Another life, part 3




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Chapter 8 The darkest of truths

I take one step forward, and Schala turns her head away. But I still notice the fear rising in her eyes; she can't help it. Even my allies back off a little at my appearance. Dalton tries to fight it, but I see the small glistening of nervous tension in his eyes.
"No, I am a blessed Enlightened one," I say, still calm, "I have never prayed to Lavos. I lived in darkness for an eternity, but still I never praised complete evil. Instead, I found true power in the world itself. And the world doesn't like to carry deceases like you, Dalton."
I raise one hand, almost lazily.
"Would you try it, sir?" I say, "I could blow up this entire cave with a wave of my hand, keeping everyone except you alive. Can you do that? Do you know anyone who can?"
With satisfaction I notice the fright in his eyes, but he force himself not to back.
Still...
I notice that there is something peculiar about the fear deep inside of Dalton's eyes. It's not pure... it's fear, but it's... more. Fascination, again? What kind of emotion is that in this moment?
What does it matter?
I try to tell myself that, but somewhere I feel that I must be prepared for anything. There's no guarantee that he hasn't got any more dirty tricks up his sleeve.
Whatever he might do, I won't let him get away this time.
I begin to assemble the focus, a short spell is all...
Schala throws her head at me, her eyes wide in fear. At the same time as Dalton growls, she calls out to me.
"Janus, don't!"
"I don't think that you should do that, if you really are Janus."
I freeze my focus, looking at Schala with a frown. Dalton watches her too, with his eyebrows raised.
"I see..." he says with a growing sneer.
He turns to me again, a lot less tense than just a few seconds ago.
"You should listen to your sister," he smirks.
"I could listen to her, not you," I coldly say and keep looking at Schala, "why, sister?"
She looks away, furiously shaking her head.
"Do something else, hurry!" she snarls.
I never heard her speak in such a desperate way before, except that last time I saw her before being thrown through time to my own personal hell. The memory sends claws through my mountain of memories, causing an earthquake. My focus shatters, my hand falls.
Perhaps she meant that I should have locked Dalton into a crystal or something similar. Whatever she wanted me to, I have no possibility to understand.
"Your sweet big sister is right about that you shouldn't kill me, Janus," Dalton says, sneering.
"I see no reason not to," I coldly reply and tries to assemble my will again.
Schala shakes her head once more, biting her lower lip.
"You must understand one plain fact," Dalton says, "her wishes have nothing to do with mercy but a simple principle, I'm afraid."
"You tire me," I sharply say.
I don't care about what any of them are talking about, I've had enough. Dalton's sneer makes my tortured mind boil, another smirk is nothing I need.
"Don't even think about it," he says as I rise my hand again.
I don't even reply, stretching my pointing finger towards him.
"Janus, don't do it!" Schala harshly says, "you mustn't!"
Frowning, I look at her. Why doesn't she want Dalton to die? Doesn't she want to be saved all the pain to come? I cannot understand...
"Why?" I ask.
She shakes her head again, desperately.
"It's simple," I hear Dalton say, somehow as if through a thick wall, as if I wasn't meant to hear what he's saying, "now, I don't know how she found out, but what she wants you to know is what you are."
"That sounded very philosophical," I coldly say, "but I..."
"You are a mistake," he interrupts, smirking again, "nothing but a mistake, Janus."
I slowly raise my gaze to his face. He throws a glance at the little prince, who stares at him with an unease growing for every second.
The realization in my childhood's eyes grows within mine too. But I do not want to understand. I do not want to hear the words spoken. If they are true, then I must deny the truth.
I have lived in the darkness, surrounded by evil and been a part of it. It bent me, forced me to my knees. But the hate I feel for the Mystics is an egoistic hatred, grown from nothing but myself.
My hatred for Dalton come from the pain in Schala's eyes. No matter how many times Ozzie hit me, that blond man is the one I hate and loathe the most.
And I do not want to hear him speak. But I cannot hide. It's too late.
"A mistake made by your mother and me."
I shake my head, looking at Schala. Perhaps many eyes in the room grow in unpleasant surprise, but I don't care. I can only look at Schala, my sister.
And she looks away, I see a bitter tear on her cheek. A tear for the secret that wasn't meant to be told.
"No!" I hear the boy screech, "you're lying!"
But he knows, I know too. Schala's eyes are burning both of us, because they tell the truth.
One week ago I wouldn't have cared, because I wouldn't have remembered Dalton. But now his words set my twisted soul on fire.
"No!"
The claws of the unveiling tears me backwards, I fall. I hear Molor screech somewhere inside of my mind, and he tumbles out of my madly flapping cloak.
'Powers of the world, lend me the power of Wind!' he shouts, but I am the only one who vaguely hears him.
Above his chanting I think I hear other voices, screaming my name. But I can only fall, fall and fall trying to escape my new memories.
No! No! I refuse it!
Damn you, Zeal! Damn you for condemning me this blood!
Molor's magic stops our fall, and I hit the ground without any harm. But my soul is twitching, desperately trying to bend aside for the dagger in my mind.
"Janus!"
"Uncle!?"
I press my gloved hands against my head, a scream of agony and loathing forcing itself out of my dry throat.
Several hands grab my arms and force me down on the ground, trying to stop me from twisting back and forth.
My eyes fly open, and I stare up at familiar faces surrounding me. But I can't even remember the persons' names, or from where I met them.
Only...
Schala stares down at me in shock.
With a roar I tear myself free, the men trying to stop me being thrown aside like leaves.
"Janus, what is it!?" Schala screeches and backs as I reach out for her, scratching the air like an attacking animal.
Janus... is that my name? Didn't somebody call me Magus?
Who am I?
I don't want to know who I am.
Now I know. I don't want to.
Damn you, Zeal!
My arms fall to my sides, turning numb before Schala's shocked eyes.
The ground burns my knees as I fall, pressing my hands against my head with another scream.
Can I scream? I thought I couldn't... but I can't remember why...
A scream with no words, no meaning but the loathing I feel for myself.
Schala's arms encircle my neck, I feel them through my wrapped cloak. She refuses her own fear for my madness in order to help.
"Janus, do you hear me?" she shouts, just by my ear, "snap out of it!"
Schala... sister...
My scream falter, turning into gasps for air. I lean heavily against my sister, my weight almost making her loose her balance. I can't help her to hold my weight, I have no strength...
"Schala..." falls from my cold lips.
Her hand touches the back of my head.
"I'm right here, Janus," she whispers, "right here..."
My head falls backwards, I stare at the sky and gasps for air like a fish out of the water.
"Damn you, Zeal..."
"What?" Schala says, I can feel her frown.
I shake my head, heavily.
"Schala... Dalton..." I harshly whisper, "is Dalton my father?"
Her fingers clench in my hair, pulling it so that it hurts. But she probably doesn't notice it; I hardly do.
"How did you know that?" she whispers, so hoarsely that I hardly can believe that it's she who speaks.
Proven and re-proven. The truth is tearing up the whole focus I fought to build up.
Of all the men I have scorned, the one I loathed and hated the most is my own father...
Condemning me this blood...
The queen's children...
"Uncle?"
Exhaustedly I turn my face at Schaliya. She looks at me, our eyes almost at the same level since I'm sitting on my knees. She seems very worried.
"Did thou suffer another nightmare?" she asks, concerned.
Somehow I slowly nod.
"I had a nightmare, little one..." I say in a low, hoarse voice.
Then I close my eyes, falling aside. Schala is unable to hold me and I heavily hit the ground. But by then I am no longer aware of what's happening.
Even in the nothingness filled of heavenly oblivion I think I hear Molor silently cry out a desperate scream of helplessness. Then... nothing.
Nothing, for an eternity.
But suddenly there is something, gently piercing my peace.
It's not much. Only a woman's distant voice.
"I am so sorry, Janus..."
She might want to say more, but something, somebody, seems to hold her back.
I am alone again, in the smoothing darkness. And that is well.
Leave me here. I want to rest.
If I only could...

I turn a little, and my whole being protests. I heavily fall back even though I hardly moved at all.
"Thou had us all worried, my friend," a familiar voice says, relieved.
