The Gathering Chapter 4
Magus watched below as his world of ice vanished in a brilliant flash of white light, replaced by the limbic End of Time, which was so typical when traveling in parties that exceeded the usual (and manditory) complement of three. Moderate hassles got them out of Gaspar's territory and into the always-natural world of Guardia's prehistory. Magus found himself unusually anxious about the reunion in that he was sure to be the odd-man out.
"Crono! Marle! Lucca! Magus!" Ayla said in her less-than- evolved context and in great anticipation. "Come, we go to Meeting Place! Eat! Sing! Dance! Have fun!"
"Where's Glenn and Robo?" Crono asked.
"They there! They wait for you!" Kino declaimed at Ayla's side. "Come! We go now! Have good time!"
It was already nightfall and the atmosphere was perfect for the gathering. Marle and Crono were having a blast, dancing around the fire with the rest of the cave dwellers. The rhythmic drums in the background appeared to take control of their movements. Hugs and handshakes went all around as the four newcomers finally spoke to Glenn and Robo for the first time in a year. But Magus just wasn't feeling welcomed, seeing that no one had offered to shake his hand, even though he was just as much responsible in defeating Lavo as anyone. Then, he met Glenn again, one which Magus was sure would be the most unforgiving of all.
"So." Magus said, looking away from him.
"So." Glenn responded.
"How's Queen Leene doing?"
"How are thine ancestors doing?"
"As good as can be expected."
"Hath you known, Magus? It was thine own idea."
"Your idea to what? To hold these pointless reunions?"
"I knew it. You were the one who brought Spalenka back to my time, weren't you?"
"No! It was my idea to invite thee this year."
"I thought it was just a matter of not being able to find me."
"All others knew where you were residing. It's just that they thought you'd ruin everything because you grew sour after you lost all that power. But I told them to stick it in thine ears because I was sure that you've after changing by now. I was right."
"Well, I'm flattered but why'd you do it?"
"Well, after our little trip to the Middle Ages, I've decided to make like the inhabitants of Medina Village and 'Forgive and Forget.' A mystic taught me that."
In saying that, Glenn outstretched a hand to Magus in the negotiation of a truce. Marle suddenly broke free of the spellbinding dance to see a hatchet about to be buried forever.
"So, what dost thy think, Magus? Shall we let bygones be bygones?"
Magus was tongue-tied, his fingers fidgeting between the leather of his gloves.
"You're really going to forgive me just like that, I mean, even after all I did to you and your friend, Cyrus?"
"Hey, You also saved thy world with me and brought Crono back. That much dost make up for a lot."
Magus finally accepted Glenn's gesture and shook his hand. Marle smiled.
"What you wait for? Ayla asked in an angered tone, grabbing Glenn and Magus by their wrists. "No be bump on log! Dance! Do the Evolution!"
With her vice-like grip and brute strength, she pulled them both down to the dance circle. Marle once again became entranced by the intense dancing with everyone else. Ever since she had seen him again, Magus seemed to be the bearer of a human face, warm and colored, and although she would never let him know it, he could now be considered handsome even. She felt relatively safe in his arms once they agreed to dance with each other and they danced for a long time.
Later, when they were sure everyone else was back at Kino's hut, Crono and Marle walked up to Dactyl Nest and looked down at the moonlit ocean, hand-in-hand. Marle smiled at its beauty. With that, Crono smiled. It made him feel good to see that she was at peace. The two of them sat down on the ledge and marveled at the natural perfection of a world that would later blossom into their own.
"Do you remember when we rode those pterodactyls to the Tyrano Lair way back when?" Crono asked her.
"I remember it as if it were yesterday," she answered, leaning on his shoulder and holding his right arm with both of her hands.
"We've had a lot of great times, haven't we?"
"And we always will have them too."
He put the arm in which Marle was holding around her waist, bringing her closer to him. With that, he turned to face Marle, tilted her chin in his direction with his index finger, and brought his lips to meet hers. All of a sudden, a strange solemn chant came to Crono's attention.
