Chrono Shift Chapter 13

The Final Solution

By Tool23X

A man with no identity lay on the ground, his body blanketed by his own shroud and immersed in his own dark entity. He had only recently begun moving, slowly regaining his full consciousness and trying to perceive the world around him. He was undoubtedly lost and confused, his memory still blurry from his last waking moments.

The man stood up, planting his worn boots firmly on the ground, and noticing his surroundings. His feet stood on hard dirt and soil, from which no plant life grew. Other than that, it was too dark to gather any real details. The man felt a bitter chill coming through an apparent opening in his environment, and heard the shrieking winds tear past his hideaway. Some of the wind also blew through the opening, stinging the pale skin of his face. Along with the breeze came the feeling of something he hadn’t experienced since his childhood.

“What the hell is this place?” The man asked himself, as he brushed himself off and tried to comprehend what had happened. “Well, I’m not dead…” he commented. Quickly making use of his magic, he lit a fire and brightened the darkened room. He then discovered his whereabouts. He was trapped inside a cave, in the middle of the night, on a desolate snow covered land. He stuck his head out of the cave briefly to confirm this. Unfortunately, he saw no other exit of to the cave, and he had no way to navigate around his world in the dark night. Traveling outside in these conditions would be suicide, anyway, but he had a problem on his hands.

“If those damn brats are alive, they could be coming through here any minute now,” the man grumbled quietly. “Nowhere to go, and I sure as hell can’t stay here…” The thought had crossed his mind that Lavos had actually done him some good for once, and maybe displaced those annoying kids and the slimy frog permanently, but he couldn’t afford to take that chance.

“Of all the places that bastard could have sent me, why the hell did he have to send me here?” the man moaned, searching for his scythe. If his predictions were right, which appeared more and more likely, then he would have only two safe havens available to him. One would be the Earthbound Caves of Algetty, which would be the last existing Earthbound village after the queen had enslaved and killed most of the race during the construction of the Ocean Palace. The other would be his home on the floating island. Algetty was out of the question, because the Earthbounds disgusted him. Finding Zeal would be his only choice, near impossible in the middle of the night. Besides, he didn’t know his exact location on the continent, and it was a pretty damn big continent.

If he ever managed to find his way to Zeal, he knew he would have to find a way to fit in, without exposing himself. He would then have to find another gate to get him out of this time before the entire world came crashing down on him once again.

Slowly, Magus realized the truth about what had happened to him. He knew the past, and he could probably convince the queen that he was a prophet of some sort. If he played his cards right, he could exact his revenge on his mother, get a second chance at destroying Lavos, and save his sister Schala, all in one single move. A smile slowly formed on his pale lips. Magus would have his revenge. Maybe, just maybe, he could change history, and save his own world, instead of living in destruction.

Magus walked out into the night, navigating blindly toward the floating continent. He would finally pay that bitch Queen Zeal back for what she had done to him and his sister, and destroy the evil that is Lavos. He was determined to complete his mission, using any and all means necessary, and nothing would stop him, no matter what the price.

“Well, we’ve been here for a week, Augur. Nothing’s happened yet,” Seraph commented. The conditions in the Earthbound caves were much better than the last time they had visited them, mostly because the construction of the Ocean Palace and the queen’s personal genocide had brought the population down to a bare minimum. The result of this was more food and less death and disease. While it was a shallow way of thinking, Augur was somewhat more grateful for the events because they made his life more comfortable. Still, he had yet to get used to sleeping on beds of dirt and eating plants and rats.

“I don’t think Zeal is going to come down right away. I’m pretty sure that we’ll see some signs of the events that lead up to the downfall of the kingdom,” Augur answered. Seraph wasn’t satisfied with his answer, but accepted it anyway.

Candor had been harder to convince than Seraph, but she eventually went along with Augur to the Earthbound caves as well. She had become increasingly dissatisfied with her job in Zeal, and decided it would be a nice change to actually help people rather than contribute to their deaths, as she had indirectly done in Zeal. She had been sensible enough to know how to get out of the kingdom without arousing suspicion, and even smuggled herself and her pupils onto the Blackbird for a routine mission. It has much easier than trying to travel the continent by foot. The last time Augur, Seraph, and Candor had tried that, they quickly sank knee-deep in a snowbank of trouble.

Seraph moaned out of boredom and a loathing for her situation. “Candor, what’s today’s date?”

Candor quickly counted the notches on the stick she had placed in the center of her room. “Seven… that would make this the 15th of January. Prince Janus’ birthday, I believe.” Seraph again complained, grousing with a deep repugnancy.

“When Zeal actually does fall, it’ll be like a blessing,” Seraph declared. I’m already sick of living in this place. I just want something to happen so I can go on with my life.”

“Hey, I gave you the choice to not do this, Seraph. You could have declined, but you insisted that I tell you about what happened when I was dead,” Augur reminded her. “I warned you before you did it, but you had to keep pressing me for information.”

Seraph made a sour face at Augur, “If I had known…”

”What do you mean, ‘If I had known.’ I told you beforehand that you’d have to change your entire life,” Augur raged.

Candor broke into the conversation. “Settle down, you’re acting like little kids! One week in the face of adversity, and you’re both ready to tear each other’s heads off! Maybe it would do us all some good if we spent some time alone, but regardless, for the love of God, you two can’t go on bickering like this!”

After a few seconds of silence, Augur apologized, and Seraph did the same. They went back to their routines of trying to survive their stay inside the Earthbound caves. Augur, although silently, agreed with Seraph’s viewpoint. The sooner the Zeal dynasty ended, the better. He realized he was wishing for the loss of countless lives along with the floating island, but if it meant he could escape the cave and move on with his life, he would immediately choose this path instead. Though he did not know it, Candor was secretly wishing for a way out of the caves.

Although he had not been there in years, Magus remembered all the nooks and crannies of Zeal Palace perfectly. He supposed it had something to do with the high mentality that came along with being a powerful magic user, but he had not given it much thought. Magus had spent a good day walking to the skygates once he had landmarks on the continent he could use to navigate. Stopping briefly in Enhasa, he found an old magician costume, complete with pointy had and a blue-purple robe, that he would use to disguise himself as a mighty oracle. Although it was highly unlikely, there was a very real possibility that Schala or Queen Zeal would recognize him, so he took care to conceal his face cautiously.

Now, Magus had finally made his way to the hallway that housed the queen’s throne. Soon he would find out how long before the Ocean Palace incident he had arrived in this era. If he was lucky, he might find out the cause of the Kingdom of Zeal’s destruction, but he would worry about that later.

Magus had considered the consequences of messing with time, but he personally didn’t care. The world had never given a damn about him, and if he happened to destroy it in the process of accomplishing his objectives, then so be it. It didn’t matter to him that untold billions of lives would be lost, because there was only one life that mattered to him, and it wasn’t even his own. Magus welcomed death the way others might welcome guests at a holiday feast.

Disguised in his new uniform, and armed with information about the exact date of his arrival, Magus approached a guard just outside the throne room. “I must speak with the queen,” he disclosed to the man, knowing that he would not be allowed to enter.

“I’m sorry, authorized personnel only,” came the expected reply. “You’ll have to fill out a request form stating your…”

The guard never got any farther than that. Magus swiftly leapt toward the man and covered his mouth with a hand. He then forced his way behind the guard and wrapped his arm tightly around the guard’s neck. He pulled his arm inward, strangling the security with his appendage. Magus’s prisoner gasped vainly, in desperate search of air, but the warlock only tightened the grip around his neck. As soon as the struggle of the man began to weaken, his arms and legs flailed more aimlessly, and he slipped out of consciousness. This would make Magus’s job much easier. He pulled upward from underneath the chin of the man and pushed down roughly on the shoulders. In one swift move, he grabbed the guard’s head near the ear and violently twisted it a half turn clockwise. Magus listened as the sickening crunch of his captive’s breaking neck bones echoed through the room. The only thing that Magus could compare the sound to was the numerous times he had firmly placed the heel of his heavy boots on top of cockroaches in his castle and slowly ground them into the stone floor. After the thunderous snapping of the bones, Magus immediately felt the guard’s skin lose the life inside of it. The body went limp, and the eyes slowly rolled backward until only white showed through the eyelids. The man’s mouth hung open, and the saliva that had been in his mouth slowly began to drool out the corner of his lip, and formed a small, wet concentration on his shirt.

Magus knew he could not leave a dead body lying in the hallway. He quickly summoned up a spell to remove the cadaver. At a single point in the room, the molecules in the air literally ripped apart, and a giant vacuum was created. All the light bent toward the dark tear in the world, and was immediately lost. As the room twisted and deformed itself, everything turned to a cloudy black, obscuring visibility. Fragments of dust were removed from the floor, ceiling and walls, and sucked in toward the artificial black hole. Magus allowed his blue hair to fly wildly in the air as the body of the guard jumped off the ground. His body warped into bizarrely distorted shapes and dimensions, and was eventually reduced to a helix spiraling into the abyss. As soon as the corpse had been collected into the black portal, Magus dispelled the attack, and with a flash of light, the room returned to normal, minus the guard. The dust was also missing, and Magus didn’t know if the room had ever looked cleaner.

Magus approached the sealed security door that led to Queen Zeal’s throne and the skygate to the Ocean Palace. Schala’s pendant was supposedly the only thing that could open it, but Magus knew better than that. The Guru’s security devices were far too trivial. The wizard placed his hand on the sealed crest and began charging a spell in his hand. His hand began glowing an intense bluish white, and he discharged the energy into the magical barrier. A distinct chime rang, and the door slid open from the bottom to top.

Magus walked into the room confidently, acting as if his actions were a daily routine. Zeal sat on her throne with a goblet full of wine in her hand, and Dalton stood off to the side. Zeal immediately glared at the intruder, surprised and angry at the same time. Dalton was equally stunned, and placed his fingers on the handle of his sword, ready if he needed it. Magus found their reactions extraordinarily humorous, but stifled his laughter. At the same time, Queen Zeal was struggling to suppress her outrage. “YOU!” She seethed. “Who are you!? How did you get past the guard?”

“My queen, I found your security to be rather inept, although quite entertaining at the same time.” Magus answered. “Your guard is nowhere to be found. It’s almost like he vanished into thin air.” Dalton, growing nervous, unsheathed his sword at Magus’s last comment.

“What do you want, Peasant!” Zeal screamed, feeling some shadow magic simmering inside her body. “Who the hell do you think you are, barging in here, interrupting my precious time?”

“My liege, I know that as I stand here, you are plotting to kill me with a dark magic attack. It won’t work, my queen.” Magus threatened, hoping his guess was correct. With any luck, he still knew his mother well enough to predict her actions. “You see,” Magus continued, “I can be very valuable to you, so it is to your benefit to keep me around.”

“Stop these games, Stranger. I grow impatient.” Zeal yelled. “State your business, and make it worth my time.”

“Queen Zeal,” Magus began, “I knew you were planning to kill me because I am a wondering prophet. I can read the future. That is how I was able to break into your throne room. Think about it, my queen. Any kingdom would have use for a telepathist, especially a skilled psychic like myself. I believe I may be valuable to your kingdom.”

