Fanfiction:V Translanka Magness 12
TEMPORAL VORTEX REPORT
-REPORT NO. 12-
[UNKNOWN TRANSFER RATE, SYSTEMATIC DATA MALFUNCTION]
CRYPTIC TEXT SYNCH RESULT - MULTIDIMENSIONAL TIMELINES
CODE - MAGNESS
Elle awoke. She was forever haunted by the red; dead asleep, in her dreams, in her rage, and most of all when she was fully awake and in complete control.
It wasn't exactly sleeping. She hadn't been rendered unconscious per say, she remembered the fire and being tossed out into Marcy's arms, she even remembered the heavy smell of blood coming from one of Marcy's hands, and the singed smell radiating from her self. She remembered being jostled in Gil and Marcy's arms as they ran into the woods and into darkness and night. But she didn't remember this place in the wood or when the silent, odorless, blue-green flame of the small camp fire appeared. Her mind held fractured images of one of them setting the self-inflicted wound on her arm and then folding her sleeve back over it, as if to hide it again (but which of them was it?). She didn't know when Marcy was fixed up either, with what looked like a blue cloth (the same likely covered Elle's own wound, regardless of who had set it) that only the smallest dot of red was seeping through. She didn't like the look Marcy was giving her and she didn't like what it changed into when she finally panicked and decided to speak up.
"Where's Gil?" That look sharpened and Elle could swear that her pupils turned to pinpricks, but then again, Marcy did stare directly into the flame when she spoke.
"Here." His voice said. Gil approached from the shadow of a small tree behind Marcy. Was he watching us? Elle thought.
"That was some display." Marcy said, never looking away, those pupils never re-expanded. In fact, they almost looked as though they contracted even further until it was hard to see the black at all. Then it was as if she sensed it herself, and she closed her eyes. Marcy wanted to shake the feelings out of her head. She was in control and these feelings didn't make sense to her, "Ipso facto."
Gil turned to her with eyebrow raised in question, but just as quickly lowered it and didn't bother to ask. He felt that the answer had to do with her dream in the forest and he knew it was true.
"Magic-Oh..." Elle responded, looking up into the face of the man she had first known as maou, and now knew as Gil.
They were in the thick of the forest, someplace deep within the dense confines of the eastern Guardia Forest. The sky was a dark smear of overcast gray, but the moon could be seen as a dim sort of glow that was trying-and failing-to break through the cloud that spanned over the entire sweep of the sky. There was no snow in their place around the flame and what snow there was, was scarce and mostly upon the branches of the trees around their encampment. Marcy sat with her knees curled up to her chin, her arms folded over them, and her eyes still closed. Elle had her head propped up against Gil's pack, beside which lay his weapons and her sword. She moved the bag aside and began to sit up when a dizzy spell struck her. So instead, she decided to lie on her stomach, hands folded at her chin as she looked back and forth between Marcy, who wouldn't return her gaze, and Gil, who seemed lost in the fire or some old memory. He was lost in both and neither at the same time.
"Magico..." He finally said, "...its one whole word."
The girls looked at him as if studying his words, his face, his eyes...
They had the same exact thing on their minds. For neither of them was it the first time. Elle had pondered it over her painting. Marcy had wondered it many times and had even spoken aloud her wonderings more than once since meeting Gil. They said it at the same time, neither one really hearing the other, "Who are you?"
He stood up at the words, completely unsurprised at their question. He had felt it coming-again in Marcy's case-for a while. Perhaps it's simply something someone says when they meet someone new. He no more thought this than he believed it.
Again they spoke at the same time, but using different words with the same meaning behind them.
"Gil...?" Marcy said this, his new name.
"Maou...?" Elle said this, an old name, more of a title really, used to frighten the enemies of the Mystics. Were they his enemies as well? He could no longer knew, perhaps could no longer distinguish.
"Please, Elle, spare me that ghost. Just for now at least." He said. Something in his eye told Elle that he was beyond serious, there was truth in that dark eye, encased in the shadows of the night. She lowered her head in a brief show of unpracticed apology.
"But the less we know the more danger we're in." Marcy spoke up. He looked at her; his eyes seemed to pulse at her words. He was concerned for them in a way he hadn't felt for anyone for a very, very long time.
"Are you so sure?" He asked. Perhaps the less you know the better off you are. He thought but did not say. Something forced that thought down into his chest like buried treasure and packed the dirt above it and stamped and stamped, "No...I suppose you're right..."
Marcy crossed her legs, mimicking Gil's former position. Gil himself moved farther off, toward the small tree and the comfort of the shadow. He put his hand in this shadow, wondering if he would be swept off again, like that shadow could be some kind of black worm hole. He remained.
"I cannot talk of maou right now." Elle seemed disappointed, but understanding at this, "For one, it is not a time I enjoy discussing, or remembering much for that matter. It was a long time ago and I was a different person then. That part is complicated in ways other parts are not, and there is no time for such complications. Not here, not now. For another, if you truly wish to know maou, you must know who maou was before. What created maou and, ultimately, what destroyed maou..."
