by the Chrono Compendium
with direct quotations from
and contributing discussion from many others
Aside from the concepts time, dimensional travel, and the ability to change history, the driving force behind the stories and themes of the Chrono series has been an extra terrestrial invader that started it all. This being is Lavos, the powerful parasite who landed on the planet in prehistory to leech its energy, ravage its crust, and procreate to send spawn to the far corners of space to repeat the process. Though much is known about the creature, including its life stages, mode of operation, and lethality to lesser lifeforms, much more still remains a great mystery. Lavos's designs, origins, and thoughts remain enshrouded beyond the veil of Chrono series explanation, leaving Lavos's true purpose and mental nature a mystery. The actions of this beast have permeated the life of every human on the planet, whether directly or indirectly through history changed by Lavos's nemeses, the time travelers. In this article, the Chrono Compendium aims to address the full spectrum of mystery and fact concerning Lavos, including his biology, actions, and mysteries, in order to reveal a clearer image of the titanic adversary that set the events of the Chrono series in full motion.
I. Lavos Biology A. Lavos's Origin B. DNA Absorption and Life C. Model Chronology II. Lavos Issues A. Lavos's Power 1. Real Life Equivalent 2. A DND Model B. Lavos's Sentience C. Eruption Pinpoint D. Lavos's Defeat E. Evolution to the Time Devourer 1. Binding to Schala 2. Destined Course? 3. Envoy Selection? Conclusion Acknowledgments and Thanks
We begin with the biology of Lavos; before exploring its actual history, we will first seek to gain a clear understanding of its life cycle and composition. To undertake this, let's start at the very beginning of it all.
Since many dive headlong into inquiries about Lavos's actions on the planet, the most fundamental question of all is sometimes missed. That is, where did Lavos originate? Two clear possibilities have emerged; namely, that Lavos was created by a sentient race, or naturally emerged. Concerning the first option, Lavos is possibly a biological superweapon built for the express purpose of achieving superior evolution and destroying planets. It may have grown beyond the creator's control, or be instrumental in a larger plan of galactic conquest through ravaging of worlds. Since Lavos does not directly communicate with the party, it is possible that Lavos and his species are under the control of the creators, who issue directives to them or simply genetically engineered them to undertake their craft according to precise measurements. However, as a plan for conquest, this method is very unproductive, as it leaves ruined natural resources in its wake. This enhances the attractiveness of the second option -- that Lavos is naturally evolved. Under this model, the Lavos species may have originally evolved as sentient beings on another planet; perhaps obsessed with improving their genetics, they used eugenics to create the Lavos frame, shell, and DNA absorption techniques, and then began a plan of space travel to fulfill their evolution. Some suggest Lavos is the ultimate evolution of a virus.
The subject of Lavos's origin has interestingly never been addressed in the Chrono series, unfortunately relegating this matter to a mystery until a new itineration in the series arrives.
DNA Absorption and Life
Lavos's primary source of sustenance is the power of the planet; however, its source of that which fulfills its purpose is the DNA and genetics of all living beings on, above, or below its surface. As Lavos is a being capable of powerful magic (the manipulation of the four basic elements of the universe), it probably accomplishes this through its careful and directed use. But what are the specifics? One possible method follows.
Lavos used the planets life forms as experimental test subjects. Lavos' genetic manipulations had a dual purpose: 1.) discover new, superior genetic traits and 2.) determine how to incorporate these traits into its genetic code. Lavos did not have the ability to invent new genetic traits from scratch. If Lavos knew of a superior trait, and how to insert that trait into a species' genome, it would simply insert the gene into itself. Only by observing the evolution of the earth's lifeforms could Lavos improve its own fitness. Lavos would have inserted genes coding for traits it already possessed, or knew of from its past travels, into the earths lifeforms. This would involve inserting DNA sequences into cells at random, most likely requiring many attempts before producing viable results. Over time, random genetic mutation and natural selection would produce new, improved variants of that trait. But, after identifying a beneficial trait, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to determine exactly what combination of genes are responsible for it. Lavos would have to maintain a control group without any genetic modification, so it could compare the genomes of similar species, and identify the key genes.
