Chrono Shift Chapter 15, Part 2

Opposite the Zenith

By Tool23X

“Behold, this is the site of two major turning points in history, neither of which can be found in any book,” Magus declared, rubbing his hands together from beneath his coarse gloves. After an eternity of bickering and complaining, they had finally reached the hall of the Mammon Machine. This was the same place where Zeal had summoned Lavos and brought about the end of her kingdom, as well as the location where Magus had finally ended his mother’s pitiful life by helping to smash the Black Omen. Lavos had fallen to his own hands shortly thereafter.

The door leading to the hall, elegantly engraved with Zeal’s signature markings, had been blown to pieces after the battle in the Black Omen. This left the room unprotected, allowing any bystander to simply waltz into the ruins. The Mammon Machine itself still stood in the back, although only half of it remained intact. The rest of the pieces had fallen off and laid in an unkempt heap of rubble surrounding the base of the structure. Though the Mammon Machine had once chimed with life from the energy of Lavos, it now sat silent, devoid of any movement or sign of functionality. In fact, the entire room looked dead. The lights were dimmed, many sparking from shorts, and a thin layer of dust covered the floor, which had been undisturbed for months.

Magus walked silently into the room, not noticing the setting, but simply blending in with the background as he floated across the floorboards. Seraph followed closely behind, with Candor, Augur, and Gunner bringing up the rear. Every step they took caused a creak or screech from the room.

“This place is creepy,” Seraph whispered.

“Dead men reside within these walls,” Magus reminisced. “Their unfulfilled dreams haunt them, and in turn, they haunt the trespassers.”

“That’s just talk, Magus,” Gunner yelled. “Let’s get down to business. Where is this… Chrono Shift?”

“I’d imagine it’s somewhere inside the Mammon Machine,” he answered.

“How do you figure?” Gunner queued.

“The circuitry in that thing is incredibly complex, and after Lavos poured unspeakable amounts of magic into that thing, everything probably transformed. Not to mention, some very dangerous things have been done to that machine, a few of them by me,” Magus explained. “But, I think we have more important things to worry about right now. Specifically, I’ve got a stalker I wanna fry.”

“You’re talking about the guy whose trying to steal the Chrono Shift?” Augur asked.

”Exactly,” Magus concurred. “The way I see it, he doesn’t know that we know he’s following us. I plan on jumping him when he thinks about jumping us.”

Little did Magus know, he was already too late. The evil incarnate was already in the room, sitting in the corner, disguised by a cloaking spell. The dimness of the lights, which had been his own doing, added to his cover. Even if the five humans had known about his presence and knew exactly where his hiding place was, they could not find him. Undoubtedly, all the humans were tired from their long mission. Even though they outnumbered him by four, taking them all down would be a cinch. Unfortunately for him, however, he could not simply kill them. He needed some valuable information beforehand, specifically about Augur’s contact with the gods. He needed to know what they had told him, and what they were capable of. If he intended to defy the supreme ruler of the universe, he needed more information. Of course, Augur was the only one he really needed, and the rest would just be targets.

He decided it was time to reveal himself to his enemies. With nothing more than a thought, his cloaking spell dissipated. As soon as he had done this, a wave of darkness flooded the hall, the shadows bursting through the air, screaming with the pain of thousands of demons. Everything dimmed to a severe blackness, and the darkness spread to the far corners of the room, blanketing everything with a thick, blinding fog. The evil mist chilled the chamber, and a dark frost formed on the floor, as the skin of his enemies turned cold and pale.

The evil beast of the shadows walked through the thick, blinding fog. He made his way into a position near his enemies, and with a simple thought, the shadows parted, clearing the room. He saw five sets of eyeballs fix on his stature, trying to make out the appearance of the figure that had appeared in front of him. Floating amongst the last of the blackened clouds, the creature announced his arrival.

“Greetings, Magus. You as well, Augur. You may call me Nadir, the Great Vanquisher. I am here to rid this planet of your disease.”

The darkness finally cleared, and before Magus and his allies stood an extraordinarily large creature. Its appearance was that of a human, except that it was too big, and rather deformed. Nadir stood well over seven feet tall, and on top of that, he used a levitation spell to float another foot off the ground. He was very well built, even his neck and completely hairless head hardened from muscle. The skin, exposed only in a V shape on the chest, as well as everything above the neck, was draped with war paint darker than night itself. His eyes were oversized, bulging out of his head, and they were colored a deep, menacing red that glowed from the faint lights. His shoulders were shrouded with a black shawl highlighted with a golden emblem. The cape wrapped around the back of his neck and fell effortlessly to his calf muscles. Nadir wore a plated metal armor underneath a ninja master’s kimono, with cast-iron spikes sticking through the garb and creating an extension of the top of his shoulders. Around his waist he wore a belt, likely to hold a sword sheath, which was hidden from view. Hands were covered in thin, gold battle gloves, which perfectly matched the emblem on the back of his cape. This emblem also appeared in red on both the sleeves of his kimono. A brown pair of warrior boots protruded from black military pants, which hung out from beneath the underside of his clothing.

Even though Nadir garnered a commendable attention from the others, Magus was not impressed. “The Great Vanquisher, eh? Sounds like a ploy… Tell me, Nadir, why are you really here?”

Nadir did not have to think about his answer, although he kept it vague and mysterious. “I once worked with a Demi-human whom I greatly despised, but I managed to tolerate his presence because we shared a common goal. His name was Lynx, and as he once put things, ‘The end of the human world is nigh. At that time, there shall be great enmity between humans and the earth.’”

“So what does that mean for us?” Magus demanded, already becoming irritated.

“It means you shall be smashed with the rest of your filthy race, when I use the Chrono Shift to create a new utopia, free of your daily poisons. The world will be a much better place without you pests,” Nadir clarified.

“Wait a second,” Augur interrupted. “Aren’t you human?”

“Don’t confuse me with your kind because of my appearance,” Nadir raged. “I renounced my humanity long ago, in hopes of creating a world free of their pestilence.”

“Creating your new world won’t make a damn bit of difference, Nadir,” Magus warned, his voice beginning to tremble with a growing intolerance for this man, whose paganism easily paired with borderline insanity. “Perhaps your disillusions don’t allow you to see the truth. No matter what you do, a group of adventurers will always travel back through time to fix the problems of the past.”

“If you’re referring to your friends, in Guardia and the far-off future, then I’m afraid you’re already mistaken,” Nadir educated quickly. “They’ve already been disposed of.”

“I wasn’t,” Magus corrected. “Humans in general will do this. As I’ve discovered through my journeys, Crono, Lucca, and Marle weren’t the first ones to transcend time in an attempt to defeat Lavos. There have been hundreds of thwarted attempts. No matter who you kill in the future, another will find his way into the past and correct your mistakes.”

“You are quite intelligible, Magus. I see now why you were such a great general. However, with the Chrono Shift, none of that will matter anymore,” Nadir spoke. From this point forward, the human world won't exist, so none can travel back to stop me.”

“Some will travel forward from the past,” Magus explained.

“Don’t worry, Magus, I intend to erase the entire history of humans on this planet. Even in the distant past, none of your species will have ever come into existence,” Nadir corrected. Quickly changing the subject, he asked, “Would you care to know, Magus, how I disposed of your allies in the future? Your so-called heroes of time?”

“Alright, humor me,” Magus answered, slightly curious.

“The nation of Porre, becoming increasingly unfavorable of King Guardia’s taxation, began to swell into a military society. Through the Medina Compact, they formed a loose alliance with the remnants of the Mystics, many still sour from the long war you led against them in the past. General Ozzie VII supplied the growing Porre army with weapons, and trained the soldiers for them, all the while building his own military. An alliance was also made with members of the Demi-human tribes in El Nido. Eventually, they had enough troops between them to launch a surprise attack on Guardia Castle and overthrow the monarchy.”

Nadir paused briefly, scanning the crowd for weaknesses he could exploit when he battled them. He had done this several times, and the list was growing. Finally, he continued, “Because my appearance was rather peculiar of a human, I worked closely with General Ozzie to cause the deterioration of political ties between Porre and Guardia, giving the people a fever for war. General Kowske, a self-declared tyrant and son of the one-time mayor, commanded the Porre forces. General Ozzie led the Mystics. One of his subordinates, the son of the great Heckran, took the Demi-humans. I acted as an independent in the battle. On the ninth of September, in the year 1,005 AD, Guardia Castle was ambushed. The bloodthirsty Mystics sacked Truce village in the east, depleting Guardia’s soldier reserves and causing great casualties. The town was completely cut off from the castle, where the Porre troops invaded. At this time, Crono lived in the castle, now married to the King’s daughter, Princess Nadia. He fought valiantly, but in the end was felled by the ax of a Demi-human, his back sliced clear open. King Guardia was captured in the assault, and died in a public execution from a hailstorm of bullets coming from a Porre firing squad. The princess wasn’t found until later. One of the Mystics took me to a clearing in Guardia Forest where she lay injured on the ground.

