Chrono Continuum Chapter 34

Back at the Ranch

By Cain

1002 AD

The grassy fields rippled in a wave as a strong wind blew from the east. Norsif would have liked to come out, and let the breeze play across his skin, but he couldn't waste the power needed to slip out and back in, unless in the heat of battle. He walked on through the green fields, frowning at the absence of feeling. He looked down, where his legs should be shunting the grass aside, but saw only grass. He sighed. He was used to the sight, or absence of the sight of himself. When he had first been alive, he had been the ugliest thing anyone in Zeal had ever seen, but with powerful magic that had yet to manifest. When it finally began to, however, it carried implications. His greatest wish at that point had been to have no one see his hideous face, and he soon got it. Gradually, he began to fade away, until he was completely invisible. But it didn't stop there. He soon began to fade from the physical world as well, until he was nothing more than a moving mind. With intense concentration, he could solidify, but it didn't last long. But he had soon realized that this could be a gift. He didn't have to eat, unless solid. And he learned how to solidify more completely, and began to do as he wished. By the time he had become twenty, everyone had realized what had happened. So they chased after him. And he killed them.

It was so easy, when they couldn't hit him, or see him coming. And he delighted in making them uglier than him in their deaths. He realized now that he went mad at that point. That was remedied when he tried to stay solid too long, and starved to death, having relied too long on his self-preservatory powers. He laughed to himself, but no sound emerged. Death cured his madness, but did worse. He had trouble even remembering his "life" after death, except in his dreams. And the Almighty One had been good to him, had given him the power not only to solidify, but be visible, if he chose to do so. He looked to his side, to see his companion, smoking a "cigarette", as he called them.

The man's skin was the first thing anyone noticed about him. It was so brown that it was almost black. He had apparently come from another planet, where "blacks", as he said they were called, were quite common. The man easily twirled a gun, apparently unafraid of hurting himself at all. With good reason. Norsif had seen the man shooting at targets, and had personally seen every body part on each of them blown apart. Norsif didn't know a whole lot about the man, except that he had worked as some sort of law enforcer in a place called "New York". But he, as he put it, was "crooked". (Author's Note: Seeing as how this is the first black person introduced in this story, I have to let you all know I didn't make him crooked because he was black. I made him crooked because he'd become a Hellbound. I could just as easily have made him white, but there are too many white people in videogames already.) He revealed no circumstances leading to his death. Not that Norsif cared. Norsif would have placed a hand to his chin as he tried to remember the man's name, but he had no hands at the moment. Or a chin. Brandt. That was his name. Well, he said it was his surname, but didn't bother to tell anyone his first name. Norsif shrugged, mentally.

Names didn't matter on the battle field.


Same Time

"I'm telling you, Melchior," Gaspar warned, "I'll win again. I've seen you play hundreds of times, and I know exactly how you play. How do you think I beat you these last thirteen times?" Melchior sat back in his chair, twiddling his thumbs. "Ah, but this time will be different. You see, I've learned how you play as well, and, not only that, I learned a new technique from Dalton." Gaspar groaned, "Oh, not the knight-pawn cross-switch? I taught Dalton how to do that."

"Well, I still have your playing prowess down, whether I paid Dalton for a trick that won't work or not," Melchior grumbled. Gaspar sighed, and began setting up the chess pieces again. He jumped as the door creaked open loudly, and a queen fell off the table. Melchior jumped out of his seat to save the delicate piece, but ended up hitting it instead of catching it. It flew up in the air, and up above the sleeping queen. Gaspar got out of his seat and jumped over Melchior's frame, reaching for the piece. It brushed his fingers, but continued to fall. Gaspar altered the direction of his fingers so that they were pointing downward, and the chess piece stopped, an inch above her sleeping face. It floated up to his hand, and he turned to the one who had opened the door.

"Perhaps," advised Dalton, poorly containing his laughter, "you shouldn't drink so much tea. It seems to be making you jumpy." Gaspar glanced back to the queen, and nodded in agreement.

