Twilight of Fate
The vast ocean stretched as far as the eye could see. Crimson and gold light from the setting sun danced merrily on the surface, glittering like a thousand jewels. Alone on this vast and tranquil expanse a lone boat swept through the water. It was a small fishing boat, in the style of a catamaran, with an offset second hull. Its single white sail fluttered in the gentle evening breeze that pushed the boat onward. At its prow stood a solitary figure, staring out at the sea. He smiled at the world around him, so peaceful. He loved the sea. He closed his eyes, the soft sea spray washing across his face, the wind blowing merrily through his deep blue hair. He opened his eyes again. In the distance the shore of a far off land was just visible, floating on the horizon. Home, for him. He turned from the front of the boat and grabbed the tiller in the rear. The boat was nearly full with a day’s catch of fish. He was almost sad to be returning home, he loved the sea so, the solace it provided. It freed his mind of his worries, being so alone...
The boat glided softly across the water with hardly a sound, the distant land growing swiftly larger. The boy at the tiller put his hand in the sea, letting the cool, rushing water flow between his fingers. Looking to the west he saw the crimson sun falling slowly into the sea.
“Hey, Serge! You’re back!”
The boy looked up. He had been too busy staring out to sea to realize he was nearly ashore. A small fishing village was on the coast a hundred feet ahead. On the pier a young girl stood waving. She had obviously been waiting for him. Returning the wave, he expertly guided the boat to the piers.
“Have a good day fishing?” the girl asked merrily.
The boy nodded. The fishing had been very good. He leaped out of the boat onto the solid wood of the pier, sending the boat rocking backwards. He quickly grabbed a rope and tied the boat to a post of the pier to prevent the craft from returning to sea.
The boy, whose name was Serge, was actually only a few short weeks shy of 18, and so, by the standards of his village, was very nearly a man. Of average height in his village of Arni, he was around 5 seven, but had never actually measured. He also looked younger than he actually was, his boyish face taking a few years off his age. On his head deep blue hair fell down his head and into his eyes, whose hue seemed to echo that of the sea itself. His face was kind, and, though he talked little, he was friendly enough. For clothes he was dressed in the typical Arni fashion: Large boots, long blue shorts, and a black short sleeved shirt. Over this he wore a light vest, leather on the top, with mail rings from his chest down. A large belt was strapped around his waist. On his hands were worn leather gloves, and about his head a red bandana was wrapped, his deep blue hair sticking out from beneath it in strands.
The girl standing on the pier before him was dressed in a long blue dress, over which she wore elaborately embroidered overclothes in shades of maroon and black. Her long brown hair fell back from a quiet, gentle face, with kind eyes.
“Hi Leena,” Serge greeted her, smiling, “waiting long?”
“Oh, no. I just wandered out here a little while back. Watching some of the neighbour’s kids, you know.”
That was Leena, always helping out in the village in some way: odd chores, babysitting...whatever needed to be done; if Leena could help she did. But that was just her way.
“So, I see fishing was good today,” she noted, kneeling and taking a peek into the boat.
“Really good. The sea was perfect...” he said, glancing out to sea as they walked up the pier together.
They strolled off the pier and proceeded down the sandy beachfront that ran between the village and the ocean. He spent most days such, talking with Leena after a day’s fishing. Leena was by far his best friend, perhaps more than a friend. Moreover, she was always willing to listen to whatever he had to say, which he was very grateful for. Especially during the past few months. Ever since a very frightening experience he had had, talking to Leena on the beach in just such a way.
He had been with her, talking, farther down the island. Then, for no reason he could remember, he had blanked out. He could recall little of those few minutes, yet he seemed to think that he had heard a voice, someone calling his name, just before he had passed out. Leena told him she hadn’t heard anything. When he had awoken he had been very disoriented. He remembered Leena kneeling over him, trying to revive him. Then, he couldn’t recall for what reason, he had stood up and asked Leena something. Something about Fate, and a thing called “Terra Tower.” He had no idea, now or then, what it meant. However, he had the distinct impression that he had known at the instant he had uttered the question, but, just as a dream fades from memory on the moment of awakening, the words ceased to have any meaning to him. He could never remember why he had spoken them. Leena had borne it with her usual grace, dismissing it as a mere dream, the product of an idle mind. But Serge was not totally convinced. He had tried to assure himself that Leena was in all likelihood correct, but still his heart had misgivings. His mind told him, as Leena, to ignore it...but somewhere in his heart he seemed almost to know otherwise. He had often voiced this to Leena on their evening walks, but, as compassionate as she was, she had no answers either. He looked at Leena, walking beside him on the sand. Perhaps had the incident remained just that, he would have forgotten about it by now.
But, to make matters worse, the event seemed to repeat itself each and every night. His unconscious mind was haunted by mysterious images he could never quite remember when he awoke. He stared out at the sun, watching it set in all its golden glory.
“I had another dream last night...” he mentioned to Leena.
Leena sighed, having expected this.
“Can’t you just forget about them, Serge?” she replied, stopping and turning to face him. “You can never remember them anyway. How can you know they mean anything? They’re just dreams after all!”
Serge halted also and, turning his face from the sun, looked at Leena.
“Maybe...but maybe not. I just don’t know Leena...that’s the problem.”
“I understand...well, let’s just forget about it for a while and enjoy the evening. Watch the sun set. Maybe you’ll feel better.”
Leena was right. What was the use of worrying about future or past? The future brings what it will, though no one knows exactly what. One can only make the best out of what it has in store. And the past no one can change, so what is the use in worrying about it? It was the present that really mattered. How he lived now would shape his past and determine his future. Leena understood that. It brought him a sort of peace to think in those terms. Whatever the future brought, he would face it then, but live his life now.
“You’re right Leena...I shouldn’t worry so much.”
He smiled as the sun dipped into the vast ocean and wished all days could end so.
His mother stood at the door of his house and greeted him merrily as he walked up the rickety wooden stairs to the main floor of his house. He smiled at her, but could not fully conceal his mind, as it had become bothered with worry again. His mother frowned, sensing something wrong.
“What is it Serge?” she asked, in a tone typical of a concerned mother, “You look worried...is something bothering you?”
Serge did not like talking too much, and did not particularly want to mention his dreams to anyone other than Leena - she was the only one who knew.
“I’m fine. Just had a long day fishing,” he stated. His mother sighed, yielding, but obviously unconvinced. The two strode indoors, leaving the door open to let in the fresh night air, as everyone in Arni did. In the village, everyone knew and trusted everyone else. Doors and locks were not really necessary, except perhaps to keep out wild animals, but they seldom entered the village. As for thieves, there was not much of great value in such a small fishing hamlet, though many had been worried a few months back about the thieves that had called themselves the ‘Radical Dreamers’. But they had never been seen in El Nido, only on the mainland, and had not been heard of in many months.
However, on this night, unseen by all eyes, a dark figure strode boldly in the front gate of the village and silently melted into the shadows surrounding the buildings. The darkness veiled the figure like a cloak as it glanced around cautiously, searching the village for something. Finally fixing its gaze on Serge’s house it turned and disappeared completely into the night.
He sat down on his bed, removing his sea worn boots. It was odd, but he was sure the dreams were something more, something important. A warning? No, but something else...
Serge spun, nearly falling off his bed. He had heard a noise at his window. A dull thud. He waited a moment that seemed to last forever, his senses heightened by momentary fear. The dark palm leaves swayed in the wind outside his window. Nothing happened. He shook his head. It was late, and now his mind was playing tricks on him. Probably just a stray tree branch, or...
This time Serge did indeed fall off his bed, landing hard on the wooden floor. A voice had come from the darkness outside. That in and of itself would have been enough to frighten him. But the words caused his mind to spin. They echoed in his head, sending images flashing through his mind. But before he could place any meaning on them, they melted away. His momentary confusion was then replaced by fear. Now he was sure something had addressed him. Summoning his courage, he stepped to the window sill and leaned out, staring out into the darkness. However nothing but shadows met his gaze. Perhaps it was just in his mind. Perhaps he had been dwelling too much on his dreams.
He shrugged, unsure as to what to think, and more than a little unsettled. He turned from the window and walked to his mirror. Undoing his red bandana, he tossed it onto the dresser, letting his deep blue hair fall down over his eyes. Serge ran his hand through his hair and sighed. He silently wished, prayed, every night that these elusive dreams would leave him alone, so that he could wake up without questions about what he knew not. What had he done to be cursed with this torment? Nothing, he knew that full well. But such was the way with things. He turned from the mirror, hoping that this night would be better than the last.
But before he could take but one step forward he froze, too startled to move. A dark figure stood crouched on the sill of his window. A cloak concealed his entire body, and a hood shrouded his face in darkness. He did not say a word, but simply stood there, as if waiting for Serge to do or say something. For an eternity they both stood motionless. Serge did not move, not knowing what to make of this dark intruder. Likewise the figure stood frozen, and Serge got the impression that he too was being contemplated from beneath the shadowy hood. But as the seconds passed, and nothing happened, his fear transformed into curiosity.
He took a small step forward, unsure as how to proceed. He wanted to run, but some part of him desired to know who, perhaps what, this visitor was. His mind still screaming at him to run, he broke the dead silence that lay between them.
“Who...who are you? And...”
