The Prince's Story Part 2
“Bless you!” Schala shouted.
And that was the common opinion.
“Where is Lavos?” Janus asked with relief.
Cered helped Molor to slump down on the floor, and he did his best to support himself with his borrowed arms.
“He’s gone, as driven out of existence as is possible,” the dragon in the human body said with a faint triumphant smirk, “it wasn’t easy however. And I had some trouble getting rid of those tentacles too.”
“Sorry about that,” Schala said.
“It’s fine. All you need to get free from them is actually a certain pattern of magic, it might be hard for a human to grasp though. Anyway…”
He sighed, tiredly.
“Just let me rest for a few minutes and then we can switch back.”
There was a short silence.
“Should I… get Schaliya and Glenn?” Schala finally said, glancing towards her dead son.
“It won’t do any good to hope,” Janus bitterly said and shook his borrowed head, “I can’t do it anymore. And he’s too far gone now in any case. I wouldn’t have been able to bring him back even if I still had my powers.”
A thicker silence filled the room, this one only sorrowful. Marle leaned at Crono, Cered reached out for Schala as Ceredan heavily sat down on the floor. Lucca stared at the ground, clenching and unclenching her hands helplessly. Lashey just looked away from everyone else.
A dry sound pierced the scene. Almost like a chuckle.
“What?” Janus muttered, watching his own body ironically smile.
“I had an interesting idea,” Molor said with a light, thoughtful smirk, “your power alone would not have helped, but what about twice the amount?”
Janus hissed; it took a moment to realize that it was the closest to a laugh he could produce in his current state.
“Of course,” he said, “I suppose it could be possible.”
“What of it?” the rest of the room asked.
“A little game with destinies,” Molor said with a more proper smirk, “provided Janus can find his ways through a different kind of Gate.”
“I’ve still got all the powers he didn’t feel a need for, I could manage.”
The snake straightened up.
“I’ll get the help we need, from other lives,” he said, almost grinning.
“Are you planning to go back to the past and get yourself or what?” Lucca wondered.
“No, that wouldn’t work. That could endanger history and we’ve had enough of that already,” Janus said, “but as you might remember from the time we had troubles with Charash I suddenly knew that Dalton was my father.”
“Yes, I clearly remember that one,” Schala said with a slight grimace, “you were dreaming about another life, right?”
“Correct; I learnt to know a different version of my path, and that Janus found out about Dalton. He managed to travel to and from a third version of me, and I think I can remember how he did it.”
“Isn’t that risky?” Marle asked.
“Probably, but I’m not leaving Janatzer dead.”
Even the cold eyes of Molor’s body glowed with determination.
“Are you ready to switch back?” he asked his companion.
As he wasn’t used to human arms, Molor moved rather stiffly as he reached out and carefully took his own head between his borrowed hands. He leaned forwards and Janus reached up until their foreheads met. The human body closed his eyes.
A stream of light flashed between their heads and they recoiled with a grunt.
“Did you make it?” Schala worriedly asked.
The human lifted his hands to his face and rubbed it with movements too distinct to be the ones of a guest.
“Yes…” Janus muttered, “but I feel like hell…”
Marle took that as a perfect reason to cover both him and his friend in healing stars.
“Much better…” Molor gratefully muttered while Janus straightened up.
The snake coiled himself up in a dark tower of muscles and scales with a sigh of relief.
“Art thee going right away, brother?” Cered protested as Janus made a suspicious stretching movement as if to get ready to move forcefully, “in thy state!”
“I have to get this over with,” the warlock grimly stated, “the longer Janatzer is dead, the harder it’ll be to get him back. It’s a question of a few hours if you’re trying to perform a resurrection.”
Schala’s husband fell short of protests in face of that.
“You can go to get Schaliya and Glenn now,” Janus said and turned to Schala.
He looked at Molor, who waved a bit with the tip of his tail in an understanding movement. Whatever it was Janus had meant to say, the snake already knew. So the warlock kept turning.
“And you, don’t do anything until I get back.”
“We weren’t planning too, commander,” Lucca said with a hint of irony in her grim voice.
Janus faced Lashey, who sternly looked back at him with concern.
He held back a sigh.
“I don’t know how much magic power you have, but you must have a bit since you could use the brooch,” he acknowledged, “we’ll need all help we can get.”
“I understand, lord Janus. I will do anything possible to repay my husband’s sin.”
Janus looked away, shaking his head.
The empress’ face showed naught.
“I’m going then,” the warlock muttered and raised his hands.
His lips moved without a sound, not leaving his secret spell to anybody.
At first nothing happened and Janus deeply frowned in frustration. Once again he tried to chant, and this time a Gate did begin to open before him. But it went much slower than usual, several seconds passed before it was big enough for him to pass through.
Without a glance backwards the warlock entered the darkness and it closed behind him with a hiss.
“Will he be well?” Lashey worriedly asked.
He’s too damn stubborn to even consider failing, Crono muttered even though he tried to sound optimistic, it’s one of his sides that I’m not sure is good or bad. He’s got loads of those.
“I’ll be back soon, as well,” Schala announced and easily ripped a Gate open before her.
She hurried through without awaiting a word from anyone.
Silence settled for a few moments.
“It’s not often they show that kind of proof of being siblings but…” Lucca muttered and sat down on one of the room’s low beds.
There were two beds of course, since it was the room of two young men. One by each side wall. Apart from that it was a fairly naked place, furniture wise. A fine, bluish carpet covered most of the floor and there were a few pots with big leafed plants in the two otherwise empty corners, but apart from that and Ceredan’s staff resting against the wall beside the door, it was empty. It was a room for resting, not living in.
And Janatzer’s body was on a stretcher, supported above the floor by a pair of crossed wooden legs. Marle thought it looked like a military bed, but apart from her idle thought nobody really bothered about what the dead son was resting on.
Seconds snailed by.
Finally Cered felt himself forced to break the silence.
“I’m sorry thee had to experience these horrors, my empress,” he sadly said.
Lashey tried to smile a little but failed.
“’Twas my fault, sir Cered,” she bitterly said, “in the truth as thee all know, I was the one who chose lord Sere as my husband and thus the emperor who caused thy son’s death.”
She hardly had time to finish her sentence before she was attacked by profuse reassurances that it wasn’t her fault. This was the first time that the woman actually showed a sign of being taken aback. She almost took a step backwards as almost everyone else in the room dived for her defense.
“Thou could not know that he carried such raw ambitions within, my empress!” Cered resolutely stated.
“Indeed, my father speaketh the truth!” Ceredan chimed in, “’twas by no means thine crime!”
Really now! the fruit of the two men’s family line snorted.
“Listen lady, you’re looking at this the entirely wrong way,” Lucca growled, “how was you to know that that damn parasite had infested Janus’ mind and just was waiting for a chance to attack? It wouldn’t surprise me if Lavos was behind this entire mess, he’s done stuff like that before.”
Lashey blinked at the support, surprised by their overwhelming kindness. She wasn’t used to feelings being expressed this way.
“I… thank thee, however…” she began.
But as Marle held forth a perfectly clean handkerchief with a careful smile, the empress’ voice trailed off.
“Here,” the princess gently said, “why don’t you get rid of that makeup and I’ll heal that nasty bruise.”
Lashey stared at the much younger woman for a moment, then her hand flew to the tears in the powder as if she had forgotten all about it.
“I… nay…” she mumbled, shaking her head.
“How can you blame yourself when you’ve got such a bastard of a husband?” Marle demanded.
The harsh words sounded alien in her mouth and even her friends looked strangely at her.
The crystal-blue eyes below a smooth forehead and blond hair were hard as steel, nothing like the princess everyone knew.
Without a word Marle took Lashey’s hand and forcefully put the handkerchief in the shivering palm.
“We should all give Janus a harsh one for leaving you to that demon,” the princess angrily stated.
Lashey blinked again. And she wasn’t the only one.
There was a dryly amused hiss. Marle shot Molor a heated look.
“Do not misunderstand me,” the snake said and laid his head back on the highest coil, “I’m not expressing any scorn.”
“Then why were you laughing?” the princess demanded.
“It is because I saw something familiar for a moment,” Molor said.
He straightened up a little again and shook his head.
“Accept her help, empress,” he said, “and stop blaming yourself.”
His tongue played nervously before he reluctantly added:
“When mating you can never see the fruit of your choice until it faces you, such is the rule of life.”
Silence fell again as all eyes rested on Molor, hesitantly.
A few moments moved by.
The snake sighed.
“You understand fully well what I might have meant, and yes it is so,” he gruffly said, “but Janus doesn’t know it and if you tell him I’ll swallow you whole. It’s not pleasant. What I mean, empress…”
He glared at her again.
“… Is that making a mistake does not place the entire guilt on you. What you did might have given life to these slumbering dangers, but your fault, it was not.”
“Molor, I need to make it clear,” Lucca said in a somewhat weak voice, “are you Cha…?”
The snake cut her off with an irritated hiss.
“Listen, inventor,” he said, “this is not the place nor time to discuss it and I only brought it up to make it clear for the empress that her shame is unprovoked. I do not want to delve further in that matter, understand?”
“Yep, you are,” Lucca calmly concluded.
Molor grunted, frustrated.
“I am not in the mood this, humans,” he said and his head disappeared into his own private tower.
“And I thought he and Janus were perfectly alike…” Marle mumbled to Cered, who shook his head in disbelief.
“Let it go already!” Molor growled, “I should have kept my mouth shut…”
“I actually had a suspicion,” the princess carefully said, “but I didn’t ask since I didn’t want to bother you with something like it.”
“I am most grateful,” the snake muttered.
Marle turned to Lashey and found that she was somewhat hesitantly removing her makeup with the handkerchief.
“Who’d imagine he was the father type…” Lucca muttered to Crono, who shook his head in disbelief.
“I can hear you perfectly,” Molor coldly informed, “one more word about my son and I swear you’ll see the inside of my stomach.”
“Alright already, cut the death threats. I’ll shut up. Geez…”
Lucca rolled her eyes though she couldn’t help but smirk a little at the pure obscurity.
The princess of Guardia was carefully working on removing the bluish, aching spot from Lashey’s face when a Gate opened again, causing everyone to spin at it.
But it wasn’t Janus who came back, it were Schaliya and Glenn who stumbled out. Schala followed them closely and the darkness shrunk into nothingness behind her.
“Isn’t he back yet?” the older woman asked, looking around.
The only reply were head shakings, while the daughter of the house hurried over to her oldest brother’s side.
Crono, Marle and Lucca looked at Schaliya’s white dress, exchanged glances and winced.
It was a white sundress with no sleeves, quite pretty on her.
But last they had seen it, it had been covered in the blood of the man who now calmingly wrapped his arms around his wife.
‘Not a word to them about what could have happened to Janus,’ Schala muttered in the three youngsters’ heads, but it wasn’t a necessary order.
The people from the most distant future hadn’t had any plans at all to mention Janus’ fall to his niece.