“I’m not convinced,” Zeal rejected. “If you can prove to me that you really are a prophet, I might let you live. If not…” Zeal quickly motioned over to her bodyguard, “I shall have Dalton take care of you.”

“Very well, your highness,” the prophet stated. “Even though I am an outsider, I know all about the Ocean Palace project. I know that you are currently running behind schedule, I know that you are in the phases of completing the room in which you will activate the Mammon Machine to reach immortality through Lavos, and I know your plan to flood some sealed rooms in the palace to drown the enslaved Earthbounds working on the palace. I also know that your son, Janus, just celebrated his eighth birthday.” Magus smiled. All this information came from his memory of the past, and Janus’s birthday was, after all, his own. He simply hoped he hadn’t screwed up any of the details.

Zeal thought for a few moments. “You’ll live for now, Prophet, but I still need more proof. Make me a prediction. If it comes true, then I’ll know I can trust you.”

Magus thought for a second about a decision that could very well take his life. Regardless, if he was going to die, he was sure as hell going to take someone with him. Concentrating deeply, he tried to think of something that would happen, but wouldn’t give him away too obviously. He avoided the Ocean Palace for this reason. He needed something that no one could possibly know unless they really were some kind of spiritualist, but the problem was, Magus wasn’t one.

Suddenly, an idea popped into the false prophet’s head. It was a risk, but it was one that could pay big dividends if it worked out. Perhaps the damn kids that invaded his castle would be good for something after all. “Queen Zeal, sometime in the next couple of weeks, a threesome of foreigners will come to the kingdom, seeking to disrupt your way of life. They are trouble, and will need to be disposed of. One of them will have spikey hair, red like the fires of hell. I also sense some kind of demon a creature unlike any you have ever seen, and there will likely be a girl as well.”

Zeal and Dalton simultaneously glared at the prophet with extreme skepticism. Finally, Zeal took a long sip of wine, and answered, “Very well, Prophet. I hope your prediction is correct. Otherwise, your head will be placed firmly on the chopping block.”

“What this place?” The woman wearing the skins of animals demanded. Ayla’s primitive mind did not know how to comprehend what she had just experienced. The concept of time travel was well beyond her.

“Sensors indicate an extreme lack of heat outside our current position.” The familiar mechanical voice buzzed. Robo’s mechanical eyes detected Crono leisurely lifting himself to his feet with his sword. Ayla instinctively inspected her surroundings precariously, lifting rocks and smelling or probing them until she simply lost interest. Robo scanned the entire area, and eventually his optic sensors led him to an exit.

“Snow falling heavily exterior to our location, winds coming strongly from the northwest,” Robo reported. By now, both Crono and Ayla had located the exit to the cave, and prompted an investigation of the outside.

“Brr! It cold here,” Ayla observed. “Crono… What we do? Lavos no here, and reptites gone too.” Crono shook his head in response, but the answer was obvious. Crono planned to explore the area thoroughly until he found some area of safe passage. His party systematically followed him out into the wilderness. The snow and wind struck Crono’s face painfully, and nearly every inch of Ayla’s scantily clad body, but Robo could not feel the effects of the weather. Coincidentally, Robo also had no trouble staring directly into the snow, as his glass visor blocked the precipitation. This allowed him to differentiate between the falling flakes and a distant object high in the sky.

“Crono, I’ve detected an unusual object in the sky,” Robo informed. “Visibility is limited, but it seems to be a large, floating accumulation of earth. Such a thing… defies the natural laws that govern our world! Physics, gravity, logic, aerodynamics, none of them are applicable here.” Crono placed a forearm over his wildly tangled spikes, but could not shield his eyes from the onslaught of white powder. Squinting, he managed to make out the vague outline of what he would eventually learn was the legendary Kingdom of Zeal. For the time, however, he could only guess whether the floating chunk of rock could be related to some kind of civilization. Crono decided that it was best to investigate. He led Ayla and Robo on a grueling odyssey through the snowbound land, his boots sinking into the embankments the entire way. Although it was a difficult journey, Crono was glad he wasn’t wearing Ayla’s skimpy attire.

“Two weeks and counting, Augur. Nothing’s happening,” Seraph complained. Her once beautiful Zealian dress had been turned ragged and dirty from the small cave she now called her home. Augur’s and Candor’s clothing had both suffered similar fates. Augur, having been dead for a good portion of his life, was less affected by the unusual than his two companions.

Augur refused to justify Seraph’s cynicism with an answer. Sitting uncomfortably on his bed, he simply glared back in her direction. Seraph was lying on her side on the floor so that she faced Augur. She had her elbow planted squarely on the dirt floor, making an angle with her arm so that her head rested on her hand, about a foot above the ground. From this position, Seraph became further dissatisfied with Augur’s silence, and repeated, “Two weeks and counting.”

“Relax, Seraph,” Augur advised. “At least it’s peaceful down here. No one tries to kill you after you watch the king commit suicide… No floating continents are splitting in half…”

“No one bothers you with luxuries,” Seraph began. “No one gets to eat food, or have privacy when they’re going to the bathroom…” Augur shook his head in dismay, ignoring the misanthropist sitting across the room from him. Seraph had become so impatient these last two weeks that it rattled Augur’s mind. He simply didn’t know what could be done to put her in a better mood. Worst of all, Augur hadn’t been received any affection from Seraph since the first day, and was beginning to doubt her sincerity about her wish to save the world. Perhaps her hypocrisy had been caused by the pretense of the mission itself. In order to save the world, they had to allow the world to be destroyed. Nowhere else had Augur seen anything as ironic as the situation that now faced them.

“Damn,” Magus uttered to himself in disgust. “If those bratty kids and the frog don’t show up soon, I’ll have a pretty nasty problem on my hands.” The false prophet allowed his cloak to drape along the floor as he paced back and forth throughout the throne room. Dalton had left a good hour ago. While his childhood memories of Dalton put him directly behind Lavos, Zeal, and the slimy frog on his hitlist, it was good to have someone to argue and gamble with to pass the time.

The familiar sound of the magical security door being activated filled the room, and an instant later, the heavy slab of metal released its lock and exposed Magus to the light of the outside hallway. Queen Zeal walked in, moping around in her usual crestfallen and diabolic manner. Behind her, Dalton clambered to his chair, slightly tipsy from alcohol and walking funny from something else. As he stumbled into his resting place, Dalton had that mischievous grin on his face that could only be obtained one way. Behind Dalton walked a surprise.

She was beautiful, every bit as beautiful as Magus had remembered, and possibly even more so now that he had grown older and been separated from her. The girl was sixteen; Magus could never forget her age. She wore a majestic purplish pastel dress, and her pious stature presented a glow that radiated throughout the room. Her extravagant blue hair was twirled in the crown that the princess had always worn, and her pretty face, which had long since lost all hope, was full, even while her soul felt empty.

“Mother, who is this?” Schala asked. She stared directly at Magus, and he was frozen. Half full of awe that he was actually holding his sister in his eyes, and half full of fear that she might recognize him and give him away, Magus stood in his place, unable to move. Queen Zeal answered Schala’s question quickly, explaining that he was a psychic forecaster. Schala kept staring directly into Magus’s eyes, which no doubt appeared cold and hostile to her, for a few more seconds. Eventually she turned away, and carried on her conversation with Zeal as if the stranger in the room had never existed at all. Magus allowed himself to breath a sigh of relief, but his heart was still racing from seeing his long-lost sister after an ungodly number of years.

Queen Zeal and Schala discussed policies and rules and politics, something that was unusual for a queen to do with a daughter, but Schala was too intelligent not to be involved in such things. Besides, with such strong opposition to many of the queen’s guidelines and principals, Schala could not help but get involved. Unfortunately, her mother’s pitiful ways and lack of anything that resembled a soul meant that she always won out, even if it involved threatening Schala’s life, as she often did.

Magus only paid half attention to the conversations. He was still in utter awe of the events unfolding around him. From what he gathered of the conversation, however, Zeal was about a week away from placing the Mammon Machine in the Ocean Palace and drowning the Earthbounds. Schala, naturally, was opposed to this, but had no say. Zeal simply pushed and ordered her daughter around, only caring about her because she was the only one who possessed the power necessary to complete the mission and allow her to achieve immortality. Magus scoffed at this beneath his concealing hood. No being could achieve immortality, even the gods. To Magus, however, gods did not even exist. If they did, they certainly were weak, and had a sick sense of humor.

Looking back, Magus noticed that the security door had once again shut, sealed with its magical force. It did not matter, however. Nothing mattered to him anymore, accept that he was within reach of his lifelong dream.

Ironically, just outside the Queen’s throne room, Crono, Ayla, and Robo were searching for a way to bust in and end the little party. Robo first examined the doorway, observing the interesting crest, and taking time to store it in his memory banks. He had a feeling it contained information that could later prove invaluable. Crono gazed over the sealed doorway as well, thinking that it looked oddly familiar.

”Crono, that woman have pendant, it look like one you carry,” Ayla said, attempting to express her ideas in her overly simplified English. Crono looked back at the blonde cavewoman, nodding. If Schala could open the door with a pendant, then perhaps Marle’s pendant would work as well. Not knowing what to do, he simply held the adornment to the door as the royal princess had done, hoping that it would open. Much to the dismay of the party, nothing happened.

“The princess’s pendant had an energy field of sorts emitting from it. Maybe the door will open if we charge it someplace,” Robo suggested. Crono turned to face him and Ayla, in the process putting his hand to his chin, deep in thought. Surely there was a place where energy could be processed on an island that actually floated. He also had an idea of where the best place to do such a thing would be. Crono motioned for his friends to follow him out of the hallway and led them through the palace until he found the Mammon Machine that they had previously found. It glowed an eerie reddish from the emersion of the power of Lavos. As they walked into the room, they could feel the evil emanation bathing them. They stopped for a moment to bask in the beauty, but soon Crono was approaching the machine. He lifted Marle’s pendant into the air as if he were presenting a sacrifice to some god’s alter. After a brief moment, to the amazement of everyone in the room, the pendant floated softly out of Crono’s outstretched arms toward the massive cylinder housing the machine. The intensity of the red light in the hall of worship intensified tenfold, and energy began pouring into the charm. Robo, having sensitivity to forms of light his two companions did not have, could actually watch the stream of electrons fill the pendant. Someday, when the entire mess was over, Robo decided that he would have to study the relationship between atomic structure, electromagnetic fields, and magic. Until then, he had other matters to worry about.

Once Marle’s jewelry was fully ionized, the trio returned to the Queen’s hallway, and Crono once again placed the ornament up against the crest of the door. This time, some kind of reaction took place. The pendant glowed and transferred magic to the doorway, which then chimed loudly.

Inside the room, Magus, Zeal, Dalton, and Schala all looked at the entrance as the sound of someone entering filled the palace. Mere moments later the sealed passage opened once again, and three strangers filled the room. Dalton recognized them as three foreigners who had been snooping around the docking bay of the Blackbird near Kajar. Magus only recognized one of them, the spiky-red-haired boy who had led the frog through his castle and interrupted his meeting with Lavos. Magus had also predicted a girl and a demon to the queen, but was glad he did not describe them any further. This was not the same girl he had fought with in the castle, but instead a rough and unruly character who looked as if she had just been dragged out of a cave. The so-called demon wasn’t the creature that had been given the name Frog, but rather a giant clumsy metallic thing, possibly an oversized self-propelled garbage can with a voice.

