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"Justice is not the only right in this world·"-KluYa
"That is not dead which can eternal lie
And with strange eons even death may die."
Once upon a time, in a kingdom newly freed from tyranny and darkness, there lived a benign king and queen, the Paladin of the Light, Cecil, and the White Mage, Rosa, who had helped topple the rule of the tyrant, the King Baron. The Kingdom of Baron had been used as a puppet nation by the evil mastermind Golbez, who, masquerading as the Captain of the Red Wings after Cecilās demotion from the post, had usurped Baronās throne and killed the good king. The king had been replaced by a monster known as Kainazzo, one of the Four Fiends of the Elements, and the masquerade had continued throughout the ensuing worldwide struggle to gain control of the four Crystals of the Elements until Kainazzoās false reign was ended by Cecil and his companions Yang, Tellah, Palom, and Porom. After the struggle for the Crystals had come to its fateful conclusion on the Lunariansā Moon, Cecil and Rosa had been wedded in the throne room of the castle Baron, and Cecil had then been crowned king of the land.
Four years had passed since Cecilās coronation, and in that time momentous events had swept the world. In Fabul Yang had become the king of the land and he and his wife Aria had continued a reign of prosperity unto the land of Fabul and all of its inhabitants. In the Kingdom of Damcyan the newly coronated King Edward reigned over his subjects with a benign hand. Once again he had begun to fall in love, this time with a beautiful woman called Thera. In the Land of Eblan the new King Edge had also begun a benign rule and had begun to court the beautiful Rydia, last of the Callers of Mist, and the envoy from the Land of the Summoned Monsters. Toroia had continued with its peaceful reign, as had the Autocracy of Mysidia. And yet underneath the veneer of hope and happiness that shrouded the world, there was the dull glint of decay and rust, the signs of darkness and destruction returning to the land.
It began with the birth of Cecilās son, the Crown Prince Kasil, named in memory of Cecilās friend Kain, who had disappeared four years before to find his true honor. Cecil had long awaited the return of his old friend, and yet over the years the hope that he would ever return slowly died. It was in the fourth year of Cecil and Rosaās reign that the world began to experience the beginning of another age of darkness and war. It began when a rift appeared in the far west of the Hidden Land, just beyond the Cave of Sylph. Out of the rift poured an army of darkness far more vast and deadly than any that Golbez had summoned during his reign of terror. The army was led by a malevolent sorcerer named Charon, who swiftly invaded the Cave of Sylph and captured or killed all of the fairies. Upon hearing of the destruction of the Sylph Yang and Edge led a joint army down into the Underground, and along with the Dwarves, fought a momentous battle along the pathway to the Land of the Summoned Monsters. Leviathan and Asura, Lords of the Summoned Monsters, led an army which flanked the army of Charon, and an incredible battle ensued. For over three weeks the battle continued, until finally Charonās army stood triumphant. Yang had been killed by Charon himself in single combat, while Asura had been lost in the resulting route and Leviathan had disappeared. Giott, king of the Dwarves, had been mortally wounded coming to his old friend Yangās aid, and Edge had been forced to retreat to the Upper World with Rydia upon the defeat and route of their army. The only way back to the Upper World was the tunnel connecting the two sides and the airships of the Red Wings that had been loaned to Edge by Cecil. As the airships ferried the routed army of Eblan back to safety they were one by one destroyed by Charonās magic. The only ship that survived was the ship carrying Rydia and Edge. The armies of Eblan, Fabul, and the Dwarves had been almost totally wiped out by Charon and his army of darkness. Even more terrifying were the reports that Charon had four lieutenants, each a Fiend of the Elements, newly christened and even more powerful than the old Fiends.
When Cecil heard the news of the disaster in the Underground and of the death of his old friend Yang he announced a summit of all the nations of the world. During the summit the nations declared war on Charon and temporarily unified under Cecil and the Kingdom of Baron until the end of the war. During the summit, however, the Fiend of the Water, Levasos, invaded the castle and killed the guards protecting Kasil and kidnapped Cecilās son. Charon left a threat on Kasilās life if Cecil were to commit to a course of action during the rest of the summit, and so the Kingdom of Baron withdrew from the summit in deference to Cecilās fears about his son. The other nations declared war on Charon and united under the Elder of Mysidia, Barghest, until the war was finished. Cecil, Rosa, and Cid were forced to sit back and watch the rest of the world prepare for a war more devastating than the last, under fear of their sonās life. They couldnāt even assist their friends with the Red Wings, which meant that they would have to wait for Charon to come to them on the Upper World. The Alliance of Nations centered their armies around the one entrance to the Underground, expecting Charonās army to emerge from there and enter into battle.
Throughout this, Cecil was forced to watch his old friends prepare to die, and know that he was bound by honor not to interfere. He couldnāt jeopardize his sonās life, nor could he risk his or his wifeās. The end for his world was coming soon, but he couldnāt see it on the horizon. Soon thereafter, Cecil disappeared from the kingdom, and his whereabouts were unknown to everyone, even his wife Rosa. After centuries of evil and greed, the final battle, not just for his world, but for several worlds was about to take place. The truth behind the Lunariansā destruction, the corruption of Golbez, the origin of Zemus, and the final fate of Kain was about to unfold. Finally, after nearly a millenia, Justice would come to those who had unbalanced the Tree of Heaven and desecrated the Wonders of the Gods. Justice comes for all·
Chapter One: Under a Blood Red Moon
Darkness fell over the landscape as the town of Silvera began to close down for the night. The dayās mining at Silvera mines had been done, and the Pigs, Mites, and Frogs had happily settled down for another night of peaceful rest before another strenuous day of mining silver. And yet, something was not right on this almost perfect night. Something was missing from the nocturnal slumber of the innocent miners. Something was horribly wrong·
Frisham Silvera awoke from his sleep, as screams and cries pierced the night sky. What is happening? The Silvera Brother asked, as he pulled his stumpy legs out from his bed. A horrible bellowing could be heard, echoing as if it came across the entire town from the mines to the south. Frisham waddled outside, his pink skin glinting faintly in the moonlight. As he looked across the town square, he stared in disbelief. An army of monsters, each more terrible and fearsome than the last, marched across the town square. The townsfolk of Silvera were lined up, frogs, pigs, and mites, each sobbing to themselves and looking in fear at the monsters which were appearing now, almost like from a nightmare, in their peaceful town.
At the head of the column of monsters walked five beings, each radiating with power. The first was a man cloaked all in black, with a black cape and long, flowing silver hair. He carried a walking staff inlayed with brilliant runes of power and his other hand was twisted and horribly burned, almost charred into a claw. Darkness seemed to emanate from the claw, and reddish-gold energy pulsed up and down the talons of the claw. The next being was a woman whose skin was tinted a dull purple in the moonlight, and seemed to glow with an inner power and serenity. Out of all the beings, she seemed to radiate goodness and joy, and at the same time a type of melancholy and sadness. She carried a simple walking staff. The next being radiated such pure evil and malice that it chilled Frishamās soul. He appeared as a serpentine being, dull scales glinting in the pale moonlight. His yellow eyes pierced into Frishamās, and his gaze lingered on him for a long time, longer than on anyone else in the town square. The last figure in the line was another beautiful woman, her hair tinted a yellow-green. She smiled at the Silverans, but unlike the aura emanated from the purple-tinted lady, she emitted an aura of malice much like the serpentine being.
The figure leading the army of darkness was a man clothed in flowing blue robes, his long blond hair streaking out behind him. His pale blue eyes glinted in the moonlight, and Frisham seemed to have a touch of déjà vu, almost as if he had seen him before. The man had two pendants hanging from his neck, one a bright blue crystal inset into a medallion of gold, and the other a black rock, dark as obsidian, also inset into a medallion of gold. The most striking thing about the man was the book he carried, chained to his waist. The book was obviously a tome of some sort, and it was inlayed with gold filigree and red marks that looked like human blood.
Frisham was joined by his two "Brothers," Alvea Silvera and Misara Silvera, the leaders for the two other races who inhabited Silvera and worked the mines, the mites and frogs. Together, the three compatriots had founded the town of Silvera on the Silver Isle over twenty years before to mine the silver from the Silvera Mine to the south and sell it to the world. They had united the three innocuous races of intelligent creatures which had inhabited the world, and had actually transported most of the populace of the races to the fledgling town of Silvera. The three compatriots became known far and wide as the Silvera Brothers, and became performers to generate interest in purchasing silver from the town. They also became respected leaders in the Silvera community, eventually becoming the town leaders.
Frisham gazed up in fear as the blond-haired man walked up to him. The man knelt down to Frishamās level and shook the pigās hoof, shocking the townsfolk and Frisham. "Hello, Frisham Silvera," the man said, smiling a perfectly white smile. "You obviously donāt remember me. Good. Not too many people do. I am Charon, Archsorcerer, and this is my army of darkness. As you can obviously see. These four· people behind me are my Fiends of the Elements. The dark cloaked man behind me is a fledgling wizard of some promise; he refuses to divulge his true name to me, and calls himself merely Angelus. A rather strange name for a wizard of the black arts, donāt you think? He is the Fiend of the Fire. The woman of purplish hue behind me is the Lady Thalia, and she is an Archsorceress of the White Arts. She is the Fiend of the Air. The reptilian creature behind me is the Fiend of the Water, Levasos, a master of unarmed combat and a practitioner of what he calls "Blue Magic." Something new, to be sure. And, finally, the other woman is the Lady Arvanae, the Fiend of the Earth. She is so far an unknown to me, and yet she seems strangely familiar·" Charon trailed off, his eyes going a glassy red, to the surprise of Frisham and his brothers. As suddenly as the change happened, his eyes reverted back to their natural color, and Frisham put the change out of his mind as Charon straightened up. "I am informing you of this, Frisham Silvera, because my army has come to your world to conquer it. I have come to Silvera to mine the silver ore and temper it into weapons for my army. As long as your "people" cooperate with us you will be treated well and even rewarded. If you rebel or refuse to mine the ore, well, I shall simply let my army have its way with your little town, and then find some other hapless victims to mine the ore. Is that understood, Frisham? You have time to talk it over with your Brothers, if you wish." Charon then turned and smiled at the woman called Arvanae. She smiled back, and Charonās face visibly brightened.
Frisham looked at his Brothers and he knew they had no choice. They stared back, a look of fear and horrible understanding on their faces. Frisham then turned to Charon and said "Lord Charon, you leave us no choice. We will mine the ore for you and your army."
Charon gazed down at the pig, and then smiled. "You have chosen wisely, Frisham Silvera. You will not go unrewarded. Go back to your houses, people of Silvera! Tomorrow the mining of silver shall begin anew!"
As the "people" of Silvera walked back in fear to their dwellings, Charon and his four Fiends watched his army slink into the forest surrounding Silvera. Charon turned to Angelus, and slowly spoke. "I foresee that the Alliance of Nations will know about this incursion before daybreak. Angelus, your first task as Fiend of Fire is to assassinate the Elder of Mysidia, Barghest. Then you are to kill the Circle of Rulers in Toroia. That should destabilize the Alliance long enough to allow us to mine here until the army has enough weapons to overtake the damned Dwarfsā resistance in the Underground and still pose a threat here in the Upper World. Thalia, how is your task going?"
The purple haired woman looked up, melancholy in her voice. "He is completely enthralled with me, my Lord. He is merely a weak willed man who constantly pines away for his late lover. He shall pose no threat." Thalia looked both sad and at the same time there was a gleam in her eyes, a gleam that spoke of more than mere indifference for the man she was talking about.
"Good." Charon replied. "He will become a non factor in the coming battle. As for you, Levasos, how is our· guest?"
The serpentine being called Levasos stared at Charon, malice deep within its reptilian eyes. "Kasil in fine, my lord. He is being cared for by the Trinity. No harm has come to him. Yet."
"And no harm better come to him ever, Levasos." Charon said, anger glinting deep in his eyes. "If that boy is harmed, I will kill you and your precious Trinity. Then your race really will be finished, wonāt it?" As Levasos gazed back, cold murder in his eyes, Arvanae slinked slowly up to Charon and smiled. It was almost magical, the change she elicited from Charon. He turned and embraced her, and then whispered "Ah, Arvanae, my sweet, your mission is much too fun. You have the opportunity to gain revenge for me on someone I hate very much. You get to journey beyond the domains of this solar system and fetch our little Golbez from his slumber. The Lunar Moon has not yet reached the nearest Lunarian colony, and it will be quite easy for you to sneak past the Crystals of the Moon and teleport Golbez here. Then will all the pawns be here for the final reckoning." Laughing Charon looked up to the moon, raising his hands and chanting words of power. "I will once again gather the Crystals of Light and Darkness together. I will destroy the Tower of Bab-Il. I will summon the powers of Light and Darkness together again, and I will summon Meteor to this world. I will not be denied my glory. I have found the true power! I have walked the paths of the dead and gained the knowledge of the Ancients. I have the Amulets of Light and Darkness, I have the Wonders of the Gods in my hands. I will ascend the Tree of Heaven and rape the power of the Gods from their graves. I will not be denied·" Laughing, Charon finished his spell and the moon began to turn blood red, almost as if the Gods were bleeding upon its shape·
Chapter Two: The Rise
Barghest walked along the shoreline on the edge of Mysidiaās domain, gazing in wonder at the sun rising over the waves. Just think, he considered, across that vast expanse lies another continent. And on that continent lies the nations of Baron, Mist, Damcyan, and Fabul. Four nations, huge, separated from their neighbor Toroia by impenetrable mountains. Just think·
"How long were you going to wait before you killed me?" Barghest asked, turning around to face his the man behind him.
Angelus smiled, his silver hair and blue eyes reflecting the sunās early morning light. His black cape flowed in the breeze, and his claw pulsed with reddish-gold light. "Do you recognize me, old man?" Angelus asked, smiling.
"No, Black Mage, I do not. I merely see a servant of Charon, another power mad megalomaniac who seeks to advance his own cause through his masterās. I have seen a thousand of you before in my life, and I expect to see many more before I die." Barghest stared defiantly at Angelus, his form silhouetted in the rising sun over the ocean waves. "I may well die this day, Black Mage, but I will teach you of magics you could never even dream of."
Angelus smiled, his blue eyes pulsed with reddish-gold energy, and he raised his staff, which also began to writhe with reddish-gold power. He laughed and began to cast his first spell. Barghest stared at Angelus, and began to cast in response.
The sun slowly rose over the coast of Mysidia, casting its blood-red hue over the red sands·
The eight ruling women of Toroia stared at the figure they had been talking to in their audience chamber. He who had seemed to be a petitioner now seemed to be much more. They gazed in fear as he began to chant, the words coming out of his mouth seemed to burn their ears and scar their minds. The man raised his right hand, twisted and burned into a claw that pulsed with reddish-gold energy, and laughed as the rulers of Toroia began to scream·
King Edward of Damcyan watched in anger as the envoy of Baron pleaded in front of his throne. "Please, King Edward, I have been sent by Queen Rosa to inform you of King Cecilās disappearance. He has dropped from the face of the earth. Queen Rosa has sent me to beg you for any aid that Damcyan might be able to lend in our hour of need." The envoy quivered in fear in front of Edwardās throne, sweat trickling down his face. Edward gazed in disgust at the envoy, remembering a time when he acted almost as bad as that in front of people. But no, forget that time, before Anna, before Tellah. Forget all that·
"To be truthful, I myself had heard of Cecilās disappearance, but I had dismissed it as a mere rumor. Now, I find that this Īrumorā is the truth. Forgive me if I am rattled or disturbed by this news, it is overwhelming to me that a mainstay of our world has suddenly disappeared. Tell Rosa that I will offer her whatever aid Baron requires, although in this time of crisis, I think it is Damcyan and the rest of the world that requires aid. Tell Rosa that I will help her any way I can. Please feel free to stay here at the castle before you resume your journey onto Fabul."
"Thank you, my lord." The envoy said, wiping a bead of sweat from his forehead. I am sure Queen Rosa will be much relieved by your reassurance of aid." So saying, the envoy bowed and walked, half-crouched, out of the room.
What is happening to our world? Edward thought. It has been so peaceful since Zemusā defeat, and now darkness comes once again to enshroud the world. Havenāt we all earned peace? Didnāt we all suffer enough at the hands of that monster Golbez? He took my Anna from me, he killed Tellah, so what if heās Cecilās brother and he was controlled by Zemus, he escaped justice. He escaped justice for what he did. The word seemed to reverberate over and over in Edwardās mind. Justice·
Edward was shaken from his reverie by Thera entering the room. Her brilliant purple robes flashed in the guttering torchlight as evening drew near, the sunset casting dull red shadows through the windows of the throne room. The summerās heat seemed to die down as soon as Thera drew near, and Edward gazed into her eyes and the entire world, with all of its problems and chaos, seemed to fall away. It didnāt matter what happened as long as the two of them stayed together. He hadnāt felt this way since·
Anna died, Edward thought. Yes, she died, she died because of that monster Golbez. She died for me, to save my life from the Red Wings he sent to kill my parents and steal the Crystal of Fire. I cannot let anything happen to Thera. If something were to happen·.
Thera kissed him and all thought of tragedy and past lovers vanished from his mind·
Edward was awakened in the middle of the night by his chancellor pounding on his bedroom door. "Your majesty," he screamed, "awake! There is danger!"
Edward leapt out of bed, tearing his sheets off of him and throwing his clothes on. He grabbed the door and tore it open, his eyes almost blinded by the torches being carried by the chancellor and the soldiers he had with him. "What is happening, Sami?" Edward asked as he grabbed his harp and was escorted down the hall by the soldiers and chancellor.
"There has been an attack on Mist by Charonās army, your majesty, and the Circle of Rulers in Toroia have been brutally murdered." The chancellor looked at Edward, a look of horror and fear on his face. "The Elder of Mysidia, Barghest, has also disappeared. It is believed that he was killed by Charonās spies. Even worse, Charonās army has appeared in the region surrounding Silvera, and has subjugated the region and its populace."
"When did this happen?" Edward asked, fear making his voice tremble. Barghest, dead? It was inconceivable. And yet, so was the fact that Cecil was missing in the hour of greatest need. Edward stared at a guttering torch, watching as the flame spurted back and forth, almost going out as the party passed by. This world is like that torch, Edward thought, it could be wiped out just as easily by this Charon and his minions. If Cecil cannot save us, we must save ourselves. Zemus and his tyranny were just the beginning. Now the real foe is here. And we must either save ourselves or die.
"We will make our way to Fabul, Chancellor." Edward pronounced, staring at the chancellorās surprised face. "There we will marshal what is left of Fabulās military and join up with our own forces and free Mist. The time has come for us to stop running from our enemy and face him once and for all."
