Chrono Shift Chapter 15, Part 1
Opposite The Zenith
Augur led Candor and Seraph to the ledge of North Cape, where Magus silently gazed out to sea, cape flapping discreetly in the moist maritime breezes. When Augur had nearly reached him, Magus turned to face him, aware of his appearance even though Augur had made no indication of his presence. I didnt know you wished to bring some acquaintances along on the journey, Magus admitted. Hell, I didnt even figure you would have friends.
If you must know, theyre even better with magic than I am, Augur answered.
Interesting, Magus mumbled. Then perhaps, I should take them instead of you, and they can be the ones who share the treasure.
We go together, Seraph reaffirmed to the mage.
Whatever you wish. Its really none of my concern, Magus confronted. But, I suppose at some point, I should learn your names. This is, after all, our second time meeting.
Im Candor, the elder of the three introduced. The girl is Seraph, and the boy is Augur, she said. I presume that youre Magus.
It really doesnt matter who I am. Im not starting this relationship because Im lonely, Magus reminded the three. Hm. Yes, I remember your name, woman. I heard it in the palace from time to time when I was a child.
Huh? The cry was collective among the group.
Im wasting time Magus thought aloud. Anyway, Im sure the punk with the strange hair has informed you of what this is all about, he assumed, referring his insult to Augur. Much to the surprise of the warlock, the two females were oblivious to the purpose of the mission. Jesus Christ, hellll have frozen over by the time we get outta here! After a frustrated sigh, he added, Anyway, were all going to the bottom of the sea to retrieve an artifact hidden somewhere in the sunken Black Omen.
Augur, where do you find these guys? Seraph whispered. Magus gave her a look, overhearing the remark. Seraph shied away quietly.
Sorry to disappoint you, Girl, but Im not insane. Unfortunately, we wont have time to deal with the issue of your hollow skull. Magus insulted. I do have credible contacts. I received this information directly from Doreen, which is about as trustworthy of a source as there is. Shes agreed to guide me to the exact coordinates of the sunken Black Omen. Admittedly, itll be pretty freaking hard to navigate our way there when all we can see are dark storm clouds and choppy waters. But luckily, Doreen has promised me a windstorm that will guide us directly to the location.
How is a windstorm going to help us? Augur inquired.
Do any of you think its possible to teleport across the ocean, especially when you cant differentiate from your target and every other square inch of water in the world? Magus waited for an answer, but was greeted with silence. Didnt think so. That leaves us with the alternative of making the journey the long way.
Whats the long way? Candor inquired.
Magus snickered under his breath. Levitation. Were going to float in the air, and let the windstorm carry us to the exact location. Wed never find this place without the help of Doreen.
I guess that explains why you need strong magic users, Seraph commented. Just how far away are the ruins of the Black Omen?
Magus hesitated. Miles, he finally stated. Maybe scores of them.
Wow, Augur snarled. Not your average wild goose chase.
Once we are over the targeted site, were going to try a spell so ambitious, its never even been considered before, the mage explained. Its really quite complex. We cant very well swim to the bottom of the ocean, so we need to take another approach. We need to create magnetic ionization shields away from our body, repelling everything except the air we breathe. We then drop into the water, and the sea should be pushed away from the ionized fields on all directions. If it works, well fall straight into the ocean without even getting wet.
Magus paused to be sure his subordinates understood the concept thus far. When he saw that they did, he went on. Once we drop into the water, it will be a literal freefall. With the magnetic field surrounding you, the properties of water wont touch us. Therefore, we wont float. Therell be no buoyancy, no pressures will be pushing us toward the surface or restraining our movement.
Augur, Candor, and Seraph were becoming intrigued. If were lucky, well drop right onto the top of the former Ocean Palace, Magus declared. If we miss, well freefall to the ocean floor. If youve ever thrown an apple against the wall as hard as you can, well, the same thing will happen to your body when it hits. Should we be lucky enough to land on the hull of the Omen, well have a lot of work to do.
As you descend into the ocean, you need to take special care to maintain the dimensions of the air bubble. Keep that in mind, because Im emphasizing these air bubbles for a very specific reason, Magus explained. The vast majority of the oxygen youll thatll surround your bodies will not be used for breathing. Theyll be used for combustion.
Huh? Augur questioned. The two girls were also looking somewhat confused. What do you mean by combustion?
Well be creating massive fire reaction, generating enough heat to melt through the hull of the sunken Omen, the warlock said, somewhat annoyed with the constant interruptions. The fire requires oxygen to burn, so most of the air in your magnetic shields will be used to keep the heat levels high enough to create a molten hole. This is why the magnetic bubbles have to be very large. If there isnt enough air, the oxygen will be sucked out of your protective sphere, and youll suffocate on the poisonous gases that are created from the reaction. Magus was becoming monotonous, bored with the tedious explanation. He hated going into extreme detail about things, but he didnt become a great warlord, and commander of the Mystic Armies, by allowing his pawns to misunderstand their missions. Everything had to be run down to the smallest detail, and if they werent, lives would be lost.
After his short recess, he continued. The bubbles of air must be maintained throughout the duration of the creation of the holes, with the edges of the magnetic field pushing against the hull so that no water seeps in. Its kinda hard to start a fire with the sea drowning out the flames. If, by some twisted act of fate, we do manage to make it inside the Ocean Palace, we still have a problem. Mainly, the ocean water would come rushing in through the hole in the outer shell as soon as we released the magnetic field. This means we have to maintain the shield once we drop inside so that the liquid surrounding us doesnt crash in on us.
Impossible! Seraph gasped. Well be enduring hours of continuous magic use. Well all pass out from fatigue.
Take it or leave it, Girl. This aint your typical walk in the park, Magus retorted. But you bring up a good point. If we have to keep the water out of the Ocean Palace, we wont be able to maintain the barrier while we work our way through the rest of the palace over the next few hours. Thats why, after we are inside, while the ocean is still sealed out, we have to close off our entry point. Well have to re-melt the areas of metal around the mouth of the hole, welding the piece of hull back together.
Hold on a second, Old Timer, Augur insulted. This thing has been destroyed twice. Shouldnt there be holes all over the damned hull? Shouldnt the Omen already be flooded? This doesnt have any logic to it!
