Author: NortheasternWind PM
Cress and company reunite with Arche and soon find themselves investigating the source of a few mysterious attacks. They have their suspicions, but there's a very important detail they're missing...Rated: Fiction T - English - Chapters: 3 - Words: 10,240 - Reviews: 4 - Favs: 3 - Follows: 3 - Updated: 04-22-11 - Published: 02-20-11 - id: 6762807
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Laaate. I'm sorry! I had it almost done and then... March. And then I lost my notes on the group everyone talks about! Watch, I'll find them and then be forced to revise this whole thing tomorrow or something…
I'd like to thank OffCenterFold for pretty much irrevocably setting up the way I think of Present!Arche. And also, the GFAQs Radiant Dawn board, for entertaining me with their hilarious injokes. If anyone is offended by anything Chester says, I humbly apologize!
This chapter contains things I do not own, large amounts of summaries, and Arche. If you have any tips or comments, I'd love to hear them. Enjoy!
"Aw, crap. I'd completely forgotten about this."
The trio stood on the spot where, in the past and future, a bridge had connected the two landmasses of Euclid and Venezia. In the present, however, the bridge lay in ruins, wrecked by a recent earthquake that had happened a few weeks before the attack on Toltus. The rubble had been mostly cleared away, but the foundation sat intact, so one could clearly see where there had once been a safe passage to the other side.
"You know, why hasn't this been fixed yet?" Chester kicked a rock into the water. "It's been ages."
"It hasn't really been that long..."
"What do we do now?" Mint asked. "Arche's house is this way. If we had her with us, she could just fly us across, but..."
Cress frowned, looking out to the other side. "It's not very fast or deep... We could climb down and wade across."
"Man, you fail as a knight in shining armor. You wanna get Mint's robes all muddy?"
Cress didn't need to look at Mint to know she was blushing as much as he was. "Uh... Well, I guess we could look for another bridge."
Chester grinned. "Much better. Come on, it's shallower over here."
The trio had set out early from Euclid to try and get to Arche's house before noon, so Cress was feeling a little tired from lack of sleep. He'd gone longer without it, though, so he didn't complain: after all, it was his fault for staying up late. He gestured for Mint to follow him and set off after Chester.
"You know, I wonder what Arche'll look like." he said. "Elves may live for a long time, but I doubt she'll still look like a teenager..."
"Yeah, she'll probably have huge childbearing hips or something."
"Don't say that like it's a bad thing." Mint said. "If she doesn't have them, that might mean she hasn't been eating much."
"Hey, I never said that would be a bad thing. I just mean it would just be weird. She was always so skinny." And who could wonder why, with her cooking the way it was?
"Yeah." Cress chuckled. "Maybe it's a good thing we waited a while. We won't have to do as much getting used to it."
"I hope she's still like our Arche." Mint said. "I mean, of course she must have changed, but I'd be sad if she wasn't happy and cheerful anymore."
Ahead of them, Chester stopped and turned around, looking serious. "Yeah, she's so quiet when she's depressed. And we have enough quiet people around here."
He was afraid, too. It was as Cress had guessed: he did not want to go see Arche if it meant having to see her jaded and sad. He wanted the Arche who had teased and argued with him, not a stranger who couldn't find it in herself to laugh anymore. He wanted his Arche. What would he do if she didn't exist anymore?
"Even if she has changed, she's still Arche." Cress caught up with his best friend and slung an arm over his shoulder. He knew what the archer was thinking. "She'll probably be so happy to see us, she might perk right up even if she is sad."
Chester smirked. "Yeah, that was the one good thing about her. She was easy to cheer up." He pulled his arm free of Cress' grip. "Hey, look! Someone made a dinky little bridge over there!"
Mint hurried to catch up with them. "Are you sure that's safe? It doesn't look very sturdy."
"Even if it breaks, we won't fall far." Cress said. "It's probably just a replacement until someone in Euclid or Venezia can get the real bridge up."
