attling the bars of her cell, Lina tried to attract some attention.
    "I was framed!" she yelled.  "It's a scam!  I didn't do it!  We were temporarily insane!  Let us out!  I'M STARVING!!!"
    "They already said they'd go get Amelia when she wakes up in the morning," Gourry said, relaxing on the prison cell's surprisingly comfortable cot.  "It's okay, we'll be out of here in no time.  It was just a restaurant bill."
    "A bill for food we didn't get to eat!" Lina complained.  "It's been hours since I last ate, and now I have to go to bed without any reasonable supper!  This quest isn't starting out well.  We're on a mission from god, you think the least she could do was send us some bread from the heavens or something..."
    "Really?  Wow!  I didn't know the Lord of Nightmares could do that.  What kind of bread does she send?"
    "...she's never done it before," Lina admitted.  "Actually, in all of recorded history she's only actually talked to a human maybe two or three times... so a lot of people doubt she really exists even though a few churches worship her just in case... and a lot of people think Ceipheed is the real creator of all... um.  I don't think she does bread, actually."
    "Huh.  What a weird god," Gourry said.
    "Mythology about the Lord of Nightmares is really old," Lina explained, giving a brief history lesson to take her mind off her ravenous hunger.  "Really old and very vague.  There aren't any new legends about her, just legends of what she did at the beginning of time... they say that she made the world, and filled it with life.  She made the Dragon race, beings who sought the preservation of life and the world, and the Mazoku race that sought the destruction of everything.  She also made White and Black magic.  But beyond that, she doesn't really take part in anything unless specifically summoned."
    "So... we summoned her?" Gourry asked.
    "Kinda," Lina said.  "All three of Giga's spells call on her in some way or another, from what I understand.  It's a power higher than Shaburanigdo or even Ceipheed, that's what makes Giga Slave and Giga Restoration so dangerous.  Nothing can stand up to it.  Of course, if you cast it wrong, you could start an apocalypse... thank Her the spells were lost or destroyed.  I'm probably one of the few people alive that knows one, much less more than one."
    "Boy, this is big stuff," Gourry understated.
    "Which is why I was very interested in NOT getting involved," Lina said.  "Of course, we're in it with both feet now..."
    "Don't worry!" Gourry said, trying to cheer Lina up.  "With my sword and your magic, even it is some big thing with the Nightmare Lord and the Gidget Lores, we'll manage to... uh..... we'lllll........"
    "Go ahead, ask it," Lina said.
    "What ARE we supposed to be doing for the Lord of Nightmares, exactly?" Gourry wondered.
    "I have no idea whatsoever," Lina said, having a seat on the floor in a grumpy posture.  "We're 'drawing the wingless'.  That's it.  No explanation given.  Oh, and we'd be given aid.  I'd love to know if that aid comes with bail money.  This is a really lousy way to start a quest, you know?  At least when we left to get the Mirror Lores we were being trumpeted and honored with an escort out of Sailoon."
    "Actually, weren't we running for our lives in case anybody tried to follow us?"
    "You remember it your way, I'll remember it mine," Lina suggested.
    The matter settled, the two sat in silence.
    Lina hurled herself at the bars with new energy.  "LEMME OUT!  I'M STARVING!!"
    An idea hit Gourry like a fly on a window.  "Wait.  Why not just magic our way out of here?"
    "We can't just take off from Sailoon like that.  I've still got my stuff in my room, like... that book.  You know?  And do you REALLY want us to be fugitives from the law?"
    "Oh, okay.  It's a good idea to obey the law," Gourry agreed.  "So we'll wait here until morning."
    "Are Amelia, Naga and Zelgadis coming with us?  Or Lily?"
    Lina paused.  "I hadn't thought of that.  Lily's already settled down in some white magic society in the city, and really isn't cut out for questing.  Zelgadis... he already left, and Naga wanted to go off on her own, at last check... I haven't actually seen her around lately.  No idea what she's really up to.  Amelia might be interested..."
    "That's good," Gourry nodded.  "The more people, the better."
    "Why's that?" Lina asked.
    "Because they're your friends, of course!" Gourry said, grinning goofily.  "Friends help each other out when one of them is down on his luck, or when they've lost their favorite dog, or when God ordered them to go draw the wingless.  That's what my aunt Koirry always said."
    "...she specifically said it that way?"
    "Well, not all the time," Gourry said.  "I think.  I definitely remember the bit about the dog."
