Magus's Quest part 2
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Chapter 7 Planning
The five travelers set a camp on the beach, since it began to get dark. Assembling some of the grey pieces of wood on the beach they got a nice fire, too. Cered made a simple spear of a long branch and managed to catch some fishes, which he roasted over the fire.
"It makes me angry knowing that the rat Dalton destroyed our weapons," Cered sighed as he picked tiny bones out of his meal, giving the dark fortress a dark glance, "alas, nothing can be done. At least my grandfather's katanas art safe in my time."
"Only a coward would destroy the weapons of his enemies," Frog snorted.
"Suits him right," Schala said.
Magus took a second fish. He just moved his fingers a little, and the dead animal was suddenly cut in two pieces. Molor got one of them, and swallowed it whole.
"What is the weapon thou use, Schala?" Frog asked.
"A staff," she told him, "I never liked sharp things."
"Suits thee right."
Magus watched the fire, thoughtful. When he spoke, it was so sudden it almost startled everyone else.
"You know what, Frog, I just started thinking about something."
The knight was one inch from saying something like "Thinking? Astonishing!". But he didn't, by no other means than the respect for Schala.
"What would that be?" he said instead.
"Considering the fact that you were last seen being abducted by the Prince of Darkness, beaten half to death, how will you explain to your friends how you can return only a few days later without a scratch?"
"By all means, every man and woman knows that I can use the blessed magic of healing," Frog said.
"Yes, but would the undead Magus just let you go? Doesn't it sound a bit suspicious?"
"I see," Frog finally said, "but this query is mine; why would thee care, Magus?"
"I'm not worried about you," he snorted, "but since my sister will be there too, I'm thinking about her safety."
"Aye, a few hours with thy sister has already made thee almost human," Frog said, teasingly.
"It sounds like you're not coming with us, Janus," Schala pointed out, carefully.
He shook his head.
"No. I will come later, it would be most unwise of me to show up near that castle."
"I think I'll stay here and take care of the fortress while Frog explain what happened," the warlock said, watching the fire, "you can call for me when you go hunting for Flea and Slash."
"So what would be the explanation?" Cered asked.
"In your condition that day, you would certainly not have been able to heal yourself," Magus said, thoughtfully resting his chin on a fist, "and the Prince of Darkness wouldn't have helped you, now would he?"
"No," Frog concluded.
"So how on earth would you have been able to escape those dark clutches?" the warlock asked.
"Somebody helped thee?" Cered suggested.
"Smart boy," he said, ignoring the fact that Cered was in the warlock's own age, "I believe that would seem possible. It is well known that undead aren't as strong as they were when they lived, so an undead Dark Prince could be stopped even without the Masamune."
"So you mean that me and Cered should act heroes?" Schala said.
Schala shook her head.
"I've got a bad feeling about that," she said, "I cannot walk around telling people I've defeated my own brother."
"That is certainly something that they must be unaware of," Magus said, almost sharply looking at her.
"I understand that. But telling somebody I've fought you... no."
She shook her head again.
"I just couldn't."
Such sibling-love was truly rare, but it was understandable since she'd spent several years worrying about her brother. Schala obviously didn't want to break anything at all.
"I see," Magus said, slowly, "would you bear to say that I just stepped out of a strange, dark portal, and at the sight of you just threw Frog at you and disappeared again?"
"Fascinating," Frog said, "where is thy pride, Magus?"
"What do I care? They all think that I am dead anyway."
"It sounds much better," Schala said.
Magus shrugged his shoulders.
"Look, Schala," he said, "when you take Frog back, don't try to defend me whatever the people in 600 AD might say. My reputation is far too dark to lighten."
"Alright, Janus," his sister said with a sigh.
She didn't ask what he had done to get such a dark reputation, and neither Magus himself nor Frog felt like telling her. It would without any doubt be better if she didn't know all the details.
"Now let us think this through thoroughly and wise," Cered said, "we know now what to tell them, but how will we proceed after that?"
"We should start with searching out the lair of Flea and Slash," Frog said.
He became thoughtful.
"Wait, it now cometh to my mind... when will we show up?"
"Surprisingly smart thinking," he admitted, "the soldiers saw me and you disappear through a Gate, that would be 'a strange, dark portal'. For someone that doesn't know time travel, that could just as well be a door to another place or dimension of some kind."
"And if we saw you as you stepped out of one," Schala said, nodding, "you would have escaped through that 'warp-door', ending up in the place where me and Cered saw you."
"Adding what the soldiers tell, it will seem quite possible," Magus submitted, "you only have to make sure that they've already left their rapport, and there'll surely be no doubts."
"Due to my liege's diary," Frog said, "the troop reached the castle on the tenth of March. Therefore we should preferably be at the castle one or two days later. Let us sayeth that we met in the south forest, close to Porre. 'Tis a two days walk from there to the castle."
"Careful," Magus said with a cold little smile, "your brain might break with all this thinking."
"Just giveth me one more reason, dark wizard, and I will gladly do something about thy own brain!" Frog snapped back, giving the warlock a dark glare.
"Oh, how morbid!" Magus sneered, "I'd ask Molor to eat you if I weren't minding his health, you pest!"
The two fighters looked up in surprise because of the sudden laughter.
"I'm sorry," Schala smiled and covered her mouth with her hand, "it's just that..."
She started laughing again, and couldn't continue to speak. Cered replaced her:
"Thee sound just like two friends of mine. Oh my..."
He and Schala leaned against each other, shaking of laughter.
"Thee act exactly like Leon and Shadarak! I ask thee to forgive me and Schala for this..."
After a few tries, Schala managed to take a deep breath and stop laughing.
"Alright," she said, "we've got the date, time and the full story. So when we've convinced your king and queen that you haven't been traveling together with my brother for a while, we'll come back here to fetch Janus and then start looking for this Flea and Slash, right, Frog?"
"Yes, indeed. No, wait..."
Frog slapped his forehead.
"It will not work. I was badly hurt when the soldiers last saw me, and those injuries could not have healed normally in just a couple of days."
Magus smiled coldly then, with that evil, alarming sparkle in his eyes.
"I was hoping that you would think of that yourself," he said, soft as silk.
"Oh, no!" Frog exclaimed, with one hand on Masamune's hilt, "perish the thought, I warneth thee!"
The warlock shook his head, and said:
"You misunderstand. I can just restore the wounds you had with a simple spell. It might ache a little, but not as much as it did when you got them in the first place."
"I dost not trust thee."
"It's your life... Schala and Cered might of course 'find you' a couple of weeks later, but knowing your care for queen Leene, I believe you wouldn't want to have her crying for two weeks unnecessarily."
"Why thee... I... she..."
Frog finally gave up and sighed.
"Alright. I giveth," he grumbled.
Chapter 8 Return and attack
The next morning, they prepared the theatre.
"We'll go to 5300 BC and get equipped as soon as we've talked to the king and queen in 600 AD and Frog is healed, how does that sound?" Schala said.
"It will be fine," Frog said, "there should be no fights in my time before we find the two villains."
"And we will also go to the End of Time before we start hunting," Magus said, resolute, "I don't like the idea of you walking around wielding an unknown power, Schala."
She nodded with a smile.
Magus turned to Frog, raising his hands.
"Now for making you a mess again. This won't hurt a bit... I think."
An eerie, black-purple light erupted from his hands.
A moment later, Schala was bandaging the knight's resurrected wounds with pieces of her cloak.
"'Won't hurt a bit'! " Frog croaked, "lucky I never put any trust in thee anyway!"
