The Aftermath Of Mount Woe Chapter 26
Mammon Machines And Golem Dreams
Schala teleported directly to Zeal's throne room, prepared for a stern tongue lashing. Instead, Zeal acted like she had never realized Schala was gone. "Schala, I've made an important decision." Schala groaned inwardly. "We've lived with that inefficient machine of yours and the Gurus' long enough. We have eight years' worth of research on Lavos' energy. Now its time to put our knowledge to good use. We need to build truly masterful energy gathering machine. Behold..." Zeal pulled out a piece of paper from behind her throne and unrolled it. "The preliminary plans for the Mammon Machine! You are the first person to see it. Since you and the Gurus designed our other two machines, I'm hoping you four will be able to construct this one as well." Schala scanned the blueprints with a bad feeling in the pit of her stomach. The machine reeked of just plain evil. For some sick reason of Zeal's, it was humanoid in shape, and bore a resemblence to Serges. "I see you've noticed it's Weaponistic design." Zeal smiled. "I t
hought it would be a good symbol of our kingdom, showing both what nearly destroyed us and what allowed us to discover... Lavos!" She said the name with reverence.
"I'm thrilled, to be sure." Schala said in a droll voice. "But I'm pretty tired, so I'm going to bed."
"Of course dear." Zeal smiled. "I'm sure you'll be more enthusiastic in the morning." She didn't take her eyes off of the blueprint. Schala shivered as she left the throne room. There was certainly no white wind in the Zeal Palace.
Schala woke up as the sun was just beginning to drift in her window. She was aware that her door was opening slowly. Suddenly, she convulsed involuntarily as a little brother landed on her lap. "Ow! Watch it Janus, I'm a little sore there.
She could see Janus giving her a puzzled look through her sleep filled eyes. "Why, did you belly flop in the lake again?"
"Something like that." Schala smiled, looking at the ceiling.
"What was that?" Janus asked with a skewed glance.
"What do you mean?" Schala finally sat up in bed.
"That was no ordinary smile! What did you find yesterday? You got back pretty late."
"Enhasa isn't too horribly different from when I lived there, except for two people."
"What's different about them?"
"I don't think you could appreciate it."
"Can I at least go with you today? I wanna see too!"
"Oh, very well." Schala gave in. "Whoah, wait! What do you mean today? I wasn't planning on going back for a while."
"Why not? Did you find something you're afraid to face again?"
Schala clenched her fists. "You are so infuriatingly accurate!" Janus laughed. "Fine!" She got up, opened her closet, and rummaged around for something that looked at least a little different from what she had worn the day before. No such luck. "I've got to talk to mom about letting up on the uniform rules a little."
"Why? The only people who worry about their clothes are those silly girls who want to impress their boyfriends... Oh Schala, don't tell me..."
"It's time for you to mind your own business." Schala said, giving him a push toward the door.
"Okay, but I expect you to pick me up when you're ready to go." Schala just shut the door behind him.
Zeal managed to tear her eyes away from the blueprint as Dalton's black portal opened. "Your majesty! I've finally done it!" Zeal looked at him with non-interest. "I've finally unlocked the secret of Serges' armor!" Dalton gestured behind him. A huge yellow beast materializd out of the portal. It was at least ten feet tall, and it seemed to be mostly mouth, with two large arms on the side. "Just by adding a small amount of Lavos' energy to the armor, I was able to imbue it with artificial intelligence. These creatures will be the ultimate security guards of Zeal kingdom." Now Zeal had some real interest.
"Very good Dalton! I'll grant Zeal needs some securing. There have been reports from Enhasa that the citizenry has been mixing with the Earthbound ones."
"That is trouble indeed, my liege." Dalton paused, unsure of whether to proceed. "Will you grant me a boon?"
"You have been doing very good work lately Dalton. Very well."
"I need more authority. Some of the peasant rabble have been unruly lately. Among other things, they have been spreading rumors that... well..." Dalton seemed to hesitate now. "You know... You and me..."
"Hmm... The point is taken. Very well. If you need more political power, you shall have it. From this point forward, your power is only lesser than my own and the Gurus'," Dalton's face broke into a grin, "and Schala's." The grin fell apart.
"Th-Thank you my liege." Dalton quickly turned, and he and the Golem vanished back into the portal.
'Finally, someone with ambition.' Zeal smiled. 'Ah, I do admire that boy. The citizenry is right, to a point. "Point" is the key word. As if I'd ever take a peasant to bed.' Then, she stopped fooling herself. 'Ah, I'd like to, but past experience indicates that would be a very bad idea. Making him a leader in the kingdom probably is a smart move though. He may whip these apathetic unbelievers into shape yet. They all pretend to support me on the outside, but few of them truly accept the power of Lavos. Including Schala. What am I going to do about that girl?'
