By Dawn Wilkins
"Into this world I've fallen, so many times betrayed...Trying to find an
honest word to live...the truth enslaved...Oh, you speak to me in riddles...you
speak to me in rhyme...nothing stands between us here...and I won't be denied!"
The Enlightened's Lost Tome of Wisdom (Vol. 7, pg. 345): Haughtiness is a symphony of disaster evoking tragedy. A person, whether virtuous or not, is not necessarily predominantly just, and may, through this flaw, precipitate his/her own demise. Knowledge, often obtained through previous encounters with pride, may ward this off. A humble heart, shielded with knowing, and most significantly, accepting that all-consuming self-righteousness is ill-fated may evade failing prey. If even then pride should prevail then this is a calamity worthy of the best of ballads.
In the beginning there was pride.
Chill wind knifed through him. Drawing his blood-red cape close around his body, the sorcerer observed a dark figure stumble. Duo fire-and-lilac eyes revolved even as they narrowed. Again the cruel winds shrieked sounding like a hiss, slashing through his surroundings. The sound could be a symphony, a mockery of his life. Of course, his life was nothing but a mockery.
Nothing seemed to bequeath the sorcerer with any amount of due respect. Throughout his childhood many were the people who were more than unfriendly. They whispered words behind his back, sneaked unfavorable glances at him, and treated him like an outcast, a pariah, like the old grandma that no one liked but had to be dealt with.
A wisp of blue dangled before his face. Irritably he tossed it aside. He did not notice it shift back into place as a low howl came from the wind. He smiled grimly. The wind was very much like him, an undeniable force that held no one but itself in considerance. His booted feet scratched the dirt of the outcrop beneath him. Further down was that form he had been gazing upon, a mystery that prowled the shoreline that the cape eclipsed with grave shadows.
Memories returned unbidden. In his maturing years their disgust metamorphosed to brutality. His caretakers training left him bloody and scarred, threatened to shred his sanity and will to live and acted as if he were a dog that had to be installed with a killer's instinct and rage.
He half-turned as a bird, a coal-black raven, soared over his head, stirring the air. It dove in long waves over the ocean. He inwardly cheered it on as his soul rose in sympathy. Then, to his unbidden horror, it banked sharply into the blue-black sea. A tiny ripple was all he saw and then silence.
He survived his hells but from out of the rain and into the lake he went as he finally reached adulthood. Now eyes gazed upon him with hatred. They sought any opportunity to evoke his damnation, they pursued him with precision that he barely evaded as they drunk from the precipice of delightful insanity, and named him a demon of the blackest hearts, a prince of darkness.
No...respect was a concept utterly foreign to him.
And yet he had survived.
Through this massive assault he managed to salvage a shard of himself--his pride.
Magus had survived.
A rustle shook Magus out of his melancholy remise. He clenched a fist. He had heard a soft noise that made his skin crawl. What was out there? Glancing around he saw nothing so dismissed it from his mind.
The cloaked form beneath his vantage point approached the waves that crashed in. Viciously those waves surged, fingers ribonating into the sand, failing to achieve purchase and retreating. A dim light rippled along the surface as milky foam breathed on the deserted beach. Magus sighed irritably as he tossed another disobedient strand aside. What was that fool doing? The thought disappeared as his illuminated eyes trailed to a silverly-blue pendant dangling from his neck. Carefully he slid the thin chain over his head and stared at the adornment as the sun's failing light glinted and as it bit into his flesh with an oddly-reassuring fashion.
Yes, pride alone had persevered. But was it self-righteousness or arrogance? Everything in his life had been twisted to the point that he couldn't distinguish between right or wrong. True, many were inhuman to him but was he any different? Magus shook his head to clear his thoughts, unsuccessfully. His blue strands fanned out like a vibrant waterfall.
In his "righteous pride" he had magically transformed an innocent named Glen into a frog. He had murdered Glen's friend, Cyrus, and many more nameless, faceless innocents. His wounded pride had kept him from revealing his identity to his sister Schala when she needed him the most. Was he, in this "holy quest of righteous pride", losing his purpose, his conscience, and himself?
"Enough!" the sorcerer hissed out loud. His arrogance was justifiable! Cyrus and Glen sought to attain a weapon of destruction, his destruction! The so-called innocents treated him like a disease that must be expunged! Even deceiving Schala had been vital. He had to conceal himself or ruin his chances in his quest!
