Well, as promised (threatened?) here’s a short fanfic that I wrote a while back, when I was watching a lot of the goofy adventure-fantasy anime called The Slayers.  It plays off the conventional tropes of Dungeons & Dragons as well as other fantasy-style books and movies.  When push came to shove, though, and things got serious, I found that I truly cared about these characters and the perils they faced.  I highly recommend it, especially if you enjoy older animated TV shows.

 

BIRTHDAY BLUES?

“Zel!  It’s your birthday?”  Lina asked, a sly smirk coming over her lips.

Zelgadis shrugged.

“Mister Zelgadis,” Amelia gasped, “why didn’t you tell us it was your birthday?  We could have gotten you gifts and had a party for you.”  She frowned in disappointment.

Zelgadis shook his head.  “I’ve never made a big deal out of my birthday.”

Amelia clasped her hands together.  Zelgadis closed his eyes for a moment.  He could sense a speech coming on.

“But a birthday is a wonderful day!  A day when all your family and friends get together to celebrate that you were born into this world!”  She beamed at him.  “I’m glad you have a birthday to celebrate, Mister Zelgadis.”

The corner of the chimera’s mouth twitched up into a half-smile.  “Fine.  Do what you want.”

“That’s the spirit, Zel!”  Lina patted him heartily on the back.  “Now then.”  She rubbed her hands together, half gleefully and half to disguise the fact she’d patted him a little too hard.  “We’ll need a big cake and lots and lots of snacks…”

“Oooh!”  Gourry perked up.  “What kind of snacks, Lina?”

“Oh, all kinds, Gourry.”  She smirked.  “You and me can be in charge of the food.  Amelia, you wanna do decorations?”

“Of course!  But don’t forget, we need to buy presents, too.”  The princess pointed an accusing finger at Lina.  “So don’t spend everything on food, Miss Lina.  That would be Unjust!”

Lina waved her hand dismissively.  “Yeah, yeah.  Don’t worry so much, Amelia.  Come on, Gourry.”

As the others dispersed—Lina and Gourry heading to a bakery, Amelia to the hotel to arrange for the party—Zelgadis rolled his eyes.  What had he just agreed to?  He decided while the others were off on their own endeavors, he’d head off to the town’s considerable library.  That was the main reason they had stopped there in the first place—well, for the library and for food.  As usual.

Sitting at one of the tables sprinkled throughout the bookshelves, Zelgadis leafed through several large, dusty tomes, keeping an eye out for anything useful.  Something, anything, that could even remotely relate to finding his cure.  So far, he wasn’t having much luck.  No surprise there, he thought bitterly.  Why had he gotten his hopes up in the first place?  He knew better than that.

Another hour went by.  Two.  Zelgadis paused to rub his eyes, one hand resting on the page he was on.  The print in this book was so small, it was almost like the author had purposefully written it to tire and strain the eyes of his readers.  Zelgadis sighed.  He may as well quit reading this one anyway.  From what he had gathered so far, the book was actually just a rambling cook book, detailing multiple ways to separate eggs and pit cherries and bake pecan pie.  He closed the book with a heavy slap, sending dust everywhere.  His nose twitched.  He pinched it, trying to ward off the sneeze he knew was coming.  He hated sneezing in a library: in such a dead-quiet place, the sudden noise drew far too much attention.  A moment passed.  He sighed, moving his hand away from his face.  Then he sneezed, disrupting the peace of the large library.  He cringed.

“Bless you,” Amelia said cheerily from where she stood at Zelgadis’ right.  He jumped.  How long had she been there?
“Thanks,” he muttered, stacking the failure book on top of the others.

“Find anything?”

“Not really.”

“Oh.  I’m sorry, Mister Zelgadis.”

He shrugged.  “I haven’t gone through everything yet.”  But he knew it would be no use.  As always.

“That’s the spirit!”  Amelia chirped.  Either she totally missed how he really felt or she was hoping her eternal optimism would rub off on him.  “Anyway, are you ready to take a break, Mister Zelgadis?  We’re all set up at the hotel now.”

“Yeah, may as well.”

—————————————————

 Back at the hotel’s small banquet room—which Amelia had rented for the occasion—Lina and Gourry were actually exercising amazing restraint.  They had only eaten about a third of the food they had set up on the long buffet table, and neither one had touched the huge seven tier cake.  Not yet, anyway.

“Just a taste, Lina?”  Gourry hovered near the cake.  He reached out a finger to take a swipe of frosting.

Lina smacked him on the back of his head with a slipper.  “No, Gourry!  Leave it alone.  Zel’s supposed to get the first taste, remember?”

Gourry rubbed the back of his head ruefully.  “Oh yeah.”

Lina rolled her eyes.

Just then, Zelgadis and Amelia walked through the door.  Zelgadis’ eyes widened.  When Amelia was into something, she went at it with everything she had.  He knew that.  But this…

Blue and yellow streamers looped down from the ceiling, around the support posts at the corners of the room, and down from the chandelier.  Green balloons floated near the ceiling and almost covered the floor.  High on the wall opposite the door, a large white banner hung.  On it, in flowing and flowery red writing, were the words: Happy Birthday, Zelgadis!

The chimera’s expression softened as he looked from the decorated room and the buffet table and the cake to the faces of Gourry, Lina, and finally Amelia.

“What do you think, Mister Zelgadis?” she asked.

He smiled.  But before he could answer, another voice piped in from over by the cake.

“You really went all out, didn’t you?”

