[Genu 7, 3905 Dale Reckoning (DR)]
[Garet Jax's house, Plane: Aenid]
Garet Jax looked around and the people seated around the table, then thought back. <The group of us have been through far more than any man should.> Looking around... To his right was his wife, Anah. Then there was Squall Leonhart, Cloud Strife, and Squalid Anope. All were heroes from their worlds, and Garet had fought beside them during their struggles. <Ten years... in ten years I've saved worlds, destroyed worlds, watched worlds be destroyed...>
He had started as a kid from Earth named Michael. Then, one day, in the school bus for whatever reason <It escapes me at the moment>, an earthquake hit. Not totally uncommon in some places, but there aren't really any fault lines near Wisconsin. Meteor showers, flooding, driving rain... it was like the world was ending. And it had been, brought on by the arrival of Seet, a mad magician bent on dominating the multiverse, though he didn't realize he didn't have that sort of power. Those that survived that referred to it as 'the End.' Three people on the ground, and he and two friends had gained their powers. He changed his name to Garet, after the man who's powers he gained. Life had gone into overdrive after that, like some crazy video game. He'd been in two wars in the first two years: one as a strategist, and one as supreme commander. Afterwards, he'd left behind that life and wandered between worlds. He'd fought in another war as a grunt, but was made a POW (Prisoner of War) soon into that one... he'd then been catapulted into a celestial war, where he'd seen worlds made, worlds destroyed, gods born and die... He looked across at Squall, where Griever hung, glimmering slightly in the candlelight. <And some imprisoned...> Then, originally trying to explore some of the new worlds, he was caught up in Cloud's struggle against Sephiroth, and managed to save them from death, though the world was still smashed by Meteor. He'd then left them and ended up in Squall's world, where he'd worked with them against Ultimicia. He'd also given Squall Griever. That was a success, so he'd left there to return to his home and reunite with the friends he'd left behind five years before. Squalid was First Born of this plane, Aenid, and technically Garet's lord.
"I know none of you really know each other, though you all know me. I've asked you all here for a favor. After I left each of you, you tried to repay me, and I asked only that you owe me a favor when I needed it. Well, I need it. Starting in three days, all of us set out for Aenid. Squalid, here," He motioned to Squalid, "Is one of the First Born of this world, and that is his castle. Creatures called EmDes have taken it over, and are using it as a gateway to other worlds. Although they can do this, it will take them a while. They're targetting..." He paused. They were all listening. The tension was a tangible thing. He took a breath. "... Squall's world first." Squall sat back in his chair, looking up and letting out a long breath of air. "That's the bad news. Now the good. There are only 3. However, they're not easy. Small, fast as you can imagine, armor plated..."
He trailed off as an image began to form on the table. Anah had seen them, had seen someone fight one before. She was pulling the memory up, and was replaying his fight in miniature on the table. Having a wizard for a wife <Not quite a sorceress> was pretty helpful. They all watched, taking mental notes as the fight raged. "They don't seem to be moving that fast, but Anah slowed it down so we can actually see what's happening." Again and again, the EmDe lashed out with it's long ridged claws, tearing the man's cloak, and occasionally flesh too. Now and then, his sword flicked into the unprotected face area. Eventually, the man fell over, only to have the EmDe jam it's claw into it's face repeatedly. It faded.
Anah smiled slightly. "I can't remember much more. I just remember him bleeding and me worrying..." She trailed off.
"She's right. He was dead, though the EmDe was wounded. It still took us a while to kill it. Nasty things, and that nastiness attracts some followers. Hard to believe that they wage war on another world, and are actually in a stalemate with their enemies. But that's another story." Both them and their enemies, the CraDes, weren't exactly nice. Just on opposite sides of evil. The CraDes, though noticeably stronger, were content to keep to their own area, while the EmDes were always trying to wreck the multiverse.
Cloud leaned forward. "So? What do we do?"
Garet leaned back. "We wait a few days. It'll take them 3 days to set the portal, and all their attention will be on it after that, since it takes two hours of concentration to open the portal. We leave the morning it would open, and will get there as the concentrating starts. We bust in, make for the throne room, and go from there. If it's still opening, we get the first hit on the EmDes, or if it's open we jump through and give chase. I can train you, supply you with what you need. Take the next few days to rest from your journeys, get to know each other... and pray to whatever Powers you pray to for help. We're gonna need it."
[Morning of departure]
[Genu 10, 3905 DR]
[Garet Jax's house, Plane: Aenid]
The group was assembled outside Garet's step. He'd build this house alone soon after he'd dealt with Darun the immortal, son of Griever. He scanned the horizon as Squalid walked up.
"What are we waiting for?" Squalid asked, one eyebrow raised.