"It'll have to do until then. Come on!" Chester broke out ahead of them again. "Last one across has to eat Arche's cooking!"
"Hey!" Cress ran out after him. "If you run across that thing, it'll collapse!"
"Ah...! Don't leave me behind...!"
The three friends ran across the grass, ever closer to their destination.
Arche's house was exactly where it had been in the past and the future. Why would it have moved? Chester reached it first; he waited for Cress and Mint a few feet from the door, panting, but smiling. Cress could see he was excited, but not too keen on being alone.
"So which of you wants to knock?" he asked once Cress and Mint caught up.
Cress could only blink at him. "What? Don't you want to do it?"
"You kidding? She'll probably slap me if I'm the first thing she sees."
"I can do it." Mint said, stepping up to the door. "If it turns out Arche isn't here, I could probably talk us out of trouble easier."
"Why would we get in trouble? We're just looking for a friend."
"We probably would if you were knocking." Cress said, laughing. "Go on, Mint."
The priestess drew a deep breath, and knocked on the door.
The trio waited for what felt like an eternity, each holding their breath in anticipation. Their efforts were in vain: there didn't seem to be any sort of movement from inside the house.
"...I guess she's not home." Cress said.
"Should we try again later...?"
"Come on, we came all this way." Chester, evidently forgetting that he was in danger of being slapped, stepped up to the door. He'd been building himself up for this moment for the past few weeks, and now that he was here all the apprehension was gone. He wasn't going to let her not be here! "Hey Arche! Let us in!"
Cress started. "Chester, what if it isn't her?"
"'Course it's her!"
But no one answered.
Mint shook her head. "Let's come back some other day. If she does live here, I don't think she's home."
"Yeah." Cress put a hand on his friend's shoulder. "Come on, Chester. She'll be here next time."
The archer looked up at the house, biting his lip. "...Yeah. Let's go."
The trio turned from the house, disappointed. They'd been so sure, and—
That was certainly not Chester's voice. The three friends whirled back around to face the door, where the thumping of footfalls became louder and louder, until the door threw itself open.
Cress didn't even have time to look at Arche before she squealed and threw herself into Mint's arms. Any surprise the priestess felt was clearly overshadowed by her joy, as she was completely unable to do anything more than mimic Arche's sounds of delight and return the embrace wholeheartedly.
Cress was next: the sorceress let go of Mint and pulled him into a tight hug. "Oh, you guys, it's been so loooong! I missed you so much!"
"We missed you too!" Cress said, returning the hug. "We waited because we thought it was unfair to come see you immediately, but man! It's so quiet without you."
Arche released Cress with a grin, and he got his first good look at her. She was taller now, and had indeed put on a healthy amount of weight since their last meeting, but she remained relatively slender and youthful. It was almost just like old times. She was even wearing the same clothes.
"So, what do you think?" she asked, grinning wider. "I've got some giant woman thighs, but I look pretty good for a hundred-year-old lady, eh?"
"Yeah. You look good!"
"And your legs aren't that big." Mint said. "You got taller, so it really doesn't look that much different."
"Aw, thanks!" Finalll, Arche turned to Chester, the only one of them she had yet to greet. She smiled. "And what about you? Do I look spicy or what?"
There was no response at first. But then he smirked. The archer leaned back a little, putting a hand on his chin in mock thought. "Hm... You know what I think?"
"Oh, boy. What?"
"I think Dhaos had a better figure than you do."
Cress was worried that Arche might actually slap him, but she must have been expecting it, for she merely blew a raspberry at him.
"Shut up!" she said, stomping her foot. "That guy's got nothing on me!"
"What're you talking about? Even his hair was better than yours!"
"If you find him so attractive, you should've asked him to marry you!"
"Well I'm sorry, but he's not exactly my type!"
"Ches-ter and Dha-os—"
Arche crossed her arms. "Then say that I'm beautiful!"
