say that the mark of an intelligent man is that he knows his limitations.
Others say that the best men have no limitations, or push beyond the ones
they have. Still others claim that the finest men in history
are ones whose limitations are unknown, remaining... ah, forget it.
Zelgadis knew when he was licked and had no problems admitting it; he was
at a loss as to how to heal this girl he had found in the caves.
His specialty was Shamanism. While it was
terrific for gathering and controlling the elements, it was lousy for healing.
The best he managed was to hydrate the woman, improving her health somewhat,
but she was in this weird restless sleep and wouldn't come out of it.
Sweat actually oozed through the cracks in her stone skin...
That was the other thing that was stumping him.
She was a chimera. Probably a mix of a golem and a blue demon like
he was, in fact, right down to the hard
candy shell and purple hair. As far as Zelgadis knew, he was the
only humanoid chimera in existence; there were some wild chimeras, strange
beasts with three heads or six arms that smelled bad as a result of having
no underarm deodorant, but they didn't count.
When Zelgadis snuck the girl back to his inn, he
had to use his cloak as a blanket, to prevent anybody from seeing her skin.
Pleasantville, the dinkwad suburban community he was hiding out in, had
been a bit twitchy as of late; only recently, someone had discovered a
plot inside the post office to blow up the town following a strange wave
of fighting and hatred. Things were getting back to normal, but everybody
stayed on their toes. The last thing they wanted to see was some
monstrous chimera in their midst, even if he paid his inn bill and bought
food and generally contributed to the community, which just goes to show.
He spent the night trying to work up some magic
that could heal her, but didn't have what it took. That's okay.
He knew someone who did, and figured she'd still be where he left her,
in Sailoon. Amelia was well trained in white magic and would know
what to do. Zelgadis kept the chimera girl in his room to make sure
she would be okay, and slept on the floor, clocking himself to snooze exactly
He woke up four hours later.
An explosion rocked the inn, knocking things off
shelves and onto him. Zelgadis woke and got alert fast, no time to
dally around yawning. Stuff was happening.
He went to the window, looked out, and saw that
most of Pleasantville was on fire or blown to smithereens or both, and
the three dueling monsters causing the mess were coming this way.
Screw walk, do not run to the nearest exit; he made his own exit with a
controlled fireball, scooped up the girl, snapped a bubble around himself
and flew out to safety.
If there could be safety. He could see through
the smoke and haze now, as a gold Dragon battled it out with two Mazoku,
from the looks of it. That was weird. (An understatement, but
Zelgadis would panic later, when it was more convenient.) What on
earth were they doing here?
Quickly, he flew back to the cave ruins outside
town where he had originally found the girl, using them for shelter.
Briefly he considered doing something against the attackers, but what could
he manage? Ra-Tilt tended not to work on strong Mazoku, and you don't
want to attack a Dragon. They were almost the good guys... except
for the time he went into the future and they were totalitarian dictators,
Besides, he didn't have time. The two Mazoku
teamed up, creating a ball of darkness the size of a small mountain, and
pasted the Dragon with it, smashing it -- and all of Pleasantville -- flat.
An explosive haze lit up the area, and when the dust settled, a huge crater
was all that remained to mark the spot. The two then raced off, moving
on for some other purpose, leaving the flaming wreckage of what was once
the world's nicest and most polite friendly town behind.
A few survivors were crawling out of the wreckage
at the edges of the blast. Others who had fled the city only now
could gape in horror at what happened. Zelgadis, eerily, didn't feel
one way or the other. He'd had some bad experiences in this town,
for starters. And besides, what could he do? What could any
of them do after a couple big nasties came and happened to crush your town?
The surviving humans seemed to mirror his thoughts, standing around, unsure
of what they should be doing...
Right now, Zelgadis had a task he COULD do, he could
take care of. Of course, it'd be a long, long ride back to Sailoon...
A clinking sound drew his attention.
Maybe it would have been a good idea to search the
girl's pockets and pouches earlier; then he'd have spotted the rather dented
and rusty Sub Way Token she carried. What on earth was the girl doing
with this thing? he wondered, picking it up. From what he understood,
it was a key to an ancient transportation system, that he'd only used twice
to date. But with this... with this he could be in Sailoon and up
to the palace in under an hour.
And for the best. The way these people were,
chances were they'd take some potshots at him. He was a monster,
after all, and didn't a couple of monsters just pass through here?
All over the world, the word was the same : War.
Some hadn't seen any actual action yet. Some
had been a little too close and it was the last thing they saw. Nobody
remembered what the last war was like, since it happened hundreds of years
ago, and nobody was alive now who had been in it... at least, nobody human.
