Light and Dark Part 1
I find Harle to be the most fascinating Chrono series character. I hope you enjoy this story. If so, let me know and I will continue work on part 2.
Light & Dark Part I Aaron P.
The tinkling of the tiny chimes gradually fell silent and the room became bathed in eery loneliness once more. Raising her right hand to shield the late afternoon sunlight from her eyes, Harlequin set the music box on the old, chipped wooden table beside her make-shift hay bed. One glance at it produced a grimace and a raised eyebrow. Not the kind of treatment she was used to getting, but it didn't matter. She levitated while she slept anyway lately. Why, she wasn't sure. There was nothing to hold you in the air, nothing to remind you that you were safe.
Nonetheless, she found it hard to drop the habit after so long. Being lonely at night, being cold, didn’t matter. It kept her from thinking about things she couldn’t answer. It kept her from thinking about herself. Remember then? The first time you two met. But she had changed so much since then. Or had she? She wasn't sure. The music in that toy always made her think different; made her feel like two different people.
Her thoughts came in random jumbles and it was hard to concentrate on any one thing. With a deep sigh she walked to the window, setting her hands casually on the shutters on either side. The orange light seemed so pure, yet so heavy. If the light felt heavy, then the world felt heavy, and if the world felt heavy would she ever find the rest she sought? The simplicity of peace? Her right hand drifted to her hat. Her gloved fingers timidly touched the material, and suddenly her breath caught. For a moment she had the sudden urge to bask in the sunlight, to run against the wind, to let her bare skin feel the grass and sand and water, to open up to herself.
Her hand pushed and the hat moved ever so slightly, the silk crumpling under her touch. A gentle breeze caught a wisp of hair and she found herself smiling. Cautiously, she removed her head-piece and let her raven locks fall around her face. One by one she tossed her gloves onto the bed, and suddenly the familiar melody of the music box began to fill the room. Each note pulled her in and made her think of...Wait, how iz zat playing?
Instead of reaching for the music box she turned to face the broken mirror propped up against the mud and brick wall. She ran a hand through her hair. The music box slowly played each bar. “Dum de dum...” She began to mouth the tune.
Why iz my hair black? Wuz it alwayz black? But I don’t want to dye it black, mother...Mother? Did I have a mother?
Every note called to her
I will...I will learn. I will follow you, Monsieur.
Called to her soul
Nice to meet you, my name is...
Thump! Thump! Thump!
Harlequin swallowed and looked around the room for orientation, as if waking from a dream. She turned to shut off the music box and froze. The lid was down, and the box silent. A polite voice spoke from behind the ratty wooden door, barely audible.
“Miss Harle? It’s Jessen. The chief said he wanted to see you...”
“Zay please, dear.”
“Um. Please. Mam.”
Harle smiled and began to gather up the various bits of her costume she had discarded, calling to the door in the most polite, flirtatious tone she could muster. “Zust one moment, Monsieur Jessen. You want a lady to be fully dressed and prepared before zeeing ze chief, yez?”
Jessen coughed. “Um, yes, mam.”
Harle fastened the head-piece under her chin and suppressed a giggle. “You are very polite, Monsieur Jessen. Your mother must have taught you well. Will you be the escort for moi to ze Chief’s hut?”
With a flourish she opened the door and looked down at the surprised little boy. She stooped, putting her face at his level. “Well,” she asked. Jessen nodded violently, “Yes, Harle. Um, mam.” Harle stood and crooked her arm just enough to allow him to slip a hand onto her forearm. She nodded to Jessen’s mother who stood in the shadows, watching her son, and smiling as they passed.
“Miss Harle?” the boy asked.
“Is your name really Harlequin? Geoffrey says that’s not anyone’s real name.”
As they they walked, their feet crunched in the dirt and a thin layer of dust rose in their wake. It’s funny how you notice the little things when you’re about to... She looked down at him. The glare from the sun hid his face, but she could make out his inquisitive, squinting eyes. Suddenly, she felt sad. She didn’t have a choice, she told herself. They walked for almost a minute in silence.
