Part II


Chapter 30: The Performance


The ball room was elegantly decorated, with gold curtains, large windows, a marble floor, and a large wooden stage where an entire 200-member orchestra crowded together to play some kind of dance tune.

"If you will excuse me," said Soma, "I have some business to attend to. Please, enjoy yourself." He then ran off before anyone could say anything else.


Catherine slipped her way into a typical noble-class coversasion with some snobbish ladies. Crono watched the whole party from the back, in-between shoving crackers and sweet bread into his mouth. Dion tried some of the food, but found it to be completely and utterly disgusting.

Then the music stopped. A cloaked man walked onto the stage. "Greetings, dear noblemen of Porre," he said. "My name is Dronima!" A series of whispers erupted right after he said his name. Dion quickly began to hear and understand every single one of them simultaniously. Some were calling him a talented performer from the north, others were calling him a mad sorcerer and a source of great evil.

Dronima raised his right hand. A series of mutli-colored balls of light began to fly above him. They then rose to the ceiling and split into a dozen rotating balls of light. Everyone began to clap, even those that were skeptical at first. Dion, however, didn't move. This was a simple parlor trick; even that talentless prince knew how to do something like that.

For nearly a half-hour, Dronima continued his tricks, although each of them did not rise among the level of parlor tricks. Finally, he bowed to the crowd.

"I thank you for your time," he said. Dion then sensed something was very wrong with this. He looked up, and saw that the balls of light were beginning to fluctuate and spin faster.

"But now," said Dronima, "I must say, adieu." He then dissapeared in a puff of smoke, leaving the balls of light still floating in the air.

Dion now realized what this magic was. He had to kill Lord Kei and get out...before the entire palace was blown apart.


Chapter 31: The Truth

The party continued as normal, with nobody suspecting that anything was wrong. Dion, Crono and Catherine stayed in the back, keeping their eyes on what was going on. Finally, a tall, gauntly man with black eyes, a black cloak, and pale hands walked onto the stage.

"I thank you all for coming," he said. "My fiance, however, wishes to have the actual ceremony in the comfort of her chambers. Worry not, though; we shall return in half an hour!" He then walked away, to the general disbelief of the crowd.

"This makes things harder," said Dion.

"Don't worry," whispered a familiar voice. The three turned, and saw Soma standing behind them. "I have a secret way up to her room. Follow me."


They made their way through a small terrace on the side of the castle to the second floor. They snuck through a hallway, then hid behind a corner right next to the door to Lord Kei's room. "My mother's chambers are just ahead," said Soma. "Her fiance should be in there by now. We'll have to kill him, and the priest as well, if he's inside the room. Okay, let's go!"

They charged to the door and tore it open. The man was inside, along with Lord Kei. The man's face was flushed with anger; the woman, on the other hand, showed no feeling. The priest was fortunately not there yet.

"What the hell are you doing here?" shouted the man. "You must die!"

"You will not marry mother!" shouted Soma.

"My son," said Kei, "please forgive us. We love each other, and if you cannot accept that, then I am afraid you cannot live."

Dion then saw something shining under Kei. He also felt nothing in her mind. Then it finally dawned on him. He raised his sword, then brought it down on Kei.

"WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?" shouted Soma. Then they saw Kei begin to blur, then stretch, then finally dissapear. Dion pulled his sword out of the ground, revealing a round, flat, sparking device stuck to the blade. The man growled.

"Check around," said Dion. "I have a feeling that the real Lord Kei is nearby." They began to tear around the room, until Soma opened Kei's private cabinet...and found a decomposing body, a jade dagger stuck into her chest. Soma then recognized the dress the body was wearing.

"Mother!" he shouted. He fell onto his knees and began to bawl his eyes out. Crono held his sword to the man's throat, while Catherine stayed back.

"What happened to her?" growled Crono.

"She refused to share power," said the man. "Finally, I took action. You cannot blame me for wanting to make Porre the greatest empire of them all."