Perhaps one really should be unable to remember recent events after being unconscious. But it seems as if my poor mind never gets to rest completely. I'm pretty certain that I woke up only because I gave up trying to find true peace. Even as I was entrapped in soft serenity, there was a restlessness. I knew I had to come back.
Damn...
No, I can't even be angry... I am too tired.
"Curse it all..." crawls from my lips.
Frog's voice sighs.
"It surprises me that thou take such news so gravely, never mind their foulness," he says, "I carried the belief that such matters were unable to harm thee."
My head slowly moves from side to side a couple of times, it's probably almost impossible to notice the movement.
"There are limits," I mutter, "you have no idea how I hate him."
I try to move a little again, but am still unable to.
I had never been that angry before. Never been in such a deep rage; I was on the brink of loosing it completely. And my mental exhaustion finally got a grip on me, it seems.
"Even Magus would have been outraged," I grimly continue.
Frog says nothing for a moment. Then he sighs again.
"I never knew Magus well."
I say nothing.
For the first time ever I almost wish to be the Prince of Darkness again. At least he always seemed to have complete control of what was happening. Even if there were three warriors breaking down his whole castle in the hunt for him, he could still focus on the single thing he had to do.
My life was much simpler when I only had my vow to kill Lavos, and nothing else really mattered. It was a life of darkness and bitterness, but at least I always knew what was happening. Never confused, never unsure about how to react.
But, sadly, not even my other name would have protected me against this shock. Maybe Magus would have taken it even harder, because he was much more skilled at hating...
I don't know how to handle anything right now...
"Schala fell asleep a couple of hours ago," Frog carefully says, "by then she had been watching thee for over two days."
"In her condition..." I mutter.
"I carry the belief that I do not have to tell thee that she refused any offer of letting someone else watch," Frog calmly says.
I sigh deeply.
"She could care for herself now and then."
"Thou art too hard upon thyself and those who care for thee," the knight of the Middle ages grimly says.
I hear a low yawn. It sounds like Schaliya.
"Hast he awakened?" her sleepy voice mumbles.
"Yes, he hast," Frog kindly says, dropping the grave expression that ruled his voice last time he spoke.
Not until now have I even opened my eyes. I slowly turn my head as my niece crawls closer and sits on her knees on the floor by my bed.
We're in my room in the house, the curtain covers the window and makes it rather dusky. Frog and Schaliya are almost nothing but shadows, but there's enough light to make it possible for me to see her young face. She's relieved, yet she's still a bit concerned.
Molor is somewhere in the darkness, but I'm too exhausted to be able to feel his exact position.
"Art thee better now, uncle?" she asks.
Good question.
"Partly," I answer.
But I don't even know myself if that's a lie or not. And how great it is, if it's an untrue saying.
"Was it an awful dream?" she wonders.
"Yes, it was."
She's silent for a moment.
"Thou will be fine, uncle," she finally says.
Then she bends forward and places a small kiss on my cheek. Through the tired, roaring anger, I have to smile.
Little one. Nobody was ever meant to do such a thing.
But would you care even if you knew that, Schaliya?
"If you say so," I say with the shadow of a smile as she straightens up again, "don't worry about me, little one."
"Thou art a fascinating little lady, Schaliya," Frog smiles and touches her shoulder briefly before standing up.
He reaches for the curtain and moves it aside a little to let in more light. Seems like it's mid day out there. I close my eyes and manage to move up my hand to cover them, as the small flow of light allowed inside blinds me for a moment.
After a couple of seconds I let the hand fall and open my eyes again.
Schaliya gasps and recoils, making Frog spin around. He freezes, staring at me.
"What?" I say, frowning.
"Uncle Janus... thy... thy..." Schaliya stutters.
"Thy eyes...!" Frog says, almost hissing.
Molor's head snaps up from the floor a few feet away, and I feel an explosion of despair flowing from him.
What the...?
My fingers touch the area around my eyes, confused.
There's a sound of metal against metal.
"Here, use it as a mirror..." Frog grimly says, holding up the Masamune.
Somehow I manage to sit up and carefully grab the clean blade, directing its angle so that I can see my own face in it.
My eyes should be cold, the iris glowing in red. But there's nothing red, not even anything white. The eyes reflected in the blade are yellowish and thin, just like...
I push the sword aside and look at Molor. He turns away, hissing bitterly.
'It's so...' he whispers.
My right hand moves by itself, pulling the glove off my left hand.
Finally I discover the source of the infernal itching.
Scales are trying to break through my skin, just a few so far, but they are there and I know that there will be more.
I couldn't believe that it was possible. But now I must face yet another horrifying truth.
"What is that, uncle?" Schaliya squeaks.
I can't look at neither her nor Frog or Molor, only stare at my own hand.
"It's Charash," I hiss, "he's turning me into a dragon."

Chapter 9 The black wind blows for four

'Nothing,' Molor hisses, 'I have done all possible. Just a matter of time, and your strength.'
I shake my head.
"But there must...!" almost everyone exclaims.
Molor shakes his head.
"Why would he do that?" Schala growls, "why you?"
Schaliya is hanging on to my arm, staring at the cracking skin on my hands. I put the gloves back on to save her and everyone else the sight.
The itch is getting worse, I guess it's because my growing despair tears down my forces of defense even faster. I can't stop this transformation, I don't know how to fight it. As if I hadn't enough on my mind. If only those blasted dreams wouldn't disrupt me too! I can't grieve being Dalton's son, I should be able to fight that realization back and turning it into just another past fact of my life. I should be able to think that it doesn't matter, I am Janus, brother of Schala and nothing else. Nothing else should matter. But surely I would have found it hard even if I hadn't Charash and his curse hovering over me too. And now, as the two great problems I have to face clash, I can hardly handle any of them.
Who am I trying to fool?
I can't handle them! I have to face that fact, no matter how much I detest my failing.
The man I have hated most is my father and a gigantic lizard is trying to turn me into one of his kind. It's too much, even for me. If there only was one of them, I probably would be able to work it out without greater troubles. At least I try to tell myself that.
Weakling, Magus snorts.
But he sounds distant and tired.
Even he is weakened. That clearly shows that I am fading, slowly but steadily.
And what will happen when the transformation really starts? My eyes, this itch and the few scales are just a small taste of what will come. Even now the itch is growing; it's starting to burn slightly. I have a feeling that the spell doesn't work very pleasantly.
And then?
I am a human, not a dragon. What does Charash hope to gain by this? If he looked at my soul, choosing me as someone to curse, then he must have seen that I am no one to just accept something like that. Why would he like a human mind in the body of a dragon?
My teeth clench as I realize what I am thinking.
Molor groans, with that telling me that my thought is horrifyingly true.
Damn!
"Uncle?" Schaliya says, and there's fear in her voice.
It's as if she can feel my hopeless rage, my despair.
I shake my head again, balling my hands into fists.
Such an ironic twist of life, that I might suffer the same fate as my own mother... living on without my soul, a puppet of something much more powerful.
I can't allow that! I have to fight him back, I am the most powerful wizard in the history of magic! But even as my boiling mind is revolting, some part of me points out that I don't know how to struggle against this power. It's like trying to grab water, it slips away. This curse is not in the level of human magic, and I can't fight it. I can only resist as long as possible.
But when I can't fight it back anymore?
I'm not going to be a slave, I have lived like that every night for several years! I'm not going to end up like that!
My transformed eyes turn to Schaliya, and I frown as I look at her face. It's marked with terror, she's scared. Fear what is happening to me. Little one...
When I can't fight anymore, if Charash manage to finish his work...
Queen Zeal, and her actions.
I look away, my frown growing deeper.
I don't know if Zeal ever really cared. But I know that Schala thought that she did, and I'm tempted to believe what my sister says.
Little one...
I can't risk to harm her.
"It's going to be fine," I mutter, touching Schaliya's small palm with my gloved thumb as she fumbles for my hand.
"Uncle..." she whispers, leaning at me.
I look at her again, clenching my teeth even more.
"Uncle Janus," she says with a slightly shivering voice, "thou art afraid..."
Her conclusion startles me, and my frown becomes as deep as it ever can get.
Child.
I'd like to call it despair and rage, but...
That child is right.
