The Magus Hunted by KC

Disclaimer: Chrono Trigger and all characters therein belongs to Squaresoft and probably a lot of other people I don't know. But not me. At all. Not one bit.

Warnings: Violence. And I mean violence, heads flying and blood running in rivers. Good stuff.

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Two by two they disappeared into the gate, and Magus kept his gaze on the ground as if he weren't watching. Each to their own time...but what time did he need to return to? Back to the middle ages where he had grown up, and back to the hatred both humans and mystics would feel for him? The future, and nothing he knew? Bleak 12000 B.C. and the end of the ice age? He might as well stay in 1000 A.D. for all the other times had to offer.

Before him, Frog followed his king through the gate. Magus frowned behind his glove. No parting words in that peculiar dialect, no threat of the Masamune? Not even a glance in his direction. No more oaths to avenge Cyrus and regain his shape. Perhaps Frog no longer desired revenge.

Magus snorted. As if Frog could defeat him. He would never know the sweet taste of revenge as Magus had, the annihilation of the one who'd taken his life, his dreams, his family...He replayed Lavos' last scream in his mind. Even such a powerful creature still feared death.

And now Lavos was dead.

So now what time to set off for? What now, with his enemy dead? The thought of ruling the mystics flickered briefly through his mind, but even if they'd forgotten his betrayal, why would he want to rule monsters and annoying imps? Wars had only ever been Ozzie's concern.

And now Ozzie was dead.

He lifted his head slightly. So many people he'd known were dead or gone. The mystic generals, the gurus, everyone of Zeal, his family, his sister...

Still undecided, he flew into the gate.

"So...you're going to look for Schala?" Marle asked.

He brought his cape up to his face. Search for his sister? Could she even be alive? He supposed it possible, although only his mother had reappeared with the Black Omen. She could've drowned, been drawn into the Mammon Machine, been killed by Queen Zeal, fallen through a time gate...vanished like he had...?

Search for one the person who'd never despised him, shunned him for showing little sign of magick, or turned away when he spoke of the black wind? And the black wind had not howled as she cast them away with...his gaze fell on Marle's pendant. That was the key. For the queens to pass along the pendant, Schala must be alive somewhere, somewhen.

Yes, he would search for his sister and find her. He would recreate his family. But if he was going to gather his family back together, he first had to go to 12000 B.C. Alfador was waiting.

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The Guardia castle doors, heavy oak fifteen feet tall, creaked as the soldiers pulled them open. Outside the storm left the night pitch black, lit only by brilliant flashes of lightning. Frog squeezed through as soon as he could fit through the opening, rain dripping down his soaked clothes, and hopped down the hall towards the side room. The king and as many soldiers would fit hovered by the right staircase, swords drawn.

"My liege," Frog said. The soldiers stepped aside to let him through and he bowed his head once.

"Frog, praise God," the king said. "We have need of your strength. An intruder has made his way into our archives and we cannot draw near for his strong magicks."

"My sword is ever thine." Frog drew the Masamune and began down the stairs. He turned back a moment. "My liege, you should remaineth here 'till my return. I know not what may occur."

Without windows and sunlight, only torches along the wall lit his way. At the foot of the stairs he sidled against the wall and looked around the corner. A dark hallway stretched back, gold circles of fire lighting the stone walls, but he saw no intruder. Moving slowly so he would make no sound, he walked sideways down the hall, his back always against a wall.

As he neared the royal treasury and the archival vault with it, he heard paper rustling and the scratch of a quill. The rainbow shell reflected the torchlight inside the final room, making the room glow. With a deep breath, he tightened his grip on the Masamune and stepped into the archive.

A cloaked figure sat a desk in the brightest corner, bent over several books with rotting leather covers and loose pages that slipped to the floor every few seconds. When Frog took another step, the figure paused and looked over his shoulder, and although Frog couldn't see his eyes, he was certain the intruder could see him. He raised the Masamune higher, ready to charge.

"Who art thou?" he said. "Explain thyself!"

"The Masamune?" A low chuckle from the intruder. "Hell of a bookmark, Frog."

Frog's bulbous eyes widened, then narrowed as he scowled. "Magus. What art thou doing here? Thou hast no business with Guardia."

