s the sun started to set, Lina trudged back 'home', unsuccessful.
    She decided to poke around a few other possible magic shops, having no luck at the first one. While she managed to collect a lot of interesting gossip, and broke down to buy one of those stuffed frogs with six legs that were being displayed so prominently here, she had zero leads on Silver Lake.
    So, down for the count but not defeated, Lina Inverse settled into her inn room with three carts of room service to enjoy the evening with her other companions who would be equally less successful.
    Except one problem.  They weren't here.
    That didn't immediately mean anything.  They could just be less successful in more length ways, thus delaying them.  It didn't exactly mean that where she, Lina Inverse, sorceress supreme had failed in recovering magical knowledge that Amelia or Gourry who wouldn't know a legendary lost lore if it bit them in the buttocks had succeeded.  So, confident in that knowledge, she enjoyed a nice steak and salad when Amelia charged into the room waving a map.
    "Look, look!  We found it!" the younger girl cheered.  "The map to Silver Lake!  Ano, Lina-san, you're choking."
    "Gleeeeh," Lina explained.  "Pfeh!  What?!  You found it?"
    "Un!  Melvin had-- ano, he was right behind me..." Amelia said, looking here and there. She ducked back out into the hallway, and grabbed the protesting sage by a sleeve, dragging him in.
    "Um, hi," Melvin greeted.  "She made me come along. This isn't going to be exciting, is it?"
    "Map!  Gimmie!" Lina politely requested, snatching the map from them.  She read over it once, twice.
    Long pause.
    "Amelia, this isn't a map," Lina groaned.  "It looks like--"
    "I know, I know.  But it's yellow and crinkly!  That means it's really old and authentic and stuff!"
    Lina fetched a sheet of complementary parchment from the inn room desk, and poured some of the lemonade from her dinner on it.  "Look!  Yellow paper!  And when it dries, it'll probably be crinkly.  You've been had."
    Melvin pushed up the lenses on his nose. "Uh, if I could...?" he said, taking the map back carefully.  "There's an easy way to tell.  Um.  From what I read, Silverquick always puts a hidden signature in a silvery water on his work.  So, if we hold it up to light..."
    With that, he opened the window and the drapes, and used the setting sunlight to illuminate the paper.  The last solar rays of the day gleamed through the document, highlighting a squiggly doodle that might be a signature from a doctor prescribing medication.  But it was silver.
    "See?" Melvin said.  "It works."
    "Whoa, neat!" Lina exclaimed, snatching the map back.  "I wonder if this is a spell of some kind of Mirror Lore?  It's really shiny.  Although I don't get what the red dot is for.  X marks the spot?  Or rather, dot?"
    Amelia pikued.  "What red dot?"
    "The one on the paper there..." Lina said, moving it for Amelia to examine; but the dot didn't move.  When she lowered the paper, it was projected on her hand; when she lowered that, it was gone.
    "Hey, you're right!" Amelia said.  "There's a red dot on the map!  How'd that get there?"
    "And now there's a hole in the map where the red dot was," Amelia observed.  "What a strange map. Is it magic?"
    Lina looked at the hole in the paper where the dot was.  She wondered why she had just felt a breeze.  She turned around, and noticed a similar hole in the wall, with a tiny lead marble stuck an inch into the plaster.  She drew a few quick, and ultimately life-saving conclusions.
    "You know," Lina mused, "Now that I think about it, if a marble can actually be thrown fast enough to jam itself that far into the wall, it could really hurt anybody who was in the way..."
    There was a long pause.  Lina dove under the bed.
    "Um, excuse me, but what exactly is going on?" Melvin asked before the next marble parted his hair.
    Allergies in full swing, Melvin fell down and immediately broke out into hives and sneezing fits, a few more lead balls slamming into the wall behind where he was.  Ptang ptang ptang ptang ptang, making a number of quite cute little deadly noises, five shots total, then silence.
