The Shadows Chapter 38
In the Shadow of Apocalypse
By Keith Adams
Thiek sat down, calmly, gracefully, in his chair, slowly ingesting a thick, hot liquid smelling of spice. The room was silent, absolutely; not a thing moved at all. Thiek was at piece.
A rapping sound echoed through the room, penetrating Thiek's ear. The rapping persisted - two short knocks followed by a long one. It was him. He had returned. Why? Thiek had given him everything he could long ago, long ago indeed. The man had set about his course, locked into place for eternity, dead set upon making sure everything happened just so.
Thiek got up and opened the door. The trenchcoated figure in the doorway was short, his face covered by a wide brimmed hat, a dark wooden cane clutched in both hands along the top. The hands were aging rapidly, wrinkles covering them.
"Hello," said the figure gravely, not looking up "Thiek - I need your help. Things have come up which I have not foreseen. I need you to deal with them. I am getting too old for this."
Schala opened the large wooden door in the base of the rocky, snow covered mountain, slowly entering it. The room was not much, vaguely circular, with bookshelves everywhere. Directly across from her was a fireplace, with a mantle conspicously empty. Schala examined the floor; there was a pentagram engraved with a sort of blue and gold paint, with a twisting, hideous seal in the middle, a monstrous visage, swirling, indescribable horror. Schala glanced around, but there was not much here.
This was the home of her brother, Janus. Was this how he ends, a lonely man in an obscure cavern reading, endlessly searching for her? Was that anyway to finish his life. Guilt crashed into Schala; if she had gone after him, if she had stood up to her mother, if she had ... what was the use? She had failed one of the few people she cared about. And the rest - did she not fail them too? Belthasar had always wanted her to invent, to be innovative, but what have I done? Created some toys for a dead civilazation that had nearly destroyed the world in its' death throes? And Melchior, he always hoped she could turn her mother away from Lavos. I have failed at that. Even people I have barely met have been destroyed. It's like anyone who comes close to me is killed, or dissapears, or sacrifices themselves for me. Tears began dribbling down Schala's cheek, rolling onto the rocky bottom of the cave, echoing through the cave.
Even Crono. He was nice to her, polite, kind, even witty at his own expense, although he spoke little. He had been killed. He was dead, and was never coming back.
Crono hit the floor with a resounding thud. The floor was not that hard, really, he thought. There was cold air coming through the window, best to shut it, now. But the blanket, made of wool, was warm, snuggly. I can curl up and forget everyth --.
Crono felt his hair trying to pull itself out of his head. He flopped around, only to see the bemused face of Janice, her pale white skin catching the first of the suns rays. She seemed almost to be scolding him. He was not going to get up. No way. Not even for her.
Crono felt a sharp blow to the stomach, pointed. She had kicked him. She was growing more happy. If this continued, she would inevitable kill him. Crono got up, stretching out.
"Are you ready to go?" asked Janice, looking over the clothes Crono had slept in. Janice was in a black leather jacket, buttoned up, and black pants, with boots and gloves that were black as well.
"You look morbid," noted Crono.
"It's cold, blockhead. Let's go. We have to meet Lucca," added Janice.
Crono picked up his sachel, a brown leather one. He glanced over the rumpled, messy bed, then pulled the sheets off it.
Rogert glanced at the heap of gear, wires, and capacitors making up the weapon. The weapon waas scrap from the Final War. A memento of that final battle. They had beaten the humans good that time. When they retreated, they didn't have time to pick up this. They should have. It was a briliant piece of work, one of the elite Robo-R5 models, the most advanced ever created. It's memory had been wiped, true, but it was coming along rather nicely. Rogert shifted in his black robes, which were rather hot in this humid little cave. Rogert had spent years working on this, and now it was ready. All the programming was done; it would obey the Shadows now. This would insure their victory over any of those .... meddlers ...... who sought to beat them. This had weapons enough to level a large city, to send it's inhabitants running to no avail, to ravage the world.
It was only fitting that it should be called Lazarus. So superior to what it had been before, yet it had been ressurected. It will alter the world, smirked Rogert, thinking of the look on the High Shadows face, and of the rewards our current leader would heap upon him.
