Things Left Undone Book 3, Chapter 12
Krono was first out of the ship to look for Jas-chu. He was too late, though, for all he could see was the swiftly fleeing red dot of the Karandian's robe. Discouraged, he turned and joined his fellows inside.
"Jas-chu run away fast." he sighed.
Yahgrem nodded. "And I wouldn't underestimate Jas-chu if I was you. He's probably going to have reinforcements here before long."
Marle sighed. "If only we had an army of our own, we might be able to fight back." Her thoughts were interrupted by the pounding of fists on the ship's closed door. The muffled shouts of Slash could be heard outside.
"Hey, guys? Let us in! Magus, Flea?"
The two magicians, beaming, opened the door and welcomed their friends.
Flea wrapped Slash in a violent hug. "What are you doing here? How did you get here?"
He replied, a little short of breath from Flea's enthusiasm. "We finally finished freeing Karter's trapped creatures. Ozzie and I, aware of your plight, told the creatures about it as well. They were so grateful for our freeing them that they offered to help fight. There were some creatures with the ability to teleport others, so they transported all of us here. By the way, Tryuiop wishes you the best of luck."
So, Marle's wishes for an army answered, the eleven heroes, Yahgrem, Vyrela, Ozzie and Slash went outside to inspect their new army.
There were about a hundred and fifty different creatures, from the size of a blade of grass to a whopping ape about thirty feet tall. Slash pulled the heroes over, and introduced them to five of the creatures, who stood apart from the rest.
Slash gestured to the first one, a tall, thin creature, covered with sparse green hair and draped in a silver cloth. His face was almost human, except for the third eye that sat, unblinking, in the center of his head. "This is Dennis." The creature nodded.
The second creature was even taller, because she hovered seven feet off of the ground. She herself was only about a foot tall. She was shadelike, and two hollow green dots were the only features on the translucent face. She emitted a chill that caused those close to her to shiver. "This is Zob." If the creature heard the introduction, it gave no indication.
The third creature was two feet tall, squat, and had a jovial face. Her red hair cascaded down the shoulders, twirled in a nervous gesture by the three fingers on the third arm that sprouted from the creature's chest. She was covered with a variety of white balls, which at first glance looked like mothballs but would soon prove to be powerful explosives. "This is Noot Noot." The creature giggled and blushed.
Slash then turned to the fourth creature in the lineup, an eight-foot tall being bristling with spikes. She stood on two legs capped by cloven hooves, and her demonesque head looked down on the others with contempt. "That's Taka." The creature snorted, sending a poof of smoke into the air.
The last creature was inconspicuous, a silvery white sheen reflecting the sunset that was occurring over the mountains on their left. She was like a snake, with no arms or legs, but her head was that of a human. Before their eyes, though, this changed to the head of a dragon. "That's Estelle." The creature's head again changed, exactly matching that of a Karandian.
Slash turned back to face the others. "These guys are the leaders of this ragtag army, and they swear that they'll help you in any way that they can."
Everyone turned to look at Johnny, who pointed over to the path that Jas-chu had ran up. Advancing, swiftly and in rows of five, was one hundred Karandians. They stopped at the top of the hill, the red light of the sun turning them into the perfect hellbeast stereotypes.
They seemed to be talking to each other. The army of one hundred and fifty plus the eleven heroes and two Karandians stood waiting, watching.
The Karandian who appeared to be in the lead gestured wildly at the army below, then called for another Karandian. This one approached out of the thick of the army, and placed a brass horn to his lips. A harsh, strained note echoed through the mountains, then the Karandians seemed to settle down to wait.
The army below sighed, and the demonlike Taka growled. "Fool weaklings. I say we ride forth immediately and crush them before the reinforcements arrive."
Noot Noot shook her head and replied in a nasaly voice, "No. They'd be mad if we killed their friends. Maybe, if we wait, we can talk them out of fighting."
The tall, gangly Dennis, spoke in a deep voice that seemed to come from the pit of his stomach. "We attack. We should slice their heads off before they have a chance to send a peace ambassador."
