-life (or perhaps anti-light) is not something meant to exist on the mortal plane. Nevertheless, Talon had turned what would have been considered a danger not only to his life but to existence itself into a danger only for the existence of his enemies.

Who could essentially be defined as anyone he didn't particularly care for much.

Which was basically everyone.

He wasn't choosy.

Talon was much like a mazoku in the fact that he did not need to eat or sleep. Eating had always been something he considered to be more trouble than it was worth (particularly when one considered the inevitable byproducts) and he indulged in it only sparingly, preferring to rely on his Astral Body to sustain him. Sleep, on the other hand, was something whose absence he sometimes regretted. Many hours he had lain awake in the small bed he had shared with Neela, watching her breath ease in and out evenly, occasionally twitching a limb or an ear, smiling.... that alone had been enough to entertain him all night, but there were times....

especially after....

Times.... when despite himself he wanted above all else the oblivion that sleep could represent.

In front of his enemies and his followers, Talon made sure to appear calm and completely above reproach, assured of the outcome of any confrontation. He realized, however, that there were some beings out there, despite his claims to Godhood, who could destroy him utterly if they so chose. That was the reason for this whole idiotic fantasy.... Nothing more. He snorted. Lead a twisted, miserable barbarian horde back to their "promised land"? How absurd. He needed to cover-up his true intentions to, while he was too weak to defend himself against these beings, present simply another mortal bent on conquest rather then a rival for immortal power, hence the deception. Still, though not a man to harbor doubts or regrets, and though he had such a small, wormridden soul, he did, nonetheless, possess one....

Perhaps, he pondered, this weakness, this emotional, useless (and certainly it must be useless, for what had acting on the yearnings of his heart ever purchased for him but pain?) part of him was what drove him to crave oblivion when he knew he could not receive it short of death....

Or victory....

He clasped his hands together and closed his eyes for a moment, then opened them again, the two empty pits narrowed into slits that might have been pain or hate-filled....

It was hard to tell, without windows into his soul.


Arashi awoke suddenly to the summons of his God. It was impossible to mistake it.... a throbbing pain in the claw mark tattoo that adorned his cheek. He flapped his wings for a moment to steady himself on the crenellation he had been perched upon in sleep, (Arashi preferred to sleep in the manner of birds, as his legs and wings made sleeping in a bed an uncomfortable proposition. In sleep he basically resembled a rather Bishonen sort of gargoyle) then dropped off the side of the building and slipped easily into his master's window, kneeling as was proper. Talon stared into a dark corner of the room and frowned quietly, seemingly unmindful of his servant's presence. Finally, after a long moment of silence, he spoke.

"I want you to take the Striking Talons and travel fifty-three miles northwest of here. There you will find a small group of travelers, probably clustered in some forest clearing, jumble of rocks, or some other defensible position. These travelers will include the Soul of Fury, the Queen of Sailoon, that half-dragon mongrel I taught a lesson to, and possibly.... Xellos. Kill them all, if you can, but in particular, the Halfbreed and the Queen must die. Go now."

Arashi blinked for a moment, then stood and bowed. He was accustomed to receiving odd orders from his Lord at equally odd hours of the night but never this precise.... or requiring this much mobilization of forces.

Or this utterly hopeless.

Talon smiled inwardly. He was fully aware of the impossiblity of even the mighty Striking Talons destroying such a legendary company of heroes in full. Still, despite their incompetence during the battle for Sentinel, they should be capable of destroying one mortally injured halfbreed and a simpering little white mage, and should the entire division of Striking Talons meet destruction, then so be it.

You can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs....

Nor take a worthy opponent's higher ranking pieces without sacrificing a few pawns....

Seeing his Lord silent for a long period, Arashi was about to turn away when Talon grinned mockingly at him. "I don't doubt you are wondering why now, especially with my "promise" to the dearly departed Captain, but rest assured that this is not an assault upon Sailoon by me, personally. I agreed not to advance on Sailoon for a week. I said nothing about portions of my army."

Arashi nodded shortly. He could see the logic of that. Particularly when it was coming from someone who could obliterate him in an instant.

Talon's grin thinned somewhat. "I suggest you be on your way, Arashi. Consider this your redemption for failing me during the battle for Sentinel. If you fail me in this...." he sighed regrettably, still smiling. "I hope for your sake that you are dead."

