Part 9: Skure
Chapter 9: Skure
I boarded the Luveno, trying not to look too closely at the loose bolts and wires poking out of the walls. Once we'd all made our way to a seat in the cramped interior, I addressed the rest of the group. "Well, we've got our own spaceship. Do we want to go to Motavia or Dezoris first?"
Myau was the first to answer. "Hey, Laerma nuts grow on Dezoris, right? Let's go there. I've always wanted to know what it feels like to fly."
I gave Myau a doubtful look. "I don't think that's really a good reason to go to Dezoris. I know I said I'd try to find some Laerma nuts for you, but overthrowing Lassic has to take priority, and since the Governor's on our side I think we could find more help on Motavia."
Myau mewed plaintively. "Come on, you promised. Besides, wouldn't a flying ally come in handy? I'd make an awesome scout."
Odin chimed in. "I have to side with Myau on this one. A promise is a promise, and he's been behaving himself lately, hasn't he?" He hesitated. "Well, apart from that... incident... with Dr. Mad's corpse, but he deserved that."
I suddenly felt as if I should be very glad that I didn't check back in on Myau to see why he was taking so long back in Dr. Mad's lab. "What about you, Noah? Where do you think we should go?"
Noah stared at the floor, avoiding eye contact as usual. "Well, um, I've read a lot about Dezoris and I've heard it's a beautiful planet, but I've never been there. I'd like to see it."
Hapsby prompted us about our decision; I guess he was eager to get moving. I sighed. "Yes, Hapsby, I guess it's settled. We're going to Dezoris."
Our trip to Dezoris wasn't exactly comfortable. There was barely any room to move around, and the temperature regulator malfunctioned a couple of times, making the whole ship freezing cold or swelteringly hot, but each time a good kick from Odin set it working again. He seemed to have a knack for making things do what we wanted by hitting them. Admittedly, most of the time the things he was hitting were monsters and what we wanted them to do was die.
At least the sights out in space were as beautiful as ever. The whole planet of Dezoris sparkled like a diamond, the distant sunlight of Algo reflecting off ice-encrusted mountain slopes at thousands of different angles, each catching the light for just a moment as we passed by. Did Nero ever get a chance to travel around the Algo system like this when he worked at the spaceport, or did he just stay on the ground and watch as all those lucky passengers came in? If he could see me now, would he be jealous? I didn't know, but I liked to think that somewhere he knew what I was doing and why, and he was proud of me.
I won't let you down, Nero. I've come this far, and I'm going to see it through. I'm going to kill Lassic, and I'm going to do whatever it takes to make sure nobody like him can ever ruin Algo again, and I'm not going to let anyone or anything stop me. That's a promise.
We made planetfall early in the long Dezorian evening. Algo's light was fading, and an icy wind stung my face as soon as I stepped out of the Luveno. My feet sank into the snowy ground and the cold penetrated right through my shoes. I could tell from the shivering of my companions that they were feeling it too. Even Motavia was better than this.
A well-maintained path to the west led into a fenced-off area, and from there to an underground passage. Hapsby told us that the passage led to Skure, the largest Palman settlement on Dezoris. Why anybody would want to live on this planet was beyond me, but at least we could take refuge from the cold there until morning.
Hapsby, who couldn't feel the cold, stayed behind to watch the Luveno, while the rest of us made our way into the passage. It curved steadily downward, and the air grew a little less bitingly cold as we went on.
Blue slimes camouflaged themselves amongst the ice formations coating the walls and ceiling of the passage, then dropped down to attack when we got close. They weren't all that dangerous, but they were hard to kill; if we didn't destroy them thoroughly, any bits we cut off them had a tendency to flow back together.
Native Dezorian bandits also hid in the passages. Noah had a friendly telepathic conversation with them and we went on our way. I still couldn't understand how he managed to show such remarkable social skills with everything except humans.
