SLAYERS REFLECT #8 : Raiders of the Lost Library
By Stefan Gagne, Spoof Chase Productions.

vilanian landscapes are not picturesque.  They do not have great oaks with leafy green coats, or fields of gold, or daisies a plenty.  They do not have happy woodland creatures other than the occasional feral chipmunk.  They do not have butterflies.  Not usually.
    Fluttering along the wastelands, a single golden butterfly haphazardly traced a path through the air.  Its thoughts, like the thoughts of all butterflies, were very simple; find flowers, flutter, flutter, find flowers, flutter, attract mates to get it on with, flutter.  Right now it was in 'flutter' because it wasn't sure how it got here, since it was planning to go south in annual migration like its species was supposed to, but the wind currents drifted it off course here, chaotic eddies that can stem the path of nature.
    The butterfly flapped around in a tight circle of confusion, its beautiful wings of gold beating at the air, swirling air currents that seemed very small to begin with...
    Lina awoke from uneasy dreams to find herself transformed into a giant insect.
    Actually, that wasn't entirely true.  She was still human, but the surprise value was just as high; because when she woke up, the first thing she saw was a large tentacled monster.
    "KYAAAA!!!!!" she shrieked.  "I'm still hallucinating!"
    "No you aren't, he's just an oni," Naga explained.
    "As I was.. ah... saying," the hideous abomination said, "We're twenty minutes away from the dig site of the Great Library, which Evilania recently unearthed as a result of territorial expansion as planned by Dictator Cain the Fourth of The Horrible Reign of Blood, the current Dictator of Evilania, who in this year decided to dedicate a temple to himself on that very site, except the digging--"
    "I have a headache," Lina said.  "Does anybody have a remedy or some--"
    A warm feeling rushed through her head, clearing it instantly.
    Lina blinked a few times, turning to look at the sorceress responsible for that.  "Ah... good work," she replied.
    Lily said nothing, sitting back to listen quietly.
    Of course, last time Lina saw Nigel the horribly boring civil servant, it was at the Evilanian Board of Tourism.  And yes, he did have a dozen flailing phallic tentacles, but Lina had chalked that up to her very interesting dinner which was making her see things like giant pink elephants stampeding through her navel.  She hadn't counted on her sight being perfectly clear at that time.
    She learned later in the trip, which took entirely too long to be interesting enough to go into detail on, that apparently Nigel was from a race of hellish beasts created by an insane genius who wanted to take over Evilania.  Unfortunately, his people were more suited to basic paperwork and having tea and crackers before lunch and discussing popular sports, so they went into government instead.  Which, in a lot of ways, put them in a proper position to take over the country; if they weren't too busy typing reports to care.
    Apparently, it was the tentacle-oni who first pushed to have the site of the Great Library declared a historic landmark, when the Dictator was planning to destroy the site and build his temple just because he'd be an evil bastard to deface such a place.  The oni, however, knew the intricately demonic laws of Evilania much better than any human, and managed to preserve the site from harm, so that tourists could stomp through it and leave used coffee cups and handprints and destroy it slowly over the course of a few decades instead.
    All of which didn't really matter as far as Lina was concerned, because she was planning to raid the place for the Mirror Lores anyway.  Gourry slept through the entire long-winded monologue of their tour guide, while Naga was busy doing her nails and Lily just.. stared at the wall of the coach cabin.
    "Are we there yet?" Lina asked, five minutes after the last time she had asked.
    "...which is interesting, because the inner chambers have a particularly neo-decian style of furnishings, contrary to the findings of explorer Jean-Custurd who believed that the Great Library would be designed entirely in the style of the elder Alextribikians, who..."
    "I have to go to the bathroom."
    "...onto the third generation of interior decorators, which believed in a more monochromatic system of indexing by chamber, which was of course patterned after the great halls of early Sailoon courts of justice, designed originally by..."
    "Can I just get out and walk the rest of the way?"
    "...that time after the reign of the third Bishop of Antiok, who was responsible for the various draperies added to the Library with depictions of the Lord of Nightmares renamed to the Lord of Dreams, which was her name during the reign of the Empire of Tazminjek, which..."
    "My brain is melting."
    "...fond of the color blue, as it applied to the..."