"Did you hear that?" Crono said, pulling away from the kiss.
"No, I didn't." she answered, wanting to continue.
"No, I mean, it sounds like the incantation Magus used to summon Lavos. Remember when we first fought him?"
Marle began to hear it too and Crono's suspicions were justified.
"Yeah, you're right. It sounds like it's coming from down there," she said, pointing down to the bottom of the peek from where they were sitting.
"Let's check it out!" Crono said, unsheathing his Rainbow sword.
They both made their way down the narrow embankment, cautious not to lose their footing. When the steep terrain subsided, they noticed that the shores were caked with sand, making it look like a beach.
"Wow, it's beautiful down here," she said, enraptured by the nakedness of the ride.
"Maybe, but keep your eyes peeled, because whoever's voice that is, we can't trust it or let it continue. It's about to summon Lavos again."
The two of them keep looking around and found a cavern which led deep into the mountain of the Dactyl Nest. As they walked further into it, the chanting got louder and more clearer. Suddenly, it stopped and Crono knew that there was only reason as to why it halted.
"Neuga, ziena, zieber, zom...Now, the chosen time has come. Exchange this world for the evil promised in the beginning, for when God created light, the first shadow was born."
"Oh no!" Crono cried. "It's finished."
The walls of the underground tunnel began to shake very hard, with rubble starting to cave in the cavern they were in.
"Let's get out of here, Crono!" she said, holding her arm tightly. She was terrified now.
"We can't! We have to undo that spell and get whoever it was that did this."
Still not wanting to let go of him, Marle could only let him drag her along. Finally, as the vibrations continued, the two of them came to the end of the tunnel and what they found shocked them.
It was some kind of shrine, illuminated by countless candles encircling the cave's insides. Before them at a table was some matron in a hood. Feeling their presence, she began chanting again, this time, it was something that neither Crono nor Marle knew would bring about until it was too late. Two beams of energy shot out from her palms, rebounded off of the wall she was facing, and pinned the two time travelers against the rockface behind them. Their bodies began to shrivel and weaken until the woman turned around and face them.
Sadly, her face would be the last thing that Crono and Marle would ever see. Nearly at the speed of light, she brought up her iron gauntlets to the sides of their heads and banged their skulls together with tremendous force.
Their deaths were instantaneous.
"All life comes to an end, kids, but look on the bright side! At least yours ended with a bang!" she beamed, starting to laugh.
With that, Schala flipped Marle's lifeless body over with her foot and yanked the Mox Sapphire off her neck. Then, upon planting a kiss on it, she slowly began to walk away, awaiting the inevitable return of Lavos.
Magus kept pacing in circles, waiting for Crono and Marle to return. A thunderstorm was moving in quickly and everyone was starting to worry.
"My God! Where could they be at this hour?" he said.
"Magus, calm down." Lucca said to him. "I'm sure they're fine. They can take care of themselves. They probably just wanted to be alone, that's all."
"Look," Glenn finally interjected to their ignorance. He was apparently more worried than anyone else. "I'm sick of all thine negligence. I shall go out there to find Sir Crono and Madam Marle myself. They said they'd both head to thy Dactyl Nest to be alone."
"They told you that, Glenn?" Robo joined in.
"Actually, I was eavesdropping, but never mind that, now. Let is retire to thy Dactyl Nest, posthaste!"
Robo and Magus both accompanied Glenn to take Epoch over Dactyl Nest and the storm continued to get worse. So worse, in fact, that it was next to impossible to control the Epoch with all the turbulence. In the end, they still managed to land the Wings of Time on top of the plateau of where Crono and Marle said they would be, but there was no sign of either of them.
"Robo! Will you be alright if you go out there with Glenn and I?"
"I may be an artificial lifeform, Magus, but I'm also a reploid prototype. My chrome exterior will protect my positronic matrix from the moisture."
"And what about the chrome, huh? It'll make you a walking lightning rod."
"I will just stay here in case they come back, okay?"
"Come on, Magus!"
Glenn opened up the cockpit and almost immediately, the panel began to get wet.
