No Peace for the Hero Chapter 4
A Rude Awakening
Crono was glad to leave behind the cold, biting wind, but he rethought that upon seeing the Captains, sitting together at a big table, all looking at him. Their eyes made the snow seem pleasant. There were five of them, all ranging from very short to very tall. One, at least, was a magic-using woman descended from Zealians; she had blue hair. Out of the five, she sat in the middle, perhaps the leader of the group. Three of the Captains had their hair cut like Rans: shaved with a thin tail at the back. Their tails were longer, though, perhaps signifying rank. The fourth had his hair cut in a mohawk (something Crono had seen in the future), and the blue-haired womans hair was long and luxurious.
The five of them stared at Crono as if trying to burn a hole through him. A silence grew as they examined him, as they tried to figure out who he was and where he came from. Finally, unexpectedly, Crono sneezed. The silence was broken, and the blue-haired woman began the interrogation.
Who are you? she demanded. When Crono told her his name, she grunted as if suspicious. Where are you from? was the next question.
Here, Crono was stumped. He couldnt very well tell this woman that he was from the future; it just wouldnt help the situation. Likewise, making up a random location could be dangerous. Obviously, he couldnt say that he was from Trann. He tried not to show his thoughts on his face, but he knew that hed have to answer soon. In the end, it was her blue hair that convinced him. This army was made up of the descendants of the ancient Zealians and Earthbound.
Algetty, he replied, hoping that the place had stayed the home of these people.
The Captain on the far left, a short, squat man with a scar on the bridge of his nose, snorted. Anyone can claim that theyre from Algetty. We need proof. He eyed Crono like someone whod been caught breaking into a house, scowling heavily. Lets just put him back where we found him.
The blue-haired woman raised a hand, and the other Captain sat back, though he kept his scowl. Her eyes never left Crono, though. Jaren has a point, she said sharply, her eyes boring into Cronos. You have no proof. Also, red hair is very rare around Algetty. Why should we believe you? She looked him up and down. Your sword and your hardiness both claim that youre a soldier, yet you have no uniform. Your hair signifies no rank. Your clothes are of a strange style, and your name is equally odd. She paused. I believe you are a Trann.
Crono sighed, and sneezed. His nose was beginning to run. Okay, youre right. Im not from Algetty. But Im not from Trann, either! he threw in as Jaren, the Captain on the far left, rose, about to draw his weapon. Im from... Truce.
None of the Captains made another move toward Crono, but Jaren didnt sit, either. The blue-haired woman pursed her lips, considering. Truce? she asked, pronouncing the word as if it were in a different language. As in peace between enemies?
Uh... yeah... He seemed to recall reading the true meaning of the word truce, but he had forgotten. Cronos era had been relatively peaceful. Peace between enemies? Thats right.
Is this some sort of joke? Jaren demanded. There is no such place, Monel. Any attempts at peace are just tricks by the Tranns.
Sit. Down. Jaren, Monel, the blue-haired Captain ordered coldly. Jaren sat down so quickly, he almost broke his chair. Monel still didnt look away from Crono. First, you tell us that you come from our capitol. Then you claim that you live in a place that, to our knowledge, doesnt exist. Either youre a poor liar, or... Give me an or that I like, Crono Triggara.
Crono sighed, and snorted to clear his runny nose. He shrugged, knowing that they wouldnt believe him. Okay. Im a time traveler. I dont know anything about your war, or who the Tranns are, except that maybe theyre time travelers, too. Ive come to this era in order to solve the mystery of the crux, which is supposed to happen twelve-thousand years after the fall of Zeal.
Crono expected laughter. He expected them to call him a madman. He expected to be hanged for spying for Trann. He was surprised, therefore, when everyone simply stared at him with an appraising expression. Even Jaren. Monel leaned forward slightly, trying to stare through him.
Well, one of the other Captains, the one with the mohawk, began cautiously, We have never been able to figure out where the Tranns came from.
