elgadis wasn't reckless. He stopped being
a loose cannon years ago, after it dumped him into a lot of hot water.
So, when he approached the menacing looking building, which had every window
boarded up, lots of red signs reading 'RIDEN IST VERBOTEN' and such, he
took his sweet time examining the locale before considering entering.
But make no mistake, this was the place. He
could tell from the irony.
The one ride which never seemed to make sense at
a water park, the Hall of Mirrors was designed personally by the independent
contractor who built HappyWorld. He scribbled up the plans one night
after a fever dream, according to the lore Flippy Frog told him.
Nobody understood why he came up with this twisting funhouse, or where
he got the idea -- when asked, he'd grow very testy and order them back
to work on constructing it. Most folks just assumed after the fact
that he was an insane deviant criminal maniac, since he skimmed the funds
to begin with, and therefore could be expected of everything from domestic
house pet molesting to jaywalking. This was just how the average
Justivalero mind worked.
Zelgadis, however, knew irony and drama when he
saw it. The Lake of Reflections, obviously the underground lake that
lurked under HappyWorld, had a lot of magical energy. Why not have
it run wild, tapping into the mind of an architect and encourage him to
construct a temple of reflection? And naturally, that's where the
access route to the lake is hidden, and of course it's hidden behind a
shroud of mystery to keep prying eyes away -- unless they're the sort of
prying eyes who came for the mystery in the first place and know the score,
Most tourists avoided this secluded area of the
park, content to enjoy the wavepool. Which left Zelgadis with plenty
of freedom to search the building, find the only available entrance, ditch
his ridiculous costume and head inside.
The first thing he did upon entering the dark building
was cast a strong light spell, which he instantly regretted. The
dozens of mirrors, coating the walls, sometimes becoming the walls and
floors and ceilings themselves reflected the light back at him, resulting
in temporary blindness in one hard burst of photons.
Cursing sharply, he extinguished the spell, and
tried again; this time at a lower intensity. The light was then tolerable,
but did little to define the shape of the building, as there were few surfaces
to illuminate. Just highly polished silver. A maze of twisty
little passages, all alike, all mirrored.
Briefly he considered turning back and fetching
the others, but odds were Amelia would just get lost, Xelloss would play
some mean tricks, and they'd make slow progress. He was good with
mazes, had a sharp mind, he could handle it. He stepped confidently,
but cautiously, into the web of passages.
Minutes passed. He could tell the maze was
sloping down, underneath the ground, far larger than the building made
it seem to be. He kept good track of the turns, however, in his mind;
he could have broken a mirror or two and used the shards like bread crumbs,
but in a place oozing with magical power, you don't want to do anything
that could set off some horrifically dramatic chain reaction of events.
You just take it cool and slow. Footstep after footstep. Step,
step. With steps behind you.
Zelgadis whirled, hand to his sword hilt, as the
person in the mirror did the same.
Just your reflection, he thought. Don't be
spooked. But then again... reflections don't make sound. Don't
be naive, either.
Zel walked over to the mirror, which blurred and
distorted his image; the shape was vaguely similar, but no details.
It moved as he did. He raised a hand, the image raised a hand.
He hopped on one foot, the image did too.
"Tell me what number I'm thinking of," he hazarded.
"Six, probably," the reflection said, shrugging.
"You always think about six. What're you and why are you inside that
"I'm not inside, you are.... oh," Zelgadis said.
This incident didn't faze him. You had to expect something like this,
plan for it, be prepared psychologically to see weird stuff inside a magical
maze. "Perception. This means, based on my limited knowledge
of Mirror Lores, that you're either from another world, or you're a vision,
or maybe a trick for some monster to kill me."
The blurry Zelgadis laughed. This perked Zel's
ears. He didn't really hear himself laugh often.
"I could say the same, pal," the image joked.
"Okay. So now what?"
"I'd say nothing. You go your way, I'll go
my way," Zelgadis said. "Safer that way."
