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Chapter Fifteen

The small town of Loar was the breakpoint of their journey. Situated halfway between the island tunnel passageway and Abion, it allowed them to spend a night's rest free from monster attacks. Myau was still weary after his ordeal, and everyone agreed that it would be best to stay in Loar overnight.

Like most settlements, Loar had been hit hard by Lassic's new hardline policies. It was once a thriving tourist town, but now no strangers ever graced their homes. As such, there was great excitement when the four traveling beings entered the main gate; the mayor and a few of his associates went out to greet them.

"Welcome, welcome to the town of Loar, the very center of Palman culture! Please, stay a while and sample all the fine delights our town has to offer!" A slightly oversized man, the mayor looked fairly comical trying to promote a settlement that was obviously far into decline. Alis led.

"Hello there, we are traveling on towards distant Abion, and are looking for a comfortable night's lodgings. Can you provide us with such, sir?" she asked.

"Of course, of course," the mayor replied, "you'll not find finer accomidations in all of western Palma. Surely you'll visit our exquisite tavern as well, eh? You all look quite tired and would do well to feast upon our native delicasies!"

Alis cast a sidelong smile at Odin, who was trying to stifle a grin as well. Everyone here knew it was a desperate salespitch, but they went along all the same. "We would love to sample what you have to offer, ah... mister..."

"Yancy," the mayor finished, "Mayor Yancy."

"Well then, Mayor Yancy, if you will but lead us to your inn, we can unload our packings and visit your tavern."

"Excellent, excellent! My man here will take you to your rooms... and then I will personally escort you to dinner, eh?" The mayor locked his thumbs in the button holes of his coat, beaming.

"All the same," Alis said, "I'm sure that you have many tasks to attend to... and we are very tired from our journey and would not make good company tonight. We had best dine alone."

The mayor's smiled lessened a bit. "Uh, but of course. Forgive me for imposing." Suddenly, his smile returned in full force. "Then I shall meet you for breakfast, then! Tomorrow morning it is!" With that, the mayor turned and strode off happily, leaving only one of his attendants behind. Noah chuckled as Alis rolled her eyes at him, and the four followed the attendant to the local inn.

- - - - - - - - - -

The meal that they were served was quite unlike anything Alis had even seen before. It appeared to be some form of meat, pink in color, surrounded by a dark blue gelatin substance. On the side of the plate, there were a few things that she would have sworn were some form of animal eyes. She slowly jabbed the meat with her fork several times, as if to insure that the thing was dead. Her appetite was ebbing away as she took a sip from the juice the waiter had brought. Across from her, Odin was hungrily scarfing down the meal... in minutes, it was obvious, he'd ask for another plateful. Myau was just staring at his plate, unmoving and unbelieving. Noah nibbled at a piece of bread, the only recognizable item on the table.

"Waiter!" Alis called. The man came over to their table. "Um, just what is in this... ah, what did you call it... Temprasan?"

The waiter stood, expressionless, as he droned off the ingredients. "Slightly boiled octopus flesh, amidst a bed of stained jellyfish, sided with shellfish eggs. Is there a problem with the meal, ma'am?" Alis looked at him, frozen.

"No... we'd just like... some more bread... please..." she said. Her voice was barely audible, and her hands were beginning to shake.

"Another plate, sir," Odin interjected as he held out his empty dish. "And don't spare the shellfish."

"Yes, sir," the waiter responded as he took the plate. He returned to the kitchen.

Alis, Myau, and Noah were all staring open mouthed at Odin as he gulped down his juice. Placing the cup back on the table, he noticed he was being watched. "What?" he asked innocently.

- - - - - - - - - -

The next morning, after breakfast with the mayor (fried Wing-Eye eggs and strips of blackened Dead-Tree; Alis, Myau and Noah went hungry) Alis and company were packing their belongings, preparing to leave. One of the mayor's assistants slipped into Alis' room, where all four heroes were gathered.

"I heard some things about you," he began. "It is said you seek to destroy Lassic..."

Unsure of whether or not to trust this man, Alis was careful. "Where did you here that? I can't imagine how anyone would be spreading such rumors about us..." She eyed him intently.

"I'm part of the resistance movements... I used to be, anyway... we recently hosted a visitor from Eppi, and he described to me a girl, a warrior, and a cat who sought to uproot Lassic's evil. Obviously you are them..."

Alis caution waned. "What would you speak with us about? Can you aid us in any way?"