“How long hast thee been waiting?” Schaliya grimly asked and stood, leaving Glenn’s embrace to give her living brother a hug.
“Not very long,” Molor informed and finally lifted his head to a normal level again, “but he should be back soon. As it is now I cannot feel his presence however, so I’m not sure.”
“What if he is trapped somewhere?” Cered worriedly asked.
Molor sighed and shook his head.
“It won’t do you any good to worry. He knows what he’s doing.”
He laid his head on his back again.
The man who hurried down the hallway of ridiculously tall bookcases had been lightly irritated about how quickly he got thirsty when he’d been searching through the library. That had been then, now was now and it still bothered him. He hadn’t felt well when he started off and even though he tried to rush himself he wasn’t able to. The dry air clawed at his throat as he stopped to regain his breath, gritting his teeth.
‘Damn you, Lavos…’
Apart from his breathing everything was silent. The few windows allowed – not very many due to the age of some of the scripts – gave away that it was getting late.
‘To hell with this.’
Janus shook his head and straightened up. He knew that the one he sought was close, but he wasn’t in the mood for hide and seek.
‘I need your help.’
Lavos hadn’t taken the powers he found worthless, and telepathy was one of them. Thus Janus easily spread the call’s reach over the entire building.
The silence lasted for a second. Then the sound of a book hitting the floor was heard from somewhere ahead, on the other side of the bookcase that Janus was leaning on.
He gave half a smile.
‘What the hell?’ came the suspicious reply.
‘I don’t have much time to explain, just get over here,’ Janus ordered.
Another moment brushed by, during which the warlock felt the pull at his mind.
‘Clumsy at that…’ he absentmindedly thought.
But at least it worked. In a flash of light another man showed up in front of Janus, looking at him with slightly wide eyes. It was like looking into a mirror showing your past or future. They wore exactly the same clothes, but Janus carried a much older and more haggard expression.
It was quite fair, since he was twice as old as the man facing him. But they didn’t have the same history, even if the visitor had been agonizingly aware of his mirror’s painful life as a brainwashed slave.
The Pawn of the Mystics opened his mouth for the obvious question, but Janus cut him off since he understood fully well what it would be.
“I’m from yet another time stream,” the older one quickly explained, “and we don’t have much time. I’ll explain everything when we’ve found your student.”
A pair of blue eyebrows twitched.
“How can you know?” he asked, hesitating whether he’d believe what he saw before him or not.
“I will explain,” Janus grimly said, forcing himself not to let his frustration show, “as for now just trust me. I’ll tell you and our saved version everything.”
The Pawn watched the guest for a moment longer before he slowly nodded.
“Very well, I’ll trust you,” he said, “I’ll take us there, you don’t look so good.”
“I don’t feel so good either,” Janus allowed himself.
There wasn’t much use in trying to deny it.
The younger of the two eyed the older for another second, then he shook his head lightly and turned to his left, away from the bookcases. With a low mutter and a wave of his hand he made a new Gate open, and the two stepped in.
None of them had been sure on what to find on the other side of the darkness, but what was there surprised them both thoroughly.
But that side of this story has it’s own place and time.
Everyone looked up as they heard the familiar, buzzing sound of a Gate opening. The sparkling darkness appeared on Janatzer’s right side, and this time it didn’t open as slowly as it had done when Janus had left.
The warlock had hardly taken one step outside of the portal before he stumbled slightly, despite the grim frown that had adorned his forehead giving a slight smile.
“I am so relieved to see thee safe, uncle…” Schaliya sighed, hugging him tightly.
“So am I, little one.”
Janus would never be one to return a hug in a completely natural way, but he did his best when it came to the young woman. It had taken her years to train him for it in the first place.
But this time he gently pushed her away.
“Stand back for now,” he quickly explained when facing her questioning look, “they shouldn’t see too much of their possible futures.”
As if to follow up on his words something moved in the still open Gate. However, before anything became visible Molor hissed and a grayish bubble appeared around the corpse, Janus and the time portal.
No words were heard from within, and nothing was seen from the outside. It felt safe to assume that it was the same for those on the other side of the magic wall as well.
At least until Janus spoke again.
“Well then, I need you to make as much a circle as possible around the orb, and be ready to send your powers into it when you see light from within.”
He was silent for a moment.
“This will probably be more complicated than last time we did something like this, it can take a while. Don’t bother with healing magic, just lead your magic at us.”
On the outside, Lashey and Ceredan were the only ones looking clueless about what the words “last time”. On the inside, Janus got suspicious glances. But questions remained unsaid for the safety of each story.
The youngest of the three blue-hairs turned his gaze back at the boy, holding his hand floating over the painfully calm face.
“It’ll take more than a normal resurrection, I fear,” he murmured, “his soul is gone from here.”
Straightening up, he eyed his elders – though the one who had been his teacher merely was about a year older than him and maybe didn’t deserve such a label.
“Is that even possible?” he questioned.
“We’ll just have to find out,” Janus sternly said.
The Pawn and Student slowly nodded. Without another word they stood up and took each other’s hands, forming a circle. Janus stood behind Janatzer’s head, while his companions took their places on each side of the simple bed’s head end.
Even Schala and Molor flinched at the eerie sound of three almost exactly alike voices calling out a spell at the exact same time. It was simply unnatural.
“Zoguldra na gol!” came from the bubble, three voices in unison… each one of them belonging to Janus.
A strange light flared up and illuminated the bubble, giving life to the silhouettes within. There were two with cloaks flapping together with their hair in the magical wind, the last one didn’t seem to wear a cloak however. Only his hair twisted behind him.
“Now!” one voice called.
Marle flashed Lashey an encouraging smile, offering support despite the fact that the princess wasn’t even half the empress’ age.
Emperor Sere’s wife tried to return the smile, but it didn’t go that well. When failing she closed her eyes like everyone else, concentrating all her will towards the bubble as told.
The light intensified, the humans noticed it even through their eyelids. Molor just watched in silence, not letting it break his focus.
“Gol tola logondo!”
Several of the assembled humans gasped when the light flashed so brightly that it painted an ungraspable picture on the backside of every eye lobe, and even the snake recoiled.
It faded as quickly as it had come, falling back into a pulsating light from within the orb. The glow seemed to come from a few glowing ribbons, connecting the three shadows standing behind the thin wall. Again the shrouding magic was beaten by the power of the Januses, even if all details were left out.
One of the shadows’ head was lowered, and he seemed to more hang than really stand supported by his own force. It was one of the men with cloaks.
In the silence, glances were exchanged. Schala bit her lower lip, hesitating on whether she should call out or not. After all, she also knew that one should not let the future be known, and she had no idea whether or not the guests had found their versions of her. Under the same criteria was the option to let somebody they didn’t yet know speak. Looking around the room the princess of Zeal saw everyone hesitant and questioning, and she took in a deep breath.
But Glenn saved her the risk.
“Janus?” Schaliya’s husband asked in a bit of a hoarse voice, frowning.
The second one with a cloak started to move as if to straighten up and reply, but the last of the three’s head snapped up in the caller’s direction.
He cut himself off.
“He’s alright,” he said instead, calmingly, “he just had to leave his own body to look for the boy’s soul.”
“Don’t worry,” the other one reassured, “we established an anchor before he left, so he won’t get lost.”
When the voices were used individually, the ones who were listening could actually hear small differences in them. Overall they were the same, but not completely.
Janus himself had a slightly raspier voice, probably because he was older than the other two. They both did sound younger. The one without a cloak also brought something quite surprising; when he wasn’t chanting he spoke with a Truce dialect. Janus had never been using the slightly rounder I and A’s which ruled half of the heroes’ pronouncement.
The one with the cloak did talk like Janus however, but there was some other difference. His voice was slightly harsh, hardly noticeable though. Not cold like the Prince of Darkness, but… harder somehow, as if he had gone through even worse ordeals than his older mirror.
“I thank thee for the reassurance,” the swordsman said.
There was a brief pause.
“You’re welcome, Glenn.”
Again it was the cloakless one speaking, with the hint of a bitter smile.
The tone and the fact that he even spoke out the name got glances flying between the earliest members of the troop.
“Ah, I didn’t mean to worry you,” the visiting Janus said as if he felt the questions hanging in the air, “I’m just not used to hear you talking without that croaking of yours.”
If the apology hadn’t surprised everyone too much, they might have chuckled. But not as it was.
Inside the bubble, the Pawn of the Mystics met his student’s eyes.
“You really did turn out strange, didn’t you?” he said, with the hint of a smile.
The younger man gave a slanted smirk.
“I guess,” he admitted with a low chuckle.
They both fell silent as they felt a strange pull from the man they were pouring their power into. He wasn’t coming back, that wasn’t it… it was just a pull, like a reassurance that he was managing.
At least they could hope that it was a reassurance. It would be impossible to tell any message from a good sign or a call for help. The two men could not dare the risk of trying to drag their mirror back too early either, because then they might not be able to send the soul off again.
It was the only hope there was for Janatzer, to wait.
One couldn’t say that Janus twitched by the familiar voice, he still lacked the control to do so… and he was also yet trying to reach the place where he at the same time felt himself being in. It stretched the term “other worldly” a bit…
“Then what is he?” a dry voice sarcastically retorted, “doesn’t look awake to me.”
“And spirits don’t sleep either, you know.”
“Shut your damn rathole, Flea.”
“Why do we have to meet him anyway?” a third voice grunted.
“Why don’t you go ask Azran or maybe even Snake if you’ve got something to complain about?”
The last voice was familiar as well, and this one was at least welcome. It eased Janus’ strong worry that he had ended up in the utterly wrong area. Still, it was slightly confusing to hear those four talking in the same place.
There was a contemplating silence. But it wasn’t very long.
Lizard smirked lightly and stretched, turning to Ozzie as the descendant nervously moved further away from the one they were waiting for.
“I just don’t feel at ease about this,” the much fatter monster grunted.
“What, afraid he’ll kill you or something?”
The younger monster glared.
“You know, I’ve said it before…”
“About three hundred and fifty eight times, yes.”
“… The tales never ever mentioned you being such a wisecrack.”
“Wit, courage and despair aren’t all the things that make a leader,” Lizard snickered.
“Yeah, and too bad you never had any of that.”
The first Mystic king glared at a convenient cliff in the glistening, golden landscape. For some reason his magic expert of a friend had always liked high places.
“Well fine, you did have the desperation,” Magician smirked down at his boss, “wit was mine and courage was… I guess I’ll have to hand that to Warrior.”
He sighed the last part. Very deeply, too.
Flea was about to snicker at his ancestor’s lack of respect, but something came in between.
“Eh, Lizard?” Ozzie nervously said.
The oldest Mystic glanced over his shoulder. And chuckled.
“’e’s aw’k!” Slash choked, grimacing and trying to free himself.
“I ‘a’d ‘irit do’t ‘eep!” Flea growled, struggling as well.
