This chapter is dedicated to my sister – one of the few people in my life that I can yell and scream at and she understands that I'm not angry. Just passionate. It goes both ways luckily.
Also note, antorou is the Japanese name for the Outlaw enemy. You know, the bird looking thing with the short swords that you fight on the Mystic Mountains and in Magus' castle. It didn't make sense to me to refer to their species as an outlaw so I went with the Japanese name.
The Sunset Town - Circa 1000 A.D.
The pie smelled about ready. And if there was one thing Lucille prided herself on it was her sense of smell – at least when it came to baking. She opened the rack and sure enough the pastry crust was perfectly golden. Yes, her nose was never wrong. She pulled it from the rack and placed it on the windowsill to cool. She turned to her husband and sighed at the olive green creature. If he wasn't the handsomest imp she'd ever seen!
"Edward? Don't you go near that pie," she warned. He didn't acknowledge her. He was too busy pretending to be reading the paper, but Lucille knew better. All his senses were focused on that pie. She knew he had heard her so she moved onto other chores. There was just so much to be done.
She gathered a washbasin and began filling it with hot water. She ran her pale blue fingers through it in contentment. Her water heater had just been installed two days before. She loved that it she no longer had to boil the water on the wood stove herself! Those human inventors were truly ingenious! She gathered her garments and began working. First she had to soak the clothes, scrub them clean, wring out as much water as possible, before hanging them up to dry. Laundry could be such an exhausting task. Lucille much preferred baking.
"Edward!" Lucille turned just in time to catch her husband poking fingers into the berry delicacy. He jumped like an impling caught doing something he should not. "I told you to stay away from that pie!" He grumbled a bit, but went back to his seat and back to his newspaper. And Lucille went back to doing the laundry.
A loud crash echoed from the bedroom. Her husband suddenly leapt out of his chair and stormed into the other room. Lucille was not far behind.
"Did you humans just come out of the closet?!" Edward demanded of the four strangers that towered over him. His eyes looked like they would pop from his head. She had to admit, he was far less attractive when he did that.
"Now Edward, is that any way to greet our guests?" she chastised before turning a warm smile to her unexpected guests. "My name is Lucille. And I must say my dear, you look positively famished."
All four of them looked like they had been through a dust storm, filthy as they were. She took the young blond girl's hand and led her to the cherry wood table that she had inherited from her grandmother. "Here, I just finished baking a fabulous berry pie – my mother's recipe – you won't find anything better in all of Medina! You simply must join us!"
The girl's stomach growled audibly. Lucille laughed merrily as she quickly set the table with six small serving plates.
"Why thank you!" the girl exclaimed finally finding her voice. "My name is Marle, and this is Lucca," she gestured to the girl standing beside her with glasses and the most peculiar helmet. "This is Crono," she said gesturing to her fiery redheaded companion. "And this," she pointed to the man in the strange metal suit, "is Robo." Lucille forced herself not to stare. Such ogling was rude.
"A pleasure to meet you all. Let me introduce you to my husband, Edward."
"Lucille! They just came out of the closet!" he spluttered, "Scram!"
"Edward, calm down. These implings look like they've come from a long journey. And they are starving! They must eat." She turned to her guests, "Now please, sit with us." The four adventurers awkwardly complied. There was simply no way she would allow guests to leave without proper food! Edward though, looked as if he wanted to attack something. She gave each visitor a large slice of her still warm pie, but the gold man held up an arm to forestall her service.
"Thank you Madam, but I do not require oral sustenance. Though, I do appreciate your offer of hospitality," he explained.
"You are a polite thing whatever you are," Lucille said as she placed the slice before her husband who, amazingly, didn't seem to notice the sweet confection.
"Edward, sit before you give yourself a seizure," his wife told him sternly. Edward complied though he looked less than mollified. Lucille ignored him and beamed brightly at the younglings who were already shoveling berry pie into their mouths as if they hadn't eaten in weeks. She just loved it when her work was appreciated.
"What brings you young folks to the Village of Magic?"
"A research project actually," Marle explained. "We're studying the origin of a creature called Lavos."
Lucille's expression darkened. "Why?"
The three travelers glanced at each other.
"Umm… that's rather difficult to explain," the blond began.
"Wait," Lucca interrupted. "Do you know something? Can you tell us something about Lavos?"
Lucille sighed. She much preferred happier topics of conversation.
"Lavos is a Mystic God, promised to us in past times. Lavos was supposed to end all of humanity and grant the Mystics a world of their own where they could live in peace and prosperity. But those that worship Lavos follow a dark path. Why would younglings such as yourselves be interested in such an ominous teaching?"
"We're not really interested in the teaching," Marle explained. "Really just the origins."
"But why?" Lucille asked again.
"Umm…" Marle hesitated.
"It's all right youngling," Lucille said after a moment forestalling any explanation. "I'll not pry, but you'd all best be careful while you're here in town. My philosophy has always been to forgive and forget, but not many Mystics tend to agree with me."
