Every event.  Every object.  Every person.
    Everything has a story behind it.  A story that shifts, changes and evolves; a story with a beginning and an ending.  Granted, sometimes those beginnings are rooted in places that nobody was looking and the ending happened after the audience had long left, but these things do exist.  And yes, sometimes the narrative behind everything is lost, or mixed up, or interpreted in highly incorrect ways...
    Perhaps it's better to say that everything has a number of stories behind it, one of which is true.  Finding that true story is the goal, the reason for the everything, for a specific thing.  The reason why everything changes the way it does.
    One good method is to step outside everything, study it from different angles.  An impartial observer.
    From one angle, in the beginning...
     Nobody can describe the beginning of the universe.  The closest example you could get would be if you filmed water going down the drain then ran the footage in reverse, and even then, you'd be so completely wrong that all civilized gods would laugh at you.
    Nobody can describe what it means to be a god, either.  The closest example you could get would be if you imagined the most powerful and enigmatic being your mind can comprehend and multiply it by a factor of six.  Then again, this is how most insects see anything that can step on them, and even microscopic bacteria look up to the insects, so everything's really just a matter of scale.
    But if you take into account that you can't describe either of these things well, you can describe them very badly.  And by describing them badly you're at least trying to describe them, and trying to relate the universe on terms you understand, however flawed.  That's more effort than most folks make, resorting to flowery language and strange metaphors that confuse others enough to not notice how horribly bad the explanation is.
    Therefore, when describing the beginning of the world (not the universe, simply the world), the best way to do it is badly.  Let's envision two children on their way to school to show off their science projects, which happen to be entire worlds created lovingly with glue sticks and cardboard boxes.  Primitive work, merely a starting place for other ideas, but definitely worlds.
    Two such children wait at the stop, for their bus to arrive.  Of course, there isn't a bus or a school or a science fair in any realistic sense, but work with me here.
    Look to your left and you'll see a smiling, golden haired little girl.  She's not dressed very neatly, with one sock mismatching the other and her hair largely uncombed.  One of her teeth got knocked out on the playground awhile back.  Freckles dot her face, in no discernible pattern -- and that in itself is extraordinary, because everything has a pattern, even if it's an infinitely complex pattern.  These freckles followed no order.  She carries a sloppily made boxed world.
    The boy standing by her side, however, is neatly groomed.  Not a hair out of place, not a wrinkle in his clothes, even when he moves.  He remains expressionless at all times, every body part perfectly proportioned, his stance straight, his patience limitless.
    "So what'd you make?" the little girl asks, breaking the silence with a random question.
    "This," the boy said, opening his box for the girl to peek inside.  Perfect gridlike lines of space meshed inside the box, not a flaw present, with mathematically sequenced energy lifeforms zipping here and there to perform tasks that maintain the cycle of life for all of eternity, though evenly measured time increments that are based on a binary system of accounting.  (As said, there is no science fair, and these are not normal children.)
    "Booooring," the girl yawned.  "Bet you get an F."
    "Bet I get an A," the boy said.  "My world is aesthetically perfect, to every detail.  From the moment of creation it will run self-sufficently.  Not like Winston Neklemyer's, which he kept having to perform miracles to keep it going."
    "Winston's collapsed," the girl said.  "It went boom yesterday.  His daddy is angry at him, since he stole power to make it."
    "My parents are proud of my work," the boy said.  "What do yours think?"
    "My mommy and my daddy and my mommy and my daddy and my mommy like it," the girl said truthfully, because as noted, this was no ordinary little girl.  "And my daddy hates it but he's strange that way.  Do you want to see?"  She opened the box.
    The boy peered inside...
    In the girl's world, there was a shapeless mass of unreality and reality, mixed in hodge-podge, needing shape and form.  The space varied between being infinite and finite, with time a laughable notion.  There was no life-- wait.
    "What are those spots, shaping the material?" the boy asked.
    Eight of them swirled around, active and mobile, if very random.  Vaguely interesting, probably alive, but the boy didn 't care.
    The ninth, however, burned golden yellow and shone brighter than the others.  It simply waited off to the side for some reason.  Waiting for when it would be needed.
