Chapter 2: A Curse
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The sun set quickly in the mountains, but Zelgadis didn’t stop walking for several hours afterwards. When he did stop, it was more of a collapse than anything. He hit his knees hard, dropping his pack to one side, and then slumped into a vaguely sitting position. Drawing on reserves of energy Xellos would have thought long exhausted, the shaman set and started a fire before pulling something from his pocket. It was a badly crumpled piece of paper that had obviously been torn from a book.

Silently, Xellos peered over the other man’s shoulder and was barely able to contain his gasp of surprise. It was a map. In fact, it was directions and a very poorly drawn map. It wasn’t at all drawn to scale and the directions were things like ‘east until you hit a gorge’ and ‘half day’s walk west’. Zelgadis peered at the paper for a while, muttering to himself. Leaning a little closer, Xellos could make out his words. “Day’s walk north. Next . . . east to the river . . .”

Xellos frowned deeply and looked to the top of the paper to see if it said what these directions were to. He wasn’t able to contain his gasp this time as he read over the words there. Years ago, Rezo had left these directions to someone in the village with instructions that they be followed should they ever run across a dangerous chimera. Xellos thought about it a moment . . . he’d heard of the Red Priest’s visit to Grimda. In fact, that had been when Grimda began its chimera research. Zelgadis is going after some clue as farfetched as this? Xellos looked at the man next to him. You’re starving yourself for this?!

Zelgadis recrumpled the paper and shoved it into his pocket once again. Xellos moved back, expecting him to lay down for bed. To the mazoku’s unending disbelief, Zelgadis actually fished into his bag again, pulling out several maps, compasses, a short telescope, and several other survival devices. Xellos watched in fascination as the shaman apparently tried to figure out exactly where he was. Zelgadis wasn’t eating, and he wasn’t sleeping either? No wonder he was so weak. At least he didn’t start this trip completely unprepared. But the shaman also did not seem to be having success. Using his own knowledge of the area, Xellos mapped the directions in his head.

Zelgadis threw a compass to the ground in anger. “I don’t understand! I’ve followed these to the letter, but I can’t find the landmarks!” He growled to the fire.

Sure enough, by Xellos’ calculations, the shaman was several miles from where he should have been. Well of course, his strength is down, he’s not traveling as fast as a normal, healthy person. With these directions, it’s no wonder you’re lost.

“Xellos.” The mazoku snapped his attention to the other man, afraid he’d made some noise to be discovered. Zelgadis was still staring at the fire, apparently making a heavy decision. “Xellos, if you’re still here, I . . .” He paused and swallowed thickly. “I need your help. Please.” Xellos made no move, no sound. Almost immediately, Zelgadis buried his face in his hands. “I’m being ridiculous. Even if he were still here, he’d never help me.” The chimera finally spread out his sleeping roll and wrapped himself in his cape like a blanket. “Tomorrow, east.”


The sun rose to greet the day, bright and cold. Its first rays lanced across Zelgadis’ eyes and he groaned slightly. He opened his eyes and pushed himself partway off the ground. Xellos was sitting quietly on the other side of the fire. It was, of course, only blazing because of the monster’s power, having naturally died hours ago. Zelgadis looked at him and froze. Silently, he sat up properly, never shifting his gaze.

Xellos was serious, no hint of smile on his thin lips. He regarded the shaman with open eyes and said, “It’s a weapon, Zelgadis.”

His eyes narrowed slightly in confusion. “What . . .”

“It’s a device of murder, not a cure.” Zelgadis lowered his gaze to the ground and Xellos continued. “Near as I can tell, it detects chimeras by their magical signature. If you were to come in range of it, it would kill you instantly.”

“No,” the shaman whispered. “All this way . . .” Suddenly he looked up again, eyes accusatory. “I don’t believe you.”

Xellos was shocked at the words. “Zelgadis –“

“No! I have no reason to believe you! This is just another stupid game to you!”

“Zelgadis, I have never lied to you about your cure!” Xellos was growing angry now. Here he was, actually doing something nice . . .

“Don’t give me that. You destroyed my cure right in front of my eyes! I’m not going to let you take away what might be my last shot.”

“Zelgadis, you’ll die!”

“Who are you to say that’s not what I want?” Xellos gasped, pulling the air into his lungs all at once. He couldn’t have heard that right. Zelgadis was staring at his hands now, a look of true pain in his eyes. “It was in my hands. I was holding it in my hands; the answer to all my prayers. I’ve been searching for almost longer than I can remember and I finally had it.” His fists and eyes both clenched shut, a few tears escaping to streak down into his mask. “And then you took it all away from me!” He looked up, pinning Xellos with a hateful gaze. “So you’ll have to excuse me if, no, I don’t believe you.”

For a moment, Xellos was unable to put his thoughts to words. Finally he stood, glaring down at the chimera. “You’ll never find it on your own, you’re far off track.”

“Then I’ll die of exposure. Looks like either way, I get an end to this torture.”

Xellos frowned and stepped around the fire and knelt only inches away from Zelgadis. He grabbed one of the shaman’s hands in his own, a dagger appearing in his other hand. He pressed the tip of the dagger to Zelgadis’ finger, drawing a line of blood and a startled gasp from the other man. “This will pierce your flesh, Zelgadis. If you truly wish for death, finish it quickly. It’s better than letting the elements slowly claim you, don’t you think?”

The mazoku pressed the handle of the blade into Zelgadis’ hand. He took it, staring intently at the drop of blood on the otherwise flawless metal. Xellos watched him closely, not blinking in his intensity. Soon this whole episode would be over, he thought. Zelgadis was tired, but he didn’t really want to die, he still had hope of finding his cure. He would return the dagger, maybe even try to attack the priest with it, and things would go back to the way they were.

