Author Topic: Rubbish still, but we're making progress.  (Read 1610 times)

Symmetry

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Rubbish still, but we're making progress.
« on: September 18, 2004, 06:11:22 pm »
Alright - this is part of the latest installment of my fic. If you've read the first two chapters of it, you know about the two siblings and their little spat with each other. (And if god forbid you haven't..!) I'm not entirely sure how I want to order everything yet, but the bulk of this material deals with Berenyi. Depending on the feedback I get, I might separate this here into multiple chapters and insert a number of Darius scenes that would have composed the next chapter.

Anyway, read. Please. And tell me if this makes sense and if you're at all interested in it. (EDIT- Split into two posts because I wasn't sure if it would all fit in one. I apologize for being long-winded. :o )



Chapter Three


Darius sat on the floor, his legs stretched out in front of him and his attention fixated on a crystal ball that he was grasping with both of his hands. The translucent orb was an educational toy that gave its holder a virtual tour of the Blackbird. Darius had always been particularly fond of flying and Schala had seen to it that the young prince's creative impulses were fueled with whatever his keeper deemed necessary to continue fostering those thoughts. On some days, this meant that the prince would actually get to ride on the Blackbird, but most of the time this only meant that in-between lessons he was awarded another tour of the airplane that filled his dreams. Darius was particularly happy on this occasion, for today's tour revealed the intricacies of the Blackbird's engine room. After observing the crystal several times through, the prince looked up and scanned the room for his tutor, who had left him alone for a longer period of time than usual. Noticing that his tutor was nowhere to be found, Darius stood up and walked across the room to his sister. Berenyi, like her brother, had been momentarily left in the palace's crèche and was sitting happily on the floor, surrounded by at least two dozen translucent orbs.

"Hey sis... mind if I see one of those? I could use a little music while I watch my orb."

Berenyi, too busy with her own toys, had failed to notice her brother until he had spoken to her. "Oh! Well.... I don't know. Don't you have one already?"

"Pleeeeese, sis? I wanna listen to some music too."

The princess stared at the crystals surrounding her for a minute and sighed. "Okay, fine. You can have this one." Berenyi plucked an orb out of the bunch and handed it to Darius. As the crystal passed hands, the music of a treble-heavy stringed instrument began to fill the room.

The prince smiled. "Thanks, sis. I'll be sure to give it back when I have to leave." Darius wandered back to the corner he was sitting in previously and laid the two orbs out in front of him. Trying to synchronize the picture with the music, the young prince held his index finger over both crystals momentarily before quickly tapping them at the same time. As he had hoped, the picture orb and the music orb began functioning at precisely the same second. Pleased with his success, Darius watched the tour once more, even happier than he had been the first time he had seen it. Lost in his own world of thought, the prince dreamed of flying the Blackbird himself one day until a cough from behind him dragged his mind back into reality.

"Ahem!”

Darius knew who issued the cough without looking. "Yes, Berenyi?"

"Give me that back! Don't you dare take what doesn't belong to you!"

Confused, the prince looked up at his sister, who was standing over him with her arms crossed. "Take? I didn't take anything from you. You said I could listen to this."

Berenyi's jaw dropped. "I did not!"

"You did too!"

"Did not!"

"Did too!"

Fuming with anger, the princess reared back and slapped Darius clear in the face and finished the argument with one last cry of possession. "Did too!" Quickly acting while her brother recovered, Berenyi grabbed the orb and ran off, its twangy music still playing as she scurried away.

Darius rubbed his stinging face and looked back over at his sister only to be met by the piercing eyes of Berenyi's governess; suddenly the motivation behind his sister's actions became all too clear. Terrified by Parmalay's intense gaze, the prince turned away and stared out the window until the two had left the room. Once he was alone, Darius began to watch his orb once more, only to stand up seconds later and throw it as hard as he could at the wall. With a spark, the crystal shattered into several pieces.

"That stupid little girl! I... I... I oughta put her in her place! Why next time..." Darius shook with anger momentarily before exhaling heavily. "Great. My new orb, broken." The prince stood up and gathered several fragments of the shattered crystal. As he pieced the toy back together, tiny flashes of the Blackbird appeared and disappeared. "Shouldn't be too hard to fix this... With a spell or two, it'll be good as new! No one will ever realize..."

***~~~***

Darius stood in front of the orange pillar of light that functioned as the palace's hidden skyway. Unlike the other skyways connecting the Floating and Earthbound Continents, the one in the palace did not have a set destination. Upon stepping into the column, the traveler was teleported to a station and given several seconds to exit before they were whisked away to another station far away from the one they inhabited only seconds before. The prince, who was lost in thought, stared intently into the column, his eyes rolling together in circles as they followed one of the yellow beams of light that rapidly revolved around the tangerine-coloured pillar.

"Where are they? They should be back by now." Darius tapped his foot impatiently and turned to the two aides behind him, both of which were carrying one of the comatose bodies on their shoulders. "Right?! I mean, they've been gone nearly five minutes.... Five minutes is long enough to secure a skyway, don't you think?!" Now that the show was over, the prince did not put forth any effort in masking his anxiety.

Timid to respond lest the wrath of their leader fall upon them, the two aides merely nodded their heads. Two or three more minutes passed by before a flash of bright light filled the room and a young man appeared in the skyway's gate. Darius immediately sprang forward to question the attendant.

"Well?! Is everything taken care of? Have guards been stationed at each skyway?"

The aide bowed his head. "Yes, Lord Darius. Once we deal with the bodies, I will make another run through the skyway system and bring each of the guards back with me. Then it will be safe to shut them all down."

The prince nodded slowly in approval. "Good... good. Now, without any further delay, dispose of the bodies... I don't want to risk one of them waking up because we wasted too much time." Darius turned to the two aides behind him, both of which had yet to take a step forward, and motioned. "Hurry! What are you waiting for?!"

Not wanting to displease their lord any further, the two young men hurried as quickly as they could into the orange column and turned back to face Darius. The prince, now noticeably breathing heavily, failed to notice the two aides staring into his eyes, for his own gaze was fixated on the backside of his sister. Just before the attendants vanished, Darius suddenly called out.

"Wait! Stop, don't leave with my sister yet!"

The aide with Berenyi hunched over his shoulders stepped forward; the other stayed behind and disappeared with her governess.

"Is something wrong, Lord Darius?"

"No… nothing is wrong. Just... step back into the gate, but do not stand facing my direction. I... I want…" Darius breathed in deeply and stood tall as if he were dispelling his fear, yet everyone around easily saw straight through him; his false display of pride was hardly convincing. "Only a coward would not stare his nemesis in the face during their final encounter!"

"Very well, Lord Darius." The aide stepped back into the tangerine light and followed the prince's request. The yellow lights rotating about the column began spinning faster and the aide's figure, along with Berenyi's, began to fade. While the entire process took only but a few seconds, Darius stared at his nemesis as she melded into the light and disappeared from view, her figure burned into the cornea of his eyes. After three minutes had passed, one of his attendants returned to the palace, followed by another attendant moments later as the aides stationed to guard each of the skyways returned from their positions. As soon as the last attendant arrived back at the palace, Darius gave the order for all of the skyways to be shut down; within minutes, all connections to the world below had been severed.

"Lord Darius, the skyways have been disabled. The plan is complete. When will you address the kingdom?"

The prince stared blankly at where the pillar of light once stood.

"My Lord?"

"Tomorrow. I will address the kingdom tomorrow. If we are asked why we waited a day to inform Zeal of the news, we shall say that wished to try and resolve the dilemma without raising a stir."

"Understood, Lord Darius."

As his aides left him alone in the palace skyway, Darius continued to stare at the exact location from which his sister vanished. Nearly fifteen minutes passed by before the prince finally snapped out of his trance and realized that his attendants had retired to their quarters. Satisfied that there was nothing more he could do, that his plan was all but complete, Darius turned away from the stage and began to leave the room when he noticed a shiny golden object on the ground. Upon further inspection he realized what had caught his eye and stooped to the ground to pick it up.

Her favourite necklace... Berenyi will throw a fit when she realizes she lost it. How pathetic!