Some towns armed themselves with any weapons they could find, figuring
maybe they could defend their homes; usually these people had only heard
of Dragons or Mazoku in children's stories. Others hired sorcerers
to keep the town safe in the weeks to come, only to find these magicians
had taken the money in advance and then headed for the hills, which was
starting to look like the only sensible thing to do.
In actuality, although the war was becoming common
knowledge at incredible speed, not very many battles were being fought.
After all, this climactic struggle between good and evil had only started
about eight hours ago. Mostly all you had was widespread rumors,
fanatic disbelievers, panic and paranoia, no real focus, nothing to shoot
at. But in remote places, away from the major cities or communication
routes, you'd hear the same thing. War? What war? And
sometimes : What's a Mazoku?
In the the world of dreams, the occupants had heard
of Mazoku, but they hadn't heard of a war yet. Some explanation is
needed as to why this is.
Everybody passes through the world of dreams while
they sleep, but until recently, nobody lived there. There were originally
eight occupants, but they were evicted by their landlord for not following
the contract -- the Palace of Chaos, home to the original wingless (now
winged again) had gone into horrible disrepair since then.
When the latest tenant arrived -- a priest by the
name of Xelloss -- he was quite dismayed at the state of the palace.
Most of it had fallen into shapeless matter, leaving entire wings of randomly
appearing and disappearing rooms, as sleepers wandered here and there,
lost and confused. But since then, he's had a week or two to tidy
up, and has made a support crew of his own out of the raw dreamstuff; adorably
nasty little daemons, running tasks here and there, re-wallpapering the
place and generally getting the world of dreams up to code.
Despite all this efficiency, news in this place
only gets updated every night, when humanity sleeps. It's gathered
by the tiny daemons, who crawl inside their brains and kill them -- WAIT!
That's not entirely true. Xelloss had rather harshly punished the
last daemon to do that, and since then, they had stuck to the task he created
them for, which was information gathering. And sneaking smoke breaks
when New Nightmare, Xelloss's professional name, wasn't looking.
Right now, New Nightmare had a houseguest.
The two were in Xelloss's parlor, his favorite room of the palace -- quaint,
tasteful, quiet. Both were sipping tea, and engaging in the game
of kings and nobility.
Xelloss slid a piece off to the left.
"Check," he announced, smiling. He always
smiled. Even when he was losing.
"Uhhhh..." his guest said, not smiling. "How
does the horsey thing move again?"
"Honestly, Myth-chan, you'd think you've never played
chess before," Xelloss sighed.
"You haven't? You've been alive since before
time was time and you've never played chess?"
Myth looked sheepish. "I don't usually play
games. Paradox and Drama like them, though."
"Yes, but Paradox is still angry at me over that
whole nasty incident at his former home," Xelloss reminded. "And
Drama takes entirely too long to plan his moves. He covers it up
with speechmaking and heavy-think posing, but I think he has trouble remembering
how the horsey moves as well..."
"Is this all you do up here?" Myth asked, looking
around. The parlor was poorly lit, but had enough light to make out
the bookshelves, pool table, tea set, and so on... "Play games and relax?"
"Oh, this is just my day job," Xelloss said.
"At night I'm quite active terrorizing people and so on. I do love
not requiring sleep, it makes life so much more productive... why are you
looking at me like that, Myth-chan?"
Myth got slight shivers. "Could.. you not
call me Myth-chan? It's just this thing, I mean..."
"Ahhh," Xelloss said, recognizing. "Still
not quite over your fears of my predecessor. Don't worry, Myth.
I assure you that our work together will be pleasant and beneficial to
"Work? But... we don't work together," Myth
"Ah, but don't you recognize the parallels?" Xelloss
asked, sipping from his teacup. "You are the positive of stories,
I am the negative. Well, I'm currently hired to be the negative,
although I'm working on making it official by some means... just because
Nightmare has been something of a bastard lately doesn't mean I'll be,
Myth sighed. "Can I be frank?... I really
don't want to work with you on anything. I know, you're not him,
but.. I'm just not comfortable with this yet. I'm sorry..."
The priest-turned-rent-a-wingless thought it over,
and nodded. "Quite alright, quite alright. Perhaps another
time... hello, what's this?"
A tiny red daemon clawed its way up Xelloss's chair,
hissing in his ear in a language Myth couldn't understand. Xelloss
nodded, and flicked it away with his finger -- the daemon hit the floor
and scampered away.