It cannot be denied that magic is dying out, said another. Perhaps the Tranns came from... the future?
The last, a small woman, shook her head. No, the world they describe is too different. None know of Zeal, there, and magic is completely unknown to them. Plus, the Tranns are taller. I think that their accursed Telepods brought them from another world, one of the worlds in the sky.
Crono couldnt help himself at this point. He had to break in. Telepods? What about Telepods? Trann has them? At a nod from Monel, Crono sighed. His shoulders loosened as he lost tension. Telepods can be used as time machines, he said out loud. Maybe I can use one to get home.
What does it matter where the Tranns come from? Jaren broke in. They are the enemy now. We can worry about where they came from after we have beaten them. What is important is what to do with this boy.
Monel nodded. I agree, Jaren. Crono Triggara, can you prove that you are a time traveler?
No, Crono replied, his eyes closed. I cant. I lost my Gate Key, my time machine, in the ocean. His eyes shot open in inspiration. Even if I am a madman, though, I cant be a Trann.
Oh, really? Jaren muttered.
Crono nodded, smiling. Im definitely not a Trann, because I can use magic. This caught their attention. Cronos smile widened. Watch, he said, and held out his hand.
Crono decided on something simple. He concentrated, and felt things moving around in his mind. His thoughts ran through a familiar pattern and... Electricity arced and jumped between his fingers, moving up and down their lengths in random fashion. Soon, though, Crono stopped it, because it was too much effort. He was sweating.
Crono was too astounded to keep his smile. What hed done didnt even count as a spell, more like a flexing of his magical ability. Crono realized that he was tired, and out of practice with magic, but holding that electricity had nearly knocked him out. What was wrong with his magic? And if he had so much trouble with something so simple, would he even be able to cast something more complex?
A scene jumped to his mind, of a bearded, red-haired man jumping out of a bed, trying to cast Luminaire... and failing, even after being fully rested. Crono felt cold, despite the fire in the tent. What was happening to him?
This pitiful display was enough for the Captains, at least. Well, all but Jaren. Jaren insisted that it must be a Trann trick, until the gazes of the other Captains silenced him. Obviously, Jaren had no magical talent, or he should have been able to sense Cronos display. Even Crono could do that, even if he could barely cast a spell. Magic was being cast all over the camp, and Cronos mind sifted through and separated each caster, learning to recognize the feel of each ones magical signature.
Monel smiled slightly, a small curving of her lips. Well, youve proven that youre not a Trann. Perhaps you are a time traveler, or perhaps you are a mad Ancient. Were all a little mad, though, and the Ancient army could use a swordsman. If you wish to sign up, come speak to us. Dismissed.
An Ancient? Was that what these people called themselves? Crono, his mind preoccupied, nodded absently and turned to leave.
By the way, Crono Triggara of Truce, Monel called. He looked over his shoulder, and she continued, You say that this... crux? This crux comes twelve-thousand years after the fall of Zeal. Zeal is a legend among us, but it supposedly fell eleven-thousand, nine-hundred and eighty-six years ago. You have fourteen years before your crux, apparently. Good day.
Fourteen years. Damn. Fourteen years of battle and fear. Fourteen years of searching. It was a daunting thought, as you may imagine. The worst thing about it was that Id probably be thirty-three before I returned to my era, if I returned at all. Far too long for Marle to wait. I found myself wondering how long it would be before she replaced me. I hoped that she wouldnt wait too long, and at the same time vainly wished that shed be waiting for me when I returned. It was an impossible hope, one I should have left behind long ago.
I should have, but I didnt.
Youre alive, Ran noted as Crono stepped back out into the biting wind. The surprise in his tone was evident. Must mean youre not a Trann, then. Good. Id hate to think Tranns were as tough as you are.
Crono nodded at the compliment. Thanks. Uh, could I have my sword, now?
