A Look on Another One Part 2
Chapter 9, The archenemies meet
Flea was standing by his desk in the middle of his “office”, muttering to himself as he scratched dark lead from a sharp pencil over a paper. Surely over a hundred pieces of papers were spread across the table, carrying more or less finished sketches of likewise more or less possible new assassins.
At this rate, thinking of new beasts to send at the accursed royal wizard was more a hobby than an obsession.
The magician didn’t look around as he heard one of the high windows open and slam into the wall.
“You’re back?” he just said, tapping the pencil against his lower lip as he pondered the arms of the peculiar creature on the paper he held.
Lizard-beings had proved interesting before, but maybe five arms would make it too hard for it to keep its balance…?
“Yes master Flea, I…” the mantis began.
On a side note, that m-word combined with the name made both the Prince and the Pawn cringe with shared memories.
“Wow, you must be the first one in, what, two years or so who’s been able to come back and still talk…” the cross dresser/body absentmindedly interrupted.
“Master…” the mantis growled, irritated.
“Yeah, yeah. I’ll have your new body ready in…”
Janus crashed on the desk with a snarl, sending most of the drawings flying across the entire room.
Flea dropped his pen and sketching pad.
“Now that was uncalled for,” the wizard dryly said, sending the mantis a frosty scowl before he turned to coldly meet his archenemy’s rather shocked stare.
It took Flea a moment to recover enough for turning to the grasshopper and cutely just bend his wrist with the pointing finger stretched to point at the surprise guest.
“You caught him?” the magician said in a slightly high-pitched voice.
“That’s rather obvious, isn’t it?” Janus said with sarcasm dribbling from his voice, before the grasshopper could comment.
‘Will you stop trying to cut our link?’ the Prince growled to his mind, ‘it’s bad enough that you tried to throw us out of your mind before!’
‘Yes, we’re not leaving you alone here!’ the Pawn agreed, furiously.
‘I don’t feel you need to see this, neither do I wish you to,’ Janus replied rather frostily, ‘please go and subconsciously help Glenn and the others find the way instead.’
‘We’re not leaving you here!’
It was the Prince who sharply said that, not the teacher repeating himself. Janus nearly, nearly smiled a bit at that fact. But he was too frustrated.
‘You know what the black wind said! I don’t want you to watch, you don’t have to!’
‘We’re not going to allow this!’ the Pawn snarled.
‘And what can you do? You’re only here as spirits and it would take you a long time to get here with your bodies! And you can’t teleport here since the memory you have is too old, isn’t it?’
The warlocks exchanged glances again, their red eyes growing thin. The teleportation spell might not work on such old memories, no, and none of them were sure if it would be safe to use it for a place only visited in spirit. In full honestly that magic was not among the least dangerous ones; if something went wrong one could be thrown anywhere.
The silent conversation took merely a couple of seconds since it was entirely held with thoughts. That was all Flea needed to regain his composure.
“How very interesting…” he said, leaning his chin in a circle of thumb and pointing finger.
Janus said nothing, but didn’t turn his eyes away either.
“Well, this is simply wonderful!” the magician cheerfully said and gave the mantis a lovely smile, “be a dear and tell everyone to assemble in the throne room, and send a couple of goblins here.”
“Oh please,” Janus dryly said, turning his bound legs over the edge of the table so that he could sit a bit more properly, “can’t you think of anything better than goblins for dragging me to the ground before Ozzie’s fat feet?”
‘I can’t believe I just said that…’
‘Well, we’re three on that matter…’ his old teacher absentmindedly grunted, pinching the bridge of his nose as he furiously tried to think of some way of saving his student from the fate he had chosen.
The mantis just glared, but Flea covered his smile with one hand.
“Oh, but cutie,” he said, “to name a few I’m afraid that free lancers and skeletons aren’t strong enough to hold you back, imps are too small and your older assassins would probably kill you at the first chance they get. And we can’t have that, can we?”
“Perhaps. But after all this time as enemies, all you’re going to give me are goblins?” Janus sarcastically said, “I am disappointed.”
“So sorry, sweetheart.”
Janus’ cold glare turned almost literally deadly.
“Don’t you call me sweetheart, Flea,” he said in a dangerous voice, “I warn you.”
“Touchy, are we?”
“Yes, we are.”
Flea shook his head and turned to the mantis again.
“Go and fetch everyone, dear,” he smirked, “and make it clear that I’d appreciate if they wait for me.”
The thin creature zoomed over to the door, opened it, went through and closed it again.
“You know, I think there’s something fishy about this,” the magician stated while turning around, tilting his head.
“Oh really?” Janus replied, emotionlessly.
“It just seems strange to me that my grasshopper there would have been able to capture you, and with so few wounds.”
“Ah yes. Do you mind if I heal myself?” Janus dryly said, motioning at his torn, bloodied sleeves, “I have a feeling that I’ll be bleeding more than this in a while and these have been stinging for half an hour.”
“Sure, go ahead cutie,” Flea said with a sneer.
‘Something’s wrong,’ the Prince grimly warned, ‘he should have been clawing your eyes out by now, it’s not like him to share anything with the others.’
‘Can you read his mind?’ Janus thought, holding back a frown as he tried to concentrate on the spell.
‘No, he’ll sense us and in this state we can’t risk that he manage to ban us back to our bodies and time streams,’ was the third one’s dark reply.
‘Better be ready for anything, then…’
The magician reached out to shuffle some of the many papers left on the desk around while Janus muttered his healing spell through clenched teeth.
“You know…” the Mystic said with a ironic smile, “this is going to wreck my life. Now what will I do twenty-three hours a day if not planning on killing you?”
“I hear going to Hell is pretty popular this time of the year.”
“Such foul language…”
Janus just rolled his eyes then. With a sigh Flea dropped some of the papers on the floor, until one caught his attention and he smirked a bit.
“Remember this one?” he said and held up the drawing.
The beast on it was only partly humanoid, looked mostly like a cross between wolf, human and skeleton with its thin body, fur, protruding nose and long ears.
“My face does,” Janus tiredly said and pointed at his scar, without moving his tied up hands from his lap, “I never understood why you were so obsessed with skeletons.”
“Well, you always seemed to hate them, sweetheart.”
“Don’t call me sweetheart.”
“Oops,” Flea said and mocked an apologizing look with wide eyes and stupid smile.
‘I don’t know about the two of you, but he’s starting to make me nervous,’ the Pawn said through clenched teeth.
‘Agreed,’ the Mystic’s former king muttered, ‘he’s stalling something.’
‘Now you’re all making me even tenser…’ Janus grunted.
“A piece of nostalgia, this one,” Flea said and threw the drawing over his shoulder like a piece of trash, “that was, what, five, six years ago? You were really exploding with growing power at the time.”
“Are you planning to remember me to death before your friends have assembled?” the wizard sardonically asked, “I’m sorry but I don’t see where you are going.”
“I’m getting there, cutie.”
Janus rolled his eyes.
‘The temptation to tear myself free and break every bone in his body is getting a bit too strong,’ he growled, ‘damn Glenn for just having to prove himself…’
‘I suppose this is what the black wind meant with “shame”,’ the Pawn muttered.
The oldest spirit carried a deep frown, glaring at the thin air behind Janus.
‘What is it?’ the former slave asked, his eyes narrowing at the same spot.
‘I do hope that this surge isn’t what I think it is…’ the Prince hissed, ‘don’t look, there’s nothing there.’
‘What is it?’ Janus said with apparent tension in his voice, ‘I don’t feel anything.’
‘I think we’re about to find out why the people of Guardia suddenly knew that the Masamune was so dangerous to the Prince of Darkness,’ the one mentioned growled, ‘take this spell, I think you’ll need it…’
“Alright, alright,” Flea said with a chuckle, “don’t give me that look, I’ll get to the point.”
Janus said nothing, trying to concentrate on getting a hold of the new power that the Prince was attempting to hurriedly copy from his own mind to the younger one’s.
“One day those years ago something pretty strange occurred, you see,” Flea said, crossing his arms with a smirk, “I suppose you did notice that your assassins suddenly got better again, since you still have a few marks from that.”
“So it might be.”
Janus had to strain himself to keep his voice calm now. He wasn’t sure what the two spirits could sense better, or rather what they believed that they perhaps sensed, but it wasn’t getting him and neither them into a better mood.
“You’re cute when you’re feeling tense,” the magician sneered.
“Will you get to the bloody point, Flea?” the wizard shot back.
Flea waved with a pointing finger, shaking his head.
“What kind of language is that for a prince?” he said.
Very slowly Janus let out a deep breath before he spoke.
“Did Lavos tell you that?”
“Lavos?” Flea said and laughed, “Janus my dear, I’m evil, not insane enough to meddle which such powers.”
‘I swear, next time I die I’m going to kill him!’ the Prince roared.
‘He’s alive?!’ the Pawn shouted in rage.
“Then I suppose,” Janus said in quite a peculiar voice, “that if I turn around now I’ll see my own father again.”
“Quite right,” Dalton said, smirking.
Chapter 10, Father and son
“But tell me,” the one eyed man behind Janus’ back continued, “how did you guess with so few clues?”
“Oh, the air began to reek even more and besides that the fairies in my head are boiling mad,” the wizard replied, still without turning around.
There was a silence within his mind for a moment as well.
‘I’m not hearing this…’ the Pawn finally muttered.
‘I really should just let them have you,’ the Prince grunted, but there was an almost invisible stitch of reluctant amusement in his voice.
“Well, you have to be crazy to end up here…” Flea said and shook his head with a smirk.
“And what exactly are you doing here?” Janus said to thin air.
He won as much as making Dalton walk around him so that they came face to face, since the wizard refused to turn his head.
“I have to look out for my own son, don’t I?” the blond one sneered.
‘I should have known, he said he watched what happened to Cyrus and Glenn…’ the Prince snarled, ‘and he knew about the dreamstone being Light-based!’
For a thought’s moment he gritted his teeth until he managed to get himself together again.
‘That doesn’t matter right now,’ he growled, ‘do you understand the spell?’
‘No problem… my original plan will just have to go after this turn of events,’ Janus muttered.
‘You had a plan?’ the Pawn dryly asked.
‘Letting Frog and the others save me, yes.’
‘I suppose that could pass as a plan. Bad, but it’s a plan…’
‘However, Dalton brings too much danger for sticking to that one any more.’
‘Just chase him away,’ the Prince warned, ‘you’ll actually need him later, so don’t kill him yet.’
‘I’ll… take your word for that.’
“That’s thoughtful of you,” Janus dryly said aloud, “had fun trying to see to that I died?”
“Oh, it’s been amusing alright, hasn’t it, Flea?”
The magician shrugged.
“It’s really funny now, I must say,” he sneered.
Janus gave a small, cold smile.
“How about firing things up a little, then?” he said and tore himself free from the sticky ropes with one single powerful tear with arms and legs.
White flakes were still falling all over the room as the wizard’s feet hit the floor on the other side of the desk, a wicked grin on his face. Dalton and Flea moved into defensive stances, their eyes narrowing.
“What, didn’t you expect more from me?” Janus sneered.
His hand flashed out before him, the fingers painting a line of fire in thin air. The flames flashed as Janus grabbed them, turning into his staff with the blades released.
‘Worked perfectly,’ he concluded to the Prince, who grimly nodded.
“This should prove interesting,” Dalton said and cracked his knuckles, suddenly smirking again after he had swallowed the surprise, “let’s try a new spell of mine, shall we?”
‘Damn it! Jump!’ the Prince roared.
Janus obeyed blindly by the overwhelming power in that command, just barely escaping two red, glowing tentacles that exploded from the ground by his feet. He landed and leaped again, fleeing from the next pair.
Following the movements of Dalton’s hands the trunks rushed over the floor, persuading the wizard.
‘If you get caught you’re done for, understand?’ the oldest of the three warlock’s snarled, ‘those are unbreakable, only the caster’s death will dissolve them.’
“I must say, you’ve become one extraordinary acrobat,” Dalton sneered as Janus swiftly escaped one narrow situation after another.
“So you say?” the wizard snarled and threw out his hand, “ta keich sanea wyh!”
“Twandor!” Dalton countered and threw up his hands, a golden magical shield smashing the two big chunks of ice.
