A Square Deal Chapter 14
Rogues, Brigands, etc.
Recap: Well, hasn't this all been a trip? Remember last chapter? NO?!? Well, you're going to need to remember back two chapters ago, when we last saw our friends in the world of FF2. (Actually, we saw Nivea, Locke and Gaspar last chapter... but who's counting?) Relm and Palom had finally made it to Mysidia, Celes and Eddie are getting closer to the Watery Pass, and Locke, Nivea and Gaspar are getting ready to face a new day joining the Brotherhood C.U.P., headed by the handsome Tora. Now you remember? Good, but finally, we've found Clyde, and that's who we are going to begin with.
They had been out on the road for about a day now, and had found neither hide nor hair of Relm.
"Damn that woman! Why the hell did she send us here? Just to separate me from Relm again?" Clyde cursed under his breath.
When they had first arrived in... wherever they were, they had been dropped in the middle of a desert. Luckily, they had found a town quickly; Kaipo, the oasis town that had been of little help. No one there had seen Relm, or could direct them to any place that made sense. Baron? Damcyan? Fabul? Where in the world were they? Clyde had never been one who was well read upon things such as women who come from trees, and whirling portals that suck people up into strange places. This whole situation was just getting on his nerves, though he was doing a rather good job at not showing it.
Roland, though, had been of greater help. He was good at speaking with people, which was something that Clyde had never quite mastered. He usually left that to Relm. Roland had found out through someone that the best pace to get worldwide information was Baron, which was some distance to the south. Currently, they were nearing the mountains that they needed to pass through in order to reach Baron.
"Damn, damn, damn..." Clyde mumbled to himself again. Strago walked up next to him.
"You're still worried about Relm, aren't you?" The old man asked him quietly as they walked.
"Of course I'm worried! I have no clue to where she might be, she could be lost out there, alone and hurt... And on top of that, Birdie refuses to fly. He says that the Mana Tree told him not to... And why would it do that? This whole thing has, as Relm would say, 'my panties in a knot'!" Clyde yelled without raising his voice. Yet despite the seriousness of the situation, that little usage of one of Relm's catch phrases plunged the two men into a series of loud chuckles.
"Yes, Clyde, I miss her too. But let's be optimistic. I've learned in my years that too much time is spent worrying. Let's make the best of what we can do here. Perhaps we are here to help someone, and Relm is helping someone too, wherever she is," Strago suggested.
"Perhaps. Let's keep moving, and be thankful that the woman allowed Birdie to still carry or packs for us," Clyde said cynically.
"I'm sorry, Clyde, but that's what she said, and I'm obligated to follow her orders," Birdie said, cutting in on the conversation.
"It's alright, Birdie," Clyde said placing his hand to his temples. He could feel a right terrible headache coming on.
They continued on walking. When the heat of the day set in, they were still in the desert, and still an hour away from the refuge of the greener landscape. The four men Clyde, Sam, Roland and Strago climbed up on the back of Birdie, and with some of the magical branches of which they had gathered in the Sacred Grove, they created an impromptu canopy to block out the sun. The shade which the branched created was a very cool and refreshing shade, which the magical properties of the sticks most likely played a factor in. Birdie seemed to be indifferent to the heat, either that, or he was too preoccupied with worrying about Relm to notice.
After the hour passed, the swirling tan sands of the desert gave way to a small savanna with long brown-green grasses and shrubs. Clyde admired the untouched beauty of this place; his own world was slowly becoming changed by man at every corner. Electric wires were being put up in every town and through once wild areas, and the new power plants were stinky. His world was going through a technological revolution, and becoming less dependent upon magic, while it seemed that this world was still back a few hundred years in technology. The trees off in the distance swayed back and forth in the gentle breeze, and the sky had a few white, fluffy clouds. He relaxed in the humming tune of nature all around.
Overhead, a loud, fast, large airship flew dangerously low and looked as if it were out of control. Birdie ducked and put his front paws over his head, the action of which tipped the riders off balance, and they all fell.
"There went the serenity of that chain of thought..." Clyde commented as he was being bucked off.
The other three landed most uncomfortably, but Clyde managed to keep his balance and land on his feet. He turned back to catch sight of the airship. "Oh Shit!!!! Get out of the way, they're gonna crash!" Clyde shouted. Birdie perked up his ears and looked for himself. So, bending the rules of the Mana Woman slightly, he got his wings fluttering, picked up the three downed men and took off with Clyde grasping hold of his tail. They were clear just as the airship came barreling down, and it skidded a half-mile into the nearby forest, leaving a long scar in the grass and trees. Pieces of wood and machinery littered the area as the ship came to rest in a smoking mass.
"Birdie, let's go and see if they're alright," Clyde shouted so that Birdie could hear him from the other pole of his body.
"Right," Birdie said in affirmation. He flew sinuously down to the crash site and set everyone down a few yards away from the hull of the ship.
"What a right strange looking airship, with those propellers up on top. Mr. Gabianni's ship is much more streamlined than that, and most likely has a better engine," said Roland, examining some of the mechanical rubble.
"'Mr. Gabianni'?" Clyde asked.
"Oh, yes. Didn't I tell you that I used to always service Setzer's ship? Both of them actually. I made adjustments on the Blackjack, and I designed and supervised the building of the Falcon. Setzer's friend, Darryl, bought it from me. I had told her that it was still experimental, and that she should be careful at high altitudes. But, sadly, she didn't take my warning. Setzer brought the wreckage back to me, and I repaired it for free in respect of his loss. I thought that I had told you that I knew Mr. Gabianni?" Roland explained.
"No, I don't believe that you did, Dad, what a small world. Let's go," Clyde urged them on.
As they got closer to the ship, Clyde could feel some tense vibrations in the air, -- it felt like a fracas. He proceeded with caution, then dodged just in time as the hull of the ship burst open, and a gaggle of grungy-looking men came out, all chasing after one man. Clyde could just make out that the armor of the man looked like the scales of a dragon.
"Hah! You bastardly Rogues! Thinking you can take on the last of the Noble Dragoons!" the man taunted the group of pursuers. "Uh-oh..." He said as he was counting the numbers. "..Really stirred up a hornet's nest this time..."
Clyde could sense the brave spirit of the man in the Dragon armor as he watched intently as the man repeatedly slashed, impaled and stomped his adversaries. Then it occurred to him that the odds were completely too much against the Dragoon.
"Would you care for some help, Noble Dragoon?" Clyde called out to the man, while running towards the battle. The rest of the assailants were taking notice of the other people there, and came at them.
"Oh, please do! It's not polite to hog all of the fun!" the Dragoon yelled back as he dispatched another man.
Clyde didn't need to be told twice.
"Come, let's fight!" Clyde called to his comrades and enemies alike. He did a quick backflip and leapt near to where the Dragoon was. He drew the stunner from his leg-sheath and pointed at the fiends.
"Whatcha gonna do with that pecker-knife, fairy-cake? Slice me a pie?" one of the Rogues said, feeling that a small knife was no match for his own sword.
"Try me," Clyde growled. When the Rogue came after him, Clyde easily parried the blow, and got four slices into the man's stomach before the other recovered his stance. "You're the pie, marshmallow," he said as the man fell.
Roland drew his longsword and took out five Rogues without even breaking a sweat. Strago was having quite a time using his lores again, and Sam was doing his best with his own dirk. Sam could fight, but not as well as the others, for only way that he had injured Clyde before was because Clyde had been unarmed and surprised.
Meanwhile, Clyde and the Dragoon were back to back, surrounded by at least twelve Rogues. Without even a word, they began a joint offensive: Clyde ducked down and turned on his heel, while the Dragoon leapt over him. In doing this, they caught the assailants off guard, so Clyde was able to slash through four in an instant, then stab, jab and hack his way through the rest on his side and the Dragoon stomped seven heads consecutively, breaking each's neck in turn.
From the branches of the trees, some more of the infinite amount of Rogues leapt down to the ground. The Dragoon was caught by chance, and five had him pinned. Clyde, however, had remained wary, and spattered a shower of shurikens at the Rogues which were falling towards him. The Rogues landed on the forest floor with a dull thud and a splat.
Clyde returned to the side of the Dragoon, and kicked the remaining Rogues off of him. The Dragoon leapt up, but in discomfort; a small running wound was just visible from the side of the armor on his leg. Without much further thinking, Clyde broke out with a spell.
"Grand healing force..." (Cure 3) he said aloud. The green magical light flashed for a second, and the Dragoon's wound stopped bleeding.
