Author Topic: Shadows of Schala (Part Eight posted)  (Read 1467 times)

Kitt

  • Earthbound (+15)
  • *
  • Posts: 22
    • View Profile
    • Forever Dreaming, my anime cel gallery
Shadows of Schala (Part Eight posted)
« on: September 29, 2020, 02:54:37 pm »
Author's notes -

First of all, please be aware that this story is filled with * SPOILERS * for Chrono Trigger.  Posting it here, I suspect everyone has already played the game, but just in case.  I have not played Chrono Cross, therefore, I do not know the events or characters of that game or how the two games are tied together.  Having just discovered and joined this archive, I haven't played or read about the interquel game(s) either.  At this point, my sum total of knowledge about the CT Universe is what is contained in the first game.

I'm sure there's nothing unique about the basic question at the heart of this story – what happened to Schala?  What I hope might be interesting is the roundabout way this story answers it, and the adventures the characters experience along the way.

I prefer the game ending where Glenn, Robo and Ayla appear and chase after Gaspar through a Time Gate alerting Marle and Lucca that they may yet be able to rescue Crono; so I usually kill Magus and don't revive Crono when I play.  This story however, would be one where Magus was slain and Crono revived.  If you are a Magus fan, don't worry!  Of course he's in this story!  ^_^

In fact, everyone except for Ayla is here (my apologies, she just doesn't work in this story).  Chrono Trigger gives you the option of renaming all the characters, an option I almost always use.  So...

Crono = Orion
Marle = Ariel
Lucca = Elora
Frog = Alpha
Ayla = Arvia
Robo = Prime
and
Epoch = Ark

...since I didn't want "Frog" and "Robo" to be lame names in my story.  (Some might recognize the names for their Transformers origin particularly when I admit that Lucca was 'Gears' and Ayla 'Brawn' during that game playthrough.  I changed them to be more feminine when I first started posting this story on a fanfic archive.)   Magus, Schala and all other named characters retain the names the game gave them. Glenn/Frog spoke in something of an archaic manner in the game.  I've tried to duplicate that in my story.  Please forgive what that does to the grammar.  (My spell check program hates it!)

Shadows of Schala

      Schala's cell was sumptuously appointed, every physical comfort satisfied.  Even though she was surrounded by objects of rare and astounding beauty, she never forgot she was a prisoner, held against her will, by one who had become a Dark Lord.

      She shuddered and hugged herself against an involuntary chill when she thought of her inhuman guards.  They knew better than to lay a hand upon her, for their Master's retribution would be terrible, but their very nature was alien, dark, and evil.  Even Lavos' evil had been born of an understandable instinct to survive;  these creatures and their Dark Master thrived on evil, craving it and creating it for their own twisted pleasure.

      She sank into a chair from sheer weariness.  Her strength was dimming, soon the Dark One would have all the secrets of her special power.  Once he did he would be able to spill pure evil into her world across its already troubled time-lines.

      Schala risked opening a tiny Time Gate, crafting it small enough to escape detection by one who was just learning the intricacies of Time.  It was so small in fact that all she could send was her desperate plea, like a message in the bottle of Time, and hope to alert someone to the danger their world was in.

      She dared not open it large enough to even determine who or when was receiving her warning.  From all she knew of Time from her studies with Gaspar, the Guru of Time, her plea should reach most strongly to one who had traveled across Time.

      Unable with so small a Gate to reach to the End of Time directly, she used the utmost of her skill to direct her plea to Magus, the mage her own time-lost brother had become.  She hoped he understood that she was asking him to seek Gaspar's aid so that they could find and rescue her before her stubborn strength gave out and the Dark Master gained all her powers.  Only they could save her and their world in all its Times from...

*****

      Glenn awoke shaking off the threads of dreams that tried vainly to tie him to sleep.  He stretched, luxuriating in the feel of the sinews and muscles of his swordsman's body.  He marveled anew at the recovery of his human form.  Slightly more than a year returned to normal had not diminished the horror of ten years awakening as a bipedal frog; a fate he would not wish on even Magus, the dark sorcerer who had so cursed him.

      Strange that he would think of Magus.  He lay still for a moment and closed his eyes, quieting his mind to recapture the sense of his dreams.

      "Schala?"  he murmured.  "I wonder what became of her.  She was so selfless giving all her strength to hie us to safety once Orion was slain..."  His thoughts carried him back to the Magic Land of Zeal in the Dark Ages and the people he had met there.  His memory skipped through the ages and their distinct friends and enemies as easily as he had traversed across time when he had helped defeat Lavos.

      "Poor Janus warped so early in his life by Lavos' power...  and Cyrus, dear Cyrus, so foully murdered because Lavos displaced him and Ozzie embittered the boy to become Magus.  My ten years as a frog, long and painful as they were, I could forgive, but Cyrus' death, never!  Oh, mine enemy, if not for that, if not for the twisting of thy very soul;  the strength and goodness I saw shining in Schala could have been thine and Janus... No, Magus... We could have been friends."

      Glenn turned to gaze to the legendary sword, Masamune, where it hung on his wall.  Deep regret thickened his voice as he continued,  "Instead thou lie dead and buried by mine own hand, ironically interred in thine own time and I am restored in form and time to my place, but lonely...  Grieving the friend thou took from me and the friends that Time washed back to their own shores..."

      "But what of thy noble lady-sister?  What of Schala?  Why doth she haunt my dreams?"
      He arose, garbed himself for the day, carefully arranged his cloak to conceal the Masamune and reported to Queen Leene.

*****

      "Cyril?  Cyril?"  the queen addressed him later.

      He was on guard duty in her chambers, lost in thought as he gazed unseeingly upon a tapestry.  The other servants and attendants looked askance at his inattention to the queen.
 
      Leene assessed his handsome profile, reached a decision and firmed her jaw.  She dismissed her other attendants and guards with a soft word.  After seating herself and clasping her hands in her lap she spoke again,  "Cy... Alpha!"

      He wheeled about sharply.  "Why dost thee address me in the name of the Hero?  I am not a frog!"

      "No.  Even though, when you were a frog, I trusted you, I admit I am happy with your more comely human form.  Furthermore I know that you, Alpha, are also, Glenn,"  Leene spoke calmly and quietly.  Glenn found himself drawing near to hear her soft words and her demeanor soothed his racing heart.  Part of him admired her technique for calming people even as he recognized it:  he'd seen her use it on the king countless times when the king's passionate nature would get the best of him. His astonishment was not erased by the calm that Leene imparted to him.  He gaped at the gentle, perceptive queen.

      She smiled slightly at his expression as she explained,  "I visited Cyrus' grave and saw the inscription on his tombstone.  I heard the story of the Frog Hero who wielded the Masamune and comforted Cyrus' restless ghost.  You carved 'Cyrus sleeps here avenged by his friend Glenn' on the headstone.  Also my overly modest friend, even as my frog retainer your ease moving about the castle was uncanny from the start, as if you already knew its paths.  Further, as endearing as your 'thees', 'thous' and 'thys' are;  they are outmoded words and only you have used them these past ten and more years.  Finally, though you try mightily to hide it, the discerning eye can spy the Masamune under your cloak.  Oh, don't look so stricken!  I'm not upset at you!"  Leene cried when she saw the forlorn look on Glenn's face.  "I know you, and I know your charades are not meant to hurt anyone, rather they spare you hurt.  I can only think your ruse as Alpha, who eventually became the Frog Hero, was some way of hiding your shame at Cyrus' death.  That blame was never yours to take!  Your current ruse as 'Cyril' is to avoid the adulation you would receive as the Hero.  Am I right?"

      "Thou know'est it, milady.  But what am I to do?  Cyrus' death cut me to my core and the change Magus wrought in me reminds me every day of dear Cyrus and how I let him down.  In a way, 'Glenn' died that day as truly as Cyrus did."  He paced toward the window and looked out over the forest surrounding the castle before crossing back to Leene's side.  "I never thought any would trust me again as their companion in arms and yet, e'en though Elora did not want to at first, Orion did.  'Alpha' became'th not a badge of shame and regret but the name of the Frog Hero.  I was respected by honorable friends and I did not let them down.  King Guardia and thou, my queen, were also most kind to the frog I was.  I shall thank thee that kindness all my days."  Glenn stood at his full height, opened his arms wide and threw back his head.  His shoulder length hair flowed about his face as he lowered his gaze to search out the queen's eyes.  "Now my true form restored to me close'th that chapter of my life as well."

      He paced by the queen again, turned, and paced back.  Leene admired the unconscious grace and balance that Glenn displayed in every move he made.  She remembered the frog he had been and realized this strange grace came from the years he had spent in that form.

      "Know'est thou, there are some aspects of my frog self that I miss."  Leene threw a startled glance Glenn's way, his thoughts so eerily paralleled her own.  "The Leap Slash and the Slurp Healing amongst them."

      A private smile crept onto Glenn's face as his queen regarded him.  Leene recalled the time when Alpha had rescued her from Yakra.  He had fought to save her with skills only an expert swordsman would use.  Yet...

      "Leap Slash?"  Leene queried.

      "Oh a – technique I would use in battle.  I could jump several times mine own height and slash down with my sword in a rather devastating attack.  Not many creatures could survive it!"

      Leene considered his response and the slightly uncomfortable look on Glenn's face.

      "Slurp Healing?"  she asked, unable to resist.

      "Oh, milady, it sound'eth so gross, but no one truly seem'eth to mind..."  Glenn flushed.

      "Now I am really intrigued!  Tell me!"  Leene demanded.

      "Well, if someone sustain'eth an injury, I could flick my frog tongue at them, touch them with it and heal them of their wounds somewhat."  Glenn studied one of the tapestries intently to avoid looking at her.

      "Startling at first, to be sure, but I think I would not have minded if it eased pain,"  Leene replied.

      "I remember Orion would call out in the middle of a fight  'Alpha, Slurp me!'  I would, he'd fight on, and eventually victory wouldst be ours.  Orion name'th that skill for me.  I lost it when I became human again, so it is good that it is no longer needed."

      Leene heard the sadness under the light tone and realized for the first time how much Glenn had lost over the course of his life;  Cyrus, his own humanity, his friends of past and future, the frog form he had come to terms with and even his own name.  She wondered if his return to humanity made up for all he had given up.

      "There were benefits to being a frog,"  she observed quietly.

      "Aye, but I much prefer being a man and as a man I much prefer being anonymous."

      "Someday, Glenn, you are going to have to accept the honor due you, but I won't force you.  So you wish to remain 'Cyril'?"  the queen asked.

      "My liege-lady, 'twould comfort me if thee would call'est me 'Glenn' when no other could hear.  It would help me feel I'd not let Cyrus down too much,"  Glenn asked quietly.

      "Gladly, even though you are as stubborn in your unassuming way as is my beloved king.  Cyrus' death was not your fault!  However, I am happy things are finally working out for you."

      "I wonder, dear Leene, if they've work'eth out to their ultimate end.  I've been haunted by thoughts of Schala lately..."  Glenn mused.

      "Schala?  Now that you know that I know you are, or were, Alpha;  you can finally tell me what happened, not just the part I know."

      "As thou command'est, my queen, but we should break for mid-meal and I've responsibilities to King Guardia this afternoon.  Canst I relate to thee my tale on the morrow?"  Glenn begged.

      "Of course, but be sure that you do or I shall be quite disappointed.  Perhaps we can visit your, Alpha's, old home in the Cursed Woods from when you were a frog?  I'd be interested in seeing it,"  Leene asked.

      "My lady, 'tis no place for thee.  How dost thou know of it?"  Glenn asked in amazement.
 
      "That sweet girl, Ariel, told me of it and how you had evidently spent years there in loneliness regretting Cyrus' death.  I am glad those youngsters were able to bring you back from that despair to us."

      "Indeed.  What else did Ariel speak of that perhaps she ought not?"  Glenn mused.

      "Glenn, she was concerned that you would return to brooding once the adventure was over.  She knew that you had been my retainer and thought that I could find some way to help you.  We know how much Cyrus meant to you and how deeply it hurt you when he was murdered.  Ariel spoke, but all your friends felt the same, that you might spend your life regretting something you could not change and deny yourself the happiness you deserve.  Keep your sadness, Glenn, that is a fitting and proper tribute to a great knight and a great friend, but do not live there.  Now, you spoke of lunch?"

      "Aye, your majesty, I did.  Can I escort my queen to her repast?"  Glenn queried as he offered a crooked arm.  Leene placed her hand on his arm, gathered her train on her other arm and glided through the chamber door as Glenn opened it.  "Now what dost thou mean by saying that my mode of courtly speech is out-dated?  Surely thou jest!  Such high language as I am wont to use is only to show my highest regard for thee and for thy husband, our king..."  Glenn teased in mock displeasure as they passed down the hall.  The two guards flanking Leene's door stared at him.

      Leene smiled serenely at them to show she was not upset and even loosed a few low giggles.  Glenn winked at them over Leene's head and continued down the hall.

      "Surely, just because some know not the proper forms when addressing those of royal birth, does not mean that those of us who do should offer insult to thee and thy lord..."  he continued in mock amazement as he opened the door to the staircase.  The guards overheard and chuckled, somehow relaxing even as they snapped to attention.  The heavy door blocked Glenn's bantering tones and Leene's bell-like laugh.

      "She favors him too much,"  the younger guard complained.

      "No.  He is a more skilled swordsman than you in your youth, and I in my experience put together.  He is also a friend of hers.  Look at the queen's life.  She is guarded against all harm, but also all fun.  You and I can leave, go home to families, into town or the tavern.  Her life is here and it is boring.  Once, long ago, the queen's guards had a special duty she was completely unaware of.  Perhaps it is time to start that duty again,"  the older guard mused.
 
      "A special duty?"  the young one asked.
 
      "Sir Cyrus and one other started it.  Come to think of it...  no, never mind that...  One day, when the queen seemed especially sad, they started to act up and be silly.  I won't go into specifics, but suffice it to say they lightened her mood.  For a very long time, until the war with Magus became so desperate, we of the queen's guard made it our duty to try to get the queen to laugh at least once a day.  Perhaps...we should start that duty again."

      "Perhaps you are right, old man,"  the young guard acknowledged as he reset the angle of his spear.  "Make her laugh, huh?"

*****

      "You know, Cyril, this kingdom needs a Hero,"  King Guardia said conversationally a few hours later.  He was walking the battlements with Glenn by his side reviewing Guardia's troops as the Knight Captain mustered them out.  "A king's duties are state craft, law-making, fostering the land and the like.  It's rather boring and not easy for the people to romanticize about.  A Hero, on the other hand, fires their imagination, commands loyalty, adds a zest to their lives making some of the more routine things bearable.  A True Hero brings out the best in people, they are kinder with each other and more apt to lend a hand if someone needs it because 'that's what so-and-so would do'.  Cyrus was a True Hero.  Alpha, frog though he may be, could be a True Hero.  I find it strange that no one has seen or heard of Alpha since he and I parted ways at the castle gates."  The king sent a piercing look at Glenn.  "Don't you – Cyril?"

      King Guardia crossed to the battlement edge and watched his knights at work.  They practiced crossbow, spear and sword, shooting targets, thrusting and setting spears and the intricacies of swordplay.

      "You are quite impressive even with practice swords,"  the king commented.

      "I thank thee, my liege,"  Glenn responded quietly.

      "May I see your sword?  The one you hide under your cloak?"  King Guardia asked, fixing Glenn with an unreadable look.

      Swallowing hard, Glenn cleared the sword from his cloak and handed it hilt-first to the king.

      "The Masamune!"  the king whispered intently as he took it.  He admired the sheer beauty of the weapon as well as its heft and balance as he continued,  "My father had me train with the guards when I was a lad.  He wanted me to be tough;  it was almost as if he knew somehow that my reign would be more troubled than his...  An unintended result was that I no longer wanted to be just the king, I wanted to be out there, slaying evil, saving my people directly with my sword and skill.  A king has a certain distance imposed by his kingship, a passivity that helps him be objective.  Part of me rejoiced that Magus had advanced so close at Zenan Bridge.  I could go out and do, not simply send others to do for me.  Thank the Hero my folly did not hurt the people of this kingdom."

      "Sire, thy desire to save thy people is no folly, any who would so label it are wrong.  There is a certain romance about thy kingship, the king who would fight with his people, not hide in his castle as they wert o'errun.  Guardia may'eth not require a Hero as much as thee think,"  Glenn offered.

      "You speak as Alpha did;  you have his same quietness, you possess the Masamune.  Are you he?"  the king demanded.

      Glenn paced to the battlements himself.  He looked down on the knights, guards, and the guards-in-training and the swordsman in him assessed their skills.  He squinted a little to make out one face clearly and was not too surprised to recognized Tata among the new recruits.  He turned his gaze back to the king who waited patiently for an answer.

      "Yes, I am he, restored to my normal form upon Magus' death.  I beg thee, my liege..."  Glenn began.

      "Not to reveal that you are Alpha the Hero?"  the king smiled a sad, tight little grin.  "Why is it you always want what the other has?  To be a Hero...an unfulfilled, unfulfillable dream of mine.  You want your peace, yet you are here where Leene or I could find you out..."  the king wondered aloud.

      "My skills are needed here.  Thou and my lady Leene have both discovered me.  I can only beg that thou allow'est me to serve thee as I am now, not as a Hero who can not mis-step and who is known everywhere he may have to go.  Things are quiet now, my liege, but they may'eth not remain so.  If I must take on another such as Magus, would it not be better if my skills were not common knowledge and my approach not heralded by everyone?  I desire to serve thee quietly doing whate'er needs doing, be it high, be it low."  Glenn sank to his knees and grasped the King's hand which still held the Masamune.  "Please, honor Cyrus, he who was a True Hero and a true friend.  If thou must, honor Alpha, the Frog Hero.  Do not make'st of me a Hero to be celebrated 'cross the land, I wish to remain here as thy guard and the queen's, ensuring thy safety from all who would threaten thee,"  Glenn pleaded intently.

      "It took me a year to get Cyrus to accept the mantle of 'Hero'.  Something tells me you would prevail if I were to engage in a battle of wills with you.  You win, Alpha.  You may serve me as you see fit, probably better than if I directed you."  The king grinned ruefully.  "But I will have my way in one thing.  Sunrise tomorrow meet me in the Cathedral."  King Guardia's steely grey eyes bored into Glenn's.  "Do not fail to be there!  This is the finest weapon I have ever had the pleasure of holding, however I can sense that it was made for you, as you were born for it."

      Guardia handed the Masamune to Glenn with a small smile of regret.  Glenn stared at the king who had startled him with his sensitivity and felt a slight tug from the sword.

      "Do something nice for him,"  a tiny voice spoke in his mind.

      Glenn was surprised by the voice but knew it had to be from the Masamune.  Keeping the sword out he walked away from the battlement and began some simple swordplay exercises.  The child-like gleam in the king's eyes rewarded him.  He began to work in more complicated moves and to increase the speed of the sword's arcs.  Completely enthralled the king's eyes followed every move.  Glenn paused the sword's motion, collected his will and performed a Nirvana Strike.  King Guardia's eyes widened as he imagined the three foes Glenn's move would have destroyed.  Glenn wished he could show the king Leap Slash or some of the dual attacks Orion and he had worked out.  Spire came easily to mind.  Glenn slowed the arcs and oscillations of his sword and returned it in a swift, practiced motion to its scabbard.

      "Wow!"  King Guardia exclaimed.

      "Majesty, dost thou step'est away from the edge!"  Glenn appealed holding out his arm.  "If thou were to slip...!"

      The king stepped calmly away from the battlement's edge and walked sedately toward the door.

      "Sunrise tomorrow, 'Cyril',"  he called over his shoulder.  Glenn shivered as he followed the king.

      "What doth my king plan for me on the morrow?  Can it be worse than being found out twice in one day?  Can it be worse than the strange dreams I fear I shall have this night?"  Glenn mused just under his breath.

*****

      Later, in his room, Glenn unbuckled the sword sheath from his back and hung it on his wall in its spot.  He drew the Masamune and ran his hand softly down its blade carefully avoiding the keen edge.

      "Thou surprised me by speaking in my mind today;  though I know not why I was surprised, knowing who thou art.  Masa and Mune, brothers, bound in a red knife of dreamstone, using the power of Lavos to become a sword, at the direction of the Guru of Life.  Thou hast grown as I have, accepting my destiny to defeat Magus, avenging Cyrus and releasing his spirit and learning how to use the magic of my friends to increase thine attacks.  Art thou showing more growth for me;  changing yet again as I change?"

*****

      Glenn woke well before dawn and made his way to a clearing overlooking the Cathedral.  He wrapped his green cloak tighter about him, warding off the pre-dawn chill and watched the moon set.  As dawn touched the sky with its first fingers of light he noted a party of five make their way to the Cathedral.  He recognized the king and queen, the Chancellor, the Knight Captain and the Cook.

      "The Cook?  What dost thou plan, my lord?"  he whispered.  Briefly he considered fleeing but acknowledged the lawful command laid upon him by the king to show up.

      As he entered the Cathedral the Cook and the Knight Captain finished lighting the tapers on the altar and returned to where the queen and the Chancellor stood.  King Guardia stood in front of the altar.

      "Thank you,"  the king noticed as Glenn came into the light.  "Our principle has arrived.  Approach us!"

      Glenn had no memory of the king ever having been quite so commanding or imperious.  Not only was this was a king to respect and to admire, but also to watch carefully for there was a dangerous edge to him as well.  He straightened his stance, threw his cloak over his shoulders and neared the altar.

      "Stop!"  Glenn instantly froze, waiting for the next command.  "Give'st over the Masamune!"

      Four jaws dropped open.  The Chancellor, Cook and Knight Captain narrowed their eyes as they regarded Glenn and he simply gaped at the King.

      "Alpha?"  the Knight Captain asked in wonder.

      "Alpha!"  Queen Leene confirmed.  "Now, shh!"

      "High ceremony requires high language, Leene insisted,"  the king responded to Glenn's expression.  "Now hand the sword over."

      Glenn did as he was commanded.  The king took the hilt, walked back to the altar and lifted the Masamune up.  It glowed in the candlelight.  All eyes were upon the king, mesmerized as he became more than a man, more even than a king.  For this moment it was as if he were the will of Guardia itself.

      "Guardia and her people have thrived for centuries and shall for many more to come.  Many have been her Heroes;  noble in spirit, will and deed.  The last Hero was my own knight, Cyrus."  The king's eyes lost focus and sorrow suffused his face.  He gathered his thoughts and continued.  "Many have been the weapons of these mighty Heroes who have defended Guardia;  blades and bows, axes and spears of renown abilities."

      King Guardia lowered the sword and gazed at it with shining eyes.  "This sword is the most famous, 'older than Guardia itself and yet younger than the newborn day'.  None have ever matched its peerless power, none have equaled its legendary deeds.  I am proud that its power serves Guardia in my lifetime, elated to have a chance to hold it, and humbled by all it has done."

      "Matchless as the Masamune is, it is also the Hero who wields it who accomplishes great deeds.  Not everyone is made to be a Hero.  Sometimes the Hero's path is hard, full of pain and sorrow.  I know not why Alpha was a frog at the time when we most needed a Hero's might, I can only imagine his Hero's path was stranger than most.  He wielded the Masamune and defeated Magus during Guardia's darkest hour and further helped to save this planet from an even greater evil.  It is fitting that a Legendary Blade have such a one as he as its Hero.  Approach us, Alpha, and swear again your vow of fealty."

      Glenn felt he was in a dream he could not wake from as he knelt, took the king's free hand between his own and the ancient vow slipped readily from his lips.  His heart was full of foreboding that the king was preparing one of his grand celebrations and Glenn, shy by nature, would from this day forward be thronged whenever he ventured outside the castle.

      "Now, the Queen's Vow,"  Guardia directed.  Queen Leene walked to her husband's side.

      Glenn took her hands in his.  Easier still these words flowed from his tongue, to guard and protect Leene, even above the King, for she was the true future of Guardia.

      "Only I know you are Glenn,"  the queen whispered in his ear after accepting his vow and raising him to his feet.  Serenely she took her place at the king's left hand.

      "You have vowed to serve, honor and protect Guardia, myself and the queen.  Now, kneel!"

      Glenn knelt and felt as he did so that the noose was tightening about his neck.  "This is not the life I choose!"  his heart cried within him.  "Mine only desire was to be Cyrus' squire, I never willed him to die, for me to become a frog, or to become a Hero!  Why can I never be what I want to be?"

      He dropped his head, waiting for the light sword strokes that would knight him and shatter the shadow of a life that he had made from the ruins of his old one.  They came.

      "By my will, before these witnesses, on this day I knight thee, Guardia's First Knight, peerless before all.  Arise, Sir Alpha!"  The king held up one hand to stay Glenn's obedience to his command.  "But I am mindful of what you said to me yesterday upon the battlements, and also mindful of your will.  Only those now here shall know of your Honor, to keep it to themselves until you release them or you are no more.  I too am held to this promise.  But I am the king and I shall have my will in one thing!"  Again the light sword strokes of knighting fell to Glenn's shoulders.  "Arise, Sir Cyril!"

      The king and queen helped Glenn to his feet.  He was slightly dazed by the king's actions.  Twice knighted?  Twice Named?

      "And now we celebrate the Kingdom of Guardia's newest knight.  I have my way and you, Alpha, have yours.  Work as you wish for Guardia's good as First Knight, work as I desire, Cyril, as a simple, ordinary knight.  You'll be celebrated, loved by the people for...  When's the next court knighting, Captain?"

      "The end of next week,"  the Knight Captain replied.

      "...Until the end of next week.  What?!"  the Masamune tugged from the king's hand to float above Glenn's head.  It twirled lazily in the air, glowed very brightly and split into two nearly identical, slightly demonic appearing, beings.

      "We do seem to witness many cool moments with this one, brother,"  Mune noted.

      "Yeah, well he is the Hero we were made for.  Each time he grows as a Hero, we grow as a sword,"  Masa answered.  "How about the king?  That was a very clever way to Honor without ruining Alpha's life.  The king has his knight and his celebration, Guardia has its First Knight and Alpha has the freedom he wants to live a – relatively – quiet life."

      "Relatively, Masa?"

      "Well, we're here.  How quiet do you think it can stay, Mune?  Especially now that we can sometimes speak to him in his thoughts?"

      The two, Masa and Mune, rushed one another, glowed and merged into the sword again.  It floated down into Glenn's outstretched hand.

      "Wow!  So the Masamune..."  the Knight Captain began.

      "Is Masa and Mune, brothers fuse'th magically into a sword.  They seem'eth to enjoy it.  They're right.  Each time I gain in..."

      "Heroship,"  Leene supplied.

      Glenn bowed to the queen.  "...they gain in power and skill as well."

      "Enough!  You are Honored, Alpha, Cyril, whoever you are, and I have a kingdom to run,"  the king declared.

      "Just one thing confuses me, my liege,"  Glenn began.

      "Just one?  You're more on top of it than I!"  the Chancellor interjected.

      "No offense, but why was the Cook here?"  Glenn asked.

      "Oh!"  Leene smiled.  "You know that if the Knight Captain knew, sooner or later his brother,  the Cook, would too.  We figured to invite him so he could see for himself for once.  We have his promise, along with the Chancellor and Knight Captain, to keep your secret."

      "Sire!  If you had sworn me to utmost secrecy I'd not have told even my brother..."  the Knight Captain began.

      "Oh, that's not true!  You've never been able to keep a secret from me!"  the Cook retorted as he dashed out of the Cathedral.

      "Why you!"  the Knight Captain yelled as he raced to the Cathedral door.  "By your leave, majesties, Sir Chancellor, and Sir Cyril,"  the Knight Captain bowed to each in turn.  "I've got to box my brother's ears!"

*****

      Glenn made his way later across Zenan Bridge, tossed a jaunty wave toward Prime, who only flashed his photoreceptors back  (Prime was currently being a scarecrow to give Fiona's newly planted forest a break from the birds), and made his way to the Cursed Woods he had for too long called home.  When he had been a frog the denizens of the woods had left him alone but now that he was human he threaded the path to his pad carefully to avoid upsetting them into attacking him.

      He had just stepped to the first rung of the ladder down to his place when he heard a commotion just out of sight.  He drew the Masamune and raced to confront what he feared he would find.

      Leene watched in utter amazement as Glenn rushed the six monsters threatening her.  The Masamune became a twinkling blur and three mutant tadpoles fell over dead.  Glenn sidestepped one claw-handed attack, circled back bringing his sword up into a guard position and snapped a gust of wind from it at one of the standing tadpoles.

      Leene felt a searing pain strike her hand as a seventh unnoticed monster, some weird cross between frog and snake, bit her severely.  As she screamed in surprise and pain the creature leaped to her shoulder and vaulted off of her right at Glenn's head.  He snapped the Masamune up just in time to cleave the hideous creature mid-leap.  He slashed across a gnawer behind him, ripping its torso open as he ducked another leaping attack.  The two remaining monsters fell to another Nirvana Strike.  Glenn pivoted, scanning the woods swiftly, sword held poised between guard and attack.  Once he was sure no creatures remained he turned to his queen.

      Leene twisted her injured hand deeper in the folds of her skirt trying to hide her injury from this cool, deadly new Glenn.  More than anything she wished she had not followed him;  more than anything she wished to be far away from his level, unnerving and emotionless gaze.
 
      "I..I'm sorry, Glenn..."  she whispered as she dropped her eyes to stare at the leaves and loam at her feet.

      She glanced up just in time to see the grim warrior visage fall away and her faithful retainer return to his face.

      "Oh, milady!  Why dost thou follow'est me?  Thou art injured!"  he cried as he raced to her side.

      "It's only a scratch..."  Leene began as she fell over in a dead faint.

      Glenn ignored her bitten hand as he caught her; he was far more concerned with the blood pouring alarmingly fast from her seriously wounded shoulder.

*****

      Leene opened her eyes to see hard-packed earth riddled through with roots above her.  Her head was cradled by a soft downy pillow and she was laying on a small wooden bed.  On a rough-hewn table next to the bed bloody cloths and a basin of red-tinged water bore mute testimony to the dressing of her wounds.  The stinging bite in her hand was overwhelmed by the searing agony in her shoulder.  Wordlessly she cried out in fear and pain and sat up.

