(that novel with Melodia on the cover)
NOT AS OBVIOUS NOTE THAT IS NO LESS IMPORTANT: It is advised that those who like Xelha have something available to fling across the room at appropriate intervals.
This is a synopsis of the novel Baten Kaitos: Shinjitsu no Hakai to Yakusoku no Uso (Baten Kaitos: The Destruction of Truth and the Lie of the Promise), by Osamu Kudou. The book is one of two Baten Kaitos novels, the other being Tadashi Aizawa's Baten Kaitos: Arashi no Shiro (Baten Kaitos: Castle of Storms). Oddly, the novels do not form a continuous story; each is an independent, separate retelling of the events of the game. The novels were published in the same month, March 2004, though there's conflicting information over which was first (Amazon Japan puts Castle first by about a week; the publication dates in the books put Truth first by a day). Truth was published by Super Dash, an imprint of Shueisha; Castle was published by Famitsu. I have no idea why two Baten Kaitos novels were published practically simultaneously. (If you're looking for an easy way to distinguish the novels by sight, then Destruction of Truth, the one we're discussing here, is the one that also has Melodia on the cover; Castle of Storms features only Kalas and Xelha.)
Destruction of Truth is an extraordinarily frustrating novel, for one overriding reason: the author's writing decisions are motivated near-completely by his extraordinary hatred of Xelha, and he has completely rejiggered plot & character motivations without rhyme or reason in an attempt to satisfy his grudge. Xelha is the main character, yes, but only so that the author can heap abuse upon her when things go (ridiculously, implausibly) wrong. Kalas's role in the proceedings is greatly reduced, and the other four playable characters, Mizuti and Gibari in particular, might as well not even exist. Many supporting characters, such as Larikush, Ayme, and Folon, are completely excised (even Giacomo is reduced to a walk-on cameo), and the ones who are present exist mainly to sockpuppet the author's disapproval of Xelha. Character motivations are replaced with more simplistic ones, and the themes of the original game are no longer present. I don't think the novel's worth a translator's time to translate fully, considering how long such projects take, but in an attempt to satisfy curiosity about the book, I've put together this synopsis.
Also: I usually try to veer away from grade-school profanity in these documents, but at certain points, as I'm sure you'll understand as you read, it was unavoidable.
One final note before we start: some characters in Baten Kaitos have different names in the Japanese version (and novel) than they do in the English version. I've used the names from the English version for simplicity's sake. Believe me, we'll all be confused enough by the time this is all over.
Prologue: The Inscrutable Hearts of the Gods
The novel starts out immediately after Kalas's heel turn in the Lava Caves, as the Guardian Spirit, adrift between worlds after being sundered froom Kalas, follows Xelha's cries back to the human world. The Guardian Spirit occasionally serves as the book's narrator, and he (the spirit is later revealed, or at least strongly suggested, to be male) is actually a bit of self-interested git. He rails about how most humans (at least those of Xelha's age) are self-centered jerks who want just to save their own hides and goes on about how he doesn't care about how Melodia's involved with Malpercio or what she's trying to do or what "horrible fates" are going to befall Xelha's four companions. He's also, as we all were at this point, quite angry toward Kalas, to whom the spirit initially will not refer by name, only as "aitsu," which in this context can be interpreted as *him*. Therefore, when the spirit appears to Xelha, he's given up on humanity entirely; he intends in the novel not to rejoin her, but merely to say goodbye before he returns to the spirit world for good.
He's actually surprised when it turns out that Xelha can sense his presence and has the ability to be a spiriter. For some reason, Xelha initially thinks that the spirit is Kalas, and the mere mention of his name gets the spirit's dander up. The thought of the "unfinished business" between Kalas & him is actually what initially gives the spirit the idea to remain. Helping out Xelha is a secondary, later motivation, though he does reflect that since Xelha wanted to save Kalas, the thoroughness of Kalas's betrayal was probably an even greater shock to her than it was to him. The spirit's attitude to Xelha here is weird: he feels a vague sense of guilt for abandoning her and senses that he "should" be a friend to her, but he doesn't really seem to have had much of a previous liking or regard for her.
We then flash back to Kalas's betrayal, in which the dialogue is largely the same as the game. There are a few additions. The novel notes that Xelha has had prophetic dreams about Kalas every since she was a little girl - seeing him looking always so sad, and knowing that he was doomed to play a role in reviving Malpercio. She feels pity for him and, over the years, comes to feel compelled to try to change his fate. This ambition is bolstered by the appearance in these dreams of an indistinct female figure who would lead the boy out of the darkness and save him; though Xelha can never make out the girl's face, she eventually concludes that this is a prophecy of her own destiny and strives to fulfill it. (Xelha does not seem to have undertaken a journey to save the world here; she seems simply to meet Kalas somehow one day and takes it upon herself to try to charm him and sway him from his fate.) Later, during the Lava Caves imbroglio, she realizes that the girl in the dream isn't herself but instead Melodia, and she's leading him not to salvation but to fulfillment of his dark destiny. The book kind of rails Xelha out here for supposedly being so selfish and self-aggrandizing for "seeing what she wanted to see" and fancying that she could save Kalas, but - hey, book, if you don't like what you claim are Xelha's new motivations, maybe you shouldn't have taken her previous, perfectly good motivations away from her.
Gibari also takes Kalas's betrayal particularly hard, his voice breaking when he confronts the boy; book Gibari looked upon Kalas "like an adorable little brother" (c'mon, we all know Gibari's everyone's dad), and the novel claims that "no one enjoyed traveling with Kalas as much as Gibari." (The author also gets somewhat of a good line in Kalas's reaction to Gibari's wounded accusation: "He turned away from Gibari's gaze. An expression of pain crossed his face, as if he were recalling a slight sting. But it was only for a moment. Kalas soon shook his thoughts of Gibari and his other friends from his mind, and his eyes hardened, filled with self-confidence and pride, as if he had been reborn as a new man.")
When she revives Malpercio, Melodia also says a prayer that I don't think is in the game:
(Weird note: the author ascribes Mizuti's hovering ability to her "magic shoes," not any magic she herself is casting. This will not be the last underestimation of the Great Mizuti.)
Anyhow: after the flashback, Xelha seems to have dismissed her sensing the spirit's presence as just an illusion. Meemai, however, continues staring at the space where the spirit "is" even when Xelha thinks she was just hearing things. Eventually, Xelha catches on, and she and the spirit bond, with the spirit now seeing things through her eyes. Xelha: "Yes, I feel something in the bottom of my heart...a strange feeling, like a warm light shining from within. It this what it feels like to be Spiriter?"
Joined to Xelha, the spirit is a bit more hopeful now; Xelha, in turn, declares that "my real adventure begins now!". She readies her attack magnus, which were inexplicably not taken from her when she was captured. Just to go over how using battle magnus is visualized in this novel:
Anyhow, Xelha uses the Distorting Wind to blow her pop stand. Some soldiers are present, but Xelha's high on her newfound power ("Step aside if you don't want to get hurt!"). Freaked out by the force of her magic, they leave, and Xelha goes...well, looking for Kalas. She reasons that Melodia and Malpercio (who is being treated as a separate entity again) are probably there, too, but Xelha thinks she can launch a surprise attack and wipe them all out. The spirit, thankfully, talks her down from this, but uses a reason - "it'd be too much for you emotionally right now" - that really bears further explanation. (Which we will, unfortunately, get. Repeatedly. At despairing lengths.)
None is immediately forthcoming, though, because another voice cuts into the mental conversation: "That's right. You can't panic now, Princess!" Man, it's crowded in novel Xelha's headspace. Anyhow, this is Kodelle, who's speaking with Xelha through mental telepathy (which, the novel notes, is an ability exclusive to witches and members of Xelha's family). The three witches have arrived for the jailbreak, and after demurring a bit over leaving her friends behind (Kodelle assures her that they're not being kept in the Fortress anyhow), Xelha flies away on the dragon.
(Also: Yes, "Princess," not "Queen." We'll be explaining this in a bit.)
Kalas, meanwhile, watches Xelha depart, as he does in the games, and thinks:
Part 1: Friends in Confronting Evil
We get a brief history of the world, the ancient war against Malpercio, and the ascension of the five continents, with the speculation at the end that Malpercio's resurrection was the people's punishment for "abandoning their own past and homeland."
Xelha returns to Komo Mai and meets with the heads of state. She's less proactive than she was in the games and more self-blaming. Ladekahn has a kind line, though: "In view of all that has happened...I think you did well for us."
(Incidentally, the book handwaves Corellia's earlier inaction by claiming that Geldoblame was "conducting his plans" for obtaining the End Magnus "in secret," so she couldn't take any open stand against him as a head of state, but claims that it wasn't as if she was "sitting on [her] hands and doing nothing, either." I was originally going to go off on a tangent on how sitting on her hands is exactly what Corellia did in the game when her help could have made a difference and that Ladekahn and Calbren, by contrast, helped more or less as soon as they could, but as we'll see in a bit, the personalities, behavior, and roles in the story of the novel world leaders have, sadly, little to do with their game counterparts.)
Despite Kalas's earlier proclamation of being one with the evil god, the leaders discuss how Malpercio "is not awake yet." Corellia starts wondering what kind of power Melodia needs to unseal the End Magnus, and, wanting to talk to Calbren and Ladekahn alone, starts to cut Xelha out of the conversation (the novel explicitly says this is her intention) with a cursory "What will you do now?". Xelha says that she wants to rescue the others, at which point Kodelle (who has a lot of dialogue in this novel) objects that as princess of Wazn, she can't risk herself like that. We get the obligatory reactions of shock from the leaders, but at Xelha's position of royalty only; the existence of Wazn itself is not in doubt in the novel. Corellia continues being kind of a jerk here: she notes that isolated Wazn "does not have relations with our continents," so: "Therefore, it is not our place to ask anything more of their precious princess." Corellia tells her to go on home and, as a leader, stay with her people, and orders her to leave Anuenue by the next morning.
The spirit takes over narration at this point and starts talking about how Xelha's love for Kalas clouded her judgment and led to everything going wrong. It also, the spirit states, will prevent her from doing what's right and beating down Kalas - a fact he notes Kodelle realizes as well. He also rails that Xelha "doesn't understand a bit" how her emotions for Kalas are jerking her around, and despairs that Xelha's a lovesick ninny who's too "emotional" to make any rational decisions. He agrees with Kodelle and Corellia that Xelha should just go on home and theorizes that Corellia, too, dismissed Xelha due to her emotional weakness. The Xelha-bashing goes on for quite a bit, and honestly, it's kind of tough to read; it's a far cry from the game, which respected Xelha as a caring yet smart and proactive character.
Before the spirit can "speak" and tell Xelha that she's a lovesick emotional ninny etc., Xelha makes up her mind to leave and try to save the others. She begins to pack. She's interrupted, though, by Catranne, who comes in to complain that it's her duty to watch Xelha for the evening.