There was once a mighty kingdom called Zeal; formed when mankind became unified after the fall of the mysterious Other Race. It was ruled by a mighty King and his beautiful Queen. When they were married, they were very much in love. It was most obvious to everyone. When the King and Queen of such a kingdom are happy, the kingdom prospers greatly. Zeal benefited from their love extremely. The people looked upon them as divine guardian angels sent to rid them of their poverties and troubles. In short time, they did, and the world of Zeal was utopia and bliss. Many discoveries were made in the sciences as well as the religions and, most importantly, in dreams.
Of course, this great era of bliss followed with great disaster. Oncoming generations of people would wonder and brood about the obviousness of that course. The disaster-the first of what would be many-came quickly, without warning, but it would seem to them as though it played its part as a great balancer. The scales began to tip and sway.
The King was killed.
A mining accident, it claimed seven lives in addition to the King. This was long after the raising of the Zeal continent to the skies, longer still after the Magical & spiritual progression gained from the crimson shard of then unknown origin, after the rediscovery of the ancient Dreamstone for which the mining expedition was planned, after the birth of first their beautiful and talented girl-whom the Queen began to resent more and more with each passing day-and second, their little boy-whom may or may not have been a result of the Queen's resentment-and right before the discovery of that dreadful demon who's name
Gil wished not to speak for fear of summoning it unto the world again.
The Queen grieved with her children for eight days-one day for every life lost, as was customary-before she banished the workers to be bound to the earth below forever. She did this even against the consultation of the three Gurus. She did this with a head not clouded, not grieving, but mad.
"What part did you play in all of that?" Marcy suddenly spoke up, just as suddenly regretting her interruption. Gil didn't seem to notice. His answer was just a continuation; he did not resent her question or her intrusion into his memory. He did not look back to either of them. Hand still held steadfast in that small tree's shadow, yet, still he remained.
"I was the Prince." He continued as if never interrupted at all, "My blood was never questioned outright, not on their lips, no, not if they wished to avoid the Queen's post-grieving anger; that's what the vast majority of them forced themselves to believe it was. No, although their minds screamed it. Their lips dared barely whisper things in dark corners with their backs turned."
Gil's shoulders rose and then lowered at this point, in what looked like, but what was not, a sigh.
"I suppose I do not, never did, blame them. The Queen was insane, only partially driven by the power of the demon and of the passing of my father. But I, the Prince, held no power they could see. Any power seemed so late in coming, so latent, so hidden; so unlike my sister the Princess, who would have made so much greater a Queen."
He turned to them at this, eyes held onto the firelight; eyes swimming in tears they did not know he was holding back. To Elle and Marcy those eyes simply glowed in the blue-green shine of the Magical flame.
It was that fact about the Princess, as unspoken as the people's doubts of the Prince, that truly began the Queen's drop into insanity. The Gurus who tested her hid the fact that the Princess was potentially much more powerful than even the Queen. The Queen did not need them to tell her though, she knew it, and when she procured their results for herself, that thought became concrete, and that bit of insanity grew like a wall. That wall felt like protection, but it was not, it was isolation and it held her in. Everything was held in; all the pain, the anguish, the torture, the jealousy and the hate.
But she was the Queen. She did not go about things by maiming, killing and destroying. In that way, she would have looked cruel. To any queen-hell any woman, all rulers, nearly anyone-image is everything. Such feelings must be hidden, such things needed walls, and such little girls needed chains tied tightly around them. Those chains would serve as part leash and part noose.
The demon, and the power they drew from the demon, using the Dreamstone, held the kingdom of Zeal back in its state of perpetual tranquility. The King's death was not forgotten, but it was as if a thin haze wrapped itself around such thoughts, putting them away like fading dreams. This strange and ultimately unnoticed phenomenon-unnoticed by all but the Gurus and the Queen's children-occurred not just for the King's death, but for death itself.
The Dreamstone brought with it the bearers of Zeal's greatest science; Philosophy, the religion of knowledge and the lack of knowledge and the yearning of knowledge, ultimate reality and eternal possibility. Strange little creatures with large oval eyes and bulbous heads propped on little jumpy bodies. They were Masa, the curious youth, Mune, his older brother, and Doreen, the eldest and most theoretical of the three. They were a bizarre set, but they proved to be important in the vast scheme of things; magical beings that seemed to come into being with the very forging of the Dreamstone.
Yet they were there all along, hiding on the winds.
Her brother Grobyc was standing steadfast, awaiting further orders. She was staring into the smoldering house before them. She took a handkerchief out of one of the many pockets her new attire included and wiped some of the soot from her face, missing just a smudge of the black stuff from under each eye, making her look like she was going out for
some kind of football team. This was not a mistake though, it lessened the glare of the snow and even though it was dark, she knew her time here would last longer than just this night.
"You did vell." She said to him. He nodded at this, but his brow showed his inner turmoil at his failings, "Dere vas not'ing more ve could do. Ve must jus' do bedder nex' dime, understood?"
