Author's Foreword. I'll try to keep brief so you can get to the story. ^_^

     This is not a series that starts after Slayers Trilogy; it's after Try, branching off straight continuity... although if you're expecting Original Flavor, it's not quite that either, while definitely being similar. You'll see.

     Those of you familiar with Trilogy know the drill; episodes are developed live and online at the web page, so those inclined can read the works in progress and comment -- comments I use to help shape the story. Finished copy in text format is posted to the FFML and RAAC. Choose your preferred method and off we go!

     (All commentary to twoflowr@pixelscapes.com -- which is not the addy I post to the FFML under, peez note. Keep all hands inside the car while in motion.)




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Once upon a time...

     Once upon a time there was a young girl named Lina Inverse. But you knew that already, didn't you? She is a legend, tried and true, a folk hero, a feared enemy, and a myth so widespread that Random Q. Peasant is more likely to have heard her name than Shaburanigdo's.

     Of course, depending on who you ask, they could react the same way as if you had said Shaburanigdo, the demon king. (Assuming you believed in Shaburanigdo. Many didn't.)

     To some, Lina robs from the rich and gives to herself, which isn't all that bad since those rich bastards deserved it anyway. To others, Lina storms in and blows everything up and takes everything not detonated, but they're all criminals and what whining they do doesn't matter.

     Perhaps some proving examples are in order, before the fairy tale truly begins.

For starters, there's one sect which has a legitimate, justified reason to fear the legendary Lina Inverse...

     Not that the head chef at the Golden Roast Side of Meat had a Lina-oriented worry, when he walked into his brand spanking new restaurant on a fateful Monday morning. This was, after all, his day to shine, to show the culinary world his art at the finest level of perfection, sauces so sweet as to draw a bee from a flower, meats so tender to make a poet weep... and prices so low, it'd blow his competition away.

     Yes, for one day only, Grand Opening, the first day, it was All You Can Eat.

     "Fire up the ovens!" the chef shouted, gesturing dramatically with a soup ladle, which wasn't as impressive as an army general's lance but would have to do. "Bake the bread! Cook the soup! We open in minutes, and we must be ready to face the customer with a smile and an appetizer! Soon, my legions, we will RULE THE RESTAURANT WORLD!"

     "...uh.. boss?"

     "Yes, what is it, Harold?"

     "It's Howard," the young, zit-faced intern said. "And, sir, no disrespect, I mean, we all understand your vision for the future of culinary art, but... well, me and the others were talking--"

     "Spit it out, Harold. A good bowl of chowder doesn't make itself and you're on company time."

     "We want you to take down the sign advertising All You Can Eat," Howard summarized. "It's bad luck."

     "'Bad luck'?" the Chef Overlord asked. Perking an eyebrow. "You stand in the mightiest kitchen in all of Sailoon and you worry about luck? We need no luck! God is on our side! FORWARD, MINIONS!"

     "No no, it's not the kitchen," Howard said. "It's, you know... it's her. I mean, EVERYBODY who's anybody in the restaurant business knows you don't go and advertise all you can eat on opening day, because if you do... SHE will come. You know. Dare not say her name, and all. You know?"

     The head chef tapped the ladle against his leg, thinking. Then it hit him. "What, that old wives tale?" he asked. "Bah! Don't trouble me with such nonsense. Lina Inverse does not exist! She's just a story concocted by our rivals worldwide to scare us out of DESTROYING them--"

     There was a knock at the front door.

     "Ah, our first customer! I shall greet him personally!" the chef decided, vaulting over the salad bar and dashing to the door.

     He opened it, the little bells jingling merrily as he did, and smiled away.

     Four hours later, the little bells jangled again, as the patron made her exit.

     The force of the door closing was too much strain for the poor solid oak table, which splintered and snapped in half from the sheer weight of stacked empty dishes. Those dishes then shattered on the floor, adding insult to injury to financial ruin.

     The head chef, circles under his eyes, a few new wrinkles to his skin, stared wide-eyed in horror. A restaurant full of patrons, all waiting for their meals, but all the food had been EATEN... eaten by that... that...

     He was ruined.

     The chef tore the puffy hat from his head, threw it on the ground, and stomped on it repeatedly.


     Not that restaurant owners were the only ones who had something to fear from Lina Inverse. Even those of supposed Pure Science had a few issues with her...