"Listen, fucker," said Crono, "your plans for an 'empire' have cost me everything: my wife, my child, my entire life. I usually don't give in to killing easily, but I could gut you right now and not feel a single pang of remorse."

"Oh, really?" asked the man. "I'm sorry, but my battle is not with you, or Prince Soma. It's with him." He then pointed to Dion and threw a flash bomb. Crono backed away, covering his eyes. The man ran to the balcony and climbed to the roof. Dion ran after him.

Soma looked back at his mother's body. "Mother," he said, "I will kill him for you. He must die for this." He then unsheathed his sword and ran after Dion.

Crono growled. "He is the cause of all the pain and grief this world has suffered. I'll make sure he dies...for Marle." He then raised his sword and ran after Soma.

"Everyone else has ran off," said Catherine, running after Crono. "I guess I should make sure my little boy doesn't get hurt.


32: The Peace

The man ran until he reached the end of the roof. He turned, and saw the others running after him.

"Okay, bastards," he said. "I guess I have to kill you."

"Big words coming from a coward," said Dion. "You'd be better off jumping off the roof."

"I'll kill you for this!" shouted Soma. "Mother's death shall not be forgotten!"

"For Guardia, I will kill you!" shouted Crono.

"Get over yourselves!" said the man. "Do you have any idea who I am? Have you ever heard of the Shade?"

Soma's eyes lit up. "The Shade? The one that betrayed my grandparents and tried to stage a revolution? I thought you were..."

"Dead?" asked the Shade. "Fool! Do you have any idea how powerful I am? Now, stand away from me. I intend to destroy Dion first!"

"If death is what you seek," said Dion, "I will not deny you." He then charged at Shade, who raised a black-bladed sword. The two weapons collided, creating a shower of sparks. Shade then kicked Dion back and tried to skewer him, but Dion twisted to the side and slashed. Shade ducked, and punched Dion in the chest.

Dion moved back and kicked Shade right in the face. Shade backed away, then tripped Dion using one sweep. He then raised his sword.

Crono suddenly jumped forward and stabbed Shade through the back with a beautiful, rainbow-colored sword. Shade, however, grabbed his throat and threw him against the ground. However, Dion then noticed something wierd about the blood; there was a hint of green in it.

Dion kicked Shade off of him, then slashed Shade along the top of his chest while he was recoiling. Shade gasped, then fell to the ground, blood pouring out of practically every pore.

"You...think you have won," he said. "But...I will win. The mage...has arranged...the destruction...of the palace...He kill much...Farewell..." He then stopped breathing completely.

"Everyone," said Dion, "let's get out of here." He pulled Crono's sword out of the Shade's body and jumped off the roof. Soma and Catherine followed, but suddenly, a bunch of guards ran up to the roof and attacked Crono.

"You idiot!" shouted Dion. "Get the hell down from there!"

"Just run!" shouted Crono, between slaying guards with his backup sword. "I'll catch up!" Catherine froze, but Soma grabbed her shoulder and pulled her along. When they were ten yards away, the entire palace exploded.

(to be continued)


Chapter 33: The Discovery

The group continued to run into the forest. They ran into trees, tripped over weeds, and fell into things unmenionable. Finally, they managed to get seperated in the thick trees. Dion sighed, drew his sword, and began to explore the forest further.

A strange smell, though, drew him to the east. Eventually, he reached a thick patch of vines, which he sliced apart with his sword. On the other side was a small swamp. On an island on the other side was a strange, metallic building.

Dion held his nose, cursing his highly-developed senses, and began to sink his legs into the deep swamp water. Then he felt something move by his leg, and jumped back out just as a monstrous, tentacled monster jumped out of the water. He sliced it in half with his sword and kicked the corpse back into the water, and saw a flurry of similar monstrosities converge on it, tearing it apart.

