Chrono Shift Chapter 14

The Angel And The Reaper

By Tool23X

“Unbelievable,” Candor reminisced. “I’ve never had a day like that before. Do you believe that they’re actually finding debris here on the island, miles and miles from Zeal?”

“Yeah, but only because I found a piece of it myself,” Augur replied. This perked his former mentor’s interest. In the past weeks, their teacher-student relationship had dwindled, and the two had become much more like friends now that the need for formality had disappeared.

“You actually found something from the kingdom?” Candor asked, somewhat surprised. “What was it?”

“It’s a part of some book, although only a few pages were even legible after the firestorm that occurred up there,” Augur explained. “The layers of soot made it stand out against the snow.”

“So, could you make anything out?” Candor asked nonchalantly.

“Yeah, there was something in there,” Augur responded. “I couldn’t really tell you what it was all about, there were just scatters of words here and there, and it seemed to be some kind of generic babble. Lots of big words, Candor. You should take a look at it.” Although Augur had downplayed the significance of the event, there was one passage from the book that remained quite intact. The words, although mostly meaningless to him, were the kind that sent a certain chill down a person’s spine.

“…It all began aeons ago, when man’s ancestors picked up a shard of a strange red rock…It’s power, which was beyond human comprehension, cultivated dreams…In turn, love and hate were born. Only time will see how it all ends…”

After a few moments of contemplation, Augur shook the notion to the back of his mind. Not really caring if Candor had any interest in the charred remains of the book, he changed the subject. “Where’s Seraph?” he asked. “I haven’t seen her all day.”

“She’s at the clearing between two small rock ledges the people are using as a meeting place,” Candor clarified. “I wonder if we should go check it out and see if we can hear the latest gossip.”

“Alright, let’s get going, then,” Augur suggested. He grabbed Candor’s arm and pulled her to her feet, and then the two were off.

There was a humanoid frog at the entrance of the meeting place. It was pretty hard not to recognize a humanoid frog, and he belonged to the group of foreigners who had invaded Zeal Palace and saved Melchior at Mount Woe. Seraph immediately deducted that the heroes had somehow made it to the lonely island which had become Earth’s last refuge. Looking in their general direction, but being careful not to stare so she wouldn’t draw attention to herself, she noticed that the group wore a collective look of distress. One member in particular, a pretty young girl with blonde hair and sea green eyes, wore her heavy heart on her face. When the threesome moved close enough that their words were audible, Seraph heard frequent mention of a young adult with spiky hair. Seraph remembered a similar description being given to one of the strangers while they resided in the caves. Apparently, he had gone missing.

Shrugging off the appearance of the trio, Seraph went back to mingling with the locals. The few Enlightened Ones who had been lucky enough to be in the caves when Zeal fell were surrounded by the Earthbounds, but their prejudice seemed to be gone. Even though Seraph’s main focus was on socialization with the other survivors, she found that she continually checked over her shoulder to observe the status of the three heroes. They appeared to be doing the exact same thing as her: searching for information. From what Seraph had deduced, no one knew anything about any of the members of the royal family, and the gurus had all disappeared. Schala seemed to be a topic of particular interest, but everything that was revealed turned out to be nothing more than rumors.

After talking with an aging Earthbound woman who had trouble watching her three children and holding a conversation at the same time, Seraph sat down in the snow with her back against a rocky wall to relax. The frost was cold on her bottom, and she shivered from the chilly powder until she became used to the sensation. From her position here, she curiously observed the frog and his party as they scrounged for further information. When they came close enough that their conversations became easy to hear, Seraph learned that one of their close friends had been killed in the Ocean Palace disaster. This would explain the missing spiky haired kid, as well as the despair showing on the faces of the heroes. The reasons behind the significantly greater anguish in the young girl’s eyes were still a mystery. Perhaps they had been lovers? Seraph decided that it was none of her business.

Soon afterward, a subtle, but abnormal rustling drew her attention to the back of the meeting area. Off the top of the small cliffs that surrounded the clearing, two guards dressed in Zealian attire jumped to the ground and quickly subdued a pair of Earthbounds near the chief of Algetty. A quick blow to the head from the rogue sentries was all it had taken to incapacitate them. Seraph rose to her feet, but found her bow to be missing, left behind in the hovel with Candor and Augur. As she swore at herself, a third figure emerged from the top of the encampment.