"And you probably should visit the old blacksmith down south. You'd enjoy a chat with each other no doubt," Edward added grumpily. Lucille grinned at her husband's sour mood.
"Yes, that's actually not a bad idea. I can give you directions. But before you go, we must do something about those clothes!" Lucille added more warmly. Three heads looked down at their disheveled appearance, faces suddenly red with embarrassment.
Lucille gave each of her guests an overly large robe and towel to wear before she sent them outside to begin the process of cleaning their own clothes. The younglings quickly had an assembly line going. The aid and company quickly made the task far less onerous than usual.
At one point, the young man dumped his sopping wet tunic into Lucca's lap.
"Crono!" Lucca complained, jumping to her feet. "Watch it!"
"Watch what?" he said innocently.
"You know what?" she then splashed a wave of soapy water at her friend. He was quick to retaliate by chasing the now half laughing half screaming Lucca. Lucille rose to her feet urgently as she realized they were far too close to the flowerbed filled with red and yellow irises that she had just planted a fortnight past.
"Watch the garden!" she protested running toward her young guests. Lucca made a quick change in course and avoided the flowers altogether. Crono on the other hand leapt over them before correcting himself and shooting once again after his desired target.
Lucille dashed away laughing as the cleaning of clothes quickly degenerated into an all out water fight between the three young humans. It was moments like these when Lucille truly missed her own children, now all grown with implings of their own. She continued to watch the show until it all came to a crashing halt when Marle dodged a bucket full of water that landed on Robo's head.
"Robo!" Lucca shouted in panic. "Are you alright?"
"Yes Lucca," the gold man said calmly.
"I thought the water might short out some of your circuits," she said uncertainly.
"Only if my access panels are apert. It would not be very practycal design if I was not able to withstand a little water."
"I suppose not," she agreed.
"Though for future reference, oil would probably function as a better cleaning agent for my attire."
"Was that a joke?" Marle asked peering at the metallic creature, her smile wide.
"I have no idea what you're referring to," he replied his eyes glowing brighter.
"And that was sarcasm!" she cried leaping up, seizing her strange companion in a hug. "Robo, I'm so proud!"
Lucille did not know what to make of this exchange. But she didn't know what to make of the metal man either. He was obviously something different than the three humans. But he clearly wasn't a mystic either. She sighed. It didn't matter. Stranger things had come out of that closet.
The rest of the day was less eventful. They chatted about normal every day things. Marle even attempted to engage Edward in conversation at one point, but he had just glared at her for a long moment before she gave up and turned back to her own friends.
By the time the clothes were dry, the sun had long since set and Lucille insisted that her strange visitors spend the night. She knew Medina was not safe for them during the dark hours. But after a breakfast filled with sleepy eyed younglings it was time to say good-bye.
"We are on the edge of town. I suggest you had south toward the blacksmith's straightaway. He lives in a yellow cottage just west of the southern fork. Be certain to spend as little time in the city as possible and you cannot be there when the sun sets," Lucille warned.
"Why not?" Marle asked.
"Just do not be there when the sun sets," she repeated sternly. "You are much better off in the country," she continued more amiably, "where prejudice does not run quite so rampant."
"Lucille, thank you for the delicious feast and helping us get outfitted for civilization again," Marle said seizing the small imp in a hug.
"Yes madam, thank you for your hospitality," the gold man added with a bow. Crono and Lucca both waved before turning away.
Lucille watched them leave. The strangest people always came out of the closet. They hadn't had such an unexpected visitor in years. She enjoyed the change in pace their visits always brought even if it only lasted a day.
Marle ran ahead, letting her hands brush the top of wild grasses and flowers. She spun in circles laughing while listening for the buzz of insects and the song of birds. The simple things of the living world enchanted her completely.
"Marle!" Lucca called after her. "What are you doing?"
"Enjoying the simple fact that the sky is blue and the air is clear," Marle explained when her friend caught up. "I never realized that I took all this for granted."
"Yeah we should find some food," Lucca responded.
"What?" Marle asked, unable to follow the inventor's line of thought.
"Food. I took a ready food supply totally for granted. We should head into town and find a market," she suggested.
"Umm… Is that…?" Marle began uncertainly.
"We'll have to leave Robo behind. He'd attract way too much attention," Crono interrupted.
"Would you terribly mind?" Lucca asked.
"Remaining behind while you collect provisions?" Robo responded. "Not at all. I think it is a logical lokinge."
"Let's go then," Crono agreed.
"Are you sure?" Marle finally managed to cut in, biting her lower lip. "Lucille seemed to think that we should stay out of town."
"We won't stay long enough to find trouble. We need food," Crono argued.
"But probably long enough for trouble to find us," Lucca mumbled.
Crono glared at her.
"What?" she asked defensively. "You and I are trouble magnets!"
"That will be three thousand gees."
