Walkabout Chapter 12
Edgar Roni Figaro loved women.
Yes indeed. He loved the way they looked, loved the way they smelled, loved the way they giggled demurely when he said something witty. From Jidoor debutantes to lusty Nikean barmaids to the flighty southern belles of Albrook, Edgar adored them all, each and every precious mothers daughter. If they were single and legal and sometimes even if they werent King Edgar would be there, with a winning smirk and an extended hand. He was fair of face and cultured from years of training and, more importantly to some, very, very rich. What lady could possibly resist such a combination?
At the moment he was playing Woo the Lass with a pretty little dark-haired thing from the town of Tzen. She couldnt have been much older than seventeen and behaved more than a little naively; Edgar had thought that particular trait all but wiped out of the population after the grim happenings of four years previous, but this poor girl seemed completely baffled by the world outside her hometown. How she had survived long enough to make it to his castle and how she had been hired on as a maid Edgar would never know, but that was neither here nor there. The important thing was that she was here now, and more importantly that she was comely. As soon as the king laid eyes on her the hunt began with a vengeance.
From his seat at the dinner table Edgar waved her over, flashing twin rows of immaculately straight teeth that put every other set of pearly whites in the kingdom to shame. There were many benefits to being a regent, free dental care one of the best. Edgar had even invented several devices for straightening crooked teeth, but the dentists of the land seemed strangely loathe to test them out on the populace, lest an uprising occur.
Catherine, could you get me another glass of wine, please? he purred, carefully handing the timid girl a fluted crystal cup. Id be most appreciative if you would do so. Another flash of the white smile.
The maids hand was shaking slightly as she took the glass from between Edgars slender fingers. The pads of his fingertips brushed against her skin, so slightly that with anyone else the caress mightve been considered an accident, and at the touch the young woman very nearly lost her composure and dropped the stemmed cup to the floor. She managed to fumble a save as it tumbled towards the carpet and with much blushing and apologizing rushed out of the room to fetch more wine. Edgar resisted the urge to laugh at his handiwork and went back to studying a stack of blueprints scattered over the tabletop, plans for an automatic crop-watering system some of his more agriculturally-minded subjects had requested not long ago. It wasnt the most interesting invention in the world, and Edgar wouldve been much happier working on the dimensions for the flying machine he and Setzer were collaborating to build, but a king had duties. The people needed crops for their redoubling numbers, and the only way to make bountiful crops grow in the dusty kingdom of Figaro was through judicious irrigation.
Catherine came back several moments later with his glass, filled almost to overflowing. Edgar took it from her with a smile of thanks, sipping casually at the rich red wine before setting it down on the table. He motioned for the maid to have a seat and watched with obvious amusement as she pulled up a chair and sat down.
You know, I was looking at this wine a fine vintage, the Maranda vineyard it comes from is under the ocean now and I couldnt help but notice how the colour matches your lips almost exactly. Isnt that strange? He tipped back in his chair, picking up the glass once again to better study its contents. In a way you and this fine wine are much the same. Both intoxicating, both beautiful to look at, and both created in another world, which makes you far more precious than rubies or diamonds. Now, as for the taste
Edgar had her in the palm of his hand. Flattery worked wonders on the ditzy ones; she was blushing and giggling between her fingers at him shyly, obviously entranced that the king thought so highly of her. No dove charmed by the serpent ever went so willingly. He was just leaning across the table to take her hand when the door flew open and a dirty, smelly, dishwater-blonde cannonball launched itself at his waist, followed by two scandalized guards. The chair Edgar had been leaning back in so precariously finally tipped over, spilling the king, his tackler, and the glass of red wine all onto the floor. Catherine leapt out of her chair and shrieked, adding her shrill voice to the cacophony of breaking glass and shouting. It took a few moments for Edgar to figure out what the hell had just happened, but when he did
What theRelm?! What in Starlets name are you doing here?! he yelped, scrambling to his feet among the wreckage while furiously trying to shake the clinging girl off as best he could. Despite his best efforts to break free she stuck tight; there was a wickedly mischievous glint in her eyes that Edgar didnt like one damned bit.
She looked up, wrapped her arms tighter around his waist, and cried out, DADDY!
The soldiers skidded to a halt. Catherines jaw dropped. Where there had been an absolute din five seconds earlier, one couldve now heard a pin drop. Edgar looked up helplessly at the serving maid, then back at Relm, then back at the wench.
I shes not mine! Its all a practical joke or something! Relm, sweetie ... dont sound murderous, dont sound murderous Stop joking around and tell them who you really are. Gwan.
