He had imagined revenge for so long, he started to believe he couldn’t imagine anything else. He thought he had forgotten everything else, locked it away in a treasure box he didn’t have the key to.
Oh, but the moment he landed in snow and the swirling vortex of the Gate snapped shut. The moment he realized he could hear the black wind howling yet, threaded through the ordinary slipping of air across snow and stone. While far, far above him hovered the pristine nightmare of a land he had called home. In that moment, he imagined an infinity of things, paths he could take and events he could change.
But he had seen the future. His, the fiends’, the Kingdom of Guardia. There was future further still, that Glenn’s meddling friends had arrived from. And all of it tainted by Lavos. All of it.
Even if he could imagine a life without that revenge, could he live it, knowing how quickly it would all be destroyed again?
* * *
It hadn’t taken him long to reach the first skyway; it had been a bit longer to convince Doreen to help him, insisting as she did that he was in a nightmare. Hard to argue a point one agrees with, after all.
But the unsettling familiarity of the prophet is made clear now, and he has witnessed too much of the road now at his feet to turn back. No matter how strange it feels to be home again, he swears to himself that he will not react, that none of it matters. The hidden rooms and all his memories of studying there are easy; the Gurus had always tried to interest him in using his powers, but he’d been too repulsed by the changes in his mother, and there’s little enough attachment to those places. He passes across tiled floors and soft carpets and notices more of them than the halls, focused as he makes himself become on not floating.
If Schala or Mother remembered when he first started that, after all... Well, it’s enough to focus on. That and the future, scraping through his memory for even the littlest thing to tell her that might bend her ear to him.
He hadn’t counted on the shock of seeing Schala.
* * *
She’d been talking to Janus, who was complaining about the Gurus again, when she noticed it - though at first she didn’t realize she’d noticed anything at all. It just seemed quieter than usual, not enough of a change to truly take her mind off the conversation, though she noticed Janus frowning as well. But the argument was more important, and neither one of them was giving up. “I just think that you would be safer if you used your powers than not, Janus. I don’t want anything to happen to you.”
Janus turned back to her, still frowning at a nearby plant of all things. “Things will happen anyway, won’t they? Everything just happens, and continues happening. Anyway what happened to Mother was because of the magic. Just...” He trailed off, looking up to her with frightened eyes.
She knew he’d been about to say, ‘Just like something is happening to you.’ The worst part was that she couldn’t deny it. Her dreams had been strange of late, full of people and places she wasn’t entirely sure existed. Talking to the Gurus about that, she had to admit, had been unsuccessful at best. Even Doreen had nothing to say on the subject. As eager as she usually was to discuss dreams in all their aspects and meanings, this was profoundly disturbing.
The last time Schala had gone to Enhasa, she thought she heard music playing from nowhere. She hadn’t worked up the nerve to go back since.
The sound of Janus hissing her name brought her out of the moment’s distraction; but it must have been more than a moment, because a stranger had arrived. A stranger who had Alfador prowling circles around him and purring, while Janus glared at them both.
* * *
It was like the sun had fallen out of the sky. As heavily as he had cloaked himself, there was no warmth in the room but for Alfador’s purring form, and he could remember the hurt of betrayal too clearly to feel comforted by it now. He had thought it would be difficult to face Schala; for a moment it seemed impossible.
Then the black wind’s howling rose, louder than the blood rushing in his ears, and he turned his eyes away from her. He could not save her and have revenge both; Schala had to be there to raise Lavos, and he had vanished as soon as that happened. As a child he had.
He had to remember there was nothing he could do for the child he’d been, or the sister he loved. So he felt himself forcing out the words, clinging to the pretence of control that formality offered, “Hail Lady Schala, Princess of Zeal.” He bowed, more deeply than he’d intended, but that couldn’t be helped. “I am a prophet come to aid her Majesty your Mother. Would you do me the kindness of arranging a meeting?”
* * *
All she could think for a moment was that Janus wanted to see Mother. Janus. Wanted to see Mother. What he was playing at with those clothes she couldn’t imagine, because surely no one would be fooled by them, but Janus hadn’t wanted to speak to their Mother since...
It snapped on her with the force of a physical blow. She stepped back, once, twice, her hand clutching the amulet at her throat that she had just glimpsed at his. She could hear them both make a soft distressed noise, although the adult stood rigidly still as tiny Janus came to her and asked if she was okay. She barely heard herself reassuring him, or was it them? Oh it had to be them, he had to have found some way to come back here. The Guru of Time perhaps? But then, surely he would have come himself.
Someday she might ask. Today, she could start with this. She could let Janus talk to Mother, even if he was calling himself a prophet.
He’d just better hope Mother didn’t recognize him, didn’t work out how easy prophecy would be to fake if he actually knew what would happen tomorrow. But she’d shown so little interest in discussions with the Gurus lately, it might work... it had to work. Whatever he was planning, whatever he had come here to prevent, it had to work.
She couldn’t take much more of what she’d been sensing rising from the depths.
* * *
He is not her brother anymore. This is what he tells himself he has to feel, tries to remember when he feels her eyes on him, wondering and at times disapproving. He still loves her, he knows that much. But he is not her brother anymore.
That child died when the portal dropped him in the future.
How utterly ironic that he can now pretend to know the future so well, and know nothing at all. Every moment draws them closer to the death of the world he knew, and what he is certain will be the death of everyone he loves, and he can do nothing. He doesn’t dare.
It doesn’t stop him watching her, or talking to her. It doesn’t shield him at all from the shock of realizing that she knows and has since they first spoke. In his fury he moves closer, maybe too close but the rage makes him forget their surroundings. “Why didn’t you say anything! How could you know and not ask, Schala! How I survived, where I’ve been, how I got to this age?” Distantly, he’s shocked at himself. At the open emotion he hasn’t displayed since he was a child. Even knowing that if anyone could bring this out of him, his sister could.
The grief etched on her face deepens, but that’s all. “Would it make a difference? We have so little time, Prophet. You can hear the black wind’s howling as well as I. Whenever you came here from, surely the future cannot be served by dwelling on the past. You..” she shakes her head, looking down for a moment at her amulet. “Whatever it is you mean to do, it will destroy Lavos?”
For a moment he cannot speak, almost dizzy with the feeling of weight being lifted from his shoulders. They had always been so close; maybe he had forgotten too much, or absorbed too much of the future’s strange ideas about men and women, to assume she wouldn’t understand. “I will. No matter what it takes.”
When she looks up and smiles, it is all he can do to force himself to step back and bow. It would not do for the mysterious Prophet to hug the princess of Zeal, after all. “Then everything else, we can discuss later.”
* * *
He is familiar, as surely as the sun and the moon, as surely as Masa and Mune, and yet.
He is not her little brother anymore. Whenever and wherever he has been, he has grown in ways she suspects he doesn’t even see. There are flickers of humanity in him now, compassion that he keeps deeply buried, that little Janus hasn’t yet imagined. She wishes she could have met the people who finally got Janus to care about someone other than himself, because as much as he’d deny it, he does now. She’s caught him watching the people of Zeal, measuring them against some unknown standard, and she can tell he thinks they’re lacking. He misses the people, the places he’s been, and in a strange circle it is once again herself and Alfador that are his only true companions. He is too painfully aware, of the nature of his surroundings, of whatever horror is to come. This she cannot help him with, afraid as she is to upset whatever plan he has.
She can only stay true to her own course, trying to save Mother before she truly dooms herself, and all of Zeal with her.