Tomorrow Is Another Day
Noah winced as she stepped out of the small spacecraft. She pulled her cloak around her tightly and tried to ignore the stinging snow and ice. "I don't get it," Alis said. "Where's the town?"
Myau had scampered off into the shadows, but he returned in a few moments. "There's a tunnel over there," he yelled, in order to be heard over the raging storm. "Let's see where it goes."
The tunnel was simple in its design and was only a one-way spiral. As they turned another corner, Noah noticed that they had been going down the entire time, possibly underground. They reached a set of stairs, and Alis, the fearless leader, led the way down.
"Amazing!" Odin exclaimed as they stepped out of the stairwell. "An entire town built underground!" A few shops lined the first streets. They replenished their burger supply in the food shop and walked next door to the armory.
Inside the store was some exceptional equipment. Myau found some protective gloves for his paws, while Odin tried out a laser gun. Noah walked around the store until she found it: a wand. She had always dreamed of having a wand, but Master Tajima had told her that they were very rare and difficult to obtain.
After making their purchases, they went to talk to the people in the town of Skure. One person told of a village of native Dezorians hidden in the mountains. "Now that would be interesting," Alis said. "I've never seen a Dezorian. We'll have to go check it out sometime."
The group found a place to stay for the night and started to prepare for sleep. "We'll fly to Uzo in the morning," Alis said. "Let's get some sleep."
Noah took off her cloak and hung it on a hook on the wall. It was surprisingly warm underground, very different from the surface. But for some strange reason that she couldn't explain, she almost wanted to be back above ground, in the swirling storm, fighting through the dark, icy planet.
* * * * *
When everyone else had fallen asleep, Noah again slipped out the door to walk around by herself. There were a few small ponds south of the shops, and Noah sat down next to one of them, under one of the surrounding trees. She ran her hand through the water and was surprised at its warmth. As she studied the rectangular lake, she heard someone come up behind her, but this time she did not have to turn around.
"It's impossible to see the stars from here," she said into the shadows.
"But I'm sure that they still look the same," Odin assured her as he stretched out next to the water. "You're not really one for sleep, are you?" he joked.
"Neither are you, apparently. I know that sleep is necessary to survival, but I'd rather be up living in the conscious world, if that makes any sense to you."
"I'm pretty sure I understand." He leaned over the water's surface and looked down. "I guess I can't hope for any fish..."
Noah grinned and looked with him. "I don't think so, but there's a rather interesting assortment of pebbles." As he laughed, Noah studied the reflections in the water. She saw Odin's huge form next to her smaller, narrower body. She looked at the short, spiky, blond hair that was so different from her own long, blue locks. She compared his dark, deep-set, mysterious eyes to the big, bright, curious ones right next to them. Physically, they couldn't be more different, but aside from their appearances...
Odin noticed her contemplating the images and ran his hand through the water, sending ripples through the perfect picture. "Afraid you're having a bad hair day?" he teased as he gently tugged on the blue mass. Noah reached her hand into the water and splashed him. He laughed again and said, "You know, I haven't been swimming in a very long time."
"I've only been swimming once, when I was very young and still living in Casba," she told him.
He was incredulous. "Only once?" he asked.
"I grew up on Motavia, 'the desert planet', what did you expect?"
He didn't answer her, but started to untie his boots. "What are you doing?" she asked.
"I'm going swimming, what does it look like I'm doing?"
"With all your clothes on?"
He shrugged. "It's only water, they'll dry." He put his shoes under a tree and slipped into the pond. "Not bad," he said, as he floated past her on his back. "Are you coming?"
"Of course not, you're crazy!" she exclaimed.
"Fine!" he said and disappeared under the water. Noah leaned over and looked for him, but in the extremely dim light, she couldn't make out much. As she was about to give up, two strong hands shot up out of the water and pulled her in.
The water didn't seem nearly as warm when she was completely in it. She managed to stand up and looked for the impulsive warrior. He was standing a few feet away, still laughing. "Yes, I am crazy!" he told her.
Noah removed her shoes and cloak and tossed them next to Odin's things. She stood up and was glad the water only came up to just beneath her shoulders, because that one swimming experience hadn't taught her much about staying above the surface. The pond was artificial, so instead of the mud and seaweed at the bottom of Motavia's lake, she only felt cement and pebbles.
She waded over to where Odin was standing in the middle of the water. "My shoes will never dry by tomorrow," she told him.
"So you'll grow a few icicles as we walk back to the Luveno," he joked. She splashed him again. He splashed her back. Giggling, Noah tried to swim away, but she kept slipping below the surface. "I guess there aren't many great swimmers back on Motavia," Odin said as he mock-chased after her.
"Of course there are, why walk or drive through the sand when you can crawl along on your stomach?" He began to laugh again, and Noah was amazed at how much the dark eyes lit up when she said something funny. She stopped swimming and just stood up in the water, concentrating on the lack of the former mystery.