For example, take the ability to use magic in humans. Lavos took a trait which it already possessed, and transfered it to humans by inserting parts of its own DNA into the human genome. The control group, with no genetic modifications, are the Earthbound ones. The modified humans carrying Lavos' initial genetic modifications would comprise the Enlightened ones. Their ability to use magic is a recessive trait. The humans who had evolved beyond Lavos' original genetic trait would be the innate magic users, such as the Zealian Royal family. It is their DNA which Lavos would incorporate into its own genome. All the improvements in turn are passed on to the Lavos spawns. This also presents the possibility that all life on earth contains some of Lavos' DNA, which is implied in Chrono Cross. A computer notes in Chronopolis that humans can almost be considered foreign to the planet due to mutation from Lavos.
Now that DNA absorption is wrapped, we can explore the other two pinnacle events of Lavos's tenure on the planet -- its eruption and spawning of a new generation. For instance, what determines the point at which Lavos erupts? A very logical answer lies in wait for those asking this question. Why did Lavos destroy Zeal in 12000 B.C., and then gut the world in 1999 A.D.? What prevented him from destroying the world fully in the past?
Zeal was significantly draining his power through the Mammon Machine; when the device was moved to the bottom of the ocean floor, the leeching was sufficient to cause concern for Lavos, who obliterated the perpetrators. In 1999 A.D., human civilization was probably nearing a level of technology that could possibly challenge Lavos. Also, it is probably that a few hundred years down the road, Chronopolis might come to pass (or another temporal research facility that could strike Lavos with a time-based strategy). Lavos destroyed humanity at this moment in order to prevent any possible threats. However, unlike the case in Zeal, where Lavos only had to destroy a floating country, here Lavos exploded the entire surface of the planet to completely render civilization derelict. This also allowed the planet to serve as his spawning grounds without interruption; he subsequently reproduced asexually at Death Peak, where the spawns roamed. Eventually, after absorbing a certain amount of power, they were to leave the planet and seek out other targets in the galaxy. This process was interrupted when history was changed so that they never existed.
Now that we have explored important events in the life of Lavos, we can assemble a chronology of a Lavos history. All age units are in years.
- Age 0 - Lavos spawn is birthed on a ruined planet by a Lavos adult, perhaps briefly existing as the exposed core unit pod as the shell begins developing.
- Age 300~400 - Lavos spawn, with parent's genes, departs from the ruined planet to locate another planet; the shell and magic ability are sufficiently developed to handle the physics of space travel. Note the nature of landing:
- Age Unknown - Lavos spawn has traveled innumerable years in search of a new host planet; upon finding it, it alters its course through magic and assumes a velocity sufficient to break the planet's crust. It burrows and begins maturation, DNA control, and energy leeching.
- Intermediate Period - Lavos adult absorbs energy from the planet within a timeframe of its arrival to the threat of a predator evolving topside.
- Age Unknown - Lavos adult emerges from the planet's crust, breaking through the crust and dispatching any intelligent civilization on the verge of discovering technology or magic that could pose a threat. Lavos adult then proceeds to spawn.
- Age Unknown - Lavos adult possibly remains dormant as its spawn depart the ruined planet; little information is known about elderly members of the Lavos species. Final DNA may be used to form the ultimate resulting being (which was done anyway as defense against Crono and his group in the Keystone Dimension), whose agenda is unknown.
The result is a fully evolved being thousands or millions of years old. One indeterminate part of its age is the interstellar journey to find a planet; at slower than light speeds, a journey could take thousands of years, but since time travel is possible in the Chrono series, faster than light travel probably is as well.
An open-ended question concerning Lavos's history is what the mature adult does after spawning and destroying its host planet's crust. The issue of Death Peak's existence (covered later) may apply here, suggesting that Lavos essentially remains dormant and inactive after erupting. The alternative is that Lavos departs for a new host with the spawn, which might place him in competition with other members of the species. Lavos might be at a disadvantage to its children here, simply because the new spawn would innately have all the optimal traits harvested by Lavos.
