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Chrono Break (ongoing fan fiction, NOW ON FAN FICTON)


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I'm not sure if this is the right spot for this. If not, please move it. I looked around, but this seemed the most appropriate place.

It's been a while since I've tried my hand at any fan fiction, but last night I had a dream which roughly outlined the plot of a true sequel to Chrono Trigger. Obviously, writing a game and writing a story are two different things. Writing a game is more akin to writing a movie, though even that isn't a perfect translation. Games are more based on the interaction and immersion in a world, rather than complexity of plot or characters. It's this immersion which causes us to fall in love with games, and which makes them so memorable.

Chrono Trigger is unusual in that it had a very strong and detailed plot, with more ins and outs than most games, and with strong characters (though with admitedly simple back stories... "remedied" by Chrono Cross). It's one of the reasons the game is still listed as one of the best RPGs of all time, and one of the reasons that, despite the numerous times I've played it, I can't seem to bring myself to get any ending other than the main one, to see the story through to full completion and resolution.

In any case, this is not a perfect translation of what was given to me in my dream. Rather, it was that plot then put through the translation of a story format. I don't want to give the story away, but I will say that ultimately it will deal with the rise of Poore to a military power and one possible resolution for the dissapearance of Gaurdia and two of our favourite characters. I'm going to keep working on this until I either get bored or finish it. Having a place to put it up for comments/criticism may go a long ways towards the latter, though.

To view all the parts, please use the below link to Fan Fiction.

http://www.fanfiction.net/s/5066583/1/Chrono_Break

Part I

Crono...

No, he wasn’t ready. He was still fighting.

Crono...

In front of him was a gigantic being. It was hard to make out its exact shape, though it roughly resembled an insect. Most of it, whatever it was, was encased in a hard shell jutting spikes and protrusions. Some of these protrusions seemed to function as kind of feet, jutting into the cracked ground around the shell. Others seemed almost decorative, idly placed to inspire fear and awe. Only one part of the actual body was visible, and this was a crude head formed of three beaks, more a mouth than anything else. The mouth opened and closed slowly, a soft blue light emanating from within.

The light seemed to regard him, as if it were an eye.

The mouth itself was bigger than he was, capable of enclosing his whole body. The shell was even larger, impossibly huge, as large as a city block and tearing into the sky.

And he was facing it alone.

Crono...

As if sensing his fear, the mouth suddenly opened wide and vibrated in a roar so loud and deep that he couldn’t decipher its full range. He felt it more than he heard it. It sent his body into waves of numbness. His only weapon, a wooden practice katana, slipped from his fingers. No longer able to stand he fell to his knees and the blue light judged him.

Crono...

The protrusions at the bottom of the shell gripped the earth, cracking through its hardened surface. The mouth quivered again, but this time no roar came. In fact, there was no sound at all, as if the very world was holding its breath.

Light gathered on the shell. Pooling in the crevices and shimmering out of the spikes like a white mane, it almost looked beautiful. Then it gathered and leapt forward into the air, spreading out to envelop the sky.

Suddenly he realized that he was on the outskirts of a city. What he had at first taken for dead ground he now realized was manmade. A path of some sort, though of a material and structure that he’d never encountered in his life. This road led into a large conglomeration of towers, a cityscape of massive proportions. Flying machines darted like flies amidst the buildings. He could imagine that each was controlled by a living human being.

The light fell.

Fire burned his face and exposed hands. The world turned red. The buildings teetered, then sank into themselves, melted back into their base materials. He heard, or imagined he heard, one heavy sigh, as if from the planet itself; or maybe it was the combined scream of the planet as it was snuffed out. Electrical energy, disturbed by the force of the destruction, played over the sky and the remaining metal hubs where once life had lived out its ignorant journey on the way to death.

He heard a rasping draw for breath and a gasping release of air. It took him a moment to realize it was the sound of his own breathing. His lungs had been destroyed by the heat. The pain was too great for his mind to register. He felt nothing. He only knew that he was dying.

Crono...

The mouth opened again. Again came the roar that measured beyond sound. The blue light washed over his body and suddenly sensation returned to his limbs. His nerves awoke in a spasm of pain and a scream forced itself out of his body, a sound he never would’ve thought himself capable of making.

Still the light washed over him, until he was nothing except pain. The pain was infinite, all he ever was, and all he ever would be. Pain, and a scream that joined the sound of the tortured wind blowing over the destroyed land.

Wake up, Crono!

Darkness creapt in at the corners of the light. The pain dulled, then vanished. Even the memory of it became hard to retain. He could only sense that he’d felt something indescribable. And that, of course, was no easy thing to put into words. Perhaps because it was so inconceivable, he continued to try and locate it. But he could not slip back into the vision.

C’mon... get up!

He grunted, and the baseness of the sound, the normality of it, brought him fully back to himself. The soft bed. The pillows stuffed with goose down. He opened his eyes to see a face hovering next to his. It was familiar and comforting, erasing the last images of the dream from his mind.

Nadia grinned at him. “It’s getting harder and harder to get you up.”

Crono yawned. “Then stop trying.” He rolled over on his side and closed his eyes, though he knew he wouldn’t be able to get back to sleep.

“Oh no you don’t.” Nadia began shaking him. The act was so playful, so characteristic of her natural good cheer, that he couldn’t help but smile. He pretended to struggle for a few seconds, then suddenly flipped on top of her and kissed her on the lips. When he pulled away she smiled, then made a face.

“Ugh... morning breath.”

He rolled back to his side of the bed and watched Nadia disentangle herself from the mess of blankets. Sunlight streamed through the one large window in their bedroom, casting her skin in an alabaster shade, making her seem to glow. Though at 22 she was already past the prime of womanhood, she was still as beautiful as she’d been when she was 17, when they’d gotten married. The entire kingdom of Guardia was aware of her beauty, and most people seemed to take it as a matter of pride that their Queen rivaled other women in both her charisma and strength of character. Nadia herself called her looks “cliché.” The Guardia line was known for the beauty of its women, and Nadia hated to be a part of any tradition.

Now Crono watched Queen Nadia stand free of the bed and stretch. Her naked back was to him, and his eyes casually traced the line of her spine until his view was obscured by a golden cascade of hair when she tossed her head.

Watching her, something seemed to nag at the corners of his mind, some hidden anxiety that sought to find his attention. Nadia, unaware, went to a large wooden closet in a corner of the room and opened it to reveal her various options of dress. She paused, as she always did, though only for a split second. Long enough, Crono knew, to let her eyes fall on the stack of clothes stuffed into the corner of the closet, laying underneath a crossbow, unused for the last five years. The moment passed quickly, as it always did.

As she dressed, Nadia went on about the various things they had to take care of throughout the day. Her father had died only a few months ago, leaving Crono the new King of Gaurdia by right of his marriage into the royal family. If he had at one point in his life considered nobility to lead a mostly easy existence interspersed with the excitement of grand battles, being King had proved him otherwise. Gone were the days where men met in armed combat on the field of battle. Instead it had been replaced by a political maze, and Crono spent nearly every waking hour traversing its corridors.

Once he had thought that of the two of them, Nadia was the more carefree and careless. But in matters of state, he found himself more often than not relying on her guidance to steer his decisions. Never much of a talker, he quickly discovered that he simply had no head for politics and the contest of wits that it required.

So he only half listened as Nadia outlined who they’d be meeting in court that day and what the various complaints, requests, and legal ramifications were. He was idly distracted, anyway, by the feeling of anxiety that wouldn’t go away. in fact, the more Nadia talked, the stronger the anxiety got. It wasn’t the usual feeling of dread at having to spend his day holding political court. It was the feeling that he was forgetting something... overlooking something of dreadful importance.

Eventually Nadia’s stream of dialogue died out, and she stood watching him, fully dressed in a full length gown (something she would’ve scoffed at only a few years ago). He enjoyed these moments of silence, but oftentimes he felt required to break them. Now the requirement bothered him, when he was already feeling an anxiety that was all the more irritating because it was so irrational. He said (and was surprised at the curtness in his voice) “Go to breakfast. I’ll join you in a moment.”

Nadia agreed, and although she didn’t say anything about it, he felt that he’d hurt her. This frustrated him all the more. It was frustrating to think that a day could go from good to bad in the space of one person getting dressed, and for no good reason other than a sudden take of anxiety. Yet, as Nadia exited the room, the feeling went away, and he was left only with a vague confusion.

