Chrono Trigger: Crimson Tears
Guile studied Magus, and then leaned in close. “Can you be trusted?” he asked.
Magus was a little curious at the question, but then said, “Yes. I’m an outsider here, too. I have no one to tell.”
“Meet me in the forests east of here tomorrow,” Guile said. “There’s a cave near the entrance, just over a creek. Meet me there at noon. I’ll talk more then.” He then got up and left. Magus watched him go, and thought, Strange. He must have something to hide. Magus took a sip from his drink. But if he has that big of a secret, then why tell me? Magus had no choice but to wait until tomorrow.
And so he did. That morning, Magus went into the forest, and soon found the cave Guile had described. It was most definitely remote, Magus gave the man that much. If anyone finds us out here, it’s because someone told them where to go. Magus waited for no more than five minutes when Guile came into the cave.
“Were you followed?” he asked. Magus shook his head. “Good. But I hope you won’t mind if I check myself.” He darted back out of the cave.
The other magician’s check took about two minutes to complete. The sound of rustling leaves and grasses could be heard inside the cave. Once Guile came back in, apparently satisfied as to the secrecy of the meeting, they both sat down on some rocks near the back of the cave.
“So,” Magus began, “what is it that you would trust me to hear, but not in the presence of other people?”
Guile chuckled a little. “It’s only the story of my life, is what it is. You see, if anyone in Termina found out who I really was, not only would they kill me, but they would tan my skin and hang it on the walls.” Now Magus was really interested. Who would they hate so much as to do that? Besides me, that is. Then it hit him.
“You’re a Porre soldier?”
“Was,” Guile said. “I went AWOL shortly before we retreated. I felt that I could make a better life for myself here in El Nido as a magician than back on Zenan as a soldier. Porre had taken everything from my life that I could offer, made me a tank mage, put me on the front lines in a war we never should have started, and then expected me to pack up, head home, and be perfectly happy with it.” He laughed. “So I stayed. Made more money in the past two years than I ever did during my army days.”
“Of course, you can never go back to the mainland,” Magus said. After Guile nodded, Magus continued. “The reason I met with you in the bar was to see if you had any true knowledge of magic. Obviously, you do, since you were a tank mage. But there is so much more that you could learn than just those basic spells. There are spells you would never have dreamed of, and that your superiors would have drooled over to see you use.” Guile looked intrigued.
“You’re talking about Shadow magic, aren’t you? There’s only one person who could have known that much about those spells. The Magus. But he died hundreds of years ago. Didn’t he?”
Now Magus chuckled briefly. “No, no. He stands before you know. And he needs an ally here in the isles, one who could spy for him inside Termina. You see, I’ve been banned from the city, and since the soldiers know who I am and what I look like, I could never get anywhere near Viper Manor. However, you might be able to. And that’s what I was hoping you could do.”
“Hold on, now. Back up a moment. How did you survive all these years? You couldn’t have survived this long.” Magus held up his hand, so that Guile would be quiet.
“Let’s just say, I’ve been around the block once or twice. I’ve been alive much longer than anyone thinks. Now, what would you say as to my request? Will you ally with me, and become my eyes and ears in Termina?”
Guile obviously thought it over for a moment. “I don’t know. How would I get into the Manor? How would I be able to sneak around inside, unnoticed? There’s a million questions I need answered.”
“And they all shall be answered in time, most through the magic I shall teach you. Others, through the use of…” Magus broke off, chuckling. “Well, through guile. Do we have a deal?” Magus extended his hand out to the other magician.
Guile started to laugh, as well. “How could I say no to the great Magus?” They shook, and the deal was made.
And so they trained. Magus taught Guile the dark arts, all the spells from something so mundane as a concealing spell to the great Dark Matter spell itself. Now, Guile was not the best at some of the spells, especially some of the more powerful, but he continued to learn, and eventually became a decent, if not great magician.
And so life continued. Guile did shows all across El Nido, in Arni, Guldove, Marbule. He did quite a few in Termina. That was where a woman named Riddel approached Guile. She asked him to do a show in Viper Manor itself, in honor of General Viper’s birthday. This was the opening that both of the magicians had been looking for.
The show went without a hitch. Guile went to the manor and performed for the Dragoons, amazing virtually all there with the cheap parlor tricks that he’s always done. But when the party was said and done, he was allowed to stay there the night, since it was very late at night. That was when Guile knew he had his opening.
Magus had charged him with finding out just how deep the alliance between Lynx and the Acacia Dragoons went. While most people wouldn’t keep records of such a dark deal, Viper had always been a meticulous type who wanted everything in writing, and there was only one place that Viper would keep that record: his office. And that was deep in the heart of Viper Manor.
Guile searched all through the front halls of the Manor, trying to find a way into the back. There was not a door to be found anywhere. He explored the library, and the keep directly opposite the library, but to no avail. And so, in utter frustration, he rested in the throne room. He sat against one of the pillars and leaned his head back against it. He was looking at the ceiling, when he noticed a balcony in the back wall over the throne. Huh. Why didn’t I notice that before? he thought. He got back up and walked over to the throne. The wall was very solid, and there was no way for anybody to climb the wall. It was perfectly smooth. I guess I’ll have to use something a little less solid, now, won’t I?
He muttered softly to himself for a moment, casting a spell. He then began to rise slowly towards the balcony. Once on that level, he stepped through the door that was there, and found himself in what must be the office complex. I do believe that I’ve found what I was looking for. He went up a small staircase, and stepped into the main hallway. It ended on the left with a wall, and on the right with a balcony overlooking the sea. He checked the first door at the left end, and found absolutely nothing in there. It was just a storage room. The next was locked, so Guile decided to leave it be for the moment, and he checked out the balcony.
The balcony was actually over the sea. There was a cliff directly below, falling straight to the water. He could also see several jetties down below, and could see that the cliff was climbable. Maybe I can use that route later. They ended beside the dragon stables. That would be very useful.