Magus' gaze lingered on the medallion Schala had given him, the one person who ever treated him with respect. And where was she now? Beneath the sea with his innocence and stupidity.
His paralyzing eyes drunk in the features of his terrain. An immensely blue ocean spanned as far as the eye could see. Light, shimmering along the surface, came from the fading sun that descended into the horizon. If he looked down he would see a dusty ledge of brown packed dirt. A velvety black-purple sky stretched to the vastness of infinity. As he struggled with his thoughts he saw the sun casting varied tints in the sky as the light merged in an awesome display. He noted how the the day gave way to darkness. It was akin to him. The day, his childhood and stupidity had yielded to the night, his maturity and pride.
The wizard's tongue cleaved the roof of his mouth. Yes, he had heard something hidden somewhat by the moaning winds...the wind died to a murmur then suddenly roared. Again he heard the rustle. His mind rage chaotically. Was that the black wind? If it was then the premonitions were grim.
Danger. Fear fuelled his heart to pound. One gloved hand slid to his belt, the other still clasping the pendant. A large scythe greeted his fingers. He still held the deadly weapon ready for combat. Then a cold hand gripped his heart just as surly as his own fingers gripped the medallion. His magic, once extremely powerful and his main defense, had been drained. Since his reserves were dangerously low his unseen threat might get a good shot in and...
Almost before he could think Magus' primal instincts seized control and he chanted a spell. A dull indigo beam haloed him and his body glimmered. The wizard smiled resignedly. He really hadn't meant to make himself invisible. It was reflective; the result of years of training. Well, it's done now, he snapped caustically to himself, and he might as well make the best of it. Steeling himself he watched as three figures ascended the cape, clothes rippling like the wings of avenging angels.
The first was an unforgettable sight. He was a five-foot man-sized frog complete with copper shield and a beautifully-crafted sword. The amphibian carried himself with an air of gallantry. A green cape that was much too large for him swayed as he walked not as a normal man should (then again he is a frog!) but rather hopped.
Second came an attractive young woman with a bunched gold pony tail. She wore a bright white outfit with a long ash bow strapped against her back. She strode with a decidedly defeated manner. Her large, luminous eyes reflected a determination that defied her down-hearted expression.
Last darted another female. A dozen pouches adorned her unusual grab as well as many indefinable gadgets. She wore an odd helmet. This girl observed everything with an air of intelligence bordering on insolence. But she seemed friendly enough, minus the gun.
Magus groaned. Glen the frog, Marle the princess, Lucca the inventor! Would he never be rid of them?
Glen bent down to pluck an gleaming object from the barren ground. Light and shadows mirrored the surface. Stupid frog. What's he found?
The frog's beady eyes appraised it. Finally, with a shrug, he extended it heavenward for all to see. And it was then that Magus recognized it.
A red haze shrouded his eyes in hate. How dare he!? How dare he steal that sacred talisman that Schala had bestowed him? All inklings of trepidation and confusion evaporated in his radiated fury. His eyes, a bloody nightmare, flared. Within seconds Magus severed the spell to shreds and he winked into existence.
After tossing his cape back over a shoulder he pointed his index finger at the companions. In a moment he could deal them death. They were badly surprised as the three darted backwards. They were in disarray...but, with a sadistic grin, he lowered his arm. He would never sink to their level.
Glen muttered something entirely unknightly. Lucca whistled in shock. Marle's face contorted in astonishment. After giving them a curt examination he snatched up the medallion of his that Glen dropped. They had offended him by nabbing the jewel so he returned the favor in kind.
Glen's eyes, green like everything else, flashed with thinly-masked fury. That, too, the sorcerer retorted in kind. When the hands of the band lingered near their impressive weapons it did not go unnoticed. But, in his contempt he ignored them and stared at the pendant. Delicate starlight danced along the curves.
Sudden winds seized his attire and sky-blue mane and shook them erratically. Somewhere, in the rind of his soul, whispered danger. For years the black winds had foretold numerous ill omens. It moaned when his mother activated a deadly machine. It cried as he accompanied Ozzie to the fort. It screamed as he faced Glen on a mountain top and later encountered him as the frog and his friends raided his home. It howled unbearably the moment he challenged Lavos. The wind always prophesied doom.