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Part II

Breakfast was more of a feast than a meal. It was Crono’s habit to have food on the table all day long, both to provide his guests with nourishment as well as to give him something to do while listening to them. He ignored the fact that this habit had had something of an unfortunate influence upon the growth of his paunch. Still, Crono was a hard muscled man at 21, well built, with an impressive mane of fiery red hair that made him an imposing leader. Still, he thought the effect would be greater with a blade in his hand than with a fork.

His day passed, as usual, in a blur of faces and complaints. The only good thing about it was that it forced all irrational emotions from his mind, leaving him with an unrelenting, but familiar, boredom.

The matters of the day were routine. Poore was engaged in trading agreements with Choras and Medina that needed his approval. Nadia looked the agreements over, made a few changes, and he signed his name. Most of the other matters were resolved in a similar fashion.

Then there was the matter of local taxing. Some people in Truce were complaining that they were being taxed unfairly compared to Poore. Crono had to admit that taxes were definitely higher than they’d been during Nadia’s father’s reign, but even Nadia admitted that they were no higher than necessary. The kingdom was growing at an alarming rate. Poore was now the largest city-state in the known world, while between it and the castle numerous smaller cities had sprung up in land that was once deserted except for the odd hermit and Shittake monster. The truth was, the kingdom was growing too fast. To maintain some semblance of infrastructure, roads and farms needed to be built, and such things took resources. Nadia’s father, perhaps sensing that he was approaching the end of his life, had avoided the issue, preferring to die as a loved ruler and leave the mess for his successor to clean up. And yet Crono couldn’t think an ill thought of the man. He had treated Crono as his own son, and had hinted more than once that he felt Crono had acted as the foil to close the age old gap between his daughter and himself. The old man had died without any regrets, and Crono didn’t begrudge him the act.

Even so, the matter was now his problem, and he would be expected to find a solution. The truth of the matter was that even though Poore did have the largest landmass on the continent, much of that landmass was taken up with Fiona’s Forest, acres upon acres of green wilderness considered holy ground, and which couldn’t be disturbed for farming, timber, or the building of homes. Crono himself made sure that the place was untouched. He had a rather personal connection to it. Thus, while Poore had the largest population, it was confined to a small area and the city state produced little beyond the arts, which it was famed for. A sculpture or painting from Poore would gain much in trade from a wealthy family in Medina or Choras, and Crono himself was proud of the city’s artistic achievements. The literature, too, was brilliant, as Poore was home to the foremost scholars of the day. There one could find experts not only on philosophy and religion, but also on technology, commerce, and city planning. Poore’s expertise allowed for the creation of sewers, public buildings such as libraries and schools, the wide use of electricity, and safer forms of sea transportation. These leaps forward in evolution were all the more impressive for having taken place over the course of half a decade.

These advances were helped by the fact that the Zenan continent held one of the most brilliant minds in the world, that of Lucca Ashtear. Lucca had been instrumental in the establishment of Poore as a scholarly city, and her works featured prominently in the Poorian libraries. Her presence on the Zenan continent had ensured the growth of Gaurdia’s culture, single-handedly in some ways. For instance, though electricity was in wide use across the world, it was Lucca who had developed a way to capture the very power of the elements to produce it. Thus, while places such as Medina and Choras were still relying on fossil fuels and steam to provide them electricity, Gaurdia had wind turbines and solar panels that fed large electrical plants.

An active inventor, Lucca was hands on with everything she did and had helped build most of the plants herself, although of late, the scientist had become reclusive, mostly keeping to her home on an island off the shore of Zenan. There she had recently begun an orphanage, and Crono assumed she was busy much of the time with the children.

In comparison to Poore’s massive achievements, Truce seemed very archaic indeed. It was Crono’s hometown, so he held a certain fondness for it, but while Poore had turned into a city of massive artistic and technological value, Truce had grown in size without growing in culture. Being situated along the mountains and coast, it produced little in the way of crops and remained isolated from the rest of the kingdom. It had already been decided that the next summer’s fair, traditionally held in Truce, would be held instead in Poore, a move that had hurt the pride of many of Truce’s citizens. They were mostly rugged individualists, who had begun to chafe under the mandate of paying homage to a king. As the rest of the kingdom grew without them, they began to secede more and more. Despite all of this, two things made Truce an important piece of the Gaurdia empire. For one, it was the largest and most accessible port town on the continent. By some quirk of the tides, it was far easier to sail a ship from Medina and Choras north to Truce than it was to sail south to Poore. Secondly, Truce was the home of the great swordsmith Melchior, who also happened to be an extremely learned sage and personal friend of Crono. Though the old man didn’t take much pleasure anymore in the crafting of weapons, his presence still ensured that the Gaurdia military, while small for the amount of land the kingdom owned, had the best equipment in the world. He provided enough of a deterrent to ensure that Gaurdia had little to worry about from foreign invasion. Not to mention, of course, Crono’s own prowess in battle. Though none had witnessed it themselves, it was still widely believed that the King and Queen of Gaurdia both possessed powerful magic, and one had only to look at Crono to see that his body was that of a warrior.

Yet it seemed his greatest threats lied within his own borders. Truce’s citizens, usually content with just complaining, grumbling, and eventually paying their taxes, seemed to have reached the end of their short tempers. It was midday when Crono received his nervous tax collector, who said that the month’s taxes would not be coming in from Truce.

Perhaps it was a leftover of his emotions from the morning, but Crono found himself incensed at the news. His usually quiet demeanor shattered along with a glass goblet that he tossed at the wall in frustration. In one quick motion he was out of his chair, stalking around the table towards the poor tax collector.

“Damn those Trucian whores! Pig’s sons and ship rats, the lot of them! This is an act of blatant secession! How would they fare without our farms and military protection?”

In his anger, Crono seemed to grow taller. A strange stuffiness overcame the entire room. Nadia felt the hairs on her head standing up the same way they did before a lightning storm. The tax collector squeaked out an incomprehensible reply and bowed repeatedly, as if this would salve the situation. On the contrary, though stunned by her husband’s uncharacteristic outburst, Nadia managed to maintain her composure.

“And how would we fare without their trade? We have to maintain a symbiotic relationship with each of our cities, or else we’re just a well provisioned castle. Please calm down.”

“But they don’t understand that, do they? No, this is an act of secession. They wouldn’t make a claim like this unless they had something planned. They must be getting support from one of the other cities! Or maybe they’ve got farms hidden up in those mountains? Well, if it’s war they want, then they can have it!”

The excitement in his voice shocked even him. He fell silent again. Nadia stood and dismissed the tax collector, who ran off with a final thankful bow. She felt fortunate that only one of their civil servants had witnessed the episode, though she still suspected that the event would be all over the castle within the day, and spread throughout the kingdom by the end of the month.

She came over to Crono and touched his arm gently, then kissed him on the cheek. It was like kissing one of Lucca’s batteries. She felt a slight jolt through her mouth.

“How about we call it quits for today?”

Crono didn’t answer.

“We could go out of the castle, you know? It’s been nearly a week since we last left, I think. It’s been busy, hasn’t it?”

Crono looked at her and nodded. His skin, which had been hot, cooled suddenly and noticeably. “Maybe you’re right. Ah but hell, it has been rough. A bit of fresh air would be nice. A day off would be nicer.”

“It’s only going to be like this for a short time. It always takes a while for people to get used to a new reign. There’s always grumbling. I remember father used to nearly pull his hair out when I was a child.”

“I’m not sure I’m cut out to be a ruler.”

“How about simply being my husband?”

She kissed him again, this time on the lips. He gave her a weak smile that grew as an idea seemed to come to him.

“We could run away. Run away like the old days.”

She smiled in return, but it was a sad smile, filled with the memories of ringing bells and the slow shock of sudden collision. He laughed.

“We’re well and truly trapped then,” he said. “But at least we’re trapped together.”

He kissed her again and again, and she drew close to him. He held her in his arms, thinking that he really had everything he needed to be happy. He knew, more than anyone, that time would show this, if only he could wait. But deep within himself, he felt his rage still burning softly, making him feel more alive than he had in years.

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@ Skya: defenitely looking for feedback

@ everyone: Fanfic is down at the moment, otherwise I would've posted there. Not sure when they are coming back up, but I will probably eventually just turn this thread into a link.

