Part 18: Corona Tower
Chapter 18: Corona Tower
To the north of the cave we found a tower, with a decorative crown-like parapet at the top. Either we'd finally found the Corona Tower, or the Dezorians had built a fake Corona Tower as a decoy for tourists. I wouldn't put it past them.
There was no sudden rush of warm air as we opened the gate, and yet the inside of the tower was much warmer than outside. It was as if there were some magical energy in here, gently warming our bodies from the inside out.
Even the monsters in here looked as if they'd be more at home on Motavia than Dezoris. Had they actually been brought in from Motavia, I wondered, or generated somewhere inside the tower?
There were Dezorians still living in the tower as well. They were suspicious of us, but that was fine by me; so far, hostile Dezorians had treated us a damn sight better than "friendly" ones.
Some of the Dezorians were even willing to share information. Normally, I'd have good reason to distrust anything they told me, but I remembered hearing back in Loar about a crystal that protected against evil magic. I'd have to try and track down this Damor.
As we climbed further up the tower, the monsters grew fiercer. The titans we'd encountered in the remote cave were commonplace here, and armoured centaurs armed with swords and nets attempted to round us up and capture us.
The passages grew narrower, twistier and more dangerous as we continued on. Myau barely managed to spot the trigger for a pit trap before we walked headlong into it.
At the top of the tower, we found a Dezorian tending to the flames of his sacred Eclipse Torch. Standing in its light made me feel warm all over. Could such a small fire really be keeping this whole tower warm?
I wasn't sure how "sacred" it really was to him if he was willing to sell it to us, though.
Well, I still had the Amber Eye in my bag if he wanted it... and such a powerful source of warmth would be very welcome on the long walk back to where our Ice Digger was parked.
He took my gem and handed over the torch. I expected it to feel warm in my hand, but the heat wasn't localised; instead of radiating from the torch's flame, warmth just seemed to evenly fill the whole area.
We left the tower, and I was relieved to find that the Eclipse Torch still held its power outside. It looked like for once, we'd found a Dezorian who hadn't tried to cheat us.
The torch kept burning brightly and kept us warm all the way to the Ice Digger. Strangely, even though the torch seemed very bright when I looked at it, it didn't emit enough light to see by -- we still had to use a flashlight to make our way through the cave.
"Well, I'm sure that was a very nice trip for you," Myau said, as we started driving back to Skure, "but I still don't have any Laerma nuts."
Noah cleared his throat nervously. "Um, I think I might have an idea about how to get some Laerma nuts. If that's okay."
I gave Noah my best warm accepting smile, hoping that whatever he was about to say wasn't something Myau would ridicule him for. "Of course. What's your idea, Noah?"
"Well, I remember a monster telling me once that Laerma nuts only grow under special light. This Eclipse Torch seems pretty special. Maybe if we held it near the Laerma tree for a while, it might make the nuts grow faster."
That seemed like a bit of a long shot, but trying something was better than listening to Myau complain. "Good idea, Noah. We'll try it."
When we reached the Altiplano Plateau, we saw a small herd of Dezorian mammoths browsing on the lower branches of the Laerma tree.
"Hey, stop that, you stupid animals!" Myau shouted. "If you keep eating there won't be any left for me!"
We got out of the Ice Digger and approached the herd. Odin fired his gun into the air, trying to scare them off. It didn't exactly work out as planned: they heard the noise, turned to see where it was coming from, and charged at us.
Noah and I dived out of the way of their stampede and attacked with magic, Myau jumped onto the back of one of the mammoths and slashed at its neck, and Odin kept firing at them. The mammoths' hides were incredibly tough, and they ran with surprising speed and agility, trying to trample us with their feet and gore us with their tusks. Finally, with great difficulty, we managed to bring them all down. Their massive bodies shook and cracked the ice as they fell.
Still breathing heavily from the exertion, we approached the Laerma tree. I desperately hoped we'd at least get some Laerma nuts this time.
As I held the torch up to the tree, just far enough away to keep it from catching fire, I watched the snow melting off the branches. The Laerma tree's cones began popping open, revealing ripe, mature nuts, ready to eat.
I grabbed cones off the tree, plucked the nuts out of them and put them in the Laconian pot. The large orange-brown nuts filled the pot quickly, and there were plenty left on the tree if we ever needed more.
"Well, Myau," I said, "you've finally got your Laerma nuts. Time to see if they work."
"Wait, what?" I asked, not sure if I'd heard Myau correctly.
"I don't want them. I mean, I'm a carnivore. Why the hell would I develop magical flying powers from eating nuts? It makes no sense. Probably just some crazy rumour spread by a Dezorian."
This was too much. I'd finally lost all patience with Myau. I stamped my foot on the ice, pointed my finger at him and started shouting at the top of my voice. "You ungrateful little beast! I give away a priceless ancient pot to rescue you from a pet shop, save your friend Odin from an eternity trapped in stone, travel to this worthless fucking snowball of a planet not once but twice to appease your desire for these nuts, get dropped to the bottom of a cave and nearly trampled to death by mammoths on the way, and now you don't even want them? I should have left you in that pet shop back in Paseo!"
Myau hissed and snarled with rage, his countenance showing no hint of remorse for his actions. "What right do you have to criticise me? You bought me without so much as asking my opinion, like I was some kind of object. My 'friend' Odin did the exact same thing. When a person does that to another person, don't you call it slavery? Don't you say it's wrong? The only reason I didn't escape from either of you was that I knew if I did, I'd either be killed by monsters or captured by someone else! You've dragged me along on your grand quest to kill Lassic, and in all that time you've never asked me what I want, what my goals are! If I've been demanding sometimes, it's because that was the only way I could make my voice heard! After all I've put up with from you and your kind, if I want something and then change my mind about it, I think I've earned that right!"
"I... I... you--"
Still shaking with fury, I tried to come up with a response, but I couldn't.
I couldn't, because Myau was right.
I'd treated my ally and companion, an intelligent being who'd freely risked his life for me, as a pet. Sure, I'd talked to him and he'd offered advice, but I'd always assumed that I would be the one making all the decisions. And when I followed his advice, it wasn't because I respected his judgment but because I wanted him to stop bothering me. I'd acted like a dictator... like Lassic.
I lowered my arm and hung my head, defeated.
"I'm sorry, Myau," I said. "I was wrong. I was arrogant. I admit that I treated you like an animal, and I don't have any excuse for it."
"For what it's worth," Odin said, "I'm sorry too. I never really thought about what you wanted. I figured that since I bought you, it was okay for me to decide where we went and what we did. I know I was wrong now."
Myau had calmed down a little too, but I could still see the anger in his eyes. "Do you even know how I ended up as a pet? Even before Lassic, you Palmans hunted Musk Cats for centuries, capturing us to keep as pets and slaughtering us for our fur. I was caught by trappers when I was young and taken away from my home and family to a pet shop in Abion. I don't even know if my family is alive any more. I know that most of us can't talk as well as I can, but that's no excuse to treat us like mindless animals."
"I don't know what more I can say," I said softly, fighting back tears of sympathy for Myau and guilt for my own treatment of him. "If you don't want to travel with me any longer, I understand."
Myau shook his head. "I don't like Lassic any more than you do. If we've come this far together, we may as well see it through to the end. Besides, I don't have anywhere else to go."
We didn't say much more to each other on the way back to the Luveno, but I felt a new understanding between us. Not yet a friendship, but a kind of non-aggression pact. An alliance against a common enemy. I couldn't think of Myau as my loyal but vicious little pet any more, but if that was the price of being equals, so be it.