"Fine, fine!" Chester smirked. "You're beautiful, Arche. And your giant woman thighs look alright to me."
The sorceress huffed, but she was smiling. "Good boy! And hey, at least with giant woman thighs I have curves now."
Cress laughed. "That's true. Really, Arche, you look younger than Klarth." She really did: Cress had never been good at putting physical ages on people, but there was a light in Arche's eyes that made her appear younger than their friend the summoner. He wondered if that light had only reappeared upon their reunion, or if it had never gone out in the first place.
"It wasn't really that long for us." Chester said, returning the embrace. "But yeah... We're happy to have you back."
Cress and Mint stood back, allowing Arche and Chester their space, until the witch released him with a clap of her hands.
"Come on! We've got so much to talk about, and you guys have to taste my cooking!"
"Ugh, no!" Chester rolled his eyes. "I'll pass on dying, thanks."
"No, I'm serious!" Arche pouted. "I've gotten a lot better! It helps when you have to cook for yourself for like a hundred years, you know."
Chester shook his head. "I don't believe it."
"Let's go on inside." Cress suggested. "We can argue while we're not all standing out here in the sun."
"I'm pretty hungry." Mint admitted. "Come on, Chester."
"You're a real saint, you know that, Mint?" But he smiled. "But yeah, it's hot out here. Let us in already."
"Hmph! You're a horrible guest, and you haven't even gotten into my house yet." She turned around and opened the door for them. "After you!"
Cress walked past her through the door and into the house, which lay exactly the same as it had the last time he saw it. Arche closed the door as Chester and Mint came inside, and hurried to the connecting kitchen.
"Hey you guys, look at this!"
"Oh wow, Arche."
Cress turned around from examining the rest of the house to see what the three of them were talking about. He blinked: there was a cauldron over the fire stirring itself.
"That's not something to be terribly excited over." Chester said flatly.
"It's cute, though." Mint said, admiring it. "You're like the beautiful enchantress in all the stories you hear as a child."
"With a big old cauldron like that, you'd look more like the old hag who turns princes into frogs."
When Cress came in, Arche was bonking Chester on the head with a wooden spoon. "Quiet, you! Or I'll turn you into a frog!"
"Alright, now you're just doing it on purpose."
"What's in there, anyway?" Cress asked, trying to look into the cauldron from where he stood.
"I kinda didn't think anyone was coming, so I just put on some lame old soup while I did stuff."
"I was half-expecting you to say it was a potion or something."
"What were you doing?" Mint asked. Arche grinned in response.
"I've got a present for Cress, and I was finishing it up. That was why I didn't answer the door right away, either."
"A present?" Cress blinked. He hadn't been expecting that. Had she been working on it for the past hundred years, or was it just a recent thing? He had to hope the latter. It would be a little embarrassing if she'd been making him something for so long.
Chester snorted. "What happened to my present?"
"You don't need one, idiot." the witch said. "You'll see when I give it to him. But first!" She spun around to face the counter. "What do you guys want? Chicken?"
"Actually, we just had chicken."
"Aw, phooey. Guess it's time for good old quiche again."
"I hate to make you work, Mint, but you better make at least one." Chester said. "Because there's no way I'm eating any of Arche's cooking."
"You're rude! You will eat what I feed you, young man!"
"Since when did you become my mother?"
"I think you should give her a chance, Chester." Cress said. "I mean, she doesn't seem to have killed anyone..."
"I can have some of the soup, if you need help eating it." Mint said.
Arche shook her head. "Nah, you wouldn't like that. It's got a ton of salt in it."
"Because you went overboard?"
"Because I like salt, genius." Arche pulled open a cabinet and whipped out a skillet with such enthusiasm Cress thought she was going to whack Chester in the face with it. "This'll take just three minutes, and then we can just leave it and go talk!"
"And then it'll burn."