Lucca stared at the clerk in disbelief for several seconds. And then at sandwich supplies accompanied by a few apples. Granted, they had splurged on the huge block of cheese, and Crono had wanted more jerky, but it shouldn't have come out to anything nearing a hundred, let alone three thousand.
"I'm sorry, how much?"
"Three thousand," he repeated.
"What?!" Lucca spluttered. "There's hardly anything there! How does that come out to three thousand?"
"Lucca, calm down," Marle said tossing a gold broach with a large emerald at its center onto the counter. "Will that cover it?"
The clerk reached forward to inspect the jewelry, but Lucca snatched it back.
"I will not," Lucca objected hotly. "That is not a fair deal!"
"I think ye should be pleased that he's willing to sell to ye at all," a Mystic behind them interjected.
Lucca whirled in place and advanced toward the blue grey birdlike Mystic. "No one asked you, you pop-eyed, boil toed menace!"
"Lucca!" Marle hissed.
The feathered Mystic pulled out a short scimitar and moved forward menacingly.
With a ring, Crono drew his own sword.
"We don't want any trouble," Crono pleaded, standing directly in front of Lucca.
"Sounds like yer woman wants some," he said coldly.
"I am no one's woman!" she screeched marching around Crono. She did not need to be protected. She could take care of herself!
"For the last time, this… does… not… concern… you," she punctuated each word by jabbing the mystic in the chest.
He glared at her offending finger. Then lifted his eyes directly toward her.
Lucca realized in a split second that she had perhaps taken it too far. The scimitar whistled forward. Crono shoved her aside and sent her sprawling to the floor.
The sharp ring of swords colliding buzzed through her head. She rolled back to her feet pulling her gun from its holster pointing it at the interfering lout that couldn't mind his own damn business.
But she did not have a shot. Crono was in the way. He always was in the way.
Lucca watched, in appreciation, as Crono seemed to anticipate every strike the Mystic stranger threw at him. Crono parried low and to the right with ringing steel. He jumped back to dodge, only to leap forward to push his opponent back. He remained mostly defensive, which was quite a feat. Probably a stupid decision though, Lucca thought. She had watched Crono in multiple sparing matches and she knew this mystic was a pretty good match and Crono was probably a fool to hold back.
How was it that the one mystic she managed to insult just happened to be more than competent with a blade?
"Lucca!" Marle shouted.
Lucca whirled around to find the princess holding off the few other market customers with the threat of her crossbow. Lucca doubled the threat by adding her gun.
"This doesn't concern you," she told them. "Get out of here!"
When no one moved so Lucca fired a shot straight up. The ceiling exploded above her and Lucca clutched her head trying to protect herself from the raining debris. Customers shrieked and fled. The clerk remained frozen in his place behind the counter.
"That's right!" she half called and half coughed after the fleeing strangers.
Lucca heard the sizzle of electricity and she turned her head just in time to see the stunned Mystic fall to the ground.
"Crono! You didn't!" Lucca admonished, glaring at him in accusation. How could he use magic in the land of Mystics? They would never leave Medina now.
"Y-you can use magic!" the clerk stuttered into the sudden silence.
Marle was the only one with any sense. She shoveled the food into a bag, tossed two pieces of jewelry onto the counter, and dragged her friends out of the market.
They didn't get very far. Just down the cobbled street and around a corner before they found themselves surrounded by a horde of scowling blue and green imps.
Ozzie VIII, mayor of the capital city Medina, had a mound of paperwork to complete, but he had pushed aside the mountain of neverending work so that he could devote his entire attention to the aroma that was second breakfast. Today the meal consisted of grilled lemon salmon accompanied by roasted golden beets, sweet potatos, and turnips. He took the first bite eagerly into his mouth and moaned in sensual bliss.
Nerali had truly outdone herself with this one. How was it that something as simple as a beet or a tomato always tasted better when coming from her garden and kitchen? Nothing his wife made ever touched him the way Nerali's creations did. He really needed to give the woman a raise.
Before Ozzie could enjoy a second taste, his pint-sized assistant ran in. Ozzie let his knife fall to the table with a groan. The imp never brought good news.
"Sir Ozzie! We have a problem!"
"Of course we do Velix. What is it now?" the mayor asked with resignation.
"There's an incident at Flea's market," he explained.
Ozzie rolled his eyes. When wasn't there an incident at Flea's market? The owner was either harassing his employees with unwanted sexual attention or he was picking fights with customers. And unfortunately, the market was located just across the plaza so Ozzie had the misfortune of hearing about every complaint and incident.
"And why does this warrant the attention of the mayor?" Ozzie asked, struggling to keep the irritation out of his voice.
"Three humans were involved in the altercation."
Ozzie felt his ears perk up. Now that was unusual. Most humans knew better to set foot into the city proper.
"All that I can report for certain is that a scuffle involving live steel broke out between one of the humans and an autorou. And a firearm went off and a portion of the ceiling caved in. As far as I know no one has been severely injured, but a mob has formed."