Melchior, now fully upright, leaned back. A slight popping noise was heard as his spine settled back into place, and he stepped toward Dalton, rubbing his lower back. "I take it you're here to relieve us," he inquired.

Dalton nodded, adding, "Yep. It's my turn to watch her. You two go handle court matters for a while. You're much better at dealing with those sharks out there, anyway." Melchior shrugged, and walked out the door. Gaspar picked up his new fine cane, which he no longer seemed to need, as he carried it by his side, and derby, and followed him. Dalton chuckled as he slid a chair out from under his companions' table, over to his spot across from Marle's bed. As he sat down, watching her, he remembered when they had first met, and the passion she had shown for the loss of Crono.

I want Crono back, she had exclaimed for no apparent reason. And then, they'd kicked his butt. He smiled. He often found himself thinking back to those days, just to think of what he'd have done differently. For one thing, he would have researched the origins of the Golems more closely. Although "Golem" wasn't really the proper term for them, as... He sat up. Looked around. He didn't know it, but at the same moment, in another room, listening to petitioners, Melchior and Gaspar did the same. He stood, and walked out the door. After closing it, he placed a spell to keep it closed. Meanwhile, Melchior and Gaspar were herding farmers, merchants, and castle attendants alike all out the door.

Something was amiss.


Same Time

Crono yelled as his blade sliced through its head. The creature stumbled about for a moment, not yet seeming to realize that it was dead, and then fell. It dissolved into a mess of black liquid. Crono frowned in distaste. He hated that. What he hated more was that the liquid was burning into the ground right now, creating an awful smell as the grass beneath it smoked.

And then a winged creature dropped out of flight to dive him. With a quick glance around to make sure no one was watching, he pointed to the creature. A thin, almost invisible, but powerful, spark flew from his hand to the creature, and Crono simply stepped to the side as the mass of black liquid landed where he had been. The head landed a few feet away, instantly dissolving as well. But a thing with huge fangs stepped up to challenge him instead. He growled in frustration. No matter how many demons you killed, for the men said that's what they were, there was another. He wondered if it was this bad with the Hellbound. From what he'd heard, he was glad that they'd only gotten demons. Still, demons were enough.

After running into the band of demons roaming the countryside, Crono and his troops slowly began to be broken into small groups, making it easier on the creatures. He knew they couldn't last long unless he used magic. But they'd turn on him. So he fought on. A growl behind him made him spin, and he saw that he was no longer in a group. He was alone. And the men were too busy trying to stay alive to get to him. So he fought, fully aware of that action's futility. But he would fight until they won, or until dead. He just hoped that he could win with steel alone.


Same Time

Dalton found them in the court, Melchior's sword drawn. Gaspar seemed on edge, glancing around. Dalton concluded, "You felt it, too, didn't you?" Gaspar nodded curtly, and Melchior looked warily about.

"What is it," Melchior asked. "It's so unfamiliar. Is it some strange type of magic?"

Dalton shook his head. "Worse," he replied, "much worse."

They all froze, suddenly, without quite knowing why, and all looked to the double doors that were the entrance to the throne room. They strained their ears, listening closely, and heard a loud, but slightly muffled, bang. Gaspar unconsciously gripped his cane like a weapon, and Melchior stepped back into his old fighting position. They waited for a moment, and all jumped again, as another bang rang out, much louder, and as a large hole appeared where the door knob had been a moment ago. For a moment, all was still, until the door was gently pushed open. In walked a man with short black hair, who's skin was the darkest brown Melchior had ever seen.

Gaspar blinked. "A black man?"

Dalton nodded as he named the man. "Brandt."

Brandt smiled as he cocked the gun, a gesture threatening to Melchior, even though he didn't know what it signified. Brandt stood still a few moments, and finally, looked around. "Damn," he cursed, "where are you? Psshh," he replied to himself, "he's probably off looking under some skirt."