Then he heard a voice speak to him. "Dion...use me..." He looked into the water, and saw a small fountain of clear water spout out of the muck. It then toppled down and hardened, creating a bridge to the island. Dion thanked the water elemental, then crossed.

He pushed against the rusted metal door, but didn't find any way to open it. He slipped his sword into the crack between the wall and the door and pushed against it. The door finally snapped open, but his sword simultaniously snapped in half. Dion cursed the shoddy craftsmanship of the weapon, then threw the hilt into the water.

The inside of the building was just as bleak as the outside. The walls were covered with rust, the roof was covered with rust, and the floor was covered with a moldy carpet. A spear was mounted on the wall, which Dion gladly took. He then walked into the next room.

This room was much smaller, and contained only a few half-stocked bookshelves. Dion looked through the books, but found only a few scientific studies and junk like that. However, one exerpt from a book entitled "Red Star, Ultimate Death" caught his eye:

"The Red Star crashed into the earth in ancient times, destroying entire cultures and civilizations and bringing several millenia of disaster upon the world. It is said that if a part of this star is brought into contact with a person, it can bring incredible power to them, making them the ultimate beings. However, while a few fragments have been found, any prolonged contact to them results in a painful death. However, if someone is exposed constatly to this from childhood, then it could be possible that..."

The rest of the book was faded beyond reading. Dion put the book back on the shelf, then noticed a bust on one of the shelves. Strangely, no dust had settled on it, indicating that it had been used heavily. He pushed the bust's head, and a bookshelf slid aside, revealing a secret stairway.

Dion followed the steps down, until he reached another room. He opened the door, only to get beaned by something in the head. He looked down...and saw a small girl looking at him.


Chapter 34: The Child

The girl looked at Dion puzzledly, trying to figure out what was going on. Dion sighed, then thrusted the ball back into her hands. She quickly began to back away.

"What's a girl doing here?" asked Dion.

" my home," said the girl. "The d-d-doctor says I should stay away from bad people."

"What doctor?" asked Dion.

The girl began to shrink against the wall. "You're a bad person, aren't you? Go away."

Dion entered the room. It was quite small, with a metal floor and ceiling, as well as metal walls. A small bed, made out of rotten wood and covered with torn cloth, was set in one corner, as well as a collection of toys and dolls. Finally, an old rug was situated in the middle of the room.

"I won't hurt you," said Dion. "Tell me, who is this doctor?"

"D-d-doctor Marxen," said the girl. "He works for P-P-Porre. He wants me to help him with an experiment. Please go away."

Dion's eyes narrowed; he could tell that something was very wrong here. "What experiment is this?"

"He wants to h-h-help me," said the girl. "He wants to make me b-b-better. Go away, please."

Dion sighed. "Fine, I'll leave, but I don't trust this doctor. You'd better go with me."

"No!" shouted the girl. "I like the doctor! Go away!"

Finally, Dion gave up. He left the room and continued down the hallway, until he reached a large set of double doors at the end. When he pushed them open, he saw a large room filled with various tubes, chemicals, and equipment. A large computer was connected by various wires to several round cells, as well as a large red rock.

"What the hell is this?" muttered Dion. Then he heard footsteps approaching from behind. He closed the doors and ducked behind a desk. The footsteps became progressively louder, until they stopped suddenly. After a few minutes, they began again, but this time faded off. When it was finally safe, Dion left his hiding space and returned to the child's room.

It was now empty. Sighing, Dion left the house and walked back across the swamp. Standing at the other end was Catherine and Soma.

"What took you so long?" asked Soma. "I've found a way out. Follow me." He raised his sword and began to chop through the foliage, until they finally found themselves back out of the swamp. Two horses were waiting for them.

"I'll be returning to Porre now," said Soma. "My mother's dead, and the people need guidance. You two should return to Guardia and meet with the last leader of the resistance, Lucca. Tell her that the battle's over." He mounted a horse and rode off towards Porre, while Dion mounted the other horse.