Youre a waste of flesh, Augur, Magus growled. Lavos single-handedly restored the Palace after it had been destroyed, when he created the Black Omen. When it sunk, it didnt fall apart. It just dropped to the ocean floor unscathed. Therefore, the entire hull should be intact, and there should be no flooding as of now.
Therell be a hell of a lot less metal to reseal the hole than when we opened it, Augur pressed the magician again. Wouldnt all the steel that we melted drip down onto the floor?
Youre pretty smart for a new recruit, Magus sarcastically spat, becoming further irritated by the questions. If you had any brains in your head, youd be careful not to fall on that molten steel when you enter. As for the hull itself, its quite thick. When the hole is sealed, there will be areas on the shell that are less than half the original width, but still well more than we need to hold out the sea.
So just how much air do we need inside these magnetic shield things? Candor asked, concerned. To Magus, it was a question that would actually be relevant, a relief after he had been bombarded with what he considered a barrage of idiocy.
I cant give you dimensions, or any kind of numbers for that matter, Magus regretfully admitted. Id simply take as much as I can hold. Once we get inside the Omen, however, we can just use the air trapped within the chambers to burn the metal back into its proper place. He waited for another question, realizing now that he was running well behind schedule. When none came, he asked one of his own. Are you all armed?
Augur nodded. Wed be stupid not to have weapons, wouldnt we?
Let me see what you got, the warlock commanded. Augur immediately unsheathed his pair of dreamstone-encrusted rapiers, relatively clean from their lack of use. Seraph withdrew her longbow, which had been a present kept secret for so many years because of the tight, and often times sexist Zealian weapons regulations. Candor pulled a white, stone rod from her robes. The staff was hand-carved, with the heads of eagles decorating the weapon, delicately engraved into the arcs and grooves of the relic.
You! Candor, right? The middle aged woman responded to Magus with a nod. That looks more like a rich mans walking cane than a weapon.
Its more of a defensive thing, Candor shrewdly remarked.
Is that it? Its impossible to win a battle without striking, Maguss voice resonated like that of a military officer.
Its got magic stored in it, Candor defended. Besides, if nothing else, its good for clubbing people with.
Youd do yourself good to stay out of battle, Magus suggested. Still, I know from first hand experience that mystical staves can do some damage if theyre used right.
The warlock sighed quickly before moving on to Seraph. Ah, now this is a real weapon. Very sturdy arc! the man in the dark robes complimented, still inspecting the shape of the longbow. Can I see what kind of arrows youre using?
Seraph quietly pulled one out of the quiver on her back. Here, she complied apprehensively.
Hmm, Magus examined. The body of the arrow itself is a little on the light side, and its weaker than it should be. The head needs to be made of a heavier, sturdier metal with a better piercing ability. He silently handed the arrow back to Seraph, who returned it to its quiver.
Magus then moved on to Augur. Now this might be a problem, he began. What the hell good are short-swords? You cant get the reach you need in a sword fight, and youll be taken down swiftly.
Theres a reason why I use two of them, Augur sternly defied. Hard to block blades coming at you from both sides.
When you happen to lose one of them in the heat of a battle, youll be in serious trouble, Magus explained. But what do I know about fighting? I was only a member of the squadron that defeated Lavos, and general of the largest army of Mystics ever to exist, He quickly grumbled to himself for a moment, before concluding, Theyll have to do. Im sick of sitting around, wasting my breath with mindless small talk. You guys all ready to go?
Yes, Sir, General of the Mystic Army, Sir! Augur sarcastically reported.
Then lets shove off! Magus commanded. He knew that he was going to have some serious issues with this Augur kid.
The weather over the ocean was predictably stormy, and this was especially true today because of the violent gales created by Doreen to lead the group toward their destination. Billowing black thunderheads rolled through the sky, pushed by the ceaseless winds, with occasional flashes erupting from the inside, accompanied by the low drumming of thunder. It had begun to rain, and the falling water was particularly cold on that day, worsened by the unrelenting gusts. It got so bad, in fact, that everyone had to struggle just to keep from freezing. The waves below their suspended position in the atmosphere rose and fell in rhythm, the large white caps collapsing on one another and flowing across the sea with the storm.
No one was getting tired, or at least it didnt appear so to Magus. His own levitation spell was holding firm, and his three new acquaintances hadnt slowed him down at all, as he had expected they might. No, their skill with magic was every bit as good as was rumored to be, but still nowhere near his own. It would be interesting to see how they deteriorated as the mission went on.
The journey was anything but pleasant, and constant shivering was done by all. The rain had soaked their clothes thoroughly, and the garbs gained considerable weight from the water. Candor and Seraph had it far worse, as their traditional Zealian dresses uncomfortably clung to their legs, giving them heavy restrictions on movement. Perhaps, however, they were more concerned about the amount of filth in the raindrops falling upon their heads.
They had no way of telling how long they spent hovering in the air as Doreens winds pushed them forward, nor did they know how far they had come. No sunlight came through the ever-thickening layers of cloud cover, and they had no landmarks to navigate by. All of them knew that they had more or less signed their lives away by taking this mission. If, by chance, they succeeded, they had no idea of how they would return to the mainland.
Eventually, a break occurred in the thick of the thunderheads to the far side of the horizon. By this time, the sky had become pitch black from the dark of the night, and the ocean became equally dreary and murky. Augur, Seraph, and Candor simply took it as a break in the constant assault from nature. Magus took it differently, thinking that either the desired location was just ahead, or Doreen had simply given up on them, realizing that she had nothing to gain from the efforts and that their bodies would never be found.
It took much longer than expected, nearly a half an hour, to reach the clearing that seemed so close to Maguss grasp. The whistling of the wind gradually decreased during this time, and his paled blue hair had been flapping up against his even paler face much less frequently. The clouds became thinner over time, and the ocean below allowed its violent waves to return to a gentle rolling. More time passed, and the gusts continued to falter in their strength until they halted completely. The moons and stars had broken free of their cloudy blankets, and were shining brightly in the sky. Though the weather had cleared in their current location, Lightning bolts were still crashing against the ocean not far away, the strikes boiling the water with their ferocity.