"Andll and Kapt... I asked them to come too." Rens Jepn was the other friend who had gained powers after the End (What they all called the destruction of civilization back on Earth), changing to Andll Swrs. He, Garet, and Anah had then met up with one of their old friends, Kris Aben, now Kapt Wrot, who had gained powers from a follower of evil but used it for good. All had helped him in one way or another. Andll had saved his life while he was in war with himself <All those lives I took had caught up with me, led by Darun and Seet's spirits. They couldn't come back, but two 'Immortals' working for the same thing attracted enough followers to try to take me down too.> Kapt had come to save him while he was Mazed <Almost insane. I had forgotten how to use my sword, and lived off the dead grass in the small square mile interdimensional pocket called a Maze.> He had ticked off a Power, who promptly dropped him in her own prison. And of course, Anah, who saved him in every way a man could be saved by becoming his wife. He could feel Anah probing his thoughts now, and gave her something to read. <Thank you, Anah.> He saw her smile out of the corner of his eye, while at the same time studying the growing spot on the horizon. Suddenly, Kapt was standing to his left. Garet jumped.
Kapt smiled. "Forgot that I could teleport, eh?" That stinkin' smile had followed him throughout his life. "And, to your unanswered question, that IS Andll out there. He's about a half hour away. Want me to go get him?" At Garet's nod, he popped out, only to pop in a moment later, floating in the air next to Andll's horse. After the surprise faded out, he grinned at everyone.
"Hey Garet. Long time no see." Andll had been out mapping the Gen Mountains, something noone thought could be done. Which was why he was doing it. Andll never listens to anything that someone says 'can't be done'. After seeing himself and his friends gain powers greater than most people could imagine, seeing his own world end, and seeing two 'Immortals' die, he didn't think much was 'impossible'.
Garet waved all over. Introductions went around, and they were off.
[Twilight, as the EmDes begin the Opening]
[Genu 10, 3905 DR]
[Castle Aenid, Plane: Aenid]
All seven dismounted by a tree several yards away from the castle. Anah waved farewell and went back home with the horses. Cloaked by silence and the lengthening shadows, they made for the secret entrance on the south wall of the castle. Reaching it, all wordlessly drew their weapons, and Squalid triggered the release. The wall swung open, and Garet quickly jumped in at the stunned imp standing there. Seconds later, the whole group stepped through the opening, and the door slid shut. <Well, we're in, and the alarm isn't up yet. That won't last long though. Not everyone is as easily surprised as an imp.> Squalid soundlessly waved farewell as he made off on his own. He was TRULY Immortal, and could probably hold his own.
They managed to get to the entrance to the dinner hall without meeting anyone else. Sounds of eating came from inside. Duh, it WAS the dinner halls, and any monster with a brain is going to stuff himself from a pantry that never depletes. After some time, the noise died out. With a karate-chop type motion to Cloud, and a 'Get ready' motion to the rest, Cloud busted the door to splinters.
All jumped in. After a quick assessment, Garet saw about two dozen gnomes, a dozen imps, a smattering of orcs, and a pit fiend. The fiend, obviously less drunk than the rest, yelled an alarm and made for the group. Grunting, Garet used his sword implanted in the nearest gnome's head to wault a table and launch himself at the fiend. Cloud began smashing through the gnomes, Squall and Kapt started on the imps, far less surprised than that first one had been, and Andll made for the orcs.
-I grunted as I swung at the nearest gnomes. Three went down, and another caught me on the leg as I recovered. Just because I use the Buster Sword a lot doesn't mean I'm amazingly fast with it. Smashing that one's skull, I drew on my Fire Materia's magic to fry another 4 gnomes in a group. I grinned as they ran around burning, setting one or two more on fire. Heh. My ecstasy dropped a notch as I felt something in my arm snap as I swung at another group, swung through them, and nailed a wall. Imagined pain rushed through my shoulder until I saw that it was only one of my shoulder spikes. As those two dropped, the others began scattering, I gave chase.-
/\/\Squall and Kapt/\/\
"Watch it!" Squall ducks as you send a blaze of magical fire over his head at the nearest group of imps. Two go down as Squall slices off another one's head and shoots another. Looking over your shoulder for a moment and seeing Cloud burn some gnomes, you feel a rush of pain in your stomach. The imp dies in an unholy conflaguration as you reach down to check the wound. Not bad, though you keep thinking it is, since the pain gives you strength. An imp jumps from a table to try to hit Squall's back, and you're about to yell when he comes back around and nails him in the air. You spin around, and, seeing three more running towards you, you throw out your arms and blast the two on the sides. The one in the middle hesitates long enough for you to life him up and throw him against the wall with your mind. The fight rages on, though the imps are down to only a few.
As Magic rushed through his arms, Andll charged the nearest orc. The first slash was blocked, though it wasn't quick enough to dodge his second to the stomach. Withdrawing his sword, he reacted to his instinct and slashed as his spun, hitting the orc behind him in the arm, taking it off. It ran, and Andll let it go, thinking it would probably bleed to death. He sent his sword flying at an orc across the room, kicking an imp in the face as he went after it. It connected, saving Garet from it's mad rush. Andll leaped a table, did a cartwheel, and ended with a roll as he grabbed his sword. Always the showoff. A big one came up behind him as he rose, and they began dueling.
Spinning, twirling, slashing, going with the flow of the fight as he went for the fiend.