"So, where do we go from here, Glenn?"
"I guess the most logical course of action is to go down there?"
Glenn pointed straight down to the bottom of the chasm.
"Are you sure that's safe?" Magus said hesitantly.
"One way to find out." Glenn replied, hopping down along the steep terrain.
Magus did his best to keep up with him. Both made it to the bottom safely and continued their search for Crono and Marle.
"Where are you?!?"
There was no sign of either of them for a while, until Glenn found the remains of a rather large reptile.
"I think this was a Terrasaur." he uttered.
"And I think this was Marle's," Magus added, holding up one of her Valkyrie arrows, which shimmered in the crackling lightning.
"I guess that means they're still around here somewhere."
"Maybe they saw the storm moving in and decided to look for some shelter."
"Just look around for some kind of indentation in the rock faces somewhere."
Eventually, the two of them found an alcove and opted to start walking through it, all the while calling out for their names. It was very dark but it appeared to be dry at least. When they turned around, they could see the Epoch fast approaching their position. They soon forgot about Robo and kept moving on.
"Whatever this place is, it seems to be safe." Glenn assured Magus.
But Magus looked uneasy.
"I really do think that they came in here, Glenn, but if they did, how come we haven't heard from them yet? I mean, this peak isn't that wide. They should be close to us if they came in here at all."
Then, as they turned their glance up to the light at the end of the tunnel, his question was answered with the fant stench of blood filling his nostrils. With Magus' mind racing, so did his feet. He was tired from the going through the tunnel (as the footing varied considerably which weared them both out) but that never even mattered to him anymore. He had to know what happened. He didn't even care if Glenn was falling behind in his haste. Once the light caressed his vision, he couldn't believe the nature of his horror.
Crono and Marle were lying lifeless on the sanctum's floor in their own blood.
"No!" he yelled, running over to the two of them.
He never wanted this white magic to feed him the burden of losing his only friends. When Glenn realized what had happened to them both, his jaw dropped. He didn't know what to do.
"Magus, are they..."
"No, they're not, okay?!?" he yelled back at him, but he honestly didn't know for sure. He knew that his magic was their only hope.
DEATH WARD! FALSE DEMISE! REGROWTH!
But the desired results never came.
Just then, a large sword of black steel arose from behind them, one which didn't seem to have a wielder. Before Magus could turn towards Glenn, it was already too late for him.
The weapon split him in half.
His killer bent down and picked up Glenn's Masamune. A shellshocked Magus grew unbelieving yet insanely intolerable of this loss of his.
The sword's bearer began to rematerialize. There was no way for him to espy the appearance of the killer of his allies.
"I'm impressed, dear brother. The power is slowly becoming yours once again. All except that pesky Mox Jet, but not to worry. I have a plan for you to bring it back."
"Why do you want me to do that?"
"I was never meant to be an Enlightened One. None of us were. Do you know why you survived the battle against Lavos?"
"Because it wasn't my time."
"I have news for you, brother. It will never be your time. You're an immortal like us. We've been given life to rule the worlds as brother and sister, alongside the finest Archmage in existence."
"I'd never rule the worlds with you. You've summoned Lavos again. I thought a Zeal died the last time they tried something like that."
"Shame on you. I thought I would be proud of the day in which my brother would become the ruler of Guardia. You had Guardia at your feet, but you risked casting a magic barrier to no effect."
"I always wondered why you pitied mother, why you respected her and envied her. It's because you're of the same breed."
In saying that, he took out the paper with the incantation for the Mox Jet and threw it to Schala.
"If you want the Mox, get it yourself. I don't even care anymore whether or not these worlds meet their end. These people are nothing but takers anyway."
"You're a fool! This is our chance! We'll live forever, so why not live it our with some sense of authority!"
"You're the fool, Schala!! When will you get it through your thick skull that nothing can live forever?!"
"Feh. Your feeble human-infected minds." she said to him in a pitiful manner, all the while kicking Magus' dead comrades.