But the stranger had raised a hand, and, without question, Serge stopped mid sentence. The cloaked phantom stood up in the window sill and jumped lightly into the room, making hardly a sound as its feet hit the floor. Now in the light of the room, Serge could see it better. Whatever it was, it wasn’t exceptionally tall, no more than his own height at least. It was dressed in a dark blue cloak that shimmered slightly in the candlelight of the room. But Serge’s heart chilled when he saw what could be nothing other than a sword hanging at the figure’s side. Once again, it stood motionless. But now it spoke, with a calm voice, yet deep and sure.
“Yes, I know who you are, Serge. Actually, I know you better than you know yourself...Chrono Trigger!”
Once again Serge had been addressed as such. And, as before, a strange sort of recognition flashed through his mind, only to fade into oblivion. The figure shook its head.
“I see that you don’t remember.” The figure spoke gently, almost friendly, though with disappointment showing in the voice. What didn’t he remember?
“Have I...do I know you?” Serge questioned, hoping for some answers.
To Serge’s discomfort, the figure laughed. A strange laugh, as if slightly amused by the question.
“No, we’ve never met. But I know a lot about you, and what you did.”
Serge frowned, confused.
What had he ever done to merit attention? Surely this stranger wasn’t interested in his fish.
“You don’t understand,” the figure acknowledged, “Don’t worry, it might come back to you...in time. Maybe it already has, and you just can’t understand it...”
Serge’s mind spun. Could this mysterious visitor possibly be referring to his dreams? No, that was impossible. He tried to banish the thought, but the figure seemed to know what he was thinking.
“You’re having dreams, right Serge? And you can’t remember them?”
Serge didn’t answer, but the stranger seemed to read the truth in his eyes.
“I was right then. It is coming back to you. Yes, the unknown is always frightening.”
And confusing, thought Serge. What was this phantom be talking about? The cryptic hints were beginning to bother Serge. But the figure continued, either not noticing or not caring about Serge’s uneasiness.
“For now all I will say is that those dreams hold the key to a past that you have forgotten.”
More cryptic hints.
“My past? But...I really don’t understand,” Serge replied, more confused now than ever. Once again, the figure laughed.
“Of course not. But, right now, you must be wondering who I am...”
The figure lifted his hands and threw back his hood. For a second Serge was prepared for the worst. But his fears were not realized. The figure was indeed human. Serge guessed he was in his mid-thirties or so. His features were sharp, and his eyes were keen. From his head fell long bright red hair, wrapped around by a flowing white headband. There seemed to be an air of adventure and valour about him. If nothing else his face showed one who had seen much of the world, but had not nearly tired of life. He smiled kindly at Serge, as if he had long awaited this meeting.
“So, we meet at long last. Long have the threads of our fate intertwined, our stories one, and yet have never met. This probably won’t mean much to you now, but I’m Crono, the first Chrono Trigger.
He was right, thought Serge, it didn’t mean anything to him, except for those two words: Chrono Trigger.
“Chrono Trigger?” Questioned Serge, yearning to know the reason as to why that word seemed to mean so much.
“We have both affected the history of this world, challenged fate, and persevered. But that is a tale for a different time, and I know only one person who can tell it to you as you should hear it.”
This didn’t answer his question, much to Serge’s annoyance. But the man continued undaunted.
“But that’s not why I’ve come. Actually, I’ve come to you for help...”
“Me? Why?...how could I help you?” Serge demanded, his impatience growing.
But the man shook his head.
“I think this is enough for our first meeting. But mark this, it won’t be our last. I’ll find you again...farewell till then, Serge...”
Serge was about to protest, but the man darted for the window. Serge followed after, half of him relieved that the man was leaving, half of him wanting him to stay. But the man was too quick. In one swift movement he slipped out the window and blended into the darkness before Serge’s eyes. From the darkness, a few last words reached him.
“...and remember the Chrono Cross!”
The Chrono Cross? Images flooded Serge’s mind, almost as of a long forgotten past, or a dream. A light. A young woman...but they too faded, leaving Serge grasping once again only at questions. His mind was confused, but his heart knew something. Something was about to happen, and when it did, his questions would be answered.
It took him long to get to sleep that night.
A cat stared at him. Not just a cat, but a human-cat, a demi-human. As tall as a man, maybe taller, dressed in elaborate gowns, but with the face of a lynx. Two evil eyes burned into his mind. Where was he? A cavern? A hall? Everything seemed a blur. There was a voice at his side, but he could not mark the words. The world reeled and swam before his eyes. Images flashed before him. A young girl. Had he seen her before? She seemed familiar, somehow...
a bloody knife...the girl again, lying still on a stone floor. Dead? An awful premonition filled him. Then he saw himself. He held the dagger, and a wicked smile crossed his lips...
Outside the lush palm trees waved gently in the warm tropical breeze. Already the sun was high in the sky. Had he really slept in that late? He guessed the time to be past midday. Perhaps he wouldn’t go out fishing today. Yesterday’s catch had been good enough. He could spend the day with Leena, if she wasn’t busy. She’d like that. He’d like that. It would be a change from the way most days went. And maybe she could help him find peace with his dreams. Before they had unnerved him because he couldn’t remember them. Now they disturbed him because he could. He put his elbows on the window and sighed. Things were going from bad to worse. First phantom dreams, now nightmares and hallucinations. He hoped Leena would be understanding. If she wasn’t, nobody would be. He squinted against the glare of the sun, looking out to sea. A few small village boats were out. And, if he wasn’t mistaken, he could see Leena standing on the beach by the piers. He turned and slipped on his boots. He hadn’t bothered to change the previous night, and was still fully dressed. He tied his bandana around his head and looked in the mirror, making sure he looked okay. He turned back to the window. Strange, he thought. He had half expected to see his phantom sitting there as he had imagined the night before. But only the distant sea and beach, wreathed in palm trees like picture frames, greeted his eyes. He stared for a moment, thinking. He wasn’t particularly hungry. He would grab something later. Right now he just eager to talk to Leena. His mother didn’t care when he came and left; she knew he was well nigh old enough to care for himself. With a small sideways jump he vaulted out the window and landed on the soft grassy ground beneath his window.
The air was clear and fresh, and the smell of the sea cleared his head of the last traces of sleep as he ran through the trees to the beach. The beach was near and he had reached it in a minute.
Leena was facing towards the piers and away from Serge as he approached her.
She jumped as he greeted her. She turned, mock anger on her face.
“Don’t do that Serge!”
“Sorry...” he answered, smiling, “watching the neighbour’s kids again?” he asked, noticing a few small children running around a ways up the beach.
“Their parents are off to Terminal till tomorrow, and they asked me if I could watch them.”
Serge ran his hands through his hair, wondering how he should begin to tell Leena about his dream. Leena noticed, however, and was quick to guess what the problem was.
“You had another dream, didn’t you? What have I told you...” she started, but Serge interrupted.
“I remembered this one!”
“Oh...” Leena replied, not quite sure what to make of that.
“You actually...remembered the dream?”
Serge nodded gravely. Leena read his expression.
“It was that bad?”
Again Serge nodded.
“Do you want to...tell me about it?” she asked carefully, not knowing if he wanted to discuss it or not. She could see from his face that it had really bothered him.
But Serge needed to tell someone, and if not Leena, whom?
He told her of his dream, what he could remember. He didn’t mention his phantom however. He wasn’t quite sure how she would take that. Leena sighed.
“I don’t know Serge. I can see why it bothered you...but...I still think it’s just a dream. Nothing to worry about.” Her tone reassured Serge. Of course Leena was right.
“Thanks Leena,” he replied “you’re right, again.”
“Of course I’m right, Serge! I’m always right!” she said, teasing him.
She had put his mind at ease as to his gloomy dream. Yet he was not sure what she would say if he told her about the hallucination he had had of the man in his window. However Leena was his truest friend...yes, she, if anybody, would understand.
But just as he was about to tell her she frowned, as if trying to remember something.
“What is it Leena?”, he questioned, somewhat relieved that he had a few more seconds to gather his thoughts.
“Oh, there was something I was going to tell you...” suddenly she nodded, remembering “...oh yes, that was it. Earlier this morning someone came down to the beach asking for you.”
“For me? Who?” Serge asked. Probably one of the villagers wanting an errand run.
“I don’t know. He wasn’t from around here, but he was polite enough. I think he was from the mainland. An older person, red hair. He said his name was Crono or something strange like that, and that you knew him. I told him you were still in bed, and knowing you, when you sleep in...”
But Serge had stopped listening. His heart had turned to ice in his chest. Nothing in the world could have shocked him as much as what Leena was telling him.
Leena stopped talking, sensing something wrong.
“Serge? Serge, you alright?”
He didn’t know how to answer that. No, he wasn’t all right. His mind was a mess. Suddenly he was unsure as to what was real, and what was not. But he didn’t want to worry Leena.
“Um...sort of,” he mumbled, not wanting to lie, but unable to tell the truth “Leena, I just need to go check on something, okay?” Not exactly the truth, but the best he could think of. Of course, Leena wasn’t taken in.
“Serge, something’s wrong. What is it?”
“Nothing, Leena...” Serge answered hastily, wanting to leave. He needed to think, alone.
“Serge, don’t lie to me! You look almost pale. What is it?” She repeated, standing her ground.
Serge could tell it was no use arguing.
“I’ll tell you later Leena, but right now I just have to be by myself for a bit, okay?”
He hoped Leena understood.
“Yeah, okay...” responded Leena, “you sure you don’t want to tell me what the problem is?”
She was obviously slightly hurt that he wanted to rush off so suddenly without telling her...
“I...don’t even really know either...” said Serge, hoping to smooth things over a bit.
