For the Love of Darkness
Chapter 11: Desperate Measures
So wake me up when it's all over
When I'm wiser and I'm older
All this time I was finding myself
And I didn't know I was lost
-"Wake Me Up" by Avicii & Aloe Blacc
Magus walked down the stairwell to the Knight's Quarters. The area had been turned into an infirmary as the first wave of the defeated recovery teams returned to the castle. Crono and Marle had been swept up in a wave of battle strategies, diplomatic relations, and had the whole kingdom scrambling to make sense of the oncoming attacks from Porre. While the rest of the royal cabinet may have been trying to save their tails, it was clear to the King and Queen that the country was plummeting into civil war. As Magus entered the room, there was a hum of nurses and doctors trying to save the battered men's lives. Some had already lost limbs; others were maimed in a fashion Magus was familiar with. These men were not meant to die. They were meant to lay in agony and suffer for days. Their injuries were a clear message saying "we have the power, we could kill you, or we can make you wish we had" Despite it being a potential problem, Magus was impressed; after all it took a certain skill to hurt someone so deep without letting the die. Wandering behind one of the curtains, he saw her there again. Schala was changing Aybell's bandages as he lay in a comatose state. After he had collapsed, the guards had swept him up and took him down to the area. He was the first patient in the infirmary and still was not conscious. After Schala and the Queen's failed attempts to heal him, it became clear that the wound was inflicted with a magic sword. Magus knew from the gap of the wound and how deep it went that Aybell had been stabbed by the Masamune.
"Schala…" Magus began.
A heavy breath came from his sister as she continued to redress the wound. She had rarely left Aybell's side, often sitting there watching him for hours at a time. He would not move or respond, he simply laid there and the only sound he made was his quiet breathing.
"Schala," he moved towards her, reaching out and placing his hands on her shoulders, "Please rest. The nurses will take care of him."
Schala shook her head vigorously and moved away from him, "No. I'll take care of him."
Since her healing magic had failed, Schala was shaken. If she was not strong enough to overcome this obstacle – if it meant she couldn't save her friend then she didn't know what she would do. Magus signed and sat down, looking over Aybell again. It was hard to tell if he would ever wake up. If he did, there was no sure way to tell the extent of the damage he had endured. After all, no one who had come back was in the first wave. The recon patrols never returned – it was assumed they were executed so all efforts to retrieve them were given up after the third recon squadron didn't return. After that group went out, all communications ceased and parts came back. Bloody helmets with skulls in them, fingers with wedding rings, it was all too familiar actually – Magus recalled his troops making similar gestures. He just never imagined how it'd feel on the other side of the reception. Schala's horror amongst it all was what was bothering him the most. Her sobbing fits had turned to quiet and withdrawn moments where her eyes reflected fear and panic in them. Other days when she'd fall silent, especially when tending to Aybell, her eyes would grow dark and he knew that darkness well. For the first time in her life, Magus saw the desire for revenge in Schala's eyes.
Once she was finished dressing his wounds, Schala sat in the chair next to Aybell, taking his hand and lightly brushing her thumb against it, "You did better today. I didn't even feel you tense up. That's a good sign. It means the pain isn't as bad anymore." She said in a quiet voice, "Wouldn't it be lovely if when you wake up you're completely healed? That way you don't have to be in pain and conscious about it."
Aybell continued to breathe quietly with no sign of him responding to her. Schala smiled gently and leaned over, "Aybell, please open your eyes. Say something… for me? Today would be a great day to do that..."
Magus sighed and walked over to her, wrapping his arms around her. As he did, she began to cry softly, grabbing his arm and leaning back against his frame. Softly whispering in her ears words of comfort, Magus planted a gentle kiss on her cheek. Schala sighed and turned to him, placing a hand on his cheek with a soft smile before standing. He followed her as she crossed the room and began to ascend the stairs, "You should go rest."
"No thank you…" she replied, "I'm going to change and then I'd like to go train for a few hours."
Magus halted, reaching for her hand and lightly tugging it. Schala stopped and glanced back over her shoulder at him, "You really need to go lay down. Training right now would only exhaust you and you'd become overwhelmed."
As her eyes fixated on him, she yanked her hand away with an irritated sneer, "I'm fine."