Ran nodded without hesitation and led the way, stomping along and still talking. I havent actually been in any battles yet. My squad, the Burning Blades, we just got reassigned here. Before, we were guarding Lantrase, which was really boring, but at least I got in lots of sword practice there. And it was too warm. Everybody had to take their coats off, and the snow was only ever an inch or two deep. It only snowed about an hour a day there.
A sneeze perfectly expressed Cronos opinion of snow. Ran glanced back at that, as surprised as if hed never heard a sneeze before, and suddenly broke out in an abashed smile again. He didnt stop stomping along, though. Sorry. Im doing it again, arent I? Okay, what about you? Where are you from? Creston? I hear they make great swords there. Im from New Enhasa.
Crono grinned. You guessed it. Im from Creston. Best swords around.
Rans smile turned satisfied. Not bad for my first guess, huh? He looked around and suddenly stopped. Crono, absorbed in trying to clear his runny nose, bumped into Ran from behind. Surprisingly, Ran jumped up and spun around as if hed been pinched. Rans face, once he realized what he had done, turned bright red. I... uh... You know... Im kind of...
Nervous? Crono finished for him. Sos everyone else.
Indeed, there was tension in the air, all throughout the snowy encampment. Soldiers were quieter than they had been before Crono had gone to meet the Captains. Some simply sharpened their weapons. A few, like Ran, jumped at every noise.
Rans red glow faded somewhat. Yeah. A little. Words been spreading through camp that the Tranns are supposed to be close by. He shrugged, then cleared his throat. Uh, were here, by the way.
Ran led the way into the large tent, and Crono followed. It was crowded with as much assorted junk as possible, from crates to armor to weapons to meat hanging on hooks (in this cold air, Crono supposed, the meat didnt need to be salted). One rack held katanas, all of good craftsmanship, possibly better than the sword he had brought along with him. He tried out a few before he found one of good weight and length. After he chose, he looked closely at the blade, a simple, functional sword. Was it the same one that his future self had brought along? Crono couldnt tell.
He shrugged. Ran, he called, only to find the boy casually leaning against a crate as far from Crono as possible. Crono frowned. Im not going to attack you with it, Ran.
Ran shrugged. Its not that. I just dont like... close spaces. I prefer crowds.
Crono shook his head. City boy, he muttered, making Ran chuckle. Lead on, Ran. I need some warm food. After that, I think Ill sleep for a week.
Ran led the way.
The two weeks following that were pretty calm, at least for me. I ate, I slept, I sneezed. I couldnt manage to get rid of that damned cold. I began to feel my strength returning, and tried to see if rest would return my strength in magic as well. The trick I had pulled for the Captains was a little easier, but a simple Lightning spell was a serious challenge. A more advanced Lightning spell was beyond me. I couldnt even begin to try a Luminaire.
Every day, after I got out of the recovery tent, where I slept, Ran was waiting for me, and led me around the camp. I had been assigned a babysitter by the Captains, I was pretty sure. We talked a lot, about this and that. Ran had an excellent eye for pretty girls, and often pointed them out if we happened to pass one. I was still a little too absorbed with thoughts of Marle, though, and couldnt properly concentrate on other girls. Also, Ran spent a lot of time talking to me about Creston, not so much asking as mentioning rumors and stories about my supposed home. Obviously, Ran could tell Id never lived there, and was trying to supply me with facts to back up my story.
Two weeks passed peacefully, and then...
The blaring of horns shattered Cronos dream, but he still lay in bed for a moment, wrapped in furs and staring up at the top of the tent. The clash of weapons, accompanied by the shouts of men in battle, was enough to wake him up, though. He pulled on his clothes and coat, and pulled his sword out of its scabbard without putting on the belt.
He barreled out of the tent, expecting to find himself in the middle of a brawl, but no swords clashed nearby. As his eyes adjusted to the night, though, Crono saw the orange light of fire, off towards the east. A west wind meant that the whole camp could be consumed if that flame were not extinguished. Crono was not surprised, though, to hear the fighting going on towards the south. The supplies were to the east, and the commanding officers were housed near the southern edge of the camp, on a hill. The arrangement was designed to avoid centralization, but it was especially vulnerable to a two-pronged attack. The Tranns had obviously known about the camps organization.
