A/N: I kind of like the idea of all the characters growing up in this fic, it's a theme I saw in the game and wanted to really add onto. Little by little each character changes and adapts. First to the struggles and hardships of the journey(which I felt were really understated in the game), then to the mess of lies and truths uncovered during the first Tower scene. I think maybe in showing the changes each character goes though... well that might be why this fic is so long, plus the fact it takes me a hundred words to clear my throat /grins/. Ah well, enough endless chatter more chapter. Hopefully by the next chapter they'll be out of the bloody temple... this is taking a lot longer then I planed, but then there's only one "trial" left in my outline now.

Shard Chapter 30


It was raining -or should he have called it "Raine-ing"?- relics. Any psycho ruin-modish elf's dream come true.

Well, except in dreams the vases didn't have razor sharp teeth, thier handels and decorations didn't become groaping tenticles and slaviating tounges.

There was a shatter as blade smashed into glass, clay, porcaline, the room for it's mass of fifty some odd vases, and each one despite looking the same was made out of different material. They screamed as they shattered, exhaling a blast of foul smelling wind as thier hides of various construct met with blade, angelic feathers, fireballs, and staff.

"Eng!" Hand over his nose the small elf raised a hand and called forth winds to banish the growing stink, each of those vases smelled wose then a Raine cooking experiment gone wrong.

Calling wind mana in the temple of wind lead to it's own problems, the shattered remains of the enemy were picked up in the miniture gale that Genis accidently summoned, and while the reek was gone they all were covered with small knicks and cuts.

"My research material!" Raine howled as the various decimated vases were turned into little more then powder at the spells conclusion.

There was an animal cry. They all turned, bleeding, weary, as the lone vase that had been inching after from the temples very start stared at the massive slaughter of it's kindred. It's small mouth sagged open, not in hostility, but shock. Then it screamed again, a flash of silver hissed thought the air and the thing shuddered. It reached with a flimbsy little tentecle to tap the gapping hole Kratos' dagger had left in it. A small web of black appeared, grew from the hole and covered the creatures hide, then it fell apart with a little sigh.

"We've barely begun, and this temple is begining to make me very tired." Kratos growled, limping out of the range of Raine's light spell to retrieve his dagger.

Colette looked down at Genis, her face creased in confusion. "I don't think that means Kratos is tired, as in sleepy tired, does it?"

"No, I think it means he's getting mad."

Lloyd bit his tongue. Refrained from correcting his friends. There was no "getting" about it, Kratos was mad, and seemed to be getting angrier with every seal. Although why, the mercenary hadn't told Lloyd that part yet, and Lloyd knew he could never guess any of Kratos' real reasons. The man was just too confusing.

There was a loud crunch. Lloyd lifted his head, turned to the sound and fingered the hilts of his blades, but it was only Kratos. Standing at the very edge of Raines' light spell they watched as Kratos grimly dragged his boot thought the remains of the last monster and then sharply kicked the beast's shattered pieces aside.

"For all we know they could regenerate. We aren't the first Regeneration group to get this far, and I doubt the preceeding groups were so lax as to leave a small army of monsters behind. It's best to make it as hard as possible for them to come back and hassle us at a later date."

Colette and Genis nodded, accepted the man's reasurance that he wasn't really being cruel to the monsters just because he could. Raine also nodded, buying the man's icy logic. Lloyd, knowing Kratos best of all, accepted Raine's truth and acknowledged the lie the man had fed Colette and Genis. He knew that Kratos was deliberatly being cruel and logical, all at once, because that's how Kratos was. Capable of wild anger but also capable of being as distant as ice. In Raine talk, Kratos was something of an eternal contradiction.

"Genis, next time we walk into an ambush, don't tap your kendama till the fight starts, OK?"

"Right." The small elf blushed. "I'm sorry everyone, I didn't think-" Genis paused, considered. "Well I guess... I didn't think, I panicked, I guess I should have known that the minute vibrations would have set off-" The half elf's blush deepened, he began to stammer. Colette made him hush by winding an arm around the sorcerer's shoulders.

"It's OK Genis, no one got hurt, and we were all a little scared."

