Lucca jumped off of the inadequately padded bed. “Melchior, is that you?” she queried in disbelief to the neighboring cell.
“Indeed, you’ve found me,” the Guru of Life confirmed.
A shudder of amazement enveloped the three children. The inventor turned to her comrade. “Crono, the next time I deride one of your impulses, stop me,” she apologized.
The young swordsman gave a reassuring nod, beaming at the group’s unlikely fortune.
“What are you doing here, Melchior?” Marle asked.
Just passing my time making armaments for the local militia,” the weaponsmith explained.
“But aren’t the Mystics the humans’ enemies?” the princess inquired, referring to the much-disparaged curse.
“Very much so,” the Guru answered, “But I had to make myself useful so I could stay alive until you children found me.”
“How did you know we would find you?” Lucca asked. “How do you even know who we are? This is a completely different time line from the one in which we met you.”
“Well, you did meet me twenty-two hundred years ago,” Melchior pointed out. “But over and above that, I can still remember the events separate from the history of the Mystics’ Curse. The encounter at the Millennial Fair near the canyon and the repair of the Masamune stick out most strongly in my memories.”
“Strange,” Lucca mused.
“So did we do those things while this curse was on us?” Marle wondered.
“No, I don’t think so,” Lucca thought aloud in response. “There wasn’t a Millennial Fair in the canyon this time; Truce Village was moved ten years ago, remember?”
“Then how does everything work out?” Crono inquired.
“I’ve been thinking about this on and off,” Lucca replied. “It seems as though every time we travel to a different era, we actually move to a parallel dimension. Everybody is the same, and the events up to the earlier year between the time jump are identical, but our leaving one year to go to the other opens up a whole new set of possible events to occur in the later year.
“But just as we don’t remember what’s going on in this present day, some people seem to be able to transcend the flow of time to an extent. Gaspar is one example; he can see the future, if only through vague glimpses.”
“So you’re saying that Melchior can remember the other timeline because he transcends time?” the princess deduced.
“I guess I don’t have the terminology down quite right, but it’s something like that,” Lucca added.
“Maybe Melchior is remembering the timeline that should have occurred, just like we are,” Crono suggested.
“I think you children are as perceptive as the Guru of Time himself,” the aged weaponsmith congratulated. “But somebody is bound to come along and find us conversing, and they’ll suspect us of planning an escape. I suggest we devise such a plan before we truly lose our chance to break out of here.”
“Right,” the inventor concurred, regarding the sleeping jail guards for a second. “Now, what can we use to break out?”
“I don’t see anything,” Marle confessed as she sat defeatedly on the floor, leaning up against the barred door to pout.
“Don’t give up just yet,” Lucca reminded, joining Crono’s search of the floor for anything that might serve as a tool of some sort, “We’ve been through worse situations than this, right?”
Not hearing a response, the inventor faced her comrade. She jerked backwards in shock at the sight of Marle slumped forward, surrounded by a cloud of ethereal vapor. Crono, roused by Lucca’s gasp of horror, turned and saw the princess fall to one side, limply hitting the floor. Just as the boy rushed to her, a diminutive figure hopped into view in front of the cell door.
“Oh no! I got one of them, too!” the creature said. It was an Imp, blue in color and wearing stereotypically purple overalls.
Surprised, Crono opened his mouth to speak, but the troll hushed him. “I’m here to help you escape,” the Imp whispered.
“What did you do to her?!” the boy hissed.
“She’s just asleep. I only wanted to put the guards out; I’m sorry,” the dwarf admitted as it began darting back and forth in front of the barred door, apparently looking for the keys to the cell.
Halting the creature with his palm, the youth said: “Can you see our supplies?”
Shuffling off to the youth’s left, the Imp, now out of the prisoner’s range of sight, started clamoring around with unseen objects, dropping things and fumbling with a host of somebody’s belongings.
Lucca stealthily sidled up beside Crono as the boy gingerly propped the unconscious princess against the wall separating the children from the Guru of Life. “Don’t you think this could be a trap?” she murmured.
“I’m ready to take that chance,” he answered.
“Then let’s hope your record holds,” the inventor replied with a knowing smirk.
Stumbling back into view, the Imp described the cache in his arms. “I have a... a sword here... a crossbow... I don’t know what this is, but it has a handle... and a bag of stuff.”
The swordsman quickly snatched his weapon from the troll’s grasp and then retrieved the rest of the group’s supplies. He handed Lucca her firearm and the bag of provisions, tonics, ethers, and the like. After placing the crossbow called Valkyrie next to Marle, he fastidiously reattached his sheath to his belt. The very thought that others had been handling his sword quietly enraged the boy. Drawing the Rainbow Sword from its sheath, he grimly addressed the Imp:
Barely giving the dwarf time to react, Crono threw his weight forward and sent the shimmering blade diagonally across the barred portal. The luminescent weapon carved effortlessly through the rusty metal, sending brilliant sparks flying as it severed each bar. Mirroring the first cut, the swordsman created a triangular opening through the cage.
The old metal bars fell outward, almost crushing the tiny accomplice and sending a sickening clanging noise through the halls of the jail.
The Imp, intimidated by the cold-hearted slaughter of a jail cell door, took a cautious step forward and, holding his trembling right hand out, announced: “By the way, my name is Panlo.”
Sheathing his sword and kneeling next to the sleeping young lady, Crono gave a nod of acknowledgement. Lucca snuck past him, gave the Imp’s outstretched hand a quick shake, and began to search the comatose guards for a key to Melchior’s cell as the lad asked:
“Can you wake her up?”
“Umm... well, no, I can’t,” Panlo confessed. “I don’t know the proper spell to break that one.”
Mildly frustrated, the swordsman clipped the Valkyrie to his belt and lifted Marle in his arms. As he exited the cell, Lucca threw open the door to Melchior’s prison with a triumphant “Ta-dah!”
“We should leave this way,” the Imp insisted, motioning to Crono’s left. “My associate, Conger, is watching out for the troops.”
The four trailed the dwarf as he crept down the dusty halls of the brig. Nearing a corner in the cramped hallway, they were suddenly met with a brownish-skinned Imp, who, tearing around the corner, almost ran right into Panlo.
“Panlo!” it realized. “We’d better go back this way! They’re after me!”
To Chapter Five
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