Dalton glorified himself with more extravagant clothing than the other guards had worn, and quickly knocked the chief to the ground when he had taken center stage. Cupping his hands to channel his voice, Dalton declared, “The Zeal dynasty has ended! All hail King Dalton the First!”

Apparently, the heroes led by the frogman had seen their share of encounters with Dalton as well. The creature quickly armed himself with a broadsword, during which time the girl withdrew an unfamiliar type of mechanical bow, and an older woman raised her fists in preparation of a brawl. The frog quickly led the party to the front of the meeting site, where the confusion and violence had begun. “Dalton,” the toad snapped. “What business hath brought thine fowl stench to this place?”

Dalton laughed cockily, “Without Zeal, there is a power vacuum. I’m here to fill it. How lucky you three are to be the first royal prisoners of the Dalton dynasty.” Dalton threw an evil laugh to the crowd and punched the air, causing a fireball to shoot toward the sword-bearing amphibian at the front of the group. The swordsman swung and effortlessly deflected the attack, and the projectile skewed off into the air.

Seraph watched as Dalton became enraged, spouting insults to the three. “Wha… It didn’t work!? Err, I’ll show you! Try this one on for size!” Dalton spread a small series of superior explosions, scattering them around the bodies of the heroes. The frog, the grieving girl, and the cave woman fell to the ground, appearing to have never been in any condition to carry out a fight. Seraph didn’t blame them after all they had been through.

Dalton looked over and spotted Seraph shying away in a corner of the meeting site. He recognized her as the girl that had been with Augur and Candor in the caves, and shot her a hard glance. Seraph took a step backward, not in the mood for a fight. Still, she felt a tingling in her hand as she prepared magic, thinking it might be necessary. Dalton looked as if he was ready to hurl insults toward her, as he had to his three recent captives. After a second, though, he simply spat upon the ground and looked away. It was likely that he didn’t want to deal with her when he had more important things to take care of. “Men, get these infidels to the Blackbird. Also, I want that little toy of theirs to be put on the ship,” Dalton commanded to his peons.

“Yessir!” came the automatic reply. The three prisoners were thrown on the shoulders of Dalton’s guards, during which time the new king had quickly made an exit. More guards appeared to escort the prisoners out of the gathering, and they left without any opposition. Seraph sulked against the cliff of the clearing, letting her back slide down the wall as she returned to a sitting position. She placed her hand on her forehead, not sure what she should be feeling.

Seraph was in this position when Augur and Candor found her a few minutes later. She looked up and greeted them with a customary “Hello”, but remained in her current pose. Augur was not very good at reading emotions, but he could tell that something was wrong.

“Seraph, you all right?” he asked.

Seraph silently nodded her head, “I’m fine, just a little shaken. Dalton declared himself king and took the kids from the caves away to a prison. I suspect he’s using the Blackbird as a castle.”

“What!?” Candor and Augur both declared in unison. After Augur added nothing else, Candor stated, “We can’t have that man running the new world. He’s a glorified hell raiser.”

“Candor, I didn’t really want to have to bring this up,” Augur began. “But there’s something I’ve been wondering about. It has to do with you and this new king of ours. Something that happened on the night of the millennium.”

Candor blushed and became embarrassed, not wanting to come up with an answer. She had been lonely the night of the Millennial Ball, and a date was a date, even if it wasn’t with the best partner. After they had arrived, alcohol had taken its toll on Candor, and she made some choices that she would later regret. The next morning, her back end had an unbelievably ache in it, the result of an uncustomary practice she would never have agreed to had she not been excessively drunk. But it was all ancient history now, and there was nothing she could do to change it. “It was a mistake,” Candor finally conceded. “It isn’t really important, Augur. If Dalton rules the people here, everything will be total anarchy. Maybe we should organize a revolt against him.”

“That won’t be necessary,” a voice from behind interrupted their conversations. The three turned around to see a middle aged man wearing black and deepened purple garbs, complete with thick leather gloves, thicker leather boots, and a pale complexion highlighted by scraggly bluish hair.

“Who are you?” Seraph demanded, feeling angry that this man had so abruptly intruded on their group.

“I am just another victim of Lavos, although my losses have been of much greater magnitude,” the strange man replied replied. “In a faraway land, people once called me ‘Magus,’ but that isn’t important. I need you to do me a favor.”