Leena sighed, but tried to smile, hoping to make him feel better.
“All right, but don’t be long...”
“Bye!” he yelled behind him as he rushed off back towards the village. He had no idea where he was going. He didn’t even know what to think. His phantom had been real? It still seemed absurd. He ran past the village tavern into the courtyard, barely aware of his surroundings.
“Sleep well, Serge?”
He recognized the voice. He spun and found himself face to face with the very same man who had confronted him in his room. He leaned in the shadows against the wall of the tavern, his arms folded casually across his chest, one foot on the ground, the other on the wall behind him. His face was slightly haggard looking, and unshaven, as one who has been out in the wilderness for some time. He wore no cloak now, and Serge could see he was dressed in a strange fashion. Indeed, it reminded him not a little of the style of the Zenan mainland. He wore baggy pants that no one in Arni would even think of wearing in such a hot climate. He also wore a deep green shirt that barely extended halfway to his elbows. This was covered in a teal vest that fell to his knees, kept closed by a gold buckled black belt that wrapped around his waist. His stark crimson hair was kept up by a flowing headband that encircled his forehead. And, just as he remembered from before, from his side hung an elaborate, slightly curved, sword. The man grinned at him.
“I guess I keep startling you don’t I? First I appear in you window in the middle of the night, and now I surprise you as you come around a corner...”
He chuckled. Something in the man’s friendly manner seemed to calm Serge’s initial shock. Despite the sword, Serge felt less intimidated by this man in broad daylight. The man put his foot down and stepped away from the wall.
“But I guess the time has come now for a formal introduction. I already know who you are. As for me...it’s a long story, but I’ll make it short. Doubtless you’ve heard of Guardia before?”
Serge nodded. Everyone had. Now a legend of a sort, it had been a peaceful kingdom on the Zenan mainland a few decades earlier, before being overrun by the Porre empire around the time Serge was born. Now Guardia was a mere memory, and Porre controlled a vast empire that included the El Nido islands. The man continued.
“Well, you might say that I’m the exiled prince of Guardia. Or was. Since the king is dead, if Guardia were ever to rise again, I suppose I would be king. But, until that day comes, I hold my title as prince. So, you see why I’ve been so furtive. El Nido is under the control of Porre, and I can’t well let them know that the heir to the throne of Guardia is here. Anyway, as for my name, just call me Crono. It’s what I used to be called before I was knighted. And it’s what my friends call me. I like it better anyway. The rest of my story, and yours too, you’ll learn in time. For now...
But Crono broke off in mid sentence and froze. In one quick movement he had spun around and was pressing himself against the wall of the tavern.
“Dammit...” he murmured. A Porre officer was wandering briskly in the front gate of the village. Serge wondered what a soldier was doing in such a small village. Arni was technically under the empire’s jurisdiction, but soldiers almost never came here. However, one glance at Crono answered his question.
“Get him away from here!” Crono whispered urgently, making himself as invisible as possible.
Serge looked over at Crono. He didn’t particularly want to deal with a Porre soldier.
“Don’t look at me!” Crono muttered between his teeth.
Sighing with frustration, Serge stepped forward to greet the officer, who had wandered importantly to the center of the square. His dress was typical of the soldiers Serge had seen before. He wore a pristine blue uniform, long sleeved and adorned with various belts and decorations. Even his black boots were somehow untarnished. He was dusting off his felt hat as Serge approached. The officer saw him and greeted him in typical military fashion.
“Greetings from the empire of Porre. I am Gaheris, captain in the El Nido division of the Porre army. I am here to apprehend a dangerous criminal who has been seen in this area. Have you seen any suspicious strangers lately, boy?”
Serge caught his breath. He was about to say no, then realized in his slight hesitation to answer the soldier would see the truth. He opted instead to give only half of it.
“Um...yes, I did. Earlier today, near the beach. He left.”
It did not go over as he had hoped. The officer was unconvinced, and clearly saw the lie. He scrutinized Serge for a second.
“Do you know the penalty for lying to an officer of Porre, boy?”
Serge was speechless. He didn’t know what to say. He contemplated going back on his previous statement, betraying Crono. But somehow that seemed very wrong...
But he was spared the choice. The man caught sight of something by the tavern. He pulled out his musket and frowned. Indeed it was not Crono, who had hidden himself far too well. But it gave the officer reason to begin walking in that direction. Serge stood frozen.
But then something happened, the likes of which Serge had never seen before. In the blink of an eye Crono had jumped from his hiding place behind the tavern. Before the shocked Porre officer could react, Crono’s sword was out and wheeling. Cutting through the air it narrowly missed both Serge and the officer, and embedded itself quivering deep into the wall of another building. But the officer was quick to recover, and levelled his weapon at Crono. However Crono was too swift. He stretched out his had towards the officer. A sharp wind swept past, and, with a crack that pierced Serge’s ears, a bolt of white lightning lashed from Crono’s hand. The lightning instantaneously struck the officer full in the chest. The ensuing blast threw him back several meters, and he landed on the ground at Serge’s feet. Serge shook his head, bewildered. His ears rung and the flash still burned in his eyes. Even so he could scarcely believe what he had just seen. Magic? He had heard stories of sorcerers and magicians, but had only half believed them.
“Hey, Serge, you okay?”
It was Crono, who had now run up beside him. Serge blinked. His eyes were getting better and his ears no longer run. He nodded.
“I apologize for that, but I couldn’t let him shoot me, you know.”
Serge looked down, remembering the officer. A chill swept through him. The soldier looked dead.
Crono kneeled down and put his hand on the officers chest.
“No, he’s not dead. His heart’s beating at least. I didn’t really want to kill him.”
Finally the full realization of what had happened sunk in. Crono had attacked a Porre officer. That was trouble.
He took a step backward as Crono got back up.
“C’mon Serge, we’ve got to get out of here before more troops arrive. They’ll notice him missing soon enough!” Crono grabbed Serge’s arm.
“Serge, we’ve gotta go, now!”
Serge pulled his arm from Crono’s grasp, and took another step backward, looking at Crono in disbelief.
“You did this! You go...leave! I’m not going anywhere.”
Serge retreated a few more paces. Villagers were now gathering at their windows, curious as to the cause of the commotion. Serge was relieved that no one else had been in the courtyard to witness the event.
“You really think Porre will leave you alone now Serge, even if I leave. You lied to him,” he pointed at the unconscious soldier, “he knows that. He knows you were helping me. Unless of course you want to kill him...”
Serge narrowed his eyes at Crono, menace and hatred building in the gaze. Crono had brought this trouble upon his village, upon Serge. It wasn’t Serge’s fault. Then why did he feel guilty and responsible? He had followed his heart, and had tried to help Crono. Yet it had betrayed him and led only to this. Now he would follow his head, and no longer his feelings.
“I’ll tell them the truth then. Leave, because next time I won’t lie for you.” Serge spoke calmly, yet with vehemence and anger.
“All right, if that’s how you want it...” Crono answered cooly.
He walked over to the far side of the square to where his sword still stuck in the wall of the building it had struck. Pulling it out of the wood, he looked over his shoulder at Serge.
“You can try to forget but, mark my words, your heart will never let you.”
He re-sheathed his blade and turned to Serge. Serge stood quiet, making a point to let his anger show.
“Your past will catch up to you, whatever you may do to run from it.”
Despite the malice evident in Serge’s face, which he clearly saw, Crono smiled.
“Farewell, my friend!”
And, turning, he walked out the gate as boldly as he had done the night before. Serge watched him leave, glad to be finally rid of that phantasm.
By now a large crowd, probably half the village, had gathered in the square. Some were over by the officer, trying to help him up. The rest milled about, talking excitedly.
“Serge, you all right?” It was Leena, who had rushed up from the beach.
“Yeah, I am...now.” he said, glancing pointedly at the gate, where he had last seen Crono. He was gone now.
Leena frowned at Serge, seeing the soldier lying on the ground.
“I’ll tell you...when we’re alone.” Serge didn’t want anyone else knowing exactly what had happened; gossip spread too quickly in such a small village.
“Let’s get out of here.” he said to Leena, wanting nothing more than to leave the crowded square.
He took Leena’s hand, and together they walked back towards the beach. But before they had moved more than a few steps, a harsh voice called out to him.
“Hey, boy. Where do you think you’re going?”
Serge turned. The officer was getting weakly up, helped by a few of the villagers. His uniform that before had been spotless was now tattered and dirty, and a great blackened spot marked where the lightning had struck him. His formal hat was nowhere to be seen now, and his tossed hair hung in disarray from his head. From wherever it had fallen he had retrieved his musket and was now pointing it at Serge’s chest. The villagers all took several steps backward to be well out of the way of the weapon. Serge merely fumed. That idiot Crono had really caused a problem.
“You’re under arrest, boy. I’m taking you to Termina.”
The villagers were aghast. A few attempted to argue on Serge’s behalf, but to no avail. In the midst of all the confusion the village chief, an elder called Radius, stepped forward, and he too argued to Serge’s defence, albeit with more vehemence and skill.
But Serge saw from where he stood that struggling merely made things worse. The officer was getting more angry by the minute, and would probably have set the entire Porre army on the village if he had been able to. Serge knew what he had to do.
He looked over at Leena.
“Leena, I’ve got to go and straighten things out, okay? Otherwise Porre will never leave Arni alone...”
Leena sighed. She knew he was right, but nonetheless did not want him to go.