He crossed his arms across his chest and focused hard on her, "Schala, if you push yourself too hard, you're going to cause more damage than progress. Trust me on that."
It was obvious that she was intent on doing what she wanted. As they crossed the threshold of the main hall, the sound of quick footsteps approached them. Magus whirled around, his eyes searching the corridor for the person they belonged to. To his surprise, he felt am impact on his shin which jolted his whole frame. "W-What?" he exclaimed, looking down. He was met by a small girl - the child Lucca had adopted and unimaginatively named Kid. Magus had heard about the child many times but this was his first time seeing her. She had latched herself onto his pant leg and was staring up at him with wide eyes. A wave a familiarity swept over Magus, as he peered into her rich sapphire colored eyes. The feeling made him uncomfortable, so much so that he stepped his free leg back from his small captor. He looked up and saw Schala staring wide eyed at the two. Perhaps seeing his reaction to children made her displeased, but despite her alarmed expression, Magus couldn't determine why she was suddenly panicked over the child.
"Hey there!" Kid cheered, "My name is Kid! Do you know me?"
"Kid!" Lucca's voice yelled, as she ran up the steps to the threshold, "You shouldn't run off like that! I told you that I'd let you come visit the castle only if you promised to be a good girl."
Kid's face fell and her pouted her lower lip, but tightened her grip on Magus's leg. "Sorry sissy… "
Lucca huffed in frustration as she rubbed the back of her head, "Girl, you need to slow down… you can't just go run up to strangers. Magus wouldn't hurt you but these days… someone else could."
Kid tilted her head to the side and released her grip on Magus. He cleared his throat and moved away from the child. Surveying her carefully, his eyes swept up and down her small frame. There was nothing remarkable about her; she had blonde hair and fair skin and appeared to be a normal toddler in her jean overalls and red shirt. Around her neck was a purple bead necklace with a giant ornament on it that came to a point at the end. He was uncomfortable with his sudden need to protect the girl. It took only a moment for him to dismiss the sentiment as a primitive instinct that everyone feels at some point. After all, it seemed only natural to wish to protect children. A thought struck him though that this was the first time in his life he ever felt that way, after all he had borne witness and even facilitated the death of many children during the war. So why was this girl someone he felt the need to care for? Kid's attention darted over to Schala and her face lite up "Miss. Schala!" She cried, dashing to her. Schala smiled and stooped down, picking up the girl and giving her a big hug. Kid hung off of Schala's neck and looked at her, "You look sleepy, Miss. Schala. Are you tired?"
"N-No child, I'm fine." Schala replied with a small smile. It was in that moment seeing them next to each other that Magus felt his composure drop. His attention darted to Lucca, whose expression clearly read she was seeing what he had. Kid looked like she could've been Schala's daughter – no, that she could've been a younger version of Schala herself. Noticing their attention, Schala's smile faded and she gently placed the girl down, patting her head, "I have to go now, Kid."
"But why?" Kid whined. Lucca walked over, picked Kid up and touched her nose with her own, "Come on, pumpkin. Let's go see Uncle Crono and Aunt Marle." As she left the two, Lucca peered back over her shoulder at Schala, who was staring at her with an unusual expression for her. Instead of her warm and kind eyes, her eyes were dark and Lucca could feel the tension coming from her. Judging by her reaction upon realizing Magus and Lucca noticed the similarities between the two, Schala knew about Kid looking like her. Her behavior was odd though and the question came to mind of why would Schala be upsetted by the connection? Why not mention it sooner?
She shook her head of the racing statements and proceeded up out of the area.
Schala moved quickly down away, almost breaking into a jog as she made her way back to Magus and her room. He was on her heels, his foot fall heavy, and as he threw the door open almost as promptly it slammed shut behind them. Schala turned with a start, surprised at Magus's aggressiveness. "What the hell was that?!"
Schala turned away, moving to her vanity and picked up her brush. She began the methodic process of pulling braiding her hair back, "I don't know what you're talking about."
"Schala, the child—" Magus began. Schala sighed and paused, looking at Magus in the mirror behind her. A part of her felt foolish for dropping her guard around Kid. She cursed quietly knowing that she should've never picked her up so thoughtlessly around anyone. The only other person who had seen Schala near Kid was Glenn, and at that time Schala did not stand next to the child. Magus's mouth gapped open as he struggled with the logic of what he saw and the words he wished to say.
