Tartu walked steadily across the Sandstone Desert. It was almost twilight, and already the sun-heated sands had begun to cool down. As he walked, he scanned the darkening sky for some sign of the Elder Dragon he was anticipating. Any day now, he thought, almost giddy with excitement. Renalimas will appear, and I will use its immense power for my own purposes. A new spring in his step, Tartu continued across the sandy terrain.
For some reason, he was reminded of the group he had met in the Murky Bog not too long ago. Fire, Water, Thunder, Ice, and Dragon, he chuckled to himself. Most likely, they will try to stop me when I initiate my plan. Bad choice on their part. He started to think deeply about the five of them, most of all Mylie. For a reason that eluded him, he found her quite fascinating.
He stopped to sharpen his Sword and Shield, a thin blade accompanied by an equally thin, but sturdy, shield. It was made from Thondriun parts. As he bent down and reached for a Whetstone in his item pouch, he heard a guttural roar from somewhere in the distance. Tartu checked the horizon and saw that the sun was almost completely down. That would mean... he thought, keeping even his thoughts to a whisper. Then a tiny smile crept across his face. Oh no. Not now.
A scream punctured the otherwise still silence. The roar came again, this time rising to a screech that blasted through Tartu's mind. He winced at the pain, then started to run. Someone's in trouble, he realized. Ordinarily, I wouldn't care... But I have a bad feeling about this.
Mylie walked through the caverns in the Desert Ravine. Her friends had come back to Canyon Village, soaked and exhausted. Elric, who came over to take over the smithy once again, had told her everything that had happened - the Lumidusa, the brief but epic battle that had ensued, and Taka saving Elric's sister's life. Then, Mylie had decided to go on a little walk through the Desert Ravine.
Eventually, she began to wistfully think of Mediatas Village. She was homesick, and had been for a few days. Mylie wondered when Vulcan would return to take them back to the Central World.
Then, she began to dwell on something that had bothered her for a whole year - her inability to talk to and understand the monsters. Why can't I understand? she asked herself as she had done before many times. Everyone else claims that it came naturally... So why doesn't it come to me in the same way?
She was jealous of everyone else, that was for sure. She was the first one to admit that - she didn't hide her feelings like some other people. But she also knew that she shouldn't become envious of her friends, or else they wouldn't be her friends anymore. Troubled, Mylie headed for a dim light in the otherwise dark cave, knowing that it led into the Sandstone Desert.
"Mylie!" called a voice from behind her. Mylie turned and saw Tenris approaching. "Tenris!" she exclaimed. "What are you doing here?"
Trying to catch her breath, Tenris said, "I saw... you were going... into the... Ravine. I remembered... I have a... request... for you." Mylie cocked her head and gestured for her to go on.
"I need Cactus Flowers," explained Tenris. "They're used here in various medicenes, and, well, Canyon Village is all out. Could you go into the desert and get some?"
Mylie grinned and nodded. "Of course!" she replied, and Tenris looked relieved. "Thank goodness! I was beginning to think that no-one would take my request!" She paused and continued. "I know a great place to find Cactus Flowers - just head north from the exit just up ahead of you. Near the oasis, there's a huge cactus patch where you can gather as many as you can."
With a short good-bye, both girls once again went their separate ways. Mylie resumed walking, headed for the exit in the near distance.
She didn't notice the monster that stirred in its sleep as she passed by. She didn't even notice when it yawned and cast its echoes around, looking for the disturbance. And she didn't notice as the unknown creature began to crawl after her, following the sound of Mylie's footsteps.
Mylie got up and stretched her aching back. She had been gathering Cactus Flowers for the past twenty minutes, and, needless to say, she needed some rest. She looked up at the sky - twilight was approaching. Already, the temperature had started to drop, and she could feel her ingested Cool Drink working against her. Shivering, she got out one of her Hot Drinks.
Swallowing part of it, Mylie immediately felt better. She glanced at the patch of cacti, which still sported tons of flowers. I guess as long as I'm here, I'll gather more, she thought. Then Tenris or her brother won't run out for a while longer. That decided, she crouched down to resume picking the vibrant, pink flowers.
Finally, Mylie's item pouch was full, and she couldn't carry any more Cactus Flowers. "OK then," she said to herself. "Time to get these to Canyon Village -"
A shadow suddenly passed over the ground, cutting off her speech. Mylie looked up instinctively, but didn't see anything. Shrugging, but reaching for her Agnablaster just in case, she continued onwards, back towards the Desert Ravine.She didn't see anything else suspicious until she saw the Ravine on the horizon. Then, her ears picked up a faint noise. If there had been any other noise in the background, Mylie wouldn't have heard it. It sounded suspiciously like a screech, and was getting louder and louder, as if... As if something were closing in on her.
Whirling around, Mylie's eyes widened - a huge, bat-like monster was flying close to the ground at an impossible speed, headed right for her! Diving out of the way, she hit the ground hard and heard the beast land clumsily on its feet.
As Mylie got up, its horrible head swung her way. She now saw that dense fur covered its face, rendering it completely blind. Its massive ears twitched constantly as it detected her footsteps crunching on the sand.
It gave a loud, growling roar that sounded nothing like what she was expecting. The beast lunged, jaws wide open, wings flapping madly. Mylie screamed at the sudden attack and dodged. Its razor-sharp teeth missed by a hair.Mylie already had Pierce Shots loaded in her Agnablaster, so she reached for the firing mechanism and blasted away without mercy. The sharp-edged ammo repeatedly slashed the monster's side, and it didn't bode well to the pain. Aiming in the direction of the noise and pain, it gave a mind-ripping screech that was shot out of its mouth like a projectile.
