Part 5 – Fate
I remember the man called Cyrus. I killed him because he stood in my way, and since then, I've asked myself every so often -- was it his fate to die, or my free will to murder him? I fell backward in time and, disguised as a prophet, encountered myself as a child. Had I killed the child, would I cease to exist, and thus, cease to become the person who returned to commit the murder? Will our universe one day end, collapsing back in on itself, and then expand again, only to repeat everything, every life, every event, exactly as it happened before? In that case, those we hate who elude us will elude us always, and those we love who suffer will suffer forevermore. There is much I do not understand, but somehow, after I met this Lucca and her companions, part of me began to rage against fate. That part of me has grown since.
I turned the cat back into a spider, letting them see the transfiguration slowly and carefully. The four children moaned in awe. Kid, in Lucca's arms, screamed in infantile delight. Two pairs of clapping hands surprised me from behind, and I turned to the door.
"Awright, way to go," said Chrono, smiling as he clapped louder. Princess Nadia, clapping with him, shared his expression. "You should do birthday parties full-time," she said. I must confess, the past few years had turned them from a pair of adolescent brats into a very healthy looking married couple.
"Full time?" I asked, unfamiliar with the term, wondering how performing for little urchins like these could possibly affect the timeline. I glanced at Lucca, who's face was a bit heavier than normal. Chrono and the princess sat down across from Lucca, who cleared her throat and pulled a slip of paper from one of her dozens of pockets. "Yeah, well, speaking of that . . . that's what I wanted to talk to you guys about. I visited Robo’s era yesterday . . . it was the first time I’d been there since . . . you know. Take a look at this."
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“Alright, Lucca!” the princess cheered. “You know you’ve practically got the job! So why do you look so depressed?”
“You just answered your own question,” said Lucca, chewing on a writing implement. “As I said, I went there yesterday for the first time since we were all together. Things were…they…well, they just weren’t the same. Not even Robo, though he at least seemed to remember me. It’s like…the future that we all fought to protect, with Doan and his crew all strengthened from their struggle…it doesn’t exist anymore. We gave them hope when we visited them, but now . . . I don’t know. I think we took away that hope by taking away their struggle. By protecting their timeline, by defeating Lavos, I…I think we destroyed it.”
I was none too surprised, though it took a moment of silence and contemplation for everyone else at the table to grasp her words.
“Well, duh,” said Chrono, putting a hand on his forehead. “It’s not like we shouldn’t have seen that coming, I guess. It’s kinda weird, but if you think about it, we also destroyed a shade of ourselves. There’s gotta be plenty of memories we just don’t have anymore. Oh, hey, did I already talk about this?”
Lucca swatted playfully at Chrono, smirking for a moment, then re-burdening her expression. “It’s just…I feel like there’s still something wrong. Maybe worse than before. Maybe something we caused. For one thing, does anyone have any new thoughts about what happened to . . . ?” she looked at me as she trailed off, as did the others. Their sensitive bleeding-heart expressions annoyed me, but somehow, I found strength in them as well.
“She is alive, somewhere dark,” I said, thinking of the dreams I still had, the clues they left me. “All I have been able to discern is that time has no meaning for her, wherever she is. She…may not recognize me, what I’ve become. But don’t waste pity on me. If you wish to help, focus on the solution.”
“I’ve got it!” Lucca cried, slamming the table with her fists. Some of the heaviness was gone from her expression. Chrono and Princess Nadia jumped as one, in their utterly cute fashion. “Sorry, um…but listen. Jan—er, Magus can come and work with me on the Chronopolis. From what I’ve heard about it, when it’s finished it’s supposed to do all kinds of things that even the Epoch can’t do. We should be able to use it to locate Schala. Now, there’s only one problem left. I’m going to need a babysitter—oh wait! I’ve got that solved, too.” She smiled broadly at Chrono and Nadia, who looked behind them in confusion that I knew was false, then slowly turned back. “Come on, guys, it’ll be great practice for you!”
Just then, a cacophony of shouting and scuffling came from one of the adjacent rooms.