But the one eyed man froze in shock as he found a sharp blade at the end of a staff dashing towards him behind the dissolving magic.
“Catch!” Flea shouted, throwing his hands forwards.
Lightning bolts burned through Janus’ shirt, and caught in midair he fell to the floor. The magic wasn’t enough to do more than singe him; Flea didn’t want him dead just yet.
‘Get up!’ the two watching spirits shouted, both knowing it was humanly impossible to escape in time.
Janus managed to get onto one knee before the first tentacle encircled his arm and violently tore him onto his back, another one snatching his staff. His snarl was cut in half as the red ropes pinned him to the ground and one slammed down over his mouth. Even though he had been informed of the pointlessness he tried to struggle, like the Prince finding that it truly was useless.
‘There went my double life insurance…’ he growled.
“Much better, thank you for the assistance,” Dalton said, smugly dusting off his hands.
Flea smirked down at Janus’ murderous glare for a moment before turning to the other human again.
“Dead as a rock was the order, cutie?” the monster sneered.
“And I’d prefer in pieces.”
“How about cooked?”
Even Dalton cringed a bit at that suggestion, realizing that Flea really meant that literally.
“Do as you wish,” he said after a moment.
“What, do you think monsters’ menus are that apprehensive?” the magician said with amusement.
“Well, suit yourself,” Dalton said and shook his head, “I’ll be going.”
He sent Janus a grimace and not a smirk as he raised his hand and muttered a spell. A Gate opened before the blond one.
“Right, I can’t forget…”
Dalton turned to Flea again, clenched and opened his hand once. From his palm a small, red orb floated. The magician caught it and it melted into his fingers.
“Can’t leave you without keys to the cage, can I?” Dalton said.
“No, that just would ruin all the fun,” Flea said with a sweet smile, “good bye then.”
“Good bye. Have fun.”
And with that Dalton disappeared into the flashing darkness. The Gate closed behind him.
Flea looked down and raised an eyebrow.
“Why are you so pale all of a sudden?” he asked.
Janus didn’t hear him.
‘You two were…?!’ he was thinking, if thoughts could be hoarse and high pitched at the same time then his was just that.
‘No!’ the Pawn sharply said, resolutely shaking his head, ‘they fed me with rats and such. Human flesh was for the worthy, so to speak.’
‘Same here, and when I got worthy I was powerful enough to say no,’ the Prince growled.
‘Thank the heavens…’ Janus grimaced.
Flea waved with a hand above Janus’ face and he blinked.
“Mffm?” he grunted, irritated.
“Much better, sweetheart.”
There was a knock on the door.
“What’ye want, Flea?” the thick voice of a goblin grunted from the other side of the wood.
The magician straightened up with a charming, bloodthirsty smile at the bound wizard.
“I want you to come in and close the door behind you,” he called without removing his now hungry gaze, “less you’ll ruin the surprise for everyone.”
‘Alright, I know the way through the caves,’ the Prince growled, ‘I’ll go lead Frog and the others here, you stay and keep an eye on him.’
The Pawn grimly nodded.
‘And pray that the time streams aren’t different again,’ the oldest warlock added before he zoomed out of the room and castle.
‘I trust in them,’ Janus grimly thought, almost like a mantra.
His teacher nodded.
‘And I think you can do so,’ he said, ‘they’ll doubtlessly get you out of this.’
Janus closed his eyes for a moment, trying to shut out Flea’s order to the goblins to close their gaping mouths. He didn’t say anything as the tentacles pushed him into sitting and then mostly disappeared, except one that encircled his wrists behind his back. Still nothing except an absentminded growl when the goblins grabbed his arms and tore him into standing, starting to push him towards the door.
Sometimes it just didn’t help with even a voice in your head muttering calming promises.
This was the worst he’d ever been into, even though the royal wizard had been through a lot of dangerous situations throughout his life. But he’d never felt so caught and helpless ever since he had been a child in training, ever since then he’d always been able to fight for himself.
Sometimes… there was only one thing that possibly could help.
‘Lai, can you hear me?’
“What’s wrong, Lai?” one of the knights standing behind Leene’s throne asked in alarm, and the queen stood up from her seat with a worried frown.
“It’s Janus, he’s in danger…” the young woman hoarsely said.
‘What makes you think I’m in danger?’ Janus’ voice said within her head.
“You only call me when you’re in danger, sweetheart,” Lai acidly commented, still talking aloud as she was used to with telepathy.
‘I needed that…’
“What’s going on?” Leene worriedly asked.
‘Is the queen there?’ Janus wondered, strangely calm.
“Yes, His Majesty’s much better so she’s taking care of matters in the throne-room as for today and I was just leaving…” Lai automatically reported, falling silent as she realized she was babbling.
‘Good… then that’s all well. How are the other wounded doing?’
“Janus, I know something’s wrong! Where are you?!”
There was a rare spark of despair in Lai’s voice by now.
‘I had some troubles with my latest assassin, but at least Frog, Crono and Marle are on their way to the Mystics,’ Janus quickly said, ‘nothing to worry about.’
“You’re an awful liar, royal wizard.”
There was a pause for a moment.
‘Now listen to me, Lai,’ Janus finally continued, ‘I have my teacher and also another version of us watching over me, no matter what I’ll be fine.’
Lai was silent.
“You’re in the Mystics’ castle, you fool!” she suddenly cried out, causing everyone to jump in shock.
“How could you end up there?!”
‘I said I had some troubles with the assassin.’
“Some troubles, you say!?”
“What has he done now?” Leene sharply asked.
‘That hurt,’ Janus dryly said, ‘I thought you trusted in me.’
“Not when you go get captured!” Lai snarled.
‘Frog, Crono and Marle are approaching as we speak, they are supposed to take out the Mystics and they will. With or without me.’
“And what if they don’t come in time to save you?”
‘That’s why I needed to hear you call me sweetheart again, just in case,’ Janus calmly said, but there was a peculiar edge in his voice.
Lai’s free hand covered her eyes.
“I hate you…”
Janus’ telepathic voice sighed.
‘I’ll come back, I promise,’ he finally said.
‘Good luck with everything, Lai.’
But the telepathic link was cut.
Lai pinched her eyes close and clenched her fist around the fire gem, ignoring the fact that the edges of the flames cut into her skin.
Fine hands grabbed her shoulders and pulled her into a gentle hug, and Lai let herself lean on queen Leene as she chewed on her lower lip in a hopeless attempt to fight the flaring worries.
‘It was probably just as well. She’ll suffer less not knowing.’
‘What about the torment of not being sure?’
‘I believe that in this case it’ll be easier for her to get over it. She’s a strong lady, you know.’
‘Yes, I know…’
Janus sighed, just letting the goblins push him onwards through the dark corridors without struggling.
‘I knew it would endanger history.’
‘And I… there was always a chance that I wouldn’t survive, I didn’t even know if you made it through or not until now.’
‘I never wanted to risk that she’d loose a lover instead of a friend. No matter how much I do love her.’
The Pawn sadly nodded.
Frog and his allies were closing in, they had already entered the caves. Quite a show cutting the entrance cliff in half instead of looking for the hidden switch. The amphibian was reaching the self-esteem he needed.
So far so good.
‘They’ll win at least half an hour if I could destroy this wall,’ our original Janus thought, ‘but what a joke…’
He clenched his fists.
Perhaps he could subconsciously make Frog cleave this cliff as well, but it would be difficult… and this one might be too thick even for the Masamune.
‘And I don’t have the power anymore.’
Calling the Pawn could maybe help, but that spirit didn’t know his way through the caves and could have problems finding the spot in time even when following a mental call.
Bitterly the Prince shook his head.
‘You win again, Lavos…’
An eyebrow slowly went up.
His eyes narrowed. Hardly noticing it he took as much a worldly form as possible while he pondered.
He was just a spirit now, meaning that his magic wouldn’t be even at half power. And as Janus had pointed out fetching the body would take far too long. But now he had materialized as much as he could, and a really forceful spell could be just enough. If he still had any more powerful spells left, that was. The knowledge of chanting wasn’t worth anything to him after the past day in his own time stream.
‘Drained of all but low-level magic… but none of my Shadow spells were anything like basic. So, theoretically I can’t be Shadow anymore.’
The thought wasn’t exactly illogical, but still it was completely crazy.
‘Molor will bite my head off for doing something so stupid so soon after all that with Lavos.’
He rolled his eyes and backed away from the wall.
‘I’m too goddamn old to defy my own logic, belief and fate… but I’ll be damned if I can’t protect that wizard.’
Sighing and clenching his teeth he raised his hands.
‘Alright, either this works or I’ll get blown into pieces. Fun. Here we go…’
“Powers of the world, lend me the power of Light!”
And as he chanted his hands drew the ancient Zealan symbol for Purification in thin air with a softly flashing glow.
A couple of minutes later three warriors came running through the caves, finding a pathway leading down and one ahead; a big opening encircled by smoking rocks.
“What’s this?” Marle suspiciously asked.
“Methinks a path was cleared just recently…” Frog said with a frown, “dost thee think ‘tis a trap?”
Maybe we should take the other way, Crono suggested.
‘Oh no you don’t!’
“You just wouldn’t dare,” a slightly hoarse voice said.
The three blinked.
Leaning against the cracked frame of the opening a blue-haired man swept into existence, half transparent.
“Janus?” Frog blankly said.
“Yes and no,” the middle-aged man wearing a blood-red cloak said with a twitching, triumphant smile, “I’m sort of what he could have been. Now go on, I took a great risk opening this way so I’d be glad if you would put it to use.”
Err, thanks? Crono said.
And he disappeared from their view, but watched them pass while invisible. At first they moved rather slowly, still shocked by what they had seen. But soon enough they remembered their mission and sped up again.
The Prince allowed himself a wide grin and even punched one of the loose rocks, causing it to fall out of the wall.
‘Correction, Lavos,’ he triumphantly called out in his thoughts, heard by no one but that didn’t matter at all, ‘we win again!’
At least so much.
But the black wind hadn’t yet warned for death either, on the other hand.
“For once we agree…” Slash grunted, pressing one hand against an ear with a grimace.
The sound level in the throne-room was almost unbearable. Monsters fought hard to never assemble in this large groups in such a small area. Most of them wanted to have a space of at least two feet from everyone else, and as they were packed in the - given; big - room that wasn’t exactly possible.
Not able to take it any longer Ozzie made a good attempt - considering the shape of his body - to rush from the throne.
“Shut up!” he roared and actually got attention, “I don’t know what Flea is doing either but I want you all to wait for him! I won’t hear another screech, roar or any other sound, understand?!”
Yep, they understood. For three whole seconds.
With a grunt Ozzie fell back on his seat; a disturbing sight many would try to avoid. Slash failed to escape this time and turned away, furiously rubbing his forehead to calm his stomach.
Finally Flea teleported in, gracefully landing on the stair leading up to the throne.
“Alright, what bloody is it?!” Ozzie snapped before the magician even had time to open his mouth.
“My, aren’t we impatient?” Flea sweetly said.
“No, we’re going deaf!”
“You’re no fun. But very well.”
Flea turned to the swaying ocean of bodies on the lower grounds and raised a hand.
“Oh, crap…” Slash moaned and violently pressed both hands against his ears.
The magician placed two fingers between his lips and whistled. The sound zick-zacked right through everything else and the whole army looked up with pained expressions.
“Alright boys and girls, I want you to make a nice aisle to the door,” Flea said with a lovely smile, “can you do that for me?”
Fearing another whistle the monsters did their best and managed fairly well.
“Just what are you doing?” Ozzie grunted, hitting his own head with his hand to regain senses after the horrible sound.
Flea didn’t reply, just waved with a hand. From the sea of monsters a seven feet mantis flew, stopping perfectly still in the air before the magician.
“This is Janus’ latest assassin,” the pink-skinned one softly announced, “do remember his face.”
“What?” Slash tiredly sighed.
Flea looked at the mantis and winked with one eye. The beast nodded and zoomed over to the double gates. Without effort his claw feet tore up the two massive doors.
Just for once the entire castle turned completely silent, and hundreds of mouths fell open.
“What’s the big deal, I am walking!” Janus snarled over his shoulder at the widely grinning goblins.
