He shivered...not as a person adjusting to the cold, but more as someone attempting to suppress the mostly involuntary action. Despite the long-awaited break in the clouds, the ice age still lingered.
Hed found himself at the northern cape a dozen times since the fall of the Kingdom, drawn to it like a madman to many a twisted impulse. In fact, he often imagined himself as being on the brink of insanity.
This was not a new event. His childhood had been wracked with tragedy, filled with the loss of his family and home and everything he had come to know in his earliest years. Thrust into the distant future, he picked up the pieces of his life the only way he knew how--by revenge.
At least, thats how it had been in the beginning.
When the short amphibian man and his companions confronted him in that dark castle, he could not have fathomed the outcome. But only the sweetest of fates could have guided him back to the time in which he had once lived, to the home he had once lost...to the monster that had taken it all away. It was true, he had been consumed with revenge. But one look into the eyes of his sister had softened his purpose for being there.
He hadnt meant for it to happen, but there had been too many lingering suggestions that he had once been human. First, that damn cat, and then, his younger self in all his Zealian snot-nosed glory. He might have recalled how persuasive children could be; he just hadnt planned on being affected by such pleas for mercy. And so, against his better judgment, hed allowed the spiky-haired boy and his companions to escape with their lives, citing to himself temporary insanity as the cause for the sudden, unusual act of kindness. After all, reliving the final days of the great Kingdom of Zeal had gotten to him.
Yes. Perhaps he really was insane. After all, what else could justify his adamant quest in pursuing the bloated parasite that was devouring the world from the inside out?
A cursed, foul creature from some other world that had involuntarily helped to birth it. It was an endless, parasitic cycle. Once the spinning, red star crashed into the earths surface, the worlds fate was forever altered. Like a heartless master to an unwitting slave, the creature consumed everything the planet had while the planet only served to make the parasite stronger. It was only a matter of time before the planets life force was completely spent, and the master would reemerge, destroying the very slave that had helped it to grow. Afterward, the creature would send its children out into space, and the cycle would begin anew.
This was why it had been important for him to succeed in his mission. He needed to destroy Lavos, so that the world could be freed from its life-draining shackles.
At least, thats what he wanted to believe at this point. It was a convenient excuse. The monster was dangerous, so of course it had to be destroyed. His true reason, however, was far less noble. After all, any man was capable of seeking revenge.
On the other hand, most men didnt have the opportunity hed had--honing his magic skills until they became legendary. The great Magus, they had called him--the formidable, blue-haired wizard who had led the Mystics against the Guardian forces. At least, that was how he remembered it before his trip back to the Kingdom of Zeal. In truth, he had likely been forgotten now by those who feared and followed him. That grotesquely fat slug of a minion probably had had no trouble filling the void for the Mystic army. It might have brought a scowl to Magus face if he hadnt been so obsessed with revenge on Lavos.
Of course, many things might have happened had he not been so fixated on revenge. He might have found more constructive ways of increasing his power, rather than waging war against kingdoms and killing valiant knights. He might have found it in himself to work with the young heroes who shared his goal, instead of threatening their lives and casting them aside. But most of all, he might have been bothered to swallow his pride and reach out to his family...or at least, to his sister, Schala.
He could still remember her face from when he had first disappeared from the Ocean Palace, from the girls basic features to the expression that had temporarily twisted them into horror and devastation. She had been the most important person in his life, and perhaps, the most nurturing. As a child, he had been distant in most social situations, thanks to his own sixth sense and the fanatical behavior of his mother, who had been almost irrevocably corrupted by Lavos. In spite of this, Schala showed him nothing but patience, love, and understanding, consoling him in his time of need, freely offering advice he rarely took, and inevitably becoming a mother figure as well as older sister.
As recompense for all her selflessness, he ignored her pain and suffering in order to gain the chance to go head-to-head with Lavos. And he had finally gotten his wish...at a great price. One, the fate of Zeal remained unchanged, and two...he again lost the one he held dear.
Remembering this, he tightened a fist and cursed himself for the umpteenth time. He shut his eyes, but it wasnt enough to stop the pain...or the tears. Every time he thought of what should have been a wonderful reunion, the tears would rush up and threaten to spill over. He hated it...especially in this place, where the freezing winds were constantly gusting about him. Once the tears fell, all it would take was a single breeze to make them sting twice as coldly against the skin. Though compared to the rest of his life, or just his recent ordeal, frozen tears would just be a minor inconvenience.
