Shadow Temple of Zeal Chapter 13

The Challenge

By Demi-God

Chapter 13: The Challenge

The three heroes stood backs to the wall, waiting for the next move that the shadowy figures would make. The right one had drawn his sword and faced them, niether the black nus or the central figure had moved. "You have killed my brother. You may be a Child of Zeal, but you are not welcome here. I will dispose of you." Saying this, the figure drew a small, red, knife, and threw it into the ground at Magus's feet.

Magus stepped forward, answering the unspoken challenge. "I may have once been a citizen of the city of Zeal, but Zeal is no longer. How do you know of the floating kingdom?"

The figure did not move, but answered "Zeal is immortal. My father has remained here in the Temple of Shadow for 14000 years, awaiting the one who could open the gratings that were sealed with the Queen's Magic. Recently, the great Lavos awakened, but was destroyed by an unknown force... and we have slowly begun to age again. We thank you, son of the queen, for having removed the magical seal, and allowing us freedom to leave. However, now you must die, no matter if you are the prince of Zeal. Your time has come, Janus."

Magus flinched at the use of his ancient name. "I am no longer Janus. I am the Dark Mage Magus. This is not my time, nor my conflict. You three may leave, for I care not. I have only come to warn these women that the entity whithin this temple is beyond our power to defeat. We shall depart shortly."

Lucca jumped forward. "Magus! We will NOT leave! We have come too far to quit now! 'Beyond our power to defeat?' We destroyed Lavos! There is none beyond our power!"

The Shadowy Figures stepped back, aghast at this new turn. THEESE vagabonds had defeated the great Lavos? How was that possible? "You lie!" The right figure faced Lucca. "The Great Lavos could never be defeated by such... children!" Lucca pointed her gun at the figure, but was blocked by Magus. "In the ancient way of Zeal, he has challenged me to a duel. I alone must fight him." "But Magus! Who knows how he may act, he might che--" "NO!" The figure bellowed at the girl, who stepped back, afraid. "We of Zeal know no dishonor higher than cheating in such a duel. I will fight honorably."

Magus nodded. He bent and drew the knife out of the soil. He brought it to his left hand, and drew it across his palm. He tossed the knife to the shadowy figure across from him. The figure did the same to his hand. Magus walked forward, and ppresesd his bleeding palm to his enemies. They held for a moment as their blood mingled. Magus intoned "Our blood merges. The winner shall always carry part of the defeated." The figure nodded. "I accept your blood, Janus of Zeal. Let us begin." They parted and squared off. The duel had begun.


Chapter 14: Magus's Honor

The two warriors looked into the other's eyes. Magus stood back, held his scythe forward and nodded to the shadow. "Your move" The figure nodded, paused, and leapt forward, drawing a sword as he sped through the air. "Por Acto Ipsum Zeal!" He sliced the knife at Magus, who quickly doged to the left and whilred to face him. A bit of Magus's cape fluttered to the ground. The figure's sword cast an eerie red light around it. In it the girls could see his face, although it wasn't familiar to them. Magus grinned. "Ah, it's you, Marcus. It has been a long time." Marcus smiled. "I never thought that I'd be facing that little boy with no magic. I suppose your earthbound ways have dissapated over the years." Marcus pulled back and lunged again at Magus. Magus again dodged. "You are too slow, friend. And to think, I used to view you as the best fighter in Zeal." Marcus snarled in reply, and swept the sword at Magus, who was just a tad too slow to dodge. Magus reached up and touched the spot of blood forming on his lip.

Magus then formed a fighting stance. He rushed forward and sliced through the air with his sycthe. The blade sliced into the dumbfounded Marcus. Blood oozed from the new wound on his arm. Magus whirled around, and lunged again. As Magus again turned to face his enemy, there was a new slash across Marcus's forhead. "No magic, Marcus? We shall see." A bolt of lightning came forth from his hand and struck Marcus in the chest. Marcus shuddered but appeared unfazed. "Your full power, Janus? That was a third-grader's power in Zeal. Try this." Fire issued from Marcus's sword, and formed into a spear of flame, which sped toward Magus's stomach.

Magus slammed against the wall of the cavern. He looked down at the burn mark in his suit. He thanked the gods for his moon armor. He stood up shakily. "Marcus. I see now why my mother adored you so." He held forth his hands. Marcus froze in place. Shadowy tentacles rose from the ground under his feet and climbed up his legs, attaching to hims arms, the pulling him to the ground. Magus gestured, and a sickening crack came from Marcus's right leg. Marcus screamed in pain. The shadows faded as Magus lowered his hands. Marcus struggled to one knee, he shattered leg trailing under him. Magus looked down at him, with something resembling pity in his eyes. "Fool. Do you surrender? I am obviously superior."

Marcus growled. "You have killed my brother. I will not surrender." He grunted, and extended his hand again. Another bolt of fire spewed forth, that Magus easily avoided. "Don't be a fool! YOu can't defeat me in your condition!" Marcus didn't reply. A ring of fire surrounded Magus. Magus shook his head. "So be it." He raised his hands again. Trails of shadow enveloped the prostrated form of Marcus. Suddenly the Earth under him split, and the shadows pulled him into the groud. The floor closed again, and Marcus was gone.


Chapter 15: The Leader Revealed

Lucca stared at the place where Marcus had been. There was no fault in the floor at all... it was as if it had never been split. Magus turned to face ther figure. Lucca stood beside Magus on the right, while Marle stood to his left. The figure laughed. "Janus! Janus of Zeal! He who has killed both my hiers. Your time to die has arrived. Lucca! Marle! Yes, I know your names. You both had dealings with the people of Zeal shortly before the disaster. Your time has come also. I will not be defeated by such amatuers." Lucca was surprised that this demon of a man knew her name. No one in Zeal had even learned her name, excluding the guard that had interrogated her aboard the Blackbird.

"Take your best shot Janus. I fear not your power." Magus stood and stared in the direction of the figure. He hated the condecending attitude that this man was showing him. He despised the offer of first strike. It was an insult. He held out his hand. A small shot of darkness was sent forth, to virtually bounce off the figure. "Janus, why do you deny my power?" Two eyes glowed red in the darkness. Magus screamed.

Marle jumped back from the flames surrounding Magus's body. She saw his face twist in agony, and felt pity for the mage. She did not care for him; she nearly hated him. However, she could not bear to see such pain. Suddenly she heard Lucca shout. "Stop this! This man has done you no wrong that you did not cause!" The room flashed bright as the wondershot fired a bolt at the unprepared figure. Marle gasped as she recognized the face in the flash.

It was Dalton.