It wasnt difficult for Crono to choose. He could do nothing about the fire; he could fight Trann soldiers. As he ran southward, he wondered if it was wise to choose a side at all, if it might not be better to stand back and wait. However, the Ancients (as they called themselves) had saved his life, taken care of him for two weeks. He owed them.
One moment, Crono was running as fast as he could, and then he turned a corner around a tent and was fighting for his life. The Tranns and Ancients were easy to tell apart, for Crono. The human Tranns all had mechanical, insect-like body armor, making them slower and heavier, but infinitely stronger as they wielded heavy swords and axes. Also, there were robots, many of which looked like Robo. Crono quickly realized that his sword would be useless against the robots, but the body armor of the Tranns only covered their chests, shins, forearms, and heads completely. The armor only provided partial protection to their thighs, bellies, and upper arms, and their necks were protected only steel collars, not long enough to protect the whole neck.
Crono let the magic-users (since he wasnt one any longer) handle the robots, and made for the human soldiers. There werent many of them, but they tended to gather in groups of three, making knots around which the river of Ancient soldiers had to flow. A favorite tactic of the Tranns was to wait to be surrounded, and then call for robot assistance. The Ancients would be crushed between the Trann rock and robotic wave.
At one point, Crono broke through (or was pushed through) the attacking throng, right toward a Trann, whose two companions were keeping Ancients back. The Trann only needed to see Cronos coat to see an enemy, and attacked. Crono didnt bother trying to block the powerful left-handed swing, instead ducking and letting the heavy blade pass overhead. Before the Trann could recover, Crono drove his sword into the Tranns belly at an upward angle, no doubt piercing several vital organs.
Crono had to drop the sword, leaving it in the Trann, as one of the dead Tranns partners tried to bring his axe down on Cronos head. Crono sidestepped, and the axe slammed into the ground with incredible force, sinking in deeply. Before the Trann could pull it out, Crono jumped into the air and delivered a vicious kick to the Tranns bug-eyed helmet. The Tranns helmet was knocked off, leaving the Trann stunned. Crono was surprised to see that this Trann was a woman, but he only paused for a moment. In one smooth movement, he crouched, pulled his sword out of the dead mans (or womans) body, spun as he stood, and swung his sword. The womans collar deflected the blade slightly, turning it upward so that the sword sunk into her neck at an angle. He jerked it back out and tried to ignore her dying gasp and the spray of blood. Hed never liked fighting women.
The third Trann, now surrounded and without backup, died from a simple stab to the back, and then Crono was moving again. The crowd was too thick to navigate easily, and he occasionally found himself in the way of robots or magic, both of which he was defenseless against. Only quick reflexes and luck saved him on a few occasions.
Suddenly, Crono noticed something odd. The robots were very efficient and tireless, of course, but their feet tended to hit the ground simultaneously. They teamed up with superhuman precision, and performed complex maneuvers without saying anything to each other. It was as if they had one mind. Either they communicated in some way that Crono didnt understand, or they were all being controlled from one source.
It was then that Crono saw a bigger knot of Tranns: five of them in a circle. Around those five were gathered robots. What, he wondered, was inside that double circle?
Suddenly, Crono found himself on the ground, his ears ringing. He rolled over, blurrily seeing a robot standing above him. It raised a hand, and plunged it downward to finish him. Cronos sword, still in hand, whistled out and severed the arm at the unarmored elbow joint. Immediately afterward, an arc of light sliced through the robot from the shoulder to the waist. Crono rolled out of the collapsing robots way, onto his feet. He looked up from the ruined machine to see Ran, breathing heavily, his saber glowing with brilliant flames, staring down at the robot. His smile was one of pride.
