Slayers New by Esther Nairn | Chapter One: | Start! The Beginning of a New Adventure!
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Twilight descended quietly upon Möeta Village, a small town on the outskirts of the country of Chorion. Owls hooted, crickets chirped, and a few villagers strolled about calmly, taking in the clear night air. The near full moon above and streetlamps below illuminated the town's single road as local vendors straggled home with their goods leftover from that day's market. In short, all was quite peaceful. Of course, this peace could not last, not while Lina Inverse and her guardian and traveling companion Gourry Gabriev were in town.

From inside the village inn, a shrill female voice broke the tranquility. "GOURRY!" Lina shrieked. Lina and Gourry sat at a table in the inn's small restaurant, eating a late dinner. Actually, devouring would be a better word, since food was disappearing off the table faster than anyone this side of the Mazoku Barrier had ever seen.

"That leg is mine!" Lina shouted as she stabbed at Gourry's arm with her dinner knife. She held his other wrist in her small hand, and was desperately trying to keep it away from a chicken leg--the last of their dinner--on the plate between them.

"But Lina," Gourry protested, "you ate the rest of the chicken! I didn't get to have any of it!" With his free hand he smacked the knife away from Lina's hand and broke her hold on his other wrist. She dove for the leg, but Gourry grabbed a fistful of red hair and held her away from the plate. He grabbed the leg and swiftly took a huge bite out of it. Lina fumed as she started the chant for a Fireball. A small, glowing ball of flame formed over her palm.

Gourry, realizing that his victory would Pyrrhic at best, wisely decided to let go of both Lina's hair and the chicken leg. Lina called off her spell, grabbed the half-eaten leg, and started munching, all the while glaring at her companion. Gourry sighed and sat back in his chair; he didn't really expect to win anyway. He had to admire her persistence, though--not many girls would wrestle someone for the last bit of food on the table.

Lina sat back, satisfied with her victory. She was renown for her spunk and determination, although not many would put it in such positive terms. She was known as the "flat-chested terror" and "someone even a dragon wouldn't mess with," as well as by many other colorful adjectives. Lina was seventeen years old, although by her size and sometimes her behavior many would guess she was about twelve. Petite and thin, Lina didn't look like she could hold her own against a fly, let alone a piece of Shaburanigdo, whom she had defeated three years before, or DarkStar, whom she had helped defeat three months ago. She was dressed in the usual garb of a sorceress: magenta tunic with white trim and accented with yellow; magenta leggings; white gloves and gray boots; and a billowing black cape with shoulder guards. Her sword rested against the wall next to Gourry's. She did not often resort to using it, but it was a necessity, especially during a certain time of the month that she didn't like to talk about. She finished off the chicken leg and straightened her red hair with her fingers.

"That was rude, Gourry. You should know not to pull a girl's hair!"

"Well, you weren't acting like a girl at the time," he countered.

" I can't help it if I have a healthy appetite!" Lina protested.

"Whatever. Where are we going, again?" Gourry asked, knowing he would get nothing in the way of remorse out of her. He took a sip of his beer and watched Lina facefault into the table.

"Chorion City, like I've said twenty times already!! The king of Chorion summoned us to do some work for him, and I've heard he pays well." Lina smacked her fist against her palm. "He had better, after all the distance we've had to travel to get here."

"Why'd he summon us?" Gourry asked.

Lina waved her hand nonchalantly. "Well, from what his letter said, he wanted the strongest warriors in the world to complete some quest for him. Of course, that would be us."

"Of course," her companion replied dryly after taking another sip of his beer. "It's a shame we had to skip out on Ameria like we did, though. Maybe she could've come along."

"Yeah, well, more money for us, that way. Besides, her father wanted her back home to hear her report of what happened with DarkStar." Lina rolled her eyes at the thought of Prince Phil, the heir to the Saillunian throne, and his justice-obsessed ways. Suddenly, she had a thought. "Hey, I wonder if they have anything good around here for dessert."