Seeing Kratos ready to say something Lloyd "acidently" stepped on the man's toes. The mercenary hissed, his eyes turned to slits, but whatever comment he was going to make he didn't make it. Which was good enough for now. Raine watched the swordsmen, her raised eyebrow said more than any words could. She offered healing where it was needed -pointedly ignoring Kratos, but that was to be expected- when all seemed in order she beconed them to study the door she had discovered. Holding up her staff, she read by it's golden luminence the runes of anchient times.

In short, boring words by the dead people in the coffines.

After discovering that the walls were little more then stone coverings for countless tombs, coffins, and other creepy things Lloyd had refused to even touch them. Genis' hadn't been shy about teasing Lloyd about ghosts, and the younger swordsman had nearly died in shame. Colette had been understanding and admitted to being little scared herself, but then Martel would protect them. Raine had assured them all that there was no such thing, and Kratos... Well he'd raised an eyebrow and told Genis that some respect for the supernatural would be wise.

"Don't tell me you belive in ghosts!"

"I've fought them." The mercenary had told the boy in an icy voice.

"And here I thought you might have some microgram of common sense, swordsmen are just superstitious-"

"Genis, we may not totally comprehend the myrid myths that Kratos ascribes to to explain the ordered logical workings of the Goddess' universe, but he deserves some respect."

Very little respect was what Raine's tone had said. Lloyd sighed as he leaned against one of the pillars that was -hopefully- too thin to hold something dead in it. He wondered if she knew, that in mistrusting Kratos she was mistrusting him. He'd have to ask, and to explain it to her if she didn't. By the shrill note in Raine's voice her ruin nuttyness was returning... Lloyd groaned, shrank against the shadow of the pillar and wished he could just dissappear when the Professor had one of her fits. Genis was slowly being corrupted, the shorter elf's voice was going shrill with a lesser version of Raine's nuttiness. By the sound of it Colette was encouraging them both, offering information on the prayers and rituals. Raine would happily using Colette's faith to drag the blonde haired girl into her evil Ruin obsessed world, they'd be there for hours in front of the door talking ruins and Goddess' and...

"I hate this part of the stupid Regeneration Journey!" Lloyd groaned.

"I haven't found a part I like."

Lloyd jerked at the sound of the mercenary's voice. He turned -but not to fast, if his ribbons flared out behind him Raine might see it and drag him over for a history lesson!- and stared in total shock at Kratos. If he wasn't wrong,which he normally was, Kratos was hiding behind a pillar trying to stay out of Raine's line of sight.

No way, Kratos wouldn't hide from Raine... he was braver and stronger than anyone Lloyd had ever met. The man simply wouldn't hide from Raine.

"You're... hiding from the Professor, aren't you?"

"Don't look at me like that!" Kratos hissed.

"I can't believe it!" Lloyd flared. "I thought you were brave!"

Kratos growled, his dark eyes flashing dangerously. "I prefer to call this activity an evasive action of Miss Sage's insane driven monologues. However, if you have a burning desire to be brave, feel free to join your friends at the door."

"Not me, un uh." Lloyd shuddered at the idea.

The mercenary's face softened into a rare smile. "If you don't have the courage to change something, or challenge it, spare the world yet another empty critizising."

"I've no clue what you just said, but I'm climbing up that way when she turns around she won't see me."

"That's not a bad-"

Raine whirled, spying Kratos after having stumbling upon a reference to Sylph she solved her comprehension problem in a second. The writing was obviously anti-Martelian and with the man's dogged belief in other gods perhaps he could shed some light upon the obscure unenlightened concept of the misguilded ancients. Stepping back, gripping the hilt of his blade, Kratos growled.

"I will have no part of this maddness."

Raine's wild ruin mode eyes promised that he would.


Sniggering Lloyd watched form the dubious safety of his perch. What made it dubious was the perches sole vase occupant, but Lloyd would take blood thirsty relic over crazed elf scholar every time. He pointed a sword at the thing, and the monster quieted down and shuffled back and forth on it's slimmy vase like bottom.

Now that the monster was being nice Lloyd tucked his knees under his chin to give the creature a little room and watched the unfolding scene. Kratos was being dragged to the wall with it's scripture, and after being pinned by three sets of "Noishe Eyes" was squirming.

With the "Noishe Eyes" you squirmed and folded in about the same minute

Watching Kratos give in to Raine and everyone else promsied to be funny, he scooted a little closer to the edge, and lost in his glee he was ignorant of the little growl from behind...


