Dark Winds Chapter 1
The night had descended, bringing with her a chill that spoke of winter's coming, whistling through the town with the scent of coming frost. Still, Leene's Square shown brightly with festivities, bonfires flickering upward to lick the skies. It had already been a day of celebration, this marking three years after the destruction of Lavos, honoring the heroes who had crossed time itself to save the planet from utter destruction.
The entire town eagerly attended this annual event, even young children who bounced on their fathers' knees or clung to their mothers' legs. All of them had gathered around the fire, invited to drink a toast to the heroes, and to their new prince, Crono. The excitement from the day had hardly begun to taper off, after all, every day they lived and breathed marked only another day of freedom from Lavos.
Each of the heroes sat near the fire, their seats assigned and reserved by the palace guards. Lucca claimed the seat closest to the fire, occationally feeding it with her own special abilities. Beside her lounged Glenn, the Masamune still sheathed at his side. The empty seat between him and Crono had been reserved for Janus, hauntingly empty, it reminded them all of the precarious allignment they kept with the former tyrant of the middle ages. Still, it bothered Crono enough that he kept looking over his shoulder, wondering if he would see the tall figure descending towards the fire, cloak billowing behind him.
"Crono? Crooooooonoooooooooo?" Marle's voice cooed at him. When he didn't respond, she rapped against his head with her knuckles lightly to get his attention.
Crono nearly jumped, startled to be dragged out of his thoughts so quickly. Blinking, he gave Marle a blank stare, "Huh, what?" This, of course, only drew a giggle out of her. He chuckled at himself and draped an arm around her shoulders lightly, "Sorry, my mind was elsewhere."
"I could tell. What were you thinking about?" she asked, but before he could respond, she leaned forward to gaze at Janus' empty seat, "And I wonder where Janus is, I know he's not Mr. Sociality, but he's always at least shown up for the anniversaries."
Crono nodded mutely, normally everyone arrived for the anniversary of Lavos' defeat, except for Ayla, who had chosen to remain in her time period.
"Perhaps he's just late..." Lucca offered, followed by a noncommital shrug of her shoulders, "Very late... for a person who's obsessively punctual... sure..."
Marle shook her head, "It's not right, maybe we should look for him?"
The party exchanged looks with each other, but it was Robo who responded, "We can't leave a celebration meant for us, that would be rude." Everyone's eyes flickered around at the large crowd, blissfully unaware of the missing Janus. He'd never been very good at playing a public figure, and there were some who couldn't let go of the role he played in the middle ages.
"I'll look for him," Crono offered finally. "He stays at the Porre Inn usually, it's out of the way enough for him. I'll see if he's checked in, if so we can worry that he's not here, if not, he's chosen not to attend this year." Everyone nodded in agreement, save for Marle. A pout on her face already, the beginnings of protest in her eyes, she wasn't keen on the idea of Crono going alone. Grinning at her, he rose from his seat and kissed her forehead, "I'll be back, promise. There are no more scary monsters in the woods." She giggled at his mock drama, and to his relief, let it go. Marle was notoriously stubborn about things at times, just like her father.
To his surprise, it was easy to escape the festivities, very few barred his way with questions or exclaims of adulation. He responded with a weary smile to anyone who recognized him, and felt the familiar relief of being alone as he strode out of the fairgrounds of Leene's Square, disappearing into the night.
It felt good to walk the woods without the fear of falling into the pit trap of a monster. For the first time since the founding of Guardia, humans and mystics alike could travel the forests and ocean alike without danger. Everyone had grown so lax about it that new roadways were being paved, and a new ferry had been constructed to the Mystic's contentent across the ocean. The implications were wonderful, promoting peace between two races that had warred for centuries, and new accesses to the smaller villages. Yet something wasn't right, it tickled the back of Crono's mind, like a itch that couldn't be scratched or a riddle whose answer was just out of reach.
"You would do well to pay more attention to where you are going."
Janus' voice was the only thing to indicate his presense as he stepped out in front of Crono, the shadows slinking off his frame as if they were a malleable, living cloak. Crono might have jumped at one point, snatching his sword from its scabbard in preperation for battle. However, he had begun to grow accustomed to the Magus' stealthy ways, forcing himself to give the man no more then his reactionary step back, hand on the hilt of his blade.
"You're late." His words sounded more terse then he felt, but Janus' cold smile added the sentiment in the aftermath. He released the hilt of his sword reluctantly, in this man's presense the feelings of foreboding grew stronger.
Janus waved his hand dismissively, tossing his cloak over one shoulder. "These things always meant more to the rest of you... then too myself." He shrugged, attempting to warm his smile just a little. "If it makes you feel any better, there are other things on my mind, more... pressing things."
"And what might those be?" The tingling heightened, enough to drive him nearly mad, but somehow he knew that Janus' answer might relieve that sense of foreboding, if just a little.
Janus didn't respond right away, folding his arms across his chest as he regarded Crono in stoney silence. "You feel it too, don't you." It was not a question, but rather a statement of fact. To Crono's uplifted eyebrow he added, "That sense of dread, that feeling of darkness ever ready to swallow you without you knowing when or where it might strike you down... a black wind blows, Crono. You seem to be the only one, other then myself, who can sense these things."
Crono's frown deepened, "You speak in riddles, Janus. What exactly do you mean?"
Again, Janus hesitated, turning away from Crono, his cloak rippling, twisting around his tall frame like a shroud. "There are things you do not know of me, Crono, evils I have commited while in my obsession with destroying Lavos. And I fear the small rifts I left in my wake have been left to fester in this time and grow strong..." He trailed off and shook his head, turning around again to face Crono. "Once I would have scoffed at asking any of you to accompany me. Surely I was powerful enough to tend to my own needs, I alone was strong, and you were weak. Destroying Lavos has taught me humility..." his smile took on a bemused touch, "...if nothing else. And so, I am asking you to join me in this."
Crono tilted his head to the side, dubious of the Magus' offer, but curious all the same, "And what of the others? Why make this offer solely to me, Janus?"
The man's face twisted slightly and he averted his eyes, not for any moment of embarassment, but more to spare Crono the site of the scorn in his eyes, "You alone have made an attempt to understand me without changing me. I am what I am, and no one, not your princess wife, nor your frog skinned friend, can turn me. I aided you in the destruction of Lavos for my own revenge, it was not some heroic act of altruism." He looked up again and Crono saw the struggle in his eyes for a split second, his own humanity fighting against the inner demons that had made Janus a legend in his own time. Just a flicker, enough to convey the half truth within the Magus' explanation.
Crono merely nodded. "Fair enough. But I'm not going into this blindly. You will tell me what this involves."
Janus' lips quirked, bemusement replacing the dark struggle, masking it perfectly underneath a pretense of preternatural calm. "Come with me then, we must begin this journey now, and I will tell all."
(To Be Continued...)
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