“You! Who are you!? How did you get in!?” Queen Zeal demanded with rising anger in her voice. Magus saw the chance to prove himself.

“My queen, these are the evildoers I warned you about,” he declared.

“Is that so?” The queen asked. “Tell me, foreigners, what do you wish to accomplish?” She was greeted with silent stares, during which time Crono looked to Schala for a possible source of assistance or information, and to the prophet, wondering how he had known about their appearance.

“Dalton, I shall not have these nuisances pestering me or my kingdom. Dispose of them,” Zeal ordered. Immediately after that, Zeal, the prophet, and Schala disappeared in successive flashes of light.

“Ha! You insignificant maggots! I don’t even want to bother with you. Go, Golem!” Dalton yelled. Then, in another flash of light, Dalton was gone. A bizarre and haunting tearing sound filled the room, and in front of Zeal’s throne, a giant black portal appeared. Out of the portal came a terrifying growl, and one of the most horrific creatures Crono and company had yet to face on their adventure.

“Two and a half weeks, Augur. That’s seventeen days we’ve been down here, and nothing’s happened,” Seraph complained once again. She had never been away from home this long, and was beginning to worry extensively about her parents. As one would expect, her parents were also concerned about her. She had left without notice, because she knew they would never understand, and by now they probably figured she was dead and held a memorial service. Seraph missed her parents deeply, and was beginning to question why she had agreed to participate in this mission in the first place. Just the thought of the enormity of her situation caused her eyes to mist.

Augur had grown tired of Seraph’s constant whining, and typically ignored it. Candor, who happened to be in their dirt hovel at the time, did not approve of it, either, but she had information that might cheer Seraph up.

“Stating that nothing has happened isn’t exactly true, Seraph,” Candor explained, reporting facts she had received from the chief of Algetty. “Apparently, a mysterious prophet has appeared at the Palace, and three foreigners were arrested shortly thereafter for breaking into the Queen’s room.

Augur perked up immediately, listening attentively for more information. “Did you get some kind of description of any of these characters?” he asked. “This could be part of what was foretold to me.”

“Sorry, Augur, all I know was that they were definitely foreigners, and the prophet seems to have a knowledge of the future,” Candor reported. Augur tried to sort out the information. It was possible that a man who knew the future was one that had been to the future. There was a distinct possibility that this man had a connection with the wizard he was supposed to meet.

Seraph had been listening assiduously as well, and surprised by both the information and by Augur’s lack of an “I told you so.” This proved that Augur wasn’t nuts, and that he hadn’t made up the whole story as a joke. Why anyone would attempt to invent a story like that was beyond Seraph, but it was as crazy of a scenario as she had ever heard before. Having some sort of proof was a relief.

“So, Augur, what do we do now that the prophecy has been fulfilled?” Seraph questioned. Augur closed his eyes and tilted his head toward the ceiling.

“Now, we sit back, relax, enjoy a couple of drinks, and wait for the end of the world,” Augur replied.

Magus had gotten himself into this mess because of his inability to deny his sister’s wishes. He couldn’t bring himself to refuse her, especially when doing so would cause her to become distressed. So there he was, standing inside the very cave that had led him back to 12,000 BC, with the three prisoners, and Schala. It would have been infinitely easier just to dispose of them, but once again, he couldn’t decline his sister’s wishes.

“So, you came into this world here, through this portal?” the prophet inquired, trying to sound menacing, and succeeding. As he spoke, he noticed that the leader of the crowd took a step backward in fear. Crono eventually gave away the answer, nodding his head. The entire group was nervous with panic about what the prophet planned to do to them, something that gave Magus one of his usually enjoyable power trips.

Magus turned to his sibling, ordering, “Schala, after I throw them in, I want you to seal the portal.” Schala had an apprehensive look in her eyes, and Magus could tell that she was scared of him as well. This was something that stung Magus. The last thing he wanted was for his sister, the only person for whom he cared about, to be frightened by him. He had a burning desire to reveal the truth to her, to tell her the true identity of the prophet, and to end the suffering, but he knew that he couldn’t. Not yet.

Schala was slowly seceding backward, stepping away from the prophet until her back was pressed against the rocky wall. Magus shot her a glance, hoping she would give in without too much of a fight. Initially, she refused, crying, “No, you can’t make me… I won’t!”

Magus forced himself to impose his order, and he did so threateningly. “Do it, Schala,” he demanded. “Or else I’ll have to destroy them.”

Schala was desperately searching for a way out of the circumstances, but found no exit. “I…” she began, hoping that stalling for time would work, but as she looked back at the prophet, realized that he would not swagger. “Oh, all right,” she surrendered.

The blackish-bluish light of the gate opening encompassed the small cave. Magus was ready to push Crono into the portal, and also prepared for a fight, but much to his surprise, Crono admitted defeat and willingly walked into the gate. Using Crono as an example, Ayla and Robo submitted as well, and began their journey back to the past. No sooner than they had entered the gate, it closed to the infinitesimally tiny sphere.

Magus looked over in Schala’s direction, and Schala held her hands out to the gate. The blue orb shimmered in her power, and the progression of the spell illuminated the room. Soon after, a pinkish prism enveloped the gate, imprisoning it forever. When it was over, Magus exited the cave, disgusted with himself. He never muttered a word on the way out, and was too full of shame and betrayal to even look at the pain plaguing Schala’s face. Schala dropped to her knees, allowing the tears to run down her cheeks and splash onto the cold snow, where they froze. The one thing, possibly the only thing, that could have given her kingdom new hope, was now gone forever. The event was the result of her own doing, her own hands completing the deed that had sealed the fate of three young adventures, and at the same time sealing the failure of her dreams of a better tomorrow. Schala blamed herself, because she was too weak to oppose both the queen and the prophet, and it had been her own failures that brought about these events.

How ironic it was that only a couple days later, the group had gotten hold of the world’s first and only time machine, and had traveled back to the Kingdom of Zeal.

“I had a dream last night,” Augur revealed.

“Oh, really?” Seraph responded, wondering if it would be interesting. If nothing else, it would provide for some much needed entertainment. “What was it?” she asked.

“It wasn’t really as much of a dream as it was a,” Augur paused, searching for the correct word. “Vision,” he finally concluded. “A revelation of sorts. Somehow the Sanctified Deity managed to contact me in my sleep.” Now Seraph had become curious, and motioned for him to specify.

“Those three foreigners, they belong to the group of heroes who eventually destroyed Lavos,” Augur continued. “The Deity talked to me about this specifically, because as part of their journey, they will be coming to the caves within the next couple of days. I was told not to interfere with them, because they don’t want me screwing up time any more than I already have. Apparently they’re still pretty pissed off because I told you and Candor about the fate of the world.”

Without warning, a sharp knocking came from the door and filled the room. Not even waiting for a reply, Candor barged in. “Augur, I thought you might want to know that there is a group of strangers taking refuge in the upper parts of Algetty. I don’t know who they are, but they’re definitely not Earthbound, and definitely not Enlightened.” Seraph looked at Candor quickly and then returned her eyes to Augur. If there had been any doubt remaining about the credibility of Augur’s tale, it had just been washed away.

“Do you know anything else about them?” Augur asked. “Intentions, who they are, where they came from?”

“All I know is that one of them, a young looking girl with a helmet and thick glasses, was asking about Mt. Woe,” Candor answered. “Maybe it has something to do with old man Melchior.”

“Candor, not to give anything away, but I can pretty much guarantee you that they’re here for the guru,” Augur answered, using both the facts he had been given and his own speculation to create his hypothesis. “Candor, do your best to avoid them. I can’t explain why, because its way too complicated for even me to understand, but don’t interfere with them.” Candor did not understand Augur’s logic, but always a trusting woman, she agreed to Augur’s demands without any resistance. She knew that if he had come on so strong about this, then it must have been something very important.

Although the three Zealians avoided Crono and his friends, they did not avoid asking the locals about them. The description fit the profile Candor had heard of the leader of the group that was arrested in Zeal, but the other two did not. There was even a report that one of the foreigners had been half frog, half man. By the time Candor, Augur, and Seraph reached the village elder, the unknown visitors had already begun their ascent up the Mountain of Woe.

As they did manage to learn more of Crono’s group, and it became increasingly obvious why they were here. After Augur and his friends had made their way to the underground hut inhabited by Algetty’s chief, they decided to remain in his hospitality for a while. Eventually everyone grew tired of trying to uncover new information about the foreign heroes, and conversation slipped to socialization.

Some crude tea had been left by a recent group of Earthbound sympathizers, which Candor, Augur, and Seraph enjoyed with the chief of Algetty. Candor enjoyed hers with slow sips, a habit carried over from her days at formal party events in Zeal Palace. Augur wasn’t particularly fond of it, and had set it aside after a single drink. Seraph was helping herself to a second pot when a faint rumbling forced her to halt her actions. Her ears perked up to listen to the potentially dangerous sound.

“What? What is it?” Augur questioned. Seraph did not answer him, only clutched the steaming teapot tighter. Soon after, however, as the tremors increased, the others heard the sound.

“What on earth is that noise?” The chief asked, quite confused, and a little nervous. As Seraph attempted to grip both her cup and the decorated teapot, the tremors increased in intensity, and they jarred the container from her hands. The porcelain hit the muddy ground, and the teapot shattered with ease. The hot brown liquid crashed against the dirt, and painted the earth with its steamy fluid, jumping over small rocks and trenches as it spread across the grubby floor.

Seraph let out a small scream, mostly because of the shock of dropping the teapot. She soon forgot about this, however, as a reinforced shelf came crashing down, its nails literally ripped from the wall. As the dishes inside of the cabinet shattered into fragments, Augur and Candor threw their chairs aside and ducked under the table, hands shielding their heads. Candor was prepared to place a magic field around the area to protect them if necessary.

A villager burst through the door, searching desperately for the chief, who he found immediately. “Sir,” he panted, severely out of breath, “I think something’s going on with Mt. Woe! The island is shaking violently, and it appears the chain is going to break!”

“What do we do?” Candor screamed, still shielding her head. Seraph was now moving toward the table to hide herself as well. The Earthbound chief shook his head in dismay, trying to decide a proper course of action. As he stalled, Candor became more frantic, and yelled, “Tell me what to do!”

“If the chain breaks, Mt Woe will fall. It won’t be pretty,” The elder finally concluded. “And if it does, we won’t be safe here.”

“Now, maybe I’m jumping to conclusions here,” Augur introduced his thought. “But if we won’t be safe here, then don’t you think that maybe…” Augur hesitated, allowing frustrated anger to boil in his voice. “Maybe we should go to where we will be safe!?”.

Almost as if the conversation was a cue, frantic shouting emerged from below. “Oh, dear god!” A voice cried. “EVERYBODY RUN LIKE HELL! THE CHAIN JUST BROKE!”

