Inside Guardia castle, Lucca sat with her arms crossed and a scowl. "I still don't see why we couldn't go to my house."
Beside her, Marle sighed and leaned back in her chair, watching Crono and Frog cajole the cook into preparing a large course for five people well after the regular meal time. "Your place doesn't have enough room for two guests, and unless you want your parents to meet the evil wizard from the Mystic Wars..."
"They've seen him before," Lucca said, but she glanced at Magus, who sat at the end of the table, leaning back in his chair with his boots on the table and with Alfador on his lap. He grinned, baring his fangs at her.
"Okay, maybe not," she said.
The guard stationed in the corner of the kitchen spotted Magus' teeth and edged his hand closer to his sword. Marle spotted his movement and waved him down, forcing a smile. Once she was sure the guard was calm again, she glared at the wizard.
"Will you quit scaring the guard?" she whispered. "I don't wanna have to explain to daddy why I'm bringing strange fanged men into the castle."
He ran one gloved hand over Alfador's fur, rubbing the back of his head as his purring grew louder. "If your guards are terrified of a man petting a cat, you have more problems than explanations to your father."
Before Marle could answer, Crono and Frog sat down at the table.
"Thy cook is quite..." Frog searched for a polite term, "...spirited, but she hath agreed to fix dinner for us." He glanced at Magus. "And she hath promised a dish for thy cat as well."
Magus looked at him, then back at Marle. "And how do you know it's not him that has your guards on edge? Are frog knights common now?"
"Frog's polite and chivalrous," Marle said. "They all respect him."
"Hath our dark mage been frighting thy guards?" Frog asked. "More than usual?"
Lucca bolted down half the wine in her glass and leaned back in her chair. "It's the scythe. They've never seen anyone fight with one. They take one look and think he's the grim reaper."
"You're right, though," Marle said to him. "All you've done is pet your cat. They shouldn't be so jumpy."
"Tis a common superstition that sorcerers have familiar spirits," Frog said. "When didst thou retrieve thy cat? Thou showed little interest in it before."
"Twelve thousand b.c., eleven thousand four hundred years ago, or one year and three days." Magus rubbed under Alfador's chin, which made the cat turn over so he could reach his stomach. "I wasn't about to bring him into the fight with Lavos."
He glanced at the guard again and raised his hand. The guard tensed and went for his sword, but Magus only rubbed his pet's tummy and smirked at the guard. Frog shook his head with a laugh.
"At least these guards shall not be startled into drawing sword upon a dark figure in the archives."
"What?" Marle asked.
"That reminds me," Magus said, looking at the princess. "After Flea and Slash are killed, I'll need to look through your archives. Hopefully they're in better condition than four hundred years ago."
"Some of them are," Lucca said, cutting off Marle's reply. "I've been trying out a new technique for preserving records by putting the information on microfiche."
"Little fish?" Frog asked.
"No, it's like tape," Lucca said, "it gets shrunk down and put on tape so that when you shine light through it, the image is projected on a screen and magnified. Hand manipulation of the scrolling wheel processes the image for greater control."
Frog and Crono gave Marle blank stares, but she simply shrugged. "Don't ask me, she's the only one who knows what any of that means."
"How do you compensate for decay and age?" Magus asked.
"By application of a few preservative coatings," Lucca said, leaning forward, her eyes lighting up as she found someone she could go into detail with someone other than her father. "I practiced on the terminal unused space near the end of the older scrolls and books for my initial attempts."
"And there was no degradation?" He put his boots down on the floor and sat up straight, leaning closer.
"The pages did disintegrate after several hours, but that was due more to human handling than the preservatives. The initial preservative solutions blurred the ink into one large blot after a few hours, but subsequent solutions are far more protective, though the paper becomes brittle after two days."
"Blurring on the tape?"
"Nonexistent. In fact, I had to clear up some of the images after processing since the writing on the opposite side of the paper was also bleeding into the main image. That was only with the thinnest, most worn paper."
