Episode 045: Disguise! The Art Of Being Unrecognizable
Episode 045: Disguise! The Art Of Being Unrecognizable
While Zelas, Xellos, Filia, Lina, Gourry, Amelia and Zelgadis were traveling through space in the over-world, their world was at a standstill of sorts where neither the monsters nor the dragons dared to make a move. Milgazia found himself wondering how things were going in the over-world one quiet afternoon as he went for a walk around Dragon's Peak in the Kataart Mountains to see up close how the members of his clan were doing and reassure them. Although he wasn't keen on the idea of fighting alongside a monster lord, he didn't want to entrust the fate of the world to her either. Zelas would be fighting Darkstar with everything she had, he had no doubts of that, but it would be for revenge. That meant that as long as she accomplished her goals and enough of the world survived to provide sustenance for her and her monsters; that would be enough for her.
Yet it wasn't enough for Milgazia, he didn't want any sacrifices that could be avoided. He looked up to the skies again and really wished he was there to oversee the whole mission, even if he wouldn't be able to do too much against the monster lord if she got too stubborn. Maybe his words would make a different if he phrased things cleverly enough or came up with some kind of strategy. He knew that though tedious and annoying, even monster lords were not impossible to deal with, albeit more often than not negotiations of that kind would turn aggressive. Since when did he get so involved in matters so far beyond the immediate business of his clan?
Milgazia found himself remembering his past self, a much more reclusive dragon who was very reluctant to associate with humans. Yet now, he considered Lina and several of her traveling companions to be his friends. It was a change that occurred over time, starting with his travels with the warrior of light, who was also known as the swordsman of light, despite actually being a woman. Yet the warrior's legend was obscured and filled with rumors, so her real identity was lost to tales of grandeur. Even so, at least her mark was remembered in some way, even if it was with the name of a faceless legendary hero. His mind went back to those days traveling with her, the human who made him open up to the world around him.
There were two others who had been present during that fateful series of events that ended with Flagoon being planted at Sairaag after the Zanaffar's defeat well over a hundred and twenty years ago. Those others were not aware of each other's participation in the event and perhaps the only one who was aware of the irony of it all was the Lord of Nightmares herself. This was the tale of an event from long ago that had seemingly no consequences towards anything beyond it, but in reality it did. After all, life is like a row of dominoes and once they're set in motion, falling one after the other, there's no stopping it.
That occasion when Xellos and Filia met for the first time, that is to say, when they truly met each other as each other's true selves, Filia had a very negative reaction to Xellos. She wanted to stay away from him. Naturally, a golden dragon was supposed to hate monsters, but her over the top reaction left Xellos in a state of surprised intrigue that would eventually lead to an irresistible curiosity and to a long series of events culminating in an unlikely union, and continuing on beyond it.
Yet why was her reaction so panicked, so extreme, so memorable? Perhaps because of something hidden away in her past; something that might have been overshadowed by the grander scheme of things and tugged away in memories that were no longer visited. If for her the memory was not something to be disturbed with remembrance, then for him even more so. After all, that human girl whom Xellos never knew was in fact a golden dragon should be long since dead by now. The event in question happened well over a hundred and twenty years ago.
Rumors of a defective Zanaffar armor that would soon become a Zanaffar beast reached Zelas Metallium at that time in the past. Naturally, she welcomed it as good news. There was also another piece of information that stood out to her from Xellos' recent report, which she was discussing with the general priest at Wolf Pack Island at the time. "So a representative for the dragons unfortunate enough to live within the barrier has been trailing that human who goes around displaying acts of heroism with the sword of light?"
"Yes, Lord Beast Master," Xellos confirmed. He knew that Zelas had heard him perfectly well when he shared the information the first time. She was stressing her curiosity on the matter and asking for more information with her inquiry, instead of requesting a clarification. "His name is Milgazia; he is the elder of the water clan."
"Ah yes," Zelas nodded, recalling the name of an earlier tale of Xellos. If anyone told her that she'd be playing brass rackets regularly with that very same dragon over a century later, she would laugh, express that such a thing wouldn't happen in a hundred, thousand or even a million years and then kill the fool who dared to suggest such a joke in such poor taste. But then, that was what made life interesting, it's plethora of surprises and unexpected twists and turns. She recalled Milgazia from Xellos' report of the War of the Monsters Fall. The now dragon elder, formerly a high ranking general, had taken over the leadership of the clan after the previous leader had been killed by Xellos. The purple haired general priest had mentioned Milgazia a few times as being one to have no qualms about wielding black magic if it was necessary and was rather skilled in strategizing. "A little spitfire, is he?" Zelas had asked with a chuckle.
"Pretty dull, actually," Xellos had informed. "Or maybe he was masking his emotions so as to not feed me with rage. That dragon has the dullest taste I've ever had the displeasure to try." Yet somehow, he lived, through the many disastrous battles he challenged the odds and lived.
Focusing her mind away from the past war and on the current conversation, Zelas inquired. "Why is Milgazia trailing the hero instead of directly searching for the Zanaffar?"
"I have not been able to acquire that information." Xellos admitted with disappointment.