“It was then I realized Nadia was pregnant, I’m not sure how far along, but just beginning to show. I told the Mystic soldier to leave me alone with her for a short while. Basking in the glory of the battle, and taking in the extreme fear in her eyes, I murdered her brutally. I drove a nearby sword directly into her womb, killing the unborn fetus as the wounded girl begged for mercy. I pushed the sword completely through Marle’s abdomen, pushing the blade into the flesh up to the hilt, which was far enough for the sword to go straight through her body and a good foot into the ground, pinning her in place. I felt the blood sate the blade, seep through her dress and soak her stomach, as well has my hand. The princess had such a look of torture on her face, wailing constantly into the night. I beat her mercilessly for a good hour after the sword had pinned her to the ground, kicking her battered body and throwing dirt into her wounds. Her face, once very pretty, was reduced to a bloody mush of scar tissue from my repeated punches. Finally, I grew tired of the event, and left her on the ground to bleed to death, which I expect took another few painful hours. I made sure to restrain her and shut her mouth, so she couldn’t escape or yell for help. I was informed three days later that her body was found, and I later discovered that the sword I had used to slaughter her and her unborn child was the legendary Masamune.

“The Masamune was placed deep within the Porre Nation, protected by the their national treasury. They claimed the sword was simply part of their plunder from the war. A few years later, Lynx showed up on the continent. He began acting as a mercenary for Porre, and later a top military adviser. As I mentioned earlier, I eventually worked with him on several missions throughout the Zenan Continent. I hated that Demi-human, but needed the alliance to accomplish my goals.

“As payment for his deeds, Porre gave into Lynx’s demands, and handed over to him the Masamune. He took the legendary sword to his homeland in El Nido as part of his spoils. Later, Lynx would incite Porre into a military occupation of El Nido, but by that time I was gone, having no further interest in that time.”

“What about Lucca?” Magus asked.

“She was not present when Truce was destroyed during the battle for Guardia. When she came back, the wreckage terrified her. Somewhere along the line, she started an orphanage for children who had nowhere else to go. Years later, Lynx did me a favor. He killed Lucca, along with most of the children in the orphanage, when he burned the entire place to the ground. I assisted him by blocking off the bridge that connected her house to the main continent, so that no one could escape to safety. Nobody even attempted to cross the bridge that night, however. Watching that orphanage collapse in flames was quite I sight, although I wasn’t close enough to truly appreciate it.”

“You’re the sickest man I’ve ever met!” Augur yelled at Nadir.

“I already told you, I’m not human.” Nadir reminded him. “I have no remorse for mankind. Stand in my way, Augur, and I’ll take great pleasure in sending you to the morgue!”

Gunner snickered. “You wouldn’t be the first one, Nadir!”

Augur shrugged off the comment, pretending he hadn’t heard Gunner. “I can think of no circumstances where I’d even conceive of killing an innocent woman, much less a pregnant one. And to go beyond that, and watch little children burn to death in the fire, is an unspeakable evil. But you didn’t think twice about murdering those children, and you didn’t think twice about shoving your blade straight through that girl’s womb. Well, I won’t think twice about shoving mine straight through your heart!”

Nadir grimaced, enjoying the threat. “I have a black heart, made of stone. How do you expect to puncture that with a mere sword, Augur?”

“Don’t worry, I’ll find a way!” Augur proclaimed.

“So, you choose to fight?” Nadir asked. Not waiting for an answer, he drew a massive sword, unlike any Augur had ever seen, from beneath his cape. Nadir, standing seven feet tall, held a blade that was at least five. It curved back slightly, like that of a katana, forming a sharp, dangerous edge. The blade wedged backward, becoming wider the further back it went, until the width became eight inches. The tip of the weapon pointed outward severely, and could carve its way into any surface. A stab with the sword would likely leave a gaping hole in the chest the size of a cannonball, large enough to remove all the ribs and organs in the upper torso. A slice would effortlessly cleave any man in half, regardless of where it struck the body. The backside of the weapon did not curve back as the edge did, but rather slanted to create a double arc, with a point sticking backward from the meat of the blade. This spur, or barb, or however it could be described, would cause an extra rip in the flesh when it was removed from the body.

Nadir twirled the sword in a skillful show of craftsmanship, proving that he could hold his own against any swordsman throughout history. Even with his extraordinarily heavy weapon, the weapon danced through the air effortlessly, cutting and slicing as if it weighed no more than a child’s toy. Twirling the sword in a circle over his head twice, then once to each side and another time across his body, Nadir again asked, “Is it your wish to take me on?”

“We have no choice but to do so,” Gunner answered confidently.

“Then prepare yourself!” Nadir yelled, still showing off his dexterity by weaving the blade through the air again.

“The black wind howls, Nadir!” Magus threatened. “Disaster will result here. If the end of your life is your wish, then confront me!!!”

Very slowly and deliberately, the five adventurers began to form a large circle, enclosing Nadir. Nadir was forced to constantly look over his shoulder and change his stance, unsure of where the first attack would come from. In front of him, Augur held out his rapiers, crossed over each other, pointing outward toward him. Slightly off to the side of Augur stood Magus, gripping the scythe tightly with both hands, holding the curvature of the blade at Nadir. Seraph and Gunner were on opposite sides of each other, Seraph with an arrow drawn back on her longbow, and Gunner pointing the gun on his arm directly at the head of the intruder. Behind Nadir was Candor, clutching her stone staff, but not looking ready to attack.

Nadir chose Candor for his target, and quickly pivoted on his back foot before charging at her with the sword held above his head. Seraph quickly released the arrow on her longbow, and it sailed through the air, missing Nadir by about a foot. The arrow carried behind his long cape, and flew high over Gunner’s shoulder, where it soon met with the wall. Gunner, also reacting to Nadir’s sudden movement toward Candor, fired off a quick round from his gun. The greenish plasma shot past Nadir’s face, nearly grazing him, and causing him to almost stumble. Still, the attack did not faze him, and he continued to rush at Candor.

Nadir violently swung his weapon downward from over his head, and Candor easily blocked it by extending her staff outward. Nadir swiftly withdrew his sword, and spun around backward, performing a complete turn while slicing through the air sideways. Candor instinctively held the staff out to the side, barely getting it ready in time to block the attack. Nadir again withdrew the sword, only to rotate his shoulder, and bring the blade upward from below. The weapon nearly smashed into the floor on the swing, before undercutting Candor’s staff and sending it hurtling high into the air, where it hit the wall and fell to the ground.

Nadir sliced horizontally across his chest, and Candor leapt backward. She could feel the wind from the sword cutting through the air as the tip of the blade crossed her face, just inches away. When Candor landed her jump, she jarred her ankle slightly, and fell back to the ground, her elbows supporting her. With Candor lying on the ground, Nadir quickly shifted the blade so he could cleave her in half with a downward swing. With the blade overhead, however, he stopped.

An arrow from Seraph’s longbow had struck him in the back. The projectile had torn through his cape, but harmlessly bounced off the plate armor beneath his kimono. Still, Nadir felt the contact, and turned around swiftly to check on the other four combatants. He saw Gunner just in time to watch a burst fire from his arm, and raised his massive sword to block it. The plasma charge struck the heavy iron, and for a second the entire blade flashed with energy. After the sparks faded from the sword, a subtle green glow lingered on the steel.

Angry, Nadir charged Gunner, slicing diagonally, but missing because he had attacked far too early. When Nadir had attacked, the eerie green glow on the blade spread through the air, generating a flare in the space between Gunner and the weapon, and leaving a streaking trail behind the path of the sword.

“Candor, what’s that green crap coming off the sword?” Gunner yelled, holding out his metallic arm to block an attack from Nadir. His arm trembled with reverberations, and he could feel some sort of energy flowing in his circuits.

“He must have a Pendragon Sigil on his weapon,” Candor answered, picking her stone staff off the ground. “It absorbs magic energy and transforms it into a charge.”

Gunner quickly performed a backward summersault, landing upright, to get out of the way of a downward swing. Nadir’s sword smashed into the floor in front of Gunner, causing a few layers of deeply imbedded tile to buckle upward. “I shot the sword with my gun! There’s no magic in that!” Gunner screamed back to Candor.

By this time, Candor was finally returning to the battle. “Your gun must have magic properties!” she yelled back to Gunner.

“Whatever,” Gunner declared. “I can take this punk any time, big green sword or not!”

Nadir thrust his sword outward, knowing full well that he didn’t have enough range to hit him, but caused the cyborg to back off slightly anyway. He then shifted his focus behind him, where Augur and Magus were both planning their moves. Nadir rushed Augur, swinging his weapon fiercely downward from over his shoulder. Augur crossed the rapiers outward from his body, creating perpendicular angles with the blades. Nadir’s weapon hit right in the center of the crossed iron, sliding along side the metal of Augur’s short-swords as the X collapsed backward. Augur tensed his muscles, and eventually brought the massive sword to a stop. Augur was temporarily satisfied with his effort, but the joy was short lived. Nadir performed a graceful spinning kick, planting his heel firmly on Augur’s chest, and knocking him down to the floor. With his enemy on the ground, Nadir attacked with his oversized sword, aiming for the chest. Augur pushed himself along the floor, slithering backward like some garden snake, attempting to avoid the sharp weapon. The blade of the sword slammed right into the ground where Augur’s body had just been, causing an upsurge of buckling floor tiles in the space between his legs.

Magus had been charging some dark magic for some time now, and his arm glimmered with an intense black luster. Nadir somehow sensed an attack was coming, and turned in time to see a shadow fireball shoot from Magus’s outstretched hand. The magic ball of energy soared toward Nadir, followed by the sound of a violent screeching as it tore through the air. Nadir dived off to the side to avoid the attack, and the blackish comet flew over his shoulder. He quickly picked himself up, ready to challenge Magus after his assault.

