Crono squinted as he examined the demolished bridge from the distance. The bridge seemed like little more than a toothpick whose entire midsection had just been removed, leaving only the two severed ends. The damage was fresh enough for smoke and the occasional glowing embers of flame to be glimpsed, even from afar, completing what was a considerably disturbing sight to both Lucca and Crono. Truly, the southern continent was completely inaccessible on foot. I heard something about a guy named Magus and his army destroying it, Crono replied.
Lucca shot her head his direction, adjusting her glasses as she looked him over. You dont know who Magus is? He returned a blank stare. Do you not know any of our kingdoms history, Crono?
Of course I do!
She sighed hopelessly. Magus was the ruler of the Mystics. Little was, or is, known about the details of his life, but shortly before the end of the war he vanished. No one ever heard from him again. Again, she shifted her glasses smartly.
I knew that. He turned back around, looking at the hole in the forest that would lead them to the cathedral, which peeked over the treetops like the head of a gopher out of its secret domain. Come on, Lucca. The cathedrals just through this path.
Right. From there, they made their way to the cathedral and approached the ornate entrance. Slowly and reverently, they entered, Lucca making sure to remove her helmet before going through the large doors.
The ornate sanctuary was gallant and demanding of respect, with a ceiling so high that it felt as though there was no ceiling at all. As they stepped onto the soft red velvet carpet and jogged down the aisle, four nuns, each standing isolated at their own pews, turned, almost with excitement, at the sight of them. Their heads were mostly concealed by the traditional garb of the nuns, and each smiled shortly as though putting on a forceful act of kindness. Then, they looked at each other, only for a moment, with a certain hungry flare in their eyes, and waited as the two strangers approached. Crono and Lucca slowed their pace out of respect for the nuns, passing by each as they made their way down the aisle.
Excuse us, ladies. We are looking for the Chancellor from the castle. Would you happen to know of his whereabouts? Crono waited patiently for an answer, feeling a slight tightness in his stomach over the nuns odd expressions.
The nuns looked at each other with such enthusiastic, jittery, and wide-eyed exhilaration that it was almost comical, yet anomalous. They began speaking accelerando and in no particular sequence, spasmodically turning to each other.
The Chancellor is a very peaceful and kind man
Yes We want nothing but world peace or a piece of the world, tee, hee She giggled strangely and looked at the others.
Oh dear! It looks like you could use some food and a place to rest!
You might like to stick around for the organ recital. Its a real killer!
People wouldnt know what to do with themselves in a truly peaceful world! My, what delicious, er I mean delightful looking people!
Crono and Lucca began to wonder if the nuns had made personal use of the communal wine and decided to politely acknowledge their responses with affable smiles before side-stepping away.
Lucca slipped through a row of pews, making her way around and towards the pulpit. Crono stayed relatively near, fascinated by a small pipe organ sitting in the northwest corner of the sanctuary. The nuns eyes followed them around, worsening an already discomforting situation.
Crono approached Lucca, who was standing around the elevated sermon area, aware of their invading eyes. She had her back to them, facing towards a large, stain glass window beyond the pulpit. I dont trust these nuns at all, she whispered. I know that may be disrespectful, but theyre watching us like hungry wolves!
I dont like it either, but what should we do? The Chancellor doesnt seem to be here, and these crazy nuns arent helping. As he finished his sentence he suddenly became distracted by something on the floor and stooped to pick it up. It was a small, shiny hairpin with elegant designs etched all around by an undoubtedly skillful craftsman.
Lucca watched as he examined the object with fascination. What did you find?
A hairpin. A really nice hairpin, but thats all.
Lucca cocked her head to see the design more closely, suddenly snatching the pin from his hand. Thats Guardias royal crest!
What ? Crono stopped as he noticed the nuns coming out of their pews to surround them. They formed a semicircle around Crono and Lucca, their expressions now morphing from childishly giddy to vicious, foamy, and savage. Uh Lucca
Unsure of the situation, they backed several paces away as Crono drew his sword and Lucca her gun. They watched in horror as bursts of eerie blue flames ignited at the nuns feet, surrounding and enveloping them in a writhing column of cold fire. Lucca nearly dropped her gun as the flames receded to reveal the reformed creatures standing before them, drooling with insanity. The new forms were taller with pale, yellow skin, ominous claws on their four-fingered hands, large, blood-thirsty eyes, long hair as red as the carpet below them, and an ear-piercing scream that was worse than long nails fiercely scraping down a chalkboard.
Immediately they began lashing out. Lucca loaded her little gun with several sleek pebbles she had brought along. Were going to have to fight them off! Crono acknowledged, setting himself in a battle-ready stance with sword in hand.