As Darius held the pendant in his hand, he felt reassured that he had done the right thing, that his actions we justified. The backside of the necklace was still warm, as it had rested at the base of Berenyi's neck, too weighed down with precious gems to dangle freely as most jewelry did. Composed of a solid gold band studded with rubies and a large heart-shaped centrepiece, the pendant served as a reminder to Darius of how indulgent his sister had been. The creativity of men who should have been spending their time working on something practical, wasted on the selfish desires of a hopelessly fastidious woman. Good riddance! Yes, Zeal will be much better off without her!

Darius stood and left the room, having found the confidence in himself that he was searching hopelessly for only moments earlier.

***~~~***

Berenyi stared happily at the orbs scattered about her, momentarily content that she had all she needed, a picture and a song for every conceivable mood that could possibly come over her. All that troubled the young princess now was the ever-present challenge of trying to figure out just what sort of mood she was in. Berenyi frequently spent all of her time in-between lessons trying to discern what crystals she wanted to play with, only to lose so much time in the process that she would end up returning to her studies without ever listening to one of the orbs.

Well, well! The crystal of great grandmother is very interesting. She was very pretty, after all! But this one of Schala... Mother was very boring. It does have that fascinating view of the palace, though! And it goes so well with that violin piece... Oh the choices! The young princess was so lost in thought that she failed to notice her brother approach her.

"Hey sis, gimme one of those orbs."

Berenyi looked up at her brother. "Don't you have some of your own, or did you break them all already? At the very least you could say please!"

Darius sighed. "Fine. Please, sis, may I have a musical orb?"

Sighing heavily back, the princess looked around her, trying to find a crystal she wouldn't have too much trouble parting with should her brother shatter it. "Here, try this one. Its got a lovely sitar piece and some other stringed instruments I don't recognize." Berenyi handed the orb to her brother, who quickly ran off without as much as saying thanks.

Humph! Someone needs to teach him some manners! Now, what do I want to listen to? As she continued to ponder as to which crystal suited her fancy, the heiress noticed a shadow looming over her. Turning around, she found Parmalay standing with her arms crossed, her disapproval evident in her posture and stare.

"Berenyi! Why did you let your brother boss you around like that?"

"I gave him one of the crystals I wasn't interested in right now. I didn't even think about giving him one of the ones I wanted! Wasn't that what I should have done?"

"Berenyi dear, remember that lesson on possessions? One day you will be Queen and all of Zeal - its property and people - will be yours to command as you see fit. If you let others push you around now, what makes you think they won't do the same to you later? Don't you think it would be terrible to be Queen and to be talked back to by a lowly servant? We mustn't let this sort of thing happen! Now, you might not want to listen to that orb at this very moment, but how would you feel later when that sitar is the only thing that can comfort your broken heart and you know that you can never hear it again because your foolish brother shattered it! How awful!"

Berenyi stared at her brother angrily as she took to heart the words of her governess. "How terrible! I'm going to take my orb back and make sure he never steals from me again!" Quickly standing to her feet, the young princess stomped over to her brother, knowing that Parmalay must have been smiling at her from behind.

"Ahem!"

Darius turned around to find Berenyi looming over him with her arms crossed and her right eyebrow arched. "Yes, sister?"

"Why did you steal my orb? That's not yours to play with!"

"What? You just have it to me a minute ago!"

"Did not!"

"Did too!"

Astonished that her brother dare to contradict the obvious truth, Berenyi reared back and slapped Darius in the face, then quickly grabbed the orb in dispute and ran off. Upon returning to her governess, who had picked up the remaining orbs and placed them in a basket, the princess handed the well-earned crystal with a smile beaming on her face. Parmalay responded in kind with a smile of her own and took the young heiress by the hand.

"Excellent work, Berenyi! Don't you feel as if you've taken a stand for yourself? No one will ever question your authority if you treat them like you just did your brother! Now come along, its time for the rest of today's lesson."

Just before she left the room, Berenyi turned to Darius and stuck her tongue out at the bewildered brother.

***~~~***

"Grr... I don't believe this! Where is my pendant?!" Berenyi stood up and looked around once more, the precious gold band nowhere to be found the in sea of white snow.

Parmalay clutched her arms and tucked her head in, trying to keep warm. "Dear, we've been looking for the better part of an hour. We can't stay out here much longer! We must return to the skyway!"

"But... but... my necklace! It’s my favourite! If it’s lost out here, I simply must keep searching!"

"Maybe your brother has it. It wouldn't surprise me if that were part of his cruel joke! He knows how much you love it."

Berenyi dropped to her knees, looking frantically about her one last time before breathing in as deeply as she could and belting out a scream from the pit of her stomach. "This better be part of his joke. He's already humiliated me by getting me drunk... but to lose my very favourite piece of jewelry... that would be simply intolerable!"

"Intolerable indeed! We will both have a word with your brother upon returning to Zeal, and a very unpleasant one at that! Now come, we must head to shelter." Parmalay aided Berenyi to her feet and the two made their way to the only outpost of civilization on the Earthbound Continent. Upon arriving at the skyway, the two women each breathed a sigh of relief, for they were once more in a place where the world made sense. Outside, the wind howled and the sea of ivory snow drowned out the view - but inside, the familiar marble floor and golden walls with stained-glass window panes gave the two refugees a sense of security. Everything would now be alright; they would never again have to endure the pain of the blistering cold.

"Finally. I was beginning to wonder if we'd ever actually arrive at this confounded place or whether it would continue to keep crawling away from us back into the horizon!" Berenyi made her way toward the stage, but Parmalay stood at the entrance, slightly confused but unable to discern at what.

"Something isn't right here. I don't know what, but something is missing."

Berenyi turned back to the maid, lifting her eyebrow in her all-too-familiar fashion. "Whatever do you mean, Parmalay? Everything seems fine to me. I mean, what more could Darius do to insult us? Cast a water spell on us and laugh as we chatter some more?" The heiress laughed, but cut herself short as a wave of confusion swept over her. "Hey... shouldn't have the skyway activated by now?"

Berenyi's wave of confusion was met by Parmalay's tidal wave of horror.

"Oh my... Oh my! This can't be happening!'

"What?"

"The skyway doesn't activate when you step onto the stage... the skyway is always active! Always!"

"But that can't be right. That would mean that the skyway...." The tidal wave that had just swept over Parmalay now crashed on top of Berenyi. Mortified, the governess ran up the stairs leading to the stage and stood with the heiress, hoping that for some reason her presence might activate the portal and prove her wrong. Much to her dismay, nothing happened.

"This can't be! This goes well beyond the confines of humour!" Berenyi dropped to her knees and began pounding her fists against the glass plating that extended across the platform.

"My dear... this is no joke, I'm afraid! I believe your brother is trying to..."

"I know that!" The heiress shouted. "Darius is trying to kill us! That... that... bastard!" Berenyi slammed her fists against the stage once more before letting out a scream that would have curled the blood of a banshee.

"Berenyi, Berenyi dear! Stop!" Parmalay dropped to her knees and grabbed the heiress by the wrists. "You mustn't bruise your hands like that! Now try and get ahold of yourself! I'm sure someone will catch on to this insidious plot and come and rescue us!"

Lacking the optimism of her mentor, Berenyi began to sob. "But... but... how!'

"I don't know, I'm sure someone will surely question our absence and the strange timing of the skyway failure. Its only a matter of time!"

"But what if no one does! What will become of us?!" Berenyi's sobbing intensified.

Parmalay lifted her pupil's face with one of her fingers, her composure still considerably more solid than the young woman's. "Dear, you're the ever-blossoming rose of Zeal! What gives you the silly idea what no one will come for us? The kingdom couldn't possibly endure without you! All of Zeal would be heartbroken if you remained lost forever!"

The mere mentioning of being stranded permanently caused the levee holding the swelling river in Berenyi's eyes to burst. Tears began flowing down the heiress' face, sweeping the mascara that lay upon its banks along with it. Realizing that nothing she could say would provide any consolation, Parmalay pulled Berenyi closer, buried the young woman's face in her bosom, and rested her cheek on the heiress' head, massaging the princess's back just as she did when the girl was younger. Berenyi continued to cry, although she took some solace in her governess' display of affection. Within a few minutes the crying had subsided and the princess had fallen asleep, leaving no one to observe the few tears that ran down the elder woman's cheek.

