The princess and the frog-man emerged from the blacksmith’s shop determined to put an end to Helminthes’ decimation of Sandorino. The monster had already smashed through another building and was reared back, once more assuming its cobra-like stance. It appeared to be watching something on the ground.
Inside the partially ruined shop, Crono took a small flask from his scientist friend; in it was the strongest Tonic the troop was able to buy. The boy quickly threw the bitter liquid down his gullet, trying his best not to taste it, and slumped onto a rotting wooden bench to wait for the substance to take effect.
“What happened to Meridio?” he mumbled.
“I’m not sure,” Lucca answered.
“It’s him!” Marle called from several yards down the dirt road. “Meridio’s trying to hold off Helminthes!”
The man seemed to be standing his ground fairly well against the beast. It loomed over him, following his movements and dodging as he leapt back and forth, taking every opportunity to swipe his mace at the monster. Each attack threw a splatter of greenish energy, but failed to make any definite mark on the creature’s thick hide.
“You attack in vain, mercenary,” Frog yelled to Meridio. “Helminthes soaks thine battle energy sponge-like!”
“There has to be a way to stop it!” the hired gun replied over the constant, blood-curdling growling that rumbled from the monster’s throat. “We have to overpower it somehow.”
“Nay,” the medieval swordsman responded, cautiously nearing the beast along with the princess. “Our assault only feeds it. The lady and I endeavor to trap Helminthes.”
Meridio skeptically backed off; the giant flatworm appeared to realize that he had dropped his guard. It dove at him, and the mercenary barely noticed in time to dodge the attack. Instead of pushing into the soil, however, the creature swiftly bent its head in the direction of Meridio’s maneuver and caught the man’s leg. The mercenary spun backwards, landing on his back as the beast skittered past him towards the blacksmith’s shop.
“Meridio!” Marle yelled, starting towards the downed fighter.
“No time to assist him!” Frog insisted, pointing at the giant flatworm as it headed towards Crono and Lucca inside the building.
“Right,” the Guardian heir agreed, placing her hands together and concentrating.
Raising his arms into the air, the knight errant narrowed his bulbous eyes and focused on the centipede-like Helminthes as it skittered away from him. Suddenly, a column of ethereal water sprung out of thin air and showered the monster, pounding into its back and stunning it for a moment.
All Marle needed was that moment, however; upon hearing the rushing sound of Frog’s preparatory move, she summoned a massive chunk of ice and cast it through the waterfall and onto Helminthes’ back.
Landing just behind the creature’s head, the ice block battled with the column of water for it own structural integrity. The amount of melting that Marle allowed of the ice let her shape it around the beast’s form. Channeling unprecedented amounts of energy into her attack, the princess managed to shape more ice along nearly half the length of the monster.
Helminthes did not abide the move without countering, however. It pulled itself up and managed to attain its S-shaped posture and turn its head back towards its assailants.
“Take care, lady Marle,” Frog shouted as he continued to force water onto the beast, “It grapples against our assault.”
“Go for the head!” the heir commanded.
Adjusting the flow of water, the amphibian poured a steady current towards the monster’s grotesque countenance. Marle stopped her effort for a second in order to change the direction of her spell.
But the strain of casting her magic at such an intensity had drained the young lady’s stamina. She found herself unable to properly summon her energies. Clasping her hands together and grimacing, Marle could barely even find the point of focus that allowed her to conduct her energy into magic. She was about to inform her amphibian comrade when she was quickly struck by the sight of Helminthes, partially encased in ice, being showered with water.
Recalling what Ozzie had said about the beast’s relation to water, she promptly started to yell to her friend.
“Frog! Stop the--!”
A deafening shatter ripped the air as Helminthes effortlessly broke its frozen prison. Bellowing and stretching its mouthparts in a threatening pose, the giant worm regarded its aggressors and lunged at them, raining chunks of ice behind itself.
Face-to-face with the creature, the princess was seized with a fearful paralysis. Time itself slowed as the beast drove its horrible jaws towards her.
Without warning, something jarred her from the side, and Marle was thrown several feet from where she stood. Skidding along the ground, she kicked up a large dirt cloud that prevented her from seeing what was pushing her out of the monster’s path.
When the dust cleared, the young lady looked about herself. Rolling onto her back, she was met with a pair of dark eyes. The slightly tousled blonde hair and rugged visage before her told her that Meridio had tackled her to safety; she stumbled to say something.
“We should go,” he said with a reassuring smile as he helped her to her feet.
Lucca, carrying Crono’s arm over her shoulder, trudged out of the blacksmith’s shop and towards the other three; the boy stubbornly pushed away and insisted that he could hold himself up.
“Where did it go?” the princess asked about Helminthes.
“It’s underground for the moment,” the mercenary answered.
“We should get out of here while we have a chance,” the inventor suggested. “We need to regroup and rethink our strategy.”
“But the people here...” Marle insisted.
“Not a soul remaineth hereabout,” Frog observed. “And the beast appears to have quieted.”
Listening, nobody could hear a sign of the monster; in mere seconds it had buried its entire body beneath the surface, leaving a sloppy crater in the middle of the main street of Sandorino.
“Let’s go,” Crono said plainly as he headed south towards the Epoch’s crash site.
As the group followed, Marle sheepishly tapped Meridio on the shoulder.
“Meridio, I want to say--”
“No need to thank me,” the man replied with a wave of his hand. “It’s what I do.”
The five approached the battered time jet, and Crono opened the hatch and motioned for everybody to climb in.
“The Epoch can’t fly, Crono,” Lucca declared. “What do you want us to do?”
“The Wings of Time should still work,” the swordsman stated.
“But with all five of us...”
“We’re going there anyway.”
Trusting that the boy knew what he was doing, his four companions climbed into the grounded plane, squeezing once more in the back seat. Crono laboriously pulled himself into the cockpit and lazily slammed his fist onto the time gauge activator.
With a whine and a thunderous clap, the Epoch disappeared in a flash of white light and headed for the End of Time.
END PART ONE
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