Magus adjusted his position against the rock upon which he was sitting, wrapping his arms around elevated knees. The sunset he beheld was bright, amplified a thousand times by a glimmering, icy ocean, but it was not enough to counter the arctic winds that had ripped back the hood of his cloak and were now blowing through his long hair. The breathtaking painting of a scene before him would have calmed the heart of the most troubled warrior, but it only served to make him feel worse. Witnessing the magnificence of the sun simply reminded him of how alone he was, just as he had been all those years ago. He thought of how truly lucky he had been before his descent--and ascent--in the Mystic land. Though he had become a powerful wizard, his training as a child had not been easy, and there had been times he would feel beaten, even humiliated by the ones who had been his comrades. Had he experienced such struggles in Zeal, at least there would have been an encouraging hand on his shoulder at the end of the day, reminding him that life was full of obstacles that were meant to be overcome. He had held on to this wisdom for as long as he was able to, especially during those long days training with the Mystics. Fighting as hard as he could, he had often wondered just when he would get to overcome the great obstacle that was Lavos.
His thoughts would always return to Schala, however. After all, Lavos had also been responsible for taking her from him. What he wouldnt give to go back to that time they were together, brother and sister, even though he couldnt recall a time he was ever truly happy in the Kingdom of Zeal. Perhaps it was some time before the King had passed away, but he had been too young to remember. It was too late for wishing now, however; his chance had come and gone, as well as his second chance. He wouldnt be so arrogant as to ask for a third chance. Besides, even if he had gotten one, he wouldnt know how to begin speaking openly with the girl.
Disguised as the wandering prophet, it had been so easy to give orders to Schala. He could hide behind his hood, cold red eyes peeking out, forbidding anyone to uncover the mystery about him. As long as he could keep up the charade, he was fine. But to greet Schala face-to-face, the one person who knew him, he was not so confident. Even if she believed he was Janus, would she embrace him as she once had, or would she curse him for all his crimes and treat him as nothing more than the detestable beast he was? Or worse, would she just feel sorry for him? Perhaps that was another reason he had not revealed himself when hed had the chance. His story was a pitiful one, and pity was the last thing he wanted from her.
Forgive me, Schala. I suppose Ive...always been that selfish...
A biting cold suddenly raked his cheeks in long, uneven trails, but he didnt bother to wipe away the tears. He decided that the coldness within was far worse than the coldness surrounding him. Even if he succeeded in finding yet another gate leading back to the final days of Zeal, he knew that he could never truly go back. Too much had happened, too many memories, too many sins. After all that he had done, waging war against a kingdom in the distant future, taking a great many lives, cursing innocent humans with grotesque forms...he could not erase any of it. Even if he had found a way to forget, there was constant darkness coiling itself around his heart, reminding him that he would always be anything less than human.
Magus brought his head down with a sigh, debating with himself what he should do now. He was lost in a world destroyed, with neither friend nor minion to guide him, nor be guided. His plan to kill Lavos had gone sour, and he would never see his sister again.
I can never...again...
A small surviving group of humans, comprised of both Zeal citizens and earthbound citizens, had gathered near a forest several miles south. He had seen them from afar. Magus wondered once or twice how they would react if he had gone down there, announcing his true identity. He imagined they would be shocked and disgusted, and reestablish that great distance between them that he had created as a child. Of course, this was assuming they would even believe him. Magus could easily prove who he was, but only with the right help--
There was a soft mewing, some distance behind Magus. He raised his head, but didnt turn around. Speak of the devil. So the damn cat had survived the Ocean Palace disaster.
Alfador eventually came near and hopped onto the rock, nearly stumbling a couple of times on the slippery ice. He then padded around until he was in his former masters sights. Meow?
Magus glanced down at the cat, another memory flashing through his mind.
Alfador had faithfully followed Janus to the Ocean Palace, but just when they had found Schala and the other Gurus, the Mammon Machine had gone out of control, and Lavos had awakened. Janus didnt think much of it then, but as he was being dragged through a portal, he remembered having caught one final glimpse of his pet. The cat that had apparently been so devoted to him. The cat that had only looked on while its master was being ripped from him. The cat that had been known to follow Janus everywhere...and yet had refused to jump in the gate after him.
Magus could only chuckle now at the irony. I guess you didnt like me that much, after all, he said, reaching out with a hand.
Alfador purred contentedly as the man softly scratched him on the head, behind the ears, and then, under the chin.
