Cause and Effect Chapter 3
By Alex Weitzman
Tom, the town miller, easily threw his empty sack into the wheelbarrow. One more good day of sales at Guardia Palace. Not even a single loaf of bread that needed to be taken home. The chef, busy as always, did Tom a great favor by merely glancing at the young miller, straight out of apprenticeship, and saying, "We'll take 'em all. Girls, help Mr. Jessery with unloading his stock."
Tom took the small pouch of gold out of his pocket and tossed it up and down in his hand, using the other hand to lead the light wheelbarrow out into Guardia Forest. Since he'd stayed around to chat with some friends he had at the castle, he had to make his journey through the dense area of trees at dusk. The remaining sunlight hit random spots in the forest almost horizontally.
Still, despite the lack of clarity in the view, Tom couldn't be happier. This couldn't possibly be a better day.
Lucca bent over to examine the body, still clutching its wheelbarrow. "Well, at least he died without having to experience the effects of the disease." She turned back to Marle, who once again had a look of fear on her face. "Sorry, Marle. You know what I mean."
Marle nodded. "We really should get going, though. This place isn't going to be any safer at night."
"You keep the Ethers coming and I'll keep the Fire spells revved. We won't see any welted creatures if I can burn them away first. Anyway, we should keep looking for Crono."
Marle and Lucca looked at the body once more. Lucca sighed and walked ahead, with Marle following.
As they continued through Guardia Forest, Lucca glanced back and said, "I hope I didn't offend or worry you back there. You know, about experiencing the disease."
Marle held her jacket closer to warm up. "No, you were right, anyway. He's lucky. Me......Crono......and those guards are just cursed."
Lucca stopped and turned back to her. "What guards?"
"Oh, I forgot to mention them. Yeah, I ran into a couple of guards on the way back to the castle. They were still alive, so I told them they were probably infected. They were so confused, not knowing what would happen to them or even what attacked them."
Lucca adjusted her glasses. "What do you mean, didn't know what attacked them? They didn't see?"
Marle responded, "No..............as in they didn't know what a kilwala was." Lucca's eyes widened and she said nothing. Marle pried, "What? Is there something important in that?"
"It's not our fault," Lucca muttered.
"We didn't do it," Lucca said, louder this time. "Remember when we were talking about the fact that it was only after we defeated Lavos that kilwalas returned?"
Marle thought for a second. "Yes, I remember. Why?"
"Well, consider. When we changed the mayor of Porre to not be so selfish, did he remember being a jerk? Of course not. Only we did. We, who have been so removed from the time continuum that we remember an end of the world that never happened. Everyone else had no clue."
Lucca laughed a little. "So, according to you, those guards......had no clue?"
"Yeah," said Marle, catching on. "They would've known, right? If it had been our time-traveling that caused it?"
"Exactly. If kilwalas were merely changed from being extinct, then nobody would think twice about them. These kilwalas are not indigenous to our time period. Now or ever."
Marle scratched her head. "So...how'd they get here?"
"I don't know. I suppose....they came through a Gate."
A moderately-sized pack of kilwalas, about 8 adults and a couple of cubs, passed by an overhang in their Mystic Mountain home, focusing on whatever their destination was. One small cub stopped to look up at the top of the overhang, where a beautiful purple rose had reached its peak of beauty, and its bloom had made it so top-heavy that it drooped down to make for a perfect view.
However, the next sight made it shriek and catch up with its mother. A large sphere of blue, swirling light appeared off of the overhang, digging into a curved-out section of the cliff wall that fit the sphere's curvature perfectly. Out of the orb, a bluish figure with a purple cape fell out, at first plummeting, but then levitating himself down to the ground below the cliff, landing lightly.
Magus stood up from his kneeled position and brushed himself off. "Hmph. I'd forgotten that this Gate is not located on solid ground," he muttered. He reached into his pocket and pulled out the Gate Key that Lucca had made for him to aid in his search for Schala. He had to admit that Lucca was quite the genius she made herself out to be; despite the fact that he needed to depend on existing Gates for arriving in time periods, he could create his departing Gate wherever he needed. Magus had been able to avoid a lot of hassle that way, particularly in 12,000 B.C., where there was only one Gate in one rather inaccessible spot since the fall of Zeal.