      The earthen room swooped and spun about her.  Leene looked down at herself and gasped.  The whole right side of her dress showed slickly red with blood.  Even as she watched the white bandages on her shoulder slowly became red as blood seeped into them.

      "Shh, Queen Leene.  Be thou still for one more moment and I shall heal thee,"  Glenn whispered as he gently yet firmly pushed her back down upon the pillow.

      Weakly she nodded her head, biting back the nausea rising in her throat.  A change in the air made her look up.

      Glenn had backed up a few feet from the bed and thrown his arms out wide.  Leene watched in wonder as Glenn levitated a few inches off the floor and gathered the light of the room to himself.  He began to glow and blue light sparkled about his hands.  The light coalesced and, under Glenn's direction, shot forth and suffused Leene.

      A feeling of comforting warmth and peace flowed through her, washing away her pain.  She focused on Glenn who had closed his eyes in concentration to send as much of the healing energy to Leene as he could.  Sweat stood out on his forehead and his whole frame trembled.

      Leene felt that incredible energy flow through her, seeking out the damage the monster had done to her.  The rents in her shoulder closed and, lowering her eyes, she watched as a blue glow knit together the bite wound in her hand.

      Unable to do any more, Glenn let his spell fall and stumbled to his knees from his tremendous effort.

      "My lady, thou art..."  he whispered.

      "Completely healed,"  Leene reassured him as she rose from the bed and assisted him to his feet.  "Although this gown is going to be hard to explain!"

      Glenn rummaged about in a chest and came up with a tunic and cloak.  "These can serve 'til I return thee to the castle 'though they may be somewhat short.  They were crafted for my frog form.  I shall be above 'til thou call'est out, milady,"  he said as he climbed up the ladder.

      Once above he retrieved the Masamune from the bush where he had hidden it and cleaned its edge carefully.  After sheathing it he collected the monster carcasses and tossed them out of sight into the woods.  When he returned from the last trip he heard Leene calling him.

      "I am here, my queen,"  he announced as he descended the ladder.

      He marveled upon seeing her that she could still look so regal even while garbed in a tunic and cloak that were too short by six or seven inches.

      "I should return thee to the castle..."  Glenn began.

      "Nonsense!  You do what you came here for and after perhaps you can relate to me your adventures as you promised yesterday?"  Leene insisted.  "You made me think there might be something troubling you, something about Schala."

      "Yes Schala.  Mine adventure began in the Cathedral.  Thou hast been kidnapped by Yakra and Ariel taken in thy place at the castle.  I knew she was not thee and that the search had been called off when she was found.  Orion and Elora had come searching for thee as well.  A Naga-ette threaten'eth them and so I leaped in to rescue them..."     Glenn began.
 
      Much later he concluded.  "...and King Guardia and I return'eth here.  The portal closed behind us and the rest thou know'est."

      "Not all.  How did you regain your human form?  What did you do between returning here and joining the castle guards a few months ago as 'Cyril'?"

      "My Queen, there are some things I will keep my counsel on and those are amongst them,"  Glenn replied quietly.

      "You are right, Glenn, forgive my curiosity,"  Leene rolled the papers in her lap into a scroll.  Early on in Glenn's narrative she had asked for paper and pen and taken a record of his tale. "So you and your friends saved us from more than Magus.  The king mentioned saving past and future, but I had no idea it took so much out of all of you.  When Lavos killed Orion..."

      "I thought my heart would break anew...  But we were able to rescue him."

      "Dead is dead, usually.  How?"  Leene asked simply.

      "Lavos was not of our planet and Orion was not meant to perish in the Dark Ages.  His demise at that point was an aberration in the flow of time.  We must need rescue him, not just for himself, but also to mend the rifts in time that it caused.  Oh, my queen, sometimes I have nightmares of what could have happened if we miss-stepped along the way...  The Reptites could hath killed humanity's ancestors...  Magus could hath succeeded in summoning Lavos to this time – but, Leene,"  Glenn threw himself to his knees and grasped her hand.  "I fear we did miss-step, I fear the thread of time unravel'eth...  I fear some peril Schala faces threaten'eth thee and Ariel and all of thy descendants, but I've no way...  I don't know where to start..."

      "I'm touched by your concern as always, my knight, but your dilemma is not unsolvable.  Start at the end,"  Leene stated calmly.

      "The end...?  Oh, the End of Time.  Aye, that doth make sense, but..."

      "How to get there?  Leave that to me.  Write a letter to Ariel and I shall see it delivered,"  Leene promised.  "Perhaps we should return to the castle now."

      "Let me escort thee back to the castle.  Thou should rest and the king should know that thou hath been injured..."

      "...and healed.  Thank you, Glenn."

*****

      Ariel tossed in her sleep.  The comfort of her royal bed, the tasteful decor of her tower room, her safety guaranteed by her royal knights;  none of these saved her from the tempest of nightmares that assaulted her this night.

      "What?  ...Alpha, I can't hear you...  Find it?  What?  ...the Masamune...  Okay..."  Ariel slipped into a deeper, dreamless sleep.

      Outside her chamber door her guards changed shifts;  quietly trading places as alert, rested knights replaced those whom sleep courted with ever-increasing allure.  Inside her room the moonlight slowly flowed across the floor.  Ariel's soft, downy bed could not prevent her restless dreaming.

      "Oh, Alpha...  It is you isn't it?  What?  ...tapestry...  Frog?  ...Schala?"

      Again the dream lost its powerful hold and Guardia's princess found deep, restful sleep.

      Ariel awoke, rubbed her eyes and sat up in her bed.  "Such strange dreams!  So shadowy and yet so real.  Is Alpha trying to tell me something?"

      She arose prepared herself for the day and went into the town of Truce.  Politely she knocked on the door of Orion's house.

      "Oh, hello, Ariel,"  Orion's mother greeted her.  "I've just put breakfast on the table.  Will you eat with us?"

      "Blueberry pancakes?"  Ariel asked knowing blueberries were in season.

      "What else?  Come in,"  Orion's mother threw the door wide and embraced Ariel warmly as she encouraged her in.

      Ariel appreciated the warmth that the motherly hug brought even as she regretted that it was not her own mother who showed it.  Ariel's mother had died when she was quite young and as yet her relationship with her father did not allow many hugs.  Yet.

      She found Orion at the table, bright morning sunlight streaming through the window to make the highly appetizing pancakes even more appealing.  Ariel's stomach growled.

      Orion laughed.  "Good morning to you, too!"

      "Oh, stop it, I haven't eaten yet today!"

      "A fate worse than death, to miss breakfast!"  Orion teased.

      "Only when it is your mother's cooking.  Especially pancakes!"  Ariel retorted.

      "Dig in, dear,"  Orion's mother commanded as she placed a plate stacked high with pancakes in front of the princess.

      "Oh, yum!"  Ariel lavished syrup over the stack and fell to with gusto.

      "Princess, I'm so glad you can enjoy such simple pleasures.  I don't believe there is a spoiled bone in your body,"  Orion's mother observed.

      "You know I prefer the nickname Orion gave me!"  Ariel smiled.  "We agreed that in this house I am not a princess!"

      "Do you see us bowing and curtsying?  Calm down, Ariel.  In other words, deal with it, 'princess',"  Orion teased.

      "You...you..."

      "No fighting at the table,"  Orion's mother said serenely.  "Seconds, anyone?"

      "No thank you, ma'am.  Done, Orion?  Let's go visit Elora!  Oh, can I help you with the clean up?"  Ariel asked belatedly.

      "No, dear,"  Orion's mom chuckled.  "I've got it.  Have fun on whatever adventures you find today!"

*****

      "Okay, spill it, yer highness.  What's got yer royal britches in a bunch?"  Elora demanded.
 
      Ariel stuck her tongue out at Elora while making a nasty face.  Elora reached out to tug on her hair.

      "Girls!"  Orion roared.  "Must I separate you?  Ariel, you apologize for being impolite and Elora you apologize for being...polite?"

      The girls giggled at Orion's confusion.

      Ariel settled herself on a tree stump as Orion scurried up a tree behind her to an obligingly low-hanging branch and Elora perched on a nearby stone wall.

      "Well last night I dreamed Alpha was trying to tell me something.  I – thought it was Alpha anyway.  I couldn't see him clearly and it sounded as if her were speaking to me over a great distance.  He kept telling me to look for the Masamune and the frog;  and that we had to find Schala before it was too late.  I could feel that it was urgent...  That it was important and that he was frightened.  I don't remember anything else."

      "I hope nothing horrible happened to old Froggy.  I know he is dead by now to us in our time, but I hope he lived, lives a good, full life in his time.  Time travel makes even my head spin!"  Elora said.

      "Is there any mention of Alpha in the Royal Records?  Any clue as to why he might be trying to contact us now?"  Orion asked sensibly.

      "No, I've looked.  He's mentioned as the Frog Hero, Slayer of Magus and Rescuer of Queen Leene and Guardia, but no mention of him as part of the Realm after that.  Queen Leene's favorite guard was named 'Cyril'.  I figure he must be Cyrus' brother or something.  It could be Alpha left Leene once the danger was past and returned to the Cursed Woods to live out his life quietly.  It'd be just like him,"  Ariel mused.

      "How sad!  He'd be lonely..."  Elora noted.

      "Well, it seems he's trying to contact us now.  Have you ever looked to see if the Masamune was in the treasure room?  Surely that sword would have survived a couple of centuries.  Maybe Masa and Mune can tell us why Alpha is trying to reach us now, and what happened to him after the Gates were closed,"  Orion figured.

      "I'm not entirely sure that makes scientific sense..."  Elora began.

      "But it's a magic sword!  Besides, it's something to do.  I hate feeling helpless!"  Ariel urged.  "C'mon!"

      Once at the castle they descended the steps to the basement treasury room.  Elora promptly located the master inventory, Orion made for the weapon racks and Ariel drifted about just trying to feel what she was searching for.  Orion carefully replaced the swords, lances and spears that he moved trying to see what was under them.

      "No mention of the Masamune or a sword of that description here,"  Elora sighed, adjusting her eyeglasses.

      "It's not stored with the weapons,"  Orion confirmed.

      "I'm not sure it's here at all, but look!"  Ariel said pointing to a giant tapestry.

     "Great Guardia!"  Elora breathed.

      The tapestry reached from the floor to the vaulted ceiling.  Upon the green field the Masamune, hilt up, glowed in silver and gold thread.

      "How did we never notice that before?"  Orion wondered.

      "It wasn't here before.  Oh, I'm sure the people here know of it, but we were traveling hither and thither through time while such changes were occurring, so our memories are a little out of step with what reality ended up becoming.  Kinda like how only we remember the Black Omen in the sky of our time, even though everyone mentioned it.  When we destroyed Lavos, the Black Omen never rose in any sky but the Dark Ages,"  Elora explained.

      "I'm glad you understand it because I sure don't!"  Ariel commented.

      "I only sort of understand it.  It makes me realize how very fragile Time is,"  Elora admitted.  "Well, now that we found the Masamune, or what we can of it, what do we do?"

      "While you two have been chatting, I've been looking about.  Come back here,"  Orion commanded from behind some furniture.

      "He's gotten really bossy, hasn't he?"  Ariel noted.

      "Yeah, but he has his uses.  Let's see what he found,"  Elora responded as she climbed around a huge armoire.

      "Oh!"

      Ariel climbed right behind her and they saw Orion, a huge smile on his face, resting his elbow on the head of a life-size version of Alpha carved in marble.

      "Some clue!"  Elora said.

      "I can't find any secret holes behind the tapestry or anything in Alpha's pockets.  I figure Alpha may be trying to leave us a message the way Queen Leene did for Ariel in the Rainbow Shell,"  Orion stated.

      "I still have that letter.  I keep it in my mother's jewelry box with Queen Leene's Coral Pin.  The Pendant I'll always wear,"  Ariel said quietly.

      Elora circled the small statue.  "Not exactly a pretty or heroic pose,"  she noted.  "What do you suppose he's doing?"

      Orion looked at the statue of his friend again.  "Why, that's his pose when he's about to Slurp someone.  I'd recognize that with how often he had to Slurp me!"

      He regarded Alpha's statue and looked more closely at the construction of the head.  He reached out and opened the subtly hinged jaw.  In the cleverly carved mouth of the statue, where Alpha's tongue would be, there was a scroll.

      "And Alpha speaks!"  Ariel crowed.  "Okay, but someone had to say it!"  she said to the sour looks Orion and Elora cast her way.

      Orion unrolled the scroll, read the heading and handed it to Ariel.  "It's addressed to you."
 
  'Dear Ariel,

  Not a day goes by that I do not think of and miss thee, Elora, Orion, Prime, and Arvia.  Thou art as precious to me as are my memories of Cyrus and mine own Queen Leene.

  Lately I have had forebodings regarding Schala.  We ne'er did ascertain her fate after the Ocean Palace disaster.  For her own self I would help her to the limits of my strength, for she was most good and fair of deed.  But I am also mindful that she is thine ancestor and her fate could affect thee, thy line, and also my beloved Queen Leene.

  I crave a favor from thee, my princess.  Please, use the Wings of Time to aid me in finding Gaspar and asking him to read this tangle of Time lines.  My heart is sore affrighted within me and I would do anything to safeguard Schala, Queen Leene, thee and thy descendants.

  There is a lone tree that o'erlooks the water in a clearing near where Orion's house will be.  He must know of it.  Please, bring Ark and look for me there.

I remain, faithfully thine,
Alpha'

      "Wow, even his letters sound like him with all the 'thees' and 'thous',"  Elora noted.

      "Elora, what state is the Wings of Time in?"  Orion asked after a moment of thought.

      "It's at Melchior's.  As usual Ark is ready to fly or Time trip, but we have to be careful.  We can't risk changing something,"  Elora cautioned.

      "Alpha's note is pretty clear.  He's concerned and he knows about Ark and Time travel.  If we get him and go directly to Gaspar at the End of Time, there's no way we would hurt anything..."  Ariel said.

      Elora paced a little.  "Well, no...  And I don't want to let Alpha down.  It would be super to see him again, but we can't just rip through Time to visit friends."

      "We aren't.  Alpha feels there's some trouble in the Time stream.  I feel kinda edgy too.  This isn't a simple visit.  If we changed something that shouldn't have been changed, it's our responsibility to set it right again.  Elora, go home, get your gear.  We'll meet you there,"  Orion decided.

      Ariel returned to her room and retrieved her adventuring gear.  She donned her Prism Dress, grasped her crossbow Valkyre, took up her backpack full of various tonics, ethers and other such stuff and met Orion in front of the castle.  They stashed her bow and gear in a tree near Orion's house.  They went up to Orion's room where a Clone of him stood in a corner holding Orion's best adventuring gear.  Orion unbuckled the sword belt and handed it to Ariel.

      "How creepy!  Why do you keep it here?"  Ariel asked.

      "Oh, I got it to remind me of all you guys did to save me,"  Orion admitted.

      "Well that's a little less weird, but doesn't it bother you at night?  Sleeping with it staring at you?"

      "No...it's kinda like you, Elora, Alpha, Prime and Arvia are watching over me, protecting me.  It's actually comforting.  I mean, you guys broke Time and space to bring me back...  Well prevent me dying.  I couldn't ask for better friends.  The Clone reminds me of that,"  Orion told her.

      "Seen that way it's not too creepy," Ariel replied.

      "Anyway that's one reason why we have to see what Alpha needs.  He wouldn't reach across hundreds of years just because he's lonely.  There is a reason.  He's our friend and he's asking our help.  It's a no-brainer really,"  Orion offered.

      "Lead on!  To Elora's house we go!"  Ariel sang out.

      From Elora's they used the Magic Waterspout to Heckran's cave and from there walked to Melchior's hut.

      "What brings you over today?"  Melchior asked.

      They told the Guru of Life all they knew and showed him Alpha's letter.

      "I've felt no ripples in Time, but my specialty is Life, so perhaps I wouldn't.  I know my memories are mixed, sometimes I remember the Black Omen hanging over my hut, but other times it is as if it never existed,"  Melchior said.  "If you are cautious, collect Alpha and go immediately to Gaspar at the End of Time, I can see no harm.  Do not let anyone see you!  Keep Ark low to the ground and away from where you know people are,"  Melchior further cautioned.

      "We will, Melchior.  Thanks!"  Orion promised.

      "Is it just me or does Ark seem happy to see us?"  Ariel asked.

      "Gaspar did say that Ark had a mind and soul of its own.  It did follow us when Orion was – lost,"  Elora reminded her.

      "Now the tree Alpha mentioned should be over here,"  Orion muttered as he carefully piloted the ship just above the trees to a spot near his house.

      Orion set the compass and Ark sailed through Time to come to rest in the same place in the Middle Ages.

      Glenn watched as the Wings of Time materialized just above the treetops, the chrono-distortion sending a ripple through the air that quickly vanished.  He approved of the way the Ark landed swiftly to minimize its impact in this Time.  He gathered his gear and strode through the forest to where the Time ship landed.

      Ariel was on the ground scanning the woods on the other side and Orion was helping Elora down.  Seeing his friends again caused a lump to rise in Glenn's throat.

      Orion turned from assisting Elora and caught sight of Glenn.

      "Oh, no!  We're in the wrong place!  Board again, quickly!"  Orion said in dismay as he advanced rapidly toward Glenn.  The girls jumped to obey his order.

      "Good sir, we are so sorry to have caused trouble for you..."  he began.

      "Thou idiot.  It's me, Alpha, er, Glenn,"  Glenn said with a lopsided smile.

      Orion's eyes widened as he stared at Glenn's human form.  He staggered back a step, tripped and sat down hard on the ground.  Elora and Ariel reversed and descended to the ground again.  Glenn reached a strong arm down to assist Orion back to his feet.  Once he was upright again Orion noticed that he had to look up into his friend's laughing green eyes.  He had always been taller than Alpha.

      "What happened?"  he asked in a daze as a delighted smile crept over his face.

      "What are you doing, Orion?  Where's Froggy?"  Elora demanded as Ariel and she walked up.

      "Here, right here.  Alpha...  Glenn has somehow been restored to his natural form!"  Orion grinned.

      "Ooh, you handsome guy!  You never told us you were a total hunk!"  Elora chided.

      "You are utterly gorgeous,"  Ariel added quietly.

      "So, Glenn,"  Orion turned from watching the girls swallow their amazement.  "Just how did you return to human form?"

      "After Lavos' defeat, after King Guardia and I return'eth here from the Gate in Leene Square,"  Glenn began as he swept his hair out of his face with a graceful gesture.  "I begged his leave and traversed about trying to come to terms with all our travels had accomplished.  I visited some of the people who assisted us, Tata's going to be a fine guardsman, by the way, and tried to decide what I should do with the rest of my life.  I returned to my pad,"  everyone groaned and Glenn smiled broadly at his own pun.  "Which showed me that I could ne'er again be content with only that solitary existence.  Setting Cyrus to rest and saving Orion has lifted much of the sorrow from my soul,”  Glenn's eyes unfocused and his gaze lifted over their heads recalling the powerful memories.

       He continued,  “I know it may'eth sound silly, but I visited Cyrus' tomb and talked to him.  No, he didst not show up and answer me but I felt as if he were endeavoring to tell me something.  Finally, after more traveling, I felt strong enough to go to where it happened;  where Cyrus was slain and I transformed.  When I went to the waterfall near where I first woke as a frog under, I felt – strange.  As I stood under the cascade of water, I could feel magic gathering about me.  It enter into me and I changed;  not back into the gangly youth I had been, but well – this.  The man I would have been had I ne'er been made into a frog.  Magus claim'eth his death would break my curse, perhaps I had to go back to where it happened to let the reversal take place."

      "Hmph!  I think it was my kiss!"  Ariel said, remembering the surprise Alpha had shown when she kissed him before he left Leene Square.

      "Well, then ne'er kiss me again, fair damsel, for I desire not a return to being a frog!"  Glenn laughed as he gently teased her.

      "We'd better make sure,"  Ariel teased in return.  She stood on her tiptoes and kissed Glenn's cheek.  "See?  No change!"

      "Oh, I don't know..."  Elora said.  She too kissed Glenn on his other cheek.  "I think he's blushing.  That's a significant physiological change!"

      Orion snorted.  "Are you two quite finished?"  he demanded, glaring at the two girls.  Ariel looked into Orion's eyes, giggled, nodded and turned away. 

   Elora cupped her chin, regarded the humoring expression on Glenn's face, gently kissed his cheek again and said,  "For now."  Glenn laughed at Orion's consternation.

      "Seriously, what's the trouble?"    Orion asked.

      "My dreams have been troubled of late and a sense of dark foreboding fills the quiet part of my days.  I fear Schala, and through her, Leene, thou, Ariel, and the entire future of the Guardia line is in danger.  Also, a few days a-gone the Masamune gain'eth in power again when I was knighted,"  Glenn responded turning a troubled gaze upon Ariel.

      "You were knighted?  Way to go, Froggy – er, Glenn!"  Elora cheered.

      "Twice knighted actually.  Once as Alpha and then again as 'Cyril',"  Glenn admitted.

      "Cyril?"  Ariel asked.

      "The name I took when I was transformed back.  'Alpha' is a great Hero an' I have no desire to be treated – well, famous.  'Glenn', in a way, is dead since I can ne'er return to who I was and, well, 'Cyril' is close enough to 'Cyrus' for me to honor him.  I think of him as I honor my vow to watch o'er Queen Leene,"  Glenn explained.

      "Of course!  Sir Cyril!  There's mention of him all through the castle records...  I assumed it was Cyrus' brother.  Now it makes sense!"  Ariel said.  "We were concerned, we scanned the royal archives and could find no exploits of Alpha's.  We thought you had gone back to the Cursed Woods, we'd no idea you'd returned to human.  Oh, the adventures you...  Oh!  I better not say anything more!"  Ariel covered her mouth with both hands and looked at Glenn with stars in her eyes.  Glenn wondered just what adventures were in store for him and whether the reality would match up with the history Ariel had read.

      "You said the Masamune powered up again?"  Orion prompted Glenn quickly.

      Glenn hid his smile at his friend's slight jealousy as he responded.  "They can now speak to me in my mind.  'Tis rather disconcerting.  But it seems every time my sword gain'eth in power we are called upon to do more.  I think the Masamune's gain in ability is connected to the peril I fear Schala may be in.  I ask of thee to convey me to the End of Time.  I must converse with Gaspar regarding these strange forebodings for I canst not see them clearly or be certain I am reading them aright.  I am glad to see all of you again, e'en though we may be once again called into danger;  I could ask for no better friends to be by my side.  Now, let us board and be off,"  Glenn urged.

      Orion reached for Glenn's pack and went around the back of Ark to stow it.  Glenn bowed slightly to Ariel as he offered.  "Dost thou care for mine assistance, my princess?"

      Ariel giggled as she accepted Glenn's help up to Ark's seats.  After he seated her he leaped lightly to the ground again.

      "And thou, my Wonder Worker?"  Glenn asked Elora as he landed next to her.

      "Wonder Worker?"  Ariel teased as Glenn settled Elora into the seat next to her.

      "I notice you let him call you 'princess',"  Elora replied archly as Glenn leaped down.

      "Yeah, well, he has such dreamy green eyes.  I'm sure it'll get just as tedious as when you and Orion say it soon enough.  More's the pity.  'My princess.'  My ancestress had all the luck,"  Ariel mused.  The two girls were still giggling when Orion vaulted into the driver's seat.  Glenn followed directly after, turning a somersault in the air before landing lightly on the wing next to Orion.  Orion gaped at him.

      Glenn smiled gently.  "I have a few, very slight abilities from my ten years as a frog.  I am an expert tumbler, not quite enough for me to have retained Leap Slash, and I am afraid I can no longer work with thee to perform Spire.  Is there enough room for me to sit next to thee?  With four of us traveling the Time stream together, the ride should prove rather bumpy."

        Orion shifted and they found there was indeed enough room.  He set the time compass and called out.  "Next stop, the End of Time!"

      The white ship lifted gently into the air, rose to just above the tree tops and silently slipped into the time stream.  Just as Glenn had predicted the ride was more exciting than usual.

~TBC~
« Last Edit: January 13, 2021, 03:49:31 pm by Kitt »

Kitt

  • Earthbound (+15)
  • *
  • Posts: 22
    • View Profile
    • Forever Dreaming, my anime cel gallery
Re: Shadows of Schala (Part One)
« Reply #1 on: October 01, 2020, 01:42:13 pm »
Shadows of Schala - Chapter Two

The Timeship drifted slowly as Orion eased it into its berth. He leaped out and turned to offer a hand to Ariel, who bounded past him, her golden hair flying. Elora giggled at the hurt puppy expression on his face as she too, disembarked without assistance.

"You're welcome!" Orion muttered under his breath.

"Worry not," Glenn advised. "I'm sure she appreciate'th the gesture. She simply know'eth not how to tell thee."

"Yeah, you're probably right," Orion responded, a devilish grin washing over his face. "But I can think of other appropriate gestures..."

"Of that, my friend, I hold no doubts!" Glenn laughed as he clapped Orion on the back.

"What are you boys whispering about back there?" Ariel called over her shoulder.

"Nothing!"

They walked down a corridor, leading to a now-familiar lamp post, located in the center of the odd brick structure they knew as the "End of Time". An old man leaned on a cane next to the lamp post and dozed on, oblivious to the arrival of his visitors.

"Wake up, Gaspar," Orion said as he shook the old man's shoulder. "We might have a problem."

The old man, Gaspar, jumped slightly as he came to full awareness. He was dressed in an impeccable suit and a bowler hat rested lightly on his head. He pulled out a pocket watch, flipped it open, consulted the time, closed it with a snap and smiled benignly at them.

"Somehow," he began. "I expected to see you. You've actually arrived sooner than I thought. It's not nice to throw off the timetables of the Guru of Time."

"What are you talking about?" Ariel asked. "How did you know we were coming?"

Just them a heavy footfall sounded from beyond the corridor on the other side of Gaspar's post. The corridor's gate swung open and a metal boot stepped through the opening, heralding the arrival of another old friend. An imposing, massive, gleaming gold robot came through the door, closing it softly behind him.

"Prime!" Elora exclaimed as she rushed to greet her favorite out-time friend. She liked Alpha or Glenn, and Arvia, the girl from Prehistoric times well enough, but Prime was special. Many were the times she had to repair him and she poured all of her mechanical skills into "healing" him unstintingly. Prime had begun to develop emotions and his first was an affection for Elora.

Prime caught Elora as she jumped the last few feet to him and swung her about. They circled three times before Elora put her hands on his arms and begged him to stop.

"I'm getting dizzy!" Elora laughed. "But what are you doing here?"

"Hello, Elora," Prime said as he set her on her feet and hugged her carefully with only a fraction of his great strength. "All of you?" he bowed to Orion and Ariel in turn as a greeting. "But who is...  Wait. I know you," he continued as his photoelectric gaze fell on Glenn. "Several people would wave to me as I tended Fiona's Forest, but it always seemed to be more meaningful to you. Who are you?"

"'Tis me," Glenn replied with a courtly bow. "Alpha. The curse Magus place'th on me hath been broken."

"It does my processors good to hear that, Alpha," Prime said.

"Please," Glenn began. "My days as 'Alpha' art behind me. Thou may'est call me by mine own name, 'Glenn'."

"Very well," Prime acquiesced with a flash of his photoreceptors. "'Alpha' has been purged: you are now 'Glenn'."

"'Alpha has been purged'," Ariel repeated. "Why does that sound bad?"

"Just updating my memory codes," Prime responded. "Nothing to worry about. Tell me, how did you get here? I did not think you had contacted Melchior yet, Mr. Gaspar," Prime looked toward the Guru.

"It wasn't my doing," Gaspar said. "They showed up on their own."

"We used Ark," Orion explained. "Glenn contacted us..."

"Thy pardon, Orion," Glenn interrupted. "About that, I fear we may have a problem, one that span'eth thousands of years of Time. Of late, I have had particularly compelling dreams, revolving around Magus' sister, Schala. I know not what to make of them."

"Well, ever since I received a message from Belthasar that Prime noticed an anomaly, I've been scanning the time-stream. The overall fabric of Time has been unraveling, all leading back to a single event. That event is the rising of the Black Omen," Gaspar paused to let the significance of that last revelation sink in. "I've searched the length of Time and made a discovery. Ariel," Gaspar turned to address the princess. "Schala is your direct ancestress. Your line is starting to disappear from Time, starting from the Future, where Doan has vanished and reaching back to when Schala disappeared following the Ocean Palace disaster. The one that created the Black Omen."

"Wait a second," Orion interrupted. "You're telling us that Ariel is going to – to disappear because we destroyed the Black Omen and defeated Lavos? And there is nothing we can do?"

"Actually, there is one thing," Gaspar noted mildly.

"WHAT?!" five voices demanded in unison.

"Rescue Schala," The Guru of Time stated simply, adjusting his hat. "All you need to do is prevent her from vanishing when the Black Omen rises."

"But how?" Elora asked. "We destroyed it!"

"Duh, Elora. I thought you were the brains," Orion scoffed. "We have a time ship and we're close personal friends with the legendary Guru of Time!"

"It's not quite that easy, I'm afraid," Gaspar warned. "My visions regarding Schala have been shrouded in darkness."

"My dreams, too, have been vague," Glenn said. "and rather enigmatic."

"Yeah, those odd dreams that made me think of Alpha were that way, too,”  Ariel added.

"What be the thread that connect'eth us?" Glenn asked.

No one had an answer at first. Elora glancing from Gaspar to Glenn and then to Ariel, found her attention drawn to Ariel's pendant. It glowed softly as Schala's did.

"Could it be – Schala herself?" Elora ventured.

After a pause Orion spoke out, "No. I can see why Schala might try to reach Gaspar, since he lived in the same time, or even Ariel since she's descended from Schala, but what is Glenn's connection to her?"

“I hath somewhat recently been – touched by the magic of Schala's brother. My dreams did not begin 'til Magus' curse had been broken," Glenn observed softly.

"Yes, but we've all been touched by Magus' magic..."

"Glenn was changed completely by that magic, down to the cellular level," Prime observed. "Unless you have been keeping something from me, no one else has been turned into another species."

Mune spoke in Glenn's mind. “You also carry us. We are another strong connection to Magus. We are from his time, we are specially enchanted to weaken him and we enabled Hero and weapon to slay him."