To clarify, the site itself isn't down, but the submission board is.

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Okay, fan fic's back up, but it bizarrely reset my account. Not a problem since I hadn't posted work before, but it did reset all the old time blocks on when I can post. So I have to wait for it to remove the "new member" restrictions before I can post my work.

As soon as I do, I'll get a link up. By then I should have part III up as well, if not part IV.

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(Fan Fiction version coming soon...)

Part III

“... and so they want the taxes lowered.”

Nadia’s voice was a calm amidst chaos. Lucca’s main room, as always, was packed corner to corner with odds and ends, tidbits and tinkerings. And now, children. Crono sat on a rickety chair with an orphan on each knee, bouncing both of them in a steady creaking rhythm while they played a clapping game with each other, calling out a memorized rhyme in time with the claps. Nadia sat nearby at a cluttered table, sipping tea that two other children (now chasing each other around the cluttered room) had prepared for her.

Lucca Ashtear herself poked her head out from behind a mess of electronics and metal and wiped her forehead with an oily rag. Though usually quick to reply, now she simply regarded Nadia, as if debating whether an answer was required of her. Of the three friends, she had perhaps changed the most in appearance. Although still a bookish girl, she looked even more ruffled these days, as if personal hygiene was a secondary function in her life. Her hair was cropped short to prevent her the trouble of caring for it, and her nails were chewed to the quick. She rarely wore socks, so her feet had a blackish tint to them, as if she’d walked through soot. Her glasses were huge, rather than large, and gave the constant impression that she was studying intently whatever she looked at.

When she finally did reply, she ducked back under the machinery and spoke as she worked, as if not really wanting to be part of the conversation.

“You could raise taxes in Poore. They would pay without a fuss. They enjoy the fruits of the kingdom too much to complain.”

Crono dismissed the idea. It had come to him many times already. “Truce enjoys the same treatment. I won’t have one city paying more to make up for the faults of another.”

“Fault? And what exactly is a fault?” Lucca’s voice was quizzical. Crono had known her from the time he was a child, and he was keenly aware of all her little ways. He recognized her voice now as the voice she adopted when talking herself through a difficult problem. He prepared for a lecture. Lucca didn’t disappoint.

“I suppose first we must look at the etymology of the word. It comes from the Zealian word fallere, which means to deceive or disappoint. But then it is also used in geology, where it indicates evidence of relative movement as designated by a fracture. Taban, could you hand me that wrench?”

One of the children running around the room veered in their course to grab the wrench and put it in Lucca’s outstretched hand. She went back to talking, grunting occasionally as she tightened one bolt or loosened another.

“Of course, a fracture indicates a break between two objects. In the case of geology this can be represented as a chasm or as a simple crack in a rock... which is really just a small chasm. I suppose that’s another line of inquiry, though, the relative nature of perception as based on size.”

Nadia and Crono shared a bemused glance. Lucca certainly hadn’t lost her ability to chase tangents.

“In this case, though, that is irrelevant. What really defines your situation is the nature of the fracture that you are perceiving as present. Obviously Truce hasn’t broken in two, so it is to be assumed you are discussing a fracture between intent and action, or maybe more specifically, between expectation and reality. Which brings us to the question... what are you expecting out of Truce?”

Lucca looked at Crono, her eyes magnified behind her glasses. He felt like he was a specimen under one of her microscopes. The children clapping distracted him, he couldn’t formulate a real answer. After a moment, Lucca continued.

“Of course, another meaning to the word fault is weakness, which implies then that you see Truce as weak. Which brings us to another discussion on the point of what makes something weak. The correct answer in this case, especially if the problem is mechanical, is to define where something is structurally weak and then tighten it.”

As if to illustrate her point, Lucca began furiously tightening a screw bolt on the top of her machinery. A blast of steam seemed to indicate that she’d done enough. She stopped and looked at Crono again.

“Of course, tightening it too much can result in too much pressure and can bring down the whole system. In this case, strength becomes the ultimate weakness, or fault, if you will.”

For a moment, the room was silent. Then Nadia giggled. “You always go too far with your explanations, Lucca.” Her laughter was pleasant to Crono, relaxing him, allowing him to laugh as well. Certainly laughing was easier than trying to decipher Lucca’s riddles. Nadia took another sip of tea and continued. “Anyway, the solution is simple. It’s as you said, Poore’s taxes will increase, and we’ll lower Truce’s.”

Crono stopped bouncing the children on his knee. Oblivious, they continued their game. “And give in to the demands of rebels?”

“They aren’t really rebels. No one is contesting our reign.”

“Before you know it, they’ll be writing their own trade agreements and charging us for access to the harbours!”

“Love, this is simply natural discontent. The kingdom is growing fast, and no one wants to be left behind.”

“You’re not speaking sense. No kind of discontent is natural.”

“It is natural when a reign is changed. Early on a king has to be generous, to win the hearts of his people, to show them that their lives will go on as normal. There’s been a lot of change lately. People are nervous. Give it time, and the grumbling will go away.”

Crono put the children on the ground and stood up. “That was the way of your father. Just wait until it becomes someone else’s problem.”

“That’s not what I meant.” Nadia’s voice was cold.

“Where would we have been if we’d waited for the future to just happen? Things don’t just magically get better. Someone’s got to take charge.”

At that moment, a young girl came running in.

“Lucca! Lucca! Kid is crying!”

Lucca got up and wiped her hands on her trousers. Seeing her standing, Crono realized how thin she’d become. And there was something tired about the way she carried herself. It wasn’t until she’d left the room, Nadia and the children following, that he realized she had simply gotten older.

Alone in the room now, Crono walked around and looked at the product of years of tinkering and collecting. Lucca had certainly kept busy. He wandered over to the machine she’d been working on before she left. To his eyes it appeared to be a random assortment of pipes, levers, and keyboards. Some parts seemed to have limited locomotion, and steam would occasionally blast out from an exposed tube. Wires stretched all over the contraption, marked with little sticky notes labeling them in an untidy scrawl which was as indecipherable as the machine itself. He felt slightly ill looking at the mess. His own room had always been relatively tidy. He was somewhat compulsive about the order of his space. He needed things to be simple in order to function. He wondered how the children who lived here fared, and suddenly imagined an entire house of Luccas, all as disorderly and chaotic as her.

He could hear her voice now, coming from the other room. She was talking to Nadia about Kid, the little girl she’d found in the woods near her home a year ago, the girl whom she believed had some connection with the events they’d all been involved in five years ago. The girl who had the same pendant around her neck that Nadia wore, the pendant of the royal family passed down by the Zealians. How the pendant could exist twice in the same era (for Nadia still wore hers) was a baffling conundrum. Lucca, of course, had her theories, but Crono tended to try and steer her away from such postulations. They made his head hurt.

When she’d first found Kid, it had seemed to Crono that Lucca viewed the child as simply a fascinating paradox. The very fact that Lucca hadn’t simply named the child Kid, as if categorizing her, seemed to support this theory, but listening to her coo over the child in the other room, Crono had to admit that Lucca seemed to have real feelings for the child. Nadia wasn’t saying much in response and Crono imagined the pain she had to be feeling. He knew that Nadia longed for a child. She had become pregnant shortly after their marriage, but the birth had ended prematurely, and she hadn’t shown signs of carrying a child since.

Though their child had never made it into the world alive, Crono still felt strangely attached to its memory. He tried not to think about it, but sometimes the sight of children would bring a sadness in his heart so strong that he would have to fight back tears. He and Nadia never talked about it. Each was left to their own longing. Even so, he prepared himself to silently support her when he heard them coming back into the room.

However, his concern proved unnecessary. The two girls were talking contentedly about nothing in particular. Seeing Nadia so seemingly carefree made Crono feel strongly displaced. He said little more until they left.

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which reminds me that I need to continue playing Chrono Cross

Chrono Cross was a mixed blessing. It's an impossibly complex game (in terms of story and content), but that complexity is built into pieces of the game you wouldn't neccesarily expect. For instance, the ending is surprisingly lacking in substance, while individual character plot lines are loaded down with it.

I think the real nature of Chrono Cross is to imply a lot of substance without directly showing it. So it can feel dissapointing, because rarely are you straight out given something solid to chew on. And yet you'll keep thinking about it months about completing it, because so many things are hinted at.