"Iām sorry, Edward, but I cannot let you do that." A voice boomed out from all sides, it seemed, filling the dark corridor. The torches seemed to flicker and then die, casting the hallway into darkness. The soldiers formed a ring around Edward, drawing their swords, while the chancellor drew out a throwing dagger. "Ah, Edward, you once again rely on others to protect you. You fail to protect yourself, even as you failed to protect the woman you loved. As you will always fail. Do you remember me, Edward?"
A blue light filled the hall, and a man with long, flowing blond hair walked down the hallway towards the party. His form was covered by blue robes and he carried a walking staff. Two pendants hung from his neck, and around his waist was a book, chained there by obsidian bonds. Edward stared at the figure in horror, and realization came to him.
"You!" Edward gasped, his amber eyes opening wide in shock. "But how could you have done this? We trusted you! All along·" Edward trailed off as he noticed a woman walking slowly behind the robed figure. His eyes bulged out in shock as he recognized her. "Thera? Donāt tell me youāre in league with him. For the love of the Gods, donāt say that·"
"Iām sorry Edward." Thera said, sadness in her voice. "But I have no choice. Please forgive me·"
"Edward," Charon whispered, his blue eyes glowing in the eldritch light, "surrender now and spare the lives of your men. If not, then Thalia here will be forced to kill you and your men. Your choice, Edward. I give it to you because of the friendship we used to share. If you do not accept·"
"I trusted you," Edward said, anger in his voice, "and you repay me and the rest of the world with this megalomania. No more. Do you hear me, ĪCharonā? No more! I will not surrender to you or your army. We are of Damcyan. We will fight to the end." Edward raised his harp and began to play as his men readied themselves as Thalia advanced.
As the blue light dimmed, Charonās laughter shook the hallways of Damcyan Castle·
In the depths of space the Lunar Moon, artificial construct of the Lunarian Race, hurtled through space, towards one of the Lunarian Colonies established before the destruction of Lunar. Deep below the surface of the moon, below the Crystal Citadel that marked the surface, deep in the subterranean caverns which housed much of the sleeping Lunarian race a flash of reddish-gold energy heralded the coming of Arvanae, the Fiend of Earth. She gazed around herself in awe, looking at the towering structures built by the Lunarians to house their frozen brethren as they slept, waiting for a new world to inhabit. Just think, Arvanae thought, gazing at the latticework of orange crystal which ran through the planet to its core, these beings are the ones who slaughtered my race. Every last one. For no reason whatsoever. Someday, I will have my revenge on them. On FuSoYa and his damned brother, revenge on them all.
Arvanae walked towards the core of the Lunarian Moon, thinking of how easy it had been to sneak past the simple energy shields around the moon erected by the Crystals of the Moon before it had left orbit around the Blue Planet. FuSoYa would not be notified of this little incursion, she thought with disappointment. I will have time enough to confront him again, however. Golbez is my goal here·
Arvanae approached the first bank of cryonics, the frozen tombs of the Lunarians. As she walked through the massive hallways of cryonics in the core of the moon she soon came upon the cryonics bank which contained Golbez. Good, she thought, that fool sorcerer wonāt be disappointed. He can finally have his revenge. Arvanae approached the bank of tombs, only to hear, to her surprise "It has been a long time, Arvanae." Whirling around, she saw the white-haired figure of FuSoYa walking down the crystalline pathway towards her.
"Why have you returned after all this time, Matriarch?" FuSoYa said, something tremulous in his voice. " Did you not betray my brothers and I enough? Or have you come to finish the job you started so long ago with KluYa?"
"Never mention KluYa to me, old man!" Arvanae whispered, white hot hate in her voice. "I loved him with all my heart. And you and your brothers betrayed me! You slaughtered my whole race. Now I can finally have my justice." Arvanae placed a hand on Golbezās cryonics bank and whispered words of power and both her and Golbez disappeared in a reddish-gold flash.
FuSoYa stood, staring at the empty cryonics bank as memory came crashing back to him·
Chapter Three: The Walker in the Darkness
The sun rose over the castle of Eblan, as the king of the land, Edge, looked over the land from the top of the castle. He looked to the north, to the mountains that bordered the northern reaches of his domain, and to the cavernous pit from which the Tower of Bab-Il gaped, like a giant dagger plunged into the land itself. It is almost as if the land has been wounded by the Tower, Edge thought, it is almost as if it is trying to heal itself of the wound done to it by Zemus and the Giant of Bab-Il. But if Charon has his way, there will probably be no healing for the land, only endless destruction, only terror.
Edge turned towards the east, looking out across the ocean. Strange, isnāt it, that no one even knows of Charonās plans. I saw him, in the thick of battle, before he killed Yang. He looked strangely familiar, almost like a Lunarian. Could he be? Edge pushed the thought from his mind, not even trying to consider the ramifications of the way his mind was working.
Edge turned and walked down the stairs leading to the throne room of his castle, and as he entered the throne room his gaze came to linger on the woman standing over one of the tables near his throne. Her hair shined green in the torchlight, and he felt the same love blossoming in his heart that he felt every time he saw her. I love this woman, Edge thought, I love her, and no matter what, nothing will happen to her, not like Edward and Anna. Charon shall never have her·
Rydia turned towards Edge and smiled. His heart seemed to be about to burst as he smiled back. He walked forward and passionately kissed her, his heart racing fit to burst. As he stepped back she seemed to blush, her pale face tinting a dark red. "Edge, I have conversed with Asura." Rydia said, casting her gaze downward. "She has regrouped her forces in the Land of the Summoned Monsters and has also gathered a new army of summoned monsters to fight Charon. She merely awaits our signal."
Edge looked in puzzlement at Rydia. Why did she not feel the same way about him as he did about her? Why did she return his gestures but only by going through the motions? " We cannot have another slaughter like we did before. Our troops confused Leviathanās troops with Charonās, and we payed for that with a rout. Before we marshal our forces to strike again, we must insure that the time is truly right." Edge said, forcing questions about Rydia from his mind. "Charonās troops have made attacks against Damcyan, Toroia, Mysidia, Mist, and supposedly Baron, if we count Cecilās disappearance as an attack. We are the only country besides Fabul which hasnāt been so assailed. It makes sense that we would be the next to be assaulted."
"What happened in Damcyan?" Rydia asked. "I was not informed that Edward has come under assault."
"Late last night one of Charonās agents created some kind of portal into the castle." Edge said, his words clouded with sadness. "It seems much the same as what happened in Mist. Charon himself and two of his Fiends slaughtered almost the entire populace of the castle. It appears that Edward and his lover, Thera, were killed as well."
Tears clouded Rydiaās eyes, tears of grief and sadness. "How dare that bastard do this?" Rydia spat in anger. "What is his damned plan? We have payed enough for whatever sins we have done. He will pay for his crimes. By the Gods, we will have our justice." She turned and began to weep in grief and anger.
Edge held her in his arms and stared at the map of the world spread out before him. Only the countries of Silvera and Damcyan were held by Charon, but every other nation in the world had been decimated by Charonās machinations. Soon, Fabul or Mysidia or even Baron itself might fall to Charon. And then we will begin the long, slow slide into the abyss·
In the town of Mysidia, preparations were being made for war.
The disappearance of Barghest, longtime elder of Mysidia, had struck a grave blow against not only the world, but also this peaceful nation. For over eight hundred years the people of Mysidia had labored in peace to master the arts of magic, both black and white kinds, to become Archsorcerers or Archsorceresses like their ancestors. Ever since their town was founded after the Cataclysm they had labored and gone to Mount Ordeals on their pilgrimage of penitence to become Archwizards. Their sacred duty was to protect the Crystal of Water that had been handed down to them by the Gods before the Cataclysm. This had gone on ever since the end of the Cataclysm, and had only stopped when the Kingdom of Baron had attacked the town and stolen the Crystal. Even when the Crystal had been returned to them after the final battle with Zemus the tradition had seemingly come to an end. Wizards still went to Mount Ordeals, but even the spirit that dwelled there seemed to have gone silent ever since Cecil Darkheart had become a paladin of the Light. Now, with the disappearance and presumed death of the Elder of Mysidia, Barghest, it seemed as if the tradition had really come to an end.
In the unofficial capital building of Mysidia, the residence and study of Barghest, the final preparations were being made for a doomsday assault against Silvera to free the Silverans and kill Charon. Leading the preparations was a Black Wizard known as Sharom, the de facto leader of the nation now that Barghest had disappeared. Also helping plan the coming assault were the famous twins, Palom and Porom, merely fifteen years of age, and yet already they had journeyed to Mount Ordeals and became Archwizards. For them, it was a matter of honor to avenge Barghestās death, as he had raised them ever since their parents had died on Mount Ordeals. They had a grudge now against Charon, and a matter of personal honor to avenge.
"We must free the Silverans!" Porom argued, her youthful face full of anger and hatred. "If we free them, it will create a diversion which will allow ten of our Archwizards to challenge Charon, which should be enough to kill him and then finish off his four Fiends. Our reinforcements from Fabul should prove to be enough mundane troops to hold Charonās army at bay for enough time to get out of the Silver Isle. Afterwards, we can unite with the forces still available from the other Alliance Nations and force Charonās army back into the Underground."
"I agree with Archwizard Porom," Sharom said, a red fire burning in the depths of his eyes. "We shall gain vengeance on this scum for the murder of Elder Barghest. We must throw down the gauntlet to this fool and show him that we do not mean to go quietly into the night." Sharom stood up from the table and looked at the gathering before him. "We have contacted our forces from Fabul. We shall strike at dawn in seven daysā time."
"We have much to do before then." A voice said, coming out of the darkness. Sharom and the other wizards in the room turned to look in the direction of the voice. Framed in the doorway of the room were Edge and Rydia. Palom and Porom ran up and began talking excitedly to the pair, while Sharom stood on, looking with disapproval.
"Have you come with troops, King Edge?" Sharom barked, cutting through the mulling voices. Edge looked at the black wizard and smiled.
"Of course, Archwizard Sharom. I have brought three hundred men, almost all that is left of Eblanās forces." Edge turned to the two young wizards, his gaze turning cold. "But my real mission lies with these two. I need both Palom and Porom to accompany me to the Underground."
"To the Underground?" Sharom exclaimed, surprise registering in his voice. "How do you plan on getting there? Baron isnāt exactly too frivolous with itās airships now that most of the Red Wings have been destroyed."
"You forget, Sharom, of the Red Wing that we acquired from Golbez during the Crystal Quest." Edge said, mischief in his voice. "Falcon is how we came here, and also how we shall go to the Underground. We have been summoned by Asura, who needs our help."
"Asura?" Porom asked in puzzlement. "I thought she disappeared along with Leviathan during the first battle against Charon."
"She did." Rydia said, speaking up for the first time. "She was badly wounded by the Fiend of the Earth. She initiated magical contact with me a few days ago and said she might know the key to defeating Charon."
"What is this that she speaks of, Caller?" Sharom said, contempt entering his voice at the mention of the Callers of Mist, longtime rivals of the wizards of Mysidia ever since the Cataclysm.
Ignoring the tone of Sharomās voice, which ignited the ire of Edge, Rydia turned her piercing green stare on the black wizard. "Asura mentioned that Charon and his army first appeared through a rift in the Underground to the west of the Cave of Sylph. Charonās first action was to invade the Cave of Sylph and capture most of the Sylphs or kill those who resisted. He must be using the fairies for something, but what? He then moved on to the Land of the Summoned Monsters, tearing a hole in the fabric of reality that allowed his army a pathway into that dimension. Normally inaccessible because of the lava floes around the cave, Charon circumvented that problem entirely. By the time Giott and our armies arrived on the island and gained access to the pathway, the battle was already joined between Charonās army and the army of the Summoned Monsters. We lost that battle because of our inability to tell friend from foe, as Charonās monsters and the Summoned Monsters were largely indistinguishable to our forces. Our inability to deal with Charonās Fiends also lost the battle. They are powerful beyond all possible belief, especially the black-cloaked man. He is a wizard of power that rivals Charon. It was Charon killing Yang that started the route, and lost us the battle·"
"Are you sure Yang is dead?" Porom asked, her eyes full of emotion.
"I saw that bastard Charon nearly tear him in half, Porom." Edge said, nearly choking on his own anger. "Yang was holding his own until that black-cloaked bastard raked his back with that claw of his. Then Charon grabbed Yang and· mutilated him. Giott was closest. He went berserk, and cleaved his way through the black-cloaked man, dealing a wound that I swear would instantly kill a man. Apparently the wizard survived. Giott began to fight Charon, but something happened. Giott looked like he had seen a ghost; he froze up, allowing Charon to deal him a dreadful wound. By then I managed to make my way to the battle and fought off Charon, rescuing Giott. He fell into a coma, and his warriors carried him off in the ensuing route. I still donāt know how he is doing."
"What happened with Giott and Charon, Edge?" Palom asked, concern in his voice.
"Iām not sure, Palom." Edge replied, puzzlement in his voice. "I believe that Giott must have somehow recognized Charon, somehow knew him from before. But I didnāt recognize him. Charon seemed to be no one I knew."
"Could Charon possibly be someone we know?" Rydia asked, anger in her voice. "But who is a sorcerer of that caliber, not to mention a warrior?"
"Well, someone has been missing since the crisis developed·" Sharom brooded, his dark brows knit in thought.
"No!" Edge said, shock in his voice. "Cecil is not Charon. He would never stoop to such megalomania. Besides, he is no master of the magic arts. No, Cecil is as much of a victim here as the rest of us. Perhaps it is someone else we know, someone who once turned to evil·"
"No, it canāt be him·" Rydia said, turning to gaze at Edge in surprise. "And yet, he does bear some resemblance·"
"It cannot be Golbez, Edge." Porom said, crossing the room to stand near the window, looking out onto the pools which lined the Elderās home. "The Lunar Moon left our planet over four years ago. It must be quite far away now. And supposedly you did see FuSoYa and Golbez go into the core of the moon for the journey, right?"
"Yeah, thatās right." Edge said, his thoughts a mass of dark suspicions and cloaked shadows. "But what if he never left with the Moon? Or what if he magically transported himself back here? He could have spent those four years building up quite an army of monsters and finding four new Fiends. How much of his megalomania and evil was from Zemusās manipulations? He himself said that he must have been already tainted with evil for him to have been mind controlled by Zemus."
"Look, all this speculation is pointless." Sharom said, seemingly forgetting that he himself had taken part in the discussion. "Your mission to the Underground is obviously an intelligence mission to find out the truth about Charon. Your soldiers will be put to good use here training the remnants of Fabulās army. We will assault Silvera in one weekās time. We need you all to be here to help us in the assault. If possible, we desperately need reinforcements from the Dwarves or the Summoned Monsters. See if you can get them·"
"Alright Palom, Porom," Edge said, turning to the two young wizards, "we leave at dawn for Agart and the Underground. Be ready by then." Edge and Rydia turned to leave. "Oh yes, Sharom," Edge said, turning to gaze malevolently on the black wizard, "insult Caller Rydia again and I will have words with you. Or to put it more to the point, I will kick the hell out of you. Understand? Good." Edge and Rydia turned to leave, Edgeās arm protectively around Rydiaās waist·
"I am what is inside you, KluYa!" Erik said, gazing at the Lunarian with hatred. "I am the darkness inside of us all! I am not just a Dark Knight, not just a representation of evil! I am truth. Ugly, horrible truth laid bare for all to see. I wear the mantle of the Dark Knight and the Kingdom of Baron with pride. Once, I was a Dragoon, true. But now I am what everyone really is inside. Denying this reality is worse than perpetuating it. Bow down to the King of Baron, KluYa, and become a Dark Knight. Let me train you. Both you, and your two sons, when they become of age. My son will become a Dark Knight as well, I promise you. Come KluYa, what do you see in being a Paladin of the Light? You spend your days teaching that silly inventor boy about your idiotic flying machine. Do you adventure? Do you even dream of it? Just yesterday I returned from Fabul! No one from Baron has ever gone there before! This is idiocy KluYa·"
"No, Erik, your little tirades are idiocy." KluYa retorted, cold anger in his voice. "The path of the Dark Knight leads only into despair and worthlessness. The easy path leads to evil and vice, while the path of the Light leads to greatness. True greatness, not the fleeting temporal power you seek, but the respect of all who know of you and what you have done and what you have sacrificed. That is true greatness, true power·"
"Mark my words, KluYa, your sons will fall from this grace you worship so much." Erik spat. "I will see my own son become truly great, while your sons will be soon forgotten·"
Golbez awoke screaming, his mind torn from his the ethereal dream world it had been in ever since FuSoYa had placed him in the cryonics chamber. How long has it been? Golbez thought, his mind clouded with extraneous thoughts. Had he been remembering his childhood? He seemed to remember his father arguing with someone, someone familiar. He also seemed to remember a woman, with hair tinted a yellow-green. She had whispered of things terrible to him, and then he had awakened. But where am I?
Golbez looked about him, finding himself in a primeval forest. Great oak trees towered about him, rising to the night sky. Bushes filled the underbrush and the night animals skittered and cawed. An owlās eerie hooting filled the air, and Golbez noticed he was clothed in his battle armor. What has happened? I was in suspended animation in the core of the Lunar Moon, and now I find myself in a strange forest at night. And somehow, I know I am on the Blue Planet·
Golbez got up and surveyed the forest. In the distance he saw the flicker of fire through the trees. He slowly walked towards the light, being careful not to make noise to alert the maker of the fire. Golbez saw that the fire was only being tended by one man, a black-cloaked man with silver hair. He had made the fire in a small clearing in the forest, and deciding that he was in no danger, Golbez walked up to the fire.
"Well, hello," the black-cloaked man said, rising to greet Golbez. "I see these woods have more than one traveller in them tonight. Sit, make yourself comfortable here."
"Thank you for your hospitality," Golbez said, eyeing the man. He was much younger than he seemed, and his blue eyes reflected the red firelight. His right hand was hideously burned, and was misshapen into the form of a claw. In the glow of the fire, the claw almost seemed to pulse with a kind of reddish-gold energy. "I am wondering where exactly these woods are? I have become lost, you see, and I have wandered aimlessly for days."
The black-cloaked man smiled at Golbez and said "We are in the forest surrounding Mount Ordeals. I am traveling to the mountain to speak to the spirit who dwells there. It is said he gives those who prove themselves great magical power. I am a fledgling wizard of some repute. You might have heard of me. Have you heard of the great Angelus?"
"I am sorry, no I have not." Golbez said, wondering how on earth he had been transported to Mysidia. "But I am also traveling to Mount Ordeals. I became sidetracked on the way." This is a perfect opportunity to speak to the spirit of my father. Perhaps he knows what is happening in the world and what has happened to me, Golbez thought.
"I would be honored if you joined me in my quest, Dark Knight." Angelus said. "Donāt look so insulted. I merely remarked that you are dressed in the proper attire of a Knight of the Darkness."
