King Without A Country
Youre the King now, Crono.
He sat with his head bowed, holding his face in his hands. Even though he was a man in his early twenties he looked, and felt, incredibly tired. The last several years of his life had been some of the very best. First there had been the adventure. He had traveled to the past, had saved the future, but most importantly he had fallen in love. With the princess of his kingdom, no-less. A year ago they had married, and he had become prince. He had known that someday he would be King.
That day had finally come. It wasnt heralded by parades or celebrations. His coronation wasnt preceded by a display of Luccas best fireworks. It was preceded by a massacre, and heralded in by war.
The good days had come to an end, now Crono was the King, and his kingdom was in flames. Truce had been burnt to the ground, and the armies of Porre had seized the castle. The army of Guardia had once claimed to be the most powerful military force in the world. They had fought and won so many wars throughout the course of history that it seemed they were invincible. Yet, in the blink of an eye they had fallen.
Each and every soldier in the Guardian army had been trained to be proficient in the use of the sword. Many others had mastered pole arms, axes, or even the bow and arrow along with it. The soldiers from Porre also used swords. They used them to finish off their decimated opponents once they ran out of ammunition for their rifles.
Fire arms were relatively new to the world. The tacticians and generals in Guardia had placed their faith in the tried and true weapons of the past, believing that fire arms would never be effective as the primary weaponry in a full scale war. Porre had placed their own faith in the weapons of the future, and had shattered Guardias naïve beliefs.
Lucca had known. She had tried to persuade the former King to slowly implement the use of guns. He had not been convinced. Crono had done little to help her argument, after all, he had no intension of giving up his own sword for a gun. They should have listened. They should have been better prepared. But who could blame them? Their kingdom had been at peace for nearly four hundred years, and Porre was an ally, a friend.
That was the past. The future was a kingdom engulfed in war, and Porre was not only an enemy, but the most powerful nation on the planet. Guardias armies had fallen, its people butchered, and its King killed. He had been a strong and proud warrior, but a bullet to the chest had made him little more than a happy memory of a better time.
King of what? Crono asked. There is no kingdom anymore. Its in flames. It belongs to Porre.
He raised his head and looked into his wifes eyes. They were puffy and red, glistening with tears, and held little of the former joy that used to burn so brightly in them. She had cried so much since the war began, since her father had been killed. They always had their differences, but she loved him dearly. Now he was dead, and she was without either parent.
She had experienced the death of her mother when she was only a child. Now, as a young woman she was forced to taste that bitter sorrow once again. Crono was more fortunate. His father had died before he was born, and his mother had escaped when they evacuated Truce. She was one of the few who did however. The evacuation happened with little warning, so few were prepared. Being a top priority, she was one of the first to escape. As far as Crono knew she was with Taban and Lara, safe in the refugee camps near Medina.
Crono silently thanked the entity for allowing them to meddle in time. By hunting down the Mystics leaders in the past they had achieved a far better relationship with them in the present.
The young King watched the tears silently fall from his wifes face. Each tear stabbing him through the heart like a razor sharp knife . Marle was normally so cheerful and optimistic. Seeing her usually brought a smile to his lips and joy to his heart, but Porre had changed that too.
He instantly regretted snapping at her. Marle, Im sorry its just, I need some air. He stood slowly and left the tent, brushing her shoulder affectionately as he passed.
Walking through the makeshift camp only increased the burden on Cronos heart. All around him he saw despair. The assigned medical tents couldnt hold the number of casualties, so the wounded and dying were scattered throughout the entire camp. Crono grimaced as he saw some of the grizzly wounds. One young man was missing his arm from the elbow down. Since most of the wounds were from bullets rather than blades, the missing limbs were caused mainly by amputation. At least a sword would cleanly cut the limb off, the bullets only did half the job, permanently destroying that limbs usefulness. The job of separating the ruined body part was left up to the surgeons.
The man with the missing arm was laying on his cot with his eyes wide open, but they didnt seem to be seeing anything. Not anything real at least. He was muttering nonsense in a soft scratchy voice, his mind not being able to cope with the pain. His foggy eyes looked up at Crono, but they looked right through him, and the young man continued to gabble.