“Hey, wait a second! We don’t even know who you are… Why should we help you with anything?” Augur protested.

Magus sighed. “My, aren’t you the bullheaded rebel! One more snappy remark out of you, and I’ll bury you faster than a pile of fresh dog feces.” Augur wrapped his fingers around the handle of one of his rapiers. Magus ignored him and continued. “I heard you talk about some kids from the Earthbound caves. They’ve been taken to the Blackbird with Dalton, correct? When that plane comes crashing down, I want you to tell them those kids find me.”

Candor was puzzled, “How do you know the Blackbird is going to crash?”

Magus turned and began to exit the scene. He stopped momentarily to say, “I’m sure Dalton loaded that plane with as much fuel as he could, thinking he’d be clever. But he can’t stay up forever. He’s a manic authoritarian, and I wouldn’t be surprised if a mutiny broke out. That fuel would make the Blackbird one giant flying bomb, and the crew is loaded with matches to light their cigars. Besides, those kids I spoke of will try to escape, and Dalton has too much confidence in himself. It’ll all be over in a couple days.”

Candor was prepared with another question, but the strange man had disappeared.

It had been no more than a day when Magus’s predictions came true. It began with the now routine engines of the Blackbird tearing through the sky above whilst it made another pass overhead. Oddly enough, a second airship was soaring behind the last relic of the Zeal dynasty. After a few brief moments, an electrical discharge of sorts was faintly audible in the distance, and two successive bright flashes encompassed the second airplane. Out of these distant white flickers came two shimmering energy beams that quickly shot in the direction of the Blackbird. The first one skimmed off the top of the royal airship, causing little damage, but the second one was a direct hit that sabotaged the left wing of the aircraft. After several small explosions on the wing, the Blackbird tilted, now favoring the power on the right side. Hot flames engulfed the one half of the plane, burning through the material of the structure. Trailing the ship was a thick black plume of smoke.

The roar of the jets had subsided when the wing of the Blackbird had been damaged, now replaced by mechanical sputtering from the engines, trying to keep the plane stable. It was of little use, however, and the Blackbird gradually lost altitude as the ship continued to tilt sideways until it flew vertically instead of horizontally, the broken wing sunken on the bottom side. With no loft remaining on the aircraft, the ship took a nosedive, arcing its path directly toward the ocean on the far side of the last continent. The wind resistance, more forceful now that the airplane was no longer in upright position, fought viciously with the damage on the wing of the Blackbird. The jagged pieces of metal were caught on the air, and ripped clean off in most cases, leaving a trail of debris littering the air behind the ship.

In the final seconds of the Blackbird’s fateful flight, the wing fires spread across the entire structure of the plane. Since the quickly spreading fires were located on the wing that now pointed downward toward the sea, the flames climbed the ship and engulfed the main body of Dalton’s air throne. The ship was no longer suitable for flight, and the dive towards the earth curved further downward, until the Blackbird was falling head first into the waters, engines pushing it toward its demise even faster than gravity would have done. The blaze on the aircraft danced throughout the main body, burning hot enough to melt through the metal hull and incinerate anyone unfortunate enough to be in the vicinity. A thick black cloud of smoke, hundreds of feet long, shielded the sky and blocked out the sun as it trailed the Blackbird. It followed behind the plane closely until the aircraft flew directly into the cold waters of the ocean.

Because of the aerodynamic shape of the Blackbird, it sliced through the ocean surface with a minimal splash of water. The fires quickly disappeared as the icy waters rushed in through hundreds of holes to extinguish them. Still, the impact with the surface had created intense reverberations to every part of the ship, causing fuel drums and weapons and people all to fly violently against the walls. The fuel drums, naturally, were of the most dangerous. The metal surrounding the oil crumpled up like a piece of paper when it hit the damaged hull, and the ensuing flood of gasoline was much more deadly than the already present flood of water. When the steel drums clanged against the steel frame of the Blackbird, large sparks shot out from the point of impact. The sparks lit the leaking fuel on fire, and explosions were soon spreading throughout the ship. The powerful inferno quickly swallowed any surviving humans somehow spared by the events so far. When the series of explosions hit the engines, they flew apart from multiple detonations, some occurring inside the fuselage. The entire back end of the ship was separated from the rest of the hull, and the metal inside the engine rooms shattered into millions of tiny fragments.

