The Story Of Magus Chapter One
A Prince Is Born
"It's a boy!" Gaspar announced excitedly as he hurried
into the Grand Council, a vast room with an ornately painted dome ceiling
and lavishly decorated walls. Gold gleamed from a thousand surfaces and reflected
rainbows danced from countless multifaceted crystal statues. The gathered
council members stopped pacing or talking in hushed voices to smile, laugh,
and applaud the news. The men and women crowded around the Guru, excitedly
asking questions and rejoicing.
"A boy you say?"
"This is wonderful!"
"How is the Queen?"
"Yes, how is the Queen? Has the King been notified?"
"What is the child to be called?"
Gaspar laughed and held up his hands for silence. "Please, everyone, not all at once! Settle down!" When the council had lapsed into stillness, he said, "Queen Zeal is well, but tired. The labor was complicated but that's to be expected with a son. The King has, of course, been notified and is expected to be returning to the palace shortly."
"He's not in the palace?"
Gaspar looked for the speaker. It was Belthazar. The old Guru leaned on his Nu companion who stood looking stoically as always. Beside him was Melchior, who relaxed in an easy chair, watching the festivities with a pipe in his mouth. Gaspar shook his head.
"No, the King went to visit the Earthbound colonies again. There was a report of another attempted revolt in the mining sections."
Many of the council members frowned and muttered angrily. The stupid, magic-less human beasts always stirred up trouble. Everyone knew that the Earthbound were nowhere as intelligent, nor as civilized as the Zealians were. For that reason, they were sneered at and despised by just about everyone in the Kingdom. The King especially disliked them. They were a thorn in his side due to the constant revolts and demands for equality and fair treatment. But this wasn't the reason for the worried look that passed across Belthazar's face.
"How strange that the King would use the Skygates. He gets teleportation sickness so easily. Why didn't he just send some guards down to assess the situation? I mean, that is what Dalton is being paid to do."
"No, his Majesty is using the Blackbird, Guru Belthazar. I saw him depart in it with that wizard, Captain Dalton," one of the councilmen corrected. "The Skygates take too long to use and they are so far from the settlements. The Blackbird was the only logical choice of transportation." Belthazar looked pale at the news.
"But, how is that possible? The Blackbird was supposed to be out of commission..."
"Enough of this!" a woman spoke up, shoving her way between two of her fellow council members. They glared at her but she ignored them. "What of the child, the new prince? What is he to be called?" The questions rose again, as did the voices of the people gathered. Gaspar waved for quiet once more.
"The Queen has not yet chosen a name. She is rather weak from her childbearing and is waiting for the King's return before she decides. I think she wishes to share the Naming with his Majesty."
A muttering ran through the crowd. This was highly unusual. In the past, the Kings and Queens of Zeal Kingdom had always had a name prepared in advance so, if the need arose, the child could be named as soon as it took it's first breath. To be so unprepared for this event was something of a mystery to those gathered. Melchior exhaled a puff of smoke and tapped the ashes into a convenient potted plant, (after first making sure no one was looking), and rose from his seat. Both Belthazar and the old weapon's master moved to stand beside Gaspar.
"You know that the prince must be named in the first hour of his birth," Melchior stated softly. "He cannot be considered a true Enlightened if he's not."
Gaspar sighed. "I know this, my friend. During the course of Her Majesty's pregnancy, I urged her to consult the King on the matter of their soon-to-be-born child. But you know how the Queen can get. She didn't want to worry His Majesty, since he never really did get over the death of his first Queen. Children have always been a delicate subject with him. I think His Majesty, to be perfectly honest and frank with you, couldn't care less about his son."