"No time to spare then. Lead the way," Ozzie pulled his gargantuan form from the padded chair slowly and gestured for his assistant to go on ahead.
Outside, a crowd of mostly imps had formed. Though their were others: gargoyles and gnashers. Ozzie VIII entered the croud with mixed feelings. Last thing he wanted to have to deal with at the end of the day was dead bodies: human or mystic. Such an event was the worst way to spoil a good meal.
He did not have to weave or force his way through the hordes of imps. Either his great girth or his respected position ensured that the Mystics in his path melted away on either side. He did not really care which trait did the trick, just so long as the obstacles removed themselves.
Once he had arrived, Ozzie found the three humans standing back to back facing the angry mob with gun, sword, and bow drawn. He suspected they had at least some idea how to use their weapons based on how they were standing. If the crowd lost control and attacked, many native imps would die before they managed to lynch these unwelcome guests. That meant he would have to find a way to extricate the human trio from the situation.
"What have we here?" he asked in a booming voice, "Humans?"
"Is that a crime?" the girl with the crossbow asked. She was quite young, Ozzie noted. All three of them were. Barely more than children really. What idiocy had possessed them to come to Medina alone? Had they never heard of the Sunset Clause? Medina was not a safe place for humans. No matter how hard he fought for tolerance, the council never would hear it. In fact, they used his militant and prejudice ridden lineage to undermine his arguments constantly.
"No," he said warmly. "Not yet anyway, but shooting up a shop and terrorizing law abiding citizens most certainly is. I advise you put your weapons down and come with me."
"And who are you?"
"Ozzie the Eighth, mayor of this fine city."
"What will you do with us?"
"You must surrender," Ozzie insisted. "I can only guarantee your safety if you lay down your weapons. You will be held unharmed here until I can reach an agreement with your government for extradition."
"No deal!" the archer shouted. "You will escort us to the edge of town and the leave us be," she demanded. Ozzie grinned at the girl's audacity. She definitely had spirit. How could he get her to understand that this was the only way they would walk away from this?
"You are not exactly in a position to bargain my dear."
"Care to take a wager on that?" she asked sweetly while bringing her hands together.
"Marle! No!" the other girl cried.
Simultaneously countless small shining projectiles materialized above the mob, all pointed directly at him. Ozzie felt his jaw drop. This girl could use magic. That changed the game entirely. Magic using humans were an abomination and a threat that could not be tolerated.
"Death to the Mystics' enemies!" he shouted pointing forward as he conjured an ice shield to block the incoming crytal missiles. The mob surged forward around him gleefully only to be pushed back by a sudden maelstrom of fire. Ozzie watched the humans fleeing to the south through the flames.
"After them!" he ordered. The mob once again pushed forward around the flaming obstacles.
Magic using humans were never a good omen. Lavos save them all if the abominations were not found and dealt with.
Marle shot towards their robotic companion with her heart throbbing in her chest. She had been certain that the mayor had been sincere in his offer to help them stay safe, but he couldn't know that she was the crowned princess and that Crono was wanted for treason. Talking to their government could not be an option. Using magic had been her mistake, but she hadn't been able to think of anything else. They had been cornered.
She glanced backwards. Their pursuers remained only a few dozen paces behind. One would think that with their short legs, the imps wouldn't be able to keep up, but they were pretty fast.
"Robo! We gotta get out of here!" Lucca yelled pointing forward.
But they ran straight past him and he did not move.
"Robo!" Lucca screamed insistently again.
Marle turned back to see if their mechanical friend had listened and immediately stopped running. The entire plain was filled with collapsed imps and gargoyles.
"What did you do?!" Marle demanded. Had he just killed all their pursuers?
"Sensory override," he said by way of explanation. "They will only remain stunned for approximately 3.6 minutes. Perhaps, we should continue to flee?"
"Sensory override…" she repeated, panting. What did that mean?
"Marle!" Crono called. "We need to keep going!"
"Right…" she agreed and began running again despite the sudden stitch in her side.
They continued south across the grassy plains. They never stopped running until they made it under the cover of trees. At first, the trees were sparse and did nothing to reassure the fugitives that they could not be seen, but eventually the foliage thickened and even the sunlight only managed to peak through.
"Are we safe?" Lucca asked.
"Sensors detect no Mystic life signals within a kilometra," Robo reported.
"Is there something a little farther out than that?" Lucca asked. "Or is that the extent of your range?"
"Within the forestes that is my range. Outside the forestes, range increases by a factor of ten," he explained.
"Great. We'll rest here for a while. We've got good cover in most directions, but that also means we can't see anyone coming so let us know if something breaches your perimeter," Crono ordered. Robo nodded.
"What happened?" the robot inquired.
"Crono and Marle happened," Lucca said in exasperation.
"You can't blame me for this one," Crono insisted.
"You were the one that decided using magic was a grand idea!" she countered loudly.
"Lucca!" Marle hissed in warning. Did the two of them not realize that their voices carried?