***~~~***

There was whispering. The hushed voices of several bystanders crowded around her bed - a bed Berenyi had just noticed was not in the slightest bit comfortable, adorned with a pillow that was probably stuffed with nothing more than a few feathers.

There was an odd smell. The closest thing she could compare it to was the stench of Darius after he had been working on one of Zeal's aircraft all day long. The worst part about the odor was not its scent however, but rather that someone had tried to cover it by burning incense - incense that had not been properly stored and no longer carried the pleasant aroma it should have.

And there was pain. On the morning after her sixteenth birthday, Berenyi learned quite painfully the results of drinking more alcohol than proper etiquette dictated. When she awoke, she could hardly keep open her eyes, for light was far too painful for them to remain exposed to; her head felt as if she was underwater and her limbs too heavy to move. The only experience that caused the heiress more grief was her recent exposure to the Mammon Machine; however, the pain Berenyi was experiencing at the moment came awfully close to rivaling the two prior incidents.

As the minutes passed, the whispers became more discernable and the pain subsided, leaving only the odor of year-old incense, easily the most tolerable of the three sensations that struck the princess as she awoke from slumber. Unfortunately, the worst was still to come. Berenyi had not yet opened her eyes, for she was still drifting in that short period of time between coma and consciousness when one is aware of their surroundings yet not entirely certain they have left the world of dreams. When the heiress finally became fully cognizant of her surroundings, however, everyone surrounding Berenyi was equally aware of her discovery.

"I'm... I'm... The mud and the rock... And the wood... I can't be where I think I am! I was supposed to be rescued and restored to the throne.... You've kidnapped me and brought me to this... This... This mound of filth!" The princess screamed, but quickly cut herself short as the pain in her head surged once more.

"Shhhh... Quiet now. You're still suffering from the effects of the medicine we gave you. I'm afraid sudden movement and stress will bring on that pain for awhile. Just take it easy and everything will be okay."

Berenyi rubbed her eyes and looked over at the old man who had just addressed her. "What did you give me to make my head hurt so? That pain was excruciating! And exactly who are you, anyway?"

"That was an age-old tonic used to resuscitate those who fall prey to the cold. You're lucky those travelers found you when they did or else you might be too far gone for the medicine to work. Your mother here doesn't seem to be reacting to it. As for..."

"My mother?!" Berenyi sat up slowly and looked about the room, immediately noticing the bed positioned across from her. On it lay Parmalay, still unconscious from her duration in the cold. The heiress began to laugh despite the miserable situation, for she could easily see how someone ignorant of her identity might draw the conclusion - though she had never noticed it before herself. I hope I still look as good as she does at forty-five, although at this rate, I doubt I'll live to see twenty-two. "You must mean Parmalay. And while I do regard her as a motherly figure, I am the daughter of Schala, the late Queen of Zeal."

"We heard that she passed on. That must make you Berenyi, then?"

The heiress summoned forth all the dignity she could muster. "Indeed, it does. You wouldn't believe the calamities I've had to endure to be laying in front of you here! And now that I've clearly established who I am, I believe you need to answer my question. Who are you?"

The aged man bowed slightly. "My apologies. I am Mani, Elder of Algetty. My services are at your disposal."

Berenyi stared at the elder with a confused expression on her face. As best she could tell, Mani was at least sixty years old. His white hair had long receded from the centre of his head, growing now only around his ears. Matching this hair were a pair of bushy eyebrows and a mustache. Mani was unable to stand straight up and required a cane to walk; even when standing in place, he had to hunch over upon his walking stick. This was not what confounded the princess, however; what perplexed Berenyi was the fact that the elder wore the same simple rags as everyone else surrounding him. Despite his position in the village, there was nothing in his appearance to distinguish Mani from the common citizen. Only the occasional nod of the head or deference to his opinion signaled that he possessed any authority whatsoever - yet for some reason, there was something else in Berenyi's mind that did separate him from the other citizens of Algetty; something in his mannerisms was vaguely familiar.  

"I don't understand. If you hadn't told me, I would never have guessed I was speaking to this village's... leader." The heiress paused for a moment, hesitant to acknowledge another figure of authority - even if it was one over a filthy mound of dirt. "You dress like an common citizen. You don't demand the respect of your subjects. You have no pride in your position! What's wrong with you?"

Mani wheezed as he laughed. "Why would I have any reason to be proud? What glory is there to be found in being the king of mere peasants? If I am to take pride in something, I first need something to be proud of!"

Berenyi bowed her head momentarily to run a hand through her hair so that it arched across her face as it normally should have. "Royalty is to be prized for its own sake. If I am the Queen of mere peasantry then that only makes me appear more glorious in comparison to my subjects!" The heiress paused, then continued on. "But still... I must admit, I am somewhat surprised by you, Elder Mani."

The elder chuckled. "Oh?"

"Yes, you seem to conduct yourself in manner superior to that expected from the unenlightened. Although you fall short of what would be demanded from a Zealian, you are unusually eloquent. I would have expected you to be cowering in fear by this point, yet you approach me as an equal... At the same time, I am both appalled and intrigued. To think that you speak to me - a woman of near divine status - like you would anyone else is an outrage; but the character of the individual who dares to do so without fear - for one to be so self-confident - is admirable!"

Despite the heiress' condescending attitude, Mani took the compliment in stride. "I must confess, I have studied the ways of Zeal in my free time. Occasionally someone here will come into possession of a trinket or a book from the world above. I have spent many long hours scouring these foreign artifacts..." The elder's voice trailed off as he stared blankly at the rock wall behind the bed the heiress was lying upon. Berenyi looked at the wall and back at Mani several times before trying to refocus the aged man's thoughts.

"... And?"

Mani's eyes shot wide open. "Oh! Sorry... nothing more to say."

Berenyi stared at the elder, knowing full well that something else was on his mind, but eventually chose to let the subject drop. There were still more pressing issues on her mind, such as the health of her governess. "You said earlier that your medicine was ineffective on Parmalay, correct?"

"Yes, that tonic essentially causes the comatose person so much pain that they wake up. Unfortunately, if the victim is too far gone..."

The heiress' heart skipped a beat. "You're not suggesting that there's no hope for Parmalay, are you? Surely there must be something else you can do!"

The elder sighed deeply. "Well, the good news is that she's not dead. Your friend Parmalay is simply in a coma. The bad news is that there's nothing else we can do. We were hoping that perhaps you might be able to wake her from her deep sleep with your own magic." Mani paused for a moment to gauge the princess’ reaction, unfortunately not observing the expressions he had hoped. "From the look on your face, I take it that our assumption was wrong?"

The princess nodded. "I'm a shadow innate. I can tear apart the very fabric of the universe and weave it around my fingers, yet I cannot do something as simple as call forth my dearest friend from a dreamless sleep. How ironic that someone powerful as I be rendered completely powerless! A mere child versed in the healing arts could probably solve our dilemma!"

Mani nodded, stopping the heiress before she became even more dramatic. "Say no more, I am quite familiar with the arcane sciences. It is tragic, indeed - but please, you are not quite well yourself. Try to rest, for you have guests that are eager to meet you."

"Guests?" Berenyi laughed. "In a place like this? I doubt anyone worth my time would have found their way here!"

"Perhaps you would like to tell that to the three young adults who rescued you from the cold?" A grin ran across Mani's face. Berenyi started to speak, but held her tongue, quickly recognizing that her circumstances called for her to be more thankful, even though those receiving her blessing were probably unworthy of it. Heeding the elder's advice, she rolled onto her side once more and tried to make herself comfortable. Despite the ragged sheets, hard mattress, and flimsy pillow, the princess quickly drifted off back to sleep.