Gourry looked around the tiny, empty dining room. "I don't see the waitress."

Lina stood up. "That's all right, I'll just go look for her in the kitchen! I'm sure she won't mind!"

"If you find anything, save some for me!" he called after her as she ran through a wooden door in the back marked "Kitchen." He sighed. She'd probably eat everything that was back there, if it looked edible and had sugar in it. That was all right with him, though; after tonight's feast he was pretty full. He finished off his beer and started stacking plates on the corner of the large, rough-cut wooden table.

Gourry was, at heart, a simple man. He wasn't too bright, which was all right with him; after all, he was arguably the best swordsman alive. Tall and well-built, he could easily defeat anyone in a swordfight, and could hold his own against most magic-users, as well. He was dressed in a mercenary's outfit: a blue shirt and pants, boots, and fingerless, leather gloves, as well as heavy shoulder guards, leg guards, and a breastplate. His long, shaggy blond hair was probably his most outstanding characteristic aside from the huge sword he kept close to him at all times. In the past, he had been the Swordsman of Light; now that the Hikari no Ken had been taken away with the rest of the Weapons of Light, he carried a simple broadsword. He missed his old sword, since it was very useful in defeating hard-to-kill opponents like the Mazoku. But aside from his swordsmanship, Gourry only really cared about four things: food, adventure, his friends, and his duty to Lina. This was why he had stuck with Lina for so many years--trouble seemed to follow her wherever she went, and usually there was lots of good food to enjoy in the meantime. Deep down he cared deeply about Lina, despite her quirkiness.

As Gourry finished stacking plates for the waitress to take away, Lina emerged from the kitchen, holding a large plate and grinning triumphantly. "Brownies!" she announced. Their waitress followed her, carrying two large glasses of milk.

"Mom used to make brownies," he said wistfully as Lina set the plate down in the middle of the table. The waitress handed each of them a glass, then grabbed a stack of plates and hauled them off to the kitchen.

They finished off the brownies in silence, each pondering whatever thoughts happened to surface. Lina ate most of them, since Gourry was almost full. Finally, they paid for dinner and went upstairs. "Lina," Gourry said as she walked past him in the hall, heading toward her room.

"Hmmm?"

"How far is it to Charicon City or wherever it is we have to go?"

Lina smacked him in the head for that. "It's 'Chorion', Gourry. CORE-ii-ahn. CORE-ii-ahn," she repeated, exaggerating the syllables. "And I don't know, maybe another day or two."

"I hope the king has something exciting for us to do," he said, rubbing his skull where she had hit him. "I think we need an adventure."

Lina smiled. "Me too," she replied as she opened her door and stepped inside.

"Good night, Lina," Gourry called before heading into his room.

"'Night, Gourry." She shook her head and closed the door. He was right--things were getting boring ever since the battle against DarkStar. Aside from a few bandit gangs here and there, she really hadn't had the opportunity to do much of anything interesting. Life was getting dull, indeed. As she got ready for bed, she decided to do something about that. Yes, starting tomorrow, she would blow up at least one thing per day. It would be a good way to keep in shape, she reasoned. That settled, Lina settled changed into her pajamas and settled into bed, quite pleased with her resolution, and soon fell fast asleep.

* * *

Soft, pale, orange and yellow light filtered its way through fluffy, white clouds to herald a glorious sunrise. Gourry, feeling stronger and healthier than he ever had before, strode confidently along a wide path. He gazed at the rising sun and beautiful landscape around him, his Hikari no Ken strapped securely to his side. Gracefully curving hills rose in the distance to the north, and the east-west path in front of him stretched across a large, flat plain as far as he could see. Deep green trees blanketed the faraway hills, and the golden wheat growing in the fields around and ahead of him rejoiced in the beauty of the glowing star. Colors brightened as it climbed slowly above the horizon and the orange and yellow light it emitted melted into dazzling brightness.