Lucca froze with the wondershot pointed at Dalton. Did her eyes decieve her? Was this the same man that had commandeered the Epoch, sent golem after golem after them, and later claimed the entire world for himself, only to be defeated by her, Marle, and Crono? She saw that the fire around Magus had ceased, and he was lying on the ground, with Marle attending to his wounds. Dalton grasped his wound. "I am surprsied one with so little power was able to injure me so. That weapon must be made from an elemental stone." He gestured at the young girl. Lucca felt the world spin under her feet, and her view faded to black. She fell to her knees, then collapsed.

Magus stood to his feet, looking again at Dalton. "You have gained power over the millenia, Sir Dalton. Perhaps caused by the Great Shadow?" Dalton grinned in the darkness. "Of course, Janus. When I attempted to summon the defeated Golem Boss from his chamber here, I instead created a portal into this temple. After I realized that I could not escape myself, I summoned my sons here with me. However, even our combined power could not break the locks. So here we have remained." Dalton raised his hand, and another stream of fire sped toward Magus. Magus ducked and clasped his hands in Dalton's direction, causing Dalton to be held whithin huge Fists of Shadow. Dalton grunted and tried to move. Magus closed his hands tighter, squeezing Dalton tighter. Dalton yelled out. And Magus shouted, his hands scalded with flame from Dalton's body. Suddenly they were surrounded with a healing light, as Marle cast a Cure over him. "You can't always fight alone, Magus." Magus looked toward her, and smiled. She got a very surprised look on her face, the smiled back.

Marle glared at the figure of Dalton. Her valkrye fired at shot at him, which was blocked by a field around him. He laughed. "Ha! Little girls should not have such toys! The great Dalton will not be bothered by you any longer." He opened his hand toward her, and her bow was coated with ice, and fell from her hands to the ground. She stared down at her ruined valkrye. Suddenly she felt an insanity rising whithing her. Her pendant began to glow red and her vision faded slightly. She bared her teeth and growled menacingly. "What are you doing, Princess?!" Magus dodged from her side, as she leapt toward the surprised Dalton. She tackled him and bowled him over, landing on top of him, scratching, clawing and biting in a berserk frenzy. Suddenly there was a flash of light, and she flew backwards into Magus. Marle's vision returned to normal, and her head spun. She was vaguely aware of Magus crouched nearby, and someone yelling at her, and... The princess dropped to the ground.


Chapter 16:Dalton's Failure

Magus stood and looked at his two fallen comrades. Even Lavos had less power than this. Something was wrong. He turned and faced Dalton. There were several bite marks on his face, and five deep fingernail scrathes down his neck. "You... You travel with this... this animal?" Dalton had fear in his eyes, as he stared at the stricken form of Marle. Magus regarded Marle with doubt. "She has never done that before. Her pendant..." He picked the glowing red pendant up from the floor, where it had fallen when she was blasted away from Dalton. Magus dropped the pendant into his belt pouch.

Magus turned to face Dalton. a flash of light blasted him against the wall. He fell to his knees. Dalton laughed. The remaining black Nu's faced him, blocking him to the wall. Magus tried to stand, shuddered, and fell again. Dalton waved his hand. The Nu's stepped forward and raised thier hands. Deep darkness surrounded Magus. "You have failed, Janus. This world belongs to me, the all powerful Dalton!" Magus unhinged an elixer from his belt, and brought it to his lips. He stopped and stared at his hand. His skin... was rotting. He quickly drank to potion. His skin returned to normal. He grabbed his scythe and swept it outwards. He heard the nu's scream, and they faded away. The magic dissipated. Magus stood.

Dalton drew his arm back, and brought forth a sword. "No magic now, Magus. Let us fight with steel." Dalton ran toward the faltering Magus. Magus dodged, and Dalton's sword stuck into the wall. Magus swung his scythe and Dalton's back became red. Dalton turned slowly. He pulled a small red knife, made of dreamstone. He lunged toward Magus, who dodged easily. Magus's scythe again swept out, and Dalton found a new cut along his chest. Dalton fell to the floor. Magus walked toward the fallen warrior. "I win." Magus kicked the form on the floor. Suddenly a flash of red emerged and went deep into Magus's leg. Magus leapt away, and pressed his hand to his wound.

Dalton stood weakly to his knees. "I see that you have bested me with steel, Janus." Dalton raised his hands, and a gate appeared. "A gate? You are running, then, Dalton." Dalton looked up at Magus and sneered. "You have not won, Janus. We shall meet again."

The gate closed over Dalton, and Dalton dissappeared with it. Magus stared at the spot where his enemy had been for a moment, then snapped back to reality. He sighed. Removing a tonic from Lucca's bag, he poured it over the wound on his leg. It healed, but left a white scar. "The Mark of Dreamstone. I despise that metal."

He removed a revive from Lucca's pack and held it to her nose. The scent flowed into her and she stirred. She stood weakly. "Magus? Where's Dalton?" Magus shook his head. "The coward ran after a marginal defeat. Marle is down also." Lucca drank a potion. "We go through these like they grow on trees," Lucca murmured as she looked at the empty bottle. Magus nodded. "Lucca, you were victim to powerful magic, I must teach you some of he details of it's casting so that you will be better equipped to deal with Dalton in the future."


Chapter 17: Magus's Story

Marle opened her eyes weakly, to see Lucca watching her. "Lucca? What happened?" "Dalton hit you with some powerful magic, but you seem ok for now. Can you stand up?" Marle nodded, then struggled to her feet. "Why are my hands all bloody? Is that the Valkyre?" She Stumbled toward her crossbow, now lying in a half-melted block of ice. "Oh no, Do you think that you can fix it after something like this?" Marle's eyes teared up. She had always loved finely made bows. She had quite a collection at her castle. This was the best she'd ever seen, and now it was ruined. "I can try, Marle. It's pretty bad, but I've got good equipment at my house." Marle sniffed and handed the bow to Lucca, who then started to slowly melt it with magical warmth.

"Magus, What's wrong?" Marle walked over to Magus, who was sitting on the ground, staring into the campfire. Magus sighed. "Marle, we can not win the upcoming battle. Dalton had but a fraction of the power of the Great Shadow. He incapacitated both of you with one shot, and nearly killed me. We cannot win." Marle shook her head, then walked over and sat down next to Magus. "Magus, we've been all through time, destroyed Lavos, killed thousands of evil minions in all kinds of places, and you're telling me that this is stronger than any of them? It's impossible to beat us! We haven't lost a battle yet. Dalton was a fluke. We'll be ready next time." Magus looked over toward her. "Marle, what happened to you during the fight? Why did you start clawing at him like that?" Marle was shocked. "Clawing? When did I do that? Is that why my hands are so bloody?" Magus stopped her questions. "After he froze your Valkyre, your pendant glowed bright red and you screamed and started to claw at his face. You nearly ran over me. Do you not remember any of this?" Marle shook her head. "No, I remember him freezing the Valkyre, and then I remember seeing you crouched over me, and... someone screaming." Magus shook his head. "I don't know. The pendant had something to do with it. Be careful, Marle."