"Stupid amphibian," Magus said. He looked back to the books and flipped through a few more pages. "All I'm doing is looking through the archives. Is this suddenly a hanging offense?"

"Thou hast threatened my king and the safety of the kingdom--"

Magus laughed again. "Well, they do say the pen is mightier than the sword. Shall I face your sword with my quill?"

"Thou art no longer mine ally," Frog said. "If thou dost not stand down--"
"'Stand down'? When I haven't even drawn my scythe?" Magus shook his head and picked up the sheets of paper on which he'd been scribbling. "Have you turned into such a coward?"

"Coward?" Frog's voice tightened and his knuckles turned white on the Masamune's hilt. "Nay, I know thy abilities. Thou art a threat at all times."

"I'm not sure if I should feel insulted or flattered." Magus stood and turned towards Frog, sweeping his cloak back over his shoulder. "Relax. I'm not here for anyone's life. I wasn't even looking for you."

"Then the throne--"

"What would I want with Guardia? Humans aren't even worth the effort."

Frog snorted one. "Thou forget thou art human."

Magus briefly looked at his gloved hands. "No. No, I'm not."

"Then thou art truly an evil mystic?"

"No..." Magus whispered. "I don't think that's true either."

For a moment Frog stared at his rival, then growled and sheathed the Masamune. "Thou still hast not told me of thy business here."

"Research. Nothing more sinister than that." He rolled his notes tight and tucked them into his belt. "Take a look if you want. I don't care."

While the wizard gathered a few stray pages from the floor, Frog edged close to the table, peering at the nearest open book but never turning his back to Magus.

"May thirteenth," he read aloud, "the twenty-third year of Our Lord. I received my mother's amulet today. With her death, it passes to me, to wait for my death when I shall give it to my own daughter. It's said to have safeguarded every queen in Guardia, and the advisors all say it must be magick and thus contains some great power.

"I must confess, though, that I feel no power within. Indeed, it feels empty, as if there should be some force within. I feel as if I hold a body without its soul, and I understand now why mother never wore such a beautiful gem. I shall keep it locked safely in the treasury until my own death draws near, and then I think I may be happy to be rid of it. No doubt Cassio would be appalled to know what melancholy thoughts run through my head, but--" Frog broke off and looked to the end of the entry. "Princess Velesia? Thou art reading diaries?"

"Her's isn't the oldest," Magus said with a nod. "There are some records going back to three thousand b.c., and a few whose edges crumbled as I breathed on them."

"No surprise," Frog said, "thy breath is likely poison."

Magus' eyes flashed red for a moment, and he drew his cloak fully around himself, pulling the hood over his head. "And yours reeks of flies, pond hopper. Now, since you seem so anxious for me to leave, why don't you tell your king to get out of my way before I have to kill any of his men."

"Where art thou going?" Frog asked. "Surely thou can simply magick thy way out."

"That's only good for short distances, you little pest. Now unless you want to see your knights roasted in their armor..." He held his hand up and summoned a ball of fire.

"Nay, wizard, put thy spells away." Frog turned towards the hallway. "Fighting thee is more trouble than thou art worth. I shall see thee safely out of the castle."

Never turning their backs to each other, they walked side by side past the torches to the stairs. Frog glanced at Magus, and from his lower vantage point could see the wizard's pale skin and glowing eyes. Magus had never looked happy, flipping back and forth between disgust or anger, but now his face bore no expression.

"Thou seemst tired," he said. "Has this past year been so trying for thee?"

"I'm surprised you care," Magus said.

"Thou art a strong fighter. That something could wear even thee down is a daunting thought."

"A year of searching would wear anyone down."

Frog nearly stopped. He'd been searching all this time? Knowing his rival as he did, no doubt he'd never paused longer than needed to sleep. All for someone he didn't even know if she was still alive or long since dead. "I am sure thou shalt find her," he said softly.

Magus pulled his cloak tighter around himself. "I don't need your assurances."

"The amulet Princess Velesia wrote of...that was Princess Nadia's pendant?"

