The Story of Tata Chapter 21

The Bloodstained Grounds of North Cape

By The Man

The drops of water that came from the sky were large and fell hard. It was the first rain this era had seen in eons, but it was a sign that the climate was changing. The Eternal Winter, as it had been called by Earthbound and Enlightened alike had passed for the most part ever since the crumbling land of Zeal landed in the ocean and created the tidal wave that wiped out most of the world. The weather had gone back and forth from being a biting cold blizzard to a warmer, yet clouded climate ever since, but now the rain that fell truly meant that the world was trying to go back to the way it was.

The raindrops fell, soaking the grounds of North Cape. The grass was clearly visible, but the blades were as white as bone, empty and without life. The recently evaporated snow had suffocated them under its frigidness, leaving them cold and dry. It was the northernmost piece of land, and blood had never been shed here. To Tata, who paid no heed to the onslaught of rain, it was the holiest of places. No death had been brought to this spot where he sat, staring out at the ocean, lost in thought. It was the only places Tata could think of Grendel had not brought his plague of hate and misery to. It was a sanctuary to a Warrior of the Light.

Still, Tata felt nothing but sadness as he listened to the crashing of the waves on the rocky shores below. So much weighted on his head. Tata tried not to think about any of it, but it seemed the more he tried to drown it all out, the quicker and more relentlessly they poured into his thoughts. That man, Jeke Laro was dead, and someone possessing Black Magic had undeniably done it. That left only two people, Janus and… Grendel. They each had a decent alibi; one of them didn't have the heart, the motive, or the desire to carry out such a hideous murder, whereas the other was supposedly dead. He was, at least. Tata had seen Grendel fake his death a couple of time before, but never this well. Janus had run him through with his scythe and then Tata mangled the body. No one could survive that except a god, perhaps. Burn that bloody bastard! Tata thought angrily. Why couldn't I have just killed him in Porre all those years ago? Len was nothing more than a bully then.

But he hadn't. He had let him live and shortly afterward, the love of his life was murdered along with her mother. Len had slaughtered them both in cold blood. He would never forget that girl. Minka had been the light of his life, the only person he loved for a time. She had comforted him when he was sad or upset and made him laugh when he needed to be cheered up. Now they were as far apart as two people could be. He had failed to protect her, even though he had promised her under his soul that he would. A part of Tata told him that it really was not his fault, that he couldn't have known, that it was really Grendel's fault. But he had known, in a way. Beowulf's ability to feel the presence of death had tried to manifest in him before he had really become him. It had shown him where death was waiting, what was going to happen to Minka, but he had ignored it. He had let it slip by him like a stranger passing him on the streets. And in that way, Tata felt that he had failed her.

The man with the strange eyes and the silver hair also haunted his mind. Who was he? Where was he? He had scared Tata so badly when he had seen that awful image of him, but he knew that he had to find him and stop him. The countless lives that man would end were enough to make Tata shiver. The image kept flashing in his head again and again, and every time it did, Tata felt like crying. It was just so horrible how much damage this man would do to the world. But Tata did not even know where to begin to look for him. All he could do was suffer the images of him and his frightening eyes.

Tata was already soaked to the bone but he didn't care enough to erect a shield of any kind. The rain was coming down so hard that he didn't hear the approaching person until he spoke.

"You of all people Tata," the voice was a man's, deep and commanding. "Should know what too much rain does to the body."

The voice brought Tata out of his deep sea of thoughts. He whipped his head around, half-expecting to see Grendel. But it was not, and Tata went back to staring out at the ocean.

The man came over and sat down next to Tata, letting one leg stretch out on the grass while the other bent to support his arm. He had a barrier around him to repel the rain. He took in the view of the ocean with a look of contentment. He even allowed himself a small grin, which he rarely did. He extended the barrier, which protected him from the rain around Tata

"I love the ocean, don't you? It's so vast and beautiful. It always gets you thinking about things."

Tata snorted at that, but did not say anything.

"I guess, however, that it is also a great place to go to get away from your problems, to just relax and not have to listen to them."

Yeah, right. Tata thought to himself. "What do you want?"

The man shrugged. "To get away from the world and my problems. Same as you, right?"

"Same as everyone. I never meant to come here, really. It was an accident."

"It was a good thing you did. I was lucky to run into you."

