SLAYERS REFLECT #2 : Good Clue Hunting
By Stefan Gagne, Spoof Chase Productions.

ideouts are, by tradition, foreboding places. Either they're built at the top of the Peak of Despair in the Cave of Gloom, or maybe they're buried in a radiation-shielded lead bunker underneath the desert, or at the very least in a wooden shack at the top of a tree with a sign like 'KEEP OUT - NO GIRLS ALLOWED!!!'.
    The hideout Lina picked for the gang to settle in and figure out Step One in their grand quest was, however, not foreboding at all.  It was in fact an inn, restaurant and tavern in a small town on the outskirts of Sailoon.  Not nearly as impressive as the Happy Traveler Inn, nor did they have shoe polishing and sword sharpening facilities while-u-wait, but it did have what Lina felt to be the most important strategic element in war council planning sessions.
    "Keep it coming! Oh, and bring more slaw!" Lina suggested / demanded of the waitress, who had just brought out another seven plates of steak and butter sandwiches.
    "Um, Lina-san, shouldn't we be out looking for the Legendary Lost Lore Tome of Silver Mirror Magic now?" Amelia asked, poking at her salad with a fork nervously.
    "Thaff th' Leffendary Lofft Tomay of Murrur Lurr," Lina said, around a mouthful of beef that would choke a giraffe.  She chewed it a few more times, and swallowed, the food landing in her stomach with a resounding plop.  "And not yet.  We still need to eat up and grow strong for the journey!"
    "Oh!  Planning and logistics!" Amelia read into that.  "Okay, I see!  That's really a good idea, Lina-san!"
    "Pass the salt," Lina agreed.
    Not one to ignore a good meal, Gourry was also busy chowing down.  Although his stack of empty dishes was only 87% as tall as Lina's, it still reached high enough to make the waitress sweat and remember that she had to handle any broken plates.  After polishing off another leg of lamb, he asked a question which at first appears to be kind of stupid, but will be cleared up momentarily. "What's my name again?"
    "Zeke," Lina replied.
    "Right, right.. and you're.. Beatrice?"
    "Betty!  BETTY!  Beatrice sounds like some doddering old grandmother," Lina pouted.
    "Do you think it's in the principles of justice to assume a false name to avoid trouble?" Amelia asked.
    "Think of it as... undercover police work," Lina rationalized, tearing some cooked flesh off a leg of chicken. "MPpmhpmh.  (gulp)  Basically, if we don't take fake names, folks are going to know where we are.  I think we can shake any maniacs from the Con who want to head us off at the pass and find the Tome of Mirror Lore if we keep a low profile for awhile."
    "Oi, I'm confused," Gourry said, stating the obvious.  "Why do we have to hide again?"
    Lina sighed, and set down her fork reluctantly.  "It's like this, Gourry.  Me, you, and Amelia--"
    "That's not good grammar," Amelia interrupted.
    "--are all on this royal expedition," Lina continued regardless, launching into monologue.  "There's a book, lost in time, which contains the spells of a form of magic involving mirrors that haven't been practiced in almost forever.  We're trying to pick up clues, find the book, and repair the mirror I, um, broke in Sailoon so that I don't get my neck stretched.  And I for one wouldn't mind knowing the spells anyway, considering how valuable they are -- but so would a lot of other magicians.  And since you stupidly said you knew where the book was in front of all of them, we're probably going to be hunted down by any slightly off-kilter sorcerers who might want a piece of that book as well.  So, while we load up on supplies, rest, food, fine drinks, entertainment, and various consumer goods here we'll work under assumed names so nobody knows where we are, and we'll start our investigation."
    "I see," Gourry nodded.
    "So, you got all that?"
    "No.  Could you start over from 'It's like this'?"
    "Lina, why are you on the floor?" Gourry asked.
    Grumbling, Lina peeled herself off the ground.  "Look, Gourry, just... smile, and nod your head.  Okay?"
    Gourry smiled and nodded his head.
    "Thaaaat's better," Lina smiled, nodding her head.
    "So, when do we start looking?" Amelia asked, burbling over with enthusiasm.  "Gourry, ne, you know where the book is, right?"
