"I'm sorry, but this really isn't the time."
Celobia stared down at the service hawk with pity and slight annoyance. The poor bird was going on about how concerned it was for the rest of the avian population.
"But my Lion! All the birds are feeling sick! None of the females are laying eggs! And this crisis started when Avion died! Please help!"
The Lion sighed.
"I understand, and I'm truly concerned for your kind, but there's nothing I can do! The Wanderer will be here soon! I must be prepared!"
The hawk resignedly nodded and flew off. Celobia watched it go, feeling a little guilty. He then shook his head.
"I need to make an intimidating and surprising appearance… The Wanderer needs to be caught off guard long enough for me to run to him and sink my claws into him…"
The Lion turned around and looked up at his temple. He nodded.
Celobia leaped up onto the crumbling structure, not being able to just climb up since the Quake had turned the bottom part of the stairs to dust. He sat at the top in a statuesque manner, facing the main building of the Mountain City. The Lion looked up at the sky.
"Which ever one of us it is, it's a beautiful morning to die."
Celobia continued to gaze wistfully at the sky before he seemed to realize that the Wanderer was taking a long time. The Lion sighed and looked forward, putting all his energy into his hearing.
From a few miles away, Celobia could faintly hear somebody on horseback cursing loudly at the fact that they took another wrong turn in the sunless maze of roads in the mountains. The Lion then turned down the ability of his ears and instead focused on dimming his eyes. Celobia wanted to get in a quick, hopefully dreamless nap.
The Lion soon lighted his eyes to find himself in a very precarious place. He was sitting atop the shrine that faced the Western Beach on a sea cliff. Celobia yelped and leaped down to the ground clumsily. He then looked around suspiciously and started muttering under his breath.
"Please don't be a memory-dream…. Please don't be a memory-dream…. Pleasedon't be a memory-dream….."
"Phourn, be careful!"
The Lion turned to the unfolding memory and sighed.
A young boy was wandering near the cliff edge, dangerously close to falling off. He was jumping on rocks and occasionally looking right over the edge with curious eyes. A boy in his late teens, probably the other child's older brother, watched on with concern from a safe distance. Celobia knew another teen, the older boy's girlfriend, had already galloped off on horseback to find help.
Why so much distress? Well, a few weeks ago the cliff edge in that area had been declared hazardous when the ground had crumbled underneath somebody's feet, sending them to their doom. This was why the older brother was standing back, afraid to add his weight to the unstable ground. Unfortunately, Phourn just made the situation more difficult by refusing to leave the edge. He insisted to his brother that it was too interesting and that he'd be fine.
Finally, after a few very long minutes, the sound of horse hooves and heavy footsteps came from the distance. Celobia looked up to see a teen girl on horseback galloping towards them, with himself and Celosia following. As they came to a stop next to the older brother, the Lion inspected his earlier self and realized with a shock how much brighter and shinier his armor had been. It was the color of beautiful gray marble in the shade, but a blazing, almost white gray in the sun. His sister also looked much better then she had before her death. Shaking his head, Celobia looked back to the memory.
Celosia stepped slightly towards the small boy and spoke calmly.
"Come now, Phourn, this place can't be much fun! If you step away from the cliff edge, I'll let you ride me back to the Marsh Village!"
The young boy looked up at her with excited eyes before frowning and going back to his rock hopping.
"No thank you, Great Boar. I'm having lots of fun here."
The Boar sighed and looked back at the memory Celobia.
"Can you knock some sense into him?"
The Lion nodded and stepped forward.
"Look, Phourn. This place isn't safe. It would make us all feel much better if you stepped away and came back to your brother."
The older boy nodded.
"Yeah! If you get hurt, I'll be in so much trouble!"
Upon looking at the two Colossi's expressions, the teen glanced away and rubbed his neck nervously.
"I mean, uh, I'm concerned for your well-being!"
Celosia leaned over to the teen girl who had now dismounted her horse and muttered.
The girl just blushed and glared at the boy.
Meanwhile, Phourn still refused to stop playing near the cliff edge. Celobia growled when he heard another one of the young boy's explanations.
"When your brother said life is more fun when you live on the edge, he didn't mean literally!"
Everybody was surprised when Phourn stopped and turned to the Lion.
"Then he lied?"
Before Celobia or the older brother could say anything, Celosia spoke up.
"Yes! So there's no reason to play there any more, right?"
The young boy looked thoughtful before finally nodding. He started to walk away from the edge, and everybody was relieved.
However, relief turned to horror as the sound of cracking and crumbling started to sound beneath Phourn's feet. The boy stopped and looked wide-eyed at the cracks starting to form in the ground around him. His older brother shouted for him to run, the girl simply paled and looked terrified, and the two Colossi stood stock-still, thinking rapidly of what they could do. But there was no time to think. The cliff face began to give way.
Without hesitation, Celobia ran forward and swiped Phourn a good ten feet to safer ground. But the weight of even a small Colossus was too much. The ground disintegrated beneath the Lion. He fell about 50 yards down the cliff face and landed with a thud on the beach below.
