Chapter 14 / The Guru of Reason

"Crono... Crono! CRONO! STOP IT!" Marle screamed as loud as she could.

Her voice was drowned out by the sudden pain as I felt the edge of a blade digging into my flesh. It was coated in some sort of poison or acid, something that intensified the pain. I screamed from it. I couldn't hear myself, or anything anymore. All that I was left with was the pain. It seared through me, to my very core. I needed it to stop, I'd do anything if this pain just stopped.

"Dalton! You son of a bitch! I'll kill you! Get away from him! CRONO! CRONO!" I heard her voice come through for a moment. They were making her watch my torture.

"Such spirit even after these last few days? You truly have lived up to be quite the diversion. It's been my upmost pleasure to see that pained expression on your face as I torture him. You're powerless. Just wait... soon the Queen will not be watching to protect your... Chasity. I'm sure your dear Crono will enjoy watching as you are defiled..." Dalton laughed as he drove the blade deeper into my flesh. The pain overwhelming... The darkness came to claim me.

My eyes opened suddenly and I sat up, finding that I was breathing rapidly and tried to catch my breath. Closing my eyes I felt familiar, comforting hands wrap around my head. This comfort could only come from one person. "Nadia," I whispered, saying her real name for the first time in quite a while.

"You were... screaming in your sleep," she said after a moment. "We're okay now, Crono." I felt her kiss the top of my head and pulled me against her chest.

"They don't call it torture for nothing right?" I attempted to laugh but it just came out as an odd sounding chuckle.

"Crono, I love you," Marle whispered.

Her sudden confession sobered up my grogginess from that nightmare. I pulled away from her and brought my hand to her face to get a better look at her, "I love you too." I don't think normally I would have said it, but after what happened I don't think there were any other words I wanted to say more.

"I watched all of it. Every time he cut into you, ever moment he touched you, and every second of it I wanted to do the same to him. To return every goddamn thing he inflicted on you. And he did it all because of me, because of how I responded... but I couldn't stop myself. I told myself so many times to stop so that maybe it would lessen what was happening to you but... I couldn't. And when I close my eyes I see that bastard, Dalton..." Marle's tears streamed down her eyes as she looked at me. We were both hurting.

"I know, I felt the same when the Queen tortured you," I leaned in and kissed her forehead. "But we have work to do. I'm glad Lucca and the others didn't get caught, but that might not stay that way if we don't get back to that time period."

"Yeah, I know," Marle took an uneasy deep breath. But she reached up and put her lips to mine. This kiss was unlike what we had shared in the past. This wasn't a kiss of passion, this was one of longing, of desperation, of need. It was to confirm that both of us were here, alive, together. Somehow, we had survived.

"It seems you two have finally awakened," a familiar voice. I looked to see a rugged older man with long black hair, Spekkio a proclaimed god of war. "It seems the flow of time has delivered you back to my domain."

"Spekkio," I said his name and realized that Marle and I were on the floor of the room we had met him and received the gift of magic. "We're sorry to have intruded."

He shook his head, "After such a trial you both faced, I think you have earned at least a moment of reprieve. Remember, time does not move here in my domain. So please, rest."

"You saw it then, the two of us being tortured," I looked to Marle and put my hand to her cheek. "The Queen didn't want answers or ask a simple question. I imagine we were used as an example. We will do this to you and your loved ones if you defy me. She referenced the Guru's had defied her when we were captured. We were just targets of convenience."

"Objective and insightful even after all you had to endure. I'm sure your Father would be proud of such dedication, as is your Mother," Spekkio said and smiled. "Allow me to put your hearts at ease. Your friends remain out of danger in the age of antiquity. However, they are stranded in that time, as the Gate you used has been sealed away. Though it was highly unstable to travel through to begin with."

"That's good," Marle sighed in relief and put her head against my chest. "But now what? Where do we start? How can we get back?"

"Schala asked us to save Melchior, the guru of life. I mean we know a Melchior but... there is no way..." I shook my head.

Spekkio laughed, "Speak to the old man. I'm sure he can lead you down a place to begin." He then held his out to me, "I imagine you'll need this."

Marle's pendant.

"How did you... I mean Dalton had taken it away from us," Marle eyes widened as she took the pendant from Spekkio's hand.

"You could say it followed you here. That man had no rightful claim to it. I see you have restored its shine to it. It is both beautiful as well as dangerous," Spekkio commented.

"Yeah, because the power is from Lavos," I added. "But we might need it's power if we come across any sealed doors like the one from the throne room."

"If it is those doors you seek, then might I suggest Keeper's Dome in the far flung future?" A new voice entered. The old man ventured into the room of Spekkio's domain and stood upright with a cane. "Spekkio told me you came from the Kingdom of Zeal and that your companions have been left behind."

I turned to him, "The future? The wasteland? What can we find there?"

"If I recall, the man known as Belthasar the Guru of Reason ended up in such a place," the old man smiled.

"The Guru of Reason?" Marle was as alarmed as I was. "How do you know that name?"

"Because..." I took a breath. "He's one of them, the Guru's. Right?"

The old man chuckled, "It is as you say."

