Chrono Shift Chapter 12
December 28, 2001 BC
Four years and several long months had passed since the incident that transformed Zeal from a glorious island kingdom into four smaller, scarred landmasses. Lavos had a firm control on nearly everyone living in Zeal, and the queen had degenerated to the point of dejection. The gurus had long since been gone, and the Ocean Palace had reached the final stages of construction. Despite the fact that the Kingdom of Zeal had been overrun by the equivalent of nearly mindless zombies, advances continued, and the dynasty flourished. The reason for this came from three bizarre entities who would not reveal their origins nor state their purpose. Masa, Mune, and Doreen had been essentially the replacements for Melchior, Gaspar, and Belthasar. Some even hypothesized that they were collaborating with the sages, including a secret plan to shovel power into the pendant that Schala wore on her neck, and rumors of a masterly crafted sword, completed before Melchior had been exiled.
Magic had been affected greatly since the disaster with Lavos, as the elemental magic contained within the godlike beast flowed throughout the floating island. Augur reflected on the time he had spent in the heavens after he had been killed in the caves more frequently as the time drew closer to his destiny.
Lavos did bring you the magic, but it was a different form of magic. Through the various ventures through the holes in time, the color-based nature elements were somehow placed into the past, and your Kingdom adopted them. The magic made by lavae is purely elemental, and, in the end, much more powerful in the hands of one who has a true mastery of it.
Glock had said that. The color-based elements made from the Dragon God had been somehow placed in the past. Though he didnt believe it at the time, the ogre creature had been right. Lavos did have purely elemental magic, and it had begun showing up in the Kingdom of Zeal not long after the attack. Augur could already use some of the magic that emitted from Lavos, because much of it was similar to the color-based system he had grown up with. The more complex spells, however, were far beyond his grasp. Pushing the thought from his mind, another memory came up.
You collaborated with the warlock to travel to the bottom of the ocean to recover an ancient artifact. The irony is that he would have made his way down there without you, so the man that had set out to correct the future killed you without gaining anything. He should have killed the wizard. In reality, you lead some villains to the palace under the water. You grabbed the artifact to prevent them from getting it, and released the Chrono Shift.
That one was a little more complex. Tajj, who had turned out to be the God who ruled the Seventh Afterlife, is the one who made the last quote. The warlock, whoever he was, should have been dead. Gunner, who said he came from the future, had killed Augur nearly ten years ago in the cave, and only managed to upset the balance of time even further. The palace under the water could only be the Ocean Palace, and the villains, whoever they were, must have been positively evil. The Chrono Shift was mentioned as one of five sacred Chrono artifacts. Augur wondered if Gaspars secret project, believed to be something known as the Chrono Trigger, could have been another one of them.
If you wish to set the record straight, situate yourself when 12,000 BC arrives, and the wizard shall find you. Be careful around him, because his impatient demeanor and menacing nature could ultimately bring the downfall of your entire operation.
The Sanctified Deity had put forth an image and talked in a manner that could only be described as mysterious. This one was no exception, and, unfortunately, it was the only clue as to what he could do. Get out of Zeal before Lavos destroys it completely, and then just find someplace to wait for the warlock, whoever he was. Augur considered his only lead to be nothing short of unsettling, especially since the only one who could help him didnt sound like an accepting person. This was something Augur didnt like the least bit. The one who might help him is the one who might kill him.
Hey, Augur! Whats going on? Augur did not have to look up to recognize Seraphs voice, and he had become accustomed to having her around.
Not a hell of a lot, Seraph. What about you? Augur responded in a dull and typically non-caring fashion.
Well, not much, really, Seraph admitted. But I wanted to ask you something. Theres only three days left until the millennium, right?
Augur looked up at her, now a very attractive fifteen. In two months she would have another birthday, and become one step closer to getting older than he was. Yeah, Seraph, by my count, its three days.
Well, she paused, appearing to blush a little. I dont have a date to the Millennial Ball, and I was wondering if, she again stopped, looking more and more embarrassed. Youd like to go with me.
Seraphs straightforward question surprised Augur, but a second later, his reaction became one of delight, With you? Absolutely, Seraph. Problem is, how am I supposed to find a nice suit in three days?
I would have asked sooner, but I was a little nervous. I thought you might say no, or something, Seraphs cheeks turned noticeably red. Augur tried to think of something that would reassure her.
Seraph, why would I have said no to you? Youre my best friend, have been for a very long time. The only reason I didnt ask you was that I figured you werent interested. Seraph looked somewhat relieved by Augurs comments, exactly as he had hoped for.
Yeah, I know weve been good friends, but Ive seen you with other girls before, so I didnt know if you had a date already or anything.
Augur swatted at a fly buzzing around his head, None of them really meant that much to me. Ever since Lavos did whatever he did, most of the people dont really that much care about the relationships theyre in. Before then, I was a fugitive for a few years, and Ive been technically dead for about nine years. Between you and me, do you know how hard it is for a dead fugitive to get laid? Seraph laughed at his joke.
So, when was the last time you did, well, you know it?
Augur smiled with amusement, Why, are you looking for lessons? Seraph cracked up again.
Sorry, but Im not really into necrophilia. Give me a call when youre alive, and we might talk, Seraph snubbed. But seriously, Im curious about how much of a stud you are.
Augur thought about his response for a second. Well, I was shagging left and right before I got killed, but Ive only done it a few times since then. Mostly one night stand type things. Ive kinda had to keep a low profile.
Seraph shook her head, You are so full of crap, Augur!
Yeah, youre right. Im still shagging left and right.
Stop that. Girls know when men are lying to them, Seraph scolded. I only asked about this because Im a little insecure. Ive never really had a serious boyfriend, and
Augur interrupted his classmate, If youre worried about your appearance, then dont be. Believe me when I say that you are among the most attractive girls Ive ever seen. The only reason why you havent had much for dates is this magic class. It takes up so much time, there isnt much left for anything else. Being so shy about things all these years probably didnt help, either. Its not because of your looks.
Well, um, thanks Augur. So, when and where do you think we should meet Saturday? Seraph asked, uncomfortable with the previous topic.
Just come over here around eight, and well go to the palace together. I hope I can get a good suit to wear by then, Augur wished. By the way, do you have a dress yet?
Seraph reddened for the third or fourth time since she had arrived. Its not done yet, but Ive been working really hard on sewing it together.
What does it look like? Augur inquired.
Thats a secret, Seraph stated. Youll have to wait until the Millennial Ball for that.
Three days later, Candor applied a facial ointment of sorts; she called it a beauty cream, while talking with Augur. The Millennial Ball was that night, and Candor had her own date. She wouldnt give much of a hint as to the man that had asked her, but she made it clear that Augur did not know him. Candor also gleamed with excitement when she found out about her two students going to the dance together. It did seem strange to Augur, however, since he spent sometimes as much as forty hours in a week with Seraph, and he lived with Candor pretty much all the time, except when he decided to go on vacations for short periods. Ironically, it had been a vacation of sorts that had killed him nearly ten years ago, and started his incredible journey. Also ironic, his incredible journey had not even truly begun. But tonight, on the eve of the millennium, he had other things to be concerned about.
