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Slayers, A Stray Child, Part 2

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By Skiyomi
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Part 2.

Filia’s eyes shot open. None of the usual, slow waking up elements of transition accompanied her shift from unconsciousness to consciousness. There was no slow eyelid flutter, no soft groan as the light from the window became too much to ignore and as the senses slowly perked up to register birdsong and domestic bustle. She’d gone from laid out on the bed with her eyes closed to sitting up and staring wide-eyed at the peeling wallpaper in two seconds flat.

“No…” she said, gazing down at the covers of her hotel room bed as though they’d betrayed her. “It wasn’t a dream,” she declared, as though she could scold reality.

“It probably wasn’t,” a voice agreed. “But, then again, I don’t know what you dream about.”

She looked over at the figure sitting in the chair next to her bed. You had to be impressed at Xellos’s ability to either completely blend in with the background or demand every ounce of attention that could be given depending on his purpose. Well, more often curse it than be impressed by it, but still.

“If it was passing out in the middle of a half-flooded street and nearly drowning yourself in two inches of water, then: no, it wasn’t a dream,” Xellos went on, all derision.

“I didn’t just pass out!” Filia snapped back. The way he said it made it sound like she’d gotten a bout of the vapors or something. “I was attacked! There are monsters out there!”

“There’s a monster in here,” he reminded her simply.

“I don’t mean like you!” Filia sputtered in frustration. “Didn’t you see them when you…” She paused. Saved her? Was that what came next? Picked up her unconscious body from the street and taken her back to the hotel until she came to? She wondered for a moment how he’d even known this was the place to go, but then remembered the key in her pocket.

“Nobody was around when I fished you out of the gutter,” Xellos answered the unfinished question. He leaned back in his chair and gave her an appraising look. “So, I suppose your monsters that are so unlike me—by which I suppose you mean that they had unattractive haircuts—must’ve fled before I arrived.”

“Don’t make fun!” Filia shouted back, slamming her fist down on cushy surface of her mattress. Her heart still pounded with fight-or-flight adrenaline. “Val’s out there with those things!”

Chastening herself for her moment of disoriented inaction, she whipped the covers off her and hoisted herself out of bed. “I’ve got to find him!”

Xellos, to his credit, did not continue to make fun. Instead he furrowed his brows and though appreciating that this was a matter worthy of some concern. “He’s not with Jillas or Gravos?” he asked.

“No, he was with me,” Filia answered wretchedly. “Gravos is back at home and Jillas is…” She paused. This drowning town she’d landed in was being invaded by evil creatures and she’d been too focused on Val to even stop and worry about Jillas, who was also out there on his own. She consoled herself that Jillas could likely take care of himself. It wasn’t as though he’d be caught unprepared. Despite her best attempts, she’d never broken him of the habit of packing firepower. He always had more than enough of that to spare.

With that thought in mind, she turned on her heel and headed out toward the common room of their suite. Xellos followed, slightly mystified as she popped open the suitcase Jillas had left on the couch. Amidst the spare eye patches and a diagram-filled notepad, she found what she was looking for.

“Won’t your mace get jealous?” Xellos asked as Filia lifted out the pistol—Jillas’s spare. Not his favored one, but a handy extra.

“If you saw what I saw, you wouldn’t want to get close to them either,” Filia explained shoveling bullets out of the case.

“That’s all well and good,” Xellos replied, skepticism oiling over his nasal tone, “but do you even know how to use that? It’s a little more sophisticated than just bashing someone upside the head.”

Filia glowered. She wasn’t in the mood for shots at her preferred fighting style or her competence. “Why don’t we find out?” she asked, pointing the gun at him.

Instead of doing the reasonable thing and flinching at the prospect of a gun in his face, he beamed. “An excellent idea,” he said, walking over to the opposite wall so that he was several paces away from her. He turned as though to present himself to her. “Take your best shot and then we’ll see whether you’re a marksman or a menace with that thing.”

The gun wavered in her hand. There had been days in the past—a lot of them, really—where she’d have paid a handsome price to shoot Xellos. But, given the opportunity on a silver platter, it suddenly seemed unpalatable.