"I didn't just see things. That child looked exactly like you. She only has subtle differences. The eyes, the hair… Her aura feels similar even –"
Taking a long breath in then exhaling just as slowly, she looked back into the mirror and began to attend her hair again, "Ask your questions."
Walking to and fro from the door to bed, he paced back and forth, making hand gestures and mumbling to himself, finally he looked at her, his expression confused and bewildered "It's impossible…"
Tying off the braid she was working on, Schala pivoted in her chair so she was facing him, "What do you think Kid is?"
"She's—" Magus struggled with the words, "She's like you… Is you… I can't even fathom—Am I imagining it? Lucca seemed to notice as well."
"You're not imagining anything, Janus… What your instincts are telling you is correct."
Silence fell between them. Unable to formulate a clear thought, Magus took steps before her until he hovered over her form. When he finally spoke, "Your pendant—"
"If I am correct in where I think it is, the stone is hidden in that ornament on the necklace she's now wearing. It's a safe place for it really. The power in it has gone dormant so no one would be able to sense it now unless they were looking for it."
Her head fell and a nervous laugh came from her, "It's complicated. I guess as I was submitting to the Dream Devourer some piece of my being was determined to survive… If the Darkness had consumed me with the Dreamstone pendant, I dare not think what could've happened to the planet."
"So in the madness… You split yourself?" Magus exclaimed. Schala smiled gently and stood, moving to him and taking his hands into her own.
"I was dying. Fading from the mortal coil and being entrapped into eternal misery. I wasn't about to go quietly into the dark." Her lips gently met his, her warm breath against his own mouth, "You weren't supposed to come back for me."
Magus's hands immediately went to cradle her face, forehead resting against hers and he took her mouth to his again. This time was a deeper- hungrier for her. His kiss told her everything she needed to know, the depths of his passion for her, the ferocity of his dedication, and that she was his everything. "My life is nothing without you in it." Her hands came to take his face, her thoughts reeling to explain what happened and how the child of her essence came to be, "Nor is mine," she turned away from him and went back to her vanity, resuming her hair, "That is why I will fight."
Magus shot her a narrowed stare in the mirror. Schala glanced back over her shoulder, matching his hardened gaze with determination, "You can either help me or leave me to it. You're distracting me."
His lips curled into a seductive smirk as he came up behind her, placing a hand on the back of her neck while the other gathered a section of her hair, "Am I now?"
"Really?!" Marle's voice rang out throughout the hallway. Crono laughed and gently hugged his best friend, "This is great news, Lucca!"
Lucca smiled nervously, "I didn't want it to be all doom and gloom when I came this time. It's sooner than we were planning but… it'll be wonderful."
Marle handed Solan to Crono as she grabbed her friend's hands and jumped up and down, "We must keep you calm and low-stress! Please don't worry about the kingdom for now! Just rest at your villa! We have plenty of capable generals and admirals who are all well versed with utilizing the Elements. You don't need to do anything!"
"I'M GOING TO BE A BIG SISTER!" Kid screamed, flailing her arms about proudly. Lucca laughed, patting Kid on the head, "Yes, you will."
"Oh! How far are you?!" the queen gushed, touching Lucca's abdomen.
Lucca put her hand over Marle's and smiled "I'm about two months in. But I have to be here and I have to be a part of the strategy. This is Dalton and Porre we're facing, plus I found out more information on that General Lynx."
Crono's face became stern at the mention of the foe who had been so close to his family. The leopard faced demon had presumably assisted in the assassination of the Mayor and his family and inspiring the uprising, "What do you know?"
Lucca turned and knelt to Kid's level, "Sweetie, why don't you go play with Sister Luisa for a little bit?" Luisa walked over from the side table and moved over to Kid, "Yes, Miss. Kid! Let's go play out in the garden while big sister talks to his and her majesty?"
Kid huffed, "I never get to spend time with Uncle Crono and Aunt Marle anymore…"
"It's okay sweetie," Luisa reassured her, "We'll all have supper together tonight. Okay? Or at least some ice cream."
