Introduction from the Author
Because of the unusual story of this story I have included some author notes. If you are not interested in them though the first chapter begins after these notes.
Soul of a Harlequin: Revisited
In 2002 I began writing and posting a novel-length Chrono Cross fan-fiction centered on my absolute favorite character from that game, Harle the Enigmatic Jester. It was called Soul of a Harlequin and I actually finished writing the main story. Due to some unexpected life events though I never finished uploading it all here, making my last update around this same time ten years ago (in June of 2004). Lately though I have decided to turn my attention back to story writing. At this point I am mostly interested in writing original fiction, but before I start down that path one of the first things I want to do is finally publish this old story in its entirety. It's a fun and simple way to get writing again.
The original story was really more of a rough draft, loaded with typos, errors, and stylistic problems that I just didn't have the patience to really work out twelve years ago. This time I plan on spending some time editing the story to bring it up to my new higher standards. I want to take this rough draft and turn it into something publishable (if such things were ever actually published).
I'm really glad there are still people on this site that remember this game and still practice writing fan-fiction for it. I really hope this story, aged as it is, will find a happy place here on this site.
Please let me know what you think!
-Gregory K. (Kormack/Whimsical)
* I will take the entire story down at once and then fill the same space with the updated story chapter by chapter as I complete my editing. I still have the original story, unedited, in case there is ever need of it again for some reason.
* Right now the story is about 250 pages in length, broken into at least 25 chapters in two parts. It will take a little while to post the entire thing, especially with the editing. I am aiming to post 1-2 chapters per week depending on reader interest.
* Before abandoning the project completely ten years ago I began writing a third part to this story. If there is interest I could complete that third part and post it here as a side-story or extended epilogue. It would include brand new content and story about the enigmatic jester as well as the other main characters from the original fan-fiction.
That concludes my author notes. The first chapter begins below!
The Going of Serge
A Small Beating
The Time Devourer has been destroyed, and the Omni-Dragon with it. Death did not come to the Dragons as it had been presumed. Whoever of the seven dragons that had the will to live, was sent back to the physical plane as well as the heroes. The story begins with the seventh dragon, the Lunar Child, mortally wounded on Opassa beach, three days after the battle for humanity had ended.
And her eyes opened.
She lived? She could still feel blood running through her veins as her life beat through her body. Her eyes saw only darkness. Even in the nothingness, fear came easily to her. One without sight, in between death and life, had little to hope for. But vision of blue sky came quickly. Where was she? Her body felt alive, but where was she now? It took a moment for her ears to open to hear the shrill cries of seagulls screaming at the sun, and at each other. As the final layer of unconsciousness lifted a blinding pain tore through her body and into her mind. Her back wrenched, and she bolted upright shrieking a horrid scream. There, gnawing on her leg as if it were a simple snack, was a brazen lizard creature with absurd ears. Letting curses fly she scared the beach creature into a frenzy and it ran away into the thick and colored vegetation.
That water of the tide was lapping forward with tiny waves no more then ripples on the beach. With its tiny rhythms the beach water had carved a still pool beside her, the water that surrounded her remaining still and shimmering in the daylight. She could see the top of her reflection in the water. A debate raged in her mind for a moment on whether she should look fully into the water. Her face had been beaten, she could feel the bruises. But what horrid monster was waiting her in the mirror water. Finally, she tilted her head up over the side of the pool and gazed into it, whatever it held. A small gasp escaped her lips. Her face held fast to her head, a mask of broken flesh, bruised and covered in healing cuts and scratches. Her forever-white skin seemed rainbow colored with reds and blues. And flying about her head in the breezes of the sea, was her blonde hair. The strands were long and unkempt, swirling about with disregard. All of this motion, due to her missing head-dress. A lone tear slid down her nose and into the seawater, disturbing the placid surface and ruining her reflected face all the more. It rippled across the still pool spreading its pain to the edges and beyond. Finally she brought herself to look at her leg. Blood had stained her blue pantaloon's blood red, and the cloth stuck painfully to her wounds. The bones of her leg were like tiny bits of driftwood, flowing freely in the ocean of her flesh.