When he saw all that he could from the balcony, he went back to the locked door. The lock was a simple one, and was easy to bypass. A few moments with a knife, and it opened silently. Plus, it was actually still locked, so no one would know he had picked it. The room was cluttered with books and papers, but it still maintained a sense of order somehow. Guile searched through the papers, and found very little of interest. There were a few reports on the state of Zenan, and some on the state of Termina, but other than those, most of the papers were requisitions and troop deployments. He duplicated the interesting ones using a spell Magus had taught him just for this occasion. He looked around one last time as he prepared to leave, when the back bookcase started to slide open. Guile had just enough time to cast an invisibility spell before someone came through that door.
It was none other than Lynx himself. I’m no match for him, Guile thought. He maintained his concentration anyway, on the off chance that Lynx would miss him. As Lynx walked through the room, Guile made his way slowly to the back bookcase and the secret room beyond. He had almost made when he was struck from behind by the blunt end of a scythe.
As Guile lost consciousness, he heard Lynx say, “And you call yourself a magician.”
Magus found Guile in the road near the fortress, lying there bleeding out of what appeared to be claw marks from a very large cat. There were also several wounds that could only have come from a scythe. There’s only one creature in El Nido that can do this. And it is not of the four-legged variety. Magus picked Guile up and carried him back down to the camp.
The next several hours were spent binding the multitude of wounds all over Guile’s body. It was a wonder that he survived to be found. But somehow he did, most likely to serve as a warning to other people not to mess with the Acacia Dragoons, nor with Lynx. But Magus couldn’t think of that right now.
Magus used every trick in his book while binding the wounds. There were several different medicinal ointments he applied, as well as many different types of healing spells. By the end, Guile was sleeping soundly, healing quickly due to the spells, and Magus was ready to sleep even though it was just then midday. And so they did, sleeping the sleep of the dead.
The next few weeks were spent recovering. They now knew that there must be something in there, in that one room where Lynx was. The desire and will to get in that room was much stronger now in them than it ever had been before. Yet the knowledge that Lynx had taken residence in the Manor drove them both away. And so they bided their time. They continued to meet and collect information for a long time, trying to piece together the intentions of the many groups in El Nido. But they could never quite figure out what the Acacia Dragoons and Lynx were doing. Their intentions and plans were a complete and utter mystery.
And so years pass. Magus wandered the islands, even returning to Zenan for a time to spy on Porre and discover their intentions. But time marched on, turning the seasons in their cycle, and changing the dates from 1016 to 1020. The Acacia Dragoons remained a mystery, staying aloof from the day to day life of the rest of the world almost completely. Every once in a while, Magus and Guile would get lucky and hear about something that they were doing, but they would always be too late to find out what exactly transpired. Then, something very strange happened back down in Arni village. Something that drew the attention of Magus very quickly.
Something that only happens when angels lose their way…
Magus walked into Arni Village, and there she was. Kid was standing there, with a boy… No, not a boy. He’s got to be about seventeen. He just stood there in amazement. While he knew that it had been nearly four years since he had seen her, he had this unreal notion that she would still be the same. She was turning his way when he recovered his wits and hid behind a cart.
He couldn’t let her see him. If he did, then who knows what could happen. What did Masa say all those years ago? ‘Her fate is with the Arbiter’s.’ Something like that. Magus knew that the Arbiter would be the one who could walk ‘where angels lose their way,’ and that someone had been found recently who should not exist. This boy claimed that he was Serge, who had been dead for longer than Magus had been in the islands. At first, Magus had dismissed the stories as superstition. Then he had seen him, and seen her as well. Magus had known from then on that this was the one he was looking for.
Ever since Masa and Mune had told him that only one person could find the place ‘where angels lose their way,’ that he had to find and protect that person. Now, he had an extra reason. Yet he had to remain in the shadows, as well. There was only one way that Magus could watch these two and protect them without anyone knowing he was doing so.
I just hope I’ve trained him well enough.
“Are you insane!?!” Guile shouted. “Don’t you remember what happened the last time I was in there?! I do. There are still quite a few scars from that debacle. I will not go back there.”
Guile was pacing around the cave at a feverish pace. Magus held up a hand to try and get him to calm down, and said, “I know that you don’t want to go. However, I need someone to keep an eye on those two. I’ve heard that they are trying to get into Viper Manor, and I know that you know of a back way in. That combined with the fact that you can report back to me easily makes you the best one for the job. Besides, she’d recognize me. I can’t be seen by her.” Guile was about to ask why not, when Magus interrupted: “Period. That is not an option.” Magus decided not to tell him about what Masa and Mune had said. While Guile would believe many things, talking swords was not one of them.
“So how exactly should I try and meet them. They’re already in Termina, and I can’t go back there.” They both turned and looked at each other, and Guile caught a glint in Magus’ eye. “Why do I get the feeling that I can, I will, and I won’t like it one bit?”
Magus replied simply, “Because you’re right, you most definitely will go, and you will not like the method one bit. Come on.”
He must think I’m insane. It’s a flimsy story, but it should work. After I paid off the old seer, anyway. Magus was sitting up on the roof of the shop across from the tavern. Guile was inside, hopefully with his story memorized, awaiting Kid and Serge to come in.
And here’s hoping they come in. He had been waiting up here for a few hours now, ever since he saw them leave the canyon down below town. And they still hadn’t—
Wait, there they are. They had just come through the gates of the city, trying to make their way inside. They were talking about something, but he couldn’t tell what due to the crowd around them.
After about five minutes, they finally went into the tavern, and it was all up to Guile to make contact.
Time seemed to pass slowly as Magus waited for them to come back out. He wasn’t one to agonize over something he has no control over, so this was a rare occasion for him. Why? He asked himself the question seriously. Why is this moment so different from all those before?
Maybe because this is the last chance you have to see your sister again, he told to himself. This is the last thread you have to follow. After this, there are no more chances. So every time the tavern door reopened, Magus immediately looked. For almost fifteen minutes, they were all just some drunk stumbling out into the street, or someone else going in to take their place.
Then the boy walked out, followed by Kid. The doors were almost closed when Guile followed them out. He looked directly at Magus, smiled slightly and nodded, and then followed Kid down the street towards the smithy. He did it. I had almost thought that he wouldn’t be able to convince them. But the son of a Mystic did it.
Magus stood and went over to the ladder on the other side of the roof. It’s about time that I got a drink. And he did just that.
