Disclaimer: Maybe I should give up writing these things and get a Blog, huh? But I don't think anyone actually reads those, anyway, do they? I know I don't. O_o And since everyone HAS to read this to get to the fic, the disclaimers get read more. Wow, never thought of it like THAT before! Anyway, none of these characters are mine. I don't claim them to be. In the immortal words of Stan "The Man" Lee, "'Nuff said!".
Feedback: It's what's for dinner. ~ sailorN1@aol.com
Chapter Two: Something New...
by Crystal Dawn Phoenix
They'd gotten an early start on their traveling that morning, so with the help of a short dragon flight, a little after lunch they'd reached the foothills of the mountains. Filia looked up at the gleaming white peaks of the Arahato Mountains. Deep within the mountains lay the Sanctuary of the Air Dragon King. It was the place her new husband lived, and her new home. She sighed, looking down at the pack bird she was riding. Who was she trying to kid? She hated this. 'I feel like I'm being punished for something,' she thought to herself, 'Not by the Gods, but by the temple elders. I just wish I knew what.'
The altitude they were traveling through had already gone up several hundred feet, and as a result, the temperatures around them were dropping. Lina was, of course, complaining loudly about how cold she was, and even Filia had to shiver from time to time. She huddled into her winter traveling cloak. 'Will it be this cold here all the time?', she thought bitterly to herself. She looked back at her companions. Amelia had bundled up and looked to be warm from her place on her pack bird. Zelgadis looked disinterested about the weather. Gourry was shivering due to the fact that Lina kept making him give up various articles of clothing to her. 'At this rate,' Filia thought, 'He'll be entirely naked by the time we reach the Sanctuary.' Xellos wasn't even riding a bird, instead having opted to float along behind the group as usual. 'Makes sense,' Filia thought, scoffing, 'Not like it would physically exert him, anyway. And why in Cephied's name is he still with us?' She turned back around, looking toward the mountains again. At this rate, they could reach the Sanctuary by nightfall. Hopefully they would, too. Filia didn't particularly want to camp out in the cold, snowy mountains. Who could tell how much colder they'd be after dark?
"Miss Filia!", Amelia cried excitedly, pointing ahead of them, "Isn't that it? It looks like the Temple of the Fire Dragon King, only it's white!" Sure enough, in the distance , nestled against the side of a far off mountain, there was a gigantic building with several tall spires reaching toward the sky. There appeared to be a wall and several large buildings surrounding it as well, as though it were its own little town. Filia drew a sharp breath in. It was almost so white it was blinding! Suddenly, Xellos popped up beside Filia's bird, looking in the same direction as everyone else.
"It looks like it was starched a little too much," Xellos said dryly, "You'll fit right in." Filia glared down at him. He seemed to be a little aggravated about something.
"I wouldn't expect a Mazoku to understand the virtues of being refined," she said haughtily, "I'm sure the dragons who live there will make you look even lowlier than you already do!" The corner of Xellos' mouth twitched. Filia noted with some satisfaction that her last comment had stung. She reasoned that there might be one upside to this after all: she wouldn't have to deal with Xellos anymore. Even better, if he started bothering her once they got to the Sanctuary, her husband could take up for her. A grin stretched its way across Filia's face. As much as she wasn't looking forward to this, she couldn't help but hope her husband would be powerful enough to wipe that smug grin off Xellos' face.
Her husband. The joy of making a dent in Xellos' smiling facade was cut short by that terrible sinking feeling she'd been having all day. 'Me, a little do-nothing housewife,' she thought despondently, 'I hate this...'
"Oh!", Lina exclaimed from her place on her pack bird, "There it is! Let's hurry up and get there already! I can't feel my toes and I'm starving!" She spurred the bird on with a raucous "Yah!", and broke it out into a full gallop toward the tall white spires in the distance. Gourry did likewise, his eyes widening in surprise.
