Part 23: The Governor (Reprise)
Chapter 23: The Governor (Reprise)
With Odin carrying Noah's body in his arms, I used the flute to take us out of the castle. I should have been feeling elated at all we'd achieved, but I wasn't. Even after finally killing Lassic, something still troubled me.
"I can't stop thinking about Lassic's last words... could he really have meant them? How could a man who loved life ruin the lives of so many others?" I asked nobody in particular.
Odin stared down sadly at Noah. "People are good at lying to themselves: I should know. If at first Lassic didn't see all the people his actions were hurting, he could pretend they didn't exist. And then, when things got worse little by little as time went on... well, he was already committed by then. Sometimes I think I'm not so different from him: my lies led me on a path to becoming a hero, while his led him on a path to becoming a villain. In a way, he was just as much a victim as Medusa or any of the other monsters he created. What happened to him could have happened to anyone."
"Maybe so," I said, "but it's hard for me to feel much sympathy for him after everything he's done. Everyone has to die one day. If he became a monster in a futile attempt to cheat death, what kind of life is that?"
Odin sighed. "After all the mistakes I've made, it's not easy for me to judge people, even Lassic. For the first few years he was in power, before the monsters started appearing, he was a good ruler. If he knew from the start all the consequences of his deal with whatever dark forces gave him his power, I honestly believe he would have chosen differently." His face brightened a little. "Anyway, it's not Noah's time to die yet, so let's get him to town so we can bring him back."
I nodded and took out a Laerma nut. "Myau, are you up for another flight?"
"Do you even have to ask?" Myau said, grinning broadly.
Myau grimaced. "Those things still taste awful, though."
Myau was able to fly us as far as Camineet before the nut's effects wore off and he changed back. After my past experiences with priests in Camineet and Paseo, I really didn't want to visit one again, but since the only other person I knew who was capable of resurrection was the one who needed to be resurrected, I didn't have much choice.
Apparently the going rate for resurrection had gone up, too. Typical.
"Stop acting like you care about anything but my money, you hypocritical old fart," I muttered under my breath as we walked out.
At least Noah was alive again. Odin and I filled him in on the details of what had happened after he died; he seemed happy to hear that Lassic was dead, and even happier once he realised that this meant I owed him ice cream. Luckily, I knew just where to go to get some.
When Suelo answered her door, she was more than a little surprised to see me.
"Alis! You're back!"
"That's right, Suelo. And soon there won't be any need for me to go away ever again. I've killed Lassic."
I think she nearly fainted from shock. "Lassic is dead? I always knew you'd grow up and do something spectacular, but now that it's actually happened, it's all just so fantastic. I want to hear all about it -- but what kind of host would I be if I kept you standing here in the doorway while you talked? Come in! Come in, all of you! It's been so long since I've seen you, and we've got so much to talk about!"
Noah had really come out of his shell and become more outgoing in our time together, and he got along brilliantly with Suelo. We all talked for hours, and Suelo treated us to some home-made ice cream with chocolate syrup. As good as it was to feel like I was living a normal life again, my work wasn't quite done yet, and eventually I decided we'd better get moving.
"Suelo, I was so worried about you. I'm so glad to see you've made it through all of this. I wish I could stay longer, but I have to go and visit the Governor in Motavia to help fix all the damage Lassic has done to Algo. I promise I'll be back soon."
"You were worried about me?" Suelo laughed. "I should say the same about you! You're the one who's been going out and staring death in the face every day. What you've done for Algo is truly great, Alis, but don't forget to take care of yourself, and do come back and visit again as soon as you can."
We hugged, and she stood at her door to see me off. I turned my head to look back at her and wave every few steps as we left.
Before leaving Camineet, I felt I had to share the news of my victory with at least one more person. Nekise was speechless when he saw me at his door.
"You don't have to worry about me any more, Nekise. Lassic's dead. I killed him."
He looked awestruck. "Alis... Alis, you're incredible. I only wish I'd been there to see it."
