The Prince’s story
Chapter 1, Fall of the warlock
The sun shone brightly over the capital of empire Garadia, sparkling in swords and helmets in the fields outside the town. The whole country was in uproar, preparing for war against the land in the East; Mandria. But inside the great palace a battle was already waged, and unbeknownst to anyone this argument would lead to the fateful end of the war, and maybe even cause the doom of mankind for all times.
"I am not going to fight in your war, your majesty," a very cold voice stated again.
The words echoed through the throne room. Every single human in the great hall stared at the man who had spoken, each one with more or less disbelief. Some even in outraged fear, horror over age-old traditions being violated.
"I would consider my words carefully if I were thee, lord Janus," another man’s voice said, sharply.
"Oh, I am."
The tall, blue-haired man met the emperor's angered eyes without even blinking.
"I spent over ten years of my life fighting in a pointless war, and I'm not taking orders from you."
"Pride of thine sort can be very dangerous," the man on the throne coldly said.
The woman by his side clenched her jaw and pressed her eyes shut tight in silent rage by the words, while Janus' eyes narrowed.
"So you say?"
The warlock's voice was colder than ice.
"And let me warn you then," he said, each word cutting through the thick air of the throne-room, "of all enemies I have had throughout my life, none is alive to warn you about becoming one of my foes. Good day."
With a violent move of his hand he created a flash of light that swallowed both him and his enormous snake.
As soon as they were gone the emperor turned to the advisor by his side.
"And his nephew is a recruit?" the royalty coldly said.
"Yes, my emperor."
For a moment the empress simply stared at the two men in hate-filled horror.
"Husband!" she harshly said, causing almost the whole court to jump with her impudence, "thou canst not do that!"
"Silence, Lashey!" the emperor snarled, and his hands warningly balled into fists.
The empress clenched her jaw but lowered her head, paling with anger and despair.
Janus stormed into existence in the middle of the kitchen, nearly causing his brother in law to drop his bowl of tea. Cered very tiredly pressed one hand against his forehead, the faint hope that age had granted his wife’s brother respect for the emperor dying. Not that he had been stupid enough to let it become great for a start either.
“Your new emperor is even more foolhardy than your last, Cered,” the warlock snarled, furiously sitting down by the table.
“I take it his inquiry was not anything thee could apply to?” the red-haired man tiredly said.
“Inquiry?” Janus spat, “he demanded that I’d take out the enemy for him!”
“Have some tea and calm down, Janus,” Schala mildly said, passing him the teapot.
But Janus just waved it aside with an irritated movement.
“I should have taken Janatzer back with me too,” he grunted, “it’s sheer stupidity.”
“We could do something to prevent this though,” Schala said with a frown, “this war isn’t…”
“It’s no use,” Janus grimly cut her off, “the whole town is in a bright festive mood about the glorious battles ahead. They want to fight; there’s nothing we can do.”
She fell silent and stared at her tea.
“Well… at least Janatzer is just a recruit in training, so he’s not in danger…” she muttered, a bit bitterly though as she knew other families would not be as lucky.
With a grunt Janus pressed a hand against his forehead.
“I’m too old for this kind of idiocy…” he growled.
Schala glanced at Molor, just in time to see a streak of intense pain flash in the cold eyes. The woman held back a sigh, her heart aching for the snake as she knew what he felt. Molor had told her as she had asked once, concerned about the small signs of agony he hid for Janus.
The pain that the snake felt had its full origin in his kindred spirit. Molor was after all in reality a dragon, and he would live for at least two centuries after Janus’ death. And he dreaded that knowledge, hated and feared the future when he would be alone. But he did not want to tell his friend that, only easing his heart on Schala’s worried query once.
The princess looked up at her brother.
Sure he was older. They all were, but not complaining. They were still healthy, had only just passed forty. Schala had begun to find gray strands in her hair, just beside her ears, and lately Janus had started getting the same marks. But she thought that he was exaggerating with calling himself old. He hadn’t had any need to fight in the seventeen years passing since Charash had bothered them, but was still in great shape. And obviously, his temper could still explode when hitting the right nerve.
“How is Lashey?” Schala mildly asked, changing the subject.
“She had a…”
Janus paused and shook his head.
“She was fine,” he grunted, irritated.
Schala glanced at Molor again, but saw nothing in his pitch-black pools encircled by cold green this time.
“Her son must be seven or eight I believe,” Schala continued, as a matter of factly.
“Six,” her husband corrected, “her marriage was a late one, not until her highly honored father was on his last breath did she accept a suitor.”
“Persistent little butterfly, isn’t she?” Janus growled.
Schala just sighed lightly, Cered grunted something.
A door slammed shut.
“Is that you Ceredan?” Schala called, leaning backwards to see the door.
A boy in his younger teens entered the kitchen from the small entrance room, smiling a bit. He had a fine, thin face and held a light training staff in his hand; looking to grow more wiry than muscular. Rather short cut, blue hair covered his head.
Though Schala and Cered’s second son was named after his father he had most of his looks from his mother’s side.
“Thou art back, uncle?” he said with a small grin, leaning the staff against a wall, “what did the emperor say?”
“Nothing important,” Janus said with a roll of his eyes, “he’s overestimated.”
The shadow of a smile even touched Janus’ lips as he spoke now. Schala couldn’t help but smile too. It never ceased to amaze her how all of her children affected her brother. Though Schaliya still was the one he loved most of the three, Janatzer and Ceredan were very close to his once darkened heart.
"... And so the heroes came to realize that the one they called their enemy must have had far other connections to the beast Lavos than they ever could have guessed. The warlock of the Middle ages hadn't created the monster..."
Ceredan listens to my story with a concentration that almost makes me smile. I wonder if he has figured out the truth about it yet...
I need to clear my head of that idiotic emperor. Even though several days have passed since I was called by him I’m still irritated. Even Lashey's better, at least she never tried to command me. One point to the headache.
It keeps bothering me. She did have a bruise, perhaps the makeup could hide it to others but both I and Molor both noticed. But she's not the kind of woman who'd take such a treatment, is she?
Why do I bother about her? Makes me irritated just remembering how she used to look at me all those years ago.
"With Crono in the lead the three hurried into the crater to find their foe, but all that was there was another time Gate."
"Lavos created it, didn't he?" Ceredan grimly says.
"Yes. With their usual bravery, or stupidity, the warriors ent... gh!"
'Mother... father... !!'
There's a crash from the kitchen, but before that a heart piercing screech from Schala. Molor almost jumps from the floor as I bolt up, the terror from the sounds in my head and ears almost tearing me apart.
"Janatzer!!" Schala screeches, her hardly sane cries a mirror of my feelings, "JANATZER!!"
"No! No, no... no!"
Cered stumbles into the kitchen by the time I reach it. His wide, wild eyes shoot between me and his wife.
"Tell me 'tis not so!" he cries, "not Janatzer?! Not Janatzer..."
But he knows, and I know. Schala knows.
I hardly hear my own chanting, pulling at the fragile telepathic call still shivering in my mind. In a blast of light the kitchen disappears, and I find myself, Schala and Cered in a battle field. Warriors stumble around us, desperate war cries and screams of the injured living a life of its own in a horrifying twister of death. Our appearance creates confusion, and some forgotten part of my mind is still sane enough to make me create a barrier against the rest of the world.
Schala and Cered are already on their knees, screaming and crying over the dead body on the ground.
He's not more than a boy, barely seventeen. His hair is a red tumbleweed, now dirtied by the bloody mud that stains his face. Blood has sprouted into his face, his eyes shining wide and white where the blood hasn't run into them.
An arrow is stuck in his stomach, the killing wound.
Janatzer, my nephew... Schala and Cered's oldest son... he is dead.
"He wasn't supposed to fight in the war, he's only a recruit!!" Schala screams, tears flooding down her cheeks.
Crying screaming how many children like Schaliya did I bring death how many mother's have cried because of me why did Janatzer die why was he sent to the battleground...
Flaring thoughts cut my mind and soul into pieces, I can only stare at the corpse.
Because I wouldn't serve the emperor. He's dead because I defied that blasted... I had him killed...
It's all your fault, Magus within me smirks, and will you now dare to mourn, as the emperor's sin is a copy of your own?
I fall to my knees.
You're so weak.
All your fault.
All your doing, you caused this for thousands of others!
My hands hit the melting ground, my burning tears blurring into the blood in the mud.
You're a worthless wreck! You caused his death, you killed Janatzer!
Scream all you want now that you face yourself, he sneers, what you try to deny, you worthless worm, is a crime beyond any compare!
Shut up shut up shut up shut...
Why is he tormenting me like this...? He always wanted me to be what he now claims as false... something's wrong, he's trying to break me...
But the faint realization is like ashes in the wind as I stare at the corpse, trembling by wave upon wave of horror of what has happened.
I caused my nephew's death, I killed Janatzer... because I wouldn't serve the emperor. I... I...
The roar leaving my lips pierce the sound of battle as I dash to my feet, tears still streaming down my cheeks, burning my skin like acid. My arms stretch out in a direction each and I leave the ground. NO MORE!!
