Chapter 3: The Queen is Gone (600 A.D. first time) – Part One

By: Sokai

Disclaimer: I, Sokai, do not claim ownership to the workings of W.I.T.C.H. -- I leave that honor up to Elisabetta Gnone. Nor do I own the extremely kick arse classic console role-playing game,Chrono Trigger. The glory of that honor forever goes to Square Co., Ltd. However, I can and DO claim to own this story and its inspired ideas FROM said series, although the original idea to cross the two worlds together came from LordofDarkness2099's story challenge.

Note: OH, MY GOD!! I'M FINALLY BACK WITH AN UPDATE TO THIS STORY!!! LoL Wow! And the first update of 2009! HAPPY NEW YEAR, ALL!!

Yikes. Nearly three years since I'd last updated this story, I think. But it's cuz I'd gotten uninspired, since it didn't seem to have much interest from people. Now, ironically, it does/has, once its been fermenting, so to speak, for a while on here. LoL So, yep. I'm back with it, and hope you all enjoy the first half of the two parter chapter of "The Queen is Gone."

And please, be nice to me and give reviews to this thirteen pager, because it's my birthday tomorrow. HeHe

This chapter was created/written in January 2009.

The thought of being powerless within a possibly dangerous topographic point instantly produced a rather icy chill, that effortlessly careened down the spines of all five stranded and weary Guardians of the Veil.

Pausing for a moment, rubbing her bare, russet hued shoulders in self comfort, Taranee quietly asked, ". . . . Do you think that's true? That we might have lost our magical abilities, I mean? Maybe, we should. . . ." she trailed off, as she caught a look of understanding from each girl.

Without another word, the quintet lined up, side by side, and diligently extended out their hands in attempt to draw upon the innate elemental powers that lay active within each of them, regardless of a full onset transformation.

However, after several moments more had passed, and nothing had happened, Hay Lin was the first to speak.

"Wha . . . this can't be happening, you guys! We can't transform back into our Guardian forms, where we're the most powerful! And now, we can't even manage to tap into our powers for even the most minuscule task, as we would on any other day!" she cried in frightened hysterics, looking down at her pale, open palms with widened brown eyes. "T-this is really bad! We really have lost our powers! That means we won't even be able to defend ourselves while we're . . . wherever this is!!"

While the petite, apparently former Guardian of Air continued on within her frazzled state, although this time in silence, as she merely vigorously rubbed her hands together and fearfully looked about her surroundings, Cornelia, choosing instead to draw upon what little inner strength she had left within her, rather than plummet further into despair alongside her companions, calmly suggested, ". . . May . . . maybe our powers aren't gone, Hay Lin. Maybe it's only because we're all tired and have been through so much in the last hour and a half. . . ." she paused, squeezing her light blue eyes shut in silent reflection over just how much all of them had been through and truly have lost . . . and all in such a short amount of time.

Their homes.

Their families.

Their former lives.

It was all too much to bear. . . .

Seeing that the taller girl could no longer keep up her projected resolve of strength, Will stepped forward and rested a gentle hand upon both Cornelia's and Hay Lin's shoulders in consolation and nodded lightly in understanding.

". . . It's true. We have. . . . A-and I mean, each of our powers are strongly tied to our emotions, so perhaps . . . once we've gotten some rest, gotten our bearings and figure out where we all are and why, we could be able to transform back into our Guardian state once more," the redheaded Keeper resolved, her voice shaky despite her best efforts to remain as collected as possible, if only for her comrades' sake.

For she knew that, the moment any sort of emasculation might have been revealed to them, ultimate chaos would then ensue, and thus, then would they truly be powerless.

And I can't let that happen, no matter how much I may wish to quit and give up right now, thought Will to herself with vague granite, gazing upon her exhausted and shattered-appearing best friends surrounding her within the deep forest they had mysteriously arrived within minutes before. If our loved ones really are gone, we're all each of us has left. . . . And as their leader, it's up to me to remain strong and keep this remaining family rallied together in order to keep moving forward. I just . . . wish I knew how to do it. . . .

Irma, who had been the most quiet and seemingly distant of the group thus far, rubbed her forehead tensely for a spell, before gently waving her hand in a summoning motion towards her companions.

"Well . . . l-let's just first make it out of this forest first, then, and see if we can't find some sort of familiar landmark nearby or something," she softly remarked as she turned and began to lead the way, biting down upon her plush, pout lips thereafter, as though to stifle any sort of sob that might have wished to escape from them.

Of them all, it appeared as though the whilom Water Temptress was handling the girls' newfound predicament the hardest. And, if she had been questioned about it outright at that moment, perhaps she might have admitted it to be so.

Because I was the one who had taken today so lightly, making jokes about 'six-six-six.' It's almost like . . . like my having done so had incurred the unforeseen wrath of whatever had enough strength and will to do . . . what it had to all of Heatherfield. . . . she silently ruminated with a strong, sorrowful grimace, the guilt over her previously "blahzay" attitude mounting as she quickened her pace ahead of her friends and temporarily vanished out of sight behind a large pair of shrubs. If it would change things, I would give up my life to have mine and the others' families back. . . .

