The Aftermath Of Mount Woe Chapter 30
Crossing The Rubicon
Schala shuddered as she went up the stairs to the left tower of the Zeal Palace. After several weeks of back breaking work, the Mammon Machine was ready. It had taken many long hours to complete, and Schala wished she had a few more long hours to destroy it utterly. It had taken an insane amount of Dreamstone, and although Zeal wouldn't say where the cartloads had come from every day, she was pretty sure Zeal had finally broken up what remained of the boulder Vigo had discovered those long years ago, and had them shape it into this evil machine. Even before any of Lavos' energy had even touched it, it seemed evil. Perhaps because it looked so much like Serges. Perhaps because she knew it was going to have Lavos' power in it. It didn't matter what it was, the point was that she hated it.
As she entered through another door engraved with the crest of the Mammon Machine, she saw Melchior was already in the room. "What are you doing here so early? You having second thoughts too?"
"Yes, and third, fourth, and fifth thoughts. I cannot believe we have just done this with no resistance. Zeal should be concentrating on trying to find worthwhile things for us to do, not gathering insane amounts of energy we'll never need."
"Worthwhile things?" Schala didn't know what compelled her to still offer some defense for her mother. "Such as?"
"Such as finding work for all my men." Belthasar said, coming into the room. "Do you know how long its been since the Explorers had a decent job? People hardly remember we exist anymore!"
"Its the same for my blacksmiths." Melchior sighed. "Except for your skyway Schala, they've had nothing to do. Zeal wouldn't trust them with the Mammon Machine."
"Its kind of funny that way." Gaspar said, being the next one in. "They're probably much more loyal to her right now than we are." They all stood in silence for a few moments. Schala was about to say something, when a black portal materialized in the room. Zeal and, surprisingly, Janus, stepped out, while Dalton lingered behind to close it.
"This is another grand day in Zeal's history!" Zeal said, sweeping her arms in an extravagant gesture.
"You can cut the theatrics mom. The audience isn't here." Schala said bitterly.
"Don't spoil my fun Schala. Heaven knows its hard enough to come by these days."
"I'd say hell knows more than heaven." Schala mumbled under her breath.
"What was that?"
"Teenagers." Zeal sighed, blowing a stray strand of hair out of her eyes in a manner very similar to Schala's. Schala was glad Greven wasn't here to see that. "Well, there's no point in hesitating, start it up!"
"Yes, your majesty." Gaspar said tightly. He walked over to a large panel on the wall, mumbling something that no one else could hear. Then he threw several large switches up, and crossed his fingers. A red glow began to permeate the room. The connecting pipes on the Mammon Machine lit up with a brilliant red light. A light that was red and white, but somehow not pink, shot up around the base, fluctuating rapidly.
"Lavos' energy." Zeal said in a hungry voice. "Its so close. I could almost-" Suddenly, a surge rocketed up into the ceiling, throwing her backwards. Gaspar looked back at the panel on the wall.
"Uh-oh. Power intake is not constant. I wonder..." As they watched, the power stopped to barely a trickle, then suddenly poured out with another surge, shaking the tower to it's foundation. "Just as I thought. The energy output matches Lavos' respiration."
"Meaning what?" Zeal asked unhappily.
"When he breathes in, the power output shuts down. When he breathes out, the energy he puts out increases dramatically." They all jumped as another surge rocketed into the ceiling.
"That's some snore!" Schala complained. "Is there any way of controlling it?"
Melchior's eyes lit up. "Walk a little closer to it Schala."
"Are you crazy?"
"Just do it. The pendant should protect you, and maybe more..." Schala didn't know what he was thinking, but she stepped closer to the diabolical device. Almost at once, the power began pulsating much more regularly. She took another step, and it converted to a constant stream of energy. Schala sensed another light source in the chamber. Looking everywhere, she finally saw it resting just below the nape of her neck.
It was glowing a bright ruby red. Gingerly, she lifted it up to her eyes. Those beautiful eyes seemed to reflect the light at first, then lit up with the glow themselves. "Its so bright... Just like a zodiac stone..."
"What's a zodiac stone?" Melchior blurted out.
"Shh!" Dalton and Zeal shushed him simultaneously. They both were very interested in this. Schala ignored them all. She was lost in the pulsating red light.
* * *
It was indescribable. Every pore of her body, every part of her soul, was filled with warmth. How could she have ever doubted this power? Lavos was an obvious benefit to everyone.
'What?' She gasped 'Are you... Lavos?'
'Don't be insulting. And DO NOT be seduced by this power! Your mother has fallen already.'
'Who are you?'
'You once knew me as... Serges.'
'Why would I trust you?!'
'You must help Violen. You must prevent her from going the way of Atma.'
'What do you mean?!'
'You must look at your own soul for answers.'
'Why don't you just tell me what you mean?!'
'You do not understand yourself. You do not understand who or what you are. You must, if you are to succeed.'
'Leave me alone! You killed my father! You would deprive me of Lavos!'
'You must deprive yourself. You want to know why we killed Vigo? Lavos, pure and simple.'
'Weapons were not meant to have intelligence. Lavos granted us that, but only to confuse us. We were not summoned to fight your people, but to fight him! He turned all those on the planet's side against each other! You must break free!'
Schala concentrated very hard. He was right. Lavos had to be destroyed. Whether he was evil or not, his power was too great to be used by anyone but him. But he was practically spooning it out to all takers. 'That's right Schala. In the best case, he's gathering minions. In the worst case, he's breeding us to his taste. Now, you must realize who you are.'
'That's one thing I thought I was sure of.'
'To put it more accurately, you must realize who your soul is.'
'What the hell?'
'Look at yourself Schala. Concentrate. Meditate. What do you see?'