"Dark powers of the..."
That won't work!
Magus' sneer hits me like Charash's paw, he seems to be outside of my head, speaking to my mind from someplace else... there's an empty space left after him, has he left my soul...? How is that possible, he's just a...
But that's yet another query going lost, even though some faraway part of my mind screams in terror it's not enough for me to stop listening.
There's thousands of them, he coldly points out with another smirk, and the underworld doesn't grant power to save lives.
'What can I do?!' I scream in my thoughts.
You really wish to pay for what you have done?
He sounds amused.
The faraway part of me turns over itself, screaming and shouting. But it feels so far away, everything seems so far...
'What can I do?!'
You want to stop this, don't you? It isn't free...
It's as if the darkness I have named Magus is a spirit of it's own...
Good powers what have I done what have I done what have I done...
Killed Janatzer... brought this agony to countless humans...
You can't turn back, I see that.
Wait… it can’t...?!
My mind catches my soul and finally I realize exactly what "Magus within me" truly is.
'By the powers... no! It's impossible!'
'Back off, rather will I die!' I screech in even greater horror than I thought possible.
It just can't be... it can't be!
Ah, how you fear to face your responsibility...
'You speak of responsibility?! I make no alliances with you, demon!'
You are prepared to save all these young men, to pay back what you have caused, aren't you? No, you have to. You can't back off now.
'What do you care about human lives?' I growl.
Nothing at all. But you do, don't you?
And as you might understand, you are a point of... interest to me.
'What are you doing inside of my head?!' I shout, refusing to face what he's saying.
Scheming, what else? Time is running out, Janus. What will you do?
He sneers again.
The tears join with sweat, dripping from my forehead. I can't, I can't... I refuse, I won't...
These humans will belong to me sooner or later anyhow. Will you buy them time or not? To be with their pretty little families for a few more years?
As if my head was caught between his gigantic palms it turns to let me see a warrior of Garadia fall to the ground, twitching in agony with an arrow in his stomach. My head is turned at Janatzer. Schala and her husband are crying like mad, oblivious to what I am doing. I can't recognize her as my sister and not Cered as my brother in law in their grief. The grief I share...
And it will be shared by countless others before this day has passed, if I don't stop this war... I can't use Shadow for it... I lack the power... what have I done?!
I can't even think my retreat, my agreement of slavery. But he knows, the bastard knows...
His mind drifts closer, and now I can hear his voice. I have never heard it before, I didn't believe he could speak but he does now.
'You have no idea how I have longed for this moment, Janus of Zeal,' he smirks, 'even if you kill me in the world's future I will have my revenge in yours!'
I cringe in agony, a grimace of pure torture tearing up my face.
'Speak the words, Janus. Speak the words, now.'
Sweat and tears... forgive me, Schala... but what is my life worth after all I have caused...
'That it should be you of all the dark forces to harvest my punishment, how twisted fate is...' I spit at him.
'Yes, isn't it?' he smirks, 'now chant!'
It feels like my mind is about to crack open...
More tears. My lips protest, but I keep chanting through my grief. Every word in old Zealan cutting through my head, drawing me closer to my doom.
Forgive me Schala, Cered, Janatzer, Schaliya, Ceredan, Molor, Glenn, Crono, Marle, Lucca, Ayla, Robo, mother, Lizard...
Is this even for better or worse, what will I do when I'm gone? I... I...
Please forgive me...
"Now the... chk..."
I struggle for a moment, desperately refusing. No!
'Speak out the words, Janus! Chant! You already agreed in this trading of lives!'
And I can't hold back.
"... Now the... chosen... time has c-come... exch-change... exchange..."
No! Lizard, mother, Schala... anyone, don't let me do this!
But there's only his voice, and it's too late for me now.
My fingers disappear into my swirling hair as my whole being twitches in agony. Exchange...
Exchange... good powers...
My head is thrown backwards, the tears being spread across the closed room I created for Janatzer.
Exchange this... this...
"Name your prize!" I cry out with a voice which isn't mine, "I can't...!"
His laughter pierce my soul as I hear Schala's distant scream of terror.
'You belong to me, Janus of Zeal! For thousands of strangers!'
You disgusting parasite!!
'Speak it out, you'll tell the world by own words!' he sneers down at me... or is that up...
"JANUS!" Schala screams.
Forgive me, I kill your son and brother on the same day... I was never worthy of being your brother, you, wonderful angel...
Soul? Body? Both? What amount of my power does he want to start with?
A desperate flinch, one last resort... he used my techniques against us when we fought him, but I forced myself to forget that in anger... maybe...
You haven't won yet!
"Exchange these magic powers for thousands of lives!" I screech.
He roars in anger but is bound by the sacrifice I made, which he accepted too early.
I almost smile.
You win today, Lavos, but not in the way you thought you would...
Dark power fills my body, but I am merely a catalyst.
It doesn't hurt, but it's not pleasant either. I can't know what happens, only hear that the darkness swallows all sounds of battle. But I get a hold the evil, feeling its wish to wreak havoc. It twitches in my grip, scornful at my attempt to stop it.
Oh no you don't. Save the lives, that was our agreement.
Everything is silent, and I can't see through the dark.
Then I feel Schala's shaking hand against my cheek.
"Janus..." she sobs, stuttering.
"Get that blasted emperor and the king for a truce, I can't hold him back forever," I grunt, surprised at how calm my voice sounds.
Calm as death itself.
She hesitates for a moment, then she starts to chant and her heavenly presence disappears.
'I give, that was rather clever,' Lavos coldly says.
I grit my teeth. That he even has feelings is shocking in itself, but not as much as other facts.
'How did you do this?' I snarl.
'Grab your darkened mind before my death?'
He actually chuckles cruelly, making me grimace again.
'Nothing would be simpler.'
I guess not...
'But this won't help you tear up history again,' I grunt, forcing myself to sneer.
This time he's not laughing.
'And even if you had sized control,' I go on, using my upper hand as long as it lasts, 'I don't think I would have been any better against Glenn and the others than already proven.'
'Don't be too full of yourself.'
His suppressed rage turns into a sneer.
'Have you even considered what will happen to you when I take my prize?'
'It's better than what you had in mind!' I growl, revolting.
'Oh really? It will be amusing to see you handle being back at about the state where Flea began his work on you.'
I cringe, and he sneers.
'And remember, I said nothing about leaving your mind,' he points out, soft as silk.
My throat tighten and I can't hold back a raging groan, unable to move though.
Cered's call is distant, but he's there... now how did lips and tongue work again?
"Art thee well?"
He doesn't know how to express his worry, so the unneeded question obviously has to do.
"Get Molor..." I whisper with a broken voice, the calm I showed Schala now torn, "Molor... he might..."
"I shall try."
'You wouldn't dare!' Lavos growls.
'Why not?' I sneer.
I was right... "Magus within" always seemed to have something against my kindred spirit.
'I'll break the contact with my body!'
"What is happening, brother?"
"Lavos," I mutter, cringing.
"I'll explain... it'll be alright."
But that is a lie...
'You are weak, Janus of Zeal.'
Normally I'd roar at him to shut up, but trust me on this; it's not worth it to be rude to an alien parasite who's literally raping your mind.
'I don't care,' is all I can manage.
'Then handle this...'
I cringe again as Cered's presence is cut off by even more darkness. I can't see, I can't hear, I can't move. I can only breathe and think, hardly even that. I can't even... feel... Molor... I...
There's only Lavos... and his... dark... ness... crush... ing... down...
I think I'm... fall...
'Lord Janus?' a woman's voice suddenly calls out in my mind.
As if things weren't worse enough...
'Lashey...?' I think, tiredly muttering.
'The brooch is glowing. What hast happened to thee?' she grimly asks.
That blasted brooch... she's still keeping it?
Lavos can't cut off her link? His irritation causes the darkness to glow.
How ironic... he can't do anything about the brooch since I created it from a piece of myself, my hair... that Lashey actually should be the one to stop that parasite from winning in the old fashioned way, it's almost laughable.
Had things been different I would at least have scowled in frustration upon hearing her voice again. But now...
'Keep talking,' I mutter.
'Keep talking. There's an evil spirit trying to crush my mind, I have to stay sane.'
She doesn't even hesitate in shock of what I just said... hate to admit it but she is a special woman...
'What hast happened? I saw a great darkness to the east just a few moments ago, and I carried a feeling thou hath something to do with it.'
'It has to do with said spirit, yes.'
'Shut up, you worthless ants!' Lavos growls.
'Shut up thyself, whoever thou art!' Lashey snaps back.
'You don't even know what you're dealing with!' he sneers.
She irritates him, but she cannot fight him. So he's got no reason to threaten to break the contact with his past body; the empress can hold him back from turning me insane for the moment but not threaten him.
Hah. I'm at the mercy of Lavos and Lashey... why couldn't Charash just have roasted me...
'No, I dost not,' Lashey shots back at the alien in a poisonous voice, 'but I shalt not retreat.'
'How brave one is... and why? Because of this warlock who despises you? Because you claim to feel this "love" that humans find so incredibly important?' Lavos asks, almost amused.
