I flew ahead of Thorn and Big Blue, testing my wings. Thorn had done a good job. It was as if the battle with Durahan had never occurred.
I turned and dove, feeling the wind rush over me, whipping the hair around my face. The ground rapidly rose closer and closer. At the last moment I spread my wings, skimming over the grass. Then I rose, finally alighting on Big Blue’s shoulder.
“Ya have fun?” Thorn asked.
“Hmph.” I turned to Big Blue. “There’s a town up ahead, but it doesn’t seem to be run by humans.”
“So what’s it run by?” Thorn asked. “Metalners? Wubbles?”
“Will you stop it with the Wubbles?!” I snapped. “It seems to be run by Galis.”
“Should we check it out?” Big Blue asked.
I nodded. “Let’s go.”
“Dragons are red
And Tigers are blue
You’re the most beautiful monster in the world
And I’m in love with you!”
The voice suddenly broke out crying. “Oh, what’s the use! Lilim doesn’t even know I exist!”
Naga stopped in his tracks at the sound of Lilim’s name. His serpentine features twisted into a toothy grin. He opened the door the sound was coming from and slithered inside. “Hello, Jaba,” He hissed.
The Bajarl/Joker was so startled that he fled into his pot, slamming the lid shut tight. Naga slid over, picked up the pot, and shook it upside down. Soon the Jaba popped out, dangling upside down from the lip of his pot.
“Oh, Master Naga, it’s you!” Jaba exclaimed. “How may I be of service?”
Naga let go, and the Jaba scrambled to get out of the pot. He wasn’t fast enough, however, and he hit the floor headfirst with the pot falling down over him, trapping him inside. Jaba struggled for a few moments as the pot rocked back and forth, then finally toppled over on its side. Naga waited while he streamed out, grew to his true size, and picked up the pot to hang from his waist.
“Well, Jaba, I was passing in the hall, and I couldn’t help but overhear…” Naga began.
“Forgive me, Master Naga, I know I should be concentrating on other, more important matters. I promise it will never happen again,” Jaba said quickly.
“Oh, there’s no need for that,” Naga said soothingly. “You may do as you please, so long as you don’t go composing love ballads in the middle of battle. You’re in love with Lilim, aren’t you?”
Jaba nodded. “Yes, but she doesn’t even notice me. Why should she? I’m just an ugly Bajarl!” he sobbed, bursting into tears again.
It was true. Purebred Bajarls might be considered cute, and then only when they were small and half in their pots. They lost it the instant they came out and assumed their true size. Jabas didn’t even have that. Their Joker heritage caused their faces to be sickly white with hideous blue-black veins around the edges. Naga’s grin grew broader. Lilim would despise him.
“That’s not true,” Naga said. “Why, I’m surprised the girls don’t go crazy over you.”
Jaba stopped in mid-sob, looking up at Naga with tears in his eyes. “Really?”
Naga nodded solemnly. “In fact, I’m willing to help you with Lilim.”
“Oh, thank you, Master Naga, thank you!”
Naga sniggered softly to himself. If he couldn’t destroy Lilim, maybe he could arrange for her to die of embarrassment…
The Gali village…
It was more like a small city. The buildings, though few, were large and well made. Their walls were pure white, trimmed and patterned with gold leaf, and they were built in a style similar to that of the Ancients. The most magnificent building of all was a huge spire, which expanded into a dome at its peak. It was positioned in the exact center of town. Galis of every sort floated through the streets, and there wasn’t a single human in sight.
“How many steps do ya think it takes to get to the top of that tower?” Thorn asked.
“Oh, be quiet,” I said. I addressed a passing Colorful (Gali/Plant). “What is this place?”
“This is the humble town of Ivory,” replied the Colorful. It looked up at us and recoiled a bit in shock. “You are – you – you must meet with our exalted leader,” it stammered. “Come with me.” It floated off toward the tower.
Big Blue and I exchanged glances. Even though none of the Galis wore Moo’s crest, it was obviously a trap.
“Is it just me, or did that seem a little weird to ya, too?” Thorn asked.
The Colorful stopped and turned when it realized we weren’t following. “Please hurry,” it said.
“I’m afraid we can’t meet with your exalted leader,” I said. “We haven’t the time.”
“But you must,” said the Colorful.
Suddenly a mass of Galis pressed around us, murmuring “You must, you must” over and over. Thorn nervously edged closer to Big Blue.
“I guess we must, huh?” she asked.
I nodded. “Unless we want to fight our way out of here…let’s go.”
Inside the tower…
“1,129…1,130…1,131…1,132…” Thorn counted every single step.
“Will you stop that?!” I snapped.
“But I wanted to find out how many steps it took to get to the top,” she said. “1,141…”
I sighed. As if it wasn’t bad enough that we were being forced to climb this thing. “Can’t you at least count silently?!”
Thorn nodded. “Yes. 1,146…”
“Then why don’t you?!”
“Because I wouldn’t annoy anybody that way. 1,152…”
I sighed again. And we weren’t even halfway there.
“…4,096,” Thorn said triumphantly as we reached the top. “Hey, how come there aren’t any windows? Don’t ya like sunlight?”
The entire room was cloaked in darkness, making it impossible to tell its size. The only light came from the flickering lanterns that illuminated the stairway.
Suddenly a pillar of fire flared in the center of the room, and lanterns spread along the walls lit of their own accord. When the flames dissipated, an Ivory Wall (Monol/Gali) was floating there.