Nadir had expected the black comet to continue straight until it hit the wall. Instead, Magus forced it to turn around in a large circle, causing the air behind its tail to quiver from the velocity of the fireball. After making a complete turn, the dark concentration of magic angled itself downward, aimed straight at the target. Finally, half a second after Nadir had picked himself up, the comet slammed into his back. The condensed magic quickly spread throughout his body, penetrating the metal armor easily, and the shadow fire swelled until it covered him from head to toe. A blaze of black flames engulfed Nadir, the dark energy seeping into his bloodstream and causing a sharp stinging in his chest. The large man dropped to the ground, rolling to put out the evil fire, gritting his teeth to hold in any signs of pain. The flames quickly disappeared, however, once Nadir could muster enough white magic to counteract the effects of the shadow attack.

Seraph had her longbow armed, an arrow pulled back on the string, with the head aimed toward her enemy on the floor. The head of the dart glowed red, swirling with fire magic, and heated to the point where the metal would soon begin to melt. Seraph released her tight hold on the string, and the arrow shot at Nadir, a trail of flames following closely behind. The projectile sliced into his arm, only about six inches below the armor on his shoulder. The hot metal easily penetrated the robes, and eventually the skin, burning deep into layers of flesh. The wooden stick of the arrow exploded in a burst of flames, splintering into fiery fragments that brightly flashed in front of Nadir’s eyes before burning themselves out.

Nadir quickly placed his hand on the wound, soothing the burn with magic by immediately injecting ice into the puncture. The metal cooled, and the scorch inside his arm subsided. Picking himself up again, he heard the rapid footsteps of Augur approaching him from behind. Nadir threw his elbow backward, throwing all his strength into the blow, and caught Augur square in the jaw. The young hero’s head snapped backward instantly, and soon his body crumpled to the ground. Augur had bit his tongue from the force of the strike, and also bled from the lip and nostrils. Blood now smeared the bottom half of his face, and he spat large quantities of the liquid out his mouth.

Gunner fired his gun three times in rapid succession, each time his arm snapping back slightly from the power of the shots exiting the barrel. Nadir held out his hand in the direction of the fire. The green plasma smashed right into a shield, and the shots were effortlessly repelled, one ricocheting at the ceiling, and another dropping straight to the ground. The third one deflected almost directly back at Gunner, missing him on the side by no more than a foot, which was enough to make him flinch.

Candor was looking for retribution after Nadir had dominated her earlier in the battle. She dashed at her adversary, holding her staff much like a bat, and took a swing at the kneecap. Nadir brought his sword back across his body, blocking the attack. The staff, charged with holy energy, flickered brightly when it clashed against the metal blade. The Pendragon Sigil on Nadir’s weapon still had a heavy black charge from Magus’s earlier magic attack, and flashed with dark light when it contacted Candor’s staff. The two opposite magics fought their own battle with each other, but in the end, the staff had more energy stored in it. The sword jumped backward, like a polarized magnet, and the staff continued forward until it hit Nadir in the thigh. He flinched slightly, but used his free arm to backhand Candor across the face, sending her sprawling to the floor. A whiney yelp surged from her throat as she screamed from the shrill pain, and a bruise was now present on her cheek.

Nadir turned around again, struggling to fight off the enemies on all sides of him. His vision locked onto Magus, floating passively above the ground, ready to attack at any sign of trouble. Nadir, sick of being defensive, decided that simply using physical attacks weren’t getting him anywhere. He glided upward, elevating himself above all the others, particularly paying attention to the hovering Magus. Magus clasped his scythe with his dominant hand, and his other appeared to be glowing a red-purple hue, indicating he had a powerful spell prepared. The warlock darted through the air, looking for a weakness in Nadir’s position. Instead, Nadir found an opportunity.

Nadir outstretched his free arm, still guarding his body with the sword in the other. He pointed his elongated fingers toward the wizard slightly below him. Five mammoth lightning bolts sprang forth, one extruding from each of his pointed digits. They collided with the ground in spheres of pure yellow magic. Although the energy spheres on the floor didn’t move, the bolts from Nadir’s fingertips bent in multitudes of angles, repeatedly rearranging their shape so they covered all the space between himself and the ground. This included Magus, who was able to brilliantly dodge the mobile lightning strikes for a brief second as he weaved in and out of the air. Eventually, however, one of the thunderbolts caught his chest, and the resulting shock threw him to the metallic flooring below.

Because the entire bottom of the Ocean Palace was composed of a metal floor, electricity shot through anything that touched the ground. Magus received heavy damage from the bolt that struck him directly, but also accepted the most damage from the secondary shocks filtering throughout the cold, steel tiling. Augur, Candor, and Seraph, also standing on the floor at the time, felt the high voltage race into their bodies. When the attack was over, they were all reeling on the ground, desperately trying to contain the throbbing that burned in their sides. Gunner, standing slightly further from the battle, felt a crippling pain to his right, especially in the part of his body littered with machinery. The lightning had damaged his circuitry, and he found it difficult to move the malfunctioning appendages. Magus had it far worse still. After absorbing the bulk of the attack personally, his muscles involuntarily convulsed, and a thick white slime poured out of his mouth, vomit from a violent seizure.

Nadir had not finished. Seeing that Magus was the easiest target at the time, he released some red energy into the floor beneath his battered body. In a few seconds, an isolated area smoldered with bright crimson. A rush of steam erupted from beneath the floor, and soon a wall of fire uplifted from the cracks between the tiles. The swirling flames created a cage, housing the wounded Magus inside. As Nadir poured more magic into the attack, the covering began to blow apart, and fragments of the steel square tiling exploded upward, where they were carried away by the surge of fire. The flame prison around Magus narrowed in as the magical burning wall grew thicker, the opening in the floor steadily growing. With the ground all around him crumbling and collapsing, Magus would soon be swallowed whole by the firestorm.

“Ugh,” Magus moaned, not fully aware of his surroundings. The heavy electricity he had been hit with put him in a daze, and he was capable of making only very slight movements. He was powerless to stop the incoming inferno.

Seraph had been temporarily paralyzed from the earlier lightning attack, but she recovered before anyone else. The healing spells she placed on her body hadn’t done anything to take away the pain, and her fractured ankle was beginning to bother her, but she could move again. With blurry vision, she made out a large pillar of fire, blazing with intense heat. She had no idea that Magus lay inside, nearly unconscious, but knew that Nadir was preoccupied with something else. Using the floor as a brace for her bow, she drew back another arrow, and pointed aimed for the object in the sky. Even with her clouded eyes, Nadir was a large target. When Seraph released the string, the arrow sprang forward, speeding by the floating beast, but passing in front of his chest.

Seraph quickly reloaded with trembling fingers. In the meantime, Magus’s body had been drenched in a warm sweat, partly from the closing flames, and partly from the recent seizure. The flames would be upon him in just a couple more seconds, and were already beginning to lick his leather boots.

The second arrow actually struck Nadir, although not causing much harm. It grazed him in the leg, tearing away the cloth above his knee. The arrow never stuck into his body, simply dropping off after making a shallow gash in the skin. Still, blood welled up in the scrape, and it force Nadir to pay attention to Seraph, distracting him from his present task. He managed to keep the fire cage around Magus while shooting a reddish sphere toward Seraph. The ball hit the ground off to the side of Seraph, and quickly detonated, spreading deep orange flames throughout the area. The blaze ballooned outward, and Seraph had to roll over sideways twice to avoid cremation. Anything in the vicinity of the blast was instantly incinerated, and a wave of heat spread across the room, so intense that the air shimmered with the fire.

By this time, Candor was able to think coherently again. She saw Nadir floating high above just as Seraph had. The magic teacher raised her stone rod, pointing the head at Nadir. A white beam of holy energy tore through the air, striking her opponent in the chest. The magic fought into Nadir’s body, now brimming with the force of the holy ray of light. After a brief struggle, the airborne man floated away from the direction of the attack. Then, without warning, he dropped to the ground, spiraling back and forth, looking like a wounded duck plummeting from the skies. Nadir smashed into the floor with a loud thud, and the wall of flame surrounding Magus disappeared. Magus was mostly unharmed, although much of his pale skin had been blackened by smoke and soot, and his blue hair looked singed.

Not far from where Nadir landed, Gunner couldn’t move the right side of his body. His human parts were now working, but that only accounted for three quarters of his body. Although his response was a bit slow, he knew the situation. “Little asshole, frying my circuits…” he muttered under his breath, using his left hand, the one free of machines, to draw the long hunting knife from his belt. Grasping the dagger by the hilt, he watched cautiously and Nadir picked himself off the ground. Gunner drew the weapon across his chest, in the process shifting his grip so he pinched the tip of the blade with his thumb and forefinger.

Gunner flung his hunting knife sideways, his fingers pointed at Nadir after the throw had been completed. The weapon spun, almost as if it had an axis, while it raced toward the titan dressed in black. The dagger rotated right up until the blade hit Nadir in the back, harmlessly bouncing off the armor below his garbs.

Nadir turned to see Gunner, unmoving on the ground. “That was a mistake,” he announced, rather annoyed by the trivial aggression. He took a few deliberate, intimidating steps in the direction of the cyborg, and then shot his arm forward, palm facing upward. Out of the palm came a white, encroaching mist, billowing like a plume of smoke, which spread outward as it came toward Gunner. The air instantly chilled, and a cold wind soon blanketed him. A cold frost solidified on Gunner’s skin, making him shiver. The frozen mist assaulted him, quickly thickening until he couldn’t see more than an inch in front of his face. Layers of snow wrapped around the body of the soldier. His skin tingled painfully, and icicles were now hanging off his face. The cold air was impossible to breath, and it burned his lungs. Gunner could actually feel the blood in his arteries thicken, as the liquid began to freeze into solid ice.