"Yes, I suppose I am a Dark Knight," Golbez said, staring into the fire. "Someone once said I would become one and then be forgotten·"
"Well, hereās to our journey to Mount Ordeals!" Angelus said, pulling out a flask of wine and handing it over to Golbez. "May we find greatness there, however fleeting·"
As the fire burned on the night grew colder·
Chapter Four: The Underground
Arvanae smiled at Charon, and his world seemed to come alive. She was so beautiful, he thought. Arvanae turned from Charon and walked to the window of the keepās tower. She looked out over the landscape, then turned back to Charon. "Perhaps it is not necessary to destroy all of these people and their world, my love." She turned and stared at Charon with her piercing green eyes. "Why kill when it is not necessary?"
Charon broke his eyes from her gaze. Shaking his head he smiled. "You do not know these people like I do, Arvanae." Charon brooded. "They will not stop until I am brought to justice for my "crimes" against them. Fools. They deserve their fate, no matter how horrific."
"And what of Kasil?" Arvanae said, her eyes boring into Charonās back. "What shall become of him?"
Charon turned back to Arvanae, his face clouded with worry. "I have not decided yet. I have considered returning him to Rosa before Meteor hits. And yet I have not made up my mind·" Charon turned away, his mind filled with horrible things. He tried to stagger over to his throne, but he fell writhing on the ground. Arvanae rushed over to his side, concern etched on her face. "Why, Golbez?" He screamed in agony, clutching his head. "You never had to do this to me! You always had the choice! The choice I never had! Father would never let me·"
Arvanae smoothed Charonās brow, her hands caressing his face. "Be quiet my love," she whispered, "sleep, and forget the past. For you there is no past. Only the future. You must shed all that is left of your past life. Even as those chains bind that tome to your waist, so too are there chains holding you here. Forget them. Forget everything. Fall into sleep, and fall far from these troubles·"
"Where are we going?" Porom screamed over the sound of the wind rushing past her on the deck of the Falcon. The target of her ire was the man steering the vessel, King Edge of Eblan. As much of a ninja and king as he might be, he was most definitely no pilot. "And slow down!"
Edge turned and smiled at the young mage. He then turned to Rydia, holding on to one of the support columns near him. "She thinks Iām going too fast Rydia!" He laughed. "I thought children were supposed to be more adventurous than adults!"
"Edge, I think youāre going too fast!" Rydia said, gazing at him with her piercing green eyes. "For the love of the Gods, slow down! We can hardly hang on!"
"How can I refuse a request from a beautiful face like that?" Edge smiled, and Rydia rolled her eyes. "Alright, Iāll slow her down." Edge grimaced as he slowed down the flight of the airship. Turning back to Porom he asked "Are you happy now?"
"Yes, sir." Porom respectfully said, turning to gaze off the side of the airship. "Thatās Baron beneath us!" Porom squealed in delight. She always thought the countryside of Baron was the most beautiful in the world, besides Toroiaās, of course.
"Great." Palom muttered. "Not this damn city again·" Of course Palom didnāt exactly relish returning to Baron, as both he and his sister had been forced to be petrified there for a good amount of time. Obviously Palom didnāt enjoy his time as a statue in the Castle of Baron as much as his sister.
"Why are we going to Baron, Edge?" Porom asked, gazing in awe at the gardens of the city, hazy in the summer heat. "I thought we werenāt allowed by Charon to interact with the armed forces of Baron. Not that thereās much left of them, anyways·"
"Weāre not here to get soldiers or airships, Porom." Edge said. "Weāre here to pick up Rosa and Cid. They will be accompanying us to the Underground to find the route in which Charon came to our world." Edge turned back to concentrate on landing the Falcon in a field near the city itself. "Well, I donāt know why Cid has to come with us, but, oh well·" Edge turned and grinned at Rydia, who stared in annoyance at him. "Alright, prepare for a bumpy landing·"
As the sky turned red and fire rained down from the heavens the Aneans began to fight back against the Giant of Bab-Il as it lumbered across the Anean landscape towards the capitol city of Vaderas. The Lunarian ships in orbit rained thermonuclear fire down around the Giant, attempting to halt its progress before it could reach the fusion reactor deep within the city. If the Giant succeeded, then Zemusās mad plan would work·
Arvanae looked out from the capital building, the highest tower in Vaderas, and stared as the behemoth waded through the sea of nuclear energy around it. It effortlessly shrugged off the bombardments from the Lunarianās ships, while the energy fields placed around the city were nothing more than a joke to it. Arvanae, Matriarch of the Anean Race, realized that her planet was about to be destroyed. The Giant would crack open the reactor core and short out the containment fields around the fusion vessel. The power of the sun brought to Earth would annihilate the entire world, quite possibly cracking open the core of the planet. At the very least, the Anean Race would die.
Arvanae turned to the Doorway behind her. It is my duty as Matriarch of the Anean Race to escape before the destruction of our world. But is it so cowardly that I leave in this hour of need? Arvanae turned to see the Giant push its way into the first towers of the city. No, she thought, it is my duty. Goodbye, KluYa. I loved you.
Turning towards the Doorway Arvanae entered the dimensional portal, reality bending around her as she was transported somewhere else. Back on Anea, the Giant tore open the reactor core and then disappeared in a blinding flash of teleportation energy. The Lunarian spacecraft in orbit around the planet veered away as the reactor exploded, nuclear energy encompassing the entire planet. The Aneans died, their bodies scorched by nuclear fires·
FuSoYa looked up, his reverie broken by a telepathic message from the Crystals of the Moon. What has happened, Crystals? FuSoYa asked, maintaining rapport with the Crystals.
We have become cogniscent of the usage of the spell Meteor, Guardian. The Crystals replied. But it is a version of Meteor which is much more powerful than anything ever before experienced. It appears that the spell has energized a large asteroid and drawn it into the gravitational well of the Blue Planet. If the meteor impacts, then at the very least the Blue Planet will be wiped of all life, if not destroyed itself.
What has done this? FuSoYa asked in consternation.
It seems that the source of the spell is on the Blue Planet itself. The Crystals replied.
Nothing else can be done, then. FuSoYa replied. I shall teleport to the Blue Planet and stop this Meteor. I will return after it is finished. Continue on to the Lunarian Colony of Ageras, Crystals. I am sure that Golbezās abduction relates to this event. Carry on, Crystals of the Moon, one day I shall return·
FuSoYa muttered the words for the spell, and he disappeared in a blue flash of energy. The Lunarian Moon continued on its path towards Ageras, unobstructed·
"Edge!" Rosa cried in joy, running up to the black-garbed ninja and hugging him tightly. "Itās been almost six months! And Rydia! Palom, Porom! Itās been so long since I saw you last!" Rosa let go of Edge and greeted Rydia and the twin sorcerers with a smile and a handshake.
"Itās good to see you too, Queen Rosa." Edge replied, a smile on his lips. "And how are you, old man?" Edge turned, a wry look on his face, his gaze resting on the red-haired figure, the mechanic Cid, world-renowned inventor of the airship for the Kingdom of Baron.
"Iāve been better, boy," Cid replied, a smile on his wrinkled face. "Are we going to get this show on the road, or are we going to stand here all day while Charon continues with his plans?"
The erstwhile group stood in the throne room of Baron Castle. The two gold-wrought thrones seemed to sit empty, especially the kingās throne. A pall of gloomy shadows seemed to be cast across the throne in the flickering torchlight, making the room seem much darker, even though it was barely noon outside.
"I plan on making it to the Underground quickly, old man," Edge replied, "after which, we shall make our way to the rift in the west of the Hidden Land."
"Youāre going to fly, boy?" Cid asked in amusement. "Donāt be silly. Iāll get us to the Underground before you can even blink your eyes."
"No fighting, the two of you!" Rosa said, smiling. To her it was like old times, except that her husband was not present. In some ways, it seemed to make the loss all the more horrible. She tried every day to put it out of her mind: She had lost her son and now her husband. Both were most likely dead and she would likely never see them again. She tried once again to put it out of her mind. Once again she failed.
"Weāre sorry Rosa," Cid said, his face aghast. "We shall put aside our differences, right Edge?"
"Of course, Cid." Edge replied. He had noticed just how close Rosa was to the edge of a breakdown, and he now regretted deciding on taking her with him. At the time it had seemed a good idea, being able to make sure Charon didnāt kidnap another hero, crippling the movement against him even more. Now it seemed that she might not be in as much danger staying in Baron as journeying to the Underground. No matter. She would demand to come with them, anyways, no matter what. "Letās depart as soon as we can, Rosa. I am worried. We have only a week before the Alliance attacks Charon. We need to find some kind of weakness of his, or at least discover what his plan is. And the way to start that is by entering the rift which he appeared from."
"I agree Edge." Cid said, a smile on his lips. "It surprises me to discover that you actually have brains in your head, but I suppose you couldnāt go your whole life without thinking."
"Thank you for that wonderful comment, old man," Edge grinned. "Now, if you would be pleased enough to take the Falcon out for us?"
"I would be honored, boy." Cid replied, leading the group out of the room.
"Is that the rift?" Porom asked, gazing over the side of the Falcon. Her eyes widened in awe as she gazed at the majestic site below her. She could not believe what she was seeing.
Over five hundred feet below her the molten lava of the Underground bubbled and gave off its orange glow and fierce heat. Beyond the flows of lava the cinder-like ground of the Hidden Land stretched off until it met with the vast, sloping walls of the inner earth, which lead up to the cavernous, vaulted ceiling over which the rest of the world rested. Between two cinder bluffs was a scar on the land. Like a deep claw mark dug deep into the ground, the rift was etched across the landscape. Within its borders pulsed a reddish-gold energy that lit up the landscape for miles around. Within the heart of the rift was· something. Porom couldnāt make out what it was, and yet, it seemed strangely familiar to her·
"By the Gods, is that the rift?" Edge asked, staring open mouthed at the rift.
"You do have a tact for pointing out the obvious, donāt you, boy?" Cid asked, a bemused expression on his face. "Iām going to land us a few hundred feet out from that· thing·"
"Hopefully this landing will be better than yours, Edge." Palom said, a grimace on his face.
"Look kid, just try not to talk for the rest of the trip, okay?" Edge muttered, gazing darkly at the rift as the airship dropped down to the cinder plain.
"And that is Mount Ordeals?" Golbez asked, staring up at the towering mountain, which seemed to arc to the heavens, a massive piece of rock erected long ago during the Cataclysm. "I never knew it was so huge. I remember now, I sent Milon to kill Cecil and his companions on this mountain·"
"What of King Cecil?" Angelus asked, a look of puzzlement on his face. "I am a native Baronian, and so I am interested in any information about him, especially after his disappearance."
"Cecil is missing?" Golbez asked in surprise. "Forgive my ignorance, but I have been journeying far from civilization for a long time. Tell of what has happened recently·"
"Do you know of the coming of Charon?" Angelus asked as the pair began their ascent up Mount Ordeals. "I see you do not. Listen, I will tell you of the troubles which have befallen our world the past few months·"
"Are we really going in there?" Porom asked, a look of fear on her face. "I feel intense magical power coming from the rift. And the feeling of something else· something alien·"
"Asura has said that this is where Charon first appeared." Rydia said, gazing in awe at the flickering reddish-gold energy as it arced back and forth across the rift. "Quite frankly, Iām surprised that there are no guards on the rift. If this leads to someplace that Charon calls home, why is it not guarded?"
"That worries me too," Edge said. "But we have no choice but to enter the rift and find out the answers to our questions. I want all of you to be on your guard. I donāt want to lose one of you·" Edge turned and then began the long descent into the rift, the others following slowly behind.
On top of one of the cinder mountains a figure, cloaked in purple robes stood, impassively watching the party disappear into the swirling maelstrom that raged in the rift·
"Tell me of your people, FuSoYa," Arvanae asked, staring at the Lunarian with her greenish-yellow eyes. How seductive this Anean is, FuSoYa thought. He smiled back at her as he drank some of the native Anean wine. He petted his beard and turned to his brothers. "Perhaps KluYa can fill you in on some of our more·esoteric disciplines." Beaming, Arvanae stood and shook hands with the youthful Lunarian.
"And who is this?" She asked, turning to look at the balding, gaunt Lunarian standing besides KluYa. "What is your name, sir?"
"I am Chief Scientist Zemus," the Lunarian replied, gazing into Arvanaeās eyes. "And I have never seen a woman as beautiful as you." Saying such he bent down and kissed Arvanaeās hand. A flicker of annoyance crossed the Matriarchās face, and she turned back to the youthful, handsome KluYa.
"I wish to take you on a tour of the city, KluYa," Arvanae smiled, gazing into KluYaās dark eyes. "And what is your position in the Lunarian hierarchy?"
"I am Lord Commander of the Lunarian Armed Forces, and a fledgling scientist studying under my brother Zemus." KluYa replied, grinning. "But enough talk. Let us see the wonders of your beautiful city·" KluYa took Arvanaeās arm and led her away, out of the throne room that the four had been talking in.
"Why the saddened face, brother?" FuSoYa asked, walking up to his taciturn brother. "Do not be upset by his behavior. I remember I was just like him once, a rogue with the women·"
"That is all fine brother," Zemus spat, hatred in his voice, "but I was never like him. You remember. I have never been loved by a woman. I always give my heart away, and never receive anything but pain in return. No more. I give away nothing but my hate and contempt from now on·"
"Brother, wait!" FuSoYa cried as Zemus triggered his teleportation device and returned to the Lunarian flagship in orbit around Anea. "Wait. There is always hope for the future·" FuSoYa turned and stared at the throne room, a premonition coming over him·
Where am I? FuSoYa asked, consciousness flooding back to him. I was being teleported to the Blue Planet, and now I am on some kind of mountain·
Looking about him FuSoYa saw a midday sun stare at him from behind the clouds. So I am on the Blue Planet, FuSoYa thought. Turning about him he decided that he had to be on Mount Ordeals. No other mountain on the planet rose so high. He looked down towards the bottom of the mountain and gasped when he saw Golbez trudging up the mountain path, accompanied by a black-cloaked man. FuSoYa felt magical power rolling off the black-cloaked man, and he felt uneasy staring at his clawed hand.
"FuSoYa!" Golbez cried, rushing up the mountain path and shaking hands with the old Lunarian. "What has happened? I remember being put to sleep in the cryonics chamber, and now I find myself in Mysidia. Did we ever leave orbit?"
"I will explain later what little I know, Golbez." FuSoYa said, eyeing the black-cloaked man. "For now I wish to keep my theories silent. I worry about our present company."
"This is Angelus." Golbez said, as Angelus and FuSoYa shook hands. "He is a wizard from Baron who is seeking power from the spirit on this mountain."
"The Spirit of the Light," FuSoYa said, his voice filled with worry, "my brother and your father, KluYa. Perhaps he can shed some light on these mysteries. Let us ascend the mountain, to find what we may·"
Turning back on the path the two didnāt notice the image of Angelus seem to shimmer in the sunlight·
As soon as they had entered the rift the party had been buffeted by the hurricane-like winds of the maelstrom that boiled in the center of the rift. And then the tendrils of reddish-gold energy wrapped themselves around the party members. The last thing any of them remembered was a flash of reddish-gold light, and then they found themselves on a rocky plain. Storm clouds boiled overhead. It was obvious that they were no longer in the Underground, or even on the Blue Planet. Charon had obviously originated from either another planet or another dimension, as Edgeās suspicions were proved true. In the distance black mountains arose from the granite plain, towering into the wind-lashed skies. In the center of the plain was an ebon tower, thrust into the ground like a spike, arising high up into the air. Overhead lightning flashed and thunder rolled.
"Letās make for the tower!" Rydia cried over the sound of the wind. "Weāll be finished if we stay out like this!" The party began to run for the tower, clambering over the granite precipices which separated them from the onyx architecture.
Behind them, a flash of reddish-gold energy heralded the coming of the purple-clad figure·
In the depths of the Tower of Bab-Il something horrible was being brought back to life. Clandestine machinery hummed and eldritch energies throbbed in the air. In the center of the chamber, the very same chamber which had held the Crystals of Light and Darkness when Golbez had stolen them, a cocoon was suspended in mid-air. Lances of energy penetrated the cocoonās center, and the outer casing began to fall away.
The four figures which stood around the cocoon bowed as the entire shell fell away, casting a brilliant light around the room. A gaunt, wizened figure stood up from the cocoon, naked except for the amulet about his neck. He opened his yellow eyes and gazed around the room. A cold fury burned in his breast. He had once again known defeat. He would not allow such a thing to happen again. He turned to the four figures prostrated before him and smiled. "Arise, my Fiends of the Elements·" He whispered in his soft voice.
The four figures arose and each smiled at their master. One was a white-cloaked man with dark, red eyes that blazed beneath his white hood. The other was a monstrous turtle-like creature. The last two were human-like, one a yellow-tinted woman with a mane of long blond hair, and the other a red-cloaked man with eyes that burned with infernal fires. It was he who spoke. "My lord Zemus, much has occurred in your absence. We have only recently been brought back to life, but we have learned of the return of an old adversary·"
"I know of this, Rubicant." Zemus said, bringing himself up to his full height. "I was informed by the Amulet of the Night of these events. What I have suspected has finally been proven true. Someone from another dimension, touched by the Gods, as we were, has guessed at the true purpose of the Crystals of Light and Darkness. They seek the power of the Gods as well. We shall stop them and regain the Crystals ourselves. And as for the Matriarch of the Anean Race, it is time her race died out once and for all·"
Chapter Five: The River of Time
Edge smashed through the gate door to the tower and the party ran up to the massive doorway of the tower proper as huge raindrops began to fall around them. Lightning flickered and struck like a serpent into the granite plain a few hundred yards behind them. Edge stared at the massive portcullis and turned to Rydia. "This is more your style, Rydia," he winked, eliciting yet another rolling of eyes from the Caller.
Rydia turned to the portcullis and whispered the words to the spell Nuke. The massive iron grating exploded into a falling shower of iron shards as the party fled into the opened gateway. Overhead the storm truly broke, buffeting the tower with gale-force winds as forks of lightning tormented the grey plain.
And only a few hundred feet from the tower walked the purple-clad figure·
Once within the tower the party stopped and gazed around. It was dimly lit, only a few torches guttering on the walls. It seemed as if no one had lived in it for a very long time, a noticeable layer of dust over all the furnishings. Although the tapestries and paintings that lined the hallways were exquisite cobwebs and mildew covered their beautiful surfaces. Palom turned to Edge and asked "Letās split up! We can cover more ground that way."
"Are you insane?" Edge said, gazing in horror at the boy. "We might as well slit our own throats if we were to do that. I am sure that this is Charonās former home. I am equally sure that Charon will have left some sort of guard here. We explore together." Edge turned to the grand staircase leading to the upper levels of the tower. "Iām pretty sure weāll find something up there." Leading the party up the dusty stairs, which were lined with a dark red carpet, the color of blood, Edge looked around, constantly alert for danger.