"Thanks," said the Dragoon as he leapt off again.
The continuing barrage of Rogues was getting rather tiresome. Roland was surrounded, Strago was getting tired, and Sam was ready to run away. Clyde had an idea, but it would call for some help. He had noted the way that the Dragoon could fly above them for so long... and where was Birdie? Clyde spied the white dragon, who was clawing away at his own set of Rogues.
"No more time to be wasted!" Clyde dug into his pack and withdrew a handful of calligraphy scrolls.
"Take these and drop them over the enemies," Clyde said to the Dragoon, while shoving the scrolls into his hands, and hurried off. The Dragoon leapt off to reach the correct altitude.
Clyde yelled at Birdie, "Birdie! Flame when the Dragoon lands!" Birdie understood, and asked no questions; anything he could do to get these men away.
Clyde then began to chant the words: "Ancient scrolls of mystical Ninja power..." in the corner of his eye he saw the Dragoon descending, "Heed my command..." touchdown, "Break forth thy energies!" Clyde was enveloped for a split second in the illusive energies of the Ninja magic just long enough so that Birdie's spiral of flame would not hurt him.
The Dragoon leapt to safety with the flames licking at his heels, the Rogues not ending up quite so lucky. The flame took out a group in its path, and the Ninja Scrolls burst out with their awesome powers of fire, water and electricity. The rest of the Rogues in the vicinity were incinerated.
Off to the sides of the fight, there were still a few remaining Rogues duking it out with Sam, Roland and Strago. Roland was occupied with two opponents at once, and was rather enjoying the workout.
"You boys really shouldn't attack people with skills better than yours," he said to them while he slashed a hole in the first's pants.
"We'll kill you!" They said in unison.
"I know, I know. I've heard it all before," and as he finished the sentence, he ran the second through with his blade.
From the other side of the scar in the forest he noticed Clyde, Birdie and the Dragoon running towards to help out with the stragglers, which was just enough time to distract him. From behind he felt a blow to his back, and he fell to his knees, dropping his sword. A tall, ugly, scratched-up Rogue stood over him, grimacing malevolently.
"Gotcha, old man," he said, his own blade poised over Roland.
"Dad!" Clyde called out, hurrying with a shuriken, but too far away to do anything in time to help.
Roland still scrambled for his sword, although he knew inherently that he could do nothing to save himself at this point. The Rogue's blade fell...
"Sir!" Roland heard over him at the moment he thought that would be his last. With a look over his shoulder he saw the wiry body of his faithful butler come down over him, with the blade run through his stomach. He watched Sam fall, stunned for a moment, then a red haze washed over his mind.
Wordless, he found his longsword and stood before the Rogue, who was trying to wrench the blade from Sam. Wordless, Roland looked the Rogue straight in the eye. Wordless, he raised his sword. Wordless, the Rogue's head came away from his body.
Roland stood over the decapitated Rogue for a moment, and was joined by Clyde and the Dragoon.
"What happened?" asked Clyde as he came upon his father.
"Sam saved me." Roland said as he knelt down beside the fallen servant. "Sam, Sam! Come on, speak to me!" he shouted.
Sam's eyes opened slowly. "Sir, you're all right..." he mumbled, "did you get him?"
"Yes, the Rogue is gone. Clyde, could you use your Cure spell on him?" Roland asked his son.
"Take the blade out of him, and I'll see what I can do," Clyde said. Roland gently removed the bloody blade from the wound, while Clyde concentrated.
"Grand Healing Force..." Clyde said softly, and gestured his hands over the wound. For a moment, the would glowed in the way that the spell usually permitted, but only for a moment. The magical presence faded like a burnt-out light bulb. Clyde scratched his head, slightly bewildered.
"Shoulda worked. Maybe this requires a stronger spell. Strago, help me out. We're gonna try one of those er, new spells like Terra did."
Strago nodded his head in consent. The elderly man began chanting to gather mystical forces around him, while Clyde did the same. Soon, they were locked in one mind between each other's magic, so together they began to mumble a spell.
"Forces of blue... spirit of the Ninja... steal from the heavens... the strength of Creator... Mana surround... in the Ultimate... Healing... Power!" A shimmering green presence came out from all that surrounded. It was Mana gathering, and then it concentrated on Sam. The presence enveloped him in a blue-green mist, and coagulated into him. The wound began to heal, but then stopped halfway through. Both Clyde and Strago were stunned, for they both knew how much power had gone into the spell.
"What's wrong with the magic?" Birdie asked.
"There is a point in being so badly injured, that all of the curative spells in the world could not help, but I don't believe that Sam had been injured that badly," Strago commented.
"It has to be something else," Clyde said, "I know that my magic works here, because I already used Grand Healing on the Dragoon. There must be something in the wound or on the blade," he picked up the blade and examined it closely.
"We might as well bandage him up for now and prepare a stretcher. He can ride on Birdie until we can find that town on the way to Baron. Though, I don't know how far off it is," Roland said, while searching the provisions for bandaging materials.
"The Village of Mist is almost a half a day from here on foot, it I might say so," the Dragoon added.
The rest of the party turned their attentions to the stranger again.
"Thanks," Roland said, "I don't believe that we have been acquainted, sir..." Roland said waiting for a name.
"The name is Kain Arrowny, last of the Noble Dragoons. I was headed to Baron to visit an old friend when I came across this bunch of dastardly Rogues sacking a town. I hopped onto their airship as they left and we had been duking it out until I heh accidentally smashed the helm control on the ship," he said, feeling obligated to explain how this whole ordeal began, since they became caught in the middle of it.
The other four men exchanged glances. (Even Sam. He's wounded, not in a coma.) That name.
"Well, nice to meet you, Kain, you're quite the warrior. I'm Clyde... Arrowny," he hesitated to say. He knew that Arrowny was not the most common name in the world, or at least the world that Clyde knew. He had felt a certain kinship with him.
"As are you. I haven't seen such Ninja prowess since I last came across Edge of Eblan. It's quite a coincidence, meeting someone with the same last name as I, with so many people in the world. We may be related," Kain said, not too alarmed by sharing the name. He extended his armored hand and shook Clyde's.
"I'm Roland Arrowny, Clyde's father," Roland cut in between them, giving the dragoon a hearty handshake, as unconcerned about the surname as Kain had been. "Our injured friend is Sam Beauregard and the elderly gentleman is Strago Magus." Roland introduced the rest.
"I prefer to be called 'youthfully challenged'," Strago said with his arms crossed.
Birdie ruffled his feathers and fur.
"And what am I? Chopped salmon?" he said to Roland, annoyed. Roland chuckled.
"And how could I forget our faithful companion, the Mana Dragon, Birdie," he gave Birdie a pat on the head.
"Very nice to meet you all." He said. He stopped for a moment, taking in the full extent of everything. "Gosh, I'm really sorry about all of this. I tend to not realize what the consequences of my actions are right away," he was sincerely apologetic.
"Don't worry about it. We would have run into some of these 'Rogues' eventually, since we heard back in Kaipo that these brigands are all over the land, sea and air'" Strago said, filling in for Roland, who was helping Clyde hoist Sam's stretcher onto Birdie's back.
"They weren't kidding. These guys are the worst thing we've had in about, oh, ten years, back when the whole thing with the crystals happened. (Sheesh, it's been so long!)" he paused while he took his helmet off. He had a light complexion, probably from wearing the helmet often, and a mass of dirty blond hair that stuck up with sweat. "I'm surprised that this is news to you."
"Well, we're from outta town." Strago added. "And what exactly did happen ten years ago?"
A look of utter amazement overtook Kain's face. "You must have been completely isolated!" he said, exasperated, "It's a very long story, and I would be happy to tell it to you. Say, since you guys don't seem to know the way too well, and I'm from Baron, why don't I come with you? I'm headed there anyway; what do you say?" the Dragoon grinned.
Clyde returned to the conversation, now that they had Sam hitched atop the dragon.
"We'd be glad to have you along; we could always use another person in such dangerous times, and you seem to be not only a strong, but interesting soul," Clyde said in his normal, stoic way now that the excitement had passed.
"Great. Shall we be off now?" said Kain with a continually sunny smile.
They continued on for the day, traveling through the small but dense wood that the path to the Village of Mist wound through. Dragoon Kain proceeded to tell the story about the fight for the Crystals of the Earth (which Gaspar already told us back a few chapters ago,) and inserted a few of his own insights into events that had happened.
