Originally written for Healy as part of Trick or Treat 2018 and posted on AO3.
They found the boy outside the royal audience chambers.
To be more precise, Robo's sensors found him. He had curled up behind one of the statues, and with all his struggles only Ayla was able to pull him out. The boy - Janus, Glenn vaguely recalled, the prince of this land - sat glaring in front of them. His knees and elbows were scraped, his clothes filthy, and he clutched a kitchen knife close to his chest. His ever-present cat was nowhere to be seen.
Looking at him, Glenn remembered another frightened boy who had watched helplessly as his beloved idol fell to evil.
He sheathed his sword and waved the others to prepare for the Ocean Palace somewhere else, then crouched before Janus. The boy continued to glare.
"If you do not change your expression it will stick that way," Glenn said after a long moment of silence.
If anything, the glare intensified. "What do you care? Is that what happened to you?" Janus snapped. The knife trembled as he stuck it out in front of him, the set of his arm completely wrong for any possible threat. "I'm going to the Ocean Palace! Don't try to stop me!"
"What will you do there?"
"I'll kill Dalton! Him and the Prophet and...and the Queen! Then I'll break the Mammon Machine, and I'll rescue Schala!"
Glenn shook his head. The child was bloodthirsty far beyond his age. But the catch in his voice and the glimmer in his eyes showed it to be mainly bravado.
Janus misunderstood the gesture. "Don't tell me not to do it! You saw what Dalton did, and the Prophet exiled you, and she's not Mother! Not anymore! She's not!"
"I do not doubt your mother has changed greatly, boy." Glenn kept his voice as gentle as the rasping croaks could be. "But even so, it is a terrible thing to raise a weapon against your own mother." Janus' expression somehow darkened further, and Glenn continued before he could spit any more venom. "And it is an even more terrible thing to seek your own death."
That got through. The boy's eyes went wide as Glenn's own, and Glenn knew he'd hit the target. It was not hard to recognize the twisted mirror of his own wilder thoughts, after all.
"Wha...what are you talking about? I'm not going to die. That's you guys! The black wind-"
Glenn reached out and pressed the trembling knife down to the ground. He kept his webbed hand tightly wrapped around Janus' small one, and surprisingly, the boy made only a few attempts to wrest it free. "If you fight Dalton like this, you will die."
"What do you know?!"
"I know you are young and reckless while Dalton is an experienced soldier. I know there are people who care for you and would not want to see you hurt. And I know you're holding the knife wrong." Glenn couldn't help cracking a smile at Janus' sudden expression of indignation before continuing. "Listen. There was a time when I hid myself from my friends, for I believed I had failed. But all this did was allow the evil sorcerer that cursed my body and my kingdom to run amok."
Janus, whose interest had been piqued by talk of an evil sorcerer, looked disgusted when it became clear he was still being moralized at. But still, he did not run away.
"It was only when I found my own strength, assisted by these brave people," he nodded to Chrono and the rest, "that I was able to stand up and defeat the evil sorcerer."
"So you want me to take you along?" Janus said irritably. "Fine! I bet you'd get lost in the Ocean Palace without me anyway."
Glenn sighed. "That is not what I meant." Ruefully he acknowledged that brave tales of defeating the Fiendlord were more likely to inspire wild charges against evil queens than sensible caution. At least the boy was listening to some of the words, even if they were only the ones he wanted to hear. "What I mean is...you seek to throw yourself against your enemies without thought for yourself. But that's the same as running away to die."
"What you want is not noble or glorious. It is throwing your life away. And life is far too precious to be discarded so cheaply." Carefully Glenn reached out to rest a hand on Janus' thin shoulder. Under the annoyance there was still the fearful tension of one who saw nothing in life but ruin. "Think of your sister, if not yourself. What will she do when she hears you have perished?" The same as if Queen Leene had heard of his body rotting away in a far wood, and the knowledge laid heavier on Glenn's heart than it ever had before.
"So what do you want?!" Janus cried, shaking Glenn off like a cat grown tired of affection. "They took Schala! They're going to make her run the Mammon Machine! The Gurus all say it's going to destroy Zeal, but Moth- the Queen doesn't care!"
"Leave this to us." Glenn raised a hand against the inevitable protest. "Take your cat and go back to the cave - you can find it, yes? - and wait there. When we bring Schala back, she will need someone to comfort her. I think you and your cat are well suited to the task." He smiled as softly as his face would allow. "And when we return, I will teach you how to properly wield a knife, so in the future you can defend those you care about."
"Knives are for Earthbound." Janus clutched the weapon to his chest, belying the sullen words. But something - likely the thought of Schala's tears - had gotten through, because when he stood on wobbling legs he walked past Glenn, away from the throne room. "The black wind still howls," he said from behind. "One among you will die here."
"Do not worry." Glenn stood himself and adjusted the Masamune to sit more comfortably on his hip. "If that should occur then I promise you, the rest of us will bring Schala back." A light cure spell, aimed behind him, would take care of any scrapes and bruises. Then it was time to rejoin the rest of his friends and for Marle's pendant to open the way to the throne.
A sudden shout of "Be careful!" reached Glenn's ears, but by the time he turned, the door was closed and the battle was on.
Glenn flopped against the floor of the Black Omen with no strength left. His whole body ached. The enemies were fast, strong, and ruthless, and he did not know how much longer they could keep this up.
Until the entire cursed vessel fell from the heavens. That was the only option.
There was the rustle of cloth beside him, and Glenn let his head loll sideways to see Magus sitting - not next to him, but close by. The drawn expression on his face suggested he was feeling the strain as much as any of them, and a part of Glenn took pleasure in the idea that the Fiendlord's strength was not endless. Another part noticed the furious blaze in Magus' eyes.
The last time he had seen those eyes had been in battle - no, in the face of a frightened boy before the throne room.
"It has not been that long. I'm sure she is still near the Mammon Machine," Glenn offered. Though the Black Omen was little like the Ocean Palace, it was inevitable they would find the machine and its queen at its heart. And with them...
Glenn wondered if Magus even remembered their conversation in Zeal. At least there was no need to teach him how to use a knife anymore.
"You should take care of yourself before fussing over others. I'm not going to save you if you die." Something hit Glenn in the chest and he sprang up by reflex, cursing as he did. By the time he had sorted himself out enough to demand answers with his hand on his blade, Magus was leaning against the wall, eyes shut and breathing even.
Settled between Glenn's legs was a strong potion.