Gourry stopped and bent over to sniff a vibrant red flower growing just off the path to his right. He continued on, traipsing gaily along the heavenly road, stopping every so often along the way to observe happily humming insects going about their daily chores or to smell the various fragrant flowers that grew abundantly just off the path. The wheat fields stretched on for miles, Gourry could tell, and there wasn't a soul around, but somehow he didn't find this strange. In fact, he found it quite calming.

He smiled in the lightness and happiness of it all, closed his eyes, and clasped his hands behind his head. When he opened his eyes, to his pleasant surprise, a small restaurant had appeared along the path. Gourry's mouth watered at the delicious smells coming from the little building. He brushed a lock of blond hair from his face and eagerly and unquestioningly jogged the short distance to the place.

The tiny restaurant was built in a peculiar style. It was painted white, with the window shutters painted a muted, medium brown. Chocolate-brown wooden beams criss-crossed to form giant "X"s on the outside walls. It was not an unpleasant look, but it was rather unusual to him. The restaurant's style of decoration did not really concern the hungry swordsman, however; all he cared about was the food being cooked within.

Gourry had to stoop to enter the building; it was as if the whole place were built for someone rather petite. He walked inside and noticed a handful of low, wooden circular tables scattered throughout the room, each surrounded by two or three small chairs. There was no bar, but in the back of the room there was another door, which presumably led to the kitchen. A few windows leaked some light in from the outside, but not too much. As his eyes adjusted to the dimness, Gourry called out politely, "Hello? Anyone home?"

In apparent response to his call, plates upon plates of food mysteriously appeared at the table to his right. He glanced around again, then looked at the food; plates full of meats, eggs, fresh fruits and vegetables, even country-crust bread and whipped butter covered its surface. Hunger overrode his curiosity as to who had placed the food there, and he sat down on a cute little wooden chair to eat.

Crash! The chair collapsed under him, spilling Gourry onto the floor. Well, he would just have to pay for it when the owner of the restaurant came out. Come to think of it, where was the owner? Oh well, he thought, maybe he was just busy in the kitchen and didn't have time to poke his nose out and say hello. Gourry looked around for another chair, and found an equally tiny seat across the table. He stood up and looked down at the broken chair, then back at the table. That's funny, the he thought to himself, this table seemed bigger before. And the chair didn't look that fragile. He stood for a few seconds, pondering this, but was easily distracted by the wonderful aromas. He walked around the table and sat down carefully on the other chair.

Crash! The second chair also collapsed, and Gourry toppled to the floor. He rubbed his head with his left hand in confusion and sat up. Something didn't feel quite right here, he thought. Perhaps I should go look for the restaurant owner. He glanced around some more. The table in front of him seemed smaller than ever; in fact, it was eye-level to him as he sat on the floor! A flash of movement to his right caught his attention. Something had scurried past his hand. He looked around quickly, senses ready to detect any danger, his hand at his sword hilt. Nothing stirred. The place was absolutely silent.

Suddenly he heard a chattering noise coming from all over the room. The high-pitched hum of thousands of tiny, disembodied voices surrounded him. He glanced all over, alarmed now. It sounded almost as if he was in the middle of a beehive. The chattering sound grew louder and louder, and he put his hands over his ears to keep out the noise.

Then, from out of nowhere, thousands of miniature versions of Lina Inverse appeared around him. A sea of the little creatures swarmed over poor Gourry before he could even cry out in protest.

"I want food! I'm hungry! C'mon Gourry let's eat! I wanna eat! Eat! Eat! Eat! Food! Food! Food! I want food, I want food, I want to eat, I want food, I want to eat! Me! Me! C'mon Gourry, c'mon Gourry! Gourry Gourry Gourry Gourry Gourry, lllllleeeeeeeettttt'ssssss EAT!! Me, me, me, I wanna eat, I wanna eat!" the hundreds of little Linas shouted all at once, and not in unison.