"When we first met Rydia, she wasn't too happy because we had just unwittingly dispatched her mother, who was the Mist Dragon. I never had any qualms with killing dragons, since that is my job as a Dragoon," Kain said from astride Birdie with the rest of them.
"Now Sir Kain, I happen to be a dragon myself, and I'm not at all comfortable with you speaking like that while sitting on a vulnerable part of my body." Birdie said, letting all hear his telepathic message.
"Oh, I wouldn't hurt you, Birdie," he said, patting the creature on the shoulder. "You're a nice dragon, I only kill evil dragons, so unless you decide to turn completely evil on me, you have nothing at all to worry about." He paused, recognizing the terrain that they were around. "But there was a time that I did turn on my friends..." he said, solemnly recalling his betrayal.
"Oh?" Birdie asked, wanting to know immediately so that if he had to dump Kain off he could in enough time.
"Rydia called the Titan monster you do know what summoned monsters are?" he inquired.
"Well, it sounds like when you call upon a magical creature to help you in battle, right? Where we come from they're called 'Espers.'" Strago replied.
"Alright then. It caused an avalanche in the valley beyond the village, which we are coming upon right now. I was separated from Cecil and Rydia there, and found myself on an airship when I awoke. There, on the ship was Golbez, the new leader of the Red Wings and an evil mastermind.
During that time in my life, my soul was in much turmoil; I was jealous of my best friend, Cecil, for Rosa, because I was in love with her. She knew of my feelings (which made the whole thing worse), though Cecil didn't, so I was harboring this jealousy without telling him. I also had a severe inferiority complex, because of my long-lost father who had been a Dragoon as well. He had been such a great Dragoon, and I felt that I needed to live up to that, which made me feel a great burden upon myself.
"Golbez had been granted the powers of persuasion that could be manipulated up to mind control. He learned of my hidden jealousy, and kept me under pressure, trying to convince me that I hated Cecil. Eventually, I cracked under the pressure and joined the side of evil..." he stopped for a moment, the memories of the severe hatred that had been instilled inside of him making him feel sick.
He continued on with the story, making sure to let them all know that he could be trusted after his friends brought him back to his senses with their loyalty. He continued on and and had drawn an end to his story by nightfall, whereupon they found themselves nearing signs of civilization. Small, cultivated fields began popping up here and there.
"After the last battle was over, and everyone returned to their respective homes, but I still had a long journey ahead of me. I needed to purge the self-doubt and the jealousy that I still had. While Cecil and Rosa got married and became King and Queen of Baron, I went out into the world to challenge myself. I took on Mt. Ordeals, the Underland, and even trained with some magic in Mysidia, but I could not find anything that helped. For a year I wandered the world, searching, but I knew not what I would find.
"Finally, I came upon a person living in the forest around Toroia; he was another Dragoon, and he was amazing. He could soar higher than I had ever seen any other dragoon before, and his fighting spirit blazed with goodness and bravery. He told me that he was the last of the Noble Dragoons, an order of Dragoon that not only fought dragons, but had also lived in harmony with the force of the Creator, which he called "Mana." The force of Mana taught him that life was important, and that he should protect all good things, and people. With that, it also granted him extra powers to obtain more skill in combat and stamina and whatnot.
"We became very close friends, and he felt that after a while that it would be right of him to take me to where he learned this power. I am not at indulgence to tell just anyone what I learned, or what taught me, but I did learn what he knew. In about another year, I became a full-fledged Noble Dragoon, or what Mana directly referred to us as, Gemma Knights." Birdie lifted his ears higher, and the others wondered if this was the same thing that they encountered in the forest back where they had started. They said nothing about it to Kain, not wishing to interrupt him at all.
"It was then that I learned of the true identity of the Dragoon. The day that I achieved full status and received the mark of the Gemma, he removed his dragoon helmet which he had never before taken off in my presence and revealed to me that he was my father who had left me so long ago. He explained that the power of Mana called to him after he became a Noble Dragoon, which made him feel the need to stay abroad and protect Mana from those that might misuse it. He expressed that he was very sorry for disappearing like he did.
"Had that been five years earlier, I would have been furious, but now that I understood what he meant, I felt no hatred for him, only love. He had been my close friend and teacher for a year and I wasn't going to let any past angers get in the way of that. I also realized that the problems that I had set out to fix were completed. I had a new love: a Toroian soldieress in the Royal Guard of Toroia, named Shivna Suibhne, and my mind and soul had come to terms with my past, present, and future.
"I went back to visit Baron, taking Shivna and my father with me. I figured it was about time for me to go back and face the world that I had left five years before. I was, of course, worried that Cecil and Rosa were cross with me for skipping out on their wedding and coronation without a word or an excuse. It was about around the time of year when the mid-winter Life Day Festival happened all over the world, so I was hoping that the season would have them in higher spirits. When we got there, I found that I had nothing to worry about from Cecil. He greeted us with the greatest joy, and was so happy to see me after two years. He and Rosa had so much to tell me, as I had just as much to tell them. I introduced them to my father, (whose name by the way was Brehain) and Shivna, whom I was to marry later that year. They in turn, introduced me to their two-year-old son, Makoto, and Rosa was due for another in six months. It was one of the best Life Day celebration that I had been to in a very long time," he stopped there, because they were at the gates to the village.
"We'll find an inn for the night and then we can talk some more," Roland said, turning to Kain.
They walked straight into the village atop Birdie, figuring that the darkness would cover the size of the dragon, and that the townspeople were most likely asleep. When they found the inn, Kain and Roland walked in together to arrange things for the group, and to see if they could find some extra help for Sam.
"Your dad seems to have taken a shining to Kain, hasn't he?" Strago said to Clyde while they waited.
"My father is a 'People Person.' He's always been very likable and outgoing, which is probably one of the reasons he struck it rich." Clyde said frankly. "Relm's just like him." Worry colored his words when he spoke of his daughter.
"Clyde, I know that Relm is alive," Birdie said, "If anything had happened to her, wouldn't the magical charms that she gave me disappear or lose their magical properties?" Birdie asked.
"Right... Thanks, Birdie. That helps. But the problems are still mounting up; Relm's still lost, we're lost, and Sam is injured. He really looks bad." Clyde counted out, checking on Sam again.
"During the light hours I looked at that blade he had been injured with. From what it looks like, there is a magical or chemical substance on there that's foreign to the blood and dirt on the blade. It might be some sort of poison." Strago reported to Clyde.
"Really? I'll take a look at that inside." Roland cut in from his place at the door of the inn. "C'mon, guys. We rented a suite for the night and the inn is providing some bandages for Sam. Birdie?" he asked, wondering where the big creature was going to stay.
"I'll stay outside, behind the inn. I always sleep in the open."
"Alright. Let's get him in; it's cold out here." Roland said, referring to Sam. They hauled the stretcher and supplies off of Birdie and found their way to the suite. Once inside they gently moved Sam from the stretcher to a bed, and changed the bandage.
"Master... you shouldn't be doing this for me... I serve you." Sam protested weakly as Roland was wrapping the clean bandage around Sam's wiry waist.
"You know that I owe my life to you, and we have always been friends. You deny that to yourself because you are too humble at times. You're my butler and trusted comrade." Roland said softly, smiling down at his downed servant.
"You don't know what that means to me..."
Meanwhile, in the adjoining room, the other three men continued to talk.
"If you're father is a Noble Dragoon, then why do you call yourself the last?" Strago asked.
"That's the reason I'm going to Baron," Kain said somberly, "You see, Brehain became sick with some undisclosed illness about a month ago. To put it frankly, it consumed his health and he died about a week ago." Strago and Clyde looked at each other, for the man did not act as if he had just lost his beloved father. "I know, I don't seem as sad as I should be, but I know that Brehain has gone on to a better place; he served Mana and the Creator well, and live a long life. I do miss him, though. He was my partner for almost ten years, and my father."
"Where is your wife?" Clyde asked, finally taking part in the conversation.
"Oh, she and my son live in Baron. I try not to be away so long, but I've been away for a month while I tended to my father. I heard you have a someone that you're worrying about yourself, Clyde? Who is this 'Relm' everyone is speaking of?" Kain pressed.
"Relm is my thirteen-year-old daughter. She got separated from us at some point along the way..." Clyde said.
"So, you're a family-man as well?"
"I was. My wife and infant son were killed eight years ago." Clyde stated emotionless.
"I apologize, I had no right to pry," said Kain, feeling it rude for him to have asked. "But, how did you get separated from your daughter?" Kain pressed him again.