On the other side of the table, Frog and Crono looked at Marle again. She sighed and picked up her fork and spoon and made them do a little dance across the table. "Find something to do," she said, "she can go on like this for hours."
Cradling Alfador in his arms, Magus turned in his seat so he could lean sideways against the table, making it easier to watch her. "Possible magnification?"
"Three hundred percent, usually." She pulled the candle on the table closer so she could see him a little better. "I have them on vertical scrolls to maximize space since horizontal's too limiting. Almost half the oldest texts are done, the diaries and histories. I don't want to wade into the poetry yet."
"Don't bother," he said. "It's mostly bad love sonnets from one royal member to another, and a few ballads of note."
"Thou readst bad poetry?" Frog asked, chuckling.
"I had to be sure there was nothing important in them," Magus said. "I couldn't have been more right."
"Tis gratifying to know thou suffered some."
"As did the bards," Magus said and his eyes darkened, "whenever I met them."
"You met the bards?" Marle asked, her eyes widening. "Did you meet Delavue? He put some of King Cassio's best love ballads to song, but the sheet music was lost."
"Of course it was," Magus said, "I went to a lot of trouble to burn every copy I ran across."
"You burned them?" she cried. "But it was said to be heavenly!"
He waved one hand dismissively. "Of course, when no one remembers it. It sounded like lyre strings being snapped."
"Queen Velesia said it was gorgeous."
"She was a love-struck idiot," Magus said. "You forget, I read her diary."
Dinner being served spared Frog from defending the dead queen's honor. Hypermeals and salads and such were distributed, as was a small dish of cream and fish for the cat. As he'd done before on their journeys, Magus didn't eat, but the cook set a carafe of what looked like red wine in front of him. Magus glanced at Frog, who nodded once and didn't say anything. A sip told him it was blood, probably runoff from the slaughter room, but if it wasn't fresh, it was still edible and, even better, not poisoned. Heaven knew what Frog had said to convince the cook to serve it. He drank deep and finished it off, running the back of his glove of his mouth. Years had passed since he'd eaten at a royal table and his manners had always been poor.
Dinner passed too quickly for Frog. Although he was eager to discuss matters long into the night, Marle's yawns and his sense of honor allowed him to merely ask if they might bed in the castle for the night.
"And if thou wilt be so kind as to give us separate rooms," he added, "mine gratitude shall know no bounds."
"Sure," Marle said. "There are plenty of spare rooms downstairs. If you don't mind sleeping close to the soldiers quarters."
"'Tis a second home to me."
"If you wake up early enough," Lucca said to Magus, "I can give you a quick look around the archives. You'll at least see what's changed and been added." She crossed her arms and looked down, deep in thought. "Actually, it'd be a good idea for all of us to go down there. We can find out why your battle wasn't mentioned and what the official reason is for Sandorino's disappearance."
"Then we'll meet in the morning, downstairs," Marle said, standing up. As if dismissing a royal banquet, she ended the conversation and offered her arm to Crono, who escorted her out.
On the other side of the table, Magus and Lucca gave a simultaneous snort. "She's getting worse every day," Lucca said. "A few more years, and I might not be able to stand her royal highness."
"Surely thou jest," Frog said, also standing. "She seemed as much the warrior princess this morning."
"She has her moments," Lucca said. She waved as he left the room, heading down the hall to the guest quarters, but made no move to get up and head home. Instead she poured another glass of wine for herself and downed half of it in one go.
"Drinking heavily now?" Magus asked. He watched the cook's assistant come
and clear off the table, but the man left the bottle of wine and shied away
from the girl. "I think he's afraid of you."
She turned the glass in her hand, regarding the wine. "Just turning into a temperamental genius, that's all. I blew up one of the rooms when I got angry. All the guards treat me like a walking biohazard. You guys and my parents are the only ones who aren't afraid of me anymore."
As much as he disliked being one of "you guys," Magus held up his blood carafe. "A toast, then, to being terrifying monsters."