"Huh? Forget that. This is too interesting
to pass up. I'm gonna break through. Step back."
Zelgadis stepped back, on instinct. "Wait.
You don't know what kind of spells are on that--"
CRASH. Glass fragmented, split apart; winds
whipped through the narrow corridor, light pouring from the razor sharp
edges of the broken mirror, as the figure stumbled through... and once
through, the mirror was back to normal, as it always had been.
Zelgadis looked at himself in shock. There
were some things no amount of playing it cool could handle.
"Whoa," the man said, poking lightly at Zel's cheek.
"When did I turn into a blue freak?"
He called himself Zelgrey, because he said combining
his first and last name made it more zippy for an adventurer on the go.
They walked and talked for awhile, having determined that they were both
after the same thing. But Zelgadis kept his guard up. His weird
meter had its needle firmly in the red.
Zelgrey was human. Pink skin, black hair,
a spitting image of Zelgadis before.. his incident. The boy laughed
heartily and found a lot of things funny, he spoke in a slight mocking
tone that reminded Zelgadis vaguely of the damnable red priest who turned
him into a Chimera, Rezo.
"Yeah, I did grandpa Rezo a favor or three," Zelgrey
said. "He gave me money and magical items in payment. It was
a sweet deal, and gave me a chance to practice and get stronger.
Worked out okay."
"Did... one day, did Rezo come to you, and just
flat out offer to make you stronger than you could imagine?" Zelgadis asked,
eyeing Zelgrey's loose gait as he walked.
"Hmm? Yeah, I remember that," Zelgrey said,
nodding. "I told him to piss off. I was busy that day, and
the old man was getting really weird on me. Besides, I was hoping
to go off and look for the Clair Bibles in a week or three with Zolf..."
"That's the difference," Zelgadis said, slumping
slightly as he went. "I took his offer. And he turned me into
a monster, part golem, part demon, part... just generally a mess.
A chimera. I've been looking for a cure ever since."
"Damn. That's a shame. So you want the
Water of Reflection as a cure?"
Zelgadis paused in his tracks. "The what?"
"You DO know what you're looking for, right?" Zelgrey
asked. "The waters of the Lake of Reflection. You need them
to cast any really sizable mirror lore spells. I already got the
book out of the Great Library, and it said I had to come here to get the
raw materials, you know? Always gotta be SOMETHING to delay me getting
the power I want, it's very annoying."
"Already with the lores, and all this... our group
hasn't gotten nearly as far. Did Lina go to get the book in your
"Lina?" Zelgrey asked. "Who's that?"
"Nevermind. You probably never met her."
"I met a lot of girls in my time. Try me."
"She's..." Zelgadis said, trying to phrase it right.
"Short. Orange hair. Personality that can best be described
as 'Spunky'. Very energetic. Not very responsible. Powerful.
Generally a good person. Lina Inverse."
"Oh, her," Zelgrey said, acknowledgment hitting
him like a flyswatter. "Yeah, I dumped her a few years ago."
"We only went out a few times, while I was passing
through a town," Zelgrey said. "Seemed like a good kid, and I was
bored, but it got too pressing, you know? She was all like, 'I think
we have something special, I never knew I could feel that way, maybe we
should team up,' and I'm like all, 'Whoa, hold your horses, I go alone
on quests.' You know how it is with girls. So I ditched her
and skipped town... why are you looking at me like that?"
Frozen in his tracks, Zelgadis had trouble believing
what he just heard. "You... you WHAT?"
"Hey, pardner, it was just some chick I met," Zelgrey
said. "I like to play it loose and cool with girls. You too,
"I.. never really thought much about it after my..
"OHHH, I get it," Zelgrey grinned. "Kinda
a social handicap, isn't it, being a stone? Although the things you
could do with a rock hard--"
"I think I see light ahead," Zelgadis lied, to end
that train of thought at the station.
