Chrono Trigger: Dangerous Times Chapter 7
By Nihon Soba
The End of Time
There was the swirling blue void again. Strange noises made their way into Aylas hearing as she floated in the liquid-like blue of the gate. When she had first encountered gates, four years ago with her other six companions, she had been frightened beyond imagining. However, she soon learned of gates, and magic as well... strange things that these people from the future seemed to have taken for granted. From her experiences, Ayla learned to leave the old, superstitious ways of her tribe behind, and to expect the unexpected. After all, she had not been afraid when the blue creature showed up at Mystic Mountain. In fact, she had thought it was the God of the Hunt, NuKhama. Little did she know that the name of the God would be used as a name for the mysterious creatures... even among themselves. Little did she know what they actually were...
In the distance on the blue void, a black hole could be seen rapidly approaching. Ayla knew what would happen next; the black hole would be the entrance to wherever the gate was leading her to. The End of Time, in this instance. Or, as Ayla referred to it, the Place That Is Forever. Ayla braced herself, her fur cloak flapping in the sudden wind. She stared straight ahead as the black hole engulfed her, and it was silent.
Light. The dull, yet permeating glow of an electric lamp post told Ayla that she had arrived at the right place. A column of light, one not unlike the ones that were there before, seemed to bring her down onto the paved ground like a vacuum, softening her impact as well. Ayla landed feet first, in a crouched position. Giving herself a brief smile for her success, she straightened her posture and looked around. The End of Time. Just as it had been four years ago. But time didnt pass at all here, did it? The only thing that was different was that the columns of light were no longer there. Even the one that had brought Ayla to the place was gone.
Gramps? she inquired. Gramps was how Ayla referred to any of the three gurus. She sniffed the air. There certainly was a trace of Gaspar, but he was not in his regular spot under the lamp post. Gramps? Where you be? she asked again, boldly walking into the area lighted by the lamp post. No one was there. The two buckets were still there, and so was the door leading to Spekkio...
Damn! came a harsh yell. Like a cat, Aylas ears pricked to the sound. She moved closer to the door, putting her ear against it. She could hear muffled sounds of a conversation or argument taking place:
I demand a rematch, you fiend!
Nope! Remember, it was you who had suggested this...
Prepare yourself! I will strike back!
Suit yourself, geezer. Just let me whip your ass again!
Ayla sometimes made the mistake of jumping to conclusions. Through her adventures, she has learned to curb that bad habit considerably. However, in hearing the fragments of the argument, she assumed that Gramps was having one of those fights with Spekkio (the ones where Aylas friends used magic and she couldnt do a thing). Determined to finally show what she was made of by catching Spekkio off guard, she tensed every muscle in her tanned, hard-bodied frame, and with a war cry, hurled herself through the door. The door shattered into chunks and wooden fragments as the warrior woman crashed through it, landing in a fighting stance.
Gaspar and Spekkio were sitting on the ground, with a flat board-looking object in between them. The board showed the map of the world in 600 A.D., complete with international boundaries and labeled cities and the like. On the countries were game pieces of two colors: red and black. As of now, the red game pieces seemed to have more numbers. Spekkio was clearly the owner of the red game pieces. If Ayla would have looked a little harder, she would have noticed the box of the game, with Risk written on it in big, sans-serif red letters.
Both of the game players looked at the door in alarm as Ayla had come crashing through it, ready for action. They still stared at her with shocked expressions as she took control of the situation, and rushed up toward Gaspar.
Gramps! she cried out in delight, and before Gaspar could do anything, Ayla had him in a bone-crushing hug. Spekkio watched the spectacle with a grim sort of amusement, whisking away the game pieces and seperating them by color into their own bags, folding the map and putting everything back into the game box. It was several moments before Gaspar could find breath to speak.
Wha... Ayla? What--how did you get here? he managed to stutter inconherently. Ayla slapped him on the back. Hard. She looked down at the old man sprawled on the floor. It was just a friendly pat on the back...
Sorry Gramps! she said cheerfully, helping Gaspar stand up. After an assurance that she would not slap him on the back again, Ayla began to tell her story. Gaspar and Spekkio listened in with interest as she related the events that led her here, showing interest when she mentioned the Nu, and when it said that she should go to the End of Time. Gaspar procured an ancient, wodden pipe as Ayla spoke, taking some tobacco from a tin container and tapping it into the pipe. He lit the tobacco with a match, taking a drag and exhaling a cloud of bluish smoke.
Ayla, are you certain of this? Gaspar asked when Ayla had finished her lengthy explanation. She blinked.
Gramps, Ayla not lie!
The guru nodded. Not to worry, Im not discounting anything, child. Its just that part about the Nu... its hard for me to believe. You see, my dear, Nus are... well, I dont see how that could have happened! A Nu, opening a gate? There hasnt been a pillar of light leading to a gate since Lavos was destroyed. But there is one now, and you have appeared suddenly. Hmm... the old man mused, inhaling from his pipe again. Spekkio then walked up to Ayla, looking like a Kiwala once again.
