Another life, part 2
Chapter 5 The heroes assemble again
Being on watch out with the kind of problems bothering me isn't a good use of time. There's too much room for pondering the problems. I have gone through the thought of the dark heart growing within me for surely two hundred times. And Molor is silent inside of my mind. It seems to me as if he is avoiding to read my thoughts.
Why is he acting so strange when it comes to Charash? It's almost as if he's afraid. I can't grasp the truth, and usually his few turns of feelings are open to me. But there is something with the dragon that makes him different. And lightly said it makes me concerned.
I lazily turn, not expecting to see anything to the southeast either. Which I don't. But you never know what can turn up, so I had better stay on guard for a while longer...
I look down. A small dot on the ground is waving at me. Carefully I begin to descend.
"Did Sean and his friends say something silly again?" I ask as my feet touches the ground and Molor crawls out of my cloak.
"Yes," Schaliya grins, "but then I told him and Garod and Anar that thou hath promised to teach me some magic, and they became as pale as you and ran off."
Even though I have spent almost all of my day so far of bothering about being put under some kind of unknown spell, I have to smile at the triumph in her voice. Even Molor's silence cracks up in a hissed, short laughter.
Before I have time to say something, Schaliya thoughtfully speaks again:
"Was it bad of me to lie, uncle?"
Little one, if you only understood what you are asking... me.
"No, I think that they deserved a lie after saying such idiotic things to you," I tell her.
And actually, I believe that when she gets older I really might teach her magic. She's got it in her, it's easy to see for a warlock like me. But I have a feeling that if I told her that now, I'd get the question "when?" everyday until I give in. And she's not old enough to handle such power yet.
She's got it in her... from both her parents. Not from Lavos.
The truly tragically part about the kingdom of Zeal is that the people there already knew magic before my mother began harnessing it from Lavos. But he made them forget about their own powers. And when he destroyed the kingdom the Enlighted ones believed that magic was all gone. I believe that they didn't even dare to try to send their prayers or orders to the powers of the world instead of to him.
I remember the way they used to cast magic.
First you must ask for power, or demand it. It all depends on how strong (and impudent, if you like to call it that) you are. Then you chant the words in old Zealan. Sometimes, if the magic within is awakened by extreme circumstances there is no need for praying and chanting. It's just an explosion within. And that will make the caster faint in most cases. That's what happened to me when I was captured by Ozzie as a child.
The thought almost makes me frown, but I fight it back not to worry Schaliya.
The power of Lavos left the people of Zeal. But magic will never disappear from a family line. And the monsters could still use the powers, because they had always prayed to the world instead. But the humans didn't dare to use it anymore. Even if they were finally wise enough to stop praying to the wrong force, they were too afraid to pray to the right one.
You should say "powers of the world, lend me the power...", but the people I spent my early childhood among said "great Lavos, lend me your divine strength...".
You can learn magic after it's awakened within you, through battle or studies. Studies explain themselves; through battle you learn new powers because they are needed. So you learn by instincts from a long time ago.
In Zeal they believed that the earlier magic was awakened, the better. In reality, it's the other way around. They thought that the little prince was a hopeless case, unable to perform the most simple of spells. They knew nothing, but that's really something that doesn't need to be said.
"You did well," I tell Schaliya with a small smile.
She smiles widely. Then she suddenly looks up in surprise.
"What is that, uncle?" she says and points at the sky.
Both me and Molor spin around to see what she's talking about. But then we relax again, seeing that it's not a dragon Schaliya was talking about.
There's a familiar drone coming closer as a silvery work of science soars through the air. I have to smile. This is not a too bad occasion...
"It's nothing to worry about," I calm Schaliya without turning my eyes away from the Epoch, "it's just a few more friends."
"Oh!" she smiles.
I begin to walk, but stop and look down.
Now she's doing it again!
She looks up at me, with an almost shy smile. And once again she makes me so confused that I can't even think of anything to feel about her actions.
Molor shakes his head with a snake's smile as he slithers on.
I manage to turn my eyes away from Schaliya and begin to walk, slowly not to make her stumble when she walks by my side. I learnt something new. She might be small, but she's tall enough to reach my hand. Her short fingers are encircling my pointing finger, and what should I think about it?
Magus just shakes his head in disgust.
I ignore him.
Glenn, Schala and Cered are hurrying from different directions towards the open area by the well, to the sound of Epoch's calming engines. The other villagers are watching with wary, but as my sister and her husband apparently thinks that the strange thing is alright, they calm down and return to rebuilding.
"Hey Glenn!" Lucca cheers as she jumps down from the ladder, "what are you doing here?"
"'Tis truly a joy to see thee, my comrades!" Glenn smiles, "alas, we face great peril..."
"We're still looking for Crono's mum and the cats," Marle calls and steps down on the ground with a big smile, "we just decided to drop by and see how you're doing here. Are there any problems?"
Schala opens her mouth to speak, but she notices that Crono is staring; his movement of climbing out of the cockpit completely frozen.
"Something wrong, Crono?" she asks.
He just raises his hand and, almost shaking, points at me and Schaliya. The people around him turn. Lucca and Marle's eyes grow a few inches. Glenn has to cover his mouth and turn away.
"Nice that you decided to show up," I calmly say.
No reaction. Schala and Cered smiles.
"Art these people also warriors, uncle?" Schaliya asks, still not letting go of my hand.
"Yes, they are."
She follows me closer to the small crowd. The three new visitors stupidly blink at the small girl by my side.
"Crono, Marle, Lucca," I say, emotionless, "this is Schaliya, my niece."
They stare at Schaliya. Then they stare at me. And Schaliya again. At me.
"Something wrong?" I calmly ask, even though my lips wish to start twitching at this point.
"I wish I had a camera..." Lucca mumbles in a weak voice.
"May I, brother?" Cered says with a wink of his eye and lifts Schaliya in a hug.
"Good night..." Marle mumbles and pretends to faint.
She gets up again, smirking.
"Any other news?" Lucca says, crossing her arms with a grin, "are you getting married too, or something?"
"Art thee making fun of my uncle?" Schaliya asks, wrinkling her nose.
Marle shakes her head.
"No, no, we're just... err..."
She falls silent for a second. Then she starts chewing on the knuckles on her right hand, giggling. Crono is laughing like mad, lying on Epoch's wing. But since he's strangely constantly silent, there isn't any sound reaching the ears. And Lucca is leaning against Glenn, who's also smiling widely.
"How come all thy friends art laughing when thee meet, uncle Janus?" Schaliya asks, puzzled.
"Because they are thinking about frogs," I calmly say, "very big frogs."
Lucca tries to give an answer to that, but can't because she's laughing so hard.
'Would eat, but not healthy with oil,' Molor dryly says.
It's a slightly fascinating fact that those four warriors would have been dead for their laughter if I still had been like I was six years ago.
Still, if my sister and my niece weren't present, Crono and his friends would be trying out green skin by now.
Schala touches the tip of her confused daughter's nose with a smile.
"They're laughing because of a joke between them and your uncle," the mother explains.
"Oh. I see," Schaliya says, happy with the answer.
She's simply... fascinating. What else can be said?
A while later all of us are sitting around the table of Schala and Cered's kitchen. What has happened so far has been explained to Crono and his company.
"But what if the Masamune can't harm the big lizard either?" Marle points out.
I shrug my shoulders.
"I don't know," I admit, "all that I know is that regular weapons can't harm him. And that sword is the most extraordinaire weapon in the whole of history."
"What makes it special, uncle?" Schaliya asks, sitting on Schala's knees with a doll made of softly colored cloth in her small hands.
I'm aware that quite a few glances are exchanged, but I'm not part of the trading.
"It was made by a wise man named Melchior, who once lived in the same time as me and your mother," I tell Schaliya, "and he made it with the help of two spirits created by his magic, named Masa and Mune. At first the sword was simply a dagger, but after absorbing a great amount of magic it turned into what it is now."
"To achieve it we had to fight the two spirits and a dinosaur named Nizbel," Lucca says with a chuckle.
"What is a dinosra?" my niece asks, frowning as she tries to pronounce the new word.
A dinosaur, Crono corrects, it's like a dragon, but it can't breathe fire or fly. Well, most of them couldn't fly... in any case they are extinct nowadays.
"Aye, there must be survivors still," Glenn points out, "'twas one in the cave of Giant's Claw, remember?"
Let's leave them there... Crono says with a smile, we'll take care of that in time.
"Indeed," Glenn says, also smiling.
Schala says something, but I can't hear what it is. My vision is suddenly blurred again...
No, it's not really blurred. Everything seem to turn smaller and... yellowish? I try to reach up to rub my eyes, but instinct tells me that I shouldn't do that since my claws would...
Molor hits my left foot with his tail, sending me back to consciousness. I blink and shake my head as the confusion leaves me.