"Yeah, I get it. It explains a lot. The Melchior we know in the year 1000 is the same as the Guru of Life. And the boy Janus, is actually Magus. I'm guessing that something happens with Lavos, something that sent you all scattered through time," I could feel the pieces of information falling into place in my mind.

"Then why would Magus summon Lavos in the middle ages?" Marle asked.

"Revenge," I said looking to the old man. "For his sister, Schala. Something happens to her."

"Lady Schala was used for her ability to control that infernal Mammon Machine. The pendant that is powered by Lavos is a key to it. We, the Guru's, were able to create the pendant using our research, with magical scripts. But it didn't work for just anyone. Although I couldn't tell you what the qualifications are. Schala and Janus were both born with a high capacity for magical power. Janus was likely just as capable as his sister in ability to control the machine, but Schala protected him from that responsibility," the old man explained.

"Yeah, I thought as much," I nodded.

"After the creation of the Ocean Palace and moving the Mammon Machine to the depths to be closer to Lavos... it awakened him. His power surged, and gates opened, pulling each of us Guru's and Janus into them, banished to different places in time. That was how I came here," he seemed somewhat remorseful. "We were all ignorant then. We realized too late what our research and quest for power would do. When we tried to stop the Queen, she was already under the influence of that power."

"So Magus ended up in the Middle Ages because of Lavos. Instead of aiming to return to his own time... he wanted to gain power. Enough to summon Lavos... enough to kill Lavos. It wasn't just his sister he lost, but his Mother too," Marle shook her head. "He used the mystics to gain the power he wanted. And in turn he was used to unite fiendkind under one banner."

"Ozzie, Magus' supposed underling, likely was behind that development," I said as I finally got to my feet, bringing Marle up with me. I felt stronger than I had in days. But the two of us could definitely do with a meal. "As much as I want to head straight to the future to take a find Keeper's Dome, we should probably stop in a different time and grab a meal."

"Then we should go to the Middle Ages... We could stay in the Inn and get a meal in Truce of that time," Marle suggested.

"And we wouldn't have to answer any questions or have a bounty on our heads... right?" I chuckled.

"I mean, I was trying not to mention that part," Marle grabbed my arm. "Thank you, Spekkio. For looking after us. And you... Guru..."

Spekkio smiled, "What you both face is beyond what any mortal could hope to stand against. And yet I feel a great potential for you both to overcome the trials that lay in wait for you. I await to see you face those tribulations head on."

"You have no need to thank me, or refer to me by a name. I've shed that identity when I was trapped here. Even now I can't leave the End of Time. Although I wonder if this place might also change by the defeat of Lavos. I instead would apologize for my own part in the events you've seen and will unfold in the time of Antiquity. If you are determined, then I wish you all the luck that I can bestow," the Old Man then turned and exited out the door behind him.

I watched as he left and a thought occurred to me, "Spekkio the flow of time affects all of us differently, doesn't it?"

"You wish to know why he didn't attempt to return through one of the Gates that have opened here, correct? Or perhaps how a man could even live in a place like this without any essentials to speak of," Spekkio raised an eyebrow.

I sighed, "Honestly things have been so crazy I am unlikely to discount a lot of possibilities as truth."

"Against Lavos though, he wouldn't have been able to do much on his own," Marle said softly next to me.

"True enough," I nodded. "I'm just thinking that even if he could... he wouldn't have been able to return to a time in which he could change anything."

"You are facing against a being that has power to persist in several moments in time. This place, while bleak can offer refuge away from its gaze. As such time itself has little influence here. The Old Man has adapted to a bleak existence here. And as a god of war, I can at least provide some simple necessities. You two, however, should rest before you head out," Spekkio smiled a bit and turned away from us. "You'll be tested more than ever before in the near future. I hope you'll be able to handle it."

Marle and I shared a look before we left Spekkio's room and back out to the main area of the End of Time. We both moved to the location where we had set up cushions and what not previously and I sat down, Marle then laying next to me. I put an arm around her as the two of us got as comfortable as we could.

"Crono, do you think... Magus would help us?" Marle asked after a moment.

"I'm sure Glenn and him would have to settle the business between them in some capacity, but if Lavos is his goal, and has been all this time then I'm sure he can be reasoned with," I took a deep breath and closed my eyes, feeling the warmth of Marle against me. "I hope Lucca is okay. She's probably waiting for us."

"Don't worry, she has Ayla, Glenn and Robo with her. They'll be fine," Marle assured me.

"I know but how could I not be worried? Just think about the situation we're in. Traveling through time, trying to save the world from the destruction we've seen, even though we don't know what will happen or if it is possible to defeat Lavos. And we might find ourselves woefully unprepared when we do confront him," I sighed, but felt Marle moving before feeling her lips on mine. We shared a brief kiss before she pulled away and laid her head on my chest.

"This is the path we will walk. Regardless of the outcome, I know that we can't turn back and forget what we've seen," Marle spoke softly.

"You're right. We know that something is going to happen in the age of antiquity. Zeal will fall... but we also know that the Guru's and Janus get sent through time gates. So I was thinking about that... The Queen's trusted allies... we can't allow them to go through time. Us being there might present them that opportunity. I know it might be harsh but..." I stopped as I felt Marle's finger on my lips. I opened my eyes to see myself looking into hers.