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Part IV

At night, Gaurdia castle became quiet, quiet made lonely by the distinct contrast to the busyness of its days. When Nadia had fallen asleep and even the lowliest servant had finished their chores, Crono would sometimes rise and wander the halls, his footsteps echoing back only to himself, a harmony to his heartbeat.

In recent days, during these restless hours of the night, his wandering had gained some direction, if not necessarily purpose. He found himself more often than not in the basement of the castle where the kingdom’s greatest treasure resided: the sword Masamune.

Masamune: the blade of dreams. The sword had a history almost as long and convoluted as time itself. Crono was one of the few people living who knew the history in its entirety. It wasn’t a tidy history. The blade had never been at the center of a war. But it had been at the outskirts of many, always present to strike a decisive blow and turn the tide towards the favour of the just and right. Justice... Crono knew what most tried to deny... justice was a term soaked in blood.

The sword had come to rest in the castle since the end of the middle ages, when its last possessor had given it into the hands of the royal family before he passed away. At first it had been proudly displayed in the castle’s upper halls. But as the kingdom grew, and with it the castle’s daily traffic, suspicion of theft had arisen and the relic had been moved. As suspicions grew higher, so the sword traveled lower, finally finding itself in the castle’s deepest and most secure chamber, a chamber that only the King himself had the key to. There the gleaming broadsword sat unsheathed on a pillow of blue velvet. It never required polishing, and it never rusted. It simply sat, lit by twin electric lamps, a testament to time and the ever lasting glory of the enduring Gaurdia line.

Crono was in that chamber now, scrutinizing the blade and pondering its purpose. It was said to be a holy relic, but Masamune was, for all its bard sung qualities, a weapon. Could a weapon ever truly be righteous? The question plagued him.

Visiting Lucca hadn’t given him the peace of mind he desired. It was true, she had fought along with him and Nadia, traveling the time stream and witnessing the whole of human history, and preventing its eventual demise; despite this, he felt more comfortable here, with the blade that had endured the same trials, rather than at Lucca’s chaotic house with the person who had shared in them. A blade was ultimately a simple thing, its motives no more complex than the arm that swung it, not near as conflicted as the mind that seized it. Crono yearned for the days when his whole being had the easy purpose of the blade. He hadn’t had to consider all the little consequences, only the major one, that if he didn’t act, humanity would suffer. He had been a saviour, and no one (least of all himself) had a place to question his motives. What he’d done he’d done for the good of humanity. He’d attacked those who had threatened his well being. Evil was well defined. The planet itself had graced his actions with its blessings.

And now? He supposed he was reaping the benefits of his brave selflessness and sacrifice. He was, after all, ruler of the most powerful kingdom of the time. And he was married to the most beautiful woman in the land, a woman he undeniably loved. Our reign, Nadia had called it. And yet, it wasn’t a true statement. More and more he realized how little he was actually needed, now that evil had been defeated. Nadia had a place in the new world they had created, but himself? At one point he had been willing to sacrifice his very existence for the future of the planet. Now it seemed a small thing to give in comparison to the endless meetings he endured every day.

Times had seemed simpler then. And yet, what had made them simple except men who were willing to act? What made them more complex now except the lack of such men? Perhaps one day he would be needed again. Surely evil couldn’t have been vanquished, only put off for a time. Maybe Gaurdia would need military might more than political prowess in the future. Then he could demonstrate how much he loved his people and his country by defending it with his life. Wasn’t that what had earned him the love of the people in the first place? And what had he become? These days he feasted and grew fat while his sword arm atrophied at his side, exhausted at the end of each day not from defending his country but from signing his name to treaties that had little practical meaning to him. He had weakened and, in his heart, he felt that this was the true reason Truce had turned against him.

Even Lucca had said it. A kingdom had to be strong. Wasn’t that why Masamune, a weapon, had become the symbol of Gaurdia’s legacy? Why both her rulers had once been warriors? Crono liked this line of thought and followed it to its natural end: wasn’t it his duty, as King, to show the strength of Gaurdia in the face of adversity?

Masamune seemed to shine brighter on its pedestal. Words from the past seemed to drift from the blade to his ears, the words of the last “person” to wield it in combat.

“My hopes and dreams and those of Cyrus are held within this sword. I must wield it. The sword leads me. That is my sacrifice.”

Crono nodded. Glenn had been right. There was always a need for strength. And someone always had to sacrifice themselves to be that pillar. Silently he knelt and thanked the blade in front of him. He knew now what he had to do. The Masamune did not respond. After all, it was only a weapon.

Meanwhile, in their bedroom in the highest tower, Nadia rolled over. She was dreaming that something precious to her was lost, and she couldn’t find it. Her arm searched unconsciously for Crono’s place in the bed, and the pendant around her neck gleamed softly in the moonlight.

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PART V

Crono wasted no time in setting out on his campaign to quell the rebellion of Truce. Though he barely slept during the night, he was up before dawn, gathering his Knight’s Captain, Sariah, and an escort of five men he assured him were reliable: Arch, Redmond, Pierre, James, and Ghetz. Ghetz was the Captain’s own son, a handsome lad of 18, and Crono knew him more than the others. He was an amicable enough man, but contemplative for his age. Crono used to fence with the soldiers when he had a spare moment (and he hadn’t since taking up the burden of rulership) and had clashed blades with Ghetz. In combat the man was cool as ice, silently marking his opponent and striking blows with seemingly no effort. It was in direct contrast to Crono’s own method of fighting, which was full of constant movement. But he found comfort in Ghetz’s silence, and the two had become as close of friends as their distant ranks allowed them.

Though he trusted Sariah’s word, Ghetz was the only man accompanying him that Crono felt truly comfortable around. As he saddled his horse and donned the gold armour that would label him as King, Crono reflected idly on the fact that there was no one at the castle that had been brought in after he’d been king. All of the people who worked in the castle, from the lowliest servant to the Knight’s Captain himself, had served Nadia’s father. Crono felt, once again, the burden of taking over the old man’s reign.

The day was still foggy and cold when they set out. Despite their early departure, a few servants and their families had come out to see them off. Nadia was not amongst them. Crono wasn’t surprised. He actually hadn’t told her of his plans to ride to Truce. He told himself that he was riding early in order to take care of business. He tried not to think of himself as a thief, slipping away before his crime is noticed. He knew Nadia would disagree with his decision, and he didn’t want his mind changed.

The chill of the morning air was refreshing and put all doubt out of his mind as he rode through the Gaurdia Forest with his escort. The Forest had always been beautiful, and in recent years that beauty had been tamed and cultivated, making the forest a place of true serenity. Crono himself had been at the head of this restoration project during his years as prince. It was one of the few projects he could truly call his own, and he was proud of the results. The paths, which had begun to be overgrown, had been cleared, and beds of flowers lined them now, creating a visual masterpiece, waves of color disappearing into an eternity of green. Over these paths the trees hung their leaf heavy branches like arches, leaving just enough room for the sun to make its way through, casting the path in dappled yellow and greens. The achievement he was most proud of, however, was the termination of the monsters from the woods. The Shittake and the Blue Eaglets that had once plagued travelers in the wood had been all but eliminated through sanctioned hunting and paid extermination. Unfortunately, this had its consequences as well. Whereas his people had first rejoiced at the removal of these threats, after the creatures were gone they began to complain. Suddenly numerous supporters for the Blue Eaglet began to come out of the woodwork. Facts he hadn’t even known began to emerge, such as that the Eaglet had once been the symbol of the Knights of the Square Table. As for the Shittake, Lucca herself had come to him with scientific evidence showing how important the mushroom creatures were to the soil of the forest. He’d banned the hunting and slowly the ecosystem began to balance itself out. Everyone was happy and he received no further complaints. But it was the last time he ever tried to involved himself directly in politics.

At least, until now. Though in his mind, this wasn’t politics... this was war. This was something he knew.

Leaving the Gaurdia Forest behind, the riders entered the wide plainsland that stretched east to the sea town of Truce. Here and there was a small village, which Crono led them through. The villagers came out and bowed to him as he passed. Occasionally a child would stop their playing to wave. The sight would sadden him, and he couldn’t bring himself to wave back. His heart was generally light, however. He hadn’t ridden through his kingdom in ages, it felt like, and his feeling that being stuck in the castle was affecting his demeanor was confirmed. His body felt more comfortable in the saddle of his horse than at the tall backed thrones of his reception hall.