"H-hey, Irma, slow down, okay? You and Taranee may be better familiar with the terrain because you'd gone ahead to look around earlier, but we should all still stick toge --" was all a cautious Hay Lin had managed, several paces behind her best friend alongside the rest of the other Guardians, watching the sole brunette briefly leave her sight from behind the woodyplants up ahead, before the four remaining women were effortlessly startled by a piercing, high pitched scream coming from within the same direction.

And, frighteningly still, it sounded precisely like the girl in question. . . .

"I-Irma!! Irma!! What's happening??" Will was the first to voice, with terrified vigor, also the first to take off ahead of her remaining friends in a fevered sprint, following the sound of the horrified Water Guardian's shrieks.

". . . . H-Help!! A-Aaaahhhh!!!!" the quartet could all hear their endangered friend bellow out into the atmosphere in gross, bone chilling affliction, her voice eerily sounding more and more disconnected and echo-like.

"Irma, don't worry!! We're coming!! We've got y --!" exclaimed Will in great alarm, her heart doing immense palpitations as her fear for the well being of one of her comrades swiftly elevated. She watched with widened eyes as Taranee suddenly rushed past her and the rest of the remaining girls, as she was the only one left within the group who was vaguely familiar with the newfound terrain.

The Fire Guardian stopped abruptly once the quartet reached a wooded clearing, Cornelia bringing up the rear, before they each began to turn in circles in order to get a better view of their surroundings, and hopefully spot the mysteriously vanished Water Guardian.

"Irma!!" Taranee was the first to holler out into the cool, crisp atmosphere, with her hands cupped to her face for better amplification, before the others had then followed suit. "Irma, where are you?? Speak to us!!"

"You guys, this is not good! F-First, our powers, a-and now, Irma!!" cried Hay Lin, after she could no longer raise her voice any higher to continue calling out to her missing comrade and best friend. Her almond shaped eyes effortlessly brimmed with renewed tears, as she peered pleadingly upon each of her fellow Guardians. ". . . . W-What if . . . I mean . . . what i-if, because of the cliffs nearby here, s-she --"

"-- Did not fall, and is going to be all right, because we're going to find her, Hay Lin," promptly interrupted Cornelia, resting one hand upon the smaller girl's shoulder as she passed, before gently narrowing her light blue colored eyes while she began to survey the immediate area. She paused for a moment, staring at the small wooden bridge directly before the four of them in the near distance, before crouching down onto the soft ground on one knee. ". . . . From what I can tell, it doesn't look as though Irma had lost her footing and fallen off of the cliff's edge up ahead . . . and it doesn't look as though she was dragged away by anyone, either, since the surrounding earth, bushes and bridge there doesn't seem disrupted in any manner. . . ."

". . . . Having an Earth Guardian within our midst certainly has its perks," remarked Will in soft praise as she cautiously peered over the cliff side from where she stood, both her nerves and breathing having slowed down some. Although still quite fearful over the missing brunette's well being, she trusted Cornelia's observant insight, especially when concerning nature. "So, then . . . at least we know that, thank God, it doesn't appear as though she'd fallen over, since I can't see anything down there at all from up here, added to Cornelia's input. . . . The only thing left to assume, then, is that . . . if Irma could have been kidnapped, after all -- Which is a more than easy feat against any of us right now, since we're all both defenseless, as well as fatigued -- the perpetrator must possess some sort of magical power of their own, because there isn't any sign of struggle or appearance at all. . . ."

"Do . . . do you really think that's possible?" pondered Hay Lin aloud with clasped hands in anxiety, a shiver running down her spine at the thought. "I mean . . . that's the last thing we need right now. Our friend has gone missing, and we don't know where she might have been taken, or where the heck we've been taken by that weird portal thing, at that! Now, we have to also worry about rescuing Irma, without having our magic, against someone -- or someones -- who might??"

Taranee, having been silent the longest, at last spoke.

"Hay Lin! Calm down . . . please. . . . We're all very scared and stressed right now, not to mention confused as to what is going on overall," she said. "I mean, we've all . . . that is . . . our families and homes, they're. . . ."

"We understand, Taranee . . . we do. . . . But . . . we're still here. We still have a chance at survival. And powers or no, we will see this through and find Irma," avowed Will with a light furrow of her crimson brow. "We've already been awarded a stroke of good luck of some kind, given that the Heart of Candracar had managed to transport us to this place, where life is still apparently very much thriving. . . . And, if there really is magic within existence here, then that means we might stand a chance at figuring out a way to get ours back. . . ."

Cornelia nodded in agreement, rising to her feet and waving a hand over her shoulder towards her companions to beckon them to follow her, as she made her way warily over to the wooden bridge.

"Right . . . but if we do stand a chance at finding Irma at all, we had better pick up the pace and get out of this forest, first things first -- Especially before nightfall," she said with a momentary glance up towards the sky, to take note of the brilliantly shining sun's current position. "And, maybe there might be people or towns nearby who could help and tell us if they'd seen anything or anyone suspicious very recently. Will's right, you guys; so long as we stick together and keep fighting . . . we can do this. . . ."

Swelling with renewed motivation and bravery to press forward, the stranded Guardian of the Veil quartet, without another word, carefully began their trek across the bridge and further into the forest that was hopefully leading them within the right direction.

After several minutes had elapsed, having climbed down a series of various, thankfully, as well as conveniently placed rope ladders upon the numerous cliff and rock formations, the girls unanimously breathed a sigh of relief the moment each pair of eyes had laid upon a grand clearing within the near distance.