    "Uh... huh.  While tales of your family's exploits are thrilling me to tears, I think maybe we should get some rest now.  Okay?"
    "Sure!" Gourry agreed.
    Lina looked at the only bed in the room, which Gourry was on.  Technically, it was big enough to fit two people.  Just barely.  That wasn't a thought she wanted to pursue.
    "Ah..." she said.  "As for where we'll sleep..."
    "Hmm?  Oh... oh, the cot," Gourry said, climbing off immediately.  "Here you go."
    "...hey, wait.  What's that for?" Lina asked.
    "Well, you're a girl," Gourry cheerfully explained.  "So you need somewhere soft to sleep.  It's a man's job to take the floor when there's only one bed available because it's the right thing to do!"
    "What's that implying, then?" Lina asked.  "That I'm too soft to sleep on the floor?  Didn't we just go over how Lina Inverse was a go-gettum girl who could take on the world?  I'LL have the floor, thank you.  You seemed just fine and cozy on that cot."
    "No buts," Lina said, stretching out and finding a good spot of hard concrete to stretch out on.  "G'night."
    "Uh... g'night," Gourry replied.
    As the night was running long and the day had been a particularly eventful and tiring one, Lina managed to get to sleep despite lying uncomfortably on the floor.  Minutes passed.
    Gourry, who couldn't get himself to sleep, glanced over at Lina, with a pang of some feeling.  Moving naturally, he carefully picked her up and set her down on the cot, pulling the rough blanket over her, and then curled up himself on the ground to rest.  It seemed like the right thing to do, even if Lina wasn't a soft person.
    A silent thunderclap, rolling over mountains, cities and hills...
    Outside of the bar and grill where it originated, very few people actually heard the non-sound.  It wasn't that kind of echo, not something that normal ears could detect; it was more of a shockwave from a great and strange event, a start of things.  The right kind of people, however, heard it loud and clear.
    A young woman sat bolt up in her chair, having dozed off in front of a blank page of a book, now messed up quite a bit from drool and running ink.  Cursing quietly, she did her best to dab up the spills.
    She wore green, for the most part, and you could bet there was a lute somewhere in the room.  Bard's fashions are a tradition onto themselves, designed to have your wardrobe identified with your career.  Tellers of stories and players of songs live on tips, after all.  But this bard wasn't the usual sort, which is defined as a thirtysomething idealistic male who has a small alcohol problem and a lot of sunburn; she was younger than most, with red hair that wasn't dusty and messy from road travel, and certain bits of anatomy boys don't have.  But she definitely wore green.
    Plus, she had a certain talent.  She could feel stories.  When the thunderclap sounded, she felt it, washing over her like a refreshing beverage.  This was a sensation she recognized; a story was starting, a doozy, one really worthy of being written down.  It wasn't a feeling she got very often, not nowadays.  Maybe in the past when times were different and tales spawned like rabbits, but now...
    There was only one story that could have run that strong, and that would be Lina's.
    Okay, maybe her little act today in the market didn't work.  Acting wasn't her strong point.  She was a writer, not a thespian, and her efforts to guide Lina towards what the synthetic soothsayer figured was her destiny were amateurish.  But would the story have started if they didn't have some effect?  Maybe they did.  Maybe it was just some random event.  Either way, the ball was rolling.  Time to get on it.
    It was energizing, knowing you had a purpose, for someone who had been as bored as she was lately.  Waiting for her book to dry enough for her to close it safely took time, but once that time was spent, she quickly closed it up and gathered all the possessions she had for travel.
    Next, she'd have to close her account at this inn.  She wouldn't be staying in Sailoon any longer.  She was on to bigger and better things, after all!
    The innkeep cashed her out, settling the bill.  They exchanged idle conversation, since she was very good at getting people to talk about their lives, and learned something really unsettling.
    "She WHAT?"
    "Arrested," the innkeep said.  "And a good thing of it too.  The stories I could tell you about Lina Inverse... word of THAT one gets around.  Why, there was this time when--"
    "But she can't BE arrested," the girl insisted.  "It doesn't work.  She needs to be up and going.  It's all starting!"
    The innkeep eyed her strangely.  "What's starting, Miss?"
    "Everything!" Miss said, waving her arms.  "The... the whole... this and... oooh!"
    "Well, if you're that upset, go and break her out of jail," the innkeep smirked.
    "Hmmm... normally I don't actually interfere in these things directly, but... I guess I don't have a choice.  How do I break into Sailoon's jail?"