Over the next few days, he heard nothing from Guile. He heard a rumor start about a group of thieves from that Radical Dreamers gang that broke into Viper Manor, but that was the only confirmation that Magus had that the plan had worked. They had dropped off the face of the planet as far as he knew. Then the boy and Guile showed back up with someone else. Kid was nowhere to be seen.
No, Magus thought. Here I am, so close to finding out how to get my sister back, only to have my last lead severed. He caught Guile’s eye as he got off the small fishing boat, letting him know that they had to talk. Now.
“Make it fast, Magus,” Guile said. “I told him that this wouldn’t take more than a minute, so make it quick.”
“Where is she?” Magus asked. “Don’t tell me that she’s dead.”
Guile had been half-turned away, but he spun quickly after he heard that. “No, she’s not dead. She might as well be though.”
Magus took a step closer to Guile, who was standing next to one of the windows, holding back one of the curtains slightly so as to see the road. “What happened? Tell me, or so help me…” Calm down. It won’t help if you hurt him.
Guile let down the curtain and looked at Magus with a keen eye. “She was poisoned. Only some Hydra Humour can cure her, and they’ve been extinct on El Nido for generations. The only place they can be found is near Medina on the continent, and no one can get there right now because of the storms over the channel. She’ll die before anyone can get there and back.”
Magus stepped back, a bit in shock. He knew that he had to somehow save Kid, and not let her know about it. But how? Guile, realizing that the interview had just ended, left to go and rejoin Serge.
Magus sat down in a chair nearby, and thought up ways to get the humour. There’s only one way. I have to get to the continent.
But not through the storms, he thought. I cannot make it through the storms. Any craft I could sail on would be destroyed in them, whether by the pounding waves or the rocky shoals littered throughout the channel.
Then he had it. Then I shall just have to bypass them. I shall have to fly there. And I know just the person to help. He got up and left the city. There was only one man in El Nido who could help him. Unfortunately, he lived in Viper Manor, but that was only a small concern next to Kid’s life.
Magus had to find Balthasar, and retrieve the Wings of Time.
Let’s see how well I remember what Guile did back then. And… jump! He leaped from the rock he had been crouching on to one above him, and slowly gained his balance there.
It’s not so bad, he thought as he caught his breath. At least I’m not trying to scale my way up to Zeal. That would be a… Another leap. He landed almost noiselessly. A challenge, he completed. Looking around, he saw that he was almost at the top. Time to start worrying about the guards. He could see the searchlights playing by overhead, and started to find their rhythm. After a few minutes he could see that he would not have much time to work in once he got to the top. A leap, two, and he was just below the wall of the guard house. He could hear some light footsteps, and the steady breathing of someone in a deep sleep. Too easy, he thought. He waited for the footsteps to go past him away from the door, and then leaped over the wall. A quick slap from the blunt end of his scythe and the walking guard was down. A short rap on the head, and the sleeper would stay asleep for a good while longer.
He waited for the searchlight to go past, and then eased outside and over to the gate separating the side yard from the main entryway. He made it to the arch separating the two just as the spotlight played over it, hiding himself before the guards could notice he was there. You’re getting slow, he chided himself. In the old days, you could’ve walked the distance and they wouldn’t have seen you, even if the spotlight had shined directly on you the entire way. But such thoughts were pointless now. He didn’t have to worry about that now, but instead he had to worry with the guards at the front door.
He could just make out two figures standing at each pillar in front, although the shadows obscured anyone that might be under the stone canopy. Magus paused to catch his breath, and then muttered a spell under his breath.
“Did you hear that?” one of the guards asked.
“Hear what?” another replied.
“Yeah,” a third said, confirming Magus’ suspicions about the area, “I heard it too.”
“I didn’t hear a thing,” the second reaffirmed.
Magus finally risked a look, and saw that they were all looking the opposite direction. The third trooper, an officer from the style helmet he wore, had come out in the moonlight to get a better look. “You two go off and take a look. I’ll guard the door,” the officer said. The two soldiers went off without a second thought. Magus took the opportunity to slide right up next to the entrance, and then up onto the stone platform, deep in the shadow.
The officer whipped around when Magus’ feet hit the ground. “Who’s there?” he called out, just as Magus’ scythe hit him in the chest. The officer didn’t say anything else as he hit the ground, but what sound he made was enough to draw the soldier’s attention.
“Everything alright up there, Cap’n?” one of the called out. Damn, Magus thought. A muttered spell, and he replied in the captain’s voice, “It’s alright. It was just a cat hopping up here. Startled me is all.”
The reply came back sounding dubious, but evidently they believed him. “Ok, sir. We’ll keep looking out here.”
“Fine,” Magus went on in the same style. “I’m goin’ to the john real quick, so if you find something, just drag him inside.” The affirmed, and Magus went in. With a sigh, he disenchanted the spell, and kept going. “The fools,” he muttered to himself. “You’d think that they’d have a better appreciation for magic, what with their alliance with Lynx and all…” But he couldn’t dwell on it much longer, as he had to deal with the inner door next.
The lock combination was going to be impossible to break. He’d known this long before he came in, and had known exactly how to deal with it. He assured that the outer door was sealed, and then turned back towards the inner one.
A single Fire 2 spell later, the hinges on the door were gone, and the door sat teetering on the bottom edge. Magus quickly cast a levitation spell, and maneuvered the door off to one side, making no sound as he did so. That is, until the door hit the side wall with a reverberating thud. I just hope no one heard that, he thought, and proceeded inside.
He knew exactly where to find his objective: the library. As he walked up the lone flight of stairs in front of him, he silently gave thanks to Guile for providing the information that he had used to get in here, and to find what he was looking for. The single clue of the old man in the library had been enough for me to figure out it was him… but maybe he wanted to be found. That thought was new to him, and he stopped on the top step suddenly, thinking of what that could mean.
He might have stayed longer had he not heard soldiers approaching down one of the hallways at the base of the stairs. Snapped from his reverie, he slid through the doors like a thief, quietly shutting them behind him.
As they closed, he silently surveyed the room he found himself in. It was barren save for the pillars lining either side, and a balcony near the ceiling on the far wall. Scaling to the top would be no problem for an experienced magician like him, but he hadn’t come to fight Lynx. He turned to the left instead, intent on heading to the library.