You see, Catranne chattily explains, when she mentioned Anuenue's traditional "secret beauty lotion" to Kodelle and Glamyss, they insisted on slathering some on their own skin and then going off to lie down for "beauty reasons," leaving poor little Catranne to hold down the fort all alone. "But, y'know what? It looks like the label came off!" Catranne says, and when she tracked down another bottle of the stuff, she discovered that the label warned "in Anuenue script" (Anuenue has its own writing system?) that the lotion has the side effect of causing sleep. "Hey, but don't worry, Princess. I mean, here you are in your room, right? My job here is done! Now, time to try some of this 'Sleeping Beauty Lotion' myself!"
The lotion's powerful stuff; one whiff knocks Catranne to the floor. Before succumbing, Catranne mumbles to Xelha that "Mr. Gibari and the others" are being held in the Dimensional Rifts where the End Magnuses were. Xelha pauses for a moment of thanks to Catranne, then exits the palace (slipping past the guards with an "I'm on my way to the bathroom" excuse), heads for the White Dragon, then flies off to Alfard.
All the Dimensional Rift rescues are preceded by a recap of the given captive's personal backstory and history with the party up till this point. As might not surprise you by this point, these stories occasionally deviate from game canon. Lyude, for example, does not seem to have been involved in any way in the Azha incident; he has been exiled merely for "mouthing off" to Geldoblame. The novel casts off Lyude's conscientious objections to the Empire's actions; as with Xelha, his character development is cast more as more as teenage rebellion against The Man: "What was success in life? Falling in line and doing the wrong thing until you bent yourself in two? Was independent thought the only thing for which society wouldn't stand?" He remembers how he worked so hard to gain the trust of the villagers in Nashira he loved but ultimately couldn't defend them, but the novel portrays even this dilemma somewhat selfishly: "even his right to speak was being stolen from him." The novel makes Lyude more concerned with himself and his right to self-determination than with a larger moral objection.
At one point, Lyude shares a bit of introspection with Xelha:
When the party reaches Mintaka, Almarde's death scene goes slightly differently; she jumps in front of Lyude to shield him when Skeed attempts to shoot him. He last lines are slightly different as well: "My dear boy... You must walk the path that you have chosen... Please... Go..."
Anyhow, Xelha comes to rescue Lyude from his cross in the Dimensional Rift. Lyude is impressed by how much stronger Xelha seems. The following reunion then takes place, after Xelha starts going off making excuses for Kalas like the silly emotional ninny the novel believes her to be and Lyude has to gently shake her out of it:
Gibari's next, and not nearly as much is said about him as is Lyude. No mention is made of him once having been a knight in Ladekahn's service. While he's primarily concerned over the changes he's seen occurring in the natural world as a fisherman, he also joins intent on forging a big-brother relationship with Kalas: "Gibari doted on Kalas like a little brother; he was patient with him, letting Kalas handle whatever he could. Sometimes he would have fun teasing him; sometimes, he would remonstrate and lecture him. And sometimes, he would take him in his arms in a big bear hug like a spoiled child, the pair seeming like a happy father and son." The book attributes any changes in Kalas's self-centered outlook to Gibari's influence. Instead of the following the game's conversation with Xelha in the Dimensional Crack, he just has a couple generic and short "let's go" remarks when freed. That's it for notable things about book Gibari here, which is odd, considering that the book considers him, at least nominally, the leader of the supporting PCs.
On to Savyna. The narrative notes that novel Savyna was trained to join the Special Forces since an early age and "lost all sense of individuality" as a result; she would "kill her own parents" without a second thought if ordered, which is inadvertently interesting considering Origins and Shanath's perpetual Take Your Daughter to Work Day. "Sympathy and the taint of emotion were Savyna's enemies, and her assigned targets were beasts of prey."
The impetus for Savyna's change of heart in Azha is somewhat different here: Savyna at first kills the father, not the child, but when the girl comes charging out, Savyna at first fully intends to kill her, too. ("Poor thing. Better she be sent to live in Heaven with her father.") She finds that she can't, though, and the novel explains why: "in the girl before her eyes, Savyna saw her younger self":
Anyhow, Savyna thinks rather conceitedly that facing "the greatest enemy in the world" is a fine way to bring back her honor, which is a bit self-aggrandizing for all-business Savyna, I'd say. The book notes that Savyna wasn't a bit surprised to see Kalas turn traitor, as she had been "making a study of humanity's weaknesses" since the Azha incident. She looks at Kalas in the Lava Caves and "laughs inside": "so, Kalas...you were weak too, weren't you?".
As for Mizuti, she's dispensed with quite quickly. The novel reviews her first meeting with the group in the Trail of Souls, and that's that. She does bawl Xelha out for rescuing her last, though.
After all this, Xelha has a flashback where she recalls looking at Kalas's face after hearing the townspeople speaking nastily about him in Balancoire. She thinks that it's the moment she definitively fell in love with him, as it's when he looked the most like the lonely little boy in her dream. She tells Kalas the night before they set off to the Empire that she believes in him, which the book is quick to point out is the moment Xelha SEALED THEIR DOOM, because we've gone for about 30 pages without the novel telling us what a horrible person she is.
Anyhow: now that the band's back together, Savyna brings up the topic of what to do about Kalas. Savyna offers her own opinion very quickly: she recommends forgetting about rescuing Kalas right off the bat ("I don't want a repeat of what happened") and focusing only on taking out Malpercio. Gibari kind of wishy-washily objects to this with a lot of "er"s and "um"s (for someone who posits him as the leader, this author really doesn't have his voice down at all). Savyna in response calls him "soft" and claims, rather confrontationally, "with that lack of focus, we'll only be defeated again," at which Gibari gives up, himself defeated. Lyude then asks what Savyna proposes to do with Kalas. "If Kalas attacks us, we strike him down. It's that simple." Xelha's too shocked to respond, and Gibari ineffectually hems and haws Rodolfo-like, but Savyna reminds everyone that the essence of Malpercio's in Kalas, and if they're not prepared to take out Kalas, they can't take out Malpercio. No one else can argue with this train of thought, but no one else really wants to embrace it, either.
Xelha (with "tears in her eyes," of course) then brings up a point: what if they could heal Malpercio instead? "Dead, yet forced to be resurrected by human ambition due to the divine power that rests within him, whether he wants to be alive or not..." Xelha forces herself, at least verbally, to acknowledge that Kalas may be an inevitable victim. No one has really any response to this.
Lyude brings the conversation around to how exactly they're going to stand against Malpercio. Savyna, of all people, brings up the old story about how Malpercio was once killed by humans and how maybe that tale has the solution to their dilemma. Xelha recalls that she once read about the story in Anuenue's library and faintly recalls that Malpercio's vanquishers were called the "Children of the Earth," but she doesn't remember it that well, so who knows.
Mizuti, who has not contributed to this entire conversation so far, then very briefly offers her whole backstory about how she's a descendant of the Children of the Earth and that the weapon used to kill Malpercio was the Sword of the Heavens and that they need to go to her homeland down beneath the Taintclouds to retrieve it. So, rather suddenly, off we go.
Part 2: The Children of the Earth and the Sword of the Heavens
The group rides the White Dragon down through the Taintclouds to Gemma. The book notes that the surface of the earth, "perhaps as a consequence of being shrouded in a sea of poison for so long," is a "muddy black," and it looks like an eternal twilight has fallen across the land. Breathing in the air makes Xelha nauseous, but the land is "filled" with a "rather primal" magic power - the scent of magic "lingers faintly" throughout the Earth, "as if she were standing close to some ancient ruins; in places, the odor was so overpowering that Xelha almost felt as if she would faint." It makes the group feel uneasy, and if this weren't Mizuti's homeland, they'd turn back right away.
A welcoming party turns out for the little band in Gemma to welcome "the Children of the Skies," headed by Kamroh. Kamroh states that he's been monitoring the activities of the party and the awakening of Malpercio for about a year through prophetic dreams, but claims that the magic powers of the Children of the Earth are now too weakened for his people to be of any help.
Kamroh then mentions that this is the "Earth" upon which the ancient battle with Malpercio took place, to which the party reacts with inexplicable amazement. You might think they'd have suspected as such already, since they were going to the land of the Children of the Earth to retrieve the weapon that sealed Malpercio away in that battle, not to mention that one of the party has been told since childhood about the Ocean that will eventually cover the Earth. (Xelha seems to think initially that they're on another island that's at a lower depth than the main five continents, as the taintclouds obscure the horizon and she notes that she "can't see how far the island extends.")
Kamroh gives an abbreviated history of how the Children of the Earth divided Malpercio's body into five parts upon his defeat and used the power within them to send the five continents that were the least damaged by the war into the sky. They then expended the last of their power to prevent the Taintcloud poison from spreading to the skies above. "To atone for slaying the god," they and their descendants remained on earth, attempting to ensure that "the curse of the god" did not spread.
Mizuti then gets in a snit that Kamroh hasn't greeted her yet, whereupon he starts talking to her in her own patois. Kay and Koh are standing in the background, and there's the conversation about her calling herself "Great," etc. etc. (with the addition of Mizuti accusing her father, who's trying to defend her, of being henpecked). It's strange for Xelha to think of Mizuti as having parents, but "parents are parents and children are children no matter where you go."
Savyna finally gets the conversation steered around to the Sword of the Heavens. Kamroh says, yeah, they have it, and it's said to wield some kind of strange power - he can't test what it is, though, since that would require the strength of one of the ancient magicians, and his people have lost their power. Three guesses who can get the job done, though. (I was beginning to think that Mizuti didn't have her whole "possible reincarnation of ancient powerful magician" backstory, as she's been so overlooked by the novel so far.)
Kamroh then invites everyone to rest from their long journey. Xelha walks beside Kamroh, whereupon Kamroh gives his greetings to the Guardian Spirit (with just one "We welcome you, Brave Spirit," alas). Kamroh then mentions to Xelha that "depending on what happens, I think the key to the revival of this world...rests with you and your friend, does it not?" Xelha at first doesn't know what he means, but then she remembers:
Anyhow, Kamroh rouses Xelha from her reflection by noticing a dropped Magnus on the ground - a piece of Oakwood. He returns it to Xelha. Xelha starts to protest that it's not hers, but Kamroh tells her to "keep it until you've found its rightful owner."
The group arrives at Kamroh's residence, but whatever Kamroh had in mind is interrupted by the arrival of Krumly & co. and his exhortations to leave the earth, join up with Malpercio and make for the sky, etc. When Krumly recognizes Xelha & co. as being from above the Taintclouds, he unsheaths and threatens them with his sword - the Sword of the Heavens, which he's already stolen.
To assist in our extremely abbreviated telling of events, Melodia and Malpercio show up right then and there in Gemma village. (The heroes can do nothing because "Xelha, Gibari, Lyude, Savyna, Mizuti - all forgot themselves in the presence of such divinity, struck prostrate with awe." Oh, please.) Unlike the game, Melodia is more than willing to bargain (or pretend to bargain) with Krumly's faction, offering them "a peaceful existence in the paradise of Cor Hydrae" in exchange for their worship and obedience. "Our god wishes only to build a new age! Only the faithful will find deliverance...and our god and Savior shall pass final judgment upon the unbelieving!"
