Drunkard's Walk Detour
Slayers: Charm, Beauty, Destruction
A DW Fanfic by Murmur the Fallen
When Lina Inverse first saw the oddly dressed man on the road, she immediately took an eager look around. It was an old bandits' trick; put somebody in the middle of the road and wait for someone to come by. Invariably they'll try to check the person to see if they're alive or at least have something valuable on them. Then the bandits come out from hiding and rob that person blind.
And there were very few things that Lina Inverse loved more than robbing bandits. She loved to see the dumb blind horror come into their eyes as she told them exactly who she was. She loved the way that they ran screaming as she hurled spell after destructive, bloody, and above all burning spell after them. And she loved the loot.
She looked around eagerly, but slowly, surreptitiously, so as not to spook any potential bandits. Then, crestfallen, she looked around again.
"Do you see anyone, Gourry?" she asked of her companion.
"Nobody," answered Gourry Gabriev. He was a tall blonde man whose face fell as easily into a confused expression as it did into the intense expression of an expert swordsman that he was. He had taken up with Lina a couple years ago and hadn't left her side as a self-appointed guardian. "Maybe it's not an ambush."
Disappointed and pouting, Lina turned her attention to the man on the road. He was dressed in a gray one-piece leather suit, with black boots and white gloves. He also had on a helmet mottled white and gray, made of what could have been ivory that covered all of his head and most of his face, with tinted glass covering his eyes. Lina had a hard time thinking of any animal that had such big horns that you could make a helmet out of it, but she traveled constantly but not exactly widely for the most part. Next to him in his grasp was a pack, presumably his.
"Hey. Hey, hey," said Gourry. He was crouched down next to the fallen man and poking him repeatedly with a stick. He turned to Lina, still poking the man. "He's not waking up. You think he's injured or something?"
"Maybe. With the clothes and helmet, who can tell? He's not bleeding as far as I can see, anyway," answered Lina. She shrugged. "I'll heal him."
"That sure is nice of you, Lina. You never do things like that usually," said Gourry as he moved away from the body.
"What? I can be nice. I have been nice! Didn't I save the world at least three times in the last two years?" demanded Lina. "I am a nice, cute girl! So shut up!"
"Okay, okay," placated Gourry as he backed away.
Lina huffed indignantly then turned her attention back to the man on the ground. She began to chant as she drew in power. "Oh, blessed and humble hand of God, life and breath of Mother Earth, come before me and show your great compassion and deliver us. Recovery!" A white light emanated from Lina's upraised hands, a light that grew into a small ball of light. She held the ball in her hand as she knelt down before the fallen man and then laid her hands upon him. The light pulsed from her and spread to the man. And the man woke up groaning. He blinked, his eyes trying to adjust to the light. He looked up at Lina and Gourry and muttered something sotto voce.
"Sorry?" said Lina. "Could you speak up?"
The man muttered something else, then in a clearer, louder voice, spoke incomprehensible syllables.
"Um," said Lina, puzzled. She turned to Gourry. "Do you understand what he's saying?"
"Not a bit," said Gourry emphatically, shaking his head.
"No, of course not."
The man tried again, presumably trying to make himself understood, asking questions from his tone of voice.
"Are you trying to say something?" asked Lina. "Do . . . you . . . understand . . . the words that are coming . . . out of my mouth?" She pointed to her mouth, then flapped her fingers against her thumb. "Understand? Mouth? Talky-talky?"
The man shook his head. He muttered something to himself again, and surprisingly, music played.
"Hey, where's that coming from?" asked Gourry. Lina pointed to the man, who had taken a sitting position on the ground.
"Whoa!" exclaimed Lina, as she felt strange energies emanating from the man on the ground. She backed away slightly and slowly. "Never felt anything like that."
The man got up from the ground, slowly though not with any apparent discomfort. He took off his helmet, revealing a youngish man with clear eyes.
"Can you understand me?" he said, completely comprehensible. "Hello?"
"Yes . . . we . . . understand . . . you!" Lina said.