Glenn pondered that for a moment, then added, "I carry the brothers Masa and Mune. They art from Schala's time, they art enchanted to weaken Magus. I use that enchantment to slay her brother. Perhaps these connections attracted Schala's attention?"

Elora shook her head.  "It's possible Schala's not trying to reach you, any of you. I think she might be trying to reach her brother."

"If that's the case, why would anyone but Magus get her message?" Orion argued.

"For the very reasons we've just stated. We three have the strongest connections to both Schala and Janus." Gaspar said.

"Too bad Janus, uh, Magus, is dead," Orion spoke into the following silence. "Otherwise, we could just ask him."

"Perhaps – you still can," the Guru noted.

"What?" Orion scoffed. "You have a way to bring the dead back – to – life," he trailed off.

The Guru reached into his pocket and pulled out what looked like a simple egg. "Actually, yes! You would know that better than anyone!" He smiled at the young man.

"But we have not a copy of Magus.  Need we not one for the Chrono Trigger to work?" Glenn asked.

"I will contact Melchior and have him convey our need to the magician, Norstein Bekkler," Gaspar decided. "But it will take some time and I need to make sure that Janus' death was not a necessary step in the defeat of Lavos. Since the time stream is – clouded it will take me longer than usual. Rather than stand out here twiddling your thumbs, why not pay Spekkio a visit? It's been awhile since he's had company and he does get cranky."

"A cranky god of war? Wonderful!" Orion muttered. Gaspar chuckled and waved them off.

"Very well," Glenn said striding over and opening the door. He bowed Elora through with a tasteful flourish of his cloak. "Milady."

Elora blushed as she entered the room followed by Glenn and Prime. Ariel reached to catch the door, but Orion beat her to it, gallantly holding the door open for her.

"Humph!" Ariel humphed as she passed Orion tossing her chin in the air. Stung he let the door close after her.

"What am I doing wrong?" he beseeched Gaspar. "Glenn does stuff like that and it's charming."

"Yes, well, that is Glenn," Gaspar replied a small smile creeping across his features. "Believe me, young hero, I have spent much time here and unraveled many mysteries, and have yet to figure out women. Don't worry though," He patted Orion's shoulder. "Your future looks to be bright enough that I'd hang on to the Sun Shades that Taban made if I were you."

He smiled at Orion's confusion and shooed him. "Now get out of here! Your friends are waiting and I need to concentrate on my work."

Orion shook his head, tossed a last look over his shoulder at the mysterious old man, opened the door to Spekkio's pocket dimension and stepped through. Gaspar smiled warmly as he began the somewhat difficult task of contacting Melchior.

Orion stepped through the door, a puzzled look furrowing his brow. The first thing he noticed was a Nu – pink, rather than blue, but otherwise appearing like a Nu in every way. Nus are curious creatures, standing nearly two meters tall and the same wide. They appear to be all face with arms and legs attached oddly, almost as an afterthought. They spend most of their time sleeping and appear at all times to be utterly harmless. They don't speak much, and what they do say is rather cryptic, and no one has ever seen them eat. If one was observant enough, one could find a Nu in every time period. It is almost as if they were monitoring the advancement of the human race. True to form, this one was sleeping and Orion's friends were standing about it afraid to wake it.

"What's going on?" Orion asked. "Where's Spekkio?"

"Shh!" his friends admonished him, all at once.

"We are afeared to disturb its slumber," Glenn explained quietly. "We know not what it shall do."

"Oh, for crying out loud! It's a Nu!" Orion exclaimed, striding over to the bright pink creature. "HEY! WAKEY, WAKEY!"

The Nu jumped, startled at the sudden noise. Everyone else jumped, reaching for their weapons.

"Sorry, I just dozed off for a few millenia...  Oh, hey," it said. "Punk-head! And you brought everybody!"

Doubly shocked by the Nu's abundant use of language and its obvious recognition of the party, Orion asked, "Spekkio? Is that you?"

Spekkio looked radically different from the last time Orion had seen him. He changed in appearance the more skilled the group became with magic and the last time Orion had seen him, he looked like – well like a demon. Now, he looked like a pink Nu. Orion wasn't sure if this counted as an improvement or not. Spekkio was certainly friendlier looking, but it must be hard to gain respect as the self-proclaimed 'god of war' when you slept most of the day.

"In the psuedo-flesh.  Are you looking for some practice?"  Spekkio asked.

"Actually, Gaspar told us to come see you because you haven't had many visitors for a while. Some practice wouldn't hurt either."  Ariel supplied.

"Hmmm," Spekkio regarded them, "Wait just a sec, okay?"

Spekkio glowed a bright white. The room filled with intense light. The light shrank back to the center of the room and coalesced into a rough Nu shape. Abruptly, it split in two and faded. Two Nus now stood where before there had been only one.

The Nu on the right spoke up, "I need a little help, since there are so many of you. Meet my alter ego, Nu."

"I'm not the alter ego," the left side Nu argued. "You are my alter ego."

"That is not true," Nu-right said. "I am Spekkio!"

"Uh-uh," Nu-left retorted. "I am the god of war!"

"It does not matter," Prime interrupted. "You are both duplicates of the same being. Neither of you is more or less Spekkio than the other...  other...  other..." Prime's head began to spin like an out of control top as he kept repeating his last word.

Elora walked over, opened a panel on his back, hit a few buttons and scowled.

"What ail'eth our clockwork ally?" Glenn asked.

"His diagnostic readout says his logic chip has overloaded. Undoubtedly caused by two Nu-Spekkios arguing with each other." She cast a severely reproachful glance their way, as each one pointed to the other. "I was working on an illogic chip to give him if I ever saw him again, but I left it at home."

She thought for a moment, scratched her head and pulled a tool from her belt. She walked around the robot, frowning as he continued to say "...other..." oblivious to the world. When she stood behind him, she wound her arm back, watched the timing of the oscillations and hit him sharply square in the back of the head with a mallet. His head stopped spinning and he finally ceased repeating himself.

"Thank you, Elora," Prime said. "I needed that." In a much softer tone he added, "I think!"

"Are you done playing with your toys?" Nu-right said.

"Yeah, we're getting bored," Nu-left agreed.

"Yes Spekkio," Elora replied as she hung her hammer back on her belt. "I'm through."

"Good," the two Nus said in unison. "Then we can begin."

With that, the two Nus began a cooperative spell know as Antipode, a combination of fire and ice, and the magical combat began.

Gaspar turned to look as the door to Spekkio's lair opened. He grinned as he saw Glenn's and Orion's clothes smoking, Ariel's hair severely, for lack of a better word, frizzed, and the robot dripping wet. Elora seemed untouched by magic as she used a cloth to dry Prime.

"Did you win?" Gaspar asked, unable to resist.

"Yeah," Orion replied with a twisted half-smile as he tried vainly to restore the 'punk' style to his hair. "We won an all expense paid trip for four to 'Spell Town', courtesy of the Nu express. 'Spell Town' has severe and rather unusual weather patterns. It rains fire, lightning and ice all the time. Elora got to see a black hole real close, otherwise it would have been a trip for five. Elora was the lucky one!"

Orion suddenly grinned his wide, sunny smile. "Good ol' Spekkio!"

Gaspar chuckled. "Well, do not worry overmuch about it. I found out some interesting news."

"Please, share it with us," Glenn asked politely.

"First things first." Gaspar responded, bringing his arm around in a gesture that included all of them. Their hair, clothes and armor returned to what passed for normal as he muttered, "Spekkio should have done this. He must have fallen asleep, irresponsible Nu. Now then," Gaspar continued, retrieving his cane from the side of the lamp post. "The time stream is still – twisted, not irreparably so, but you must move fast. I can't be sure, but I think Doan's grandparents have disappeared, so the 'Chronal Eraser' is working its way back through Time. We need to decipher Schala's messages and we need Janus to do it. He can be restored, without altering the feats you have already accomplished, but there will be a price." Gaspar paused and looked at Glenn. Glenn regarded the Guru, a questioning look in his eyes.

"I fear, my friend," Gaspar said slowly. "That if you use the Chrono Trigger to restore Janus, it will also restore your curse."

"What mean'est thou," Glenn demanded. "I have broken the curse by slaying Magus!" Glenn blinked as the truth occurred to him. "Oh. I see."

"I don't," Ariel stated flatly. "Why would Glenn turn into a frog again?"

"It is an unfortunate, but unavoidable side effect. When you restore Janus, it will be as if he never died," the Guru explained softly as Glenn walked to a nearby corner. "With Janus alive the curse remains unbroken."

"So why can't we go back and prevent Glenn from ever getting cursed? And save Cyrus, too!" Ariel demanded, despair creeping into her voice.

"If we do that," Prime noted. "Then Glenn as a frog would not be able to assist us in our defeat of Lavos. His abilities were necessary toward that end. Also I do not believe even the Guru of Time has the power to make all lives flow as we would wish them to." Gaspar nodded silently.

"We can, have to, save a mean, evil person like Magus and we cannot do anything as our friend bears up under a terrible curse again! It's not fair!" Ariel raged helplessly.

"The Chrono Trigger can only be used to restore events to their proper sequence in a broken timeline," Gaspar explained regretfully. "The Trigger's spell does have limits. It can't work miracles."

"Gaspar, can't you do anything?" Ariel asked, anguished.

"Child, my power is over Time. I have no abilities over frogs or curses."

"...the only way to save Schala, Leene, Doan and me is to..." Ariel halted.

"Is for Glenn to take up the burden of his curse once more," Gaspar responded.

Ariel mouthed "No!" as her voice failed and she turned away crying. Orion held her while she sobbed softly.

"Ultimately," Gaspar continued after a moment's pause. "The choice is Glenn's."

At this Glenn turned from his silent contemplation of the swirling mists of Time and regarded the Guru.

"If you choose to, you may return to your time, and live out your life as you are. You, and you alone, would have knowledge of a queen named Leene. Since Ariel will not be born in the future, her absence in the time stream will allow Lavos to rise from the depths of Oblivion and destroy the world as you know it in the year 1999," Gaspar paused to let the words have their impact, then continued, "or, you can accept the curse of an altered form, and maybe one day, find a way to reverse the spell. Either way, you have a responsibility to do what is right in your heart."

There was a long moment of silence before Glenn asked, "Gaspar, please open'est a portal to mine own time."

"WHAT?!" Elora screeched as she raced toward the knight, her fist clenched. "You can't just..."

Prime caught her as she dashed by and restrained her gently.

"Elora, please," Gaspar held up one hand. "He has made his choice."

A beautiful pillar of light formed and Glenn fixed his gaze on it. The only sound was Ariel's crying.

Glenn contemplated the portal for a long moment before turning to Gaspar and saying, "close'st it again."

He walked over to Orion who released Ariel and stood aside. He took Ariel's shoulders in his hands and she looked up into his face, the tears streaming down her cheeks. A tear rolled down his face as he explained, "I canst not leave Leene to the unforgiving Void or cast'est thee into it. Whilst it may cause'th me pain and hardship to be a frog again, I willing take that burden, so that others shall have more than just memories of thee."

Overcome by his sacrifice, Ariel simply hugged Glenn tight. After a moment Orion cleared his throat and Ariel took a step away from Glenn.

"Enow," Glenn locked gazes with each pair of anguished eyes in turn. "I hath said that I wouldst do anything to save Schala. It is sufficient that you, my friends, hath known me, e'en if briefly, in my true form. Despise'st not – Alpha the frog overmuch," much lower he added. "I only wish that a damsel could hath come to love me as Cyril, perhaps love'th me enow to – love also Alpha."

"Do not despair of love just yet, my friend," Gaspar advised cryptically.

"We have a task before us. What need we to restore Magus?" Glenn asked as he squared his shoulders.

"Well, you have the Chrono Trigger. I've keyed it to Rainbow. All you need is to go to Norstein Bekkler's lab and get a Clone of him. Melchior has it all arranged."

"Let us be off then," Glenn said heavily. "We need stop in mine own time so that I may retrieve the garments I used as a frog and I need to obtain another sword."

"Will... Will not the Masamune suffice?" Gaspar asked, shocked that Glenn would leave that sword behind.

"I believe not the brothers shall recognize'th me in frog guise," Glenn replied simply.

"Glenn," Orion began. "Didn't they tell you it was the heart of the Hero they recognized and not the outward form? I remember them saying something like that."

"When... Oh, yes," Glenn said, the memory returning. "At Cyrus' grave. I remember now."

"How could you forget?" Masa's voice rang in his head. "He doesn't want us, Mune!"

"Yeah," Mune's mental voice agreed loudly. "He probably has a sword of gold he's been hiding! Didn't even ask what we wanted him to do!"

"Not as if he doesn't need us," Masa went on. "He couldn't be the Hero without us..."

"Had to be reminded by 'Spikey' over there..."

"He just doesn't love us anymore..."

"Stop'est it, the two of thee!" Glenn demanded, his hands over his ears. Everyone blinked at him blankly.

"The Masamune wast speaking to me," Glenn explained. "I managed to offend the brothers."

"Ohhh..." the other five said.

"Prime, could you get Ark ready for departure?" Orion asked.

"Of course, Orion," the robot said as he went down the corridor.

"Elora, Ariel, you will have to stay her with Gaspar. We'll bring Magus back, then figure out what to do," Orion said.

A look crossed Ariel's face, she grabbed Elora aside and the two of them began whispering and giggling, looking back to Orion and Glenn.

"I'm not so sure I like this," Orion pointed with his thumb over his shoulder at the girls as he and Glenn started down the corridor to the Timeship.

"Remember, how the Trigger works. You can activate it with Rainbow. I would have keyed it to the Masamune, but Glenn will have his hands full," Gaspar explained. "I'll send the Chrono-wave from here when Ark materializes so you will not have long. If you should fail, return here and we'll figure out a new plan."

Orion stopped. "What about us? If you stop Time, won't we be stopped, too?"

"No," Gaspar explained. "The Timeship will protect you and the Chrono-wave will only cover the Cape where Janus was killed. You will need to hover close to it but remain out of sight. You can't risk changing Glenn's memories."

Orion still looked confused and was about to ask another question when Glenn said, "we understand." He pulled Orion along. "Let us go and thou canst have Prime explain'eth it to thee later."

When they were out of earshot of the Guru, Orion said, "Glenn, can I ask you something?"

"Certes," Glenn responded.

"Back there, when you had Gaspar open the portal back to the 6th Century – were you actually going to do it? Were you going to go through it and forget about...  Well, everything?"

Glenn paused before answering, choosing his words carefully. "I don't believe so. I gave myself a test. Wouldst I chose the path that would mean I lead a normal life and destroy a future I wouldst ne'er know, being none the wiser? Or wouldst I have the strength to suffer a curse and save my queen, my friend and her children's children? In the end I made my final choice."

"You made the right choice," Orion said, placing a hand on his friend's shoulder.

"Nay," Glenn replied with a wry smile as he gently shrugged off his friend's hand and walked toward the Ark.

Orion paused for a second before he realized what Glenn had said. "'Nay'?" he repeated, jogging to catch up to Glenn. "What do you mean 'Nay'? How could you have lived with yourself?"

"It wast not a matter of the right choice or the wrong choice," Glenn answered, grinning at his friend's shocked reaction. "In the end, it wast the only choice I could make."

With that, Glenn leapt onto the Ark, as Orion stood shaking his head at his friend. He chuckled and joined his friends on the Timeship. As he strapped in, Orion saw Prime cycle up the engines and pull away from the berth. He noted the Time-gyro stabilize and his world became a flashing white light.

~TBC~

Boo the Gentleman Caller

  • Guru of Life
  • Lavos (+4000)
  • *
  • Posts: 4911
    • View Profile
Re: Shadows of Schala (Part One)
« Reply #2 on: October 01, 2020, 07:53:18 pm »
I'm a couple of days late, as I have been out of pocket mostly for work.

This is a really fun read, though! I did have to look at the top to remind me of the names, though, haha...

Keep up the good work! I love seeing other's interpretations of Schala's rescue; this was something I was obsessed with before we had Chrono Cross giving an answer. :)

Kitt

  • Earthbound (+15)
  • *
  • Posts: 22
    • View Profile
    • Forever Dreaming, my anime cel gallery
Shadows of Schala (Part Three)
« Reply #3 on: October 03, 2020, 12:51:32 am »
Crono = Orion * Marle = Ariel * Lucca = Elora * Frog = Alpha * Robo = Prime * Ayla = Arvia

Shadows of Schala - Chapter Three

An unnoticed chrono-distortion washed just under the lip of the North Cape as Prime expertly piloted the Wings of Time to a rocky out-cropping just out of sight.

"Nice job," Orion said. "This is the perfect spot."

"I merely accessed my records of the topography of the Cape. I will remain here, ready to return to the End of Time once you have Magus," Prime offered.

"Okay, Prime. I've got the Chrono Trigger. Have you got the Clone?" Orion asked Glenn.

"It's heavy, but I can manage. Where to?"

Orion jumped lightly down from the wing of the Ark and waited as Glenn struggled slightly with Magus' Clone. They trekked cautiously up to the trees and stayed just out of sight of those already on the Cape and outside the zone to be affected by Gaspar's Chrono-wave. The past versions of Ariel and Prime suddenly nodded and stepped away from Magus and Alpha. Orion and Glenn watched in horror as Magus and Alpha began to fight.

"We miss-timed it! Your past self and Magus are already going at it." Orion winced as Magus took a particularly vicious cut from the enraged frog. "Gaspar is going to send the Chrono-wave. Do we have enough time to return to him and stop it?"

Glenn watched sadly as Alpha, his own past self, Leap Slashed his enemy. Oozing blood from a dozen cuts and gashes Magus still fought on, summoning the light to himself and unleashing a bolt of Lightning at the berserk frog. A flash at the horizon made him look away from the melee.

"Nay, the wave come'th!" Glenn pointed.

Some awareness of great magic caused Magus' guard to slip a little. He stared open-mouthed at the scintillating wave of energy as it engulfed Alpha, Ariel, Prime and himself. Once the Chrono-wave had spent itself across the Cape, Glenn and Orion approached the time-frozen tableau.

Glenn examined his past frog self in dismay, noting the short, squat stature, the wide set eyes, broad mouth and the odd non-human angles of the joints of his limbs. He then crossed to where Magus stood frozen and gazed searchingly into his adversary's face. The wonder and fear of the encroaching Chrono-wave had stamped a curiously vulnerable look in Magus' eyes.

"Alas!" Glenn said as he glanced again at the frog. "Did I truly appear so – repulsive?"

"Never, not to me. Your nobility of heart always showed through your form and together, because of that form, you and I did some incredible things," Orion responded softly. "Why did you challenge Magus?"

"We had just seen thee disintegrated by Lavos. Magus was insulting thee, acting as if thy – death was thine own fault. I couldst not stand by and allow him to insult thee any longer," Glenn answered. "So I challenged him and in slaying him ended the curse he hath placed upon me," Glenn paused and bowed his head for a moment. "'Tis the bitterest irony that now I must save him and accept back my curse to rescue'eth his sister, Leene, Ariel and all the rest. I couldst not bear it if Leene and Ariel wert to be – rent out of Time as Doan hath already been. Please – once I am again – transformed – call me 'Alpha'. Now, Orion, Magus' twin."

They placed the Clone in position and Glenn grasped the true Magus by his right arm. He maneuvered Magus' inert weight to the end of the Cape just over where Prime hovered the Wings of Time and waited, poised to leap.

Orion placed the Chrono Trigger between the two combatants, the Time-stopped Alpha and the Clone of Magus, and brought his sword, Rainbow, whistling down on it, cleaving it in two. A pure, white flash dazzled all as Time rushed back into the Cape. Under cover of the light, Orion raced to the edge, grabbed hold of Magus' left arm, paused to let the flow of restored Time wash over them to release Magus from stasis, and jumped with Glenn into the waiting Ark, carrying Magus between them.

"I know not what foul sorcery thou weave'st, Magus, but I have thee now!" they heard from the direction of the North Cape followed by the unmistakable sound of the Masamune slashing through the air and then into something solid. A mortal scream reverberated across the Cape, and at that moment, Glenn crashed to the floor of the Timeship as dark magic twisted his form and features.

He curled into a tight ball and rocked soundlessly with the violent force of the magic that brutally reshaped him. When it had passed he remained curled up until Orion touched his shoulder.

"'Tis done?" he asked. Hearing the thickening croak he uttered, he knew it to be so. He leaped to his feet tossing his head back in despair as a single tear rolled down his broad frog-like face.

"Gl... Alpha." Orion sighed sorrowfully. He reached forward and embraced his friend, awkwardly patting his now more than humanly wide back. "We'll find some way to break this curse for you. It isn't fair!"

"Warning!" Prime called from where he was piloting Ark. "Magus' life signs are failing!"

"He mustn't die now! We need him to save Schala and the others!" Alpha cried out in dismay as he looked at the unconscious mage.

Abruptly his tongue whipped out and touched Magus softly on the cheek. The wounds Magus had suffered healed and closed. Magus' eyes snapped open as he grabbed Alpha's tongue.

"My curse has warped your mind as well as your body. First you try to kill me and now you heal me with your disgusting tongue! Give me one good reason not to twist the vile thing right out of your mouth," Magus demanded as he tightened his grip painfully.

"Ilh – canllh't talllhk. Lllehllt ghho of myllh tongulllh!" Alpha lisped.

"Un – tongue him, Magus! Let him go!" Orion demanded.

"You...  You're supposed to be dead. I saw Lavos destroy you!" Magus, in his surprise, let Alpha go.

"Much hath occurred that thou know'est not. We need'est thee to help us locate Schala. Come to the End of Time so that Gaspar canst explain all," Alpha replied.

"The Guru of Time, eh? And Schala lost and probably in danger. Okay, I'll chat with the old man. But you!" he glared at Alpha. "Never touch me with that slimy thing again!"

"Dost not worry. I've no desire to soil it upon thee. Thou tastet'st bitter anyway," Alpha turned from Magus whose face was turning purple in his fury. "Orion, leave'st me here. I've – peace to find with my form again.  Retrieve'th me later. That is...  if thou hast any use for me." Alpha took up a parcel and leaped to the wing and then off toward the now deserted Cape.

"Good riddance," Magus sneered.

Orion grabbed him by the throat. "If we did not need you to help us understand what is wrong with the time stream and find Schala; save Leene and Ariel, and all the rest; I'd gladly choke the life out of you now for all you've put Glenn through!" Orion declared in a low voice as his grasp tightened on Magus' neck. "But we do need you. If you can't respect him at least keep silent or I shall make you regret it," Orion vowed as he tossed Magus to the floor of the ship.

"You're not the push-over I took you for, boy," Magus noted, rubbing his sore neck and rising to his feet. "Good! I loathe goody-goodies. Now save me some time. How is it that you live?"

"The same way you do, Gaspar's Chrono Trigger. Both of our – deaths were not in keeping with the time stream we are now in. Since Lavos was a time-rending being, simply bringing the Chrono Trigger and a Clone of me near enough to it was sufficient to work the Trigger's magic. In your case, since Lavos is no more, Gaspar had to send a Chrono-wave from the End of Time to stop everything long enough for us to switch you with your Clone. We arrived here later than we wanted. We were going to substitute your Clone for you in your fight with Alpha and prevent you from being injured. That was why he Slurped you. After all we've been through to rescue you we couldn't let you die on us," Orion explained.

"Slurped? Is that what you call it? How gross! But...  Lavos – no more?" Magus asked.

"We destroyed it. Of course it was after Alpha killed you and they had rescued me so you wouldn't know...  Technically they are going to rescue me now, but wait first they need to..."

"Forget it. You're confusing me. I'll talk to Gaspar." Magus whirled his cloak about himself and sat down upon the seat. "Well, bolt bucket? Are you going to drive this thing to the End of Time or just sit there like some hideous piece of modern art?" Magus demanded of Prime.

"This is a most unpleasant individual," Prime commented as Orion sat next to him. Prime set the controls, Ark lifted gracefully into the air and opened the corridor of Time.

Moments later, Magus deboarded with Orion and Prime and glanced disapprovingly at the corridor.

"So this is the End of Time?" he commented. "Not much to look at!"

"Tell me, are you ever happy with anything?" Orion asked.

"I'm not happy to be here with you. If not for Schala..."

"...yeah, yeah, yeah. You wouldn't be caught dead with us. But oops! You were!" Orion finished as he stepped around Magus and down the corridor.

"Is he always so obnoxious?" Magus asked Prime conversationally.

"You seem to bring out a negative side to him. I haven't seen this before. I am still compiling data," Prime responded.

"'Still compiling data'? Oh great! The only one who's being civil is as interesting as dirt."

"Dirt is quite interesting. Its composition...  Oh, you are being sarcastic. Fortunately, my feelings are hard to hurt," Prime noted.

"Feelings? You think you have feelings? Maybe I misjudged you, robot. You may be slightly more interesting than dirt. So, where's the Guru?" Magus asked.

"Follow me." Prime bowed and walked down the hall. Magus shook his head as he followed after the robot.

Elora and Ariel rushed up with bright, welcoming expressions that visibly deflated when Magus stepped through the doorway after Prime. They could see the empty corridor behind him.

"Where's Alpha?" Ariel demanded.

"The frog is sulking on the North Cape," Magus answered.

"You... you monster!" Ariel spat out.

Elora looked as if she had tasted something sour and turned her back. Ariel tossed her head, spun around and walked away, joining Orion at the gate. After a moment Prime walked up to them as well.

"Thank you for such a warm welcome," Magus sneered. "Where's Gaspar?"

"Age has not improved your social skills any, Janus," the Guru noted from his spot next to the lamp post.

"Janus – was lost when Lavos banished me from Zeal," Magus replied as he strode to the old man's side. "I am 'Magus' now."

"Your survival is amazing, and your magic skills are quite formidable, but you fool only yourself, Janus. You are who you are; when you accept who you truly are, under all your power, under all your hurt and pain, only then can you tell me who you are. Until then, I know you as Janus," the Guru responded.

"Just wonderful! Fine, call me whatever you want, but clearly tell me what is going on. That one," Magus pointed to Orion. "tells me that Lavos is dead, that I've been dead, that Schala is in trouble and I know I saw him die!"

"How much of my lessons in Time do you remember?" Gaspar asked.

"All of them," Magus answered confidently.

"You remember the string and tapestry analogies, Janus? Good. Well, Lavos was imported from outside the tapestry of Time and what he did to affect things would therefore be an aberration.  Some temporal aberrations are of no consequence, but others require intervention in order to maintain the core time line integrity..."  Gaspar settled comfortably into lecture mode.

"This is going to be too boring for me. I'm going to talk to Spekkio," Ariel announced. "Anyone want to join me?"  She noted the head shakes, shrugged her shoulders and entered Spekkio's room.

Prime and Elora attended to Gaspar's explanation as intently and raptly as Magus did. Orion paced. He threw 'I'm sorry' looks to Elora when she glanced up in annoyance. He tried to stand still and follow the lesson, but it really was quite boring. He couldn't seem to settle down. He didn't want to talk to Spekkio and yet he felt he had to do something.

Finally he realized what was bothering him. He was worried about Glenn, no...  Alpha. He motioned his intent to Prime who flashed a 'yes' response from his photoreceptors and escaped to the Ark. He heaved a sigh as he eased the ship from the End of Time and set course for the Middle Ages.

Orion landed the Timeship at the base of the Cape and climbed toward the top. As he rounded some rocks his attention was caught by Alpha, sword out, leaping high in the air to land near a target of stones. He stumbled a little on landing and kicked into the small pile scattering the stones. Alpha sighed deeply as he set his sword down and knelt to pile the stones again. Orion approached and knelt next to him to help.

"Well met," Alpha said.

"Hi. Are you..." Orion trailed off.

"Am I okay?" Alpha smiled ruefully. "Aye. What canst not be cured must needs be endured. I am – struggling to learn how to fight in this form again," he admitted.

"Well," Orion began, looking at the stone pile. "You don't often attack rocks. Let's you and I spar a bit, let you get used to the balance of simple moves again and then...”  Orion winced.  “I can be your target."

Alpha blinked at him. "I think sparring is a good idea, but I... I have not the control I was used to. I canst cut thee, hurt thee badly if I..."

Orion grinned at him and shrugged his shoulders.

"I don't want you unsure of yourself in a fight. It won't be the first time I've been hurt; it won't even be the first time I've been hurt by the Masamune as wielded by you! Or do you not recall some of the times you've been magically confused in a fight? To be honest, you've felt Rainbow's sting too. If you hurt me, Alpha, you can always heal me. We need you... we need you to be comfortable again as..." Orion trailed off.

"...as I am now. Thou art right, Orion. I regret any pain thou may'est endure at my hands..."

"Any pain is quickly remedied by you, too, I hope! Do you even know if your Slurp Healing is completely back? I know you tagged Magus, but..."

"There's no reason for it not to be and I am certain we shall know before we are finished. Art thou sure thou wish'est to assist me thus?"

Orion grinned and drew Rainbow. He saluted Alpha cockily with the sword and assumed a sloppy ready stance. Alpha shook his head, picked up the Masamune and held it crosswise before himself.

"Once, long ago, I said thou hast potential to become a good swordsman. 'Til now I thought I possessed a good eye for such things," Alpha said.

Orion beamed as he fixed his stance and attacked his friend. He kept his speed down, to give Alpha a chance to adjust and remember what this form was supposed to feel like. Alpha brought the Masamune up and tried to counter but over-balanced and tripped into Orion's arms.

"Whoa! You're supposed to fight me not throw yourself on my sword!" Orion noted as he cleared his blade carefully from Alpha's cloak.

"'Tis hopeless!" Alpha sighed dejectedly.

"No," Orion countered. "It's just going to be somewhat difficult. Tell you what. No tricks, no special moves, no magic, just straight, full-speed fighting. I'm really going to come at you, you really come at me," Orion suggested as he set Alpha on his feet. "Somewhere in you, you remember how to fight in this form. We simply have to bypass your brain. You can't think, you must do."

"Aye, let us attempt that," Alpha agreed as he raised his sword to guard position again.

Orion came at him full-speed. Alpha's sword whipped up and around knocking Rainbow aside and opening a small cut on Orion's sword arm.

"Ouch! Great! That was great!" Orion called out.

"I have cut thee!" Alpha said in dismay.

