The Story Of Magus Chapter Four
A Test of Courage
"The Council will now come to order," Queen Zeal announced as she took her seat in an ornate throne at the head of a large round table. To her right was Schala, looking upset and confused. The princess really didn't know what to make of her mother's behavior or why she had been called to sit on the Council. Zeal had never let her before, so why start now? Janus had been denied access, though she had protested. Queen Zeal had laughed at the notion and asked that the prince be returned to his room where he was to stay. Janus had dared make protests and was told quite coldly that guards would escort him if nessissary.Schala didn't want her brother to be "escorted" to his room by the guards like some prisoner, so she volunteered to take him.
He had stared at her is shocked silence and hurt dismay as they walked. "It will always be this way, won't it?"
"What will, Janus?," she had asked.
"You will always have to protect me. I will never be able to stand up for myself because of who I am and what I represent."
Schala had forced a laugh. "Don't be silly. I just didn't want you to get into trouble. Mother is...under the weather today and we should try and humor her."
Janus had assumed the most viscious of expressions right then. His features twisted into the most dreadfull she had ever seen. "That wasn't our Mother, Schala, and you know it. It wasn't her at all. I don't want you to be around her. She might hurt you."
"That's terrible, Janus! You shouldn't say things like that."
"You know I speak the truth. That Lavos...It's changed her, and I don't want it to change you too."
Another forced laugh. "What makes you think it will?" But Janus just shook his head, refusing to say anything. This had puzzled Schala. It wasn't like Janus to keep secrets from her. "Janus, what's wrong? You seem...well, moodier then usual."
He had looked at her sharply and said, "I just think that Lavos-thing is bad, okay? I don't want you around it!"
Schala shook her head and returned her attention to the present. Poor Janus! He had seemed so adamant, yet he wouldn't tell why. But the princess could not very well deny an order by her mother to attend the Council. She would have to try and push the dark thoughts her brother had instilled in her aside, lest she become unnerved by them.
Melchior sat beside her, puffing his pipe, dissaproval on his features. The old weapon's master looked so angry in fact, that his bushy eyebrows had drawn together tightly over his dark eyes so that it seemed like a thundercloud was forming in front of him.
To the left of the Quenn was Gasper and Belthazar, (and of course, the ever present Nu who was drowsilly swaying in his seat.) The rest of the chairs were filled with the other various assorted Council members, including Dalton, who had managed to clean himself up to look decidedly handsome and almost like a soldier. His uniform was spotless and his hair was pulled back by a thong of leather. His jewled eye-patch twinkled in the lamp glow.
The sun was setting and the red-orange glow spilled into the room, creating pools of color on the floor which the magical lamps did nothing to diminish. The windows had been opened to keep the room cool and fresh for the many people gathered within. The men and women stirred to attention and focused on their Queen.
"My loyal subjects," Queen Zeal began, rising and placing her hands on the table before her, "I have asked you here this evening to discuss very important matters that concern not only us but the fate of the very Kingdom we call home. As you all know, the Earthbound have disscovered a recently unheard of power, now called Lavos, buried inside the depths of a mining tunnle on Terra Continent. Furthermore, you all have surely heard the rumors of a giant machine being built by our own respected Guru of Reason, Belthazar."
Queen Zeal smiled at said Guru. "I am happy to confirm those rumors at last. Belthazar has indeed created an ingenious piece of work designed to tap the power of Lavos. It will be named the Mamon Machine-" She stopped and gestured to Belthazar. "But perhaps the creator might like the chance to speak of his creation."
All eyes turned to look at the Guru of Reason who beamed at the Queen. He rose from his seat as she sat back down. "Thank you, your Magesty. Yes, the Mamon Machine is designed to collect the power secreted from Lavos and to draw it into the core. Then, it may be distributed as her Magesty sees fit." He paused. "It took me and my staff a very long time to finish this project and while the Mamon Machine is ready for use, it lacks one thing....a power transmitter, a form of energy conduit to move the unharvested power of Lavos into the inner core." He looked around. "Her Magesty has informed me that one of you present has such an item."
The gathered Council looked at each other in eager excitment, waiting to see who it was who had such an object. Melchior saw Schala flinch out of the corner of his eye. Her hand drifted to her Dreamstone pendant, the one her Father gave her on her fith birthday. Her slender fingers curled around it, more, it seemed, to hide it then to reassure herself of it's presence.
Finaly, when no one spoke up, the Council started to ask who this person was. Queen Zeal held up one hand for peace. Blethazar resumed his seat. The Nu promptly fell over with it's head on his shoulder. Belthazar pushed it off, smacked it across it's face a few times, and it opened it's eyes blearily.
"The person who posesses such a gift amongst us is none other then my own daughter, Schala!," the Queen stated. The gathered people stared at the princess who blushed and looked like she wanted to become invisible. "I have discovered that her pendant can draw the power to her, and if it is possible, she shall be able to send this power to the Mamon Machine to be used."