Relm just hugged him harder, her face inscrutable. Daddy, why did you leave me and Mummy? Was it something she did? Ive been looking for you all these fourteen years and now Ive finally found you! Oh, we can be a family again!
Catherine, not much older than his supposed daughter, turned beet-red and very quickly excused herself from the room with a swish of fabric.
Edgar turned red too, but for entirely different reasons.
You know, I could have you clapped in irons for pulling stunts like that, Edgar muttered glumly, staring into another glass of wine with his chin in his hands. Matron had fetched it for him along with a paper of headache powders; he had a feeling Catherine wouldnt be serving him anything but a disgusted look from across the hallway for quite a long time. He could try to explain, but what was the use? The inconsolable monarch shot another bleak glance at his dinner companion, busy wolfing down his finest filet mignon and mutton stew like she hadnt eaten in weeks. From the garbled report Edgar had managed to extract before Relm set upon his dinner like a starving wolf, that was probably true, but he still wasnt feeling particularly charitable towards the girl.
Theres a word for what you did to me, Relm, but its not polite to say it in present company. I hope youre happy.
Yeah, its called saving you from sexual harassment charges. Can I have a bit more to drink, please?
Edgar deftly slid a bottle of white grape juice in front of her hand as she reached for the cider. Relm stuck a bright pink tongue out at him but he was still deeply involved in delving the depths of his Chateau Maranda and didnt really care what looks or gestures she shot him. He didnt want Strago haunting him for getting his underage granddaughter intoxicated, thank you very much, and the idea of a drunken Relm quite honestly scared Edgar beyond comprehension anyway.
Couldnt you just have, I dunno, come in the normal way instead of lying to my guards and scaring away my maids with your false claims of paternity? What in Shivas name possessed you to make such a scene? He knew the answer very well it was Relm and she enjoyed making a scene but figured it wouldnt hurt to ask, just in case any light could be shed on that murky subconscious of hers. The only reply he got was a broad, gravy-rimmed grin from over the piles of dirty plates and cutlery she was busy making. Was that her sixth course? Edgar had lost count. Bloody wine. Bloody girl.
She slid the dirtied bowl away and reached for a silver platter sporting about fourteen different kinds of cheesecake, all imported and by association heart-rendingly expensive. In between cramming forkfuls of cake into her mouth, she asked, meryrryonnaendsomeonefternntereptor?
Edgar blinked. Run that by me again, madam?
Relm managed to swallow a mouthful of pastry that Edgar was quite sure shouldnt have fitted down her throat, then spoke again. I said, So are you really going to send someone back for Interceptor? Because, I mean thats really nice of you.
Yes, I know, Edgar replied dryly, reaching over to grab a bite-sized slice of the cheesecake himself. Sabin gave him merry hell for his sweet tooth and was overly fond of telling his brother how quickly the ladies would abandon him when he became a 700-pound lard-arse, but Edgar didnt care. Sometimes you had to indulge yourself, be it with women or food. The way youve acted I shouldnt give you any help at all, first running off and scaring us all half to death and now this afternoons charades. Do you know how worried youve had Terra? You cant just disappear for eight months without telling anyone, its disrespectful and thoughtless and more than a little selfish.
Sabin did it once.
Yes dear, but Little Brothers head is made of twenty percent meat and eighty percent bone and we cant judge him for his mental failings. Youve got plenty of brains in that moppet-skull, try to use them sometime. He sighed and tossed the entire slice of cake into his mouth carelessly. But its not the dogs fault his mistress is crazy, so yes, I will send someone back to look for him and put up a reward to boot. You still havent told me why exactly you took off after the funeral like that, though. Id appreciate at least that much of an explanation before expending manpower and gil on finding Little Fenrir Lost, if youll extend me that courtesy.
There was a long pause. Relm fumbled halfheartedly with her fork and then muttered something Edgar had to strain his ears to hear.
Heard you guys in the hall. You and Terra.
A light went on in Edgars brain. Oh.
Yeah. Relm scowled at him, her face a thundercloud. It wouldve been nice if you two had discussed your plans to ship me off to Terras little halfway house, yknow, with me? I can take care of myself. Wasnt I fine when we all got split up after the airship crashed?
Ive never debated your ability to take care of yourself, milady, and Im quite sure Terra wouldnt do such a thing either. However, theres a big difference between being on your own for a year because no-one can help it and spending the rest of your adolescence holed up in Thamasa with nothing but a dog for company. You need to learn to live with people, Relm. Im sure Interceptor is a fine companion, but theres only so much a friend with a sixteen-year lifespan can do for you.
Well, thats not the only reason I left Thamasa.
Ah-ha. Here it came. Do tell?