Again she was reminded of her brother, just two years younger than she and somehow so much more innocent and inexperienced. This was mostly due to their upbringing. Their father had died young, leaving his wife with a little girl and another still baking in the oven. Luccia had some experience with their father. He was a strict man, who believed not only in physical punishment, but in his own prime golden rule; thou shall be greater than the gods or thou shall be so much more dust in the wind. He pushed himself, and his daughter when he was around, to do not just his best, but the best of all. It was something Luccia had no trouble accepting, even when he was gone, if not especially. This of course, left her often unsatisfied with every accomplishment and every achievement. She would wonder endlessly about her decisions and what actions her father would have taken in similar situations. In the deepest basement of her mind, the part she kept hidden and wouldn't accept as being there at all, she wondered if he would be proud of her, if anything she was doing was enough.
Her brother, Grobyc, had no such experience with their father; he grew in a world where such a man was just so much dust in the wind. Luccia told him about their father of course, their mother chose to forget him, but Grobyc felt little for the dead man, and more for his sister. He was proud of his sister and all of the things she had done. He couldn't imagine someone who would feel otherwise for any good reason. He was her sanity and her grounding. His feelings for his sister stemmed mostly from their mother who would often tell him to look after her and make sure she didn't get herself into trouble. Their mother said this even though Luccia was the elder of the two because she saw that reflection in Luccia. Luccia reminded her of her stubborn late husband.
By the time their mother passed away, Luccia was just out of school, riding a wave of scientific glamour and fame, and Grobyc had just enlisted in the Guardian Army. He would tell her about his misgivings regarding Guardia's involvement with the Mystics and the diplomatic relations with Porre over dinner at their parents' house, which they then shared. She would tell him about her advances in various fields: robotics, mechanics, advanced weaponry, human biology, mystic biology, monster biology, and chemistry among a few other branching sciences. Luccia agreed that Guardia was doing a poor job and Grobyc would joke that the two of them could run things more smoothly.
One of Luccia's main concerns was Lucca and Taban Ashtear, the very heads of the science department of Guardia. They basically founded every known branch of scientific study and that was a great agitation to Luccia. She was often insulted when someone would ask whether she was a namesake to the well proclaimed Ashtear daughter. It was as if no one had heard of the word 'coincidence'. Although, being one of a very small group of scientific minds, Luccia eventually found herself working under the great Lucca. Although Lucca liked it better when people referred to them as partners, Luccia's loathing still grew. There was no truth to it, but she felt as though Lucca was patronizing her and eventually she left their shared corridor of Guardia Castle in a heated argument that on the surface was about the rights of the deceased and the morality of playing God.
After their professional separation-which ended rather unprofessionally-Lucca Ashtear's work seemed to degrade where Luccia Allgood's only blossomed. Grobyc Allgood rose in the ranks of a governmental system he held with little regard. Soon after Grobyc would be involved in a tragic accident that was largely overlooked by Guardian officials and that would stand as the last straw in Luccia Allgood's vehemence. She pleaded with the heads of Guardia to send troops into Porre and finally put them in their place, but the Guardians simply said there wasn't enough proof, that Porre righteously denied the rumors that their own Sniper Squad had taken him out and that her claims about the government were more than a little slanderous. In the end, they let her off with a warning, but she yet again stormed out, this time feeling more than a little patronized.
She took more than the law into her own hands; she fixed her brother, whom all doctors said was unfixable. The two of them-Luccia Allgood, doctorate removed and her now mostly android brother, Grobyc-started with Porre's famous Sniper Squad. The ensuing battle against their top marksman, the devilishly good-looking pretty-boy Norris Baker, ended mostly in their favor. Norris was dead, killed with a bullet from Grobyc's own gun, but not before he got off his own shots at Luccia, taking spraying chunks from both of her shoulders. She had screamed in galvanizing frustration.
Grobyc had easily stopped the bleeding, she had updated his memory software and included as much medical practice as she could cram in, even though he had a lot of front line medical understanding, it was mostly for sloppy field patch-ups. Now he worked and stitched with the fluidity of a doctor with years of experience, only without the twitchy arthritis-laden fingers that normally brought about. It took much longer for her to guide Grobyc through the creation of her new mechanical android arms because the nerves leading into her arms were beyond repair. But it was okay because she had the time and the patience.
Even though Porre accused Guardia of going against their shared Anti-Conflict Act, and Guardia denied it, saying it was outside influence, the war was starting. Guardia surely would have strung the good doctor up, but unfortunately she'd gone under their radar. After leaving the Guardian Research Institute, she had taken her work into the dank dungeons found in a long forgotten Cathedral in an even longer forgotten forest, guarded by her great collaborated creation, NeoFio.
Later, she decided (and Grobyc followed her) that their efforts to join Guardia and Porre in warfare were not moving swiftly enough and that she and Grobyc would have to speed things up. During that battle, the Elder of Porre was killed in front of his relatives as Luccia bellowed for the victory of Guardia. The red-stained grounds of the Elder's home would be renamed the Porrean Elder's Ruin and the only thing ever built there again was a grave that was later replaced by a monument, that of course eventually eroded and faded to sand and dust, and not much more could be said for the bones buried beneath.
"Dose people, dose ARTS or vhutever dey called demselves, gave a good enough clue as do vere dey could be 'eaded."