Now that we have a clear understanding of the life of a Lavos being, we can explore special topics and issues related to the tenure of Lavos on the planet of the Chrono series. We can safely start with simple matters and move on to more complicated subjects, including the temporal nature and powers of Lavos and its sentience. We'll begin with his power.
Real Life Equivalent
One interesting question is whether Lavos's power can be equaled to real life units of destructive force. A basic comparison of events allows this.
1.) In 65 million BC, Lavos impacted the surface of the earth at meteoric speed, creating a fireball that covered most of the continent and caused a global climactic change that lasted for millions of years. This explosion is similar to the K-T Meteor impact, which is estimated to have released energy equivalent to 100 trillion Tons of TNT. Additionally, this impact is theorized to have happened in 65 million BC in our own history by Luis Alvarez, lending credibility to this idea.
For comparison, the most powerful hydrogen bomb ever produced had a yield of 50 million Tons, and the total world nuclear arsenal has a combined yield of approximately 5 billion Tons. The explosion of Krakatoa, the most violent volcanic eruption in recorded history, released energy equivalent to 200 million Tons.
Lavos, a biological organism, survived this impact with no apparent injury.
2.) In 1999 AD, Lavos destroyed the surface of the earth in preparation for reproduction. It caused sufficient damage to destroy human civilization and significantly change the geography of the planet. This required several orders of magnitude more energy than was released in Lavos' impact, which was produced (presumably) by its magical power alone.
3.) Lavos also destroyed the Zeal Kingdom, the Black Omen and Magus' Castle (?) using magic attacks equivalent to many millions of Tons of TNT.
Together, these three observations can provide a rough estimate of Lavos's power: it is off the scale!
A DND Model
A user named Fieari has created a template for Lavos under Dungeons and Dragon rules. The full results can be found here. It operates on the expansion of a Tarrasque, and sticks stringently within the established DnD ruleset.
Another question often raised is whether Lavos is truly sentient and intelligent, or is merely an instinctual animal. The main basis of this argument is that Lavos has no dialogue or never displays any cognitive reasoning in the games. The only two references to its mental capacities occur in Trigger and Cross; Queen Zeal mentions that Lavos's reign is an eternal nightmare, while later Schala is explained as being corrupted by the raw hatred and anguish of the Time Devourer she was bound to at the Darkness Beyond Time. Under the idea of no sentience, Lavos's temporal disruptions would be explained as merely a behavioral byproduct. The main aspect of the creature suggesting sentience, conversely, is the manipulation and dissemination of millions of years worth of DNA, and also the subtle control of evolution on the planet. While in an infinite universe, it may fall within an extreme realm of possibility for a being such as Lavos to evolve, become cognizant of space, DNA, and magic without ever attaining sentience, and also effect plans that increase its evolution through self eugenics, this likelihood is remote. Furthermore, in Chrono Cross, the Time Devourer wants to devour the space-time continuum out of a pure desire for revenge, a higher emotion. The Frozen Flame also displays sentience, as it communicates to characters on Terra Tower in Chrono Cross the Time Devourer's discouraging and enmitous thoughts.
In any event, Lavos simply may not communicate to the party due to its intelligence existing on a higher magnitude. In the The Ethics of Lavos article, it is speculated that Lavos is not committing evil in killing humans, because they are essentially bacteria to the space creature. The Frozen Flame is also established as the only communicable link with Lavos in Chrono Cross, and does perform that function within the game. However, it should be noted that Queen Zeal also was able to form some type of bond with the being in Chrono Trigger; this evidence can be used for either side of the argument: she might have been appeasing a savage beast with the treat of magic, or might have truly conspired intelligently with the creature to devour more energy or DNA from the planet and its life.
The implications of Lavos's sentience are also discussed in The Ethics of Lavos.