(Also note: Malpercio is an independent entity here with his game body, not contained within Kalas, as before. The novel will never be able to make up its mind about this.)
In a 180 from the game, the Children of the Earth are more than receptive to this offer; almost all except Kamroh and Mizuti's parents fall to their knees in worship of Malpercio. Krumly gleefully brings forth the Sword of the Heavens, and a joyful Melodia promises him a "special boon" for his services. The smile vanishes from Melodia's face, however, as soon as she touches the sword: "No ancient memory of butchering a god is sealed within this blade! ...This is not the Sword of the Heavens! This is a copy - a fake!" Krumly, panicked, protests that he retrieved the sword from Capella himself, whereupon Melodia surmises that someone must have foreseen Krumly's theft, swiped the sword before he could, and left a copy in its place. She warns Krumly that he must find the real Sword of the Heavens by the next morning, "or else, I might not be able to bless you with the rank of Archangel in paradise." She and Malpercio then leave (with no resistance from Xelha & co., and with Melodia herself making no attempt to wipe them out).
Krumly promptly accuses Kamroh of stealing the real Sword. Kamroh offers no response. The situation, however, does not escalate as one would expect, given that this is basically a few holdouts against a desperate, fear-crazed mob. Instead, an uneasy silence settles over Gemma village in the evening, with everyone on edge about what's going to happen in the morning. Krumly comes back to make further accusations against Kamroh but stops short of raising a hand against him. (The book notes that Gibari et al. are acting as temporary guards for Kamroh, but still.) Kamroh notes that "the Dark God does not mean to coexist with us; he means to rule us," whereupon Krumly ripostes, "And what is wrong with being ruled? A rule where peace is promised - that would not have us suffer any longer!?"
Kamroh then claims to be tired and leaves to retire for the night, claiming that he has no knowledge of where the real Sword of the Heavens is. "Then you are fine with the village being destroyed tomorrow morning!?" For some reason, this revelation comes as a shock to Kamroh and everyone else in the room, and Krumly subsequently explains for Kamroh that if they don't hand over the Sword of the Heavens in the morning, Melodia's going to take it as a declaration of war. Gibari, tactlessly, laughs out loud at this: "Hey, it's not like we don't understand you want to survive. But it's not like this's just your problem. It's everyone's! The Rainbow Nation, Anuenue; the cloud country, Diadem - they're all discussing what to do about the dark god. We can't just give in to him!"
"Hmph," retorts Krumly, "big words from the sky nations, who stand upon our tribe's sacrifice," so congratulations, novel everyone, for making Krumly seem like the reasonable one here.
Krumly doesn't hold that title for long, though. Xelha & the Guardian Spirit have noticed that Krumly's behavior is rather odd: they've heard from the townspeople that Krumly and Kamroh have always been at odds, so it seems weird to them, on this night of all nights, that Krumly would waste time arguing with Kamroh over old talking points when he knows he's not going to make any headway. It seems to Xelha and the Spirit more like he's stalling for time. They also note something rather strange about Krumly's demeanor - he seems to be oddly on edge and antsy, like he's "waiting for something." Something visits when Mizuti bursts in to announce that Kamroh's pyramid is on fire.
The group wanders outside to find a correction: the entire village is on fire, with several blazes here and there throughout Gemma. Gibari concludes that this couldn't have been the work of just one person; a coordinated effort among several perpetrators had to be involved. In other words, Krumly's faction. In response, Krumly lets loose a big ridiculous BWAHAHAHA laugh of villainy and exclaims that "if Kamroh had turned over the Sword of the Heavens, this never would have happened!"
"I told him to do it!" rings out a voice from a above, and in a gust of wind, Kalas flies down from the Taintclouds to Krumly's side. He tells Krumly to leave the rest to him and "glares at Xelha with a savage grin," briefly expressing disbelief that the Guardian Spirit has chosen to bond with her ("Hey, it's been a while! Can't believe you decided to bond with Xelha. She's not even a Spiriter! Good job!"). "You thought we were gonna just wait till tomorrow morning?" Kalas exclaims; he claims that if the villagers won't give up the Sword of the Heavens, he'll just burn it out of its hiding place, and since he wants only to destroy the Sword in the first place, if it's incinerated in the process, who cares? (Kalas isn't up on how exactly you destroy something metal, apparently.) Malpercio, meanwhile, has descended again and is walking around the village knocking down buildings like Godzilla.
The party takes up arms against Kalas. Gibari, again teary-eyed, appeals to Kalas to come back (which receives a sneering rebuff), then to stop Malpercio's rampage (ditto). Lyude laments how he "misjudged" Kalas and exclaims: "Do you know how worried Xelha's been about you!?" (Kamroh, meanwhile, offers a prayer to his ancestors for the party's safety; Krumly flees into the darkness.) Xelha, however, is frozen in place, unable to make a move against Kalas.
Savyna, meanwhile, opts to punch Kalas's lights out. ("Hmph. What's the matter? Haven't gained the powers of a dark god yet? ...Fool. Did you think the Dark God's power was stronger than our Magnuses? We've been practicing, you know. Hmph - is this what you wanted to show off?") She staggers Kalas pretty well, and while he brushes it off ("just haven't learned how to control [the Dark God's power] yet!"), he's pretty surprised at how much better the others have gotten with their Magnuses. (When did they have time to practice from when he was last with them, though? They headed straight for Gemma once they got off the crosses.) Mizuti pops up, gives Kalas one last chance to rejoin the others, then finishes him off with a Mega Flood.
But then: "Big brother!" Melodia descends instantly from the heavens, rushes to support the fallen Kalas, and begs the others not to kill him. Gibari stops cold in his tracks, unable to raise a hand against a "weak little girl"; Savyna berates him - "don't fooled by appearances!" - but she doesn't make a move, either. Melodia, shaking with anger, glares at the group and asks, "Why - why do you hate Malpercio so!?" Before anyone can follow up with the obvious answers, Melodia continues: "The source of Malpercio's power is the End Magnus - the same End Magnus whose power holds the five great continents aloft. You have so far lived by the Power of the Gods! ...Don't you understand?! I'm telling you that if Malpercio steals the power of the End Magnus from the floating continents, then the continents will lose the power to float and plummet to the Earth! ...If Malpercio realizes this, then the five continents could fall at any moment! That is why I am seeking the path of coexistence with you - why can't you understand that!?"
The novel notes that "Gibari and the others didn't understand Melodia's explanation, but they responded to the huge disaster signified in the words 'continents' and 'plummet.'" Allow me to take time out for a personal note here - it was at this point that I really became weary of the novel and considered not continuing. I honestly can't quite recall if the group is supposed to know that fully draining the End Magnus will cause the continents to fall at this point - flipping through a Let's Play, it seems that the first time this is mentioned in the game is by Kamroh just before the group storms Cor Hydrae - but the party's dumb reaction here underlines how the author is so intent on making the characters ineffectual and ignorant, in ways that are out of character, and it really blots out any of the qualities that made the game so enjoyable for me. (This is a particular problem with Gibari; the author seems to have concluded that since he's big and strong, he must be the particularly stupid one, contrary to any evidence in the game.) This whole section is a very long example of Roger Ebert's Idiot Plot, so forgive me if I lose patience with it repeatedly.
Anyhow: the narrative breaks for a moment to give a brief summary of the novel's history of the ancient war against Malpercio:
(I'm far from a fan of the novel's brutish take on Baten Kaitos, but according to its own thuggish logic, the easiest way out of this situation is to kill Melodia, as she seems to be the only one who can tell Malpercio about draining the End Magnus. Novel Savyna is so utilitarian that I'm surprised she hasn't done this by now.)
As if sensing that we needed our patience further tested here, the Guardian Spirit goes off on another rant on how Kodelle was right all along and Xelha can't fight and and and. YES. I KNOW. YOU KNEW ALL ALONG THAT XELHA WAS COMPLETELY WORTHLESS. SHUT THE FUCK UP. The Spirit then starts going off to Xelha about how even though humans were the aggressors in the novel's version of past events, this world has animals in it, and Malpercio is hurting the animals, and don't you want to save the animals?, and while I'm normally on board with any "save the animals" reasoning, from a larger perspective - ???
The spirit then starts talking about some "Law" among Guardian Spirits where they're obliged not to tell people anything more about their fates than necessary. The spirit wants to break that law to tell Xelha how the people who killed Malpercio truly felt after the war (which means it's not "fate" - i.e. something that's going to happen in the future - but history, but frankly, that the least of our affronts to logic at this point). The spirit's Big Revelation is that the people felt sorry about what they'd done, and they sealed the god's power in the five continents as a means of containing it, so that such a mistake would never happen again. It then starts in about how the meaning of history changes according to your perspective on it, which means that there is no truth at all in the universe, but also that "everything is true," and now the spirit is not only the most undermining demotivator Xelha could ever have for a partner (it was at this point that I began imagining the spirit's lines in GlaDOS's voice) but also that obnoxious person from your English and/or History and/or Philosophy 101 class.
The spirit then turns to the subject of faith, because faith, apparently, is the only thing on which you can rely when everything and/or nothing is true. He then asks Xelha in what she believes (and says, via narration, that he intends to harangue Xelha about this like a missionary until she answers - even though he knows that Kalas is he in whom she believes and has gone on multiple tirades about the issue). In response, Xelha walks toward Melodia and asks her: "Please, Melodia...save the people of the skies." Melodia says that she's "asking too much": there must be "order" in Malpercio's new world, and if "unbelievers" are tolerated, then they'll just upset that order, and humanity will resume its blasphemous, usurping ways. (So: Malpercio wants to be humanity's parent again, and humanity must rail against him for its independence. In other words, the author does not want to tell the story of Baten Kaitos, which is about the need for forgiveness, and instead wants to fall back on the "adolescents rebel against parental surrogates for the right to self-determination" plot that's so prevalent in the RPG genre.)
Xelha offers another solution: have Malpercio bring the five continents safely to earth; purify the earth from the poison; and create two completely separate worlds (the then-earthbound five continents and the rest of the earth, presumably) that will have no contact with one another. Melodia stonewalls this as well but won't initially explain her reasons; when Xelha presses, however, Melodia says that such an arrangement will just "put Malpercio to sleep again" - the exhaustion from such a task would be too great. Furthermore, Melodia claims that since both her life and Kalas's life are protected by the "Great Power of the Gods," Malpercio expending such power would also kill them. Kill Malpercio, Melodia claims, and you kill Kalas as well. (She also claims that this is why Kalas's performance as an avatar or whatever the hell he is of Malpercio in the novel has been underwhelming - a great deal of Malpercio's power is still tied up in keeping the five continents afloat.)
Xelha's thoughts freeze over again, and the spirit starts on another anti-Xelha bender. This is all interrupted by Kalas pointing his sword at Xelha: "That's enough, Xelha. Don't make Melodia suffer anymore." He glares at her with "eyes as hard as jewels" and continues: "Melodia's had it rough. She died, and yet she's still living - through the power of the End Magnus. We'll never age - we'll never die. We're meant to be together - we're the only two people in the world who understand each other."