<Back in my element.> He ducked, closer to the pit fiend's scythe than he had meant to be. As the scythe passed, Garet stepped back and sent a careful slash into the wooden sandle, leaving the fiend holding a pretty piece of wood. It bellowed, and in one motion dropped the handle and pulled it's sword. Garet met it's attack with his sword, and blocked again as it swung overhead. The rest of the fight seemed to disappear, leaving Garet and the fiend concentrating solely on each other. Garet even failed to notice the sword fly into the orc two feet to his left. Each time the fiend attacked, Garet blocked, waiting for an opening. Suddenly, as the fiend's flaming sword bounced to the side, leaving Garet to slash at the arm. He did, and withdrew his arm before the acid blood could touch his arm. He came up again, aiming this time for the neck. He connected again, and sidestepped as the creature tried to take his head off. Ready for the kill, Garet jumped and buried his sword in the pit fiend's brain. It screamed once, stumbled, and went down. Re-realizing that there was, indeed, a world around him, Garet stepped and killed the last fleeing gnome with a precisely thrown dagger buried in it's back.
All met at the opposite door. Cloud had a slash on his leg, Kapt a cut on the stomach that did little more than bruise his ego, Andll a bruised knee from rolling <Heh. I caught that roll he did. Serves him right.>, and Garet, a sliced up cloak. Kapt, fairly good at this kind of thing, started healing Cloud's leg. All were ready for a fight when Garet opened the door. Through this narrow, undecorated hallway was the main hall. From there it was a short run to the throne room. Before entering Kapt stopped them.
"There's... something wrong. There's only one presence in the hallway, and I can't tell exactly what it is. Shouldn't it be swarming with monsters?"
Garet paused. "Right..."
Squall blinked. "Hmm... those EmDes... what if only two are opening the portal, and the other is guarding the throne room?"
"It's possible. OK, here's what we'll do. As we enter, I'll deal with whatever it is out there. Everyone else make a mad dash for the throne room. If the EmDe's are already through, come back out and help me. If not, try to occupy them until I get done."
[Minutes before the Opening]
[Genu 10, 1905 DR]
[Aenid Castle, Plane: Aenid]
The dragon was trying to hear what was going on in the area far in front of him. The Main Hall was anything but short. It was actually about half a mile long, and the sounds of struggle came from almost all the way down there. Just as a blast of air hit him from the doorway behind him, a group of men came from a hallway down the way. Roaring, the dragon charged them too.
Garet hesitated after seeing the dragon. He'd known the Main Hall was big, but he didn't think it was THAT big. He got ready for a fight as he ran. The others did too, but they didn't slow down as they passed the dragon. Garet did. Once past it, leaving it confused, he jumped to the right, jumped, and turned. Giving a wild yell, Garet ran up it's back and jammed his sword into it's neck. Relaxing for a moment, he was thrown off, leaving his sword buried in the monster's back. <That should have killed it. With most dragons, bursting the flame pit means instant death. Come to think of it, there was no bust of heat. What...> his thoughts were cut short by the instinct to jump. He did, just missing the flames bursting from the dragon's mouth. The others were still a little ways from the opening. He landed, sidestepped a giant claw, and leaped onto the dragon's lowered head. Sticking a dagger into it's eye, he rolled down the back, grabbing his sword as he went. He lept before reaching the lashing tail, and continued jumping to avoid the wild swinging.
"Why won't you die???" The voice surprised Garet, causing him to stop, and the tail threw him against the wall. He opened his eyes to find the dragon, one eye oozing blood, standing over him. "Why? Most are happy to die. They come up to me and let me fry them."
"Huh? Wha?" Still recovering from the impact, which left him hurting more than he was letting on, he thought back to any other talking dragons he'd seen. He hadn't.
"They like dying. Fun, the masters tell me." The dragon was getting a confused look on his face, which wasn't an easy feat for a dragon.
"They LET you kill them?" Garet was getting an idea. This wasn't your average dragon. Obviously. "What makes you think that?"
"Well, all the people who hire me tell me that the people come to me to be eaten. Why don't you?" The dragon was getting a little confused. <Odd, to be smart enough to talk, yet stupid enough to...>
"Ever think they're lying? Don't they scream or anything?"
"Well... um... yeah. I don't like killing. Unless they want to die."
The lightbulb flicking on over Garet's head was almost visible. "Trust me-only the insane or immortal ones like dying. I think those people hiring you were lying. They just want you to kill for them."
"Really? Hmm..." The dragon was obviously getting the picture. "Oh. Well, thanks. I think I'm going to go find a nice place to rest. Watch out though-those little tough guys are gone. Don't follow them."
"Thanks. If you need a place to rest..." He gave the dragon directions to his house, He sat there for a moment, confused, amazed, and... well, confused. He ran off down the hall. The others were just standing there, outside the door.
Panting, he made it up to them. "Hey... guys... what's... up...?"
Cloud backed up. "The door. It's locked. I tried smashing it, but..." He raised his sword. It was blunted.
Garet thought a moment. "Kapt, cast... dispel illusion."