Marle looked at magus as he stared into the fire. "Magus... What happened while you were away from us? How did you know to show up to save us when we needed you?" Magus said nothing, instead just continuing to stare at the fire. Marle grabbed his hand, and held it with both of hers. "Magus, tell me. Don't be so secretive all the time, it will help you find friends." She smiled weakly as he turned to look at her. Inwardly, she was surprised that he hadn't jerked his hand away.

"Marle, I've lost more people than you know. However, I've only ever loved one person. My sister, Schala. She was my only friend when I was known as Janus of Zeal, the only one who ever believed in me even though I had no magic to speak of. She was lost when the Mammon Machine was overpowered during Lavos's first awakening. I believed her dead. Still, I had to know, so I searched the world after we had defeated Lavos. After nine months of searching, she was nowhere to be found, no one had seen her after the fall of Zeal, no one had even heard of her in other times. Then, you and Frog came to find me in my castle, to bring me back into your little group of time travellers. I knew that I would never find her. Today, I did. She had been teleported here even before Dalton was. However, she died millenia ago. She refused to take part of the energies that Lavos emenated to give Dalton immortality. However, before she died, she... grew to love Dalton. She bore him a child. The one I slew with the single stroke of my Scythe. She knew that Dalton was power-mad, she knew that the darkness of this place was conquering him. She knew, every day that she spent with him, that he was not aging, that she was becoming an old woman before his eyes."

"She was happy here. Or, as happy as anyone could be, under this darkness. However, I can't help but wonder... How would our lives be different if mother had just never gone mad? If Zeal had not fallen? If Dalton..." Magus bent his head. The two sat there in silence for a moment. Marle lightly squeezed Magus's hand. "She will always live on, in your heart, Magus. Dalton can never take her away from you. No one can." Magus looked towards her. She gasped, unintentionally. Magus snorted. "Yes, my cheeks are wet. I've shed tears. I've shown weakness. Leave now." There was a tone in his voice that commanded obedience. She nodded, but leaned forward and kissed him on the cheek. "Magus, the people in our group, even the ones that claim not to like you, will always care for you. Never forget that." Marle stood and walked quietly away, leaving Magus to his thoughts.


Chapter 18: Rest for an Uncertain Future

Lucca watched Marle walk towards her, from Magus. Marle sat somberly beside her, and took a small cutting of the meat that Lucca had prepared. Lucca sat and waited for an account of what had happened. Marle continued to sit and eat, apparently not interested in conversation. Lucca held out as long as she could, then asked "Marle, what is going on with Magus?"

Marle turned toward Lucca with tears in her eyes. "Lucca, he spoke with Schala today. She is long dead, and one of Dalton's sons was also hers. He has to work this out in his mind. When he is done, then we can start out. But not before." She turned back to her food. Lucca sat and watched her eat. After she finished, Marle turned again to Lucca. "Lucca, don't think that I'm going nuts or anything, but was it just me, or was Magus starting to loosen up before all this?" Lucca smiled. "He was starting to loosen up, I noticed that too. You know, he taught me some shadow magic while you were downed. See?" Lucca waved to the fire in front of them, and it dimmed noticably. "He was very depressed while he was teaching me. No fun in his manner at all. Not even the normal Magus fun, the sarcasm and irony. He didn't even try to make it easy or even friendly. He's back to how we found him." Marle grinned wryly at the reference. "Then we'd better start trying to unwind him, or I'm going to start getting all gloomy and boring too." Lucca giggled at the mental image of Marle dressed as Magus.

With a smile, Lucca said "You'd make a great Flea, Marle. You have his figure. I think we still have that vest around here somewhere..." Lucca started digging through Marle's pack. "Hey, leave that alone, Slash! That's MY stuff!" Lucca ignored the name-calling and grabbed something from inside the pack. Turning around quickly, she tossed a overly-large pair of pants and a small, feminine vest to Marle. "Ozzie pants? I can't wear those, they'd never fit me!" Lucca grinned and said "Well, you have put on a little--" "Hey! Better not finish that sentence!" Marle was behind a nearby pillar. "Where'd you go? Are you actually..." Marle jumped out, dressed fully in VERY baggy pants, tied at the top with a string to keep them on, and the vest over her torso. She also held Slasher 2. "Haha! Call me the Super Great Marle Plus! Argh!" She started to mock chase Lucca around the fire. Suddenly Lucca turned around and layfully pointed her old air gun at Marle. "Uh oh, Marle's in a pickle!" Marle started running from Lucca in the same way that Lucca had just been running. Marle was ineptly swinging the sword around, acting like she knew how to use a blade. The girls laughed thier heads off as they played like little children.

Barely 10 meters away, Magus watched them through the gloom. "Children... that's all they are." Still, he realized that they were only 16, and the past two years had not been a childhood. Of course they needed to act stupid sometimes. He smiled in spite of himself, watching Marle trying to run in the oversized pants. He grinned. As a child, he'd tried to be like Ozzie, even wearing his clothes at one point. Of course, the trio had laughed at him, a ten year old kid dressed in an overweight, adult, mystic's baggy pants. He'd already begun to learn magic from them. He had decided to start to cast wierd magical lights all around and to turn the cranks and pull the levers of all of Ozzie's dumb inventions. Flea and Slash had found this parody of thier friend hilarious, especially when Janus had yelled out "Uh oh, Janus is in a jam!" Ozzie had merely chuckled at he comedic spectacle. Magus smiled again with the influx of good memories. Maybe he hadn't turned out so bad after all.

The girls had both gone into the shelter, and he could hear them laughing inside, as they both prepared for bed. He would give them ten minutes, and he knew they'd both be asleep. He walked over to where Marle had changed clothes, and picked up her dress. He put it on top of the shelter, as to not let it get muddy, then he settled down to wait for the girls to sleep, so that he could enter with dignity.


Chapter 19: Unwelcome Visitor

A shadow fell over the smoldering coals of the campfire. "Ah, intruders... Who might they be?" The black nu walked silently to the other firepit. Where were the people who lit these? They had to be nearby. The nu looked all around in the darkness. "This is no good. No good at all." Suddenly something caught his eye. He plodded over to it and looked it up and down. It was a metal box-like object with pipes and windows attached to it. It looked very high-tech. He looked beside it, and saw a paper reading "Shelter Model 13-A Assembly Guide" The nu walked over to a small window in the shelter and peeked in. He saw two humans and a enlightened inside. It was so surpised at it's luck that it almost fell over backward.

"I've found intruders! The Great Shadow will be pleased! Those other Nus think they are soo great. Haha! Soon I'll be first in command! Nu!" The nu hopped down from the window and ran around the shelter, looking for proof. He found a peice of greenish cloth, looked like a dress. He grabbed the dress and the assembly instructions and ran away to inform the Great Shadow.