“I don’t know what I expected,” Janus firmly said, “but you were not included.”
Lizard fought back a laugh at seeing the two monsters fight against the hands that held a throat each. At least they didn’t have to worry about being strangled…
“No need to be hostile, Janus, they’re not your enemies here,” he assured.
The warlock looked at the slim, green monster and at the surroundings. Then he sighed and let go.
Instead of hitting the ground, Flea and Slash fell only a couple of inches before they floated off while rubbing their necks.
“You’ve got to be kidding,” Janus growled with a heated glare at the three younger Mystics.
“Actually not,” Magician chuckled as he leaped off his cliff, “you made it to what living people call Heaven.”
“And why are they here then?” the warlock snapped.
“Have to break your bubble there,” Lizard smiled, “terms like Hell, devils and demons are something that priests made up to scare people into belief.”
“More than half the world’s curses are, ergo, completely useless,” Magician merrily smirked.
“In other words, everyone ends up here sooner or later.”
The owner of the last voice winced slightly as he found himself under a burning glare from the red eyes.
“It ah… just takes a little longer for some of us,” he added, diplomatically.
Janus didn’t reply, his eyes scowled “I dearly hope so” well enough to cause blindness.
Dalton choose to back off.
“Look, it’s not like we wanted to come here and meet you,” Slash grunted, still massaging his neck sourly, “Azran just has a twisted sense of humor.”
“Who is Azran?” Janus asked, looking at Lizard.
“An angel if you so wish,” the Mystic said and waved at the warlock to follow him as he started moving towards Magician’s cliff, “the guardian of your bloodline. And we have to do as he says, even if some of us requires to be dragged along kicking and screaming.”
“I could have lived without it as well,” the visitor grunted, sending another heated frown at his old generals.
“Don’t give us that look, we could have been down there right now risking our lives for you against Lavos,” Ozzie stated, fiddling with his robes.
“Afterlives, mister,” Flea absentmindedly corrected.
Janus pretended not to have heard them. It was not an option that fitted into his mind.
Not enough that his old enemies were there in the first place, death hadn’t changed them one bit it seemed. Not even the clothes. Slash even had his beloved sword by his side, though whatever he planned to battle in Heaven was a question that was left unanswered.
Janus choose to ignore them completely and followed Lizard and Magician past the cliff through the strange landscape.
There were no trees, no grass, just a few hills and strange protruding shapes in the glimmering world. The ground itself looked to be made of gold and the sky peacefully flowed in all the colors of the rainbow.
It took the warlock a few moments to realize that he wasn’t even walking, but floating. And so was everyone else. Almost as it had been waiting for that simple conclusion the peculiar world seemed to change, melting into more familiar forms. And at the same time nothing really moved.
Well, not familiar as in homey, but there were at least things that seemed more natural in a landscape. What had been mind boggling shapes changed into bushes, stones and trees, and even if no colors changed at least it was a relief. Though he wouldn’t admit it aloud, Janus hadn’t felt that well about passing over on the other side – not even when he had reached his goal. At least now things appeared to be working on making things easier for him.
Or at least, some things did. Others were doing the opposite.
“Hell no! We went over this already!”
“Yes, and we reached a conclusion!”
“Did not! That’s not fair!”
The argument went on in the same way for several more seconds until Janus stopped and turned around, folding his arms. The discussion died instantly.
“What?” the warlock growled from the deepest depths of his throat.
The four spirits that had followed the leading three – on a fairly safe distance – exchanged glances.
As one person Ozzie and Slash shoved Dalton and Flea forwards so forcefully that they almost fell over.
“No fair!” the cross body whined.
“Shut up and spit it out already!” Ozzie snarled.
Dalton glared at the monsters and then turned to his son again. Upon closer inspection it was revealed that there actually were small changes in appearance. For one, the dark-blond man from Zeal now had both his eyes working just fine.
With a grunt he rubbed his temples, finally looking up again as Janus’ foot began to tap against the ground, floating or no.
“Oh fine,” the father reluctantly said, “I didn’t want to say anything but Levana said she’d make us a private hell if we didn’t eh… make Flea say it.”
He slammed his hand into the pink Mystic’s back, who in turn squealed in protest as he stumbled further ahead.
“I haven’t got time for anyone of you,” Janus impatiently growled and grabbed Flea’s crag to lift him to the same eyelevel, “what bloody is it?”
The cute face twisted into a grimace, but the magician spoke up at least.
“Well Janus, we…”
At that point Flea glared aside but couldn’t fix his eyes on the subjects of his rage since he couldn’t move very well.
“… Just wanted to… argh…”
He pinched his eyes shut and clenched his hands into shaking fists.
It surprised Janus quite a bit, to say the least. Despite their strange behavior, he had not expected anyone of the four generals to swallow their pride enough to actually redeem themselves to him.
And had Lavos not forced him to plead for mercy hardly an hour earlier, perhaps the warlock would have forced each one of them to say the same thing as Flea. But as that episode still remained as a bitter taste in his mouth, he simply let the magician go.
The Mystic even blinked, obviously expecting worse than that.
“Maybe,” the warlock grunted and turned again.
“There, wasn’t so hard, was it?” Magician cheekily smirked at his descendant, the other two Mystics and Dalton.
Lizard and Janus ignored the lot, moving onwards.
The softly glowing landscape began to change color, into more natural ones. Still, each and every shade was gentler and more beautiful than anything down on the mortal coil ever could be.
“Janatzer is just fine,” the Mystic assured as Janus came up beside him, “spent some time with his grandparents while we were waiting for you to get the help.”
Janus threw a glance behind himself and his guide. Yes, they were still following. Of course.
“I take it that works in the same way as with how you and your companions could show up during the episode with Charash?” he said, not too enthusiastically.
“Yes. Time hasn’t got the same meaning here.”
Lizard gave a slanted smile, which in no way reminded of the smirks of his descendant.
“I know you’re mad at them,” the Mystic said, “but really, there’s no evil left when you get here. Might have taken Flea a while to spurt it out but he meant it for them all.”
“I’m feeling rather angry,” the warlock pointed out.
The Mystic nodded with another smile.
“Yes, but you’re not completely dead on the other hand. And anger is not the same as evil, after all. There’s no blocks against true emotions, we’re not having a tyranny here.”
“Why would there be reason to be angry in Heaven, anyway?”
Lizard silently pointed over his shoulder with his thumb, at the four generals and Magician.
Then he chuckled and shook his head.
“No, in truth…” he grinned, “just being happy gets damn boring after a while, even here. And if we couldn’t feel anger and worry we’d hardly be able to do a good job watching over the living, right?”
More and more trees appeared, seemingly being formed to follow every movement that the two travelers made.
Whispering softly as it flowed along on the path it had created for itself, a silvery river suddenly blocked the course. However Lizard just turned and began moving up the flow, all the while floating so that the soft moss and small twigs on the ground just softly brushed against his bare feet. Janus could only follow him.
The river soon turned into water instead of silver, as if complying to the laws of nature when it was closer to its spring.
Then suddenly the trees gave away for a clearing, and a pond adorned with low cliffs on the far off side. A typical story book thing, complete with the water lilies. At least there wasn’t sickeningly many flowers on the ground, and no sandy slope leading down into the water.
Still, had the rest of the scenery not caught Janus’ full attention he might have asked Lizard if he was trying to make his guest sick to the stomach.
Janatzer bolted to his feet with a wide smile, dashing to meet his mother’s brother. At least he was out of the uniform he had died in, back into his everyday brown pants and open shirt instead of the white-gray clothing of the Garadian soldiers.
Levana Zeal stood, a bit surprised but warmly watching her son allow the boy to hug him tightly, even smiling as well with great relief. The youngster was almost as tall as his uncle, it turned out.
“I’m glad to see you safe, Janus,” she said as the three spirits came closer to her and the man who had been sitting beside her on a smooth rock.
“It wasn’t me I was worried about,” the warlock pointed out, safely keeping a hand on his nephew’s shoulder.
“I am all well, uncle,” Janatzer said, still smiling in the same way, “though I was dearly hoping that thee would be able to bring me back, for I can feel everyone’s sorrow.”
“Well, getting here and find you is the start at least,” Janus said, his smile wavering a bit as reality caught up again.
Levana shook her head, her warm expression not changing.
“There’s no need to worry about protests from anywhere,” she assured, “Azran was quite shocked too when Janatzer died. Mistakes can occur.”
“I’d say they happen more often when there’s a certain parasite in the works,” the man on the rock grimly said, leaning his chin on a fist.
He was dressed in a quite familiar set of heavy, purple robes, and teal-green hair flowed down his back in a tidy ponytail held up by a blue ribbon. Even if his thin frame made it apparent that he was no warrior, he moved with regal pride and still gracefully as he stood.
Most striking in his face was the pure yellow irises of his eyes – a typical sign of somebody starting to use a lot of magic at a young age – and any “normal” human would probably take a great notice of his pointy ears, as well. The warlock however rather scanned the familiar shape of his nose and cheekbone.
“I assume you are lord Amon then,” Janus said, far from roughly.
After all he had no reason at all to be rude and his mood was just brightening by the way the situation had turned out.
The older man smiled and nodded.
“Indeed, I am the father of your sister,” the last king of Zeal admitted.
“Are you saying that Lavos was working behind the scenes again, then?” Janus asked with a frown, turning the discussion around again.
The married couple exchanged glances before answering.
“We’re not sure, but it’s possible,” Levana nodded, her gem eyes turning cold as she spoke, “he could not have reached very far away from your mind, but it’s safe to assume that he was doing something to push his scheme into action.”
Janus pursed his mouth.
“Well, in any case Molor was sure that he had managed to kill the parasite completely this time,” he said.
“That also seems correct,” the queen said, her grim expression melting away at once, “we’ll stay on lookout for anything, but I think we can relax a little.”
Lord Amon smiled a bit and turned to the stone, reaching for something behind it.
“Speaking of your snake, here’s another friend of yours.”
In a swift movement he handed the small creature to Levana, who carefully took the slender body and stepped closer to her son. Janus’ hands left Janatzer’s shoulders and then swung lightly at the added weight.
There was a purr.
“One smirk and you’ll wish you could die again,” the warlock calmly said without looking around.
“Who, us?” Flea’s voice innocently said.
The warlock rolled his eyes. Obviously fear was not a binding force in this world, sadly enough.
“Mother did mention thy cat once, uncle,” Janatzer commented with a careful smile.
Alfador rubbed his head against the chest covered by hard leather, purring even louder as a set of fingertips stroke his fur.
“Molor fills a void, but he does lack a few things that the urchin here has.”
As if the words weren’t enough of a shock, Janus chuckled lightly.
“And even if he had ears, I’m sure even I would loose a few fingers trying to scratch him behind them.”
Whether it was instinct of self-preservation or The Glare that Levana gave those who could consider putting their health at risk, nobody said a teasing word. She exchanged the harsh look for a smile as she looked at the main attraction again.