"What uses could this power be used for, my Queen?," asked Dalton. The Gurus knashed their teeth at the captain but he ignored them. "Could it be used for weapons? Perhaps we could construct another Blackbird and use the power as fuel..."
Gaspar leaned forward angrilly, though Belthazar laid a restraining hand on his arm. The Guru of Time quivered with indignation as well, but it was Melchior who spoke his friend's thoughts.
"You impudent fool! Don't be absurd!," he growled fiercely. "The Power of Lavos should be used for the benifit of the entire Kingdom, not just for you."
Dalton sneered. "I am thinking of the Kingdom, you doddering, useless Guru! Zeal needs better weapons to be protected, a crack fighting force to-"
"Protect it from what?!," Gaspar snarled, despit Belthazar's warning squeeze to his arm. "Everyone knows that the Eternal Kingdom of Zeal has been at peace for countless millenia! You speak of squandering these unique resources on pointless items." He smiled dangerously. "Or perhaps you have ideals for the throne, eh Dalton? Is that why you seek more powerfull weapons?"
This of course threw the Council into uproar, Dalton's supporters standing up and shouting while Gaspar and Melchior both attacked them mercilessly with barbs and sharp retorts. This might have gone on for much longer had Queen Zeal not intervened.
"ENOUGH! This bickering amongst ourselves is not the proper way to conduct any sort of Council!" Queen Zeal glared at the Guru's who had started the mess, much to Dalton's smug pleasure. "But I must say, though, that despite it's improper timing and itroduction, I belive Guru Gaspar and Guru Melchior have valid points."
The room quieted instantly and resumed their seats, respectful of their monarch's temper. Schala wished dearly that Janus had been allowed to sit in on the Council. She needed his soothing, unruffled calm, despite it's coldness, to ease her turbulent thoughts and still her beating heart. Once again his warning played through her mind.
The smug look on Dalton's face vanished as he heard what the Queen said. "What?!," he exclaimed.
The Queen laughed, a disturbing sound to all present. "Oh, Dalton! You really are simple minded! Who needs weapons when we can be Gods?"
The room went dead still, the only sound the Queen's errie laughter. The sun was now obscoured by the clouds and the harsh magical light illuminated the room brightly. Warm wind drifted through the open window and stirred her hair, making her face seem unreal and ghostly.
"We shall be Gods, a race of immortals basking in the power of Lavos. I have felt it's power! It has opened my eyes to the true reason for the Enlightened. We were meant to not only controll magic, but to become magic! By becoming one with Lavos, we shall usher in a new era where Enlightened are supreme. The Eternal Kingdom will be eternal forever!" She lowered her voice. "All you have to do is accept the power of Lavos into yourselves."
The gathered Enlightened looked at each other nervously. Belthazar frowned and mumbled beneathe his beard. Schala put her hand to her pendant and gasped. It was pulsing with energy! Queen Zeal saw this, and pulled Schala to her feet.
"Behold! A sign from Lavos to my daughter! Lavos beackons! We have only to follow. Come, my people! Come with me to the Mamon Room and feel the awsome power of Lavos!" Dragging Schala with by one arm, Queen Zeal rushed from the room. The surprised Council hurriedly scrambled out of their seats after her. The last to leave were, of course, the Gurus. They looked at each other unhappily and went after the rest of the Council, their hearts heavy with dread.
Janus fumed before the massive steel door that bore the Zealian royal crest upon it. Despite his best efforts to open it, he could find no seams or handle to pull, nor any secret levers or buttons. What good is a door, he thought angrilly to himself, if you can't open it or make it budge?
Despite being told to stay in his room, the young prince was far too head-strong to obey an order like that. After all, he was royalty! He gave orders, not took them. He had wandered around the palace, looking for something to do for the past fifteen minutes. Boredom was a feeling he was accustomed to, and even Alfador couln't relieve it all the time. He had finally found a door he hadn't seen before and the blasted thing wouldn't open. It was like finding a present but you can't break the seal.
Alfador was curled up in a plant stand sleeping as he waited for his human master to give up the useless pummling upon the door. Suddenly, his keen ears detected the sound of approaching strangers. He hissed and fuzzed and leapt out of the plant. Janus whirled and listened closely. He heard nothing.
"Alfador, you crazy cat! Don't scare me like-"
"Ouch! Mother, stop! Ouch! You're hurting me!"
Janus heard his sister's voice, faint but distinct, comming nearer. He looked around franticly for a place to hide. All that was near was the plant and an alcove in the wall. The plant was small and the alcove really big. But perhaps together...Not wasting a minute, he grabbed the plant and dragged it across the floor till it stood in a corner of the alcove. He knelt down behind the plant.