Ayla rolled her eyes, hiding a grin with her hand. Sweetie? Ayla already have husband! she feigned anger. The sight of a humiliated Spekkio was enough to make Ayla and Gaspar laugh out loud. The Master of War, however, didnt seem to see what was so funny.
Hmmph! Ive got better things to do! he pouted, and began to leave his magic chamber, carrying the strange Risk game with him. Gaspar, seeing this, uttered a protest.
Hey, no fair! You owe me another game! he said, waving his pipe dramatically.
Spekkio took a look back and chuckled. No way! Remember, Im THE Master of War!
There was the sound of a gate opening up, then closing. The blue, swirling vortex ceased to exist as reality made itself clear. There was darkness.
Lucca opened her eyes wider, in a futile effort to dilate her pupils enough to let her see in the dark. She noticed her glasses lying next to her on the ground (a dirt ground, she noted), and she picked them up, cleaning them the best that she could in the darkness before she put them back on. For a moment, her head was spinning. She did not know where she was, or how she got here, or anything from the past hour. Gradually, as Lucca grasped her situation, she remembered what had happened. Her and Crono and Marle at the bar in Porre. The bard. Her idea to finally fix her Portal Spawner. Corno and Marle in the guest room, in the heat of their passion...
Ugh. Lucca dismissed the thought with a wave of her hand, though the memory still lingered. Her pupils were adjusted to the darkness well enough for her to see now. Her Portal Spawner lay at her feet, the projector-like machine inert. Her house was nowhere to be seen, which meant that the gate had only sucked up the living organisms in the house (with the exception of the Portal Spawner): Crono, Lucca, and Marle. But Crono and Marle were nowhere to be seen...
A moan, and the rustle of bedsheets was heard. Lucca tensed for a moment, then rolled her eyes. How rude. In my own house, too...
To her side, a few yards away from her, Lucca could see a tangle of white sheets, out of which a shock of red hair emerged every few moments, followed by an arm (Cronos, Lucca presumed). The arm groped at empty air for a moment, then went back into the sheets. Then the sheet was swept partially aside, and Marles head popped out, her long, orange curls matted to her head in perspiration. At seeing Lucca, she yelped, ducking back beneath the covers. Soon, the beedsheet stood up, revealing Crono and Marle, arms wrapped around each other and around the sheets that were their only means of modesty. Crono nervously laughed.
Um... hi Lucca... hehe... he began, seeing his friend raise an eyebrow, arms folded. Marle was quicker to act.
Lucca! Oh, er... Im sorry... she said, as she realized that her friend had caught her and Crono in the act of, er...
Lucca laughed. It was sudden, spontaneous. Suddenly the situation no longer seemed embarrassing to her. It just seemed extremely hilarious. She continued to hysterically laugh as she fell to the ground, clutching her sides.
Lucca, are you okay? asked Marle.
Lucca took another look at the two before she once again fell to the ground, laughing until tears welled up in her eyes. Crono and Marle blinked, still holding on to each other (and the sheet). Lucca finally began to ease up, sitting cross legged, shoulders heaving from laughter. Marle was the first to speak.
Um, Lucca? Where are we?
Lucca looked up at Marle, her brow furrowed in confusion. To tell you the truth, I dont really know. she said meekly. It was then that Crono noticed the Portal Spawner.
Hey Lucca, whats that thing you got there?
Too late Lucca realized that they had spotted it. This? Oh, um.. nothing! Just something Ive been tinkering with for a while... she said, swiftly hiding the machine behind her. Quick-witted Marle knew differently, however.
Lucca... that thing made a gate, didnt it?
Lucca slapped her forehead. Well, guess its time you figured out anyway... she said, standing up, picking up her machine. The truth is, ever since we beat Lavos and went back to our own times, I... sort of missed our friends. So I started to research gates once again, and I was able to make this nifty little device you see here, she indicated the Portal Spawner. and using it, I was able to get some more supplies to modify it to make it keep a gate open longer, and--
And now, its made a really big gate and brought us to here, wherever here is. said Crono. Lucca nodded, smiling.
Can you get that thing working again? asked Marle anxiously. Lucca took a look at the machine, fiddled with a few switches, even opened it up and messed around with the circuitry inside, but to no avail.
Crono started looking in the horizon, surveying the now visible landscape; a blasted, scorched, and desolate area. Seeing something in the distance, he pointed.
Look! I see some lights a couple of miles ahead! sure enough, there were groups of lights, dim yet steadfastly brightening the darkness, in the distance. Lets check it out! Crono said, beginning to march in the general direction of the lights, until he noticed the wide-eyed look gicen to him by Lucca and Marle.
Oh yeah... forgot about the clothes. he said, quickly wrapping the sheet around himself again. I left my clothes in here, though, so they should be somewhere... he said, ducking inside the sheets, searching. Every now and then Marle let out a giggle as Crono bumped into her, much to Luccas disdain. Finally, here emerged triumphantly, holding his clothes in one hand, his boots in the other. He began to dress, still covered in the sheets. Marle, however, had not left her clothing where Crono had.