"I-I think that might be the exit, you guys!! We're almost there!" announced Hay Lin with a tired squeal, the first to finish climbing down the final ladder, before beginning to lightly jog on ahead. "And I think I can see what looks like . . . yeah! I think there might be a town or village not too far from here, too! Maybe that's where Irma is!"

"I had a feeling there might be, since it's clear this mountain has been visited and passed through, quite possibly, many a time before we'd arrived, judging by all of these ladders and bridges strategically laid about," deduced Taranee with an abrupt exhale of weariness, the second to finish her descent, with Cornelia and Will about to follow suit. "But, I wouldn't go too far, or get too relieved just yet, Hay Lin. We still don't know whether this new world is a friendly one . . . and without any way to readily defend ourselves, we could be sitting ducks for whatever may lie up ahead."

Nodding in slight agreement, the raven haired, pigtailed girl stopped within her place, just a few feet away from the group's presumable exit, before turning back to face the mocha skinned young woman formerly behind her.

"Good point, Taranee. . . . Although, not to jinx anything by saying so, but we did manage to make it all the way down the mountain without any sort of incident. So, maybe . . . maybe our luck really is changing for the bett --"

"-- Hay Lin, watch out!!" cried Will in alarm, leaping off of the rope ladder and managing to perform a sloven-like somersault, before taking off towards both the now frightened Air Guardian and Fire Goddess. For, behind the petite saffron hued young woman, rolling swiftly towards her appeared a mysterious, lime green colored . . . ball??

"W-What?? Ahh!!" shrieked Hay Lin in amplified terror, as she began to whirl around to see what had the other girls so spooked, themselves; however, she was swiftly knocked over onto the ground by both Will and Taranee, just in time to miss the curious circular projectile's path of impact.

Cornelia, meanwhile, so caught up within the sudden chaos that immediately began to unfold right before her eyes, remained glued within her spot, fingers still clamped tightly upon the rope ladder. She had seen a lot of unique looking creatures while traveling to and fro the world of Metamoor over the last year and a half, and swiftly faced off against them as the Guardian of Earth.

However, this one was certainly peculiar, indeed. . . . At least, she believed it, this "ball," was a living creature, anyhow, as her blue eyes watched it suddenly stop rolling and place itself in front of her trio of companions who still lay, scattered, upon the ground.

What am I doing?? I've got to do something to help! Now! thought the blonde in silent reproving, after at last having snapped out of her awed daze. Unbeknownst to her, however, Cornelia was about to face a few problems of her own, as right when she was about to let go of the ladder and rush over to help out her friends fend off the greenish sphere that was now immobile, a bit menacingly, before them, she suddenly felt a pair of tiny, cold and calloused hands gripping at each side of her neck.

"L-Look!! Something's just jumped onto Cornelia from behind and is attacking her!!" breathed Hay Lin in affect and point of her slender finger, before doing her best to climb back onto her feet as swiftly as possible alongside both Will and Taranee.

"W-What is that thing?? Moreover, what is this thing?? I-Is it even alive??" queried Taranee within a mixture of growing consternation and perplexity, trying to split her attention between the present issue that continued to stand its ground before the three women, acting almost like a conscious blockade of sorts, and to her remaining friend, who was struggling feverishly against what looked like a bluish . . . blur that had securely wrapped itself upon her back.

Refusing to waste any more precious time, Will immediately settled back into her leadership role and began delegating orders.

"Forget about what they are or aren't! You guys just try to do your best to get rid of this . . . thing, while I go help Cornelia!!" she commanded fiercely with a deep frown, managing to dash past the yellow-green orb before it could attack, and towards the sunlit haired girl in the near distance.

If that spherical object really was alive and an actual threat, it didn't seem to mind that the redhead had easily gotten away from it just then, as it remained within its spot before the remaining Fire and Air summoners.

Apparently thinking along the same lines as their leader, both Hay Lin and Taranee gave a silent nod of understanding towards one another, before splitting up and running away, on either side of the "ball," in hopes that it would repeat its same actions from just mere moments before, and not bother to move from its spot once again.

However, just as Hay Lin had managed to pass by it without so much as a flinch, Taranee let out a sharp yelp of pain and surprise, as the mysterious entity swiftly leaped from off of the ground and catapulted itself straight into her abdomen, knocking her over and back onto the cold ground.

Seeing immediate stars, the naturally inquisitive young woman instinctively curled up into a ball, herself, having felt as though she'd just been hit by an oncoming cannonball. White, searing hot pain immediately began to careen itself throughout her entire body, while she continued to lie upon the soft earth in agony.

"Taranee!!" screeched Hay Lin, stopping within her tracks, away from her former path of direction towards the redhead and blonde, and back towards the injured girl, who still lay crumpled and helpless upon the ground. . . .

Meanwhile, Will had, at that same moment, at last managed to successfully tear what, to her, appeared to be bluish, imp-like sort of creature from off of Cornelia's back, and blindly hurled it towards a row of sunset colored bushes to the girls' immediate right.

"C-Cornelia! Are you all right??" she asked in fevered concern, both she and the slightly taller girl next to her panting heavily, as Cornelia hunched over, gingerly rubbing at her now bruised neck. "Can you make it? Because it looks like Taranee and Hay Lin really need our help!"