"Gaahh!!" he yelled as the tiny things descended on him from all angles. His brain couldn't handle this many people talking to him at once, if you could consider the chibi creatures "people". He swatted at the red-headed, pink-clad pests as they climbed all over him, danced in his hair, hung from his shoulder guards, and poked him in the ribs. A small but growing group of them had noticed Gourry's sword and decided, collectively, to steal it. He knocked them away as they rushed at the sword and tried to pull it out, but more and more kept coming.

"Gourry, Gourry, I want food! I wanna eat! I'm hungry, Gourry!" most of the pests shouted in high, squeaky voices. One chibi Lina stood perched on his thigh, trying to direct the others as they attempted to pull out the Hikari no Ken. She was shouting to the thieves, tying to get them to pull at the same time, but none of the other Linas were listening. Consequently, the little things were not only shouting at Gourry for food, but at each other as well.

"Outta my way! No, you get out of MY way! I got here first! The sword is MINE! Mine, mine, mine, mine! I saw it first! No, you didn't, I saw it first! Oh yeah? Yeah! It's mine! No, mine!" the miniature Lina-thieves shouted at each other as they ducked Gourry's frantically waving hands.

"Get AWAY from me! Lina!! Don't you dare ti-tick-tickle me!" he exclaimed, swatting away the Linas that were poking him in the ribs.

Meanwhile, more and more creatures appeared out of nowhere, taking the total number of pests into the thousands. Finally, the horde of chibi creatures got so huge that a wave of them managed to knock him flat on his back. He moaned as his head hit the floor with a thud. He closed his eyes. "Hellllp!!!" he shouted in vain.

The Lina caricatures swarmed all over him, jumping up and down and shouting, "Victory! Victory! I want food! Victory! C'mon, I'm hungry!"

After a few moments of this, the chibi Linas suddenly disappeared without warning as quickly as they had appeared. Gourry breathed a sigh of relief and tried to ignore the ringing in his ears from the noise. He looked over at the table; as he expected, all the food was gone from it, and all that was left were bones with tiny teeth marks in them. "Figures..." he grumbled as he started to stand up. He sat back down with a gasp when he bumped his head on the ceiling--at that very instant the already small building had reduced to three-quarters of its original size! He looked around, panicked, as the little wooden restaurant started to shrink around him. The ceiling was now three feet above his head, and the walls were closing in on him fast. He struggled to his knees and crawled towards the tiny door. He had to get out!

A little Lina appeared in front of the door. She stamped her little foot on the wooden floor. "Wake up, you stupid jellyfish! Goouuuurrrrryyy! Wake up, you dumb blond! We're gonna miss breakfast! C'mon, Gourry..."

"C'mon Gourry, let's go!" the real Lina shouted at her still sleeping companion. She stood by his bedside, her hands on her hips. He was completely tangled up in his sheets and his pajamas were soaked with sweat. The big goon must've had a bad dream, she thought as she shook him by the shoulder. He tossed and turned feverishly, but did not awaken. "I sure hope you take a bath before long or bandits will be able to smell us coming long before they see us," she mused. She grabbed hold of Gourry's muscular left arm and gave him one final, violent shake.

"Gaahh!!" he shouted as he sat bolt upright in bed and pushed Lina away, knocking her to the floor. "Wha? What happened? Did I make it? Huh?" He noticed movement to his side, and quickly rubbed his eyes and peered at Lina. "Aahh!" he yelled, thinking he was still in his dream. He leapt straight out of bed to get away from her. Unfortunately for poor Gourry, he was so tangled in his sheets that instead of jumping up and running away, he sort of threw himself off the bed, only to land face first on the floor.

"Gourry! What the heck?!" Lina jumped to her feet and ran around the bed to her fallen comrade. He twitched in reply, his face still squashed against the hard wooden floor. "You goof, whaddya think you were doing? You must have been dreaming or something, but you're awake now so get up! Don't just lay there; we've got to get breakfast before the innkeeper stops serving it!" Lina knelt next to Gourry and helped him into a sitting position.