Janus squinted as his eyes adjusted back to normal from the white of teleportation. His eyes widened in surprise as he finally caught his first glimpse of Enhasa. "This is where the whole kingdom used to be?" He asked, incredulous. Schala just nodded, grinning. "But its so small! I mean, even Kajar is a lot bigger than this."
"Appearances can be deceiving." Schala said, leading him forward. Enhasa looked different in the early morning light, but then, everything looked prettier in the morning, Schala reflected. Janus was looking everywhere, wide eyed. To the casual observer, it would have appeared that he was just a curious four year old, but Schala knew that he was memorizing landmarks for teleportation purposes. They entered the main entrance just as a bookshelf behind the desk was sliding down into the floor. Janus looked across in surprise. It was a lot brighter in the room than it had been yesterday, probably due to the numerous holes in the walls and ceiling caused by their battle. Greven appeared at the door, wearing only a black tanktop and black shorts. He stretched, yawned, then looked out in surprise.
"Whoah! I didn't expect to see you back so soon."
"You'll find I'm full of surprises." Schala smiled. "Actually, I'm only back because Janus wanted to come."
She looked down at Janus, who finally mumbled, "Is he the... the uh... the smile causer?"
Schala laughed nervously. "Get thine royal self up to the library, lest you get into trouble."
"Leave right now!" She hissed at him. Janus knew when he could push his luck, and now was definitely not one of those times. He scurried up the stairs, and soon found other things to occupy him anyway.
"Smile causer?" Greven asked with a grin.
"Say, when did you start smiling yourself?" Schala changed the subject. "Don't tell me you're a morning person."
"No. I was hoping you'd show up again." Schala looked surprised. "What? Too forward?"
"Huh? Forward? No..." Schala wasn't sure what the right response was, or even if there was one.
"Well sorry princess, but I never hide my feelings."
"Feelings?" Schala looked up, half afraid, half hopeful.
"Miss Schala! Good to have you with us again!" Ertai came down the stairs, wearing only blue shorts and a gold T-shirt. Schala looked surprised.
"Were you people only wearing clothes yesterday for show?"
"You'll find we don't stand on ceremony here." Greven went back to displaying his usual indifference.
"At least not until a reasonable hour." Ertai butted in. "The sun's barely up, for crying out loud. I only woke up because I'm too hungry to sleep in. And I think Greven's only up because he's got an appointment in the Earthbound village."
"Sho 'nuff." Greven nodded. "'Cept its still night there. Different time zone you know."
"Oh. One of THOSE appointments." Ertai sighed.
"Don't look so dejected!" Greven smiled at him. "I keep telling you, as soon as you turn sixteen-"
"That's four friggin' years!" Ertai wailed.
Schala had a slightly disgusted, yet slightly interested look on her face. "I take it from your expression that you know what we're talking about."
"Er... Well, yes. You just schedule it? Like an appointment?"
"Well, two appointments, actually."
Ertai groaned, pretending to collapse on the staircase. "You're killing me Greven!"
Greven cracked up. "Just wait! Those four years'll go by a lot faster than you think, you'll see."
"Yeah, thanks dad." Ertai grumbled. Greven immediately turned serious. "Oh, I'm sorry. They still won' t talk to you?"
"Mom is too afraid of me. I've only seen her once this whole time, and she said she didn't want me around because she was afraid my powers might "malfunction." She's afraid I'll hurt my brothers and sisters." He began to shake with rage. "Even dad thinks that Zeal might be using me for a spy, even though I gave his agents Melchior's bomb!"
"Yeah, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have brought it up." Ertai smiled weakly as he noticed Schala's disturbed expression. "Yeah, we're outcasts all around. Our own people are afraid of us, and now the Enlightened ones are starting to be too." Now Schala looked confused.
"Haven't you heard?" Greven asked. "They're saying that our powers are too "primitive" and "raw." We're not sophisticated enough for them."
"If power isn't raw, then its no good!" Schala said adamantly.
"I like that way of thinking!" Greven actually smiled again. He sighed. "Ah, well. I'd better get going. After I get back, I've got quite a few repairs to get to work on." With that, he walked back into the room, but left the bookshelf down.
"Well," Ertai smiled his unique smile again, "I must say, that's the most anyone outside of our group of friends has got him to talk in a long time."
'But I'm in the group now, don't you see?' Schala thought at him.
