We last left our heroes preparing to do battle against the armies of the most evil being ever to call their universe home, Zarok: a ruthless, evil man-beast, whose name literally means ultimate horror in the Vehssian old tongue. Now, we travel to this corrupt despots lair...
Final Fantasy III: The New Returners Part 2
By Loren Leah
Zarok sat on a richly embroidered Denubian carpet in his dim chambers, contemplating his latest attack... He wondered how he could put the land of Figaro to work, once it was one of his provinces.
Zarok was a beastman, a bloodthirsty, hideous result of one of the first horribly botched experiments of the Empire to imbue humans with Esper powers. He had once been human, a citizen of Figaro, and a soldier under King Edgar III...but of course, Edgar IV--the present king--knew nothing of that. Edgar IV also didnt know that Edgar III had executed Zaroks mother and brother, after Zarok had defected to the Empire...and he also didnt know that now, Zarok was out for revenge.
Of course, as it was said, vengeance was a dish best served cold. Bit by bit Zarok had amassed an empire, and an army, and now, revenge would be his.
And it would be sweet.
* * *
Everyone rushed around in a frenzy, hurrying to put on armor, sharpen blades, and the like. Terra, already in her usual armor, picked up her Atma Weapon from the armory and rushed over to the dungeon.
She rushed to the cells of Crono and company, and began to unlock them. Hey, what gives? asked Crono as she came to his cell. I thought we were prisoners.
You are, said Terra as she rushed from cell to cell, but Zarok of the
Zenobian Empire is going to attack soon, and we can use all the help we can get.
So...we art free? wondered Glenn aloud as he meandered out of his cell.
For the time being, Terra replied. As she unlocked the last cell, she said, Now follow me. Ill show you to the armory, where your weapons are. And also, I wouldnt expect much help from everyone else during the battle. Most of them still dont trust you.
Yeah, I kinda thought that would be the case, muttered Crono as he and the others followed Terra out.
* * *
Edgar stood next to the armory door, his armor polished and his spear in hand, as he directed people in and out of the armory. On the other side stood Percy, now wearing a glossy black chestplate over his tunic. As Edgar directed the traffic, as he called it, he noticed several peculiar figures gradually getting closer to the door.
When they finally reached the door, he wasnt very happy about who they turned out to be.
Why, its...you! he exclaimed in a mixture of surprise, amazement, and contempt.
Yes, its us, said Terra as she approached. Who else would it be?
Well, Edgar said through clenched teeth, perhaps some people whore not supposed to be in prison.
Magus elbowed his way to the front of the group, and Edgar could see the hate glowing in his narrowed eyes as he spoke. You know, this security is highly unnecessary. After all, if I wanted to kill you, youd already be dead.
Edgar narrowed his eyes to match. Fine, he said gruffly. Get in and get your weapons. And hurry up.
Everyone filed in and retrieved their things.
At last, they were prepared for battle.
* * *
Funsworth, burdened by the weight of Zaroks Brunhild Sword, not to mention his own dagger and coat of chain mail, stumbled into his masters chambers.
Funsworth was closely related to a rare Vehssian race of elves, and thus,
stood barely three feet tall. However, he was a master with many weapons, and a deadly opponent in battle. That was why Zarok had chosen him, out of all his soldiers, to be his personal bodyguard--as if Zarok really needed such a thing. His main uses for Funsworth were to retreive his sword and listen to his evil plots, which Funsworth enjoyed immensely. He hoped Zarok would have another one for him today.
There you are, Funsworth, said Zarok as he got up from his favorite carpet and lit the fireplace. On his face was a friendly, though bestial, smile of recognition.
Heres your sword, sir, as you requested, said Funsworth as he laid the sword down, happy to have its weight off his hands.
Excellent, said Zarok. Has it been sharpened?
Of course, sir, Funsworth replied. He normally would have said more, but he sensed that his master wasnt in the mood.
S--something...wrong, sir? he finally stammered, and pushed a lock of jet-black hair back under his iron helmet. He hoped Zarok wouldnt become angry, and rip his heart out of his chest...
After all, that was what Zarok had done to the last bodyguard whod annoyed him.
* * *
Magus swung his scythe too swiftly for the eye to see, cleanly cutting in half the white cloth Terra and Setzer were trying to rip apart into bandages. After the disappearance of magic, they had found it necessary to use conventional medical techniques instead of healing spells. Magus thought it a pity, but it didnt matter much to him, since he knew no healing techniques at all.
You know, we could have done that ourselves, whined Setzer as Magus lowered his scythe. Im sure you could have, said Lucca, who was standing beside Magus, but its considerably easier this way, dont you think?
Setzer grumbled something under his breath that wasnt meant for anyone to hear, but Maguss ears picked up a little of it. ...outsiders...think they can tell us what to do...little pipsqueaks...
Magus ignored the swearing that followed as he continued to cut bandages.
* * *
Funsworth ran down the dank passageways of the main barracks, finally reaching the soldiers quarters. He moved quickly from the meeting room to the mess hall and through the bedrooms, and finally reached the storage room.