The Zenan mainland was relatively small. Really it was two connected islands, with Poore and Fiona’s forest taking up most of the Southern island, and Gaurdia, Truce, and Thera taking up most of the Northern island. One could ride from the southern point in Poore to the northern Gaurdia mountains in little under a week. Going from the West Gaurdia coast to the East was possible in three days. The small size of the continent was one of the reasons a Kingship was manageable. Putting down a rebellion was an easy busy, as well, since an army could get anywhere on the continent within a week. Even so, Chrono had little hope of reaching Truce in a single day so he didn’t try, letting the party ride fairly leisurely, though they rested little. The men behind him chatted pleasantly, and by listening to him, Crono started to gain some understanding of their character.

Arch, a young handsome blonde with a clean shaven face, was the most talkative of all of them. Arch always seemed to have something to say, and he usually found a way to tie any conversation back to himself or his history. By the end of the first day of riding, Crono knew a good chunk of this history. Arch had been born in Poore to a wealthy family. He’d joined the knights ostensibly as a way to get away from such wealth, thinking that he should get out from his pampered life style. It hadn’t worked, judging from the way he complained about everything from the briskness of the air to the uncomfortable nature of his saddle. He owned his own horse, too, and it was a remarkable breed, better than Crono’s own stallion. Despite his spoiled way of living, though, his good nature endeared him with the other and Crono quickly learned to recognize his barking laugh, which he sounded often.

Arch was good friends with Redmond, who had also grown up in Poore, though to a poorer family. Together the two provided most of the entertainment on the trip, as Redmond always had some witty comment or comeback to anything Arch would say, usually some galling insult or attack on his character (which Arch would answer with another laugh). Redmond often wore a smile to match Arch’s laugh, though he didn’t share in his friend’s good looks. It was mostly the way he carried himself, riding with a slight slouch and seeming to take no care with his messy brown hair, which often hung in his eyes.

Pierre was an older man with a thick mustache, supposedly a veteran of war who had rode for the previous captain and who had helped repel a short lived Mystic attack in 980 AD. He was truly comfortable with a horse, and he would occasionally doze off in the saddle, subconsciously guiding the animal with his knees. He seemed to save his words, though Crono wasn’t sure what for. When he spoke it was rarely to say anything important or even interesting.

James was a bit of a mystery. He conversed freely with Arch and Redmond, and seemed an accepted member of the group. But something was strangely off about him. It was little things, such as his naiveté around the politics and economy combined with an extensive knowledge of science and history, or his tendency to go from intent to care free in a single sentence, that clashed in his character to lend him a curious air. It also made everything he said interesting, as one never knew what angle he was going to approach a topic from.

Crono came to see that Sariah was a good captain. He kept himself out of most of the conversation and from time to time gave small unimportant orders (such as to close formation), keeping everyone aware that he was in command, but at the same time he didn’t hold back from laughing at a joke or making one of his own. From the easy way his men carried themselves around him, he knew that they both respected and (more impressive) liked their captain. There was certainly a lot to like. The man was tall, well built, with strong features and rugged good looks. He was intelligent and, from what Crono had seen in the training halls, a master at the sword. If he had one weakness, it might have been his son, whom he doted on as much as decorum allowed. That wasn’t really a weakness in Crono’s mind.

Through all of this Ghetz rode mostly silently, though he would occasionally break in on the conversation with something either so witty or so profound that it would start a new conversation. Crono’s already high respect for the man grew during the ride, and he complimented himself on his decision to bring him. His skills and charisma were going to be put to good use in this campaign.

That night the party camped in a small glade. After a pleasant meal consisting of more conversation over smoked meat, they slept. The hard ground felt better to Crono’s back than ever his feathered mattress at the castle had. In the morning, Crono got up and strode to the edge of the glade to find himself on a cliff overlooking the sea. The sun turned the sea to gold. Seagulls sung their hearts away on the easy breeze that smelled of life. He was overwhelmed by the beauty of it all. The feeling came over him suddenly, as wine will pour out of an uncorked cask. It was as if the feeling had been within him for ages, but only now was coming to the surface. He realized, too, that this beauty was his. It was his kingdom. He would care for it, he would preserve this beauty and keep it to pass on to the next age. Wasn’t that what he had fought for five years ago, what they had all fought for?

Even as the feeling came, it left, leaving him aware of it but unable to recapture the emotions that had pulled his heart into his throat and brought tears to his eyes. Crono watched the sun rise, only returning to camp when he heard the captain ordering the men to look for him. When they set out to ride, he established a more brisk pace. They’d be at Truce by the end of the day.

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  • 2 weeks later...

PART VI

Note: the song the bard sings in this section is not my creation, it is the work of the esteemable DJ Pretzel, as most of you here should know. To hear the song, right click and save as the following link: http://djpretzel.web.aplus.net/songs/Chrono_Trigger_Town_Life_OC_ReMix.mp3

The Quayside Inn was busy, or rather as busy as it ever got on a Winter’s night in Truce. Fritz sat at his usual table, one near the window, with his friends Wedge, Biggs, and Dallon. The Quayside was aptly named, as it overlooked the wharf where the numerous trading vessels from Medina and Choras unloaded. Fritz liked to look out at the ships in the dusk. Unlike his wife, Elaine, who frequently took the ferry to Poore, he had no desire to ever undertake a sea voyage, but he did like to look at the ships and contemplate where they had come from and who they brought with them. Truce, though spread out across the coast, only had a permanent population of around a couple hundred, but at any given time, that number could be increased five fold by merchants and tradesmen coming in from the other continents. Here, at the end of Winter, trade had yet to really pick up again, but even so there was a fair number of ships docked. From his window seat, Fritz gave them a silent welcome and raised his tankard in salute to them.

“Oi, Fritz. You paying attention to this drivel?”

Fritz looked away from the window towards Dallon, who was addressing him in his rough voice, a sardonic smile planted beneath his heavy black mustache.

“What? Uh...” he tried to recall the threads of the conversation that had going on at his table. Wedge saved him from having to form a more cohesive answer.

“It’s not drivel,” the young man said, scratching his pock marked face. “Least ways, Gregoire doesn’t think its drivel. He’s been raising a lot of fuss over the issue.”

“Gregoire’s an idiot,” Dallon replied. “He’s just trying to make his mark on history, and Truce ain’t big enough for him to do it. He’s throwing a fit. How old is he now, 25? He should know better”

“I wouldn’t be so sure about that. He’s got a good number of supporters. Samdel’s been raising a fuss about town, too. You know Samdel’s well liked.”

“Samdel’s a trouble maker. Always has been. He’s always looking for attention. Comes with being the youngest in a family. And ever since James left, he’s had no one to fight with.”

“It’s not just Samdel, though. This isn’t just another prank. The mayor’s letting it happen. That’s as good as giving his support.”

Dallon didn’t respond. He seemed hesitant to say anything against the mayor, who had been a pillar of the community for over fifty years.

Wedge saw his chance, and continued. “His daughters, too, you know, they’ve gotten their husbands behind him. Little Romana is too young to be part of anything, but that’s still five families, you know. Frederick was in here the other day giving a big speech. He’s married to Alba, you know. Mary and Gregory are in support of it. Haven’t heard from Jessica, yet.” Wedge took a carefully timed sip of ale, but didn’t take his eyes off Dallon, who was glowering into his own drink.

“Never you mind what Jessica thinks,” he said darkly. There was a moment of uncomfortable silence. Dallon shot Fritz a sideways glance. Fritz returned the look, but he didn’t really know what was expected out of him. Certainly he couldn’t think of anything to say.

Dallon apparently picked up something from his stare because he tossed off his sulk and spoke again. “Just you watch. This will die off as soon as the season picks up. People are just bored. Get em back to their shops and their fields, and they’ll be too busy to talk about anything except their beds waiting at the end of a day.”

“He does raise some valid points, you know, Dallon.” Biggs spoke up, his large bulbous eyes staring straight ahead, giving his statement a casual air. “If all the business is moving down to Poore, then shouldn’t the taxes follow?”