She returned the salute and finished the wine while he emptied the last few remaining drops. Lucca set her glass down and leaned back in her chair. "We're changing, but they don't even see it," she said softly, adjusting her glasses before they slid off. "Marle still fights, but she's gotten a taste of political power and she likes it. Crono's less her champion and more of a bodyguard, though I'm sure he takes real good care of her." Not bothering with the glass, she grabbed the bottle and tipped it back. "Real good care."
"They're married?" he asked.
"Oh, that's gonna be the event of the year," she said. "It'll be so huge and they're rebuilding the north cathedral just for that. Everyone who's anyone will be there, and I'm the maid of honor, you know." She groaned and took another drink.
"I'll be sure to be long gone then," he said.
"I might disappear to the end of time myself," she said. She looked up at him, completely sober despite all she'd drank. "Everything changes, doesn't it?"
"Everything," he said. "Welcome to adulthood."
She stared at him for a minute, then finished off the bottle. "Growing up sucks." She stood up, wobbled a little, and stretched, groaning as she pulled wear muscles. "I was walking all damn day. Listen, I know I said early, but don't wake me up too early. When I'm hung over, flammable things start smoking." Not waiting for his reply, she turned and left, waving her hand vaguely as she went.
There was no reason to stay in the dinning room. Magus disappeared from his chair, cat and all, leaving a confused guard glancing wildly around. He reappeared outside the castle doors and chose the nearest tree. A bed would have been better, but the guards in this era barely knew him and he didn't want to wake up surrounded with a dozen swords going through him. The tree was acceptable.
He climbed into the branches and leaned against the thickest, curling into the crook at the top of the trunk. His cape kept the wind off his back and Alfador lay against his chest, already asleep. For awhile, though, Magus stared at the stars between the branches, inordinately bright with no moon in the sky. They swirled in the darkness like the trail of an ice spell, white and sparkling.
"This is just a detour," he whispered. "I'll finish with this, and then continue to look for you. I know you're out there somewhere."
In truth, he was starting to suspect where she was, or rather what had happened in the Black Omen long ago. Twelve thousand b.c., eleven thousand four hundred years ago, or one year and three days. After all his work, it seemed like he'd been searching for that long. He touched the amulet she'd given him as protection. It had seen him through his childhood, through Lavos. Now it was what sustained him. Proof she'd existed at all. Sometimes she seemed like a dream.
And that was what he saw when he fell asleep in the branches. Her hand, holding out the amulet as it spun in the air, reflecting his own face back at him.
Cool morning air woke him while the sky was still grey. He pulled his cloak closer and held Alfador in his hands, shielding him from the wind. Stifling a yawn, he sat up and looked around. The woods were still empty, save for two guards standing in front of the castle. Bird song, absent the day before, now filled the trees, pricking up Alfador's ears.
Though he still felt tired, there was no use in trying to go back to sleep. He dropped out of the tree, going to one knee as he landed. As he stood up, the guards gasped and took a step back, looking at him as if he was a demon. He walked towards them, holding his cat in one arm, and when one of them raised a hand to stop him, he disappeared.
When he reappeared next to the castle's main stairs, he heard the guards shouting in a panic. Before any others could arrive, he disappeared again, this time landing in the archives. He pressed himself into a dark corner as the treasury guards ran by, then walked among the chests and vaults to the last room. The rainbow shell provided all the light in the room, illuminating the shelves of old books and the metal contraption Lucca had built, out of place against the stone walls.
He sat in the chair she used and flipped the switch on the side of the casing. Light shone done from the overhead box, projecting the image of the scroll she'd last read. Neat handwriting fell on the white surface before him, and he turned the handle of the scroll to move it forward. The writing moved smoothly before him, and Alfador tried to put his paw on the black lines as they rolled past. He turned the handle faster until he reached the beginning and started to read. It was nothing but granary statistics for several decades, so he slipped the scroll out of the rollers and turned to see what else Lucca had converted.