"I told you I wasn't completely sure," Magus said with a cold smile and one hand on Molor's head.
"Was thee forced to hurt my leg again?"
"It's impossible to reset a body partly."
"Be not tormented by any worries, my friend," Cered said, "I will carry thee."
He said that as Frog failed to stand up.
"I wish thee did not hath so much trouble just to helpeth me..." Frog said, a bit embarrassed.
Magus muttered something, but Frog didn't hear the words. It was probably better that way, anyhow.
"I just hope that I will be able to open a Gate leading to the fifth century now that Dalton is dead," Schala said, frowning.
"Surely," Cered said, encouraging.
She smiled a little and raised her hands. As she started to mumble, a Gate obediently open in front of her.
"Ha! It worked!" she said, truly relieved.
"Then let us go," Cered smiled and carefully lifted the wounded Frog.
"See you earlier, Janus," Schala said with a small laughter.
He smiled and nodded. Then he got out of sight since the dark corridor with its flashing light swallowed the three travelers. As they stepped out they found themselves in a forest.
"At least thee can see the castle's spires above the treetops over there," Frog said and pointed with a shaking hand, "but art we in the right time?"
Schala put her fingertips on her forehead.
"Almost," she said, "it is the thirteenth of March, 601 AD."
"That will be fine. Let us go."
Cered and Schala started walking towards the castle, and soon found the road leading through the forest. Once there had been loads of monsters around, but they had all been thrown out as the army of the Mystics fell. The only thing that could possibly stop a traveler nowadays would be the castle guards. There were two of them guarding the entrance to the front gate, as usual. And they knew their profession.
"Halt! Who goes there?" one of them called as Schala and Cered stepped out of the forest.
"We're friends!" Schala called back.
However the identification became less interesting as the visitors came closer.
"Wha... general Frog?!"
"Good morning..." the knight whispered and managed to smile a little.
A short while later he was in a bed in the healing quarters and completely surrounded by all the happy soldiers in the castle. Even king Guardia XXI and queen Leene was there, the later one sobbing of relief.
"Oh Frog, we were all so worried about you!" she said and put her fine hand on his shoulder, "I was so scared you were..."
"I ask thee to forgive me this disgrace," Frog said, looking away, "I should not have kept thee worried, my liege."
"Frog, there's nothing you should be ashamed of!" Leene smiled through the tears and tried to dry her cheeks with a handkerchief.
The king turned to the two other time travelers and spoke.
"What happened, helpers? Were did you find him?"
"We were in the south forest," Cered said, sparing Schala the lie, "when suddenly a curious dark hole opened up in the day's clean air. Out from it stepped a pale man with a blood-red cloak, carrying thy general. At the sight of Schala and myself, he threw the wounded knight at us and departed without a word."
"That must have been lord Magus!" the king said and frowned with a confused look, "but why would that demon give Frog up just like that?"
"Aye, my wit is not enough..." Cered said and shook his head.
"Thank you so much for bringing him here, anyhow," His Majesty smiled, "tell me, your clothes makes me wonder..."
"'Tis true, Your Majesty," Frog said with a small smile, "in my far-reaching travels together with Sir Crono, I had the joy of at least meeting miss Schala once."
The princess of Zeal smiled a bit. The king nodded.
"I had the feeling you weren't from around here," he said, then turned around, "now Frog, could you tell us what happened at Ozzie's island?"
Leene held up a hand.
"Dear, he should rest. Talk with him tomorrow instead," she gravely said.
"No, my liege, allow me to shed the little light I can provide upon this twisted story," Frog said.
The queen hesitated, but nodded in the end.
"Very well, Frog, but do not strain yourself."
"Of course not, my liege. My memory is not to be fully recalled, but I remember that the ground opened to swallow me as we landed on the island..."
"I am so sorry," the knight captain sadly said, "we couldn't help you. Neither then nor when the undead monster- king Magus abducted you..."
"I know that thee did what thee could," Frog said and managed to smile, "the foe was too clever for thee, and thee could not have doneth more than what thee did. As the trap triggered, I fell into a huge cavern, and my leg was hurt as I hit the ground. And even as I tried to stand up, I was attacketh by a fire-spell. Most unpleasantly, I found out that the foe was none other than the magician Flea, whom we thought were dead. And..."
He started to cough, and one of the doctors hurried over to him with a glass with medicine. The memory of Magus' potion almost made Frog shiver, but the drink he got this time tasted heavenly compared to what the warlock had provided. As soon as he had emptied the glass, he could speak again.
"And I had to suffer the knowledge of that in Flea's body the swordsman Slash resided as well..."
'How to continue?' Frog thought, 'I should wisely suffer memory-loss about how I ended up in Magus' clutches, but Schala...'
She looked completely calm, but there was a small sparkle of pain in her eyes, unquestionable due to the titles her brother had received. Frog fought back a deep sigh and continued his story:
"Wounded, I could not provide defense against my foes. The next thing I can recall is that I was floating in thin air, held up by Flea's wicked magic. The dark magician had put a snare around my throat, but as he was about to kill me... alas..."
He hoped that he managed to look confused enough.
"... I do not understand, but suddenly there was a lightning… the dark lord Magus cut off the snare and brought me to safety. The last thing I remember is that Flea yelled curses, and that the warlock chanted a spell to attack his own comrades. 'Tis truly a riddle, but it seems almost like the Prince of Darkness helped me."
All the "normal" people in the room exchanged bewildered glances. Schala and Cered looked at Frog, wondering. In the princess' eyes were also a sense of gratitude that she fought to hide from everyone else.
"Why on earth would he help the only one who can wield the Masamune?" the knight captain finally said, totally blank.
"Alas, I dost not know that," Frog said.
"Hey," one of the soldiers said, "that monster was killed by Sir Frog and Sir Crono a year ago, wasn't he? My grandma used to tell me about sinners' souls which wander this world, trying to make up for their crimes."
"Sounds a bit weird," another soldier said, "but he was a weird man, so it would be possible, right?"
"Sure," a third man smiled, "but he's got a list of crimes that will keep him stuck like that for at least two thousands years, if that's true."
Frog started coughing again, but this time, he did it on purpose. Queen Leene waved with her hands.
"Enough!" she demanded, "Frog needs to rest, so everybody will leave now, except the doctors!"
She more or less pushed the crowd up the stairs and pass the "balcony", out through the door. But before she was shooed away Schala touched Frog's shoulder with a warm smile upon her lips. He smiled back, then the princess of Zeal was gone.
"Here, Sir", another one of the doctors said, holding a smaller glass filled with a white liquid, "you should rest a while; this is a sleep-potion."
"I thank thee."
A few minutes after he had drunken the potion, Frog started to feel drowsy. With great relief he allowed himself to lean back into a deep, strengthening sleep.
He awoke in an evening to find Schala and Cered once again at his side. The princess looked over her shoulder to check were the doctors were before she whispered:
"You defended Janus, thank you."
"Not because he deserves it, my friend, but thee should not hath suffered to hear his name be told with such loathing," the knight replied, friendly.
"You're so kind, Frog," she smiled, "how do you feel? You've slept through a whole night and day."
"Much better, I thank thee."
Frog wasn't surprised at all that he had slept so long. He had gone through some hard days with little sleep.
"Excuse me, but I still think that Frog should get his well-deserved rest," the voice of queen Leene said, not unfriendly.
She stood on the balcony, to the right of the stairs. Schala straightened up and smiled a bit.
"Of course, Your Majesty," she said.
She and Cered exited the room together with the queen.