The man's eyes tightened slightly at the edges, but soon relaxed again. "You don't have to be so condescending."
Lina placed the edge of her hand against hand vertically against her nose. "Sorry, sorry! We just didn't know that you could do that. What kind of spell was that?"
The man's mouth quirked, as if he'd figured out something. "Just a spell that helps me to learn languages. That's all. And I'm guessing that you guys aren't members of the Society for Creative Anachronism, right?"
"Are you sure that you're speaking the right language?" asked Lina. She shook her head. "Anyway, I know what the spell did. That's obvious. I want to know how it worked. What Chaos Words did you use? Which power did you draw from?"
The man stared at her for a moment. "I have no idea what you're talking about. Um, by the way, I'm Doug. Doug Sangnoir. Pleased to meet you." He stuck out a hand, which Lina took and shook.
"I'm Lina Inverse, and this is Gourry Gabriev. Say hello to the strange man who is ignoring my questions, Gourry."
"Hi," said Gourry affably.
"Hey," greeted Doug, also shaking his hand. He turned back to Lina. "Well, thanks for waking me up. You wouldn't by any chance have heard of the Collegium, have you? Or Valdemar?"
Lina shook her head. "Sorry. Never heard of either."
Doug sagged in apparent disappointment. "No, of course not. I couldn't be that lucky." He took a long look around, at first puzzled, and then alarmed. "Have you seen a motor . . a, uh, thing with a seat and two wheels, one before the other? It's made of metal."
Lina shook her head again. "Sorry."
He heaved a large sigh, straightened up, and nodded to Lina. His face filled with disappointment and anxiety. "Listen, thanks again. If you'd just do me the favor of pointing me to the nearest city or town, I'd be grateful."
Lina pointed a thumb behind her, back down the road she had walked from. "It's a pretty fair sized town. Does some business with the capital." Doug thanked them once more, readjusted his pack, and set off.
Lina and Gourry stared after him for a couple of seconds. She finally shrugged. This "Doug" person was a mystery, sure, but then again so were many other things. Lina was in a very transitory stage right now. She'd just come off a world-saving adventure, and wasn't quite yet ready to unwind from her trip. This sort of leisure time, just wandering randomly with no particular plan or purpose in mind, was necessary for recharging oneself and for holding onto one's zest for life.
Lina was nothing if not zesty.
"C'mon, Gourry. There has to be a bandit's hideout around here somewhere."
Heck've nice pair of people, thought Doug as he trudged his way to town. One of them, probably the girl, must have healed him from his trip. Even with the healing, he felt surprisingly weak and woozy. He'd have to either find a node and charge up or just find someplace to rest.
What a trip that was. Even in his unconscious state, he was aware of the pain lancing through him as he transited between worlds. And it was so violent that the straps he used to tie himself to his bike had broken. It just wasn't the normal state of things. But, he mused, how normal was it to travel from world to alternate world? Not particularly, he answered himself. So maybe the new state of affairs will be painful, if still unconscious, trips through realities, and then waking up feeling like something that a cat had toyed with, if not worse.
Doug grimaced, but soldiered on. He could see the town now as he walked onto the crest of a hill. He'd seen what passed for a ‘town' in some places, towns that would barely be called a street on his world, and this wasn't one of them. This was an actual town, filled with a bustling and moving population. Carts wheeled into it and left it regularly. It lay on a plain some distance away from the forest and wasn't walled off, which Doug found surprising. Usually in these pre-industrial worlds, fortifications were usually the first line of defense for any settlement.
He tried not to think about his motorcycle, but he couldn't stop himself from dwelling on it. He'd built it himself and had had it for most of his trip. He felt particularly close to it. The thought that someone had stolen it sickened him. He was fairly sure that they couldn't use it, but he'd found that it never paid to underestimate the ingeniousness, tenacity, and sneakiness of thieves. He had to get it back before someone did figure out how to use it. Or, worse, before someone took it apart because he'd never be able to repair it here. And he just wasn't up to feeling responsible for introducing technology hundreds of years more advanced than they had to this magic culture.
