SLAYERS REFLECT #4 : Midnight in the Hideout of Goon and Evil
By Stefan Gagne, Spoof Chase Productions.

neasy dreams are a common problem among magic users.
    There have been a lot of theories about this.  The majority-accepted view is that sorcerers are more 'in tune' with the world around them, and thus are more receptive to premonitions and synchronous events in time and space.  The resonation of these things project through the mind's eye, becoming the half-formed dream images of the magical mind.
    The real reason for it is that all humans have uneasy dreams from time to time, but only magic users have the kind of egos that could see this as making them special.
    Naturally, there are always exceptions to the generalization...
* unedited reality, memory spools out in her mind...
    The landscape has been torn to shreds.  High powered magic, thrown from both sides, ultimately doing little except bashing each other around, but the world itself is feeling the deflected damage.  Fires rage through the forest, ice slicks coat the ground.  And all though the air, the stench of something that defies description.
    But a spark launches in her, and a determination.
    "Okay!  I've got one last thing I'm going to try.  And if that fails, I'll give up."
    The dark lord rests on its haunches, wholly unimpressed.  She grips the Sword of Light, she chants the spell... the powers merge...
    The darkness burns like cold fire, her whole being wrestling it under control, maintaining a hairline grip on the channeling strength of the Lord of Nightmares.  The incantation complete, the black lightning forks through the earth, towards Shaburanigdo--
    Then smash-cut to later that day, as Zelgadis and Gourry smile, in a world with a blue sky and green grass and a future.  Jokes are exchanged.  Zelgadis parts amicably, and Atlass City is only a little ways away.  Yes, a good rest is what's in--
    Frozen smiles.  The air stops.
    And from somewhere, sarcastic clapping.
    "Well done, well done," a jovial, mocking tone says.  And he's there, where nothing else was before.  Clapping, smiling.  "Well done indeed.  How lucky you are.  How unlucky you are."
    Lina asks the man, because she knows the man and the man knows her, what he means.
    "Ah," the man says.  "That is a secret."  He studies her for a moment, and his enigmatically cheery expression changes -- then, smile, smile.  "A clue."
    And suddenly, the ground bulges and tears open at the seams, a mile high pillar of polished silver raising from the dirt below... and on it is inscribed
    She approaches the pillar, to read, and glinting off the surface is the hint of white, the scream, and a sharp shock--
    Lina bounced out of her carriage trundle bed, her head cracking against the wooden wall with a sharp THUNK.  Tossed awake, she mumbled various curses, and sat up, the entire vehicle rocking like it was being drawn by horses fleeing the fires of hell, which, in an analogic sense, it was.
    "Sorrry!!!" Gourry screamed from his position in the driver's seat, on top of the horse-drawn coach.  "BIG rock!  Whoa, whoa, no, not that waaayyeeee OH GOD OH GOD--"
    Lina braced herself as the coach rebounded against a tree.  The frame lurched back to even ground, and there was a moment's respite.
    She sat down on her poor excuse for a bed, and watched Naga snore like a saw through a log.
    "Lucky," she mumbled.
    Gourry was just getting the hang of this driving thing.  It took about six hours and he was about ready to pass out from exhaustion, but he was quite proud of the accomplishment; they hadn't hit a tree or run over a large boulder in almost thirty minutes now, and he only ran off the road a few times.
    The horses, which had a nearly inexhaustible supply of frenzy, kept the coach along at a fair clip that spelled instant death for any small woodland life that happened to be on the road.  Generally, everything was ticking along like a clock, and Gourry figured they'd be in Evilania in... in.. well, not a very long time, judging from his limited sense of geography.  He always felt he was a better navigator than a geoperson on account of his uncle, who was once bitten by a shark because he sailed into the Pentecostal Rhombus or whatever it was, but at least he got to keep a lot of shark's teeth as souvenirs once he pulled them out of his stomach, and although that really didn't mean Gourry had any navigational skills and probably wasn't a very good storyteller either, at least it meant he could keep a thought for as long as it takes to not really go anywhere in general which probably meant he'd be a very good navigator if given a chance, which, at the moment, he was.
    Until the coach broke down.
    It wasn't a very fun breakdown.  There was a wooden snapping sound and the wheels seemed to lock in place, the coach now being literally dragged through the dirt as this panicked the horses, until the entire vehicle skidded sideways into a ditch, resting at a jaunty angle in the morning dew moistened grass.  Gourry realized this had happened because he went from sitting on top of the coach to rolling to a halt thirty feet from it.