The elder looked at Augur and Candor, and Seraph was in question of what to do as well. “Shit!” the chief of Algetty screamed. “Follow me! We have to get to higher ground! Now!”

Augur remained underneath the table. “What!?” he questioned. “Shouldn’t we be going deeper into the caves?”

“No,” the elder began, already out the door. Augur, Seraph, and Candor were quick to follow. “We’ve prepared for this day. The outside of the caves slope massively toward the sea. The mountain should drop somewhere in the ocean, and a tidal wave will hit the backside of the slope on the other side of these walls. All the lower levels will be flooded, but the upper levels will remain intact.”

“You actually planned this all out?” Seraph asked, surprised.

“When you’ve got a floating mountain directly above your home, you prepare for things like this,” the chief replied, scurrying up a ladder. Behind him were Candor and Seraph, with Augur following closely behind. After they reached the next level, they found the another ladder leading upward, and climbed that as well.

“Oh my god, this is it!” cried the same voice that they had previously heard calling from below. Seconds later, a thunderous roar drown out all sound in the room, and the entire planet began to shake. Augur had just managed to reach the next floor in the caves when the trembling caused the ladder to fall backward, plummeting down multitudes of stories and finally crashing on the floor below. Augur did not bother to watch it fall, instead jumping to his feet and sprinting after his friends. The massive earthquake was obviously Mt. Woe crashing into the earth, and creating an earth-shattering discharge. The mountain had caused such intense shifts in the earth that running became an impossible feat, and Augur tripped, hitting the ground awkwardly. Seraph looked back, and appeared ready to run back after him, but the village elder forcefully gripped her wrist and warned her to keep climbing.

Seraph looked back at Augur as he sprawled on the ground, unsure of what to do. Augur reassured her by waving his arm, signaling for her to continue her ascent. After an instant of further insecurity, she turned around and bolted up the next ladder. Augur took a deep breath and picked himself off the dirty soil, in the process brushing off the earthworms and insects. He then jumped as soon as he reached the ladder, and scampered to the top.

All of the scrambling humans stopped climbing temporarily when a more intense rumbling was heard. Looking across the canyon that separated the Earthbound caves into two distinct parts, the wall on the opposite side collapsed with a mighty crashing. The once hardened dirt walls had been weakened as a result of both the intense trembling of the earth, and the melting snow on the outside of the caves.

The snow had melted because a mighty fireball had engulfed a large area of the ocean to the north when Mt. Woe fallen to the ground. The explosion radiated a concentrated heat wave that was absorbed entirely by the snow on the surface above. Naturally, the heat melted the snow. The resulting water had leaked into the side of the cavern, and the dirt became soft and muddy. It began falling from the higher areas of the caves, and soon a bulldozing mudslide was devouring everything that got in its way. The enormous weight of the mountain falling collapsed the reinforced homes, and the bodies still inside the dugout houses would never be found.

The dark brown sludge was increasingly difficult to see because of the high levels of dust particles and debris surrounding the catastrophe. In spite of this, the sight of pieces of bodies tumbling to the bottom of the crevice, most often a separated arm or leg sticking out of the mudslide, were unmistakable. The screams of Earthbounds who had elected to jump off their ledges instead of being swallowed by the avalanche echoed throughout the caves. When they hit the ground, their bodies would explode like tiny balloons filled with water. The fleshy entrails would splatter on the ground, often times landing dozens of feet from the point of impact, and all that would remain would be a chunky mound of innards.

The mountain of mud would take more than a minute to collapse completely, during which time Augur wasted no time attempting to escape from Algetty. Augur also spent his time thanking the gods that he hadn’t been on the other side of the canyon.

While climbing up yet another ladder, now well behind Candor and Seraph, the results of the disaster were beginning to affect Augur. The various beams of wood and ledges and platforms that were strung across the canyon to allow quicker access to the other side were also collapsing now that they had no support. Augur ran across a ledge to reach another ladder, and a wavering beam of wood swung towards him. He didn’t notice this until it had passed right by his backside and imbedded itself into the solid wall behind him, leaving an imprint three feet deep. Augur saw the next platform, and was forced to dive to the ground and cover his head with his hands. The swinging piece of debris passed right over the top of his head a split second later, again imbedding itself into the wall. Augur returned to his feet and climbed another ladder. If Augur had time to inspect the beam that had passed inches above his head, he would have found a rusty nail on the end that would have hit him.

Another story was reached in the Earthbound caves, and another scream followed another intense rumbling. Investigating the world below him, he saw a gushing of murky seawater flood the bottom levels of the cave. For a long while, only the white caps of the wakes from the extraordinarily choppy water were visible. After that, the surface of the incoming sea was covered with floating rubble that had come off the walls of the caves. Among the wreckage, floating carcasses and enough fleshy remains that areas of the water were stained a deep crimson.

Augur made it to another level, and the water had risen more than three. Augur only hoped he could make it far enough upward that he wasn’t swept away in the icy waters. He ran down another ledge, searching for another way upwards. As he did this, the heavy dirt wall cracked in several places. On the opposite side of the cave wall, the ocean was gushing up against the slope and trying to press its way in. The wall continued to crack until a small hole opened in the structure. Water spurted through the newly formed tunnel and sprayed into the caves in the form of a powerful water jet. The intense geyser continued spraying inward through the opening, spewing the contents of the ocean sideways, filling the pit. As Augur persevered through his ascent, more and more of these sideways fountains were emerging, breaking the wall open like a dam, and pushing water through the leaking bullet holes in the cave complex. Below him, the softened dirt was giving way under the pressure of the ocean. The mud crumbled rather easily. While Augur climbed an exceptionally longer ladder, the footing beneath it gave out, and he fell backward onto the soil. Had the ladder been any heavier, he would have been crushed between it and the earth below him. Augur sat up and pushed the large object aside, and as he attempted to stand, the ground below him gave way.

Augur flailed aimlessly as he was tossed over the ledge, and fell without anything to stop him for a couple seconds. Soon, he landed on his back in the dark, swampy water. During the process, he snapped a piece of driftwood floating on the surface in half, damaging his spine. Augur’s body created a violent upsurge of water, and the fountain decorated the surface with flying water droplets. While this was happening, Augur fell deep within the watering hole. Opening his eyes did him no good, as the light could not penetrate the thick piles of waste floating on the surface of the newly created lake. Besides, the particles in the water stung his eyes painfully.

Coincidentally, Seraph had looked back to check on Augur’s status just in time to see him plummet into the unknown abyss. “NO!” she screamed, and immediately turned around as if it would help his situation. Candor saw her run the other direction, and instinctively turned and grabbed her arms forcefully to hold her back. Seraph struggled to break free, and in her current state of heightened desperation, Candor had no chance of keeping her restrained. Seraph dropped to hands and knees, daring to peer over the ledge of her foothold. “Augur!” she shouted desperately, which bought Candor enough time to dive on top of Seraph and restrain her. Again, Seraph screamed. “No, let go!” she cried, struggling to free herself.

Below the surface of the onrushing water, Augur could not hear Seraph’s distressed pleas. Although it would have likely touched him, he had more important things to worry about. Augur wasn’t sure if lack of oxygen qualified as dying of natural causes, which would not end his second life. He wasn’t exactly anxious to find out, either. He flailed his arms aimlessly, kicking in the direction that appeared to be up, and attempted to save himself from drowning in the onslaught of the strong current.

“Seraph, don’t do it! It’s not worth it!” Candor reasoned, although she couldn’t reach her pupil. All Seraph did to respond to this was allow a long desperation wail to escape her lips. Not thinking clearly, she formed a small magnetic field between Candor and herself. Seraph forced the charges to polarize, and the negative ions repelled each other fiercely. As a result, Candor was flung off Seraph’s back and against the nearby wall. Then, using the most incredible display of magic she had ever even considered using, Seraph parted the waves. A small indent was created in the middle of the rapids, and soon it grew to a large wedge in the middle of the sea contained in the caves. The unpredictable and certainly vicious water was forced up against the walls and held there by Seraph’s inconceivable magical barrier. When the sea had parted, a collective heap of bodies and debris formed where the water had been displaced.

Seraph frantically scanned the massive clump of assorted cave objects, trying to separate the bodies from the rest of the chaos. Finding one specific person was proving to be a nearly impossible task, nearly as hard as holding back thousands upon thousands of gallons on oncoming seawater. Seraph felt her arms trembling from the overuse of her magical abilities, and her shaking body began giving way to the immense pressure.

Augur had no idea what had happened, but he knew that something had drastically changed in the last few seconds. He no longer felt a powerful blitz assaulting him from all sides, and in the disposition, he felt rather awkward. When he opened his eyes, he saw nothing but floating trash surrounding him. Although he did not understand how this phenomenon had come about, he saw no reason to waste a perfect opportunity. He summoned up a large amount of black magic, and focused a highly concentrated point of antigravity below his floating feet. The spell discharged a high magnitude convulsion, which turned Augur into a comet, rocketing him through the pile of leftover debris from the massive cavern. Augur had to shield his head with his arms to protect it from the splintering wood and rusty, jagged pieces of metal. He was continuously bombarded with particles that had fallen off the collapsed walls as he journeyed through the heap of accumulated garbage. When he finally shot through the last of the wreckage, his arms were drenched not with the water from the waves, but with his own blood, leaking out of hundreds of tiny abrasions on his appendages.

Seraph watched Augur shoot out of the pile of garbage like a bullet, and her own astonishment caused her to drop her hold on the seawater. The separated wakes took no more then a second to collide and reunite, and all the debris immediately re-sunk into its watery grave. Eerily, the remains of the dead Earthbounds floated for the longest, their lifeless stumps of body parts bobbing up and down hauntingly, until they, too, were swallowed by the ocean forever.

Augur removed his hands from the top of his head, and moved to see the wall of the cave approaching him fast. Immediately he placed a holy shield around his body to protect him from the inevitable blow he was about to take. When it was in place, Augur’s body collided with the side of the canyon with enough force to leave a small crater. He felt as if every bone in his body had simultaneously snapped in half, and every blood vessel had ruptured. After a few moments of pure insanity, Augur regained the ability to think clearly, and he knew that would be all right. Unfortunately, his troubles were not over, and as gravity once again took control, Augur fell from his current embedment in the wall, and landed on his back on a ledge below. He had not prepared for this second impact, and the blow had knocked him out cold.

Far below, the deadly waters were finally beginning to recede back to the sea. A massive whirlpool was sucking all the ruins to the bottom of the Earthbound caves, were they would likely be sucked out into the ocean. As the water circled the drain that Algetty had become, countless lost souls would forever vanish in the murky waters of the sea, and no proper funeral would ever mark their cold, dampened, watery graves.

“Queen Zeal, I trust that you’re enjoying your formal tour of the Ocean Palace?” Zeal’s guard half stated, half asked, as the large group continued their circumnavigation of the mighty establishment. Queen Zeal was hesitant to answer.

“Yes… it really is impressive, but I worry about what happened just a couple hours ago,” Zeal replied, obviously referring to the events on Mt. Woe. “Dalton, have we received any new information on the incidents?”