They tried to throw him on the floor before the stair going up to the throne, but despite the fact that he stumbled and swayed he managed to keep his balance. Almost as if an invisible force supported him.
“Understand now, my dear Ozzie?” Flea smirked.
“Very much so…”
The fat, green monster stood up and sneered down at the coldly glaring wizard. Janus’ concentration was a little split however, due to the metallic tip being pressed against the underside of his jaw.
“Delighted to see you again, royal wizard…” Slash hissed.
“Oh no, no, no,” Flea said and waved with a finger, “please my friend, restrain yourself.”
The purple monster glared at his companions.
“Don’t tell me you don’t want to kill him immediately?” the sword master sighed.
“Why should we, doesn’t he deserve better after all we’ve been through together?” the magician pointed out, tilting his head with a cruel glistening in his eyes.
“I couldn’t agree more,” Ozzie hungrily nodded.
“When will you two start listening to me?” Slash sighed.
“Lighten up, cutie!” Flea said and looked at the goblins, “now, shall we take our guest somewhere more cozy? The dungeons sound fine to me.”
Janus didn’t say a word as rough hands grabbed his arms again, but behind his back his chained fingers twitched like pained snakes.
Chapter 11, Attack
The Prince’s spirit rushed through stone, water, gates and walls to meet the Pawn on the stairs in the entrance hall of the dark castle.
‘Where is he?!’ the oldest demanded.
Silently the one who had been enslaved pointed at the floor.
Almost as if on demand there was a distant, disgusting slam and a scream.
The two warlocks cringed, their hands clenching into shaking fists.
‘Frog will be here any minute, I’ll go protect our friend and try to win some more time,’ the Prince snarled, ‘do you know the secret pass way from Flea’s room to the dungeons?’
‘It’s in Slash’s room as I remember it,’ the Pawn said.
They exchanged tired glances and shook their heads.
Time streams be cursed!
‘I’ll just take them to that room and make them destroy the wall,’ the younger one grunted.
The Prince began to descend through the floor.
‘But what if Flea manage to ban you?’ the Pawn pointed out, warningly.
The oldest Janus shook his head.
‘I’ll take that risk, and if so I’ll find a way back again.’
‘It should be me, you know. He’s my student.’
The Prince gave a joyless smile.
‘Don’t forget I was inside of your head the whole time. Besides you fought for him the last time, it’s my turn and I need to repay your help for earlier.’
He disappeared through the carpets and stone.
And the main gate smashed open. With a grim nod the Pawn of the Mystics began to turn his spirit fully visible.
“Think his precious king would like his heart?” Slash smirked.
“Heart? That’s so old-fashioned!” Flea loudly protested.
The royal wizard clamped his teeth against a hiss while the sharp tip teased his burning flesh that normally should be protecting his ribs better. On the floor at least one foot below him drops of blood and sweat mixed.
“I’m not that good at human biology,” the bald monster said, with a sadistic smirk watching Janus’ grimace, “is the liver important?”
For the first time in a while words that could be understood left the wizard’s lips.
“I happen to like all of my insides,” he growled though his voice was stuttering and swaying, “so I’d be happy if you’d keep all your grubby hands, swords and imps off them.”
Behind Slash’s back one of the goblins raised his whip with a questioning look, but Ozzie waved at him to let the purple swordsman handle the situation.
“You’re one to talk, royal wizard,” Slash calmly commented.
Janus’ exhausted eyes suddenly sparkled with a tired relief.
“Maybe…” he hoarsely croaked.
A blade flashed through the dark air and the Slasher made a flight as its owner had no chance to be prepared for it. With a surprised growl shared with every other monster in the dungeon Slash leaped backwards.
“Good evening,” the Prince of Darkness coldly said, skilled hands changing grip of his scythe again.
“Not another one!” Ozzie snarled.
“Hold it you idiots!” Flea growled as several of the monsters moved into attacking poses, “it’s only a spirit!”
“Oh really?” was Slash’s dry comment, “I suppose I just accidentally threw away my own weapon, then?”
“It’s a question of pouring your will into a physical form,” the middle-aged Janus informed with a sneer, “a bit troublesome to master but not impossible. Isn’t that so, Flea?”
“You’re not the one who escaped with Janus all those years ago, are you?” the magician replied, grimly eying the warrior.
The free blue-haired man smirked a bit.
“For the sake of keeping it simple, no I am not. Would a slave of yours wield Lizard’s weapon, my generals?”
Before they had time to even start letting that one sunk in the spirit threw out his right hand at the room.
“Chela ta luon yleqie!” he shouted, sending small, glowing stars towards the hesitating monsters.
These stars were not for healing. Flea, Slash and a few others managed to duck, Ozzie stood behind a slow goblin and escaped, but many got hit and yelped. It wasn’t more than a bee’s sting since magic couldn’t be properly lead through simply a spirit - as earlier pointed out -, but it added to the confusion.
“I’m not in the mood for this!” Flea angrily stated and raised his hands.
Black-purple lightning bolts hit the wall as the spirit ducked and moved out of the way with movements similar to a snake.
“Nice to see we’re keeping the shape…” Janus hoarsely muttered with a small triumphant grimace.
“You just shut up…”
The Prince leaped out of the way and sent another storm of stars straightly at Flea, who managed to duck even this time. The goblins behind him had less luck.
“… And wait for being properly rescued, you idiot,” the oldest warlock snarled.
“You make me miss Lai again…”
“You’re already hanging on a wall…”
“… Bleeding more than you should…”
More stars, spin aside.
“… Don’t make yourself seem like a love starved fourteen year old too.”
“Heh… what did I do?” Janus exhaustedly smirked despite the throbbing, flaring pain.
“I don’t even know where to start.”
“We’re coming, Janus!”
Marle’s voice pierced the heavy air, like the bolts of her weapon did. In the back of the room there was quite a ruckus going on due to said princess, two swordsmen and yet another spirit.
“Stalling is a dirty art, but has its bounties,” the man with the scythe said with a smirk.
“Oh dear, oh dear,” Ozzie said, floating up a little to see what was happening, “two spirits and three warriors against about two hundred monsters.”
“You know, I really wish you all would stop saying things like that…!” Slash snarled, warily changing grip of the Slasher.
There was a hissing chuckle. The Prince suspiciously turned to see Janus slowly raise his heavy head, a dangerous glistening in the tired, red eyes.
“It must be lonely being the only one thinking clearly in this pack, Slash…” the royal wizard whispered in a rasping voice.
Surge… oh crap.
“You don’t have the power!” the Prince hoarsely shouted.
Janus’ whole body exploded with darkness, and the force threw every single monster up against the walls. A lot of them passed out, smacked between the stone and their allies. But the spirits, Frog, Crono and Marle were left unharmed, rather stupidly blinking at the chaos.
“My mistake,” the Prince sighed and watched the wizard smirk triumphantly before his eyes rolled upwards and he lost consciousness due to the agony and power he’d used to help in the battle, “you fool…”
Flea got up with a snarl, supported by the mantis which in turn was making a dangerously buzzing sound.
“You’ll regret that dearly, boy! Worch crahela krun shar retetack!”
From the fine hands a Dark Mist flew, a hideous black cloud growing for every feet of air it passed. Straight towards the comatose and bound wizard.
“Not this again…” the Prince snarled and grudgingly jumped in between the attacking storm of corroding power and Janus.
His body had nasty memories of that spell, and he had no idea what could happen if his spirit was caught in it. But at this rate he had to do something. He swung his scythe at the dark fog and it backed away, trying to get around him as if it had a mind of its own. A hungry mind.
“Na sela uloro worch netal vonodra kchar!”
The Pawn’s chanting was almost too quick to be heard, and in his current form he couldn’t do very much. But perhaps it was enough.
While Frog attacked one of the first monsters to regain its senses, the black and white void swirled into the middle of the room. The controlling spirit clenched his jaw and forcefully made a complicated movement with both his arms.
The Prince leaped backwards and the white triangle fled the grip of the black one, absorbing the Dark Mist before it got swallowed itself.
This wave of dark pressure wasn’t as powerful as the original, but it still knocked everyone backwards a little. The mantis turned unconscious after a forceful knock into the wall.
But though it for a moment seemed like a won battle a couple of legless monsters known as sorcerers left the confused, mostly fainted heaps of monsters and sent wave upon wave of healing stars over their comrades. It wasn’t enough to awaken more than a couple of dozen of the Mystics, but among the healed were the three leaders.
“I keep telling you…” Slash grumbled as he stood, “but do you ever listen? No, no, never…”
He turned his head at the wall were Janus hung, finding two half transparent, blue-haired warriors guarding the man. The swordsman shrugged and turned back to the rest of the room, with an “I don’t have the nerve anymore” look about his whole being.
The two Januses that were awake exchanged glances and nodded, staying put to watch the oncoming battle.
Your battle, people.
Crono knocked a rather dizzy purple goblin with a bow aside and parried Slash’s attack with his own thin sword. In the next second Frog was at Flea’s throat while Marle carefully aimed at the monster that her soon-to-be boyfriend was fighting.
“They’re that good already,” the Prince commented, “taking on all three at once.”
“They took on Flea, Slash and me about now, you know,” the Pawn said, watching the fight rage on.
The oldest one gave a dry chuckle.
“Frog and the others had trouble taking care of them one at the time in my time stream,” he said, “on the other hand, then my generals were at full strength and their brainwashed helper didn’t suddenly turn against them.”
The Pawn suddenly frowned.
Even Ozzie and his helpers looked around in surprise as they heard the clanking of a fallen, ghostly weapon and the two shouts.
The two men with read cloaks were staggering and crouching, pressing their hands against their heads in agony.
“What is happening to thee?” Frog called.
“The black wind…” the Pawn hissed.
He leaned against the wall and glared at his still staggering companion.
“Can you handle it?” he harshly asked.
“Good question… I think so…” the older snarled, trying to keep absolutely still as if the slightest movement would cause him to break apart.
“What in Lardon’s name are…” Flea began, but the whole castle suddenly shook and caused everyone to with surprised shouts loose their balance.
The walls cracked dangerously.
“This is very familiar…” the Prince snarled, attempting to straighten up.
What’s going on?! Crono shouted above a second quake.
“Theoretically, if there is an evil being who loves Shadow energy sucking on the planet’s life force underground,” the Pawn harshly growled, “and two sets of a man it would die to get in its clutches releases their dark powers…”
“It should have the same effect as a spell going ‘nuega, ziena, zieber, zom, now the chosen time has come’,” the Prince snarled, “by the powers, there is a limit to how much of Lavos I can handle in such a short time!”
“Lavos?!” Crono, Marle and Flea more or less screeched.
“He’s going to wake up on us!” the Prince snarled and rushed through the air.
Flea wriggled in surprised shock as an almost transparent, bigger hand caught the pink, fine fingers.
“Normally I wouldn’t do this you cretin,” the oldest Janus growled and glared the surprised magician straight in the eyes, “but we need to teleport the Mystics out of here, understand?!”
“B-but… what?!” Flea stammered, naturally dumbfounded.
There was a second shake and of the creatures with bodies present only the female looking one could keep his balance because of the suddenly two warlocks holding his hands.
“This is a one timer,” the Pawn snarled, hooking up his free hand with his older mirror’s, “get those red things off Janus and we’ll give you enough power to teleport your people out.”
“What art thee doing?!” Frog called in distrust.
“Lavos is awakening, a huge Gate will open any second!” the one who had led the Mystics snarled, “and having Mystics thrown through that will be a catastrophe for everyone!”
He turned to the still stunned Flea again.
“Do it, you fool. For Lizard and Magician if nothing else!”
A third shake.
There was a dark sparkle in the air a few feet from Janus…
Princes! The darkest one is coming! Flee, now!
“Flea! Let them help or we’ll all die!” Ozzie snarled.
Finally the magician closed his eyes and began to mutter, a frown of concentration disrupting his normally smooth forehead. The air sparkled as a dancing light swept around the three magic users, sweeping hair and cloaks around while they all chanted. Golden threads exploded from their chests, creating a glistening spider web of power between them. The swirling light spread across the dungeon and every monster it touched immediately disappeared.
“Flea, you can’t…!” Slash shouted but was gone before he could finish the sentence.
Apart from the magician, he had been the last one.