He was less of a man, and more of a boy, Crono observed. He looked hardly old enough to be a soldier at all. There was nothing that could be done for him. If only more people had Marles gift of magic. She had been working herself ragged trying to heal the wounded, but she was only a single person and had limits.
The young king laid his hand on the injured soldiers good arm and said a few words meant to comfort and encourage. The soldier babbled on. Nonsense. One moment he had been a normal person, a boy on the verge of manhood starting out his new life as a Royal Soldier. The next he was a cripple, unable to make a coherent thought.
Sighing bitterly, Crono continued to walk around the camp. Men sat around eating cold rations, a few played half-hearted games of cards or dice to pass the time, but most just sat around looking forlorn. Like ghosts who hadnt yet left there earthly bodies. The sun was setting, and the night promised to be chilly. Even though the weather was uncommonly cold for autumn Crono had ordered that there would be no fires.
They were running from a superior enemy. One that was searching meticulously for any sign of them. Porre on the other hand was taking no such precautions. The fires from there camp could be seen off in the distance, like a glowing ember, threatening to burn them to the ground. Porre had no reason to hide.
Crono was king, but he was also a refugee. A refugee in his own damn country. His soldiers felt much the same. Most were silent, but some held hush conversations. None of the things they discussed were good.
Look at Porre. They flaunt themselves in our land while we hide like rats but what choice do we have? We cant fight them. Thats suicide.
They say that weve been hogging all the prosperity. That the wealth of our nation was causing their own people to suffer thats why theyve come to steal what he have.
I heard they believe were demons, like the mystics, thats why princes-I mean Queen Nadia and King Crono can use magic. Those bastards have come here to purify us.
You know what theyre calling His Majesty? Theyre calling him the Bastard King.
Truce is theirs now whats left of it. I wonder if my mother and sister got out all right I heard they butchered any who resisted oh god I hope theyre okay
Even in the face of such overwhelming desolation the sight of their King brought them a small amount of hope. Due to this Crono tried his best to look strong, but in truth he felt every bit as weak and powerless as them.
When he walked passed the men would snap a salute at their monarch. Most of them covered in dirt and blood. All of them exhausted. Still, they saluted their King. For King and Country was how the old saying went. Porre had taken their country. Their King was all many of them had left.
Eventually Crono made his way to General Ezekiels tent. The general was a good man. Smart, honest, and brave. The kind of man Guardia valued. His straw colored hair was cut close to his scalp. His armor was dented in several spots. Luckily the bullets had struck from a distance. His eyes were such a pale shade of blue that they seemed almost transparent.
As weary as he was, he still jumped to attention as Crono entered the small tent. It was no larger than that of any of the other soldiers tents, for that matter it wasnt any larger than Crono and Marles tent. At ease, General, Crono said, still finding it odd to have a man more than thrice his own age treat him with such respect. What news do you have?
The General sighed. Your Majesty, nothing good Im afraid. From the reports Ive received, General Swimleys brigade has been lost. The surviving troops have been scattered. Its still unknown if the general lives.
Crono nodded. He had expected nothing less. Every time he got a report, another unit was destroyed. Who all do we have left?
Ezekiel frowned as he went through it in his head. General Boswell still has at least half of his soldiers. Hes holding a position just North of the castle. Hes tried to reclaim it several times but none of his attempts have even come close to succeeding. Other than that I believe its just us and Captain Konrad to the Southeast. All the other units have been completely scattered. What soldiers that remain alive have been cut off from us completely.
How long can we last at this pace, General? Crono asked, fearing the answer.
The battle hardened soldier laughed mirthlessly. Until Porre gets bored and decides to end this little game.
Cronos heart sank. He felt like he had been plunged in ice water. He had known the truth all along, but to hear it actually voiced made it that much more terrible. The general suddenly bowed deeply to someone behind the King. Crono turned to see Marle pushing her way through the tents door flap.
Like Crono she had put on a tough face for the troops, but the deep set depression wasnt so easily banished from her eyes. There was something else in her eyes as well. Something cold and hard, yet Crono couldnt tell what the emotion might be.
General, if youd please excuse us Id like a word with the King, she politely commanded.
Of course, Queen Nadia. With a deep bow the general stepped out of his own tent.
Marle, Crono started. Things are bad worse than I had dared to consider-.
