alance between the Chaos and the Order, the Darkness and the Light, the creatures desiring existence and those who seek destruction.  The Lord of Nightmares holds dominion over all.
    The earlier days of the world were bright, strong times.  People burned with a life intensity all their own, the human spirit beating in the heart of each man and woman.  The Mazoku were plenty in number, and powerful, but the wars raged on with an almost harmonious balance; nobody was winning, nobody was losing.  Everybody who knew the way the world worked understood why this must be, the law of the balance, the Lord of Nightmares' gift to the world.  She created the world out of chaos, and gave it order by leaving it once the task was complete.
    But she still could be summoned, under the right circumstances.  It was risky.  To make a mistake would tip the scales and allow the Lord to touch the world once more, destabilizing it to the core; she was not evil, but chaos was her nature, and it would be inevitable.
    For the third time that day, ordinary adolescent Matthew Silversmith considered reconsidering casting the spell.
    "What have you got to lose?" his brother asked of him.  "You know the spell by heart, I showed you how I used it.  There's no danger of apocalypse if you cast it right.  I know you've got the skill."
    "And if I make a mistake?" he asked.
    "You won't.  I've got faith in you, brother," Luke had smiled.  "But if you really don't want to do it, I mean, if you're seriously worried, you don't have to.  But these are your spells.  You make the choice to give them life."
    For four years now, Matthew had been a thaumatological hacker.  His family, being simple smiths and craftsmen, couldn't afford the fees to send him and his brother to sorcerer's universities.  What he couldn't buy, he learned; from dusty old books, from ancient wise men, from wizard-warriors returning from the frontlines of the Mazoku Wars.
    He and his friends knew of the two magical arts, the White and Black, perfectly reasonable opposites under the balance of the Lord's scales.  They learned the spells of each, knew both lores inside and out, but in the process uncovered one spell which was neither White nor Black.  And with it, the knowledge to put that spell to good use.
    Stalling, however, would make no good use of the spell.  Stepping into the magical circle, Matthew started the chant.  The air around him glowed faintly with the golden powers he tapped.
    "Power beyond the known powers...
    Deeper than the deepest mind...
    King of Darkness, Queen of Light,
    Shining like gold upon the Sea of Chaos,
    I call upon thee, swear myself to thee,
    Let the knowledge we posses be one...
    The golden light filled the room, and Matthew found himself touching the mind of the Lord.

    He sensed her, the brilliance of her majesty.  The most beautiful woman Matthew could have ever imagined, hair flowing like liquid gold, in waves of pure reality.  He knew, from Luke's research into the Giga's Gate spell, that the Lord of Nightmares appeared as a princess beyond compare to humans; to other species, she might be different.  She held the scythe of destruction and the shovel of rebuilding, her eyes so perfectly human that they transcended beauty.
    "Again," the Lord of Nightmares spoke, the thoughts arriving directly into Matthew's mind with the clarity of crystal.  "For The Fourth Time, I Am Summoned.  Giga Before, The First To Forge a New Power.  Your Friends, As I Can Sense They Are Your Friends, The Other Two.  The Danger Is High, The Accidental Annihilation Of Balance.  Yet Humans Persist.  I Am Wary And Intrigued At How The Humans Have Uncovered This, The Most Ancient of Pacts, The Forging of Powers.  Speak Your Wish, And I May Grant It, To Add To The Weights Of The Scale."
    Matthew knew she could read his mind for the concept, but also knew that she would be watching his very thoughts for the intent behind it.  His words would be the proving point; would he dare to lie, knowing how open he was to her?  He wouldn't.
    "I seek to forge the power of Mirror Magic," Matthew said, thoughts pure to match his spoken words.  "I know of other realities, across time and space.  Alternate worlds, similar, like a warped reflection.  I wish to establish a link between worlds through the mirror's surface, for visions and travel, to expand humanity's knowledge of the universe."
    "An Unusual Power," the Lord of Nightmares said.  "Unbalancing In The Weight of Worlds.  I Will Allow It, With One Caveat, To Maintain Balance, As I Have Requested of The Three Who Came Before You As Well."
    "Any price is acceptable," Matthew said.