The Pawn, Prince and Flea stumbled as their chanting halted, exhausted by the huge consume of willpower.
“Free Janus… now…” the oldest snarled through clenched teeth.
There was a thump and Janus limblessly fell to the floor as the tentacles left him. Mere inches from his hand the border of a great flashing darkness pulsated, steadily growing. As the ground shook a fourth time and rocks from the roof began to hit the floor the huge Gate began to quickly develop a gravitation of itself. And a powerful one at that.
Flea tiredly smirked and tugged his hands free, falling into the last of the teleporting light. He was gone.
“Janus!” Frog screeched, helplessly seeing his friend being sucked closer to the darkness.
“He’ll be fine, trust me!” the Prince called and zoomed to the fallen wizard’s side, “we’ll take care of him, you hold on to each other and jump in!”
“Are you completely crazy!?” Marle shouted.
“It’s that or being buried alive!” the Pawn snarled and joined his mirror.
“It should take you back to Ayla’s time,” the former leader of the Mystics shouted above the increasing wind and crumbling, “you’ll be fine! Trust me!”
We don’t have a choice, Crono grimly said with a look at the roof, come on, take my hands!
He sheathed his sword and reached out. Hesitatingly Frog and Marle put their weapons away and took a hand each.
See you later, then! the young man called.
“Dost not allow anything to harm Janus before I hath spoken to him!” Frog growled.
“Take care…” Marle said, a bit nervously but sternly looking at the center of the darkness.
“Don’t you worry,” the Pawn called as the three leaped into the Gate.
The warriors seemed to spin around the edges of the time portal for a moment before they became vanishing streaks of color within it.
Another quake, but it didn’t matter that much anymore. The gravity had gotten a grip of Janus and he was half floating, half dragged into the Gate.
“Good point with making Flea teleport,” the Pawn commented.
“Yes. As much as we all hate helping him, we cannot risk sending the Mystics all over history.”
“Exactly. Did this happen to you?”
“Something similar, it was my battle with Frog, Crono and Lucca that awoke Lavos, combined with my summoning spell,” the Prince explained.
“I’m sorry for this mess, I shouldn’t have used Dark Matter.”
“No, it’s better this way. At least if it works like it did for me. Lavos won’t awake to the fullest, and go back to sleep when our presence leaves.”
The darkness engulfed them and they were sucked through the corridor of unearthly colors. But the two who were awake kept their grips firmly on their friend not to loose him in time.
“So if it works, where are we going?” the Pawn wondered.
There was no need for answering that, as the corridor opened up and the three fell out on a grassy field.
The Prince’s voice was forcefully calm, but there was a bitterness in it that he couldn’t hide. His ally glanced around and sighed deeply.
The field was filled with the most beautiful flowers one could dream of. A small, clear river floated through it from a distant spring. Even further away was a town of white, peculiar houses.
To the west was a pointy mountain, wearing an even on this distance glamorous and impressive building like a crown. The thing was, the mountain was on another island than the one the tree men was on. And it wasn’t water separating the lands, but winds and white clouds.
It was beautiful, the place of their birth. And oh so painful to see.
The kingdom of Zeal had a grown prince and his guardians visiting.
Chapter 12, Back in Zeal
“Ayla find you by mountain, all hurt. Carry you here, safe now.”
We fought way too many monsters before we came here…
“Yummy frog… for Ayla eat?”
“P-perish the thought, lass! Where be the blue-haired one?”
“Ayla only find you. Blue-haired one more tasty?”
“Sorry Ayla, you can’t eat Frog. He’s a friend.”
“No matter, got more frogs. You rest now.”
And with that the chief of the Ioka tribe left her hut.
“Where art we?” Frog confusedly asked, tiredly rubbing the area between his eyes.
“We’re at the start of human history,” Marle mumbled, curling up on the furs she was lying on.
It’s a long story… Crono muttered, exhaustedly watching the roof through half open eyes, let’s take it later…
Frog sighed and closed his eyes.
“But where be Janus…?” he bitterly muttered.
“I’m sure he’s alive,” Marle said, despite her fatigue trying to comfort her worried friend, “if we survived that trip then so did he.”
“I dost pray for fate to be so kind upon him.”
“Are you back with us now?” a faintly familiar voice said.
Eyelids weigh a ton each…
“Define back…” Janus grunted and groaned as he tried to move, getting a reminder of his injuries.
“You better keep still for a while longer, it’ll take me a moment to heal those wounds. What have you been into?”
Janus fought to force his eyes open, but it was literally impossible.
“Stay put for a while,” the voice kindly demanded again.
It was so familiar… sounded like a man past his middle age.
‘Nice to see you awake,’ a more placeable voice said within the wizard’s head.
‘What happened?’ Janus thought, even slurring a bit when thinking.
‘We got thrown through time, Lavos woke up because of our and Flea’s Shadow spells and caused a huge Gate,’ the Pawn explained.
‘Woke up in Guardia?!’
Janus almost sat straight up in shock.
‘Don’t worry, he went back to sleep,’ the Prince said, calming the younger man.
“Does it hurt?” the familiar voice concernedly asked, misunderstanding Janus’ sigh of relief.
“Not that much anymore, thanks,” the wizard mumbled.
“Good to hear.”
‘When are we?’ Janus wondered.
For a moment the two spirits were silent. Then the Prince sighed.
‘It’s the fourth day of the Sun’s month, on the ninth year of queen Zeal’s glorious reign,’ he said, dryly and bitterly at the same time.
Janus’ eyes exploded open and he blinked up at a middle-aged man dressed in a blue long jacket over a darkly green shirt. A yellow, smooth piece of cloth was hung over one of his shoulders and also caught by the belt around his waist. He also wore a peculiar hat that matched his jacket and a pair of sunglasses. For the moment he wasn’t looking at the man lying in the bed, talking to a short creature with yellow skin and a drop-formed head, dressed in a simple tunic.
“Go get me the book with blue cover, Doreen, it was a while ago that I used healing magic.”
“At once,” the creature said and leaped over to a bookcase in a distant corner.
‘We couldn’t leave you out in the field in your state,’ the Pawn pointed out, ‘so we went and made someone we could trust and who was close enough find you.’
“Melchior?” Janus hoarsely said.
The guru of Life looked down and smiled a bit.
“Don’t worry about it, I’ll have you healed soon enough. Thank you Doreen.”
“Anytime,” the singing female voice said.
Melchior sat down in a chair beside the wizard’s place of rest, starting to turn the pages of the book.
“Here we are…”
‘I don’t think this’ll be pleasant…’ the Prince warily said, causing Janus to fight not to cringe as he realized what his older possibility meant.
Melchior put his finger on a line on the page displayed before him.
“Great Lavos, lend me thy divine power…”
“Nebal na matala tor sela,” Melchior chanted.
Well, it worked like the healing magic the royal wizard used, just very clumsily. Instead of stroking the pain away the stars more squeezed it out along with the man’s breath.
“Sorry, I’m not as used to this as I once was,” the guru said and closed the book with an apologizing smile, “and bringing you to the spring of recovery would only earn us a ruckus.”
Janus had to rub his forehead for a moment before he could reply.
“I see. Thanks.”
‘Did he say “cleave the power of water to heal” in the spell?’ he bitterly thought.
‘So he did,’ the Pawn grunted, ‘for once I give one point to my own education and Flea.’
‘We still owe Flea one point for even doing what we asked of him and dissolve the tentacles,’ the Prince muttered.
‘I suppose he was either all too tired, confused, dizzy with our loaned strength or just believed Janus wouldn’t survive that Gate. Or all of it,’ the formerly enslaved one said.
“So, who are you then, and how in the queen’s name did you get such wounds?” Melchior concernedly asked.
Janus realized that Melchior’s gaze rested upon the strong fingers that had somehow crawled into the wizard’s fringe. Or perhaps it was the hair that called for attention. Innovative hair color wasn’t exactly unusual in the kingdom of Zeal, but this heaven-blue was the trademark of only one certain family.
‘Just great…’ Janus thought.
‘He’ll know in less than a week anyway,’ the Prince pointed out, ‘because then he’ll be on his way to the future.’
‘I second that,’ the other warlock gravely nodded.
‘Oh well, you’re my teachers…’ Janus muttered, only halfway ironic.
‘Why this sudden respect?’ the oldest one said with a little amusement.
‘I think I finally hit my head somewhere along the way.’
Janus’ fingers caught a longer strand of hair and then he raised his hand to hold it up for the guru’s thoughtful gaze.
“I’m prince Janus, Melchior,” he calmly said.
“I was starting to wonder about the hair color, but I do need a better explanation if I’m going to believe you,” the guru replied, likewise calm.
“It’s a very long story, and you won’t like much of it.”
“Very well, tell me,” the guru said and leaned back in his chair.
“I think that first of all we seriously should discuss Lavos.”
Marle glanced down the cliffs towards the depths of the gigantic crater, nervously scratching her head. The great castle of the reptites was completely erased from the face of the earth.
“Ayla never see so big falling star!” the cave woman grimly stated.
Come on, let’s go down and see if we can fight it now, while it might be fairly weak, Crono suggested and began carefully walking down a wide crack in the smoking new canyon.
The two blond women followed him.
It took them the better part of an hour to reach the bottom, and there only finding irregular earth and a sea of lava flowing in from the ocean of molten stone surrounding the area. The over-hot flow had already found and corroded its way through the torn mountain.
However, the lava wasn’t getting any chance to harm the humans as it was on its way down into the depths of the earth, following the reason of the crater deeper down to fill the emptiness of Lavos’ traveling.
It’s burying underground, Crono grimly concluded.
And with the lava flow it was impossible for them to follow. Not even Robo would survive that.
“No good!” Ayla sourly howled and punched her own palm, “eh?”
“Where are you going?” Marle called as the hides-clad female took off towards a distant end of the cliff the three had ended up on when reaching as close to the bottom as possible.
The princess and the swordsman exchanged glances and hurried after her.
They found the cave-woman investigating something on the ground.
“What is it, Ayla?” Marle asked and stretched her neck, trying to see past the thick blond locks.
Finally the woman moved aside, revealing a dark, flashing orb.
“Gate!” Marle howled, almost jumping up and down in excitement, “come on, let’s go!”
Roger! Crono grinned and produced the Gate key.
But Ayla watched the growing darkness with suspicion.
“It’s not dangerous,” Marle tried to calm her, “it’s a way to some day way after tomorrow, we’ve tried to explain that.”
‘Oh well, or the day way before today…’ she thought to herself.
“Ayla no understand, tomorrow comes tomorrow, no going quicker or come back…” the cave-woman said, “but if Crono and Marle go, Ayla go too.”
“Great! Come on!”
And they entered the dark tunnel.
Leaving a large crater behind they stepped out into a small cave. And the first thought after that conclusion was…
Quickly they dove back to 65000000 BC and the warmth there.
“Too cold for Ayla! Sorry Crono!”
“We’ll need better clothes if we’re going there,” Marle concluded.
Alright, let’s go to our home time and get the equipment we need.
Mom’s gonna think I’m crazy when I go look for my winter jacket in the middle of the summer…
Chapter 13, The third spirit
“Guru, open this door!”
A strong fist hammered against the wood, impatient. And the owner of the hand seemed rather disappointed as the door did open fairly quickly.
“I’m so sorry it took so long,” Melchior said with an apologizing smile, “I was in the middle of a book. And what can I do for you, lord Dalton?”
“Nothing for me, but for the queen,” the dark blond man said with his typical smirk, “she summons you, immediately.”
“Oh really? Let me just get…”
“Immediately!” Dalton sharply repeated, a smug glistening in his eyes.
Melchior’s eyebrows twitched.
“Oh dear, is something wrong?” he worriedly said, tilting his head.
“Her Majesty will tell you that.”
“I see. Let’s go then.”
And without further argues the guru of Life was taken away. But in one of his enchanted pockets a dagger was hidden, a fine knife in a strangely reddish metal.
As Dalton and Melchior left the older man’s chambers on the outskirts of Enhasa a robed silhouette followed them for a while, but not longer than to the end of the town. The figure stood in the shadows of the white walls and watched one of the few kindhearted Enlightened ones left and the general. Strong hands clenched into shaking fists.