The shapechanging Estelle responded by turning into a sword, pointing at the waiting army. Zob still just floated, ignoring everything.
Crono nodded. "That settles it, then. We attack!"
Noot Noot sighed, and adjusted her bombs so that they were within easy reach.
The five army leaders, along with Slash and Ozzie, went to gather and organize the troops. Yahgrem and Vyrela returned to the ship, and prepared it for war, and the eleven heroes walked to the head of the gathering army.
Finally, all was quiet, and Crono cleared his throat, preparing to give a spirit-raising, enthusiastic war speech. Instead, this was all that was said. "My companions and I give you our sincerest thanks for coming out here to help us win a battle that will decide the fate of the universe. We'll all probably die, but keep in mind that it's for a good cause." He looked around at the attentive, motley bunch, and a feeling of pride and victory filled his breast. He lifted the rainbow sword to the sky, and the last dying rays of the setting sun stained it the color of blood. "We will win today! I'll treat all the survivors to donuts and coffee after this thing is over!!" At the inspiring words of their leader, the army raised it's voice to form a cheer unlike any heard before or since.
Crono turned, and faced the Karandians on the nearby hilltop, who had begun to light torches to brighten the night and had been interrupted by the raucous cheer from the valley below. The enemy army did not have time to prepare for the sudden onslaught of creatures from every corner of the universe.
Crono and the eleven heroes were the first into the fray, and they cut a swath through the entire group and out the other side, where they could see the reinforcements that had been sent for forty-five minutes before. The torches held by the three leading Karandians reflected off the black skin of the army, and by this light Robo could count fifty warriors, but many more could be sensed beyond the range of the light.
Knowing that their real job was to destroy the Darkrunner as quickly as possible, the eleven companions slipped from the road and into the all-concealing shadows.
* * * * *
Slash and Ozzie rode at the head of the onrushing army, and barely had time to register the absence of Crono and the others before they were enveloped by the battle.
The tall Dennis led the group of firebreathers, and he himself was blasting Karandians left and right with jets of blue-hot flame. The fire itself could not kill the thick-skinned Karandians, though, so right behind Dennis came his eternal companion, the demon Taka.
Taka's group of slow, heavy fighters (including the thirty-foot ape, who smashed a retreating Karandian under a giant palm) followed behind the firebreathers, and finished off the wounded. Taka herself weilded a double-edged ax, and cleaved the heads from many an enemy that day.
On the other side of the fray was Noot Noot and her group of small, fast fighters. Her faeries and nymphs turned the Karandians into flowers or trees, and paved the way for Noot Noot herself to incinerate the once-living botanicals with her bombs.
The silent Zob now seemed alive, the glowing green eyes were lighting the ground fifty feet in every direction. She was in charge of the flying creatures, including a black wyrm that sprayed acid onto the Karandians. Zob did not attack, she simply hovered over the fighting and issued orders to her regiment through gestures.
Finally, Estelle and her band of ten other shapeshifters walked right into the midst of the Karandian army, disguised as their own. They were the first to notice the approaching reinforcements. She sprouted wings, and changed into a bat, relaying the new information to Ozzie, who sat astride a great three-headed dog named Cerebrux, The mythological Cerebrus' brother.
Ozzie used the classic war cry "To me!" and waited as his army crowded around him. Only five of the original Karandian army were left, and these were swiftly dispatched by Taka's deadly ax.
Ozzie's army, which now numbered a hundred-and-six, with thirty-seven proven dead and the last seven missing, stood and readied themselves for the second wave. Thanks to the shapeshifters, Ozzie knew that it numbered five-hundred, meaning that most of the Karandian force that was sent to Newery was now accounted for.
He took a deep breath and straightened his breastplate before voicing the cry to attack.
* * * * *
Lucca pushed aside the overhanging foliage. She had never been in a forest this deep, dark, or wet. She grimaced with every step as her boots squelched from the water that had seeped in.