She lowered her gun. “I don’t have time to mess around like this,” she said, shaking her head. “I have to find Val.”

He grinned. “Fine, but don’t expect this offer to come around again. Now,” he went on, walking back over to her and shifting gears, “where do you suppose we’d find your wayward son?”

Filia took a deep breath and let it out, thinking. There was nothing for Val in this town. Nothing he’d especially want, but… “He ran off when I was in the library,” she said slowly. “I thought he’d gone outside since the librarian hadn’t seen him… but maybe he just slipped past him and has been there the whole time?” She hoped that was true—and that the roving horrors of the street hadn’t broken in.

With a destination in mind, she tucked the borrowed gun into her cloak and reached for the door handle in the dim light.

“Do you intend on trailing blood the whole way there?” Xellos asked, nodding downwards.

Filia looked down in the direction he was indicating. Beyond the hem of her skirt, a trickle of blood was flowing where the wound on her ankle from earlier hadn’t crusted over. She knelt down and placed her hands in the air over it. “One of those creatures bit me,” she muttered before trying to gather energy in her hands.

And then… nothing.

Filia’s eyes widened. She straightened up abruptly and stared at her hands.

“Aren’t you going to heal it?” Xellos asked, raising an eyebrow.

“Shh!” she cautioned, holding up a finger in his direction. She concentrated on her other hand before saying, firmly and clearly: “Lighting.”

A small orb of illuminated magic rose from her palm. It sent a weak glow into the unlit room, highlighting the shadows instead of banishing them.

Xellos’s raised eyebrow arced downwards. He didn’t appreciate being shushed by a dragon, and particularly not in the name of letting her focus on the simplest spell in all magic.

She turned to look at him helplessly. “I can do this, but the healing spell wouldn’t…”

Now Xellos was paying attention. “Your magical powers are being suppressed?”

She nodded. Even magicians in the Outer World could handle lighting spells, and suddenly all she could pull off was a weak one. She willed the light to float away from her hand and hover just above her. It seemed to take much more energy than usual.

Xellos appeared to be giving the matter some thought. “This… wouldn’t happen to be a… ahem… monthly issue, would it?”

She was really starting to regret not shooting him when she had the chance. Turning her back on him, she wrenched the door open and stomped into the hall.

“I’ll take that as a ‘no,’” Xellos deduced lightly, following her out of the room. “In that case, it seems like there might be something strange going on in this town after all.”

“Anyone with eyes could see that!” Filia snapped. Closed or otherwise, Xellos did possess a set of those.

She glowered as she walked along the hall, making for the staircase. She didn’t know where he got off with that little “after all” comment. As though the appearance of horrifying creatures in the street hadn’t been evidence enough. What, did he think she’d made the whole thing up? Her bleeding leg would’ve begged to differ with him!

“Is there anything about this town that could explain some kind of… oh, let’s say dimensional distortion of some kind that could interfere with your magical abilities?” Xellos asked, trailing behind her.

Filia shrugged her shoulders. “It’s just a mining town,” she answered, mystified. “There’s nothing special about it as far as I know.” …Though that dragon skeleton in the library had been rather curious…

“Hmm,” he hummed thoughtfully behind her. “Then what brings you here?”

Her supply woes seemed so unimportant now that she hardly even wanted to get into them. “My clay supplier stopped sending me material, so I came to check on them,” she said, with a little dismissive wave of her hand. “It looks like they got flooded out and just left.”

“Well, you certainly didn’t pick a nice place to stay,” Xellos observed, as they reached the stairwell and the scent of waterlogged carpeting hit full force.

Filia grit her teeth. “I didn’t have a lot of options, you know.”

But she had to admit, as they descended the steps, that the place looked a great deal shadier than it had seemed when she’d first checked in. She tried to tell herself that the elements were the same—buckling, floral wallpaper; a scent of mold from the stained carpet; a brass banister along the wall. But yet... it had changed. It wasn’t just shabby; it was sinister. The water-damaged wallpaper had pulled away from the paneling in places, making it look like some unknowable thing was trapped between the wall and its cover. Every time Filia looked away, she could swear that she saw those pockets of air expand and contract, as though breathing. But when she looked back, they’d be perfectly still.