It was true. King Zeal had long ago buried his heart to the world and now lived almost solely for his duty to his people. Every monarch of the Kingdom inherited the title of King or Queen of Zeal. The Magic Kingdom was eternal, or so they believed, and while mortals could die, the name of Zeal would not. As was custom, the King's first marriage was to a high born woman who acquired the name Queen Zeal when she came to the throne. He loved her with a deep devotion and she returned his love completely. Between the two of them, they produced a beautiful girl-child whom they named Schala. In the old language of Zeal, "Schala" meant "radiant light." However, during the birthing process, the Queen began to lose a great deal of blood. Try as they might, the physicians could do nothing to save her and so she perished. The King was heartbroken.
For many months he locked himself away in his private chambers, eating very little and seeing no one, not even his own daughter. When he emerged, he was a changed man. The tragedy had turned his heart to iron, and while he always ruled with a firm but gentle hand, no laughter was ever heard from him, again. No smile ever crossed his face. He did, however, seem to feel something for Schala, besides the deep, gnawing ache in his heart whenever he looked at her. She resembled her mother so much that it was uncanny. But the King could not bring himself to love her as a father should. Instead, he took himself another wife.
The second Queen Zeal was also a noblewoman of good class and breeding. But there was no love involved. King Zeal was doing his duty to his people. He needed a male heir to take his place when he, too, left the mortal world to be rejoined with his first beloved soul mate. It seemed that the new Queen may have harbored some affection for her husband, but the feeling was completely one sided. This was extremely apparent on the infamous wedding night. The King consummated the marriage like he was supposed to, but he then proceeded to come to her quarters every night from there after. In an almost feverish fashion, he would take her again and again, willing her to something that she couldn't understand. At last, Queen Zeal announced that she was with child. After that, the nightly visits stopped and the King never touched her again. In fact, he avoided contact with her as much as possible. By not being with the Queen as she had her baby and by leaving her with the lion's share of the duties surrounding the child's birth, it obviously meant that the King felt he had done his part and the rest of the world could be damned.
"I tried to persuaded her Majesty that the Naming is vital to the child's well-fare, but she would hear none of it. She insisted that we wait for the King's return," Gaspar finished, putting his hands into his trouser pockets and looking slightly miffed. Pausing, the man did a double take and looked Melchior over from head to toe. "My dear Melchior, what have you been up to?"
The Guru of Life looked down at his robes and chuckled a bit in embarrassment. He brushed red dust off his sleeves and trousers. "Sorry, I hadn't noticed. I was doing something when I heard the news of the baby on it's way. I came as fast as I could."
"Still hard at work I see?" Belthazar grinned, petting the Nu on the head. The Nu stood there, eyes half open as if he was falling asleep. Suddenly he twitched and Belthazar scratched the creature on the back. "I guess retirement hasn't slowed you down any, has it old man?"
Melchior looked offended. "Well...uh...I may not be the head of the weapon's factories any longer but that doesn't mean I have to find myself a cozy bed to dream away my twilight years in. After all, I'm still in my prime!" He winced slightly as he said this and rubbed his left knee with a sheepish look. "But this stupid twinge in my joints...it tends to bother me from time to time."
The Guru of Reason shrugged. "What's wrong with dreams? Everyone else seems to think dreams are the best of past-times." Melchior snorted in derision.
"And what about you? You retired as head of Zeal Research years ago. And are you down? No! You still tinker with your gadgets and time-travel gizmos that won't work and fix the Blackbird in your spare time. That's hardly my idea of relaxation." The two old men laughed. "We're to feisty to quit, I guess."
"I can't wait till my retirement!" Gaspar sighed. "Then I can turn the work over to old geezers like you. I've done my share for this Kingdom, let someone else deal with the problems for a change." The Guru of Time yawned and leaned against one of the many creamy marble pillars in the room. "I'm not going to be so quick to slough off my retirement. I've earned it." His two friends grinned and exchanged knowing looks. Gaspar was just as fond of dreams as any other member of the Enlightened and they knew he planned to spend the remainder of his days snoozing away contentedly. Suddenly, one of the councilwomen squealed in delight and ran to one of the large, airy windows, peering out over the land. She was followed by several others, and then others followed them till the window was all but obscured. "Now what do you think has gotten into them?" Belthazar asked peevishly of his drowsing Nu. The blue creature was as unresponsive as ever and started to snore. He poked the beast in the side and it woke with a start, throwing it's hand into the air and rolling it's eyes. "No sleeping on the job."