"Stop that!" he yelled at Schala with tears in his eyes. He was that close to felling her with Scythe in hand.
"You shame us! I have no choice but to destroy you! I shall find another to get the Mox Jet for me."
"Don't blame me, dear Janus. You put this on yourself."
An enormous swell of ocean water stemmed out from the sea and was directed straight for Dactyl Nest. Schala vanished, leaving her brother in a quickly crumbling cavern with the dead bodies of his only friends. There was nothing he could do. He would have to save himself if anyone.
"I'm sorry. Please forgive me!"
As Magus felt the metaphysical field preserve his life, he heard the voice of his sister ring his head with insecurity.
Magic is my thread, my will the needle. I weave over you as if you never were.
The resulting flood was so severe that it drowned out all the land. Fortunately, Epoch survived, although from Robo's point of view, there didn't seem to be much luck that anything else had. No luck, that is, until Prometheus found a lone piece of rock above the surface of the new sea with several survivors resting exhaustively on it. He brought the Wings of Time hovering down next to them and learned with much relief that it was Kino, Ayla, and Lucca.
"Thank God you're alright!" Lucca cried, embracing Robo heartily. "But what about the others?"
"I do not know. The last I saw of any of them was back at Dactyl Nest and that's completely submerged now."
"What you say, Robo?" Ayla interjected. "Crono, Marle, and Glenn no die! They strong! No die!!"
"What about Magus? Ayla no like Magus?" Kino asked.
"Magus' job to bring friends back in one piece. He fail! He not friend!"
"Ayla, that's not fair. Magus is just as much a part of the team as you are." Lucca replied in defense to Magus.
"Ayla no like Magus! Magus evil! Ayla hate Magus!"
Then, as if they were all expecting it, Magus himself was flying quietly towards them all in the distance, with no traces of moisture upon him whatsoever. He tried his best to explain what happened to him.
"Logic error." Robo muttered. "Schala had been vanquished when the Ocean Palace was undone."
"I know that, Robo, but I'm telling you that she is what's responsible for the deaths of our friends."
"Is that the best excuse you can come up with?" Lucca shot at him, unbelieving of his story. "There was no reason why you couldn't save them. You just didn't want to. Marle was wrong in thinking you changed. You're more the same now than ever."
"No, you don't understand."
Lucca turned away and shook her head.
"So, it's true what they say. 'The more things change, the more they stay the same'."
Magus found himself repeating these words silently to himself and lamented. Lucca was already in tears but he didn't have to look up to know that.
"I think we should appeal to Gaspar at the End of Time," he finally said.
"I think we should too," Robo replied. "But there isn't enough room for all of us. The space-time continuum will only accept three at a time."
"We can't afford to leave anyone behind. Schala might come back looking for them." Magus said.
The five of them pile into the Epoch and ascend to the heavens. Upon setting the machine's time coordinates to the destination of time's least resistance, they were on their way to the End of Time.
Schala had failed to destroy Magus when she had the chance and she could feel her unholy master Dalton mocking her for that. By this time, she had found her place in the heaven's where the Zeal Palace had once been, which was in the center of the entire stellar universe. It was also the place in which so long ago, the kingdom of Dominaria had flourished.
My kingdom will be a reality again, Schala, but you must heed my bidding if you wish for that to happen.
"What is thy bidding, my liege?"
Use your power to guide you across the void of time and space. Contact the other mages and find another mortal to transcent the power of the Mox Jet. Only when that artifact has been summoned will these worlds be ours. This is my bidding, Schala. Please respect and follow it if you desire to be crowned Queen of the Cosmos.
With that, Schala's telepathic link with her long lost sultan of sorcery faded and died. She understood that one was predicted to bring back this Mox. It was up to her to figure out who. She began to chant, putting her abilities to the ultimate test, reaching out to the precious few others who had the inner strength to bring forth the rebirth of Dominaria.
Messenger of fear in sight,
Dark deception kills the light.
Hybrid children watch the sea,
Pray for father, roaming free.
The Thing That Should Not Be/Master of Puppets/Metallica