I thought you could use a hand, Ran said breathlessly.
Crono smiled, appreciating the effort, however unnecessary. I did. And I do. He pointed with his blood-soaked sword at the large knot of Tranns and robots. Throw me over there.
Crono abruptly found himself tossed into the air, flying over the heads of soldiers. He crashed into a Trann, and they fell to the ground in a heap. Crono rolled off of him and quickly scanned the area. He spotted a small machine and grabbed it before the Tranns could realize what was happening. It was surprisingly light, and he managed to toss it into the air.
Destroy it! he shouted, and a bolt of lightning shot out of the crowd, presumably from Ran.
The device exploded, showering the melee with bits of metal. As one, the robots all keeled over. The Tranns, suddenly greatly outnumbered, fought only a short time before the remainder surrendered.
That was incredible! exclaimed Ran, walking over to stand by Crono.
Crono nodded and stood up, wincing. That fall had hurt his hip. Thanks. But were not done yet. The continuing sounds of battle attested to that. Another knot of combat was close by. Lets go.
The rest of the night went much the same. Once the Ancients realized that the robots were controlled by devices brought into the battle, the devices were all sought out and destroyed. With their fewer numbers, the Tranns found themselves retreating more and more often. Eventually, the Tranns had no choice but to turn and run, all of them trying to escape through the warren of tents and campfires. The Ancients chased them, striking down the slowest, until a wall of ice shot up from the ground, protecting the Tranns rear.
Crono ground to a halt as he saw the wall, reflecting the now-rising sun, glittering beautifully. Before the wall stood a few Tranns too slow to get away before the wall had appeared, and a woman. The woman wore no armor. Instead, she wore a black dress with dark blue and purple embroidery. Instead of a bug-eyed helmet, she wore a black mask of a beautiful, statuesque face. Crono heard whispers of Queen flitter throughout the Ancients. Nobody attacked her.
The woman looked out at the Ancients, her mask coldly imperious. When her gaze found Crono, though, she jerked back in surprise. Her royal manner was there, but less practiced. Her skin was pale, but not chalk-white. Crono thought he must be seeing a younger version of the woman who had attacked his future self.
Abruptly, the woman turned and walked into the wall. It rippled slightly when letting her in, like water, but the wall remained in one piece. The trapped Tranns, realizing that she wasnt going to rescue them, immediately surrendered.
Number Three, Ran whispered, at his side. Queen. Ive never seen her before.
I have, Crono muttered.
It was pretty obvious to me at this point that my future self had been involved in the War of Ages. This Queen may have run from me that time, but I knew that sooner or later shed try to kill me. Obviously, we had to be enemies. If she was a Trann, then I must have been meant to help the Ancients. If I did everything my future self did, then Id be able to travel in time again, because my future self had gotten to our time somehow. My steps seemed laid out in advance, but I could only hope I was following the right path.
Id like to join your army, Crono told Monel.
The Captain smiled, leaning forward slightly. Im glad to hear that, Crono Triggara. I heard that you were quite useful last night in the battle. We need all the soldiers we can get. She leaned back, and leafed through some papers. I will assign you to Jarens squad, the Cold-
Actually, Crono interrupted, could I join the Burning Blades?
Monel raised an eyebrow. The Burning Blades use magic, Crono Triggara. Im afraid that your magical ability will be outshone by them. Your abilities would be better appreciated with the Cold Steel.
Crono smiled. I know. A candle could outshine my magic. But you wanted Ran to look after me, and Ran and I make a good team anyway.
Strangely, Monel smiled at that. Yes, I imagine you do. She shook her head slightly. Ill recommend you to Leven.
Crono sneezed, thanked her, and left. As he went out into the cold wind, he heard Monel chuckle. Good team, she said to herself. Why, Crono wondered, was that so funny?
There is a time for all things, a time to preach and a time to pray,
but those times have passed away. There is a time to fight, and that time
has now come.