Chapter 4: It's All In Your Head
Lana awoke to the sunlight as it streamed lazily into her room, illuminating the gold weave curtains which provided only a thin see-through shield. It was another boring day, she thought, lounging in her large silk covers; they were a dark blue with more gold sewn around the edges and yet more golden threads intricately incorporated into the family crest sitting firmly in the blankets middle. The crest of the Zeal family meant many things, but to Lana it was just a burden.
She knew that, if undergoing the effort to get out of the comfy bed and look out the window, she would see the majesty of the Zeal continent laid bare. Past the evergreen and luscious land was a sea of clouds that extended well past the horizon, stretching around the entirety of the world. Not even the endless sea of clouds evoked the sense of grandeur and wonder that the floating land mass did; its’ rare fauna, wondrous crystal clear lake, the palace of dreams, and the gleaming marble structures that shimmered in the sunlight. One day, Lana knew, it would all be hers to rule over. Until then, she was content to lie peacefully in bed.
The small waking prince startled Alfrador, always by his master’s side, and the cat mewed in mock protest to the beginning day. Lana smiled at the small purple cat, patting in lightly on the head, and basked in the warmth of the sun combined with the feeling of the silk covers and the reassuring presence of a friend. Lana knew that eventually she’d have to rise, dress in princely garb, and stroll from her exotically decorated room. Doing the many princely things that she had to do; she’d be passed from tutor to tutor to learn about the world, its’’ history, and the basic subjects of magic and science. In other words: nothing fun.
“Yesterday, the other kids laughed at me”, sighed Lana to Alfrador, the small cat purred as Lana continued to pet it. “They said that I should be with the Earthbounds ‘cause I can’t cast magic”, she continued, “You don’t think I’m an Earthbound do you Alfrador?” Alfrador mewed a no, or at least that’s what she inferred from the small cat, and it made her smile knowing that at least HE didn’t laugh at her. “You’re right Alfrador. I’ll show them all some day, I’ll become the best mage ever!” Lana prononuced and continued to pat the small purple cat.
A soft rapping at the door signaled the daily arrival of her older sister, Schala, come to wake the lazy prince. Lana quickly shut her eyes and pretended to be asleep, that wasn’t enough to stop Schala though. She descended upon Lana in a flurry of tickles, taking Lana completely by surprise. Pillows flew, covers became tangled, and a small purple cat quickly jumped out of the way to wait for his two “crazy” masters to finish whatever crazy things that masters do.
“Get up sleepy head”, commanded Schala after her she ended her tickling assault to smooth out her elegant blue and purple robe. Everything about Schala was beautiful; her long blue-dyed hair, her smiling face, an enviable hour-glass figure, and the kindness that she always radiated. “I don’t wanna”, argued Lana as she pulled the covers back over her, not convinced that the day had any right to start.
“Whatever shall I do with you”, chided Schala as she tapped her head in mock thought. “Maybe I’ll ask the palace Nu to wake you up next time, or I can even get mother to come instead”, Schala laughed as Lana hid under the mass of blankets, forming a fort of silk.
“Come now Janus, up and out of bed”
Janus. The name reverberated around the room, seeming to make the world shimmer at its mere mention. Who’s Janus? Lana thought to herself. The name sounded familiar, but, she couldn’t quite place it. Suddenly things seemed horribly out of place; it wasn’t her being chided by Schala but rather a strange boy named Janus. What was happening? Why did they take Schala away from me? The longer Lana watched Janus and Schala, the further she felt detached from the scene; more a spectator than a participant.
The smiling face of Schala, the sunlight that filtered through the room, the beautiful and soft blankets, and the exotic decor and drawers; the scene shattered in thousands of small shards, vanishing back into the memories from whence they came. Leaving Lana, alone and afraid, left to sit in bleak darkness. The small figure of a frightened and alone little girl in pink pajamas, curled up into her own body for comfort and warmth.