Celosia cried out his name and, without even turning to see if the others were following, sprinted toward the path that led down to the beach. Phourn was dazedly helped to his feet by his older brother while the girl remounted her horse and galloped after the Boar. The non-memory Celobia looked over the edge to see his own unconscious body below and gulped. He then realized that action would be happening down there soon and ran after his sister and the horse.
When the Lion reached the spot where he had landed, he came to a stop and inspected the situation. Celosia was nudging him, looking very worried. Phourn was hugging his brother and crying,
"I'm sorry! I'm sorry!"
The girl was crouched beside Celobia's head, resting a nervous hand on his face armor. Finally, after a few minutes, the Lion groaned and began to get to his feet. Celosia nuzzled him, looking relieved, while the two brothers apologized profusely. The girl just smiled and went to comfort her horse. Celobia finally spoke up, looking around at everybody with amusement.
"My armor really is as strong as they say! No need to worry about safety, right Celosia?"
The Boar just gave him a fake growl.
Non-memory Celobia watched on, feeling more dread then contentment at how things worked out.
Finally, the Lion lighted his eyes. He sighed and glanced around his city to find that the Wanderer still hadn't come. Celobia looked at his paws, the feeling of dread becoming stronger.
"What if my armor isn't as strong as they say any more?"
The Lion then shook his head.
"Well, no matter. I must still fight…"
Celobia finished his sentence in his head.
And hopefully… My armor won't be my doom…
About an hour later…
Celobia went silent and turned statue-still. He saw the Wanderer leap up from the main pathway that cut through the main building, into the slightly lowered pathway that cut its way towards the Lion's temple, which came to a staircased end just 15 yards away from the foot of the temple. The boy looked around suspiciously. Celobia guessed that at his fourteenth Colossus, the Wanderer would have become wary of every possible hiding place for such a being, knowledgeable of every escape route for himself, and completely alert of all his surroundings.
Or… perhaps not.
When he reached the staircase, the boy just looked up at the Lion and tilted his head to the side a little.
"Hmm… nice sculpture."
He then finished the walk up the stairs and looked around.
Celobia cut him off with a low, booming growl.
The Wanderer looked up at him with wide eyes before doing a face-palm.
Not wanting to let the boy recover from his temporary shock, the Lion stood, gave himself a good shake, and leaped down the temple. When he reached the bottom, he skidded a little before throwing himself towards the Wanderer. The boy yelped and jumped onto an adjacent fallen obelisk just in time. Celobia swerved away and backed up so that he faced the fallen obelisk. He then growled, ran forward, and rammed into it. The Wanderer cried out in surprise, and as the Lion shook the stars from his eyes he swore he heard his intruder groan,
"Oh, come on! Not another ramming, fast, small one!"
Celobia backed up again, glaring at the boy. But before he could ram the fallen obelisk, the Wanderer leaped over onto the arch-like raised pathway that had led to the obelisk while it was standing. He ran across the arch before leaping onto a wall-like raised pathway that was parallel to the fallen obelisk. He then leaped from that onto the nearby still-standing obelisk. The boy grunted and began pulling himself up, using the notches as handholds. When he reached the top, he nearly fell off because of the Lion ramming the obelisk. Celobia shook his head and backed up again. But instead of ramming again, the Lion decided against it.
I think I heard the pillar slide a little on its base when I rammed it… It wouldn't be a good idea to ram it again…
For a while, Celobia just paced around the obelisk, glaring menacingly up at the Wanderer. In the meantime, the boy settled for staring down at the Lion, deep in thought. Finally, his face brightened with an idea. He pulled out a wooden contraption and cocked a sharp stick in it. Celobia was wondering what he was up to when the stick flew at his head and chinked off of his face armor. The Lion growled, infuriated, and completely forgot what he had told himself about not ramming the obelisk. When he did ram it, the pillar slowly slid off its base, and, upon touching the ground, fell with a crash on its side. The Wanderer was hanging on to one of the top notches for dear life, his eyes squeezed closed. He opened them to find Celobia glaring fiercely at him only a few yards away. The boy yelped and quickly leaped onto a nearby raised pathway, narrowly making the jump over the canal between him and the arch. The Lion bounded over the canal and followed the Wanderer from below as he sprinted over a few more arches. Celobia was surprised by the confidence he now saw in the boy's face, as if he knew what he was doing.
The Wanderer then leaped from the last raised pathway onto another obelisk. He hauled himself up and after waiting for the Lion to ram the pillar, shot an arrow at the Colossus once more. Celobia, despite witnessing his earlier mistake, rammed the obelisk a second time. The pillar fell, but this time the boy seemed prepared for it. Instantly the Wanderer saw that the fallen obelisk gave him enough distance off of the ground to be able to jump onto the next pillar and grab the bottom notch.
