Meridio approached the charred, lifeless body of the Mystic horseman, ignoring the sickening odor that wafted from Cossack’s corpse like an evil incense. The cadaver appeared to twitch once or twice, although it could have been the man’s own eyes twitching and making him see things.
“That’s all it took to do him in?” he asked.
“I think it was plenty,” Lucca corrected, walking to the mercenary’s side and indicating her childhood friend.
Yards away, Crono had dropped to his knees, out of breath and sweating profusely. The magnetic hold on his Rainbow Sword had died along with the Mystic nobleman, and he fatiguedly returned it to its sheath. Casting such a spell would not have been so costly had he let himself sleep the previous night.
Frog, also free of Cossack’s magical restraint, let himself fall to the ground, sitting roughly next to his fellow swordsman. Marle knelt alongside her comrade and waved a hand in Crono’s direction, sending a small wave of greenish light over the boy in an attempt to restore his energy.
Meridio watched this, and shook his head quickly, almost mimicking a double take. He pointed a finger slowly at the amphibian knight errant.
“Frog... did the same thing, when we crashed,” he thought aloud. “You people... can use... Magic?”
“Well, yes,” Lucca replied, nervously adjusting her glasses.
“How can you...”
“It’s a long story,” the inventor interrupted.
“You have to tell me how,” Meridio said, his voice suddenly gaining an eerie, gravely insistent tone.
“Uhh, well, you see...” the girl began, picking up the hired gun’s unexpected change of attitude. Spotting the glowing scepter buried in the dirt road, Lucca grasped the opportunity to change the subject and jogged up to it.
“Actually,” she stated, pulling the jeweled rod out from the soil, “We have bigger concerns right now. I’m sure that this staff is used to control Helminthes.”
She pointed the scepter at the static form of Helminthes; the creature bowed over Sandorino village, wheezing slowly and staring straight at her through vacuous eyes. Crono, Marle, and Frog joined the two as Lucca started running back and forth and waving the scepter in the air over her head. The group could barely make out the beast’s movement (as Lucca was not running very far in any one direction), but it was clear that the great flatworm was keeping its dead glare on the lucid baton.
“All we have to do,” the inventor deduced, “Is lead it somewhere where Ozzie will never find it.”
“That won’t work,” Meridio argued, deftly snatching the wand from Lucca’s hand. “I have a better idea; we need to break the seal this staff has on this monster, so Ozzie will lose his control over it,” he declared, raising the jeweled staff in the air.
“No! Don’t--!” Lucca warned. But she was too late, as the mercenary quickly cast the rod to the ground, shattering it as if it was made of glass.
A blinding flash of light spewed forth from the smashed crystal, racing outward in all directions. It seemed to pass harmlessly through the fighters, but Helminthes was thrown backwards by the explosion.
Righting itself, the monster flexed its mouthparts and twisted its massive head back and forth, as if freed from invisible tethers. It scanned its surroundings, and, upon sighting Crono and his friends, split the twilight air with an unholy scream and charged towards them.
Its dive took the flatworm through two buildings, which splintered under the creature’s weight and the force of its trajectory. The five adventurers scattered and narrowly avoided the attack; Helminthes buried it head into the dirt road, but quickly pulled it up and swept its gaze around.
Once it found Crono, the beast shuffled down the road towards him, letting the huge barbs on its tail end swing back and forth to crush walls left and right.
Crono, initially running away, turned back and faced Helminthes. When the monster neared him, he leapt towards it, sword drawn. Landing on the worm’s back, the boy took a swiftly aimed swipe at its hide and immediately jumped off. Where the sword had cut through, a brightly incandescent cyan line appeared. Promptly closing up, the wound never bled.
Peeking around a corner, Lucca and Marle witnessed the swordsman’s futile attack. The monster passed Crono and continued its charge, ramming into a two-story shop.
Amidst the sound of the edifice crumbling, the princess tried to call out to the young ronin, who was already rushing back to assail Helminthes.
“Crono, wait!” she yelled at the top of her lungs. “It’s absorbing your attacks!”
But her words could not penetrate the cacophony that accompanied the beast’s destruction. As the flatworm tore through the brittle store building, the young swordsman dashed up behind it and vaulted onto its back once more. He pierced the creature’s hide with his sword, and held onto the weapon while concentrating his energy.
Frog and Meridio had emerged from their respective hiding places and were watching the boy’s assault as well. The medieval swordsman, who had seen Crono attack Helminthes in the same manner before, called out:
“Caution, lad! ’Tis a stronger foe we face this day!”
Again the sound of Helminthes devastating the shop drowned out Crono’s friend. Struggling to keep his footing on the back of the giant worm, the boy channeled his Lightning powers through the Rainbow Sword and into the monster’s body.
An almost mechanical trembling possessed the creature’s muscles; then, with a great convulsion, Helminthes whipped its tail to the left and pitched Crono, sword in hand, through the window of a neighboring blacksmith’s shop.
Marle, Lucca, and Frog raced into the building to find their comrade. He had landed roughly in a large basket filled with various smithing tools: clamps, rods, and a few hammers. Amazingly, he was still conscious.
“Crono!” Marle called upon locating her peer. She helped him out of the now overturned basket and began administering a healing spell.
“Wait a second,” Lucca interrupted, placing a halting finger in front of the princess’ face. “Save your strength.
“Helminthes wasn’t harmed by any of Crono’s attacks; remember that Ozzie said he tailored it to absorb all of our battle energies.”
“What should we do, then?” Crono muttered as he painfully and futilely tried to force himself to his feet.
“YOU don’t need to do anything,” the inventor declared. “You two,” she said to Marle and Frog, “Should try to cover it in ice the way Magus had kept it in the first place. Use the Glacier move.”
Lucca had an odd habit of naming the various attack moves that Crono and his allies had coordinated. From time to time, she would refer to their preplanned maneuvers by certain names, and, although they often did not know what she meant by them, they had learned to recognize certain names. “Glacier” was a joint technique between Marle and Frog, and was one of the most potent Water Magic attacks the group knew.
It took the heir and her knight companion a moment to recall the attack’s name, but they nodded to each other upon remembering.
“’Tis a hazardous situation,” the amphibian swordsman stated. “Our adversary may have the advantage. We cannot give quarter this day. Are you ready, milady?”
“Let’s go,” Marle said.
To Chapter Fourteen
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