‘But the one that worked with Flea is from his future, right?’ Janus grimly thought, glaring at his father’s back.
‘True,’ the Prince growled, ‘he surely tried to alter history by killing you before you could come to Zeal. Just like he did to me, by spreading the “legend” of the Masamune in my time stream. It must have been him… probably didn’t want to risk his own skin. And should I have managed to kill Frog and the others coming to kill me his goal could have been attained in any case.’
‘How on earth did you come to fight alongside with them, anyway?’ the Pawn asked.
Janus silently leaned against the wall while feeling the Prince shake his head and start talking again.
‘When Lavos awoke in the Ocean Palace I attacked him desperately, but I lost. Both Schala and I would have died if it hadn’t been for Crono. It wasn’t gratefulness, but my realization that I alone didn’t have the strength. It all began there but the real change didn’t come until later, when Frog helped me find Schala.’
‘Frog help you, you say?’ the Pawn said with a hint of amusement.
‘Not too willingly, of course.’
Janus leaned his head back with a frown.
‘What could Crono possibly do against Lavos when you failed?’ he asked, puzzled.
The Prince crossed his arms and resolutely closed his eyes, while the Pawn leaned his cheek in a hand and glared at nothing.
‘What’s wrong?’ Janus sharply asked.
After a moment the Prince shook his head again and straightened up.
‘Crono could do nothing except die, that’s what he could,’ he emotionlessly said, but hurriedly continued, ‘however, when seeking the aid of the two other gurus from this era you will find a way to save him.’
Janus was silent for a moment. Then he slowly took in a deep breath.
‘You damn warriors…’ he muttered, ‘you keep dying on me all the time.’
‘It’s not as bad as people think…’
The Prince smiled a bit, slanting.
‘Though the greeting committee I got lacked something in quality. It’s just too bad one can’t strangle a soul.’
At this point he even chuckled a bit.
‘Ozzie’s eyes really can bulge though… dead or not.’
‘What in the name of all powers was he doing where you went?’ the Pawn slowly asked.
‘Seems like souls get cleaned when the body dies, no matter what. Besides… everyone there were too afraid of Snake to cause any trouble. With the full right.’
‘Who’s Snake?’ Janus blankly thought.
The Prince rolled his eyes.
‘Young man, get some decent sleep so I can pour the story into your mind already.’
‘Easy for you to say.’
‘Of course, I’m sleeping right now as far as everyone else knows.’
‘Snake was Lizard’s wife,’ the Pawn explained, ‘that’s about what I know about her.’
‘The stories say little about her personality,’ the Prince said with a small smirk, ‘I suppose the history writers at the time were in horror as well, didn’t dare to describe her too closely.’
‘Sounds like a colorful lady,’ Janus said.
‘What you do is you take Lai, add temper like nitroglycerin, impossible speed and claws.’
‘Oh, you should have heard Dalton’s voice and seen his face when mentioning her...’
Janus shook his head with a joyless smile. Being reminded of Lai was nothing that made his mood any better for the time being…
He straightened up and glanced towards the distant skyway. The buzz of energy and the light showed that somebody was coming up. Next he saw a hint of purple, a figure much smaller than the two that had left Enhasa via the second skyway a few moments earlier.
A heartbeat later a robed figure watched the floating island from a very fine view upon the roof belonging to one of the white towers of the city.
‘I do remember how I felt when meeting myself,’ the royal wizard grimly thought, ‘I’ll save him it until Schala is present and can support him.’
The two guardians silently agreed.
‘That means Crono and the others will be here within three or four hours if I remember correctly…’
‘About that, yes,’ the Pawn agreed.
They watched the young prince Janus enter the city, followed as always by his cat Alfador. From the distance it wasn’t possible to properly see the child’s face, but the three men didn’t really need that sight to know. A cold bitterness and clenched teeth, no interest to spare for anyone but one woman and a cat.
The unwritten page in the story of the warrior Janus left the grassland for the buildings.
The man who had experienced a brighter life straightened up, grimly looking towards the palace. Blue hair swirled in the chilly wind, twisting past red eyes filled with flashing emotions.
‘Hey, I had almost forgotten how cute you were as a kid,’ an all too familiar voice suddenly said.
Janus nearly fell off the roof with a half-strangled shout of unpleasant surprise, but with more luck than skill he managed to land safely on his knees.
‘Just what the hell are you doing here?!’ the Prince and Pawn growled in unison.
‘No use looking at me like that, boys. I just felt like seeing what was happening in this other time-stream. Besides, I’m a good guy now.’
Silence while Janus pressed one hand against his forehead.
‘Yours?’ the Pawn finally said.
‘I’m afraid so,’ the Prince grunted.
‘This isn’t happening…’ Janus groaned.
‘Now look here, cutie,’ the intruding spirit mildly smirked, ‘no need to pale like your old man here.’
‘Oh really? You’re getting out of my head right now!’
‘I’m not evil anymore, and your lord version here can second that.’
‘Could be,’ the Prince snarled, ‘but that doesn’t mean that I’ll let you stay.’
‘You’re no fun!’
‘I remember your fun,’ the oldest one coldly said, ‘like that time when you turned me into a rat.’
‘And said I’d feed you to the gnashers?’
‘Yes,’ both the Prince and Pawn coldly said.
‘Oh come on. Just what did you do to me then? You blew me up with Dark Matter at least three times and then you cleaved me in two pieces.’
‘I didn’t even have time to begin.’
The Prince grunted and glared at the newcomer.
‘Look, our wizard here will have to be able to concentrate, and he definitely won’t be able to do that with you around,’ he said, ‘leave. Now.’
‘None of us saw him focus better any time but when he had an enemy around, now did we?’
The intruder tilted his head.
‘Come on, please? Just for a little while?’
‘Don’t give me that damn look!’ Janus snarled.
‘Well, I’m not moving.’
There was another moment of silence.
‘You need to get away from Frog,’ the Prince muttered.
‘Definitely,’ Flea nodded with a slanted smile, ‘he’s unhealthy. Trust me, I know.’
With a groan Janus shifted position and heavily thumped onto the roof. He didn’t even care if anyone inside heard him.
‘Fine, what do you want then?’ he growled.
‘Just watch a bit. I’m a spirit, though a bit deader than your two paraphrases here,’ Flea calmly said.
‘So I’ve heard.’
Janus rolled his eyes.
‘We can’t throw you out, can we?’ he tiredly asked.
‘Then just shut up.’
Sighing the wizard stood up and jumped into the grass about twenty feet below. Muttering to himself and to his mind he went inside, hosting one more spirit with him than anyone would have wished for.
‘Why do I get into these kind of situations…’
‘Do you get possessed often?’
‘Shut up, Flea!’ three men dangerously growled.
‘Geez, touchy as always…’
Chapter 14, Another take on Janus’ view
There are moments when I think that some kind of divine, or at least quite powerful, force of fate is playing with me.
It never was as strong as right now, though.
‘Heh…’ my oldest guardian -or rather, the second oldest person in my head- snorts, ‘you’ve seen nothing yet. I’ve felt worse than this in the hands of “fate”.’
‘Did you ever have your archenemy in your head, giving art-reviews of your memories?’ I dryly comment.
‘I’ve had to put up with my ex-archenemy hearing my niece call me “uncle Janus”.’
‘I have never before nor after seen anyone laugh that much.’
‘Yeah, that was quite amusing to watch if I do say so,’ Flea smirk somewhere in the back of my mind.
‘Not as fun as when Schala blew you and Slash through the wall of Guardia castle,’ my guardian growls.
‘I don’t recall you laughing right then,’ the magician mildly comments.
I start getting a headache because of the red-hot glare crossing through the center of my thoughts.
‘Quit it!’ I snarl, frustrated.
‘Habit,’ Flea grunts, ‘sorry.’
‘For a cleaned soul you’re still quite yourself,’ my teacher comments, deliberately staying out of the area between the magician and older warlock.
‘As I said, habit,’ the Mystic shrugs, ‘they’re hard to kill.’
He gives a short, grim sneer at the joke, but none of us follow up. I doubt he believed we would.
I tiredly glance out of the window just above me. Any minute now they’ll be here… from where I stand I have a perfect view of the entrance of Enhasa. I won’t miss my friends when they arrive.
The black wind is howling throughout the entire floating world, but very few can sense it. And I have to try to keep it out to be able to concentrate at all. It’s too much…
For a moment I close my eyes.
I waited thirteen years… even more expectantly after I got to know Glenn, above anything I wanted to be honest with him. But now I feel almost bitter when the time draws closer.
The nearest future… might not be pleasant. Many things about my fate I have desired, others I have feared.
‘Don’t go that way,’ my teacher concernedly warns, ‘it’s not your mother anymore, remember that.’
‘It’s nothing I can work out…’
I straighten up a bit, clenching my jaw and fists.
‘… Besides, it’s your fault I learned to love people.’
I feel the leader of the Mystics and Flea exchange glances, for the first time I see them agreeing.
My teacher sighs.
‘You’ve led a different life than the two of us,’ he continues, ‘so you’re nothing like we were. But what you see of your mother is another shell of Lavos, remember that.’
‘I know… goddammit…’
‘Schala almost died because of her love of that shell, Lavos used her to destroy Zeal completely,’ Flea’s old leader snarls, ‘and the queen laughed.’
I know, I know, I know, I know…
Flea floats over to the man from the same time stream, putting a hand on his shoulder without flinching.
‘Hm?’ he mutters, drawn from his own grim silence.
‘I really think you should tell them,’ the magician says, not a trace of mockery nor scorn in his voice, ‘there’s still time before Crono and the others come here.’
I straighten up a bit again, like my teacher frowning.
Our mirror seems distant for a moment. Flea moves away from him again.
‘Tell us what?’ I finally ask.
His whole spirit is turning as strained as a bowstring. Then suddenly the tension falls back a little, but I almost shudder at the cold rage he emits.
‘Fine…’ he snarls and grimly crosses his arms.
For a moment more he is quiet, I believe he’s trying to assemble composure.
‘I didn’t tell you everything about how I lost my powers,’ he finally admits in a snarl, ‘it wasn’t just that Lavos fooled me in a moment of weakness.’
His voice begin as a harsh growling until he’s almost shouting.
‘I’m going to tell you the full truth now, both of you. Queen Zeal is not just a shell. But you’re still going to kill her, boy. For no other reason than that it’s the only thing she can hope for now. You have no idea! You have no idea…’
He pauses for a moment longer, and then he literally roars in revulsion and dread:
‘You have no idea how it is to be possessed by that demon!’
I nearly fall to the floor, even if he hadn’t screamed the message is nearly more than I can handle.
None of us, not me nor my teacher, can bring forth a thought of counter.
‘He did not only manage to steal my powers,’ the former lord of darkness hisses, ‘oh no, that just wouldn’t be enough. He had to try to get my body too. And you listen to me now, boy. He tried to break me by bringing my mind into an illusion of what he would have done if succeeded. And it would have been real, for Schala experienced it when she tried to assemble our friends to save me.’
Another pause before he grudgingly keeps talking.
‘Through my own eyes I saw Robo fall to pieces and melt, I saw the Masamune shatter, I saw Glenn die trying to protect Schaliya, I saw Crono, Marle and Lucca flee in terror. And in the end…’
He’s shivering now.
‘… In the end I saw Schaliya plunge what was left of the Masamune into my chest, half insane. Help from the other side wouldn’t have saved her mind, should it really have occurred.’
‘I could have helped save your soul, Schaliya is something else,’ Flea mutters in the back.
‘You’re going to kill queen Zeal, understand?’ my oldest guardian coldly says, ‘for as it is now, she is in hell. She’ll be free only when she’s dead.’
I swallow hard and somehow manage to move my head in a nod.
Fair… enough… good Lord…
‘And to know I’ve still got him hiding in my mind somewhere…’ my teacher mutters in a rather hoarse voice.
‘He doesn’t have a chance unless you let your guard crash down,’ Flea says.
He leans his cheek in a hand and grunts.
‘Yeah well… he might interfere if something else tries to take over…’
My oldest mirror slowly turns around and glares at the Mystic, still shuddering slightly with tension and rage from his outburst.
‘Don’t you tell me…’ he growls.
Flea backs further away without looking up, almost absentmindedly.