Um, Lucca? she began. Lucca turned her head toward Marle. Would you happen to have any spare clothes...?
Lucca grinned, fishing through her pack. Lucky for you I just happened to have a few changes of clothes... she said, tossing Marle some clothing, still undistinguishable in the darkness. Marle tried catching them, keeping the sheet around her waist and bosom. They might not be your style, but they should be your size!
Marle began to change as Lucca looked again in the direction of the lights. Sure enough, they were stil there, dimly lighting the horizon. She grinned. It looked like it was going to be another adventure, like it or not. She made sure that her handguns, as well as her own specialized gun, were holstered and concealed at various points on her body, then she began walking slowly toward the lights.
Dont worry, Ill still wait for you! she called when she reached a short distance away from them, waiting for the two to finish dressing.
Crono, now dressed, poked his head out of the sheets, Marles brassiere stuck in his spiky hair. We wont be long! he yelled, stepping out of the sheets to give Marle more room to change, tossing her the undergarment before he forgot. That done, the three (fully clothed) began the long walk toward what they thought to be civilization.
Trann City Spaceport, circa 2304 A.D.
The sun was just beginning to rise over the mountains to the east, a bright orange globe that lit up the morning sky. Trann City greeted the sunrise in the same manner it greeted the night: with bustling activity. Hovercars flew across streets while pedestrians walked on the ground unpurturbed by the traffic several yards above them. The metropolitan area was a vast, sprawling complex, dotted in several areas by domed areas and skyscrapers.
La Guardia Spaceport (thats a deliberate pun there) was about a few miles south of the metropolitan and suburban areas, a structure almost one third as large as the city itself. The name of the spaceport came from the name of a kingdom that reigned long ago in the past, around where Trann was now. Domestic flights as well as space travel started from here. The complex was composed of several large domes and large runways, the paved roads dotted with lights that made the place glow at night.
A streamlined military shuttle, bearing the insignia of the Earth Defense Force, was parked in one of the runways, gleaming silver chrome in the morning sunlight. Several hatches were open and being loaded with supplies by mechanical loaders, resembling giant suits of armor, operated by maintennance workers. Some bots were managing to carry some of the more heavy stuff, such as large crates of solid oxygen to be sublimized into gas for breathing. Outside of the shuttle, near the main hatch, a group of people waited.
Robo stood among the group, overseeing that the transportation of supplies went as planned. He noted in his positronic brain how many materials were called for, if they were in good condition, and if there was a shortage or an increase of supplies. The robot swiveled the top half of his head to check on the other members of the mission, and satisfied, turned back to the task at hand. Though rough looking on the outside, with metal skin like an ancient bronze carapace that was a thousand years old, Robo was one of the most able droids there were on the planet. The reasons for this being that he was three hundred and four years old, since he had shut down during the Day of Lavos, that he had, along with the other Six, destroyed Lavos, and that he understood humans better than any other robot due to his past experiences.
Finally, the flow of supplies stopped, and Robo knew that everything had been accounted for. A signal from the mission leader, a handsome, ebony-skinned man named Utema, told Robo that he was needed and that the shuttle was fueled and ready for departure. Robo marched up to the man, executing a salute as he stood at attention.
Everything accounted for, sir. Robos synthetic voice spoke. I await your next command.
Very good. Go to the main passenger area and wait there. said Utema in his deep voice. Robo nodded, making an electronic sound. he stepped up to the automatic ramp, and it caried him up to the hatch of the shuttle. The interior was vast, with computer terminals, monitors, and catwalks that led to several areas. The passenger area was in the center of the ship, just past the bridge. Robo walked across catwalks to the area, his metal feet making loud clomping sounds on the metal catwalks. He arrived at his destination and stood in the empty area for a while. Any other robot would have been able to stand there for an eternity, waiting for new orders. But Robo, of course, was more human. He paced around for a while, awaiting the arrival of the rest of the crew so that they could get the mission underway. The passengers eventually began to enter the vessel. First were three scientists, accompanied later by several rescue technicians. Last to arrive were the marines: rough-cut, rough-trained, and experts at weaponry. None of them carried any weapons at the moment, since S.O.P. didnt allow that sort of thing unless there was danger. As the various peoples were settling into their cabins in the passenger area, Utema entered the room, and everyone went silent.
First of all, he said, I want everyone to know that this is a scientific mission, not a military one. A sharp glance at the marines, which was returned not kindly. Introductions are in order. I am Utema, the captain of this ship and the mission leader appointed by the joint Trann-Bangor government. This is my ship, the E.D.F. vessel Tengu. Ill expect everyone to follow my orders while they are on my ship. he then turned toward Robo. Im sure all of you know who this robot is. He was also chosen by the joint Trann-Bangor government, and is my second in command. Ill expect everyone to--
You never said anything about an android being on board. came the gruff voice of an Earth Defense Force marine, a tanned-skinned man with a black mohawk. Why not?