"Funny, I don't see--"
"How could you do that?" Zelgadis interrupted, turning
to his not-twin. "Just... do that to some girl and leave them?
It's completely irresponsible, not to mention cruel."
"Big deal!" Zelgrey said, spitting. "I'm looking
out for number one, okay? I don't have time for some relationship
thing. I'm on a lifelong quest to get stronger. Powerful.
You know? You can't be THAT different from me not to want the same
thing. Nothing gets in the way of that, right?"
"...once, maybe," Zelgadis said.
"Exactly. We're like the wind, baby!
Off we go with nothing to tie us down!" Zelgrey said, running along with
both hands flapping like a bird's wings. "Nreeeeeoooowwww!
Zelgadis stood there with a slightly confused expression.
"You know, you gotta learn to relax," Zelgrey said.
"You're like a stiff. But then again, you are stiff, aren't you?
Heh! I got an idea. How about a race?"
"A race! A tomb raiding magic slinging sword
slashing good idol grab!" Zelgrey said, waving his arms excitedly.
"Just the thing to perk yer ass up. Start here. Run as fast
as you can. First person to the Lake wins first shot at taking the
"That's stupid," Zelgadis said frankly. "If
you run in this maze, you'll get lost instantly, or fall into a pit of
whirling razor sharp blades or something ridiculous like that. It's
standard in magical dungeons."
"Not if you're quick and clever like me," Zelgrey
grinned. "Or are you.. chicken?"
"If taking my time and not plummeting to a brief,
nasty death means I'm chicken, then hear my cluck," Zelgadis said, crossing
his arms in the way he always did when dealing with morons.
"Fine, fine. YOU slug along like a snail.
I'LL go grab the water before you can," Zelgrey said, pointing at himself,
at number one. "See you on the flip side, pal."
He dashed off, rounding a corner, footsteps fading
Zelgadis continued along, step, step, slow.
The fool would get himself killed that way. Sure bet. Chances
of him getting to the lake before Zelgadis could and taking what he needed
were slim. Very slim.
He took off at a run, thoughts snapping like willow
weeds to memorize his path. Slim didn't mean nonexistent.
The halls got progressively weirder.
They turned, they twisted; rotationally, up and
down, moving in directions Zelgadis tried not to linger on. He just
kept moving, kept tracking his turns, kept following the wall left, sometimes
following his instincts.
There seemed to be a pattern of junctions and dead
ends, turns and curves. He could see a distinct sequence, and tried
to adapt to follow it. Simple habits anybody who went on adventures
and quests were used to using.
Not that he wanted to race against himself.
But he knew, knew in his heart that that person -- not him, not him anymore
-- was stupid enough to get there and make a scene and ruin everything
if he couldn't get there first. Then they'd both be screwed.
It was the kind of childish thing he might have done in years past, before
he learned the hard way to think before you act.
He was thinking so hard, tracking his movements
and internally coming to grips with the situation that he almost ran into
the lake headfirst.
Skidding to a halt, leaving a current of pebbles
and stones in his wake, his eyes adjusted to the ambient light...
A cavern. A cavern that dwarfed size, that
dwarfed everything he had ever seen; and yet, it still seemed to have space,
XYZ, defined size. An the size seemed normal if he looked at it out
of the corner of his eye. Light poured in from nowhere, glittering
off the rippling surface of the underground lake, playing patterns of light
along the walls, along Zelgadis, along his eyes. Unsettling.
Not ten seconds after he got used to his environment,
in came Zelgrey, not stopping fast enough and ending up ankle deep in the
lake. Nothing reacted to this.
"Damn, I'm late," Zelgrey said. "Okay.
I take back that thing about you being stiff. Looks like you have
SOME life left in you, pardner."
"I'm pleased I meet your standards," Zelgadis sarcasmed.
Zelgrey took two waterskins from his pack, emptying
them out on the pebbly ground, away from the lake. He tossed an empty
one to Zelgadis. "Here. We fill these from the lake, and bring
it back. Easy as pie."