"Oh, Nekise, don't tell me you're still feeling guilty about not coming along with me. All that matters to me is that you survived. I'm glad I still have a friend like you in Camineet to talk to -- we'll have so much to catch up on once I get back from seeing the Governor."
"Wait, you're leaving again?" Nekise asked anxiously. "Do you have to?"
"I have to spread the news of Lassic's death so that the Governor can start to restore Algo to its former glory. Don't worry, I'll be back soon."
Nekise shook his head. "I just have a bad feeling, as if something terrible will happen to you if you leave again."
I could tell he was serious, but I still couldn't help but laugh. "I've already killed Lassic. If I survived that, what's the worst that could happen to me on a quick trip to Motavia?"
Nekise sighed. "I guess you're probably right."
Nekise and I said our goodbyes to each other, and I left Camineet.
Our next destination was Gothic. While we were in town, we paid a visit to Dr. Luveno.
"Well, Doc," I told him, "this may be the last time I need to use the Luveno. I've killed Lassic, and I'm off to tell the Governor of Motavia the good news."
A broad smile filled the old doctor's face. Even his assistant, doing calculations at a desk in the back of the room, looked up and smiled at me before returning to his work.
"This is wonderful news, Alis! Be sure to tell the Governor to spare a thought for the brilliant scientist who made your journey possible when he distributes Algo's next research and development budget, eh?" He winked.
I got into the Luveno and reclined in my seat as it took off. The seats on the Luveno weren't meant to recline, but the back of mine had broken.
"You know, Odin," I said, "this flight reminds me why I used to love the idea of travelling in space. We're going to a new world, full of new possibilities. I can't wait until Algo is free."
Odin smiled. "I bet you can't wait to see your father again, either."
I nodded. "I don't remember anything about my biological parents, and my adoptive mother died in an accident when I was very young, so Nero and Dad are the only family I've ever known. Lassic may have taken my brother away from me, but I have to hold out hope that one day Dad will be back to his old self. He's all I have left."
We landed in Uzo and drove to Paseo in the Land Rover, in case the robot cops at the spaceport were still active and looking for us. After Nekise's warning, I didn't feel like taking any risks.
Why would the Governor leave his mansion after holing up in there for so long? Had he somehow heard about Lassic's death before we got here?
Or then again, maybe he fell through the floor of his mansion and landed in a dungeon like we just did-- wait, what?
"What the hell just happened?" I asked, as if I expected Myau, Odin or Noah to have any more idea than I did.
"I think we just walked into a trap," Myau muttered.
Odin shook his head. "Who would set up a trap for us here? The Governor? Whatever's going on here, it doesn't make any sense."
"Well," I said, "we can either magic ourselves out of here and hope the Governor's here next time we visit, or explore this place and see if we can find out what's going on. I say we keep going."
"Agreed," said Odin.
Noah nodded. "When something weird like this happens, it's important to know why so that it doesn't happen again."
Myau gave an exaggerated sigh. "If all of you have made up your minds, I guess I may as well tag along."
The tunnels under the Governor's mansion were full of monsters and robot cops. I could understand the cops, but why hadn't the Governor set them not to attack us? And what in the world were dragons doing down here?
There were even magically-locked doors down here. Good thing I'd brought the Miracle Key along.
A long, twisting but unbranching series of corridors eventually led us to a dead end. I continued on to the end, hoping to find a secret passage--
I should have known. Well, at least we were making progress.
Another magically-locked door led to a dead-end. I knew it was probably a pit trap, but it was also the only apparent way of getting any further down.
"Be careful, Alis," Noah warned. "I feel like there's something very powerful nearby, and I don't like it."
I never was very good at being careful.
The monsters down here just kept getting weirder. How did a Dezorian mammoth even get to Motavia, let alone to the bottom of a secret dungeon under the Governor's mansion?
Our current floor of the dungeon was just a small circular passage. At first it looked like there was nowhere further to go and we'd have to turn back after all, but we searched the walls carefully and found a hidden door.
Behind it was a short passage leading to another door, this one magically sealed. As I was about to open it, Noah tapped me on the shoulder. I looked at him and saw that he was almost shaking with fear.
