Epilogue, A look on a third one
‘When theoretically months are laid upon months, it gets more tiring than it should be allowed to…’ Janus tiredly thought, idly stroking a finger over the bookshelf and glancing at the dust before he rubbed it off.
Moving through time like he had done for weeks turned out becoming horribly confusing and it gnawed on him. And the bitter taste in his mouth refused to leave even if it had been so long ago since he left his friends.
The knowledge that he most probably had Lavos sleeping deep within his mind wasn’t helping either, as he was rather afraid of any negative feeling giving the Prince’s warnings.
‘Ah well, this has to be better than moving around mindlessly through history…’ Janus thought, glancing around at the forest of bookshelves.
Searching through an entire library – and one of this size, at that – for records of a blue-haired woman was of course not an easy task either, but a small lie to the librarians at least gained him a bit of help in the search.
He had told them that he believed to be an unknown descendant to the fabled wizard of Guardia and was looking for facts about his heraldry. That had truly gotten their interest.
It didn’t help much in the search but finding that he had left quite a mark in the country’s history did make him feel a bit proud. Even though it fueled his feeling of being away from the place where he belonged.
In this gigantic library were countless writings that described his deeds, many which made him raise his eyebrows and once he had gotten strange looks for not being able to hold back a laugh at the absurdity.
The stories became less and less attached to reality as the truth moved further into the past, turning him into somewhat of a half god. And Flea into a demon, being his rival. There were tales that mixed him up with Cyrus and stories with no relation to reality whatsoever.
What puzzled Janus was that Lai didn’t seem to have a place in Guardia’s history. He had only seen a couple of brief notices about her being a friend or student of his, but apart from that nothing. In the back of his head the wizard had somewhat expected her to assume his title in his absence, but had to come to the conclusion that she probably had left the castle to get married or something similar.
Glenn wasn’t mentioned much either, only as the monstrous guardian of queen Leene, which was strange as well…
Brushing off all the thoughts Janus ran his hand over the books, his other arm hooked onto the ladder keeping him several yards above the floor. Even if it was rather early in the morning he didn’t want to risk floating in the air while searching for any book that looked interesting, in case someone would see him.
The tips of his pointing and middle finger hooked onto a age worn, lightly cracked back of a book, and the hand might have continued over the row if something hadn’t caused the wizard to freeze in his position.
‘Can you hear me?’
The voice calling to his mind was familiar, and in the way it was so it was also quite eerie.
It sounded just like Janus himself.
‘Ah, it’s you,’ he mildly sent back, ‘what is it?’
‘I need a favor.’
There was a brief pause.
‘I hate having to ask, but I have to watch Glenn right now so I can’t go…’
‘What has happened? Is Glenn hurt?’
‘Yes… but he’s fine.’
There was a sigh.
‘And Cyrus won’t feel anymore pain… it’s Flea that I’m worried about.’
“What the hell?” Janus growled aloud.
The book that his hand had rested on got dragged along as the wizard slid down the ladder and hurried towards a smaller side corridor between two bookshelves. It was a bit more secure than the open field he currently was in.
‘What happened?’ Janus demanded while he rushed over the floor.
‘Before Glenn lost consciousness again he told me that as they were cornered by the Mystics with Cyrus dead, Flea pretended willing to change sides again and turned Glenn into a frog to prove it. That’s all I know. It’s just a temporary spell, so he didn’t really betray us.’
‘He told me as he decided to come with Cyrus that we both knew that Glenn’s life was in danger; if there wasn’t anyone to bring the curse upon him he could be killed instead. I never thought Flea was gonna make such a sacrifice though.’
The wizard turned around the corner and looked around just to make sure nobody was in the area. Since all seemed clear he raised his free hand and began muttering the spell for Gates between time streams. The book he held remained where it was, since he didn’t bother to remember it for the moment being. He quickly dove through the flashing darkness and stepped out in a nostalgic scene.
A campfire sparkled a few feet away from two figures, one lying down on a bedroll and the other kneeling by the first one’s side, wrapping up a wounded arm in a bandage. The damage that magic had done in the flesh needed more time than regular wounds to heal. A river floated by behind the back of the caretaker, oblivious to the battle that had taken place as another part of it had passed by earlier.
“You’re not teleporting there, are you?” the younger Janus said, saving the greeting for business.
His clothes were very much alike his teacher’s choice of wardrobe; a light shirt and dark blue pants with sturdy boots to go with them. He also wore a gray cape, the hood hanging between his shoulders.