"It puzzles me," Zelas emphasized, meaning that she wanted Xellos to find out. Having to spend all her time cooped up at Wolf Pack Island, so as to not leave her position in the barrier's formation, was rather annoying at times. She was bored and this news about the Zanaffar was the most interesting thing she had heard in years. "I'm sure Milgazia must have heard about the rumors concerning the Zanaffar. Even a good amount of humans have heard. We can assume that he doesn't know where it is," and neither did they. "After all, if he knew where to find the Zanaffar, it would make sense to hurry towards the armor now and prevent it from becoming the beast. Yet why, instead of actively searching for it, is this dragon trailing the hero?" Zelas threw the questions around as if the answers would be revealed if she pondered them enough, yet they weren't.
"The hero isn't a particularly big threat to the monster race, nor do I believe she could be of a significant use to the dragons," Xellos theorized. "I doubt Milgazia is after the legendary blade of light, or else he could have easily taken it. He seems to be interested in observing her though, not really interfering much with what she does and allowing her to call the shots. If I hadn't faced off against Milgazia before and seen he is more cunning than most dragons, I would think this is the case of some mindless dragon following a human like an idiot." He frowned upon being unable to decipher the actions. Milgazia was a tricky one alright. "The Zanaffar and Milgazia's sudden interest in following the warrior of light might not even be related at all. Why he's wasting his time following her instead of looking for the armor is a true puzzle, which I intend to solve."
"Go and do just that," Zelas decided. "However, I don't want Milgazia to know that he is being trailed. You mentioned before that he was hard to read and rather cunning for a dragon. I don't even want as much as a rumor about a purple haired traveler reaching him. With the rumors of the Zanaffar going around among humans, their gossip mill is unusually active and surely Milgazia will be attentive to it. He must be out to find information somehow, though his true purposes remain unknown to us. We can't discard the possibility that his interest in the warrior of light is nothing but a ruse to make us think he's not actively searching for the Zanaffar. Blend in among humans and observe, but do so in disguise. I know you are attached to your current projection, but this time, I want you to alter your appearance as the one you usually have is one that Milgazia would without a doubt remember."
"Yes, Lord Beast Master," Xellos teleported away after the final instruction from his master. His mind was occupied in thinking what he would make himself look like. His usual appearance was cheery and harmless, it went well with humans, but it was too Xellos. Maybe something less cheery would be best, something more sinister so as to very ironically, hide in plain sight. But not too sinister, he had to look human after all. No purple... Perhaps black or red?
xoxox xox xoxox
Far away from the peninsula, in the land that would be known as part of the outer continents later on, a younger Filia sat sadly on a lonely hill. Her dear friend Tiffany had broken countless dragon rules and everything ended in what was from Filia's perspective a tragedy. She would never see her friend again, or at least she thought she wouldn't. Tiffany had said that she would understand when she was older and fell in love, but Filia never thought she could challenge her race's rules like that. She found no comfort in her rock dolls; as they only reminded her about how Tiffany would always play tea party with her, despite the older dragon female being more interesting in other things that had little to do with tea, or more like preoccupied. It would be well over a century before Filia truly understood her childhood friend and her actions, but for the time being, the adolescent dragon was just sad.
She had some time off from her studies and chores at the temple, but that didn't make Filia feel any better. In fact, she felt worse, having less to occupy herself with. Looking to understand Tiffany's fascination with humans, which led her to run away with a human lover, Filia decided that she would observe humans herself. In truth Tiffany's lover and eventual husband was a human and monster chimera, but Filia didn't know that at the time. In a rush of sadness that made her act rashly, Filia hurried away, further and further from dragon lands until she eventually reached a human town.
Filia had been traveling for days and her body was a little stiff from maintaining a human form for so long. She was supposed to be on vacation though, so the others at the temple would probably assume she went camping or something, or perhaps off to visit another dragon clan. She stretched, arching her back and her tail popped out. A merchant was leading a mule to pull a cart full of crops, the animal struggling to pull its weight down the street of the small town. The merchant, a man in his early thirties with dark brown hair and small green eyes, was holding a sack of more precious wares over his shoulder. He, among a few other random passers, saw Filia's tail pop out. His shock caused him to drop the sack, which fell on the mule, startling the animal. With new found strength originating from the fright, the mule jerked so strongly, that the old worn belts of the harness broke.
Leaving its cargo behind, the mule dashed away from its shocked owner, who could only stand there staring. The animal ironically ran in Filia's direction, startling her into screaming and jumping out of the way. A blond young woman holding a basket of newly purchased goods, screamed "monster!" At the top of her, rather healthy and loud, lungs, pointing her accusing trembling finger at Filia.
Filia gasped and jumped again in fright, thinking that there was a monster behind her. Yet there was nothing there, she would have sensed it if there was. The market place erupted into a frenzy, as the golden dragon realized that she was the monster the humans were making a fuss about. "Please stop! I'm not a monster!" She stamped her foot for emphasis, and shook her head. As her golden hair bounced from side to side, her long ears became apparent, but the tail had already made the humans conclude that she was not an elf. The exasperation made Filia's fangs grow as she strongly denied having any affiliation to monsters. Her finger nails became claws as she further lost control over her form due to the stress.