The place had been flooded already and was now only being lit by the weak orb of light she’d summoned. It was really no wonder, she told herself, that it looked a little spooky. The thing was… the real thing was that all of the sudden the place didn’t look like it had been flooded just a few weeks ago. It looked like it had been flooded a hundred years ago and then abandoned. The carpet sagged beneath her feet as though it was supported by flooring that had been regurgitated by termites. The metal railing felt greasy and cold under her fingertips. Every creak of every step sounded like a cry of pain.

Who could blame her for being jumpy? After Val’s disappearance… after the assault from those creatures… and now with something going wrong with her magic, it was as though nothing was as it seemed. Nothing could be trusted. That alone was enough to lengthen the shadows and make the skin crawl.

But perhaps it wasn’t just that events had put her in a fearful frame of mind. There were monsters out there… perhaps not Xellos’s kind, but more like the kind children fear to find under their beds, and adults tell themselves don’t exist as night falls and they find themselves alone. This was a manifestation much more visceral than the scheming souls who fought for control of the world. The things she’d encountered in the street felt evil in such an impulse-driven way that they were even more horrifying. Perhaps those things had dragged the whole town to hell along with them. As the rain pounded against the ceiling and washed up against the walls, it certainly felt that way.

Whatever those things were, they were enough to make Xellos’s presence seem almost comforting by comparison. Though it wasn’t remotely comforting to wonder what would’ve happened if Xellos hadn’t found her.

Come to think of it, far from being appropriate for him to ask her what she was doing there, she really should’ve asked him what he was doing. But it seemed like a waste of time. He’d say it was a “secret” anyway. It might not even have been a secret. Filia had a sneaking suspicion that he liked to withhold information for no other reason than to be annoying.

But this certainly wasn’t the first time that Xellos had unexpectedly popped up when there was trouble. In fact, that seemed to be his preferred time to appear. Filia could never be sure if that was because he was the source of the trouble or if he just showed up because he found other people’s troubles amusing. Either way, she felt like she had the astral equivalent of a bell around her neck.

She blinked as she reached the lowest landing, unable to believe her eyes as she got her first look at the lobby. It, like the rest of the hotel, was dark. And, strangely enough, the woman who’d been at the front desk was nowhere to be seen. But that wasn’t what immediately grasped Filia’s gaze and wouldn’t let go. The person standing by the front door… that flash of messy, aqua hair cascading over the back. Unmistakable. His.

“Val? …Val!” she shouted, tripping down the last couple steps to make it down.

Xellos remained a few steps up from the ground floor—reticent.

“Filia,” he said in a slow, clear voice, cutting through her mad dash to the figure, “that’s not Val.”

Filia stopped. The figure moved, unfolded. This was no child facing the door. This was not her boy. The tall one stood up and turned to face her. The stranger’s eyes were amber, and wide open with unmistakable fury. Even the eyes were familiar. But the white robed woman’s figure was not.

Filia opened her mouth to speak—to question what this stranger was doing—but the unexplained, yet thoroughly intense anger in her eyes stopped her. No… it wasn’t just that. There was a reason why she’d mistaken this grown woman for her child…

The strange woman braced her white hands against the double doors of the hotel. Her stare didn’t leave Filia as her fingers curled around the doorknob.

“I’ll take him back,” she intoned, every word inflected to have the sharpness and temperature of an icepick.

It was only then that Filia noticed water leaking in from the crack beneath the door.

The woman ripped the door open, sending a torrent of water crashing into the lobby. Filia fell jarringly backwards, the collar of her coat pressing painfully against her neck, as Xellos pulled her back onto the steps.

The water seemed to exist in endless quantities. There couldn’t possibly have been so much, Filia couldn’t help but think against the shock and confusion, since she’d last been outside. The deluge flowed into the low-ceilinged room, pouring over the counter tops and splashing up the staircase.