One question that often is raised in discussion is the exact location of Lavos's eruption. Before going on, it's important to note that the 1999 A.D. map presented in Chrono Trigger in the Day of Lavos recording is not reliable. This is because it was created with the 600 / 1000 A.D. maps in design, mimicking exactly the configuration of the continents during those eras. However, the 2300 A.D. map indicates a largely different arrangement. Medina has seemingly rotated to the upper left counterclockwise to link with northern Zenan, whose left shore has eroded. This rotation does not include the area where Melchior's Hut was situated, as it now contains the Keeper's Dome and Sewer Access. Southern Zenan is largely missing, though evidence suggests it still existed before the apocalypse (the presence of a ruined skyscraper at the Sun Palace, which rose from the ocean floor). Apparently, Lavos's eruption decimated southern Zenan. Lastly, the continent of Choras is almost completely wiped out, save for the Geno Dome, suggesting that it also underwent duress from Lavos's eruption. Here is the full comparison of eras; it illustrates the discrepancy:
With these points cleared, JossiRossi attempted to locate the exact site of Lavos's eruption on the 2300 A.D. map to provide a reference and estimation of proximity to Death Peak. He firstly placed the 1999 A.D. map over the 2300 A.D. layout.
Then, we can judge where Lavos erupted from the Day of Lavos recording itself (or a confrontation with Lavos in normal gameplay).
The location is around 5 to 7 tiles above Death Peak, which roughly correlates. Death Peak appeared only after Lavos erupted. It is very spiky in its appearance; Belthasar also remarks that Lavos reigns atop the peak, where it spawns new creatures soon to depart the planet in search of new homes. Judging from these facts, it is somewhat logical to conclude that Death Peak is Lavos's shell on the surface with three hundred years of accumulated matter on top. The spawn appear directly on Death Peak from within Lavos's shell. Sadly, there is not a direct statement to corroborate this assumption, but an explanation still exists—specifically, that Lavos, after breaking the planet's crust, caused an upward magma flow that created a new mountain at the site of the appearance.
Lavos's life cycle is, of course, interrupted by his defeat by Crono and crew. But when is Lavos defeated? He also displays some interesting phenomena. Defeat Lavos's shell in 1999 A.D., and his shell is missing at the end of Black Omen confrontations in earlier eras. He's also the same strength each time you fight him. Also, if you confront Lavos at the Black Omen in any time period and lose, the 1999 A.D. destruction plays. What era is Lavos defeated in, anyway? Is it 1999 A.D., or 12000 B.C. after going through the Black Omen?
To the same-strength question, Thought: Generally, once creatures reach adulthood, their strength and size does not increase dramatically. A black bear at the age of 7 will be about as fearsome as a black bear at the age of 10. While there will be changes, those are comparatively small when put next to the changes between child and adult. Lavos has been feeding on the planet since 65,000,000 BC and "growing stronger," but it is entirely possible that all such energies when into reproduction and assimilation, not towards increasing its raw strength. Furthermore, the earliest we can fight Lavos is 12,000 BC. That gives him 64,988,000 years to develop and grow strong, whatever that means. In contrast, the 13,999 year difference between the earliest and the latest one can face Lavos seems negligible.
To the time of defeat question, the Compendium holds that he was defeated in 1999 A.D. This jives with existing phenomena and also enables the Armageddon-Branch theory in Salt for the Dead Sea. To enable this, there's another theory below:
When Zeal taps into the power of Lavos, calling upon his awakening, we see a blue circle expand beneath the Omen. This is not Lavos awakening; this is a gate opening. Upon her defeat a gate opens up beneath the Omen and transports the party to 1999 AD and Lavos's awakening. The disintegration of the Omen is the physical transformation of the Omen into a gate, to fulfill Zeal's wishes of Lavos facing our heroes and destroying them. Because the Omen is sacrificed to make the gate, it no longer exists in 1999 or any time after it makes the transformation into a gate to 1999 A.D. The party can only fight Lavos in this time period.