    And Matthew's mind slowly turned around, to look upon the symbols of magic.  The White and the Black, tall pillars of ivory and obsidian, upon which were engraved the spells of their lores, and their restrictions.  In the distance, Giga's pillar, and closer the pillars of Luke and Allyson.  A new pillar rose, of perfect silver, with the spells Matthew had designed for the last four months embossed into the metal.
    And below that :
    The Lord of Nightmares returned to her sea, and the gate was closed.

    Celebration launched that evening.
    Luke was already into the keg of ale they had stolen off the back of a donkey cart, using Luke's Giga-forged Image Magic.  It was a simple spell; they covered themselves in Image Invisible, rolled a keg off the cart, and replaced it with a rock enchanted with Image Swap.  All for a good cause.
    "Friends?  A toast," Luke said, raising his glass.  The other five members of the Alternative Magic Society raised in turn.  "To my brother, Matthew.  Who has gone on this day to forge the third of the new lores!  To Mirror Magic!"
    A rousing cheer floated from the group, who immediately resumed partying.
    Matthew resumed explaining from his freshly written Tome of Mirror Lore to Allyson, who had sat next to him on the couch, listening attentively.
    "You see, the worlds we can link to exist," he said.  "There's just an infinite number of them.  Splitting off across every possibility in history, small or large.  There's one where you're sitting on the other side of me, but everything else is the same, for example."
    "I suppose it's natural," Allyson mused.  "Although touching those worlds upsets the balance."
    "Relax!" Luke laughed.  "L-Sama there covers anything like that happening.  It'll be perfectly safe.  I for one can't wait to try out my twin's new work."
    "We'd better take it slow.  You can really make mistakes with Mirror Magic if you're not careful," Matthew warned.
    "Yeah, slow.  It's understandable.  Speaking of slow, Allyson, when are we going to get to my lessons?" Luke asked.  "You may have just forged Shamanism a few weeks ago, but no need to keep it all to yourself."
    "You, Luke, are not acceptable to nature," Allyson said bluntly.  "Excuse me."
    She excused herself, and left the party.
    "What's with her?" Luke asked.
    "She's very protective of her work," Matthew shrugged.  "It's okay.  If she wants to share it, she will, eventually.  Just give her time."
    "We didn't found this little gathering on privatizing knowledge," Luke frowned.  "She had better share it.  I want that power."
    "You'll need time to learn Mirrors.  Once you finish, you can ask her again.  No need to push too hard, right?"
    "Whatever.  So.  What's the first step?"

    Over the next few years, the Alternative Magic Society started to disband.  The fourth person sent into the gate was rejected by the Lord of Nightmares, no reason given; the work done preparing Death Magic for forging was lost forever, burned out of his mind.  After that, the others gradually faded away, not wanting to risk a trip through Giga's Gate, their dreams of new lores pushed aside.
    The only three lores which were forged were Shamanism, Image and Mirror.  Luke and Matthew spent a lot of time together, perfecting each other's work.  Matthew used a more impressive sounding stage name and sold a few Mirror Magic enriched items to local kingdoms, while Luke kept his spells to himself, preferring to use them for practical jokes or snatching desserts at the market.  Allyson kept to the forests around their village, but would surface from time to time to buy supplies.  Among other things.
    "You have the wrong mindset," she said, as the brief puff of flame winked out in Matthew's hand.
    Matthew sighed, feeling the fire slip from his grasp for the hundredth time.  "I don't understand."
    "Fireball is not, by nature, a destructive spell," Allyson said, pacing around the room.  "Nor is it constructive.  The Lord smiled when I presented the lore to her for approval, and I think the reason for that is the intrinsic balance.  The counterbalance she gave it was very, very simple -- a once yearly oath taken to nature itself.  You have given the oath already, as I explained it to you.  But you still see fire as destructive."
    "Fire consumes," Matthew said.  "It eats matter.  How can it be anything else?"
    "Specific examples aren't how shamanism works.  Forces are the building block.  Think of fire as a force, not as an ability.  Try again."
    Matthew nodded, and chanted the spell. "Source of all power, light which burns beyond crimson, let thy power gather in my hand.  FIREBALL!"