"Hey, Lina!", he called after her, "Don't leave me behind!" His bird was soon nothing more than a cloud of snow dust as well. Zelgadis sighed and shook his head.
"I suppose we'd better try to keep up with them," he said, snapping the reigns on his bird, "H-yah!" He took off like a shot, Amelia close behind. Filia looked back to find Xellos still floating along behind her. He opened one eye at her and gave her a conceited little smirk, making her very nervous. She tightened her grip on her bird's reigns and snapped them hard.
"You guys!", she called, racing her bird after the others, "Don't leave me back here!" There were times that Mazoku just creeped her out to no end.
* ~ * ~ * ~ *
The sky was black now, almost like a sheet of velvet embroidered with several hundred small diamonds for stars. There was a cold wind blowing, almost cutting through their thick winter cloaks. They had finally reached a small hill overlooking the gates to the giant walls of the Sanctuary. There were two large Golden Dragons with spears standing guard on either side. Lina's face brightened up.
"We're here!", she exclaimed, "Now they can feed us! Alright!" She was wearing most of Gourry's winter weather clothes by now, leaving him with nothing more than his pants, shoes, and body armor. She spurred her nearly exhausted bird on, ice forming on its beak from its breath. The rest of the gang followed suit, galloping down the hill and heading toward the gates. They pulled to a stop as the guards pointed their spears toward them.
"Halt!", they spoke, "State your business here." Amelia blanched, but Filia dismounted her bird and strode to the front of the group.
"My name is Filia ul Copt," she stated firmly, "I've come from the Sanctuary of the Fire Dragon King." The guards looked at each other, then back down at her. They lowered their spears.
"We've been expecting you," one of them said, "Come in. The High Elder will show you your chamber." Filia pushed open the gates and walked through, Lina and the others dismounting and following. The dragons pointed their spears at them. "What is your business here?", they asked gruffly.
"They're with me," Filia said, turning back, "I have invited them to come with me." Reluctantly, the guards lowered their spears again.
"Very well," one said, "We shall give these humans accommodations." Lina and the others walked between them, Lina giving one of the guards a good-natured pat on his leg.
"That's more like it!", she said, "Glad to know you see our point of view!" She gave them a chuckle and walked in, the others following close behind. Zelgadis shook his head, grumbling, and Amelia gave the dragons a sheepish look. Gourry shivered, but tried to smile politely at them anyway. Xellos simply smiled at them. As he was about to walk through the gates, the dragons once again pointed their spears, this time directly at Xellos.
"Not you," one of the guards said, "You are not welcome here." Xellos smiled up at them innocently.
"Now that's not nice," he said sweetly, "Why would I not be welcome here?" The guards seemed to be glaring at him now.
"You know very well why, Beast Priest," one of them said, "Priestess of the Fire Dragon King, is this... creature with your party?" Filia allowed herself a small smile for once that night.
"No, it's not," she said pointedly, ignoring the little nagging voice from her conscience. She turned and walked toward the main temple, expecting the others to follow. Xellos' expression didn't change except for the fact that he opened his eyes. They bespoke volumes while the rest of his features remained the same. If Filia had turned around, she would have found that he was, in fact, quite unhappy at the moment. Lina gave him a wave, following Filia.
"Sorry about that, Xellos," she said, "Now, where's the food?" A second later, Xellos phased out of sight. Amelia caught up to Filia, a scolding look in her eyes.
"Miss Filia!", Amelia said, "That was wrong! He wanted to see you off, too!" Filia thrust her nose into the air.
"It's only what he deserved," she remarked, glad to finally be rid of him for once, "And besides, if I'd have let him come along, it would only have caused trouble. It's not like a temple full of dragons would exactly welcome his presence."
"I agree," Zelgadis spoke up, "Although I doubt that's the last you'll see of him. If I know him, he'll find a way to cause trouble." Amelia's eyes were full of sympathy.