“Geoffrey is also ze one dat stares at my legz, no? Do you like my legz too?” Her humor-less response startled Jessen, who fumbled with his shirt with his free hand. She chided herself for her sudden emotionless but couldn’t find the energy to make up for it.
“Mom said not to ask. I didn’t mean to make you mad, I’m sorry.”
She fought down her rising annoyance as they came to a stop. The chief’s hut stood five feet in front of them. Thad, the guard, nodded in her direction. Harle nodded back, and flexed her left arm, feeling her muscle with her right hand. She had appearances to keep up after all, even if she didn’t feel like it. “Looking ztrong today, Thad,” she said. She flexed again, “Dooz moi look like you? I’ve been practizing.” Thad laughed good naturedly. “The chief is ready to see you.” She took a deep breath. Even with a lot of planning, one could never be sure how things would go.
“Are you okay, Miss Harle?”
She felt as if she was moving in slow motion. Slowly, her gaze shifted from the hut down to little Jessen, a hand held over his brow to block the sun, giving him a better view of the girl who held his hand. He trusted her no matter what. He liked her. Everyone here did. She was his friend, and he hers. Ever since her first day here he had liked her. Who had thought that simply helping an over-crowded village gather food would have led to her being this accepted this quickly. She had not even intended to stay, that is, until she found out what secret this village held.
Biting her bottom lip she made a hasty decision, squeezing his hand and dragging him to the rear of the cabin. She knelt beside him and put the most sincere smile on her face she could manage. “I’m not mad, Jessen. But if I tell you my name, itz a zecret, oui?” Her heart sunk. Jessen nodded like his head would fall off, a smile breaking his face. He leaned over and gave her a hug. He was about to turn eight. How odd. The same age as Serge when time itself formed around him. That alone made her feel more connected to Jessen than normal. “I knew we were friends,” he said. She wanted to cry.
Cupping her hand over his hear, she took a deep breath and whispered. Tilting his head, he backed away from her mouth and looked in her eyes. “That’s a pretty name.”
Her bottom lip quivered. “Zank you. My mother gave it to me.” She rested her right palm on his cheek.
“I won’t tell, I promise.”
“I know,” she replied with a mournful smile. A strange, eery black light emanated from under her palm. Jessen’s eyes rolled back in his head and he collapsed.
She stood, not even bothering to move the body. It would be found soon, but she would be gone by then. Ever since coming to this village she had never met the chief. He had always been away. She found that odd, but she had no time to worry about that now. Her timetable had just been sped up by a factor of ten. A pity. She had wanted to meet the chief. To make someone laugh would have been a pleasant escape.
The cabin stood on stilts since the village was near the ocean, and the window above her was roughly fifteen feet off the ground. She was sure she could remember the floor plan, she had heard Serge talk of visits to the chief’s house in his own world many times.
After a quick glance around she floated up to eye level with the window, making sure no one was watching her. Slowly, she raised her head up further. To the left, nothing. To the right, clear.
“You going to come in, or just hover there all day?”
Her head snapped to the right. How could she have missed someone?! But there was still nothing there. Was it speaking to her? Maybe it was from another room? Her heart pounded and she felt frozen, unsure of what to do.
“I say, you look ridiculous. Get in the house.”
She heard the shuffle of feet, and the tick-tick-tick of a cane hitting the floor. A man emerged from the shadows to her right.
“Radiuz?” He didn’t look too pleased, but she never could tell what he was thinking. He made her nervous.
“Get in before someone sees you, child!” The strength of his grip startled her, pulling her inside the window before she could react. Her feet hovered timidly above the wood floor before touching down with caution. She leaned back, balanced slightly on her toes. She always did that when she was on guard, whether she meant to or not. Radius held his cane under his left arm. His left arm?
“What are you doing here, Radiuz? You have a village to tend to in your world, no?”
He looked at the floor, taking a few steps around her as if he hadn’t even heard the question. “I saw what you did to Jessen.”
“No! No! He iz not--“
“I know. I saw you try to use that same spell on Serge to help him forget…so many things, remember?”
“Wee, you thought my intentionz were lez than honorable.”
“I didn’t have any reason to trust you then.”
“Do you now?”