Magus, who had been in the lead during the entire ordeal, turned back and floated toward his partners. Augur, Candor, and Seraph were all mentally worn down from the storm, seeming somewhat depressed from the entire experience, but had withstood the physical tests of the mission without wavering. Still, the more strenuous part was yet to come.
This must be the place, Magus said to Augur and his friends, who had just finished gliding to meet him. If it isnt, then my time has finally come.
I really dont want to think too much about sleeping with the fishes, Augur nervously joked.
What now? Seraph impatiently demanded.
Time for the magnetic ionization shields, Magus commanded in a thundering voice. It was a habit of his to scream when he issued orders, one that dated back to the days as a military general. Remember, take as much air with you as you can. If you dont have enough, youll asphyxiate from the fumes.
Yeah, um, Magus? Augur started. I think Ive got mine up, but, ahh, well, how do I know for sure?
Well, if your air shield is on correctly, youll fall right through the water when you hit the ocean, Magus sternly replied.
And if it turns out that it isnt on correctly? Augur further pressed.
Then I would learn to swim very fast, Magus answered. He was silent for a second after that, and then closed his eyes and held his arms out sideways. You cant hide from the reaper when youre staring him in the face
A shrill gust of wind picked up just then, and his cape flapped forward, the dark cloth clinging tightly to his uniform. His hair was also blown forward, the long, scraggly strands wrapping around his whitish face while the cold wind howled through them. With Augur, Seraph, and Candor watching his somewhat odd behavior, Magus dispelled his levitation magic, and swiftly dropped from his position in the sky. The atmosphere was cruel to his body, twisting and contorting him in the air, all while his cloak flapped behind him.
When it looked as if Magus was ready to hit the surface of the water, the water shifted strangely. A concave indent appeared in the ocean, pushing it away from an area surrounding the body of the mystic. The gap in the ocean looked similar to the underside of the lens used in a telescope, and the displacement of the water kept growing. Magus fell below sea level, and, all of a sudden, water began filling in where his body had been. The ocean rushed into the gap, swallowing the air bubble like some kind of monster, and the wizard was gone.
Augur looked his friends in the eyes, first Seraph, then Candor. They both carried the same look of astonishment and uncertainty. Well, what the hell? As long as were here
Augur allowed himself to begin falling, feeling his body being ravaged by the weather, the same that had happened with Magus. It took him a long while before he could see well enough to tell what was actually happening. Staring downward, he could see the fast approaching sea becoming larger. Checking behind him, he noticed that Seraph and Candor had decided to follow him, and were experiencing the same difficulties with the freefall as he was. Candors skirt had comically been blown over her head, effectively blinding her, and giving Augur a good view of her undergarments. Seraph screamed uncontrollably. All three of them undoubtedly felt the same combination of fear and exhilaration that came along with dropping from the sky at incredible speeds. The difference in gravity that resulted did strange things to their stomachs, making them somewhat nauseous, but mostly thrilled and fearful. The biggest discomfort was the cold air flying past their faces, stinging them with a relentless chill.
Augur had been the first of the three to fall, and therefore, was the first to reach the ocean. To him, it seemed as if the entire sea had opened up to allow him in. It became plainly obvious that his magnetic shield had worked, as it was now repelling the water effectively. There was a wall of ocean surrounding him on all sides, with a floor of the seawater completing the bottom part of the sphere. Looking up, Augur saw the light of the sky in the form of a circle, where the ionized shield was still repelling the water. This circle quickly collapsed upon itself as Augur sunk deeper into the sea, and the nighttime moonlight was no longer visible.
Outside of the dark blue color of the ocean surrounding him on all sides from several feet away, Augur could not see much of anything. Occasionally a fish, or some other mystery of the deep would swim close enough for him to look at for a brief moment, and a pile of ocean debris, mainly seaweed and dirt, had begun to build up on the bottom of his sphere. Beyond that, there was nothing but a cloudy darkness, one that became worse the farther he fell from the stars in the night. Not having any way to navigate, or even move, for that matter, he prayed to the gods that he would somehow land safely on the Black Omen.
Back near the surface, Seraph took the plunge into the ocean without so much as a splash. The water swallowed her up much the way it had the other two. A second later, while Candor was still fiddling with her dress, trying to get it back in place, she dropped in. At first, all she noticed was a lack of light around her, but when she finally managed to pull the skirt back around her legs, she could only stare at the rushing waters wrapping around what she supposed was her protective magnetic sphere. Candor gasped, unsure of what exactly had happened. She decided after a couple that she was indeed still alive, and that except for her clothing, the mission was a success thus far.
Below, Augur continued to notice the ocean getting darker and darker. Due to the constant tumbling, he had lost his sense of which way was up and which was down. He was becoming rather dizzy, and a little claustrophobic from the event, and was wishing for the event to come to an end soon, even though the ride had been a real trip.
He got his wish, although not in a way he had expected. Augur felt his backside hit something very hard, impacting violently enough to send pain shooting up and down his spine. The air was shot out of his lungs from the blow, and a gasping, Ugh, escaped his lips. As he spent a few seconds catching his breath, Augur heard a sound that, at least at first, seemed very unfamiliar to him. It became clearer as the seconds passed by.
Get the hell off of me, you son of a bitch! The sound was a human voice, and it was coming from below him.
Augur looked around, a bit confused, still trying to piece together what had happened, when the voice cried out again. God-DAMMIT! Kid, you weigh a freakin ton! Now get off me before I kill you! This caused Augur to finally come back to reality, snapping him from his gaze. He looked down, and discovered that when he had fallen, he had landed right on top of Magus.
Hey, thanks for breaking my fall! Augur shouted to the warlock.
Smartass! I dont have the patience for your shit right now! Magus bellowed. Augur finally removed himself from the wizard. Magus picked himself up as well, brushing the dust off his garbs. Well the good news is we managed to land on the Ocean Palace
The bad news? Augur asked.
The bad news is that you broke every goddamned bone in my body! Magus snarled.
Augur and Magus didnt have much time to continue their argument. They were interrupted when the screams of Seraph and Candor were carried through the water and reached the two males. Seraphs body hit the top of the Ocean Palace with the loud thud, and Candors did the same half a second later. Augur looked at Magus, I suppose wed better go find them.
