Chrono Continuum Chapter 56
The Great Escape
Janus swallowed. He had been talking for a while, and was thirsty. But he didn't want to just cut everyone off, when he'd reached a pivotal part in his story. So he continued.
"I don't know how long the next part of my story lasts. It could have been over a course of days, weeks, months, or even years, although I doubt the latter. That visit from my wife had left me in a state of delirium, that not even Crono could penetrate. I clearly remember certain moments when I was absolutely coherent, and capable of conscious thought. Anger, first and foremost, was the only emotion I felt at first. Then, that would give way to sadness, depression, and finally delirium again.
"During these moments, I would converse with Crono. He'd fill me in on any changes while I'd been out. There weren't many. But a big one was the sudden addition of a cell-mate.
"She called herself Marle. Like you, Queen Nadia, she was blonde and beautiful, but there was a definite difference in the two of you, obvious even to the two of us, nearly driven insane by our circumstances. At every given oppurtunity, she would throw herself at Crono, begging him to... well, I suppose it might be obvious to those of you who met Parsa.
"But Crono wouldn't be swayed. Even though she looked surprisingly like his wife, he wouldn't even touch her. Her conversation mostly consisted of that subject, when I was awake. I'm pretty sure she was put there to test Crono's strength of will, while the torture was testing his strength of body. At the time, I wondered if Magus was being given a similar test.
"Periodically, 'Marle' would be taken from our cell. When she came back, she'd be bruised and cut, but she wouldn't look very upset. She constantly told Crono that only his love could heal her.
"One day, on awakening, I found that we had another cell-mate. Once again, she was female. But she looked almost exactly like my wife. So exact, that I launched into a fit of rage, and attacked her, thinking she really was my wife. Crono managed to stop me by knocking me out. When I woke up, she was gone. I soon figured out that it hadn't been her, and that she had been a test of my will. One which I'd refused to take.
"By this time, I had fully recovered from my shock, and was able to converse intelligently. 'Marle' was now gone, but Crono seemed to be wearing down. I feared that he would soon die. And one day, when I woke up, Crono was simply gone. I haven't seen him since. I hope that he's alive. A braver soul I've never seen.
"And so for several weeks I faced my miserable fate alone. Then, one day the door opened. No one immediately stepped into my cell. I waited a few moments, but finally called out, 'Who comes?'
"Silently, a cloaked figure walked in. It was the Magus. For the longest time, he simply looked down at me, filthy, beaten, and abused. 'Damn', he whispered, 'Even you don't deserve this.' He raised his scythe, and prepared to put me out of my misery.
"I told him to wait, even though that blade looked very inviting. I told him that I didn't want to die like that. I was stronger than that. If I died, I'd die fighting my fate to the last breath. I didn't want his mercy. He respected my wishes, because he would've wanted the same had he been in my position. He told me that he couldn't get me out of there. I would only slow him down. He was right, of course. He was wise beyond his years. It pained me to realize that I could've been as strong as him, if I'd stayed on the right track."
"Don't be," Lucca spoke up. "He was the biggest bastard I ever met, and he didn't have a likable bone in his body. You don't want that kind of strength."
Janus considered this. "Perhaps. But at that moment I envied him, possibly because his freedom was at hand. I didn't even know how he'd managed it. I still don't. The anti-magic shield in his room should have kept him from escaping, but he somehow found a way around it.
"Regardless, he was about to leave, but I called out to him. When he turned around, I asked him for a favor. He just looked at me, like I hadn't spoken. 'My wife has been corrupted by the taint of the Kingdom,' I told him. 'Please, rescue her.'
"He looked at me for a moment longer, and left, not even bothering to answer. I was sure he'd left me to my fate, and my wife to hers. After a few minutes, I decided to try to escape as well, as he'd left my cell door open when he'd left. When I got into the hall, I found the burnt body of a guard. His sword was now an indistinct metal blob attached to his hand, apparently melted by Magus' attack. As I walked along, I slowly felt my magic returning to me as I left the area of the anti-magic shield. I encountered more and more dead guards, evidence that Magus had been through here.