‘Lizard and Levana discussed that it was strange that you were able to hold up for so long. And when greeny removed Charash’s curse he felt as if something was helping him pull it out.’
‘You’re still an expert of making my temper move down to murderous.’
‘Already dead, sorry.’
Me and my teacher just watch and listens to the argument with a sort of tense fascination.
‘So tell me,’ our mirror coldly says, ‘if spirits have insight in the whole history then why didn’t you know that Lavos’ soul was hiding in my mind all the while?’
‘It’s not that simple, sadly,’ Flea says, shaking his head, ‘if we’re to watch over someone then we’re stuck with that person as his life goes on, though we can see the world around him and try to help. Lavos hid too well for us.’
‘The powers forbid. You’re saying that you are my guardian angel?’ the old lord sarcastically says.
‘Well… Lizard is the most powerful one of us, but eh… yes.’
And with that the magician quickly ducks.
Very slowly I rise my hand and cover my eyes with it. Following my movements exactly two of the spirits in my head does the same.
‘I’m not hearing this,’ my teacher and the dark prince snarls simultaneously.
‘Regard it as a payback from us,’ Flea says, a hint of cheerfulness back in his voice.
… Us? Aw, damn.
‘I don’t believe this…’ I more or less groan in my thoughts.
‘You better do,’ the infernal magician says, and I see a hint of his evil side again as his voice turns somewhat demanding, ‘now shape up and get going, I feel two swordsmen and a princess closing in.’
My mirrors scowl at him, probably because they have memories of that tone of his.
Well, I’m glad to get something else on my mind…
Taking in a couple of deep breaths I move into one of the few shadows available in Enhasa, to observe the entrance completely unseen.
Some part of me can’t help but still being surprised with the fact that Flea is telling the truth.
Within a minute I oversee Crono, Frog and Marle entering the magical city, a bit bewilderedly looking around at the strange place. Their journey here must have mystified them as well, finding this magical land…
I clench my teeth and stay in hiding. Let them find out for themselves… it’ll be much easier to explain. It’s only a matter of moments until they meet prince Janus.
Chapter 15, Assembly in Zeal
“What a peculiar place…” Frog mumbled in amazed puzzlement.
“Yeah…” Marle said in a low voice, “now I really wonder what year it is.”
Well, it doesn’t look like the future, but neither like any past I’ve heard of, Crono said.
What amazed them the most wasn’t the fantastic architecture or not even the fact that they were upon an island floating high up in the sky. By now they felt more bewildered about that nobody of the many strangely dressed people inhabiting the era seemed to mind Frog at all. The men, women and children glanced a little at the travelers every now and then, but they seemed to look more at what the three wore than the rest of them.
Lucca and Ayla had profusely explained that they hated cold, and Frog had been about to fly off the handle of his worry for his lost blue-haired friend. Therefore it had been decided that he would be better off following Crono than stay in the End of Time, just being apprehensive. Robo hadn’t had anything against staying, and Marle had been curious about the new time, thus the party had been sorted out.
The showdown against the Reptites had been tiring, but their main worry was all the same ever since the Mystic’s castle, though.
“I wonder if Janus is here somewhere,” the princess concernedly said, glancing at Frog who bitterly clamped is teeth.
How big were the chances to ever find…
“Are you looking for young sir Janus?” an elderly man said.
He almost jumped when the three peculiar guests spun at him.
“Excuse me, I overheard you…” he said, rather surprised.
“Is Janus here?” Marle hurriedly asked, unable to be polite in her freed anxiety.
“Do you have an urgent message for the prince?” the old man asked, puzzled over their behavior.
“The wh…” Frog began, but Crono managed to cut him off before they got even more suspicious.
In his recent travels the young man had picked up a way to act neutral with the new people he met, finding that it always was easier to play along and find out the facts later to avoid trouble.
Yes, it’s very important, the red-hair quickly said, we need to see him as soon as possible. Have you seen him?
The old man nodded, thoughtfully. Inwardly Marle groaned, seeing a rant coming as she was used to scholars and people liking the sound of their own voice.
“He’s here somewhere,” the man said and sighed, “I’ve never seen such a troubled boy…”
Truly? Crono said, managing to sound natural even this time though it was a close call.
He was only trying to coax more information, but Marle could have whacked him over the head with her bow out of habit.
“Yes,” their informatory gladly continued, “it is indeed tragic that a boy of his bloodline cannot use magic. And his asocial manners! They’re inexcusable… truly sad.”
Crono, Marle and Frog blinked rather stupidly, but the man didn’t even notice, caught up in his own thoughts.
“He should really open up to more than his sister,” he said, “what shall we do with such a heir to the throne? It’s impossible that a monstros… I mean, low-level human could ever rule our kingdom. Then again, when the Ocean Palace is finished maybe…”
“We… we truly need to see the prince, sir,” Frog said in a rather weak voice.
“Oh, of course. Excuse me.”
The man smiled and looked around.
“I saw him just a moment ago… ah, there he is. Above the stair.”
Slowly the three warriors turned to follow the man’s gaze and pointing finger.
A small body dressed in purple robes was crouching down over a cat, stroking its head. The boy had blue hair, but that was all the observers could see from the distance.
Thanks a lot! Crono said so fast that it was almost inaudible, just half a second before he, Marle and Frog broke into a run.
They rushed towards the stair, absentmindedly apologizing to the people getting in the way.
The boy suddenly straightened up and turned around, looking down the stair at the runners that skidded to a halt and almost crashed into each other as they stared up at the sad, gem-green eyes.
Not Janus’ red eyes…
The staring seemed to go on for an eternity.
“The black wind howls,” the boy suddenly said in a bitter voice, “one among you will soon perish.”
Crono, Marle and Frog were already shocked by what they just had heard from the old man and it just became worse by the boy’s words. They couldn’t even open their mouths or reach out as he quickly brushed past them.
“Wait…” Marle whispered, but prince Janus and his purple cat were already by the town’s exit and leaving.
They were silent for a moment.
The… black wind? Crono finally slowly said, a tad bit pale.
“’Tis… ‘tis too much of a coincidence…” Frog whispered.
He almost jumped through the roof when a hand touched his shoulder from behind. Spinning around the three travelers’ breath got stuck in their throats again.
Janus pressed a finger against his lips with a cringe, his face shadowed below the hood of the cape he wore.
“My hair will give me away,” he hissed, “lets get out of here, I’ll explain everything.”
That would be appreciated… Crono slowly said.
He and his two companions hurried after Janus as he walked towards the gates in a quick stride.
The four began running as soon as they had exited the town, rushing away from all the people that could overhear their conversation. Soon they reached the small river flowing over the island and down towards the clouds below.
Janus threw his hood backwards and sunk down in the grass, seeming almost relieved.
“Nice to see you again,” he said, trying to smile a bit.
“What happened to thee?” Frog asked with a frown as he too sat down, “what is happening?”
“What about the prince?” Marle wondered.
Who was he? Crono questioned.
Janus held up his hands.
“It’s a long story, calm down,” he tiredly said and rubbed his forehead, “I hardly even know where to start.”
“Do you have a headache?” Marle concernedly asked, noticing the wizard’s frown.
He nodded with a small, strangely ironical grimace.
“I’ve got one you wouldn’t believe,” he said.
‘Are you calling me a headache?’
‘Do you really want to serve me a comment on that?’ the Prince shot in before Janus could reply.
‘I’m burning with offence!’ Flea pouted.
‘Just shut up, I’m trying to think!’ Janus grunted.
“It’s passing,” he said aloud, “now let me explain.”
He made a motion with his hand towards the entire area around them, the floating islands, buildings and sky.
“I have been keeping it a secret, and I apologize for that I wasn’t being honest,” the wizard said with a stitch of bitterness in his voice, “but I felt it was better to wait until you had seen some of it with your own eyes. This is the year 12000 BC, the kingdom of Zeal. And I was born here; the boy you saw was truly me.”
“Thou art a prince?” Frog said in disbelief.
Janus nodded, watching his hands.
“I was born a bastard son of Queen Zeal, nearly nobody knew who my father was and I could have lived without finding out. Sadly that wasn’t the case and he will most certainly cause us trouble.”
His voice grew even more bitter, but shifted to soft at a certain point as he continued:
“Though my mother was the queen and the most finest of magicians, I never showed any signs of being able to use magic. Thus I was considered a worthless child, a freak even. To a point mother still loved me, but suddenly she stopped caring. Left were only my cat Alfador and my sister, Schala. She brought me up as mother was lost.”
He fell silent, trying to figure out how to continue.
“What happened to you, why did you come to Guardia from here?” Marle asked, carefully.
Janus smiled a bit, bitterly.
“I’ll get to that,” he promised, “first of all… when I say that my mother went lost I don’t mean that she died. It’s as simple as it is horrifying. Look around.”
Again he motioned at the floating world.
“Zeal is a magical place,” he explained, “however, no human could keep these mountains afloat like this. The power that allows this life above the harsh winter lands comes from the god of this land. And that is Lavos.”
“Lavos is an intelligent being,” Janus growled, “and you felt his power when he awoke in the Mystic’s lair.”
How can you know that? Crono asked, you were uncon…
“My guardians,” Janus mildly said.
“Who are they?” Marle asked, unable not to stray from the subject in her puzzlement.
“They’re from different paths of time, versions of what I could have been,” Janus said, “the oldest you saw led the Mystics in the war against the humans, the younger one served them as a slave. But he was also the one saving me from either fate. Calm down, we’re getting there.”
His friends nodded and he continued:
“Lavos has this land under control through my mother, whom he is possessing. I don’t look forward to fighting her but I have been forced to face that it’s inevitable. Now then…”
He smiled a bit at this point.
“Remember that history is different now, and that my guardians are from what one can call different versions of the same timeline. Different sides, almost identical but not truly. Do you understand?”
“I believe I do,” Frog slowly nodded.
Marle and Crono agreed after a moment of trying to grasp the idea.
“Well then, that’s the main thing you’ll have to remember to understand my tale,” Janus explained, “my story began from early tomorrow, as it takes some time to travel over to the palace from here. One day when I was seven years old I had just returned from Enhasa, where I had gone trying to get my mind off things. Though I was so small I was a troubled child, as I was regarded worthless by almost everyone. And soon the Ocean Palace would be complete, robbing me of the one human caring for me. Schala was to move into the new capital, and I’d most likely not see her whenever I wanted ever again. Upon coming back from Enhasa I went to talk to Schala. Apart from my normal troubles I was worried about the black wind. It’s a sort of omen that only I and my sister seem able to feel…”
“What did your younger self mean with that one among us soon would perish?” Marle worriedly asked.
‘Bloody hell…’ Janus thought.
He seldom cursed but there were times it felt better.
‘Stay calm,’ his teacher warned.
“The black wind sounds to me like a choir of ghostly voices warning about misfortune, pain and death whenever such approaches. Something horrible will happen to this country, that much is certain, but it’s vague on the details,” Janus lied, trying not to glance too much at Crono.
Does it say that one of us three will die soon? the young man grimly asked.
He will die to save others, prince… it’s so sad, such a young, strong human…
“I can’t say for certain,” Janus calmly said, “it has been wrong before and I can hardly grasp the message now. So don’t worry unnecessarily, that’ll just eat at your focus.”
They looked a bit skeptic but before they could continue the wizard smiled a little, dryly.
“Don’t worry. You seemed healthy enough when you showed up here last,” he said.
“Huh?” the listeners wondered, dumbfounded.
“While I was talking to Schala that day three strangers entered her room, but none of us noticed them before Schala was called to the throne room. There was one young man with red hair, a young blond woman with green clothes and a big, fully dressed frog.”
Their looks just caused him to smile a bit more.
“What happened then wasn’t so good however,” he continued, dropping his good mood a little again, “you got captured by the queen’s head advisor Dalton.”
Shaking his head he growled:
“He’s a corrupt, backstabbing, power hungry, murderous, cruel, weak-minded, cowardly, egoistical swine of a fool. And on top of that he’s my father.”
“Oh dear…” Marle mumbled.
“I see why thee never spoke much of family,” Frog mildly said, his green face a tad bit pale though.
At that, Janus even smiled a bit again, although dryly.