The stream of condensed frost poured from Nadir’s hand, burying Gunner, and obstructing him from the eyes off all. A snow mound now sat where the cyborg had once been, fresh snow spraying into the air as the onslaught continued. Nadir fully intended to freeze him to death.

Some kind of force surprised Nadir by sweeping him off his feet and driving him into the ground, forcing him to halt his attack on Gunner. Nadir, laying on his back and still not knowing what had happened, felt something crash into his eye socket. Another painful strike quickly followed, smacking him in the nose. As soon as the attack hit Nadir, a third followed, smashing his other eye. The next blow caught him in the chin, brutally twisting his neck sideways.

“Goddamn dirty thug!” Nadir’s assailant sputtered, livid with an infuriating rage, as he punched the fallen warrior again. “Fucking try to kill me!? Huh!?” The distinct, rampant voice probably came from Magus, but Nadir could not see to find out. It seemed impossible for Magus to have made a full recovery this fast. A mere minute ago, the mighty warlock seemed teetering on the brink of death, and now he attacked with the ferocity of an entire army.

After another fist drove into Nadir’s face, he readied himself to eliminate Magus. With incredible awareness, and a little luck, Nadir stopped a seventh attack from connecting with his head. He reached out at the exact right time, and his glove caught Magus by the wrist. Using his free arm, Nadir countered with a punch of his own, placing a strong uppercut into the body of his adversary. He struck Magus in the belly, forcing him to fold as soon as contact had been made. The blow caused a rush of air to quickly burst from the Mystic’s lungs, and Nadir quickly threw the smaller man off his body.

Magus landed on his back a couple feet away from the battle, but despite his loss of breath, he was back on his feet immediately, ready to fight. It didn’t take long for Nadir to get into fighting position, and soon the two were locked in a hostile stare down. Magus again made the first strike, lashing out with his scythe and smacking the wicked creature with the blunt end of the handle. The wood hit in the arm below the plate armor, right where Seraph’s arrow had struck earlier. Nadir winced, gritting his teeth to avoid any show of pain. Magus smoothly transitioned into a second attack, this time making the elongated part of the handle crash against Nadir’s already bloodied face. The larger man drew his sword quickly, and swung the giant blade in an arc aimed at Magus’s kneecaps. Magus avoided the attack by immediately levitating into the air, and performing a flying back flip. This left the two enemies once again locking eyes, both in a defensive stance, and out of reach of the other’s weapon.

During this time, Candor had recovered from her electrocution injuries. Though she was still far from healed, she had reached the point where she could hold up a fight. She ran over to join Magus, who floated a few feet off the ground. Candor situated herself right beside her ally, ready to help in the fight.

This time it was Nadir who struck first, dashing forward with his sword held out, the tip pointing directly at Magus’s heart. Magus moved too quickly for the attack, darting through the air off to the side. Nadir responded by shifting his weapon so he held it overhead, and spun the sword in a quick circle, trying to catch the evasive wizard in the back. Magus’s cape, fluttering closely behind his body, got caught up in the attack, and the blade sliced through the tough fabric near the base. The warlock, however, escaped unharmed.

While Nadir was distracted with Magus, Candor planted her mystical staff firmly against her enemies back. The thick armor beneath the kimono blocked any pain Nadir might have received, but Candor thrust her weapon forward with enough strength that the titan was knocked to his hands and knees. Above, Magus saw and opportunity, and swooped downward, the blade of the scythe swinging at the back of Nadir’s exposed neck.

Magus had not expected to be hit with any magic. Nadir flexed his muscles just before the scythe’s blade would’ve sunken into his soft flesh. A shield of dark lightning formed around his entire body, blocking any possible attack from the airborne threat above him. Magus, unable to stop, flew right into the energy field, and the powerful bolts danced around his body as they tore into his chest. After a brief second, during which time Magus’s organs were thoroughly fried from the black thunderbolts, an energy reaction occurred between the wizard and the evil incarnate. A large spark enveloped the area, engulfing both Nadir and Magus, and forcing Candor to temporarily withdraw. The sound of electricity shooting through the area filled the room, and lightning shot to the corners of the Ocean Palace from the flickering energy cloud. Soon, Magus rocketed out from the dark concentration of magic, and was thrown upward until his back slammed hard into the ceiling above. He was held there by several black lightning streaks, emitting from the continuous sparks coming from Nadir. The attack drained Magus’s powers, and a shrill pain developed in his chest, making his heart beat so fast that it nearly exploded. The electricity, pinning him down to the ceiling, raced throughout the nerves in his body, causing his arms and legs to jerk involuntarily.

Candor, realizing that Nadir was killing Magus, knew she had to do something. Unfortunately, if she got too close, the black energy cloud would swallow her whole. After an instant of indecisiveness, Candor took her magic staff, brimming with holy power, and heaved it into the center of the dark magic accumulation. The weapon immediately released its power in an attempt to counteract the evil shadow energy. For a second, it appeared that nothing had happened. Then, in what could only be described as some sort of explosion, the dark energy pool was reduced to a heavy black fog, and a burst of holy light fired white pillars of pure energy in every direction, spreading the dark clouds thin, and eventually absorbing them. A rumbling from the divine illumination lingered.

The black lightning disappeared during the course of Candor’s intervention, and Magus dropped from the ceiling, landing on the floor after hanging in the air for a while. Nadir lay on the ground, winded but apparently unharmed, in front of Candor. Right next to him was Candor’s staff, although it had been charred completely black, burnt to a crisp.

Away from the battle, Seraph and Augur had run to Gunner’s aid, and swiftly dug him out of the mountain of snow. His skin, still covered in frost, stung from the cold. After removing as much ice from his body as time would permit, Gunner quickly became aware of his surroundings again.

“How you doin’, Cowboy?” Augur asked.

“I’m freezing my balls off, but other than that I can’t complain.” Gunner replied, using his typical, dry sense of humor. “What’s going on?” he quickly asked after voicing his complaint.

”Oh, God, I think Magus just got wasted, Candor’s fighting Nadir alone, magic’s flying all over the place, and Christ knows what else!” Augur yelled. As he did so, he watched Nadir return to his feet, and began viciously swinging his sword at the unarmed woman.

“Let me in there. I’ve got a score to settle,” Gunner declared, taking a heavy step toward the battle.

“No!” Seraph screamed. “You’re in no condition to fight!”

“Screw that. I’ve gotta do my job!” Gunner proclaimed. He continued walking toward the clash between Candor and Nadir. Candor was fending quite well for herself, keeping Nadir at a distance with repeated wind spells while circling back around to retrieve her mystical staff.

“Wait, Gunner!” Augur interjected, stopping the cyborg cold in his stride.

“Yeah?” Came the gruff, irritated voice.

“You know about machines and stuff, right?”

Gunner looked down at his metal arm, and was prepared to answer Augur’s question with a sarcastic remark, but decided it would only waste valuable time. Instead, he simply asked, “What are you getting at?”

“If we keep Nadir busy, can you dig that Chrono Shift out of the Mammon Machine? Augur questioned. “Fight’ll be over, you’ll save the world, and we’ll have the ultimate power in our hands.”

Gunner thought for a while about Augur’s proposal. During this time, he watched the distant figures continue to exchange blows. Candor had managed to hit Nadir a few times in the legs, but never stayed near for long, because Nadir returned fire by aggressively slicing at her with his sword. At one point, Nadir knocked Candor to the ground, and narrowly missed splicing her before she rolled out of the way.

Finally, Gunner said, “If I’m gonna gut the Mammon Machine, I’m gonna need my hunting knife, and it’s lying on the ground somewhere by Nadir.”

“We’ll get it!” Seraph yelled.

“No, I’ve got an idea,” Gunner stated. “Can you two to make a slick patch of ice from here to the battle? All I need is a narrow strip.”

“Yeah, but what for?” Augur demanded.

“Just trust me, Augur! I know what I’m doing!” Gunner bellowed. In the distance, the fight continued.

Nadir sliced downward, gripping the hilt of the massive sword with both hands. The blade came down from over his head, and landed right on Candor’s staff, which had already blocked a dozen such attacks. Candor countered by launching a small fireball, which struck Nadir in the chest, spreading across his torso and burning the clothing, but leaving the strong armor underneath unharmed. Nadir swung his sword at the woman again, this time horizontally toward her midsection, the Pendragon Sigil brimming with red magic from the recent fire attack. A streak of red scorched through the air, and the blow narrowly missed Candor’s stomach. Candor took the offensive, and, with the large man still off balance from his last attack, she found the perfect opportunity to jab him with her staff. The decorated end of the rod struck Nadir in the side of the chin, and had been thrust with enough force to snap his head to the side. He staggered back for a brief second, stumbling away from the battle, until he could regain his stability. When both feet were firmly on the ground again, Nadir thrust the sword forward in the same manner as Candor had thrust her staff. Candor jumped to the left, and the sharp weapon passed right by her side, slightly catching her dress with the tip of the blade.