But all this didn't matter. She was Harle after all! She would survive, until the end of days. She had promised herself this years ago and she would never forget it! Not now! But the battle was over, Opassa beach was deserted, and not even the dimension portal was in tact. And the memories stung her mind almost as harsh as her damaged leg. But now was not the time for memories, it was the time to call upon her deeply flowing faith, faith in herself to be able to move beyond whatever held her.
"Come come Harle!" She spoke to herself as loud as she could, but pain laced her voice and made her words stumble. "Zhe battle iz fini! Done! But zere iz much left pour moi to do!" And with that she began to crawl on her hands and knees across the beach face. Whimpers barely escaped her throat as her hurt leg dangled behind her. Her outstretched arm touched an unseen object, and it tinkled with the touch. Her coxcomb! Daintily she lifted the red leather jester cap from the sands and grabbed it tightly as if it she had found her heart again and would crush it back into her body. With it in hand she continued to push forward down the beach.
It became difficult to remember exactly what happened beyond time, though she forced herself to think. To think even of that pain, would distract her from her more pressing physical agony. She had finally found Serge again, she had brought herself to him. But she could not lie, it was her duty to find Lynx, and destroy him. That one objective had brought her so close to Serge again, by a twist of chance. And when FATE perished she could feel the spirits of the Dragon's calling her into their collective form. Her quest had ended, but not by her own hands. And her spirit was to mingle with others of her kind, and leave the petty humans (and Serge) to their fates without FATE. They did not have their precious technology to protect them any longer! Revenge was finally to come! And her mind was a blank expanse after that. Her spirit had forgotten what her body cold not bear.
With hours of labor she reached the forests beyond the beach and peninsula of Lizard Rock. But her spirit was tugging to be free, and she collapsed beside some browning shrubbery. It seemed to her as good a place as any. Such pain no living thing should ever feel. She had existed too long, may her regrets die with her.
But, try as she might, she just could not die. Her dragon spirit would not release its body. And so she continued to pass in and out of consciousness. Every time she came to herself she would pull herself forward a few feet, and fall face down again. Each time she moved a little less further, and rested a little bit more.
Hours more passed, and her eyes were wide open but pointed into the earth. She had lost all feeling in her leg and only a searing (but distant) burning was left in it. This could only mean one thing. An infection was festering in her leg, sinking deep down even into the very bone fragments she had left. With such a wound she wouldn't get much further even if she really wanted to. To make her situation even more pointed her stomach seemed to be digesting other organs with hungry need. Days had passed since her last meal, and it was a fight to keep from eating whatever her face fell upon (which was more often animal droppings than vegetation). She stretched out her arms in front of her and began to pull her body along the ground again. It was almost as if she was a dying animal, clawing its way back to its cave to finally perish. But she had nowhere to go now. She was just pulling herself along, hoping for civilization.
This time when her eyes opened, something was different. Some great time must have passed, for when she had fallen into unconsciousness last the night loomed black and eternal. Her eyes presented to her now a beautiful afternoon. But this was not the only difference. Instead of finding herself face down she found herself on her back and her head resting on a small pile of cloth strips (a great deal more comfortable then the dirt and the rocks). Resting heavy against her side was a large clay bowl of fruit. It balanced tight against her so she couldn't possibly miss it. And her leg! It was bandaged and the bone had been set in a sturdy wooden brace. Already the leg pulsed with thankful throbs against the brace. A few used Heal and Purify elements lay scattered about, testifying to her recovery. But who had set her leg in the brace? And who had-
The questions stopped suddenly when she sniffed through her nose. Her skin, her clothes, they smelt of fresh water. She had been bathed, her body cleansed of dirt and sweat. Slowly she reached an arm up to the top of her head. Her fingered taped against red leather and it jingled. Her head-dress had been placed on her head, her hair perfectly wrapped and folded beneath the leathers as if she had done it herself! Sitting up and looking at her clothes, all the holes had been sewn together with thick blue thread, laced up and down across and drawn tight to form stitched scars across clothing. Who had done this thing? Who had the nerve to do such a thing as to bathe her while she was asleep? Angrily she looked about, but no one could be seen. The forest floor did not yield any tracks, and only fruit and forest smells lingered around her. Perhaps it was the forest spirits? With that thought her anger quickly disolved. Whoever it was, indeed it would be a mystery not easily solved. Well, she hoped they had liked what they had seen at least, except maybe for her destroyed leg which no one but a poor doctor could ever regard as sexy.