And through all that, the woman just kept staring at Filia with the same wrath in her eyes. She didn’t even seem to notice the ocean rising to her shoulders, slapping its way up her chin and engulfing her mouth and nose. The dam had broken. The water rushed in with no consideration for its liberator.

With the indoor river lapping against her heels, Filia let Xellos lead her by the hand up the stairs—to the high ground of the second floor.

*****

“Who was that?” Xellos asked once they’d reached the top of the staircase.

Filia still had her neck craned, looking behind her and down the steps. The water, always just two or three steps behind them, had stopped, finally, just short of the top. Its surface swayed slightly, but it no longer seemed propelled upward by the river of water from the first floor. “I… I don’t know,” Filia answered. The image of the woman’s fierce glare was stuck in her mind. Though she knew anyone who hadn’t escaped the tide must’ve drowned, she nevertheless couldn’t help but feel that the woman was still there—unmoved and unappeased at the bottom of an interior lake.

“She seemed to know you,” Xellos observed. He let go of her hand and walked a few steps forward, looking down the hall at the number-lined doors. “In any case, I don’t think we’ll be getting out through the front door.”

Filia tried to shake herself away from the sight of the water that now blocked their exit. How could all this have accumulated so fast? It was puddles before and now… the whole first floor was underwater. How long… how long had she been unconscious?

She bit her lip. The water was so high now and Val had been out there for goodness only knew how long. And then there were those creatures and… that woman…

I’ll take him back.

Xellos cocked his head toward one of the doors. “Perhaps we could find a window?”

Filia closed her eyes, forcing herself to push away any paralyzing anxiety. They had to move now…

She walked past him, placing her hand on the knob of the nearest door. She tried to turn it, but it wouldn’t budge. She grit her teeth. “One of these has to be unlocked,” she said, moving on to the next door over.

“…That’s not necessarily true,” Xellos pointed out, drifting after her, a slight smile on his face. “But I’ll take that as a declaration of your resolve to find a way out more so than a statement of fact.”

*****

Filia tried another door, but it stuck fast. Well, the hotel hadn’t been renting out lower rooms, so it made sense. But going up to her own unlocked room wasn’t a good solution either. That high up, a fall into the waters below wasn’t exactly feasible. There wouldn’t be room to transform and, with her magic suppressed, she wasn’t even sure if she could.

Xellos edged along behind her, supervising her efforts with mild interest. He could’ve tried to be helpful—he could’ve rattled at the doors along the opposite wall. Or he could’ve even seen if his own magic was working and helped to break them out with that. But it was always like this with Xellos. He mooched along and rarely did anything helpful. It was just annoying at home when she was trying to get dinner on the table, but with a lost child… it was more serious than that. But she was too distracted to properly rage at him.

She turned toward him, cupping her left shoulder in her right hand and looking at the floor. “Xellos,” she began uncertainly, “is there any way that there could be other ancient dragon survivors… besides Val, I mean?”

Xellos stared at her. “Of course not,” he answered. “Whatever else you could say about the Golden Dragons, they’re at least thorough. The only reason Val managed at all was because he joined with Gaav.”

Filia walked slowly to the next door. She knew all that, and yet…

“Why do you ask?” Xellos pushed.

“Oh, it’s just…” Filia began, she wanted to say “nothing” and just drop the whole thing, but it nagged at her too much. “That woman… don’t you think she looked a little like Val?”

Xellos raised his eyebrows, but appeared to give the notion a little thought. “I suppose they did have a similar hair color,” he admitted, “but actually, I thought if she resembled anyone, it would be you.”

Filia turned to give him a mystified look, her hand still braced on the doorknob. “Me?”

“Same face shape, same body type, same default expression,” Xellos ticked off on his fingers. “You know, you look the exact same way she did when you’re angry.”

Filia removed her gaze from him, clucking her tongue in exasperation. If Xellos thought that mysterious woman looked like her for that reason, then she was pretty sure that was only because he was so used to seeing her mad. Over the years, she’d probably just become his natural image of female fury.