I want them gone, She stated flatly, cutting her husband off.
What? Crono asked, more bewildered by the tone of her voice than by the question.
Porre. I want them out of our kingdom. I dont care what we have to do.
Crono opened his mouth to respond, but she cut him off again. Ive seen so many horrible things in my life. The Day of Lavos, the fall of Zeal, people butchered by the mystics during the Great War. She shook her head to clear her thoughts. But this is different. As terrible as all those things were, it wasnt the same. This is our home its happening to, Crono! Its the place and the time that we grew up and lived our lives. These are the people we know who are being killed.
We tried so hard to save all those people in the future. We fought with everything we had to stop Lavos. Just so we could save those people that we didnt know, that wed never know. I wont give up my own home. I refuse to simply let them win this war. Its our kingdom on the line this time, and were the only ones who can save it. I want them out, Crono, I want them all gone.
He realized that the emotion overlapping her sorrow was determination. A cold hard determination that only those whove faced impossible odds and triumphed can summon. It sat there behind her eyes, sparkling like twin diamonds. Beautiful, and at the same time indestructible.
Looking into his wifes eyes Crono realized what was needed to win the war. His own brand of passion had kept him afloat as they struggled against Lavos. It blazed within his spirit like an inferno. Its white hot energy burning away those who stood against him. This type of passion worked well against Lavos, but that had been a much shorter conflict.
What they were facing now they could never win in such little time. If they were to have even the slightest chance of victory, it would be a long and bitter struggle. What was needed was not his own white hot passion, but the cold indestructible resolve that he saw in Marles eyes.
He let himself get lost in those eyes. Drinking in their beauty and kindness. Drinking in their sorrow. Drinking in their determination. He knew that he would love her forever, and as long as she lived he would do anything for her. Her inner strength and undying resolution would be his own. He would armor himself in it. He would use it to withstand the long dissolute rode that lay ahead.
Youre right. We cant give up, its as simple as that. Cronos mind had already started down a path of thought. He knew what must be done for Guardia to have any chance of survival. I will do whatever it takes to prevail. They will leave our home, but it will take time. This will be a long war, and it will be fought uphill.
She nodded, satisfied that her husband wouldnt give up. Then she smiled. For the first time since the fighting began her face lit up. In Crono she saw hope, and that was what they all needed most of all.
It warmed his heart to see Marle smile again, but he had important matters to attend to. I need to write some letters. It should take me about an hour, so bring the message runners then. Tell General Ezekiel that I want all the officers to meet me in the War Tent, and also tell him that Ill be using his own tent for now.
Crono sat behind the small desk that sat in the center of the tent. As soon as Marle had left he started to write. His messages werent fancy, but they were concise and direct. Each letter outlined his plans and issued out orders.
The first two messages were put inside scroll cases. He used his ring to imprint the royal symbol into their wax seals. The first was addressed to General Boswell, the second to Captain Konrad. Next he wrote several more, and addressed them to the Naval Commanders. The last letter he placed in a common envelope rather than an official case. He wrote no name on the envelope, nor did he press the Royal Emblem into its wax seal.
He did seal it though, and he infused the wax with his magic. For a moment small electrical sparks danced throughout the seal. Then it faded away, and the letter looked unremarkable.
Writing had never been his forte, so it took him his entire hour to finish. When he stepped out of the tent Marle was already there, along side of the message runners.
Barton, take this message to Captain Konrad. He tossed one of the scrolls over to a tall red faced soldier. Thomas, take this one to General Boswell. Edward, Tyson, Ryan, and Vincent. The four of you are to take these messages to the Navy. All of you will grab your supplies and leave immediately. Tonight.
The runners bowed before their King and left at once. Not knowing how many to bring, Marle had brought all the message runners in the camp. Rachel, stay here. The rest of you are dismissed.
The group bowed and departed, leaving a skinny girl with short brown hair alone with the King and Queen. This letter is top secret, Crono said barely above a whisper. I havent written who its for on the envelope. You will borrow a dress from the Queen. I want you to travel in that dress, and make it seem like youre nothing more than a refugee. If you get caught my hope is that they let you go, thinking nothing of you or the letter. If anyone does open the letter, dont worry. I have enchanted the wax. If the seal is broken by someone who cant use magic it will unleash my spell. Both the letter and the person who broke the seal will be destroyed.