“Don’t worry for me Leena, I’ll be okay...” he didn’t exactly know if that was the truth or not, however. He smiled at her, hoping to make their parting more pleasant. She weakly returned it.
“All right, but be careful,” she admonished him, whispering in his ear. “Don’t trust them”
And with that she whispered him a fond farewell, and stepped back.
By now the entire village was in an uproar. In the middle the officer still debated angrily with the chief, who was attempting now to explain the political ramifications of such an arrest, in a vain attempt to help Serge.
Serge walked to the officer.
“It’s okay, I’ll come.”
The chief stopped talking abruptly and looked at him, slightly bewildered.
“Serge, they can’t do this to you! You haven’t done a thing!” he said urgently.
“Yeah, I know. But, otherwise...”
The chief nodded, understanding.
“This is very noble of you Serge.” He looked around at the gathered people, “We’ll be hoping for you”
And with that the officer roughly grabbed Serge’s arm and walked him out the gate. Glancing back, Serge saw Leena staring after him, waving farewell, yet with worry written in her expression.
What a cursed day, thought Serge as the soldier led him onwards, away from his home. And curse that fool Crono, he thought. If nothing else, he was glad to be rid of him now.
Chapter 3: Of Officers and Wizards
The trip to the harbor town of Termina was not a relatively long one. Though it lay on the northwest of the island, opposite Arni, they had reached it by nightfall. The officer had kept up a brisk pace throughout the day, despite his obvious wound. He did not want to spend the night in the wilderness with a prisoner to watch, and shunned the roads out of an unfounded fear of ambush. But Serge had no intention of escaping. What good would it do him, anyway? He was going along freely, in the hopes that his compliance might be of some benefit to him when the time came to defend himself.
The sun was just setting below the horizon as they crossed under the arched marble gate that lay at the entrance to the harbor town. Long black shadows stretched far from the buildings, masking the abandoned streets in darkness. Serge had heard that before the coming of Porre Termina was lively well into the night. But the curfews imposed by the empire kept everyone indoors after nightfall nowadays. So it was that Serge and the officer walked down the streets alone. Serge had never seen Termina by night, only once or twice by day, and he didn’t like it much now that he saw it.
The dead darkness, devoid of the life, weighed in on him. The dark buildings stared ominously. He was beginning to second guess his decision. But what else could he have done? Damn that fool Crono for doing this to him. He hoped he was feeling as miserable as Serge felt, wherever he was.
“Hey there! Move along!” The officer pushed him briskly. He had stopped walking without noticing it, and the officer was eager to reach their journey’s end.
“Sorry” Serge murmured, annoyed by the man’s rudeness. Serge could have made things a lot harder for him. He felt the officer should treat him a little better.
Their destination lay at the end of a long street, seemingly even darker than the rest. Blackened windows stared out at him from dark buildings to either side. The guardhouse was a large building, but built inconspicuously in the same style as the surrounding ones out of white limestone.
As they approached the door the officer faced Serge and looked sternly at him, pointing his musket at Serge’s chest.
“You’ve been awfully good up till now. Don’t go trying anything at the end.”
Serge hated being treated like a child, but bore it calmly.
The soldier knocked harshly on the wooden door with a sound that resonated throughout the still night air. From inside a voice replied, obviously annoyed by the sudden interruption.
“Whoever it is, go away!”
“You should treat your commanding officer with more respect. It’s Captain Gaheris, returning from the south of the island. Now let me in Lieutenant!” the officer barked in response.
The voice at the other end did not respond. But seconds later a click told Serge that a lock was being undone, and the door swung open.
“Alright boy, in you go.” The officer pushed him roughly inside.
The interior was dimly lit and musty smelling. A few candles threw odd shadows on the walls, and by their glowing light, Serge saw he was now in a small room strewn with boxes. In one corner sat a small table ringed with some chairs. There sat several more soldiers, though one seat was vacant. Its former occupant stood at the door, letting them in.
“Sorry sir. Thought it was one of those damned kids again, causing trouble.” He paused, seeing Serge “Who’s this? Don’t tell me this is that outlaw.”
The officer laughed.
“Him? No, he’s no prince. But he’s a collaborator with him.”
The lieutenant squinted at Serge, examining him more closely.
“If you say so, sir.” In a tone that betrayed his disbelief, “Oh, and you have a visitor.”
“I’ll see him later. I’ve got to take my report to the governor.”
The lieutenant shook his head.
“Actually, that’s what he’s here about. Wouldn’t tell me his name, but by his dress...he’s from the secret service. The Black Wind I think.”
The captain frowned.
“The Black Wind? What are they doing here?”
The lieutenant opened his mouth to respond, but was interrupted.
A door to another room opened with a slight creak, and in the doorway stood the figure of a man.
“To see how the emperor’s loyal troops are faring, captain. I’ll take this boy off your hand for you.”
It said it with a voice that seemed to come from someone quite young, yet confident.
The man did not move from the shadows of the next room, and his face remained veiled in darkness. This obviously unnerved the officer. And it was surely against regulations to hand over a prisoner so informally, but no one wanted to argue the matter with an officer of the secret service, whose very name was spoken with a sinister connotation.
“Oh, very well.” he huffed, not the least bit pleased.
Serge took the cue and walked to the figure that still stood motionless and part hidden in the doorway, then stopped several meters short of the door, not knowing wether to proceed or not.
“Come on in, don’t be frightened.” The man said with a voice that showed far more friendliness than the officer had shown him. Serge had trouble believing the voice belonged to someone from the dreaded Black Wind.
Nevertheless, he heart quickened its pace as the man led him into the next room and closed the door softly.
This room was even smaller than the other had been. It was indeed no more than four stone walls and a roof, with a single table at the center upon which flickered a single candle that dimly illuminated the room. At this table sat only two chairs.
“Sit down.” the man commanded.
Serge obeyed without question, and threw himself on the small wooden chair.
In contrast the man before him did not sit, but remained standing, examining Serge.
In return Serge also examined him.
He had now stepped into the candlelight and Serge could see that he was indeed young, no more than a few years older than Serge himself. Contrary to what Serge had expected from an officer of the secret service, the man had a pleasant face and, while he didn’t smile, he was not openly aggressive either...merely stern. Unlike most Porre soldiers, he wore no hat on his head, and his short golden hair sat combed neatly to one side. As with the other soldiers his uniform was blue, but in contrast over this he wore a black coat with silver trimming. At his hip sat both a small musket and an elaborate sabre.
He placed both hands on the table and stared down at Serge.
“So, what have you to say for yourself. The Captain out there seems to think you are a collaborator with the enemies of Porre.”
Serge was slow to answer. He was unsure as what to say. The man frowned sensing his discomfort.
“Maybe we started off wrong.” He stood up again and began pacing around the room, still watching Serge intently.
“My name is Norris. I am the Captain of the Porre secret service, the Black Wind. I have come here to El Nido from the mainland on an errand of great importance to the empire. You see, a dangerous traitor recently arrived here from the mainland. But, from the way it sounds, you may have already met him. However, first things first...what is your name?”
“Serge” Serge replied, seeing no reason not to the tell the man his name.
“Very well, Serge. Will you tell me what you know of this?”
Serge thought for a moment. Now he no longer had any misgivings about betraying Crono, not after what he’d done to Serge. Crono would deserve whatever he got.
“Yes” Serge said, nodding emphatically.
“Good.” Norris replied, finally smiling a little for the first time “Now, unlike those fools out there” he pointed to the door, “I can see that you are no traitor, at least not willingly.”
Norris paused, letting Serge think for a second.
“So please,” he continued, “answer my questions as a loyal citizen of Porre.”
Norris pulled up the other chair and sat down across from Serge.
“First off, I want to know precisely what happened.”
Serge related, in brief, of his first encounter with Crono. When he had finished, Norris frowned.
“He told you he came to you for help? Do you know why?”
Serge shook his head “He never had the chance to tell me”
Norris sighed, disappointed.
“Strange...then, he met you again, this morning?”
“Yes. We talked for a short while. He called himself the prince of Guardia, or something like that.”
Serge paused, wondering what Norris would say to that.
But Norris simply nodded.
“Yes, okay. Go on.” This was obviously not news to him.
Serge recounted the events that preceded his arrest.
Norris sat silent in thought for a time. Finally he spoke again.
“So, Serge, you lied to the captain? Why?”
Serge sighed. This was the moment he had dreaded from the time he had left the village.
“I...don’t know. Crono didn’t seem, well, evil for one thing. And...it seemed the right thing.”
There. He had said it. His heart pounded with apprehension as he awaited a response.
But, to his surprise, Norris was understanding.
“You’re not the first to the wrong thing by following your feelings. You have to watch that. They can deceive you.”
That he had learned well, Serge thought bitterly.
“But, if what you say of this Crono is true, then I doubt that even telling the truth to the captain would have made much of a difference, except, perhaps, to get you killed. That’s not what really bothers me. What I wonder is this: what is so special about you in particular that the prince of Guardia would seek you out. You have no idea?”
“None” Serge said emphatically.
But then he remembered something he had tried to forget.
What had Crono mentioned to him, on their first meeting in his room? About his dreams...some type of key to his past? It still made no sense to Serge. And what had he called him...a chrono trigger?
Norris sighed. “All right. If that’s it then, by the authority of Porre I absolve you of any fault or crime. You are free to go.”
But now Serge had stopped listening. His mind had wandered back to the evening before.
Norris frowned. “Serge?”