“In any case, you two,” she said, “we’re waiting for Azran to get back here. You can of course return to your body with the anchor you and your colleagues created, Janus, but Janatzer will need some help. The guardian just needed to take care of a few things first, he said.”
She held up her hand at Janus’ growing frown.
“Don’t worry, merely a few seconds will pass in the world of living.”
“And how much time, relatively spoken that is, would that be here?” Janatzer asked even before his uncle could ask the same thing.
“Hard to say, but can’t be more than what could be regarded as an hour,” he said.
There was a protesting grunt and Lizard broke the family circle, dragging Ozzie and Dalton along. Half strangled chuckles from Slash and giggles from Flea could be heard in the background.
“Enough time to get a few things straight, I think,” the first king of Mystics said with a slight smirk.
Janus glanced upwards at the grimacing faces, then shook his head and turned away.
“Not in the least interested,” he coldly stated.
“Me neither!” Dalton croaked.
He grunted again as his level changed suddenly, to find himself glaring into the oldest Mystic’s eyes.
The silent battle kept up for a moment, until Lizard chose to take the shortcut.
“Snake,” he said, emotionlessly.
The suppressed chuckles got Janus’ attention, making him luckily turn around.
Seeing the look of utter horror on his father’s face would have made anything worthwhile.
“Alright, alright, alright!” the once one-eyed man hurriedly agreed and heavily sighed as he was set free again.
“And what about you three?” Lizard asked in a dangerously soft tone, glancing between the evil trio of the middle ages.
“The tales never mentioned you being so cruel either!” Ozzie growled, but was allowed to return to the freely floating.
“I never knew Snake was such a threat,” Janus commented with a vague smirk.
“Oh, you have no idea until you see her,” Magician shuddered.
He backed off with a chuckle under the glare of his leader.
“Well Janus, you know Skeeza*?” Ozzie grunted, rubbing his neck.
Janatzer blinked as he watched his uncle close his ruby eyes and very slowly lift his free hand to his face, rubbing his forehead as if he had a burning headache.
“All too well,” the warlock finally allowed, growling slightly.
“Who be Skeeza?” the youngster of the group wondered.
“Well you see kid,” Magician cut in before anyone else had time to answer, “it seems like there’s something wrong with Lizard’s bloodline. They all marry psychopaths.”
“Keep your damn mouth shut!” Lizard and Ozzie growled as one.
“What? It’s true!” Flea smirked, leaping in behind Slash for protection.
The two green-skinned Mystics snarled at the magic users, then left them alone.
“What I was trying to say,” Ozzie continued with quite a hint of annoyance left in his voice, “is that Skeeza and Snake are pretty alike, at least in temper. Snake is thinner and quicker however.”
“As if we didn’t have enough problems with your wife,” the warlock grunted.
He paused for a second and then sighed deeply.
“No use fighting,” Levana commented with a bit of a tired smile, “Lizard always gets people where he wants them. Even to friendly terms, as you see.”
“Why blame everything on me?” the first Mystic king defended himself.
The collective look he received spoke much, much louder than words. He raised his hands in defeat.
“Oh fine then, blame me.”
“We would anyway,” Dalton sincerely commented.
Sighing a bit Janus sat down on the rock, letting Alfador land in his lap. The cat’s tail twitched happily and he kept purring softly as a forgotten hand returned to scratching his ears.
“Seeing that we’re not going anywhere until this Azran returns and you obviously won’t leave me alone,” he grunted, at the last bit giving Lizard another glare, “might as well play along.”
His mother chuckled softly and took a seat beside him. Janatzer sunk down in the grass while lord Amon returned to sitting beside his wife.
“Well, we don’t know everything but we have time to research the world we’re watching over,” queen Zeal told her son, “since it should be a while until we can talk again, is there anything you’d like to have cleared up, while we’re at it?”
Ever since his childhood Janus had been very apprehensive about facing any kind of information while his Mystic teachers were around, but as they kept respectful distance it didn’t bother him much.
And when it came down to it, there were a few questions he often had pondered without finding a decent answer. Might as well take the chance now, even if he’d have a lot of time for it later too.
The last thought was surprisingly free of anguish. Death wasn’t so bad when you had seen the other side, after all.
“Since you didn’t know anything about it back then, I suppose you don’t have any idea about the dreams I had about the other life?” the warlock said after a moment’s pondering of where to start.
He kept looking at his mother and Lizard, nobody else.
They shook their heads.
“Same theory as earlier,” Magician said and shrugged, “your mind might have hooked onto a parallel time stream when you went Gate leaping in the search for Schala, it’s the only sensible idea so far. Azran doesn’t know either, funny that.”
Janus glanced at the ancient monster and raised an eyebrow.
“Do I want to know who that ‘somebody who isn’t here’ is, who presented that theory in the first place?” he said, slowly.
“That would be me.”
Dalton looking sheepish was a disturbing sight.
“What interest hast thee for my uncle?” Janatzer coldly questioned in suspicious defending.
The older one glared back, his hesitant look being washed in the tides of irritation.
“Well youngster, you know that he is my…”
“Allow not the words to foul the holy air,” the boy cut off.
Dalton scowled, then frowned even deeper as he noticed the twitching lips of the spectators.
“By the powers, he’s worse than you ever were,” the general snorted.
“How would you know, you kept your distance as far as I recall,” Janus said with a much colder sparkle in his eyes, “thankfully.”
“Watch it, we might agree on something.”
“If you have something important to say then speak up or leave.”
The two men glared their challenge.
Of all people, Flea stepped in between. Without considering the risk of turning to charcoal.
“Okay you two, time out, cease fire, love, peace, understanding and all that crap that makes me feel sick.”
“Well isn’t that just darn…” Magician commented, resting his cheeks in his hands. And his elbows on Lizard’s head until slapped off.
“Get out of my face before I remodel yours, you pink moron,” Dalton stated.
“Oh I love you too, cutie,” the younger magician smirked and swatted at the thick curls as he pranced aside again.
Janus glanced at Lizard.
“Are you sure this isn’t hell?” he dryly asked, making the Mystic chuckle slightly.
“Aww, come on!”
Flea pirouetted around and tilted his head sweetly.
“We’re not that bad anymore!” he stated.
“I guess we all do have to pay for our sins, one way or another,” Slash grunted and leaned against a tree with his arms sourly folded.
“I actually find you worse now,” Janus emotionlessly told the female-looking one, getting the responding pout everybody had been expecting.
“Why I never…”
“Never?” Ozzie cut off, smirking slightly.
“Ohhh!” Flea fumed and turned his back at as many as possible, “I’ll get back on you somehow!”
“Don’t worry about that, you already are,” Dalton growled, “with every damn word leaving your mouth.”
The Mystic spun around with a hiss and bent his fingers like claws, but Slash grabbed his crag and pulled him backwards.
“No catfights now, ladies,” the swordsman stated.
His normally grim face cracked up in a smirk a second later as Dalton finally caught the insult and snarled profanities under his breath. Flea was too gleeful at that reaction to claw his companion’s eyes out.
“Now, I actually have another theory, if you’d give me a chance to talk,” Slash stated and easily flung Flea over his shoulder.
Silence ruled for a second – save the magicians grumbles – until Janus reluctantly nodded.
“Fine,” he said.
“Will make it brief,” Slash said and crossed his arms as usual, “we have perfect contact with the guarding powers in this dimension, but it’s not as simple to reach into parallel time streams. Now, I expect of you to at least once have wondered what happened to the boy Janus that you saw when you pretended to be the Prophet in Zeal.”
Janus pursed his mouth. It was answer enough. The swordsman nodded and spoke up again.
“Indeed, for since he could not have the same memories as you did, he can’t have been you. The time loop is incorrect, your memory did not change with the events you led in Zeal.”
“True,” the warlock slowly said.
“But, that boy was not the slave you dreamt about either,” Slash said, “I didn’t look at what you experienced but your mother tells me that the slave didn’t remember any Prophet.”
Thinking back – though not too fond of bringing back the memories – Janus had to agree once more.
“Hold up,” Janatzer protested, “sayeth thee that there was no Prophet in my uncle’s memories from his childhood? But…”
“There was a Prophet, yes,” Janus slowly said and shook his head, “but I hardly noticed him and he disappeared quickly. Schala must have seen him well though, otherwise she wouldn’t have recognized me as him in Dalton’s fortress.”
All of a sudden the once one-eyed man found a tree very fascinating.
“I am becoming confused,” the youngster of the group said, almost as an apology.
“Yes, it’s a bit confusing, I’ll try to make it simpler,” Slash said with a shrug.
He thought for a moment, then raised his hand and started to draw a straight, imaginary line in the air. The thing was, as he finished it the line really appeared as a purple thread.
“We’ll try like this. This is a time line, alright?”
The swordsman awaited a nod from the boy before he continued.
“Now, the time travel caused a bit of trouble for the guardians, since nothing can exist in the past, present and future at the same time. But somehow it worked out since Janus and the others kept moving around, never staying in one place long enough to cause a crack. However, there was one thing that was too big for the time stream to handle. That was Janus meeting himself as a child. The only way that the time stream could survive that…”
Slash drew another line, growing out from the last so that the ending result looked like a forked road.
“… was to split, renew itself. Which means that when you go back in time to Zeal, you will never come to your own version of it, but the parallel one. That is because you met yourself.”
He was looking at Janus for the last part of the rant.
“I think I follow,” the warlock said, “Schala’s and my memories are the same, but the Schala I saw back in Zeal experienced different things, just like the boy did.”
“Exactly,” Slash nodded.
“But where do my dreams tie in?”
Almost seeming idly, Slash drew a fork in the youngest line. Then another fork in the fresh one. And so on, until he had made about ten of them. By then he had floated almost a foot upwards to be able to reach.
“Was our time stream the original one?” he finally said, “I doubt it, since you saw a Prophet too. Here’s the deal, that man did not try to save you from the Mystics, and neither did you when you took his place.”
Janus frowned and nodded.
“We know that the boy you saw wasn’t the slave, so he must have been further ahead or earlier down the line.”
Slash motioned at his drawing.
“My guess is that he showed up some time after you, however, because he made a difference. Those before him seems to have done the same mistake, but he dived for the boy instead of trying to kill Lavos.”
He shrugged as he kept talking.
“Perhaps there is a guardian who has seen many time streams and was trying to make a break for it. Why did the slave try to save the boy when nobody else did? Why didn’t you, Janus?”
The warlock pursed his mouth and shook his head again.
“I thought that he needed the strength, whether I liked it or not,” he admitted, hands clenching above Alfador’s resting form.
“Exactly,” Slash said with the hint of a dry smile, “but the slave knew nothing but pain and didn’t think it was worth it, so he tried to crash the cycle. However, when you look at him, does he truly appear as strong enough to break free?”
“Once he managed to get rid of the brainwash, he appeared a bit stronger than I was,” Janus protested.