The food bowl seemed to be growing bigger and brighter every time her eyes fell across it. And even though she would not normally trust a perverted stranger so willingly, she went at the fruit as soon as she could gather the strength. Each piece was different, and each piece rolled down easy into her stomach. She was full in no time, spitting pits with masculine aptitude out at the trees surrounding her.
Her hand touched something she had not yet seen laying next to her. Colored brown like the forest floor it had been hidden in the dirt and dying leaves. It was a long stick, smoothed with expert whittling, and capped with a ball of soft rags tied up tight to form a cushion. The length, the construction, it obviously had been made a crutch for her to lean upon. Painfully... slowly... and relying heavily on the crutch, she stood on her good foot. Pain was still distant and throbbing in her bad leg, but at least now she was full, fresh, and a great deal more mobile. And so she set off to find someone who could offer her shelter, at least for the next night.
How quickly the night came. It sensed her urgency and rushed to her side, only to plunge her into unwanted darkness and cold. Though the food weighed nicely in her belly for some time it made her very sleepy and the dark made her eyelids even heavier. So she took her chances and propped herself up against a tree, dozing off. If an animal came, let it come. If a monster came, let it come. As of now, she cared little for life or death even with her second chance granted her.
"Non!" Serge stood in front of her, flanked by faces from the past. "Non! It iz moi! Non…" Their weapons shinned as furiously as their eyes. With a sudden cry by Serge they all closed in around her, slashing at her with their blades and poles and daggers. Each slash of steal seemed to split a line open in her flesh and each word sputtered was a bitter curse! But these were her friends! No! No... They were humans. Not her friends. Her pawns and that was all. She let go for her own tight control and found energy draining away from her spirit to feed an attack of her own. Such power, it would surely kill them all! And her mind struggled with her heart in such a way as it had a thousand times before. Would they ever agree? Would she ever feel whole and at peace? With an enormous effort she flapped her wings and with the breeze sent her attackers flying. Wings? Where had she grown wings? When? She tried to look at herself but could not. And she remembered she was inside the Omni-Dragon. So was this how pathetic the humans had looked when she had attacked them? They were blown and tossed about so easily and with such frailty? How had they ever beaten the Omni-Dragon... or the Time Devourer...?
"Do you think she's dead?" The voice came like an echo through the battle in her mind.
"No. She is dreaming." A woefully familiar voice suddenly replied. "She is shaking." Her eyes snapped open startling the two humans standing above her. The night had melted away again, falling back into shadows, and it was morning again. The air tasted fresh and charged with sunshine. But more importantly were the two that had saved her from her nightmare. One looked familiar (somewhat, maybe) and the other... She turned away from him.
"S..." No, she could not say his name. But she found that she had to. "Serge? Mon ami. I am dreaming, oui? It is impossible." Perhaps she didn't say it. He didn't respond but simply continued staring at her. And her face became flushed with a vibrant red as his eyes burned into her. Her own eyes crept back to look at him, she couldn't stop them. Such innocence, and large beautiful blue eyes, all of his features, everything was the same. Even his half smile that seemed to be always teasing the edges of his lips remained. It was as if she had painted a picture from her memory and it had come to life. There was even that little scar across his left cheek bone. She had given that to him when they had fought at Hermit's Hideaway eons ago.
"S'il vous plaît." She finally murmured. "You are staring..."
"You're being rude Serge!" Leena tugged him back and away from the crumpled harlequin. "Hi! I'm Leena! And this is Serge."
Serge nodded his greeting.
"Who are you?" Leena asked, but Harle could only stare back with her red eyes burning and shimmering inside of their sockets. Oh yes. She remember Leena. The shameless hussy. The perfect wife-in-training. Harle took a moment of pleasure in the familiar hate that blossomed in her chest.
"Moi?" Harle finally said, regaining her composure. But something wasn't right about all of this. Serge didn't seem to recognize her at all. He wasn't playing a game and pretending not to know her. He seemed genuinely at a loss for her face.
"Je'mapelle Harle." Harle said.