Lucca sat in the middle of Janice and Crono. They had been dancing around each other for the whole trip. The ferry was slowly moving across the gently crashing waves. Janice had not said a word to Crono, no degrading remarks, no sarcasm; it was most throughly unnatural. They were almost ignoring each other, but glances shot in the other's direction showed that they almost had a secret.
Truce was appearing in the distance; it's tall, interconnected buildings looked like paradise compared to the rapidly detiorating hovels in Porre. The ferry slowed and stopped at a sturdy wooden dock; the ferries interior was bare, with only a few leather cushioned benches and a purple carpet. The three got out, onto the deck, heaving with the waves, and stepped onto the gangplank, and began to head off southwards. The streets of Truce were noticabely barren; the cobblestone walkways were empty save a few people, and shops had closed. The sun was concealed by a nest of grayish clouds overhead. The trio walked along the paths, until they reached a wooden bridge amindst a field of grass. The bridge itself was rather ordinary, just oak, arched, with a railway a few feet high.
The trio walked briskly towards a large, two story house, wide, standing along. It had a short wooden fence, and cats wandered about in the yard. The trio wandered into the front door and down the stairs, into the darkness, where three figures sat. One was Marle, the others were Melchior and R-007.
"Crono!" exclaimed Marle, leaping up to kiss him. He wrapped his arms aroundher and set her down. Something had happened to him, thought Lucca idly; Maybe Janice yelled him into clarity of thought.
"We had better go," said Melchior in a low voice "I have a horrible feeling about what is going to happen next."
With that, no other words, the six climbed into their Epoch's, and charged them. And with a flash of light, they were gone.
Schala looked over the books, of varying colors and sizes absently. Books on magic, on ressurection, on time, on existence. Schala sighed, letting loose a stream of air. Nothing but books. She did not notice the figure in the doorway, nor did she feel anything as she was knocked out with a sudden blow, and a blue portal opened, into which her unconscious body went.
Frog walked through the forest of Guardia, ignoring the bluebirds and overlarge red mushrooms, concentrating. Who had the Shadows tainted on the High Council? Or maybe they had control over more than one. Whatever the case, the traitor must be found. But who would betray Guardia? Who was the one who would betray humankind to those things?
Guardia Castle looked equally impressive up close. It's stone towers, butresses, overshadowed the whole of the forest. The sun was setting in the distance, shining it's rays all across Guardia, seeming to set it ablaze. This would not be lost to the Shadows. If nothing else would remain, Guardia would be saved. And it was Frog's responsibility to destroy those who would betray Guardia into the darkness, into the Shadow.
"Frog has escaped," said the leader of the Shadows in a cold, dead, methodical voice. The shadow leader was dressed in a somewhat long black coat and pants, and wore no mask, letting his tanned face and brown hair see the light "Frog has escaped and you, in your blind arrogance, have shown him a member of the Guardian Council -our prize accomplishment, the proof of the rightness of our cause. And you, in your blind incompetence, have let that slip away." The Shadows gathered on the plain laughed at the robed figure cowering before the leader.
"Sir, how was I too know ...," grovelled the robed figure.
"Laggard. You prepare for all contigencies, fool," responded the leader.
"But G-," began the Shadow before the leaders hand slammed across his face.
"Never speak that name in my presence. Ever," the leader was oddly quiet.
"But why not sir after all G --- I mean, he is our leader," pleaded the Shadow.
"Yours' is not to wonder why; yours' is to do and die," taunted the Leader "But if you must now, the High Shadow lays still in 2300ad, where our greatest foe killed him. Janus nearly destroyed us all; our master fared no better. We were lucky, we got out of the destruction of our base and came here, but he didn't. If the High Shadow was returned to our base, then he is now spinning through the void. The End of Time reached its' untimely demise. We are here now. The High Shadow is gone, and shall never return. We must make do without him and his visions and god-forsaken prophecies. Do you understand?"
"Yes," gasped the Shadow.
"Good. It's always best to go to what lies beyond with understanding," the Leader smirked, and waved his hand. Streams of life began enveloping the Shadow, who began to wrack about on the ground, twitching in agony before the light complete consumed him, and then - then, there was nothing. The Leader looked into the setting sun.
"The sun is setting. Night is falling. The Age of the Shadow is beggining, and when it awakens, the world shall be nothing but fire."
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