“No, my queen,” Dalton replied. “Zeal, with all due respect, it’s a pretty big friggin’ mess down there. We really won’t have any kind of conclusive report for, hell, maybe weeks.”

“No matter,” Queen Zeal resigned. “Guards! How long until we reach the areas where the Earthbounds are being kept? I’m anxious to get rid of those diseased pigs once and for all.”

“Just a couple more minutes,” came the overused answer. As the guard reported this, Schala cringed, feeling her typical helplessness overcome her. All these innocent people were going to die, and she was once again unable to save any of them. Even if she could defy Zeal and Dalton, which she had done successfully in the past, the prophet posed a threat. He had kept a keen, watchful eye on her ever since he appeared at the palace. Making an escape would be next to impossible, and soon she would be forced to activate the Mammon Machine in the throne room of the Ocean Palace. Whatever outcome would come as a result of this action was unknown to Schala, but she knew that it wouldn’t be a desirable one.

“Queen Zeal, the Earthbounds are being kept in their prisons behind these walls,” Dalton said, while knocking on the hard metal of the hull. “Now that the Mammon Machine is finally in place, we’ll have no need for them anymore.”

“Are these the buoyancy chambers?” Zeal queried.

“Yes,” Dalton responded. “Once we flood them, all the Earthbounds will drown helplessly, and the weight from the water will drop the Ocean Palace underneath the waves. From this point on it will be accessible only through the skygate in your private room.”

Queen Zeal smiled devilishly. “Very well, commence the flooding. Drown the dirty, flea-ridden, worms!”

“Yes, Ma’am!” sounded the reply of the soldiers. With that, the small legion of Zeal’s men moved to their respected positions and methodically turned all the valves that would open the gates to the ocean on the other side of the walls. The creaking of the poorly oiled metal sounded like a siren, but soon, all that could be heard was the rushing of the deluging waters.

Inside the prisons, the Earthbounds allowed a universal gasp of surprise and terror as cold seawater suddenly invaded their quarters. The initial surge cascaded directly on top of several members of their community, most old men sporting whitish beards, and the pressure of the waterfalls caused their knees to buckle. They dropped to the steel covered floor, where the ambush of irrigation held them hostage, and they were unable to crawl out from under the liquid wall.

It didn’t take long for the prisoners to realize what was going on. They ran to the metal sides of their jail and pounded their fists against the wall, hoping someone would let them out. Others were doing their best to stay away from the floodwater invading their refuge. “LET US OUT!!!” squealed one desperate inmate, knowing full well his pleas would not help him.

Queen Zeal laughed diabolically as soon as she heard the tortured and betrayed screams coming through the dividers. Though they came through the metal muffled, it was obvious what they were attempting to explain. The Earthbounds, all crowded against the wall and began banging their fists in desperation and screaming for help, had been sentenced to death, even though they had committed no crime. Zeal continued her evil chuckles and strolled near the door to the prison. “Good riddance, mangy dogs!” Zeal yelled loudly to the wall, making sure the people inside would hear her condemnations.

After Zeal had publicly wished death upon the Earthbounds, it didn’t take much longer before some of the pummeling ceased on the steel prison ceased, indicating that the smaller children were no longer capable of protesting because they were now over their heads in water and instead had to fight just to breath. Large proportions of the population had broken down and were laying in the deepened cold of the sea, bawling in anxiety and their fear of the unknown. Everyone in the room must have known that they would not make it out alive. Still, many persisted in their pleas for mercy.

The constant, pitiful screams were tugging at the heartstrings of one of the guards in the area. “Queen Zeal, please, this is not the way to deal with the Earthbounds. Their lives must be worth something!”

Queen Zeal looked in the direction of the rebellious young man. “Why should we allow them to live? They aren’t like us! What have the infidels ever done for you!? Besides, their lives are worthless. I’m really doing them a favor by ending their suffering.” The young guard bit his lip, preventing further disputes with the queen. As the protests and screams of horror continued to penetrate the walls, the guard felt his guilt begin to overcome him.

“Queen Zeal, I beg of you! Show your kindness and let these people go! They have done nothing wrong,” the man pleaded, but only succeeded to further the queen’s anger. Both Dalton and the prophet were now looking over in his general direction, and both of them appeared displeased as well.

Dalton was the one who decided to repent the guard’s request this time. “Listen up, Rookie. You talk like a man who wishes to share the fate of the Earthbounds. If this isn’t the case, then I strongly suggest you silence yourself.” Once again the guard grew hushed.

Inside the water-filled prisons of the Earthbound, most villagers had ceased their futile attempts for rescue, and parents were now holding their children above their heads to keep them out of the water. A newborn baby was crying, and her mother silenced him by allowing him to feed. Even as she told her child not to shed tears, her own eyes were watering up, prepared for the end. Within a few seconds, the last of the banging on the walls stopped, as even the tallest of the Earthbounds was over his head in the icy water. The ones who could swim did so, and the ones who couldn’t floated beneath the surface, struggling inanely.

Back outside the prison, the rebellious guard looked into Queen Zeal’s evil and determined eyes, and knew that she would not waver. After considering his options for a few more precious seconds, he decided to go against the wishes of his queen. With a sudden jolt of vigor, he dashed mindlessly toward the door to the jail, where he would attempt to free the prisoners. He paid no attention to the thought that the rushing water would eventually flood the surrounding areas around the buoyancy chambers, therefore destroying the entire Ocean Palace.

“Dalton!” Queen Zeal shouted furiously when she saw the young man rushing towards the door. Dalton saw this, and immediately knew what Zeal wanted. In one swift motion, he drew the sword out of its scabbard and prepared to strike. Dalton leapt into the air, pursuing the frantic Zealian. He landed right behind the fleeing guard, and quickly swung his blade horizontally across his body. The weapon caught the man in the middle of his back, and cleanly sliced through the flesh from the underside of one shoulder to the underside of the other, jarring the spine wickedly in the process. The rebelling guard arched his back forward from the shock of the unwelcome pain, and let an excruciating yelp escape from his throat. After this, he fell forward to his knees, and eventually to his hands as well, but managing to keep his chest off the hard floor.

As the guard was gritting his teeth and allowing painful groans seep out of his lips, Dalton was looking at the blood running down towards the small of the injured guard’s back. A large pool was already beginning to well up near the area where his back had been sliced, and it was soaking deeply into his shirt. Occasionally, a drop or two of the sticky red liquid would escape the shirt and drop to the ground.

Dalton was also observing the light concentration of blood that had stuck to the tip of his sword. Dalton wiped the sword against a cloth he carried with him in the event of such occurrences. Then he twirled his weapon to show off his skills unnecessarily, and spat upon the fresh wound. Dalton traveled to the other side of the trembling defector, so that he could speak to his face. He grabbed the traitor’s rugged hair and balled it along with his fist. Clutching the follicles, he yanked the head upward violently. Dalton then kneeled so that he could look directly into the eyes of the renegade.

“What the hell were you thinking? Did you really think that I would allow such a thing as treason to occur in this kingdom?” Dalton demanded.

“You’ll get yours, Dalton. All of you damn fundamentalists will get what’s coming to you…” The wounded guard reputed. Dalton gave the man’s head another violent jerk and spat into his face. The saliva hit him in the corner of the nose, and he had to close his one eye to avoid the juices from leaking in.

“Selfless martyr! There’s no place for you here!” Dalton screamed. Still holding onto the man’s hair, he thrust his sword upward, into the guard’s underbelly. The tip of the sword entered the chest between the ribcage, separating the bones that were there to protect the man’s vital organs. The blade continued its journey, tearing roughly through the right half of the heart, shredding the organ into dozens of pieces of useless tissue. The sword had severed the muscles and sliced right through the layers upon layers of flesh as if it were nothing more that a thin bag filled with blood. Instantaneously, the chest cavity cracked open, and a waterfall of bodily fluids gushed onto the cold floor, where they spilled onto the surrounding areas quickly. The blood splattered out of the open wound like a raging river bursting through the walls of a dam, and the crimson tributaries flowed smoothly down the sharp edging of the sword. Eventually the reddened fluid wrapped around Dalton’s hand and seeped into the crevasses between his fingers. Dalton’s entire weapon had been immersed in the blood of the rebel, and his entire arm, extended underneath the body, had been completely drenched.

As soon as the sword had entered the guard’s body, his eyes instinctively shot open, growing to the size of saucers. The eyes of his assailant, however, were cold and unsympathetic. As the jaw dropped open, Dalton only smiled and laughed at the torture showing in the face of the dying man. He gave his sword a quick twist, and the entire process of pain repeated itself. What remained of the atria and left ventricle was wrapped around the blade because of the twirling of the large instrument of death. Inside the body of the guard, the sticky flesh clung to the slick blade. Dalton had shoved the blade so deep into the body of the guard that the tip of it penetrated through the other side, exiting the soon to be corpse through the first wound Dalton had inflicted to the back. The blade was clearly visible to all the people watching the display near Zeal and the prophet.

When Dalton finally observed that the turncoat’s eyes had closed, he retreated his sword. Along with it came thick, meaty chunks of raw flesh that either hung out of the wound or dropped powerlessly to the ground, where they made tiny splashes in the pool of the warm red fluid. Dalton pulled away from the man and released the grip on his hair. This allowed the lifeless cadaver to tumble to the floor in a violent heap of appendages and mush. Dalton’s entire arm was sated in the blood of the dead guard, but he paid no attention to it. Instead, he simply took pride in his accomplishment and declared, “There shall be no mercy for those who oppose the reign of the Queen! Those who do shall end up like this worthless bastard!”

By this time, nearly all struggling inside the Earthbound prison had stopped. Most of them were dead by this time, and the few remaining ones had given up, allowing the air to escape their bodies and bubble toward the ceiling and letting the icy ocean to fill their lungs. The amount of bodies inside the tanks was so great that the corpses were suspended below the surface, bobbing around like pieces of seaweed. The bodies above them rose and fell with the waves of the water, their lifeless remains clanking against the hull of the Ocean Palace. Queen Zeal had completed her first holocaust, and as soon as she reached immortality, she would finish the genocide by eradicating the remaining Earthbounds on the snow-covered continent.

The men controlled by Lavos were all enjoying themselves until Magus broke up the torrid laughter. “Where’s Schala!?” he demanded. The guards all looked around the immediate perimeter to find her, but she was gone. Dalton and Zeal did the same, although with much less patience than the guards had.

Queen Zeal fumed, “She’s gone! She’s run away from here. She doesn’t want to participate in our destiny because she feels it unjust.” Queen Zeal thought for a moment about where he could find her. Magus, having experienced this in the past, knew exactly what to do.

“Don’t worry, my queen. I know where she’s gone,” the prophet reassured. Then, turning to the side, he commanded, “Dalton!”

“Sir!” Came the reply.

“She’s headed to the Earthbound Village. Track her down and find her,” Magus ordered, something that Dalton did not enjoy, but followed anyway.

“Why does my head hurt so much?” Augur complained.

”Shh. Don’t worry about it. You need your rest,” Seraph comforted. Augur wasn’t a very compliant person, however, and took this opportunity to rebel.

