Until the End of Time Part 3, Chapter 1
The Shores of El Nido
By Demon-Fighter Ash
Held in young hands, that light is shivering
I've come all this way, wandering the brink of time
I came, still searching, I don't even know your name,
but one little feeling I just wanted to hand over to you
Sometimes I catch and hold love and pain tightly in my arms
It will fade away, but I'll remember forever...
It'd been echoing in my chest for who knows how long...
Though it's a whisper tinier than a drop of evening fog
Toward the darkness of the frozen stars a spinning prayer
May it reach to your distant skies...
~ Le Tresor Interdit ~
March, 1010 AD
Magus remembered only a blur of vignettes and sensations after that. The swelling waves of the ocean, the thick morning fog, the blue runabout cutting through the waters, the hum of its engine. He also remembered a Porre ship; they must have tried to stop him after all. The churning ocean froze around the ship's hull, lightning shattering the decks as magical flames swept through the lower berth to consume the soldiers. Even that seemed unreal now, the last fleeting memories of a dying dream that he had long since awakened from.
He could still hear them in the wind and lonely cries of sea-gulls: Lucca as she lay in his arms, murmuring softly in her sleep, Kid laughing as she played tag with the other children and helped Lucca with her experiments. He'd stopped sleeping after the first night, when he'd found himself with Lucca again, holding her tight, swearing he would never let her go, that they and Kid would be together until the end of time--and then woke up alone in the boat, his white suit still streaked with ashes, the sea a gray wasteland of roaring surf and salt around him. He had failed Schala yet again, allowed her to slip through his fingers back into the void, and he'd let them take Lucca...
"The past is dead," he told himself over and over again, closing his eyes tightly, "it was all just a dream..."
The ocean changed, growing calm and shallow, and the boat glided over colorful tropical reefs toward a group of green islands rising from the warm tropical sea. The pale wizard simply narrowed his eyes as he neared the southern docks. After six years, he had finally arrived at the El Nido archipelago. The source of all the changes in history, the refuge of Lynx, the prison of Robo...and the lair of Lavos. He had arrived six years too late.
He emerged from the docks to find himself in a village of raised straw-roofed huts with peg-lined planks leading up into their open doorways. Long silk banners and tapestries of every color stretched between the huts and villagers dressed in colorful fabrics walked around him, most of them a little nervous about the stranger in their midst, but all of them giving friendly nods as he pushed forward to look at the rest of the village.
A natural depression marked the center of the village, forming a ring of raised huts surrounding a central pit where merchants sold their wares from wooden carts and tables. The ground had never been paved, but had been trampled into a rocky grass-strewn path by countless generations of walking villagers. It reminded him of Algetty, the earthbound village--he hadn't expected the origin of Porre's empire to look so...so primitive.
"Hello," a little brown-haired girl, dressed in a blue skirt and white shirt, said as she skipped through the crowd of shopping villagers beside him. He looked down with detached interest at the six year-old girl and felt some small residual part of him recoil at the sight of her, at the memories she awoke.
He closed his eyes and buried the past; they didn't matter anymore. Only vengeance mattered. After that, he could finally end this forever. After that, he'd return to the black whirlpool that now churned against the broken rocks that had once been her island, and hurl himself into the same oblivion that had claimed Lucca and Kid.
"Did you come for the Viper Festival," she asked, "lots of people come to see it."
"What is this place," he blankly asked her as he looked around at the village.
"This is Arni village," she answered cheerfully, "are you from the continent?"
"Yes," he sighed, resigning himself to some faint vestige of his former self that still demanded that he show the little girl kindness, "what's your name?"
"I'm Leena," she smiled, "is that a real sword? Does everyone on the continent carry one like that?"
She stood behind him, looking at the sheathed Masamune that he'd slung across his shoulders. He grabbed the sword and knelt down beside her, grabbing the cool hilt of the sword and drawing it from the scabbard--the twin spirits of the sword had accepted him as their owner and so he had brought the dreamstone blade with him, to plunge it into the heart of the frozen flame and so put an end to the plans of Lynx and the goddess.
"Cool," she whispered in awe at the gleaming sword, "I wonder if Serge has a sword like that? You haven't seen Serge on the continent, have you?"
"No," he shook his head, "it's a big continent, though."
"I know," she sighed, disappointed, "my mom said that Serge went to the ocean and that he won't come back. The continent's across the ocean, and since your a continental I thought maybe you saw..."
Magus looked down at the little girl's sad green eyes and closed his eyes, feeling her aura. The green life of her youth filled his mind's eye, but a darker shadow lurked in the back, in her memories of Serge. Her friend had died, he realized, and it had not been a natural death--his aura still shrieked in pain. He had been murdered.