“Yes, but that’s it. Seeing Schala’s pendant broke him out of the mist, but it’s not that simple to clear out a brainwashed mind. Without a stronger mind inside his own which was fighting to make him remember, he probably would have died in the battle that saved him.”
Slash held up a hand to silence the warlock as he was about to speak again.
“I know you felt that you were him all the time, but for you to see something through someone else’s eyes, your presence is required, correct? You couldn’t change anything knowingly, but your soul being there strengthened his. I believe a guardian might have brought you in since you have a very strong mind, enough to rub off on someone else. And apart from that…”
He smiled faintly and motioned at Janatzer.
“There would be another time when you needed to know about the slave and his student.”
Janus looked down at his nephew and gave a dry chuckle.
“By the powers, I’m listening and agreeing on what you say, Slash. This will take a while to get over.”
“And you could have brought it up with me, you knew I was trying to figure it out,” Dalton growled.
“I thought you were intelligent enough to think of it yourself,” Slash snorted and resumed leaning against a tree.
“Anything else?” lord Amon asked with a sigh, rolling his eyes at the combatants.
Janus acted like it was raining and looked at Alfador’s furry head. A frown touched the pale forehead.
“Uncle?” Janatzer immediately said, worried.
He earned the shadow of a smile.
“Quite protective of me today, aren’t you?” Janus commented.
The boy gravely nodded.
“Of course uncle,” he grimly said, “’twas my fault that Lavos caused thee such harm.”
The warlock bent forwards, wary of the cat in his lap, and put his hand on Janatzer’s shoulder.
“It was not your fault,” Janus almost growled, “hadn’t it happened then he would have found another way.”
“He’s right,” Levana nodded with sadness sparkling in her eyes, “Lavos is not a creature who gives up easily. You were just following orders, how could you have rebelled against that?”
She quickly placed her hand on Janus’ shoulder in turn as he straightened up.
“And that goes for you too,” she sharply said, “you could never have served that bastard of an emperor.”
Janus clenched his teeth.
“Ah yes, him,” he muttered with a slight hiss, “I’m working on what to do with that man when I get back.”
“Oh boy, and we’ve got a first row ticket!” Flea grinned, showing off all of his sharp teeth, “who’ll get the snacks?”
“Not you in any case,” Levana sternly said, “those blue things left a bad taste in my mouth for days.”
She looked up as she noticed her son’s gaze.
“What?” she asked.
Janus’ red eyes shot over to Slash and Ozzie. The first one was hiding his lips behind his hand with a horrified glistening in his eyes, the other coughed uneasily.
Flea tried to look innocent under the judge’s glare.
Closing his eyes Janus made an imitation of Slash’s position.
“What?” Amon asked, slightly worried.
The human hand fell and Janus opened his mouth, but closed it again. Finally he shook his head.
“You don’t want to know.”
“It’s an acquired taste!” Flea smirked.
The ruby glare almost petrified him. Literally.
“You used to give them to me as punishment!” Janus growled.
“Less screaming involved in that reprimand, allowed the rest of us to sleek!”
A gracefully executed throw sent the pink-skinned sadist flying into the pond. Dalton, Slash, Ozzie and Magician backed off from the blur that had made Flea shut up, all four of them coughing apologizingly as she rubbed imaginary dust off her hands.
“Sorry about that, lord Janus,” the female Mystic said, with her stare keeping the magician in the water for a while longer, “he’s a damn slow learner.”
“Beat me to it as usual, dear,” Lizard said, diplomatically smiling.
Janus raised an eyebrow.
“I think I see what you meant about her, Ozzie,” he commented.
Snake looked around, smiling slightly.
“Oh, Ozzie was talking about me while I was off somewhere else again, was he?” she sweetly said.
Before the fat Mystic had time to duck, the lady had moved.
“You did that on purpooose!” he screeched before the water enveloped him.
Ozzie’s crash gave most of the group a shower, but the liquid quickly disappeared again.
“To intentionally do something like that is below my dignity,” Janus calmly stated, but the left corner of his lips was twitching.
“Whatever,” Snake said with a chuckle and leaned against an unoccupied tree, “now I can assure you things will go a little more smoothly, so carry on what you were doing before they went astray.”
Janus nodded, turning grim again.
“I was wondering about Molor, what will happen to his soul when he dies?”
Before anyone had time to say anything, he told the thin air:
“And the first one pointing and saying something along the lines of ‘Does the fact that Charash is behind you answer your question’ will bleed, I swear.”
When the hand is wet, snapping fingers isn’t easy even if you oh so dearly want to mock disappointment.
“Well darn!” Flea sighed and chuckled teasingly despite the failed attempt.
“Charash isn’t here,” Levana softly said, “but that’s only because he isn’t dead yet. There’s nothing to worry about, Janus.”
“I’m relieved to hear that,” the warlock spoke with a little more than a faint smile.
Meanwhile Flea had reached the brim of the pond.
“Can I get out of here now, lady Snake?” he whined.
She looked at him for a moment.
Sighing, the magician swam backwards again.
“I have a query,” Janatzer spoke up.
“Do tell,” his grandfather kindly said.
“I have been told that mother invoke the power of Light, but none had an explanation to how she could do so,” the boy said, glancing at his uncle as if hoping for approval.
The youngster smiled with relief like a complimented student to his teacher, when the warlock nodded. The respect Janatzer felt for his namesake was very apparent right then.
“Good, I almost forgot about that,” Janus admitted.
Dalton stepped forward again, glancing nervously at Snake. She left it by a warning glare, thus he dared to speak up.
“I can explain that…”
He glared at Slash.
“… Unless someone else has better ideas?”
“Not in this case,” the swordsman casually said.
“Make it brief,” Janus emotionlessly demanded.
Dalton rolled his eyes but nodded.
“Fine. Here goes, but don’t attack me if you don’t like some of the things I say.”
“I’ll be the judge of that,” the warlock stated.
“As usual. Anyway…”
He held up four fingers.
“As we all know there are four elements: Earth, Wind, Water and Fire, that’s an old party line. But only two of these nature forces are directly used in magic, and those are the last two. Wind might be included since that’s the same as Air, which leads us to Lightning. I believe magic was born from familiarity, all these things are vital for living creatures to survive. But why is Earth excluded then? I think your companion Ayla is in fact Earth based, but the powers she has are too primitive to be called magic.”
Before he continued to speak he raised his hands to the level of his chest with the palms turned outwards, ready to shield himself.
“So we have these elements naturally. Shadow is not natural, since that is, plainly, evil power and not just lack of light. To put it simply, Lavos brought that power to our world.”
Janus clenched his teeth, and so did Janatazer as he came to the sad conclusion. The others didn’t change much, obviously already aware of the story.
But the warlock allowed Dalton to go on, without saying a word. In truth, he wasn’t one to kill the messenger even if it was very tempting sometimes.
“Then we have Light. That came from the dreamstone.”
“Dreamstone?” Janus said in disbelief, “how does that fit into your ‘natural’ theory?”
Dalton nodded, without annoyance.
“That’s the thing,” he said, “the reason Schala could invoke Light was because it was natural to her; her pendant was made of dreamstone. It’s the only true magic material in this world, powered on its own. How that can be is another thing, it might be natural to it. I don’t know.”
“What about the Masamune and my amulet?” the warlock questioned.
“You and Frog already had specified magical elements, Shadow and Water. Melchior is also Fire, even if he can use other types of magic as well. Therefore it couldn’t touch any of you no matter how long you were in contact with the accessories. However, Schala never did have a specified element, even if she mastered a lot of spells. It might have been since she was given the pendant very early, and it opened up her ability to invoke Light.”
Slowly Janus nodded.
“Fair enough,” he admitted.
“See, that’s the reason the Masamune can break through your defenses,” Dalton added, “Light and Shadow don’t mix well.”
Janus thought he saw the man flinch slightly as he spoke, but didn’t have time to consider what that was about due to the interruption. A voice that mostly resembled to softly ringing bells cut through everything and caused the strange collection of people to look upwards.
“Excuse the interruption. I’m sorry that you had to wait, everything is cleared up now.”
From the strange heavens a figure emerged. It appeared to be male, but with all the constantly swirling, golden robes and the indistinct voice it was hard to tell. The face didn’t help much either, as it seemed like the facial looks of the creature were changing all the time. But there was nothing threatening about him, only a warm feeling of security. Those who had been sitting stood up whether they noticed doing so or not, and Ozzie and Flea were finally allowed to climb ashore.
“Took you long enough,” Snake commented, in a soft voice however.
“You wouldn’t believe the rips that Lavos created in the time line,” Azran sighed and shook his head.
As he landed he turned out being at least two heads taller than even Lizard.
For being an “angel”, he suffered a distinct lack of wings. But the power seeping from his being clouded any so called misconception.
He turned to the visitor and his nephew, smiling warmly somewhere among all the changes of his face.
“When you get back, give that dragon of yours a compliment from above,” the guardian mildly said, “not everyone would come out victorious from such a battle.”
He left it be unsaid how close it had been to a failure.
“So there is no problem with bringing Janatzer back to life?” Janus asked, careful as this being with his entire existence softly asked for respect.
The angel shook his head.
“Not anymore, and had there been more problems I would have cleared those up too,” he assured, “the boy’s death was not meant to be.”
“Thank you, lord,” Janatzer gratefully said.
“No need for that,” Azran kindly smiled, “now we’ll just have to make sure that you have a long and fine life. You’ll have to say good bye now.”
The boy looked around and smiled, getting the same in return from the rest of the group.
“It was just fun, kid,” Magician assured with a chuckle.
Levana bent forwards and lightly kissed her grandson’s cheek.
“Tell your mother hello from me, will you?” the dead queen said with a smile and a controlled voice.
“I will, grandmother.”
Azran held out his hand and Janatzer respectfully took it. They both vanished in a bright flash of light, strangely enough not strong enough to hurt the eyes though.
Janus reached for the anchor within himself, putting Alfador on the ground as he did so.
“Next time I come here,” he firmly said with twitching lips, “pick another welcome committee, will you?”
“We’ll keep that in mind,” Amon chuckled and waved slightly.
“Take care, Janus,” queen Zeal softly said.
The warlock allowed her, her husband, Lizard and Alfador a smile before he disappeared in a flash very similar to the one that just had brought two others away.
Sighing slightly Levana sat down on the rock again, the cat of the crew leaping into her lap at the first opportunity.
“It’s not the same just watching over him…” she murmured, mostly to herself.
Amon gently hung an arm around her shoulders.
“I know, but…”
“It’s hella more peaceful around here without him,” Ozzie grumbled.
Following up on that comment Lizard just “happened” to elbow his descendant back into the pond. It was such a forceful accident that the younger king was near the middle of the small lake when he resurfaced.
“Nice one,” Snake complimented, laughing softly while Ozzie swam back, muttering under his breath.
Lizard performed an exaggerated bow, one which he was already notorious for since way back.