His strange story was cutting into them and memories were pouring out like reopened wounds that really had been only temporarily scabbed over due to their current radical situations. Elle began to think of her own mother, how she used to tell her those bedtime stories she liked, the ones with the ogres and the wizards. She even remembered how her father would show her his little toy-like inventions; whirly-gigs and screwy little tops he'd make for her from leftover pieces of scrap metal and wood. That was before he started the heavy drinking, before her mother died. She couldn't think coherently afterwards. Her mother was gone, no blame could be laid there, but her father Taban, that was another story completely. Just as Elle began to turn away from him, he too began to turn away from his work; the work Elle blamed for her mother, Lara's death. He sank into drink and they both sank into solemn and self-secluded depression.
Marcy, who never knew her father, and remembered so little of her mother, thought instead of her brother, ten years her elder. He sang to her whenever she cried out from being hurt and whenever she had trouble sleeping. His songs were especially soothing when she awoke from the bad dreams; the ones about the ogres and the wizards. He was always there, hushing her in his gentle voice, and reminded her that she was his sister the little princess. But then he was gone. Like all thoughts of her brother, they inevitably wound up back on that same fact. She was miles away from him, miles away from any possible location he could be, it seemed. She was torn from him again. All Marcy had was this deep feeling that this man, now spilling his guts out to two girls he barely knew (little did she know, Gil supposed he knew them fairly well indeed, and wasn't far off), had the answers. The feeling that told her to go with him and all would figure itself out, all was as it should be because he knew what he was doing and he was finding his sister somehow and somehow she'd find her brother along the way. The hands of fate, the will of God, the wheel of ka, the turning cogs of time, whatever you called it, it was there, less a corporal presence and more a single conscious sensation.
Something about what Gil had just said struck her suddenly. It had to do with the wind. Everything rode on that wind. Everything seemed to serve the wind. That wind that the large black bird-she was sure it represented Gil-seemed to drift along on effortlessly. But all was dead and death, even reflecting in that dream bird's eyes. But all was life and living at the same time, taunting her like an unknown choice of unmarked doors that lead to Hell or Purgatory or Heaven. Were the doors marked this time? Was there any of that gold engraving? Or was she just being pulled and pushed along by the wind?
"The Black Wind...?" Marcy asked, this time not regretting, this time she felt as though she were right. He was not shocked out of his memory, but he turned toward Elle, picked up his pack and sat down cross-legged between them again. He opened it just enough to fit his hand inside and he touched one of the objects there; the one that most easily made him remember this portion of his past, his sister, and the Black Wind.
"Yes, the Black Wind." He said with his gaze once more lost in flame, "I suppose I spoke of it in my daze on the way to the other Lucca's."
Elle looked down at this, again considering that she wasn't the only one of her that could exist.
Marcy nodded and said, "I think I had a dream about it."
"Yes, I suppose you did. Those touched by it are indeed haunted by it; awake, asleep, dreaming, dead...In a way, that is what it does and what it is for. It has been with me for as long as I remember. It was always with maou and it was with the Prince even when he was young and he knew little of the world and the Wind."
"What is the Black Wind?" Elle spoke up.
"It is...not entirely bound by definition. The Black Wind is many things. It is death and it is premonition. It is the dead. It is who must die. It is a link or a change. Some people have the talent to see it, to interpret it, to know it." He said these things as he took the object out. Marcy had seen it before, tumbling out of the hand of a dead girl who had been close to her age, "But to truly know it, is to know what it brings and what it means to those who it howls for. Who it wants and what it desires. It's hard to explain..."
Her words drifted serine and lovely, like the girl herself seemed to drift in her purple robe. A small blue light began to emerge between her hands, cupped in front of her. The look of concentration was immediately replaced with a brilliant and joyous smile, "I'm doing it!" She said, and just as immediately the light was rubbed out of existence. The smile replaced by a slight scowl.
"You nearly had it that time." The old man said from one side of the circular room. There was a little boy on the opposite side, slowly petting the kitten in his lap and watching the girl with a smile in his eye.
She began again, this time the light came easier and fingernail size spikes of blue flame began at the edges, curling up. Her eyes widened for a moment and then were replaced with her former look of prime focus. The flames licked a little higher.
All was blown out suddenly as the large double doors swung into the room with so much force that the handles stabbed themselves into the walls. The crash startled everyone but the old man out of their idyllic moment. Even the kitten was disturbed out of its sleep. It began to mew and was immediately interrupted.
"Just what is going on in here...?" The woman who stormed in said. The woman wore a similar robe as the girl-even the little boy wore that same purple color. If she were ten years younger, the only difference would have been a couple inches less in height and a couple more in width to the woman and the fact that she wore her long light blue hair-which the boy also shared with them, only cut shorter-up.
"Mother...! I was just...practicing my Magic, Guru Gasper and Janus here, were watching." Schala replied. The little boy's brow had lowered at the very entrance of the Queen of Zeal, but she did not notice it-or him-at all. Gasper's eyes were hidden under the shadow of his hat as per usual; underneath they gazed critically over the face of the Queen, hoping again for signs of sickness and seeing none besides that mad look that was nearly plastered there at all times.
"Oh, I know what you were doing." She said in a low, calm voice, "That was some sort of attacking spell, was it not?"