Not that he needed to be. On every floor they found the same scene as on the first floor. Old, dust covered furnishings. Elaborate paintings or pieces of artwork. Nothing more. When the group finally reached the top floor Edge had despaired of ever finding anything. Finally he looked around and said "This is it!"
The party stood in a huge, vaulted room. Pieces of strange machinery lined the walls and a large window looked out over the storm-wrought landscape. A large table with arcane instruments rested in the center of the room. "This must be his magical laboratory." Rydia said, gazing about her. Rosa looked at the tomes of arcane knowledge in interest.
"Look at this." Palom said, bringing a small black-clothed book to Edge. "I think itās a diary of some kind·"
Edge took the book and slowly opened it. The rest of the party crowded around to read·
24 Avrailiam 4089
I have found a beautiful mage to help me with my work. Ever since discovering this tower and the Amulets, I have needed another to help me and complete my teachings. She is no great master of the magic arts, but competent enough to help me. It is too bad that Zemus never completed his work with the Crystals. It would make my job so much easier·
Like I said, she is so beautiful. I have fallen in love with her, I think. I have never fallen in love with anyone besides Rosa. And now, I can never truly look at her again. Not in that same light.
Tonight we shall test the theory of the Riftway with the Amulets·
18 Deveram 4089
It has been awhile since I touched this journal. I am in love with Arvanae. I know that now. We have been joined by another powerful mage, a woman who calls herself Thalia. She is a master of white magic. She appeared lost, and I promised to help her back to her home dimension with the Riftway after I acquire the Crystals. Another new addition is the creature called Levasos and his Trinity, three females of his race. Apparently they are the last of his race, some kind of humanoid reptilian creatures. I too have promised to help him breed a new generation of his race after he helps me gain the Crystals.
25 Deveram 4089
We have been joined by yet another traveler in this forlorn dimension. He says he is a fledgling mage of the black arts. He calls himself Angelus, although I have a feeling that this is a mere alias. No matter. He shall prove a useful apprentice. My army is nearly complete. I shall return to the Blue Planet and reclaim the Crystals. I am sorry, Rosa, but I was never good enough for you. I will always have darkness in my heart, no matter how much I try to exorcise it. I tried to be a Paladin of the Light, but I failed. I will make your suffering short, my love. Perhaps, once I have the power of the Gods, I will create a world that is fit for us all to live in·
"No!" Rosa screamed, clutching her head as tears trickled down her cheeks. "No! How could you, Cecil! You tricked us all! Was it some kind of damn masquerade, some kind of damn game to you? Damn you! Youāre worse than Zemus, tricking us all. I loved you·" Rosaās voice broke, and she sank to her knees, her head in her hands.
"I am· so sorry, Rosa." Edge said, picking the white mage up off the floor. "Iām sorry. We have to get out of here now, though. We have what we came for. Now we can stop Cecil before he does something else horrible."
"Iām afraid I cannot let you leave here alive." A voice spoke softly out of the darkness. A purple-clad figure walked slowly up the winding staircase. A tall, thin woman, she was of remarkable beauty. Her face and hair were also tinted slightly purple. She smiled at the party and said "I go by the name of Thalia, now. In my language it means traitor. I am forced to kill you all now. I do not wish to, but if I am ever to return to my home and my brother, then I am forced to do so. I am Thalia, Fiend of the Air. I am sorry for what I am about to do·"
"Donāt apologize to us, servant of Charon," Rydia said, "you are the one who is going to die today." Rydia began one of her call spells as Cid and Edge launched into battle against Thalia. Thalia smiled and ducked Cidās clumsy hammer blow and then grabbed Edge around the throat. She threw him across the room like he was a rag doll. Edge sailed through the air, finally smashing through the glass window which looked out on the desolate landscape.
"No!" Rydia screamed, cutting off her call spell. She ran towards the broken window but a blast of energy from Thalia crashed into her from behind. Rydia screamed in pain and fell onto the ground, fatally wounded.
Thalia slowly walked towards Cid, still stunned by her dodging of his blow. She raised her hand and was about to blast him point blank when he uppercutted her with his hammer. Her head snapped back and she then grabbed his hammer and crushed it. She slowly looked into his eyes and smiled. She began to chant again, when a blast of eldritch energy tore through her chest, leaving a gaping, cauterized wound. A look of shock was on her face, and she then fell forward, dead.
Pushing her body off of him, Cid saw that Palom and Porom were responsible. Rosa was still on the floor, sobbing. Rushing over to Rydiaās body he was relieved to see that the Caller was still alive, but dying quickly from her wound. Hearing a panting noise Cid looked up and saw Edge clamber back into the room.
"By the Gods! That was too close for comfort!" Edge breathed. "I barely managed to grab ahold of a ledge on my way down. No! Rydia!" Rushing over to her, Edge cradled her head in his arms. "Thank the Gods youāre still alive Rydia. I donāt know what Iād do without you."
Palom and Porom had helped Rosa to her feet and they all crowded around Rydia. "Rosa," Edge said, "please heal her."
Rosa stared at Rydia and then looked at Edge. "You really love her, donāt you?" Rosa asked, her voice tremulous with sadness.
"More than anything else." Edge said, staring deep into Rosaās eyes.
"This is for that future, Edge," Rosa said, casting the spell of Cure on Rydia. "Donāt let anything ever change that love. Ever·"
Rydia awoke and stared into Edgeās eyes. Her eyes beaded up with tears as she saw the ninja take off his head garb and stare into her eyes with tears of joy. "I love you, Rydia," Edge said, his voice thick with emotion. "I could never stand to lose you."
Rydia stared back, finally knowing the truth about what she felt towards Edge. "I love you too, King Edge of Eblan. More than anything else, I love you." Saying such the two kissed in joy.
Rosa looked on, peace finally coming to her. Even if she could no longer have a happy life, at least her friends had found love.
"Where is the Fiendās body?" Porom screamed, panic in her voice. Looking about the party saw that the Fiend had apparently left the room, a trail of dust marking her passing. Apparently she had not been as dead as she had seemed.
"We need to leave here soon." Edge said. "We have to get to the Castle of the Dwarves and find out any more information we can from King Giott." The party wearily began the long march back outside·
The Fiend of the Air, the seemingly inhuman woman known as Thalia and Thera, a traitor, or so her name said, slowly walked back through the Riftway to the Blue Planet. I am terribly hurt, Thalia thought, but before I die I must see Edward. I love him. I have to tell him so. Charon will let me see him. Please, Gods, do not let me die before I can tell him I love him. Staggering, Thalia slowly mouthed the words to the teleportation spell and disappeared in a flash of reddish-gold energy·
Atop Mount Ordeals, FuSoYa, Golbez, and Angelus had reached the summit of the mountain. Where the Room of Mirrors had been there was only the ruins of the building. Angelus looked around in disappointment. "Where is the spirit of the mountain?" He asked in disappointment. "I thought it was renowned for helping sorcerers reach their full potential?"
"Not a sorcerer like you, Angelus. Or should I tell everyone your real name, so they may call you by what your creators did, so long ago?" A voice asked in amusement. Angelus turned around in anger, hatred blazing in his blue eyes. "My brother, my son. It is like a family reunion. FuSoYa, it has been almost twenty years since I saw you last." A shimmering mist rose out of the summit of the mountain, and KluYa, spirit of Mount Ordeals, appeared.
"Father!" Golbez gaped. "I am so happy now, to finally meet you."
"Son, you are straying from the path of the Light." KluYa replied. "You have gone over to the Darkness. I wish for you to become a Paladin of the Light, but just as the last knight tried and failed, I believe you will too."
"No, father!" Golbez said. "I remember from my childhood, just before mother died. Your lecture to Erik the Dark Knight, Kainās father. He said I would become a Dark Knight and be forgotten. I will not. I will prove myself to you. Test me, please."
"So be it, son." KluYa gestured and Golbez disappeared. KluYa turned to FuSoYa and Angelus and said, "What is it you wish to know, brother?"
"How did you come to be here, KluYa?" FuSoYa said. "When last we met in Baron, you said you were journeying to Mount Ordeals. How then did you become a spirit here?"
"Long ago, after the Gods ravaged the universe during the Cataclysm, the last three Goddesses came to the Blue Planet and entrusted the Crystals of Light and Darkness, the key to the Wonders of the Gods to the people here. One of the wizards of Mysidia became a spirit imbued with the power of the Gods to test other wizards, and if he found them worthy, to grant them a small part of the power of the Gods." KluYa looked out over the landscape around the mountain as the sun began to set on the world. "That spirit was also imbued with the power to create Paladins of the Light and the Darkness if it wished, to those who proved their worth. Erik, Kainās father, was not just a Dark Knight, but a Dark Paladin, much more powerful than Cecil was. Cecil proved his spirit pure and became a Paladin of the Light. Every two hundred years a spirit would choose another wizard to become the next spirit to guard the power of the Gods. I was chosen by the previous spirit and summoned here. And now both my sons have been tested, and one has been found wanting·"
In a flash of energy Golbez reappeared, his battle armor torn and scored. His helmet had been taken off, and his long black hair flowed in the wind. "I am sorry father." Golbez said, reproach in his voice. "I guess I did prove myself. I am a Paladin of the Darkness now. I guess Erik was right about me·"
"I am sorry for you too, son," KluYa said, a grimace on his face. "but you have chosen your path. Now your search for answers continues. Look to Charon for them. With him lies all truth·"
"But what of Cecilās disappearance?" Golbez asked.
"Look to Charon, my son." KluYa said. "Be careful what you wish for, my son. Goodbye, my brother·" With that KluYaās spirit dissipated into the ground.
"And now, Golbez, Paladin of the Darkness," Angelus whispered, "it is time to visit your new lord and master. It is time to meet Charon." Angelus raised his hands and the three disappeared in a flash of reddish-gold energy·
The Falcon landed besides the Castle of the Dwarves, Edge not failing to notice the huge encampment of monsters around the castle. Turning to Rydia, he smiled and said "I guess Asura knows how to follow up on a promise of more troops, huh?"
Rydia smiled back at Edge, still weak from her wounds. As the party departed the airship a cry of happiness rose up from the Summoned Monsters encamped around the castle upon the sight of Caller Rydia. Rydia smiled and waved to the monsters as the party was escorted into the castle by a cadre of dwarves.
The group was led up to the kingās bedroom, where Luca squealed with delight at seeing so many old friends. "How is your father?" Edge asked, looking at the figure of the dwarven king, lying haggard in bed.
"He has recovered much," Luca replied, worry in her voice, "but in order to recover any more he must voluntarily undergo a healing sleep. It could last many months."
Edge looked up, startled. "Has he entered the sleep yet?" He asked, frantic. "We need to ask him some information regarding Charon."
"Oh, donāt worry, he has given orders that the dwarves and Summoned Monsters are to follow your command, Edge." Luca said, a smile on her face.
"No, no. Itās not that." Edge muttered. "May I please talk to him now?"
"Go ahead, Edge." Luca replied. "But I fear he is too close to the healing sleep to hear you now·"
Edge turned and walked up to King Giott. The old dwarf looked barely conscious, lying old and wizened on the bed. "Giott, can you hear me?" Edge asked.
"Yes, Edge," The old dwarf whispered. "I hear you. I am falling into a healing sleep, so be quick with what youāre going to ask me·"
"Giott, when we fought against Charon, after Yang died, you looked at Charon and froze up." Edge slowly said. "It looked like you recognized him. Who was it? Someone we know?"
"You mean you didnāt recognize him, Edge?" Giott whispered, his voice hardly distinguishable.
"No, I did not, Giott. Should I have? Iāve never seen him before." Edge replied, worry in his voice.
"You should have recognized him. You journeyed with him for a long· time· he· has· stolen· the· Crystals·Ed· ge·" So saying Giott dropped into the healing sleep.
Edge turned to Rosa, and saw that she had heard what Giott had said. "Iām sorry, Rosa." Edge said. "I was hoping that Giott would refute my suspicions. But now they are confirmed. Cecil is Charon."
Chapter Six: Out of the Darkness
"I see you have discovered what I have suspected all along," Asura said, walking into Giottās chamber. Her many limbed form looked strange, being exposed to full light. Her three heads twisted and turned, each talking at once. "It is good to see you again, Rydia."
"It is good to see you again as well, your majesty," Rydia announced, as she embraced the Queen of the Summoned Monsters. "Has there been any news of Leviathan?"
Asura moved slowly away from Rydia, coming to stand near Giottās bed. "There has been no news at all. I fear my love has truly been lost." She turned back to the Caller, her faces smiling. "Never mind that now. My scouts have discovered how Charon avoided using the passageway to Agart. They found a previously unknown series of caves near the Cave of Sylph that leads up to the Silvera Mine. From there they invaded Silvera itself."
"Then thatās how weāll strike back against them!" Edge said, a look of triumph on his face. "Weāll have the armies of the dwarves and the Summoned Monsters follow the same path up to Silvera. Cid, youāll return to the overworld and tell Sharom about our plan. If all goes as followed, we should be able to pincer Charonās force between both of ours."
"Hopefully that will go better than the last pincer attack." Palom muttered.
"Hey, kid, what did I tell you about speaking?" Edge snapped. "Now, me and Rydia here, along with Palom, Porom, and Rosa shall go ahead of the army and free the Silverans. With them out of the way, we can be assured there will be no innocent casualties. Then we can stop Charon and his damn Fiends cold."
"If only it was as easily done as said, boy." Cid said. "But all in all that is the best strategy so far. I will inform Sharom of the deployment of the armies. And I expect to see you all take good care of Rosa here until we meet again in Silvera." Cid turned and left the chamber.
"Okay, Asura." Edge said, smiling at the Queen of the Monsters. "Weāll need a portal to this cave you mentioned·"
"No problem, Edge." Asura said, walking out of the room.
Rydia walked up to Edge and whispered "Do you really think that Cecil is Charon?" Edge turned and looked at Rydia, his face a blank slate.
"I donāt know for sure, Rydia." Edge slowly whispered. "Giott never said straight out that he was Charon. But itās not inconceivable, is it? He was a student of the white arts of magic. Charon is also very proficient in battle. Cecil is one of the best warriors I have ever seen. Charon is as well. I donāt know. If Charon is Golbez, how is he back here on the Blue Planet? It makes no sense. No, I donāt think our questions will be answered until we finally meet Charon in battle·" Edge and Rydia walked out of Giottās chamber, leaving Luca and her father alone·
"Edward·" A voice seemed to whisper out of the ether. "Edward, awake my love·"
Slowly consciousness came back to Edward. He and the rest of his party had been attacked by his lover, Thera. She had slaughtered his soldiers and his chancellor. And then she had knocked him unconsious. He opened his eyes and stared into Theraās brilliant blue eyes. "No!" Edward cried, shoving himself away from the Fiend. "Get away from me, temptress!"
"No, Edward," Thera said, a look of pain on her face. "I am so sorry about what has happened. I never meant to get caught up in this madness. I am merely trying to make my way back to my home, and Charon seemed to be the most expedient way. I have been changed, Edward. My name is Thalia. It means traitor in my language. I have betrayed the ideals my brother and I swore to uphold." Thalia looked down at the gaping wound in her chest, cauterized by the heat of the blast. "I donāt have long, Edward, but I couldnāt die without telling you that I loved you. I will always love you, no matter how much you hate me. Please, Edward, before I die, could you find it in your heart to forgive me?"
Edward looked into Thaliaās eyes and saw the tormented soul behind them. "I· I forgive you, Thalia." He got up and embraced her. "I only wish you would renounce your allegiance to Charon and your evil acts."
"I do so gladly, Edward." Thalia said, pain in her voice. "No longer am I a Fiend of the Elements, a mindless slave of Charon. I am once again Schala Zeal, Princess of the Magical Kingdom of Zeal."
Laughter echoed outside the cell doors. Schala and Edward turned towards the cell door, when it opened, spilling harsh torchlight on the pair. "My poor little Schala," Charon chortled. "That is your true name, is it not? Or is it yet another of your unending false titles? It matters not. I strip you of your powers as Fiend of the Air." With a snap of his fingers eldritch power drained off from Schalaās body. "I then leave you to the tender mercies of Levasos." Charon turned away as the reptilian creature entered the cell.
"By the Gods, what is that?" Edward asked, placing himself in front of Schala.
"That is a Reptite, Edward." Schala slowly spoke, her voice filled with pain. "Its race lived on my world millions of years before I was born. I thought they were all wiped out·"
"That is what you damn monkeys would like to think, isnāt it?" Levasos asked, his voice filled with venom. "I and the Trinity are the last of my race. Once we die, it is over for the Reptite Race·" Levasos advanced on the pair as they backed themselves against the wall. "You will die so slowly, both of you." He hissed, his yellow eyes boring into the pair.
"Never, Fiend." Schala whispered, chanting the words to a teleportation spell. Both her and Edward disappeared, leaving Levasos to rage in the cell·
The army of Summoned Monsters and Dwarves finished going through the portal created by Asura, and the dimensional gap slowly closed behind them. Edge and the rest of the party saw the dark mouth of the cave, dug directly into the vaulting walls of the Underground, which apparently led up to the overworld. Edge turned to Asura, and with concern in his voice said, "Asura, in four daysā time you are to lead the army into the caves and attack Charon from the flank. Hopefully we will have freed the Silverans and gotten them out of harmās way by then."
"Good luck, Edge," Asura said, her three faces showing a look of concern. "Take good care of Rydia and the others. In this hour of need, you are the hero this world desperately needs·"
Rydia hugged Asura and then the party entered the cave·
Charon sat back in his throne and smiled as a flash of reddish-gold light heralded the coming of Angelus and his two companions. Angelus appeared first, his long silver hair flowing in the winds of magic. Golbez then appeared, his long black hair also flowing, and then FuSoYa, obviously shocked by the turn of events. The old Lunarian looked up at Charon and realization dawned on him.
"My lord Charon," Angelus said, bowing, "I have brought you Golbez, as you requested. And this old, decrepit Lunarian for your enjoyment·"
"So you are Charon." Golbez said, laughing. "I never thought you had it in you. Then again, you did show promise during the Crystal Quest."
"And you showed that you had the Darkness in you as well, Golbez." Charon said, standing up from his throne. "I have an offer for you. My forces seem to be short one Fiend now, Golbez. I offer you the position of Fiend of the Air, and the chance to rule part of this world after I gain the Crystals."
"Donāt lie to me, wizard." Golbez laughed, placing his helmet back on his head. "I know you are in possession of seven of the Crystals already. The last you need is the Crystal of Water from Mysidia. Isnāt that right?"