"It's a long story, and very confusing. It had something to do with this woman in a tree, and this same Mana force you spoke of, I think. The dragon knows more about this stuff." Clyde said. Kain looked at Clyde squintily, which Clyde noticed, and could tell that Kain was thinking something suspiciously of him.
"Well, this old man is going to turn in for the night. My energy's not what it was back at sixty. Good night, boys." Strago said, slowly getting up and heading for his room in the suite. When the senior had closed the door, Kain leaned over and began a forceful talk with Clyde.
"What do you know about the Tree of Mana? I was just there this morning and she said nothing about any other people. Is that where you get your skills? Tell me." Kain was almost in Clyde's face.
"Hey, back off. I don't think I can tell you everything, 'cause you wouldn't understand--"
"Like hell I wouldn't!" shouted Kian, cutting off Clyde's sentence. "I know everything about Mana, the Seeds, the power of the Tree, even what the connection to the crystals is."
"Damn it, let me speak!" Clyde was losing his temper. "Fine you want to know everything, I'll tell you," Clyde decided to dump the account of the events that lead up to this whole ordeal. He didn't think that he would believe him anyway, so what was the harm?
"When I went to go and visit my father after not seeing him for sixteen years, I was attacked by Sam because he thought that I was an evil Ninja Assassin come to kill his master. Sam wounded me slightly, then fled in disgrace when he found out that I was Roland's son. He went off to some place known as the "Sacred Grove," and we all went after him. We found him there after some time of looking and explained to him that there were no hard feelings.
"So we continued in the forest until we found the Grove itself, where we came upon the giant Tree of Mana. A woman appeared from the Tree and said some crap to us about how we needed to help someone, and then she opened a weird swirling portal and we all got sucked in. Roland, Sam, Strago, Birdie and I arrived outside of Kaipo all at once, and there was no sign of Relm. She hadn't arrived where we had, and I still don't know where she is. That's what I know," Clyde said in almost one breath. Kain didn't look angry anymore, but did look shocked.
"My god...! The time has come then. I know what is happening, and the Tree told me herself. You see, the Tree knows the past, present and future, and if she needs to let any prophecies out into the world, she tells the knights. The Tree trusts you, Clyde. You've come to help save everyone from the Rogues! Or it was something like that..." Kain was a bit muddled in his thoughts now, at least it appeared that way to the other man.
"What?" Clyde asked, losing his already swaggering composure.
"The Tree told me a message: "The other Gemma will come from Time to stop the Rogue powers." She's often a bit cryptic, but I'm sure that she meant you; you're the only one skilled enough that I've met. Clyde, you've been brought through time to become a Gemma Knight!" he stopped, an idea popping inot his head The mark! Do you have a mark on the outside of your left thigh?" Kain asked, so excited that he nearly fell off of his chair.
"No, I wait, I do." he pulled up his pant leg just enough that he could see the scar on the outside of his left thigh that he received from the Dirty Dragon in the forest. "I got swiped by a dragon. I'm surprised it didn't heal all of the way," he took a good look at it. It was three claw marks, very close together.
"Yes, that is the mark. I have the same scar on my left thigh as well." he in turn rolled his own pant leg up, showing off an older, but still the same looking scar-mark on his leg.
"Ok," Clyde said. The woman had said that she was sending them away for a reason. He guessed that he had found his. "Our surnames being the same must be no coincidence either?" he said in a shadowy-toned voice.
"Hey, yeah. I didn't think of that. Maybe it is a family-line thing! You are from the future, aren't you?" Kain said, taking a moment for it to sink in.
"I know I'm not from this place; the continents are totally different, the clothing, the towns, the people, the monsters, even the airships." He considered it longer. "That would explain much. But where I come from, our history doesn't go much further back than 500 before the War of the Magi. How can this be?" Clyde was now fully interested in these developments.
"I don't really know, maybe your history is lost. I can't even see how time can be traveled through any faster than it flows, or backwards for that matter. But I'm no philosopher or man of science, I just protect Mana from those who may try to exploit it. I suppose we should visit the Tree after we get to Baron, eh?" Kain asked.
Clyde was thinking this all through. He had just met this man that afternoon, and now he finds out that they both serve a great power, the same one that stranded him in this place, or time now that it was implied.
"Damn, this is heavy. I'm not sure about any of this, I'm a skeptic, I admit it. But if you can convince me that this Tree-person has chosen me as its personal guardian, then I'll go and see your tree. Deal?"
"Deal. But you will see that the force of Mana will lead you to your destiny."
"Destiny..." Clyde was still as skeptical as ever.
As the evening progressed, Sam's condition worsened. Roland attend to him constantly, at the objection of Sam, yet nothing seemed to help. The wound was no longer bleeding, nor was it infected, but the young butler's overall heath was rapidly deteriorating. Clyde tried potion spells and various healing spells, but it seemed like the magic just fizzled out. He even woke Strago up (which didn't entirely please the old man) to help, but with the same end. Clyde tried his best until he was exhausted.
"Try it again, Clyde. Maybe it'll wear down whatever is blocking the spell." Roland said in desperation.
Clyde was sitting in a chair, trying to keep his eyes open.
"Dad... I don't know what I can do to help anymore. I've tried all of the spells I know, and all of the spells that I could concoct, and I don't think I could sustain consciousness if I had to make one more teeny tiny spell." Clyde responded, though truly sorry that he could not help anymore.
"Clyde, please. Just one more try." Roland said, his hands clasped. Clyde's will to object was at a minimum, so he gave in.
"Ok." he concentrated his jumbled, tired thoughts to convene a spell, "Heal... magic, heal," he said, running out of words to think of.
He willed the magic out of his hands, and a blast of green healing power emerged, much larger than he had thought that he was capable of in his current state. For a moment, the magic sank in, but the rest fizzled out like it had been doing all night. Clyde's energy was totally wasted now, and he fell to his knees. He tried to stand up and get to his bed with some dignity, but could barely crawl.
"Thank you, son. Here, I'll help." Roland said, trying to sound grateful, but was obviously disappointed at the same time.
He helped Clyde across the main room to another bedroom where he plopped him down on the bed. Clyde was already snoring before Roland even had a chance to drape a blanket over him. Roland returned to the other room, where Strago had been watching over Sam.
After a few minutes, the small man stirred a bit and opened his eyes. Roland came up close to him.
"Sir?" a small voice said. "I... I just want you to know... that its been... an honor working for you these years..." Sam just barely spat out. Then, after that last bit of effort, he couldn't sustain his fight any longer. With a final garbled gasp, he gurgled out a final breath, and stopped breathing.
"Sam? Oh lord, no you can't give up! Not now!" Roland stood up over the bed and shook Sam. He checked Sam's pulse, and hung his head down. "No, why? Why, why, why...." Roland said as he sat down beside the bed and buried his face in his hands.
That night, Clyde dreamt of Millina.
She was standing, tall, statuesque, and the only thing in his sight. She looked to him, with her aqua eyes laughing in the way that he had always remembered. She brushed back a shining spool of copper hair, and beckoned him forth. He followed, but was stopped abruptly. Millina screamed horribly as an arm clasped around her waist and began pulling her away, and she was in a frenzy, calling out to Clyde and struggling.
"Millina!!!!!" he cried out, reaching his hand as far as it would go, but falling short by inches. His feet were like roots, and he was unable to move from where he was, fated to watch and moan in his own futility as his wife was abducted.
The arm around Millina was soon connected to a body. Platinum hair obscured the malevolently ridiculing face, but the eyes broke through: green and full of evil. For a moment in his fantasy he was back in the woods fifteen years before, watching the Doman soldier's imposing figure before himself and Baram. As soon as the memory flash began, it ended, and he was before Millina and her captor again. Words came to Clyde's lips and they flung forth like shurikens;
"Rantacore Kreiger, I despise you! Betrayer, Kidnapper, Murderer! Return the Masamune unto its own, and free your captives or else I will bring upon you the vengeful power of the Creator's given force, Mana."
As he spoke, the inimical presence was pushed back in pain, yet not releasing Millina.
"From where is your authority?" it bellowed as if cursing Clyde.
"From Mana, and the Creator," the words again speaking themselves on their own, "for I am the Gemma Knight, and you oppose me."
The Knight's form dissipated into steam, and let Millina go. Clyde wanted to run to her, but he was still locked in place. Millina forced a parting smile, and turned her back to him. As her figure disappeared, the great tree that he had seen in the grove pushed up from below him, and the woman that had been with the tree was there as well.
"You belong to Mana... Your line, your ancestors, your progeny," she and the tree told him at once.