Tata kept his eyes on the ocean. "Burn that. How many people are looking for me?"

"One, Tata."

"Oh?" Tata turned to face his knew companion. "And why did they send you, Janus? I would think they would send Glenn, or Schala even."

Janus kept his face completely neutral as he met Tata's gaze. "No one sent me, Tata. I came looking for you on your own accord."

"Your mistake."

"I hoped it would be otherwise."

"I do not wish for your company, Janus. Leave." Tata turned his gaze back to the ocean.

"Do you hate me, Tata?" Janus' voice did not really question; it simply wanted an answer.

Tata let is gaze drop to the ground. "Over the course of my existence, I have tried to bring you down for the lifetimes you spent killing innocent people. Your soul is nearly consumed with darkness and the only thing holding you back from it…" He shook his head and lowered it as well. "Now when I had the chance to kill you, it turned out that your skill outmatches mine. I do not think that I hate you, Janus. But more often than not you intentions go against everything I fight for. Even in this lifetime…"

"…When my life was torn apart by a monster that fell from the heavens." Janus finished for him.

"That's no excuse for what you did, Janus, and you know it."

"Perhaps. But I beg to differ."

"In what way?" Tata voice carried a tone that suggested that he really didn't care what Janus said, that he was wrong anyway.

"In that when my brother and myself were taken to Ji'groo, your master in Eimla decided to wage an all-out war on the ruler of the underworld." Janus' eyes glinted with a dangerous glow now. "In doing so, he neither saved us nor did he help us. All he did was destroy my land, my world. And finally he sucked it dry to create you soul. Is that just?"

Tata scowled. "He was wrong to do that, but there was no other way around it."

"There is always another way, Tata. And you know it." He said quietly.

Tata quickly turned his head to glare at Janus. "Would you suggest he just abandon you two? You two, who never lost a battle to the dark forces, who relentlessly suppressed them?"

"We…" Janus paused and narrowed his eyes. "I escaped anyway, without His help. Or yours."

"But your brother did not, and now is a Dark warrior who has killed millions upon millions in his time. He even succeeded in stealing the Heartstone Gauntlets, which grant the wearer immense strength and immortality. And you suggest that He should have just sat back and watched?"

It was Janus turn to scowl. "You miss my point, Tata. For all of his, yours, Aladren's efforts, nothing was accomplished. Obviously, there was nothing that could save us but ourselves. His methods of saving us destroyed a world, and in my eyes that is also inexcusable."

Tata gritted his teeth. "Why on earth did you come up here?" He shouted angrily. "Was it simply to chastise me? If you do not have anything better to say, then leave!"

With that, Tata turned back to the ocean, wearing a scowl that would make most men cower.

Janus sighed and his eyes went out to the ocean. He muttered something that Tata couldn't make out. He only caught words like "time," and "tell."

Tata felt Janus' eyes on him, but he did not acknowledge his existence. Then Janus asked a most unexpected question.

"What do you feel when you touch Schala, Tata?"

The only recognition that Tata had heard a thing from his companion was a small, quick blink. Then he turned his head to look at Janus. He thought about it for a moment and he remembered. He remembered the time when he first saw her, how she had helped Janus to save the planet. He also remembered her tripping on an upturned root in the ground, and him catching her as she fell, and then he had felt that warmth all over him at her touch, that sense of familiarity that one brief touch had held.

"What does it matter-" Tata began, not really in the mood to reveal something so private.

"Just answer me, Tata." Janus broke in.

Tata narrowed his eyes. "I felt her, once. It was a long time ago. She made me feel… warm. Secure, and… look, what is this-"

Once again, though, Janus didn't let him finish. "You say Black Magic hits you hard, correct? But have you ever actually been hit with one of Grendel's black bolts in this lifetime?"

Tata was about to answer "yes," but he held his tongue because he really could not recall a single incident where Len had blasted him. Then he remembered. When Len had arrived at their goodbye party in Guardia. "Once, but..."

"But you weren't ever really in pain, were you?"

Tata hesitated. "No."

Janus gave a small nod at that. Then, before Tata could say more, he gripped the youth's left shoulder and sent a strong charge of Shadow magic into the boy's body. Tata was so surprised and shocked at the same time at what Janus had done. He inhaled sharply as though to scream, but he stopped, realizing that he did not feel any pain. Janus released his shoulder, but kept his stare on him. Tata's look spoke volumes of amazement, while his eyebrows seemed to try to climb to the top of his head.