"Wait a second!" shouted Catherine. "How do I get back?"

"Get on the back," said Dion.

"No way!" shouted Catherine. "I'm not riding with you!"

"Fine, then walk," said Dion. He began to raise the reins, but Catherine finally sighed.

"Okay, you win," she said. "Help me up." Dion grabbed her arm and threw her onto the back of the horse. He then snapped the reins, and the horse galloped off toward Guardia.


Chapter 35: The Orphans

Dion and Catherine moved at breakneck speed toward Guardia. Already, the scars were beginning to heal; what was once ruined and bloodied land was now beginning to show signs of healing. It was like a great shadow had been lifted from the land.

Finally, they stopped at what was left of a town. "Dear God," said Catherine, "what happened here?"

"It's customary to burn the enemy town," said Dion, rather sarcastically. "It helps to keep resistance down. Well, it didn't seem to work so well this time."

They dismounted the horse, which rocketed off before Dion could tether it. He cursed briefly, then followed Catherine into one of the ruined houses. As he saw her face change to one of despair, he realized that this was once her house.

She examined one of the broken chairs, then a smashed cup. "This was his seat," she said. "And this was...his favorite cup..." She quickly broke down crying. Dion sighed, then stepped outside.

The outside was unusually quiet. The sun was already setting again; time seemed to have melted during their near-death experience. The resistance was nowhere to be seen. It was like all life had vanished from the world.

Then he heard a voice shout, "Come on! We have to get back before dark!" He grabbed the still-sobbing Catherine and dragged her to the source of the voices: the cave the resistance seemed to be hiding in.

An assortment of men, women and children were melted into a huge party. This puzzled Dion, since there were no children when he was last there. There was cheering, laughing, and various other happy emotions. Finally, most of the people left. Only a few children and a young, purple-haired teenager were left.

"Okay, children," said the teenager, "we should be going back." The children seemed to have been crying for quite a while; they were now in the middle of dry heaves.

"Excuse me," said Catherine, "but what's going on here?"

The teenager turned to Catherine. "I'm sorry," she said, "but do you see your child here?" The children looked at Catherine dejectedly.

"I'm sorry," said Catherine, "but none of them are mine."

The teenager frowned, then looked at Catherine much more closely. "Are you...Crono's mom?" she asked.

Catherine raised an eyebrow. "You knew my son?"

"Dear God..." said the teenager. "You're back...we looked forever, but couldn't find you."

Recognition suddenly flushed over Catherine's face. "Lucca?"

"The one and only!" said the teenager. "Man, Crono must have been so glad to see you! Where is he, anyway?"

"He's dead," said Dion. "He died finishing off Porre."

Lucca looked at the ground. "I...see," she sighed. "Well, I knew he would die eventually, with the way he was living."

"What is this?" asked Catherine.

"With the war going on, Crono and Marle decided to get the children out of here," said Lucca. "I took them in at my house for the time being. I guess a few of their parents didn't make it."

"So, now what?" asked Dion. "Are you just gonna dump them?"

"Hell no!" said Lucca. "Man, what kind of world did you come from?"

"Zeal," said Dion.

"O-kay," said Lucca. "That...explains a lot. Anyway, I'll take them back home for now. I hope we can find a better home for them soon. Children, let's go!" She walked off, the children following single-file behind her.

"Well, we have nothing better to do," said Catherine. "We might as well follow him." Dion and Catherine then made their way behind the children.


Chapter 36: The Chat

The long procession continued down the faded roads and passages, until they reached a large, two-storied house nestled between a good deal of trees and water. The paint had long since faded, leaving the exterior a dull brown. Various toys and playthings were scattered on the ground outside, further ruining the house's appearance.

The children ran off ahead, except for a small blonde child. "Come on, kid," said Dion, passing by her. "I already have the urge to kill you, so keep moving."

"How'd you know my name?" said the child.