The twin moons shone brightly on Magus as he crossed the open-air walkway that stretched from the main building to the library’s tower. As much as he hated being out in the open like this, there wasn’t any other choice. There was no way to get into that other building without being revealed to everyone. So instead of trying to hide, he walked slowly across, trying to carry himself like a guest or someone important enough to have legitimate business in the library at this time of night. I just hope that I still remember something from being a prince, even if it was so long ago. Both objectively and subjectively, he added. After all, whether you look at it from his point of view or from the world’s point of view, 12000 BC and 1020 AD were a very long way apart, even if his point of view put them at just over 40 years apart. Am I really that old? He shook his head as he made it to the far building, and slipped inside.
For it being so late, the room was still brightly lit, even though there was no one inside that he could see. Hoping that no one else would come in while he was visible, he slipped quickly back to the desk and down through the hatch, the only place where Magus could think of the librarian keeping his “project.”
Ever since Guile told him about the library, and the librarian he had met during the ‘legitimate’ portion of his scouting mission, Magus had known that this could be none other than Balthasar, the Guru of Time from ancient Zeal. He knew that in the forgotten timeline that he had helped destroy with Crono and the others, Balthasar had finally finished work on his Wings of Time, or the Epoch as that boy had named it. He just hoped that he would do the same in this one.
As Magus descended the ladder into the secret room, he knew that he had succeeded. There it lay, the Epoch. It was smaller than the one he remembered, but it could just be a prototype, a miniature model. I just hope that it works. He climbed on down into the chamber, and then back up into the cockpit.
As he started to flick the switches to engage the engine, he saw Balthasar descend into the chamber. Magus half expected him to call the guards, and so started to rush the checklist. But the old man just stood there, mute as a stone, his eyes piercing Magus. But they held no malice, only a farewell. That disturbed him even more than if the Guru had called for soldiers. As Magus threw the last switch, he nodded slowly to Balthasar, as one would to a king or prince. The old man returned the nod, and then the Wings of Time flew once more, back to Guardia.
Magus flew the Epoch back to Gaurdia, and was astonished at how easy it was to find some Hydra Humour. For his never having heard of it before, it seemed to be plentiful. As he left, he flew over the continent, and was surprised to notice that he actually missed the place. Or more precisely, the people. As much as he hadn’t liked being a part of Crono’s party, he found that he missed them all. He wondered how Crono and Marle were doing, now that they could finally live in some semblance of peace. He was mildly curious about what Glenn was doing, now that he was on his own again. He wondered what type of future Robo had gone back to, and if the robot still existed. He looked back up at the controls, and wondered. I could go and find them all, see what they’re doing. The power lies right underneath my hands.
But no, I have to go back. Kid is depending on me. She may not even remember me, and may actually be resigned to the fact that she’ll die.
But I won’t let her die.
She’s the closest thing to family that I’ve still got. And my only tie to finding Schala again.
I will not let her die. Not so long as I have breath.
As he came back into El Nido, he flew over Sky Dragon Isle and down to Guldove, where Guile had said that Kid was being treated. There was no place for him to land, so he flew on to El Nido itself, landed there, and took a boat over to Guldove. He was surprised at the village. Reminds me of the Mystics when I first got there. But these people seem to know exactly what they’re doing, not just wandering around aimlessly like they were. He approached a woman standing in what passed for the town square in the floating village. “Excuse me, where’s the doctor here?” he asked. She looked at him, and was about to answer, when he saw recognition flash across her face. Her mouth shut abruptly and shied away like a kicked dog. I see my reputation precedes me. Sighing slightly, he went off and tried to find it himself.
Luckily, he found it on his first try. He went into a room just off the square, and a man got up and walked toward him. He was dressed like those people in the islands off Medina’s coast who ride the waves coming into the shore. If this man is still the doctor, then maybe I should take care of Kid, even if I don’t know a thing about medicine. But evidently, he knew his craft, at least somewhat. “What can I do for you, dude?” he asked.
Magus flinched at his speech, but then reached into the pouch he carried and pulled out the vial of Hydra Humour, and then handed it to him. “I believe that this can help your patient,” he stated. The doctor grabbed it, and was about to ask a question, but Magus held up his hand. “Don’t ask. I’m not going to say anything, so don’t waste your breath. Just use it to heal her, and I’ll be happy.”
“Dude,” he said, amazed, “thanks. I had almost lost all hope that she could be saved at all. So, dude, you’re like, a miracle. I thought that I had known everything there is about medicine, but there was, like, nothing I could do. If you don’t want to tell me anything, dude, then all right. But thank you. Thank you for doing this.” He bowed slightly, and then hurried into the next room. That must be where she is. He wanted to go in there, but knew that he better not. She could wake up and see me, and I’m not ready to let her do that just yet. He turned and went back out to the boat. Not just yet.
He spent the next few weeks in waiting, wondering if the Humour had worked, and if she and the boy would join back up and resume their quest. Eventually they did, but not long after, Magus became worried yet again. Serge started to go on a rampage, destroying and raiding towns. He was a completely different person from who he had been. And in this time, he got no reports from Guile, and could find nothing on the whereabouts of Lynx, either. This entire situation seems is just so peculiar. I’ve heard the old tales of spells to change bodies, and of course the old tales of doppelgangers, shapeshifters, and the like, but still, even if Lynx were one, why in Zeal would he want to change places with the boy? He thought of that as he reclined in his tent. The only people that are watching are his party members, who wouldn’t be fooled by the act, and me. He doesn’t know about me, so the only other conclusion is that someone else is watching. His eyes turned upward reflexively, looking for the floating continent, or even the Black Omen. Neither was there, of course, but old habits die hard.
There’s only one way to find out what he’s up to, Magus thought. It was time to take his act on the road once again. He packed what few things he owned into his beat-up backpack leftover from his days with Crono (Had it only been a few years? He thought), tore down the tent, and started back up towards Termina. After all, that’s the last place we heard about him being, plus there are other sources I can check, as well.
