The Hero of Algol by Bad Hair Man

Chapter 4: The Second Sidekick

**** Interview with Odin - excerpt. AW 344, Nov. 10 ****

Interviewer: What made you decide to become a hero?

Odin: Well, it was an idea that had been kicking around in my head for a while. My father had been a soldier, but lost his job when Lassic started replacing his regular forces with robots. Dad thought it was a very bad sign when good men in the service got replaced by absolutely loyal, soulless, conscienceless machines. And not just because he lost his income, he hated the idea on principle. Said it would lead to tyranny. I really looked up to the old man and wanted to follow in his footsteps, but by the time I was an adult both the military and police forces had been replaced almost entirely by robotcops.

Interviewer: So you decided to become a Hunter instead?

Odin: It was pretty much the only option left for a guy of my stature who wanted to use the strength God gave him to do some good in the world. I come from a long line of big guys who saw it as their mission to help keep the world safe for everyone else. Hunting monsters and the occasional bandit was how I planned to live up to that legacy.

Interviewer: Most Hunters don't become globe-trotting heroes though. What made you decide to take that extra step?

Odin: Arrogance. Ambition. Pride. Vanity. I had a desire not just to do good in the world, but to become renowned for doing good. I wasn't the first person to call me a hero. I was something of a local celebrity already when I decided to take on the name 'Odin'. I could swing an axe like nobody else, and I had the guts to take on the jobs that no one else was dumb enough to risk their necks on. I had the luck to scrape through with my hide intact most of the time, and the charisma to tell a mean story about my triumphs afterwards.

Interviewer: You're... not painting a very flattering picture of yourself.

Odin: I was an egotistical, idealistic glory-hound with more balls than brains and I was God-damned lucky to have met Myau before I met Medusa.

Interviewer: ...

Odin: They say that whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger. That's not entirely true. Surviving my month as a statue nearly crippled me physically, but my near brush with death did at least make me smarter.

Interviewer: Did it ever make you think about giving up a career as dangerous as 'hero'?

Odin: Not for a second. ... Well, maybe for a couple of seconds, but Myau was so in love with the idea of me as the hero of Algol, and Alis was so... earnest in her hope that I would be the hero that Algol needed, I just couldn't bear to disappoint them, or myself... at least not right away. My run-in with Medusa deflated my ego, but it didn't remove it entirely!

**** end excerpt ****

AW 342, July 8 (day 32)

Midday entry:

Okay, there's finally been a lull and I'm suddenly home alone with nothing I need to prepare for or do (except for a bunch of neglected house-work that's piled up in my absence). Since I didn't really write a proper journal entry for yesterday, I guess I'll do that now.

Getting up in the morning was easier than I'd expected thanks to that stupid nightmare happening again. Nothing like a giant jolt of adrenaline to get your day off to an uncomfortably fraught start. And though I woke up just fine, I could feel that I was running on only five hours of sleep for the entire exhausting rest of the day. ... Ugh... not fun.

Just like we'd planned, Myau and I set off for Medusa's cave bright and early and got to spend the crisp morning walking across fields and skirting forests and fending off the occasional aggressive clutch of sworm flies or scorpions. I learned that Myau is pretty ferocious in a fight. A Musk Cat's teeth and claws are not things I'd want to be on the wrong end of.

Upon reaching Medusa's cave we found a place outside for me to hide and wait while Myau snuck in to try to scout out whether Medusa was at home or not. Thanks to his small size and soft feet Myau makes a pretty good skulker apparently. He didn't make me wait long. Sooner than I was expecting, Myau was back and reporting that the cave was swarming with slimes and wingeyes, monsters that I'd had to deal with on my last visit, but which Myau said he and Odin had not. We decided that it probably meant that Medusa had abandoned this lair and moved on. Hopefully to somewhere far away.

We went into the cave and I discovered that the aggressively mobile green blobs of goo and the creepy flying eyeballs (green slimes and wingeyes) were substantially more numerous than the last time I'd been there. So much so that I was very glad to have Myau's assistance fighting them off.