"I'm sure," he stopped and thought carefully about this, "I'm sure he's okay. He's probably living in Truce, and I'm certain he misses you too. He probably also wants you to make new friends."
All things come to dust and one day she would have to learn this just as he had finally learned it. But if he could give her at least one more day of freedom from that truth, he would.
"Maybe," she sighed forlornly, "but I miss playing with him. I wish we could've said goodbye."
"I know," he answered, dimly understanding her plaintive wish, then he suddenly stopped, his voice dying to silence as he quickly looked around the village. He hadn't felt it before, but the moment he had opened his mind to Leena, he had sensed something else. Now he felt it pouring across the village, a blinding invisible sun of psychic energy nearly blotting out all the individual villagers. He looked around and saw an archway leading into a large field, the dark light of the monstrous aura pouring out through it, engulfing the entire village.
"What's over there," he asked the little girl beside him.
"That's the village chief's hut," she answered, "Gonji lives over there."
"Is there anything else?"
"The record of fate's over there," she replied, "maybe that's what you're looking for?"
"Fate," he slowly whispered to himself, his muscles clenching at the sound of the word, then he closed his eyes, trying to control his voice, "yes, I think that's exactly what I'm looking for. I have to go see the record for a moment Leena, but it's good to meet you. If I see Serge, I'll tell him you said goodbye."
"Thank you," she beamed and he smiled slightly in spite of himself before turning toward the chief's hut.
* * *
Sunlight poured through the windows of the straw hut and Magus stepped across the thick woven rugs on the floor toward the hovering object on the other side of the room. A green crystal pyramid almost the size of a child floated above the floor, its translucent body filled with arcane letters and numbers. An orb of light marked the center of the pyramid and lightning crackled around the orb, connecting it to the inner surface of the pyramid.
"What is this," he asked himself, and an unshaven brown-haired man answered him from the corner.
"It's the record of fate," he replied in a depressed monotone, leaning against one of the wooden braces and staring down at the brightly-patterned rugs, "it preserves out past and guides our future. We use it to make sure we never lose our past...or that we never defy the will of fate."
"Hasn't anyone," Magus asked, annoyed at the whole village, at how blithely and unthinkingly they accepted so many things, "ever wondered how something like this could have gotten here?"
"They're all over El Nido," the man answered, "and they've always been here."
"Yes," Magus said, his voice lowered in sarcasm, "just like the second moon's always been here."
"Exactly," the villager shrugged, still staring at the floor, then looked sadly up at Magus, "it's supposed to guide us in our lives, and tell us the will of the goddess."
"You don't seem happy with her guidance."
"Last year," he answered, staring at the floating pyramid, "my friend Wazuki disappeared after years of fighting a disease that slowly destroyed his mind. Then his little boy Serge fell off Cape Howl and drowned a few months ago, and now his mother has passed away too. Fate didn't protect any of them."
"Then perhaps," Magus said slowly, "you shouldn't listen to her anymore."
"No," the man shook his head, "I must have failed somehow, I must have disobeyed her without knowing it and thrown everything out of balance. I was going to be a fisherman like my father, but when I consulted the record today, it told me I have no place in the ocean. Perhaps I never should have been out there, perhaps that's why everything went wrong..."
The man's aura still shined with its own colors but Magus sensed something else, a trace of a glowing hue that didn't belong to the fisherman. He took a sharp breath as, for a moment, it almost reminded him of Queen Zeal, how her aura had looked completely different from her body, how something else had stolen her shape. But this man was still himself--the glowing green traces seemed to be remnants of his contact with something else, the fingerprints of something that had reshaped the man's own aura and thoughts without his realizing it.
He looked back at the flickering pyramid and sensed the same cold green energy from it, mixed with a black howling wind. The thing had its own aura, hidden within the shell of the pyramid, and Magus realized that he'd felt this aura before--in the ruins of the orphanage. Somehow, this aura belonged to Lynx...and to Lavos.
"How do I use the record," he asked quickly.
"You touch two opposite sides of the pyramid with each hand and close your eyes. The record handles the rest of it. You'll feel a tingling along your back and a voice will tell you what to do next."
The man seemed to be telling the truth, but Magus knew that far more than that must happen to the people who touch the record to have left such psychic scars in the man's aura. The people simply weren't aware of just how deeply the records affected and changed them. This had to be the way the goddess used people, he thought grimly, by changing them when they touched the record and letting them think they'd changed themselves. But if the record connected the goddess to people, it had to work the other way--it could connect him to her, and to Lynx.
Without another word Magus stepped up to the pyramid and closed his eyes, touching it with both hands.
Part 3, Chapter 2