     Elsewhere, you see, in the blackest stygian abyss of the depravity of the soul, or at least a few miles from it, dark rites were being performed by men defiant to the will of God, skirting the edge of sanity, twisting the darkness to shape their motive into etc. etc. etc.

     Despite being utterly cliche, it WAS an impressive sight.

     A cavern, buried a mile underground, leagues away from the nearest city of Darata, five hundred feet by five hundred feet square. Extensive deathtraps were placed all along a near-endless maze, to ensure nobody made it this far; and if they did, the intricate series of mechanical whirling blades, spikes, razors and projectiles set around the priceless object would crush/kill/vaporize/liquefy/solidify/crush them all over again on sight.

     On top of all that, even if they DID survive all that and made a grab for the cage where the treasure was held... the treasure would be destroyed before they reached it, so the would-be thief could do little but kick themselves for ever coming down here. Even the one who created these traps could never touch the artifact again.

     Lord Noisemaker of the Dark Sect of Alchemists wouldn't have it any other way.

     "I don't get it," his considerably less evil apprentice said. "You set it up so, like, the artifact gets destroyed if ANYONE takes it?"

     "Of course, lad. I've explained this to you already."

     "But it still doesn't make any sense, master. I mean, you spent thirty years making it, right?"

     "Thirty long, hard years," Lord Noisemaker said, clenching a fist. "Studying the black texts of mythology and lies until my eyes grew red and bloodshot. Researching the behaviors of the genuine beasts first hand, coming close to death each time. Thirty years of backbreaking effort, to compile the single greatest collection of information on animals, beasts, monsters, gods, demons and Mazoku ever seen by human eyes! Embodied in a single stone shell of raw Orihalcon! Perfection in design and utility!!"

     "And that IS the only copy, right?"

     "Don't be daft, lad, it's not the kind of reference guide you copy off and sell in the supermarket next to the farmers almanacs."

     "Then why make it so nobody can ever use it again?"

     Lord Noisemaker grew frustrated. "For the IRONY, you nitwit! Haven't I taught you anything? If you compile such a powerful codex and then ensure nobody can ever use it for the rest of time while it sits protected and just beyond reach, the little buggers will beat themselves silly in anger! The sheer amount of idiots that'll die trying to get it will be the reward in itself!"

     The apprentice still didn't get it. "So why not put an empty copy of it up there and keep that one for your own use? It's not like anybody'll ever know, yeah? They'll believe it's the real thing, and it'll still be ironic. Like, even more so, or something. Yeah?"

     "It's the principle of the matter," the Dark Alchemist scoffed. "Belief is nothing compared to the reality of the world. This is thaumatological science, m'boy, not a puppet show; 'belief' is not how we work. It's results that matter, the reality, the facts and the truths. Not some flimsy concocted lie that the yokels swear by in ignorance. Now pack up the equipment and break out the map, I want to get home in time for a nice hot bath."

     "Fine, fine," the younger alchemist said, starting to stuff various magical items into a sack. "Lina Inverse will take it, anyway. Always happens with hard to get at treasure. One time my cousin Marvin says he buried a thousand in gold on a desert island, and it turned up gone the next--"

     Lord Noisemaker bopped the apprentice over the head with his ceremonial staff with a knob on the end of it.

     "WHAT did I just tell you?" he roared. "Don't go spreading that superstitious nonsense around here! Lina Inverse doesn't exist -- no simple girl could defeat Shaburanigdo, as they say she has, nor could she find the Clair Bible or beat the demon-beast Zanaffar or anything of that sort! And even if she did exist, she'd never succeed in getting it out of my traps! No mortal can!"

     "So where'd it go, then?"

     At the center of the five thousand linked deathtraps was a suspiciously empty cage, where the world's most accurate codex arcanum once sat. The heavy door to the cavern quietly latched shut, as if someone had just exited.

     To say there was an awkward pause would be a grand understatement.

     "......that doesn't prove anything!" Lord Noisemaker noisily shouted. "Anybody could have done that. We didn't see anything, after all! Now let's go."

     "Didn't you say no mortal could--"

     "Shut up, boy, and resume packing. I've had a long day."

     "What about the thirty years of backbreaking--"

     And the Master did hit his Pupil on the head, and he was enlightened.

     As interesting as these examples are, historical types, when you mention the history of Lina Inverse to them, will cite one particular location as the nexus of her mythology. The most proving explanation for her power, her rise to fame, her glory. It was the country of her birth... Zefielia.