"The Spire does not refure to "life", else the emphasis cross over the term would be present." Kratos explained to the elves and Chosen as he whiped away the dust above the zigzag rune. Dust that Raine -in her obsession with preserving authenticity of the script- had left untouched. "The unholy definition to spire... is... well not too dissimular to how it sounds in the modern tongue."

"Three spirits, three trials," Kratos gestured to the ancient door. "In this case, the trial is to find the way to open the door, and with three locks present we need to find three keys. The keys..." Kratos frowned at the text. "...sould be located at some type of spire. I appologize if my angelic is rather skettchy, I'm a swordsman after all, not a priest."

"Spire?" Lloyd's whispered question caught on the chambers vaulted ceiling and reached thier ears. They all turned and looked up. Lloyd sheepishly waved at them, managed a watery smile. "Like, up top? Well there isn't anything higher then this one and there aren't any keys here, just a va-"


They all cringed as Lloyd was thrown from the top of the talles pillar. Grappling something small, barely holding the rending teeth from his face, he hit the ground back first and the small vase went flying out of his hands... and smashed into a smaller pillar and shattered.

"Oww..." Lloyd looked up at the angry face of Raine and the concerned -and slightly less angry- face of Kratos. "OK, before you all start yelling at me, yeah, that was pretty stupid."

"The story of your life, Lloyd." Genis sighed. "You fall from trees all the time, and you climbed a really tall pillar?"

"Not you too."

"Lloyd, are you alright!"

"Yeah, I'm fine Colette."

Seeing that Lloyd was indeed fine Colette's tone, once concerned became somewhat sharper.

"Lloyd, what were you thinking? You promised you wouldn't do things like that anymore..."

Raising an eyebrow Raine stepped back to allow Kratos enough room to heal the dazed swordsman. She opened her mouth to ask when Colette had extracted that promise out of Lloyd. Seeing her expression Genis shook his head.

"It was so long ago I don't think either of them remember when it really did happen. He just keeps forgeting and Colette reminds him after he does something really stupid."

"Dear, try reminding him before he does something stupid." Raine suggested. "That way when he doesn't listen you can say 'I told you so', I've noticed that men respond to that beter then any previously extracted promise."

Kratos lifted his head, both hands were glowing with thier familiar pale azura light that precursed a "first aide" spell. "When ever did you learn about that?"

"I had a... friend in PalmaCosta, many years ago."

Kratos rose an eyebrow, but said nothing, and Raine pointedly ignored Colette and Genis' curious looks.


"I think... well the angels are trying to kill us." Lloyd mumbled under his breath as they skirted past another floor trap.

Kratos' sharp ears of course heard the mumble, he nodded, a silent encouragement that Lloyd could barely see, as they both were on the very edge of the staffs glow.

"I wouldn't argue that over much." Kratos mouthed the words slowly, not quite daring to whisper. They had paused as Raine and Colette were reading yet another wall slab. This was just one of countless pauses, and as had become habbit Genis went off a ways to juggle a small fireball on the ends of his kendama. Just tapping the ball on the weapons' enlarged cross peice must have grown dull for the magi, but this new repass put the mercenary on edge. All they needed was yet another wind gale, but those had been few and far between since wandering into the massive domed chamber that was part massive maze part death trap.

So while Genis played and Colette and Raine went through "angel mode" Lloyd and Kratos continued whatever topic they'd been talking about during the long march from slab one to slab... two hundred something. Kratos had lost count, and he knew for a fact Lloyd didn't even bother to count, the boy just endured.

"These temples aren't tests, they're death traps."

"Was it the first set of razor sharp spikes that came out of the floor or the second that tipped you off?" Kratos grumbled.

"And the fire temple with it's bird thingies... and the wat-"

Lloyd's voice hitched, as the guilt he'd felt came back as fresh as the day he'd let the creature posess him.

"It wasn't your fault." Kratos assured the boy. "And if you fail to recall I'll remind you, they took me as fast as they took you. It's a trick of the siren to lure men, there is no shame and precious little you can do to guard yourself againt thier... capabilites."

"I guess..."