    "Whoa," he commented, getting up and rubbing a bump on his head.  He dashed dashingly back to the wreck, and used his sword to pry open the door, checking the passengers.
    Naga was still snoring, nothing stopping her beauty rest.
    Lina, on the other hand, was looking quite upset.  "Wha?.. what happened?!"
    "I dunno," Gourry said honestly.  "We stopped."
    "I can see that!  Help me out of here!"
    Gourry offered Lina a hand, and tugged with all his might.  "Geez, Lina, you weigh a ton!"
    "Thanks," Lina said dryly, sitting on top of the disaster.  "There goes our insurance deposit... where are we?"
    "Hmmmmm..." Gourry thought, scratching his chin and surveying the area.  "We seem to be in a ditch on the side of the road.  Yes sir, that's where we are."
    "I don't suppose it'd help if I asked why we crashed?"
    "I think the coach broke."
    "You ARE a guy, right?" Lina asked.  "I thought all guys knew how to ride horses and drive coaches and fix wagons and stuff."
    "Oh, I know all about that stuff," Gourry said proudly.  "My cousin had a coach once.  A cherry red '34 Sairaag Coaster with a Clarksdale mare to draw it.  We fixed it up and added fins and stuff to it one summer!"
    "And what did you do when it broke down?"
    "Uh... he sold it and decided to open a restaurant instead.  Actually, I don't think I remember anything about coaches except how to add fins to one and paint really cool flames down the side.  I don't think we have any paint, though..."
    Lina contained her frustration.  "Let me be direct.  What.. do.. we.. do.. now?"
    After waking Naga up by virtue of a pointed stick, the trio towed the wreck along the road with strong levitational spells. Fortunately for them, the nearest village was very near indeed; just a brisk six mile jog through a muddy road populated by a thousand tribes of psychotic armor-peircing mosquitoes.  Since Naga and Lina were too busy trying to contain a large wooden vehicle and some really pissed off mares in a Raywing bubble, nobody was available to exterminate the hostile wildlife except Gourry.
    Who was proving that you don't need to be a venerable monk with a pair of chopsticks to take out an insect, just really good with a sword.
    Lina tried to contain disbelief as he managed to zero in on each annoying little bug and leave a long string of bisected insects in their wake.  "How are you DOING that?"
    "Oh, we used to have sword trick contests back home all the time," Gourry said cheerfully, the lack of sleep not putting a harsh edge to his personable personality one bit.  "Split watermelons, split apples, split peanuts... I got as far as splitting insects.  Supposedly my brother in law was capable of splitting Adams."
    "Splitting what?"
    "Well, my sister cheated on him with this guy named Adam, and--"
    "That's enough down home storytelling, Gourry," Lina said, cutting him off.  "Che!  We're supposed to be riding in style and comfort, not hauling our ride with us!"
    "Getting tired yet, Lina?" Naga smirked.  "Why, I could levitate this thing all day!  All day and all night, if need be. Are those dark circles under your eyes?"
    Lina grumbled a thousand and two curses quickly.  "I could really, really use a cup of coffee.  A cup of coffee and some toast.  Coffee, toast, and some eggs.  Coffee, toast, eggs, and a whole roast pig with an apple in its mouth!  When are we gonna get there?!"
    Noh Wheir was a small town away from every major city, trading post, travel stop, river, mountain, tribe of ogres, or important feature whatsoever.    Even inside the town, nothing was particularly interesting.  There were six houses, one restaurant, two shoe shops for some reason, and a smithy; all arranged in an almost random dispersal of architecture.
    Depositing the coach with a resounding boom in front of the smithy's shop, Lina slumped against a nearby wall to catch her breath.  Today had been the seventeenth worst day of her life, and if she didn't get some breakfast soon, she might not live to see the eighteenth.
    The smithy himself was very punctual, after making them wait an hour to finish shoeing a sheep.  He wiped off his hands, and stepped out to take a look at the wreck.
    Twenty minutes passed as he climbed under the carriage, propped up a ladder to examine the roof, peered into the dilated eyes of the horses and wiped some foam away from their mouths.  Finally, he announced the prognosis.