"Well now, not necessarily..." The old man, Gasper, started to say.
"Guru Gasper..." The Queen stated without much emphasis. Her voice drained the weight out of his voice and he continued at just a notch above a whisper.
"All fire spells have secondary uses such as..."
"Yes, mother, you're right." The girl stepped over his mutterings. Underneath his hat, Gasper shifted his eyes carefully to the young Princess of Zeal. She is sometimes much wiser than I. He thought. The boy's upper lip twitched involuntarily. His mind was lost in a spiraling tempest he could not control.
"How many times must I tell you?" The Queen said, "You have no need for those types of spells."
"Oh, 'yes, mother' this, and 'yes, mother' that." The Queen said in the distracted, quick, spouting voice of a long perfected speech that began to rise somewhere close to fury, "Do not 'yes, mother' me anymore, just do as I have told you. Honestly, it makes people think and wonder when the Princess begins to learn spells such as those. 'What need has the Princess for such spells?' they'd say. They'd begin to doubt my leadership because of these kinds of miniscule and unimportant things. Do you know what it means to have your subjects doubt you, Schala?"
She had to bite back another 'yes, mother' and said instead, "I know." She sighed oh so slightly, "I do not need to know such spells for to know them is to have doubt in the peace over the people and lack of faith in the guards which protect Zeal."
A curt half nod at the practiced and memorized line and the Queen went on, "Now, instead, continue to practice your Magic stabilization and energy containment spells." The boy's brow flattened, and his lip dared not twitch, feeling the impending gaze of the one formally and simply called mother, "Janus." She said in plain acknowledgement.
"Queen-mother..." He said in the same dull tone, with no hint of mockery. It was quick and sharp like the prick of a needle. Then she left, almost as soon and as quickly as she had come, like a hurricane, off to destroy someone else's home or tear someone else down.
Gasper tipped his hat from behind, scratching his skull back there, with a nervous half-hearted smile that Princess Schala returned, "Well now, I'm sure I have somewhere else I need to be..." And then it was just the two, plus the Prince's kitten of course.
"Doesn't Father lead Zeal?" The Prince said and the hurt and the doubt in his mind were like acid. But the kitten licked his hand and he could not force the frown to stay any longer.
"Yes, Janus, but you know how important public perception is to her." She had held onto her own frown after Gasper left, but at the sight of Janus's leaving, she too could not force it to stay.
"But why is that so important, Schala?" He scratched the kitten behind its ear, as it liked.
She did not answer immediately. The room they were in was opposite their rooms in the great Zeal Palace. One day, it would be turned into a room of worship. One day there would be a large idol of a machine, forged of a rare red rock, sitting there in the middle of that round room. One day the power of that idol would get out of control. One day, it would all go tumbling down from the sky like a meteor shower. Right then though, Schala moved to the open balcony that looked down upon the rest of the main Zeal continent, floating high up in the heavens. Normally it was quite a sight, especially at night, with the hushed stars gazing down upon the land like an intricate blanket of black, sparkling ocean, the many palace towns and scholarly institutes spread out like glimmering sandcastles, waiting to be swept away in the incoming tide. Recently though, it was a very foggy place, but it wasn't really fog. They were just low clouds, filled with precipitation, and everything they touched became slick with moisture. All was engulfed with these clouds but the great Zeal Palace, high above everything, the center of the universe, atop the great spike of a mountain often referred to as, of course, Mount Zeal. It took several molecular transporters just to reach the summit where the Palace stood. The transporters made people feel slightly uncomfortable, and all was quite all right with the royal family. The less people wanted up to the Palace, the better, was the Queen's motto. Princess Schala looked down into these clouds and a flicker of lightning lit the sky to the east and she looked in that direction for a moment and sighed. Then she unknowingly predicted the future of the kingdom.
"Because Janus, she cannot completely control the people or their perceptions and that is dangerous to her role as Queen. I'm sure she'd be much more satisfied with all of them locked away or dead...Or, no, I suppose that wouldn't do...She'd be happy with all of them numb and ignorant...She'd be perfectly content with all of them under a deep sleep."
After a brief moment of silence that wouldn't be cut by the crackle of thunder coming from outside, she forced a smile that passed for genuine to her brother, ruffled his hair, and retired to her bedroom, leaving him to contemplate the future with his kitten.
"What's going to happen, Alfador?" He asked. He looked out the balcony, which, when the great machine dominated the room, would be walled up, and down toward the thundering black clouds. The wind rose up and whistled into the circular room, swelling and transforming into a ferocious screaming roar. He ran from it, carrying Alfador in his arms tight, but it followed him down the hall, and it continued to trail after him in the main atrium and straight up the stairs to his room. It followed in the crooks and corners of his mind and that night the young Prince slept so badly he almost wet the bed.
"That was one of the first times in that life the Black Wind haunted me. That was not long before the accident in the Ocean Mine with the Prince's father and the others who died." Gil said and sighed as he looked from his Amulet to the fire. Elle and Marcy for the first time in what seemed like hours looked around. The night was still upon them, their joints still fresh, and the sounds of the night were still just as eerily silent. The moon was approaching in the east. The clouds in that direction were tapered off and there was no resistance against the glaring moonlight.