    "Uh... Miss?  I was kidding."
    "Oh.  OH!  Ha ha!" Miss laughed nervously.  "Me too.  What a kidder I am!  Excuse me."
    The young storyteller ran out of the inn as fast as she could.  Pity, the inkeep thought.  She did bring in a crowd at dinnertime with her little tales.
     Succulent leg of lamb... marinated in such a sweet, sweet sauce, that melts on the tongue even as you smell it.  Lina smiled, delight dancing in her eyes, as she sank her teeth in...
    "OW!" Gourry yelled, as Lina bit his leg.  "Ow!  Lina, quit it!"
    "mrr?" Lina asked, snapped out of her lovely dream, to see Gourry's leg between her teeth.  She quickly let go, and spit a few times off to the side to get the taste out of her mouth.  Her stomach rumbled like a ogre on a bad day.
    "What time is it?" Gourry asked, stretching out.  "Is it morning yet?  Can we go?"
    Lina glanced over at the window, at the unusually thick, nasty grey fog that had descended over Sailoon.  "I can't tell.  I'd hazard it's almost morning, though.  I need breakfast.  I NEED breakfast."
    A far off clink of iron and a scrape of stone told Lina that the door to her cell block was opening, and breakfast would soon be on the way.  Like a bolt of lightning she was up at the bars.  "Hello?  Helloooooo??  He--"
    "HELLO!" Amelia said, springing into view like a small fast scary springing thing.  Lina fell over backwards.
    "Hee.. hello, Amelia," Lina said, regaining some composure.  "Boy, you don't know how happy we are to see you!..."
    Something was amiss.
    Amelia had one of those dramatic looks about her, after her eternally cheerful initial greeting had subsided.  It was one of those betrayed, lo-as-a-single-tear-rolls-down-my-cheek sort of looks.  A Say It Ain't So Joe sort of look.
    "Lina, Lina!  Where do I go wrong?" Amelia asked, clutching her hands to her chest in shock.  "That you should turn to petty thievery to feed yourself, after being so impolitely scorned from your host's kitchens.  Woe be to justice that you should turn to its dark sides in your starvation!"
    "Uh..." Lina defended.  "It was just.. a misunderstanding, you see..."
    "It's a sad day indeed," Amelia sighed.  "I'm sorry it had to be this way, Lina Inverse, that you should go to prison for no less than three months for your crimes, but I can assure you that Sailoon's justice system is the finest in the world, and your rehabilitation--"
    "Rehabilitation?!" Lina gagged.  "Amelia, we just got so excited about a new quest that we ran out without thinking.  Come on, we're not criminals!"
    Gourry piped in.  "What about all those villages you accidentally destroyed or the bandits you killed or the treasures you stole or-- ow!  My foot!"
    "Anyway," Lina continued, "We'll pay the bill and forget this ever happened.  Okay?"
    Amelia looked aghast.  "Lina!  I'd have thought your travels with me would have taught you about the rightness of justice!  It's just three months, and it's not like you were doing.... um.  You said you were on a quest?"
    "Yes, a very very important one," Lina said, clinging to that anchor in the conversation.  This could be the leverage she needed!
    Amelia looked torn.  "Well, if it's... I mean, it's very important, and... but wait, justice needs to be firm with a caring hand, and... but... what is the quest, anyway?"
    "She's 'drawing the wingless' for the Lord of Nightmares," Gourry interjected, before Lina could say anything.
    "The Lord of...?  Lina, you've taken leave of your senses, haven't you?" Amelia asked.  "You were reportedly drinking heavily at the scene...... oh no!  You're a drug abuser, aren't you??"
    Lina banged on the bars in frustration.  "I am not, am not, am NOT!"
    "They say that denial is the first sign!" Amelia realized, horrified.  "Oh no, it IS true!  But fear not!  You can use the time to get yourself straight.  Don't worry, Lina!  We'll take good care of you!  You have Amelia's promise!"
    Amelia posed dramatically, a sign of her total confidence in Lina's future and her evergrowing commitment to her well being, turned with a flourish and marched out.
    "Get back here so I can strangle you!!" Lina politely requested.  "Amelia, you clueless little... OOOH!!"
    "Gosh, I didn't know you were a drug user," Gourry said, shocked.
    Lina pulled out her bunny slipper* and smacked Gourry around a little.  "I said I'm NOT!  You were there and saw the same things I did, anyway!!"  Whap whap whap whap whap whap.
