The Sentinel Chapter 3
The Rumor of Poison
"No, No NO!!" Marle wailed piercingly.
She pounded her fists on the blanket covering her legs. Marle had just slept for about three hours, and immediately upon awakening asked one of her maids where her friends were. She was informed that they were being allowed to spend the night at the palace, so then Marle requested that they be brought to her room. However, at the moment, she was not very composed. The princess was throwing a tantrum - not at anyone in particular, of course - but at fate for having her fall ill just as she was about to spend valuable time with her best friends. Marle didn't know how sick she was, or when she was going to get better. She hoped Lucca would be able to answer at least one of the questions.
" Why do I have to be sick?" she sniffled. Marle knew she was acting like a baby, and needed to get a grip before her friends arrived. " This bites "
"Princess, perhaps all you need is a day or two of rest. You are probably exhausted " her maid said comfortingly. It was the same woman who had brushed her hair and was talking eagerly to her earlier that day.
"Yeah " Marle sighed. "I do feel really tired, for some reason "
Moments later, after Marle had nearly stopped sniffling, there was a knock on her door. The maid scurried over to the entrance and she opened it hesitantly. After recognizing the princess's two friends, she gratefully let them in.
Lucca stepped inside first, followed by Crono. Both wore concerned expressions. Crono quickly pulled two chairs up to her bedside from a nearby desk. Marle quietly dismissed her maid, and turned to face her friends. Before she could speak, Lucca asked,
"What happened, Marle?"
The princess bit her lip and shrugged.
"I was feeling kind of lightheaded halfway through dinner. At first, I thought I was just nervous - about making my speech - but I don't usually get nervous before presentations. It was bizarre "
"Uh huhh " Lucca said, crossing her arms and sitting back in her chair contemplatively.
" And then, I was making my speech, and my eyesight got foggy. I felt kind of dizzy, but mostly I just felt tired " Marle rambled on. " and then, when I felt like I couldn't take it anymore, I hurried up and ended my speech. I don't really remember much after that "
" How'd I get up here?"
"Crono brought you up. You fainted in front of everyone, I'm afraid. It will be all over Guardia, Porre, and Choras by the end of tomorrow," Lucca told her as-a-matter-of-factly.
"Well, do you have any idea what could be wrong with me?"
"I think hmm it sounded like you were just tired. You've been really busy, right? It could be just a side effect of long-term stress. How do you feel now?"
"Well better, I think but don't get too excited. I probably won't be allowed to go out with you guys, yet," she pouted.
Lucca leaned forward and reassuringly patted Marle on the shoulder.
"It's okay Marle, take all the time you need to rest. Crono and I aren't going anywhere anytime soon, right?" she said, turning back to the boy.
Crono arched an eyebrow.
"What about the " he started.
"Oh!" Lucca gasped, remembering the reservations she made at the Truce Mountains. "Well, we can fix that tomorrow, while she's getting better."
Crono nodded and looked at Marle sympathetically.
Marle, as hard as she was trying to keep herself from bursting into tears again, felt her face crumple at Crono's expression. There was pity and concern, she could tell, but there was unmistakable disappointment in his eyes.
"I'm so sorry, you guys. I was so looking forward to this but .ggrr!!" She growled, balling the sheets in her fists. She bit her lip to keep from sobbing. "Maybe maybe I can talk my father into extending my break, if I'm sick for too long but . we have the winter holiday festivals to plan and get ready for, soon "
Marle wiped her brow. She realized she was starting to sweat. She could feel the exhaustion seeping back into her muscles, especially in her arms after clenching the sheets so tightly. The princess slouched back against her pillows. The rapid drain of her energy overwhelmed Marle. Something told her she was not going to get better soon, and she needed to accept it.
"Well, I brought you all back up here so we could visit but I feel really tired again "
"It is pretty late," Lucca pointed out. " We're going to let you sleep, now."
She rose from her chair and returned it to Marle's desk. Crono stood up and did the same.
"Try to relax, now, okay Marle? Get a good night's rest and tomorrow, drink lots of water. That might keep you from feeling so dizzy," Lucca advised.
She smiled slightly, then turned on her heel and walked to the door. There, she waited for Crono. Lucca watched the boy walk up to Marle and pull the sheets up higher for her, tucking the princess in. When he reached the doorstep, Lucca waved and stepped outside.
"Goodnight, Lucca Crono " Marle said despairingly.
"Night," came Lucca's voice.
Crono waved to her and pulled the door closed slowly behind him.
"Goodnight, Marle. Take it easy," he said.
Marle heard the door gently click shut, and she sighed heavily. The princess wallowed in disappointment for a few moments, and then sleep rapidly ensued.