"Wait a second," said Catherine. "Her name is Kid?"

"Well, yes," said Lucca. "She's been here since she was a baby. We don't even know where she came from. Now, be a good girl and go inside, Kid." Finally, the child listened and ran inside. Dion moved his hand away from his spear.


The children continued to run around, screaming, laughing, and getting their noses into places they didn't belong. Kid, however, just hanged around in a corner by herself; nobody even approached her.

Dion, Catherine and Lucca sat down at a small table upstairs, in a room the children were apprantly not allowed to enter. "It's nice to see you again," said Lucca, looking at Catherine only. "We couldn't find you anywhere, so we just gave up."

"It's nice to see how concerned my son was," said Catherine bitterly. "He barely even realized I was alive when we got back!"

"On the contrary," said Dion, "he did acknowledge you when we first reached his hovel of a headquarters. You were just too asleep to notice."

"Anyway," said Lucca, "the war's over now. We've all moved on with our lives. All that remain are the children unnacounted for."

"Like Kid," said Dion.

"What's with you and Kid?" asked Catherine.

"I can sense it," said Dion. "She's not like the other children. She's from Zeal."

"What?" asked Lucca. "That's impossible! Zeal was destroyed thousands of years ago. The blood line's run out by now."

"No," said Dion. "She really is from Zeal. I feel it whenever I get close. She has powers even we don't know about. It would be wise to keep her out of the picture until we can learn more."

"What's all this we stuff?" asked Lucca. "I was actually wanting you to leave. The children are scared of you. It's like they think you're a monster."

"In a way," said Dion, leaning back in his chair, "I am. Part of my body was altered by Lavos."

Lucca's eyes shot wide open with horror. She ran to a small bed in the corner and removed a large gun from under it. "Any trace of Lavos must be destroyed!"

"I take it then," said Dion, "that you were one of the ones that destroyed Lavos."

"Yes!" said Lucca. "He was a parasite. He brought the Apocalypse on the world! All of his kind must die!"

"And you," said Dion, "must die! You made me into this!"

"Go to hell!" shouted Lucca.

The sound of their voices brought the children running upstairs. Dion and Lucca quickly put their weapons away as the children pushed the door open. "You aren't supposed to be in here!" said Lucca.

"We heard shouting," said one of them. "Are you all right, Lucca?"

"Yes! Now get out of here!" said Lucca. The children ran back downstairs...except for Kid, who stood in the doorway.

Dion ignored the girl and looked out the window. Suddenly, he saw two figures standing in the bushes. He could see neither of them clearly, but he saw that one of them was carrying a scythe. The other was dressed in bright clothing, making it slightly easier to see.

"Excuse me," said Dion. He kicked the window open and jumped to the ground.

(to be continued)


Chapter 37: The Jester

Dion searched the bushes, but found no trace of the two figures. A loud sound, however, emerged from a nearby tree, followed by several whirling objects. Dion jumped out of the way, just as several throwing knives stuck into the ground.

"Who's there?" he shouted.

"Monsier Dion," said an extremely annoying, small voice, "vat are you doing here?"

"Two more questions," said Dion. "One, where the fuck did you learn how to speak, and two, how do you know my name?"

"We know more than that," said a much gruffer voice. Dion looked around nervously, but didn't see anyone.

The small voice laughed. "Non, non, monsier! You do not need to zee us. Ve do not wish to harm you!"

"Then why the hell are you here?" asked Dion, raising the spear. "Just come on out!"

"He vants to see us, monsier," said the small voice.

"Let's not dissapoint him," said the much gruffer voice.

Dion looked around nervously, then felt something rip through his back. He collapsed onto his hands and knees, as a black boot kicked his spear away.

"Harle," said the gruff voice, "knock him out." Dion looked up, and saw a young woman, wearing bright, multicolored clothing and white face paint standing over him. Just as she slammed her foot onto the back of his neck, he realized this was the jester he had been warned about.