“What are you doing here?”
“I could ask ze same for you, mon ami.”
Radius shrugged. His white uniform still looked spotless, and still as regal as the day he had put it on. “To be honest, I wanted to see how things were done here. Arni is growing so rapidly that I didn’t want to handle things badly. I figured that I’d learn either way by stopping through.” He snorted and looked around the house, obviously displeased with the decoration. “I know who not to pick for my successor now.” With that he laughed. The old man’s laughter came in short bursts, and it put her at ease. His laughter touched his eyes, and held no malice or concern in it at all. His eyes settled on her as his laughter died. “But I believe you haven’t told me your story yet.” The wind shifted the cloth curtains, sending the sunlight refracting in different patterns throughout the room. A glint in the corner caught her eye. Radius didn’t miss the cue, turning his head to follow her gaze. Radius, you old dog. You still don’t miss a thing, do you? Before she could react he had picked it up with his free hand, turning it over and examining it. “This?” he asked.
“Itz worth a try, no?” She winked at him, clasping one wrist behind her back. One foot twirled in absent-minded circles on the ground and the bounce returned to her stance. She smiled and flourished her arms in a grand gesture, “Zis world holdz lotz of answers, and one of them iz for me.” There were two Harles it seemed, and she needed to know which way to go. She liked Radius, and part of her hoped she didn’t have to confront him someday.
“I know, child. He’s merely asleep. You’re too confused to do any more killing for now, hmm?” He smiled knowingly at her.
“Ah, Radius! Miss Harlequin! I see you two have met?”
With an arrogant flourish of his arms and a broad smile, Chief Gonji entered the room. For a brief second his face betrayed his suspicion at two people being in his study, but he covered it up just as quickly, motioning them to please sit and make themselves comfortable.
“I…wasn’t expecting you both at the same time. Forgive my tardiness.” His uneasy laughter was obvious. No wonder Radius didn’t like him, he’s a worm. The chief’s eyes caught the object Radius was holding and shuffled his feet, casually reaching out to take it away. “Ah, ah, I see you’ve noticed my paperweight?”
Radius pulled the object back to look at it again, causing the old chief to grasp at then air. Harle giggled. “Paperweight you say?” Radius raised an eyebrow at Harlequin who merely shrugged. The chief rubbed his hands together, wiping them on his shirt every now and then. “Yes, yes. But not just a hunk of metal. A hunk of undefinable metal. No one knows what it’s made of, and it’s been passed down in my family for generations. My great grand-parents founded this village, you know.”
“And they made this?”
“Oh no, no. No, it’s from further back then that. It’s old.”
Gonji wouldn’t take his eyes of the piece, and that was starting to make Harle nervous. With amazingly fluid movments Radius set the object down behind him where he had been sitting, and draped his free arm around the old chief’s shoulders. “You know, I’ve done some village chiefing in my time, and I’ve never seen a village run as smoothly as this one. Can you take some time to show me how it’s done.”
Gonji giggled and rubbed his hands together. “Oh, thank you, thank you. Yes, yes. I will show you everything I can. Let’s start down by the docks, our fishing operation is magnificent.” Gonji wagged his finger in the air, talking over his shoulder. “Come, Harle. You might like this.” As the two old men hobbled away Harle got a glimpse of a wink from Radius, and then they were out of the door.
Bending down, she picked the box up. She held it as if it was fragile, though it was nothing of the sort. The casing was a flat silver color. It was about one inch thick, six inches long, and four inches wide. Nine tiny dull gray buttons were recessed into the top cover in the lower right hand corner in three neat rows of three. Each button was adorned with a different letter. Oddest of all, there no visible seams anywhere.
Harle shrugged, twinkling her nose. Some cute habits are hard to break, even with no Serge around. She’d figure this out. Her fingers felt pits and grooves underneath the object she held. Flipping it over she squinted at what appeared to be lettering. What does that say? Parts of letters remained, but nothing really discernable. “Pr...Pro-No...Protez? Promtez?” Oh well, maybe the Guldove Priestess will know, she’s sent me this far. And with a nod of her head, she disappeared.
TO BE CONTIUNED