Crono and his companions challenged everything in order to save the future. Still, they were only one group of adventurers to travel the sea of time. Now a new group of heroes have their own challe...
Tai never once felt as miserable in his life as he did those first few minutes after the departure of Xavius and Gina. His back was slick with blood, and he was sure there were more than a few pieces of jagged rock still imbedded into him. His head throbbed from the collision with Flare. His vision was still blurred and fuzzy from the impact.
But it was his heart that hurt him the most. He had witnessed the impossible, with Xavius's impressive exit, and the sorcerer had turned out to be quite right about him going somewhere that they couldn't follow. Tai believed in his heart that he had seen the last of his dear friend Gina. The thought of her never joking around with them, never visiting Taban with them, never doing anything with them ever again was tearing at his heart. It was this pain that hurt him more than the physical injuries he had suffered.
What made things even worse was the condition of Flare. Who had rushed to the portal immediately after it had closed. How he had managed to move so soon after the beating he received, Tai would never know. Flare knelt where the portal had opened only minutes before, beating the ground with his fists. Beating the ground and weeping.
Tai had known Flare for as long as he could remember. They had grown up together and been through so much that it was impossible for Tai not to consider Flare his brother, but this was the first time Tai had ever seen Flare cry. When the two of them had been younger it was always Tai who would cry whenever he got scared, hurt or sad.
Yes, Tai had cried often enough in his youth, but not Flare. It was watching his best friend, his brother, weep so bitterly that made Tai's misery complete.
It was Tai who noticed the dimming of the torches. The blue fire within them was steadily shrinking, and the darkness was making a return. Tai had a gut feeling that if they remained inside the ruins once it was dark, they'd never leave them.
It was this pure gut wrenching terror that drove Tai to move again. They could wallow in their misery outside the ruins if they so desired, but the fortress needed to be vacated at once.
He forced Flare to his feet and pointed to the torches that were now about half diminished and fast shrinking. Flare nodded his understanding and the two fled the ruins as fast as they could. They leaned on each other for support and balance, as they made their stumbling and awkward exit.
No sooner had they taken their first steps out of the ruins then the blue torches died. The whole island was once again plunged into the horrible oppressive dark silence that had greeted them. With all the adrenaline drained out of their battered and bruised bodies, their hearts had no defense against the sickening fear that the isle induced.
This fear drove them to keep up their pace until they reached the rowboat that had brought them here. The one they stole once upon a time. Once they distanced themselves from the island, the two stopped paddling and let the boat float freely. They had both been pushed to their breaking point and needed a rest, even if it was only a short one.
"Oh god...Tai, what are we going to do?" Flare's voice was scratchy and hoarse.
Tai shrugged helplessly. In the past it had always been Tai who had looked up to Flare for guidance. "We need to go tell Refla," he decided. "Refla always knows what to do. If anyone can help us right now it will be him."
Flare nodded his head in agreement. Refla was the only person that might be able to think of something, but what experience did Refla have with magical portals that led to god knows where? Probably none.
All hope had fled from their hearts as they paddled their way back to shore. Moving at a much slower pace the return journey took more than twice the time to make, and it was well past midnight before they reached the Truce port. The two friends hastily retied the boat to the dock, then made their way through the deserted nighttime streets of Truce to Refla's house.
"He'll be asleep," said Tai when they reached his house.
"Then we wake him," answered Flare. "What other choice do we have?"
Flare wished that Refla's door had a door bell installed. Knocking caused his battered hands a great deal of pain. He silently scolded himself for being such an idiot as to beat a stone floor. After a couple half hearted knocks Tai saw his pain and took over.
Being a well seasoned warrior Refla wasn't the deepest sleeper. After a few loud knocks by Tai he was up and heading for the door. They saw the lights inside flicker on and then the front door swung open, revealing their freshly out of bed and none to happy looking master.
As soon as he saw the condition of his two students the scowl on his face vanished, he hurried them inside and sat them down. "What in the nine blazes happened ter the both of ye?"
They told him what had happened as he tended to their wounds (mainly Tai's back). Starting from the point of them first seeing Gina heading to the docks, and ending with the magical blue.
Refla was silent through the telling of their story, and by the end, his face had grown ashen. Once their wounds had all been treated he got up and made them all tea. They sat around his kitchen table drinking their tea in silence for a little while. Then Refla spoke, "It's called a gate."
"What is?" Flare asked.
"The blue portal ye saw 'em go through," Refla clarified, "It's called a gate."
Both Flare and Tai looked at Refla in confusion. "You actually know what those things are?" Flare asked.
Refla took another sip of tea and said, "I've used 'em myself on occasion."
"Well...what exactly do they do?" Flare asked. "How far away have they gone?"
"These gates don't travel distance in the way yer thinkin', Flare," Refla explained. "Gates 'er rips in the very fabric o' time."
"What do you mean?" asked Tai.
"I mean that what ye saw was a gate that leads into another time. That sorcerer has just jumped to either the past or the future," Refla finished.
Under normal circumstances neither of the boys would have believed their grumpy old master. They would have thought he was playing some kind of strange joke on them, but now however, after all they had already witnessed that night they had no doubt that what he said was true.
"So he was right...we really can't follow them," Flare said numbly.
"What's that trash ye be spewin'?" demanded Refla sounding a bit shocked, "Of course ye can follow 'em. All yer got to do is go through the gate as well."
"But we can't go through the gate. It closed. It's gone," Flare told him.
"Nonsense, it'll still be there waitin' for ye. Once created gates like to hang around for a while. That gate'll still be sittin' in those ruins long after you an' I are gone. Ye jus' need to open it back up," Refla said.
"How?" Flare asked jumping up from the table, "Tell me how! I've gotto go right away!"
"Ye'll do no such thing," growled Refla, "In yer condition what good would it do anyone if ye followed now? Firs' yer gonna rest up. Both of ye."
"No buts," Refla said firmly, "Ye'll follow, but yer gonna need supplies, and yer gonna need weapons. Ye'll 'ave to take swords. Real ones too, not just yer wooden practice swords. I'd give ye mine, but there's two o' ye and only one o' me swords."
"I suppose we can go pick some up at the blacksmith tomorrow," Tai suggested.
Refla shook his head, "Old Grimes is a good smithy sure, but yer gonna want finer blades than what he can offer; besides he don't know the firs' thing 'bout makin' a katana."
"Then where?" Flare demanded.
Refla got up and fetched himself another cup of tea, "Hold yer horses. I've got me a friend who lives round Medina-"
"Medina!" Flare shouted, "It'll take you a week to get there and back! Plus, it's gonna take forever for him to forge us two swords."
"Shut yer face and let me finish," Refla growled over his tea, "Me friend's already forged ye both swords. Fine ones no doubt. He was gonna bring 'em durin his annual visit. He comes to Truce and sells his blades once every year. I was plannin' on givin' these swords to ye as a gift when ye became soldiers. But now I'll just hafta head over and pick the swords up from Melchior me self."
"But it will still take over a week, and that's all depending on how long it takes you to find some one willing to ferry you over there," Flare repeated.
"Bah," snorted Refla, "I've got me connections. I'll get over there an' back in five days or less. Besides the two of ye are gonna need those days to rest up. I'll head out at firs' light, and when I get back I'll show ye how to open the gate."
Refla finished his tea and headed to his bedroom, "Ye both know where the spare blankets an' pillows are."
Seeing that there was no use in arguing, Flare and Tai fixed themselves sleeping areas in the living room floor and went to bed. Despite their anxiety, exhaustion overcame them, and they fell asleep almost instantly.