Two of the monsters began to approach Crono, while the others set their sights on Lucca. Crono leapt onto a second-row pew as his foes crept closer, shifting his eyes rapidly between the two of them. Lucca was standing rigid by the east wall, ready to shoot whichever creature came near to her first.
As Cronos pursuers began to surround him, he jumped onto the front row bench, slashing smoothly at the nearest monster as he landed. Blue blood broke free from its arm as it backed down momentarily. Filled with adrenaline, he turned to the other. You want some of this, too, eh?!
I wouldnt come any closer if I were you Lucca chanted to the other two as she pointed her gun in their direction. You dont know what Ive got here, do you? In an instant, she shot a pebble straight into one of the venomous eyes. The monster reared back with shock, shrieking as the other watched it cradle its torn eye. Told ya.
The remaining nuisance near Crono was now many times angrier than before as it wildly slashed out towards him with its claws. Dodging back from the attacks, he finally lunged out with his blade, but fell to the ground as his sword was swiped from his hand. Mumbling curses under his breath, he got up as the monster closed in, kicking it in the stomach and rolling around to reclaim his sword. When he did, he pounded the monsters head with the blunt end, knocking it flat. He looked up in time to see his first victim sneaking out of the entrance and released a triumphant grunt in response.
Luccas second monster dodged the pebbles well, ignoring the pain of any that happened to connect. Soon, her ammunition supply was gone, and she had no way of escaping from the wall. Improvising, she pulled out her hammer and prepared to fight hand-to-hand. As the monster shrieked and closed in, she readied herself, grinding her teeth in anticipation of the sure pain to come. Strangely, however, the monster stopped and screamed with pain as Crono drew a long slash down its back. Thats gonna leave a mark, thought Crono. Turning, the monster faced its new hindrance with multiplied rage and foam dripping from its mouth.
Before it attacked, it looked around the room, seeing the state of its comrades. Crono authoritatively said, Youd probably better leave now.
The other conscious monster continued to hold its eye, shrieking, Lets get out of here! Crono stepped aside and stretched his arm towards the exit as the monster dashed away from the pews, followed by Luccas first and only victim.
Lucca met with Crono in front of the first row of pews by the east wall, holstering her gun near a doorway leading to some other administrative rooms. Phew! That was close!
Like a striking snake, the door flung open, and another monster ran in, grabbing Lucca around the waist and carrying her with it. Aack! Before anyone could react, a strange figure emerged from the door in a green blur, moving more in leaps than in strides, and stabbed into the monsters back with a double-edged broadsword. The creature reared back in pain, dropping Lucca roughly to the floor. The lethal blow from the green-skinned rescuer stopped the monster in its tracks as it winced and crumbled to the floor, never to move again.
Crono and Lucca could now see their rescuer in full detail as he turned to address them. There, smiling dutifully with colorless lips stood a humanoid frog! He was fully clad in the garb of a traveling warrior, complete with a golden breastplate, a dark green cape, black swordsman gloves, and white breeches held together with large cross-stitches. A large black sheath hung from his brown belt for his broadsword opposite the side of a blue pouch for knickknacks. The left-handed frog carried a round, golden buckler on his right arm. His black topboots with an overturned top of golden yellow made little noise as he approached them silently.
He meticulously fit the broadsword back into its place by his side, turning to meet his bulging eyes with their unstirred stares. Finally, he spoke, Lower thine guard and thourt allowing the enemy in. The voice was like that of a young human male.
Huh? snapped Crono.
Sheath thy weapon, Sir.
Oh! Sure. He did so, looking at Lucca, who was on the verge of panic.
Thourt here to save the Queen?
Yes, we are
The frog overlooked them both, croaking, The lair is deep within; however, one soul can do naught compared to three. Wilt thou accompany me?
Lucca finally snapped from her shock. A a frog!? Crono, its a talking frog! I hate frogs!
Crono raised an eyebrow to her, wanting to remind her that this frog had just saved her life. The frog simply croaked again, speaking in an archaic sounding, somewhat unnatural form of dialect. My guise doth not incur thy trust Turning away, he sighed, saying, Very well, do as thou please but I shall save the Queen.
As he began to walk away, Crono widened his eyes and chided her, urgently whispering, Lucca! Whats the matter with you?! We just fought off four screaming monsters and now youre freaking out over a frog that just saved your life!
Realizing her rudeness, Lucca turned away from Crono and shouted to the frog, who was halfway to the exit. W, wait! He turned back around. You dont seem like a bad uh, person-frog-thing I mean
What shes saying is that well join you, added Crono. Lucca shot him a glance filled with shock at his decision.
Ill just have to handle it! I mean deal with him! Whats your name?
The frog seemed to smile as he approached them. Frog will do.
