[an error occurred while processing this directive]

Chapter Twenty-Five

"You're sure that you can round up some people to take supplies to Drasgow?" Alis asked Doctor Luveno as they stood near the door of his home. Odin was nearby putting on his armor, while Myau and Noah waited patiently.

"Yes, yes... the people of this town are very trustworthy... I will gather two or three of them to take the Hovercraft to Drasgow while you are gone. We've got a cache of medical supplies to send, and I'm sure that we can round up as much food as the Hovercraft will carry."

"Good... they need help desperately," she continued, "but we have to continue with our plan. I only hope that whatever you can send will be enough."

Luveno did his best to smile, but, since learning of the plight of the people of Drasgow, no one in the room could talk about them with a bright face.

Alis turned to go, and as the four left Luveno's home, he called to them. "Remember, the Gorgon's tower lies directly west of Gothic Prison, into the mountains!" Odin turned his head and nodded in agreement, walking off towards the Landrover.

As the group boarded the machine, Noah motioned to a pair of seats and looked at Alis. Her training would continue, apparently. Odin took the controls, and a large grin came over his face. "Why are you smiling, Odin?" Myau asked. "The challenge ahead is certainly not one to be taken lightly."

"You know me better than that, friend," the warrior responded, "I thrive on confrontation, on battle... and it seems as if we've just been sitting in Gothic for weeks..."

- - - - - - - - - -

"Get behind me!" Odin yelled, raising the mirror shield to cover his face. As Alis and the others complied, mystical rays of light shot forth from the Gorgon's eyes, impacting the shield with terrific force. Odin stood firm, though, and the shield absorbed the light.

They were at the very top of the Gorgon's tower, facing a hideous monster of great proportion. With the body of a serpent that was wider than any man, it stood upon its tail, ten feet in the air, scaly arms flailing. It's head was a gruesome montage of hissing eels and snakes, and fiery red eyes highlighted its zombie-like face. The features of the beast were distinctly female, as if whatever power that had created this mutant had deliberately engineered it to be so.

The room they found themselves in was fairly long, though no wider than any of the hallways. It stretched tens of feet behind the beast, who confronted them just near the doorway. There was an ornate chest far behind the Gorgon.

The light-bursts from the monster had held them at bay; everytime one of the champions had tried to approach it, they had to rush back behind Odin's shield. Fortunately, the beast refused to advance on them, and so both sides merely held their ground.

"We can't reach it, it's too dangerous!" Alis cried, still crouching behind Odin. "How can we fight it... our weapons won't reach!"

"Odin, you must move towards it... with the shield, only you can reach it!" Noah's plan was forcefully rebuked by Myau, though.

"No!" the Musk Cat warned. "He'd have to move the shield to attack it, and he'd be helpless against the blasts... Noah, we need a long-distance attack! Can you distract it with some kind of magic?"

"...Yes, but wh.." Another blast of light rocked the shield, interrupting the Esper. "What's your plan?"

"Just do it on my signal!" was the response. Alis cast a look of bewilderment at Myau as Noah began his fireball spell. In mere moments, he nodded to Myau, silently implying that he was ready.

"Alright Odin, lower the shield for just a moment... NOW!" Odin dropped the shield a foot, and Noah quickly stood up, pointing his staff at the Gorgon. Immediately two balls of flame jumped forward. As they impacted the beast, knocking it to the side momentarily, Myau leapt ahead, dashing past it. "Be ready when it turns... you won't have much time!" Suddenly Myau's plan became crystal clear. He was the bait to lure the creature to turn around. Having seen the animal rush by, and frustrated at its previous prey's defenses, the Gorgon rose again and turned to face the Musk Cat. Now only fifteen feet away, Myau slowly backed up, eyes locked on the monster's movements.

On the other side, Alis was watching it all in disbelief. But Odin yelled her name, snapping her out of it. "C'mon! We've got to nail it before it fi..." Just then, the light from its eyes shone forth, blazing towards the small cat. Myau was just quick enough, avoiding the blast at the last possible second, dodging to the side.

"Let's go!" Noah screamed. The three ran forward in a triangle formation, Odin still in the front bearing the shield. But the monster turned its head lightning quick, and another barrage was loosed at the heroes. Alis and Noah skidded and pressed themselves against the walls, desperate to avoid the beams. They struck Odin's shield in full force, knocking him backwards to the ground. But he was up quickly, and the other two dove behind him again.

Satisfied, the creature turned back to face Myau, who was now frozen, eyes locked with the Gorgon's.

"We've got to keep moving, he can't dodge forever!" Odin yelled. They rose and spread out again, continuing their advance.

Still unmoving, Myau saw their progress on the other side of the beast. If he could just hold its gaze for a few more moments... they could reach it and attack...