Zelgadis smiled sadly behind his mask. “I always knew – I knew there was a cure out there. It didn’t matter what I had to do to find it, I knew it was out there. Somewhere. And I was right.” He laughed, but the sound was forced and bitter. “I don’t know if I can believe there’s another one.”

Xellos frowned and held out his hand, silently asking for his dagger back. “But there is always hope, Zel-kun.”

Zelgadis dropped his head further, glaring now at the ground. He turned the dagger slightly, making the sun glint off of it. Then, without pause or warning, he lowered the blade to his opposite wrist, drawing a deep cut across the stone flesh there. Xellos let out a startled cry. He darted forward as Zelgadis fell backwards to the ground, grabbing his wounded wrist to stem the blood flow.

Zelgadis growled angrily and raised his hand, still clutching the dagger. He swung his arm out, catching Xellos across the cheek as he retreated. “Get away,” he growled, but the strength was quickly fading from his voice. “Just leave me alone.”

Xellos couldn’t move. He remained kneeling on the ground, one hand hovering over the deep cut on his cheek, staring at Zelgadis in disbelief. The chimera’s breathing was short and shallow. He was in obvious pain as his life slowly drained away. Xellos moved forward again, leaning over the other and clamping down on the wound. Zelgadis made a noise of pain, but no longer had the strength to fight back or pull away. “I don’t want . . . don’t want my last sight . . . to be of you.”

Xellos’ eyes widened again in shock. He was ready to reply, but Zelgadis had fallen unconscious. Instead, he tightened his grip on the boy’s wrist. He could feel the bones straining beneath his strength, but he ignored them. Stopping the bleeding took precedent over a couple of broken bones.


Xellos sat reclined in a chair, exhausted. He’d never realized before just how difficult it was to manipulate stone flesh. It had taken quite a bulk of his energy to heal the wound and Zelgadis still hadn’t woken up. The mazoku had brought him back to his chambers on Wolf Pack Island. Zelgadis lay in Xellos’ own bed, the dark satin bedding billowing up around him. He looked very small and insignificant, Xellos thought. His face was still tight as if in pain, his left fist lightly holding the blankets. His right hand was bandaged and put in a splint to protect it. Both were stained with blood.

Zelgadis groaned in his sleep and his head lolled to one side. Slowly, his eyes fluttered open and looked around him. When his eyes fell on Xellos, a whimper escaped his lips. “Where am I?” he managed to ask.

“Somewhere safe, where you can recover.” Xellos stood, stiff muscles protesting the movement. He made a lazy motion and a bowl of steaming soup appeared in his hands. “You need to eat.”

Zelgadis sat up, but made no move for the offered food. “I don’t want your charity, Xellos.”

“That does not change the fact that you need it.”

Zelgadis hung his head slightly and allowed the bowl to be pushed into his hand. “Where is my cloak?”

“I removed it, and your mask. They were in the way.” For quite a while, neither man spoke or moved. Xellos was the one to finally break the silence. “I never thought you’d actually do it.”

“Clearly,” Zelgadis sneered. “But then, you actually know very little about me, do you?”

Xellos sighed softly. “You’re not eating, Zel-kun.”

“Why do you care?”

“Zel-kun, I brought you all the way back to my home. I bandaged your wound and am doing my best to heal you. What makes you still think I do not care?”

Awkwardly, Zelgadis began spooning soup into his mouth left-handed. He didn’t look at Xellos and the mazoku reluctantly settled into his chair again. They sat that way in silence until Zelgadis set the empty bowl aside and lay back onto the bed. “I think I hate you, Xellos.”

The trickster priest laughed. “You’ve been saying that you hate me for years. Since the day we met.”

“Xellos, can you give me even one reason why you did this to me?”

“I’m trying to save you, Zel-kun! I don’t want you to die.” Zelgadis glared at him until Xellos sighed again. “I destroyed those papers because I had to. They did not contain your cure, but they did contain a spell similar to the original. It would have taken you years to figure out a counter, if you figured one out at all.”

“But there was a chance.”

Xellos growled. “Yes. There was a chance. And you would have spent the rest of your life locked in a laboratory trying to figure it out.” Xellos lowered his head a fraction.

“Who are you to dictate what I should do with the rest of my life?” Zelgadis remained lying down, but his voice was venomous. “You can’t see the future, you’re not omniscient. I could have been happy unlocking the secrets of that spell.”

“If you settled for that spell, you would never have found another. You’ve far from exhausted your resources, you know. You may find your cure tomorrow, but with that spell you would miss that chance.”

“Or I may never find a cure better than the one you stole from me. I would gladly settle for something that offers me such a good chance.”

“You would have been miserable-“

“You don’t know me! You have no idea what I would have been!” the chimera shouted with sudden force. “You don’t know one damned thing about me so do not tell me I would have been miserable. You don’t know that, you never will.”

Xellos was silent for a long time. He put a hand to his eyes, hiding his unusually solemn features. “You are, of course, correct. I know very little about you. Where did you learn to wield a sword so well? Was it your grandfather that taught you magic? Can you cook? What is your favorite color?” At this point, Zelgadis, who had been glaring through tear-blurred vision at the wall, redirected his gaze towards Xellos. “When you met Lina, what was it that made you decide to help her? How far did you go in school? What games did you play growing up?” Zelgadis sat up. “Do you like animals? Can you sew? Where did you get your traveling clothes? Not to mention those cute pajamas.”

“Xellos?” The mazoku stopped, falling into silence again. Without warning, he disappeared from the chair, leaving Zelgadis alone in the room.