She followed right behind Glenn, who was letting the Masamune sword, which had a life of its own, lead them through the jungle. Much to the uncomfortable Lucca's relief, Glenn said "Aha!" in a loud whisper. She edged up beside him, and she soon felt the heavy breathing of the others on her back. She turned to Glenn. "What?"
He put a finger to his lips. "Shhhh. I found Jas-chu! He's surrounded by warriors, I'm guessing about fifty. What should we do, Crono?"
Crono edged up beside Glenn, and took a peek through the wall of foliage at the clearing beyond. Sure enough, there was Jas-chu, looking like a frightened bunny. "Well, we attack, I suppose. We do have the element of surprise, after all."
Glenn nodded and braced himself, but before the war cry could escape from his lips, he was silenced by a terrible roaring overhead. It was Yahgrem and Vyrela in the ship!
Lucca peeked out of the jungle, and smiled in excitement as the ship aimed its guns, and blasted the first ten Karandians to bits. The fighting ship turned, and made another pass, this time dropping a bomb which incinerated fifteen more. Then, out of ammunition, the ship turned and headed back to the mass of the war.
With the Karandians still in shock from the air assault, the eleven heroes burst yelling and screaming form the foliage. Three Karandians, scared out of their wits, dropped their weapons and ran. The others, somewhat shakily, turned to meet the new attack.
Jas-chu sat, frightened, while the battle raged around him. With his fellows keeping the guards busy, Crono snuck through in the confusion to meet with Jas-chu in the center.
The Karandian leader turned to look at him, scared. But then, the expression changed into one of extreme anger. The elderly Karandian sprang up with as much vitality as a young child, and threw himself at Crono and his unsheathed sword.
Crono held the sword out towards the mad Karandian, and Jas-chu impaled himself on the tip, sliding all the way down to the hilt. The shocked Karandian gasped for air, and with a mighty heave, pulled the sword from Crono's hands. He drew the sword from his own chest, and threw it into the trees. Crono was shocked, for as he watched, the flesh joined and meshed, until not a mark remained.
Jas-chu then turned back to Crono, who was shrinking away from the invincible enemy. In one last, desperate attempt, Crono ripped Tryuiop's pendant from around his neck and tossed it at his enemy. Time seemed to stop, as the pendant with its black stone spiraled through the air, embedding itself onto the shocked Karandian's chest.
The pendant turned blacker than black, and Crono could actually see the vacuum created. It sucked an extreme darkness from the aged Karandian's body, until finally, the sucking ceased, and the drained Jas-chu fell to the ground. The pendant released itself from his chest, leaving a white, cauterized imprint. Crono rushed over to Jas-chu, who groaned and placed a hand on Crono's strong arm. "Thank you, son... But I fear it was all in vain. The Darkrunner will escape his crystal prison, and wreak havoc once again, unless one has come to stop him..." Jas-chu opened his eyes, which had turned from deep red to a light blue, which matched that of Yahgrem and Vyrela's eyes. Then, the ancient Karandian, free of his heavy burden, died peacefully.
Crono looked up from the body to see the other Karandians who were still fighting his friends. One by one, they fell to the ground, and a blackness was sucked from them into the pendant. They, however, just dropped into sleep. More and more blackness was drawn from the Karandians fighting Ozzie and Slash's army, until the last bit of darkness was inhaled and the pendant lay shimmering in the dirt. Cautiously, Crono approached the pendant, and picked it up in a trembling hand.
He was not prepared when it shattered, sending shards of the unearthly black crystal into his brain, and heart, and soul. He dropped to the ground, the silver bezel of the pendant still clutched in a bleeding palm. Marle cried out, and ran to the side of her husband, but he was already dead. She cast a healing spell, but her beloved husband would not stir. She collapsed sobbing to the ground beside him.
Lucca dropped to her knees, and clasped her friend's hand, whispering incoherently. The others all crowded around, with bowed heads and unconcealed tears.
Marle, mad with despair, lurched to her feet and waved her crossbow about, daring the Darkrunner to come out and fight. A wisp of darkness in the dark night drew her attention, and screaming, she launched bolt after bolt at the mist. As she shot, the mist hardened, and formed a human shape. Like the Lightrunner, only black.