"Eventually, I figured out that the cells were in the underground sewer system. The way I had gone led to an underground maze. I saw no trace of where the Magus had gone, so I found myself lost. A while later, I was walking through the maze, and heard voices. I looked around, and found their source. It was a pipe carrying the sound of the voices from up above. I soon recognized one of the voices as that of my wife.
" 'What are you doing here,' she asked someone. I didn't hear the person's response. In response to her guest, she asked, 'Are you serious?'
"This time, I identified the other person as Magus. 'I'm always serious,' he replied.
"She told him that he should leave. Adom would be back very soon, and he wouldn't be happy that his romantic night with her had been interrupted. She was about to say something else, but I heard a crash, and a choking sound. 'Damn it, woman,' I heard Magus exclaim, 'Aren't you listening? Personally, I would sooner kill you than look at your face, you traitor. A woman like you doesn't deserve my pity, let alone the kindness of the husband she betrayed. And yet he asked me to help you, as a favor. I don't do many favors, but I take them seriously. I think it's foolish, but Janus has given you a chance to leave here, and bring your daughters with you.'
"At that moment, I heard a door opened. There was yelling, and a commotion, and I heard an explosion, followed by a man's scream. I heard my wife ask if Adom was alright, but I couldn't hear his answer. Then my wife screamed and yelled, 'No, stop!'
"I heard a loud slap, and Magus announced, 'I leave you to your fate. You have no right to this child. It is a blank slate, and I'll see that it doesn't grow up to become my enemy.' What did he mean? Was he going to kill my child, to make sure that she'd never grow up to be a threat? Could the Magus be even that heartless?
"My wife screamed out a loud, 'No!' For a moment, all was silent. Then I heard her say, 'Adom, get up! He took little Jara! Adom? Adom?' And then it sounded like her neighbors had arrived. There was much scuffling, and I heard someone shout that they should take Adom to be healed by the Almighty One, and then there was silence.
"By then I was very hungry, so I set out in search of food. I eventually came upon an opening to the outside, and, cloaking myself with my magic, set out into the Kingdom. I snuck into a house, and used a spell to put the entire family asleep. Then, I raided their food supply, and snuck back into the sewers.
"I survived like this for the next few days, though I didn't like it. I spent most of my time near the pipe that carried voices from my home. Most of the conversation on my wife's side seemed melancholy over the loss of her younger daughter. I, however, was overjoyed that at least one member of my family had escaped. I didn't know what Magus would do with her, but it had to be better than serving the Kingdom all her life.
"Only now have I found out that he managed to elude his hunters long enough to leave my daughter in an orphanage. And look how she turned out." He paused for a moment, before continuing. "Anyway, it was several days before I heard my wife excited about anything. But one day, she announced, 'They've found the bastard!'
" 'Who,' Adom asked, apparently recovered from whatever damage Magus had done him. 'Your husband?'
" 'No, the one who kidnapped Jara. They say he was found in the year 2013. He was there long enough to have completely healed, and they had a lot of trouble capturing him. But they succeeded. Soon, I know, they'll get the location of my daughter from him, and then I'll kill him myself.'
"Needless to say, I was surprised at what my wife was saying. I hadn't known she was so violent. Or perhaps I simply hadn't wished to see how she truly was until now... Finally, though, I'd had enough. I decided to save my wife myself, whether she wanted it or not. Is it obvious to you all that I'm not cut out to be a hero?
"That night, when I figured they were asleep, I went topside, and found my... their house. As stealthily as I could, I snuck into the house. The smell was familiar, and reassuring. It also reminded me that several days in the sewers had given me an awful stench. So, I crept into our... their bedroom, and changed. I hadn't gotten any more than a pair of pants on when I heard a creaking noise. I turned, and saw a form occupy the doorway to the bedroom. It only took me a moment to identify it as my wife, in work gear. She'd apparently been working on a new gadget or some such thing.