    "They're my butterflies," the girl giggled.  "They're chaotic and so beautiful.  I don't know what they're going to do, but I'm hoping they eventually break my laws so I can take them out of this incubator.  Then they'll be ready for the real world, which I'm making in my room with the other three worlds I've made.  MY worlds have good and evil extremes that branch from the chaos in ways that are interesting and dangerous and I live in a lake when I visit them, what do yours have?"
    "Order," the boy said.  "My worlds are ordered.  Yours will break down one day.  Disorder doesn't work for very long, since it always destroys itself."
    "So what?" the girl said, defensively, shutting her box.  "My chaos will overcome good and evil and endure.  Your stupid little ordered world is stupid stupid!  If one tiny little bit of chaos got in there, everything would break down and die."
    "No," the boy said.  "Order destroys chaos because it's innately more powerful.  I could exterminate your entire world with just a tiny bit of order.  It's very easy to topple a system that contains good and evil because they like to cancel each other out."
    "I'm rubber, you're glue," the girl said.  "So poo on you."
    The boy didn't get angry.  Clearly, the girl was very immature, and he shouldn't care.  But he did form a plan.
    Then the bus didn't roll up and the pair didn't go to school, because to describe gods is impossible.  But that's what happened.
    Living at the peak of a mountain is pricey.  Not only is the real estate expensive, but so are the construction costs of making your own temple and living quarters on a rocky, slanted surface.  Fortunately, after that point, things are much easier.  Grow what you eat, meditate a lot, it's a living.  He could have lived in a nicer locale with plenty of sun and neighbors who own their own countries, given the money he had made doing freelance thaumatological hacking, but that wasn' t the life for Merlin Giga.
    The man had a mission, and that mission took place away from civilization.  But much of his life was actually very boring, and unrelated to more important things; except for several key incidents.
    The first one, untold numbers of years after the exchange at the bus stop that didn't happen in a place where time didn't apply, started with Merlin Giga on the highest peak in the world, facing the morning sun and praying to his Lord.  Just as he had done every day, every week, every month, for years and years.
    A THUMP unsettled his meditations.
    "Enter," he said, unworried about the interruption.  His goddess would understand.
    The boy pulled himself up, through the doorway.  He gave a mighty heave, and hauled a fully packed backpack into the temple main room.
    "You know, your ladder's out, pops," the boy said.  "That's pretty dangerous.  You could get sued."
    "What is your name, foolish young stranger?" Merlin Giga asked.
    "Hospitality would be novel too," the boy said, and laughed a bit.  He walked over, and pulled out his own meditative rug; of an identical golden design as Merlin Giga's.  He sat next to him, muttered a small prayer, and continued.  "Xelan.  You can call me Xel.  I'm your new protégé."
    "I don't recall having one."
    "I know.  I just appointed myself," Xelan said, extending a hand to shake.
    "I do not require one," Merlin Giga said.  "My prayers to the Lord of Nightmares are mine alone to make."
    "I was actually pretty curious about that, but don't worry, I'm not here on religious grounds," Xelan noted.  "I want to learn your magic.  I hear you can shape raw will, true thaumatological hacking.  Not just white or black spellwork.  I'm pretty hot stuff with magic too, you know..."
    Giga now allowed himself a look at the boy.  He had short purple hair, as was the style this year from what his nearest neighbor told him three years ago.  Oddly, he also had on robes of a third year acolyte in the church.
    "Oh, don't get me wrong," Xelan said, recognizing the look.  "I'm a man of the cloth.  Just not of the collar.  I believe in the chaos of the Lord of Nightmares and of all Her blessings, but no reason we can't have a little fun too in this mortal lifetime, right?"
    "Your full name is Xelan Reshtag," Merlin Giga sighed.  "You hail from Nohao, where you grew up as a trickster, always playing practical jokes on the local population.  After that you moved on to spying and information sales, working for your government at the age of twelve to spot sedition in the villages.  You resigned from that job and joined the priesthood, the brightest and most difficult pupil in the Temple of Holy Enigma at Nohao.  On the side you did some magical work for money, and researched into the ancient ones known as the Mazoku, a thing your elders tried to dissuade you from.  Your jokes on the other students got meaner, and more sadistic, until in your third year they had to decide whether or not to expel you... and instead of dishonorable discharge from the church, you were graduated one year early, due to your exceptional grades and abilities.  After that you wandered in your priest's robes, aiding villages as you went while causing small problems for them that you thought nobody was aware of.  Efforts to find you have failed.  And now here you are, in my private temple, seeking knowledge of magic when you should know as that I am truly only interested in my meditation and have not been involved in the church heirarchy for years."
