lying high above the mountain nation of Ky, no less than six castles were in view at any given time.
    The problem, as Myth explained, is that the Kynese territory was divided into lots of very small provinces, each ruled by a feudal lord.  And of course, no lord wanted to have a castle smaller than the others which would be shaming, and at the same time no lord must have a castle larger than the others which would be egotistical.  So, out of politeness, a series of gigantic, pagoda-like structures dotted the landscape, surrounded by their tiny patches of soil, dotted with villages and rice patties and so on.
    "Which one of these belongs to the wingless?" Lina asked.  "They're all identical!!"
    "I wanna land," Gourry said in a small voice.  He still wasn't very good at this flying thing from a passenger point of view, and the slim hold Lina had on him didn't feel like it was enough to keep him from plummeting to a spectacularly awful demise on the rocks below.  Plus, he had the added problem of Myth piggybacking on Lina's piggybacking, putting TWO girls on top of him; which was causing a few others problems which he was a gentleman and wouldn't admit to having, even to himself.
    Myth surveyed the landscape.  "His castle wouldn't look like the others.  It's not Dramatic enough.  It'd have to be shrouded in fog, maybe with some music, and made of iron and brick and stuff.  Gothic."
    "Who exactly are we going after, anyway?" Lina asked.  "He's not as bad as... that other guy, right?"
    "No, no.  He's a bit, um, zealous about his work but he's not.. um.  His name, last time I checked, was Drama.  He's taken it onto himself to be the spirit of adventure and fantastic events.  We worked together on a few stories, but he liked to embellish a lot more than I do; I mean, it's other humans that are supposed to add the HEAVY embellishment, as stories get passed down by oral tradition--"
    "I get it, I get it," Lina said.  "I see some fog over there, we'll check it out.  You think he'll come quietly?"
    Myth started to answer, but spotted a tiny glint of light ahead.  What was that?  It was a spear made of ice, actually, which would have shishkabobbed all three of them if Lina hadn't quickly adjusted her flight spell to avoid it.
    "Never mind, I just answered my question," Lina said.
    "I REALLY wanna land now!!" Gourry begged.
    "Who could be attacking us?  That was a Freeze Arrow," Lina said, as another one missed by a few yards.  "Does Drama know magic?"
    "No, just his Talents.. I think," Myth hastily added.  "Um.  Shouldn't we be evading?  Running away?  Something??"
    "Whoever's tossing those has pretty bad control," Lina said, watching them zoom by.  "Probably some hired goon.  That's how these things work, you know.  Villains hire Goons, who have Faceless Minions--"
    "--and sometimes employ Thugs," Myth finished.
    "Oh, you know the pattern?"
    "I sorta.. wrote it.  A century or three ago.  If--"
    The problem with holding a casual conversation while someone's hurling lances of magical energy at you is that you can really only focus on one or the other.  Lina opted to have a nice chat instead of paying attention; the flare arrow neatly grazed Myth, whooshing by close enough for her to panic, scream, and let go, and drop.
    If that wasn't bad enough, the shock knocked Lina's Raywing spell out of whack, and out popped her wings in surprise.  So all three of them dropped.
    Gourry waved his arms quickly, in some species mis-mapped instinct for flight, but didn't slow down.  The wind howled by the trio as Lina tumbled, until a strong draft caught her butterfly wings, snapping them taut; which just meant that she got to stay nice and still while her friends kept on going.
    Work fast, think fast.  She flew once with these.  Then stopped, once she thought too hard about it.  She tried not to think of HOW, and just... flew down, coasting fast, beating her wings to gain speed.  She caught up with Gourry, grabbing onto him, then got a good hold of Myth, and tried to pull UP...
    When you're using Raywing, flight is flight.  You go this way, you go that, you don't have to worry much about effort since it's a constant stream of power.  Lina, however, had to really push to get their flight from vertical to horizontal, muscles straining... the ground approaching at unsafe speeds, to say the least, as she looked for a clear spot in the mountain snow to touch down-- no, crash down, at this rate, maybe a controlled crash if there is such a thi--
    Smacking into a tree, Lina let go of her companions, who tumbled into the snow.  End total : Four bruises, nothing broken, a lot of pained groaning.
    "We're... *ugh* not having much luck with travel today, are we?" Lina said, trying to ignore the friction burns as she slid down the tree trunk, to the snowy ground below.
    "I'll just lie here," Myth said, choosing not to get up.
    Gourry was already up, sword ready.  He wasn't going to let a little thing like escape from almost certain death keep him from being alert and peppy.  "Whoever shot at us is gonna be back, probably.  Come on, Lina!  We need to get ready!"
    Peeling herself off the ground, shaking the snow from her wings, Lina got her ducks back in a row.  "It was just a lucky shot.  I'll bet the goon isn't anything--"
    A laugh echoed off the mountains, powerful enough to almost start an avalanche.
    Lina had a small spasm.  "No way.  No, no, NO, NO!  It CAN'T be--"
    A black sorceress, in a small bikini that contained a very large chest (and not the kind that contains anything itself) landed, deactivating her Raywing spell, and posing dramatically.