“So is the cruel truth,” he said, “in any case, Schala decided to free the strangers from the prison and let them out, hoping that they could do something about the catastrophes the two of us felt nearing. This was since they had proved themselves brave warriors against Dalton’s henchmen. So they left… a couple of days later the Ocean Palace was finished. Schala and I decided to try to flee to the Earthbound ones, meaning humans without any magic skill. They are banished from Zeal and have to try to survive best they can down on the ground. Hadn’t I been the queen’s son I had probably been thrown there as well.”
Now his smile turned more genuine again.
“On the way to the caves of the Earthbound ones Schala and I met another stranger, walking through the snowstorm shielded by spells different from my sister’s. As we closed in we found him quite fearful, he was pale as death itself and his crimson cloak flapped like demon wings in the storm. He seemed very weak too, almost scared of us. After a moment he explained that his name was Janus; a future me. You have no idea how such information shocks, I’m just glad Schala was there to calm me. Then he teleported us to the caves…”
It took the wizard a while to tell his tale to the end, then listening to his companion’s story about the reptites.
“So what do we do now?” Marle asked as both sides were finished.
“First of all I think we better try to stay as close to the timeline as I remember it as possible,” Janus grimly said, “because I don’t want to risk loosing this boy-me to the Mystics by wrecking havoc in the story. We should travel in a group of three.”
“But thou knowest this time, it would be wise that thee followed us,” Frog wisely pointed out.
The wizard nodded.
“I suppose so. Then again, giving myself away as Janus so that Lavos finds out I’m here would not be wise. He wants my death more than Flea ever could dream of.”
‘Darn right! You can’t accuse any of me to eat your magic and make a package of your soul!’
The three Januses just silently grunted something.
“Have you learnt healing magic yet, Glenn?” the present one mildly asked aloud.
There was a silence. Then Frog chuckled, shaking his head.
“I canst not believe thou can still surprise me,” he said, “and nay, not much though it grows within me.”
“I believe that my presence here already change history,” Janus said with a sigh, “and we’ll have to be prepared for fights. Magic is essential as it’s the way of battle here. I’m sorry.”
“Though it pains me I see thy point,” Frog nodded with a sigh.
What should we worry about? Crono asked.
“Dalton, mainly,” Janus said, “he looks like this…”
He raised his hand a pressed two fingers against his forehead, with simple willpower creating a life sized illusion of the one-eyed man.
“I’ll avoid using Shadow spells at any cost,” the wizard said and made the picture disappear again, “it may draw Lavos’ attention and we might not be ready for him yet. Especially not since he can rally the whole Zealan army against us.”
“Infiltration mission, eh?” Marle said and smiled nervously.
We’ll be fine, we have a guide who knows the whole place this time, Crono said, trying to calm the princess.
“If it makes you feel better, Enhasa has some useful shops,” Janus calmingly said, “I would have proposed seeing if there’s anything we can use anyway.”
“Wouldst thee go to explore the city?” Frog asked, looking at Crono and Marle, “I wish to have a word with Janus alone.”
The two youngsters exchanged glances and looked at Janus, who nodded lightly.
Alright, Crono said and stood, we’ll be back soon.
“Take the time you need,” Janus kindly said.
Crono and Marle walked off, puzzled glancing back a couple of times. As they we’re out of hearing range Janus nodded.
“Alright, what is it?” he calmly asked.
“I wish to apologize,” Frog replied, sadly shaking his head.
“For what then?”
“In the past I have scolded thee for being cold to lady Lai,” the knight said, “but upon learning about this time travel and thy past I can finally draw a line between our friend and miss Lucca.”
Janus watched his hands.
“I don’t blame you,” he said in a controlled voice, “it was I who never told you.”
“But dost she know this?”
Janus shook his head without looking up.
“It was very trying for me to keep quiet around you and everyone else, but when it came to Lai it was impossible. I could not keep lying to her.”
“Dost thee love her, then?” Frog softly asked.
“It can never be, Glenn. For Lucca’s sake; I am not meant to be her ancestor. She might stop existing.”
“Since you’re going back in time, would you go home and tell everyone that we are still alive?”
At this, Frog chuckled very dryly.
“Question thyself what thou art asking of me,” he said with a small smirk, “thou ask me to return to the castle and tell Her Highness and His Majesty, all the knights, our friends and most importantly Lai that thou art well, but canst not return yet? That I failed to bring thee home safe? There would be fried frogs legs on the menu by nightfall.”
Janus finally looked up and even chuckled a bit at the rant. Frog smiled a little, glad to have recovered his friend’s optimism a little.
“True that,” the wizard said with a small grin, “I better come with you when time allows, so that you’ll be left out of the slaughter.”
“Fair enough,” the knight chuckled.
Chapter 16, Sibling meeting
The episode of loosing the Gate key during the first visit to the stone age had learnt Lucca one thing; make multiple sets of important items. Using Glenn’s memories of the cave with the Gate Janus teleported the knight away after Marle had equipped him with the extra key.
The three warriors then set out to cross the winter landscape separating them from the main island of Zeal, with the wizard by their side and his fire spells to warm them spared of the cold winds. It was no problem reaching the capital island.
“Things really get simpler with you around,” Marle cheerfully commented as they exited the skyway house and entered the warm sunlight again.
Yeah, glad to have you around, Janus, Crono smiled.
‘Bad vibes…’ Flea muttered, and just for once there was silent agreement.
“That’s sort of amusing considering I could have been your sworn enemy at this point, as one of my versions was,” Janus said, perhaps somewhat superstitious trying to smoother the all too good-looking future.
He looked ahead and pointed towards yet another assembly of white buildings.
“That’s Kajar,” he informed, “but I doubt there’s anything we need to see there.”
“What’s that?” Marle asked, pointing to the northwest of their position.
Dark metal shimmered in the sun, two gigantic winds stretched out ready to embrace - or take - the sky at will. It was bigger than the city, resting dangerously on the island’s edge.
“The Black Bird,” Janus said with a roll of his eyes, “Dalton’s gigantic toy. It’s almost as big as his ego.”
They began walking.
“Well, at least you’ve got nothing from his side of the family…” Marle pointed out, trying to cheer her friend up.
Janus gave a wry smile for that, though his face almost was completely shadowed by the hood.
“Thanks,” he noted.
Lucca would squeal with delight if she saw that thing… Crono muttered while shaking his head, pointing at the Black Bird with his thumb.
“Never saw it from the inside,” Janus said with a shrug, “heard it’s pretty impressive but never cared to check really.”
‘They’ll get a nice look while you’re gone saving the prince,’ the Prince and Pawn grunted at the same time.
‘They get captured?’ Janus grimly thought, his eyes narrowing.
‘Nothing they can’t handle, don’t worry.’
‘If you say so.’
Hey, we’re getting company, Crono warned.
“Hmm?” Janus said, looking up.
His teeth clenched.
“Isn’t that…?” Marle said in a tense voice.
“Just don’t look at them,” Janus growled, “look ahead.”
Three men came prancing down the road from the palace caves, probably on their way to the Black Bird. The wizard and his friends had already passed the crossroad on their way in the opposite direction, it was too late to turn without giving warning signs.
“Hey, what are you people?” a voice from behind a mask said, distrustfully.
With no other choice the travelers stopped, hoping not to cause a fight.
The soldiers of the kingdom had always worn masks, why had Janus never really understood. Perhaps since their general knew anonymity made more cruel methods possible.
“Suspicious looking…” the second mask agreed.
The leader said nothing at first, but his lonely eye went over the three.
“A bit paranoid, aren’t you?” Janus smirked at the soldiers, his accent acquired from Guardia perfectly replaced with the fine Enhasan inflection.
“Don’t give us that, lowlife,” the first soldier spat, “don’t you know who you’re facing?”
The hood turned lightly towards Dalton and then fully at the ground as Janus performed a very graceful bow. Trusting him to know best Crono and Marle followed up.
“Indeed I do know who lord Dalton is,” Janus calmly said, not allowing a spark of his disgust escape to his voice, “but I wasn’t talking to him, sir.”
“What’s with the hood?” Dalton asked, silencing his men.
Janus straightened up again, still not completely in order to keep his face shadowed.
“Ah that…” he said, “a mere magical accident. It’s the reason I need to go to the palace, I hope that princess Schala will be able to help me with my rather embarrassing problem. If you’d be so kind not to ask I’d be grateful, lord Dalton.”
“I don’t care,” the general said in a bored voice, “not my problem.”
“Thank you. Come on, hurry up.”
The last Janus aimed at his companions in a demanding manner, and they hurried past Dalton and his men.
“Wish I was still in Guardia so I could kill something!” he snarled as they got out of hearing range.
‘Horrible way, but he fell for it I believe,’ the Pawn acknowledged.
You’d do a fine spy, Crono chuckled.
Janus reached up and pushed the hood a little to the side to fully reveal his grimace, which caused his friends to chuckle.
The princess put her book back in the shelf and turned around with a smile.
“Oh Janus, you’re back?”
Her smile faltered as she saw his bitter expression and she sunk down on one knee to get closer to his level.
“What the matter?” she kindly asked.
“The black wind…” he murmured, looking away.
Schala tilted her head. True, the ghostly voices were whispering to her, but she had tried to dismiss it. But…
“You can feel it too?” she asked.
Her little brother nodded, silently.
“Don’t worry, it’ll be alright.”
‘I wanted to give him this, better do it now. The Ocean Palace will be done soon and…’
She cut off the thought, didn’t want to think about it. Reaching into her robes she brought out something, safely hidden in her fist.
“Now, hold on to this…”
Janus reached out and then looked at what he held. It was a small blue crystal, encircled by golden threads.
“What’s this?” he asked, for a precious moment even curious.
“It’s an amulet of a sort,” Schala softly said, “it’ll protect you.”
At that he furiously looked up.
“Schala, I don’t want you to go!” he pleaded, in hopeless anger.
The words cut like knives in the princess’ heart, and she had to turn away.
“I wish I could be with you always,” she said in a low voice, “but mother wishes otherwise.”
“She’s not our mother!” Janus furiously whispered.
Schala looked around, frowning.
“She looks the same but inside she has changed!” her brother bitterly growled, looking away.
The princess turned around to hide her pained expression once again.
“Still I can’t… I’m sorry, Janus,” she said in a low voice.
‘Mother has changed, that’s true…’ she sadly thought, ‘but she’s my mother, I don’t want to let her dreams down, it’s just for the best of the kingdom! Still, who’s going to care for Janus?’
Light footsteps she couldn’t recognize brought her out of her thoughts and she turned around.
Janus was glaring up at an intruding stranger, a tall man with a light cape and hood hiding his face in shadows.
“Hello, who might you be?” Schala carefully asked.
A deep sigh was heard from beneath the hood, but instead of instantly replying the stranger revealed his arms from the depth of the cape and reached downwards without bending his back.
The movement was eerily familiar…
With a purr Alfador leaped into the strangers arms, he who never showed anyone except Janus affection. Schala blinked.
“What?!” Janus croaked, shocked as his cat, his second closest friend, betrayed him.
“Don’t worry…” a soft man’s voice gently said from beneath the hood.
Schala opened her mouth to ask who he was again, but was cut off by yet another new voice.
“Princess, the queen summons you to the throne room.”
Looking down towards the door to her room Schala spotted a palace maid. And behind her where two more strangers, silently standing by the wall. Both of them nothing more than teenagers, one young man and a woman in his age, looking a little bit confused.
Before the princess had time to reply to the maid’s message the first stranger walked down to her and muttered something in a low voice. She stared at him in surprised fear, and he said something again. The maid turned around and hurried away.
“We’ve only got a few minutes in any case,” the stranger grimly said as he came back to the siblings, “and it’s a bit complicated.”
“Who are you?” Schala asked, a bit nervous now.
Janus was standing beside her, almost taking cover but clearly angry about how Alfador had acted.
The hood turned lightly towards the two other strangers, as if wanting to reassure that the door was guarded. After checking this he bent down and put Alfador on the floor, but the cat kept watching him as he remained heavily on one knee.
“Are you alright?” the princess asked, feeling the bitterness flowing out from the man’s being.
“It’s a long story, Schala,” he slowly said, standing up and pushing the hood backwards.