"Luckily for me, she had been born outside of the Kingdom, and therefore devoid of magic. I'd met her one time during a battle. Her father and mother had died trying to defend their home. But when I saw her standing alone, afraid, I saved her from our army. I never would have guessed she'd become a monster...
"Regardless, I cloaked myself magically, counting on her inability to sense magic, and waited until she came close. I then grabbed her, and held my hand over her mouth to keep her quiet. I got her out of the room, and into her experimentation room, which had been sound-proofed due to explosions that periodically occurred therein. Now it would prevent us from being heard by outside ears.
"I released her, and she pushed away from me. She looked at me angrily, with a hint of fear, and exclaimed, 'You, you bastard... I already told you, I'm not coming with you...'
"I was confused for a moment, until I realized that she thought I was the Magus. My hair had long since grown out to his length and more, and I was no doubt pale from lack of sunlight. And my many wounds and marks couldn't have helped either. I told her who I was.
"For a moment she just looked at me, and then her expression changed to one of anger. "You! How dare you show your face here, traitor!'
" 'Traitor,' I exclaimed, 'You're the traitor! You... you...' I clamped down on my anger, and forced myself to speak calmly. 'Please, listen to me. We must flee from here. Go to a time period where no one will find us. Or maybe even join the Resistance. Can't you see that the Kingdom is evil? They imprisoned and tortured me because I tried to save someone's life!'
"Her expression turned sympathetic, and she walked up to me. She looked up into my eyes, and replied, 'But the Kingdom was good to you. It's been good to all of us. We have everything we could want. I can go to Valiod. If he discovers that you weren't really a traitor, that you felt guilty about killing people, I'm sure he would forgive you.' At this point, she wrapped her arms around my neck, and kissed me as deeply and passionately as she ever had.
"I couldn't stop her. I didn't want to stop her. My eyes cracked open, to see if this was real, or simply a dream. And then I saw one of her hands reaching into her hair. Under the hat she wore while she worked. And she pulled something out from underneath it. A knife.
"Enraged, I let loose with all the power I had, creating a gigantic explosion. At such close range, I'm sure it did a devastating amount of damage to her, but I couldn't stay around long enough to find out. I'd destroyed half of the house, and blown away the sound-proof door, which meant Adom, and many other people would be coming at any moment. So I ran.
"But my explosion had stirred up so much dust that I got lost, and finally ended up standing in front of your flying machine, which we had captured when Magus, Crono, and the boy tried to escape in it. My wife had obviously been tinkering with it. The craft's previous name seemed to have been struck out, and the word 'junk' was scrawled there, probably by Adom. I jumped inside, and the canopy closed in around me, what was left of it.
"On my entry, a voice called out, 'Magus?' I saw the speakers, and assumed the ship was computerized.
"I shouted out, 'Yes! Get me out of here!' Immediately, the ship took off, and flew through the remaining wall, out into the Kingdom's sky. I noticed a strange hole form in the air before me, and the ship flew into it.
"The next thing I knew, I saw you, Hotwire. I thought you were my other daughter, your older sister, because you looked so similar."
Hotwire spoke up. "You said something about it taking centuries to get to me. What did you mean?"
"I assumed that this craft was a time-travel device. I meant to say that I went through so many centuries, I think. I'm not completely sure I was all there at the time."
There was silence for a few moments. The story was over. "Well," Lucca asked, "we know what happened. Now what are we going to do about it?"
Marle stood up. "We're going to save my son, my husband, and even the Magus," she announced determinedly.
Gaspar cleared his throat to get everyone's attention. "Just one question. How are we going to do it?"
At this point, the door opened, and in walked Thanatos. "I think I might be of some assistance."
"The past is dead. It was all just a dream..."
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