***~~~***

Much to her dismay, Berenyi woke to find herself lying in the same uncomfortable bed, completely ignorant as to what time of day it was or how long she had been asleep. Since Algetty lay deep underground, there were no open windows letting in the sunlight during the morning or the twinkling of the stars at night; only water dripping from the ceiling of a hollowed-out cave supported by rotting beams of wood. Expecting to see the elder and the trio who had rescued her, Berenyi sat up in bed only to find that she was alone with her unconscious maid. Pleased with the momentary solitude, the princess walked across the room to the bed where Parmalay was resting and sighed as she looked upon the sleeping woman. Although she knew not how, the heiress was convinced that somehow, her own survival was the result of a sacrifice made by her governess. After briefly reminiscing over several fond memories she had shared with her mentor, Berenyi decided to explore the village in hopes of finding something to entertain herself with.

It was not until the princess left the room in which she had been sleeping that she realized one of the more prevalent features of Algetty; the general absence of light in the village. Being underground, it was not surprising that sunlight only made its way a short distance into the cave; however, individual rooms throughout the village were considerably better lit than the narrow corridors that connected them. Fortunately for the princess, being a shadow innate gave her a certain affinity towards the darkness and she lacked the fear of it that would have plagued her brother.

After struggling for a minute to close the door behind her, Berenyi looked both ways down the corridor, trying to decide where to explore first. Just to her left and right across the hall were two similar doors like the one from which she had just emerged. They were both painted green and poorly designed; one door was too large for the opening it was placed in, forcing everyone to slam against the door to enter or leave – the other was too small and swung in and out whenever someone passed through. As Berenyi quickly noticed, most all of the doors in the village had similar problems; whether or not this was due to incompetence or a lack of proper tools, the heiress could not decide.

From the lack of activity and noise that generally would be expected during the daytime, the princess decided that above ground, the stars were probably shining brightly. The few people Berenyi did encounter merely gave her fearful looks and kept their distance from the foreigner. This did not bother the heiress in the slightest, for she had little desire to associate with the citizens of Algetty. She was quite pleased to find that the villagers were too timid to even risk accidentally brushing their garments against her own. Even in their own environment these unenlightened dregs still recognize their proper role! How delightful! Now if only a certain brother of mine could learn his, the entire world would be in perfect balance!

Berenyi wandered aimlessly throughout Algetty’s corridors in disgust at the pervasive squalor – her aversion to the village only interrupted momentarily by pride as another citizen passed by in fear – until she came to an unusual door at the end of the corridor that barred further passage. Unlike the other doorways in the cavern, this door was well-built, constructed out of bronze, and bore the official crest of Zeal upon it. Surprised to see the royal insignia in such a location, Berenyi stared at the portal in confusion, scouring her memory for some tidbit of knowledge that would explain the door’s purpose. After standing in front of the doorway for several minutes, the heiress began to turn around and walk away when she heard a familiar voice behind her.


“I’ll be surprised if you have any idea where that sealed passage leads to. After all, no Zealian would ever choose to go there and I’m fairly certain no one’s been condemned to eternal imprisonment in your lifetime. In fact, I believe the last person to be bound there must have been the one who killed your grandmother!”

Berenyi stared at the elder and then looked back at the bronze gateway. Upon further inspection, she noticed there was an unusually thick layer of dust on the door, proof that it had not been tampered with in some time. “That must mean this passage leads to the Mountain of Woe. I was unaware it could be accessed from down here.”

The elder chuckled. “Algetty is the only place it can be accessed from now, actually. In the early days of Zeal, the Mountain of Woe floated just like the other continents – but I’m sure you’re probably familiar with its history already.

“Actually…  I’ve always been taught it was part of the world below and not worth studying. Please, go on with your story – I’m genuinely interested.”

“Very well. Come to think of it, I shouldn’t be surprised that you’ve never been told the original story - The crown always has made a point of it to sweep under the rug anything that weakens its authority. As I just said, in the early days of Zeal, the Mountain of Woe was part of the floating kingdom. In those days, the Royal Palace had not yet been constructed and the reigning monarch resided in the Elemental Palace; Persis, the city that once inhabited the region where the Mountain does now, was the socio-cultural capital of Zeal.” Mani stopped to rub his fingers across his chin and stared at the door behind the heiress momentarily. “I suspect you’re not very familiar with the struggle for power that ensued once the floating continents were raised to the sky, are you?”

The heiress shook her head, confirming the elder’s suspicion.

“Yes, yes… Well, Zeal was not always a stable kingdom for at one time a civil war nearly erupted between the throne and those who thought the throne should be replaced with a counsel of rulers. It so happened that many of these malcontents – who for the most part were powerful aristocrats – lived in Persis. These patricians desired power for themselves and organized a small force to storm the palace and dethrone the King by force. Retrospectively, had they succeeded in keeping their plot a secret, they would have undoubtedly been successful in their endevour. Fortunately for the crown, one of these aristocrats defected, hoping to secure for himself a position of power by revealing the schemes of his peers. Furious, the reigning monarch - King Seras - issued a decree that all subjects loyal to him leave the island. Taking the decree as a sign of their triumph, the now openly rebellious patricians rejoiced in their newfound independence.”

Berenyi interrupted the old man with a question. “I thought you said the aristocracy wanted to overthrow the King. I’d hardly call being granted independence by the body you seek to destroy a success.”

“In truth, these people were not interested in reforming the kingdom; they merely sought power for themselves and independence from the crown provided the power they sought - Their joy was short lived, however. Once all of the loyalists had been given a chance to leave the continent, King Seras convened the most powerful wizards and sorceresses in Zeal and commanded them to destroy Persis; what followed next was the greatest display of arcane might in the history of our planet. When the host wizards and sorceresses were through, not a soul remained alive on the now barren continent. King Seras originally planned to leave Persis as it was to serve as a reminder of his wrath towards those who dared to challenge the crown, but ultimately decided to have it banished from Zeal as a blemish on its landscape. In time, the continent was simply referred to as the Mountain of Woe and those who made the same mistake as the foolish aristocrats were sent there.”

“Foolish indeed to challenge the monarch’s divine right to power. They received precisely what they deserved!”

Mani sighed. “They certainly deserved to be punished, but Seras’ wrath incurred a high price upon the kingdom. Zeal gained solidarity, but lost several generations worth of cultural achievement, not to mention the lives of numerous citizens.”

Berenyi crossed her arms and rolled her eyes. “They challenged the throne; they deserved to die. More paintings can always be painted; more statues can always be sculpted! Besides, if the patricians weren’t in line with the throne, their art didn’t serve to glorify the crown. That would render whatever artistic achievements they made utterly worthless!”

The elder grinned and nodded in consent, despite disagreeing completely with the heiress on the subject. “Perhaps you’re right. I’m afraid I’ve wandered off from my original reason for tracking you down, however. I’ve assembled your guests back in the room you were sleeping in earlier. They have business they wish to discuss with you – very important business, or so they claim. We shouldn’t keep them waiting any longer.”

“Very well then. By your standards, I suppose I owe these people, don’t I?”

“By my standards? I think by anyone’s standards you owe these people. They saved your life.”

The two began walking back towards the room, conversing the entire way. “I might be moved to display my thankfulness towards my saviours, but to claim that I owe them? They merely did what anyone in their situation would do.”

“I wouldn’t quite put it like that, but…”

Symmetry

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Rubbish still, but we're making progress.
« Reply #1 on: September 18, 2004, 06:12:16 pm »
***~~~***

Perplexed, Berenyi looked down upon the three young adults kneeling before her. She was now alone with the trio, for Mani had left the room so that they – who had introduced themselves as Marlowe, Rubyhime, and Wigham – could conduct their business with her in privacy. Having paid their respect to the princess, the three stood up, allowing Berenyi to examine their apparel in greater detail. The heiress began her inspection of the strange travelers with Marlowe, who was standing to her immediate left.

