Things Left Undone Book 3, Chapter 8
Crono, Marle, Lucca, Ayla, Robo, Glenn, Magus, Flea and Johnny fell to the ground when they landed back in the tree prison on Karandash. As they tried to reorient themselves, Bob brought out a screen with his magic. He ordered a treeman to hold it, and stood patiently as his guests got over their dizziness.
Finally, when all nine of them were glaring attentively, Bob grinned. He gestured to the screen beside him. "You now have the honor of watching as Sydney passes your second test for you."
Lucca's face was red with fury and grief. "You *#@%!!! You killed one of my friends, and stranded the other in a blank world!!" She struggled, but the others restrained her and prevented her from attacking Bob.
Robo tried to calm her. "Please, Lucca! Calm yourself! You remember what Bob did to Krono when he attacked! Please..." Lucca finally calmed down. She stood silent, staring daggers at Bob.
"Very good, mistress Lucca." Bob applauded mockingly. "Your self-control impresses me."
Ayla spoke then. You could hear her attempting to hold back her rage at the death of her son, which she had hoped she would never, ever see. Her taut voice was even more threatening than if she had been screaming. "You kill my son. You never live to see another day."
Bob laughed then, still not moving his mouth, and still without a flicker of emotion crossing his wooden face. He could have been a statue, if not for the probing black eyes that flayed the protective fabric covering your soul, displaying it for all to see.
Crono, eternally calm under pressure, asked Bob a question. "You say this is the second test. What was the first? And what will the third one be?"
Bob turned to him, and regarded him intently. "Your first test was to kill Karter. He was but a pawn in a much greater scheme. Your clearing out the fungus gives you extra credit points. As to the third test, though..." His voice faded away, as he turned to the screen. They all fell silent, as Sydney's huddled form materialized.
* * * * *
The tears she had held back for so long flowed free. They traced a shimmering trail down her arm as she mourned the deaths of her father, her childhood friend Gord, and now, her beloved Krono. She had lost the one momento that he had left to her, his horn necklace. She was all alone in this bright world, even her friends banished by Bob.
Finally, after all her tears had been spent, she sat up. She brushed a loose strand of hair from her face, and after she had gotten her strength back, she stood up.
As she stood, though, she noticed a lightness of her body. No, she corrected herself, not of the body but of the soul. She finally felt free, all the frustration, anger and grief pent up inside now released. She stood straight, proud, defying the fates that locked her here, here in this blank land.
But she had no one around to see her new freedom. She wished more than anything that her father was here to see her. He had often complained to her about her constant grimness. She laughed softly to herself, and shook her head.
And then there was Gord. She had been friends with him for as long as she could remember. When the other kids would laugh at her and leave her by herself in the park, Gord, the boy that was a year older than her and an outcast as well because he had been born with no left eye, was always there. Even though they had been friends for all of her twenty-one years, she had never thought of him as anything more than just that. A friend. But his last words to her were, 'I love her, after all.' If only she'd known. If only she hadn't taken their friendship for granted. If only...
And last, but definitely not least, was Krono. Just thinking of him brought a smile to her face. She would always remember him as the handsome young man who had captured her heart. And she had cherished his last gift, though she only had it for a short time before it joined her friends in oblivion. A tiny tear formed in the corner of her eye. She quickly brushed it away, and stood up straighter. She smoothed out all the wrinkles in the tunic which she only now realized was worse for the adventures she had had with her friends. She had to remain strong. Krono, Gord, and her father would have wanted her to be.
Even though she had no place to go, and had no idea of her direction in the featureless land, she began to walk. As she walked, she felt stronger and happier. The lines on her face from years of anger and sadness were replaced by the lines of a true smile. Her eyes, which had always held a hint of gray in their bright green depths, lost that darkness. She had been a sickly youth, and so had barely any color in her face. But as she walked, and the blackened layers of her soul which were shriveling up and blowing away like the fungus were replaced by shining silver and gold, a flush of color entered her cheeks and lips. She stopped walking, startled by the sudden warmth she felt, and placed a hand to her cheek. She gasped in surprise. She could almost feel herself glowing.
As she raised her eyes and continued walking, she saw the light in back of her begin to flow to her front. It gathered until half of the land and sky around her was black, and kept gathering until it had formed a single pinpoint of such brightness that anyone else would have been blinded instantly if they had so much as glanced at it. But Sydney, with her newfound health and inner peace, watched it with unwavering attention and kept walking towards it without fear. Even when everywhere around her was the deepest black and she no longer walked but flew, she felt no fear.
The pinpoint of light grew as she approached it, forming what seemed to be a temple. The archway stood open to her, and she flew ahead with new determination. Inside there was the key to her destiny.
She flew past two massive dragons, and she was awed by their majesty and magnificence. She bowed her head in reverence as she passed, and the dragons returned the gesture. She kept going, leaving the dragons far in the distance, and finally, she approached the gate. She landed on the threshold, and gazed at the doors which towered above her. They were open, and she knew she needed no invitation. She walked in, and anyone who did not know her would have mistaken her for a queen. Those who did know her would have been hard-pressed to recognize her. She had completely changed.