“Leave us,” he commanded the Colorful in a deep, echoing voice. The Gali turned and silently floated down the stairs.
“How do ya do that?” Thorn asked.
“Do what?” asked the Ivory Wall.
“That echoing thing. It’s cool.”
“It makes no difference.”
“Why doesn’t it?”
“It simply does not. Now, there is something I have to show you.” The lanterns winked out one by one, and a section of the wall slid down to cover the stairway. Then the room disappeared, replaced by a sky of midnight blue, filled with stars. Even the floor vanished, giving the eerie expression that we were standing on nothing at all.
I didn’t let myself be distracted for long. I took a moment to glance around the room, then turned my attention back to the Ivory Wall. As I watched, a hairline crack appeared over the Gali symbol embossed on his surface. It spread out like a spider’s web, until the symbol was laced with cracks. I leapt off of Big Blue’s shoulder, ready for a fight.
At that moment the Gali symbol shattered, and a demon came tearing out of the Ivory Wall. It gestured and the illusory sky turned black as pitch, the stars swallowed up by the darkness. The only light was the pale yellow glow of the demon.
The demon chuckled. “Did you really think those stupid Galis could have built all this? Allow me to introduce myself. I am Soboros, Lord of the Demons. This place was built on my power, and mine alone. The Galis are merely my servants.”
“So what does that have to do with us?” I asked.
“The Galis can sense those whose life force is strong,” Soboros replied. “I feed on life force.”
“What is this, threaten to eat us month?” Thorn asked.
Soboros ignored her. “Now you shall see my power!” He gathered himself into a solid ball of energy, then rushed toward us with an earsplitting shriek.
I dodged right, but Soboros turned to follow me. I braced myself, but the impact never came.
Instead the demon streamed right through me, and I felt as though I was being torn apart from the inside. I screamed and collapsed to the floor, still cloaked in endless darkness.
“Master Pixie!” Big Blue shouted. I heard the pounding of his footsteps as he ran across the darkness to me.
“Fool.” The demon’s eyes snapped, and a ball of yellow energy slammed into Big Blue’s chest, knocking him backward. “Now as for you…” Soboros turned and rushed toward me.
I couldn’t move. He was too close; I was too drained from his last attack to even think of dodging. I expected him to go through me again. But he rushed into me, clinging to my soul.
Agony wracked my body, and I screamed in pain. It was as though something inside me was desperate to get out, even if it had to destroy me to do so. I gathered every last shred of my will and focused on driving the demon out.
I heard his laughter echoing in my skull. “Good. Fight me. The more you struggle, the stronger I become!”
“Let go of her!” Thorn shouted. There was a flash of pale green light, and Soboros shrieked in rage as Thorn’s power forced him off of me. He turned angrily to Thorn.
“So, you want to be first, then? Fine. I’ll deal with you, then finish with your friend here.” He gathered himself again and rushed at Thorn.
To my horror, the attack went right through him and hit Thorn instead. She cried out and crumpled to the ground. Soboros halted his charge abruptly and turned back towards me.
“That tickled. My, you certainly are impatient. Perhaps I’ll finish you first after all.”
He began to gather himself for an attack, then Big Blue’s fist slammed through his body. Soboros chuckled. “What have we here? Another volunteer? Are you all so anxious to be destroyed?” He turned his gaze toward Big Blue.
“LIGHTNING!” I shouted in desperation. The attack only went through him again, but he turned away from Big Blue and looked back toward me.
“Pixie!” Thorn shouted, struggling to get to her feet. “He’s energy, just energy! That’s why physical attacks don’t harm him! Use an energy draining attack!”
Soboros gathered himself once more and charged at me, a deadly ray of light against the dark. I hesitated. It was a stupid attack, one I never used, but…I sighed and blew the demon a Kiss.
“What?!” Soboros abruptly came to a halt, his features contorted in agony. “What are you doing?! Stop!”
“After what you tried to do?” I asked in disdain. “I don’t think so.” I blew him another Kiss.
“NOOOOOOO!” Soboros doubled over, beams of purest light shooting out of his body. “How…how can this be? This…this cannot be happening!” There was a blinding flash of light. When it faded, we were no longer in the tower.
We were standing in the center of a large empty square. In front of us stood the Ivory Wall’s Lost Disk. Galis of all kinds were gathered around us, staring at us and whispering amongst themselves. I wearily prepared myself for another fight.
The Colorful from before floated forward. “You have defeated Soboros, and freed us from bondage. Now that the demon is dead his power has faded, and the town of Ivory is no more. We are free to go back to our homes, and for this we are eternally grateful to you.”
“Hmph,” I said. Looks like we didn’t have to fight them after all. I gratefully flew back onto Big Blue’s shoulder. “Let’s go, Blue.”
CLANK! CLANK! CLANK!
Lilim stopped. So did the clanking. She started forward again.
CLANK! CLANK! CLANK!
Lilim whirled around to see a black, jewel-encrusted pot, its lid just settling down on top of it. Lilim rolled her eyes. If Naga insisted on trying to destroy her, he could at least do better than some idiot Bajarl. Well, best to get this over with…
Lilim smirked and picked up the pot, then hurled it out the nearest window. She watched as it clattered down the face of the cliff the lair was built upon, then turned and continued walking. So much for Naga’s latest scheme.
Jaba lay at the bottom of the cliff a little ways from his pot, bruised and with spirals in his eyes. “I think she likes me…”