"It's only a scratch. What's more important is you blocked and countered without thinking about it. You just did it. Your skills are all there just..."

"Altered, e'en as I am. I take thy meaning. Let us continue."

"I'll yield when you really hurt me. Until I do..." Orion grinned. "Keep fighting, 'cause I'm comin' at ya, Sir Froggy!"

Orion came in with a powerful sideways slash. Alpha countered but Orion reversed the direction of his quick, curved sword and came in again low. Alpha snapped his weapon down to cover. Orion's hands stung from the clash of his sword on Alpha's heavier blade.

Alpha lowered his head and Orion felt relief and dread. Relief, this was the fighting style he remembered and expected from Alpha; dread, because he knew he was going to hurt, a lot.

A deceptively fast cut whipped toward him, he blocked early and Orion felt the point of the Masamune sink into his thigh. He stepped back and received a slice on his left arm. He darted forward with a diagonal down crossing slash and scored a light hit on Alpha's sword arm. Alpha threw a rising cut and opened a gash over his left eye.

From that point on Orion lost any advantage he might have had and all track of how the fight progressed. He felt light hits everywhere as his strength drained slowly from him. His wrists ached from the crashing of his sword into Alpha's blade. Finally he dropped to one knee.

"I yield!"

Orion did not recognize the look on his friend's face. Alpha's eyes slowly cleared and warmth washed into them as he focused and recognized Orion.

"Thou art hurt. I tried to hold back the force of the strikes but..." Alpha began.

"You did. Please, don't feel bad. I knew what I was in for. To be honest, I lasted longer than I thought I could,"  Orion replied.

"This is all wrong! To recover what I was I must hurt mine own friend..." Alpha shook his head. He reached down and lifted Orion to his feet as he Slurped him on his arm.

Orion felt a familiar warmth as the full power of the healing filled him and eased his pain. He felt vigor flow back to him as the cuts and slashes Alpha inflicted upon him mended. Within moments he was as good as new.

Orion grinned at Alpha as he flexed his healed sword arm. "Thanks. I guess we can say that Slurp still works as well as it used to."

"I am sorry I had to harm thee..."

"I'm sorry you had to return to being a frog," Orion stated flatly.

"...there are some advantages," Alpha replied.

"Really? Do tell!"

"My more compact stature allows me to defend myself better. I always liked Slurp Healing and Leap Slash. Our combined attacks are brutally effective. I canst sleep anywhere. It is amazing to jump several times mine own height and I am a powerful swimmer," Alpha admitted.

"Since we met you I've often wondered what it would be like to be a frog, or really anything different," Orion said.

"Part horror, part joy. As a curse, it is most horrible. I wouldst not wish it on anyone...  But if it were reversible...  Well, it can be – fun. It is the looks and comments, the distances people keep, the horror and pity and hatred in their eyes; these are what hurt and make of the curse an evil thing. Thou and Elora and all the rest brought'est me out of the worst of it. There are some in mine own time who won't care how I appear, but they are few and precious. I – dread being this again."

Orion looked uncommonly solemn for a moment, this was the most Alpha had ever spoken of his condition and how it made him feel.

"Let's see if Leap Slash still works," he suggested quietly.

"Art thou certain? I've never Leap Slashed thee, but I can assure thee, it is quite painful."

"You need to know if you remember it before you are in a fight where you are relying on it. Or do you just like to hear me say, 'Alpha, attack me, please'?" Orion demanded.

Alpha laughed. "Thou hast convinced me."

Orion walked a few paces away, sheathing his sword as he did so. He knew his reflexes would cause him to try to block the painful attack and he could hurt Alpha if he did. He tried to convince his racing heart to slow down and his overactive brain to calm down. The Leap Slash was going to hurt, intensely, but Alpha needed the confidence that executing the move correctly would bring. Orion hoped it would not end up executing him.

He schooled his face into a slightly bored smile and looked up. Alpha saw past his facade as he looked into his friend's eyes. He saluted Orion with his sword.

"Close'st thine eyes," Alpha suggested softly.

Orion nodded and did. He heard the Masamune whipping through the air and sensed the menace of Alpha's strike overhead. He tried not to flinch as the sword screamed down, slashing open his chest. The agony made him gasp and reel back. He felt the gathering of power and then the soothing relief of Alpha's strongest healing magic flowed over him in the split second before Alpha's arms closed around his shoulders, supporting his weight.

"Orion! Art thou..." Alpha began frantically.

Orion opened his eyes and smiled. "I'm fine, Alpha. That was fast! I didn't even have time to fall."

"I am so sorry thou hadst to endure..."

"Yeah, that hurts! I pity the monsters you attack with that, but not as much as the ones we decide to Spire."

Alpha laughed. He walked over and picked up the Masamune from where he had thrown it after slashing Orion and Leap Slashed his stone pile again. Orion noted the easy assurance of the move and nodded when Alpha looked up.

"Someday, you might become a passable swordsman," Orion remarked mischievously.

Alpha laughed. "Watch it, Tadpole!"

"'Tadpole'?! I kinda like that!" Orion responded. "C'mon. We've got to find out what Gaspar's discovered. Do you remember how to pilot the Ark?"

"Aye but..."

"I had better change or the girls are going to ask questions," Orion noted as he parted the rent in his tunic.

"I see what thou mean'est," Alpha agreed.

"Are you going to be okay?"

"At least I can fight again. Thank thee. Not many hath the courage to accept'eth such pain."

"You know you would have done the same for me. But answer me: are you okay?"

"...Nay. I thought I left this agony behind me. Now to be cast back into it, without hope of ending it..."

"I know, Magus..."

"Once I struck him down in anger to avenge thee. Now...  I canst not bring myself to slay him in cold blood, simply to end my curse. So I must be again as I was before, accepting the curse of this frog form until I leave this mortal coil. I miss being human already," Alpha lowered his head.

"...I... I wish I could do something,”  Orion said with a quiet intensity.

"As do I, but we canst not and so I shall take one step, or leap, at a time. For now, I canst fight again. Shall we find out who's going to receive my Leap Slashes and our Spires, Tadpole?"

"Tadpole, Punk Head, Sparky, I sure am picking up a lot of unusual nicknames!" Orion mock-complained.

"...and thou know'est not all of them," Alpha whispered under his breath.

"Spikey sure showed courage back there didn't he, Masa?" Mune asked in Alpha's mind where he could 'hear' it.

"Yeah, overflowing bravery, but few brains, accepting a Leap Slash on purpose," Masa agreed.

Alpha listened to his sword's banter with itself as he followed Orion to the Timeship. He set the compass to the End of Time and tried to relax as the ship made the journey. He felt apprehension about meeting the rest of his friends again, now that he was once more a frog and the misery of his curse rose up and swept him away.

~TBC~

Kitt

  • Earthbound (+15)
  • *
  • Posts: 22
    • View Profile
    • Forever Dreaming, my anime cel gallery
Re: Shadows of Schala (Part Four)
« Reply #4 on: October 19, 2020, 03:21:29 pm »
Crono = Orion * Marle = Ariel * Lucca = Elora * Frog = Alpha * Robo = Prime * Ayla = Arvia

Shadows of Schala - Chapter Four

Orion vaulted out of the Wings of Time and waited to hear Alpha land beside him. After a moment he looked down into the Ark and felt his heart wrench. Alpha was still seated, shoulders slumped, with the most pitiful expression upon his amphibian features.

"Come, my friend," Orion said softly as he offered his hand.

Alpha looked up, squared his shoulders and leaped to Orion's side. They walked down the corridor to Gaspar's lamp post in companionable silence.

Ariel and Elora immediately raced over and began raining kisses down onto Alpha's cheeks.

"He's still cute in a froggy kinda way..." Elora noted to Ariel.

"Yeah, and his eyes are now a dreamy golden yellow," Ariel responded.

"He's a lot easier to kiss when he's this height," Elora commented before she planted another kiss on Alpha's left cheek.

"Hmph! I guess it wasn't my kiss that uncursed him before..." Ariel pouted then kissed his right cheek.

Orion stood to one side and grinned. Prime started to ask something and finished by shaking his head in his confusion. Gaspar smiled ever so slightly. Magus regarded the girls as if they had completely lost their minds. He swallowed convulsively a few times.

"Are you mad? He's a slimy, hideous frog!" he roared.

"He's not slimy!" Ariel retorted. She ran one hand lightly over the top of Alpha's hairless head. "'Tis smooth and cool," she noted and then placed a gentle kiss there.

Alpha just stood there with his mouth open, stunned to depths of his soul.

"Girls!" Orion said, mock-severely. "How many times must I ask you? Are you quite finished?" He deliberately echoed his question from when they had greeted Glenn in his human form for the first time.

"Nope!" Ariel asserted. "He's my own dear frog-knight!" She kissed his cheek again.

"Who knows? Maybe a hundred kisses, or a thousand will break Magus' curse. Can it hurt to try?" Elora added as she too kissed Alpha.

"That does not make sense..." Prime began.

"I assure you silly girls, my curse cannot be broken by kisses, but only by my death!" Magus stated severely.

"You did this to him!" Ariel flashed in anger as she turned on him. "Don't tempt me or I will end Alpha's curse again. Now, shut up and let us greet our friend! Thank you, Glenn, for – for rescuing..." Her voice trailed off as her eyes widened in sorrow.

She leaned over and hugged Alpha. "You are not hideous to me," she whispered to him. He blinked. Elora whispered something that made him blush.

"Do not despair, Glenn. I've seen in many times and places, people who will help all of you in your quest. They help whether you are a frog or a man. There are generous hearts in your future," Gaspar notified him.

"There are enow of them right here," Alpha rasped as he subtly turned toward his friends and away from Magus.

"Indeed," Gaspar replied as he locked his gaze on Magus.

"As touching as this revolting reunion is to you, we've still got to find out what happened to Schala. Before we go gallivanting through time and space, I need to return to my castle. As the Prophet I did not wear armor or carry my best weapon. I must retrieve my magic books as well," Magus informed them.

"What a lovely way he has of asking for help," Ariel noted sarcastically to everyone else. "I've no desire to travel with him any more than necessary. Who will take him on his errand?"

*****

The Wings of Time materialized over Magus' castle. Orion and Alpha leaped down in their customary way as Magus levitated down. As soon as Magus' feet touched the ground he bellowed and fell over.

Alpha reacted a fraction quicker than Orion, lifting Magus' head and shoulders and clearing the pale blue hair from Magus' face. Orion drew Rainbow and circled, scanning desperately for Magus' attacker. Noticing nothing he sheathed his sword before coming to Alpha's side. Alpha likewise did not see anything obvious but Slurped Magus just in case.

"He's breathing," Orion said helplessly.

"'Tis almost as if he wert knocked unconscious," Alpha noted. "But he did not hit his head..." He trailed off.

"Do you think it could be – Schala? She's been trying so hard to reach him that you and Ariel were receiving some kind of overflow. Do you think maybe her message is so powerful that it could do this?" Orion asked hesitantly.

"Aye. That seem'eth quite plausible. Well, if 'tis so, Magus wilt not be o'erjoyed to waken in mine arms," Alpha jested as he carefully laid Magus on the ground. He removed his cloak, folded it into a pillow and placed it under Magus' head. "Let us withdraw somewhat, so as not to startle him when he wakes," Alpha whispered. He and Orion stepped back a few paces, half-turned from Magus and conversed together in low tones.

A quarter of an hour later, Magus woke, sat up and gazed into space for a moment. He rose, gathered up the cloak and walked over to Alpha and Orion. Without a word he handed the cloak to Alpha. He ran his fingers through his hair and brushed his shoulders off.

"It was the force of Schala's messages that – inconvenienced me, not anything your accursed 'Slurp' could have fixed. Didn't I warn you about this once?" Magus glared at Alpha. "Schala is in some terrible danger, but she fears more strongly for our world. She's concerned about some 'Dread Lord' changing the past, present and future. I don't think she means Lavos. I couldn't understand all of her messages – undoubtedly from the frog's interference, receiving what was not directed to him, but that can't be helped. Perhaps Gaspar can read the time lines more clearly now that Schala's messages aren't cluttering them. I still need to retrieve my equipment," Magus explained, then turned and walked off.

"Orion?" Alpha asked as he donned his cloak. "Ere I try to do something nice for him again," He indicated Magus' retreating back. "Dost thou slap'est me silly!"

*****

"Ah, home!" Magus said as he breathed deep.

Orion tossed a startled glance to Alpha who only lifted his shoulders in a 'I know not' expression. Magus did honestly seem to be comfortable in the dark, moody, brooding edifice.

"Well then," Magus said sourly. "Follow me. I guess it doesn't matter much now if you see some of the secret passages."

He walked over to one of the hideous paintings on the wall, it looked like it was painted by a talented, but insane, artist who had set his easel on a hill in hell, and pushed a concealed switch. Part of the wall swung open.

Magus lead them through a maze of concealed passages. Occasionally, Orion and Alpha would recognize part of some of the corridors they passed through, but most of the journey was through new territory.

"Stop!" Magus held up a hand to halt their progress. "Do you hear something?"

"Aye. It seem'eth to be coming from here," Alpha agreed pointing toward a side passage.

Magus brusquely pushed pass him and down the passageway. He pushed another hidden switch and the wall opened. Orion and Alpha followed Magus out into the room, blinking in the stronger light.

Magus strode over to a curious lump on the floor. The lump was groaning and writhing about. Magus pushed at it with the toe of one boot.

"Ozzie," He spat out in explanation. "What a waste of time! Come, we have a fair amount of distance to go yet." He swirled his cloak as he wheeled sharply and re-entered the secret corridor.

Orion and Alpha looked up and took note of the rectangular hole in the ceiling some fifty feet above them.

"He'll live," Orion said, noting the vigorous movements Ozzie made in his pain. "We better follow Magus before he loses us."

The secret panel swung softly after them and closed with a tiny click.

"T... traitor!" Ozzie lifted his head and called weakly after Magus before slumping again to the floor.

"I guess I don't need the books on Lavos anymore," Magus remarked later in his library. "'Advanced Theory of Magic', 'Mystic Uses for Practical Objects', 'The Grim Reaper's Grimoire', 'Curse Me Once, Curse Me Twice, Do Not Ever Curse Me Thrice'...  Yes, I think I shall need these again," Magus muttered as he tossed the books in his pack.

"This one," He held up the slim book of curses. "Alpha would find interesting reading. It is, after all, how he became the frog he is today!" Magus sneered. Orion smashed him up against the wall, the bared length of Rainbow threatening Magus' neck.

"I spoke with you once about respecting Alpha or holding your tongue. I shall not warn you a third time," Orion promised in a low tone. He pulled his sword from Magus' throat and slammed the mage into the workbench. He turned to wipe his blade on a piece of parchment before putting it away.

Magus touched his throat and drew back gloved fingertips tinted with blood. His eyes promised mayhem as he dabbed his neck with a fold of his cloak. He reached down and retrieved the book of curses. He regarded Orion for a long moment from under veiled eyes, smiled tightly and flipped through the book.

"Magus..." Alpha warned. "Think'est it not!"

Orion turned to see what was going on behind him.

"Very well," Magus grumbled returning the book to his pack. "Another time, boy!" he promised under his breath.  "I am finished here," Magus said a few moments later. "My armor and scythe are in the next room. I should not need to warn you, most of the flasks contain poison, acid and other such pleasant fluids. Touch them at your own risk." He swept from the room.

"I don't think I even want to know what he would have cursed me into," Orion jested weakly.

"'Tis no laughing matter!" Alpha remonstrated.

"I know...  Part of me is shaking pretty badly. I think...  I hope Magus was only kidding...  I don't think I could bear up as you have," Orion admitted softly.

Alpha blinked at Orion's candor and cleared his throat. "Yes, well, hmmm. What is taking him so long?"

Alpha walked across the room and opened the chamber door. Magus stood in the center of the room holding his pack, scythe and armor. It looked as though he had been walking toward the door when something on the wall caught his eye. Alpha walked up to his side, noted his gaze and followed its line to see what had so thoroughly captivated Magus' attention.

"Schala!" he said in wonder.

A life-size portrait of Schala graced Magus' wall. It showed her in exquisite detail, her quiet beauty, the tilt of her head, the concern in her eyes. She appeared to be looking just over the viewer's shoulder, almost as if at any moment she would refocus her gaze and smile warmly at him. Orion stood next to Alpha and studied the realistic portrait also. He noticed how a cat he recognized as Alfador rubbed against her right ankle.

Orion looked side-long at Magus' face and saw the longing of a little boy for his older sister as well as a thoroughly adult resolve. The resolve was nothing new, but the vulnerability made him realize that Magus probably had been teasing about cursing him in the other room. He hoped.  "We...  We should go...  Gaspar might have some news..." he began.

"Yes," Magus shook himself as if he was waking from a dream. "We've dawdled here long enough. I must find Schala!" He turned to leave the room.

"Magus?" Alpha asked softly. "Who paint'eth this likeness?"

"I... I did, years ago. Why?" Magus asked defensively. "Do not dare to insult..."

"You have remarkable talent," Alpha commented as he stepped out of the room.

"She does look real," Orion agreed as he too left the room.

Magus turned back for one last look. "If only she were..."

*****

“The time lines have cleared dramatically. I dare say Schala does not realize her own power! She never emerged from the Ocean Palace and yet the thread that is her life was not cut, indicating her death. Forgive me, but it is hard to explain the intricacies of Time in everyday terms," Gaspar admitted as he shifted the bowler on his head.

"Thou dost quite well, we can follow thy meaning," Alpha assured him.

"When Orion was killed out of time by Lavos, it was as if the thread that is his life was cut out of the fabric of Time. The threads touching his began to fall apart from the pattern, like cloth unraveling. I cannot track an individual thread, or life, but I can sense gross disturbances in the whole of the fabric and track them to their source. Restoring the thread of Orion's life restored the weave of the fabric. By this I knew Orion's death was out of its normal time and my Chrono Trigger might work," Gaspar paused and look at each face in turn to make certain he hadn't lost anyone. He resumed talking. "Janus' death took longer to similarly affect the fabric, Schala's need for him is all that is untimely in his death. Schala is crucial for the time line we are in to continue at all. Her descendants are critical forces throughout the weave of the fabric of this time stream. If her thread is not restored, this reality will collapse. Not only her descendants, but the whole of this time line will disappear," Gaspar finished.

"So Magus doesn't matter for himself, but merely for his sister," Ariel said.

Magus simply stared at her expressionlessly.

"The death of anyone affects us all. Usually not in a good way," Gaspar noted quietly. Ariel had the grace to look ashamed at her nasty comment.

"At least, princess, my entire existence does not rely on my sister. I promise to remember all your lovely comments fondly if we should fail. I would be one of the very few who remembers the fact you existed at all," Magus sneered. "Bah! If not for my sister I'd not waste my time. A spoiled, vapid princess such as you is entirely beneath my notice."

"You!" Ariel sputtered as she launched herself physically at Magus.

He reacted instinctively as Ariel reached him. She crashed into his stiffened arm and fell heavily to the ground, hitting her head on the pavement. Immediately Orion grabbed Magus and slammed him up against the lamp post hard enough to shake it.

"Hey," Gaspar complained. Alpha rushed to Ariel's side. She was sobbing a little from pain and a little from the hurtful insults Magus had hurled her way. Alpha brushed her tears away from her face gently and noticed the black eye that was already beginning to show. Softly, he reached out and Slurped her cheek. She smiled wanly at him as her pain left. He helped her to her feet.

"Princess, thou brought'est that upon thyself. Insults beget insults," Alpha pointed out.

"I – know. I'm sorry. I'm sorry, Magus," Ariel sniffled. "Orion, let him go. It was my fault."

"But he... He hit you!" Orion protested.

"Actually, I kinda ran into his arm. I shouldn't have rushed him," Ariel admitted.

Orion let Magus go. He stepped away from the lamp post, edged warily around Orion while rubbing his throat and stared at Ariel. She smiled weakly at him.

"Accountability," he noted. "I wouldn't have thought that you, princess..."

"Magus, Ariel offered you an apology. No more insults, okay?" Elora asked.

"Until the next time she needs to be let down a peg or two," Magus agreed.

Orion walked over and put his arm around Ariel's shoulders. She sniffled again and put her head on his shoulder. He half embraced her, offering her comfort.

"Just peachy. There's a Janus-shaped dent in my lamp post! Do you know how hard it is to get a new lamp post delivered when your address is the End of Time?" Gaspar complained.

Everyone laughed and the tension eased.

"Magus, can I ask a favor?" Ariel ventured a moment later. Truth be told the dark mage frightened her more than she wanted to admit. She knew he had killed Cyrus, cursed Glenn, summoned Lavos, tried to kill them all in his castle as well as Zeal Palace...  His dark, grim and foreboding manner didn't help either.

He lifted an eyebrow sardonically and nodded.

"Please...  Please don't call me 'princess' okay? It makes me crazy. Call me Ariel," she requested in a small voice.

Both eyebrows rose in surprise. "You don't like being a princess?" he asked.

"No! My father would never let me out of his sight, if he could stop me. He's so afraid I will get hurt and then the kingdom would have no heir...  I'm so tired of titles and names and formality, I could just scream!" Ariel finished.

"Ariel...  Alfador and Janus would have agreed with you," Magus nodded. "So be it."

Gaspar had fallen asleep at the lamp post. They were so used to his snores they only served as background noise. He woke with a start.

"I've just looked into the time stream. You must return to Guardia Castle in Ariel's time. Something important has just taken place. It's almost clear enough for me to see, but I need you to confirm what I think may be true," Gaspar said.

"My home? Daddy? Oh, Orion, let's hurry. C'mon, Elora!" Ariel danced in place so anxious did the Guru's words make her, before racing off down the corridor.

"We'll wait for you here," Prime called after them. "I've gotten good at waiting. Poker, anyone?" he offered producing a deck of cards from somewhere.

"You want me to play cards with a robot and a frog? How does one play against two natural poker faces?" Magus complained. "Okay, deal, you two-armed bandit."

Prime laughed at Magus' reference which brought a slight smile to Magus' face. Alpha watched in amazement as Magus relaxed a little and joked with the robot. He lost the first five hands.

*****

Orion materialized the Ark over Melchior's hut and piloted it to the castle. Ariel bounded down over the edge as soon as the ship touched down and took the castle steps by twos in her haste. Orion and Elora chased right after her.

"What's happened?" Ariel asked the first guard. "Where's father?"

"Father? I don't understand, my queen," the guard shook his head.

"Queen? I'm Princess Nadia and my father is the king. Where is he?" Ariel was becoming frantic.

"Too much sun," Elora commented as she turned Ariel from the guard. He nodded. Elora led Ariel to her room, chased out her attendants and sat Ariel down on her bed.

"Ariel, the Chronal Eraser must have reached him," Elora noted. "Don't panic, we can still find out..."

Ariel began to cry softly. Orion immediately went to her side to offer her comfort. She clung to him and sobbed against his chest.

"I still have nightmares of when I was erased out of time. So cold...  So dark...  So lonely...  Daddy, well Daddy's been lonely for so long, I hate to think of him suffering that... I never did hug him before I left..." Ariel's misery overwhelmed her and Orion merely held her and rocked her as he stroked her hair. Elora looked on, concern in her eyes under her thick glasses.

Ariel's sobs subsided. "Okay. We need to figure out what to do next. There has to be some way to retrieve Daddy. Maybe the time stream cleared up a little more with him gone..." Her eyes welled up again but she refused to let the tears fall.

"I think we have a more pressing problem. King Guardia's disappearance is from the Chronal Eraser ripping back through time to Schala. Once it reaches her...  Well I'm not sure what will happen but it's not good. It has to come through you and as it nears Schala's time it accelerates. Ariel, you're next. I think if we get you to the End of Time and keep you there, you'll be safe from it, but I'm not sure..." Elora explained.

Orion stood and grasped Ariel's hands. "Let's not wait then! We should return to Ark now and..."

Just then an eerie black Gate opened into Ariel's room. Two man-shaped black creatures stepped through. There was no sign of any features and no texture, no cloth or hair, skin or fur. Light seemed to simply fall into their forms and give up trying to show any detail. Orion jumped to his feet and drew his sword. He placed himself between these intruders and his friends. One of them struck Orion with a fist. He slashed Rainbow at him in a beautiful over-under two hit strike. It hit, but seemed not to trouble the creature at all. Ariel noticing Orion's failure to harm their foes with his powerful sword, cast a strong Ice spell. The creature shrugged the spell off.

Elora threw her Megabombs. Both enemies ignored the attack as they advanced. One of them grabbed Ariel's arm. Completely unnerved by their silent intent she struggled and hit him with the side of her crossbow. The invincible foe ignored that attack as it had ignored all others. Orion summoned the strongest spell he knew, levitated and sent the fury of his Luminaire attack into the creatures. Unfazed, they secured their hold on Ariel and stepped back through the Gate. It closed.

"Ariel!" Orion screamed. "Where is she? Elora..."

"A black Gate? We've got to tell Gaspar. We can't do anything here. Come on," Elora grabbed Orion's hand and led him from the room.

"It's too much, Elora. First, she's threatened with Chronal Erasure again and now – taken – I don't even know by who...  I...  I love her..." Orion admitted as Elora dragged him from the room.

"Yeah, well, duh, tell me something I don't know," Elora replied. "Come on, Orion! We gotta find out what we got to do to rescue her most serene royal pain in the..."

"Elora!" Orion laughed in spite of himself. "She'd be sitting on you, yanking your hair out by the handfuls if she heard you!"

"Good! I wouldn't even mind too much if she did! You gotta keep your hope. We'll find her. We'll rescue her. I mean, come on, we rescued you from death and the planet, the planet, mind you, from a space-born, giant, mutant planet eater. Whatever kidnapped Ariel, no way can take us on!" Elora boasted.

"I don't know," Orion said, sobering. "My sword didn't hurt it, ice, fire and lightning didn't touch it..."

"Everything has a weakness. We'll find it," Elora said as Orion gave her a leg up to Ark. "We have to."

*****

"What hast thou done with Ariel?" Alpha asked as Orion and Elora ran up to them at the End of Time.

"She...  She got kidnapped," Orion answered breathlessly. "A black Gate opened, two black goons jumped out and grabbed her!"

"Why didn't you stop them?" Magus asked.

"Prime, lock rambolts!" Orion cried as he grabbed the mage and hurled him at the robot. A small click from Prime's booted feet sounded just before Magus crashed against Prime's wall-like chest.

"Orion! Why didst...?" Alpha began.

"Understood, but why?" Prime asked.

"We're all upset, Magus didn't mean..." Elora started.

"While I am glad you did not use my lamp post again as your wall, why did you attack Janus? It was an innocent question," Gaspar noted.

"I...  I know. I'm – sorry, Magus. It's just I get so crazy when Ariel's threatened and I've gotten used to throwing you against things. I know you didn't mean anything evil..." Orion began.

"Yeah, well my shoulder has gotten used to you hurling me at various walls, too," Magus noted rubbing his left shoulder.

Alpha began working his throat.

"Don't you dare Slurp me!" Magus warned. "I'd rather have a sore shoulder!"

Prime shot a green beam that engulfed and cured Magus instead.

"Hmph. Much better, thank you," Magus said, rather curtly. "If you are quite finished smashing me about, answer my question. Why did you let them take Ariel?"

"I tried to stop them!" Orion cried out in anguish. "My sword was useless...  Luminaire didn't harm them...  They were immune to every attack. I can't stand that anything threatens Ariel..." Orion paced like a caged animal and finally pounded his fist on the door to Spekkio's room.

Spekkio poked his head out. "It's open, you don't need to knock! Waking me from a perfectly good dream, Nu..." he closed the door again.

"A black Gate?" Gaspar asked. "That does not sound like a Time Gate. Perhaps one in space. Why don't you..."

"...go play with Spekkio again?" Orion finished. "Are we always going to have to babysit the Master of War when you need to do research?"

"No, you could stay out here but I'm just going to look like I'm sleeping. It's rather boring to watch actually," the Guru offered.

"Let's fight Spekkio," Orion, Alpha, Prime and Elora said in unison as Gaspar began to snore.

"What is Spekkio?" Magus asked Prime as the others proceeded them into Spekkio's room.

"Well, he claims to be the Master of War. He is immune to all but magic attacks and he... Elora, what is the expression? 'Kicked our butt'?" Elora nodded as she entered. "He kicked our butt the last time we fought him. Of course we now have Alpha back in his frog form so some of our combined spells will work," Prime explained.

"Back in frog form? Combined spells?" Magus muttered. "You must explain this to me later."

"Certainly, right now let's see what we can manage with Spekkio," Prime agreed.

*****

Gaspar grinned as five smoking, dripping, singed, smudgy-faced individuals emerged from Spekkio's room.

"Spell Town?" he asked, waving his arm and restoring them to their normal status.

"In spades!" Orion admitted. "I think maybe Spekkio's gotten so powerful we can't beat him anymore. We did better, Alpha and I combined a few Spires on him, but that's like saying I emptied more ocean because I drained it a cup rather than a teaspoon. It sure isn't enough."

"Too bad Magus and I can't combine our fire spells," Elora noted. "We could do a lot of damage together."

"And my lasers," Prime added. "Spekkio said they sufficed as Shadow magic. What could they do if actual Shadow magic were to be channeled through them?"

"I think I shall have to test each of you for sensitivity to Time. Your suppositions are uncanny," Gaspar said rather cryptically.

Five faces turned to him with various confused expressions.

The Guru smiled gently before sobering as he turned toward Magus. "Janus, you will fall again and perhaps fail to rescue Schala unless you learn to combine your magic with the others."

"Work with them? With my magic? Impossible! It's all I have..." Magus fell silent.

"All that make'st thee unique?" Alpha ventured.

"Don't presume to understand me, frog! And don't you dare attack me again!" Magus whirled on Orion.

Orion pointed to himself with a "who me?" innocent look.

"It's the only way to find and rescue Schala. You will perish if you don't," Gaspar warned.

Magus walked to the rail overlooking the mists of Time. "To give...  to give up control of my magic..." he said softly.

"Not accurate," Prime noted as he walked up to Magus' side.

"What do you mean? Explain it to me!" Magus appealed imperiously.

Prime regarded Magus impassively. "Let's you and I talk to Spekkio. All of you, wait here."

