It seems appropriate that I begin this dissertation with a disclaimer: I am, in fact, a cat.
Perhaps it seems odd to you, thinking that the following words were penned by someone's pet. I assure you, however, I am more than simply a lap animal, a cuddly companion who spends his days dozing before a fireplace; my master is a sorcerer, which would make me his familiar. I have seen magic performed, powerful magic, the kind that makes your whiskers curl if you stand too close. Your eyes water, you know, if a spell is formed in close proximity. I suppose you've never been allowed near a master of sorcery, now have you? It's quite a privilege to see them at work.
Takes some getting used to, though, I will admit that much. The first time my master showed me that he could conjure fire with his bare hands -- oh, merciful Entity, my fur didn't fall flat for a fortnight! I wouldn't crawl out from beneath the cot for anything! He was very apologetic that he startled me, though, and eventually I saw it in my best interests to forgive him. The poor child didn't have many friends, you see. He had good taste, though, choosing a cat to fill that void. And not just any cat, of course. My name is Alphard.
Alfador was the name he told the palace dwellers; it was a silly name with no real substance. When we were alone together, though, he would privately call me my real name, Alphard. It is the name of a star, he told me. He chose it because in its original tongue, it meant "solitary one". He didn't want the other palace folk to gather the connotation; after all, the kingdom of the Enlightened Ones was built on the foundations of education, research, all that scholarly nonsense. They would easily recognize something as simple as a star from a well-known constellation, and probably shake their heads and cluck their tongues about what a loner the boy was, how disappointing he had turned out that way. They were a haughty bunch, often turning their noses up at the likes of me as well. But my master treated me like a human, and he was adamant about keeping me in his chambers, no matter what the others said. He was the prince, after all; his word was final.
The lonely prince confided many things to me, hiding in his room rather than facing the disapproval of his subjects. His father was dead; he never spoke much about the man, since he was still reeling from the event when he found me. He had mixed feelings about his mother, too, a growing mistrust -- her gradual corruption shattered his last vestiges of filial piety, but that did come a little later. No, the only person he cared about more than myself was his sister, the beautiful Princess Schala. I didn't mind her company. She was a gentle girl, after all, and sometimes brought me treats from the lavish feasts I wasn't permitted to attend. But... a cat's eyes can see many things, and there was nothing but tragedy in her future. Poor master, I could see the same fate written on his soul as well, but his suffering would lead him to a new way of living, one different from being caged in a gilded palace where no one would understand his introverted ways. He had a glimmer of hope, at least. But Schala was doomed from the start.
I keep getting ahead of myself, don't I? My deepest apologies. Us cats have been known to digress from time to time. Short attention span, one might say, although I consider myself a bit more well-bred than the common housecat. How often do you see a tom with my athletic grace, my intelligence, or -- my violet fur? Traditionally, violet is the color used to portray magic. Didn't know that either, did you? I was destined to be with my master, and him with me. He used to tell me that being a purple cat must have meant that I was born to be royalty, and it was good that a prince found me. Dear child, he should have realized that it was simply Entity's wish for us to be paired. Even if he had been a humble Earthbound pauper, and I, a flea-ridden stray, our souls were inextricably bonded.
Ah, my master... I miss him so. The real purpose in me coming here is to let the world know who he used to be. I got to meet him again, as an adult -- how time ravished him, his once-handsome face gaunt and lined with the weight of the world. Surely no one could ever recognize him as who he once was, that well-intentioned noble whose instincts just couldn't save him fast enough. Accursed Lavos saw to that, although... I can't say every event it wrought was for the worse. When the kingdom of Zeal crashed into the sea, the Enlightened Ones and the Earthbound came together as one, ending the prejudice between those who could master magic and those who could not. The ones who survived, anyway. I happened to be one of them.
