werving around a corner at high speed, Lina's cape whipped through the air, amplifying a passing breeze on its travels through the lofty corridors of the Great Library...
    Nobody was following her.
    Daring to pause, she looked back, listening to the sounds of a really wild struggle going on where she was previously.  Then around the corner came Naga and Gourry, followed by a terrified Lily.
    "Where's Pendix?" Lina asked, joining them in a brisk stroll away from menacing evil.
    "He's fighting Ozek!" Gourry said.  "We tried to get him to leave, but he said something about library criminals not obeying the 'Quiet, Please' sign..."
    "I think we should hurry up and get that book and GO," Lina said.  "Lily!  Where's the room with the lost lores?"
    "It's... it's... it's down there!" Lily said, pointing to a stairwell that they almost passed.  The group cornered like a pack of lions and scrambled down to the next level.
    "What about my Sword of Light?" Gourry asked.  "It's gone!  I left it up against the wall, and it vanished!  My grandfather Raudy gave me that, I can't just leave it behind..."
    "We'll go back and look for it after," Lina said.  "First get book, then sneak past demon, then get sword, then leave.  Good?  Good."
    Ozek the Really Really Bad Big Nasty Thing squared off against Pendix, confused.
    "Blackhearted library fiend!" Pendix said, spinning his double-headed axe into grip.  "Nobody defies the order of the library and lives.  I will vanquish, banish, punish, and/or get rid of you!"
    The Mazoku looked around the corner, where his real quarry had scampered like mice away from a tomcat.  There were no exits that way, he assumed.  He could catch up to them.  Better to gain strength before he tries to face them, even if they apparently did not have the Sword of Light.
    Pendix chopped his arm off.
    "HEY!  DO YOU MIND?" Ozek asked.  "I JUST GOT THIS BODY BACK!"
    The two pounced each other, claws and knives and talons and axes and teeth and swords a-flyin'.
    When the Library was shiny and new, and more importantly above ground, an unusual request was passed down the line.
    John Harvey, an independent contractor who was designing the lower levels of the library, was busy at his drafting table trying to invent indoor plumbing when the carrier pigeon arrived at his desk.
    The little bird perched on his messaging perch.  He glanced over, used to this sort of thing, and tugged the feather marked PLAY.
    "Hello, I'm a prominent sorcerer and I'd like to establish a room for 'Legendary Lost Lores'," the bird sang, parroting spoken words he had heard a few hours previous.  "I know this sounds silly, since there isn't any such thing as a Legendary Lost Lore, but I've looked ahead and seen that a lot of our lores we've made are going to fall into obscurity and be misunderstood.  I'd like to set up an archive, which will be time locked to release at a date of my choosing.  I will set up the spells if you set up the room.  I'm willing to pay approximately five thousand gold in a heavy donation to the Help John Harvey Retire Early Fund in return.  Signed, S. Quick."
    Not being an idiot, John helped this strange, bookish sorcerer design some dinky backroom in the Library.  He figured it wouldn't impact on any of his plans, anyway, and would probably add to the mystery of the Library in the years ahead and maybe get his name in the history books.
    There were a few shelves of books, stocked by this Quick guy himself, but in the center of the small octagonal room was the real prize.
    "So, why lock it down?" John Harvey asked, as Quick set up the spell.  "To return spells to humanity that it's going to lose?"
    "No, not all of humanity," S. Quick said, his fingers dancing over the lock, light playing across its iron surface.  "But someone very specific is going to need this book, in exactly three hundred and forty seven years and sixty three days and ten minutes."
    "Huh," John nodded, writing off the sorcerer as a loon.  The room for Legendary Lost Lores, whatever those were, was marked on the Library map and John went back to work on his invention, which would eventually be the only way his name was ever remembered by history.
    Exactly three hundred and forty seven years, sixty three days, and ten minutes after the conversation between John and Silverquick outside the room, the lock disengaged, and clattered to the floor.
    A moment later, Lina Inverse peeked around the corner.  "They're here!" she said excitedly, leading her little group over to the door to the Lore room, easily opening the portal, and stepping inside.  The lock was pushed off to a dark corner of the hallway, unnoticed.
    Lina stepped inside the room, centuries old dust stirring in the breeze from the corridor.  Book after book lined the shelves, some titles noticeable as gold print glittered in the light; 'The Ways of the Shamans, by Alison Swift'.  'A Thousand And One Fun Party Tricks Using Black Magic'.  'How To Lose Weight, the Reduction Magic Way!'.  'Going Postal! The Art of Correspondence Magic'...
    Like a kid in a candy store, Lina dashed here and there, looking at all the pretty books.  "Waaaaai!" she found herself saying in a childish squeal of delight.