"Hmm... Maybe you are."
"Oops." Schala had forgotten about his telepathy already. "Now I must say, you're quite good at that." Just then, Janus reappeared at the top of the stairs.
"Schala, you've got to come see- you!" Janus shouted, glaring at Ertai. "Schala, he's the one who-"
"I know Janus. I figured that out yesterday."
Ertai stood up nervously. "Uh, hello Prince Janus. Please forgive my... unrestrained actions."
"That punch really hurt. You shouldn't be punching little guys like me." Janus came down and stood in front of Ertai.
"Sorry about that. It was a reflex."
"Like this?" Janus asked, kicking Ertai in the shin again. He howled in pain, hopping on one foot.
"Why you little-" Ertai tried to grab Janus, but he was too fast. Ertai fell forward, and they both rolled to the bottom of the stairs. Suddenly, Schala felt the black wind blowing up.
'What in the world?' She was confused. 'I'm with my friends here. There's nothing to-'
"Schala, look behind you!" Janus called from his upside down position at the bottom of the stairs. Whirling around, Schala saw she was standing right at the entrance to a black portal. An odd growling noise came from inside, and she took a few steps back. Then an enormous yellow creature appeared out of it. It looked around for a bit, before looking right at her.
"Princess Schala, Prince Janus, you are ordered to return to the Zeal Palace immediately."
"What? Why? What are you?" Schala demanded.
"Uh... Princess Schala, Prince Janus, you are ordered-"
"No way! On whose authority?"
But the Golem was not paying attention to her anymore. It seemed to be sniffing the air. "Detecting objective number two. Subject identified. Greven Vecar, wanted felon. Initiating special programming. Terminate with extreme prejudice." The Golem pushed Schala aside and smashed it's way through the narrow door into Greven's secret room.
"I'm getting dressed here!" Schala heard Greven's annoyed voice. She was too shocked at the moment to do anything. "Hey, I said... Augh! What the hell?!" Schala heard a small explosion, which spurred her into action. She rushed into Greven's room. He was sprawled on the floor, reeling from the impact of whatever spell the Golem had just cast. His lower half was all decked out in his black armor, but his top was bare.
"Greven Vecar, you must surrender to the justice of Queen Zeal immediately. If you do not comply, you will be terminated."
Greven looked up, a hurt look on his face. "Schala, you were a spy?!"
"What? No, I-"
"You were really trying to kill me yesterday! I was just lucky enough to be good..."
"No! Greven, I swear-"
"This is your last warning. Princess Schala and Greven Vecar, you must both come immediately to the Zeal Palace."
"Hell no!" Schala said, raising her hand. In a flash, a huge beam of purple energy smashed into the Golem and pushed it back through the front entrance. "Greven, I swear to you, I was only here to-"
"Schala, I really think we better take care of that thing first." Greven pointed to the Golem, then ran outside. Schala sighed and followed him. The Golem was whirring to itself.
"Analyzing attack. Unknown magic type. Cannot be copied. Closest facsimile... Shadow type. Initiating Shadow program." The Golem closed it's eyes, and two beams of rainbow colored light shot out of it, one hitting Schala, and one hitting Greven. Greven responded by stretching his arms out, and a steady stream of holy energy kept the Golem at bay. Schala quickly conjured up a small tornado funnel. The Golem was lifted high into the air, then slammed down with great force. "Copying air and water types." A huge block of ice fell out of the sky, landing on the two mages. It broke into many pieces, only to be followed by a second block. In a rage, Greven rushed up and smashed his fist into the thing's face. It only growled slightly in response, while Greven was in considerable pain.
"What is that thing made out of?" He hissed, holding his hand. Suddenly, he was blocked from view as a solid iron ball fell out of the sky and landed right on top of him. Schala gasped, then redoubled her efforts. The Golem was tossed around like a rag doll in a huge purple explosion, but when it landed, it seemed to be all right. Schala could see Greven begin to crawl out from under the orb, but it looked like he would be out of it for a few minutes more. Then, the Golem raced up and swung it's arm in a broad arc. Schala was thrown several feet before landing hard.
"This thing's tougher than I would have thought." She gasped. Then, her world went spinning as more ice blocks dropped from the sky. She stood, wobbling on her feet, as she used more holy power against it, but the Golem seemed to shrug it off. It reverted to it's original Shadow spell, and Schala and Greven were hurled back into the walls of Enhasa, nearly unconcious. Schala faintly saw Ertai, of all people, standing beside them, warming up to cast some kind of spell. "Ertai wait!" He obeyed instantly. She staggered to her feet. "Cast that spell on me instead."