"You, too, Mr. Zelgadis?", she asked, sighing. Might as well give up that fight. Besides, it was clear that Zelgadis was right. If Xellos wanted in bad enough, a couple of dragons with spears wouldn't get in his way. He could simply teleport himself in whenever he felt like it.
They hadn't gone very far toward the main temple before they came across an older looking dragon with white hair and a short beard. "Hello, there," he said, a warm tone in his voice, "You wouldn't be the Priestess from the Sanctuary of the Fire Dragon King, would you?" Filia stopped walking, the others halting in step behind her.
"Yes, I am," she replied. The older dragon smiled and held out a hand to her.
"I am the High Elder of this temple," the older one said, as she stretched her hand out to take his, "I'd like to welcome you here. Are these humans companions of yours?" Filia shook the elder's hand, blinking.
"Ah, yes they are," she replied, "They're going to be my... uhm, my wedding party." It was still a hard concept for her to grasp. Wedding party. She shook her head loose of those thoughts.
"Come right in, then," he said, motioning toward the main temple and taking a step back, "You don't want to catch cold out here in this weather! We shall find your companions rooms for the night and you shall be taken to your chambers for the evening." Lina, a strained smile on her face, strode up beside the elder, tapping him on the shoulder.
"Eh, excuse me, High Elder," she said expectantly, "But aren't you going to feed us anything?" There was a dangerous tone in her voice at the last question, one suggesting that if she didn't get anything to eat soon, the elder just might be eating a Dragon Slave. The old dragon smiled at her.
"I'm sorry, it must have slipped my mind," he said warmly, "Of course, we'll give you something to eat. It must have been a long journey for you." Lina put on her best cute smile.
"Oh, you bet!", she said, using a conversational tone, "So, how about that food now?" The elder opened the doors to the main temple, motioning for them to step inside.
"I'll take you to the main dining hall," he said, "Once we're there, I can introduce Miss Filia to her betrothed." Filia smiled weakly, but felt like beating something with her mace. This whole situation had her incredibly frustrated. They walked down the long hallways, looking at the decorations. Most of them were done in silver or crystal. There were a few statues or other such sculptures and several ornate tapestries bedecking the walls. Filia found the decor to be a bit stuffy and perhaps a little too rich to be in a temple. All in all, not her style.
Eventually, they reached a large set of doors. The High Elder pushed them open, revealing a lavishly decorated banquet hall. Filia reasoned it was large enough to fit an army into. Or at least enough food to feed Lina and Gourry. The long table that set in the middle of the room was barren at the moment, as they had clearly not been planning on the hungry humans to be with Filia. The elder motioned toward the long table in the center of the room.
"All of you, go ahead and have a seat," he said politely, "I'll have our cooks make you something to eat here shortly. I shall also send for your betrothed, Miss Filia. Until then, make yourselves at home."
* ~ * ~ * ~ *
"Finally!", Lina exclaimed, having acquired a fork and knife from the table settings, "It's about time you got back here with the food!" The robed cooks distributed the food that was weighing down their heavily laden arms across the table. One of them nearly lost an arm as Lina leapt for the food he was carrying. Another almost met a similar fate as Gourry launched himself at the food he was carrying.
Filia permitted herself a smile at their antics. She was really going to miss those two. She was so busy watching them that she didn't notice the High Elder return. She was suddenly snapped out of her thoughts by the elder's hand coming to rest on her shoulder. She looked up, surprised.
"Miss Filia," the elder said, "I've brought your fiancé back with me. He's very anxious to meet you." Filia stood up, looking around.
"Where is he at?", Filia asked, trying to find her new husband amidst the flurry of cooks. The elder turned toward the door.