"What...What's happened?" Marcy asked, getting up and looking into the eastern sky, "The moon...it's..."
"Reversed...?" Elle asked, unsure how to put what she saw into correct words, "The moon's gone backward in the sky!"
Gil looked up into the sky and sure enough, the moon was only just rising, but when they started, it had been directly above them, trying-but failing-to burn through the clouds, "Sometimes, when such tales are told, the world becomes thinner; reason and the rules of the universe become fragile and bend unto the power of such accounts. I've noted this event especially upon speaking at length of the Black Wind."
"Sometimes it felt like that when my brother would sing to me when I was younger." Marcy said, still looking up into the moon. It was like the moon she had grown up with, but she realized that it was in fact as foreign to her as this new girl, Elle, was. She was a version of the Miss Lucca Ashtear that had built that lumbering mech Gato, designed the chemical drug that had generated euphoria in Gil, and most importantly, that Miss Ashtear whom had given Gil that Egg that sent them through a field of timestreams and into this one to meet, of all people, her doppelganger. Like Elle, this moon wasn't her moon, it hadn't hung up there, watching over her as she grew up and she hadn't prayed to it-she prayed to so many things-in hopes to find what she sought; it was so like a stranger in a strange land. She felt lost in it all.
"Yes, it has been said to occur through music as well. Music, as well as art, and the act of storytelling have all long been forms of telling history, of telling the future and the present about the past. They are forms of time travel." Gil said, the memory of Belthasar's teachings-nearly his exact words-had never left, it seemed. Something about it struck him as odd, chaotic thoughts drowned his mind.
(The past is calling.)
(Next stop, all aboard!)
(Time to find a body...)
He tried to fight them away, not understanding their importance or their significance to come, "There...There are people who say that..."
He didn't need to fight them any longer after that word. The girls had been concentrating on his words, concerned with the way he shook his head as if dispelling some disquieting image or thought in his mind. One last thought...
Then a powerful forced ripped them away from each other and out of their off-centered state-of-mind and into an off-centered state-of-being. The wood pile was smothered and all was glowing in the moonlight.
Elle heard her back pop when she was blown backward from the concussive blast and dirt was shoved into her face, leaving her eyes prickling in pain. Marcy was hit the hardest and was flung back into the surrounding trees like a paper doll. Gil's eyes were dazzled by the brilliant light that exploded in front of him. The high-intensity flash grenade had done its job, incapacitating each of them, in different ways, but it also flung them about in separate directions. Marcy would not awaken for a full minute. Elle took only a few seconds. Gil, least effected, was able to move instantaneously.
He saw what he was looking for in a small instant that was really the only window he would have gotten; two blazing eyes, striking out against the darkness of the forest around them and even the blurredness of Gil's vision. Then it was easier because the firing began. Whip-cracks of sound, like they each had heard in the attack upon Elle's house hours before, rang out in the silence. He heard the fluttering impacts as they hit the bark of nearby trees.
Elle got up, saw the eyes, saw the sparks of the guns lighting up the faces and bodies of people she had never seen before, who, for no reason at all were out to kill her. Her hands swept the ground, searching. She could not determine how far the explosion had blown her back. Her eyes still stung red with grit. She tried to blink past it repeatedly to no avail. A bullet from one of the weapons of the people she didn't know whisked by her ear, clipping her right earlobe and producing a good, piercing scream. More bullets followed in the direction of her voice.
Marcy was thrown immediately into a dreamscape; a world of grey with no boundaries, no smells, no taste. There was an unpleasant damp quality to this world, as if when she inhaled, her lips, her tongue, and her throat were all slicked with some kind of thick wetness that threatened to suffocate her. She breathed in deeply.
Follow and die! A voice shouted at her, in her mind. It was a familiar voice, on the edge of a rasp. It was Gil's voice, and yet, it wasn't. A human shape appeared before her, materializing as if there were a fine haze of fog to come out of where there was nothing. It was dark. It seemed to have a cape billowing behind it. It seemed to whisk about in a wind that turned to clouds and cycled to thunderheads. The world around her rumbled in what sounded and felt like an earthquake that assaulted her ears.
The feeling awoke her; the feeling that the world around her was crumbling apart under her. She could not hear the thundering sounds that filled the air. The flash grenade had been too loud and too close and it had temporarily taken most of her hearing. Everything sounded like echoes being filtered underwater over hundreds of leagues that only the middle of her head was receiving in the slightest. But she could taste it; that terribly bitter, burnt taste, like copper. And she could see everything as if the clearest, bright, summer sun was blinding in front of her eyes. Shadows spiked out from the source, closer to their campfire.
There, Gil stood; hand in the direction of the eyes he had seen, head turned aside. A great ball of crackling energy grew and glowed brightly in front of his hand, sending cables of lightning into the forest. He was gathering Elle, as she was gathering their things, with his other arm. The lightning whipped and snapped out of control, striking at various trees in its path of righteous heaven-light.
He absolutely hated to run. He hated even more being so stupid and unprepared. He hadn't expected it. His story had gone on absolutely too long, but in the end he hadn't been aware. He got caught up in the memories. He hated to run, and it seemed like that was all he was capable of these days.
