From any other beast, the wheezing sound would appear pained and uncomfortable, but Helminthes looked to be breathing relatively easily. Its hide, once rather smooth and dark bluish in color, had assumed a pebbled texture and a sickening, greenish hue that mixed awkwardly with the original cobalt. It was indeed bigger, and a good several yards longer than it was when Crono and his friends had fought it previously, before they took on the Ocean Palace and Lavos.
“Good Lord,” Meridio swore, “What is that thing?”
“Tell your idiot friend,” Ozzie said to Crono, “That this is Helminthes, the greatest creation of our traitor Sir Magus; even better than that no-show Lavos.
“When I found him, the poor worm had his head unceremoniously removed from his body. Although the body was a loss, the head preserved itself quite well. I was able to revive him and regrow him without any trouble, and I learned a great deal about him in the process. Did you know that he stores Fire Magic in him to heal his wounds, but all it takes is simple water to make him stronger? Amazing, isn’t it?
“But there’s more; it seems that the right magician can actually tap into his brain and control him, just like Magus did!”
Turning to the monster and resting his hands on his hips, the fat Mystic continued his monologue. “So what am I going to do with old Helminthes? I’ll tell you; I’m going to invoke a curse on all of humanity. I’m going to set this fabulous creature loose on your towns and kingdoms, destroying random cities every few years and depleting your water supply little by little. In time, he’ll be so big that none of your fancy inventions of the future will be able to stop him; water will become a precious commodity, and your people will succumb to the will of Chaos itself, and plunge into generations of despair!”
Lucca stepped forward and pointed a trembling finger at the wizard. “You... monster,” she accused. “You can’t do that to us; humanity will fight you as long as it takes to stop you!”
“I doubt that,” Ozzie argued. “It seems that you kids are the only ones who care enough to travel to this time and fight me.”
“That’s not fair,” the princess retorted. “We’re the only ones with a time device.”
“Well, then, I guess that humanity’s last stand will be here and now,” the green mage deduced. “Because I’ve tailored Helminthes to absorb all of your battle energy; your end is today!
“And now, if you’ll allow me, I’m going to set the stage for the ultimate devastation of humankind,” he requested, producing a small scepter from the folds of his robe.
“Wait right there!” Meridio called, drawing his mace and raising a heroic fist in front of his face. “I won’t let you get away with this; YOUR last stand occurs today!”
“Big words, fool,” the sorcerer stated dismissively. Then, to one of his lieutenants near the entrance of the room, he said, “Cossack,” and tossed the scepter.
Cossack, the stockiest of the three Mystic lieutenants, caught the jeweled rod and strode out of the chamber with a low chuckle that shook his fur-lined coat.
The mercenary pointed towards the exiting Mystic. “Crono, Frog, and Lucca: you three follow him; Marle and I will take care of Ozzie,” he commanded.
Pausing questionably, the other four fighters had no idea what to make of Meridio’s sudden order. Crono grudgingly drew his weapon, however, since he realized that the urgency of the situation demanded some type of action.
“Let’s go,” he muttered to his two friends.
“I wouldn’t do that,” Ozzie suggested to the exiting trio, who would have been blocked by the Mystic’s other two assistants anyway. “I think you have much BIGGER concerns right now.” And, waving an illuminated hand at the static flatworm, he commanded Helminthes to move.
Jerking into motion, the beast screamed and drove its head towards the ground. But, instead of attacking the fighters, it swiftly turned to one side and charged along the floor, ramming through one of the just-completed walls of the castle.
Crono walked to the front of the group and pointed his sword at the departing monster.
“After Helminthes!” Meridio interrupted, charging through the hole that it left.
The five clamored through the wake of the beast, following its path of destruction. By the time they reached the outermost wall, they could barely catch a glimpse of the great worm as it ducked into the ocean at the western shore of Magus’ Island. Meridio pulled ahead of the troop, stumbling over crushed Mystic corpses and watching the monster in awed disbelief.
“Where’s your metal bird?” he demanded, turning and grasping the lapel of Crono’s jacket.
“This way,” the miffed swordsman said, indicating the south end of the isle. As the mercenary led Crono’s friends to the Epoch, the boy stood for a moment, regarding Meridio through narrowed eyes.
“Come on, Crono!” Marle called from several yards ahead.
The man allowed Crono to pilot the time jet, once the boy caught up to the rest of the party. Hastily pulling the craft into the air, he sent it veering westward, towards the point of Helminthes’ entry into the sea. Lucca, from the cramped back seat, aimed a finger at the South Guardian mainland.
“Look,” she pointed out, “I think it’s that Cossack guy!”
Gazing in the direction her digit specified, the others saw a large figure riding some sort of horse from the Magic Cave that connected Guardia and Magus’ Island. He held a blindingly radiant baton in the air as he sped further to the west.
The inventor mused: “The way he’s holding that staff, I’d wager he’s going to use it to lead Helminthes to--”
“Sandorino village!” Meridio finished, giving a spirited shake to the pilot’s shoulder. Crono adjusted the Epoch’s direction and headed off towards the town.
Cossack’s ride displayed an amazing running ability, and the plane did not catch up to it until the Mystic was within twenty yards of the mountain-edge settlement. The young swordsman slowly decreased the jet’s altitude in preparation for a quick landing.
Without warning, something shot out of the soil right below the Epoch, tearing through one of the wings and sending the craft spinning through the air. Crono struggled to right the plane, but the thing attacked once more, smashing into the side of the time machine and hurling it towards the ground.
To Chapter Twelve
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