For the first time in four days, the rains had cleared. There was an accident at the Zeifeilian town hall with a weather control machine and an overzealous farmer, who had been petitioning for weeks to get a little extra rain for his crops; when due process took too long, he broke in and threw levers until the town was a mudhole for the better part of a week.

     Penny stepped out of her galoshes, careful to set them by the door before tracking sludge across the clean floor of the shop. She gave a brief nod to her mother, who was busy reading some torrid romance novel where the fair young maiden met a handsome and dashing rouge, and the two carried on a whirlwind romance and eventually destroyed a small country and robbed it dry. (The author was definitely a local.)

     "Any luck yet?" Lina asked.

     Penny shook her head. "They're still not understanding yet. The branch of the Cult of Zoamel Gustav, God of Wisdom and Sometimes Vengeance is still being mistaken for Martina's primary branch, the Unholy Cult of Zoamel Gustav the Monstrous and Terrible. I don't think we're ever going to be taken seriously at this rate..."

     "People's minds take awhile to change," Lina noted, closing her book. "Give it time, okay? You just started the High Priestess gimmick, and respect takes time to build. Took me years to get established as a major mover in the magical goods--"

     "--it's thaumatological instruments now, mother. Nobody says 'Magical Goods' anymore, it's so old world."

     "I'm an old lady, okay? Permit me my delusions," Lina requested. "I'm not hip to the slang you kids use these days, or that sugary pop idol music... Penny, you're blocking the door, move over."

     Penny scooted off to the side, in time for a disheveled looking dumpy man to wander into the shop. He quickly made his way to the counter, and slapped more money on the table.

     "I need another Bag of Holding," he wheezed.

     "S'matter, Matthew, you drop it down a well or something?" Lina asked. "I just sold you one not two hours ago. I don't HAVE another one."

     "You don't?! But... but I got robbed!" the man declared, angrily banging the counter. "Those blasted Black Wyvern bandits attacked me on my way out of town! They've got one of those half-Mazoku mercenaries with them, too. I swear, it's too dangerous in this countryside nowadays! An honest merchant can't move two feet without having to deal with some unsavory--"

     "Penny?" Lina asked, looking around the man.

     Penny took her ivory staff from the umbrella rack. "Already on it. Be back in... ten minutes."

     "What? Err, what?" Matthew asked, looking confused.

     "Well, we've got this policy," Lina explained. "If your goods get stolen... we get them back. By force, if required. This shop doesn't tolerate bandits, and we've got the crusaders of the Church of Zoamel Gustav to back that up."

     "Zoamel? Oh, thank heavens! I won't have to pay for another--"

     "--for a slight fee," Lina added. With an evil, evil smirk. "Miracles are not cheap, buster. Now, that'll be... oh, 250% of what you paid. And it'll be an obligatory 50% overhead fee for services rendered, since, well, she's already left, hasn't she? Will that be cash or credit?"

     Outside, Gourry looked up from polishing his Captain of the Guard's Official Chestplate, to see his daughter waving at him. Table-chan bounced up and down a few times upon seeing Penny as well, knocking the can of metal polish off its top.

     "I'm off to fight evil, dad!" she called.

     "Make sure you're home before supper!" he warned. Kids these days, growing up so fast. Although... she didn't LOOK a day older than she did a year ago. Funny, that. He resumed his polishing. It never hurt to look good for the troops, after all.

     Penny crouched behind a grassy knoll, looking across the plain towards the bandit encampment. She motioned for the other two crusaders in her wing to stay down, as well as the wing fifty feet to her left. No sense in rushing in right away.

     She felt a tap on her shoulder, the usual signal for quietly getting attention...

     "Private party?" Zoamel asked, fading into view next to her, lying flat to avoid detection.

     "You're always welcome, dear," Penny added, smiling. "It's just the Black Wyverns again. They've got a Half-Maz with them this time, though. I was going to handle him..."

     "I'll take care of that," Zoamel spoke. "Xelloss needs to learn not to interfere with my new homeland. Send your wing flanking to the left; they used a different kind of wood for the wall there, which should be easily broken. The other wing can--"

     The ground trembled with a massive explosion, as a pillar of black smoke rose from inside the encampment. Screaming and panic was immediately audible, surprising Penny's troops; she motioned for them to stay still until she could assess things.

     "...did something blow up in there?" she asked. "Maybe they have a siege engine and it backfired... it's hard to trust the weapons from Atlas, they're so unreliable..."

     But Zoamel was smiling.

     "Oh, it's not a machine," he said. "I can feel exactly who it is..."

     The entire north wall of the compound shattered. Bandits scattered like frightened bandits, flames quickly consuming the camp, spreading faster than flames technically should.

     Out of the flames walked a single figure, cape unsinged. She marched right over to Penny, and dropped one (slightly mauled) Bag of Holding in front of her.

     "Give that back to Matthew, okay?" Lina Inverse asked, hitching up her belt a little. "It got a little shredded... ehheh. Kinda overdid things, didn't I? Gotta go, I'm needed in Darata. See you around."

     She twirled once, and was gone.


Author's Postword. It was experimental as hell. I wasn't sure it was going to work. I mean, a world so distorted that it almost felt like an elseworlds? The largest cast of original characters this side of ReBirth? Who was going to want to READ something like this? Apparently a lot of people. I'm definitely not going to complain about that. Thank you to all the readers of Slayers Demiurge. Your feedback has kept me going, even when my 9-to-5 job was getting all up in my area and crushing my will to write. I'm definitely not going to be able to match the speed records I set with Trilogy, as a college brat with tons of free time... but I'm not going to stop writing. I've already got a new project in the works. I won't jinx it, but if you've come this far, you probably already know what it is. If not, just visit the website and educate yo'self. Maybe it's not my finest work, but I'm damn proud of it, and I'm happy to be writing these words in closing. Thank you for reading this far. Until next time, no matter where you go, there you are.

     -Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne
     April 20, 2000
     Gaithersburg, MD


Story copyright 1999 Stefan Gagne, Slayers characters copyright H. Kanzaka / R. Araizumi.
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