The lightning bolt had been more light show than electrical onslaught; meant to blind more than injure, that's why it had gotten out of hand. But in that way, it served its purpose, knocking down several moss-covered trees into the path of their pursuers.
To run is better than to die. He thought briefly as he slapped past a few low pine branches. The girls were ahead of him, both keenly ready now. Elle's blade drawn and Marcy's fists were almost always raised. He would have told them it was a waste, but why not be on their toes this once? He wasn't doing his job. These girls depended on him to see them through. What?
Guardia Castle came into view before he could think those things over. The girls waited patiently at an overhanging ridge that led up to the large Guardian Mountain that lay just at the back of the castle. They would have to climb a ways from this side; first up the larger ridge that led to the castle wall and then up the castle wall itself.
"This is the place." Elle said, bordering on a question.
"How do we get in?" Marcy asked when Gil finally caught up and looked up at the dark tower that stood before them. The moon had gone down and the shadows filled and swallowed all the many cracks and corners of the castle.
"I know a way." Gil responded.
"Damn dem!" Luccia exclaimed after a quick patch-up repair of Grobyc. Circuits had been overloaded by Gil's low-powered lightning attack. She had to reroute to a subsidiary back-up power for the time being. She also made sure to have his core power circuits absorb all future incoming current. She felt like a patented ignoramus for not thinking ahead, but she had brushed aside the ARTS's warnings of Magic.
Next time she would have to attack more indirectly. She was a scientist for god's sake; it was time for her to start thinking like one. A deliciously pestilent idea came to her and the corners of her mouth upturned in a devilish smile.
First Gil came in, followed by a shaky Marcy and Elle. He touched down on the hard stone floor with ease. The girls stumbled drunken down from the window's ledge. It was the first time either had flown, even if it were a 'simple distance' as Gil had put it. The room smelt heavily of sweetness and earth, bowls of flowery, wooden potpourri saturated the air. The room was plain, but even aside from the smell it was most obviously a girl's room. The sheets on the bed were a faded pink, a single stuffed something sat in the corner of a large cherry wood desk, and the matching drawers were inlaid with heart & vine decoration.
"What room is this?" Marcy asked half-knowing.
"This isn't where I think it is, is it?" Elle asked three-fourths sure.
"The room of Guardia's Princess..." Gil said knowing full-well.
"What are we doing here exactly?" Elle asked. Marcy looked on wondering just as much as Elle.
"She has something I need."
"Where would she have put it?" Marcy asked, looking around the room and wanting ever more to get out of the room and out of the castle no matter how much flying or running from unknowns was needed.
"Around her neck..." He looked at Marcy's surprised face. Elle knew immediately what it must have been; she had seen it on the Princess's person before, not long ago at the Millennial Fair. She had seen it before that in one of her own paintings and of course, before that, in one of her red dreams; the Pendent, "But for now..."
The young Prince Janus paced about his room, distraught with the horrible images of the dreams he had been having ever since that day when the Wind began to haunt him. The dreaded Mammon Machine had had it's time in that room now. It sapped the people of their consciousness and sent them into deep dream states. Technology began to reign once again and there was a false feeling of peace among the people. A sense that the peace was forced, that the people overlooked the travesties going on under their noses, was perceived by a very select few. More and more the Queen bound her people to the earth below, although more and more these dealings were untold to the public. The three Gurus were uneasy with the Queen's contact with the Mammon Machine and thusly, to Lavos, the demon creature dwelling below. Princess Schala was to control and focus these meetings with her mother and Lavos. The Queen became more powerful absorbing the power the Mammon Machine gave off, but as her power increased, her psychosis became more unstable. She had recently had the Mammon Machine moved closer to Lavos, into the sea, to draw power more fluidly. The construction of the Ocean Palace, the Mammon Machine's said residency in the sea, proved more deadly than the Dreamstone mining accident that took eight lives including the King's. No one made the connection; the deaths were concealed from the people. Only the royalty and the Gurus knew anything that really happened under those waters and only they feared what was going to happen when the Mammon Machine was used there, so close to Lavos, it was as if their power would kiss.
Alfador sat watching him walk circles near his bed. The cat mewed once at its master. Janus stopped abruptly and looked down to the kitten, his only friend, and said, "I don't know what to do Alfador...I worry-"
He heard the door to his room open and someone advanced up the steps. At the sight of her hair, he let out a small sigh of relief. He was probably the only person who could tell the difference from the Queen and the Princess just from their respective top inches.
"Schala...!!" He said enthused, but the smile on his face seemed tired and weak.
"Janus, is something wrong?" She had come to check up on him. There was little time those days they got to spend together because of the Queen.
"The Black Wind..." Janus said and his face turned downward.
"You feel it too?" She said and looked to that place his face turned to, as if she would be able to see into him by seeing what he saw, "Don't worry, it'll be alright." It was a lie; she felt the death coming just as easily as he. She bent down and pet Alfador and the cat purred and Schala looked back to Janus and the smile drained from her face and her look became serious again, "Now, hold onto this."
She took something small that fit in her hand from the insides of her robe and held it out for him to take.