“I’ll be fine, Seraph. I can heal myself using my own magic, and before long, I’ll be back to normal,” Augur tried to force himself to stand, but his weakened body would not allow him to do so. Seraph commanded him to lie back down, and this time, Augur listened. Sometime while he was knocked out, his clothes, soaked with freezing water, had been removed. He now lay surrounded in nothing but a thick quilt, and lay on a hardened mattress on the ground somewhere in the cave complex.

Seraph pulled back the blanket from Augur’s upper torso, and placed her hands on the muscles of his chest. Augur smiled mischievously at this action. “Geez, Seraph. I thought you said that I needed to rest, but here you are groping my body, and…”

“It’s just a healing spell, Augur. Don’t get too excited,” Seraph refuted, abruptly cutting him off.

“Well, okay,” Augur said, “I guess I can settle for that. Maybe if you just rub a little harder…” Seraph grabbed Augur’s arm tightly and pinched the skin, simultaneously giving it a violent twist. “Ouch!” Augur bellowed.

“Pervert! That’s what you get,” Seraph scolded. “Now... You managed to put a crack in the bone of your neck when you fell from the ceiling. You’re lucky you aren’t paralyzed. So I suggest that you lay back quietly and let me do my work!” Augur agreed this time, and Seraph’s hands were back on his chest. After a few seconds, Seraph began transferring energy from her body into Augur, and Augur felt a tingling sensation on the skin where Seraph pressed her hands on him. The soothing cure entered the bloodstream and was carried throughout his body, allowing Augur to relax and clear his thoughts. He closed his eyes, and eventually drifted off to sleep.

During the commotion with the rebellious guard, the attention of everyone in the room was directed towards Dalton’s violent display of power. This had allowed Schala to sneak out of the Ocean Palace undetected. She was now frantically searching Zeal Palace for her little brother, whom she would take to Algetty for shelter. She had taken it upon herself to make sure that no more destruction was caused because of her.

Janus was found inside the bedroom of the royal children, sitting alone with his pet cat, Alfador. Janus immediately looked at to Schala when she entered, surprised by her uncharacteristic stern appearance. “What’s going on?” he asked curiously.

“Pack your things, Janus. We’re leaving,” Schala answered. Janus opened his mouth to protest, but Schala silenced him with nothing more than a cold glance. “I’ve turned my back on Mother. I won’t allow her to kill anymore. I’m taking you to the Earthbound village with me for safe haven.”

“Why are you taking me?” the prince sniveled.

“Mother… She’s lost it. She’ll kill you in a fit of rage, so I have to protect you,” Schala responded. Schala put together a package with some food and a couple changes of dresses. “Ready, Bro?” Schala solicited. Janus nodded at her. Schala then closed her eyes and attempted to perform a nearly unfeasible teleportation spell. Teleportation spells were difficult and very energy consuming; they required very precise direction and a thorough knowledge of the destination. Making it all the way to the caves would push Schala’s magical prowess to its limit, but given the situation, she was forced to take the chance. After charging the spell, Schala disappeared with the flash of a dazzling orb of light, and shortly after, Janus exited the Kingdom of Zeal in the same fashion.

Schala arrived at the Earthbound Village exhausted, but unharmed. Janus had been swept away with Schala’s spell, and hadn’t used any energy whatsoever. Schala allowed herself a minute to catch her breath, and during this time noticed the great destruction that had occurred as a result of the collapse of Mt. Woe. Although shocked and full of pity, Schala dragged Janus by the arm and began a desperate search for the elder of the village.

At the same time, Candor, Augur, and Seraph were trying to find survivors and help out the Earthbounds. They had managed to pull a couple out from underneath the rubble, but the work was rather grim. Augur was also forced to nurse his healing back, so he wasn’t very much help.

During the middle of their search, Schala crossed paths with Augur and his friends. She instantly noticed Candor, because she often did work in the palace before she had mysteriously disappeared a couple weeks ago. “Candor, what are you doing here?” She asked the woman who had frequently worked nearby in the palace.

Candor turned around to see who the voice belonged to. She was equally surprised. “Schala? Princess Zeal, what in God’s name brings you to this place?” she asked.

”I really don’t have a lot of time for catching up right now, Candor. I’m sorry, but we have all sorts of problems. Can you tell me where the elder is?” Schala contorted her words as she rushed them from here mouth. Candor pointed to one of the doors, where they had recently seen the spiky-haired kid, the frog creature, and the girl with the goofy glasses enter, Melchior not far behind. Schala thanked them and dragged her little brother toward the aforementioned door. Candor returned to the teenagers and continued looking for survivors of the disaster.

A few minutes later another reunion occurred, albeit a much less pleasant one. The three were quickly turned from their work to the sound of a stern, “What the hell is this?” The voice, instantly recognizable, belonged to Dalton. Directing a question at Candor, Dalton demanded “Woman, why the hell are you down in these caves?” Candor turned around to see her former date, and instinctively, Seraph and Augur looked toward the direction of the voice as well. This allowed Augur and Dalton to participate in a brief hostile stare down. Dalton’s thoughts occurred in three steps. First, he realized that this was the same kid who had removed his eye several years ago. Second, he realized that Augur was supposed to be dead, but here he was, living and breathing. Third, his attention turned to Candor, who had been secretly in cahoots with the outlaw and had betrayed him.

“Dirty little slut!” Dalton screamed at Candor, while striking her in the side of the face with a backhand strong enough to send her sprawling to the ground. This caused Augur to draw his rapiers and place himself between Candor and her aggressor. Still in his unyielding rage, Dalton shot a combination lightning/fire ball at Augur’s chest, hitting with tremendous force. Augur was also blown off his feet, and landed a couple body lengths behind Candor, close to the edge of their platform. It hadn’t done Augur’s back any good, either.

“Stupid whore! I have no time for such petty measures right now,” Dalton spat, directing the former part solely to Candor, but the latter part of the statement to all three. “I’ve got more important things to deal with. I’ll take care of you three later,” Dalton departed, continuing his search for Schala. As soon as Dalton’s back was turned, Seraph drew her longbow and prepared to strike. Augur stopped the attack, bringing reason back to her head. At this point, Dalton was far too important to the timestream to destroy.

The voices of Schala, Janus, Melchior, the village elder, and three unfamiliar persons were clearly discernable through the thin wooden doorway that barred Dalton from entrance. He decided to wait and eavesdrop for a few brief moments, trying to understand the conversation. Prince Janus had called the place a filthy hovel, something Dalton wholeheartedly agreed with. Melchior was in the room, obviously escaping his prison when the Mountain of Woe fell. The three strange voices still puzzled him. Most intriguing, however, was Schala’s sudden refusal to work with the queen on the Mammon Machine. “I’ve turned my back on that evil machine,” she protested. “I won’t allow Mother to use it.”

“Won’t Zeal be angry with you?” Melchior questioned the royal princess.

“I don’t care!” Schala declared. “Mother can’t use the machine without me, which means she can’t use the power of Lavos to destroy. I’ll do whatever I can to stay away from the Ocean Palace.”

Growing tired of the griping of Zeal’s daughter, Dalton kicked in the door. “Why don’t we keep it right here?” he bellowed. It had sounded better when he thought of it in his head. Immediately, he recognized a kid with wild red hair, the leader of the foreigners who had opposed the queen in Zeal Palace and then disappeared. His two friends this time were different.

“Dalton!” the chief of Algetty cried in surprise. Dalton shot a menacing glance in his direction, and he immediately backed off. Crono and Frog both drew swords, prepared to strike if necessary, and Lucca pointed the nozzle of an odd looking object at him. Melchior appeared ready to fight, as well.

Dalton managed to ignore every single person in the room except for Schala. This even included Janus, who had kicked him in the shin as soon as he had seen the queen’s high guard. “Miss Schala, your presence is required at the Ocean Palace,” Dalton stated in false formality. “I’m afraid I can’t let you stay here.” Schala stepped back toward Crono, but Dalton reached out and grabbed her forcefully by the neck. Schala’s hands mechanically shot to her neck to pry the dirty hand away from her, but Dalton was gripping it too tightly. Dalton knowingly choked the disobedient woman, being sure to close off her trachea so she couldn’t protest. The unfortunate side effect, of course, was that Princess Zeal could not breathe, and she was left gasping for air in the clutches of Dalton. A choked wheeze was all that escaped her lips when she attempted to object, and Dalton responded by squeezing her neck a little tighter. Zeal’s right-hand man forced Schala nearer, and whispered harshly into her ear, “You’ll do what I say if you know what’s good for you, and for the rest of the people in this room. I am capable of terrible, terrible things. Who knows what might happen to that bastard child of a brother you have…” Schala trembled, slightly whimpering, and barely managing to nod in compliance because of Dalton’s death hold. Her face had turned a pale, flustered, sweaty mess from her fruitless struggle to break free. The lack of oxygen had already begun changing her lips to a bluish color, and Schala’s eyes were beginning to roll backward. Once Schala had been subdued beyond the point of resistance, Dalton was ready to exit. “Well, so long!” he addressed to the crowd. “I’d love to stay and chat, but I’ve got things to do.” With that, Dalton teleported himself and Schala out of the room, reappearing next to the Blackbird situated above the caves. All that remained in their place was a deathly silence.

No one had talked for minutes on end back in the small dugout that Schala had been kidnapped from. Melchior wandered around the room in thought, trying to think of a plan. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed Crono, Frog, and Lucca heading for the doorway. “What are you doing?” Melchior asked alarmingly.

Lucca was the one who answered, “We’re going to stop the queen.”

“You’re actually going to try such a thing?” Melchior inquired. Crono nodded his head to respond to the question. “You’ve done so much for us,” Melchior continued. “And I don’t even know you’re names.”

If it were possible for him to smile, Frog would have. “Fear’th not, noble man. Thou hast already helped mine company greatly. Tis our favor to repay to thou,” he croaked.

“What are you talking about?” Melchior questioned. Well, this creature had the appearance of a frog; it was also possible that he had the brain of an amphibian as well.

“Thou hast repaired the Masamune,” Frog reiterated. Melchior looked at him the way a toddler might look at a professor teaching quantum physics. Lucca saw this, and supported Frog.

“Don’t worry, Melchior,” Lucca reassured. “I have a feeling you’ll find a way to make it up to us one day, but right now it really doesn’t matter. What’s important is that we stop the queen from activating the Mammon Machine.”

“You’re absolutely right. We can’t allow Zeal to use the power of Lavos,” Melchior reasoned. “Good luck, and hurry. If you’re too late, then all is lost,” as the three headed for the doorway, Melchior stopped them briefly. “Here, take this,” the guru offered. “It is a red blade carved of mythical stone, and it’s the only way you can destroy the Mammon Machine. Now hurry, there isn’t much time.”

As soon as the three adventures had left the room, the village elder turned to Melchior. “What do you plan to do, Guru of Life?”

“Like I said, if the Mammon Machine is brought closer to Lavos, he might awaken,” the guru answered. “Me and the other gurus have had a plan in place for this, but it was dealt a crushing blow when I was imprisoned. I’m going to have to do my best to contact them, and then we’ll do whatever we can to help stop the queen. Masa, Mune, and Doreen will be on our side as well.”