A thin face, smooth apart from a scar on his left cheek and forehead was revealed, together with a long flow of blue hair. A very distinct hue. The eyes meeting Schala’s stare with a hint of sadness were ruby red, but their shape…
“Who are you?” she said again, her voice turning into a shocked whisper.
“I’m here from the future, Schala,” he said in the same gentle voice that had tried to calm her brother, “I’m Janus.”
She felt a pull in her robes and glanced down for a moment, seeing her little brother pale and stiff in shock. Looking back at the stranger she tried to be angry at him for scaring Janus with such a silly lie, but somehow she couldn’t bring herself to it. His sad red eyes were nailing themselves into her deepest mind.
“And can you prove that?” she tried, disbelieving.
Without a word he nodded and reached into his robe. After a couple of seconds he produced the very same amulet that the princess knew she had just given her brother. For an eternity she could only stare at it.
“But… you… how?”
“It’s a long story,” he said again.
He looked down at the prince, who stared at him even more scared than before.
“I know how you feel,” the grown man calmly said, “it was just a different man I met, somewhere else. But meet myself I did.”
Schala reached out before she could stop herself and put her hand on his scarred cheek, like she did when her brother was sad.
He even closed his eyes just like Janus did…
“It is you?” she whispered.
The smile seemed strangely not misplaced in his face, though the Janus she knew seldom smiled.
“I grew up better than you could ever hope for, Schala,” he warmly said as he opened his eyes again.
His expression changed and he shook his head, taking her hand.
“But I had to come here to try to save you, definitely save myself. For if I don’t, the boy here will grow up among enemies and in complete darkness.”
The boy backed up behind Schala, terrified by the intruder’s words. Alfador followed him, sensing that something was wrong but not quite sure what it was.
“It won’t happen, I won’t allow it,” the man quickly assured, not seeking eye-contact with the child however.
“But how?” Schala said in a low voice.
“The queen will summon you again soon, and bringing you two away from here right now will alter history too much, I’m afraid,” the grown Janus muttered, “I’d show you my memories but there’s no time for that either. In short, Lavos is not what you have been fooled to think he is, he is pure evil and he’s possessing mother.”
The princess’ voice could hardly produce the whisper.
“Listen,” the man gently urged, calmingly holding her hand between his bigger ones, “in two days the Ocean Palace will be completed. Don’t hesitate to go to the Earthbound village, me and my friends will meet you on the way and we’ll do everything we can to protect you. Don’t worry.”
Schala watched him for a moment longer, then grimly nodded.
“I understand, Janus…”
He smiled then, a little bit.
“You’ve grown so much, little brother,” she kindly commented, touching his other cheek.
The small chuckle even made the boy peek out at the man, frowning but still.
“I’m twenty years old and royal wizard of Guardia, a kingdom in a distant future,” the grown prince fondly told her.
Both Schala and her little brother blinked.
“Wizard?” they said almost simultaneously.
The grown Janus smiled again, wider this time, and looked down at himself as a child.
“It takes a bit of extreme circumstances but magic will be awakened even in the son of queen Zeal.”
The child hid behind his sister again, but the reaction went slower than last. He was hesitating. Schala seemed to trust the stranger, but… and…
It was too confusing for him.
“I might be harming history by talking to you already,” the grown man slowly said, looking at Schala again, “it was different with me. But I’ve got my own feelings and a headache telling me it can’t get worse by warning you earlier.”
“What?” the princess said, this time a little amused over the jocular tiredness in his voice.
So different from her Janus, but still…
“I’ll explain when we’ve got more time,” he promised, “but for now you better hurry to the throne room.”
She hesitated for a moment but then nodded.
“Alright. Be careful, Janus.”
“I will, Schala,” he nodded with a smile.
He carefully let go of her and she walked towards the exit though she’d much rather stay and have him tell her more of the strange story. As he was still rather nervous the little Janus closely followed her, with Alfador toddling along.
The two strangers by the door carefully smiled at the siblings and Schala returned that, understanding they were friends of her brother.
As the two royalties had left the room Janus met Marle and Crono halfway to the door.
“That went better than I thought it would,” the princess warmly said, “congratulations, I’m happy she believed you.”
“Thanks, Marle,” Janus gratefully said as he pulled up his hood again, making sure every strand of hair was hidden.
So do we wait here for two days or what? Crono asked.
“As it was for my teacher you had to flee through time and Dalton somehow managed to lock the Gate to Zeal,” the wizard grimly said, “you had to seek the help of a guru from here hiding in the destroyed future. If we don’t make a ruckus here that won’t be as urgently necessary… but I think we better look him up, for his help is vital in any case. But first there’s something we need to do here.”
Not that I’m an artist, but that’s one horrible piece of it, Crono grunted with a grimace, too low for the Enlightened ones to hear.
Several of the inhabitants of Zeal were in the room, the only thing they seemed to be doing being watching the Mammon Machine with dreaming smiles almost as if the power coming from it put them in the same state that could be maintained with the help of mystical herbs.
It was probably the sad truth, too.
‘Almost soulless…’ Janus sadly thought, watching the happy people.
‘Sad,’ his teacher agreed.
“The Mammon Machine sucks power from Lavos,” the wizard said once again as he had explained it earlier, “the Ocean Palace is built to bring it closer to the god.”
“And Schala operates it?” Marle whispered as they walked closer.
“She uses her pendant, which is made in dreamstone like the Masamune and this wretched contraption,” Janus nodded, “there’s a little of it in my amulet too. The thing is, Schala’s pendant can also work like a key to magical seals. Treasures of this era is still out there in history as their chests cannot be broken, I’ve even found a couple of them in Guardia.”
“But that’s Schala’s pendant, what’s it to us?” Marle wondered.
“It just needs reenergizing, and we’ll be able to use it.”
Janus turned and pointed with a faint smile.
Eh? Crono said as something leaped out of a pocket into Marle’s hand.
“My pendant?” the princess said, puzzled.
She looked up, bewildered.
“You mean they’re the same?”
“We’re going to use all help we can get, and those treasures are bound to be of some value in our struggle,” Janus nodded, “just hold it up to the Mammon Machine.”
Marle nodded and stepped forward, hiding the pendant in her hands not to alarm any of the Enlightened ones. That was, just in case some of them were still somewhat in the real world.
Red light seeped between her fingers as the pendant reacted to the power of the Mammon Machine.
‘Careful…’ the Prince muttered, and Janus backed away a little just in case Lavos would be able to feel even the faintest scent of him through the magic.
After a few moments the light faltered and Marle quickly surpassed her pendant to a pocket.
“Are we leaving?” she asked.
“I think that would be best,” Janus agreed, “I’ll teleport us to the cave with the Gate once we’re on a little more distance from Lavos.”
You’re the expert here… Crono complied and they hurried towards the exit.
Nobody tried to stop them as they left the palace and made their way down through the caves, to the grassland area.
Dare I say that went surprisingly smooth? the red-haired one warily said as he and his companions slowed their pace down the road a little.
“Maybe,” Janus said with a slanted smile.
“Schala seems really nice,” Marle said, kindly.
The wizard softly smiled under the hood and nodded.
“I couldn’t agree more.”
You want to go back to Guardia for a bit while we go to the future? Crono asked with a smile.
“Now just how did you guess that?” Janus said with a wider smile.
Not too hard to guess, pal.
“Am I that predictable?”
Nah, Frog just said something about you might want to get the shredding and shouting over with, the young man smirked and winked with one eye.
At that Janus even chuckled, to his own surprise.
“Lai can be quite colorful, indeed,” he said.
“I got the idea the queen and several others might have something to say about you getting captured,” Marle mildly said.
“As long as they don’t know how I got caught I might just be able to walk away in less than three pieces.”
‘Woe, vain, veil, why,’ Flea’s voice cut in through Janus’ cheerfulness, ‘I smell a dirty little spy…’
‘Just what I needed…’ the wizard grunted.
‘Just about…’ his teacher began.
‘… There,’ the Prince ended, mentally pointing.
Janus left hand shot out, and there was a strange, muffled shriek. For a moment his hand and fingers twisted about mindlessly, then a strange blue creature materialized in his grip. It had two small hands with three fingers, feet of much the same shape and wings on it’s back. Its head was almost nothing but a giant eye.
“A scout,” the wizard tiredly said, “we’ve been stalked.”
For how long?! Crono grimly and worriedly demanded.
Janus brought the creepy thing down to his face level and glared into the eye. The thing blinked and twitched for a moment, but then seemed to grow paralyzed before the wizard’s gaze.
“It’s seen nothing too dangerous,” he said, “only from our entrance in the Mammon chamber. And it’s not going to report anything to Dalton now.”
He carefully changed his grip so that the scout limblessly thumped into his assembled palms. Then he raised his hands towards the sky.
“Go find yourself a safe spot, it’s going to get dangerous here in a few days.”
With another squeak the blue scout took flight, once again alive. It fluttered away over the floating island like a big clumsy insect.
“Why did you let it go?” Marle carefully asked.
“It was empty of information after I examined it,” Janus said, “and it’s just a tool, no use to put any blame on it.”
As his right hand fell it painted a line of fire in the air, and the wizard calmly grabbed his staff.
“It’s those men hiding in the bushes that we should worry about now,” he said in a low voice so that only Crono and Marle possibly could hear.
In the next second a couple of masked warriors flew to their feet in alarm as their hiding place just beside the road got ripped away in one swipe.
“I thought we were cleansed of all suspicion, my good men?” Janus mildly said while Crono and Marle pulled out their weapons behind his back.
“That’s for lord Dalton and Her Majesty to decide,” the left warrior growled, “you’re coming with us!”
We haven’t got time for this, I’m afraid, Crono snarled back.
“Tough luck, lord Dalton’s orders,” the other one stated.
“Says you and what army?” Marle sweetly said, almost playfully aiming her bow at the last spokesman’s chest.
“The whole Zealan army, should something befall us,” he replied, a little nervous however.
‘Zeal is still too close,’ Janus muttered to his friends’ minds, ‘Lavos might be able to track us if I teleport. Dalton finding the Gate is one thing…’
‘Gotcha…’ Marle replied.
‘I’d wipe their minds clean of this too if I could, but it’s too risky.’
‘Do we battle then?’ Crono asked.
‘I see no other choice.’
Janus glared at the warriors, but his hatred was placed elsewhere.
‘I’m not being a prisoner again.’
‘I know how you feel,’ Crono grimly said.
‘Janus, sorry to bother you but I really mean it nicely this time,’ Flea rabbled somewhere in the back of the wizard’s mind, ‘you’re setting my clothes on fire here!’
‘Keep up the hate,’ the Prince said with a small sneer, ‘we might even get rid of him.’
‘How about focusing on what you’re doing right now instead?!’ the Mystic shouted, leaping from side to side.
“We’ve got important matters to attend to elsewhere,” the wizard calmly said and leaned on his staff, “and yes, they’re more important than Dalton’s call.”
“You have some nerve!” the second warrior said, brandishing two daggers.
“Your idea about getting physical…” Janus shrugged and got into a defensive stance.
To make his point even clearer he let them attack first, easily parrying the daggers of the first attacker and sidestepping the other. Crono engaged battle with that one while Marle carefully aimed not to hit any of her friends.
The warrior battling Crono yelped and grabbed for his upper left arm, then growled and flew at the princess. His companion left Janus and followed his friend.
‘Wait for it…’ the Prince muttered, holding the younger version back.
Marle raised her bow and whacked the first one over the head before he could strike her, the second fell to the ground caught in midair as Crono got a hand on his crag.
“Thanks Crono!” the princess called with a wide smile before she continued to pester her attacker.
‘Cute,’ Flea commented with a smirk.
‘Don’t push it,’ the Prince warned.
‘Who, me? Hey ow, that burns!’
Janus smirked at both the battle before him and the argument inside his head. Sadly so did his teacher, as that left them all off guard.
Half a second too late Janus felt a pull in his hood and whirled around, whipping out his arm and smacking a dully yellow scout to the ground. The hood feel backwards and for a moment his hair melted into the blue sky, spread like a fan by his violent movement and the winds.
The scout crashed on the road just before a pair of the finest boots the magical kingdom could produce.
‘Well damn…’ Janus grunted while his hair fell back around his shoulders.
“That’s a strange ‘embarrassing problem’ you had,” Dalton said with an intrigued smirk.