A thought skittered over Zelgadis's mind.
"No?" Zelgrey asked, pausing before he filled his
container. "You got a problem with that?"
"No, as in that won't work. This lake supplies
the water to the wavepool upstairs," Zelgadis explained. "But the
people up above aren't swimming in magical water, or they'd have noticed.
They'd start growing third arms or have visions of themselves in other
worlds and so on. The water can't be magical or it'd all be magical."
"It's the Lake, isn't it? It's the Water.
So it's magical."
"That's not the way it works," Zelgadis said.
"There's probably a trial or a machine or a spell to undergo before you
get the REAL water. This is a fakeout. It's the sort of dramatic
thing that a mad wizard who invented his own Lore would do. I bet
if you just take the water without some kind of ceremony, you'll find that
it's totally useless."
"Sound pretty damn sure of yourself," Zelgrey said.
"How much you wanna bet you're wrong? I'm rich, let's do it."
"I don't want to bet, I want to get the Water the
right way," Zelgadis said, glancing around. "Start looking for a
trigger of some kind."
Zelgrey shrugged, and gave a brief lookabout.
"I don't see one."
"I mean SEARCH for one," Zelgadis said, already
busy doing so. "A strange rock formation in the wall, or on the floor,
or anything out of the... hello, what's this?"
"This," Zelgadis gestured to the wall. "Don't
you see it?"
"You trying to make me look stupid? It's just
"Embossed in the surface... very faint..." Zelgadis
said, tracing a finger. "Rectangle. Circular notched corners,
like a classic mirror frame. Just like the Oracle Mirror..."
Placing a stone hand on the stone surface, Zelgadis
gave it an experimental push. Rock ground against rock, the mirror
shaped button sliding back into the wall an inch.
Light flared up from nowhere, glinting off the water,
projecting on the walls, the shadow of a man...
Both Zelgadises turned to look.
A floating form, a woman clad in a gauze the color
of the water. She was framed by a golden mirror frame, notched edges,
but with no glass. She did not speak, but the words found their way
into Zelgadis's mind...
'Welcome to the Lake of Reflections,' she projected.
'You who have found the summoning stone and have defeated the maze of mirrors
are both observant and meticulous. However, as ordained by Silverquick
onto me, there is nothing proving to show that you are capable of handling
the Water of Reflection with wisdom and humility.'
"Always another problem do deal with," Zelgrey muttered.
"What's the trial, lady?"
The woman didn't turn to look at Zelgrey.
'You are not of this world, but all reflections are an image of some other.
Both of you will participate. Are you ready?'
"Wait," Zelgadis said. "What exactly does
"We're ready," Zelgrey said up front.
Two tiny glasses of water, shimmering water like
liquid ice, appeared in the air. One in front of Zelgadis, one in
front of Zelgrey.
'The true water of the lake,' the guardian said.
'Drink it and see clearly for the first time.'
"Bottoms up!" Zelgrey joked, snatching his from
where it floated and slinging it back. Zelgadis carefully took his,
since the glass looked very fragile, and sipped from it, and
his mind stretched like
a bridge too far, like a span over a gap he wasn't expecting to run into,
linking, bending, bringing him to a place he was never expecting to see,
never knew existed, a place of golden water and light, where he could sense
the BEING of all, under the surface, a swimming shark, a floating lilypad,
watching, knowing, untelling, unshowing, unhinting as he looked past the
ripples of the lake of gold, to the three strange objects, the three things,
the keys, the spokes, the engine that Dayvid's ship powered along the waves,
the powers of the Dragon Slave, the simple folds of the healing spell,
the ultimate call, the ultimate summon, the three forces, the two that
always were, the third that evolved out of the earth, three pillars, one
black, one white, and one in the middle of gray, stretching high, higher
than the highest high, unknown distance, twisted twined trilogy of power,
ending at the infinite in brilliant white light, the ultimate white, horrible
black darkness, the ultimate black, unusually still grayness, the tips
of the towers, the king of good, the dark lord of all, and... and the middle
being, arisen from need... and the bridges connecting the three together
in unity, in balance, three sides of the coin until Zelgadis plummeted
and fell and dropped and slammed back down into
his body, which was standing where left it.