“What can we do to help out?” The chief of Algetty questioned.

“Evacuate the caves. When Mt. Woe collapsed, it formed a land bridge of rubble, which you will be able to use to reach the Northwest Continent. You’ll be safe from any impending disaster there,” Melchior replied. “Godspeed, and move swiftly. I don’t know how long you have.” The elder nodded in acknowledgement.

Candor noticed Melchior running out of the dirt hotel as fast as his old, chubby composure would allow him. She immediately ran toward him, yelling, “Melchior! What’s going on?”

Melchior greeted the coworker hastily before ordering, “Pack your bags, Candor. We’re evacuating everyone to the Northwest Continent. If Lavos awakens, that will be the furthest away from the disaster, and the most likely to survive.”

Augur and Seraph remained back from the two acquaintances, absorbing the conversation. “It’s all coming true…” Seraph gasped. “Augur, you were right, everything you said is coming true.” Augur nodded.

Candor quickly finished her conversation with the guru, and then ran back to her students. “Come on, we’re getting out of here,” she ordered. It won’t be long before Zeal falls, and then,” Candor hesitated for a second, “God help us all.”

The three took off for the exit that had previously led to Mt. Woe. None of them knew if the land bridge would be intact, but they had to rely on their faith. As they made their descent, they passed through areas of slowly drying mud from the recent catastrophe, shocked but not surprised to see fleshy bones imbedded into the surroundings. The closer they got to the outside world, the more Earthound villagers were following behind them, many of them still terrified from the collapse of the mountain and the severe flooding that had taken their families away.

After being holed up in a cave for weeks, the sunlight of the outside world blinded Augur, Seraph, and Candor as soon as they reached it. The sensation was short-lived, however, and the blizzard resumed its assault on the earth. They followed an earlier group of exiled civilians, and soon Seraph’s keen eyes spotted an elongated mountain of rubble. “That must be the land bridge!” she exclaimed.

“Way to go, Genius,” Augur scoffed at the obvious. “Since you’ve got such good eyes, you think you can find me a chiropractor, so I can get my back fixed?” Seraph shot him a glance, obviously offended by the sarcasm.

”See if I ever massage your chest again, Augur!” Seraph threatened. “Next time, I’ll break your spine the rest of the way!”

The footing was horrible on the collapsed mountain, and the sea was rapidly eroding the loosened pebbles. The bridge would only exist for a few brief hours before the vast ocean swallowed it. Augur, Seraph, and Candor, along with the large number of Earthbounds following them, were hell-bent on getting to the other side of the land bridge before that happened. The journey would be a long marathon, but everyone knew it would be their only refuge from the wrath of Lavos.

Marle had insisted that she replace Lucca on the mission to the Ocean Palace when Crono’s party made a quick stop at the End of Time to replenish their health, and now they were standing at the back end of the Hall of the Mammon Machine inside the undersea structure. They hid to be sure Zeal and her thugs wouldn’t see them, although Dalton had already fled. Viewing the queen’s malice firsthand was hard to watch, especially at the times when it was directed at Schala.

The Mammon Machine stood tall and searing with the evil emanation of Lavos. Crono could feel it, heavy in the room like a morning fog. Marle armed her crossbow, anticipating some kind of conflict. “Crono, you have to shut that machine off now!” she insisted. “Use that ruby knife that Melchior gave you!” Crono nodded, and unsheathed the reddish blade.

Crono pointed the ruby knife directly at the encased object that had become a symbol of the evil of Lavos. After taking a deep breath and clearing his mind, Crono charged at it, although careful not to reveal himself to the queen until his task was completed. He had to be swift, because the heavy clamping of the sturdy boots would surely draw attention. When he became near, he leapt into the air with the sword strewn back over his head, and stabbed forcefully into the side of the Mammon Machine. The blade sunk into the steel, tearing away impossibly at the cold metal, shredding it and turning it into a jagged pile of industrial garbage. A rich flash of energy encompassed and eventually soaked the entire room, beginning with the knife and Crono, and the machine began making unearthly noises. The evil structure began glowing a bright red, and the ruby knife was collecting the energy of the machine.

Unbeknownst to anyone else in the room, Masa and Mune had been hiding in the shadows. They gave each other a final nod before vowing to carry out their mission, assigned to them by Melchior. When Crono struck down the Mammon Machine, they were able to personify the weapon with their bodies. Masa and Mune fused their energy and embodied their spirits within the sword. In a second bright flash, the ruby knife transformed the melted rocks under the extreme pressure of the power surges leaking out of the Mammon Machine. Soon, the dreamstone blade had molded itself into the legendary Masamune. Frog gasped when he noticed the splendor of the familiar blade, and stroked the same sword lying in the sheath at his side. The feeling didn’t last long, as a thunderous screeching filled the room and the queen was alerted to the presence of the three intruders.

“Imposters!” Zeal shouted. “You’re too late! You’ll all be destroyed by the power of Lavos.” Crono, Frog, and Marle ran into the room, ready to begin the fight of their lives. Before them stood the most hideous creature any of them had ever seen, a nightmarish monster born and forged in the very crypts of Hell. Lavos had awakened, and was in a terrible mood.

Melchior, Gaspar, and Belthasar had gotten together rather rapidly, despite Gaspar’s location on a remote continent. As they rushed down one of the many staircases in the Ocean Palace, they overheard a tortured cry that shook the heavens. Belthasar was the first to recognize the owner of the scream.

”Lavos,” Belthasar sighed. “I’ll always remember that scream.” As he said this, the entire palace shook with the fury of Lavos. A rumble sounded in the background, likely signifying that the monstrosity had attacked someone.

“That means we’re too late,” Gaspar cursed. “If the queen has awakened him, then all is lost. Dammit!”

Melchior began searching his brain for ideas and possibilities that could save the kingdom. “Maybe not…” he wondered aloud. “Keep going. I have a feeling that if nothing else, Lavos can be delayed.” Belthasar and Gaspar were naturally dumbfounded, but now was not a time to dismiss Melchior as crazy, even if he was. The gurus rushed through another hallway, panting frantically, and descended another staircase. More rumblings and distant explosions ensued as they neared the Hall of the Mammon Machine. After a few more frantic minutes of insanity, the gurus found their way to the giant chamber at the bottom of the palace. When they finally saw the monstrosity that was Lavos, every one of them was astounded at the scene. The air near the creature wavered from the immense power filling the surroundings, and an entire wall was missing, replaced by what had once been considered by the Kingdom of Zeal as a god. The massive porcupine-like beast attacked the heroes Melchior had met in the caves with some kind of forsaken energy emiting from a bizarre eye socket, and knocked the trio to the ground. “Hurry!” Melchior screamed.

At the same time Melchior led his colleagues toward the battle, Crono returned to his feet and dashed at Lavos, slashing aimlessly toward the possible head of the beast. A reddish beam shot quickly out of the front of Lavos, flashing brightly with evil, and threw Crono backward. The beam continued pushing Crono back, and it lifted the hero off his feet and tossed him through the air like a rag doll. He was slammed violently against the wall, and his head snapped back. The laser subsided, and Crono fell twenty feet to the floor.

During this time, Frog had recovered and leapt through the air, prepared to swing the Masamune. Lavos fired a small projectile in his direction, which detonated a foot in front of the slimy amphibian. Frog croaked in pain, and dropped to the floor, where Lavos fired a series of sharp needles out of its shell, pinning the swordsman to the floor. Marle dashed toward the fallen Guardia knight, firing her crossbow side-armed in the process. The metallic tip of the arrow sunk into the softened tissue of what looked like an eye socket, and Lavos screeched. In a flickering sparkle, the arrow dissipated from a magic spell. Seeking revenge on Marle, it spewed a stream of glorious orange fire at the princess. When the blazing inferno caught her, it subdued her, and Marle dropped to the ground. She rolled back and forth, attempting to extinguish the flames, but Lavos only roasted her tortured body further. After a short time, Marle stopped moving, and Lavos howled in victory.

Queen Zeal laughed hysterically at the fallen warriors. Schala had collapsed to the ground in a piteous heap, knowing that she had not only failed, but also destroyed the lives of three strangers who selflessly served in her cause. This tore at the heart of Magus. He decided it was time to act, and swiftly discarded his prophet clothing to reveal his true self. “I’ve waited for this, Lavos,” Magus declared. “Years ago I swore revenge on you for what you did to me. I’ve journeyed the world and dedicated my entire life to keeping that vow! Yes, Lavos, I know you remember me!!! I survived the darkness to defeat you!

Queen Zeal ceased her laughing and grew violently angry. “So, a false prophet! You’ll be a wonderful snack for the great Lavos!”

“So confident in your false god, Zeal. We’ll see what happens,” Magus snarled to his mother. Seething with an insipid anger beyond that of his usual rage, Magus drew a reddish rod out of his robes. In preparation of this event, he had stored an uncanny amount of magic inside of the staff, and knew that a strike from it would be powerful enough to collapse a wall. “I’ve waited my entire life for this moment, and I won’t be denied now!” Magus charged, holding the staff to the side of his body, and approached the remorseless creature, knowing he couldn’t screw his mission up. He swung his weapon across his body and cracked Lavos directly in the side of his head, if it could be called that. For a brief moment, a dark flash enveloped both Magus and the eyes of the giant parasite. When the smoke cleared, Lavos appeared to be unfazed.

“What the hell!” Magus stated more than questioned. “It doesn’t work!” he declared. He drew the staff back to strike again, but Lavos stopped the prophet by creating an intense electrical discharge. Magus was flung backward to the floor, where he became paralyzed from the darkish-purplish lightning bolts dancing around his body. The former Prince of Zeal struggled to jump to his feet, but the electricity frying his nerves had paralyzed him for the time being. Magus admitted defeat.

Frog watched as Magus had been taken out, and cursed at Lavos. “Magus, thou art mine to destroy…” he vowed, reaffirming the revenge he had sworn to long ago.

Lavos had slowly grown tired of playing with his toys, and was prepared to end the ordeal to so he could return to absorbing the energy of the planet. Lavos was also tired of allowing his power to be used to power the Kingdom of Zeal. First, however, to deal with the nuisance strewn across the floor around him, Lavos created a weak vacuum, and began sucking in the defeated heroes. Lavos also had a special purpose planned for when Schala had been assimilated.

Crono knew that Lavos would kill them all if something wasn’t done. He deliberately forced himself to his feet, and stepped slowly in the direction of the evil incarnation. Schala saw him, and warned, “No, Crono! Don’t! You can’t stop it!”

Zeal looked over at the defiant hero. “Yes, why don’t you do as Schala says, and run away, cowering in fear. You’re life means nothing to the great Lavos.” Crono ignored both the pleas of Schala and the insults of Zeal and continued toward the wicked beast. Lavos shot a blackish beam of energy directly at the chest of Crono, and the young swordsman convulsed viciously as every muscle in his body began to spasm. Crono felt his neck shoot backward as his spinal cord arched, and involuntarily his arms were thrown above his head. His face twisted and contused, and he felt his feet lift off the ground. He knew Lavos was ready to kill.