He shook his head. It was unlikely that whoever took it would be able to use it, let alone understand enough to be able to duplicate it. And if they took it apart, well, he might be able to repair it, even make new parts here. Magic could substitute a lot for technology. And he'd be able to makeshift it until he got to a more technologically advanced world.
Feeling optimistic despite his weariness, Doug began walking again even as he mentally went through the contents of his pack. One of the problems of coming to a new world was that he was never sure about how much certain gems paid when sold. He had enough to be comfortably well off, he was sure, but how much extra would that leave him? He might have unexpected expenses and with no prospects for a job anytime soon he might have to dip into his extra gems.
Ah, well, that was a concern for later.
He stopped, suddenly remembering something. He quickly, if stealthily, went back to the tree line and hid himself behind a tree. Doug opened his pack and rooted through it, eventually taking out some clothes. Obviously, his stylish yet functional Warriors uniform was far too different from the fashion of this world to go unnoticed. He set down his pack, and stared at the two pairs of pants in each hand, one a hose, the other just jeans. He quickly and thankfully stuffed the hose back in, deciding that it was close enough to what the other men were wearing to pass. Doug wondered briefly if he should tailor one of the rolls of material he had into a cape, but decided not. A simple long-sleeve woolen shirt, which was supposed to be blue but had turned into a sort of light gray, completed his ensemble/disguise.
As he stripped off his uniform, Doug slowly became aware of eyes upon him. Wishing that he'd felt that before he'd taken off his pants, Doug hopped on one leg and turned around.
A giant, green, long-eared, vaguely reptilian monster stared back at him.
"Um," said Doug, momentarily at a loss for words. He put his leg down and freed it from his fallen pants. So, he thought as he looked over the monster. It's scary looking, sure, and armed with a huge club. But does that mean that it's a bad person? No, of course not. "Hi."
The monster scratched his head with a talon-tipped finger, looking at Doug curiously. He grunted.
"Hey, big fellah, you don't mind if I put on some pants before we continue this scintillating conversation, do you?" The monster grunted again, which Doug took for agreement, though frankly he would have done so anyway. Beyond what embarrassment he felt, Doug was getting a bit chilled. It looked to be early fall in this world, just getting cool without losing many leaves from the trees. Doug put on his jeans and then a thick red wool sweater. Hopefully, that would be good enough to pass, because frankly there wasn't much else; it wasn't as if he had a whole disguise kit inside his bag.
Doug turned around, back to the monster. "Thanks for waiting, buddy," he said. The monster nodded in return, genially enough, and then with a loud roar he came at Doug with his club high for killing. Doug jumped back, then further back still, surprised, but not surprised enough to lose his head. He was too far away from his helmet to use his power, but he was still a well-trained fighter with an inherent speed and toughness that went slightly beyond the human. The monster, even though hampered by the trees, made large sweeping arcs with his club. Which, frankly, was a stupid move. The monster was unexpectedly fast, given its size, but because of its size, the trees and the rough landscape too hampered it. Doug danced away from him, and then kicked the side of the monster's neck. The monster's eyes rolled up until only the yellows of its eyes showed. It dropped its club, fell first to its knees, and then to the ground. "Ouch," it muttered softly just before it dropped completely.
Doug breathed out loudly, leaning down on his knees as he tried to catch his breath. He must have been more tired than he thought. The edges of exhaustion were inching towards him, and though his natural stamina was returning, it was going too slowly. He straightened up, worked the kinks out of his muscles, and took a deep breath and let it out loudly. There, that was better.
It was then that Doug became aware of the screams. He looked to the town outside the woods and saw that thin, yet dark tendrils of smoke were drifting out of it. Nearly a hundred monsters, some that looked like his own, some that looked like fire breathing saber-tooth cats on two legs, were streaming into the town.
Doug sighed, straightened himself further, picked up his pack and put on his helmet, and ran to the town. There goes my covert incursion and excursion, he thought as his fist, ringed with lightning, smashed into the face of a monster.