    The young priest sat in silence, stunned by Merlin's speech.
    "How... how'd you know all that?" he asked.
    "Ah," Merlin said, rising from his prayer mat.  "That is a secret."
    "That's a secret, huh," Xelan said.  "I like the sound of that.  Must be a pretty big one.  Don't you have an itching urge to tell it?"
    "No, and that's why I'm still here today," Merlin said.  "And that's why I'll accept you as my protégé."
    So, the prayer went on for more years, with Merlin teaching Xelan the keys to magic in his spare time.  Merlin Giga had little else to do, and had no problems contributing every waking moment to these two tasks.  But despite the teachings, few wisdoms were parted.  His boy wonder thought the old man had no real vision, that he could be making a mint and having a ball with his magic, but instead chose to devote his life primarily to begging the Lord of Nightmares for the answer to a question Merlin himself couldn't even define.  Such lunacy!  Xelan was shocked that it worked.
    He himself was taking one of his many afternoon naps when it happened.  No particular magic hour, no stroke of midnight; simply his master, gone missing, with a tiny note left behind.  'Visiting Lord of Nightmares.  Will take awhile.  Feed cat.'
    The second important moment came upon Merlin's return, walking from a glowing gateway.  Xelan, who was busy sweeping the floor at the moment and humming the tune to a popular song about sex, briefly glimpsed the shores of chaos before the gateway closed.
    "M-master?!" he stammered.  "You've returned!... why are you glowing?"
    "I am?" Merlin asked, watching the radiant golden glow of his own arm with interest.  "I am.  I am glowing with the light of chaos.  Pardon my dazzlement, boy... I have... I have found my answer.  I have made a bargain with the Lord."
    "A bargain?  Pops, that's insane," Xelan said, letting his broom drop.  "What KIND of bargain?"
    "Humanity's savior will arise," Giga said, his eyes distant, voice soft.  "He who walks the path, obtaining the darkness stolen from the Mazoku and the light stolen from the Dragons will reach the Gate.  My spells, made official, so we may have tools against the oppressors, and then the holy one will prove his worth in quest, and the knight shall be raised, so that humans can know their place.  So that we will ... we'll..."
    "We'll...?" Xelan prompted.
    "It's funny, but..." Merlin Giga said, a thought entering his head.  "I'm not entirely sure.  It seemed so clear, but... Xelan, I am positive that my Lores, which I will have you write and distribute, are righteous.  They are the bargain, the path the one the Lord of Nightmares seeks will take, but... why do I feel used?"
    "Used, sir?"
    "There is a larger situation here," Merlin said.  "My prayers were answered, my concerns addressed, and humanity no longer will have to hide from the Mazoku or even the Dragons, but... that was not the reason the Lord of Nightmares struck the bargain.  This is simply a move in a game greater than myself.  I can barely comprehend what is involved anymore..."
    "Master, you're exhausted," Xelan said.  "You really need to rest.  Maybe it'll make more sense to you in the morning?"
    "No, first we transcribe the three spells into books, and you will distribute them," Merlin Giga said.  "That is part of the bargain.  I'm sorry to place such a heavy burden on you."
    And so, Xelan wrote several copies of the Giga Lores, penning it from the exact words his master used.  These were quite ordinary books, nothing special to them save the neat handwriting and spells of such intense power as never seen before in the world.  Giga grew more and more incoherent, unable to recall the precise bargain or the reasons behind it.  On the final day, his hysteria inversely proportional to his health, he made one last request of Xelan.
    "I missed a spell!!" Giga howled.  "What a fool I was, I know nothing, I knew nothing!  There needs to be a fourth spell.  I have seen it in my dreams!"
    "But Master, the books... I've already sent them out, as you ordered--"
    "Nevermind that!  You must take this fourth spell and distribute it.  Without it, there will be no hope!  It is called Giga's Dream.  Please, Xelan!"
    "I will," Xelan said.  He was shocked at himself; amazing responsibility, so many secrets... and he was participating with nary a sarcastic remark.  He was right to take it seriously.  The day after receiving Giga's Dream, Merlin Giga was no more, passed away in his sleep.  It was the final stage of his bargain, that his works would be forgotten, and his life would be lost.  Sacrificed so that his legacy would end up in the right hands, one day.