"Alfador! C'mere boy!" He waved for the cat to come over. The violet critter mewed, loudly enough so that Janus winced, and ran over, crawling into his lap. The boy waited, heart pounding in his ears. Minutes passed. Just when he thought it might be safe to get up from his hidden location, Queen Zeal walked right passed the alcove, Schala behind her, her arm in what looked to be a painfully tight grip. Behind them came the Council, including Captain Dalton, looking far grander then that day Janus had seen him drunk, and the Gurus. But what were they all doing here?
Janus crept from behind the plant and slid along the wall till he was by the corner. He peered cautiously around the bend and watched the procedings. His mother had placed Schala in front of the door. His sister looked so miserable as she rubbed her arm where Zeal's fingers had bruised her. Janus silently willed her strength. Almost as if she felt the love he tried to send, she stood a little straighter and stopped rubbing her arm.
"Now Shcala," Queen Zeal began, "I want you to use your pendant and open this door to the Mamon Room." Her daughter stood a little defiantly.
"And if I don't?," she said, only a slight tremble in her voice. Her mother towered over her.
"You dare defy me? I am your mother! You will do as I say Schala!" The Queen pointed a finger at the door with the crest, her movements causeing her bracelets to jingle with a musical sound. "Now, open the door!"
"Very well," the girl concieded. She put both hands around her pendant as if in prayer and bowed her head, summoning the magical powers within her. Next she raised her arms in front of her, her chin still to her chest. Her pendant began to glow with the errie green light as it had done in the Council room, and before that, in the Lavos Cave. Dalton suddenly disconected from the group and began to head in Janus's direction. The prince quickly ran back to his hiding place and hid in the nick of time as Dalton came around the corner.
"Stupid pants!," he muttered quietly, grasping the seat of his trousers and pulling down and wiggling his rear-end. Janus put his hand over his mouth to keep from laughing. Though it wasn't a sight Janus had wanted to see, it was definitely hilarious. There was an unusual metalic sound and Janus knew Schala had suceeded in breaking the seal on the steel door. Dalton turned and hurried back to join the group. Janus snuck swiftly after him and saw the Council members following the Queen into the room beyond the door. Schala still stood outside looking wan and pale. After the last of the people had entered, she stepped inside and made a gesture. The door began to slide shut. Janus dropped Alfador and ran for the door, wedging his way in before it slammed shut, leaving his cat outside.
The prince looked around in awe, his mouth hanging open like a that of a dunce, so incredible was the sight. The room was large, vaulted, and poorly lit by orangish lights that surrounded the object of his stupteficatition.
The Mamon Machine was humongus, looking like some monstrous heart made of wires and metal, it's shadowy caverns seeming to pulsate with the echo of Schala's pendant. Lights blinked on and off randomly it seemed in different areas across the mottled Dreamstone surface.
Janus wandered around the room till he had a clear view of the procedings. He noticed his teachers, the three Gurus, standing in the very back, away from the main group. Melchior's expression caught his eye. It was one of loathing and, strange enough, thoughtfullness as if his mind were racing.
"Come forward, Schala. Invoke your pendant yet again and let our people feel the tremendous power of Lavos!," Queen Zeal commanded of her daughter. Schala moved almost as if in a trance and repeated her movements she had done to open the sealed door. The lights around the Mamon Machine began to whirl crazily and a thrumming sound pervaded the room. The wires and tubes leading into the inner core began o fill with the sickly green energy that Lavos gave off in the cave. The very air crackled with that power, seeping into every pore and fiber of every person present.
Janus felt a deliscious tingling begin in his chest and spread through his limbs and stomach. It was irrisistable. He wanted to give in to that energy, to surrender to the sensations. Then suddenly, the Black Wind cut through it like a knife, howling and wailing in his skull, mixed with the horrible screech of Lavos, the same one he'd heard in the cave. It slammed into his thoughts like ice-water, jolting him from the seductive dream and into reality. He looked around at everyone, only to see they suffered similar fates. Only Schala and the Nu seemed uneffected. But Schala was in her magic-induced trance and the Nu was asleep so there was no help to be found from them.
Janus knew he had to stop the machine somehow, but other then dissrupting his sister's trance, which might very well prove fatal for the both of them, he had to find another way. The young prince ran up to Belthazar, since it was obvious that he'd built it, and tried to shake him to his senses. But all Janus got was a snort, a giggle, and a sigh of contentment. The next person he tried was Melchior.
The old weapon's master kept jerking and mumbling to himself. Janus grabbed him and shook the old man hard. "Guru Melchior! Snap out of it! I need your help!"
Something must have penetrated because the Guru of Life stiffened, blinked, and shook his head to clear it. "Wh-what happened? Janus? Where are we? I don't quite remember-" Then he saw the Mamon Machine. "Of course! I remember now!" He looked at Janus as if seeing him for the first time. "Janus, what...? No, nevermind. Right now I need your help in stopping that thing."