"We'll do what we must, right? If we can't do those actions, then how could we be so arrogant to say we can change the future? We have to have the ability to do what must be done, if we want to ensure the future," Marle smiled before kissing me once more.

I chuckled after she pulled away, "I guess I didn't really have to say anything. I think you can nearly read my mind at this point."

"Not true," she giggled. She settled in and pulled out a blanket from her bag and put it over the two of us. "I love you, Crono."

Marle must had been close to falling asleep this whole time because only a few beats later I could feel her breath fall into a pattern as she was asleep against my chest. I sighed once more and looked up, staring into the endless expanse of the End of Time. A place that shouldn't exist. A place that came to be likely because of the actions of Lavos. There was so much I didn't understand about the situation. What would we find at the Keeper's Dome? Could the way forward be found in such a desolate place? There was only one way to find out.

The two of us were well rested when we headed out. With the Gate Key in hand we stopped int he Middle Ages and grabbed a meal at the Truce Inn before we returned and made the trip to the future. Once there we took the jet bike back across towards back to Arris Dome. After talking with them we were directed through sewers that headed to a different part of the continent. We were forced to fight some creature named Krawlie, who didn't give us much choice in the matter, but Marle and I found that he wasn't much of a threat.

The two of us had only grown stronger as a duo in battle, being able to combine our magic and our movements matched each other and we had gotten to a point that a lot of things required very little communication. I felt like if our situation was different I would definitely take for granted who it was that was by my side. I was very much aware that Marle was actually Nadia Guardia, Crown Princess of the nation of my birth. And yet, any concern about that was far removed from the problems we were prioritizing. And who knows if we'll live long enough for it to be our primary problem again.

After appearing out of the sewer, we could see the dome that we were told was Keeper's Dome in view. But this place had a distinct chill, and the nearby mountains covered in snow only seemed to compound that fact, as there was definitely a cold chill that made the two of us move a bit faster. Fortunately, having thought about clothes for when we managed to figure out a way back to age of antiquity we had brought a good amount of warm clothes with us. It was only a few hours before we arrived at the dome, and found the door open. The inside was chilly, and had a stagnant fog.

We found a pair of computers but they seemed to be off. The two of us looked around before we looked at the door.

"No way, that's the same sealed door," Marle quickly approached it.

"Guess that settle's that. This is where the Guru of Reason must have ended up," I approached the door and pulled out Marle's pendant. I held it towards the door and watched as it shined and after a moment the door disappeared. The two of us stepped inside.

A voice spoke as soon as we entered what looked to be a hallway of sorts, "You, who have opened the door... I am Belthasar, the Guru of Reason, and formerly of the kingdom of Zeal. I was cast into the era by a great disaster which befell our land. Much to my surprise, I have learned that the creature Lavos was not a product of our age-far from it. It seems that the being fell from the sky in a bygone age, burrowing deep into the planet's core. There he began to feed upon its energy, growing even stronger."

"So Lavos arrived in Ayla's time, and spent all that time feeding off the planet?" Marle and I kept walking.

"And the story of the falling red star, and the word Lavos was passed down among her people. Ayla called it Lavos before we had even mentioned it. So it likely originated from her and her people. A story and term that likely persevered through time... but its origins were lost and... I wonder how Zeal came to discover Lavos and use his power... That Mammon Machine is likely the main culprit," I speculated before the voice spoke again.

"Lavos' form was revealed briefly when he was summoned forth by a mighty wizard by the name of Magus in the year 600. In the year 1999, Lavos emerged to claim the surface. Now he has taken the place I've named Death Peak as his throne—or nest, as it may well be. His miniature spawn now flows from the mountaintop, an avalanche of death. Lavos is a parasite—a parasite of gargantuan proportions whose host is the planet itself." Belthasar continued to explain briefly what he had learned of Lavos.

"So had the events with Lavos been recorded? Even our confrontation with Magus?" Marle asked me.

"Hard to say, he probably only saw a glimpse of a mention or I imagine he would have said a lot more. Considering Magus is still revered by mystics in our time, it isn't so unbelievable that a mention of Lavos would make it that long. Plus if the Melchior we know is the same as the Guru of Life from antiquity then it all kind of makes sense how records about Lavos would find a way one way or another to be preserved. But from the sounds of it... the destruction of the planet might have been... a price of its reproduction," I said after a moment.

"Then... its spawn is likely waiting to grow before leaving the planet... searching for a new planet to eventually eat and... how many more planets have suffered or died? How many more could be at risk?" Marle shook her head.

"Trapped here, I endeavor to continue my study and observation of Lavos. But I believe the end draws near. Maintaining one's sanity is an endeavor in and of itself in an age such as this—an endeavor I fear may be futile. So, before my mind is lost forever, I have decided to leave these records of my knowledge behind, along with my greatest invention."

"Even though he saw the fate of this world... or perhaps because of it, it strives him to finish his invention. This was what the old man must have been talking about..." I looked to Marle.

"You think his invention is going to help us?" she asked.

"Only one way to find out," I stepped forward as we came near the end of the hall to a door.