“Oh, dear,” said Lucca, rising and running to the noise. We all rose and followed, and I prepared some of my attack magic. At the scene, we found two large humanoid machines with eccentric-looking gloves on their fists, engaged in some form of bizarre combat
“You can’t divide by zero. How stupid are you? We all know that’s fundamentally true,” said the robot in red gloves. The word ‘Gato’ was engraved on his left arm. ‘Gato’ punched the other robot fiercely in the midsection.
The other robot, wearing blue gloves, regained its balance and took a swing at Gato’s head unit. “Of course you can! All it means is you don’t divide by anything. So don’t call me stupid, you algorithmic turkey!”
“Oooh, I’ll teach you to something about algorithms, you derelict dot matrix—“
“WHAT DID YOU CALL ME?!”
“Hey!” Lucca shouted. “Gato, Kilroy, stop it NOW! Is this how you show me that you’re mature enough for me to let your programs run continuously?!”
“Apologies, Madam,” they answered in unison, turning toward us with identical, mechanical motions.
Gato, the red-gloved automaton, seemed to scan me with its eyes. “Hey, it’ll be a long night, wanna fight?” It asked me in a cheerful tone that I found rather haughty and condescending. I unleashed a bolt of lightning into its torso and watched it blow apart. The head fell to the floor and bounced once, then rolled and came to rest. The eyes were still alight.
Everyone was looking at me, with expressions ranging from shock to extreme annoyance. “It challenged me. I defeated it. What is wrong?” I asked.
Suddenly, the decapitated head began to speak. I hadn’t seen such sorcery in some time. “You’re an enthusiastic fellow. Fifteen…silver…points…”
As hard to impress as I am, I am forced to admit The Chronopolis was a magnificent undertaking. Scores, if not hundreds of engineers were on the job, many under the direction of Lucca herself, and because of this, progress came rapidly. I contributed what I could, though my talents extend far more to nature than artificial concoctions. Several times my ineptitude with machinery was proven when I set a console on fire, or neglected to “ground” myself before touching “sensitive equipment”, and as a result passed a veritable lightning storm through the entire main system.
Kid was growing almost as rapidly as the Chronopolis, resembling her more and more. Her still-primitive speech facilities did not enable her to pronounce my name; instead, she came up with her own way of identifying me – “Gil”. I had no idea where she derived that from, but I had little patience for probing the minds of infants. Still, I became increasingly haunted by her familiar features, and thus, more anxious for the Chronopolis to reach completion.
At last came the eve before its ‘grand opening’. “Hey, um…” Lucca mumbled as I followed her back to her house. “I hope you don’t mind me pointing this out, but…your ears…”
I grunted in a questioning tone, resisting the momentary urge to feel them.
“They’re not so pointy anymore. They’re starting to look the way they looked when you were little. And your teeth…well, you know.”
Embarrassed, I pulled my hood up. Returning to the company of humans had apparently worked its way into my psyche, re-shaping my powers to counter the mystics’ effect on my appearance. Though I knew I was human once more, it would take me some time to admit this. “All the worse to eat you with,” I answered. My attempt at humor came out awkward and stilted, and Lucca’s silent frown discouraged me from trying again.
Princess Nadia opened the door quickly just as Lucca began turning the key. Her hair was loose all across her face, and she was wearing Chrono’s shirt. “Hey, Lucca, Magus! Um . . . the kids are all napping. Yeah.”
“Who is it?” Chrono’s sleepy voice asked, as he appeared behind Nadia, wearing clothing that belonged to her. “Oh, uh, hi, yeah. Come in.”
“Thanks for inviting me into my own house, Chrono. You’re such a gentleman,” answered Lucca, walking inside. I followed, still confused about this strange ritual of wardrobe.
“Hey, don’t worry, they were really well behaved,” said Chrono. “Especially Kid, she’s a two-year-old lady. She even got into her PJs by herself and curtsied before we tucked her in. Right, Marle?”
“MM-hmm,” said Nadia, wrapping her arms around Chrono, who returned the embrace. This looked quite awkward in their mismatched attire. “I hope we have a little lady of our own like that some day, mmm?”