Xelha is devastated, of course. Kalas, raving about how he gladly supports Melodia's intent to rule the world with Malpercio, then tries to run Xelha through with his sword. Xelha narrowly escapes. Kalas laughs at the others for being shocked by Melodia's story and boasts that he's getting further power from Malpercio. He mentions, apropos of nothing whatsoever save clumsy foreshadowing of his actual motives, that if they defeat him, they'll defeat Malpercio, too (or, at least, that Malpercio would become "nothing but a soulless doll"). (He claims that he personally doesn't care what happens to the world and that he just wants "to live in a world of endless fighting.")
As Kalas readies again for combat, claiming to be drawing now on the power of the End Magnus, Malpercio - who by this point has managed to raze Gemma completely - loses power and stops moving. The group takes this as confirmation of Kalas's story: Kalas was weak previously because Malpercio needed to power his giant god-body to destroy Gemma, and now that that's accomplished and his Godzilla form is no longer required, he can shift residency to Kalas, and Kalas can draw more power from Malpercio's soul (though, honestly, I really don't think its worth it to try to follow the author's shifting claims about the nature of Malpercio's incarnation at this point). The others, minus Xelha, challenge him, but the battle doesn't go well for them, because the author is fixated on the idea that Xelha has to beat Kalas's brains in to grow up, and nothing's getting settled on the Kalas front until that happens.
Xelha, meanwhile, still can't raise a finger against Kalas. She feels that Kalas didn't really mean what he said and instead is "crying out" for her to kill him. The Guardian Spirit, for once, agrees, claiming that even though Kalas has the advantage in the battle, he has not attempted to kill any of his former comrades. (Er, except for Xelha just a few minutes ago. Oh, never mind.) Xelha realizes that Kalas did what he did so that Malpercio would be sealed and contained within a fragile mortal shell. The spirit, in order to urge Xelha on, lets Kalas deliver a psychic message to Xelha (via Spiriter three-way calling, I guess): Kill me! Kalas then says that if his body is divided into five pieces and sealed once again within the continents, the continents will be able to continue to fly.
The Guardian Spirit then tries to make Kalas's case in perhaps the worst way possible: "If you respect Kalas's will, Xelha, then you will take the power of your Magnus and slaughter him right here and now." (Yes, the spirit uses the word "slaughter" - "hofuru". Though "hofuru" can also mean "to butcher": Yes, Xelha, take his body and carve it up into five pieces, because that is what friends do.) The spirit then assures Xelha that "it'll be just like the ancient magicians did when they buried the dark god - you'll just be repeating history, that's all," urging her to follow in the footsteps of a decision she has just been convinced was wrong. "And if you can't kill Kalas, then take your Magnus and use them to attack your friends. Declare yourself to be an ally of Kalas and Melodia, and put protecting his life above all else. Decide now, Xelha." You know, I can't get mad at novel Xelha, because in a way, she doesn't even exist. She's a version of a character who's not a version of a character; nothing that makes game Xelha Xelha is present in novel Xelha, and that's the author's fault, for sacrificing a good character to serve a wrongheaded plot. I can, however, get mad at the Guardian Spirit, who is a very obvious mouthpiece for an author who chooses to harangue a character for the poor decisions he himself forced on her.
(Incidentally, the Guardian Spirit uses in his ultimatum here the first-person pronoun "boku," which is typically used only by young males, which is why I've proceeded on the assumption that the spirit is male. After all, the author is male as well.)
The Guardian Spirit finishes by saying that Xelha has to make a choice here to "leave a legend behind" for a future generation of heroes, so that they have a inspiration and an example to follow in case Malpercio revives "within someone else" again. At this, Xelha nods, then selects her Magnus - the Sword of the Heavens. Apparently, that "Oakwood" magnus Kamroh gave her when she arrived in Gemma was just a cover; the Sword of the Heavens was sealed within.
Upon seeing Xelha with the Sword, Kalas "nods in his heart"; he "lowers his sword, closes his eyes, and assumes a position of nonresistance." ("It's about time, Xelha! I've been waiting for you to get serious about this!") Xelha takes the sword, hoists it up, and thinks: "I don't want you to be a god of darkness! I don't want to give you eternal pain! That's why--that's why--! Kalas! I'm ending you here and now! Because I won't ever be able to do it again!" Half-dazed, Xelha starts to run Kalas through - when Melodia screams. "Please, Malpercio," she shouts, "protect oniisama!", which sets in motion the most ridiculous chain of events in this consummately ridiculous goddamn novel. Somehow, in the split second between the start of Xelha's thrust and when it would have connected with Kalas's body: a) Melodia realizes what's going on; b) she appeals to Malpercio; c) Malpercio transfers some of its spirit from Kalas to its big hulking god-body; d) Malpercio's "mountainous" body rouses from its torpor and lumbers into motion; e) Malpercio closes the gap between its previous resting place and where the party was battling Kalas; and f) Malpercio snatches Kalas up in his fist like King Kong with Fay Wray and spirits him off the ground. It was obvious that we were going to snatch defeat from the jaws of the novel's problematic definition of victory, but geez.
Kalas cries to Melodia to be let go - "I can still fight!" - but Melodia refuses: "No, oniisama! I can't lose you!" Malpercio then delivers a mighty stomp and flies away. Xelha looks down in shock - in a development absolutely no one could have foreseen, the Sword of the Heavens has been shattered. And it's all Xelha's fault!!!!111!11!11111
Part 3: The Cradle of Time and the Trial by Ice
Back in Gemma, the survivors are sifting through the rubble that was their village for whatever they can salvage; they have "lost the will to live." The novel states that they're "angry - at how their peace was suddenly shattered; at the dark god; at Xelha and her friends, for coming to their village; and at Krumly's faction, for setting fire to their buildings. But they didn't know on whom to take out their anger - or, rather, what it would change if they did. They were a tribe that was accustomed to enduring." They know, however, that what Krumly did "reflected the whole tribe's true feelings," and they're convinced that their thousand years in the Taintclouds has all been for naught. They instead decide to focus their anger on Xelha, whom they want gone.
The Guardian Spirit takes all this in and unsurprisingly reflects on how, yeah, the people are right, it's all Xelha's fault - for "blowing" their big chance by missing with the Sword of the Heavens thanks to a thoroughly implausible series of events that could not have possibly happened or been foreseen in this or any universe. (It's remarkable how the author managed to have Xelha do what he said and yet still made sure he got to yell at her afterwards.)
The group speaks with Kamroh. Kamroh speculates that Krumly's run back to Algorab, where he's probably scared to death over the repercussions of what he's done. (Lyude is disgusted at Krumly's refusal to help: "He could at least invite everyone in Gemma to his own village, as a matter of common decency!") Kamroh notes that the survivors of Gemma will be moving to Algorab shortly, and Krumly won't be able to dismiss the destruction so easily as "someone else's problem."
Xelha then apologizes for "missing" with the sword. Kamroh soothes her - "even if it was just for a moment, I'm sure that that ancient sword was happy to recapture its old luster in your hands. ...Even the sacred treasures are just tools - and tools find their happiness in being used."
Xelha then thinks back to how she initially hesitated to kill Kalas. She considers that while she wants to save the people of the world, she seems incapable of casting aside her desire to be with Kalas. In a callback to Kamroh's words, she may want both goals to coexist, but she feels that really, one is ruling the other, and her. (People cannot have contradictory feelings: so, along with forgiveness and the idea that everyone has a role to play in the world, there's another tenet of the original story completely disregarded, if you're keeping track.)
Because we need more Xelha-blaming in this story, Kodelle and the other two witches show up. The narration claims that they've been trailing Xelha in secret ever since she left, so don't think she put anything over on us or anything!, but they resolved not to help Xelha unless it was clear she couldn't do stuff on her own (so tough luck, people of Gemma).
Folks, I'm sorry. We're on page 165 of 288 right now, and while we're over the hump, I can't say that we don't have a long road ahead of us. If you'd like to skip a bit, I don't blame you - skim ahead until you reach the part about the trial at the Lake of the Dragon.
Catranne quickly adds that the sky continents are "at their limit" and could plummet anytime now, noting that "if you don't hurry, Wazn could fall, too!" (How this would happen is not specified, though, since there is no End Magnus in Wazn.) So, another thing being pinned on Xelha. Lyude interrupts to ask how long the continents have and the scope of potential casualties if they do fall, to which Kodelle's disinterested response is, essentially, "fuck if I know; why are you troubling me with these issues unrelated to blaming Xelha, little red man?" Savyna speculates, obviously, that a sudden plunge would probably mean total annihilation. Gibari, in his first act of Gibari-esque proactivity in the novel, suggests that an evacuation to the Earth be launched. It's here that the author, more than halfway through the novel, first broaches the subject of Wings of the Heart. He claims that most people in Baten Kaitos Land wouldn't be able to fly all the way to the Earth, as to be able to exert one's wings so would a lot of "training": "even for battle-hardened veterans like Gibari and the others, it would be difficult." (This is the first I've read of wings being able to be strengthened through training.)
Savyna agrees. (The novel notes that it's rare for her to agree with Gibari, which is another idea original to the novel, but considering neither character is allowed to talk that much, either to each other or in general, the idea seems rather pointless in addition to being out of character.) She adds, however, that the people of the world aren't aware of the crisis right now and would need a lot of convincing to dive beneath the Taintclouds, which everyone believes to be lethal. Lyude suggests that if they can convince the leaders to address their people, they can all get the evacuation underway. Galvanized, Lyude, Savyna, Gibari - and I guess Mizuti, because she hasn't spoken or been mentioned at all since the second fight with Kalas - decide to head topside to get their plan underway.
Xelha, meanwhile, has bought into the author's negging and concludes that's she's no better than Krumly because she's a "slave to her desires" as well. She decides to head back to Wazn and do whatever
We now turn to Melodia, which is a relief, because at least we'll get a brief respite from constant Xelha rage. Melodia is in the throne room of Cor Hydrae. The author describes it as "a pattern of fluorescent colors floating in darkness...veinlike growths covered the walls and floor of the huge space, teeming like the entire interior was the inside of a living creature." Kalas is asleep on a feathered carpet in the center of the room; Melodia is "sweetly petting" his hair.
"It was a lie, wasn't it? ...You leaving me all alone...that was a lie...right?" Kalas twigs that she's talking about his behavior in Duhr; he realizes that she knows he intended for Xelha to kill him. Kalas claims that he "just got careless," but it's plain that Melodia doesn't quite believe him.
Back to Xelha, on her way to Wazn. This section begins with Xelha remembering the Ocean's Prayer, which is odd; forgiveness is not a theme in this novel, as nothing is anyone's fault but Xelha's, whom the novel has made clear is She Who Cannot Be Forgiven, Ever. And speaking of things that are Xelha's fault: the story then flashes back to Moonguile Forest, primarily to remind us that, hey, remember Gram and Leon, those guards from the game? Well, Xelha was responsible for getting them killed, too! Don't you hate her?!