Is it just me, or does waiting really suck, Augur complained. I know that shes still not supposed to be here for something like two hours, but I still hate just sitting around doing nothing.
If you were a girl, then you would spend those entire two hours getting ready, but instead, you were done in ten minutes, Candor clarified. How does my hair look, Augur?
In ten years Ive never seen you go on a date, so I really dont have much to compare it to. If you want my personal opinion, I think it looks fine, Augur complimented while fidgeting with his suit. Ugh. I hate these damn things. Theyre so uncomfortable. Can you tell me why I even have it on if my date is two hours away and it takes me ten minutes to get ready?
My hair looks fine? You answered like you dont really care that much. Does it look fine, or does it look good? Candor interrogated.
Perfect, Candor, you look like a queen. Your hair is good, and your dress is beautiful. What else do you want to know? Augur demanded. He gave himself a minute to allow his annoyance to settle, and then poised a question to Candor. After nine years, do you think anyone will recognize me? Or is my stint as a notorious assassin over?
I know being an outlaw always got you kinda excited, but youre essentially back to being a normal citizen of Zeal again. Crushing defeat, isnt it? Candor plucked at the hair in her eyebrows, attempting to make them look more appealing.
Yeah, Ill always think of fugitive as a sexy title, Augur laughed. He looked over at Candor again, Well, are you going to model for me? All Ive seen of you today has been in front of a mirror with your back turned to me.
Candor stood up, Okay, what do you think? She lifted the heavy gown enough so that her shoes showed from underneath, and preceded to twirl around on her tows. Her hair was up, and styled complicatedly, and she wore a pearl headdress woven inside the strands of it. The dress, a baby blue in color and looking heavy due to all the layers, Augur guessed at least twenty pounds, was made from a material that looked like an imitation silk. Candors arms were bare except for thin white gloves, surrounding her delicate fingers. The dress had a low neckline in front, although not low enough to show any cleavage, and in back came all the way up near the top of her shoulders. The middle of the outfit hugged her body tightly, clinging to her midsection and hips, where the dress parachuted outward to cover her legs.
Youre certainly not going to disappoint anyone with that, Augur stated.
Good, Candor replied. Well, Im off.
Wait, where are you going?
I have dinner with my date before the ball. Im surprised you and Seraph didnt decide to do something like that, Candor grabbed a shawl off the dresser and covered her shoulders with it. Goodbye, The woman yelled on her way out the door. This left Augur with a long time to wait for his date, and, possibly worse, no one to help pass the time with. He sighed and fell backward on the bed.
Augur spent the time by browsing through a few of Candors books, and playing a card game with an old deck he had found while searching some food to eat. For some reason, he couldnt even beat the imaginary opponents he played against, as they always managed to call his bluff. Time passed insidiously slow when you were bored, and even more slowly when you were waiting for something. Augur knew that the moment would eventually arrive, barring the possibility that he would go insane in the meantime from the lack of comfort presented by his suit. It was scratchy, and rather tight on his medium build. Neither the blackish color of the suit itself nor the white undershirt looked particularly good on him, as in contrasted with his silver hair. In the midst of all this, the only things that stood out were his blue eyes, since they added some much needed color to the outfit.
Eventually and predictably, although a tad bit late, a knock echoed throughout the hallways. Augur knew instantly that his date had arrived to save him from his own tedium, and he motioned toward the door to allow her entry. Releasing Candors lock on the door, he turned the handle and opened it. Seraph stood on the other side, looking absolutely breathtaking.
Seraphs golden brown hair was elegantly styled above her head, masterfully entangled in a crystal tiara that sparkled in the evening light. A few strands of the hair fell down to the side of her face, covering one ear and touching her shoulder. Her azure eyes glistened every bit as intensely as the crown on her head. Her smooth skin looked angelic in the soft radiance of light that lit the area. Augur had never seen Seraph looking like this, since she usually dressed down in everyday clothes and did her best not to attract attention to herself. Tonight was an exception, as the beautifully stunning girl in front of him captivated his mind. Once Augur took his eyes off of Seraphs face and placed them on her dress, he became even more enticed. At fifteen years old, she had matured well, and her slender form and hourglass shape fit into the clothing perfectly. The material, whatever it was, hugged her curves tightly, and the virgin white of the cloth lit up the room.
The dress, every bit as much as the person wearing it, was something to marvel at. The strapless outfit left her arms, shoulders, and neck clearly visible, and wrapped around her body where the fabric stopped about midway down her back. The dress came down around her midsection and hips, and onto her legs. Below the waist, a long slit appeared on both sides of the attire, about seven or eight inches above her kneecap. This allowed Seraphs silky legs to peek out of the dress, and when she walked, they jumped from the sides, clearly visible. The final pieces of the costume draped down to her ankles, which were home to shoes that had an extension on the heels to make Seraph look an inch or two taller. These were of crystal color to match the tiara, as well as a bracelet around her wrist that held the head of a rose.
Hi, Augur. Sorry Im late. Are you ready to go? Seraph asked nervously. Augur sputtered and wheezed in amazement as he looked at Seraph. He tried to force the words out of his mouth, but they came out jumbled, sounding much like incoherent babbling. Thinking quickly, although not clearly, he reached around the corner and out of Seraphs line of vision. He grabbed onto a group of Candors flowers that sat in a vase and removed them.
Uh, I, um, ahem he choked. Yeah, ready any time, and these are for you, Augur presented the flowers, hoping to cover up his shock. He couldnt believe how pretty Seraph looked. No, pretty was definitely the wrong word. Seraph looked more like an adult than an adolescent girl in her mid teens. She looked drop dead gorgeous, and, even though Augur scolded himself for thinking such things about his young classmate, completely sexy.
Seraphs face lit up with delight and surprise when she saw the bunch of flowers. Augur, wow! Thanks a lot! You really shouldnt have done this for me. Augur thought about how he would explain the missing flowers to Candor, and realized that Seraph was right. He probably shouldnt have stolen them.
Seraph, you look amazing. Lets get going, so we can be at the dance when it starts, Augur requested. I hope I dont look too much like an idiot, but I never really dress like this. I feel so awkward right now.
Yeah, I feel a little out of place in this dress as well. Im glad you like it, cause I was a little worried, Seraph confessed.
Well, Augur pronounced, attempting to change the subject to something less awkward, Shall we be on our way? Seraph smiled back at him.
Yeah, lets go.
Going from Enhasa to Zeal Palace was a little bit more difficult since the disaster that separated the continent into smaller divisions, and normally they would have had to jump into the skygate and cross about a mile of the snowbound continent. There they would reach the second teleporter and be transported back to the mainland of Zeal. Fortunately for them, the Blackbird was running a special shuttle service between Enhasa and the palace for the special event. Augur and Seraph made their way to the makeshift docking bay, which would probably deteriorate in a few days time, and waited for the flying machine to return. Augur loathed waiting, but today, sitting with his date, he didnt seem to mind as much. Regardless, he became frustrated because the shuttle was running late, and this would be the last trip it would make before the start of the ball.