Magus smiled at the cats reaction, something he hadnt done since he was a child. He extended his legs out forward, until they draped over the front of the rock.
As he pulled his hand away, Alfador mewed again, moving forward until he was inches away from his master. When he was close enough, he rubbed a furry cheek across Magus arm more than once, purring loudly. After a lingering moment, Alfador stepped around and cautiously lifted a paw, pushing it into the flesh of the mans thigh. When there was no objection, the cat crawled up, circling the distance of Magus lap twice before curling into a sleeping position.
The man studied his former pet--now his current pet--before his hand returned to stroking the thick coat of fur.
He goes on...in spite of everything that happened. As do all the remaining citizens of this world...
They dont seek vengeance for what Lavos did. All that drives them is their will to live on, to live as one, to live unfrozen...
Magus reached down into his shirt, pulling out an old, familiar object attached to a chain. The amulet his sister had given him.
If anything should happen, itll protect you...
Indeed it had. From the sky palace to the underwater palace, to his training under the Mystics to the battles with the Masamune, to his false act as the mighty prophet to his descent back to the underwater palace--the place where everyones fate had changed--through all his travels, it had most certainly protected his life. It seemed unfair somehow, that his life should be guarded, that obnoxious, antisocial royal brat who grew up sacrificing everything just to get back at the monster that destroyed his home, while his sister, a powerful magician, compassionate friend, and beacon to all those who lived below the sky, should have her own survival thrown into uncertainty. It implied that evil was favored above all else, while good had no place in the world.
On the other hand, Magus had had no genuine interest in evil ambitions. He simply wanted to destroy Lavos...but he was regretting the methods he had used. No matter what the cost--these words seemed heavier now than they did when he had first declared them. But there was no going back anymore. Just like the last remaining residents of the world, he had to go forward. And in spite of the recent tragedies, he needed to see the brighter side of things. The Kingdom, the Gurus, and many citizens were gone in some way, but there were those that did survive. The earthbound, the enlightened ones, and even the cat currently resting in his lap. It survived. Magus was certain Alfador had been down in the Ocean Palace when the disaster happened, but now here he was, unharmed and every bit as alive as the others.
It puzzled the man for a while, though logic told him that one of the escaping inhabitants of the Ocean Palace could have taken the cat with him. But Magus couldnt believe it was that simple; rather, he refused to believe it was that simple. There had to be more to it than that. And the more he believed this, the more he felt something he hadnt felt in decades--hope. The hope that even more had survived, and that maybe his own fate had not been a deitys blunder after all.
Maybe I was meant to live...so that you could live...
It might have been a lie he told himself to spare himself from the pain and guilt...but he could not deny the possibility. But most of all, he could feel it in his heart. She was not dead.
With thoughts and feelings so strong, Magus found himself at a crossroads. To resume seeking revenge on Lavos, or to begin the search for his sister...
Before he could feel particularly inclined toward one path or the other, something was shrieking across the sky. Magus looked up to see the Blackbird, Daltons creation, descending rapidly in a trail of black smoke. And behind it, another object was flying. Magus squinted to see what it was, though there was no point; it was also coming into clear view. Belthasars creation, the Wings of Time, and...
Magus recognized its passengers, especially the one slightly less human than his comrades. The last time hed seen them was at the bottom of the Ocean Palace, moments before Schala had teleported them to safety.
It was all he needed to choose his path.
Mrrh. Alfador awoke abruptly as Magus carefully picked him up and lowered him to the ground. ...mmmaaaow?
I must go, he told the cat as he stood, turning his back to the sun. I must save her...no matter what the cost.
Meow...! Alfador protested.
Uh... Magus felt sheepish about his terrible choice of words. I mean...Ill do everything I can to save her. There will be no more sacrificing... He lowered his head solemnly. ...save time and effort.
The wind was still blowing, though it had significantly lessened in force over the past several minutes. Magus cleared his mind and fully composed himself. He knew what he needed to do. He would start by asking for clues in the last remaining village of the world.
There was a chance he would bump into the one who sought revenge against him, but he had to take that risk. Right now, Schala was more important than some persons grudge, more important than his dark past, even more important than his own grudge against Lavos. There was much he could not undo, but for the sake of more than one, he needed to right this wrong.
Magus set off then, with Alfador following closely behind him. Before he left completely, he took one final glance at the scene, assured that the only thing left frozen now was the sea.
All That Glitters Is Cold 4 Fanfic Competition
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