"Art thee well, brother?" Cered asks, frowning.
"It's nothing," I mutter, pulling myself together.
But I guess no one believes me.
'What's going on, Janus?' Schala's voice whispers inside of my head.
'I don't know,' I shortly answer her.
'Is there anything that I can...?'
'No, I don't think so, Schala. I don't know what it is, but when I know I'll deal with it. Don't worry.'
She silently sighs.
'Why do you always insist on fighting your battles alone?' she asks me, 'all of us are here for you. Me, Cered, Molor, Glenn...'
'I don't believe that there's anything you can do this time. Leave it.'
At first she doesn't answer. Then she gives up.
"So, what has happened to you while you have been searching for the cats and Crono's mother?" she asks Marle, clearly telling everyone that no more questions should be asked about me.
"Oh, not much," the princess says after a quick glance in my direction, "we've just been traveling here and there. Went to the End of Time, but Gaspar couldn't help us this time. Too small of a case, I guess."
"Hey, isn't it strange that we should get here right now when you people need us? We only aimed for this era and here we are."
"Mayhap Epoch hath the power of finding those in need?" Glenn suggests, "or mayhap 'tis thy destiny to travel trough time to help people?"
"It's fascinating, that's what it is," Lucca thoughtfully says, knocking at her glasses with a finger.
Their conversation goes on, but I hardly listen. I'm trying to understand what I felt as I was... confused.
For a moment I believed that I had claws. Not only believed, I knew I had them. But I don't. I never had.
It can't be that the dark heart is...? No, that's not possible as far as I know...
I can only hope that I'm wrong. Molor won't answer me if I ask him, I know that. It's off limits. But why is that? Why can't he answer me?
I really hate losing control, and there's nothing I can do about what's going on. I can't find the answers to any of the questions. I can only wait. And that's very frustrating, indeed.
My cloak waves in the wind coming from the ocean. It brings the stench of a great fire to my nostrils, even though I'm watching the flames in quite a distance.
"I'm glad I won't have to clean up after that barbeque," Marle says somewhere behind me.
Her voice is split; half excited over the victory, half shocked over how quick and sudden it went.
I could have kept Ozzie suffering for a long time. But something held me back. Maybe Schala, maybe impatience. Maybe both.
He got a quick death, but he was well aware who delivered it.
And that's enough.
Crono says that we should go. I nod.
After one last glance at the burning fortress I turn around. My three allies are walking to the west, towards the caves leading to the continent.
They stop and turn around, looking bewilderedly at me.
"Where do we need to go?" I ask as I walk over to them.
"To Truce canyon," Frog says, "'tis where the Gate of time awaits."
Truce canyon... I've never been there, but they have. I should be able to use their knowledge in the spell.
"I'll see what I can do," I say and press my fingertips against each other.
I reach into Crono's mind, only touching the outer side of it. Since he's thinking of our destination I can lend his experience without him noticing my doings.
The air begins to sparkle around the four of us, and a blinding light erupts from nowhere. As it cease, I find myself standing in a small, open field beneath a cliff. Facing the wall, on the other side of the plain is a smooth edge. Trees grow by it, balancing by the abyss. I can hear the sound of running water coming from my right.
My throat suddenly feels very dry.
Correction. I have been here before.
My first steps in this accursed time were right here.
I had time to walk about one foot before Ozzie caught me.
"Here, let's go!" Marle says, pulling me out of the frozen moment.
She's turning some kind of peculiar tool in a small, dark orb in the grass. I didn't see that before...
The small ball seems to smoothly explode, turning into a great, dark hole. Lightning bolts in eerie colors dance inside of and around it.
Not again... not that... that brought me here, for all powers of the world!
But Marle enters, followed by Frog. Crono throws a glance at me before stepping into the darkness. I clench my jaw and follow them.
It was thirteen years since I went through the seemingly never-ending, flashing nothingness. But it still feels very unpleasant.
And then I step out into a small, dusky room. A pillar of light rises from the floor, maybe I stepped out of that one. I'm not sure. Crono, Marle and Frog are already waiting for me.
"You're back!" a familiar voice calls.
Down a stair, a small gate of grayish wood flies open. The figure standing down there is that girl with the helmet and glasses, the one who was with Crono and Marle on the Zenan bridge.
"Did you find... ah!"
Her speaking turns into a scream as she sees me.
"Are you out of your minds!? What's he doing here?" she screeches.
By her scream a blond, muscled woman dressed in animals' skins, and a strange creature that seems to be made of mostly yellow metal show up behind the shocked girl. They seem prepared to help if needed...
"Calm thy minds, my comrades," Frog hurriedly says, "the Pawn of the Mystics is no more. This is prince Janus of Zeal."
The girl and the woman stares blankly at me.
"Memory error?" the metallic creature says with a strangely beeping voice, "the prince of Zeal is registered as a seven year old boy."
I clench my teeth again. I do not need to be reminded of that lost time. "He's grown up..." Marle begins, but she falls silent as an elderly man pushes the three by the gate aside.
The man rushes up the stair, his brown clothes flapping in his hurry. He stops in front of me, from beneath the strange and silly hat he's wearing a couple of clear, examining eyes watches my face.
"Prince Janus," he slowly says, with sadness in his voice, "I am so sorry for what happened to you."
I look at him, frowning. My memory begins to spin again...
"Ah, you might not remember me..." he says, a bit sheepishly.
"Gaspar," I say, emotionless.
His name just showed up, beside a weakened picture of a guru. Is that him? But Gaspar didn't look like that... things keep changing ahead of me all the time. I have lost so many years...
The man in front of me startles a bit, but then smiles carefully.
"That's a good memory you have there, prince," he says.
"I'm afraid so," I reply.
He slowly nods and clears his throat.
"Well then, now that we have the prince back your group has reached its completion. Janus, your help is vital if Lavos is to be defeated. I have understood that you are the only one who can open the sealed Gates."
I raise an eyebrow. What can I do about these mysterious Gates, I who only have seen them at work two times? The only thing I know about them is that they can bring you to different times in history.
Gaspar points at the pillar of light.
"See that?" he says, "that's how a Gate looks here. But there should be nine of them, each one leading to different places in time. After Crono, Marle and Ayla fled from Zeal all the paths suddenly disappeared. I managed to keep the one to the Middle Ages open, but it was hard. I don't know how, but somebody reached into this place via one single Gate and almost managed to trap the youngsters here forever."
He looks up, examining my face again.
"I can't open the others," he gravely says, "but you can, prince." I would like to ask him how he can be so sure about it, but instead I sit down on one knee on the ground. There's a lighter, round mark on the floor before me, and I sense some kind of power coming from it. Familiar to a Gate, but somehow bound.
I place my gloved palm on the spot, close my eyes and try to focus.
Something about it feels strangely familiar, I can sense but not pinpoint it. Not yet.
As I focus my mind, turning it into a glowing needle to examine what it is that lies by my feet, I am almost overwhelmed with the feeling of knowing the power.
From somewhere I know this, something I have lived among, watching as a child.
For a short moment, barely a heartbeat, my mind touches the possibility of Schala. But no. No. This isn't her power, it's far too harsh.
It's a smirk, one eye, a cloak with the color of the burning sky, long dark blond hair with mad curls. I know this. I know him.
"Dalton," I say, only watching the ground.
"Dalton?!" the ones around me growl, obviously no more fond of him than I am.
Another memory breaks free from my confused dam of lost experiences.
"He'll come for Schala," I say, growling, "she'll try to escape to the Earthbound ones and Dalton will come to bring her back. If we can stop him from bringing her to the Mammon Machine in the Ocean Palace, we might be able to stop Lavos and queen Zeal."
"Yes," Gaspar gravely says, "it was when the queen used princess Schala to rise the power of the machine to its fullest that Lavos awoke. That must be stopped."
Schala... Dalton grabbing her arm, making her grimace of pain, the hand that hit my face and threw me over the floor as I tried to stop him, the world spinning, his laughter and...
He said something.
But for the first time my recovering memory can't provide any information. I suppose that I was too knocked out to hear what it was that he said.
Anyhow, it was surely not important.
"You better back off a bit," I mutter through clenched teeth.
I hear them move away, warily.
Slowly I place my other palm on the mark and shut my eyes tightly.
"Powers of the world, lend me pure power..." I mutter.
No sound escape my lips as they move, and I'm hardly aware that I am silently chanting. I don't even know what words I am using. My mind is a glowing dagger, trying to cut through Dalton's lock.
He must be the worst human scum to ever live, but he knew what he was doing when he took his time. This work is almost to be described as beautiful. Hideous, but with the beauty of a good magic creation. I plunge into it.
It's a twisted net. If I cut one thread it seems as if two others replace it. All around me, closing in and trying to snare me. How typically him. It's not simply a wall, it's a trap.