"Well Je'Mapelle Harle," Leena smiled broadly. "You are lucky we found you, there are lots of nasty things running around through the woods here and-"
"Harle." Serge said, his eyes turning thoughtful. "It's just Harle."
"Shush!" Leena squawked back at him. "She just said her name was Je'Mappelle Harle! Why don't you pay more attention?"
"Ah non. It iz only Harle." Harle smiled halfway. "Do you remember moi Serge?"
"You know her from somewhere?" Leena did little to suppress the annoyance in her tone. They were to be married in three weeks and there would be no interference with it. Was she being paranoid? Who cares. Better safe than jilted. Not that she didn't trust Serge, but men are men after all, and even Serge could be thoughtless sometimes.
"No!" Serge suddenly shook himself back to reality. "No, of course not." But the face did seem familiar to him, somewhere in a dream perhaps.
"Non, mon ami..." Harle begged, her bruised and broken face crumpling even further as she looked into his eyes. "Mon puce! You must remember moi! Sil vous plait! You ... must. Ah, non. Non." It made some sense to her now. Maybe having finished using its humans the Frozen Flame had returned them back to where they belonged, purged of memory. But for some reason it had not done this same service for Harle, so that the clown girl was left with all her memories, remembering everything, every last detail. Was this Hell? Perhaps it was. Nothing could be worse then being swept under the carpet of the world.
"She is delirious." Serge said, reaching his arms around the battered and sullen harlequin. "We will take her home." And with that he hoisted the weary clown up into his arms and began to walk. It felt good for her to be pressed so close to him, her hand could feel the slow beating of his heart. His smell, it was so familiar she wished she could kiss him right there, and bring his memory back like a fairy-tale. But the world had forgotten Harle, and the truth of that loneliness crushed her down to silence. She remained flaccid in his arms.
"You want to take her back to Arni!?" Leena shouted after them, stamping her foot. "Don't you think one strange woman is enough?"
"Ah non! Mon Dieu, not you…"
"Oi! What the bleedin' hell are ya doin' here!"
The two stared at each other, sparing no amount of fire and hate. Leaning on her wooden crutch Harle could do nothing but stare. Her fingers twitched in their torn-up gloves. She wanted a weapon to hold, to stroke reassuringly and menacingly, but all she had was her crutch and the pain in her leg that still burned across her hips and up her spine. Maybe because they were in Serge's village a fight would not break out between them, or maybe Harle was finally finished after all.
"Oi! I thought I'd be done with ya after all a' this!" Kid had her hand already wrapped around her dagger. She was shouting in that ridiculous accent of hers, and the villagers of Arni had begun to assemble around Harle and Kid. This reunion had degenerated into some kind of a melodrama, a play entertaining all of Arni.
"Et vous! What hole did you crawl from?"
"Listen ta me ya funny-faced freak," Kid spat on the ground. "If you weren't all banged up and bleedin' like a stuck pig, and ya could take me in a real fight, I'd kick-"
"Oui oui!" Harle waved her hand to stop the flow of words. "You would kick mon derrière so hard I would make love with ze moon, non?" For the first time in days, Harle cracked a slow grin at her own remark. It was just sarcastic enough to slide Kid over the edge. No, it wasn't wise. But wisdom was not her strongest trait.
"Bugger!" Kid squeezed the word between clenched teeth, spittle flying, and with that she lunged for the jester.
Serge stepped between them instantly and Kid tore herself to a halt, blade just inches away from Serge's forehead.
"Bloody hell!" Kid stepped back. "Whadda ya doin' mate? Yer gonna get killed that way!"
"Serge! Here!" A faceless villager tossed a staff-like weapon out to Serge who caught it easily. It had a curved blade at either end of a smoothed pole of wood. Twisting the swoop expertly about him he brought it to a defensive position, each blade pointed at one and the other of the two warring women.
"There will be no fighting in Arni." Serge said simply, and he slowly turned his head back and forth to be sure the two had heard him well.
"Aww, Serge! ... she ain't no mate of yours!" Kid whined, but he didn't move. And eventually Kid sheathed her blade with a shark clack.
"And besides!" Leena suddenly shouted from the sidelines. "House maids shouldn't ... uh... well, they shouldn't act so tough like that! It's not proper!"