The Blackbird was about a hundred feet below the surface of the water when a final explosion went off, cleaving the ship into portions so small that the tiniest of fish could swallow them whole without having any problems. The fire burned whatever oxygen remained inside the ship, and the expanding blast blew all the water away from the crash site. An expanding sphere spread away from the wreckage, forcefully pushing out all the seawater surrounding the area. Above the blast, where this sphere intercepted the ocean’s surface, a whitish dome similar to an enormous bubble formed. When the upsurge of water reached its maximum capacity, the bubble burst, vomiting countless tons of seawater hundreds of feet in the air. Eventually, the millions upon millions of water droplets returned to the surface in a downpour. The raindrops splashed against the water, each creating their own miniscule sprinkle, and the ripples from the globules spread out across the surface until they collided with one another.

For a moment, it appeared as if the underwater explosion had caused another massive tidal wave that would soon wash over the Northwest Continent, but the waves quickly collapsed under their own weight, and became nothing more than very large swells in the vast sea. They would eventually hit the shore at a size so infinitesimal that the world wouldn’t even take notice, instead simply shrugging them off as routine.

Back on the island, it hadn’t taken long for every single villager to run from their compromised homes and witness the events happening in the sky above. The word of the incident spread like wildfire, as did the rumors about the event. By the time the massive undersea explosion had demolished the remnants of the Blackbird and the outburst of ocean water cluttered the sky, everyone was watching the Western Seaboard. Because they were all rustled and frantic from the events that had occurred above, very few people even noticed the second airship, the one that had apparently shot Dalton’s plane clear out of the sky, land in the plains to the south of the gathering post where the villagers spent their time in the new world. None of them would ever find out just how important this event really was to all of their lives.

Shortly after the incidents, and following hundreds of discussions of rumors and theories about the demise of the Blackbird, everyone had made their way back to the commons. Augur, Seraph, and Candor were among them, and they talked of the events with the rest of the villagers, entirely forgetting about their encounter with a mysterious clairvoyant that had accurately depicted the events. The thoughts returned, however, when the three prisoners they had seen taken away by Dalton entered the grounds. After some careful observation, Seraph determined that they were searching for information, as they had done before they had been interrupted.

“They’re trying to find out what happened to a friend of theirs, probably dead in the aftermath of the Ocean Palace,” Candor predicted.

Seraph nodded, “That man we met here the other day said something about them.”

“Yeah, he wanted them to find him. We were supposed to be informants of some sort.” Augur guessed. “Middle men, if you will.”

Seraph looked at Augur for advice, “Do we tell them, or will that screw up the timestream and erase history, and all that other crap you mumble about.”

Augur pondered the question for a second before shaking his head in uncertainty. “I don’t know, but my gut is telling me something. I mean, they lost a close friend and all. It’s hard enough for them, and I don’t want to tell them that we don’t know anything when we really do.”

“So, you think it’s best to tell them?” Candor asked.

“I don’t know, Candor. Whatever you think, I’ll go with it,” Augur conceded.

“We’ve all lost friends before, and we would want others to help us if we were in their situation,” Candor reasoned. “I say we tell them.”

Augur stayed true to his word, letting her decision be the final one, and Seraph did not have any objections. With the decision made, the three stood near each other, and waited until the strangers approached them. It wasn’t hard to follow a short, slimy frog and a cavewoman in the crowds, and the young girl followed closely behind them. Eventually, the frog creature walked up to Augur. “Pardon mine interruptions, Sir, but I hath a question, which doth beg’th an answer. By way did come’th a young squire with red hair?” the creature croaked.

Augur shook his head. “Sorry, I don’t know anything about a kid with red hair, but I do have some information that may help you out.”

The cavewoman had now eagerly run up to the side of the frog, like some lost puppy. “You know something?” the woman demanded in a rough English. “Tell Ayla!” The frog, obviously much more cultured and proper, moved to scold her for her rudeness.

Since Augur did not wish to see a lesson about manners, so he cut the amphibian off. “While you were gone, a strange man came into the village. He mentioned something about you guys, and said he wanted a meeting, or something.”

The woman who apparently went by the name of Ayla allowed her eyes to widen. Soon, the third member of the party, the young girl, charged up to be with her companions. “Marle! This man know something! Come quick!” The cavewoman shouted.

“You know something about Crono?” the girl asked, eager for a response.