After a moment of concentration, the door dissolved. A clear entrance. "What?" Said all in unison.
Garet smiled. "A very complex illusion. One sees the door, feels it, can even smell it. But it's made slightly wrong-Can't be manipulated. Look at your sword-it isn't really blunt." Cloud raised it. It wasn't. "Alright, lets go make some fried EmDe!"
They went in, side by side. The doorway was that wide. Against one wall, a large portal glowed blue, and traces of power trailed off of it. The others were too stunned to think that they had been too late. Garet and Andll went up to it and studied it.
"Andll, you're the expert on planeswalking. Does this mean what I think it means...?"
"Sure does. Guys, Squall's world..." Everyone visibly braced for the worst. "Runs on different time than we do. If we wait another hour before going in, they could run like the wind, and they'd stil be in sight. In other words, we've got a while. Lets rest."
[Two hours after Opening]
[Genu 11, 3905 DR]
[Aenid Castle, Plane: Aenid]
Garet got up. Squalid had been in earlier. He had rounded up the last of the castle guards and were dealing with the rest of the creatures in the castle. The others were patching themselves up. He strode over to the Portal.
"Squall." He didn't turn from the Portal, and still knew he had Squall's attention. "I'm not going to lie to you. If these guys are as powerful as they seem, they could trash your whole planet. However... I'm getting an idea." He heard Squall walk over to stare into the mesmerizing swirling patterns of the portal next to him.
"Tell me... when did you deal with these things?"
<Did Squall really just ask me that question?> "I ended up on their homeworld. Not on purpose. It was on a road home, after I ended up in a very bad place. My Earth, only on another line- it had been devastated by war. I ended up there, and watched the EmDes and CraDes fight. It was about 6 of each... I've never been able to forget it. Their viciousness was unimaginable. They tore up a sizable section of forest. Just a dozen." He paused, recalling the memory. "On their world, there is an obelisk. On it are buttons to all sorts of planes, and ours was one of them. Neither native species could use them. We opened the portal here, and one came through the portal before it closed. The others had gone on ahead, and I was forced to fight it alone until the castle guard could get there. Even with a dozen well trained guards and me beating it, it took awhile for it to die. Griever saved me, then."
"Griever is more than it seems." It wasn't a question.
"Right. In fact, it's an immortal who ticked his son off. The kid had some of Dad's treasures, and managed to change dear ol' dad into a necklace, which was then thrown through a portal, which happened to end up here. That was before Squalid was born. It's old." Griever twinkled slightly. "Now that his kid, Darun, is dead, he can change back. I was fairly good friends with him." <Well... Better friends than I think he's ever been with anyone. He's not the easiest guy... creature... bring to get along with.> "He can also give you power. After it's happened enough, you don't notice it. At the beginning, I just took it for an adrenaline rush. I'm sure you have too. I've seen you do Lionheart. You're so caught up in it, you probably don't realize how brightly Griever glows."
At that, Griever began giving off it's own light, and with a flash, they were standing next to a large, lion-headed creature. Everyone but Garet jumped up and grabbed their weapons.
"Hello, Griever. Been a while. Still reluctant to change into this form, eh?" Garet didn't even turn, though he allowed himself a smile.
"Garet. Obviously I'm less reluctant than I once was, since I did it without you forcing me to change. You've been well." Of course it wasn't a questionThe creature's emotionless voice boomed in the chamber.
Garet smiled openly, turning to the Immortal. "Of course. I'm hoping you know something to help us with these EmDes?"
"Yes. These three in particular are slightly larger than the rest. Not much, but it's almost all muscle. There's also some magic mixed in there. Obviously, if they were able to work the Obelisk. They're going to try to bring a meteor down to Squall's world." Cloud noticeably stiffened. "It's strange though. They're drawing power from something else. I can't tell what, but it's intelligent. I can tell that if you kill it, the meteor should disappear."
Garet pondered that for a moment before responding. "Alright. We should get a move on then. Get ready everyone." He strolled over to his pack, laying behind the throne. There was a flash of light behind him, and a familiar weight settled on his chest. Garet smiled without even looking down, though was surprised to see another Griever on Squall's chest now.
-Non-magical- Griever's thoughts broke into his. That telepathy thing was one of those things not missed. -But it did save you more than once- <That doesn't mean it isn't annoying.>
Once everyone was ready, Garet, Cloud, Squall, Andll, and Kapt strode directly into the light.
[Twenty minutes after the EmDes entered GF]
[12 Sei, 3 After Ultimecia (AU)]
[Field outside Timber, Plane: GF]
Squall looked around. <This is my world. I'm home.> But it didn't seem right. True, he was with a group. <But it's not them. I only know one of them.> After Ultimicia's failed Time Compression, the world had pretty much united. Esthar had opened up, and a new age had begun. Everyone had pretty much gone their separate ways. Selphie and Irvine had returned to rebuild Galbadia Garden, which was done quickly. Afterwards, both had went to Trabia to rebuild that. Zell left for the Orphanage, eager to restart it with Cid and Edea. Quistis had gone back to fill the vacant position of Balamb Headmaster. Rinoa stayed in Esthar. <For her own reasons.> Seifer hadn't been seen for a while, though Squall figured he was in Galbadia. <Or dead.> Galbadia was officially allied with Esthar, though they still kept a large army.