"Why… how…?" Tata had no words to speak.

"Your connection to me is stronger that you think, Tata." Janus said gravely. And on that note, Janus began his tale. "When I first encountered the otherworldly monster known as Lavos, I was only a child. I had not a single friend, but a sister, who treated me with dignity and loved me. Lavos broke that friendship by transporting me to another time, where war raged all over. I was captured by Ozzie, the leader of a magic-wielding race of people known as Mystics and forced to train under his trainers. They unleashed my unknown magical abilities and drilled me hard to make me stronger."

Janus' mouth became a thin line. "They trained me too well. One night, I broke out of my quarters, killed a few guards, tore up some of the castle and escaped with a fair amount of rations from the kitchen." He could have been talking about a stroll though the village for all his tone revealed. "I wanted to make a fresh start for myself among the humans. I went to Porre, where traveling merchants had told me people were the kindest. But what I did not realize was that among people of that time, possessing magic marked you as a Mystic, and a dead man as well. I learned quickly, though and hid my secret like a buried treasure. But my appearance frightened most people, and those who did not fear me hated me. More than once I was forced to run like a criminal away from mobs when I could have crushed them with at any time I pleased. I felt completely lost. Everyone seemed to hate me. Except one person."

Janus turned his face away from Tata and lowered his head. "On my usual walk to the market, I would pass by this one house owned by a girl who made her money by repairing things and selling medicine. I sometimes saw her inside through her window. I always tried to get a glimpse of her because she was so lovely it very nearly made my heart stop when I saw her. She was very youthful; she couldn't have been mush older than twenty. Her face was nothing short of perfect, smooth with dimples to add to a rosebud mouth that loved to smile. She had eyes like the sea on a perfect summer morning, glistening with joy and kindness. I remember thinking the shiniest gold looked dull next to her long, glistening hair." Janus lifted his head to smile out at the ocean. "One day, I passed by her house and saw her sitting in a chair by the window I usually viewed her through, reading some book. Out of the blue though, she lifted her eyes from her book and looked out the window right at me. I held her gaze like the most precious jewel in the world, but I kept walking and eventually was out of sight. But from that day on, she would turn out every morning around the time I would pass by her house, appearing to be engrossed in some chore. But whenever I would pass her house, she would keep her gaze away from me as I walked past. Then, when I was a few paces away from her, I would turn my head around to look at her and find her gaze on me. I even remember…" He cleared his throat. "…She smiled at me once."

Tata blinked and saw that Janus' eyes were moistening. He must have noticed as well and blinked them back.

"After about a month of this, I found myself in the early stages of fall, walking to the market. I was already passed her house and had performed my usual ritual with her. All of a sudden I found myself in a staring contest with a wagon driver. I had met with him before and he had of course hated me from the depths of his soul. We had never gotten beyond words in our conflicts, but this time I seriously wanted to ignite his body in white-hot flames. I said something to him that really set him off and he slashed me across the face with his whip and beat me a few more times with it while I lay there, silently taking the blows. Then he kicked me in the stomach for good measure and left. I tried sitting up, but it hurt worse than I had ever gotten from Ozzie's trainers. Then I felt a pair of gentle arms around me, softly propping me against a tree. At first I really thought it was an angel. I looked up and saw the girl bending over me. Her ointments and potions healed my wounds quickly in a matter of minutes, but she still cradled my head in her hands after they had healed. I accidentally blurted out that I could wield magic, but she did not tighten one whit. I repeated myself, but she let me finish and told me her name was Tina, and that I could stay with her for the night. At the time, I had resided in a hole in the Cursed Woods, and it was getting late, so I accepted and stayed at her house."