"Schala, you're hurt pretty bad." Ertai argued.
"Just do it, I know what I'm doing!" Schala drew her dagger. Ertai reluctantly obeyed. A lightning bolt cracked out of the sky and hit Schala, but the dagger seemed to absorb all of the energy. It hummed with power as a purple glow surrounded it. Then, a wavy beam of purple and green energy ripped into the Golem, tearing through its armor with ease, and causing massive internal damage. The Golem whirred more slowly now.
"Copying Dalton..." A black cloud of poisonous gas filled the air, but Schala blew it away with another wind spell. Greven staggered to his feet, then a series of holy arcs slammed into the Golem from all different directions. "Dalton program inneffective. Fatal system damage. Now copying Karak..." As the Golem exploded, a long sliver of it's yellow armor raced out of the chaos, tearing a gaping wound in Schala's side before smashing into the wall of Enhasa. Schala screamed and collapsed to the ground.
Greven could see her weakly try to raise her hand and perform a healing spell. "Oh no. Schala, save your strength! Healers! Hey, let's get some healers out here!"
"They're all cowering in their rooms." Ertai spat with disgust.
Greven muttered an unprintable phrase. Due to the blood loss, Schala was nearing unconciousness. "That could be a fatal wound! What can we-" Greven stopped as he saw the Dreamstone dagger. Thinking quickly, he picked it up. "I'm not sure what energy properties this has..." He ran over to where Schala lay, unmoving now, and kneeled over her. He cast another attack spell on the dagger, but it seemed to warp as it neared the blade. The energy changed color, and when it had passed the blade, it fell gently on Schala as a healing light. Her wound closed up enough to stop the blood flow, then Greven tore the bottom off her robe and a piece of fabric off of her dress to bandage it up. "Just wait 'till I get my hands on Dalton." Ertai heard him mumbling. When Greven was satisfied that she would be all right, he gently picked her up and carried her into his room.
"Why would Dalton send such a war machine just to bring her back to the palace?" Ertai wondered out loud.
"I think he was using her to get to me. I believe that she didn't have anything to do with this, especially since the Golem attacked us both equally." Janus quietly walked up and peeked in the door as Greven was setting her on his bed.
"Is she going to be okay?" He asked nervously.
"I think so kid, er, Prince Janus. Look, the best thing you can do right now is to go home and tell your side of the story before Dalton gets to the queen with his. Also, you would be doing me a huge favor if you left my role in all this out of it." Janus meekly nodded and then teleported away. "Ertai, you'd best go try to rouse some of the healers out of their hiding places. I don't think my little trick is going to do it for her." Ertai nodded and ran out. Greven quickly crawled into his torso armor and fastened all the straps. "Looks like the best thing I can do is disappear to the Earthbound village until all this blows over." He said to Schala, even though he didn't think she could hear. "I hate to leave you like this." He paused for a minute, looking down at her through confused eyes and conflicting emotions. "Such a peaceful facade." He finally mumbled, sure that she was asleep. "No one would ever guess at the raging tempest underneath." After a quick glance at the door to make sure no one was around,
Greven leaned over and landed a light kiss on her forehead. As he turned and hurried out the door, a smile slowly crept up Schala's face.
The sun had already set when the white glow of teleportation had faded, signaling to Ertai that Greven was back. As Ertai hurried into the secret room, he was shocked to see that Greven was on his knees, his face and arms blackened with soot. "Dalton is after me." He said, answering Ertai's unspoken question. "I think he found out I'm the one who trashed his Golem. He came right down to the Earthbound village, demanding that they hand me over. At least my loyalty has been somewhat rewarded, in that they didn't turn me over to him. I managed to hide in one of the grain silos, so he set them all on fire. I thought I was gonna roast alive, but my noble benefactor got me away from there before I could really fry. That's good for me, but the Earthbound are practically out of food now."
"What are they going to eat?" Ertai asked, a worried look on his face.
"I don't know. We need to find out who it is that's been helping me all this time, but I don't know how... Schala! I'm sure she can help us!" Greven looked back to his bed. "What happened to her?"
"Some of the healers finally got over here once all the smoke from the Golem explosion had dissipated. They closed that wound right up, and she went back to the Zeal Palace."
"That's good. Think she'll be back any time soon?"
"Hey, she had a great time again today didn't she?" Ertai gestured to include Greven's shattered wall, and slightly bloody piece of fabric on the floor. "How can she resist?"
"Young people... Hang in there!" - An anonymous resident of Vector
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