Sweeping uncertain eyes over his one-room domicile, the amphibian swordsman took one last look at the home he was leaving. Although the underground dwelling had been a symbol of his casting out from society, Frog-- Glenn-- had become somewhat comfortable in the dingy abode, just as he had, strangely enough, become comfortable with his inhuman form.
But now, as he made the move to a pledged chamber within Guardia Castle, and a position as Captain of the Royal Guard, the knight errant found himself facing an ambivalent future. On one hand, he knew that, with the legendary Masamune at his side, he may be the most capable being to guard the Guardian monarchs.
However, he would forever be haunted by the memory of Cyrus and the fateful encounter with the Magus; another failure of that magnitude may cost his country its King or Queen if he was in charge of the guard.
Drawing a deep breath and hefting his pack of belongings, the medieval trooper forced himself to leave his home as quickly as he could. In his haste to pull the weighty sack up the ladder to the surface, Frog paid no mind to the shuffling sounds above. He had become accustomed to the noises made by the various creatures of the Cursed Woods.
A heavy hand clasping Frog’s cape told him, all too late, that he should have paid some attention to the clamor this time.
Yanked out of the hole by his mantle, the swordsman found himself gasping for air and facing three shadowy figures. The one that held him precariously above the ground gave the captive one good shake, loosening Frog’s hold on his supplies and the Masamune.
Pulling on his cape in order to free up his throat, the amphibian regarded the three with instant rancor. “Unhand me!” he choked.
“You’re not going anywhere,” the first being said, wrapping his other huge hand around Frog’s throat in order to keep the swordsman from untying his cloak.
“He is an ugly one,” the second one said.
“Let’s take him back to the Boss,” the third voice commanded.
Through straining eyes, the knight errant could barely discern the forms around him. The first and third voices belonged to rather large figures, but the second was noticeably shorter and thinner.
“Unhand me, I say,” Frog wheezed, “Or so help me, I’ll--”
A cuff to the back of the head rendered the struggling fighter unconscious, and the three beings hauled him off.
Dinner was awkward at best. The three children felt like they had traveled to some alien dimension that only slightly resembled their real home; even the surrounding landscape looked unfamiliar. What had been healthy forests were now plains dotted with bushes, saplings, and a few mature trees.
Crono’s mother had allowed Marle and Lucca to stay and eat, but the three adventurers barely managed to consume what they had been served. After uneasily scraping away at their meals, the trio hurriedly excused themselves from the house, stating that Crono would escort the two young ladies home.
“Hurry back,” Crono’s mother ordered gravely.
Shuffling away tensely, the group confided among themselves as Lucca led them on a search for her own home.
“Your mother sure was superstitious about something,” Marle observed. “What was that ‘Curse of the Mystics’ she mentioned?”
“I couldn’t guess,” Crono confessed.
“Well, maybe my parents will want to talk about it more,” Lucca suggested. “Crono, how were you able to figure out which house was yours?”
“I’m not sure,” Crono admitted. “It just felt like my house.”
“Well, that one must be mine,” Lucca decided, motioning to a wide, two-story home not far down the main street of the town. “That generator on the side of the building could only be my Dad’s.”
Knocking twice on the thick door of the estate, Lucca was greeted by Taban, her bearded father. “Lucca, you know you don’t need to knock,” the stocky man in an uncharacteristically mellow tone of voice.
“Oh... yeah, I know, Dad,” the inventor replied. Her father slowly drew the door opened and beckoned calmly for the three to enter. As she crossed the doorway, Lucca shrugged to her comrades; Taban was never in this sedate a mood. Not even piles of work and sleepless nights could slacken the man’s boundless enthusiasm.
Wary of her father’s odd behavior, and further perplexed by the remarkable orderliness of the main workroom that greeted her, the young lady asked, “Where’s Mom? I wanted to ask her something.”
A look of agony seized Taban’s face; Lucca actually gasped at the sight of his expression and was taken aback as her father turned away and rested his large hands on his workbench.
After a deep sigh, the man said severely, “Lucca, don’t do that.”
“Do what?” she pressed.
“You know your mother died ten years ago,” he answered.
Lucca froze in shock. Her eyes fixed on her father as she forced herself to say: “How?”
Taban, apparently having not heard her, began mumbling to himself while fighting back tears. “Damn Mystics,” he swore before trailing off into quieter and stronger cursing.
Stiffly, Lucca walked backwards towards the front door, passing her bewildered friends and keeping a terrified stare on her father. In one sudden convulsion, she spun around and pushed out the door and into the street.
Crono and Marle followed after her. When they reached her, she was leaning forward, clutching her knees and breathing in shallow gasps. The young princess slung Lucca’s arm over her shoulder and led the inventor to a bench by the side of the main road.
Marle sat beside her and Crono stood in front of her as she fought to regain control of her breathing.
“Are you okay?” the Guardian heir asked.
Shaking her head in disbelief, Lucca rambled at she gazed on the dirt road in front of her through tearful eyes. “This isn’t right... not right at all... something happened... the past... shouldn’t be... can’t think of what... what we did...”
Crono knelt beside his childhood compatriot. She raised tearful eyes to the young swordsman and pointed a shaking finger at him.
“Your mother... we went to get your mother... something happened... this is...”
Putting a hand to her trembling shoulder, the boy looked straight into Lucca’s eyes and promised: “We’ll make this right again. We’ll find out what happened and fix it.”
With Marle’s help, he pulled the inventor to her feet. Her breathing slowly calming, Lucca removed her glasses and wiped her eyes.
“We don’t know exactly what the problem is. Where should we start looking?” the princess wondered.
“Melchior,” Lucca stated in a still-quivering voice as she replaced her spectacles. “He’ll be the most impartial person around, and he’ll probably have a better understanding of this ‘Curse’ than anybody else.”
“Good idea,” Crono said. Turning in the direction of the Epoch, he declared, “Let’s go,” hoping the sudden action would help Lucca forget what had happened to her mother.
And with that, the trio headed out once more into the unknown.
Groggily, the medieval swordsman awoke. His head spun and he could barely feel his extremities. As his eyes adjusted to the darkness around him, Frog recognized that he was in a prison of some sort. His hands were shackled to the mossy stone wall behind him; had he not been so short, his feet may have touched the floor.
After a few minutes of wakefulness, the knight errant heard voices coming towards him down a hall.
“How is the north wing coming along?”
“We’re a day behind schedule, but I can get the workers in gear.”
“See that you do. And my study?”
“We have one more bookcase to finish, Boss.”
“Excellent. Now let’s check on my prisoner.”
Frog recognized one of the voices as belonging to one of the beings who had surprised him earlier. But the other voice, the “Boss,” was familiar from somewhere else entirely.
As their discussion culminated, four figures approached the barred door of the swordsman’s cell. He quickly identified, by shape, the three captors from the Cursed Woods. The figure they surrounded, however, caught him completely off guard.
“Well well well,” Ozzie said from the midst of his three lieutenants, “You’re awake. I guess that means we can begin.”
To Chapter Three
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