The Gorgon was not willing to comply. Screeching, its eyes lit up once again, rays of death pouring out. Myau leapt, but was too late. The twin beams struck him in the back, blasting him down the hallway in a blinding display of light and fire. His body landed with a dull thump several feet away, wisps of smoke rising from his blackened hide.

From his vantage point, Odin had seen it all. Myau lay on the other side of the beast. He was not moving. His friend was not moving. His friend was---

"NOOOOOOOOOOO! URRRRRAARRRGGGHHH!" he screamed, sprinting forward to the beast, shield still raised. The Gorgon turned in time to see the huge warrior bearing down upon itself at incredible speed. It reacted the only way it could, again shooting laser-like blasts at its target. They struck the mirror shield, but Odin was not thrown backward. He was not even slowed. In less than a second he reached the monster, and using the shield as a battering ram, barreled into it. The two tumbled violently to the floor, Odin lying on top, pressing the shield against its face. The thin arms of the creature struggled to push the shield away, but Odin held it firmly in place as he rose to a straddling position. Beneath him the body of the beast twisted and writhed, but he would not be thrown off.

His eyes seemed to glow as bright as the Gorgon's, teeth gritted, nostrils flared. Untold rage consumed him as he grabbed his axe from his belt and raised it high above his head.

And then he did the unthinkable. He pulled the shield away, and stared directly into its eyes. Immediately those eyes began to brighten, and Odin knew what would soon come. But he would not allow it.

"MURDERER!" he cried, and brought his axe blade crashing down across, and through, the beast's exposed neck. It's head flopped to the floor, eyes dimming, serpents motionless. The Gorgon was dead.

Odin slumped down, head resting on his forearm. But he stood again in a moment, as Alis and Noah rushed past him to Myau. He joined them hurriedly.

Crouching beside the body, Alis had only one declaration.

"He's dead."

Tears were welling up in her eyes while she looked at Odin. He kneeled, arms limp before him, eyes closed. He looked exhausted.

"Get up, both of you... there is still a chance, but time is short..." Noah's command was stern.

"What do you mean there's still a chance? He's dead!" Odin yelled at the Esper.

"I might still be able to save him... to bring him back..." Alis and Odin were silenced. "If his soul has not yet left this plane, I may be able to call him back... it is something every Esper is taught."

"Well, then, do it!" Odin yelled.

Alis put a hand on the warrior's shoulder. "Do you need anything from us, Noah?"

"No, I need to be alone... nothing must disturb my concentration." Alis nodded, and she and Odin walked away down the corridor. Noah kneeled beside Myau's body, eyes closed and hands clenched tightly around his staff. He seemed to be whispering something, something rhythmic, but Alis and Odin couldn't make it out.

"Alis..." Odin said, almost imperceptibly. She stepped to him, and they embraced, though their eyes never left the pair.

After an eternity, Noah raised his staff into the air. He stopped chanting. Suddenly, his eyes shot open for a moment, before closing again as he collapsed backward. Alis and Odin rushed to him.

"He's still breathing... but unconscious," she said.

Odin turned to face Myau's body. It was--- no, it wasn't... was it? Yes, yes it was! His body was moving! He was breathing! Odin knelt, placing his hand gently underneath Myau's head. As tears rolled down Odin's cheeks, Myau opened his eyes. "Myau! You're alive!"

"What... happened?" Myau lifted his head, looking around. "I... I heard Noah, calling me... I... what is going on?" Odin leaned down and hugged his friend.

"Noah did it! He brought you back! We thought you were dead!"

"He was dead, Odin," Alis corrected. "Noah used some sort of Esper spell to bring you back, Myau... but you were dead!"

"Dead...? I... never thought..."

"C'mon, we should get out of here... we can discuss all this later. Myau, can you walk?"

The Musk Cat struggled to his feet. "I think so, Odin. I think so." He stepped forward, but fell back to the floor, wincing in pain. "Maybe not."

"I'll carry you, Myau," Alis told him. "Odin, you'll have to carry Noah. He's still out."

Myau's ears popped forward as Alis picked him up and cradled him in her arms. "Wait, what about the axe?" They had completely forgotten. Hurriedly, Odin took his own axe and rushed to the nearby chest. With a few hacks, he had it open.

"What's inside?" questioned Alis, still holding Myau.

"This." Odin held up a huge axe, its blade razor thin along the edge. The same carvings that graced Alis' sword were found on the hilt. "This is it. The mystical axe. I can feel its power..."

"Just like I can feel the power of the sword..."

"It's... indescribable. It's almost a natural extension of my hand... But come on, we've got to get these two back to Gothic for some medical treatment."

Odin returned to Noah, and heaved him up upon his broad shoulder. He hooked the Esper's staff to his belt, and sword and axe in hands, Alis and Odin left the hallway, toting their respective companions.

[an error occurred while processing this directive]