"There's no guessing about it Lloyden, no guessing at all." Kratos gripped the younger swordsman's shoulder. "Try not to let it bother you overmuch. What you said, what you did, neither of those things came from you. Both your action and words came from the beast that had taken control, and you are not at fault. No one holds you at fault for your actions, no one."

Lloyd studied the stones of the temple floor, then sighed.

"I know... but... I can't just forget."

"Then don't forget, but forgive yourself for something that was beyond your control. Try, to do forgive yourself, at the very least just try." Kratos' lips quirked into a sad smile. "My wife's mantra to me when I'd sink into one of my self pitying moods."


"I've made mistakes." Kratos admited. "What you preceve as my perfection of swordsmanship comes at a price, as do all things." The mercenary sighed, seeming to sink into a private dispair.

"Hey, Kratos."

The mercenary looked up, the steel, the ice of his demeaner was dropped. It would raise, so natural it was to the man it was almost like a tide that would smother any warmth or hope in the man's soul. You could almost see it rising when he adressed Colette, or Genis, or Raine... Anyone else but Lloyd would have to slough through the man's defenses, and they were many. Arrogence, condescendence, sarcasm, and aloofness were just the few Lloyd had seen, there were more, had to be more, or Kratos wouldn't be so alone. Without his pose, without his shield of distance Kratos seemed somehow... vulnerable.

"Two things. One, Raine's starting to move on, she's going to go Ruin Nutty over a different slab. As for two... you may have screwed up somewhere, made a horrible mistake, but part of this journey -angels and crap aside- seems to be about forgiving yourself and letting go of what you've done. You might want to try it sometime, the whole forgiving part."

Sighing the mercenary shook his head. "You, of all people, can not understand-."

"Lloyd, Kratos!" Genis hollered. "Any swordsmen on the fieldtrip to the Temple of Wind are going to be left behind!"

"I knew he was going to get at you back for being a jerk in Iselia." Lloyd teased the mercenary.

"Hunh." Kratos glared at ths small elf. "Remind me again why I can't stab that little brat in the back?"

"Well one thing, we aren't near any streams of nothin' so it'd be really hard to clean up." Lloyd said in a voice loud enough for the others to hear. "Second, Raine would kill you."

"I heard that!" Genis hollared, "and for that... Are we there yet?"

"Gods..." Kratos rubbed his temples. "Not ag-"

Smirking Lloyd slung an arm over the mercenary's shoulders, leading his down the path. "Yeah, are we there yet?"

Kratos glared at the Iselian swordsman, then with a growl ducked out of the boy's embrace. One acidental shove with his sword's promel to the small of Lloyd's back and the youngerswordsman staggered forward. The red dyed boot caught on some small flaw on the temples floor, he tripped, and Genis managed a wail before he was burried under red clad swordsman. Still grumbling, the black clad mercenary strood past the heap that was half, elf magi and half, human swordsman.

"We'll get there when he get there, now shut up and march!"

Genis stuck his tongue out, grumbled something about jerk mercneary's, and Lloyd only smiled. It took some effort, a little pain, but Kratos was out of his sulky mood.


At least when the second monster started following them they all saw it. Lloyd rolled his eyes, pointed behind him, and the others groaned. The monster this time wasn't a little vase, but a squat batwinged creature covered with some type of grey hide. When they all turned to stare at it, the monster went still and stared right back at them. At least it wasn't as smart as the last ones. It didn't have any sneaky "I'm going to look like a ruin-thing" trick.

At least that's what Lloyd said, Raine sighed and corrected the boy. Ruin thing wasn't a word, relic, or artifact was the correct term.

And grumbling they had fallen into thier old paterns, into the old familiarity they'd had in Iselia. Lloyd the dunce being corrected by Raine the Professor, while Genis rolled his eyes and quietly teased and Colette encouraged... Then Lloyd brushed off Raine's lecture with a wave of a hand he looked at the monster that was staring at them with ruby eyes.

"We should do something about that."

Mutely Kratos agreed, drew his blade to show that agreement, and at that grim sound they rememered. Iselia was hundreds of miles away, and to some of them they could never go back. The moment was broken, the past banished, and the awkward present thrust upon them once again.

"Do we have to, it hasn't hurt us yet, it's just following." Colette protested.