"How is it Prime can work so easily with Magus?" Orion asked as the door closed.

No one responded for a moment.

"Perhaps because he looks under the surface meaning. He looks for why Magus says something, not what Magus says. He doesn't take offense and so he is better able to communicate than the rest of you," Gaspar pointed out.

"We do tend to fly off the handle with Magus. Me more than anyone else," Orion admitted. "I never thought how – lonely he must be."

"His life wast stunted by Lavos, but that excuse'th not Cyrus' death," Alpha stated.

"Or you. He's hurt you at least as much as Lavos hurt him. I'll work with Magus, but I can't see ever liking him," Elora admitted.

*****

"Wait, before you wake him," Magus asked as Prime reached toward Spekkio. "Please explain combining magic to me."

"Spekkio would be better able..."  Prime began.

"No," Magus' pale hair flowed as he shook his head. "I'd rather you did."

"Very well, but my knowledge is limited to what I do. I don't know how it is for humans. Orion and I combine my Shock and his Lightning equally to make Supervolt. Elora charges me with Fire Magic when I Fire Tackle something. I am the focusing element for Elora's magic, she is the one who powers it."

"So I would not be just a – magic battery for someone else..." Magus wondered.

"No. Combined magic does not have power struggles. It's cooperative."

"I might be able to cooperate with you, possibly Elora; but that punk kid and the frog..."

"Orion and Alpha are my friends. Some of the most potent magic I have seen is when they combine magic or when I cooperate with one or both of them," Prime stated simply.

"You said before we fought Spekkio that Alpha was 'back in frog form'. What did that mean?" Magus asked.

"Glenn returned to his human form when he returned home to the Middle Ages after killing you. We realized that recovering you with Gaspar's Chrono Trigger would have the undesirable effect of reinstating your curse on him. To revive you, Glenn had to become Alpha the frog again."

"That would explain the coolness and hostility toward me..."

"Yes. All of us are Glenn's, Alpha's... Alpha's... Alpha's friends. We would do almost anything to help him," Prime explained solemnly.

"Are you okay? That stutter..."

"Merely a slight overload on my logic chip. I can compensate."

"Glenn...  I haven't thought of him as that for years. It really is remarkable that he's survived. I thought I'd gotten rid of him when I cursed him. I never imagined he'd live this long," Magus mused.

"Alpha has many remarkable characteristics. Now allow me to wake Spekkio and see if we can combine our attacks," Prime said, shaking Spekkio awake.

*****

Spekkio's door opened and Prime walked out carrying Magus over one shoulder. Prime was soaking wet and yet strangely scorched. Magus' hair hung limply down the robot's side singed here and there with laser burns. A few burns blackened the pale skin of his arms as well.

"What hath happened?" Alpha cried as he leaped forward.

"He's not dead again, is he?" Orion asked.

Both were reaching toward Magus when they realized he was moving. His shoulders jerked spasmodically and as he looked up through his lank, tangled hair, Orion and Alpha realized he was helpless with laughter.

Prime set Magus down propping him against the lamp post. He promptly slid til he was sitting against it as tears streamed down his face.

"What hast thou done to our darkling ally?" Alpha asked Prime.

"I can't explain this. We had been doing so well, actually aligning our attack together when Spekkio magically Confused me. The next thing that I was aware of was rebooting at Spekkio's feet as is usual when he defeats us. Magus had also been revived. He was laughing hysterically so I brought him out here. Elora, explain this to me!" Prime demanded as he turned toward her.

"Oh! Oh! Don't! I will. Oh, Prime, it was just too funny! You have been – solicitous, helpful and with one spell Spekkio...  Oh, the look on your face...  You do have emotions...  It was priceless! Ferocious apology! I was laughing before your first laser blasts hit me. Those hurt!  But your face..." Magus dissolved into helpless laughter again.

"So, Prime befriends Magus by attacking him," Orion noted. "Should I try it?"

"Thou hast already, several times. Methinks that is Prime's method only," Alpha responded, semi-seriously.

"Oh, oh! Ouch!" Magus clutched his sides.

"I've never heard you laugh before, Janus," the Guru said thoughtfully. "Chuckle rather evilly, yes, but laugh, no."

"'Tis a pleasant sound," Alpha added.

"Well, the robot is right," Magus confirmed as he composed himself. "He and I did merge our attack for a brief moment, enough to demonstrate to me how powerful combined magic can be before, well, disaster struck. Ouch!" Magus grabbed his left shoulder. He brought a lock of his hair forward and realized that about four inches had been lazed off. The look he gave Prime made Elora and Orion laugh.

"That Nu!" Gaspar muttered as he swept his arm over Prime and Magus. Restored, Prime reached down and lifted Magus to his feet.

"Can Spekkio be a little less exuberant? I can't learn anything if he blasts us senseless every other minute," Magus asked the Guru seriously.

"No. Spekkio is – what he is. I think you need to return to Time, somewhere, and learn how to cooperate with the others. I can find you when I discover something new. Take some time, you have enough of it, to learn how to fight together. The only time you must not go is the Prehistoric Era. Arvia will not be affected by any of this and if you bring her into it..." Gaspar warned.

"...we risk changing things even more," Prime finished.

"Where, that is, when, should we go?" Magus asked.

"Well, I would like to take Prime to my workshop and fit him with the illogic chip, I really think it will help him, but there aren't too many monsters in our era," Elora began. "Besides, we can't travel in groups more than three without ending up here," she noted looking at the End of Time.

"Okay, this is what we'll do," Orion decided after a swift moment of thought. "Elora, you and Prime take Ark and go to your workshop. Do whatever you have to, take however long you need and then look for us at Alpha's pad. Alpha, Magus and I'll go to the 6th century, where there are many more monsters, and see what we can manage with combining our magic. When you and Prime rejoin us, you guys can work with Magus until Gaspar contacts us. That is if Gaspar will open a Gate for us to the 6th century?"

"By what right do you decide for us? Who made you the leader?" Magus asked pointedly.

"Actually, we did when we fought Lavos. Orion is quite skilled at deciding how to proceed. That is, when he isn't dead," Prime responded.

"You – follow him willingly?"

"Yes. I know he will listen to any suggestions I make and then decide on the best course of action. He also utilizes our skills in the best manner possible," Prime replied solemnly.

"Prime, can I talk with you privately?" Magus asked.

Prime drew open the door to Spekkio's room and followed Magus in.

"Don't...  Don't leave me with them. I don't think I can work with them without you there. I don't think they respect me at all," Magus pleaded.

"Magus, you hurt Alpha when you killed Cyrus and made his life a trial by cursing him. It will take time for him to forgive you enough to try to like you; that is if it happens at all. But, he is honorable a – f... frog of his word. He has pledged to find and rescue Schala; he was willing to accept back his curse to fulfill that promise. He will work with you and because of his example, Orion will also. As for respect, you wield the strongest single magic we've ever seen but for Lavos. Alpha has been changed entirely by your magic, he certainly respects you," Prime replied.

"That's not exactly what I mean..." Magus began.

"I know. Elora and I will be as quick as possible, but take this time to get to know them as allies, not as enemies. When we find your sister and deal with this 'dread lord' we will need to rely on each other. Like it or not, in this venture, Orion and Alpha are your allies," Prime noted.

"Thanks, Prime. I'll keep that in mind," Magus responded as he exited the room. Prime gazed after him for a moment and then followed.

Spekkio opened one eye. "Interesting. I'm starting to get a feel for your spirit, robot. I'll give you magic yet!"

*****

"What an abhorrent little hovel!" Magus exclaimed as he descended the ladder into Alpha's home.

Orion bristled in his friend's defense and glanced about the little dwelling. He noticed anew the rustic bed and wooden chest of drawers, the two small presses and the table and chairs. Orion watched as Alpha calmly walked over to the table, struck a spark, lit a taper and circled about lighting the candles and lamps placed about the room. The warm yellow light cheered the underground room immeasurably.

"Magus," Alpha requested as he knelt to start a fire in the fireplace. "we must work together to rescue thy sister. Please keep'est thine insults to thyself."

"I suppose it is difficult to find someone willing to sell a home to...  Well, it's better now that it is lit," Magus offered.

Orion calmed himself and removed his sword belt and pack as he sat down in one of the chairs. "Okay...  Alpha what can I do to help with dinner?"

"Nothing, 'tis a simple meal I prepare. Dost thou and Magus practice thy magic on the hostile creatures to be found in the Lonely Wood," Alpha suggested. "I shall have supper ready by sundown."

"Makes sense," Orion agreed taking up his sword and pack again. "Coming, Magus?"

Magus looked about the room one more time, his gaze lingering on the frog's back as Alpha tended the fire, before following Orion up the ladder in silence.

"As I recall," Orion stated as Magus followed him into a clearing a short while later. "You have both strong ice and strong fire spells."

"Yes," Magus confirmed.

"Well, Ariel has Ice and Elora Fire and they can charge my sword so that it becomes an Ice sword or a Fire sword. I'm not sure how they..."

"How do they target just your sword? I suppose I can figure it out," Magus interrupted.

Just then four gnawers and two t'poles crashed into the clearing. Orion paused, giving Magus time to invoke his Fire spell and took the full force of the spell as it targeted him alone, leaving the gnawer to his left unharmed.

"What are you doing?!" he roared in pain as he slashed the gnawer through with his sword, the whirl attack he had prepared for the Fire sword now forgotten.

"Do you have any idea how hard it is to target just a sword?" Magus snarled as he scythed down a t'pole.

"Yes, I do! I target the Masamune when Alpha and I Spire something!" Orion retorted heatedly.

"Get ready, then! Incoming!" Magus called as he sent his Fire spell Orion's way again. The spell hit mostly on the sword and Orion whirled taking out the rest of the monsters in his fire-powered attack.

He looked up balefully at Magus and held up one hand showing Magus his blistered palm.

"Your hair is on fire, too," Magus noted dryly.

Orion whispered something truly foul as he frantically patted his head to put out the flames. His mood was not helped when he saw Magus smirking at him.

"You have to give me time. I'm new to combining magic...  Although your fire sword is quite impressive," Magus admitted.

"Perhaps we should try a Luminaire scythe next?" Orion asked in a sweetly acid tone.

"No, I think I need to practice Ice and Fire some more, although for training only. I think you and I can devise some devastating Shadow attacks."

"Uh uh! I'm not taking Shadow hits until you have Fire and Ice perfected first. They hurt enough!" Orion warned.

"Yes well...  The singed hair looks virtually the same but the burn on your face looks painful. Perhaps we should return to the frog's..." Magus noted Orion's glare but continued anyway. "...hovel and see if what he concocted is palatable to humans," he finished blithely.

"Magus..." Orion said in a low tone.

"Yes?" Magus arched a challenging brow.

"Forget it," Orion stalked off toward Alpha's home. Magus followed smiling at how easy it was to bait this young man.

~TBC~

Boo the Gentleman Caller

  • Guru of Life
  • Lavos (+4000)
  • *
  • Posts: 4911
    • View Profile
Re: Shadows of Schala (Part Four posted)
« Reply #5 on: December 21, 2020, 10:31:14 am »
Sad this story never got updated beyond part four (or at least not yet). I was really enjoying it, Kitt!

Kitt

  • Earthbound (+15)
  • *
  • Posts: 22
    • View Profile
    • Forever Dreaming, my anime cel gallery
Re: Shadows of Schala (Part Five posted)
« Reply #6 on: December 26, 2020, 03:07:58 am »
I didn't realize anyone was reading it!  I didn't want to clutter up the forums or have the thread pop up to the top all the time and annoy anyone.  Here's Part Five --

Crono = Orion * Marle = Ariel * Lucca = Elora * Frog = Alpha * Robo = Prime * Ayla = Arvia

Shadows of Schala - Chapter Five

Elora landed the Wings of Time in front of her house. She dashed in to find the rooms quiet and empty. Prime pointed to a piece of paper prominently left on the table.

"Looks like my parents have gone to Porre for the day. C'mon, Prime, we have the lab to ourselves," Elora explained after reading the note.

Elora led her giant friend to the lab her father had built over the years. She opened the one tidy cabinet in the chaos of the rest of the room and retrieved an electronic chip.

"This little chip, I call it an illogic chip, will... well adjust your programming slightly, enabling you to understand absurdities and process contradictory facts like Glenn the human becoming Alpha the frog without logic chip overloads," Elora explained lifting the chip up into the light.

"Indeed?" Prime gently took the tiny thing from her. "...but will I be – me – after you place it in me? Or will I become something else?"

"Prime... I don't think so. I designed it to augment you, not change or replace you, but I don't know for sure. I don't think it will hurt you but... I don't know exactly..." Elora looked at the chip sparkling in Prime's hand.

She looked up to her friend's face, the one she had always been able to read the subtlest of expressions on. It always surprised her that no one else seemed to be able to see that Prime had emotions, that Prime himself did not quite know that he did. In his mechanical, green eyes she could see the tiniest flicker of fear. She thought about the trust she was asking Prime to place in her abilities.

"...if you don't want it you don't have to..." she began.

Prime considered the tiny thing a moment longer. "No, Elora, I trust your skills. I trust you. I'm just – apprehensive. You've helped me already grow beyond what I was designed to be. I don't want to reach for so much I lose what I already have," Prime admitted. In a much lower tone he continued, "Is it going to – hurt? Will I feel – different?"

"Prime, you know when Orion will do something completely illogical and we laugh about it?" Prime nodded. "You have asked me to explain it to you and I've tried. It's humorous sometimes when someone does or says something that is totally absurd. You know that Glenn and Alpha are the same being and yet you have to rewrite some of your programs in order to accept that fact. In effect you are erasing one aspect of Glenn in order to cope with the change in him. This chip should help you to understand humor, and make some of the concepts we come up against easier for you to deal with. I'd hate to see you fry your circuits out trying to cope with something. You mean an awful lot to me," Elora explained.

"I know, Elora, and it is that, as well as your skill, that I trust in you," Prime stated calmly.

Elora heard a tiny click from her huge friend and the main access panel in his chest opened up. "What should I do?" Prime asked simply.

"You've – done all you need to," Elora choked out as a fat tear rolled down her cheek.

"Why are you crying?" Prime asked as he gently wiped it away.

"I'm happy that you trust me, and a little frightened that you trust me so much," Elora admitted. "I know! I know! You don't understand! You will, you will, soon."

Elora peered into the chamber Prime's access panel had hidden. She visually traced the layout of the circuits, cables and boards and found the empty slot she had remembered. She realized that the Mother Brain who had designed Prime had planned to upgrade him at some future time, or had at least left that option open. Prime had many slots all along his command circuit pathways that were unused. Elora checked the connector and reassured herself that her memory had not let her down.

"This might tingle a little," she warned as she lined the chip up and pushed it firmly into the connector port.

Instantly Prime jerked as a jolt ran through him. "Elora... what's hap-pen-ing...?" Prime spun completely about, shook violently for a minute and crashed to the floor on his back. His eyes dimmed, then went out.

"Prime!" Elora screamed as she rushed to his side. "What have I done to you?!"

She searched out his diagnostic readout screen and was relieved to see that it was still lit. She hadn't killed, deactivated, no, dammit, killed her friend.

"'Personality upgrade and overhaul in progress'?" she read. "No! No! 'Estimated time to completion 29 hours 7 minutes. Warning! Attempts to interrupt this process will cause memory erasure.'" Elora sank to her knees on the ground. "Prime, I'm sorry! 'Personality upgrade and overhaul'? What have I done? Have I destroyed all that made you – you?!"

*****

"Orion! What hast happened?" Alpha cried as he watched Orion descend the ladder painfully.

"Our newly-acquired mage is not as skilled as he would have us believe in using his magic, although the second attempt was adequate," Orion explained as Magus followed him.

I deserved that, Magus admitted silently to himself. Needling him when he is hurt.

Alpha flicked an opaque glance from Magus' grim visage to Orion's pained expression. "Seat thyself," Alpha said. As he reached for Orion's hands he noticed the blisters and grasped his shoulder instead. He seated Orion at the table and pulled up a chair for himself. He looked searchingly in his friend's face.  "Hands, face, where else?" Alpha asked simply.

"All over a little," Orion replied. "Magus may not have control but he does have power!"

"Full Slurp then. Art thou ready?"

"Please, Alpha, these burns hurt!" Orion pleaded.

"One, two, three!" Alpha counted.

Orion closed his eyes as Alpha hit him square in the face with his tongue. Orion stiffened as the warmth of the healing battled the heat of his burns and won. He grinned as he opened his eyes and noticed the concerned look on his friend's face.

"I'm fine. Thank you."

"That is the single most disgusting...!  Ugh!" Magus interjected.

"Feels a lot better than your burns!" Orion retorted.

"I have a vegetable stew prepared for supper," Alpha stated diverting the subject.

Magus found it surprisingly savory though he refused to admit that to Alpha. Orion tried to keep an easy, free-flowing conversation going but Magus was uncomfortable with small talk and Alpha seemed wrapped up in a private world.

"Orion, I regret that I am not better company for thee tonight. Mayhap we should simply retire for the night?" Alpha suggested finally.

*****

Melchior opened his door to the frantic knocking that had interrupted his 'nap'. He had actually been communicating with Gaspar about how much subjective 'time' would be needed for Magus' cooperative magic training. He barely recognized Elora. He had never seen her so distraught before.

"Come in! Child, what is it? What happened?" Melchior herded her to a seat before her legs collapsed under her.

"Guru, I've done..." Elora sniffled. "I've done a terrible thing. I've killed...  I've killed Prime!" she wailed out.

"Elora. Elora!" Melchior shouted. "Calm down! Shh. Tell me what you did."

Elora got up suddenly and paced about the room. "I arrogantly decided I was going to help Prime. I designed a chip to fit a port I had seen when I repaired him..." In between fits of tears Elora explained everything to the Guru of Life. He listened quietly to her explanation along with her self-recriminations.

"Elora," Melchior smiled suddenly. "There is so much about you that reminds me of me. You like to tinker, to figure out how things work, how to make them work better. I've always been that way. My tools, as you know, were living beings, Masa and Mune. I had many fears when I enclosed them within the Red Knife. What if I were wrong and the Mammon Machine would not work with the Dreamstone as I thought it would? What if it would kill them? You know the end of my story and how baseless my fears were."  He stood up, walked to Elora and grasped her shoulders. "What you do not know yet, little maker, is what happened to your friend. It does not surprise me that a being as complex as Prime could not integrate something as vast as illogic in just a moment or two. His shut down could be a fail-safe to enable his systems to deal with this concept without having to also deal with things like seeing and walking and talking at the same time. You could be right. Prime, as you know him, could be no more. But equally possible, I could be right and he will recover and revive, and your chip will function as you designed it to."

"Melchior..." Elora began.

"No. No more talk, no more blame. Go to your friend. Be there when he wakes up. Learn the truth, then come and talk with me," Melchior commanded.

"I... I will, Melchior. Thank you!" Elora cast over her shoulder as she dashed from the hut.

"I think I need to take her on as an apprentice," Melchior mused. "Now what were Gaspar and I talking about? Oh, yes. Deliberate time offsets, to give everyone the best chance of surviving this mess.”

*****

The next week found Orion and Magus fumbling toward cooperative magic. Orion took several more hits of Fire, Ice and even Shadow, and Magus developed a grudging respect for him as he took them in silence. Magus discovered he could provoke a bristling reaction, but Orion of himself would let mistakes go without comment.

More puzzling to Magus was the frog. Alpha remained quiet and subdued, speaking little and initiating nothing, healing Orion when required with a light, delicate touch and honest sympathy.

"Your turn, Magus," Orion announced as they were attacked by narcotoads. "I'll channel Lightning to your scythe, see how many you can hit." Orion invoked his mid-level Lightning spell and sent the energy arcing toward Magus. Despite his best intentions and his just now discovered impulse to trust Orion, Magus dodged – right into the path of the bolt.

"Dammit, Magus!" Orion shouted as the bolt dropped Magus to one knee and made a static halo of his hair. "You've got to trust me! I'm not gonna hurt you!"

Orion drew his sword and slashed a toad attempting to bite the disoriented Magus. Orion put himself between the rest of the monsters and the stunned mage. Magus shook off the effect of the Lightning and recovered enough to wade in with his scythe.

Orion cleaned and sheathed his sword absently after the battle was over and assessed Magus with a concerned gaze. "Your arms took the brunt of that, didn't they?" At Magus' nod he continued. "We'd better get Alpha to heal you."

"Not that damned, disgusting Slurp of his!" Magus exclaimed, unaware that Alpha was approaching from behind him. "Orion, that is the grossest... How can you stand it? There has to be a better way..."

"Magus, Ariel's been kidnapped, I hope by the same villains who have your sister or we may never find her, and Prime is with Elora. Alpha is the only healer we have among the three of us. I don't want to use Tonics and such for training, and we have to reserve the more powerful healing spells for the more serious injuries. You're gonna have to tolerate Slurp," Orion explained.

"Just the thought of the frog's tongue touching me..." Magus shuddered.

Orion noted the hurt look that flashed across Alpha's face. "I have thee to thank that I have the skill at all, Magus. It is fitting thou receive'st the full benefit of it!" Alpha declared from behind the mage.

Magus whirled. Orion watched as Alpha worked his throat for a moment and stood amazed as abruptly Alpha's glistening wet and surprisingly fast tongue shot out to smack Magus in the center of his face spraying slime everywhere. Magus recoiled in surprise and horror. "That burns! Oh..." he exclaimed as the intense heat of the healing passed.

"It's polite to thank someone who's just healed you," Orion noted impishly, winking at Alpha.

Magus gaped at him, healed and whole, but dripping with frog slime. "Thank him? I'm not going...! This is so odious!" Magus stalked off muttering.

"I didn't know you could do that," Orion said quietly.

"I knew it not also. He make'th me so angry; all I desire to do is to help and he... he refuse'th... Orion," Alpha raised vulnerable eyes to his friend. "the healing Slurp is not disgusting to thee, is it?"

"Alpha, your Slurp as you've always used it on me and the others is a bit – strange, but not disgusting. I'll take your healing tongue over injuries any day! What you just did to Magus... Now, that was disgusting!" Orion laughed.

Alpha smiled slightly. "He upset'eth me so much!"

"Remind me to stay on your good side!" Orion directed between chortles.

"He doth look so humorous, striving for dignity with all that slime dripping from his hair!" Alpha laughingly admitted.

*****

Elora lifted her head from her arms as a soft whirring sound woke her. She realized she had fallen asleep at her workbench and hissed as she straightened the kinks out of her back. She tried to figure out why she had stayed down here instead of going to her room, then she remembered Prime. She glanced at the clock on the wall and realized that the 29 hours, 7 minutes were almost up. The soft hum coming from Prime's inert form was undoubtedly his main power generator coming on line.

Elora walked over to her friend and felt deep apprehension. She hoped with all her might that he would be okay, that he would still be Prime. She heard small clicks and hums, the almost musical machine song that Prime's systems played as each system restarted. Mentally she traced the path of energy flowing through his circuits and felt relief when the sound she expected to hear next followed on schedule. She realized the next system to activate would be his consciousness. She swallowed hard.

"Oh, Prime, please be all right! Please – don't let me have hurt you!" Elora pleaded in a whisper.

The final click Elora anticipated sounded, then unexpectedly sounded again. Abruptly Prime's photoelectric eyes flashed, his front panel closed, and he vaulted upright in a surprisingly fluid move.  He spun tightly on one heel for no reason that Elora could fathom and stopped, facing her. His huge hands closed about her shoulders and he picked her up roughly.

"Gwee-no-nwi-dip-da-da?" he asked her intently.

"What?" Elora's eyes filled with tears. "Prime, I can't understand you... And you're hurting me! Oh, I have destroyed you after all!"

The robot had her in an uncomfortable position, dangling her several feet above the floor and his grip on her shoulders was crushingly tight. Elora found that she didn't care if he killed her, so great was her guilt, and her tears spilled over blurring her vision. Through her tears Elora could have sworn that she saw Prime's eyes flash again.

"Eee...lllorrra," Prime rumbled. "Elora. Elora, what's wrong? Wait, I'm replaying my audio record from when I was inactive... I see. You thought that you had erased me while my systems were reintegrating my personality."

"Prime! Are you – still – you?" Elora cried out.

"Elora," Prime's voice held a soft modulation that was new. "I am perfectly all right and I am still me. I remember everything that we have accomplished and everything that had been important to me still is. Oh! I shouldn't be holding you this tightly!" Prime placed Elora on her feet roughly and then held up a warning hand. Elora heard a few high pitched whines and chatters from inside him and then Prime lifted her up again much more gently. "Obviously a few of my modified settings were reset to standard parameters. I have adjusted them back to the settings I prefer," Prime explained. "Now, why were you so worried?"

"Prime, when you crashed, when your systems went down, I thought I had made a terrible mistake, one that cost you your life. When you reactivated and seemed so – strange and then brutal, I thought you were gone... dead..." Elora's face twisted up into tears again.

Prime drew her closer to him and cradled her gently on one massive metal shoulder. "Elora, I am fine, better even than before," Prime told her softly. "You did not harm me, in fact, your chip is a marvelous invention! My system had to reset so that I could review my memories in light of the new information, the new viewpoint the chip enables me to see. I know that Glenn is Alpha, that a human being is changed in form, by magic, into a bipedal frog. My logic chip now has no strain from this knowledge. It will take me some time to adjust to its effects, but I am so glad you invented it. So pleased that I decided to trust you and try it. You, my dear friend, are a genius!" Prime enthused.

"I'm just very lucky and relieved that you are okay. Prime, when I thought I had killed you, I went to see Melchior. He told me to come back and find out for certain what I had done to you. I'd like to see him and tell him I was wrong, that you are fine," Elora asked.

"By all means. Can't leave the guru thinking something that's not true," Prime agreed. "I'll come with you. Then we should meet up with the others and make certain that Alpha and Orion haven't killed Magus. Or vice versa."

Melchior was unsurprised that Prime was okay. He approved of the way Elora's chip was functioning, as he could see the modification it made in Prime's personality. Finally, he told them to let an old man get his rest and urged them on to the Middle Ages.

*****

The next few days were a particular type of torture for Magus. His difficulty trusting Orion to miss him and hit only his scythe caused him to take several Lightning bolts requiring healing. Each time, Alpha made sure it was a wet, sloppy mess and by contrast Slurped Orion with the lightest and driest of touches. Magus was ready to tear his blue locks out by the roots by the week's end.

"Oh! This is so – revolting!" Magus claimed as Alpha tagged him spreading slime all over Magus's face and hair. Magus charged off, pushing rudely past Elora on his way to the stream he used to clean up after Alpha Slurped him.  Orion grinned at Elora, waving at her in greeting.  By the time he turned back to say something, Alpha had left the clearing.

"Hi, there! What was that all about?" Elora asked, indicating Magus' retreating back with a casual gesture.

"Nothing. He just doesn't like Alpha's Slurp," Orion dead-panned.

"Why not?" Elora demanded. "It's kinda odd, but Alpha's very gentle!"

"To you, yes. To me, yes. To Magus... Not on your life! And Magus deserves it. Stick around and you'll see," Orion advised. "How did everything go?"

"Oh, you know how it is, my inventions always have unexpected quirks," Elora replied casually. "This time I had to scare myself that I had killed Prime, but it works. Prime likes it. You know, he told me that the logic chip overloads felt to him like he expects headaches feel to us. He's grateful that they're over."

Prime walked up to Elora with one hand behind his back. He brought it forward at the questioning look in her eyes to reveal a bunch of wildflowers. Orion burst out laughing at the amazement on Elora's face.  "I just wanted to say thank you, Elora," Prime said solemnly as she took the flowers. He bowed slightly and then walked off.

"It should be interesting watching how he uses the illogic you've given him, Elora," Orion said.

"Uh, huh," Elora agreed absently. "You know, Orion, I'm glad to be with all of you again and all but I haven't slept well and I'm beat. I'm going to go grab a nap, okay?"

*****

Prime sought out Magus next and found him by the side of a clear bubbling stream. Magus was trying to skip stones across to the other side. Prime watched him for a moment, reached down and selected a flat stone and skipped it to the other bank.

"Well done!" Magus said.

"Thank you. How has it been for you? I remember from our conversation at the End of Time; you were quite apprehensive," Prime asked.

"Orion and I have gotten on fairly well; he is really not so bad and nowhere near as pompous as I had assumed. Alpha – avoids me. Unless I need healing, he's nowhere to be found. Frankly, I wish he couldn't be found when I do need healing," Magus muttered.

"Strange. I would have thought that you and Alpha would make the first connections and his maturity would help Orion to accept you. It seems I was in error assessing his emotional response to you," Prime remarked.

"Now that you are here things might come together more easily. At least I will not be smacked with that repulsive Slurp again!"

Prime spoke longer with Magus, gauging how far Magus had progressed in combining his magic. He noticed the lengthening of the shadows and, consulting his internal chronometer, decided to find Alpha before full dark.

Alpha was in the woods, apart from everyone else. His position allowed him to see both Magus at the stream and Orion in the clearing outside of Alpha's pad. "Well met, my friend. Thou appear'est to be none the worse for wear from Elora's ministrations," Alpha greeted him.

Prime looked at his friend with the new sensitivity his illogic chip gave him. He noticed an uncharacteristic lack of precision to Alpha's movements. Alpha's bearing seemed more subdued than usual as well. Finally, Prime realized that Alpha had not looked him in the eye. He found that missing directness the most distressing aspect of his friend. He tentatively diagnosed Alpha's condition as melancholy.

"Alpha, what troubles you?" Prime asked simply.

Prime found with his refined perceptions he could read the bittersweet smile on Alpha's frog-like features. Alpha shrugged. "Naught. And all. I am again – this," Alpha gestured toward himself. "The life I had built here, my place as Cyril in Guardia's court, the friendships I had here, art dust in the winds of Time. When this quest is o'er, thou and all the rest must return to thine own times, leaving me thus, alone, to build again. 'Tis hard to take." Alpha stalked toward a small tree wheeled and stalked back. Prime allowed himself the fanciful notion that he saw fire in his friend's eyes. "And for what?" Alpha locked that burning gaze on Prime. "For the life of one who despise'th me. I am only what he himself wrought!"