So that’s what it was. Fritz let the conversation slip away from him again. He didn’t care to engage in talks of politics. The Poore situation didn’t worry him. Truce had been the center for the ferry trade for years, and as long as that continued, Truce would hold an important place in the kingdom. In his opinion, people were just scared by how fast Poore was growing. Even Thera, located at the north end of Zenan bridge, was beginning to grow simply from Poore’s spill over. He himself found it surprising, just as he had found it surprising when he’d heard the summer’s festival was to be moved to Poore, along with Leene’s bell. But Fritz had always stuck to one basic principle of politics that he didn’t care to change... he had to believe in his Lord. He would believe in his Lord.

In the middle of the inn, a bard started plucking at a stringed instrument. The bard’s voice carried through the inn and Fritz let himself get lost in the words. As far as he could tell, it was a traveler's song:

“Home is where I want to be but I've been torn

from out its pages for a need to be reborn;

taking all of the last chances I can get,

the distance multiplies in rhythm with the debt;

For any prayers you send my way that I get by,

I'll pay you back when I've returned;

I'll pay you back when I've returned.

You said the town life's not for me;

it wasn't big enough for who I'm meant to be, but

it's not easy, taking it along

every street recalls the time I saw you last;

every avenue a moment in our past;

For every story that I bottle up in time,

I'll tell you each when I've returned;

I'll tell you each when I've returned.

It's getting dark now and there's not much left to say;

just leave a light out each night and I'll find the way

back to arms and eyes where I want to be found;

not these silhouettes that never make a sound;

For any candles that you burn so I might see,

I'll pay you back when I've returned;

I'll pay you back when I've returned.”

Fritz was about to get up and give the man a bit of coin when the door to the inn was thrown open and fourteen year old Samdel, the mayor’s youngest son (of three sons and six daughters), charged in.

“Gregoire is fighting the king’s men at the residence!”

Before he quite knew what he was doing, Fritz was out of his chair and being swept out the door along with the other drinkers. He couldn’t pinpoint his reasons for following them. He had just brushed off any connection to politics, but his free will had been stolen away by circumstance. He didn’t really feel he had a choice in the matter. One second he was fondling a coin in his pocket and secure in his position as a dissenter, the next he was outside in the brisk dusk air, joining a small mob.

Fritz looked around him at the gathered villagers. Though some were holding torches, none really looked prepared to fight. Everyone seemed gathered almost by chance. Fritz doubted if anyone had any idea of what they were doing, any more than he had. In a daze he looked for some connection to what had been a normal life only seconds before, but though he knew everyone in Truce, their faces now seemed unfamiliar. He didn’t see Biggs or Wedge. Dallon was next to him, but he didn’t speak. It was as if events had them all enscorcled. Together, they followed Samdel and the mob up a hill towards the Mayor’s Residence.

Fritz recalled another time when he’d been swept into events beyond his control, about five years ago. The memories came back to him now, so that the stone path leading up the hill seemed to become colder and darker, the stone hall of a dungeon, the torches carried by Samdel and his friends fitting eerily well into the image. He hadn’t had time to say goodbye to Elaine, even to tell her where he was going. The monsters in the guise of men had come for him in the night, led him away on charges that weren’t his to answer to. As the hill climbed steeper, Fritz felt his legs turning to lead, yet they wouldn’t stop. He was being dragged away by some force outside of himself. All he could think was that it was Fate, that hand of unchangeable iron which listened to neither reason nor pleading. He tried to remember how it ended, attempted to plead his survival out of history. But no... his sentencing had been quick. Death by torture.

Except that HE had appeared. The one man who could change Fate. Even as the jaws of death had closed on Fritz, he’d been pulled from them. The man had made it seem effortless.

Now the party crested the hill and, though he knew he would be there, Fritz felt the shock of seeing him again in the flesh. His lord. The man who had saved his life.

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Part VI: continued

Crono and the soldiers remained on horseback as the mayor and his oldest son stood against them, raging against his verdict. The son, a man named Gregoire, was by far the more vocal. Crono took notice of his well built body. He could easily be a soldier, at least physically. Crono doubted if the man (he guessed he was around his own age, maybe a little younger) had ever actually been in a combative situation. Maybe he’d seen some brawls, but he’d never killed a man.

Loud voices and footsteps announced the arrival of more villages, some of them holding torches that cast a sombre light on their faces. Crono might have recognized some of the faces from his childhood, had he cared to look. He barely glanced in the direction of the newcomers. A few ran forward, four women (followed by their husbands) and a young man, and he guessed they were part of the mayor’s family. His attention remained focused on the mayor’s oldest son. The man was raging to the crowd, now, speaking openly against Crono’s new law. It was proof, the proof he’d wanted, that his subjects weren’t loyal. Now Nadia would have to admit he was taking care of things in the only possible way. First, he’d have to teach them respect.

Crono inched his horse forward. Behind him towered the mansion that was the mayor’s residence, built centuries ago when Truce was first founded, and maintained throughout the years. The lights from the gigantic windows poured out onto the hill, casting Crono in a dim light that clashed violently with the flare of the torches. His armour shined in the light, and his mane of red hair framed his face like fire. “I’ve listened to your complaints. Now I shall repeat my verdict. As penalty for rebellion and tax evasion, Truce will be made into a temporary military state. You will answer no longer to the mayor, but to the king’s soldiers. The Mayor’s residence will be given to them.”

Gregoire, showing no fear, no respect, ran forward. “You’ll be taking away our home!”

Crono gave him a wry smile. “You can have it back as soon as the rebel leaders come forward and issue their formal apology and subservience to the crown.”

The words had the effect he wanted. He’d talked again with the tax collector before riding out, and he was well aware of who had started the trouble. He had pinpointed him in this moment. Gregoire could see the challenge he had issued. Crono was giving him no choice but to dishonor himself. Either he had to come forward and denounce his own attempts at rebellion, which would take the power out of any future attempts, or he had to let his family lose their home and position in defence of it, a move that wouldn’t earn him any favour, either.

Gregoire stood, shaking in one spot while he pondered his choices. Meanwhile, Crono turned his horse and addressed his men. “:Ghetz, from this moment you are in temporary control of Truce. You will administer its taxes and laws, and send reports directly to me. For now, the other soldiers will accompany you. I will send more upon my return to the castle. Sariah, you will ride with me.”

Ghetz nodded. Crono looked back at Gregoire, who still hadn’t answered. “Alright, Ghetz,” Crono said. “Take up residence.”

Ghetz turned his horse towards the house. The other soldiers began to follow. As James came into the light, a man who bore a striking resemblance to Gregoire yelled out. “So, James! This is how you return to your hometown! You take over the house of your father by force!”

James didn’t respond, though he noticeably stiffened in his saddle. So he was part of the mayor’s family. Crono rubbed his chin thoughtfully. A strange coincidence, that Sariah would choose for this mission the man who had grown up as the middle child of the mayor’s family. An ugly mistake, or something deliberate that Crono did not yet see? He’d decide later. For now, he was simply pleased that James was holding himself together.

Gregoire made his move just as Crono was about to turn back to the crowd and disband them with a few choice words. The man grabbed a torch from his younger brother and ran forward, brandishing it against Crono’s horse. The animal reared in fear and pain. Sariah was instantly at the horse’s side, grabbing for its reigns, and placing himself between the angered Gregoire and his Lord, but it was too late. Crono fell from the saddle and hit the ground hard. His panicked horse pounded the earth around him. Sariah couldn’t see if Crono had been struck by the animal’s powerful hooves. He concentrated on bringing the horse under control, trying not to think of the sound of the fall, and the gasp of breath he’d heard Crono release; hoping it wasn’t his last.

The other soldiers were riding back from the house, having heard the horse cry. The mob was silent. Gregoire hadn’t move another move. His face was pale in the light of his torch. It turned paler as Crono let out a grunt and began to rise from the ground. In one hand he held a sheathed katana.

Crono rose to full height and looked around him casually, taking in the scene. Within seconds, the other soldiers were off their horses and holding Gregoire. The man didn’t struggle. Ghetz grabbed the torch from his hand. James hovered at the edge of the fire light, still mounted, his horse inappropriately choosing this time to graze on the grass of the hill.

Crono leaned easily on his sheathed blade and looked at Gregoire. “To attack the Lord of the land is a matter of the highest treason. You have struck a blow against your very king. The punishment for this is death by torture.” Unseen, Fritz stiffened in the crowd. Gregoire’s knees gave way and he stumbled forward, held up only by Arch and Redmond. Pierre stood nearby, keeping an eye on the crowd.