    A final moment in Xelan's life must be detailed.
    One month after the end of Merlin Giga, his only student, his self appointed protégé stumbled through the wastelands below Giga's peak, through the rain, running from nothing.
    He fled the smoking crater where his test of Giga Slave proved successful.  He fled the one hundred foot tall tree he revived from near death with Giga Restoration.  But most importantly, he fled the spot where he created the Gateway, that took him to the Lord of Nightmares Herself -- and he fled the golden butterfly wings on his back.
    This isn't what he wanted.  He wanted to complete Merlin's work, in tribute to the old man, but he never understood... he never realized the implications!  And if he didn't take on the helm--
    Xelan stumbled in the rain, falling into a puddle of mud, staining his robes.
    "You seem to be in a bind, little human."
    His eyes raised, to witness the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.  Stylish, in the latest business fashions, a long-filtered cigarette smoking like some awful fire...
    "I'm in trouble," Xelan burbled.  "I'm in danger.  I don't want to be what the Lord wants me to be.  But I'm going to be restless forever if I refuse..."
    "A tragic tale," the woman said, tapping some ash onto Xelan from her cigarette.  "Whatever will you do?"
    "I don't know," Xelan said.  "I don't know."
    "I think I do."
    "Who are you?" Xelan asked.
    "Call me Zelas," the woman said, lowering a hand to help the boy up.  "Zelas-Metallum.  And I believe you will enjoy working for me... little Xelloss.  And I believe I will enjoy it as well..."
    "Mazoku," the boy recognized.  "But I can't.. I can't be a Mazoku."
    "I thought you don't want to be a human?"
    "I do, but... oh, Lord!  What should I do?"
    "A bargain, then," Beastmaster Zelas-Metallum suggested.  "If another ever is raised the way you were, then I will let you go.  To atone with your.. god.  That would be fair, yes?"
    "I guess... miss, I... mistress, I'm so confused!"
    "You won't be anymore," Beastmaster said, giving the young boy a hug.  "You're mine now.  And I take care of my young."
    Of course, the Beastmaster also eats her young one day, but she neglected to mention that.
    It was called the Age of Wonders, and what an age it was!  The Sub Ways, in their shining magnificence, the first of these great achievements, tribute to the (presumably late) Merlin Giga.  Merlin, who inspired a generation of magicians to become 'thaumatological hackers', a subculture that had actually been around for decades and was only now receiving the fame it so rightfully deserved.  These risk-taking young people engaged in 'extreme magic', casting spells without spells, creating works of such amazing magical prowess that made those stuffy robe-wearing wizards shuffle around in discontent... and some even were rumored to have FORGED their own lores, aside from the White and the Black!  Truly such miracles!
    That is, if you believed the hype.  And Matthew didn't believe in the hype anymore.
    He wasn't a young man, he was an old man.  Once he was Silverquick, hacker extrodinare, forger of the Mirror Lores; now he was just a doddering old fool, who had grabbed a shiny brass ring that bit back.  If he could return to those days, to correct his mistakes, maybe she would still be with him...
    But he couldn't go back.  He could look forward in his mirrors, but that was all.  Still, it was an advantage.
    He took a hold of his specially created communication mirror, chanting a power word to place the connection.  Soon, the face of a man with stone for skin was there, rather than his own reflection.
    "Hail to thee, Chi'Leas of the Hi'Chi'Orld," Matthew greeted.
    "Hello, old friend," the chimera smiled.  "It has been long.  How may my people help you?"
    "How are the kids, actually?  Business can come later."
    "They're fine.  They pine for the surface as many of the young do, but that will pass, as always.  How fares our aboveground work?"
    "Exactly as predicted.  Your stonesmiths outdid themselves," Matthew said.  "People up here believe Shamanism to be hundreds of years old.  Those were excellently done false ruins."
    "As Alyson requested, we spared no details.  It is good to see such a positive set of spells spread and established.  But sometimes I wonder... was the hoax really required?  Wouldn't your people have embraced Shamanism without the false history behind it?"
    "I don't think so, Chi'Leas," Matthew said, leaning back in his chair.  "Even now the hacking fad is going out of style.  Merlin Giga's death started and ended the whole era.  Brief, intense, but nothing will escape it.  Shamanism would have gone out of style along with the rest of us."
