Ascent Chapter 1
The king of Guardia stared dully at the chancellor as he droned on about the day's issues. Princess Nadia similarly stared at the chancellor. Why she had to be here, she was still pondering, when she noticed a person walking out of the hall leading to the kitchen. There was no mistaking the red, spiked hair, or the grin he wore. The princess' face brightened as he strode out of the hallway and leaned on the wall next to a guard.
He looked to her expectantly. The princess rolled her eyes and nodded towards the chancellor, who was still droning on about the Guardian tax situation (which was the same as always). The boy rolled his eyes in return and started chatting with the guard.
"The Truce representative abstains on bill 455, while The Dorino..." The chancellor prattled on through the voting procedures and the decisions of the numerous villages and townships scattered about Guardia. He finally, after mentioning that the King still had his vote, rolled up the vellum scroll and began the court closing ceremonies. A look of vast relief crossed both king and daughter's faces. The day's dealings were done with.
The court, upon the sounding of the closing trumpet, started to dismiss. Suitors (fat chance) picked up their frills and decorative swords and hauled themselves up, public officials gathered papers, and locals began to stand up and rub their sore behinds. The king removed his heavy royal cloak and retired to his chambers. The princess walked out of the main hall towards her bedroom. She picked up her skirts and started climbing the stairs.
She had climbed to the first landing, and was in the middle of untying the uncomfortable ribbon in her hair when something suddenly leapt out of the shadows towards her. Marle reacted instantly. She sidestepped and let the thing fly past her, she unsheathed the small knife she kept in her dress (the exact place she keeps it is questionable) and grabbed the assailant by a large, red spike of his hair. Marle stood for a second, looking at the back of her attacker's head thoughtfully, the knife in her hand hanging from her fingers..
"Ow ow ow ow ow! That's my hair! Marle! Marle it's me! Crono!" The person shrieked.
Marle pulled his hair closer and looked down into his pain filled face.
"Oh. Gee. What were you doing, leaping at me like that, hm?" she asked him in an overly sweet voice. She sheathed the knife without looking away.
"I...was...uh...going to hug you?" Crono said uneasily.
"If by hug you mean tackle me and start poking my forehead like you did just yesterday..." Marle accused.
Crono wriggled free of Marle's painful grasp and fussed with the abused spike of red hair, trying to set it upright again. He sniffed when the spike was in a (merely) satisfactory position. He feigned ignorance of Marle's accusations.
"So what's going on today? Anything new?" Crono asked, as he always did.
"Nah," Marle replied. "Just voting on some bill that has something to do with municipal well-digging or some such."
The two climbed together up the stairs to Marle's room. The place was a sparkling clean, unlike Crono's room, which had most of the swords he collected on the whole "kill the big earth-eating tick" adventure on his wall. Marle's room was adorned with paintings of scenic Guardian landscapes, and previous queens. Marle started taking off her outermost layers of her court dress. There were five layers. Marle silently cursed the tailors who had thought up this mess of a gown. Seeing Crono's eyes pass over her, nearly undressed, every time he had the chance (he was trying to be slick about it), she was just about to order him out of her room before taking off the undershirt and skirt, when a maid popped her head into the room.
"Princess? Admiral Evitt is back from the south, if you wish to see him. He's in the command center downstairs with your father," the maid said.
Marle's eyes lit up. She nodded the maid away and leaped out the door, with a bewildered Crono in tow.
"Uncle Cade's back! Come on Crono!" Marle said, walking down the stairs, not really caring if Crono was behind her or not. "Cade's been down south investigating raids on our fortifications there, down near Porre."
Crono followed her down the stairs, barely listening to her story.They raced through the castle, people staring after the running youth incredulously. They came to the door of the command center, below the castle, and Marle opened it without hesitation. Knights and messengers were milling about the large, fortified room, carrying orders to and from commanders, writing up reports, and sometimes half-sleeping at their desk.. Crono saw inside, the king talking to a man in blued studmail, discussing something over a map rolled out over a stone table in the center of the room.
"Uncle Cade!" Marle cried in glee.
Upon hearing the voice, the man in studmail turned toward it's owner. His young face wore a short beard, and had ash colored eyes. His long brown hair was braided down almost to his waist. He was tan skinned and well-muscled, yet was slender. In the past three years of hanging out with Marle in the castle, Crono had never heard of or seen this man.
"Nadia!" The man yelled back in a silken voice. "It's been so long since I've seen-oomph!" His greeting was cut off when Marle barreled into him, wrapping her arms around him.
After nearly squeezing the life out of the man, Marle released him. "Oh! Uncle Cade, this is Crono, you know, the one I've...uh...been sending you messages about!"
The man walked up to a still dazed Crono and offered his hand."Crono, huh? I've heard alot about you. So you're the kid who saved the future, eh?"
Crono hesitantly took his hand."Um...yeah, that's me," Crono said, shaking his hand. "But who exactly are you?"
The man flashed him a smile. "Well, my name's Cadric Evitt. My father, George Evitt, was the high admiral for the Guardian Navy. Now that's me."
"So what news from the south?" Marle broke in at that moment to ask.
Cadric's face grew dark. He sighed and walked over to the table with the map rolled out on top. "There's plenty of news, but none of it good."
The King frowned and sat down. "We lost contact with Fort Therold a few months ago. Cade was on his way from recruiting in Medina, and was to reinforce the fort after that was done. He got a tip from someone in Medina that the place was gone. He went to investigate."
Marle's eye's started to widen in expectant fear.
"We arrived by night, and found the place was attacked. We landed the next morning with a detachment of knights. What we saw there I don't care to describe. There were no survivors. The entire garrison was slaughtered," Cadric's face grew darker. "We buried the dead with full honors and cleaned up the place."
"Wait, Therold is just north of Porre, right?" Crono asked.
The King nodded. "And by Admiral Evitt's descriptions, the attack was made to look like it was conducted by renegade Mystics, but upon a closer inspection of the bodies, they found proof of otherwise. We brought in our head engineer to examine the wounds to see what kind of weapon could cause them."
With that, the engineer approached the table. Both Marle and Crono knew the head of the head of Royal Engineering, and smiled when she walked up. She was wearing her dark purple hair in a short ponytail, and was wearing worn, comfortable clothes, which were, at the time, stained with grease and other unidentifiable fluids.
"Hey guys," Lucca said unenthusiastically. "By the descriptions I was given, the wounds could have been made by only a few things. The most obvious," Lucca held up a bodkin arrow. "would be this. The small holes that follow though the armor and...into the flesh could have been made by a bodkin style arrow. But, Admiral, if you would, please?" Lucca gestured to Cade. Crono and Marle were staring at her, absorbed and horrified by her explanation. They turned their eyes toward Cade.
Cadric reached into his coat and brought out a small, black velvet bag. He emptied the contents onto a paper on the table. A small pointed bead of iron fell out. Crono peered at it for a second, then gasped as he realized what it was.
"They were found in every body." Cade mumbled.
"Apparently the Porre military stole themselves a new toy to play with," Lucca said solemnly. "I came home this morning to find my lab ransacked, everything was gone."
The object was the deadly lead slug of a gun.