The sunlight played down on the white stone buildings of Termina as Magus walked into town, the low curves of the buildings contrasting with the piercing watchtowers placed sporadically throughout. Magus kept the hood of his cloak over his head despite the heat, for both the protection of his eyes and the anonymity it provided. After all, he was an outcast from this city, wasn’t he? He laughed at the thought, and plunged into the throng of the market.
On his way through, he couldn’t help but get the feeling that there was something odd about the scene. It took him a few moments, but he finally decided that the place seemed a little too dull, there was a shine missing from the crowd. He looked up to a watchtower, and was surprised to find it empty. What in Zeal? Where are the Dragoons? He looked around, and couldn’t find a single piece of armor in the entire crowd. He would have thought further, but had to press his way to the side to avoid being forced past his destination, the local tavern.
When he finally made it inside, the only way he could tell was that it suddenly became darker, and the scents of seafood, spice beer, and pipe smoke filled the air instead of the market smells outside. He coughed as he got used to the smoke. Here, once again, he worked his way through the crowd, up to the bar, and commandeered a stool there.
“What can I get for you?” the barmaid asked. “We just got a good shipment of Draconian Ale from down in Marbule. Best stuff around.”
Magus waved his dissent, and then asked, “What happened to the Dragoons? Last I was here, they were crawling around everywhere.” He made sure that the hood was still shadowed his face, and that he kept his voice to where only she could hear him.
The barmaid, who had turned to fix a drink for another customer, turned back to Magus quickly, a startled look on her face and nearly spilling the drink in the process. She set down the glass and pitcher, and then leaned down in Magus’ face and whispered angrily, “Don’t speak of that. There’s only a few of us that know they aren’t coming back, and we’ve got to maintain the impression that they are; otherwise, chaos would break out. It’s loose enough as it is, as you can tell from the business I’m doing.”
“But where have they gone?” Magus whispered back. He hadn’t expected to be able to get his information this quickly, and in fact had arranged a meeting with his regular intelligence broker for a little later in the afternoon. But then again, the barmaid had always seemed like one who knew more than she let on.
She glanced around, and at length hoarsely whispered “Fort Dragonia” to him, and turned quickly back to her drinks and the other customers.
Magus blinked, stunned for a few moments. He knew that it was a place few went, and even fewer survived. He had been lucky to get out last time he was there, what with the sheer number of creatures that now roamed that once-palatial fort. Still, nothing in her tone of voice or her demeanor suggested she was lying. Could they really have been stupid enough to go there? He thought briefly back to his encounter with Lord Viper earlier in his adventure, and then realized the answer to that question. If Lynx said they needed to go there, they would. So that left only one question: What did Lynx need with the Fort? There’s only one way to find out. Magus got up, walked out of the bar, and headed east, to Fort Dragonia. The upper room was an odd place, to say the least. But it was rewarding, if only for the rest from the monsters that roamed the upper floors. He could tell just from looking that there had been a struggle here, if not from the blood on the floor, then from the fact that General Viper was crumpled on the floor off to the side, and Guile, who was unconscious, but alive, near the side wall. There was a pedestal in the center of the room, possibly once holding a light of some sort, as Magus could tell that there were drawings on the ceiling panels, but couldn’t make them out in the darkness.
Magus sighed, and walked over to Guile. His injuries were light, and healing fairly fast. He must have put himself in a healing trance, which would explain why he’s unconscious. I’d better not wake him. He was about to turn away, when a thought struck him. He set down his backpack, and pulled out a book of ancient spells he carried with him. A few turns of the page later, he had the way to answer the mysteries that plagued him.
He started to cast a spell on Guile, and after some effort, it succeeded. The memory that Guile had of this last event was played out in the room before him. Magus stepped to the side to watch.
The doors opened, and Serge, Kid, and Guile stepped into the room. There was a crystal on the pedestal, casting a bluish glow onto the ceiling and floor. Lynx and Viper stood inside.
“Finally,” Lynx said. “We’ve been expecting you.”
Viper rounded the pedestal and started towards the group of heroes. “I have nothing personal against you, but anyone who hinders our plan must be eliminated. I am rather sorry about that…” With little warning, Viper pulled out his longsword and ran towards the party. They split to the sides like tenpins before a bowling ball, none of them getting hit. “Care for some warming up first, eh?” Viper taunted. “Then come now, lads, I will take you on!” The fight becomes mostly blurred motion, as Guile’s memory of the fight is hazy, like most adrenaline-rushed events become. But then Viper backs away from the group, all of them panting from the exertion. As Viper nears the pedestal, Lynx approaches him from behind. Viper laughs, unaware of Lynx. “You are a worthy opponent,” he says. “But let us see how you do now. I shall give it my all…” He trailed off, slumping down to the floor. He falls over onto his hands and knees, and the party sees a knife stuck in the General’s back. “L-Lynx,” he wheezes. “You---” a cough, blood splattering on the floor, and then “traitor.”
Lynx smiles, and removes the knife from his back. As he wipes the blood off, he comments “You were extremely useful in helping me make my way around these islands. I appreciate your help, General. However, I no longer have any need for you. This Fort shall serve as a fine grave marker for you and your dragoons. May you rest in peace.” The smile stayed on the entire time.
“D-Damn!” Viper wheezed. “Forgive… me….. Riddell.” he breathed, finally reaching the floor. He was dead before he hit.
Lynx looked down at the corpse, and then back up at the heroes. “Now,” he challenged, “let this be your final resting place as well.” He sheathed the knife, and grabbed his scythe from its holder.
“C’mon, Lynx,” Kid cried out. “You’re goin’ down!” She pulled out her own knife and charged into battle, Serge and Guile following behind.
Again, the picture became blurred as Guile’s memory slipped. Magus could hear Lynx call out sometimes, taunting the heroes. “You’re more trouble than I thought,” Magus heard once. “But do you really think your skills are superior to mine?”
“Sore loser!” Kid called, taunting in her own ineffectual fashion. Eventually, Lynx fades out, and reappears far behind the pedestal. Kid was about to charge back there, but Serge stopped her, shaking his head silently.
“Serge,” Lynx said softly, “have you ever questioned who you really are?” The blue light glinted off of Lynx’s feline eyes. Serge, looking directly into the crystal, didn’t notice, but stepped closer to the pedestal.
“Serge?” Kid said, her voice betraying a measure of fear and curiosity, wondering just what on earth was going on.