She could remember it all now, how she had reached out to touch Janus’ aura, the memories as they attempted to erase her own, and she even remembered the lingering feeling of the soft silk sheets she’d been lying in. “That wasn’t my memory”, softly said Lana to herself, “It wasn’t mine, it was his. I was never in Zeal, I never had a sister, I never had a cat. I was never in Zeal, I never had a sister, I never had a cat.” Lana kept up her chant, if only to retain the truth she’d just realized, and it slowly faded to simply mouthing the words as time rolled on.
“It’s about time”, sighed a voice from the darkness, “I thought you’d never sort all that out". A small goblin, green skin, dirty overalls, and straw hat, seemed to materialize next to the small frightened girl. Lana screamed and jumped back, sinking back down into her curled form once she saw the goblin wasn’t going to attack her.
“I always told em human blood diluted the species, but did they listen to me. Course not, ain’t got any common sense”, sighed the voice again as it gave Lana a long, hard, and discerning look over. “Well ya work with what ya have to work with I guess”, the goblin commented and brushed its’ hands across on one another in a “lets get down to work” fashion. Lana seemed un-phased by the goblins lets-have-at-em attitude and still mouthed her chant, a life raft in a sea of memories that might or might-not be hers.
“Oh snap outa it”, scolded the small Goblin as it approached Lana, she yelped in panic and backed away while keeping her wild eyes locked on the perceived threat. “You are fine where ya are, once ya break its’ hold it can’t grip ya again”, explained the goblin, “I guess it might help a tad for me to explain myself, though” “I’m Fnorm, kind of a guide ya could call me”, smiled the Goblin in a toothy grin, pulling up on its’ two overall straps in pride. Fnorm waited for Lana’s introduction, but the confused girl only continued to stare. “So ya just gonna leave me in the cold, or ya gonna tell me your name?”
“My name, my name is…my name is Lana”, asserted Lana loud and proud, saying it more for her own ears than Fnorm’s. The declaration seemed to bring more awareness into the previously wild-eyed girl and she scanned the darkness with slightly more intelligent eyes. “Where… are we?”
“Glad ya asked, this big ol void o’ blackness would be your mind. Or something like that, not too sure of the exacts myself. Kind of like your subconscious or something”, Fnorm tried to explain but only made the confused girl even more so.
“Some guide you are”, stated Lana and suspicion crept on her face. She’d never met a goblin before so therefore this couldn’t be her own memory, “Wait a minute, are you another one of his memories?” “Bah, girl if I were a memory would I be talking to ya? True enough that in memories it seems like people are talking to ya, but if ya keep a keen mind you can tell the difference between talk and script.”, laughed Fnorm.
“So how, and why, are you here?” Asked Lana; suddenly realizing that this whole time she stood just as tall as the short goblin. Looking down at her body, she realized that she looked about ten years of age, “And why do I look like a child?”
“Cause you are a child, in the talent”, Fnorm tapped the side of its’ rather large head, “And it’s connected to what I’m doin here right now. You’ve neglected your ability for quite awhile young miss, and that’s exactly what I’m here to discuss with ya.”
“As you can see, our recon bots have been unable to locate the exact spot of occurrence.” Explained Jenkins as the red dot of his laser pointer circled the entire Porre Continent and then vanished. Currently projected on the walls of the conference room was a large aerial view of the Gaurdia and Porre Continents as they appeared in the year 595 A.D. The entire assembled crowd, the Council of the Chronopolis, nodded their heads in sagely understanding. They, though, had not a clue as to why the recon bot would be unable to locate the scene of the time crime. Admitting ignorance was not something the Council as a whole was ready to show someone outside of their circle; to the station they must appear confident and all knowing. In truth, right now they were neither.
“Though it seems that something affects the sensors at about here,” continued Jenkins as the display zoomed in to the large cursed woods area, “and our equipment can’t discern what it means”
“What exactly do you mean by,it affects the sensors?” asked Evans Deffer, the stations Head of Archiving. His robe was tan edged, a reference to when archives compromised hundreds of tan folders stored in filing cabinets. It fit perfectly with his light-brown short hair and strange grey eyes. His stature was lanky and skinny much like a tall scare-crow.