Alright nice to meet you, Frog.
Yes, and thanks! added Crono.
Surely there must needs be a secret path to their lair. Mayhap a hidden door lurks nigh? Let us search the environs.
Immediately they spread themselves around the sanctuary in search for any possible entrance to the hidden lair. Lucca stooped over and began scanning through the several aisles of pews. Frog crouched along the walls, trying to find any indication of a concealed passageway. Crono began his search around the backside of the altar.
I dont see anything in the aisles! reported Lucca after scanning all the way down one side of the sanctuary. See anything, Crono?
I havent found anything unusual, he replied after searching the altar.
Frog turned from the north wall not far from Crono. Nor have I.
After a few moments, Crono began investigating the small pipe organ, checking every key and pedal. Then he stood back and eyed it from slightly farther away, but saw nothing out of the ordinary. He looked back at Lucca, who was busy checking the other section of seats, and then looked back at the organ, cocking his head sideways just a bit. He noticed that it was wrongly positioned by only a very slight amount from the north wall behind it. Its right side was almost indistinguishably pulled from the wall more than the left, but it caught Cronos interest regardless.
In light of this observation, he approached the organ and reached his hand around the right side, moving it slowly up and down the back edge. As his hand moved towards the bottom, he felt a small object protruding from the wooden frame. He peered around the edge to see the object, and noticed that it was nothing more than a small obscure lever. Without delay, he turned to the others. Ive found something here!
Luccas head sprouted up from behind the second row pew. Well, flip it, then!
He followed her command and moved the small lever before reconsidering. As a result, three chords sounded out, triggering a rumble as a portion of the wall disappeared on the opposite side of the room from the organ. That was simple enough, he said in return.
Frog grunted in response. Afore entering yon lair, dost thou desire to learn of that within?
Crono looked at Lucca, still unused to his form of dialogue. How would you know whats in there?
Frog responsively rose what would serve as an eyebrow before answering. Why, the creatures inside be Mystics, all living to defile the kingdom. Manifolds of Mystics come hither as a station for spying upon the castle actions. Fortunately, most hath gone into Maguss military service, leaving not as many vermin herein. Those that lurketh include Naga-ettes, whom we just vanquished, snake-ish Mystics deemed Gnashers, the gargoyle-like Diablos, and bulky creatures of obesity called Henches. None possess special abilities and they be mortal, like ourselves.
We understand, said Lucca. Lets go.
Crono, who was nearest to the door, opened it to reveal a dark stairwell heading down a fair distance. A scarce amount of blazing torches lit the downward corridor, allowing them to see their way down. The passage was straight and narrow, but not exorbitantly long as it came to an abrupt end at an old wooden door, where they crowded together and prepared to enter.
Crono looked back at the others, saw that they were waiting, and then nodded as he turned to open the door, entering rather heedlessly. The surroundings inside were similar to that of the sanctuary, with a much lower ceiling and red carpet on the floor of a hall stretching to the left. Several well-lit candles in the gray brick walls illuminated the area well.
As a result of their casual entrance, three Diablos quickly met them. Hey! Howd you humans get in here?! Lets get `em! Indeed, they were like gargoyles in their shape, possessing dull silver skin, small horns, a pair of undersized wings, and acrobatic abilities.
The invading trio drew their weapons and made quick waste of the opposing efforts. Soon, the Diablos were lying immobile on the floor.
They werent very tough, commented Crono.
Aye, but a nuisance. I advise an apt use of stealth henceforth.
I agree, added Lucca. We dont want the whole place alerted that were here.
Frog began scanning the small hall. There were two double doors at each endone across from the entrance and the other in the same place at the opposite end. Subsequently, he knelt at the nearest one and bent to look underneath. Then, pointing at Crono, he ordered, Look beneath yonder door. We shall devise our strategy according to our sightings.
Crono did as he was bid, walking to the halls other end and flooring himself to see through the crack. Lucca stood nearest to Frog, watching them both. Well what do you see?
Its a really big room with a balcony on each side that I think leads to other rooms, reported Crono. And also a main hall between them.
Aye, and few patrolling Mystics Ah, wait! One cometh! Stay quiet Frog leapt up and waited by the doors side for a Diablos guard to bust through. Lucca looked at Crono as though slightly worried, but he showed no sign of sharing in her apprehension. He was already beginning to trust Frogs seemingly professional and well-trained judgments.
Soon, the Diablos came through the door without caution: his only mistake. Before processing the scene, he turned dumbly to Frog, but only for an instant. Frogs dark green cape flew as he cupped his amphibious hand over the vermins mouth, neatly spinning him around and clouting him hard with his shield. As he released the form, it crumpled to the ground loosely. Ready thyselves. We shall advance swiftly. He pulled out his broadsword and glanced around. I shall take this end. You two strike from thither. He motioned to the other set of doors, and they wordlessly complied with weapons drawn.