Tata gave a start. His mother's name, but… no, it wasn't… it couldn't be…

Janus smiled a small smile that only touched his mouth. "In about a year, we were married and it was our house. I had told Tina who I really was and that I might have to go one day, to find my sister, but she did not care. It was around then however that a platoon of Guardia troops stationed themselves in Porre and spread the news that the Mystics had broken through the outer lines and were coming for Porre and San Dorino. One day the town was attacked in a most unusual way. From what the townspeople later recalled, the Mystics entered the town, but only attacked the homes. They did not attack the town hall, the mayor's house, or even the local law enforcement building. They only attacked certain houses, leaving some completely untouched. They never reached our house before the Guardia army drove them away. But a few mornings later, I awoke with the answer to the unusual attack. They had been looking for me. They knew what a powerful weapon I was and they wanted me back on their side or dead. I knew I could not stay. That evening, Tina gave birth to our child. I told her that I had to leave, but before I left, as the tradition went in Zeal, I created a bond between the child and I, but I also passed along to it a portion of my power. Then I left and headed out of town to confront the Mystics. They were waiting for me with a new prizefighter to take me in. He wielded a scythe and I could sense a fair amount of magic radiating from him. But it was not enough. He tried to burn me with blue fire but I did not feel it. He tried electrocuting me with searing bolts from the sky, but I walked right through them untouched. I walked right up to him and a look of terror crossed his face. He swung his scythe at me but I caught it and ripped it away from his hands. My arm went out and gripped his throat. With one quick jerk, I created two pieces of him and declared my return to the army. I returned to Ozzie, seated myself on his throne and declared that the war was over against the humans."

Tata was shocked at that. He had never known about Janus' "other life" among humans.

Then Janus' face contorted to a grimace that would have made a bear whimper. "But only day later, I tried to visit Tina to tell her the news firsthand. But she wasn't in her house. I saw a grave out back behind the house. I felt drawn to it and I went to examine it." Janus' eyes moistened again, but he did nothing to hold them back. "It was her. She had died of unknown causes, supposedly. But as I cried over her gravestone, I saw a bottle of poison lying only a few feet away. She had been murdered, Tata. Murdered because she had been my wife. With enough rage to kill a bull welling inside of me I returned to the castle and told the Mystics that there would be war with the humans after all. I told them that I wanted to create a world of evil, to kill every human they could get close enough to. I wanted revenge against the human race for their heartlessness at hatred. I wanted them dead because they had killed the only other person other than my sister whom I loved; your mother."

Tata practically swallowed his tongue. It couldn't be. It just couldn't be. "You… not you…"

Janus ran right over his words. "I gave you a present for your fourteenth birthday. A viewing orb that you kept in your room. I used it to keep an eye on you. I watched you sleep each night, often times waking up with nightmares. I saw Minka, Tata. I saw her and I knew you were in love. Then one night you did not return, nor did you the next night or the one after that. I knew you had gone and would have tried finding you except I was confronted with other matters and." He sighed a depressed sigh and went on. "I'm sorry to have kept this from you for so long Tata, but… I don't know why I didn't tell you. I thought I was protecting something, but I didn't know what. Maybe I'm just a fool. I just don't know anymore if I will live to see tomorrow or not and I felt that if I didn't tell you now, I might never get to tell you. But Tata," Janus laid his hand on Tata's forearm before Tata had realized it. "What I did then was stupid and selfish, and even heartless. But I keep asking myself over and over again: would anyone else have done differently in my place?"

Tata's mouth worked silently, but he really had no answer. This was just too incredible to believe.

Janus sighed and gave Tata a meaningful look. "I know you must be telling the truth when you say I spent countless lifetimes killing people, innocent people. My title, Shadowdancer, tells the tale of a man almost totally consumed by evil. But I never killed for pleasure, or for no reason. I never like killing other people, but more often than not, I had no choice. I still have this shred of compassion left in my dead body, Tata. It's the same shred that gives me enough guts to tell you that I'm your father and that I care for you more than anyone else. It took me a long time to realize what love is, but I know, Tata. I tried my damn hardest to kill Lavos and revive my sister because she is one of the few people who loves me for who I am. It also angered me to know that my son was growing up around people who were so fearful of anything different from them that they felt like they had to destroy it. So I tried to kill them. Do you remember when you were five that I killed my own general and got you out of that battle? If you want to know the truth, Tata, I really wasn't sure it was you at all. But I was not going to watch an innocent child get himself killed. I know what love is, and if we cannot learn to love, there is no point in carrying on."

Tata had no answer for his father, and only sat there staring at him. Then thunder struck off in the distance. Then another one came, but this one struck the barrier around them and surprisingly the bolt shattered it. Tata blinked to keep from being blinded… and found his vision somewhat darkened.