Satisfied with that deal, Kid grabbed Luisa's hand and proceeded to drag the young woman from the room. Once she was positive that Kid was out of ear-range, Lucca let out a heavy sigh and pulled out her reports, "The scouting teams didn't bring back much… more like they weren't sent back with much. But some reports from other sources I have managed to get back to me. He's presumed to be from the south, maybe El Nino or Arni… somewhere in the Demi-Human regions. It's like he came from nowhere and I haven't be able to determine if he was the initial route of the uprising or if he just happened to find Dalton."
"One could assume that Dalton and him have a common goal, but what could that be?" Marle asked. A flash of alarm went across Lucca's face, so quick that she immediately adjusted her glasses to hide her concern. However to her dismay, Crono saw it, "What do you know, Lucca?"
Lucca bit her bottom lip and shook her head slowly, "I think they're after the Frozen Flame."
"Excuse me?" Marle asked,
Shuffling through her papers, Lucca pulled out several documents, including photocopies of old journals, woodblocks, and even a small cameo painting. Marle took the papers and moved to Crono, showing him the images. There was a common denominator in all of them. There was an object, it almost looked like it could've been a sculpture that was in the shape of a large organic flame. What was disturbing was how it appeared to have two eyes peering at those who beheld it, "Lucca… what is this?"
Lucca became distressed and restless as she fidgeted, "I think… the best way I can describe it is perhaps it's a part of Lavos."
Crono and Marle's faces became drained of color, as Crono instinctively held his son a little closer, "Lucca, we defeated Lavos."
"Yes, we did. However, I think this… thing has some sort of connection. It was separated from the main form. Maybe when it plummeted to Earth, maybe when it parted from the thing on its own will… I thought it was a battery at first because it seems to have had a role in supplying Zeal with magic, but upon further research I think it actually was what was the evolutionary trigger for the human race.
"What are you getting at?" Marle whispered, stepping towards Lucca.
Lucca shook her head and tried to keep herself in emotional check, "Hell with these hormones…" she choked as tears began to mist her eyes, " I think it's elements are inside all of us. A-a-at some point humans came in contact with the Frozen Flame and were able to evolve and in some cases go beyond what normal humans were – hence the Enlightened Ones and the ability to use magic. We share the biology of the Enlightened Ones… that's the only way we could use magic. In a way… We're decedents of the Frozen Flame."
Marle turned with horror in her eyes to Crono, who was simply looking at Solan, "What should we do? Should we try to find the Flame?"
Letting out a wracked breath, Lucca wiped her eyes, "I've been trying but it's either not here or we don't have the technology to locate it yet."
"Crono?!" Marle exclaimed, "What should we do?"
Crono looked up at Marle and then over at Lucca, "Lucca, this is an order as your king… you are to return to Ashtear Isle. You will not come to the castle unless summoned, all of your reports and strategies will be relayed through trusted messengers. "
"Crono-!" Lucca nearly screamed , "You can't do that! I won't listen! To hell if you're the king or not!"
Crono's expression became dark and unreadable, "You have not only yourself to worry about now… you have Glenn, Kid, and now the child growing inside of you… I will not allow you to be close to where danger will come."
"You can either obey my request, or I will make sure you have no choice. Please do as I ask, Lucca." Crono stated, his voice deathly calm.
Lucca looked back at Marle, "Say something!"
Marle shook her head slowly, exchanging wordless moments with her husband. But as his expression changed from firm to sadness and worry, it became clear to her what he was really afraid of and what he was insuring, "Lucca… we will need somewhere to go if the castle falls that is safe."
For once in her life, Lucca was rendered speechless. Her mouth opened, but only a squeak came from the back of her throat.
The three were startled as Luisa threw the doors open with a huge smile, "Your highnesses… Lady Lucca… perhaps our kingdom's luck is changing… Melchior has arrived!"
Schala's knee came up hard into his side, making him lose his breath. Gritting his teeth, Magus turned his palm and sent her back with a pulse of energy. Stumbling backwards, Schala fell to one knee, panting and sweating. She felt her vision blur for a moment before she blinked a few times. Magus became back in focus, and gestured her to come at him again. She was ready to call it quits for the day, but then an image of Aybell flashed across her vision. Remembering how she ran behind him as they carried his limp body into the castle, the rush to get him out of his armor, all the blood… Rage boiled in her blood as she screamed and lunged at Magus. Shockingly, he was having problems following her movements. She had become so fast that between her attacks with the staff and shots of magic, she was actually boarding a challenge for him. It became apparent to him she was running out of energy, "Schala, we should stop."