Magus shrugged, Its your call After Augur gave him a grimace, he added, The screams came from that way, while pointing his finger off to the left. The mystic and the teenager took off at a decent paced trot in that direction, being careful so that their boots did not slip on the slick surface of the Black Omen. Unfortunately, they were running blindly, and they had no idea if they were still following the same path they had intended to take.
Candor helped them out with a deafening scream. HELP!!! she cried at the top of her lungs. Magus pointed the direction of the sound out with his finger, before Candor yelled again. Augur, come quick!
After following another minute or so of screams from Candor, they found her kneeling over Seraph. Seraph was lying flat on her back, tightly clenching her dress at the low neckline with her hands. Her face had a distorted look of pain on it. She had her eyes shut tightly and her teeth were grit. She forced the air out of her mouth in short, raspy bursts, and she was whimpering softly.
Candor, bent over Seraph, was tending to her leg, which had obviously been injured during the fall. Shes hurt pretty badly, Candor said when she saw Augur, completely ignoring Magus.
What happened? Augur demanded.
Looks to me like her ankle bone just snapped in half when she landed, Candor predicted. If thats the case, then we cant apply a healing spell to it until the bone is set in place, or itll never grow back right.
Shes in quite a lot of pain, Augur observed. Cant you give her an anesthetic spell or something?
Ive already done that Candor said. It hasnt taken effect yet.
Augur dropped down and put his face close to Seraph. Youll be all right, Seraph, he comforted. Youre gonna be just fine.
Seraph snapped her neck back. DAMN! Augur, it hurts so much! she forced from her mouth, breathing heavily.
Shh, Seraph. Its okay. Here, squeeze my hand instead of your dress, Seraph immediately took Augur up on the offer. Youll be alright, you just have to wait for the sedative to kick in.
Magus, not caring, was becoming impatient. If you folks dont mind, Im going to start putting that hole in the Ocean Palace. We only have so much oxygen to waste.
Candor looked at Augur. Can you stay here with her? I need to help Magus melt that hole in the hull.
Yeah, Ill be over to help when she starts feeling a little less pain, Augur answered. Then, turning to Seraph, he asked, Do you think you still have enough strength to help us with the fire spells?
I I I dont know, Augur, She cried.
Augur, you shouldnt be moving her, anyway, Candor said. Dont move that ankle at all, keep it absolutely still. When she starts feeling a little better from the painkiller, we can figure out what well do. After that, she absconded to help Magus with his work.
Augur looked at Seraph. Im gonna stay right here for as long as I can, Seraph. Im not gonna leave you hanging.
Seraph simply nodded in response. After a second, she managed to allow a soft, Thanks, Augur. Thanks, escape from her lips.
Dont mention it, youd have done the same thing for me, Augur said. Now save your strength. Weve got a lot of mission left.
Magus already had a small pool of molten steel forming in a pit when Candor arrived to assist him. How do you want me to go about doing this? she asked him.
Magus, kneeling on the hull of the Omen, had his palms pointing forward, extended from his outstretched arms. A stream of fire poured from his hands to the outer casing of the Ocean Palace. Just follow my example, he groaned, not wishing to get involved in a conversation.
Candor obeyed, crouching opposite of him, and held out her hands. In a moment or two, her palms became a lightly tinted shade of red, which gradually intensified. Then, a burst of flame shot forward, forming a concentrated pillar of blazing orange flowing to the dark hull. The small pit of molten metal slowly extended outward, and, Candor guessed, deeper into the metallic casing around the Ocean Palace as well. Though she had become slightly fatigued from the use of magic on her journey to the sunken Omen, she didnt allow it to show.
Visibility outside the concentrated air bubble was next to none. Augur was tending to Seraph probably no more than twenty or so yards away, but neither Magus nor Candor could even find the outline of them. Magus, however, didnt care when he didnt see them. He simply kept working on the melting of the hull.
As the molten pool continued to grow in size, the color of the liquid steel began to glow, first an intense yellow, and eventually a brilliant orange. Along with the change in color, noxious fumes began to poor out of the area where the flames were hitting. They were mostly a dark gray in color, pluming outward as they escaped the lava. Candor, not expecting the poisonous gases, coughed and gagged as soon as it entered her system.
Magus, seeing the woman struggle, offered some advice. It came in the form of a cold, stern, Its easier if you dont breath. Still, his own eyes were reddening from the smoke billowing in his direction.
As Candor forced more fire out of her extended hands, she coughed again. I guess this is why you wanted us to bring all that air down with us. Magus, recognizing her tone of voice as one requesting small talk, neglected to answer. He had no personal interest with this woman. If she wanted dialogue with him, then it would have to be something of importance to him. Since this wasnt, he simply kept shooting the fireballs from his hands, and the molten pool continued to grow.
Has the narcotic spell worked at all yet? Augur asked Seraph, sporting a concerned look on his face.
Yeah, Im in a lot less pain right now, She answered, although the look in her eyes didnt exactly convey the same message. Though she could not see it, the ankle had swollen horribly since Augur had first reached her, and had become very tender to the touch.
Seraph, were going to have to move you eventually, otherwise well never get you into the Ocean Palace, Augur reasoned. I mean, Candor told me to keep that ankle absolutely still and everything, but itll have to happen sometime.
Yeah Augur, Im feeling kinda sleepy Seraph softly spoke.
Thats just from the spell Candor cast. Its a pretty normal side effect, Augur comforted, although he wasnt sure if the words he spoke were true.
Never thought Id die here at the bottom of the ocean Seraph said, drifting off into a dazed state of confusion.
Seraph, youre not going to Augur stopped when he realized that the spell had caused her to fall asleep. It mustve been a pretty powerful spell Candor had used, and she probably wouldnt be up until they were inside the Ocean Palace. Augur contemplated allowing her to lie there so he could go and help Candor and Magus, but soon realized that in the thick darkness of the sea, they would probably never find her again. Augur could very easily find his other partners; the sound of screeching flames scorching the Black Omen gave away their position, but Seraph would make no sound if he had to go back and find her. Augur also realized something else. Since Seraph had lost consciousness, it was likely that her magnetic shield had dissipated, meaning that his own air shield was the only thing keeping the cold waters from rushing in and drowning her. Therefore, it would be impossible to leave Seraph. If he wanted to help Magus and Candor, he would have to drag Seraph over there. That, he decided, was exactly what he planned to do.