Arashi soared out into the night, and if he trembled slightly, it might have been due to the cold.

Might have been.

To all outward appearances, Talon appeared to be coldly satisfied with his current situation. The grin remained on his face even as his eyes cast over the eight Bloodguard who remained after Xellos'...... puzzling attack.

His eyes however, remained as narrowed and impenetrably empty as ever.

When one considers the evidence, perhaps even in Talon's case, the eyes ARE the window into the soul....


Dr. Filia Ul Copt followed Dr. Talon as he made his way down the sterile halls of the Asylum. As he walked he paged through her paperwork with the air of one dealing with a necessary but irritating and tedious detail.

"I don't want you to think I find you unqualified for this position, Filia. You came very highly recommended by Dr. Blueriver, and judging from your list of credentials you are exactly what this facility has needed for a long time."

He sighed, stopping in front of a large metal door with a small safety glass window set into it at eye level. He turned to her easily and pushed his sunglasses into a higher position on his nose with a finger (apparently a nervous habit).

"Still, this IS your first assignment to an institution for.... violent individuals, and I want to lay down a few ground rules before you get to work."

Filia gave him a momentarily confused look. He smiled.

"Looks like I broke my old record for being obtuse.... Go ahead, Doctor. What's on your mind?"

She frowned. "I was led to believe I was hired for my experience with catatonia patients. I hardly see...."

He frowned. "Yes.... dealing with catatonia will be your primary duty, but we are.... dangerously understaffed, Ms. Copt. This facility harbors fifty-seven of what the public considers 'criminally insane' and 'dangerous' individuals. With Dr. Blueriver's unfortunate.... accident, you and I are the only fully trained professionals currently working in this facility." He smiled at her momentary look of alarm. "Not to worry, Doctor. There are more then enough assistant personnel to deal with the day to day necessities of this place, in addition to any... incidents. I didn't mean to alarm you. It's just that, in addition to your normal caseload, you will be expected to help with some of the more.... interesting cases we have here. Even catatonic patients can occasionally become violent. One can never predict what the human mind is capable of. I give the same speech to all of my personnel. This is nothing personal."

She frowned, but nodded quietly. "I understand Doctor.... sorry for the interruption."

He grinned. "Not a problem. Now, rule number one. Under no circumstances are you allowed to touch any of the patients. This may seem harsh, but it is entirely for your safety. Second, all communications will be recorded, again, for your safety. This might seem a breach of doctor/patient confidentiality, but these ARE the criminally insane. Certain steps must be taken to provide as safe a working environment as possible.

"Finally, and this rule applies in particular to your specialty, in the eventuality of a major change in patient behavior, I am to be notified at once." He handed her a slip of paper. "This is my pager number. It is extremely important for legal reasons that I be present during such an incident. I'm sure you understand."

She stared at the paper for a moment, and he took her hesitation for agreement and continued.

"I find it's much easier to understand why these precautions are necessary with a.... practical demonstration. As you know, Dr. Blueriver, Kane, received extensive facial injuries while working here, hence the 'no touching' and surveillance rules. What wasn't discussed in your preliminary briefing is exactly how these injuries took place."

Dr. Talon frowned, pushing his glasses up again. He was starting to remind her of someone.... probably a former professor, but she wasn't sure who. "The individual responsible is being held in this room. You might have heard of him before, and because of him we get reporters from time to time. For security reasons, none of them are to be allowed to interview him. He has a tendency to be.... upsetting." Dr. Talon shrugged.

"Xellos Metallium." She breathed.

He smiled. "I see you are familiar with the patient in question. Good." He flipped a few pages forward on the clipboard he had been studying. "Xellos Metallium, AKA The Trickster. Age unknown, ethnicity...." he frowned, "unknown. Convicted of 45 counts of 1st degree murder, 10 counts of aggravated assault, and 2 counts of mayhem-"

Filia blinked. "Mayhem? What is....?"

He frowned. "Forgive me, doctor. Mayhem is.... well, it is the murder of an individual in which the cause of death involves the violent removal of several limbs while the victim is still alive."

She shuddered. "Why are you telling me about this?"

He raised an eyebrow. "Because of your patient."

Her eyes widened in surprise. "Xellos is catatonic? But I'd heard..."