    "SO!  It is you, Lina Inverse, who dares to make an assault on my employer's castle!!" Naga the White Serpent, Lina's most powerful and loudest rival announced.  "I must admit, I was not expecting to see you in this neck of the world!  And wearing such a silly outfit.  Did you get those wings out of a Discount Fruit Lantern's Eve Costume Shop?"
    "Naaaga!" Lina groaned.  "What are you doing working for that guy?  And you SHOT at us!  We could have been killed and stuff!"
    "Well, if you hadn't been so content to sit around Sailoon moping, maybe I wouldn't have had to go and get a job that could put me on a side opposite you!" Naga logically accused, pointing at Lina.  "I'm a bold adventuress, I can't be inactive for months at a time.  I had to go do SOMETHING!  Do you have any idea how awful it is to sit around Sailoon, waiting for you to get your act together?  Putting up with Daddy's rants about how a proper princess should behave?  'Gracia, you can't wear that leather outfit!  It's not LADYLIKE!'  And Amelia always leaves the cap off the toothpaste and OF COURSE we have to share a bathroom, at least we're not in the bunk beds like we were as kids, and you can't get a decent beer in the castle because of course the family looks down on that sort of thing, and--"
    "*DILL BRAND!!*" Lina cast, throwing her arms down, as an explosion of rocks and snow sent Naga skyward.
    Gourry winced as Naga was propelled fast and far, out of sight.  "Harsh..."
    "I can't take laundry lists of family complaints when I'm busy being annoyed at falling from the sky," Lina complained in a very specific way.  "It always cheeses me off.  C'mon, guys, we've found our castle.  Time to knock on the door."
    "What about Naga?" Gourry asked.
    "It's just Naga," Lina said.  "No big deal."
    Two figures touched down on a mountain's peak, over looking the Castle of Drama, still some distance away in the mists.
    The castle, unlike the mathematically perfect Kynese towers they had passed on the way here, was a hideously nasty affair.  It was made entirely of grey stone and brick, as if coming from the northeastern continent; there were spires and towers and walls and towers and spires on the spires.  The whole thing teetered ominously at the top of a mountain, with a windy, twisted path leading there.  The sun did not shine on it; bats circled the belfries.  As icing on the cake, you could almost hear an organ playing a creepy tune.
    "What a bizarre place," Angela commented, folding up her wings for the moment.  "Why is it done in the northeastern style of castles when the rest are pagodas?  Don't the wingless have any sense of taste?  It's so ugly."
    "Fella like me could enjoy a place like that," Bugger smiled coldly.  "Probably has lots of twisty passages, all alike.  Good to get lost in.  Or fall through a crumbling bit 'o flooring, or be trapped under a moldy tapestry that chose that exact moment to fall on ya..."
    "I see your mind is already working on a game plan," Angela noticed.  "So, shall we proceed?"
    "After you, missy reptile," Bugger said.
    "What, risk a possible attack on my person by going in first?" Angela asked, raising an eyebrow.  "I'm much too important to do that.  You will go first."
    Grumble, grumble.  "Always make me walk right into danger, I see... doesn't it just beat all?"  He hopped into the air, hung there a moment, and floated (standing up, in contrary to super hero desires to fly horizontally).  The Mazoku stood on thin air, approaching the castle... then started to plummet.
    Figuring he was less use splattered on the ground than alive, Angela spread her wings and went after him -- and hit an invisible cloud of thick air, distorting her flight pattern, losing altitude...
    When the two recovered, they were embedded in the snow below, worse for wear but more confused than anything else.
    "What in Ceipheed's name was that?" Angela asked, stunned.
    "Field... it's the same energy as the Talents we saw back at Sailoon!" Bugger growled.  "Bastard's got a bubble around his castle, something that modifies the way the universe works... affects the mind, I think.  I know mind-magic, and it's real similar, I'd bet my arse..."
    "This is rather frustrating," Angela said.  "How could we, two of the most powerful creatures alive save only our masters, be unable to cope with these... Talents?  The humans manage just fine."
    "S'like a dog whistle, I suspect," Bugger said.  "You know, one of those things you blow and humans don't hear it, but the beasts start howlin' bloody murder.  We're allergic to the damn stuff.  We COULD try to go in the castle, if you don't mind gettin' lobotomized in the process..."
    "This will not do," Angela said distinctly.  "Allow Lina this round.  We need to find a better plan of approach to the situation."
    "Typical, totally typical.  This day's just gone from suck to blow, ain't it?  I never gets a break, not once, not ev--"
    "Oh, DO shut up," Angela pouted.
Story copyright 1998 Stefan Gagne, characters copyright H. Kanzaka / R. Araizumi.
A Spoof Chase Production.
Y'know, GIF and JPG can be weird. In GIF, the dropcap 'F' looked too dark and toned kinda red and nasty; in JPG, it looked right colorwise, but had ugly JPG jaggies even with maximum quality... shame, really.