<I>It wasn’t long afterwards, that I lay shivering in the cold air on the lake’s shore. Luckily, there was a fire pit with wood and tinder stacked near by waiting for whoever came along. After drying myself by the flames, I continued my journey through the Tower’s trials.</I>
The land beyond the lake’s shore was barren and wasted. Skeletal trees reached, like the bony fingers of an ancient blind man, out of the cracked earth feeling the surface for any life that might amble by. Checking the compass, Jo began to walk. Once again, the expanse that had to be crossed felt interminable. Jo did not know how long he walked but it must have been hours. <I>You’re lost.</I> Jo stopped dead in his tracks. That was the same voice that had inspired him to fight against the sea monster, rather for his life. <I>And it took you so long to figure that out, I’m surprised you’re still alive!</I>
“What do you mean, you’re surprised I’m still alive? How was I supposed to know that that thing was a coward?” Jo spoke to the space above him, though there was no one there, the voice came from inside his head. It snorted,
“Oh, leave me alone.” Jo continued to walk. <I>You’re still lost. You need to veer more to the left.</I> Jo ignored the voice and kept walking, deliberately not checking the compass to confirm what the voice had told him; it snorted in disgust.
Jo walked on in silence; both inside and outside his mind. Evidently, the voice became bored; that or it just couldn’t take being dragged in what it believed to be the wrong direction.
<I>I did tell you that you’re going in the wrong direction, right?</I> Jo remained silent. <I>You can’t ignore me forever, it’s not like I’m going anywhere.</I> Jo slowed, coming to a gradual stop.
“What do you want with me?” The voice laughed, <I>Want? Oh, that’s a good one. I don’t </I>want <I>anything from you. Well, maybe for you to take my advice, does that count?</I>
“I’m not taking your advice because I think that you’re wrong.” <I>Ah, but you haven’t checked the compass to make sure. C’mon, just give it a look.</I> Jo’s right hand had wandered to his coat pocket and was trying to find its way in to where the compass was kept. This was prety awkward, considering that Jo was keeping the compass on his left side.
“What in the world?” Jo watched as his hand achieved its goal and was about to emerge from his pocket with the compass in its grasp. “Oh no you don’t!” Using his other arm to force his right hand to release the instrument, Jo left the compass in his pocket and continued walking. “I must be going crazy.” The voice just laughed in his head.
It wasn’t long afterwards that Jo stood, once again, upon the shores of the lake. The very lake he had left behind so many hours ago, compleatly with smoldering fire pit.
<I>Now are you going to check the compass?</I> the voice in Jo’s head was full of mirth at being right. Without a word, Jo did so; this time keeping the small device in his hand as he walked. giggles echoed between Jo’s ears.
After a time, Jo decided to talk with this voice that haunted him; after all, there was nothing else to do.
“Who are you anyway?” The voice, which had been whistling, stopped to answer before continuing.
“Where did you come from?” This time there was a pause before Timmy responded.
<I>What’s the difference between ignorance and indifference?</I> Jo did not know what to take of this change of topic.
“What is the difference between ignorance and indifference?”
<I>I don’t know, and I don’t care.</I> Jo only shock his head as Timmy laughed at his own wit.
“Did you make that up yourself, or did someone help you?”
<I>I made it up, thank you very much.</I>
“Uh-huh, right. Why are you here?”
<I>What is this? You giving me the third degree? Covering all the bases aren’t ya’; who, where, what… I bet the next question you were going to ask is ‘How did you get here?’ Well, Am I right?</I> Jo stopped walking and drew the dagger that Cala had given him when he first entered the trials from its place on his right hip.
“If a man with multiple personalities threatens suicide, is it a hostage situation?” Jo tried to raise the knife to his throat but something stopped him. Before entering the Tower, Jo would have said that it was self-preservation that had stopped him, but that could not have been it, for Jo was convinced that he had none left; looking down he saw that it was his right hand.
“Stop fighting me!” <I>No. The answer is no, for this–very–reason!</I>
A gathering of spectators watched Jo silently through a crystal ball as he appeared to fight a force that had attempted to slit his throat with his own dagger.
“X-Hunter, what is he fighting?” To the queen’s knowledge there were no creatures that fought in this style residing in the tower. The cyborg’s mechanical eye focused and refocused.