They watched as Frog listened carefully for a sign of suspicion from the fallen Diabloss comrades. Lucca began loading her gun with some agile-looking darts, Crono eyeing her with interest. These should pack quite a sting, she whispered with a cunning smile.
Suddenly, Frog gave the signal, and they kicked through the door like soldiers on a raid. As they came through, three Diablos henchmen watched the trio with expressions of undutiful dumbness. Two of the giant, cobra-like Gnashers slithered down the steps from the balcony on Frogs side, hissing menacingly and wiggling their snake like bodies. They balanced like cobras, reaching heights comparable to that of humans with their blue skin, red underbelly, and horrifying fangs.
As Crono took an offensive stance several feet from the Diablos, he caught a clear glimpse of the entire room and the main hall, which led up some steps to a set of double doors between the two balconies. Much to his dismay, two more Gnashers and two heavyset, yellow-skinned Henches started approaching them. Their large beak-shaped mouths revealed rotted teeth and aggressive intent.
Frog, too, noticed the unanticipated force of vermin. Incorporating agility and skill, he winded a Diablos with a kick in the gut and then whacked it with his shield. He spun neatly around to watch the two Gnashers on the steps above, holding forth his buckler to defend against their fangs.
Crono shouted urgently to Lucca, Go up this balcony and try to get a shot at the others! Hurry!
With a nod, she dashed up the steps, nimbly turning to the right and running down the rail parallel to the main hall. She looked down at her gun and then watched as Crono dodged the Diabloss movements swiftly, while Frog held off the other two Gnashers with desperation. Her hands shaking with adrenaline, she raised her dart gun and pointed it towards the head of one of the giant snakes.
Crono turned as he heard the sound of a creature fall in extreme pain. The Gnasher whom Lucca had targeted lay twitching on the floor, a small dart protruding from its head. As Crono turned back, the Diablos lunged out with great speed, throwing Crono down by the neck. In this second, Crono and the Diablos began rolling on the floor; Frog tensely waited for the Gnashers to lunge from the stairs; and the comrades of Luccas victim eyed her with confused anger.
Lucca was temporarily taken-aback by the Gnashers fall, but felt obliged to answer to its mates. Youll get yours if you keep looking at me like that! She then loaded another dart.
When Frogs pursuers were finally at his level, he decided to charge at one with the front of his shield held before him. It did not expect this abrupt attack from him and fell victim to the hard hit, falling hard on its side.
Crono rolled with the Diablos on the floor wildly, his saber several feet away. However, the creature was considerably lighter, so Crono threw him off within seconds. It was soon back to its feet like a resilient acrobat, prancing over to Crono and kicking with mild force before he could get up.
Lucca prepared to lift her gun, but stopped at a sound faintly coming from a small hallway behind her. She turned cautiously, finally recognizing it as pounding and muffled shouts. Help! Were in here! It all came from behind a door on the right.
Whos there?! returned Lucca.
Oh, thank God! Quick, trigger the switch and get us out of here!
Wait she turned her head spasmodically between the battle scene and the wooden door. Youre not going anywhere until I know who you are!
There was a slight pause from the young mans voice. Were soldiers from the castle. Therere two of us.
Lucca! Where are you?! interrupted the intense shout from Crono.
She turned to go. Ill be right back! Going to the rail, she looked just in time to see Crono nail the Diablos in the face with two hard jabs. Ive found someone!
What?! Hurry upwe could use some help! He downed the foe with a smooth uppercut and reclaimed his sword.
Frog had no choice but to kill the fallen Gnasher for fear of its fangs at ground level. The remaining monster made for a quick retreat, so Frog was free to join Crono, after wiping down his blade on the crimson carpet. The duo stared at the two fat Henches and the lone Gnasher lined up behind them, none of them moving. They were clearly outnumbered in the showdown. Whither Lucca?
She found someone upstairs. The two remained ready to attack.
Stand down, Mystics! We come for the Queen!
A Hench smiled shrewdly, speaking in a gruff voice. You fools! Youll never get past Yakra!
* * *
Y, youre human? said a nervous soldier after Lucca abruptly opened the door.
Of course Im human! Two young soldiers still clad in battle armor greeted Lucca in their room of captivity.
Theyre hiding the Queen in the back. She must be rescued immediately!
Were going for that, but it would be great if we had your help. Please come with me quickly! My friends are in danger!
But our weaponsThey were taken, replied the other soldier, a middle aged man with a brown mustache.
That doesnt matter. We must go! shot the other. Come on!