"I wouldn't have had to if you hadn't decided to get into a fist fight over the price of an apple or two," he argued at the same volume.
"It was the principle of the matter!" Lucca insisted.
"Stop it!" Marle interjected urgently. "We can assign blame later."
"We're not really fighting Marle," Crono explained gently.
"Just trying to take the edge off our nerves by yelling at each other," Lucca agreed.
"Well, you're making me more nervous!" Marle complained.
"Sorry," Crono apologized, his eyes dancing in amusement.
"No you're not," the princess accused.
"I am!" he insisted seriously.
"So long story short," Lucca interrupted, "We are now wanted fugitives on every continent."
"Every continent? I have attached myself to a small group of henters?" Robo asked.
"A small group of what?" Lucca asked.
"Henters, those who would break the lage," he defined.
"He's asking if we're criminals," Marle clarified.
No one said anything. But both Lucca and Crono were staring at her.
"What?" she asked finally.
"You wanna take that one?" Crono asked.
"Me?" she asked surprised.
"You are the trained diplomat," Lucca added.
Marle sighed and then attempted to explain that Crono had been accused of a crime that he was purely innocent of. And that she and and Lucca had helped him to escape so that he wouldn't be executed.
"So you see," she concluded, "We're not criminals, so much as misunderstood in a lot of places that we go."
"Yeah, pretty much everywhere," Lucca added dryly.
"But you all were involved in the ascapie and asaut on the pursuing authorities," Robo concluded. "So by definition, you would all be considered criminals even if you were innocent of the initial transgression."
"What would you have done differently Robo?" Lucca demanded.
"I did not mean to imply that I disagreed with your choices, but under the definition, you are all technically criminals."
"I'm not a criminal!" Crono protested.
"Just wanted for kidnapping the princess," Lucca teased.
"Did you kidnap a princess?" Robo asked.
"I'm the princess!" Marle snapped.
"Did he kidnap you?"
"Well…" Marle grinned.
"Marle!" Crono objected.
"No, he didn't kidnap me," Marle agreed. "The chancellor was manipulating events to make it look like he did. He is a corrupt bastard intent on destroying the monarchy. And my father never notices or cares…" and suddenly she had to turn away, fighting off tears.
"Marle," Crono reassured gently from behind. "I'm sorry for any misunderstanding my presence caused." He squeezed her shoulder in sympathy. His hand of support felt so warm and solid. More than anything else, she wanted to turn into his arms and just cry into his tunic as she had at Arris. But this was no time to fall apart. So she did what all well trained princesses did. She took a deep breath, turned towards him, and summoned her brightest smile.
"It's fine," she lied. "It's definitely not your fault. None of this has been your fault. You saved me! You and Lucca both!"
They both smiled back, but then they fell into an awkward silence.
"We probably should start moving again," Crono said reluctantly.
"Where should we go?" Lucca asked.
"To the blacksmith," Marle said immediately.
"Bad idea. We can be tracked there if anyone questions Edward," Lucca objected.
"Lucille hasn't steered us wrong yet. She told us not to go into town. Turns out we probably should have listened. And she told us to go the blacksmith. We should go," Marle insisted.
"But…" Lucca started to argue.
"It's not like we have a lot of other options," Crono interrupted. "Robo? Do we still have a clear perimeter?"
"Let's go then – while the path is still open."
"You think this is it?" Crono asked.
"Yeah, it matches Lucille's description," Marle confirmed.
"And we're agreed? No one mentions that we're on the run?"
When everyone nodded, Crono knocked firmly on the door twice. He could hear movement within the house and after a moment the door swung open.
"Melchior!" Crono said in surprise at the familiar face. He felt his body loosen in relief that they did not have to explain themselves to another Mystic stranger.
"Welcome Crono! What can I do for you?"
"Umm… Lucille said we should come visit the blacksmith that lived here. We had no idea it was you."
"Ah Lucille! She's an old friend. She probably just thought I could do with the company. Come in! Come in!" He ushered them inward toward an inviting table.
And for the second time in as many days the time travelers found themselves surrounding a formally set table consuming delightful treats. Melchior served them green tea and almond cookies. There was no denying it, the future was completely overrated. The finest things in life were found when you lived in the present even if one did tend to encounter a prejudice Mystic or two.
Finished with his tea, Crono meandered the room admiring the multitude of blades on display. Melchior really was a genius in his craft.
"That sword is an invention of mine. It's lightweight and handles superbly," Melchior explained bringing it down and handing the hilt to him.
Crono experimented by slicing the blade in an arc to his left and right. It was a little too light for his own tastes, but there was no denying the amazing balance of the piece.
"It's a beautiful piece," Crono commented handing the masterpiece back to his host with a bow of his head.
"What brings you folks to the Magic Village?" Melchior asked. "Can't be a need of weapons as there are plenty of those on the Zenan Continent."
"Umm… just researching Mystic culture and legends. If looking for accurate information, it's best to go to the source!" Marle explained brightly. "But we have found that our presence is not exactly welcomed."