Alpha wheeled again and stood with his back toward Prime. The robot could sense a strange charge in the clearing as the knight tried to control his feelings. He placed his hand gently on the tense shoulder before him. "Alpha, none of us can claim to understand your pain. None of us knows how to help you. You have taken on a burden we cannot even imagine. What can we, can I, do to help you? What must you do to find peace?" Prime found himself asking.

Alpha turned and regarded the robot through inscrutable golden eyes. He took a deep breath and some of the tension eased from him. "I know not, Prime. I wonder if I know what peace is anymore. I thought I hath found it, as Cyril, found a place where I could serve my king and queen, but now..." Alpha shrugged, as much as his frog form allowed. "Think'est not on it, my friend. Thou seem'est different to me. Elora's chip work'eth as she wished?"

"Yes, after frightening the wits out of her first. She is at your home sleeping. For me, it was over quickly, but for her it was an ordeal," Prime admitted. "It's getting dark. I am returning to your dwelling now. You might want to return, too."

Alpha watched as Prime walked off. He noticed that Prime moved more quietly and thought back to the extraordinary conversation he had just had with the robot. No one else had mentioned or seemed to notice his despair. Alpha acknowledged Elora's genius and wished that there was something she could do to help him regain his once again lost humanity. "If wishes wert horses, frogs wouldst ride," he said softly to himself. He returned to his home.

Alpha entered to find Orion, Prime and Magus holding a subdued conversation. Elora rested on his bed, her helmet and glasses on the bedside table. Alpha walked over and drew a blanket over her shoulders and looked searchingly into her sleeping face. She be a mechanical genius and mine affliction be magical in origin, Alpha thought to himself.

He walked over to the cooking fire and retrieved the pot. Silently he portioned the stew into bowls and served it. After they had finished the meal, he cleaned up the pot and bowls and curled up in a blanket in a far corner of the room. Orion, Magus and Prime continued their conversation a while longer and then also prepared for sleep.

An hour or so passed. Alpha tossed fitfully on the blanket on the floor. He turned again seemingly fussing in his sleep. Magus noted his restlessness but held himself quiet, feigning sleep. Finally, so swiftly and silently that Magus almost jumped himself in surprise, Alpha jumped up and then took an incredible leap past the ladder into his home, out into the night air. Assuring himself that Orion, Elora and Prime slept on, Magus crept to the top of the ladder and eavesdropped on the agitated frog.

"Leene, dear Queen Leene, how can I fulfill my vow to Cyrus to guard thee when I am again...?" Alpha asked fiercely.

Magus heard Alpha pace about the small clearing and risked poking his head above the hole.

"I held such simple dreams... Be Cyrus' squire, one day mayhap find one... one who... phah!" Alpha stooped and grabbed up a dead branch. He broke it into pieces as he slumped dejectedly to the ground. "Now... I am again – this," His voice sunk to a hoarse whisper. "A mage's jest... a pathetic monster... how, how can I be – this again?"

I refuse to feel guilty! Magus thought furiously to himself. Play with fire and get burned! No matter how hard he tries... Magus suddenly realized that Alpha could not know he was listening and so could not be trying to make Magus feel anything.

Magus cast his memory back to that moment on the Denadoro Mountain. He had felt drunk with power. The dreaded Masamune he had sundered with a bolt of pure magic; his implacable foe, Cyrus, had been utterly destroyed; and Cyrus' squire, Glenn, crouched before him in disbelieving, anguished amazement. He remembered Ozzie urging him on and then the rush of shaping his power to curse the pitiful squire, changing him into a frog. He had fully expected Glenn to perish in that unfamiliar form on that dangerous mountain, and returned to plotting his conquest of Lavos. His surprise when Glenn, wielding the Masamune, had shown up in frog form to thwart his plan had been absolute. He pondered for a moment about how tragic Glenn's life must have been since that meeting on the mountain. A new feeling stole into his heart. He felt shame.

Alpha tossed the branch bits over his shoulder and stood up. He brushed himself off saying, "Peace? How can one such as I find peace in this time or any other? But, I am a useless, crippled thing 'til I do..."

Magus silently scurried down to his makeshift bed an instant before Alpha descended the ladder. He closed his eyes and forced his breathing into the slow pattern of sleep, but listened intently as Alpha moved almost silently about the room.

Alpha listened to the quiet rhythms of his sleeping friends and wondered at the distance he felt from them. He realized the distance was not in his friends, it was in him. He looked over at Prime and saw that his eyes were dimmed; Prime was still in an energy-conserving sleep mode. Alpha penned a quick note, left it on the central table, gathered his sword and gear and climbed the ladder. He looked up at the moon set and remembered the morning of his dual knighting and the respect and friendship shown by the king, queen, Chancellor, Knight Captain and even the Chef. Shaking his head ruefully for the friendships that could now never be, he set out.

Magus watched as the frog looked carefully about the room, rose, wrote his note and left. One aspect of his childhood as raised by Ozzie was an incredibly developed sense of night vision. Constant exposure to the cruel tricks imps liked to play on the helpless child he had been fostered that. After Alpha left, Magus glided to the table and read the letter. He put his head back in thought for a moment, bared his teeth in irritation, scribbled a few sentences on Alpha's note, grabbed his gear and floated out next to the ladder. After his silent departure, the room lay in peace as everyone else slept on.

~TBC~

Boo the Gentleman Caller

  • Guru of Life
  • Lavos (+4000)
  • *
  • Posts: 4911
    • View Profile
Re: Shadows of Schala (Part Five posted)
« Reply #7 on: December 28, 2020, 01:37:43 am »
Quote
I didn't realize anyone was reading it! I didn't want to clutter up the forums or have the thread pop up to the top all the time and annoy anyone.

First off, new posts are never clutter. I get excited when I see activity -- any activity. Except for spam bots, haha...

Second, we are somewhat a group of lurkers the past few years; there's a lot more activity here than one would think, they just don't post. I blame Reddit for the 'browse and not participate' culture, hahaha... I guess I am guilty of this, too, but yeah, I've been reading!

Quote
Here's Part Five --

Woohoo! Another fun read!

Kitt

  • Earthbound (+15)
  • *
  • Posts: 22
    • View Profile
    • Forever Dreaming, my anime cel gallery
Re: Shadows of Schala (Part Six posted)
« Reply #8 on: December 28, 2020, 11:48:54 am »
Crono = Orion * Marle = Ariel * Lucca = Elora * Frog = Alpha * Robo = Prime * Ayla = Arvia

Shadows of Schala - Chapter Six

Orion was the first to awaken the next morning. He quickly spied the note and after reading it, was equally quick to alert everyone else. "C'mon, Elora, you've slept enough! Prime, wake up, we got trouble!"

"What? What is wrong, Orion?" Prime asked, rousing faster than Elora.

Orion handed Prime the note.

–  All,
Thou art good and true, finer friends one could ne'er have. I lose mine edge, my faith in myself has been shaken. I find I think of who I had been, Glenn, Cyril, and the pain washes over me. Magus revile'th me and I cannot work with him. Magus is needed to find'eth Schala and Ariel; I am not. I do not desire to jeopardize thy chances to save them. I can not help the team. Prime ask'eth me last night what I must do to find peace. I found my peace once, I shall strive to do so again. If I can in time to help you, I shall return. If not, all of you have been more true friends than I e'er deserved, and the most true I have seen, but for Cyrus.

Alpha

Orion,
I don't know where Sir Froggy goes at this hour of the night, but given this note and his state of mind the past few days, someone needs to watch him. Trust this to be the one night I have insomnia. Gaspar said we had time, so I'll follow him. I know you are used to giving orders; show you can also take them. Give me a week to find him and bring him back. All of you stay there, otherwise we'll be split into little groups wandering everywhere. I think it's time the frog and I talked over what happened and what I did to him. Stay out of it, Orion! If we aren't back in a week, look for me in the Denadoro Mountains.

Magus –


"Magus is right," Prime declared handing the note to Elora.

"Who knows what Magus will do to Alpha! Or what Alpha will do to Magus! We can't just sit around..." Orion began heatedly.

"We must, Orion," Elora said gently after reading the note.  "They are the ones who will come back to this time when this is all over. They have to learn to live with each other, with what Magus did to Alpha when he cursed him and what Alpha did to Magus when he killed him, even though that was undone. I didn't see Alpha yesterday, but this note does not sound like the confident hero Alpha became or the Knight of Guardia that Glenn was. Accept it, Orion. He's your friend, he's mine, too, but there are some things a friend can't help with. The situation between Alpha and Magus is one of those things."

"Orion, Magus is concerned that Alpha has been avoiding him. Alpha is concerned that his antipathy will doom our efforts to save Schala and Ariel. Alpha knows how important Magus is to that goal; Magus knows how much he hurt Alpha already. They won't risk harming each other. Let's wait the week Magus asks us for and if they do not return, then we will search for them," Prime advised.

"First Ariel, now Alpha and Magus. Under it all the chrono-wave destroying Guardia's future and all of it linking to Schala! I'm so tired of feeling helpless!" Orion raged.

"We know, Orion. We feel it, too," Prime agreed quietly.

*****

Alpha considered the three places he felt he had to go on his quest for his elusive peace. He decided that the furthest one out was the one that would pain him the least. Cyrus' death had been more than ten years before and the ache was a familiar hurt.

Magus was amazed at the swift pace Alpha set and maintained. He had always thought that frogs were slow, ungainly creatures. Alpha's speed and quiet movements through the trees forced him to recognize that Alpha was not just a frog. He began to wonder what Glenn had been like before he had cursed him. He remembered the startled green eyes, filled with grief, that had confronted him over Cyrus' remains... and the fear in those same eyes as his transformation spell took hold. His only other impression of the uncursed Glenn were of an earnest, gangly seventeen year old. Cyrus had the bearing and presence of a full knight, but Glenn had still had the rawness of youth about him.

He had not been someone I would have wanted to harm, Magus realized. True, Cyrus kept getting in my way, and he was Cyrus' squire, but he probably would have just run away if I had left him alone. Ozzie...

The tangled feelings that thoughts of Ozzie always brought rose in him again. Ozzie had found him after Lavos had dumped him through a Time Gate that separated him from his time, his home and, most importantly to him, his sister. If Ozzie had not taken him, and taken him in, he would have been killed.

But, Ozzie is the one who recognized the incredible potential for magic that I had... and used it for his own twisted ends. I wanted to please him...but I also wanted to be free of him. It's probably because of him that I have such a hard time trusting and cooperating with others with my magic... I had never thought to curse a human into something else. Ozzie confused me so much as to who and what I really was...was I human or Mystic or a little of both? Magus pondered as he rested his scythe against a tree. Schala, if you could see me now; if you could see what your little brother has become, would you be pleased...or would you hate me? I have done some vile, evil things...

Magus listened intently and realized that Alpha had moved beyond the range of his hearing. He grasped up his scythe and hurried to catch up, just managing to do so when Alpha reached the shoreline.  Magus watched as the frog knight removed his cloak, wrapped it tightly around the Masamune, and stowed both in his pack.  Next, he removed his gloves and boots, placing them in the pack as well, before closing it and winding and wrapping a length of cord around the entire pack tightly and lashing it to his back.  Alpha then, in the most nonchalant sort of way, walked into the ocean.  Magus was amazed at how naturally, easily, and swiftly Alpha swam from the shore.  Magus floated just above the water himself, following Alpha on this surprising leg of his journey.  He held himself ready to dart right or left, or, if absolutely needed, drop his levitating spell entirely and plunge under the water himself to avoid being discovered, but Alpha never turned.  The frog, in complete comfort in this environment and with this mode of locomotion, faced forward as he continued to swim toward his destination.

Alpha shook water off himself once he walked up onto the shore.  His pack was wet, but the contents had remained dry, as he retrieved his boots, gloves, cloak and sword.  By the time he was fully geared and ready to go, his clothes were damp, but no longer dripping. He scanned the treeline until he spied the path, and began walking. Alpha's mind wandered even as his feet carried him unerringly toward the Hero's Grave. He remembered the respect and friendship Cyrus had always shown him even though Glenn had been younger; Cyrus dragging him along to his lessons in sword craft, and the generosity Cyrus had shown when Glenn had proven to be more skillful.

He recalled the one wonderful summer when he had been Cyrus' squire; Cyrus' triumph in the Queen's Tourney; and Cyrus' elevation to Captain of the Knights of the Square Table. He fondly called to mind the successful fight with the Frog King for the Hero's Medal and the victory Cyrus gained over the twins Masa and Mune to win the legendary sword. He had believed his friend to be the most wonderful knight in the kingdom, following a call that was just and pure. He had been convinced that Cyrus could not be defeated. Then came Magus.

The last memory Alpha had of Cyrus in action was the heroic, doomed charge Cyrus had made on Magus to buy Glenn time to escape. Burned into his mind's eye was the image of Cyrus, features ruined by magic, lying amid the shards of the sundered Masamune, begging Glenn to guard Queen Leene as he died in his arms. His grief had blinded him to his own danger; he had disregarded Ozzie's cruel teasing until Magus blasted him with magic. The pain that had burned through him had felt like death and he had welcomed oblivion as he fell off the cliff. He had hoped to see Cyrus again, two friends slain by the same foe, but Magus had not struck him with killing magic.

He woke in an altered form, but the memory of the death of his friend hurt more than the pain of his transformation. He had opened his newly transformed eyes to see the Hero Medal glinting up at him from his hand.

Alpha sighed and pulled the Hero Medal up from its place underneath his tunic. He regarded the gleaming silver surface and reflected that the pain of Cyrus' death, more than ten years in the past, had not really diminished. In an obscure way he felt comforted that his friend's tragic end still hurt as much as it ever did; it showed that Cyrus still mattered to him.

He looked up and realized that the gates of the Hero's Grave stood before him. He took up his courage and walked in. Magus waited a few moments and then silently followed.

Alpha walked down the staircase to the chamber where he had buried Cyrus so many years before. He walked up and placed his hand upon the cool headstone. Magus sidled in and concealed himself behind a pillar.

"'Tis I, Cyrus," Alpha began. "One time when I came here, thou rose up in spirit from thy grave, enjoined me to guard Queen Leene, reassured thyself that I had survived and left for thy well-deserved rest. Not once did thou mention that I was a frog. Can it be that thee did not notice? Thou did give me faith in myself, claiming that I was a hero. I have lost that faith again, my friend. I had reclaimed my humanity, honored thy wish to guard the queen, and made a life for myself at Guardia Castle. But a new danger threaten'eth our queen, as well as dear friends not yet born and to save them I had to become again – a frog..." Alpha paused, his breath catching in his throat.  "I am not as much a hero as I need to be. The one I took this curse back to save despise'th me. I can not work with him to rescue his sister and Leene and Ariel... Forgive'st me, Cyrus! Thy death saved only a forsworn knave!" Alpha choked out.

Magus was an unwilling observer to the deepest grief he had ever witnessed. He could not leave without betraying his presence to the distressed frog, but he could barely stand overhearing such a private sorrow. He thankfully stretched cramping legs when Alpha finally slipped into an exhausted sleep. He peered around the column he had hidden behind and almost bolted for the exit.

He recognized the spirit that hovered next to the sleeping frog. The burning hatred in the gaze of Cyrus' ghost froze him where he stood with an irresistible power as he was recognized in turn. The ghost floated over, his spectral armor silent as the grave. Cyrus circled Magus once burning his very soul with that potent, reproachful stare.

Magus could sense the meaning of the specter's attack without words. Cyrus hated him not only for his own death, but more so for the anguish Magus had caused in Glenn's life, most recently for the self-assurance Alpha had lost. Magus could also sense the frustration Cyrus felt in not being able to drag him forcefully to his own death and a long overdue accounting, even though Magus was certain he possessed that power. He realized that Cyrus somehow knew something of the mission they were on.

"You hate me, you have every reason to, but Schala did nothing to you and if I know her at all, respects Alpha. If you know anything, tell me! I'll even come back here and submit to you once we rescue her..." Magus promised rashly.

The knight's specter seared into Magus' soul with the burning gaze again. Magus tried not to fight the ghost's probing as that spectral stare sought for something. Finally, Cyrus looked him in the eyes. Magus flinched.

"Fear'est me; thou should. Evil make'th its own doom. Tell Glenn nothing of me or I shall hound thee to the end of thy days. Keep'est thy vow to return here; accept a geas and I can give thee a clue. The geas' penalty, madness and death. Return'est here, and I can levy a final accounting from thee." The ghost's bloodless voice chilled the chamber with the presence and promise of death.

Magus considered. His soul had been burned already by Cyrus' hatred, enough for him to know that the full force of it would kill him. To accept the clue and the geas would mean madness and death if he did not return after they had rescued Schala. It was a deal that would mean his doom either way, and Magus was tempted to laugh and tell the ghost to go back to hell, but for two things.

First, he could sense somehow that without the ghost's clue, they would never find Schala. Second, he felt the guilt that was late in coming for Cyrus' death and the malign effect he had had in Glenn's life. He knew that the guilt would eventually drive him mad anyway. Better to accept death at the ghost's hand than to go mad and hurt who knows who else before dying anyway.

"Give me... Give me a week after we rescue Schala to return to you here," Magus asked quietly. "And I accept your geas."

The ghost knight gazed searchingly at the mage again. "Thou may'est have two weeks," he replied as he floated back to Alpha's side. "Tell no one about me. Grieve'st Glenn no more. Set thine affairs in order ere thou return'est here!" Cyrus warned. A red haze grew around the ghost and then reached eerie tentacles of force toward Magus. He stood still and bowed his head as the ghost's geas wrapped itself around him. He felt the doom it promised uncurl within his soul.

Magus looked up as the ghost's aspect changed. A soft golden aura now suffused his ethereal form and Magus sensed a gentle, kindly solicitousness from the fearsome specter as he hovered near Alpha's sleeping figure.

"Faith, my friend. All thou hast e'er needed, all thou shalt e'er need art already within thee!" Cyrus touched Alpha on the head and the glow flowed down his hand and into the frog knight. "Thou need'est only remember that!"

Magus watched as Alpha straightened from his almost fetal curl of grief and took on a more heroic bearing even in his sleep. The ghost cast one last lingering glance his way, reminding him of his geas, and floated up through the ceiling. Magus pulled his cloak around him and wondered how he was going to recognize Cyrus' clue.

"Search for Schala in Shadow," Cyrus' voice echoed through his burial chamber.

Magus pondered the meaning of that as he guarded the sleeping Alpha.

Alpha woke and remembered the wracking sorrow that had claimed him. He felt a little surprised at the sense of well-being that he felt, but reasoned that remembering Cyrus' forgiveness had brought some measure of peace to his tortured soul. He saluted Cyrus' Grave with the Masamune, squared his shoulders and set off for his second difficult destination – Guardia Castle.

Magus, hidden within the trunk of a tree, watched as Alpha departed the Hero's Grave. He marveled at how heroic Alpha appeared to him now, a remnant of Cyrus' golden aura clung to Alpha's frog-like features. He watched as Alpha set a rapid pace through the woods. Once the frog knight was just at the edge of his hearing, Magus stepped forth from the trunk of the oak he was hiding in and followed.

Alpha remained wrapped up in fond memories of his friend but they only strengthened his sense of self-worth and did not distress him as before. Each memory that he called to mind served to show him a positive aspect of himself that he never noticed, until now. He had always known that he had not run when urged to by Cyrus out of a paralyzing fear; he now admitted to himself that it was fear for Cyrus and not himself. He had known that Cyrus was over-matched by Magus during that final fight.

He thought of how Magus despised him and his abilities, especially the Slurp Heal. Alpha also recalled how often Orion asked him to use the same ability to heal him from injury. He concluded that Orion was the more mature of the two; suffering for pride was stupid. Alpha resolved to continue using his Slurp on Magus, whether Magus liked it or not... and if Magus didn't like it... well, that could be a small, sweet revenge. Alpha grinned.

"That is a smile I've seen on Cyrus' face!" Magus exclaimed to himself. "Slash regretted the results of that smile, if memory serves. What did Cyrus do to Alpha?" Magus wondered, staring at the subtle golden glow.  Once again, Magus floated above the surface of the ocean while Alpha swam from one shore to the other.  Watching the ritual as Alpha retrieved items from his pack, and geared and girded himself caused Magus to wonder how often Alpha had made this unusual, water-borne journey.

Alpha stayed to the woods as he neared Guardia Castle. He did not want the pain of being recognized as the Queen's weird, frog-thing guard, which is how he knew some of the guards thought of him. He also knew that they did not trust him; they thought that since he wore a monster's form, he himself must be a monster. That he did nothing monstrous only convinced them that he was merely biding his time.  He waited until the uncertain light of dusk covered his approach and quietly entered the castle through a hidden door. Magus waited as long as he dared and then followed Alpha.

Magus marveled at the network of hidden passages in Guardia Castle; it reminded him of the one in his own castle. He silently followed Alpha through the maze even as he wondered at Alpha's knowledge of it. None of Magus' spies from the Mystic War had even known of the secret passageways' existence. He sensed Alpha stop and heard a slight scraping noise. Magus turned down a side passage, moved aside a small shutter and peered into the room thus revealed.

Queen Leene wished a soft good-night to her two ladies-in-waiting and closed the chamber door after them. She sighed deeply as she stretched and eased the tension out of her shoulders. Taking up a book, she crossed to a chair near the fire and curled up to read.

A sharp noise rang out in the silence of the room, as if something had crashed behind the wall across from Magus' hiding place.

"Who's there?!" Leene cried out in alarm, fixing her eyes on the hidden panel. Magus realized that Leene knew that there were hidden passageways around her room.

The panel clicked, swung open, and Alpha stepped through.  "Tis only me, my lady, I did not mean to startle thee!" The frog knight dropped into a courtly bow.

Leene rushed to his side to greet him with a sincere, welcoming smile.  "Alpha! Where have you been..." Magus clearly saw the lost, confused look on Leene's features the moment before she covered her face with her hands and sank to the floor with a low moan.

"My queen, what...?" Alpha dropped to his knees and tried to aid the stricken woman.

"Alpha... but, you are... can't be here... too many memories... this is all wrong... this hasn't happened... can't be happening... Cyril? Glenn? ...Alpha, you... you are..." The queen looked up, tears streaming down a face twisted into an expression of tortured confusion. "Help me?" She slumped over in a dead faint.

Alpha gasped and gathered Leene into his arms. His voice choked as he spoke softly to the unconscious woman. "I should not have come! I should have realized that thee wouldst be partially immune to the changes in time wrought by Magus' non-death. I myself told thee of Lavos, and time travel..." Alpha rose and carried Leene to her bed.  "As Schala's descendant, thou must also have more of the capacity for magic than is normal. I should never had let thee see me! Thou must sense, and remember, all that I had been, before Magus' death was undone; yet thy memories tell thee that I have been only thy frog retainer the whole time." Alpha pulled an embroidered coverlet over the queen. "Oh, Leene, 'tis too much! I must not let thee see me again. Apart from thee and a very few in this castle, there are none in this time who would call me friend. But, I can not bring thee such anguish as my presence would cause. 'Twould break my heart to give thee pain just to avoid loneliness..."

Magus noted that the golden glow around the frog, that Alpha seemed not to notice, dimmed and then brightened.

"I am sworn to guard thee; guard thee I shall. Thou must not behold me again, but I can watch over thee. Once I have safe-guarded thy place in the time stream by rescuing Schala, I shall return here. Thou never need know that I guard thee..." Alpha vowed to the sleeping queen. "I shall spend my life in thy service, thou need'est not know or see for me to protect thee."

Alpha spent a moment to reassure himself that Leene was physically okay. He brushed her fair hair out of her face and prompted by some impulse, leaned down and kissed her cheek. His golden eyes shimmered as he laid one hand tenderly along the side of her face.  "Dear Leene, ever-watchful, but ever-unseen, I remain not only thy faithful subject... but also thy friend. I only hope that thou forget'est having seen me this night. Only hold the memories that trouble thee not in this altered time stream... And wonder why I have abandoned thee... for that is how it shall seem to thee..."

Overwrought, Alpha turned, and without looking back, entered the secret passage and closed it behind him. Magus carefully slid the peephole shutter back to the way he found it and prepared to follow Alpha. A red haze rose up before his vision and Magus felt the geas stir within him. He felt the will of Cyrus bear down on him and he strove to contain the pain it caused without a sound. After a moment he sensed that Cyrus wanted him to do something to aid Leene. Unsure of what he could do to help, Magus slid open the panel and entered the queen's chamber.

He stole softly over and looked down into the queen's face. He noticed lines of distress around her eyes and realized that Alpha's fervent wish that Leene not remember their meeting was not to be – unless he did something. Magus was disconcerted by how much Leene resembled Schala, a fact he had never noted before. Of course, he had never been this close to her before either.

His thought of Schala pointed out a way he could help Leene. He searched through his pouch and drew out a small vial of a sky-blue liquid. He looked about the chamber and found a forgotten cup of tea. The warmth of the cup told him that Leene had been drinking it before Alpha and he had begun to spy on her. He poured his potion into the tea and placed the cup on the table by the queen's bed.

Gathering his wits and wishing that Cyrus would ease up yanking on his geas now that he was doing the ghost's will, Magus shook Leene by the shoulder until she roused.

Her eyes opened and alarm displaced the strain from her face. Magus clasped one hand over her mouth to prevent her scream and held her tightly against his side to keep her from running away.  "My – queen, yes, I am Magus, but I am not here to harm you. In fact, I want to help you with the confusion and pain that you feel from having seen Alpha this evening," Magus whispered intently to the frightened woman. He felt a blessed relief in his soul and realized that Cyrus had stopped wrenching on his geas.

He saw Leene's eyes widen in surprise and felt her ease in his arms.

"You won't scream?" he asked her.

She shook her head "no", and Magus read the truth of that response in her eyes. Gently, he lifted his hand from her mouth, and set her free, but for one hand he kept to check her if she tried to run.

"Magus! What are you doing here? How is it that I think of Cyrus when I see you?" Leene gasped out.

"My – lady, I can't talk about that. Please, trust that I do not intend to harm you... I know you have no reason to trust me... But I also know that you have too many memories, ones that don't make any sense, about Alpha. I can help you. I must help you! Please, trust me?" Magus pleaded.

"You – have been monstrously evil to this kingdom, my husband and me... But, now that I see you in person... You don't strike me as evil. In fact, I feel – almost a kinship with you. Why would I? That makes no sense..." Magus all but gasped as he saw the faintest outline of Cyrus' ghost take shape behind the queen and grasp her shoulders. Leene eerily reinforced the image by hugging her shoulders. "I feel half-insane with too many memories that make no sense... I sense no hostility from you... It feels – right? – to accept whatever help you can offer me..." Leene struggled to explain. Magus was certain that the ghost knew what he intended and was influencing the queen to accept his aid.

"Queen Leene, perhaps someday you will understand the feeling of kinship; I feel it too, but I know why. I truly mean you no harm. Please, only drink this, lie down and listen to what I say and your memories of Alpha will again make sense and trouble you no more," Magus requested.

Leene looked deep into his eyes with her clear blue gaze. Magus, convinced of the rightness of what he intended to do, returned it unflinchingly. Leene nodded, took the cup and drained it.

Magus watched as the potent sleep potion began to take effect and pushed her gently down onto her bed. She struggled a little, almost reflexively. To reassure her, Magus took one of her hands between his own and stroked it. "My lady, for now, know that I respect you and wish fervently that I had never imperiled you in my bid for power. I am sorry for the trouble I have brought to your life. The potion you so bravely drank will only make you sleep, a deep sleep that should erase all strain and grief; but before you sleep you will listen and probably believe what I tell you and do what I say." Magus kept his tone soft and mild, and watched the queen to gauge how well the potion had taken hold by judging her reaction to his words. The gentle stroking of her hand seemed to reassure her. Magus gathered his thoughts, he had never tried to use this potion this way before, but a memory of Schala from his childhood prompted this experiment.  "First, you will not remember this meeting or that I was here, I am only your own mind voice. When you wake, you will remember Magus as you always had before this night, as the villain who attacked your kingdom and injured your husband. Second, you will remember Alpha as he has always been; your faithful guard and good friend. You will feel no worry or anxiety about him; you know that he will return to you. The feelings that you will have when you see him are good ones that will cause you no pain. Finally, you will remember Cyrus..." Magus felt a tug on his geas at this but finished his order in spite of it. "...you will remember Cyrus as your faithful friend and excellent knight, one who would reach beyond his own death to help you if he could."

Magus felt a surge of warmth deep in his soul. Got you there, didn't I, Cyrus? he gloated inside. Maybe I'm not quite the villain everyone takes me for anymore! Even if I know that I am...

"Leene, you dismissed your attendants, curled up and read part of your book. You stopped reading to think fondly of Alpha and because of that remembered Cyrus. You felt tired, drank your tea and went to bed. You will wake tomorrow refreshed and happy and you will remember Magus, Alpha and Cyrus in the ways I told you. 'Your mind voice quiets and worries slip away; sleep, Leene, and wake at the dawn of the new day.'"

Leene's eyes closed and her breathing slowed to the pattern of sleep as Magus' potion spell took effect. Magus could see that the lines of strain around her eyes had gone. As Alpha had before him, he pulled the cover over her. Asleep, she reminded him even more strongly of Schala. He felt a rush of tenderness for this woman who was, after all, distant family. Knowing the chance would never come again, he leaned down and kissed her forehead.

"Good-bye, Leene," he whispered. He turned, entered the secret passage and closed the panel behind him.

Alpha is long gone, Magus thought to himself. I wonder where he going to go now?

The ghost's geas tugged sharply once and Magus thought of the Denadoro Mountains.

"I wish you'd find a better way to let me know these things," Magus complained to the unseen ghost. "That really hurts!"

~TBC~

Kitt

  • Earthbound (+15)
  • *
  • Posts: 22
    • View Profile
    • Forever Dreaming, my anime cel gallery
Re: Shadows of Schala (Part Seven posted)
« Reply #9 on: January 05, 2021, 07:12:46 pm »
Crono = Orion * Marle = Ariel * Lucca = Elora * Frog = Alpha * Robo = Prime * Ayla = Arvia

Shadows of Schala - Chapter Seven

Alpha found his steps slowing as he neared the base of the Denadoro Mountains. So much had happened to him here. He thought again of that fate-filled day when Cyrus and he had climbed this very mountain and Magus had so drastically changed his life. A tree marked the entrance to the cove holding the stream where he had awakened as a frog. He deliberately avoided the turn that led to the place that held his darkest memories of his greatest pain.