The Gate Key, adorned by five crystals around the centerpiece, had one crystal alight. Magus watched as that light faded away, signifying the Key's inactivity. Now he had a whole new time period to search.
"I still don't understand why you insisted on coming, Azala," Zorbe said as the two of them led a team of Reptites through the less-traveled areas on Mystic Mountain.
"You ARE planning on giving this plague to the most accursed ape of them all, that damn Ayla, correct?" Azala retorted. "I tore the flesh out of your test subject, so I think I'm good enough to tear some flesh out of that particular scourge of life."
"Heh. Good. I'm quite glad to see that our queen has a strong sense of revenge. Life doesn't mean anything for us anymore. Death is everything." Zorbe jiggled the glass container containing the liquid plague with glee.
Azala said nothing, but walked just a tad further ahead so to hide the expression on her face. Zorbe's idea had some merit, but she still had nagging doubts about this whole affair. While Zorbe seemed to be acting out of desperation - a sort of "if we can't have it, no one can" attitude - Azala still believed there was a chance for the Reptites. Zorbe made "a few hundred" sound so small. To Azala, a few hundred could spawn countless generations.
Still, Zorbe promised her that the plague was specifically engineered for the apes, and she would like to get her claws on that miserable Ayla. Everything within her soul called out for Ayla's death. Azala had grown up hearing stories of this vile ape chief who had been warring with her mother, and her view of Ayla sealed when she heard that her mother had fallen to her at their grand castle. Sure, someone would need to point out to her which ape was Ayla, but that was all she needed.
Zorbe, attributing his leader's quickened pace to eagerness to do the deed, turned to the Reptites behind them and said, "Prepare to ambush the apes once we come to their hunting grounds. We don't know exactly how many there may be, although we know that Ayla likes to hunt with as few apes as possible. You are to distract and kill as many of the apes while Azala and myself take Ayla."
A spear hit the side of a raptor's head, lodging itself into the tiny brain and sending the creature to the ground, instantly dead.
"How you better than me at spear?" Kino asked Ayla, whose gaze was just moving from her target. They got up from their crouched position behind the large rock.
Ayla turned to Kino and grinned her usual self-important smirk. "You want we compare muscles again?" she said as she flexed her impressive bicep. Kino kicked the ground and said nothing, knowing that there wasn't much he could say that would make him look good to the other three men, laughing behind him. Crono made some comment when he was here about Kino and Ayla's relationship - "henpecked". Kino swore that one day he'd find out what that means.
Ayla motioned for the men to start tearing the raptor into transportable chunks while she looked over the side of the cliff near them. They happened to be on the edge of a long, but relatively shallow ravine. One of Ayla's lucky hunting spots. Looking down at the bottom of the ravine, she could see a group of kilwalas arrive at one particular rock and begin to dance around it, in almost a religious fashion.
The scream behind Ayla quickly shifted her attention to the raptor, who was still dead. Her men, however, were suddenly fighting a swarm of Reptites.
Ayla wasted no time. She yelled "KINO!" as she dived towards the raptor and pulled out the spear from its head, consequently shoving it into the midsection of one of the Reptites. Giving the spear to the man she just saved, she then turned to see Kino hurling rocks towards a couple of Reptite assailants.
"Kino! Throw rocks at head!" she advised. "What you think I do?" Kino spat back, letting one Reptite fall to the ground unconscious and continuing on the other one.
Ayla, satisfied with Kino's progress, turned once more to find herself face to face with Azala. Immediately, Azala's claw flashed before her face, and Ayla's body was sent flying over to to the edge of the cliff.
Ayla, suddenly dazed, started to get up. Another "oof" came from her as Azala landed on her and pinned her to the ground. Unsheathing a dagger, Azala aimed for Ayla's shoulder. Unfortunately, the human's struggling made the hoped stab merely a light slice. Still, it would serve Azala's purpose.
The pain was utterly excruciating for Ayla, who then felt the presence of someone near her legs. On instinct, she kicked hard, sending Zorbe back a good twenty feet.
"Zorbe! Get her, now!" Azala yelled at her scientist companion. Zorbe was fumbling the test tube with the disease in it, but eventually he was able to catch it in perfect condition. "Back off, Azala. Keep that ape from kicking."
Now she knew it. Ayla could tell that Azala II - by now she'd figured out that this was not her deceased mortal foe, but her foe's daughter - had something insidious planned for her. Her struggling continued with even more effort, but Azala was holding even tighter than before.