“Eh, we just might have one already,” answered Chrono with a wink.
“Come on, guys,” Lucca’s annoyance was clearly growing by the moment. “We have a big day tomorrow.” Her expression changed, some of the annoyance giving way to excitement. “.Jeremiah’s the oldest, he can watch the other children. There’s no way I’m opening the Chronopolis without my two best friends at my side!”
“As if we’d letcha? Hey, Marle, how about another honeymoon? We’ll be able to go anywhere in that thing, I’m betting. Even somewhere prehistoric if we--”
“Noo thank you!” the princess cut him off. Looking back at his suggestion after everything that happened, the irony was unsettling. “A honeymoon is fine, sweety, but I pick the place this time.”
“And I suppose you didn’t pick when I chased after you all the way to the middle ages?”
“What?! You know that was an accid—“
Lucca cleared her throat, cutting them both off. “Maybe I’ll go on vacation myself while you two fight over where to send me. That might just be simpler.” The more I listened to them, the more alone I felt, and the more I wondered if I might have been closer to them in another time, another place, another life.
Later that night as I was heading for the door, hoping nobody would notice me in time to bid me good night, I came across Kid. She was standing rather still, as if she were waiting for someone to tell her what to do. I stood silently for a moment, watching her watch me. I wondered, as I had many times before, where she came from, where she was headed in this world, why she was here, why she wore Schala’s features so exactly. It was almost as if…no, I wouldn’t believe it. “Do you recognize me at all?” I heard myself whisper.
“Gillll,” the child-Schala said through a broad, oblivious smile.
I felt foolish. “Ah…well. Why are you walking around? This is no hour for children.”
“I ad o bad dweam,” she said.
“Well, if you’re anything like me, you will get used to them. Go back to bed.”
“I don wan nu go back by myself.”
I hesitated, then I let her take my hand and lead me back to her bedroom. With me standing next to her, she tucked herself back under her sheets and yawned peacefully. I turned to go. “Gill,” she called.
“Tell me a stowy.”
Slowly, I turned back and walked beside her. I knelt, studying her face, wondering if this had truly been Schala at her infancy. After a few long moments, I cleared my throat. “Once upon a time, there was a girl very much like you. This girl lived in a wondrous kingdom called Zeal, a kingdom that floated in the sky with the birds. And she was a princess…”
“A pwincess! I’m a pwincess!”
I felt a trace of longing, followed by sorrow. “That you are. This girl… she was the gentlest creature ever to live. Her heart was so big that even the meanest, most terrible people were kind to her. Only two people hated her – a beast named Dalton, and her pathetic wretch of a mother…” I paused, wondering if I should be filling such an innocent head with such negative thoughts. “But we won’t talk about them. We will just talk about the girl, okay?”
Kid moaned contentedly, holding a stuffed bear over her face.
“Her name was Schala, and she had a baby brother named Janus, who she played with all the time. Only they could truly understand each other. Janus and Schala had three godfathers -- three very special men with very special powers. Their names were Gaspar, Belthasar and Melchior. They--”
I stopped at the sound of Kid’s quiet snoring. I waited a few more minutes, watching her sleep, remembering Schala when she came to my room to calm me down after my own nightmares, sleeping just like that. Finally, I stood quietly and walked out.
On my way to the front door, I caught pieces of an intense conversation between Chrono and Lucca. Unable to help my curiosity, I rode the shadows until I was near enough to hear what they were saying.
“Why are you talking about this now?” Lucca’s voice. “Of course I would take care of Marle, but . . . but . . .Chrono, what’s wrong? Oh, don’t tell me you still don’t have faith in my inventions! Besides, I didn’t build the whole thing…”
“It’s not that. It’s… I dunno,” Chrono answered in a tired, drained voice. “It’s just, ever since the time you guys say you saved me, I haven’t felt right. I’ve felt almost like a ghost, or an empty shell, or just someone who doesn’t belong anymore. It’s hard to explain, I know.”
“No… I think I understand… Chrono, when people brush with death, strange things happen to them. There are accounts all throughout history of people feeling what you’re feeling.”
