Until the End of Time Part 3, Chapter 3
The Dreamless Sword
By Demon-Fighter Ash
March, 1010 AD
Lynx walked slowly through the crowd of villagers, carelessly pushing them aside as he made his way to the center of the tropical village, glaring at the wooden carts and the nervous merchants, his yellow feral eyes squinting in the bright sunlight. A small group of panther-sized creatures, walking shadows with yellow eyes like cats and waving, flame-tipped heads and tails, glided quickly around him as he glanced about the fishing village.
He growled a little as he heard Harle's lilting giggles and glanced over his shoulder to see her bouncing and skipping slowly from rooftop to rooftop, her red harlequin's outfit actually blending in with the bright silk fabrics and colorful flowers better than his black uniform. She leaped high into the sky above the bewildered fishermen and twirled slowly back to the ground, landing on her tiptoes beside the irritated demi-human.
"Are you finished," he muttered under his breath.
"I am just having zome fun," Harle smiled, her ruby lips glittering against her white face.
Lynx turned away from her and suddenly grabbed one of the fishermen by the chin, hoisting him high into the air and hissing in his face as the rest of the villagers stared in disbelief.
"Tell me," he snarled, "where the man who used the record went."
"Monsieur," Harle pouted, "zese people are terrified! Surely zere are easier ways, non?"
"Tell me," Lynx called out to the rest of them, "or I'll return with a Porre legion to burn this village down."
"I...I don't know," the man in his grip choked, "lots of people use the records!"
The feline warrior gave a low growl, his fangs glistening as his lipless muzzle curled up in a low, sadistic smile, the shadowy felines looking hungrily up at the fisherman.
"But you'd remember this one," he hissed as the cats mewed at the villager, "he's the one who went insane after he tried to use it."
"Wait," a short skinny man in bright robes answered as he walked into the village square, accompanied by a few servants, "I'm Gonji, the village elder. Sir Lynx," he glanced nervously at the fisherman still held tight in Lynx's grip and the group of shadow-cats sitting around him, "I assume. What do you want of our humble fishing village? We don't have much..."
"I hope for all your sakes that you're not as poor in answers as you are in wealth," Lynx said, tossing the man onto the ground and turning his attention to the mayor and his group, "tell me what became of the lunatic who tried to use Arni's record of fate last week."
"Yes," Gonji stammered as the fisherman rubbed his jaw and crawled away, and he gulped as one of the shadow-cats paced over and casually sniffed him, "he came a few days ago and went insane when he used the record. He left...he didn't say where he was going."
"Zey are," Harle sighed, "telling ze truth, monsieur. Zey know not'ing de interet."
"You can tell," he asked, barely glancing at her out of the corner of his eyes.
"But of course," she said with a wave of her hand, "zese are simple people, zeir minds hide not'ing."
"So be it," he turned away from the frightened mayor and his entourage, and the group of shadow-cats vanished with a single gesture from him, "then we've lost him."
"Is he really," Harle shrugged, "zat dangereuse?"
"Yes," Lynx answered, looking around at village, yellow eyes squinted, "and now more so than before. So long as he had his memories, we could have found him the moment he tried to use the record again. But now he's a tabula rasa, a blank slate. Even if he plugs in, he'll just be another nameless continental."
"In other words," Harle giggled, covering her mouth with one gloved hand, "you blew it big, non?"
Lynx merely snarled in response, then glanced across the square as he noticed a glint of metal under a heap of discarded fruit. He glanced back to Harle curiously, then walked slowly to the pile and kicked away the piles of old lettuce-heads and half-rotted fruit, revealing an ancient broadsword buried beneath the rubbish.
"Pardon monsieur," Harle asked quizzically, "but what is zat?"
"The Masamune," he whispered under his breath as he studied the carvings along the side of the gleaming blade, "he must have brought it here, and these stupid villagers just tossed it away with the rest of the garbage after he fled. They never even realized what it was."
"Perhaps zey are not so stupid," Harle replied, tilting her head slightly, "I do not know what it is either."
"Legends say it was forged by Melchior, in the Kingdom of Zeal," he said softly, "that it's a sentient blade containing his own dreams, a little bit like your," he paused, "your...kind's own sword, the Einlanzer."
"I did not know," Harle exclaimed with a hint of admiration, "zat ze humans could be so clever!"
"Yes," he answered, "and what's more, it's said to have the power to destroy Lavos."
"Ze big porcupine, non?"
"The Devourer of Time, Harle," he said, exasperated, muttering through clenched teeth as he tried to get the clown-girl to take him seriously, "the thing that's consuming your kind's future even as we speak."
"Oh," she answered softly, a little depressed, then perked up, "but zis could help, non?"