Her staff came up and hit him hard in the side of the jaw, while she circled back and took out his knee sending Magus to the ground. Stunned, Magus drew his scythe and held it above himself as Schala's staff came crashing down against it. She screamed and fell to one knee, panting and gasping for air. To his horror, he noticed her eyes were the color of red. "Schala! STOP!"
Reaching up and bringing her down to him, he locked his arms around her body and cradled her close, "Calm down… stop… you need to stop! Schala—stop fighting!"
It was like she couldn't hear him anymore, Schala thrashed and kicked, screaming out in frustration and anger. Finally, Magus wrapped his legs around her and rolled so she was under him. With the slight jolt and knock to the back of her head, Schala snapped back into reality. "J-Janus..?"
Magus feverishly brushed her hair from her eyes, "Look at me, Schala." Groaning, she struggled to focus on him and instantly her eyes went from red and faded back to their normal color. A lump of fear resided in Magus's throat. He knew what had happened to Schala, as it had happened to him years ago. She was starting to tap into the dark power in her. If he wasn't careful, she'd summon it and let it take her as he did years ago and he was fearful he could not reach her if it came to that. The fact she even had that potential in her had taken him off guard – her, his sweet and kind sister was now becoming a product of malice, fear, and anger. He wouldn't let it happen to her, he refused. In fact he silently swore he'd take her darkness in him if needed.
"Janus," She moaned, reaching for him. Magus picked her up and stood to his feet slowly. She immediately grabbed onto the few strands of hair that were near her, huddling against him as if she wanted to melt into his chest, "Shhh… Rest now, love…"
As Magus carried her inside, Glenn approached from behind. The two formal rivals nodded to one another in acknowledgement, "Magus."
"What are you doing here, Glenn?" Magus inquired. Glenn smiled and peered at Schala, "You've gotten stronger, Princess Schala."
Exhausted, but somehow she managed to smile, "My brother is a great teacher."
"And stubbornness runs in our family," Magus added, dryly.
"You did not hear?" Glenn inquired, raising and eyebrow. When Magus returned an agititated stare, Glenn chuckled, "Melchior has arrived from the Western Continent."
"M-Melchoir?" Schala murmured, her eyes lighting up with glee.
Magus grinned, "Well… finally someone to give answers…"
"Y-yes…" Schala sighed. She did not hear Glenn and Magus cry out to her as a moment later she passed out in Magus's arms.
All she heard was the off-distant sound of murmurs. Rolling over in bed, she took the blankets with her and tucked them around her face. A few more murmurs and there a loud knock came from the door. Schala sat up and noticed it was pitch black. Had she slept so long it was night fall? She was very cold and felt weak, almost sickly. "Janus…" She yawned, "Darling… get the door please…"
When she noticed Janus was not beside her and the knock was growing more feverous, she reluctantly got out of bed. A few steps and she felt herself knock into a table of some sort. Had they moved her to another room? Where was Janus? "Janus!" she called again. Still no answer and the knocking persisted. Stumbling around in the darkness, Schala eventually found herself coming to a set of stairs, going downward. She wracked her brain to remember this room layout, she knew this floorplan even in the dark. Finally, Schala reached the door. Feeling for the handle, she caught it and jerked it open. Almost simultaneously, she felt arms lock around her waist. Startled, she stumbled back a few steps and looked down.
"Schala! Schala! Are you alright?!" To her complete and other shock, there was Janus – not her lover but her little brother, staring back up at her with wide eyes filled with concern, "I heard you calling for me but I couldn't get in! You must've locked the door!"
Slowly, she began to look around. She was back home in Zeal Palace, with two concerned attendants standing just a few feet from the door looking at the royal siblings. Schala looked back down at Janus and lightly patted his head, her eyes increasingly bulging from their sockets.
Janus tilted his head to the side, strands of his pale blue hair that matched her own falling into his face, "Is something wrong?" he asked. His answer was an ear-piecing scream from his sister.