Gourry leaned against the bed for a few seconds, rubbing his injured nose and looking at Lina with a confused, almost fearful expression. "You...you're dot diny, Dina! You were itty-bitty jusb a few binutes before..." his voice trailed off as she started to lose her patience.

"You were dreaming, you insect-brain! I'm not tiny, do I look like I'm tiny?" Lina demanded, irritated.

"Well, your br-"

"What was that?" she interrupted, ready to pound him.

"Umm...ummmm..." Gourry replied, still rubbing his nose, still confused.

Lina sighed and sat back on her heels. The petite sorceress reached out, grabbed Gourry by the ears, and dragged his face closer till his nose was two inches from hers. "Look. Do you want food?" she demanded. He managed a slight nod. "Then get up, get dressed, and get downstairs!!" she shouted.

Gourry jumped up with an almost instantaneous recovery time, knocking Lina over again. He still didn't quite understand what was going on, but the point was that she was no longer tiny, although she was about as obnoxious as the little versions of herself he had encountered just moments ago. However, there was only one of her now, and he counted that as an improvement. He could feel his stomach already demanding food. "I'll be ready in a few minutes!" he called as he started to unbutton his nightshirt.

Lina sweatdropped, then looked up at Gourry. She saw him start to get undressed, and jumped up herself, blushing slightly. "Wait till I'm out of the room!!" she yelled as she ran for the door.

"OK, Lina! I'll be ready in a few minutes," Gourry repeated as she slammed his door behind her.

Lina sighed as she put a hand to her forehead. "Why did he have to sleep so late? It's almost two hours till noon," she said to herself. Lina had awakened about an hour before, and took full advantage of the little bath house near the inn. Afterwards, she came back, and, upon realizing that he was not already eating, she immediately went up to Gourry's room and proceeded to wake him up. She shook her head and went back into her room for a minute to do a last-minute check to make sure she hadn't forgotten anything.

Meanwhile, Gourry, now fully dressed, checked his room one more time to make sure the little Linas were gone. "Where could they have hidden?" he mumbled. He looked under the bed, behind the tiny dresser, and inside the trunk, and found nothing. "Man, she is good! I can't find any trace of them!" Shaking his head, he headed to the door.

* * *

Two days later, far away from little Möeta Village, winds whipped the waters of the Miranda Sea into a froth while seagulls called to each other, looking for food. The angry sea threw itself against the rocky Chorioni shore, forming small pools and eddies in which tiny creatures swam about. It was a positively gray day--overcast, with a light fog rolling in from the east. The people of Chorion City were quite used to gloomy days, however. The equally gray city hadn't seen much sunshine or happiness in the past several years.

Not far from the edge of the cliff rose Castle Ori. It had been built one-hundred years ago, and, despite the constant beating it received from strong ocean winds, it remained in excellent shape. Thick outer walls surrounded the palace, and tall spires spiked upward like pikes out of the castle proper. Majestic and stately, Ori Castle was certainly a sight to behold. In the recent past, however, it had turned about as dismal in color as the rest of the capital city that surrounded it.

King Rolard Chakar the First stood in his tower, the highest spire in the castle, looking out toward the sea through one of the room's four narrow windows. The stone walls were hung with tapestries between the windows depicting scenes from his family's history. King Rolard was a moderately tall, thin, middle-aged man, with a long, drawn-out face and graying hair, with a gray, well-trimmed moustache. He wore royal burgundy and maroon robes and a crown atop his head. His hazel eyes gazed thoughtfully over the crashing ocean.

Clasping his bony hands behind his back, he turned from his window and walked a few paces across the obsidian-tiled floor to a small, dark wooden table that served as the only piece of furniture in the little circular room.