"Ever did I long to return home, and toil endlessly in search of a way. But as I neared the completion of my research, so did I near the end of my days. I have grown old, and frail. And so, I leave it in your hands—you, who have opened the way. Take hold the reins of time, and let all the people of this planet's past and future join as one! Then—only then—you just may be able to stop Lavos," Belthasar's voice said. Marle and I shared a look realizing the implication of those words. "You have little chance of success. But even a little chance is still a chance! You who have opened the door…the fate of the world is in your hands. Open now the final door and claim what awaits you. My last and greatest work… The Wings of Time."

The door in front of us was the same as the sealed door from before, so I held the pendant out again and it began to glow. As soon as it opened we both stepped inside. Something massive was inside... covered with a gigantic sheet.

"Marle, grab that side," I said as we both grabbed it and yanked it off to reveal what was hidden beneath it. As we did, lights came to life illuminating the dim room. What was shown was... impressive.

"What is before you is a time machine. I had originally wanted to see its completion to return to Zeal, but it seems I was unable to complete it before my own life had little left. All I can do is hope that you can take this and change this future," Belthasar's voice faded, and as it did we watched as something underneath the ship lowered.

"A time machine? For real?" Marle exclaimed.

The machine looked polished, The metal painted white and the details a gold color... and it looked like there was some sort of control room that could lookout through the front. I stepped forward and Marle excitedly took my hand and took me over to the platform.

"Doesn't it remind you of an invention that Lucca would make?" Marle smiled as she saw a panel with two buttons. "This must be it! Annnnnd... clicky." She hit the button that had an up arrow and it went up and into the inside of the time machine. As we did the lights on the inside began to light up. There was a good amount of room, several seats and cargo room.

"Yeah, if Lucca had the time and the resources something like this would definitely be something she'd make," I stepped to what I presumed was the front with glass and had a pair of seats in front of an assortment of inputs and devices. Can't say I really understood it. But I took a seat and Marle in the one next to me. "I'm sure Lucca would be going crazy at the sight of this."

"Now that we have this, she'll see it soon. I can't wait to see her lose her mind when she gets a load of it," Marle smiled and put her hand on the display. "Now how do we..." Everything quickly lit up. "Oop!"

"Start up sequence initiated. Detecting two passengers..." A rather familiar voice came over a speaker.

"Belthasar?" I asked.

"Ho, ho, surprised you didn't I?" the voice was definitely him. "I uploaded my memory to the Wings of Time. Even if I couldn't live to see it take it's maiden voyage I didn't want to leave my invention without any help in its operation. Tell me, are you here to claim me in hopes of defeating Lavos?"

It was surprising at first but Marle was quick to respond, "That's right, we have been traveling through Gate's to different time periods in attempts to find a way to defeat Lavos."

"I see. Then allow me to perform a scan," Belthasar said as blue light flooded around us for a brief moment before stopping. "Excuse me, you seem to have a device capable of interacting with these Gates, correct?"

"We do," I answered. "We call it a Gate key."

"Excellent! Please deposit the device in the center console. Allow me to open it," he said as I saw something open. I took out the Gate key as a mechanical arm came up and grabbed it. Then diving back within, the console closed. "Destinations have now been registered using the frequencies recorded on the Gate key." After a moment it returned the Gate key and I put it back in my bag. "With this I can transport you to any era you have previously visited. You truly are the ones I was waiting for. Bringing up the selectable time era's on your display now."

A moment later the screen in front of me came up. 65,000,00 B.C., 12,000 B.C., 600 A.D., 1,000 A.D., 2300 A.D., Unknown

I blinked looking over the dates. We had figured out some of the dates... but to think that they would be generated here. I'm guessing the Unknown is actually the End of Time. "Belthasar, to tell you the reason, we found ourselves in the Kingdom of Zeal, we were caught and forced to leave that time era. One of the Guru's told us to search you out and your invention."

"Ho, ho, probably by Gaspar, no doubt. After all I wasn't going to be able to make a Time Machine without the knowledge of the Guru of Time. If he led you to my invention then you are definitely the right ones to inherit the Wings of Time. No, that name doesn't apply anymore. That was always the name of this project of mine, but a proper name for the vessel, I'd like to leave for the two of you. You, who would journey to save our world, what would you call my time machine?" Belthasar was excited it seemed.

"A name? What do you think, Crono? And ideas?" Marle asked me.

I thought for a moment. Wasn't there a term, something that Lucca had told me long ago? I remember only so much about when Lucca made her lectures of her discoveries and things she learned. I know there wasn't many people that could keep up with her capacity to learn and decipher the world in a way that many others would hardly even attempt to understand but the existence of time travel had led to her contemplating its scientific possibility... and ability to travel to different... ah yes... that was the word.

"Epoch, that's the name," I can't help but smile. Lucca said it was a term that meant a period of time. It felt more than appropriate for a machine capable of traveling to different periods of time.

"Most excellent! Moving forward this ship, and my own name will be Epoch. Please refer to me as much moving forward. Where should the first destination be? Shall I begin destination to 12,000 B.C. the age of antiquity?" the newly named Epoch asked.

"That's right, Epoch! Oh, right. It's nice to meet you Epoch. I'm Marle and he's Crono," Marle exclaimed.