Lynx continued as if she hadn’t spoken. “What has been the significance of your existence up until now? On that ominous day ten years ago, the boundary of space and time was torn, and part of me, in fact, died…” Lynx let only a hint of sadness come through his voice at the thought, showing just how cold of a heart he possessed.
Magus heard a feline roar come from somewhere. No one moved at it, except for Serge, who flinches away from the crystal, but then immediately recovers the step as if nothing had happened. Something that Serge alone experienced… ten years ago, maybe? He would’ve been little more than a boy.
“You cannot defeat me, Serge,” Lynx spoke. He edged closer to the crystal himself. “This is because denying me is the same as erasing your very existence.”
Kid, unable to stand silent any more, yelled out “Don’t be taken in by his rubbish, Serge! This guy’s full of it!” She took a step closer to the pedestal, but shied away after a flash of the eyes from Lynx.
“Huh,” Lynx said, features returning to one of disinterest. “We’ll see about that. There are two sides to every coin. Life and death, Love and hate. They are all the same.” He stepped even closer to the crystal.
“What’d you say?” Kid scoffed. “Talk some sense, will ya’!” She didn’t dare approach, though.
The crystal, which until now had been just glowing softly, started to shimmer and shine. Then the structure of it actually moved itself. Spawn of Lavos! Magus cursed softly. What type of cursed thing is that? Serge clutched his head and fell to his knees. Lynx also fell to the floor, though with an expression of joy and rapture, not terror. Another roar, this time from Lynx’s mouth. Kid and Guile pulled their weapons back out, and prepared to fight, but then Serge stood back up. Magus saw that there was something different about him, a new look in his eyes which said that this wasn’t the same person. No one else could see it, though.
“Serge!” Kid called, running up to the boy and putting a hand on his shoulder. “What’s wrong?” Serge didn’t do anything for a moment. “Lynx!” she cried. “What have you done to Serge?”
“I’m alright,” the boy said. “I’m fine, Kid.” Lynx looked over at them, a dazed and confused look on his face. Magus took a look at the eyes again, and saw the same thing that he had seen in Serge’s eyes. That crystal allowed him to change bodies. That’s what happened. But there was more to the memory.
Serge/Lynx continued. “What are you doing, Lynx? Now’s your chance, Kid! Kill him!” Serge/Lynx looked at Kid, and then at Lynx, a bloodthirsty look on his face.
“Yeah,” Kid said, pleasure creeping into her voice. “I know.” She walked around the pedestal and Viper’s body, and came up to Lynx/Serge. “This is the end of you, Lynx! Say yer prayers!” She raised her knife over her head. Lynx/Serge grabs the scythe from the floor, and another battle ensues. Lynx/Serge is hurt badly, but is able to disengage before they kill him. Unfortunately, the only place he could go was against the wall. Guile, Kid, and Serge/Lynx surrounded him.
“You did it, Kid,” Serge/Lynx said, pleasure on his face. He turned to look at Kid, and saw that she wasn’t so thrilled.
“Y-Yeah…” she said, a little stunned.
“Now finish him.” Serge/Lynx tilted his head toward the feline body on the floor against the wall. She didn’t do anything. “What’s wrong? Settle it once and for all.” She still didn’t go, and impatience crept onto the boy’s face. “Here, hand me your dagger. I’ll finish him off.” She handed it over sullenly, and he walked up to Lynx/Serge. He raised the knife, about to stab down, and said over his shoulder, “Watch this, Kid. I’ll avenge Lucca for you! Die, Lynx!” He brought the knife down.
“WAIT!” Kid yelled out, stopping him in mid swing. He turned to look at her, the hatred being replaced by innocence.
“What, Kid?” he asked. “He’s your foe, isn’t he?”
Kid walked up to him, a questioning look on her face. “How do you know Lucca’s name?”
Serge/Lynx had a stunned look on his face now. “What are you talking about, Kid?”
“Not once did I ever mention Lucca’s name to you, Serge.” Serge/Lynx’s manner dropped completely, realizing that he had just made a mistake. The feline glint returned to his eyes, even though he was feline no more. “No,” Kid breathed, backing away. “Don’t tell me you’re…” She trailed off, unwilling to complete the thought.
She didn’t have to. Serge/Lynx took a single step towards her, and then thrust the knife directly into her abdomen. She let out a small cry of pain, and then slumped onto his shoulder. She looked him directly in the face, and then he pushed her off, collapsing to the floor. Lynx/Serge roars in anger and tries to get up, but can’t.
Guile, who had been silent all this time, finally spoke up. “Serge, why?” was all he could say. He is replied by a shadow orb, one of the less powerful Dark Bomb spells. It was still more than enough to send the magician flying back against the wall. And there the memory ended.
Magus could tell that there was more to learn, but he’d have to try a different spell to do so. Walking over to the far wall, where Lynx/Serge had been sitting in the memory, Magus began searching for something, anything at all, that could give him a picture of what happened. Then he found it.
There were some small shards on the floor around the pedestal, possibly shaken off of the crystal when it was picked up. I should be able to use these… He picked them up, and consulted the book again. A few enchantments later, they began to vibrate in unison, allowing him to hear the conversation that had happened before they were broken.
He listened to that last portion of conversation, and finally got past Guile’s injury.
“This is the end of the road for you, Kid,” Serge/Lynx stated, as if it had already happened.
There was someone swallowing, most probably Kid. “Y-You’re Lynx, ain’t ya?” she stuttered.
Serge/Lynx laughed, and then sank into using Lynx’s voice. “I’ll send you to see Lucca.” More laughing, and then a pause. “I’ll finish you off later.” Something hit the floor, most likely Kid. There hadn’t been another stabbing sound, so Magus guessed that she just passed out from the first wound. There were footsteps, and then Serge/Lynx spoke.
“Look at yourself, Serge… I mean, Lynx.” Laughing again. “Excellent! The enmity is growing.” More footsteps, this time coming. “The only pure thing in this world is enmity. Well then, the time has come for the curtain to fall. Your services are no longer needed. Even your very existence is worthless. Farewell, Serge.” A dull thud, a hand being placed on the crystal. “Finally,” he whispers, “I have the key. The key to the gate of Fate! The time has finally come for the Frozen Flame to awaken!” There was the sound of laughing, and then a small breaking sound. The audio ended as quickly as it started, but Magus finally had his answers.
