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PostPosted: Sat Jan 17, '09, 6:40 am
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Part Fourteen- Spiral Tower

(Camineet, the planet Palma)

It was a simple plan, at least in practice: Hapsby would fly the Luveno close to the castle at Baya Mahlay- close enough for Tairon, Lutz, and Myau to jump out and traverse on foot. Naturally, Tairon was careful to avoid the phrase "Pray to God the anti-aircraft doesn't blast us into red wet confetti like Hapsby thinks it will." Even still, the thought had crossed each of their minds as they headed back to Camineet Spaceport, boarding the Luveno in grave silence.

Minutes after the ship lifted off, Hapsby signaled, "Everyone, we're heading into the no-fly zone around Baya Mahlay. If you want to turn back-"

"Naah. Just drop us off right at the bottom of the tower," Tairon told the robot.

"Understood." After a few seconds, Hapsby continued, "We are being signaled by LaShiec's forces. We're being ordered to land outside the Gates to Baya Mahlay for violating the no-fly zone."

"Keep going," Lutz said, trying not to let his nervousness show.

"Very well."

There was a tense few seconds; Tairon remembered the incident as they left Camineet Spaceport, fired upon with I/A missiles. He wondered to himself if they had enough spare parts to repeat their solution should the need arise.

"Unusual. Tairon, Lutz... the leader of the POLEZI robots has granted us permission to land near Baya Mahlay."

"What?" Lutz asked, surprised.

"It seems LaShiec's expecting us." Hapsby typed a few commands in, then told the group, "Landing shortly. Please stand by."

"Think LaShiec's gonna be waiting outside for us?" Myau asked as the ship started to land.

"Naah. He's probably still up in his real castle, with Alisa." Tairon scratched his chin in thought. "Knowing him, we'll probably have to fight our way back up to him."

"Oh. Oh, crap." Myau sweatdropped. "I really hope we killed that dragon, then."

-=-=-

Baya Mahlay was exactly as the three remembered it- a massive tower, built with a labyrinthine layout, populated with LaShiec's robots and biomonsters. Once they entered, Myau looked around a T intersection they had found themselves in. "Hey, guys, hold up a second," he urged. "Last time we were here, we went straight down this intersection."

"Yeah, and that got us beaten up," Tairon replied. "Got us to the top, eventually, but I still remember the pain."

"Well, about that... why don't we go left instead?" Myau asked. "We're looking for that Damoa guy Tajima had us go after, right?"

"Yes," Lutz nodded. "Do you think he's this way?"

"Well, we went every other place in this stupid tower! Trust me on this one- Musk Cats have a great sense of direction! Anyway, we didn't go this way before."

"Could be worth a shot," Tairon said. Hefting his axe, he took the left branch, Lutz and Myau following behind him. To Myau's credit, the corridor they had found themselves traveling down was relatively straightforward, leading down a few stairs before terminating at a massive locked door.

"Think Damoa's back here?" Tairon asked once they came up to the door.

"He is," Lutz said. "I can sense some powerful magic past the door- unlike LaShiec's magic, it isn't corrupted."

"Okey-dokey, then! The universal lockpick, if you please, Tairon!"

Rummaging through his bag, Tairon passed a set of lockpicks to Myau, who took them in his mouth. "I gotta warn you guys," he started as he set the picks on the ground. "I'm not as good at this as Alisa is. Stupid Palmans and your opposable thumbs."

"Lil' Buddy, less nitpick and more lockpick," Tairon said.

"I don't mean to harp on the matter, but a bit more alacrity would be preferred," Lutz added, looking down the corridor. "I don't know how long it will be before LaShiec's minions find their way down here."

"Yeah, yeah, yeah. Don't rush miracles, gentlemen. Now, let's see... straight pick..."

An ANDROcop wandered into sight of the group, scarcely having time to utter a warning before Tairon cleaved its head in half with the Laconia axe. Behind him, he heard Myau curse, then grumble, "Complex pick... hook pick..."

"Tairon!" Lutz warned. "There's a few more robots coming!"

"Well, then!" Tairon switched the axe for his laser rifle, then saw Lutz preparing a Gi Flaeli spell.

"Ninety degree pick... wow, this is hard. No... talon pick... tension wrench..."

Tairon fired as soon as he saw one of the ANDROcops enter his view, bringing it down with two well-placed bursts. Lutz's fireball slammed into another robot, sending it against the corridor's wall, where Tairon bashed it apart with the butt of the rifle.

"Claw pick... platter pick... hrrm. Maybe the snake pick?"

With a scream, Tairon leaned into a bend in the corridor, sending lances of red energy down at one last ANDROcop. Once he saw Tairon walk back around the corner towards him, Lutz asked, "Are you all right?"

"Yeah. One of them shot me, but the armor took the brunt of it," Tairon replied, pointing at a small char mark on his suit of armor. "How's the lock coming, Lil' Buddy?"