They darted out of the room in time to watch the final exchange of words between Frog and the Hench. I eat frogs like you for breakfast!
I hath seen fawns more intimidating than thee! Stand down or fall. Tis your choice.
One of the soldiers turned to the balconys north end, noticing a chest. Swiftly, he opened it to reveal two military issue swords and shields of dark gray steel. Our weapons!
The mustached soldier stood watching. Do you see this?! Its a bloody frog! Just then, Crono and everyone below looked up to him as he bravely called, Listen to the frog, lard-for-brains! Stand down at once! His comrade tossed him his sword and Lucca raised her gun.
You know what happened to your snake buddy, she called.
The Henches looked at one another before turning back to Crono and Frog, who split ways to make a get-away path. Crono motioned his arm that way politely, saying, The exits that way. Wed hate to see anyone get hurt.
Swiftly, noisily, but without words, the three fiends jogged or slithered out, meandering around the other fallen beasts until clear. Lucca and the two soldiers came down to greet them, meeting briefly at the bottom of the stairs, where Frog had initially barged in.
So youre from the castle? asked Crono. Im Crono, thats Lucca, and this is Frog. They all nodded cordially. Thank you for your help back there.
Smiling beneath his mustache, one of them replied. No, thank you! Weve been captive here for a short time, but we were antsy to get out. These Mystics are animals!
They were talking of eating us! added the younger man.
It was a dreadful feeling! he exclaimed. He then calmed himself, suddenly remembering his manners. Forgive me. My name is Jonas, and this is Ian. He scratched his mustache roughly.
Frog croaked in impatience. Tis a pleasure to meet thee, Sirs! However, we mustnt forget th task at hand.
Crono decided to take on a small leadership role. Tell you what. Why dont you guys keep watch here, and Ill check that room upstairs. He motioned to a door just up the stairs in the wall.
Fine, we shall wait `ere.
Crono then left them, jogging up the stairs with the sense of usefulness behind him. He knew the others were watching and waiting as he creaked open the thick door and peeked inside.
Buuurrrrp! came a noise of relief from a smiling Diablos as he leaned back from a large, food-laden table. His eyes turned to Crono as he sat upright. Hey, whats with the disguise? No need for it here!
Crono stood hesitant for a moment until realizing his predicament. Comfortably, at least in appearance, he walked in and closed the door, taking a seat by the Diablos.
* * *
This is somewhat inefficient, dont you think? Jonas was visibly anxious to move.
Frog croaked agreeably. I concur. Lucca, IanStay here. We shall investigate further. Also anxious to take action, Frog led them up to the balcony and around the room Crono had entered, disappearing around a corner to the right.
* * *
Buuurrrp!! Crono turned his head to avoid exposure to the Diabloss breath.
Good one! shouted a fat Hench across the table from Crono and the Diablos. He then grabbed a flask and drank it with vicious greed. Yakras so smart! His plan to capture the Chancellor and take his place worked perfectly! Now the Queens captive and the castles in an uproar! This is rich! The Diablos and a Naga-ette, also across from Crono, joined in his hearty laughter.
Burrp! The Naga-ettes shrill and high-pitched voice made Crono somewhat uncomfortable. The ones we ate recently werent so bad. And those two soldiers we caught look rather plump and juicy It sucked drool from its mouth as Crono forced himself to take a drink of some of the near-by, stomach-scarring liquid.
* * *
Frog and Jonas had entered into a small anteroom from the balcony, where they could hear the sound of deep, yet melodious singing from behind another wooden door. For what purpose would Mystics join in song?
I dont know Jonas approached the door and listened carefully, making out the words to a reverent song of praise to evil:
Oh dearest Magus
Your flashing eyes like stars
And flowing hair
Like waves atop the sea
No sad sunny day nor any frightful bright place
can get us down as long as youre near
Theres nothing to fear
Magus, oh Magus
Our Hero, Magus!
Frog drew back with disgust. `Tis an odious ditty.
It is, indeed. Theyre paying respects to their evil ruler.
Frogs head shook repugnantly with a croak. Are they so foolish as to worship this fiend?!
Aye, but this place may be of use to us yet
He leaned in closely. Twould be a dreadful pity to diminish the morale of the Mystics by interrupting their veneration
Frog smiled enthusiastically as he caught onto Jonass sarcasm. Ah not a second to waste, then! He swiftly drew his sword and kicked through the door defiantly, Jonas following close behind.
* * *
Its almost my shift. I hate pretending to be human. Its so repulsive! The Diablos lazily removed himself from his chair. Ill look in on Maguss statue before my shift.
Crono also got up after setting down his cup. Im still on my shift. Humans are so disgusting. Im just glad to be a Mystic! He had heard all that he needed to hear.