"Y-Yeah, I think so, thanks . . . but it feels as though that little . . . whatever the hell it was had managed to do a number on my neck and scratched it up pretty bad," muttered the Gaian Mistress bitterly, pulling back her hand away from her neck to give both she and Will the clear view of the crimson, warm liquid that daintily spotted her fingertips. "Bastard came out of no where. . . ."

Will briefly nodded in concurrence, before securing a firm hand around the slightly injured girl's arm, to help straighten up her posture once more and lead her back over to the fallen Taranee and frazzled Hay Lin . . . who was, at that moment, within the midst of trying to do her best to dodge the ball-like monster's attacks in the same manner it had enacted before.

"We'll worry about all of that later! Let's just hurry up and get as far away from this mountain before any more of these things come back!" said the redhead, releasing Cornelia's arm before running back towards Hay Lin. She waved her arms straight into the air to risk catching the other girl's attention, long enough to let her know of her currently brewing intentions. "Hay Lin! Get out of the way! I've got it!! You and Cornelia, go help Taranee!"

"No, Will! This little rolling freak's mine!!" cried Hay Lin with the most conviction she'd harbored all day, and a deep, frustrated scowl set upon her flax countenance. With a swift raise of her hand to stop her leader and friend from coming any closer, she abruptly surprised the cardinal locked young woman and everyone else present, by performing a swift roundhouse kick to the greenish fiend gliding through the air straight towards her at that moment.

And, although slightly sloppy in execution, primarily due to fatigue more than anything else, the move had nonetheless gotten the job done at last, as Hay Lin's dirtied, sneakered foot had promptly connected with the side of what curiously looked like a pair of eyeballs and a face that had been curled up tightly.

With a loud shriek of pain, the lime green, moving sphere suddenly unfurled itself at long last to reveal its pointed ears, short arms and legs, as well as flabby underbelly to the quartet of young women, before the impact of the Air Guardian's blow had sent it sailing, backwards, into the row of trees in the distance.

For just a moment, no one could say a word, as each girl, including Hay Lin, herself, were surprised at the smallest girl's swift thinking and nimbleness. With a small, but growing lopsided simper despite her ongoing, pulsating pain, Taranee let out a sharp cough before speaking.

". . . . Too bad you couldn't have done that before that thing had nearly knocked every last bit of air I have inside of me, Hay Lin, but . . . thanks," she lightly jested in good humor and gratitude, as she allowed both Will and Cornelia to help her up from off of the ground. "Since when do you know any form of martial arts??"

Hay Lin's cheeks instantly grew a more rosier, darker shade at this, scratching the back of her head in awkwardness as she looked from friend to friend before her.

"Um . . . since maybe like, the end of last summer? I don't really know a whole lot yet, or think I'm any good, but my grandma was beginning to teach me and said that I was a quick study, nonetheless," she sheepishly explained. "She told me that she wanted me to learn everything that she had as a former Air Guardian, herself, and that included martial arts. . . . Even though I've honestly never really kept up with my practicing, or thought that I would ever really need to use it, since I instead had my powers as my main offense . . . I'm certainly glad to know the bits and pieces that I do now. . . ."

Who knew that Grandma would be right in wanting to teach me a few things? she pondered silently as an afterthought, abruptly averting her brown eyes away from the rest of the girls, as she then began to feel newfound tears forming within them at the reflection upon her beloved grandmother, who was now most certainly lost to her along with the rest of her family. If only I could have taken it a bit more seriously, or I at least could have thanked her properly for the lessons. . . .

Sensing her former upset returning and growing within her once more, Cornelia carefully moved away from Taranee's side, and moved to stand by Hay Lin's, clasping her hand with one of her own, while using the other to gingerly press down upon the scrape that was still lightly bleeding upon her otherwise unmarred neck.

"I'm sure both she and the rest of your family would be very proud of you right now, Hay Lin . . . trust me," she said with a weak, although warm smile. "I know that we all are. . . . And now, you can act as our official bodyguard until we have managed to figure out a way to get our powers to work again."

For the first time in what felt like ages, the bewildered and energy depleted Guardians simultaneously let out a short, but honestly uplifting laugh at this, before moving closer together so that both Will and Hay Lin could help Taranee, who had one hand draped around her stomach in cradled protection, make it down the rest of the mountain, so that Cornelia could properly tend to her own wound.

"I think that, instead, from now on, we should all try to keep a better watch of each other's backs until we've found Irma," said Will after their laughter, almost delirious in nature, had effortlessly died down, her left hand wrapped securely around one side of her best friend's waist, while Hay Lin's right arm enfolded around the other side on Taranee's left. "Something tells me this is going to get a lot more trying before a silver lining might be shown to us, with probably even more of . . . whatever those creatures were, popping up along the way, as well."

"Let's just hope that wherever Irma is or might be being held, she won't bump into any of them," said Cornelia, before tearing a piece of the bottom of her blue sundress off to use an active bandage for her injury, instead of continuing to use her hand.

As the Guardians at last exited the mountain area, each girl breathed a heavy sigh of relief for having managed to do so safely without further incident. Limbs now burning within the desperate onslaught of fatigue, the girls' eyes instantly lit up at the sight of a small, but notable village within the near distance.

"Huh . . . looks like you were right, Hay Lin; it was a town you saw nearby. Good eye," complimented Taranee with a small wince as she inhaled slowly, lightly rubbing her stomach she was confident was now most assuredly beginning to bruise. "Thank God for that, too, because I definitely need to lie down for just a little bit, before we continue on to look for Irma. . . ."