He’s going to try and find Fate. I’d heard that the locals believed that she dwelt in the islands, but if Lynx believes it, then it must hold more truth than I thought. He stood up from where he had held the crystal shards, and, casting a single glance at Guile, walked out of the Fort.
Magus searched far and wide, and the only answer that he found was to look in the Dead Sea, but no one could give him an answer as to how to get in there. A cursory search by boat around the outside of the mountain range revealed that there was no way in or out, and also revealed the bones and shipwrecks of those who tried to get in. However, Magus had one advantage that those luckless travelers didn’t have.
He went back to the mainland and retrieved the Wings of Time, Epoch, from where he had left it near the Hydra Marshes. A few switches later, he had flown down into the Dead Sea, through the cloud cover, and saw the place inside. Seems calm enough, he thought. There was a problem, though, as there seemed to be a type of energy field surrounding the central building, while the other islands were all little more than terraces. Shouldn’t be too difficult to manage. He landed the Epoch on the southernmost island, and surveyed the barrier.
Nice work, although it doesn’t seem magical, he thought. Or at the very least, not only magical. Unfortunately, that made it all the more difficult to work with, not easier. Although… He walked back to the Epoch, and did a quick survey of the craft. Amazingly enough, it had laser weapons like Dalton had installed. Someone must have been working from Balthasar’s original plans during that debacle, instead of making it up on the fly. But in any event, Magus took the Epoch back up, and with a few surgical strikes with the weapons, made a temporary opening that he flew Epoch through, to where it landed just outside the central building.
Inside, it was the picture of the future. Magus imagined that this must be what 2300 AD was like after Lavos was defeated. But what’s it doing here? He walked up to the central pillar in the lobby, which appeared to be an information kiosk, and scrolled the menu. The title of it said “Welcome to Chronopolis Military Research Institute,” a name that gave Magus some idea of what a building from the future was doing in the present.
He scrolled the list, eventually finding a placard that read “Institute History.” While he knew he didn’t have much time, the curiosity made him select it. It opened on the screen, and immediately, Magus was stunned.
Here at the Chronopolis Military Research Institute, we have tried to harness and control the very flow of time itself. Through research projects begun by both Dr. Lucca Ashtear and our founder Balthasar, we have been able to bend and manipulate timestreams both in our reality and neighboring ones. Through the use of our central computer, codenamed FATE, and our Arbiter, we have successfully created and manipulated an artificial community of people in the El Nido Archipelago.Magus didn’t need to read any farther. He already knew much that he needed to know, although how Serge became the Arbiter and the simple fact of its current existence were both still mysteries. So he instead scrolled to more recent history, and found a log containing records of a blackout and system reset which occurred ten years ago. At that point, the Arbiter was reset to a boy who had mistakenly been just outside of the FATE control room when the power came back on. Unfortunately, there was no way to change it, and so the system had to find the boy in order to restore itself. It therefore converted another person who was there, Serge’s own father, into an embodiment of FATE, who would follow its will even when disconnected from the computer, creating Lynx.
That explains much of what happened in Fort Dragonia, Magus thought. “Denying me is the same as erasing your very existence,” Lynx had said. And it would have, as Lynx was Serge’s father, once.
Magus continued reading, looking for some clue as to what was so important that Lynx had to get in there, and found it in a listing of FATE’s abilities, and the technical specifications. It had the ability to totally control multiple timestreams over many dimensions, as well as the ability to erase individual people. However, under its technical specs, Magus recognized much of it. It was built around the Mother Brain circuitry, and was given a special moral lock called the Prometheus lock, in order to keep it under control. However, the Arbiter has the ability to undo the lock when he wants, which explained Lynx’s new body.
So we now have motive and the means, Magus inferred. But he knew that there was something else missing from his knowledge. Where did Schala and Kid tie in? There was still another piece of this puzzle that he had to find, but this wasn’t the place to find it. With a sigh, he returned the menu to its opening screen and walked back out to the Epoch. A quick firing of the lasers later, he was on his way back out and on with his search. Not more than a week later, he was shaken awake when Sky Dragon Isle became a huge floating fortress. By Lavos himself, he cursed. And as incongruous as the sight seemed, it was outdone a day or so later, when a tiny fishing boat flew up to it. What strange times, he thought, to have such wonders in it. But that was not his last shock.
Guile, now fully recuperated and back in Serge’s party, reported that Serge and Kid were on that fishing boat.
“What?” he bellowed, throwing his chair aside as he strode towards the magician. Guile stood uneasily, and tried to placate Magus.
“Take it easy, man. Easy; I’m just the messenger.” Magus stopped less than a foot from Guile. Still half-holding his breath, Guile said, “It’s worse than you think, though.” He went on to explain all that had happened, how Serge and the others had defeated Lynx/FATE in Chronopolis, freeing the people of El Nido forever, but also releasing the Dragon Gods. How those dragons had united, and summoned their fortress of Dinopolis from beneath the waves, to take their revenge for their defeat at FATE’s hands millennia ago. And how Serge’s only hope of stopping the madness was to defeat the unified Dragon God.
Magus considered casting a spell to do some unspeakable thing to Guile. Just a few years ago (subjectively, of course), he would have done so without a second thought. Glenn, or Frog as that inventor girl had called him, was a testament to that. But age had calmed his temper somewhat, and Guile was spared… for now.
“What pulled both Chronopolis and Dinopolis back in time, anyway?” Magus asked. “Surely it couldn’t have been a coincidence that both cities came back to the same point in time and space. That just doesn’t happen on its own.”
Guile nodded, finally breathing easy with the realization that Magus wouldn’t do him any harm. “It seems that they were pulled back by that Lavos creature and the Earth itself, respectively. Lavos pulled Chronopolis back as a backup plan, so it’s said, and Earth brought back Dinopolis as a countermeasure to Lavos. The countermeasure, obviously, didn’t work, but neither did the backup plan. After all, you helped take care of Lavos yourself, right?”