"Alara?", he asked, "Would you come in here, please? She's waiting for you." A young dragon, who appeared to be about Filia's age, perhaps a little older, walked into the hall. He was dressed in a white tunic with gold trimmings about the hem and the neck and had a white cape which nearly dusted the floor. He wore white pants and white boots, also trimmed in gold vining. His hair was white and thin, hanging down his back with bangs that hung down nearly into his gold eyes. Filia thought perhaps she would go snowblind looking at him. He saw Filia and smiled, perhaps a little bit predatorily. Filia shivered. There was something about the way he was looking at her that unsettled her, almost like he thought she was something sweet to eat. "I'll leave you two to get acquainted," the elder said, stepping back out of the room. Alara reached out and took both of Filia's hands in his.
"I've been looking forward to meeting you," he said, his voice slightly dangerous, "I've been told so much about you in letters from your temple's elder, Saichuro. Filia, is it?" Filia nodded, not completely at ease with his touch.
"Yes, my name is Filia," she said firmly, "And you must be Alara." He smiled charmingly and pulled her chair away from the table, seating her in it. He sat down beside her, regarding her human companions. Already Zelgadis was watching him suspiciously. 'So I'm not the only one who distrusts him?', she thought.
"So, these are the humans you've been traveling with?", Alara asked, "How quaint." Lina, Gourry, and Amelia were totally oblivious to anything he might say, so absorbed in their meal were they. Zelgadis, on the other hand, was watching him intently from across his cup of coffee. Alara put a hand on Filia's thigh, making her even more uncomfortable as he smiled. "Why don't you come up to my room here in a little while?", he invited, "That way, we can get to know each other better without your little human friends in the way." Filia smiled politely, perhaps a little demeaningly, and removed his hand from her leg.
"I don't find them to be in the way of anything," she said sweetly, trying her best not to scream in frustration, "And I'm rather tired from my journey. I'm afraid it will have to wait until another time." There was a slight tint of anger on his face for a second before he hid it with a smile.
"Well, then," he said, trying another tactic, "Why don't we have dinner tomorrow evening? You'll have a busy day tomorrow, what with preparing for the wedding and all. We've already employed dress-makers to fit you with your wedding gown tomorrow morning. Until then, you will want to go to your room to rest." Filia brightened a little. She'd be glad to be away from him as soon as she could.
"Of course," she said, "We're all very tired." Alara stood, taking her hand and pulling her up with him.
"Very well, then," he said, "I shall see you to your room." Filia looked back at her companions, who were still eating, or in Zelgadis' case, glaring.
"But," she protested, "They're not through eating!" Alara placed an arm around her waist and began to lead her away from the table.
"That's quite alright," he replied, "Their rooms will not be near yours. We'll let them finish their meals, then we'll show them to their own rooms. In the meantime, you can get your rest." Filia wanted to protest, but could find nothing that was truly worthy of complaint. He led her out of the dining hall and into the hallway. Even though she told herself that everything was going well so far, she still couldn't shake a general feeling of unease and disquiet.
* ~ * ~ * ~ *
Filia ran her brush through her hair. She'd thankfully been able to avoid giving Alara a goodnight kiss and had ducked into her new chambers quickly. Now she sat before her exquisite gold-rimmed glass vanity, dressed only in a long slip, and getting ready for sleep. This whole day had been a waste, in her opinion. She disliked this temple. It felt so cold, and not only because of the weather outside. She disliked this arrangement. Being a mail order bride was the last thing she'd ever dreamed would happen to her on her journeys with Lina. And most of all, she hated her fiancé. 'He's so... pushy!', she thought indignantly, 'And the way he looks at me... Like he owns me or something!' She slammed the brush down on the vanity, the faintest fear of breaking the delicate glass structure passing through her mind. "I'd be better off marrying Xellos!", she yelled in frustration.
"You rang?", a familiar and annoying voice chimed from behind her. She blushed fiercely, covering her chest with her arms, and turned around. Sure enough, Xellos was leaning against one of her white walls, arms crossed and looking smug.
"No, I didn't," she huffed, watching him make himself at home. He walked to one of the armchairs present in the room and had a seat, pulling an ottoman over to rest his feet on. Watching him act like he was right at home in her chambers was infuriating her to no end.