"A pleasure to meet you both," Epoch replied.

"We have to go back and save our friends! Oh and Schala said we should save Melchior from the Mountain of Woe!" Marle said.

"We have our destination," I chuckled.

"Confirmed! Closing up ship, prepping for travel. Please put the constraining devices on by pulling from your right side to the left and plugging it in the buckle, for your safety. Please note that while we can travel to different eras that the Epoch itself is incapable of any movement. I'll handle the landing area and ensure that it is remote enough to not stand out," Epoch said as a warning.

Marle and I did what we could to figure out the instructions before we finally realized the constraining restraint was a retractable strap that went over our waist and secured us to the seat so we wouldn't move.

"Passenger's secured, all exits secured, no cargo detected. Epoch is ready for take off. When ready please pull the lever on your right," Epoch said.

"Alright, time to go!" I said as I pulled the level and the next moment everything came to life around us as the Epoch launched up, into the air, outside of the Dome. I guess some kind of launch procedure? And then in a massive burst of speed. The momentum pulled both Marle and I into our seats before everything seemed to warp around us and an incredible amount of speed. It certainly wasn't something we had been prepared for.

The next few moments were a haze as I could barely hold myself together before the ship was slowing down.

"We've arrived at our destination. Local time is 6:38pm. To the northwest is the Earthbound village. From there you can access a cave to reach the Mountain of Woe," Epoch informed us. "We'll be landing here shortly."

"Village would be the best place to look for the others..." I scratched the back of my head. "You ready Marle?"

She nodded, "I can't wait to see the look on Lucca's face when she see's the Epoch."

I chuckled, I couldn't either. More importantly... just how much time did we have before the event that cause the collapse of Zeal? Would we be able to stop it? I guess there was only one way to find out.

"Welcome to Algetty," the man welcomed us as we walked out of the passageway. "Such strange outfits, are you from Zeal?"

"No," I shook my head.

"It's complicated," Marle added.

"Well, as you can see this is a village. People from above call us the Earthbound ones," he said after a moment.

"Why is that?" I asked.

"Because we don't have magical talents," he said simply. "That hasn't stopped them from showing up to take more of us away to make their stupid Ocean Palace. Not that any of them have returned. I find it strange you seem to be so out of the loop. Perhaps you should talk with the Elder. Just take that ladder down and enter the first room."

"Thank you," Marle smiled. "We'll do just that."

The two of us went down the ladder. This place was just a cave, carved out with what seemed to be crude tools. My guess was that they were exiled here and left to die. But they managed to carve out a sort of existence here, despite the people from Zeal. Marle and I didn't hesitate as we walked into the room.

"Elder, they've installed the Mammon Machine in the Ocean Palace," a man spoke to the elderly gentleman that stood with a makeshift cane.

"With the Guru of Life imprisoned on the Mountain of Woe, I fear there's little we can do," the Elder shook his head as he looked past the man and to us. "It is not often we have visitors. Who are you?"

"I'm Crono, and this is Marle," I introduced as we both entered the room.

"The Mountain of Woe... that's the big floating island with the chain right? Wait, Lady Schala asked us to rescue him," Marle seemed to remember.

"Truly?" The Elder was surprised. "Please, he is in need of help. If you go to the bottom of the village there is a path that will lead to where the chain ties the mountain to the Earth. However you'll have to get through the mudbeast den and the beast that inhabit the Mountain of Woe."

"That shouldn't be a problem. Say you wouldn't have seen anyone dressed like the two of us... or a robot... or a talking frog have you?" I asked.

His look immediately gave me my answer, "Should I have?"

Marle shook her head, "No its fine. We were just curious. Crono, we should head for the Mountain of Woe. The faster we save the Guru of Life the better."

"Yeah, you're right. Thanks, Elder. Hopefully we'll be back soon with the Guru of Life in tow," I said before the two of left and continued our way down. We conversed with a lot of the inhabitants and found out a few bits of information.

We were more than familiar enough with the arrogant way the people in Zeal thought of themselves, but it was confirmed more when we talked to the inhabitants here. They were looked down upon, as if it wasn't obvious considering they were exiled from Zeal just for not having magical aptitude. But we also learned that the three Guru's and Schala still treated them well and came to visit from time to time. And it is because of that they were able to get better tools, had beds, tables and chairs. The things people take for granted they only got because of the generosity of those four. And it seemed like Ayla, Frog, Lucca and Robo hadn't been here. But if they were investigating in the land of Zeal they might end up this way sooner than later.

The mudbeast were numerous but the pair of us were able to subdue them without much trouble. The imp at the end seemed to command a pair of them and didn't want to listen to reason, in the end we had to put him down too.

I sheathed my sword as we found ourselves at the base of a massive chain that led up to the sky, "So that is a long way to climb..."

"Good thing we grabbed that winter gear. Let's dump the rest of our stuff behind here and just bring what we need," Marle said.

I nodded, "The wind is gonna be an issue I can imagine."

That was more than obvious as we climbed the chain up to the Mountain of Woe. What a name for a location... then again its a mountain that is floating in the air and is only kept this low because it is chained to the ground. Which raises a lot of questions on why they would even bother with that to begin with. It didn't make any sense. Zeal was a land that floated above the clouds, that by all means should be a freezing landscape with cold wind... Was this all due to the use of Lavos' powers?