"Perhaps," he nodded, grabbing the golden handle in both hands, and he suddenly gave a monstrous roar, dropping the sword back onto the ground, the staring villagers backing away in a wide circle around them.
"Monsieur," Harle cried out, "are you alright?"
"The sword," he gasped in disbelief, "it tried to resist me!"
"Is zat possible?"
"We'll find out," he growled and grabbed the sword in both hands, closing his eyes tight as smoke began to rise from his curled paws, and he focused, searching through the burning pain, seeking out its source...
* * *
Darkness, warm peaceful darkness. Then a cold beam of light slicing the heavens. A presence other than their own, a presence that frightened them. Another in their special place, where nobody should ever be.
"Masa? Wake up, Masa!"
"What is it, Mune?"
"Someone's here," a timid child's voice answered, "in our place."
Another presence in the darkness, a strange monstrous entity, with yellow eyes like a cat, but a voice like a woman, and no body, just numbers and letters twisting around the two little boys.
"What are you," Masa, the older one asked, "you're not human."
"No," the voice answered, "but neither are you. You must be the dreams of Melchior, Masa and Mune, the spirits of the sword contained within the dreamstone and shaped from the focused energy of Lavos."
"You shouldn't be here," Mune shouted, "this is our place! You have to go back outside!"
"Behave yourselves," it said, the darkness shuddering with its words, "this sword is mine now."
"What happened to Janus," Mune asked nervously.
"It's not who owns the sword that's important," Masa said sternly, "but if you want to be tested, you have to go out there to do it. I can already tell you that you'll fail. It's the heart that counts, not your strength, and I don't even think you have a heart. Not a human heart, anyway."
"No, I don't," the voice replied, "which is why there will be no test."
"Then leave," Masa answered.
A dim red glow suddenly lit the darkness, the pulsing air growing hot and dry and flames licking the sky.
"What's going on," Mune cried out fearfully, grabbing his older brother.
"You were born from the power of Lavos, shaped to resemble human dreams," the voice echoed across the void, "you are a hurricane in a teacup, death forged into the shape of children. You are a part of Lavos."
"Mune," Masa screamed as his brother faded into the crimson wind and vanished, "what are you doing?!"
"I am restoring you both to your original nature," the voice answered, "you are beautiful statues, carved by Melchior with intricate care...but he carved you out of poison. I am melting you back into that poison."
"Stop it," Masa said, panicked, as his arms began to flicker and fade, red smoke rising from his flesh.
"You were shaped by Melchior's dreams, but you are not the stuff of dreams. You are death, pain, hunger, rage...you are the energy of Lavos, and with no dreams to guide it, the sword will be what it always was."
"NO," Masa shouted, and suddenly the sky exploded to reveal an orb of dark fire, a fiery abyss engulfing their inner universe in scorching red light, and Masa faded away like a phantom, leaving only the burning glare.
* * *
Lynx opened his eyes and smiled a little, tossing the cold sword lightly from one paw to the other. He glanced over to Harle, who stared at him curiously as he lifted the Masamune to his face and studied it.
"Monsieur," she asked, confused, "I zought perhaps you had fallen asleep."
"No," he lifted one claw, the burns already healing, "I just repressed the sword's guardians. They imagined it to be a holy blade. I've silenced their voices and restored it to its true nature: an instrument of death."
"Is zat a good idea," she asked nervously.
"Now it won't try to fight us," Lynx answered, and slowly smiled, "in fact, it will thirst for the kill."
"Oui," Harle said softly, not at all reassured, "but what about ze lock? Can it undo ze lock?"
"No," he sighed, then smiled a little as he looked down at the clown-girl, "but there is another way. We've established an interface with our counterpart in a secondary timeline, a parallel world like your own. It's identical to this primary world in virtually every way, except that over there the arbiter isn't dead."
"How's zat possible," she asked quizzically, "if you established ze interface, zan ze goddess must be zere too. How could zey both exist in ze same world, if he is ze devourer's trigger?"
"The arbiter hasn't discovered his power yet," Lynx answered, "and so the devourer hasn't been summoned there. But we've calculated that a sequence of coordinated events could bring the arbiter here, to our world, in a little less than ten years. We've decided to bring the arbiter here and use him to unlock the flame."
"Zat is tres dangereuse," Harle protested, "if he awakened here, ze devourer would come, zat is why you had to kill him in ze first place! We can't use him to unlock ze flame, zere has to be a better way!"
"The arbiter won't interfere with history," Lynx said sternly, "we've developed a countermeasure for that."
"Oui," Harle shrugged, "but what do we do until zen?"
"We wait," Lynx answered as he turned to leave Arni, the Masamune slung over his shoulder, "and while we wait, you'll help me learn everything there is to know about the technology in Fort Dragonia."
Part 3, Chapter 4