Crono let the moment hang for a moment. Then he straightened. “Release him!” His voice was calm, but there was a definite tone of command behind the calm. The soldiers felt it as a gathering storm, and they only hesitated for a moment. Crono spoke again. “One of you... give him your blade.” This order the soldiers were less quick to follow. Sariah approached Crono and whispered warnings in his ear. Crono ignored him and stepped forward. “Will none of you lend your blade to this man?”

Finally, James stirred and rode slowly forward towards his brother. He paused in the saddle, looking down at him, then unbuckled his sword belt and let it fall to the ground. Gregoire didn’t move. Crono waved his hand impatiently at the blade. “Pick it up.” He sighed when the man just looked at him. “You wanted a chance to strike against your king, then I’m giving it to you. Raise your blade against me like a man. If you want to cut me down, then here’s your chance. A fair fighting chance.”

Gregoire looked around him, as if for help, but none was coming. Slowly, he bent down and picked up the blade. In response, Crono unbuckled his armour. Made and designed by Melchior, the armour came off quickly. While he undressed, he spoke. “If you are going to raise a blow against any man, you must be prepared to look him in the face as you strike. You must be prepared to be struck down yourself. Are you willing to make that sacrifice? If you are, then show me!”

Within a minute, Crono was stripped of the golden plate, revealing his muscular frame. He went into a fighting crouch and placed his hand on his blade. He waited. Gregoire raised his blade. Crono’s thumb pushed the edge of his katana, pushing it an inch out of the scabbard. Gregoire dropped his blade, fell to his knees, and vomited.

Crono straightened, looking at the man with contempt. The crowd was still. The only sound was that of Gregoire expelling his stress onto the grass. In silence, Crono recovered his armour, dressed, and mounted. In silence, he and Sariah rode away from the scene. There was no more need for words. The rebellion was over.

Fritz backed away as the horses strode past him. His lord didn’t even turn in the saddle, didn’t give a single sign of recognition. The whole event had been quick, had happened in a matter of minutes, but for Fritz they were eternal. He felt the disgrace of the entire town and wondered at it... he couldn’t even recall whether there really had ever been a rebellion. Certainly he hadn’t rebelled... had he? Guilt overcame him from a source unknown and from somewhere deep within him, a hidden knowledge sprang up. Fate would not be denied. The thought wasn’t entirely his own, and all the more frightening for it. It was as if Fate had been watching him for the last five years, not denied, no... simply delayed. Fritz felt its jaws on him. He had to believe. He simply had to believe in his Lord.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I've almost got my fanfic thing working, so soon I'll be able to post a link to that and be done with these individual posts. But until then...

Another OCRemix song in this one, by the by.

PART VII

After leaving the hill, Sariah asked a lot of questions about Crono’s health after his fall, but eventually Crono sated his anxieties, and the two rode in silence. Crono felt pleased by the way events had played out, but also unsatisfied. He was certain that after his embarrassment of the mayor’s son, no further rebellion would be attempted. He had fallen from his horse on purpose, to test the boy, to see how far he was willing to go, betting that his will would give out, showing the people just how weak their potential rabble rouser was. Crono had accomplished his mission, but the reward was bitter sweet. All he had left to him was to return to the castle and the drudgery of his every day life. That Nadia would be there with him was some source of comfort, but not enough.

Crono and Sariah were passing through the western gates of Truce when Crono stopped his horse and cocked his head, listening. A low gong seemed to echoe through the air, the sound of a far distant memory. He looked at Sariah. if the captain had heard anything, he hadn’t reacted. Crono turned his horse towards the sound, towards the north. “I need to make a stop. Alone.”

Sariah gave him a concerned look. “Do you think that wise, my lord? After all, after the incident tonight, I do fear for your safety.”

“I will be fine. Ride on without me, due west. In about a mile, you’ll come to a small wood. We’ll make camp there.” Crono pointed towards the west, towards a distant stand of trees that he knew well, for he had played there as a child. Then, without another word to his concerned captain, he galloped off.

The north of Truce had once been the busiest part of the town, back when Crono had lived there. But with the growth of trade and the importance of the ferry, most of the residents had moved south. There were still houses clustered along the roads, but none were occupied, and so Crono rode through a ghost town, with only the moss present to mark his passage. The sound he’d heard earlier, that of a bell, echoed in his mind, and it drove him forward towards the north end of Truce, the old festival grounds.

Presently he reached his destination, marked by an old metal archway. Though it had only been built five years ago, it was already rusting from the sea air. Cleverly woven into the metal was a pattern of roses, grey and lonely in the night. Crono hesitated under the archway. Beyond it, the festival grounds lay obscured in darkness, and the sight made him feel strange. It had been so long since he’d felt the emotion that it took him a minute to realize he was afraid. If nothing else, that made up his mind. Sitting tall in his saddle, he coaxed his reluctant steed underneath the archway.

Crono looked about him at the festival grounds. He’d been here just last year to commemorate the summer festival. Then the grounds had been packed with vendor’s stalls, the brightly coloured tents of the various merchants, and the smell of freshly grilled food wafted through the air. Entertainers had walked, danced, or cartwheeled across the cobbled stones, and the spray of the many fountains had glistened in the bright sun. He’d been with Nadia, then. The color of the summer sky had been reflected in her eyes. Now he was alone. No merchants or entertainers to spread their wares and craft. The cobbled stones were covered with the dead leaves of fall. The sun was setting, casting everything in an orange tint and bringing the stonework and marble fountains into sharp contrast with the yellow and green of the leaves.

Crono dismounted, tied his horse to a statue of a hooved deity caught in a moment of dance, and moved further on foot. Drawn in by the beauty of the setting sun, he failed to recall that the sun had already set nearly two hours ago, and that fall was long over. Yet other things caught his attention as he moved through the fair grounds. Marble benches which last summer had been in perfect condition were now cracked, some even broken into dust where they’d stood. The fountains had run dry, and the carvings of fish and water sprites that adorned them had chipped. He stopped by one, a large fountain set up near the middle of the festival grounds, and stared at the carvings. The fountain depicted a carefully constructed moment in some nameless era, where four naked nymphs exploded out of the sea, the splash frozen in time. Above them, they supported a bowl, out of which sprung a spire of flame. Stone salamanders basked in its white flare.

“The fire used to light up,” a voice said.

More curious than startled (anything seemed possible in this timeless place), Crono walked around to the other side of the fountain. A young bard was sitting on the marble lip of the fountain’s pool, plucking idly at the strings of his instrument. Crono stopped to watch him. Though the very fact of his presence in this dead world was strange, he seemed so much a part of the scene that Crono couldn’t help but think the bard belonged there.

After a moment, the bard played a few chords and then began to sing:

Somewhere,

Beyond the rain and autumn plains, the snow

That litters the countryside

I find a piece of you

And somewhere

Beyond the frozen fields, I clearly see

The end of our misery

A part of the place we knew

And slowly down through the fire, burning

Into this darkness I fall

Your presence right here beside me, yearning

Through it all

And somewhere

Beyond the hills below the horizon sun

A life that has just begun

A life we’re meant to know

The bard ended the song abruptly. The music, which had seemed to be pouring from the instrument of its own free will, ceased with he motions of his hand. He seemed to be lost in thought, staring down at his feet. Crono cocked his head, wondering whether he should say anything, not liking being ignored. Finally he spoke. “It changed the color of the water. One of Lucca’s inventions. The fountain, I mean. I remember.”

The bard turned his head, not slowly, but with infinite deliberateness. “Do you, now? Or do you just think you remember. Maybe it actually hasn’t happened yet. Maybe it never happened. Indeed, it’s always been like this. And never like this.”

“No, I was here. I was here when it was different.”

“That’s not saying much. All you have to do is change your perception of something and it becomes different. You can live an entire life from the comfort of a throne, without ever leaving. Indeed, without ever knowing you are there. Or were there. Or will continue to be there.”

“A throne, huh? Interesting choice of words. I take it you know who I am?”

“Know you? I don’t know anyone. For to know someone else we must first know ourselves, and that is a reflection no mirror can show us.”

The bard stood suddenly and began to walk away. Crono followed automatically.

“I am the king of Gaurdia.”

Crono thought it sounded rather grand, but the bard merely shrugged.