I suppose I should backtrack and explain how I met him, my master, the young lord Janus. His sister, oh fair and beautiful Schala, talented in magic and loved by the people, quickly became the focus of all the palace gossip. It wasn't that she relished the attention, the way their mother clearly did, but... being fickle-minded, the Enlightened Ones automatically assumed that if Janus did not follow in her footsteps, he just didn't possess any talent whatsoever. The truth of the matter was that Janus was more skilled than any member in his family, but didn't want to deal with the politics of it all, and suppressed his strength. Clever child. And even more clever, he still practiced his skills in secret, by sneaking out of the palace... and on one of those excursions, he found me.
I was young, and still wet-behind-the-ears, and to be quite frank, I honestly don't recall how I ended up there in the caves near Algetty village. There were monsters there, hideous beasts that threatened the Earthbound Ones who tried to mine there. I almost lost my tail to a devilish pair of goblins, nasty sprats. As if my purple fur would be worth anything in their hideous claws! But fate brought Janus to practice his spells there, below the flying continent where anyone would recognize him. He wore a cloak that day, hiding his telltale blue hair. And without a word, he scooped me up in his arms, and just glared at the beasties, the cold stare of a noble in charge. It should have been my first clue, that he would one day become the Fiendlord -- monsters simply obeyed him. They left him alone. Not a single creature attacked him, throughout the entire length of the cavern.
I'm not particularly adept at judging human ages, but he looked smaller and younger than most I've seen, vulnerability and self-doubt expressed openly on his pale face. As he carried me that day, sweeping imperiously through the palace doors, there was a defensive and almost hurt gleam in his eyes, as he purposely ignored the murmurs that buzzed in his wake. I could clearly hear them gossiping, the close-minded ninnies, prattling on about what an affront it was to the royal family, that this powerless and talentless boy should waste his time finding a pet to replace his father. I decided then that I would never leave his side, wherever he should go. I had no one else in the world, and it seemed like Janus didn't, either.
Our time together seemed like a blur, every day the same monotony. Some days Schala's kindness, the closeness of the siblings, would kindle a flicker of warmth in Janus, and he would always confide in me after she was called away to some meeting or other duties. He was deeply afraid that their mother would do something irreparable, unforgivable, to her. She could drive their kingdom into the ground, for all he cared, as long as his sister would be safe. His keen observation of Queen Zeal was only heightening his doubts; her once-benevolent nature had eroded swiftly into true arrogance and a thirst for power. Whether it was the loss of her husband that had broken her spirit so, or if it was the Mammon Machine itself that corrupted her, I could never quite put my paw on it. But of course, Janus had every right to be suspicious.
There were days when both of us could feel it. He called it the "black wind". Sometimes he would hold me close, his small fingers cold as ice from fear. The fur all along my spine would stand on end -- see, it's doing it now, just from the memory of it! Brrr. The black wind, the ominous future looming ahead of us. And every so often, we would catch a glimpse of that prophet, the cloaked man who somehow knew the future. Janus was afraid of him, and did his best to avoid the seer, but to me, it was a mere curiosity. They had the same scent. Not just similar, but identical, as if Janus could be in two places at one time. It perplexed me then, but I was not allowed to investigate it. Now I can understand more about his travels through time, and I know it really was Janus, his adult version whisked home again after years of being stranded. Confusing, yes; perhaps an ordinary cat would not be able to comprehend such a complexity, but I have already explained that I am none other than Alphard.
Oh, poor master Janus! How ultimately painful it must have been for him, to return home and see his child self and his beloved sister, and not be able to say anything... Even the scholars and alchemists remarked about how his aura was "full of hatred and sorrow". How I wish now I had the foresight to have eased his anguish then, to lend my comforting presence to his lonely visit. But alas, I was bonded to the young Janus, so much so that I chose to obey his wishes and leave the Queen's prophet alone. We were so inextricably connected that everywhere we wandered, the people could be heard muttering, "his only friend, other than his sister, is that stupid cat". Now, I am anything but stupid; clearly the feeble dottards of the palace were blind as well as ignorant. Again, I digress. There was much talk of change and hope and dreams coming to fruition, but all of it was background chatter. Master and I could both feel that the imminent changes for the Zeal kingdom would not be good ones. The Mammon Machine and the plans for an Ocean Palace would bring them to ruin. Schala seemed to know it too, the sadness in her eyes every time she looked at her younger brother made me cringe. She was well aware that the Queen was no longer their mother, that her priorities had shifted catastrophically, but... she was too devoted to her duties to resist, I suppose. She gave my master her precious pendant, in the hopes that it would protect him better than she could.