We did have a contingency plan in case Medusa turned out to be less absent than we were guessing: Run. Run away. Run far, run fast. Myau said that if I happened to get turned into stone he would come back and try to rescue me too. It was a little reassuring at the time, but in retrospect, since the bottle of Alshline only contained enough potion to de-petrify a single person, I'm not sure if he would have been able to keep that promise, assuming he prioritizes Odin's welfare above mine (which I'm pretty sure he does).

At any rate, we fought our way back to where we'd both left Odin, and once we'd beaten the wingeyes back enough to give us some breathing room, Myau gave me the Alshline. We were both pretty nervous at that point, wondering if the remedy would actually work, wondering what the proper way to apply a potion to a statue was, and how much of it we would need to use. It turns out that the Alshline vanished into the stone almost as soon as it touched it. A couple of drops wasn't enough to turn Odin back to flesh and blood, nor were a few more, or a quarter of the bottle, or half the bottle, so I eventually ended up pouring the whole thing onto him.

Finally that worked, and I got to watch the most heart-warming reunion I've ever seen. Odin at first just looked stunned and puzzled, but Myau jumped up onto his shoulder nuzzling the big guy's face, hugging him around the neck, and making a sound that I'm guessing was a Musk Cat's version of laughing and/or crying.

When I finally got a chance to ask Odin to join the Camineet resistance and help try to overthrow Lassic, he agreed to at least come back to the city with me and talk to some of Nero's old compatriots, though he wouldn't promise anything more than that.

Then he finally revealed that the Alshline had been only an imperfect cure, and that he was feeling extremely stiff still and in quite a bit of pain! Myau and I both told him that he should have said something sooner. I cast Heal on him a couple of times, he said the first spell helped noticeably, but the second one didn't. So whatever's still wrong with him is something my simple magic can't fix.

Going back to town like that was a trial. Odin could walk, but not very fast (and there's no way either Myau or I could have carried him). And he tried to help Myau and I deal with the monsters that kept accosting us, but he was so slow as to be useless as anything other than a third target for the monsters' ire (and neither Myau nor I were happy about him playing that role on the occasions when we couldn't prevent it).

The fastest pace Odin could manage didn't get us back into Camineet until well after dark. We went to a hospital to get Odin looked at, and I was so physically, magically, and mentally exhausted by that point that Myau sent me home before I conked out in the waiting room. I slept pretty well, but I'm still sore all over from all the fighting yesterday. I think I may have doubled or tripled my previous record of total monsters killed in one day.

Anyway, Odin and Myau showed up on my doorstep this morning. Odin's looking and feeling a lot better, though he's still apparently far from fully recovered. I took the two of them to meet the only one of Nero's old resistance buddies that I know how to get in contact with, and left them to discuss things. I didn't stay because I've already decided I don't want to get involved in this cause. I think their hearts may be in the right place, but their cause is just too hopeless for my taste. Plus, the wingnut fringe that they harbor really doesn't speak well of their credibility.

Whatever Odin decides, I'm done with my part. I've (finally!) completed the task Nero set for me. I'm relieved... I guess. I don't know, it just feels really anti-climactic is all. I didn't even get to see whether or not Odin was as great as Myau had described, what with his mobility issues after being stoned for so long.

I'm feeling really depressed right now. And I'm suddenly recalling a flash from my nightmare. Perseus is glaring at me. Why? What did I do wrong?

AW 342, July 8 (day 32)

Evening entry:

Went shopping today. I'm going to need to see if I can work as a Hunter here in Camineet (or Parolit) like I did in Scion. I'm almost out of money since I gave back most of what remained of Odin's wad of cash yesterday. I also did a few chores and spent some time at Suelo's.

Suelo wants me to introduce her to Odin (it seems she's heard of him and is impressed that I helped rescue someone semi-famous). We also talked about me going back to school part-time. I really didn't want to have to drop out, and now that my legal troubles are (hopefully) behind me, I need to try to get my life back on track. Hunting, obviously, isn't a career that requires a diploma or an advanced degree, but I'm not sure that that's what I want to keep doing in the long term. I definitely want to go to college some day, and maybe study applied magic, or science.