King Rolard chanted a spell under his breath, and a three-dimensional image slowly took shape just above the table. He concentrated a little more, and the image became clearer and more focused. He watched as Lina Inverse's youthful face came into view, followed by Gourry Gabriev. The girl and her sword-slinging companion were well on their way toward Chorion City. Well, if his schedule was correct, the king thought, they should be running into a spot of trouble right about now. He rested his elbow in his other palm, and, absently tugging on his beard, continued to observe the pair.

* * *

Lina hadn't been paying attention for some time now. She and Gourry were now tramping through a typical, tree-filled forest. For all the storybooks tried to make them sound interesting, the woods were boring. You've seen one forest, and you've seen them all, was Lina's motto. They'd been traveling like this for two days, and she was getting sick of catching fish in the small streams that ran through the forest for her food. She was about to open her mouth to complain when she suddenly sensed something odd. She stopped in her tracks, causing Gourry to almost crash into her from behind.

"What is it?" Gourry asked quietly, already reaching for his sword hilt.

"Ithinkwe'rebeingwatched," Lina mumbled. She was getting a very strange feeling in her stomach that reminded her a little of when her sister, Luna, used spells to spy on her. It gave her the chills.

"What'd you say?"

"There's someone here, I think," she said.

"Is that a bad thing or a good thing?" Gourry asked.

Lina narrowed her eyes and looked all around her, magical power coagulating over her open palm. "I think it's a bad th--" She was interrupted by the arrival of two dirty-looking men, who stepped out onto the path in front of her and Gourry. They were dressed in traditional bandit style: dirty clothes, unshaven faces, and large swords. Lina swallowed her apprehension and smirked at the pair, putting on as much confidence as she possibly could, despite the creepy feeling that wouldn't leave her alone. "Ah, and so where is the rest of your little gang?" she asked smugly.

The apparent leader, a huge man with a missing eye, spat on the ground and motioned with his hand. "Smart, girlie." Several burly bandits appeared, their swords drawn. "You're pretty smart. But I'm tellin' ya, ya's no match for us, either of ya. Let's make it easy--ya give us all ya's money, an' we'll let ya live."

Grinning, Lina tossed her hair behind her shoulders and glanced back at Gourry, whose sword was already drawn. "Gourry, do you remember what I told you a few days ago?"

Gourry looked up, thinking. " Ummm...no," he said finally.

Lina sweatdropped, then continued. "I promised myself I'd blow up at least one thing per day to keep in shape." She looked dangerously at the bandits around her and said, mock cheerfully, "And look who's come to help me keep this promise for today!"

It was the bandit gang's turn to sweatdrop, each staring at their "victims" incredulously. "What kin' a person makes THAT kin' a promise?" one man asked aloud.

"The kind of person who believes there are no rights for the wicked. Namely," Lina's eyes glinted in the sun, "me." She glanced back at Gourry and muttered something in his direction. He just nodded, the plan understood.

"Ooh, I'm so scared. What are ya gonna do, girlie, hit me wit' one a yer dolls?" the leader taunted.

Lina answered pertly, "We're going to give you the thrashing of your lives if you don't do the smart thing and run away--leaving me with all your money, of course, as payment for not blowing you up."

Gourry sweatdropped, then leaned over a little. "Isn't that blackmail?" he asked.

"Bribery is more like it," one of the bandits answered.

"HEY!" Lina shouted and stamped her foot. "I don't care what it is! Give me your money and run!!" she commanded.

"Uppity littl' brat! Get 'er!" the leader shouted.

"Gourry!" Lina shouted.

"Right here!"

"Levitation!"

With that, they grabbed each others' wrists and Lina lifted him out of the fray. There was a loud crashing noise, followed by silence.

Gourry looked around from where he was suspended in mid-air. He saw the bandits lying in a pile beneath him. "Wow, Lina, it worked!"