Talon lowered the clipboard and sighed. "No, I'm afraid not. If he were, it might make our job a bit easier. Xellos is very much.... well I suppose the term lucid doesn't exactly describe his state of being but aware is certainly appropriate."

Filia frowned. "Why would Xellos be considered to fall under MY specialty?"

Talon stared at her for a moment, and though his eyes were hidden by those strange sunglasses Filia could almost swear he was glaring at her. Finally, he turned toward the large metal door.

"Xellos does not fall under your specialty, Doctor. In fact, I don't want you to have more contact with him than absolutely necessary. He is a cunning, ruthless individual who has earned the nickname Trickster. He will seem jovial, completely calm and rational, yet if you were to release his bonds he would kill you without losing his pleasant demeanor. Dr. Blueriver made that mistake once. Only once. That was all it took." Dr. Talon's face hardened and he pushed the glasses up again.

"How familiar are you with the particulars of Xellos' capture?"

Filia shrugged. "Only what I've heard on the news. They caught him red-handed with another victim, who survived.... that's about all I know."

Dr. Talon turned to her quietly. "That much is true. However, there are certain aspects of the case that were not publicized, for obvious reasons. Xellos was captured with a person we believe MAY have been one of his victims- this much is true. However...."

He started opening several locks on the door, his back to her.

"I don't normally expose new personnel to this level of.... unpleasantness on their first day, but THIS is the reason you were brought here. Xellos was captured in the company of one of his victims, and in the subsequent struggle with the authorities, earned his Mayhem charges, as well as several of his charges of Assault. Xellos is a brutally evil man, Dr. Copt. He deserves to be put to death, but legally at this point in time we can't do a thing to the man but lock him away. We cannot PROVE that he understands what he did was wrong. Every psycological profile we build on this man is shattered, usually in the next therapy session. As soon as we think we've categorized him, he changes completely. He's PLAYING with us. There is only one key to his psyche, one hope for understanding what makes a man capable of such.... insanity. You see, his final victim is a John Doe. He's the catatonic, and most of the usual methods we use with such patients are useless.... We have no name, no records of his birth, no next of kin, friends.... nothing. The man does NOT exist. Furthermore, he is the only person who remained in Xellos' company for more than 24 hours without coming to bodily harm."

He held the door handle in the closed position, though all the locks had been removed.

Dr. Talon frowned. "The John Doe case is most unusual, Doctor. John cannot be moved from Xellos' presence. If he is, BOTH of them react.... unfavorably."

Filia looked at him sideways. He appeared completely calm and in control, but his knuckles were completely bloodless where they clenched the door handle. She frowned. "Unfavorably?"

Dr. Talon cleared his throat. "Yes, John Doe reacts in a manner much akin to an epilectic seizure. Only constant and heavy sedation can prevent it, which is of course, unhealthy at best and potentially fatal at worst. Xellos...." He sighed. "Let's just say the last time it was attempted a good man lost his face."

"Dr. Blueriver...." Filia breathed.

Talon nodded. "That is what you were hired for. If we can somehow shake this young man out of his uncommunicative state, we might get an insight into the both of them. Heal the one, and provide enough evidence to condemn the other." Dr. Talon smiled coldly.

Filia watched Talon for a moment more, then turned back to the room quietly. Something in his voice made her uneasy. Well, even MORE uneasy.

If that were at ALL possible.

He pushed the door and it swung open easily on well-oiled hinges. A part of Filia was disappointed.... normally when one opened a dungeon door it made more noise. Dungeon? Before she had an opportunity to analyze this strange thought she caught sight of the contents of the room. Her breath caught in her throat and she took an involuntary step back. Talon glanced at her speculatively.

The room was, as the rest of building, sterile and clinical, though the scent of disinfectant was slightly stronger here. The walls were heavily padded, and the floor was completely bare save for a single bed, the posts of which were also padded. Lying in the bed was the thin form of a young man in his late adolescence, his long green hair fanned out on the government issue pillow on which his head rested. He stared blankly at the ceiling, his eyes completely devoid of luster. Scars adorned his bare chest, though they were rather obviously old, well-healed scars. Filia's reaction to the scene had been for two reasons. One was that the young man on the bed was so achingly familiar that Filia could have sworn she'd seen him before, perhaps even known him personally. The other....

The other was the second occupant of the room.