"I have no news for you, unfortunately. Inter-townal communications have been down for some time... if not for the Eppi resistor, I'd know nothing... but I know of some things that may be of use to you." Alis motioned to a nearby chair as she sat on her bed. "Our town has come into possession of a great weapon called the Silver Fang... one of our hunters freed it from a local beastie... and I'm sure your friend here could use it well." He pointed to Myau as he pulled the Fang out of his sack. It was a glistening amalgam of blades about a foot long; it had a handle in the center. He placed it on the bed.

"I have not seen a Silver Fang in person in all my life," Myau explained, "but there is no doubt that it is... this will certainly allow me to take a more active role in our battles..."

"Then we are pleased to have it. But doesn't it belong to your town... what is your name, by the way?" questioned Alis.

"My name is Sagel... and no one here will notice its absence for a while... and when they do, they'll be glad that it is in use fighting Lassic... though the mayor views it as something of a way to attract more tourists..." he smiled as he spoke. "But there is more... have you heard of a gem called the Amber Eye?" The question was fielded by Noah.

"It is a stone of immense value... lost somewhere on Motavia some time ago..."

"Yes, yes, that is it... I'm sure that it would be of use to you... with it, you'd never lack for meseta for supplies and weapons... anyway, some say the Casba Dragon has..."

"The Casba Dragon?!" exclaimed Noah.

"Yes, it is said that he now holds the gem... if you can defeat him, it would be yours... it's no small incentive, I think, to head for Casba on Motavia." Sagel quickly stood up. "I have to go now, the mayor will miss me... I hope that I've been of some help, and I pray that you succeed in your quest, for all of us..." Alis rose and shook his hand, and then he was gone.

Alis turned to Noah. "The Casba Dragon?"

"Yes," Noah sighed, "a vicious, powerful beast that roams the cavern near Casba. If it indeed does have the Amber Eye, we would have a very difficult time procuring it. The Motavian Espers have long sought to avoid confrontation with it..."

Odin stood and heaved his sack over his shoulder. "We cannot be afraid of battle... if we die, so be it, but we must find this gem if it will make our mission easier."

"Agreed," was Alis' only response.

"Let us not get ahead of ourselves, friends." Myau, as ever, was a voice of reason. "We still have a long way to reach Abion, and even longer still before we can rescue Hapsby and return him to Luveno."

"Yes, and we must be on our way. Come..." Noah led them out of Alis' room, and they exited the inn into the bright morning sunshine.

- - - - - - - - - -

They were well into the final leg of their journey when it happened. Out of the blue, in broad daylight amidst an open field, another of the bat creatures attacked. It came flying down at them from above, slicing through Alis' shoulder armor easily. As she fell to the ground, it rose and circled around; the other three readied their weapons. But it didn't return for another dive. It floated to the ground, and stood up to its full eight foot height.

Silhouetted by the sun, it spread its wings and emitted and ear-piercing scream. Noah dropped to his knees and covered his ears, while Odin struggled to block out the sound with his gloves. Before anyone knew what was happening, Myau bounded forward, Silver Fang cradled in his mouth. He then jumped into the air, a good ten feet in front of the posing creature, and soared towards it. In mid air, he turned his head slightly, violently slashing at the beast with the Fang. It was dead before it hit the ground, entrails spilled before it. Myau landed safely, and, after satisfying himself that it was indeed dead, he returned to the others who were slowly recovering from the attack.

Myau walked over to Alis, who still lay on the ground, and dropped the Fang from his mouth. "Alis, how badly are you hurt?" he asked.

"It's just a small gash... ungh... that was some move you had there..." she said as she grimaced.

"The Fang is quite a weapon," he explained, "not many beings are said to resist its force." Noah came over to them, and silently began a healing spell.

"I guess now we can take it easy and let you do all the fighting, eh, Myau?" Odin joked. Alis rose, the spell having done most of its work.

"Suddenly the odds just got a lot better, it would seem. Come on, guys," she spoke as Noah once again took the lead.

- - - - - - - - - -

The gate of Abion stood before them. It was the largest settlement on this side of the planet, though it was still dwarfed by the twin-cities. They entered and were immediately struck by the beauty of the town; although it had the tell-tale signs of economic hardship, somehow the Abionians still found ways to keep their city looking pleasant.

A few of the residents could be seen, scurrying along the small lanes in opposing directions, as if they each needed to be somewhere else urgently. The four walked forward, searching the area for a shop in which they could purchase the Polymeteral they needed to free Hapsby.

Alis was scanning the lane for some type of sign to point them in the right direction, when she felt a hand grab her arm. She spun around, only to face a woman whose face was contorted in an expression of dread.

"Help! Lassic has come to this town!"

No! We're not ready! Not yet! Alis thought desperately to herself.

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