Before she lost her human-like shape entirely, Filia ran away. She ducked into a lonely street, pushing her legs to carry her away at full speed. She turned a corner down a dark alley and saw a humble dark blue tent with yellow stars sewn into it, the fabric faded from being exposed to the elements. Without thinking about where she was going, Filia stumbled inside and stopped to catch her breath.
"Hello, young one," the voice made Filia jump. Seeing her frightened expression, the old woman tried to soothe her unexpected visitor. "Calm yourself, young one. I will not bring any harm to you."
Filia nodded, her chest still heaving with deep unsteady breaths. She closed her eyes and steadied her breathing, then finally spoke. "I apologize for barging in like this. The people out there," she frowned, her eyes brimming with tears. "They called me a monster."
"How mean," the old woman was wrapped in an odd attire, which consisted of many different fabrics sewn together in multicolored robes. Her eyes were blue and her hair gray with age. "It is clear to me that you are not a monster, but a dragon."
Filia nodded, then shifted uncomfortably. "Are you okay with that?" She inquired shyly. "I heard that there are humans that fear dragons as much as monsters, regardless of how ridiculous the notion may seem."
The old woman chuckled; clearly, this young dragon was unaware of the darker side of human and dragon history. Yet she wasn't here to educate the girl in the ways of the real world. She was only a traveling merchant and nothing more, though she had been a powerful sorceress once and in truth, she still was, albeit in a less flashy way. Ah how she missed those days, what she wouldn't give for her youth. Then again, maybe she could have it back, then she would be beautiful again and she would be able to serve Gaia and... She was getting ahead of herself again. "Indeed," the old woman laughed.
"Oh, I'm sorry, ma'am, how rude of me not to introduce myself," Filia formally apologized. "I am Filia Ul Copt, apprentice priestess for the Flare Lord."
"It is good to meet you Miss Filia, I am known as Venus." The old woman introduced herself. "May I ask what brings you here?"
"Ah yes, my visit is rather unusual," Filia admitted. "I do not wish to cause any disturbances. I only wish to observe humans and get to know their culture."
"I think I can help you with that," Venus offered. A little mischief might just cheer her up. At first Filia assumed that the elderly lady would share tales of human wisdom, but instead she dug into an old trunk in a corner of the tent and pulled out a golden choker with a ruby at its center. "This is a special magical amulet that will disguise your energy. A sorceress would use this to hide her true power, or in your case, your identity as a dragon. With this, you will also have full control over your human form." It was a lie, as even if Filia would indeed appear human, that wasn't the real purpose of the amulet. The choker was a trap, something to seal away one's magic, cursed so that it could not be removed. "With this you can blend in and observe the human race freely."
"Really?" Filia received the choker, her eyes shining with innocent curiosity. "May I purchase it then?" Filia paused with a sudden realization. She had left in a hurry without preparations and had no human currency with her. A dragon could obtain such things, but not without a good reason, thus trying to come up with an explanation to get it would have been impossible. "Oh wait, I can't buy it, I have no human money."
"I will give it to you, albeit I must charge you if you wish for any service to be performed on it," Venus offered.
"Really? Wow, that's so kind of you!" Filia happily exclaimed. Sapphires and emeralds were more so her preferred gems, but the ruby would do just fine. She wouldn't ask for any alterations on the jewelry charm's appearance, as that was what she thought Venus referred to when she said service.
"Don't mention it," Venus gave her a deceiving smile. "Enjoy it; I'll even give you this." She pulled out a bottle from the trunk. "It is a potion to change the color of your hair temporarily, in case you wish to change your appearance so that the townspeople won't recognize you."
"You're really too kind, thank you so much Lady Venus!" Filia cheered.
"You are quite welcome," Venus replied.
Without giving it much thought, Filia drank the potion, which thankfully did only what Venus claimed it would. Except by temporary she meant that her hair would be back to its original color when it grew out, but a different hair color would be the least of Filia's worries. Her golden hair turned chestnut brown. Her clothing was nothing that stood out, just a simple pink dress as Filia had left her white cloak and jewelry behind. Now she could blend in perfectly. She then put on the choker and felt her energy constrain. She gasped, but withstood it and suddenly felt somewhat fragile. Perhaps this was all part of the human disguise. "Thank you again, Lady Venus, I'm sure this experience will be most enlightening!"
"Oh yes, I'm sure it will be," Venus agreed. She laughed maliciously as soon as Filia had gone away down the alley and was out of earshot. "Most enlightening indeed," at least the dragon girl would learn not to trust strangers.
To be Continued
This flashback is a little side-story that came to mind and I've been wanting to write. It's not too long, so we'll be back to the main adventure soon. The story of Tiffany and Venus are fully explained in "Slayers: Alive". I won't get into that here as it's not vital to the current plot, so don't worry if you haven't read Alive or don't remember the details.
If you have a few extra minutes, give my site a little visit, there's a link on my profile. I have fanart related to these series there, as well on my my Deviant Art and other such archives listed at my profile.