Serge looked up, Norris’ voice calling him out of his thoughts.
“Oh, its probably nothing. He was just trying to confuse me, I think.”
“But...” Norris encouraged.
“Well, he mentioned something about a forgotten past. And once or twice he mentioned something about a chrono trigger. I have no idea what it means, if anything...”
Norris shook his head.
“Neither have I...”
“Oh, and he mentioned a chrono cross, or something like that.”
Norris looked up, and, for an instant, it seemed that recognition crossed his face. But for only a second, and it faded leaving him frowning.
“What did you say?”
Norris closed his eyes, as if trying to remember something just out of reach. But he shook his head.
“No, its nothing. Deja Vu...well Serge, you can go now. And I must ask you to contact me here immediately if you ever see this Crono again.”
Serge nodded and stood. Norris remained seated, and Serge heard him mutter under his breath. “Curse that captain. If only he hadn’t gone alone...”
Serge stepped to leave, then turned to Norris one last time.
Norris looked up at him and smiled. “I serve the people of Porre, and that includes you. You were innocent, a victim of circumstance. I did my duty, and you did yours, no thanks is needed.”
Serge shook his head.
“No, I’m really glad you understand”
Norris was about to respond once again, but Serge never heard what he was about to say.
From the other room a mighty crash was heard, the sound of splintering wood. Norris leaped up, throwing his chair to the ground with a dull clatter. He heard the soldiers scream in terror from the next room. All of a sudden a darkness gripped Serge, and it seemed as if all light began to fade...
“Stay back!” he whispered to Serge, and Serge’s eyes snapped open. He didn’t remember having shut them.
Norris reached for the door and threw it open.
From the darkness of the next room one of the soldier stumbled and fell into Norris’ arms. His face was pale and a wild fear was in his eyes. He collapsed to the ground. And now Norris as well began to pale, for in the next room stood such a thing as Serge had never seen before, not even in his darkest dreams. Dark and terrible it stood, and the darkness flowed from it. Norris, somehow, had managed to retain his courage. He levelled his weapon and fired. But a bolt of darkness struck him, and the shot went wild. Norris flew to the far side of the room and lay still. And now Serge was alone before this demon. But from some inner part of his heart he did not know existed a wild courage crept forth. Beside him lay Norris, dead or unconscious, and at his side sat his sabre. Serge leaped for it, and his hand closed on the cold leather as the dark being entered the small room. As it came for Serge he swung out the steel blade and swung for the thing. But, for all his valour, it availed Serge not. For the being carried a weapon of his own, a scythe of monstrous size, and the metal blade of Norris’ sword broke asunder as it struck it. Serge’s arms ached with the jarring force of the impact. His heart beat madly, and he was sure his end was upon him.
Yet the figure paused. The darkness yielded somewhat, and Serge could now see it clearly. It was a man, or was, once. He was massive, and towered over Serge, and his long dark cape billowed in some mysterious and darkly cold wind. Likewise his hair, soft purple in hue, waved out behind him. In his gloved hands he held his weapon in an iron grip that Serge was sure could just as easily have crushed his neck. But it was the face that frightened him most, for though it was not that of a monster, neither was it wholly human. The features were sharp and pointed, exaggerated even more so by the dark shadows that still danced about the room. His pointed ears stuck back long from his head where his hair was pulled tightly back. And the eyes Serge could not meet for they burned red with a demon fire. Yet, though darkness was graven on the features, his countenance was not one of rage, nor anger. And he smiled, his sharp teeth glimmering white in the dim light that remained.
“You’re Serge, aren’t you?” the man asked.
The voice chilled Serge’s soul. In it’s harsh tones echoed both cruelty and hate, though neither directed towards Serge. They seemed to be, as with his un-human features, merely a part of him.
“Yes...” Serge said, fear making him reply. Again the man smiled.
“All right then. Let’s go, we’re expected.” Serge had had enough. Neither his heart nor his mind could fathom what had transpired in the past day. And now, standing before a man that seemed akin to the grim reaper of myth, they despaired. His eyes swam, and Serge fell heavily to the ground drifting into unconsciousness.
When Serge finally awoke, he saw he was no longer in the building he had been in. He could not see well, for his eyes were still clouded. Yet he knew he was outside somewhere, as a chill wind swept through his clothes. He shivered in the cold, kneeling on the icy ground. Unable to see well yet in the darkness around him he groped about. At his feet was long grass, but no more could he discover. Soon however his vision cleared. It was indeed still dark out, and the moon shone like a leaf of silver in the starry sky. Its gleaming rays of soft light illuminated Serge’s surroundings with an eerie vagueness, sending monstrous shadows everywhere.
He could see he was in the midst of a clearing, round which the palm trees sat swaying in a soft nighttime breeze. He squinted, attempting to see the area clearer. In the far distance the shadowed form of a fortress sat silhouetted in the moonlight. Fort Dragonia? It was the only castle in the El Nido islands, an old ruin seldom visited. It was fabled to have been built by dragons, but that was just myth...
Yes, that’s were he was. Strange as it was, for the Fort was many miles east from Termina. But there was no mistaking it, even though it was no more than a shadow in the darkness.
Serge looked about him. He did not know how he had arrived at this place, however. There was no sign of any living creature anywhere.
He rose, his limbs aching with pain. The past day had been far more trying than he had been used to.
“Well...” he said to himself, “...what do you do now Serge?”
Serge started, his heart nearly missing a beat as a voice spoke to him from behind. He turned, a sudden rising wind whipping past his face. And it was as he had feared. Indeed, he had not lost the demon that had stormed the guardhouse. He stood once more before Serge, though now without shadow. Yet his face seemed all the more frightening in the pale light of the moon. His teeth glistened as he opened his mouth to speak.
“Sorry about that, but you fainted on me. I guess you aren’t as brave as I thought...”
Serge felt slightly angered by this, especially due to the fact that it was probably true. He had fainted...
“...I carried you out of Termina a ways so those damned soldiers couldn’t find us. Not that they worry me of course, just don’t want to have to kill any of them.”
The man folded his arms across his chest. His eyes rested on Serge intently.
“You want to know who I am?” the man asked sharply.
“Yeah, that, and a lot more. Like why in the world you’re doing this to me? I mean, why me? Can’t you just leave me be in peace?”
The man frowned sharply.
“You seem to have a slight grievance. You should be thankful that I helped you out back there!”
Serge nearly choked.
“I was fine! They let me go...unlike now...and what do you care anyway?”
He was beginning to suspect this man was somehow connected to Crono. And, though he resented that, the words of Norris returned to him. The question of why him...
“I care, because I owe you. That’s all.”
Serge was starting to be less frightened by the man now. If nothing else, he did not seem to be acting maliciously. Still, his only desire now was to return home, to Leena.
“Well, whatever I did, you can forget it...” he turned his back to the man, “...I’m going home now.”
But before Serge could go far he felt an iron grip close tight on his arm.
“Go home? To what? Don’t you want your questions answered?”
Serge wrestled out on the grip and turned, backing away.
“I did once, but now...I frankly don’t care!” he yelled vehemently.
The man’s eyes glinted darkly, and Serge could tell he had angered him. His mouth moved, but he spoke no words. The man stared at Serge, and fear entered Serge’s heart once again. Perhaps he had been too hasty...
“You will!” the man growled. And he reached forth a hand. Dark light lanced forth and struck Serge in the legs. The pain buckled his knees and he fell forward onto the grass ground. He looked up to see another arc strike out towards him. He gritted his teeth in agony as the magic struck his face. It felt as if he had been both scorched with fire and frozen with ice. But only for an instant, and he found his mouth biting the dirt, grass scratching his face. He struggled to stand, his legs burning with a strange cold that seemed to drain their very energy. But he got no further than his knees when he was once again struck. Tears welled up in his eyes as he lay on his back and struggled against the pain. Yet despite it he managed to painfully rise. He could see wispy clouds of smoke rising from his body, hazy in the silver light of the moon.
The man stood before him, a figure a fear once again...but now also a symbol of hate to Serge. A fury kindled in his heart. The man laughed, mocking him.
“Pathetic. I had really thought you were more courageous than this!”
Now the smouldering wrath welled up in Serge’s heart, and grew to a fury. In some unknown recesses of his mind, a locked door shattered. And something that had remained hidden from beyond the bounds of time was released. In his anger he thought not about what he did, for it came to him as a flash of remembrance of something long forgotten. He stretched his hand toward his foe. A sphere of pure white light welled up in Serge’s outstretched hand. Yet, for some strange reason it neither frightened nor shocked him. The light grew steadily for a heartbeat then, faster than thought, it flashed forth and struck the dark man. Serge heard him grunt and saw him fall backwards. And now Serge acted on a sudden instinct that overwhelmed him. Though he could not fathom why, he knew what he was doing, as plainly as he knew how to walk. He jumped for his prostrate foe who now, as Serge had been attempting moments earlier, was struggling to stand. But as he got to his knees Serge landed a vicious kick to his face that sent the man’s massive body sprawling backwards to the ground. And Serge was upon him in a heartbeat. Serge had no weapon but in one sharp glace he saw that his opponent carried a small sickle at his hip. The man reached for it, but Serge was faster. Before the man could reach it, Serge had drawn its curved blade from its sheath and gripped it tightly in his hand. He pressed the gleaming blade to the man’s neck, Serge’s eyes daring him to move.
But the man did not move. He lay frozen for a moment.
Then, to Serge’s amazement, he smiled.