"Schala's pendant," he said, correcting him. "It belongs to Schala." As they neared the stairs, he pulled his scythe from his cloak.

"Magus--"

"You know I won't attack," he said. "I don't know that about your guards."

At the top of the stairs, the soldiers drew their swords again and faced Magus, who paused and stared over each of them. He made no move, but every soldier took a step back and glanced at his comrades. In his dark cloak with a scythe in his pale hands, Magus stood before them as death, ready to swing his blade at the smallest movement.

As the soldiers tightened their grips and the king steeled himself, Frog hopped in front of the wizard and held his hands up to his men. "Fear not," he said. "My liege, this man is mine former ally in the battle against Lavos."

A collective gasp went up, but the king raised one hand to shush them. "Is this true? A quiet ally then, and quite imposing. Are you sure he is still your ally?"

Frog bit back a laugh. "Aye, he even helped in my quest to destroy Ozzie and his top generals."

The king smiled and sheathed his blade, and his soldiers did likewise. "He is a powerful enemy of the mystics? Then he is Guardia's ally as well, and welcome in our archives, provided he does not fright us so in the future. Tell me, though, stranger, can you speak?"

About to answer for him, Frog almost squeaked when he heard Magus' voice reverberating against the stone walls. The wizard never raised his voice or moved more than a few inches, but the air crackled as if the shadows around him burned.

"My voice often unnerves those around me," Magus said, and he let a smile slip when the room fell silent. "I'd hoped no one would notice my presence. My search is important, but personal."

About to ask something else, the king was interrupted by the sound of women calling out in the throne room. The voices came closer, and around the corner came a purple cat, followed by the young queen and her attendants.

When she saw the soldiers surrounding a cloaked stranger she stopped short, halting her ladies beside her.

Magus put his arm out and everyone startled back, even Frog, but Alfador ran up and jumped onto his hand. Magus brought him close and rubbed behind his ears. His cat meowed and disappeared into his cloak.

"Alfador?" He raised his head slightly and listened.

Around the corner, the broad oak doors slammed open and leaves and dirt and rain blew in. Strong winds whipped through the halls and nearly toppled the queen. While her attendants clucked around her, another voice waved around Magus like smoke and drowned out everyone else. He closed his eyes and listened.

"The black wind..."

Frog looked up. "What sayest thou?"

Firelight gleamed off the edge of his scythe as Magus readjusted his grip. "Something's wrong," he said. "Something's coming."

In a moment, the Masamune shone next to the scythe. The soldiers, seeing the two draw their weapons, unsheathed their own swords. While their guards sealed the doors again, they waited in silence, muscles tense, listening.

"My liege," Frog said softly, "methinks you had better move the queen to the archives."

The king nodded. "Agreed, it is the safest place."

Not needing a command, the queen obeyed and disappeared down the stairs with several soldiers.

Frog waved one man close. "Rouse the troops. Bid you them that they prepare as if for war." A quick nod and his soldier ran out of sight. They heard his boots down the hall and halfway down the stairs to the barracks. As the echoes of his steps faded, another sound took its place. At first only Magus heard it, like a weak heartbeat far in the distance. It came louder so that the soldiers heard it, then louder still, drowning out the rain, as if a thousand creatures approached with one mind.

"Your men won't be ready in time," Magus said and walked past the soldiers who parted for him, towards the doors.

Scowling, Frog hopped after him. "What is it?"

"It's only been a year since we destroyed Ozzie and his generals. Did you think the mystic army would simply collapse?"

"I'd hoped so."

The beat came strong enough to shake the doors and pound within their chests.

"You hoped wrong."

On the other side of the door, the sound stopped. The doors creaked as they bent inwards, pushed in from the outside. They bent in so far Frog wondered that they didn't break, and in the space between them, he saw eyes glittering in the dark.

"Brace yourself," Magus said. "Here they come."

Cracking like gunshots, the doors exploded in, splinters and chunks of wood sliding past them. Magus raised one hand and pointed at the opening that swarmed with imps and ogans and freelancers, and dark energy gathered at his fingertips. A black fog spilled into the air, then rushed towards the mystics. Those nearest disintegrated as the poison mist enveloped them, but the ones further back collapsed and writhed as their skin blistered and melted. As they screamed, the mystic army trampled over them, stomping them into the mud.

