Soul Pendant Chapter 4
A Secret Unsheathed
The council was assembled. Last afternoon, it had taken the measures necessary to repair the damage done and prepare and emergency defense plan. This morning, they were planning the definitive strategy. The King, back to commanding from the chair leading the table. The chancellor, Pierre the lawyer, the Knight Captain, and a trusty nobleman sat at the table too. Some soldiers in bad state listened to the conversation on the beds on the opposite side. Crono, Marle, Lucca and the rest of the team were here due their knowledge of the invading force and as first-class fighters.
Even Magus had come. Lucca had brought him with the idea of searching the history books on the whereabouts of Schala. He read one on ancient cultures standing on the ledge that looked over the rest of the room.
Magus was pleased to see Schala was practically the pillar of the Zealian culture. "Of course, this was written by Earthbound historians." his mind murmured. Instead, Queen Zeal was many times portrayed as a villain, and other characters were almost forgotten. Prince Janus was named only twice. Magus didn't mind, there was surely more than enough information about him on the Middle Ages section.
But about the fate of Schala, nothing as he scrolled through the pages. Only one note at the end read, "Princess Schala died in the Ocean Palace during the Lavos attack." Magus' eyes tensed with anger and a black flash turned the book into ashes. He turned his attention to Lucca's speech in front of the council.
"...And this way, we can perform an excellent defense without the use of the wounded forces. We have already recruited and begun training of our teams." She said pointing at a diagram of the castle's front yard.
"The fate of my kingdom, resting on children." The King said to himself, knowing how much Crono and the others would mean on this battle.
"And the one of the whole world did rest on them before." Crono said replying to the king.
"All we can do for now is wait. Only when we are ready at full force it will be prudent to attack." The Knight Captain said strongly, despite some of his severe wounds.
"How long may it taketh to the mystic armies to retaliate?" Frog asked turning around.
"For what we know about the mystic population, not a short time. We took care of a real lot of them." Lucca answered.
"Lucca, maybe we should resume our search." Marle told her.
"What search?" The king asked, showing the first signals of upsetting.
"Your majesty, we have been directed to find several pendants vital for the safeguarding of the future." Lucca said promptly.
King Guardia rested back on his seat and mumbled something while thinking. "Could anyone bring me the book on local myths and history on the third shelf?" The chancellor pronounced as if it were a different topic. The only active soldier on the room got it for him briefly. The Chancellor scanned the book among the silence of everyone and suddenly read aloud, "The Cathedral ruins are told to contain relics brought there for the Knight of the Golden Stone before his disappearance..." he flipped a few more pages, "Descendant of Toma Levine, this Knight used as his personal seal a golden, inverted-tear stone, which was a pendant he was always told to use under his armor... blah, blah, blah... he claimed to search the most marvelous magical artifacts all over the world... etc... Disappeared suddenly around 847 AD in the North Guardia zone."
"It is true." Atropos affirmed, obviously checking his memory banks. "But those relics were never found by the few exploration parties that went into the abandoned ruins."
"By the way had that knight a mystic squire?" Magus said aloud for first time. The palace court never minded Magus, probably they didn't realize who it really was, and the team wasn't telling.
The chancellor briefly checked back in the book and nodded. "Yes, but since mystics and humans were at peace by then, that was not common, but neither astounding. This knight was obviously working for his own." Magus went back to meditation without saying a word.
"Thanks, chancellor. Well, since we all are staying here, it would be a good idea to go and look for whatever's in there." Crono announced.
"Okay, let's go."
The light went through the openings in the trees showering over the ruins. The main hall had crumbled over itself and the forest had grown all over the building making it impossible to see from the outside. The government said that they hadn't bothered to maintain the Cathedral since Fiona's Shrine was on planning, but Crono's team knew they wouldn't have had any way.
A hole among the rubble farther ahead revealed where the explorers had come in. The team entered and found itself in the underground secret zone of the construction. It was almost in perfect state. Crono was deciding where to head when Magus started walking up the stairs on his own. Crono and then the rest of the team followed.
Magus entered a room with the rest of them following. He went to the room that had a statue of his own and stopped in front of it. The others arrived and placed themselves in different places around Magus to try to find out what was going on, but Magus made no sign of doing anything. "Great, he is just admiring himself." Lucca thought and started to open her mouth to say one of her smart phrases.
The wizard extended his arm towards the statue and something flickered on it. He then moved the palm of his hand and the back edge of the scythe the statue moved, doing a clicking sound that was followed by a succession of more clicks and a loud thud.
"Hey! Floor gone! Now hole. Where to?" Ayla cried, noticing a panel on the floor besides the statue had slid, revealing a series of steps that went further down. Magus calmly walked towards them, but none of the team members did.