If I don't get out now, I'll never leave.
Funny how calmly I come to the conclusion.
I have to back off, or I'll be tangled in the psychic ropes forever. I hurriedly begin to ascend; the ropes turn to tentacles and follow me, reach out and try to catch my mind in an unbreakable, cold embrace.
Nothing has any color here, the tentacles might be disgustingly green or flaring red.
Like glowing whips, dashing through the air.
I think that I might be screaming, but nobody can hear me. Nobody ever heard. They just hit harder and harder until I couldn't scream anymore.
I scream again as one of the tentacles get a hold of me, burning my soul with its coldness.
But suddenly a pure anger cuts through my pain.
I did not find freedom a few hours ago to be lost forever in a trap created by Dalton!
The tentacle releases me, as if it fears my rage. It, and all the others of its kind start to tremble below me as the fire within me begins to roar.
I am Janus of Zeal, brother of Schala! I am not the Pawn of the Mystics, I am not a slave! I am not falling into a trap now!
A hurricane of my pure energy explodes from my enraged mind, heavily falling into the forest of twisting tentacles without halting its spin the slightest.
There's an unearthly screech, like a dying soul, as my creation cuts and rips up anything coming in its way. It's going berserk with such violent force that Dalton's child has no possibility to defend itself or re-grow lost parts.
I smile coldly, watching the mayhem below. Tentacles are flying in all directions, disappearing a few moments after they are cut from the bigger lump.
Soon, all of them are gone.
I frown, sending my forces back at one last twisted yarn. But no matter how hard I try, I cannot break that remaining lock. And the twister is loosing its strength; I have almost used up all my powers to keep it going.
That yarn won't budge. It's stronger than all the other parts, which I have removed. I wish that I could believe that I have done enough, but I have a nagging feeling that that last part of Dalton's work remain because that's from where everything else grew. That is the starting point, and that's what I should have succeeded in destroying. But I can't. My strength is all used up.
The hurricane slows down and fades away. I take a deep breath, silently cursing my failure.
And I open my eyes. They are standing above me, concernedly watching me.
"Not to be rude, but is it your hobby to use up a lot of power and then faint?" Marle asks, ironic yet somehow kindly.
I try to tell her to leave me alone, but only a weak groan leaves my lips.
"Analyze warns for dangerously low level of vitamins, protein and water," the metallic creature says with it's beeping, peculiar voice, "prince Janus suffers from grave loss of sleep and food."
"He need eat," the muscled woman says and purse her mouth, "but no eat friend."
"Ayla, I beg of thee...!" Frog sighs and rolls his bulb eyes with a tired smile.
How was it to feel hungry, again? It was so long ago... everything was so long ago...
Gaspar sits by my side. I find that I can't even move, so exhausted that my body is completely out of reach. I can only watch him.
"You might not have managed to open the Gate to our time, prince," the old man says, "but all the others are open. And I believe that it should be enough."
"You mean there can be other Gates leading to Zeal?" the girl with the glasses asks.
"No," Gaspar says, "I don't think so. But in the future you can find another guru of my and the prince's time; Belthasar. He's the guru of Time, so if there is another way of stopping the queen he should know about it."
"Then go!" the muscled woman howls, "go, go! But pale one need help!"
"Perhaps it would be wise if Frog and Marle stay here and take care of prince Janus," the metal being suggests, "my memory is still damaged but I might be of service in my own time."
"That's the spirit, Robo," Lucca nods, "I'll come too! And Ayla... go and find a dinosaur for the prince's dinner."
I'm not sure if she's kidding or not, and I don't really care. I think I'm about to fall again...
"Hey, we're losing him!" I hear Marle call from a long distance.
Then, nothing but smoothing darkness. I disappear.
But as I loose my consciousness in my dream, I awake.
Molor is silent, letting me go through the memories the night left behind by myself.
I wasn't able to see it, but I can remember Ozzie's death. Not very well, though. Seems like I went into a deep rage. Everything from the moments around the monster's fall seem reddish and vague to me.
But he died on the first try this time.
Oh yes, he died. Very much, even.
Humph. So Dalton tried to stop the group in that time stream? I have no idea how he managed to figure out something that complicated. But I guess they needed an excuse to find Epoch, and since there was no prophet who wanted to handle Lavos by himself and therefore forced Schala to put up a block on the path between prehistoric and dark age...
I have to smile ironically.
My dreams were torture just one week ago. Now they almost fascinate me. I have to admit that I'm a bit curious about how the story of the Heroes of Time will change.
It really is getting interesting. Even if the prince of Zeal is a bit...
My thoughts are disturbed by the sound of a slamming door and running footsteps outside in the corridor. It sounds like Schala.
She's down the stair before I'm even out of my room.
I hurry after her down into the kitchen, sensing that something isn't quite as it should.
Now that isn't very pretty.
"Oh gods...!" she groans, desperately holding her hair aside, sitting on her knees and bending over one of the buckets that usually contains water for cooking and washing.
It was empty a few seconds ago.
I sit down by her side and place my hands on her shoulders as she finally is able to calm down. She's breathing hard and gratefully takes the dishtowel that Molor holds between his sharp fangs for her.
"Are you alright?" I ask as my sister tries to dry her lips with the towel.
"Yes, I am..." she mumbles, in a rather weak voice though.
"As far as I know people don't throw up when they are completely fine."
I hear the rest of the house hurrying into the kitchen, but I don't turn around. Schala tries to smile and shakes her head, making her thick, blue curls tumble around her head and shoulders.
"I'm not sick, brother," she warmly says with a sigh, "the choice of time could have been better, though."
I blink. Molor too (which is good work since he has no eyelids). Maybe the others who are standing behind me also do so.
"Again?!" I finally manage to say.
The next second she's above the floor in Cered's arms.
"Beloved daylight!" he laughs and carefully kisses her forehead.
Somebody thumps my back so hard I almost loose my balance.
"Gee, Sir Janus!" Marle grins, "ye gonna be an uncle again!"
I don't know if I should smile or fight back a groan...
Of course I truly can share Schala and Cered's happiness, but by the powers... another One?
"What is the matter?" Schaliya asks, confused.
I turn my head just as Glenn sits down on one knee beside her with a laugh, and wraps one of his arms around her small shoulders.
"I shalt explain, little lady," he smiles, "thou will in nine months be blessed with the honor of being an older sister."
"I will!?" Schaliya exclaims and throws her short arms around Glenn's neck with a twinkling laughter of joy.
The swordsman looks a bit surprised at first, then he carefully hugs her.
I blink. Some light...
Not the clouded vision, it's something completely different.
Something about Glenn holding on to Schaliya...
But the peculiar feeling about it fades away as soon as it touched me.
"Look, I'll leave you to it," she mumbles, "in my opinion it's far too early in the morning to be pregnant..."
She pushes her way past the smiling neighbors, who still live here since their houses are in ashes (the living room is really getting crowded). It's Cered's old friends Shadarak and Leon with their wives Jem and Rayli. All four of them now hurry over to my sister and her husband to congratulate them.
There is a fact that is making me concerned. It's wise of a woman to not cast any magic when she's pregnant. That's how we got pointy ears back in Zeal, and there's no telling if there could be other consequences.
On the other hand, magic isn't effective against Charash. But still, I'm sure Cered will agree completely with me on this; no battles for Schala. I hope she'll understand.
If she doesn't understand, I'll place her inside of a crystal until Charash is gone.
Schaliya rushes past me, for a moment throwing her arms around my neck in joy before she continues over to her parents. I haven't even time to react. Normally I would, but that girl always takes me by surprise.
Shaking my head with the shadow of a smile I straighten up.
"Janus," Glenn's voice says behind me.
I turn around. As Lucca said, it's early in the morning, and all of us are in a little bit tired condition. The swordsman is simply wearing a pair of loose, light pants.
"Yes?" I say, trying not to allow my small smile to grow due to his rather drowsy look.
He rubs his eyes while speaking.
"'Tis something I must talk with thee about, but mayhap it canst wait until the glorious new day hast begun properly."
As I go back to bed, I don't dream anything. It's rather pleasant.
I guess I'm still unconscious "over there".
Chapter 6 Two sets of Janus
After resting another hour Molor and I leave the house to go back to guarding the sky. It hasn't moved at all since yesterday.
I don't get much time floating up there, though.
"Janus, could I hath a word with thee?"
Glenn's down there, waving at me. He seems more awake and equipped with better clothing now.
Oh, that's right. He wanted to talk.
"What is it, then?" I ask.
He's rubbing the back of his neck and releases a deep breath before beginning to talk. That is truly most uncharacteristically.
Even I can notice that something's concerning him.
"I hath been thinking about something," Glenn slowly says, frowning, "I believe that I must ask thee of a favor that will surprise thee."
"And what would that be?" I ask, raising an eyebrow.