Cebalrai seems to honestly be the first time Kalas & Xelha met, which makes "sense," since no way in heck is this author going to let Xelha be the chessmaster she was in the game. The author claims, absolutely bizarrely, that the Guardian Spirit was "captivated" by Xelha at first sight. (Good God, so this really has been negging, hasn't it?) She seems to be going to Moonguile Forest just on a lark, not to check on the End Magnus. After Gram & Leon get killed, she decides just to glom onto Kalas and follow him around puppydog-like. She tries to cook for Kalas to win him over, but she fails because she's never cooked before (which, c'mon, Xelha seems a little more self-sufficient than that, doesn't she?). The spirit, meanwhile, is jealous that he can't have a bite.
In subsequent narration, the spirit goes on to excoriate Xelha for being "easily duped," "a child who knew nothing of the truth," and claims that it was all "thanks to Xelha" and her blind faith in Kalas that everyone else (the spirit included) had blind faith in Kalas and didn't nail him for stealing the End Magnus. If the spirit attempted to frame Xelha as the second shooter on the grassy knoll, I wouldn't be a bit surprised at this point.
(Of interest here: though Xelha exclaims that they "have to stop Emperor Geldoblame," the author seems to have no idea of how Xelha knows about Geldoblame's plans. This Xelha also has no plan of her own to stop Geldoblame (except some idea mentioned in passing about talking to the leader of each continent; since she went to Moonguile just as a tourist, she doesn't seem to be chasing down the End Magnus). The story explicitly mentions that she's just tagging along with Kalas wherever he goes, but novel Kalas has no reason to go everywhere the group does in the game. The author's cherry-picking events from the game and twisting them to fit his crazy vendetta against Xelha here, but he doesn't seem to have a coherent idea of how the plot went down in his narrative.)
Kalas, meanwhile, "delights" in misleading Xelha, crying crocodile tears in front of her and pretending to be moved by her love while snickering inwardly at her gullibility. He comes around in the most crazypants way: after Xelha retires during their last night in Mira, he starts thinking over her "I have faith in you" line and begins to obsess over what she meant by it: why would she say she had faith in me if she didn't believe she had cause not to have faith in me? Does she suspect something? OMG SHE KNOWS EVERYTHING!! But why isn't she saying something?!!? He then concludes, to his total inexplicable shock, that it must be because Xelha is in love with him. This deduction leads Kalas to stand staring dumbly out over Balancoire.
His dopey reverie is broken by the arrival of Melodia (who has used magic to put the Guardian Spirit to sleep for a bit). She expresses delight in how Kalas has pulled the wool over everyone's eyes, and looks forward to slaughtering the Children of the Earth - "and then we shall have eternity. We shall make a paradise for the two of us alone. And those we deem unworthy shall fall to hell - to the land beneath the Taintclouds, and become hideous corpses!"
On that note, we flash forward to the Lava Caves, where Geldoblame has become that giant Cthulhu monster. Kalas takes one look and "wants to vomit" - and then wonders if such a fate is in store for him.
I regret to inform you that we now return to the witches and the Xelha plot thread. Xelha has arrived at Wazn, which has withdrawn from all contact with neighboring kingdoms due to "the weight of protecting its Ancient Inheritance." Of course, now, even that's in danger, and it's all because of Reblys. Ha ha! No, of course not. It's all because of Xelha. Why would it be anyone else? The book claims that "the seal on the Inheritance had been threatening to break due to Xelha taking the throne."
Barnette is happy to see Xelha (wonder how long that will last). Xelha in turn claims that she's here to claim the Right of Ascension and become a true queen. Barnette thanks the three witches for allegedly protecting Xelha. The book mentions that Barnette saw the same dream about Kalas that Xelha did nine years ago and took it as a sign that Malpercio was about to awaken. Out of fear, Xelha's mother took the Queen's Trial, but she didn't pass. In the novel's world, the Trial is not used to determine who gets the Ocean Mirror, but who gets the right to unseal the ocean - which may have the power to heal the Taintcloud-covered earth, though to what degree is unclear.
(Wait, hold on - why is the book blaming Xelha for the seal coming undone, if releasing the Ocean is an unequivocally good thing in this telling? Is the author trying to find blame for Xelha in scenarios that have no blame to give?)
Meanwhile, Gibari et al. have arrived in Anuenue and are filling in Corellia about the fate of the Sword of the Heavens and the Children of the Earth. They propose their plan to evacuate everyone to the Earth, but the leaders are too shocked for anything to register. (They also don't think they have much of a chance in acutally moving the populace, considering what they've heard about the land below the Taintclouds.) Ladekahn says that his knights are preparing to launch an attack on Cor Hydrae, and that it'd be bad for morale to give up on a battle that hasn't even been fought yet. Calbren explains that his people are too fond of LSD Land and might "revolt" if he tries to get them to abandon Mira.
Corellia, though, eventually comes to terms with this ("So...our thousand years of history in the skies is at an end"). Her reaction sobers up Ladekahn and Calbren, who seem unusually deferent to her in this novel. At this point, however, Melodia chooses to show up (proclaiming that "humanity has entered a new age of darkness and pain") and has Malpercio bust through the floor of Corellia's throne room (???). (Also, did they have to break in it all? They could've just told the guards they were on the way to the bathroom.) Calbren approaches Melodia and asks why she's doing this; Melodia responds that "it's not your doing, Grandfather; I am merely following the will of God!" Calbren counters that Malpercio is not capital-G God but only a "god of darkness" and exhorts Melodia to open her eyes. He approaches her and implores her to come back and go back to being his "sweet little Melodia," but Melodia only "scoffs" at him: "I am now the voice of God. Why are you not proud of me?"
Calbren has almost reached Malpercio himself (upon whose shoulder Melodia is sitting), whereupon Melodia suddenly becomes overcome with anger: "Insolent fool! How dare you brazenly approach the might of God!" She "glare[s] at her grandfather with murderous rage, like a woman possessed" and exclaims: "Blood relation or not, I cannot forgive the crime of mocking God. Atone for your crime with your death!" At Melodia's command, Malpercio then attempts to squash Calbren with its chin (???), but Gibari swoops in and saves Calbren at the last second.
Lyude expresses horror at Melodia's attempt to kill her own grandfather (which isn't in character for Melodia, is it? She addresses Calbren with affection and respect in the game's Cor Hydrae, even at the height of the confrontation with Malpercio), and the party prepares for battle. Melodia, however, is unconcerned, as she is preoccupied with another matter: "Where is that girl...that 'Xelha'? For it is she whom I have come to kill!"
Novel Xelha, meanwhile, has been made a full-fledged Ice Queen by Kodelle and the others, er, off-page, and is now on her way to the Lake of the Dragon to undertake the trial. She notes that "ever since becoming the Ice Queen, she could hear so many more voices - so many more thoughts from her people than before. ...Overwhelmed by their great presence, Xelha was painfully aware of how small she still was."
Xelha eventually comes upon the Goddess of Ice, which prompts an interview:
(In other news, it's been about thirty pages since Xelha's been blamed for anything. Then again, the author is trying to convince her of the necessity of killing herself.)
Anyhow, the eventual gist of the conversation is that the Goddess wants to know why Xelha doesn't consider her own life as precious as those of others, and Xelha responds that it's not she wants to die, but that releasing the Ocean is something only the Ice Queen can do. The Goddess keeps saying "that's not an answer" like the demanding parent every character is to Xelha in this novel, and Xelha eventually says that they're equally important just to shut her up.
The Goddess then produces four magnus, floating in a line in midair in front of Xelha, only their backs visible. The Goddess instructs Xelha to choose one of the magnus: "in each of the magnus is hidden a different facet of your inner heart. You are free to turn over as many magnus as you wish. However, the final Destiny you turn over will be the answer to this trial. ...You must accept responsibility for the answer you choose. No matter what it holds, you must act to make the final Magnus you draw a reality." So in other words, thinks Xelha, only one of these Magnus will allow me to restore the Ocean. ...I have to find the card that represents the side of myself capable of releasing the Ocean.
Xelha chooses a Magnus and flips it over. On its face are two portraits - one of Barnette, and one of an old fortuneteller. Xelha is confused as to what it means, but the Goddess proclaims that she can't tell Xelha unless Xelha wants to choose that Magnus and end the trial. She also tells Xelha to hurry up and make a choice already, dammit.
Xelha approaches the Magnus, but as she does, she hears in her mind Barnette's prophecy about how "Those not meant to meet have indeed met. An ominous, terrible tragedy is in the making. The end of the world is drawing near...". Xelha gasps and steps away from the card - it seems that her recollection has been produced by the card. She also sees the fortuneteller from Nashira (we're never told if she's still Catranne here) and her warning: "Remember this name, never forget...The name of the god was Malpercio...Malpercio sucked up the entire ocean, but choked and drowned in the very water he swallowed."
The Goddess presses for an answer from Xelha again - whereupon Xelha refuses the Magnus. It mentions Malpercio being weakened by the Ocean in the past, but it doesn't mention anything about releasing the Ocean in the here and now. Xelha therefore doesn't feel that the card has a strong enough connection with the task at hand. The Goddess then explains that the card represents Xelha's fear - the fear that has been instilled in her in the past by dread predictions of what will happen with Malpercio's revival. Had Xelha chosen the card, she would have remained bound by her fears, obsessing over yet unable to conquer them.
Xelha thus turns her attention to the other three Magnus. She chooses another, and she finds that it depicts - Melodia. In her mind, she hears Melodia taunting her for (allegedly, impossibly) breaking the Sword of the Heavens and claiming that she should pay for her crime with her death. (So this card represents the author, then.) Magnus Melodia then sneers at Xelha for her willingness to sacrifice her life: "Is it that you want to be lauded as a hero by the grateful masses when you finally die? How grandiose. I have nothing but contempt for you."
Xelha shouts for the voice to stop and instantly dismisses the Magnus. The Goddess informs Xelha that the card represents her anger, and had she chosen the card, her only goal would have been to kill Melodia, and she would have been consumed by hatred. The Goddess then goes on about how Xelha is so jealous of Melodia for stealing Kalas away and can't control her fury, just in case we forgot who's writing this. (Xelha, meanwhile, finds the prospect of that fate so horrible that she imagines that she "probably would have committed suicide" to escape it. But, c'mon - Xelha wasn't remotely in danger of choosing that Magnus. You don't really see rampaging hatred coming from Xelha, do you?)
On to the next Magnus. On this card is a more pleasant sight - the people of Wazn, "young and old alike gathered together, all smiles." While a few express a desire to visit the other continents and discontent with the limitations of their surroundings, most express love for Xelha, relief that she has returned safely and that she is to be the next queen. They offer her words of comfort and encouragement. To Xelha, it is a "heartwarming scene that seemed to dissolve all her tensions." She utters a "thank you, everyone" to her people and finds profound comfort and pride in their love and support. Her determination to "build a new paradise on the Earth" for them is renewed; it is in them, Xelha thinks, that she can find the will to sacrifice her own life to release the Ocean.