"I still cannot thank you enough for helping Frog," Leene said with a warm smile, "I do not know how we would go on here in the castle without him."
"Ah," Schala kindly said, "there is nothing you should thank me and Cered about, Frog has helped us..."
There was a half-strangled scream to be heard from behind them. The two women and the man spun around and ran back without hesitating one single moment.
The three doctors and the two nurses were lying by one of the short walls of the healing quarters. In the other end of the room Flea was standing with a thin sword in one hand and Frog's throat in the other. The Masamune was lying on the floor a few yards away, but the knight could not call it to his hand since he was busy struggling for air and anyhow he probably wouldn't have been able to hold it.
"Frog!" Leene screamed.
Schala and Cered hurriedly moved in between her and the intruders as Flea turned his head by the screech.
"Queen Leene, what a pleasure to meet you!" the magician sneered, "won't you join us as me and my dear friend
Slash makes a brochette of your beloved knight here?"
"Let him go!" three voices called in unison.
The pink eyebrows went upwards.
"Who are you two freaks?" Flea wondered, looking at the princess and the guardian of the emperor's peace.
"Who cares?" Slash snorted, using the same tongue and lips.
"Schala, give me cover!" Cered muttered.
She nodded, determined.
"Powers of the world, lend me the power of Lightning!"
As Flea and Slash rather surprised danced out of the way for the bolts Cered jumped over the fence and rushed forward, trying to reach Frog. But he had to take a leap backwards to avoid the sword aiming for his chest.
The sound of the lightning-attack had been loud enough to call for half the castle. Many soldiers hurried into the room, but nobody dared crossing the stairs. Even the king rushed in. One glance at the scene made him try to get Leene to leave.
"Dear, it's not safe!" he said, grabbing her shoulders.
"I'm not leaving Frog!" she snapped back.
"How sweet!" Flea sneered, "but I could never stand romantic stuff."
Frog did not see the sword turn to point at him; he was still trying to survive the tiny stream of oxygen. Cered automatically reached for his waist only to remember that he was unarmed, Schala raised her hands for a desperate magic-attack...
Suddenly the room was showered in a rain of broken glass and Slash had to make the shared body leap away from a deadly edge that was about to cause major damage. A pair of leather-boots hit the ground, a blood red cloak fell to wave behind a tall man as he straightened up with the pieces of the broken window still hitting the floor around his feet. The sinking sun outside painted flames on a scythe's long, sharp blade.
"Put the damn reptile down," Magus said, cold as ice.
Chapter 9 A trial
There was a frozen moment when nobody even breathed. Then Flea awoke from the surprise.
"Oh my, you are determined to continue your stupid career as a hero, then?" he sneered.
"No," Magus coldly said, "but nobody is going to kill Frog except me, and today is not the day."
"Why not? Here, take him!"
Flea threw the knight at Magus and leaped forward, raising the sword. Somehow the warlock managed to catch Frog and parry the sword with his scythe, but it was obvious that it was quite a challenge. He drew backwards, one hand equipped with his weapon and the other holding the wounded knight. The humans in the room watched in amaze and fear as the magician and swordsman made their body slowly follow the warlock.
"Aren't you going to chant another Dark Matter, cutie?" Flea mocked.
Magus suddenly gave a cold smile and shook his head. He threw his scythe on the floor.
"What?" Slash said, on guard, "giving up so soon?"
"No, I just thought that I would make this battle a bit more fair."
He grabbed the end of his cloak and shook it a little. From out of the cloth crawled...
"Oh, I didn't know that you had children, lord Magus," Flea said with high eyebrows as Molor raised his head and hissed warningly.
The crowd upon the balcony drew back, all except the grim Schala. She didn't utter a single word, keeping her brother's warning in mind.
"Molor, bring him away from here," Magus hissed.
Before anyone even had understood what happened the warlock had given Frog to the snake, who put a part of his own body around the wounded one. The next moment Molor was halfway up the stair, hissing triumphantly.
He put Frog down, prepared for both defending the knight and rushing to Magus' aid. Cered found himself by one of the walls, by the shivering doctors and nurses. He hadn't even noticed that he had moved.
The scythe floated up above the floor and Magus grabbed it, smiling coldly.
"Wimp," Flea snorted.
Magus didn't answer. He attacked instead.
The room's furniture were soon nothing more than pieces of smashed wood and torn clothing. Flea and Slash had the advantage of that one mind could concentrate on fighting, and the other chanted spells. However, Magus had his great skills in both fighting and magic, and his special magic-defense was a source of trouble. The warlock chanted different spells all the time, always changing his weak point. It made the female-looking magician confused in the long run.
"Dark powers of the world, I dare to ask of you to lend me strength!" Magus called after being hit by a massive flame when it was a lightning-attack he'd just used, "worch crahela krun shar retetack!"
"Idiot!" Slash snarled and jumped away from the Dark Mist exploding from the warlock's hands.
He managed to avoid the big, black cloud. Instead a pile of wood that once had been a bed got turned into smoking dust.
"Powers of the world, lend me the power of Lightning!" Flea chanted, by now too frustrated to think.
Magus mockingly ducked with a scornful sneer and the bolts hit the wall behind him, making the whole balcony crumble. Most of the people up there lost their balance and fell; Schala staggered towards the stair. She could have fallen, but got a grip of the fence. In order to keep standing, she had to take a few steps downstairs. That brought her to Frog and Molor.
"Are you alright?" she muttered to the knight, behind her the sound of another of Flea's snarled prayers were to be heard.
This time, the magician was asking the right element for power.
"I am fine, thou better return..." Frog began.
He was interrupted as Flea suddenly spun around, pointing at him.
"Hey you, slimy boy! Catch this, worch crahela krun shar retetack!"
A second dark cloud rushed through the air. Molor hissed a warning, Schala raised her hands…
Magus leaped towards the stair, in the way of the evil magic.
The cloud hit him, getting stuck onto his back even as he was in the air.
The weight made him fall, and he crashed upon another pile of broken wood with a screech of pain.
A shocked squeak left Schala's lips, Molor hissed violently. Many of the Guardia population gasped in surprise at the warlock's action.
"Now that was unexpected," Slash said, raising the eyebrows.
Waving with the right hand, Flea made the Dark Mist rise towards the ceiling. It carried Magus with it.
He had dropped the scythe and now desperately tried to rip the dark material off his back, his red eyes wild with pain.
"Nothing to worry about, dear lord Magus," Flea merrily said, "I'll make sure it doesn't ruin your precious cloak. I'm a bit worried about your flesh, though... oh, that hurt, doesn't it?"
Magus froze completely of the agony, the skin of his face strained as he tried to fight back a tortured scream. Molor rushed towards Flea and Slash, but stopped dead as the right hand waved warningly.
"You seem to somehow like him, you big worm," Flea said, "I do advise you not to do matters worse."
The magician and the swordsman's body turned to the warlock again. The prisoner wasn't struggling anymore, the intense pain almost made it impossible for him to move. His hands barely twitched, his mouth partly open in a silent scream of agony.
"What a pretty little sight, isn't it, Slash?" Flea said.
"Indeed," the swordsman smirked.
Flea mockingly waved with a finger at the paralyzed warlock, who stared at his tormentors with his eyes burning with pain and hatred.
"Now don't give me that look, boy," the magician snorted, as if talking to a child, "you just have to bear it when you don't listen to us. What did we tell you about traitors?"
"Let him go!"
Schala's fists were shaking in her anger.
"You heard me," she snapped, "let him go, right now!"