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Crono and Lucca awoke very early the next morning to make the lengthy trek up to Truce, where Lucca made reservations for their vacation. The sun was just beginning to rise, making the two friends' shadows stretch across the snow disproportionably. Crono's shadow was looking down at its feet, occasionally kicking up clumps of powdery snow with his boots. He had said nothing since they left the palace. Lucca looked at him understandingly. Crono always walked that way, with his head bent down, shuffling his feet, when something didn't go right for him. Although he hadn't said a word, he expressed precisely how he felt with his bearing. Lucca learned to read him this way since they were very young.
"You know, Crono, it's okay to feel disappointed. None of us saw this coming " she said.
The boy shook his head.
" I still can't believe we're doing this," he muttered. "Seems like it happened, only because we didn't think of it you know?"
Lucca thought over his words carefully.
" Stuff that never occurs to you always happens "
Although Lucca herself was driven by reason and logic, she understood what Crono meant. It did seem that sometimes fate liked to trick them - by presenting little circumstances or problems they wouldn't have dreamed to think of, simply because they seemed too far-fetched to come true. For example, when she had been setting up her "Telepod" at millennial fair. Lucca had expected it not to work at all - for nothing to happen. Then, her machine did work, surprising her completely. Yet then, before she could be pleased with herself, Lucca realized it was not working in the least way she had meant it to - after seeing it send Marle to the past. Lucca had been shocked, completely flabbergasted. Who would've ever imagined that that was a legitimate possibility?
"Yeah, I know exactly what you mean," she said, some moments later. "Just Marle? Getting sick? I would have never thought of that. I would have thought maybe, that she'd have too much work to do and not be able to go on break . but, getting sick? That seems so impossible. Marle is so healthy."
Crono nodded solemnly.
"I guess we'll just have to wait and see how she does today," Lucca said. "She could just have a fever - from the sudden weather change and all. Or, if what she has is really caused by stress, it could be much more serious "
Crono looked at her sideways.
"It seems abnormal. Fishy, almost " he said quietly.
Lucca's eyes widened in shock as she became aware of what Crono was hinting at.
"You think someone made her sick? That she was "
Crono shook his head.
"I don't know but she became ill right after dinner "
"It's pretty far fetched " Lucca admitted, " but like we were saying earlier - just because it's unlikely doesn't mean it couldn't be a possibility."
The two walked silently for the rest of the trip, each given something new to worry about. By the time they had reached the Truce lodges, it was almost noon. After Lucca reluctantly canceled their reservations, she and Crono sat down at a nearby restaurant-bar to have lunch before Crono returned the rented equipment.
Lucca plopped herself down at a cushioned booth near a window. It was a crowded, busy restaurant, being closest to the Truce inns. Men shouted to each other over the din; waiters and waitresses deftly weaved their way through the maze of tables. Crono slid in across from her, sighing gratefully at finally being able to sit down. Lucca reached under the table and massaged her legs.
"Well, I think I'm going to order something nice and warm " she said, extending one hand for the menu.
After looking thoughtfully at the choices for a few moments, Lucca peered up at Crono. He was sitting stiffly, his menu still unopened in front of him. He had his head cocked slightly to the side. His eyes were downcast. She was about to ask what was wrong, when she realized he was listening to something. At the booth behind Crono sat four middle-aged men, who were all looking at a slightly older gentleman dressed in wealthy robes. By the way the finely-garbed stranger glanced about cautiously, Lucca could tell their conversation was private, secretive. She looked down at her menu to appear inconspicuous, but strained to catch a little of what they were saying.
" I was completely shocked who would ever such a thing?" the wealthy man murmured. His voice was very deep, and most of his words rumbled incoherently. Lucca hoped Crono could hear better. " Supposedly everyone staying there is on their toes. Yet wants to be the first to pack up and leave, since that would certainly be suspicious "
Crono and Lucca listened for a few more minutes, and then dropped their attention once a waiter arrived and took their orders. After he left, Lucca hunched forward and looked at Crono inquisitively.
"Well? What did you hear I didn't catch much "
Crono's bright green eyes looked troubled.
"That man was at the dinner. Rumor's going out that Marle has been poisoned " Crono planted his elbows on the table and began to massage his temples. " Like what I thought "
Lucca folded her arms disbelievingly.
"We need to get back there, Crono. I might be able to prove to everyone that she wasn't poisoned. After all, she hasn't been showing the symptoms required " she frowned. " Anyway we need to quickly drop off that stuff and be on our way, before this gets out of hand. This could get reeeally bad "
Crono nodded glumly.
When their food arrived, they ate hurriedly and with little enjoyment. The men seated behind Crono left shortly after - possibly going to spread the news. Lucca had the sudden urge to find the wealthy stranger and tell him to keep his mouth shut, but she knew that would do little good. They paid for their lunch, and walked hurriedly out of the restaurant to finish their last errand. Lucca also wanted to stop by her house to pick up a few things she would need to prove the poison rumor false. The two friends gravely hoped to be back at the palace by evening.
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