The Shadows Chapter 23

No One Survives the Shadows

By Keith Adams

The black robed figures advanced, steadily, methodically, akin to the beating of a drum. They kept advancing, dozens of them, approaching Crono with a slow, steady beat, gripping him in fear, paralyzing him. The figures were only a few paces away, now. They tightened the circle, the dozens and figures surrounding the pit Crono and Lucca's heads were sticking out of. The air was palpably cooler, moist. The cave seemed much smaller now to Crono - the ceiling must have been a few more feet high last time. Jagged edges covered the caves walls.

"Intruders," stated one of the figures in a cool voice utterly devoid of any emotion - it was a simple statement of fact "They must be destroyed."

Light seemed to come from nowhere and everywhere - the flickering edges of torchlight is what it seemed to be, with no source or origin, as if this cave was merely the edge of something far, far more foreboding, as if the cave was a prelude to what was to come.

Time seemed to crawl; there were motions from the black robed figures, glances in Crono's direction, some neutral, some filled with respect, others filled with a kind of pity. The robed figures black steel masks seemed to be part of their faces, leaving not a speck of flesh upon their heads uncovered. Through some trick of the light, they all seemed to be of the same height.

Crono wouldn't - couldn't, more precisely - wait any longer. The shock of the figures was wearing off. Crono felt along the lines of magic permeating everything; the lines were visible only when one wished them to be - and Crono could not believe what he felt. The lines were touched with black, whereas before they were always a dazzling array of every color but black - the only time Crono had felt black lines was around Magus, when he made usage of his power - but these figures weren't using any power. Crono ignored the discrepancy; now was not the time. Crono pulled the lines into them, away from the figures, and concentrated. The lines were resisting more than usual, but he felt the tingling sensation he had always felt. He shaped the lines, concentrated them, and released.

Dazzling bolts of green lights exploded into the midst of the figures. Six bolts, each brighter than any eyes save their users could withstand the sight of - each plunged into one of the shadows, each sixty degrees in a circle away from the other; the beams hit the figures, and the figures exploded in a flash of spherical white light followed by a column of light ascending upwards into the heavens. The beams then all condensed, and then, in one awful second, all exploded at once into half spheres which consumed the figures, enveloped them, burned them down to the barest ashes of what they were before they exploded into white light headed towards the caves top. Crono could see the reaction on the remaining figures face; none whatsoever. It was if they were watching a paticulairly unimpressive parlor magician, contempt mixed with arrogance and aloofness, as if what Crono had done mattered not at all.

The figures made no motion whatsoever, but suddenly Crono felt gripped by a massive, invisible hand that was crushing him squeezing him into the next world slowly but completely. Crono barely managed to let out the words;

"Lucca, go,"

Before he felt the invisible hand crush him. Thankfully, in that one glorious second before he fell into oblivion, he heard Lucca drop into the water and start the U'sab's motor.


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