Ill Tides Chapter 4

By Average Joe

Crono was stirred from sleep by a strong hand shaking his shoulder. His eyes opened to a fuzzy blob of green, slowly focusing into the face of Glenn. "Come, Crono, awaken. 'Tis the morn, and we know not when Gerard will arrive."

"Unggh," Crono moaned, rolling in his cot. The bed was warm and the air was cold, and he could tell from the mists pouring in from the partially opened tent flap that the temperature outside was even lower. "Can't it wait just a little longer?"

Glenn's voice held a dark undertone, signifying to Crono that the frog's will was not to be tested. "Nay, Crono, now is the time."

Crono sat up from his repose, yawning and stretching. As Glenn exited the tent Crono pulled on the day's clothes and inspected his katana. After he was satisfied that the always-perfect edge was still perfect, he resheathed it and reminded himself to congratulate Melchior on the work he had done in creating it. He then joined Marle, Lucca and Glenn in front of the cathedral for some breakfast and a refresher on the battle plan.

"So thou art all certain of thine places in the battle?" Glenn concluded after the discussion was ended.

"Got it," Lucca said.

"Yup," Marle nodded.

"I'm ready," Crono asserted, placing a hand on the hilt of his sword.

"Now all that remains is for the contemptible villain Gerard to make his presence known." Glenn sighed and bowed his head. "If his word holds true."

"You mean--" Crono blurted.

Glenn raised a hand to silence Crono. "Nay, all places are under alert. There is not a knight in Guardia that has not been called to duty this day. Shouldst the need arise--"

A collection of shouts on the eastern side of the building cut Glenn's sentence short. The four heroes ran to see what was amiss, leaving their meal and their discussion unfinished. Three armor-clad men lay charred but still alive at the perimeter of the southwestern encampment. The other two guards were charging into the woods, swords raised high. A moment later they were both flung back at their unconscious companions' feet, the cloth portions of their armors burnt to cinders.

"'Tis Gerard!" "That must be Gerard," Glenn and Crono exclaimed simultaneously.

A figure emerged from the forest, clad in plain clothes. A katana in its sheath swung at his hip as he strode purposefully up to the edge of the forest. No emotion was expressed on his precise features, and the wind held its breath as he spoke, his manner full of disdain. "Hmph. Idiots. I told them to get out of my way." His demeanor changed slightly as he spotted the four battle ready heroes moving towards him. "Ah, the toad has brought the boy here. Hello, boy," he snapped. "It appears you kept the bandage. Good. You'll need it."

Crono, Marle, and Lucca stepped back a bit in complete shock. Even Glenn lowered his weapon when he saw his friends' reactions. "Thou knowest this demon?" Glenn inquired.

"H-he saved me, when I was little..." Crono mumbled.

"That's the guy?" Marle asked, moving closer to Crono.

"Aw, he couldn't be more than six feet tall..." Lucca muttered under her breath, cleaning her glasses with a cloth she pulled from her pocket.

"I'm not here to talk. I'm here to destroy the cathedral. Say goodbye, everyone." Gerard raised his hand to the cathedral, a ball of fire forming in his palm. Glenn, not about to let him have his way, began a spell to counter it. The fireball shot out at the cathedral, and was encased by a bubble of water only hairs away from impact. "Nice catch, toad. Have another." Another, larger sphere of flame took shape in front of him, and Glenn was still busy quelching the previous spellflame.

"Friends, attack!" Glenn shouted, breaking Crono, Marle and Lucca from their thoughts. Crono dashed forward, drawing his blade, while Marle summoned a sheet of ice to block Gerard's blast. Lucca replaced her glasses and drew her gun, an unreliable weapon she had dubbed the Wondershot. Gerard's magic was released, impacting the wall of ice and shattering it, breaking many of the cathedral's stained glass windows. Crono's attack hit the dodging Gerard, but only enough to slice open a vent in his shirtsleeve. Glenn drew the Masamune and also charged forth, as a wobbly blast from the Wondershot impacted Gerard's chest, though doing virtually no damage. Glenn followed the shot with a slash of his own, but Gerard caught Glenn's hand before the broadsword came down.

This allowed Gerard enough time to draw his own blade, the blunt end of the handle smashing into Glenn's stomach, knocking the wind out of him. Glenn fell to his knees, clutching his stomach and trying to breathe, while Gerard went after Crono. As they locked swords, Lucca and Marle nodded to each other, agreeing to work together on casting a spell. The clash of swords rung out over and over again, with neither Crono nor Gerard breaking through the other's defense. The girls' spells neared completion, Gerard hopped back, letting Crono's slice go wide. The antipodal magics of fire and ice were loosed at a distracted Gerard, freezing and burning simultaneously.

Glenn, pulling himself up to his feet, grabbed the Masamune and moved next to Crono. They watched the spell take effect on Gerard, and readied their blades should he survive the attack. Gerard did survive, raising his sword to the two swordsmen while an icy glare was shot at Marle and Lucca.

"Four against one," he growled. "You may have your work cut out for you." The enraged Gerard deflected two blades one-handed, while shooting an explosive inferno from his other hand. The detonation knocked the two girls down, and some of the sparks lit on the roof of the cathedral. Lucca called out to Glenn to stop the fire, but Glenn had problems of his own.

There seemed to be a dozen swords slashing at Glenn and Crono; Gerard was able to parry every attack they could throw at him. Gerard was even pressing forward with some attacks of his own, though the other two warriors managed to avoid the worst.

Lucca helped Marle to her feet, asking if she was okay. Marle nodded, asking, "Another antipode?" It was Lucca's turn to nod, and they prepared the spell. Behind them the fire spread; they had to work quickly if they were to put it out.