“I’ll take a look first,” the Wizard grimly said as he sat down in the grass on the other side of Frog, “and if we can then we’ll get him out somehow. You make sure Glenn doesn’t see me if he wakes up.”
“What?” Janus said.
The Wizard blinked as if he just awakened from a deep thought, then shook his head and waved with a hand.
“Never mind, I think I just realized how another version of us felt when he met me.”
“What about it?”
“No matter, I’ll go check on Flea.”
The Wizard stretched out on the ground and closed his eyes. Moments later a transparent image of him stood up from the motionless body. Janus nodded at him and pointed at what was left, calling upon an illusion of thin air to hide the shell.
He who was the first of the blue-hairs to serve Guardia turned to the northeast and hurried towards the evil castle, rushing alongside the night winds. As he saw the ominous tower he slowed down momentarily to turn completely invisible before diving inside.
Unsure where Flea could be the Wizard floated through the walls and floors, hoping to find the magician or clues to his whereabouts in talks between Mystics.
“… oody dangerous, I’m not taking any risks!” a thick, familiar voice snarled.
The Wizard stopped, hanging unseen in the middle of the room where Ozzie glared at the furiously pacing Slash.
“That damn traitor has no place here!” the swordsman snapped, “I bet my sword hand that he’s bluffing!”
The Wizard sighed lightly of relief as he understood that the strange Flea still was alive.
“You go ahead and tell it to his face,” Ozzie snarled, “until we’re sure I’m not pushing my luck like that.”
All his sharp teeth showed in a growl.
“If he’s bluffing, and I’m also betting he is, we’ll know soon enough and then he’ll die. But I won’t take any chances.”
It was mildly amusing to watch the monsters’ frustration, but knowing he should move on and find the cause of the irritation the spy continued his search.
Since he moved very fast and didn’t have to care about things like doors, it only took him a few more minutes to find what he sought. In a small room in the eastern wing of the castle. It was empty apart from a few barrels and wooden boxes. Flea was pacing back and forth, nervously playing with something he held in his hands.
He hadn’t changed much in the eleven or so years that had passed, causing the Wizard to remember the brief talk about Mystics and aging. However, the white robes that had somewhat reminded of his evil version’s clothing were exchanged for a pair of dark, sturdy pants and a brown, jacket type shirt in leather; travel clothes.
The Wizard swept down beside him and melted into sight.
Flea jumped and spun at the movement in the corner of his eye.
“By Snake! Don’t do that!” he hissed as he realized that he knew the intruder.
“Sorry I scared you,” the Wizard said in a low voice.
The magician fiddled with his thick glasses, eying the spirit.
“Ah, it’s you,” he finally concluded, “where the heck is Janus?”
“He’s keeping an eye on Glenn.”
“Oh. That kid’s alright or what?” Flea worriedly asked.
“Yes, Glenn is fine, just a bit bruised,” the Wizard said and crossed his arms with a jocular glare despite himself, “I see my student’s way of speaking is being spoiled by someone, however.”
“Aint my fault I’m rubbing it off on him, it just happens when ya study and fight together like we’ve done.”
They exchanged small grins before turning grim again.
“Why are you still here?” the Wizard asked, “are you still rusty at teleporting?”
Flea rubbed his neck, the free hand clenching around whatever it was he had been playing with. It looked like something small and reddish, but the spirit couldn’t really see what it was for the fingers.
“Never got a hang of that, no,” the magician said with a sigh, “I’d need some stuff for it and the others would realize what I was doin’ since that’s a bit of all-round education around these joints.”
“Alright, you stay here and I’ll come and get you.”
The thing in Flea’s hands began leaping between his palms as he spoke. It seemed to be a small gem.
“I might not be able to do it but I know how it works,” the magician stated, “and you practically haven’t been here for years. It’s too risky.”
The Wizard would have protested but he didn’t really know if the magic would count his memories as years or the few months it had been in his view. Either way, months could be too long in any case.
“What should we do then, just leave you here? They don’t trust you any more than a forest fire.”
“I know,” Flea nodded, “but I’ll stay here anyway. Without them being able to touch me, of course.”
The blue-hair raised his eyebrows.
“How will you do that?”
“Just a bit of special defense magic and I’ll be okay until our temporarily green friend and Janus can toddle over here to get me out.”
“Oh, I see,” the Wizard said with a light sigh, “if there’s no other way I suppose that’s the best option.”
“Right. So, I just want ya to take this here to the youngsters so they’ll know what to do.”
Flea held up the red gem between his thumb and pointing finger, waiting for the intruder to turn as physical as he could. It was quite a strain to keep a good grip of the stone, but the Wizard managed.