    "Uh... you okay, Lina?" Gourry asked.
    "Yeah, fine," Lina said, turning to face him.  "I..."
    Then she saw the pedestal.
    In the center of the room, illuminated by blue light from above, as an ivory birdbath.  A tall pillar supporting a chiseled bowl, filled with crystal waters without waves... a bowl about the height of Lina's arms.  And floating above the water, rotating slowly by some unknown force, was a fairly thin bound book.  'The Mirror Lores, by S. Quick.'  The book was reflected in the water below it, both turning together.
    "That's it.." Lina said, stepping forward.  She got her pack out, opening it up.  "The Mirror Lores.  The book we've been hiking all over this damn country to get..."
    Two things happened at once.
    One, the hallway rumbled with force, ancient stones shaking while a large beast slinked through its passageways, heading for the very room Lina was in...
    Two, a slight breeze, a minute wave of wind that originated hundreds of feet up in the sky above hours ago from the beat of a butterfly's wings, was just enough to give a loose book a slight NUDGE as the rumble unsettled it, tipping the book unknowingly into Lina's open pack...
    Then Ozek arrived at the door.
    "I HAVE YOU NOW, HUMANS!!" he bellowed.
    Lina smacked her forehead.  "How many times do we have to kill you before you take a hint?"
    Ten feet high now, running nicely on stolen power, Ozek pushed his way into the room.  The stone doorway splintered and crumbled around him, dust stirring.  "LOOK, AND OBSERVE THE FATE THAT WILL BEFALL YOU!"
    He held up a human head that formerly belonged to a Librarian.
    With a soft whump, Lily fainted dead away in fright.
    "Oh, so you got Pendix," Lina said, refusing to be alarmed by this.  "I always thought he had a good head on his shoulders."
    "YOU MOCK ME?!"
    "Yes, because if I run around going 'Eeek! Eek! I'm scared! Mommy! Daddy! Big sis!'..." Lina said, imitating a panicked child, before stopping to throw a knowing glance at Ozek.  "...then you'll just feed on that fear and get nastier.  Right?"
    "I have a very cunning plan," Lina smiled.  "A very devious and crafty one.  Would you like to hear it?"
    "Ah, but it's a really GOOD one!"
    "IS NOT."
    "Is too."
    "IS NOT!"
    "Is too."
    "Oh, I get it," Gourry said, clueing in at just the wrong time.  "You're stalling him so you can think of something because you've got no idea what we can do.  Right?"
    Realizing he had been had, Ozek lunged forward, a sharpened claw tearing open Lina's chest.
    Or rather it would have, if a headless Librarian Warrior hadn't stumbled into the room and tackled the Mazoku.
    "Foolish Library Criminal!" the head of Pendix shouted.  "Librarians will never die until every last book is gone to dust!  As words are eternal, that is the magic and the oath of the Librarian!"
    "GRRGHH!  GET OFF ME, YOU FREAK!" Ozek shrieked, rolling around on the ground in front of a highly surprised group of adventurers.
    "Isn't that the pot calling the kettle black?" Naga asked.
    In the scuffle, Ozek grappled with the Librarian, intending to strangle him, but finding nothing there to strangle.  He lifted Pendix up in his hands, hurled him against a shelf of books, took a deep breath...
    Flames roared out of Ozek's mouth, the traditional bad breath weapon of the classically evil.  The paper, which had last seen moisture about the time Lina's great great great great great grandmother was in diapers, went up like a torch, as did Pendix.
    Time to move, Lina thought.
    She grabbed the book of Mirror Lores from the pedestal, shoving it into her sack, and sprinted for the door; only to be blocked by a recovered and very angry Mazoku, lancing out at her with a great clawed hand--
    The spell slammed itself into the front of her mind, the chant running through at automatic pace as she felt something tear--
    And time stopped.
    Why hadn't she thought of it before?  The flames, frozen in time, flicked around them.  There was a nasty mess made of herself, the sight of which forced her to fight, not to lose control over the magic... do the spell.
    Patch here, patch there.  Heal herself with the light, spreading it thin over the damage, not easier than the last time she did this, but more instinctive.  She worked fast, each move tiny, but fading together in a blur of strokes with her mental brush.  It wasn't the best healing job, but she had to conserve her energy; this was still new to her and she did not want to run out of the power when she needed it.
    She needed it, notably, to get rid of Ozek.
    Now the light that was like a soft sponge became a flare, a burning ember of holy fire.  Lina stroked the ember along Ozek's wings, slowly, slowly erasing them with pinpoint tips of heat.  Time slid through Lina like an glacier, infinitely slow, infinitely tasking, momentary in nature.