Seated at the base of the bed, his legs cuffed together at the ankles, rested a small man in a straight-jacket. His brilliant purple hair washed over his face, but as the two Doctors entered the room, he looked up. He grinned widely and observed them through his bangs. What startled Filia were his eyes.

They were the most inhuman eyes she'd ever seen. For a split second before his jovial mask had appeared, he'd let them catch a glimpse of a soul as cold and calculating as that of the most deadly predator.

Then he winked at her.

"Why Doctor.... so GOOD of you to visit. Care for a bit of tea? A cookie or two?"

His grin got wider. "DO introduce me to your friend...."


Zelgadis scanned his surroundings diligently, calmly wiping down his blade. Once again, it seemed, he'd been caught up in something having absolutely nothing to do with him, or his quest. It took a moment for him to figure out exactly what HIS connection to all of this was, then it came to him. Mina. Gaav. Right. It was probably only a matter of time before he had to dress in drag.

He sighed miserably.

"What's wrong, Master?" Pix asked, fluttering near his head. He glanced in her direction.

"I'm not very fond of the waiting game, I suppose. Not to mention, this has nothing to do with getting my cure at all."

Pix frowned at him for a moment, then landed lightly on his shoulder. She patted his cheek. "I'm sure Mister Gaav hasn't forgotten his promise.... and it DID get you an opportunity to see all of your friends again...."

He shrugged lightly. "I suppose so.... I just wish it could have been under better circumstances."

He sighed again, then looked at the Princess, pardon, Queen, whom he'd missed terribly for the last decade and a half. It surprised him somewhat, to realize that he HAD missed her terribly. Zelgadis was, by nature, a solitary creature. He had no love of company, particularly when it had a habit of staring at him like he was going to try to eat small children. Of course, she'd never thought THAT badly of him, even though she HAD occasionally drove him crazy with her well-meaning, good-hearted, but terribly naive and fanatical views about "justice". She hadn't changed much.... aged well, he supposed. Still had the old white mage of justice getup, the same, righteous expression. Perhaps a little wiser, though the way she was acting at the moment wasn't a particularly good indicator of THAT, he supposed.

She wasn't speaking to him at the moment, and he got the impression it was something he had done, though what, exactly, that was, he had no idea. He'd been honestly happy to see her again, but a life or death situation (and anyone who thinks Lina meeting Gaav without a bit of warning beforehand wouldn't have been a life or death situation is underestimating the explosive tendency of two very strong-willed people who don't like each other much and have a tendency to cause large amounts of property damage when they.... I think you get the picture) was not the best place to renew acquaintances. He'd THOUGHT she'd understood that, but now there was this kicked puppy vibe coming from her that even HE was aware of. She sneaked a glance in his direction, frowned slightly, then turned pointedly away. His perplexed frown deepened.

Pix watched the silent exchange with growing trepidation. It was obvious this unpleasant situation was going to continue, and neither of them (one was simply oblivious to it, the other was too hurt to let it go, and too proud to say anything) was going to make a move to repair it. The situation cut a little too close for comfort to her own feelings. Pix realized her situation was entirely hopeless. She was six (and a half) inches tall. It was hard enough getting the man she loved not to accidentally step on her, (Pix is, in her discomfort, exaggerating slightly. Zelgadis has never gone so far as to almost step on her, though he has occasionally set things down on top of her.... but give the man a break.... she's smaller then a Barbie doll! Probably GI Joe size would be more accurate. Don't tell me you've never stepped on a GI Joe figure. You break that little rubber band in the center and poor ol' Shipwreck has to spend the rest of his life as a paraplegic. It's not so damn hard to do.... Wait, why am I defending this guy? Somehow I think I got horribly off track. How long has it been since I typed outside of parenth.... parentath.... Oh bugger it anyway.... -DT) let alone realize she had feelings for him.

Still, she was not the sort of individual to simply allow this to turn her into an emotional wreck. She remained bright and optimistic despite her impossible situation. She'd always been aware of the problems inherent to being a magical construct, ever since her creator had tossed her away in disgust. It would have been very easy to let go during her time trapped in a lightless, magic-less, cold, and miserable hell of a cave. She'd come very close to death, but the true enemy hadn't been the lack of sustaining magic.

It had been hopelessness.