Nero, your path is not my path any longer, but I hope I will continue to make you proud of me.

Goodnight.

AW 342, July 9 (day 33)

It's harder to make money hunting near Camineet than it was around Scion. Because of all the robotcops guarding the district, you have to go farther afield to find any monsters, and the sworm and scorpion populations near here just aren't as dense (and there are no maneaters at all). I spent a lot of today learning that.

I also went to church today. It was pretty quiet this afternoon, and I spent a lot of time there just... detoxing, trying to let go of the rest of the world. Nero never had much respect for religion. He said that faith was intellectual cowardice, and that the church as an institution cared more about requiring obedience than teaching people to think for themselves. Nero hated "obedience". He said it meant doing what you were told, even when you knew it was wrong.

Maybe there's some truth in that, I don't know. I just really like the ambiance of a church. I like the lighting, the space, and the feeling of quiet reverence that pervades all of the architecture. Sitting peacefully in a tranquil church is the one place I feel as though I can relax enough to let my spirit drift free from my body and rise up and out of my troubled life. If I relax hard enough there (uh... bad phrasing, oh well) I feel like I can almost touch the face of God. Almost.

I guess I felt like I needed that a lot today. Tomorrow... tomorrow will be tomorrow. I will work to make it a good day too. Goodnight, and God bless.

AW 342, July 10 (day 34)

Everything I did today might be for nothing. I went and talked to some administrators at school, I talked to my landlord about my recent absences, I went to the Camineet Hunters' Guild and looked into getting licensed locally (as Ashley of course), and then Odin and Myau showed up and asked me to put my whole life on hold again and travel with them some more. I haven't figured out what my answer is yet.

It seems Odin's still not in great shape. He and Myau think he's fit enough to fight, but at nowhere near his previous level. Apparently they were both really impressed with my abilities (Myau especially) and want me to rejoin them temporarily as their traveling companion.

I wanted to say no. I also wanted to say yes. So I said I needed to think about it and invited them over to Suelo's; she's always happy to get to play hostess. Suelo was excited to meet the 'great hero', and Odin also was very friendly. Maybe a little bit too friendly. I have never seen such shameless flirting in my life (though if Suelo hadn't kept encouraging him I think he might not have been so brazen).

Suelo asked Odin a lot of questions about himself, but mostly he and Myau wanted to talk about me! They kept lobbing compliments about me to Suelo that were only just shy of outright exaggerations. Since I'm not a very boastful person, a lot of what they said surprised and impressed Suelo, and I was really embarrassed by it (and... well... really flattered too, to be honest). I tried to deflect them by explaining that most of what I know about fighting I learned from Nero, and almost everything I know about magic I learned from Suelo, and that worked for a bit, though Odin used it as a reason to hit on Suelo some more.

All in all a... disconcerting day. I have until tomorrow morning to make my decision. I think... I think that I'll probably go with them. What do you think, Nero? Is this a bad idea or a good one?

Sleeping on it should help. Goodnight.

AW 342, July 11 (day 35)

Wow, what a day. Because of some trouble we encountered on the road, we couldn't make it all the way back to Camineet before nightfall, so we're sleeping in Scion tonight. Feels kind of fitting to be back here, now that I'm out adventuring again. I hadn't realized just how much this grimy seaside community had grown on me. It isn't home, and it's wetter and danker and more salty than Camineet, but when I couldn't go home, Scion took me in and made me at least feel welcome and far from alone in my dismal new life. I'll never forget this place for that.

Anyway, I accepted Myau and Odin's request, obviously. Odin apparently agreed to work with the Camineet resistance on a provisional basis. His fame would be a liability in Camineet itself, at least for now, since famous and influential dissidents tend to end up like Nero, or else they just quietly vanish. So, being renowned for his strength as a warrior, Odin has agreed to do some fieldwork for the resistance rather than rallying people closer to home. Our first assignment was to drive out the peninsula to Waizz Hill and investigate the rumors of a recent flurry of increased security activity around the Great Castle.

