The Guru on Mt. Woe (12,000 B.C.)
With Belthasar’s time machine now in their possession, Ayla, Crono, and Marle travel back to 12,000 B.C. to fulfill their promise to Schala to save the Guru of Life, Melchior, from his imprisonment on Mt. Woe, a large floating mountain anchored to the ground by a giant chain. The team must save Melchior in the distant past so that he will aid them in the present so that they can do battle Magus in the not-as-distant past. Wow, time travel is confusing…
The Epoch appears near the cave where the group originally came to this time period with the gate inside the small cave still closed off due to Shcala’s magic. It’s actually kind of funny, I think, that the previous chapter is called “Break the Seal!” given that the seal remains intact throughout. In fact, no attempt is ever made to actually break Schala’s seal. I guess “Find a Way to Bypass the Seal” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.
At the base of Mt. Woe lies the village of Algetty, the home of the Earthbound ones who, the group learns, have been banished from Zeal due to their lack of magical ability. Speaking with the residents, as usual, provides the team some valuable intelligence on what has been going on since the last time they were in this era. One resident tells the group that many of the people of the village have been conscripted by Zeal to build the Ocean Palace and none of them have been seen since. Another informs the group that the queen has already moved the Mammon Machine to the Ocean Palace and it is now operational. The woman reiterates that the Guru of Life warned against doing this and that is why he was imprisoned on Mt. Woe. The Elder of the village tells the group that Melchior believed that Janus’ power exceeds even his sisters, but saw how her power brought her nothing but misery so he actively shuns his own power. The residents of Algetty appear to be pretty familiar with both Melchior and the queen’s children and to a lesser extent, Zeal in general. people in the village explain how Zeal and the Earthbound ones used to live in peace and cooperation in past years which suggests that the Earthbound one’s current state is a pretty recent one.
Eventually, the group finds their way to the path to Mt. Woe but first they must make their way through the mudbeast’s den, a cavern filled with dangerous monsters guarding the access to Mt. Woe. While going through the mudbeast’s den, the group finds and defeats some of the den’s namesakes. It’s not long before the group finds the large chain that anchors Mt. Woe to the ground. Before the group can proceed however, it seems that they must deal with the Mud Imp and his duo of trained beasts. It appears that in this era the Mystics are finally making their presence known. The beasts both go down in short order but the Mud Imp himself manages to escape before the group can finish him, oh well. With the coast now clear, Ayla, Crono, an Robo scale the giant chain to Mt. Woe.
Mt. Woe itself is a twisted amalgamation of large chunks of floating earth held together by large chains to keep the whole thing from falling apart. The mountain is also infested with more of the proto-Mystics that continually ambush the party. The whole thing gives the impression of some sort of early attempt by the Enlightened Ones to lift land masses, like the ones that currently make up Zeal Kingdom, but something went horribly wrong and is now being used to detain political prisoners. The group makes their way through the tangled mass of stone and steel, making their way to the summit. As Ayle, Crono, and Robo climb the final stretch to the summit, the sky darkens foretelling that the mountain will not give up its charge so easily.
When the group reaches the summit, they find Melchior encased in crystal in front of a deep pit. As the group approaches, the crystal is snatched away and the mighty Giga Gaia emerges from the pit. After a grueling battle, Ayla, Crono, and Robo finally defeat the Giga Gaia and Melchior is released from his prison. The group greets him as a friend, but he doesn’t seem to know them but thanks them for releasing him anyway. He asks about the status of the queen and the Ocean Palace and after Crono brings him back up to speed, laments at how the ore energy that is absorbed from Lavos, the more the queen’s mental state deteriorates. Before Melchior can sort out what the next move should be however, the mountain begins to crumble and fall into the sea so the group high-tails it back to the Earthbound One’s village.
Back at the Elder’s hut, Melchior explains how having the Mammon Machine so close to Lavos could awaken it which, as we know, would spell disaster. Just then, Shcala shows up in the hut along with Janus. The Elder asks her why she would come to such a dreary place but Schala tells him no to denigrate themselves in such a way. Janus then immediately undermines her complaining about the filthy surroundings. Schala explains that she knew that Melchior had been freed when the mountain fell. She then reports that the Ocean Palace is now complete an fully operational but declares that she will not activate the Mammon Machine again. She adds that she has reopened the skyway allowing the group to get to Zeal in order to put a stop to the queen’s plans. Just as everyone is about to get underway, Dalton shows up, apparently having followed Schala looking to take her to the Ocean Palace and force her to activate the machine. Melchior tries to intervene but Dalton blasts him with a spell. When Crono and the group move to act, Dalton takes Schala hostage and demands they stand down and disappears with Schala.
Once Dalton makes his escape, Melchior despairs at Schala being taken and the Mammon Machine being activated. Crono then tries to put him at ease indicating that he and the group fully intend to go to go to the Ocean Palace and put a stop to Queen Zeal’s plans and prevent the coming disaster. Melchior is impressed that someone he hardly knows keeps going out of their way to help him and the kingdom but in time he’ll come to realize why they are so eager to lend a hand. Before they leave Melchior gives Crono something to help in the group endeavor, the ruby knife, a blade made from the same red stone as the Mammon Machine which may come in handy when dealing with it. Once the team is rested up, they head to the skybridge and return to Zeal.
What Lies Beyond? (12,000 B.C.)
On the way back to the palace, Chrono, Lucca, and Frog stop by in both Enhasa and Kajar but nothing has changed in either city. It seems that everyone else is totally oblivious to the potential disaster is coming their way. Once the group reach Zeal Palace things are slightly different. Instead of dread, there is an air of excitement as the residents look forward to the prospect of eternal life granted to the Enlightened Ones by the Mammon Machine once it’s activated. When the team make it to the queen’s audience chamber, they find Dalton sitting on the throne fuming about how he has to bring up the rear while the prophet gets to accompany Queen Zeal to the Ocean Palace. Dalton seems to harbor quite a bit of resentment for the prophet and his newfound favor with the queen. His preoccupation with the prophet disappears however when he sees the group looking to make their way to the palace and challenges them on the spot in order to work off his frustration. Dalton proves to be no match for Crono and the gang and bugs out in short order once it’s clear that he’s outmatched. He’s not about to risk his life when he’s on the verge of attaining immortality after all.
Once Dalton makes his escape, Crono, Frog, and Lucca enter the transport beaming them into the depths of the ocean to try to stop the coming cataclysm.