"Yes, I can understand that. I've been here so long that the Mystics have learned to tolerate me, but that was not always the case," he clapped a hand onto his knee and rose to his feet gesturing that they do the same. "As it just so happens though, I may just be able to help you with your project as I am somewhat of a scholar and bookworm myself."
"As well as a blacksmith?" Lucca commented, clearly impressed.
"That would be wonderful!" Marle exclaimed.
The old man led them down the stairs into his basement. The room had been sectioned off into two areas. One side consisted of a worktable and a forge. The other was made up into a study – the walls lined bookshelves that were overflowing.
Marle bounced forward eagerly, running her hand across the dusty volumes reverently.
"You have quite a library Master Melchior!" Marle exclaimed excitedly.
The old man laughed. "Most of it is on esoteric and obscure topics and histories. Is there a particular topic that you are interested in?"
"Umm… religion," Lucca supplied.
Did Crono imagine it, or did the old man's expression darken?
"The Mystics have two main competing philosophies," the blacksmith explained. "One is centered around Mother Nature and becoming one with the planet. Mystics that follow this path tend to live outside of the city to become closer to their natural origins. You can find resources on this topic on the leftmost bookshelf.
"The second is much more foreboding for you and I, but is probably largely responsible for the Mystics rising as a world power during the Great War in the Middle Ages as the order encourages aggressive nationalism, territorial expansion, and racial pride. These volumes are located down here," he said pointing.
There was a loud pounding on the door upstairs. The blacksmith stroked his mustache in thought.
"To have so many guests in so short a time is unusual," he commented. "Please excuse me for a moment. In the meantime, help yourself."
Crono glanced upstairs and shared an ominous look with Lucca. She nodded her understanding, patting the gun within her holster.
"Thank you!" Marle called after him as his headed back up the stairs, completely oblivious to the potential danger they were in.
"Crono! Look at this!" Marle waved urgently to her companions. Crono only gave her half of his attention, trying to listen for any indication of violence or raised voices upstairs.
Melchior opened the door to find his front yard filled with a Mystic patrol. Two stern faced henches greeted him at the door. The captain clearly looked worried, the second downright angry.
"Is there something I can help you with officer?" Melchior asked warmly.
"Yes Master Blacksmith! We are looking for three fugitives and we were wondering if you have seen or witnessed anything strange moving south in the last few hours?"
"Hmm… I haven't seen anything out of the ordinary traveling the roads, but then I tend to stay couped up inside. I can keep an eye out though if you like. What species should I be watching for? Gargoyles? Nagas?"
"Humans!" the second hench exploded.
"Humans? Now, that is quite the rarity!" Melchior said in astonishment. "I'm sorry, but I cannot help you."
"That is quite alright Master Blacksmith! We're sorry…"
"Sir! I must object! You are foolish to trust him. He is human himself! Of course he would aid the fugitives. We should search his home!"
"You are out of line Penski! Master Melchior is a trusted citizen of the realm – decorated and recognized by Sir Ozzie VIII himself! We do not go around invading citizens' private homes without reason."
"I have absolutely nothing to hide," Melchior reassured. "If it would put your second officer's mind at ease you are most welcome to come in. I have some tea that is just about ready if you would like to partake!" Melchior invited warmly.
"No Master Blacksmith," the captain responded. "We appreciate the offer, but we must continue our search. We are most sorry to have bothered you." And he turned gestured for his second in command to lead out the troops.
"Just between you and me sir," the captain whispered, leaning forward. "Do be careful if you do see them. These are not ordinary humans."
"No, they can use magic," the captain shivered as he spoke.
"I see. Thank you for the warning. I will be careful," the blacksmith assured him.
Melchior closed the door and watched the patrol continue south for quite some time. He was almost disappointed that they had not come inside. He hadn't had an excuse to cast an illusion in years. Though it was probably just as well that he hadn't had to risk it. He could never be certain that the illusion would hold, especially with Mystics whose minds he did not understand as well.
He turned his thoughts back to his unusual guests. It was obvious that the young researchers downstairs could use magic. They positively reeked of it. It amazed him that the Mystics could not sense it. When he had met Crono and the girl just two weeks past at the fair neither had shown even a spark of developed ability. How had they learned so much in so short of time? And from whom? And he hadn't missed that they were researching Lavos. Why would any happy young person have any interest in the dark path? Was it possible that they knew more about the beast than the current legends revealed?
And their metallic companion was yet another conundrum. The being was not alive as far as Melchior could distinguish and yet the creature was obviously capable of reasoning and communication. He almost reminded the blacksmith of devices that he hadn't seen since… Melchior shook his head. No, it wasn't possible. It was probably one of Lucca's inventions. Hadn't she displayed a fully mechanized combat machine at the fair?