Utema leveled the marine with an even gaze. This is Standard Operating Procedure. We always have a synthetic aboard.
I dont trust bots... came the voice of a female marine. And I never will.
Utema grew visibly angry. I am the mission leader as well as the captain of this ship! he barked. I will not tolerate insubordination or mutiny! Now, the android stays! Is that clear?After a silent minute, a chorus of mumbles yess came from the group of marines. The scientists were silent, watching Robo in awe. The marines, however, did not. Robo was aware of the prejudice against robots: he had encountered it several times during his lifetime. He did his best to ignore the comments.
Well, now that we have that cleared, we can be on our way. Utema said as he began to exit the passenger area and head for the bridge. One more question. You all know why we are here, correct?
All of the members of the mission grew solemn, nodding.
Utema gave a single nod of his head. Good. Enough said. And with that, he left toward the bridge.
The E.D.F. starship Tengu was fully loaded and ready for lift-off, ahead of it a long, wide strip of asphalt: the runway. Utema was at the bridge, sitting in his rotatable command chair in the center of the room. Several other technicians were at their stations, ready to take off at their captains notice. Morning had changed into afternoon, the sun high in the sky.
La Guardia to Tengu. came a voice, punctuated by minor static, over the ships radio. The runway is clear. You may take of when ready.
Utema took hold of the intercom speaker, directed the transmission to La Guardias nearest control tower. Roger that, Guardia. Well be on our way. And with that, he cut off the transmission, putting the speaker away. Utema turned toward the plexiglass windshield, directing orders to his crewmen. Engines are at maximum thrust capability. Begin a ten second countdown and take off on my mark.
Technicians began clicking keys on their keyboards, each member assigned to their own unique function, all working in unison. The ships computer, using a female voice, began the countdown. Utema silently counted down with it.
In the passenger area, Robo took the oppurtunity to look out of a porthole toward the clear sky. He had never left the planet before, and just being here about to was... exciting. And Robo was not equipped with an emotions chip.
Most of the crew were already strapped down with safety harnesses to special seats, in order to keep them from coming loose and damaging themselves and others. But soem of the marines just sat on their chairs, grinning, awaiting the g-forces that would push them against their seats, and the weightlessness that would arrive before the ships artificial gravity kicked in. They laughed, awaiting what they described as an upward express elevator to hell.
Robo thought of his friends, and somehow, he felt that he would see them again. Why, he could not explain. Spiky haired Crono and beautiful Marle, strong willed Ayla and chivalrous Glenn, dark and brooding Magus, and then there was Lucca...
Mark, said Utema.
The ships drives flared to life as the engines kicked in, the Tengu speeding across the runway, gaining speed with every foot it traveled. The passengers of the ship could feel it tilt upward and rise off of the runway, flying up into Earths atmosphere, the landing gear securing itself inside the ship. This ship, unlike the older models of previous centuries, was able to exit the atmosphere without help from rocket boosters or the like. Soon, the misty clouds parted, revealing space, dark and silent. The E.D.F. vessel sped out of the Earth like a comet, and after its Automatic Coordinate Direction System set the course for where the disturbances were felt, the ship flew away into the distance.
Nobody ever noticed the short, squat blue creature that had stowed away among the cargo as it was being loaded.
Truce village, circa 604 A.D.
Unlike the previous years, when the land had been covered in a dense mist, these days it seemed as if the mist was clearing up. The sun shone brightly through the dense clouds, evaporating dew that had been set there the previous night. Truce village was bustling with activity as usual, since these days there were no Mystic armies to plague them, and the Maguss former trio of accomplices were long since dead.
Across Zenan Bridge, a lone figure walked, straight-backed and triumphant. The lone guard stopped to question the man, but blinked in disbelief when the man told him his name. The man just passed by the stunned guard and continued his trek across the bridge.
In four years, plus the events of the downfall of Lavos, a lot of things had changed on the planet. The mist began clearing up, and on the southern continent, around where Cyruss grave was, a large tower stood. Since Lavoss defeat, it had appeared, and had always been there. It was the main tower of the Conclave of Wizards, still alive and strong to this day. Several other towers were dotted across the other continents, each a haven for people born with, or having recently harnessed, the gift of magic. Now, magi were getting a better reputation, and were not feared and loathed as they were before.
Another thing that had changed--just recently, mind you--was that the knight known as Glenn, friend to Cyrus and cursed with the form of a frog, was human again.
Glenn was now walking across the grassy fields near Truce, in all of his glory. His armor was polished to a brilliant shine, and his sword hung at his side in an ornate scabbard. Ever since he had turned human, after the Nu had brought him the cryptic note, Glenns spirits had lifted tremendously. He felt whole again, and his depression had vanished as if it had never existed. The morning after was when he had discovered it, when he had looked down at his hands and saw pink human flesh, not the damp green flesh of an amphibian. He had felt his face, his fingers trailing from his long brown hair down to his chin, covered in the stubble of a beard in progress. And after he had looked in a mirror, and discovered that this was not a dream but actually reality, he had yelped in joy. Glenn decided that he would finally seek solace at Guardia castle, a thing he had been offered numerous times before but had declined. Now, there was no reason to decline any longer.
