Dark Winds Chapter 5
Janus opened his eyes slowly, blinking to gather his wits. At first everything blurred, threatening to send him back into the oblivion of unconciousness. Adreneline surged through him, giving him the impetus to keep his awareness. Lifting his arms, he rubbed the bottoms of his palms against his eyes, pain throbbing at the back of his skull with an unrelenting rhythm. The dull ring of metal against stone brought his attention to the chains clamped tightly around his wrists.
He struggled to move his body, to adjust his sight. Reaching for the essense, the very core of magic's fuel, he nearly cried out in pain. Whatever they had forced down his throat earlier, that foul tasting liquid that burned as hot as any fire, it had cut him off from the essense. There would be no magic to aid him now. Slumping forward, he growled, staring at the chains that bound him. Whoever this fool was, he would pay dearly a thousand times over before Janus allowed him the dignity of death.
The cell was small, cramped, made of stone and mortar. Below ground, by the condensation and musty, earthy smell of it, it was dark, all save a hair of light that glowed from the cell door. Torches down the hall, more then likely. The ground was swept dirt, and the chains, though rusty, were strong as steel. There would be no escaping, at least, not yet. A single sweep with his eyes revealed no Crono. Perhaps his captors had seen fit to leave the red haired boy alone, which left a chance for rescue.
The very idea of rescue only rankled Janus further. He was the Magus, a man so powerful an entire kingdom trembled at the mere mention of his name. Now here he sat in a dingy cell, chained like an animal.
Footsteps echoed from down the hall, followed by keys jingling in the lock. Janus leaned forward, preparing for... for what? There was little he could do, seperated from weapon and magic alike. He was at their mercy, gods how this irritated him!
Crono awoke to a slender hand lifting his chin, his eyes opening to gaze at duel women in his blurry vision. He blinked, and the two became one. A pretty girl, dark haired with dusky, smooth skin, her gaze indicated a keen mind busy studying him.
"Who are you?" he croaked, clearing his parched throat soon afterwards. She shifted, releasing his chin, and reached for a small canteen at her side, lifting it to allow him a swallow of cool water.
"My name is Delora. That's all you need know of me for now." Her eyes focused on him again and she sat back against the dirt floor, folding her arms over her chest. Crono shook his head, which turned out to be a mistake for all the pain it suddenly caused. The dull ache roared to full out nauseating throbbing. He nearly bent over to sick up. Delora watched the entire time, then leaned over, touching his forehead briefly. Crono felt the surge of magical energies, then just as quickly as it began, his headache was gone. The shock of it left him stunned for a moment, testing his body briefly.
"It wouldn't do to question you if you can't even see straight to answer me," her words were terse, this was Crono's captor after all. Still, looking at her, he sensed no malice in this woman, how could she possibly be a part of this?
"What do you want from me? Where is Janus?" He wished his voice didn't sound so harsh.
"I want you to tell me about Magus. Everything you know, spare no detail and... do not lie to me." Her blue eyes flashed in a way that spurred Crono's memory. She was familiar. Somewhere he had seen this woman before, he was sure of it.
Crono shifted, sitting up further, finding himself chained to the walls by rusted links as big as his hands. Regarding her in silence for several moments, he finally responded, "I'm not sure what you want, Delora... Magus has a long history."
"I want to know him, not his history. Tell me, has he ever loved? Ever known anything but death and misery and destruction?" the girl was growing impatient by her tone, and given the terseness to her voice, she didn't care too much for Janus. Added together, this questioning was growing stranger by the moment.
Eyeing her warily he replied, "Janus is a man who has seen too much death and pain, and known little love or acceptance... he has loved, yes. His sister was the light in his life and was torn from him at an early age."
"There is more. Was there a woman he loved? Not as a brother loved a sister, but as a man loves a woman."
Crono hesitated, seeing the definate narrowing of the conversation. She wanted to know about Meoni. He peered at her closely in the dim light. The doorway had been destroyed, and Meoni was possibly still alive.
"Meoni?" he ventured to ask. She laughed bitterly, shaking her head.
"Meoni is long dead, boy. Now tell me what you know about her."
Crono shifted uncomfortably, searching for something small to tell her. Janus, being the private person that he was, certainly didn't want his love life being gossiped about in a prison cell with the very woman who had taken them prisoner.
With a sigh, he finally resigned himself to survival, "Meoni was a human woman he loved in the middle ages. It was at a time when his army was cohesive, but they were wary and held a deep hatred of anything human, except for Magus. He was pressured into burning her at the stake to regain their trust, or risk losing the mantle of leader. But, he loved her. He couldn't bring himself to hurt her and he placed her in a time door, promising to return eventually to free her when times had changed."
Delora listened intently, her expression unreadable. Her face could have been carved from stone for all the emotion she exuded. In a hushed tone, she asked, "The time door... it was not a prison?"
Crono blinked, then shook his head, "No, it was a magical gate meant to keep her young and safe."
"Safe," she echoed the word as she rose to her feet. Looking down at him for a long moment, her emotions erupted onto her features, a mixture of confusion, anger and uncertainty.
"Thank you," she finally said, composure returning to her as her face regained the cold expressionless gaze. She turned, literally walking through the door without opening it and he heard her footsteps down the hallway, echoing into silence.
"You questioned the red haired boy today," the Mistress' question was more of a statement.
"I did. Would you rather have had me question Magus himself? I would have throttled him where he sat," Delora's voice appeared from nowhere, like a whispering wind.
Laughter filled the throneroom, yet even now Delora thought she heard a hint of nervousness. Could the Mistress be aware of her appretice's state of mind? The thought made her shiver. Everything now counted on the woman remaining oblivious to the changes.
"Then tonight you shall meet the Magus in person. But, do refrain from tearing him apart, dear child."
With that, the heavy oak doors leading into the throne room opened with a grand swoosh of air, their hinges squeaking with protest. Gholem entered, dragging the bedraggled form of the Magus with him.
Delora silently departed from the chamber, too soon the Mistress forced her hand. But, if she was to save the Magus, she had to go now, for Crono.
(To be continued...)
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