No, the woman didn’t look anything like her. But she did resemble Val. It was tempting to think… but no, they couldn’t be related. Xellos was right. The ancient dragons were all gone—save Val.

But yet… the appearance of that woman… and that dragon skeleton from earlier… could it all really be just a coincidence?

Before her thoughts could take her anywhere, she heard the turning of a knob she’d expected to stay fast in place. She blinked away her surprise and let the door creak open.

The pale light from her spell fell into the opening, illuminating a room in disarray. Broken bottles large and small littered the carpet with spilled liquids and unidentified powders. The bedclothes had been torn down and lay on the floor in unwashed heaps. The greyed mattress was askew and a large, tea-colored stain blotched across its center. The place smelled of rot and shattered hopes and bodily fluids.

“Well,” Xellos said in a tone that Filia would have to classify as weirdly impressed. He strode past her into the room and gave it a look-around, “I’d say that this is the place where a great night turned into a horrible one.”

Filia stepped in gingerly after him, not wanting to touch anything.

Xellos, who didn’t share her reticence, hunkered down to get a better look at the paraphernalia that lay on the floor just next to the bed. He dipped a glove pinky into the spilled dusting from one of the smaller bottles and tasted it. “Yes, the exact place,” he confirmed.

“What is that?” Filia asked, edging closer.

He smiled up at her. “Just a certain mind-expanding substance. Nothing you’d be familiar with, right?”

She bristled. “Of course not!”

“Oh really?” he asked, brushing off the substance onto his cloak. “You have been seeing some strange things lately,” he pointed out, as though this was evidence of hallucinogen-intake on her part.

“So have you!” she snapped back.

He shrugged as though her definition of “strange” greatly varied from his.

“Hmm?” he said, catching sight of something halfway under the bed and obscured amongst the rubbish. He scooped up what turned to be a book. “‘The Fairy Thief,’” he read, examining the cover. “I’ve heard of this… I wonder what it’s doing in a place like this?”

Filia looked away from him. She hadn’t come to this room to discuss drugs and she certainly hadn’t come to join an impromptu book club. She headed for the curtains—much shabbier than the ones in her room—to see if she could get out through the window. She stepped over the discarded sheets and snagged her boot on them accidentally, disturbing some hidden beetles that had been nesting in the fabric. They skittered off into the corners of the room, their fat, translucent bodies filled with a dark red liquid that quivered back and forth as though they were living vials.

Xellos took her yelp of surprise as an expression of interest. “It’s a story about a woman whose son is kidnapped by fairies.”

Filia’s annoyance calmed her jackhammering heartbeat. She was already having to deal with a missing child in real life. She didn’t have the time to spare caring about a fictional loss.

“The fairies leave behind a decoy so as not to be noticed,” Xellos went on, oblivious to this fact. He turned a page. “…A piece of wood that’s been enchanted to appear like the woman’s son.”

That was a little too odd to just let pass. “…Who in their right mind would buy that?” she demanded. She’d heard of wooden acting, but…

“Not the mother,” Xellos said simply. “Unfortunately for her, the rest of the people in her village did.” He shrugged his shoulders. “It’s hard to take someone complaining about her missing son seriously when, by all outward appearances, he’s standing right next to her. They thought she was crazy and in the end they locked her up.” His conclusive tone was a little too bright and cheery for his subject matter.

Filia turned back toward the window. Yes… a story about a desperate woman who would do anything to get her child back, even if it meant looking insane in order to do it. Even if it failed. As long as there was a chance. She took a deep breath and pulled back the curtains.

“N-no!”

“Oh my,” Xellos said, looking beyond her. “It’s really been raining chimeras and dragons out.”

Filia stared out into the grey exterior. Second floor. They were on the second floor and the water level had already crawled more than halfway up the window. “Chimeras and dragons” didn’t even begin to cover it. “This is not normal rain,” she insisted in a gloomy voice.

She tried to grasp around in the dark of her soul for hope. Get out of the hotel, go to the library, hope Val was inside, find him. There had been a plan. But now, with the water getting higher and higher, she had to come to grips with the unthinkable.