“No, it’s not like what I’m feeling. Trust me, Luke, this is different. My life didn’t flash before my eyes . . . well, it did, kinda, but I think it was something deeper than what you’re thinking of. I just have this feeling… I think something’s going to happen tomorrow with that Chronopolis. And I think… I think I may not survive. I may end up dead, like I’m supposed to be.”
“Stop that, Chrono! Stop talking like that!”
“Shhh, quiet, Luke, you’ll wake the little guys up…”
The conversation stopped. A quiet, barely audible sobbing soon took its place. I thought to make haste, almost terrified that, were I discovered, I would be asked for advice of some sort. So I parted from my hiding place and continued on my way out, but just then, Lucca came out of the room and crossed directly into my path. “Oh…um, were you listening?”
“I don’t know what to tell you.” Then, as I studied her expression, I felt like I understood more about humans than I ever had before that moment. “You…you have feelings for him, don’t you? Despite his marriage to Princess Nadia?”
Slowly, Lucca nodded.
“Then you’d best keep an eye him when danger comes, and if all else fails, honor him however you can,” I said, before my legs carried me out of the house.
What transpired after that evening is not for me to tell; the story of the “Time Crash” and events surrounding it are for more worthy voices, voices closer to the victims than my own. I will mention only that which is plain truth by now – that Chrono’s intuition about his fate was neither random, nor inconsequential.
Years later, I visited his grave, located in his mother’s old yard, with Kid, Lucca and Princess Nadia. Kid wore a small black dress and acted like a lady thrice her age, while Lucca wore her usual attire and carried a bushel of roses.
“Might I hold them?” asked Kid, stretching her arm out without waiting for an answer.
Lucca smiled sadly. “Uh-uh. Last time you crushed them, remember?” I found it astounding how she retained the cheerful edge to her voice, considering all that had happened to those she had loved.
“But sis, I know how to hold them right now!”
“No, you don’t. You’re a lady in every way except your touch, Kiddo. And that ‘touch’ is only getting worse. Aunt Marle will have to give you lessons,…though, on second thought…”
The princess remained silent, as she had been all throughout the day. Her pendant, much like Kid’s and Schala’s, circled her neck with a protective will of its own. “He’s not really gone, he’s right here. Silly,” she sometimes said about Chrono, grasping the pendant, not addressing anyone in particular. But that was all she would say about him. “He’s right here, silly…right here…”
Lucca carefully lowered the flowers by Chrono’s tombstone. I habitually, silently, read the engraving, “Here lies Chrono. For a time, he conquered his own fate, but alas, everything comes full circle.”
“When I first met him,” said Lucca, “he’d wandered into our yard and picked up one of my favorite toy robots, and started playing with it. It was a bit glitchy, and he must have stuck his finger in a bad spot or something. His hair shot up all over the place, I don’t think it was ever the same afterward. Smoke started coming out of his ears. ‘Did I die?’, he asked me. And I told him, ‘I don’t know’, because we were both too little to really know what it meant.”
The princess chuckled slightly, the first sound she’d made all day. “The first time I met him, we knocked into each other so hard that I really was swept off my feet. I told him I didn’t know the place well, and he graciously offered to escort me around. We had fun pretending he was kidnapping me, until some of the court got the wrong idea. He was the softest boy I’d ever met – I watched him bring a little girl’s cat back to her. He was always bringing home strays and taking care of them. It drove his mother crazy.”
“Indeed. Even Alfador took to him, somehow,” I said. I was lost as to what else I could, or should offer in the way of eulogy. Finally, I added “I have little right to be here. I hardly knew him as well as the rest of you. But I do know that he was a worthy opponent, and a worthier ally.”
Kid knelt by the tombstone and lowered her head. “I don’t remember you too well, uncle Chrono. But I know you were a good man because my big sis and Gil and Aunt Marle say so. I hope you sleeping well and don’t have too many bad dreams.”
Lucca put a hand on the back of Kid’s head. “The term is ‘rest in peace’, Kiddo. Now let’s all say it together.”