Xelha is about to accept the Wazn Magnus when her eyes alight on the final, untouched Magnus floating in midair. What could it hold? she wonders. While she "logically" believes that the side of herself that can respond to the people's wishes is the side capable of releasing the Ocean, "something inside her was telling her otherwise. This was too pretty, too pat; it prompted questions instead of answering them. She felt as if something were missing. Of all the words that had been come forth from the Magnus, a clue to the riddle of unlocking the Ocean was not among them - just a pure, straightforward message of love from her people." She also reasons that, as dear as the Magnus's words are to her, releasing the Ocean would be the answer to the entire world's prayers - not just those of one continent alone. More voices would need to be heard. With great difficulty, Xelha dismisses the Magnus.
The Goddess explains that the Wazn Magnus represents the love Xelha receives - the love she feels honor-bound not to betray. Had she picked that Magnus, she would have stood with the people of Wazn to fight against Malpercio. "You would have stayed the Queen of Wazn - to serve as a symbol to the people; to bolster their spirits." Xelha is a bit stunned by this revelation, because this is a destiny to which she can relate; leading her people is the future to which she has always aspired. She eventually reasons, however, that as it is "the duty of a queen to suffer with her people, to share their burdens and walk side by side with them," this aspect of herself would not be able to throw that away and abandon her people to release the Ocean.
With a sigh, Xelha turns to the only Magnus left. Nervously, she flips it over. To her horror, she finds it depicts - Malpercio. She stares at the Magnus, but there is no other information or depictions to be found on its face. Suddenly, though, "like a sand painting," the portrait shifts to form another face - that of Kalas. In her mind, Kalas calls to her to stop the trial, to stop being so hard on herself. He claims that "there's no need to throw your life away! Just kill me!" (Xelha, meanwhile, rationalizes that even though the voice is most probably an illusion created by the trial, it has the ring of authenticity to it, because it sounds like just as much of a jerk as Kalas normally is.)
Kalas continues to exhort Xelha to kill him: "I'll be all right if you're happy! That's enough for me! Don't you see? It's not you who has to die - it's me!" Xelha again refuses ("even if you're okay with it, I'm not!") As she debates with Kalas, she feels different from how she did during the other confrontations: it "engaged her feelings on a level that the other Magnus didn't; her cries came from deep within her heart."
Xelha exclaims, "Kalas, please - I want you to live in this new age!" Kalas, though, scoffs at Xelha condemning him to living in "a world without you." Xelha finally asks: "Why is it that you want to die?!..." At first, Kalas refuses to answer; eventually, though, he spouts, "filled with rage": "What would be the use? ...Look at all that's happened! Gramps and Fee are dead... How can I be grateful that I survived?" The author then theorizes that Kalas's determination to gather power was part of an effort to "bury his loneliness." Kalas continues: "I'm good for nothing... I've have all this power from the dark god - and nothing's changed... I don't even know what I want anymore!"
Xelha continues her attempt to talk Kalas down from his suicidal urges: "Just because things have been like that so far doesn't mean they always will be!" She goes on to proclaim that "there are so many people in this world who are precious to me - but no one is as precious as you. ...You're not good for nothing - your life does have value! I want you to live - I want to make you happy!"
There is, however, no response to Xelha's words - the magnus falls silent (the narrator muses that it is, after all, just a magnus), as does the entire lake. Finally, the goddess speaks: "You should go after him. ...Your purpose is to make him happy. To do so, you must not die." She then declares the trial over. Xelha, flustered, asks if she has permission to release the Ocean. The goddess, with a "terrible stare," demands of Xelha: "What is your purpose?" After a pause, Xelha speaks from the heart: "...To dedicate my life to him." The goddess claims that the Magnus Xelha chose was that of Sacrifice, and proclaims to Xelha that "you will offer up your life to save a single man. Only the realization of your ideals can send the life you will lose to a peaceful rest." The goddess then grants Xelha the right to unleash the Ocean, with the narrator stating that "it was never a question of right or wrong, but rather of the ideals held by the one who would sacrifice her life, and the depth of feeling held by the party who would benefit."
Meanwhile, this test is probably the best scene the author's created so far, but was Xelha really changed by it at all? She learned the crucial piece of info for waking novel Kalas up, yes, but there's no dramatic shift in attitude or objective that the novel went on (and on and on and on) that she desperately needed. Her goal was always to save Kalas. The book has been very upset that her goal has always been to save Kalas. In fact, the book has her subsume her queenly duties for her attachment to Kalas, which I'm not sure is in character (though big surprise there) or an improvement.
Anyhow, meanwhile, the supporting characters have all lost their battle with Malpercio. I'm not going to waste time dramatizing the author's refusal to let them participate in his story. He lets them each get in one ineffectual hit, and then they go down like chumps. (Actually, I don't think Gibari is allowed to get in even one finisher, and the author continues his trend of not even acknowledging Mizuti's existence outside of group roll calls. Malpercio does, however, scoop up Gibari in one of his hands, which disappoints me; I was hoping that Malpercio would remain able only to get his head in Corellia's throne room and be forced to fight with his jaw & teeth only, which would have made things considerably more entertaining.)
Part 4: White Wings That Drowned the Gods
Xelha hops on the White Dragon and heads for Cor Hydrae. The Guardian Spirit crows about how he's now a "witness to history." Shut up, pal. We'fe fifty-five pages from the ending, and I don't wanna hear a peep outta you. During the flight, Xelha thanks the spirit for "all [he's] done"; with false modesty, he claims that she'd just dismiss any denials with a laugh, so he decides to let the comment stand and not say anything at all. I'm torn between "good one" and "good call."
When Xelha arrives at Cor Hydrae, none of the monsters (or even the "ghosts" of Malpercio that appear at the entrance in the game) dare stop her - "fear of the great power to release the Ocean bestowed upon her by the Goddess of Ice was enough to keep them at bay." She strides unopposed straight into the throne room, where Kalas and Malpercio are waiting for her. (The chamber is huge but dark, dimly lit only by the "fluorescent veinlike patterns that extended from floor to ceiling.")
Kalas proclaims that unless Xelha wants the other party members - who are up on crosses, again - to die, she has to kill him. (In the background, Gibari apologizes for not being able to overcome the power of author fiat.) Melodia is on Malpercio's shoulder, watching the whole thing; having Kalas cut his own ties with Xelha by killing her himself is her own idea. "I'm disappointed," Xelha says, not Kalas, but to Melodia; "ultimately, the idea of 'coexisting with humanity' was just a charade to you, wasn't it?" Xelha upbraids Melodia for attacking Anuenue (Kodelle caught Xelha up on events when she left the Lake of the Dragon; again, Kodelle just watched the carnage and did nothing to help) when Melodia had promised not to interfere with the world of humanity.
Melodia at first sneers "did you want me to whitewash everything?", but then goes on a bender and proclaims to Xelha that "it's all your fault - Anuenue; the Children of the Earth; my realization that humanity 'coexisting' with the gods was a foolish idea - all of it!" and, Melodia, you are 235 pages too late to break this news. Melodia exclaims that humans will always break their promises, and that "only the strong survive...so it is only natural for them to lead." Xelha claims that Melodia is repeating the mistakes of the past, but Melodia retorts that "even you, who seeks to save the world of humanity, have come here to fight, haven't you? To subdue Malpercio by force?!"
Kalas stomps the floor (???) and decides that it's time to throw down. He summons an Air Slash Magnus, but Xelha blocks with a Chronos Aura, following up with a Fire Burst and Wheel of Light. (In other news: Someone uses Auras? Really?)
Kalas, weakened, asks Xelha through telepathy: Are you going to do it, Xelha? The book mentions that "Xelha's attacks were relentless - but not because she had acquiesced to his will. Because she wanted him to realize - realize from where his power came, and what its true nature was." Casting a Light Flare, she calls mentally to Kalas to "open your eyes - it's just a meaningless signal from 1,000 years ago!" We learn that the power of the Ice Goddess has given her a revelation, which is -
- a flashback to Kalas's past. Child Kalas is asking Georg why he has only one wing. Georg gives the answer from the game about how "perhaps those without wings are the next step in evolution." Fee - here described as "the baby of the family, a sickly boy who always followed after his older brother" - pipes in with reassurance, also like in the game. (The novel also notes that "...even though he was at a mischievous age, he would often speak his mind with a levelheaded clarity, and a strange maturity that was beyond his years.")
We do, however, get to see the day that Kalas gets his winglet:
As the two arrive back in Balancoire, they start hearing the neighbors talking about a fire at Georg's. Yep, Giacomo's here; the timing on the whole gift of the Winglet seems a bit different from the game. The text also mentions that today is Kalas's 16th birthday, because we are going for absolute maximum dramatic convenience here.
Kalas rushes into the burning house to find that Giacomo is using his very brief time in the novel to interrogate Georg about the whereabouts of the Divine Child, "who with his birth has brought the power of the ancient Gods into this world once more." Georg objects to Giacomo dropping major plot points right in front of Kalas, whereupon Giacomo punches him right in the gut. Giacomo then demands that Kalas show him where Fee is hiding, claiming that Geldoblame wants to study the End Magnus and that Fee "is needed for his experiments." (Giacomo does not seem to have an agenda of his own here; no mention is made of him being Georg's son, either.) Kalas doesn't really remember what happens next, but he does recall struggling with Giacomo, running out of the burning house, taking Fee, and heading to Nekton. Giacomo's goons (Ayme and Folon are never mentioned in the novel, and this is most probably not even they) are encumbered by their armor and can't keep up, so they just shoot blindly at the two brothers (over their commander's objections).
From there, the scene proceeds as in the game: Fee falls, then Kalas (the novel details disturbingly how Kalas is aware of his "thoughts stop[ping]" and his capacity for conscious thought gradually slipping away from him), whereupon Kalas is reawoken by Fee's voice, calling to him to live. The novel then posits that as Kalas has been given life by Fee, not only has he been revived from death, but he now actually is immortal and cannot die. It is here that Melodia appears to Kalas, but not with an offer of power to fulfill his (here nonexistent) oaths of vengeance. She instead claims that he and she are "bound by the same power - the same destiny. ...You are hunted. The Ancient Power that flows within you drives men mad - makes them seek it, makes them desperate for it, one after another. It is our duty to protect it - for the sake of your dead grandfather and brother as well. So we will fight together. ...Take hold of a monstrous power, and stand triumphant over the entire world."
Melodia explains that she'll use magic (with a little help from some acting on Kalas's part) to put a Spirit into "a sort of a hypnotized state" and trick it into thinking that Kalas is a nice guy. (Yes, I could see how you'd need magic to make someone believe that.) Kalas will thereby gain the Spirit's power. With the special powers within them, Melodia promises that once she and Kalas revive Malpercio, "humanity will not be able to attack anyone else ever again," and she and Kalas will be the "mightiest powers in the universe." Kalas recalls his brutalization by Giacomo and his troops and his rejection by society and finds the prospect of such strength "intoxicating." "Besides, he had already died once. What could it hurt, to go for the glory and give himself over to a fairy tale?" And so, "ignorant of the horrible door he was opening," Kalas lightly goes along with Melodia's plan.
