he inside of Silverquick's house was actually quite cozy.  While the outside was made entirely of candy, pastries, foodstuffs and so on, the furnishings were fine wood and brass construction.  Very elegant.
    But the surreal bit was the sheer number of mirrors in the small one room house.  Round ones, rectangular ones, ornate ones, simple ones.  One was just a jagged bit of glass nailed to the wall.  Each was set at a slightly different angle; no two mirrors had the same view on things.  It hurt your eyes to try to look at too many of them at once.
    "Legendary lost lorespeople sure were weird," Gourry commented, checking out his chin in the mirror.  He was a good country lad, and had been raised to believe that mirrors were for shaving and little else, making it more of a reflex action than a conscious decision.  "Huh.  Hey, when'd you get here, Zelgadis?"
    "Yesterday," Zel said.  "When I heard about Lina being railroaded onto a quest to fix the Oracle Mirror, I figured that it couldn't hurt to start looking myself.  I bumped into a strange guy selling maps in the Other Town, and he suggested I find a place called Silver Lake.  Seemed a little too convenient.  But I haven't found anything yet."
    "Why do you have rocky skin?" Naga asked, bluntly.
    "It's a long story I don't care to go into," Zelgadis replied, having a seat at the large table in the center of the room. "You can stop searching the room, by the way. The book isn't here."
    Naga looked up from her supposedly subtle frisking of the room.  "Oh?  And how would you know, stony? OOHOHOHHOO! The eyes of Naga the White Serpent see all!"
    "Waste your time, have it your way," Zel shrugged, leaning back in his chair.  "I've had a long time here to look. There's really only one thing of interest here, and it's not in the house. I found--"
    "Wait, I don't get it," Gourry interrupted what was probably a very important thing with, having a seat with Zel. "You got a map, we got a map. How could two different mapmakers have the same map?"
    "Same mapmaker," Zelgadis said.  "It's obviously a set up of some kind, and Lina definitely has a third copy of that ridiculous map.  I figure either it's part of a latent spell set by Silverquick, or a dark force is gathering us in one location to be ambushed and killed once everybody's here that's meant to be here."
    "It's only logical.  You came to the same conclusion, ri..." Zel trailed off, realizing who he was talking to.  "Oh.  Well, just make sure you trust no one, stay alert and keep your sword handy.  There's just one thing which I don't understand."
    "We're going to be attacked!" Gourry exclaimed, having gotten stuck a few sentences ago on one notion.
    "I've explored extensively," Zelgadis casually stated. "And for some reason, someone's addressed a--"
    The door opened, interrupting Zel once more.  Then pandemonium came out to play.
    "Wha-- Zel?!" Lina gaped.
    "Lina!" Gourry cheered.
    "OOOHHOOHOHO!! At last you show yourself, Lina Inverse!" Naga laughed.
    "Naga?!!?!" Lina exclaimed, in shock.
    "Sis!" Amelia smiled. "Wow, it's been years! How are you?"
    "Naga, what're you-- SIS?!" Lina gaped.
    "Amelia-chan?" Naga blinked.  "What are you doing here?"
    "Glad to know we're all familiar.  Now, about the out--"
    "Naga? Zel? Gourry? SISTER? Wha? Who?!" Lina babbled.
    "Nevermind," Zel sighed.  "I'll try again later."
    "I'm confused," Gourry admitted.
    "I'm going to have a nice lie down now," Lina smiled, before passing into blissful unconsciousness.

    When Lina awoke, the first thing she saw was Naga, so she went back to sleep.


    The second time Lina awoke, Zel had enough sense to suggest that Amelia and Naga have a family reunion somewhere far away for awhile, so she was able to maintain some grip on her sanity.
    "Wha... I had the most horrible nightmare," Lina chuckled to herself, rising.  "I dreamt that I went to this mysterious land somewhere over the rainbow, and Naga the Wicked White Serpent of the West had found me, and you were there, and you were there, and..."
    "It wasn't a dream," Zelgadis stated flatly.  "She's here. I don't like her very much."
    "Aww, she's okay, once you get used to her laugh," Gourry said, smiling.
    "And you've managed that?" Zel asked, raising an eyebrow.
    "She's going to do it again," Lina bemoaned.  "She'll keep following me around, and following me around... ugh. I think I'll worry about this much later. Getting back to the ORIGINAL reason I came here, please tell me this silly quest is over, and we've found the Book of Mirror Lores here?"
    "We haven't found the Book of Mirror Lores here," Zel denied.
    "Ah.  An end to a perfect day," Lina sighed.  She made a face.  "Does this place have any facilities?"
    (It's never mentioned in tales of heroism and bravery, since bards are too busy detailing in poetic words how the warrior slew the dragon, but even heroes need to visit the smallest room.  In what would eventually be titled The Ballad of Lina Inverse and the Journey of a Thousand Reflections, an experimental verse was inserted :
        And lo, as she rose from deep slumbers,
        She felt the rising need to purge her glorious system.
        And thus with a calculating decision and righteous might,
        She sought the John.
    The verse would later be removed after a low rating with test audiences.)
    "The outhouse is behind the cottage," Zelgadis smiled.
    "Ah, good." Then she paused.  Zel smiling wasn't a normal thing. "What's up with that grin?"
    "Well, if anybody would've listened to me before..." he started.. then shook his head.  "You'll see."


