The Aftermath Of Mount Woe Chapter 44
The Ones He Warned Her About
"I have to hand it to you Prophet, you've done an excellent job so far." Zeal smiled. "You detected the spot almost perfectly. I've already sent some water mages down to create livable conditions for people to work in, and we're "encouraging" the Earthbound to work on the construction of the Ocean Palace."
"Encouraging" meaning forced labor?" Magus asked frankly.
"In a way. It's not like they have anything better to do. And this will make up for the damage they once caused to the Zeal Palace."
'And sending Dalton to slaughter the Vecars didn't?' He though bitterly, being careful to hide his disgust. "You are certainly a vengeful lady, your highness." He said out loud.
"I try." She said offhand.
Dalton raced into the room. "Your highness, construction has begun on the Ocean Palace, according to your specifications. The Earthbound needed a little encouragement, but I think they understand the importance of this project now." He said with an evil grin.
"Your highness, I feel there is something I should warn you about." Magus regained his monopoly of her attention, and noted how much that bothered Dalton. He had wracked his brain over the past week trying to remember everything he could about the tiniest little details in Zeal. Last night, he had remembered that some strange looking people had visited not too long before he was sucked away from the Ocean Palace. He didn't recall Glenn being among them, but Crono might have been. "There may be some people coming here to cause trouble and unrest in the kingdom. I cannot be certain, as they have a special way of damping my powers." He said, thinking of the Masamune. He had not been overly thrilled to see Masa and Mune occasionally wandering the halls around the Zeal Palace.
"What would be their purpose in doing so?"
"To undermine your rule, and perhaps to aid the Earthbound ones. I believe they may be survivors of Besroda." He almost laughed as Dalton tried hard to control his reaction to that subject.
"Dalton, keep a sharp lookout for these foreigners!" Zeal ordered.
"Yes, your majesty." Dalton clenched his teeth as he bowed low. He hurried out the door before his desire to wipe the smirk of the Prophet's face overwhelmed him. 'Easy Dalton.' He told himself. 'Zeal only likes him because he's new. He's a novelty of sorts. She'll get tired of him soon.'
Then he suddenly ducked as a dagger flew at him, cutting of a few wisps of hair as he flew toward the floor. He glanced around quickly, but no one was in sight. He jumped back up and yanked the dagger out of the wall. Engraved in the blade were the words: "With love from Ertai."
"Damn it!" He hurled the blade at the floor. 'Not now, Ertai! I have to get rid of this Prophet. I have to stop the Ocean Palace from being completed! Just wait a little while longer, then you can have your revenge. But if you try this now, you're only going to get yourself killed!'
'That's my choice isn't it?' Dalton whirled around, searching in all directions, but there was no sign of Ertai. 'Schala can do everything you can do, and do it better. It's up to Janus to get her to. And I'm sure he'll have an easier time of it without you around!'
'Then we've just become enemies again, I guess.'
'We always were! Just because you were on a guilt trip after finding out about the Vecars doesn't mean I ever stopped hating you! You just deluded yourself into thinking that achieving your own goals would help me. Get real! If Lavos will let you, that is.' Then, his mental touch was gone.
"And you're certain construction on this "Ocean Palace" has begun already?" Gaspar asked Masa and Mune as Belthasar listened.
"Yes sir. Zeal has pushed thousands of the Earthbound ones into forced labor. It looks like she wants this thing up and running fast." Mune reported.
"I wonder if we should try be trying to stop it from being completed." Gaspar scratched his chin.
"Actually Gaspar," Belthasar broke in timidly, "I'm kind of in charge of it."
"What? Why are you doing this?"
"If we keep resisting Zeal, we'll only end up like Melchior, or Schala, or worse! We have to wait until a critical moment to put our will against hers."
"I happen to disagree with that opinion."
"What are you going to do?" Belthasar asked apprehensively.
"I'm getting out of here."
"Where will you go?"
"The cave where you found the Sun stone seems like my best bet at the moment. I believe I can better conduct my studies on temporal flow there. I think I'm close to a breakthrough."