"What is it?" He asked as he took the small thing and examined it closely. Alfador began to rub against his leg and meow, wanting to see the shiny object for himself.
"It's a kind of amulet. If something should happen, it will protect you." She told him and with her own weak smile added, "I wish I could be with you always...But mother has other plans."
"She's NOT our mother!" His voice rose to a near shout and shamed with himself, he added at near-whisper, "She looks like mother, but inside she has changed."
There was a long pause as Schala debated this once again, this time, her own brother had told her that which she knew, deep down, but did not accept completely. He seemed to get through to her best, most of the time, "Still, I can't...Janus...I'm sorr-."
"Highness...!" A young woman, dressed in flamboyant, flowing servant's garb, interrupted from the steps, "The Queen asks for your immediate presence at the Ocean Palace."
"Alright..." She told the woman and turned to her brother, "Well, Janus...I'll be going."
"That's where you got that Amulet?" Marcy asked.
"Yes." Gil said to her. The girls had taken place sitting on the Princess's bed. Gil sat with his back to the fireplace that was heating the room.
"What did it do when something happened? Did it protect you?" Elle asked her own questions.
"Yes and no, but that's a different story, involving maou..." He said. He turned slowly toward the doorway of the room, "Someone's coming."
"I don't care what the Chancellor told you!" It was her full fury; nothing could hold her back this time. Her father had sunk too low. It seemed that no matter what happened, she was to blame. There was nothing she could do for him. The Chancellor was the only one he would trust. That pathetic little slime-ball of a man with his heavy, long white beard that bobbed above his belly whenever he talked, his large, clammy hands, and his slanted, shifty eyes that made her think he was always thinking something bad, or dirty.
...Or evil. A voice whispered in her mind. It was the voice of her mother, that sweet, gentle, loving voice that never failed to fill her with confidence. But this time it sounded frightened, small, as if it was her mother's voice when her mother was young, long before she had a child. It made her uneasy when that voice spoke like that.
But she wasn't thinking about that then. Her anger wouldn't be sidetracked. Her father, King of Guardia, had said some rather tasteless falsities about her and some boy he said she had been seen with. This was utterly one of the most absurd things Princess Nadia had ever heard in her entire life. She had not left the Palace in over a week and when last she did, she spoke to no one.
"Oh, my dear girl, what reason would the Chancellor have to lie?" The King asked her, "We all know you leave the castle. Everyone knows it."
"I really can't believe you sometimes father." She shook her head as if to demonstrate her disbelief.
"We cannot have such things circulating among the people, rumor or not." The King said to her.
"Then stop the one starting them in the first place father..." She realized just then that she tended to refer to him as father more often the angrier he got her, "Stop the Chancellor!"
"I really cannot believe you would think such..."
"Fine, forget it!" She said. She stormed off, hands flung upward (very dramatic she would think later, disappointed with herself in the way only a teenager can be), up the stairs to the right of the throne room; the stairs that eventually led to her room, "Forget I said anything!"
The further up the stairs she got, the less angry she was, and the more tired she became. She felt frustrated more than anything. She never had anything proper to say to any of the things the Chancellor or her father had to say against her. She just wanted to get to her window and think and wish for whatever she felt was supposed to happen to her to happen now.
She opened the door.
He grabbed her with a swift, practiced motion from behind and held the blade of his sickle to her bare throat. Her mouth dropped open wide and immediately snapped shut again when it touched the cool, flat, metal blade. Her eyes glittered with terror tears. Gil had jerked her head back, using her braided hair as a handle. Her swimming eyes met only the cold stone ceiling.
"Move, die. Scream, die." He said. Marcy and Elle looked at each other, their own eyes wide; both wondered if he really meant to kill her. Marcy, having known him a fraction longer, wondered if he might kill her anyways, "You have some...I want you to...I need you to help me."
He was unsure of how to begin. He searched for the right mixing of words, the words that just might coax her, but found that this Princess too was slightly different from the one he knew. She didn't wear a Princess's dress either, but what she did wear was much darker than the other's. It wasn't black, she wasn't so far off as this world's Lucca, but instead of the white he had known, this one wore an unfastened long dark purple parka (it is winter now he thought) over a forest green shirt that opened a bit revealing her neck.
"What do y-you want?" She whispered, swallowing hard after almost every word.
"This..." He said taking his hand from her braid and circling it around to her front. She could just barely see his hand reach between her diminutive breasts. At first, she was sure he meant to take her, right there in her own room, perhaps he would do it on her own bed, making it impossible to sleep there ever again, but then again, perhaps he meant to kill her after he had his way with her. His hand, cool, but not cold, to the touch, even through his leather glove, wrapped around her necklace, upon which her Pendant was placed. She seemed even more surprised at this; part of her was not in the least.
"Take it then..." She whispered, her voice unwavering. Then it was Gil's turn to be surprised. He actually withdrew his blade and just pulled the necklace from around her neck. She did not protest, she looked down with her eyes closed, "I suppose I don't need it anymore...Something...didn't happen..."
A pause before he broke the disquieting, forlorn silence, "He died before you met him." Her eyes opened to an empty room. And she wept.