Evolution to the Time Devourer
After Lavos was dispatched by the heroes of time, he somehow merged with Schala at the Darkness Beyond Time, the sort of temporal waste basket for discarded timelines. This created a new being, the Time Devourer, which, once matured, would be able to devour all time and space. This dilemma caused the basis for Chrono Cross, and also wrote a new chapter in the history of the being. Bent on hatred for humanity and a pervasive desire for revenge, the Time Devourer looked forward to its maturity. But how did it bind with Schala in the first place?
Binding to Schala
Many have often wondered how Lavos was able to bind with Schala, considering he was outright defeated at the end of Chrono Trigger. Some posed the idea of a Lavos spawn being the perpetrator rather than Lavos itself, but this is not supported in the script.
Survival of villains is a common trope in fiction. It's possible that Lavos faked his death, or used his temporal abilities to disappear to the Darkness Beyond Time (where the party could not follow, possibly) in a desperate bid for survival. Some cite the appearance of the right bit sprite after Lavos's defeat as evidence of the survival of a piece of the being.
In Chrono Cross, the Frozen Flame is stated to be a splinter of Lavos' shell which separated when Lavos crashed into the earth. Around 3 million BC, it was responsible for the evolution of human intelligence. It follows that the Frozen Flame could be involved with the manipulation of all life on earth by Lavos, but that is never confirmed. Though Lavos may have effectively used it as a backup plan in combining with Schala (and possibly Serge, if the "lost storyline" of Cross is true), the Time Devourer will still a being bent on revenge and desirous of destroying the entire universe, a plan contradicting its original role of procreation. Was the Frozen Flame a purposeful splinter?
1.) The fission of the Flame was an accident which may or may not have benefited Lavos.
We know that human intelligence resulted directly from contact with the Frozen Flame. If one considers Lavos's plan to absorb species' DNA rather than inject them with his own for fear of retribution or "biological contamination", this scenario is attractive. If the Flame were not part of Lavos' plan, then the evolution of human intelligence was accidental and perhaps even opposed to Lavos' plan. This makes sense because the Zeal Kingdom -- the direct result of human intelligence and supremacy -- posed enough of a threat to Lavos that it had to be destroyed. If this is the case, the existence of the Flame may have been one of the factors which allowed Lavos to be defeated and the Time Devourer to be created, as opposed to all the other planets infested by Lavoids. Given the extreme nature of the Time Devourer's power (it was on the verge of consuming all space-time), and the causes of the Time Devourer related to the Frozen Flame, the accident may explain why the Time Devourer's menace is so unique. Its creation was caused by pure chance with this concept; there is otherwise no risk of a Time Devourer forming on every planet of the universe that is occupied by Lavoid parasites.
2.) Lavos deliberately created the Flame as part of its plan.
The Frozen Flame was the instrument by which Lavos manipulated humans. Since humans who who develop magic traits are more likely to have useful DNA, perhaps giving them magic was part of the original plan. Lavos, a being of tremendous magic power, might benefit more from magic evolution than the evolution of normal cave apes. Still, this stance does not explain why Lavos did not take the liberty of evolving several other creatures to increase chances of favorable DNA harvesting. One can also argue that the use of the Frozen Flame by an Arbiter might ultimately allow Lavos to achieve a higher life form, like the Time Devourer. Given the Time Devourer's chaotic nature, however, this is questionable; it is bent on revenge and wants to destroy the space-time continuum.
The situation with the Time Devourer cannot really be applied to the above discussion; here is why. The Frozen Flame conveniently also may exist as a backup plan utensil. The "lost" overarching plotline of Chrono Cross suggests that those who contact the Flame as Arbiters were susceptible to merging with Lavos as the Time Devourer or stopping the process. Following this idea, which suggests Schala was an Arbiter, the Frozen Flame could allow an eliminated Lavos to exact revenge by merging with Arbiters to become the Time Devourer. This is probably a very unique case, however, which negates its ability to be considered in the above inquiry. It is truly unknown whether Lavos's eventual plan is to evolve into something capable of devouring space-time, and whether the Time Devourer was its grand plan after all, merely realized through a shortcut through binding with Schala at the Darkness Beyond Time.