Rachel understood so she gave a slight nod. She didnt need to ask who the letter was for. The only other person who could use magic besides the King and Queen was their close friend Lucca Ashtear. With a bow the slender woman took the letter and left.
I thought we werent going to involve Lucca, Marle said with a frown. She has the children to think of. Porres bound to know shes our friend, and they wont hesitate to burn the orphanage to the ground if they believe Luccas aiding us in any way.
Crono knew this, and it was only with great reserve that he pulled Lucca into his plan. It was the only way to win however. He would do whatever it took to win this war, and Lucca was the only person with the skills that could help him.
I dont have a choice, he said. I need stuff that only she can provide. If anyone else could do it Id use them, but there isnt anyone else. Are the officers in the War Tent.
Yes, and youre right. If we want to defeat Porre we have to use everything at our disposal, and Luccas mind is the most powerful weapon in the world.
That it is. Lets go, Its time to speak with the men. They need to know how to win this war. Crono took his Queen by the hand and lead her into the night. It was now completely dark, and the cold had fully set in. Luckily they didnt have far to walk.
The War Tent was the largest tent in the camp. Grey and round, it was as unremarkable as all the rest, but it sat over fifty people. For this reason it was used as the meeting room to discuss strategy, and tonight Crono would talk just that.
The War Tent was almost completely full. Every officer in the camp, from the lowest lieutenants to the highest general, was there. They sat in silence. A set of oil lamps burned in the center of the room. They were lit low and gave off little light, just enough to see the outlines of the hushed soldiers.
Marle took a chair reserved for her in the front next to General Ezekiel. Crono walked to the head of the tent and took his place before the officers. By his command the only light allowed was in the War Tent, but as he squinted he realized that there wasnt much light at all. He hesitated a moment, judging if it was safe or not, then decided to risk more light.
It was unlikely that Porre would see it if it was concealed inside of the tent, and Crono thought it important that he should be visible to his men. Calling forth his magic, Cronos body began to glow with soft white light. The glow illuminated the tent to the point where he had no problem distinguishing the faces of each individual.
A few men gasped, but most stared in awed silence at their illuminated King. His white cape shined brilliantly in the mystical light, looking like something woven from pieces of heaven, and the Kings royal crown was sparkling intensely around his fiery red hair. At that moment even Marle was awestruck with how impressive a figure her husband cut.
Crono waited until each soldiers eyes could adjust properly to the new light, though it wasnt truthfully that bright, in the darkness it was astonishing. Our kingdom has always strived for peace. When it was threatened we would destroy the threat, but when peace was won it was allowed to flourish.
We have been lucky. Almost four hundred years of relative peace. We have prospered greatly, but that is now over. The nation of Porre has broken our age old alliance. Unprovoked they invaded. Unprovoked they killed our people, burnt our towns, plundered our treasure. Unprovoked they have plunged us into war!
Crono forced himself to keep his voice relatively low, but his anger was undeniable. Each word sizzled with pent up rage. The officers dared not interrupted as he went on.
Their country is lead by greedy warmongers who are jealous of the prosperity we had acquired. They saw us and saw that what we had was good. Our people had food, money, and most of all they had happiness. The leaders of Porre decided that they had a right to what was ours. That they were entitled to our riches and the happiness that they brought. Instead of working to bring their own happiness about they decided to raise an army. The most powerful army the world has ever seen so they could steal what he have spent our entire lives working for. So they could steal what our ancestors spent their entire lives creating.
The Porre government has convinced its people that this is true. Every one of them now believes that we dont deserve what is rightfully our own. They all wish war on us. It is true that their army is bolstered by a draft, forcing young men to join. That is how they have achieved such staggering numbers, but do not be fooled! Many volunteered before the draft was initiated, and the people of their nation applaud the draft rather than oppose it.
They claim that I am a demon, and that my wife, your Queen, is a witch. They spin tales about how Guardia has been ruled by the Mystics since the end of the Great War. They use our magic as an excuse to kill innocent people. If we didnt have magic they would use a different excuse. They claim to be champions of justice liberating you from my oppression.