“Well done, Serge!” he coughed as he spoke, obviously still suffering from the blow Serge had delivered him. Blood trickled from a gash in his mouth where he had been struck.
“And now, let me stand. I won’t hurt you or try to stop you any more.”
Serge frowned, but his heart seemed to instinctively trusted the words, though his mind proclaimed them false. Divided, he played on the side of caution.
“Yeah, right, and then you hit me in the back!”
He scowled. The man attempted to shake his head, but thought the better of it with the sickle blade still pressing to his throat.
“Enough of this Serge!” the man now yelled loudly. The voice echoed menacingly in the still night. But from somewhere Serge had found a hidden courage, and even that seeming hell spawned voice did not daunt him. He shook his head.
“I simply wish to return home...” Serge said between his teeth, angered at the man’s sudden outburst.
The man sighed.
“So be it...”
In one swift movement of his arm, almost faster than Serge could see, the man grabbed the arm in which Serge held the sickle. Serge twisted but could not shake the iron grip of that hand. The man stood again, pulling Serge up with him. Serge attempted to strike at the man with his free hand, but the man caught it before it hit. The man sighed.
“You young fool. I’m not your enemy. I was trying to help you!”
Serge struggled in the grip, gritting his teeth in effort and anger.
“By killing me? Yeah, thanks a lot there!”
With almost superhuman strength the man flung Serge to the ground in from of him.
Serge rose in a flash, the sickle still gleaming in his hand. In response, however, the man backed off a pace. Serge paused, not having expected that. The man shook his head and wiped the blood from his mouth.
“Do you not see? You are no mere fisher boy from some small village!”
“Of course I am! What else would I be?” Serge bit back. He was tired of mysterious people telling him that he was something he knew was not.
The man laughed. “And I suppose it is every village fisherman that can use magic, right?”
Serge paused for a second, bewildered. He had forgotten about that. What had he done? He frowned at the man, reading his eyes.
“You wanted me to do that?”
The man nodded ever so slightly and smiled.
“Of course. To prove to you that you’re something more than what you think, so that you might believe me. I did nothing there but spur you on. That light, that magic, was your doing. It is a skill you once possessed, but long ago forgot...”
Could this man be speaking the truth? Again someone was telling him that he had forgotten something. But now the answers were near. He just had to ask the questions. Perhaps he was wrong in fighting his heart...
He had to give it a chance. It was no longer just the words of a stranger and dreams that haunted him. What he had seen himself do...he had no explanation for it. He nodded to the man, and dropped the sickle to the ground, hoping he was doing the right thing. An excitement welled up in his heart, now unbound from its fetters. It knew more than he did, perhaps...
“All right...I just want to know, first off, does this have anything to do with that Crono guy?”
The man nodded.
“Okay, I thought so. Now, what I really want to know...what is it with me? I mean, I’m really confused...how did I do that, and...”
But the man cut him off raising a hand.
“Crono wanted to tell you himself, but...I think it is better if I tell you here. You have a right to know.” The man took a breath. The stars gleamed overhead, and in the quiet of the night the man’s voice spoke clear.
“All right Serge. I’ll tell you why I owe you...”
Chapter 4: Mysteries of the Past
Long it seemed to Serge before the man spoke again, though in truth it was only a few moments.
“First of all you should know who I am...” the man began, “The annals of history record my name as Magus, but few know my true name Janus.”
Serge looked at him disbelieving what he heard. It was, after all, impossible. Magus had been an evil sorcerer on the mainland...four hundred years before. Even in El Nido rumors of those stories were yet remembered, for a bloody war had been waged against the sorcerer, till at last he and his mystic legions were defeated by the timely stroke of a hero. The man sensed his reluctance to accept his words.
“Believe me Serge, I am indeed that wizard that the stories tell of,” he responded, a bitter remembrance evident in the voice, “and I trust that they speak much evil of me, and my armies of mystics that I led to war against Guardia...not without some truth, I admit. But no matter. What they do not tell is that my story began long before that...” he paused, carefully considering his words, “but we’ll leave that for another time, we’re talking about you know.”
Finally. Serge’s impatience had been growing, and he didn’t really care who this person said he was. Not that he believed him, after all, but he humoured him.
The man paused.
“Do you care if we travel while we speak?” the man asked.
“Sure, whatever...” Serge just wanted to hear what this man had to say so he could return home.
They took off towards the distant forests at a steady pace. Now that his anger had cooled Serge once again felt the chill of the wind. He wished above all else to be home.
“You haven’t answered my question yet, Janus.” Serge noted, somewhat frustrated.
“No.” Janus replied, not bothering to look over at Serge. The distant dark forests were getting near now.
“No, and I’ll only give you a short answer now...the whole truth is not so simple, and involves more than just you. To give you the most general answer possible, Serge...”
He paused, obviously trying to choose his words carefully.
“...in essence Serge, though you have forgotten it, you were once one of the greatest heroes this planet has ever known, and perhaps shall ever know even until its end.”
Serge stopped. Janus took a few more steps, then sensing Serge no longer at his side, turned.
“Serge, let’s keep moving!”
“Fine...” Serge muttered, and continued his walking, pondering what Janus had told him...it was simply not possible. But somehow, slowly, the will of his mind was beginning to yield, and the will of his heart, which yearned to know what this man knew, grew.
“Janus, what you said...how exactly do you explain that. It’s nonsense...”
“Your own memory, Serge! Crono’s told me about your dreams...they are your past struggling to be remembered! Just as Crono and I once did long ago, you saved the planet, perhaps time itself, from being doomed and, in the process, saved someone whom I had long searched for...someone very dear to me...”
Serge still had no idea what Janus was talking about. Had he not been in the middle of such strange circumstances he would have dismissed the words as the ramblings of a lunatic in spite of the strange feeling of excitement in his heart. But now...
They finally reached the forests. Here dark shadows reigned, shrouding the paths beneath the cover of the trees in pitch darkness. Serge did not mind the night, but this forest seemed almost menacing...just his mind perhaps. Janus seemed to have no trouble with the darkness, and his eyes even seemed to glow in the blackness. A being of the night, Serge thought with some fearful discomfort. The palm trees creaked, swinging in the gentle wind. Shivering, Serge continued the talk.
“Janus...I really can’t believe you.”
“And why not? Is it so hard to believe...?”
“Well...yes, it is. I’m no hero, I know that. You said it yourself. I fainted back there!”
The dry leaves and twigs snapped and crumbled beneath their steps, the only sound audible between their breaks in speech.
“Yes, you did, that’s for sure...but, you’re not who you used to be. You were once fearless and daring, or so I have heard. You have forgotten your courage with your memory, it seems.”
Serge stumbled on a root in the darkness.
“But none of this you say can be true!” he protested, steadying himself from falling.
“And why not?”
“Why? Because I’ve lived in my village for my entire life. Never have I been away more than a few days. I can’t be the person you’re talking about!”
Janus shook his head.
“You are. I am not wrong. But so, too, your answer is true...if you think of time as you know it, unchanging and eternal. But I myself have seen many ages of this planet, from the ancient times of the dragons, to the magic and majesty of Zeal...to the far future, the very end of time. Do not believe that the world is just what you know. Things are seldom what they appear in passing...”
Serge contemplated his words. Had he caught their meaning right?
“Are you telling me that you’ve travelled through time?”
Janus pause in his strides, the cold air whipping through the dark trees and causing his cape to billow. He turned, and nodded solemnly, a slight tone of nostalgia betrayed in his voice.
“Yes, I have...but that is not your tale. As for you...you remember things that, strangely, while they never happened, did. You see, when all was fulfilled, when your purpose was complete, all was restored to what it had been before by powerful magic. Those who were involved in those great deeds had their memory sealed, so that they might continue their lives as they would have otherwise. Only one, the one who sealed them by her magic, retained the memory. She it was who has told me and Crono these things.”
Serge sighed, not comprehending anything that was told him now.
“Uh-huh. Um...where are we going?”
“Not far. My camp is near...” he again resumed walking, and Serge reluctantly followed.
“So, who is this person that supposedly did this to my memory?”
Even from behind, Serge could tell that Janus scowled.
“You still don’t believe me, do you? No matter...you will. The person I speak of is one whom you rescued from eternal torment, whom you saved from a place beyond the bounds of time...does the name Chrono Cross mean anything to you Serge?”
Serge nodded as some vague images crossed his mind. As much as his mind still fought against it, his heart seemed to feel truth in Janus’ words, and it was that which kept Serge following him through the dark and foreboding woods towards what he hoped was the truth.
“Yeah, I guess it does...”
“Ah, you see. Your own mind finds truth in my words. Stop doubting my sincerity, will you! The Chrono Cross was, well...I wasn’t there, and I think that the person you saved should tell you...she is waiting at my camp.”
He pointed through the dark ranks of trees. Just visible in the darkness a small light flickered, as that of a fire.
“We’re almost there. And then she will tell you herself. The last thing I will tell you is this. I owe you for her rescue, because she is my sister, whom I had sworn to protect. Yet, I was unable to save her from...where you saved her.”
He turned to Serge, still walking.
“And for that I thank you.”
Serge did not respond. He couldn’t. He didn’t know what was going on, and regretted following this man, for now his questions had been replaced with answers that had spawned even more questions.
“We’re here.” Janus said, breaking into Serge’s thoughts.
He looked up, the firelight glowing in his eyes, and now saw her once again.
It was the girl out of his dreams...not dead, as he had pictured her, but alive.