"How in God's name does Alisa DO this crap!?"

Sweatdropping, the two Palmans turned to Myau, who was visibly annoyed as he was trying to get through the lock. "Was she a warehouse thief in a past life or something?!" Myau demanded as he tried another pick.

"Err, Myau?" Tairon asked. "Try the key."

"What $@#%ing key!?"

"It's the lockpick that looks like a key," Lutz replied. "The one you haven't tried yet."

"....."

Now feeling like a complete idiot, Myau used the last pick, hearing a satisfied click as the lock on the door tumbled open. "...Well. How 'bout that," he said as he passed the lockpick back to Tairon. "Shoulda tried that first."

Lutz and Tairon remained silent as the door yawned open, revealing a withered old man in tattered robes. As he saw the three entering his chamber, he smiled and said, "Ah, you have come at the right time."

"You must be Sage Damoa," Lutz replied.

"Indeed. I am the great Damoa, soothsayer and oracle extraordinaire!" Crossing his arms, Damoa then asked, "Do you believe in my myriad prophecies?"

"Err, of course!" Tairon interrupted before Lutz could say anything. "Who in Algo doesn't know that the great Damoa knows all?"

You're laying it on a bit thick, I think, Lutz thought.

"Now! Let me think... you're looking for something. Something very important to you."

"Yes!" Lutz told the soothsayer, elation in his voice. "We're looking for A-"

"Al.... Alex Ossale. You seeketh Alex Ossale, do you not?"

Tairon, Lutz, and Myau looked at each other for a few seconds, each one giving the other two a look that pretty much asked "Who the hell is Alex Ossale?" Finally, Myau turned to Damoa and said, "Naaah. Dead wrong, sorry."

Immediately, Damoa's mood changed. "You! Leave my presence at once, infidel!" he bellowed at Myau, pointing at the door.

"Wait! Wait, great Damoa!" Lutz protested. "Perhaps that is an assumed name the one we're looking for has gone by in the past. We don't it just yet, but we might ultimately come across him!"

"Ah. In that case, excellent, excellent." Almost as suddenly, the great anger Damoa expressed had faded. "So, I take it everything I've said to you so far is correct?"

"Well, Lutz's nice save aside," Tairon said, stepping in front of his companions, "Not everything's right. We don't know who this Alex guy is."

"What?! What!? Do you dare contradict me, the great Damoa, oracle for four Grand Kings of Algo!?"

"No, no, of course not," Lutz replied. "We're just trying to... get some things straightened out, that's all."

"Ah, I see!" Damoa stood up, then approached the group. "You are men of cunning and keen intellect, and thus show great promise, all of you. Take this with you on your journey."

He handed a small green crystal to Lutz, which very strangely reflected the light cast from the group's magic lamp- clear at first, then in shades of red. "It's very nice, but... Sage, what is this?" Lutz asked. "I can sense some power from it, something I've never felt before."

"That? That is a fragment of the Red Star, Rykross, fallen from the sky about seventeen years ago," Damoa replied. "It shall protect you from the more destructive elements of LaShiec's powers, but you must still be wary, young ones."

"That we shall, Damoa," Tairon said. "Anything else we should know before we go whomp LaShiec?"

"Yes. Know that should you fail, the soul of the one you seek shall be lost forever. No pressure." Damoa took one last look at the group, then retreated into his room, sitting down wearily. "Now, go, young ones. May you find the peace that you seek."

As soon as the three left, the lock to Damoa's door set itself back into place. "Hey, Lutz," Myau asked. "Do you really think that crystal's going to help?"

"Master Tajima said Rykross appears in times of need, and Sage Damoa has faith in this crystal," Lutz replied, taking another look at the shard of crystal. "I don't see any reason why it wouldn't work."

"So... we're basically putting our survival on a piece of reddish-green glass that might or might not cancel Hell Lightning," Myau said. "Meh, it's better than nothing."

Lutz tucked the crystal into a fold in his mantle, and the group set off, beginning the long trek back up Baya Mahlay's tower.

-=-=-

The way up was exactly as Myau remembered it, assisted with Tairon occasionally checking their compass. There was a stray turn or two, but the three finally made it through the torrent of enemies as they reached the top of Baya Mahlay. They stood for a minute, taking in the expansive view of Palma's mountains before Lutz finally spoke.

"We should use the Aeroprism again," he told the others. "Doubtlessly, LaShiec has concealed his castle from our sight again."

"Of course- he expects us to go through his entire fun house all over again," Tairon grumbled. "Well, as long as it ends with him going down for the count, I'm fine by it."

Nodding, Lutz raised the Aeroprism, a hand-sized translucent crystal, to the sky. As it had before, a beam of light refracted from the prism and reached toward the distant horizon, illuminating a massive floating castle in the distance.