Lucca returned to the room, where Catherine was still finishing her tea. "Sure is taking Dion a long time," said Catherine.

"Don't think about him," said Lucca. "He's no better than Lavos."

"I have NO idea what you're talking about," said Catherine, "but Dion is not as evil as you make him out to be."

"Shut UP!" shouted Lucca. "Just sleep it off, okay? You're back home. Everything's all right..."

Suddenly, a very sharp smell came up from through the floorboards. "Lucca," said Catherine, "you didn't leave the oven on, did you?"

"No..." said Lucca. Her face was suddenly filled with horror. She practically kicked down the door and looked down the stairs, then screamed, "FIRE!"


Chapter 38: The Demons

Dion climbed back to his feet, clutching a bloodied wound on his chest. The orphanage was completely on fire, with small screams echoing from inside. It almost brought a smile to his face.

Sighing, he turned and began walking away, but suddenly remembered something. He had to make sure Kid was dead. Cursing, he kicked in one of the windows and jumped in.

The flames continued to dance around him, almost hypnotically. Children were cowering and screaming, afraid to move at all. Dion knew his presence didn't help alleviate their fears; they added to them.

The flames began to take shape, creating a visage of a fat, winged monster. The instant it was completed, fat, red demons rushed out of the flames, growling and grunting. Dion raised his spear and ran it through one of the demons' hearts, but it barely damaged it.

The demon drew its head back and let out a giant burst of flame, completely enveloping Dion. However, they didn't damage him, either. Dion quickly circled around it and stabbed its back several times, but the other demons grabbed him and threw him away. He crashed through one of the weakened walls, sending broken wood and splinters everywhere.

Dion swore softly, then ran forward again. The demons began to converge on him, but before they could strike, Dion jumped onto the ceiling and tore apart the wood, revealing a pipe. He quickly punched it several times, sending water flying everywhere. However, neither the flames or demons were damaged.

"Shit!" shouted Dion. He jumped to the ground, charged up his magic, and quickly fired. However, the blast did nothing to the demons. He raised his spear and jumped, but one of the demons batted him away.


"Damn it!" shouted Luuca, desperately turning the faucet. "What the hell's wrong with these pipes?"

"I'll try to help downstairs," said Catherine, climbing out the window. Lucca angrily grabbed her water gun and began to walk down the stairs.

Something pulled her back, as something else stabbed into her back.


Chapter 39: Return to the Future

Dion collapsed on his hands and knees, his body covered with blood. The demons towered over him, ready to finish them off. He tried to raise his spear, but one of the demons grabbed it out of his hands and snapped it in half. Dion tried to summon his magic, but he couldn't concentrate.

Suddenly, one of the demons screamed, then fell into pieces. The other demons spun around, only to get sliced apart just as quickly. As they collapsed, Dion saw his rescuer: a young boy with a wierd blade. Other demons appeared, and converged on him, but the boy turned towards them and attacked.

Dion didn't know how long this could last, so he quickly ran up the stairs. However, as he neared the top, a lifeless body fell down towards him. As it rolled down the stairs, he recognized it as Lucca.

Shrugging it off, he ran into Lucca's room, only to find it empty. He jumped out the window, and saw Catherine herding some children out another window. Leaving her, he jumped back in and searched for Kid.

The demons were now all wiped out, save for a few pockets here and there. However, he caught sight of the boy running down a hall, and curious about who this was, followed.

The hallway led to a large playroom, where he finally found Kid; however, Lynx and Harle were already there. They looked out a window, oblivious to his presence. The boy, however, caught their attention the second he entered the room. They both stared at him, growled, and dissapeared as the roof began to collapse.

The boy grabbed Kid and ran. Dion swore, then ran to Catherine, who was just finished with getting the children out. He grabbed her and jumped out the window. A blue portal appeared in mid-air as they jumped, though, and they sailed right through it.