Gerard was frozen in place as the spell took effect, and in the brief moment before he could recover, Crono bowled him over, sending him rolling across the grass. Glenn called forth the forces of Water to put out the spreading flames on the cathedral. Truce's metalsmith and resident tinkerer, Banta, along with several of the knights guarding the cathedral, rounded the corner with his latest invention: a large cart with a tank full of water and hand-pumps on either side.

The knights started pumping while Banta uncoiled a length of heavy canvas tubing and secured one end to a valve at the bottom of the tank. As pressure built up inside of the tank, Banta pointed the nozzle at the roof of the cathedral.

Crono dashed over to his once-savior Gerard, who, through a deft act of acrobatics, had managed to leap to his feet. Gerard's words left an almost tangible feeling of cold as he said, "Save it, boy." His arm raised, pointing back at Crono's friends. "You have other matters to attend to." The pointing fist changed to an open palm, and without warning another fiery blast rocketed off at the cathedral. The fireball broke through a window and exploded inside.

The explosion caught the interior cathedral walls on fire. Crono, knowing he could do nothing about the fire, charged at Gerard. Gerard sidestepped Crono's attack and landed a kick in Crono's kidney as he passed by. Gerard slashed an X in the air, then pointed his glowing blade at the cathedral. Crono rolled over, clutching his aching side, in time to see Gerard twirl his sword, slashing a hole in reality. In the empty darkness a bronze hued skull appeared, facing the burning building. Gerard stabbed his katana into it and shouted, "Skullstream!" A cloud of smaller skulls erupted from the bronze skull's mouth, smashing a large hole in the wall of the cathedral. The building creaked and groaned from the lack of support from that side, the blaze within further weakening the structure.

There were shouts all around the cathedral as the roof began to give way. Banta was directing the knights to drag his invention back beyond the reach of the flames, Glenn and Marle were fighting desperately to keep the flames from consuming the cathedral, and Lucca was working on ways to optimize the pump's performance to help out.

Gerard turned away, walking back into the forest. Crono ignored the pain in his side and pushed himself to his feet, then ran after Gerard. Gerard either did not hear Crono coming or did not care, but he did yelp in surprise when Crono grabbed him by the back of the collar. Gerard pushed forward, snapping the thin chain of some sort of necklace he wore. Crono held onto the broken chain, panting, while Gerard turned around.

"Curse you, boy," Gerard muttered, his shadow enveloping him. "I'll get that back." His darkened form stepped back and faded completely from view.

Crono heard a disturbing crack behind him, followed by many clamoring voices. He put the chain in his pocket and rushed to see what was amiss, dodging a blazing section of building material as it impaled itself into the ground by his side. An entire section of the cathedral had collapsed, and the remaining corner threatened to fall on his friends. He pushed himself harder, yelling at all of them to run, but he was not fast enough. The wall toppled, pinning several of the knights. A burning beam slammed into Banta's chest, throwing him down, smashing his head against a rock, knocking him unconscious.

Crono was closest to Banta, so he started lifting the heavy beam at an end that had already burned itself out. Glenn and Marle ran over to help the knights, pushing aside the brickwork and other detritus that lay atop the fallen soldiers. The beam had just been lifted from Banta when Lucca let out a scream.

The heads of the other heroes turned to face their screaming friend. A discomforting glow surrounded Lucca, growing in intensity while she faded in substance. Crono, Marle and Glenn rushed to assist their disappearing friend, each tripping over the rubble of the fallen cathedral. Lucca broke down into tears with the stabs of icy pain that coursed through her, and fell to her knees. Glenn was the first to her, and reached for her outstretched hand, just as she faded completely, and the brilliant glow that surrounded her form exploded in a shower of sparks, leaving nothing behind.

Crono stopped dead in his tracks, staring blank-faced at Marle. "J-just like when you... disappeared," Crono whispered.

"Madam Lucca," Glenn wept, "I couldst not save thee. May thy soul find rest in the hereafter, and may mine blade find the throat of that... evil..."

Crono solemnly stepped forward and placed a gentle hand on Glenn's shoulder. "I think we can get her back, Glenn. I think that something happened to one of her ancestors here. We need to find out who--"

"Banta!" Marle yelled, shaking the blacksmith, trying to revive him. The knights from the other sides of the building were pulling their wounded, yet living allies to their feet, moving them off to the medic's tent. Marle shook Banta again, and recieved no response. She tried some of her curative magic, but was only able to get him breathing again.

"Marle, is--is he...?" Crono asked nervously.

Marle's voice was very distressed. "No, but he will be, soon. We need to find some way to help him. My magic can't fix wounds this bad."

"Anyone else hurt this bad?" Crono yelled at one of the passing knights. The man shook his head and kept going, dragging his companion along with him to the rapidly filling medic's tent. Crono looked into Marle's eyes and stated, "We may or may not have found our culprit. Either way, Banta needs help, now." Marle nodded in agreement.

"P'rhaps the Epoch..." Glenn started. "There are powerful magicks... er... technologies in the far future. Mayhaps the Enertron..."

"Yes!" Marle's face brightened. "The Enertron could--"

"The Epoch's back at the castle," Crono reminded them sullenly.

"Then one shall make haste, to retreive the Epoch, and save this man's life, and the lives of his descendants. Shall it be thee, Crono?"

Crono nodded. "I'm already there." Crono ran to fetch a horse to take him back to Guardia Castle.

Glenn shook his head, then turned his gaze to the heavens. "We shall save thee, dear Lucca."


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