Heres to that! cheered the Hench. Crono, comprising a fine sense of accomplishment, allowed the Diablos to leave before walking out himself.
* * *
Two Diablos were fallen to sword wounds as Frog and Jonas skillfully faced a small pack of Mystics, who had just finished singing their malevolent song. Now the two foes lay there in intense pain, holding their stinging cuts. Two more Naga-ettes faced them in defense of their precious statue, which stood at the end of the long room.
Suddenly, the Naga-ettes grew desperate, charging towards the invaders as though their very lives were endangered. The two swordsmen held them off with their shields calmly, confident in their abilities to ward off the menacing creatures.
Frog and Jonas continued to deflect the Naga-ettes attacks, pushing them back and skillfully stabbing with their swords when the opportunity came, a popular tactic used by many of the castle soldiers. Finally, Frog lunged out at his vermin, leaping at its head with his shield before him, stunning it momentarily. Then, he swung his weight around the monster, grasping its neck and slamming it to the floor. As it hit the floor, he delivered a quick and lethal downward slash and then spun around to sever the head of the other. Jonas sheathed his sword with confidence. Thanks.
Wordlessly, Frog approached the statue of Magus, visually noting its minute and vile details. The tall figure looked on beyond him with its sly, slivered eyes; long, straight hairs; and sinister looking scythe, all carved to the last dark detail. The carving depicted it standing around a gallant flame with a cape flowing proudly as the eyes overlooked all that was evil. In an abrupt fury, Frog cried out, hurling his buckler high into the statues face. In a small cloud of dust, the pointy nose and the shield fell to the floor noisily, the two decommissioned Diablos watching with agony and mouths agape at the mutilation of the statue. With the worst of timing, yet another confused Diablos strolled into the room.
Jonas watched from the far end of the room, silent as Frog released his anger. He began to reach for his sword as the Diablos entered, but the creature ran from the scene upon viewing several unconscious and injured Mystics on the floor.
Tis a wretched figure Nary is its honoree worthy of the stone twas carved from nor the breath of life he breathes. With that, Frog took his shield and stormed out, Jonas following behind.
* * *
Its true! Jonas and Frog arrived to the balcony in time to hear Cronos discovery. Well, mostly true. The Chancellor is involved !
I cant believe it, sagged Ian with disappointment.
But the real Chancellor was captured and someone named Yakra posed in his place! Frog and Jonas now joined them on the floor as Crono continued. The Queen is here and the Mystics are now able to disguise themselves as humans.
We havent any time to lose, then! added Ian.
Lets go! motioned Lucca.
Comethrough the main hall to the Queens rescue! Frog led them quickly through the doors ahead, their steps thumping into the red carpet rapidly.
Six Naga-ette guards stood at the end of a long hallway, screaming viciously at the pursuers. Behind them were two more doors.
Crono, Ian, and Lucca quickly drew their weapons in preparation for battle. They stared down the Naga-ettes from beneath lowered eyebrows. Jonas turned his head to Frog and Ian, breathing, For the Queen
For th Queen, returned Frog.
Without hesitance, the three royal rescuers ran into the group of Naga-ettes, subduing them with their swords. Crono followed them, joining in the fight as Lucca kept a close watch from behind.
The scene was gruesome and without pity. The Naga-ettes were no match for the skillful swordsmanship of the four fighters. Jonas and Ian slashed completely through one of the monsters and turned to handle two more. Frog used his buckler to thrust into them, keeping their claws at bay, and jabbed out his sword with all his strength to take the creatures down. Crono fought a bit more conservatively, for he had no shield or armor for protection, though he helped by thrusting his sword through one of the Mystics from behind as Jonas kept it at bay. Soon, all six Naga-ettes were motionless on the floor, never to rebel against the Kingdom of Guardia again.
Crono kept his sword drawn, knowing that more was ahead. He could not stop thinking about Marlethe terrified shock of terror as she disappeared; the way she had spoken to him with such relief and those eyes! He could wait no longer. Cmon, were not finished yet!
With confidence and authority, they burst through the doors
* * *
Prepare yourself, Queen Leene! The supposed Chancellor addressed Queen Leene, who was lying bound to an altar, warm rays of sun shining in her face and golden curly hair from the window above. The real Chancellor stood helplessly in a tangle of ropes against the wall, wiggling anxiously with wide eyes and a red face of helpless fury.
Soon, a loud thump was heard, and all heads turned to the five people standing defiantly in the doorway. The Queens captor was visibly startled at the invaders sudden entrance. You! How did you get in here? His eyes seemed mostly focused on Crono as they drew close to Leene.
Frog! Leene shouted. Youre just in time!