Another dark mist tore their ranks, but more pushed from the back so that they slipped in through the sides and windows. Instead of rushing the halls, most charged the two before them, claws and talons and clubs cleaving the air.

A wave of water crested over Frog and smashed handfuls of mystics into the castle walls. "Warlock!" he yelled over the water's roar. "We must take the battle elsewhere, lest the castle crumble around us."

"Agreed." He flipped his cloak over one shoulder and raised his hands. "Hold them back long enough."

Frog nodded and swept more mystics back through the door, cutting stragglers down with his sword while he readied another spell.

A few seconds later a dark matter spell appeared outside over the army, two pyramids spinning over one another until one clashed into the other and both exploded, clearing the rain for a moment. A patch of ground cleared before the entrance, and Frog stepped beneath the stone archway into the rain, his shadow cast onto the ground by the torches around him.

Shrieks filled the air as the mystics drew closer, pushing towards the frog back dropped in gold light like a saint. Many of them still climbed through the windows, but he only stared at the bulk of the army in front of him. They heard soldiers busy with their comrades and realized a massive frontal assault was their only hope.

Another dark matter exploded above them, blasting those who didn't instantly vanish. Magus appeared behind Frog, and both of them stepped out, followed by soldiers who'd only had time to don leather armor and unstrapped helmets. A few sergeants yelled their orders over the wind to their men, and their men strained to hear them. They leaned into the wind to keep on their feet. None of them carried sheaths but held their swords high, ready to slash at the first enemy within their reach. In the dark storm, the mystics could only see the torchlight reflected on their blades.

As the air thundered together in the vacuum left by the spell, the mystics drew back and whispered amongst each other. Muttering in their own language, they began climbing over themselves, piling up as tall as the forest.

"What on earth..." Frog said.

"Stop them!" Dark matter spells shot from Magus' hands into the pile of bodies, blasting dozens of mystics into the treetops. "Don't let them merge!"

Holding the Masamune high, Frog summoned the strength that had cleaved cliffs, the true strength of the blade. As it gleamed a brilliant blue, Frog swung the blade and cut a broad chunk from the forming creature. The falling creatures, their limbs melted together, screamed until they hit the ground. The living tried to move while still connected to the dead, their arms and legs fused with wings and bloodied heads. Blood circulated through them and pooled in the corpses, and they called out to anyone nearby, "kill me, kill me."

At the sight, some soldiers looked away, a few emptied their stomachs, and some would've killed those still moving but that Magus held one arm out to stop them.

"Let them pass," Frog said, and the wind nearly swallowed his voice. "'Tis a matter of mercy, if thou remembrest such a thing."

"Don't bother." Magus nodded at the creature, now as tall and thick as a tree. "We're too late."

A second later, the fully formed creature put one clawed foot down on the writhing mass on the ground, ending the screams. It opened its mouth, its fangs gleaming bright, and screeched loud enough to knock the soldiers into the mud. When it lunged at Magus, it moved as fast as the lightning overhead.

With no time to cast a spell, Magus swung his scythe to meet its outstretched claws. Blood sprayed over the ground and his cloak, but its momentum let the claw slide away again. He staggered backwards with the force of its swipe. It swung its unwounded claw towards him, and this time it met his blade and didn't stop. The blade cut down to its bone but it kept pushing, trying to reach his face. Magus braced his legs and pushed back, but its whole weight leaned down on him and his boots slipped in the slick grass. His staff creaked, about to splinter.

The Masamune cut into the creature's arm, nearly severing it, and the large mystic stumbled into the forest, already muttering a spell. Its eyes glowed green in the darkness. Magus regained his balance and rushed his own spell. Frog couldn't understand either of them, but he raised his sword and prepared to leap. The wizard's spells could just as easily strike everyone around him as his own target.

Before Magus finished, a dark mist rippled out of the forest towards Frog. Too fast to avoid, it raced across the ground and Frog steeled himself, already chanting a healing spell.

A pulsating green barrier wrapped around him like a sudden skin just as the mist rolled over him. The green light fizzled, blistering and cracking, and as the mist dissipated, the light faded and sloughed off into the rain puddles.