"No, I'm not!" he proclaimed, contradicting what he had been spurred to say earlier. The woman showed her face to him, and he reeled in recognition.
"Remember my face. It is encoded in your genetic makeup," she stared at him with a pair of lavender eyes, "Your whole line was made to serve me, though I have not called upon the Gemma for generations before you. It is time."
He lowered his face to the ground, for he could not deny himself any longer.
"This secret," he whispered, "declares who I am. I am the Gemma Knight."
Acceptance. The dream began to fade away as he heard voices carried on the wind, calling his name.
He found himself being roughly jostled up and down in the bed at the inn. He opened his eyes with a start and looked around the darkened room in a hurry to find out whatever it was that was shaking him so. The shaking stopped, and he saw Roland's visage above him.
"Dad, what're you doing?" he mumbled sleepily. He sat up and looked at his father, who had the strangest look on his face; one of relief and sorrow mixed together.
Roland threw his arms around Clyde's shoulders, all the time leaving Clyde in a confused stupor.
"Great Creator of being, be praised! Damnit, Clyde, don't you ever pull that on me again!" Roland whispered forcefully.
"Do what?" Clyde asked as Roland released his grip on him. Strago was behind Roland, and he could hear loud snoring from what he assumed was Kain.
"Son, we've been trying to wake you up for the last ten minutes," said Strago. "You usually wake up on your own at about six-thirty. It's almost nine right now, and when Roland came in to wake you, you wouldn't respond to anything."
"I was afraid that I had lost you too..." Roland finished for Strago.
"What do you mean me too?" Clyde asked, but after a moment of thought it hit him about what had happened. "Oh, dad, I'm sorry. We did all we could to help him. And that strange dream... It kept me asleep." he stood up and gave his father a quick, manly hug.
"You had helped as much as you could, and I know that you didn't like Sam very much, but you did more than was expected." Roland said softly.
"I did it for you, dad. After all of these years of worrying about me, it's the least I could do." Clyde said in his head.
He pushed himself out of bed and followed the other two from the room, where there was a table with food on it. Clyde found that he was not quite hungry, or at least the matter of eating was the least of his concerns right now. Roland followed him out and sat down at the table, still looking distraught, Strago brought him a glass of water, and Clyde went into the room where Sam's body was laid. The late morning light was rather dim, and when Clyde parted the shades of the window, he saw that gray clouds crowded the sky ominously. He sighed. Did everything have to reflect the situation and make it seem worse?
He turned face and looked upon the bed where the late Sam lay. Sam's face was a waxy yellow, and his mouth hung open. Clyde pushed it shut, and was about to cover the dead face with a sheet when he stopped, looking Sam. He had killed so many people, been around so many cadavers, but had never truly seen the cold lifeless body of someone he knew and to some small extent liked. He held the back of his hand to the cheek. It was like touching someone who was chilled, yet different in some undescribable way, which may have very well been for the fact that Clyde knew this man to be dead, but still...
"Lacks the touch of life upon life, soul upon soul," someone said from behind. Quickly, Clyde covered the body completely and turned to face whoever it was that had spoken. It was Kain.
"I know all-too well what you are thinking, for I have thought it too, once before. Don't worry, all that the body is is a vessel for the soul, and that one there is only a shell, the man who was is no longer part of this state of being."
Clyde looked at Kain. "I agree with that. It makes sense to me, but I don't know why... So much is happening all at once."
"Yes, it is, but you're a Gemma knight, and Mana is leading you personally." Kain said with a knowing smirk.
"You saw my dream, didn't you?" Kain nodded as Clyde asked, "That woman. How do I know all of these things?"
"It's called genetic memory. Don't ask me what it means literally, but the Tree told me that it is a special way of family members of remembering things which happened to their ancestors which has been passed down through the generations. It's important for us as Gemma knights to know these things." Kain explained.
Clyde gave a disgusted chuckle to himself. "I can't deny what I have become anymore. Mana... and the world are in the greatest danger."
After they left the inn that afternoon, they found a pleasant spot in the woods behind the Mist Village to bury Sam's body. They all paid their last solemn respects, (with Birdie being extra upset, for Sam had liked to pet him,) then continued on their way to Baron. The trip was uneventful, and quiet. No one really felt much like talking: Roland was out of sorts with the day, Clyde had much on his mind, Strago was still attentively doing magical research upon the blade which had brought Sam to his end, Kain was engrossed in finding the correct path through the woods and Misty Cave, and Birdie was busy making sure he followed it.
They reached the outskirts of Baron by dinnertime, and all were ready for a good rest after the long trek. As they reached Baron Castle, they could see that there were extra guards about.
"Halt! Who are you, riding upon this silly creature?" a guard brandishing a pike said to them. Birdie had in mind to gobble the man up right there, pike and all, but Kain leapt from his back to speak with the guard.
"Oh, go right on in, since you're with the Dragoon," said the guard after his chat with Kain, opening the door for them.
All of them, including Birdie, entered the stone walls of the castle, which was good, for none of them wanted to be outside when the impending rain began. They continued on until they reached an large covered atrium, which was usually used as an airship-building platform. One of the palace stewards said that Birdie could sleep in there if he didn't want to get wet. Birdie took the offer happily and hastily found himself a comfortable corner to curl up in and take a nap. From there on, Kain led them through the winding hallways until they came to a large, roomy officer's quarters. There was supper simmering on the stove in the back, and there was a number of chairs and couches.
"Please, do sit down. It looks like Shivna was expecting me, and company. She knows me too well," he said, looking at the excessive amount of food simmering on the stove top. He was peeking inside the oven to take a look at the roast, when a woman walked in from one of the side rooms.
"Kain! Keep your hands off of that! It still needs to broil for another ten minutes oh, we do have company. Well, be glad, my love, that I was prepared for such, though I did not expect you home so early," she said while walking up to Kain. They exchanged kisses, and Kain left her to attend to the dinner.
"Dear, meet Clyde, Roland and Strago. These fine gentlemen helped me fight off a horde of Rogues along the way," Kain said, but tastefully leaving off their loss of Sam.
"Pleasured," she responded, "You must be more careful out there, for you don't have me to help you fight for a while."
Clyde looked at Strago for a moment, then remembered that Kain told them that Shivna had been a soldieress in another city. He was curious as to why she would not be able to accompany him, for she looked as wily as anything. She had shoulder length black hair and a round face with high cheekbones; her soft brown eyes moved quickly as she was chopping carrots to add to the roast. She was of an average height for a woman, shorter than Kain, but taller than Strago. As he continued to study her, he could find no reason that she could not be out and about, until he noted that she had a rather fat belly. Oh. That was a good a reason as any.
The three traveling men sat in silence. Clyde was still tired from the previous evening, despite his late slumber, and was snoozing where he sat, Roland was still out of sorts, and Strago was sleeping too. Kain went to his room, and in a few minutes emerged in his off-duty clothes. He proceeded to help his wife with the dinner.
"You don't have to help me, I'm fine," Shivna said.
"I want to," he began to stir the sauce, "I don't want you to overwork yourself." He patted her belly as they passed by each other.
"So, Brehain, is he really...?" Shivna asked quietly.
"Yes. He was a good man. I miss him already."
"As will I, and our son. I hope we get a girl this time." She was obviously upset by his confirmation, so she changed the subject.
"I'm just glad that we're getting another after almost nine years." he added.
One of the doors to a bedroom opened and a young girl charged out, screaming in delight. Behind her was a boy wearing an over-sized helmet, and bearing a paper sword.
"Take that, Rubicant! Eat metal, Valvalis!" the boy shouted as he suck the paper sword at the girl.
"Oh, he's won!" She yelled, and fell down. He helped her up after that, and they were about to continue playing, when the girl spied Kain and the others, and nudged the boy to stop. The boy looked around and spotted his father.
"Dad! You're home!" The boy yelled, waking Clyde and Strago up.
"Hey, How's my Junior Dragoon doing?" Kain said as the boy ran up to him and wrapped his arms around his leg. "And how are you doing?" he asked the girl as he patted her on the head.
"I'm fine, Mr. Arrowny," the little girl said. She had such light blond hair that it was almost white, while the boy's hair was dark brown, and his complexion was a light tan. They both looked about the same age, and were about the same size.
"Hey, guys, meet my son, Kian." Kain said to the three who were seated. They all said hi to Kian. "And this little lady is Yuki Figaro, the princess of this realm." Yuki curtsied.
Clyde looked on and was reminded of his children. Had C.J. lived, he would have been about six now, and he remembered how Relm was missing. He sighed, with a cloud of depression setting in.