"Correct, Paladin." Angelus said. "But you have politely dodged Lord Charonās offer. Do you wish to be a servant of Charon and bask in his power, or do wish to die in vain now with your Lunarian companion?"
"Do I look like a fool, Fiend?" Golbez smiled. "I accept your gracious offer, Charon. But enough with being a Fiend of the Elements. I am now Fiend of the Night. Much better sounding, donāt you think?"
"Good." Charon said, beginning to chant. "And here is your power, as my Fiend of Night·" As he finished the spell magical power drained from Charon and entered Golbez. The Dark Paladin sighed, invigorated with energy.
"How could you?" FuSoYa said, hatred in his voice. "So it seems that not all of your evil was expunged with Zeromus. Damn you, Golbez. You are worse than Charon, here. You have betrayed your world. Do you even know his true plan? He intends to destroy this world with a more powerful version of Meteor! You will rule over nothing!"
Golbez turned to FuSoYa and grinned. "Come now, Uncle, do you really think I donāt know that Charon is lying?" Golbez shook his head. "I expect that this world shall be destroyed. Isnāt that right, Charon?"
"Yes." Charon said, his eyes turning a dark red. "And then we shall journey to the Land of the Gods and ascend the Tree of Heaven. We shall become Gods ourselves, rulers of the universe."
"Madness." FuSoYa spat. "Megalomania. Have we come to so little to murder each other over power?"
"Semantics, FuSoYa!" A female voice spat from the darkness. The Lunarian turned towards the voice and saw Arvanae slink out of the shadows. "You and your brothers destroyed my world and murdered my entire race. And now you condemn them for their actions? Semantics and hypocrisy, old man."
"What did he do?" Golbez asked. "What happened so long ago?"
"I will tell you, if you wish to know the truth about these Lunarians." Arvanae snapped. "I will drag their crimes out into the light for everyone to see·"
"It began over sixty years ago. My people, the Anean Race, were a peaceful race that lived on our planet of Anea. We had just discovered fusion technology, and then we heard a voice from out of the cold darkness of infinite space. We had finally discovered that we were not alone in the void. We achieved contact with a Lunarian convoy, a scientific mission led by the two leaders of the Lunarian Race, FuSoYa and Zemus. I was the Matriarch, the Immortal One, first of the Aneans created by the Gods so long ago. The Lunarian spaceships began to orbit Anea, and Zemus, FuSoYa, and their brother KluYa teleported down to the surface. My race was enraptured by the Lunarians. Their mastery of magic and science seemed to be so advanced. We naively thought they were as advanced as well.
"I started a· relationship with KluYa, the young commander of the armies of Lunar. I fell in love with him. I also spurned the advances of Zemus, which I think drove him mad with jealousy. He decided to do what he called an "experiment" on my world. He had created a giant war machine that he called the Giant of Bab-Il. It was immensely powerful, and almost indestructible. He said he would destroy my planet using the Giant if I would not kill KluYa and marry him. FuSoYa knew of his plan, but let it go because he deemed that KluYa had to Īstand up for himselfā as he put it. I refused, never thinking Zemus insane enough to actually carry out his plans. He unleashed the Giant the next day. KluYa attempted to stop it by bombarding it with nuclear fission blasts from the Lunarian flagship, to no avail. The Giant cracked open the fusion reactor in our capitol city of Vaderas, and then destroyed the magnetic containment fields around the fusion vessel. Zemus teleported the Giant away before the vessel encompassed our world. I fled like a coward through a dimensional Doorway, one of the last gifts of the Gods before the Cataclysm. I found myself in the nameless dimension where Charon found me, swearing vengeance on you and your brothers. You let Zemus do it, FuSoYa. You let him destroy my world! Out of jealousy. You probably would have let me kill KluYa, too, if thatās what I had chosen·"
"Yes, Matriarch." FuSoYa said, looking deep into Arvanaeās eyes. "I believe people make their own choices and live with them. I had no right to interfere with Zemus. He chose evil as his path. I avenged myself against him during the final battle in the depths of the Lunar Moon. I stood by and let him destroy your world. It has tormented me every night since. My dreams are filled with the screams of your people, Arvanae. I donāt think I can ever make up for what I did. I honestly never thought Zemus would use the Giant. Before that he was just a quiet scientist. He had been scorned by lovers one time too many, I think. It drove him over the edge. After the destruction of your planet he took his personal ship back to Lunar and used the Giant to destroy our planet the same as yours. The Lunar Moon was an experiment in cryogenesis by our people, and it proved the salvation of our race. Zemus and his army of biogenetic soldiers took over the Moon and placed it in orbit around the Blue Planet. We had always been forbidden by the last three Goddesses after the Cataclysm to go to the surface of the Blue Planet, but Zemus defied those edicts. He built the Tower of Bab-Il to mock the Gods, and he was about to gather the Crystals of Light and Darkness together, when KluYa returned from the last Lunarian colony on Ageras with thousands of troops. KluYa and I took the Moon back from Zemus and forced him into an artificial hibernation. KluYa and I then departed for the Blue Planet in the Big Whale, to try to undo some of the damage Zemus had done. While there, KluYa fell in love with a human woman and had two sons, Golbez and Cecil. He became good friends with a dragoon called Erik, who later became a Dark Paladin. Erik had an affair with KluYaās wife, who bore Kain, a half-brother to Cecil and Golbez. Erik demanded her to marry him and forsake KluYa, but even though she had done such an awful thing, she would never abandon her husband. Erik killed her in a rage. KluYa, once he heard of this, killed Erik in a dreadful battle. He felt so badly about killing his once friend that he wanted to absolve himself of all of his sins. He told me he was journeying to Mount Ordeals to prove his own worth. That was the last I ever saw of my brother, until now."
"So my father wasnāt as pure as he made himself out to be·" Golbez said, a look of shock on his face.
Arvanae looked at FuSoYa with pity in her eyes. Perhaps he is not truly the one to blame, she thought.
"Please, Matriarch, look about you." FuSoYa implored. "If Charon has his way, this entire world will be destroyed. Hopes, dreams, everything your people had; these people have them too. Is such a horrible cost worth such a high price? History repeats itself; isnāt it ironic that you now can change that which you always hated? Donāt repay one injustice by another. Stop this madness. Life means too much to give it up for fleeting, temporal power·"
FuSoYa trailed off as Charon cried out, "Enough, old man!" The old Lunarian looked up as Charon advanced on him. "I love Arvanae. And I will avenge her people." FuSoYa gasped as Charon plunged a dagger into his stomach. Golbez stood by impassively, while Angelus smiled. Arvanae shook her head, a tear trickling down her cheek.
FuSoYa looked into Charonās eyes and said, "You failed on Mount Ordeals. You are not even a Paladin of the Darkness. Charon, you will fail here too. The Light shall always shine in the darkness. Even as I die, so too does your last bit of humanity·" FuSoYa stumbled backwards and fell onto the floor of the throne room, the stones wet with blood. He looked up at Golbez, his eyes going glassy. "Itās not too late for you, Golbez. Donāt give into the Darkness like he did·"
Charon turned around as the old Lunarian died, a solitary tear trickling down his cheek·
"By the Gods, it is good to be out of that cave!" Edge said as the party emerged from the undergrowth into an empty field. "And that damn forest lasted forever too. Iām surprised we havenāt encountered scouts, though·"
"Look at that·" Porom trailed off, looking overhead into the sky. The rest of the group looked upwards, only to gasp in horror. Hanging overhead in the sky was Meteor, summoned by Charon. Infernal energies burned around its edges. "What is that?"
"Meteor·" Rydia trailed off. "Itās a much more powerful version of Meteor, though. I can literally feel magical energy leaking off of it·"
"Yes, it is Meteor·" A voice said from the forest. Stepping from the forest came the purple-clad Fiend called Thalia and Edward. The party slowly approached them, and then they saw the gaping wound in Thaliaās chest. The Fiend dropped to the ground, coughing up blood.
A frantic look was on Edwardās face. "Rosa, heal her, please." Rosa stared at Edward and shook her head.
"Why should I heal a Fiend under Charonās command?" Rosa asked.
"She is a Fiend no longer!" Edward said. "She renounced her allegiance to Charon and was stripped of her elemental powers. Please Rosa! She is Thera, the woman, I love! She was being forced to masquerade for Charon. Please, Rosa·"
Rosa slowly nodded her head and chanted a Cure spell. Magical energy flowed into Thaliaās wounds and slowly healed her. The once-Fiend passed out during the spell. "She will need to rest for a good while, Edward," Rosa said, gazing at the King of Damcyan. "I hope sheās worth it, Edward·"
"Thank you, Rosa," Edward said. "I wouldnāt ask such a thing if she wasnāt worth it·"
Night began to fall around the party. They built a small fire as Schala slowly recovered. Overhead, Meteor grew ever closer·
Zemus and his four Fiends watched as the Tower of Bab-Il crumbled into the Underground. As soon as the seismic tremors could be felt the Lunarian had teleported them out of the Tower. "Itās Charon." Zemus pronounced. "I can feel his magic at work. He is immensely strong. And yet, it feels like Iāve felt it before·No matter. I can see that he has summoned Meteor to this world. I have heard of such a spell. Although, what he can gain from the destruction of this planet is beyond me·"
Zemus turned to his Fiends and smiled, his gaunt face shining in the darkness. "We shall journey to Silvera in three daysā time. Then we shall finally see if Charon is who I think he is·" Zemus turned to the west and spoke into the night. "I know you, Charon. I will kill you and your Fiends. I will acquire the Crystals of Light and Darkness. I will destroy your Meteor. I will have the power of the Gods. We shall have a reckoning, young wizard·"
Standing at the window of his tower, Charon gazed to the east. "We shall see, Zemus, we shall see·" He whispered into the wind·
Chapter Seven: Light and Dark
"Once, long ago, there were twenty-five Gods." Charon said, looking at the motley group of heroes that were before him, bound in chains. They had been captured last night. The fools had even built a fire, in enemy territory, as if that would go unnoticed! They were laid out before him, their faces covered by black cloth and their mouths gagged. Schala had been leached of her teleportational powers, so as another ridiculous escape could not be undergone. He had them all now. Such fools. How could I have even considered them friends, Charon thought. "You see, there were ten Goddesses and fifteen Gods. Iām sure you remember them all from your teachings as children. You all remember the chant, right? How did it go? Five under One, The One who created all, ten under five, to serve the five, and the Others the servants of all. The One was the creator of the universe, the creator of everything. He seemingly disappeared soon after establishing the hierarchy of the Gods, his children. There were five Gods who were the overlords, so to speak, of all the Gods. The next "tier" was the ten Gods who were the intermediaries between the Five and the Others, those Gods who were created last by the One to be the servants of all the Gods. The Gods ruled the universe benignly, creating new races and watching the Oneās grand experiment flourish.
"That was until one of the Others began to question the hierarchy of the Gods. You see, the Gods inhabited a planet that was called the Land of the Gods, forbidden to all other races to journey to. Their home on the planet was the massive Tree of Life, called many different names, such as the Mana Tree, but most commonly called the Tree of Heaven. High atop the Tree was the mysterious Starlight Citadel, the home of the Gods. The Others were forced to live elsewhere, and treated as second-class members of the Gods. The Other who rebelled, Vasus, recanted the teachings of the One and swayed the rest of the Others and half of the Ten to revolt. The Five and what was left of the Ten fought valiantly against the Others and their allies, but could not stop them. The Others imprisoned the Five and took the Wonders of the Gods and ran rampant across the universe. They destroyed whole planets and civilizations for the sake of a whim, and destroyed whole dimensions for pleasure. This time, almost six hundred years ago, was known as the Cataclysm.
"The Five and their allies eventually managed to break free of their dimensional prison and the Five were determined to strip the Others of their powers as Gods; in essence, to make them Gods no more. They created the Crystals of Light and Darkness, which were energy absorbers that could be used to absorb the massive amount of energy that the Gods contained. The Five and their allies engaged the Others in battle, and in a final move triggered the Crystals. The Five had created the Crystals too well. The Crystals drained the power of all the Gods, not just the Others. The Five kept some of their power, as the first created by the One, and used it to dispatch the Others. The three Goddesses that survived were imbued with a new power they had found, the power of magic, and were sent to another dimension, so as to save them from what was to happen next. The Five journeyed back to the Land of the Gods, and created the Amulets of Light and Darkness. Along with the Crystals, they were a key to breaching the energy barrier they erected around the Land of the Gods. The three Goddesses had taken the Crystals to the Blue Planet and left them there, safe in the hands of the wizards who had taught them the secrets of magic.
"The Five then built a memoriam to the Gods atop the Tree of Heaven, and then stored the Wonders of the Gods deep in the Starlight Citadel. They then journeyed to the top of the Citadel, where they killed themselves. The Graves of the Gods are still there, at the top of the Citadel, untouched. So is their power. I have the Crystals of Light and Darkness, fools, and I have the Amulets of Light and Darkness as well. Do you see my plan yet, Rosa? Do you see my genius, Edge? I will be God. I will rule the universe, all the universe, all the dimensions. Do you know my identity yet, Rydia? Have you guessed at my true nature, Edward? Do you loathe me yet, Rosa? You know, the worst is yet to come. You all will have to die before I leave Silvera. Hmm. Itās no longer necessary to mine the ore here, now that I think about it. I really donāt need the Sylphs, either. I think Iāll let them go, to die when Meteor hits. Golbez, will you have the pleasure of taking away these fools? Find a nice cell for them to languish in until I decide how to kill them·"
The prisoners were taken away by the Dark Paladin as Charon turned to Arvanae, standing besides him. "My love, you were not swayed by FuSoYaās words, were you?" Charon asked.
"You know I was not, sorcerer," Arvanae said, looking into Charonās eyes. "I donāt think you should have killed the old man, but he did slaughter my entire race·"
Charon turned and walked to the window, looking out at the landscape. A new dawn cloaked the forest and the town of Silvera. "Hmm. Should I be honorable and let the Silverans live, or should I simply allow my army to kill them all? So many things to ponder·"
One by one the heroes were thrown into the dank cell by Golbez, who tore off their shrouds and gags. Rosa, the last one to be thrown in, spat at Golbez. "How could you turn back to evil, Golbez?" She asked, gazing into his red eyes.
He stared impassively back, and slowly said, "How could I not return to what I truly am?" He then gently pushed her into the cell and closed the door. The resounding boom shook the cell.
"Well, Edge, we followed this insane plan of yours," Palom said, trying to see in the darkness of the cell. "Now, how in the world are we going to get out of here?"
"Take it easy, kid," Edge said as he slipped deftly from the chains that bound him. He slit the bonds around his hands with a hidden knife and began to free the others. "They took our weapons, no surprise, but have they established magical damping fields around everyone?"
"I cannot access magic, Edge." Rydia said flatly as he freed her.
"Nor can I." Rosa said. The twins and Schala agreed as well.
"Well, I didnāt count on everyone being shielded, but oh well." Edge moved on to Rosa. "We will have to use more mundane means of escape this time. Letās see. We could simply break down the door and then kill the guards, but then one of the Fiends would most likely come and kill us. Instead, I think we shall take a more circuitous route out of here. You see that?" Edge pointed at the grate in the floor, barely man-sized. "Iām willing to bet if I can pry it up it will lead to a sewer vein beneath the city. It should be an easy way out." Edge bent down and began to strain against the grate. "Damn. This thing weighs a ton."
"Here, let me." Schala said, bending down to the grate. She easily tore the grating off of the sewer, exposing the subterranean tunnel.
Edge stared at the former Fiend in surprise. "I thought you said you couldnāt access your powers?" He asked suspiciously.
"I canāt." Schala said, throwing the grate to her side. Edge stared at her and shook his head, then turned to the rest of the party.
"Alright, get down there!" Edge barked. "We need to get the hell out of her before Charon finds out weāre gone. Letās go!" The party went into the sewer, one by one, barely able to see by the small torches that blazed in the braziers set in the wall. The sewer tunnel stretched on interminably into the blackness, its darkness occasionally punctuated by the flames of a brazier. Edge jumped down into the tunnel, the last to enter, and slowly spoke. "I want everyone on their guard. Who knows what Charon has down here. Be careful." With that, the party began to march slowly into the tunnel.
In the shadows a tall, black-cloaked man watched them·
Dawn was slowly coming to the town of Mysidia. The wizards had been preparing for war. In less than three daysā time the armies of the Alliance would march on Silvera, hopefully crushing Charonās army of darkness between it and the forces from the Underground. Cid and Sharom had spent much time planning the strategy of the upcoming battle. When Meteor had appeared in the skies above, they had watched in horror, Sharom realizing just what the planetoid was meant to do. And then the wishing began.
Cid had realized one way to stop Meteor. It involved great personal risk, but he thought, if anyone could pull it off, he could. And so he had convinced Sharom, now Elder of Mysidia, to call for the Big Whale. The wishing had gone on for almost two days now, day and night, and yet the Big Whale had not responded to the call of the Archwizards. Cid watched as Meteor grew closer and closer to the Blue Planet. And he knew if Charon could acquire the Crystal of Water from Mysidia, then he would be done with this planet. He would return to the rift where he had come from, and leave everyone to die. And if the Big Whale couldnāt be called, then everyone would die anyway·
Cid gazed from the top of the Tower of Wishes, looking to the east, where the Silver Isle lay. It was there that the final battle would be fought. It was there that Charon would finally face justice for what he had done to Yang and Giott. Justice·
Cidās attention snapped back to the base of the Elderās home, as he noticed a flash of reddish-gold energy. On time, as usual, Cid thought, walking down the stairs into the Crystal Chamber below. He watched as Golbez entered the chamber and stared at him. Cid drew out his hammer and gazed calmly at the Fiend. "Hello, old friend." Golbez said, smiling at Cid. "You know, you could just walk away from here. I could even help you raise the Big Whale from the ocean floor. It obviously isnāt responding to all that wishing upstairs. Apparently a true Elder of Mysidia is required to summon the Big Whale. Which Sharom, unfortunately, is not. I could use some of Charonās power to bring it up from the depths, provided, of course, that you give me the Crystal. You could save the Blue Planet from Meteor then. Charon is leaving after he gets the Crystals, after all. He wonāt care if Meteor destroys you all or not."
Cid shook his head. "To think I grew up with you, Golbez. You bastard. How could you betray everyone like this? I can understand that Zemus controlled you in the past, but this is of your own volition. How low can you sink? How evil can you become? If Charon is not stopped, I am sure we will all pay for it, Meteor or not. Forget the Crystal. Call the Big Whale and save your planet. Do it for your father and mother, Golbez. Renounce this insane megalomania."