Odin's new friends lent us a car and we left bright and early this morning. The drive was actually very beautiful. Even though there's very little traffic on it anymore, the highway between Camineet and the Great Castle is one of the few that's still well maintained. We didn't have any trouble at all getting out there. Odin even let me learn how to drive for a little while, but I think I prefer being a passenger, it's much less nerve-wracking.

The peninsula highway took us by some lush forests and gleaming white sandy beaches. I've seen plenty of old movies where people go to the beach to play or party, or for romantic picnics or the like, and Odin said that his family vacationed at the ocean a few times when he was young. He said it really was as fun as the old movies make it out to be, especially for a kid. Odin's almost twice as old as me though. I've never been to the beach. And as idyllic and beautiful as the ones we drove past today looked, we didn't stop to explore any of them. Being gang-raped by fishmen or dragged down to a watery grave by a horror from the deep wasn't on today's itinerary.

We eventually got to the security perimeter around Waizz Hill, we could only just barely see the Great Castle from there, but it still looked incredible. I really wish we could have visited it. Odin and Myau both said that the number of robotcops guarding the perimeter was definitely higher than it had been the last time they were there. Our mission as a whole though was a failure I think, since we weren't able to learn why security had been increased. All we did was confirm what we had already heard. All the robotcops told us was that we should leave. Myau said he might have been able to sneak in and try to spy on what was going on inside and then sneak back out, but he and Odin both said the risk/reward ratio of that plan wasn't anywhere near worthwhile. So we left.

On the way back home we had to stop for some deadtrees lying across the road. Not dead trees, deadtrees. Which actually are dead trees now that I think about it, malevolent undead trees. We couldn't drive around them, so we backed off a ways, and got out of the car to drive-off or kill them. Kind of nasty creatures, but with all three of us working together it wasn't too hard a fight. Of course, then we had dead deadtrees lying across the road to deal with. And as we were dragging them off, that, of course, is when the goldlenses and owl bears attacked. *angry face* And then we were attacked by sworm flies a bit later when we had to stop to refuel the car.

-sigh- It was kind of a rough afternoon. Odin can put up a decent fight now, but he's still not as effective in combat as either Myau or me. He seemed kind of embarrassed about that, but that's why he and Myau brought me along in the first place, so it's not like it wasn't expected or anything.

Anyway, we made it into Scion just after dusk. Odin says trying to drive the rest of the way to Camineet at night isn't worth the risk. So now I'm going to bed while he and Myau are out carousing or something. We got decent money selling the goldlens bodies at least.

I don't even know what we're doing tomorrow. I thought we were supposed to go back to Camineet, but I heard Odin and Myau discussing taking a 'detour'. -sigh- Whatever...

Goodnight.

AW 342, July 12 (day 36)

'Detour' my foot. Odin managed to get a phone connection through to Camineet somehow and reported on what we learned (or failed to learn) at the Great Castle. Then he and Myau and I took a much less well maintained road south. It seems he and Myau were eager to complete some unfinished business they had in Eppi that had been too-long delayed thanks to Medusa.

Eppi is where we are now, but it was none too fun getting here. The forest around Eppi is dense and wild. Eventually the road became so overgrown that we had to leave the car and continue on foot. This forest is thick with wingeyes, but they're really more of a nuisance than a problem for the alert adventurer. Werebats, on the other hand, are a problem. We only encountered one (thank God) but it was easily the strongest and sturdiest monster I've ever met. I was very glad to have Odin and Myau at my side in that fight, and I think they were glad to have me there too.

Anyway, after fighting through more wingeyes and overgrowth we eventually made it into the walled-in town of Eppi. It's in the center of a clearing and the townspeople must be constantly battling to keep the forest and its denizens at bay. This place is so cut off from the rest of the world that it has a sort of post-apocalyptic last-town-at-the-end-of-the-world feel to it. Well, okay not entirely, but the people tend to be dirty but determined, and their outer defenses have a mismatched, haphazardly jury-rigged look to their construction.

Odin's fame is also greater here than I've seen it anywhere else. These people love him, and were practically throwing a party for us the instant we arrived. There's also not a robotcop to be seen, and the people here are willing to openly say things about King Lassic that no-one in Camineet or even Scion would dare risk. And then there's the contraband, the unfinished business that brought us here was the receipt of an illegal needle gun from one of Eppi's resident smugglers. Odin was very glad to get his hands on that, it should be much easier than his axe for him to use effectively in his present condition.