“If Crono is the one with the fiery hair, then I’m afraid the answer is no,” Augur replied, and watched as the hopeful young lady’s hopeful complexion regressed into defeat once again. “I just know of someone who wishes to meet with you.”

Seraph had been watching the entire ordeal up until this point, and decided to join in, since Augur didn’t like strangers too well. “Someone came up to us and said he had some important information. No one had ever seen the man that came looking for you before. I’m sorry that we can’t be more helpful, but that’s all we know.”

The frog was slightly disappointed, but it was a place to start. “Thank you, Madam, and bless’th all thine hearts. Thou’rt of good nature, and I wish many pleasantries come’th thy way.”

“Good luck with your search,” Seraph added cordially.

“We owe’th a great debt, and many thanks for thine gratitude.” The frog bowed, as if he were a gentleman and not a beast. They asked a few more questions of the other locals, but information was scarce, and they were forced to continue their search elsewhere.

It had only been a few short hours after the destruction of the Blackbird when another extraordinary event occurred, this time far off the Eastern Seaboard. An enormous circumference of water on the ocean seemingly shimmered, and it eventually began to bubble. The source of heat causing the sea to boil was unknown to the villagers, and this was something that not even Augur, with his journeys to the heavens and advice from the gods, could have explained. The patch of ocean shined with whitish light, but it was not the heavenly glow often associated with white illuminations. Instead, it seemed to be a sinister mirage, masking the truth from the world. There was an ominous energy that emanated the occurrence, one that was obvious to any casual observer.

On the surface of the boiling ocean, part of the sea divided, and a hole in the waters grew in a swirling spiral shape. Then, some odd structure began poking its head out of the abyss. The structure was black, so dark that it would stand out against the nighttime sky. Water from the ocean poured off the top of the machine, cascading off the sides and crashing into the waves below. The remaining water was trapped on the surface of this massive contraption, glistening blindingly in the bright sunlight. At times, the entire thing seemed to be one giant glare, possibly a sunlit reflection of the sea. The slick surfaces created by the water only made this forbidden construction seem blacker, more threatening.

Suddenly, the colossal machine came to life, whirring with mechanical buzzing and lights, as electricity bounced off the surface, being fed from somewhere inside the evil-boding object. The glow of the lights, both inside and outside this alien creation, served to only heighten the fear the residents felt from this turn of events. The display continued for several more minutes as the Ocean Palace reconstructed itself in the sky, floating magically without any sense of reason behind it. The Black Omen would serve as a sign on all things wicked and evil for the rest of time, plaguing the humans with death and destruction as Lavos’s influence seeped into the world. Furthermore, it would block out the sun for the morning hours of the day, allowing humans to only hope when most of their time had already passed.

But then again, time is not absolute.

“Seraph, what’s the matter?” Augur inquired curiously. The teenage girl had been moping around for several days now, and for seemingly no reason.

“It’s nothing,” Seraph retorted, denying Augur access to any information. Augur was slightly hurt, believing that he and Seraph had moved beyond this stage of concealing things from each other.

“It doesn’t look like nothing,” Augur finally replied, taking a seat beside her on the bed in the hut they now called home. More and more of these cabins were being built to shelter the population better. Candor was in a hut separate from the two teenagers, but there were several other people who currently lived here besides Augur and Seraph.

Seraph looked as if she had something she wanted to get off her chest, but she refused to speak the words. Augur draped an arm around her shoulders, hoping to comfort her. “Come on, Seraph. Something is wrong, I can tell. You haven’t been yourself lately.”

“Augur, I don’t know how it can be so easy for you to let go of everything,” Seraph sniveled, obviously trying to hold back tears. “At first it didn’t hit me, because so many different things were going on, what with the fall of Zeal, the Blackbird, and now that monstrosity in the sky. But now that things have calmed down, I’ve realized that I lost a lot when the kingdom came crashing down. My parents and my sister are dead. All of my friends from Enhasa are dead. All my beliefs about the world are dead. Sometimes I feel as if I have nothing left.”

“Seraph, you haven’t lost everything. Candor’s still here, and you’ve still got me. I know that times are kinda tough right now, but you’ll pull through.” Augur consoled. “You’re tough enough to survive this, Seraph, and no matter what, I’ll be here for you.” Augur’s sweet words touched Seraph, and she temporarily ceased her sulking to raise her head and look him straight in the eye.