"Kian, I've gotta go home now. Mom wants me to help her make soup for dad." Yuki said to the boy.
"Ok, I'll see you later, Yuki," Kian said, waving.
Yuki headed towards the door, and when she opened it, she walked straight into her mother, Rosa, and brother, Makoto.
"Oh, hi mom. You didn't have to come and get me," she said giving her mother a hug. Rosa gave her young daughter a long hug.
"Yuki, dear, go with Mako. He'll take you over to Grandma's house in town," Rosa said, her voice quivering. Something was obviously wrong.
"Ok..." Yuki said, following her brother, sensing the anxiety from her mother, but not asking why. Kain and Shivna approached Rosa.
"Rosa, what's wrong?" Shivna asked Rosa. The two had become good friends over the years, and they often confided in each other.
"It's Cecil..." she began to cry, and Kain brought her a chair while telling Kian to go back to his room. Rosa sat down, brushing down her customary white dress and releasing her lemony hair from the clip that held it up, then continued.
"Shivna already knows that he's been sick all week," she paused again to wipe her eyes with a silken handkerchief, "I thought it was the flu, and so did the doctor, but now... His fever hasn't increased, but it refuses to subside, either. He barely eats, and he's so weak he can't even sit up. I don't know what to do?" her voice up to this point was continually becoming higher until inaudible. She blew her rosy nose upon the damp handkerchief and she took another moment to gather her thoughts again.
"Do not let this out to the public, please. As its queen, I don't want this country to have any more apprehensions than they need during these times of trouble," she hung her head down, while Shivna gave her a reassuring hug.
"Dear Creator, my best friend... Just like father," Kain said silently, shocked thoroughly. "Cecil can't be dying!" he blurted out, then pushed his way out of the room.
Relm, though she slept restfully, did have a strange dream.
She was having a normal sort of dream that a girl her age would have, namely one with lots of handsome young men hanging about. It was her birthday party, and she was ready to blow out the candles. As she did, she wished for her family to return. Suddenly, she found herself in a wedding gown, being rushed by her father, Clyde, to the wedding hall.
"Come on, Relm. You're not going to be late for your own wedding," he said.
"Wha? I'm getting married already? And to who?" Relm shouted, trying to stall.
"Don't you remember? You're marrying King Edgar Figaro," Clyde told her.
Relm smiled absently: she had always had a crush on him, and had made no secret of it. She was walking down the aisle, beaming. She saw Edgar, clad in the finest of white robes, gazing down at her from across the hall. When she reached him, he took her hand and looked into her eyes. He leaned over, and Relm thought that he was going to kiss her, but he whispered into her ear.
"You do know that this is all a dream, right?" he said with a kiss to her neck.
At that moment, she wondered exactly why was she marrying Edgar, if he was engaged to Terra? And she was only 13 years old; too young, even in her opinion, to be marrying.
"I know," she responded, disappointed by the quick end to her dream. She expected everything to dissipate and for her to awaken into reality at any moment. Instead, the background changed scenes, and she was back at the Sacred Grove, and before her was the Mana Tree. She looked all about her, and saw herself standing with a group of people, all staring at the Tree. It was her party, right before they all were sucked into the whirling gate that marooned her in this strange land. She looked at each of them, suspended in time. There was Grandfather Roland, her father, Gramps Strago, and Sam the butler. She wondered where they were, and missed them already, and hoped that they were safe. Birdie and Interceptor were together behind the party, then she saw where he pack had gone; it was on Birdie's back, so therefore had gone wherever Birdie had.
She sighed and looked to the tree again, and saw the illusive cloaked figure that had opened the whirling gate. She sneered at the immobile figure, then approached it, curious. She looked underneath the hood of the cloak, and stepped back in shock. A whirl of memories flooded her mind, memories of a life lived many millennia before she was even a glimmer, memories of a promisea duty.
"And so the young one is called upon to her appointed task as well," said a voice from above her. She looked up, and saw someone floating down to her on a pair of gossamer wings. Edgar?
He smiled at her in the way that she had always thought to be incredibly cute.
"I'm not Edgar, but I thought that I'd present myself in a recognizable form. I think that you know who I am," he said.
"I know now, the wings give you away," she told him. "Why are you calling upon me now?"
"I'll tell you," he stood before her, and glowed brightly. The wind blew around her. She knew.
As she opened her eyes, there was a blurry figure standing before her.
"Dear Creator, why won't you let me remember now?" she asked him.
"Relm? What in the Square are you talking about?" he replied.
She rubbed her eyes, now relatively awake. It was Palom.
"Have you had a good sleep? It's almost ten o' clock, and you should be getting up now. The Elder wishes your presence," he was being much more formal here in town than he had been out in the woods the night before. She liked the talkative Palom better than the formal Palom.
"Yes, thanks. Ok. I just need to get up here," she pushed herself out of the sheets, and then stood up on the cold floor. She scratched a itchy spot on her head, and pulled a leaf out of her hair. Upon turning to face the doorway, she also spied the mirror and nearly screamed at what she saw.
"Sweet Lord! I look like something that came out of Hidon's ass!" she screeched, gesturing to the mirror and giving Palom a good look. "Why didn't anyone tell me that I looked this bad?" Palom shook his head and shrugged his shoulders. "Well, there's no way in HELL that I am going to talk to someone important while looking like yesterday's garbage disposal sludge!" her face was almost completely red with exasperation. Palom was getting a good taste of the bad side to Relm's fierce attitude.
"Palom, be of some help and show her to the shower, will you?" said Porom, who had been drawn to the room by Relm's commotion. She bopped her brother on the head, then proceeded on with her morning duties.
"Please, come this way," he said to Relm with an awkward smile.
He led way to the closest bathroom with Relm stomping her way behind him. He held the door open for her and handed her a towel, which she snatched right before entering and swiftly closed the door. Palom was about to walk away when the door opened again.
"Thank you," she quipped, and returned to the bathroom. Palom smiled, then returned to his own business.
After a refreshing shower and a fight between her curly hair and the hairbrush, Relm felt much better. But there remained one more problem.
She sniffed her clothes, then held them away from her grimacing face. "Eww... What did I fall in?" she wrapped them up into a bundle. She found a long robe and put it on. "I need to get my hands on a paintbrush, fast," she thought as she left the bathroom, watching for anyone who might come upon her with much circumspect. She hurried through the narrow halls of the Mysidian Tower back to the room she had slept in. She rushed in and closed the door behind her.
There was a desk in the room, and she rummaged through the drawers searching for a brush, and she found one.
"Ahh, wonderful! My magic likes brushes more than pens or the like. Now, to some clothes," she waived the small brush around to warm up her magical powers that were special to only her.
Before long, the magical pigment was thickly upon the tip of the brush, and she knew that it was ready. Without paper or canvas, she began to fashion a body suit for herself, in yellow hues with black and silvery trim. When she put the final finishing touches on it, the hologramatic form of her design began to solidify until it was fully tangibleand wearable. After that, she made a new pair of boots, a brown jacket, a silver headband to take care of her brassy curls, and a pair of sheer fluffy pants.
She was about to put them on when she suddenly realized that she forgot something: underwear! She quickly painted a pair of black satin panties and bra. As she was fitting these on to herself, she realized that her body had grown a lot in the last year, especially her hips and bust. She looked at her lingere-clad form in the mirror, and scrutinized over how much larger her butt looked now that she did think about it.
"Oh well, at least I'm not chubby. Then I'd be a real fat-ass!" she giggled. Then she turned her attention to the part of her body which she was happy to have bigger. "30-B and growing! I have potential, since Grandma Diane is well-endowed, and so was mom. I am just looking sooo fine!" she smiled at herself in the mirror, and continued to watch herself put the rest of her clothes on.
She pocketed the brush for later, and stepped out of the room. On one side of the door, stood Palom, whistling and drumming his fingers on the wall.
"Hello, and what might we be doing?" asked Relm to the young man.
"Oh, just watching I mean wearing doh!" he bumbled, then started over. "Just waiting for you to get done dressing."
"Oho. Right, let's go," she told him, not willing to ask him exactly what he had seen. Palom led the way back to the Elder's roost in the wishing tower. The old man was sitting on a cushion, deep in meditation.
"Elder, Relm is here to see you, as you requested," Palom said, poking the Elder on the shoulder. He opened his eyes, and looked up at the two youths, dismissing Palom with a nod of the head, and beckoning Relm with another. Palom began to walk away, when Relm gave him a nervous glance. He turned back to her with a reassuring smile. He winked, then left.