"Seems there's trouble brewing outside," he said,
rising. "Big trouble. Three reports in of dreamers imagining
the same city being burned to the ground, and two more with identical dreams
of different village. I'd better go attend to these nightmares, see
what I can see... perhaps a few nudges in terror here and there will yield
more secrets, mmm?"
"Umm... good luck," Myth said.
"Stick around, ne," Xelloss suggested. "You
might be needed. I trust my hunches, and you know what they're saying
Myth swallowed. "What are they saying?"
"Can't say, it's a secret," Xelloss smiled, waggling
a finger. He melted into darkness, one of his many new tricks, and
flowed through the cracks in the palace brick, on his way to someone's
Myth couldn't resist another shiver. He was
so polite, and never seemed to menace, but.. she wasn't happy with this.
Wasn't happy at all.
Zelgadis decided to start an exercise regimen the minute
he had some free time. Assuming he'd have some free time in the foreseeable
The girl weighed a ton. Stone skin would do
that, but the effort required to keep that much dead weight going without
magic was intolerable! And he didn't have a choice, since he didn't
want to approach Sailoon City by air; the last thing he wanted was a few
arrows shot at him for being a flying menace, especially not after today's
events. He pulled up the mask on his cloak, did his best to wrap
the girl in a spare cloak, and get her through the city streets.
Bad idea, in one way; good idea in another
The guard came right away, wondering why a mysterious
masked man was dragging a limp body through the streets. Zelgadis
was about ready for a fight, when he realized he could use this to his
"I've got a foreign dignitary here," he lied.
"She's badly hurt, but I'm her escort to the palace. We need an audience
with Princess Amelia immediately."
"Sure, pal, and I'm the Egg Hiding Day Kangaroo,"
the guard joked.
Zel was going to push the issue or try a few more
fast-talking scams, when he realized it was more effort than it was worth.
"Okay, we'll play it safe. Send a message up to the castle saying
that Zelgadis needs to see the princess, and it's an emergency. Let
The guard was about to turn Zel away again, but
looked up at the lovely weather, and gave a shrug. "What the hell,
it's a slow day. NORD!"
The runner was off. Zelgadis waited, and assembled
the day's events while he had the chance.
First of all, he got to see some Dragons and Mazoku
tangling in public, in a really violently obvious way. That wasn't
the way they worked, to his knowledge; more often they were attacking..
well, him and Lina's groupies, but that didn't count. Second, here
he had this chimera woman who had a Sub Way Token that hadn't seen use
in a long time and had told him... what were the words again? Something
about needing to find some wings. And there was that strange cave
painting he dreamed of seeing, where a chained goddess turned chimeras
into humans... waaait, there's a connection he didn't think of before.
If there was an entrance to a series of caves below that painting, and
he found this chimera in the caves...
The runner returned, sweaty and exhausted, and Zelgadis
was escorted quickly into the castle. He'd have to finish that line
of thought later.
Lina wasn't the least bit worried about being shot down
on her approach to the palace. By now, the tower guards were used
to seeing her fly around. She got over the embarrassment of showing
off those wings a long time ago; they felt natural to her now, and if anybody
stared, she could stare right back -- harder.
Gourry kept his eyes closed the whole way to the
castle, trying to ignore the impossibly thin bubble of magic that was the
sole thing between himself and a short, sharp demise hundreds of feet down...
"Are we there yet?" Gourry asked.
"We're safe, scaredycat," Lina said, letting the
spell go, and dropping Gourry gently on to the bed in her room. Gourry
opened his eyes, saw a floor, and felt much relief.
"Head to your room and pack up all your stuff,"
Lina said, grabbing her own travel bag. "Once we tell Amelia what's
up and get word to Xelloss with orders for the winged, we're OUT of here."
"Why? Aren't we going to help them with the
war?" Gourry asked.
Lina groaned. "How many times must I explain
this? We can't DO anything. Maybe you could smack down a few
Mazoku with your sword, and if I really drain myself each day I could also
do some fighting, but chances are pretty high we'd just end up a thin paste
across the landscape if we tried. The winged have enough power, let
them handle it."
Gourry frowned. "It's not right to run away
when people are in danger, Lina. And since when are you afraid of
"Danger? Never. Spectacularly gory demise?
Quite often," Lina said. "And if that makes me a yellow bellied coward,
then just call me Lemon Inverse."
"Auntie always said lemons weren't proper for good
girls," Gourry said.
"I don't get it. Did she say why?"
"Uh... no. I never understood it either."
Story copyright 1998 Stefan Gagne, characters copyright H. Kanzaka
/ R. Araizumi.
A Spoof Chase Production.