    Lina peeked out from her hidey hole, curiousity overwhelming self preservation.
    Across the street, poised on the rooftop of a nearby doorstop factory, a cloaked figure was clumsily loading a sticklike weapon and cursing. Giving up, he dashed away,
    "Amelia!  There he goes!" Lina pointed out.  She whipped her hands into a spellcasting poise. "RAYWING!" she burst with, light enveloping her and lifting her out the window, in flying pursuit.  Amelia wasn't far behind, and the chase was on!!
    "Hello?... help?..." Melvin weakly coughed, still on the floor. "I seem to have dropped my, um, pills... Amelia?  Anyone?  Second time this has happened this week..."
    Meanwhile, in much quieter climes, Naga and Gourry were busy trying to make sense of the map they had received.
    Step one on the map made some directional sense; seek the nearest forest, and go at least twenty feet away from any man-made road.  Perfectly understandable for a magical map.  But the rest...
    "Now now," Naga warned.  "Us sorceresses--"
    "Isn't Silverquick a guy?"
    "--and sorcerers are a very mysterious bunch. We must follow his instructions PRECISELY!"
    "I guess so..." Gourry said.  "Okay.  Step one.  Right hand forward."
    Naga extended a black leather-clad arm.  "Check."
    "...Left hand forward."
    Both arms went out.
    "Right hand on left arm," Gourry continued.  "Left hand on right arm.  Now, right hand on head."
    Naga followed, en suite.  "I can feel the magical powers gathering already!  OOHOHOHOO!"
    Gourry, who wasn't feeling a thing except embarrassment, read on.  "Right hand on your rear... left hand on your rear... sway three times, jump to the left..."
    Naga picked up the pace a little, her movements graceful, swaying in ways that would make men other than Gourry have sudden nosebleeds.  "And the final step?"
    "Shout 'HEY, MACARENA.'"
    "HEY, MAC--" Naga sang, but was stopped in mid word by an explosion of silver light.
    When Gourry dared to look again, there was a thin wisp of smoke where Naga was standing.
    Okay, assess.  Lina's friend Naga just vaporized after completing a very intricate magical spell.  She didn't seem too bad a person in life... maybe a bit pushy and egotistical, but Gourry was used to that.  He had only known her for a few hours, but it was a generally okay few hours, and...
    Fortunately, the idea occurred to Gourry that Naga wasn't burned into ashes, but possibly transported somewhere.  Since that made more sense to him, he decided to try the spell himself.
    "HEY, MACA--"
    Whammo.  Magic smacked Gourry upside the head, spinning him off his feet and dropping his component atoms somewhere six million miles sideways from where he was, landing in a.. rather soft patch of flowers.
    "OOOOOOOOOOHOOHOHOHOOHHOOHOHOHHOOOO!!!!" Naga laughed.  "Behold, the wonder that I have found on my very own... SILVER LAKE!"
    Gourry rubbed his head, and sat up...
    Well, there was a lake.  It didn't look like silver, which Gourry always translated with his limited knowledge of art to mean 'Gray'.  It was more of a crystal blue, a solid, uniform shade of sky blue that matched... the sky.  The sky itself was loaded with puffy white clouds, which Gourry could swear were smiling at him in the same way the happy dancing flowers were smiling at him.  Everything was decked out in bold colors -- happy green grass, happy green trees, happy yellow flowers and a pretty, multihued rainbow.
    "Wow," he said. "I wonder what the rent's like around here?"
    "Perhaps if we asked?" Naga asked, gesturing to a nearby gingerbread house like a model indicating these fabulous prizes.
    Gourry's hunger piped in, saying that it looked like dessert was served. Pushing that aside, he looked over the house... it seemed to be all frosting and gingerbread and candy canes.  There was even chocolate spackle to plug some holes in the wall, and graham cracker shingles nailed ineffectively by a poor carpenter with vanilla nails.
    "You know..." Gourry started, about to say something very profound.
    "Hai?" Naga asked.