"A mere technical truth..." he says, vaguely.
'Oh,' Molor nods, 'clever.'
Fascinating how easily I understood what he meant, actually. I don't like to admit it, but perhaps me and the swordsman have fought together enough for creating some kind of simple bond of mind.
"I see," I say, and I can't help smiling a little, "I understand your point."
"Not that I am ungrateful, but I believe that for the moment I could do better with a few more years of training," Glenn says.
Is that a small excited smile or even a grin touching his lips for half a second?
But I do understand.
It's a wise conclusion.
"Teatime, you three!" Marle calls as she hurries past from wherever she has been dwelling.
"Lend us a few minutes!" Glenn calls after her.
He looks at me and raises his eyebrows.
"I hath time. Dost thee?" he says, and this time he is grinning.
I nod, and find that I cannot avoid to almost imitate the look on his face.
I push the door to the house open and step inside.
"We thought you'd never show up!" Marle says and puts down her teaspoon.
"Who?" I say, my lips twitching.
Just look at me now. It's so silly to play such a game with circumstances and words. It's really not my thing.
But for this once, I allow myself it.
The people around the table blankly looks at me and Molor. My kindred spirit is laughing dryly, but none of them can hear him.
"Well," Lucca says, carefully ironical, "you, Molor, Glenn, the Easter bunny..."
"Oh, I see," I nod and sigh, "tragically enough, neither the bunny nor Glenn are here."
They stare at me, a few of them with growing unease.
"Dare I ask what you have done with him?" Lucca asks with a rather weak voice.
"What makes you think I have done something to him?" I calmly ask.
"I fear thy word of innocence is not enough, Janus," a voice behind me chuckles.
"I thought you said he wasn't here anymore?" Schala says, frowning, "what are you two up to?"
With a laugh a short figure leaps over my head and lands on the floor.
"Alas, Glenn is no longer present. I am here to fulfill his deeds."
The people around the table blink.
The mouth that smiles is much bigger than a human's, though the body is smaller. A green cloak hangs over the small back, by the figure's side rests the Masamune in its sheath. Two bulb eyes surrounded by green skin watches the surprised crowd, still twinkling with laughter.
Frog!? Crono exclaims.
"The little warrior here figured that he's a bit stronger and skilled in his other form," I say with a small sneer, "he actually volunteered."
"Who is that?" Schaliya asks, with her eyes wide with both fascination and surprise.
Frog chuckles again and performs a bow.
"I was born with the name Glenn, little lady," he smiles, "but for the time being I am to be called Frog."
"Did thee do that, uncle?" my niece asks, staring at me.
"Due to his wish, yes," I say, calmly.
"Cool!" Schaliya gasps.
Utter silence. Then everybody except Schaliya turn their eyes to Lucca. She starts whistling and concentrates fully on stirring her tea.
"Any other improvements of my niece's vocabulary, while we're at it?" I ask the one with the helmet and glasses.
"Weren't we talking about Frog?" Lucca says, innocently.
I'll let her live this time. But if Schaliya ever says "awesome" or "humanoid robot", I will have a long talk with that scientist-fanatic.
"Aye," Frog grins, protecting his friend, "the warlock simply reset my body again. For Glenn hath not a third of Frog's strength, I fear."
"Heaven save us all..." Shadarak weakly mumbles, rubbing his face.
"Welcome back, Frog," Schala smiles.
"I thank thee."
After the tea most of the assembled warriors go back to whatever they find their part of the rebuilding. I return to watching the sky.
As usual, that task leaves a lot of time for using the mind.
Neither me nor Cered have been talking to Schala about our wish to keep her away from battles. At least I highly doubt that my brother in law has said anything. I'm sure I would have heard the shouting.
If he needs help, he'll just have to ask...
I have to smile.
He's probably too proud to ask me to help him talk to his wife. The great guardian of the emperor's peace.
Well, it's better that she only bites his head off, anyhow.
Ah, my sister. So different from the Schala back in Zeal...
I look down for a moment and see Frog and Crono involved in an intense training-battle. Even my sharp eyes face a small problem keeping track on what's happening on the ground. A few of the townspeople have taken a break of rebuilding to stare at the two combatants.
The Masamune and Crono's Rainbow katana clash at least two times every second, sending a never ending shower of sparks falling around their hastily moving feet. Seems like Crono's got the upper hand for the moment. Frog isn't used to being short anymore.
I smile again, absentmindedly scratching the back of my left hand.
Poor little warrior... for several months he's been trying to learn how to fight as Glenn again. Now when he almost had mastered it again he's back in his green skin. How ironical.
My smile dies.
I turned him back with the time-spell I used when removing my curse from his body. I didn't ponder if it was unwise.
A couple of days ago when I went to get Glenn, the dark heart in my soul caused me to make small mistakes; forgetful, the time travel that brought me two months wrong the first time and one day later than planned the second.
I didn't think of that when I used my magic on Glenn. Maybe only luck held back a disaster...
'No, no worry,' Molor whispers inside of my mind, 'you adapt to it.'
That he suddenly tells me something about it, that truly surprises me. Earlier he refused to say a word. But if he's changed his mind, I won't question him.
That's simply how both of us work; do not question my reasons.
'How?' I only ask.
He is silent for a moment.
'Why he gave it to you,' he finally says, slowly, 'you can adapt.'
'What is it with me?'
The back of my hand is all red because of my scratching. Until now I hadn't even noticed that I had been working on it for some time. And still it itches.
Shaking my head, I call forth the gloves I used to wear as Magus. The itch is still there, but I won't allow such a trivial thing to master me.
There's a few dark clouds on the sky. It will probably rain tonight.
The sun is hidden behind a grey lump, which creates a dull light. I turn my back at the hidden source of illumination and place my right elbow in my left hand, resting my head in the other grip.
Far below the sound of two swords hitting each other keeps going without rest. But not even that can keep my eyelids from falling for a moment.
I blink and shake my head, trying to get a grip of myself. Suddenly I feel tired. It's not like me, and falling asleep up here doesn't seem like a very bright idea.
This drowsiness isn't...
'Molor, stop it!' I snarl.
'I have to see your condition, friend,' he calmly replies, 'sleep.'
'I'll take care of it.'
But my mind falls into nothingness, and I can't do anything about it.
Why are you trying to destroy my trust in you, Molor!?
I reach up to massage my forehead with my fingers. My head feels like a stone.
"He can't be prince Janus," a man's voice says, disbelieving, "I mean... time travel?"
"Who knows, magic..." the first voice, an old man's says.
Unable to fight back a small groan I sit up, still rubbing my forehead.
"Are you alright?"
I open my eyes to see a group of men, women and children in different ages. They are all dressed in dirty clothes and their eyes are filled with a deep helplessness.
Another block of memories explodes inside of my mind.
Earthbound ones. The people who couldn't use magic, not allowed in the kingdom of Zeal apart from as... slaves, working on the Ocean Palace. So that "there was some use of them".
Almost all of the children and several adults back nervously as I frown. I probably don't look very friendly.
"Is something wrong?" an old man says, looking at me with slight fear.
I recognize his voice as the one that talked earlier.
He's the elder, I remember...
"How did I get here?" I mutter, even now trying to massage some life into my heavy head.
"There was a young man and mysterious being made of metal brought you here," the elder tells me, "then they went away and returned with a blond woman in the man's age. They went to the beast's nest, hoping to find the guru Melchior on the mountain of Woe."
I frown again. Why would they...
By the powers, Schala!
The crowd backs again as I rush to my feet from the heap of hay I was resting on.
"Has Schala come here yet?" I demand.
The elder stares at me and swallows hard before shaking his head.
"No, the princess..."
For a moment I feel relieved. Then she's still safe from Dalton.
But my relief falters as everything starts to spin. I have to sit down again, rubbing my whole face with both of my hands.
I just remembered how it feels to be very, very hungry.
"Excuse me, your friends wanted me to give you this..." the elder nervously says and pushes a backpack into my reach.
Through the fog of hunger and exhaust I see that there's a letter attached to the sack. I take a deep breath to get a grip of myself and then reach out to take the piece of paper. The words are written with lead and by someone with a bit impatient yet fine way of writing.
We thought that it was better that you handled Schala and yourself as a kid, and we'll take care of Melchior. Me (Marle) and Robo (the robot) are going to Mt. Woe with Crono.
Thanks to you we were able to go to the future and find Belthasar. Well, he was dead. But he had programmed a mechanical Nu with everything he knew, so he could help anyway. He had built a time machine, which we named Epoch. With that, we could travel to Zeal even without the Gates.
We all hope that the meeting with Schala will go well. We'll hurry to get Melchior, in case you against any logic should need help with Dalton.