“An honor to serve a worthy queen, milady,” he snickered.
“I swear, if I didn’t have to respect those two…” Magician sighed with a teasing smirk.
A second later he took a refreshing swim as well.
“Are you going to throw everyone into the water?” Dalton dryly asked, unwisely.
The married monsters smiled at him, their fangs showing all too well.
“Yes,” they kindly informed.
Levana absentmindedly held up her hand to shield Alfador from the next shower. She could have sworn the small creature was laughing.
“Who’s next?” Snake sniggered, glancing at Slash who was examining the nearest tree.
“Dad!” a new, female voice shouted from out of nowhere.
“We already threw him in, Dreamer,” Lizard chuckled, turning to the pink-skinned Mystic who came dashing between the trees.
She skidded to a halt, willing the thick book she carried under her arm to stay in place. It had silver edges and the pages glowed softly, the name inscribed on the front unreadable due to the Mystic’s arm. The souls could however take a clever guess since they knew this lady.
“What is it now?” Magician blurted as he worked his way onto the grass again.
“Where’s Azran?” Dreamer demanded.
Meanwhile Flea had slid up beside her, smirking slightly.
“Will you stop that?” Amon sighed, knowing he served the dead general exactly what he wanted, “it’s creepy.”
“What?” Dreamer said, disoriented.
As she looked aside Flea turned his head at her as well, creating a scenery of that one of them was looking at a mirror. There were only two things that made any major difference; the fact that Dreamer wore her hair in a pony-tail and carried glasses. Otherwise they were almost perfectly alike.
Chuckling slightly as he had finished the joke Flea backed off. Until Snake grabbed his crag and sent him bathing.
“Jokes aside!” Dreamer shouted and held up the book, “we have a problem.”
Levana stood and hurried up to the Mystic. Her fingertips worriedly ran over the golden letters of the book’s cover, shimmering ribbons forming three words. The cover was mostly dark, but there were several lighter areas in the complicated pattern which adorned it. One could see pictures of scythes and dragon wings among many other things in the design.
The letters read “Janus of Zeal”.
“What’s wrong?” the mother demanded.
Dreamer bit her lower lip and shook her head.
“It’s not working out,” she stated.
The book floated out of her hands and opened around the middle. The left page which showed was halfway filled with text, the rest was blank. Dreamer reached out and touched the empty area below the letters. As she did so, a simple hourglass flashed into her grip. It was about one foot in length and the sand within fell at one piece at the time in a slow, steady pace.
As Dreamer held the artifact up for inspection Levana counted hardly fifteen grains of sand left.
“What do you mean ‘he’s gonna die’?” Flea demanded, he and the other spirits dashing to Levana and Dreamer’s side.
The arms fell forwards, spreading above Janatzer’s head and chest through the glowing ribbons of power.
The ancient Mystic pointed at the hourglass she held while the sand slowly but steadily moved.
A weak groan left the young man’s lips, and his eyelids fluttered slightly.
The image of Janus smiled, a smile so gentle that it seemed alien.
Moving no faster than earlier, the reflection floated backwards towards the motionless body of the warlock.
The Student and the Pawn exchanged relieved glances.
“That can’t be right, his book of Life isn’t even half filled,” lord Amon pointed out, frowning.
Janatzer’s eyes opened. He blinked in tired confusion, disoriented looking up at the three men standing around him and the garlands of light connecting their chests in a net. He couldn’t see properly through the mist and glow.
Lizard shook his head and stared ahead with a frown.
“Whatever it is, something will hit him any second, we have to…”
With a soft popping sound the ribbons broke into a million shards of light.
“This can’t be happening!” queen Zeal hissed.
Moving simultaneously the Pawn and his apprentice dove for their mirror and caught him before he crashed.
The bubble around the smaller group shattered as the call rang in the air and the two dimensional guests carefully lowered the warlock to the ground.
“I will not have a zombie for a son!” Levana stated, clenching her fists.
“Vampire,” Slash corrected, “zombies fall apart all the time and eat brains, there’s a huge difference.”
“Yeah, and vampires have better manners. Apart from the sleeping in a coffin and the whole bloodsucking business,” Flea nodded, “not to mention the weakness to the surk!”
“Shut. Your. Damn. Mouth,” Amon growled.
“Barrier should hide…” Janus muttered in a hoarse voice.
“Don’t push me, friend,” the snake snarled, the words wavering strangely.
The glares of the approaching people almost burned a hole through his skin.
“What?” he said, looking up as he felt it. But in the last moment he stopped himself from turning around.
“He doesn’t mean it like that…” Janus grunted.
“We’d like to know that to,” the Pawn said and shook his head, “he had enough power to make it to the other side and back, we didn’t remove what we gave him. Still, his life seem to be slipping away.”
The call of the choir shook the golden landscape.
The Pawn just moved as he was told, but Molor did it more due to the surprise of the request as the Student stepped forwards – keeping his eyes on the warlock all the time – and sat down on his knees beside Janus.
What happened next caused every single man, woman and snake to blink.
The blue-haired man – strange enough already for being a Janus with his dialect; though he used the same sort of pants he also wore a white-brown shirt and a bandana, not at all like the other two – raised his palms towards the faltering one and closed his eyes. As he straightened up in that position, it was revealed that the right side of his face was adorned with a sharp vertical scar that split the cheek and eyebrow, though the eye itself seemed to have survived the attack.
But it wasn’t half as peculiar as what he did.
“Powers of the world, lend me the power of Water,” he chanted, “na matala sela.”
Healing stars streamed from his palms, showering over the warlock who grunted of the surprise.
The magic lasted for a few seconds and the strange one’s eyes shot open below a frown as Janus’ head shook.
It hadn’t helped, the warlock’s face was still turning even paler as the life in his crimson gaze steadily ebbed.
With his eyes thinning, the Student reached further ahead and turned his palms at Janus’ forehead and chest.
A sliced eyebrow went upwards and the hands moved away.
“You’re not dying.”
The statement was just as bewildered as the half words leaving the family and friends’ lips.
Janus’ eyes fluttered and his breath came out ragged as he tried to speak somewhat properly, clutching after the last of his strength.
“Why… does… it feel… like it… then?” he croaked.
The Student ran his hand through his fringe in confusion.
“Yes, you’re dying, I can see that,” he tried to explain what he didn’t even understand himself, “but there’s nothing killing you. You had enough strength to survive that trip, and there are no wounds and no sickness.”
“Yes, but what do we do about it?” Amon concernedly wondered, absentmindedly picking up the nervous Alfador.
As one person the two visiting Januses winced, but left it at that.
Schala could no longer care about messing up time, too worried about her brother she almost pushed the Pawn aside to reach Janus.
Hurt and longing flashed in the once enslaved man’s eyes as he looked at a sister who was much older than he remembered and who didn’t even belong to him. She glanced briefly at him when she fell to Janus’ side, trying to comfort another brother. It helped, a little.
A second later as she turned her head the blue-haired woman found her own gem eyes staring into a set of glistening ruby ones, just like Janus’ when he was younger. But there was more than the scar making a difference. Deep within the red eyes of the Student was a shining power, unlike the one that Schala saw in her brother.
There was light within the visitor.
For just half a heartbeat the surprise mesmerized her, then she turned to her real brother and grasped his much bigger hands in hers. The normally strong fingers were cold as ice, and the chill burned her heart with fear.
“What in all powers’ name is happening?!”
“Calm down and let me explain, I did some research as I heard what was happening…” the angel quickly said, holding up his hands defensively.
“Oh good,” Levana said in a tense but somewhat less high pitched voice, “then what is it, and what do we do about it?”
The guardian scratched his hair.
“Ah… would you believe this is caused by a prayer of Molor’s?”
He ducked again, grabbed Dreamer’s arm in the escape and used her as a human… monster shield until he could finish the explanation.
He tried to speak, but his lips were limp with his own body’s coldness.
The Student was quite gracelessly shoved aside and blinked in surprise at the young woman in the white dress; a mirror of Schala. Janus cringed weakly at the tears flooding from the younger eyes. Schaliya’s slender fingers encircled those of her mother and uncle, her body shaking with sobs. Seeing his wife like that Glenn could no longer stand idle and stumbled around the small crowd and stretcher to her side, draping his arms around Schaliya’s shoulders in a fleeting attempt to offer her a drop of comfort.
But she didn’t even seem to register the touch.
“Uncle, we need you here…” she managed in a broken voice.
Janus cringed again, unable to make his numbing body give her any soothing sign.
Janus was hardly aware at anything anymore. His sight was filling up with mist by the second and the world was steadily slipping away around him. As from a far distance he thought that he could hear Molor’s voice scream in agony inside of his mind, but it was fading as well… fading to black, in a chillingly familiar way…
The voice rang out in the thickening air and Janus’ body shivered for a moment as his eyes –which had been falling to a close – exploded wide open, not in pain but some sort of shock.
“What…” Schala stuttered, looking up as she saw a movement in the corner of her eye.
In the confusion the rest of the assembled people could do nothing but do as she did, frowning as their minds tried to grasp the new concept.
It wasn’t an illusion, nor an image. Not even a touchable entity. Just a transparent silhouette near the roof. The only reason it was visible was since the air was slightly blurred. Due to the circumstances, it was impossible to see what it was. Still it seemed… familiar.
“I’m here to help,” it announced with a calming smile in its female voice, “but before I reveal myself I just wanted to tell you that I’m not who you’ll think I am.”
No reply was heard.
The thing sighed slightly.
“Alright, just remembered what I said, I’m not…”
It swept into proper sight.
“… Flea,” the soul quickly assured, holding up the hand that wasn’t occupied with a heavy-looking book.
“But thou… art…?” Cered stuttered, the first one able to voice the shock.
“Dreamer, Magician’s daughter,” the female monster explained as she descended to the floor, “I’m the current Writer of Janus’ Book of Life.”
“My what…” the warlock muttered with a slight slur.
His voice was clearly stronger now, however, and Schala almost tore him up in a relieved, defensive hug.
“It’s the book where your life is written down in the afterlife,” Dreamer said while landing between the bewildered Glenn and Student.
She shrugged lightly, not an easy task considering her burden.
“Don’t ask me why, it’s regulations. Anyway, here’s the problem.”
Opening the book she produced a nearly emptied hourglass from the pages.
“As I’ve explained to the gang up there,” she said and waved at the roof, “your time is almost up but your life isn’t, which is quite mystifying.”
Schala lowered her brother again as he looked up at the soul with a deepening frown.
“What…” he murmured.
Dreamer tapped her glasses with her pointing finger, smiling faintly.
“Well, I believe this is the first time something like this actually happens, but our dear old angel have sorted things out. You’re not supposed to die right now, but you seem to be out of lifetime, Janus. The only way you’ll get through this one is that somebody gives you a part of his time.”
For a moment the world didn’t move.
The mutter from the pale lips wasn’t strong, but it was determined.