"I think we could all use a brief rest, Taranee, after everything we've been through today," remarked Will with a small incline of her crimson colored head, taking in another, deep inhale of the fresh, cool air blowing through her hair. "But, we'll have to make it as short as possible, if we want to keep up with whomever might have taken Irma. I would honestly leave you behind with either Cornelia or Hay Lin to watch over you, while I went on to go after her, but after what just happened back in those mountains, I'm even more certain we should remain as a unit. . . ."

"Yeah, no matter how seemingly innocent or inviting this little village area may appear. . . ." trailed off Cornelia with a narrowing of her blue eyes, the first to take a step forward and resume her walking, a clothed hand still pressed securely against the back of her neck. "But, the way the architecture looks, so medieval like, it sort of reminds me of something we'd see back in Metamoor. . . . You don't think that maybe the Heart had somehow transported us to another part of that world, some place we've never been to before? I mean, it is a pretty big world, after all. . . ."

Each girl paused a moment to reflect upon the blonde's hypothesis. It, just like anything else within their particular lives, they've noticed, was certainly possible. There honestly still was so much about Metamoor and its topographical make up they had yet to discover, and being that the majority of their focus and energy had always been battling within the world's capital, Meridian, and reclaiming it within Princess Elyon's good name, there was honestly no telling what else lay out there. . . .

"Well, if it is a part of Metamoor, it's obviously a part that Phobos's evil has yet to spread to, being that everything is still so vibrant and beautiful -- Well, with the exception of those . . . monsters back upon that mountain," noted Will after several moments of silent reverie had passed between the four. It was true. While every part of the land within Meridian was so dull, dark, and dank -- Including the sky, with little to no distinction between the passing of day and night -- here, there was absolute brilliance all around.

Plush, full bodied and nearby forests housed gaily singing birds and other currently vocal animals; a bright, shining sun that beamed down warmly upon each Guardian and was unobstructed by the cloudless, true blue sky; and the continually fresh, now salty sweet smell of air that gently kissed each of their cheeks as it blew in from the vast, surrounding crystalline ocean.

Wherever within Metamoor this land happened to be, it was obviously well away from Prince Phobos's attainable grasp . . . at least, for the time being.

Suddenly, Hay Lin let out a small gasp of honest surprise, causing all three of her remaining comrades to immediately whirl around in the process, now on guard.

"Guys, look! Over there! It's a castle! That means that the village up ahead is a part of a kingdom!" the pigtailed girl explained with a minuscule, embarrassed smile for having alarmed her friends, watching them each calm down a bit before looking within her extended finger's direction to their right, away from the shoreline.

There, surrounded by a plethora of forest trees and two separate mountains as its backdrop in perfect, geographical protection, was a majestic, chivalric looking castle that was russet and crimson in color, just like its nearby village.

It was now the girls' turn to pant upon taking in the impacting sight, each taking a mindless step forward.

"Wow . . . for a monster infested, apparent kingdom, it's . . . almost breathtaking and humbling to look at," remarked Cornelia with a faint, but thoughtful smile, using her free hand to better shield her eyes from the sun's ongoing rays. "It's certainly a lot nicer than Phobos's castle, anyway -- Or at least, his usurped castle, that is. . . . I wish Elyon could see this. . . ."

"Well . . . once we figure out precisely where in Metamoor this is and after we've liberated Meridian for the Princess, we can bring her back here one day," assured Will in softness, before clearing her throat and beginning to carefully lead Taranee, this time without Hay Lin's assistance, along the dirt trail that led into the nearby village. "In the meantime, let's get you and Taranee some proper bandages or something to better treat your wounds from one of these establishments, and maybe something cool to drink for the rest of us. . . ."

"Hopefully we won't be met with any sort of problems with these people, kingdom or no, especially for the way we're dressed," chimed in Hay Lin with a small grimace, as she and the blonde beside her began to follow after their friends, looking down at her slightly torn, black colored corset blouse and jeans. "That always seems to be such an eyeopener for some of the Rebels whenever we arrive in Meridian prior to transforming. . . ."

The quartet continued on, down the vaguely steep, earthy path and into the village without another word, although the thought nonetheless lingered within each of their minds as apprehension mounted because of it. Throughout all of the ongoing commotion, it hadn't honestly yet occurred to the girls, until then, that how they were presently dressed might become a possible deterrent for the locals there, as it quite often was for those within Meridian.

Hopefully it won't be too much of an issue, though, thought Will, as she and Taranee were the first to arrive in front of what looked like a pub.

"Well . . . here goes nothing," the redhead murmured to her surrounding companions, before the quartet, absolutely defeated in spirits, gathered up what little vigor they had left, and unanimously entered the oldened establishment.

There Crono continued to stand, utterly paralyzed with both fear and profound shock, as he practically bore a hole straight through the stone castle wall behind where Marle had once stood not moments before, adorned within a regal white gown, before inexplicably vanishing from plain sight.

A minuscule part of him began to reason, in dual slight comfort as well as growing insanity, that if he would just remain within his spot, unmoving and with great diligence for just a while longer, then perhaps the young blonde would return to him once more.