Marle, Crono, Lucca, Frog, Ayla, Robo, Gaspar and Spekkio (the master of War in the End of time, you'll have to meet him later)
PS. We left you some food, Robo says that you'll die due to lack of vitamins and that other stuff in about seven hours and twenty-five minutes if you don't eat anything. But you should wake up long before that, we used some more healing magic to give you a little energy. But that won't help much, according to the tin man. So eat up! DS.
"How long have I been asleep?" I ask without looking up.
"A couple of hours," the elder says.
Well, I have no idea what a "robot" is, but I guess it's that creature made of metal. And leaning onto the way I'm feeling for the moment, I am tempted to believe his predictions.
I put the letter aside and open the backpack.
They haven't been saving money getting me something to eat. For a very short moment I feel a glistening warmth inside, but it disappears almost immediately. No matter how hungry I am, I can't eat half of all this. Silly overdoing...
A couple of hours...?
My memory takes another turn.
Crono, Frog, the robot... Melchior, Schala came, talked, Dalton... hit me... said something... took her away...
I blink as the flood of pictures run into my brain. But why do they come now? Because those things suddenly is possible? It must be something like that, earlier I only remembered that me and Schala went to these filthy caves in order to hide from the queen.
How long can it possibly take to climb that mountain, find Melchior and come back?
I haven't got time for this! Schala might come anytime, and Dalton's right behind her!
Snarling a curse upon this whole rotten era I grab a piece of bread, some dried meat and a couple of apples from the backpack and surpass them to the depths of my cloak. Then I stand up again and throws the sack at the elder. Bread and some more fruit falls out on the dusty ground.
"Take it!" I snarl even as I hurry out of the cave, "I have to get Schala."
Surprised and grateful calls follow me as I rush up the ladders, through the short tunnel and jump down from the ledge onto the ground below, not caring to use the last ladder.
The cold winds bite my skin even as I'm jumping, but I ignore it and hurry out in the snowstorm.
But after a few steps the frozen landscape becomes too much, and I have to call for the powers of Fire to warm the air around me.
Without slowing down I bring out one of the apples from my madly flapping cloak and take a bite. Before I've even noticed what happened I have eaten both the fruits, the bread and the meat.
I'm still a bit hungry, but my head seems to become clearer at once. Can't remember when I last felt this healthy.
What did I eat when I was kept by the Mystics?
I do not want to remember that.
There is... something over there... and it's not a tree...
My steps falters and cease to come.
Two figures are fighting against the harsh winds, even though they obviously are protected by a fire spell similar to mine. Both of them are dressed in softly purple robes and have blue hair.
One is short; a small boy looking quite tense. A cat with oddly light brown purple fur rests in his safe grip.
For a moment I stare at myself as a child, then my eyes turn to the young woman by the boy's side.
Her hair is a dream of curls, her gem green eyes are tired but filled with a crisp determination. I know that she wants to refuse the orders of what once was our mother, but she can't. Her love for the queen is too great.
But that love is nothing for what I feel for my sister. It really can't be put into words.
She might only be my stepsister and not my sibling to the fullest, but I always felt as if we were made as one being. She cared for me when mother disappeared, she was always there. She understood my every thought. She and Adolfus were all I had. I knew that everyone in Zeal either scorned or pitied me for being the prince yet unable to use magic. But those two didn't. They didn't mind, they loved me anyway. Like no one else could or would. Or ever will. Without them I became nothing.
Without them I'm just Magus, Pawn of the Mystics.
Schala and the little prince stop and stare at me as they come closer.
I know that only those of royal family have blue hair. That was the mark of our family.
And I know that I'm pale as death itself, and with my cloak flying behind me I must look terrifying.
But even though I know those facts, those reasons for staring at me like that...
For a moment I am about to fall to my knees and cry out my agony, the pain burning from the distrust in my sisters eyes. But I can't move at all. I can't speak.
Adolfus' ears twitch, just as I remember they often did. Otherwise none of us move.
"Who are you?" Schala finally whispers.
Her voice is almost torn away by the wind and the distance, but my ears catch the words, holding on to them as the treasures they are.
The voice of Schala, the voice of my sister... the voice I have longed to hear for thirteen years of pain and darkness.
I try to speak, but I can't produce any sound.
Without even noticing that I'm walking I move closer to the three travelers. Adolfus raise his head from the small prince's arm and look confusedly at me. Perhaps he can recognize me, somehow... Schala and the child watches me warily, but they don't back off.
Like a zombie I reach for the pocket where I keep my amulet, and take it out.
"I'm... Schala, I'm..." I whisper and hold my hand forth.
They stare at the blue gem.
"But... that's mine!" the prince stutters.
"I gave it to..." Schala whispers, also stuttering.
Their staring eyes come to me again, and there's a growing fear and shock in their gazes now. So painful... I have to look away.
"Thirteen years..." fall from my weak lips.
"Janus?!" Schala stutters, the name almost inaudible.
My knees hit the frozen ground, becoming buried in the deep snow. My gloved hands also disappear into the white mass. Stop staring at me like that! I can't handle it!
Two hands come to my shoulders, I look up into the gems that are the eyes of my sister. The fear is gone, replaced with a deep concern and worry.
"Janus, is that you?" she says, shaking my shoulders to make me pull myself together.
I look at her and manage to nod.
"I come from the future..." I whisper, feeling the stare of myself as a child, "I came to help you."
She frowns, squeezing my shoulders with her hands as she tries to pick something from the boiling pot of questions.
"What happened?" she finally asks, "what has happened to you?"
No, no... you mustn't know what you couldn't save me from, Schala...
I exhaustedly shake my head.
"It's nothing I will tell you," I say, placing my own hands on her shoulders, "right now we have to go to the Earthbound village and wait for Dalton."
"Dalton?" both Schala and the prince exclaims.
I manage to stagger to my feet, Schala follows me.
"He's coming for you," I tell her, "to take you to the Ocean Palace. Lavos awoke and I were thrown through a magical portal to another time. The gurus too. I don't know what happened to you and the kingdom, but it's gone and forgotten many thousands of years from now. And I..."
I fall silent.
What? I grew up among monsters, I fought as a slave, I lost my mind because I was tortured every day? Nothing.
I shake my head again.
"Come on, I'll bring you there. This place isn't safe."
I put my fingertips together and starts to chant.
"But I can't use magic!" the small prince squeals.
His face is a mask of disbelief and fear. I can understand that. It really is a shock to meet yourself, even if you know it's coming. And he wasn't prepared at all.
"That's just what you think," I say as the air begins to sparkle.
The few Earthbound ones left in the cave where I slept earlier back away in shock as the four of us comes out of a flashing light. Both Schala and the boy looks around in surprise.
"What was that?" my sister asks, frowning.
"Flea taught... a magician of the future taught me it," I answer.
She looks sharply at me.
"That's not a spell created by humans, Janus," she says.
I hoped she wouldn't notice. It was foolish of me.
"I know," I say, without any expression in my voice.
The boy watches both of us warily.
"Who taught you that spell?" Schala asks.
"A magician named Flea, in the future."
"Is he a human?"
I slowly shake my head.
"No," I mutter.
"You mean a monster taught you how to use magic?" she asks.
"No," I say, "it awoke within me by itself, then Flea gave me lessons."
"Why would a monster do that?"
"For his own reasons."
I shake my head, marking the border. Schala watches me concernedly, but I refuse to give her any more pieces of the horrifying puzzle. I have already said too much.
"Excuse me... Your Highnesses..." a stuttering voice mumbles.
We all turn to look at a man of the Earthbound ones.
"The guru Melchior and the three warriors are below," he continues, "if you want to see them..."
Schala exchanges glances with me and the boy. I nod.
I go first after the man, Schala and myself as a child follows me, holding Adolfus in a nervous grip. Somehow I'd like to talk to the boy... I really, really want to talk to him. However I have no idea what I could tell him.
But I have to save him from becoming what I am. Even if that could mean altering history so gravely that this me cease to exist.
A bitter smile touches my lips. To sacrifice this man, the man that I have become... this nothingness. This wasted life. I have nothing to live for, the memories I have assembled are not worth to keep alive. And I am nothing but those memories.
I live to save Schala and kill Lavos. Should I fall, it won't be a great loss. As long as Schala is safe, I don't matter at all.
But a golden ray suddenly cuts through my bitter thoughts.
Isn't it fantastic? She's only got my word for being her brother and the amulet as proof, but that's enough for her. It's not much, but enough. She knows me. Somehow she can feel that I am her brother. That is fantastic, that is magic. These destructive powers I can use, they are not of true magic. But that feeling of closeness, that knowledge... that is a wonder.
The bitter smile changes into a soft one.
The man hurries into a cave, not much different from all the others.
"Princess Schala and the prince... s are here!" he says.
"What?" a voice I remember as the guru Melchior's says with a great deal of confusion.
"We have yet to give you required information," the beeping voice of... Robo announces.