"You wished to speak with me, sir," she said in a mousy voice.
"Yes, Relm. Please, come closer," said he, standing up. She took a few steps closer to the short man. He stared into her eyes again, then turned away. "I've never come across someone quite like you. I know for a fact that there is no town in this world called Thamasa, and no white fuzzy dragons, nor was there an evil empire that tried to conquer the world. Yet, when I scanned your mind, that was all that I could find. No memory of any towns around here, nothing that would be familiar to anyone. Normally, I'd say that you're a delusional,"
"Hey?" Relm interrupted.
"...But, this is not normal. These memories of yours seem to be real. There are no holes in them, and they are very detailed. My question is, how? I thought it over, and I can't come to a good conclusion. I was hoping that you could enlighten me to that extent." he was waiting for her explanation.
She sighed deeply.
"Can I trust that you'd believe me?"
"I can't guarantee that..." he paused mid-sentence. "I know a way that I can. if I do a deeper mind tap, you can show me what and who you are. Will you do that?" he asked.
Relm was a bit reluctant, but this seemed to be the only way that she might get out of this ordeal. "Ok. You can. Then you'll see why I have to find my friends."
The Elder went into a cabinet, and pulled out a stick that was covered in incandescent jewels and runes. He chanted some unintelligible words for a moment, then touched the tip of the stick to Relm's forehead. A glow came from the stick, and then Relm found herself within the recesses of her own mind.
"Hello? Where am I?" she asked to whoever may have been there. In a moment, the Elder appeared before her.
"Let's begin. Take me through your memories," he told her.
"From how far back? I mean, do you want me to take you through every day of my life?" she asked again.
"Just take me through parts of your memory that show who you are, where you came from, and how you got here."
"Ok. Come on, we're going back to when I was six, back in Thamasa," she began to walk off in a direction where there was a picture of Thamasa, her mother, father and brother. They both disappeared into the picture.
Before them, a slightly distorted view of Thamasa spread out. It was a good four years before the full-out war against Vector broke out, so Thamasa was still the quiet, pretty little town that it had been. Relm walked over to her house with the Elder trailing behind her, who was keenly examining the surroundings for any signs of falsity. She saw herself as a child, at least how she had perceived herself. All of the images in this dream/flashback were all from her point of view, for they were her own memories. Her younger self was outside, playing in the mud as she often did. She then stopped, and stood up, smiling in delight. Relm, the real Relm, turned as well and saw her father approaching from the distance.
"Who is that?" the Elder asked her.
"That's my father, Clyde. Now I remember what day this was. This was the day before he left; the day my mother, Millina, and brother, CJ, were killed," she said solemnly, "Look at me, I was so unaware of what had just happened. I hugged my dad, then he put something in my hand," she closed her eyes, remembering exactly what was showing before her and the Elder. "I opened my hand, and I saw a ring. I knew that I had seen it before, but at that time I didn't know... It was my mother's ring. I said, 'Thank you, daddy!' then we hugged. He held me so tight that day, and I could tell that he had to force himself to let go. He held me at an arm's length and looked into my eyes; he was smiling, but by the look in his eyes I saw that he looked about to cry," she paused, turning to the scene. She quickly turned away again.
"I said, 'What's wrong?' he answered, 'Nothing, Curly-Q. Don't worry about it.' (NB- Curly-Q was Clyde's nickname for young Relm.) I had no idea what he meant. He took me inside the house, and mad me some lunch," suddenly, the scene in the background changed. It was inside Relm's house, and she was with Strago.
"Grandpa Strago stayed with me that night, for my dad had said that he had some things to do. The next morning, he was still gone and I finally noticed that mom and CJ were missing. I asked him where they were. He told me that, 'Your father has gone to look for your mother and brother. He will be back when he finds them.' I was concerned, but not too upset. I was glad that my dad was going to look for them, if they were lost. So I tried to continue on with my young life, with the hope that I would be seeing my family again any day. First it was days, then weeks, then months," the scene showed her again each time a bit changed.
"I would often ask, 'Where are they?' and Strago would tell me, 'Out there, somewhere.' But after a year, I was fed up. I stormed into Strago's room and said, 'Where are my parents and brother!? Tell me!' which was a rather forceful thing to say for a girl of seven and a half. Strago sighed, then he told me everything. I grew up a lot that day. I had to. The only hope I had was that my father would return someday, but, I decided not to hope for much anymore," the scene showed a stern-faced young Relm sitting in her room, looking wistfully out of the window.
After this part of her memory, they went on to the years during the war. Then, to her reunion with her father.
It was a bright summer's morning in Thamasa, and Relm was outside picking flowers to put on general Leo's grave and the other graves of those who had died during the war. She proceeded to the graves, placing a few carefully picked flowers at the base of each headstone, and taking a moment to remember each person if she had known them. From out of the nearby forest, Interceptor came out after having chased a rabbit into its depths. Relm patted the old dog on his shoulder, and her thoughts went to her father.
She was dead certain that Shadow was indeed her father, and she had been wondering where he had gone after the defeat of Kefka, for she had not seen him on the way back. When she had asked Strago, he told her that he didn't know what happened to Shadow. He had hinted to her that it was possible that Shadow might have not made it out of the tower at all.
Relm hugged the dog for a moment, then continued on with what she was doing. Finally, she came to a headstone which had been placed there in memorial for her mother and young brother, whose deaths had marked the end of her innocent, carefree life. She placed two white roses before the marker, and sat down before it, thinking of everything that had gone on in her life since then. She began to shed tears and sniffle silently.
"Mom... What do I do now? I have no family," she whispered, "Dad's gone, isn't he?"
A shadow from behind her blocked out the sun.
"Go away..." she moaned, closing her eyes. The nameless person placed something down in front of the monument, and walked off. Relm opened her eyes when she sensed that whomever it was had gone, and looked down in surprise: a perfect orchid was lying there with a black cloth tied to it. She plucked it up and felt that there was something in the cloth, so she untied it and fished within for the object. It was her father's wedding ring.
She stood in haste and looked about.
"Dad?" she called out. No answer. She left the graveyard and began to inspect the surrounding area, but she found no one. Sadly, she decided to go home. There was no use in looking for someone who wasn't there. As she sauntered along to her house, she saw a figure leaning against the great pine tree that stood in the center of the town square. She stopped, then curiously approached the stranger.
Hearing a familiar happy bark, Relm quickly moved out of the way, just in time to let Interceptor race through without bowling her over. The keen canine joyously bounced up and down before the stranger.
"Oh, dear Creator... Dad!!!" she cried, running into the shade with the dog and man. He turned his head to her, and that face, that dear long-chinned face of Clyde Arrowny, her father. Without another thought she raced up to him and hugged him tight. For a moment, she thought that maybe he wouldn't return her affection, after all of those years of trying to kill his emotions. But her fear was quickly dispelled. He had wrapped his massive arms around her form and embraced her so lovingly, the same way that he had the day he left.
"Relm... My Curly-Q. I'm so sorry.." he began. Relm knew that he was crying, but she didn't care about that, because she was crying too.
"All's I want is my dad back..."
"Don't ever leave me alone again."
"Never. You'll always have me here for you."
The scene faded.
Through that whole scene, Relm had not said a word. She loved that memory, and felt no need to narrate it through; the actions spoke for themselves.
For the remainder of their journey through Relm's memory, they went through all of the most recent events leading her up to where she was in the present. When they finally made it up to the point where Relm met the Elder, they left her memories. Before Relm knew it, she was looking straight at the Elder, who was putting the rune-encrusted stick back to from whence it came.
"Well?" she asked him, waiting for his conclusion.
"What can I say? There is no way that you could have faked such detailed memories. But this is a rather strange thing that has befallen you, and I'm not quite sure what to make of it. You're here for a reason, but I'm not sure if it has so much to do with our obvious Rogue problems so much. Let's wait and see what comes up, something may happen, and I need to think about this a bit more," he said, facing out of the tower. He gazed across the wilderness that the tower overlooked.
"Relm, feel free to roam around here," he turned to her in a friendly manner, "Think yourself as our guest. You may go now," he dismissed her.
Relm thanked him and walked out of the tower. The adjoining room was strange, made all out of reflective glass and was very bright. In the center was an an empty alter. She gazed at the strange room for a second as she stood at the door, then exited. She continued to walk around the premises idly, contemplating what had just been reviewed to her. The whole walk through of her short life had only taken a few minutes in real time, but had seemed like hours.