The lack of pain stunned Frog, and he stared at Magus with wide eyes. The sorcerer knelt now, breathing hard, and Frog wondered how many spells the wizard had been casting. Such strong magicks, as well...He huffed and stepped between Magus and the mystic.

"Catch thy breath," he said. "Hath thee any ethers?"

Magus nodded once, but his voice was drowned out in the mystic's roar. It lunged again, this time at Frog, who caught its claws with his sword and cleaved straight through its arm and into its shoulder, where the blade stuck firm. He yanked hard, but the Masamune wouldn't slip free.

Though one arm now hung in ruined, bloody mess, the mystic creature could wield its other arm and did, swinging it across the clearing and scattering the soldiers who came too close.

Tossing an emptied ether bottle aside, Magus started his next spell. He leaped over the flailing arm as it passed by, but while in the air, he couldn't dodge the fire blast that scorched the area. Flames leaped up on his cloak and he threw it off. The rain plastered his hair to his back, and now the humans could see his eyes as they caught all the light nearby and reflected them, so that they glowed like his enemy's. He knelt as he landed, about to throw his spell when the arm came back again and knocked him flat.

Its claws spread over his body and pinned him down, the sharp edges slicing into his arms and side. He winced but didn't stop his chant, and a second later he managed to throw his dark matter spell into the creature's stomach.

Shrieking and stomping, it released him and clutched its body, feeling the energies boiling inside and unable to stop the spell. Its stomach burst in a great spray of thick black blood and bile. As its innards spilled out, it dropped to its knees and splattered into the mud, sinking down with its weight.

Magus sat up and winced. Rain streamed down his hair and washed the mud off his clothes, and the biting cold finally started to reach him. He glanced at his singed cloak and reached to pick it up.

Frog hopped beside him but before he could speak, several screams came from the castle, louder than the lightning. "The queen--"

Forgetting his cloak, Magus grabbed Frog's arm and pulled himself up. Shadows exploded around them, and Frog would've staggered back but Magus kept his grip and yanked him forward. A second later the shadows receded and they stood at the top of the stairs to the archives. Magus fell to one knee and released him. "Go," he said, breathing hard.

With a quick nod, Frog leaped down the stairs and landed on the bottom. The walls and torches flew by and he jumped high, slamming into the yellow back of some large mystic.

The impact knocked both of them across the room and into the rainbow shell. In his side vision Frog spotted the queen's white dress, but there was no time to see if she was all right. He pressed his attack, ramming the Masamune into the creature's back. It howled and reared back, sending him flying into the far wall. The masonry cracked around him as he landed.

With Frog off its back, the yellow mystic lurched toward the queen, blood flying as it stumbled. She screamed and pressed against a corner, but she couldn't run around it.

A wave of water flooded through the middle of the room, slamming the mystic into the wall besides Frog. This time his sword took off one of its arms. Blood splattered into one of the torches, dousing it.

Dozens of needles fired from the creature's back, and though he dodged most of them, Frog stumbled backwards with gaping wounds on his face and arms. "A yakra..." he said to himself.

"We will destroy you!" it screamed, heaving with every breath. "And that traitorous Magus will drown in his own blood!"

Frog staggered to his feet, his sword growing heavy in his hands, but it wasn't needed. The mystic scuttled backwards and forced itself into the largest crack between stones, its slimy bulk squeezing through and leaving a yellow mess on the wall.

"So that's how their ancestors knew..." Frog said. "'Tis the most disgusting thing." He sheathed the Masamune and rushed a healing spell, but it only closed up the worst wounds. He looked at his queen. "Your majesty, art thou all right?"

She nodded and hurried to his side. "Thanks to you. But you're hurt--"

"Do not worry so over them. These wounds shall heal with but a little rest."

"And some ether, no doubt," she said and smiled. "But your friend Janus? Where is he?"

Two soldiers ran down the stairs, each of them out of breath and their swords dripping blood. "General, is the queen safe?"

"She is," Frog said over his shoulder.

"You came just in time," she said. "A few seconds slower and I wouldn't be."