“…It’s gotten so bad out there,” she said in hushed tones. “How could he—all by himself, I don’t know if he’d be able to…” She couldn’t go to any of those places. Couldn’t follow up on her estimation of her young boy’s ability to survive in rapidly worsening flood conditions. Her vision blurred as she looked out into the dirty water outside the window.

“…Why is he out there all by himself?” Xellos asked, as though this was a question that had been growing in his mind for quite some time. “It’s not like him to just run off.”

Filia tried to control herself, but a lump was rising in her throat. “He… he’s starting to think that he’s adopted.”

Xellos paused for consideration. “Well, he is,” he answered.

“I know that!” Filia snapped, her voice breaking into a sob. “Why doesn’t anyone think I know that?!”

There was a thoughtful pause from Xellos. “I can see how this is a bit of a predicament for you. There are certain things you’d rather not tell him.”

Filia dragged the side of her hand across her eyes, trying to will them to stop weeping. She was glad Xellos couldn’t see her face. “He’s just a child,” she said thickly. “He’s not ready to know about everything that happened.”

“Yes,” Xellos agreed, an uncomfortable slyness mixed in with his understanding agreement. “And ‘Mommy’s people killed everyone you ever knew and loved’ is such a difficult conversation to have with a first grader.”

Filia’s mouth fell open. “That’s not…” she tried, but she cursed herself. It was never, ever wise to show emotional vulnerability around Xellos. Other people’s tragedy was a cudgel to be mean-spiritedly wielded.

She swallowed audibly. “I was only trying to do what was best for him,” she said. It sounded so weak. “He wouldn’t understand…”

“You’re a liar.”

Filia froze. The voice was familiar. So were the words. But they didn’t match with one another. Not quite.

“Ah, the prodigal son,” Xellos said. Filia sensed that the amused interest in his tone was only a veneer. Xellos liked to act like everything was just as he’d expected, but this wasn’t.

Filia revolved slowly to face the source of the voice. It was Val. Of course it was Val. After all, it had been his voice. But seeing him standing in the doorway, framed against the musty hall, with his eyes looking past her, she knew it wasn’t him either. Or, rather, it wasn’t the Val she’d known of late. He’d said those words—just that way—to the Supreme Elder, but then he’d been…

“What you fear most is not that Val won’t understand,” the child’s figure continued in bizarre third-person. “What you’re really afraid of is that he will understand. And what will that mean for you? What will that mean for the sin of the Golden Dragons which you hoped would remain buried?” His expression was blank, but the voice was passionate, vindictive, manic. “Just as you hoped that I would remain buried.”

She drew in a breath. She didn’t know how, just like she didn’t know what had brought him back there—what had helped him find them in that dank hotel room. But still, he could only be…

“Valgaav…” she breathed out.

He didn’t blink. “…At least the remaining memory,” he confirmed. “I have been forgotten, but I am not gone,” he said, as though he could etch word of his existence in stone. “…Much to your disappointment,” he added sourly. “Isn’t that why you raised me as you would a Golden Dragon?” he asked. “In the hopes that you could stamp me out? Make a new, more pliable Val out of the blank slate of a child?”

Filia opened her mouth to speak. “That wasn’t how…” she began, but… Now, hold on. Who had her role models been for mothering Val? Her grandmother, the brief recollections of her own mother, the matronly older priestesses? Well, how could she have helped it if they were all Golden Dragons? There were no more Ancient Dragons to present a countering example. And she knew next to nothing about them even besides that.

Yes, she realized. The race of the Ancient Dragons lived on in Val, but their culture was dead; not even fossilized so that a pale imitation could be conjured; dead and gone.

“Or perhaps,” the memory of Valgaav allowed, “that was just all you ever knew.” The phantom wasn’t making excuses for her. There was no forgiveness in his tone. Simply the acknowledgement that she was severely, disappointingly limited.

“And as though being raised like one of the destroyers of my race wasn’t enough,” Valgaav continued. Filia would’ve expected his nostrils to flare in anger, but the body of Val remained motionless, “you had to start playing house with that monster. My ‘mother’ the Golden Dragon—murders of my people. My ‘father’ the monster—killers of my Lord Gaav.”