All eyes turned to the source of the all-too-familiar nasal voice.  Xellos floated in the air, apparently sitting on an invisible chair.  He held a plate with a piece of the magnificent cake on it in one gloved hand.  He ran his finger through the frosting and licked it.

“Hmm.  Not bad.”  He conjured a fork and took a bite of cake.

“Hey!” Gourry said indignantly, pointing at Xellos.  “How come he gets to have a piece of cake?  I thought you said we couldn’t until Zel had his first, Lina?”

Amelia bristled, snapping out of her surprised state.  “That’s right, Mister Xellos!  How unjust of you to cut the cake before Mister Zelgadis!”

“Oh.”  Xellos adopted a contrite expression.  “How inconsiderate of me.  Here, Zelly, take my piece.”

Zelgadis grimaced.  “No thanks.”

Xellos smiled his usual smile.  “Very well.  Can’t say I didn’t try.”

“Oh well,” Lina said dismissively.  “May as well eat the cake now.”

Gourry’s face lit up.  “Yay!”

“Wait!”  Amelia held up her hands.  Lina and Gourry paused, their forks inches from the cake.  “We still need to sing first.”  With all she had done to prepare the party, she wasn’t going to let that devious Mazoku Xellos ruin it.

“Sing?  Come on, Amelia, can’t we do that after we eat?”  Lina asked, her fork inching closer to the food.

Zelgadis put a hand on Amelia’s shoulder.  “It’s alright, Amelia.  I don’t mind—”

“No, Mister Zelgadis, I promised I’d give you a great party and that’s what I intend to do.  It would be Unjust of me to break a promise!”

Even though Zelgadis didn’t recall her making any such promise, he nodded and folded his arms over his chest.

Xellos, meanwhile, had polished off his piece of cake and come down to stand on the floor.  “Oh, I have a song for you, Zelgadis.  It’s the least I can do after ‘ruining’ your cake.”  His smiled widened slightly.

You know a birthday song, Xellos?”  Lina raised her eyebrows.  “I didn’t know Mazoku celebrated birthdays.”

“We don’t.  But that doesn’t mean I don’t know how these things go.”

“That’s very nice of you to offer, Mister Xellos.”  Amelia clasped her hands together, her usual cheerful smile returning.  “You can start off this joyous even.  Justice must be making its way into your dark heart after all.”

“Somehow I doubt that,” Zelgadis muttered.  No one heard him.

“Yes well.”  Xellos stood up straight, hand folded in front of him like an orator or opera singer.  He hummed a few notes to warm up his voice, then launched into a song that sounded very somber, dirge-like even.

“Hap-py Birth-day.  Hap-py Birth-day.  People dy-ing ev’rywhere, vultures fly-ing in the air.  Hap-py Birth-day.  Hap-py Birth-day.  One year old-er today, closer to your dying day.  Hap-py Birth-day.  Hap-py Birth-day.”

He took a little bow, smirking.  The other stared at him.  While he had a surprisingly doo singing voice, the song choice was just…

“Mister Xellos!” Amelia cried, horrified.  “That was an awful song.  How could you?”

The Mazoku just shrugged, his grin still fixed in place, as usual.

“Leave it to Xellos.”  Lina shook her head.  She did look pretty amused, though.

Zelgadis rolled his eyes.  He’d expected no less.

“Wow, hey, Xellos,” Gourry piped up belatedly.  “I didn’t know you could sing.”

Lina smacked him with a slipper.

“Ouch!  Lina…”

Amelia suddenly smiled.  Zelgadis could almost see the wheels turning behind her bright eyes.

“Mister Xellos,” she began, her voice syrupy-sweet, “life is wonderful, isn’t it?  The future is so bright, especially on someone’s birthday.”

The corner of Xellos’s closed eyes twitched.  He took a step back, away from the princess who was practically oozing positive feelings all of a sudden.

“There’s my cue to leave,” he muttered and teleported away.

Amelia wiped her palms together as though wiping off dust after working hard.

Zelgadis sweat dropped.

“Now that Mister Xellos is gone, we can get on with the party.  Miss Lina, Mister Gourry, stay away from that cake.”

Both paused, looking like they had just been caught in the midst of a crime.  Lina looked like she was about to object again.  Amelia held up a hand.

“As soon as we sing a real birthday song to Mister Zelgadis, we can eat.”

“So what are we waiting for?” Gourry interjected.  “This cake looks great.  Mm.  Chocolate and raspberry.”  He was practically drooling.

Amelia cleared her throat and started to sing, knowing if she waited any longer, the famine-faced duo would devour everything, whether she tried to stop them or not.  After the first few words, Lina and Gourry chimed in, though Gourry was a little off tune.

“It’s your birthday, get happy.  Happy when you’re born, happy when you’re young, happy when you’re old and grey.  It’s your birthday—here’s to you!  Happy, Happy Birthday!”

Zelgadis couldn’t help but smile.  “Thanks, you guys.”

“You’re welcome, Zel,” Gourry said emphatically.  Then he tilted his head.  “Does this mean we can eat the cake now?”

Zelgadis waved a hand dismissively.  “Be my guest.”

Before Lina and Gourry completely demolished the snacks and the cake, Amelia managed to slip in and get herself and Zelgadis each a slice of cake.  The two of them stood back from the scene of carnage and food-rage induced battle, watching it unfold and eating their cake.

“Well, Mister Zelgadis, did you have a good birthday?”

“You know…”  Zelgadis grinned down at Amelia.  “I actually did.”