Magus managed to wildly shook his head, but Schala ignored him. Everybody in the room looked at her in amaze or worry.
"This might not be the right moment for asking this," Slash slowly said, "but who the hell are you?"
"Who the hell are you to torture this man?" Schala snapped back.
Silence. Magus even seemed to forget that a black cloud was eating his back as he looked at the blue-haired woman. Schala only waited a second before she moved.
"Powers of the world, lend me the power of Light!" she called, throwing one of her hands towards Magus,
"laohn sha nebal!"
A flat, round projectile, as big as a man's head left her hand and rushed through the air. It went straight into
Magus' chest and came out on the other side without leaving as much as a scratch. But as the Dark Mist was penetrated it disappeared.
The warlock would have fallen, but Schala slowly moved her hand downwards and following her movement Magus floated to the floor. He immediately tried to stand up, but not even his arms could bear him and he heavily fell back.
Schala jumped over the fence and ran over to her brother's side, resolutely facing Flea and Slash without even the slightest grain of fear. Molor rushed over to her as well, hissing in rage.
"Do I get this straight?" Flea said, most skeptic, "you are actually defending The Dark Lord Magus?"
"Move..." Magus croaked, "don't do..."
Schala didn't answer him.
"Fighting, whatever, fine!" she growled, "torturing, no!"
"Oh, that's deep," Slash snorted.
He looked thoughtful, at least the body which he shared looked that way.
"Wait a moment," the swordsman slowly said, frowning, "did he call you Schala?"
"My name is not important," the woman snapped, "there is no reason for doing something like that, attaching a Dark Mist upon anybody!"
Schala was shivering with rage. Flea and Slash raised their eyebrows again.
"Reason?" Slash repeated.
"You want a reason?" Flea said.
Frog looked at Magus and saw a paralyzing fear rise in his otherwise cold eyes. The warlock tried to speak, but his lips seemed numb.
"Would that be only one reason?" Slash said, mockingly rubbing the chin, "my, that's a hard one. Let's see, mine and Flea's first reason would be that he is nothing but a plain traitor. But there is so many other reasons to why that man should suffer."
"You seem to be such a kind-hearted type," Flea said, sneering, "so maybe you would prefer the 'kind' reasons instead?"
'He really is afraid that Schala will despiseth him!' Frog thought, 'oh my... I musteth..."
He tried to stand up, to think of something to say which could stop Flea from keep talking. But his legs were too weak, and it was like his brain was drained of all ideas. And it seemed as nobody else could help either. Cered just stood by the wall, like a statue.
"Where to start?" Flea thoughtfully said, "how about the story of how he killed the hero Cyrus and turned his best friend Glenn into a Frog?"
There was a lot of half-strangled, shocked yells to be heard from the Guardia population in the room. Frog closed his eyes upon the painful memory and put a hand on his forehead.
He hadn't told them, through the years… he just hadn't been able to tell anyone… Leene and everyone else had still hoped that Cyrus was alive, still on the search for some way of finally defeating the Mystics. That he had passed on the sacred Masamune to a warrior worthy of protecting the kingdom in the hero's absence. But now the merciful lie was shattered.
Schala didn't move.
"Ah, how it still hurts our brave knight over there," Flea said and pointed at Frog, "how Cyrus desperately attacked to give his friend time to flee, getting killed and barbequed with nothing gained, nothing at all."
Schala didn't move.
"And how about the war against the humans?" the magician continued, "will we ever know how many innocent people were slaughtered by a move of his fingers? How many houses that were robbed by the Mystics? What sweet memories, isn't it, Slash?"
Schala didn't move.
"Yes indeed," the swordsman sneered, "in this whole world, you will nowhere find a guiltier man, lady."
Schala didn't move, but there was a tear falling from her cheek.
"What, do you even cry for his crimes?" Flea said, rather astounded, "what are you, an angel or what?"
Schala took a step forward, and her voice was colder than ice.
"Don't... no... don't, Schala..." Magus weakly whispered, hardly able to produce any sound at all.
"I am not an angel," she said, shaking with anger, "and I am aware that the one you call the dark lord Magus isn't either. I am aware that he has done a lot of horrible things. But I do not care." There was another frozen moment, and this one was much longer than the last. Schala took in a deep breath, watching Flea and Slash with outmost loathing.
"I do not care what he has done," she said, "it was the monsters like you who turned him into the dark lord, when I couldn't protect him. He is my brother, and I love him what ever his crimes might be."
Not even the dust moved.
"Anyone who wish to hurt him will have to fight me first," Schala finally said, raising her empty hands.
"This must be the most sick things I've ever heard!" Flea snorted. Schala gave a very small, cold smile.
"Powers of the world, lend me the power of Light…" she said, dangerously soft.
"Not in here!" Cered screamed, obviously feeling what she had in store and not too fond of the idea.
"Pipe down!" Schala snarled.
Using her hands, she quickly drew a glowing circle in the air in front of her.
"Lateya schalon na vysal!" she called.
Flea and Slash weren't prepared for what she sent their way, and very few others were ready for it either. From the circle, a massive beam of light erupted at the intruder's shared body. Together with half the wall they were thrown towards the horizon, high above the treetops.
Schala dropped to her knees, gulping for air. She hurriedly turned to Magus and carefully put her hand on his sweat soaked cheek, with tears in her eyes. He was about to fall into unconsciousness, with his hidden wounds probably making Frog's ones seem like simple bruises.
"You shouldn't have... told them," he croaked, his unsteady breath making a wheezing sound, "now they'll kill... you too..."
Schala slowly shook her head and tried to dry the sweat from his forehead with her hand. Thin threads of his blue hair were pasted onto his cheeks, the red color of his eyes weakly flickering.
"Nobody will kill me, and not you either," Schala whispered, "nobody will ever hurt you again, Janus, I promise..."
"Schala, please... escape..."
"No. I won't leave you, not ever."
With a shivering pant from his lips Magus' eyes turned to the inside of his head, and he became still. It was almost impossible to see that his chest was still moving slightly as he breathed. Schala sighed and almost lazily touched his hair, shaking her head. Molor slowly crawled over to Magus other side and lowered his big, flat head to the warlock's chest with a sad, growling sound. Cered walked across the spoiled room and sat down beside Schala, wrapping his arm around her shoulders. She closed her eyes and leaned against him.
"I should have helped…" Cered whispered, "I am so sorry, Schala…"
"No… it wasn't your…" the blue-haired woman faintly whispered, but her voice trailed off.
Cered said nothing more, helplessly stroking her hair.
Everyone in the room knew that somebody had to say it, but somehow, nobody wanted to. Finally, the knight captain cleared his throat.
"Your Majesty, how should we proceed?" he asked.
King Guardia XXI rubbed his forehead, most concerned.
"Oh, what a mess!" he sighed.
Frog managed to stand up, leaning on the fence. There was an almost desperate determination in his eyes and voice.
"Your Majesty, I musteth speak for the mercy upon this man," he said.
Everybody looked at him, surprised. He continued, sounding almost furious.
"'Tis true, I am Glenn, Sir Cyrus' friend, and what the rat Flea told is the painful truth. But alas, Magus hast risketh his life, two times, to save me, even though I cannot fully understand his reasons. And by the evil magician's own words, the dark lord hast turned his back at the Mystics. Therefore, I beg of thee to show mercy!"
"I agree with Frog!"
Everyone spun around to stare at the one who had spoken.
"My liege...?" Frog gasped.
"He came here, knowing that if he got captured he would be executed," queen Leene continued, "maybe he didn't show up with the one plan to save Frog, but he came! And also, I say that we must respect this kindhearted woman..."