    She could feel the darkness of Ozek, like a freestanding puddle of ooze.  The light burned the ooze as if it was crude oil, the darkness resisting, trying to gather strength; Lina pressing it down like bubbles under wallpaper, evasive and annoying.  Hours passed, seemed to pass...
    Time snapped back into focus, the energy gone as Lina finished melting the final shred of Ozek's being.
    Her Lina-meat, her body, staggered.  She felt she now had legs, and they weren't responding well, falling to her knees, her chest tender and painful but whole.  Flames licked around her, the Mazoku was gone, as if he was never there to begin with, the last sound of his scream dying as it bounced from the walls, sinking into the stone.
    Arms scooped her up, carried her out of the burning room.  The spell was draining, very draining... casting it twice in a short amount of time was not something she would try again until she had practiced... yes, she would practice this spell, Lina the black sorceress using the highest white magic... had a certain amusing irony to it... Lina Inverse...
    Sleep overtook her as her train of thought coasted to a gentle stop.
    Lina Inversed waited for the noise to die down.  The noise might have triggered her off again; she was finding it harder to suppress that in these recent days, getting twitchier.  Play it safe.  She was safe in this hidden alcove.
    When it was quiet, she resurfaced.  The door into the room of Lost Lores was gone; the stonework crushed.  In a scared dash, she stormed into the room--
    No.  NO!
    All the books had been burned to ash.  Ruined!   Her chances gone, burned away like so many times before.  An empty room, full of soot and dust.  Empty save the pedestal in the center, the strange birdbath, which likely had the lores once.  Nothing rested there now.
    She stepped up to the dais, enraged, ready to kick it over and spill the water when she noticed something.
    In the water, the reflection of a book of magic still waited, turning quietly.  She checked to make sure there wasn't a book above it that could be casting that image; there wasn't.  Curiously, she reached into the water with both hands...
    The Mirror Lores, the reflection of them at least, were pulled from the water easily.  A slow grin sneaked its way onto her face, as she paged through the spells...
    Lina awoke from easy dreams to find herself transformed into a giant butterfly.
    The sensation was so totally convincing, that she flew from her bed and out the window, except that she actually was human and simply dropped to the floor.  Gourry's head snapped up, the sound waking him.
    "Lina?" he asked, helping her back up.  "You're awake?"
    "Pretty sure.." Lina responded, rubbing a bump on her head.  "Ugh.  How long was I out?"
    "Uhh... well..." Gourry said, checking an hourglass on the nearby table.  "'bout eight hours.  We're back at the inn in town.  Pendix was really upset that we kinda led that thing down there and burned all those magic books and kicked us out of the library.  Fortunately he forgot we had a book with us.  I figured I should stay with you for when you wake up, 'cuz..."
    Gourry shrugged, smiled.  "Wanted to make sure you were alright and stuff.  I changed you into your sleepclothes, so--"
    "You WHAT?!" Lina asked, believing in hitting first and asking questions later.
    "I didn't open my eyes or anything!" Gourry said, covering his head.  "But your cloak was pretty badly burned and that weird costume Naga got you to wear didn't look comfortable, so..."
    Lina sighed.  "Okay... fine.  Whatever.  Where's my pack?"
    Gourry presented Lina with pack and Lina opened it and took out the book.
    The Mirror Lores.  At long last.  Lina opened it to the first page, and her eyes bugged out.
    'Dear Lina.  I saw that you were going to need this book when I looked into the future once, and since I deliberately didn't write down my magic anywhere so people like Luke wouldn't get it, I had to transcribe this from hand.  It's the only copy left in a lot of ways.  I hope you can understand it all; turn to the back page if you have any questions which you likely have.  Yrs truly, Silverquick.  PS - Gourry didn't really look.'
    "..." Lina said.
    "Does it have any pictures in it?" Gourry asked, leaning over.  "I could use a good read after that awful book from the library.  Or can I read that other one?"
    Lina shook her head, clearing it, and set the Mirror Lores aside.  "What other one?"
    "The one in your bag..."
    Curious, Lina reached into her pack, and pulled the thicker book out.
    It was titled : 'The True Human Magic, by Merlin Giga.'
    Lina once found a page from this book, but that was all.  Just a page, with no hint at where it was from.  It had a spell on it called the Giga Slave...
    "Gourry?" Lina asked, not able to take her eyes off the book.
    "Yeah, Lina?"
    "Never tell anybody that I have this," Lina said, hurriedly stuffing it into her backpack.
Story copyright 1998 Stefan Gagne, characters copyright H. Kanzaka / R. Araizumi.
A Spoof Chase Production.