Slayers New by Esther Nairn | Prologue: | Approximately 1000 Years Before Lina's Time
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"Stop there, lad. Ya's surrounded," came a voice from behind the moonlit trees. The owner of the voice, a scarred and tattooed bandit, stepped out onto the dirt path in front of the man he was about to rob. There were whoops and cheers as more bandits came out of their hiding places alongside the road.

The traveler, a short, stocky, twenty-something man, stopped. Fifteen of the filthiest men the he had ever seen stood around him, greedy looks on their faces, and their jagged, vicious-looking swords drawn and pointed at him.

The lead bandit, holding his sword in one hand and a torch in the other, stepped closer to his prey. "Ya gonna hand over ya's valabables, or do I's hafta git rough wit ya?" he slurred, obviously drunk.

Achek sighed. He raised his hand into the air in front of his face, chanting something softly so that the leader couldn't hear. Closing his eyes, he turned around in a full circle.

The bandit in front of him stepped back a little, confused. "Don ya's go givin' us trouble, ya's hear? We--"

"Dill Brando," Achek whispered.

A large circle appeared in the ground, as if someone had taken a paintbrush and painted right under the bandits' feet. It glowed with light momentarily, and then exploded, throwing each grubby man standing near it high into the air. For a moment, the woods became as bright as day. Frightened animals shrieked and flew or scampered away as fast as they could.

As darkness returned, and the sounds of the forest gradually returned to their previous tranquility, Achek afforded himself a smug grin. He cast a small light spell, bent down, and started picking the pockets of the dead bandits laying in piles where they had landed around him. "It's too bad you didn't survive to spread the word to the rest of the lowlife scum in this world," he mused, stuffing a pouch with coins into his cloak pocket. He paused as he stooped down in front of the leader's prone corpse. "To a sorcerer, villians have no rights."

* * *

"Lazy, ignorant little slacker...he's late...where is that boy?"

"Right here, Master Giga," Achek replied as he stepped into his master's laboratory. He took off his cloak and hung it on a peg hammered into the rock wall.

The wizened old mage whirled around. "There you are! What took you so long?!"

Achek grinned. "Just a little road hazard along the way. I tried out that spell you showed me, the 'Dill Brando'. It worked beautifully."

Giga, bent and shriveled, hobbled over to where his apprentice stood. He looked him up and down appraisingly, rubbing his bearded chin thoughtfully, then quickly whapped the young man in the shin with his walking staff. "Don't be so smug. And that's for being late, you slacker. I told you to be back before midnight."

The younger man winced. He shrugged, took his bag off his shoulder, and set it down on the nearest table. "I have what you were looking for, Master."

Giga's clouded, old eyes lit up. "Good, good!" He hobbled over to the table and dug around in the leather sack, pulling out various items and setting them on the stone table in front of him, muttering to himself.

Achek yawned. "Well, if that will be all for tonight, I believe I will be heading off to bed now."

"We start work on the items tomorrow, and no excuses!" Giga called after him.

Achek gave a mock salute, then turned down the hall, heading for his tiny room. "Old crone..." he mumbled to himself.

Giga surveyed the collection on the table in front of him. "L-sama's power will finally be known to this world," he said to no one in particular. Turning, he whispered, "Tomorrow, of course." Shoving his hands deep into his pockets, he walked slowly toward his bedroom. "Tomorrow, tomorrow..."

* * *

Colors splashed against each other and faded, replaced constantly by more color, in a meaningless, three-dimensional formation. All around him, the crashing color sounded like the ocean smashing against a rocky shore. Giga swam through a sea of nothingness as effortlessly as if it were water, yet he felt like he was flying. He looked around, twisting and turning as he moved. He had been here before. A familiar feeling, all at once like the relief of a deep breath and the sharp pain of a knife wound, washed over him. The Lord of Nightmares was going to speak to him again.

With a jolt, all motion stopped. The colors froze, and Giga with them. Coming from all around him, with no discernable source, a voice screamed and whispered at the same time in an unintelligible, harsh-sounding tongue. Golden letters appeared in front of him, floating in space, with no substance, order, or dimension. Giga watched as they coalesced one at a time, in no real pattern, to form words that he could read.

Chaos and balance
Order and none
A Slayer and its Counterparts
Form to make One

The conjoining of the New
And the Ones Who Have Been
Balance Lightness, Darkness,
And the Grey in Between

Giga listened, awed and frightened, as the voice continued its whisper-scream, telling him the will of its owner. Words randomly appeared around him and faded quickly, some forming sentences, others floating, disjointed, away from the others, each summarizing and stating a component of his mission. The experience was too much for him, however; he felt his head buzzing and his vision blurred. He stopped worrying about that, however, when the colorful backdrop suddenly disappeared, leaving total blackness in its wake, and he began to fall.

With a scream, Giga instinctively reached his hand upward, clawing at a single, golden pinprick of light somewhere above his head, but to no avail. It winked out of his sight as he fell farther and farther away. He shot through a seemingly infinite, pitch-black space, at a speed that made the hair of his long, white beard fly up into his face and his pants legs run up to his knees. He flailed his arms frantically, grasping for something--anything--to hold on to. He pushed his beard away from his face and looked toward his feet just in time to see a stone floor barely illuminated by a pale, silvery light, and a man sleeping in a bed come into view. Before he could even blink, he was slammed into this floor, and he felt every molecule in his body shatter on impact.