Later, after the revival of Malpercio, Kalas heads off alone to Georg's cabin in the Celestial Alps (which he heard about from "someone who 'knew about Georg's past'"; in the novel, Georg is being hunted not because of Geldoblame's petulant vengeance, but because of the Empire's "strict regulation of its technological secrets"). Through an old diary of Georg's, Kalas learns about his grandfather's past, which is much the same as in the game. The novel claims that Geldoblame's charge to Georg was specifically to learn how to "upend the basic human physical structure" through the power of Magna Essence. (It also attributes Giacomo's supposed ability to stand nonchalantly in Georg's burning house "without experiencing difficulty breathing" to the "superhuman" powers he received from Georg's experiments, which is an odd superpower to have.) Other than that, the material is much the same as the game: Geldoblame wants a "spotless life" artificially created from which to obtain immortality; Geldoblame curses Kalas as imperfect because of his single wing; Georg creates Fee, who is the flawless Divine Child; Kalas and Fee stir a parental protectiveness within the scientist. "Perhaps they had awakened something within Georg that had long lay dormant - or perhaps something about Fee had changed Georg. It was as if Georg, obsessed with his research, had awakened from a long slumber - had regained his humanity." As in the game, Georg resolves to take his surrogate sons and flee Alfard to Mira. (No mention is made of Larikush here at all.)
Then, as not in the games, Georg first learns about the End Magnus through a chance meeting with Duke Calbren. (Geldoblame was not after the End Magnus yet, apparently, and the tests Georg performed on his human guinea pigs used just his generic discoveries on Magna Essence and not the power of Alfard's End Magnus.) We're told that in this world, Magnus were viewed only as a convenient "system of storage" by magicians until the whole war with the gods thing, whereupon Magnus technology was perfected to take advantage of its sealing capabilities to trap Malpercio, like a really effective Ziploc prison.
Calbren also lets pop to his new acquaintance that, hey, he totally used Mira's End Magnus to resurrect his granddaughter after she died from illness a few years back. (In the novel's defense, though, I can't say this is something that game Calbren wouldn't do; he seems amiably addled at the best of times.) Calbren also mentions that his granddaughter sometimes has these "trances" where she proclaims herself "the will of God," but, you know. Kids these days.
The End Magnus, the narration goes on to explain, carry the Curse of the Dark God: Malpercio's "unfathomable resistance" to his fate, "a thousand-year record of his bitter grudge...that seemed to have taken on a tangible will of its own. The particles of the End Magnus began slowly over a thousand years's time to escape their seal in the five continents, bent on a single purpose: to give birth to a 'servant' who would take revenge on humanity."
Calbren starts using his own money to fund Magnus research in the wake of Melodia's odd behavior (whether he's hiring Georg or other scholars, the novel doesn't specify). Georg compares his own notes with what Calbren's told him and concludes that, hey, Melodia's a servant of evil now, just the puppet of Malpercio's divine curse. Furthermore, no ordinary Magnus is going to be able to save Melodia from her fate, considering the power of the End Magnus supersedes that of its inferior brethren. Georg has a further realization: Kalas and Fee, having been born from his tinkerings with the nature of Magna Essence, might also be susceptible to the evil influence of the End Magnus. Magnus and End Magnus have a "sisterly, isotopic relationship," the book explains, and the influence of the End Magnus would "resonate" with the Magnus-born Kalas and Fee. Oh, just go with it, OK? If we start nitpicking technobabble in addition to more mundane logical inconsistencies, this document will never end.
Georg considers that if the two boys are going to attempt to wake up Malpercio, destroy humanity, and be "transformed" by Melodia, that it might be better for him to "put them to eternal sleep" when the time comes. He can't bring himself to plan this, though. He can't bring himself to act against Melodia, either, since she serves as the same family for Calbren that Kalas and Fee do for him. "Georg had but one option left: to love them - love them and bring them up as normal children, so that the 'Will of God' did not awaken in them as it had in Melodia. To believe in them, instead of doubt them. To acquaint them with humanity's warmth." In his diary's last paragraphs, Georg writes to Kalas: "It is the least I can do to atone for what I have done to you and Fee...and when you are touched by the Will of God, I pray that you retain your human hearts. That is my only wish." With this, Georg's diary ends.
After reading the diary, Kalas is "terrified" of himself having merged with Malpercio; he dreads that his "human heart" will soon bend to the god's will. Since he and Melodia both have bathed in the power of the End Magnus, they will inevitably lose their selves and become mindless puppets once Malpercio fully awakens. I should never have been born, he thinks. He recalls Georg's faith in him and "wanted to cry in his grandfather's arms...but the one person who tried to give him love was now gone from this world." He sees only two options available to himself: to become Malpercio's pawn, or to "end his role. To find a strong hero capable of defeating him." He acts behind Melodia's back, moves Xelha to a solitary-confinement Imperial cell in a dimensional rift "from which it would be easy to escape" (so don't think Xelha accomplished anything on her own by escaping!), and "prayed that she would become the standard-bearer who could defeat the dark god."
But we knew all this, right? I mean, we didn't know about the revised history with Georg and the altered scene in the Celestial Alps yet (and we didn't know that Xelha had actually been stashed in a dimensional rift in this version), but we knew that Kalas wanted Xelha to kill him, so I don't see how this is the big revelation Xelha wanted to show Kalas in order to turn him around. The next we see of Cor Hydrae, though, a shocked Melodia is asking Kalas in disbelief: "Wh...why? My dear Kalas... Do...do you intend to betray me?" Kalas and Xelha are both floating in midair (but they were fighting, and they both float in combat, so that's not anything new), and Xelha suddenly announces: "Kalas finally made up his mind to believe what I was telling him!" The narration also notes that Xelha "bore a smile of relief that could belong only to a victor."
So what the heck happened here, anyway? Well, during battle, "Xelha had continually sent messages to Kalas: proof that even though he had been tinged with the dark god's power, he still possessed a human heart." Xelha's winning argument is that since Kalas has been refusing to kill his teammates and plotting behind Malpercio's back to deny the god's will, this is proof that Kalas still has a mind, and heart, of his own. ("Don't you realize, Kalas, that there hasn't been any change in your own heart?!") This convinces Kalas that the situation isn't hopeless. (Also, Xelha mentions some "Signal of Confusion" that novel Malpercio evidently sends out to which Kalas has proven resistant; I don't know if that's the Magnus-resonance thing or what.) Kalas realizes that he can "repress the dark god's Soul and prevent it from awakening" and "return[s] to his former self."
Xelha continues to Kalas (who, though allegedly changed, has not yet relinquished his sword) that "There's no need for you to die. You can coexist with the dark god." She then continues on that she wants him to live, and that all his former companions want him to live - which would be a bit of a stretch if this weren't an iteration of the world of Baten Kaitos, and still is a stretch with Novel Savyna. The others confirm Xelha's assertion, though, with more good cheer and tolerance than one would expect from people who should be near asphyxiation. Kalas himself smiles, and his white wings fade to black; his thoughts touch on his grandfather.
Gibari then reminds Kalas and Xelha that, hey, everyone else would like to get down from their crosses now. K & X set everyone else free, though Melodia & Malpercio are still in the room, and you'd think they'd have something to say or do about that, considering the celerity with which they allegedly acted back in Gemma. Melodia patiently waits until the others are freed to express her shock and outrage at Kalas's complete betrayal. "You are a Child of God...and yet you will turn against your birth parent to become a child of man instead? Why?!" Kalas affirms that he's decided to "go his own way," whereupon Melodia is horrified: "Her expression at that moment looked as if a deep belief of hers had been shattered. Her crimson eyes flew wide open, and her small shoulders trembled." Kalas gently extends a hand to Melodia and calls to her: "Come with us, Melodia. The god's only a puppet unless he's moved by your will. His soul was lost long ago." Melodia counters that if Malpercio has no soul, then how could she hear his voice? Kalas calmly states that this was just an "echo...a fragment of his curse of vengeance hidden like a code in the power of the End Magnus." He concludes that the idea that Malpercio ever had a soul was "just some crazy idea we got in our heads."
I'd like to observe at this point that, tonewise, despite how recently he's flipped sides, Kalas is completely calm and rational in counterpoint to Melodia's emotional flailing and is acting more as Melodia's parent instead of her friend, like a father who's trying to be patient with a five-year-old throwing a tantrum. I don't know if indicative that the author's grudge against Xelha is just part of a larger problem he has with teenage girls in general or this is the result of some law of homeostasis the author thinks he had to observe where there has to be *some* girl getting upbraided by parental figures now that Xelha has to be in a full-on heroic role. I do know that it's creepy.
Kalas brings up an incident (that we never saw on-page) where Melodia wanted to know after Malpercio's "revival" what kind of world to build, but Malpercio didn't really answer - that's because, as a curse, it could only repeat the same stuff over again. (This wasn't important enough actually to show us, apparently.) "Come with us, Melodia. Your place isn't here. ...Let's both start over together...as ordinary people."
This seems to sway Melodia a bit, and after a bit of deliberation and hesitation, she opens her Wings of the Heart (we're not told what they look like) and alights from Malpercio's shoulder down to earth. She walks toward the other six, looking back at Malpercio's body every now and again; true to Kalas's word, it doesn't move a muscle; "without direction from Melodia or Kalas, it was indeed a mere puppet." Now, the idea that the story's main villain doesn't even exist anymore, that he's just the mindless remnant of a curse on autopilot, is interesting, if the story could actually stick to this concept. Those of you who have been paying attention (and if you haven't been paying attention, I don't really blame you) know this will not happen. Sure enough, just then:
Well, it turns out that Melodia is, in a way, attacking herself. The author claims that Melodia "never had the strength to resist" Malpercio's will - "hers was a life that did not fight, but was meant to be protected" - and that her fear of Malpercio is too internalized for her to start her life anew. Melodia cries and begs forgiveness of Malpercio; he (or "he," or Melodia herself, or whatever) commands Melodia to "become one with him," and she hollowly acquiesces: "Yes...Father..." And - goddamn, what is with this author with young female characters and his creepy fetishistic need for them to be subservient to parental figures? And is there an actual will of Malpercio alive now? Because contrary to Kalas's big talk previously, this Malpercio is clearly thinking independently, reacting to his environment, and issuing commands. But, then again, this is the author indulging his creepy Daddy fetish, so the plot doesn't need to make sense anyhow. We're dealing with Schrodinger's Malpercio, who exists or doesn't exist depending on which would make the young female wrong.
The book rather tastelessly dwells on Melodia's "complete mental destruction" before she flies off to obey "Malpercio"'s orders. Before she enters his chest, she smiles, thinking that Malpercio is the only one who can cure the loneliness of her neverending life; if Kalas won't love her (having chosen Xelha instead), then surely Malpercio will.