Golbez looked genuinely shaken by Cidās speech. He turned towards one of the windows that looked out on the ocean nearby and smiled. "For my mother·" He whispered, then spoke words of magic. Outside the ocean waters began to steam and boil, then erupt in a whirlpool of white foam as the technological mass of the Big Whale erupted from the ocean depths, swathed in reddish-gold energy. Cid stared in shock at Golbez, not expecting him to give in to his demands so easily. Perhaps he is only pretending to be on Charonās side, Cid thought. Perhaps he will betray him and help us in the end.
The Big Whale came to rest on the beach outside, water flowing off its fins and prow. The Mysidians were shouting while the soldiers cheered. Cid turned back to Golbez, who was gone. He turned to the Crystal, only to see it gone as well. "Damnit, no!" Cid cried. "Come back, you bastard! How could you! Charon will still kill us all! Donāt you see, boy, that we are the last ties he needs to sever to his old life! Even you he will kill! Youāre his brother! Damnit Golbez, Charon is Cecil!"
Cidās words echoed and re-echoed in the Crystal Chamber, lost and impotent·
The heroes slowly walked through the maze of sewers beneath Silvera, barely able to see by the scant light cast by the braziers around them. They sloshed through raw sewage, the stench making them grimace in disgust.
Palom idly glanced behind him at one point, and to his horror he saw a black-cloaked man following them. As soon as he saw him, the man ducked behind a section of the wall. "Edge!" Palom squeaked. "Thereās someone following us! A man cloaked in black!"
Edge turned sharply around and said, "Kid, if it was the black-cloaked Fiend, weād all be dead by now. It must be your imagination. Just keep going. Iāll drop back a bit and watch our rear. Everyone go ahead." The rest of the party trudged on, Palom gazing behind him in fear. Edge slowly walked to the section of the wall where the black-cloaked man stood, gazing at him, his eyes burning a bright blue in the darkness. "Look ,you damn fool, youāre going to get us all killed!" Edge whispered.
"Really?" The black-cloaked man said, whispering as well. "Just keep leading them to the appointed place. Itās about two miles up ahead. Youāll come to a fork in the tunnel. Take the left. It will lead to the nest. Thatās where it will happen. Now get back to the party before they notice you gone·"
Edge gazed in anger at the black-cloaked man and then turned away. He rejoined the party, who continued to trudge along the tunnel. The black-cloaked man continued to follow behind them, smiling in the darkness·
Charon laughed as the last Crystal was placed before him. The eight Crystals of Light and Darkness were once again reunited. They had been used to empower the Giant of Bab-Il, before. Now they would tear a hole in the energy field surrounding the Land of the Gods, allowing Charon to become a God. He laughed again as he gazed at Golbez, who looked at him with a mixture of surprise and hatred. "Aw, donāt look that way, Golbez." Charon laughed. "Does it really surprise you to learn who I am? What can I say? You taught me well·"
Charonās words were cut off by a shrill cry of "Charon! Come here, now!" Arvanae screamed from the balcony of the tower. Charon and Golbez rushed to the balcony, only to see the Big Whale lift off from the west, soaring slowly towards Meteor, which was beginning to fill the sky.
"Damn!" Charon barked. "They might thwart Meteor yet. Never mind. Make preparations to depart for the rift now!"
"Iām afraid I canāt allow you to do that, ĪCharon.ā " Golbez said, his hands glowing with reddish-gold power. "I watched you murder FuSoYa because it was part of our plan. He freely gave up his life. Iām not about to see you murder anyone else, though. And thatās what youāre going to do, Cecil, isnāt it? No more. Iām sorry brother, but itās time for your madness to end here." Golbez began to speak words of power, but stopped as Charon began to laugh.
"Do you still think Iām Cecil, Golbez?" Charon laughed. "I am of your blood, but we are not brothers. At least, not entirely. I did too good a job of making a glamour around my identity. That old dwarf saw through it, as did FuSoYa. But apparently you havenāt. You see, Golbez, I only wanted to become a Paladin like Cecil. I never wanted to follow in my fatherās footsteps into the darkness. But I did. As you have. You see, I failed on Mount Ordeals. As I have always failed. But no more. I failed to become a Paladin. I accidentally wandered into the Nexus, full of despair and self-loathing. And then I found the Tower of Almagest, I found the old mageās books, and I taught myself magic. I had a surprising aptitude for it. After Arvanae completed my training, I became an Archmage. Golbez, I only wish to become a God in order to create a better world. A world where things like you and me cannot occur. Like what you did to me, how you raped my mind. Poor, pathetic Golbez. You still donāt see after all this time. I am Kain Darkwind, son of Erik Darkwind, you fool!"
Chapter Eight: Meteor
Cid gazed at the burning form of Meteor as the Big Whale approached its huge shape. He stood on the bridge of the Big Whale, guiding the Crystal of Flight as it propelled the starcraft closer to the huge planetoid. He thought back on his failure with Golbez. He could only hope Edge and the rest of the Alliance succeeded in defeating Charon before he retreated to the rift. But it was up to him to stop Meteor.
"Guess itās time." Cid said, turning to the Crystal. "Listen here, Crystal. I want you to overload the shipās core. I know that it has a type of reactor inside. KluYa told me once that this is all powered by something called fusion power. I want you to overload the reactor and impact the ship into Meteor. That should destroy it."
The Crystal chimed and slowly spoke. "If I do such, you will die. Any escape pod will be destroyed by the blast, even if it were to leave right now. Do you still wish to do this?"
Cid looked out the bridge window at the Blue Planet beneath him, gleaming in the cold void. How beautiful, he thought. "Yes." Cid said. "Iām sure·"
Asura stood on top of one of the cinder mountains which dotted the landscape of the Underground, watching the armies of the Alliance train. In less than two daysā time they would march forth from the Silver Mines and attack Charonās army. Hopefully they would be able to pincer his force between their own and the other army from Mysidia. Asura turned towards the east, looking out across the great sea of magma which separated them from the Dwarvesā homeland. The "sea" bubbled and spewed forth noxious fumes. Asura was awestruck at the beauty of it. One of her pairs of eyes squinted, though, as she saw something actually swimming in the burning lava! She leapt off of the cinder mountain, running for the "beach" around the sea of magma as the struggling figure slowly drifted up to shore.
The figure finally drifted onto the shore, his body miraculously unharmed by the lava. Asura knelt by him, prepared to give him much needed healing, when she realized who it was that she was attending. She turned the man over, and gasped when she realized that it was Leviathan, in his human guise. He appeared unharmed by the lava, and as she stared at her lost love, her faces began to cry·
Zemus and his four Fiends materialized in the forest surrounding Silvera. The Lunarian looked around, gazing at the forest around him. He decided that he would have to burn this entire forest down before the final battle. It would provide a good distraction for him and Fiends to infiltrate Charonās tower, which even now arched overhead towards Meteor, like a spire thrust into the ground from on high.
Rubicant turned towards his master and slowly spoke. "Lord Zemus, are we really going to wait two days before we attack? Why not attack now? We will still have the element of surprise."
Zemus turned towards the Fiend of the Fire and smiled. "No, Rubicant, we will wait for the proper time. You see, the Amulet of the Night has informed me that in two daysā time Charonās army will clash with an army from Mysidia and from the Underground. We will attack then , catching him off guard. Time is on our side. In fact, I have just thought of a good distraction for our attack. Until then, though, we will hide in the forest here. Be patient, Rubicant. In time, all we be resolved."
In the darkness of the sewers Edge and his party encountered the fork in the tunnels. Edge looked left, then right, and then spoke. "Letās go left. I have a feeling that it will lead up to the surface. Letās go."
Porom looked up at the ninja and shook her head. "But Edge," she said, "thereās a breeze coming from the right fork. The only thing coming from the left fork is stagnant air. I think it just leads only further into the tunnels."
Edge smiled at the teenager and laughed. "Come on, kid, trust me. I think I have more experience than you in this matter. I did live the Caves of Eblan for almost six months, remember? Trust me, letās go left."
Edge began walking into the left fork, but then turned around when he noticed that the rest of the party wasnāt following him. "Come on! Just trust me, will you?" Edge cried in exasperation.
Rosa turned to the rest of the group and said, "Alright everyone, letās follow Edge. Just remember, Edge, if youāre getting us into trouble, weāre still shielded. We canāt cast magic."
"Trust me, Rosa." Edge said, leading the rest of the group into the left fork. Only Porom looked suspiciously at Edge, wondering just why he had argued so vehemently at going into the left tunnel.
And behind the party walked the black-cloaked man, his eyes burning a cold blue in the twilit darkness·
Cid watched as Meteor grew ever larger in the bridge window, as the Big Whale sped towards destiny. Cid thought back on his life, even as it drew slowly to a close. He remembered his childhood, growing up with Golbez, the son of KluYa, his mentor. He remembered the night when Golbez disappeared, and he thought that life was truly unfair, truly horrible. He remembered being taught of the Big Whale, KluYaās wondrous flying machine. He remembered KluYa teaching him the fundamentals of building the airships. He remembered the golden age of the Kingdom of Baron, after Erik Highwind had been killed and KluYa had departed to Mount Ordeals to absolve himself of his sins. He remembered marrying Elvania, his wedding, and the birth of his daughter, Jennla. He remembered when his wife was killed in a freak accident on one of the Red Wings. He looked back on his life and realized that for all the bad times, there were more good times than bad.
Cid shook his head, laughing at the irony of it all. Here he was, once again on a flying machine, waiting to die. He had once miraculously escaped death, when he had closed the entrance to the Underground with an explosive. He had somehow survived. But now, deep in space, speeding towards Meteor, he had no doubt in his mind that his time had come.
Cid steeled himself as the proximity warnings began to sound on the bridge. He whispered, "Goodbye, Jennla." Then he closed his eyes·
Charon shielded his eyes as Meteor was wracked with explosion after explosion. Dusk had come on slowly, but now it seemed almost to be noon again, as Meteor was torn apart by the fusion explosion of the Big Whale. Charon finally looked up into the twilight skies, seeing only pieces of Meteor flaming into the atmosphere, becoming falling stars. It certainly appeared that Cid has successfully destroyed Meteor.
Charon turned back to Golbez, who stood, bound in magical restraints, standing at the edge of the balcony. "Golbez, what do you think?" Charon asked. "You just helped to kill your childhood friend. Does that upset you greatly?"
Golbez turned to Charon, locking his gaze with him. "You damned bastard. Why in hell would you do all this? Where is Cecil? Where is my brother, you damned fool?"
"To tell you the truth, Golbez," Charon said, chuckling, "I really have no idea where my old friend is. I suppose he could be somewhere, secretly planning an assault against me now, in my hour of flight. But let him come. I really donāt care. Iāll kill him and his wife. And his son. You know, I once felt bound by our former friendship to leave his son and Rosa alive. He named his son to honor me, you know. But in the end, I donāt care. Iām going to wipe it all clean, after I acquire the power of the Gods. In fact, Iāll rectify my mistake right now. Levasos, come here!"
The Fiend of the Water walked onto the balcony, bowing to Charon. "What is it you wish, Lord?" He hissed, his serpentine features gazing in amusement at Golbez.
"Levasos, I have changed my mind." Charon laughed. "Tell your Trinity to kill Kasil. In fact, go ahead and kill Rosa and the rest while youāre at it. The same goes for the Sylphs and the Silverans. Slaughter every last one of them. Leave their bodies to rot in the sun as a promise to the Alliance of things to come."
Levasos smiled and whispered "As you wish, my Lord·"
Golbez stared at Charon, not believing the evil in his former servant. Charon turned to him and slowly spoke. "Golbez, Zemus is still alive." Golbezās eyes opened in shock. "He apparently had a cloned body prepared for him to transfer his life force into once he was killed. He has resurrected his Fiends. I believe they are close by, and preparing to strike. You know, I think Iāll leave you in this tower. Itās bound to be their first target. Hopefully your death will be quick." Charon laughed and walked back inside the tower, leaving Golbez to stare into the night sky. Meteor might be gone, but the true evil had not yet been stopped·
Chapter Nine: The Trinity
Edge and the rest of the group walked slowly down the halls of the sewer vein, looking from left to right in fear. For the past few minutes heavy, unnatural breathing had filled the entire sewer, reverberating all around them. Palom and Porom kept watching Edge, their suspicions aroused by his increasingly erratic behavior. Ever since the fork in the tunnel Edge had been on his guard and seemed to actually be worried about something, which was completely unnatural for the self-confident and arrogant Edge. There was something very wrong·
The party suddenly found itself in a huge, cavernous room, which the tunnel had suddenly led into. Palom and Porom drew together, their gaze boring into Edgeās back. The group cautiously walked into the cavern, staring at the strange rock formations.
Rosa let out a scream and rushed down into the center of the cavern, which sloped down, almost like an ancient arena, until it reached a central rock. On top of the rock was Kasil, swaddled in torn and dirty clothing and sleeping peacefully. Rosa took her son in her arms and began to cry in joy. She turned to Edge and sobbed out, "Edge, thank you! Thank you! How did you know where he was? Thank you so much!"
"Yeah, Edge, how did you know where Kasil was?" Porom asked, her voice filled with barely concealed venom.
Edge looked at the rest of the members of the party and shrugged his shoulders. "Just a hunch, I guess." He muttered. "But really, I think we should be careful·" Edge was cut off as a serpentine being dropped from the ceiling and raked its claws across his back, throwing three arcs of blood into the air. Edge cried in pain and rolled away from the creature. The rest of the party gasped as two more of the beings fell from the ceiling, each one armed with razor-sharp claws. One of the beings spoke slowly, in a hissing, staccato voice. "Humans, you trespass in our nest. You will pay the price for crossing the Reptites. We are the Trinity. Steel yourself for your deaths·"
The Trinity leaped forward, claws flashing in the gloom. Edge drew out his swords, locking them with the claws of the Reptite who had wounded him. One of the other Reptites attacked Edward, tearing a red weal across his chest. Edward fell back, clutching his wound, as Schala leapt forward, screaming in anger. Schala grabbed the Reptite by the arm and threw it across the room. The serpentine being smashed into the wall and was still.
The rest of the Trinity gasped in pain and began to scream. Edge took advantage of the pain felt by his opponent at the death of her sister and plunged his blades into her chest, a fountain of blood erupting from her wounds as she screamed and slowly died. Edge tore his swords out of her carcass and whirled towards the last remaining member of the Trinity.
The last remaining Reptite stood over Rosa, her body convulsing with pain from the deaths of her sisters, her mind rent by their sudden deaths. Rosa looked up in fear, her eyes seeing her death as the claws of the Reptite flashed down toward her and her son, which she cradled protectively in her arms.
The Reptite suddenly screamed as a crystalline blade tore through its chest, blood arching from its wound. The wielder of the blade lifted the Reptite off the ground and threw the dying creature across the room. The last female Reptite smashed sickeningly into the wall and died, ending the hopes of the Reptite Race ever surviving.
The figure that had saved Rosa sheathed its sword and slowly took off its black cloak and hood. Rosa gasped in surprise as Cecil offered her his hand to help her off the ground, his eyes glinting in the dim light, his armor reflecting the light into a thousand brilliant beams, a smile of joy and absolute happiness on his face. Tears in her eyes, she took his hand and fell into his arms, hugging him and kissing him passionately. "I knew you couldnāt be Charon. I knew it. I love you so much, Cecil. You could never commit such a horrible act." She stayed in his arms for a long time.
Schala knelt over Edwardās fallen form, tending his wounds. She suddenly looked up and said, "I can access magic again. I can feel it right now!"
Palom and Porom both nodded in confirmation, as did Rydia, who tended Edgeās wounds. Rosa, wiping back tears, also tentatively agreed. "I wonder if these creatures were somehow blocking us?" Rydia remarked. She turned to Cecil, her gaze both full of anger and joy at the same time. "And where the hell have you been?" She barked, trying to sound angry, not quite succeeding.
Cecil smiled and hugged Rosa once again. "Itās a long story, and I think we all need to rest and recover our strength. Iāll build a fire, and we can rest. It should be safe down here now." The party began to gather supplies for a fire, finding a surprising amount of flammable wood in one corner of the cavern, apparently some kind of makeshift bedding for the Reptites. As the flames began to lick around the wood, Cecilās voice filled the darkness of the cavern·
Charon sat in his throne, reading slowly from the tome that hung at his waist, his eyes burning red. Dawn was slowly approaching, and he knew that he had one more day until the Alliance assaulted his position. He had spent the night reading the Tome of Almagest and listening to the cries of the Silverans and the Sylphs fill the air. He was somewhat disturbed by the reports of Edge and the rest having escaped into the sewers, and even more distraught by Levasos reporting that the Trinity had been killed by them, but in the end, he decided it was for the better. He would take care of them himself. Levasos had taken his rage out by murdering the Silvera Brothers. Actually, he tortured the one called Frisham for a few hours, but that didnāt matter. Those idiotic races had death coming to them the whole time. Now that he was free of his sense of morality he felt like a weight had been lifted from his shoulders. Ever since he had attacked the Cave of Sylph he had felt his sense of morality choking him, constraining his actions. No more. Now, he was free of all such pitiful notions. Now he was free to do as he willed.
Charon looked up and smiled at Golbez, still magically bound, lying on the stone floor of the tower. Charon smiled, then went back to reading the tome. Golbez continued staring at Charon, his eyes burning into the cover of the Tome of Almagest. Something about the cover is strange, Golbez thought, struggling once again to free himself from his bonds. His eyes widened when he realized that the cover was gold with blood smearings all over it, almost as if someone had died, bleeding on it. The reddish-gold color struck him as strange, and then he realized that Charon and all of his Fiends, including him, used energy which was reddish-gold in color. In fact, Angelusās claw always writhed with reddish-gold energy as well. What was the connection, though? Did Charon and his servants somehow tap into the same pool of energy, or was it something much more·
"When Kasil was kidnapped at the summit of the nations of the worlds, Edge and I met together during the summit. We decided that Charon must expect some kind of reprisal from me. I was angered, greatly, that he would kidnap my own son and use him as a mere pawn in this war. I wanted to lead a suicide mission into the Underground and challenge Charon myself. Edge had a better idea. He suggested that I fake my own disappearance. You see, Edge had recognized Charon during the battle. It seems that the spell Charon cast over his own features is but a very simple glamour, almost as if he wanted anyone who knew him to recognize him after a simple scrutiny. Edge didnāt quite know who it was, but after talking to him about it, I had my own suspicions. They havenāt been totally assuaged yet, as I havenāt seen Charon personally so far, but I think itās someone we all know. Edgeās idea was to put Charon on the edge, by making me disappear. He would go on a search for answers to Charonās identity and eventually make everyone believe that I was Charon. Iām sorry for the distress it caused, but it was necessary to put Charon on his guard, to make him think that it allowed me to move in secret against him. Which, of course, it did. By carefully investigating around Silvera, I found this offshoot of the Silvera Mines, which also conveniently doubled as a sewer vein and a nest for these lizard things. It was to my surprise that they also had possession of Kasil. I didnāt want to alert Charon to my presence, and as yet the lizards hadnāt hurt Kasil, so I didnāt move against them until you all showed up. I met with Edge when you all first appeared out of the Underground and outlined my plan there to allow you to rescue Kasil. It involved a modicum of risk, of course, by having you be captured by Charon, but it provided easy access to the sewers. It also allowed you to find out Charonās plan, which I suspected he would blurt out to you when he captured you. I also know that the Alliance of Nations and the Dwarves and Summoned Monsters will attack in about a day. We will simply wait here until tomorrow, then emerge and confront Charon in battle." Cecil took a deep breath and looked around at the rest of the group, who stared at him with mute expressions. He looked at Rosa, who smiled and kissed him.