“The delivery of that is all that’s kept me from wrapping myself up,” the magician said with an ironic chuckle, “can’t leave ‘em hanging, you know.”
“Yeah, I understand.”
The Wizard raised an eyebrow.
“Just out of curiosity, how did you keep Ozzie and Slash from killing you back there?”
Flea laughed a bit as he opened the room’s only window, on the wall facing the door.
“You know, a human doesn’t want to be turned into a giant frog and a monster would rather die than be turned to a human. Fear is a tool to use.”
The visiting blue-hair couldn’t help but chuckle at the information and easily understood what Ozzie had meant with taking risks.
“You’re dangerously clever,” the spirit grinned.
“Why thank you.”
Flea made a silly bow.
“Now you take care and make sure you find your sis, hear?” he said and straightened up.
“I’ll do my best. Good luck yourself,” the Wizard nodded.
“Bye for now, pal. Visit again sometime.”
“I will. Good bye.”
The magician smirked a bit and winked with one eye before crossing his arms over his chest.
“Powers of the world, lend me pure power! Twandor cantela shimo, ehecal na Janus ky Glenn mati!”
An intense light flowed from the air surrounding Flea, and just before it began to fade there was a softly tingling sound.
The glow faded to reveal the magician, safely enclosed in a several feet thick crystal, seemingly asleep within. The container was perfectly shaped like a polished half of a diamond, and just as smooth.
Smooth, apart from two hand-shaped engravings in the level of Flea’s face. A couple of holes for right hands.
Just for the sake of it the guest raised his ghostly palm to the left gap. His long fingers would have fit perfectly, but he didn’t touch the magic crystal. The other hole had slightly thicker and shorter fingers; meant for a swordsman’s hand.
The Wizard let the arm fall and briefly smiled at the peaceful face within the transparent material. Then he floated out of the window and hurried back towards the small camp on Denadoro mountains. He couldn’t fly like he had done before since he had to stay as present as he could in order to keep his grip of the red gem.
It took a while longer to reach the destination this time, but not more than a few minutes. The Wizard’s main problem was to keep the stone from slipping though his palm.
As he neared the cliffs there was a distant, cracking sound that almost made him drop his small burden and recoil in shock. The power of memories was much stronger as he was in his spirit form, and he could hardly stop himself.
“I said, get lost you damn critters!” the time stream’s true Janus distantly shouted.
For a moment the Wizard hung still in the air, his right eyebrow slowly perking up.
‘… No. He wouldn’t.’
He dived towards the distant light.
A blue eaglet crashed on the ground and dissolved, its right wing broken and the mark of the weapon was staining quite a bit of its chest too. A pair of freelancers hissed and leaped backwards as the grass was torn a couple of feet in front of them; three yards from Janus.
‘Heh,’ the Wizard thought and raised his hand to his forehead, floating just out of sight in the darkness.
Janus snapped his weapon backwards and warningly grabbed it in his free hand as well.
‘Are you awake?’ the Wizard called out with his mind.
‘What is it?’ came the reply from a voice much older than the caller’s.
As the two monsters still seemed hostile Janus lashed out again, giving them another warning. Frog watched, still on the bedroll but prodded up on his arm.
‘I just wanted to say sorry,’ the Wizard sent.
‘Where did that come from?’ the Prince asked, a frown in his thought.
‘Eh, you know my student? He’s… well…’
After a third lash the freelancers finally came to a wise decision and scurried off. With a snort Janus coiled up his mean of brute force and moved the cape aside so he could hang it on his belt.
‘He’s using a whip.’
‘Yeah. I’m sorry.’
‘You know what, youngster, I’m slowly beginning to completely loose fate in our cause.’
‘One might start to wonder, indeed…’
There was a grunt.
‘Well, I wash my hands of it. If you keep an eye on him let me know how he does, but don’t expect me to come and save a psychopath.’
The Wizard managed to cut the contact before he chuckled.
Down in the camp Janus walked over to Frog again.
“Well, that’s that,” the more human looking one stated.
“Good work,” the patient acknowledged, not too spirited though.
Janus muttered the spell of healing and carefully spread the stars over the bandaged areas as if they had been ointment.
“Don’t worry, you’ll be back to normal in the morning,” he grimly assured his friend, “we’ll save Flea and claim revenge on those murderers.”
“What if Flea already is dead?” Frog bitterly said, “what if he truly did betray us?”
“It’s a temporary spell, trust me,” Janus reassured, “if he really had meant to switch sides he would have made it permanent.”
Frog fell silent and sighed.
“Even so, is he alive? Or does he just wish he was dead, in the hands of those monsters?”