Cloud gave a shout of warning and pointed up. A familiar red ship was flying by. Actually smiling, Squall waved his gunblade around in the air. The ship paused in midair, changed course, and headed right for them. "Don't worry. They're friends." Garet came up, finally figuring it out. The ship landed, and the ramp hadn't even gotten all the way down before two familiar figures came running out.
"Heyyyy!!! Squall!! Garet! What are you doing here???" Selphie, still hyperactive, hugged both.
That familiar cowboy hat tipped. "Helloooo. Thought you were gone for good." Irvine seemed happy, though his mind was clearly on something else.
After introductions had gone around, the crew loaded onto the Ragnarok. They hovered for a few moments as Squall quicklyfilled them in on what was going on. As he finished, Garet came up next to them. "Guys, sorry, but..." He trailed off, phrasing the words carefully. "I don't want to endanger you guys. I don't want you to come along. However, we could use the Ragnarok."
They were obviously unhappy, though they agreed. "These things are waaay past us. You guys deal with it." Selphie said, trying to be upbeat. Irvine headed for the elevator, motioning for Andll to come with. After a few moments, the ships belly guns suddenly lashed out at the ground. Then the ship shook.
"What??? What's going on???" Selphie tried to check the scanners as they landed. The bumpy landing and her not finding anything until then showed just how hard it was for her to do two things at once. "There! Look!" She pointed at a large, very noticable dot on one of the scanners. Squall and Garet headed for the ramp.
Jumping out, there was an EmDe standing there. Or waiting. Or sitting. Whatever it was EmDes did. Squall slowed down, unsure, but Garet kept going, yelling over his shoulder as he went. "Get back on the ship and go north! I saw something happening up there!!!" Leaping ahead, sword at the ready, Garet got ready to fight. He dimly heard the Ragnarok lift off and head east moments later.
[An hour after the EmDes entered GF]
[12 Sei, 3 AU]
[Lakeside north of Timber, Plane: GF]
Right. Left. Right. Left. Overhead, duck and go with it, spin out of the way as the right claw comes and jump as the left claw goes low. It was all instinct. Time seemed to slow down, one of Griever's more agreeable powers. The left claw came, slower than before, though still fast. It was, in real life, going impossibly fast. Garet came up to block it as the other claw came up overhead. Sidestepping that, He tried to slash at the EmDe's face, but it was blocked. The same claw kept going, and raised, trying to take his head off. Garet ducked, and stabbed at the EmDe's face. It tried to block again, but wasn't fast enough. Blood spurted onto the grass, but the sword was stuck. Garet tried to pull it loose, hesitated a milisecond too long, and wasn't fast enough as the claw came from the left. He felt a burning pain come from his left side, kicked at the other claw to keep it from attacking, and tore the sword out, making it as painful as he could. Griever was bathing both combatants in blue light, but neither noticed. Neither noticed, either, that the sun was setting, bathing the woods of Timber in gold and red.
Shrugging off the pain, Garet swung hard at the left claw and caught it on the joint, snapping it. The EmDe yelled, a horrible sound, and the whole arm fell off. Garet remembered what usually happens next, and quickly jabbed his sword into the empty arm socket. If he hadn't done that, the claw would have been back within moments. He was a moment too slow in pulling the sword back out, and felt a hard bite on his right leg. He went down, rolled to his right, and lashed out at the thing's leg, and it went down. Momentarily. It was back up, and it lashed at the ground where Garet was, and, half blinded, felt it's claw connect. On the ground. Garet was back up, and to it's side. He sliced downward at a place where the back plates interlock. Hard. The back plating snapped, and the back half fell off. Jumping backward out of the EmDe's reach, he tripped over the shell and went down on his wounded right leg. It went for his stomach, but he rolled up, and shoved himself forward so he was behind the thing. He slipped suddenly on the bloody ground, and went down as the EmDe spun around. He rolled, and though it missed his chest, the EmDe must have reopened a wound on his shoulder, since blood began pouring down his chest. He threw himself over the EmDe and half into the lake next to them. The EmDe lept at his head, but Garet took a breath and shoved his head underwater, causing the creature to sail over his head. He dragged himself out of the water and took off for the cliff up ahead. He was getting an idea.