Moments passed. Zelgadis's mind span uneasily,
like a top that was winding down, trying to hang onto the momentum it reveled
in, to understand it...
'The trial,' the guardian of the Lake said, 'Is
this. Tell me what you saw.'
Zelgrey assumed an affirming stance, feet together,
a wry smile on his face. A shrug. "Some stuff about a bunch
of pillars in water. I think they were white, black and gray and
something was swimming under 'em. How's that?"
The guardian then turned to Zelgadis.
"I saw..." Zelgadis said. What did he see?
He saw what Zelgrey said. But that's not what he experienced, not
what he truly saw, which was slipping away from him like a dream as he
thought about it.
"I don't honestly know," Zelgadis answered.
Zelgrey laughed, and patted Zelgadis comfortingly
on the back. "Cheer up. Maybe I'll give you some of my water,
pardner. No reason I can't share just because you screwed--"
'I will offer the true waters of the lake to Zelgadis
Greyweirs alone,' the Guardian said, floating towards them. 'For
he is able to know when he knows nothing.'
The human stood in absolute bafflement, as Zelgadis
held out his waterskin in a daze, and the water of the lake floated in
a stream through the air, filling it completely, glittering like diamond
ice. The task done, the guardian turned, frame turning with her,
and started back across the lake.
This would not do.
"Hey, HEY!" Zelgrey said. "Now you hold up!
I answered your damn question, I said what I saw! I deserve the power
just as much -- hell, MORE than he does!"
'It is not to be yours,' the Guardian said, pausing.
"Zelgrey... don't mess with this," Zelgadis suggested.
"I'm sorry for you, but--"
"Screw that!" Zelgrey said, shoving Zelgadis aside.
A large fireball snapped into his hand, as he held it back. "You
give me the damn water or I'll fry this entire lake! God, it's always
one thing or another, isn't it? Something between me and getting
stronger! I don't put up with that, Miss Lake, got it? Now,
are you going to give over the water, or do I go inferno on you?"
Zelgadis stepped away. Slowly. Instinctively.
'Your choice is made. As Matthew onto Luke...'
the Guardian started, her image flickering red briefly, a dark red.
'So is the punishment for the worst within that defies the maker...'
"Run," Zelgadis said, jogging backwards for the
exit, wanting a head start. But Zelgrey stood his ground. "RUN,
damn you! Don't be an idiot!"
"I came here for a reason," Zelgrey said, "And I'm
NOT leaving wi--"
The lake exploded. A brilliant shining pillar
of water, raging like a waterfall, straight up into the air; flying high,
raging against the ceiling of the cavern before Zelgadis's very eyes, a
rageful rapid that smashed against the roof and flooded white foam down
at the shore...
That was more than enough for him. Zelgadis
ran like a chimera possessed.
Turns, left, right, straight, arc, moving fast,
he dashed at a full out sprint through the maze of mirrors. He didn't
look back, because that's always the first stupid mistake that people make
when running away from danger. Zelgrey would have to fend for himself.
That's how the man wanted it, it seemed.
The water flooded behind him, lapping at his ankles
as the Hall of Mirrors slowly filled, from the basement up. It took
ten minutes at full speed and intense concentration to get back up to the
front door, throwing it open to the light of the late sun, diving for cover
as water gushed out of the building.
The earth rumbled.
The sky shook.
"Time to leave town," Zelgadis wisely decided, and
scrambled for the wavepool.
Story copyright 1998 Stefan Gagne, characters copyright H. Kanzaka
/ R. Araizumi.
A Spoof Chase Production.