“Tell me how you do it, Augur. Tell me how you can just sit back and pretend nothing happened?”

Augur understood perfectly well where she was coming from. “It’s because I didn’t lose anything this time around. My own life and beliefs were ripped from me ten years ago in the caves, and later in the heavens. This time, I managed to cling to everything I hold dear to me.”

Seraph’s eyes were beginning to well up again, still upset, but a little more understanding. Augur quickly wrapped his other arm around Seraph, and gave her a meaningful hug, which Seraph gladly returned. When they were done, Augur leaned over and gave her a small kiss on the cheek. “I want you to get some sleep. It’ll help you forget these things.”

Seraph fell back on the bed, obeying his command. Augur began to walk toward the door, but Seraph delayed him, saying, “I pity you, Augur. Even with all you’ve seen, you still can’t understand what’s important in this world. You never forget loved ones. Never.”

Augur couldn’t think of any reply, so he simply whispered, “Sweet dreams,” and left the hut. Seraph was already giving into her weariness, and quickly dozed off.

Augur waited outside the room for a few short minutes, until he was sure Seraph had fallen asleep. He crept silently to her bedside, being sure not to wake her. Augur leaned over the mattress and rewarded the sleeping girl with a quick smooch on the cheek, and placed a small package next to her head on the pillow. “Happy Sweet 16, Seraph,” he whispered. “I know it isn’t much, but I hope you like it.

It was another clear day of unseasonable warmth, although the sun had only shown in the latter afternoon hours. The Black Omen had cast a thick shadow across the earth for most of the day, but in the evening, the sunlight danced around the slick surface of the Omen, and the entire floating mountain sparkled with the dazzling light that had been reflected from the dark exterior. The reflection caused the same effect on the water below, and the shine was strewn across the vast sea as well.

The remains of the Ocean Palace were so far away from the Northwest Continent, details were barely visible, and even then, they were vague. Therefore, the flying Epoch seemed to be nothing more than an insect in the sky so far away, and completely vanished when the ship was absorbed in the intense white glimmer of the Omen. No one even gave the event notice.

Three hours later, however, the effect of these actions became well documented with the survivors of the Zeal disaster. It started with a small explosion on the summit of the Black Omen, seemingly nothing more than a blown fuse somewhere. The detonation was not even discernible from the Omen at a fair distance. But this was much more than a slight malfunction, as it set off a chain reaction that sent Zeal’s secret hideout to the bottom of the ocean once again. For reasons unknown, the Black Omen tilted sideways very slightly, throwing off the balance keeping the fortress afloat. The forces that allowed it to hover were quickly overwhelmed by the added gravity on one side, and a slow but deliberate journey into the seas had begun.

The bottom tip of the Omen sunk first, striking the water with enough force to cause the water to surge around the castle, but not enough for the swelling to extend outward and create any sort of potentially dangerous waves. Then, inch by inch, foot by foot, the flying fortress began falling further and further into the big drink.

The thrusters on the bottom of the Omen, which were responsible for a decent percent of its ability to hover came from, were still working when they became submerged. The air in the Black Omen was forced from the jets, creating large pockets of air under the surface. These bubbles floated to the surface, just like any pocket of oxygen would, and bubbled until they clouded the area surrounding the falling structure. Heat from the engines caused an intense boiling to occur, and eventually evaporated the water into a hazy mist that blanketed the Omen. Very shortly afterward, the dark symbol of evil disappeared forever behind a gargantuan wall of water vapor. The mist obscured the view of the Black Omen from human eyes, and the palace quietly finished its descent into a watery grave.

Seraph really liked the necklace Augur had given her, that much was obvious. She wore the silver jewelry around her neck at nearly all times, except when sleeping or exercising. The cherubim statue she had once received was destroyed along with the rest of Zeal, but it had managed to help protect her on that fateful day. Still, for Seraph, the past year hadn’t been a good one, bringing countless hardships.

The weeks continued to pass, as more and more of the year went by. Augur had still not seen any sign of this wizard that was supposed to meet him, and lead him to the bottom of the sunken Ocean Palace. Augur was beginning to wonder if he had somehow screwed up the timestream enough that he would be unable to fulfill his mission. At the time, however, none of this mattered to him. Augur was enjoying life outside of Zeal, not having to deal with the laws, or the price on his head. Seraph and Candor also enjoyed similar pleasures. Candor was glad she would never again have to deal with the policies and issues of that place.