Seraph, you ever been on the Blackbird before? Augur asked unpretentiously. She shook her head in response. Its a bit of a rough ride, Augur continued, But its quite an experience. Gives you a bit of a rush. Of course, last time Augur had ridden the Blackbird, the pilots were forced to do some fancy maneuvering to get off the ground and to avoid a giant rock, and todays ride was guaranteed to be smoother.
The distinct whir of the engines was audible long before the ship came into view, and everyone recognized them. A crowd formed around the boarding area, and tickets were taken rudely by employees who would have much rather been at the Millennial Ball themselves. As always, there were some who didnt mind because they thought these social outings were just a waste of time.
No sooner than the Blackbird had landed, the passengers were horded onto the machine like livestock, quickly directed to their seats, and given flight instructions. There was another delay because the fuel supply needed to be replenished, but shortly thereafter, Augur and Seraph were on their way to Zeal Palace. As expected, takeoff was a little bumpy, but the ride went without incident. Some odd number of minutes later, they were back to landing on the supposedly secret dock in the back of Zeal Palace. All major operations had been shut down and sensitive information was concealed as they were led through hallways in a maze that put them in the public areas of the fortress. Augur cringed slightly as they passed near a familiar side hallway, the same that he had been in when he had cut Daltons eyeball out of his head years earlier.
Augur turned to Seraph, Well, were here. What do you want to do? After he asked it, Augur immediately thought the question stupid. They were at a dance, so Seraph was probably going to want to dance.
Seraph looked at her surroundings. I was just thinking that since were in the refreshment area, we should probably get some refreshments. Augur agreed, and took Seraph to the table holding the fruit punches and exotic juices. Foreign delicacies were also set up in bowls, ready to be eaten buffet style. Augur took some of these and then wandered over to the alcoholic drink section for his own beverage. The server gave him no trouble and allowed him to take whatever he wanted, despite the age he appeared (his body, after all, was seventeen, while he was technically twenty seven). For all purposes, since his body was seventeen, he thought of himself as seventeen. Augur brought Seraph a drink as well, a cup full of red wine. She declined the booze, but thanked him for the offer.
A loud bell rang overhead, possibly amplified by the magic of someone, and a quirky jester spoke to the audience. Augur only listened for the first minute or so, becoming bored quickly. The purpose of the jester was to introduce Queen Zeal, who would open the doorway to the ballroom after her own speech. When the applause grew to a deafening roar, Augur noticed the queen move to the top of the platform. The room soon grew silence, and Augur noticed something else. Seraphs hand passed over his fingers and settled softly on top of his. Instinctively, Augur held her hand back, and looked in her direction. Their eyes met, and they simply looked at each other for a long second. When Seraph smiled, Augur returned it eagerly. Seraph began to shy away slightly, allowing a small giggle to escape from her lips.
The couple, along with everyone else in the room, took notice as Queen Zeal approached the temporary podium and prepared for her monologue. She had on a formal dress of her own, although she had no date to dance with. Zeal cleared her throat twice and shuffled over the notes that someone else had written for her before she spoke. Ladies and Gentlemen, the Kingdom of Zeal is, without a doubt, the greatest dynasty in the history of the world. Our glorious empire sprung forth at the dawn of time, when our ancestors separated themselves from the lowly Earthbound villagers. The city of Algetty was left to the lesser humans, and we were blessed with gifts from the Gods. We received the power of magic and the ability to reign over all creatures. In time, through the brilliance of our scientists, we learned to not only rule the earth, but to control it. Zeal was lifted above the clouds thousands of years ago through the power of the Sun Stone, and has remained there because of the almighty influence of the Great Lavos.
Augur grew sick to his stomach, now understanding the full purpose of the speech. Zeal was praising everything the Zealians had ever done right (since this included the ethnic cleansing of the Earthbounds, it was a pretty generous definition of Right). At the same time, she ignored the many mistakes and shortcomings of the kingdom throughout its history. What about the disasters at Mt. Woe? The countless armies lost during the dark war, which later became known as the Legend of Mammon, were not mentioned. Just four years earlier, the entire floating continent was nearly destroyed because of Zeals involvement with Lavos. Thanks to the brainwashing of the monster, no one even remembered.
Zeal continued to speak. Tonight marks two historic events in the history of Zeal. First off, yet another successful millennium has been spent in the clouds, and we have made immeasurable advances in all fields. Tonight we celebrate another anniversary, another new year, and another triumph in this great land. I would like to propose a toast, to our kingdom, and for another thousand years of conquest and victory in Zeal.
The room became a deafening roar of chants and cheers and claps as everyone applauded and celebrated to the speech. Augur laughed at the irony of the situation. Zeal would not last another thousand years; it wouldnt even last another calendar. Their god would turn his back on the people and destroy them all. And as Augur looked at Zeal, he decided that he wouldnt miss most of the citizens of the kingdom.
After the applause died down, Zeal went on. Second, I am here to announce the further expansion of our mighty kingdom. We have mastered the land, and we have mastered the sky as well. Today, we officially have mastered the sea. Under my command we have been building a secret underwater fortress to supplement our kingdom. For the last few years, rumors have been flying around about a second palace, and I am here to disavow those rumors and reveal the truth. The Ocean Palace should be operational in a mere matter of weeks, and Zeal will become invincible!
Everyone in the room began to cheer uncontrollably except Augur. Chants of Zeal! Zeal! broke out from the crowd, and wine glasses clinked together. Much to his dismay, even Seraph was cheering and praising the announcement. Augur, however, was feeling some exhilaration for a different reason. The Chrono Shift was somewhere in that underwater fortress, but there was no way he could get to it under the queens watchful eye. He would have to wait for Lavos to reap his havoc on the world before he had a shot. At the same time, he needed to find the wizard.
Why is everyone partying in here for? Queen Zeal demanded. The ballroom is now officially open. Everyone file in! This ended Zeals monologue, and the giant ballroom doors creaked open. A stampede of people rushed in, eager to start the true part of the party. Augur and Seraph had to force their way in as well, nearly being trampled in the herd.
Once inside the ballroom, Augur grabbed Seraph by the arm and dragged her off to the side, away from the crowd. He could see that the dance floor would not be big enough for all the people coming. People were already standing wall to wall, waiting for the music to start, and there were countless more coming in.
Some place, Seraph remarked. Augur agreed. Crystal chandeliers littered the ceiling, and magical fires of soft and elegant colors were captured inside of them, and the light spilled out onto the floor. The floor itself was decorated marble, painted with flowers and images of the ocean and sky. A balcony surrounded the perimeter of the room, complete with a white, hand carved railing. Stone statues of knights and princesses were placed in the front of the room, and the entire wall was really a giant series of interconnected ice sculptures. The sculptures doubled as a built in cooling system for the room, since it would get very hot very quickly without some sort of heat relief. They also would not melt, Augur knew, because of a spell placed on them to keep them in tact.