"There we go again," Myau said. "Is it Laerma nut time?"

"Yep. Clamp down, Lil' Buddy! We're going for a flight!"

As soon as Tairon reached into the massive pot containing Myau's collection of Laerma nuts, Lutz gently grabbed his wrist. "Hold on just a minute, Tairon," he urged, glancing behind him. "There's someone coming up the stairs."

"What?" Tairon asked. "Another of those stupid robots?"

"I hope not," Myau replied, turning to face the hatch leading back into the tower. "But if it is, it's going back down the stairs! Get ready!"

Tairon readied his rifle, and Lutz clutched the Psycho Wand, preparing a simple Tandle spell to deal with whomever was following them. The hatch swung open, and a familiar man climbed through. Small tears marred the uniform of a Camineet Transport Authority employee, and what looked like an energy saber was strapped to the man's waist.

"Wh- Nekishe?!" Tairon asked, completely surprised. "How did you-"

"I followed the trail of destruction," Nekishe replied, taking a deep breath. "And before you ask, it's easy to hide on a Kerouac like you guys have."

"What brings you here, Nekishe?" Lutz asked.

"Same thing that brought you here- Alisa Landale. I did some thinking after you guys left- she brought you together to help kill LaShiec, right?" Nekishe replied. "If killing LaShiec means saving Alisa, then I'm going to give it my all."

"Nekishe, go back home," Tairon told him. "When we visited you, you were almost falling over yourself."

"I took some caffeine pills. I'm gonna be up for another twelve hours. Tairon, relax. I'm fine." As he took a step towards the group, Nekishe looked over Lutz's shoulder, seeing the remnants of the Aeroprism 's light trailing away from the tower. "Holy hell," he said as he followed the trail to LaShiec's castle. "That's a big castle."

"And LaShiec's probably gloating over how he's going to try to kill us," Myau told him. "But! We're coming stronger this time, and we're coming prepared!"

"If by 'prepared' you mean 'with what might or might not be magic space glass,'" the large man interrupted. "It's... it's a long story, Nekishe. I'll tell you on the ride."

"The ride? You mean that ship of yours?"

Myau shook his head. "Even better. Nekishe, my good man," he started, "You'll believe a cat can fly. Tairon, the Laerma nut!"

Again, Tairon retrieved a fist-sized nut for the Musk Cat, who ate it with blinding speed. Before their eyes, Myau became the large winged beast that had ferried them to the castle a week ago. Nekishe let out a loud whistle, watching as Myau flapped his wings.

"I must be dreaming, or something," Nekishe said. "I could have sworn Myau turned into... into that."

"Oh, he most certainly did," Tairon replied, climbing onto Myau's back. Lutz followed a second later, then a very nervous Nekishe. Once everybody had settled onto Myau, he leapt off of Baya Mahlay, his wings flapping as he soared towards the Castle in the Sky.

"Just have to warn you real quick before we get to the castle," Tairon called to the blonde. "There might be some more monsters and/or robots in there, so I hope you know how to use that beamsaber."

"Nero taught me a few things," Nekishe replied, gripping Myau's fur a bit tighter than he had before. "I picked up some of those magic crystals from one of the shops in the Square, so I think I've got my bases covered."

"That should do nicely," Lutz added. "Those crystals are obviously artificial, but I believe they should emulate a magic spell enough for Myau or myself to unite them into Collabo Magic."

As they closed the distance to the castle, there was a sudden, deafening roar. Myau nearly froze midair in terror- he recognized the source of the bellow, as did Lutz and Tairon.

"I, uh, I guess we didn't do such a great job killing that dragon after all," he said, watching a large golden speck drop from the base of the castle. Wings sprouted from the speck as it took the shape of an extremely angry golden dragon, who soared head-first towards Myau.

"PREPARE YOURSELF FOR THE ABYSS, MUSK CAT!" it roared as the two continued their head-to-head flight. "KNOW THAT KEETHRAX THE VIGILANT SHALL FIGHT TO HIS DYING BREATH TO PROTECT THE LORD KING AND LADY QUEEN OF ALGO!"

"And know that we're gonna turn you into dragon burgers if you get in our way!" Myau called back.

"I SINCERELY DOUBT THAT."

"Better brace yourself, Nekishe," Tairon said, securing his laser rifle around his arm. Lutz did the same with the Psycho Wand as Tairon continued, "This could get real ugly, real quick."

Squeezing Myau with his legs, Nekishe tied a cord around the handle of his energy saber, then tied the loose end around his wrist. Looking up from his work, he was just in time to see Keethrax belch a massive jet of fire at Myau.

End of Part Fourteen

Will Nekishe prove to be a benefit or a liability to Tairon, Lutz, and Myau? Can they once again defeat Keethrax the Vigilant, this time without Alisa's blade at their side? And what will go down when our heroes finally confront LaShiec and Alisa?
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