In Chrono Trigger, Lavos seems to use Queen Zeal and her resources as an immense ally against the heroes of time. In Radical Dreamers, it is suggested that the Frozen Flame was interred in the Mammon Machine. Finally, in Chrono Cross, the role of the Arbiter is defined, and the lost storyline arc mentioned by Kato expands upon the danger of Serge's life. Taken from the Chrono Cross Condensed Plot Summary:
Signs point to another overarching storyline that involved Serge binding with the Time Devourer itself; in this scenario, Serge, if he did not defeat the Time Devourer with the Chrono Cross, would ultimately bind with it and cause the Devourer to mature, granting him the power to consume space-time. Chrono Cross Ultimania mainly supports this notion, claiming that the Arbiter of the Frozen Flame must mediate between his fellow lifeforms and Lavos, or else he will inevitably bind with the creature and spell destruction for other humans. Ultimania also postulates that Schala was an Arbiter of the Frozen Flame while it existed in Zeal, and that is how she came to bind with Lavos. Apparently, the Time Devourer needed enough power before it could reach maturity, and Serge would have been the final piece in the puzzle. Quotes in the game also seem to hint at this possibility; three come to mind specifically. A demi-human in Marbule states that "anyone who touches that Flame will become a different being." Lynx, at Viper Manor, warns Serge that "there shall be a deep enmity between you and the world" once destruction occurs. Lastly, Belthasar notes that the Arbiter will gain "extraodinary powers...by binding with the new seed of destruction, the Devourer of Time." However, this storyline is not directly stated or implied in Chrono Cross, and neither has series creator Masato Kato confirmed it himself. For the time being, it remains speculation made by the Ultimania authors. Considering that in the same book, they contradict other canon (such as stating the Prometheus Circuit is not Robo, when Masato Kato noted that the circuit is Robo), the veracity of Ultimania is arguable.
With this considered, it is normal for Lavos to select a terrestrial envoy as an ally, or seek to bind to become a higher life form in the case of the Time Devourer?
This depends on whether the creation of the Frozen Flame was accidental. In Chrono Trigger, Lavos erupts and spawns without allying with Queen Zeal the first time, suggesting having an outside ally is not part of the process. The use of Queen Zeal can be construed as a defense measure against the heroes of time, acknowledged by Lavos. It is only Schala's chance fall into the Darkness Beyond Time that Lavos begins merging. However, Lavos seems disturbed and unnatural at this point:
Filled with the hatred and sadness of Lavos, half of Schala's mind became set on destroying all of existence.
Lavos's basic directive is to spawn and perpetuate its existence among the stars; destroying the space-time continuum would betray this function. This suggests that, in light of the lost storyline, the Time Devourer was a unique, haphazard existence and that so too was the use of the Arbiter and the impulse for Lavos to bind with something. The use of Queen Zeal was, as mentioned above, probably just a useful defense measure against Crono.
The remaining enigmas of Lavos's life -- his true origin, purpose, and thoughts -- shall hopefully be revealed in due time, whether or not the planet parasite is the main villain of a new Chrono game. As the central adversary of the Chrono series, Lavos is a fixture of the mythos and takes a lofty position among RPG villains for being memorable, unique, and terrifying. While seemingly vanquished once and for all in Chrono Cross, if a new game returns, perhaps mysteries involving the creature -- or the bug itself -- will make a return to continue exerting influence over the lives of time travelers and heroes. Until then, I hope this article has heightened your knowledge and interest in Lavos!
Acknowledgments and Thanks
This article was created based on discussions held at the Chrono Compendium beginning in 2003. We are indebted to everyone who has participated in analyzing and discussing the Chrono series. Much of the discussion was finalized, rewritten, and presented in the article by ZeaLitY.
Since we've never credited the Chrono teams in an article before, I hereby offer a big thanks to Masato Kato, Yasunori Mitsuda, and the rest for sculpting all that we've come to love!
Lastly, thanks to Kishimoto Masashi for creating Rock Lee. The springtime of youth waits for no one!