“Are you saying there’s nothing you can do for us?”
The three children gathered around the pinkish-red creature, which stood lazily in the center of the barren room and stared blankly past them. Spindly arms hung limply at its side, and the mossy tuft of hair that topped its head waved slightly with an almost undetectable breeze. However, its speech betrayed the lackluster form it had; anyone who had met Spekkio, the Master of War, would recognize him in the form of a Nu.
“I’m sorry, kids, but I can’t just give you another type of magic. You are what you are; no questions asked,” he said in his typically high tone of voice.
“But we need to use Shadow Magic to beat this monster,” Lucca pleaded.
“I don’t make the rules, sweetheart,” the still-gazing shape-shifter confessed, “And nobody you’ll ever meet on this plane of existence does. I wish I could do something for you, I really do, but these lumbering hands are tied.”
“So much for that idea,” Marle pouted as she turned her back to the conversation and folded her arms.
“What’s the problem, kiddos?” Spekkio asked. “Why is it that one of you needs Shadow abilities? Your buddy the wizard is right outside the door, isn’t he?”
All three turned a quizzical look to the Nu-shape. Squinting her eyes slightly, Lucca said: “Magus isn’t with us.”
“But I can feel someone right outside the door with Shadow… energies…” the War Master explained, slowing himself down as if he had committed a faux pas. The grimace on Spekkio’s face grew wider as Crono and his friends regarded the door to the main courtyard of the End of Time.
The princess spoke first. “But the only person out there who can’t already use Magic is…” She looked to her friends, then bolted for the door. “I’ll go get him!”
Crono flashed a look to his inventor friend, and was surprised to see an even more concerned look returned to him. Before he could pursue his companion’s thought’s, the Master of War spoke up again.
“Now, look, I make no promises about… whoever that is… okay?” he blurted.
Just outside the War Chamber, Meridio stood wearily, bent over and clutching his knees. The shock of traveling in that metallic craft had affected him more strongly than anything else ever had. The rushing forms and lights, the earsplitting sounds, the jolt of energy and the tumbling feelings inside his own head were almost too much to contain. But retching in front of the people he had just met would not do. Still, the bitter taste of his own lunch the second time was almost more unpleasant than the trip that caused it to lurch upward in the first place.
The amphibian swordsman cautiously approached him. “Art thou not well?” he inquired.
“I’m fine,” the mercenary declared, regaining his posture. Expertly hiding the persistent dizziness from the ride, he began surveying the stone courtyard.
Marle pushed the door to Spekkio’s chamber open and found the mercenary wandering about the End of Time yard, almost seeming to drift to one side as he walked. She trotted up behind him and grabbed his arm.
“We need you,” she declared simply.
Immediately seizing his full composure at the sound of her voice, the man willingly entered the War Chamber with the princess and gaped at the creature in front of him. Its countenance grew wider as he approached, and looked almost horrified; the other three in the room took notice of this sudden appearance of emotion in the being’s face.
“Uhh… well, I…” Spekkio stammered. “That is to say… you… uh…” Eyes winced and mouth twitched as the Nu-shape fought for something to say. An awkward eternity passed as the War Master hesitated in front of the mercenary. Growling in frustration, the creature finally ordered: “Take him away!”
Taken aback by the shape-shifter’s sudden anger, the four humans stepped back. Marle nearly protested, but decided against it because of the severity with which Spekkio spoke, and cautiously led Meridio back to the courtyard, apologizing for the creature’s outburst. Lucca and Crono slowly turned to follow. Before the boy reached the door, Spekkio spoke up.
“The thing is,” he explained after sighing uncharacteristically nervously, “Having true Shadow powers usually succeeds mastering the other three. It’s unlikely that a Shadow being will be able to handle his abilities if he is not already a mage of some sort.
“…You understand, right?”
The swordsman nodded slowly, over his shoulder, making less note of what the Nu-shape said than of its strangely apologetic-- and hauntingly anxious-- visage.
“I guess we have to find some other way to beat it,” Marle said obviously.
“We already know that Shadow powers work,” Lucca mused, rubbing her chin and casting a hopeful glance towards Crono. The young ronin eyed his comrade suspiciously, as the two knew what each other was thinking. The inventor interrupted her friend just as he was about to voice a protest.
“It would only take a minute, and if he’s not there, we’ll leave right away. You know he can help us,” she pleaded quickly.
The young man frowned sadly in uncertainty. He gritted his teeth as he looked for something to say, but fell to regarding the others in the yard as he could find nothing to dissuade her.
Frog cocked his head in thought, as he was unsure of what they were discussing. Meridio, of course, had even less of an idea. Gaspar was facing away from the group and was probably asleep anyway. Marle could tell what Lucca was insinuating and gave the boy a relenting shrug. Facing his compatriot, who was standing right in front of him with her hands folded hopefully, Crono said, through clenched teeth:
Almost giggling in hysterical anticipation, the young scientist bolted for the Epoch and dove into the pilot’s seat. Looking to Marle and nodding his head towards the time machine, Crono followed Lucca and told the other two that they’d be back soon.
By the time the princess and the boy had secured themselves in the craft, Lucca had already started the Wings of Time and set the gauge:
Sighing off the last of his shock and nausea, Meridio watched the crippled metal bird dematerialize, then leisurely turned to Frog.
“I’m told you once knew the great swordsman Cyrus.”
To Chapter Three
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