    The fire flared in his hand, strong and bright.
    "Good!  Hold it.  Don't think about what it is, simply hold the force," Allyson recommended.
    The fire wobbled, but stayed stable.  Matthew's glee at the discovery rose -- and the fire vaporized.
    "Failure again..." he grumbled.
    "Success," Allyson corrected.  "You held a true fireball.  Now, we work on your control.  If--"
    The door to Matthew's room opened, and Luke wandered in, carrying a half empty bottle of ale.  He took another tug at it, body leaning backwards to tip the bottle, and stopped before he lost his footing.  Matthew froze.  Luke's gaze fell upon the pair.
    "Wha.. what is this?" he asked.
    "Luke.. how was market today?" Matthew asked, trying to change topics.
    But Luke wasn't falling for it.  He stumbled towards Allyson, rage smeared across his face.  "You'd teach HIM.. and not ME?  We're twinsh!  We're the shame!  You ungrateful bitch!"
    Allyson stood hard, arms folded.  "He has the respect.  You do not.  Nature rejects you."
    Luke's temper flared.  "Is that a fact?" he spoke, voice stone sober.  Power crackled at his fingertips visibly; a threatening tactic, unnecessary for a spell, but one Matthew had seen him use before to bully shopkeeps who haggled him too hard.
    "Wait.. wait," Matthew said, getting between the two.  "Be reasonable.  We're all sorcerers here.  We should work this--"
    Luke shoved Matthew aside, hard.  "If she seems to think I'm not good enough for her pretty little spells, maybe she hasn't looked hard enough at herself!  Hasn't realized yet what a selfish, childish upstart she is!"
    Reaching deep, Luke yanked a tiny, tarnished hand mirror from the depths of his cloak.  Without hesitation, he held the mirror at arm's length, before Allyson's eyes.
    "See what you might have been!" he screamed.
    Allyson's scream tore through the room, eyes widened at whatever she was seeing in the mirror.  Skin pale and flesh trembling, she fell backwards, sprawling onto the floor in a quivering heap.
    Matthew sprang on Luke, smashing him across the jaw.  The mirror flew away, shattering against a wall.
    "You bastard!" he accused.  "What did you do?!"
    Luke merely laughed.  "I used your Optimum Vision spell.  In reverse, of course."
    Matthew puzzled it over, before realizing.  "You.. you showed her the most evil she could have possibly been in the universe?  You burned her mind!"
    "Who cares?" Luke replied.  "Matt, we have the power here.  She never had any, except that silly animal worship.  With your spells, we could have power over everybody!  I've seen my Optimum Vision.  I could be king!  Higher than the Lord of Nightmares herself!  You could be too, I've seen it.  Brother, let's leave these ignorant fools behind.  We're Giga-forged sorcerers!"
    "I could be king..." Matthew repeated, quiet and distant.
    "You could," Luke nodded.
    "...I understand now, Luke.  Thank you."
    Luke smiled in understanding.  As did Matthew.  But they didn't understand the same thing.
    Power shot through Matthew's limbs, channeling like a funnel of death into Luke's body.  The grin turned to shock, as he was dead before his mind could realize it was in any pain.  Matthew wanted a clean demise for his brother.  He deserved that much.
    The task done, he crouched to Allyson's form, scooping her limp body into his arms.  He laid her on his bed, and took a mirror from the bedside.  He had to know the future, he had to know what would happen to his lores now that their most frightening possibility was reflected to him.
    He cast a spell, and gazed into destiny.  Understood.
    He turned to the ceiling, seeming to address nobody.  In truth, he was addressing the future.
    "Hear me now, Lina Inverse," he said.  "You'll know what I have known about these lores.  They have the balance, the good and the evil that the Lord seeks.  Because for every person who seeks them, their mirror, the worst within, will seek as well.  You'll face your dark image too, Lina Inverse... as I have just faced mine.  And you might lose all as well.  So take your group of six, and seek the Lake of Reflections, and seek the Great Library, if you must.  But hurry.  Your reflection will always catch up to you in the end."
Story copyright 1998 Stefan Gagne, characters copyright H. Kanzaka / R. Araizumi.
A Spoof Chase Production.