He noticed her staring and felt a little self-conscious. "Do I have seaweed on my face?" he asked, attempting to crack a joke.
She smiled but didn't stop looking at him. "I was just noticing how much your eyes change when you laugh."
Noah nodded. "They get brighter, almost lighting up all of Skure."
He stepped closer to her. "I like seeing you smile," he told her. "A lot of the pain in your eyes disappears when you do."
"My eyes show pain?"
It was his turn to nod. "Almost all the time. There's less there than when I first met you, but a little fragment seems to stay there all the time. When I entered the room back at Nahru, I thought that you had the most beautiful face that I had ever seen in all of Algol, but there was too much suffering reflected in it. "
She looked down and blushed. "I didn't think I revealed so much of myself," she said. "I'm not exactly the most open person."
"I've noticed." He paused and took another step closer. "But you've been open with me..."
"I know that."
He paused again. "Why me?" he asked.
She didn't answer right away. "I don't know. I'm not really much of a social person, the majority of my interactions in all of my life have been with my parents and Master Tajima. I don't have a lot of experience meeting new people."
"And then you get bombarded with three complete strangers showing up at your door one day," he said, smiling.
"I'll tell you the truth, at first I wasn't too keen on coming, but I knew that my uncle wanted me to accompany you, so I reluctantly joined."
"Well, I know that I'm glad you did." He ran his hand through his wet hair. "I don't know how I would have managed without you. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against Alis and Myau, but...I don't know, I don't have a lot in common with them. Alis is a mere fifteen years old, I'm almost twice her age. And Myau is not very talkative, we've hunted together for years, but we've never really just had a regular conversation, like this. I suppose he's just like a business partner, really."
"Well," she started, "I don't know how much we really have in common, but I do enjoy talking to you." She frowned. "I've been alone all this time, I never dreamed of this."
Noah looked around her, as if she was searching for the right answer. "Everything. There are the big things, like arriving here on Dezoris today, and fighting Lassic for the salvation of Algol. But then there are the smaller details, like swimming here, feeling the cool water on my skin and in my hair. And being here with you..."
"I never dreamed of this either. I thought I could be perfectly happy living with hunting on Palma being the soul of my existence. I now know that I've been wrong all this time."
She smiled at him. "You told me that you went swimming on Palma," she gently teased.
"But never with you..." He stopped, hoping that he hadn't said the wrong thing. "I mean...I...it's just...," he stuttered, looking for what he wanted to say.
Noah continued to smile. "I think I know what you're talking about." A strange impulse suddenly came over her. Master Tajima had told her that she must learn to be alone, but she couldn't even think of isolating herself now. She waded through the water until she was standing right next to the tremendous warrior, and quickly, innocently, brushed her lips against his own.
She looked up at him, not knowing what look to expect in his eyes. They weren't in their usual dark state, and they weren't as bright as before; the middle ground had somehow been reached. He brushed some stray blue strands out of her face and kissed her back, but this time it wasn't as innocent and not nearly as quick.
Noah felt as if they, as one, were the center of all of Algol, that everything could revolve around them. And although she couldn't see the stars from Skure, she knew that they would be shining brightly in the night sky.
* * * * *
"Ugh, I forgot how hot it was on Motavia!" Myau exclaimed as the Luveno landed on the desert planet.
"I'm sure we'll readjust soon enough," Alis told him. "Come, let's go see what the citizens of Uzo have to offer us."
Uzo was a small town with few inhabitants. The group learned of a magic flute that would let them escape from mazes, which they could get in Gothic when they went back to Palma. The villagers seemed to know a surprising amount of information about Casba, which sparked Noah's interest. They spoke of the mountain pass that would lead to the town, and of a shop that sold landrovers, the necessary vehicle of Motavia. One native seemed a little worried when they asked of the tunnel through the mountains. "There are dragons living in the Casba cave. These dragons have gems in their heads!" the villager said excitedly.
Dragons in the Casba cave, Noah thought. My parents... She shook her head, ridding her mind of the awful thoughts. She'd worry about them later.
"We should try to get to Casba," Alis said, oblivious of Noah's ties with the place. Odin, however, looked at Noah and was instantly concerned.
"Don't worry about me," she said to him as she followed Alis through the streets of Uzo.
They rested at night and started walking to the south in the morning. By late afternoon, they had reached what was now the lake blocking off Casba. "I guess those are the mountains we'll have to go through," Alis said, pointing. "We'll set up camp by the entrance of the pass and try to reach Casba tomorrow."
Noah stretched out on the white sands that she had almost forgotten. She looked up at the sky and saw the stars that were just beginning to come out. Odin laid his things down next to her. "You're almost home," he said. She didn't answer. However, he understood. He practically collapsed next to her and fell asleep within a few seconds.