Magus, you said earlier today that you remembered my name from when you were a child, Candor reminded the warlock. What were you talking about?
The pit of lava grew horizontally much faster than it grew deeper into the hull, and nearly eight feet now separated the two. It is of no concern to you, Magus finally answered after a long pause.
Do you always hide information from others like that? Candor demanded, becoming increasingly impatient with his uncooperative actions.
I simply have no interest in others, Magus answered. And I care not to let others take up an interest in me. Ive been isolated from society my whole life, and have done quite well for myself. I dont plan to change now.
Then why did you bring us into this? Candor asked.
Listen, Woman! Magus snapped, pointing an angry finger at Candor. I didnt bring you into this. I brought that bratty kid into this, and he took the liberty inviting his friends. Youre not here on my wishes, so would you be so kind as to stay out of my personal life!?
Candor grew silent, and after a few seconds of silence, returned to her work, melting the steel. There was now enough smoke that between her and Magus that he had become hazy in the distance. But at this point, she was glad. She didnt exactly want to look at his figure, draped in his shrouded cloak. Unfortunately, those same fumes that blocked Magus from her sight were making it increasingly harder to breath.
More time passed, and as the chemical reaction from the magic placed more heat on the metal hull of the Ocean Palace, the molten pit of steel grew larger, the smoke lessened visibility, and the air became more and more constricted. Candor was now forced to hold her dress over her nostrils with one hand to help purify the air, and use the other to keep forcing fire out of her system. This spell was much more strenuous than the trip across the ocean, and noticeable fatigue had set in. On the other side, Magus was experiencing the same difficulties, although he would never admit it. He had learned long ago never to show any sign of weakness. It was one thing to have a flaw; everyone had some. It was quite another to display this flaw for all to see, and, predictably, exploit it.
Still, the undeniable fact was that their oxygen reply was running dangerously low, and they could only sustain a few more minutes of this level of physical exertion. If they managed to stay awake for much longer, then there would not be enough oxygen to carry out the combustion reaction, and they would effectively be screwed.
That was why, when Augur appeared, it was such a relief. At first, Candor was slightly infuriated, because he had disobeyed her orders and moved Seraph. Then, seeing that Seraph was not moving, she became concerned. Augur, what went wrong, she gasped.
The anesthetic spell you gave her mustve been pretty powerful. It put her to sleep, he answered.
So shes okay?
Yeah, Augur conceited. Anyway, I figured you guys could use some help on this beastly hull were trying to burn through.
Augur, its a miracle you showed up! We have no air left! Candor explained. As soon as he had arrived with Seraph, some of the air started to clear, and the fire streaming from her palm gained intensity.
During the whole episode, Magus had remained silent, not really even bothering to listen to the conversation. He had to admit, however, that his arrival brightened the outlook of the situation. But the dialogue between the boy and the Candor had become too long, and he sought to end it. Augur, this armor aint gonna melt itself! Get your ass to work! He didnt bother to see if it had caused any reaction from the teenager, but soon enough, he heard a third stream of fire scorching the expansive molten pit.
Indeed, Augur had gotten to work very shortly after he had been yelled at, sparing just enough time to carefully place Seraph on the ground, hoping he hadnt furthered her injury. And, with the addition of a third fire stream, the size of the magma increased rapidly. Soon, there were nearly twenty feet between Magus and Candor, who resided at opposite ends. Seraph continued to sleep, protected by the air bubbles maintained by the other three.
Just as the air again approached high toxicity levels, a subtle change occurred in the pool of liquid metal. It came only after the heat level had risen so high that the air surrounding the humans seared them. As the sweet rolled down their faces and necks, Augur noticed a slight indent occurring at the center of the molten pit. He watched it carefully for another ten or so seconds, and he noticed that the indent had grown slightly. Excited, he yelled out, Magus!!! See that thing in the middle?
Nothing but silence came for a few moments. Then, the voice of the great wizard called back, Yeah, I see it.
What is it? Augur yelled again.
Weve burned through the hull. The liquid is draining into the Omen! Magus answered. Then, he added, We need to keep going, to make the hole bigger!
Inspired by a new sense of accomplishment, the three conscious magicians shot their fire right at the point where the liquid pool had begun to leak. Heat poured in faster and hotter, and the level of the molten steel slowly began to drop. Though the fire was being choked by a lack of air necessary for the combustion, they still managed to keep draining the fiery lake. The metallic liquid became so hot that it began to boil, and splattered dangerously then the forming bubbles popped. During all this time, the hole in the Omen grew larger, and the lava spilled onto the floor quite rapidly.
Eventually, when the three had begun to lose hope again, a visible hole appeared. Another minute, and this hole was over two feet wide at its narrowest point, clearing the way for Candor, Augur, and Magus to drop down. The shape of the hole was very similar to a cone, with the top of the metal outer layer nearly two dozen feet wide, and their entrance no more than two dozen inches.
Magus was the first to take advantage of the hole, floating cautiously over the opening so as not to touch the still scorching sides, and dropped inside the Ocean Palace. He avoided the floor, instead choosing to levitate a few feet off to the side and place his feet on the ground there, where the magma had not dripped. Candor was the next, and followed his example precisely. Augur had a harder time, having to carry Seraph with him. He held her in a bear hug, with her arms slung over his shoulders, so he could drop down vertically without either of them touching the sides. Magus and Candor tried to support him by placing sheets of ice over the hot metal. They were instantly vaporized from the heat, and as Augur descended, a wall of steam blinded him. Fortunately, he made it inside safely. He placed Seraph carefully on the ground again, and returned to his feet, knowing the hole in the Omen had to be sealed.
Magus told Augur and Candor to dispel their magnetic shields they had used to keep the water out. When they did so, the sea came rushing into the area where they had worked to open the hole, stopping immediately before the slope began. Magus was now holding the entire ocean by himself.
So, I suppose well have to close up that hole, Augur assumed. But howre we gonna burn more metal so that the thing holds exactly in place?
You mean my idea that we could weld the hole shut? Magus asked. Terrible idea. Well never have the energy to pull that off. Even though we now have all the fresh air we need
Smells kinda musty in here, Candor observed.