Glenn, though at peace with himself, still pondered over the sudden turn of events. He had a good idea who had written the note, and it had to have been powerful magic that had changed his form back to that of a human. But he was skeptic. Why would Magus do a thing like this, he thought. Glenn never did trust the blue-haired mage, and he still didnt even to this day.
However, Glenn was full of so much joy of being human that he swept aside all his fears and doubts, at least for a short while. It was time to cast aside his former life of misery and lonliness, and to board in at Guardia and be a true knight of the crown, a defender of the kingdom. No doubt that his majesty and the queen would be suprised and overjoyed, and that he would be accepted by the other knights.
Clad in his gleaming armor, Glenn was the very image of a hero, and many a person stopped to stare at him in awe as he passed by. Though Glenn was getting all of the attention, he did not lift up his chin in pride. His face was set, serious and with only a slight grin. His back was straight, and he did not left his feet high up or marched. Rather, Glenn just walked quickly with an upright posture, humble as always.
Guardia forest was just ahead, and the day was still young. Nature seemed to share the joy that Glenn felt that day: the mist around Guardia and Truce was almost gone, leavign the grass wet. Birds chirped and sang their beautiful songs, as if welcoming the hero to the castle that lay just a few miles ahead. The forest entrance seemed a bit wider than usual, as if the very trees were stretching their ancient trunks and branches to let Glenn through. At the foot of the entrance, he stopped, and turned toward the sky, the sky being his pick simply because he could not think of anything more appropriate.
Whoever hast done this to me, he began, his voice the same, if a bit more deep and strong. I thank thee. Even if it was you, Magus, I thank thee for what you have done. Though nothing can wipe you slate clean of all the misdeeds you hath done, I can at least thank you for what you have done. Wizard, may thee live a long life. Continue to right what you have done wrong. And if it was truly you that did this, I hope that you shall find thy sister at last. Glenn, finally feeling the start of peace with Magus, walked into Guardia forest. What could possibly go wrong, he thought.
Never tempt the Gods was an old saying among the people of this world. And it was, in a sense, a very wise saying. Luck could truly change if one said things as Glenn had been thinking. For good or for bad, it could be either. Though usually it was for bad, and with Glenn it was no exception.
Guardia forest was the same as it had been for a century. The ancient trees, the faint path leading to the castle, the old sign that sat there for countless generations (and would continue to do so for a very long time). Of course, there were always a few monsters that dwelled within the woods, but they were no worry. They were weaklings, and some people didnt even have to fight them. Plus, there had been a steady decline of monsters following the defeat of Lavos four years ago. All in all, the forest was a safe place for anyone to travel that kept their wits and knew how to defend themselves.
Glenn could not help but to feel something though, as he entered the woods. Not a sense of danger, mind you, but more of... confusion, as if something had changed. However, it was only a brief feeling, and Glenn, in his joyous state, ignored it. He followed the worn path among the trees, avoiding the spots where the less-than-pleasant creatures usually dwelt as he walked along. Strangely enough, they were not around. Odd. Usually at least an imp or roly would come on charging out of the bushes, but that did not happen. Again, Glenn dismissed his thoughts as he kept following the dirt path toward Guardia castle.
As he reached the place where the exit was, however, he finally came to his senses. There was no exit over here, though the sign still remained. It was as if the path had never existed, only dense foliage was in its place. Odd. The dirt path continued to weave its way past where the exit of the forest used to be, toward the place where there was a dead end. Only now there was no dead end. Instead, a clearing was there, and it was lighted by the sun, since the trees branches apparently werent long enough to block it. Glenns brow furrowed in confusion, but he did not feel any danger, as he always would whenever there was any nearby. And so he continued down the path, which lead to the clearing. Maybe the soldiers had made a new path to the castle, Glenn thought. Though it wouldnt really make much sense to make people go the long way...
The sign that had read, dead end was still there. But there was no more dead end. Glenn, though eager to get to Guardia castle, succumbed to his mild curiosity and entered the sunlit clearing. It was not very big, only about the size of a large room, and from the looks of the trees and bushes, it was apparent that the clearing had been created, and was not a natural area. Some of the tree limbs and bushes around the area showed marks of cutting or burning, but the forest floor was narmal, with no ashes or blackened limbs. Glenn, his interest heightened, made his way into the center of the clearing...
...and noticed that something was not right. Guardia forest, like every other forest in the world, was full of noise. Whether it be birds chirping, or the droning tse-tse-tse of cicadas, there was always some noise in the forest, where animals and monsters frequented. Only in this clearing, there was not a sound of any animal. All that Glenn could hear was the beating of his own heart, pumping faster as he felt something that he thought he had trained himself not to: fear. Suddenly, it seemed as if the shadows around the trees had grown deeper, and as if he was trapped. Glenn gritted his teeth, even though they chattered as he did so. Slowly, he unsheathed his sword, a steel blade of his own making (the famed Masamune had vanished once Glenn returned to his own time after the destruction of Lavos), and held it out in front of him, just in case.
