Week 39.4 – The Last Time Probably

Previously: The Cobalt Czar was on the verge of killing Twain when Cole appeared with the mask and a secret weapon. And now…

“Damn it,” Twain snarled. “The mask doesn’t work without the amulet.”

“I know,” Cole said. “Gimme a second.”

The amulet floated up from the bag and shot toward the mask’s forehead. The Czar gripped the mask to rip it from his face, but he was just a hair too late. The amulet found its makr, and his body rippled and shrank and fell. Another moment later, a normal-sized man lay naked and shivering on the stone floor of the cave.

“Damn it,” Twain repeated and ran to where the stone wall used to separate this chamber from the next. He knelt next to the useless shards of quartz, all that remained of the ancient Cup of Regret. “It can’t be broken.”

“Looks pretty broken, dude,” Cole said.

“But there has to be a way to fix it,” Twain said. “Otherwise, how do I go back in time?”

“Maybe you don’t.”

“No, I do,” Twain said over the confused moaning of the naked ex-Czar. “She said I did.”

“Who said?” Cole asked.

“Yi… Shit!” Twain scrambled to his feet, but slid to a stop next to the Czar. A slightly- built man with straggly whiskers looked up at him, shivering. The mask lay forgotten on the ground beside him.

“What happened to me?” the man asked. “You cut off my hand, and then…”

He stopped as he looked at his hands. Both of them. “What?”

“Lost your powers, but gained a hand. Conundrum,” Twain said. He turned to Cole. “Toss me the bag.”

“Why?” Cole asked even as he did just that.

[blockquote type=”blockquote_quotes” align=”left”]“Lost your powers, but gained a hand. Conundrum…”[/blockquote]Twain caught it and bent to scoop up the mask and amulet. “Can’t have him changing back, can we?”

“Changing back?” the man asked in horror as he stared at his normal-sized hands. “What did you do to me?”

But Twain was already in the other chamber and kneeling over Yi Fan. She smiled up at him, and the blood bubbling from her lips looked black in the blue glow of the crystals. “Did it work?” she asked.

“Yes,” Twain said. “He’s powerless.”

She smiled, and the black blood on her teeth made them look rotted. “Is this it?” she asked. “Is this… what you…?”

Her words trailed off, and she sighed, and was gone.

In the other chamber, Cole helped the ex-Czar to his feet. “So how does it feel to be a normal guy? Weird, huh?”

“This will not stand,” the man said. “This will not stand. I’ll get my powers back and make you all pay.”

“Yeah, I think that’s what we’ve all…” Cole stopped at a sound from the other room, a low moan that sounded unutterably sad. “Shit.”

Whatever he might have added to that thought was forgotten as Twain reentered the chamber. And perhaps the glow was playing tricks with his eyes, but Cole could swear he looked bigger.

“You,” Twain said, pointing at the Czar, and then Digger was between them, stumbling forward. He looked at the former Czar and said, “You!”

And so it has come full circle. It seems like it’s time to start wrapping this up. Or is it? Be here for the next episode to find out.

To read from the beginning, click here

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