    "Sad," Chi'Leas agreed.  "How fare your Mirror Lores?  Are they passing into oblivion as well?"
    "You bet, and I'm encouraging it," Matthew said.  "Too powerful for common use.  But... there's one last detail to take care of before I officially retire.  I've already placed a copy of the lores in a locked room in the Great Library, but I need to hide a large amount of the water somewhere... somewhere guarded."
    "Now it comes into focus.  You require our skills to summon a water spirit to guard the lake," Chi'Leas said.  "It is as if it were done.  My people owe a lot to Alyson, and thus to you, her male-widow."
    "We were never married, Chi'Leas..."
    "Spirit does not require ceremony.  We will supply a guardian with power and wisdom, to prove through vision," Chi'Leas said.  "The Lord of Chaos works in mysterious ways.  Perhaps She desires us to do this act for her own means."
    "Yeah, it'd be nice.  To tell the truth, I'm actually fuzzy on why I'm doing all these silly preparations.  I've seen one... I've seen a woman named Lina Inverse in my mirrors.  In my dreams.  In both," Matthew corrected.  "And she needs a book of magic."
    "You mean she needs your book of magic," Chi'Leas stated.
    "Yeah, that's what I said."
    "No, you said A book."
    "I meant my book.  I'm a little discombobulated today.  I'm getting old, and--"
    But the chimera smiled wide.  "I see that the Lord of Chaos works through you, as well."
    "Naah, this is just some standard save the world from darkness thing," Matthew said.  "Without the book, the world's doomed, I think.  Water too.  That's all.  Although... I can't see how it'll turn out."
    "Tell me, old friend, what do you see?"
    "Clouds.  Wild patterns.  Sometimes shapes that look a bit like wings.  Nothing out of the ordinary, I'd guess."
    "I may live in the dark, but I have better eyes than you sometimes, Matthew," Chi'Leas says.  "That is not meant to be an insult.  I wish you luck in your preparations, and I wish this Lina Inverse luck.  I feel that we may be seeing her sometime in the future."
    "What makes you say that?"
    "Knowledge of Drama, perhaps.  It has been a pleasure talking to you, Matthew," the chimera said, very pleased.  "May your years be long and full of happiness.  I will have one of my finest shamans contact you about supplying a lake guardian.  Farewell."
    The communication link severed, leaving Matthew to look at his own face.
    Crazy old guy, he figured.  Living underground too long.  Chi'Leas was right about one thing, though... the Lord of Nightmares works in mysterious ways.  Such as allowing you and your best friends to establish their own lores only to have their successes collapse in a series of accidents and incidents and shifts in the winds of fate.  Oh, yeah.  Definitely mysterious...
    Perhaps he was getting too bitter, Matthew thought, rubbing his temples.  But just once, he wished chaos could work in his favor.
    "Lord," Matthew said, in one of the few times he ever prayed, "I hope you've got some reason for all this -- ALL of this.  Because it's getting harder to trust that it'll all work out."
    Strangely, on the day he completed his preparations to guide Lina Inverse on her journey, Matthew found himself... done.  At peace.  He went into retirement, sipped tropical drinks in anonymity on some island community, met a nice girl and fell into a warm, happy sort of obscurity.
    Maybe it was just good luck, but he hoped that someone, somewhere was thanking him.
    Every event.  Every object.  Every person.
    Everything has a story behind it.  It's a story with a misrecognized beginning and ending, changing over time.  Even when you've found that beginning, sometimes the conclusion is what slips between your fingers, like a bar of soap in the bath.  For instance, perhaps this everything ends in flaming, widespread destruction.  The world burns away like an ember in the fireplace, all life extinguished, the crushing order of Nothing becoming the way of existence.  Or maybe nothing appears to be different, yet everything is.  Maybe the sky turns red and the seas turn to blood.
    Either way, everything changes, as the story goes.  Finding that true story is the goal, the reason for the everything, for a specific thing.  The reason why everything changes the way it does.
    One good method is to step outside everything, study it from different angles.  An impartial observer.
    From one angle, in the ending...
Story copyright 1998 Stefan Gagne, characters copyright H. Kanzaka / R. Araizumi.
A Spoof Chase Production.