After all, Marle had disappeared without warning; why couldn't the reverse occur, as well? And besides, it wasn't as though Crono's mind was froth with any other ideas in regards to getting his new friend back, yet again -- Especially before anyone within the castle began to notice whom they all curiously continued to believe was their beloved queen had gone missing once more, and in such a short amount of time, at that.

And, unless this Queen Leene harbored quite the taxing habit of absenteeism more often than not, Crono would have quite a lot of questions to answer, from the King (or, more dangerously, the King's guards) quite soon, as, by now, the entire kingdom was currently well aware that the redhead was the last one to share a private audience with his wife.

Heart immediately jumping straight into his throat at that particular thought, Crono at last unglued his booted feet from the lavish, royal rug, pivoted around with vast swiftness and began to hightail it out of Queen Leene/Marle's bedchamber.

The red haired, novice rescuer had nearly fallen straight onto his backside and almost emitted a boisterous curse in alarm, once his eyes met with the two chambermaids who had been within the Queen's quarters prior to Crono's arrival, waiting patiently just a few feet from the large wooden door.

Great. Apparently, there would be no easy escape of any kind for the young lad, as his insides struggled to remain calm and collected as he slowly approached the royal attendants.

Softly clearing his throat, Crono forced as steady a smile as he could then manage, nodding in acknowledgment towards both females as they'd turned to face him in kind.

". . . . Did you notice anything odd about the Queen?" queried the taller chambermaid to Crono's left in a hushed, although eager voice, both she and her fellow companion inching a bit more closely to the male newcomer and causing his naturally tawny hued cheeks to immediately flush in the process.

Apparently, not even being no more but several paces away from their monarch's sleeping quarters could nor would dissuade part of the royal staff from continuing on within their ostensibly treasured gossip. . . .

Unable to find his voice quite yet, due to the surprising turn of events not but a few moments before, Crono could only weakly shake his head in misleading response, secretly knowing full well of how much of a gross understatement the slender chambermaid's inquiry truly was.

"If you only knew the half of it," was what the crimson haired youth yearned to blurt out right then, provided his vocal patterns would soon return, and if he could trust that these divulging, although seemingly harmless women would not to do him in.

". . . . Okay, if you say so," said the first lady-in-waiting with undeniable chagrin, her gray colored eyes promptly downcast and shoulders slumped in defeat, as she backed away from the teenager. Her shorter, a bit frumpier and vaguely older looking comrade, however, did nothing of the sort.

Just inches away from Crono did she remain, intently eyeballing his form as though her brown eyes were some sort of enchanted device that could see straight through his calm façade. After a few moments of increased discomfort, primarily and undoubtedly upon Crono's part, alone, the evidently suspicious woman at last spoke.

". . . . Has she dismissed you already?" she cross-examined with an incredulous air, eyes narrowing into near slits while continuing to hold their well-founded gaze upon the poor boy. "You were polite, of course?"

Feeling a faint, but growing cool sweat beginning to permeate from the top of his forehead, silently giving great thanks to the Heavens Above that his hair was long enough in the front to conceal such occurrence from his newfound interrogator, Crono could only briskly nod in response to the royal attendant before him, before she immediately continued on.

"You didn't do anything . . . funny, did you?" the fair haired woman pumped with a slight cock of her head to the side, and an accusatory raise of her right eyebrow. Crono could have honestly laughed at the display, as the first, younger looking lady-in-waiting suddenly mimicking her companion's actions right at that moment was quite comical . . . had it not been so insulting.

After all, while it could (and has, courtesy of Lucca) be said that he was not without his own fair share of resounding faults, Crono knew, full on, that he was at least a proper gentleman, true and true. And so, for this young woman, this complete stranger, to charge him of having been potentially fresh with the queen of his beloved country (or so he believed, anyhow), was far more than he could take.

Forgetting himself and his previous anxieties for the moment, Crono sucked in his breath sharply before letting out a resounding "Of course not!" to the unsuspecting chambermaid, who, alongside her fellow comrade, looked dreadfully taken aback and red in the face with abashment.

For a split second or two, the young redhead felt painfully embarrassed and surprised alongside the two women before him, who were now positively mum. If he was such a self-acknowledged gentleman, then how could he have been able to snap so violently at the woman -- Any woman, for that matter -- lewd insinuation or no?

Especially when it was blatantly obvious that that particular woman cared a great deal for her female monarch, and was merely checking to be certain that Crono, a newcomer within their midsts, had not taken advantage of their kindness in any manner.

Knowing the mental scolding and torture his mind (and perhaps from even his mother, if word ever somehow got out and trickled down to her neck of the woods), Crono was about to reopen his mouth, this time in a far more gentler fashion in order to apologize to both women for his outburst, when a cool, strong hand suddenly, although gently clasped his shoulder from behind.

Whirling around in surprise, Crono's cool blue eyes widened immediately at the unexpected, duly unwanted presence of one of the many knights stationed around the castle and he had crossed paths with not too long before.

This was it.

He was done for.

Surely, this far more equipped, muscular and skillful man-at-arms was now about to thoroughly run the redhead clean through for his harsh and disrespectful behavior towards the Queen's ladies-in-waiting . . . however, not before first annihilating him completely for the figurehead's second inexplicable disappearance that day, as Crono had previously feared.

But, nothing of the sort had happened. . . .

In fact, about the only sort of malice currently emitting from the taller, older man was that of vexation, which seemed to be more so directed towards the continually flustered female attendants than to anyone else.