The changes were set into motion when those drifters appeared, neither Enlightened nor Earthbound. They smelled of unfamiliar places, volcano soot and the tang of metal, of a world unlike our own. I remember vividly padding alongside Janus. The marble floors were always cool against my pawpads, the palace air crisp with the scent of seasalt drifting on the wind. That motley assortment of humans, warriors with weapons slung across their backs and armor glinting on their bodies, they traipsed into the palace and things began happening. They were questioning everyone, rifling through books, even consorting with the wizened Nu. Janus stood atop the stairwell, his arms crossed and his eyes hard. He didn't trust them, but he didn't trust easily those days. He had already told them to leave him alone that morning, when the girl with the fiery hair and the gold bangles had peeked into the room and tried to pet me. "Don't waste your time. Alfador only likes me," were some of the few terse words he offered them. I carry them dearly in my heart, for they were true.
Some whim, some niggling concern had drawn him out of his chamber to observe them more closely. He kept the pendant strung at his waist, although he would shield it with his cloak if he suspected the palace dwellers had noticed it. He would go nowhere without it. Amongst the travelers was a man that... well, he was a frog. By all appearances; his gait was a sort of shambling hop, his skin looked slick and shiny in the light, his voice had a croaking timbre punctuated by the inflation of his throat. Janus could not stop staring. Sure, it was startling, but it wasn't as though he had never seen a fiend or a goblin or any other beastly biped. I figured out later that these wanderers must have come from the same other world that Janus was later exiled to... and that the curse that had given this man his amphibious affliction was actually cast by my master himself! What a curious twist of fate; if this frog had not visited Janus in his childhood, he might not have had the cruel inspiration to perform the trick in their mutual future... Or was it a loop, doomed to repeat itself over and over? I am a cat, not a philosopher. I must continue to operate under the assumption that my timeline is the only one... that my story is the real truth. But, my dear master, if through some quirk of time this journal finds its way into your hands at any age, know that I have never forgotten you!
...Pardon my callous interruption. Where was I? Ah, the wanderers got themselves exiled. Janus watched as they used their own pendant in the same way Schala had hers, and intruded on the Queen's research. She and her retainer, Dalton, would have executed them, but intuition told him to protect them. That, and Schala's insistence. I thought I would never see the strangers again, by the look on my master's face. Imagine my surprise when only days later, they reappeared... and indirectly caused the loss of my master.
He didn't take me with him that day. The black wind was roaring in our ears, chilling us to our core -- someone would die that day. The howling, ominous shrieking that tormented both of us cried that a good spirit would be snuffed without warning, and both of us were too choked with fear to know how to respond. Would Janus die and leave me alone in this world? Would Schala be killed by the wicked husk that had once been her mother? Would the awakening of Lavos bring about the deaths of everyone, a cataclysmic apocalypse? He thought he had seen death reflected in the eyes of one of the eclectic heroes, the traveling warriors with their anachronistic costumes. I could see darkness circling all of their heads, a task they had embarked on that was far larger than any of them could handle. And despite all of my wisdom and experience, despite our flourishing bond and lonely companionship, he wouldn't take me with him.
I was locked in his bedchamber. Oh, how I will never forget the horrible panic that overtook me, the yowling and scratching I resorted to, the way my fur stood upright all along my trembling body. I didn't want to lose him. And we were both smart enough to know that was exactly what would happen. My master, the short time we spent together, it was the best time of my life. Somehow we completed each other, both outcasts where we should have belonged. How could a purple cat ever lead a normal life? I was supposed to stay with him, and we would have been happy. But Lavos took him from me, ripping away his childhood and exiling him in a different time. I knew he lived, because he had been the prophet, as confusing as that was to me. But I got to see him again that very day, when he said goodbye in his own way.