If it had hit Mylie, the sheer sound would have stunned her badly, allowing the mysterious beast to finish her. However, it missed, but it bounced off of a nearby boulder and headed for her again.
Noticing the blast too late, Mylie braced herself - and the echo exploded in a burst of sound as it hit the shield that had appeared out of nowhere. "Tartu!" she gasped.
"Beware!" he shouted over the monster's frustrated growls. "The Necrocula's sonics cause echoes!" The monster, apparently called a Necrocula, heard Tartu's voice and seemed to recognize it. It growled in annoyance and leapt into the air, planning to crush him with its bulk.
Tartu quickly avoided it, and the Necrocula landed with a crash, throwing up a huge cloud of sand. Undeterred by the obscuring cloud, it shot three more echo blasts in the direction of his footsteps. He blocked all three, but the effort drained his stamina, causing him to become exhausted.
Before the Necrocula could end his life right then and there, Mylie sprang to his defence, pelting it with more Pierce Shots. The sudden, stinging impacts caused the Necrocula to slip right as it lunged, sending it face-first into the sand. It got up surprisingly quickly, and, looking around wildly, rose into the air and spat another three echoes at the ground, which all threw up massive curtains of sand. Mylie and Tartu were blinded, but unlike the Necrocula, they didn't have echolocation to help them see.
The bat plunged down from the sky, ready to finish them off in one fell swoop. Blind and desperate, Tartu threw a Sonic Bomb, which exploded with a deafening sonic tone. The Necrocula shrieked in pain and plummeted, landing on its back and flailing around in a panicked manner. Tartu ran to finish it off, but its wing claw caught him and tore through the sleeve of his Nargacuga armor. With a gasp of pain, he was flung to the ground.
Getting up cautiously and shaking its head in order to clear the noise that was still ringing in its ears, the Necrocula flapped into the air and dove, throwing out its talons and snagging Tartu in them. He yelled in fear as he noticed the creature's salivating jaws just above him.
The Necrocula's jaws rushed toward him, and he closed his eyes, waiting for the end - and nothing happened. He heard a dull thud, and he opened his eyes. Tartu flinched at the sight of its jaws, mere inches from his face. The Necrocula was so close he could see the saliva glistening on its fangs.
It seemed as if the monster was frozen. Then, with a squeak, it fell, unconscious, onto the sandy earth with one final impact.
Mylie caught her breath, holding her Agnablaster like a mace. She had used the blunt end of it to whack the Necrocula in the head, stunning it into unconsciousness. Putting it away, she looked up in time to witness Tartu getting up and sheathing his sword.
"You saved me, Ice," he said in wonder. She gave him a dismissive shrug. "You saved me from the monster's blast," Mylie said simply. "I was only returning the favor." Tartu simply stared at her.
"How did that Sonic Bomb affect it that way?" Mylie asked, genuinely curious. "I've never seen any monster act that way, no matter how big their ears were." Tartu looked at the motionless Necrocula and sniffed. "Necrocula constantly sing out sonic pulses in order to navigate their surroundings," he explained. "When I threw that Sonic Bomb, the sound waves interfered with its echoes and caused it to become disoriented."
Now it was Mylie's turn to stare at him. Their eyes met for a second, and she felt... weird. It was almost as if her heart was fluttering. She hadn't felt anything like that since her beloved Hornt had died in the Arena Terra a year ago.
"How's your arm?" she asked, concerned by the way Tartu's arm hung limply, streaked with blood. "It's fine," he murmured. "But I have something to ask of you, Ice..." Before he could continue, Mylie interrupted, "Is it OK if you just call me Mylie? I'm a little uncomfortable at being called 'Ice'."
Nodding in recognition, Tartu pressed on. "You have great potential, I - Mylie. You can control one of the five elements. But you need practice." He paused to let this sink in. He then said, "I can help you learn how to control it, if you'd like - but I need you to help me in return. I need you to help me with my plan."
Mylie considered. What Tartu was offering was a chance to do something the others couldn't do. As she had noted before, she was clearly envious of the way the others could talk to monsters. Now, she'd be able to use a talent that she was sure her friends couldn't master. And helping Tartu for a little bit couldn't be a bad thing, could it?
"All right then," she said with a smile. "I'll help." Tartu smiled back, with a combination of relief and happiness. "Thanks, Mylie," he replied. "There's no way I could succeed without your help."
The sun had now completely set, and stars were breaking out all over. "There's nothing quite like the Sandstone Desert at night," Tartu commented wistfully. Mylie shivered and took another gulp of Hot Drink. Temperatures change too quickly in the desert, she thought.
Suddenly, with a huge shriek, the sleeping Necrocula woke up. Tartu drew his weapon, and Mylie instinctively grabbed his arm in fear. Giving them a dismissive glance, the Necrocula growled deep in its throat and flapped off, toward the Desert Ravine.
Breathing a sigh of relief, Mylie loosened her grip on Tartu's arm as he sheathed his sword. He smiled slightly at her, making her blush and look away. "Come on," he said quietly. "We have preparations to make. The Renalimas will soon appear, and we must be ready." Strangely, the name of the Elder Dragon no longer unnerved Mylie. Instead, it made her feel at peace, as if she knew that it would be the answer to all of her problems.
Tartu silently led Mylie toward their next destination. They held hands the entire way.
To be Continued...