There was a noise. Glenn noticed detachedly that it had not just started, or he would certainly have heard it. It seemed as if... as if it had always been there, and that Glenn only just picked it up moments ago. Why had he not heard it earlier?
It kept on droning, the mysterious voice. Voice? It was as if Glenn only just deciphered the noise, and he felt a mysterious sense of deja-vu. The noise was clearly a voice, that much was certain. However, it did not sound like anything he had ever ehard before, not like anything of this earth. It was haunting and stange.. yet, it sounded melodious, very beautiful, and the combination of fear and beauty permeated Glenns very being, and he longed (though his conscience told him to leave quickly) to discover what was making the voice, no matter how much it frightened him. Entranced, the knight slowly walked, following the sound, his sword still at ready if he needed it.
The voice was in fact coming from a far corner of the clearing, one where the shadows were deep but the sunlight being able to give someone a fair view of what lay within. What was within could not be seen very well, but Glenn stared in suprise.
The large, rotund, all-headlike body, with its green hair and rubbery arms, could only be one thing that lived on this world. Glenn had seen Nus before, brief views or talks with them and their seemingly low intelligence, but he hadnt seen them use very much motion. This one was standing at what looked like a computer (Glenn had been to 2300 A.D. and saw enough to confirm this as a fact), an ancient one at that, moss and lichen encrusted, humming softly with energy. The monitor was black, obvoiously not working. Yet the audio speakers worked like a charm, and Glenn could hear the beautiful language issuing out of them, puncuated by a fuzzy, harsh sound (static, though Glenn did not know). The language would randomly stop, and then the real source of the voice could be heard, coming from the Nu that was facing the terminal. Though the blue creature did not move its mouth, Glenn could somehow tell that the voice was coming from him.
Was it the same Nu that had given him the note only four days ago? Glenn could not tell, all Nus looked alike to him. Hoping for a closer look, Glenn snuck up behind a few bushes, making sure not to make any noise. The computer-like devices speakers let forth an especially long message in the strange, wonderful language, and after that the machine stopped humming and powered down. The Nu retrieved an object from somewhere on its body, a shiny, metal object, shaped vaguely like a wand with a star at the tip. He pointed it at the machine, and the computer seemed to shimmer with an unknown light, which attained a blinding brightness, and after the light faded away the computer was gone. With that done, the Nu turned to its right, facing the center of the clearing, and pointed the wand toward it. It seemed as if a hole was steadily tearing open there, one with a familiar blue, swirling vortex. A gate!
All through the incredible display, Glenn had been silently watching. Werent all the gates permanantly closed after Lavos was destroyed? Glenn had thought that they were, but apparently this Nu was able to open a gate by himself! The creature seemed to use the shiny, metallic wand-like to open the gate. And that wand looked familiar...
The Nu abruptly spun around, facing the shadows and bushes where Glenn was hiding. Too late the knight realized that in getting a closer look at the wand, he had forefitted his position and gave himself away. The Nu, its face devoid of emotion as always (or maybe their expressions read different than ours...), started to hobble toward Glenns hiding place. This time Glenn could not control his fear, and he could not understand why a ridiculous creature like a Nu would give him so much fright. He lept out of the bushes, raising his sword in a salute (the knights code strictly forbade attacking an enemy unaware), and then charging the blue creature. Glenn was bringing his sword down in a viscious arc, one that would have felled a small tree. The Nu, however, displayed amazing speed and agility as it jumped out of the way of the sword, and grabbed it by the blade, yanking it out of a suprised Glenns hands. With a swift motion, never shwoing any emotion on his face, the Nu broke the tempered steel sword in two. The blade fell into the soft earth and embedded itself there, while the hilt was still grasped by the Nus rubbery hands, which were not as flimsy as they seemed.
By the gods, art thou some daemon? sputtered a suprised Glenn. He stood up at his full height, which was at least three feet taller than the Nu. However, that did not make him feel stronger, nor did it intimidate the Nu, who just looked at him, pausing only to blink a few times. Fine then! If it is a battle you want, a battle thou shall have! The knight faced the Nu, his fists clenched, ready to fight despite the creatures strength. Instead of attacking, the Nu slowly, un-intimidatingly walked toward Glenn, and held out the broken sword, blade first, to the knight. Glenn took the hilt without thinking, an almost automatic action. He was too stunned at what the creature had done, how he had broken his sword (which was tempered steel, not a very easy thing to break), displayed speed and agility beyond any man or woman, and peacefully handed his broken blade back to him.
The Nus eyes seemed to flutter, and then he lurched involuntarily. When he came to, the Nu spoke the common tongue with the echoing, bland voice of his kind.
You are not supposed to be here, it said. The voice seemed almost... mechanical?