You know that this is lie. They say they are the redeemers of Guardia. I say they are the damners. Make no mistake, men are capable of the foulest evil if they can pretend that what they do is righteous. They do such evil under this guise. So I ask you now, what should be done?
The officers were momentarily stunned by the Kings question. A few talked amongst themselves, but the first to speak was a young captain. He stood and looked Crono in the eyes. We must not give in. Rally the troops. We shall show them the might of Guardia!
Cronos eyebrow raised. But the might of Porre is greater than the might of Guardia. In the past weeks this has been proven time and time again.
The captain opened his mouth to speak, but shut it immediately, shocked by his Kings unexpected words. A lieutenant to his side jumped up. We cant give up! Theyve caused so much suffering already, but if it continues itll only grow worse. I refuse to bow to Porre!
A few of the officers muttered in disapproval of the tone of voice the lieutenant used with the King. Crono smiled at the man, who was about the same age as himself. Then he said, Men of Guardia bow to no foreign power. We didnt bow to the Mystics during the Great War, and we wont bow to Porre. I ask again. What should we do?
By the tone of his voice the men knew that their King already had the answer, but they couldnt think of what he might want to hear from them. Finally Crono looked back to the young lieutenant and asked, What would you do? To save your country, your family, your friends? What would you do to drive off Porre?
The lieutenant shrugged as he stared into the face of his King. Anything I have to. Whatever it takes, Your Majesty.
Crono thrust his fist into the air. Yes! Anything that can be done must be done! We know that we have no chance to win a conventional war, so we must therefore fight an unconventional war. I will not lie to you. The road ahead is a long one, and its only going to get worse from here, but we shall drive Porre from our country!
A cheer erupted from the officers. Crono was gladder than he could imagine to hear that noise. These men had always kept a small bit of hope hidden away inside of their hearts after all. He had brought it out.
After the cheers ended Crono began pacing back and forth in front of the seated men as he spoke. The first thing we must do is stop fighting them head on. This is what they want, because they know that they will win all of these encounters. Instead we will strike from a distance.
Your Majesty, how can we strike from any sort of distance? Our own archers cant shoot half as far as their riflemen. General Ezekiel interrupted And we dont have much in the lines of rifles. Only what weve managed to take from fallen Porre soldiers, and those are few. The bullets are even fewer.
Crono paused for a split second before he resumed his pacing. Luccas role would remain secret. He didnt even dare risk telling his most trusted men. A young friend of mine will design our own rifles. This young man lost his family in the Truce invasion and has volunteered to aid us in any way he can. Ive asked him to create our rifles to shoot further than Porres. Much further. Each rifle will have a type of telescope mounted on them. We will hit the enemy from so far away that they wont have any means of retaliating.
In truth Lucca already had designed such a weapon. She had modified one of her own handmade guns into a rifle with a scope. Crono had once marveled at the distance she could hit targets.
This man will send us several prototypes, plus the specs to build them. Our own corps of engineers will begin mass producing them as soon as possible, and Im sure we can find some talented refugees whod like to help us win the war by lending a hand in the production. The men were satisfied with the Kings plan, and listened attentively as he continued.
Ive also charged him with creating explosive weapons for us. Some will be handheld bombs, grenades, others will be larger explosives capable of much more devastation. We will use our enemys great size to our advantage. In our smaller groups they wont be able to chase us at all when we strike. Theyll have to send out smaller, faster, units to confront us. What theyll find will be carefully laid traps rigged with bombs.
Soon no soldier in Porre will want to break free of the main force, but they wont find safety anywhere, not even in their own beds. Their camps are so large that they cant properly guard the entire perimeter. Every night a small silent team will infiltrate by wearing stolen Porre uniforms. We will slit their throats as they sleep. I want them to wake up next day to the corpses of their friends. Every rank from the officers down to the lowest privates will be targeted. They must know that none of them are safe.
Once again General Ezekiel interrupted. Even doing all this wont be enough, Your Majesty. Theres no possible way to kill all of them like that.
Crono stopped and looked at the general. He confirmed the generals sentiments with a nod. Your right. We wont be able to kill them all like that, but I dont intend to eradicate them. Thats impossible. All I want to do is force them to leave our country.
When they first invaded they called me the Prince of Thunder. This name was given due to fear of my magic. Now however, they call me the Bastard King. They dont fear any of us anymore, not even myself. I aim to reverse this. We may not decimate them, but we will be picking off at their ranks constantly. None of them will feel safe.