    "Aaa!  Make it stop!"
    "...sixteenth generation of the art movement known as 'broke', which enabled the library to incorporate deconstructionist elements into the foyer and--"
    The oni fell asleep, its eyestalks fluttering closed and a gurgling snore rising.
    The thick haze that was forming over Lina's brain snapped away at the near silence.  "Wha?"
    Lily shrunk back into her seat.  "ano... you said to make it stop, so.. I used a sleep spell.  I'm sorry, I--"
    "Thank you!  Thank you!" Lina exclaimed.  "THANKS!"
    The white sorceress, who wasn't used to that word, much less it being used three times in a row, tried to remember the right response.  "Um... you're welcome?"
    The Great Library of the Empire of Alextribik was nearly a quarter of a mile long and wide.  It had floors upon floors upon floors, majestic spires of crystal and marble, the shining forms of architectures long gone.  One of the seven and a half wonders of the world, matched only by the Upright Tower of Pasta in Justivalero, to gaze upon it was to see a sliver of brilliance, of perfection, of majesty.
    Except that it was buried under a million tons of rock at the moment, so the site of the Great Library could only be described as 'a large pile of uninteresting dirt'.
    "Whee," Lina said flatly.
    "I don't get it.  Where's the door?" Naga asked.  "How do they expect us to get into the library if they haven't even finished digging up the door?"
    "Seems the progress in uncovering this archaeological treasure is a wee bit slow," Lina said.  "Okay.  Team meeting.  What do we do next?"
    "Let's blow up the rocks with high energy magic until we uncover the antechamber!!" Naga suggested, clenching a fist of might.
    "We're not trying to DESTROY the library!" Lina said.  "We're talking a structure buried under hundreds of tons of rock!  Any really huge explosions down there and we'll have to learn to breathe granite.  I hereby propose a moratorium on strong magic beyond basic Shamanism while underground.  All those in favor?"
    "I'd rather not die," Gourry said, raising his hand.  "Besides, I've got the my Sword of Light.  We'll be fine."
    "I won't go in there defenseless on a personal level!" Naga scoffed, crossing her arms.  "I vote no."
    The three of them looked at Lily, who was busy trying to look anywhere else.
    "um... um?" she said, a bit scared.
    "You're a part of this party now, so you get to vote," Lina said.  "What do you say?  Interested in being crushed?"
    "Only a fool would toss aside a powerful weapon when unknown dangers are ahead!" Naga said.
    "I-I agree with Naga-san," Lily said.
    Lina wasn't convinced.  "Reason being?"
    "Be.. because I agree with Naga-san."
    "Don't just give us the answer Naga wants to hear because you're tagging along with her after your boyfriend got eviscerated, say what you mean," Lina suggested bluntly.
    The other sorceress swallowed hard.  "I... I, uh... I really don't have an opinion.  Don't mind me.  Please...?"
    Lina sighed.  "Okay... two for no powerful spells, one against, one.. abstain.  Decision moved."
    "Objection!" Naga said.
    "This isn't a courtroom!  Motion carried."
    Naga grumped.
    "Now, Gourry, help me look for a way in," Lina said, peering around the ruins.  "There's got to be some sort of entrance for them to haul relics and stuff through."
    Naga watched the other two head off, poking around the rubble, before peering oddly at Lily, who again was staring off into the distance.
    "You're not helping anybody by playing Miss Servant, you know," Naga said.
    Lily jumped in surprise at the sound of her voice.  "Uh... I'm sorry, I--"
    "Didn't I tell you earlier not to apologize?" Naga asked.  "Look, that abusive redneck megalomaniac freak is gone now."
    "Your boyfriend!"
    "Oh.. oh," Lily said.  "Right."
    Naga waved a finger in a 'tisk-tisk' motion.  "Therefore, you are your own person and can make up your own mind.  And I don't want to see any of this moping about in guilt because you think you failed to protect him, okay?"
    Lily stayed quiet.
    "This is not going to be easy, is it?" Naga guessed.
    "Sorry," Lily apologized.
    Naga gave up for the moment, and joined the others to look for a way in.
    There are a lot of things you don't want to see when you wake up.  Although the blasted ashes and remains of your former Mazoku ally are very specific, they do rank up there.