Lina chuckled. "I know." She called down to the bandit-pile, "Hey! We're up here!" The goons on top of the pile looked up and started yelling and swearing at her. She giggled girlishly at the sight, one hand over her stomach. The top-most bandits tried to stand on the pile to reach her, but to no avail. Lina extended her free hand and, still maintining the Levitation spell, cast, "Fireball!"

Fire ripped violently through the gang. Some tried to run away, only to find themselves enveloped in smoke and flames. Once the fire extinguished itself, Lina dropped Gourry, who landed with an unceremonious thud, and surveyed her handiwork. She glanced around at the charred thugs approvingly, and nodded her head. "Next time, don't pick on innocent travelers."

"You...evil..." one of the goons wheezed out as he helplessly watched the pair relieve his gang of their valuables, then turn to leave.

"Have a nice day!" she shouted to the bandits, waving obnoxiously.

"That was fun!" Gourry said, grinning, as he jogged next to her.

Lina frowned. The feeling that she was being watched hadn't disappeared, and she didn't like it. "Yeah, well, come on, let's get out of here. This place is creepy for some reason." She quickened her pace, absentmindedly rubbing the goosebumps on her arms as she walked.

* * *

"Nicely done," King Rolard Chakar said to Lina's image. "However, Inverse-san, you are a little too sensitive to my observation. I'll have to account for that." The king waved his hand and cancelled his observance spell. The image of Lina and Gourry disappeared from the little table in front of him. He turned and stepped across the room to a window, looking out at the ocean. He reached his hands out, leaning on the walls to either side of the magically-reinforced glass pane as he gazed out over the rough waters. A strong wind had kicked up, forcing the waves to ever higher crests, which hurtled themselves toward the coastline rocks relentlessly.

"Mutable waters in a mutable world," the king muttered as the sky turned a few shades darker, signaling an impending storm. Water eroded whatever stood in its path, destroying its obstacles piece by piece. And so did he. Already the world stood weaker before him by his mastery of sorcery, a feat once said impossible for any Chakar. Now what was left in his way were some large boulders. Very well, boulders could be crushed, he reasoned, given time, and pressure, and the right circumstances. Let the erosion begin, he thought, smiling to himself.

He turned away from his window back to the table in the middle of the room. He closed his eyes and chanted the same spell he had used before. This time, however, the king was observing someone else.

The image on the little wooden table slowly coalesced into the three-dimensional image of a sixteen-year-old girl seated in a large armchair. She was dressed in a beautiful lilac gown which flattered her youthful, shapely figure. Her head was bent over a thick book with a black cover, her long, wavy blond hair framing her face and hiding her eyes. She calmly turned a page, completely unaware of the man silently watching her.

* * *

Zelgadiss Greywords positively hated the country through which he was traveling.

The grass was a lush green and the sky was a clear blue. Bees buzzed around the wildflowers growing alongside a dusty path, and small, woodland creatures scampered about. The dazzling sun shone radiantly upon him while birds chirped a happy song from the nearby trees. The landscape was positively idyllic, like something out of a fairy tale. All this beauty, however, was completely lost on the moody chimera.

Zelgadiss trudged along the dirt path, grumbling to himself, frustrated and angry. He had stayed in the New World to find a cure for his chimeric condition, and, even after more than a month of searching, he had turned up absolutely nothing. He had followed up his last clue yesterday, with no luck. At the moment, he was fresh out of leads, which only angered him further.

And it didn't help that he had gotten very little sleep at the inn the night before, thanks to the old recurring, horrifying dream. The day he had been turned into a 1/3 stone golem, 1/3 blue demon, and 1/3 human by Rezo continued to haunt him with a vengeance. Last night, he had become so desperate that he got up in the middle of the night and fixed some tea for himself in the kitchen. Come to think of it, tea would be a nice thing to have for sleepless nights when he was roughing it. "Memo to me: get some tea. Preferably the sleep-inducing kind. And stay the heck away from happy, prosperous little countries!" he muttered.