As Lavos pumped Crono’s body with dangerous levels of energy, he charged up all the magic he had in his tattered body. If he couldn’t destroy Lavos, then maybe he could save his friends by doing his best to limit the effect of Lavos’s spells. As Crono’s body shimmered with light from magic, only fractions of it his own, he released the energy he had charged. This forced Crono to submit to the power of Lavos, and with the entire room glimmering, the flare of the devastating attack torched his body, and Crono was transformed quickly into nothing more than a molten mass of plasma. What was let of the hero collapsed down to a single condensed point, now nothing more than glimmering photons. This shining entity sparkled in a fantastic display of lights for an instant, and then the remains of Crono literally shattered, sending the very molecules that fabricated his essence to the far reaches of the Hall of the Mammon Machine. When the blinding flashes subsided, there was nothing left of the boy with the spiky red hair. He had vanished, as if he had never even been in the room.

Marle watched the entire incident in a helpless astonishment, and when Crono had disappeared, she choked on the very words she tried to force out of her mouth. As the princess’s eyes welled up, the words escaped. “CRONO!!! NOOOOO!!!” But there was nothing she, nor anyone in the room, could do to either prevent the occurrences or bring Crono back. Lavos, now that Crono was out of the way, allowed his seeds of destruction to rain from the heavens.

In the Kingdom of Zeal, the citizens were oblivious to the events below until it was far too late. After a deep rumbling and a signature scream from Lavos, beams of unholy light sifted completely through the landmass, and not one square inch of the floating continent was spared. A fiery golden blast erupted from deep within the mountains, and tons upon tons of rock and gravel were hurled in all directions, most eventually embedding themselves into the ridge, forming large, scarred holes. The caves that allowed people to journey from Kajar to Zeal Palace collapsed instantly, burying a few Zealians alive.

As another blast from Lavos pummeled the mountainside, another large mass of the earth was uplifted from its resting place and thrown into the atmosphere. In midair, the boulder was obliterated by another explosion stemming from the assault, and large chunks were scattered across the countryside in a hailstorm of deadly rubble. The shrapnel instantly killed anyone outside, because the projectiles riddled their bodies and cut straight through their skulls. The rocks sliced the heads of the civilians to pieces, and they were left laying on the ground with their brains splattered across the plains, and blood rushing from the disembodied stumps, staining the earth red.

A huge segment of the island was blown into the air from an explosion, and after hanging in the atmosphere for an eternity, it dropped to the ground right above a tower in Zeal Palace. The high-rise collapsed under the weight of the projectile, reducing the building to fragments that covered large areas of the roof. The dust that was kicked up from the rubble hid the city from the rest of the world, and some of the palace workers choked to death on the toxic fumes. The rest were killed shortly thereafter. Zeal Palace was annihilated by several of Lavos’s destructive energy missiles. They rose from the ocean, and the rocky underside of the continent became nothing more than a sieve when the weapons tore apart the island, cutting through the city like pins through a pincushion. The ensuing explosions reduced the once glorious palace into several smoking craters and a few melted hunks of scrap metal.

The entire kingdom was now being riddled with the dark seeds of destruction. They were comparable to lasers, ripping through the sky at the speed of light and traveling directly through Zeal without slowing. Fifty to a hundred of these destructive beams were eating away at the landmass every second, torching the ground and sucking the life out of the vegetation that grew out of it. The lake that had provided the Kingdom of Zeal with water for so long was filled with the caustic weapons, and most of the water evaporated from the immense heat on contact. The rest spilled over and flooded the nearby landside, drowning hapless frightened citizens nearby or sweeping them up in the current and carrying them off the floating island.

Several intense explosions hit Kajar, and hit it hard. After a blazing exhibit of fireballs combusted the magical research center and reduced it to oversized piles of stone, he entire city disappeared in a giant white ball of pure energy. The walls of the metropolis were essentially vaporized, along with the people inside. The energy surge collapsed under its own power, and then exploded in a detonation more intense than all the gunpowder in the world could produce. Soon, the section of the island that Kajar had rested upon broke apart and fell to the sea below.

Nearby, Dalton had barely escaped on the Blackbird, and the docking bay had now been turned to dust and smoke. Dalton commanded the pilots to fly faster, and the scorching inferno began to close in on the ship. The Blackbird’s engines flared, and the aircraft shot through the air, away from the explosions. The shockwave from the blast could not be outrun like the fire, and it smashed into the plane, knocking it off course and nearly sending it to a watery grave before the pilots regained control of the airship.

At Enhasa, the destruction of Kajar had been clearly visible, and villagers were already fleeing the city in horror. The same shockwave that had caused intense reverberations on the Blackbird hit Enhasa soon afterward, and they were powerful enough to blow the reinforced stone structures to pieces. Nearly half the city fell to the ground in an onslaught of flying stone and cement before Lavos had even hit it. Soon the situation worsened, and a particularly large bomb rocked the remaining parts of Enhasa, and obliterated the ruins. The smaller island that housed Enhasa was split into halves, with the fault line directly on top of the city. The discharge sent buttresses, boulders, and bodies alike soaring off the cliffs and toward the earth miles below.

The Sun Palace was sheltered by the Moon Stone, and the Elemental Weapons by a protective seal, so both islands were spared when the devastation hit them. When the mainland of Zeal had been mostly destroyed, the smaller islands simply fell, intact, into the ocean below, where they would lay for thousands of years.

More of the deadly seeds of destruction ravaged the landscape, and the largest, and only remaining landmass of Zeal was split into five smaller pieces that began a freefall to the waters below. Even as they fell, the explosions continued to expel all that had been known of the dynasty apart, until not one piece of structure remained.

Unknown miles away, Augur and his friends stared east to see the incredible destruction that was occurring. Flashing streaks of light shot out of the ocean and continued deep into space, ripping apart a certain infamous visible floating island in the sky. The evening dusk had been trying to set in on the Northwest Continent, but the concentric circles of burning convulsions spread across the sky for miles, even traveling beyond the clouds above the Northwest Continent. Though it seemed impossible, the air above them was actually on fire. The nighttime stars were drown out by a reddish yellowish orange that lit the entire earth. The phenomenon was so intense that everyone could feel the heat of the detonations, even though they were miles upon miles away. Looking toward the floating island, one could see a shimmering display of luminosity that sparkled in the distance and nearly blinded the humans. Augur noticed his hair and clothing flapping in the wind from the rush of wind that had been produced by the great devastation. Over a half hour later, the sound of the blasts would finally reach their new home, and they would still be deafening.

When all was said and done, the miniscule parts of the Kingdom of Zeal that had not been evaporated by the concentrated incineration that rivaled the pits of hell plunged deep into the infinite sea. Augur, along with Seraph, Candor, and the Earthbounds, could do nothing but stare. “Jesus Christ,” Augur spat. “It actually happened… I never expected that it would be like this.”

“I can’t believe it’s all gone,” an Earthbound wailed. “Whole goddamn thing was just blown out of the sky.”

“Holy shit,” uttered another voice. “The entire island… It just… My God!”

“I suppose we better take shelter,” Candor whispered to Seraph. “There’ll be a flood coming soon.

Back inside the Ocean Palace, everything was falling to shambles. Queen Zeal had disappeared, Magus was lying on the ground with Frog and Marle, and Schala was praying constantly. Magus, convinced he was about to die, prepared to reveal his true self to Schala. Little did he know, his fanatical nature and wild eyes had already told his sister the truth, although she couldn’t bring herself to believe that it had been true.

Schala approached the three fallen fighters, unmoving in their defeat. “I’ll use the last of my power to send you to safety,” she explained, solemn and desperate. “I know you can’t forgive her, but… please don’t hate my mother, or our kingdom.” With that, the bodies of Magus, Marle, and Frog were reduced to bluish crystalline orbs, which were teleported out of the Ocean Palace. Schala felt somewhat redeemed that she had done everything she could to ease the pain she had brought upon them. Now, terrified about what might happen to her, Schala clutched the powerless pendant, and huddled against the wall away from Lavos. Lavos would have none of her disobedience, and caught her in a beam of dark energy. The beam sucked Schala toward the giant eyeball, and she could do nothing to struggle against the power of it. Whimpering in fear and defeat, Schala did her best not to think of the disgusting beast.

Queen Zeal reappeared temporarily when she detected that Belthasar, Melchior, and Gaspar hat entered the room and were rushing to aid Schala. Lavos let another scream penetrate the air, and cast a powerful spell on the gurus. The room darkened, and the gurus felt a strong vacuum pulling them toward some unknown.

“Oh no!” Belthasar cried. “We’re too late!”

Gaspar took in the surroundings. The only ones left were Schala and Zeal, one crying and one laughing. “If I’m going down,” he began, “I’m sure as hell gonna take Zeal with me!”

Soon, the effects of the dark spell from Lavos began to take effect on the gurus, and they were slowly sucked into the mysterious gateway. “What is this thing?” Belthasar screamed. “A black portal? What’s going on?” He had time to say no more, and the gate swallowed him.

Melchior was next. “Is this… is such a thing possible?” he pondered, before he, too, disappeared from the last piece of the Kingdom of Zeal.

“A time gate?” Gaspar gasped. As he was sucked into yet another undisclosed location, he couldn’t help but be content with the fact that he had been right the entire time. Naturally, his human side also forced him to think of his total failure.

After the gurus had vanished, a confused but eager to help Prince Janus ran into the room. To this, Schala took notice. “Janus, NO! Stay away! It’s too dangerous!”

Janus, at only eight years of age, did not understand. A saddened look appeared on his face, “B, b, but…” Janus was cut off when a fourth time gate appeared and sucked him forever out of the world he was born in. Before he had been removed, he screamed, “SCHALA!!!” The voice echoed throughout of the room long after he had disappeared. Schala now lost whatever hope she had left, and simply waited for her fateful demise.

As Schala’s conscious mind was torn apart greedily by Lavos, images of the past, present, and future rang throughout her psyche. Among them, the last of the visions was a tiny child crying for mercy aboard a raggedy sailboat in the middle of the ocean, cradled by a man that appeared to be the child’s father. Schala, with one last thought of sympathy for the agonized infant, managed to squeeze another slight bit of power out of her overused pendant, and a small ripple occurred in the fabric of time. This ripple, like all ripples, grew bigger and bigger, until it had created a colossal storm six years after 1,000 AD. At the same time, a pattern of nitrogeneous bases imbedded itself into her pendant. Adenine met with Thiamine, Cytosine with Guanine, and the blueprint of Schala’s Deoxyribonucleic Acid was copied onto the ornament. Her DNA would be imbedded there for thousands of years, until a genius from her own kingdom would unlock the secrets in another time period.

Little did anyone realize, Lavos included, what would become of the event. In the far off future, after Lavos had been defeated and a major time split occurred, a piece of the old lavae would mate with the prescience that remained of Schala. This so-called Time Devourer would present a whole new set of problems to a whole new world for a whole new group of heroes to conquest. Among them was the weeping toddler Schala had managed to save. The events at the Ocean Palace had served as the Chrono Trigger.

Chapter 14

Chrono Cross Fanfic
Chrono Trigger Fanfic

Crossover Fanfics