I hate to admit it... but I am afraid. I have been the Pawn of the Mystics, and my feelings of disgust due to that cannot be described. I fear to be a mindless slave in reality too. I fear to be...
"I'm just thinking about something that happened to your grandmother," I tell my niece in a low voice.
I'm not looking up, but I can feel the blood leaving the faces of my assembled allies.
"Was she turned into a dragon too?" Schaliya whispers.
"No," I mutter, "but something similar."
"'Tis scaring me, uncle..."
I place my hand at the back of her head, trying to calm her.
"Look, if anything should happen... your parents and our friends are heroes. They will do anything possible to help."
She's leaning at me and can't see me look up at Frog. He startles and stares at me as he realizes what I'm trying to tell him. He shakes his head, furiously. As I frown again he does the same movement, even more resolute.
You don't seem to understand this situation, pest.
'Janus, you can't...' Schala weakly whispers in my mind.
'Do you think I want to live like queen Zeal did?' I tell her and everyone else except Schaliya, 'would you perhaps like to fight two dragons instead of one?'
'Janus!'
'No. If I loose this battle, you'll have to take care of what's left of me before it's too late. None of us want Charash to gain even better odds, do I make myself clear?'
Frog spins around and stares out of the window, his fists shaking. Crono reaches out a hand for his shoulder, but stops and lets the arm fall. Helpless.
'Don't be so pathetically sentimental,' I coldly say, 'once there was no problem about that thought, and we all know it.'
The knight looks around, and his bulb eyes are thin with deep anger.
'Thou art a fool, Janus,' he snarls in an angry way of thinking, 'dost thee truly believe that I once again can be the warrior devoted to slain thee?'
His hand clench around the hilt of the Masamune.
'What is it that thee cannot understand?' he hisses, 'one canst not murder a comrade like that!'
'If I loose to Charash I will be dead anyway,' I snap, 'and you are the only one who can give my body a quick end.'
The air seem to freeze for a moment as Frog takes a deep breath. Everyone keeps from using their lungs as the two of us coldly watch each other.
'I refuse my already past vow to kill the warlock known as Magus,' Frog finally growls, 'and I curse the day I looked upon this sword and felt proud of holding it. This sacred blade is no longer a blessing to me.'
My eyebrows twitch and in the corner of my eye I notice that Marle's jaw is the first to drop. Since me and Schala opened the door to telepathy, Frog's thoughts are to be heard as long as he's aiming them so directly at me even though he doesn't really know the magic.
Frog refusing the Masamune? Lavos should have left in peace before that happened...
'I am a knight of Guardia,' the amphibian coldly continues, 'not an executioner.'
'You only take pride in fair battle. I know, pest,' I say, just as cold, 'you said that before you killed my blasted father.'
Frog watches me, clenching and unclenching his fists. It seems as if he doesn't know any reply to that, unsure if I said it with antagonism or twisted gratefulness. I don't know either, I'm just angry.
"Can the curse perhaps be mended if we kill Charash?" Lucca asks, obviously desperate to stop the silent argument.
I turn to Molor.
'Possible,' he slowly says, but his voice gives away that he highly doubts that it can be done in time.
Still, it is a hope. Just what I really needed.
"He says that it would work," I report, without turning my gaze from my kindred spirit.
"Then 'tis what we shall do," Frog grimly says.
"Let's just cross our fingers about that he'll show his ugly face around here before our warlock starts growing wings," Marle mutters.
I hope that too. Very much, even.
Schala moves up beside me by the kitchen table.
"Look," she says, carefully, "I know this is an awful time, but I would really like to know how you found out about Dalton."
I shake my head, resolutely watching the table.
"Janus, please."
There's a sad, tired despair in her voice. Slowly I look up at her.
"I'm your sister," she says, slowly and bitter, "why do you keep turning away from me even now?"
"Schala..."
I can meet her gaze for a few moments. Then I give up.
If I face this risk to die, what do I have left to hide? Perhaps she is right; I am turning away even though I know I need to reach out for her. I wanted to protect her, all of them, I didn't think that it was any of their business. I still don't think that it is, but the despair in Schala's voice, the hopelessness of not knowing what's happening to me... it's as painful as the fear in her eyes that I dreamt about.
Maybe she'll suffer more of knowing. But right now she doesn't care about that possibility.
"I have... been dreaming about what could have happened to me, and all of us, if things had been different," I mutter, "the last thing that happened was that we were in the Earthbound village when Dalton came to get you, Schala. When I tried to stop him he managed to bring me off balance."
"Different?" Lucca says, uneasy.
I shake my head again.
"A lot different."
For a moment I hesitate. Then I make my decision, resolutely.
"But that's off limits, and it's for your own good."
"Janus, I..." Schala begins.
Molor's head suddenly snaps up from the floor, with a growling hiss. He stares out of the window, and as one being we humans can't help turning to look too even though we surely share a bad feeling about it.
There's nothing out there, just the few people walking around outside.
'What?' I ask him.
'Marle's wish come true,' he hisses, 'I do wish you good luck, friend.'
"He's coming?!" I snarl, aloud.
Without a word Molor performs a magical movement of a kind I have never seen before. He dives at my shadow on the floor and disappears into it. And his presence is gone.
So that's how he did it that first day...
I stand up, holding Schaliya. She holds on to my shoulders, hiding her small face against my chest in fear.
"Take her," I mutter and give my niece to Schala.
Then I reach for my cloak, as Lucca, Marle, Crono and Cered hurry out of the kitchen to fetch their weapons.
"Will you survive a confrontation?" Schala sharply asks.
"I don't know," I growl and throw a cold glance at Frog.
He hasn't unsheathed the Masamune, only holds his hand on the hilt and refuses to meet my gaze.
"You'll hurry out into the forest with Schaliya, do you understand?" I tell my sister, turning away from the knight.
She hesitates for a moment, but looks down at her terrified daughter and nods.
"Alright."
"Good," I say.
The others are returning, now equipped. Just in time for the familiar roar to tear the air apart. Outside of the house the few people minding their own business scream and run for cover as the sun is hidden behind something more massive than a cloud.
"Great, you did say that he was big, but..." Lucca hisses.
"We could beat Lavos, we can take out a king-size chameleon too!" Marle resolutely says, making Crono grin.
He drops a kind comment about her fighting spirit and then asks how we should fight Charash.
"I doubt that he'll land," I grimly say, "but if he comes at a lower level our knight here should be able to scratch him a little with the big knife he's got. At least according to Flea the scales of a dragon are the only thing that's resistant to magic."
"Are you saying that we're going into battle only lead by advices taken from Flea!?" Marle says, disbelieving.
"It's all we've got," I shortly say and resolutely head for the door as a great flame licks a halfway rebuilt house on the other side of the village.
"Uncle!"
I stop and turn around, looking at Schaliya's pale face.
"Please do not die, uncle..." she whispers.
"I'll do my best not to," I say and force my grim face to loosen a little in order to calm her down.
She looks around the room.
"Thee must not die either, father," she mumbles, "not any one of thee..."
The last thing is aimed at the other warriors.
"Nah, we've faced worse than this, haven't we, gang?" Lucca says, trying to help off the child's terror.
"Fear not, Schaliya," Cered says, somehow managing to smile, "we shall be together tomorrow as well, all of us."
"Good luck," Schala gravely says and kiss his cheek.
"Stay safe, love," he mutters before turning at the door.
I walk towards the door...
Dead, death, perished...
I stop walking, my hands clenching around the scythe. I hear Schala take in a sharp breath.
Gone, forgotten, destroyed, killed...
"What is that?!" Schaliya squeaks.
Can she hear it too? I look around, clamping my teeth.
"It's called the black wind," I mutter.
You shall soon face four dead...
It whispers to my mind, but it was long ago that it spoke so loudly... I don't know what it is, but it has always warned me when somebody is going to die.
My gaze run over my pale allies.
Not him, not her, not her, not him...
None of them. I almost relax.
"It's not you, Janus..." Schala mumbles, a lot more relieved.
"You neither," I say, frowning, "none of us..."
How peculiar...?
"Still," I grimly say and look around again, "just because the black wind doesn't promise any of us death it's no guarantee if we get lightheaded."
"Roger," Lucca grimly says.