“I wish I could make sure, Glenn…”
The Wizard managed to turn himself invisible and still maintain his grip on the gem, even if it was quite a strain. He carefully lowered himself down towards the ground.
‘Flea is alright,’ he sent to Janus’ mind, ‘here, I’ve got something from him.’
“Hmm?” the younger blue-hair said, looking up at the night sky.
“What?” Frog wondered, blinking at the darkness.
The gem floated down in Janus’ hand and the Wizard silently backed off a little.
“Where did that come from?” the wounded asked, frowning.
‘Thanks a lot,’ the student gratefully thought.
‘You’re welcome. I’ll have a talk with you about your weapon of choice though.’
At that, Janus’ thoughts turned rather sheepish.
‘I have a good reason.’
‘I’m sure you do. Will love to hear it, too.’
“Lesse now…” Janus said aloud, turning the gem between his fingers, “I think it’s a message from Flea. Might work if you touch it.”
Frog reached out somewhat clumsily, unused to his suddenly short arms. The wounds didn’t help either, even if they didn’t hurt half as much anymore they still made him rather stiff.
As soon as the small green hand touched the red stone, the gem melted and gracefully dripped through Janus’ fingers. Upon touching the ground it turned into a miniature illusion of the strange Flea, dressed in the clothes that the Wizard had seen him in.
“No use trying to talk to me, boys,” the Mystic said with a wry smile, looking at nothing particular, “I can’t hear you. This is just a recorded message for ya.”
The image reached up and preformed that Flea’s characteristic nervous fiddle with his glasses.
“So…” he said with a sigh, “I’m sorry, Glenn. I was afraid something like this would happen and I was prepared to risk getting captured to save you. I bet Janus has told ye already that it’s just a passing spell, it’ll wear off soon and you’ll be back to normal. Well, it was sorta my plan to do pull this kind of stunt if I had to, I’m sorry I couldn’t save Cyrus too.”
He sighed and looked down for a moment, shaking his head.
“You couldn’t…” Frog muttered, momentarily forgetting that there wasn’t any use in talking to the illusion.
“But there’s nothing to do about it now,” Flea started again, sadly, “we tried, Glenn, that’s all we could do and you shouldn’t blame yourself either. Now, as for me…”
He smirked a little, but with lack of joy.
“I don’t want you an’ Janus to go around worrying about me. I won’t be the oldest Mystic in this blasted castle and I ain’t getting out anytime soon. So, I’m gonna use a spell to put myself inside an unbreakable crystal.”
“What the hell?!” Janus and Frog started at the same time.
But as Flea couldn’t hear them, he just went on.
“Ah, I know yer faces now, boys. But don’t worry, you’ll be able to get me out. Whenever you get into this here castle, and I know you will, you’ll find me in the eastern wing and if you’re together you can free me. So make sure you don’t let no Mystic or Lai kill you before you manage to get me outta here, understand? Good.”
He smiled a bit again and nodded.
“That’s all. Take care now and be good kids. Bye.”
The image turned back into a softly reddish liquid and dripped backwards to its original form in Janus’ hand.
For a moment the two friends were silent.
“Well, that’s a relief…” Frog finally muttered.
“But does he think we’re going to break into the Mystic’s castle?” the green one said with a frown.
“Not tonight, we’re not,” the blue-hair said with a light smirk, “don’t worry about it for now Glenn, we’ll think of something. If nothing else, we might have to storm their lair with the army to end the war.”
‘Or a handful of daredevils…’ he thought, letting his teacher hear the somewhat ironic reflection.
The older one silently chuckled.
‘My daredevils needed a bit of extreme encouraging to get going.’
‘Yes, but let’s leave it at that…’
“You should get some more sleep now,” Janus told Frog.
The cursed swordsman nodded with a small sigh and laid back under another wave of healing stars, shifting a little until the pain dulled. The watching friend mumbled again, this time a spell of sleep. Frog’s breath immediately turned deeper and more relaxed.
“There we are,” the kneeling man said.
The Wizard floated back into his body and sat up. As he did so the veil of invisibility fell away from him.
“Well then, explain that,” he said rather flatly, pointing towards Janus’ hidden weapon.
The student followed the point and brushed the cape aside with a light grunt, gazing at the coiled whip.
“I understand you’re rather shocked,” he said and shrugged, letting go of the cloth so that it fell back, “but what can I say? I’d like to give Ozzie a taste of it and see how he likes it.”
The Wizard nodded, rubbing his forehead a bit.
“That’s a logic I can follow, I suppose,” he admitted.