"Quiet, you." Arche said, brandishing the skillet threateningly and setting to work. She had improved: Cress saw it as she went about making lunch for them, chattering away all the while. She knew what to do and when to do it, and only rarely became distracted. Even Chester could see it, though that didn't stop him from complaining when it was finally time to eat.
"You have no faith! Come on, it's been a hundred years!"
"And you haven't changed at all! Why should I expect your cooking to be any different?"
"Hey, Chester, how's this?" Cress leaned forward on the table. "Mint and I will have some first. If it's good, you have to eat it."
"You kidding?" Chester crossed his arms. "You've got the taste buds of a dog."
"Wha— No I don't!"
"And Mint is too nice to say anything bad about anyone."
Arche crossed her arms and pouted. "You are in my house, young man, and you will eat what I feed you!"
"I will not. Crone."
"I am not skinny!"
"Should we... stop them...?" Cress asked Mint, not taking his eyes off the vitriolic couple. Mint laughed.
"No arguing at the table, you two."
Arche huffed, spinning on her heel to face away from Chester. "Fine! You can starve, for all I care!"
"So, Arche, what have you been up to?" Cress asked, leaning back in his seat. "You didn't just stay here and wait for us, did you?"
"Of course not!" Arche came around and plopped herself down into a chair, crossing her arms. "I've been everywhere while you guys were gone. Like one of those do-gooders in those kid stories!"
"I bet you caused more trouble than you solved."
"Shut up! Anyway, you guys aren't going to believe how much I've learned." She grinned. "I think I'd say I'm as powerful as Dhaos was."
Mint blinked. "Really? That's powerful." Mint had always had the feeling that Dhaos was not giving it his all for some reason— whether because he didn't want to, or simply could not. As if he had never truly been at full power…
"Right? I can enchant weapons now, too!" Arche grinned even wider. "It's really fun!"
Chester rolled his eyes. "Oh, brother…" The idea of Arche handling weapons did not sound good to him at all.
"Oh yeah, that reminds me! Cress, I have to give you your present!"
Chester snorted. "Why does Cress get a present?"
"I told you already, idiot." Arche stood up with a pout. "You sit there and try to remember while I go get it."
As the witch turned and pounded out of the kitchen, Chester turned to his friends with a scowl. "She hasn't grown up at all."
"Oh, I don't know." Mint said, smiling. "I think maybe she's being childish just for you."
"Just for me? And why in the world would I want her to be a loud moron?"
"Maybe she's copying you." Cress said. His suggestion had the intended effect: Chester rolled his eyes and hit him lightly over the head, but seemed marginally less upset.
"You guys are planning things behind my back, I swear…"
Before Cress could react, a long, black case had been slammed down onto the table before him, causing it to groan ominously under the force. The swordsman almost jumped back, taking the chair with him, but fortunately Chester was indeed his best friend and stopped him from falling over.
"You might want to try again, Arche. You missed."
"Shut up, you! Go on, Cress, open it!"
Cress resettled himself and bent over the case, frowning. The case itself did not look as though it were made of anything heavy, which meant most of the weight must come from its contents… Or maybe it was not as heavy as he thought. Arche had thrown it rather hard, after all.
"You gonna open it, or what?"
The lid was held shut by three gold clasps, and Cress reached out to undo each. One by one they flipped open, and the lid came next, swinging open on gold hinges.
It was a sword. Custom made for Cress' style with an extra handle on the hilt, it was the breadth of the blade he'd inherited from his father and the length of the Eternal Sword he'd entrusted to Klarth at the end of their journey. Silver shined the blade, with what seemed to be a dragon somehow painted on— barely noticeable except at the right angle. The handle, though highlighted with gold, was simple and unelaborate. He would have it no other way.
"Arche, it's beautiful." he said, reaching in and carefully lifting it out. It was a little light after the weight of the Eternal Sword, but he would have no trouble getting used to it.
"Isn't it?" Arche almost bounced with excitement. "I knew you'd need a new one after getting rid of the Eternal Sword, so I had a friend in Venezia make it for me."