The black wind slowly fades away again, and I let out a short breath as it leaves. It's not pleasant to listen to.
Well then.
I push the door open, holding my scythe in both hands. I don't know if the dragon's presence could make the dark heart stronger, but I have to take that risk. I must do something. And even though I'm not even sure about my weapon's effectiveness I never go into battle unequipped.
Except in my dreamed world, of course, which is the cause of many torments.
Dalton's son...
I can't let that fact bring me off balance again! It's a mere fact, what does it matter?! What did I even care about my father?
It was simple to ignore it when I didn't know.
Fight it! It's irrelevant!
I'm Dalton's son, blast it!
It can't be mended, so why bother about it?
How I hate him...
This isn't going to go too well, I conclude while gritting my teeth.
I hear Crono carefully tell Frog to get a grip of himself.
"Curse it all..." the knight growls and finally gets his weapon out of its sheath.
The giant shadow turns around and flies back at the center of the village. By now everyone else have fled into the forest.
He stops and looks down at us, smirking.
Looks down at me.
"Well, well," he says, "there you are again."
I force myself not to turn my eyes away.
"Leave our land or fight us, foul creature!" Cered calls out. Charash laughs, the sound resembles to rocks tumbling down a mountain.
"You fight me, you feeble creatures?"
He turns back at me, and my grip of the scythe tightens.
"I have no idea how you manage to fight my blessing back or why you'd like to do that, human dragon," he says, and there's some sort of fascination in his voice, "but that only proves your power, of course."
"What do you mean by human dragon?" I call up to him, frowning, "and I am not amused with being transformed."
"Your strength and will to fight it back will only pain you," he says with a roll of his eyes, "you should be grateful instead."
"I'm not."
With a powerful flap of his wings Charash manage to create such a forceful wind that not even I, nor my allies can fight it. My back hits the wall of a house, and through the mist of pain I hear the others scream as they also are thrown backwards.
As I look up I stare into an enormous yellowish eye, watching me from only a few feet's distance. The mind of the dragon reaches out for mine, and I hardly manage to put up another wall to stop him.
"You have the soul of a dragon," he explains with a smirk, "but it seems as if we will have to work a little on you."
A scream explodes in my chest but cannot penetrate my throat, becoming stuck halfway through simply because the inside of my neck is completely dry as I stare at Charash, hearing his words.
"I guess that we will have to work a little on you, Magus."
"Why do you call me that?! My name is Janus! It's Janus, Janus, Janus...!"

For a moment as I face that enormous creature and his voice still rings inside of my head I am that terrified little boy again, lost and helpless in the clutches of Ozzie.
"You are a dragon," Charash says, reaching out for the dark heart in my soul in order to strengthen it.
"Your name is from now on Magus, boy."
Leave me alone!
"Janus!"
"Uncle, look out!"
Schala and Schaliya's voices cut through my paralyzed mind and with a roar I throw Charash out of it, scrambling to my feet. The surprise is a grave mistake of his.
"Leave this world, foul parasite!"
Frog leaps forward, raising the Masamune. Charash moves one second too late, and the sacred blade cuts up a deep wound on his right side, just behind his wing.
Well, for a human or something in similar size it would have been a deep cut. For the dragon it's only a small scratch, and even the Masamune show signs of having problems of penetrating the hard yet leathery scales and the stiff flesh.
"Why you little insect!" Charash snarls and turns his head at Frog, his nostrils being lit up from the inside.
The knight jumps backwards, avoiding the flames.
I hear Crono chant a prayer to the world's power of Lightning, and his bolts almost hit the weakly bleeding wound. But Charash manages to move away in time; the magic bounces on his scales and disappears into the ground. I try to chant, but once more the dragon uses his wings to more than flying.
"And what do we have here?" Charash snarls, his voice to be heard even above the roaring wind as I fight to keep from being thrown backwards again.
Through the dancing dust I see an enormous paw consisting mostly of three claws hit the ground and then rise up again, holding a twisting body.
Marle!
Crono's strangely silent scream pierce the commotion.
'What, Marle?!' runs through my already rather occupied yarn of thoughts.
"Let me go, you big ugly...!" she screeches, desperately trying to break free.
"Release her!" Frog, Lucca, Cered and Schala shouts almost simultaneously.
Then two other voices scream, one of them which just shouted. And those voices in terror brings me completely off balance.
Charash other front claws encircle Schala, and she's still holding Schaliya.
"No!"
My hands begin to paint runes, my mouth already chanting the spell of Dark Matter as I realize that I'll risk the lives of the ones I want to save. And before I am able to refocus for a lightning spell Charash have brought himself high above the ground, out of my reach.
"Schala! Schaliya!!" Cered screams in despairing rage, showing my feelings as well.
With a snort like a tornado Charash sends a vast stream of flames downwards.
"Powers of the world, I bid of thee to lend me the power of Water!" Frog rabbles.
A gigantic bubble forms around me as he hurriedly chants, stopping the fire.
As the flames disappear and the several bubbles Frog conjured to protect himself and his friends pop, Charash is gone from the sky.
The air shivers with another roar, but this one leaves my lips.
Every curse I have ever learnt, in both modern language and old Zealan attacks my idiotic mistake.
Dark Matter? What was I thinking?! A lightning bolt was the only thing that possibly could penetrate his wound even more!
"Curse it all!" I finally end my very long list of words not really meant to be heard by anyone around and below my age.
"Calm down, you idiots!" Lucca sharply snarls, "we haven't got time for that!"
I'm too outraged to even mind what she called me, Cered and Crono.
"Lucca speaketh the truth!" Frog harshly says and grabs the younger man's arm to stop him from hitting the ground with his fists, "art thee not skilled warriors? Then assemble thy force and focus on our quest instead of being such fools!"
Crono screams out his question of why the dragon took Marle.
"And Schala and...!" Cered growls, so angry that he can't even speak his daughter's name.
"Molor!"
I spin around. My kindred spirit nervously crawls together under my sharp gaze, once again out in the sun.
Now you fancy showing yourself, coward?!
"Don't take it out on him," Lucca coldly says, "and I'll only say this one more time; calm down!"
But why, Lucca?! Crono screams in rage, why did he take Marle?
The inventor plays with her glasses, irritated frowning at Crono.
"If you'll just cool your hot head down and turn back into the winning warrior we all know and love we have a much greater chance of both finding and killing the chameleon before Marle and Schala rip his head off by themselves," she says, "your acting is completely illogical."
"I'm not in the mood for being logical, inventor!" I snap at her.
"'Tis not a moment suitable for own argues," Frog sharply points out.
Lucca waves furiously with both her arms, very uncharacteristically.
"Shut up! All of you!" she shouts, taking all of us aback with her surprising force of voice and anger.
As we look at her, sharing a frown, she takes her chance to bring her upper hand even further.
"I have a theory, guys," she says before anyone of us have time to recover, "he took Marle and Schala. I think that Schaliya just happened to get caught too, since our married woman carried her. My idea is that he somehow knew that the ladies are princesses."
Silence.
"But how is that possible?" Cered finally says, disbelieving.
'A bride of royal blood,' Molor miserably says.
I turn around.
"What?"
'The dragons don't really belong in this world,' my kindred spirit grimly tells me, 'he'll choose one of the women and kill the others.'
"Choose one?" I repeat, a coldness starting to fill my chest.
I'm far too upset to be able to talk to him silently. I guess the others are staring at both of us by now.
'In order for the dragons to freely come to this world a child of the king must be born here,' Molor gravely continues, 'he has the power to transform the body and then influence the soul of a human if he or she fulfills a few requirements. Strength of mind is vital.'
"Why princesses?" I sharply ask.
Molor makes a grimace of disgust.
'It's no problem for him to find out. I think that he's just self-centered. And the reason for picking you as someone to curse...'
He hesitates for a moment, but then angrily shakes his head.
'It's nothing but a stupid game. You have the soul of a dragon.'
"What does that mean?" I ask, frustrated.
'Your soul resembles that of a dragon's,' he mutters, 'but you also have the strength to fight it back for a while.'
"What's he saying, brother?" Cered asks, sharply.
"He says that Marle or Schala can be eaten or become the next dragon queen," I growl, "we haven't got time for this! He has no use of Schaliya!"
