Before the Storm
Time: Just before Edgar, Sabin, Locke and Terra reach the Returners base in the World of Balance
Wind rolled over the clearing, whipping the dry grasses. Though the sun beamed magnificently, the breeze cut through its warmth and brought a hint of Narshes winter southward. Edgar relaxed under the sun, enjoying the short moments in which the wind ceased. Such moments of peace were rare for the ruler of a great kingdom, and he welcomed them. Settling back into the grass, he closed his eyes.
Behind him, Locke and Sabin could be heard talking a short distance away. Two people he had not seen in some time had again entered into his life, and in just a few days time; he took it as a bad omen. Trouble was brewing. Rumors had surfaced in the past months that many people in high places were unhappy with the Empire. Although he had not been in contact with the Returners lately, his kingdom had been alive with whispers of rebellion.
The emperor took his power too far. In the old days of the Empire, Gesthal had been content to let his subjects fear him, send him an annual tax... If the man had enough sense to keep it that way, the kingdoms would probably never have thought it worth the trouble to rid themselves of the Empire. But Gesthals getting older, beginning to feel insecure. He thinks-- without cause-- that perhaps the people are starting to notice it too, Edgar thought, reasoning the entire situation out for himself. So he decides to make a show of power by placing troops in the cities. That had been his biggest mistake. People who were indifferent to an empire that kept its distance were outraged when the government started interfering with their lives. Assigning soldiers to Narshe had forced citizens to begin wondering if it wouldnt perhaps be a good idea to free themselves of the Empire. Most of them were still too frightened to seriously attempt anything.
There would come a time, however, when anger would overcome fear. Push people hard enough and they start to push back.
And soon troops would be stationed in South Figaro...
Stretching lazily, Edgar tried to enjoy the gentle rustling of the grass; this was truly a peaceful place. But a shadow now hovered over his thoughts. The peace would be short-lived, he feared. Every storm is proceeded by a calm, and this was it. Once he stepped inside the Returners base, it would be over and he would have no more peace for a long time. Thundering and roaring, the storm would come crashing in. The world would likely be swept away by it indefinitely.
Edgar didnt know what would finally end the storm, but he thought he knew who would start it. The emperors little flunky Kefka had been behind Gesthal, nurturing the emperors doubts and fears, giving him pushes in the "right" direction. It had been he that had convinced Gesthal to take such an active interest in Espers and magic, Edgar was sure. Yes, the storm would arrive soon, and Kefka would be the cloud that carried it in.
The only thing he couldnt figure out was the why. What was in it for Kefka? Edgar didn't attempt to conjure a reason; it could be almost anything. The man was truly a lunatic. If not entirely insane, Kefka was at least prone to psychotic behavior. Burning Figaro Castle, for instance, had seemed a grand entertainment to him.
Edgar just hoped that when the storm hit, it wouldnt bury the world beneath it.
A cackle from Sabin sounded a jarring note in the quiet air, rousing the young king from his dark thoughts. He opened his eyes and sat up. A flash of red cloth up ahead caught his eye-- Terra. He had almost forgotten about the girl, which surprised him; she wasnt exactly the sort you met everyday: a young woman with the power of the Espers, enslaved by the Empire for years.
As he looked at her soft profile, Edgar suddenly pitied her. Everyone seemed to want her, including the Returners. Perhaps she did posses unimaginable power (Perhaps? Havent you already seen proof of it?), but right now it didnt seem so. She looked very fragile... innocent. That would change, even if she refused to help the Returners. Terra would be fought over by the rebels and the Empire, and between the two of them, she would be sucked dry. There was nothing anyone could do to change it.
But isnt there? Are you any better than either group if you do nothing?
He wasnt doing nothing, though; he was bringing her straight to Banon, none other than the Returners leader. Of course, no one would force her into siding with them, but she was a sympathetic girl. How could she say no to the desperate plea that Banon was sure to stage?
Edgar would throw her to the lions because he had no other choice. War always had casualties, right? He sighed. No other choice...
Having a sudden vision of himself carrying Terra away from those that sought to use her (on a white horse, no less), Edgar laughed softly. He was fairly sure that she would object rather strongly to his carrying her anywhere; he had failed to make a wonderful first impression. And then, to top it off, he had made such a fuss over her "abilities" back in the desert...
"But, Terra, no normal person has your powers!"
Locke had been quite angry over that, and rightfully so. Edgar wasnt sure why he had said it. It really was a stupid thing to do. It was something about being around pretty women that made him say idiotic things. At least she had accepted his apology, though.
Terra seemed to have two sides to her. The angry, offended woman at Figaro was a far cry from the girl who now sat in the warm grass, humming a haunting melody to herself. At times the power she possessed surfaced for a brief time, but for the most part, the girl kept them in check. Earlier, however, Terra had commented that her abilities seemed to be growing. Edgar shuddered at the thought of what would happen if it grew too great for her to control someday. The glimpse of energy he had witnessed in the desert had been... impressive.
The Returners were right-- such power would be the key to defeating the Empire. Would it, wondered Edgar, someday destroy everything else? Dance about the fire and you were sure to be burned, sooner or later.
Terra whipped her head around to face him and stared, almost as is she had heard his thoughts. He returned her gaze distractedly. After a few seconds she smiled gently, almost sympathetically, and turned back to whatever she had been occupied with. There was something so odd about her...
Would her barely contained power consume them in the end?
Someone touched his shoulder from behind. "We must be on our way, brother, " Sabin said.
Edgar sank back into the grass and closed his eyes again. He knew they should be leaving, but he didnt want to go; he wanted to stay and bask in the peace of this place for as long as possible, listening to the wind, the rustling of the grass, and a young girls singing. Perhaps the storm could be delayed for a while.
But it was too late. A cloud covered the sun, allowing the wind to chill the air, which now had the scent of approaching rain to it.
It has always been too late, though, hasnt it? He thought, seeing Terra in his mind. It has been too late, I think, since the day she was born.
Forcing himself to stand, Edgar walked slowly to join the others, who had gathered a short distance away. The color of the sky now reflected his dark mood. The storm was coming. Edgar almost said something to his companions, but decided against it.
Too late, something whispered to him.
Casting a longing glance at his former peaceful haven, Edgar and the others silently began to walk under the gray sky.
Not long now.