Chrono Trigger: Dare Chapter 9
Marle? Gone? And Zeal!
The closer we got to the hideout, the faster we walked. We were within a hundred yards of what Cid said to be the door when we started running. I made it to the door first and opened it quickly. I made way for Cid and Lucca to step through. Inside, I saw large warm fires burning in all four corners of the room. In the middle was a large, well-worn wooden table, which seemed to me like oak, though I doubted oak existed on Aire. Sitting on the far end of the table were 6 people who had the same features as Cid, dark hair, orange eyes, and a muscular yet sinewy build. Each had some kind of weapon beside them; I saw a mace, two daggers, and a broadsword. Two of them had bows and arrows and the last one had a long spear or javelin. More weapons lined the war, all looking as if they had seen one battle after another after another. None of them looked older than twenty-five except for one, who looked like he was about forty going on sixty.
Cid motioned for me to sit down, then without waiting went to talk to the oldest of the men sitting at the table. The man played with a mace the size of my head as if it was a doll. They exchanged a few words, and then the man shouted what sounded like names, telling them to "hurry up with the damned food cause weve got guests now." To my surprise, two women appeared in a doorway and, giggling, set soup bowls, bread, and steaming drinks in front of Lucca and me, then scurried off into what I took to be the kitchen. I leaned back in my chair, conscious of the eyes on me. I didnt want to eat until everybody else had been served. A little manners go a long way, and I was completely unwilling to fight a roomful of Cid-like men. Soon, the women had served everyone, and then, with a nod from Klab, everyone began to eat. I didnt need any other incentive.
After everyone had finished, Cid stood and talked to the old man with the mace again. He pointed towards Lucca and me, and the man smiled. He walked over to Lucca and me, and shook our hands with a vise-like grip.
"Cid told me yar story. Well, Crono," he pointed towards me as if unsure of which one of us was which. "And Lucca. Welcome to the Avengers hideout. Its always a please meetin strong-bodied and strong-minded people like ya."
"The pleasure is ours, sir," Lucca said as she had her hand crushed in a handshake.
"Please. Call me Klab. Now, what brings ya here."
"Marle does. The girl you kidnapped. Where is she?"
Klab turned around the rest of the people at the table. They all nodded their heads, then Klab turned back towards me.
"Ya look like you kin handle the truth. Im sorry. When we ere returning, a squad othe Kings best men ambushed us. We fought em off, but they captured the girl. Ya said her name was Marle, right?"
I didnt even respond. I sank back down into my chair, the realization weighing heavily upon me. Marle was gone. And she was in the hands of Zeal, which meant that she was in the hands of Lavos. In my mind, I cursed the day I had ever met Zeal. And then, I remembered her eyes. I remember being lost in them whenever we took a walk together. I remember them as first thing I saw after being resurrected. And then I remembered their color. Her eyes were a deep, penetrating blue, not the disconcerting orange I had seen here. She would be discovered in an instant. That thought and the memory of those eyes brought tears to mine. I buried my face in my hands, and felt Luccas warm hand on my shoulder, trying to comfort me.
"Its all right Crono. Well find her," she whispered.
"King Zeal will recognize Marle as a person from earth right when he sees her. And Lavos ." I left the sentence hanging. Lucca knew what happened to people who got on Lavoss bad side. They died. It had happened to me once.
"Don worry lad. We ere just plannin her rescue before ya came," Klab told me.
Anger is a strange thing. When all else fails, when the time for rational thought has come and gone, anger, and the strength anger provides, can save you. But when theres still time for planning, anger will always blind you to the obvious. It will always and without fail lead you wrong. Klab looked as if he could take care of himself, but I have never been angrier than this moment and, in short, I would have felt sorry for any other man but him.
"You mean youre planning your funeral. You cant just plan an attack against Zeal. If anything, and I mean anything, goes wrong, youre dead. You have to take into consideration so many factors, so many dangers, that its impossible to plan. The magic you will encounter is beyond anything you have ever seen. The power of Mostern has probably magnified the will and energy of the King to a point beyond imagination. The second something goes wrong, no matter how insignificant, youre dead. It happened to Lucca, Marle, and me. We underestimated the Queens right hand man and found ourselves trapped beyond rescue. We escaped, but barely," I shouted, barely controlling a mountain of rage. My eyes began to tear from the effort of containing the fury as well as from the fury itself.
Lucca reached to comfort me but I waved her hands off. She backed away, unsure of what else to try. Cid frowned, yet did nothing. Klab looked me straight in the eye. I looked him back. I tensed my grip on my sword. His brow furrowed. I glared at him. His gaze lowered. I stayed tense. He apologized.
"Im sorry Crono. We didn know how much the girl meant to ya. We ere really sorry," he said sadly. "I know how powerful Zeal is," he added.
More tears came to my eyes as I imagined the many ways that Marles life could end at the hands of Zeal. Even more terrifying were the scenarious in which Marle stayed alive. With Zeal, death was definitely not the worst end. Klab looked back up at me, sorrow in his eyes too.