Len shook his head dismissively and flung Tata to the ground. Instantly, Tata was up on his feet and charged forward again, but a black, yet transparent block was encased around him.

Tata looked around and saw Janus staring wonderingly at him as the rain began to soak him.

"He's here!" Tata yelled.

Janus, fortunately, had already gotten to his feet, his Doom Sickle suddenly his hands. He now stood facing the most powerful Dark Warrior alive, his eyes glinting dangerously through drops of rain that streamed from his furrowed brow. But as the raindrops fell towards his opponent, they appeared to evaporate away. Grendel would not allow even rain to live if he could help it.

"You…" growled Janus through a now snarling mouth.

Grendel had not even drawn his blade yet and threw back his head and laughed a triumphant laugh, as though he had already won. Janus took the saying of "kill first and ask questions later" into effect and lunged at his still-laughing foe, scythe whirling. But Grendel, moving like a serpent, made his blade appear seemingly out of nowhere. Parrying Janus' scythe, he took one quick step to the side and brought his foot up under Janus' legs. Janus fell hard in the snow face first, but quickly rolled to his feet, expecting to meet an onslaught of sword attacks. But Grendel had not even turned around to watch his opponent fall. Instead, he kept his pitch black eyes on Tata with a smug sneer on his face.

"So Beowulf is your son, Shadowdancer." Grendel said slowly, yet surely. His sneer got wider until it split his face and he gave a small chortle. "How ironic: darkness giving birth to light. Now allow me to remove the elder generation." He lifted his eyes to the heavens, a maniacal smile speaking the full length of his insanity. "What do you say, old man? You aren't using that scythe for a walking stick already, are you?"

Janus didn't answer because his attention was focused on the back of Grendel's head as he sailed toward him, scythe spinning down to decapitate his opponent. Though Grendel seemed unaware, at the last moment, he spun around and somehow moved around the curved blade, deliver a blow to Janus' head with his fist. Janus landed again, this time on his back. The bloody monster was making a game out of him! Tata tried to find a way through the weaves of the barrier, but this was not an ordinary barrier. It was as complex as trying to make your way through a haystack without touching the hay. He worked feverishly at it but it did not get one bit weaker. He had to get out of there before Grendel decided to kill Janus.

Janus got to his feet and hesitated this time. "How, Grendel?" His voice made steel seem as soft as silk. "How could you possibly survive? Even if you were a god, you still wear a human body."

Grendel didn't laugh this time; he simply smiled contemptuously at him. "A little trick I picked up a while back when I lived in the sixth realm. I bore the name Kefka and owned an empire. I simply created a sort of reflection of myself to throw at you. I was far to tired to bother with an old root like you." He laughed then, quite abruptly, them instantly had his face neutral again. "You fool."

Now Grendel held his blade in a ready stance. Tata searched and searched until… there!

Janus whirled his scythe and held it in an open stance. Tata began tearing into the barrier's weakness with his mind. He had to hurry!

"Now we finish what you started with my shadow, old man."

Janus held his face with an icy fury. "Talk is cheap. Why don't you show me?"

So he did. Grendel was in front of Janus slashing away almost before Janus had realized that he had crossed the distance between them. The first slash came down to split his head open. Janus blocked it and slashed it the end blade across Grendel's shoulders. He parried that one and the one after that, again and again, refusing to back up a single inch. Tata was halfway through the barrier. Sweat was beginning to drip down his already wet race as he feverishly worked at the weaves. So complicated… he thought to himself.

A loud ringing sound turned a portion of his attention to the duel. Grendel had knocked Janus' scythe out of his grasp. He made a cut at Janus' middle, but Janus fell backward onto his back. Without even moving out of his motion, Grendel drove the blade point at Janus' heart. Tata almost shouted "No," except Janus moved in a most unexpected way. Rocking back on his hands, which were planted above his shoulders, he pulled his entire lower body back and up. Grendel's blade dug deep into the dead earth, but just as the blade stopped its descent, Janus flung his legs forward. Cracking sound that Tata could have cherished forever emitted as Janus' legs his home on Grendel's face, knocking him onto his back. Janus, without slowing down, sprung to his feet, eyes searching for his weapon. There! He saw it only twenty feet away.. Unfortunately it lay not ten feet behind Grendel, who was once again on his feet.