    "Ow!  Ow!  Hey!" Gourry protested.  "Okay!  Okay.  So what do we do now?"
    "Forget this.  We're busting out of here," Lina said, charging up a small fireball.  "We can't go to jail.  We're on a mission from god."
    Moments later, an explosion rocked the prison tower in the Royal Palace of Sailoon.  Warning sirens were sounded, bricks and mortar tumbling a few stories to the ground below.  Lina stepped up to the edge, trying to see anything through the thick fog.
    "It's not the best exit, but here's what we'll do," Lina explained.  "We'll fly out of the compound, circle around in the fog, go in through my window and grab our stuff.  Please tell me you left your Sword of Light in your room instead of having it be confiscated by the guards."
    "Uh, yeah... I mean, it was only a dinner run..."
    "Good planning," Lina complemented.  "Now, time to bail."
    "But I can't fly," Gourry said.  "How will we--"
    Lina hopped onto Gourry's back, wrapping her arms around his neck.  Gourry stumbled around, over the edge--
    "*RAYWING!*" Lina cast, forming a shield around the pair of them, zooming down, down, twisting up and gliding out of the walls around the palace.
    Gourry pounded on his chest until his heart resumed beating, and swallowed hard.  "You could WARN me before you do that stuff, you know."
    "You're flying, aren't you?" Lina joked, shouting into his ear over the rushing wind.  Barely seen rooftops wavered by below them, through the haze.  "We'll be out of sight shortly and away from the guard.  Amelia'll be annoyed, but it can't be helped, right?"
    "Right," Gourry said.  "We'll just apologize to her later or something.  Hey, maybe you should teach me that Raything spell sometime, then I could fly without your bony elbows peircing my back!"
    Lina bonked him.  "You can't cast magic!  It takes years of training!  You'd have a better chance of sprouting wings and flapping away!"
    That did it.
    Something stretched the protective bubble of Raywing, interrupting the spell and sending the power cascading down to nothing.  The wings, summoned by Lina's casual thought about them and her lack of control over their comings and goings, snapped into being on her back, spread wide to catch the wind... feeling so natural, easily taking the air and running with it, flying without magic...
    They kept flying.  Lina's blood stopped in fear.  She had never flown without magic before.  To say it was unnerving was to say that the ocean was shallow.
    "That's funny, it's not humming like the spell usually does anymore," Gourry said.  "What's keeping us up in the air?"
    "I was wondering the same thing--" Lina said, before she actually DID wonder what was keeping them up, and suddenly, they weren't gliding anymore.  They were plunging to earth at unstoppable speeds.
    The young girl who typically was only known as Miss lumbered down the morning streets of Sailoon, carrying a pickaxe, a hard hat, two coils of rope over each shoulder, a few grappling hooks and at least three swords.  She had a bale of explosive powder and a book of matches between her teeth, since she had run out of hands, and was dashing as fast as her legs could carry her towards the palace.
    It took most of the night to find the right kind of seedy criminal that knew how to break into the jail, and the rest of the night was spent gathering up the right tools for the job.  Finally, running on a low amount of sleep and a lot of adrenaline, she was ready to go rescue Lina Inverse and get the show on the road -- and hopefully, get her career as a writer back on track as well.
    She tried to ignore the fact that this was probably the stupidest thing she had ever done in her life.  She ignored that she normally just sort of observed these kinds of stories, writing them down, never participating.  She ignored the quiet screaming that was slowly getting louder and lou--
    She couldn't ignore the two figures that were desperately trying to glide through the air to a soft landing, especially when they crashed into her head on, spilling jailbreak gear all over the pavement and rolling to a crumpled heap against the side of a candle shop.
    All three sat up, rubbing their heads, and then got a good look at each other.
    "You?!!" Miss gasped.
    "The soothsayer?" Lina asked, confused.
    "Whoa, Lina!  When did you get those wings?" Gourry asked, pointing to the slightly injured butterfly wings, which had seen enough use for one day.  Perhaps one lifetime.
    "You have wings?!" Miss asked.  "But... nobody's had those for--"
    A clanging clamor sounded.  The city guard was approaching.
    "Long winded explanations later," Lina recommended.  "Fast running now."
    The trio got their act together, and started to move.
Story copyright 1998 Stefan Gagne, characters copyright H. Kanzaka / R. Araizumi.
A Spoof Chase Production.
* this is an actual attack of hers. I swear I am not making this up.