She pointed at Schala.
"... Who was willing to risk her life for the dark lord. I do not care if lord Magus came to help her or to save Frog or had other ideas, what happened here before our own eyes happened and he could have died trying to protect both of them! I will not hear any rejects, we simply cannot harm this man!"
"I thank you," Schala said, with tears in her beautiful eyes, "I thank you so much...! But..."
She put her hand on Magus' pale cheek.
"My brother is so gravely wounded, I fear that... Frog, please, you must help him!"
'If I only hath not allowed him to restore my wounds!' the knight thought.
But he staggered down the stair, and then two of the soldiers hurried to his side to help him across the floor.
"Powers of the world, lend me the power of Water!" Frog called, on the brink of starting to cough again, "na matala sela! Blast it! Na…!"
Nobody even thought about his swearing. The few stars that the knight managed to conjure disappeared before they had even touched Magus' chest.
"My power is not enough..." Frog concluded, looking away.
Schala buried her face into her hands, Cered's grip of her shoulders tightened.
"Wait," the knight said, with growing hope, "if thee could travel to 1000 AD and bring young Marle here, she might be able to help him!"
The blue-haired woman stood up, her eyes glistening with hope.
"Then you must show me the way," she said, "we..."
"No, wait!" the king exclaimed, "Sir Crono went by here four days ago when you where away, Frog, and he's on a journey together with miss Marle and miss Lucca, we don't know where they are..."
"Do you know somebody else?" Schala hurriedly asked Frog.
"Robo... but his future was changed as Lavos was defeated, I dost not know where to find him then... but Ayla! Ayla lives in 650000000 BC, and she knoweth healing power."
"Then we will travel there at once!" Magus' sister eagerly said.
"As thee wish, Schala."
"But Frog...!" Leene exclaimed.
"Worry not, my liege, 'tis not a consuming trip," Frog calmed her.
Schala more or less tore a Gate open.
"Wait here, Cered," she said and he gravely nodded.
Frog hurried into the Gate together with Magus' sister. To his relief Schala managed to keep the Gate's exit closer to the ground than the one that Crono's party had used. That one had, as many should recall, been several feet above ground. Now Frog found himself close to the Dactyl nest with the village's huts close by, in the south. The sun was shining, but there were many clouds on the sky and there was also a cold wind that hadn't been there before. Frog guessed that the climate-change which Azala the reptite had spoken about had begun to show.
"Let us hurry," the knight said and pointed.
Schala nodded. They walked down the path as fast as Frog's wounds allowed. The princess suddenly bent down, grabbed Frog and hurried on carrying him.
"Sorry about this, but I feel that time is of the essence," she said.
"I am starting to get used to it, actually."
"What kind of humans live in this time?"
"They art among the first people, a bit impulsive, but friendly."
"We've got company."
Schala put Frog down, and he saw a group of men come running from the village.
"I suppose that the man in the watchtower did his work well, then," Frog said, "'tis nothing to fear, my friend, dost thee see that blond man in the lead?"
He wore more animal skins than last Frog had seen him, and so did his friends. But had you seen this blond guy once, you'd remember his honest, open-minded look.
"Frog!" Kino yelled, on the brink of howling, "Frog! Big frog back!"
His troop of ten cavemen put their clubs down and also started mumbling to each other, happily. Frog was once more lifted above the ground, less soft this time. It surprised him that his arms didn't break, and he had to struggle against a groan.
"Crono come too?" Kino yelled.
"No, I am sorry, not this time," Frog said, trying not to let his pain show, "listen, my friend, I need to see Ayla right away..."
"See Ayla! Come with Kino, just follow! Cute woman with blue hair too!"
A short while later in the chief's hut, Frog feared for his ribs for a moment since it seemed like Ayla was about to give him a big bear-hug as welcome. But she spotted his wounds in time.
"Frog back! Welcome! But hurt? Who hurt Frog?" she asked with rising rage, "no hurt Frog, Ayla go mad!"
"My wounds art not the concern, my friend," Frog hurriedly said, "but another friend needs thy help, Magus is badly hurt..."
"Magus strong, need help?" Ayla said in amaze, "he stronger than many others!"
"Yes, but he needs thy help! Schala brought me here to get thee to him..."
For the first time Ayla noticed the other guest. She almost dropped Frog.
"Lavos' prisoner, the boy's sister?" she exclaimed, "poor, kind woman! Free now?"
"Err, yes. I'm fine now, thank you," Schala said.
The cave woman turned back to her green friend.
"Magus needs Ayla's help?"
"Yes!" both Frog and Schala almost yelled.
"Then Ayla go, but... must return soon, so no long. Big party soon, big!"
There was a great grin in her face.
"Err, how nice," Frog said, "what is this big celebration about?"
"Oh, Frog," Ayla happily said, almost squeezing him to death, "Kino and Ayla like best, soon forever! Big party!"
"'Tis truly wonderful," the knight squeaked, "but please, I cannot breathe..."
Ayla released Frog and started jumping up and down.
"Go now! Hurry help blue-haired man!" she called.
Schala opened another Gate by those words, and helped Frog to stand up before all three of them hurried through time.
Chapter 10 Courage beyond compare
In Guardia castle a stretcher had been brought into the ruined room, and Magus had been put upon it, still unconscious. The nurses and doctors were assembled around him together with almost every soldier in the castle. On the balcony the king and queen were standing, along with all the maids and servants. Even the cooking chief himself was there. The only two who were standing really close to the warlock, however, were Cered and Molor. Schala, Frog and Ayla had to push themselves through the crowd to reach the stretcher with the patient.
"'Kino and Ayla like best forever'?" Schala whispered as the cavewoman greeted Molor with a wave of her hand and then approached the one she was supposed to heal, "what did she mean with that?"
"My belief is that they art getting married," the knight answered.
"Ayla, canst thou help him?" Frog asked, turning to his blond comrade.
The cavewoman put her right hand on Magus' forehead. There wasn't the slightest reaction from the warlock.
"Bad, bad, bad," she said, concerned, "where Marle? Marle heal better..."
"We don't know where she is," Schala said with a new grain of despair in her voice, "please try to help him!"
"Ayla will try," the cavewoman said, uncertain.
She took a step backwards and raised her right hand to her lips.
Spekkio hadn't been able to give Ayla any magical abilities. He had said that she was born before that power was invented, but…
She had some kind of magic, however it wasn't of the same sort that Frog and the others used. A sort of natural, raw, clean mystical power. It was hard to explain.
The important thing was that whatever it could be, it worked.
Ayla placed a smooth kiss in her palm and then she softly blew on her hand, sending a softly red, glistening heart floating through the air towards Magus. It stopped above him and spun around, sending a waterfall of tiny stars over his head. For a moment he was completely covered in a warm, yellow light. But as it faded, no change could be detected. He didn't move, nor did his breathing become normal. Ayla shook her head.
"No good!" she said and looked at her green-skinned friend, "me heal Frog, Frog try heal Magus?"
"Let us try it," the knight said, and another heart floated through the room.
Once more his wounds healed, but he was still not sure that he really could help.
"Powers of the world, lend me the power of Water!" he exclaimed, almost furiously.
As the second wave of yellow light disappeared from Magus he took a few, deep breaths. But the hope faded as his chest once more started moving extremely little and there were no other signs of recovering. Schala turned away, shaking her head and desperately rubbing her cheeks with the right hand's fingers. Cered wrapped his arms around the princess, trying to comfort her. Frog sighed and turned his eyes to the floor.