"At any rate," he said, putting his arms behind his head and leaning back, "You're clearly not enjoying yourself here. I suppose it's divine justice for leaving me at the gate like that. How do you like your new husband?" There was perhaps a note of bitterness in his voice at the last question. Filia turned her back to him.
"He's just fine," she said angrily, "And it's none of your business." Xellos grinned, obviously straining not to get angry.
"What was it you just said?", he asked, sounding short tempered, "Wasn't it 'I'd be better off marrying Xellos'? And when he led you in here, you were quite put off by his advances."
"So what if I was?", she asked angrily, "There's nothing I can do about it now, and it's none of your conc-..." She stopped speaking, turning around to look at him wide eyed. "You were spying on me!?!", she asked, finally realizing what he'd just said, "How dare you!?" Xellos smiled.
"Spying on you?", he asked innocently, "Well, yes, I suppose you could call it that. Really, now. It's nothing to get that upset over. I was simply worried over you." Filia blinked, losing half her anger.
"Worried?", she asked, "What for? What could you care what happens to me?" He opened one eye and gave her a wag of his finger.
"Now, that, of course," he replied teasingly, "Is a secret. But just out of curiosity, what do you intend to do about your 'charming' new... husband?" He nearly spat out the last word, causing Filia to blink. Could it be that he didn't like Alara?
"Well, what can I do about him?", she asked angrily, "I'm kind of stuck here."
"Well," he replied, his voice acquiring an alluring note as it softened, "I could always kill him for you..." Filia's eyes widened.
"Xellos!", she exclaimed, scolding, "You can't be serious!" However, the look in his eyes told her he was. "No!", she scolded, "I won't let you kill anyone!" Xellos shut both his eyes again and smiled.
"You never let me have any fun!", he said, imitating a henpecked husband. However, it seemed like Filia was ignoring him now. She was studying her knees like they were the most interesting things she'd ever seen.
"I guess," she said quietly, "I guess I'll just have to learn to live with him..." Xellos stood, not quite content with being ignored. Here he was, a dangerous Mazoku, feared and respected amongst dragons and sometimes men alike, in the room of a pretty girl, late at night, and she didn't even have the sense to pay attention to him? Preposterous!
"So," Xellos said, causing her to snap her head up and look at him, "Did you ever find out why exactly Saichuro decided to put you through this?" Filia blinked, confused.
"I already told you why," she replied, "They want to improve relations with this temple." Xellos opened an eye at her.
"Please, Filia," he said demeaningly, "There's more to it than that. He has some ulterior motive for doing this." Filia stared at him, as if deep in thought.
"You know," she said quietly, "I had thought that, myself." Xellos smiled at her.
"Well, then," he said happily, "Tomorrow, when your betrothed takes you to dinner, why don't you ask him?" Filia blinked in surprise.
"I could do that," she said, "If anyone would know, it'd be him... But... what are you going to do, Xellos?" There was suspicion in her voice. She fully expected him to cause some sort of trouble.
"Hmm?", he said, smiling innocently, "I'm only going to poke around this temple, see if I can find any information. By the way... You never answered my question..." Filia looked at him curiously.
"What question?", she asked suspiciously.
"Do you want my help?", he asked smugly, "You never told me if you want my help or not." Filia eyed him suspiciously.
"What's the catch?", she asked, "There's got to be some stipulation on this..." Xellos sighed.
"Just answer my question," he said firmly, "Do you want out of this?" Filia looked down at the floor.
"Yes," she said quietly. Xellos smiled sunnily.
"Well, then," he said, "That's all I wanted to know!" With that, he disappeared, leaving Filia to ponder his strange actions.
"Xellos!", she yelled, standing, "What are you going to do!?" There was no response. 'It's too late,' she thought, 'He's already gone.' She walked over to her bed, turning back the covers in frustration. Secretly, however, she was breathing a sigh of relief. Somehow, when Xellos had offered to get her out of this, she felt strangely reassured. Maybe tomorrow would go better?