No circulation. What do you expect? Magus inquired. Then, he said, Never mind. Any bright ideas on how we can plug this hole?
I dont know, Augur chimed. Couldnt we just go into another room, seal the door, and let the water flood the place?
Yes, I thought of doing that, Magus replied. Unfortunately, we chose to enter the biggest goddamn chamber in the whole fortress. Everything will be flooded.
Youve been here before? Candor asked.
Yeah, on several occasions. Thats also not important, Magus responded.
What about sealing it with ice? Candor recommended.
Same thingll happen as when we tried to freeze the molten metal to allow Augur and Seraph a safe passage through the hole. The icell just melt, Magus said. Any other bright ideas? Anything that might actually work?
Ive got one! a voice from nowhere declared. A blinding white flash occurred in the center of the room, accompanied by a loud, heavenly clash. After the light faded, a strange, short creature with a dull yellow skin tone and oversized head stood there.
Doreen! Candor exclaimed, instantly recognizing the creature who spent so much time in Enhasa.
In the flesh! she proclaimed. Couldnt let you guys do ALL the work!
Hmm, so youve got a plan to seal the hole? Magus inquired, remaining all business.
Yup. Just leave it to me, the strange creature answered.
How? Augur asked.
Silly humans! Always wanting to know how something works. Cant you ever just accept things for what they are and be grateful? Doreen asked. Whats more important is that the task is completed, not how.
I see, Augur responded.
Just get some rest and get your energy back. Leave the hole in the Ocean Palace to me! With that, Doreen disappeared in another flash of light. When the members of Maguss exposition team looked at the hole, a white, hazy, clouded shield was in place, keeping the water out. Magus released his magic barrier, and the water didnt rush in, indicating that Doreen had been truthful.
Well, that takes care of that Magus said. How about we rest and get our energy back?
Magus was never one to follow his own advice. Though he specifically ordered his three traveling companions to sleep and recover, he did no such thing himself. Sure, he had attempted to, but to him, sleep was a waste of time. He had gone three or four days without shuteye before, and it was nothing new. Even when he did find time to lie down, it was never for more than an hour or two.
As a sign of courtesy, or rather an act of efficiency, Magus had taken out the majority of the floodlights shining brightly in the large chamber of the Ocean Palace. Though he didnt need the rest, the others surely did, and this would help them. So, Magus simply stood in the darkness with his back against the wall, watching the unmoving bodies lay on the floor.
Darkness came as a sign of comfort to him, and his vision at night was excellent. In fact, all his senses were heightened in the dark. He could hear soft footsteps on the leaves and underbrush in Guardia Forest, and could smell the musk of unclean men sneaking between the trees. His war parties had won many key victories in the Great Mystic War using the darkness to their advantage.
Seraph had awakened at a couple points, though still obviously in a daze from the narcotics. Augur and Candor had set the bone in place before using their most powerful healing spells on the ankle. They went to sleep confident that she could walk using some sort of splint by morning. Seraphs leg had been restrained to prevent any involuntary movement during the night, but it would surely make her uncomfortable when she came out of her daze.
As the hours passed, Magus did nothing other than rest against different walls in different areas of the expansive chamber. He checked the hole in the hull every fifteen minutes or so, making sure Doreen was holding out. It was in his instinct never to trust anyone but himself. That was the reason why he preferred to work alone. Whenever the person he had relied on had failed, it had gotten him in a heap of trouble. He would have performed this mission solo as well, except for the fact that it would have been impossible to survive the physical demands. He was sure that somewhere, some dangerous enemies or still-functioning gun turrets, or maybe the infamous wall panels would stage an attack on him.
Silently, Magus sustained his observation of the dark surroundings inside the Black Omen.
There was no way for anyone to tell night from day inside the Ocean Palace, so it was simply considered daytime when everyone was awake and moving. Seraph practiced her limited movement using her makeshift leg brace, and wasnt doing as well they had hoped for. Still, she was mobile, and ready for whatever challenges lie ahead.
Magus had become impatient with the time it was taking for Seraph to become battle ready, and threatened to leave the group to finish his mission alone. Candor complained to him repeatedly, and, eventually, a grumbling Magus elected to wait for a few more hours.
Though it had taken a long time, certainly much longer than anyone had wanted, Seraph achieved a balanced hobble, which she could maintain a near normal pace with. With Magus leading the group, they exited the large chamber they had entered from the ocean, and began making their way down a narrow corridor. The floodlights returned, nearly blinding at points, as they made their way around a corner and into a smaller chamber. Seraph, slower than the rest, lagged behind, and Augur decided to stay back and keep her company, even though the pace was insidiously sluggish. Candor kept pace with Magus out in front.
Architecture consistent with Zealian styles littered the entire palace, and large, gothic statues were strewn randomly throughout the undersea fortress. Magus recognized the art forms as leftovers from the Ocean Palace that hadnt been mutated when Lavos constructed the Black Omen from the ruins of Zeals last accomplishment. He also recognized the computerized, bleak, futuristic look from the Omen, filled with thick, militaristic walls and bursting with computer circuitry. Most of the weapons they had seen were destroyed, and the other ones were not functioning, or at least not showing hostility. Magus had vivid memories of this place, but to Augur, Seraph, and Candor, all the sights were new and unexpected. At times, the wizard admitted, he felt more like a tour guide than anything else. It was very tedious to listen to the gawking coming from his followers.
The group made their way down a staircase and rode the elevator for a few floors, all the while trudging deeper into the sunken fortress. It was when they entered another of the main chambers in the Ocean Palace that they were faced with some opposition. After Magus turned a corner, he bumped right into the back of a muscled, burly creature. Magus instinctively put himself in a defensive stance, and Candor entered the room behind him, slowly becoming aware that a conflict could be brewing.
The creature turned around, and its features indicated that this was a human. Still, it was massive for a human, male in figure, and built like a brick wall. Taking another look, Magus noticed that he wasnt entirely human. He had mechanisms covering parts of his chest and back, and his one arm had been completely replaced by one of these technologically advanced devices, although there was no hand whatsoever. A hollow tube resided in its place. Another contraption of sorts covered his right eye, with a tinted red lens in the place of the organ. Machinery also ran along parts of his leg. Other than the machines, a long, black scar stood out on him, running from the base of his neck all the way up his face, ending near his good eye. Overall, the man was well over six feet, and his broad shoulders barely fit in the narrow hallways of the Black Omen.