"I don't see anything except him, my Queen. Perhaps if we could hear what he was saying we would have a greater clue as to what is attacking him. What do you think Master Martines?"
Wilfredo Martines was an elderly wizard, respected for wisdom that age brought with it. He was clad in a cloak that did not appear to be wholly there; parts of it would phase out, perhaps to other locations in space and time.
“I too perceive nothing besides the boy, but he seems different then when he began, but I suppose that is to be expected; no one returns from the trails as they went in.”
With nothing left to be said, the Babylonians returned to watching the silent Jo struggle for his life once more.
Timmy was strong, Jo had difficulty forcing the dagger to his throat against the wishes of his mental counterpart. At length, his arm tired and the exhausted limbs fell lifeless at his side, the dagger clattering harmlessly to the floor. Jo sat down and panted, trying to regain some of the energy he spent battling Timmy, <I>There, are you happy now? We’re even; nether of us could win a contest of wills over the other. Do you know what that means?</I> Timmy also panted, apparently the power struggle had been a strain on him as well. Jo shook his head, both in confusion and in admittance of his ignorance.
“What does it mean?”
<I>It means that we are going to have to agree with each other if we’re to get anything done, that’s what it means.</I> Jo shook his head again.
“This is going to take some work.” Timmy agreed.
After resting for a time, Jo continued to follow the compass toward the goal, and was soon standing before a set of great iron bound doors set in a cliff face. The doors were engraved with two giant warriors; one of the combatants was already impaled through the chest by the other’s blade.
“Do you think this is the end?” Jo asked, <I>No.</I> Pushing on one of the massive doors open, Jo entered the mountain. Inside he found a large circular arena, with a man standing on the other side. The door shut behind Jo with a loud crash, causing Jo to hop forward in surprise. Lights came on from over head, at first to bright to see, but the blindness quickly faded. Finally there was enough light for Jo to see who stood across from him, it was Swordmaster.
“Swordmaster, is that you?”
“Yes Jo, it’s me.” Jo began to walk forward and close the distance between them.
“Hold, newcomer. Before you advance, know this. Your goal lies within the chamber behind me; and the only way to get there is to defeat me in combat, to the death!” Jo stopped in his tracks.
<I>What are you waiting for, kill him.</I>
<I>Because that’s the only way out of here. You have to kill him to finish the test.</I>
“It is not yours to wonder why, it is only yours to do or die.” Swordmaster dropped to a fighting stance and took a step forward to give him more room to swing the bastard sword he carried. Jo left his dagger where it was.
“Dammit, I don’t want to kill him, there has to be another way.” Quickly, Timmy seized control of Jo’s hand and slapped him with it.
<I>Kill him.</I> Swordmaster stopped advancing, he wondered why Jo had attacked himself, as well as who he was talking to.
“Don’t do that! I’m going to get you one of these days, mark me; I will.”
<I>Uh-huh right, not if we don’t leave this room alive. And the only way to do that is to kill Swordmaster.</I>
“No, I will not do it.”
“Um, excuse me?” Jo turned to look at Swordmaster. “Are you O.K.?”
“I’m fine, now leave us alone, we have to discuss something.” Swordmaster looked around the arena once… twice… and still saw no one save himself and Jo.
“Are you sure your alright, I mean, there’s no one here but us.” Jo’s eyes gleamed at the continued interruption.
“I know that. A two year old could see that. Now, leave us alone.” Jo could feel anger rising within him for no real reason. Timmy must have been taking a different approach to achieving his goals.
“Oh no you don’t, I’m on to you.” The words came out in an incoherent mutter, barley audible. Swordmaster, on the other hand couldn’t handle Jo’s obvious contradictions. Storming up to his would-be opponent, Swordmaster yelled into Jo’s face.
“There is only you and me, now fight!” Jo drew his dagger with his right hand and thrust it hilt deep into Swordmaster’s chest. Switching his grip, Jo helped gravity to remove the body from his blade, with his boot.
“You’re wrong, there is only me.” Jo walked through the final door as the imps dragged Swormaster’s body away. Stopping in the doorway to watch the mesmerizing process, Jo could almost swear that the imps were chattering something over and over again; it sounded a little like ‘YATTA’.