The three of them had gathered in a small group near the unassuming lightpost on which leaned the ancient Guru of Time. Surrounding them was a modest courtyard of aged, mossy granite with three exits. Through a swinging gate behind them lay a staircase that led to another room, this one with nine small but brilliant shafts of light. To their collective left was a door through which the eccentric, shape-shifting Master of War, called Spekkio, resided. And in front of them was a walkway that, for the moment, led to oblivion. It was on this that the trio focused their attention.
One sat impatiently, fidgeting, eager for action: the prehistoric monarch named Ayla. The other two, the medieval swordsman Frog-- Glenn-- and the sentient automaton called Robo, stood at attention, waiting tolerantly for their unofficial leader to return. The Guru himself had, probably through eons of practice, managed the ability to sleep standing up; he dozed in silence.
“This boring!” yelled the cave woman as she jumped to her feet without warning. “Where Crono?!”
“Calm thyself, lass,” the amphibian knight errant pleaded, edging slightly away from the boisterous and unpredictable woman. His great sword, the legendary Masamune, scraped against the floor of the courtyard and he clumsily picked it up.
A snort of derision emanated from the far end of the floating structure. Standing on the small walkway that led off of the platform and into nothingness stood the Magus. The wizard had, mere days before, been the sworn enemy of the rag-tag band; when it was discovered that he and the group had a common enemy in Lavos, he chose to follow their path, although it was an uneasy alliance at that.
Gazing over the blackness of the void, the pale magician regarded the motley ensemble of fighters and their latest, tedious quest with disdain. His vapid eyes narrowed.
Just then, a burst of light jolted the four adventurers into awareness; a metallic whine heralded the arrival of the Epoch, the flying time machine built by the late Guru of Reason. The craft gracefully pulled aside the floating platform, stopping at the edge of the walkway that held Magus.
Leaping excitedly from their ride were the last three members of the team. Running ahead of the other two was the blonde-haired princess of Guardia, who called herself Marle. Her ponytail whipped dangerously close to the Magus’ head as she dashed up to Frog.
“Frog! We went to my home and got the Rainbow Shell and saved the king from jail and I made up with my Daddy!” she blurted to the swordsman.
“As I knew thee would, my lady,” Frog answered with a wide smile.
“And we had some impressive weaponry made from the artifacts we found along the way,” declared Lucca, the mop-topped inventor, as she edged past the sorcerer. “Robo, look at what I made from the Sun Stone!” she exclaimed, brandishing the weapon she had come to call the “Wondershot.”
Sweeping optical sensors twice over the brilliant firearm, the android replied: “A fine instrument, Lucca.”
Last in the trio to enter the courtyard of the End of Time was the red-haired swordsman Crono. Slipping past the temperamental magician, he approached the sleeping Guru.
The elderly wiseman was jabbed awake not by physical force, but by a shaft of luminance that stabbed out of the sheath that the lad kept at his side. Blinking, Gaspar bowed his head to the boy.
“I see you found both the Sun Stone and the Rainbow Shell. The Guru of Life certainly know how to take advantage of an opportunity,” he said, in regards to the new sword that the youth carried.
Puzzled until he noticed that his sword was not sheathed completely, Crono secured his weapon with slight humiliation. While tending to allow his hair and clothing to become unkempt to a degree, the boy was almost compulsive in his handling and securing of a sword.
The Guru continued: “You’ve done well in your travels so far. Restoring Fiona’s forest, the grave of Cyrus, and the Geno Factory, as well as finding the Rainbow Shell and Sun Stone, have all come to prove your readiness to take on Lavos. But, as I mentioned before, one of you is close to someone who need help.”
The six gathering around the old man looked among themselves in disbelief. Marle piped up:
“I thought you were talking about my father when you said that.” Gaspar returned her remark with a blank look that made his response clear. “But, who knows someone who’s in trouble? We’ve been to everybody’s own times; who else needs help?”
The young lady swept a glance across the team. Ayla shrugged; Frog rested his chin in his hand, thinking; Robo shook his head; Lucca turned away from the group and Marle chose not to pursue the matter further with her. Marle turned to the torch-haired boy and asked: “Crono, do you--?”
But she stopped when she saw that the young swordsman had a stare fixed on the Magus. Still studying the nihility beyond the courtyard, the dark magician gave no sign that he was aware of the six pair of eyes that eventually trained on him.
Frog was the first to speak. “Queen Zeal... the Black Omen...”
Marle would later remember seeing the mage cock an eyebrow at the mention of his mother’s name, but nobody else was in a position to see any reaction whatsoever. The princess turned again to Crono.
“Well, Crono? Should we go?”
Still staring at Magus, the youth nodded slowly. Then, turning back to his comrades, Crono looked among them, pondering who should go.
Springing to her feet, the Iokan called out, “Crono go? Take Ayla! Take Ayla!”
Frog calmly stepped forward. “Mayhap thou shalt need the assistance of the Masamune? I am ready as well, Crono.”
With a laugh, Lucca stated, “It looks like you already have some volunteers. I’d like to stay back and check this gun for bugs, and I’ll need Robo’s help. Go without us.” The automaton gave an affirmative bow.
“And I’m too pooped for now,” Marle said, sitting down next to the Guru’s lightpost and setting her weapon, a crossbow which Lucca had dubbed the “Valkyrie,” to her side.
Crono again looked to Magus, who returned a glance this time, but unconcernedly resumed his study of the void. Then, nodding to Ayla and Frog, the youth approached the Energy Bucket at the corner of the courtyard. Merely touching the incandescent liquid inside the Bucket sent a wave of energy through the body of the boy and his companions; the previous day’s travails seemed to dissipate in the blink of an eye.
Renewed, the young ronin led his two cohorts towards the stone runway to the Epoch. But, as they approached, their path was blocked by an imposing figure; Magus was standing in their way.
He paused for a few seconds, taking in a deep breath, the finally asked, almost mockingly, “You think that you can take on the Ocean Palace?”
Eyes narrowing slightly, Crono glared at the dark mage.
Magus continued: “Let’s test that enthusiasm. I created a monster in the Middle Ages before I-- tried to-- summon Lavos. It’s in my castle; if you can defeat it, then you may have a chance of making it through the Ocean Palace.”
Frog spoke up. “We haven’t time for thine games, Magus.”
“You’ll make time for this,” the sorcerer replied. “The beast is encased in a block of ice. In time, the ice will thaw and the monster will be loose. I could take care of this myself, but I have better things to do.”
“Crono, if what he sayeth rings true, such a beast couldst threaten mine people,” the amphibian explained. “What shall we do?”
Crono gave an uncertain look to the frog, then turned to the Magus, studying the face of his former adversary.
Keeping a stony countenance, the magician stepped aside and swept his cape outward towards the waiting time jet. Still looking on the wizard, the youth stepped slowly to the edge of the walkway and leapt off.
As if it could sense his presence, the time machine positioned itself directly below the swordsman and gave when he landed in its front seat. Hastily, Ayla and Frog followed, sneaking quickly past the Magus, and the jet caught them in the same manner.
“Where we go, Crono?” the cave woman whispered, unsure of what the boy was thinking.
“Aye, what is thine choice, lad?” Frog echoed.
Pausing at the controls of the craft, the young man considered the time display, fiddled with the rudder for a moment, then decidedly set the gauge:
To Chapter Two
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