Magus had been in a defensive stance ever since he had ran into the man, and the stranger wasted no time doing the same. He pointed his metallic arm at Magus, placing his real arm underneath for a support. Magus clenched his teeth and held out his scythe, one hand at each end of the weapon. The two were now in the standoff.
Augur and Seraph, who had been lagging behind, eventually made their way into the room. As soon as Augur saw the strange man, he stood frozen, like some statue on a castle. The man facing Magus removed his glare from the warlock to stare back at Augur, equally stunned.
When I came down here, I told myself that I was ready to face anything that got in my way, the half-man, half-machine stated. I wasnt ready for this.
After an initial moment of stun, Augur pulled his rapiers out of their sheaths, prepared to aid Magus if necessary. Finally, after no one made a move, Augur simply said, Its been a long time, Gunner
Sure has, Gunner replied, still aiming the cannon on his arm at Magus.
Candor was quite stunned. Augur! You know this guy!?
Augur sighed, Weve met, yes. He kinda killed me.
Gunners gruff voice replied, Yeah, about that. Terribly sorry. Ive been meaning to apologize. The tone of his voice was slightly sarcastic, but Augur had a feeling that was the best he would ever get out of him.
What the hell are you doing here? Augur demanded.
Long story Gunner stalled.
Thats okay. Ive got time. Augur retorted. And Ive got backup, too.
What backup? The pointy-eared wheat farmer? Gunner spat. Magus was infuriated by this comment.
Mock me if you will, he snarled menacingly. But the scythe is a deadly weapon. Upon its blade is the blood of hundreds of monsters. Hundreds of humans, as well.
Augur had become impatient. Gunner, why are you here!?!?!?
Gunner, seeing no exit, supposed he might as well come clean. Im probably doing the same thing you are. Im here to save the future from disaster.
Thats what you said when you killed me!
I WAS WRONG THEN!!! Gunner screamed. This time, I know what Im doing.
And just what is that? Augur further pressed.
Dont you realize that youre leading the enemy to exactly where he wants to go? Gunner asked. I tried to stop you from leaving, but I was too late. Hes already inside the Ocean Palace.
Whos this enemy? Magus asked.
Evil, Augur answered. I heard that straight from God himself. He wants to destroy this world.
Magus was thinking about the statements he had heard. This made no sense. It was pure lunacy! From what he was hearing, Augur had died and come back from the dead, and he knew about everything to happen. Gunner was likely some time traveling yuppie from the future, figuring he could solve all the worlds problems. Then, Magus thought about what Gunner had meant when he said he tried to stop his departure towards the Ocean Palace. Slowly, he realized that he had been attempting to achieve the same goal when he supposedly killed Augur. Which meant
YOU! Magus bellowed at Gunner. You little fucking swine! You were gonna try to kill me, too!
Gunner tensed up, quickly getting back in his defensive stance. An enraged Magus held the blade of his scythe outward and sped towards the man. Gunner quickly took aim with the gun on his arm and took a shot. A greenish plasma compound flew from the barrel, flying straight towards Magus. The warlock had been prepared, and the projectile collided with the protective shield he had placed around his body. The barrier around his body became a vivid green for a second from the energy of the projectile, before fading away into nothingness.
Gunner was shocked when his initial strike had done nothing to Magus, and didnt have time for a second attack. Magus leapt on top of him, swinging his scythe. The wooden butt of the weapon collided with Gunners jaw, knocking his head sideways. Very quickly, Magus finished tackling the much larger man, placing him on his back. Gunner received a knee to the gut, and another to the side, from his assailant. He struggled to get control of the situation, and used his good arm to grab onto the weapon of the furious Magus. Gunner pushed the staff part of the scythe away from his body, creating some separation between the two. Using his metal arm, he batted Magus in the chest, knocking him off.
Gunner wasted no time, immediately getting himself off his back and in an attacking position. Magus, still recovering, took a punch from Gunners metallic arm on the kneecap, and one from his other arm in the side. Magus coughed quickly, but swept his legs, partially tripping Gunner and causing him to drop to one knee. Magus had regained some mobility, and used it to his advantage, hitting Gunner in the sternum with an elbow. Next, Magus smashed his fist into the side of his adversarys head. After another blow to the chest, Magus was able to pounce back on top of Gunner, and easily pinned him to the ground. He placed the handle of his scythe tightly against Gunners neck, and, with one hand on each side, pressed down hard. With the wooden pole cutting off his air supply, Gunner had to act fast.
The angry Magus had a look of murder in his eyes, but Gunner had something much more powerful in his: Firepower. Using his synthetic eyeball, he picked out a target on Maguss face, and discharged some energy. A thin, red, perfectly straight line fired out of Gunners sensor. The laser beam emitting from the lens struck Magus on his cheek, instantly burning him. Magus growled as the pain sunk into his pale skin, which darkened and became tender from the blast. While Magus was distracted, Gunner hit him in the abdomen, and threw him off to the side. Gunner ran over and firmly placed the barrel of his gun directly over the heart of Magus. Maguss eyes darkened, preparing to strike Gunner with a potent shadow attack first.
It turned out that neither of them got to finish it off. Augur tackled Gunner, driving his massive body away from the fight, and Candor jumped on Magus to subdue him. Both of you, restrain yourselves! Candor shouted. We cant have any casualties here!
Magus pushed Candor off his body, searching for the man he had just fought with. When he found him, he stared the man straight in the eye. Gunner, you filthy bitch! Magus scowled. This isnt over!
Any time, Grandpa! Gunner insulted back, raising the middle finger on his hand.
Gunner, Augur yelled. You said you wanted to save this world. Not killing your potential allies would be a step in the right direction!
Hey, Listen up, Augur! I work alone! This is my business and only my business, Gunner exclaimed. Its my duty to protect that artifact, and I cant let you guys get in the way!
Guess what, Gunner! Augur bellowed quite irritably. When you killed me, it became my business. So now it is my duty! Augur paused for a second, glaring the giant in the eye. Its become my duty to protect that artifact, too.
So, you guys want to get your hands on that relic as well, Gunner realized.