Belthasar sighed. "I guess there's no changing your mind about something like this. Is there any reason I should call you back?"
"Yes. If Zeal actually manages to finish this crazy place. Otherwise, leave me alone."
Janus felt temporary relief as he entered Enhasa. Perhaps it was just because the people here had become so lethargic since Greven and Ertai vacated the premesis, but he did feel more relaxed. As he had half expected, a sleeping Nu was occupying Greven's old room. Well, it was technically Belthasar's room, but it felt like Greven's. As Alfador rubbed up against his leg, he remembered that he had come here to relax. It was best not to dwell on the past. The levels of black wind at the Zeal Palace had been nearly off the scale lately. They were similar to the night Greven and Schala had died, only a little more vague. For a while, he wondered if he himself was about to bite the dust, and that was why he couldn't sense it clearly. But now he was sure it wasn't him. Someone important was going to have a remarkably short lifespan, he was sure of that.
As he climbed the stairs up to the top northwest corner of Enhasa, he felt the wind suddenly kick up. 'Aw man! What is it now?' He wondered, and began to pace back and forth. Alfador dutifully trotted behind him. Before very long, a group of three decidedly odd looking people began coming up the stairs. The first had wild, spiky red hair, and was dressed in several layers of coarse fabric. The second had golden blonde hair, and was dressed in fabric that, while casual, was of a much higher quality than the leader's. The third, if possible, was even more blonde, and was dressed (and he applied the term loosely) in animal skins. All three constantly looked around them as if they couldn't believe what they were seeing. Although he didn't see anything special, for some reason, the black wind seemed to originate from their general direction. As the leader reached the top of the stairs, Janus ran up to him, not sure what to ask.
"What's wrong with him?" The lady in the fine cloth asked the others, giving Janus an odd look. "What a weird kid..."
Janus opened his mouth to reply, but before he could, the woman in skins broke in with, "What wrong? That animal good food?" She was cleary pointing at Alfador.
'Okay,' he thought to himself, 'psychos at 3 o'clock!' But then a blast of the black wind hit him, and there could be no doubt about why this time. "The black wind howls... One among you... ..will shortly perish." He told them frankly. Alfador meowed to emphasize the point.
The three people looked very surprised, to put it lightly. "What?! And out of the blue, like that?" The first lady exclaimed. Janus wanted to talk to the leader, but it looked like this loudmouth wouldn't let them have a moment's peace. He sighed and walked away. If his feelings were right, and they usually were, he would be seeing them again before too long anyway.
Marle watched the kid leave with growing unease. She didn't know quite what to make of his cryptic remark, but in her travels so far, she had learned that sometimes the most reliable information came from the oddest sources. "Crono... this is kinda creepy." She admitted to him and to herself.
Ayla stared after Janus' retreating form, then turned back to Marle and Crono. "Strange one... But not bad boy." She proclaimed as if that ended the matter. Crono shrugged and continued on, so apparently it did.
Doreen saw the three odd travelers heading for her again. She had confused them twice before with some of her favorite cryptic comments, such as: "This is the eternal kingdom of Zeal, where dreams can come true. But at what price?" and "Am I a butterfly dreaming I'm a man... Or a bowling ball dreaming I'm a plate of sashimi? Never assume that what you see and feel is real!" But now they were approaching her again. The look in their eyes suggested that she looked familiar to them, although she couldn't imagine where they would have seen, her, Masa, or Mune before. She decided to be slightly more helpful before jumping away this time. "I'm Doreen. Seek the hidden path, and open the doors of knowledge, each in turn."
Back from the entrance, she saw they were looking confused at first, but then one of the ladies elbowed the leader and said, "Hey Crono, didn't that Poyozo critter say something about a doorway too?" Doreen smiled. Maybe they weren't as dense as she had thought.
Dalton was walking out onto the dock to make his daily check on the Blackbird, when he heard one of his soldiers ask, "Who're you guys?"
"Everything okay with the Blackbird?" He called to the soldier, ignoring the other people who stood there, for a moment.