Nadir had missed his enemy with the thrust, but swung the sword in the direction she had evaded. The broad, flat part of the blade struck Candor in the back, and she dropped to the floor like a sack full of bricks. Her staff went sliding along the floor, out of her reach. When she had rolled over so she could face Nadir, imposing above her, she saw that he was ready to kill. Nadir stabbed downward, fire energy still clinging to the blade, as he aimed the point of the sword at her heart.

Candor saw the weapon coming in, and instinctively used all her blue magic to place a block of ice between her and the metal. The ice was still forming in a cloud of bluish smoke when the blade struck it, and the fire energy of the Pendragon Sigil counteracted with the appearing ice. Candor did not give in, however, and kept forcing the magic out of her body. Eventually, a large area of the steel weapon had been encased in the ice and connected to the ground surrounding Candor. The sword stopped descending on her heart six inches above her chest, halted by the shield of ice now all around her. Candor, however, was not out of danger. Nadir continued to press his strength into the downward stab, and the blade gradually pushed through the layers of ice, sliding ever closer to her heart. Five inches… Four inches… Then, to make matters worse, the sound of cracking filled the air inside Candor’s magic shield. The ice began to fracture, and small fragments of the barrier began dropping away from the encased sword.

“Seraph! You help out Candor! I’m going to check on Magus. Gunner, do whatever you have to, just get that knife quickly!” Augur commanded, shouting orders. Gunner didn’t like taking them, but figured he’d worry about such trivial matters later.

A long, narrow strip of ice had formed between their current position and Nadir’s, just as Gunner had requested. After crossing a pair of wires in his gun arm and closing the protective panel on his machine, the cyborg took off sprinting, parallel to the patch of slippery ice. Behind him, Seraph was dashing toward the battle, and Augur ran toward Magus. The warlock still lay on the ground, and, in all probability, was dead at this point. Still, Augur felt a need to check.

After building up enough speed, Gunner jumped forward, and held his legs outward in front of him. He landed on the strip of ice, and jarred his hipbone from the impact. Other than that, he was unharmed, and increased speed as he slid on his side down the long, icy patch. The ice was cold and slick, and he glided along its clear surface rapidly as he drew nearer to the battle. Gunner held out the cannon on his mechanical arm, and, while sliding, fired a round out of his weapon. The plasma flew past Nadir’s head and slammed into the far wall with a small explosion, digging a smoking crater. Soon, another burst came from the barrel, this one missing wide to the right and further damaging the wall. A third shot fired, this one going over the head of Nadir.

Gunner, still gaining speed as he flew across the frozen surface, took careful aim and fired one more blast. This time, the greenish plasma hit Nadir in the side of his ribcage, just below the shoulder. The power of the shot knocked him clear off his feet, and Nadir crumpled to the ground. When the burst hit him, the typical small detonation had accompanied it. The armor underneath Nadir’s kimono almost held out, but a hole had been torn in the iron protection. The metal had not fragmented, but a jagged end now stuck about an inch into his skin, causing rapid bleeding. Just off to the side of the fallen Nadir, his massive sword stuck into a dome made of solid ice. Though Gunner didn’t know it, Candor was inside.

The patch of frozen ground ended, and Gunner kept sliding until he skidded to a stop. After looking around for a moment, he located his hunting knife on the ground. He picked it up, and immediately began a trot back toward the Mammon Machine, so he could find the Chrono Shift. He stopped, however, when he passed near the dome of ice and fallen enemy.

Gunner pulled an object off his military belt and quickly looked at it. He rotated the cylinder in his hand until he found the label, reading INCENDIARY GRENADE. Gunner pulled the pin from the bomb and swiveled his arm around like a windmill, letting go of the grenade at the height of the arc. He then took off, not caring to see where it landed.

The grenade clanged off the top of the icy shield housing Candor, and then rolled off to the side, landing right next to Nadir, who was just now getting back to his feet. He saw the object, not knowing what it was, and did nothing to shield himself from the impending blast. The detonation engulfed the entire area, including all of Nadir, in an inferno of blazing flames. Nadir again collapsed to the ground, fire covering his entire body. He forced himself to crawl until he slithered out of the explosion, his skin charred blacker than his war paint underneath his kimono. All of his clothing was receiving burn damage as well, turning to ash and soot in many areas. When he exited the firestorm, Nadir rolled around on the floor and cast every healing spell and ice spell he could to extinguish the blaze and reduce the pain.

Inside her ice shield, Candor saw a firestorm of red and orange pass overhead, rolling in clouds of fire as it clung closely to the surface. The ice that had already been cracking prior to the explosion was now under heavy pressure. As further damage occurred, a shard of ice catapulted off the main structure, imbedding itself into the floor beside her. Soon a second projectile fell, digging into the ground next to her head. A third and fourth pellet came, one digging deep into her arm, slicing the skin open. As more icy weapons began to fly at her, she rolled off to the side.

The fire from the incendiary grenade gradually subsided, but immediately after Candor turned over, the entire top of her ice barrier collapsed in a heap of frozen rubble. Nadir’s sword, held loosely in the ice shield, had been just two inches above her heart at one point. With the collapse of the ice that held it in place, the blade dropped along with the debris, crashing next to Candor’s body and slicing more than a foot into the floor tiles. The ground buckled where the sword entered, digging into the metal at the exact spot Candor had laid just a moment before. Regardless of the amount of luck that had been involved, she had avoided being killed, and was now free from the icy prison instead.

With all the commotion from the ongoing combat, Augur was able to slip past Nadir and reach Magus easily. The older man was laying face down on the steel floor, head buried in his arms and his cape enveloping the entire body. Augur detected no signs of breathing. He knelt down beside Magus and placed his hand on the shoulder of the warlock, nudging and shaking him. “Magus? Magus!” he yelled looking for life in the fallen man.

“Get yer grubby little hands off me!” shouted a commanding voice, which startled Augur.

“Magus! You’re alive!” Augur exclaimed. Magus neglected to answer, so the teenager tried to find out how badly the wizard had been hurt. “You alright?” Augur asked.

“Yeah, everything’s just peachy, Dumbshit!” Came the aggravated response.

“C’mon, Magus. You gotta get up! We got a fight going on over there!” Augur informed the Mystic. He motioned to the battle, where Nadir had recovered from the fire, and Seraph was now helping Candor back to her feet. After watching a few seconds of the ongoing endeavor, he grabbed Magus by the arm and attempted to pull him to his feet. His efforts were rewarded with a cold scowl.

“Don’t bother,” the warlock instructed, “I can’t move.”


I said I can’t move!” Magus repeated, annoyed.

It took Augur a few seconds to take in what his ally had just told him. Then, he quickly knelt down beside the man and placed a hand on his shoulder. “Let me see if I can figure out what’s wrong,” Augur suggested

“Since when did you become a goddamned doctor?” Magus bellowed.

“Look, just shut up!” Augur yelled, becoming sick of the pessimism being spewed at him. “You said your only goal in life has been to find your sister, right? Don’t you give up on everything when you’re this close.”

“You leave my personal affairs out of this!” Magus snarled, his eyes gleaming with a red tint of hatred. “Damn Kid! If you ever, EVER talk about my sister again, I’ll rip your head straight off your spine with my bare hands, and use your body for fertilizer!” Augur sighed heavily, and prepared to use a healing spell on the fallen warrior. He knew his only option was to ignore the insults and threats, and get the Mystic back in the fight. He just hoped it didn’t come back to haunt him.

“If you move, this arrow goes right through your skull,” Seraph warned, grunting through parched lips. She had her longbow drawn back, with the string vibrating from the tension. Nadir stood directly in front of the arrow, posing his commanding large figure for the young girl. Though he had been badly burned, he was doing quite well ignoring the pain.

Nadir choked a small laugh from the back of his throat. He didn’t have his sword, and he had been somewhat injured, but he still had a few tricks up his sleeve. Nadir stared down the wooden shaft of the arrow for another brief second before closing his eyes and clearing his head of distractions. Deep within his soul, a powerful force began to stir. He felt the mixture of the elements brew their energy inside his body, swirling and forming a potent spell. Nadir sensed the growing vitality tingle throughout every nerve, and his very existence was charged by this emergent vigor. He slowly relaxed as the strength of a god seeped into his system, granting him the authority to command the riveting magic.

Nadir opened his eyes, and still saw Seraph tensed across from him. Seraph saw an ominous, narcissistic flicker of light flash across Nadir’s face when his eyes had opened. Then, strangely, a halo of light wrapped the villain in a blanket of swirling colors. A mirage of translucent, warping images churned in the air surrounding him. Seraph knew this was a bad sign, and would later regret that she hadn’t fired her arrow, but at the time she was far too mesmerized by the Nadir’s vibrant, shimmering silhouette.

The spectral outline orbiting Nadir suddenly became a whitish flash, and shortly thereafter, an expanding nimbus flared away from the point where he stood. Wave upon wave of magic energy poured out in continuous circular ripples. At the sight of the oncoming wall of magic, Seraph let go of the arrow on her bow, but it flew harmlessly into the steadily growing offensive barrier.

The first wave of spectral energy, combining all six elements of the natural magic spectrum, shred its way into the bodies of Seraph and Candor. They were swallowed inside the escalating size of the half sphere of magic. Seraph was blown to the ground by a wave of sweltering heat and blistering red fire, soon followed by a windstorm, which spread the flames. Candor received a shower of frosty icicles, accompanied by a chilling cold that froze her to the bone. Soon thereafter, circular loops of brightly flashing lightning swooped through the air around her.

