Through the pain, Zanaria felt Sedusa rummaging through his belt pack. Sedusa kept up the chatter, trying to hide the concerned look on her face.
“Oh, you didn’t miss much, bird-boy. Just you nearly dying at the hands of some brand-new dark monster, who by the way, seemed to be really giving a hard time to the other demon, the one who I think was controlling you…” Sedusa paused, waiting for Zanaria to respond. Zanaria merely grunted, and said, “Alastor. His name was Alastor.”
Sedusa frowned, then spoke again, “Anyways, the new demon, a powerful one indeed. He sent shadow versions of you and me to intercept us. You will not believe this; my shadow pulled out a N-Uke, and fired away. I just managed to hold off her attack with my own tune.”
She shuddered as she thought of the nuclear stand-off, the pouring radiating energy. She had exerted a tremendous effort to fend off the shadow Sedusa’s attack. Eventually, she had launched into a mind-numbing riff, even using her tail at one point to play the N-Uke. The resulting note broke through the other Sedusa’s defenses and the fatal beam of sonic energy plowed into her shadowy being. She exploded into several of the white insects that Sedusa had now become accustomed to. The explosion had knocked the shadow Zanaria somewhere far away, unable to do any damage to them. Eventually, Sedusa had been able to slither away to safety.
She shook herself, reminding her to stop reliving the painful memory of fighting herself, and went back to applying burn cream on the parts of Zanaria that needed the most attention. She was amazed at how quickly the cream seemed to be filling in the wounds and scars. Zanaria, however, was still too exhausted to recover completely. He merely lay on the ground and let Sedusa do her job.
“So, what happened? I mean, I thought you were under the demon…under Alastor’s control. Did you break his puppeteer strings?”
Zanaria grinned, then found out that hurt too much. Slowly he spoke.
“You don’t understand…I was in some kind of a spiritual prison. My essence was locked up, and Alastor was…was using me. Nobody uses Zanaria.”
His voice rose to a growl, then gained its usual cadence.
“That’s when he came to me. He told me he’d help me break free off Alastor’s prison. He’d give me power. And I believed him…” He broke off, his voice bitter and sad. Sedusa remained quiet. Within a short while, Zanaria regained his voice.
“I fell for it. I’ve always known I don’t deserve power. In my hands, it’s a dangerous thing… a deadly thing. He used me to release some dark force, worse even than Alastor. I think …I think it was Alastor who helped me escape. I was lost. My mind wandered. Eventually I came to a place…I can’t describe it. There was that girl there, Anna I think her name was. Time didn’t really pass, but I know that a little after me, the matchstick kid made it there.” Sedusa frowned, her eyebrows knitted in confusion.
“You mean Isaac?”
“Yeah, him. Something happened to him too. Some other dark force, which sounded familiar, captured him and threw him to the same place. He said he’d been there before. Called it the Realm of Minds. We were there for …I can’t tell. It might have been infinity, an interminable time. Then, something happened. Someone…called out to me. I think he wanted to help. The voice led me out of the Realm of Minds. And so, here I am.”
Silence reigned over both of them. Eventually, Sedusa broke it. Afterwards, she might have regretted it.
“When you were unconscious, you uttered a name. Is that the other demon? Liako?”
Zanaria steeled at the mention of the name. Sedusa could see him straining against some mental force, trying desperately to keep his hands at his side. Through clenched teeth, he spoke, “No…he had some other name. Many other names. He is some ancient evil, of that I am sure. But Lia…the other name, that was no demon. That was someone…close to me…once.”
Zanaria turned away from Sedusa. The mermaid knew better than to ask anything further about it. Instead, she said, “So what of this voice that led you out of the Realm of Minds? Was it the same demon?”
Zanaria did not turn around, and his voice came as if from somewhere faraway.
“I don’t think so. It sounded friendly. Besides, why would it help me out of the Realm of Minds if it was evil?”
Sedusa thought for a fraction of a second before replying, “I dunno, let’s see. These creatures, this evil power, this darkness, they all seem intent on killing us. As far as I can see, this Realm of Minds place sounds like one of the safest spots to be in if you don’t want to be attacked by the shadow creatures. Maybe aside from that ghostly girl’s time void. So, if I were Big Bad Shadow Demon-guy, I’d want you out of there pronto, so I could feast on you here.” Sedusa concluded with a grimace.
Zanaria shook his head, looking out over the vast plains.
“I don’t think so, Sedusa. I heard his voice…it sounded …good, somehow. I can’t explain. Like if this evil demon is the enemy, then the owner of that voice was the cavalry for us.”
Sedusa managed to suppress a snicker. “I’ve never had much faith in the cavalry. They show up too late. Besides, if you want something done right, do it yourself. Now, where to, Zanaria?”
Zanaria turned around, a little surprised, “What, no bird-boy?”
Sedusa waggled her forefinger at him, “Only temporary, bird-brain, only temporary.”
The both of them began to move forward, while somewhere around them, the enemy and the cavalry prepared for an epic battle.