He began going uphill, and thought he heard a crunch from ahead. He hoped whoever was there would move before he got there. As he came up to the edge, every power in him told him to duck. He did, and the claw that would have impaled him from behind instead slashed his back. The creature was hurting, and the water was slowly eating away at what was left of it's shell, and the flesh underneath. EmDe biology is completely anti-water, which causes them to burn. It must have been maddened before, to leap at him while he was in the water. It backed up slightly and began shaking the water off. Garet quickly looked over his shoulder dwn at the water, which was a good 50 feet below now. As the thing began trying to get a puddle off it's back, Garet lept with a yell. He brought his sword up into it's exposed stomach, and immediately flung it back off the cliff again. He stumbled over to watch it fall. It splashed heavily, and immediately began thrashing. Suddenly, the remaining claw flew out of the water and flew into a nearby tree, where it slowly began melting. Below, the creature, which was barely recognizable as an EmDe anymore, began trying to climb up the cliff again. However, before it had gotten far, a leg fell off, leaving it just hanging. Garet struggled back, grabbed a knife, and sent it spinning down into the creature's face. It yelled, dropped off, and sank. Steam began pouring from the lake, and all was still.
Time sped back up, pain caught up with him, and Garet collapsed beside the edge.
[Five minutes after Garet's fight]
[12 Sei, 3 AU]
[Lakeside north of Timber, Plane: GF]
The Ragnarok landed nearby, and Garet forced himself to stay conscious. He vaguely saw Laguna <Laguna? What's he doing here? Oh yeah. The Ragnarok CAN be that fast.> run down, followed by Squall. He felt himself be lifted, and carried into the Ragnorok. Minutes later, he was being carried into an emergency room in Esthar. As the doctors went to work on him, he allowed himself to fall unconscious.
[An hour later]
[13 Sei, 3 AU]
[Esthar Hospital, Plane: GF]
Garet opened his eyes. Then closed them. Then opened them again. He blinked, since before he had been almost positive that he wasn't going to open them again. He got up, and checked himself. He was mostly there, though there were a few new nicks and cuts. He felt a long slash on his chest, and lifting his shirt, saw a scar. <Ouch. Looks painful. I wonder when I got that? Heh. If it's half as painful as it looks, it's a good thing I missed it.>
Off in the corner were his clothes. A rather torn up black cloak, a black pair of leggings, a black tunic, black boots, and a black bandana. Looked like someone had washed them, since there weren't half the familiar blood stains on them. His sword caught his eye too. Someone cleaned that too. <That's the first time that thing's ever been cleaned. Forgot what it looked like clean.> Peace's Head was almost entirely clear, made of pure crystal. He had forged it after recovering from his bout of almost-insanity. The hilt was steel, wrapped with leather. It was similar in design to Squall's Lionheart, except more clear than blue, no gun part, a different style of handle, and slightly longer and thinner.
He dressed, getting out of the uncomfortable hospital robes, and walked to the door, sword strapped tightly to his back. There was some presence around, and though he couldn't place what it was, it was not exactly good. Looking around the room again, he loosened the straps on the sword and stepped through.
Everyone was standing around at the side with someone else. Garet caught a flash of blue as Laguna turned to him.
"Hey! Finally back with us, eh? Well, you took quite a banging with that thing... um... what was it again? Deems or something?" He scratched his head.
"EmDes?" Offered a familiar female voice. Stepping over to them, Garet found Rinoa standing there. She smiled at him. "Hi, Garet."
"Hello, Rinoa! Where've you been? Heard you stayed here after Ultimicia?" Garet smiled back, the unwelcome presence still somewhere nearby.
"Yeah, I needed some time to myself. I finally came to terms with me, and decided to stay around here. I'm... ready to go on with life, though." She seemed sure of what she was saying, as if they'd been rehearsed before. Garet wanted to ask her, 'So? When do you and Squall get married?' but didn't, of course.
"If you mean you're coming with us, you're wrong. I already told Selphie and Irvine they can't. I don't what you guys getting killed!" The presence was growing. Whatever it was. Garet looked around uneasily.
Rinoa started to respond, but Cloud cut her off. "You feel it too, huh Garet? Some unwanted presence?" Squall nodded too.
"Yeah." Garet withdrew his sword and made for the door. Laguna sent a call to security, but got no answer. He shrugged. Garet turned from the door. "Something's wrong. Get ready. Irvine, take Rinoa and Selphie and hole up in the back room for a while. Make a barricade. I don't doubt that you can protect yourselves, otherwise I would have told you to get out of the hospital. I'm stepping out for a look around." With that, he opened the door.
Standing in the hallway was a man. A single man, though sounds of struggle were somewhere close. The man was heavily armored, in jet black armor. He had a familiar sense about him. In his hand was a large, red sword.
--Hello Garet. I told you I'd be back.-- He turned. The rest of him was also armored. His face was covered, and all that showed was two small pinpricks of yellow light where the eyes should be. Garet, though surprised, showed no sign of it. They'd fought before.
"I thought I'd killed you. Why are you here?"
The right light got brighter, though the left eye was noticeably less bright. --Why have I always appeared to fight you? Because that is why I exist.-- It was true. This man had fought him many times. He claimed to be Garet's 'Dark Side', separated from him when he received his powers. Their strengths were nearly the same, each one finding something to beat the other with now and then. Last time, Garet had Peace's Head. He would appear for no reason now and then and the fight would begin. Last time, they had raged across Earth, -the man- (Who really didn't have a name) teleporting them whenever he felt like it. They passed through time and space. They saw the Pyramids of Giza, the Great Wall of China, the Eiffel Tower, Mount Everest... it was... fun, for lack of a better word. Garet slid the sword out, and Griever glowed dimly in anticipation. -The man- brought his sword up, and, without a word, lept at Garet.