When Magus was already going down the stairs, no one had moved and most of them stared at him with a face of astonishment. Magus stopped and said, "Telekinesis. I had a little talk with Spekkio in the End of Time. There was a small switch in there. Now may we go?" And continued going down.
The rest proceed.
"Do you know the pendant is here?" Crono asked Magus as they walked down step by step. Well, Crono did as Magus floated swiftly.
"I know what things the Imps did, but I have no knowledge of the contents of this space. Even of its very existence I was not sure."
The group arrived to the end of the staircase. After a short corridor, there was a chamber carved fresh out of the rock. It was lit only by torches -lit thanks to Lucca- at the end of the corridor so the sides of the chamber were shrouded in shadows. At the center, a cylindrical pillar stood, with a sword driven on the stone.
Frog took a step forward and reached for the hilt and started pulling up. To his surprise, it began to move easily. The blade was done of beautiful red stone that impacted him as soon it showed up. A quick glance noticed Frog the stone was smoother and clearer than Dreamstone, though not as rare. "The blade is made of ruby..." Frog said as he pulled up the sword a few inches, then suddenly stopped. "It must be... very... valuable," he said then in a forced tone.
"What happens?" Lucca asked realizing the tone of Frog.
"It won't budge." the frog said while continued to pull. It was illogical to him, swords are supposed to be easier to unsheathe as you took them out, not to suddenly get stuck. "What's this?" he exclaimed again getting near to hysteria.
"It is not a spell, the artifact is magical by itself. I cannot break its magic neither know what locks it." Magus said, gesturing for Frog to move apart. When he did, Magus gestured again and the sword moved up out of the stone, about half of the sword was only left in the stone.
"What have thou done???" Frog asked surprisingly.
"Don't distress, my froggie." Frog narrowed his eyes. "It's just what I'm allowed to push it up."
Atropos popped up something. "Search on blade of ruby. The Ruby Blade, also know as the Bellamantis."
"Uh oh," muttered Lucca to herself.
"What???" Frog and Magus exclaimed, as Magus let go of the hilt and the sword fell back into the stone.
"'Tis the Bellamantis? 'Tis the one supposed only to be removed by the knight whom hath most loved a woman on the world? Thou must be wrong." Frog phrased.
"No, she is right." Lucca replied, like not wanting to admit it. "The legend tells the blade of the Bellamantis is made of pure ruby, the only one on Earth to be done of such material. But I never thought a device like it could exist. Bellamantis, in ancient Latin, means the war of the lover."
"But how could such a cold being..." Frog muttered. Now was Magus' turn to narrow his eyes and think of an offensive sentence to use in the frog.
"The one whom has loved and lost, loves more than the one whom has never loved." A male voice said. A figure fell among the shadows of the left side of the room. Lucca caught a glimpse of a body dressed in short clothes strange to her.
The man walked out of the shadows. Lucca shook his head. It was a young man, about the age of Crono; he was dressed in blue, somewhat noble clothes and a white cape, but nothing peculiar for the time or place.
"How did you get here?" Magus said reading his sickle, as sneaks were something he only liked to do himself.
"It could be said that the same way you came. Now would you put that down?" The youth said eyeing Magus' scythe.
"And who might thou be?" Frog asked calmly.
The man smiled at the question. "My name will only confuse you, so you may call me..." he moved his hand in a circle and seemed to do deep thinking, "...the Blue Paladin."
Magus seemed to contain a laugh on that one, but later forgot it at the group's stare. "And what brings thou, o enigmatic one, here?" Frog asked once again.
"That sword is needed somewhere else, plus I had thought I could use it for some of my personal purposes." the rather young paladin said.
"Well, we need it too." Marle said placing her hands on her waist and in a slightly elevated tone.
"If you can retrieve it..." the paladin suggested.
"Crono," Marle called. At his answer, she kissed him in the cheek. "Get that sword for me." she said staring in his eyes. Crono nodded nervously and with some doubt walked up to the stone and grasped the hilt. He pulled up and the sword started coming out. Marle closed her eyes and wished fervently. Past the half, centimeters left...
"Tack!" the sword stopped. Both Crono and Marle shuddered as if it had been a gigantic explosion sound what had been heard. Crono turned around with a forced smile and Marle looked groggy and didn't know if to shout or if to cry.
"Your love is too young, and still it has to pass many tests to mature. It will on time." The paladin said.
Crono neared Marle, but she turned away from him walking back to the bottom of the cave. Crono wanted to say something but Lucca stopped him. "She just wanted you to show off."
"Shut up Lucca!" Marle yelled and went back to being angry.