    "I don't think we're in Sailoon anymore, Naga."
    Night started to descend on the village, and they were running out of rooftops.
    Lina was focused.  Whenever danger reared its ugly head, she generally had two ways of dealing with it; mock danger relentlessly and make fun of its choice in shoes, or get serious and do something about the situation.  Someone had just tried to tiddlywink her to death, and that tended to keep your mind in sharp relief.
    The assailant, some figure in a white cloak, was leaping from roof to roof effectively, but without magic.  Lina knew the stick thing, which was obviously stolen from the Hall of Artifacts, wasn't magic either, meaning this wasn't some rival sorcerer and likely just some stinking bandit.  Lina had a Standard Operating Procedure for bandits -- charge up, throw a fireball, take the money.  She started the fireball chant under her breath, gathering the magic...
    Then the whitecloaked bandit turned on her, and did something weird; he raised a stick, lining it up with his eye and pointing it at Lina.  Definitely a stupid bandit; Raywing had a shield component as well that could deflect some stupid --
    Ptang! and something skimmed through her spell's shield, through her glove and grazed her skin.  Lina's Raywing spun slightly out of control, the powers disturbed, and the cloak jumped to the road, making a break for it.
    "Lina-san!!" Amelia called, finally catching up in flight.  "Are you okay?"
    Without responding, Lina's anger gave her a boost of speed -- she made a beeline for the figure, no spells at hand, no sword drawn, and simply let gravity and flight help her body tackle, coincidentally inventing the world's first smart missile in the process.
    The two smashed together in a grunting, painful collision, the inertia rolling them both along the street. Finally, they crashed into the side of a candlesmith's shop, Lina pinning the hunter to the wall.  She pulled the hood away --
    A girl with white hair stared into Lina's eyes, and laughed madly.
    Lina froze.
    The girl, gripping her stick weapon, laughed even louder at Lina's reaction.
    Then stopped laughing.
    "I hate you," she said, simply, and connected her fist with Lina's jaw.
    Lina, who was too surprised to do anything, flopped sideways and took a nap.  The girl gathered her stick, loaded two more lead balls into it, and sank into the shadows for a clean getaway.
    "OHOHOHOO!" Naga laughed, into the back of her hand, as was her wont.  "The quest is complete.  Let us loot that house for the Mirror Lores!"
    "Shouldn't we go back and get Lina and the others?" Gourry asked.  "They're going to want to know we found this place."
    "Gourry, Gourry!  You'll never make a name for yourself if you just waddle along after Lina Inverse," Naga smiled.  "Here, follow me.  We're going in!"
    With that, Naga took three steps forward and stepped on a twig.  It snapped.
    With a deafening roar, the waters of the lake parted -- and a giant sea-dragon's head rose above the waters, glaring down at Naga and Gourry with shining blue eyes of sheer hatred.  Gleaming reptilian scales adorned its neck and head, extending down into the water, and judging from the scale of things, probably for a good fifty feet beyond that.
    "HOLD, THIEVES!!!" the dragon boomed.  Gourry stumbled on his feet from the minor earthquake caused by the animal's voice.  Naga gainaxed.  "I AM THE GUARDIAN OF THE SILVER LAKE. WHAT BUSINESS HAVE YE HERE?!"
    "Uh, we're looking for--" Gourry started.
    "We come to pillage the secrets of this house!" Naga declared.  "Ours, by right of many hours of questing and challenges met!  Try to strike me down if you dare, but I warn you, I am Naga the Serpent, all-powerful and stylish sorceress!! OOOHHOOHOHOOHHOOO!"
    The dragon roared in anger.  "THEN MEET YOUR DOOM, KNAVES!"
    Naga looked at Gourry.  "Don't just stand there, boy.  Go slay the dragon."
    "What?!" Gourry yelped. "Why me??"
    "I'm much too important to be eaten," Naga said, adjusting her hair a bit to look 1% more beautiful.