They continually matched each others attacks perfectly- right, left, overhead, stab, lower sweep, swing... both were in a seeming stalemate. Griever was still glowing only dimly. They dropped off to rest.
"Guys! Go! Find out what's going on! I'll be fine!" Everyone took off running. Garet and -the man- went at it again, finally moving out into a large open lounge. A large pit fiend lay dead on the ground, numerous slash wounds on his face and chest. -The man-, like Garet, owed no true allegiance to anyone. He traveled, doing whatever he felt like doing. Like Garet, except Garet always joined the side he thought was 'good'. A quick glance at the fiend and Garet figured that the two had met in the hallway and the unfotunate fiend had tried to attack -the man-.
-The man- changed his tactics, trying to knock the Peace's Head out of Garet's hands. After a few attempts, he missed, and Garet seized the moment to slash him across the chest. -The man- yelled, and came back up, nearly missing Garet's head. His sword, which was apparently new, was big, long, and heavy- meaning an impressive swing, and a longer time to recover from a miss. He paused for a moment, with the sword up, over his head, and Garet quickly, in one motion, dropped his sword, grabbed a dagger from his belt and stabbed it right into -the man-'s right eye. He yelled again and dropped his sword. He fell to the ground, clutching his helmet. A trickle of blood ran down his hand and armor. The dagger still hung from the helmet.
There was a blinding flash, and Garet covered his eyes. When he came back, there was no sign of the dagger or the helmet. -The man-'s head was no more than a mass of yellow energy, though the 'eyes' were simply orbs. The stab had shattered one, and the other was nicked, apparently from their last meet. He rose, the blood still came down the face. Garet dimly wondered where the blood was coming from. The sword was back in his hand.
--You... I... HATE... you...--
--I hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate HATE you!!!--
Garet stepped back, the sword coming up. -The man- was beginning to be framed by a blue light. Realizing what it was, Garet gave a yell and jumped at him, sword coming down. Too late. A blur of blue energy shot out, hitting Garet right in the chest. When he looked up, -the man- was gone, and he was left alone, his chest burning.
[15 Sei, 3 AU]
[Presidential Palace of Esthar, Plane: GF]
Garet raised his head and looked around. The only solution seemed impossible, and the others were thinking the same thing. If it acutally worked, it was doubted that they would all survive. He turned back to the console in front of him and brought up the information again.
-Four days until meteor impact
-Location: Trabia Crater
>One unidentified power source
>Two EmDes, more powerful than average ones
>A horde of lesser creatures
Reading through that, Garet shook his head. Not very promising. He went on to the plan.
3.Incapacitate unidentified power source
4.Incapacitate monster horde
-The Ragnarok will swoop in at 1200 hours on Sei 16 firing at will. At the same time, the Esthar Army will be attacking from the south. The Ragnarok will then deploy Garet, Squall, Cloud, Kapt, and Andll as close to the EmDes as possible. They will then make for the EmDes, attempting to kill or incapacitate them. They will then attempt to make for the power source to kill it if possible. If the group fails, the Esthar Army will drive a wedge into the horde, attepting to reach the EmDes themselves. If both fail, the Ragnarok will attempt to bomb the area. If that fails, we withdraw and hope for the best.
That's it. The wondrous plan. The best they could come up with. Unfortunately, that was also all they could come up with. All anybody could come up with. He shook his head again, and promised himself, not for the first time, that he was going to retire if he survived. He studied the others. Squall was keeping to himself, though obviously not optomistic. He was stodying the maps and information carefully, as if looking for something. Cloud was sitting back, having read it through once. That was enough for him, and now all he cared about was getting this done with. Andll was still confident that he could think something else up, though every idea he came up with had some major flaw in it. Kapt was reading the details, while constantly pointing out the problems with Andll's plans. Laguna was sitting in front, muttering to Kiros and Ward while sizing up the group that sat before him.
"Well?" Laguna stood. "Will you do it?"
There it was. The question.
"Here're the choices. You have three. One, you can try to do this. Two, you can stay and die with the rest of us. Three, you can return to your home planes." In reality, it seemed like this- One, you could die trying to stop it, Two, you could die without having done anything, or Three, you can die with the guilt.
Squall spoke without standing. "I'll do it. It is my world, and I'm not going to sit back and watch it die."
Cloud stood. "I'm in. It's a purpose, and that's something I've been lacking since Sephiroth..." He trailed off, though Garet knew what he meant. He felt the same way between journeys.
Kapt leaned back, thoughtful as usual. Before the End, he had been brilliant. Always in honor roll, always looking for a test of the mind. The perfect mind to be a mage. "Nothing better to do right now... sure, why not?"
Andll, tired from his constant ideas, stood. "You know I think anything's possible. If this works, then that proves it." A few smiles popped up. "I'll do it."
That left Garet. "Alright."