From what she could tell, Marlowe appeared to be the oldest of the three. Unlike the other two, he had facial hair – a mustache – and wore a pair of eyeglasses. Although he was probably no more than five years older than his companions, his manner of dress and his posture convinced the heiress that Marlowe was no stranger to formality. His clothes, a matching tan-coloured pair of pants and shirt, were surprisingly well kept – especially for one traveling through rough terrain as the Earthbound Continent; if it were not for the revolver at Marlowe’s side or the strange hat we wore, Berenyi would have never guessed the man was an adventurer. The same could not be said for the woman to his right, however. Rubyhime - who appeared to be the most physically capable of the three, despite her diminutive size - was dressed in a uniform that was clearly military-issued. The young woman wore a long sleeved navy blue jacket with several patches sown onto her shoulders, a short brick-red skirt, polished raven-black highboots, and a red beret under which her hair was fastened. As to be expected, Rubyhime stood at attention with her arms behind her back and her vision frozen on the wall directly in front of her. The soldier’s posture stood in sharp contrast with the last member of the trio, Wigham, who could not have been more at ease if he had tried. With the exception of a white tee-shirt, the young man was dressed entirely in black; his leather jacket and denim jeans both matched his unkempt shaggy hair. Unlike those of Marlowe and Rubyhime, Wigham’s posture was anything but respectful; the young man slouched slightly as he stood, constantly shifting his weight back and forth between his legs as if he was disinterested in his current endevour, eager to spend his time elsewhere.

Despite being able to draw a few simple conclusions about the trio, Berenyi was quite bewildered by the travelers. How strange… There’s something incredibly foreign about these people… Their clothes and uniforms, their accents and mannerisms… I’ve never read or heard about anything like them, much less actually met such people. They’re can’t be citizens of Zeal, but at the same time I can’t see them living in a place like this. Certainly no union of the two could produce such strange progeny! The only conclusion that makes any sense is that they must be members of a society we know nothing about… but how? How could such a people have eluded Zeal’s knowledge for any extended period of time? I must find out…

Berenyi began the dialogue hesitantly. “Well, now that we’ve introduced ourselves… Elder Mani tells me there is something you wanted to ask me about.”

Marlowe stepped forward, having been designated the group’s leader beforehand. “Yes, there is. My friends and I seem to have a problem on our hands that we think you can help us resolve.”

Oh? Go on.”

“You see, in the err-“ Marlowe dragged out the consonant, trying to mask a piece of information he did not mean to convey. “In the village we are from, I am a researcher - a student of history, to be exact. Recently, I have been attempting to piece together a historical account of the rise of the Kingdom of Zeal. Unfortunately, not being a citizen of your fair kingdom, I have encountered considerable problems trying to discern fact from myth and legend. In an attempt to resolve some of these dilemmas, I enlisted the help of my companions here to accompany me to Algetty in hopes of finding more accurate records concerning the origins of the floating kingdom. However, as you might have guessed, there was little to be found here.”

The heiress grinned. “For a historian, you certainly aren’t very knowledgeable. I don’t know what possessed you to think you might find something of any value here!’

Marlowe bowed his head. “Pardon my ignorance, m’lady. I come from a very secluded village. I had hoped that the citizens of Algetty would have made something of themselves by now, but it appears I hoped in vain. However, after finding you in the barren wastes above and learning from Elder Mani that you were of royal lineage, one of my companions suggested that I ask you for assistance in my studies. Lady Berenyi, I ask of you that my companions and I be granted access to some of the knowledge the world above has to offer! Please allow us to study in one of Zeal’s libraries so that I may complete my historical account of its rise to power.”

Berenyi began to answer, but caught herself and stopped to think. Curious… How could have these three learned of my heritage before I told Elder Mani? Even he didn’t seem to know who I was before I informed him, yet once I revealed my name, he told me that I had guests waiting to see me. Something doesn’t quite add up here… I suspect the elder knew my identity before he asked; but if that was the case, why did he bother to ask? Why feign ignorance? And as for these strange travelers… Why would they be seeing to compile a history for a kingdom they are not part of? A society confined to the world below can’t possibly be that advanced. Something doesn’t add up about their story either. I suspect they’re merely vagabonds looking to capitalize on the chance fate has placed in front of them. But still… They clearly hail from somewhere I’m not familiar with. I must get to the bottom of this! At the very least, they can keep me entertained until I’m able to return to Zeal. Wherever they’re from couldn’t possibly be worse than this mound of filth, after all!

The heiress crossed her arms and stared at the ground in an attempt to look as if she were deep in thought. “Well, at the risk of sounding ungrateful, I’m not sure I can do that for you,  ….” Berenyi waved her hand, searching for the young man’s name.

“Marlowe.”

“Yes - Marlowe. As I was saying, access to the vast tomes of knowledge contained within the halls of Zeal is somewhat limited, even to those of royal birth such as myself. We can’t risk those tomes falling into the wrong hands and being lost or destroyed. To prevent such a tragedy, the Council of Reason has limited access into the Great Hall of Knowledge to those within the kingdom who pursue the scholarly arts. I’m afraid it will be quite difficult to convince the Council to admit an outsider into the Hall. However…”

A spark of hope flashed in the young man’s eyes. “However?”

The princess continued on. “If I were to present to the Council something entirely new… Some morsel of knowledge previously unheard of, I’m sure that would persuade them to allow me access to the Hall of Knowledge – and thereby granting you access in turn. Unfortunately, I don’t think you could gain entrance personally – you would have to settle with yours truly acting as an intermediary. Frustrating, I know; but that should provide you with whatever knowledge you seek about my wonderful kingdom.”

Marlowe glanced over at his two companions before responding, for he had a sinking feeling that knew precisely what the Zealian wanted to know.

“Sounds like we have a problem, then. Surely the keepers of Zeal’s vast knowledge must be aware of anything we could possibly present to them.”

“Possibly, yes. The Council chooses only to disclose knowledge they do not feel will be a threat to the crown’s power. There’s no telling what they keep hidden, even from someone such as myself. However, I think I may have the knowledge I need right in front of me!”

Marlowe’s suspicions were confirmed. “Oh? And that is?”

“The three of you! Why, I’ve never seen or heard of people quite like you and my guess is that if the Council knew of your kind, they would not perceive it as threatening knowledge. I believe they would have said something about you already; after all, you are a lesser specie than we, and you would prove to be most useful to the Kingdom! Finding sources of menial labour is quite difficult, you know – and the labourers taken from Algetty often prove to be more trouble than they’re worth. Yes, I’m sure of it! If you’re willing to show me where you’re from, I’ll be able to convince the Council to grant me the access you desire!”

The trio’s speaker was about to respond when Wigham interjected himself, clearly frustrated with the heiress’ proposal. “Wait a minute! You’re asking us to betray our own kind just so Marlowe here can get ahold of some source material he needs! Give me a break!”

Berenyi glared back at the black-clad traveler. “Just how important is this project to you, anyway? Besides, this isn’t an act of betrayal. You inhabit land that belongs to the crown and its time you paid your dues! And honestly, would you prefer to continue living in this uncivilized, savage land, or would you rather be granted the privilege of dwelling upon the continents of Zeal? Seeing as how your society seems to value the pursuit of knowledge, you wouldn’t be reduced to carrying out the same mindless labour the citizens of Algetty do – why, your kind might even be ready to open your mind to the realm of magic! Don’t think of yourselves as traitors, think of yourselves as emissaries!”

“W-Why that’s -!” Rubyhime grabbed hold of the young man and quickly silenced him. Marlowe turned to the heiress and bowed apologetically.

“You must forgive my young friend. He does not fully appreciate the offer you are making to our kind. Please, could you allow us a moment or two to gather our thoughts?”

The princess nodded. “Of course.”

“Thank you.” The trio turned away from the Zealian and gathered in a huddle on other side of the room. Wigham was the first to speak.

“Man, does she ride a high horse or what? I mean, what kind of sap would actually give in to such a condescending request? ‘Condemn your race to servitude and I’ll find you a book you need!’ Sure! Sounds like a fair trade to me!”

Rubyhime couldn’t help but snicker. “Most Zealians must share her sentiment as well. A number of Earthbounders actually fear us, as if we too were part of the society above.”

Marlowe nodded. “Yes, this is a particularly dark time of history, by all accounts. Despite the abundance of knowledge the Kingdom of Zeal possesses, prejudice reigns supreme in this era. Fairly ironic, really - it casts a heavy shadow over the theory that intolerance is a byproduct of ignorance. By the way - nice bit of drama there, Wigham.”