Cress stood up, stepped back a fair distance from the table, and spun the blade in his hand. "How much did this cost?"
Chester smirked. "Not much, I'm guessing."
"Nope." Arche snickered. "That's why the handle is so plain, actually. But I enchanted it myself! It'll absorb any magical power sent your way, and eventually you'll be able to do cool things with it!"
"Oh…" Mint leaned forward, trying to get a better look. "That's neat, Arche! What kind of things?"
"Oh, you know, just nondescript magical things. Slicing through barriers, cutting immaterial things, glowing…"
"Sounds kind of lame if you ask me."
"Shut up! I've never done this before, okay?"
Cress chuckled, spinning it again. "Thank you, Arche. You didn't have to go to all that trouble."
Arche beamed. "Hey, a girl's gotta do something with her time! Anyway, you've gotta give it a name, or the spell won't work right."
Chester frowned. "Why?"
"Because that's just how some magic works, genius." Arche sat down in a chair and leaned back, looking thoughtful. "I don't know… The best I could come up with was Regal Sword."
"Shut up, I know."
"I like Ettard." Mint said. "After the old legend…"
Cress nodded. "The one about the powerful knight and the Lady Ettard?"
"Yes… That one."
Arche tilted her head, frowning. "That's… kind of an odd name for a sword, don't you think? Wasn't Ettard that mean lady who kept turning that one knight away?"
"I didn't like that ending as a child." Mint admitted. "My mom made up a different version to tell me. She said that a witch turned the Lady Ettard into a sword to serve the knight that loved her. That way, both the witch and Ettard could be with the knight."
Chester gave her an odd look. "That… actually sounds worse."
Mint smiled. "You don't think about those things when you're little." Mint's mother had probably seen the horror behind such a thing, but as a tiny child Mint had been glad to think that the knight could be with both his loves and that the Lady Ettard would still receive her punishment.
The archer scoffed, and then broke into a wide grin. "Cress, you should name your sword the Regal Ettard. And then we can call it the Rettard for short."
Arche looked summarily unimpressed, but Cress snorted and burst into laughter, slapping his knees. "Chess… Chester, I swear…"
"You can't name it something stupid like that." Arche spat distastefully. "You'll offend someone."
"Oh, come on." The archer grinned even wider. "You have to admit it's clever."
"H-Here." Cress beamed, taking a few short breaths to slow his laughter. "I can name it the Regal Ettard, but I think I'll just call it the Ettard for short."
Mint laughed. "You know Chester will just go on calling it the Rettard."
"That's probably the point." Chester smirked. "Ha. I win."
Arche rolled her eyes. "Boys…"
Cress smiled, sitting down and placing the sword back in its case. "So, Arche, what were you saying? About what you've been doing the past century or so."
The witch's mood visibly improved, and she was beaming again in a second. "Oh, yeah, all sorts of stuff! First Klarth and I went back to his place and let Milard know he was alright, and then of course I went home to go see Dad, and then we had to find a place to hide the Eternal Sword."
Chester crossed his arms behind his head. "And where did you hide it?"
"He wouldn't tell me!" Arche said, pouting. "He said he knew I wouldn't be able to keep it a secret."
"I'd have to side with him on that one."
"Shut up! Anyway, after that, we decided to go back to Midgard and figure out how this whole mess with Dhaos got started."
Cress had a bad feeling about that one. "And?"
Arche scowled. "Reisen is a lying jerkface! He was the one who attacked Dhaos first!"
"What?" Mint asked, startled.
"Who?" Chester asked blankly.
"Oh, yeah…" Cress occasionally forgot that Chester had not been with them in the past. "Reisen was the general of a nation at war with Dhaos in the past."
"Oh." Chester crossed his arms. "Well, that's not terribly surprising to hear…"
"I was so angry I slapped him!" Arche said. "And, uh, then they had to kick us out. But seriously! He lied to everyone! Even Klarth was upset!"