Unlike the other two, she was dressed more in clothes becoming of the climate. She wore a simple red vest open over a plain white short sleeved shirt. A short skirt of matching shade barely reached half way to her knees. The shoes on her feet were large, near too big for her feet they seemed, and worn with use. Her face was soft and fair, most definitely beautiful, with two gleaming eyes, blue as the midday sky. Her golden hair flowed back unrestrained far past her shoulders. And though small in both height and build, her eyes seemed to betray a power surpassing physical strength. She stood from her spot by the fire as they approached, and turned smiling warmly in greeting to Serge.
“Serge! Finally...I was thinking Janus here had forgotten you somewhere.”
She chuckled at this, but Serge was at a loss for words. On one hand this girl was familiar to him, in some strange way. On the other he knew nothing about her, not even her name...
She sighed, slight disappointment crossing her face, and shook her head.
“Yeah, I guess you don’t remember me. I had thought...hoped...you would, somehow. But I guess my enchantment was too strong...”
Serge was beginning to feel very awkward, for this girl obviously seemed to know him, yet he knew her not, save out of a dream.
“Not even my name?” she said in surprise, disappointment crossing her features for a second time.
“Well, maybe it will help. I am, or was, Schala of Zeal. But on a time you knew me as Kid.”
It did help. The combination of her face and name stirred memories in Serge that lay hidden. In his mind he saw people and places, memories of far off times, return to him as if he had only just experienced them.
“You remember!” she exclaimed, the joy returning to her face.
Serge shook his head, not wanting to be too eager and still more than a little confused.
“No, not quite. I remember...things that happened, I think. Maybe not. But, they don’t mean anything to me, you know...”
“Yes, I understand. And they truly did happen. But now that you remember that much, I may tell you their story, so that you may understand...”
“Your story begins as mine does, in ancient Zeal...do not speak now, allow me to tell me your tale, and question me later,” she added, seeing the questions rise in him.
“As I was saying, it begins in Zeal. A land of myth now, I believe. Yet it did exist, once. My mother was queen there. I was called Schala, and was her eldest child. For long ages did Zeal grow in power, and ever its people desired more of knowledge. Alas in this they went too far, and in the time when I was in my youth there they attempted to draw power from the creature Lavos.”
“Lavos?” Serge asked. The name meant something important to him, and he forgot about her request to question her later.
“Yes, Lavos. An ancient enemy, descended from the darkness of the heavens. From where no one truly knows...but for long he slept in the heart of the earth, devouring it from inside, in order to rise one day as sovereign tyrant of this planet.”
Serge nodded. She was merely putting words and meaning to those images and feelings he already possessed. Lavos...he turned the name over in his mind.
“But, as fate would have it, some young adventurers, thrust far into the future by an accident, saw what would become of the world, and vowed to change it. Chief of these was the one you know as Crono.”
From the shadowy woods surrounding the fire a figure appeared.
Serge eyed him suspiciously.
“So it’s you again, is it?”
“Yes,” Crono replied, “and a more welcome meeting this time, I hope. Serge, I’m...”
But Schala interrupted the words.
“Hey! Crono, I’m talking! You can make amends later, all right? But first, I’m gonna tell him who he is, something you should have done when you first met him.”
She returned her gaze to Serge, shaking her head.
“Anyway, where was I at? Oh, yes. Crono here, along with some of the greatest of the warriors of the world he met throughout his journeys, determined to put an end to this menace. By magic and craft they travelled through time, attempting through the ages to find some way of destroying Lavos. Eventually they found their way to magical Zeal, ten thousand years in the past. There I was yet princess, but the darkness had already fallen on my people and their doom was but a day away. They awakened Lavos, in a foolish and vain attempt to gain immortality, and were destroyed. To my shame my mother was the chief of these, for her mind corrupted by Lavos. Into the midst of this time of impending doom came Crono here, and the others that were with him. So, too, was my brother there,” she motioned to Janus, “both he himself as a child and prince of Zeal from that time, and his future self, in the guise of a prophet, who had come to that time from the future in his own attempt to avert the disaster that had beset what had once been his home. This future self was at the time a bitter enemy of Crono, for verily he was the sorcerer Magus. Yet in this quest to defeat Lavos they were both united in a common goal. He...”
Janus stepped forward.
“I desired my vengeance on that creature for, in arising, he not only ruined all that I had called home but threw me far into the future, where I was raised by monsters on the mystic island of Medina. By their ill teaching I learned the arts of darkness, and became the Sorcerer. Yet in my heart I detested the ways into which I was brought, and bore no love to those who had raised me. Yet at needs I served them, and, in due time, came to command them. I increased my power so that none might stand before me, and ever endeavoured some way to destroy that evil creature that had brought this wicked life upon me. So when, by chance, I found myself once again in the time from whence I had disappeared, I seized the chance...”
“Hey! You want to tell the story, Janus? But you don’t know it all. Just let me finish. Well, Janus is right. Both Crono and he, though enemies, attempted to destroy Lavos when he awoke to ruin Zeal. But they both failed, and it cost Crono his life just so his comrades could escape...”
Serge’s gaze darted to Crono. He seemed very much alive...
“No, he’s not a ghost. He is alive. He was fortunate to have faithful friends. Using the Time Egg of the guru of time they were able to save him, and so he yet lives. But he was not the only one that suffered in that great disaster. All of Zeal perished, falling from its place amongst the clouds into the sea, laying waste the lands beneath. Due punishment, perhaps, for its sins of arrogance and ambition. And I...”
She paused, a pained look crossing her otherwise gentle features.
“I don’t know exactly what happened. Crono slew Lavos eventually, destroying that evil future and condemning it to the Tesseract, where lost futures go. Somehow, as the Ocean Palace of Zeal crumbled about me, I fell into that abysmal place, a place of no time and no meaning...no order. And there the dark shadow of Lavos, once to be, found me. As it had done with my mother it corrupted me, and together we became a new being, a being bent on the destruction of time itself...”
She paused, letting Serge think this over. He remembered being told the same, once before. It was the truth, he was sure.
“...and this is where your story truly begins. Outside of time, I lived for an eternity, and yet for but an instant. But all hope was not lost...In your youth you were bitten by a panther demon, correct?”
This Serge did not need to be told, nor wished to be reminded of. That event had ever haunted his mind. It had taken him long to overcome his terror of cats. But even more scarring, it was in that event that he had lost his father. So, too, had Leena lost hers, for they had been best of friends and had sailed off to the island of Marbule in the scant hope that the sage there would be able to cure the poison he was inflicted with. He did not know what had happened. No one living did. His father, Wazuki, had returned alone with Serge, healed. Miguel, his friend, never did. His father never told anyone what had befallen them. But ever after his father was never the same and, soon thereafter, he had disappeared, never to return.
Schala gave him time to remember this, waiting patiently, a sombre look on her face.
“I will tell you of what happened on that day, Serge, if you desire to hear of it...” she said softly, sensing his pain.
Serge nodded. It may be painful to hear, but not knowing would be worse. And he already felt some of it...some evil darkness rested upon that day, beneath the shadows that clouded his memory.
“On the way to Marbule, your father and Miguel were caught in a storm. They weathered it, for they were master sailors. But, in saving themselves from sinking, they were sent far off their course and cast ashore in the Dead Sea.”
The Dead Sea...an evil name. He nodded for her to continue. Though the memories pained him he took some joy in their returning to his mind, as one long absent who returns home.
“Here they found the great secret that is the El Nido Islands...the city of Chronopolis. A city of the future, sent to the past, and built upon machinery that shall not be discovered for many hundred years. That is in itself a long tale that I will not attempt now. But what matters now is this: they entered the city, dark and without light, for the storm had disrupted its machinery. How it happened, I don’t know. But you found the frozen flame...or it found you. The frozen flame was an ancient artifact of immense power, the essence of the creature Lavos. In Chronopolis it had long been guarded and studied. It healed you, but it also weakened your father’s mind. He barely managed to escape the city with you. Miguel never did. The FATE computer...”
Computer...he thought hard over the word. Advanced machinery, his instinct told him.
“...which controlled all of Chronopolis, restarted. Your father returned with you to your village, safe for the time, but the FATE computer had other plans for him. It took his mind and became the living incarnation of that computer, the creature you knew as Lynx.”
Serge nodded in remembrance, and she continued. A chill swept through him as he uttered that name. Many a time had that creature attempted to kill him. Not till the last, when he finally vanquished it had he learned that it had been in origin his father.
“Yet the storm itself was not a natural storm. From the Tesseract, beyond time, I had heard your cries of pain from your wound. As of yet, if there can be such a thing as the passage of time in the Tesseract, I was not wholly corrupted and, in a last effort to save myself, I used what power I could draw from Lavos to create a clone of me. This I sent into the world, and was the one you knew as Kid. The storm was me reaching out from the Tesseract. A last hope at redemption in a sense...