Criminal trials, census records, religious documents, the official archive of royal confessions...he arched one eyebrow but kept looking, wondering if Marle knew what the smartest girl in the kingdom was looking at. For a princess who regularly skipped classes, he doubted it.
The true and trange hi torie of the murder of King Guardia XXII. The title passed quickly as he flipped through the list, but he halted and picked it out. He set it in place and slowly rolled it forward, fighting with the poor handwriting.
In the year 600 after our lord, the war with ne foul Magu was wone, in which the my tic army did flee before the righteou might of our armie and the heroic kill of the my sterious warrior Crono and hi retainer . Nay an year had pa ed yet the enemie gave an final blow, mo t cowardlie and crewl, and murdered our most deare king in the nyght, killed by the foul wisard, still devious tho much weakened, and a lowlie toadie ne in his servise. Onlie with the honor and courage of our armie and hande of ye Divine Providence was queene and countrie preserved...1
Magus broke off and sighed. Old writing was difficult at best, and the formal literature even worse. So this was what Frog did for ten years in the swamps, he decided, read horrendous histories and pick up the bad dialect. Hopefully the green knight didn't know any of Delavue's ballads or else he'd have to reconsider killing him.
He glanced back at the illuminated text. So this was why no one here knew of their final battle with the mystics. They'd simply been rewritten out of history, the queen's champion and the comrade against Lavos conveniently written out of time. Well, not entirely, he thought. He'd always been the evil wizard Magus, but then Frog was converted just as radically. He knew the medieval castle had been infested with gossip and conspiracy theories, and this only proved how much the people believed that mystics were everywhere, hiding under their beds and ready to slaughter them as soon as the lights went out. No doubt if he read further, he'd see how he and Frog slaughtered Sandorino's peasants and razed the houses on a whim, and of their final demise alongside their wounded army in the snow cave.
Pressing on, he continued through the history, managing as quickly as he did because of his long practice of deciphering Frog in his more incomprehensible moments. There was no mention of the queen remarrying, although it did make note of a daughter and the traditional passage of Schala's necklace. An earthquake here, an eclipse there. Nothing else of note appeared even to the end of the scroll, but he figured that if history had been cleaned up, nothing interesting would show.
Footsteps started down the stairs, moving slowly through the treasury. Of course. In any era, Guardia's troops had the knack for coming in just as his research grew interesting. He turned off the microfiche, scooping Alfador up in one hand as he stood, waiting for the guards to come closer. No matter. Lucca would better know where to look for references to the pendant, and for now, there was time enough for a little fun.
More for show than their medieval counterparts, these guards relied on their combined strength rather than their thin rapiers. Most of them didn't even bother to carry swords. From his vantage point in a dark corner, he watched a whole troop move along the hall, the officers in back nudging the regulars forward. They'd probably checked every other room in the castle, Magus thought, before coming down to the basement treasury. With a wave of his hand, he sent a breeze that blew out the torches.
Everyone froze. The only light came from the rainbow shell several dozen yards ahead, only a soft glow from where they were. Boots shuffled on the stone floor before a few whispered orders and threats drove the front row ahead again.
The torches suddenly burst into purple flames, two at a time down to the end of the hall where Magus stood, a silhouette with a gleaming scythe. His cape billowed behind him, and he stood still as the guards stared and backed up towards the stairs. With a low laugh, Magus ignited a fireball in one hand and threw it down the hall, guiding it down to explode at their feet.
There were cries of "demon," "a devil" and "retreat," mixed with random shouts and the clang of dropped swords as they ran for the stairs, tripping over each other. A few more explosions at their back and the wizard's laughter as he walked towards them, sent the stragglers up and out of sight.
The torches turned back to their normal color, the wind died down and Magus was left with an amused smile. He put away his scythe and leaned against the wall, gently rubbing Alfador's ears. He didn't have to wait long. Panicked shouts and commands echoed from the main hall, and soon Frog's voice was added to the mix. The shouting quieted, and then Frog hopped down the stairs, a small contingent of the bravest guards following several feet after.