"Did he say why he lied?" Mint asked.
"He wanted to cover up the fact that he attacked first. And apparently he hurt one of Dhaos' friends… We never got any further than that."
Chester blinked. "Dhaos has friends?" The mere idea sounded ridiculous.
"Yeah, I know, it's kind of confusing. But anyway, he hadn't teamed up with the demons until after that."
Cress scowled. "So it was in self-defense…"
Arche shifted uncomfortably. "Well, he had to destroy the Mana Cannon, too…"
Chester sighed. "This is too complicated. Let's talk about something else."
Arche seemed happy to oblige. "Uh, so anyway, Klarth went back to his research most of the time and I went around exploring and trying to get into the elf colony—"
"I know, but I wanted to see my mom, you know? And then once in a while, something would pop up, and Klarth and I were always the ones people came running to first."
"Bet that irritated him." Chester said.
"Oh, yeah. He was always complaining… But we always had to help, you know, because a lot of those incidents involved people getting hurt. Once, we had a serial killer on the loose."
Mint's eyes widened. "A serial killer?"
"A serial killer!" Arche became serious— she did not seem happy to hear Mint's alarm at all. "People just started turning up horribly murdered and maimed all over the Euclidian and Venezian continents, and Dad ended up moving to the city for a while, everyone was so scared."
That, unfortunately, sounded terribly familiar. "And you guys took on this yourselves?"
"Yeah, and it was tough!" Arche crossed her arms. "It just kept getting worse and worse, and then all of a sudden Klarth vanished."
That got a visible reaction out of everyone in the room. "Klarth… vanished?" Mint asked weakly.
"Milard and I were scared out of our minds! I seriously think it was just sheer luck that we figured it out and saved him in time. He didn't get up for a while."
"O-oh… But he was alright after that, right?"
"Yep, with Milard taking care of him, pretty soon he was complaining about being babied."
"That sounds just like him…"
Cress scowled. "Who was it?"
"Klarth, Milard and I started looking into this one curse Klarth'd heard about, about an old cult from the time of the Ragnarok War." Arche frowned, thinking. "Apparently there was this one neutral group of fighters and things that had a long history of being really annoying or something… They were extremists who had a tendency to get violent when provoked, but I don't think they actually meant any harm."
"Gee, doesn't that sound familiar..."
"So most countries set a bounty on all of their heads, and people started hunting them down. They didn't like leaving each other behind, so usually they would grab the bodies and run, and bury them in their base of operations."
"Right? Well, with them doing that all the time, it wasn't long before their hideout was discovered in an old cave in the mountains."
"…The mausoleum." Cress guessed.
Arche nodded. "Yeah. The knights or bounty hunters or whoever found them caved the entrance in and trapped everyone inside."
"And I'm guessing they weren't happy about that."
"Nope. They all died, of course, but they say that their hatred and anger brings one of them back to life every century."
"And it was one of the resurrected cult members who attacked everyone." Chester guessed.
"Yep. That was how we figured it out, actually, from the way they talked and acted and stuff."
"…How long ago was this, again?"
"Uh, let's see…" Arche crossed her arms.
"A century, right?" Chester asked, clearly not wanting to wait.
"Yeah!" She smiled, but the grin faded once she realized what Chester was getting at. "…You guys haven't come across any horribly maimed bodies lately, have you?"
"You guys, this is serious!" Arche jumped out of her seat. "If it's that stupid curse again, everyone on the continent is in huge trouble!"
"We found the body on the way to Euclid…" Mint said. "They must have found their way to town by now."
"We should probably head back." Cress agreed, standing up as well. "Arche, did this thing come with a scabbard?"
"Huh? Oh, yeah, just a sec!"
She thumped away again, and Chester got out of his seat, stretching. "Well, time to save everyone again, huh?"
"Chester, just stick with the Rettard jokes."