Melchior adjusted his glasses and tucked his pipe into his shirt. "Well, I'm going to go see," he stated, starting for the window with the others in tow. One by one, the Gurus pushed their way through the crowd.
"Excuse me, coming through..."
"Hey, watch it! Ouch! That was my foot!"
"Pardon me, excuse me."
"Gaspar don't push! There is plenty of room for you too."
"Belthazar, Melchior, down in front! I can't see!"
The three Gurus managed to shove their way through the cluster of council members till they reached the window. The Nu stood nearby, starting to drift off again, though no one really cared. Gaspar looked around in confusion, elbowing a man out of his way to get a better view. "Will someone kindly inform me just what I'm supposed to be looking at, here?" Craning his neck, the Guru of Time took in the sight with little interest and growing irritation. Though the sun shone brilliantly on the spires and swirling towers of the palace and sparkled delicately on the crystal clear water that ran from beneath the mountain, the vision of beauty was hardly enough to impress one who had seen it countless times before. Though the Magical Kingdom of Zeal was as graceful and grand as any empire could be, it wasn't the sort of thing one gets excited over. So what were these silly people looking at?
A flash of light caught his attention above. Staring up through the glass panes, Gaspar saw a sight that never failed to amaze him, no matter how much he saw it. Soaring through the clouds, smooth blue-black metal glinting with imposing majesty, was the Blackbird. There was a sharp intake of breath and Gaspar saw Belthazar staring with huge eyes at the spectacle. His friend's face had gone pale and worried lines traced his face like cracks in stone. Melchior crossed his arms over his chest and after a minute said, "I thought the Blackbird was under repair, Belthazar. Why is it flying?"
"I don't know!" the Guru of Reason groaned. "It was, the last time I saw it." He followed the path of the plane with his eyes. He muttered something under his breath too low to hear, but it was probably just as well. The Nu heard, however, jerked awake with a start, and shuffled over by his master.
Gaspar frowned and studied the Blackbird as best he could, since it was still pretty far away. "I don't know, guys. Looks fine to me."
"That's what that fool Dalton said!" Belthazar exploded. Several of the council members stepped back, never having heard the old Guru so upset before. Gradually, they began to wander away from the window, leaving only a few still behind.
"Dalton? What does he have to do with anything?" Melchior asked in confusion. The weapon's master steadied Belthazar with a supporting arm. "Why don't you explain."
The old man sighed and leaned heavily on the Nu's head, the strain and shock of what he was seeing upsetting him greatly. He was not a frail man, by any means, but his tendency to lose his temper had been the cause for many stress-related illnesses. The Healers said he had to watch the strain he put on his heart but he didn't care what those young idiots had to say.
"Oh, that blasted fool Dalton made a mention of how the engine kept rattling whenever they turned it on. I told him and the King that I felt it wise to keep from using the Blackbird till I had investigated the source of the noise. I figure it is probably a few loose cogs and screws but I wanted to be sure." Here he clenched his fist and slammed it down on the windowsill. "But Dalton laughed at me! He said I was old, I should be resting, he'd have his men check it out. I told his Majesty that Dalton's men weren't trained properly. If given a few days, I could pinpoint the problem and have it taken care of. I begged the King to let me take the project."
"And?" Gaspar prodded.
"And he said he thought it was all well and good. He told me he'd have Dalton's men do a quick tune-up and to check out some things that might have been going on, then I could get their report and conduct my own investigation. And you know what the report said?" Belthazar laughed bitterly. "It said, 'Cannot find any signs of damage or unusual behavior in the Blackbird. Though rattling sounds persist, no further investigation is needed.' Can you believe the stupidity of some people? Honestly! If there is a strange sound, you don't write it off so quickly. That's why I arrived here today. I was going to march into the hangar and do my search weather Dalton liked it or not."