She didn't know what tomorrow would bring. She didn't know how she would react when she finally passed the place of her parents' deaths. She didn't know what she would feel when she finally stepped into her hometown. She didn't know anything.
One last sigh escaped before she finally fell asleep. Tomorrow is another day, she reassured herself before succumbing to slumber.
* * * * *
"Do you hear something?" Alis asked. They were deep within the mountains of Casba and were attempting to follow the sharply twisting path. This was the third time Alis had asked the question, and Noah had to admit that she was feeling a bit uneasy as well, although she was sure it was because of different reasons.
Myau lifted his feline ears and listened once more. "I still don't hear anything, Alis," he said. "Let's just try to get out of here."
They continued on their way until Alis, who was leading them all, stopped short. "Now I know I definitely hear something!" She turned to the right and continued. "I think it's this way!" She hurried down the corridor and almost got completely burnt by the orange flame that shot out at her. She screamed and the others rushed to her side.
Noah faced the dragon and knew that she was looking at the creature responsible for brutally murdering her beloved parents. Instead of slowly examining everything like she usually did, she finally let her anger take over and shot a bolt of lightning, her newest spell, right at the creature's heart. It let out an exclamation of pain, somewhere between a scream and a roar, and shot another ball of fire at the group.
Although she didn't say anything, Odin knew that this was the thing that had caused all of Noah's pain and anguish. He brandished his ceramic sword and attacked the dragon. Alis and Myau pulled out their weapons and started the battle.
Noah refused to ease up her attacks until the dragon lay dead at her feet. For the first time in her life, she wasn't thinking about anything else as she shot bolt after bolt of the pure electricity and energy at the beast. There was nothing else she wanted other than its blood. To match the blood of my parents, her subconscience told her as more lightning hit the dragon head on. When she didn't have enough strength for lightning, she switched to torrents of wind.
At last, the dragon met its inevitable death. While the others stood back, Noah stepped up to the dead body and used her wand to pry the gem out of its forehead. She gave the Amber Eye to Alis, returned to head of the monster, and let its blood run out over her hands.
* * * * *
The remainder of the group rested as Noah stayed with the body. Odin told them basic details about Noah's parents and they agreed to stay for as long as was needed. After about ninety minutes had passed, he approached the grieving woman.
"Noah, are you okay?" he asked.
Noah was still kneeling by the dragon's body. "I wanted it to suffer," she simply said. Odin nodded. "I wanted it to feel pain. I wanted it to feel my pain. I wanted it to die. It had to die."
"Do you? I don't know if I even understand myself some days. I thought I'd feel different than I do now. I knew that killing it wouldn't bring my parents back, but I thought I'd feel at least a little reassured." She stood up and threw herself into Odin's strong, comforting arms. "I don't know if I can go back to Casba...," she cried.
Odin smoothed the soft blue hair and held her close. "You have to go back someday. You know you have to return."
She rested her head on his chest. "I want to, I really do, but the memories..."
"You'll never be completely reassured until you see Casba at least one more time. Alis completely understands, she said that we can stay as long as you need to. So come, you can't stay here in this cave forever," he told her.
"That's probably what my parents thought, too." She took one last look at the bleeding body and followed Odin back to the rest of the group.
They reached Casba within another two hours. Noah hesitated at the first glimpse of sunlight streaming into the tunnel, but Odin gently persuaded her to come.
She stepped into the streets and looked around. It had been over a decade since Noah had last seen the town, but she remembered it exactly. Few changes had occurred, and she felt as if she had just been sent to Master Tajima's last week. "We're going to go look into buying a landrover," Odin told her. "We'll be at the shops if you need us."
She wandered through the old, worn paths and started up the street to her former house. She wondered if there was anyone else living there now, and if they would let her look around a bit. Noah reached the place where her house had once stood and studied the ruins that greeted her. The property looked like it belonged in a place like Bortevo, not the successful town of Casba. She sighed and entered the crumbling building that now lacked a door.
An old beggar sat in the corner. "Who are you?" he asked angrily.
Noah was a bit taken aback. "I...I'm...I used to live here," she finally got out. "This used to be my home."
"Well, missy, that must have been ages ago, because it's been in shambles like this for a good five years or so." He looked her up and down and an expression of recognition came into his eyes. "Say, you wouldn't happen to be related to those two explorers who vanished years ago, would you?"
The pained blue eyes lit up. "They were my parents!" she exclaimed. "Did you know them?"
"Of course I knew them, everyone in Casba knew them. Such a shame that they were killed, we were all grieving for weeks." He paused. "Sometimes I wonder if it should have been me..."
"What do you mean?"
"I was part of the team that found the bodies. It was such an awful, terrible sight. They were so loved and I, well, was (and still am) nothing. I felt it should have been me, I wouldn't have been missed." He stood up and headed for the door. "I suppose I'll go find another place to stay, I'll leave you in peace."