"But how canst we find him now?" Frog points out.
For a moment I feel a cut of hopelessness, but then my mind catches up with something. I reach up and rip off a hair from my head, holding it between my thumb and pointing finger as I chant a spell of connection.
The brooch I gave that stupid princess Lashey or whatever her name was is no longer in the royal palace, just as I suspected.
So there is some use of that silly girl after all...
"He's taken the emperor's daughter too," I report, and twist the hair around my gloved pointing finger, "she's in the mountains to the northeast of here."
"Then let us hurry!" Cered growls, "I for one hath been there, thee canst use my memory to teleport us!"
I grimly nod and reach out my mind for his...
"Now just a darn minute!" Lucca calls out.
I could break her little...
"What?" I snarl, and I'm not the only one.
Neither Cered nor Crono are happy with the delay. Frog says nothing, and Lucca resolutely places her hands against her hips.
"Before I'm going anywhere I'd like to know something," she sharply says and turns to Molor, "how come the long reptile there knows so much about Charash?"
Well he's...
I have no idea.
Frowning I turn to Molor, and I realize that I never questioned his knowledge of the dark heart and Charash's doings.
He hangs his head, somehow tiredly and bitter.
'Please,' he mutters, 'for this once just trust me.'
'No, Molor,' I sharply say, 'you'll have to tell me now.'
'I can't do it!'
Before I have time to stop him he dives into my shadow again, and there I cannot reach for him.
"Come back here at once, Molor!" I shout, but he stays hidden.
Frustrated I shake my head.
"He's been acting strange ever since Charash showed up," I growl, "but we can't care about that now, understand?"
"I don't like this at all, but do your stuff," Lucca sighs.
Cered, Crono and Frog grimly nods. Once more I reach out my mind for my brother in law and begin to chant the required spell, absentmindedly returning the scythe to my cloak.

Chapter 10 Unexpected help

As the flashing light disappears I find myself on a wide ledge on a mountain. The ground is quite far down, but as I look up I see that the top of the stony hill is even further away. I look at the land to the west and south. To the northwest is only ocean, and the cliffs hide all other directions. But now as I'm here and see the land around, I realize which mountain this is. Far below the ledge I and my allies stand on are the caves that one day will connect my and the Mystics' lair with the main land.
All this irony is getting silly.
"I was no higher than this," Cered grimly says and looks at the cliffs ahead, "did this help us?"
"Much better than walking," I mutter as I search for the brooch.
There.
Beyond those cliffs, of course.
"I'll bring us there," I say and hold up my cloak.
Before anyone of them have time to react I have swept them into the cloth, surpassing them to a safe corner of my mind.
Well, that's not exactly what's happening to them, but it's the only suitable explanation.
"Ah, back here again," I hear Frog's voice sigh somewhere deep inside of my head, "how lovely."
"What the heck is this?" Lucca asks, surprised.
"This," the knight says and clears his throat, "is Janus' mind."
I close the small room so that I won't have to hear the other's comments and the continued conversation. They'll only irritate me now.
Grimly I focus on the cliffs. The winds up here are rather strong, and wind spells should wisely not be used too close to something to ram into.
I jump up on a lower, thin ledge and continue upwards, bit by bit.
Don't worry, Schaliya, I won't let anything happen, neither to you nor your mother.
And I guess I'll have to protect Marle too, while I'm at it.
But the emperor's daughter can get barbequed for all that I care. Stupid girl...
Dalton's...
For heaven's sake, not now! I'm not unoccupied enough for being so idiotically concerned about something I can't do anything about!
But whatever I'm trying to tell myself, I can't push the torturing fact aside.
Stop this minute!
I halt my jumping and stand still on a small ledge for a moment, trying to get my breathing normal and calm down.
This is ridiculous. I never had any need of a father, and I never cared. What does relatives mean if you reject them and they reject you? What did family ever mean to me anyhow, except for Schala? I don't care about Dalton being my father!
It seems to work. At least for the time being.
Good.
I start working on getting above the cliffs again. Soon I reach the top and face a cracked landscape, a pretty wide passage between two other sets of mountain walls. The connection to the brooch tells me that I should continue ahead, so I hurry into the open corridor.
'Schala, can you hear me?' I call out with my thoughts as I run.
No reply. Charash's presence might be blocking my telepathic voice; such calls are very fragile.
I reach the end of the corridor. There's nothing except an abyss below me, filled with clouds. The harsh winds are chilly up here, playing with my hair and cloak.
To the right...
There's a cracked ledge going along the right cliff, but it's about eleven feet below my position and very thin.
I shrug my shoulders and jump.
My fingers catch the ledge as I fall past it, and an intense pain goes through both my arms. Feels as if they're almost torn off...
Snarling a short curse I force myself upwards, place my knees on the ledge and then stand up slowly. It's getting wider ahead, but for the moment I have to move carefully with my back against the stonewall.
My hands and arms still burn after the violent performance a few moments ago. Burn from the inside, scratching my skin from within.
No...
You shall face four deaths...
I stop and reach out my left arm so that I can look at it.
Scales, tearing up my skin as they break through it. Blood falls down into the pure clouds below as I am frozen for a moment in the shock and rapidly growing pain.
Not now! We're so close to Charash!
With a groan of agony I desperately look around, seeing a much wider ledge far ahead. I'll fall down if I stay here...
The ledge is surely twenty yards away, but I have to take that risk. I leap, grab a thin mountain spruce growing out of the cliff and swing on. The weak tree falls behind me, into the cloud filled nothingness.
I land on the ledge and my blood paints the rock as my gloved palms hit it. The scales are still not working at full force, but each one of them is a needle penetrating my flesh. More and more are coming for every second, the pain blooming without ever drawing back the least. It only grows and rise as...
My screech cuts through my own ears; it doesn't sound like my voice.
As my mind wriggles to get out of the hardening grip of the dark heart, the room that I surpassed my allies to have to open. I think they stumble out of my cloak, but that feeling is just a weak shadow beside the flashing pain.
Vaguely I hear someone scream my name, followed by desperate chanting. Healing stars shower over me, only for a moment halting the torture. I fall over on my back, pressing my hands against my head.
Stop!
You are a dragon. Succumb to it.
No!
Dragon!
"I'm... a human!" I screech, desperately trying to fight back the curse growing inside of me, my mind wrestling the intruding lies.
"My name is Janus!"
You are a dragon.
"Magus!"
My spine feels as if it's trying to rip itself into pieces, the scales growing more rapidly as the agony smashes my every thought and thereby chances of defense. The fingertips of the gloves break; cut through by growing claws that used to be my nails.
"Frog!" I roar, my voice sounding growling and much deeper than it should be.
You are a dragon!
No... human... man... dragon... I am...
Through the yellowish and red fog of pure pain I see the knight take a step backwards in horror. A long shadow that only can be Molor rise up from nowhere and shakes its head, bitterly hissing.
"There must be a way to stop and reverse it...!" Lucca's voice screech.
Molor shakes his head again.
It's too late.
My back tries to turn over itself as two knives carve their way through my muscles on either side of my spine; wings. My roar shake the surroundings.
"Frog, end it!"
"I canst not slain thee!" he shouts, despairing.
I rock back and forth on the ground like a madman, unable to give any reply as my body is being torn apart by red-hot hooks.
All I can wish for now is a quick end, will you deny me that?! Frog!
The screech leaving my lips has not a grain of my voice left.
Above the roaring agony and the screeches I hear the sound of metal against metal.
"Hold him," Frog's voice whispers, "I do not wish to make a mistake."
Is there a sob coming from his lips, and is it even being shared by Crono and Cered as they grab my burning arms and force them down on the cold, harsh ground?
"Janus, you..." Lucca sobs, her hands grabbing my twitching shoulders from behind, helping the men to keep me still.
Stop being sentimental, you idiots!
Molor hisses in despair and pain as he wraps the last feet of his tail around my legs, his weight and the other's strength making it impossible for me to move at all.
The sun reflects in the Masamune's blade as Frog takes its hilt in both hands and points it downwards at my desperately twisting neck.
"Fare thee well, my friend..." the knight whispers and looks away for a second before nailing his eyes on my throat.