Knowing who the "demon" was, Frog looked at the guards and then at Magus. "Is this a hobby of thine? See how many guards thou canst have rattling in their armor?"
"These ones don't have armor," Magus said, unable to quash his smile. "Just a bit of fun. Honestly, I didn't even turn them in anything this time."
"Perchance only because thou hadst not enough transformation spells to go around," Frog said. "Thy fun may get thee killed some day."
"Between alien parasites and mystic assassins, I'll take my chances." He walked by him, passing the guards as they parted to let him go. "I take it everyone is up?"
"Aye, since thy..." Frog's voice trailed off as he realized Magus had done and he raced up the stairs after him. "Thou impatient wizard! Couldst thou not wait another hour to rouse us?"
"We have work to do," Magus said over his shoulder. He looked back at the main hall and sighed with displeasure. "Damn, she's not here yet. I'll have to drag four eyes back here."
A loud "ahem" made him turn around. Lucca had a glass of orange juice in one hand, her other propping up her hat on ruffled hair. "Four eyes wanted breakfast first. And unless you want your cape to go up in a blaze of glory, don't start on me until after the headache goes away." She bolted the rest of her juice and handed it to the closest guard. "You've already seen the archive?"
He shook his head once. "I've only read one scroll, but it explained why there was no mention of a battle and why Sandorino disappeared."
Lucca grinned. "Good, we can start with that. By the way, how'd you like the microfiche?"
"Better than normal scrolls and much better than the future machines that crash every five minutes. Your descendents will royally screw up all your work."
She waved his words away. "A genius' lot in life. Oh look, speaking of royalty..."
While Frog gasped at her phrasing, Magus turned and spotted Marle and Crono coming out of the throne room. Even this early, her hair was neatly done and her crossbow polished and armed, and Crono...he always looked like a birds nest, so he didn't count. Marle stopped on the landing and looked around. With no enemy in sight, she lowered her bow and put one hand on her hip.
"Either Magus scared someone," she said, "or Lucca blew something up. What happened?"
Lucca and Frog both pointed at Magus. He didn't offer any explanation, so Frog gave one.
"Our wizard merely hath developed a love of terrifying guards," he said. "Often simply with his presence."
Marle opened her mouth to reply, but a shout from inside the throne room made her sigh and turn around. "It's all right, daddy! It was just...no, hold on, I'll be right there." She slung her crossbow into its shoulder holster and went back into the throne room, Crono on her heels.
"She never casts spells anymore," Lucca said softly. "She could do more damage with her weakest ice attacks but she sticks to that crossbow."
"What of Crono?" Frog asked,, standing beside her. "His magicks were strongest of us all. In proportion," he added as Magus glared.
"Him either. I mean, they don't have to cast spells, there are no enemies strong enough to warrant it, but still..." She crossed her arms and looked down. "It makes me the only one who uses it now."
"Scorching suitors?" Magus asked. Not bothering to wait for Marle or Crono, he turned to the stairs and headed back to the archive. Frog and Lucca walked beside him.
"I wish," she laughed. "It's easier to use my fire than search for a blowtorch or a soldering iron. I've been practicing a lot, forging with fire and raw iron."
"And blowing up parts of the castle?"
"That wasn't my fault," she said. "I was working on a new windmill design and my blades were magnesium, and Marle spilled ice cream on one of my blueprints and I was having a bad day anyway." She sighed and her shoulders slumped. "Doesn't take much to set off magnesium, and I had tons of it lying around."
"Forgive my asking," Frog said, "but why shouldst Guardia require windmills? I'd thought thou hadst other means of harvesting grain."
"Not for grain," she said. They reached the main archive room and sat down. Frog took out the Masamune and began polishing it, as he could follow only pieces of their conversation. He'd never traveled to the future they'd created, and he'd never studied magick or the science behind it while these two lived in constant study, be it electrical or arcane.