"Ah...uh..." Kid's face turned blood red. "bugger..." But it was too late.
"Ha! Nah-ne-nah!" Harle took her free hand and twirled on her nose in a mocking expression. "You are ze little frilly house maid? Ha-ha-ha! Come, ma petite Cinderella! Mon petit derrière needz ze good cleaning!" And Harle spun about, shaking her bottom promiscuously.
"Serge! Lemme kill 'er. Please!" Kid begged.
After such a rough reintroduction Harle saw little of Kid for the next few hours. She was probably off taking care of some "maid" business, whatever that was in such a tiny village. Harle had been left to rest inside on Serge's own bed, in his old room. Basic construction had begun on Serge and Leena's hut, but they were not yet married, and Serge still came back to his old room to sleep at night. Harle wondered passively if he would sleep beside her that evening. Such dreaming was fun but pointless. He was a gentleman after all, and he would have her sleep somewhere else or he would find a different spot to sleep himself.
Seeing Kid had relaxed Harle's whirling mind, the meeting helping her a great deal more then it had hurt. Besides, it seemed Kid had her memories still. Seeing a familiar face, and speaking familiar words, all of this had begun to unearth Harle's old feelings and thoughts from wherever they slumbered. Healing would come quickly if she rested this well for just a few days. But then she would have to go out into the world and make her way through it all over again, starting out like she had as a girl-child years ago. And then, of course, there was her duty. Grimacing at that thought she sat up out of the bed and grabbed her crutch.
Every stone of the village stood the same as they did back then. Though the people had been fearful Lynx-Serge would often come to Arni for just a little while on his travels. Though Lynx-Serge needed his body back, and needed to get back to Another World, there always seemed to be a few minutes extra to stop and stay at Arni. It did him comfort even if the villagers were hard pressed to keep their mouths shut when it came to the intimidating panther demi-human. Their murmurs, to him, seemed more melodious than threatening. He relaxed amongst the familiar words, sights, and smells.
Plodding carefully through the dirt Harle drew attention with every step. It didn't matter. She was used to stares and the cries of children who ran from her (or sometimes to her), the rude comments shouted from a safe distance or sputtered right into her face, and everything else. She knew she was different the moment she starred at her snow white face in a mirror and the moment she felt the Lunar Dragon soul flowing intertwined within her mind. That draconic power was quiet in her now, ever since the Omni-Dragon had been shattered and she had been spit back out into the normal flow of time. She found she could not phase shift anymore. Before, she could pass easily into the Spirit World, or one of many different planes. Now it seemed her spirit had lost this power. Perhaps she wasn't a Dragon goddess any longer. Maybe the Frozen Flame had stripped this one thing from her even her memories were left alone. No, she was still something of a goddess at least. Her spirit bubbled up within her to remind her of this. It pushed its way through her tightened throat and up into her mind where it began a tantrum of memories. She could still feel the pull of her duties, and she could still feel the power of her spirit. These things wearied her even as they fueled her. Would these things ever pass on? Would she ever be free of the weight of it all?
"So, is Arni alright for you?" Serge's voice touched her ears, soothing the tumult of memories and duties fluttering in her head.
"Oui. It iz… hmmm, how to say… trés quaint."
"You are welcome here. Stay as long as you need to." Serge offered.
"Merci beaucoup, Monsieur Serge." She replied with an easy grin. Harle did not have to struggle to keep up with him as he naturally slowed to match her stride.
"What brings you to this part of the world? I'm curious. We don't get many visitors." Serge asked obviously trying to make polite conversation. From her side he looked her over, slowly examining her. His eyes wandered over her, moving up and down her body, drinking her in. Did he think she wouldn't notice? She felt her eyes on him like burning physical touch. For his sake though she pretended that she hadn't noticed anything at all. He might become embarrassed and slip away and leave her alone again.
"Maybe, it iz fate. Maybe fate brought me here." Harle said as they walked. "To tell you any more, it would hurt."
"Don't worry about it." Serge patted her shoulder passively. "You can tell me all about yourself when you're good and ready." He began to speed up his steps. "I've got to go now, but if you need anything just ask the maid. I don't know how you girls know each other, but maybe you can work things out."