Magus woke early. He opened his eyes and quickly stood and walked out of the shelter. He stopped. Something looked wrong. He looked at the ground, and found the huge, unmistakable footprints of a nu. He sighed. "We've been found." He said to no one in particular. He went back into the shelter, and got his gear, and started to put it all on. Then he noticed the missing dress. "Hmm. Nu's don't have much use for human clothing... He must have needed proof. I'll have to make sure that he never reaches his desination." Magus removed a bit of parchment from his pack and wrote on it.

"We have been discovered. I am away trying to find and stop the scout. Intruder stole the princess's dress. Wait for me here. DO NOT LEAVE. --Magus"

Magus looked around the camp, and found Lucca's pack. He took the bag of tonics and ethers and left, following the obviously ignored footprints. "This was a very stupid nu. Why would it leave such an obvious trail?" Something caught Magus's eye in the dark. "What's this?" He bent and picked up the bit of cloth. It was a very dirty piece of royal green princess dress. "Hmm. Marle's Not going to be happy." Magus strode off into the dark.


Chapter 20: Marle's Dress and Lucca's Glasses

Marle tossed and turned in her sleep. Shadows grabbed at her and black nus danced through her head. Dalton was freezing countless copies of her valkyre. Magus smiled, then cast dark matter on her. Crono faced Lavos and was hit by a ray of energy...

"Crono!" Marle sat upright n the bunkbed, and promptly bend her head lower, having smacked it on the bottom of Lucca's bunk. "Ouch! I hate shelters!" Marle slid out of her bunk and noticed something was wrong. "What am I wearing? Oh yeah, Last night..." Marle shook her head, and looked for her dress in the shelter. "It's not in here. Must have left it outside." She wandered out. She no sooner stepped outside than she noticed a parchment frozen to the door. She read the note and sighed. "Magus is always leaving... What? The guy STOLE MY DRESS?! LUCCA!"

Marle ran inside the shelter, bumping her head on the low door, and shok Lucca violently. Lucca woke up in a hurry and almost fell out of her bunk. "Marle, for God's sake, what's wrong?" Lucca felt the ground for her glasses. Marle was busy ranting about her dress. She started pacing. "Marle, shut up and help me find my glasses!"


"Marle! That had better not have been my glasses! What are you doing pacing around anyway?!" Marle bent and picked up the shattered glasses. "Sorry! Here you go Lucca! That... that... thief is responsible for all this! He was the one who stole my dress..." Marle continued to rant. Luca took the shattered glasses and tied to put them on. Her left eye was still a blur, the lens being completely gone. She could still see you the right eye though. "Marle! I can't see anythign without my glasses! Why'd you step on them? They're ruined!" Lucca stood, grabbed Marle's shoulders, and shook her to make her stop yelling. "Marle! Snap out of it! What happened?"

Marle handed Lucca the note. Lucca read it. "So? So what? It stole your dress. Big deal, your dad is king. You'll get another one." "But Lucca, that was my FAVORITE dress, and he just STOLE it!" Lucca sighed, then started putting on her equipment. She walked outside and sat near the firepit, and started building a fire. "Why are you doing THAT, Lucca? We need to go find my dress!" Lucca shook her head. "Magus will take care of that. Let's just stay here and wait. You need to slow down. It's just a dress!" "UGH! I'm going! You stay here if you want, but I'm going!" Marle grabbed her pack and ran off in a random direction.

"Marle! Wait! Where are you going?" Lucca sighed. She was gone. "What can i do all by myself all day? Too dark to read, too dark to mess with my inventions, to dark to do anything. Lucca went back inside the shelter. She removed her excess equipment and crawled back into bed. "Nothing else to do. G'night" she said to no one.


Chapter 21: The Great Shadow

Magus stealthily watched the black nu wander through the passageways of the temple. it kept muttering about how the Great Shadow would favor him now, he'll be leading all the nus any time now, etc. Magus had no problem being quiet. He was very adept at it anyway, and the nu was babbling too much to hear him anyway. "Very very happy, nu! The Great Shadow! I'm going to be the leader! Me!" Magus flew silently behind it, cursing under his breath. "Stupid nu. Why do people create them? Useless. Still he's leading me to the shadow, so he does have some use."

Magus turned the corner and instantly wished he hadn't. The room in front of him was well lit by black nus carrying torches. In the center was the Shadow Crystal. The crystal was nearly impossible to see, however, due to the dark shadow encasng it. "Damn it. Nearly the entire shadow has escaped. We are doomed." Magus shook his head. The torch carrying nus around the wall were agitated about something. Then he realized that a nu carrying a human dress and a piece of futuristic white paper was an odd sight.

"Shadow! Great Shadow, sir, Look what i found! I found an intruder camp! I can show you where too! No danger to you of course, but I knew you'd want to see." The hyperactive nu was dancing about as he spewed forth gibberish such as this. The Shadow waited for it to finish. "I see you have found evidence and have brought it directly to me. Good in thought, Nu. However, you were easily followed in such a hurry." The nu grew pale, realizing how stupid he'd been in his excitement. Magus grew pale, realizing that he'd been found already. "I'm... I'm sorry sir, I was excited, and I wanted to let you know as soon as i could, and..." The Shadow interrupted him. "You are excused. Actually, you are to be commended. The only intruder of concern is of Royal blood." Magus started to slowly move away from the corner, where he was visible from the room. "No. Janus of Zeal, you will not escape. The nus all looked in his direction, and he stopped moving away, and walked boldly into the room.

"Great Shadow! It is obvious that I can not hide truths from you. I have come here alone to kill you. To dispose of you, that the world may not be blemished with your evil any longer." Magus said this loudly and with force. The Shadow laughed.

"You? Destroy me? That is laughable. Although killing Dalton and his sons was unexpected, I doubt you and your companions will find it easy to destroy me. Yes, 'Magus', I know that you are here with two young women. They are also primitive magic users. Little more than Earthbound. Just as you are, Magus. I watched your rise to power in the middle ages from here. You are no champion of good. You used those three saps, what were the names? Ozzie, Slash... Tick? Useless grunts. They fell apart as soon as your magic was removed. You are no better than me. Join me and become immortal. Be one with an element. Rule the world."

Magus stared coldly at the Shadow gathering near the crystal. Calling him an earthbound, sullying the names of his comrades, trying to part him from his new... aqquaintances. It was all just a ploy. Very well, Shadow. If you wish to play, I can play. "Of course. It is the only option. Following you is the only way." Magus stepped forward. The Shadow recoiled as he came near, much to the concern of the nus. Magus noted the fear shown here. As powerful as the shadow acted, he was not yet entirely free, and it knew that it was in danger.