Lucca continued. "I need it for energy. Unless I wanna get zapped by lightning again and again, I have to rely on wind turbines to fill my batteries."
"Crono--" Magus started.
"--is busy," she said. "If I could do it myself, I would, but fire is essentially a destructive energy, consuming and transforming matter before I can harness the catalytic burst."
A soft mew prompted Magus to set Alfador down so he could examine the rainbow shell, rising up on his hind legs to see inside the glittering inner twists. As he watched his cat, Magus only paid half a mind as he asked, "don't they use steam in the future?"
About to answer, Lucca froze as her eyes widened to nearly the size of her glasses. "Oh my God, I hadn't even...I was so caught up in advanced alternate energy I totally forgot about intermediate sources." She grabbed one of the ancient scrolls next to her seat and unfurled it on the table, spreading out the blank space near the end and starting to sketch long lines and blocks. "A boiler...constant energy withdrawal...it'd have to be somewhere outside for safety...and if I increased the size by...results in an exponential increase of output..." She smacked her pen down on the desk and turned, grinning.
"That'll teach me to focus exclusively on robotics," she said. She flung herself at Magus, wrapping him in a tight hug and missing how he froze. "Thank you!"
A moment later she let go and grabbed her sketched schematics, running out of the basement, presumably home to show her father the designs. In the archive, Magus let out a breath and forced his body to relax. He heard a muffled snicker and glared at Frog. "Not a word," he hissed.
In his seat, Frog chuckled and kept polishing the Masamune. "Wizard, thou shouldst have seen thy face..."
Magus crossed his arms and looked away. "You want to see something interesting, take a look at the scroll in the machine."
Frog gave him a look, then put away his sword and went to the microfiche. It took him awhile to find the light switch and figure out how to move the scroll, but after a minute he was reading quickly. "Aye...aye, 'tis as I imagined 'twould be. Declared traitor, 'tis most ironic. And..." He stopped and re-read a sentence. "Leene hast a daughter?"
"You knew she had to have one," Magus said.
"But...with no mention of a husband..."
"Looks like your queens aren't as honorable as you thought."
There was no use arguing with him. Frog sighed and leaned back in his chair. "Honor aside, it makes no sense politically. A bastard heir wouldst never be recognized, a fight for the throne would doubtless have occurred."
"Considering what we know your scribes left out, I doubt they're all too truthful about anything else."
"Aye, 'twill have to wait 'till I canst return," Frog said as he stood.
"What will have to wait?"
Magus and Frog glanced down the hall as Marle and Crono walked towards them, weapons on their backs. Marle sat down at the microfiche, and since there were no chairs left, Crono sat on one of the chests.
"Wow, this is Lucca's machine?" Marle asked, scanning the illuminated writing. "What are you read--?" She stopped and looked over the passage again, then read further. When she was done, she looked at both of them. "What's it mean that you two killed the king?"
"'Tis a lie," Frog said quickly, "'twas during a battle with the mystic army. A yakra demon snuck through our defenses and attacked the queen. The king defended her unto his death before I arrived and slaughtered the yakra."
"Oh..." she glanced back at the scroll. "Why didn't they mention the battle then?"
"And admit they were saved by the evil wizard and his toadie?" Magus asked. "Besides, we left in something of a scandal."
"I'm back--" Lucca said, coming in. She glanced around at them. "What'd I miss?"
"Frog's a traitor and an assassin," Magus said.
Frog glared. "That's not--"
Marle turned from the machine and stared at Lucca. "We were going over the changes in history. Why did you run off? You know we need you here."
"I know that, and I didn't just run off! I had schematics for a steam engine and I had to--" she shook her head. "Never mind, you wouldn't understand anyway. And yes, if you're talking about scroll 601-12, I already know about the assassination."
"Yakra demon," Frog said. "And 'twas not an assassination, 'twas a battle we won."