Spying what looked like a village in the distance, Zel pulled on his mask and hood and considered avoiding it. He was in absolutely no mood to put up with hordes of frightened citizens ready to run him out of town. Then again, he hadn't eaten all day. He debated with himself for awhile, but hunger finally won out. Sighing, he continued along the path toward what looked like a small farming town. He could catch a quick meal at the village tavern. And if he was lucky, someone would know enough about the subject of chimeras to pass on a clue.

* * *

"In the name of justice, I , Princess Ameria Wil Tesla Saillune, shall teach you a lesson!" The short, dark-haired sorceress shouted as she climbed on top of a tall, white statue. She posed, the setting sun providing a dramatic backdrop behind her, with her white, magenta-trimmed tunic and white cape moving slightly in the breeze. Ameria then leaped off the statue and promptly landed face first on the cobblestone road, right in front of the pickpocket she was attempting to apprehend.

The people nearby stopped and scanned their surroundings for the source of the disturbance of their peace. The pickpocket, meanwhile, sweatdropped, shrugged, and proceeded to search through Ameria's pockets as she half-lay with her torso in mid-air, twitching slightly from the shock of her fall. He started to sneak away when Ameria made a miraculous recovery. She jumped up, and, noticing that her pouches were missing and her pockets empty, spotted the pickpocket and pointed a finger at him. "You rotten scoundrel! You stole from me, too! Fireball!!" With that, powerful magic burst forth from the little princess's fingers and headed straight for the thief.

When the smoke cleared, the thief and several of the innocent bystanders nearby were charred and smoldering. Ameria bounded over to the pickpocket and took back her things, which had miraculously survived her spell intact, since he had fallen over and landed on top of them. She then stood over the man, pointing her finger at him. "It's not too late to atone for your sordid deeds! Seek forgiveness, spend some time in jail thinking about your crimes, and you, too, can become a shining example of goodness and justice!" she reprimanded the man sternly.

Ameria turned around, suddenly aware of the annoyed villagers now surrounding her. She looked into their enraged, blackened faces, and gulped. They seem so angry, she thought. Nodding her head in an understanding manner, she said gravely, "I know how the injustice still left in this world must frustrate all of you. I assure you, I will continue to do all I can to protect the weak and make this a better world!" She smiled one of her biggest smiles as the crowd collectively facefaulted. As they recovered, the local law enforcement came by to pick up the thief, and things began to return to normal in the busy streets.

After giving a statement to the guards who arrested the thief, Ameria headed to the docks to see when the next ship was departing for the New World. Luck was with her; one was leaving the next day. It was a cargo ship, but she managed to persuade the captain to let her travel with them. Once she finished speaking with him, Ameria headed over to an inn to check in and have dinner.

Over her roasted turkey, baked potatoes, and coffee, she studied a map and considered where she should go once she arrived in the New World. She half-hoped she wouldn't run into Lina and Gourry for a little while; while they were fun to be around, they could certainly wreck her diplomatic mission quickly. Zelgadiss, on the other hand, was someone she wouldn't mind having along on a mission which might require strategic decision-making and negotiation. Besides, she missed him.

Not long after she had returned home and shared her stories of the New World, Ameria had been charged by her father with a mission of diplomacy: to go back to the New World and meet the leaders of the most prominent nations there, in an attempt to form alliances with them. Her father always said it never hurt to have friends all over the place, and he was anxious to learn more about the cultures of the civilizations beyond the old Barrier. So Ameria had left the day before, promising to return with all kinds of information and perhaps even a few alliances to sign. It was a little hard to leave home again, so soon after she had gotten back from the New World, but duty called, after all. Thrilled at the thought of helping her country and having a bit of an adventure along the way, Ameria finished her turkey quickly, then headed up to bed. Tomorrow was going to be a big day.


"Slayers" is copyright H. Kanzaka / R. Araizumi. Original ideas, artwork, and text present on this page are copyright Esther Nairn, unless otherwise noted. No reproduction is allowed without express written or emailed permission. Violators will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.