“Thanks. I was hoping that would make us appear more… Authentic. Looks like she bought our story.”

“It would appear so. Now we must determine what we want to make of our situation. We have succeeded in convincing the princess that we are indeed members of a hidden society in this era, but now she wants to see our fabricated culture with her own eyes. This could be quite problematic.”

“Permission to…”

“Please, Rubyhime. This isn’t a military operation. Speak your mind whenever you wish.”

“My apologizes, Professor. We can’t possibly fool our Zealian friend here much longer; there’s nothing to show her. I recommend a more drastic course of action.”

“Which would be?”

“Take her hostage and demand this Council hand over the records of Lavos we seek. I’ve dealt with similar situations involving royalty before. The Zealians would never allow any harm to come to the heir next in line to the throne.”

Marlowe rubbed his chin pensively. “Hmm. That is a possibility, although attempting such a drastic course of action may not be to our advantage. We don’t know how the Zealians would handle such a situation. Perhaps they would try to free her by force – and if they did, we would be powerless to resist them; our efforts might result in dismal failure. Besides…” The group’s leader glanced back at Berenyi momentarily. “… Something doesn’t make sense here. What would a Queen-in-waiting be doing in a place like this? Elder Mani seems certain she is who she claims to be, but even if that’s true, I suspect that this woman is not here of her own volition.”

Wigham peeped over at the princess as well. “Then what do you recommend we do, Marlowe?”

“Well… I recommend we show her precisely what she wants to see.”

The other two members of the group stared at Marlowe in disbelief, but Wigham was the first to speak up. “What! Are you crazy?! We can’t possibly show her where we’re from – we’re from the future!”

“Why is that a problem?”

“Remember what you said about further alterations to the timeline?”

Marlowe nodded his head. “Yes, I remember precisely what I said. However, I’ve been doing some thinking over the past few days. We never could have predicted the effects of our actions here the first time we visited Zeal. For all we know, our very presence here could have already drastically changed the future once more, albeit that seems quite unlikely. But after all, who would have guessed that the premature death of a Queen long forgotten by even the students of history could have altered our future to the nearly unrecognizable state it exists in now? Consider this - Our ultimate goal is to change the future, to stop the advent of Lavos. We’re going to change history in the process, no getting around it, and as long as these changes are done for the sake of preventing the destruction in the future, what does it matter?”

“I dunno. Seems pretty sketchy to me, Professor. Then again, you’re the educated one here. If anyone should know what’s best, it’s you.”

Rubyhime nodded in consent with Wigham as Marlowe ran his plan through another mental checklist. Even after our prior interference with the course of history, the Kingdom of Zeal will still collapse into ruin. As long as our actions don’t alter once more when it falls from the sky, the timeline should remain relatively unchanged…

“Alright. We’re going to take the princess up on her offer. Once we’re finished here, we’ll take her with us to the gate. After we’ve upheld our end of the bargain, we’ll demand she hold true to hers. Even with limited knowledge of the future, I don’t believe there’s much she’ll be able to do with it. We’re going too far beyond anything relevant to this era. She won’t be able to read about the destruction of Zeal and avert it, anyhow – In our time, the only people who are even aware that such a kingdom ever existed outside the three of us are a couple of off-kilter historians and archeologists. Ironic, isn’t it? Those who attempted most aggressively to immortalize themselves are ultimately the ones of whom no record exists! Why, if that’s not-“ The professor’s rambling was cut short by a couple of obviously fake coughs coming from across the room. Realizing that they had taken longer to make their decision than they probably should have, the trio disbanded and approached the heiress once more. As expected, Marlowe spoke for the group once again.

“I humbly apologize for the delay in reaching a conclusion. My friend required a good deal of convincing to see the generosity of your offer. I am pleased to say that we have reached a conclusion – We will escort you to our home as you so desire.”

Berenyi uncrossed her arms and clapped several times in an unusual display of joy. “Excellent! I knew you three were sensible enough to accept my offer! Now, unless you have further business here, I must insist that we leave as soon as possible.”

Marlowe nodded. “Understood. However, nightfall will come soon. It would be safer to begin our journey in the morning.”

The heiress sighed. “If you insist. I’m far too rested to sleep now, but I have a few loose ends I could deal with here in Algetty. I expect you three to be ready to set out early as possible tomorrow morning.”

“Quite clear, m’lady. We won’t keep you waiting.”

***~~~***

On their way back to the room they had been given, the trio passed by Elder Mani’s door. Although Rubyhime and Wigham continued about their own business, Marlowe couldn’t resist stopping when he heard an unfamiliar voice come from the room. From what he could tell, the elder was talking to someone who was clearly not from the village, yet the professor was unable to discern where the mysterious guest came from by voice alone. Motioning for his friends to continue on to their quarters, Marlowe gently pressed his ear against the door and listened in on the conversation; once again, his curiosity had gotten the best of him. All the professor could do was hang on and hope his inquisitive nature didn’t lead him into trouble.

“You’re entrusting her with that? You can’t be serious.” The elder seemed shocked, a state of mind he did not inhabit very often.

There was a quick thud from inside the room, the sound of a heavy object being dropped to the floor and refusing to budge.

“Make sure that she does not leave Algetty without it.”

“But an artifact of this power…!” Silence ensued for a moment. Marlowe figured the one with the mysterious voice must have given the old man a particularly nasty glare. “Fine. I will see to it that the contents of this chest come into her possession. I insist that you tell me why you want her to have it, however. You know that she will attempt to kill her brother with it. Is that what you desire? Bloodshed?”

“She will attempt to kill her brother anyway. Bloodshed is inevitable.”

“Then you want Darius to be slain?”

“Neither of them will die, at least not yet. That much I will see to.”

The elder moaned. “You still didn’t answer my question”

The mysterious figure responded by heading towards the door. Not wishing to be caught snooping around, Marlowe quickly – and quietly – returned to his assigned quarters.

***~~~***

Unable to sleep, Berenyi made her way to Mani’s room to attend to several issues that were on her mind. When she arrived at his quarters, she found his door half-open. Peering into the room as she knocked on the door, Berenyi noticed the old man sitting at a crude wooden desk. After the elder did not respond to her first call, the heiress knocked again, but failed once more to grab Mani’s attention. Frustrated, Berenyi simply decided to grant herself entry into the old man’s quarters and let her shadow draw the attention she sought. Snapping out of his trance, the elder peered over his shoulder and quickly stood to his feet.

“Lady Berenyi! I didn’t notice you entered the room. I must apologize for my lack of proper consideration. Is there something I can help you with?”

The heiress smiled, tickled once more to find such a lowborn creature such as Mani in possession of manners that easily surpassed those of her brother. “Yes, as a matter of fact, there is. I have a request…. and a display of gratitude I believe you’ve earned – not that I’m indebted to show you my graceful side, mind you.”

“Of course not, Princess. Let’s hear what I’m obligated to do for you, first.”

“Very well. I made arrangements earlier this afternoon to be escorted to a more… Hospitable location. I shall leave Algetty tomorrow morning, hopefully never to return again.”

“As much as that saddens me to hear-“

“Please, please. Spare me your display of sorrow. I say hopefully, for I fear there is the chance I will have to come back in the future to retrieve my good maid, Parmalay. Until she wakes from her coma or I return for her, I ask that you keep her in your care. See to it that none of your underlings lay a hand on her.”

The elder nodded. “Understood. Is there anything else?”

“No. That is all I require.” Berenyi took a deep breath and blushed slightly, unable to look the old man in the eyes.

Mani peered back at the heiress, trying to make eye-to-eye contact once more. “Is something wrong?”

“No, nothing is wrong. I just don’t know precisely how to say what I want to tell you.”

The wise elder knew precisely which two words had become a burden on the heiress’ heart. “Thank you?”

“Yes… Thank you. As miserable as the past few days have been, with your good company you have made them slightly more bearable. I must admit, you are a very knowledgeable man by any standards, Earthbound or Zealian. I never would have expected to meet someone like you in a dirty hovel like this.”

“I suppose I could say the same for you. It’s not everyday the future Queen of Zeal pays a visit to a lowly village such as Algetty. But then again, you didn’t have much say in that, did you? The pleasant thing about being an only child is that you never have to worry about another sibling taking out their anger on you.”