Kino, finished with his two attackers, turned to see Ayla's predicament. But then, he looked even further and saw a familiar sight. "Ayla!" he yelled. "Look over on other side!"
Her head already pushed over the edge of the cliff, Ayla bent her head backwards to see the upside-down image of Magus. Her amazement at the sight quickly gave way to focus on what she needed to do. "MAGUS! HELP!"
On the other side of the cliff, Magus heard, of all things, a cry for help specifically to him. He turned to see Ayla being forced to the ground by what looked like the dead Azala. He wasn't completely sure of what was going on, but his instincts said to help an ally in trouble, even one as distant to him as the cave woman.
Azala looked up for one second to see a bluish ape heading, airborne, right for her. She shrieked and dived to the side, unsure of what she saw. Ayla let Magus pass over her and then sprang to her feet. Enraged, she charged Azala and swatted her down into the ravine. She hit the ground near the kilwalas, who had now scraped themselves ritually on their sacred rock, all leaving blood residue behind.
Magus, meanwhile, kept speeding through the air at the other lizard who was heading for Ayla - Zorbe. He collided with him while charging his arm with dark energy. Zorbe was immediately paralyzed; his Reptite body had never handled anything even remotely like dark energy before. The test tube in his hand, released from Zorbe's grasp, went flying over the edge of the ravine. Zorbe, still conscious, yelled after it, "No! The virus!"
His words were loud enough for Azala to hear, who gasped and instinctually rolled away from the kilwalas. The test tube landed exactly on the point of the rock the kilwalas danced around, covering all of them in the liquid plague. Azala's eyes widened in horror as she realized that each kilwala had an open wound.
Up on top of the cliff, Magus threw the unmoving Zorbe off to the side and unsheathed his scythe. He leaped into the still-continuing fray of Reptites and humans. One human had fallen along with several Reptites, but the lizards were overpowering the apes. Until Magus jumped in. He immediately took off several Reptite heads with one slice and yelled over to Ayla, "Get your men out of here!"
"Hunting party! You all move over here!" Ayla shouted in response. Boy, Kino had really come through for them. For her.
The humans, upon Ayla's order, scrambled out of the mess of violence that had begun. Magus used his scythe on the Reptites as one would on wheat. Within two minutes, the fighting had stopped, with the dark savior standing among a pile of reptile bodies.
Ayla and Kino rushed over to Magus. "You incredible!" Kino shouted with glee. Ayla rolled her eyes and said, "Kino, you go check on men. Wrap wounds." Kino nodded and left the two in the corpse-laden ground. Ayla turned back to Magus and said, "Thank you. You save me and my men."
Suddenly, Magus was in a situation that he had no track record of being able to handle. A fight? No problem. Mom's gonna sacrifice her civilization for power? Doable. Big alien being sucking the life out of the planet? Been there, done that. However, the former prince of Zeal had now done something he hadn't ever really done before. He unequivocally helped someone, merely because a voice inside of him said that was the right thing to do.
Maybe he had underestimated the bonds he made with Crono and company in eliminating Lavos.
Ayla laughed at the blank expression on Magus' face and said, "Me know you not used to that." She gave him a small peck on the cheek. "Just want you know that we thankful." She walked back over to her men.
Now Magus was even more confused. But he didn't feel like trying to analyze himself, so he just followed Ayla to her men.
Ayla then seemed concerned. "Azala...she run away?" She looked over the side to see Azala still lying there, looking with horror at the kilwalas. One infant kilwala, also sporting one of their ritual scrapes, had begun to be affected far faster than any of its elders. Azala gazed on the child as its body began to convulse.
One more surprise was in store; the weakened Zorbe suddenly pounced on Magus. Magus' scythe and Gate Key fell to the bottom of the ravine. The Gate Key, upon impact with the kilwalas' sacred rock, lit up its jewels and created a Gate while bouncing away to safety. Every kilwala was engulfed in blue, swirling light. When it subsided, only Azala and the Gate Key were left.
Magus snarled and tossed Zorbe over the side to follow the Key. He hit the other cliff wall and dropped down. Magus almost jumped off after him, but was stopped by a "STAY RIGHT THERE!"