Giga sat up in bed abruptly and gasped for air, placing a hand to his chest. He felt his heart ricocheting off his ribcage while his lungs burned for oxygen. He looked around quickly, at first not even understanding the setting around him. After a few seconds, though, he recognized the place as his bedroom, and the silvery light he had seen in his dream was actually moonlight streaming in through his window. He took in the cramped, stone room and shuddered. He squeezed his eyes shut for a moment, truly grateful to be alive.

He sat like this for a few moments, simply getting his breathing under control again. It was not long after that, however, that Giga opened his eyes again and recalled the instructions given to him in his dream. Quickly, he scrambled out of bed and cast a light spell as he ran out of the room, forgetting his shoes in his haste. He had to begin work immediately--there was no time to waste. He tore down the hallway of his underground home like a man possessed. No, he could not wait until morning to begin the work that L-sama had given him.

* * *

Achek walked into the laboratory sleepily, running his fingers through his tousled brown hair. He took in the cluttered stone tables strewn with various books and magical items. "What a mess. Geezer must've had a bad night. Where is he, anyway?" he mused. The young sorcerer crossed the room and opened the far door. Maybe he was upstairs, in the main room. He trudged up the stone steps to the enormous, circular room that served as both an entryway and the focal point for some of Giga's experimental magic. Light poured from the skylight, a direct pipeline to the top of the cone-shaped stone tower in which they lived. "Master?"

"Here, boy!" Giga called from outside, through the open passageway. He was kneeling on the rocky ground. He grunted and lifted his arm to pound something Achek couldn't see from where he stood.

"Whatever are you doing, Master?" Achek demanded as he passed through the hallway and out the door. He squinted down, his eyes adjusting to the yellow glow of the recently risen sun.

Giga said without looking up, "Making copies...must preserve this..."

Achek looked down at the stone tablet Giga had been pounding on. "What is this? What are you writing? Master," he continued impatiently, "weren't we supposed to start on the items this morning?"

Giga looked up at his apprentice. "Soon, soon, yes, we will!" he replied gleefully.

The younger sorcerer blinked in surprise. Something was wrong--he could see it in his master's eyes. They were crazy, almost possessed, like the time when L-sama had spoken to him. The time his master created a spell that invoked her power, a spell that could defeat any living creature of any race at any time, provided one could control it. Giga had controlled it once. Achek wasn't sure he would be so lucky the next time.

Giga's eyes darted around, his withered old face and hands trembling with excitement. "There was a dream."

"There always is," he said dryly.

"No!" Giga shouted and stood up, using his staff for support. "This dream was like only one other that I have experienced!" He spread one arm out wide. "A magnificent dream!" he yelled. He came closer to his apprentice, drawing him near, and said quietly, "She spoke to me, Achek. She told me something very important."

Achek looked at him skeptically. He glanced at the stone tablet lying on the rocky ground. "And I suppose you're writing it down for posterity?"

"Of course!!" Giga shouted into Achek's ear, making him wince in pain. Giga stepped away from him, stumbled a little, then regained his footing. "I won't let this die with me. It's too important!"

"Let me read it, then," Achek sighed. This was it, his master had finally gone insane. He skimmed another tablet, a complete one, lying next to the stone Giga had been pounding on. His eyes widened. "Th-that sounds like a prophesy to me," he stammered, shocked.

"Of course, of course," Giga whispered, leaning close to the tablet. "And I'm making copies of it. Copies! Copies!" he shouted, spinning around, his arms outstretched.

Achek took a step backwards in the direction of Giga's lab, stunned and fearful. He wanted absolutely nothing to do with prophecies. All they did was get people in trouble. "G--great. You do that. I...I think I'll get started on the...on the items."

Giga whirled around and gasped, his eyes wide and his mouth open, as if he had forgotten something. "Wait, wait. Achek, Achek, you must promise me something."

Achek turned to face him, his face ashen with fear. L-sama had stuck her nose into his master's life again. The last time, Giga had almost destroyed the world. He didn't think he wanted to know what she had planned for him this time.

"Achek, promise me that when I'm gone, you'll keep the items safe. And my spellbooks."

He nodded, still backing away toward the front door. "I will, Master," he said solemnly, just to placate the crazy old man.

"L-sama wants them safe," Giga added.

"I'm not one to argue with goddesses," Achek replied, attempting to regain some semblance of his usual tongue-in-cheek sense of humor. He forced a smile and held his hands in the most placating manner he could think of.

Giga chuckled, then started laughing a crazed, maniacal chortle. He dropped to the ground, rolling with insane laughter, hooting and squawking. "Nei-ha," he said, then clutched his sides and chortled again.

Achek turned and headed back into the lab, shaking his head. He picked up some small, uncut, precious stones off one of the tables, turning them over in his hand thoughtfully. "Safe," he muttered. Slowly, he picked up one of his tools, and sat down to work. His master was a part of something big, something that could change the entire world. And, try as he might, Achek couldn't shake the feeling that somehow, he himself would unwittingly become deeply involved in it, too. And that was what scared him the most.

"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.