"'Twas Janus that brought me so quickly," he said, and he wondered why the sorcerer had done so. He turned towards the soldiers. "Is he still here? He was ne'er one for long goodbyes."

"I'm afraid your friend collapsed near the stairs," he said. "The nurses were already tending to him when we came down."

"Collapsed?" Frog made a hurried bow to his queen and took off down the hall, hoping up the stairs three at a time. At the top of the stairs he found two women kneeling next to Magus, who lay on his side on the floor. His eyes were closed and instead of his usual white color, he looked almost gray. The nurses noticed Frog's look and the older woman stood.

"Calm yourself," she said. "His injuries are minor."

"Minor? Then why hast he collapsed?"

"No doubt exhaustion," she said and frowned. "You saw how much magick he used. You more than anyone else should know how tiring that can be."

He forced himself to take a deep breath. "Forgive me. I am merely concerned."

"Don't be," she said and smiled again. "He only needs some rest. We'll see him to his own room and bed."

A shudder ran through Frog thinking of Guardia's enemy unconscious in their hands. He took a breath, about to ask where they might take him, but the Knight Captain came up to them, wiping blood from his golden gauntlets.

"General Frog," he said, "the king requests your immediate presence. He's in his chambers now."

Frog gave him an annoyed glare. "I must needs see to mine ally--"

"I'm sorry." The Knight Captain shook his head. "It cannot wait. You don't have much time." He looked down and watched the blood from his gauntlets puddle on the stone floor. "You'd better hurry."

"Go on," she said. "We'll take care of your friend."

He almost said 'he's not my friend,' but swallowed it. With a sense of dread pooling in his stomach, Frog went into the throne room and up the stairs to the king's chambers. Halfway there he noticed drops of blood trailing up the steps, right up to the king's door. The two soldiers posted there saluted and stepped aside, one of them opening the door for him. He went in and heard the door click shut behind himself.

Blood pooled under the king's bed, dripping from soaked through sheets, and the king lay panting for breath above them, so pale he seemed blue. The nurses and soldiers around him saw Frog and parted. The king beckoned him forward. Frog stepped close and bowed his head.

"My liege?"

"My general," the king whispered. "The queen...?"

"She is safe," Frog said. "You should not speak. Thy strength--"

"I am dying anyway," the king said. "Frog, you must protect the queen. Protect the kingdom."

"I swear upon mine life."

The doors opened and the queen appeared, the edges of her dress stained from the blood on the floor. She saw the king and pressed her hands to her mouth. With a muffled sob she hurried to his side. His bloody hands stained her gloves as she grabbed them.

"My lord," she whispered. "What...how did this happen?"
"I must ask your forgiveness," he said. "That Yakra demon bested my men and I. I have failed you."

She shook her head. "There is nothing to forgive. You saved my life. You saved..." She wiped her eyes with the back of one hand and left a smear of blood on her cheek.

"My dear Leene," he said, coughing, "I'm sorry I have not given you an heir."

"Don't trouble yourself," she said. "Rest."

"I'll be doing that soon enough." He coughed again, flecking his lips red. "At least the mystics are finally defeated."

"Aye," Frog said. "Your kingdom is safe once again."

"Thank God," he said. "Thank God I leave you a peaceful kingdom at last. I can rest easy for that."

"My liege..." Frog flexed his fingers on his hilt.

"Frog..." the king whispered. "Please...I must speak with the queen..."

"I understand." Frog nodded and half-turned, then paused and looked back. "Goodbye, my liege."

The king smiled. "Goodbye, my friend."

The doors shut behind Frog, and he bowed his head a moment.

"General," one of the guards whispered. "The king...he will be all right, won't he?"

Frog looked at him and said nothing. He took a deep breath and went down the stairs, and as soon as he came into the throne room, he stared at the king's throne. He wondered if Leene would cover it, drape a sheet over the red velvet and gold ornament until she remarried. A knot twisted in his stomach as he thought of her marrying another, making some stranger king and bearing his child.

"General Frog."

He turned and found one of the nurses coming towards him. "Madam?"

"Your friend is in the guest chambers sleeping," she said. "I thought you'd like to know."