"Congratulations on finding him," I say as I enter the cave.
Crono smiles that he should tell me the same, concerning my sister and myself.
"What are you talking about?" Melchior blankly asks, looking at me with a frown.
"Melchior, I'm so glad you're safe," Schala smiles and steps forward from behind me.
The guru turn to her instead, surprised.
"Princess Schala, prince Janus?" he says, "what are you doing here?"
"Why have you come to these filthy caves?" the elder asks, concerned.
Schala shakes her head.
"Stop thinking of yourself like that," she says with a rare glistening of frustration in her voice, "the only difference between you and us up there is that you're not possessed by Lavos!"
Melchior have to give a small, soft smile at the unusual strength in those words.
"But princess, why are you here? Weren't you supposed to..."
"No," my sister says, grimly, "I won't go to the Ocean Palace. And without me the Mammon Machine won't work."
From the corner of my eye I see the prince walk up against the wall, timid as I remember I was. Felt as if everyone was disturbing me, intruding.
I will do all I can to save him from learning how intruding people can be when they really want you to work for them.
But something is wrong. I frown.
No... this is not how I remember it... it's different. I can't remember meeting myself, and the words spoken aren't the same... plus, Frog should be here, not Marle. History has changed, but my memory hasn't. Could that mean that the change is so great that it requires a different time stream? That I don't belong here, I cannot change whatever happens now?
The thoughts are so complicated and huge that it's almost impossible to understand them.
"But what has happened?" Schala ask Crono, glancing at me, "what has really brought you here?"
'Off limits,' I warn the young man via telepathy.
He blinks of the surprise of hearing my voice inside of his head, but then starts to explain to Schala and all the others who don't know about the time traveling.
Lavos is ruling the future, and we won't allow that. In order to stop him we needed a man from this era, and that is the grown prince Janus. Him.
He points at me. Melchior stares in disbelief.
"Janus?" he says, slowly.
"I grew up over twelve thousand years from now, in the future," I calmly say, "in order to return and fight I had to grow strong there and meet the group of time travelers."
"But you can't be me!" the prince weakly whispers, "I can't use magic, I can't!"
I look at him, feeling somewhat helpless. He looks at me with terror, and his weak words are really nothing but a desperate battle against something so forcefully mystifying that he cannot understand it. And that makes him even more scared.
The memories of my first painful moments as Ozzie's prisoner are almost overwhelming, I have to struggle to keep from trying to back away from the stench of horror filling my head.
Schala hurries over to him and sits down on her knees, catching him in a calming hug.
"Look, Janus," she mumbles, soothingly, "it's truly surprising, but it is you. I know it's you, I know you. It's nothing to be afraid of, really..."
"But he can't be me, he's an adult!" the prince mutters.
I have to look away. I'm afraid of myself as a grown man.
Boy, you have the right to fear. Fear being me.
I fear to be you, having all the pain in front of me.
"I am you," I say in a low voice, forcing myself to turn my head at the boy, "I know all your thoughts, but I won't tell any of them here. I know how you feel when people try to force you to open yourself to them."
He looks away, squeezing Schala's shoulder with his small hands. She turns her head to look at the rest of the world, without letting go of him.
"I have to ask you and your friends to fight for us," she says, looking at me, Crono, Robo and Marle, "I have left the skyway open. You have to stop my mother."
A nail goes through my head. Those words...! Dalton!
'Look out!' I telepathically snarl to everyone in the room.
The question is, what startled them most? My silent, inner voice or the loud, sneering one?
"Why don't we hold it right there, my dear?"
Chapter 7 Lashey, princess of Garadia
Dalton enters the cave, smirking. The Earthbound men back away in fear. That Enlightened one is not popular down here.
Schala lets go of the small Janus and moves away from him; knowing who Dalton is after. Adolfus jumps out of the prince's grip, hissing in rage.
"Treason, my dear?" Dalton continues, "your mother will hear about this!"
I react too slowly. As I remembered, he jumped over to her and grabbed her arm so that it almost broke. But he teleports instead. I have no possibility to stop him.
Schala groans in pain as the strong hand closes around her upper arm.
"Let her go!" the prince screech and leaps forward.
I blink as he is hit by Dalton's other hand and is thrown backwards into the wall. The pain of the hit burns in my memory, almost as when I got it.
Not worse than the accursed whip, but still somehow very painful.
"The queen's children all seem have a problem with authority, don't they?" the general says, and there's a deep scornfulness in his voice and eyes as he looks down at the dizzy prince.
So that's what he said.
Adolfus desperately rubs his head against the little Janus' arm, trying to bring him back.
We have a problem with authority, we who are children of the queen. Indeed, Dalton, we have.
Crono draws his sword, Marle rips her crossbow from her back and Robo raises his arms. They are forced to duck for a fireball that almost hits Melchior instead.
"Stand back," Dalton sneers, "the life of this woman means nothing to me."
The three warriors hesitate, then draw back in anger.
With yet another sneer the one-eyed general forces Schala one step forward.
He stops, and his single eye goes over me as I silently block the exit.
"You obviously didn't hear me..."
He falls silent, looking at my hair with a frown.
"I advice you to let go of my sister," I coldly say.
Dalton looks at me with the disbelief I'm getting used to.
"What did you say?" he says.
"He's me, you creep!" the prince harshly whispers, "he's here from the future!"
The lonely eye sharply watches me.
"You?" he slowly says, with a peculiar mix of disbelief and fascination, "you are supposed to be that little worthless freak?"
Worthless worm... you worthless, thickheaded worm, Magus!
"Worthless because I can't use magic?" I calmly say, "a freak because I am born unable to perform any task using power granted by Lavos? No..."
I take one step forward, and Schala turns her head away. But I still notice the fear rising in her eyes; she can't help it. Even my allies back off a little at my appearance. Dalton tries to fight it, but I see the small glistening of nervous tension in his eyes.
"No, I am a blessed Enlightened one," I say, still calm, "I have never prayed to Lavos. I lived in darkness for an eternity, but still I never praised complete evil. Instead, I found true power in the world itself. And the world doesn't like to carry deceases like you, Dalton."
I raise one hand, almost lazily.
"Would you try it, sir?" I say, "I could blow up this entire cave with a wave of my hand, keeping everyone except you alive. Can you do that? Do you know anyone who can?"
With satisfaction I see the fright in his eyes, but he force himself not to back.
I notice that there is something peculiar about the fear deep inside of Dalton's eyes. It's not pure... it's fear, but it's... more. Fascination, again? What kind of emotion is that in this moment?
What does it matter?
I try to tell myself that, but somewhere I feel that I must be prepared for anything. There's no guarantee that he hasn't got any more dirty tricks up his sleeve.
Whatever he might do, I won't let him get away this time.
I begin to assemble the focus, a short spell is all...
"Janus, wake up!"
My eyes fly open.
"What?" I mutter, disoriented.
Where am I now, not in the Earthbound village?
Schala is in front of me, frowning. And behind her... only sky.
"Why are you sleeping up here?" she asks.
I look down. Yes, the ground is far away. A small crowd looks up at me and Schala.
It hits me again. Molor made me sleep... and kept me floating.
"Don't ask," I grimly mutters.
'I am sorry,' Molor whispers, 'I had to.'
'What are you doing?' I demand.
'Trying to stop reaction. Worse now.'
'What is happening to me, Molor? Answer me!'
'It is forbidden!'
'I don't care! Tell me!'
Force him! Magus within me shouts, you know that you can make him talk, if not with words then with other methods!
He almost startles me. He has never shouted that loudly before. Almost as if he was standing behind me...
Just because you want it that way... I know you're right, and because of that I won't do it. You are not a part of me.
'Fine!' I snarl at Molor.
'Just stop attacking me,' I snap.
"What is it?" I ask Schala, forcing myself to calm down.
Not only am I mad at Molor, but my dreamed hatred and anger still burns me. I had to see it all again, all those things I had pushed away. I hardly remembered any of it even in my awakened status.
The pain I felt as I was hit by Dalton, of course that was nothing in compare with what I experienced among the Mystics... Schala's grimace of agony as he grabbed her like that... but still, that hit...
It bothers me, somehow.
The queen's children all seem to have a problem with authority, don't they?
The queen's children...
Why does that sound so strange, played time after time in my memory?
"Janus, what's the matter?" Schala asks.
I shake my head.
"No, you first," I mutter, rubbing my forehead.
"Look, I'd really want you to stop this mysterious behavior," she says, placing her fine hands on my shoulders, "do you understand, Janus? I'm your sister, I care for you! Tell me what's happening, please!"
I look at her and shake my head again.
"I don't know, Schala," I say, slowly, "something's happening and I don't know what it is. Molor is trying to do something to stop it, but I don't know anything about that either."
Dalton sneering down at me...