Berenyi glared back at Mani and crossed her arms tightly. “How? How did you find out?! I know I didn’t tell you how I ended up here and I certainly didn’t tell that ragged bunch of adventurers either.”

The elder chuckled in his now familiar wheezy manner. “I have my sources… besides, you never provided me with a good answer for your presence here, so I interpreted that to mean that someone forced you here against your own will. If your abandonment on this continent had been an accident, you would have been rescued by now. So… Care to explain the story, or should I continue with my thoughts until they reach their logical conclusion?”

The heiress sighed. “Yes, my brother is to blame for this incident. I don’t know the specific reason why he did this, but I have a good idea. This is more than just a simple grab for power that you would expect from royalty such as myself – this is a calculated move to pursue some nonsensical ideology of his. He tricked me into drinking a sleeping tonic, left me for dead out in the cold, and shut down the skyways back to the floating continent. Does that satisfy your curiosity?”

“Not entirely, but that was what I wanted to know. I suspected Darius had a role in this…”

“Humph! Perhaps you’re a bit too clever for your own good. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some sleep to catch up on!” Berenyi turned away from the elder and began making her way toward the door when the old man cried out urgently for her to stop.


“Wait! Lady Berenyi, I did not mean to offend you! Please, stop! I have something I need to give you.”

Despite her kind words moments earlier, the princess had no intention of stopping to hear the elder out until he mentioned the gift. Her curiosity quickly overpowering her offended pride, Berenyi spun around on her heels and gave Mani a chance to redeem himself. “Fine, but make this quick. I would have thought you possessed enough common sense to know that there are certain subjects best left alone.”

Mani bowed deeply. “My sincerest apologies. Please forgive me, as I am an old man and my mind can’t quite keep up the pace with my mouth.”

“Very well. Now, what is this gift you have for me?”

The Elder sighed and pointed at a black box lying on the floor several feet away from him. “There. The contents of that box are now yours.”

Berenyi curiously eyed the chest and then looked back at Mani. Strange… He’s giving me whatever’s inside, but he seems as if he doesn’t really want to part with its contents; it’s as if someone is forcing him to hand it over to me. Whatever it is, the crest on that box is definitely Zealian in origin… But nothing with the royal crest on it could have escaped Zeal so easily. How did Mani come into possession of it? After looming over the black box momentarily, trying to guess what could be inside, the heiress hunched over and opened the container. To her delight, a neatly folded robe lay in the box. Berenyi’s demeanor quickly changed as she removed the garment from the chest; the heiress had already put behind her the disappointment that had dominated her posture moments earlier and was now beaming with joy.

“Why… Why… I don’t believe it! Elder Mani, this is easily the most beautiful article of clothing I’ve ever laid eyes upon!” The heiress held the robe up in front of her, inspecting it meticulously to make sure nothing was ruined. Fortunately, the gown had been woven out of unusually thick material and had been taken good care of by its previous owner; there was not a tear in the garment to be found – although due to the choice of fabric it had been crafted from, it was extraordinarily heavy. The robe was lined around the edges with black, fluffy fur and was coloured a deep shade of purple that became increasingly plum-hued as it extended towards the ground. “Where did you manage to find such a wonderful garment? Surely this came from Zeal, but how did it find its way into your hands?”

“Hmm…. That’s a long story, but something tells me you’re interested in knowing the history behind that robe.”

“I'm sure it must be interesting. Do tell, do tell!”

“Very well. First of all, I must confess that someone managed to steal that garment from the world above long ago. Granted, if he had known all that was contained in that box was a robe, the thief probably would have chosen to bring back something else, but the young lad merely found the chest and assumed that such an ornate box must have contained something particularly valuable. That isn’t to suggest that gown is worthless – far from it, in fact – it just wasn’t useful to us Earthbounders when we discovered the contents of the chest. Anyhow, this garment once belonged to a powerful sorceress named Sorella.”

“Sorella… The name sounds familiar. I believe there was a Queen with the same name, but from what I remember, her reign was the shortest in Zeal’s history – a mere four days!”

“Heh, we are indeed both speaking of the same woman. Do you happen to remember why her reign was so short?”

“No, I remember Parmalay lecturing me about her once, but I was too bored to pay much attention. She has a tendency to ramble on about utterly pointless details about the lives of past monarchs – but studying the royal lineage is her passion, so that doesn’t come as any surprise.”

Mani chuckled. “I understand completely. I too am fascinated by Zealian life and tend to bore my peers with tidbits of ‘pointless detail’. As I was saying, the gown you hold in your hands was once worn by the late Queen Sorella – and when I say once, I’m not referring to a single instance. That garment was her very favourite, and for good reason. Sorella was perhaps the most powerful sorceress or wizard in the annals of Zeal. As a testament to her power, she spent years weaving that robe and then enchanting with all sorts of arcane properties.”

“Arcane properties such as?”

“Ha! There’s no telling what Sorella enchanted it with, but it was rumoured that she had managed to endow the garment with its own consciousness!”

“What?!”

“You heard me! Supposedly that robe has a mind of its own. Now, I don’t know if that’s actually true… You know how rumours tend to surround strange people, after all. What I do know to be true is that once Sorella completed her masterpiece, she donned it and only removed it twice.”

“Wouldn’t the robe need cleaning? That’s… "

“One would think so, but supposedly there was never a stain to be found on it. It wouldn’t surprise me if one of her enchantments was responsible for that. Anyway, Sorella lived during the early days of the crown and had a particular dislike of the reigning monarch at the time – the name of which I’m forgetting right now, but he was the father of King Seras. The sorceress was so powerful that even the King feared her. Hoping to avoid open conflict, this King proposed a deal with Sorella – if she stopped threatening to topple the throne, he would marry her. Of course, power was all that the woman sought, and she agreed to King’s terms – a political maneuver that would prove to be disastrous. The night of their marriage, the newly empowered Queen murdered her husband and had all of his closest advisors executed the next morning.”

“A disastrous political maneuver indeed. But what exactly does this have to do with the robe?”

“Sorella’s enchantments made the garment resistant to virtually any weapon imaginable; it could not be pierced or slashed through! As long as the sorceress wore it…”

“… She would be nearly impervious to any physical methods of harm.”

“Exactly. Knowing this, the deceased King’s son, Prince Seras, devised a plan. To avenge his father and to prevent any further aberrations to the royal lineage, the young man proposed a similar deal to the sorceress that his father had made.”

Berenyi stared at the elder confusedly. “What? That doesn’t make any sense. Why would the Queen stand to gain from marrying a Prince?”

“Sorella wasn’t known for her outstanding moral character. Prince Seras assumed rightly that the witch would find it utterly delightful that the deceased son of a man she had just murdered desired her hand in matrimony. The Queen agreed and the two quickly prepared for the royal marriage ceremony…”

“…Which requires that both parties wear the traditional wedding gowns during the procession!”

Mani grinned. “Precisely! The moment Seras received his crown, he removed a knife and quickly plunged it into Sorella’s heart. The wicked Queen collapsed dead on the spot and Seras stood alone as the proper regent of Zeal. The sorceress' belongings were destroyed for the most part soon after, but her robe was kept for scholars to examine. However, the brightest minds in all of Zeal failed to determine the nature of the enchantments Sorella had endowed the garment with. In time, the gown was simply forgotten about and left to rest in that container – until one of us managed to steal it, that is.”

“Fascinating. While I believe we can both agree Sorella received the punishment she deserved, I’m quite indebted to her at the moment. Such an artifact will undoubtedly prove useful in the time to come.”

The Elder frowned. “You mean in your quest to take revenge on your brother?”

“But of course. Only a fool would do otherwise.”

“Then perhaps a fool I am.”

“No, you’re simply unenlightened; a poor hand you were dealt and could do nothing to change. Had you been raised in Zeal and given a proper education in the ways of the world and the nature of humanity you would think otherwise – but if by some chance you still clung to your statement, then you would be a fool. Now, please do me the honour of dressing me in my new gown.” Berenyi handed the robe to the old man and reached down to remove the scarlet gown she had been wearing since she had been abandoned on the Earthbound Continent, only to realize that the outermost layer of her dress was nowhere to be found. “Strange, I don’t remember ever taking that robe off… Did you do something with it, Mani?”