Crono, meanwhile, stood up and checked the scroll. Sure enough, there on the side was the serial number. He blinked and pointed at it. Lucca noticed his look and shrugged.
"December 601 A.D., that's all." She glanced back at Magus and Frog. "And since you didn't kill the king, I assume you didn't destroy Sandorino either."
"Flea and Slash," Magus said. "And a huge dragon."
"Dragon?" Marle asked.
"'Tis dead now."
"Wait a minute," Lucca said before Marle could ask another question. She knelt in front of her rolled tapes and sorted through them, looking for one in particular. "If most of the mystics died in that attack, and then again after the purge at Sandorino...aha!" She pulled out the tape and slipped it into the machine. "I always thought this was weird. Look, in this era, everyone was paranoid about mystics coming to kill them, so there was a big push to eradicate all mystics."
"Aye, during the war 'twas almost accomplished."
"Yes, for awhile there are no sightings of mystics, even when the troops search the forests and mountains. But look here," she said, pointing at one paragraph. "Ten years later, there's a report that half of Porre's citizens have suddenly disappeared."
Marle nodded. "Yeah, and that there were a bunch of mystics in the forest who'd done it. They never caught many of them, though, and they started to spread again. Lucca, that's basic history."
Magus stood up and looked over Lucca's shoulder. "You're missing the point. If nearly every mystic had been killed, there wouldn't have been enough to mass that kind of attack. It doesn't make sense." He glanced at her. "I wouldn't do it. And there's no one besides me who might except for our two wayward mystics."
"Whoa whoa whoa," Marle said. "You're saying Flea and Slash did this? Just on a couple odd circumstances?"
"Not odd," Lucca said, "if you simply look at the facts. There are no more mystics, but then a major attack happens. We have two mystics who are travelling through time gathering a specific type of transformative energy and a receptacle to hold it."
"Lucca, are there any pictures of what these mystics looked like?"
"Yeah, scroll down."
Magus did so, and a woodcut appeared on the table. They all crowded around to look. Although they'd faced hundreds of different types of mystics before, the ones pictured were all the same, nagas with blue skin and pointed ears and fangs. The resemblance to Magus was strong, save for the snake-like tails and webbed hands.
"Humans, once," he whispered. "Changed quickly, rather than over time."
"Wait..." Marle paled. "Oh my God, you're saying the mystics in the forest...were the Porre citizens?"
Lucca adjusted her glasses and nodded. "Most likely."
"There aren't any other instances of this?" Magus asked suddenly. "No other disappearances on that scale?"
"None that I saw, and I've done most of the history collection now. Why?"
"The sun stone holds a lot more than what was used there, right?" When she nodded, he went on. "Then that was only a test run." He stood straight and stared at them. "I've practiced spells on humans before. You always use a small sample before casting the real spell. They're planning something bigger. Why bother with time travel and braving our reaction if they're only going to turn one town?"
"But nothing hast happened as of yet," Frog said.
Marle nodded slowly. "Which means they're going to do it sometime in the future. It could happen tomorrow or a hundred years from now."
"If so," Frog said, "then we cannot tell when to look."
"But we can find out," Lucca said. She switched off the machine and put the scroll away. "It's our future, but probably Robo's past. If we go to the future, maybe their archives will have some clues."
"Then let's go," Magus said. He went to the rainbow shell and reached inside, pulling Alfador out. With his cat tucked in his arms, he walked down the hall without waiting. Crono, Marle and Lucca immediately ran after him, but Frog paused for a moment as he slipped his Masamune, now polished to a reflective sheen, back in its scabbard. He glanced at the scroll Lucca had put away, recalling the picture of the transformed mystics.
Transformed quickly, he'd said, rather than over time. Frog remembered what Magus had looked like as a child, transformed by magick but still human. Mystics didn't all live underground or roam only at night. Did living with mystics somehow change humans on an innate level?
"Frog," Lucca called from the other end of the hall. "Come on!"
"On my way." He hopped after her, following them out to the Epoch.