     There are several reasons for this. First, the concentration of magic floating in the astral plane or through the ethereal void or the ley lines (depending on what school of magic you ascribe to) is unusually high. Second, the amount of warriors, crusaders, villains and mad wizards produced by Zefielia each year rivals their second most profitable industry (grapes of wrath).

     In that country, the men are tough, the women are arguably tougher, the lawyers have silver tongues (sometimes literally) and the bandits are several degrees of difficulty higher than your average thug. People who live and work here usually have a higher importance in the world and get involved in history with unnerving frequency. It's a land of heroes and anti-heroes.

     So, if you were to take a look at a scene unfolding there, you would see fifteen disreputable people of forcible monetary reallocation circled around a young girl. A typical mugging. Although the amount of trees that have been slashed clean through, scorched by green flames (some of which still burning) and a few stray body parts would suggest that this mugging probably had a bit more foreplay than you'd usually see in your typical highway robbing. History sat up and took notice. This is where things REALLY started...     

     The bandit leader, however, made no note of anything special -- because nothing was. "An average fight," he commented, keeping his longsword's tip pressed to the girl's throat. "At least I got some exercise. But you, missy, don't know who you're dealing with. I'm wanted in six and a half countries! We're some bad dudes, or at least extremely unkind, and I've been in this business longer than you've been breathing air! But enough of my longwinded monologue. You got something to say before we continue to do unpleasant things?"

     The young girl, wearing a mishmash of armor, her halberd knocked aside, glared up at him. "You just got the jump on me, is all! Roy Balderdash, you cowardly DOG! I'll be back to collect the bounty on your head next time we meet, forsooth! You haven't seen the LAST of--"

     "No, no, no," Roy the Bandit King groaned, breaking out of his tough guy routine in genuine irritation. "Look, this isn't some backwoods dickwater country, where knights run around saying 'What ho!' and 'Forsooth!' okay? You live in ZEFIELIA, woman! Show some pride! Cliched dialogue isn't going to cut the mustard around here. Now try that again!"


     "Your taunt!" the bandit ordered, nudging with the swordpoint. "Put some more originality into it. I can't take you seriously if you're going to act like some green newbie. Once more, with feeling!"

     A large visible sweatdrop slid down the back of the girl's head. "Ah... I'm new at this, okay? I mean, it's my third quest, and I'd be on more of them if I didn't have to sneak out of the house to--"

     "TAUNT, damn you!"

     "Y-You fight like a cow!" she blurted.

     ...Roy Balderdash (wanted in 6.5 countries) groaned, letting down his sword point. "It's no good. I'm sorry. Look, kid, you're not cut out for adventuring, okay? Go home to mommy and daddy. Play with your dolls. Or at the very least, pick on someone lower in the pecking order. There's only ONE mercenary who's ever gotten the best of me, years ago -- and you're nowhere near her level. Boys, we're out of here."

     The whole gang turned to go, annoyed at the waste of their time. The young would-be mercenary scowled, scooping up the customized longstaff-blade, gesturing dramatically with it to the leader.

     "Stop treating me like a kid! And I'll have you know I have very important parents! I'll train harder, and when I ret--"

     In a swift snap of a muscled arm, the weapon went from pointing dramatically to casually slung over the back of the bandit king.

     "I think it'd be best for everybody if we took this," he said frankly. "You'd probably cut your own arm off with it at the rate you're going, and I can't honestly abide by that."

     "H-Hey! Wait, I made that!" she protested, losing her bravado. "It's mine!"

     "Eh, tell it to the judge," Roy suggested, walking off calmly.

     The adventuress... fumed. Turned red. Stomped her foot, and said the first thing that occurred to her, a traditional protest against folks who had just robbed you...

     "I hope LINA INVERSE gets you!!"

     The bandit spun around, shaking the halberd angrily.

     "You think that scares me?!" he shouted, losing the cool he had previously. "You think Lina Inverse scares me? Nobody's seen Lina Inverse in these parts for years! No man, no woman, no monster, no fairy tales scare me! Now GO HOME!"

     Losing her nerve, the young girl ran off.

     After a long pause, and with a prolonged sigh, Roy draped the weapon over his shoulder again. "Kids today. No respect for their elders, I tell you. C'mon, let's book."

     A shadow watched from the treeline, as the bandits exited stage left.

Click to Continue!

Story copyright 1999 Stefan Gagne, Slayers characters copyright H. Kanzaka / R. Araizumi.
A Spoof Chase Production hosted by Pixelscapes.