I shake my head a third time.
"What do you know, then?" she asks, frowning deeply.
"Charash is trying something, that's all I know."
My memory blinks, reminding me about a fact. I look sharply at my sister.
"What are you doing up here?" I demand, "you shouldn't be using magic!"
She sighs again and nods, giving in to that truth and knowing that I have said everything I ever will. I take her hands from my shoulders and dissolve the spell that keeps her floating. My own magic brings both of us to the ground.
Now what's going on down here?
Seems like the whole village have assembled, but there are about twenty people more than usual. Men and women dressed in the clothing of warriors, but their clothes are white instead of the usual soft brown.
"What is this about?" I ask Schala.
"Excuse me..." one of the strangers says.
The embroideries on his uniform shows that he's got a better title than the rest of the troop.
'Brother?' Cered's voice whispers inside of my head.
Now that even surprises me.
'When did you learn telepathy?' I send back.
I can't see him for the moment, but I'm sure he's somewhere in the crowd, trying to get closer.
''Tis not important,' he says, 'these people come from the emperor himself, I bid of thee to behave... please!'
'Dost not be rude!'
"We hath traveled here by the orders of the great emperor himself," the captain or whatever he is announces, "to find the sorcerer Janus. I dare to guess that thou art the one."
"What is it now then?" I ask and absentmindedly shake my cloak to let Molor out.
I hear Cered groan telepathically.
Molor silently lies flat on the ground, but his appearance is enough to make several of the royal warriors turn pale.
"Dare I wonder what the commotion is about?" Frog's voice says.
He lands by my side after leaping over quite a few heads.
'Show-off,' I silently tell him, smiling in my mind.
'My belief was that thee enjoyed such occasions,' he grins back.
'It must be done with certain manners.'
'Oh, truly... wise words to come from a man in thy position,' he snorts.
For a short moment I'm amused with both Frog's words and the looks on the guests' faces, but that feeling dies almost instantly for my itching irritation.
Killing Dalton right now would have been a good day's work and a nice way of getting rid of some tension due to whatever is happening to me. But no, no... when I would have needed to dream, I can't. This irony is getting tiring.
And speaking of itching, now both my hands are...
"Dost thee house monsters in this village?" the captain asks, rather sharply.
"No, sir," Schala calmly says, "Frog here is a human."
The knight smiles and performs one of those bows he uses when he's in the mood for joking.
"I am truly human," he says, "yet my guise might seem different. Alas, a few hours ago myself and the warlock thou seek hath a minor discussion and now I carry this appearance."
Hmm. He's got a sense for it, after all... I just wish I could enjoy it.
Have a problem with authority, don't they? The queen's children...
I'm getting an urge to scream at him to shut up...
'Dost thee do this only to pain me?' Cered groans, ''tis the royal guard! From the emperor!'
'I have already understood that,' I mutter.
'Please show a little respect, I beg of thee...'
I force myself to keep from rolling my eyes. For Cered it is surely a great honor to have such a delegation in his hometown, but for me... I can't stand royalty. Especially not since I once was one myself.
Only a source of irritation. They always seem to think that they can push everyone around.
Very irritating, indeed.
Either pushing around or being Marle. And she can be quite irritating too.
The queen's children...
By the powers, he's even worse than Magus! Why can't I stop those words from returning over and over again?
"Just ignore the toad," I say without any expression in my voice, forcing my frustration back, "what is the problem?"
The captain have to force his staring eyes off Frog.
"The emperor summons thee," he finally says, "he wishes to know if thee know anything about the dragon that attacked many of our land's fair towns some days ago."
His words doesn't shock me at all. But my urge to laugh does. Not laugh shortly, but to laugh loudly and for a long time.
Ask me about Charash?! Ha!
By the powers, am I going mad?
I fight back a wish to rub my face with my gloved, itching hands. The itch is infernally irritating, but I refuse to let it win.
"I honestly don't know anything about the dragon," I calmly say.
"Thee must tell the emperor that, not me," the captain replies.
For all the powers of the world, I can't leave the village when Charash still is out there somewhere! I have to see to it nothing happens to Schala and Schaliya!
Humph, you help creating the only village completely free from monster attacks, and suddenly you're "the sorcerer Janus", supposed to be able to wave off the giant dragon like a fly? Sorcerer? I really prefer wizard or warlock. Sorcerer has something of a crystal-tower over it...
I shake my head.
"It's a three days journey to the capital, isn't it?" I point out, "I haven't got time to be gone from here for a week. I have a sister and her family to protect if the big lizard came back."
'Thou art going to kill me, brother...' Cered silently groans and finally makes his way through the crowd.
"Thou refuse to heed the call of the emperor?" the captain growls, and many of the townspeople back away in fear.
Cered looks at me. He's got a rare look of "I will slain thee!" in his eyes. I silently sigh.
'You better go, Janus,' Schala whispers inside of my head, 'there'll only be trouble if you don't. We can hold our ground for an hour or so.'
True words, royalty is nothing but problems.
Problem with authority...
I clench my teeth.
Dalton should be dead now over there. I try to think of that fact instead of remembering his accursed words.
Well then. If anything should happen here, Schala or Cered can call me through telepathy. That's harmless, even for a pregnant woman.
"No, I'll come," I say, growling inside of my mind, "I just think that it's a waste of time since I can't help. Now let's get this over with."
I look around at Frog, Schala, Cered and the townspeople.
"You better move away," I calmly tell them.
"I think I better come with thee, brother," Cered resolutely says.
"If you absolutely want to."
I'm not in the mood for arguing with him for the moment. As the others back away I reach out and touch the captain's forehead with two fingers. If he's going to think that he can give me orders, he can take a little show and nervousness.
"Now think of our destination," I tell him as he tries to move away, "and I advice you to concentrate on the ground and not on the ocean by the town."
He freezes, and I reach into his mind. Of course I don't even have to stand before him to do that, but I think he deserves the tension of believing he's deciding our fate. I easily find what he's thinking of, just by the border of his realm of thoughts. The word "destination" is almost always enough.
I begin to chant.
I could roar of rage! Shut up, Dalton!
It actually surprises me that I manage to send us to the right place and not into the heart of the earth.
When the flashing light disappears most of the soldiers loose their balance of the sheer surprise. The captain turns his head, staring at the painted walls at all sides of the great courtyard. Many warriors that were training there are staring at us, looking rather shocked.
"Shall we go?" I calmly ask the commander, looking down at him.
He scrambles to his feet and dusts off his uniform. The men and women of his small troop do as him.
To the south the roofs of this land's capital city can be seen, behind the red wall. To the north is the palace, an enormous building of wood. It's mostly painted red and is decorated with green and golden statues of various animals and fabled creatures. Many dragons, I notice with a great deal of sarcasm. But I suppose those are the good ones...
Children all seem to have...
'Why is that bothering you?' Molor asks, carefully.
'If I knew I wouldn't be bothered!' I snap, absentmindedly rubbing the cloth covering the back of my right hand.
I am suddenly hit by a great sadness pouring out of Molor's very being, so deep that I almost stumble.
'What is it?' I ask, forgetting my anger completely.
He looks up at me, crawling by my side. Always by my side, since the first time we met. High headedly, not flat against the ground as other snakes.
'I wish I could tell, and I wish I could help,' he sadly says, 'but I cannot. Believe me.'
I look down at him, frowning.
He is my kindred spirit, a part of my soul. Why can't I hold on to that knowledge, why can't I keep believing in him? I have to know that whatever he does, it's nothing that is against me.
I have to trust him, I know that. If I can't trust him, I can't even trust myself. He is me, I am him. It's a simple fact that nobody can understand. Our bond is too deeply rooted.
It's too precious to be thrown away like that, even if he's not being honest. He must have reasons, I must believe in that.
I hold out my hand and he raises his head even more so that I can touch it. When I do that it's never a question of being superior or showing real tenderness. It's a confirmation of our alliance.
He doesn't have to say a word of gratefulness. I can feel his relief.
And I don't have to tell him that I am sorry for doubting.
But still that sadness lives on inside of him, and he can't hide it to me.
And I am certain that I can't ask him.
We enter the palace itself.
'Brother,' Cered says telepathically, rather sharply, 'I know what thee think, but in this land and time the emperor hast supreme power. I am only asking of thee to show a little respect.'
'I hope you aren't trying to say that I should throw myself on the floor before him, Cered,' I reply, emotionless.
'I might wish that I could ask of thee that favor,' he tiredly says, 'but I know thee better.'
'But please do not be too rude.'
He is really tense. I almost smile.
Just a plain guardian of the emperor's peace, born and living in a remote village. Now up to see the emperor himself. Even I can guess that such a thing is pretty fantastic. I don't care much myself. I just want to tell the ruler that I can't do more than anyone else about Charash for the time being, and then return to the village. It could be that only the Masamune has a chance to hurt the dragon, but should he come I don't want to be abroad and face a risk of coming two seconds too late to rip my niece out of the way.