Oh, please... not again...
'I shalt not negotiate with a demon, neither discuss with thee,' Lashey coldly says.
Lavos laughs, shaking my poor mind.
'You shall not negotiate with me?' he sneers, 'your beloved warlock just did. To stop this war which your male started he agreed on giving up his magic to me.'
'Lies!' Lashey shouts.
'No, it's true,' I mutter.
She's silent, finally in shock.
'But what he really wanted was complete control of me, to do with as he desired,' I add with the tiny piece of triumph I can still summon, 'which I wouldn't grant him.'
'But why?' she finally asks.
'To stop the blasted war.'
She's silent for a moment.
'Lord Janus, I swear that if Liech still was by me my husband would be dead as soon as he touched the palace with his filthy feet again!' she finally snarls.
'Liech is dead?' I mutter, a bit taken aback before I remember that the empress’ white snake wasn't a transformed dragon like Molor and had a normal reptile's lifespan.
She tries to keep her voice emotionless.
'Puny, but tasty,' the alien smirks.
That's just it!
'Lavos, shravela tchtran, crach schrert tar lez!'
Modern language is fine most of the time, but forgotten speech has a tendency to be more... colorful. What I said can't and shouldn't be translated.
'My, my, my... such bad language for an insect prince.'
'You seem confused,' he tells Lashey, with rising amusement.
'I canst not deny it,' she reluctantly admits.
'Ah well. Your so called love here is really a prince from an ancient kingdom of magic, where I was worshipped as a god. Which I am.'
'Not...' I mutter, despite the fact that I have a psychic snare around my throat.
'Yes I am, Janus.'
Him speaking my name is worse than having to bow to Ozzie in my dreams... I can't help but grimace, to his eternally growing delight.
'Leave him alone, thou foul pest!' Lashey snarls.
'You're one to talk,' Lavos smirks, 'do you even understand that your lord Janus to the very core fears me?'
'I would be an idiot not to,' I grunt, 'but that would also be if I had to face you alone, which I'm not.'
'Just because that brooch's faltering powers still lasts,' Lavos snorts.
He's silent for a split second before smirking again.
'Humans are so hard necked, don't you agree on that?'
The darkness opens and through a mist I see Schala shouting at two men by a table. She must have teleported the king and emperor to one destination.
"I don't care what you demand of each other, just sign the blasted truce!" she rages, "have you any idea what that thing out there is!?"
'You didn't...?!' I hoarsely growl.
He chuckles cruelly.
'Oh, but don't worry. I haven't caused anything worse than another earthquake, and nobody was badly hurt. Only since you asked so nicely, my dear prince.'
"My lady," the emperor coldly says, "thou hast no right to..."
"Powers of the world, lend me the power of Light!"
The table splits in two, but the paper that was lying on it keeps floating.
"Sign... it... now!" Schala growls.
Very slowly the emperor and the other man raises a pen each.
And the image fades away.
'I have sent every soldier back to their respective side of the battlefield,' Lavos says, soft as silk, 'wasn't that kind of me?'
I violently cringe.
'I guess you know what happens now, then,' he adds.
Lashey's voice falls away, it feels like I'm thrown through thin air... the fact that I hit something and then crash on the ground proves that theory.
Reluctantly I rise up on one arm, shaking my head and holding the other hand against my face to regain orientation. I know it, but I just don't want to realize that the ground I'm resting – if that's the word – on is flowing, pulsating with awful light and eerie colors.
'Now this will be delightful to see again... do you want to know what happened when this future of me was in this past, at this very moment?'
"No..." I growl, more crawling backwards than anything else, refusing to look.
'Doesn't matter, you'll see. Soon…'
I pathetically growl as an almost metallic hand consisting of two claws grab my weakened arm and drags me back. One of his insectoid helpers...
I'm thrown on the flowing ground, then ripped up by my shoulders to find the drooling, disgusting eye/mouth of Lavos' shell just at just a foot’s length from my face.
'Be a good boy and say "ah".'
But I don't think that my scream can be associated with any particular letter at all.
Chapter 2, The dragon is called
I am the decrowned king of the dragons, not of this world. My soul is clocked with the one of the most powerful humans throughout their history, I am Molor.
And right now I couldn't be closer to being torn apart.
Something is wrong... terribly wrong.
"Molor, what is happening!?"
Grudgingly I wrap my tail around Ceredan's arm and push him away.
Please, I must concentrate...
"Molor!" he calls, pleading.
I like the boy... he's much like his older sister. Really, he's the one who should be named after his uncle, Janatzer looks much more like Cered with his red hair. Ceredan reminds of my kindred spirit…
He's afraid... the last thing that happened was that his parents and uncle disappeared, completely hysterical. And he doesn't know what has happened, more than that there's something about his brother. I don't know either for sure, but I have a bad idea about what it is. I have to go... now!
But the boy is afraid.
I open my throat in the necessary way, ignoring the singeing feeling.
"What's happening, Molor?!" he shouts, desperate.
"I don't know, it's just... argh!"
The next thing I know is that my head is resting on his small hands and lap, but through the dark mist I can hardly see the boy's face.
"Janus... is..." I croak, forcing my long body into a proper position, "dang... er..."
He runs after me as I clumsily slither out, pushing the door open with my head. I'm still dizzy, but that just increases the power of desperation.
I guess the people of the town stare at us as I sway further away from the house with the young boy anxiously rushing after me.
"I have to go and..."
"... I'll save them all, I promise, Ceredan."
My already hoarse voice turns into a growl. That rising... power? I know it... from Janus' memory?
"What are you going to do?" he whispers.
"Back off, I need some space. And don't be afraid."
Doing this in the middle of town might not be wise, but I have no choice and no time. I don't have my human friends' ability to warp from one place to another.
"Back off! Hurry!" I croak.
Ceredan stumbles backwards.
This will shorten my lifespan with about fifty years, again. But, that's just half a century less I'll have to live as a half being.
Ecstasy... transforming, taking my body back. It leaves me weakened afterwards, but I have to. I just wish I didn't miss it so much!
I can hear screams, humans screaming in terror from far away. But their horror falls so puny in my mind as my body grows, wings and legs erupting from me.
This... pleasure that costs me life force. I can do it anytime, which is painful enough since I cannot keep my true form for very long. But, even though I fear a future where Janus won't be there, I can't even use it to shorten my agony in any way. I must only use this for the darkest emergency, a time which is now. Suicide... is not tolerated by dragons.
Ecsta... sy... power and... I'm... alive.
And I can feel him better again. He's... what the Cursed!?
With a roar I take the sky, spreading my crimson wings.
Holy flame, let me be wrong, let me be wrong!
I'm... feels like... argh... let me... leave... I... so... stop... stop...
... p... stop...
'Now what was that?'
'I must have something in my sound sensors, I can't hear you.'
'One more try.'
... stop... please... stop...
'You ashame yourself, prince. On the other hand...'
... ah... h...
'... There's not much left of you.'
'Hmph, better hold back or you won't do at all...'
'That's enough my dear. Let him go.'
'You knew you wouldn't get away. Guess I better fill you up with a little energy so I'll be able to move you.'
... augh... no... you...
'Watch me, prince, watch me.'
'What? Wecroch, him again... how irritating.'
'Janus! Friend, hold on!'
... Mo... lor...
... light... I can... I can breathe again?
'Better?' Molor's powerful mind whispers, still pouring his own strength into my battered being.
I become alive once more but... I'll never be strong again. Damn him...
'It always amazed me how a creature such as you could decline enough to make allies among humans,' Lavos growls.
'So it was you...'
Molor's voice is thick and rumbling, with rage and due to his transformation.
'Well, I guess you were too weak to choose when you came here.'
Lavos smirks and continues:
'After all... humans are nothing except small lumps of interesting cells that tend to try to defy their fate all the time.'
'And their fate, that would be have their bodies harnessed by you after their death to help you get stronger?' Molor icily replies, 'but let me tell you something Lavos, this little piece of meat is mine!'
St-stop shak-king me...
'Just when, when did I become groceries?' I exhaustedly grunt.
'And furthermore,' Molor snarls, for the first time ever ignoring me completely, 'I can aim very well even from this height!'
'I knew I should have warned myself...' Lavos snarls as a roaring of massive flames almost deafen me.
There's a sharp, numbing screech of pain and another violent rumbling as the ground close around the gigantic shell.
'Better,' Molor snarls.
'Wouldn't you wish?' Lavos sneers.
'What the icetalon!?'
The dragon roars aloud in rage, and though I'm limblessly hanging from his tail and thereby isn't too close to his mouth my ears ache even more.
Damn it all...
'Where are you, you accursed parasite?!'
'Parasite, ah yes. Can't deny that, it's my profession.'
I can feel Molor turn his enormous head at his tail and me in horror. Friend...
'That's right,' Lavos says, soft as silk, 'you're holding me.'
'There's still time,' I groan, 'I'm not gone yet.'
'Oh, but I won't even let you be gone,' Lavos merrily says, 'ever. There's no fun in letting the soul go...'
Schala rushes forward and violently hug me as Molor lower his tail enough for me to come into reach.