Edgar didnt think he had ever seen Relms face so serious before, and considering they had battled a psychotic super-god-clown with world-destroying capabilities together, that was saying something. I want to find Shadow. Hes Edgar, hes my dad.
Okay, he hadnt seen that one coming. What.
Hes my dad. Strago left me a letter. Shadows real name is Clyde Arrowny, and hes the same one that robbed the Doma Line almost fifteen years ago. He got wounded and ended up in Thamasa and apparently met my mother. Relm shrugged. One thing led to another and here I am. But I want to know why he left me, and I want to know what my mom was like, and Ive just gotta find him, Edgar. Please help me.
The pleading, desperate tone of her voice was something altogether new, and Edgar didnt think he liked it at all. He was used to the strong, wickedly mischievous Relm who played pranks and acted far too old for her age; this slight, big-eyed creature begging him for information was an entirely different person. A child, a confused little girl.
He stood abruptly from his seat and walked to the window, staring out at the desert evening. There were a few stars splashed across the heavens, and the dunes had already gone a deep, royal purple. Occasionally a soldier or two would stroll across his field of vision on their way to the mess hall, but otherwise everything was quiet and peaceful. Edgar stood there for some time with his hands folded behind his back, trying very hard to think of a solution to these vexing problems she had presented him with.
I know where Shadow is.
Relm came out of her seat. Edgar waved for silence before she could say a word.
Hes in Kohlingen, living under the name Clyde Arrow. Last time I was there for business I saw him; hes the citys monster-killer. He didnt tell me who he was, but I could tell. No-one moves like Shadow, you know? He turned to face Relm again, his own face a mask of concern. But Relm, hes The mans got a new life. Im not sure what you hope to find there, but personally I would say end this quest now. Hes not Shadow any more, and I cant say if hes Clyde because I never knew Clyde, but from what Ive seen I would guess hes probably not. What exactly do you hope to gain by confronting him?
Her voice was whisper-quiet. I want to know why he left me. He just disappeared after Kefka was defeated, and he didnt even leave me his name before going again. Just Interceptor.
Relm, to be honest, I think he put more value on the dog than his name. You should be flattered.
She shook her head, stubborn as always. I have to find him.
Well, no-one could say he hadnt tried to deter her, if it came to tears. The king dragged himself back to his chair and slumped into it as if the weight of the world was riding on his shoulders. Sure as heck felt like it was sometimes, that was for sure. Fine. Just remember, if things dont work out up there, you have friends down here. Theres no need to wander around the world like a guttersnipe, my dear, even if playing the martyr is in fashion.
Relm snorted. He was glad to hear her making her old derisive noises again, the little wretch. Dont worry, Ill remember. Ill come back to eat more of your food as soon as I can. She plopped back into her chair as well, moving with the same careless grace Edgar had seen in Shadow so many times before. Why hadnt he ever noticed how similarly they moved? Now that he knew about the blood link it was so obvious it might as well have been printed on her forehead in letters three feet high. I guess Gau was right, you do know everything about everyone. I owe him one for that.
Edgars eyebrow shot nearly to his hairline. Youve seen Gau? Now theres a tasty tidbit of information Cyan would be interested in hearing. Where is our other little escapee, anyway?
Veldt. Goddesses Edgar, where else do you think hed go, North Jidoor? Cmon. Hes fine, I stayed with him for a night. Noting Edgars mock-scandalized expression she hastened to add, In his cabin, you pervert. Ew. Dont be sick. The sudden reddish tone of her cheeks was nearly enough to egg him on into several more dirty jokes, but somehow he managed to refrain, casually taking a coin out of his pocket and tossing it into the air.
Hes in love with you, you know. You should give the poor boy a chance, youre like two peas in a pod. And dont make those gagging sounds, its not polite.
Whatever. Was there a hint of uncertainty in her voice? How intriguing. Hes gonna get pushed off the Veldt soon anyway, there are people everywhere. Did we really kill Kefka so bankers and merchants and farmers could run the world? With all the magic gone it seems so dull.
No, sweetie, we killed Kefka so he wouldnt murder us all as we slept. Speaking of which, if youre sympathizing with Kefka I think its time for you to go to bed. You can stay here for a few days, and then off you go to Kohlingen to make Shadow very uncomfortable indeed. Edgar rose from his seat, stretching like a velvet-clothed tiger. You know where the guest bedrooms are, I believe?
You mean the ones that dont contain courtesans from Tzen?
Edgar Figaro had a litany of vices. He was something of a mad inventor, occasionally he took his kingly duties less than seriously, and, of course, there was always that overpowering love of the ladies. However, there was one thing you couldnt accuse him of, and that was dishonesty. The word nobleman had been specially invented to describe Edgar; he might woo a scullery maid out of her masters kitchen and build whirring mechanical contraptions that worked once and then exploded into deadly shrapnel, but never once during these escapades would he lie or try to deceive those around him unless they richly deserved it. His word was his bond. Sure he might exaggerate a tad to a pretty girl now and again, but who didnt?