I want them scared about being sniped off. I want them terrified of leaving the main force, and I want them to fear going to bed each night. Every moment they spend in our land shall be a nightmare for them. I want them to want to leave. I want half of them to desert, and the other half to be too scared to desert. I want their mothers to go to bed every night worried that their sons will be dead by morning. I want Porre to stop celebrating their invasion of our land, and start hating it!
In the south they enjoy mild winters, so the bitter cold of a Guardian winter will only add to their misery. I wont allow them a single comfort. I plan on destroying the Zenan Bridge. The lack of supplies will do more damage than all of our bullets.
Some of the men showed great surprise at the Kings proclamation of destroying the Zenan Bridge. One man asked, How will you take the bridge? They hold it with one of their largest forces.
An old captain with a shortly cropped beard said, Theyll only steal food from our civilians. Plus they can always send supplies up by way of ship.
Crono understood the arguments, but he already had their counter. The Navy will be given the most powerful explosives we can get. They will send a small fleet of fast ships to destroy the bridge. Any units Porre sends to get supplies from our cities will be met with ambushes. If they wish to steal our food theyll have to move their entire army en masse. Something I doubt theyll do if they can avoid it. As for the supply ships, I have that covered.
General Ezekiel rubbed his chin as considered the King. I know our Navy is holding their own better than our ground forces, but they dont have enough man power to stop supply ships as well as fight off Porres Armada. Your Majesty knows this though what else do your have on mind?
When Porre took over they liberated our criminals from our prisons. Many of the men they freed have committed unspeakable deeds. The Navy will train them in the way of the sea.
The general was dumb founded. His jaw dropped reflexively as he tried to puzzle out the Kings words. What are saying, Your Majesty? Those men are murderers and rapist, some of them worse and you want the Navy to train them to be sailors?
Crono shook his head. No, not sailors. We have plenty of sailors. What I want are pirates.
Even Marle was confused by this statement. All around the officers exchanged glances. The generals eyes widened in disbelief. Pirates? You want to create pirates? I apologize Your Majesty, but thats insane.
Yes, your quite right, Crono replied flatly. It is insane, but If we supply the pirates with whatever they need theyll leave us alone. We give them training, supplies, and ships, and then theyll solely feed off of Porre. I want these pirates to be the very lowest kinds of scum. Scum thatll make all of Porres sailors fear the sea. Insane, yes. I think itll work. Do you think itll work, General?
The general blanched as he considered what the King planned to do. It will work but at what cost?
Cronos face held no emotion. At whatever cost is necessary.
The men finally understood just how serious their King was. He was going to do anything in his power to win back the kingdom.
Some of the things we will do, that I will do, will be black indeed, Crono said. But if any of us wants Porre to leave, we must be dedicated to doing black deeds. We must throw away any foolish concepts of honor. We arent fighting for honor. Were fighting for freedom. Were fighting for the right to live our own lives as we see fit. War isnt a game where you set rules, its real, and we must fight it as such.
A hush fell upon the men as they contemplated his words. At last one of them stood. He looked very frightened to be standing before the King, but nonetheless he found his voice. Your Majesty, I vow here and now, not to rest until we are a free nation once more. Even if I must plunge my soul into everlasting hell, there is no deed I shall not perform if it means defeating Porre.
Crono wished that it hadnt come to this. He had no desire to take part in what he knew they would end up doing, but not only would he take part in it. He would lead them to do it. His face was devoid of emotion as he said, This is the true nature of war. Porre wanted a war, and we shall grant them their wish.
One by one the men stood and gave similar vows. Each was now committed to a single purpose in life. None of them would likely be the same ever again. Marle stood as well, but she didnt speak her vow out loud. She had already made it in her heart.
Crono couldnt smile, but part of him wanted to as he beheld his wife. Even if his life had to end up like this, it was worth living just because of her.
The King took the time to briefly make eye contact with every man in the tent. Silently sharing his own vow with each of them. The air felt as though it was charged with electricity, some would later realize that it probably was. Shining in the darkness Crono spoke. Men of Guardia: Tonight your King stands before you bereft of his kingdom. And he wants it back.
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