Then, one day long after the Black Omen had sunk back into the sea, his questions were answered. It happened at North Cape, where Augur had traveled to relax for a little while. He stayed well past dusk, becoming lost in his thoughts and the sounds of the drifting ocean. That night, the white moon had been locked in an eclipse by the smaller, red one. When the red moon had risen to its zenith, blocking out the light over the stormy ocean rolling before Augur’s eyes, the wizard appeared. It startled the young man to discover that the person fated to meet him this night was someone he had already ran into. The wizard approached him silently from behind, not attracting any attention until he was within arms length of the teen. Then, in a loud, commanding voice that made Augur jump, the man stated, “I’ve been searching for you.”

Augur turned around to see the same man, dressed mysteriously in dark clothing and carrying a menacing grimace on his face, that had asked him to do a favor when the Blackbird was still in service. “Yes, I remember you now,” the wizard uttered, now that Augur had turned to face him. “Last time I met with you, the circumstances weren’t exactly pleasant.”

“You!” Augur shouted. “What are you doing here?”

“Harsh greetings like that one will leave you in an early grave, my boy,” the wizard replied. “Fortunately, at least for you, I don’t have time to bullshit right now. My name is Magus, in case you didn’t remember. You will be working with me, on a mission, and I’m afraid I won’t be giving you a choice in the matter.”

“It’s you?” Augur asked. “You’re the wizard?”

Magus cut to the chase. “I need a powerful magic user to accompany me on my trip, and the description I received of a kid with silver hair was the easiest to find,” he paused briefly. “I have spent my entire life pursuing two goals. One was to finally get revenge on Lavos, and the other is to find my long lost sister. Just recently, within the past couple of weeks, I accomplished the former of those goals. I have spent the time since them looking for information which could help me in my quest to accomplish my second goal. I recently found a lead that told me of an ancient artifact buried underneath the waves, consisting of immense power. I need you to help me get there, because my powers alone won’t allow me to penetrate the fortress’s defenses. In return, you can use the item for riches, or whatever the hell else you might desire. Personally, I don’t care. Once I get what I want, you’re free to use it at your leisure.”

Augur was ready with his response, “I know about this artifact, and I have reasons other than riches to pursue this…”

“Didn’t I just tell you that I don’t care about your damn reasons!” Magus screamed angrily. “I said you could use it at your leisure when I was finished, provided I don’t decide to kill you beforehand.”

“Alright, whatever… I’m in,” Augur confirmed. “But before we leave, I have to do a couple things I have to take care of.”

Magus sighed. “Go do what you need to do, but be back by sunrise. If you waste too much of my time, you’re head will find a nice pillow on the blade of my scythe.” Augur gave Magus a quick, sarcastic thanks. The wizard ignored the comment, simply staring out to the sea, not bothering to watch Augur run out from North Cape to find Seraph and Candor.

Unknown to Magus, he was not alone when he engaged in his brief conversation with Augur. Lurking in the obscurity of Magus’s vision, silently watching the whole episode, was a man of even darker demeanor than the warlock. He also had a personal interest in this artifact at the bottom of the sea. So, cautiously seeking information, the second man had hid in the secrecy of the shadows, obscured by the darkness of night. Here, he listened to the entire discussion. When he found out the general details of Magus’s plot, he slowly grew more and more intrigued. He could barely contain his excitement as he watched every piece of the puzzle fall into place. He could already feel the cold texture of the Chrono Shift in his hands.

The man stalking Magus from the shadows laughed evilly. Yes, his dark plan would work perfectly. It wouldn’t be long until the ultimate power became his personal toy. This fool Magus would essentially give him a free ride to the bottom of the ocean. The idiot would do all the work for him, and when they were upon the Chrono Shift, he would dissipate his dark cover and kill the incompetent warlock and his apprentice. He would then use the power of the ancient relic to fulfill his dark schemes, and reshape the world as he saw fit. And, with Magus out of the way, it would leave only two left from the original band of heroes that had taken out Lavos. Even more amusing, they were the two who would be least likely to get involved in another foolhardy adventure to save the world. The man hidden in the infinite night took another confident look at the unsuspecting Magus. It would be all too simple, and in a mere matter of days, the human world would be no more.

Chapter 15, Part 1

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