"Now if you would let me try." The young paladin declared nearing the stone column.
All turned to the paladin, particularly Marle. If Crono couldn't get it, this guy couldn't either. The young man took a breath and grasped the sword firmly. Marle saw a drop of sweat running down his forehead, as he seemed to doubt if he should do this. He finally grasped the hilt, one hand over the other. Marle watched the paladin carefully, and saw him close his eyes.
Then he pulled up and... "Swing!" The ruby blade was held high over the paladin's head. It looked beautiful illuminated by the flames. Suddenly, the wall behind the pillar nosily slid up and sealed up against the ceiling, revealing an extension of the room.
Another incomplete stone column lied there, serving as a stand for one of the Zealian sealed boxes. The paladin triumphantly moved the sword and held it before him, smiling as he admired it. Atropos, maybe on her own curiosity, neared the paladin and pointed her sight sensors at the sword. "There's an inscription on the blade. It's tiny but I can decode it," she thought.
Only when the fight is the right,
this sword will be used.
Atropos read aloud. When the paladin heard, his face became serious suddenly. His face lifted up, as if some sudden realization had came to him. His eyes became wet. "What... what have I done... " He muttered. Then, he started to sheath the sword on the stone again.
"What are you doing?!?" Crono asked in panic.
"I have no right to do this. I should have never thought in removing it. I knew since long ago what the script on the sword was, but only until today I listened it." He said, as he moved the sword down not with half the enthusiasm he had taken it out. "I had planned to use this sword, but now I realize I can't now. I must find another way to fight." He finished and let go of the hilt.
"Fight what?" Magus said.
"The same enemy you are fighting, without knowing it." the paladin said absently, at the same time he took from inside his clothes a silver coronet, decorated with white roses and placed it in the column. "Some day, maybe soon, maybe some years away, a woman will come to be the wearer of this coronet. I do not know in the present her identity, only that the sword will be used then, and not before. Please respect these artifacts until a rightful owner comes for any of them."
"Now wait a while." Lucca took another step ahead. "How come the same enemy we are fighting? Explain yourself."
"WHAT??" Lucca was completely unpleased at the enigmatic tone of the paladin. She wanted everything to be clear and straight. "So, do you think you can come bustling in here, following us and ordering us not to touch what we need?"
"That box might be what you came looking for, not the other relics." He then started walking back into the shadows without turning around.
Marle walked towards the box, but Lucca wasn't going to give her for satisfied so she blocked the way of the youth. "You have said things strongly involving us, and you won't leave without explaining them. Tell us what is that famous enemy. Or is that a threat?"
The paladin looked up and sighed, seemingly he had lost all interest on the events. "I told you I won't."
"What a jerk." Marle muttered looking up from the box, which effectively turned out to be one of the sealed boxes presumed to be from Zeal.
"Now if you allow me..." he walked past Lucca. "Think what you want." He said stepping into the dark.
"We need help on the upcoming battle with the mystic. Thou shall be of aid." Frog said forth.
"You already have all the help I can give." The paladin shrouded completely in the shadows and jumped to the upper darkness, nothing of him seen afterwards.
"What that was supposed to mean?" Marle asked closing to getting angry again.
"Probably that since he can't help us a bit, that's the help we get, nothing." Lucca claimed, already not liking the so-called paladin. How could someone like him be a paladin?
"No." Ayla said getting the rest of the group's attention. "Man true. Man no fake. Man hide big something. Ayla smell. Man hide many secret."
"You may mean "many secrets", Ayla." Atropos corrected.
"People understand Ayla! Much important, but no tell us."
"Who knows?" Marle said, timidly nearing the flowered diadem, though not daring to touch it. She instead walked to the sealed box. Her pendant started reacting and the edges of the box started glowing.
Everyone heard the far off voice and turned to Lucca, whom covered her eyes with one hand.
"Sergeant Lucca! Sergeant Lucca! Sergeant Luc..." A boy Crono recognized as Fritz came out of the stairs and stopped astonished as he arrived to the cave.
"SARGEANT Lucca?" Marle asked giggling. "I think you took the training too seriously!"
Lucca got closer to the newcomer. "I told you not to use that in public!" she murmured hitting him. "Anyway, what brings you here with so much urgency, Fritz?" She said aloud trying to dissimulate.
"It's Ozzie! Our watchers spotted them crossing the sea! His army is so big it clouds the sky!" Lucca gave a look of apprehension to Fritz. "Okay, not that much, but there many of them compared to our forces!"
"What? Already?? That can't be! We'll be better hurry up, guys!" She said before rushing up the stairs. Everyone followed, but Ayla returned and picked up the sealed chest before leaving the place alone once again.
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