Couples in the center of the ballroom were busy chattering, already growing impatient with the lack of music. Everyone was silenced swiftly when the sound of waves came from above. The guests all looked up to search for the source of the sound, but could find none. As they were staring at the ceiling, it changed subtly. Undetectable at first, the circling hues eventually collided in a spectacle of light and color, displaying an image of water rolling by. The image quickly changed to an angel descending from heaven to rid the world of evil, and that gave way to a massive fireworks display.
How are they doing that? Seraph asked, her hand gently situated on Augurs arm.
Magic would be my guess, he answered. I guess if they mix the right amount of colors in the right way, they can create effects and stuff. Augur would have said more, but he was cut off quickly by the low sound of violins being played. Soon he saw the orchestra positioned on the far side of the balcony, complete with more than a hundred members and dozens of unique instruments.
Seraph twirled around and clenched Augurs hands in her own. Come on, Augur, I wanna dance, she declared. Lets go! This time Seraph was the one leading, and she took him to a place somewhere in the middle of everyone else, although as close to private as she could find. Seraph turned to him and smiled, showing her pearly teeth and giggling girlishly. She placed her right hand on the top of his shoulder and gripped his other with her left. Augur slid his arm around her slender body and placed his own hand on her back. Forgetting about the low cut in the back, he was somewhat surprised to feel the bare skin. Slightly embarrassed, and not wanting to appear sexually aggressive to his best friend, he allowed the hand to glide to her hip, where it rested. Seraph smiled knowingly at this, staring Augur in the eyes, and he returned the gesture. Gently the two began swaying slightly to the sound of the orchestra, moving their feet in rhythm with the music and allowing themselves to become absorbed in each other.
Augur spent the next hour lost in the experience, infatuated by Seraph and absorbed in the serene setting. The music flowed in all its symphonic glory, and the mood of the entire dance was jovial, but full of underlying emotion. The minutes were a blur of his life, and he forgot all about the troubles of his existence. He did not notice that his legs had grown tired and sore, as his full concentration was placed on Seraph. They had long, engrossing conversations while on the dance floor, but mainly small talk. However, as the symphony moved to a long, somber interlude, Seraph asked a question that would change his life.
Augur, Im going to ask you a question that has been bugging me for a very long time, she declared. The light from the chandeliers glistened in her face as she prepared to ask. I know you tried to pass something off on me when I first found out about it all those years ago. But now I want to know the truth. What Seraph trailed off, and her voice became deeply serious, almost to the point of worry. What really happened that day in the caves? And why did you really come back?
Augur hung his head in disgrace, but for reasons he couldnt understand. He couldnt tell her. She couldnt know, and it was ripping him apart. Augur was faced with the decision of a lifetime: Should he confess the entire story, risk history and follow his heart? Or should he bury his feelings along with the kingdom that had forsaken him. In either scenario, he stood to lose something very dear to him. In the end, he made the only decision he could.
I I cant tell you, Seraph. I cant tell anybody. Seraph narrowed her glance and was noticeably hurt.
Why not? I dont understand. What is so important to you that it has to be so secret? Augur turned his head away in response, staring at the ground in an attempt to swallow his emotions. He sighed out of despair, being torn apart by his mind. Like all men forced into a dangerous situation, he did the only thing he could when he couldnt come up with an appropriate answer. He stalled.
Augur was near collapse when he forced the words out. Seraph, its too much. Later, after the ball is over, ask me again. I dont want to ruin the night. Not now, its too perfect for that.
Seraph quickly became apologetic, although unsure of her guilt. Now she could see that Augur was the one who had become hurt. Im sorry, I didnt mean to pry
No, of course. You couldnt have known, Augur interrupted. With every breath he took, he became more upset. Look, just forget it, theres nothing either of us can do about it. This statement was followed by an excessively long pause. Augur was being careful not to show any sign of emotion, but the thought of indirectly killing his best friend tugged at him. If he just let Seraph die, that was the same thing as killing her, wasnt it? Doing his best to stifle his tears, Augur looked at his date.
Augurs torrid passion over this question concerned Seraph. She knew something was wrong with him, and she didnt know what she could do to make it better. For Seraph, it was hard to watch Augur, the battle hardened, always calm mentor, break down like he had. She wanted to help him, but didnt know where to start. Little did she know, just by being there, she had helped him a great deal.
Augur looked deeply into Seraphs cerulean eyes, reached up with his hand and stroked the side of her face. He allowed himself to absorb the soft touch of her angelic skin, and then stroked the loose strands of her hair that fell over her ear gently. Augur received affection in return, and those eyes that had stared at him curiously for ten long years said all the things that words never could.
Trembling with weakness, Augur instinctively wrapped his arms around the teenage girl and squeezed for support. Seraph was unsure of herself for a moment, but she quickly returned the hug. As the music of the dance and the movement of the couples around them continued without notice, the two friends were locked in their embrace, oblivious to the rest of the world.
Seraph, I cant hide this secret any longer. I dont care about the consequences, because I cant allow myself to just turn the other way. Ive lost everything I believe in, but I cant afford to lose my best friend. Augur had to force the words out, and they sounded almost desperate. Seraph felt touched, however confused, trying to comprehend the magnitude of the words. Seraph, Augur stifled, Ill tell you everything that happened to me, but only if you really want to know, and if you promise not to tell anyone.
Augur, if its that hard for you, then you dont have to
That is no longer relevant, Augur exclaimed. If I tell you, then youll never be able to go back. Now, tell me if you want to know.
Seraph hesitated, almost to unfathomable lengths. Augur had slowly released his clutch on her, and they were no longer holding each other in their arms. Seraph looked into Augurs eyes, cool as the morning over the ocean, and could tell that it was something very serious. It had crossed her mind that maybe Augur had cracked up, but her curiosity ate at her conscience, and her concern grew until it became too big to ignore. Yes, Augur, I want to know. I want to know whats so important, and I want to help you. If you have to get this off your chest, then Ill listen to whatever you have to say.
Augur turned seemingly cold, and definitely solemn. Follow me, he ordered, grabbing her wrist simultaneously. Augur tried to remain inconspicuous as he pulled Seraph across the ballroom floor. I cant say this in here. Not in front of all these people, he explained, not really bothering to check if Seraph had gotten the message or not. Augur led the young woman through the large doorway and into the concessions area. He scurried down the staircase and forced his way into the general public, still clutching Seraph by the arm. Moving swiftly, they entered the open perimeter of Zeal Palace, and exited through the main hallway. A moment later, they were outside the walls and feeling the effects of the bitterly cold night. Seraph immediately cast a fire barrier around the two so they could retain heat. Augur shuffled his way to the side of the palace, and sat down beside one of the distant walls of the fortress. Seraph knelt on the ground, facing him.
From his position on the ground, the nighttime stars were twinkling distinctly, poking out from underneath their cloud cover. A full moon soared in the sky, aloft among the heavenly bodies. Birds chirped softly in the distance as the wind gently rustled in the grasslands and the orchards outside the city. The gentle splashing of the ocean waves was clearly audible. Augur also saw Seraph, desperate to help soothe his pains.
Seraph, I still dont know if I can tell you. Worse yet, Im positive that its against my best interests, but I cant hold back, Augur revealed. I want you to carefully think this through before you answer, Seraph. Are you absolutely sure you want to know?