"Your surrender is accepted, Magus. Go, find your friends and kill them. I will assign 10 nus as an escort. If you do this, I will know that you are sincere. Go." Magus nodded. Ten nus dislodged themselves from their positions along the wall, and walked oward him, carrying the torches. He turned and left, heading back toward the camp.


Chapter 22: Magus's Betrayal

Lucca stared at the ceiling of the shelter. "Why can't I get to sleep?" She shook her head to clear her mind so that she could sleep. Her brain was quiet for a moment, then a thought crept back into her head. "What if Marle dies, won't it be your fault?" Lucca sighed. It would be her fault, she knew that, but she couldn't do anything about it. She cleared her mind again. She felt a thought creeping back in and tried to stop it, but it got through anyway. "Maybe Magus is still loyal to Zeal." Lucca was angry at herself for thinking such a thing. He had killed Dalton, a citizen of zeal. He had assisted in destroying the Black Omen. He had destroyed Lavos, the source of Zeal's power. Of course he wasn't loyal to Zeal any longer. She shut her eyes and tried to sleep.

"He could kill you while you sleep." Lucca furrowed her brows, angrier still that she had thought such nonsense. Lucca talked to herself as she ticed off reasons on her fingers. "One, He is loyal to us now. Two, He's not a coward. Three, I could beat him in a fight. Four..." She couldn't think of a fourth reason, so she put her head back down on the pillow and closed her eyes.

"What if that Nu comes back?" Lucca sighed. She wasn't going to get any sleep, the way her mind wouldn't shut up. She got up and put on her equipment. She stepped out of the shelter, and immediately froze. She heard voices and heavy plodding footsteps approching. She Quick;y ran off into the dark about 20 feet, and hid behind a pillar. She tried to see what was happening. Several Nus were going through her camp. They were commenting on the odd shelter, and also on the burnt meat left over from her dinner the previous night. Suddenly they all fell silent and saluted someone. She heard an all-too-familiar voice call out "Search everywhere for those two girls. They couldn't have gotten far. When you find them, bring them to me."

Lucca couldn't believe her ears. Magus? HE was commanding a squad of black Nus? And he was searching for Marle and herself? A thought re-entered her mind. "Maybe Magus is still loyal to Zeal." She shook her head to clear the thought. Unfortunatly, this threw her broken glasses to the ground with a clatter. The Nus all turned and came toward her position. She shot out a flame and one of the nus screamed and dissappeared The other nus lifted thier hands and called forth shadows again. She pulled her wondershot and blasted another nu. The nu flew backwards and dissipated, but the shadows continued. She shot another nu. It was too late. The shadows were already whithin striking distance. A dark sword swept out and slashed her shoulder. She shouted in pain, and dodged the next blow. She muttered a few words, and a hole appeared in one of the shadows. It screamed silently, then faded. Shadow magic killed them! Lucca grinned and flung her hand at the other shadow, decimating it. As it faded, she turned to face the nus. She swept her hands, and turned elegantly, slinging fire all over the nus. They ran around screaming, then she quickly incinerated them all. they dissappeared, except for one, which ran off in a random direction, unharmed. She shrugged. One nu couldn't do any damage. Suddenly she remembered Magus. He stood in the open area near the fire, looking at her.

"Magus, What are you doing? Have you turned traitor?" Magus said nothing, and continued to stare at her. She was dizzy. She shook her head to clear it of the dizziness, and asked again. "Magus, Answer me. Why have you turned to the Shadow?" He continued to stare at her. The dizziness was getting worse, and she started to feel faint. "Magus... stop this... You are too strong... don't give.. don't give in..." She fell to the ground unconsious. Magus grimaced. This was the most painless way to capture her, but he knew that she'd have bad dreams.


Chapter 23: Lucca's Dreams

Lucca ran down the hallway, running from the horde of nus. "No! Please stop! I haven't done anything!" Her legs burned with fatigue, she was hardly able to run at all anymore. She knew she couldn't beat this many nus. She had no choice but to run. Her legs disagreed, and disobeyed her commands, buckling underneath her. She fell hard against the ground. Her Wondershot skittered a few feet away. Immediately, a thousand nus surrounded her. She tried to cast flames at them, but her magic failed her. The nus changed into the townspeople from all the cities, in all the time periods she had visited. They were scowling at her. Just staring. She felt exposed, but couldn't get away, couldn't move. Suddenly the man before her became Magus. "I live for Zeal. The Great Shadow is my king. You are to die now." He raised his scythe, then brought it down, through her skull.

She winced, waiting for the pain. Strangely, she felt nothing. She looked around. She was in a peaceful meadow, surrounded by deer and rabbits. The sun warmed her skin, as it shined in the cloudless blue sky. A bird landed on her outstretched hand, and began to chirp cheerfully. This was so perfect... What had she been afraid of before this? She sat peacfully in the grass. The bird flew off of her and and went over to a nearby tree. She took her cap off and laid back in the grass, smiling in the sun. Suddenly she was aware of a strange sound. She opened her eyes, only to see smoke floating above her. She sat up, and noticed that the grass that she was touching was burning. She was using her magic without even trying. The deer and rabbits didn't even take notice of the fire spreading through the grass. "Shoo! Run! It's dangerous here! Please go!" Lucca tried her best the scare the animals away, but the only one that moved was a small, young rabbit that starting hopping toward her. "No! Please go! Don't touch the fire!" She turned her head as the rabbit caught fire and burned. The fire continued to spread, consuming the deer, the rabbits, and the trees around the meadow, taking the birds with them. She sat in the ashes and cried, smelling the acrid smell of burnt flesh.

When she took her hands from her teary face, she found the small rabbit sleeping in her lap. She smiled and dried her eyes with her sleeve. "Hi there... How did you survive the fire?" She started to pet the small rabbit. She knew this was impossible. The rabbit had burned along with all the other animals. Yet it was sitting in her lap, truly enjoying being pet. "I thought rabbits didn't even like to be pet! You are a very odd rabbit, did you know that?" It looked up at her and answered in a deep voice, "I'm more normal than any other rabbit." Lucca jumped a little at the rabbit's voice. Then she remembered that all rabbits had deep voices. She grinned and flapped her wings. The rabbit fell to the ground, saluted her, and swam away. She flew above the burned out field, and started to chew her cud. Something was wrong. "Oh, of course! I'm wearing my sister's clothes! She slapped her forehead with her flipper and changed into Marle's dress.