“Rest in peace,” we spoke in unison. As we parted, my loneliness was hardly new. But for the first time, though I was loath to admit it, came a new reason behind the feeling: I knew no such people would stand over my grave, or say such things, in such voices. I knew that many would walk over it, but few would look down.
Masamune No More II
When Lucca disappeared, I kept two promises I had agreed to uphold, should anything happen to her. The first was to watch over Kid, which I was better able to perform from a distance, without her knowledge. She had always been a self sufficient girl, and often I felt my continuous presence would stunt her development rather than aid it. Thus, I watched her from afar, keeping her out of trouble when her increasingly unpredictable personality led her into tavern brawls, dangerous thrills or being chased by the local watch. This confused me, as I knew Schala had always been quiet, unassuming and obedient to a fault.
Perhaps Kid’s transformation was a result of what happened to Lucca, or perhaps individual humans have more free will than I’d previously thought. The influence of environment in shaping one’s soul became all too clear as I compared Schala and Kid. At one point, I wondered what I might have become, had Lavos not ruined my life. A scholar of Enhasa? A priest, dare I speculate?
The second promise I made more grudgingly, though I knew that my own annoying conscience might have demanded it in the future, if Lucca hadn't. This involved using the remnants of Lucca’s technology to travel back to the period that made me what I am today, and “make my peace” with Glenn, who she had continued to visit on semi-regular occasions. I had wanted to argue that there was no peace to be made, certainly none belonging to me, but my tongue somehow betrayed me. I was trapped by an unfortunate weakness to carry out even this wish.
I contemplated looking for Ozzie, until I heard news that his fortress had collapsed, and that he had been arrested by Guardian authorities for a host of crimes: laundering, embezzlement, attempted extortion, invading private homes by sliding down chimneys, attempted kidnapping, and public intoxication. I shook my head, wondering that such a buffoon had ever managed to consider himself my guardian. Flea, I had heard, joined a traveling carnival and Slash had fled to a remote archipelago to offer his services as a mercenary.
As planned, I met him on a hill that overlooked the castle just before the woods. His back faced me, and he rested the Masamune on its tip. I could see the sword's aura already beginning to lose its positive glow. His hair was green as the skin of his former amphibian identity, a leftover signature of my magic.
“'Tis thou,” he said without turning. I was surprised, since few are capable of detecting my approach before I choose to announce myself.
“Drop the olde worlde. You may fool your old acquaintances with it, but I'm not half so naïve.
He turned toward me slowly. His face, for the first time, reminded me of my own. “As you wish. So then. Why are you here?”
Speaking at that moment exercised my will greater than controlling the Black Wind. “I . . . don't usually apologize for actions against an enemy in combat. But you and your friend . . . deserved a fairer chance.”
“My 'friend' has a name. Cyrus.” He spat. “And no thanks to you, he rests more peacefully than you ever will.”
“How true,” I answered, “But it seems you have more issues with 'peace' than I. Or don't you remember your own words? That vanquishing me won't bring him back?”
“Never question my memory of you trampling my life,” said Glenn. “I know you went through your own pain. But what right does that give you to inflict it on others?” As he spoke, his voice grew louder, and the Masamune flashed ominously. “I suppose all I have left to ask is 'Why'?”
“I . . . ” I almost felt the shame he wanted me to feel, almost made the weak excuse, but a sudden surge of anger stopped me. Tears were streaming down his cheeks. This man, one of the three who had bested me in fair combat, was actually crying. One who cried over something so old and far behind could only be a weakling. “You were in my way. What happened was unfortunate, but your dear Cyrus did make the first move. The strong crush the weak. That's how this world works. If you haven't accepted that by now, I've got nothing more to say.”
With that, I walked away before I could do further damage, as my anger was neither cooling nor abating. Only a moment passed before a hateful scream cut through the afternoon air, ripping toward me. I whipped around, just as Glenn came rushing at me, leaping forward and swinging the Masamune in a straight vertical arc, as if to cut me down the middle. Quickly, I brought my hands together and caught the Masamune by the flat of the blade.