Quickly, Frog hopped up two small sets of steps and threw his blade down towards the altar, severing the Queens bindings. Majesty, stand back and allow us the honor!
She slipped herself off of the altar before the fake Chancellor could react. Be careful! she said as she turned and hurried back to the rooms entrance several yards away. The real Chancellors eyes were now wide with interest and excitement.
Gyah ha ha! Its useless to fight! No one will leave here alive! bellowed the imposter as he came around to their side of the altar. Crono and the others came forward and stood a slight distance behind Frog, their weapons out and ready. Stupid frog! Its time you jumped off this mortal coil!
The quintet jumped back as rays of energy began to emanate from the fake Chancellor, who began twirling into a blur. When the motion stopped, a hefty, golden-skinned creature emerged hunched like a giant turtle. Both sides of the ovular body were lined with four large appendages curved like claws but used as legs. Two large horns like those of a bull curved downward towards its two silvery blue eyes. Its mouth was not enormous in size, but contained rows of sharp, carnivorous teeth that made up the fear factor. The fake Chancellor had reverted into the troublesome beast known throughout the land as Yakra!
Immediately, the creature plopped down and scurried towards Ian, who was not anticipating such a swift move from the cumbersome-looking form. He attempted to dodge, but was knocked sideways into the wall, his armor clanging as he fell to the floor, momentarily stunned.
Crono managed a quick sword slash as he came around, wounding one of its legs. It roared angrily, charging towards him. Crono was barely able to feint sideways, escaping the sure injury that would have resulted from impact. He then ran to join Jonas and Frog.
Lucca shot a dart deep into its flesh, scrambling to load another. As the creature appeared stunned, Jonas, Crono, and Frog charged out with their swords held high, shouting wildly.
Instantly, two tiny pores opened in Yakras belly as it stood erect and ejected several tiny needles into the charging trio. Crono and Jonas were stopped in their tracks, stooping in pain and yelling out. Frog, however, had been protected by his shield and breastplate. He jumped like a madman into Yakra, literally standing in its folds of flesh, pounding its carapace with his shield in hopes for a lethal sword jab.
Crono winced as he pulled the needle from his side and turned to Jonas, who had been stuck in the face. Are you badly hurt?
Aaah! he winced, pulling the needles away and holding blood. My face! Ian ran to his aid as Crono looked to Frog.
Frog! Hang on! At that moment, Yakra shot more needles towards Crono, who quickly deflected them on impulse with his sword, slashing them in midair.
Ian jumped up with Crono, ready to assist as Jonas crawled back to the wall in intense pain. Leene hurried over to help him back towards the exit. Crono and Ian left them and ran forward, an action that forced Yakra into a sudden surge of strength that allowed it to flip Frog up off of its body. The nimble amphibian was sent sprawling straight into the air as his sword left his grasp, and he bounced off of Yakras back, falling with a roll towards the Chancellor. Are you all right? asked the Chancellor helplessly.
Aye, breathed Frog as he stood. Yakra now stood between him and his sword, which had fallen on the other side of the room.
Crono and Ian faced Yakra boldly as it fell to its legs and prepared to charge at them. Then, the two humans began to back down as Yakra stomped their way. Ian successfully dodged to the side, and Crono was forced to hop the opposite direction, causing him to rebound off of Yakra as though leaping from its side. He landed with a somersault near Frogs fallen blade and waited for Yakras next move.
Ian, however, approached Yakra to engage it as it stood back up on its hind legs. He clanged his sword against Yakras claws, struggling to maintain his position. Frog came up from behind and leapt with full force back into Yakras flesh, grappling the monster by the neck.
From the hall outside, a small imp, who had noticed the fallen bodies of Mystics scattered about the lair, crept up to the open doorway and peeked inside. His eyes widened at the sight of the battle, and he remained quietly outside, hoping that no one would see him.
Crono quickly glanced down at Frogs blade, stooping to snatch it by the hilt. He then ran closer to the action and prepared to join Ian in holding the creature at bay.
Lucca, who had been standing aside, took action just before Crono lunged out. An extremely well aimed dart penetrated Yakras left eye and forced him to fall to his back, giving Frog the chance he needed to move more freely. Crono positioned Frogs broadsword so that the blade faced downward, shouting, Frog! Cronos able comrade hopped into the hair, and Crono tossed the sword towards him with all his might, the blade still pointing downward. Yakra roared, his vision impaired and his confidence shattered. In a gruesome scene, Frog snatched the sword out of the air and fell with it back down onto Yakra. With this one swift leap slash, he placed the final blow that told all and jumped away with his blade.
Yakra wiggled on his back in half-finished roars. Soon, the action ceased and the melee was over. The imp who had been standing in the hall outside quickly turned and ran from the scene.