Molor shook his head at the warlock and looked up at Dreamer. She glanced down with a smile, while scribbling in the tome which suddenly was obediently floating in the air beside her. The pen in question was nonexistent, but as she moved her hand as if holding a writing tool the letters appeared on the page. The hourglass neatly hung above the manuscript.
“Got flattened… by a friend… again,” she murmured to herself and chuckled as the hand fell, “sorry Janus, I doubt you have a say in this.”
“Molor!” the warlock hissed, shaking his head.
The snake’s intense glare nearly forced everyone else backwards.
“I did not fight Lavos to loose you just because you are out of time, friend,” the old king of dragons growled in a deeper voice than normal, “and I rather give up more of my life than live on alone.”
Normally only things that were about to be swallowed whole were under that gaze. And it was questionable whether Janus would have been able to take it even at full health.
He closed his eyes in defeat.
Dreamer held out her other hand and snapped her fingers. Upon the sound another book came into her grasp from nothingness, this one much bigger and thicker than Janus’. It had a darker cover too. Much darker.
“We sorta expected that,” the soul said with a wink, “here we are…”
She opened the book on its last fifth, calling upon another hourglass. As with Janus’ tome, Molor’s script was bigger than the warlock’s.
“Your current Writer didn’t want to make an appearance though,” Dreamer said as she kept watching the snake with the hint of an amused smirk, “said he just wrote about you, but that didn’t make him want to see you again.”
“Oh really?” Molor suspiciously said.
“Yeah, something about you biting his head off last time you met.”
The transformed dragon nodded his great head slowly.
“Ah. Him,” he said with a dry hiss that sounded a bit too much like a chuckle.
“Molor!” Ceredan gasped in disbelief and even Janus looked lightly startled.
With the smallest grain of guilt visible Molor briefly turned his head at the bigger crowd, but left it at that. He looked at Dreamer again.
“Never mind. I am glad to give Janus a part of my lifetime,” he firmly said.
“Your two transformations has caused enough to slip away to make it almost perfectly even between the two of you,” the soul of the Mystic gently announced and looked up at the crowd, “I’ll spread the extra years over the rest of you. Well…”
She apologetically shrugged her shoulder at the Pawn and Student.
“You two aren’t in my area though, sorry.”
“I believe we’ll manage, thanks anyway,” the youngest said with a slight smile, shaking his head.
“Very well then.”
Dreamer took Molor’s hourglass in both hands and glared at it, frowning as she focused.
“Here we go!”
A gentle flash erupted from the ancient clock, moving through the room as if it had been water. All sounds sunk into hibernation as the light enveloped the entire room, giving everything it touched a soft glow.
For several moments, only serene peace existed.
Then slowly a faint sound was born; a low, tingling sound. Heartbeat by heartbeat it grew into a soft flow – moving sand.
Through the glow the spectators could see tiny grains melt out of existence in Molor’s hourglass, to tinkle down inside the upper half of Janus’ artifact. Soon the smaller one of the two counters was half filled, while there was less in the bigger.
“It evens out,” Dreamer assured as the flow ended and the light began to ebb away, “you’ve had a longer life already, snakey, thus it looks like you have less time left even if you don’t.”
The snake was hardly listening, intently watching his kindred soul.
“Ugh,” Janus muttered as he sat up with the help of one arm, while the free hand rubbed his forehead.
“How are you feeling?” Schala demanded, gripping his shoulders.
It wasn’t until he gave his temple a quick massage that she noticed that the gray hairs formerly teasing his hair by the ears now were gone.
He blinked a few times to restore full sight before his sharp, crimson eyes turned at his sister.
His lips twitched.
“… Fine. Ouff!”
“Hast thou not learnt by now that causing ladies unease will bring harm upon thee as they are relieved?” Glenn mildly commented as Janus was forced to fight for breath in the tight embraces of his sister and niece.
The warlock was about to snap back when his two nephews added to the problems by in their joy swallow the pride of a teenage boy and hug their uncle as well. At least, as well as they could since the female parts of their family was in the way.
“And you know, I thought he looked like a rather depressed version of us,” the Student said with a slight chuckle and shrug.
He hadn’t really meant for anyone to hear, but Glenn did and curiously looked at him. The swordsman’s eyebrows twitched as he eyed the strange Janus, noticing the same differences as his mother-in-law had seen.
“Uh…” Glenn managed, deep down thinking that there should be a limit of how many mystifying things were allowed to happen in one day.
“Judging from your look, I’d say I was right,” the Student cheerfully commented with a chuckle.
There should really, really be a limit.
“Alright then, everybody happy?” Dreamer said with a cheeky laugh, “good, I’ve got a lot of writing to catch…”
She fell silent and glanced upwards thoughtfully, as if listening.
The innocent move caused the revival of the room’s tension; fear that the mercy had received a cruel judgment from higher forces.
But when Dreamer looked down again it was not with disappointed grief, but with an all too familiar-looking glee.
“Message from the other side,” she said with a small sneer, “Levana Zeal announces that she shook Flea until he spoke up about ‘those blue things’ as they call it.”
“What blue things?” was the general opinion.
The general opinion, but with two exceptions.
Janus and the Pawn exchanged pained, knowing glances and then scowled at the ancient Mystic.
“What about them?” the younger warily asked.
Dreamer shot upwards, towards the safety of distance. The books and their artifacts followed her.
“Apparently, he finally admitted that he lied to you about them,” she said, quickly crossing her arms in defense.
Red eyes met red eyes again in silence.
Two right hands went up and pinched the bridge of a nose each.
“That sick, twisted bastard,” a pair of voices growled.
“If it makes you happier, Slash and Ozzie are shouting the same at him,” Magician’s daughter chuckled, “as for now, tata!”
She waved a little with her hand and then popped out of existence, with much less grace than she had appeared. Her item-companions followed suite.
“Too bad he’s already dead in my time stream,” the Pawn snarled as he stood, “I’d tear him apart…”
“What blue things?” Marle asked from the other half of the room, raising her eyebrows.
“You don’t want to know,” two voices said simultaneously.
“Oh, I can fry him for you,” the Student said with a slanted smile and picked up his staff, looking away as much as possible from the assembled people even if he already had seen most of them.
Lucca was about to say something about the magician being very allergic to being cleaved, but remembering how the ol’ psychopath had fought Lavos she let it slide.
“Speaking of which,” the Student told the wall, “I’m glad that I was able to help you, but like my teacher I don’t belong here and if I don’t get back soon the king and queen will have my head.”
Complete silence fell over the room.
It was getting a little repetitive.
After a couple of seconds the Student rubbed the back of his neck, slightly uneasy.
“What?” he said, but there was no tension in his voice.
Instead of worried, he sounded rather amused.
“The who will what?” Glenn finally spoke in a bit of a high pitched voice.
“King Guardia and Leene just tend to get nervous when I’m wandering around considering said magician has planned to drink my blood for dinner,” the Student cheerfully said with a shrug.
The power of silence ruled for another moment.
“We better put you back where you belong before you cause our reality to implode or something, mister,” Lucca weakly said, earning a short laugh from the danger in question.
“Yes, I still have to find Schala,” the Pawn said and straightened up with a slight sigh.
Janus stood, allowing all the helping hands to assist him even if he truly felt he didn’t need him. By then he had learnt that there were things one could not fight, family love being one.
“But when you’ve done that,” he said, “you will also have found your version of Molor, if our lives will keep a somewhat similar form…”
“I think I smell distrust,” the Student said, without any anger.
“Something like that,” Janus approved with a grunt, “in any case, as soon as you find Molor, ask him to search out Lavos inside of your minds and if possible drive him out before he gets a strong grip like the parasite did with me.”
“I can’t speak for other versions but I believe I could have found him,” the snake admitted and shook his head, “but there was never a reason for me to venture that deeply inside Janus’ mind.”
“Giant, talking snakes,” the Pawn murmured and crossed his arms, “quite fascinating.”
Molor gave the former slave a somewhat smirking glance.
“There is more than that, but I will leave that for you to discover yourself,” the transformed dragon did speak.
While the Pawn shook his head in vague disbelief, Janus stepped over to the Student’s side of the stretcher which divided the room. There was more space there, and thus the warlock chose that area to open the dimensional Gate. Following the fizzling sound of the magic, the two mirrors turned and walked towards the darkness.
Without looking around the Student fulfilled the strange appearance by waving a little over his shoulder before he disappeared from sight.
Janus looked around as the youngest one’s teacher also left.
“I’ll be back in a moment,” the warlock said.
“Don’t you need to rest?” Schala quite furiously protested.
Her brother smiled a little.
“In a minute.”
She stretched out her hand after him, but he dove through the Gate.
“Oh! I’m going to…”
And Janus came back, the portal closing behind him.
Slowly Schala crossed her arms.
“That was silly, brother,” she stated.
“Such was not my intention,” he calmly replied.
“Will you sit down and let all of us recover already?” the princess scolded.
A pale hand absentmindedly stroke Molor’s black head, the snake’s cold eyes shining with final relief.
“I would appreciate that myself,” the warlock said, placing his other hand firmly on Janatzer’s shoulder.
The youngster placed his own hand on his uncle’s, gratefully smiling with the same relief as Molor.
Janus’ gaze ran over the assembled people and their smiles, coming to a halt by a pale face that carried more hesitance that happiness. Lashey looked away, bitter over that she had not been able to offer support a third crucial time.
Inwardly, the warlock sighed deeply, but Molor was the only one who could feel it.
And the traitor of a snake-dragon grinned to himself, shielding the almost disinclined feelings to his kindred spirit in respect. It was very tempting, however.
“Let’s just recover for a while,” Janus said and briefly rolled his eyes in second defeat, “then there is one more thing we’ll have to take care of.”
Lashey frowned in unsure hope as she found that the warlock was looking back at her without the slightest hesitation, not sure what he was thinking.
“You’re really going to do that?”
“If there’s one thing I’ve understood from living in this era, it’s that the nobles are a little too fond of drama.”
“And you hate that.”
“Yes, I do. But I’ll make an exception for this emperor. I’m not completely drained of powers.”
“Can we have first row seats? Please?”
“I believe that they are taken already.”
“Never mind. I’ll tell you all about it when we get back.”
“That’s not fair! Hey, wait you meanie!”
The courtyard of the palace was normally a place for training, but this evening it was empty apart from a few soldiers in training and servants who all sneaked along the walls on the way to and fro their chores.
Everyone was rather edgy, and the handful of young men nearly went through the walls when there was a sudden flash of light in the middle of the well-trampled square. That one of the creatures stepping out of the silent flare was a giant black snake, which proved that the blue-haired man was the sorcerer Janus, and the fact that the third was the missing empress did not make things any better for the poor spectators.
Janus pinched the bridge of his nose.
“I can’t believe I’m doing this…” he muttered.
“I demand no such thing,” Lashey re-stated, shaking her head.
“No, but if we’re turning traditions inside out it has to be with force,” Molor commented, hissing with amusement.