"Alis, the power I felt before is right behind this door. Whatever it is, it's stronger than Lassic, and more evil. I can feel something else behind there too... something that feels like the Governor. I think it might have done something to him. I'm scared, Alis."
"I know," I said. "Maybe there is something terrible behind that door, but that's all the more reason to go in. We're the heroes who killed Lassic, right? We're the ones in the best position to deal with whatever this is. And if the Governor's in some kind of trouble, we have to help him."
We all readied our weapons and I unlocked the door.
Behind it was impenetrable blackness. Even the light from my magic lamp revealed nothing. If we wanted to see what was in there, we had no choice but to go further in. I took a few tentative steps
and fell into an endless void. I heard the screams of my companions as they fell in after me, but I couldn't see them. As their screams died down, I heard another noise, like the rushing of wind all around me. Was there wind in this void? Was there even air? I didn't feel like I needed to breathe. Was I even alive any more? Maybe whatever was behind that door had killed me and I hadn't realised it yet.
The demon from my nightmare appeared in front of me. It stared at me with hatred -- no, it was hatred. I could feel it. Its entire body was held together by its desire to ruin, to defile and to destroy all that lived. This was the dark god that Lassic had served.
If I was dead, then this was hell. That didn't seem like a fate I deserved, so I decided I must be alive. And if I was alive, then I'd fight.
I didn't know how I could see anything in this darkness, but I sensed my companions preparing to fight alongside me. A strange sense of calm came over me. I knew there was a force protecting me, a force that this demon's hatred could not overcome. I knew that if we fought, we could win.
Video / Backup
As I tumbled through the void to try and get close enough to strike at the demon with my sword, it opened its mouth and breathed its anger out at us in the form of lightning, striking Odin and Myau with deadly force. I retaliated with my fire magic, leaving a small burn on its gargantuan body. Noah's wind magic tore away pieces from the edges of the demon's smoke-like torso, while Odin drifted close to the demon, held onto its back and swung at it with his axe.
The demon clawed at Odin to try and throw him off, inflicting terrible wounds that even Myau was hard-pressed to heal. Noah and I kept attacking with our magic while I tried to steer myself through the void and get closer to the demon. I finally reached it and drove my sword into its chest, trying to protect Odin by drawing its attention to myself instead. My plan worked: I saw the demon's claw swing toward me and felt an icy cold pain that momentarily obliterated all thought from my mind. I knew my wound was serious, but I kept twisting the blade in its body, hoping to reach whatever vital organs it might have.
The demon, howling in pain and anger, grabbed me in its massive hand and crushed the life out of me. My pain lasted only a few moments.
I watched from somewhere outside my body as the demon threw my mangled corpse out into the void. My companions saw my death too, but desperately fought on. Everyone was badly injured, and Noah and Myau had exhausted almost all their mental reserves: Noah was reduced to launching weak fire magic at the demon, and Myau had done all the healing he could. While Odin kept hacking away at the back of the demon's head, Myau did something neither I nor the demon expected.
He jumped into the demon's mouth and right down its throat.
Seconds later, he burst out of its chest in a tempest of claws, fangs and blue-black demonic ichor. The demon clawed at its wounds and gave a last unearthly, gasping roar before its body lost all cohesion and dissolved into mist.
We'd killed Lassic's dark god and brought peace to Algo.
I was dead, but that didn't matter so much. A hero has to make sacrifices. If the others couldn't retrieve my body, that was okay. I could be with Nero again. I just hoped that Odin, Myau and Noah could find a way out of this place themselves.
Nero... it was Nero's love that I'd felt protecting me when I fought the demon. He wanted me to live, and to do more for the people of Algo. Life was short and precious; once it was over, we'd have all eternity for a reunion.
I was back in my body, healed of all its wounds. I could sense my companions somewhere far above me.
"Goodbye, Nero!" I shouted into the void. "I'll see you again one day."
A moment later, somehow we were all back in the Governor's audience chamber. The Governor was lying on the floor, semi-conscious, with wisps of black smoke still escaping from his body. He rose unsteadily to his feet, then fell back into his throne.