The Masamune... Glenn... what he knew about Charash...?
'Cered,' I send to him, 'does the emperor have a daughter?'
I sense his surprise.
'I did not believe that thou cared,' he says.
'Does he have a daughter?' I repeat, frowning.
'Indeed, the flower of our fair country...'
'Do you remember what Glenn could recall about Charash?' I ask.
He is silent for a moment.
'A bride of royal blood?' he finally says.
It takes him one second to understand.
'By the heavens, thou dost not believe that...?!' he silently exclaims.
'Yes, I do,' I grimly say.
'But why?' he asks, very concerned.
'I don't know why, but don't dragons always do that kind of rubbish in the fairytales?' I say and roll my eyes.
'But she is a human, what kind of bride be that for a dragon?'
'It might just be a romantic description of a snack.'
'Janus, we cannot allow that!'
I silently sigh.
'No, I know,' I mutter.
Lovely. Just what we all needed; a royal damsel in distress.
This is definitely something I'd like to let Crono and Frog handle, it's close to getting too silly. But I'm afraid that just won't be allowed.
After a truly oversized stairway a gate is opened by four guards. Good grief, why do they always have to overdo every single building if they have a "better" title?
I won't even comment the emperor's throne. The great one himself is a man in his fifties, wearing a yellow robe with red and green embroideries. As almost everything else in the palace, it's very exaggerated.
He's wearing no crown, at least that's something... on his head is only his long grey hair, and he's got a matching mustache and beard.
By the walls an army of servants stand, and just beside the throne is what only can be the princess. A young woman, about twenty.
At least she seems to have a little more reasonable taste of clothing than her father. She's wearing a soft-red dress of silk, and instead of a massive wave of cloth like her father's robe her dress falls straight to her feet. There's only silver embroideries on the ends of her wide sleeves and across her chest. Her long black hair falls down her back.
Hmm, that's a unique necklace she's wearing. Looks like a snake biting its own tail. At this distance I can't judge what metal it's made of, but it's very light. Almost white.
Of course the soldiers, including Cered, have to throw themselves on their knees and hit the floor with their foreheads to greet their emperor. Such a ridiculous custom...
Not even Magus forced the Mystics to do that. Maybe only because half of them wouldn't be able to get up again, but anyhow he didn't.
'Brother!' Cered more or less pleads into my mind.
I silently sigh.
'Just this once, Cered.'
'I thank thee.'
Pursing my mouth I place my forearm across my chest and bow.
"We were not expecting thee this quickly, sorcerer," the emperor says.
"I hope that's not a problem," I reply, straightening up again as quickly as I bent.
"No, certainly not."
I notice that the princess' eyebrows twitch once as she looks at me, but I don't care much about it.
"Dare I ask how thee managed to come here so quickly?" the emperor wonders.
The queen's children...
For heaven's sake!
Am I going mad? Such wonderful timing...
"I believe that my way of traveling is your reason for summoning me here, your majesty," I say, forcing myself to calm down.
I need to do something about whatever it is that's happening. The dreams could be worse enough by themselves, but with Charash and his dark heart it's beginning to become too much.
How come a simple, scornful comment from Dalton makes me so irritated?
The emperor nods.
"There seems to be a dragon setting the towns of our fair land on fire," he says, "and I wish to know if thou hath any knowledge about it. That is since thou as far as I know art the only magus in this dark age."
Suddenly I have this urge of breaking his thin neck...
'Brother!' Cered whispers, he being the only human who feels the air get colder.
'Calm down,' Molor warns, almost nervously.
"That is partly incorrect, your majesty," I say, emotionless, "to be honest both my sister Schala and brother in law Cered here also are skilled magicians."
The princess' eyebrows twitch again, but I don't even throw a glance in her direction. I can see her perfectly in the corner of my eye.
"I see," the emperor says, "then I should ask both of thee if thee can help us in any way."
I shake my head.
"No, your majesty," I say, "as long as the dragon is hiding none of us can do more than you can."
"'Tis a growing problem," he says, "for my people live in fear for the next attack."
I could of course travel one year or so forward in time and see what's left of the fair land. But I don't fancy finding a future in which Schaliya is dead. Not that I don't trust Frog and the others to fight, but I feel a need to be there. She is my responsibility, she and her mother. Cered might be the girl's father, but I feel just as needed. I won't leave until Charash is gone, and that's that.
"I can understand your worry," I say, still without any expression in my voice, "but there isn't much neither me nor my brother in law and sister can do to help for the moment. All I can do is help you with a precaution."
"And what would that be, sorcerer?" the emperor asks, with a small grain of hope in his voice.
I throw a full glance at the princess and sigh silently.
Then I frown, but only in my own mind.
'Fascinating,' Molor dryly says, ironically.
'Stupid,' I mutter, honestly.
That's not a necklace she's wearing. At least as far as I know, normal jewelry doesn't move too much. Even if it was a very small movement, it was still there.
It's a small, white snake.
I sigh again. This isn't exactly getting better.
"I don't want to make you even more worried," I say, forcing my voice to stay dry of feelings, "but knowing children's stories dragons have peculiar interests."
"Dost thee mean that Lashey could be in danger?" the emperor says, frowning and looking at the princess.
"I'm simply guessing," I lie.
I reach up and rip a hair from my head. Then I hold it between my thumb and pointing finger, muttering a spell of change. The thin thread turns into a brooch, in the form of a snake crawled together.
Indeed, I am in the mood for being sarcastic.
"Should something happen, this will make it possible for me to find you, your highness," I coldly say and send the brooch floating into her rather surprised grip, "and it matches your other... jewelry too."
She looks up at me and gives a peculiar smile. I don't like it at all, the way she's looking at me. It makes me nervous.
Yes, me. She gives me the creeps.
"Thou hath sharp eyes, sorcerer," she says, "most people dost not see Liech's true appearance until she bites."
The small snake lets go of its tail and crawls down her arm, examining the brooch.
'Silly thing,' Molor more or less shudders.
It's calming to know that he always understands...
"If that would be all, your majesty," I say to the emperor, trying to ignore the princess, "my brother in law, Molor and myself have our own places in the world. Good day."
I don't even wait for a reply before starting to chant the traveling spell.
"Was there something that bothered thee, brother?" Cered carefully asks and gets up from the ground by the village's well.
"You almost lost an emperor for a poor pick of words, my friend," I coldly say and begin to walk off, "and apart from that I don't enjoy being looked upon as some kind of exhibition dog. If that silly girl should risk getting roasted by Charash, don't expect me to jump in between."
"What was that all about?" I hear Marle blankly ask even as I'm floating towards the sky to start my watch out again.
"The emperor called him a magus," Cered says, just as puzzled, "but I hath no idea why the princess made him so angry..."
Stupid girl. I can't stand people looking at me like that, as if I was an interesting bug. No one has done that ever since I was the prince of Zeal.
And that snake she had, the undeniable pointing at Molor... it somehow makes me frustrated. As if I needed more of that.
Children all seem...
I could scream. I could really do it.
But I won't. I used up screams for a lifetime during my first years among the Mystics. I have none left.
My hands itch. Without thinking about it I rub my right palm against the back of my left hand.
Why is Dalton tormenting me, with a simple comment like that? Haven't I heard worse insults than what he gave me, things that should never be heard by a living soul? Haven't I faced worse pain than a slap knocking me backwards?
It's just too many things right now. I'm becoming mentally exhausted.
I need peace of mind. Last time I had that was... just after Schala and Cered married. And before that? When did I ever rest when I carried my other name?
'Not good,' Molor mutters somewhere inside of my mind, but I have a feeling that he is talking more to himself than to me.
'What?' I ask anyhow.
He's silent for a moment, but when he speaks it's with rare frustration and somehow revolting.
'You have to find focus, or it penetrates your will even faster, friend,' he snarls.
I take a deep breath and close my eyes.
There must be some way of finding peace somewhere among this twisted net of problems and thoughts.
Focus. I have to focus on something completely different, something that hasn't got anything to do with any of my normal matters. Something trivial.
For some reason I think of a tree.
Branches. Trunk. Sunlight reflecting on the whispering leaves, shadows dancing over the wood...
Hmm, it's actually working. I never thought of trees before, they were just small parts of every forest in the world. But they are relaxing to concentrate on.
My mind lays down in the calmness surrounding it as it pushes everything else aside. Rests to regain strength. Not even Dalton can bother me now.
I have no idea for how long I rest there, floating above the village encircled by peace.
But at some point I fall into a fragile slumber.
For the rest of my existence I won't ever stop wishing that I never had fallen asleep again. For the dream that attacked me then left a wound that is very hard to heal, no matter how much help I got.