When he said he wouldnt stop Relm and would even aid her on the final leg of her journey, he meant it. There was no doubt in his mind that it was a bad idea, conceived in rashness and executed in emotional instability, but after that night at the dinner table he never spoke another word against it. Experience was the best teacher, and Edgar suspected Relm was going to get a hell of a dose once she made it up to Kohlingen.
Three days of harried packing passed Edgar wouldnt let her leave without plenty of provisions and Relm didnt seem too inclined to refuse them and soon enough the girl was prepared to continue onwards. She was restless the entire night before; Edgar, up late scribbling away at his blueprint plans, saw her several times that evening haunting the hallways and passages of the castle like a red-booted ghost. He had a faint hope that maybe she would change her mind and go back home, but when dawn broke there was a faint knock on his door. Relm stood in the hallway with her pack, bleary-eyed but ready to go.
They walked together to an area just outside the fortress gates, where a groom stood at attention holding Relms chocobo mount. Several times during her stay she had mentioned how prohibitively expensive it was to rent stable chocobos, so as a goodwill gesture and an act of friendship Edgar had made her a present of one, a pretty yellow pen with plenty of speed and stamina, bred in his own royal stables. Relm would make much better time on a chocobo, and he figured the faster she got to her destination the better.
He gave her a leg up into the saddle. There was an awkward silence as the two friends tried to think of things to say, for neither of them was particularly good at goodbyes and Edgar was more than a little sulky that Relm was being so stubborn about the entire affair. Then the chocobo tried to buck her rider off in a fit of early-morning restiveness and the resulting fracas seemed to shatter the ice a little, since keeping a straight face while Relm was hanging halfway off her chocobo was a nearly impossible task.
No wonder you gave me this bird, shes freakin nuts. Thanks a ton, Edgar, Relm muttered, desperately clinging to the chocobos feathery neck as it plunged and reared and very nearly trampled to death the stableboy holding the reins. Edgar was too busy laughing to give an immediate response. Is there anything else you would like to tell me about Warkzilla right now or are you, like, going to wait and let me find out when Im crossing Figaro Channel and she decides to come back home instead?
Oh, I think half the joy will be letting you find out on your own, madam, he replied archly, making a sweeping bow to both rider and mount. Relm snatched the reins away from the groom and hauled back on them so hard the chocobos neck nearly bent over backwards; after that she had no more trouble with her new ride. Edgar patted Relms leg affectionately, still chuckling to himself. Dont worry though, shes a fine beast and wont play too many nasty tricks on you if you watch her well. Im sorry we couldnt take you closer to Kohlingen ourselves, but theyre still doing maintenance on the tunnel and I dont want to risk getting the castle stuck underground like last time. Chocobos are good swimmers, just be careful of the current and let her have her head when you cross, alright?
Relm nodded, gazing off into the morning fog in the direction of the channel and Kohlingen. It was dark and overcast and the cloud bank was so thick you could barely see half a mile in any direction, but a little fog wasnt going to slow Relm down, not when her father was somewhere out there. Thanks for well, everything, Edgar. And youll make sure someone looks out for Interceptor?
I give you my word as a gentleman and a citizen of Figaro it will be done, my dear. Ill even have sentries go out and look for him around the castle every morning in case he somehow followed you, although I seriously doubt that. He doubted the dog could survive if it tried to cross the desert but didnt voice this opinion; best not to worry Relm, lest she become distracted and make even more stupid mistakes than she usually did. And what will you have us do if we find him, stick the unlucky fellow in a crate and ship him to you in Kohlingen?
Just keep him for me until I come back. It was a mistake to let him come along; I shouldve locked him up better before I left. Do you know he went through a window to follow me? Crazy dog.
I am aware. We found the shattered panes after you had both gone.
There was another pause, but the silence this time seemed far less frigid and much more amiable. Well I guess Ill be off then. Sorry I couldnt wait for Cyan to get back, but you know. Relm kicked her chocobo into a fast trot and began to disappear into the fog, golden spurts of desert sand shooting from underneath the birds heavy claws with each step it took. Take care of yourself, Edgar! Dont forget to use protection, those brothels can be killer without a raincoat!
Madam, I cordially invite you to get stuffed, was the cheerfully shouted reply. Come back soon, you nasty little imp. Be careful out there, or Terra will have my hide.
Her faint retort came from somewhere distant and out of sight.
Dont make me picture your hide!
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