"But what of the Silverans?" Porom asked. "We meant to free them and get them out of the vicinity before the battle."
"Iām sorry to say that the Silverans and the captured Sylphs are all dead." Schala said, shaking her head. "Charon had them executed last night. Iām sorry. I heard it all. It was absolutely horrible·"
"What the hell do you mean, you Īheard it all?ā " Edge asked, suspicion once again in his voice. "What the hell are you, Schala?"
Schala looked at Edge and shook her head. "Itās a long story. Suffice it to say, I was thrown from my world and my brother. I wandered alternate dimensions such as these for a long time. I encountered a· man who did· things to me. He said he was the Created, and he would help me get home. All he did was torture me and change me into what I am now. It· it is too horrible. Iām sorry·" Edward embraced Schala and whispered to her.
Cecil shook his head and said, "It is too late for the Silverans. I should have freed them myself. By the Gods, Charon will pay for this. We will have our justice. By all the Gods, we will have our justice·" The words seemed to echo and re-echo in the cavern. As the group slowly fell asleep, the word entered their dreaming minds. Justice comes for all·
Zemus looked out over the clearing where he and his Fiends rested. They were asleep now, steeling themselves for the coming day. The past day had gone quickly, with the last of the Silverans being executed. The coming dawn would bring his assault with Charon and confirmation of his suspicions. And the next dawn he would see from the Land of the Gods.
"So, how long have you been watching, Matriarch?" Zemus said, turning to face the Anean. "Why have you not struck at me? I slaughtered your entire race. I murdered everyone you ever loved."
"You never killed KluYa, Lunarian." Arvanae said. "He was the only one I ever loved."
"You never loved KluYa, Matriarch." Zemus barked. "You only found him physically attractive. You were with him for maybe a week? Two? No, you loved him in bed. That was all."
"I feel so sorry for you, Zemus." Arvanae said, shaking her head. "You have never been loved by a woman, so you would not know what it is like. Love doesnāt always grow slowly. Sometimes it is fanned to a flame. In that one week we loved more than you can ever imagine. I loved KluYa. You perceived this as yet another slight against you. It drove you insane, that once again life is so cruel as to pass you over for another, for your hated brother. Well Zemus, life is cruel. It is horrible. It isnāt fair. But you stand up to it. You deal with it. You ran from life, into your own insane little world of megalomania and destruction. You slaughtered my race because I wouldnāt love you. You are so pathetic, Zemus. I suppose, if you were to have the power of the Gods, you would create a world where you are master of all, and all women love you."
Zemus smiled, and slowly whispered. "Arvanae, I will kill you tomorrow. I will rectify my mistake. Then I will go to Mount Ordeals and kill KluYa. Oh, you didnāt know that he yet lives? Yes, he does. I will kill him and then create a world where you and he die a thousand horrible deaths every day. How is that? Go, Matriarch, back to your lover. Tell Charon that tomorrow I will tear his heart out and crush it before him. Go, Arvanae. Tomorrow, we shall meet on the field of battle."
Arvanae disappeared in a reddish-gold flash, her eyes blurred with tears. Zemus laughed, then turned back in contemplation of the tower·
Chapter Ten: Zemus
Dawn came slowly over the Blue Planet, the burning orb of the rising sun obscuring the blood red moon. The sun cast its light over the green fields and dark forests of the Silver Isle, deep in midsummer. The sky was free of clouds and the very air seemed to throb with expectation, with the promise of something momentous happening·
Beyond the edge of the forest surrounding the town of Silvera several gateways appeared. Through them stepped a phalanx of soldiers from Fabul, Toroia, Damcyan, Eblan, and even Mist. The Alliance of Nations had finally come to the Silver Isle. Following the soldiers came the wizards of Mysidia, led by the Elder, Sharom. Sharom looked around and once the entire army, nearly two thousand strong, had come through, he shouted "This is it, defenders of the Alliance. Here we will either defeat Charon and his army of darkness, or fall valiantly in battle. Remember, leave the Fiends for us, and no one go near Charon. Move out." The soldiers began to move slowly, cautiously into the woods, scouts ranging ahead to look for traps and to kill enemy scouts.
From the edge of the forest five pairs of eyes watched the army move out. Zemus laughed, turning to his Fiends. "What an inspiring speech." Zemus mocked. "Now, we will allow these fools to engage the army of Charon. We will then cleave a path through all of them to Charon and his Fiends. I will take care of Charon. His Fiends are your responsibility. After I have the Amulets of Light and Darkness and the Crystals, we shall leave for the Underground and use Charonās rift. And just to make this more interesting·" Zemus raised his hands, chanting a spell, and set fire to one of the trees nearby. The fire began to spread, and soon the entire forest was ablaze. "This will make things fun·" Laughing, Zemus began to walk through the fire towards Silvera, his Fiends following behind·
Charon watched it all from his tower, laughing. As the forest lit into an inferno he chuckled at Zemusās ingenuity. He turned to Levasos and Angelus, who stood behind him. "Kill them all." He said. "I want no one to live. Leave Sharom and Zemus for me. The wizards and the Fiends you can kill at will·" He turned back to the tower. "When Edge and his group emerge from the sewers, I want them to see their precious army slaughtered. I want them to see Sharom killed. I want them to know me before I kill them and become a God. Go. Donāt fail me."
Levasos and Angelus bowed to Charon and left, leaving Charon and Arvanae to watch as his army of darkness prepared for the coming clash...
Deep in the sewers Cecil woke the rest of the group up. Getting to their feet, Cecil addressed them. "Itās time. The Alliance of Nations should have already begun to move. The battle has probably already been joined. We need to find Charon and his Fiends and stop him. I will take care of Charon. If you encounter Golbez, donāt kill him. Please. I know he has gone over to evil, but I hope he can somehow be swayed from his course. Letās move out." Cecil and the rest of the group began to march back down the sewers, the flickering torches blazing behind them·
With a cry of hatred and fury Charonās army of darkness met in battle with the army of the Alliance of Nations. Nearly eight thousand strong, Charonās army was composed of monsters of every size and type: Goblins, Imps, Ogres, RedEyes, Trolls, Nagas, and the like. Screaming, bellowing, they fell into battle with the trained soldiers of the Alliance. The soldiers came pouring out from the burning woods, a few with clothes or hair alight, but most untouched by the burning forest, thanks to the wizards of Mysidia, who trailed behind them. The wizards blasted the monsters with their spells of Ice and Fire and Lightning, calling down the wrath of the heavens and the chosen of the Spirit of the Light on the monsters of Charon. The valiant soldiers of the Alliance waded into pitched battle, swordsmen hewing at the creatures with their great double-handed swords, archers slowly killing monster after monster, pikemen standing fast as a bastion of defense for the wizards, spearmen protecting the flanks of the army as it was slowly encompassed by the vast hordes of darkness. The rear of the army was protected by the ferocious ninjas of Eblan and the few Karate Masters left from Fabul. In the center of the army the wizards of Mysidia and their elite Archwizards destroyed the air forces of Charon and healed wounded soldiers. In the center of it all stood Sharom, his entire body pulsing with power as he blasted huge dragons out of the air and smote down scores of monsters.
Everywhere was scenes of carnage and slaughter. Huge Trolls, brandishing their clubs, smote down soldiers into bloody pulps left and right. Nagas coiled around soldiers, killing them even as they were hacked to death by other soldiers. Imps swarmed over spearmen, dying by scores, even as they pulled them down with them. A dragon, who had miraculously gotten through the aerial protection of the wizards, landed in the center of the army and proceeded to tear apart the swordsmen protecting the frontal area. Sharom, blazing with power, burned a hole through the dragon, which fell dead to the ground.
Sharom turned to the Archwizards around him. "Itās time!" He shouted over the din of battle. The Archwizards chanted teleportational spells and disappeared in blazes of light, leaving the rest of the army to fight on.
Sharom and the Archwizards appeared outside Charonās tower, which had been built in the center of Silvera. In the hills in the distance the sound of battle could be heard. Sharom looked up at the tower and cried out. "Charon! Face me, monster!"
Laughter sounded out over the landscape. Suddenly the tower itself exploded, raining debris down upon the Archwizards and throwing them to land on their backs. Sharom staggered to his feet, seeing only five of his companions still alive. He turned back to where the tower once stood, and saw Charon sitting in a throne which sat, almost precariously, atop the rubble. Charonās Fiends of the Elements stood before them, Angelus, Arvanae, and Levasos, ready to do battle. Charon began to laugh again, his bellowing echoing eerily through the empty town.
"You bastard." Sharom spat. "Face me like a man of honor, Charon, even though I know you have none."
Charon chuckled again as the Archwizards formed in a group in front of him. "You pathetic excuses for wizards." Charon spoke, rising from his throne. "If you really wish to face me one-on-one, Sharom, your wish is granted. But allow my Fiends to amuse themselves with your companions·" So saying the Fiends leapt forward, already attacking.
Angelus gutted one of the Archwizards before he could respond, the fallen Mysidian falling to the ground, clutching his stomach. Turning, Angelus muttered a spell at another wizard, who deflected it with a magical barrier. Arvanae grabbed another by the throat and broke his neck, while Levasos mutilated two more. The last wizard cast a spell at Levasos, who fell back screaming as his flesh was burnt away by Nuke, and then Angelus was upon the wizard. His death cries were quick·
Sharom leapt through the phalanx of Fiends, blasting at Charon with spell after spell. Nuke, Meteor, Quake, Sharom unleashed his most powerful spells on Charon. Charon staggered backwards as Meteor blasted through his defenses, raking his body with burning shards of rock. He responded with a spell which broke down Sharomās barriers. He smiled at the Archwizard, then opened the Tome of Almagest. He began mouthing the words to a spell, even as Sharom desperately tried to batter down Charonās barriers. Laughing, Charon finished the spell, and magical energy formed around Sharom, burning the flesh from his bones.
Sharom fell to the ground, his body horribly burned, his clothing aflame. Charon stood over him, clutching his wound. He smiled at the Black Wizard, and then slowly spoke. "Sharom, you are the first to taste the fires of Almagest for a long, long time. The winds of Chaos blow for you now, Archwizard. Do you feel death coming for you?"
Sharom looked up at Charon and spat out "I accept death, monster. Finish me with honor." Charon laughed and began to raise his hands, when a blast of eldritch energy smashed into his side, knocking him over.
Angelus and Arvanae turned towards the source of the blast, seeing Zemus and his four Fiends approaching them. Charon got to his feet and bellowed with rage at the Lunarian. "Come to kill me now, Zemus?" Charon screamed, his face red with rage.
The Lunarian laughed, his bald head glistening with sweat in the sunlight. "Face me like the coward you are, Charon. Go my Fiends! And leave the woman alive for me!" Zemusās Fiends shot forward, engaging Angelus and Arvanae in battle·
Cecil and the rest of the heroes emerged from the sewer tunnels into the hills surrounding Silvera and watched the battle unfold before them between the Alliance and Charonās army of monsters. The battle was mostly locked, with the monsters with a bit of an upper hand. Cecil turned towards the rest and the group and cried over the din of battle. "We need to find Charon now! He should be over·" Cecilās words were cut off as Charonās tower was destroyed, blazing rocks falling over in the distance.
"Itās begun!" Rydia said. "I can feel great power over there!"
"Rosa, take Kasil and wait at the edge of town." Cecil said. "No objections. I donāt think I could lose either of you." Rosa nodded, and the group started running towards Silvera·
As the Fiends approached Angelus and Arvanae, the two began chanting. Milon, Fiend of the Earth, was in the lead. Angelus finished casting, and Milonās body was swathed in flames. As Arvanae finished chanting, a bolt of lightning blazed down to Kainazzo, knocking the Fiend of the Water back. Valvalis began to spin, her blond hair whipping about. She crashed through Arvanae, sending her flying, until Angelus grabbed her by the hair and slammed her down into the rubble. He then slit her throat with his claw, laughing as blood sprayed out of her body. He turned to Rubicant, who blasted him with a Fire spell. Angelus was sent flying, blood pouring out of his wound, to land unconscious in a pile of rubble. Rubicant turned towards Arvanae, who raised her hands and muttered the words for Nuke. Rubicant tried to pull his cloak around himself, but was too late, as the nuclear fires left him a charred shell. Arvanae was bowled over by Kainazzo, who climbed on top of her, half of his body charred by lightning, bellowing with rage. Suddenly claws plunged through his throat, spraying blood over Arvanae. Kainazzo was lifted off the Anean, and Levasos helped her up. Badly burned by Nuke, Levasos still yet lived.
The two Fiends heard a horrible keening cry and turned towards the burning pile of clothing that had been Milon. The Fiend of the Earth rose up from the burning pile, his monstrous zombie form looking horrible and aged in the light. He keened again and charged at the Fiends, swinging his massive arms. He clubbed Arvanae down, and screeched in anger as Levasos tore his claws along his midriff. He picked the Reptite up in both arms, crushing him in a bear hug, until Levasos plunged his claws into Milonās eyes and into his brain. The zombie fell over, green ichor leaking from his body. Arvanae helped Levasos up and they turned towards Charon and Zemusās battle, which had been going on around them·
Charon had cautiously approached the Lunarian, his defensive barriers in place, until Zemus had begun to laugh. He stopped, looking at the old Lunarian in puzzlement. Zemus finally stopped laughing and spoke. "I never realized that you were Charon, Kain." Zemus muttered. "How delightful. I used your father so long ago, and he was never half as resourceful as you."
"What do you mean, you used my father?" Charon spat in anger.
"Your father, Erik, was mortally wounded by KluYa in their battle over your mother, Genia." Zemus slowly said. "He was not killed, as FuSoYa has always thought. You see, I then gained control over him, as by then I was awakening from the artificial hibernation that KluYa and FuSoYa had placed me in on the Lunar Moon. I controlled Erik as I controlled Golbez, and forced him to kidnap Golbez after KluYa left for Mount Ordeals. Erik took Golbez to Toroia and raised the boy there, twisting him to evil, and allowing me to gain more control over him. Eventually, after Cecil and you left for Mist to deliver the Īpackageā for the village elder, I had Golbez return to Baron and become Captain of the Red Wings. Your father died soon thereafter of a strange wasting disease. I used your father to corrupt Golbez, who in turn corrupted you. How ironic."
Charon shook his head, and began to cast his spells at Zemus. He began with Nuke, which was deflected from Zemusās shields. Zemus responded with Meteor, which began to pierce through Charonās shields. Charon fell back and launched White at the Lunarian. The white spell pierced through his defenses, drawing blood from the Lunarian. Zemus staggered back, allowing Charon to begin chanting Almagest. Zemus erected his shields just in time, as the inferno of Almagest blazed around him. Zemus responded with Quake, but Charon wasnāt standing in the smoke where he had been. Zemus looked around, then felt his flesh tearing and rending as Charon jumped down on top of him. The damned wizard had done a dragoon jump on me! Zemus thought in anger. He fell to the ground, blood pouring from his body. Charon stood over him, his eyes blazing with anger. His hands glowed with power and he was about to pick up Zemus and finish him off when a voice called out across the rubble.
"Kain! Face me, you traitor!" Charon whipped about, allowing Zemus time to mouth a teleportation spell and disappear in flash of light. Charon stood defiantly, hands burning with power, as Cecil Darkheart, Paladin of the Light, approached·
Chapter Eleven: The Fall of Charon
Cecil gazed up at his former friend and despair entered his heart. It really was Kain. He had hoped against hope that the malevolent sorcerer had not been his best friend, but horrible reality crashed into him. He stood atop the rubble, his hands burning with eldritch power, his blond hair flowing in the summer wind. His once noble features were turned into a sneer of hatred and disdain, his eyes burning reddish-gold with power. The obsidian chains that bound the Tome of Almagest to his waist swung in the wind, creaking slowly. Time seemed to freeze between the two men, as they stared at each other, as if across the great gulf of honor and broken friendship that now separated them.
"So, you finally emerge from your little hole, Cecil?" Charon spat, his features marred with hatred. "How like you to wait for the final act to take action. Much like on the Moon, so long ago. Where is your brother now, Cecil, to make you take action? He has betrayed you as well, you know. Why not come with me? It will be like old times, Cecil. Remember our promise, after the destruction of Mist? We said we would always journey together. I said I wasnāt doing it for you, but for myself. Well, what I do now, I do for everyone. I will recreate the universe, so that injustices such as this cannot occur. I am doing this act for everyone, Cecil."
"Kain, how could you commit these murders?" Cecil slowly said, his voice clouded with barely concealed anger. "You murdered the entire populace of Silvera and countless others. How deep into insanity are you, to justify your deeds by such hypocrisy? Have you murdered Golbez as well? I know you transported him here from the Lunar Moon to corrupt him and gain revenge on him yet again, but have you killed him? Or are you too insane to even remember your own actions?"
"No, Golbez is· heās·" Charon clutched his head, staggering for a second, groaning in pain. The Tome of Almagest seemed to spark reddish-gold energy for a second, then he righted himself. "I have him captive Cecil. I will dispose of him after I finish with you·" Charon then began to moan again, clutching his head. Arvanae moved over to him, putting her arms protectively on his shoulders. He shrugged her off, moaning yet again.
"What has happened to you, Kain?" Cecil asked, contempt in his voice. "When I last saw you, you were headed to Mount Ordeals to prove your worth, to find your true honor. What has happened to you? What is that accursed book bound to you? What has happened?"