Seraph looked at Augur, frustrated by either the repetition of questions or her partners lack of conviction in her answers. In either case, she gave him a long, hard stare and clutched his arm tightly to show the confidence in her reply. Yes, Im positive.
Augur exhaled, and contemplated one last time whether or not he should take the risk. Every aspect of his mind told him to get out of the situation at all costs, but his sense of logic had little influence over his desire and his personal wishes. The touch of Seraphs hand gracefully soothed him, tempting him to give in. The light of the moon outlined Seraphs immaculate figure, giving her the appearance of a saint. Loose strands of delicate auburn hair flowed attractively from her crystal tiara and settled adorably on her shoulders. Seraph had a perfect face, complete with a petite nose, full reddish lips, and magnificent bluish eyes. Augur wondered why he always noticed her eyes. Looking into them was like staring into the deep, infinite ocean, clean and pure, with so much mystery hidden underneath the surface. Their twinkle contained a grandiose splendor that could neither be explained nor ignored.
Augur was caught in his own personal hell. His mind, heart and body all conflicted over what he should do. This caused Augur to metaphorically rip himself apart from the inside outward. Augur was full of distress and insanity, unable to find the correct choice.
Save the world or save a friend?
As Augur attempted desperately to relax so he could reach a conclusion, he gazed directly into Seraphs face, and once again the eyes spoke to him. The eyes comforted his fears and told him all the things he wanted to hear. The eyes exorcized his personal hell, and sanctified his spirit. Augur sighed because he had inadvertently been holding his breath, then reached up with his hand and caressed the soft skin on Seraphs cheek. Augur looked up into the heavens one more time, and then returned his eyes to Seraph. Then he revealed his secret.
The Final Afterlife
At the center of the universe, the Sanctified Deity had called a meeting for all of the ruling gods. The heads of the first seven Afterlives were in a conference room, and Tajj was sitting directly across from the true god. The tiny black lizard-dragon was distressed, because he knew they had a problem on their hands.
The Sanctified Deity was a shapeless spirit looking characteristically like a ball of pure white light. The seven lower level gods, Tajj included, were reptilian in figure, with dragon wings and bodies that vaguely resembled geckos. They were discernable by color only. The first six took the colors of the spectrum of light, red being the first and purple being the last. The color of each god corresponded to the star-like heavens they ruled over, with some being holy and some sacrilegious. The rank of holy to unholy had nothing to do with the order of the colors in the light spectrum. The holy ones were orange, green and blue, and the unholy ones were red, yellow, and purple.
The symbolism of the colors of the spectrum of light represented that individually the characteristics were unique and one-dimensional alone, but when combined they created a unified society with the Sanctified Deity as the top of the ladder in their world. The Sanctified Deity appeared a holy white because the universe was a combination of these six colors and color based elements. White light was, after all, a combination of red, yellow, orange, green, blue, and purple. On Earth, as with many societies, the purple element bane was often characterized as the black color element, and orange took on a more golden silhouette, making it look like white virtue magic. The combination of these magics created the all-powerful spectral magic belonging to the Sanctified Deity.
In summery, the colors of the light spectrum combined to formulate white light, the colors of the gods of the first six Afterlives combined to the form Sanctified Deity, the colors of the Afterlives themselves combined to compose the Final Afterlife itself, and the colors of the magics combines to create the ultimate spectral magic. The symbolism of the colors was represented in the balance of all things in nature and even the very essence of the universe.
That left Tajj. Tajj, along with the Seventh Afterlife, the Valley of the Lost Souls, were left out of this formula because they were quite different. In fact, they didnt even belong in the same equation.
Tajj was colored black, and in the light spectrum, black is the absence of all light. Tajj and the Seventh Afterlife are representative of the dark and the unknown, things that cant be described with the existence of the spectrum. They also represented things that were irrational or that did not even exist. In a way, the inhabitants of the Valley of the Lost Souls had lost their very existence.
Tajj and his Afterlife housed the power of the second type of magic. Tajj controlled what was known as Elemental magic; far different from the Natural magic of the other gods and the Deity himself. It was the same magic used by the lavae, and served as a counterbalance to the natural elements. The elemental magic was a triad of powers that balanced each other out. The powers were lightning, fire, and water. Water could be divided into liquid and ice forms. When combined, they formed a more powerful magic known as Shadow, or Dark energy. Unbeknownst to most beings, there was also a rare, second half to the elemental magic. Light magic, also called holy magic, was also a combination of the three base elements. The difference between dark and light magic, however, was more logical than anyone would think. Lightning, fire, and water attacks were composed of different ratios of shadow and holy energy. Depending on the composition of each of the individual base elements, the combination spell would result in either a holy discharge or a shadow discharge. The reason why holy energy is so much rarer is because it takes only a miniscule amount of evil to taint an otherwise pious entity.
Alright, came the loud, thunderous voice of The Deity. Im sure you all know what my first question is. How the hell did this happen? The Deity seemed to be aiming the question toward Tajj. When all of the gods answered The Sanctified Deity with silence, he poised another question. Tajj, we talked long and hard over what information to reveal to Augur. Did you tell him anything I didnt authorize?
No, was the response, and it was clear that Tajj was truthful. You know the nature of creatures infected by the Lavae Gene Influence every bit as much as I do. Theyre volatile and impulsive, they allow their emotions to control them, and they think with an unpredictable logic that defies conventional thinking. Its my best guess that his mind became clouded, and he told this girl because he either wanted to, or he thought it was the right thing to do.
Alright, that was the answer I was both expecting and hoping for, The Deity replied. Which brings me to my next question: What went wrong with the Nues?
Well, the Nues were designed to exert a neurological impulse through the use of Tajjs elemental magic, answered the red god, Vulcan. Each Nu receives a current of energy being fed to them directly from the lavos hiding deep within the planet Earth. That way, through the computers stationed in each of the Afterlives, we can give commands to them. So instead of the lavos having a direct control on the lives of the humans, we can be the ones who are controlling their minds.
I know how the Nues work, Vulcan, The Deity complained to the red god.
The reason why the plan failed is rooted somewhere in the design of the Nu, the yellow god, Caliph, explained. The first possibility is a glitch in the computer system, which could have caused the Nues to overlook something. Or, the more likely event was that a command was input wrong or not researched thoroughly enough before implemented.
There is a possibility that doesnt involve the computers, as well, the blue god, Naiad, offered. We all know the goal of the Nues was to control the minds of the people of Zeal so that Augurs actions wouldnt sway anything in history, making sure that he could operate without having to worry about the time travel consequences. Unfortunately, when we implemented the system, some werent affected by the mind control devises for some reason. This damned girl he talked to was one of them. In other words, an unrestrained integer has caused the problem.
The green god, Siddhara, offered his view next. Another thing is that Augur is dead, and there are problems with his genetic wiring because he using his soul for his second body. Basically, we are unable to tap into his head, and that leaves him free to do whatever he wants.
Alright, The Deity interjected. Ive heard enough about the possible reasons for this screw up. Whats being done, and what can be done to correct the mistake?