"No, I'm not," a voice replied, with no seeming origin. Melchior looked about, turning his head all around, and Gaspar glanced around only with his eyes. A form appeared beside Brandt, shimmering, but without any true solidity. "I'm right here."

Dalton raised the side of his upper lip in a silent growl. "Norsif," he informed his comrades. "They're both Hellbound." Melchior and Gaspar nodded, silently cursing their luck.

Brandt smiled. "Let's go." And he aimed his gun at Melchior, as he was the biggest target, and Norsif promptly dissolved. Melchior jumped to the side right before the sharp report, and a distinctive ring was heard as the bullet still ricocheted off his sword. Brandt rolled to the side as a green wall of force coming from Gaspar nearly slammed him through the wall. He smiled. This might actually be some fun.

Meanwhile, Dalton was busy tracking where Norsif had gone off to, using his link with him and all the others. Norsif, unseen and unheard, was quickly moving to a nearby door. Dalton growled as he recognized this mission's target. That door led straight to the queen's room. Realizing that his previous spell to shield her door wouldn't even slow Norsif, Dalton cast a special shield spell on the door before him. Norsif immediately recognized the spell as it was cast, and partially solidified, into a vague form. "Oh," he warned, as he turned to Dalton, "you're in trouble now."


Same Time

Dodge. Jump. Slash. Duck. Slash. Spin. Pain! Crono twisted and weaved as the demons began to concentrate on him, singling him out as their true enemy. They probably sensed his magic. Or they knew he was king. It was irrelevant, however, as they began to close in. More and more often, he would cut down a line of demons, only to feel a cut to his ribs, or legs, or ever-weakening arms. As they overwhelmed him, he yelled out, "Marle!" This call gave him temporary determination, but he knew that he couldn't win, physically, against them. He tried anyway.


Same Time

She opened her eyes. Immediately, the world closed in on her, giving her an account of everything outside her room. There was so much trouble afoot, she nearly passed back out. But she couldn't. She was needed. She rose from her bed, and walked slowly but deliberately to the door. When she tried to turn the knob, it wouldn't turn. She closed her eyes in concentration, and smiled as she heard a click, and the door silently swung open.


Same Time

Brandt cursed and pulled out his night stick, charging the old man with the cane. The other old man swung his sword in from the side, and Brandt narrowly avoided it, turning his gun to fire on him. He yelled in surprise as a small bolt of lightning came from the first old man, and struck the gun out of his hand. Brandt cursed, and kicked the fat one in the stomach, pushing him away. He turned to the thin one, who now had his cane gripped as a weapon, and attacked with his stick. The old man blocked, with some difficulty, and hauled his other arm back, a ball of fire forming in his hand. Brandt didn't wait for him to finish, instead kicking, as with the fat one, in the gut, although with more force. The old man doubled over, and Brandt brought his knee up into his face. He smiled with satisfaction at the crunch of his nose breaking. But his smile disapppeared as he yelled in surprise when the fat one tackled him.

Dalton pointed at the partial form, and fired off a bolt of lightning. It simply passed through, and bounced off his barrier on the door behind. Cursing, he ran forward and punched at the figure's head. His hand passed through, and he continued on to hit the wall. Norsif turned, laughing. He all of a sudden gained solidness, and looked like a blank-faced black statue. Dalton pushed off the wall, to ram into the form. He crashed into Norsif, and fell to the ground roughly. Man, he even felt like a statue.

Norsif reached down, and grabbed Dalton's neck, which he then proceeded to lift Dalton up by. Clawing at the stone hand desperately, Dalton once again summoned a field of electricity. It appeared behind Norsif, and wrapped around him like a net. Norsif, seeing this, abruptly changed color and form from black and solid to light blue and soft. As his fingers lost the density to hold Dalton, the wizard began to slip through the now-watery grasp. But not in time.