"Ah. Yes." He tightened his hand on the Masamune, then released it. "Thank you."

"Sir, are you all right?"

"Yes, of course. The guest chambers, you said?"

"Yes, sir." She wanted to ask something else, but he walked away before she could.

In the main hall, the wet torches on the walls were being switched out for dry ones and the servants were mopping up the puddles. He passed them and headed down the stairs, to the other side of the barracks. A set of wet footprints led to the first door and Frog pushed gently. Unlocked and unsealed, it opened into a nearly dark room.

A single torch burned in the far corner of the room. Across from the torch, Magus lay on the bed, fast asleep. At first Frog wondered if the sorcerer was still breathing. Magus' chest barely rose and fell. So silent, and with his unnaturally pale skin, the sorcerer could have passed for dead.

Frog closed the door quietly and sat down in a chair near the bed. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. No sound but the torch burning nearby, an occasional muffled bolt of lightning. He wondered if the king was dead yet.

Still asleep, Magus shifted further onto his side. Only the faint rustling of the blanket caught Frog's attention, and Frog wondered how the sorcerer could be so quiet. Perhaps growing up amongst Ozzie and his ilk had forced him to stay silent most of his life. Or maybe being the queen's magickless child had made him withdraw from everyone.

"Except Schala," Frog whispered. The girl had been his only friend. He frowned. No, he'd had a cat not too long ago. He'd seen it himself, just before the fight, running into Magus' cloak.

"They wouldst not have set thee to bed in a cloak," Frog said to himself. He stood and looked around the room. There weren't many places to hide anything, and what he had mistaken for a shadow was now obviously a cloak hanging on a bedpost.

Muddy, singed and dripping wet, the cloak sagged in Frog's hands as he grabbed and unfurled it. Chunks of mud splattered on the floor, and he shook it back and forth. No cat. For a moment he wondered if the fire had damaged whatever spells kept the cat safe inside, and he shook it harder.

"Stupid wizard," Frog muttered, "even his cloak be annoying..."

A low chuckle made him spin around. Magus had rose up on one arm, a tired smile on his face. "What has my cloak ever done to you?"

Frog looked down at the wet cloth in his hands, then back at Magus. "If thou dost not remember, thy cat remaineth trapped in this."

Without a word, Magus pulled the blanket back a few inches. Curled against his shoulder lay Alfador, fast asleep with the tip of his tail touching his nose. His purple fur ruffled in the cooled air, and Magus covered him again.

"But I saw the creature enter thy cloak," Frog said.

"He hid in my shadow," Magus said. "Safer for him there."

"I see." Frog draped the cloak back over the bedpost. "At least it is well, then." He sat back down and sighed. The Masamune bumped softly against the chair leg, but the sound made the sorcerer wince. Magus sat up and bent one leg to lean his arms on. In the torchlight, Frog saw the cuts and burns in Magus' clothes and armor, and he wondered that the nurses had not even removed the outer layer before setting the sorcerer to sleep.

"I don't think you're here for a social call," Magus said, "and the battle's over. What're you doing here?"

"Glad to see thou hast retained thy charms." Frog stared at the stones in the floor, finding a pattern over and over until it disappeared under the bed. "The king is dying, perhaps already dead."

Magus frowned. "Dead? He was inside the whole time."

"Aye, but a yakra mystic entered and tried to kill the queen. Its needles...hath injured him beyond healing."

"Even yours?" Magus narrowed his eyes. He'd seen the knight bring their previous comrades back from the brink of death. For this king to be beyond his help...

"A-aye," Frog said. "Twas nothing I could do."

"And I'm sure you tried." Magus expected no answer and didn't get one. He paused, thinking back on the fight. "A yakra got inside?"

"...aye."

"So much for your great army," Magus said. "Can't even defend their own king, let alone a kingdom."

"Hold thy tongue," Frog hissed. His hand went to his sword out of habit. "'Twas nothing they couldst do. Few are strong enough to fight mystics."

"That's exactly what I said."

For a moment, Frog stared at him. "Warlock, thou art belligerent even when thou art trying to be sincere." He sighed and let his hand drop. "I'd thought the war wouldst be over with thy defeat."