". . . . I grow so tired of the gossip around here!" said the silver armored knight with a tired huff, face crinkled within aggravation, as his steely blue eyes looked over Crono's head and straight towards the two chambermaids, who now gazed back at the man with profound indignity.

Rare silence then settled upon the antiquated, reverberated stone hall for just a moment, before a flurry of newfound, heated arguments suddenly erupted between the three royal employees, having evidently completely forgotten all about the mysterious traveler.

Taking this as good a sign as any to get while the getting was good, Crono, without another word, swiftly crept away from the feuding trio and fled towards the descending staircase up ahead. He absolutely refused to stop running, or look back until he was completely out of Guardia Castle, and far away from anyone who might be able to tie him to the strange occurrence within Queen Leene, or Marle's bedchamber.

A deep, bothersome frown began to darken his otherwise handsome features as the cardinal locked young man continued down the stone staircase at a rapid rate. He needed time to think. Time to properly try to map out and piece together what had happened to the young blonde, and how in the world he would manage to get her back.

Although no solutions were yet dawning upon him, as he continued to ruminate over each of them, of one thing in particular Crono was absolutely, and surprisingly certain: No matter what or how long it would take, he was going to find Marle, and bring her back. . . .

First, however, he was going to need a little help in doing so. From someone very intuitive and handy with good solutions. . . .

Someone like --


Crono immediately, and finally skidded to an abrupt stop once he'd at last left the long staircase, the moment his blue eyes unexpectedly met the familiar periwinkle of Lucca's. . . .

Speak of the Devil.

A small smile of amusement began to creep its way onto the lengthy young man's tawny face, as he watched the tiny girl hunched over before him, with her hands upon her knees and cheeks aflame from obvious fatigue.

Although it was a bit comical, seeing how out of breath his best friend currently was (and usually would be quite easily, as aspects of the physical nature was not so much her forte, in contrast to that which was technical), Crono was also quite relieved to see her then, and that she had evidently followed after him . . . just as she'd stated she would.

". . . You're okay!" huffed Lucca in between sharp gulps for air, her mauve tinted head still met towards the stone castle floor. Her slim shoulders raised up and down, as she took another moment to gather a few more inhales, before blindly speaking to her friend once more. "Did you find the girl?"

Crono couldn't help but wince slightly the moment that question had been posed, as he knew it would not be remotely easy explaining everything that had transpired between he and Marle earlier on -- Especially since he was well aware that Lucca would undoubtedly bite his head off and view the entire situation as his own fault, as she traditionally would whenever things would go wrong over the last decade or so the two have been friends.

But, given that he would need to rope the fiery genius into lending her assistance in finding the missing blonde, Crono went on ahead and told Lucca the entire debacle anyhow . . . although with a bit preserved caution, that would hopefully soften the blow. . . .

No go.

"Gone?? Whadd'ya mean she's gone??" thundered Lucca in utter stupefaction, quite the rarity for her, as she instantly straightened her posture to stare, wide-eyed, at a very sheepish looking Crono. Several castle guards and attendants continuing to pass throughout the many halls paused a moment to gaze upon the fierce young woman, causing the redhead's face to grow several shades darker in color from continued embarrassment.

After uttering several apologies and words of assurance that he was well on his way to go after Marle, Crono was cut off abruptly by a now, suddenly much calmer Lucca, as though having just experienced an epiphany of sorts, her brows deeply furrowed in thought from behind her large, oval shaped glasses.

"Hmm . . . it's just as I thought," she murmured softly, more so to herself, as she slowly reached up to readjust the broad spectacles, her soft colored eyes curiously ablaze with continued thought. "I knew I recognized her! And this looks identical to the castle in our time!"

As much as Crono admired his childhood friend's vast intellect and know-how, he often found himself vexing Lucca's frequent "thought train sessions," as she would sometimes fondly refer to them, as he was never usually one for being able to hop on and keep up . . . especially when Lucca would not bother to give a moment's pause without continuing on within her slew of verbal wonders.

". . . . I'll bet they mistook that girl for her ancestor. . . ." Crono could hear Lucca fervently gush once he'd left his own thoughts, and frowned deeply in perplexity at her statement. None of what she had been saying thus far was yet making any sense to him, and it was becoming increasingly frustrating!

"Our time?" Of course they were still within their own time of 1000 A.D.! Crono was still pretty certain of that, at least, as anything else simply did not make much sense. . . . Well, granted, the constant mention of the Queen was still a bit puzzling to him, he silently admitted, but perhaps the King had recently remarried, perhaps even today, in honor of the Millennial Fair.

Not being one to keep up with the steadily changing news of the Royal Family, it was quite possible he'd missed that particular memo, after all.

Crono let out a heavy sigh, rubbing the back of his neck, as he hurriedly made a request of his friend to cease speaking in riddles and simply be direct with him for whatever it was she was trying to convey.

With a roll of her eyes and slight smirk, Lucca took a step forward and gently slapped her neighbor's forehead, before doing as he'd asked.

"You see, she's a member of the royal family in our time! She's Princess Nadia!" she revealed with dramatic satisfaction laced within her voice for having figured out the true identity of their mysterious new friend. To further in her triumph, Lucca watched with delight as Crono's eyes nearly buffed out of their sockets, while his entire face practically stretched beyond its limit due to the utterly shocked expression he'd bestowed upon her just then.