Malpercio's body rather inelegantly swallows her after she flies into its mouth and lets loose a "roar of joy" at having obtained a soul. Malpercio then "truly awakens" (SO IS THERE A MALPERCIO OR NOT?!?!?) and reclaims the last of the power of the End Magnus from the continents.
The Guardian Spirit screams at Xelha that "Now's the time!", because Xelha can't do anything heroic by herself, and upon his command, Xelha takes out the Magnus she received at the Lake of the Dragon - the one of Kalas/Malpercio. She begins to recite the Ocean's Prayer.
(Meanwhile, everyone else has been attacking Malpercio with Planet Souls and whatnot, but, of course, it's "all for naught." Personally, I think that this Guardian Spirit just sucks at choosing cards for his charges and is ignoring straights and pairs and loading up their hands with conflicting elements and whatnot. Also, Gibari again gets tossed around like a beanbag for old times' sake. I'd ask what the author had so against Gibari, but answering what the author had against anyone would be a huge conundrum in itself.)
The Guardian Spirit starts going on about how now that the time has come, he doesn't really want Xelha to die (he didn't mean it all those times! Really!) and how horrible this moment is for him. Cry me a river, motherfucker. Xelha, meanwhile, has no regrets or hesitation; after "giving Kalas the courage to live," her plan was always to sacrifice herself to release the ocean.
Gibari turns around and notices that something's strange with Xelha; "a vast, icy mist was pouring from her body - which, now transparent, was beginning to fade away."
"Kalas, everyone - I'm sorry... This is the only way to save Malpercio, and Melodia...and the entire world!..." Everyone watches dumbfounded as Xelha fades and the icy fog encircles Malpercio, trapping him. Xelha, becoming less corporeal by the second, shouts: "Now, Kalas - save Melodia! You've bathed in the power of the End Magnus - you're the only one who can save her! Quickly - go inside him!"
Kalas is overwhelmed with worry for Xelha, but a few sharp words from her ("If you don't go, who will!?") snaps him out of it. He flies away horrified, knowing that Xelha's end is near, but he knows that he can't let her sacrifice be in vain. He dives into Malpercio's mouth; with Kalas's name on her lips, Xelha then fades away completely. The Magnus given to her by the Ice Goddess flutters to the floor; in place of the image of Kalas & Malpercio it bore previously, it now bears a picture of the Ocean.
The novel explains that Xelha's body has broken apart into "seeds of the Ocean," ultra-condensed bits of H2O that collectively hold enough water to cover the entire planet, and that releasing the water from its ultra-condensed state will create a "huge explosion." (Because that's what Xelha's sacrifice at the end of the game was clearly lacking: huge explosions.) After shielding the others in a curtain of ice, the Seeds of the Ocean unleash a giant waterfall that flows out of Cor Hydrae to replenish the earth. Eventually, the fortress's walls are unable to withhold the torrent of water, and they rupture like a "burst balloon." The water spreads across the sky (not the earth) and cushions the fall of the continents; it then descends to earth, purifying the sea of poison. The inhabitants of the other continents are overwhelmed at facing sudden death then sudden deliverance in such a short time span. The people in Wazn know what this means for their queen, though, and "fall to their knees" in grief.
Kalas, meanwhile, is searching for Melodia within Malpercio, and he comes to realize that his body is disintegrating due to being inside the god - that Malpercio (who is an independent entity again) is trying to dissolve his and Melodia's souls to create a new "Will of God" and carry out his revenge against humanity. Kalas can't find the slightest trace of Melodia in the pitch-black environment, but then, he hears in the back of his mind Xelha's voice: "Kalas, don't worry - I'll protect Melodia and you!"
He spots the continents that were once in the sky, and realizes that they are now floating in the water, which has settled upon the Earth.
Epilogue: The Only Smile Like It in the World
"I can't apologize enough for what I've done," Melodia says. She and Kalas are in Nekton, but the narration notes that "the shadow had been lifted" from the forest; since descending to earth, Mira has lost its ability to travel between dimensions, and Nekton has therefore transformed into "a sparse forest studded with withered trees." So it's a sad ending, then.
Kalas tells Melodia it's not her fault alone and looks up at the sky. "He couldn't believe that the clouds could seem so far away. When they had lived in the sky, there were times when they could even look down at the clouds... Now, they flowed silently above them, at a height they could never reach." The sea, meanwhile, has purified the poisonous gas clouds, restoring blue skies to the Earth.
Kalas notes that Melodia has changed "as if exorcised," she now acts like a "mature woman," no longer calls him "oniisama," and has "moss-green"...eyes. (Not hair.) Kalas worries that Melodia's being overwhelmed by the weight of her crimes, so he decides to stick with her and part ways from the rest of the company in Mira. The supporting characters disband, to separate goals:
- Gibari goes back to Nashira to, with the advent of an actual ocean, become "a true fisherman." How dare you impugn the professional integrity of a man of the sky, narration.
- Lyude has resolved to bring parliamentary government to Alfard! Shine on, you crazy ruby. I'm sure this will mesh well with Alfard's penchant for fisticuffs during its politics. (Which will make Alfard's parliamentary sessions...like every other parliamentary session seen on TV, actually.)
- Savyna returns to Anuenue, but not to become a chef - to rebuild Komo Mai. Hopefully, she will reinforce the floorboards in Corellia's throne room.
- The book claims that Mizuti goes back to her village to train to become a great mage, ignoring the fact that Mizuti no longer has a village and is already a great mage, conclusively proving that the book has absolutely no idea what the fuck when it comes to Mizuti. It also notes that no one in the party figured out that Mizuti was female during the whole adventure and that none of them were ever "blessed with the chance to see her face," since she kept wearing her mask even after the poison cleared.
Anyhow, back to Melodia, who asks Kalas: "May I give you something to try to make it up to you?" She mentions that, while she was trapped in Malpercio, "I heard him. The Spirit's voice..." Oh, GOD. Melodia says that the Spirit told her to say goodbye to Kalas (whereupon Kalas is chagrined, because he came to Nekton to apologize to him, even though he just kind of accidentally ended up in Nekton after his descent from Cor Hydrae, and how will he ever grovel at his metaphorical feet now?) - and also told her that "he wanted [me] to use the End Magnus [I] have." Kalas is puzzled, and Melodia explains that after she was awakened by the Spirit's voice (...*sigh*), she took one of the End Magnus - which had been emptied after Malpercio was released - and used it. She doesn't explain how she used it, but Melodia says that when she heard Xelha's voice, she "realized that it wasn't too late."
She then hands Kalas a Magnus - one of the End Magnus - face-down and "says, I'm going to start over. Live as an ordinary person - like you said back then." She looks to Kalas tentatively for approval, giving us one last indulgence of the author's weird fetish for the road, and Kalas gives it. The narration then goes over that a) the End Magnus have been purified by the power of the Ocean and no longer contain Malpercio's curse, and b) as the power behind Melodia's resurrection has been transformed from unending evil to the same sort of Magnus energy that powers Kalas, Melodia now has a normal lifespan and is no longer cursed to immortality, instead having a normal lifespan.
Kalas says that, now that he and Melodia are free, "we can get close to whoever we want now." Melodia smiles a bit at this. She tells Kalas to "make her happy, now," then leaves. Kalas spends a bit too long thinking about the Spirit and what a swell guy he is and wondering if he's returned to the "Land of the Spirits" and thanking him for everything and etc. etc. etc. The text explains that Melodia still had a bit of the End Magnus's power just before the Ocean purified the Magnus - which she used to trap Xelha's life force and save her from dying.
Kalas reflects on the paradox of the source of his misery now making him happy, wonders what the difference between good and evil is, and concludes that it's "paper-thin." But enough facile philosophizing: Kalas smiles, raises the Magnus, and swears, "Let's bring that jajauma home." Now, I'd probably translate "jajauma" as "hellcat" here, but it's usually translated as "shrew." That's kind of an archaic holdover, though, and if we were going 100% accuracy, we'd nowadays choose a word that's a little...well, stronger. What I'm saying is: I suppose there could be no more fitting conclusion to this novel than to have its author, for all practical purposes, call Xelha a bitch.
Commentary for Which No One Asked
While Truth has a few good ideas, such as the nature of Xelha's trial at the Lake of the Dragon and Melodia being the one who saves Xelha's life, there's no question that the author's hatred for Xelha sets off a huge chain reaction that derails the novel. Even though this doesn't ultimately happen, for three quarters of the story, the author is convinced that the main conflict needs to end by Xelha beating Kalas's head in to atone for being a big ninny for liking him. This deprives Kalas of his big, defining moment of redemption, and it also, combined with the author's constant harping on his grudge against Xelha, undermines the game's theme of forgiveness to the point of nonexistence. The new story also prevents the Children of the Earth from making a significant contribution to the fight, which turns them into sniveling cowards, and turns other supporting characters like the witches and the world leaders into tiresome scolds, mere mouthpieces for the author. Since the plot is completely at the service of the author's anger, it lacks basic coherency on central issues like the nature of Malpercio. The other playable characters are given simplified, somewhat wrongheaded backstories (Savyna, Lyude) or no backstories (Gibari, Mizuti) because the author has no interest in them and doesn't know what to do with them. Besides being just really unpleasant in itself, the author's hatred for Xelha disrupts the entire story.
As of this writing, the novel has a 4.5-out-of-5 star rating on Amazon Japan; in reading the reviews, this seems to be mainly because it's "so different" from the game. But I can think of other game-based supplementary stories, such as the Lunar manga Vheen Hikuusen Monogatari and the Clock Tower 2 novel that features Helen, that took their source material in new directions and yet were still faithful to its spirit. "Different" doesn't have to mean "outright disrespectful."
You know, though, sometimes bad works can make you appreciate what good works did correctly. When I played Baten Kaitos, I was initially disappointed that I was forced to ally myself again with Kalas after his betrayal - to take him back into the party and become his Guardian Spirit again. I wanted to stick with Xelha. While the novel's anti-Xelha crusade is of course not part of the game, the novel illustrates how keeping Kalas on the outs leads to a more simplistic and less satisfying plot. The novel also is a capital illustration of the dangers of wrath. Wrath is no fun. Wrathful people are jerks. They lose the capacity to make rational decisions and end up dragging down everyone and everything around them.
One final note: I think the novel demonstrates the importance of the game's side characters. There's no real plot reason for, say, Trill or Reblys to be there at the game's final assault, but their presence makes the world seem richer and closer together, and underlines how these people matter to each other and for whom the party is fighting. Likewise, the author may have not seen a plot reason for a 300-page condensation of a 70-hour game to spend precious page space on ancillary characters not vital to the mechanics of the novel, but their absence tells of a certain lack of care and love, both in regards to capturing the feel of the game world and in a larger, more general sense - how the author prioritizes hate over higher, more positive feelings. Their absence is keenly felt.
Document by R. Capowski, RACapowski@sceneryrecalled.com, 10/17/2014 (minor typo update on 1/23/2015). I'm very sorry.