“Well, we aren’t sure”, admitted Jenkins. “We do have a theory though. As you can see the images start to flicker at this point”, he explained as the display switched to a view of the probes as they flew through the Cursed Woods to where Frog’s abode lay. When the small metallic balls reached their destination, their small iris’s scanned the area, and then the flickering began. “This flickering happens until they are approximately out of viewing range of this particular spot.”
“Much like a bad reception would often cause flickering for the ancient televisions, I think that something is feeding visual data to the bots but are own signal is interfering with it”, he explained further as the previous footage was put into slow motion. “We can barely make out something underneath it all”, Jenkins paused the footage and enhanced the image on screen. In between the lines of static and normal forest foliage was a barely visible outline of a roughly humanoid shape hidden within the bushes. It blended into the forest so well that without the image enhancements, and computer outline, they wouldn’t have seen it at all.
“So someone has masked their presence so that we cannot send an informed Observer team back to stop them”, stated Atihai, resting her head in her small hands, “Thus catching any team sent back off guard”.
“Well, that is all we’ve been able to uncover so far. We are still working at the problem and perhaps we can garner more information out of the bots yet”, Jenkins stood at attention next to his projector and awaited further questions or orders.
“You may go now Jenkins, your information will be most helpful to us as we resolve this mystery”, reassuringly ordered Belthasar as the lights to the room brightened to full glow in response to his hand gestures. Jenkins left, with a sigh of relief and wearing much more sweat than he’d entered with.
“Suggestions?” Openly asked Belthasar, spreading his arms and laying his hands openly on the table; as if inviting the suggestions to flow into his waiting and open arms. This was a sign to discuss freely, detached from the bonds of normal meetings and proper etiquette. “Send a team to recon, it appears they can scramble our bots but human eyes should be a bit harder to trick”, suggest Evans, a few heads nodded in agreement.
“Look, we know that this… thing… is a grave time threat. I say we skip recon and send in an Observer team to deal with the threat immediately”, said James Denthelor, head of the Operations department. His bushy grey eyebrows possessed the same color as his military fashioned hair; both complimented by his dark black eyes. James’ robe was edged with a band of constantly changing colors, reflecting the many hats that he had to wear each day to ensure that the Time Operations were carried out. Everyone helped in the day to day fight to keep the past as it was, but James was the focal point where everything met.
“If we send in a recon team we risk lives and we risk damaging the situation further”, he explained, “If we lose them, then the enemy knows we are onto them. Without proper intelligence I can’t recommend sending in a team that is only equipped for light combat”.
“Sending in an un-informed team of Observers will not only lead to deaths, butWILLdamage the situation further”, argued Eva. “Sending anyone back at all seems to fall right into the trap laid out for us.”
“Still, we can’t sit back and do nothing”, stated Atihai. Everyone nodded and conceded that point, but they were still at a loss of what to do. The council seemed to break off it small groups and several discussion continued at once while Belthasar listened to all of them with attentive ears.
“Let us send the restricted gate users”, spoke up John, gaining the attention of everyone in the conference room. “Since we do not know the threat, and sending any team out without intelligence is suicide, let us send more expendable resources; namely the restricted gate users”, explained John. Several councilors gasped, several still tried to grasp his point, and others nodded in reluctant agreement.
“I cannot believe that such a base suggestion was made, even if it was yours John”, replied Eva, disbelief flooding her voice, “These are people, not resources, and I for one do not condone sending people to their deaths”.
“Come now Eva, this fits in perfectly with your idea of reinforcing the ranks with restricted users. Think of this as more test subjects”, smiled John, using Eva’s own argument against her. “This way we don’t lose Observers with full gate access and if the restricted teams complete their mission, then we can reinstate them with full privileges; thus gaining more full access users to assign students to.”
“That is an effective use of personnel”, agreed Atihai, gaining a baneful glare from Eva. Atihai didn’t seem to notice and kept her usual all-business demeanor. This flustered the caring nurse even more.