He searched through piles and piles of old uniforms, discarded weapons, and Tonics past their expiration dates until he finally found his trunk.
It was very old, inscribed with a poem in the Vehssian old tongue.
The poem read:
If ever in your wildest dreams
youve dreamt of something new,
A thing no one has ever seen-
Then let that thing be you.
Translated into English, it read:
If ever in your wildest dreams
youve dreamt of something new,
A thing no one has ever seen-
then let that thing be you.
Funsworth didnt really understand the inscription, which dated from before the War of the Magi, but he thought it was pretty just the same. However, it was what was inside the chest that really mattered to him.
He opened it, and ckecked to see that everything was in place--his prized quicksilver boomerang, his set of eight forged-ruby throwing knives, and a spiked glove that he had obtained from the Mana Knight, among other things. He dug deeper into it, and finally found what he was looking for--a quiverfull of all-but-nonexistent Fire Arrows and his favorite long bow, made with the strings of one of the Twin Harps. He picked up the bow, secured the quiver on his back, grabbed his item pouch from the chest, and scurried out of the room.
* * *
Marle stood on the highest turret of Figaro Castle, waiting beside Crono, Lucca, and the others as they searched for Zaroks troops to arrive.
How long we wait? Ayla want fight soon, said Ayla, who was sitting on the towers stone floor.
We dont know how long well be here, said Lucca, who was scanning the horizon with her patented Celesto-Scope binoculars (her 485th patent, for your information).
Marle leaned over the side of the tower to watch Magus, who was hovering just below the tower level and was observing Edgars troops more closely than he was watching for Zaroks. Lucca leaned over the side as well and called to him, Hey, try to keep on task, all right? He didnt respond.
Suddenly, Crono rushed over to their side. He pushed his way to the edge of the tower and yelled down at the soldiers below, Hey guys, Ive got two words for you: heeeeeres Zarok!
* * *
Funsworth rode astride his black chochobo, adorned in his finest platinum-and-gold battle armor studded with emeralds and rubies. His chochobo was decked out as well, in a matching ornamental harness, bridle, and saddle. He rode in front of Zaroks first wave of troops, numbering around one thousand men. Zarok himself rode just in front of Funsworth, also on a black chochobo and wearing his finest set of silver Minerva armor. Zarok had explained to Funsworth that the first wave would storm in from the north, followed by a smaller force coming from the south. Funsworth wondered who was leading that regiment--since as far as he knew, Zarok and himself were the only soldiers qualified to lead troops to war--but he didnt have time to wonder any longer.
They were approaching Figaro Castle.
* * *
Magus stood at the steps of Figaro Castles entrance, listening to the quiet but nervous conversation making ripples through the crowd of soldiers like a stone dropped into water. King Edgar, who was standing in front of the crowd, cleared his throat and motioned for silence.
Excuse me, everyone, but Id like to start, Edgar said. The entire crowd fell silent. Now, if I may go on, he continued, our lookouts have spotted some scouts and troopers coming from the north, but supposedly there are more coming from a different direction. Our reconnaissance officers will give you more information.
At that he stepped away from his spot and Percy, Setzer and Locke stepped in. Percy started to speak. Our chief spy here, Locke, stuck around in Zaroks capital after we left and got more information on the attack, he said. Ill let Locke tell you about it.
Locke cleared his throat, and spoke. From the info Ive been able to get, I think Zaroks troops are gonna attack from two sides: the first big force will come in from the north, and then a smaller bunch will come in from the south and mop up whatevers left. At least thats what they think theyll do.
Anyway, he continued, both Zarok and his bodyguard, Funsworth, will come in with the first wave. We dont know whos leading the second wave, so when it gets here, keep your eyes open for somebody who looks like a general, and--
But before he could finish, Terra sauntered up to the front of the crowd. I have a clue as to who the general might be, she said.
Aw, not this premonition stuff again, Magus heard Locke mumble.
The general, Terra said, is someone closely connected to him. She pointed.
She was pointing straight at Magus.
* * *
Zaroks long, sharp teeth glinted in his mouth as he smiled at the thought of his upcoming conquest. He stepped off his chochobo and into the sand. He drew his Brunhild Sword, and watched as Edgars soldiers approached. He could see that they were ordinary castle guards. Obviously, Edgar was saving the best for last. Excellent tactics, Zarok thought to himself, but in the end they will not matter.
Charge! he shouted. His infantry drew their weapons and started to mix it up with the Figaro soldiers. Then, little by little, members of Figaros elite group of do-gooders started trickling out of the castle.
Then, Zarok picked up a strange new scent with his beastly nose. The scent of...something new. Someone new. In fact, several someones. But who?
He started to walk toward the castle, fending off soldiers as he went. He was going to find out.
* * *
Magus moved to a fighting stance, his teeth clenched, all his senses sharpening for battle. He had spent the better part of his life perfecting his fighting technique, and it wasnt about to fail him now.
The enemy soldier swung his sword, clumsily, it seemed to Maguss finely attuned senses. Magus quickly dodged, and swung his scythe.