She wandered into a hall that was deeper into the complex, and heard a chorus of young voices, reciting.
"Curing is an easy task, concentrate on those who ask," chimed the slow chorus, "Count 'One, two three,' point where they be, thence soft healing has been dealt by thee."
"Wonderful! Now, when your teacher comes back tomorrow, make him proud by your demonstration," said a familiar male voice. She stopped outside the door and continued listening.
"Yes Palom," responded the whole class. Her hunch had been correct. She popped her head around the wall and took a look. There was Palom and a gaggle of school children. She had just finished taking in the whole scene when her view was abruptly blocked by something, which happened to be Porom's face.
"Oh!" Porom jumped back in surprise, "I didn't know that you were done already. Why don't you come in? We're going to be demonstrating our magic skills to the first grade magic class. Would you like to watch?"
"Ok," Relm said, her enthusiasm at a minimum. She walked in.
"Children, meet Relm.. Aw.. Er, uh... Dear me, what was your last name again?" Porom asked her.
"I'm Relm Arrowny," she answered, a little annoyed. She looked back at Palom, who only shrugged. Not talking much now, are you?
"Alright, please sit down. Now class, we shall demonstrate to you a few examples of higher-end magic. I shall use cure three upon one of you. Do I have any volunteers?" at her asking a large group of small hands arose. "Hmm, how about... Billy Wang. Are you ready, Billy?" the boy nodded emphatically. "Here it comes," Porom closed her eyes for a moment, then blasted a few large, green stars of light at the boy. They surrounded him for a few seconds, and slowly dissipated. The boy had a calm, happy look upon his face. The class sheered as Porom bowed politely.
"Can we see some black magic now?" asked a young male student, and the class arose into a murmur of the same question.
"Alright, we shall. I just need to set up a magic wall to protect everyone from the effects of the strong black magic," Porom smiled. "You are a lucky bunch, getting a two-for-one white magic demonstration."
Relm rolled her eyes.
"La-a-ame," she thought, "Why do I have to sit here and watch little miss "I'm perfect" show off to a bunch of brats? Sheesh, she can only use white magic anyway, what's so damn special?" She leaned her elbow onto the desk she was sitting at and propped her chin up on her hand.
She peered around the room once again, studying the walls adorned with brightly painted art projects and other works that the young students had done. Her eyes finally wandered back to Palom who was looking straight at her, leaning forward in the desk that he had sat down at, with his chin propped up on his hand much like the way Relm's chin was, except that he was looking a whole lot more interested in what he was looking at. Her eyes were locked there for a moment before she realized what she was doing. She averted her gaze hastily, and embarrassed.
"Oh damn, I'm blushing," she thought as she was searching for something else to look at. She found Porom, who was just about to cast 'Wall" upon the entire room. Porom was concentrating, and the revolving white magic was around her head. Though Relm would not admit it, the way there people cast magic here was quite different than what she knew, and was interested in the slightly different effect that cam out of it. For one thing, the green sparkly effect that white magic always left whenever she herself used it, was replaced with the white phantom bars when Porom practiced. She wondered why.
"Wall!" Porom yelled. The white bars revolved faster, then sprung away from her head at the move of her hand, and flung itself around the walls and children in an intangible shield. Porom lowered her hands, and turned to Palom who was still ogling Relm. "Palom," she said, signaling that it was his turn. "Palom?" she said in a nagging tone, then when he didn't respond again, she walked over to him and smacked him on the head.
"Ow..?" he said, finally looking up at her, rubbing his head.
"Your turn," she said sternly.
Relm thought that Porom was very mean to him if she was his girlfriend... or was she? Relm realized that she had jumped to conclusions about their relationship to each other, but they were very close when it came down to it. And, he had been staring at Relm herself a lot, maybe he wasn't taken.
Palom stood up, cracked his knuckles, stretched, and was ready.
"I'll be performing the black magic spell of Aero," he said, and with out any further ado, began to concentrate on the magic. A dark green, wild energy swirled around him as he stood, bringing forth the powers inside of him. Like water under pressure, the energy finally burst forth from his being, and at his fingertips he held the chaos, and flung it out into the middle of the floor. There, formed a massive whirlwind, that would have sucked them all in if it weren't for the Wall that had been cast. The magic tempest bounded around the classroom angrily, until it expended it's energy and died.
The students sat in awe, as did Relm, but not insomuch as of the magic itself, but of the wielder of the magic. He had such a strong, but gentle hand with how he controlled it, and he did not fight with his own powers; he had become one with them and worked them at his will. She had never seen someone with such a beautiful way with his magic, especially the black magic. Now she could not keep her eyes off of him.
"He really has a talent for his magic," Porom said, sitting next to Relm. Relm had not even noticed that she had sat down during the demonstration.
"He's always been better than me, I'll admit that. Of the two of us, he's always had more natural talent than I, that's why he took on the black magic instead of me. I work harder than him, so it balances out in the end. I wish that we had time to do our twin magics, the kids would have really liked that," Porom said as she and Relm watched Palom talk to the class about higher magic.
"Twin magic?" Relm turned to her.
"Yeah, since Palom and I are twins, we are able to use special magics together that we couldn't do on our own. We have four spells now, Flare, Comet, Purge and Star," she explained.
Relm was incredibly happy. "You're his... Twin sister?"
"Yes, I am," Porom said, looking at Relm strangely for asking the question.
"Oh, oh, very nice, indeed... hee hee..." Relm mumbled to herself.
"Hey Relm, you have magic. Would you like to demonstrate a few for them? We have a few extra minutes and the wall is still up," Palom said to Relm, whom he startled.
"Oh, um," he looked up at him again. His deep brown eyes sparkled. "Alright. I'll try to think of something quick."
"Ok, class, settle down. Miss Relm is going to show us some of her magic," he turned to Relm. "Go ahead."
She thought, something quick... hmm, what would make things go quick? Of course! Quick. Then, she would use Ultima, and, uh, Merton! That should make the little nips happy.
"Here I go!" she said. Concentrating, on Quick first, then on the two other spells, she gathered their separate energy. The yellow energy of her Effect, or gray magic, surrounded her, and went into her hands like a ball. Then, the red energy of her Offense, or black magic gathered at double capacity behind her as Quick was evoked. The shiny yellow energy turned into an opalescent white around her, and she began the next two spells.
"Merton!" she yelled, for her Offense magic required more concentration, and needed the vocalization. The red haze rose from the ground, and blew, blew, blew. It swirled around the classroom, making some of the children scream. As the humungous firestorm subsided, she invoked Ultima.
"ULTIMA!" she screamed, and overcome with the joy of using strong magic, she forcefully flung her arms outward. The blue magic began as an unimpressive ball of blue, then it began to absorb all of the light into the room, until the only illumination was the eerie incandescence of the orb. Then it grew. It continued to grow, and the blue light grew. It reached a certain size, then it exploded with blue energy mixed with flecks of white light, and ended with a blinding flash of light.
Before they knew it, the spell was gone, and the only thing that stood before them was Relm. The some of the more timid children had hidden under their desks, and others had their eyes wide with wonder. Porom's jaw was unfashionably wide open, and Palom had the same look that the bolder students had.
"Well, did you like it?" Relm asked.
After the bell rang, Relm was mobbed by the students in the class, and a number of children from other classes who heard about her demonstration from friends. She tried to explain to them that if they kept up their studies and practiced, that they could become as good as she was. She met back with Porom and Palom upstairs in their private chamber. The two of them were full of questions themselves.
"Where on earth did you learn those spells? Black magic with red energy, and I don't even know what kind of magic that first spell was? Who exactly are you?" Porom asked Relm, exasperated.
"Wow, Relm, could you teach me those?" was Palom's main question.
Relm smiled, getting a small, twisted pleasure out of making Porom so bent out of shape. "I can only say, since I'm not from around here, I have different powers than you do. But, I think that I could teach Palom some of my spells... Oh, and that different spell was called "Quick." It's in the category of gray magic. So do you... oh..." Relm put her hand up to her forehead, suddenly feeling disoriented.
"Are you ok?" Palom asked, putting his hand on her shoulder.
"Yeah, I guess I must be tired, since I haven't used the magic in a... No, go away!" she yelled.
"Us?" Asked Porom. Relm screamed and fell to her knees, holding her head.
"Relm?!?" Palom bent down beside her, and shook her a little bit.
"ARRGH! Message... no, no, not now... it hurrrts!!!" she looked up, and her eyes were glowing with a white light. "Baron... sickness spreads, save the light... under the water... MATRIX..."