Schala obediently meditated. She forced herself to relax, allowing her brain to fill with images of it's own volition. She saw simple blue sky, and a cloud floating in it.
'A cloud? Signifying what?' The cloud began to change shape, eventually forming a striking S shape. 'Cloud S? What?' The S disappeared, to be replaced by empty air again. 'Air S?' The cloud reappeared, pulsating. 'Cloud Air?' The S disintegrated, only to reform a second later. 'Cloud, Air S?' The cloud pulsated, then expanded outward into a thin mist. 'What? Am I right? Hello? Aaargh! That's enough of that!'
'Its all in the timing.' Something said, but it wasn't Serges. She began hearing a dull thumping in the background. Her vision went black.
'The timing of what?'
'Who? What is that beat?' The thumping continued.
'He's waiting for me...'
'Who are you? Who is "me?"' The thumping grew more insistent.
'You. Us. We are one. We are the same. You must recognize...'
'I don't understand at all.' She decided to go with something remotely tangible. 'Who is "he" then?' The only response she noticed was that the strange, rhythmic beat grew even louder. 'What does that beat signify? Why does it change volume, but not tempo?' At that, the beat sounded as loud as a gun shot, and a white flash blinded her momentarily, before plunging her back into darkness. 'Is that it, tempo?' She got the same reaction. 'What's so important about tempo?'
'Everything, and nothing. The soul we never travel without. You must soon find him. He is with you now, but not in the correct way. You must find him truly.'
'Tempo is a person? I... I don't understand.'
'You will now, that's the important thing. You will.' Then, the red glow was back.
'Do you understand now?' Serges was back.
'No, I'm more confused than ever.'
'But you have looked at your soul. You have definitely broken free of Lavos, which is the most important thing now. As to your confusion, just remember Schala, souls travel in packs.'
'Being that ambiguous won't help at all.'
'What you must do now,' Serges continued, ignoring her, 'is help Violen. She must not go the way of Atma. Protect her if you can. If you cannot, you must kill her.'
Schala was speech - or more accurately, thought - less. How could she protect or kill a Weapon? 'What do you mean, "the way of Atma?"'
'I cannot say. Remember what you have learned. I don't think I will get the chance to talk to you again. Farewell, and remember, you are the galaxy's greatest hope. You must not fail.'
'Don't worry. I don't plan on dying any time soon.'
'Death has very little to do with it. It hasn't stopped you before, and it won't again.' Then, he was truly gone.
* * *
Schala fainted where she stood. Melchior walked over to her, concerned. "I don't get it. She babbled something about a "zodiac stone," then collapsed." Janus walked over as well, frowning down at her still form.
"The power of Lavos in it's direct form must be very overwhelming." Zeal said. "I envy her. Hopefully, this will convince her of the benefits of Lavos' energy." Melchior saw no way that would ever happen, but he held his tongue. "Move her away, but leave the pendant there, for now. We'll adjust the wavelength later so it will be able to be moved while regulating this power." The three Gurus solemnly picked Schala up and bore her out of the room.
"I'm getting hungry." Janus complained as his stomach rumbled. Zeal made no response, engrossed in the light display of the Machine. Dalton whipped out a cloth bag.
"Here, I always carry something to eat. Never can tell when I'll be called away on assignment." At the rustling of food in the bag, a cat appeared almost out of nowhere and ran to Janus' feet, begging for a bite. Janus was about to toss it something, but then stopped and stared. "What the hell?" Dalton's eyes widened in surprise. "That cat came off of the Mammon Machine!"
"It must have been sleeping up there." Janus said in a distracted voice.
"All that power should have fried it! Or woken it up, at the very least." Dalton frowned at the machine.
"Typical cat." Janus shrugged. "Won't wake up when its being bombarded by power readings off the scale, but snaps to attention at the mere possibility of food. Look at it's fur."
Dalton picked up the cat by the scruff of the neck. It was hard to tell in the red light, but it almost looked purple. The cat, not liking it's situation, hissed at Dalton. "Hey, careful with him, you brute."
"Don't be so overprotective." Dalton said, setting the cat back down. It immediately ran to Janus, purring up a storm, obviously asking for more food. "So what're you gonna call the little beast?"
"Seeing as Lavos' energy changed his fur color, I think it should be an anagram of Lavos." Dalton just stood expectantly, while Janus wracked his brain. "How 'bout... Alfador?"
"How is "Alfador" an anagram of Lavos?" Dalton demanded.
"Hey, I can't read yet. Give me a break!" Janus said, picking up the cat protectively. Alfador, oblivious to the exchange, was trying to dig into Dalton's food bag, which Janus held at arm's length.
"Oh, you spoiled, spoiled child." Dalton said. "I'm outta here." Dalton turned to Zeal, who had apparently heard none of the exchange. Or if she had, she didn't care, so engrossed was she in the Mammon Machine's functioning. "Your majesty, shouldn't we be leaving?"
"Oh, yes. Of course." Zeal said, as if waking from a sound slumber. She groggily followed Dalton out of the chamber. Janus, not wanting to be alone with the machine, quickly left also. All that was left in the room was a large, Weapon like machine, and a small, glowing pendant. And some crumbs left by a cat in too much of a hurry to get more food than to stay and clean up what it already had. Perhaps things hadn't quite degenerated completely yet. Not quite.
"I want to meet you..."
"But, I'm right here."
"I know. But I want to meet... you..." - Aerith Gainsborough and Cloud Strife
Nanaki: For you un-scholarly types, "crossing the Rubicon" was a phrase of Thomas Jefferson. He said it at the signing of the Declaration of Independence, meaning there was no turning back from the path we had taken.
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