He raises the sword, ready to use his strength at full force to end my suffering quickly.
The sun's reflection stings my eyes.
End it, Frog!
He freezes for half a second before grudgingly flexing his muscles.
"No."
Everything seem to become crystallized as the short word is spoken. A woman's voice, which I recognize. But I don't know from where I know it.
Nothing and nobody moves, the torture tearing up my very being is caught in nothing but a small itch. Frog looks down at me with pain in his eyes, but he's unable to fulfill the source of his torments. Lucca is looking away, a tear frozen on her cheek. Crono's lips have drawn back from his forcefully clenched teeth in disgust, his eyes nailed onto the ground. The eyes of my brother in law are closed, but the sun glisten in a tear of despondency in one of them. Molor is staring at me, his black face a mask of anguish.
"No," the woman repeats, "you mustn't do it."
A wave of soft light carefully embrace the whole ledge, with care moving my allies away from me. They seem surprised, but are unable to move by themselves.
The light grows, I close my eyes.
The cold ground under me disappears, I'm not sure if I'm floating in thin air or if I'm lying on something else.
There's a distant sound, a soft, repeated beating. It's my heart. But behind it is another beating, of the parasite in my soul. The dark heart beats with my heart.
A cool, smoothing hand touches my scorching cheek. But I don't open my eyes.
"Janus..."
I have heard that voice before... when I was unconscious after my outburst. But I have heard it earlier too, somewhere.
I do not open my eyes.
"My poor Janus..."
She sighs, touching my forehead with her thumb. The agony moves away, seemingly fearing her touch. But it's still there, waiting for any chance to return and finish it's work.
"I know that it hurts," she says in a low, smoothing voice, "but you are stronger than the pain, I know you are."
Only a weak groan leaves my lips as I try to ask her who she is.
Her hand caress my cheek, kindly forcing the pain even further backwards.
You are a dra...
"No," she sharply says, cutting off the dark heart's flow of unwelcome information, "you are a human, Janus. You were brought up by monsters and the dragon might say that you have a soul resembling to his, but you are a human and nothing else. I know that better than anyone."
I finally open my eyes and look up into a calm face, encircled by thick, blue hair. The eyes watching me are like green gems; the eyes that Schala has inherited.
"Mother."
It's nothing but an exhausted conclusion. I am tired...
She looks back down at me with sadness.
"I won't allow Charash to do the same to you as Lavos did to me, I promise," she says.
Through the confusion of seeing queen Zeal, only one thought makes it through.
"Dalton..." I mutter.
She shakes her head with another sigh.
"I am sorry that you had to find out, and I can't ask you to forgive me my mistake. But I beg of you to see to the fact that Lavos perhaps never would have been defeated if you hadn't been there to help. Dalton unrightfully scorned you as a freak, and I should truly have chosen a better father for you. The sins are mine and nothing that should weigh on your shoulders."
She pushes away a few threads of my hair from my face and then carefully close my eyes again by simply touching my eyelids with her fingertips.
"Everything will be fine, Janus. Don't worry."
When she speaks again it's not aimed at me, but to someone who's there with her.
"What do you think?" she asks.
"Well," a man's voice say, slightly doubtful, "we can't guarantee anything..."
It is a man's voice, yet there's something in it that points at a difference. And I know that I have heard him speak somewhere before...
"When could we ever guarantee anything?" another voice snorts with a grin.
It's a powerful voice, and I recognize that one too.
"It's simply a theory," the first one concernedly says, "it's not like he's the king of Dragons..."
"If the king is the only one who can mend it, then what's the problem?" the stronger voice tiredly says, "we've already been through this conversation at least three times. Let him at least try, for goodness' sake!"
"Will both of you quit talking above my head if I'm your leader?" a third familiar voice snorts.
That one really startles something inside of me, but I can by no means remember. And somehow I can't open my eyes either. It's as if I'm completely drained of strength. I can only listen.
"Gentlemen, please!" mother sighs.
"'Gentlemen'?" the third voice smiles, coming closer, "ah, humans... now let's see here."
Another hand touches my forehead. It feels... peculiar.
"Well, apart from a few mere technical facts," the voice says and removes the hand again, "that I'm not the king of Dragons and that I'm dead or not even born, this should do the trick."
Two hands weigh down of my chest, forcing air out of my lungs. I gasp for air in surprise, while the voice speaks again.
"I demand that this curse will be lifted immediately!" he snarls, with impressing authority.
My heart beats with the dark heart. The dark heart beats with my heart.
The dark heart hesitates. It slows down. The simulated beating of our hearts becomes irregular.
It stops beating.
"Out!"
The hands clench. Into my chest.
Without any pain the owner of the familiar voice rips the dark heart out of my soul and body. It screeches in rage, a growling scream that suddenly is cut. And with it, the held back wave of agony melts down into nothingness.
"There," the last voice says, triumphantly.
"Ha!" the powerful one grins, "you owe me twenty gold pieces!"
The doubting voice sighs, but it's with a relieved smile.
Mother's arms carefully lift me by the knees and shoulders, carrying me as if I don't weigh anything at all.
"We'll see you later, Janus," she kindly says, "right now you have to hurry on to face Charash again."
I'm lying on the chilly, hard ground again, and mother disappears.
I open my eyes.
The Masamune hits the ground a couple of feet from my head.
"Curse thee, Janus!" Frog gasps, breathing hard.
'Friend!'
"Janus!"
"Brother!"
"Ugh..."
I lift my hand and slowly rub my forehead as they surround me again, worriedly trying to measure my status.
The gloves are torn, and I feel that my back plate of leather has been battered by my growing wings.
But the scales are gone, and so is the pain. There's not even any blood left on my skin, neither on the ground around me.
"Art thee well?" Frog says, still trying to regain his breath after the pressure he went through a few moments ago.
"Yes..."
I manage to sit up with a lot of unnecessary help, still rubbing my forehead. My head is fine, but I'm trying to remember...
Those voices... it's concerning me.
And why would my mother help me? And how?
"Say, what was queen Zeal doing here?" Lucca says, blankly.
I shake my head.
"I haven't got a clue... what did you see?" I mutter.
Crono awkwardly says that there was an intense light engulfing everything, and then suddenly the queen stepped out of it, carrying me. After that she just disappeared.
He asks if she helped me.
I shake my head again.
"No, someone else..." I mutter, "but I couldn't see who it was. We have to hurry to stop Charash."
"Art thee certain that thee hath the strength, brother?" Cered asks, helping me to get to my feet.
As he speaks I'm honestly doubting. But when I stand up properly I'm suddenly filled with the power that was robbed from me. Maybe even more.
'That's it,' that third voice grins, somewhere in the back of my head.
'Who are you?' I send after it, frowning slightly.
'You know me, my friend.'
He chuckles.
'You'll see soon enough.'
And he's gone. Nothing to do about that, I suppose. There's no time for wondering.
I purse my mouth and throw my gloves down into the abyss at the side of the ledge. No need for them anymore. A short spell repairs my back plate. Then I rip another hair from my head in order to search out the ones we have to help before it's too late.
"I'm alright," I say, "come, it's not far."
"That's our Janus for ya..." Lucca mutters as they follow me at the thinner ledge ahead, "face death, get up and move on."
I stop for a moment and look around at Frog. He stops too, watching me without a word.
The Masamune rests in its sheath, as always.
He's always prepared to do what he knows that he has to, whether he likes it or not. I have to admit that it's not a too disgusting habit of his when the need for it comes.
"Thank you," I honestly say, slowly and then continue on without looking back.
I have passed a couple of yards before the sound of steps behind me starts to come again.
'Removing the curse is impossible!' Molor mutters with disbelief.
His voice is inside of my head, but he's not really there. I can't even search for his position, he's nowhere to be found. So I suppose that he's inside of my shadow again.
'Does the law of Dragons perhaps say something about that only the king can remove it?' I ask.
He's surprised.
'How did you know?'
'Because those who helped me said that.'
'Charash wouldn't.'
'It was someone else.'
'Who?' he asks, frowning.
'I don't know, someone familiar... but how can you know about Charash, Molor?'
He's silent.