Three pairs of eyes returned to watch the Blackbird. The plane was definitely closer now, and you could just make out the details of people moving in the cockpit. Belthazar sighed. "I was going speak with the King but then I heard Queen Zeal was having the baby and all thoughts about it slipped my mind. I only hope that Dalton's men didn't screw around with the-"
He never finished that sentence, for in that instant, flames exploded from the nose of the Blackbird, engulfing the plane with orange light, smoke billowing from the engine. "Oh, my!" Gaspar exclaimed. The few remaining council members still watching screamed and shouted in despair as they watched the plane begin a deadly decent towards Terra Continent. The cry was taken up all over the palace as word spread. The Blackbird was crashing, and in it was the King of Zeal.
"Oh, no! Oh, no!" Belthazar cried in anguish, wringing his hands in helplessness. "Use the eject! Eject, blast you Dalton! Save the King!" he shouted, tears running down his wizened face, knowing all to well his words weren't heard by anyone but himself. His heart couldn't take this sight. A sudden burst of pain lanced through his left shoulder and arm. Gasping, the Guru of Reason clutched at his chest and started to sink to his knees. The Nu moved to catch him and Gaspar cried out in alarm.
Between the two of them and the Nu, they managed to help Belthazar into the easy-chair Melchior had occupied earlier. The Guru of Reason clawed at Melchior and dragged his head close. He whispered, "The...King....Must find out...if....he's....Must find out..."
The former weapon's master nodded and squeezed his friend's hand. To Gaspar, he said, "Stay with him. Send the Nu to look for a Healer. I must go see if I can reach the wreckage of the Blackbird. Perhaps...perhaps the King isn't...I mean, there might be some hope..." His voice caught in his throat. Gaspar promised to stay with Belthazar and the Nu scurried off to find that Healer. Melchior turned on his heel and started running. He'd take the Skygate down to Terra Continent.
In the halls of the palace there was chaos, confusion, and the wailing of hundreds of voices all mourning the death of the King and the people aboard the Blackbird. As he passed the royal suite, the sounds of hysterical screaming could be heard and the voice of several concerned doctors as well. Apparently, even after all she had been through with him, Queen Zeal still found it in her heart to love her husband.
"Your Majesty! Please! No!"
"Highness, it is indeed a tragedy but you are weak! You need to calm down!"
"My husband, your King, is dead! Do not ask me to be calm! Leave me!"
"LEAVE ME!! GET OUT OF MY SIGHT!!"
The door opened and two doctors rushed out and closed the door, moments before a vase or some other expensive pottery shattered against the wood. The crying and screaming reached fever pitch and dissolved into hopeless, awful sobbing. Melchior didn't slow down, however. He sped past the room and the quaking doctors as fast as he could, only on thought on his mind: to reach the Skygate.
After running for about five minutes, Melchior had to stop, lest he overexert himself. Despite the urgency of his mission, he couldn't help but think, rather ruefully, that he would be feeling the cramps in his joints greatly the next day. As he stood puffing, a sound caught his attention. It wasn't a bad sound, it wasn't harsh or grating really, but it was a sound of grief so terrible that even the Queen's agony appeared paltry in comparison. It was the cry of an infant, yet so full of sorrow that it was hard to imagine a baby could feel an emotion that powerful.
Curious despite himself, Melchior limped over to the open door where a young woman, the royal nanny, bounced and rocked the squalling prince in her arms. In the far corner of the room sat Princess Schala. Despite her eight-years of age, the girl showed remarkable composure. Her face was dry but anyone with half a heart could tell she suffered bitterly.
The young woman looked up at the Guru as he entered. Her cheeks had streaks from tears and she mumbled an apology. "I'm sorry. The prince, he doesn't want to stop crying....He started when the Black Wind began to blow...I just can't seem to calm him down. I'm sorry."