Frog wiped his sword on the red carpet and turned to face the others. Art thou badly hurt? Ian shook his head, an expression of admiration building as his eyes followed Frogs every move. Frog addressed the others, who were watching him with relief. Used to I could not have killed so easily but with desperate times cometh forceful change. He sheathed his sword. Yakra shall torment no more. Silently, he walked towards the Queen.
Lucca turned to Crono. My word, she does look a lot like Marle, doesnt she?
Crono glanced towards the Queen momentarily, responding, Yeah, but I can definitely tell a difference. He turned and freed the Chancellor from his ropes.
Oh, thank you! bellowed the Chancellor, shaking the ropes from his arms. Excellent show! Ive never seen such efficient, clean-cut fighting!
Crono smiled as they all joined Frog and Queen Leene. Jonas was back up, but still in considerable pain. Ian accompanied him closely.
Crono couldnt help but stare into the Queens face, which so strongly reminded him of Marle. Are you all right?
She turned to him, glancing slightly at Lucca. Her voice was much like Marles, but with the effects of age pulling its tone. Yes, Im fine. You must forgive me, but I cant recall seeing you two before. Are you a soldier?
Oh, no, Im sure you wouldnt recognize us. Were kind of not from around here. He motioned to his friend, who waved wearily to greet the Queen. We came here to rescue you and joined with Frog once we got here. We also rescued these two soldiers, and they offered their assistance.
Frog stood before the Queen, adding, Yes, we all fought with our lives to ensure your safe return to th castle.
The Queen turned to them all, her golden, shiny hair still neatly pulled up in the back. You came to rescue me! Thank you, Frog! Thank you, all! She looked back at Crono, who was still staring at her. Im truly touched that you strangers would risk so much to help rescue me.
Of course, miss! Crono replied. Lucca raised an eyebrow at his strange behavior.
Leene noticed that Cronos glare remained and finally asked, Is something wrong?
Just then, he snapped from his trance, trying to conceal his embarrassment. Oh, your Highness, Im so sorry! Its just well, you look so much like someone I knowlike a very dear friend of mine.
Oh, what a coincidence! She must be cute!
Crono smiled faintly, his heart sinking as his last memory of Marle fading into nonexistence resurfaced. Though they had successfully secured the Queens safety, he would not be satisfied until seeing Marle standing before him once again.
Frog bowed respectfully, but with little to say. The King awaits. Let us return to the castle. Rising, he croaked approvingly to Crono. I thank thee Crono, and Lucca. Jonas and Ian, thank ye as well. They all nodded with acknowledgement, but not a single soul there needed nor wanted the appraisal.
Yes, thank you so much. Please join us, the Queen concurred.
The Chancellor approached her quickly. Oh! Your Highness! As you can see, I am undamaged!
In response, Leene smiled in a dismissing, polite way. Lets return to the castle!
* * *
Deep within Guardia Forest beyond Manoria Abbey, one lone Mystic dashed as fast as his little legs could move him through the thick vegetation, finally meeting up with a small band of fellow Mystics. Struggling to catch his breath, the imp looked up at the largest Mystic in the bunch, saying, Young Yakra ! Humans !
Yakra II turned his bulky form around and stared down at the imp. What are you rambling about?
The imp caught his breath only slightly. The humansthey killed master Yakra! They have killed your father!
At this, Yakra II barred his teeth and spat back, Nonsense! Where did you hear that?!
The imp hopped about excitedly. Saw it, Sirwitnessed it! The humans, one of them green, came and rescued the ones from the castle! They will be leaving the lair at any moment!
Yakra II looked away from the imp and glanced at the other Mystics standing with him. Then, he turned with a loud grunt and crawled with the imp towards the edge of the forest.
Hidden by the thick line of trees, they stopped and waited where they could plainly see the entrance to the abbey. Within a minutes time, the humans, accompanied by the humanoid frog, came through the doors and began walking away from the forest.
Are they the ones who killed my father? asked Yakra II.
The imp rapidly nodded his head in acknowledgement. Yes, yes! The green one, the soldiers, the femalesand the redheadall of them! One is wounded, Sir! Should we send attackers, yes?
He glared at the group as they neared the outer edge of the forest, his eyes slanted with rage. After a few moments, he turned around and began heading back into the forest. No
The imp hopped to catch up. Well do nothing?!
Yakra II quickly turned his body back to the imp, who was startled by the sudden movement. They killed Yakra! We will not underestimate them. Remember the faces of those humans. Sketch them if you have to!
The imp nodded. Imps, though frantic and simple-minded, were renowned for their photographic memories. Yessir, he responded.
My father, the great Yakra, will be avenged! With that, Yakra II crawled back into the depths of the forest.
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