It was no use... they couldn't help Magus.
"Frog..." Ayla suddenly said.
He looked up. Her face was like the one of a statue. Frog had never seen her looking that serious.
"Yes?" the knight said, wondering.
"Frog never ever tell Kino?" the cavewoman gravely asked.
"What? Err, not if that is thy wish...?"
Ayla looked at Magus, and then pulled a peculiar face of a mixture of determination and disgust.
"Alright," she slowly said, "Ayla will try again."
She sat down on one knee by Magus side and reached out to place her hands on both sides of his head.
'She is not going to... is she?' Frog thought, almost in fear, 'no, she would never... she could not, seriously! No, never... she would not, 'tis not possible that she would even consider to... no, she will not do that, she just would not... she will not do it... oh my God, she is doing it!'
There were several shocked gasps to be heard. Again. As Ayla's soft lips covered Magus' thin ones, he was covered in a flashing light so intense that everyone had to turn their heads away. It seemed to last forever until it finally ceased, and the cavewoman staggered backwards.
"Me not feel so good..." she mumbled, pulled out her tongue and rubbed it with her fingers.
"No, me understand..." Frog whispered.
Ayla was obviously braver than anyone ever could have imagined…
There was a low moan to be heard from Magus, and he slowly opened his eyes.
"Good," Ayla said with enormous relief, "me really happy not doing that for nothing!"
"Janus! Thank all powers!"
Schala fell down on her knees at his side and carefully grabbed his shoulders, not daring to hug him in his state.
"Thank all good powers you're back!" she almost sobbed.
He tried to focus his eyes, seemed a bit dizzy.
"Schala...?" he whispered in a husky, confused voice, "I feel so... so..."
Magus' eyes began to work properly, but that only brought him the information that he was lying down, surrounded by Guardia soldiers. His mouth became a thin scar in his face, as well as his eyes.
"No, no," Schala hurriedly said, "don't worry, both Frog and queen Leene has raised their voices about letting you go."
He couldn't help staring at her.
"What, the queen?" he said, disbelieving.
Leene leaned over the fence and carefully smiled down at him.
"You saved Frog, and therefore we wouldn't harm you," she said.
Magus slowly raised his hand and pinched the bridge of his nose, trying to get a grip of the situation. Molor hissed happily and rubbed his head against the warlock's cheek.
"Ayla glad to help!" the cavewoman smiled.
Magus turned his head and spotted her for the first time.
"Did you heal me?" he asked, frowning.
Ayla tried to look innocent; she wasn't good at it.
"Yeah, me and Frog healed you," she said, "teamwork good, you badly hurt!"
Magus' eyes caught the knight, who just smiled a bit.
"I've got a strange feeling that there is something that you don't want to tell me," the warlock suspiciously said.
"Heck, no!" the whole room's population exclaimed.
The warlock's right eyebrow went up, and he turned to his sister.
"Schala, what the hell is going on?"
She smiled calmingly and shook her head.
"Nothing is going on, Janus. You just need too rest a bit."
Before he could protest, she had put her hand on his forehead.
"Now sleep," she softly said, "liani sha te…"
Magus blinked and shook his head in a tired attempt to fight back her spell, but he couldn't since he still was weakened. His eyes closed and he fell into a deep, healthy slumber. This time, his breath was deep and calm.
Schala stood up and turned to Ayla, almost shining with relief.
"I can't thank you enough for helping him, but I think that it's better that he never hears the truth," the woman with blue hair said with a smile.
Ayla nodded and grimaced.
"Me glad to save Magus," she said, "but me want to return home now, wash mouth for many moons!"
There was a silence and then, suddenly, a giggle. Once more, everyone turned to stare at queen Leene. She tried to hide her wide smile behind one of her hands.
"I'm sorry," she said, fighting back more laughter, "it's just that... this is just... too bizarre!"
"Thou art right, my liege," Frog smiled, "'tis truly a strange moment."
Then he too began to laugh, and with him everyone else.
"This will hopefully never reach the history books!" king Guardia XXI exclaimed between two explosions of laughter.
Schala caught Frog's eyes and gave him a big smile, leaning against the shaking Cered.
"Thou musteth tell thy brother that thou art in love with thy friend," the knight smiled.
"I will," Schala nodded, "as soon as he has fully recovered."
"Please allow me the honor of being there when Magus realizes that he is related to Crono."
Schala gave a soft laughter.
"Alright, Frog, but please don't tease him."
"What, would I ever consider that?"
"Yes you would."
"Thee knoweth me well already."
"Dost thou believe that he will ever wake up?" Cered asked one week later.
Ayla wasn't there by then of course, she had left as soon as the laugh-thing was over with.
"I didn't even use much power in the spell!" Schala said, most concerned.
She put a hand on her brother's forehead with a sigh.
"I dost really thinketh that he seem more healthy than ever," Frog said, "I dost not believe there art place for worries in our hearts."
Molor nodded and gave Frog a friendly gaze for the very first time.
After seven days of sleep, one could almost even detect a tiny, tiny grain of color in Magus' pale face. Somehow, and luckily, no one in the town had heard about that the Prince of Darkness was sleeping in the castle. Should that truth reach the people there would be trouble big time for sure.
Magus had been moved to a bed in one of the towers, since the heal-quarters needed to be nursed by bricklayers and carpenters. It was only said that Flea and Slash had had been fought back by Schala, not a single word about the warlock had left the castle.
"I am sure that he will be fine as he awakes," Frog calmed the warlock's sister.
She managed to smile and nodded.
"If he sleeps this long, 'tis because he is in need of it," Cered said to help calming her.
"Truly," Frog said.
But then he looked a bit thoughtful.
"Alas, if he dost not awake soon, Flea and Slash will be fine once more and then they might give us more problems. It could be that they already hath recovered from thine attack, Schala."
"Yes, that is a concern... I would like to open a Gate leading to a couple of days earlier than this, but it can be dangerous to enter a time where you already are, if you understand what I mean. It might even screw up history, that's what happened in Zeal when Janus returned there."
"Frog, mayhap thou and me together with Molor should try to find the evil ones," Cered suggested, "Schala could stay here and guard Janus."
"No, I think we better should wait until he awakes and go together," the blue-haired woman said, "those two monsters might have some dirty tricks left."
She sat down on the chair that stood by the bedside, tiredly watching her brother.
"I do understand that you are tired, Janus," she said, "but I would feel much better if you'd wake up."
"Dost he never get hungry?" Cered mumbled, scratching his head.
"I am starting to think that he always musteth overdo everything," Frog sighed, shrugging his shoulders.
"No, I never killed you properly, did I?" Magus snarled and opened his eyes.
Molor purred of relief when a gloved hand patted his head as greeting. Schala stood up, smiling warmly.
"Do you feel any better?" she asked.
"It feels like I've been sleeping forever," the warlock said, massaging his own forehead.
"No, only one humble week," Frog informed him.
Schala carefully pushed her brother back as he tried to sit up.
"Calm down, I'm sure you needed it."
"What happened?" he asked, frowning.
"Thou fought Flea and Slash, then afterwards me and Ayla had to heal thee. Remembereth thee naught?" Frog said.
Magus pinched himself over the bridge of his nose; it was starting to become a habit.
"So when do they plan to burn me by the stake?" he muttered, "you can't be serious about that they will just let me walk away."
"Of course we are serious," Schala told him, "Leene won't allow anyone to hurt you, and neither will any of us."
He shook his head, confused.
"I can't believe that. Why on earth would the queen of this damned time want to let me go, after all what I've done?"