As apologies for turning into a gigantic demon god and killing me went, that was a pretty underwhelming one.
"I've killed Lassic," I told him. "I think he was serving the same demon that possessed you. I hope it's dead for good this time."
"You already know about my father? Have you freed him yet? How is he?"
After a few moments of confusion, I realised that he was talking about my biological father.
"I don't know how to feel about all this," I told the Governor. "King Aures was my father? Why didn't I ever know anything about this? How did I end up living with a normal family in Camineet?"
"Your father died under suspicious circumstances. Lassic, as prime minister, was to rule Algo until you came of age. You were originally sent to live under my care, but I distrusted Lassic even back then, and I feared for your life. I had my most trusted retainer place you with two close friends of his in Camineet, your adoptive parents, with orders to never tell them of your true identity. I'm sorry to place such a burden on you now, but with Lassic's death there is a political vacuum in Algo. I need to know now whether you want to become queen."
I didn't know what to say. Nero wanted me to live so I could fight for peace, but was this what he meant?
I took a few deep breaths and came to my decision.
"Your offer is very kind, but I can't accept it. I'm sure my biological father was a good man, but he's not the man I know as my father. My real father, the father I've known all my life, is imprisoned at Baya Malay. I don't think I have the right to rule Algo, and even if I did I don't think I have the wisdom to do it properly. After what Lassic did, and what just happened to you, I don't think there's any one person with the right or the wisdom to rule Algo. The kind of person who could fairly and justly rule all of Algo would have to be perfect. Someone like that wouldn't be human at all; they'd have to be some kind of machine or something."
The Governor nodded gravely. "Are you sure about this, Alis? I wish I could give you time to think it over, but rumours of Lassic's death are already spreading. There will be blood in the streets if order is not restored by appointing a new leader. If you refuse, I will have to choose someone else immediately."
His words only made the idea of ruling Algo more abhorrent. It was the draconian 'order' Lassic imposed on Algo that led to this state of affairs in the first place. Whoever replaced him could hardly help but be better than Lassic, but that was no great praise. I wanted to be remembered as the killer of a tyrant, not as a tyrant myself.
"I'm sure. I don't want to be queen."
"Thank you. Perhaps I'll visit here again some day."
I honestly didn't expect to ever visit him again, but the least I could do was be courteous. For all his flaws, the Governor was trying his best to do the right thing under difficult circumstances.
I left his mansion, and we returned to Palma on the Luveno.
With Lassic and his dark god gone from this world, there wasn't much to keep the four of us together. We kept in touch, but went our separate ways.
I returned to Camineet. Dad was released from prison and is recovering in the psych ward of Camineet Hospital. I visit him every day. He's not quite back to his old self yet, but he recognises me now and we talk about old times.
Nekise and I are dating now; it's nothing too serious yet, but it's nice to return to a life where my own family and relationships are the biggest things I have to worry about.
Odin wanted to help exterminate the monsters still infesting Algo in the wake of Lassic's misrule, so he took his share of the money we earned on our journey and used it to found a monster hunters' guild. He invited me to join, but I'm not ready to take on that kind of responsibility yet. After all, I think I've done enough already.
Noah went to Dezoris and tried to start up an ice cream shop. Once he realised that selling ice cream to Dezorians was a poor business model, he started up a magic school instead. It's hard to imagine him as a teacher, but I guess he pretty much has to be better than Tajima was.
Myau bought a decommissioned robot cop as a bodyguard (not that he really needed one) and travelled around Algo, campaigning for Musk Cat rights and searching for his family. Even though we've had our differences, I wish him all the best of luck.
Where do I go from here? What new adventures are in store for Alis Landale, heroine of Algo? I'm not sure yet. Maybe one day, once Dad's fully recovered, I'll take up Odin's offer and join the hunters' guild. Somehow, though, a life spent fighting one monster after another just doesn't seem like enough for me.
I feel as if I've already seen everything that Algo has to offer. What I'd really like to do is ride in a huge spaceship outside the Algo system and see if there's any other life out there in the universe.
Maybe one day I'll get my wish.
(Ending credits / Backup)