I say nothing, concentrating on keeping my balance as I step out on the thin ledge leading further forward.
The brooch is getting closer...
There.
"Careful," I mutter.
"Please tell me anything but that..." Lucca weakly mumbles, with her face pale as the clouds below staring at nothing and fumbling for the cliff behind her.
There's an enormous opening in the wall ahead.
"Caves," Frog sighs, "why dost our fate always bring us to caves?"
"I don't know, I only want to get off this thread that calls itself a road!" Lucca mutters through clenched teeth.
I step into the cave and lend Cered a hand to help him follow.
"There, waste no more worries, my comrade," my brother in law kindly says, grabs Lucca's shoulders and place her on the safe cave floor as easy as if she was a feather.
"Err... thanks," she mumbles, for once blushing slightly.
"They're deeper inside," I gravely report in a low voice as Frog enters the cave, letting go of my second hair.
"How shalt we confront our foe?" Cered ponders.
"Do you think that the cave will get much higher ahead, Lucca?" I ask, looking at the darkness resting where the day of light can't reach.
"Well, technically I doubt it. But it wouldn't surprise me, though," she answers after hesitating for a moment.
Crono sums up that anyhow Charash won't have as much room to fly around.
"His wound should still be open," I say, "it's not much but it's a weak point. If we can surprise him Frog might get a chance to cut up some more parts of him."
Thoughtfully I look ahead.
"I might be able to give us a little better odds. One moment."
I turn to my allies.
"Powers of the world, lend me pure power..."
Halting.
Protection.
It's the spell called Magic wall. At least it works on magic, and theoretically it should give a little protection against the fire of a dragon too. But I doubt that it'll save anyone who gets trapped inside of the flames for more than a few seconds.
For a moment Crono and the others are covered with a yellow light. They grimly nod as it ceases.
The spell doesn't work on me since I am constantly protected by my own creation; the spell that makes me vulnerable only to the type of magic I last called for. And that was Shadow. Pure power doesn't count; my spell only works with one of the four elements of magic.
Alright, with Light there's five nowadays.
"We might be able to plan better when we know what it looks like in there," I say.
"Let us hurry," Cered growls.
I nod, and so do the others.
We move into the darkness, away from the light of day.

Chapter 11 Molor's secret

For a while we have to move very slowly, trying to find the way without making a single sound.
Then there's suddenly an eerie light ahead. And Marle's angry voice. I hear Crono growl silently, forcing himself to keep calm.
"Look here, you oversized dinosaur! If you mess with our friends you'll be sorry, I warn you!"
"Brave words from such a small woman," Charash's voice rumble.
He's obviously amused.
"Thou art a foul villain!" the voice of the emperor's daughter snarls.
Why in the name of Lavos do I grin slightly as I hear the power in her voice?
She seems braver than I thought, but that's no reason to smile!
"My father and uncle will smite thee, beast!" Schaliya calls out, startling even me with her impertinent.
"Thy daughter is a brave one," Frog mumbles to Cered with a slight smile.
She's alive. A stone of worries dissolve inside of my mind.
"Thank the heavens..." my brother in law mutters.
"You are an impudent child," Charash snorts with a smirk, "and just as amusing as the others. A pity that you are so small."
"Touch her and I will tear off every single scale of your crouched body!" Schala growls.
I reach the end of the tunnel.
Caves. Frog's right; we always seem to end up in those.
I recall the cave below Ozzie's castle, where the secret of my studies to become Magus was unveiled by Flea and Slash five years ago (in my view, that is. In reality it's of course a future event). But this cavern is at least twice as big. The eerie light seem to come from the walls themselves, surely by the dragon's wish.
Charash is lying by the distant left corner, smirking at the three princesses and Schaliya. They are standing up, resolutely facing him. He's not really doing anything to make them stay; the wide chasm between them and the rest of the cave works fine. Schaliya is holding on to her mother's skirt, and Schala is pushing her backwards for the little protection my sister can provide.
"You truly fascinate me," Charash sneers.
From here it's impossible to see the state of his wound; that side is turned at the wall. And therefore we can't use magic against it. And how many didn't believe there would be complications?
"How to proceed?" Cered whispers.
"I hath an idea," Frog says in a low voice.
"Your ideas are never without madness," I mutter, mostly by habit.
He winks with one of his bulb eyes.
"Mayhap 'tis the cruel truth," he says, "but thee must lend me the acknowledge that they often have led to victory."
"Stop fooling around and speak up," Lucca grimly mutters.
"If someone wouldst attract his attention I should be able to attack him again," Frog says and turns to me and Crono, "and I carry the belief that the technique that we named Spire would be twice as painful when two powerful magicians combine their magic."
Now, now. That's diabolical, you little pest.
I feel my lips move into a tiny grin. Crono smiles cruelly.
"I'm not sure if I like that 'someone' who has to attract attention, but..." Lucca sighs and makes a tired salute.
"Let us work together," Cered says, trustfully, "but go different paths."
"Ready when you are," the inventor says, clenching her jaw.
Frog, Crono, Cered and myself nod.
The only woman of our small troop silently hurries over to the other side of the tunnel, then follows the cave wall deeper inside. Frog rushes after her, his small feet not creating a single sound.
Cered goes first, myself and Crono follow him halfway down the wall on our side of the tunnel. My brother in law continues on for a while, then stops and looks around at Lucca. She has stopped, but Frog is still sneaking up on Charash from behind. As he stops and looks around all of us nod.
The dragon and the prisoners are concentrating on each other, and I don't dare to risk sending Schala a calming thought. Our enemy might hear it too, since his mind is very dominant.
Lucca and Cered press their palms together and begin to chant the most powerful spell they can use.
Charash startles and looks around as Lucca's flaming orbs bombard him from behind. They bounce on his scales and disappear, but at least they surprise him. As he turns his head, Cered's Flare rush at him from the other direction.
"What the...!"
The big head sways back...
"Cered!" Schala calls out as she sees him, her voice a mixture of relief and fear for his safety.
"Face thy fate, foul beast!"
Frog's voice cuts through the explosions of magic as he leaps onto Charash's tail and further up.
He lands between the dragon's wings and force the Masamune downwards as he meant to kill me just about twenty minutes ago.
It can't be more than a bee's sting for the dragon, but it surely irritates him. His wings beats angrily as he tries to shake off the knight and the weapon. Frog jumps aside and manage to land on the floor without loosing his balance despite the long fall, desperately jumping further away.
"If thee please, my comrades!" he shouts.
"Powers of the world, lend me the power of Lightning!" I demand.
Bolts.
Forceful.
Become one.
I hear Crono chant by my side, and lightning bolts explode out of our chests. At first they are nothing but small dancing threads, but then I reach out my mind and find the young man's.
Combine!
Our bolts spin around each other, a tornado of light. Then they are no longer apart, but one massive beam.
Together we aim it at the Masamune sticking out of Charash's back.
His roar almost tears the mountain apart. It's filled with pain, but the mere outraged humiliation in his voice is stronger than his agony.
Hate to admit it, but we make a good team, Janus! Crono grins and slaps the palm of my right hand.
"I fear that you're right for once, boy," I grin back, feeling quite pleased after returning a little of the dragon's favor.
Charash's teeth close around the Masamune and rip it out of his back.
Oh, forgot about his long neck...
The sword buries in the ceiling of the cave after a hasty flight.
Crono says something truly wise.
Uh-oh...
"You little insects!" Charash roars and sends a wave of flames at Frog.
He manage to jump above them, but the fire continues forward anyhow.
Towards me and Crono.
I grab the young man's shoulders and leap straight upwards. The heat almost brings me off balance, but I manage to keep up and avoid crashing as I land.
Crono is breathing hard, gasping a "thank you".
"Masamune, cometh to my hand!" Frog calls.
The sword makes small, desperate movements high up there, trying to free itself from the mountain's grip.
It's stuck.
Marle's fiancÚ said it best...
Frankly, we are in trouble.
"You seem shocked, petty creatures," Charash smirk.
He calmly lays down on the ground despite our tries to kill him.
The scales on his forehead rise like a forest when he frowns.
"What has happened to you?" he asks, sharply looking at me.
"Purification," I snarl.
He snorts.