    "One of your crossbeams' gone askew on the treddle," he said in Jargon, a dialect favored by sorcerers and mechanics everywhere.  "Plus your mares got adrenaline backwash reverberation in their glands, probably from some steroids the renter was giving 'em, and are gonna need some real help if they'll last long.  I figger the whole job's gonna cost you, umm... well, there's the new transaxle and the wheel calibration and some sedatives for your horses.... say, thirty gold."
    "THIRTY!?" Lina gagged.  "That's robbery!"
    "No, robbery would be the Sinister Icy Black Hand of Death Gang showing up right around now," the techie said.  "Although I offer a ten percent discount to anybody they mug."
    "The what?" Gourry asked.
    "Sinister Icy Black Hand of Death Gang," he repeated.  "They showed up yesterday.  Biggest thing to happen in this town since the fatal outbreak of sheep gonheria in '23.  I think they're camped out in the wood somewhere.  My missus brought 'em a cake last night in thanks for not sacking our house."
    Naga perked up.  "Bandits!  Horrible bandits plaguing this poor village!  Shall we, Lina?"
    "Eh?" Lina asked.
    "Go stomp them royally and take all their ill-gotten gain?" Naga added.
    Lina considered this, the idea of it tugging at her.  She shook her head after two seconds of contemplation.  "I'm getting breakfast.  Just fix the coach and we'll get going."
    "Ne, Lina, can I take a nap now?" Gourry asked.  "It's been a long night, and if you don't need me for awhile..."
    "Huh? Sure, Gourry, go right ahead."
    Gourry smiled, and collapsed on the spot.
     After hauling Gourry to a cot politely provided by the smithy, Lina slumped her way across all ten feet of town square, making a direct course for the restaurant.  Naga tagged along, having a seat opposite her.
    "I'm almost concerned," Naga said.  "You don't want to go smite robbers?"
    "I'm tired," Lina said.  She picked up the menu, selected the twenty most interesting items on it, and rattled them off to the nearest waitress.  Coffee was provided.  Lina drank.
    Naga tapped her chin, in a poise of thinking.  "Too tired to go hunt well-funded bad guys.  Lina, you're losing what edge you had!  How can you hope to keep up with Naga the White Serpent, your most powerful companion, ally and enemy at this rate?"
    "I don't care to keep up," Lina stated.  "I want food, I want a bed, I want this quest to be over and done with.  You've got no idea how moody it's been making me."
    "Oh, I have some idea!  Very little gets by me," Naga said.  "You've been quite the gloomy gus.  What's wrong?"
    "It all SMELLS," Lina muttered.  "Everything.  Those maps we found.  The splitting up.  How Melvin's acting funny.  That girl I saw, the dreams I'm having, everything."
    "Uneasy dreams are a common problem among magic users.  Our brains are highly receptive to premonitions and synchronous events in time and space," Naga rhetorically said.  "In fact, I myself find uneasy dreams quite often, probably due to my incredible powers attracting them like a magnet."
    "I'm not talking about normal weird dreams," Lina corrected.  "I'm talking about specifically weird dreams.  You know I took out Shaburanigdo, right?  A part of him, at least.  Rezo the Red Priest had some of the great dark lord sealed in his body, and when it manifested, it took everything I had and then some to destroy him."
    "The Dragon Slave, yes?" Naga smiled.
    "But that's your most powerful spell."
    "No, it's not.  My most powerful spell is the one I've almost never used," Lina said.  "The Giga Slave.  A mixture of the Dragon Slave and.. something else.  It was on an ancient manuscript I found in my sister's room one day when I was little.  I tried casting it outside my home town when I was a kid.  You heard of Mount Erectus?"
    "Can't say I have..."
    "It sort of went away."
    "Ooooooh," Naga said, little stars in her eyes.  "Lina, you've GOT to teach me this Giga Slave!  It sounds so--"
    "NO!" Lina objected, slamming her palm down on the table.  The coffee cup rattled.  "Look, if you get it even slightly wrong, it... bad stuff happens, okay?  I know this for a fact.  I was so amazingly lucky to get it cast in the first place, much less against Shaburanigdo!  No.  No.  Final word, no."
    "Party pooper," Naga scoffed.  "What does this have to do with your dreams, anyway?"
    "I was remembering the fight with the dark lord in my dream," Lina continued.  "I cast the Giga Slave, it destroyed him, everything was fine.  More like memory than a dream, I mean, that's what happened.  Then the memory stopped and..."
    "And?  And?"
    "Someone I know showed up.  In my dream," Lina said.  "I never got around to telling you about.. Xelloss, right?"
