Spoiler Warning: this page contains detailed plot
Please note that the material in the following essay may not be the sole explanation for the events we see take place in 12,000 BC. There are other probable hypotheses, but this seems to be the most logical to me as it incorporates our knowledge of Chrono Cross and further ties it into Chrono Trigger. I have included a great deal of speculation to support this hypothesis, but as always read with a critical eye. I repeat: this entire page reflects my speculation and is not confirmed by Squaresoft. Reject it if you please. Also note that the ages given are approximations. We do not know how old Janus is; the age of 10 was rounded up for convenience.
While it is not directly stated how the Kingdom of Zeal rose to power, we can use what little information we know to devise a theory. Taking quotes from both games we know:
II. The Golden Years
It is reasonable to assume that in the years prior to 12,000 BC the Kingdom of Zeal very much resembled Guardia. A benevolent king and queen reigned from a palace situated on the ground. The people of the kingdom were treated as equals and all were well cared for. At the time Zeal was a very advanced society. The gurus were expert craftsmen who were knowledgeable in machines and science. The arts flourished and people actively sought knowledge. We can views these times as a sort of Renaissance; technology was at its peak since the birth of humanity. The Sun Stone was fully charged and provided an endless supply of energy to the citizens of Zeal. Such elemental powers allowed for the people to create machines to give warmth during the ice age. These good times seemed as though they would never end. It was into this paradise that Schala and Janus were born.
It is possible that one fateful day a citizen of Zeal ventured into the wilderness and stumbled upon a strange rock. Being overcome by it's power he escaped and informed the royal authorities. This rock was in fact the Frozen Flame, which had remained buried in the soil for millennia. The flame was recovered and brought to the royal palace. Knowing what we do about the nature of the flame we can surmise that Queen Zeal eventually came into direct contact with the it, formed a link with Lavos, and thus slowly came under his control as she craved more of his energy. It is in this way that the once noble queen became a heartless greedy dictator. It stands to reason that this is perhaps the only way the people of Zeal could have known of Lavos. Seeing as how the beast was buried miles under the planet's surface it is wise to assume the people had no contact with it beforehand, or even knew of its existence.
An important even during this time frame is the king's death. It is left ambiguous has to how he passed away. Some speculate that the queen, becoming bent on power, set into motion events that lead to his demise. It is rather disturbing to think the queen would murder her own husband so that she might be free to take over the kingdom, yet we cannot rule this possibility out after we have seen how ruthless she has become by 12,000 BC. Another possibility is to assume the king died of natural causes, the most probable being deteriorating health issues. We don't know the official cause of the king's death, but it is important to note that shortly thereafter the queen began her relentless pursuit of Lavos' power. If we assume Janus is 10 years old then the king must have been alive to father him, and likely lived until at least his birth. This tells us that in the year 12,010 BC everything in Zeal was still at peace. The founding of the flame, death of the king, birth of magic, and the raising of Zeal must have taken place in the span of 10 short years. However it is important to note that Janus still remembers a time when his mother was a kind person. This implies her drastic change in personality occurred only recently, but as we cannot probe Janus' mind we do not know the full nature of these memories. Though it is still possible for Zeal to have taken to the heavens as late as 12,005 BC, considering the sheer intensity of Lavos' power.
Once the queen was the sole ruler of Zeal she was free to actively seek out Lavos' power. She commanded the gurus to construct the Mammon Machine, which in turn was able to draw energy from Lavos. It is very possible the Frozen Flame was inserted into this device so that a stronger link with Lavos could be formed. The flame is, in essence, the heart of the Mammon Machine and is required for it to function. With such power finally harnessed, the queen was nearly unstoppable. She had the energy of Lavos which she commanded in the form of newly discovered magical spells. The energy was also put to use in machines which allowed for the Skyways and Land Bridges to teleport people to the now floating continents of Zeal, which had defied gravity due to the influence of Lavos' power. The queen then sealed away the Sun Stone and other powerful tools away from the citizens.
By 12,000 BC we see two distinct groups - the Enlightened Ones and the Earthbound Ones. While we do not know exactly why Queen Zeal denied some people entrance to her heavenly paradise, we might assume they initially opposed the direction in which she was taking the country. Such dissenters sought to impede the queen's progress, and so were forever destined to suffer the hardships of the ice ages without the protection of the governing body. Such outcasts became known as the Earthbound Ones as they were deemed inferior as they were not allowed to use magic. Rather they probably had the ability to, but were just denied the opportunity to gain it. The Enlightened Ones on the other hand, graciously accepted the queen's new ideas and so were accepted into Zeal, which had taken to the skies in order to be free of the ice age that raged below on the planet's surface.
After events reached their breaking point in 12,000 BC the power of Lavos becameuncontrollable after the Mammon Machine was lowered into the Ocean Palace to absorb even more energy. Perhaps having the Frozen Flame so near to it is what caused Lavos to emerge, even briefly, and destroy Zeal. We cannot know for certain, but afterwards Zeal fell from the heavens in the space of a single night and the queen's dreams for immortality were ruined. Or were they? Crono's interference during the destruction of the Ocean Palace allowed for Queen Zeal to resurrect it in the form of the Black Omen. Though the Mammon Machine was badly damaged, it still functioned due to the presence of the Frozen Flame inside of it (we might assume). This granted the structure enough energy for it to warp to the skies above the sea. So long as it functioned the queen would retain her immortality as an ample energy flow was still being absorbed from Lavos.
After Crono succeeds in destroying the queen's Black Omen we see it enveloped in a bright sphere of light. It is uncertain whether the Omen disintegrates in this explosion (which is likely the case), or if it falls back beneath the waves but we are unable to see this due to the light acting as a shield. In either case we know the Frozen Flame must survive because it needs to be found in the future in order for Chronopolis to be built. We know the flame is a piece of Lavos (presumably broken off his shell), so if this is the case then the shell must be made of a tough substance as not only can it withstand entering the atmosphere at high speeds, but also a strong force once Lavos makes impact with the ground. If the flame is made of the same material is it likely it would survive an explosion that would destroy the entire Omen. Whether the Black Omen is destroyed or remains partly intact is irrelevant. In either case the Frozen Flame falls to the bottom of the sea where it remains (though it probably is swept away by ocean currents over the millennia) until it is discovered in the far future and integrated into Chronopolis.
IX. Supporting Evidence
On an additional note there is some text in Radical Dreamers which, on the surface, seems to support this theory. Near the end of the game Magil, who is strongly implied to be none other than Magus, discloses some information regarding the Frozen Flame:
This quote strongly suggests the Zeal royal family used the Flame in some manner to gain their immense power. Though this may not be apparent at first, the quote makes more sense when read in context. In addition, Magil makes other references to "the lost Magical Kingdom" throughout the game. If we believe that he is indeed Magus, this leads credence to his claim for he would have been an eyewitness to these events.
Despite this impressive evidence, one might still argue that the Frozen Flame
is nothing more than dreamstone, since in Radical Dreamers that is
all that the Flame appears to be - not a piece of Lavos, as stated in Chrono
Cross. We already know dreamstone was instrumental in crafting not only
Schala's pendant, but also the Mammon Machine. Whether the Frozen Flame of
the Radical Dreamers' timeline is the same as that of the Chrono
Cross dimension, we do not know. Even so, Magil's words are fascinating
as this is the first piece of text from any of the games to suggest the Flame
was vital in creating the Kingdom of Zeal. For more information on the
differences between the Radical Dreamers' Frozen Flame and the Chrono
Cross Frozen Flame, please see the
page of this site.