“I thought I was crazy too when I first thought of it,” Janus nodded with a somewhat sheepish smile.
“Ah well… and then there’s Lai.”
They exchanged somewhat tired glances.
"You too, eh?” Janus sadly said.
“Head over heels.”
“Sorry to hear that.”
“The same to you,” the Wizard sighed and shifted, thereby noticing something on the ground beside his right knee, “hmm?”
With an absent frown he lifted the item, realizing it was the book from the library that he had dragged along in his haste. The light from the fire played over the lightly cracked, soft wood of the cover, highlighting pointy marks on it.
“Ah, this,” the Wizard murmured, “my bad.”
He stood, carefully holding the old book not to damage the yellowed pages.
“I suppose I better get going before the librarians start missing this,” he said, “good luck saving Flea and fighting Lavos.”
“I’ll bug you again if something more goes wrong,” Janus lightly chuckled, “but don’t worry, I think I’ve got things pretty much under control apart from this setback.”
“Better start worrying then,” the Wizard said, smirking vaguely.
Janus chuckled and waved a bit as the Gate opened before his teacher.
“Good luck finding Schala,” he said.
“Thanks,” the Wizard sighed, “I’ll need it.”
He stepped through the void, to his own time stream to get back to his quest – and for the record, claim his name again.
The first wizard rubbed his neck with his free hand as he stepped out in the bigger corridor of shelves, looking up at the seemingly never ending rows of books.
“I’ll need it…” he muttered again, to himself.
With a light sigh he looked down at the book in his hand and turned it so he could see the label. The small, clean handwriting said:
‘You’re not putting that back without peeking, are you?’ a sudden voice called in his head.
The wizard stopped and rolled his eyes.
‘You again?’ he thought.
‘Yup!’ Flea smirked, ‘but just for a moment. I had a hunch you’d be too honorful.’
‘Look here, it’s the queen’s diary. I can’t read that.’
‘Listen, wizardmuffin, tenth of March, 601, it’s all I’m asking for. Just one little peek.’
‘What for?’ Janus asked with a raised eyebrow.
‘Either you read it now or I stay here and bug you until you do.’
The wizard considered that for half a second.
‘Oh, fine. I guess you have a good reason,’ he muttered.
‘Trust me on this…’ Flea said, smiling cheekily.
Rolling his eyes once more Janus opened the book and quickly flipped through the pages, keeping his eyes nailed onto the date neatly marked in the corner of every page.
‘You’re such a good boy,’ the Mystic in his head teased.
‘Shut it. Alright, here we are.’
Flea wisely choose to back out of Janus’ head before the information on the page exploded inside of the man’s mind.
“What the hell!?”
He hardly managed to choke the roar down to a sharp hiss.
‘See, I told you…’ the pink monster grinned as the wizard’s hand tore up a Gate.
Janus was about to throw himself through it when he suddenly stopped.
‘What?’ Flea said, raising his eyebrows.
The Gate closed and Janus quickly looked around.
Nobody around. Well, it was probably still too early in the morning. With a growl the wizard fixed his eyes on the end of the corridor and teleported there, turning right without hesitating and hurrying off. Flea’s spirit curiously followed him.
When the Mystic found Janus he was in a smaller room placed in a corner of the library. There was a small sofa and a couple of armchairs inside, and on a small table an electric coffeepot stood ready to be used by readers enjoying a good book.
Janus was rather wildly searching through a big pile of books on the bigger table in the center of the room.
‘What in Magician’s name are you doing?’ Flea wondered, putting his fists on his hips.
The wizard held up another old book with a lightly greenish cover.
‘”Human Machinery”?’ the Mystic read and then noted the author’s name, ‘heh, I guess only Lucca would write something along those lines…’
“Yes, Flea!” Janus groaned aloud and let the book go, heavily falling down in one of the chairs, “Lucca wrote it! Damn it all to hell…”
‘Lucca wrote a book, so what?’
Silently Janus reopened Leene’s diary and held up the pages to the invisible Mystic.
Flea slowly crossed his arms.
‘Ah, I see,’ he said after a moment’s contemplating.
‘You are one dead man, wizard boy.’
The Mystic smirked and clapped his hands, encouragingly.
‘Well don’t just sit there you fool! Off you go! Go, go, go already!’
Janus stood with a snarl and tore up another Gate.
‘Thanks,’ he said, even though his thought was sincere his face drew the thought to an ominous storm cloud.
‘You’re welcome, kiddo.’
With a grim smile the wizard of Guardia summoned his staff and stepped into the darkness of time, rushing towards the past where his friends were in grave danger.
End part one.