The soldiers head dropped to the ground, with barely any blood.
Terra turned around. Thats...kind of gross, she said as she looked down at the beheaded soldier.
I read that your friend Celes used to do the same thing when she was with the Empire, Magus countered, whipping out a handkerchief and wiping the blood off his scythe.
I see youve learned our history pretty rapidly, Terra said softly.
Well, said Magus, your war chronicles were handy in the castle library, and I make it my business to read every book I can get my gloves on, so... He shrugged awkwardly, as if he wasnt used to acting casual.
Magus heard quiet shuffling behind him, and ducked just as an enemy soldiers sword swung over his head.
I guess wed better concentrate on the battle, said Terra as she turned around to face another foe.
At that moment, Magus could have sworn he felt a hint of some strange new emotion course through him.
How peculiar, he thought as he beheaded another foe.
* * *
Edgar thrust his spear through the flimsy chain mail of his opponent, quickly pulled it out, and edged away. He never stuck around long after an enemy had been defeated. Having to look at the blood was bad enough... He trotted away and circled the area, looking for another potential foe.
Not seeing anyone on the northern side at the moment, he ran over to the south side, where Zaroks second wave had just begun to arrive. He saw the mysterious new general--or what he could see of the general, since whoever it was was wearing a long hooded cloak--slaughtering one of his men, strangling him with gauntleted hands.
Edgar raised his spear and charged.
* * *
Magus saw what happened at the last possible moment. That new general, whose aura seemed so eerily familiar, was conjuring a Dark Flare spell--a spell that would seriously injure, and maybe even kill, Edgar if it hit him. Bluish-violet plumes of flame burst from her fingers as he watched.
As Edgar charged, oblivious to the danger, Magus charged as well. He pushed the King of Figaro out of the spells path, taking the full brunt of the damage, and immediately collapsed on the ground.
In a clearly female voice, the general exclaimed, What!? Him AGAIN!? Then she seemed to regain her composure. Well, no matter. He wont ruin me this time. Boys, take him away. The generals bodyguards stepped out from behind her, picked Magus up, and loaded him onto the generals chochobo.
Edgar, petrified with astonishment, stood there and watched the whole thing.
* * *
HOW COULD YOU JUST STAND THERE!? Terra screamed at Edgar, who was standing beside her at the castle steps. Her throat was sore after shouting out orders to soldiers all afternoon, but she had to be firm. This was an important matter.
Im sorry. Edgar looked down at his armored feet. I dont know what came over me. I...I just froze.
Suddenly, Marle came running from the south side of the castle. Weve managed to beat them back! she exclaimed happily. They put up a good fight, but eventually they ran out of healing potions, and Zarok told them to retreat.....um...something wrong? You guys look awfully glum.
Do you want me to tell her, Edgar? Terra asked. Edgar nodded, not taking his gaze from his shoes.
Well, said Terra, that new general, the one Locke warned us about...
Yes? said Marle.
She...kidnapped Magus, Terra finished quickly. Marle gasped, and ran back over to the south side of the castle.
I hope they dont take it too hard, Terra said.
Terra and Edgar heard loud sobbing coming from the castles south side.
I feel just wicked, Edgar moaned.
You deserve it for the way you treated Crono and his friends, Terra thought as she entered the castle.
* * *
Marle blew her nose on Cronos borrowed bandana as she knelt on the ground. Why do things like these always happen to Magus? she wondered silently, while tears streamed down her cheeks. Hes been through enough!
Lucca, who was standing beside her, tried to comfort her. Try looking at it this way, she said. Hes probably still unconscious, so he doesnt know hes been captured, and if he doesnt know hes captured, then in theory, he cant suffer!
Marle sobbed loud enough to wake Lavos. Luccas so-called scientific explanations made her miserable every time.
Just then, Edgar walked around from the castles north side. He knelt beside Marle, took her hand in his, and softly said, Please dont cry. I... He stopped to sigh. Im really, really, REALLY sorry. Well get him back before anything happens to him. I promise.
Marle looked up at him, and knew he was sincere. Well, she said softly through her tears, now...now youre sure we arent the enemy...right?
Edgar looked solemnly into her eyes. Magus saved my life, he said. I give you--all of you--a full pardon. On the spot. I really am sorry.
Out of the corner of her eye, Marle saw Terra watching them from behind the corner of the castle.
She was smiling.
* * *
End of Part 2
Were not done yet! What will become of Zarok, the mysterious general...and Magus?? Find out in Part 3!
Need a sample? Here goes!
Wake up, prophet...
Wake up! a voice shouted at Magus. His eyes snapped open, and he saw immediately that he was in a jail cell. The person whod been yelling at him was the mysterious, cloaked general, who was standing over him.
Ungh...did you call me...prophet? he asked her as he sat up. Or at least, he tried to sit up. As soon as he did, he felt unbearably woozy and laid down again.
Correct, the general answered. Magus was unnerved. There was something so familiar about that voice, that aura...
Suddenly, Maguss world went black.
* * *