"No, you don't have to leave," she said.
"But don't you want to stay here?"
She sighed. "Not especially. I'll probably be leaving in a few days. You're welcome to stay here as long as you like."
He smiled at her. "You're so like your parents, so kind, so giving..." The beggar looked around furtively. "I'll tell you something, this may help you." He looked around again. "There is poison gas above the sea to the west. No one can go near there without some sort of protection. Many people have tried trying to get to the legendary town in the center, but have been killed by the toxins. Find protection!"
"Thank you, I'll keep that in mind." She started to leave.
"Oh, and one more thing..." She turned around. "It might do you some good to go visit the tree at the end of this path," he told her.
She nodded. "I'll go there right now." She exited the remains of her home and continued down the road. Underneath the last tree was a small plaque: The grave of her mother and father. She sat down next to the marker and touched the engraved letters.
The footsteps behind her were almost expected. "When does Alis want to leave?" she asked the shadows.
"Whenever you're ready," Odin told her. "Take your time."
Noah stood up and brushed a few small tears out of her eyes. "I'm ready to go," she said.
Odin looked confused. "Are you sure?" he asked.
She nodded. "I was thinking of my parents, what they were like. And I know that they wouldn't want me to spend any more time here. They would want me to help save Algol as quickly as possible. For every extra minute we spend here, someone else could be dying. We have to leave."
"Let's go tell Alis," he said and headed for the shops.
"Whatever happened with the landrover?" she asked him as they walked together.
He smiled. "All ready to go!" he exclaimed.
She grinned back. "Well then, what are we waiting for?"
The next day, they made their way back through the mountain pass and started up the landrover. "Where to?" Odin asked as he climbed behind the wheel.
"We'll go back to Uzo and take the Luveno to Palma," Alis said. "We'll look for the flute and then head over to Bortevo. A man in Casba told us of a sort of boat called a hovercraft. He said he dumped it there recently, so we should be able to find it fairly easily."
They explored Gothic, but their search produced nothing. "Maybe that was a rumor as well?" Odin suggested.
Alis shrugged. "He sounded like he knew what he was talking about." She sat down on the grass to think. The rest of the group sat with her, and Noah leaned against a small tree. She began her usual ritual of staring up at the sky when something caught her eye.
"What's that up there?" she asked, squinting. Myau padded over to her and looked up.
"I'll go check it out," he said, and nimbly climbed up the branches. "Well, I'll be...!"
"What is it, Myau, what do you see?" Alis eagerly asked. The small cat softly landed in the soft grass and brought the object that he was holding in his mouth over to her.
"That looks like a flute," Odin said, looking over her shoulder. "What an odd place to hide it, up in a tree!"
Alis shrugged again. "Well, now that we have it, let's go back to Bortevo. I'm sure that the lava won't be as difficult now that we have the landrover."
Traveling was easy with the sturdy blue vehicle. They reached Bortevo in no time and found the hovercraft without difficulty. Hapsby made a few small repairs and they tested it out in the ocean.
Odin, who was driving again, squinted through the water-splattered windshield. "There's a town over there," he stated.
"That's impossible," said Alis, "We're in the middle of the ocean!"
"Look for yourself."
Alis moved next to him and stared across the water. "Let's stop, maybe something important is there!"
"Welcome to Drasgow - a small town on the ocean," a man greeted them. "You are daring to have found your way here even though the sea lanes are closed to ships."
"I've lived on Palma all of my life and I've never even heard of this place!" Alis told him.
"Lassic cut us off a long time ago. You're the first visitors we've had in years."
"We're trying to defeat Lassic and restore peace to the Algol system," she said. "Can you help us?"
The man thought for a moment. "Try the old warehouse in the center of town," he advised. "A rather strange young man moved in there a few years ago, perhaps he can help you."
"Thank you," Alis said and started to lead the group. But they had just started when the man called them back.
"Wait!" he cried and caught up to them. "There is a magic sword in a tower on a forgotten island! It may also be beneficial to your cause."
The leader nodded and headed for the dilapidated building. To their surprise, another man was just exiting. "I heard that they sell gas shields here, but I don't know where the shop is. What a mess!" he said as he walked through the door.
"Gas shields?" Alis asked the group.
"They're probably protection for the gas shields on Motavia," Noah spoke up. They all looked confused. "Back in Casba, a man told me that there was a tiny village in the middle of poison gas fields to the north of the lake. Many people have died trying to get there because they haven't used protection."
Alis nodded. "If so many people are trying to get there, it must be important. Let's go get a gas shield and see what it's all about." The fearless leader led her friends through the twisting hallways to where the craftsman had set up his shop. Although she thought that the shields were a bit expensive, they purchased one and headed back to Motavia.