The orange god, Rajah, had an answer ready. We are currently using the computers to calculate all possible deviations in the Chronolosis Effect. We have already installed a system to remove the unacceptable endings. Very soon we will be able to find a course that will allow the timeline to continue with the least possible damage to their space-time continuum, and we will program the Nues to ensure that the plan goes as arranged.
Before you go and ask again about permanent damages, the answer is that some are virtually inevitable, Erebus, the purple god concluded. But the space-time is and will be stable. Even though the timestream is branching out into new alternate dimensions, we should be able to influence many of them at the same time and cause them to follow a convergent path. If we play our cards right, we can make the dimensions that are spiraling out of control do a complete one-eighty and end up at the means that we want. In other words, even if we dont act in time, we can still dictate the situation. There is no need to panic; we have the situation under control.
As the plot thickens, the bloodlines run deeper, The Sanctified Deity grumbled.
Kietu Sarai Omias Zuv Dora Flios Veeroi Hazyr Tajj declared, reciting the aphorism of the gods. Quickly translating, although unnecessary, he added, The consequence of aspiration is the extinction of contentment.
Indeed, The Deity responded. Perhaps we need to once again rethink our ideals. We should all keep in mind that the actions of our good intentions could be the birth of more ruin. Its happened to us many times already.
Yeah, Tajj reflected. Who would have thought our attempt to obliterate the Tesseract and restore the Sea of Zurvan could go so terribly wrong? I never imagined that through the pursuit of our ideologies, we could tear down so much.
Kingdom of Zeal
Seraph was lost. She didnt know what to think about Augurs story, but that was to be expected. Somewhat shaken, she asked, So thats what happened to you? Augur slowly nodded in hesitation to answer. Seraph looked toward the ground, subconsciously not wanting to believe it. Dear God, she gasped, trying to retain her stature. Despite her best efforts, she grew steadily more frantic with her sentences. Its impossible, to think that all this has been going on for years, that our lives are on the verge of such inevitable destruction, that everything we believe in has been a lie! Near the end of her statement, the volume of the voice was nearly a panicked scream. Thats all its ever been, Augur! The whole world is nothing more than goddamn deception!
Seraph collapsed to hands and knees as she finished her ranting, hair becoming disheveled and tears of distress flooding her eyes. Her sobs were piercing to the nighttime sky, full of violence and depression. Seraph had reached a level of hopelessness unknown to her, and she pounded the ground out of spite for the world that had deceived her. What can we do, Augur? What are you going to do?
Augur held up his index finger to his lip, Shh its alright, Seraph. Calm down, he said comfortingly, although his encouragement fell on deaf ears.
NO, I WONT ACCEPT IT! Seraph screamed. This is my world, and this is my home! I wont I wont allow it to die...
Neither will I, Seraph, Augur reassured, Thats why I chose to come back. I decided that I couldnt sit back and watch knowingly while everyone and everything I hold dear was obliterated by such pure evil. I came back because I wouldnt allow it to happen without a fight.
But what can you do? Seraph questioned. Whats so special about you? What allows you to change history?
Seraph, I have information needed to prevent the Chrono Shift disaster that no one else has. I can be at the right place at the right time, and since I exist outside the timestream, I have the ability to influence it. And, Augur paused briefly so he could emphasize his point, Im going to take you with me.
What? Seraph cried.
Youre every bit as concerned with this as I am, Augur explained. I can tell that you want to do something. I can see it inside you. Im telling you right now, Seraph, you have just as much power to change the world as I do. Now that you know the truth, you are no longer bound by fate.
Seraph began to calm down, still trying to grasp the enormity of the situation. What about our safety? Isnt Lavos going to destroy Zeal at the start of the millennium?
No, Augur replied. Not immediately, anyway. My sources tell me itll be weeks, possibly months into the year before Lavos attacks. Thats why I think we should forget about the whole thing for now.
And do what? Seraph inquired.
Why spoil a perfect night? Augur asked. Why not go back to the ball and have a great time? Come on, the nights still young. Ill walk you back inside. Seraph sniffled once or twice and proceeded to wipe the moisture off her face. Then she smiled and agreed wholeheartedly. Augur wrapped his arm around Seraphs shoulders and led her back toward the palace. Seraph, for reason unbeknownst to her, gleamed with contentment, for at the time, as she took comfort in the hospitality of Augurs arms, she felt truly home.
Inside the ballroom, the Millennial Dance continued without notice of the absence of Augur and Seraph. When they returned, the ceiling and walls were covered in a silhouette of rich forest imagery, with the towering trees hanging their branches over the heads of the crowd and the golden rays of the sun stabbing through the holes in the leaves. The orchestra continued the play of the seemingly eternal song that had started well over two hours ago. Augur led Seraph back into the ballroom by the hand, and moved immediately back into the motion of a slow dance. Seraph allowed herself to be comforted, and Augur enjoyed giving the comfort.
With one hand on the small of Seraphs back and the other intertwined with her hand, Augur swung back and forth around the floor of the vast room. Although they had missed a good portion of the event, there was well over a half hour of dance time left. Seraph and Augur both wished they could forget the recent event outside the walls of the city, but their thoughts kept drifting away from the societal. It would have been easy to forget any problems in the magnificence of the event, but this one had been too big to put out of mind.
Weve got to tell Candor, Augur reasoned. As long as Im taking you along with me, I might as well take her along.
Seraph smiled instinctively, Itd be nice to have her with us, she said. Where is she?
Augur shrugged his shoulders and began to look around. Seraph mimicked his actions. When they could not find her in proximity, they moved around the dance floor while still keeping in rhythm to the beat of the music. It took some extensive searching, but Seraphs keen eyes eventually caught a glimpse of her mingling with her own date.
Augur, over there! Seraph shouted eccentrically. Isnt that her in the light blue dress? Augur looked over in the direction that Seraph had indicated with the turning of her head.
Yeah, that looks like the dress she was wearing when she took off for dinner with some guy. Id say thats her. Augur was fumbling around in a restrained effort to get a closer look at Candors date, but he had his back turned to him. The garbs looked of royal descent, although he didnt know that anyone with a high-ranking job in Zeal had an eye for her. Augur got more than he bargained for when the man turned his head in the general direction of him. His hair was a long, dark brown, and his faced appeared somewhat scarred. There was one particular feature that struck Augur as chilling: a black eye patch covering a large portion of the left side of his face.
Well, Seraph, I know who Candors date is. Unfortunately, he kind of wants to kill me because I removed his eyeball from its socket in a brawl while I was breaking out of prison about eight years ago.
Wait, Candors date is
Augur nodded quickly, Yup, Dalton. I have no idea what shes doing with him, or how were ever going to talk with her while hes around. I know he thinks Im dead and all, but hed still recognize my face anywhere.
Isnt Dalton supposed to be a real prick? Seraph asked. What the hell did he do to get Candor to go out with him?
Augur shrugged, but was deliberately using the hand on Seraphs hip to push her away from the area. Seraph got the message, and reallocated willingly. Well talk about what to do with Candor later, Augur decided. Right now, lets just do what I suggested earlier, and just try to enjoy the rest of the night. Seraph acknowledged the idea positively.