But it was not enough. I was lost, my soul melded into that of Lavos, and only one hope remained: the ancient Chrono Cross. And so your story truly began. Unknown to all, the flow of time had been split. Ten years ago, Lynx attempted to kill you. This was in wrath over your healing by the frozen flame. By no fault of your own the flame had chosen you, and set you apart to be the only one who might approach it. Not even FATE could undo this, and this made it furious. However, I saved you...or, should I say, I will save you. From some time in the future I will travel back to that time and rescue you. Thereupon the flow of time will split into two dimensions, one where you live by my hand, and one where you die by Lynx’s, as was your true destiny. The Guru of Reason of ancient Zeal knew this. When Lavos destroyed my ancient land he was pushed into the far future where, through his skills of magic that were long forgotten in those later days, helped found the mighty city of Chronopolis and its FATE computer. But FATE was corrupted from the Tesseract by me. By some art the Lavos of old knew this would come to pass. Seeing it as a chance to rebuild his power should he perish he put forth his power, and drew the entire city 10,000 years back in time...so that from there his will might guide the future to his liking, and death should be no more than a setback. But not all was as he had intended. By some reason of fate, Chronopolis was not alone in being summoned. From a strange future, another flow of time wherein mankind long ago perished to the ancient dragons, a second city appeared. An equal in power to Chronopolis it was named in human tongues Dinopolis, though we have after called it Terra Tower. Long those wars raged. Chronopolis put forth the might of its skill of machinery, but the Dragon’s power was that of the earth. Yet in the end Chronopolis prevailed. To prevent Terra Tower from ever rising again FATE sealed away the power that drove it, corrupting it with the dark will of Lavos. This power was the six beings called by humanity Dragon Gods. So for long years they slept, and did not bother the world of humans. And so Chronopolis rested in the place you know as the Dead Sea for thousands of years. The scientists there raised the islands of El Nido, creating a paradise to which some eventually removed. These, having their memories erased, become your earliest ancestors in El Nido. But FATE would not allow its future to be altered, for the dark will of Lavos was ever at work, guiding the world toward the apocalypse of Lavos’ return. To that end it controlled the minds of the people of El Nido, guiding their fortunes for thousands of years. And then we come to you, who put an end to its tyranny. For through many trials you went, freeing the people of El Nido from FATE, destroying the dragons, and undoing the plans of Lavos. You and I, that is. Once again I called to you, this time pulling you from your dimension where you lived into the other where you had perished. There you met Kid, my clone, and yet as much me as Schala is. Of course, I did not know my true heritage then. Lacking a mother, Kid had been raised by the great Dr. Lucca Ashtear, a close friend of Crono’s, one of the heroes who defeated Lavos. And yet, for all that you did, it was merely a means to an end. You at last learned of my eternal torment in the Tesseract and determined it was your fate to end it. Crossing the dimensions you united two splinters of the ancient dragon relic the dragon tear, forging the Chrono Cross.
Again, he remembered. But now he could finish part of the story himself.
“And with the Chrono Cross I travelled to the Tesseract, correct?”
“Yes, by use of the Time Egg of the Guru of Reason, Balthesar. As, it turns out, he had intended from the very beginning. Your entire tale was a complex project that he put together in Chronopolis in an attempt to rescue me, his princess, to whom he had once owed allegiance. Project “Kid”, as he called it,” she added, chuckling slightly.
“Knowing of the power of the Chrono Cross, he played his skill and wisdom against that of Lavos. At times he let Lavos’ will lie, at others openly contested it, all through his guiding of your destiny. That is not to say that what you did you did not do by your own will and merit. But it was Balthesar whose will guided your fortunes...his weapon against Lavos. By his choice were the Dragon Gods imprisoned, for he knew that the time would come for their defeat at your hands. How all this knowledge came to him, I still do not know. But he was wise beyond the measure of most mortals, and to him the mysteries of the universe were a joy to unravel and learn. His final deed was to give you the greatest treasure that he had in his keeping, a Time Egg of Zeal. Three there were, forged in secret many years ago in Zeal by the Guru Gaspar, the master of time. He too was stranded in a foreign age when Lavos destroyed Zeal. And still he resides, in that place to which he was sent, at the far End of Time, welcoming to him all those who become lost traversing the planes of time. With this Time Egg you were able to pass through all dimensions, coming to the darkness between them, to the Tesseract.”
Till then Serge had been listening quietly and patiently, his memory becoming more plain and clear with each passing word. Now he smiled. He remembered it all now, least to greatest.
“Yes, that’s right. And, travelling to the Tesseract, I used the Chrono Cross to break the bond between you and Lavos. The Chrono Cross...the seventh element that crossed space and time, united hearts and minds...”
“And reunited Schala with the one you knew as Kid. Now they are the same once again. Schala is Kid and Kid is Schala, and we are free. But, as is so often the case with such stories...things could not remain as they were. My magic was always powerful, even in Zeal as a young girl, but was even more so in that place. And so, though it pained me for I knew that you would remember naught of me, I sealed your memory, and returned you to your home.”
“And you were too weak to remember all that you had done.”
Schala shot him a mysterious look.
“My power at that time was more potent than it is now. More powerful than even you can understand my brother. How do you know? Perhaps you were there as well, and your memory was sealed with the others.”
To this he merely grumbled, and wrapped his cape about him, but with a thoughtful look upon his face.
Schala continued talking to Serge.
“It was for the best, I guess. All was returned. You returned to Leena, and I to the other dimension, where you had first found Kid. But I knew I would find you again. Somehow, I had to see you again, thank you once more. I could not bear to have you remember nothing of me. It took a long time but, with the aid of my brother and the third Time Egg, I was one last time able to cross the dimensions. And who should I meet here but Crono, a fugitive in his own kingdom. Suddenly I knew that this quest of mine to find you was perhaps fate intervening once more. Greater things were at hand, things that I could not help but have a part in. I promised to aid him in whatever way I could in restoring him his rightful title. For truly he did attempt to save my land once, and near died in that attempt. This is but the least I can do for him.
Serge looked to Janus, towering quiet as a shadow.
“And he? He’s doing this too?”
Schala looked to her brother grinning.
“No, he could care less. But he listens to me, and will help me, if nothing else. He wouldn’t want me going off without him.”
Janus replied darkly from the shadows.
“That is not why. How little even you know of my ways, my dear sister. I have a debt to Crono, for without him I would have been unsuccessful in defeating Lavos as I had vowed. For this reason I aid him, and for the friendship that now lies between us.”
“You? Have friends? I thought you once said that friends are the allies of the weak. That the mighty have servants, and no peers. You’re saying that you were wrong?”
“Perhaps I was mistaken, yes. But if nothing else I see war on the horizon, and never did I hide from battle.”
Crono shook his head, speaking up from his long silence.
“I didn’t say that Janus. War is not my first choice, and I will try to keep from it as best I can.”
Janus paced toward Crono, frowning grimly.
“That is naive, and you know it. War is inevitable, and to shirk from it is the ways of the weak. But you are one of the mighty, that I have well learned,” he added, a bitter nostalgia in his tone.
Why fear it when your cause is just?”
“Why, Janus? Because to go to war means many will die. You know that. Don’t play a fool, for that you are certainly not. But there is some truth in your words, though I dread to accept it. Indeed war may be the inevitable path in my quest.”
He turned once more to Schala and Serge.
“And for this I have summoned you from your peace, Serge. I am in a bit of a crisis here. If my hope is cheated and war is kindled, then your help will be much appreciated for your power few would care to trifle with. But, contrary to what you may think, I did not wish to disturb your life so. Indeed, I would not have thought to seek you out had it not been for Schala.”
Serge looked to her, and she smiled guiltily.
“Yeah, sorry for that. It seemed like a good idea at the time, as I had intended to find you from the first. But I didn’t realize what an effort it would take to take you away from your village. I should have gone myself... But that cannot be undone now. Now here I present before you a choice, Serge. Do whatever your heart tells you, none of us will fault you for whichever choice you make...”
“I might.” Janus said sarcastically, but was silenced with a very vicious look from his sister.
“Forget Janus’ idiocy. These are your choices. You may return to your village, to the one you love, and never have to trouble yourself any more with us. Your past will remain with you as a memory, one that you now shall never forget. Your dreams will no longer haunt you, and you may live your life in peace, content with the knowledge of what you have done for the world and for me...”
Schala paused, giving him a chance to consider this.
“On the other hand, you may join us in our quest. I give you no guarantee of anything, and you will indeed be in peril once more if this is your choice, and be separated from your love for a time. But you will have the chance to be once again a part of great deeds, a chance that few receive, though many wish for. This is why we have come to you, for your aid in our quest would be much welcomed, for you are of like power to us, a peer in might. We go, with or without you. I will not council you either way...the choice is wholly yours. Let your heart be your guide in this matter...”
Serge looked around at the group, the three of them. Two he did not know, save out of tales, for even before their names had been merely told him. Though indeed their names and deeds were not spoken even in Porre without awe. Yet Kid he had trusted with his life, and still did, no matter what may befall. She would not lead him astray, at least not willingly.
Janus frowned gravely at him, his dark eyes commanding him to make a response, and both Crono and Schala eagerly anticipated his reply.
But he could give none. His heart was split in two. The choice with which he was presented was not easy. Indeed it weighed his love for his home and peace against the promise of adventure and the need of his friends. He could not make it. Not now.
“Give me some time...I can’t decide yet. I have to return home and think about it.”
“The choice should be clear!” Janus said scowling.
“Janus!” Schala rebuked him, “The choice is his alone. Not you, nor Crono, and not even I can make it for him. Give him his time.”
She turned to Serge
“Go, but make haste, for we may not tarry long. We are being hunted by Porre, and must soon leave this island.”
“All right. Come to me tomorrow evening, and I will have an answer for you.”
He looked across at them once more, and turning strode off at a sprint into the dark forest, his footsteps leading him towards home.
At the last he heard Janus murmur to the others in the darkness.
“Time is the one thing we lack now. We must move and...damn it! I think I’ve lost my sickle...”