"Thy heart dost not remembereth the paths of the human mind and our knowledge of mercy," Frog said and smiled a bit.
"Spare me your speeches, pest."
"Thy brother is fully recovered, Schala," The knight concluded with another smile.
The warlock sat up in the bed.
"For once you are right, Frog. Mercy or not, it's probably best that I leave," he said and placed his feet on the floor.
He stood up, staggered and had to lean against the wall to keep from falling. Molor rose up and put his big, black head under the warlock's arm to give him some more support standing.
Schala put her hands on Magus' shoulders and made him sit down again.
"Look, Janus, you haven't been eating for a week..."
"I'll be fine," he said.
"No, you won't," Schala replied, a bit harshly, "I can feel your blood run thickly even through your clothes."
Magus shook his head.
"I feel so... cold," he mumbled, with no emotion in his voice at all.
Frog touched Cered's hand, and nodded towards the door. They left, and let the siblings be alone. Asking Molor to leave somehow didn't feel healthy.
"Has something happened?" the guards in the stairs asked.
"He has awakened," Cered reported with a smile.
"So, what's he doing now?"
"He is talking with his sister. I beliveth it is better to leaveth them with only themselves for a while," Frog said.
Three hours later Schala went downstairs and into the throne-room, alone. She had a small, warm smile upon her lips. The king and his wife stood up from the thrones, Frog and Cered straightened their backs.
"So, what did he say?" the king asked, "where is he?"
"He has left the castle," Schala said without dropping the smile.
"Yes, he said that he would never return, unless there would be extreme circumstances. But I don't know what that could be."
She bowed from the waist, like Cered did to greet people.
"I once more thank you for your kindness, Your Majesty," she said.
"No problem," the king and queen smiled.
Frog walked up the short stair and sat down on one knee in front of Leene, lowering his head.
"My liege," he said, "I ask of thee to allow me the honor of hunting Flea and Slash down together with lady Schala and Sir Cered. I dare to say that lady Ayla healed me completely, and therefore I am ready for battling these two dangerous foes."
"I cannot command you not to go, Frog, I know that would be cruel," she said, "even though I'd be happier if you stayed, I allow you to go on this quest."
"I thank thee, my liege."
Frog stood up.
"Let us depart, my friends," he said with a smile.
"Do be careful," Leene told him as Schala opened a Gate.
"I will, I swear," Frog calmed the queen.
And so he left the his own time again, together with Cered and the Prince of Darkness' sister.
Chapter 11 Cered's time and hometown
They stepped out into a cloudy day, on a road.
"Ah, how wonderful to see the houses of my hometown again!" Cered said with a wide smile and pointed.
There were rooftops to be seen above a nearby hill.
"So 'tis 5300 BC, then?" Frog concluded.
"Yes. Come on, let's go," Schala said.
They started walking towards the town.
The houses were small, tidy and looked somehow cute. All of them had a statue of a dragon at the side of the door, in different sizes between one and three foot tall. A few women were standing by the well in the town- square and some children were running around, playing and laughing. But except them, there were no other people around.
"Forgive my query," Frog said, "but why art there statues by all the houses?"
"They art protecting us from evil spirits," Cered explained, "alas, they cannot keep monsters away."
"Art there monsters even in this time?"
Schala and Cered nodded.
"So it is," the princess of Zeal said, "but they were becoming less aggressive when me and my two friends were here last time. At least in this area…"
Frog understood by the grins on his companions' lips and smirked as well.
"Cered, Schala!" a small girl suddenly called.
She quit hunting an even younger boy and ran over to the travelers. Her simple, warmly yellow dress and fairly long red brown hair flapped and flew behind her as she rushed forward. Cered smiled and bent down to hug her.
"Hello Cali," he said.
"I hath missed thee, brother!" the girl yelled and hugged him dearly.
Then she turned to Schala, looking at her from top to toe.
"Oh, thou look so beautiful!" the child breathed, "but were be thy weapons and other clothes?"
"We've got much to tell," Schala smiled, "but firstly, you should meet our friend Frog here."
Cered released Cali and she stared at the knight with open mouth. Frog calmly returned the gaze, used to people looking at him like that the first time.
"Why dost thee bring a monster to our fair town?" she finally said, nervously glancing at her brother.
Being only about seven, she had already got a good grip of words.
"Cali…" Cered began with a frown, even though he had reacted in the same way.
"I am not a monster, young lady," Frog said, without any anger, "my body might be a one which remindeth of a foe, but my mind and heart art the ones' of pure human."
"Oh," Cali said, "I ask of thee to forgive my impudence."
"No harm has reached my mind," the knight kindly said and smiled.
The girl watched him in puzzlement for a moment. He waited for it, knowing well what was coming.
"But why art thee a great frog, then?" she finally asked.
"It was a... an accident," the knight replied.
"Oh. Come with me, brother. Father and mother hath carried great worries!"
Cali grabbed Cered's hand and excitedly began to drag her brother towards one of the houses. He threw a helpless smile at his two friends, who followed the siblings with low chuckles.
A few moments later Frog bowed to greet Cered's parents. They were both about forty years old, and in good health. However, the father had to walk leaning on a stick; his left leg seemed useless. The older ones took Frog's appearance calmly. They obviously trusted their son for not bringing a monster at home, at least not an evil one. The knight swiftly pondered if it could have something to do with the fact that Cered had brought Molor into the family once upon a time…
"I am honored to meet a warrior from another time," the mother smiled after a short presentation, "but now I beg thee to excuse me and Schala for a moment. Come with me, flower."
She more or less pulled the blue-haired woman inside another room. Schala just waved with one hand, smiling with a sigh.
"Let us sit down while we wait," Cered said.
The table was about one feet high and the three men and Cali had to sit on their knees by it, but Frog had somewhat gotten used to finding different customs in other times and didn't think much about it.
"And now tell me," the father in the house said and pulled his left leg into a better position, "what hath been thy doings since thee left with Molor and Schala, my son?"
Cered cleared his throat and began to tell the story about his, the snake and Schala's journey.
"We hath been traveling for three years, actually," he reported, "but 'tis only how we experience it, I suppose. 'Tis a bit confusing to go through time. However we found nothing that would help us find Janus. No matter how hard we sought we could not find him... but one day Schala found a picture from around 630 AD, which truly gave her a shock. The picture was of a grown, pale man, carrying a scythe. And he had blue hair, just like Janus and Schala. The text to the image said 'The Dark Lord Magus, the Prince of Darkness. A terrible warlock leading the Mystics in a bloody war against the humans in the end of the sixth and the beginning of the seventh century. Killed by brave heroes with the help of the sacred sword Masamune'. Of course we immediately tried to enter that dark time, but for some reason Schala could not open a Gate leading there."
"But was he an adult? Schala always said that her brother was no older than me!" Cali pointed out, puzzled.
"We did not know if it truly was him," Cered told her, "and of course we did not want to believeth that such a monster could be Janus. Concluding that we could not go there to see what was the truth, Schala was sure that there was somebody watching us. We thought that it maybe hath to do with the beast Lavos that she hath told us about, and of whose evil heirs we had killed five. She decided for an attempt to fool him, by somehow trying to sendeth some kind of possession which had been hers to this Magus."
"When I saw the picture back then," Schala called from the other room, "I knew I had seen him earlier. But when I saw him in real life I only recognized him as the mysterious prophet."
"So thee did meet Magus, then?" Cali asked, eyes wide and glistening with fascination.