The field of electricity wrapped around Norsif, and diffused throughout his watery frame, not affecting him, but frying Dalton, still touching the watery hand. Dalton fell to the ground, smoking. Norsif began to laugh as he shifted back to his statue form. He bent over and picked up Dalton, throwing him over the back of his head. He turned around, away from the door, and kneeled beside Dalton, bringing his arm back to punch Dalton's face into oblivion. He began to chuckle, but stopped when he suddenly felt hungry. He could handle it.

He abruptly fell to the floor, starving, and rolled over onto his side, curled into a ball. Opening his eyes, he saw that his knees and arms were covered in a red glow. He looked beyond his body at the door he had tried to break into. Now the door was open, and a beautiful blonde woman in a white dress was standing there, with strange metal things on her head and chest. Norsif gasped. Now he could get the queen. He began to stand, but couldn't.

"I don't know who you are," the woman told him. "but with my haste spell, you can finish Dalton off and hurry to help Gaspar and Melchior." Norsif cried out. Haste!? That sped up reactions and... metabolism! That was why he was... He couldn't finish the thought, as he felt as if he was shrinking. He hurriedly escaped to a formless state, and rushed off as fast as he could to the Almighty One, who coud cure him. Brandt cursed loudly as he saw Norsif disappear, and jumped out of the way of a slash from the old man's sword. In midair, he saw his gun below, and decided to finish his jump as a roll, picking up his gun as he rolled over it. He rolled into a standing position, and aimed at the woman. His finger tightened on the trigger.

The shot rang out as the gun hit the ground, firing at the ceiling, and Brandt yelled out as the green wall of force carried him out of the door, over the drawibrdge, and into the forest beyond. He lied there for a moment, then slowly stood up, and began to limp back in. I'll finish the job, he thought. I'll shoot that bi-

"Don't bother," Norsif's voice rang out from no discernible location. "We'll get them later." After a moment of consideration, Brandt nodded, holstered his gun, turned, and walked away from the castle.

Inside, Marle was healing Gaspar's nose, as Dalton helped Melchior sit up. After Marle finished, she stood, and helped Gaspar up. She turned around to see Dalton finish helping Melchior up. She looked really confused by the sight. "Alright," she began in her most authoritative manner, "what's going on here? Why are you here, Gaspar, and more confusing, why is Dalton here?"

Gaspar chuckled. "There's a very good explanation for all this, my dear. One which I'm too tired-" He stopped as they turned as one to something that none of them could see. But they could all feel it coming.


Same Time

That's it, he thought, and stabbed sword into the ground. The demons swarmed him, but none of them could touch him. With one gesture, lightning swept through the ranks, decimating the mini-legion. When Crono opened his eyes, all he saw were his men, standing open-jawed in dibelief. Unfortunately, one man finally spoke forth. "He's not the king," he cried, "he's from the Kingdom!" All the men yelled and surged toward him. Crono stepped into a fighting position, prepared to defend himself, but stopped as he saw it coming. A time wave. (Author's Note: Yes, this is the same wave that struck a few chapters back.)

The men charged him, thinking that his looking beyond them meant that he was casting a spell. One of the men threw a spear, and it was an inch away when the fake king flashed and vanished. The spear fell to the ground, and the men looked at eachother confusedly. One shrugged. It was enough that the fake king was gone.

In an alternate timeline, Crono stood, relieved not to have a spear in his gut right now. He looked up, noticing that the sky was a bit darker than before. He shrugged, and began to jog home.


Same Time

True, the petitioners had been a little surprised when king Crono had disappeared from his throne, and two old men, Dalton, and the queen had appeared there, but they were used to Dalton's experimental spells going wrong. Gaspar and Melchior offered to take the petitions, and Dalton helped Marle to her bedroom, where she promptly sat as far from him as politely possible. He sighed. "I know you think I'm awful, but hear me out. It's a long story, and I don't even know as much as I thought I knew. You see, it all started with this man, the Almighty One..."


Now the summer came to pass And flowers through the grass Joyously sprang,
While all the tribes of birds sang.

-Walther von der Vogelweide


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