Her struggle to survive in the gilded cage had been more a fight against her own apathy, one she'd refused to lose. She felt deeply indebted to the cool-headed, pragmatic "Mystical Swordsman" who'd released her without a thought of receiving anything in return. She'd served him in part to repay that debt, and in part, at first, for a simple place to belong. Yes, that had been it. A simple need. A home. Where ever her master went would be home, and what he needed would be her purpose. Even though their strange arrangement produced a few hiccups from time to time, she'd been.... comfortable in it. Then as time went by, she realized her feelings for this quiet, reserved, but oddly fragile man (yes, fragile. A lot of Zel's aloofness is his defense against allowing someone to get too close to him. He has to maintain that distance, because no one can love a freak, right? [cue the sarcasm]) ran considerably deeper than simple gratitude. Therein lay the crux of her current dilemma....

She was an artificial creature, one never intended to exist by nature, and completely unique. Her romantic prospects were dismal. Really dismal. Imagine if you will, a metal ball. Now imagine a butterfly fluttering up to it and brushing its wings against it once every 100 years, then fluttering off to wherever metaphor-assisting butterflies go. Now imagine that you have to watch this until the ball is completely worn away.

Now imagine that during all of this you are 50 pounds overweight, and your sole human companion is Richard Simmons.

That dismal.

Her rival was a woman who'd shared many of his adventures, and he was obviously very fond of, if not actually in love with, her (it was hard to tell with Zel.... hey, that rhymed!).

Furthermore, while Zel was the perfect size for "Queenie" over there, he was a bit, pardon the hentai expression, too much man for Pix.

It was enough to make one green with jealousy, not to mention wish that she were large enough to ignore him and have it actually be noticed.

She was HAPPY being Zelgadis' "perky side-kick", damn it. She didn't want to lose what little happiness she had garnered for herself in this insane, entirely oversized world she was never intended for.

This woman was a threat to that happiness....

But Amelia was unhappy, and her unhappiness was making Master Zelgadis unhappy....

Pix sighed. Bugger.

"You should talk to Miss Amelia, Master." Pix muttered quietly, hovering in his face to get his full attention. "You hurt her feelings very badly."

He looked up and blinked at this sudden intrusion into his private thoughts. "I did? When did I-?"

She smiled sadly. "Knowing you like I do, it was probably in the way you greeted her." She roughed up her hair into a passable impression of his own and assumed an implacable, wise, and set visage which still managed to somehow miss the point entirely. In her best Zelgadis voice (which was a remarkably good Zelgadis impression IF he'd been kicked in the nuts (stones?) a few times, or at least had a run in with a mad helium balloon vender) "Hi, how's it going, nice to see you again, Princess...." She grinned and dropped the entirely too accurate impression. "Is that about right?"

He frowned, a bit miffed. "Well.... it wasn't THAT bad..."

She gave him a pointed look, then fluttered off of his shoulder.

"It WASN'T!"

She glanced over at Amelia, and raised an eyebrow, then shrugged and fluttered out of sight.

He sighed, ran a suddenly self-conscious hand through his hair, then glanced at Amelia. Aside from her anger toward him (which he'd already noticed, to his credit. Not too much credit though. A blind man would have caught it.) She had a decidedly downcast look to her, when he actually took the effort to notice such things.

Oh boy.

As though moving through mud, Zelgadis made his way towards Amelia, who still refused to look at him. Lina took a moment from brooding over the situation with her daughter to watch this with a wryly amused expression on her face.

So did Xellos.

"This ought to be interesting." They both remarked at the same time, then glared at each other. Well, Lina glared. Xellos just sort of smirked.

"Huh?" Replied Gourry.

This was something of a pointless repetition of his mission statement.


"Do sit down, good Doctors. I admit I'm rather pressed for good furniture at the moment, but I'm sure you'll manage." Xellos smiled evilly.

Talon ignored him in favor of checking a chart at the foot of Valgaav's bed. He made a point not to get too close to Xellos, who regarded him for a moment with a bemusedly bored expression, then turned to Filia and smiled warmly.

Filia gave him a dubious expression. His grin widened.

"Come now, Doctor. No need for the worried expression. You can come closer, I don't bite."

Dr. Talon never looked up from his chart. "Yes you do."

Xellos blinked. "Why, so I do. It must have slipped my mind. Speaking of biting, how is Dr. Blueriver? I hope he didn't lose too much face at this institution." He giggled at his pun.