Suddenly, she found herself at the end of time, alone. She was herself again, without wings or flppers or talking rabbits. She tried to figure out what had happened. Magus had captured her, but where had the horde of nus come from? How had she ended up in a field? How could that rabbit talk? She walked over to the lamp post to try to get Gaspar's guidance. She shook his shoulder, trying to wake him. he still slept. She shook his shoulder a little harder, and he fell to the ground. She immediately tried to help him back up, but found that he was dead. She had killed him. What kind of a monster was she? She saw a mirror on the other side of the platform. She walked over to it, and looked at her reflection. Slowly, it changed into the form of Magus. "No! I'm not Magus! I'm a good person! I would never betray my friends!" She presed her palms against the sides of her head, trying to gain calm about what was oging on. The Magus in the mirror just stared at her. She cried out and ran into Spekkio's room. The little red nu was facing away form her. She started to walk around to face him. As she walked, the nu seemed to pivot in place, never facing her. She began to run in circles, but he nu had no face, it was just a ball. She yelled and threw her fist at the nu. The world shattered like glass. She was all alone in the dark.

Marle, Robo, Frog, Ayla, Magus, and Crono all stood looking at her sitting on the floor. "Weak girl." Magus said dissaprovingly. Crono nodded. Robo shook his head. "I cannot believe that I once followed you, Lady Lucca." She turned toward Robo, tears in her eyes. "You whore, trying to steal Crono from me." Marle glared at the sobbing Lucca. Frog slpped her with the flat of the masamune. "'Tis a folly that thou art alive, Lucca. Thou hath shamed thy race, thy family, and thyself." Ayla kicked Lucca in the side. "You weak. You never be chief. Ayla hate weak people" Lucca sat in the middle of them and cried.


Chapter 23: Marle's Capture

Magus placed Lucca's sleeping body inside the Dreamstone cage that the Great Shadow had provided. The young girl was twicthing and murmuring in her sleep. Magus concentrated on making his face show no pity. He turned toward the Shadow. "I will now find the other girl. I will soon return to kill both at once." The Great Shadow formed a face and nodded. "Let it be so" Magus turned and left to go find Marle.

Marle stormed down the hallways of the temple, furious at the nu for having stolen her dress. She muttered curses undr her breath as she blindly ran through random halls and rooms. Suddenly something caught her foot, and she fell to the ground. She quickly jumped up and whirled to face her enemy. There was no one there. "Show yourself! If you are that nu, I'll kill you!" she ran around in circles, looking for the assailant.

"You should not have come here. Nu." Marle spun around, trying to see who had said that. She saw one black nu facing her. She drew her siren bow, all she had left now that her Valkyre was destroyed. The nu covered his eyes. "Nu! I don't want to fight you! Put the bow away!" Marle lowered her bow, but still stood alert. "Are you the nu that invaded our campsite?" The nu hadn't stopped cowering. "Yes! Yes! I'm sorry! Don't hurt me!" Marle sighed, and put her bow away. "Ok ok, Why are you talking to me, and not calling more troops in?"

The nu sat on the ground. It pulled a package out from behind it, and removed a very dirty greenish-blue dress. He tossed it to Marle. She caught it and frowned at it's condition. The nu said "Sorry for stealing that. I just needed proof that humans had broken into the temple. The Great Shadow likes when Nus do more than assigned, and i was hoping to be promoted. Nu! But when I saw him calling the prince of Zeal and earthbound, and then making him follow us--" Marle sprang to her feet. "What? Magus is following the Shadow now?"

The Nu nodded, as much as a nu can nod. "The shadow told him that he could prove his loyalty by killing both you girls. He already got your purple-haired friend. Marle turned pale. "He got Lucca? What do you mean by that? Did he..." The nu frowned. "I don't know, but as i was running away, I saw her fall to the ground. Nu! The price.. um, Magus may have killed her. He was supposed to." Suddenly the nu's eyes grew wide and he ran into the darkness. Marle hesitated a second, then turned to see what had frightened him. She was only able to turn halway.

Marle fell backward and rolled a few feet from the force of the blow. She got to her feet with dificulty, and looked towards her attacker. She could hardly see anything, but she caught a glimpse of a purple cape. "Magus? What are y--" she was struck again in the back, and she fell to the ground. Magus pressed his foot to her back. "Don't move, princess. I do not wish to hurt you further." Marle gasped as Magus pressed down a bit harder. Marle tired to speak. "Magus...why?" Magus said nothing, and she felt her hainds being tied behind her back. "Do you agree to come along without struggle?" She gasped out a "Yes". Magus grabbed the rope he'd tied her with, and pushed her forward. He bent forward and whispered fiercely in her ear. "I am only pretending to obey this beast. Follow my lead." She nodded slightly, and hung her head to appear more sorrowful. The nus that had been following Magus turned and followed them back to the throne room.


Chapter 24: Revolution

Magus shoved Marle into the cage. He slammed the door shut and turned to face the Great Shadow. He grimaced, and said "As you see, I have capture both the intruders. What do you wish me to do with them now?" The Shadow replied, "You are to kill them. You are to do so immediately. Do not stall, do not attempt to gather to fight me. Kill them now, or die."

Meanwhile, Marle whispered to the now-awake Lucca that Magus was going to betray the Shadow. Also, she explained that the rope on ther wrists had been secretly cut by Magus. Then they turned to see Magus facing them, his arms outstretched. His arms and hands slowly became darker, and then a small portal appeared between the girls. The black hole expanded, and the girls forced themselves agains the sides of the cage. The portal widened further, and both girls were sucked into it as it closed over thier heads.

Magus turned back to the Shadow. "It is done. Both are dead. Your realm is safe." The Shadow reached out a tendril toward Magus, and pressed it to his chest. "You are hereby accepted by the element of Shadow. Welcome Janus, Prince of Zeal." The nus around the room dropped the torches and clapped. The shadow silenced them after a moment. They picked to torches up and continued watching. Magus felt the power of the Shadow elemental whithin him. He smiled evily. "Thank you for your blessings, Great Shadow. They will be most beneficial in destroying you." A portal appeared behind Magus, deploying his two fully healed companions before dissappearing. The Great Shadow bellowed "NUS! GET THEM. KILL THEM WHERE THEY STAND!"

The hundred Nus all dropped thier torches and ran toward the three heroes. Magus slashed with his scythe, Marle shot many with her bow, and swatted them when they came too close, and Lucca began by firing large bolts from her wondershot until it overheated, then switched to her hammer, and began to strike every nu near her. It was not enough. The nus quickly surrounded them and started to pummel them. The trio found themselves unable to move as the remaing 60 nus beat them senseless. Suddenly they heard a nu scream and the hitting stopped. Everyone looked toward the entrance to the room. The original nu that had found the camp was there.