“Oh, I’m fine with that,” Janus grunted, “it’s the rest that makes me apprehensive.”
‘He’s not completely sure about that,’ Molor sent over to Lashey without the warlock’s notice, with a rather mean mental chuckle, ‘silence, he won’t admit it but there’s nothing he want more right now than to have revenge on your husband.’
Aloud the snake spoke:
“Regardless, are you sure you have the power?”
“He left all my low-level powers,” Janus nodded and fixed his eyes on the huge, closed gates of the palace, “I believe that they are enough to get the job done.”
He raised his hands.
“That’s tyranny, you know,” Schala had said, but without being able to sound even a little bit condemning.
“And what is it that we have right now, then?”
“I guess you have a point.”
“Even so, it might look like tyranny, but it’ll truly be a lot more fair.”
“But how will Lashey maintain control? There will be those that are going to fight for the traditions, if I know history correctly,” Lucca had intervened.
Janus sighed inwardly, rolling his eyes.
‘Hell is a place on earth,’ he gruffly thought, ‘and it’s held up by the phrase “I owe you one”.’
Seconds later the two halves of the gates exploded inwards.
The report of the ruckus was brought to the throne room and the already frustrated emperor while he was listening to a report about the outrage among the empire’s citizens and soldiers about the horrors on the battlefield. The advisor of the divine was just about to present a calculation of how many public executions it would take to calm the gods and people – a sum that probably would have been doubled (starting with a blue-haired woman) by the aggravated emperor had he gotten the chance – when several hysterical guards stumbled in, screaming as if all devils in Hell were after them.
Before they had time to calm down long enough to explain what was happening, the reason for their terror entered and caused the fleeing men to dive for cover among the shrieking servants and courts men – nobles that one minute ago had shared a rather glum and irritated feeling. What their eyes now served their hearts was a lot more colorful, but not any more pleasant.
Emperor Sere himself shot from his throne in shock and rage, his silk robes streaming around him with a whispering sound.
The dress of his wife flowed as well, but unlike her husband’s her clothes did not settle after a moment. Like her freely falling hair, the blue robes slowly moved in a wind that didn’t exist. Her left hand, halfway covered by the long sleeve, rested on the giant head of the devil snake beside her as if she was holding the fury of the beast back.
She made no attempts to restrain the demon on her right side, however.
A cloak colored as blood moved over the warlock’s back like a crimson river, the softly blue color of his long hair only strengthening the force of red. The unholy glow in his eyes was only comparable to the blaze in the snake’s gaze, reflecting the dirty fire that was consuming the banner in the dark sorcerer’s hand.
In a move not born from pain of burn but pure disgust, the warlock flung the crumbling flag to the floor. The green cloth and the golden, zigzagged circle crest of Garadia turned to ashes while the black smoke rose towards the roof.
The three invaders crossed through the smoke untouched by the last dying flames and reached the middle of the floor.
“Good evening, husband,” Lashey spoke in a dangerously soft voice.
Perhaps Sere could be offered a small bit of understanding. After all, during the last day he had been dragged through the humiliating act of a forced peace treaty he had not planned, earned the outrage of most of his country due to the “celestial interference” against the war, and had received word that his wife mysteriously disappeared around lunchtime.
But above that, he was a tyrant and woman beater. And furthermore, during the same time span Janus had nearly had his body stolen, his soul thrown into unspeakable torment, died and finally he had surrendered to more additions to an idea than he had planned. As for the last ordeal, he was firm in the belief that certain individuals had plotted against him, but had given up considering who the schemers were.
In conclusion, Janus was hiding it well but he hadn’t felt like he now did since the day he dragged a comatose Flea to the feet of a trembling Ozzie. In both hatred and deeply rooted elation of seeing the hated ones cover in fear.
“Lashey… what…” Sere stammered in outrage, the shock not allowing him to think straight.
The empress – for the first time ever – silenced him by merely raising her right hand, the left not leaving the snake’s head.
“Thou hast no right to be the ruler of our fair country,” she said, her voice turning harder for each word, “thy cruel treatment of the people, thy scheming with the nobles to create a war against Mandria, and thy filthy way of sacrificing innocent lives for thy own ill will all destroys the honor of an emperor.”
As the warlock Janus slowly crossed his arms during Lashey’s speech the magical wind faltered, but the glow in the man’s and snake’s eyes remained. This toned down the fearful effect a little bit, but it had a purpose in the scare as well. For as the direct threat settled a little, agitated whispers that had been held back in horror earlier erupted from the crowd. It also had another reason; challenge.
Terror clouds the mind, and not everyone remains wise enough to maintain instincts of self preservation.
“Treachery!” the divine advisor spluttered, just getting up from the floor.
Lashey hadn’t expected less of the old priest. He was one of the first she had thought of when Lucca had spoken of conservatives who loved the power in the traditions.
The empress smiled coldly.
“The throne belongs to none but the imperial family,” she pointed out, “only those with royal blood art the heirs of the crown. And in this era, there be only two with the sacred blood in their veins; me and my son Solan. Lord Sere is in truth no less than a filthy usurper.”
“B-by marriage…” the advisor stammered.
“Truly. ‘Twas a poor choice I made.”
Janus’ lips hardly moved and the whisper was so low that even Lashey had troubles hearing it, but in any case nobody really paid him any attention right then.
“I hath come to reclaim the throne that is rightfully mine,” the empress continued with a deadly smile, “for the people of Garadia deserve no tyrant.”
“Heaven forb…” the divine advisor began.
He was cut off by his own shriek as he was flung upwards by the move of Janus’ hand, stopping only as the warlock turned still again with his arm stretched straight upwards and the fingers bent. By then the elderly man was about seven feet above the floor, his eyes almost bulging out of his head and his every limb paralyzed in terror.
“If heaven forbids a woman to rule,” Janus snarled, though his voice was low it escaped the ears of none, “then where is the divine wrath?”
His hand shot downwards but he only let the man really fall the last foot, leaving the advisor in a trembling heap on the floor by the throne.
“I’ll tell you where it is,” he growled while the cloak made one single, warning wave behind him, “it will stay up in heaven. The only wrath you will see is mine!”
He never raised his voice very much, but he could have been roaring for less effect than there was.
This witty comment earned him a first class flight to a refreshing bath. Again.
The warlock gave a faint, cold smile.
“But Janatzer is alive, Sere.”
As gasps and shocked croaks were heard from all over the room, the icy smile died and turned into a scowl that could fry the bones of anyone it was directed at.
“I warned you about making me your enemy.”
And Janus’ growling voice formed a spell.
“Ah, so that’s why he didn’t bring the others,” Magician nodded, “Glenn would have been cringing his face off.”
“I dunno, he should be used to it by now,” Dalton said with a snicker, “I’m sure he’s tasted pretty little Schaliya’s temperament a few times.”
“Really now!” Levana said, trying to sound upset.
“Oh come on. Why else would Janus have taught her that spell?”
Unnatural colors flared over the emperor’s body as he doubled over with a screech of pain. Within seconds the screech grew sharper, while the body rapidly shrunk. The fine robes shifted color with the skin, turning gray-brown and hairy while the arms thinned and legs shrunk.
It was over within seconds.
The divine advisor scrambled out of the way as Janus crossed the last part of the floor and stepped up the short stair to the throne. With a look of nothing but disdain the warlock reached down and swiftly lifted a small, twisting body from the great chair. Holding the pair of leathery wings he turned around for all to see what had happened, glaring at the pathetically squeaking creature. The court was dead silent.
“I should feed you to Molor,” the warlock hissed at his creation.
“The extremely hard way,” Slash commented, stepping away from Snake’s path just in case.
“It can’t get better than that!”
“What are we doing wrong?” Lizard sighed, motioning at the cross body.
“Nothing at all,” his wife sweetly said.
This version of the transformation spell worked a little differently than the one Glenn had been under. While the swordsman only had reminded of a frog but still had been humanoid, Sere had been completely transformed – his mind along with his body. The fact that he had managed to fly proved that he truly had become a bat to the fullest.
The spell would of course wear off by Janus death, but bats don’t live that long. So there was no reason to worry about a return of that man, whatever good that would ever do the loosing one.
Lashey had a hard time keeping her smile on a modest level while she dearly wanted to grin as she moved over the floor, Molor slithering behind her as if on guard.
Janus concealed his sigh and swallowed the last of his pride, reaching out a hand as the empress reached the first step of the stair. She grasped his fingers with hardly contained surprise since this had not been part of the plan.
“The emperor is dead,” the warlock stated, thinking that all his morals were going the same way, “long live the empress.”
The woman wasn’t needing the support as she walked up the stair and sat down on the throne, it was as much a show as the rest of it. Just like Janus and Molor positioning themselves on either side of the royal chair as the empress leaned back.
“Our fair empire is now facing a new era, one that is the child of peace,” Lashey spoke, her gaze running over the shivering people of the great room, “before we let this truth be known across the land, we shall state a few things.”
Her smile could kill.
“Call a scholar here,” she sweetly told the shocked divine advisor, “there shall be changes in the law and there is a need for a scriber.”
With a fearful stare at the warlock’s warning scowl, the elderly man got up and stumbled towards the gate to fulfill the order.
“I thank thee,” Lashey murmured from the corner of her lips.
“He deserved it,” Janus simply replied, emotionless.
The empress smiled slightly, untouched by any non-feeling wall the man tried to show.
‘Funny,’ Molor commented.
‘Silly,’ Janus grunted.
The snake silently chuckled. Janus glared in his direction without turning his head.
‘Fun when you explain “bit his head off” to the rest of us,’ the warlock said, evilly.
Molor grimaced mentally.
‘Never said I was a good king,’ he murmured, ‘he was enemy.’
Lashey shifted a little.
“I hath been thinking about the other two versions of thee,” she casually said, “who were they?”
“The one that looked mostly like me I have been dreaming about,” Janus explained with a slight shrug, unwilling to delve too far into the subject, “as for the other one I am wondering myself.”
He was silent for a moment before he gave up. Women would ask until they knew, he had learnt as much.
“I will send my spirit back to the point where I left him when I go to sleep,” he admitted, “in order to see who he was.”
The empress suppressed a chuckle.
“I am certain it will be quite fascinating,” she commented.
Janus glowered at the gate, dearly hoping the damn scholar would show up some time during the current century.
“Though I have a strange feeling that he will give me a headache.”
This time Lashey could no longer hold back her built up enjoyment and she had to cover her lips with her hand as she laughed as silently as she could.
“Is that proper for an empress?” Molor mildly commented.
“Oh, I believeth that it will be soon,” she replied, her eyes glistening like the one of a hunting cobra as she eyed the terrified nobles like mice.
Janus tried to assure himself that he found nothing funny about the entire situation, in the end to little avail.
And now you're probably (I hope) dying to know who the heck that strange and horribly friendly Janus had been up to in his time stream, since he was so weird. The explanation is right here.