A second halo of energy met with the two fallen girls, this time bombarding them with the burning mysticism of holy magic. This, in effect, was followed by a dark bane, and the voices of demons filled the air as they attempted to rip their souls from their battered bodies. After this attack, a third and fourth magic ring from Nadir struck them, intoxicating them with the potent poisons from nature’s most insipid toxins, and another antipode of fire and ice.

From above, the constantly reappearing concentric circles looked much like the shockwaves from a powerful bomb, shifting the loose surface particles from the earth as it tore through the area. These walls of magic death released a collage of immense phantoms embodied by all six powers of the natural world. Seraph and Candor were experiencing a level of pain unfathomable to either of them, clawing away at their very existence and shredding their minds to fragments. The psychological effects of the spell drove the two to the point of insanity, until their thoughts were a jumble of incoherent babble.

“CANDOR!!!” Seraph screamed, but that’s all that would come out of her mouth. As soon as it had been opened, the ghastly apparitions carrying the deathly spectral energy leapt into her mouth and drown out her words. The ghosts, whether real or simply hallucinations, tore Seraph apart from the inside, causing an agonizing throb within her chest and stomach. Her blood rushed and boiled, and her heart beat faster and faster, as the adrenaline pumped through her body to keep her from succumbing to the power of the magic.

The assault on Seraph and Candor slowly ended as Nadir exerted himself to his limit. The whooshing of the air gradually subsided as the energy ceased its rumbling carnage throughout the room. When the smoke had cleared and the dust settled, two ravaged bodies lay on the ground, not moving, and not resisting.

“Candor…” Seraph moaned in a raspy, defeated voice. “Wha… What was… that… power…?”

Candor couldn’t answer, and could barely think. Muttering to her self, while trying to suppress the pain, she managed to reveal, “The Sa…cred spectral ener…gy…” After sucking a few more breaths into her lungs, she added, “It… it’s only… supposed to be a myth…”

Nadir allowed an evil chuckle to resonate from deep within his chest. His spell had worked perfectly, and his foes were now sprawled on the ground, helpless. He enjoyed his victory for a few seconds, before charging more magic. It wasn’t long before his outstretched arm again brimmed with the dangerous spectral energy. Off his fingertips fired a twisting, spiraling coil of the six natural magics, swirling in and out of each other in a sideways tornado headed for Candor and Seraph.

The magic hurricane winds struck with enough power to uproot a tree, and the two girls were blown sideways, sliding haplessly across the slick floor. They continued in this manner until the horizontal twister slammed them into the wall and held them there. Unable to move, the magic ravaged their bodies, diffusing though the skin and burning inside their veins. A thousand fires raged within their chests, laden with dark forces, ripping their souls apart. Their skin darkened from the excessive magic, beginning wrinkle and fold as the powers ate away at Candor and Seraph. Their bodies grew stiff and hardened, and movement came to a halt. All the while, Nadir laughed mercilessly at their plight.

“You have two swords, right?” Magus asked Augur. “Give me one.”

“Wait…” Augur interjected. “A minute ago you couldn’t even move, and now you’re going to take on that demon over there!?” Augur motioned to the battle, where Nadir had just finished his second assault using the powerful spectral energy.

Magus didn’t have to think about his answer. “That bastard got the best of me twice, and I’ll be damned if I let him get away with it. Give me a sword.”

“You have an idea, or something?” Augur solicited.

“Yeah,” Magus responded. “A couple of my… old acquaintances… had a tech they used to perform together. Give me a sword,” Magus again demanded. This time Augur complied, handing over one of his rapiers. “Now, here’s the plan. We dash at him from opposite directions, and hit him at the same time from both sides. We run through him so that our movements form an X. There’s no way he can block two of us.”

“Alright, let’s do it,” Augur answered. He sat in front of Magus for a moment, before the warlock gave him a glare and motioned for him to run to the other side. Augur obeyed, and when he was in position, gave Magus a signal.

Augur dashed forward using all his speed, resting the flat part of the blade on his shoulder as he sped toward Nadir. Magus preferred to levitate, and flew through the air, careful to coordinate with Augur’s pace. The air rushed past his face, weaving in and out of his bluish hair strands flapping behind his head. Augur felt the same sensations, the wind clearing the sweat beads from his cheeks.

At some point after his second magic attack on Seraph and Candor, Nadir had retrieved his five-foot sword. He now faced the fallen girls, preparing a third attack. This meant his back had been turned to Magus and Augur as they charged him. He would be unprepared for the impending attack. Augur neared the tall man, and drew his short-sword over his shoulder, prepared to strike. Just a few more seconds…

Augur came within reach of Nadir, and, while still running full speed, swung the blade downward toward his enemy’s head. A split second before the sharp edge collided with flesh, Nadir heard Augur’s impending footsteps. He spun around quickly on his back food, and brought his much larger sword upward to defend against the attack. Augur’s rapier struck the blade of Nadir’s sword diagonally, and the impact jarred the weapon from the teenager’s hands. Augur’s momentum carried him under the arm of his adversary, with the blade no longer in his possession. After the rapier had left his hands, it flipped end over end three consecutive times before dropping harmlessly to the floor, clanging against it loudly. Augur lost his balance somewhere along the line, and skidded to the ground.

Magus, however, flew through the air, and had no footsteps to give him away. He slashed horizontally with the other rapier a second after Augur’s failure. Traveling at a much higher velocity, Magus caught Nadir square in the back with the dangerous edge of the short-sword. The blade caught the plate armor beneath Nadir’s clothing, but struck with enough force to drive the giant into the ground, forcing him to lay on his face.

Magus swooped high into the air after knocking Nadir into the ground. Then repositioned himself so he could drop from the sky directly into Nadir. Magus began to descend, the tip of the blade pointed downward, and charging with his trademark shadow magic. With fire in his eyes, Magus stabbed downward, plunging the blade into the armor on Nadir’s back.

And this time, the armor didn’t help him. The rapier penetrated the metal and skin in one swift motion, slicing through the chest cavity and ending its journey when it clinked against the metal armor on the opposite side of Nadir’s body. Magus had slain the monster.

But instead of falling victim to the sword stuck in his chest, Nadir rose to his hands and knees, seemingly given new power by the blow struck to him. He arched his back, and a bluish electricity shot out of his body. The electricity jolted through the steel blade in his back, and traveled until it jumped into Magus’s hands on the other side of the rapier. Magus convulsed briefly from the shock of the bolts entering his body, but it didn’t last long. Soon, an energy stored deep inside Nadir ignited, and the sword was ejected out of his back. Magus flew to the floor along with the weapon. Nadir stood up, unharmed, as if the blade had never entered his body at all.

“Damn machine, so many goddamn parts, don’t know what the hell I’m looking for…” Gunner grumbled angrily under his breath. His search for the Chrono Shift had come up empty so far, and a growing mountain of scrap metal from the Mammon Machine had piled up beside the cyborg. He slashed another few wires with his hunting knife, being careful not to shock himself with the electricity. After removing a panel from the metallic contraption and casting it to the side, he exposed another mass of wire and confusion.

“Shit! This’ll take me a goddamn week!” Gunner yelled, oblivious to the battle occurring in the distance. His concentration was at its limit. The battle-hardened man tossed the hunting knife off to the side and backed up a few feet. Then, he aimed his gun arm directly at the center of the Mammon Machine, and began to fire off a rapid succession of shots. The green-yellow plasma hit the machine, and sparks flew in all directions as small explosions occurred in the damaged mechanism. A low rumbling was barely audible over the noise of the rounds spurting from Gunner’s barrel. After a few more seconds of bombardment, the Mammon Machine collapsed into a wide pile of debris, crashing loudly to the floor.

“Ha! Now I’ll find this son of a bitch!” Gunner declared, and ran to the new pile to continue his frivolous search for the Chrono Shift.

It hadn’t taken long for Augur and Magus to recover from their latest falls. Nadir, despite having one of Augur’s rapiers driven into his back, stood in front of them with no signs of damage. He quickly sheathed his gigantic sword behind his back, and prepared a deadly brew of magic inside his body. Nadir clenched his fist, gleaming with the spectral energy, and punched the floor beneath him.

A wave of flickering magic spread out across the floor in the shape of a circle from the point of impact, where Nadir had driven his fist into the ground. The energy blast knocked Augur and Magus off their feet, and once again they sat on their backsides. The blast was seemingly minor, however, and they recovered quickly.

Nadir’s magic had another effect, though. The cemented cracks between the large floor tiles started glowing with the radiant combination of the natural magics, and soon small beams of light were shooting from the cracks. It wasn’t long before an eruption of energy burst out of the spaces between the tiles, and blanketing everything above them with their power. This included Augur, who had to scramble back and forth to get away from the magic assault. Magus was farther away, and hadn’t been affected.

The eruptions from beneath the floor grew more intense, and after a long, resonating rumble, the tiles were blown clear off the floor, leaving only the hard cement below. Nadir held his hands toward the heavens, and the floor tiles floated in the air, suspended anywhere from six inches to ten feet above the bare cement. With a burst of green magic, Nadir released a powerful wind spell, and the large, steel squares were blown in the direction of Augur and Magus. The tiles sped toward them, rotating rapidly like circular saws, ready to slice into the soft flesh.