Alpha sighed deeply and began to climb. The plateau where Cyrus had charged Magus and been struck dead beckoned him. He reached the summit and knelt at the spot where he had held his friend as Cyrus died. He rose and gazed toward the cliff face where Magus had stood. One part of his mind noticed that an aspen tree had grown near the spot, while in his memory he saw again that writhing mass of energy that had engulfed him, thrown him off the cliff and changed his life forever. He shuddered.

From within a tree next to where he had triumphed those many years ago, Magus watched as Alpha fell to his knees, hugged his shoulders and rocked in agony. He winced as he comprehended how much evil he had wrought in Alpha's life. As if to imprint the image forever in his mind, the shadow of the tree he was magically hiding in crept over the despairing frog as the sun set.

Alpha uncurled as the cool evening breeze swept over the plateau. With a visible effort he got up, dusted himself off and walked toward the edge of the mountain. Magus panicked until he realized that Alpha, even though he seemed thoroughly disheartened, looked for the path down the mountain. He waited until the frog had a good head start and then followed.

Alpha carefully made his way down the path, paused before taking a seemingly unimportant turn and entered a breathtaking ravine. Magus melded into a willow tree and watched as Alpha, strangely enough, stood in the spray of the waterfall. Magus was too far to see if there were tears on Alpha's face, but even he could read the totally despondent slump to the frog's shoulders.

"Alpha?" Magus heard a soft voice call.

Alpha stepped from the cascade and gasped as Queen Leene entered the clearing.

"Oh, Alpha... I felt somehow that you needed me... I know about you, about Glenn... I have a shadowy almost-memory of how you were, tall, handsome, heroic, kind... I remember who you should be and I know what you are condemned to be..." Leene declared as she approached.

"Leene, my queen, thou can not see'est me thus..." Alpha began as he scrambled away from the queen.

"No!" Leene's call arrested Alpha's flight. "I remember what happened last night, but I don't feel that twisting confusion anymore. I know you have been like this, a frog in form, but never in heart; and I know that you have also, somehow, been Guardia's First Knight as Glenn and my own favorite knight as Cyril. I don't know why, but these two sets of memories no longer cause me pain," Leene explained further as she neared to within touching distance.

Magus gaped inside the willow. He thought he had erased Leene's conflicting memories. Step by step he recalled the spell he had set within Leene's mind and realized he had never told her to forget her alternate memories, instead he had told her that her memories would not trouble her. He wondered if Cyrus had confused his intent to cause this effect.

"My queen, I am relieved that thou hast no further pain from memories of me; I grieve that I have brought thee pain at all. Now that I know that thou canst withstand the sight of me, I can return to thy side and be thy guard openly again rather than guard thee unseen from the shadows... But, I confess that I am not worthy of that charge for I have not the honor or bravery of Cyrus who laid it upon me." Alpha's shoulders slumped again.

Magus noticed as the slight golden glow he had learned to associate with Cyrus spread from the frog to Leene.  "Cyrus was a dear friend as are you. I am certain he would find only honor in you, Alpha, and the decisions you have made." Leene tried to reassure.

"Cyrus would curse me for wasting his life and abandoning my charge!" Alpha cried out. "Thou art threatened by erasure from the very fabric of time. I can not bring myself to work with Magus who is the only one who can save'th thee. I am so selfishly wrapped up in remembering who I had been and what I have lost... I can not bear to be this again... I can not go on..."

Leene reached forward and grabbed Alpha in an embrace. He struggled as if to escape but Leene tightened her hold until Alpha wrapped his arms around her and sobbed. "Shh," Leene crooned. "I do not pretend to know the pain you feel. I don't have to. In both sets of memories I have of you, the courtly knight or the loyal frog retainer, you are my friend. You have every right to hate Magus and every right to avoid him. Even thoughts of him are enough to frighten me; a more evil man I cannot contemplate."

Leene's comment stabbed deeper than the sudden thrust of his ghostly geas. Magus recalled that he had not altered Leene's memories of him, even though his feelings toward Leene had changed. It surprised him it hurt that she thought of him as frightening and evil.

"Alpha... Glenn, you have borne more than anyone I've ever met. Cyrus was a friend, a great knight, and a hero of the kingdom, and I do not say this to dishonor him, in fact, I feel as if I'm saying this for him; you have taken more, and been more honorable under more trying conditions than I think even Cyrus could have endured," Leene declared softly as she held Alpha.

At being addressed with his true name, the frog knight sobbed deeper and clung to Leene. She tightened her hold and rocked Alpha as a mother rocks her child. Magus found this sorrow of Alpha's to be even more difficult to witness than when Alpha had despaired at Cyrus' tomb. Leene's beautiful face streamed with tears as she offered what comfort Alpha could find in her presence. Cyrus' geas burned within Magus, compelling him to admit that he caused this pain. Finally, Magus could stand no more.

He shifted from the willow by the stream to the aspen on the plateau and stepped out. "I see what I did! I understand what I caused! I am not a heartless monster who does not regret his actions. But understand, you pitiless specter, I can do nothing to undo Alpha's curse until I save my sister. You know I am needed to save her and if I don't, Leene will perish. Once Schala is saved and I return to you... and you slay me... Glenn will again be restored. Until then... Please, please stop – hurting me. My own guilt is enough without having to take your punishment on top of it."

Magus paced a few steps as if to escape both his raw emotions and his pitiful plea.

"Do you think I haven't learned? I see it, I admit I misused my power in the past on Glenn and on Guardia, but understand this is not my time... This is not the life I should have had... I should have lived my span eons ago in Zeal, and studied magic there with my sister. Instead, I was cast as a child through a Time Gate to a hostile land with nothing but half-remembered lessons and a talent for magic. I hated Lavos with all that I was. He, it, destroyed my mother, my homeland, my life. I learned fearsome magic to try to kill it for all it had done to me and those I loved..." Magus stripped some leaves off the tree and tore them in his hands. "Now Lavos is dead... My sister is in danger and through her Leene and other relatives I never knew I had. Once I save her, then what? I have no home to return to. I am as much an outcast as Alpha. It's fitting I have your doom over me. I have nowhere to go..."

Magus wasn't sure when it had happened, but he noticed the pain from the geas had eased and only his own guilt burned in his soul. He spent some time composing himself and then, reluctantly, shifted back to the water-side willow.

Leene, bathed in a brilliant golden glow she was apparently unaware of, cradled Alpha's head in her lap. She settled his cloak over his shoulders and stroked the top of his head very gently. Alpha seemed to sleep, worn out once again by powerful emotions. Magus watched in awe as the moon rose and washed silver light into the glen. Leene seemed to absorb that pure light. She smiled gently down on the frog knight as he slept on.

"Alpha, Glenn, I can't help but feel... Everything will be made right. I can't explain why I feel this, but I do. I think the future holds much happiness for you. I would make that my wish – that you find happiness. You deserve so much! You accuse yourself of broken honor because you cannot abide Magus. If you only knew how much honor you really have. Strangely, I feel that Magus brings you your happiness – that somehow he is connected." Leene pondered the meaning of her own remark and then shook her head ruefully.

Magus shivered within the willow, sensing that the queen was manipulating great magic. He felt certain that Leene herself was unconscious of her own ability. The moon rose higher and, as the silver light flowing into the glen muted to white, the raw magic ebbed. Leene sighed. Magus lost track of time as he watched the queen, in a weird reversal of roles, guard Alpha. He had all but forgotten the strange golden aura until it flowed from Leene to Alpha.

"You and Cyrus are my favorite knights," the queen whispered to the sleeping frog. "Remember that always! And, while I admit that you, as Glenn, are quite fair to look at, it is your friendship, loyalty and honor that I treasure more; and that, my dear friend, you possess no matter what shape you bear."

Alpha stirred and woke. "Oh, my queen! I should not...!  Thou mustn't...  I..." Alpha struggled to his feet and reached down to help the queen to rise.

"Alpha!" Leene laughed. "It is fine. I have been honored and amused to serve as your guard this night. Whatever happens, however you appear when your quest is over, return to me. There shall always be a place for you at the castle, my knight."

Alpha bowed.

"Further, I think you will find you can now think of working with Magus. You don't have to like it, but I think you can manage it. You have more strength and forbearance than you realize."

"Thou may'est be right, my queen," Alpha admitted in a low tone. "It doth not make sense, but I feel comforted; I feel that I am not abandoning my memories of Cyrus to work with Magus. I should seek him out, discuss with him what hath happened..."

"Alpha, remember that you only have to work with him. You do not have to like him, or what he has done. You have to steer him in the right course for now. I have vague memories of discussing Schala with you, something about the reality of this time line being threatened?" Leene responded.

"Yea, to save this reality, and even more to save thee and Ariel, I shall work with Magus," Alpha vowed. He looked toward the east and noticed the first rays of dawn.

"My queen, thou hast spent the night watching o'er me! Thou must need sleep thyself. I should escort thee back to thy castle..." Alpha recriminated himself.

"I am tired!" Leene admitted.

Magus waited until Leene and Alpha left before stepping from the willow.  "I should head back toward the frog's home, set up a camp somewhere so that he can find me for our 'discussion'," Magus said out loud. He carefully eased from the ravine and down the last few yards of the mountain. A huge boulder offered him cover as he looked around it to make sure Alpha and the queen would not see him. Alpha stood defiantly as four of the queen's guardsmen confronted him.

"So, you kidnapped our queen? I always knew you weren't to be trusted you cold-hearted frog!" the lead guardsman jeered.

"That not be..." Alpha started.

"Can't you even speak properly? You really are a pitiful creature!" another guardsman pointed out.

"Stop! Alpha is my friend! I came here of my own free will. I will not hear you slander him!" Leene commanded.

"As you wish, my queen. We should take you back to the castle. You must be exhausted from your ordeal," one of the guards offered unctuously as he took her elbow. Another man took her other arm. She promptly shook their hands off her.

"I am not a child to be so treated. I am the queen! I command you to leave Sir Alpha alone!" Leene stood at her full height and tilted her chin at a challenging angle.

"I should leave now, my liege. I know these guards will take'th excellent care of thee, e'en though they do not trust me. Thy memories shall bear me out." Alpha looked sorrowfully at these time-shifted versions of friends he had made before reviving Magus. He turned resolutely and walked toward the woods.

"Remember to return to me, no matter what!" Leene called after him. "You are as true and honorable as Sir Cyrus ever was!"

"He must have her under a spell," a young guardsman muttered.

"Stop speaking nonsense!" Leene snapped. "You could do a lot worse than to have Sir Alpha as a role model. Now, attend to me, if you will, and return with me to the castle. And I better not hear any more talk about him 'kidnapping' or 'ensorcelling' the queen or I shall put you on scullery duty and give the maids a week off."

~TBC~

Kitt

  • Earthbound (+15)
  • *
  • Posts: 22
    • View Profile
    • Forever Dreaming, my anime cel gallery
Re: Shadows of Schala (Part Eight posted)
« Reply #10 on: January 13, 2021, 03:48:57 pm »
Crono = Orion * Marle = Ariel * Lucca = Elora * Frog = Alpha * Robo = Prime * Ayla = Arvia

Shadows of Schala - Chapter Eight

Magus watched as the queen and her four guards departed for the castle and reflected that, despite the queen's generous command to return, Alpha had no place to go in this time either. It disconcerted him that he and his enemy had so many points in common. He remembered Prime's advice to think of Orion and Alpha as allies and realized that he did think of the big-hearted kid with the wild hairdo and potent Lightning magic as an ally, almost a friend. He wondered why he had not made the same shift in perception toward Alpha. He shrugged his shoulders and entered the woods.

The past few days following the frog had given Magus a good instinct for how long it would take for Alpha to happen upon his 'camp'. Magus had just put the last few touches to the tent before he heard the very slight noise Alpha made walking through the woods.

"So, here you are," Magus commented dryly as Alpha came into view.

"Magus! What art thou doing here?" Alpha demanded.

Magus stood up, tossed his stick into the fire and brushed his cloak off.

"Waiting for you, of course," he answered amiably enough. "You and I have much to discuss, frog."

Alpha closed his eyes in a weary bid for patience. "Magus, I need to help thee in any way that I can, to save thy sister, Schala, my friend, Ariel, and my queen, Leene. This is a situation I can not change, nor canst thee. Must we endure insults and make such a venture so much more taxing than it need be?"

Magus cast as neutral and blank a stare as he could for a long moment and then turned away.  "I – find I need your help. I don't like it anymore than you do. Fate – doesn't care that we have a rather – adversarial history." Magus gazed intently at a small inoffensive shrub even as his ghost-given geas screamed in his soul. Ruthlessly he stamped down the pain. It unnerved him that Alpha hadn't responded so he glanced at the silent frog with an affectedly bored look.

To his surprise, Alpha caught his gaze and then looked hastily away. "There was a moment when I desired thy death beyond all things. I – responded to that urge and – took thy life. Fate decreed that it not be so and I was allowed to undo it. Thus far, I've not regretted that," Alpha admitted.

It shook Magus to realize that Alpha had felt guilty for slaying him. One part of him could not believe that in one timeline he had actually been dead, even though he had read the promise of death in Alpha's eyes during their fight on North Cape. It seemed wrong that Alpha was apologizing to him, given all he had done to Alpha.

The geas within him and some small part of his own soul cried to him to make a like apology; that he would undo all he had done if he could, but the old, bitter attitude refused to give way. He thinned his lips and gazed into the distance just over the frog's left shoulder.  Alpha's eyes blazed in disappointment and his features settled into a hard expression that reminded Magus of Alpha's face during that duel. "You and I must work on combining our magic if we're going to try to save my sister, and your friends. We can't avoid it any longer," Magus noted aloud. He turned to look Alpha full in the face and, in as patronizing a tone as he could manage, said, "Let's not have any more useless sulking, shall we?"

He quailed inside at the fury he could sense from the frog knight, but was relieved that the last of Alpha's despair seemed to vanish. If he has to hate me to get over his depression, well, so be it! Magus thought to himself. He noticed the burning agony from the geas lifted. "I suppose I shall have to supply the magical charge to your weapon, since the Water you wield is the weakest of the elemental magics. It's hardly worth it to combine my scythe and your weak Water spells. We'd almost be better just keeping our attacks separate," Magus noted in a taunting voice.

"For someone who is doomed if we do not combine our abilities, thou art imprudent!" Alpha shot back as he stalked off.

The geas remained relatively quiet for the next few weeks as Magus strove to develop fighting strategies with each of Orion's friends. As he had thought, he combined most easily with Prime. The similarities between his Shadow magic and Prime's futuristic weapons made it very simple to align the forces properly. Surprisingly, Orion's Lightning magic was the next easiest one for him to work with. Elora's Fire magic followed that and lastly, the Water magic from Alpha.

Magus realized that all the combined spells they devised that he was a part of were destructive and further realized that the only magic he used routinely was destructive as well. The closest thing he had to healing magic was the sleeping potion aided spell that he had used on Leene, and even that was unreliable. He found himself studying parts of his magic tomes that he had only glanced at before.

He looked at the science of magic from a new perspective and made some discoveries. As he already knew, Shadow was the most destructive magic of all, Lightning next, then Fire. Water he had always counted as the weakest magic, and from an offensive point of view it was, but it was also the most versatile. The strongest curing and aid-giving magic existed in the element of Water. No healing flowed from the discipline of Shadow. From this he postulated the difficulty with combining with Alpha stemmed. Alpha's magic and the way he used it was totally alien to Magus. He had never expected that the frog would teach him anything about magic.

Interspersed with his logical and in-depth examination of magic was a thorough revulsion for one aspect of Alpha's magic. Every time that Magus was injured, Alpha would used that damned Slurp of his. He became so fast at tagging Magus with his tongue that his Slurp Cut was becoming impressively formidable. Alpha routinely beat Prime out for the task of healing Magus. It got so bad that Magus had begun to cut a recognizable path to the stream, so often did he trek there to clean up.

He found that he really couldn't blame the frog. The days he spent following Alpha had showed him more of Alpha's heart than he had cared to know. The geas made sure that he realized each and every day what he had done to Alpha. The pains and aches that were the ghost's mode of communication had started to change Magus' behavior. He began to endure the Slurp Healing with only narrowed eyes and a grimace of disgust – until Elora noted it.

"Hey, Magus, you aren't goin' all soft on us are you? I haven't heard a peep out of you at all today!"

Magus couldn't understand Elora's animosity. True he had tried to kill all of them when they tried to stop him from summoning Lavos, but they had invaded his castle. And then there was that interaction when he was Zeal's 'Prophet', but he didn't really do anything.  Because of Schala pleading, he didn't even fight them.  He didn't care for anyone to think that he was going soft.  "Fortunately, I haven't required any so-called healing today and so haven't had to endure the frog's odious touch," he retorted.

The geas beat at him with frightening force and to distract himself Magus watched the reactions to his comment. Alpha's shoulders slumped and he stared at Magus dully for a moment before moving off through the trees. Prime shot a complex look that combined reproach, disappointment and an obscure understanding Magus' way before following Alpha. Magus was amazed that he had read all that on Prime's metallic face and part of him was astonished anew at Elora's accomplishment in adding this to Prime's abilities. Elora herself glared daggers at Magus and muttered darkly under her breath. Orion watched each reaction even as Magus did with a level, assessing expression. He turned toward Magus with that gaze and nodded as if deciding upon something.

"Elora," The tone of command, so rarely used, was in his voice. "I want to speak with you at Alpha's pad. Go and wait for me there."

Elora considered quipping something, looked at him, thought better of it and walked off in the direction of Alpha's home.

"Magus..." Orion started in that same level voice.

Magus looked at him with a neutrally challenging stare and adjusted his right glove casually. Orion bared his teeth in a mirthless smile at that almost-threat.

"I know that this isn't easy for you or for Alpha," Orion continued. "Elora's comment didn't help...  But," Magus found steel in Orion's hard, blue gaze. "Back off!" Magus didn't quite nod but he saw that Orion read something in his eyes. Satisfied, Orion followed Elora.

Magus paced about in the now deserted clearing and thought about the past few weeks. He had studied the softer side of magic, come to understand some of the strengths and weaknesses in each form of it. He had learned to act cooperatively with others, at least part of the time. He had found at least one – person – in Prime whom he almost considered a friend and he suspected Orion could be a friend as well. Shadowing Alpha on his travels had opened his eyes about what he had done as nothing else could.

"Perhaps I am going soft," he noted aloud. "Oh, I wish Schala were here!"

He paced the clearing again.

"Soft... me? I can't be... I've come so far, lost so much... I can't lose the one thing... If I start to need – people, how can I survive? I am Magus, I warred on Guardia, damn near won, too... I command dark and powerful magic, people fear me... They wouldn't trust... I can't need people... I can't, I won't go soft!" he whispered fiercely.

The next day Magus made certain to be as unreadable and cranky as he had ever been. Even though the geas burned and ached and stabbed at him painfully all day, he snarled at everyone and was as rude and churlish as possible. His head ached with the pain from the geas and the unexpected effort it took to behave so obnoxiously. He used that pain to maintain his bad mood.

"Get it through your tin-plated head, robot!" he found himself saying. "You're a machine! Why anyone would have use for you as other than cheap labor, I cannot fathom!"

The wounded expression in Prime's mechanical green eyes made him want to take back everything he had just said, but he wouldn't let himself weaken. Prime finally turned and walked away. One by one Magus brutally severed any tenuous connection he had made with anyone that dealt with anything other than power and rescuing his sister. He found a curious reluctance in him as he did so, but he resolved to do away with anything that might weaken him or make him soft. Ozzie had taught him from early on that to show softness or weakness was to give power to your enemy – and everyone was an enemy.

Elora shot significantly smug looks at Orion. Prime avoided Magus altogether, even so far as to walk in the other direction if Magus showed up in his line of sight. Orion had a confused, rather lost look about him. Alpha watched Magus almost constantly with one hand resting on the hilt of his sword and a totally alien look in his golden, inhuman eyes.

On the third day the strain got to even Magus. He woke with the rest of them, found his stomach couldn't take another day of behaving so evilly, and simply walked into the forest as if disgusted with everyone.

You might as well claim me now, he thought fiercely at the ghost. It's obvious I've pushed away any who could help me find Schala. They can probably do a better job of rescuing her without me anyway. I'm a villain, not a hero!

The geas remained quiet. Magus stalked almost blindly through the forest, unaccustomed tears stinging his eyes. He wasn't even certain why they were there.

He missed his footing, tripping over a fallen tree on the side of the faint trail. He flailed his arms trying to keep his balance as he stepped into a deep, but narrow hole. He felt a sickening shock and heard a loud snap. He cried out hoarsely in agony and clutched his broken leg. His effort to ease the pain by cradling his leg caused the world to swim alarmingly. Magus knew why tears filled his eyes now.

He rued that he did not have healing magic and that he had probably so disgusted his companions they were unlikely to come looking for him. He tried to pull himself over to a tree to stand, but the pain of just sliding his broken leg across the ground forced him to stop before he passed out. Magus admitted he needed help, without it he could possibly die out here.

"Magus! What hast happened?" Alpha cried as he saw the mage crumpled next to the path. Magus's leg bent sideways below the knee at an angle that clearly indicated that his leg was fractured.

Magus looked up at the frog knight and read the concern in his eyes. "Alpha..." To his disgust, he couldn't even form the request that might ease his pain and looked away in shame.

He heard movement and looked back to find Alpha crouched next to him. Eyes of purest, pale gold met his. The alien pupils gave no clue at the thoughts behind them. For the first time since North Cape, Magus feared the frog.

"Art thou injured but for thy leg?" Alpha asked neutrally.

Magus couldn't help it. He shook his head no, scrunched his eyes tightly closed and braced his shoulders for the odious assault of healing he knew was coming.

A few interminable seconds passed. The lightest, softest flick of a touch came to rest on his arm and the gentlest warmth pooled in his leg instantly erasing the pain. He felt the bone knit itself back together as the throbbing, sickening ache disappeared.

Utterly surprised he opened his eyes and locked gazes with Alpha. This time, the frog knight's humanity glowed in his amphibian features.

"Why?"

"Thou art not mine enemy. I have come to see thee through new eyes," Alpha observed quietly.

Hating pity even more than the Slurp, Magus searched Alpha's face. He found respect, compassion and even a muted affection in those wide-set amphibian eyes, but no pity. He suddenly realized that Alpha did not see him as soft or weak.

"It was not until thou began to behave so awfully that I realized that thou hast really changed. Seeing the return of the old Magus made me realize that there was more than just the old Magus. Thou hast formed a friendship with Prime, one wast starting with Orion, e'en Elora would hath come around. It was her comment about softness that change'th all of that, wasn't it?" Alpha noted.

Magus was shocked that Alpha could figure that out about him. He had never credited him with that much perception or intelligence before. Alpha smiled sadly at him with his ridiculous frog mouth, easily following the train of his thought, lifted his head, and gazed into the distance over his shoulder.

"I... I wish Cyrus had found Janus instead of Ozzie," he said softly.

Magus was stunned yet again. He had come to know how much Cyrus had meant to Alpha. In a way, Alpha was trying to give Cyrus to Magus. Magus smiled tightly at the irony. He had more of Cyrus than he cared to stomach. And yet, unless he was completely reading it wrong, Cyrus or at least his ghost, seconded Alpha's wish. Magus wondered how his life would have turned out if Cyrus had found his younger self instead of Ozzie. In spite of himself, Magus found tears pricking the corners of his eyes. He knew in his heart of hearts that Alpha was the True Hero. Such generosity of spirit was no easy feat.  "I fear I have sorely used you – Glenn," Magus' voice was rough with emotion. "Killing Cyrus, turning you into a frog, the way I've been treating you..."

"I admit I've not been overly gentle with thee. My Slurp Heal wast never so messy ere I used it for thee!" Alpha chuckled a little.

"Alpha... Glenn, I would restore your true form if I could... Undo that part of the damage I've caused in your life, but I don't know how..." Magus noted the tight, sad look that flashed across Alpha's face even as Alpha laid a hand on his arm.

"Be at peace. There are advantages to being as I am now. I am – accustomed to it. Those who truly know me do not care how I appear. That is all that matters."

From tailing him on his quest, Magus knew what it cost Alpha to be a frog and knew that the cost would continue to be exacted. He reflected that if Alpha could bear up under that, he might be able to bear it if some thought he was soft or even – weak. "How am I... I'm rotten at apologies and I don't really know how to be a friend. You and Orion..." Magus stammered out and found that opening up to Alpha was easier than he would have dreamed possible. He wondered if having part of Cyrus well, possessing him, had anything to do with that.

"Each friendship is a unique and valuable thing. My friendship with Orion is quite different from the one I have with Prime," Magus winced inside at how he had hurt Prime just the other morning. "And my friendships with Ariel and Elora are different from that. Thou and I will find the path of our friendship together... if that is what thou want'est."

"Unfortunately, sarcasm and quips are more my style than quiet heart-to-hearts or being 'nice'," Magus said dryly.

"Sarcasm can sometimes be friendly, and quips do not always have to hurt. Elora calls me 'Froggy' with great affection and I take no offense," Alpha admitted.

"You mean I don't have to be all sweetness and light to be a friend?" Magus asked.

"Is Orion?" Alpha countered.

"No, but when he teases you it is obvious that is what he's doing. When he speaks his mind or heart no one laughs at him," Magus said slowly.

"Have I laughed at thee?" Alpha asked.

"No. But I'm afraid the others might or will feel superior... Magus, the evil sorcerer, brought low, defanged, made good," Magus admitted in a low tone.

"Magus – defanged? Thou?" Alpha laughed in mock amazement. "Seriously, while some of what thou hast done is evil, I do not believe that thee, thyself are evil. There is good within thee. Thou could have slain me rather than transforming me. Thy search for Lavos was seeking vengeance for a wrong it had done thee, not for power. E'en now, thou search'est for thy sister. These acts art not wholly evil and at least one is wholly good. With Lavos gone, thou must change. It dictated thy life long enough. Now it is time for thee to decide who and what thou art." Alpha looked intently into Magus' face and saw that his words were having some effect.

He leaped up and offered a hand to Magus. "We should rejoin the others."

"Hop along, Sir Froggy," Magus replied accepting the hand up. His leg took his weight and seemed whole. It was as if he hadn't broken it at all.

"Why is it everyone picks on the frog and make'th silly jokes at my expense?" Alpha muttered half to himself.

"It's just your lot in life, my – friend. Huh, that wasn't so hard!" Magus declared.

"Come on, Mad Mage, we should return to the others," Alpha replied as he slapped Magus across the back.

Magus crouched defensively and eased up with a sheepish grin. "Obviously I've got some learning to do!"

"Powdering your nose, Magus? What took you so long?" Elora asked peevishly when they met up with the others. "Alpha went looking for you over an hour ago!"

Magus bristled reflexively. He felt more vulnerable than ever before in his life and found he couldn't tell the truth of what had happened between himself and Alpha. "I fell, badly, and broke my leg. Alpha found me and... You know I always have to clean up from the frog's Slurp."

Alpha started. Why that ungrateful...! That was the gentlest... I'll show him cleaning up the next time he needs healing! Just wait! he promised himself as he smiled wolfishly.

Orion noted it and shot a puzzled look at his friend. He noticed some peculiar things starting from that day. Firstly, every time he opened his mouth Magus hung on every word almost as if he were studying him for some reason. Orion sincerely hoped the mage wasn't trying to decide what vile creature he was going to turn him into.

Secondly, the "evil" Magus seemed to have disappeared entirely. For instance, Orion noticed that Magus seemed to be trying to grab a private moment with Prime. Orion decided to interfere and bring that meeting about. As if by accident, he assigned both Magus and Prime rear-guard on their excursion looking for monsters to practice on and then set a slightly faster pace so that they could fall back for a bit out of earshot. He looked back after awhile and noticed that they had closed the gap. The easy carriage of the mage and springiness in the step of the robot told him his instinct had been right. Magus had mended whatever had damaged his friendship with Prime.

Truly remarkable was the teasing Magus piled on Alpha. The most amazing aspect was that anyone could see that it was teasing. There did seem to be a genuine respect in Magus now toward the frog knight. The fact that it troubled Alpha not at all, and he gave at least as good as he got, was not lost on Orion.

Elora was just as untrusting and acid of tongue as usual toward Magus, but most of the time he would just smile rather sweetly and change the subject. His quips and jibes, while just as dry and wryly funny as ever, were less like insults and more often amusing things that everyone could laugh at.

Orion wasn't quite sure what he was witnessing, but he did admit that Magus was becoming part of the team. This thought did not panic him as it did before. In fact, it began to comfort him. He realized that a powerful mage, skilled in many magics could be very handy in rescuing Ariel and Schala. Orion wasn't sure where he himself stood with the reformed sorcerer (he hadn't forgotten the rough way he had treated Magus, and was fairly sure Magus hadn't either) but he decided to let Magus determine when they would discuss that.

On one foray he fell back to pace with Alpha who was rear-guard. "I guess I'm getting used to Magus. He's not such a bad guy after all," Orion noted quietly to the pensive frog knight.

"He still possess'eth many rough edges. Perhaps a liberal application of water shall smooth'eth them down," Alpha noted in a low tone.

Orion really didn't like the smile on Alpha's face. "Alpha, are you feeling okay? I know you two have been joking with each other lately... but... you have this... well, evil smile when I mention Magus. You aren't going to kill him again, are you?" Orion felt compelled to ask.

Alpha stopped suddenly and looked searchingly into his friend's worried face when Orion turned. He smiled the uncomplicated, wholesome smile Orion preferred. "Be at ease, my friend. Magus is safe in my hands, far safer than he hath e'er been in his life. He just won't like it much." Alpha smiled that wolfish smile again and let Orion see the mischief behind it. Orion wasn't sure if he was reassured or not as he walked back toward the front just as Elora startled some T'poles.

Magus ruminated about how odd life could be. He had felt hardly a twinge from Cyrus' geas since Alpha had healed his broken leg. He found that he very much enjoyed being with these people, able to be himself for the first time in a long time, in fact since he had been dumped through Lavos' Time Gate as a child. He had been raised in such a hostile place and Ozzie had expected so much from him, that he was never able to become what he wanted to be. He hadn't actually considered what he wanted to be before. Alpha's wish that Cyrus had found Janus forced Magus to confront truths he would rather have avoided. How much of who he is now was decided by Ozzie the power-mad mystic and his own desire to destroy Lavos, and how much was what he wanted to be?