"Everything's A-okay, Sir Dalton!" The two soldiers guarding the entry hatch saluted him.
"Of course it is, you idiot!" He yelled at them, on a temporary power trip. Now he finally turned to see the other people. "Hey you! What're you doing there?" He demanded of the leader. Then, upon closer inspection he realized this man, no, this boy, almost exactly matched the description the Prophet had given of the "foreigners." But he knew they were more than just foreigners. After Ertai, he had made it his top priority to find every survivor of Besroda, and these weirdos were nowhere on the list. In fact, they were nowhere on any list. It was as if they just appeared out of nowhere.
"Aha...it was true then...!" He proclaimed to himself. "You're the ones the Prophet said would come and cause trouble!" He enjoyed watching their confused expressions. "Let's see how you handle THIS little situation." He threw his cape back, stretching his arm out. The boy with the spiky red hair reached for his sword, but did not draw it. "I didn't think they'd make it so easy on me! HA!" He said for the benefit of his men. Like Greven, this guy had a clue about how to play the game of life and death. A small clue, but a clue nonetheless. That was a lot better than he could say about most people. He was curious as to what their next move would be, so he simply turned and left.
Masa and Mune were keeping watch halfway up the main flight of stairs in the Zeal Palace, nearly bored out of their skulls. They were never sure what they were watching for, but it had been one of Melchior's practices, and they felt they owed it to him to keep it up. "I wonder how ol' man Melchior is... Humans are so odd..." Masa mumbled to himself.
Mune didn't seem to hear him. He went off on his own tangent. "I wanna be the wind, Masa!"
"Oh, you will some day." Masa assured him. Mune just nodded.
"Big sister Doreen's at Enhasa again." He noted, making small talk.
"Yeah..." Masa had noticed her absence as well. "That's 'cause she likes dreams."
"I like the wind better! Whoosh!" Upon that exclamation, Masa noticed that a group of strangers had overheard their entire conversation. But he just shrugged it off. I wasn't like they had revealed any important information.
Janus found himself somewhat glad to be back at the Zeal Palace, although the black wind had seemed to follow him home. He marched straight to Schala's room and announced his arrival. "Schala!!"
"Oh, you're back Janus! Is something wrong?" She asked, seeing the dour expression on his face.
"The black wind..." He mumbled, knowing she would understand him.
"You feel it too? Don't worry, it'll be all right." Yes, she always understood, even if she didn't acknowledge it anymore. "Now, hold onto this." She surprised him by holding out a glowing object.
"What is it?" He asked with a typical six year old's curiosity. In truth, Schala had asked Belthasar to make a second pendant like hers. Although the result wasn't quite as good as Melchior's constantly supreme efforts, the result was pretty potent all the same.
"It's a kind of amulet." Was all that she volunteered. "If something should happen, it'll protect you." He could tell from the look on her face as he accepted it that she expected something to happen. He guessed it was one of three things: the Ocean Palace, the prophet, or the Ocean Palace. Then there was always the possibility that it was the Ocean Palace. Janus knew that despite the odd presence of the prophet, it was this Ocean Palace business that was really getting to her. "I wish I could be with you always... But mother has other plans." And that sentence pretty much confirmed it.
"She's NOT our mother!" Janus fumed. "She looks like mother, but inside she has changed." They stared at each other for a second as both realized that was the first time he had openly acknowledged that fact. He had never dared to say it openly before. Schala had never talked about it since the night Greven was killed.
Schala remained silent for a good while. "Still I can't..." She finally said sadly. "Janus, I'm sorry." Janus' brief period of hope died in his chest. But then he mentally replayed their conversation in his head. She was speaking less formally than she had been lately, and hadn't tried to mask her feelings. Maybe his sister was still there somewhere, buried under all she had been through.
One of the messenger girls hurried in the door. "Excuse me, Highness. The Queen asks for your immediate presence at the Ocean Palace." She said politely.
