[an error occurred while processing this directive]

Chapter Seven

Alis and Myau headed towards the exit gate of the Wall. They had just come from the tool and food shops nearby Alis' home. The chest that they had taken on Motavia had been quite a find; no less than eight hundred meseta were inside. With the money, they had been able to return to Palma, and also had bought plenty of supplies at the shops.

Their goal was to enter the cave south of the residential zones, find Odin, and use the elixir on him. Under Myau's advice, Alis had bought two flashes, needed to see in the darkness of the caves. The lights had limited lives, though, and would not be guaranteed to stay illuminated continuously. It would be imperative to find Odin quickly, and return to Camineet.

They had stayed at Alis' home the previous night after returning; Alis repaired her armor, and the both of them took a well-needed rest. Rising at the first light of dawn, they had discussed Odin's location and their plan to rescue him in full detail. It was now one hour later.

"Haven't I seen you before?" the guard asked. While Myau sat silently beside her, Alis eyed to guard nervously. "Yeah, you left here not eight days ago, right? Trying to sell medicines to Scion? I remember you. Where're you going now?"

"I am taking this Musk Cat to Scion... I found him wandering around, and I hear they pay good meseta for these creatures," she answered. The guard rose his blaster just slightly.

"You can't leave the zone unless you are conducting essential business matters..." Myau, still silent, narrowed his eyes. "However, since you seem to be such a nice young girl, maybe we can work something out... something like fifty meseta as an exit fee..." Knowing that she had to avoid confrontation at this stage, Alis begrudgingly took out her money satchel.

"That's quite reasonable, I suppose," she said, handing the guard the money. He looked over at his partner and smiled. "I trust that you'll let me pass from now on, kind sir?" The contempt in her voice was only barely disguised.

"Sure, sure, we'll let you through. Fifty meseta a week, and you can leave whenever you like. Sound good to you, Kair?" His partner nodded in agreement. "Well then, it looks like we've got a deal. Go right ahead, miss, and you be careful out there, eh?" he laughed as he waved her through the gate. Alis and Myau passed him, quickly disappearing from the guards' sight.

"The corruption rampant on this world is nigh unbelievable," Myau hissed. "Whatever madness that has affected Lassic seems to live in every one of his servants."

"That's why we're doing what we're doing. To return the world to the way it once was, the world I grew up in." The pair began to follow the outside of the Wall, walking southward. It would serve as both a guide and as semi-protection from monster attacks, at least until they made it to the cave. The trip would take a good deal of time, though.

Currently, the bright Algo sun was shining overhead, lighting the land enough for them to see miles and miles in any direction. Just at the edge of the horizon, Myau could see the end of the Wall. Once they reached that point, they would have to travel the rest of the distance to the cave in open territory.

As they walked, Myau continued the conversation. "You had a happy childhood, then? That is, if I might ask?" Alis smiled at him pleasantly.

"Of course you can, Myau. As you said, we're in this together. Yes, I had a very happy childhood. Nero was always around, being a big brother and a great friend to a girl who didn't have many. We were both fairly well provided for; our foster parents gave us everything they could, and we weren't lacking for anything important." Alis seemed to be telling this to herself as much as to Myau, perhaps lost in the reminiscence of a better time.

"Your foster parents?" Myau asked?

"Yes, my brother and I were orphaned at a young age. Just after I was born, my parents, who were miners on Motavia, died in an accident. Nero and I were sent to live in a foster home on Palma." She looked glancingly at Myau, who was still listening to her intently. "I was too young to remember them, my real parents, I mean. For me, I guess, my foster parents are my real parents. I've always loved them, as long as I can remember."

"And what of your brother? Was he old enough to remember?" Seeing Alis' expression, Myau feared that he had brought up an inappropriate subject. "Alis, I'm sorry if you don't want to talk about Nero, I shouldn't have asked..."

"No, it's alright. It helps to talk about him sometimes... Nero was only three years old when they died. He must have had memories of them..." Alis paused. "...But, it must have been so traumatic for him... he'd never talk about them at all, never'd even admit that he remembered. Our foster parents sent him to counselors, hoping they could help him, but he'd never break down. It was like some part of him wouldn't allow the memories to come back." Myau nodded in understanding.

"Often, we will force ourselves to bury experiences, if we don't have the capabilities of dealing with them... this is especially true of younger beings," he said.

"Is that Musk Cat psychology?" Alis asked playfully.

"Many intelligent species share the same defense mechanisms. There are fewer differences between our peoples than you might think."

"Enough of my life," she returned, "what about yours? Did you have a happy childhood?" Alis laughed. Myau, smiling, looked off into the distance ahead of them.

"I doubt we have enough time to explain my life out of the litter. Perhaps you could ask a more specific question of me?"

"Alright then," Alis countered, "how did you meet Odin? What led you two to join each other?"

"Fair enough, fair enough. It was only shortly after the monster levels started to increase," he began, "nearly two years ago. The head council of Scion had gotten it into their heads that the way to solve their financial problems was to hunt my people, to sell us as rare, exotic beasts. Of course we really aren't that rare," he remarked proudly, "we just know how to stay out of sight." Alis chuckled at this. "I was one of the few of my race who were raised to be warriors, to be the protectors of my more passive brethren. I was returning to one of our dens one night, when I saw that some Scionians were in the process of rounding up the local pride. Immediately, I began attacking them, hoping to merely drive them off. But they were fierce, and they were many, and soon they had netted me as well." Alis listened in wonder, disgraced by the capacity of her fellow Palmans to do evil.

"Suddenly, he was there. Standing in the midst of us all, both Musk Cat and Palman, Odin appeared from nowhere. In the near-darkness, the lights of the hunters shone off him, framing him in a frighteningly confidant pose of defiance. He spoke but one word: 'Go.' Apparently, Odin had a reputation among the locals, as no sooner than he had spoken, the Scionians dropped all their nets and ran away into the night, presumably back to Scion. When he was satisfied that they were gone, he began to free all of us."

"No wonder Nero had sought him out. Any man who can send others running with just a word must truly be impressive," Alis mused.

"His presence is matched only by his battle prowess. Anyway, from that day onward, we joined together to battle evil on two fronts: I helped him combat Palma's monster infestation, and he aided me in protecting my people." Myau's tone fell, as he began again. "But it did not work. The hunters from Scion became more and more numerous. We could not deal with both threats. My people were being captured, and sometimes killed, just as your own people were being killed by the monsters. And so we decided to change our dealings..." Alis could see the pain on his face. "I abandoned the task of protecting my people... Odin gave up hunting individual monsters... we knew that the problem was too big to be handled the way we had been..."

"Fighting the symptom rather than the illness?" Alis added. Myau nodded.

"We knew that the roots of evil had to be destroyed. We began quests to rid the world of the leading beasts, like Medusa, and the Degben, and Konsur. It was hoped that if these creatures were destroyed, their legions would fall soon after, restoring peace and safety to the countryside, eliminating the problems that had caused the Scionians to turn to hunting my people in the first place. Unfortunately, as you know, we were defeated before we could effect real change. Medusa's power was too great... And meanwhile, my people continue to be ravaged..." Alis stopped, and bent down, eye-level with Myau.

"You have my sympathies. No one should have to choose between their people and their entire world. But I give you my word that I will do everything in my power to free us all, Palman and Musk Cat alike, from the calamity that envelops us. Destroying Lassic, the very heart of this planet's strife, is the only answer. And we must do it together. Against the righteousness of our path, he must fall. But only if we all work together can we be successful."

"You are right, of course, there is no other option." Alis leaned forward and embraced him in a delicate hug.

[an error occurred while processing this directive]