The mountain had plenty of beasts on it. Many with magical abilities, and gargoyle's, statues brought to life. The mountain itself was pulled together by chains... like connected floating islands. Marle and I took moments where we could to keep ourselves warm. But we kept a good pace... and we found another chain, climbing up to the top... Once we got there we saw a platform... and a massive crystal, but no it looked like someone was inside it.

"Crono, that's him. It's really him!" Marle said as the two of us approached the crystal.

"Yeah. It really is..." Crono couldn't deny it. "It is Melchior... the same one we know. Which mean he really is the Guru of Life from this era..."

"Wait, its disappearing!" Marle said as the two of us could do nothing as the crystal that imprisoned Melchior was gone. A second later two massive hands reached up and a crazy construct pulled itself up from the side of the mountain. Large metal with spikes jetting out all over its body... some sort of golem placed here to keep the prisoner here?

"I'm sure the Golem is the key to freeing Melchior," I unsheathed my katana and took a stance. Marle pulled out her crossbow.

"Then let's bust this thing," Marle seemed to focus her energy, her hair no longer affected by the wind or even gravity as she was focusing magical power. "Frigid! The inescapable chill! Ice Coffin!"

Massive blocks of ice materialized from her magic and came crushing down onto the golem to start the fight. It seemed surprised by the sudden attack but I was also surprise by Marle's new rather impressive attack. So I quickly decided to follow up with my own. "Come forth and unshackle the chains of heaven! Lightning Raid!" My lightning hit just as it was recovering from Marle's attack. Marle followed up with attacks from her crossbow, and seemingly aiming for joints and the eyes.

I wasn't sure if my sword would do much of anything, but when it swiped down at me with its massive arms I hit it as I dodged. No... not much of a scratch was left. I guess magic was the way to go. But with those massive arms doing that was going to be rough.

"Keep him distracted! I'll keep hitting him with magic!" Marle called out, likely noticing the same thing I had in the exchange. But, it's hand started to glow, and before I could properly react it released a wave of magic that hit us with an intense heat and pushed us away. Marle quickly healed us but this was definitely an issue.

"I'll try and stop him from releasing another attack," I tell her as I rush and jump up. I landed on one of his hands for a brief moment before taking another leap towards the golem's shoulders. I managed to get footing well enough to turn stab at its eye. This definitely got its attention as it swiped at me with his hand. I avoided it, swinging around the attack, I used leverage to free my blade and flipped backwards onto the ground, sliding to a stop. Marle unleashed another ice attack. Large glaciers smashed against it, causing the metal on the golem to crack from the cold and density of the attack. The magic was truly awe inspiring.

"Crono! Look at the shoulder! Something is glowing there!" Marle said as she was reloading her crossbow. Some sort of gem? Whatever it was, it was blue. It might be integral to it's design. Or not, I had no idea, but didn't have time to contemplate it.

I ran back towards the golem and jumped up onto its massive hand before leaping back up to its shoulder. I spun my katana and stabbed town towards whatever it was in the exposed part of the outer shell and through whatever it was that was glowing blue. "Resound! Cry from the heavens! Lightning!" Calling upon my magic, lightning streaked down from the sky, hitting me as I directed its flow down through the sword and directly into the golem itself. The golem stuttered.

"Get clear, Crono!" Marle yelled.

I pulled my katana free, jumping away from the golem, landing back on the ground, sliding to a stop in front of Marle who looked like was preparing another spell.

"Ice Coffin!" Marle released her magic as the massive glacier smashed against the reeling golem and sent it off the side and falling towards the ocean below. The two of us were catching our breath when we saw the crystal reappeared and then seemed to melt away, revealing a familiar face.

"So it really is Melchior," I couldn't help but say.

He stumbled a bit and grabbed his head for a moment. No doubt being imprisoned wasn't without pain or affect on him, "Who are you? Freeing me will be seen as a statement of defying the Queen."

"We've defied the Queen plenty already," Marle giggled. "You're really Melchior, the Guru of Life?"

"Indeed, I presume you must know as to why I was sealed here... but let's not linger. With the defeat of the golem and my freedom, the magic that keeps the Mountain of Woe floating will be broken. We must return to the base and disconnect the chain before it does irreparable damage to Algetty!" Melchior seemed to regain himself enough to start moving. If that was true then now wasn't the time to talk. Since Marle and I had carved a path through the beasts on our way to the summit we were unimpeded back to the chain. The land was already starting to break apart and fall.

I helped Melchior to get down as Marle moved ahead. As soon as we got to the base of the chain, Melchior gave quick instructions but there was little time. "Marle, freeze the chain!"

"Got it! Shiver! The bite of winter! Ice!" her magic instantly froze one of the rings as I jumped in the air and slammed my katana against it. It cracked and then snapped. The chain, free from its anchor suddenly disappeared as the island pulled away. But as we caught our breath we could hear the sounds of the island falling into the ocean.

"Thank you, both of you," Melchior said after regaining his own breath. "Let's return to Algetty and speak there."