'So she's moving that fast...' Schala thought. "All right." She said out loud. "Well, Janus... I'll be going." She walked to the top of the stairwell, then stopped as she caught sight of three people she hadn't seen before. There was a confident and honest air about the leader of the group that intrigued her. "Oh! Who might you be?" She asked all of them, but him in particular.
"Miss Schala, please hurry." The messenger urged her, ignoring them. "If you're late, I'll be punished!"
"Oh yes, I'm sorry." She apologized, cursing another of Zeal's new policies.
Janus watched Schala and the messenger disappear, then, with some annoyance, saw the three people he had run into at Enhasa come up the stairs. He had been curious about them at the time, but he didn't want to see them now. Especially seeing as the black wind seemed to follow them. He turned his back on the strangers. Oddly, the leader of the group didn't take the hint, and approached Alfador instead. "Don't waste your time. Alfador only likes me." He informed them, before turning his back again. Alfador meowed to emphasize the point.
The leader of the group came around the table and looked him straight in the eye. "Go away." Janus ordered, unflinching. He wasn't in the mood for this. The leader finally shrugged, and all three of them went back down the stairs. Janus looked out the window and sighed. His sister was still alive, he was sure of that. He just wasn't sure how to get her to see it.
Zeal was giving another melodramatic speech about the virtues of the Ocean Palace, when an odd noise was heard in the throne room. She, the prophet, Dalton, and Schala, all turned around. They all saw that the noise had been made when the door opened, which should have been an impossibility. Voices came from the other side. "Yea, we did it!"
"Ayla go! No fear, Crono!" As the three people everyone but Zeal had seen before strode into the room, Schala briefly wondered if that was the leader's name. Maybe he was a warrior of time. Then she thought back to what Vigo had said. Maybe the unusual quality about him that she couldn't quite place marked him as another hero of the ages. In any case, he wouldn't know himself, and she didn't have the chance to wonder for long.
Zeal jumped up on her throne, extremely angry. "Who are you!? How did you get in here?" She demanded at once.
Magus was seething with anger. These were the cretins that had aided Glenn. And if they had found their way here, it was a cinch that Glenn could too. He had to get rid of them before their amphibious friend could follow. "Your majesty... They are the evildoers I warned you of." he said gravely.
If possible, Zeal became even more agitated. "How DARE you think you could oppose me, you...foreigners! You're worse than the Gurus!" She pointed at them accusingly. "Fools! Dalton, take them away!" Schala groaned inwardly. She knew what that meant. It looked like she wouldn't get the chance to find out much about these visitors.
"Yes, ma'am! By your leave..." Dalton appeared eager to serve. "Golem!" He shouted as he stretched his arm out, then teleported them all away to a special room that had been constructed just behind the throne room just for this sort of purpose.
Schala didn't know what morbid curiosity forced her to watch, but watch she did. As she had thought, the Golem proceeded to decimate them with iron balls and other odd attacks. But something was odd here. The travellers didn't simply submit, and cower on the floor. Slowly but surely, they turned the tables on the Golem, alternating between lightning and ice attacks, occasionally nailing it with a good physical hit. Finally, after another iron ball, the leader of the group rushed forward, his spiky hair flying wildly. He ran around the Golem in a tight circle, slashing rapidly with his oddly curved sword. As he jumped away, Schala was delighted to see the Golem collapse, then explode. Enraged, Dalton immediately 'ported them all back into the room. "My poor Golem! That was inexcusable!" He yelled at them.
Zeal seemed pretty unhappy as well. "Mwa, ha, ha... Fear not! You won't die...immediately, that is!" The three strangers gave each other skewed glances. They had already figured that part out, or so they thought. Suddenly, an odd beam of light shot up from the floor, and the three were imprisoned inside an oddly glowing pyramid. The energy that coursed through their bodies didn't seem to be the healing variety either. "But by the time we're through with you, you'll be begging us to end your suffering." Zeal taunted them. "What a delicious diversion!" Schala cringed. These people had been in a no win situation. Sort of like her...