"Neat trick, Shadowdancer." He sneered. His sword was still stuck in the ground behind Janus.

Neither had their weapon, but they themselves were weapons. Even without them, they were no less deadly.

Suddenly, Janus danced forward-there could be no other word for the serpentine way he moved- and thrust out at Grendel's chest with a fist. The blow flew home, hitting Grendel square in the chest, but Grendel merely smiled. That smile lasted only a second longer before Janus wiped it right off his face with another punch. Grendel flew into action, parrying Janus' fists and kicks with a masterful eloquence. He backed up a step and threw out a defensive kick, which Janus parried. Grendel didn't see Janus' right fist come from right behind his first phantom punch. It struck him right in the nose and it cracked. He felt another blow smash through his abdomen. He pitched forward, strait into Janus' rising knee. Then he felt his head being pulled back by his hair and he saw the cloudy sky. He also noticed Janus' flat hand coming in to crush his throat.

Tata was almost there. Janus seemed to have the upper hand anyway. He just wanted to get out in time to rip Grendel's heart out before Janus did him in.

Then a soundly smacking noise announced that Janus had lost his hold of Grendel. Tata saw him stumble to the side as Grendel moved past him towards his sword. Janus recovered and arrived next to Grendel just as the man gripped his sword hilt. But Janus would not have that and kicked Grendel in the face, which was fairly bloodied by this time. The dark man fell backward without his sword, but was able to stay on his feet. Janus was moving right with him though and followed up with another punch in the face. Grendel feebly parried the next few punches, but Janus was moving much faster and smashed him backward. Finally, a solitary kick to the stomach drove Grendel onto his back. It was enough time for Janus to retrieve his scythe. But then…

Tata saw it happen even as the barrier around him vanished, allowing the rain to once again pour on his body. He saw Grendel kick Janus' scythe up into the air, its blade shimmering in the dull light. He watched Grendel give Janus two powerful blows to his face. Tata was vaguely aware of his voice ringing out over the land. He felt his legs begin to move, but it was like they were moving in jelly. He watched the scythe come down from its ascent into the air. He saw Grendel kick Janus' face and the blood that fell out of Janus' mouth onto the ground. He saw Grendel grab the scythe out of the air. He saw Janus try to punch his opponents face and miss. And in one terrible, irrevocable moment, Tata saw his most hated enemy run his father though with his own scythe.

"NOOOOOOOOOOOO!" Tata wailed. He fell to Janus' side trying futilely to pull the weapon free.

Grendel walked over and retrieved his blade. Wiping blood from his mouth, he addressed Tata. "Do not fret Tata. Your turn will come soon enough." With that, he vanished into thin air.

Janus' eyes were still partially open; he was alive, but… "Father…" Tata moaned.

Janus slowly looked up into the youth's eyes. "Y-you…" he coughed and tried to start over again. "Y-y-you…d-don't…have…to…s-say it…Tata…" he managed before coughing up a few drops of blood. The rain hitting his eyes made them flicker a little.

"D-don't talk, father…" Tata tried to keep his voice steady but it cracked anyway. "It won't hurt that much if you…"

Janus blinked slowly at Tata. "P-please…Tata…" Janus mumbled through the blood that was slowly trickling out his mouth. "P-p-pro-protect…Schala…and…Flea, and…G-Glenn…Tata. D-don't let…them…fall…to him. P-promise…me…"

Tata's eyes felt like they were being seared out of his skull with flaming pokers and his vision blurred with tears, which he tried to bite back. "I will, Janus. I promise I will."

Janus heaved a sigh and more blood came out of his mouth. "Gods…" he muttered. "I'm…sorry…Tata…for…not…telling you…"

Tata's face contorted itself with pain. "No… please, father, don't…"

Janus uttered a sound that could have been an attempted laugh. It sounded like a croak.

"I…c-can't… b-believe…this is…really it." He managed. "Tata…" He breathed the boy's name and suddenly slumped in Tata's arms, eyes closed. He had stopped breathing.

"No…" Tata whispered and lowered his head onto Janus' chest. The rain mixed with the blood from his mouth and Tata's tears. "Father… no…"

Only the raindrops comforted Tata's plea. That, and the bloodstained grounds of North Cape.



End of Chapter 21


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