We didn't waste any time. We returned to the Elder of Algetty and rested there, after many of the residents thanked us for saving Melchior. But then we were able to return to the Elder's room and sit at the table.

"So, it was Schala that requested you save me?" Melchior asked.

I nodded, "She freed us from our captivity. At great personal risk to herself."

"What of the Mammon Machine? Do you know if they've moved it?" Melchior asked.

"Yes, they have," a familiar voice came from the doorway. I looked to see four familiar individuals coming in. Ayla, Glenn, Lucca and Robo.

"Guys!" Marle jumped up and ran towards Lucca, engulfing her in a hug, which followed with Ayla picking the pair of girls up in her arms.

"Marle, safe! Ayla glad!"

Glenn approached as I stood up and offered his hand, "Tis good to see you."

"Yeah it really is," I smiled. Ayla was quick to rush over and pull me into a hug.

"Crono strong," Ayla grinned.

As I pulled away from Ayla I found Lucca approaching me. "I figured you'd show up here sooner than later."

"Crono... We were going to save you and Marle... but we couldn't figure out where you were being held..." Lucca looked down. "I heard you were being tortured by Dalton and the Queen..."

"Yeah," I admitted.

"What's important is we're here now," Marle cut in and pushed Lucca towards me. I reflexively caught her, putting my arms around her. "So stop holding back."

Lucca held onto me tightly, "I'm sorry. I was scared of losing you and I panicked and if it hadn't been for Ayla, Glenn and Robo I probably would have done something stupid and gotten myself caught to get to you."

I squeezed her against me and smiled, "I know. If it had been you, the others would have to hold me down to stop me from charging in to save you. We took a risk and we paid for it."

"But we know that the Queen and Dalton have to be stopped," Marle said.

"Ah, friends of yours then? Such a peculiar group and..." Melchior noted Glenn. The visage of a large bipedal frog wasn't exactly normal... much less one that was in armor and had a sword at his side.

"We have not the time to explain ourselves. Know that we are here because we oppose Lavos," Glenn croaked involuntarily.

He nodded, "I see, then if it is true what your friend has said and the Mammon Machine has been moved from castle it will no doubt now reside in the depths of the Ocean Palace."

"We have heard mention of that place a few times..." Marle said.

"Lavos slumbers deep underground. The Queen believes bringing the Mammon Machine closer to him will increase the amount of power we can absorb to him. But a being such as him... I believe it could awaken him if it is obvious that something steals his power," Melchior shook his head.

Lucca settled down rather quickly, pulling from me, but taking a moment to remove her classes and wipe away the tears she had shed. I always saw her as strong... but when our enemy was a nation that pulled power from some abomination it was hard not to assume the worst. Even when I worked as a monster hunter she hadn't been that concerned. Things were different now. She was more than aware that we could die in our endeavor to save the world. It was probably presumptuous that we could do such a task to begin with.

"It was arrogant to believe you could use that power to begin with," Lucca stated looking to Melchior.

"You're right. The other Guru's and myself realized only too late what the cost of our 'advancements' would come with," Melchior hung his head. "The Queen wasn't always as she is now. When the King yet lived they brought everyone to Zeal. There was no discrimination between the 'Enlightened Ones' and the 'Earthbound Ones' as they are called now. We used our discoveries to raise land above the clouds, out of the reach of the harsh cold. We created the Mammon Machine using something we found. We call it, the Frozen Flame."

"The Frozen Flame?" I blinked.

"It is how we learned of Lavos, the knowledge to be able to pull that energy from the Frozen Flame has an inherent connection to Lavos itself. We believed the Frozen Flame to be an inert part of Lavos. But I no longer believe that is the case. Not after the sudden change in the Queen's behavior. After the King passed away, the Queen spent an abnormal amount of time around the Mammon Machine. For a while none of us thought nothing of it. The Mammon Machine is what kept the land afloat, kept Zeal in a comfortable habitable state. We could grow crops, raise animals, feed our people and with fresh, drinkable water. Her view changed. She was suddenly more capable of magic than she had been before. Mastering spells she had previously no knowledge of. She stirred the researchers to discover what else with magic we could do. And started to scorn those without magic. The Queen then banished those without that capacity... thus those that live here became the Earthbound Ones. We were shocked by the change and spoke out against the Queens decision to exile them. And it only degraded further from there," Melchior explained.

"So, this Frozen Flame. Do you think it's sentient? That it took advantage of the Queen after the loss of her husband?" Marle asked.

Melchior nodded, "Indeed. The King and Queen were inseparable, bound by love that would inspire envy to any who witnessed them. Schala and Janus, their children, were loved beyond what can be described with mere words. Schala is much like the Queen of old. Love for those around her, seeking to care and protect all people of our world. While Janus, who held great power has seen how the Queen treats his sister now and hides his own abilities in fear. I fear it is the Frozen Flame's influence that has drove the Queen's ambition of the Ocean Palace. This might all be the design of Lavos itself."

"If that is how it all occurred, then that would mean that Lavos is... he's been guiding all of you, using you to get to this point. He's going to destroy Zeal," Lucca spoke up.

"It's as you say," another voice interrupted as a new pair of individuals walked in. Schala, and her young brother, Janus. Her eyes went to me, "I'm glad to see you both safe. Thank you for saving Melchior. You didn't have to but you did. Crono and Marle, correct?"