Hey, Augur! Seraph exclaimed. Look off to the side of Dalton. You see that woman in the rich purplish attire?
Yeah, what about her? Augur asked.
I think thats the princess. Yeah, thats Schala! I cant believe Im actually looking at the royal princess! Seraph shouted. You ever seen her before?
Augur shook his head, Nope. I wonder where her date is. Youd think Princess Zeal could find a date for an event like tonight. After pausing in thought temporarily, he added, I suppose its really none of our business. Come on, lets get back to dancing.
The symphony orchestra began a portion of music that could only be described as a brilliant barrage of various pieces, and everything appeared to be nearing an ending. Even the imagery displayed by the magical effects being projected across the room hinted at this, in part by changing to more and more spectacular manifestations each passing minute. The scenery moved from an elegant ice temple to an expansive panorama of an ocean sunset, and eventually to a full moon in the sky above the sea, complete with a gentle mist filling the room.
You know, Seraph, Augur pronounced, Soon itll be midnight and the dancell be over. After that, itll be the new year. Theres a New Years tradition that you have to kiss someone when the clock strikes midnight. Augur finished his thought by grinning devilishly. Seraph was immediately surprised, even though she knew full well of the custom. If anything, she was extremely nervous about taking this step in a relationship, but was also timidly excited to do it. As if it were a natural reaction, she instantly raised the corners of her lips to respond, signaling a welcome to Augur.
The mellow screech of violins collided with skillful flute playing, and the musical finale began with an unbelievable instrumental. The imagery on the ceiling quickly changed to another firework display, although more spectacular than any of the ones before. Sound effects of the explosions rippled throughout the dome of the room, nearly drowning out the sound of the orchestra. The crowd erupted into a string of wild and gleeful cheers, and the intensifying light show lit up the room. Flashes turned the surrounding area from a dark shadowy demonstration to a sparkling luminary of glowing radiance. The room became brighter than any daylight anyone had ever seen, and the explosions came more and more frequently. The musical riff instantly reached an unprecedented height, and a few seconds later, dropped off into instant silence. The room was left with the dazzling fireworks to gawk at, and the detonations rang like gunshots, coming at a rapid rate. They were slow close together that they were nearly distinguishable from one another, and they rang out of every crevice of the dance floor. Somewhere, beneath the sounds of the rapid reports, the sound of a bell could be heard, and midnight had arrived.
As the detonations continued to grow more intense, couples surrounding Augur and Seraph began carrying out the New Years tradition. Seraph looked immediately into Augurs eyes, as if she was trying to read his soul. Augur once again found himself staring into Seraph, becoming lost within her gaze. The sapphire in her eyes reached out to him, and Augur felt his heart begin to race.
Seraph could resist her urge no longer, and stopped restraining herself. She let go of Augurs hand and wrapped her arms around the back of his neck. Augur placed both his hands below the midsection of Seraph, barely above the back of her hipbones. Augur pulled Seraphs waistline toward him slowly, and Seraph drew Augurs face nearer with her own hands. Seraph felt as if her heart were about to explode and jump out of her chest, and the exhilaration drew her nearer still to her date. The blood coursed through the veins of her body, and she could feel herself trembling with weakness.
Augur and Seraph allowed their bodies to contact each other. Soon after, Augur slowly moved his hands off her hipline and slid them upward along her body until the dress ended in the middle of her back. Augur continued to guide his hands upward when he reached the bare skin, and then proceeded to move them under Seraphs arms, where he caressed the backside of her shoulders.
While Augur massaged her, Seraph brought her hands off of his neck and onto the side of his head. She held his cheeks in her grasp gently, feeling his smooth jawline, and slowly pulled his face toward her own. She mechanically opened her soft, reddish lips slightly, as if inviting Augur. Augur was happy to oblige.
Augur closed his eyes only a second after Seraph had closed hers. Seraphs hands guided Augurs lips onto hers, and the kiss began subtly. At the time it was nothing more than a gentle smooch, but Augur continued to press the brim of his mouth onto Seraph. Seraph began breathing heavily through her nose, because her other option was occupied. The respiration became so intense that she had to force the air in and out of her lungs. Seraph dropped her hands to the back of Augurs head, and held him in tighter.
Augur pressed his hands upon Seraphs shoulders, and held her tightly. He did everything in his power to bring her even nearer to him. He could barely control his desire to take the kiss further. All Augur dreamed of doing at this moment was being able to love this girl.
Seraphs lips partially departed Augurs for a brief second, in which both of them gasped violently for air. After a quick breath, Augur placed his mouth back upon Seraph. Their noses rubbed gently against each other as the kiss intensified, and soon Augur could taste Seraphs lipstick upon his tongue. With each passing second, Seraph allowed herself to become more and more open to Augur.
Augur was now holding Seraph so tightly that she would have normally been cringing in pain, but at this moment it did not feel agonizing. On the contrary, Seraph held him back just as intimately. The fact that her bosom was pressed firmly against Augurs chest only excited her more. Augur also felt this, and had the same reaction.
Augur withdrew temporarily from Seraph and tilted his head downward. He placed his mouth upon Seraphs lower lip and kissed it. He moved around the ring of her lip clockwise, kissing the corners of her mouth individually. Seraph attempted to do the same, although could not quite do so effectively. Shortly after, however, Augur retreated to the original position and his mouth met hers squarely.
Augur continued giving Seraph individual smooches for a few more seconds, before the detonations of the fireworks, which had become nothing more than background noise during the intimate kiss, abruptly came to a halt. As the crowd erupted in a giant uproar of applause and cheers, Augur withdrew from Seraphs mouth. Seraph, not wanting the tender kiss to end, leaned her head forward for the purpose of having her lips on him for a fraction of a second longer. Shortly after, their bodies separated, and their hands defaulted off of each other. Augur and Seraph were left facing each other, with their eyes entwined and their hands interlocking between them.
Seraph had a burning desire to lean over and kiss him again, and she knew that Augur was feeling the same thing. Neither of them made the move, however, and they simply observed each other impatiently until the crowd around them began filing out the doors of the ballroom. The Millennial Ball had concluded, and a new millennium had begun. Augur and Seraph were soon filtering themselves out of the room like the rest of the mob, his hand wrapped around her back and hers resting on his opposite shoulder. They walked like this until they had reached the hallway that led to the Blackbird. Augur and Seraph managed to get on the plane for the first trip back to Enhasa, and fifteen minutes into the new year, they were outside the city walls.
Augur and Seraph sat alone outside the temporary docking bay, as they were the only ones who did not immediately rush out of the cold. Inside Enhasa, as well as in Kajar and Zeal Palace, there would be a post-party party. This complicated the search for Candor exponentially. The hope of Augur would be that Candor would exit into Enhasa during one of the Blackbird flights, which would continue until midmorning the next day. If Candor did not get off of one of the next trips, it was likely that she had stayed with Dalton in the palace to party.
Augur cringed at the thought of Dalton and Candor together. The chances of finding her before the end of the night were falling along with the outside temperature. Augur maintained the heat barrier around him and his date, to avoid the chills.