There is of course, the matter of payment. That gun isn't cheap, but the Eppians don't want Odin's money. What they want is his help. The town defenders can handle the local wingeyes easily enough, but the werebats in the forest are a problem. A problem they really want our help with. The mayor went so far as to have the local armorer look over my gear and then shove an expensive (and very fine) titanium sword into my hands as a "thank you gift" for the help we're going to provide them tomorrow.

There's no way of course, that Odin or Myau would have said 'no' to these people's plea even if they couldn't have afforded to pay us anything. And I was pretty moved by the trust they showed in us by paying for the job entirely in advance. Maybe this is part of what it means to be a hero, rather than just a Hunter.

The excitement and joy of these people at our arrival, it still feels overwhelming to me. But we have a big day ahead of us. Our new weapons should help, but I'm still getting butterflies contemplating our next run-in with one (or more?!) werebats.

Watch over and protect us, Nero. And watch over these kind people as well. Goodnight.

AW 342, July 13 (day 37)

Wow. And I thought the party they threw for us last-night was extravagant. They really went all-out this time. There was a lot of drinking. A couple of guys (and one girl only a little bit older than me) even asked me if I wanted some "companionship" tonight. They weren't all quite that explicit, and I didn't understand what they meant until the girl pointed out what was going on with Odin at that point. He had a woman on either arm and several more clustered around him, vying for attention. Vying to be the one (or more?!) that he would take to bed tonight. Odin seemed both comfortable and happy to be in such a position, which seems so strange to me. I'm getting ahead of myself though; I should start at the beginning.

Werebats. There was a nest of werebats near town that was a menace. The people of Eppi had tried to take care of this problem themselves, but several had died trying, and the problem remained. After our encounter with one werebat yesterday, I could understand why. After our encounter yesterday, I was very uncomfortable with the idea of taking on more than one at a time. Odin was reassuring though. We talked tactics and he gave me some tips on both mental discipline and sword technique. He also pointed out that I was better armed now than I had been before. Not just with a new blade, but with experience. Having fought one werebat already, the next one wouldn't be as hard.

It turns out Odin knew what he was talking about. Myau is an expert tracker, and he took us to not just the one nest we'd been told about, but another one that the Eppians weren't even aware of, and we ended up bagging five werebats today. Exhausting and brutal work, but worth it.

The Eppians were ecstatic. Turns out they have a number of valuable uses for werebat carcasses, in addition to just wanting the menace removed. So they threw another party for us. Alcohol was flowing freely, but I didn't feel the need to have any. (I don't actually like it much, plus, the exuberant mood was infectious enough as it was.) There weren't enough of Odin, Myau, and me to go around, so we were all continuously mobbed by grateful townsfolk, and thus I didn't see much of either of them after the party started.

Women, apparently, were throwing themselves at Odin (and he seemed happy enough to catch them). When I realized that something similar had been happening to me, but that I had been too naive to notice, I think I blushed about as hard as I've ever blushed in my life. The girl who had been hitting on me at the time apologized profusely though, and then helped to defend me against any additional unwanted attention.

For the sake of my own mental purity, I'm going to imagine that -- just like me -- Odin is now getting ready to go to bed and get a good night's sleep, alone in the cottage the Eppians have lent him. Yes, I'm sure that's exactly what he's doing right now.

Goodnight.

AW 342, July 14 (day 38)

There was an earthquake last night, a weak one. I slept through it, but apparently it made dogs bark and Eppi's night watch felt it. Normally that wouldn't be worth mentioning, except that we found out what caused it. Odin, Myau, and I had been planning on spending a few more days in Eppi clearing more of the forest of werebats (not that the supply of monsters ever seems to run out, but we might at least have pushed them back a ways), but then someone heard a message that managed to get through on shortwave:

The Great Castle was gone.

Actually, literally, gone. Along with most of Waizz hill. No word on how, or why, just that people were freaking out. Odin and Myau and I decided we needed to get back to Camineet pronto. The Eppians seemed to understand.