    The blond haired swordsman stopped nodding his head and smiling.  "Hai.  It was on a little card, saying to go to 'Silver Lake' if the mirror broke."
    "You're sure that's what it said, right?" Lina asked.  "Your memory does rival an insect's sometimes, Gourry."
    "Why, thanks, Lina!" Gourry grinned, assuming that to be a compliment.  "Yeah, that's it.  Silver Lake.  I made a little rhyme so I could remember it : 'When the mirror breaks / and we have to leave / don't run around / go to Silver Lake to do what you have to do.'"
    "Uh... that doesn't rhyme," Amelia pointed out.  "Well, I guess 'breaks' and 'lake' kinda rhyme, but the meter is off between lines and it's really not that poetic at all..."
    "It isn't?" Gourry asked, surprised.  He looked up a bit, concentrating. "'When the mirror... uh... silver...' Well.. I know it's Silver Lake.  Absolutely positively sure that's probably it.  Possibly."
    "We're doomed," Lina moped over her fried clams.  "Okay... plan of action. We've got.. sort of a name. I'd say we should go to a magic shop and see if they know."
    "Why a magic shop?" Gourry asked.
    "Well, duh!  It's a magic lake owned by a magic person.  Must be some legendary legend about it," Lina pointed out.  "Any magic shop owner worth his salt would know a few legends."
    "I was actually thinking of the mapmaker's guild," Gourry said.  "I mean, lakes are on maps, right? There's a guild in the town next to this which we could check at."
    "But that's not In Cog Nee Toh," Amelia said, waving a no-no finger.  "Why don't we sneak back into Sailoon and check with the Royal Astrologer?  He's got tons of maps and knows a lot of stuff!"
    "What, that moron.. whatsisname... Marvin?"
    "Melvin Mallorean.  He's a nice guy, even if he tends to trip over his shoes and stammer a lot," Amelia said.  "And he has to eat food without salt and he tends to sweat a lot when a girl talks to him ... but he knows TONS of cool things!"
    "He didn't even know the tome existed!" Lina exclaimed.
    "Well.. just because he knows tons of cool things doesn't mean he knows ALL cool things, right? Right. My vote's for going back to Sailoon.  When in trouble, your country and home are there to support you!"
    "The mapmakers would be simpler," Gourry simply said.
    "This isn't like finding a local four star resort!" Lina exclaimed.  "We're looking for something no human being has ever found in the history of time!"
    "A kind of food you haven't eaten?" Gourry asked, honestly curious.
    "Okay.  Fine!  Fine!  What-Ever," Lina folded, putting her hands up.  "Let's do it this way.  Amelia, you run along home and check with Marvin--"
    "--and Gourry, head on over to the mapmakers and see if they've ever heard of a lake that no living being has taken a dip in for hundreds of years."
    "Okay!" Gourry smiled, sarcasm whooshing over his head like double-headed throwing axe.
    "I, myself, will go to the magic shop in town," Lina proclaimed.  "We'll all meet back here tonight.  Got it?"
    "What a great plan!" Amelia said.  "I'm excited!"
    "I'm not surprised," Lina dryly said.

    Outside of town, death stalked.
    A black form, in a flowing black cloak.  It lied in wait.  It prepared.  It was patient.
    It had incredibly large breasts.
    Death was, to be specific, a tall sorceress with an amazing figure and a Less Is More theory of armor.  Judging by her costume, which consisted of a bare minimum of black leather, big spiky shoulderpads and a cute l'il skull for a brooch, Less Is More theory calculated that she had nine foot thick titanium battleship armor plating in a figurative sense.  If she was shopping for food and held up two melons, it would look like she had four.  If curves were roads, these would be littered with signs like INCREDIBLY DANGEROUS and TURN BACK NOW.  If long, luxurious hair was...
    After the narrator ran off for a quick cold shower, Naga the White Serpent continued to stalk.
    She was getting good at this stalking thing.  Through the entire convention, she had stalked Lina Inverse -- well, except for the hour when she had to host the MagiCon Costume Discussion Panel.  But other than that, stalk stalk stalk, like celery.  Lina was a face Naga the White Serpent hadn't seen in awhile, but it was a face that hadn't changed much from the three years after they parted ways.  Naga, being Lina's most powerful rival and occasional travelling companion on a number of slightly outlandish journeys, would never forget the underdeveloped little weakling.