The hall she entered was magnificent. It was built solely of light, with a simple flat floor, and six unadorned columns. The ceiling far ahead sat upon those columns, and cast its light out through the black heavens. Sydney kept walking, towards the raised platform at the end of the hall.
When she got to the platform, she lowered herself to the floor, bowing to the being that stood there. The being beckoned for her to stand, and it took her hand, and led her onto the platform. She stared, transfixed by this being's beauty.
It was neither male or female, and it, like the temple which housed it, was made solely of light. It, though, glowed brighter than anything that Sydney had ever seen or would ever see. It spoke then, its voice so beautiful that it moved her to tears to hear it.
*Welcome, my child. Do you know why you are here?*
"N-no, sir- madam- uhhh.."
*It's quite all right, my dear. Do not worry, I am not a being to be feared. I have appeared to you all, many times on your quest.*
That last sentence it spoke to the air. Sydney looked about, trying to see what the being was talking to. She could see nothing, though.
*Yes, I have appeared to you within many different people. I was Gaspar for a short time, and I was Toma, as well. I was Tryuiop, and I was within the tree people when they captured your friends, bringing you all together. And most recently, I am within your friend, Bob.*
"But why? Why did you affect our lives so? And why are you telling me this? Aren't one of my other friends more noble, or brave, or more whatever than me?"
*I appear to you, Sydney, because you are humble, and you are just, and you are true. You have endured much sadness, and yet you bear it all with a smile. And, Sydney, you may not know it yet, but you have the power. You are destined to take my place in this land of light, and keep all creatures sure that there is good in the world. It is a great responsibility, but you are worthy. You are the future Lightrunner.*
Sydney bowed her head in thanks, and remained silent. Then, the being spoke again.
*All your friends are witnessing this, your great triumph. They have seen and heard all that has happened to you, from when you cleansed your soul to this point. And now, I ask you all to listen to me, for I have a favor to ask of you. In the end, Sydney, it is your choice whether or not you will do as I ask.*
*A great evil is upon Karandash, an evil that you know as Jas-chu. He is not a Karandian as you think, but my opposite. He is the Darkrunner, in the body of the aged Karandian. He is threatening to destroy the fragile balance between good and evil in your entire plane of existence, and he must be sent back to his temple of dark in his world of light. I need you all to battle him, and send him back, restoring the balance. It will be very dangerous, and some of you may die. But the fate of us all rests in your hands, Sydney. What will you do?*
"I- I accept, Lightrunner."
*Good. As I knew you would. But now, I must focus on something else; your second test.*
"But I thought..." She never finished that sentence, because before her appeared the three most important people in her life. Her father, Gord, and Krono stood before her. With a yelp of happiness, she ran to her father, embracing him. He laughed, and turned her to Gord. Gord wrapped his tree-trunk-like arms around her, and lifted her into the air. Finally, she got to Krono, who stood, smiling at her. "I proud of you, Sydney. You come far, and you look brand new. But now time for your test." Gord, her father, and Krono walked away from her, until they stood ten paces away. They turned back to her, lined up. Krono continued talking. "Your test is to choose the one of us that will return with you to the world."
Sydney paled, and turned to Lightrunner. "No, don't make me choose just one..." But Lightrunner shook his head and pointed to her three choices.
*You may only choose one, my child. Choose wisely, and you will succeed in your mission. But choose poorly, and you may not survive. Think to the past for your answer.*
Sydney turned back, and weighed the possibilities. She loved her father very much, but he was old and may not live for very long in the 'real' world. Gord was her very best friend, but she did not love him in the way that he loved her. That could be a problem. Krono was the one that she truly loved, and she was kind of sure that he loved her too, but if he didn't she would be devastated. She could not decide.
But then, what was that that Lightrunner said about thinking to the past? Sydney searched her memory, but could not think of anything that would help. Suddenly, a conversation flashed into her mind. She was half-asleep at the time, and could barely recall it, but...
<"And so this mural had everyone on it?"
"Yeah. Everyone that is here right now.">
She remembered that this conversation was when all eleven of them were together, that night in the woods. That night that Krono was there. She remembered Marle saying that the eleven people on the mural were the eleven heroes in that book that Tryuiop worshipped. And the eleven people there at the time were... So it's Krono, she said to herself with determination. For no other reason than he is one of the heroes on the wall. She turned to Lightrunner, and told him so.
Lightrunner smiled, and patted Sydney on the back.
*You have chosen... wisely.*
A bright flash of light followed, and she hit something hard and earthy-smelling. She managed to crack one eye open, and she saw that she was back in the clearing in the woods, with her nine friends- and Krono. Bob was gone, as was the tree wall that had encircled them.
She noticed that she held something in her hand. She brought it up to her face, and saw the black horn necklace. She held on to it tightly and fell asleep.
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