Of course, in actuality, "pronto" took all morning and half of the afternoon. The werebats, wingeyes, and owl bears weren't exactly keen on respecting our desire to travel unmolested. Odin's new needle gun helped soften up the larger groups, but monsters are notorious for being able to keep putting up a fight even after being shot a few times.

Camineet was in a tizzy when we arrived. The vanishing Great Castle was all anyone could talk about today. Speculation abounded about whether or not Lassic was dead and what it would mean if he was, or wasn't. The robotcops had nothing to say on the matter except that everything was fine and the laws were still being enforced. We finally got to see some pictures of the aftermath too. The castle wasn't blown-up or knocked down, it was just gone. Like some gargantuan space-behemoth had come down and taken a bite out of Palma, leaving nothing but a gaping hole behind.

Then King Lassic finally got around to broadcasting a message that he was still alive and in charge, and that the Great Castle was now to be called "Lassic's Great Air Castle". Apparently for security purposes (and the better to lord over everyone) Lassic is flying the castle to a secret location somewhere in the Palman skies. Some people have voiced concerns that in ripping Waizz Hill out of the ground, an irreplaceable archeological site may have been damaged or destroyed. (Needless to say, King Lassic was not one of those people.)

I don't know what else is going on, but Odin and Myau have made plans to go back to Waizz Hill tomorrow (what's left of it) to see if anything was left behind. I'm going too.

This has been such a surreal week.

**** Interview with Odin - excerpt. AW 344, Nov. 10 ****

Interviewer: Did you find it embarrassing at all, to have to ask Alis to travel with you because you weren't fit enough to fight on your own?

Odin: *smiles wanly* Hmmh... Yeah, you could say that. Though I was actually more concerned about what rumors might start going around about me traveling with an underaged girl than I was embarrassed about needing the protection of one. Honestly, I was embarrassed enough about needing time for convalescing period, after my run-in with Medusa. Whether I spent that time cooped-up out of harm's way, or adventuring under the protection of an underaged bodyguard didn't make much of a difference.

Interviewer: So why did you end up asking her to accompany you, rather than just taking the time to recuperate?

Odin: Because Myau can be a very persistent little ball of fire when he wants to. First of all, he was extremely eager to get back into adventuring with me. Myau loved being a hero's companion and advocate, and felt he'd spent far too long out of the field while I was petrified. I, actually, wouldn't have minded taking a few days off, but Myau is also fond of saying things like: "The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing," and then giving me a meaningful look. By which he meant: "Get off your lazy ass; do we have a hero's work to do or don't we?!"

Interviewer: Wow, so Myau was really holding your feet to the fire?

Odin: Well, it wouldn't have worked if I didn't think he had a good point. My sitting around wouldn't have helped anyone but myself, and there were plenty of people in Algol who needed a hero's help then.

Interviewer: And Alis felt the same way?

Odin: Not... precisely. At least, not then. Alis clearly wanted to do good, but didn't seem to know how a person like her could help. I think the invitation that Myau and I extended gave her an outlet for that desire. Which is not to say that I was in favor of the idea at first! Putting a girl her age in harm's way was the last thing I wanted to do! But Myau didn't see her as a child. To him she looked and acted like a Palman adult, so that's how he perceived her, and he was willing to put in a lot of time and effort convincing me of her merits as a traveling companion. I had already seen her in action myself of course, but Myau had seen more. He had also spent days getting to know her, and was convinced that her character and courage in addition to her fighting and magical skills would make her an ideal ally. That, and he argued that we would be doing her a favor by taking her with us; since she was supporting herself by working as a Hunter, she would be in danger whether she was with us or not, and though she was already a somewhat skilled fighter by that point, I was a lot more experienced and would be able to teach her a thing or two about fighting monsters if we spent some time together out in the field.

Interviewer: So you took her on as an apprentice, effectively?

Odin: At the time I thought I was just teaching her how to stay alive when monsters wanted her dead. But yeah, I kind of was acting as Alis's mentor for a while there.

Chapter 5: The Cake Walk