"We ere actially tryin ta find a way inside Zeal Palace for a hit and run on one of its power sources, one o several things called Mammon Machines, but finding Marle was also another thing we ere considering. More specifically, we wanta hit the newest Machine, since it kin generate the most power. We figure itll be easier if a small group went in, maybe three or four people tops," he told me, then watched my reaction. I didnt even flinch, so he went on. "We hafta hit the target before Zeal transports it to the Terra-Fortress. Its a new fortress designed to siphon the power of Mostern easily and quickly. All its missin is this one piece. If it gets it, the Terra-Fortressll be able to use a super-powerful laser ta destroy the last remaining rebel cities, not ta mention expandin ta other planets."
Lucca gasped at the idea that there could be other worlds worth expanding to. I was equally shocked, yet I couldnt show any emotion.
"Why are you telling me this?" I asked. Cynicism dripped from my words, and my anger was almost palatable.
Klab looked down again, almost in shame.
"We ere spread thin all round the continent. Each one of these bases has no more than four or five men now. We ere short on on manpower."
"Dont tell me. You want us to go into the most dangerous place in history and destroy the most heavily guarded piece of machinery ever created?" I summed it all up.
"Yes. Im " he began. I held up my hand and cut him off. After taking a deep breath and wiping away the tears, I spoke.
"Ill help. After all, were fighting a common foe. But Im doing this for Marle and not for you. Remember that," I said as I took a deep breath. Then, grinning, I said, "Ive got a question though. Could we change Mosterns name to Lavos? Its easier to pronounce that way."
He glanced at me quizzically, then laughed wholeheartedly. Soon, everyone was laughing, some with tears streaming down their face. When the laughter died down, died down, all tension and anxiety had been released. He smiled at me, and with a huge grin, spoke.
"Ya know lad, I dont think it cares what its called. Ya kin even call it son if ya want." Klab was barely holding back his laughter. I grinned, and he lost it completely. The others had grins from ear to ear, including Cid.
"All right, all right. Enough with the Bwahahaha!" I couldnt help laughing; I needed the realease. After another full minute and a half of laughing, Klab stood up.
"So, you dare ta go up against Zeal. I can spare another man aside from Cid, so whore ya gonna take?"
After consulting Lucca and Cid, we decided on the man holding the javelin. Cid told me that the guy was a dragoon, a jumper of some sort. He also told me that the guys name was Kain. Afterwards, Klab showed me the blueprints to Zeal, teling me to use my best judgement on a plan of attack. I recognized the design as incredibly similar to the Zeal on Earth. I told him so.
"Well, then ya should have no problem gettin in," was all he said.
I intended to use the same technique I used the last time: going in the front entrance; arriving in the Epoch would be too obvious. Zeal itself, just like the one back on Earth, was made up of several floating islands, however only two of them actually supported cities. On Aire, the smaller of the two held the city of Khazdian. The larger island supported the giant city of Udrin, as well as the Kings Palace, which sat atop a mountain and ruled its realm with absolute authority. To get from one island to the other one must travel via skygates and landgates. From landgate one, a person would go to the skygate in Khazdian. From there, that person would go to another skygate, and arrive at a landgate. That person would then have to travel to another landgate, and go to Udrin. It allowed only one entrance and exit, but as many people as necessary could come and go from it.
Klab told us we were welcome to stay the night, and we gratefully accepted. In the morning, as we were leaving, he went over some last minute details.
"The King has eyes and ears everywhere. I dont know the exact details of your adventures back wherever you came from, but keep alert. Remember, you have three days. Were counting on you to destroy that machine. Youll probably find it in the Palace, maybe in the lower levels. Thats where they keep items for storage," Klab reminded me.
I nodded, then turned to my companions. "Lets go you three," I said.
They all nodded, and all except Kain followed me through another secret door and up the stairs to the outside world. Kain followed us a moment later, clutching his javelin nervously.
"Kain, from now on, no hesitation. I wont get angry if you make a mistake, but you have to learn to trust your instincts. A moments hesitation can mean the difference between life and death," I told him sternly. He nodded, then gulped.
"Im ready Crono. Lets go to Zeal," he told me. His voice was solid, but his body betrayed him. I smiled a reassuring smile and headed on.
* * *
Along the way, I ran the previous nights conversation in my head over and over again. Something was bothering me about it. Klab had told me to within a degree of certainty where to find the Mammon Machine. I didnt like that at all.
"Cid, how does Klab know about Zeal?" I asked.
"I dont know," Cid said, shrugging.
"Theres something about yesterday that bothers me. He told us where we could find the Mammon Machine. I want to know how he knew."
"Good espionage. I know we have some people in Zeal," Cid told me.
"Hmm," I said, unsatisfied. "I dont buy it. Theres something about him ." I let the sentence hang.
"He he used to work for Zeal," Kain said suddenly.
"He WHAT?" This time it was Cid.
Kain looked at Cid in confusion.
