Symphony of the Abyss

Chapter 5

It took another week to locate the next target. Dist was a brilliant magitechnician. He would be able to build an entire fomicry lab, given the proper materials and enough worker-drones. His motives were even closer to Yggdrassil's own than Jade's were, so there was no fear of betrayal. Dist was perfect for the job. With one exception: his understanding of the fundamental theory involved in the fomicry process was severely lacking. He knew enough to build the device, but nowhere near enough to adapt the process for use with mana. No matter. Yggdrassil would be able to figure it out himself, if he had examples to work from. This was where Dist came in handy again. He knew of a perfect replica, and his original, both of which were still alive. Even their mana signatures were said to be identical. They were practically walking textbooks. Even so, with all the information Dist was able to give, it was still difficult to locate two people over an entire planet.

The first one they found had been traveling with Jade. Luke fon Fabre. Some nobleman's son. Yggdrassil forgot whether he was the original or the replica, but no matter. That would be sorted out later on.

The teleportation itself went flawlessly. Yggdrassil sat back while Dist operated the console until eventually, a boy stood on the platform. He was about Lloyd Irving's age, with short red hair.

"Where am I?" the boy asked dully, looking wide-eyed around the room until he eventually laid eyes on Dist. "You? What are you doing here?"

"Never you mind." Dist replied. "Just be a good boy and cooperate." He waved an arm and two angels restrained Luke on either side, with a third moving in to confiscate his sword. Luke struggled as best he could, twisting this way and that, trying to wrench his arms from the angels' grip. He pulled one free, and punched the right-hand angel out of the way only to have another one swoop in to take its place. He kicked furiously, bringing the angels down to their knees, but their grip didn't loosen. Yggdrassil smiled. He knew they would sooner die than let go. Luke was slowly loosing energy, but it was taking far too long for Yggdrassil's taste. He raised a hand to signal another angel. Luke gave one last kick, but the only thing it accomplished was earning him a nosefull of a bitter-smelling gas. The strength drained from Luke's body, and he collapsed.

It took Kratos an hour or two after he'd gotten word about the new prisoner before he was able to find the time to see him. According to Dist's report, it was one of the fomicry test subjects that he'd procured from his homeworld; a boy of about Lloyd's age. Dist insisted great care be taken with his handling, as it was unsure how many 'dastardly tricks' Jade had taught him. At this point, Dist went into a long tirade about the many ways Jade had wronged him, and Kratos wasn't able to get any more useful information out of him. In fact, it took quite some time before he was able to find enough of a break in the 'conversation' to say that he was very busy and to excuse himself. Dist was an irritating man, but at least he was useful. He'd given Kratos both a way to get him out of Dherris-Kharlan, and provided an excuse for his disappearance.

The boy, conveniently enough, was being kept in Jade's old cell, so it took Kratos no time to find him. He didn't notice Kratos standing in front of his cell for a few minutes. He was as close to the force field as he could manage, testing its strength with his fingertips. He touched the field, and quickly withdrew it again as shocks of electricity coursed through his body. He shook the numbness out of his hand. Kratos cleared his throat loudly, and the boy looked dup.

"Who're you? Where am I? What's going on?" he said, as fast as he could get the words out of his mouth. Kratos held up a hand for silence.

"My name is Kratos." Kratos kept his explanation short; time was limited. "You're being kept as a test subject for Fomicry experiments." The boy twitched, balling his hands into fists. Kratos was sure he'd have run up and grabbed Kratos' arms if he was able.

"What? That's ridiculous! Why do you need me for that? I've got to get out of here!" the boy said, practically all at once, as though he couldn't decide which reaction he should have first.

"Calm down. I'm here to help." Kratos said. The boy took a deep breath and sat down on the cot on the right side of his cell. "Your friend Jade was taken as well, but he's escaped. I don't know exactly where he is, but I can take you somewhere where you should be able to track him down." Kratos tapped a few keys on the control pad, and the force field hummed and brightened for a moment before fading into nothing. The boy took a step forward.

"Thanks. I'm Luke." he smiled and held out a hand. Kratos turned his back without shaking it.

"This way. We don't have much time." He headed back through the halls the way he'd come. The sound of footsteps on the metal floor telling him Luke was following close behind.

Luke was left to his own devices in front of a large, walled city. Even from outside the gate, he could see different tiers of progressively fancier and more skilfully-built structures. It reminded him of his hometown of Baticul in that respect. The gates to the city were shut, and two soldiers were stationed in front. Luke watched as they stopped travellers who tried to enter the city one by one and questioned them. After a few minutes, one of the guards would open the gate just wide enough for the travellers to pass through. Luke swallowed. He didn't have any travelling papers on him -- would he be turned away? Oh well. Nothing to do but to try. Luke took a deep breath, and walked toward the city, until the guard on the left blocked his path.

"Can I get your name, son?" he asked.

"It's Luke," said Luke. "Why?" The guard ignored him for a moment while he pulled out a slip of paper and unrolled it. From what Luke could see, it was a sloppily drawn portrait of some guard stared at it for a moment. Then he stared at Luke. Then he stared at the paper again. Satisfied, he rolled up the paper, and lowered his voice.