"Nu! What have you all done? These people are here to stop this great evil that resides here. You must stop attacking them. For Zeal, nu. For Zeal!" Several dozen Nus in the crowd began to murmur in low voices, and a few gegan to move over to the leader. More and more began to see how the shadow had manipulated them. The leader nu began to dictate the scripts of Zeal to the mass. "And the soldier will never waver from service of Zeal. The soldier will maintain the Queen's wishes at all times. No soldier will side with an enemy of justice and magic..." More and more nus began to come over to the forces of Zeal. Eventually, all but 10 of the nus had converted to the side of Zeal. The remaining Nus ran toward the Shadow and formed a protective circle around it. The leader of the revolution cast a healing spell over the trio, and the three stood. Magus raised his arms toward the friendly nus, and said "For this act of healing, I return to you what is lost." His hands glowed bright, and the black fell away form all the nus, leaving them blue and normal, with pupils in thir eyes and love in thier hearts. Various applause and shouts of "Nu!" were heard, and they rallied behind Magus and the girls to face the Shadow.

The Shadow laughed evilly. Marle cringed at the horrific sound. "You think, that by recruiting a few dozen nus, that you will conquer me? ME? I nearly destroyed Zeal 14000 years ago, when they had thier most elite wizards after me. You think that you can defeat an elemetal spirit with that small army? You are a fool, Janus. Today, your destiny has been sealed." The Shadow formed into a large humanoid shape, standing 5 meters high, and laughed menacingly at them. "Time to die, Janus."


Chapter 25: The Battle

Magus took a fighting stance. Lucca nd Marle followed suit, and the nus weilded thier torches. Silence hung in the air. The shadow beckoned. "Your move." Magus grinned slightly. He raised his hands into the air and lightning began to crackle violently from the walls of the room. Bolts began to fly around and through the shadow. Gaping holes were torn in it's structure. By the time the lightning ended, The shadow was in shreds. Magus narowed his eyes. Too easy. The shreds then expanded, and re-formed the shadow to the way it was previously. Magus frowned, lightning had no effect.

Lucca began to chant and the flames from the torches started wavering toward her. Bits of each flame detached itself and flew toward her. Magus knew that this spell would take time. He gripped his scythe, nodded toward Marle, and jumped toward the Shadow. Marle quickly fired a stream of ice at Magus's scythe, and He began to spin the ice over the room. Ice went striaght through the Shadow unhindered. However, the nus around the Shadow scattered as the sharp pieces of ice tore at their skin. All the Zeal nus dropped thier torches, still flaming toward Lucca, and charged at the now confused black nus. As they began to fight, Magus started funneling more power of fire into Lucca's spell. Marle fired a siren shot into the shadow, who was still unaffected. It laughed again. "You insects pose no threat. He pointed toward Marle, and she dropped to her knees in pain.

"Marle!" Magus stopped channeling magic, and ran toward Marle. The Shadow waved a hand at him, and he was thrown several feet backwards. Marle fought the intense pain to look at the shadow. Her beautiful face contorted with pain, she gnashed her teeth and gasped. "You... will.. never... defeat me...." She raised her hands, murmed a few words, turned slightly, and brought them forward to the shadow. A deep rumbling reverbated throughout the cavern. The ceiling began to crack and crumble onto the no surprised shadow. Marle's form glowed blue, and the room grew cold. The flames from the torches all went out, and Magus began to funnel more magic into Lucca to keep her spell alive. The Shadow recoiled from the furious Marle, able to sense the hate whithin her. Small crystals of ice began to form around the base of the shadow. The ice was dark, opaque black, like obsidian. More crystals formed, moving up the surface of the Shadow. He focused more power on killing Marle, but her form was protected by the aura around her body. The black ice nudged up past the shadow's neck, and over it's head. The solid block of black ice fell to the ground, as marle also collapsed.

Magus ran towrd Marle, and held an elixer to her lips. She regained her power, and reached out to hold the potion herself, and Magus turned toward the frozen Shadow. He brought his hands toward it, and shadows formed around the black ice, stabbing inward whenver strong enough, causing screams to erupt form the Great Shadow whithin. Suddenly, the ice cracked. Magus quickly forced all of the gathering shadows to go into the crack, but the Great Shadow broke trhough.

The laughter of confidence was gone from the Great Shadow. These children posed a threat, even an elemental spirit can be destroyed. It turned back toward teh weary Magus. "Janus! Prince of Zeal! I have underestimated you. Now I will not play, but you will know my true power!" Magus appeared uncaring. The Shadow frowned. Truthfully, this unconcerend face frightened him. It was nearly the same as the man who had originally contained him, The former king of Zeal. The shadow brought his hand towards magus and fired several bolts of shadow.

Magus dodged quickly to the left. He fired off a retaliatory shot, and dodged another slavo of shadows. This was pointless. He'd never get nough damage done this way. Suddenly, he felt his body speed up, his reactions were twice as fast, his mind racing with ideas. Marle had cast haste on him. He sprang out of the path of the attacks, and jumped toward the Shadow. He darkened the blade of his sycthe with powerful shadow magic, and swung it into the face of the Great Shadow. The Shadow howled and fell backwards, as Magus continued to slash at it with the doomsickle. Marle formed a knife out of ice, and Magus darkened it's blade as well. Both started stabbing and slashing at the cowering Shadow. However, little damage was being done, and Magus felt his arms tiring. He backed off, and Marel followed suit. THe nus rushed past them and began to form servant shadows like they had before, which also began to attack the Great Shadow.

However, during the lull in attacks, the Shadow had regained it's composure, and swiped at the nus that were attempting attack it. The remaining nus scattered in fear. The Shadow let them go. He turned toward the two humans that had attacked. "That was nothing, Janus. Only a scratch. He held a hand out, and Magus fell to the ground. Marle rushed to his side, and began to cast a spell. The Shadow swatted her with the back of his hand, and picked up her unconscious body between his forefigner and thumb. Magus looked up weakly. "She... is of royal blood, Shadow. If you kill her, you will cease to exist." This was a lie, it could kill her with no consequnce, but Magus hoped that this might scare it. The Shadow laughed. "You fool. Killing any HUMAN owuld have no effect on me. However, She is powerful and has beauty enough. I believe I shall keep her. When I tame her mind with my magic, she can be my herald to the world." The Great Shadow laughed evilly and opened a hole in it's cheast, and placed Marle inside. It's chest then closed over her. Magus Struggeled to his feet.

The Shadow faced Magus and laughed again, confident in his victory. Only you remain, and you are as weak as a rabbit. Magus wa afraid. He had never been so afraid. It was impossible fro him to fight this Shadow alone. Suddenly his ears detected a quiet chanting far to his right. Lucca was almost finished conjuring her spell. Magus grinned at the Shadow. "It's not over yet, beast." He turned and funneled the remainder of his magic at once into Lucca, then took cover as she finished her spell. Lucca's body was engulfed in flame, and her eyes glew red as she faced the terrified Shadow.