“I’m afraid not. I don’t seem to remember you wearing anything else aside from what you’re wearing right now.”

“Humph! Those travelers must have done something with it, then. Fortunately for them, I’ve found something else to wear – but if I hadn’t! Oh, my would they be in a world of trouble!” The heiress continued to ramble on as she slipped her arm into one sleeve, stretching out her other arm as the Elder wrapped the gown around her back. Much to Berenyi’s surprise, as she drew the garment together and tied its sash around her waist, the robe suddenly became light as a feather.

“Well, this is certainly unusual! I feel weightless, as if I would float if I picked my feet up from the ground!”

Mani grinned as the princess leaned forward and curled up her legs, hovering in midair. “Yes, that’s certainly unusual. I expected you to discover something strange rather quickly, but weightlessness was not my first guess.”

“Incredible! Now all I need is a mirror!” Berenyi looked around the room for something to see herself in, but was dismayed to find that the Elder had no such luxury in his room. “I’m sure I must look breathtaking in this, but I simply have to see for myself and remove all doubt!”

The old man hobbled over to a desk on the other side of the room, mumbling to himself as he tried to remember just to whom he had lent his looking glass to. As he fumbled through the contents of his drawers, he suddenly remembered what he had done with it. “Ah! I seem to remember now precisely wha-“

The princess yelped in shock. “Oh my!” Concerned, the Elder turned around to see what troubled the Zealian.

“What is it, Lady Berenyi?”

“What is it?” The heiress stared back at Mani with an exasperated look on her face. “Why, can’t you see?” Berenyi motioned at something next to her. The old man blinked several times to make sure his vision hasn’t giving out on him before replying.


“Er, no… I don’t see a thing. What’s wrong?”

“Well, nothing is wrong, but… It must have something to do with the gown. I can see a mirror image of myself!” Grabbing the sides of her new dress, Berenyi turned from side to side and then smiled from ear to ear. “I suppose that answers my question! I do look wonderful!”

Mani sighed. “You’d better get used to such strange occurrences… If you get overwhelmed by fear at the wrong time just because something unexpected happens… Well, you get my drift. From what I can tell, this gown appears to attempt to realize whatever is on your mind, which would explain both your weightlessness and mirror image.”

“How does that explain my weightlessness? Are you suggesting I’m…”

“Of course not, Lady Berenyi! My apologies! There is absolutely nothing wrong with your figure! What I meant to convey is that you must have found the robe particularly heavy - thus, the gown lightened in an effort to match your desires.”

“Humph!” Berenyi crossed her arms and cocked her head aside indignantly while leaning back ever so slightly and floating in midair. “I’ve caught you red-handed, so don’t even try tp explain away your slip of tongue! Why, I’m so thin I could probably stand to gain a few pounds!”

As soon as the words escaped her lips, the heiress suddenly crashed to the ground on her behind and found herself unable to stand back up. The elder tried his hardest to contain his laughter but was entirely unsuccessful.

“Ouch! Why, that was quite painful! Stop laughing at me!”

Mani covered his mouth and coughed several times in an effort to stop laughing. After being momentarily paralyzed, Berenyi found herself able to stand once more. Rubbing her backside as she stood up, the princess glared at the village leader. “That wasn’t funny, you hear? If you ever mention that incident to anyone outside this room…”

“No need to fear, your majesty. Your secret is safe with me.” The elder began wheezing again and collapsed back into hysterical laughter. Humiliated, Berenyi stormed out of the room and returned to her assigned quarters for the night.

Locuster

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« Reply #2 on: September 19, 2004, 02:33:59 am »
Found and read Chap 1... (I think), and I like it so far.  But before I give read Chap 3 and give a full review, could you point me in the direction as to where Chap 2 may lie?

Symmetry

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« Reply #3 on: September 19, 2004, 07:31:30 pm »
http://www.chronocompendium.com/Term/Selected_Fanfiction

^^

Those two are both finished chapters. I think I posted the first chapter in this forum before, but its been reworked a bit, if I remember correctly.

Locuster

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« Reply #4 on: September 20, 2004, 04:04:56 am »
Wow.  That was excellent.

I needn't go into grammar, spelling, or other paltry matters in my review, as your grasp of the English language as it stands well above par.  Only a few minor nit-picks here and there.  But once I was fully drawn into the story, they all but disappeared from view.

The copious amounts of original characters adds a freshness to the story and the world - I'm glad you didn't overuse Schala or Janus.  The characterization of the twins is superb.  They are vivid, energetic, and real.  They have flaws, albeit major flaws, but flaws nevertheless.  And just the fact that you can sway my emotions, having me favor one, then the other, then back and forth again, proves how dynamic they are and how much energy is conducted through the story.  Parmalay is an excellent villain, and I don't know if I've ever desired anyone to die more than her.  And I want to bring Schala back to life just to slap her around a bit for raising such miserable children.  :evil:

But being the sentimental sucker I am for happy endings, I anticipate being disheartened by the story's ending.  My emotions want Zeal to survive, though I know the inevitable outcome.  I don't want either of the twins to be crowned, but I don't want them to die either.  Damn myself!  *sigh*  And then you throw the twist with the "Chrono & Co" replacement from the future.  While in the game I cared more about the future of the world, the story has me caring more about the fate of Zeal, and it would take a hefty POV shift to change that.

You did a good job with exposition, most of the background information was presented throughout the story or in dialogue.  The only exception was a hefty info-dump in Chapter 2, where you described the fate of Schala and her children, how the kingdom came to accept dual-rule, and the characteristics of the twins.  Not that it didn't work - it did.  It might have been more interesting to garner that information for myself throughout the story rather than have it all presented to me at once.

I really can't think of anything else at the moment.  Descriptions are wonderfully colorful - from the exotic roses to the flamboyant manner of dress to even the oddly shaped doors in Algetty.  There's nothing that I like better than showing me, rather than telling me.  I also like the flashback scene of the orb incident, viewed from both perspectives.  It gives me greater insight into both their minds, and gives Parmalay the opportunity to be as evil as ever.

Keep writing, and I hope to read the next chapter soon!!!!  :D  :D  :D

Symmetry

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« Reply #5 on: September 20, 2004, 11:20:11 am »
Wow. Thanks muchly. ^^

I really do need to go back and take a course in grammar; its been so long since I've had one that I can't remember all the proper English rules. (And when to throw them out the window!)

I very much wanted to stay away from the Schala-Janus/Magus love story that pops up ever so often - not that its bad story to be told, but I feel its a little like the Zeal theme remix. They're wonderful, but everyone's done it and I really don't think I'd be able to add anything above and beyond what's been written already.

I really like to read people's thoughts about X and Y characters and how they see them, because I think everyone views the same people in a slightly different light. Until you mentioned it, I hadn't thought of Parmalay as being a villian. She's certainly (by most accounts) morally bankrupt (although I believe some of her more grevious sins didn't make this particular edit), selfish, arrogant, and could probably be accused of living vicariously through her "daughter". Parmalay is the reason why Berenyi turned out the way she did, and indirectly, the reason why Darius turned out the way he did... so yeah, that kinda does make her a bit of villian, doesn't it?  :o

The crew that shows up in place of Chrono here isn't going to become the focus of the story; they're here to advance the plot and they'll show up from time to time. Rest assured that Zeal is the focus of the fic here.

The "info-dump" took me forever to write. I wanted to present all of that information to the reader, realizing that was a lot to be sacked by at once, but I didn't want to scatter it out and accidently leave out something I really wanted to say. Long-windedness is apparently one of my faults.

I've more or less decided that I'm going to split up what I've posted here into two chapters and insert scenes with Darius, so it might be a week or two until I actually submit the finished III & IV to the Wiki-half of the site - but more than likely I'll post some sketches of those scenes here before I do that.

Locuster

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« Reply #6 on: September 20, 2004, 01:32:38 pm »
Cool.  Looking forward to it.