They landed back on Arni, where Guile was still waiting for him. "I see you were successful," he said. "We must now retrieve the Masamune and stop Lord Shadow."


Chapter 40: The Assault

The three boarded the boat and returned to the mainland. It was just as disquieting as Dion had remembered it; even more so after seeing what it was in the past. However, their attention drifted towards distant sounds: metal clashing, men screaming, spells exploding. A battle was taking place nearby.

"Guile, what's happening?" asked Dion.

Guile bent down and sketched a strange symbol in the dirt. When he was finished, it transformed into a clear portal, showing a bloody battle being waged. However, they were horrified when they learned who the two parties were: the Shadow guards and the Iron Brotherhood.

"We have no time to waste," said Guile. "We're leaving now." He raised his staff, and the three dissapeared in a flash of bright light.


They reappeared on a hilltop, overlooking the battle. The carnage below was unspeakable; both sides were heavily destroying each other. It was plainly obvious, though, that the Iron Brotherhood was quickly losing; they were too vastly outnumbered and surrounded by highly trained soldiers with the finest equipment.

"It's too late for them," said Dion. "Let's just get out of here."

Guile simply stared at the battle below, completely ignoring Dion. He raised his staff, and massive waves of lightning flew through the Shadow guards. They convulsed and gasped, but only 1/3 of them actually bothered to die. However, the disorienting effects allowed the Iron Brotherhood to return to the offensive, and they attacked once again.

"Do you see now, Dion?" asked Guile. "Even against such odds, you can never give up hope. If only I had learned that long ago..."

"That's it!" said Dion. "I'll fight, okay? Just stop talking!" He ran into the midst of the battle, grabbed a dropped sword, and began fighting it out again.


"...that was your plan, wasn't it?" asked Catherine.

"Of course," said Guile. "Sometimes, you just have to push them a little."


The offensive position changed constantly, but finally, the Shadow guards were wiped out. However, the Brotherhood was down to less than a dozen members now, including Guile.

"There is no point in remaining here," said Guile. "Lord Shadow always regarded us as a threat, but he has never reacted in this way. What happened while I was gone?"

"Nothing of importance," said the old man. "However, they were somehow able to learn where our hideout was. The Iron Brotherhood is no more."

"He's right," said Dion. "There's no way these people can withstand another attack. We have to find the Masamune and destroy Lord Shadow once and for all."

Guile nodded in reply. "If what you say is true, then the Masamune is being held by that old fool, Gaspar. He is sealed off from the rest of existance at the End of Time, which will make things difficult. There is only one place where we can find it, then." He grabbed Dion and raised his staff, and the two dissapeared again.


The old man blinked, then sighed. "The Iron Brotherhood is finished. All we can do is hope that Dion succeeds."


Chapter 41: The Oracle

Dion and Guile reappeared on a small island. The ocean violently crashed against the rocky shore, littered with skeletons and rotting artifacts. A wooden bridge spanned from the island to a large tower, which was surrounded by various other buildings.

"The Oracle awaits within," said Guile. "She will give you the guidance you need to complete your journey."

"Who is this oracle?" asked Dion.

"She of the wisest people in this forsaken world," said Guile. "She is a master of a form of magic long since forgotten by mankind. This has given her a kind of...foresight into matters." Dion could tell Guile was uncomfortable with this; there was something far greater to the story than he was telling.

"I guess I'll check this out," said Dion. "Wish me well." Guile simply shrugged, then vanished. Dion gripped his sword uneasily, then continued down the bridge. The wooden boards creaked under his feet, while the frayed ropes barely withstood the pressure. When he was halfway across the bridge, the sound of snapping reached Dion's ears; the ropes were about to give completely.

He quickly dashed across, as the bridge plummetted into the ocean. With no way back across, he simply continued into the tower.

Inside was nothing more than a spiral staircase, made of a rustless metal. One side ascended to the top, while another descended into the ocean water. It seemed that the tower wasn't built here; it had reached here through other means.

