Part 5: Noah
Chapter 5: Noah
"Alis! Help me!"
Odin's shout woke me instantly. I grabbed my sword from my bedside and ran into his room.
In the faint moonlight streaming into the room I could make out a huge demonic face, eyes glowing with hatred. Its body was indistinct and blended into the shadows. Odin was firing his needlegun at the demon to no apparent effect, while Myau had been caught unprepared and was fighting with his bare fangs and claws.
Myau leapt at the demon, but an invisible force stopped him in midair and held him fast as he struggled to break free. I ran toward Myau to help him only to see his body dashed violently against the ground, the impact snapping his neck.
I swung my sword wildly at the demon's head, but felt it knocked out of my hand before I could connect. I saw my sword flung across the room and ran to retrieve it, praying that Odin could distract the demon on his own for long enough.
My hopes were shattered when Odin stopped firing. He just stood there, staring into the demon's eyes. As his gun dropped to the floor, I saw a wound open in his chest. Blood poured out and he sank to his knees, then collapsed, lifeless.
It was like watching Nero's death all over again, and I was just as helpless as I'd been back then. Everything I'd learned about combat meant nothing when it mattered most. Fighting back the urge to scream, I reached for my sword, but it eluded my grasp again as I was knocked flat on my back.
The demon was on top of me now, close enough that I could feel its hot breath on my face. It stank of rotting flesh and it was all I could do to keep from vomiting. I struggled, tried to kick out, scratch, bite, but my wrists and ankles were held firmly against the floor. I felt a great weight bearing down on my body--
I woke up screaming. Was I really awake this time, or was this just the start of another nightmare? Odin and Myau ran into my room -- it calmed me down a little to see that they were alive again, at least for now.
"You had a bad dream," Odin said. It wasn't a question.
I looked up at Odin's concerned face. "Did you...?"
"Yeah, I had one too. I saw a demon attacking you. I tried to fight it, but then it looked into my eyes and my body started to turn to stone. All I could do was watch as it killed you and Myau."
Myau nodded. "And I dreamt that it cut my body open while I was still alive. I could see it taking out my organs and laying them on a table, like I was some kind of lab animal. When you two saw the demon, you ran away and abandoned me."
"Nothing special happened in my dream," I said. "It just killed us all." I felt a little guilty about keeping things from the people who were supposed to be my friends and allies, but right now I just wanted to forget all about it. Thinking about it raised too many questions. Why did we all have such similar dreams on the same night? Was this Lassic's doing? If not even our minds were safe from Lassic, how could we possibly oppose him and survive?
Odin looked at me doubtfully. "Well, if you ever want to talk about it..."
"I'll be fine," I said a little too abruptly as I got out of bed. "We should go and find Noah."
The desert sun was scorching, and the wind blew sand everywhere, stinging my eyes and wearing away the skin on my feet. The harsh conditions didn't seem to discourage monsters; like Palma, Motavia was infested with its own varieties of giant scorpion.
As we stopped by the seashore to take a short break, giant shellfish rolled out of the ocean and started spraying poison at us. We drove our weapons through the gaps in their shells and into their soft bodies when they attacked, until they finally stopped moving.
The shellfish were soon followed by some kind of giant mutated crustacean. Myau used his magic to terrify it, weakening its resolve to fight while Odin and I carved it up.
As we continued north toward the mountains, we met a group of the native Motavians who somehow eked out an existence farming these barren lands. Many of them once lived in towns and villages, but Lassic had banned Motavians from forming organised groups for fear that they would raise an army and attack Paseo. Then, once the Motavians were forced out of their towns, Palman immigrants moved in. It was ethnic cleansing, plain and simple, but everyone was too afraid for their own lives to complain.
Many Motavians had resorted to banditry to survive, but these ones were friendly enough (and I could hardly blame them for carrying weapons). They asked us if we could spare any Laerma nuts. When I told them I didn't even know what those were, they just walked away, looking downcast.
Suddenly, the sand beneath us shifted and we realised we were falling into an ant lion trap! The creature's hard carapace was difficult to pierce with our weapons, and the shifting sand made it hard for us to manouevre in combat. We eventually killed the beast, scrambled out of the trap and moved on, watching our step more carefully.
We continued through the desert for another hour before we saw a sandworm approaching. From a distance it looked comical, like a giant stuffed olive half-buried in the sand.
When it attacked, we didn't find it so funny any more. Fortunately, its hide provided little resistance to our weapons, and we killed it quickly before it could inflict too much damage.
We followed a long, winding trail up into the mountains. The Motavians we met in the mountains were more heavily armed and aggressive than those in the lowlands, but when they saw our weapons and armour they were willing to talk rather than fight.
Unfortunately, they didn't tell us anything we hadn't already figured out for ourselves.
The sandworms grew bigger and meaner too, but their fleshy bodies were vulnerable to my newly-learned fire magic.
The desert didn't get any more comfortable as we spent more time in it; my face was sunburnt and my feet were covered in blisters. My companions were holding up better than I was; Odin had been travelling the world for much longer than I had and had already built up a deep tan and calluses on his feet, while Myau was protected by his fur. Myau was frustrated by my slow pace, but Odin was understanding and let me rest for a little while whenever we found a rocky outcropping to provide shade. After a long, hard walk, we finally made it to the cave where Noah was supposed to be.
Compared to the unrelenting heat of the desert, exploring a monster-infested cave was almost relaxing. Odin and I took the time to shake the sand out of our shoes at the entrance.
A red variety of slime inhabited the cave. These slimes were extremely sticky, and we wasted a lot of time pulling our weapons or limbs free from them during combat.
The cave was full of dead ends and passages that went around in circles, but eventually we came to a door set in the cave wall. We opened it, and in the room beyond we found a man dressed in robes. Strange... didn't the Governor say Noah was a woman? But who else would be living down here?
Whoever he was, he didn't want to talk to us. I lowered my weapon and took a couple of steps toward him. "Please, I just wanted to ask a few questions."
Noah shrank away from me, as if my presence was making him nervous. "Okay, I guess it's alright, but only for a little while. It's my lunchtime in 21 minutes."
"Are you Noah?" I asked. "The Governor said she was a woman."
Noah shook his head vigorously. "No, no, I'm Noah, but I'm definitely a man. Wanna see?" He reached for the clasp of his belt.
I backed away slowly, holding out my open palm in front of my face. "That... won't be necessary. I believe you."
Noah lowered his head sadly. "Sorry. Did I say something wrong? I, uh... I'm not good with people. I've been alone here for a long time."
"Are you sure we want this guy tagging along with us?" Myau whispered.
"You may have a point," I whispered back, "but we need all the help we can get, even from weirdoes."
I turned to Myau and Odin with a broad smile on my face. "Guess we're heading back to Palma then, guys. I can't wait to get off this planet."