Chapter 26: The Final Spell

Lucca pointed a finger at the Shadow, and searing pain went through it's form. Marle was expelled from it's chest, and landed few feet in front of Lucca. Several nus quickly carried her awayy, as Lucca focused her spell onto the writhing Shadow. The flames from Lucca's body grew in size and intensity as her anger boiled to the limits. Shadows were mingled with the white-hots flames around her, and all the torches were xtinguished as all the fire in the room flowed into her. The Shadow screamed in pain as the firey corona spread to it's body. Lucca's clothing started to char and blacken as the flames grew too hot for her to control. The stones in the walls began to seperate and fly through the shadow's form. As each shadow-enchanced stone hit it, the Shadow let out another scream of pain. The fire was scorching it's skin, and it could feel it's lifeforce draining. Lucca screamed also, as the flames around her doubled in strength, and began to draw her towards the Shadow.

The flames engulfed both Lucca nd the Great Shadow. The room was lit so bright that no one there could open thier eyes for the pain. A load roar was emitted from the Shadow, and a few were close enough to her Lucca's scream with it. Every living thing in the room passed out as the energies released filled the chamber.

Magus was the first to awaken. He stood shkiliy, looking at where the Shadow had been. The Shadow's containment crystal had been shattered, and the Great Shadow was no more. Lying in it's place was Lucca. Magus ran to her and covered her with his cape, all her clothes having burned off with the spell. He gently picked her up and brought her back towards teh packs. He took an revive and mixed it with a few elixers and began to boil them in a sall pot. As the scent pervaded the room, all the nus began to awaken, as did Marle. Marle hastily ran to Lucca's body and intoned her life spell over it. Lucca blinked her eyes, and looked blindly around. "Where...? Marle? Magus? Are you there?" Magus knelt beside her. "Lucca, we are both here. Sleep. Your blindness will pass. For now, You can do no more" Lucca nodded wearily and closed her eyes.

Marle looked toward Magus with tears in her eyes. He reached out and she fell into his arms weeping. "Everything will be fine, Marle. She will get well. The Shadow is destroyed." She wept into his shoulder until she fell asleep, and Magus laid her next to Lucca.


Chapter 27: Aftermath

Magus tended to the wounds of the Zeal nus, helping them wake each other, and helping them learn basic magica they would need to survive. The nus learned quickly, and soon were all awake and able to speak. The leader nu was brought to Magus.

The nu spoke to the assembly before him. Scarecly twenty nus remained. "Army of Zeal. Today has been a great day in the history of our kingdom. We now much re-build this temple into a city. Then, we must contact the humans that live outside our kingdom, and set up relations. Nu! The future is at hand. Let us make it a good one." The nus all applauded and shouted and began to conjure up a feast. The all started sloppily eating and celebrating.

Magus calmly walked over to Lucca and Marle. He knelt beside Lucca and cast a spell to wake her. She opened her eyes and sat up weakly. She looked around, now able to see again. "Magus? Is the Shadow..." He nodded and motioned to his cape. She looked down and noticed that she was naked, and quickly pulled hte cape over her torso. "Can I get my clothing, Magus? If I had known i was in this condtion, I wouldn't have sat up so fast." Magus waved off her apologie and brought her last set of clothing to her. She modestly put it on, as Magus tended to Marle. When Marle awoke, she immediate ran ver and hugged Lucca. "Thakn God you're allright! I was afraid you had died!" Lucca smiled and shook her head. "You aren't that lucky, Marle. I'm fine!" Marle sniffed and let go of Lucca. Suddenly she looked suprised. "What, Marle? What is it?" Lucca was confused as to why Marle would be looking at her like that. Marle held a mirror to Lucca's face. Lucca jumped a little too. The irises in her eyes were a bright red color. Magus looked at her calmly. "It is an effect of the magic that you used. It is also permanent. Wear it with pride, it shows how much power you have."

Lucca looked at her new eyes with disbelief. "Permanent? Wha if I don't want red eyes?" Magus sighed. "They won't always be so bright, but you will never look the same. It is a badge of honor." Magus walked over to her and cast a small spell. Her eyes immeiately looked more normal. They were still red, but you wouldn't see them from across the room. Lucca nodded and thanked Magus. "Now it just looks cool. For a while it looked like I was a demon." Marle smiled and said "Ok, Isn't it about time to rn back to the Epoch? I want to see Crono again, it's been almost 3 days!" Magus shook his head. "I believe Lucca of the Flame here is pretty hungry. How about we attend to this feast that the Nus can't seem to finish?" Lucca's face brightened at the mention of food that she hadn't cooked. "Yes, let's go!"



Ayla woke at the sound of the Epoch coming to the stairway at the end of time. "Frog! Robo! Crono! Epoch come back!" The other three shook their heads and and stood, walking toward the Epoch. Magus was the first out, and silently flew over to the helt light. Marle came out next and jumped at Crono, knocking him over, and they both tumbled into the far corner. There they stayed laughing and snuggling. Finally, Lucca came out slowly with her eyes lowered. Frog and Ayla rushed to her side, to help her out of the cockpit. "Lady Lucca! Thou art in a bad condition! How did this happen?" Lucca softly said "I will explian it later. I need to ge to that light." Magus had returned, and took Lucca's body in his arms, and carried her to the light, which promptly revived her. He set her back down, and she turned toward the worried frog, Ayla, and Robo.

"It's OK, guys! It's nothing, I just used a lot of magic." Frog gasped and Ayla looked a little surprised. Robo, lacking human tact, asked bluntly "Lucca, What has happened to your eyes?" Lucca smiled. "It's from my spell. It's also permanent. It think that it looks neat." Frog knelt before Lucca. "I hath seen that glow only once before, in the eyes of Cyrus. I am honored by the presence of such a powerful mage." Lucca took Frog's hand and pulled him to standing. "Oh, stop that, Frog! I don't want you bowing to me! My magic is no more than that sword of yours! Besides..." Frog looked at her. "What is it?" Lucca didn't answer. Magus motioned to her eyes. "This effect also lets people see other's inner strength. She is apalled at the power of your nobility, I think." Lucca nodded. "I am glad for my magic, Frog, but you are truly the strongest of will!"

Later that night, the seven travellers sat around a large pot of poi at a party near the Ioka village. Everyone from the tribe was singing and dancing, Lucca was mostly eating, and Magus was watching with a look of merriment on his face. Ayla nudged Marle and pointed at Magus. "Magus drink too much sweet water! Look at face!" Marle giggled and pulled at Crono's arm, trying to get him to dance. Robo looked at all the festivities wondering why humans were so odd about celebration. Ayla went off and began to dance with Kino, while Crono finally allowed himself to be drug to the dancing area by Marle. Lucca finished her poi and lay back for a moment, admiring the coziness of the scene. Suddenly a leather-clad hand was offered to her. "Mayhaps I could have this dance, fair maiden?" She looked up o see frog smiling down at her. She grinned and took his hand, and they walked off to the dance floor.


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