    The dragon's gaping jaws opened, and clamped over Gourry, tearing up the dirt he was standing on.  The great beast looked satisfied with this, chewing on his easily bought meal, then yelped in pain and spat a slightly slimy Gourry out; who had drawn his sword and begun doing things that only dentists had dreamed of in their darkest nightmares.
    "Bleah!" Gourry shouted as a war cry.  "That thing's got lousy breath!"
    The dragon reached down and bit the blade of Gourry's sword in half.
    It took a moment or two for this to register with him, but once it did, Gourry took a good look at the stubby end of his former sword.  His long, hard freudian weapon neatly castrated, he wasn't quite sure what to do next.
    Fortunately for the both of them, right before the dragon started to charge up it's Ice Breath (+4 against fire elementals, 50 MP), a voice called out from the house.
    The dragon's ears perked up, and at the sound of the words, noiselessly sank back beneath the surface of the water.
    Surprised, Naga turned to look towards the house. "Is that... Silverquick?" she asked.
    "Not at last check," Zelgadis almost grinned, leaning against the doorframe of the house.  "I was expecting you, Gourry.  How are you?  Where's Lina and who's that?"
    "ZEL?!" Gourry gaped.  "But... but how did you..."
    "Oh, there's a secret password printed on the bottom of this map I got," Zelgadis said, pulling an identical set of dancing instructions from his cloak.
    "Then why didn't you help earlier...?"
    "Well, I didn't want you to feel inadequate."
    The night was quiet, as Amelia hauled Lina back to their inn.
    When she had finally caught up, Lina was out cold, the strange assassin had gotten away, and everything was over and done with.  Amelia wished she was as fast at flying as Lina; the villain got away!  Justice wasn't done!  But then again, usually in quests like this, justice is EVENTUALLY done and Amelia would be there to see to it.
    When had caught up and saw that Lina was down, she managed to pull herself together and plan an action.  She expanded her Raywing bubble to carry Lina along, and floated them back to the inn.  She could probably heal Melvin's allergy for a moment, then revive Lina.  It was a good plan.  Lina would be proud of her for really taking the initiative.  She was perking up already, realizing how great things would be once--
    Except Melvin was missing.
    This tossed her plan into disarray, but it wasn't a bad disarray.  Being a natural optimist, Amelia decided Melvin must have run back to the castle, since he wasn't very good with excitement anyway.  Probably for the best.
    Step two was to revive Lina, and get on with things.  Amelia, being a natural expert in white magic -- she was learning shamanism, but white was still her primary calling in life -- arranged a combination anti-sleep and healing spell, just in case Lina would need it.  The effect was like six cups of really strong black coffee with a No-Doz chaser.
    Lina sat bolt upright in bed. "Whoaohaa?" she asked.
    "Lina-san!  You're awake!" Amelia said, not really surprised, just fulfilling the need to state the obvious.  "How do you feel?"
    "More alert than I have in years," Lina said, eyes quite wide. "Red is very vibrant at the moment."
    "Oh.  I think maybe I overdid it a little... heh," Amelia giggled quietly.  "Um, Melvin left."
    "He what?  He was having a nervous breakdown!"
    "Apparently he got better."
    Lina rubbed her forehead.  "Whatever.  He's not the journeying sort, anyway."
    "How come the assassin got you?" Amelia asked.  "He wasn't even a sorc--"
    "She," Lina confirmed.  "She's gone now.  That's that.  Where's that map?  It must actually be important, if we could get into that kind of a mess over it."
    "Right here," Amelia said, taking the unharmed map from the floor.  "Should we try it?"
    "It's a bit embarrassing, but it's our only lead.  Let's go for it."
    "Lina-san, shouldn't we go after that--"
    "We were trying to find Silver Lake, right?" Lina interrupted.  "It's found.  Come on."
Story copyright 1998 Stefan Gagne, characters copyright H. Kanzaka / R. Araizumi.
A Spoof Chase Production.