    The outside was a simple affair; wooden shack, half moon cutout for perverts to peep through if they can find the right angle, lots of flies buzzing around.  Lina had been in a castle once which had running water and indoor plumbing, but the art hadn't been perfected yet, and it just meant that EVERY room smelled bad with nasty brackish liquid passed from bathroom to bathroom.
    There were some serious down sides to adventuring, and this was one of them.
    But overall, things could be worse.  Naga the White Serpent could be back.  Of course, she was back, so it was worse.  True, the two had gone on a number of highly interesting and life threatening trips together, but all the way she had to put up with put downs, deal with Naga's wallet-draining drinking hobbies, and constant taunts about how much more spherical Naga was.  She handled it for a long time, until one morning when Naga had ordered pancakes for 20 people delivered by room service, and wanted Lina to pay for it.
    Lina was a long standing fan of large meals.  But when it comes to paying for others having them, she drew the line.  Of course, others should be expected to pay for her food.  That's normal and right in the universe, but the other way around, no way, no how.  It was the final straw, after a variety of six thousand straws previous; she told Naga she'd 'just be out for a bit' and then ran for the hills until she felt she had reached minimum safe distance.  A month or three down the road and Lina had met Gourry, who was.. well, he insulted her too, but it was.. she preferred it for some reason she preferred not going into.
    All these thoughts and more as Lina took care of her business.  She refocused on the present, and while hunting around for the roll of paper, when she noticed someone had hung a jaunty little mirror on the wall opposite her.  Nice gilded golden frame, probably not real gold, but close enough.  Similar to the Oracle Mirror.
    Except, of course, that the Oracle Mirror lacked a little yellow note stuck to the surface reading 'To: L. Inverse, F: S. Quick.'
    Curious, she finished up the task at hand, then reached out to pluck the note off the mirror.  The surface gleamed momentarily in the poor lighting, and





    "Papa is doing well, then?" Naga asked.
    "Oh, hai, very well!  Ne, Gracia--"
    "Oohohohoo! It's Naga, Amelia-chan," Naga smiled.  "Naga the White Serpent, Lina Inverse's most feared nemesis and companion!"
    "When're you coming home?" Amelia asked.  "You took off so suddenly to go out adventuring, and we all were kind of worried... I mean, you were the sensible one."
    "I find this hard to believe," Zelgadis commented from the peanut gallery.  "I wonder if Lina got that mirror to work?"
    "Ano? What mirror?" Gourry asked, looking up from sharpening his sword.
    "The one I found in the outhouse which I tried to tell you about. Repeatedly," Zel said. "Looked like an ordinary mirror to me--"
    The door opened. Lina entered quietly.
    "S'matter," Zelgadis asked, since this joke has to be told to close off any section of cutting edge bathroom humor across any universe in existence, "You fall in?"
    "No," Lina said, tones as pale as her skin at the moment.  "But I found the Lores."
    Those assembled leaned forward, in expectation. Waiting for the big answer.
    "They aren't here," she said.
    "We knew that," Naga noted.
    "Silverquick told me where they were," Lina said. "But he said two other things. One... that there's supposed to be six of us total."
    Lina looked at Gourry who looked at Naga who looked at Amelia who looked at Zelgadis who looked at nobody.
    "Five," Zel stated for the record.
    "And," Lina continued, "If we don't hurry up and get to the book... someone else will."
    "He didn't say," Lina lied.  "But it probably would not be a good thing. We need to get moving."
    "But where are we going?" Amelia asked, enthusiastic. "Is it a quest? I'm all set!"
    Lina's tone shifted up to levity. "Naturally, a quest!  You don't think Silverquick would just leave a book like that lying around, would you?  Gotta be a few trials to pass and challenges to meet or it's not a very LEGENDARY Lost Lore."
    "Right!" Naga said, getting to her feet, chest wobbling slightly from the shift in posture.  "I shall lead us onward towards glory and magical power!  Naga the White Serpent always prevails!  OOHOHHOOHOOHHOOOO!!!"
    "Big Sis is a natural born leader," Amelia smiled in sibling authoritarian appealing affection.
    "Hey.. HEY!  I'm leading!" Lina said.  "That's the way we do things."
    "Actually, I thought Zelgadis was the one who lead us and we always just let Lina think she was--"
    "What I wouldn't give for more mature companions..." Zel grumbled under his voice.


     Far away, a young man who had only seen trees in pictures was meeting them up close, trunk first.
    Melvin stumbled through the forest, with one goal in mind; get back to the castle, and never venture outside its walls again.  He ran out of allergy pills an hour ago, and having the navigational instincts of a lemming, was quite concerned that he wouldn't make it back.
    He had absolutely no interest in getting involved with people who have other people try to kill them repeatedly.  Some tea before bedtime and a cracker, and a light lunch before afternoon's thaumatological study was all he really sought in life.  He definitely also did not want to meet mysterious cloaked strangers in the middle of the forest."
    "Oho," the cloaked stranger smiled.  "Hail and howdy.  From whence do you hail?"
    "Sa, Sailoon," Melvin said, staggering to a halt.  "Please don't kill me."
    "Kill you?" the stranger blinked.  "Why, the very notion of the merest thought didn't cross my mind.  In fact, I was going to offer you a nice, convenient ride home.  You'd like that, wouldn't you?"
    "Yes!!" Melvin exclaimed.  "Um. I mean, if that's not too much to ask--"
    "One condition.  You will not attempt to contact your previous companions again," the stranger stated.
    "Uh.. why?"
    "That," the man smiled, "Is a secret."
    With that, the stranger whipped a red-ruby tipped staff from under his cloak, and in a blast of fire and light, Melvin was deposited seven feet over his bed in Sailoon Castle.
    Back in the forest, the stranger allowed himself a little giggle.  All he had to do now was to sit back, and wait for them to return from the lake with the maps he provided.  And with them they would bring the knowledge he could not seek.  After all, Mazoku were locked out of Silverquick's realm.
    The day was turning out to be quite amusing.  Tomorrow likely even more so.

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