I nodded, "Yes. And these are my friends, Lucca, Glenn, Ayla and Robo. Tell us, what's going on now?"

"The Ocean Palace is completed. However, as long as I'm there the Mammon Machine will remain dormant. I've left the Skyway open. If you go back to the Palace there is a portal in the throne room to get to the Ocean Palace. There is still time to stop my Mother. Destroy the Mammon Machine and-"

"-I'm afraid that isn't going to happen," Dalton entered and before any of us could act had grabbed Schala's arm and twisted around her back and constricted her movement with his other arm around his neck. "It would be an inconvenience if you failed to activate the machine."

I stepped forward and pulled out my katana as the rest of my friends also quickly pulled out their own weapons. "Let her go, Dalton."

He eyed me, "You would threaten me? I came to retrieve Schala at her Highness request. Though I personally could care less how intact she is when she arrives. She only need be conscious enough to activate the machine."

"Schala!" Janus rushed him but Dalton kicked Janus to the wall and released a burst of magic towards him. Lucca jumped in the way and deflected the blast with her own protective magic.

"The Queen's children are truly worthless. If it wasn't for your magical ability Schala I would slit your throat in this hovel without a second thought. You will come with me and I will allow them to live. I shall not make this offer again," Dalton growled.

Schala was quiet, "Very well. Take me, and me alone. But do not dare to ever set your feet upon this land again."

"Ha, as if I wanted to set foot in this disgusting hole the Earthbound Ones call home," Dalton then released her and pushed her towards the doorway. "Feel free to follow. I may have agreed to stay my hand here, but follow and well... I can only do what is best for the good of Zeal."

"Sister!" Janus yelled.

"Stay with them, Janus. Stay safe," she said as Dalton pushed her out and leaving them without Schala.

Janus moved to the door and hung his head, the young boy torn by wanting to be with his sister and doing as she told him.

"We must save Schala. If they are able to force her to activate the Mammon Machine then it will be too late," Melchior said.

I shared a look with Marle. Melchior didn't know where we came from, didn't know we were from a future he would eventually travel too. Zeal would fall, the world would change... and humanity would lose its capacity to use magic... or at the very least forget about it. This had to be it, the event that caused Zeal to fall.

"No," Janus surprised everyone when he spoke. "We need to destroy the machine. That will save my sister. Maybe... even Mother."

"He's right," Marle smiled and moved to Janus. "Janus, you should stay with Melchior. My friends and I will go help your sister."

He glanced up at us, his eyes wandering between my friends and I, "Promise you'll save her. No matter what."

I knelt down next to him. There was nothing more important than family, having lost my own Father I am sure this kid has had to deal with so much more pain and loss along with the responsibility of being royalty. I'm sure Marle felt even more connected to the young boy then I did. Still, I didn't hesitate it, "I promise, Janus. No matter what, my friends and I will find a way to make sure she comes back safe."

"That's right, Janus. So you just stay safe and we'll bring your sister back before you know it," Marle smiled.

Janus looked between them and seemed hesitant, "The black wind howls..." He shook his head. "Be careful."

We set out shortly after this and made our way to the exit of Algetty.

"So, how did you guys get back? You guys were tossed back through the Gate weren't you?" Lucca asked.

"We ended up at the End of Time. Spekkio and the old man helped us get our bearings and where to explore. And well..." I wasn't sure how to phrase it.

"We got ourselves a time machine. Turns out the Guru of Reason got stuck in the future and built it," Marle chimed in when I hesitated.

"A... what?" Lucca's eyes widened.

"Look we don't have time for this. If we don't move then Schala will be forced to activate the machine before we can help. Presuming we get through this mess you'll have plenty of time to analyze it to your hearts content," I spoke back up.

"I... you're right. But that does explain how you managed to get back..."

"Hold on!" a voice called out. We turned to see Melchior catching up with Janus next to him. "Take this."

He holds out a short sword with a red blade. I take it and studied it for a moment.

"This is made from the same stone as the Mammon Machine. With it you should be able to destroy it," Melchior explained.

I put the blade in an easy to reach location on my bag and nodded, "Thanks Melchior. We hope to meet you both again with good news."


A short chapter, but hey, I'd say the time between releases makes up for it. Anyway, Crono and Marle don't waste any time getting back to them. Although I did give them a little bit of time to catch their breath and resolve themselves some more.

Things are going to pick up, and do so very quickly. And most of you know why. This part is a lot of why I felt that writing a fanfiction would be worth it for me. To explore and go into in more detail these core events that really show not only how devastating and the grim task they've set themselves against to take on Lavos. I'm sure it is also more obvious with the things I've brought up here, such as the Frozen Flame.

For those that maybe aren't fully aware, the Frozen Flame is the reason that the sequel Chrono Cross happens, among other things. I hope that the elements I bring forward and what I plan to change is something you are all looking forward to. And I would love to hear your speculation on where you believe the story is going to go!

I'm excited for this next part, but it potentially will be a much longer chapter. (Though I know some people definitely think a 9k word chapter is pretty long already) Thanks for your time, and see you in the next chapter!