"You only beat me, not the mystics. And I wasn't even your real enemy." Magus laughed and looked at the torch. The flames reflected in his eyes.

"No. Thou wast not." Frog glanced over his shoulder to make sure the door was still closed. "I came partly to thank thee. T'was...good of thee...to bring me to mine queen so quickly. Hadst thou been any slower, I might have lost Leene."

A short laugh. "Don't get the wrong idea. I only saved her because her descendent will help bring about my revenge on Lavos."

Frog didn't answer. They sat still for awhile, the only sound Alfador's slight snoring.

"Thou knew what wouldst happen when thou tried to stop its merging," Frog said.

The sudden comment caught Magus off-guard, and he frowned. "What are you talking about?"

"That horror we saw when the half-merged mystics fell to the ground. More dead than alive..."

Magus shrugged. "A few would've torn themselves free and healed, if they'd had the backbone to do so."

"Some of them were sharing backbones. Thou knew they wouldst."

"Of course. I've seen failed merges before."

"And thou triedst to stop them even so." Frog stared at him. "Knowing they would suffer."

"Look, you sanctimonious little pond-hopper," Magus said, eyes narrowing, "we fought a weakened merge. Any stronger, and a dark matter spell shot directly into its stomach still might not have killed it."

"And given us another horror, a 'merge' with its insides on the ground, still breathing. Hast thou changed so little that another's pain means nothing to thee?"

Magus snorted and looked away, flipping one hand up dismissively. "You don't know anything about shadow magicks, or else you'd know how stupid that is."

"Magus--?"

A knock at the door interrupted them, and before they could answer, a nurse poked her head in. Tears streaked her face. Blood coated her hands as she wiped them on her dress.

"Please forgive me, sirs, but the queen is asking for the general."

"Well, if the queen asks..." Magus shook his head. "How do you stand being at someone else's beck and call?"

"'Tis called loyalty, fidelity," Frog said as he stood.

"Sounds like a dog on a leash."

"I am not surprised thou knowest nothing of it." He inclined his head towards the nurse. "She is in her chambers? Thank you, I shall go now."

Sniffling, the nurse disappeared down the hall. As Frog stood inside the doorway, though, Magus called him back.

"I always wanted to ask you," he said, "since you're the only one who speaks like an idiot."

Frog ground his teeth together. "Magus--"

"Why do you always call me 'thee' or 'thou' and everyone else 'you'? It can't be selective stupidity."

"Thou art infuriating...the term 'you' is reserved only for those I respect."

"And the 'thou'?"

"Persons I hold in contempt, or am familiar with." With that, Frog huffed and slammed the door behind himself.

Jerked out of sleep, Alfador raised his head and mewed. Magus rubbed his violet fur, making him fall asleep again, and the sorcerer leaned back against the headboard. "Contempt or familiarity." Magus tilted his head. There was a mystery in that, considering the way he spoke with the queen. If he didn't hold the queen in contempt, just how familiar were they?

Something poked against his side, and he reached down to his belt. He grumbled when his hand found the notes he'd made earlier, soaked through and mud splattered, burned in some parts and torn in others. He spread them on the bed, looking for anything salvageable. There was nothing. They bunched up as he clenched them in his fists, and for a moment he sat still, holding the ruined notes so tight they started to cut his skin. He closed his eyes and his hands started to shake. Hours of work, gone...

A mew and soft head rubbing his wrist made him open his eyes and look down. Alfador mewed again and crawled into his lap, falling asleep there in a little bundle. Magus watched his fur rise and fall, and after a few breaths he let the strips of paper fall to the floor.

"You're right," he whispered. "I'm tired. And I can get it all again tomorrow, after I've rested."

The bed creaked as he shifted the pillows around so he could lean back on them. With a deep breath, he stared at the stones that made up the ceiling. He thought he was too tired to sleep, but after a few minutes, he was back in Zeal, sitting on the grass outside the sunkeep, the only place he could go to be alone. The sunlight sparkled on the white building, so unlike the dark ruin it would become, and Alfador pounced on bugs in the grass before him. In those days, there was no danger of falling off the edge of the world.

*~*

TBC...