Magus admitted that it was actually a pleasure to blend his magic with the others to efficiently dispatch monsters. He ached to level such destructive energy at whomever threatened his sister, but recognized the wisdom of Gaspar's plan that he learn to work with these heroes. He found the seeds of genuine liking for each of his team mates in his soul – even the frog. Maybe especially the frog. Even as he wondered who he would have become if Ozzie hadn't warped his childhood, he wondered who Glenn would be if he hadn't cursed him so long ago.

Such profound thoughts occupied him so much that he failed to interpret a signal correctly when they were attacked by T'poles. He was supposed to dodge right, collect Elora's Fire spell on his scythe, turn left and accept Orion's Lightning spell as well and whirl three times to take out all the monsters in one triple-powered Plasma attack. He dodged left.

Orion's second strongest Lightning spell set his nerves to screaming and Elora's equally strong Fire spell sent that pain spirally toward a crescendo he very much wanted to avoid. Dimly he noticed Prime's lasers whine into the foul creatures. The ones still standing from that fell to Orion and Alpha's sword work.

Magus looked up as Orion approached him. Orion slid his sword into the scabbard at his side as he neared. "Oops. I think I zigged when I should have zagged!" Magus admitted with a low laugh.

"You look terrible," Orion said flatly. "What were you thinking of?"

"This and that. These burns hurt! Can't you chide me later after I'm all healed?" Magus asked.

Orion chuckled and gestured theatrically as he stepped aside. Magus saw both Prime and Alpha standing before him.

"Next time, Prime," Magus promised. "Okay, frog-face, Slurp me!"

Magus was totally unprepared for the spray of slime accompanying Alpha's Slurp. Alpha thoroughly Slurped Magus up one side and down the other. Magus was sopping wet as the brutally punishing heat of the healing made him reel back, igniting his temper.

"Why you!" He jumped up in his anger and summoned one of his more potent spells. Orion noticed the ominous purple glow and planted himself firmly between Magus and Alpha as he drew Rainbow.

"Magus," Orion suggested in a low, dangerous tone, locking his serious glare on Magus' eyes over the lethal, bared length of blade between them. "You should seriously reconsider what you are going to do with that!"

Magus aimed straight up and sent the raw, ripping magic screaming skyward.

Orion sheathed his sword and stepped aside again. A slight smile touched Magus' lips. Orion glanced back in time to see Alpha wink toward Magus. Orion, unsure of what he had just seen, rubbed his eyes and shook his head.

By the time he looked back, Magus' perpetual scowl was back in place and even Alpha looked rather grim.

"I thought..." Orion began.

"I doubt that!" Magus snarled as he pushed by him.

"Uhm... Alpha, just how long is your tongue?" Elora asked quietly. "I didn't think you had that much fluid in your entire body!"

"Now that thou mention'est it, I am rather parched. Shall we stop at the tavern this evening?"

After dinner, Elora and Prime strolled off so that she could repair some minor damage from the day's exertions. Orion sauntered up to where Alpha and Magus were talking on back porch of the tavern.

"Not to interfere," Orion began conversationally. "But just what in hell is going on with the two of you?!"

"'Going on'?" Alpha repeated.

"Are you implying that I am treating Sir Froggy any differently?" Magus asked sweetly as he significantly adjusted a glove. "Because if you are... What could I do to him, Alpha? I don't want to spend any energy hurting him. Occasionally he is almost – useful."

"Oh, I know not. Thou could ask'est me to Slurp him as I do thee, I suppose," Alpha mused seriously.

Orion grinned in amazement at their easy, bantering accord. "Truly, a fate worse than death. I'll leave that honor exclusively yours, Magus. Forget I said anything," Orion walked toward the tavern door. "Oh, and Magus," Orion turned his head as he grasped the latch. "Nice to have you on our team – most of the time."

Magus shifted uncomfortably. "Well, I'd nothing better to do... And a little frog told me my sister needs rescuing..." Magus gazed at the floor grimly. Orion thought Magus looked concerned for her, and perhaps a bit lonely.

"Don't worry. We'll find her!" Orion vowed quietly.

Magus looked him full in the face. "I know," he said simply. "I realize I would have no chance to save her on my own. You have no reason to help me... Thank you."

Before Orion could say anything expressing his amazement at Magus' confession, Alpha spoke up. "I am not little!" he said fiercely, drawing up to his slightly over four foot height.

"I don't know... I'm half again as tall as you!" Magus noted, swirling his cloak around his over six foot frame. "That makes you fairly little in my eyes!"

~TBC~

Kitt

  • Earthbound (+15)
  • *
  • Posts: 22
    • View Profile
    • Forever Dreaming, my anime cel gallery
Re: Shadows of Schala (Part Eight posted)
« Reply #11 on: February 17, 2021, 01:45:37 pm »
My dad passed away just four days after I posted Chapter Eight.  He was 84 and had several co-morbidities, so his passing wasn't unexpected, but it was still a shock (thankfully, COVID had nothing to do with it).  I truly thought that with treatment he could rally at least one more time and perhaps have a few more years left.  Sadly, it was not to be. 

For nearly five years I was Dad's full-time, unpaid, live-in caregiver.  I did not cultivate a social life when I moved to Florida, mainly because I knew I couldn't be all that active outside the home as Dad's needs changed.  Dad and I had a wonderful relationship built on mutual love and respect, and I am so grateful that I was able to help him so that he did not have to ever consider living in a retirement home.

Now that I am finished with the immediate requirements of notifying family, arranging and celebrating his funeral and burial, and starting all the legal notifications, closing or migrating accounts into my name and so on, I need something to help bring me back when sadness wants to swamp me into abject misery.

Chrono Trigger to the rescue.  There's just something about this game – the fact that I discovered and played it decades ago in the house I grew up in, during far happier times when Mom and Dad were alive – and the game itself which is the perfect blend of music, visuals, narrative, pacing, and the satisfaction of the good guys winning.  I need that now, more than ever.  Something to put between me and sorrow when it's just a bit too much and I need a break from it.

The next couple of chapters have been written for quite a while, and as I find my new emotional equilibrium with this massive change in my life, I should be able to pick up writing the rest of it again.  Please bear with me, and keep Dad in your prayers (if you are the praying kind of person) and well-wishes (if prayers aren't your thing).

-------------------------------------------------------

Crono = Orion * Marle = Ariel * Lucca = Elora * Frog = Alpha * Robo = Prime * Ayla = Arvia

Shadows of Schala - Chapter Nine

"You know, guys," Orion began the next day as they trudged through some back woods in Middle Ages Guardia. "I didn't think about this before, but how is Gaspar gonna let us know when he finds out something? I mean, we have Ark here and there's no one he can send after us..."

"He could send Spekkio..." Elora began doubtfully.

"I think perhaps Spekkio cannot come into Time," Prime replied. "It isn't a logical analysis... It's just a feeling..." his robotic voice tapered slowly at what he just said.

"Prime! Your first 'gut feeling'! How does it feel?" Elora asked.

"Strange! How do you deal with such a strong conviction that has no basis at all in logic? One that has no supporting data?" Prime replied with a touch of distress.

"You don't try to explain it, you just decide how to proceed with it," Elora reassured. "You'll see!"

"Thou know'est," Alpha began. "The fact that thou art wondering in itself could be the guru trying to summon us..."

"That... feels right," Magus agreed softly.

Orion looked at them for a long moment. "Amazing!" he teased. "The frog and the mage actually agree on something! Perhaps you are right. Let's jaunt to the End of Time and see."

"All five of us?!" Elora exploded. "Do you know what that will do?!"

"Nope. Haven't a clue. Shall we find out?" Orion asked with an impish smile.

*****

Gaspar started as a sonic boom thundered across the length and breadth of the End of Time. He heard a curious whimper from behind Spekkio's door as the echoes died down. A great gust of wind slammed the Ark into the docking area, throwing three people from the Wings of Time violently to the ground.

Prime unclamped his rambolts and jumped down to help a distinctly green-faced Elora to her feet. He moved gently and slowly to keep from disturbing her tenuous hold on her balance and her stomach.

Orion, whistling, bounded from the pilot's seat and sauntered toward Gaspar's lamppost. "Coming?" he tossed over his shoulder to the other two ex-passengers.

Magus and Alpha helped each other shakily to their feet and followed.

Magus straightened a fold of his cloak, smoothed down his hair and walked slowly and deliberately to stand in front of Gaspar. His eyes held a muted gleam of concern as he noticed Elora trying hard not to be sick. He suspected that Alpha was a little greener than usual. Prime appeared to be okay. Magus himself felt queasy.

He thought of the horror-ride he had just endured, stood nose to nose with the Guru of Time and declared, "He never drives again!"

Gaspar laughed in his face. "Shook you up a little, huh?"

Magus surprised himself by smiling. "Well, he did get us here. More or less in one piece. Orion has no nerves."

Orion smiled cockily.

"He has no stomach," Magus said.

Orion puffed out his chest.

"He has no brains!" Magus roared.

"Hey!" Orion protested.

"On a much more serious note, I have not been able to find out where Schala disappeared to. However, I think I've found a way for Orion to find out for us," Gaspar told them.

"Please, Gaspar, do go on!" Alpha implored him.

"You remember that Orion was killed by Lavos and that you had to rescue him with my Chrono Trigger?"

Everyone but Magus nodded.

"I looked more closely at the moment when that happened. It strikes me as odd that two timeline shattering events, Orion's death and Schala's disappearance, should occur so close to each other. Orion's life thread is cut when he dies and the pattern begins to fray which is why we had to save him, but some strands of that thread persist for a short time. They are very close to Schala's thread before it too disappears," Gaspar continued.

"So you are saying that some part of Orion, even after he was killed, stayed near Schala? Why?" Magus asked.

"Those who have strong wills, as Orion does, and those who are killed in an untimely manner, as Orion was, often linger for a time after they die. Maybe they are trying to make sense of what happened to them, I don't know. All I know is that Orion, or what was left of him, is the closest being I can identify near Schala after the disaster. There are others there... But there is a persistent tangle I can't read. I fear someone is obscuring the truth from me," Gaspar admitted.

"From you!?" Elora's amazement colored her voice.

"That worries me more than anything, but I think Orion can find the truth for me," Gaspar replied as he paced from his customary spot at the lamppost.

"How?" Prime asked, shaken that Gaspar was acting so unlike himself.

"That timeline's Orion's death is more than a might-have-been – but less than reality. The timeline he was slain in is so very much like this one, up to a point, of course, that he is virtually the same. I think I can merge the part of the two timelines that is Orion together, and he can tell us what happened to Schala after he was slain."

"What mean'est thou?!" Alpha demanded.

"I'm sorry, the explanation is hard to make clear. I can take our Orion, this brave lad here," Gaspar shook Orion's shoulder. "and weave part of his essence, his soul, into the Orion of the other timeline. Our Orion will then be able to experience and know all the other one did – does – and then tell us." Gaspar spread his hands in a gesture that conveyed his futility to explain any better.

"Gaspar...what you propose sounds rather fantastic..." Elora began doubtfully.

"If I did not have this illogic chip I would be in severe pain right now. As it is I am uncomfortable," Prime stated.

"It sound'eth extremely dangerous to Orion..." Alpha began.

"It is. I will need Melchior's help if we are to attempt it at all and even that does not guarantee that we do not kill Orion or drive him insane. But I can find no other avenue of information. There are so many alternate planes... Not just time but space, reality, magic... You could spend your lives several times over and not rescue Schala and we simply do not have the time. The Chronal Eraser is speeding toward a critical point of no return..." Gaspar's frustration was almost palpable.

"What happens when Orion, the other Orion, dies? How does our Orion survive?" Elora asked quietly.

"Well, it is rather complicated, but our Orion," Gaspar smiled at Orion who had been in stunned silence the whole time. "...our Orion has knowledge and experiences the other Orion doesn't. Killing Lavos is one. We have to put our Orion so deep into the other Orion that those experiences don't surface and create yet another rift in time. At the critical moment we have to summon our Orion back. For a brief time we are going to try to make one being out of both of them and then separate them again. If the peril weren't so great I'd never consider something like this. Since we are dealing with life, Orion's life, I want Melchior to help – that is if you are willing to risk it?" Gaspar turned to face Orion.

Orion squared his shoulders, stood straight, and took a deep breath. "Yes."

"Just like that?" Magus asked. "No discussion or questions?"

"Gaspar's done all he can to find Schala. I hope that whoever is holding her has Ariel too. If this is the only way to find them... I have no choice," Orion stated simply.

"But – aren't you frightened?" Magus persisted.

"Terrified! Gaspar wants to merge me into another version of me, if I understand correctly." Gaspar nodded. "That's enough to make me want to hide under my bed... But further, that other me is doomed to die. I've heard about being dead, that I was killed by Lavos and everyone rescued me and there is a gap in my memory compared to theirs, a period of time when I did not exist... Now I have to experience that myself. I hafta be with myself when he, me, gets killed... Don't make me think about it, Magus. I can do this if I don't think about it," Orion pleaded.

"I'm sorry... It's just you seem so positive. You have a level of courage I can't understand," Magus admitted.

"Time is of the essence," Gaspar reminded them. "Melchior is..."

"Here," Melchior said as he entered from the corridor leading to the Time Shafts.

"You are sure this is the only way?" Melchior asked Gaspar. At Gaspar's nod he continued. "Orion fully understands the risks?"

Orion swallowed and nodded.

"Then, I will help," Melchior replied as he walked over to Gaspar's side.

"What – what do I have to do?" Orion asked apprehensively.

"You just have to go to sleep," Gaspar replied as he inscribed a graceful hand gesture in the air. Orion slumped suddenly. Prime sprang forward and caught him.

Prime placed Orion on the ground. "I have never seen someone fall asleep so fast."

"Thank you. He reacted much quicker that I expected. His trust in me is – unprecedented. Well, let me work," Gaspar replied. He walked back to his lamppost, then fell asleep. A few minutes later a hazy form of Orion rose and hovered over the End of Time.

"What?!" Elora asked.

"That is Orion's essence. Gaspar has eased him free so we can try this mad thing," Melchior explained.  He looked up. "How do you feel, Orion?"

"Very strange! And you look so strange too!" Orion replied.

"Really?" Melchior asked, surprised.

"Yeah, you are very solid, and there are thousands of – threads stretching into the distance from you...”  Orion turned in the air as he looked down on his friends.  “Everyone has these threads but you have the most...” A ghostly form of Gaspar appeared beside Orion. By the lamppost Gaspar snored on.  “No I take that back. Gaspar has the most. Hello, guru." A note of deep respect resonated in Orion's voice.

"I did not think that you might witness this part. I need you to relax and trust me,"  Gaspar said.

"I do, but I am frightened," Orion admitted candidly.

"I won't say there is nothing to fear, you know there is, and this procedure muddles your life thread so that I can't read it. But we will do all we can to minimize the risk to you. If you don't want to try this I can..."  Gaspar began.

"No. You tried everything else. This is the only way to find out about Schala and Ariel," Orion stated firmly.

"Okay then, relax, and tell me everything you think and feel. Hold nothing back. I'm starting now," Gaspar warned as he reached his ghostly hands forward and unwound a loop of what seemed to be a cord from the center of Orion's chest.

Everyone watching jumped at the guru's strange action except for Melchior who watched Orion intently. Orion himself seemed startled but unhurt as he looked at Gaspar holding a part of his soul.

"That is my love for Ariel!" Orion realized.

"Good! That is one element that remained unchanged. I think this would be easiest on you if I started with this," Gaspar suddenly grew to gigantic proportions. He reached one hand into the time stream and drew forth another Orion. He sought for the same heart thread and twined them together. The second Orion stood still and did not react at all.

"What's wrong with him?" Elora asked.

"He's in stasis, stopped in time. That way he won't remember and become confused," Melchior replied. "His awareness could change what must happen, poor doomed lad. I'm glad his time stream is now a low probability crux point. I've become rather fond of Orion, of you all. In his time stream, he died, stayed dead, and Lavos utterly destroyed his world in 1999," Melchior looked rather pensive and resumed his monitoring of the active Orion.

"Guru, I don't want to disturb you, but am I supposed to be feeling emotions more strongly this way?" Orion asked quietly.

"How do you mean?" Gaspar asked.

"When you wove my thread into – his, my love for Ariel increased – doubled."

"Hmm. Good thing you are basically a positive young man," Gaspar replied as he sought another thread.

Orion laughed and his tension eased.

Gaspar carefully unwound part of a thick green thread. "And this?" he asked.

"My friendship with Alpha," Orion told him.

"I didn't think these would be color-coded!" Gaspar laughed.

"I thought it might help," Orion mumbled.

"You did this on purpose? My boy, you have unprecedented talents. Now, what's this?"

The green thread that signified Alpha in Orion's life had a curious clumping with many threads and then sprouted new shoots.

"Alpha became Glenn and then we had to save Magus so..." Orion explained.

"Oh, so this is well after the Ocean Palace disaster?" Gaspar noted aloud. "What a tangle! I don't want to disturb anything as strong or convoluted as this but what am I to do with it? Here!" Gaspar reached down and handed it to Alpha. "Hold this and keep it from harm!" Startled Alpha took it and wasn't even sure what he was holding. It felt unlike anything he had ever touched before as the substance seemed rock solid and ghostly at the same time.

Gaspar wove the part of the green thread that he had selected into the one of the time-frozen Orion. At once, Orion stilled.

Gaspar stopped immediately. "What is it?"

"Alpha. Alpha! It's so unfair! He's the noblest, most uncomplaining person I've ever met..."

Alpha felt a surge of warmth from the thread he held, not with his hands but his heart. He almost dropped the precious thread. Not knowing how to offer comfort, Alpha tried to send his feelings of trust and companionship along the thread to his distressed friend. Melchior felt it, turned toward him and nodded. Encouraged, Alpha tried to impart some of the good things about his curse along the thread. Underlying it all he sent an indulgent, mental, Calm'est down, tadpole!

Orion laughed, almost causing Alpha to drop the thread again. "Tadpole?! You do like that nickname for me, don't you? Thanks, Gl – Alpha. I think that centered me."

Alpha sent reassurance and nonsense, sensations and memories during the rest of Gaspar's unusual procedure. Gaspar gently unwound parts of several heart threads from their Orion. As with Ariel's thread, he twined Orion's love for his mother, his affinity for katanas, his respect and admiration for Arvia, his patriotism for the Kingdom of Guardia, his affection for Taban, Tata, Kino, Fiona, Belthasar and others they'd met during their adventure to stop Lavos with the same threads of the time-stopped Orion.  He entrusted the part of their threads from after the Ocean Palace disaster to Elora and Prime in turn. As each one took charge of the thread he or she added their reassurances to Alpha's. Finally Gaspar encountered a strong black thread that had unexpectedly changed color.

"This?" Gaspar asked as he lightly touched it.

Orion, as he had been doing the entire time, paused to determine which thread the guru indicated, and then answered. "Oh... Magus. You know, he's not really a bad person. I realized that just recently."

"How did you think of him before?" Gaspar questioned.

"Evil and power mad."

"I see. Let's not double those feelings. Here, Janus, hold this."

Magus took the cord that was Orion's thoughts and feelings of him and looked at it intently.

It had been darkest, unrelieved black, then faded and come back again. Magus realized this was his "death". Further on he noted that it snarled rather dramatically with Alpha's thread. As it emerged from that tangle the black had shots of color; green, white, red, blue, yellow. The overall color was still black but the texture was deeper and somehow comforting. Magus felt nothing at all from the heart thread.

Gaspar stood back and examined his work one more time. Orion remained still with portions of his soul wound into his own past, alternate timeline self and others held carefully by his friends.

"How do you feel?" Gaspar asked worriedly.

"Very strange. I feel – kinda like I'm dissolving... Spread too thin... But some feelings are more intense than they've ever been before..." Orion replied.

"That is as I expect, given what I have done. Melchior?" Gaspar turned and asked the waiting guru.

"Oh, you did everything right. I watched the whole time. If you had tried to do something wrong I would have let you know. The danger is in what happens later. You and I will have to be quick and careful," Melchior replied.

"Now what?" Orion asked.

"You have to fall asleep again," Gaspar replied.

"But I am already asleep!" Orion pointed out looking down at his own body. He shivered.

"No. Your body is asleep; now your mind and soul must sleep as well. You won't like this; it will feel like death to you, but it is necessary. Your other self can't know that you are within him. Melchior?" Gaspar told him.

Melchior nodded toward Gaspar who took hold of Orion from behind, holding him still. The Guru of Life, placed Orion into a strange form of sleep with an obscure gesture and Gaspar supported Orion's soul bodily.

"Intellect, intellect..." Gaspar mused as he held Orion.

"Bright yellow, weaving through everything," Melchior told him.

"Ah, yes, thank you," Gaspar said as he sought it out and pulled most of it free. He left one end firmly attached and handed the rest to Melchior.

"Now, is that everything?" Gaspar asked, looking at his handiwork.

"I believe so, yes," Melchior replied.

Then, to place him into our other friend here," Gaspar stated as he turned toward the Time-suspended Orion. He simply opened a path through all the heart-threads that made up this Orion and somehow enclosed the sleeping Orion there.

"There should be enough connections between these two Orions for our Orion to tell us what happens as it happens through his intellect. And we should be able to pull him free when..." Gaspar began.

"When the other Orion dies and begins to fade from time," Melchior finished.

"Let's not leave him like this too long. It isn't very comfortable even though he's asleep and unaware of it. Mostly," Melchior urged. "The longer we leave him connected like this the more danger he's in."

Gaspar reached forward and sent the remaining Orion back into the time stream. He then faded and woke up next to the lamppost.

"Now, what?" Elora asked.

Melchior wrapped the bright yellow cord several times around the sleeping Orion. "We listen," he replied.

Orion began to speak, telling them without prompting what was happening to him. Everyone stood enthralled as Orion's words carried them with him on the fateful trip to the Ocean Palace, the Mammon Machine, Lavos and his own death. Prime and Alpha, who had been with him when Lavos had killed him, recalled that terrible moment in their own memories while Orion told them of the events leading up to it. Elora wept. Melchior awkwardly patted her shoulder to comfort her. Magus remembered his attack on Lavos and how ineffective his magic had been. He too remembered that moment when Lavos, at his mother's urging, had literally dissolved Orion. He was a little surprised to find that he felt the sorrow everyone else was feeling.

A heart-rending scream signified Orion's death but his narrative didn't stop there. He related how Schala had sent Alpha, Prime and Magus away from the Ocean Palace using the last of her power. He related Schala's terror at the magic that was unleashed by Lavos in the Palace, transforming it into the Black Omen. He seemed to be drawn toward her, staying with her as she fled through the halls that changed shape even as she ran through them.

Orion told them when a Black Portal opened before her. Gaspar who had been following everything as Orion told it to them peered intently into the Mists of Time at this.

"I should be able to find Orion..." he mused. "and from there find Schala. There! I see it... A Dark Dimension? No, it's Shadow. Schala's been taken into a dimension of pure Shadow!"

Is that what Cyrus meant when he said to search for Schala in Shadow?  Magus wondered.  But, the 'clue' didn't lead me to her, this ordeal Orion is undergoing did.

Just then, Orion related how Schala, who had been aware of him the whole time, spoke with him and tried to send him to his friends.

"Now! This is the crux point!" Gaspar alerted Melchior. "In this timeline Schala missed. Orion's soul was not sent to Ariel's Pendant, it got lost and finally dissipated. We have to retrieve him now!"

Gaspar leaped into the Mists of Time physically, not bothering to send forth his essence as he did normally. He reached his hand forward and intercepted the fleeing soul. He brought Orion back to the End of Time, but seemed to be struggling with him.

"Melchior! The pull on him is too strong! I can barely hold him!" Gaspar told him.

"He's integrated so deeply with his other self, I don't know if we can separate him in time," Melchior replied. "We may have to sever some of the threads!" Melchior joined Gaspar in the Mists of Time.

"No! If we do that he'll lose those feelings forever..." Gaspar countered.

"If we don't, we may lose him forever! Do you feel the pull toward Oblivion? We can't stop it. One of him belongs there." Melchior replied as he helped hold Orion.

Suddenly Magus thrust the black heart thread he had been holding into Alpha's hands.  "Pull on that, hold it taut," he directed. "I have to try something."

"You need him separated from his other self now? Hold him still!" Magus commanded the two gurus.

Magus levitated, drew all the light at the End of Time to himself and cast Luminaire directly into the black heart thread Alpha was holding. The lightning energy flashed along the thread throwing Alpha to the ground on the one end and literally splitting Orion into two at the other. Each guru found himself holding an Orion.

"Which is which?" Elora asked.

"He's yours," one Orion offered. "I'm the one who just got killed by Lavos... From the timeline where Schala missed the Pendant. It's time for me to go."

"Go... Where?" Alpha asked.

"Where all of us go when we die. I'm not sure where and I'm not sure what'll happen to me there, but that's where I hafta go." The lopsided smile was so like 'his' Orion's that Alpha found his heart twisting for his friend.

"But..."  Alpha protested weakly.

"Hey, one of us has to go and it should be the right one. Because of what you guys are doing to find and save Schala, I know a lot more than I could have otherwise. In him," the Orion speaking nodded toward the other Orion. "I saw what you look like as Glenn. I saw that Magus can be a nice guy. I know that Ariel's been kidnapped and Schala has gone missing. Because of me, you now know where to start looking. So let me go, I think I'll be all right, and go find 'em. Rescue them," Orion commanded.

"But..." The other Orion spoke up. "What about you? I can't let you just fade away... Or go someplace all alone..."

"I'm not alone. I've got all the friendships you have and more. I've got your friendship as well. You and I, the same and yet different. You don't hate Magus anymore and your feelings for Ariel are deeper than mine. Hey, you've known her longer! I know you want to follow me, help me, and you could, Orion, but that means you would die too. I don't want that any more than you want me to face this alone. If you follow me, who'll rescue Ariel and marry her? Live, Orion, for her and for me. Don't forget me!" Orion abruptly pushed away from both gurus and dove into the time stream.

"He's gone. I can't track him anymore," Gaspar said quietly.

Orion gasped.  "When he – died I woke up in him. He felt it. We blended deeper than you intended. He could feel my feelings and he knew my memories. He knew what we had done and why. He didn't blame us. When Schala missed the Pendant I could feel the tug that he did. Something draws you when you are dead, something irresistible. I – like him. I wish he didn't have to – to... I – feel that he is completely gone now..." Orion admitted.

"This did not go as I had planned, but everything seems to have come out right. We just have to get you back in one piece and then look for the Shadow Dimension," Gaspar told him.

"Wait!" Orion said suddenly.

"What is it?" Melchior asked.

"Do you feel it? Do you feel the joy?"

"I feel it," Alpha admitted.

"I too," Prime replied.

"I think he's – happy – wherever he is and this is his way to tell you not to worry about him, Orion," Elora said.

"Sounds like the kind of thing you would do," Magus noted wryly. "Feels like it too. A moment of pure joy to let you know he's okay."

"I think you're right. Okay, guru, can I go back to being myself please?" Orion asked plaintively. "I've had it with feeling strung out!"

Gaspar laughed and quickly began to wind the floating, loose threads back into Orion's heart. He was careful to place them back where he had found them. Orion stood quietly as Gaspar restored him. Gaspar encountered a white thread that was new.

"What is this?"

"Him... The other Orion," Orion told him softly.

"Hmm. If I don't weave this in you won't have some distressing memories of his – your death," he noted.

"No! Please, Gaspar, I know I'm going to have nightmares and some probably painful memories, but I want to remember what happened and well, remember him... The other me..." Orion begged.

"Okay..." Gaspar wove the thread in near the one that he knew signified Orion to himself. He place it just touching Orion's own thread.

"Some of these threads are thicker than they were," Gaspar noted. "Any idea why, Melchior?"

"I suspect it was the rather dramatic way Janus separated the two Orions. I think the other Orion chose to accept the Luminaire charge across his heart threads to cause that separation. Some of his feelings for everyone clung to our Orion's threads. So in an obscure way, he is still with us, in Orion's feelings," Melchior replied softly.

"He'd like that," Elora noted.

"I like it too," Orion said.

"See?" Elora teased with a crack in her voice.

"Okay, my lad, it's time for you to enter your body again and wake up. You've been in pieces for long enough!" Gaspar told Orion severely.

"How do I..."

"Look at me. Sleep!" Gaspar commanded when Orion gazed at him. Orion's eyes closed and he faded from view. A moment later Gaspar followed him. Orion stirred next to the lamppost and woke up.

"Wow! What an adventure!" he noted as he stretched. "I'm hungry!"

~TBC~

Boo the Gentleman Caller

  • Guru of Life
  • Lavos (+4000)
  • *
  • Posts: 4911
    • View Profile
Re: Shadows of Schala (Part Eight posted)
« Reply #12 on: February 21, 2021, 06:23:57 pm »
Quote
My dad passed away just four days after I posted Chapter Eight.

We are so, so sorry for your loss! Losing a loved one is hard, even when it isn't entirely out of left field. I wish there were words that could offer up enough empathy and positivity, but alas - words fail to do so!

Quote
For nearly five years I was Dad's full-time, unpaid, live-in caregiver.  I did not cultivate a social life when I moved to Florida, mainly because I knew I couldn't be all that active outside the home as Dad's needs changed.  Dad and I had a wonderful relationship built on mutual love and respect, and I am so grateful that I was able to help him so that he did not have to ever consider living in a retirement home.

Good on you for supporting your father. American culture tends to like to stick sick and elderly into communal living arrangements, where they pay others to do the care. Of course there are times that is truly for the best, but by and large I think we can be a bit too quick to do so.

My brother-in-law is a doctor and he has multiple times that many people "give up" on life when they don't have loved ones in their lives any longer.

Both my wife and I have told our parents that our current plans are, should they fall ill and need care, we will gladly take them in and care for them.

Quote
I need something to help bring me back when sadness wants to swamp me into abject misery.

Writing fan fiction can be an arduous task and equally exhausting, but it can also provide a great distraction. Just make sure you're providing self-care, in whatever safe form that may be! :D