All of the remaining heroes stood, to face the threat, the evil, the death and despair and darkness. Lucca finally snapped, and ran screaming at the evil god. He enveloped her form in darkness, and sucked the light out of her, dropping what remained to the ground. Without her light, all that remained of Lucca was a pile of dark ashes and a beating heart.
The others gasped, and Robo, enraged at Crono and now Lucca's deaths, attacked. All that was left of him was a pile of bolts and a green, shimmering stone.
Even though they knew that their attacks would result in nothing more than their own deaths, in their despair, Marle, Glenn, Ayla, Magus, Flea and Johnny threw themselves at the god.
Sydney and Krono did not attack, they just sat spellbound as one-by-one their friends were destroyed. With all her heart, Sydney prayed to the Lightrunner, asking him for guidance. When the burst of peaceful warmth hit her face, she exhaled in relief.
*Sydney, my child, you and your love are the only two left.*
Sydney looked over at Krono. He sat, still staring at the Darkrunner. He must not know that Lightrunner was here. "Y-yes, I know."
*To defeat the Darkrunner, you must grasp him by the wrists. Your soul will know what to do next.*
Then he disappeared. Sydney cried out. "No! Come back..." Krono looked at her, tears lining his cheeks and staining his eyes. Seeing him in so much pain, she resolved to do what must be done. With a look of resignation on her face, she plodded towards the Darkrunner with grim determination. The Darkrunner looked at her, and a grimace crossed his face. Sydney reached out, and almost gently, took the evil god's wrists. She closed her eyes, and focused all her energy, light, dark, and all the colors in between, and sent them streaming into the Darkrunner.
* * * * *
Krono watched as Sydney walked towards the Darkrunner. Oh, no, not her, too, he thought as she approached the Darkrunner.
He watched then, amazed, as she took his wrists as a mother might a naughty but loved child. A rainbow of every color and then some flowed, slowly, from the girl he had grown to love into the enemy he had grown to hate. But he knew that this was beyond him. Anything he did now would do nothing but interfere. And so, he stood, and witnessed an exchange of power.
Sydney looked exhilarated, and the Darkrunner did, too. As the light flowed into him, he became a charcoal color, then stone gray, then the gray of a winter sky. Then, Sydney released his wrists, and he disappeared in a small flash of white light. Sydney stood alone, head bowed, in the center of the clearing, surrounded by the piles of dust that were her friends. Silently, she turned to the pile that was Lucca, and touched it, and Krono watched amazed as Lucca's body appeared, and she was breathing as if she were asleep. Sydney went around and restored them all, including Crono, who broke into a healthy snore.
Then, Sydney, looking incredibly tired, turned to Krono. She touched him with a gentle hand, and said her last three words. "I love you..." Then, she smiled, half-closed her eyes, and toppled backwards. Krono saw a glint of black around her neck, and knelt down. He brushed the hair from around the black horn necklace, and did not hold back the tears, for he knew that Sydney was dead, beyond the reach of spells, beyond the reach of anything but the will of the gods. A silvery voice woke him from his trance.
It belonged to an old woman, who chuckled. "You're wrong, sonny. You see, your friend Sydney has just earned her place in the palace of light by neutralizing the Darkrunner. She has replaced me."
Krono's face brightened with sudden understanding. "You're Lightrunner!"
"I *was*. Now, Sydney has the responsibility. She will do a good job, though, and make us all proud." She was silent, and she watched as Krono stroked the black horn necklace and swallowed the lump in his throat. "You know, sonny, there is still some power left in these old bones. I could... you know... send you up to keep her company."
His face jerked up to look at her, and his eyes were lit with such joy that she laughed. "Yes, Krono, I can send you up, but you will have to share the responsibilities of being the Lightrunner. Do you accept, knowing you can never go back on your decision?"
"I accept." He lovingly untied the necklace from around Sydney's neck, and holding it, his empty body fell to the ground as his spirit flew up to the palace of light to join the one he loved.
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