“Can’t say I care for the idea”, called out Henry, speaking up for the first time. “More mistakes will be made if we send out under-trained personnel. Some of these blokes have been on the restricted list for years at a time and are a bit rusty in the field”.
“I can’t believe we even need to argue about this, how can we debate over sending someone to their death?” Eva questioned loudly, giving her the spotlight again.
“Everyday we send Observers to their possible deaths”, solemnly stated James as the others fell silent, a reality that weigh on all of them but forgotten in the everyday hustle. “It is part of the business we run and part of our duty. Despite all the special training Observers receive and the special conditions they are granted; let us remember that they are still soldiers”. He looked around with mixed emotions in his eyes. “Thus said, it is our responsibility to manage them smartly and competently. I think this idea is neither”, James sighed and wiped the beading sweat off of his forehead, “Sometimes, though, we are forced to act in err of this ideal in order to accomplish the mission. Regardless of my opinion on the idea, it is feasible and sound.” James stopped, frowning at his own comment, and looked to the rest of the council, “I would recommend this only as a last case scenario”.
John smiled to himself, an act not un-noted by the rest of the council, and several more council members donned the painful expression that said, “I don’t like what I am about to do, but I have to do it anyways”. No other suggestions were made, no other alternatives seemed viable at this point, and to Eva it seemed like the council was giving up on itself. While she wasn’t a commander of soldiers or a brilliant tactician, she was certain there was another way to do this.
“James, I wish to talk further with you about this” spoke up Belthasar, “For now we keep our options open, I want each of you to try and find a viable solution to this crisis. Remember the longer we forestall actions the weaker the time ripples become. For now, though, this un-official meeting is adjourned”
“So, your saying that by ‘touching’ his wound
I’ve gained all the memories that gave him the injury in the first place”,
asked Lana, sitting crossed legged as Fnorm paced back and forth in front of
its’ young pupil. Lana was still dressed in her childhood pink pajamas but
found it refreshing that, despite her real life run in with a column of flames,
she had long flowing hair here. “Yes and no”, answered Fnorm, “I thinks ya only
got just a wee bit, seeing as how ya said ya pulled away before it could take
em all, but that’s the pie of things”
“You mean the sum of things?” Asked Lana.
“Sum, pie, whatever; never did like fruit anyways”, said Fnorm off-handed, “But it also seems it broke that barrier ya put around your ability. Ya may not have noticed it but I sure have. Believe you me, I’ve been a callin for a long time”
“A barrier”, Lana repeated to herself, imaging it looked much like the barrier Janus placed around himself. How could she be so critical of others without first considering that she’d blocked out everyone at one point as well. It seemed ages ago and was a part of her life she preferred not to be reminded of.
“Something made ya get all tense and in a fuss about your talent so ya just sealed it up, or at least the part o’ it that scared ya”, Fnorm explained, “Ya might have noticed that ya had to concentrate or will it too happen, doesn’t work like that when its’ working properly I’m afraid. You could say we are more of a slave to it than it is to us.”
“What exactly is it?” Lana inquired as she discovered she could make ripples in the darkness with her fingers; soon, and with a little thought, she could even control the ripples by just thinking about it. Shortly thereafter ripples flitted about the void like fish in the sea, all shapes and sizes. Fnorm gave the small girl a gentle smack upside the head, the ripples vanishing immediately, and returned Lana’s attention back to the goblin.
“Well, I’m not to sure about that myself either”, chuckled Fnorm, “but I can tell ya that it’s not magic, none of that hand waving and fancy lights thing. Its’ more kinda like a feelin ya get, knowin things without wanting or trying to. Ya just kinda know that things are suppose to go a certain way…like ya know fate or something”
“Huh?” Lana was more confused than ever,what was the strange goblin talking about. Know fate?
“Eh, well you’ll see eventually”, spat Fnorm, its’ spit seeming to fall out into forever. “Till then though I can give ya some advice if ya want, answer some questions, things around there”, explained Fnorm as it stopped pacing and sat down on a cushion that seem to materialize itself beneath the goblin.