Now its voice rose to a thousand screams that must have came from an abyss, a domain were horror is everything.
Magus flung the metal over his neck. His eyes, cold as artic ice, sought Glen's gaze and snared it
"Oh, it's you."
He tilted his face so the gleam of the dying sun cast light on one side of his face. The other remained chill in shadows. Oh, how he relished in shattering his tormentor's gallantry; throwing them from their ivory towers. Their defiance, a rusted kitchen fork, was a joke in relation to his pride, a blazing razor-keen scythe. His mission could not be denied.
"Magus," Glen breathed almost inaudibly.
For expansive moments silence bound their voices. The wizard didn't really know what to say. What trick of fate had made their paths cross today? Something in the black winds whispered that their deaths were a must. Uncountable were the times this motley band disrupted his significant mission. He discarded the notion. They didn't frighten him; they were merely an annoyance. He could snuff out their candles of life if the sheer caprice seized him. He was Magus and he commanded life and death. Dominance and pride.
What to do, then?
"Behold. Gone is the magical kingdom of Zeal and all the dreams and ambitions of its people."
As anticipated the narration threw the trio off their element. Bewildered eyes and raised eyebrows responded to his eloquent speech. Deciding to ride the wave, Magus continued:
"I lived there once, but I was a different person then..."
Losing himself in the anti-euphoric reliving of his life the wizard forgot his audience. His eyes sought the sea, light reflecting in his troubled pupils. And as if the waters could mirror his history a journey into his memory began.
He told them of his existence at the palace. He painfully delved into how, as a child, he stumbled into a portal created by Lavos. He even related of his encounter with Ozzie and how destiny had twisted all things. He told them much...much more than he had originally intended.
"How ironic that, having been drawn into another portal I would end up in this age."
His deadly eyes returned to them, scantly-veiled from the inner fury.
"Because of my knowledge of the past I was able to convince the queen I was a mighty oracle..." he paused for effect. "But no history book could have prepared me for what happened here."
The wind whistled a tad. The amphibian swordsman glanced at his allies and they at him. No one said a word. Only a sole item could expound on that declaration...
"Unimaginable is the power of Lavos..." Magus' teeth grit in anger. The black breeze added to his statement with a cry. With a sigh, he appraised the band. Hrmph, he thought. They were adequate at best for his purposes but adequate would have to suffice. He decided revenge would force their hand in the decision he would present them.
"...at this rate you, too, will meet a horrible fate, just like that poor fool Crono."
All three bristled. Again, as he expected. Their eyes flared in fury and indignation. Hands hovered near a gun, sword, and bow. The light, once moderate, sunk low into a deep bluish-purple that muted the natural colors of mother earth. Glen stepped forward.
His face distorted with barely-controlled rage, voice low with heat, he growled, "Hold thy tongue." He got a snort for his trouble.
"Play with fire and get burned!"
"Magus, hold thy tongue!"
In his mind, the sorcerer's subconscious calculated the likelihood of the group agreeing to his proposal--answer? Magus didn't care. If they wouldn't help him so be it.
The very air grew tight sucking up all the breath to be had. He didn't fear, he was in control. Magus was always in control. He alone stood justified. When all else threatened to destroy his will and pride he remained true to himself. Let them do their worst, thought the wizard, I shall prevail.
He posed the question and it rang with clarity. "Do you wish to fight me?"
Suddenly the wind shrieked to a paramount cord that rippled through the soul. It was so loud and indefinable that it created its own level of silence as the group contemplated.
Finally an answer, just as clear.
Glen had spoke. His voice had a slight chill to it that iced Magus' heart. He fought it down. Though he didn't fear the frog Magus hadn't really believed they would chose to do battle. It was offending. He would make them regret their decision.
The wizard was brought up short. What was the fool doing? Marle and Lucca stared at each other in amazement and concern. United they gave Glen quizzical looks. But such was the determined gaze he offered them that they shrugged their shoulders and departed. The girls descended the cliff, clothes flickering like a wild flame, lost substance and dimension, and disappeared from view.
Now Glen turned to Magus.
The wizard spoke as he thrust his the bloodish cape back. "I never thought we would end our feud in this dusty era. Come."