We passed through an airlock designed to keep Skure's heated air in and entered the residential area. The sudden rush of warm air as we entered felt almost painfully hot on my numb face and hands. Apparently this was a common reaction; there were benches thoughtfully placed near the entrance where we could sit and rub our hands together until normal sensation returned. Once I felt human again, I started asking the Palman colonists for information.
The first thing I learned was that they didn't like the cold any more than I did. If they had to live on Dezoris, at least living in a heated underground area was the right way to do it.
As we soon found, there was no shortage of people in Skure willing to state the obvious.
Another of the locals gave some rather more specific and helpful geographic information, warning us about treacherous thin ice in the mountains.
Great. So the one place we wanted to go on this godforsaken planet was the single most difficult place to get to on foot. Why couldn't anything ever be easy?
We heard a few rumours about Laconian weapons and armour, but nobody seemed to know where to find any. A pity; if even Lassic feared them, they were exactly what we needed. We'd just have to find them ourselves.
One old man had heard that at least four pieces of Laconian equipment had been made and hidden by a master craftsman before he was imprisoned by Lassic. Unfortunately, like everyone else, he couldn't tell me anything about their current location.
Apparently, Dezoris, like the other planets, had its problems with monsters. I made a mental note to watch out for the walking dead when we travelled outside.
One of the locals gave us directions to a native Dezorian village. She'd heard it was just a short walk through a cave to the south.
Another of the people we talked to was a scholar with an interest in native Dezorian religion, and as such was probably the only Palman on this planet who actually had a good reason to be here. I wasn't sure how any of the information he had could possibly be useful to me, but I thanked him for the conversation anyway. Maybe when we visited that native Dezorian village we'd heard about, we'd now be more careful to avoid accidentally breaking their sacred torch and provoking a lynch mob.
Before leaving Skure the next day, we visited the shopping district and bought plenty of warm clothing for everybody (including thick protective gloves for Myau), as well as a magic wand for Noah and a gun for Odin. With our new equipment and clothing (but especially the clothing), we all felt a little more prepared to take on Dezoris.
While testing out his new wand, Noah proudly announced that he'd invented a new spell to unseal magically-locked doors. Considering that we hadn't come across a single magically-locked door so far, I wasn't sure how or why he'd done this. Come to think of it, we didn't actually have any way of testing whether he'd learned this spell at all. Oh well.
Having done everything we could in Skure, we decided to visit the native Dezorian village and see if they had any mountain-climbing tips to share so that we could get those Laerma nuts and then go somewhere warmer. Even in the middle of the day with all our warm clothing on, the cold outside went right to our bones. I couldn't wait to get off this planet -- thinking about what nighttime would be like made me shiver even more than I was already.
While heading south, we ran into some more native Dezorians, who didn't seem bothered by the cold at all. Noah had a long and involved telepathic conversation with them about music. I was glad that he could talk them out of attacking us and all, but I wished that he'd occasionally ask them about something that was actually relevant. Sometimes I wasn't sure if he even remembered that we were supposed to be trying to kill Lassic.
We avoided the open icy plains and travelled through forested areas wherever we could; at least they protected us from the wind and made the cold a little less piercing. Unfortunately, they also gave monsters an opportunity to sneak up on us. The old man's warning about the undead proved to be accurate; the forests were absolutely crawling with skeletons and ghosts. We travelled during the day and huddled together at night for warmth, one of us always standing guard to wake the others if monsters approached. It wasn't a situation conducive to restful sleep, and every morning we all woke up cold and tired.
Finally we made it to the cave we'd been given directions to. The passages were narrow and slippery from the ice. We continually slipped and fell onto jagged rocks that tore through our clothing, leaving cuts and grazes and, worse still, letting the cold in. At least it was a little warmer in the caves than outside, although maybe that was just hypothermia starting to set in.
We eventually found another exit and emerged from the cave, but the Dezorian village was nowhere to be seen. The only thing of interest in sight was another large cave, several miles to the northwest. Myau and I looked at each other, and we both said the same thing at the exact same time.
"These Laerma nuts had better be worth it."