"We're on the lookout for the criminal, Lloyd Irving."

"Lloyd Irving?" Luke had never heard of the guy.

"He's a dangerous criminal, guilty of crimes against the Church of Martel." The guard tucked the portrait back where he'd drawn it from. "There are posters up all over the city, so if you spot him, let us know." He waved a finger at his partner, who then went and opened the gate. Luke nodded, and went through.

One hurdle over. Now, how to go about finding Jade? He was supposed to find someone called the Chosen of Mana, right? So who was that? Luke stopped the first person he came across to ask. A rather large man, carrying a large bag filled with gels.

"Excuse me. Could you tell me where to find the Chosen of Mana? "

"That depends," the man smiled a smile that greatly suggested he was pleased with his own wit. "What do you want with him?"

"Oh, nothing much. I just think he might know where... where a friend of mine is."

"So who's your friend? If I see him, I'll let him know you're looking for him."

"Jade." Luke felt a weight lift off his shoulders. It looked like this wouldn't be as hard as he'd thought. "Jade Curtiss." Luke heard a dull thud as the man dropped his sack of gels. His eyes widened and his skin paled a few shades.

"Jade the Necromancer?" the man managed to say. Luke blinked twice.

"How did you know that?"

The man scrambled to pick up his shopping, and hurried away down the street without another word. Weird. If that Kratos guy was telling the truth, this was a completely different world. So nobody here could possibly have heard of Jade's reputation. Luke pushed this line of thought out of his mind for the moment, and continued to explore the city. He stopped to ask various townsfolk about this 'chosen' fellow as he worked his way higher, usually with no better luck than he'd had with that first man. At one point, he'd stopped a few ladies in the plaza in front of the coliseum to ask them about the Chosen.

"Oh MY! How could someone like that possibly be your friend?" the lady on the right said, after Luke had gotten to his point.

"Uh, well --" he started, but got no further before the other woman interrupted.

"I heard he was planning on blowing up the cathedral." she said.

"I heard he was a half-elf, and was trying to assassinate the Chosen one." added the first.

"Um..." said Luke, taking a few steps backwards. He was honestly starting to wonder if there was more than one Jade Curtiss.

"You aren't trying to harm that poor man as well, are you?" The second woman took a few commanding steps forwards, until her mouth was mere centimetres from Luke's nose. "I think you're looking for poor Zelos because you ARE Jade the Necromancer, aren't you?" Both women leaned forward, hands on their hips, and inspected Luke intently from foot to head.

"Maybe he's Lloyd Irving, and Jade's just part of his gang." the first suggested. The two ladies were now throwing theories back and forth as though Luke was just a picture on a wanted poster taped to the window of a hair salon. "I heard from Janet that Lloyd has red hair."

"No, dear, he has a red shirt." Insisted number two. "This fellow is one of Lloyd's gang."

Luke figured it'd be a good idea to leave. He'd heard about the power of gossip, but this was ridiculous. "Um... sorry to bother you." He turned to leave the moment the words were out of his mouth, but a crowd of bystanders blocked his path. When had they gotten there? Today's round of competition must have ended while the ladies were talking. Looking at the crowd, Luke felt a cold chill run down his back. They were all talking amongst themselves, pointing, and doing their best to avoid eye contact.

"He's trying to escape! Someone catch him." a voice from the crowd called out, and the mob was upon him. Punches and kicks came from every which direction. Luke could barely manage to avoid most of the blows, let alone look for an escape. He blocked a punch aimed for his stomach, but wasn't fast enough to avoid a kick to the shin. The shouts of the crowd grew louder and louder, until Luke could barely hear the clinking of the city guard as they marched to investigate the scene. Wait, the city guard? Luke was saved! Surely they'd understand the crowd was just jumping to conclusions.

"Alright now, clear off," the squad leader announced. "What's going on here?"

"We've captured Jade the Necromancer." someone said. It was that first lady again. The squad leader glanced at Luke

"Are you sure it's him?" he asked.

"Positive. He's been going around asking strange questions about the Chosen."

The crowd broke out in general murmurs of assent, surprise, and comments about how Luke'd asked them, too. Luke stared at the ground, fists shaking. He couldn't take it anymore - he'd have to set the record straight.

"That's not true!" he yelled at the top of his lungs, stunning the crowd into silence. The squad leader wiped a speck from the inner corner of his eyes and signed.

"You haven't been asking about Master Zelos, the Chosen?"

"Well, I have, but --"

"And you're not out to harm him?"

"Of course not."

"So who are you, then?"

"Luke. Luke fon Fabre."

The squad leader turned to leave, but stopped and asked one last question.

"Can anyone vouch for your identity?"

"Um..." Luke began to sweat a little the angry and suspicious stares of the crowd bored into him. "No."

"I'm going to have to ask you to come with me." the squad leader grabbed Luke by the upper arm and started pulling him away. Luke didn't resist.