Melchior waved away her apology. "It's all right, I was just wondering what....WHAT DID YOU SAY?!"
The girl nearly jumped out of her skin. "Excuse me?"
"Did you say the Black Wind? Can you feel it?"
"N-no, but Mistress Schala can. She told me that it was howling. And then the prince started to scream..."
The Guru turned his gaze to the young girl who sat so still and pale, she might as well have been a statue in clothing. "Schala, dear, is this true?" The little girl nodded, her hair falling into her eyes. She pushed it out of her face and folded her hands in her lap, studying them intently with a guilt-ridden expression.
"Daddy called Mommy's name when he died. I heard it on the Black Wind. Then Janus started to cry. I wish he wouldn't cry. It hurts." A single tear fell ker-plunk on her hand and slid off onto her dress, absorbing into the fabric.
Melchior looked at the creaming infant with a mixture of sadness and confusion. It was odd to hear of a baby showing response to the Black Wind, since so few could hear it anyway. But Schala was one of those gifted and so perhaps her brother was as well. He realized that the woman was speaking.
"I'm sorry, what was that again?"
"The baby, he needs a name. His hour is almost up. Without a Naming, he can never be considered Enlightened."
Melchior shook his head in irritation. "I have no time for this, Madame! I must away to see if the King lives. It might just be possible, don't you think?"
The girl lowered her eyes. "I think we both know the answer to that question. But if you feel you must, then you must. But we're talking about the fate of a prince of Zeal Kingdom."
Melchior rubbed his face with one hand. "I know...but I can't lose hope. There is still a chance that the King might....might be..." The baby prince gave another mournful cry. Tears threatened to spill from his eyes at the sound. Suddenly he remembered something. To Schala, he asked, "What did you say earlier? What did you call him?"
"Janus," the princess replied faintly. "Call him Janus."
The nursemaid gaped at them in shock. "Janus? But you can't mean...You can't possibly mean..."
Melchior glared at her and she shut her mouth. "Call him Janus, lass, in memory of this event. May his name be a reminder of the tragedy today and the hope that youth may bring. There is enough sadness in it. His name is fitting, I think. It suits him well...." Without further words, the Guru of Life sprinted off. The woman watched him go and then drew the cloth back from the squirming, whimpering bundle she held.
"Janus," she whispered, "I name you Prince Janus of Zeal Kingdom. You are Enlightened and possess the gift of magic. You are royalty and possess the gift of power. You are Janus...." Her voice died on his name. Walking back into the room, she laid him in his crib and moved as far away from his cradle as possible. Schala watched this, though she scarcely comprehended the meaning of what had just happened. She knew she had named her baby brother something terrible and that when she'd felt the Black Wind, it had said his name as it blew through her mind. Even as she watched, her brother's eyes deepened from light blue to hazy gray and finally lavender. They were dark, soul-reading things that you couldn't look into for more then a few seconds. But even so, Schala rose to her feet and gathered up the whimpering bundle and held it to her, instinctively rocking him. Before too long, the newly christened Janus had drifted off into an exhausted sleep, memories of the Black Wind still haunting his first infant slumber, wrapped in his sister's warm embrace.
Eight days later, the wreckage of the Blackbird was discovered, having crashed near one of the highest mountains on Terra Continent. In remembrance, it was called Mt. Woe. Few had survived the plummet. One of these was Captain Dalton, though the disaster had left him with severe injuries, including the loss of one eye. The King on the other hand, wasn't so lucky. His body was found crushed beneath a massive propeller. It had broken off and torn through the metal sides of the plane.
A public funeral was held for the late King of Zeal and his loyal subjects wept profusely. Everyone attended the ceremony, everyone, that is, except Guru Belthazar who was bedridden from the heart-attack and was suspected to remain so for several weeks. And in the sorrow and the heartbreak of the tragedy, no one but Schala would have anything to do with Prince Janus. In the old language of Zeal, "Janus" means destruction, sorrow....death. And who wants to be around a person named after those?