The projectiles reached Augur first, and he dashed to the side as three of them passed by him. He quickly dove to the ground, and another of the floor tile whizzed past his body. Augur saw yet another coming straight for him, and he rolled sideways to avoid it. The steel tile struck the floor in front of him, a corner of it slicing into the ground and being held there. The other half snapped off and shattered, showering Augur with the fragments.

Magus saw what the flying tiles had done to Augur, and immediately ascended into the air to dodge them. At least a dozen screeched below him, and shattered against the far wall. Soon, the stream of projectiles arced upward, still aiming toward him. Magus darted to the side, and more tiles crashed into the ceiling. Unfortunately, the river of the steel floor tiles grew thicker, and evading them would become harder. Magus swooped downward, and dodged a few more. Then, he decided to fly head on into the wall of projectiles.

Augur crawled along the floor as a tile skidded off the ground and jumped over his extended legs. Then, he reached out in front of him and grabbed at one of his rapiers, lying on the ground. A steel tile struck it first, and knocked it way. After crawling across another ten feet of ground, and taking some fragments from the shattering weapons flying at him, he reached out and grabbed the short-sword. Augur stood up, coming face to face with yet another tile in the midst of the storm. He held up the rapier, and the projectile deflected off to his right. He swung in desperation, and struck down two more, sending them down to the ground. They were replaced by still more of the spinning tiles. Augur slashed downward as one nearly hit him, and cleaved it clean in half. The two sides continued rotating as each half passed by Augur, one barely missing to the right, and one to the left. Augur prepared for another one, but was too late, and it struck him down.

Magus was headed against the current of dangerous weapons. When one became too close for comfort, he simply turned his shoulder one way or the other, and the tile would shoot past him. Before long, Magus also had a protect shield placed upon his soaring body, and when a tile would hit Magus, it was destroyed by the barrier, causing him no harm.

Magus exited the hailstorm of floor tiles traveling like a rocket, flying to Nadir at a downward angle. He tackled his nemesis, and the assault of floor tiles withdrew. They both tumbled along the ground for a long while, but Nadir ended up on top of the wizard, punching him ferociously. Magus brought up his legs, and, with his feet on Nadir’s stomach, kicked the larger man off. Nadir drew his sword at the same moment Magus drew his scythe, and soon the metal blades were grinding against each other, sparks flying in all directions and illuminating their faces. Magus spun around quickly, and kicked Nadir in the shin. When he stumbled from the blow, Magus hit him in the stomach with the blunt end of the pole on his scythe. Nadir quickly charged a wind spell, and countered by effortlessly tossing Magus to the far wall, where the continuous gale held him in place.

Augur had been lucky the storm of tiles ended, because he had fallen to the ground, making him nothing more than a target. Now, with the distraction of the floor tiles out of the way, Augur retrieved his other rapier as well. He charged at Nadir, screaming in anger and frustration. This was a mistake, as Nadir turned his attention away from Magus and to the new threat. He quickly smashed his giant sword into the ground, and the entire area crumpled in an upheaval. Soon, a long, straight line of uplifting cement extended outward across the bare floor, buckling upward as it sped directly at Augur. The jagged rocks of the forming moraine caught Augur’s feet, and tripped him instantly. He landed face first on the miniature, serrated peaks. The fragmented cement sliced into his cheeks harshly.

Nadir now had subdued, at least temporarily, all four of his enemies. That meant he could freely search for the Chrono Shift. As he turned around, he stopped cold in his tracks. “Wait a minute!” he said, deep in thought. He realized now that he had forgotten all about the fifth man, the one with the gun who had thrown the explosive at him. That man was unaccounted for.

“SHIT!!!” Nadir yelled. He looked around for his final adversary, unsure of where too look. He eventually found the outline of a figure rummaging over some trash where the Mammon Machine had once stood. His thoughts turned to a slight fear, and an insipid anger. If this man got to the ancient relic before he did, all his work would be for nothing.

“Dammit, where the fuck is this thing!” Gunner yelled, angrily kicking over pile after pile of ruined metal from the Mammon Machine. He had checked everywhere, and the Chrono Shift was nowhere to be found. Growing more enraged with each passing second, Gunner kicked through more and more of the garbage, ripping apart scraps of metal whenever he came across them.

Then he found it.

After kicking another layer of debris from the Mammon Machine off, the Chrono Shift sat exposed to the world. The artifact had a very distinct appearance. It was completely clear in color, showing only the metallic hues of the iron surrounding it. It wasn’t very large, small enough to fit in his hand if he stretched his fingers far enough apart. The relic had two parts combining to form its mystical shape. The first was that of a sphere, a rather large, completely transparent orb that shimmered in the lights of the room. The second part was that of a naked tree; with no leaf whatsoever appearing on it. The trunk simply extended off the sphere part, where the tree broke into five large limbs, with no smaller twigs in place. The five limbs of the tree held tightly to the curvature of the orb, although they didn’t wrap around the sphere in any way. It seemed as if the tree grasped the orb the way a human hand would grasp a large fruit.

Gunner picked the strange object up. The Chrono Shift lost its metallic luster when he removed it from the pile. Instead, it now glistened with the reflection of Gunner’s battle worn face. He sat there silently, grasping the relic for the longest time, staring into the wonder of the object, unsure of what to do next. This is what his ten-year journey had led him to, and he didn’t know where to go from here.

As he stared into the Chrono Shift, things began to happen. The changes were subtle at first, almost undetectable. Eventually, however, the swirl of colors inside the orb part of the artifact was unmistakable. Vibrant, deep blues mixed with a lower percentage of browns and greens, and an overall white covering wrapped around parts the image. The tree part also gained color, turning to a dark brown. It was easy to identify the leafless tree, but it took awhile for Gunner to figure out what the orb was supposed to be. When the mutating colors took their final shape, however, everything became obvious.

The tree, naked, withered, and dead, held onto the Earth.

Gunner felt a tingling from deep inside his chest. Shortly thereafter, all sound was drowned from the room. A ringing began to occur within his ears, like the resonance of thousands of high-pitched chimes all sounding simultaneously. The intense ringing of the bells continued until it just became a constant siren inside his head. All Gunner could focus on was the Chrono Shift. The model Earth held inside the artifact seemed to draw nearer, getting larger each passing second. It was calling him…

A bright flash of light blinded Gunner temporarily, and his ears were filled with the sound of high winds screeching past him. When he regained his eyesight, Gunner saw nothing but fluffy white clouds, parting as he fell through them. The bitter chill of the atmosphere forced him to shiver, and adrenaline burned in his veins as the freefall intensified. Eventually, the clouds became smaller and farther apart; until nothing but the deep blue oceans of the planet were below him. The horizon in the distance continued to rise as the waters drew nearer, and more details were visible on the surface of the waves. The sounds of rolling surf now beat in his eardrums, and Gunner just fell faster and faster until he was about to hit the ocean.

A second white flash again blinded him for a few seconds, and when the light faded, he stood on top of unmoving water. Although still water, and quite wet, he found he could walk across it as if it were instead ice. The water also had another peculiar property. Gunner noticed didn’t really have a blue tint to it. Rather, the ocean he stood on was more like a mirror than a liquid, reflecting everything perfectly without any sign of distortion.

He couldn’t hear anything anymore. Even his heavy footsteps brought silence. When he attempted to talk, no voice came from his throat. He looked into the cloudy sky for the first time. It held a blue quality that didn’t reflect onto the water as he had. Clouds littered the heavens, but they were unmoving. This caused Gunner to realize that no wind blew. In fact, the ocean he stood upon had no ripples or waves, or any signs of movement. It was as if time itself had frozen.

Suddenly, as Gunner walked forward, he became frozen as well. Despite his best efforts, he could no longer move. In front of him, a large bubble emerged from the surface of the ocean, eventually lifting itself out of the water and becoming a humongous sphere floating in the air. A reaction occurred when the bubble had burst from the ocean, and a series of small waves rippled across the surface, passing under Gunner’s feet and continuing outward until they were no longer visible.

The water orb shimmered in the air, pulsating as it tried to find a perfect shape. Eventually, it stood still, and a pillar shot out of the ocean to engulf it. The pillar changed shapes as well, until it found the form it wanted to take. After a short while, Gunner stood staring at a twenty-foot tall replica of the Chrono Shift, with the exception that the tree now had leaves and stood in full bloom.

Gunner still couldn’t move. He stood there as the chilling howls of demons broke the silence and ripped through the air. Slowly, the tree holding up the Earth began to decay, and the leaves fell off the Chrono Shift replica. Soon, the tree was the same naked, dead entity that had been seen when Gunner first picked the relic up. The tree decayed further still, withering until it was nothing but a twig, barely holding up the planet. The clouds inside the Earth grew darker, and the waters seemed to lose their splendor, as the tree slowly transformed into a human hand.

The transformation of the Chrono Shift continued, as the Earth blackened into a toilet of pollution and waste. The hand that had replaced the tree now began to decay as well. As everything turned to an ugly symbolism of death, the sphere part of the relic exploded in a fireball of swirling, phosphorescent orange and yellow. The fire traveled down the decayed human hand, consuming it instantly. The ocean turned to a reddish, bubbling lake of molten lava, burning everything in its path. Gunner, still frozen, listened as the tortured screams of children pleaded with him. He wanted to help them, but didn’t know where they originated. The heat continued to rise as the flames inched higher.