Xellos shrugged. “I always considered myself more of a cool uncle.”

“He’s not like that at all,” Filia came back with, wishing that Xellos would not consider himself anything. “And I wouldn’t even let him near you at all if I thought he’d hurt you! That’s all I’ve done any of this for,” she insisted, feeling fresh tears roll down her cheeks, “to protect you from being hurt. That’s why I hadn’t told you everything yet.”

Val gave her a long, unseeing stare. “The only thing you’ve protected me—protected yourself—from is the truth,” he finally said, “and that will come out no matter what you do. …And so will I.”

Those last words came out as a hiss. Layered under the childlike tone of Val, there was the deeper voice of Valgaav. His form shuddered. Blackness seized him. It was like when Dark Star had first been summoned all over again. He was peeled away by the darkness piece by piece.

Where the… ghost? The memory? The trick? Whatever it had been, when it vanished into nothing, two strips of wood joined at the center with twine fell to the ground. It formed a cross… or an X.

Filia sunk to her knees, her hands over her mouth.

“Well now, an enchantment? Really?” Xellos said, as per usual, much more at ease than she. He drummed his fingers against the book he’d found thoughtfully. “This is very good news.”

Filia’s eyes were still on the spot where what had seemed to be her child had stood. His accusations rung in her head. “What could possibly be good about it?” she asked in a hushed voice.

“Because,” Xellos went on, striding forward to place the book on the filthy, tilted mattress, “it means that someone’s messing with you.”

Xellos seemed to give this an extra bit of thought and then let out a sigh. “…And here I thought we were exclusive,” he added.

Filia turned her head to stare at him. Her eyes were still wet with tears and her emotions close to the surface. At this point, even incomprehension could’ve pushed her into crying again. “There’s nothing at all good about that!”

“On the contrary,” Xellos disagreed, holding up a lecturing index finger. “We now know that someone or something in this town has a bone to pick with you. And, whoever they are or whatever they want, it has something to do with Val—the real one. I can think of few other reasons to feature him in an illusion.”

“You’re just making it sound even worse,” Filia pointed out. She was reaching her breaking point with his topsy-turvy value judgments.

“Filia,” Xellos went on, taking great pains to communicate that he was being patient with her inability to catch up, “if he’s important to whatever is behind this, then that means he is most likely being kept alive—at least for now. Whereas a flood is a mindless force of nature that would roll over Val without caring or even noticing.” He stooped over to give her a slightly closer look. “Malevolent interest is better than indifference, after all.”

Filia closed her eyes and took several deep breaths. It was such a nasty, desperate little hope—that Val was alive because whatever source of nightmare creatures and water and horror that was out there had designs on him. It was the best kind of optimism you could expect out of a monster, though, and it was better than nothing.

“So you think… someone’s taken him?” she asked in a quavering voice.

“That seems likely,” Xellos said, reaching down and picking up the wooden cross that had held the image of Val and the voice of Valgaav.

“So…” Filia trailed off, looking from the wooden cross to the book that Xellos had left on the bed, “…fairies?” It sounded silly even in her head.

Xellos looked at the cross and frowned. “…That seems unlikely.”

“Then what?” Filia demanded.

“I’m not sure,” Xellos answered, walking over and passing the cross down to her, “but it’s leading you somewhere.”

Filia took the cross numbly. Carved into the wood grain were the numbers: 342.

“Will you follow?” Xellos asked.

Filia gripped the cross in one hand and wiped her eyes with the other. She stood up.

“Let’s go,” she said hoarsely.

Rating: PG-13
Fandom: Slayers
Genre: Drama/Horror
Status: On-going

Part 1: skiyomi.deviantart.com/art/Sla…
Part 3:

Published:
© 2013 - 2020 Skiyomi
Comments2
anonymous's avatar
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shishiyoukai's avatar
this sounds very intriguing...
Skiyomi's avatar
Thanks for saying so!