    Actually, Lina was about five times more powerful than Naga and much less annoying, but this is a fact that all weak annoying people are blind to.  So we'll just let her enjoy her little fantasy.
    In this fantasy, she saw Lina as HER sidekick, as Naga the great blazed a trail of glory.  When they parted after Naga refused to pay her part of a room service bill, Naga assumed her faithful sidekick would return to her.  After the first seven months, she began to wonder if that was the case.  After a year and a half she was pretty certain that Lina was gone for good, but after THREE YEARS, here she was again!!  So, she was right after all.  As always.
    Then she saw that Lina had taken a sidekick of her own.
    She was going on interesting trips without her true rival and companion, Naga!  She wanted to keep the fun to herself!
    This will not do.
    So, she stalked along and waited for her new sidekick to leave the inn they were staying at, and planned to annihilate him out of spite then reclaim Lina for her own road buddy.  Seemed as logical a plan as any.  And what's more, here he was coming, and alone!  Almost too easy!
    Naga, perched high in a tree for maximum 'leap out and get them' potential, watched the big blond-haired oaf lumber along the road between these two towns.  When the time was dramatically right, she leapt down to get him.
    "Beware, fool!!" Naga shouted.  "Now, you face NAGA THE WHITE SERPENT! OOOOOHHOOOHOHOHOHOHHOOHOHthud."
    The 'thud', of course, being when she slammed headfirst into the ground due to inadequate knowledge of physics and too much attention allocated to her evil laugh.
    Gourry, who only registered Naga's existence when his boot bumped into her crumpled form, looked down in confusion.  Strange person lying in road.  Course of action pending, please wait.
    After a few moments, he knelt down, and rolled Naga onto her back.  Fortunately for her, she had a thick head and ample padding up front to cushion the impact, or she'd have been a Nagacake.
    "Hey, are you okay, miss?" Gourry asked, his chivalry instincts kicking in.  He batted her cheeks lightly to wake her.
    Naga slowly roused.  "ooh.. hohohoo.. hoooh... ow." She looked up at her benefactor, and jumped from the ground to her feet almost instantaneously in surprise.  "YOU!"
    "Me?" Gourry asked, making sure she didn't mean some other you.
    "OOOHOHOOHHOOO!!" Naga laughed, into the back of her leather glove clad hand.  "So, you think you can defeat me?  You're so naive, Companion of Lina Inverse's!  I am not such easy prey!"
    "I wasn't trying to defeat you, I thought you might be hurt," Gourry explained in small words.
    "Well, you were in the middle of the road, and--"
    "OHO!  Do not think you can fool me with your false sincerity!" Naga snapped.  "Now, face your doom, so I may reclaim Lina as my sidekick in her journeys!"
    "Oh, we're going on one of those right now," Gourry said.  "Hey, do you know where Silver Lake is?"
    This threw Naga momentarily. "Huh?"
    "You know, it's really not safe on this road.  Someone could jump down on you from those trees without you knowing," he said, indicating the evil, vindictive flora.  "How about if I accompany you to the next city?  I'm looking for a mapmaker so Lina can find Silver Lake."
    "What's this Silver Lake thing?"
    "Oh, it's got some magical comic book or something.  Really legendary."
    "Legendary, you say...?" Naga asked.  Her overactive imagination gland was already secreting liters of Curiosity.
    "Really legendary."
    "And it's hard to find, is it?  Probably going to be wandering the lands, defeating enemies and so on to find it?"
    "Lina doesn't have a clue where to go, does she?"
    "Well, no, that's why I--"
    "OOOOHHOOHOHOHHOOHO!!!!!!" Naga laughed.  Gourry's brain rattled from the treble.  "Now I see the picture.  Lina IS in need of me!  Very well, we shall proceed to the next city and obtain this map!  Follow me."
    "Anooo..." Gourry started, but the strange sorceress was already on her way.  Gourry shrugged, and jogged along after her.

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Story copyright 1998 Stefan Gagne, characters copyright H. Kanzaka / R. Araizumi.
A Spoof Chase Production.