The naked fury and resentment that passed between us scared even myself, and I still don't know how I managed to break my grip and turn back around, nor did I know why I was so certain that he wouldn't attack again. Retreat, in this case, was thus both one of my bravest and one of my most cowardly deeds. I did not look back; I felt his eyes burning through me, felt the heat of the Masamune feeding on his negative emotions that would only spiral further downward.
When I knew that I was out of range, that it was too late, I turned back for a moment. I wanted to destroy something, anything, even myself, especially myself. But that would break my first promise to Lucca. Damn that Frog, and his fool Cyrus, for being so weak, falling so easily.
I continued on my way, feeling heavier than I'd felt in a long time. Along with clearing my conscience, I had hoped to stave off the growing darkness within the Masamune. Instead, I made it come to pass. Once more, I was reminded how opposite my nature was to Schala's: she brought life to those who had so very little, I brought death to those who strove for so very much. Forgive me, Lucca, Schala. Forgive me, for the reaper is only a step behind me.
I once stated that nothing could prepare me for witnessing the destruction of my own kingdom from the outside, moments after the point in time when, as a boy, I was transported over twelve thousand years into the future. By the same token, nothing will ever prepare me for returning to the remnants of that destruction, and certainly, nothing could have prepared me for what was to come.
I walked along the last remaining village, which was slowly becoming a small city. It didn't take me long to chance across one of the old palace maids, most likely the only one who had survived Zeal's collapse. I stepped in front of her, wasting no time with dramatic reunion protocols. “Where is she?” I demanded.
The woman, now approaching middle age, took several lingering moments before her face went as pale as the surrounding snow with recognition. “J--Janus? Oh . . . oh my goodness . . . ”
I stepped closer, standing to my full height. “Where. Is. She.”
“Wh . . . who . . . .?”
“Take a good look around. If that fails to clue you in, so will anything I tell you.”
The woman took a long time to process my words, still transfixed at my return, but her face eventually grew heavy with understanding. “Ahh. Keep going for a few more houses, then turn left. You can't miss the place. You'll see it when you come to it.”
I found the shelter as easily as promised. Ironically, it was the darkest, most dilapidated structure in this primitive shadow of our old kingdom. I watched a young man, most likely her delivery boy, make a hasty exit. I scowled at him, and he doubled his pace. Too many fools like this believe themselves noble and charitable, not questioning the past of the old, decrepit people they serve.
I threw the door open. Two more of her caretakers moved to stop me until I showed them some fire. She was lying in a crude bed, and in the lantern light, she looked so old and pathetic, like a sad old dog that was tired from the air it breathed, that my heart almost went out to her. Almost.
I moved in close, deliberately blocking her light. “I'm glad to see you alive and miserable. Death would have been too kind.”
“Dalton . . .” the old crone mumbled, her voice a collection of tired scrapes. “Is that you? I think you may not be . . . right for the job. I made a mistake. You . . . you aren't . . . aide material. I'm very sorry, Dalton . . .”
My jaw dropped. Of course. Had I really expected her to recover any crumb of sanity after becoming Lavos's little finger? Her many years in this life would have been enough to erode her mental structure. “Well, I'm afraid you're just not mother material. Are you, mother?”
“Don't . . . tell me how to raise my child, Melchior,” she croaked. “Lavos will be her future. She will rule a great kingdom, with a greater power than I ever--”
“YOU HAVE TWO CHILDREN!!” I bellowed, no longer able to restrain myself. “AND YOU DESTROYED THEM BOTH!!”
I removed my amulet, dangling it before her milky eyes, letting it break through the psychological walls behind which she was hiding. I knelt down close to her face, though it disgusted me. Her nose was a collage of boils, warts and pimples, all of various sizes. “Remember this?! It belonged to your daughter. She gave it to your son, before you threw them both to the four winds! And then, when he came back, you tried to murder him, but he was too smart for an old wretch like you! And now, here he stands! Tell me, dear mother, would you like to try again? What will you do this time, obliterate the planet itself? Knowing you, you would survive yet again, maybe migrate to another world and destroy that, too. Maybe you really are Lavos! Or maybe you two just had so much in common, your union was a match made in the heavens!”