Wha... who art thou? Glenn stammered. The Nu looked toward the gate, still open, the milky blue miasma swirling within. He then looked toward Glenn, making a noise that sounded like an annoyed grumble.
Wasnt as planned... this is unexpected. the Nu said, as if speaking to itself. With his rubbery arm, he grabbed Glenn by the arm. The knight was taken aback.
Unhand me, you foul creature! he spat angrily. But try as he might, Glenn could not free himself from the Nus grip, which displayed an amazing strength, far more than any human. The Nu dragged Glenn toward the gate.
Sorry to make things like this, it said. And before the knight could attempt to break free again, the Nu, with a smooth motion, threw Glenn into the swirling void. He vanished with a scream, piercing the silence of the clearing, and was gone.
The Nu looked around, as if checking if anyone had noticed the events that just passed. Seeing and sensing nothing, it was satisfied. The Nu fiddled with the wand-like object, which had a few buttons and knobs on it. Putting the object away on some orifice on its body, the Nu calmly walked into the gate, which closed upon itself after he vanished, leaving the clearing silent once more.
The swirling blue tunnel which was the gate was coming to an end. In the distance, Janus could see a black hole, growing larger every second: the exit of the gate. Where it would take him, Janus was not 100% certain, though he did have an idea. The information that he had somehow atained from a Nu had some vague spots. All he knew was that where he was going, THEY would be somehow involved. Not the former Justarius and the puppet master that controlled him, but the real enemy...
The black hole engulfed Januss vision, and he knew that the gate would be opening to the area where he was headed. He knew that he would see at least some of his former companions again... whether it be fate or some other force that was drawing them together again, he did not know. There were some things that he still had to find out for himself.
Electricity crackling. Janus fell out of the gate as it opened up on his destination, landing feet first on what felt like solid ground (paved road? more harder and smoother than cobblestones...). It was dark, and Januss eyes had to get adjusted to it after the bright blue void of the gate. He could tell that there were puddles of what smelled like dirty water on various spots on the ground, and that he was in an alley. The smell of garbage and of other things that his sense of smell could not identify hung in the air, almost oppressive, but he got used to them after a few minutes. There was sound, too. The sound of thousands of people milling about, minding their own businesses. The sound of a city. Im not suprised, thought Janus, that THEY would choose a place such as this...
When his eyes were adjusted, Janus could see more. The sky was dark, filled with stars. His prior information from the Nu told Janus that this place was in a state of perpetual night, how it was kept like that he did not know. Magic? That was always a possibility. Technology? Hmm...
Janus slowly walked out of the alley, into the bustle of the city. Hundreds of people milled about the streets. Some of them were dressed in ancient clothes, robes, leather clothing and such , some in clothing that he was not familiar with. There were vehicles he had recognized as automobiles (Janus had been to the future with the Six companions before), and the buildings were tall and in a state of decay. Urban decay.
Janus wrapped his cloak around his frame, clutching Schalas amulet with a gloved hand. He was not used to places so heavily populated, being a loner himself. He was not frightened, just uneasy and nervous. He walked along, trying to blend in with the crowd. He soon discovered that the crowd involuntarily pushed him along, to places where he did not know. He ended up finding a fairly empty street which he greatfully made his way to, glad to be out of the confusion of the crowd. The first thing he needed to do was to get aquainted with this place, to learn the ways of the various peoples, and to investigate more into the matter of the enemy... and if he ever ran into Justarius, or Shin, again, he would show that simpleton what true power really was...
There was the sound of leather boots walking through the puddles of water on the street. Janus steped back against the wall of the alley, facing deeper into the alley, where the sound came from. A group of peopel were advancing toward him. Some were dressed in rags, some wore those blue pants and jackets made of black material. Apparently, there was no leader of these people. One of them, a youth that wore blue pants and a black jacket, stepped up to what he saw as easy prey, just another of the few pointy-ears that inhabited this cursed area as well. Magus said nothing, only scowled beneath the shadows.
Hevar, began the kid, in a tongue that Magus could not yet decipher. Kamali no hanara. After a second, he began to chuckle, and gained anough bravado to reach out and shove Magus back into the wall. A chorus of hoots and jeers followed. Then, Magus lept out of the shadows, balling his hand into a fist, and throwing a punch square into the boys face. There was a crack, and the boy staggered back, blood dripping from his nose.
Gashak! yelled the boy, obviously some person of importance, if not their leader. He wiped his nose with one hand, and in the other held something not visible to Magus. There was a snick, and suddenly a long, thin knife blade seemingly popped out of the boys hand. Several more snicks were heard, and all of the ruffians were soon armed with sharp blades as well. They all advanced slowly, menacingly, toward Magus. He grinned slightly.
Well, if its a fight you want, its a fight youll get. he said, tossing aside his cloak, tightening his leather gloves. Which one of you will be the first to die? In one hand, his scythe materialized, and in the other, blue lightning crackled. Magus laughed, a harsh, mocking sound, echoing throughout the alley. Then, they struck.