"The last one did exactly the same thing, it was a relitively harmless creature. This gargoyle, however, is a much more vicious creature than some animated piece of ancheint crockery."

"A hundred Gald on that there's a room full of these things a little ways ahead." Lloyd grumbled, drawing his blades.

"You don't sound eager for a fight." Kratos noted. He flexed his fingers, a ring of green light was forming around his feet.

"Lloyd!" Colette cried out. "Please, it's not hurting any-"

"But it will." Lloyd sighed, not looking away from the monster. The beast, sensing the young swordsman's voilent intent unfluraled its jagged looking wings and ran a slate grey tongue over it's broken black teeth. "That's what monsters do Colette. They hurt people, and sometimes you have to... kill them before they can kill you. I'm sorry, but that's how it is."

Smelling the mana the beast hissed, turned on the mercenary. But Lloyd stepped in front of the man, both blades drawn. He'd cover Kratos, and Kratos would cover him, because that's what they'd have to do. To save the world, this was what they had to do...

Snarling, the beast lifted a claw, shielded it's eyes from the golden light that slid along the edge of Lloyd's blades like golden blood. With a scream -in defiance of the destruction of the darkness that was the world to the monsters of the temple- the gargoyle threw itself at the first of its' foes. Swatting aside stone claws, smashing his blades into the earthen hide, he finally had to push off the thing with a boot to get some distance from those snapping jaws and reaching claws.

He spared a moment to look down at his blades. They were usless, unable to draw even a thin line of blood or cause a knick. They'd never failed him before... Screeching in triumph, the beast flared its wings, threw itself forward, Lloyd lifted his blade in a pitiful defense... And a savege gust of wind whipped under the wings and threw the monster back. Before the beast could even think of folding the stubby protusions another gust smashed it in the back of the head hiting it with the foce of a sledge hammer. Then from all sides came a howling gale that slashed and cut and threw chunks of it's gritty hide and black blood around with abandon.

"If we run into more of those things it would be best if you stayed out of the fore front of the fighting." Kratos told the startled boy. "When your enemy is a beast blessed by Gnome's endurance, steel will do littlegood. There are ways around this of course, but we don't have the resources or time to begin that type of training until we're out of here." The mercenary softened his tone, seeing the boy's state of shock. "Are you alright?"

"Fine... just a little shook up."

"I happens every time you lose a fight. The faster you get over it the faster you can get up to try again. If you go too slow you'll die."

"It won't happen again." Lloyd promised, he looked at the monster and swollowed hard. Tried no to think about what would have happened had the thing gotten an inch closer, or if he'd been just a little slower...

Raine made a nose of disapproval. "That is not what you say to a child who's..."

"It's what you say-" Kratos whirled on the Professor. His black eyes were like shattered bit's of ice, cold and unfeeling, in the staves golden light. "-to a novice swordsman, to a adolecence striving to become an adult. You coodle the children and feed them whatever lies and platiudes to them that you have to to keep them going! You shield them from the world to protect thier ignorance based innocence! I never have, nor will I ever. Yes, you shield them, to a dregree, but when they start to grow up you help them do that. You don't smother them with lies and false promises! To do so is to kill them."

Releasing the hilt of his blade, the mercenary took a deep breath then let it out slowly.

"Come, we have much ground to cover before this is over, and possibly a fight at the end of this. Keep pace or be left behind."

Raine gritted her teeth, closed her eyes, and was only aware that the mercenary had walked past her by the whisper of his cape's tips brushing against the floor. A dejected Lloyd followed, the clink of his blades the whisper of his neck ribbons as the omnipresent breeze toyed with them were all that marked his presence to her. Then he was gone... following his mentor into the gloomy temples darkness. Clenching her hands, her fingers ached as they pressed against the wood, some spans itched as the feathers and beads caused agrivation that was not quite pain.

"Mr. Aurion, you fail to see the logic of this situation."

Though she did not open her eyes she knew that he paused. Genis shivered, leaned against her and shook from the force of Kratos' grim pronouncement. Absently she stroked her brother's hair, offering what meanger comfort she could.