Janus nodded wordlessly. Together, they aproached the Mamon Machine cautiously. Queen Zeal stood beside Schala, eyes closed, face radiant from the energy flowing wildly into her and several of the Council members. While all were recieving power, only a handfull were getting strong amounts yet at the same time, others weren't recieving half the smallest amount.
"Maybe if we cut the main power-line, it will shut down the whole thing," Melchior said. Janus nodded. "The problem is, I can't reach the main line." He looked at Janus suddenly and smiled. The boy gulped for he knew what was coming.
"Okay, I'll do it. But I'll need a weapon...something strong to cut the metal with."
Melchior reached into his robes and produced out of seemingly no-where a blade that looked like a red knife. "Here, take this. I'll give you a boost." Janus accepted the knife and slid it into his pants to hold it securely while Melchior lifted him up, with much grunting and puffing, till he could reach the wires and scramble up into the electrical forrest or flashing lights. He squrimed his way till he found the large metal tube that held the inner core in place.
Ever so carefully, Janus removed the knife from his waist-band and began to saw through the tube. As he did, the lights began to slow their dizzying spin, and the energy flowing withing grew less and less. Finaly the knife broke through the other side and the Mamon Machine ground to a halt. As it did, the Council Members came out of their trances, some looking about in confusion, some smiling up at the Mamon Machine with a feverish gleam in their eyes just like Queen Zeal. The sudden release from the Machine caused an energy backlash that hit Schala hard. She screamed and crumpled to her knees.
"Schala!," Janus cried, fogetting for a moment he wasn't supposed to be there. Everyone looked up, saw him, the knife, and the ragged cut he made through the tube. He saw his mother's face go dead white with fury.
"Janus! What have you done?! You've wrecked the Mamon Machine, you stupid boy!," she howled. "Traitor! Traitor!!" At her side, Dalton raised his own feverish gaze to the prince.
"I say you let me teach him to mess with the all mighty Lavos, my Queen. Let the brat defend himself with his puny red knife, if he can!"
Schala had recovered enough to utter a despairing, "No! Don't hurt my little brother, Dalton! I swear I'll kill you if you do!"
"Stop!" Melchior stepped forward. His friends regarded him silently. They hadn't been effected much by the Mamon Machine due to their strength of character and will. They knew he was going to do something really stupid. "Janus didn't do it. I cut the tube and told Janus to climb up there and handed him the knife. I was going to frame him. But I just can't do it."
Dalton sneered. "Oh, yeah? Well, how did you smuggle him in without me knowing about it?"
"When you all were soaking up Lavos's power I teleported him in," Melchior replied quickly. Dalton stared at the weapon's master for a time.
"Okay, I believe ya. But if Janus isn't the traitor, then you are. And the punishment for traitors is still the same. Death!" To Queen Zeal, Dalton said, "Now do you see why I asked for better weapons? Look what happens when no one listens to me!"
But Zeal wasn't listening. She was staring at Melchior with such hatred that she seemed utterly transformed into some monster with Zeal's face. "Melchio, Guru of Life and former Weapon's Master, I will spare you your life," she spat coldly. Everyone stared at her in shock. "But do not think you shall not escape my wrath! I sentence you to exile on Mt. Woe untill I summon you, which won't be for a very, very long time. Dalton, escort Guru Melchior to his house where he shall gather his belongings and then take him to Mt. Woe and see he is made...comfortable there."
Melchior had gone as white as his hair with dread, as if Queen Zeal had killed him and drained his blood on the spot. Dalton saluted sharply and shoved Melchior forward. The Guru of Life passed by his two sorrowfull friends without a word or a glance. Janus watched him go, more confused then sorrowfull. Why had Melchior taken the punishment for them both when they were both to blame?
"As for you, young man...."
Janus swallowed hard and looked at his mother who stood tapping one foot with her hands on her hips. "Yes, momma?"
"Come down from there at once and give me a hug! I'm so sorry I suspected you of anything, Janus. You must have been so scared! But it's okay now. Momma has taken care of everything..." Queen Zeal held out her arms to him as she used to do those few years when she actually cared about him. But as Janus slid down the wires and stepped into her embrace, he knew in that instant his mother was gone and this monster who inhabited her body had to be destroyed.
Melchior was taken to Mt. Woe by Dalton and his team of specially trained butchers who called themselves soldiers and left there, encased in black of ice. Schala recovered from her ordeal with the Mamon Machine but was now forced into daily transfer sessions of the power. The Machine itself was repaired by Belthazar and put back into full operation. Queen Zeal announced publicly that anyone caught conspireing against Lavos would suffer the same fate as Melchior. As for Janus, though he couldn't find another way to sabatoge the Machine, he slowly began to dedicate his protection to the weakening flower of his love and trust....his sister.