"Be he well, Molor?" Schala's husband concernedly asks.
"It... could be better," my kindred spirit sadly replies.
"Schala..." I groan.
"I'm here, he won't get to toy with you, I swear!" she growls.
"Schala... I must die... quick..."
All three of them freeze and stare at me as I weakly shake my head.
"Listen to me," I groan, "you have to..."
Their combined screeches almost turns me deaf, again.
"Listen to me!" I snarl, "I'm not Lavos' new toy! I'm his new body!"
"I don't want Ceredan to see me like this... augh..."
The world spin around and everything turns dark. It's like being blind... but I'm not unconscious, I'm still aware... I don't know what he's trying to do now. Probably just attempting to disrupt me further.
"Hang on, Janus!" Schala grimly snarls as she mutters the teleportation spell.
Molor has claimed his snake form again and is helping Cered support me as we and Janatzer's body are dematerialized and magically sent away from the foul battlefield. I think we end up in my room in the house...
"How can we get him out of thy head, Janus?" Cered snarls as I more or less fall down on what's probably my bed.
"Molor might..." I grunt.
I hear him sigh.
"I knew what it was all about when it came to Charash," he bitterly says, "but now you're asking me to wrestle Lavos?"
It's like my soul has been torn out of my body. In horror I stare down at myself, Molor, Cered, Schala and Janatzer's corpse as my eyes flare up with a dirty red light. The three that are watching me back in pure shock as my lips move into a horrid sneer.
"You may try, dragon..."
The hoarse voice coming from my mouth isn't mine.
Oh no you don't! Not yet!
I plunge back into my body, forcefully pushing Lavos backwards. I hardly manage...
But I look up at my family again, through a thick mist.
"He's getting a foothold..." my broken voice mutter.
They all watch me with despair, but I'm nearly unable to feel any emotions by now... tired...
"How can we strengthen our odds?" Schala snarls, thinking aloud.
"Making my body uncomfortable?" I slur, a cruel thought forming in my head.
'You wouldn't dare!' Lavos snarls, making a mistake.
He's got nothing that can stop me this time.
"I always wondered how poisonous you are, Molor..." I whisper, now hardly audible.
"By no means!" my kindred spirit screeches, and my brother in law and sister stare down at me.
I can hardly see them by now, the mist is growing thicker for every second. He's reaching out to snare me properly...
"Do it... and Schala, get Glenn and the others here... in... case... agh..."
I think I'm falling. But I'm not sure. And I'm beyond any fear, I have no emotions anymore.
Distantly, I feel a great weight wrap around my body, so that it can't move at all. Molor...
"Go now," I can hear him whisper, "I don't want you to watch this."
And leaving footsteps, a door closing.
With a silent screech Molor's long body grow tense as he tries to assemble enough strength to take the next step.
If I had more control I'd scream in agony, but I can't.
Molor's long, sharp teeth bury in my flesh, tearing it to pieces. And he screams, silently.
I can't say that I lift my heavy head to look around, for I have no body.
Still, I'm hanging in a dark nothingness.
"Welcome to your eternity. "
I grunt something inaudible at Lavos.
It's his core that emerges from the darkness and steps up just in front of me. If I could summon enough strength I'd glare coldly at him.
"I hope you like it here, " he icily says, "because when I've killed your pet this is where you'll stay. "
"We haven't even begun yet," Molor's sharp voice says as he glides into sight.
Lavos turn to him and sneer as his two life support blobs materialize in his hands.
Chapter 3, In the darkest hour
Schala furiously paced back and forth in the corridor while her husband only could watch her helplessly.
"I can't go away when I know they're in there and fighting over Janus!" she finally growled, shivering with hopeless rage clenching her fists.
"But thou must bring Glenn here, sunlight," Cered bitterly said in a slightly hoarse voice, "should Molor fail to defeat our foe then Janus will truly be condemned should he not be saved by the Masamune."
"And Schaliya must know what has happened," the husband grimly added.
Schala stopped and covered her eyes with her hand, shaking her head.
They both spun around as they heard the call and found their youngest son running towards them, his face a mask of horror and worry. Schala caught him in a tight hug, for his sake trying to keep her tears down. Silently Cered wrapped his arms around both his wife and son.
"I'll go, I'll get them..."
Schala pulled out of the embrace and backed away from Cered's powerless try to calmingly caress her cheek.
A moment later she stumbled through time, briefly entering the year of 604 AD. She stood frozen in Guardia forest, through the naked branches of the snowless October looking up towards the roof of the castle which she knew carried her beloved daughter.
Schaliya who loved her uncle...
Schala turned around and reentered the flashing darkness, furiously chanting for a new destination.
'Not yet! I can't, good powers!'
She rushed towards another future, this one four hundred years after the one she had visited first.
'Janus... my dearest Schaliya...'
She almost fell over as she once again entered Guardia forest, tears stinging her eyes. This forest was full of fresh new leaves and the sun sparkled through the greenery. The beauty of the early summer’s day seemed mocking to Schala.
'Cered, I wish you could support me now! Mother, please help us!'
Clenching her teeth she regained her balance, fighting to keep the despair from taking over her mind. Stay focused...
The Gate closed behind her and she hurried through the forest, not trusting her senses enough for the moment to try a teleportation spell.
She reached the last trees and began hurrying towards the nearby town.
Suddenly a magical flash lit up the forest to her left and she spun in that direction, just in time to see burning trees explode from the green ocean. Schala's heart almost stopped.
Two stumbling bodies tumbled out between the brown trunks, the smaller one trying to support the bigger. After them came a third one, blindly firing a small laser gun at the bushes behind her.
"Come on Crono!" Marle screeched, hardly able to carry his weight as he was almost unconscious, "don't leave us! Na matala sela!!"
Leave me and run...
"What's happening?!" Schala shouted, finally finding her voice again.
Crono, Marle and Lucca stopped dead, staring at the princess. But another explosion from behind caused them to rush forward again, or at least flee as good as they could.
"Come back here you pathetic cretins!" a deep, screeching voice roared in scorn, knowing the prey wouldn't get much further.
Through the forest the Lord of Darkness came.
Schala stared, as pieces of burning wood and crumbling green leaves fell around her.
He was rushing forward through the air with scythe in both hands, his cloak reminding of a flood of human blood in turmoil. A cruel sneer twisted his pale face, and his eyes shone red as the flames of Hell.
The curved blade of the weapon was stained with blood.
At the sight of the paralyzed woman he stopped and landed, sneering even wider. The escapees stopped behind Schala, trying to catch their breath and get a hold of the situation.
"Ah," the voice said, "it's the princess of Zeal."
"No..." Schala croaked.
"Let's see... is the proper word in a situation such as this 'behold'?"
"Fifteen millenias I waited..."
"... and finally, the warlock is mine!"
Lavos cruelly chuckled as Schala’s scream of anguish rose towards the blue sky.
“Perhaps you shouldn’t have left your dear little brother back there?” he smirked, “now, now… don’t give me that look, it hurts!”
“You condemned demon!” Schala screamed.
“That’s a fine quality of your family, princess,” Lavos taunted, “you really know how to scream.”
With a screech Schala sent her hand through the air, painting flames with her pointing finger. As she grabbed the fire and spun into an attacking stance at the same time, the flaring sparks turned into her staff.
“Stone age…” the parasite smirked.
“Schala, he’s got Janus’ magical defense!” Lucca harshly screeched, “we need Glenn and the Masamune!”
Lavos threw his stolen head backwards and laughed, sending frozen needles through the four humans’ souls.
“Ah yes, of course,” the alien finally said, mockingly hiding his wide smirk behind a hand, “the Masamune. Where is your little frog with his sword now?”
“G-Glenn?!” Marle stuttered in a high-pitched voice.
His smirk only growing wider Lavos slowly brushed his pointing finger over the scythe’s blade, pale skin being colored darkly red.
“I have the body, and the weakness. I’m not a fool, you know,” he sneered.
“Schaliya…?!” Schala croaked.
“Oh, she was screaming too last I saw her.”
“I couldn’t kill her yet, dear. To be able to kill you all I’ll have to do it from the future and backwards not to destroy the seeds of you pathetic worms.”
Lucca stumbled backwards and fell to her knees when the glowing eyes turned to her and the voice spoke again.
“The robot is gone. Your turn.”
“I swear Lavos!” Schala snarled in a thick voice, “you will pay!”
“You want to fight me too?” Lavos purred, “like your daughter, son in law and the foolish black worm?”
Not until then it fully hit Schala that Lavos’ presence not only meant the end of her brother. She couldn’t hinder herself from taking a step backwards, doubt’s poison infecting her very being.
“Indeed. What are you, compared to that dragon?” the parasite agreed, easily reading her thoughts by the reaction.
Clenching her teeth Schala resolutely stepped forward again. If she didn’t even try, then everything she held precious was certainly doomed. But she feared it already was.
“I won’t run away from you, beast!” she snarled, gripping her staff tighter to draw courage from the familiar grip.
“Your last child is in the past, he will close history,” Lavos thoughtfully nodded and smirked, “I can kill you now, it’s alright.”