    "Name doesn't ring a bell," Naga said.  "Is he a bandit?"
    "This has nothing to do with bandits!  Xelloss is.. okay, he's... he's weird.  He's a priest, but more of a trickster, and he's a really powerful sorcerer, and he smiles a lot and is a Mazoku.  He's a Mazoku trickster priest sorcerer who smiles a lot."
    Naga looked surprised.  "Lina!  You've been hanging around with the wrong crowd since leaving me.  Associating with an evil being like that!  For shame."
    "He wasn't exactly EVIL, he was just.. well, he.. it's complicated.  He traveled with us for a long time on our quests, and sometimes helped us and sometimes was a serious pain in the ass, and always liked to play jokes or withhold information, and yes admittedly he said he was going to turn us over to one of the Dark Lord's generals once but he didn't really, and..." Lina trailed off.  "I'm getting sidetracked.  Point is, he was in my dream.  And he gave me a clue."
    "And high time you got a clue, too," Naga smiled.  "OOHOHOHOHOOOHOOHHOHOOO!"
    "Naga, cut it out!" Lina barked.  "Look, normally I'd sooner discuss my personal feelings with a dead chipmunk, but seeing as how one isn't available and Gourry's out of commission and you're the only person I know here, I'm trying to tell you something important I'm concerned about, dammit, SO LISTEN UP AND QUIT KIDDING AROUND!!!!"
    Naga sat in stunned silence for some time.
    Lina drained her coffee in one gulp, and held it out to the waitress for a refill.  Naga snatched the mug away.
    "That's enough coffee for you," Naga said.  "Now, be a good girl and let's talk calmly, okay?"
    "Haaai," Lina said, deflating slightly.  "Sorry.  Look, you never met Xelloss, but he never gives clues unless they help him out or steer you somewhere dangerous or both.  But... it didn't feel like that this time.  First he joked around saying everything's a big secret, like he always does, then he changed his mind and said he'd give me a clue.  But it wasn't anything I hadn't seen before.  Then I woke up."
    "What, that's it?  That's your entire dream?"
    "More or less."
    "I don't get it.  Sounds like a perfectly ordinary strange dream.  Unless..."
    "Unless he was projecting it into my mind for a reason," Lina finished.  "Magically."
    "He was?  I was going to say unless it was some kind of subconscious sexual attraction you had for him!  OHOHOOHHOOO!"
    Lina gave up, and bonked Naga with her rolled up menu. "Never mind!  Forget I ever brought this up."
    "Eef," Naga squeaked, as the flimsy paper hit her perfectly styled hair.  "See?  You're so touchy.  You used to be so relaxed and care free!  You should look up to me as a role model, you know.  I'm not the least little bit worried about what lies ahead, because I don't know what lies ahead!  Makes life so much easier.  And besides... bandits, Lina!  Bandits!"
    "I don't care about the bandits..."
    "Ah.. ah!" Naga said, pointing to Lina's face.  "Your expression betrays you!  You're curious!"
    "Am not.."
    "Are too are too are too."
    "You can't just say 'are too' to an 'am not'! It's childish!"
    "Can too."
    "Can NOT!"
    "Can too can too can too!"
    "Aaaaaaa!!" Lina yelled, standing up, leaning over to get in Naga's face.  "You are SO ANNOYING!  Why do you think I left you in the first place?!  You're always getting on my nerves at just the wrong times!!"
    Naga leaned back, surprised and slightly hurt.  But then that faded into a smile.  "I understand now.  Ah, Lina, Lina, you're so naive!"
    "If you didn't have someone around to tease you, why, you'd be incomplete!  A yin without a yang.  A pea without a pod.  How easy it is to see!  Before you were all mopey, and here you are, full of energy and life!"
    "Yes!!  Because I want to rip your head off, Naga!"
    "Exactly!  Don't worry.  I'll stay by your side for your own sake whether you like it or not!  OOOHHOOHOHOHO!!"
    Lina immediately changed subjects.  "Where the heck is my breakfast?  How hard can it be to cook twenty orders??"
    "But I still say you need to cut down on coffee," Naga added.
    Lina turned red.  "Look!  I'll make you a deal, Naga.  Let me have my food, and a brief nap, and if you stay very very quiet for the next, oh, two hours, we'll go hunt the damn bandits, kick their asses, take their money and be back in time to head off in our freshly repaired coach.  How's that day plan sound to you?"
    "Quite perfect," Naga smiled.


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