Even though it had been at his prompting, Janus was glad to see Schala leading the way into the room directly below the Mammon Machine, where such "dissidents" were often kept. "Hmph! Idiots..." He said crossly, still not able to believe that they had just waltzed into Zeal's throne room. "What will you do, Schala?" He asked, because he really wasn't sure.
"Let us rescue them." She said simply. Hope soared in Janus' chest, but he had to test her.
"I think it's useless." He said in his usually cranky way. "Besides, if they escape, you'll be in trouble."
"Don't worry about me." Janus smiled inwardly, although he kept a sour expression on his face. "They just might be able to rescue the Gurus." She told him. He hadn't been aware that anyone besides Melchior was in trouble, but since the Gurus had always been on Schala's side, it stood to reason. Schala quickly walked forward and pushed a button where the energy was flowing. The three strangers drifted out of Lavos' residue, and collapsed on the floor. The leader rose to his knees, looking at Schala with surprise.
"Are you all right?" She asked with genuine concern. "Quickly, escape from the palace! And if you can, please rescue Melchior!" He really shouldn't have a clue what she was talking about, but his eyebrows shot up with surprise when she mentioned Melchior. She elaborated anyway. "He was sent to the Mountain of Woe for opposing the Queen. Please! You have to help him!"
The spiky red hair was just beginning to bob in a nod, when a low voice drifted into the room. "I'm afraid I can't allow that..." Magus strode into the room with his typical arrogant swagger. He had grown used to annoying Schala, even though he didn't wish to do so. But he turned his attention from her as soon as he noticed Crono kneeling on the floor. "Your meddling tires me." He growled menacingly. "You'll... Just have to disappear!"
"You mustn't!" Schala cried.
'Mustn't?' Magus wondered. 'Schala, if you're going to use contractions, don't mix them with your formal talk.' But nevertheless, he was surprised by any show of resistance from her. Apparently, he had forgotten more than he had thought. He hesitated for a moment.
"Stop!" Janus too, stepped in front of him, and even Alfador added his own surprisingly imperious order. Magus had long made it a policy only to take orders from himself. But technically, the kid WAS himself. He stopped for a moment.
"Okay... I'll spare them." He reluctantly said, quietly. Then he whirled around. "But in return, you WILL cooperate, Schala!" Then he walked over to Crono, his expression growing even more severe. "Now, show me how you came here."
The five stood, looking at a glowing blue orb. Schala had no idea what it was, although everyone else did. "Hmm...so you came in through here." Magus growled, not overly surprised. He turned to Schala. "Now Schala! After I throw them in, I want you to seal the portal shut."
"N-no! You can't make me!" She was resisting again! He would have been glad, if he didn't have other objectives in mind at the moment.
"Obey me! Their lives are at stake!" He came close to shouting.
"I...oh, all right..." Schala's small amount of newfound willpower collapsed. Magus roughly shoved Crono and his cohorts toward the gate. In the brief seconds between the gate's opening and closing, Crono shot Schala a look that plainly said, 'I'll be back!' Then he pumped his arm in a victory salute, and the gate swallowed him. Schala stretched her arms out, and used a portion of her now severely restricted magic to put a barrier around the gate. Once the purple pyramid formed, Magus left without another word. "Please forgive me..." Schala whispered quietly, dropping to her knees.
"Why did the Prophet let us go?" Marle demanded back in 65,000,000 B.C. She glared at the purple barrier, but it didn't budge. She thought Crono might have some ideas, but as usual, he didn't volunteer any information.
Ayla broke in with her own concern. "They take energy from Lavos. Lavos not get weak?" Crono and Marle shrugged. It didn't look that way.
Marle suddenly snapped her finger. "Wait a minute. I've seen the design on the doors this pendant opens, somewhere else..." She thought for a few moments. She had seen that crest on small, black boxes scattered throughout time, but the main place she had really noticed them was in the far future. Specifically, the old man's dome, next to Death Peak. She mentioned as much to the group. "Let's check it out, Crono!" Crono nodded, and the three ran off back toward the Mystic Mountains, to try once again to change history...
"I'll put an end to this myself!" - Janus
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