Once Queen Zeal doomed her children to the machinations of Lavos beneath the sea, the kingdom in the sky began to crumble. I didn't know the extent of it; only that the ceiling was caving in while I was still in the palace, and hiding underneath my master's cot was what protected me from the catastrophic damage. Dust was everywhere, coating my fur and choking my throat. There was so much noise, from the people screaming and the buildings collapsing, but all I could think about was my poor master... misunderstood, and now beyond my reach.
I didn't creep out from my hiding place until it had all gone silent. I had been lucky to survive -- or it was Entity's wish, for me to see the future of humankind. I emerged from the twisted wreckage of what had once been a lavish palace, to see Enlightened Ones and Earthbound Ones trying to recuperate together. From the disaster had been born peace. Somehow Lavos had actually created a good result, or else the human spirit was much stronger than expected. But I am a cat, and I always will be. Whether humans wage war against each other or live in perfect harmony, it matters not so long as I am warm and fed and comfortable. And I was none of those things, because even when I saw the "heroes" returning to this land, my Janus was not with them.
It is unbecoming for a cat to cling to sorrow. We are among the most resilient creatures, our crafty minds always seeking the good out of any situation. But I will admit, much to my chagrin, that I was devastated that day. Losing my home was no issue, but I would severely miss the one person who had never taken me for granted, my kindred spirit. It was in this desolate state of mind that I found myself slinking up the hill, climbing the Cape to look out upon the ocean. The air was cold, like the palace had always been. Like Janus's eyes.
And there he stood. A tall man, muscular and predatory, his once-handsome face gaunt and lined with the weight of the world. How time had ravished him. How bitter and icy his dark eyes were, sunken in the shadowed mask of his expression. His hair was no longer that rich and vibrant blue, but had faded to a dull violet, not unlike my own fur. But it was him. My master. He had left me in his chamber as a boy, and returned the same day as an old man. I stood, lashing my tail with agitation, unsure whether I should approach him or leave him to his thoughts. This was the prophet, but now he was all I had, and I knew he would not be staying. He was probably reliving the tragedy in his mind, whatever had happened to him on this very day. But... no matter the fierce wildness of his appearance, the atrocities he had committed as the Fiendlord in that other world, he was still undeniably my master.
With a cheerful mewl, I scampered beneath the seclusion of his tattered cloak, and entwined myself between his boots. He had come home. That was what mattered. He said nothing, but I thought I saw a flicker of affection beneath the cold mask, those hard eyes softening for just a moment. Perhaps I imagined it, but -- a cat's eyes can see many things. And I saw hope in his future then, a chance to set aside vengeance and work in earnest to shaping the world's future. He never forget his sister -- her pendant still hung from his waist, after all the years he suffered alone. And I had to assume that he never forgot me either.
He left with the travelers that day. And I remained in the fledgling village of survivors, unwilling to abandon the people there with the thought that maybe, somehow, Janus would return for me. I have waited some seasons now to no avail, but in my heart I know he's alright -- we have a bond like no other, and so long as Janus lives, so shall I. With the thought that perhaps a story could be taught to the youths, and it might reach my beloved master's ears, I came to the village Nu today. The wizened old creature is more intelligent than some think; after all, he can understand cats, which makes him clever indeed. Mystical creatures can often commune betwixt each other.
And it is his hand that penned this parchment, by my dictation. What is my message, then? I, Alphard the Solitary One, sorcerer's familiar, still love my master. And if he should ever again visit the lands of his birth in the Age of Magic, I will still be proud to trot at his heels and follow him wherever he leads me. Whomsoever is reading this, please do not fear the Fiendlord; for he was once a little boy with a cat whom he loved dearly, a cat who was his best friend. And to this day, still is. I have already assured you that I am more than simply a lap animal, a cuddly companion who spends his days dozing before a fireplace -- I presume that my unflagging devotion to my master has proved this a thousandfold. I am simply waiting for my best friend to come home again.