Crono felt as though his legs were suddenly made of one of his mother's specialty bowls of spiced pudding, as his mind began to swim with so many thoughts and questions all at once.

This could not be so. Lucca had to be wrong . . . well, as close to it as possible, anyway, given that she never usually was.

But, still!

Marle, the girl he had innocently come across at the Millennial Fair earlier that morning (and, possibly found to be quite the attractive catch, whether he was ready to openly admit that to himself, or not) was actually Princess Nadia??

The Princess Nadia, of the Guardia Royal Family??

There had to be some sort of mistake. After all, what would she be doing hanging about the square, where mainly the common folk frequented, especially unattended and within the traveling clothes she'd been adorned in?

As it was to Crono's understanding, princesses were merely supposed to always look pretty within their gowns and array of jewels, and were most assuredly full of themselves . . . not down-to-earth, sweet and mellow the way Marle had been.

And, most importantly, if she were truly the Princess, then why would she have even given someone like Crono the time of day, let alone wish to tour the entire fair's activities with him?
It just simply did not add up. . . .

Seeing that her companion clearly needed some time to regain his composure, Lucca gently patted Crono's shoulders in comfort as she began to explain her theory (or, rather, what she was most certain to be fact).

"Marle, that is, Princess Nadia, is a descendant of Queen Leene!" the lilac haired teenager started with a knowing smile, giving a faint nod of affirmation towards Crono, as he gave her a look of renewed disbelief. "Queen Leene has been kidnapped. . . . As I recall, someone was supposed to have saved her. But history has been changed!"

Feeling his mind becoming a little less hazy, Crono chanced an inquiry to the petite girl right then, wondering what exactly did she mean by history having been changed.

Because, then that would mean that . . . somehow, someway, Lucca's new transporting device really had brought the two -- No, three, including the missing Marle, back in time!

Which would also mean that . . . everything about Lucca's hypothesis was the truth, after all!

Crono thought that he could faint at any moment, now that his mind at last allowed him to completely swallow and take in all that had been happening to him; however, seeing nothing soft to break his fall, or any chairs to sit in, he promptly made his way over to a nearby wall to support his temporarily weakened state upon, while listening to the rest of Lucca's condensed "history lesson."

". . . . Marle looks so much like Leene, that they probably called off their search when she appeared here," she continued with a small frown, placing a lightly clenched hand to her chin, as she pivoted her body around to face the redhead's new position. Her soft features suddenly darkened then, immediately catching Crono's attention for it, as the two locked eyes to share within a disquieting gaze. ". . . . But if the real Queen is killed . . . Marle will simply disappear. . . ."

At this, Crono instantly catapulted himself away from the stone wall, startling Lucca in the process, as she let out a brief gasp, before waving a hand to calm him down. Being his best friend, she was already well aware that the crimson haired young man was beginning to develop an interest within the Princess of Guardia, and that the feelings were quite possibly mutual.

So it was of no surprise to the sagacious youth that Crono was taking the news of Marle's potential write-off from history, as it were, more than personal, and was clearly itching to charge off into the unknown to rescue her.

It was almost . . . charming, in a way.

Suddenly, Mr. Pinhead's all grown up . . . well, sort of. He's falling in love for the first time, from what I can tell, anyway, mused Lucca with an affectionate simper, as she silently studied her longtime comrade's determined resolve with proud eyes, before moving to rest both hands upon his shoulders.

"There might still be time. If we can save Leene, history as we know it should remain unchanged!" she delivered with soothing confidence, which both knew served well in calming a presently jittery Crono a tad at that moment.

Lucca gave a quick, reassuring nod before continuing, backing away from the boy to fold her arms across her chest in deeper thought. ". . . . Something must have happened to the Queen in this era. As a result, Princess Nadia ceases to exist! Hurry! We have to find the real Queen!"

Suddenly and without another word, the outspoken intellect broke out into a swift sprint, back the way she'd came, and began to lead the way towards the castle's exit. With a fleeting thought of concern and silent prayer on the missing Marle's behalf, Crono promptly gathered up every ounce of courage and faith he harbored within him, as he quickly took off after his friend . . . with hopes of successfully finding the whereabouts of the true queen.

-- To Be Continued

(A.N. YES!! C'EST FINI!! Well, part one, anyway LoL And just in time for my birthday tomorrow. Yay! Wow...I'm gonna be 25....Can't believe it.... I remember posting an update to one of my other stories, and I was on about how I was gonna be 22, then 23.... Time flies! HeHe Know what you all can give me as a gift?? Lots of very nice, supportive reviews for this story! Woo woo! HeHe

Anyway! For those who've never played this game or don't remember, those nasty little buggers that attacked the Guardians in Truce Woods were that stupid Blue Imp and Roly, that come out when you're trying to leave the forest...bastards.... LoL And since I'd already written the imp attacking Crono in the previous chapter, with its stupid kick move to your shins it does during battle, I thought I wouldn't repeat myself and just had Will chuck it into the woods LoL

What else...can't think of anything else. I know there was more, but I can't remember now. Ah well! LoL Hope you enjoyed it, stay tuned for the exciting second half, when the Guardians and Time Traveling Heroes finally meet! Oh! And review! HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MEEEEEEEEEEE...the 15th, anyway....LoL)