Charon looked at Cecil, then slowly began to speak. "I left Baron after we returned from the Moon to redeem myself. I journeyed to Mount Ordeals to become a Paladin of the Light and purge the corruption from my soul. Atop Mount Ordeals, your father tested me, and I failed. He told me that I would never free myself from the darkness that stained my soul. Disconsolate, I wandered the land from months, one day coming upon a strange sight in a forest clearing. It was a carven doorway, etched in archaic runes and which spoke of unforeseen horrors. I stepped through it, and was transported to another dimension, the Nexus. The portal I stepped through was a Doorway, one of the ancient devices of the Gods which connected all of the myriad dimensions of the universe together. The Nexus is deceptively named by its inhabitants. It is a backwater dimension, and the Doorway that transported me there was apparently a one way trip. I wandered the barren wastes of the Nexus for many, many years, as time flows differently there than it does here. I eventually found the Tower of Almagest in the most barren wastes of the Nexus. I sought refuge from a storm within the tower, and found this tome, Almagestās diary and spellbook. The wizard Almagest was the mightiest wizard who ever lived, and he conceived of a mad plan to break through the barrier erected by the Five before their suicide. He fashioned the Amulets of Light and Darkness and created an artificial type of gateway governed by the Amulets, the Riftway, to traverse space and dimensions. He sought to skip over finding the Crystals of Light and Darkness and merely transport himself and the army of monsters he had assembled into the Land of the Gods. I do not know why he needed an army, as the Land of the Gods is supposed to barren of all animal life. His attempt failed, and both he and his army were killed in the attempt. The Amulets remained in his tower, and I found them as well. I conceived of continuing Almagestās work, and so I tutored myself in the ways of magic, for it intrigued me, and eventually Arvanae came to the tower seeking shelter. She tutored me and completed my training. Eventually I assembled my own army of monsters and gathered my own four Fiends to me. I decided to gather the Crystals together again, and then pierce the barriers around the Land of the Gods and ascend the Tree of Heaven. I will become God, and create a better universe." Charon finished speaking, out of breath, his eyes blazing with a manic light.
"How did you Īteach yourself magicā Kain?" Rydia asked, suspicion in her voice. "You cannot just Īlearn it.ā Itās a skill that you are born with. Itās an innate, natural ability. And you have none of it."
"I· donāt try to confuse me, Rydia!" Charon bellowed, the Tome glowing reddish-gold. "I am an Archwizard. What does it matter how I became one. Now, Cecil, are you going to join me, or are you going to play the noble hero and stop my reign of evil?"
"I will never bow to your insanity, Kain." Cecil said, his voice filled with conviction. "I will stand against you to the bitter end."
Charonās hands began to glow again. "To the bitter end, my friends·"
The army of the Alliance began to crumble under the assault of Charonās army of darkness. The ninjas of Eblan had been decimated almost to a man, as had the Karate Masters of Fabul. The pikemen and spearmen had been severely depleted, and almost half of the rank and file swordsmen had been killed. The wizards of Mysidia had been severely depleted by a disastrous charge of Trolls. The battle was slowly turning into a route·
From the edge of the burning forest came cries of battle, and the army of the Dwarves and the Summoned Monsters, led by Asura and Leviathan burst from the inferno. Screaming in righteous fury the troops smashed into the army of monsters, killing scores in the first charge. The Alliance gave up a cheer and began to fight back even more ferociously, forcing the flood of dark creatures back. At the forefront of the assault were Asura and Leviathan, Asura smiting down monster after monster, Leviathan scooping up monsters left and right in his fanged jaws. Slowly the tide began to turn against Charonās army. Just as suddenly as defeat had seemed to appear to the Alliance, so too did victory come to them. The army of darkness broke and ran, being run down by the Alliance, who cheered their victory even as they renewed pursuit of their foe·
Charon began to speak words of power, and a spear of energy formed in his hands. Cecil unsheathed his sword, a look of sadness and determination in his eyes. Edge and the others began to draw their weapons, but he motioned them back. "This is between Kain and I, friends." Cecil said. "Take care of his Fiends." Cecil moved forward to engage Charon.
Arvanae and Levasos turned to the other heroes. Levasos grunted and shook his head. "These are the ones who killed my Trinity." He turned to Arvanae. "You can keep this insanity going, if you want, but I am done with it, and Charon, and this all. Goodbye, Arvanae. If youāre smart, youāll leave too." Levasos spoke words of power, and then disappeared in a flash of blue energy.
Arvanae gazed in mute horror at the spot where Levasos had been. "You damn coward!" She cried, her voice tinged with panic. A bolt of energy flashed by her, launched by Rydia. She turned and scrambled down the other side of the pile of rubble, and began running for one of the cottages.
"What the hell is she doing?" Edge said, puzzled, as they ran after her.
"Maybe she finally sees the error of her course." Schala said. "Maybe she will renounce Charon."
The heroes burst into the cottage to see Arvanae chanting. She magically undid the bonds on Golbez, who leapt up, free from his imprisonment. Arvanae turned to the heroes, shaking her head. "I was once told by FuSoYa that we all make our own choices. This is mine. I am a murderer and without honor, but I renounce Charon. I am Fiend of the Earth no longer. Golbez, your brother is fighting Charon right now. Go to him." Golbez burst through the door of the cottage, setting off in a run.
Rydia turned to Arvanae and said "Now is not the time for you to be judged. Now, tell me, did you really help tutor Kain?"
Arvanae shook her head. "I donāt know how he learned his magic. I never tutored him. He was a master wizard before I even met him. I donāt know anything about his learning magic. His knowledge of magic is beyond me·"
Cecil parried Charonās spear, sparks flying from the two weapons. Cecil turned and swung at Charonās legs, the wizard parrying the stroke and returning with a cross-slash at Cecilās torso. Cecil leapt back, darting his blade to stop the blow. Charon leapt into the air and smashed into Cecilās chest, his boots knocking the wind from the Paladinās chest. Cecil was flung on his back, his sword dropping from his hands. He grabbed one of Charonās feet and twisted it. Charon screamed out in agony, stumbling off of Cecilās chest. Cecil leapt to his feet, picking up his sword in time to parry Charonās spear thrust.
Charon and Cecil slowly circled each other, gazing warily into each otherās eyes. Charon laughed. "Come on Cecil. Make me work for my victory." Charon hissed menacingly. "You remember our battle in the Crystal Chamber in Fabul? This is going to be much like that, soon." Charon began to chant, and Cecil took the opportunity to rush at the wizard. Charon laughed and stabbed Cecil through the shoulder. Cecil staggered back, blood spurting from his shoulder. Charon laughed and launched a bolt of energy at the Paladin. Cecil dropped to the ground, the bolt sailing over his head. He got up and parried the spear thrust from Charon.
Charon dodged back and chanted the words to Almagest. Magical energy swathed Cecil in flames, the Paladin dropping to the ground, his clothing aflame. Charon laughed and stood over his former friend. He raised his spear, and intoned "Goodbye, Cecil. Iām sorry that this is how it all ends·"
Charon was flung off his feet as Golbez barreled into him from behind. The two sailed over Cecil, landing into a crumpled mass on top of a large pile of rubble. Charon kicked the black-clad Paladin off of him and got to his feet. Golbez unsheathed a sword from his scabbard and the two circled each other. "So, you too come for vengeance, Golbez." Charon said, his voice full of contempt. "You come to fall like your brother."
Golbez leapt forward in response, his sword darting lightning fast at Charon. Charon parried each blow and then did a well-timed kick which knocked Golbezās helmet off. Golbez staggered, and Charon took the opportunity to plunge his spear through Golbezās stomach. Blood gurgled out of his mouth, and the Dark Paladin fell to the ground.
Charon stood panting over Golbezās body, his face red with exhaustion. Cecil staggered to his feet, having cast a healing spell on himself. He stared at his brotherās body, and screamed out in a pained voice "No. How could you,Kain? First FuSoYa, now Golbez. You unthinkable bastard. I swear to the Gods that we will have our justice!" Cecil attacked, renewed with energy. Charon desperately parried blow after blow with his energy spear, until finally Cecil raised his sword and it smashed the spear in two, burying itself in Charonās chest. Blood fountained out, spilling all over the blade and both combatants. Charon grabbed the blade and tore it out of his chest, releasing another gushing of blood. He stumbled backwards, finally falling to his knees. Blood leaked out of his mouth, and he took the Tome of Almagest from his waist, his hands smearing blood all over its cover.
Arvanae rushed to the fallen wizardās side, tears streaming down her face. "Kain!" She cried, saying his real name for the first time. "No, Kain! Donāt die. Please. I love you. Reject him from your soul. Free yourself from Almagest before you succumb to him." Cecil and the others gathered around the two, Arvanaeās arms wrapped around Kain. Cecil looked in sadness at his old friend.
"Almagest·" Schala said, her face knit with concern. "Almagest·in the tongue of the Gods· Almagest means· Chaos·"
Kain looked up and smiled, his once immaculately white teeth smeared with blood. "Yes, it does." He whispered, coughing up more blood. He opened the Tome, and reached to his neck, where the Amulets of Light and Darkness hung. He then turned and screamed "Now Angelus!"
The heroes looked in horror as the Fiend of Fire leapt up from behind Kain and flung a knapsack at the fallen wizard. The black-cloaked man then placed his clawed hand on Kainās shoulder. Kain grabbed the knapsack and laughed as he opened it, revealing the Crystals of Light and Darkness within. He began to chant, his voice turning darker, something in it hinting at something horribly ancient and evil. Cecil stepped back as Angelus stared at him, his blue eyes boring into his skull. Kain laughed again as he finished the spell and turned to Arvanae. "Itās time to go to the Land of the Gods and gain our reward, my love. To the Riftway, and to destiny. Goodbye, Cecil. I will try to be kind to you when I am God·" Kain, Angelus, and Arvanae disappeared in a brilliant pillar of reddish-gold energy, leaving Cecil and his friends to contemplate the coming darkness·
Chapter Twelve: Never An Absolution
Cecil turned to the others. "Find Asura. We need to open a portal to the Undergroud before Kain gets to the Riftway. Hurry, Rydia! Find her!" Rydia and Edge took off sprinting, while Cecil turned to Schala. "You know White Magic, right?" Schala nodded. "Help my brother. Please." He turned to Edward. "Go get Rosa and have her heal Sharom, if heās still alive." Cecil turned and knelt next to Golbez. Schala had rolled the Dark Paladin over and began to chant. Golbez looked up at Cecil, his long black hair matted with blood.
"Thank you, brother." Golbez said, his voice filled with pain. "Thank you for believing in me. I never betrayed you. Never. I watched FuSoYa die, and my heart was torn apart. He told me it would be necessary, in order to bring about Kainās downfall." Golbez gasped as Schala finished her spell, healing magic rushing in to the wound. He turned to Cecil, sweat on his face. "I also thought that Charon was you, brother. Iām so sorry. I shouldāve known you never could have done such a thing·" Golbez trailed off as he passed out from the pain of the healing.
Schala put her arm on Cecilās shoulder and said "He will be fine. He just needs to rest a bit." Cecil nodded and thanked her, then turned as Edge, Rydia, Asura, and Leviathan ran up. Cecil stood up and shook hands with Leviathan, in his human form, and hugged Asura. Rosa and Edward also appeared, Rosa handing Kasil to Edward as she knelt down next to Sharomās battered body. She stood up and shook her head, a tear streaking down her face. Palom and Porom hugged each other. Yet another Elder had died around them.
Cecil took Kasil from Edward and handed him to Leviathan, who made faces at the baby, causing him to laugh. "I would like to ask you to take care of Kasil until we return from the Underground, Leviathan." Cecil asked. "Is that okay?"
Leviathan nodded his head. "Of course itās okay, Cecil. I would be delighted to watch over Kasil for you." He continued playing with the baby.
Cecil turned to Asura. "Asura, we need a portal opened to the Underground, near the Riftway. We have to stop Kain before he destroys the barrier around the Land of the Gods. FuSoYa has already given his life to stopping Kain. No more will die."
Asura shook her head and said "Iām afraid thatās not all. One of the Mysidian wizards said that Cid rammed Meteor with the Big Whale, destroying it and himself and saving us all." Hearing this, Rosa broke into tears, as did Rydia. Edge wiped his eyes, muttering under his breath.
"Damnit, Kain!" Cecil screamed. "Why? Why all this? For power? No more! Asura, open the portal! Iām going to finish that monster off once and for all."
"Weāre all going." Rosa said, shaking her head as Cecil gazed at her. "Donāt argue with me, weāre all going!" Cecil nodded ascent, and Asura began to chant, opening a portal to the Underground.
"Iām going too." A voice said. Cecil and the rest turned around, seeing Golbez stagger to his feet. "Again, donāt try to argue with me, brother. Iām going to help stop an evil I unwittingly helped create." Cecil went up and embraced his brother, and then the entire party turned towards the gateway.
"Into this rift of darkness we go." Cecil said, his voice clouded with anger. "To that ultimate end, we will stop Kain and Angelus. No matter what happens·" The party then entered the portal, disappearing, leaving only Asura and Leviathan to stare at the devastated town of Silvera, on the Silver Isle, on a perfect midsummer day·
The party appeared in front of the Riftway, deep in the west of the Hidden Land. Or at least, they appeared in front of where the Riftway used to be. They gazed in horror at what they saw before them. Kain and Angelus stood before a huge doorway, carved with eight indentations and glowing with eldritch energy. Around the doorway the reddish-gold energy of the Riftway gleamed, and they knew that they beheld the portal to the Land of the Gods. Arvanae stood some distance away, her face clouded with indecision.
Cecil stepped forward, unsheathing his sword, and cried out "Kain! Stop this madness before itās too late!" Kain turned towards Cecil and was about to speak when a flash of yellow light blinded everyone. Cecil recovered first and saw Zemus blast Angelus point blank with Nuke, hurling the dead sorcerer aside. Zemus grabbed Kain around the throat and tossed him away, tearing the knapsack from him. He erected a magical barrier around himself and the portal, and began placing the Crystals into their proper resting places. As each one entered the portal holes, the entire doorway began to vibrate and glow with indescribable power.
Kain got to his feet, clutching his chest, where the vicious wound Cecil had dealt him was mysteriously healed. He screamed in impotent fury as Zemus place the third to last Crystal in the portal. He opened the Tome of Almagest, and screamed out a spell which tore open the barrier. Zemus turned and grappled with Kain, who finally smashed the Lunarianās head against the portal. The Lunarian fell to the ground, bleeding. Kain picked up the knapsack and placed the second to last Crystal in the portal, which began to shake with unbelievable power.
Cecil screamed and charged at Kain, who ducked his sword blow. Kain turned and grappled with his former friend, raw energy bleeding off from the doorway. "You will not stop my resurrection, human!" Kain bellowed, his voice full of inhuman fury. "I have waited across all these dark eons to be free! I will stalk the stars once again. The Winds of Chaos blow, human·"
Cecil stared at Kain and gasped "No, Kain! Fight him! Donāt let Almagest win! Youāre better than that, Kain! You are one of the bravest and most honorable men I have ever met. You are not the heartless bastard this creature is·"
Cecil trailed off as Kainās eyes regained their natural blue color. "I am sorry, Cecil." Kain said, his voice returning to normal. "I cannot stop him anymore. I never should have read this accursed book·" Kain trailed off, his voice growing monstrous again. "Kill me, Cecil, before he can be freed·"
Cecil flung Kain back, and the sorcerer staggered. Cecil said, his voice full of conviction and sorrow, "Iām so sorry, Kain." He then swung his sword at Kainās chest. The blade tore deep into Kain, blood erupting out, and the force of the blow launched Kain into the air. He smashed headfirst into the portal. He fell back, his face a red ruin, his blond hair matted with blood. He crumpled to the ground, the light slowly dying from his eyes.
"So it ends." Cecil said as Arvanae ran over, crying, to Kainās body. He knelt down and severed the Tome of Almagest from Kainās waist, gazing in horror at its accursed cover.
"No, now it begins." A voice said. Cecil turned, only to be raked by Angelusās claws. He flew onto his back, five red furrows dug into his chest. Angelus, his body burned badly, was healing before all of their eyes. The wizard laughed and flung Arvanae aside. He tore the Amulets of Light and Darkness from Kainās neck, and picked up the last remaining Crystal.
"Who are you?" Cecil asked, staggering to his feet. Angelus looked in amusement at the Paladin.
"I am Angelus Arangas, Cecil Darkheart." Angelus said, amused. "Oh. You mean my real name. Well, that is of no concern. Let it be said that I was once an angel, flung out of my world, much as Schala was. This" he said, raising his clawed hand, hideously burned, "is a remnant of that event."
"Angelus Arangas." Schala said. "In the tongue of the Gods· One-Winged Angel."
"An apt title." Angelus said. He raised the Crystal towards the portal. "And now to open the pathway to the Land of the Gods·"
"No!" Cecil cried, leaping forward. Angelus turned, his claw flashing at Cecilās face. Cecil ducked, punching Angelus in the face. Angelus reeled back, bloodied, then plunged his claw into Cecilās gut. Cecil cried out, dropping to his knees. Angelus turned to the portal as the others rushed towards him. He placed the final Crystal in place, then turned as Golbez ran him through with his sword. He grabbed the sword and raised Golbez above his head and threw him aside. Schala attacked him, and he grabbed both of her arms and swung her into Edge, knocking them both flying. Behind him the portal began to open, white light flooding the entire Underground. Angelus turned, and raised his hands.
"The darkness comes, ye mortals. Look on me, ye mortals, and despair." The white light blinded everyone, and Angelusās form seemed to change. His right hand seemed to form from claw to wing, colored reddish-gold. "Blow, ye Winds of Chaos. The Land of the Gods, birthplace of all life, mysteries locked away for untold eons. Across the darkness we go. By the light of the Crystals we seek the truth! Open, Portal of Heaven, for us now!"
Blazing energy lanced out from the portal, engulfing everyone in cataclysmic latticework of white light. For one eternal second the energy hung in the air, and then it all disappeared, leaving only silence and desolation in its wake.
Once upon a time, there was a kingdom called Baron. In that kingdom ruled a King called Cecil and a Queen called Rosa. They were entangled in a battle to save their world, and they disappeared, as did the King of Eblan, the envoy of the Summoned Monsters, two Archwizards of Mysidia, the King of Damcyan, and others. But the world continued. Asura and Leviathan, the rulers of the Summoned Monsters, and Giott, King of the Dwarves, helped hunt down the remainder of Charonās army. They helped stabilize the nations of the world. In Fabul, the old king stepped back up to the throne to replace the fallen Yang. In Toroia, a new Circle of Rulers was elected. In Damcyan, a distant relative of Edwardās became king; the same event occurred in Eblan. In Mysidia, a new Archwizard proved his worth on Mount Ordeals and became Elder of Mysidia. And in Baron, a new king was elected from the people.
Throughout it all they never forgot the heroes who had saved their world from first Golbez and Zemus, and now Charon. They had sacrificed their lives to stop the evil, and they were remembered forever·
After centuries of evil and greed, the final battle, not just for this world, but for several worlds had begun. The truth behind the Lunariansā destruction, the corruption of Golbez, the origin of Zemus, and the final fate of Kain had unfolded. The heroes yet live, and with them all hope rests. Finally, after nearly a millenia, Justice would come to those who had unbalanced the Tree of Heaven and desecrated the Wonders of the Gods. Justice comes for all·
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