“A modifier. Something added and without any more meaning than a name. Just a way to recognize you without seeing who you really are. What is a king, after all, except an illusion of the people?”

“A king is a leader.”

“And what is a leader?”

The bard stopped, seeming to have reached his destination, a wide paved road that curved around the fair grounds in a circular track. Without any tents blocking his view, Crono could see the full mile it described.

“A leader... someone who the people follow.”

“By choice or by force?”

“Well, by choice, of course.”

“But a king is not chosen. He is not elected, and his will is not debated. A king is born or married to his position.”

“All the more reason for the king to be a good ruler, someone who the people can follow with pride and dignity.”

“And have you been a good leader?”

The bard turned. At this distance, Crono was struck by how bright his eyes were, an almost neon green. His skin was alabaster white. His hair was bright yellow. It hurt just to look at him. Crono knew he couldn’t hold the man’s gaze for long. When the bard spoke again, it was a welcome relief, giving Crono something else to focus on.

“Run with me.”

The bard began to move at a trot down the track. Crono felt silly listening to the strange man’s request, but he began to run nonetheless. As he caught up with the bard, their pace increased.

“You followed me.” The bard spoke effortlessly, despite their running.

“You asked me to.”

“But that’s not why you followed me. You hope to make sense out of something senseless. You insist on reacting to me as if I make sense. So you try to make sense out of the world.”

The bard ran faster, and Crono kept at his side. They continued to increase their speed until the fair grounds around them turned into a blur. Crono knew they were running faster than was humanly possible, and yet Crono felt no resistance. He wasn’t tired, and his muscles, he realized, could work even harder. He pushed himself, more a thought than an effort of will, and his body turned into a blur as well, a sweeping of colors that began and ended wherever he decided to look. He was free from the normal constraints of perception.

Out of this existence, the bard again spoke, or at least it sounded like words. “This is the world as I once saw it. A constant series of choices and perceptions, never truly solid until given heart. It is my belief that this is the world as it truly is.”

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Part VII: continued

At once Crono stopped running. It wasn’t a gradual slowing to a halt, it was a sudden stop, as if he’d never been running in the first place. He was back in the fairgrounds, though in a different part. Instead of the track, there was a wide plaza, and in it the middle of it, supported by two twin pillars, a large bell that Crono recognized instantly, though it was now dirty and stained with rust. It had, after all, been placed there in honor of everlasting peace, after he had saved the future from disaster. It was named, too, after Nadia. The very sight of the bell brought thoughts of her to his heart. He pained to see it in such disrepair, as if Nadia herself had been hurt by its lack of upkeep. After the vibrancy and possibilities of the world Crono had just seen, the fairgrounds seemed dead and dull.

“You can’t exist in that world.” Crono was suddenly aware of the bard standing next to him. The bard’s voice was simultaneously sad and annoyed, a tone of begrudging pity. “But of all the places you could exist, I never understood why you’d choose this.”

“But I didn’t make this place.”

“You did.” The bard walked forward, perfunctorily examining a dent in the side of Nadia’s bell. As he reached out a hand to touch the dent, Crono felt bizarrely offended, as if his personal property had been violated. “You have made this place and believe in it as much as you made and believe yourself king.”

“But I didn’t make myself king. It was passed down to me by Nadia’s father.”

“Oh, you certainly had help creating that reality, I’ll give you that. An imperfect example on my part. But this place? This was entirely of your own making. It has never existed before this moment, as I said earlier, and yet now that we’re here it has existed forever, waiting.”

Crono looked around him. The sun’s glow held no warmth. The wind had lost all strength, barely disturbing the piles of dead leaves amidst the rubble of statues and walls long gone. Nadia’s bell creaked ominously as it hung. more grime formed before his eyes on the lip of the bell. He felt a chill run down his back. The bard seemed to notice.

“Do you not like this outcome? But this is the path you’ve created. Why are you not prepared to walk down it? Would you like to choose another?”

“I’m not sure what I did to make this place. I don’t understand how it came to be.”

“Do you not? No, I guess you wouldn’t. You won’t ever understand, either. As long as this place exists, you can’t.”

“But yes, I’d like to make another.”

The bard shook his head. “A predetermined response to the question, I’m afraid. You can’t really make another path, simply because you don’t. This is the future you end up making for yourself. Though I do wish you’d put in some benches.”

The bard walked around Nadia’s bell, still examining it, leaning close to peer at its dulled surface, rubbing a bit of dirt off the bell and mashing it between his long fingers.

Crono protested. “But this isn’t where I want to be.”

“Whether or not you like it isn’t really up to you, either.”

“So then this is fate?”

“Fate and free will are illusions, both. We created fate so that we didn’t have to take responsibility for our actions. And we created free will in order to make us feel like we had some power over our lives.”

“But there has to be one or the other. Either we make our own decisions, or they are premade for us. They can’t both be illusions.”

The bard circled the bell as he spoke. “Why not? Why can’t things just happen as they happen, with no explanation for the why? Questions were among human’s greatest and most useless inventions. It keeps you stuck in one reality, without acknowledging that more than one can exist at a single time. You’ve built your own prisons, and locked your own doors. But you’re not satisfied. You have to line your prison walls with as many things as possible. You bring in other people, other creatures... you even invent new objects to fill your tiny space until you’re convinced that you’re indeed living in reality because you can no longer see your own prison from all the clutter.”

Crono felt an extreme confusion. It went beyond the problem of deciphering the bard’s words. It was an issue of even being able to process them. He felt very tired, very helpless, and slightly ill.

The bard came around the bell again and peered behind him at Crono. “You know that there’s no fate, because otherwise you would rest easy in the knowledge. But you know that there’s no choice, either, or else you wouldn’t be here.”

Crono cocked his head and crossed his arms, a posture he often assumed when he didn’t understand something. “I’m ready to be done with this. I want to leave this place.”

“You will, soon.”

The bard cocked his head and crossed his arms, imitating Crono. Suddenly Crono was angry. Angry at the bard for wasting his time, angry because he did not understand what the bard was saying, angry because the people of Truce had forced his hand, angry for having to lead people, angry because he did not want a uncertain future, though it could exist as nothing else.

The bard laughed at him and began to fondle Nadia’s bell. There was no other word for it. His hands caressed the bell’s curves. Where his fingers touched, the bell seemed to quiver and regain some of its original golden sheen. The bard giggled like a girl and kissed the kiss.

Crono’s sword was in his hand and he rushed forward. Through his blind rage, he didn’t see whether he struck the bard or not. He heard an unearthly screech of metal on metal and a loud crack. His arm ached from the impact. When he opened his eyes, the bard was gone, and his blade was embedded in the bell. Around the wound he’d made, red liquid bubbled and dripped.

Suddenly. the bell cracked unevenly down the middle with a final low gong that ended in another high banshee’s screech as the metal scraped against itself before falling apart, split into two.

Crono’s stomache lurched at the sound, and in the same movement he opened his eyes and sat up. It was night. Embers burned low in the fire pit in front of him. The trees above him whispered gentle things in the wind. After a moment he was able to put together these images, and he realized that he was in the grove. The captain wasn’t there, and, though he had no true memory of the act, he recalled that Sariah had gone to collect more wood for the fire.

So had it been a dream, then? Or was this another illusion? Already the memories were fading, leaving him with the same sort of unease that he’d felt more and more lately. More than anything, the unease, so familiar by now, convinced him that he’d indeed come back to his senses. Yet one image stayed with him. Every time he closed his eyes, he saw again the cracked and bleeding bell. More confusing to him than the meaning of the image were the tears that came of their own will, rolling down his cheeks as he remembered the bell’s conclusive note.

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  • 4 weeks later...

UPDATE: Fan fiction and me are still not connecting, so in the meantime, I'm hosting the fiction at Honest Gamers. The link has been added to the first post, though I'll repost it here.

http://www.honestgamers.com/systems/game.php?game_id=2242&platform=Super+Nintendo&abr=SNES&gametitle=Chrono+Trigger&region=all

I've finished Chapter VIII, and it should appear soon.

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Thanks for the kind words. The story definitely has an ending, and I definitely intend to get there. Everything's planned out, actually, at least on the macro level. Unless a couple chapters run overlong and require breaking up, there should be 18 parts, meaning we're approaching the halfway point with chapter 8.

I try to update weekly, but with my film work and my day job as a server, it's become more like every 2 weeks.

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