I watched her quivering face, so sad, so vulnerable. My anger was released, and I began to cool. Perhaps for the first time ever, I saw her as a victim. It was not merely my memory of Schala telling me not to hate our mother, it was my own pity. Perhaps even my own sympathy, my realization that I was not entirely unlike Schala. Not in every respect.
“J. . . Jan . . . Janus . . .” she finally whispered.
“Glad you remembered my name,” I answered bitterly. “I thought perhaps Lavos named me, and you would lose all memory of me with its destruction.”
“Lavos . . . controlled my actions, my words, but not . . . not . . . oh . . . it was awful, Janus. To watch, to remain conscious, as . . . as some evil spirit uses you for its toy . . . speaks with your mouth, gestures with your arms, kills with your power . . . even raises your own children . . .”
For the next few minutes we were both silent, as I realized that before me, between myself and this old woman, remained the last connection to yet another treasure that Lavos had stolen from me. A normal family relationship. “Mother . . . I helped destroy Lavos. I did.” For that moment, speaking those words, I was a boy once more.
“No . . . no, Janus . . . I am proud, my boy, of your efforts . . . but no . . . I felt his thoughts, as they slipped away from me . . . Lavos still lives, somewhere, somewhen. He . . . he is become . . . the time devourer. And your sister . . . has become part of him. Find him . . . and you will find her.”
Part of me never believed it, despite my dreams, until the moment I saw her again. I had followed 'Kid' to a remote island beach, though I knew she was many steps ahead of me.
At first I thought I'd caught up with her, watching her from behind as she walked along the shoreline. I wondered why she walked so dazedly, so delicately, why her hair was down and loose. “I found you,” I called out. “Who have you been terror--”
As she turned, the maturity of her features confused me, the truth not yet having clicked so neatly into place. “Janus?” she asked, her voice too soft, too uncertain. I frowned. Kid had never once called me my birthname. “Janus . . . you're so tall.”
Truth felt like a very pleasant blow to the stomach. I heard myself gasp, and the next I remember, she was in my arms, or more accurately, I was in hers, a small boy once more. My cheeks were wet, as were hers. The first words she'd said to me in decades echoed in my mind, over and over. “Janus . . . you're so tall.”
We stood there for what seemed like hours, trying desperately to fill in all the missing years, though it was me who did most of the talking. “I'm sorry,” I kept telling her. “I'm sorry . . .” Sorry for not being her, for gaining my strength through misery and suffering and darkness, for not living up to her wishes. But she would only answer “Oh, stop that, Janus. If I've learned anything by living as part of that beast, it's that I'm not always as snow white as I believed. There were times when I, too, wanted to destroy . . . times when I understood our mother, even at her darkest.”
“Speaking of mother,” I said, “It's not so easy for me to travel back anymore. Our friend Lucca has been missing for years. If we combined our powers . . . do you think we could . . .”
“Go home,” we said together.
Mother had not long to live. She might have struggled longer if her needs had continued to go unfulfilled, but when her eyes met Schala's, a brightness returned to both of their faces, infecting me as well. I saw, then, that our mother had saved her last hour on this planet for something special. Still, I doubt even she expected this.
The three of us – Schala, mother, myself – held hands, for the first time, taking what Lavos had denied us all our lives. “This is our hour,” said mother.
“This is our hour,” Schala repeated.
“This is our hour,” I followed.
All of us said it together, “This is our hour.”
author's note: This project took me three years of random inspirational spurts to complete. As you can hopefully see, it was quite a labor of love. Telling the story of Janus/Magus/Magil/Gil was easily as fulfilling as some of my original works, if not more so. Unfortunately, fan fiction hardly advances one's career as a writer, and thus, since I'm hard pressed to survive in the real world, this will most likely be my last. I'm happy to say that within the last year, I've become a published author, and now it's not only my deepest ambition to advance my career from small press to pro, it's my obligation. So who knows, maybe one day you'll see me on the shelves of your local B&N.