Magus nodded, trying to fit this all in with what he already knew. But no matter how many ways he manipulated the data, it didn’t fit. He knew that there were only one or two pieces missing, but they were the key ones. It was as if he was trying to work a jigsaw puzzle with the key pieces missing. All the ones that he had were all patterned almost identically, and the pieces that revealed the picture were missing.
He sighed, and then finally looked back up at Guile. “Very well. Go back to the party, and if you find out anything new, anything at all, tell me as soon as you get it.” Guile nodded, and then got up and left the small tent.
Once Magus was sure that Guile was gone, Magus went outside the tent, as well. He looked out over the forest from his perch on a nearby cliff. The Divine Dragon Falls were nearby, and a captivating view. He still remembered his fight there with Lynx, pegging him as a magician he didn’t think that anyone could beat. But he’s dead now, Magus thought, not mournful in the least.
Magus knew that the Lavos connection to Chronopolis couldn’t be coincidental, and that it most likely ran deeper into this adventure than anyone knew. Magus, now that he knew that the connection was there, could sense it in everything that had happened thus far. From the boy himself, striding between worlds, to Chronopolis and FATE, it had Lavos’ fingerprints all over it, to stretch the expression.
But it’s out of my hands now, Magus realized. Kid and the boy were on their own, to face an evil that Magus thought had been defeated. But then again, it may not be Lavos. It could be something else. It could be that by defeating the Dragon God, this quest would be over, and Magus would be no closer to finding Schala than he had been those long years ago.
But as long as there is life, there is hope. Magus knew this personally, though his earlier hopes had not been so, shall we say, innocent, as the ones he harbored now. He must continue his search, and start making plans for the future. The future…
Then a thought struck. Shouldn’t a man known as the Guru of Time know more about that time to come than anyone else? In any event, it never hurts to try… Magus quickly made for the Epoch, and on to Viper Manor. Balthasar, he hoped, might still have a part to play in this entangling tale that had spun itself on El Nido.
“Is there no hope at all?” Magus asked, almost pleaded, the old man. “Can she never be returned to me?”
Balthasar turned his back and sighed. “Some hope does remain, but even it is faint. This boy, Serge, has the power to restore her to her own body and mind, but he does not realize it. I still have many things to explain to him before this tale is done, and one of those is the exact nature of his enemy.”
Magus was slightly puzzled, but followed enough to venture a question. “Who is his enemy? Not Schala,” he said, hoping. The Guru shook his head. “No, but then again, yes. Schala, after falling into the timeless void, was absorbed by a lost Lavos spawn. In the process, Lavos fed off of her energy, becoming a being even more powerful than the original. This creature has the ability to destroy not just a planet, but the entire universe, and even time itself, lending itself to the name Time Devourer.” Magus stared at the old man, unbelieving, refusing to believe. But he continued. “While she and it may now be one creature, there is still hope for separation. The boy can execute an attack which will break their bonds, destroying the Time Devourer and freeing your sister in a single blow; but it requires feats of timing and precision that will be difficult to execute, even if he had been doing this for a thousand years.”
Magus recovered from his dumbfounded state, and started to speak. Balthasar cut him off, saying, “Do not attempt to interfere. Anything that you do at this point could totally destroy all that has been accomplished thus far. You have been a welcome and powerful ally, but the time has passed for you to make a contribution, as my time is almost complete, as well. But fear not, as I will bring you word of anything that happens regarding your sister, or the girl named Kid, as well.” Magus sighed, realizing this was the best that he was going to get.
“Thank you, Guru.” He bowed to the respected elder, knowing that he knew things that no human had ever known, and possibly would never know again. “I will also now return to you your Wings, a device that has served with distinction in the past, and will no doubt serve you well in the future, wherever in time that may be.” Balthasar laughed, appreciating the subtle humor. “I only ask that you would deliver me to my camp once again, and then I will await word from you on what the boy accomplishes.”
“Thank you, Janus. I give you my word that I will do everything to save the Princess Schala, and will let you know what happens in any event. Now, let us away, for my closing act in this play is shortly at hand.” He waved Magus back to the Epoch, and the two disappeared into the timestream.
“And after that,” Magus said, concluding his story, “it was only a couple of days before Balthasar came riding in on his Wings of Time, bearing you back to my camp.”
“And you’re just now telling me this story, why?” Schala asked him. “It’s been what, three years now since then. Surely it’s not because you haven’t found the time to, as we’ve had an abundance of that.”
Magus laughed, thinking of all the time jaunts they’d taken to a myriad of places, not the least visited among them 20,000 BC, both before and after the Fall of Zeal. “What can I say? I don’t often tell stories.” She laughed this time, eyeing him with that look that always cracked him up.
“So tell me, what did you think had happened to me after that day in the Ocean Palace?” Schala asked him, suddenly serious. “I realize that I sacrificed myself to save you and the others, but somehow I think that you didn’t believe that that was the end of me.” She turned her head slightly, giving him a look of pure curiosity.
Magus sighed, and then said, “I don’t know what I thought. I knew that there was no way that you could survive that blast, but also I knew that there was no way that you would die like that. It just wasn’t the way that you would meet your end, and so I knew that I would search for you, and that’s what I did.”
“You just didn’t expect to find me this way, did you?” There was that smile again. “Especially not in the form of a precocious young girl with that strange accent, right?” Now even she laughed.
“You are absolutely correct there,” Magus said. “But let’s leave the past to itself. It’s late now, and I’m tired. After all, I’m at least 20 years older than you now.” He laughed, and then bid his sister good night, and retired to his room. Schala stood, and walked over to her writing table. She picked up the picture at the back, which held a photograph of her and Magus done in black and white. She looked at it for a moment, and then set it back down. Sitting down herself, she took out the book she was working on, and turned to the written page, where she had finished Serge’s story. She read the words there:
Thus the curtain closes on another tale. And eternity has passed, fleeting dreams fade into the distance... All that is left now is my memories, but I'm sure we'll meet again, someday you and I. Another place, another time although you may not know who I am. Let us open the door to the great unknown across another reality and live another today even when the story has been told. We'll meet each other again.She looked at it, and then turned to the opposite page, and wrote a single heading, the beginning of the chapter of this story that no one yet knew: