Seraphina sighed wistfully as the vine lift arrived at the top of the Worldtree, and she got her first view of Canopy Castle at night. The moss coating its walls that had been a brilliant green during the day glowed with a soft bioluminescence at night. It was hard to believe the beauty in front of her had been made with the energy of the Lavoid. She stepped off the gigantic lily pad attached to the huge vine she had ridden up on, and the operator manipulated the directional crystal in the center, sending it back down. She hurried up the ever widening branches, then lightly floated up onto the outer ramparts of the castle.
Stealing one last glance at the brilliant stars above her, she slipped into one of the many ventilation ducts lining the walls, and made her way as quietly as possible toward the inner keep. She had to stop twice as guard patrols passed through hallways directly underneath her. She could hear the dull thumping of their footsteps in the living wood. Every once in a while, she paused to knock her fist against the wood. After what she guessed was over a half hour, the sound changed noticeably, not echoing at all know, and she realized she was in the main keep. She reached into her pack and pulled out the map and a small, glowing crystal. She studied it for a few moments, then put it away. About a hundred feet later, she came to a fork in the duct, and turned left. Another fifty feet later, a branch in the duct opened out into an empty room, and she crawled out. As she surveyed the beautiful structure, full of soft, dark hollows and brilliant green leaves, she realized she was looking at a very fancy locker room.
This was where she wanted to be. It was fairly dark in the back, but toward the front of the room, it was lighter, and she heard a few women still talking and laughing. Great, she was right on schedule. She buried her pack under a pile of dirty laundry, silently wondering if it would create a paradox if she were to indroduce tampons to this time. Then, she hurried to one of the dark hollows in the wood that served as lockers, and rummaged around, looking for a "costume" that would fit her.
She pulled out a top, held it against her chest, and her eyes widened. "I didn't know they even had implants in this time." She remarked to herself as she threw it back. After she had ransacked the back of the room, she realized that the top sizes went down the further right she searched, and focused in that direction. She finally found one that fit her, and growled a little as she realized only one more locker separated it from the wall. She threw off her own clothes, and quickly donned the thin material. After she got it on, she frowned. Even in this low light, she could tell that she might as well not have been wearing anything at all, the material was so transparent. She weighed her options for a moment, then put on a couple more layers of the same fabric. It shouldn't be noticeable enough to give her away. 'What the hell am I doing here?' She wondered for the hundredth time.
She had explored the other cities on the roots and trunk of Fervor's Worldtree thoroughly, but they hadn't given her the vital pieces of information she needed to know. While many of the kingdom's citizens had heard about the temporal project, few of them new exactly what it entailed. The libraries were similarly useless. The project was too new to have been mentioned in any books. Eventually she had reached the conclusion that the only way to learn what she needed to know would be to approach King Gaudamus directly.
Unfortunately, the line of people waiting to see him was several thousand people long, and the clerk at Canopy Castle had said the soonest she could get in would be a couple months. That would be too late, she knew. But after talking to the people in the castle, she had learned that the king picked a "companion" to take to his quarters every night, and there were no guards in the room during the process.
Now, as the last potential "companion" headed out the door, Seraphina slipped out as well, falling in at the back of the orderly procession. No one seemed to notice. In moments, the throne room opened up in front of her, and she had to gasp at what she saw. The high vaulted ceiling was covered with palm trees, upside down. Birds of paradise were thick on the walls, and even the floor of the room. In an intricately shaped throne of wood darker than the rest, King Laocorn Gaudamus lounged, sipping a drink. The ladies spread out into some kind of formation, and Seraphina did her best to find a spot in it.
Instantly, one toward the front came up to the side of the throne while, the others remained in their places. 'Looks like the election is rigged.' She observed.
"You, look tired, your majesty." The woman, who seemed to be about thirty, said in a sultry voice. "How about we retire to my room so you can recover some energy?"
"No thank you, Arillya." He said simply. "Just the usual conversation will do."
Seraphina was relieved and apprehensive at the same time. On the one hand, she certainly didn't want to shack up with this guy just to get some info out of him. On the other, she didn't see any other way to get what she needed...
The King boredly surveyed the assembly, quite tired of the whole affair. Ever since the three ladies vying for his affection had suggested a ceremony for him to pick his favorite, the whole thing had ballooned out of control. He had been unable to make a decision then, and more showed up every night, until now he had upwards of fifty on a regular basis. Of course, two of the original three were no longer here. While the royal guards were looking into it, as he looked at Arillya, he felt certain he already knew what had happened. He really didn't want to have anything to do with her, but he also didn't want anyone else to share the fate of Arillya's enemies.
As he scrutinized a few individuals toward the back, he spotted a newcomer. She had strawberry blonde hair, and looked very young. Too young, he realized. He frowned, and performed a temporal scan on the room. While the rest of the airheads continued to stand motionless, their expressions unchanging, the young lady in his sights flinched a bit. 'I thought so.' "Arillya, I desire a change of pace tonight. Go stand with the others." The woman's jaw dropped, and it was apparent that while sound was trying to come out, nothing audible could be heard. Slowly, she comlied.
"You there!" He pointed at Seraphina, who gulped nervously. "I would like to see you in my chambers, immediately."
"But sire!!" A wall of estrogen smashed into him.
"Just for tonight ladies, I'm sure." He placated them. "You are dismissed."
"Um..." The young woman began. "I didn't mean to... That is, I'm not sure I..."
"I assure you, my intent as not nearly as nefarious as you're assuming." Gaudamus replied. "Please, come into my chambers." He opened a door behind the throne, and gestured for her to follow. Seraphina tentatively stepped after him.
"You're not from this time, are you?"
"What?!" She gasped. "But how..." She slapped herself on the head as she realized how stupid a move that had been.
"No need to be worried." He walked up to a large dresser, and pulled out a bottle of brandy. He poured himself a drink, before continuing. "Your presence here means my project will be successful."
"I'm part of the temporal project?" She was incredulous. "But that just can't be! I'm from over 10,000 years in the future!"
"Believe me, it's quite possible." Gaudamus took a sip. "Though you're younger than I was expecting. Let me get to the point." He took a large swig now. "Do you know Tempestuous and Lionello?"
"No..." She slowly shook her head.
He looked surprised for a second, but then returned to nursing his drink. "You're probably just too young. You are the daughter of Gazuga, aren't you?"
"How?!" She demanded simply.
"I know much about this world." Gaudamus smiled. "I'll take that as a yes. So tell me this, do you know any Travelers other than your brothers?"
"Barely. Just before I left, two Travelers named Magus and Ertai arrived at my brother's fortress."
Gaudamus took another large swig. "The timeline has changed more than I thought... But anyway, let me tell you this. I know why you are here. But you did not need to come here to find what you seek. Trust me, you will be far more successful if you return to your brother's fortress. But your window of opportunity is quite small. I suggest you go now."
She eyed him uneasily, but she couldn't have hoped for a more productive talk. "All right, I'll trust you on this. But don't make me regret it!"
"You won't I assure you." He turned away from her.
Seraphina continued to frown as she headed back toward the air duct. There wasn't a more reliable source than Gaudamus in all of the Worldtree, but his knowledge of future events was quite puzzling. It would take an intensely powerful magical artifact to see through the thousands of years necessary to-
She gave a muffled cry as a cloth sack was tossed over her head, and felt herself being hefted up by several people. She immediately tried to blast out of the bag with a fire spell, but as it activated, the fibers of the sack began to glow a bright white, and nothing happened. Subsequent attempts to target just the people carrying the sack produced the same effect. 'Power damping!' She realized. She decided to submit, for now.
Soon she felt the unmistakable sensation of descent, and realized they were moving down a vine lift. This must have been one not intended for public use though, because when they arrived at the bottom, she heard the sloshing of the ocean waters lapping at the Worldtree's roots. She had carefully scouted every vine lift, and none she knew of came this close to the water. She was unceremoniously dumped out of the sack, and even as she warmed up to cast a spell, something was snapped tightly around her neck, and she was unable to access her wavelength. 'A power inhibitor!' She realized. She had seriously underestimated her opposition, but then again, she hadn't expected any, at least, not in the form of "Arillya!" She gasped. "What the hell are you-?!"
"I'm the king's favorite, you little slut!" Seraphina went sprawling as she was dealt a vicious slap that, had she not felt it, she would not have believed the slight woman capable of dealing.
"You don't get it!" Seraphina growled. "You can have your precious king! I just needed some information. I'm done here."
"You sure are." The venemous voice responded. Seraphina felt something being clamped around her ankles. As she finally looked up, she noticed that they were on one of the roots that had been shaped into a dock.
"You've got to be kidding me." She said. But at a gesture from Arillya, two of the thugs behind her hefted her up, and started to carry her toward the water. "You have to be the most insecure bitch I've ever seen."
"Well, I'll be feeling much more secure in just a few minutes." Arillya nodded to her thugs. "I have to avoid being seen, but you stay and make sure she doesn't come back up."
As they neared the edge, Seraphina tried desperately to get a spell, any spell at all, to activate. She could feel the heavy weights pulling at her ankles. But it was no good, and as the water rushed up to meet her, she greeted it with a wide eyed disbelief.
She tried to swim with just her arms, but she watched the surface of the ocean quickly rising away from her, and the salt was stinging her eyes. After about twenty seconds, the reality of her situation began to hit her. She reached down to the shackles around her ankles that connected her to the weights, sure that she could somehow pick the lock. But there was no lock. Her eyes narrowed in further anger as she realized that these had been designed with one purpose in mind only.
As her lungs began to burn, she began to concentrate deeply. All she need was a little wind magic for air. Or even a little water magic... Just a small burst to carry her to the surface. She idly tugged at the power inhibitor as she repeatedly attempted to cast a spell. As she went longer without breathing, it became harder to concentrate, until she was just tugging at the power inhibitor as hard as she could.
It was amazing how hard it was to keep holding her breath. She almost wanted to breathe the water, just so her lungs could go through the motion again, but that wouldn't have been done any good. Her tugs at the inhibitor grew weaker and weaker, until her arms hung motionless in the water. Her lungs were on fire now, but she still held her breath, the pressure unbearable. As her vision began to grow dark, her feeling of disbelief began to return. 'No way. It just can't happen like this. No way...'
That was when she felt a strong arm circle her waist, and through what little she could still see, she detected the surface of the water racing at her incredibly fast.
"Let us just say that I know a little more about the world than most do..." - Citan Uzuki, Xenogears
Chrono Trigger Fanfic