“I guess the first question I have is; who are you? I mean I know your name but… how do you know all these things?” Lana tried to create a cushion out of thin air as well, and succeed with surprising ease. All she had to do was think about wanting one, and poof, there it was.
“Bah, fool of a half-breed, haven’t you
been listenin to any of what I’ve said”, Fnorm snorted. “We are two peas in a
pod, two imps in a stew, comrades in arms… you get the picture. Only difference
is I didn’t block me talent when it first started and so I learned how to use
it. Not control it mind ya, because like I said forehand you’re the one on the
“As for the rest, I’m just a simple goblin livin in one o’ the many cities of Median. Make bread, and pastries, and the like and sell em. Doesn’t fetch me much money but I like me job”, shrugged the goblin, “That’s about all there is ta’ tell.”
“I guess that answers that”, said Lana thoughtfully, “Okay, I’ve got another question now.” “Shoot”, grinned the goblin, “Makes me feel useful when I can help ya.”
“Well, I heard you saying something earlier about diluting the species but I was a bit… erratic at the moment so I wasn’t quite sure I heard you right. Just now though you called me a half-breed, and I’m wondering what you mean?” Lana scratched her head in thought, “I mean, what exactly would I be a half-breed of?”
“Boy oh boy, Kyma help me, your mum didn’t tell you?” Fnorm asked in disbelief. “Though I imagined that since I’d lost me connection to her she must not be amongst the breathin”, forlornly added the goblin.
“She died seven years ago in a fire, along
with my father”, explained Lana in a solemn voice. “Did my mother have the same
“Aye she did, and I’m sorry to hear of her death. I was hoping for the best, that maybe she’d found a way to stop our talent, but seems I was hopin in vain”, Fnorm frowned but quickly regained her composure, snapping Lana out of her memories with the snap of its’ green fingers.
“Good thing you are already sitting down for this. Miss, your mother wasn’t what most would call human”
Janus glared at Lana’s resting form,
perhaps trying with the full power of his glower to awaken the girl from
whatever ailed her. While his glare was powerful indeed, it wasn’t magic, and
all it accomplished was to scare away any small animals that happen to be
around. Since his glaring did nothing to further her conditions Janus had to
actually think of a solution instead.
It was morning now, the dew still clung to the tents, the chirping of small birds had been present until his glare sent them away, and Lana was still in what Janus was tempted to call a coma. He’d never heard of a coma just spontaneously taking someone, but he suppose it could have been a stroke. When he’d done his a scan of her this morning, using one of the other few health related spells he knew, nothing was physically wrong with the girl.
On to Phase 2, thought Janus to himself. Using deductive reasoning, and common sense, Janus was convinced that the problem must lie within her head, more specifically her brain. Something must have triggered some part of her ability, concluded the warlock, and it is probably something that she didn’t know about. Thus concluded there was but one recourse for the reluctant and aggravated magus, go inside her thoughts and pull her out kicking and screaming.
Janus didn’t like this spell, never had, but over the course of his life it had come in handy during a number of occasions. For one, he didn’t like wading through the filth and weakness that filled most minds, adding it on to the list of the many things the warlock hated. Two, it always made him seem the hero. Not once had he ventured in someone’s head to help them, despite what they may have thought, and he did it purely for selfish reasons. This time would be no different, he tried to reassure himself.
Using his great will to grab hold of the cosmos and shape the spell, Janus chanted the phrases he’d learned from his time as Magus and used the accompanying hand gestures. Reality was ripped open, exposed full for the warlock to manipulate, and his will quickly found the properties that he needed to alter. Reality shifted, Janus closed the hole into the workings of the universe, and the spell was complete. It was a simple task for the powerful warlock. Much easier than dealing with people, he concluded.
Janus opened his eyes, expecting to be surrounded by the thoughts keeping Lana trapped in her own mind, but instead found himself face to face with someone that he’d only hoped of seeing again, a face that managed to haunt his nightmares and dreams alike. It was the face of his sister, Schala, smiling brightly over the floating magical kingdom.