Schala glanced around and found Lucca, Marle and Crono grimly nodding, their faces pale though. The young man was staggering, but his fiancée’s magic had healed most of the wound on his hip.
Looking back the blue-haired princess paled even more however.
Lavos had put two fingers on his right hand against his forehead, not unlike how Janus’ had done when focusing. And a ray of horrible light came from the meeting of fingers and head, showering over the ground.
It was taking a form.
Schala’s mouth just fell open, she couldn’t even produce a whimper.
“Janus…?” Lucca stuttered in a weak voice.
The illusion’s head just fell aside a little as its name was spoken. It was an almost completely transparent image of Janus, limb-lessly on his knees. The only reason that he wasn’t sprawled over the ground was that his arms were tightly enveloped in dark tentacles; their sharpness against his transparency giving a strong clue about how weak he was. With his head hanging it was impossible to see his face.
Without a word of explanation the four humans knew that it was all that remained of the warlock they had known; trapped deep within Lavos’ mind.
Janus didn’t produce even the tiniest sound in protest as what once had been his own hand grabbed his spirit’s hair and threw him several yards aside; though the move was just another show of Lavos’. An illusion could not be touched even by the creator; it was the mind-power that moved the beaten soul and not the hand.
He didn’t try to get up; didn’t have the power. The tentacles rose however, carrying him with them back to the kneeling position.
“I like him better as crushed, don’t you?” Lavos cruelly said.
He did it all only to torture his opponents even more, and he did it well.
The little focus Schala had managed for the hopeless battle ahead was completely shattered; she was desperately searching through the spoils for anything she could hold on to.
Lavos would of course not give her that mercy. With a wide smirk he attacked, smashing his palm against Schala’s chest. She fell backwards, unable to withstand the force.
“Don’t give up so soon, princess Schala,” the parasite sneered, easily parrying a small, desperate icicle sent by Marle.
The blond princess’ strength was almost drained after her struggle to save Crono. The young man clenched his teeth and tried to summon enough willpower for a spell, Lucca raised her gun in despair…
“Laohn sha nebal!”
Lavos swiftly ducked for the glowing boomerang being hurled at his head, with amusement looking towards the fields facing the forest he had just wrecked havoc on.
“I can’t kill you just yet, lady,” he said, mocking a mild tone.
“Thou foul sherack!” a young woman’s voice shouted, torn by hatred and grief.
“Schaliya…” Schala croaked.
Her daughter’s simple white dress was blemished with blood, it covered her chest and stomach, crawling over her arms as if she had hugged a deadly wounded warrior. Her eyes weren’t anything like they always had been, now burning with blind rage.
In her hands was the Masamune, roughly broken in half.
“I swear Lavos!” she shouted as she moved forward, “thou shalt pay!”
He smirked, amused.
“I suppose I just have to convince you to calm down then…” he said, “for before you’ve reproduced I cannot kill you.”
Repro… she was…?
“Schaliya, don’t!” Schala croaked, stumbling to her feet.
“Stay out of this, mother!” Schaliya hissed and glared at Marle, Crono and Lucca, “and so shall thee!”
Janus’ heavy head moved a little.
“No…” came a weak, almost inaudible groan, “don’t fight… trap…”
But even though Schaliya perhaps heard her uncle’s warning, she was still deaf for it. With a screech she flew at Lavos, and he parried her crippled weapon.
“And in your state…” the alien almost purred, easily holding the scythe with his right hand while the left caught a dark glow.
“Schaliya!” Schala screamed, seeing the danger that her daughter ignored in her frenzy.
“No…” Janus whispered.
Still locked with Lavos, the young woman didn’t even pay attention to his hand that was moving towards her like a praying demon.
“Stop!” a smooth, strangely familiar voice sharply came from out of nowhere.
A shining star at the size of a fist shot down from the blue sky, crashing in between the two combatants and pushing them away from each other.
“What the…” Lavos even growled.
Schaliya stumbled further backwards as the star followed her, pushing her away.
“When he warns you about a trap, you better listen!” the voice growled.
It was obviously coming from the star. So familiar…?
“You…?” Janus whispered.
All of a sudden it zoomed in the other direction, stopping a couple of yards behind Lavos. Before he had time to turn around towards it, the star swept into an almost human form and sent out an arm. Something long, glowing and red cut through the air.
“Hey!” Lavos growled, clutching at the whip that had snaked itself several laps around his throat.
He didn’t seem to have any troubles breathing however, more irritated by the interference.
“Freaky…” Lucca managed to whisper, she the only one able to air her shock.
A pink-skinned Mystic with his red hair in a pig-tail winced, placing one foot before the other and desperately bending backwards as he tried to keep Lavos in place.
Chapter 4, Guardians
“Come on already!” Flea shouted, glancing upwards for a second before his attention was forced back to the struggling parasite.
If it hadn’t been for the fact that the magician kept the whip so forcefully strained, Lavos could easily just have turned and cut it off either with magic or his scythe. Or rather, attacked the monster. But as it was now one movement too much would cause him to loose his balance and he was too proud for that. Rather he would pull in his own direction; Flea was by none expected strong enough to hold on for long. He already had apparent problems, desperately changing his grip and stance all the time.
Schaliya hesitatingly changed her grip of the broken Masamune. Despite her shock of seeing Flea – whom she’d only known from her family’s memories earlier – she was still nearly insane with grief over the death of her husband and the fate of her uncle’s soul.
“Lady, I’d appreciate if you’d hold back just for a few moments!” Flea cringed, wrapping a part of the whip around his hand for better grip.
“This is rather pathetic, don’t you think?” Lavos sneered, but there was a deadly edge in his voice.
“Oh, it’s sorta… Lizard, for heaven’s sake! I can’t hold him!”
Two more stars finally shot down, penetrating Lavos’ head with some notable trouble. He simply grunted a bit.
Janus moved his head a little as two figures hurried over to him; also displayed in the illusion.
Once again his weakened state was proven as his soul seemed like a shard of blemished ice before the two spirits that bent at him.
One human and one more monster.
“Please Janus, there must be something left in you!” queen Zeal harshly pleaded, reaching out for him.
Her hands went straight through his cheeks, he didn’t even seem to feel the presence anymore as he showed no reaction. Lizard tried to claw at the tentacles holding the warlock’s arms, but even his fingers slid through without touching.
“He’s too far gone,” the first king of Mystics grimly said, “we can do nothing here. Come, before he launches an attack against us.”
He grabbed the queen’s wrist and almost dragged her off, all the while she kept reaching for her son with her free hand.
The two stars popped out of Lavos’ head. One of them swept up behind Flea and became the monster, while Zeal hurried to Schala’s side.
“We’re doing all we can,” the queen promised in an almost steady voice, “whatever is in our power.”
“But if Lavos has him too well sealed…” Schala whispered, shaking her head in despair.
“We couldn’t do anything earlier, he was moving too fast. I’m sorry. But Janus might yet be able…”
“Keep him still just a moment longer,” Lizard growled, cutting the talking between the humans.
“Do you think this is easy?!” Flea snarled, twisting his grip again.
“Just one more moment…”
“I don’t have a moment!”
The whip was torn out of his grip and fell to the ground.
Lizard leaped aside, grabbing his own scythe from thin air. But Lavos didn’t care about him. Flipping backwards, landing on his hands and leaping on like that repeatedly Flea managed to avoid the long, curved blade again and again, but it was a close call every time.
“Guys! Little help here!” he shouted somewhere in the middle of another flap.
A broken blade caught the scythe from aside, giving Flea time to land properly on his feet and flee in a better way. Schaliya dashed away too before Lavos had time to decide which one to attack first. The fact that he didn’t want to kill her yet was just about their only upper hand.
“Fight someone your own size!” Lizard shouted and added with a mocking tone, “in any case, you’ll loose. Like every time before.”
The parasite slowly turned at the Mystic king, now with pure hatred shown in his face.
That thought-through move showed to be a bad idea.
Three new stars arrived, entering the stolen head as Lavos wasn’t moving fast enough.
A voice snarled from the direction of the illusion, causing several bystanders to cringe and spin to stare.
“Magus! You worthless, stupid worm!”
A thin sword slashed at the tentacles holding Janus, but went through them and the soul just like when Zeal and Lizard had tried.
“Dammit!” Slash grunted under his breath.
A fat green hand tried to slap the hanging head, but no luck there either.
“Wake up you idiot!” Ozzie snarled, without gain trying to hit again, “look at me when I’m talking to you, boy!”
Janus’ head moved a little again, but that was all.
“What the hell are they trying to do?” Lucca asked in a hoarse voice while Lavos attacked Lizard, sneering at the failed attempts in his head.
“Just one single spark from Janus should be enough for us to touch him,” Zeal muttered in a tense voice, “just one last grain of any emotion. Love can’t reach him in his state…”
“Hatred?” Marle asked, almost whispering.
“It’s our only hope.”
“Argh!” Ozzie shouted in frustration, “I don’t believe this! Thirteen years I wasted trying to teach this lowlife something and he won’t even give me a sign of life! You’re worthless, you know that Magus?!”