Their eyes met. The earth might have been swallowed by hell, the emotion so powerful that each could swear the effect was physical. Blood-purple eyes locked on olive-green eyes. The silence was mutual. Both wanted to savor the moment before the classic confrontation commenced.
There was no sudden rush of bodies nor hacking of blades. Instead they circled one another in their timeless dance. Glen carried the match to his opponent by darting forward in a feint to the leg. It was sidestepped and copied. Neither attempt proved successful. Magus kept his eyes trained on Glen's in hope he might rattle the amphibian. Watch for an opening, he muttered to himself. Just needed a little distraction...
"Hey, fly-lover! Enjoying your form? All that green suits you...especially when you'll be six feet under with Cyrus the coward!"
The offense provoked a black look from the knight but Glen refused to be diverted from his purpose. Magus was a little taken back by his composure. With the wind howling, his powers drained, and more than enough troubles to be had he realized this battle might be more than hard-pressed...he could...
NO! Magus perished the thought. He could not fail. His pride would not let him fail.
"Thoust filthy urchin! Why thou can'ts be of thy princess Schala's blood...not in grace or face!"
The mere comment of Schala in such a fashion was bad enough but to add a insult to his pride (not to mention his looks) was the last straw.
Consumed by rage Magus dove at his hated adversary with a uncanny savagery. His powerful downward stroke would have sliced Glen's head off. But Glen anticipated Magus' reaction and ducked. The wizard missed and got a slash to his shoulder for his foolishness. Parry. Feint. Low cut to the knees. High slash to the head. Feint. Parry. It was like two madmen in the grips of a vampiric trance. A moment later they parted.
As the two separated to glare at each other, Magus remembered that physical combat was Glen's element. Depleted as he was, the sorcerer calculated that his magical reverses should be sufficient.
He went into a series of motions that an eye could not catch before gliding forward. His cape whipped in tune to his hair. A dozen gold cords encircled him and his eyes sheened to yellow. Then the brutal light spanned out and struck Glen. The amphibian staggered back. A sizable portion of his upper body was charred. Magus grinned.
He was not grinning a moment later when a titanic wave engulfed him. Gagging, he stumbled to his knee. He cursed. And cursed. And after that he cursed some more, most of it directed to Glen's genealogy.
"That's the best you can do, green bag?! I'll show you real water!"
Though froze to the bone, Magus ignored the ache. His fingers darted like the legs of a dancer as he sent a large number of ice chunks Glen's way. He positively roared with laughter as a big one slammed into the frog's forehead. The amphibian went head over heels and landed less than pleasantly.
It's time to finish this, Magus noted. Glen was nearly incapacitated so a quick slit to the throat should do the job.
As Magus approached his hand went to his neck for the pendant. He was not more than two paces when his stomach shrank in shock. The amulet was missing!
That piece of green amphibian slob! He's nabbed the medallion again. A mere knife to the throat is not enough for him. He must pay!
The wizard towered over Glen who remained prostrate to the ground, head buried in dirt. His voice low with heat, Magus whispered, "Where did you stash it, fly-lover!? Where is it! Tell me! Or by !@#$ damn you'll pay!"
Headless of what Glen muttered, which didn't sound decent, the sorcerer commenced his spell. Fingers darting like an intricately woven web he breathed in the ethereal energy of the dark art. And a dark art it was. It was darkest spell known.
"Neuga, ziena, zieber, zom..."
One arm twisted in a bizarre semi-circle while the other completed the cycle with a underhanded arc. His body emitted an unholy radiance of the blackest to be. With a swift cut and the air between the two combatants ripped audibly. It was like shredding cloth. A chasm opened to reveal a vast nocturnal abyss. Magus sucked a breath as duo triangles, ebony and ivory, swirled. It was hell reincarnate as if the black was cut from the night itself. And he loved every minute of it.
But he saw it.
The medallion, gleaming defiantly despite the massive fracture.
And then everything went terribly wrong.
If one were to ask Magus exactly what ruined his concentration he wouldn't be able to explain. He didn't understand himself. Something deep inside shattered as the vision of the talisman Schala bequeath him appeared.
The nightly beams crumbled and though the former prince fought desperately it was in vain.
His magic failed him.
Glen stirred, coming to half crouch in curiously. He did not know what saved his life. He doubted he ever would. Lifting the legendary Masemune from the bloody grass carpet, he staggered to his feet. But he did not attack. He watched.
