Walkabout Chapter 11
Deep within her sleep, deep down below the waves where not even dreams followed, Relm could hear the clicking. It was persistent and never seemed to let up, a steady, rhythmic click-clack as neatly in time as any metronome ever built. When she did dream it invaded her thoughts and made stupid situations occur, dumb things ridiculous even for dream logic.
The metronome was on top of Stragos piano. Relm was five again and she was taking lessons from a dour old maid who lived just up the road, an unlikeable woman who had smelled of mothballs and kept at least four lap dogs within the confines of her dark little home. The only difference between Relms actual memories of the piano lessons and the dream version of events was that the woman now sported a dogs head, and whenever Relm missed a note she would howl as if red-hot pokers were being shoved up her rear end. It wasnt too far from how she had usually behaved, actually.
Usually the lessons had ended with the old woman falling asleep at her post while Relm snuck out to practise magic or painting in the woods around Thamasa. The dream merely dissolved and morphed, as dreams have a habit of doing, bleeding into another impossibly strange situation involving men with cameras for heads following her as she looked for Shadow around the house. Eventually Relm found him lazing in the broom cupboard and made a snatch for the ninjas hood, but just as she pulled it away the camera-men set off their flashbulbs and she was temporarily blinded by the intermittent dark-to-light glare. She couldnt see his face, and that really pissed her off.
Coming out of a dream was like being pushed up through deep waters. Relm could fight it and on occasion did fight it with all her subconscious heart, but eventually shed have to hit the surface for air, like it or not. Usually the last vestiges of the dreams burned away quickly, but today they seemed to be hanging on for much longer than usual; Relm could actually still hear the click-clack and see the light of the flashbulbs going off through her closed eyelids. Wait, when the heck had she fallen asleep?
She opened her eyes. There was hay everywhere, including her hair. For a moment Relm wondered if she had fallen asleep cleaning out Bills stall, but then the previous two months came rushing back, much as they had on awakening in Sallys bed, and she scrambled to her feet. The rocking and swaying very quickly sent her back to a sitting position with a thump.
The flashbulbs had actually been the early morning sun strobing through the slats of the boxcar. The click-clack noise that had haunted her dreams the entire night was, quite obviously now, the sound of the train clattering along its track just underneath her ear. She had fallen asleep, and the train had taken off with her in tow without Interceptor.
Trying desperately not to panic, Relm staggered back to her feet carefully this time and stumbled to the sliding door. With an effort she rolled it away, flooding the musty interior of the car with sunshine and an impossibly hot, dry wind. Relm blinked several times, trying to adjust her eyes to the sudden brightness.
When her eyes finally got used to the light and she could see, the swearing that came out of the girls mouth would have whitened the hair of a Nikean sailor.
They were well into the Figaro Desert, and the land flashing by outside was nothing but sand, hundreds and hundreds of miles of it. A trip that usually took two weeks on foot had been halfway covered in a little less than fifteen hours. Relm had never hated technology so much as she did at that moment, glaring out into the motion-blurred landscape of yellow and gold. She had hoped that maybe the train hadnt made it very far, that perhaps she could jump off and run back to South Figaro before anything happened to Interceptor, but there was no possible way that was happening now. If the fall didnt kill her the desert would; it had killed better travellers and more experienced explorers time and time again before the railroad was built.
She slumped against the thin wall of the box car, utterly defeated. The only chance of finding him again would be if Edgar sent someone back to have a look; otherwise it would be up to her to turn around and return the way she had come until the lost dog was found. And South Figaro was a huge, bustling city - Interceptor could be anywhere by now. The urge to put her head in her hands and cry was overwhelming. He was her best friend, her compadre, and she had gone off and fucking left him. Stupid stupid STUPID.
Nothing more could be done until the train finally reached its destination at Figaro Castle, one way or the other. Relm stared out at the dead world as it passed her by and prayed to every long-gone Esper she could remember the name of to protect Interceptor until the two were together again.
It was late afternoon before they finally stopped, and Relm had never been so hot and miserable in her life. The trains speed caused a nice little breeze to whip through the boxcar, but it was still overbearingly warm inside and Relms waterskin was completely empty. By the time the switching yards came into sight her lips were chapped and cracking and she had a headache that felt like a chocobo cob trying to peck its way through her skull. The squealing, crashing noise of the cars coming to a violent halt did not help things, as relieving as it was that the journey was over.
Relm waited a few minutes until her legs were a lot less like jelly and her head wasnt whirling quite so fiercely, then carefully climbed out of the car and strode purposefully towards the nearest Figarian guards she could find. It was easy enough to spot them, because the official uniforms of Figaro, to put it nicely, looked like a festive wreath had had an abortion all over the place. Pestering Edgar to change it never helped; all he said was I like red and green! and so red and green it stayed, complete with tasteful gold trim. They were all damned lucky Edgars favourite colour hadnt been paisley or something.
Swallowing her artistic distaste for their attire, Relm marched right up to the two sentries, who merely eyeballed her with tired curiosity. Sentry duty in Figaro, Relm guessed, was a hot and boring duty you got handed when there werent enough toilets for you to clean and the royal chocobo stables were already spotless. The pair in front of her looked like they had been thoroughly cooked, so much so that not even a lone girl wandering in from the trainyards piqued their interest.
She thrust both her wrists in their direction and stared expectantly. One of them glanced down, obviously slightly confused as to why she was standing there, but didnt bother wasting precious energy trying to speak when it was so much easier to just ignore her. A loud cough merely got her an even more baffled look, this time from both the guards. Relm sighed. Fine, shed spell it out for them if they were THAT fried. In a monotone voice she addressed the twosome.
I was a stowaway on the Figaro Freightline. Im here to turn myself in. Please take me to your leader.
Again Relm thrust her fists towards the sentries. Again they merely looked at her, this time with a little more concern. The taller of the two leaned down and studied her face, his eyes filled with worry.
Um, are you alright, kid? You get lost from a tour of the castle or something?
All he got for his trouble was a fit of eye-rolling and another exasperated sigh. No. I stowed away. I should be punished to the fullest extent of the law. She paused, then continued, with all the emphasis she could muster. Please take me before the King, I wish to speak with him. Urgently.
The first sentry glanced at his companion nervously, who looked right back at his partner with the most bewildered expression Relm had ever seen grace a human visage. They stared at one another with that same dumbstruck look for a full minute before the first shrugged helplessly and turned back to Relm, obviously bested.
Erm Come with us then, please.
Relm allowed herself a smirk as the two escorted her towards the castle. Finally. How dense were the guys Edgar was hiring? Sheesh.
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