“It’s not working…” Slash said with an ironical roll of his eyes, “then again, he was never the brightest.”
“’Never the brightest’ is too kind and you know it,” Ozzie scoffed with one more look in disgust at the soul, “fool.”
His white robes swirled as he turned around, shaking his head in detest.
“I wash my hands of the whole thing, he’s lost forever.”
“Like I ever wanted to help anyway,” Slash snorted, apathetically poking at the tentacles with the Slasher.
He looked back at something not displayed in the illusion.
“You must be ashamed,” he said, pointing at Janus with his thumb, “he doesn’t even deserve loathing.”
“Ashamed you call it? Pha!”
A red-brown cloak swept about as a tall man with long, dark-blond hair pranced up in front of the bound soul and sat down on one knee to smirk at the nearly transparent head.
“You’re an insignificant freak, boy,” Dalton growled, still sneering, “do you hear me? I’m glad this is your end, you shouldn’t even have been born. Not even your precious sister will care after seeing you like this. You’re pathetic. Pathetic!”
Janus head moved a little. The small moan was so weak that anyone hearing it hardly could believe it even had existed.
“Pathetic miscarriage!” Dalton spat.
Slowly, wobbly, Janus lifted his head and tiredly glared straight at his father.
The Slasher penetrated the tentacles on the soul’s left arm just as Ozzie tore the right one free. Janus limblessly fell forwards, but Dalton caught him.
Lavos roared in pain, stumbling backwards away from a triumphantly smirking Lizard.
“We’ve got him!” Dalton shouted, leaping out of sight from the illusion.
“Bless you!” Zeal called as the three stars zoomed out of Lavos’ head and rushed over to her.
Dalton carrying Janus’ limp body was a strange sight indeed. The warlock seemed to have turned even more transparent as he was brought out, his eyes closed and his cloak being dragged over the ground as Dalton carefully handed him over to his mother. Zeal lowered him to the ground, supporting him by the shoulders while kneeling beside him. He didn’t show any signs of life however.
“Damn you insects!” Lavos roared, rushing at the group in rage.
Crono tried to get a spell ready, Schaliya leaped up in front of her relatives with the broken Masamune ready to parry.
But they were both bested by Slash and Ozzie. The thin sword the purple monster wielded flashed with light from the green one’s hands, parrying the scythe quite nicely. But it was apparent that Lavos would win in the long run; Slash was almost brought to his knees by the blow.
“Flea! Get over here right now and help, you wimp!” Ozzie snarled, the bolts of light from his palms to the weapon desperately intensifying.
“Can we defeat him?” Marle croaked, fumbling with Crono’s arms as he staggered again.
“We couldn’t even defeat you,” Dalton mildly pointed out before spinning around and sending a stream of light towards the stolen body.
The blow was deflected by a dark ray from Lavos’ eyes, and the very same soon threw Ozzie and Slash backwards past the assembled heroes. Queen Zeal defensively hugged her son’s shoulders while Schaliya, her mother and Dalton stubbornly blocked the parasite’s way.
“So we’re going down, that’s what you’re saying?” Lucca harshly said, fiddling with her gun.
In the next moment she had to duck since Dalton passed over her head in a not very graceful bow.
“The things I’ll go through!” Ozzie snarled, stumbling halfway back to help Schala and Schaliya with their weapons, “and all because of him!”
“Hey! Keep it up!” Lizard shouted, joining the fun of trying to push Lavos’ backwards.
“What are you complaining about?” Dalton snarled, cursing under his breath as yet another one of his blasts proved worthless, “you’re taking orders from your bloody idolized ancestor, I’m taking orders from a monster!”
“Watch your tongue, human!” Slash growled, taking Schala and Lizard’s place as they were sent flying as well.
Lavos was still going softer on Schaliya, but that wouldn’t help for long at this rate. He was much stronger than the dead and alive warriors together.
“Levana, get Janus out of here already!” Dalton shouted.
“Right away,” queen Zeal grimly nodded.
She bent over the seemingly unconscious Janus, gently moving in one arm under his knees while the other hugged his shoulders. As she straightened up, carrying him as if he didn’t weigh anything at all, a soft light enveloped his slumping body. He seemed to shrink.
Within a few seconds the queen wasn’t carrying a full grown man, but the child once lost to the Mystics. He even wore his purple robes, curled up in his mother’s arms seemingly asleep. As if his last strength had been focused when he lost size, he now appeared less transparent than before.
Schala nearly choked as she got to her feet, seeing her mother tenderly hold Janus as both of the siblings long ago had wished she would.
“Will he be alright?” she almost sobbed.
“It’ll take a while but we have the eternity,” Levana Zeal said in a hushed, thick voice, “he’ll be fine…”
She turned around and grimly looked at Schala.
“But this doesn’t have to be,” the queen said, “you might still stop all this from happening if you make it back before Lavos defeats Molor. You must help him.”
Lizard hit the ground by Levana’s feet.
“We’re going to need the best we’ve got…” he said, lightly slurring, “this isn’t working.”
“I’ll send her down,” the queen said, suddenly with a small smirk.
“Her?” Ozzie, Slash, Dalton and Flea croaked.
The latter even dropped the new whip he had been about to use from behind Lavos’ back.
“Yes, I see no other solution,” Lizard merrily said, getting to his feet and picking up the scythe.
Slash was pushed several feet backwards as he tried to keep Lavos at bay and talking at the same time.
“Oh no, no, no milord,” he almost pleaded, “I’m sure, that’s exaggerating…”
“Yes,” Dalton hurriedly added, “we can surely handle this…”
“Can you hit him at all, human?” Lizard mildly asked.
“I’m getting her,” the queen nodded, beginning to glow.
Just before she turned into a star she looked down at her son, smiling a bit bitterly but still fondly.
“Come on, Janus,” she mumbled, “Alfador has missed you, and Molor is waiting too.”
Her star shot up towards the blue sky.
“Lizard! You’re getting us all killed again!” Ozzie groaned, “are you out of your mind?”
“You’re already being killed you moron!” the ancestor grunted and waved at the spectators to back off.
“Sure, but it’s not by a psychopathic banshee!”
By now Schala and the other alive ones had grown almost more perplexed than scared.
“Who are you calling a banshee, Ozzie?” a very sharp, female voice snapped.
On cue those who had spoken ill of the help threw themselves aside, nearly causing Lizard and Lavos to fall over each other.
A new star landed, turning into… another monster.
It was a female, with bluish skin and hair that she kept loosely falling past her shoulders. She was dressed in the same kind of simple tunic that Lizard wore, and in her deeply green eyes were murder.
“You?!” Lavos snarled.
“Her?” Schala mumbled, confused.
She seemed familiar to the princess, but somehow from more than one place. The memory escaped her grip as she tried to catch it…
“Welcome, love,” Lizard said, still working on his balance.
“What the heck?” Lucca confusedly said.
“Lady Snake,” Slash groaned from somewhere on the ground behind the scientist, “this will get messy…”
“What kind of heroes are you?” Snake grunted, cracking her knuckles, “men!”
Glancing at the carefully backing Flea she added:
“And you’re not excused.”
Lavos threw Lizard aside like a fly and fully concentrated on the ancient lady Mystic.
“I remember you,” he growled.
Snake gave a lovely smile, flashing two rows of fangs.
“That’s so sweet of you. Now what did we do that first time we met?”
She mocked thoughtfulness for a moment, then smirked.
“Ah yes… I played nutcracker with your thick spiky shell in the Ocean Palace. That was so romantic!”
Darkness surrounding, dark energy drawing closer, it will eat me… Janus, what happened to you, mother, why? Why did that boy Crono die for us, sacrificing himself to Lavos… I must get out of here…
Schala’s mind swirled as she remembered her last moments in the falling Ocean Palace, back then paralyzed by shock and drain of power. Nearly insane of fear and despair.
He’s here, he’s coming for me too… there’s no escape I…coming closer, I can feel him…just behind me, I can’t move…
“Hang on, woman!”
A fist smashed through the air and there was an unearthly screech of pain.
“Go, get out of here!”
It was too dark to see, but there was something blue…
A rough-skinned hand holding her arm, throwing her into a swirling darkness filled with eerie colors…
“You saved me…?” Schala whispered.
That part concerned yet another part of this series; Schala’s journeys to find Janus. Don’t kill me! Ahhh!)
Though the princess hardly even heard herself, Snake glanced at the blue-haired human for a second and even winked with one eye before turning back to the main dish.
“So, care to dance again?” she smirked.
And then… she disappeared.
But Lavos was sent flying aside with a roar of rage. Before he even had landed Snake was at him, causing him to stumble backwards with a tornado of punches. Her hands and arms were almost invisible, only clearly seen when she spun around to kick instead. The scythe instantly fell to the ground.
He didn’t have a chance too parry.
For a moment everyone else just watched in silence.
Then Marle kicked at Ozzie’s stomach, as he was still on the ground.
“Excuse me for asking,” the blond princess begun in a calm voice that quickly changed as she went on, “but why didn’t you bring her here earlier?!”