"You can go as far ahead as you like, you can butcher as many monsters as messily as you'd like. That doesnt' matter. None of our actions matter." She opend her eyes, met his gaze. Looked into the silent rage that personified Kratos, and she knew then why she could hate him and why she would not. She could hate his calous cruelity, could hate him for such brutality and indifference, but pity for his circumstance and self distructive path would temper her from descending into hate. "We may 'celar the path' as the angels decree of the champions of the Chosen, but we may not walk it. That," her lips curled into a mocking smile. "is the duty of the Goddess Vessel. Any child, anyone with even an inkling of faith, would know that."

Kratos snarled, a man so broken and beaten by circumstance that he favored the manerisms of animals to express his rage.

"It is, in my experience-" Raine concentrated on her mana, allowing her scentence to fall away as she forsook the material world and brushed against the arcane. The golden light upon the staves jeweled top shimmered, then shot from it's perch sweeping in front of the group in a concentrated continous beam. Shaking her head to banish the discomfort of altering a spell from it's natural forum, Raine smoothly picked up her lecture from where she'd metephorically dropped it. "-that by applying logic one can illuminate any situation."

She swept the light so that it fell upon the surly mercenary, then set it so that it would show the path up ahead.

"And by seeing and looking about in an unbiased manner one may find the solution."

"That's a neat trick with the light Professor." Lloyd smiled, and she wondered if he understood the rebuttle. She wondered if he understood, and perhaps agreed.

"Thank you Lloyd. Colette, sweetie, could you please draw your wings so we have enough light to see whats around us as well as what's ahead? A little caution never hurt."

Colette complied, and after a flash of golden light the hall around them was shed in a surreal pink lumination. The shadows were tinted pink, the stonework aorund them cast into the feminine hue and made somehow... fuzzy due to the strange coloration. Blinking, she tried to ignore the strangeness of it all, appear composed and in control.

It was a facade both she and Kratos were both becoming masters at. Kratos would shiver but restrain his beastial rages and Raine would clench her staff as if to throtle her fascination with relics. In that... they were more alike than either would like to admit. Even as she lit the way with her carefuly controlled magic Raine wondered and worried. But her facade was in place, and time was teaching her how to perfect it. And she must perfect it, for Genis' sake, for Colette's, for Lloyd's... This journey, these trials meant to break and reform a Chosen must not be alowed to break her. Nor would she allow it to break or embitter her students...

Looking at Kratos, the man was little more then a black smear agaisnt the darkness that he clung to. Her lips pressed into a thin line, her eyes glinted with anger. No, this journey would not imbitter her students, or break them, she would let not allow it. No matter the obsticales that made such a goal hard to achieve. Because her students, most particularly Colette and Lloyd... were like family.

And like Lloyd, perhaps inspired by Lloyd's influence in her life, she knew that she would protect her family, no matter the cost.

Relaxing the near death grip on her staff, she gently nudged Genis.

"Come on, we mustn't be left behind."


A door, a lock with three parts, that would once again need three keys. There were no pillars, the room itself was bare.

Save for the ominous gargoyels that were perched on the miniscule ledges that jutted out from every cardinal direction. Frozen in poses of leering triumph they held earthen pitchforks that sproted cruel grotesk barbs. It didn't much help that they leared upon everything that dared enter the room. Kratos had wearily dranw his blade, looked upon the still "enemy", and cursed.

"Kratos." Colette sighed. "The goddess doesn't like it when people swear..."

And how about being homocidal scary pyromaniacs with swords? Genis couldn't imagine the Goddess looking kindly on that, but common sense made him bite his tongue.

"Look there." Kratos lifted his blade, like some macabre pointer, and they all followed it to the silver glint that hung around the creature's neck.

"Wha- I don't see... oh... crap." Lloyd squinted. "You've got to be kidding, we've got to climb up the walls,-" Lloyd ticked off a finger. "-to get to the statues,-" a second finger joined the first. "-to get the key,-" yet another finger was raised. "-to.."

"We get the idea Lloyd." Genis grumbled. "it's a lot of work and you're just being lazy and whining."

"I.. I'm not whining!" Lloyd flared, whirling to the only person who would back him. "Colette, I wasn't whining, was I?"

"Well..." Colette tapped her fingers together, looked at the unaccusing stone floor. "The goddess said that we aren't supposed to lie... but..."

"See, she agrees. You're whining."

"Shut it, I wasn't wh-"

Raine raised a hand to massage his aching temples. She knew both boys. This could go on for a very long while.