    The girl who called herself Lina Inverse was feeling very strung out that morning.  She had slept under a bush because she didn't trust the innkeeper not to sneak into her room last night, but her back was aching from the high tension she was running the previous day.  She was getting a rash from the leaves on the local plants, which obviously weren't meant to be friendly to humans.  And now, when she was hoping to see Ozek's empty temple, having filled his job and erased Naga and Gourry -- who weren't supposed to be alive anyway, she saw him die, she saw him burn he went away and Naga probably went with all of them and -- she instead saw a large crater.
    Why did this weird nightmare Lina that had her old hair, her old powers, her old stupid attitude keep doing this?  She should see, she should know why everything here wasn't supposed to be!  Instead she managed to wipe out the most powerful ally Lina could manage to get.
    Rage pulsed through Lina's mind.  Again!  Again and again!  Every time she thought she was clever enough she fell too far and they had her.  But there was still a chance, a chance to escape and get it right.
    The crater was dusty, but she knew the smell of low-grade Mazoku anywhere, the unmistakable smell of ashes and incense.  Skidding down the side of the round indentation, she approached the center, sniffing; and found it.  She gathered a handful of the ashes, approximated the location where the altar must have been beforehand, and readied the ritual.
    The ashes glowed and burned as Lina repeated the ritual, like yanking the reigns on an old mare, trying to start it going.  Eventually, a weak form appeared, solidifying, but not nearly as impressive as it had been the other night.
    "You're not a very strong Mazoku," Lina explained.  "One good hit and your physical form is sawdust.  You're lucky I managed to revive your astral form out of what was left or you'd be in limbo for awhile."
    'REVENGE.  REVENGE.  REVENGE.'  Ozek pulsed with the word, throbbing like Lina's heartbeat.  For a moment the fear jumped up her throat, threatened to snap her back into her memories-- down, down.  Business to attend to.
    "Your job isn't done.  I ordered you to kill Naga and.. and him," Lina said.  "Get to it."
    "I'll find a villager to flay," Lina said calmly.
    Lina got up to go.  "I'll hurry and get you--"
    'YOU'LL DO.'
    And with a flick of the wrist, Ozek turned on the tap of her memories, the bottled away pain and hatred that Lina tried to keep sealed.  She collapsed to her knees, thought after thought flashing past her memory of the things that she'd experienced, what happened to her, what she heard and saw, and most importantly, how she felt, sadness, despair, anger, pain, depression, madness...
    Ozek filtered Lina's emotions, triggered by his will, growing stronger than he could from any six humans.  The little one had plenty of good choice delights inside her; obviously she had been conditioned before to be an excellent source of Mazoku power.
    Done, he let the girl collapse, and roared into the... nicely daylit sky, his body smaller than before but very, very nasty.
    "I WILL ANNIHILATE YOU THIS TIME, FOOLISH MORTALS!!!" he bellowed, and his leathery wings flapped, carrying him off into the sky.
    Moments passed.
    Lina twitched slightly on the ground.
    Although she didn't think to call for help, since she'd never been helped before just by asking for it, help came.
    Footsteps, the tap of a staff as they walked.
    "You should have realized he'd do that," the voice said.  "He's not exactly the most professional sort of hired help.  Are you hurt badly?"
    "Time is tight, Lina," her benefactor said, crouching down to ease Lina up into a sitting position.  "You're so close to the lores now, but if Ozek succeeds, he could bury them in the process.  You need to hurry.  I'll compress a night's rest into you without dreams..." the figured held a ruby headed staff, and chanted a quiet spell.
    "N... nn..." Lina started, before drifting into sleep.
    The man eased her back down to the ground.  He concentrated, speaking through her mind, a momentary dreamvision.  'You will wake in a few minutes outside the ruins of the Great Library.  Get to the lores.  Get the book.  Then you will have the means to what you seek.'
    don't trust you
    'You don't have to.  Simply listen to the reasons behind I suggest and decide then.'
    who are you
    The man smiled.  "That is a secret, Lina-chan," he told her sleeping body, then walked off, a few steps this way, a few hundred miles the other.
Click to continue...
Story copyright 1998 Stefan Gagne, characters copyright H. Kanzaka / R. Araizumi.
A Spoof Chase Production.