Azala held up her claw to punctuate her demand and finally got up. Ayla, Kino, and Magus watched as Queen Azala II stormed over to Zorbe and picked him up by his neck. "You lying scum, Zorbe. You never engineered that plague for the humans alone. It affects everything living, doesn't it?"
Zorbe gurgled, "You don't....under......."
Tired of listening to him, Azala slammed Zorbe's head against the cliff wall. "I understand perfectly, you weak fool! You had no desire to live anymore, and you wanted to take us all with you! What if *I* got infected, huh? Might not *I* bleed in the middle of a fight? Your cowardly kind is not what we need to repopulate our losses." After that, she continued to slam his head against the wall until his mouth burst open with blood. She tossed the corpse to the side and spat on it.
Ayla, watching this, yelled, "Azala! What meaning of this? You try poison me?"
"He did," Azala answered. "He used me, and all the Reptites, to try and kill everything on the planet. I, however, do not have such a hatred of life."
Magus floated down to the bottom of the ravine and said, "What would this 'poison' have done?"
"It was an engineered plague, created by Zorbe. He had insisted that it was designed for your DNA alone, but he obviously lied. It would have caused black, bleeding welts all over your bodies, then bleeding from all orifices, and then you would have gone feral before dying - that way, you could directly infect others."
Ayla's anger began to grow, but then Kino pulled her attention away. "Ayla, me think Azala want our death because she not know how her mother die." Ayla let that sink in. "You right, Kino. We tell her."
They almost called out to Azala, but Magus' next statements silenced everyone. "Well, your plague is now somewhere in another time, killing everything." Nobody said anything for a few seconds.
"How?" Azala finally uttered.
"My Gate Key fell down here and created a Gate," Magus explained. He noticed the Key off to the side and went to pick it up, while still saying, "It can create a Gate wherever it wants to, but uses preexisting Gates to arrive at eras."
Ayla, hearing this, asked, "Lucca make?"
"Yes. She is as smart as she says she is." Magus examined the Key. "Hmmm, no damage. It landed on its button. That's good." That voice was speaking to him again. While he halfheartedly wanted to leave this scene and continue searching for his sister, the voice was once more telling him the right thing would be to find that plague and eliminate it. Not to mention, finding Schala would be no good if she was infected, and he had no clue where or when she might be.
"We find kilwalas, right?" Kino asked Ayla. The Ioka chief nodded. "Yes, Kino. We not let that kind of death go into world."
"I will join you," Magus added. They looked at him appreciatively, which caused him to add, "I have my own reasons."
"As do I," said Azala. "This is my mess. I hope to have my Reptites survive, and it will not be for a lifeless future. These 'Gates'....what do they do?"
"Travel from time to time, Azala," Ayla explained. "Kilwalas in some other time."
Magus motioned for Ayla and Kino. "Azala, we'll need to get close so that we can all use the Gate." He set the Gate Key to travel to the last destination traveled, while Ayla and Kino jumped down to the ravine bottom. With Azala, Kino, and Ayla all together, Magus activated the Key and sent the lot of them into the blue sphere.
They arrived, one after another, at a place where there seemed to be no sky. They seemed to be standing on a platform that was floating, but then, there was nothing else visible. Azala turned to Magus, who was the last one out of the cylinder of blue light that they all stepped out of, and asked, "Where is this place? What time could this be?"
Magus, looking around, realized what happened. "We're at the End of Time. The Law of the Conservation of Time states that if more than three entities use a Gate at once, they end up here. I'd forgotten about that in my recent lone traveling through time."
Azala said, "Then, the kilwalas came here, too?"
"They must have," Magus mused. "We sent far more than three."
Suddenly, Ayla shrieked. Azala, Magus, and Kino went over to where she was. She was standing in the main area of the platform near the lightpost, where a corpse lay. It was Gaspar, who looked like he had been ripped apart.
Azala grimaced at the sight. "An....ape? What happened to it?"
Bent over the body, Magus snorted in disgust. "It looks like an animal attack. So I'd wager it's that feral stage you were talking about." He stood up and held his head in his hand. "And thus dies one of the Gurus of Zeal. This was not the right ending for him."
"Old man.....dead," Ayla sniffed. "This not good."
"No," Magus answered as he noticed the bloody trail to the time portals. "No, it's not good at all."
"Anyone who says they can see through women is missing a lot." Groucho Marx
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