He continued up the stairs. The darkness surrounded him, but his eyes were somehow able to see in complete darkness; probably another one of Lavos's gifts. As soon as he reached the top, he found something he didn't want: more bridges, creating a web between all the buildings. He had a long way to go.


Chapter 42: The Oracle's Identity

Dion crossed the first bridge, and climbed through the window of another tower. Like before, the bottom was completely flooded; however, there was something else swimming in there this time. When he leaned forward for a closer look, he saw a dorsal fin, and backed away as a large shark jumped at his face. He began to climb the stairs, but he first fired a blast of energy at the shark, blowing it to bloody pieces.

The stairs led him to the very top of the tower, overlooking the vast water. He climbed out and jumped onto another bridge. The cracking noise was the first to greet him, followed by the wood below him collapsing. Dion jumped forward, only to hear the cracking continue. He sprinted across the bridge, then jumped through the window into the next tower.

There were no stairs leading up, so he had to make his way downstairs. As he reached the water, he found what he was looking for: a large, iron door. The lock was rusted shut, but a strong kick blew the door off its hinges. Another bridge waited on the other side, but it at least looked sturdier than what Dion had faced earlier.

As he crossed, however, he felt a strange feeling in his head. A voice seemed to call out to him. "Leave this place. You bring them closer to me with every step. Leave." The feeling dissapeared as quickly as it had occured, and Dion was left wondering what that was, and why the voice sounded so familiar...

He reached the end of the bridge, where a long metal ladder waited. He started to climb, but as he did, the sound of water churning reached his ears. He looked down, and saw a geyser of water blast from the ocean and onto him. Desperate, he grabbed onto the ladder, but was pulled free when the blast reached him. He was hurled into the air; however, he was not forced away from the wall itself. Rather he flew up to the top of the ladder, and quickly grabbed the side of the tower window and pulled himself in.

The voice rang out again; only this time, it was from within the tower. "Leave, Dion. You are not welcome here. If you continue, I will kill you." The voice was even more familiar than before; however, Dion did not have the patience for recognizing who it was at this time. He simply opened the next set of doors and continued.

He climbed another flight of stairs, before finally reaching the last doorway. Drawing his sword, he carefully pushed the door open, then dodged the fireball that erupted from inside. He quicky dashed inside, and dodged several more fireballs. Finally, the feeling of magic stopped, and he faced his attacker for the first time. Complete shock filled his face. "YOU!"


Chapter 43: The Prophecy

The Oracle was actually a young woman, with long blonde hair and deep, piercing eyes. She wore a long purple robe, which seemed ancient when compared to her fair looks. Her hands still vibrated with power; she was obviously skilled in the ways of magic.

"Hello, Dion," said the Oracle. "It has been a...long time, hasn't it?"

"Not long enough," said Dion. "What the hell's going on?"

"It was...torment," said the Oracle. "First came darkness, then pain, agony, endless torment. Finally, I was freed, returned to the light. I know reside here, aiding those who deserve my assistance. You are not one such person."

"I don't care what you think!" shouted Dion. "I have come too far now to be turned away by some spoiled wench like you!"

"You're one to talk," said the Oracle. "I'd rather kill myself than help you."

"I seek only to destroy Lord Shadow," said Dion. "Aid me, and I will leave you for all eternity."

"I only wish I could believe that," said the Oracle. "Lord Shadow is deep in his fortress to the north, where he is constructing some kind of battleship. This machine will mean trouble for the world; none will be able to survive an onslaught from this machine. Go to the Death Cape to the north; there, you will find your answers."

"Thank you," said Dion. "Now, as promised, I will leave you alone. Farewell...princess." He left the room, slamming the door behind him.


The Oracle looked through her only window, surveying the vast ocean. "The stage is set," she said. "The world's fate now lies in a madman's hands. Please be safe, brother."

(to be continued)