"Cid, you didnt know?" Kain asked.
He shook his head.
"Klab rescued me from Zeal when I was a kid, and raised me as his son. However, there were times when hed be gone for weeks at a time. When Klab came back, he would look very tired, almost as if he was in a fight. When I would ask him where he had gone, he would quickly change the subject. I suppose thats where he was, but I learned quickly not to pry into his business," Cid explained.
"Do you know what he did there?" I asked again.
"No. But I think it had something to do with the army. I heard him talking to one of his friends several times about a general called Dilton or something like that."
The name almost rang a big bell, but I dismissed it as a coincidence.
"Hmm. I think wed better be careful, then."
"Crono, Klab is a good man! He wouldnt hurt a fly! Hes never done anything bad in his entire life. I know him better than anyone. You can trust him," Cid shouted indignantly.
I frowned. Cid seemed too intelligent to be naïve, and yet I had a bad feeling about yesterday night. If Klab wasnt a traitor, then I was sure one of the others was. The rest of the trip was spent in sullen silence.
Our suspicions were forgotten however, as we gazed in awe at the architectural genius of Zeal. The landgate was a massive square building of marble-like stone and a whitish metal, gleaming brightly in the warm sun. On the top was a white dome with a large hole in the top through which all visitors and passengers to Zeal were transported. The Zeal Coat of Arms, called the Power Crest, guarded the entrance fiercely. The Crest looked like the face of some type of Minotaur, its mouth open in a battlecry. For eyes, the Minotaur had two fiery red jewels, which seemed to burn in the eyesockets of the Crest. A set of gleaming stairs led up to the entrance where they passed between two magnificently gleaming pillars. Both pillars had the Power Crest at their peaks. Inside, a passageway wide enough for all of us to walk side by side led us to the transportation chamber, of which we could see only the usually green carpet of grass. A few meters into the hallway, I saw hieroglyphs of some sort etched into the wall. It seemed to be telling the tale of how King Zeal arrived here and built his empire. A hundred feet after the inscriptions ended, the passageway opened up into a large room, large enough to be more of an auditorium than a room. As I glanced around the room, I had to constantly close and reopen my eyes; the contrast between the barren landscape and the beautiful building was almost too great a shock. I turned to see Lucca rush to a flower colored with the most violent purple I had ever seen. She sniffed it, then moved on to another, which was a brilliant crimson. It had five petals, each overlapping and joining in the center, and one long anther coming out. The anther itself had small azure petals coming out from its middle and reaching down until where the flowers petals joined. It was beautiful. I noticed many growing around, so I plucked one and put it in my waist bag. One can never tell if an herb or a flower or a root can be helpful, so whenever I find something interesting, I keep it.
I turned around and looked at Cid and Kain. They were looking around mystified; they had never seen anything as beautiful as this. Both were uttering phrases like "Its paradise" and "Im in heaven". I had to agree with them. The colors in the room were so vivid and so dazzling that the walls seemed to take the color of the flowers, green, indigo, azure, yellow, and crimson. I closed my eyes, breathing in the wonderful scent of flowers and listening to the wowing of Kain and Cid. And then another sound, a natural sound, caught my attention. I heard water running. I headed towards the sound and sure enough, there was a small brook winding around the garden. I smiled to myself; it reminded me of my moms old garden at home, but much more so. I sat down and drank some of the water, then lied down and enjoyed my surroundings.
* * *
I woke with a start, as if I had another one of my earlier dreams. Looking up at the sun, I noticed that an hour had passed. We were wasting time, and Marles safety was on the line.
"Guys, I hate to be a wet blanket, but wed better go," I told them with a little regret. One by one they nodded, then I pointed towards a small circle, about 12 feet in length, on the ground in the center of the greenery. It looked metallic; except for the fact that it emitted a pink glow. The light would get brighter, then dimmer, as if keeping a beat, almost as if it were breathing.
I looked each of my friends in the eyes, then stepped onto the runes. The glow faded away, then became brighter and brighter. Suddenly, I felt myself being lifted off my feet and hurtled into space. It wasnt a new feeling, nor was it a one anyone could get used to. A split-second later, I stepped off the skygate, and in front of me was green grass and flowers, just like the garden down on Aire. I also saw a breathtaking sight: the magnificent city of Khazdian. In the distance, it sparkled like a diamond, but I couldnt see any details because it was too bright. I looked to my right and, across a void of unimaginable space, I saw more green, blue, and red and the small speck of brightness no larger than my eye called Udrin. I looked further into the distance and saw a small jewel. I focused my eyes on it, and it became a white, glittering star. I realized this was the Zeal Palace. I ripped my eyes away from the site, and noticed that Lucca, Cid, and Kain had arrived and were staring at the bastions of life shimmering in the red sun. Just like Zeal back on Earth. Just like Zeal. And just like Zeal, it housed the two most deadly creations of all time. A mind warped and twisted by power, and a destructive, malicious being called Lavos. Just like Zeal.
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