The End of Time
Gaspar had put away his pipe now, but he wished that he had it with him right now. But Ayla was there, explaining him once again exactly what had happened and how she had gotten here. It would be rude of him to leave her to get his pipe. He sighed, listening to her once again.
...it was NuKhama, Gramps! I not lie! said Ayla, exasperated. Gaspar tried out his most patient voice, one that he would use when addressing a child.
NuKhama? I am afraid that I still do not understand, Ayla.
Ayla seethed, growling softly. Though she had patience as well, it was not as well honed as Gaspars. NuKhama. Big, fat body. All head. Small eyes, big mouth. Color blue and hair color green. Understand, Gramps? she said, her hands on her hips.
Ah, a Nu. Yes, I understand, my child. And this Nu, he spoke to you?
Ayla nodded. Yes. Talk without moving mouth. Tell me trouble brewing, even after no more Lavos. Then he say go to this place, wait for others here. Then he use stuff like Lucca have long time ago to open gate, then--
Gaspar raised an eyebrow. Wait, wait! Stuff like Lucca have? You mean a gate key?
Ayla growled. Yes! No more interrupt, or Ayla, head go boom!
Gaspar raised his hands. Alright, Im sorry. Please, go on.
She continued. And he say to wait for others here, and then I go into gate but NuKhama stay behind, to look over Ioka and Laruba. And that all that happened.
Gaspar was still in a semi-state of shock after seeing Ayla suddenly appear here. He muttered something incoherent, getting up from where he sat. The first thing that he did was retrieve his pipe and his tobacco box, filling the pipe then lighting it with a match, inhaling and exhaling clouds of blue smoke. He was just beginning to lie back against the lampost, his favorite spot, when suddenly the wooden door that led to the area where the pillars of light used to be was swung open, making a loud crashing sound when it shut, causing Gaspar to drop his pipe. He muttered agnrily, picking it back up, relieved that the contents of the pipe had not spilled out everywhere. It turned out that it was Spekkio that had burst through the door, and he began to hastily explain why.
Gaspar! Look, theres another pillar of light!
The old guru turned his head toward the Master of War. Are you certain?
Spekkio nodded, motioning for him to come. Ayla got up from where she was sitting and followed along as well, much to the delight of Spekkio.
Well, hello, my sexy little cavegirl. Come to join us? he said. Ayla rolled her eyes and grabbed the Kiwala-like creature by the head, picking him up as if he were a sack of feathers.
Spekkio, she said, still holding the Master of War by the head. You pervert. she then threw him about ten feet ahead of her. He let out a little squeak as he hit the ground, wincing.
Okay! Im sorry! Gods, youre a tough woman! he said, getting up and dusting himself off. He then proceeded to open the door leading to the light pillar chamber, and sure enough, there was a solitary pillar there, shining brightly.
Gaspar stroked his chin. Hmm? A bit larger than the other pillars, I would say. I wonder where it leads to...
Ayla walked up to it, wrapping her fur cloak around her. She studied the pillar thoughtfully, thinking about what the Nu had said, weighing that against her other idea. Smiling, she arrived at a conclusion.
Gramps, I go into light.
Gaspar hurriedly protested. But Ayla, werent... you told to stay here and wait for your friends? Ayla remained adamant, however.
I figure out. Not wait for friends, wait for way to find friends! And now, way to friends is here, I go in! She shouldered her war club, turning her head around. You sure you not know what going on?
Gaspar shook his head. Child, I knew nothing until you came here. Frankly, this seems a bit strange to me. I think I would notice if there were some trouble as your Nu friend put it. But this is your choice. Are you willing to go in the pillar? I dont know where it will take you...
Ayla winked. Gramps, I sure. Now I must go. she lowered the hand that held her club, pausing once more to speak. Spekkio! Take care of Gramps, ok?
The Master of War nodded, not willing to face her wrath again.
The warrior woman gave the two a thumbs up. I be back! See friends, fix trouble! No big task! Ayla hopped into the pillar of light, uttering a Goodbye! as she vanished, her destination unknown.
Gaspar and Spekkio stood silent for a few minutes, pondering upon the strange turn of events. The old guru was sure that he had not felt anything that might seem like trouble, like Lavos. But then again, isolated in this area, there were some things that he could not feel, events taking place that he did not know about, and would know only if it started to disturb the space-time continum...
You think she was serious, old man? came Spekkios voice. Is there really big trouble, worse than Lavos?
Gaspar lit his pipe again, blowing a single smoke ring that floated up into the distance. Let us hope not, he said, turning to walk back to the lamp post. Once there, he leaned against it, looking toward the sky (if there was such a thing in the End of Time). To himself, unheard by Spekkio, he spoke again. Let us hope not...
Thus, the events are set.
The Seven companions find themselves converging together once more.
Fate, coincidence, the Gods... call it whatever you like.
Only one thing is certain.
This will be truly a period of Dangerous Times...
To Be Continued
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