You know, the last time I was outside in the middle of the night like this, I watched King Zeal get consumed by the evil of Lavos before he killed himself by jumping off a cliff, Augur recalled to Seraph. After that, I had to break out of prison and I almost killed Dalton while escaping. Kinda ironic, if you ask me.
Seraph smiled, giggling girlishly. It was good to get her mind off what had been plaguing her for the last couple hours. Seraph felt as if she never had a purpose in life until tonight, but now she knew her place in the world. You were right, Augur, Seraph admitted. Im glad we went back into the dance. I had a really good time tonight.
Augur smiled in her direction, and asked, What was the best part of the night for you? As Augur had predicted, and hoped for, Seraphs cheeks were turning reddish. She knew she was blushing, although she couldnt control it. Augur pressed his question harder. Well? he demanded.
Im pretty sure you know the answer to that, Seraph admitted embarrassingly.
Wanna do it again? Augur inquired devilishly. He alreadly knew the answer, but was unsure if her chronic shyness would prevail again. To his surprise, Seraph reacted by leaning over and pecking him on the cheek. Following this action, they were once again locked in the embrace of their arms, and of another kiss.
The engines of the descending Blackbird abruptly interrupted them, and the two teenagers once again attempted to find Candor. Once again, their attempt ended in failure. Candor was likely either at the post-dance party in the palace, or between the sheets in Daltons bedroom, a scenario neither of them wished to think too much about.
Well, Seraph, there is a slight possibility that Candor would bring Dalton back to her place, so I really dont want to be around if that happens. Im sure your parents wouldnt favor me staying at your house overnight. That means either we freeze our asses off in the cold, or we go inside and join the Enhasa New Years Party, Augur reasoned.
Seraph thought for a moment. I seriously doubt Candor would bring Dalton back to her place. He has too big of an ego not to show off his pad. Either way, I do want to go to that party.
Augur watched as the last of the second crowd exiting the Blackbird shuffled through the city gates of Enhasa. Hold on, Seraph. Before we go inside, theres something that Ive always wanted to do, but I dont want to do it here in front of all these people. Augur smiled deviously, and Seraph, not quite sure what he had in mind, decided out of her curiosity to go along with his idea.
Alright, Augur, what do you have in mind? she asked.
Come around to the backside of the building and Ill show you, Augur hinted.
YEE-HAH!!! Augur cried at the top of his lungs as he swiveled his hips. Oh yeah, baby! Keep going!
Seraph stood about twenty feet back with her arms crossed, watching disgustedly while Augur urinated off the cliff of the floating island. Gee, Seraph, why spoil a perfect night? Seraph protested diligently, quoting Augurs words from earlier in the night sarcastically to show her displeasure.
Im sorry, Augur apologized, But its a guy thing. If you have a chance to piss off of a cliff, you do it. I figure I wont have to many more chances to do it.
Thats not what bothers me, Augur. What bothers me is that you decided to do it tonight, in front of me. At the very least, you could have asked for some time alone to do your business.
Sorry, again, Seraph. Ill make it up to you, Augur promised. I just had to experience the thrill. Good thing the wind was blowing outward.
Seraph shook her head. Can we go inside to the party now? Im pretty damn close to calling it a night and going home.
No, lets go to the party. Itll probably be winding down about six or seven in the morning, so that gives us a few good hours, if not more, Augur predicted. After that, Ill walk you home, and tomorrow we can talk about our departure plans.
Im not so sure I want to go anymore, Augur, Seraph complained. Now, Im seriously considering staying here and dying a horrible death and letting the whole world end instead. Augur laughed at her frustrated sarcasm.
Seraph, dying isnt as bad as its made up to be. You experience some incredible things on the ride over to the Afterlives, Augur told his date as they walked along the path that would lead them back to the front of Enhasa.
Augur, how did you die? Seraph asked. I mean, I know you were murdered in the Earthbound Caves and all, but how did that man kill you?
Well, essentially, I was gutted with a knife as if I were a fish for some hungry sailor to eat, Augur joked, but soon became somberly serious. He stabbed me with the blade in the stomach, then he turned it and cut through my skin. He dragged the blade all the way up through my sternum, and cut my chest open between my ribcage. It hurt horribly, Seraph. I doubled over in pain, and all I remember was my hands being soaked with the feeling of the warm, sticky blood. I remember I held my hands to my chest, and I felt the bone of one of my ribs sticking out of the flesh. I got real scared then, Seraph. I didnt know what to expect. After that, I felt the blade on the shoulder, but didnt pay much attention until it dug into the side of my neck. He cut my face, too, but I didnt even feel that. I felt the blood in my neck seep down my throat, and I couldnt breath. I gasped for breath, and I was getting confused. I tried to swallow all the blood so I could breath, but more and more poured out. I gagged on the blood, and coughed and wheezed and choked, and all I did was vomit the blood back out. There was too much of it, and I just swallowed it again. I was covered in the stuff from head to toe. If youve ever gone swimming, Seraph, it was kinda like that. I was drowning in a pool of thick red goo and liquidy flesh. After that, he cut me again. This time he cut me all the way down my back, and I started feeling cold and prickly. Everything just blurred together like some bad dream. Thats the last thing I remembered before I knew that I was actually dead.
Augur finished his description with a quivering voice, and nearly beside himself with tears. He managed to keep the water in the general areas of his eyes, so as not to show weakness to Seraph, but the memories were extremely painful.
What was the worst part? Seraph asked, attempting to comfort him in some way. This was the second time tonight Augur had opened up to her in this way.
Just the uncertainty of it all, Augur sniffled, returning slowly to his normal self. I didnt know what to expect; didnt know what was next.
Come on Augur, were almost at the party, Seraph informed Augur. You need to get some booze into you, and youll feel better.
Coincidentally, the first thing Augur did when they reached the party was head for the refreshments area, where he alternated between mixed drinks, shots of cheap whisky, and gin and tonics on ice. Seraph was reluctant to try alcohol, but Augur eventually talked her into it. Not much partying was actually done by the two, they simply sat and talked and sampled the different forms of liquor. Seraph had been extremely conservative, having only a few drinks during the course of the party, and watching as Augur abused his liver, although she wasnt sure if the booze would affect his liver at all. At the end of the night, as the bar was closing, Augur offered to walk Seraph home. It actually happened the other way around. Augur had to be guided all the way into his bed after staggering through the streets. He then reasoned, in his drunken stupor Why spoil a perfect night? as long as he and Seraph were right there. Seraph ignored the comments, and walked home alone. Augur had passed out before Seraph had even shut the door.
The next day, Candor returned in the late afternoon, still wearing the dress she had worn to the Millennial Ball the previous night, although it was extremely tattered, with tears in several places and an overall disheveled appearance. Her hair was a complete mess and the headdress she had worn to the dance was missing. All this was convicting evidence of what had gone on during the last twenty-four hours. Augur knew that it would do Candor good to get laid, but he wished she had picked a better partner to do it with. Regardless of his disagreement with Candors choice, he knew it was time to tell her the whole story about his death. Soon, she would know everything he and Seraph did, and her world would also change, much to the dismay of the gods.
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