Fists clenched to his temples, eyes squinted closed, Magus was the portrait of despair. He was a failure. When all else failed his magic had kept him afloat. True, he was drained in his craft but surely he was not beaten! It reminded him horribly of his childhood days being magicless and object of ridicule.
Surely his pride would not fail him...
"En garde, prince of darkness!"
Magus' eyes snapped open in time to see the green abomination soar at him. For a moment time was broken, past and present merged...
....a child, the pariah of poison, worth dirt....
It was excruciatingly slow as the frog descended, an angel of vengeance, angel of death.
....a teen, the killer dog, tool of evil....
It was even slower as the dreaded blade slammed into his chest, blood running like crimson water.
....a man, the prince of darkness, pride only....
It was the slowest as Glen withdrew the Masemune, and the agony began.
Magus screamed. It could have been a hundred glass vases crashing to the floor. Blood streamed down his front, drenching everything. What's that cursed frog done to me!? he cried wordlessly in fury and fear. He found drawing breath difficult. The wizard placed a hand to his heart, above his sternum, to stanch the lifeflow, which he discovered hard in the vicious wind. Damn frog got him near the heart.
In horror he felt a smooth, slick stick of something. Terror mounting, Magus glanced down. Glen had cut deep, to the bone in fact. There was a wide gap in his chest that lifeblood poured from but even that didn't hide the bone. It was gleaming porcelain looking like a thing foreign to the human body. Magus thought he would be violently ill.
So this is what it's like to die, he thought bitterly. Death without honor, death without dignity, death without...pride.
Night had crept upon them, casting innumerable shadows. Glen's allies approached, wary but without fear. Marle came to the knight's right weaving a healing spell that made Glen stand straighter. Lucca darted left, eyebrow's curled as he congratulated Glen.
Oh, god, Magus moaned, does this have to be the last thing I see?!
Death without pride.
....If time is to change, let it change. If the world is to be destroyed, so be it. If I must die, then I must simply laugh....
And so he did. Laugh. Oh, it was a hollow laugh, more of a dying grunt but it still counted. He would have his revenge. He'd tell them how to save their precious Crono. Then they would be beholden to him.
Gasping he said, "Find a time egg and you shall save your beloved Crono."
Marle gasped, eyes watering. Lucca's cheeks mantled in shock. Glen stared silently wondering if Magus had gone mad.
But Magus was quite beyond mad. He rose, oddly unhindered by the fatal wound. His scarlet cape rustled in the fading wind, indistinguishable from his blood. He could ask them to spare his life but he would never. Pride refused it. Informing them about the time egg was enough. They had unwittingly refused his offer of aid and yet he told them a clue. Much good it would them without him. The faces of bewilderment and wonderment was sufficient to accompany him to the nether world even as they discovered the truth of his words and the horror that they insured Crono's downfall.
The black wind settled to a moan even as it whispered the life of no life. As always, the wind was right. His mission had come to no avail but at least he would die with some retained honor.
As the blood streaked and the pain intensified the wizard's primal instincts seized command again. The scythe dropped from his bloody hand and rolled. It rattled all the way down the side of the cliff and the weapon plummeted to the sea. Summoning his last vestiges of magic he cast a float and invisible spell simultaneously. The effect had him in the air and glowing a sky-blue. Death would soon embrace him.
A single word screamed in his mind.
But it was too late. Magus' spell failed and he plunged down at breath-stealing speed, much like his scythe. He crashed into the icy waters below the cape. Crystal bluish-white liquid enveloped him, pressed on all sides, made him part of it. His hair and cape partially blocked his sight. Blood diffused in a sickly pink array.
But as the freezing waters devoured him, making him lose substance and dimension, he saw a black mass on the ocean floor.
The raven? Magus glanced through the murky water.
Then he saw her.
It was that figure again, the one he had been so mystified by before the damnable frog and his friends arrived. It was a she, heavily cloaked, head bent against the wind. Through the not-so-translucent water he catch sight of purple-blue strands.
Oh, god, it can't be! Magus struggled against the blackness that threatened to incarcerate him. Pride evaporated in that single moment.
But Magus would never now because as death quietly took him he knew this was...
Dawn Wilkins' Fanfiction