In the place where the Earth part of the Chrono Shift had exploded, the face of a demon appeared, formed by still burning fires. It inched closer and closer to Gunner, opening his mouth as if to swallow the warrior. The creature of fire exhaled, and a wave of hot air blasted Gunner in the face. The usually tough man cringed as the sweat poured off his face, unsure of what was next.

The demon spoke to him in a raspy, evil voice. At first it was unclear what the words were. They sounded like the chant of some cult, or maybe the violent cries of Satan himself. Although Gunner’s ears could not make out the words, his brain somehow interpreted them.

Son of the Great Fire...
Child of the Mighty Crimson Death!!!

Gunner closed his eyes, trying to get away from the awful beast. But he still couldn’t move, and his eyelids wouldn’t shut. He was forced to watch as the great evil consumed his body and burned into his very existence. He didn’t know when it would all end, he simply hoped it was soon.

“Gunner! Look out!” shouted Augur. For some reason, Gunner heard the voice from deep within his trance, and a third flash of light brought him back to reality. He had knelt on the ground the whole time, and he stared for a brief second at the Chrono Shift, unmoved in his hand, holding the original shape, and devoid of all color.

“Gunner!” Augur screamed again, from the distant corner of the room. This time, the cyborg checked behind him to see Nadir approaching fast. In less than a second, Gunner was on his feet, prepared for a fight. He continuously shuffled his feet, dancing lightly so he could strike quickly. His arms were suspended in the air to block punches to the face.

“C’mon, Nadir! You want this?” Gunner provoked, gently tossing the Chrono Shift into the air and catching it. “I’m afraid your gonna have to come through me first.”

“I’ve got a sword in my possession that’ll have no trouble going through you,” Nadir scoffed, swinging the blade a couple times to show off. His impeding strides toward Gunner had slowed to a walk.

“Alright, you wanna dance? Let’s dance!” Gunner incited. Moving over to the pile of rubble from the Mammon Machine, he quickly kicked a few scraps of garbage at Nadir, which he needlessly deflected with his sword. After stirring up some anger in his enemy, the cyborg cradled the Chrono Shift with his arm, so his hand would be free to reach in his belt. Gunner snatched a small cylinder from his ammunition stockpile, barely taking time to check and read the, “FRAGMENTARY GRENADE,” welded onto the label of the object. In no time, the pin had been pulled, and the explosive thrown toward Nadir.

Nadir clearly remembered the last time Gunner had thrown one of these cylindrical weapons at him. It had exploded in a wall of fire, engulfing his body and burning him severely. This time, Nadir reacted quickly, defending himself by encasing his body in an ice barrier. He was sure the flames couldn’t breach his blockade. Unfortunately for Nadir, this wasn’t the same type of grenade as had been used on him previously. The explosive detonated, flashing with a quick white flare, and creating a thick wall of smoke where the grenade had gone off. Hundreds of metal fragments from the weapon were thrown in all directions, piercing through anything that stood in their path. This included Nadir’s ice shield. The shrapnel from the grenade collided with the frozen barrier and sliced through the thick sheets separating Nadir from the explosion. It wasn’t long before the metal shards broke through the ice and flew into the giant. The fragments were stopped easily by Nadir’s thick armor, but on his unprotected arms and legs, the airborne metal imbedded itself deep within the skin. Long, bloody wounds welled up on the appendages, and Nadir dropped to his knees in pain.

It was about this time that Nadir’s ice shield shattered, being completely destroyed by the shrapnel. And soon as Nadir had dropped to the ground, a river of icy chunks burst forward, passing just over his head. The ice shards spread out in all directions as they exploded outward, raining their cold death upon the floor, in a hailstorm of projectiles just barely missing Nadir. The river of ice crashed into the ground, and the fragments shattered into tiny crystals, which skidded aimlessly across the room before coming to a complete stop.

Nadir stood up, trembling from both a deep hatred and the bloody abrasions covering half his body. He regained control of his weapon, the Pendragon Sigil now glowing a deep blue. He took slow, cautious strides toward Gunner, being sure not to get in the way of his diverse arsenal. Two bursts of green plasma were fired from Gunner’s cannon, but Nadir deflected them both easily with quick movements from his sword. Gunner prepared to defend himself, realizing now that he was in range of his enemy’s attacks.

Nadir stepped into his first assault, swinging the blade sword downward diagonally. He wasted no time before slashing along the other diagonal for his second attack. Gunner managed to dodge both by simply hopping backward a little, still jumping on the balls of his feet like some karate expert. Nadir attacked again, this time holding the tip of the blade outward and quickly stabbing. A quick jump to the side was all it took to avoid the sword, and the Nadir’s overextended arms left his guard down. Gunner saw this as the perfect opportunity, and stepped forward, punching the titan in the face with the barrel of his gun arm. Gunner had put all his muscle behind the blow, and Nadir plummeted to the ground, where he slid a few inches across the slippery metal floor. The sudden force had also cost Nadir his sword, which now lay out of his reach.

Gunner still held tightly onto the Chrono Shift in his left hand as he rushed to attack Nadir again. Nadir, lying on the ground, defended himself by thrusting his hips and throwing his legs upward. The toe of Nadir’s boot kicked the bottom of Gunner’s hand, and he released his grip on the powerful artifact. The Chrono Shift seemed to jump out of his hand, and it went tumbling into the air.

The relic floated in the air for what must’ve been an eternity. Gunner stood in astonishment of what had just happened, confused about what he should do. Nadir, still on the ground, secretly smiled, knowing that when the Chrono Shift hit the ground, the impact would likely cause a reaction inside, creating a time gate and eliminating his problems. In the far distance of the room, Magus, Seraph, and Candor all saw the object fly from Gunner’s hand, and linger above his head. Augur paid particular attention, watching the light glint off the surface as it tumbled in the air. He knew all too well what would happen when it hit the floor. Tajj’s words, from over ten years ago, rang in his head.

“It is unstable…” “It has the ability to create a massive time gate…” “The time gates created by the Chrono Shift are highly unbalanced…” “Chronological order cannot be restored…” “Nothing can mend the damage done…”

“NOOOO!!!” Augur screamed as the Chrono Shift slowly descended to the ground.

Gunner reacted quickly after a brief moment of shock, and quickly turned in an attempt to catch the ancient relic before it smashed against the floor. It was out of his reach, and had already dropped below his shoulder level. So Gunner dived, plunging headfirst through the air to reach the Chrono Shift in time. For a second, thought he had a chance.

Gunner felt the muscles in his arm stretch, and felt his fingers uncurl. He felt the smooth, glassy texture of the Chrono Shift hit his extended fingertips. He felt the Chrono Shift fall through his extended fingertips. He felt his heart sink as the empty clanging from the relic hitting the ground rang in his ears. Finally, he felt his face grind against the floor, defeated from the unsuccessful dive.

The Chrono Shift began to shimmer, and a whitish glow of light flashed inside the otherwise clear object. The familiar sound of thousands of high-pitched bells chiming in harmony filled the Hall of the Mammon Machine. Augur, Magus, and the others stepped slowly toward the fallen object, unsure of what would happen next.

Out of nowhere, an eerie blue light exploded from where the Chrono Shift had hit, and soon, everyone felt the pull of a strong gravity tugging, them towards a growing tunnel of multiple blues. The swirling, obstructive glow immediately swallowed Gunner and Nadir, and their cries of shock were drown out by the sound of some unearthly vacuum. Magus saw his hopes of finding his sister disappear in the blinding radiance of the expanding sphere, and he quickly flew into the portal.

Augur, Seraph, and Candor attempted to run after all signs of the others vanished. Unfortunately, the strong pull of the vacuum sucked them in. With nothing to grab onto, they simply slid along the floor until they fell into the blue, swirling tunnel of lights. The portal engulfed the world around the heroes, swallowing the three whole, and shipping them off to some unknown destination. They floated in the nothingness of the blended turquoise, cerulean, and azure shades of color.

Augur soared through the air, quickly losing track of his companions. He felt a sickening queasiness growing in the pit of his stomach, and a cold prickling cover his body as he tumbled through the tunnel haphazardly. This was surely some kind of gateway to another world, possibly a pathway to the dead, or to the ruined world that would result from their failure to save the Chrono Shift. Either way, the failure had been complete.

Far above the planet, one could watch as the oceans of the world began to boil, and a pure white illumination smoldered underneath the sea. After a deep rumbling, a giant beam of light shot out of the ocean from where the sunken Black Omen had been. The laser of pure energy shined brightly as it barreled into the far reaches of space. From the single point that the white energy had blasted from the ocean, a circle began to expand slowly, much like the shockwave from an explosion. In the areas where the white circle passed, the ocean turned to a much darker color, devoid of the beauty it had once had. The wave of energy spread throughout the globe, no corner being spared, as the blast ripped through the Earth. The halo made a full circle around the world, and still had enough momentum to go around several more times. Massive tidal waves flooded the land, and the continents were thrown into upheaval. Large chunks of rock were blown clear off the planet, and the landscape was forever changed.

The halos of pure white energy continued to encircle the earth many times over, changing the face of the world with every single revolution. In the wake of the terrible disaster, a dead planet was left behind, absent of the magnificence and charisma it once possessed, and lacking the life that had once blessed it. Gaia, the divine entity embodied within the planet, was now dead. She became no more than the departed spirit of this pitiful, ruined world. This was the effect of the Chrono Shift, and not a soul on Earth could hide.

Chapter 16

Chrono Cross Fanfic
Chrono Trigger Fanfic

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