"How foolish... but it's nothing that can't be mended, even if you managed to fight it back once. Someone with your power is useful."
"Why?! Let me go!"
"You have a lot of power slumbering within, Magus. You will surely be helpful in our battle against the humans."
...
"It took us almost thirteen years and the result might not have been what we expected, but we created a Magus."

I am what I choose to be! I will never be a puppet!
"I'm a human, do you hear me?" I shout in rage, "I am a human, and my name is Janus!"
My anger isn't only aimed at Charash, but also at Ozzie, Flea, Slash, Dalton and Lavos. At anyone who somehow has tried to disrupt the one I am, trying to turn me into something else.
I am Janus, brother of Schala!
"Pathetic struggle..." Charash snorts.
"Powers of the world, I bid of thee to lend me the power of Light and Fire!" Cered roars.
What the...?
His chanting is the loudest I've ever heard, but he's just as desperate as the rest of us.
And that despair, fused with his worry for his wife and child, finally releases his ultimate power. I have never seen one person alone combine two magic elements in one single spell. It just doesn't work that way.
But on the other hand, Light isn't among the normal elements. And Schala's husband is quite extraordinary too.
Cered's chanting is for a moment all that is heard, its power even trapping Charash in some sort of fascination.
Light.
Fire.
Passion.
Inner.
Soul.
Flames of the spirit.
Passion? What a word to use in a spell...
By the powers...!
"Duck!" I shout and push Crono off balance as I throw myself down.
Cered's eyes are wide open and glow intensely from within as his feet leaves the ground, holding his shaking hands turned against each other on one foot's distance. Flaming sparkles fly between his fingertips.
With an unearthly screech he throws his hands in Charash's direction.
From each one of his fingers glowing, flaring half moons fly, small at first but growing for every inch of air that they bolt past. The power they radiate almost tears my brain into pieces.
Charash is unable to get aside in time. His enormous body crashes against the cave wall, creating a minor earthquake.
It surprises me that the Masamune doesn't fall from the ceiling.
"Well done, father!" Schaliya triumphantly yells.
"Everyone, now!" I roar, seeing that Cered's magic perhaps didn't hurt the dragon deadly but left him disoriented and even managed to burn his otherwise resistant scales.
At places where the giant half-moons hit, Charash's dirtily red armor had turned darker. He's vulnerable! "Dark powers of the underworld...!"
I hear Crono chant, the voices of Frog, Lucca and Marle join us. Schala begins, but the blond princess waves at her to think of her baby. My sister isn't happy about it, but accepts.
Cered is on his knees, trying to regain his breath after his explosion of power.
Well done, brother.
I smile coldly, watching Charash shake his head to regain his senses. This is what I think of your "blessing"!
Power.
Intention.
Evil.
Substance.
Dark Matter.
Frog's Tide of Sunlight rushes over the floor while Lucca's second storm of red, flashing orbs dash through the air and gigantic blocks of ice appears from nowhere to crash upon Charash's body on Marle's command.
I concentrate Dark Matter...
Crono's feet leave the floor, just as Cered's did. But after all my brother in law is the boy's ancestor and they have quite a few things in common.
Charash wriggles as the light green cupola grows around him. Just as it's about to release its full force I command Dark Matter to explode in its center.
The dragon's wings are forced slick against his body and his head hits the ground as the two spells combine their power.
After the rumble is over there's a complete silence before most of us either drop to our knees or lean heavily against the wall. I prefer the later.
"That's the spirit we showed Lavos, isn't it guys?!" Marle cheers, jumping up and down on the other side of the rift.
"Art thee well?" Cered calls, still gasping for air.
"We're fine, love!" Schala yells back, smiling warmly.
"Be he always that filled with authority?" the emperor's daughter asks.
I'm probably the only one in this part of the cave with ears sharp enough to hear what she's saying.
Marle stops jumping and looks at the other princess, puzzled.
"Who, Cered?" she wonders, blankly.
Lashey snorts.
"Certainly not," she says, "I meant of course the wiza..."
'Look out!' Molor screams into my head.
"Careful!" I shout instinctively.
Too late.
Charash's powerful wings flap, creating yet another unfightable storm. I am thrown backwards into the cave wall, just as into the house earlier. But this time, Crono is thrown at me too. His elbow forcefully hits my stomach, the pain making my mind flicker for a moment. The next second Frog's smaller body hits Crono's, and I receive yet another strike.
Ugh...
"How much beating are you going to take?!" Marle screeches.
"Much more than you insects can provide!" Charash snarls.
He raises his head and turns it at his own body. Flames flow from his mouth, engulfing him.
"The odds art against us..." Frog groans.
I'm still shaking my head, trying to get my senses back in the right order.
As I manage, I find what the knight meant.
It seems like a dragon's own fiery breath can heal its wounds.
Almost all of our power is drained up, all for nothing. Charash is fully recovered.
Smoke flows from his nostrils.
"So be it!" he roars and opens his mouth again, this time aiming at the three of us.
Flames burst out of his throat, I'm too weakened to...
The fire stops halfway over the floor. I raise my head in surprise at the familiar hiss of rage and returned presence.
Molor is standing on the tip of his tail, hissing furiously. And Charash is staring at him with disbelief.
"You?!" the dragon growl.
"Be gone, Charash!" Molor calls out, "these humans are under my protection!"
He's not speaking to my mind, and that is the reason that everyone in the cave with a human soul are staring at him.
Even I.
Molor speaks. With a hissing, humanoid voice.
"How dare you show yourself here, Molor, you little worm!?" Charash snarls.
"I refuse the law, coward!"
"Have you no pride at all left?"
Molor gives a dry laugh, bitterly.
"You speak of my pride?" he shouts, "wasn't it you who took it from me?"
Charash's disbelief turns into a smirk.
"So, so," he sneers, "and what do you plan to do in order to stop me?"
"I will not allow you to harm these humans!" Molor hisses.
"Pha!"
Charash laughs coldly.
"You are a foolish worm, Molor. I am almost sad to see that the former great king of Dragons even has lost his mind to madness."
His words are like a cut through the head.
"What!?" I choke, and I'm not the only one with that opinion.
The dragon snorts.
"Shame on you, Molor," he sneers, "you wish to call yourself their ally but haven't even told them about such an important fact?"
The snake turns his head and looks straight at me with pure sadness flowing out of him.
"I am sorry, friend," he bitterly mutters, "I could not tell you."
"You are a dragon?!" I harshly say.
"I used to be. Until Charash defeated me in battle and banned me to this world in this body. And now he has the nerve to wish to claim even these lands."
The soul of a dragon... so that's how it worked. Molor is a dragon and my kindred spirit. No wonder my soul resembled; we wouldn't make such a team if things were different.
He's a dragon?
Well, what does that matter now, anyhow?
I smile bitterly.
"I don't care," I say.
His sadness falters, and he gives me a weak smile resembling to the one on my lips.
"I thank you, friend."
"How dramatic," Charash snorts, "good bye."
Molor desperately creates a dark barrier against the first wave of fire, but the second one throws him backwards into Frog and the knight's descendant.
Crono, would you... ugh... mind moving your elbow from my stomach?
"Forgive my failing...!" Molor harshly whispers as a third storm of fire dances over the ground, melting the pebbles lying around and turning the air into flowing glass.
If there was time to think and regain my breath I could have told him that he couldn't do anything. But time is running out far too fast. "Fare thee well...!" Frog growls, hoarsely.
The fire is twenty yards away, the heat already burning my face. In only a few seconds, not even that...
"Powers of the world, lend me the power of Water!"
Ice.
Blade.
Cold.
The massive flames are cut in several smaller, harmless pieces by...
A giant broadsword.
And a scythe.
Two shadows stand in the remaining flames for a moment before the fire disappears, seemingly untouched by the heat. Their weapons are white with frost.
At very rare times, I become amazed.
But those times are becoming less rare.
My jaw drops as the two monsters turn around, grinning. Both of them are dressed in simple, stiff tunics and their bodies are covered by a mixture between skin and scales. The one with the broadsword is a muscled giant, deeply purple. The other one is wiry looking and green.
And he is Ozzie's forefather.
"What the... Lizard?!" manage to work its way past my tongue.

Part four