The Chrono Shift, Augur corrected. And since the enemy is already in here, we dont have time for these petty squabbles. What do you say, Gunner? Can you stand to work with us, with me and Magus over there, for long enough to save the world?
Gunner glared at Augur for an impossibly long time, showing his distrust and loathing for him. But, finally, he agreed, saying, An enemy of my enemy can work alongside me. Then, after a brief paused, in which he finally picked himself up off the ground, he added, Just as long as that vampire-thing over there stays the hell outta my way!
You can take your insults and stick em back up your ass! Magus shot back. Then, giving in, he conceded, If you stay away from me, I can stay away from you!
Deal! Gunner yelled. Turning to Augur, he said, Youve got yourself a new teammate. But since Im the only one here with any real leadership experience, I lead the party.
Annoyed, Augur said, Ive got a better idea. Why dont you just rip my balls off with a rusty knife?
Actually, youre in luck, Gunner said, somewhat amused. I use one to shave every morning. After saying this, Gunner fiddled with his metallic arm for a second, and a sharp blade came out of the side.
Augur, I think you should opt for execution instead, Magus suggested. Itll be much less painful, and youll know what to expect.
Whatever, Augur forfeited. I guess I dont care who follows who, just as long as Muscles isnt behind me.
Gunner, knowing this was a shot aimed at him, joked, Relax. Its not like Im going to stab you to death! As he said this, he pulled out a shiny hunting knife from his belt.
Seraph, who had been quite during the entire episode, finally became fed up with the recurrent incidents, and screamed at the whole group. Augur, Gunner, Magus! Im tired of this constant bickering! How about we start moving! This world isnt going to save itself!
The ensuing silence seemed like hours, although in reality it lasted only a few seconds. Finally, Gunner broke it by asking, Hey Augur, is that your girlfriend?
Augur looked at Seraph, not sure if she wanted to be called his girlfriend. Seraph was shying away, not giving Augur a clear answer. Finally, he looked back to Gunner. I guess you could call it that if you like. Were good friends, yes, but
She got a nice rack Gunner smirked.
Augur and Seraph both became red in the face, Augur from a seething anger, and Seraph blushing with embarrassment. Look, Gunner, Augur finally said. None of that. Gunner didnt apologize, but accepted Augurs terms.
If were all done dicking around here, Magus interrupted, I think we should get moving. By the way, Gunner, this is my exposition, and Ill be leading it. If you have any problems, I suggest you take them back to the wormhole you crawled out of.
Ill be damned if Im gonna follow you, Gunner grumbled under his breath.
What was that!? Magus demanded.
Nothing, Great Leader! Gunner sarcastically remarked. By all means, lead us!
The assortment of tunnels in the Ocean Palace was mind boggling, leading to a confusing and ultimately tedious journey. Conversation was scarce, and tensions were high because of the hostilities Augur and Magus had with Gunner. Seraph hadnt been speaking much ever since Gunner had made his cruel remark about her anatomy. This left Candor as the only one in the party that had a clear head.
The eccentric style of art and architecture continued, twisted from battle damage at many points, although no major damage had been done to the structure. Magus had to constantly look over his shoulder to check on Gunners actions, but he was of no threat, either. Besides the autonomic defenses that Magus had fought during his last trip here, everything was working perfectly. The elevators cut large amounts of time off the hike, but the journey was far from an afternoon stroll.
So, how did you guys manage to get here, Gunner finally asked. Magus and Augur refused to answer, and Seraph wasnt ready to offer such information to a stranger, especially one who had a shaky past with her good friend. This left Candor.
Long story short, she replied, Magus led us to the exact location, and we dropped on top of the Ocean Palace, where we burned a hole in the hull.
That doesnt make any sense, Gunner disputed.
Yeah, well, first of all, it involved a lot of magic, Candor explained. Second, I did say this was the short version. After pausing, she asked, Whats youre story?
Gunner thought how he should explain for a second. Finally he answered, I took a boat out here, dropped some explosive over the side, tied myself to some weights, and jumped over. The explosives, protected from the water in large, plastic bags, could be detonated by remote. They hit the Black Omen long before I did, and blew a gaping hole in the side of the thing. I swam into the hole, horrified by what I saw.
The dead remains of humans were everywhere, cadavers floating inside the chambers, flesh rotting off their skin, skulls poking through they eye sockets, and bones sticking out of their clothing. They were all over the place. Men, women, elders, children, infants
The Earthbounds! Candor interrupted. Thats what happened to them!
You didnt know? Magus shouted from the front of the line. Zeal was hell-bent on genocide. The prison cells the slaves were kept in doubled as the buoyancy tanks, and when work on the Ocean Palace was complete, they were flooded, and the palace sank, drowning all the Earthbounds.
Thats horrible! Candor gasped.
Yeah, well, it served the dirty bastards right, Magus shouted.
Magus! A shocked Candor scolded. How could you say such a thing about these people?
They werent people to me, Magus answered. How soon could you have forgotten? They werent human to anyone in Zeal.
After the long, ensuing silence, Candor urged Gunner to continue with his story. He did, saying, I had to swim in and out of the bodies, no doubt disturbed my the explosions, until I found a door that would lead to another one of these death chambers. With the equalized pressure, I moved between them easily, and could open and closed these doors freely. They acted as airlocks, and I opened another one to allow myself entrance into the Ocean Palace without flooding the whole place.
Sounds like you had a rough trip, too, Augur smirked from ahead.
Speaking of which, Augur, Gunner began, I want to know what youre doing here. After all, I did kill you.
Keep thinking that, Augur laughed. Next time, maybe youll check to make sure you finish the job!
Augur, I removed your head and stuffed a grenade inside. Can you think of a more effective way?
Alright, Augur admitted, I confess, you did kill me. Youre a pretty sick man, though. Truth is, I was sent back from heaven to take care of the mess you created. Gotta admit, I feel kinda weird working with the guy who killed me.
Geez! Gunner yelled. I said I was sorry! What more do you want?
I guess I kinda overreacted, too, Augur apologized. I mean, its not like you caused any permanent damage.
Whatever, Gunner replied, quickly becoming uninterested. Lets just get this whole thing over with.
Chapter 15, Part 2
Chrono Cross Fanfic
Chrono Trigger Fanfic