He wished that he had time to solve the mystery they represented, but it was probably best that he smuggle them out of the country as quickly as possible. They could not remain so close to Medina. Not when their abilities would earn them a lynching. He still had a contact at the boatyard who knew to "trust" Melchior's forgeries. It was time to put together some travel documentation. Maybe the old man did have an excuse to cast a few illusions. He grinned.
After the house remained silent for several minutes with no Mystics breaking through the door, Lucca allowed herself to loosen up and breath again. She tried to focus on the dozens of relevant books and histories Marle had pulled out and was tearing through, but she was distracted by Robo. He had moved to a different section of the small library entirely.
"Robo? What are you doing?" she asked.
"I am reading a dictionary," he replied.
"Why? I doubt the dictionary is going to help us figure out the origin of Lavos."
"I am updating my linguistic database."
"Huh! That would totally work," she said under her breadth surprised she hadn't thought of it herself.
"You mean you're downdating right?" she asked after a moment's pause. "I mean… this language is older than the one you already know."
"I suppose that is technically an accurate assessment, though I have not deleted my old database. I am adding to it and thereby increasing my functionality, which meets the standard of an upgrade."
"You sure are the straight man Robo, if ever there was one," Lucca said with a laugh. She watched him in fascination as he turned a page every second. Could he really read that fast? He was already a third of the way through the massive volume.
"Do you ever have to worry about filling up those memory banks?" she asked after a moment.
"Not for some time, no. Inactive files can be compressed and stored for later use. I will be able to function for approximately 4.87 decades without any data loss or external memory storage."
"Fifty years? You can store fifty years worth of memories without any data loss?!" Lucca repeated amazed.
"I believe that is what I just stated, yes."
"That's incredible," she whispered almost inaudibly.
At that moment, Melchior came shuffling back down the stairs.
"My apologies for my long absence," he said warmly.
"Who was at the door?" Crono asked absently.
"My neighbor. He needed my advice about a tree in his garden," he replied smoothly.
"A blacksmith, a scholar, and a gardener?" Lucca questioned with a smile. Her smile faded when she saw Robo. He had forgotten the dictionary and was staring at their host and his glowing eyes seemed to have dimmed to almost nothing.
"What can I say, I am a jack of all trades and master of none," he replied modestly.
"The quality of this katana says otherwise," Crono objected.
"You seem to have your hands full!" Melchior commented. "I will get started on preparing dinner." And he left back up the stairs.
"Robo?" Lucca asked the android who was still staring after the blacksmith. "Are you alright?"
He straightened and his eyes lit up again. "I am functioning within normal parameters Lucca."
"How's your upgrade coming?" she asked.
"It is 73% complete."
"Great! When you're finished, I'm sure Marle would love your help. You read so fast that I think you will accelerate this research project exponentially!"
"I am glad to be of service."
"Lavos makes its first appearances in Mystic mythology at about 586," Robo reported.
"Really? That recent?" Marle asked surprised.
"The legend of Lavos comes with the rise to power of the Mystic King, Magus. He promised to bring forth a creature that would bring about the destruction of humanity."
"He got that part right," Lucca commented dryly.
"Are you sure it's the same Lavos? Maybe those in the future simply called it by that name because of the old folklore," Marle argued.
"I am certain that this is the same entity within a 96% confidence interval," Robo stated, holding up a drawn picture of the beast. Marle shivered and turned away from the picture.
"Yup! That looks like the bastard," Lucca agreed.
"So what good does this do us?" Crono asked.
"Well, if we know that Magus created Lavos, can't we just go back in time and defeat him before he does so?" Marle suggestd.
"You said that the legend began in 586. I don't think we can go back that far," Crono pointed out.
"Robo, do you think you can pinpoint when Magus created the monster?" Lucca asked.
Robo continued to flip through the reference books. Marle had long since given up trying to keep up with the android and now would just wait for his report.
She seemed to entertain herself inbetween the breaks playing footsie with Crono under the table. Either that or thumb wars. Both activities irritated Lucca immensely. Luckily Robo was efficient and she did not have to suffer through watching their attempts at flirting for long periods of time.
"There was a ceremony Summer Solstice of 600 A.D.," Robo summarized. "Magus disappeared at this point, but his generals took over the war efforts and hostilities remained ongoing until 606 A.D. after the humans went on the offensive and burned half of Medina village to the ground. The Mystics surrendered at this time."
"I guess that's why they hate humans so much," Marle said sadly.
"They weren't exactly innocent," Lucca snapped.
"I believe that Lavos was brought forth at the ceremony," Robo continued.
"What makes you say that?" Lucca asked.
"According to this record, General Ozzie shared that the human pestilence would no longer be a problem after the Summer Solstice," Robo explained. "I hypothesize that Ozzie assumed that the consequences of Lavos' presence would be immediate."
"So… does that mean we're actually going to go back to assassinate someone?" Lucca asked not sure how she felt about this change in her future career aspirations.
"He would deserve it!" Marle argued vehemently. "I mean, why would anyone ever want to wipe out another species completely?!" she demanded of no one in particular.