Talon regarded him like a cockroach. "Dr. Blueriver is in stable condition now, though he will require extensive plastic surgery to repair your.... decorating attempt."

Xellos shrugged idly and turned to Filia once again. "Not much of a talker are you? Strange considering your supposed profession. Still, I don't suppose he's much of a talent scout is he?"

Filia reddened. "I'll have you know that I'm considered to be one of the most brilliant minds in my field. I-" she stopped, infuriated. Five minutes on the job and she was already making mistakes, and in front of her employer no less.

Xellos opened his eyes and stared at her, his penetrating gaze raising shivers on her skin. He became completely still, absorbed in studying her, a statue, the only thing moving was his mouth.

"I'm sure you are. Rather, I'm sure that's what the experts told you. Textbook perfect care for the human psyche, like a repair manual for the soul," he smirked. "Nevermind the fact that human beings don't always fit the mold, no matter how hard society tries to force them into it. Perfect little gingerbread cookies, and when one of them gets an arm or a leg bitten off by life, why.... we make nice little terms for them, so we can feel good about how well we care for our fellow man, except those terms make them somehow marked.... somehow, less human than the rest of us don't they? How often do we talk to them, Doctor? God forbid we come out missing an ingredient inside.... well then we get sent to the rubbish bin, don't we? That's what this place is, Doctor. A rubbish bin for people." He jerked his head at Doctor Talon, who was regarding him with cold, open hatred on his face. "HE'D have you believe you're here to heal people.... to save them. We both know that nothing could be further from the truth, but-"

Dr. Talon brought the clipboard in his hands down hard on the padded frame of the small hospital bed, making a sudden, muffled thwacking sound that startled both him and Filia, then he smiled coldly. "That's enough out of you, Xellos. One more word and it'll be medication time."

Xellos grinned. "Word."

Talon snapped his fingers and grinned. Filia was startled when two large, white-uniformed individuals entered the room, followed by a small man pushing a cart. The two burly orderlies secured Xellos with perhaps a bit too much force, knocking his head brutally against the floor as he was forced to lie prone and spread-eagled on the ground, and one pulled up one of his pants legs. Xellos' eyes remained on Filia the whole time. Dr. Talon personally prepared the shot, and stared coldly down at the prostrate man before him.

"You know the drill, Xellos, there will be a little prick-"

"What, you mean another one besides the one standing in front of me?" Xellos gibed.

Talon gritted his teeth. "Just relax, monster."

Filia watched as he administered the shot with a distant sense of growing horror. This was nothing like the controlled classroom situations she was used to.... nothing could have prepared her for this cold, brutal reality. How could they expect Xellos to get well if they drugged him out of his mind without trying to help him? Hadn't they said all along that they were trying to understand him not to heal him, but to simply destroy him? How was that medicine?

As the shot began to take effect, the awareness slowly faded from Xellos' eyes, and his mouth eased from its terrible smirk. Just as he began to go under, his lips jerked in an attempt at a smile, and he slurred. "Simply the blind leading the.... blind..."

Then he said no more, lost in drug induced oblivion. Talon grinned coldly and turned to her, his words clipped with anger.

"I'll leave you to your work, Dr. Copt. He shouldn't give you any more problems. Now if you'll excuse me, I have some work to do."

He turned sharply on his heel and left, followed by the brutish attendants and the smallish individual with his cart. His angry footsteps rang down the hallway, retreating into the labyrinthine series of corridors that made up the facility.

Filia stared at the man before her quietly, unwilling, or unable to move. He lie without any dignity, prone and drooling mindlessly, his eyes half-slitted, open but unseeing. This terrible monster, tamed and made safe by modern medicine.

Why then, did she feel an inkling of sympathy for him?

On the bed, unnoticed, the adolescent boy stirred restlessly and mouthed a word, lost by the quiet whirr of the air conditioning.