Laguna smiled. "Alright. This has to work!" Suddenly, he reached down and clutched his leg in pain. Squall actually smiled.
[Morning before takeoff]
[16 Sei, 3 AU]
[Cliffs north of Esthar, Plane:GF]
Garet stood. He had rented a car and driven to the base of the cliffs bfore the sun rose, and climbed the cliffs to watch the sunrise. Beautiful. <If this is going to be the last sunrise of my life, I want to at least see it.> He looked down at the pad of paper and the drawing tools around it. He smiled. Before the End, drawing had been one of his favorite things to do. He hadn't drawn anything since he drew himself and Anah at their wedding two years ago. The picture on the paper was extremely well done. Apparently, the last Garet had some drawing skill, and Michael had inherited it. He decided to leave it here for someone to find.
Somewhere in the back of his mind, a song began. He concentrated on it, and soon, Lynyrd Skynyrd's Freebird was playing in his head. <If I leave here tomorrow... would you still remember me? Cause I'm free as a bird now, and this bird you cannot chain...> Ronnie Van Zant, the singer and guitarist of the group, had died a few years before the End. Sure, there were some good songs about the End times floating around then, though the bands that would have done good at it, like Led Zepplin and Santana, were all gone, replaced by Bards. <I hope the Bards are at least using guitars, and not... ugh... harps. I just can't hear Freebird on a harp.> He serioused up.
He looked north. Somewhere out there was the fight of his life. How ironic. Back before the End, he had always dreamed that something would happen to him to change the course of his life. He had been... discontent with his life. The summer before the End, he even struck out on his own. He took a sword, a flashlight, a map, a compass, and $500. He had survived over the whole summer vacation out there. He just went north, and kept careful tract of where he was. He had worked the whole winter to buy the sword, and continued saving until he had $500. He ate wild animal when he had to, and stopped at grocery store whenever he passed through a town. By the end of the summer, he was at the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and he called his parents to come get him. That was the best summer of his life...
...but that was almost a completely different person. He kneeled, signed his picture, and stood. He picked up a stone and concentrated on it for a moment, then turned away. He climbed down the mountain. <Michael is dead. He died ten years ago when his planet died. In his place stands Garet Jax. He may well be dead in a matter of hours.>
[After the battle]
[17 Sei, 3 AU]
[Trabia Crater, Plane: GF]
I picked myself up from the bodies scattered around me and looked around. The crater's face had been rearranged. Inside the crater were hundreds of new craters, created from meteors dropped by mages, laser shots from the Ragnarok, and other similar things. The few clunmps of trees were little more than still-burning torches now. As for the others...
Cloud lay dead ten feet to my right, bleeding from dozens of wounds. Kapt was on his way to Esthar Hospital, exhausted and drained of all bodily fluids from the fight. Andll was already being treated for a broken neck, among other things. Squall was out with Laguna and the last few members of the once great Esthar Army, hunting down the last of the Galbadians who had unexpectedly shown up, led by Seifer Almasy. Seifer himself lay dead, by Squall's own hand. Squalid had shown up recently and was busy too, cutting off the Galbadians with his own army. Garet was nowhere to be found. I checked myself, finding no wounds whatsoever. I walked forward.
There, five feet from a hole in the ground lay Garet. The EmDes were dead on both sides of him, along with hundreds of other creatures. He had killed them all. His eyes were closed, as if he had expected to die. I climbed down the hole. There was a faint yellow light around, and there, in the middle of what seemed to be a spotlight, lay a tangled mass. It seemed to be two different creatures-one, a black armored shell with a dim yellow light coming from it, and the other, a creature which seemed like a demon from Lower Hell. Both were dead.
I climbed back up. The Ragnarok flew overhead for the tenth time. After watching it go by, I turned my attention to the meteor. It hadn't disappeared, though the summoners and the power source were dead. I thought about what Garet had said to Squall before the fight... 'If I don't make it, give Anah this stone and tell her to say "Rise" to it. It will react only to her voice, and will take her to a place where I left something for her.'
I thought about that. Then looked at Garet again. Lifting him, I carried him to a barren cliff to the west of the crater where only a single tree grew. It was an oak. Garet had once told me that of all the trees, the oak was the greatest. Shade, strength. Here, under the shade of this great oak, I buried him. I put a simple wooden cross on the spot and tied his bandana around it. I then jammed the Peace's Head into the ground nearby.
Standing, I wondered what they would do now. I was not Garet Jax anymore. Garet Jax had finally died, carried by me to the peace that he had sought for so long. I'd managed to kill -the man-, who had plagued Garet Jax since the beginning of his existance. He gazed up into the sky. <Strange. I wonder how the multiverse will turn out, now? I wonder how the people of the planes will react when they find out that there is no Garet jax to protect them when they need it?> He shook his head. <No. It's not my problem anymore. All I need to do is convince the people of New Eden that I've accomplished enough to live there, and nothing will ever bother me again.> He muttered a few words in a long dead language and stepped through the portal that appeared. Michael Dewar left the problems and cares of reality behind him.