"Someone who had been mistreated by that species?" Crono guessed.
"Just because there are a few rotten apples, doesn't mean the entire tree should be cut down," Marle argued passionately.
Crono held up his hands in surrender. "You don't have to convince me."
"Great, so the guy's a racist scumbag," Lucca concluded. "But are you sure you're all okay with this?"
"For Mai and Asha? Absolutely," Marle stated without hesitation.
Crono nodded as well after a moment. So she turned to Robo.
"The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one," he stated.
"Okay, so we are officially self assigned assassins. For the future!" she said as she gave a mock air toast. "You had better be worth it!" she shouted up at the ceiling.
"Dinner is ready!" Melchior called from upstairs.
"Oh good!" Marle exclaimed leaping to her feet. "I'm starved!"
"Before we head upstairs, you should all know that Master Melchior lied earlier," Robo informed them.
"What?" Marle asked. "How do you know?"
"The knock at the door was not his neighbor, but rather a Mystic patrol."
"But why would he lie?" Marle asked.
"To protect us?" Crono guessed.
"Or to keep us complacent until reinforcements arrive," Lucca commented cynically.
"No, I really don't think so," Marle argued. "He seems to genuinely want to help us."
"Only one way to find out," Crono commented as he started up the stairs. "We just have to ask him."
Lucca snorted as she followed him. "You're going to make a lousy assassin Crono. You lack any semblance of subtlety."
Dinner smelled fantastic. Marle couldn't wait to actually have a real meal. Melchior had prepared a roasted duck with sides of steamed asparagus, stewed cranberries and mashed garlic potatoes.
"He's a chef as well!" Lucca exclaimed. "Is there anything you aren't good at?"
"Many trades in fact," he replied.
Marle didn't care if he had magicked the whole meal into existence. She dove into the plate before her. Finally, they were having real vegetables and protein.
"Master Melchior! This is positively succulent!" she said after the first taste.
"I am glad you appreciate it."
"Melchior," Crono began. Marle sighed. She had really hoped he would wait until after dinner was over. She would hate to have to run in the middle of the first real meal they had since the future. "We had a question."
"We really appreciate your hospitality and everything, but is there a particular reason that you didn't mention the patrol that arrived earlier today?"
"Why yes there is. I had assumed that your research was important and needed to be completed. And I didn't want you to be spooked into leaving when I had everything under control."
"Why did you cover for us?" Lucca asked suspiciously. "What makes you think you can trust us?"
"Lucca," he began patiently. "I was once a stranger here as well. I am well aware of how little it takes to provoke the Mystics into an all out man hunt if you happen to be human."
"Have you done anything that warrants my mistrust?" he asked.
"No," Marle was quick to jump in before Lucca could poke more holes in their own case. "It was a complete misunderstanding at the market."
"Flea's market?" he asked with a chuckle. "Well, there's your problem right there."
"Thank you," Marle said sincerely. "For your hospitality and for taking us under your wing."
"It is my pleasure, though you should know it is not safe for you to remain so close to Medina. For the most part, the Mystics there are not tolerant of outsiders of any kind.
"I can provide passage for you to any other nation," he pulled out an envelope filled with tickets and identifying documents. "Perhaps you would like to make your way back to Guardia?"
"You don't have to do that!" Marle objected. "Surely, we can make our own way."
"I insist," Melchior countered. "It is only good manners to show you my gratitude."
"Gratitude for what?" Crono asked.
"For your presence and company. For bringing a little bit of action into my very routine life," the old man responded jovially. "An old man does tend to get lonely."
"Can we at least reimburse you for the tickets?" Marle asked.
Melchior chuckled. "I promise you, that is quite unnecessary. The tickets were quite inexpensive. But I think you should remain here until your research is completed."
"Oh, we're good on that front," Lucca reassured. "Thanks to Robo!" she smiled at the android.
"Well then, you should try to get some sleep. I will wake you before dawn when my contact arrives to escort you to your ship."
"Do you trust this person?" Lucca asked.
"I would not have contacted them if I did not. She will understand the delicacy of the situation. Fear not."
"She?" Marle asked.
"Yes, she," but he did not elaborate. Marle decided to just leave it. She was content to spend the time resting. She would save worrying for later when there was something to actually worry about.
It's so exciting to have gotten to this chapter. Lucille's baking was one of the first scenes I wrote when I started this project. I thought about posting it separately as a one shot years ago, but I felt that that would be conceding that I wasn't going to get this far and I was determined to get this far! And now I have!
Today's history lesson:
Sunset or Sundown towns unfortunately really did exist (maybe they still do, but I truly hope not) and were quite common throughout the US. These towns often had signs on the outskirts that warned non-whites (usually African American, but not always) that they were not welcome in the city lines after sun down. Those that broke the sunset rule were often violently harassed, chased out, or more often killed by lynching. Not a part of our history that reflects very well on us. But for that very reason, should not be forgotten.