"Yes," he said, "later we did meet him. But before that, Schala thought that the one thing that Janus would never forget was her pendant, which she had lost as she was thrown through the Gate that brought her here. Thereupon we tried to enter the time where she was born, 12000 BC, and try to retrieve her treasure from the Ocean Palace before that collapsed. However we ended up eight years later than planned. There we found out whom it was that had blocked our path to the dark lord Magus; an old fiend of Schala named Dalton. And he had already retrieved her pendant and used it for his sinister plans. He had built a fortress of pieces of the Ocean Palace, and made it fly with the help of the magic pendant. Threatening us that he could attack innocent people, he took Schala, Molor and myself captive. He also put a curse upon Schala with the help of her pendant, which would send her all wounds that he wouldst suffer. He even told us that his goal was to capture Janus, who was also traveling through time, and kill both the siblings. For a week we were helpless, until suddenly Janus and a friend of his arrived."
"I beg thee, do not give me the title of his comrade," Frog said and shook his head, "he simply forced me to come with him after saving my life."
Cered had to smile.
"I am sorry, my friend," he said, "anyhow, Janus was indeed the Prince of Darkness, once corrupted by monsters and his hate against Lavos."
The guardian of the emperor's peace turned to his knighted friend and spoke once more.
"What happened in the throne room, Frog? No time hath been left for that story to reach my ears."
"Aye, I firstly have to confess that I do not carry any warm feelings towards Magus, whom thee call Janus. It is his doing that I am what I am. Though I hath been fighting by his side against Lavos, we cannot become friends. And this sword I wield is the Masamune, the only truly effective weapon against him. Dalton knew that, and as he trapped Magus he tried to pursue me to end the warlock's life. But instead I attacked Schala and as the curse upon her worked backwards too, Dalton died. After that we released Cered and Molor, and went here after that I hath asked my liege for permission follow Schala and her friend here for a while."
"Where is Molor, by the way?" Cered's father asked.
"He is with Janus, who went to another time for a while. We will meet both of them as soon as we art equipped, Dalton stole and destroyed our weapons," the son told him.
The older man nodded, resolute.
"I see. Thou better bring thy grandfather's katanas with thee, my boy."
"I thank thee, father," Cered said.
There was the sound of two pairs of feet hitting the floor in a walk. Schala and Cered's mother came back into the kitchen.
"I'm almost ready," the blue-haired woman smiled, "I only need a new staff, then I can enter battles again. What do you think, Frog?"
The knight had to take a deep breath and swallow before he could speak:
"I beliveth that Magus will cut my eyes out because I hath seen thee dressed like that."
Magus and Molor looked up as the sound of an opening Gate was to be heard. The sun sparkled upon the fortress' black walls while the two guards easily got up from resting in the shadow of a sand dune.
Cered now carried two thin swords inside two sheaths by his belt, and had a red headband instead of the piece of cloth that Schala had given him. Frog looked much the same, but had a very strange smile in his face.
"What are you smirking about?" Magus snorted.
Then Schala stepped out of the Gate.
"How do I look, Janus?" she said with a slanted smile.
She wore a top covering her chest and half her stomach, and a skirt that only reached halfway down to her knees. The few clothes were all colored in her typical, soft purple. She also wore sandals and her pendant, but nothing else. In one hand she held a staff made of dark wood; it was as long as she was tall. The simple weapon had carvings of strange symbols, but otherwise it was just a long piece of hard, round wood.
If she hadn't got the staff she could almost have passed as a woman from Ayla's village.
"Shouldn't you... at least have some kind of armor?" Magus finally said.
"'Tis the traditional battle-clothes for staff-carriers," Cered explained, "'tis as light as their weapon."
"Humph. What about protecting the weak points?"
Schala smiled a little and raised the free hand to point upwards in front of her face.
"Powers of the world, lend me the Power of Light," she said, "liryla soh sha."
Her clothes started to glow. The light grew and covered everything except her hands, face and feet.
"This reduces damage as good as any metal-plates," she explained, "I call it Sunlight armor. And for late battles I've got the Moonlight armor. Liryla lati sha."
By the second chanting the light ceased and became deeply blue.
"I just don't want you to enter battles without minding about surviving," Magus said.
Schala shook her head with a smile and made her magic armor disappear with a wave of her hand.
"What have you planned for today, then?" she asked.
"I've been preparing to destroy the fortress," her brother replied, "we better walk a couple of hundred yards away, just to be sure no accidents occur."
They went over to a sand dune that Magus judged as distant enough. From the magic depths of his cloak the warlock brought forth three small bottles containing a warmly yellow liquid; mid ethers. He gave two of them to Schala and opened the third.
"Keep them ready," he told her, "I will need them in a moment."
And with that, he emptied the bottle left in his hand and put it back inside the depths of the red cloth. Then he turned to face the fortress and raised his hands.
"Dark powers of the world, I dare to ask of you to lend me strength!" he almost roared, "na matala uloro worch netal vonodra kchar!"
At first, the dark building seemed to grow. Then suddenly, without any sound at all, it dissolved into thin air. No trace of it was left, no wind, no pressure threw anything around. The fortress just disappeared.
Magus staggered, but Molor rose up to give him support as the warlock sat down carefully. Schala hurriedly opened the second mid ether and held it up to her brother's lips.
"Interesting result," the warlock muttered after swallowing the liquid.
"What on earth were thee doing?" Frog asked.
"I set up five Dark Matters inside of the fortress," Magus said, "then I simply triggered them."
"Hath thee gone mad?"
"Setting spells up like that is less consuming than chanting a direct one, pest, it just takes a while."
Magus snorted and emptied the last bottle. Then he spoke again:
"Alright, let's go to the End of Time and talk to Spekkio."
Frog, Schala and Cered nodded. The only woman in the troop raised her hands.
"Do I need to aim for a special time to get us there?" she asked.
"No," Frog said, "any Gate will bring us there if we travel more than three at the same time."
She started to mumble.
"Wait!" Cered suddenly said, "where is Molor?"
They looked around, and finally Frog spotted a black, long thing on the top of another sand dune about thirty yards away. The snake had raised up, almost standing only on the tip of his tail and seemed somehow very angry.
"What art thee doing?" the knight called.
"Come here, Molor!" Magus called, frowning.
The snake hurriedly crawled over the beach and over to his friends, hissing angrily. Magus watched him with raised eyebrows for a moment, just like the other three in the group. Then the warlock turned to look at the spruce forest that arose from the sand and changed the terrain from beach to something green.
"Why is he so mad?" Cered wondered.
"He says that he can feel the presence of a Lavos' spawn in the forest," Magus said without turning around.
"In this era?" Frog said.
"Yes, strange as it may seem."
"Then we better be on our way," Cered said.
He suddenly froze.
"Wait a moment, Janus... Molor what?!"
"He told me that he feels a Lavos' spawn," Magus said, patiently.
"Thee... communicate?" Cered said, lightly said astonished.
Frog waved with a hand.
"No use wondering, my friend," the knight said, "there be no reason for amaze."
"You get smarter bit by bit, Frog," Magus said with a small sneer, "it might be a slow progress, but there really is some intelligence somewhere deep inside. Astounding, but true."
"We better find the spawn," Schala hurriedly said to stop the argument, "Molor, would you show us the way?"
"Should we not better wait until tomorrow?" Cered suggested with a glance at the sky, "the sun is sinking, and fighting at night is never good."
"That is true," Schala said, "but I think it's better to take care of the monster as soon as possible. If we don't do something, it might feel our presence and prepare for our attack. It could be that it already knows."
"Let us go, then," Frog said.