This entire process happened once more, but when the dust cleared the boy instead leaped onto another raised pathway, which gave him clearance to another obelisk. The enraged Lion rammed it twice, and the pillar fell. Celobia shook his head and looked up to see that the Wanderer had leaped from one last raised pathway onto the old bell tower. The tower had notches that wound all the way around it, so that more then one person could easily climb to the top. The Lion ran around the tower to find that the boy had already jumped off of it onto the last obelisk. Celobia rammed it angrily, and soon after found himself being shot at. For what would be the last time, the Lion backed up, growled, and threw himself at the pillar.
Celobia's anger turned to horror when he saw what he had done. Before hitting the ground, the obelisk had crashed through the weakened wall of the city entrance area. Blocks were now strewn everywhere, and the dust took forever to blow away. The Lion's eyes fell on the Wanderer, however, and his horror turned into blinding fury.
Panicked, the boy sprinted across the entrance area and leaped onto a set of notches in the wall, dragging himself up as quickly as possible. Celobia followed and stopped when he found that his attacker was now above him, standing on the decrepit platform that was attached to the entrance opening. The Lion glared up at the Wanderer, mentally daring him to run away or suffer the consequences. But instead of running, the boy pulled out the stick shooting contraption again. He mumbled to it, drew some symbols across his chest as if for good luck, and fired a stick. Celobia growled and looked for something to ram. His eyes quickly fell on a loose looking support column, and, without thinking, threw himself at it.
Instead of sliding forward like the obelisks, the column fell apart into separate small blocks. This caused the platform to shatter above the Lion's head. When a large piece fell on top of him, Celobia was knocked unconscious.
Though his state of darkness only lasted a few seconds in reality, to the Lion it felt like at least a minute. The world remained dark, but he could hear very familiar voices arguing.
Well, he's dead now.
No, he's not! I don't feel his presence among us yet!
Thank the heavens, but that's not what I meant.
Then whatdoyou mean?
I mean that he's going to be deadsoon!
Have faith, Kuromori! I believe Celobia can get through it if he-
You're living in a fantasy world, Avion. He'sdoomednow.
Why do you say that?!
Oh please. Just look at him!
Well… his armor has a few scratches…
A fewscratches?! Avion, are you blind as well as stupid?
You putrid lizard! I should have pecked your eyes out long ago!
Ha! I'd like to see you try!
Celobia awoke in confusion, wondering what the two deceased Colossi meant when they were talking about his armor. He kept his eyes dimmed and backed away from under the crumbled platform. When he was freed, the Lion shook himself and lighted his eyes. With a shock, Celobia realized he felt warmth beating down on his back, as well as a bizarre lack of protecting pressure there. Next, he found that his face armor had warped so that he could barely see out of one of his eyes. The Lion glanced back at himself and felt fear for the first time.
My armor… Isgone…
Celobia finally looked up to see that the Wanderer was hiding in the rubble, with a strange mixture of terror and victory on his face. The Lion growled and stepped toward him. Quickly, the boy looked around, his eyes falling on an intact support column nearby. He jumped over the rubble and leaped onto the column. Celobia ran over, backed up, and proceeded to ram the stack of blocks. However, his lack of shock-distributing armor made the impact send him into unconsciousness again. When he awoke, it was to mind numbing pain flaming from his back. The Lion quickly got to his feet and shook, but not before the Wanderer got another stab in. Celobia roared and careened out of the entrance area. While he made his way around the main building, he occasionally shook in mid-run to try and get rid of his attacker. Finally, just as the Lion reached his temple, he leaped over the canal that was right in front of the raised pathway, making sure to arch his back so that the boy was scraped off. The Wanderer cried out in pain and grabbed desperately at a decorative notch in the side of the pathway. He pulled himself up and looked down at Celobia, whose mind was racing with varied emotions. The Lion was infuriated and terrified at the same time. In a split second though, he decided which emotion was dominant.
With a ferocious battle cry, Celobia leaped back over the canal and threw himself at one of the supports for the arch. He collapsed in unconsciousness from the impact, and was quickly awoken when the Wanderer landed on him sword first. The Lion hardly had time to stand, shake, and run a few steps before the final blow was dealt.
Like his sister had before him, Celobia stumbled to a stop and limply fell on his side. His assassin had been slightly crushed underneath the Lion's bulk, and the dying Colossus watched as the boy weakly got to his feet, rubbing his stomach as though he had sustained internal injuries. Celobia inspected him with ever darkening eyes.
He looks so sick and dirty… How can he still live…?
In his final moments, the Lion's question was answered. For the Wanderer had gazed down at him and mumbled to himself,
"Don't worry, Mono… I'll be there soon…"
Argus growled and shifted in his cave slightly.
The Sentry had just felt the loss of another Colossus, and he knew very well who it had been. Despite the guilt nagging at him in the back of his mind, Argus couldn't help but poke his head out of his lair and smirk victoriously at the sky.
"You no longer have to redeem yourself, Celobia. Your death is redemption enough."
And joining the guilt in the back of the Sentry's mind, he swore he could hear the Lion and the Boar snarl at him as one.