Mina watched her love with quiet vigilance, her hand resting reassuringly on the pommel of the blade he'd given her. No hint of the worry she felt could be seen on her face as she contemplated his unmoving form. He stood, his giant hand resting over Filia's, in a semblance of caring, fatherly concern that made her heart ache, though his eyes were closed in concentration. She sighed. While she was concerned for Valgaav, and sympathetic towards Aunt Filia, she was ashamed to admit that a part of her had shrieked in protest when Gaav had accepted the responsiblity for healing his shattered former minion. She had no real fondness for the arrogant (to her) half-dragon, who'd always seemed like more of a pain in the ass nuisance than a friend. The two of them hadn't gotten along well, and incidents like the one with the couch and the fireball had been all too common when they'd been together. Still, he was a friend of sorts, and she should have been eager to see him well, but when that effort involved the life of the man she loved....

She grinned sadly. "Guess I'm not quite the hero I thought I was."

A hand fell on her shoulder and she started, blinking at the visage of her grinning father. He smiled. "I'm not sure what's happening here, Mina, but I wouldn't worry too hard about that Gabe guy. The last time we ran into him, your mother and I had to run away."

Mina blinked, startled. "You.... ran away? Mom never told me...."

Gourry sighed. "Your mother likes to think she's invincible.... I don't think she told you becuase it reminded her of how.... uh.... vincible she really is."

She giggled. "That's vulnerable, Dad."

He beamed. "You are SO smart." He turned to regard Lina, wincing slightly in his old armor. Mina was suddenly shocked....

-He's getting old....- she marveled, and the revelation frightened her.

"She really is proud of you, you know," he whispered, gazing fondly at his wife, who glared around as though she'd been pleasantly napping and was rudely awakened by a pail of water.

Mina looked at her mother, then nodded. "I know. It's just sometimes...." she sighed. "Dad, why are you and mom doing this?"

Gourry looked back at her in surprise. "Doing what?"

Mina looked at him in shock. "You don't know? This whole thing! The Shards! Gaav! Valgaav!"

"Oh, THAT!" He pounded his hand in his other fist, then fingered his chin in thought. "Well, I guess because if we don't, who will? I'm not too good about figuring out this sort of thing, but I do know that you and Grob are in alot of trouble, and you could use all the help you can get!" He beamed. This was a masterstroke of Gourry's unique sort of wit. "That reminds me. I never got to talk to you about something before you left, and with you and Gabby getting so close and all, I think it's about time I did my fatherly duty."

She blinked...." Uh, what's that?"

He took on a very studious expression. "It's about time we had a talk about the birds and the bees, young lady."

Mina's eyes became tiny dots and she sweat-dropped. "Um... Dad.... don't er... I mean, I...."

He spread his arms wide. "Well you see, there's this thing.... and-"


Zelgadis surveyed the group quietly as he stalled for time. He wasn't entirely sure what he was going to say when he got to Amelia, and so his trip to her side was taking an amount of time comparable to the half-life of carbon. Lina glared at him in what was obviously a silent attempt to get him to hurry the hell up already. Mina stood openmouthed and growing paler by the minute as Gourry made what appeared to Zelgadis as somewhat lewd motions with his hands and talked about a mile a minute. Pix was giggling herself silly over his explanation of something, so much so that she looked about ready to fall out of the sky. Xellos....

Xellos was....

Nowhere to be seen? He stopped dead and looked about wildly, his hand on the hilt of his sword. He listened intently, his supernatural hearing picked up something....

Something like....

The fluttering of wings? He looked skyward, where a large cloud of birds was slowly growing on the horizon.

Except these birds had spears....

He drew his sword, the ringing scrape of steel drawing everyone's attention. He kept his attention calmly on the advancing force, and never mind the impossibility of an army of gargoyles armed to the teeth finding them out here.

"Someone wake up the Sleeping Beauties," he said calmly, gesturing towards the comatose Knight of Zomelgustar and his large busted attendant, who slumbered peacefully with Langdelin's head in her lap (this was about to become a problem, because a line of drool had almost made the necessary travel arrangements to start its grand journey into the Knight's slightly open mouth) snoring gently. "We're about to have company, and from the look of it we're going to need all the help we can get."

The Striking Talons circled slowly overhead, preparing for their attack.


Back to the "Shards of Chaos" Main Page / E-mail Us

Disclaimer: The Slayers is the property of Software Sculptors and Hajime Kanzaka / Rui Araizumi / Shouko Yoshinaka / Hujimishobou / Kadokawashoten / TV Tokyo / King Records / SOFTX

All original, creative-type stuff on this website is copyright to Chris Cuellar and Teresa Dietzinger, 2002