"Ah, oui..." Harle mumbled to herself. "Ze house maid."
Harle waited with happy expectation, laying herself out across Serge's bed. When she had arrived back in the room hours earlier she had found a sleeping bag and bed arrangements sprawled across Serge's floor. She could only hope he would be lying beside her (though not close enough for her taste) very soon. The door slammed opened suddenly, banging into the wall with an obnoxious crash, and in stepped Kid in the middle of a big wide yawn.
"But of course..." Harle turned over with a sigh, giving Kid her back. Why hadn't she seen this coming? She found herself disappointed in Serge's simple morals and his weird desire to push her and Kid together. This village could not hold the two of them for long.
"But a'course." Kid said back, mocking Harle with a sneer. Kid must have expected this sleeping arrangement because she didn't seem surprised. "I don't like it and ya don't like it either. So just shut the hell up and deal with it." And with a sharp exhale Kid dropped amongst her homemade bed on the floor. With a flick of Harle's wrist the torches that kept the room ablaze went out completely. There was only darkness and silence for a time.
Both lay awake without stirring even a little from where they had settled to sleep. The tension was tightening around them even they rested so quiet and so close to one another. But nothing could be done about it for now. Two women, made enemies over one man, and he didn't even remember either of them. And most of all he was going to marry in just three-weeks. Harle felt the cosmic irony of it but she did not find it at all comical.
"Ze maid hmm?" She couldn't help herself. The silence throbbed around her in time with the throb in her leg.
"Shut up." Kid shot back, full of venom. She had been ready for this.
Some time passed before Harle spoke again.
"No one remembers, do zey? Only moi et vous."
Only silence replied. It was a difficult statement, painful only because it was true.
"Kid?" Harle pressed for an answer.
"No." Kid turned onto her side, the blankets she lay upon did little to soften the hard floor. "No one remembers. Just me and you."
"…Why iz it like zis?"
"Why? Why!" Kid leapt to her feet, starring down at the shadow that was Harle. "Yer the bloody seventh dragon! Yer the one that started all of this! And yer askin' me why!?" Harle turned and sat up, starring back at Kid, their eyes glittering in the dark. Kid cracked an element between her fingers and fed the energy into a candle, using that little flame to light the other candles and the lamps. She needed to see Harle's face, the bruises and cuts, any quivering hint of pain and guilt.
"Well?" Kid asked again. "Aren't ya gonna say something or just stare at me!" Kid felt her spirit becoming desperate. The pain ached uncontrollably, overwhelming her control, filling her heart with such violence it would burst. It was too difficult to live in a world where no one remembered. Not even her beloved Radical Dreamers remembered her wherever they were out there in the world. And it was all the fault of this weird painted up little freak! If it wasn't for those damned Dragon gods, the Omni-Dragon, the Time Devourer, there would have been no adventure. There would have been only peace! Peace and ignorance! And she could have lived her life without a useless burdensome love for Serge, without the knowledge that she was a clone copy of someone else, without having to leave the Radical Dreamers forever, without any pain at all!
"What should I say, hmm? What iz it you want? Apologiès? Begging? Weeping and ah! Oh! Délicius drama!" Harle asked, her arms wagging back and forth to accentuate her mocking words. She could almost feel Kid's pain dripping off of the poor child's forehead in the form of sweat, but Harle was angry too. She was angry because Kid's question had hurt her, because Kid's questions made sense and seemed to demand answers, to demand some kind of justice. But Harle had enough to deal with and it is not as if the two of them were friends. So then why did Harle desperately want this questioning to be over, for the two of them to go back to sleep and never talk of any of this again?
"It's yer fault!" Kid leapt across the room and onto Harle, flattening her to the mattress. It was not difficult. Despite Harle being the older of the two she was thinner and weak with feverish pain. "It's yer fault!" She began to beat her fists upon Harle's chest, avoiding the clown's face for some reason. "Yer fault! Yer fault! Yer fault!" With every sentence she slammed her arms into Harle causing the jester to press deeper into the mattress for a moment before springing back up again into the next blow. Harle lay there, defenseless and unmoving, letting the human bring her this pain. She realized in that moment that she deserved everything. Anyone born to bring genocide deserved much worse than a small beating.