"Lloyden..." Kratos' black eyes glinted dangerously. Lloyd gulped, and fell silent under that malace laced glare. Seeing that the children weren't going to fall into a "did not, did too" disagreement, the mercenary walked to the nearest wall and ran a hand up it's smooth side. "While the idea is a good one, there are no handholds. It seems as if someone did something to smooth out the walls. Or perhaps the winds that run around the temple have worn these down so that they appear to be a solid mass of rock."

They all fell quiet, considered the problem of fetching the keys. No one felt it appropriate to mention that getting the keys would awaken the statues. In bad situation you just didn't mention how things could get worse.

"I could just jam knives and swords into the wall and climb up that way." Lloyd suggested after -what was for him- an unnaturaly long span of silence.

"You have absolutely no respect for your swords, do you?" Kratos sounded disgusted. Loathing and anger rolled off his lips, sheathing his words in venom. "We are miles away from the nearest town, and that little exercise would destroy all of your weapons. Unarmed is dead in this world. Filled with Desians, monsters, and with an assassin probably less than a day behind us-"

"Bad idea!" Lloyd surendered, throwing his hands in the air and backing away from the mercenary. "Really bad idea, I give."

"Don't give, think before you speak." Kratos rumbled.

Colette, who had opened her mouth to praise Lloyd's idea, snapped it closed as she witnessed the display between the swordsmen. She considered what Kratos had said, then thoughtfully twitched one wing. They were small modest wings, spaning little more then half an arms length from her back. It seemed impossible for her to fly with them, but when she needed to, it seemed she could.

Still she felt funny trying to fly, what if she couldn't do it when she wanted to? But Lloyd's idea about knives gave her a different idea.

"I could make a stair, with my feathers."

Sighing, Kratos turned to her, his mouth opening to kill that idea. Suddenly Colette wanted to try it, needed to try it, just to prove she could do something to help. Anything to help...

"When I pray to the Goddess during a fight my feathers get really sharp." Colette pressed on, stubornly ignoring the mercenary. She turned to the more receptive and curious audiance of Genis and Riane. "If I... um flap, is that the right word? Well... If I flap my wings so the feathers hit the wall maybe Lloyd could climb up using the holes my feathers make. That way-" she turned to face Kratos, hoping her idea would defuse some of his anger. "-he won't have to break his swords or knives? I don't know if it's a good idea but..."

"Why not just fly up?" Kratos asked.

Colette blushed, her wings absently rubbed against each other even as she rubbed her foot against the back of her leg. She mumbled something and Kratos' eyebrows rose, not one, both of them.

"I didn't quite catch that..." The mercenary said breaking the uncomfortable silence which had setteld over the chamber.

She said it again, speed blurring her words and marring thier coherancy. Genis opened his mouth to ask this time, but Raine frowend and hushed him with a sharp nudge.

"If Colette doesn't want to fly then I don't think we should push the issue-" Raine began.

"Still to waste energy, which is as vital a resource as food and water in these circumstance-" Kratos cut in.

"I can't fly!" Colette wailed, wipeing at eyes that would shed no tears. Eyes that had shed no tears for so many long weeks that she almost forgot what it felt like to cry. "The Angels didn't tell me how to so I don't know how to!"

"You.. can't...what?" Kratos nearly strangled.

"Shut it. You laugh at her and I swear we'll fight, for reals." Lloyd growled.

"I wasn't laughing..." Kratos growled right back, but this time Lloyd didn't shrink back from the growl. "I'm merely surprised at the Angel's lack of foresight, yet... I am very impressed with the Chosen's abundance of it. It seems as if this time the Angels picked thier Chosen well."

Colette blushed, and her wings fluttered behind her in response to her pleasure at the man's rarely given praise.

"I think if Colette can make handholds with her angel magic my more mundane magic might be able to produce a simular effect." Genis said, his words falling in perfect rythem of the steady one-two tap of his kendama.

"Fine," Kratos drew his blade. "If they attack,-" Kratos inclined his head to the mundane looking statues. "-pull back into the center of the chamber. We'll hold them back while you cast whatever spells you have to kill them."

"Maybe, if the Goddess is smiling down on us, we won't have to." Colette murmurred as she clasped her hands together to pray.