“It’s quite simple,” Lizard said in a low voice, shielding his mouth with a hand in the combatants’ direction, “we can only come down here to help in extreme circumstances, and even so we have only one chance. If we ‘die’ again we can never come back. And Snake, well… to be honest, she can only hold up for about a minute. Then she’s completely drained.”
“Thirty seconds and counting…” Slash grimly snarled, gripping his weapon tightly.
“We’ll handle this!” Lizard grimly said, “you must go help Janus, quickly!”
“Yes, of course…” Schala said.
She hurriedly raised her hands and began mumbling.
“I will stay here, mother,” Schaliya said with a bitter smile, “I have no wish to exist with memories of Glenn’s death.”
“I understand,” the mother whispered, tearing the Gate open and diving in.
Good luck you guys, Crono said before following the blue-haired one, man… did I say that to you?
“Get lost, human!” Ozzie snarled, preparing a new spell as Snake retreated, gasping for air.
Lavos was bleeding from a vast collection of tears and deep cuts apart from the bruises, but not nearly defeated. And by now he was getting close to berserk.
Lucca dove in last, the final thing she saw being Schaliya, Dalton and the monsters attacking Lavos simultaneously. Who’d win was hard to say.
But the inventor would never know as she rushed through time, following her friends to prevent the horrifying bloodshed from occurring.
Chapter 5, Triumph
“Cered!” Schala screeched, tumbling out of the Gate in the middle of the corridor on the upper floor, closely followed by Marle, Crono and Lucca.
Her husband nearly broke out of Ceredan and Janatzer’s room, falling down before Schala and grabbing her trembling shoulders.
“What is wrong, love?” he worriedly demanded.
“Janus, he was lost where I went…” Schala croaked, shivers running through her entire body.
“But he is well here…” Cered said in a soothing voice after a moment of shocked silence.
One thing to give that man, he could control himself almost inhumanly well sometimes.
“We have to help him or Molor will loose!” Marle called, stumbling to her feet.
Ceredan came out of the same room his father had left, still pale and with tears for a dead brother blemishing his young face.
“Schala, get a grip!” Lucca said, trying to calm the woman, “you have to focus!”
“Yes… yes, you’re right…”
Cered gently helped her stand, then the blue-haired woman could walk by herself. They all hurried into Janus and Molor’s room.
Marle let out a shriek and so did Ceredan. Lucca almost fainted, Crono backed in horror, Cered paled and Schala nearly dropped dead.
Eerie, damp light fell through the curtain, giving the whole scene a ghostly glow, like a newly opened tomb.
Janus laid stretched out on his bed unconscious, his face pale as a skull. Molor’s long, black body was wrapped tightly around the warlock in a seemingly deadly trap. Blood lazily trickled down and spread over the blanket, leaking out from the snake’s mouth that almost appeared to be closed over Janus’ right upper arm.
“I… I’m sorry, I forgot…” Schala stammered in a weak voice.
Marle spun around and dived back into the corridor, fighting with all her might not to throw up. She and everyone else had seen a lot of wounds in their days, but just the way that Molor seemed to have bitten off the arm, still holding it in place with his long teeth, was so disgusting that even the warriors’ stomachs wanted to turn.
“The powers bless fate for not bringing Schaliya here…” Cered mumbled in an unsteady voice, quickly turning his son around and pushing Ceredan out of the room.
Assembling the last pieces of mind she could grip Schala stumbled over to the bed and fell to her knees by the horrifying scene.
“I’ll have to help Molor…” she croaked, shaking as she gripped the pendant hanging around her neck.
“Thou art in no shape for this, sunlight!” Cered warned, his warm hands gently grabbing her shoulders.
“I know, but I have to, Cered…”
Whispering calmingly Crono’s ancestor pulled up his wife against his familiar, strong heartbeat.
“Thou musteth assemble the power thou hath first, less we will fall.”
Leaning against her husband Schala took in a few deep breaths, waiting for her pulse to become slower and her head to clear.
Finally she nodded, but Cered still kept his hands on her shoulders to reassure her strength as the woman once again closed her hands around the magical accessory she wore.
“You can’t have him!” she hissed, focusing all her will.
Rays of light from the pendant shot out through the cracks between Schala’s fingers.
Cered gently caught the blue-haired body as it slumped; an empty shell. But the fine fingers kept their grip of the magical jewelry.
Magic slashed through the air and met claws, gigantic hands parried wave upon wave of fire.
For some reason Janus’ protector had taken his dragon form, but he wasn’t larger than a horse. Perhaps it was because of the alien’s grip of the mind the war was waged within.
Molor’s blood-red wings swept out, the claws on their corners cutting into a floating blob each. Lavos growled in pain and raised a hand.
Schala stumbled into the dark world just in time to see her brother powerlessly writhe in pain as a ghostly light flowed out of his hanging form towards the distant combatants.
Molor was thrown backwards and Lavos attacked him with new energy.
“Coward!” the dragon hissed.
“Did you expect me to play fair when I have an expendable source of power?” the parasite smirked.
“Leave him out of this!” Molor roared and lunged at his foe.
Janus’ head slowly swung back and forth, spasms going through his lightly transparent form every now and then. Schala rushed over to him, rather floating than running. Helplessly she gazed up at him; he seemed as unreachable as he had been for her mother and Lizard. He wasn’t slumping on his knees yet, for the moment he was hanging with his arms stretched out. Almost as if he was put on a cross of death. Schala shuddered at the mental image.
“Janus, can you hear me?” she whispered, afraid that Lavos would attack her if she was discovered.
His eyes were closed, a tortured grimace disrupting his face.
Once again he groaned and struggled as yet another dose of light left him.
He turned a little more transparent and sunk a few inches towards the ground…
Schala’s gaze flew to the battle; Lavos was attacking Molor even more furiously, even though the dragon still held his stance he wouldn’t hold out for long if Janus’ life force kept refilling the demon.
“So that’s how…” the princess hissed.
The cry sent shivers through Schala’s soul and she helplessly reached up for Janus.
“I’m here, what’s the matter?” she whispered.
His head wobbled, the grimace growing tortured beyond compare.
“Not Schaliya…” he croaked in a broken voice, “don’t let Schaliya…”
“Janus!” Schala called, forgetting carefulness in her fear, “Schaliya isn’t here! She’s safe! Can you hear me?!”
Slowly Janus’ eyes cracked open and he gazed down at her, only a hint of his red irises visible between the slits.
“We have to do something, have to get you out of reach from Lavos!” she whispered, reaching up.
To her relief she could indeed touch him, but it was like putting a hand against a pile of leaves.
“Can’t move…” he slurred, “too weak…”
“I don’t know anything about these things, Janus!” Schala helplessly croaked, “how can I help you?”
He shook his head; clumsily moving his head from side to side.
“Molor could but… he’s busy,” he muttered, “you… need my power…”
“But you were drained, how…”
“There’s a little left… but I don’t have it…”
“You wait for your turn!” Lavos roared.
Schala spun around, but his force threw her backwards and out before she could parry. With a shriek she sat straight up in Cered’s arms.
“What happened?!” the conscious humans around her shouted in alarm.
“I’m fine, but Molor is loosing…” Schala muttered in a broken voice.
There’s a little left, but I don’t have it…
“What did he mean?” she whispered in confusion, helplessly massaging her forehead.
“How is Janus?” Cered grimly asked.
“Not good… this isn’t my area!”
Schala reached out in despair and grabbed her brother’s slumping shoulders.
“Janus knows how to work minds, I don’t! What did he mean?!” she croaked.
“Mean with what?” Lucca harshly demanded.
“He said we needed his power, that there was a little left but that he didn’t have it. I don’t know what he meant!”
“Schala…” Cered helplessly said.
“What can I do, Janus?!” the blue-haired woman called to the pale, lifeless face before her, oblivious to everyone else.
They all jumped at the mental call, it was lightly said clumsy.
‘What?’ Schala replied, searching for the source of the sound.
‘Canst thee hear me?’ the female voice asked with relief.
‘Lashey?’ Schala said in puzzlement.
‘Yes, ‘tis I. What is happening?’
‘How do you do that?’ Crono quickly cut in, ‘I thought you didn’t know any magic.’
‘So is the truth,’ the empress grimly replied, ‘the power is not mine but from the brooch Janus gave me.’
“The brooch…?” Schala whispered aloud.
She straightened up, wild hope lightning her eyes.
“That’s what he meant!”
‘Lashey, I’m going to teleport you here,’ she called in her thoughts, ‘Janus and Molor are in grave danger, we need that brooch!’
‘Very well, hurry then!’ the empress quickly agreed without a moment’s hesitation.
Schala’s chanting was almost too quick to hear.
Theoretically the teleportation spell didn’t work on people that weren’t in the caster’s closest area, but keeping a firm grip of the mental call Schala managed to establish an anchor.
A swirl of light shot up from the floor in the middle of the room, taking a human form. As she fully appeared Lashey stumbled but managed to keep her balance by grabbing the edge of Janus’ desk.
She was older, of course. It had been seventeen years.
Her once freely falling, black hair was put up in a typical Garadian hairstyle; black silk ribbons and jeweled, golden needles keeping the bundle in place. Instead of the simple red dress she had worn all those years ago she now carried a mostly blue, exaggeratedly designed and embroidered cloth. One could surely read a part of the empire’s history in the folds.
The most notable thing on her face was a bruise on the left side of her head, almost touching the eye. It was seen through four lines in her pale make-up; as if she had torn her fingers over it in rage over the hiding or in despair.
“Here, what canst be done?” she said with a light gasp after the hasty transport.
Almost tearing she ripped her long right sleeve upwards to reveal her hand and the little snake-formed brooch in it. The jewelry was glowing tiredly, almost like Janus’ eyes when he was troubled.
“Molor is fighting an intruding mind for Janus’ soul, but he’s loosing since the demon is absorbing my brother’s power,” Schala quickly explained, “we need to try to help Janus move himself out of reach.”
“How shall we do that?” Lashey asked, walking up to the blue-haired woman’s side.
Strangely, she didn’t seem to shun as much as the others at the sight of the state of snake and warlock. But perhaps she was too determined to help.
“I’ll try to figure out why you can use its power later,” Schala grimly said and took the empress’ hands, “as for now… magic is a great deal of will and imagination of the consequences. I want you to imagine Janus, hanging in a great darkness as if he was crucified on an invisible cross.”
“Very well,” Lashey nodded, closing her eyes with a frown.
“Keep focusing on that,” the princess from Zeal instructed, “we’ll focus our power into the brooch. It’s going to feel warm when we manage. When you feel that, keep concentrating on Janus but add streams of light reaching out for him. That’ll lead our power to him.”
‘Hopefully,’ she silently added.
Lashey just nodded, her frown growing deeper and her hands clutching the brooch. Looking around Schala received determined nods from her friends and family.
They all closed their eyes, concentrating on the brooch.
Its heritage from Janus’ hair and own magic made it a connection to the warlock, stronger than anything anyone else ever could have created. But just sending power to it wouldn’t help, then the force would just stay there. So it was up to Lashey to send it onwards.
Schala could of course have tried to channel the power by herself, it could have been a safer way since she at least had experience with magic. But there was a risk that she wouldn’t be able to invoke the brooch’s power; the empress on the other hand had already proved that she could. Though it was risky, time was running out.
If anyone still had had their eyes opened they would have seen the light that enveloped Lashey’s fine hands and even the edges of her sleeves. Slowly the light began to drip down onto the floor, gracefully slithering up on the bed and there flow into the air to rain down over the human body.
Afraid of loosing their chance none of the humans dared opening their eyes for a stretched handful of seconds, forcing more and more of their strength towards the goal they didn’t even know could be reached.
But all of a sudden they all looked up in surprise, the light faltering to nothingness within a heartbeat. All because of a raspy voice speaking.
“Molor?” Schala, Cered, Ceredan, Lucca, Marle and Crono moaned in defeat, nearly dropping to their knees in the devouring hopelessness.
The black head swayed a little just above Janus’ chest; the snake seemed a bit disoriented.
“Careful,” Lashey gently said, “less thou will crush thyself.”
“Easy for you to say,” Molor’s voice gruffly said.
But there was a softer edge in the words.
Slowly Schala and her allies looked up again.
The snake was very carefully, clumsily unwrapping its body from the human’s.
“This isn’t easy in case you think so,” the hissing voice commented, the cold eyes flicking with concentration.
He gave a short, dry chuckle without much joy.
“Molor was right when he said the human language burns his throat…”
“I had to go somewhere, and this is probably the safest place there is right now,” the warlock in the snake’s body replied, trying to force a faint smile into existence.
His borrowed lips weren’t well suited for it however, and he wasn’t really in the best mood either.
“Thank all the powers you’re alright!” Schala nearly shrieked, wrapping her arms around the black neck.
“Lightly spoken, Schala…” Janus softly said, leaning his black head against her shoulder.
“We thought you were a goner!” Lucca breathed in relief as Ceredan sunk down on his knees to also hug his saved uncle.
“Well, it’s not over yet,” the warlock grimly said, shaking his head, “Molor hasn’t won though he also got power from you.”
He glanced up at Lashey as his nephew let him go.
“Thanks, I suppose,” he said with the gruff voice once again.
The empress gave him a rather strange, somehow knowing smile.
“Now let me try to work this out,” Janus added, a little too quickly.
Nobody commented, wisely, as the warlock carefully moved and finally managed to unwrap his borrowed body from his real one. Somewhat clumsily he slithered down on the floor from the low bed. “Fell” was actually the proper word for it.
“How do you feel?” Schala worriedly asked, putting her hand on his neck.
He shook his head, opening his mouth a bit in a sort of grimace.
“Could be better…” he bitterly muttered, “Lavos fooling me all these years, Molor risking his soul for me and my mouth is full of the taste of my own blood. Ugh…”
Everyone dove to their knees to catch him as he swayed. Keeping his head low instead of at his friends’ knee height Janus grunted a bit.
“I’m just disoriented in this body…” he assured.
“I will bring a little water,” Cered said and hurriedly left the room.
A cold eye tiredly looked up at Schala; Janus wasn’t used to the position of the eyes and turned his whole head to the side to look at her.
“I don’t know what good it’ll do but I think we better seal my body, just in case.”
“I’m not in an idea mood right now, too tired,” Schala sighed and rubbed her forehead, “suggestions please?”
“Usual magic won’t hold him…”
“We’d need something that not even Janus can break, that would be a good start I suppose,” Lucca said.
Schala was silent for a moment. Then she stood, holding up her pendant again.
“Well, it might not hold Lavos but I have something…” she grimly said.
“Heh…” Janus grunted.
“Sorry about this,” the blue-haired woman grimaced before she began muttering in a low voice.
On a final wave with her hand red tentacles swept up from the mattress and clung onto the body’s wrists and ankles.
An old gift from Dalton.
“I don’t know anything stronger than that,” she strengthened her apology.
“I think we should get out of here,” Marle suggested, looking away from the bloodied holes in the warlock’s arm with a shudder.
“Watch out, I can’t really control Molor’s body,” Janus tiredly grunted and tried to slither over the floor.
He managed, but not gracefully. Luckily there was no furniture in his way.
Eventually they made their way into Janatzer’s room. Though being in the same room as a dead body didn’t feel pleasant, leaving him alone felt utterly wrong. And it was the room farthest from the soul battle, at least on the second floor. None trusted Janus to be able to get the new body down the stair without a catastrophe.
During Schala’s absence Cered had wrapped up his dead son in a blanket to make him look a little better. Where the stretcher that Janatzer was lying on had come from, the wife didn’t know but it didn’t matter.
“Oh dear…” Marle mumbled, “I’m sorry.”
Crono and Lucca silently nodded.
“We’ll think of something,” Schala tried to ensure everyone.
But she wasn’t sure at all. Janus had been the only one she knew with enough power and knowledge to perform a resurrection, but now not even their combined power led through him would be enough. The fact that Janatzer had been dead for a while wasn’t helping, speed was important when bringing someone back to life in good shape. She didn’t want to have a zombie as a son.
Cered came into the room, carrying a bucket of water. Non-ceremonially Janus plunged his whole black head into the liquid to seep it up; he was too exhausted, worried and disoriented to care about grace.
After a few seconds the humans began to wonder if he was trying to drown himself, but soon enough he came back up and the bucket was pretty much empty.
“Better?” Cered asked.
“A bit,” Janus muttered and heavily laid on the floor.
To everyone’s surprise he didn’t protest when Lashey sat down and began to dry off the remaining water from his head with her long sleeve.
“I am sorry for what happened,” the empress said in a bitter voice and glanced at Cered and Schala, “I could not stop my husband when he ordered thy son to the front line.”
“It’s not your fault,” the blue-haired woman gently said.
“This might not be the time,” Janus muttered, “but where is Schaliya and Glenn?”
Schala stiffened and looked away, Crono and the women from his hometown stared at the floor.
“Aha,” Janus bitterly grunted, “I see. It was true.”
“What was true?” Schala whispered.
“You heard me scream in there,” her brother grunted, “he was keeping me in the state he desired by showing me what he planned. I had a feeling it could be a vision of a possible future.”
“Lizard and mother… they saved you.”
“They came, did they?”
Janus shook his head a little.
“That I did not see,” he said, “I did see Schaliya come out victorious though, if that’s the word. It was almost too much.”
He somehow managed to grimace a little.
“Can only hope she’ll be alright now.”
“What did she…” Lucca began, but fell silent as she heard a crash from the corridor.
They all stiffened and looked up, staring at the door.
Finally Cered held up a hand and clenched his teeth as he walked over to the exit. He slipped out of the room and closed the door behind him.
For seconds that seemed like ages everything was silent. Then came a blessed familiar voice.
“Damn human legs!”
The door swung open to reveal Cered doing his best to support the heavy, staggering body of Janus. The eyes in the pale face were normal; not engulfed with red light. Rather frustrated though.
“How do you humans manage to walk on these things?” Janus’ voice grunted with a tone belonging to none but Molor.