A Square Deal Chapter 7
Trees, Books, and Portals
Recap: Locke's fallen down a hole, and Celes is left alone in the cave. Relm discovered a strange little creature, which wasn't little for very long. And, Edgar is readying himself for his expedition to find his love, Terra Branford.
Sabin tip-toed up the stairs to the King's bedroom, careful not to make noise since his injured brother was resting. As he neared the door, he heard some clicking, tapping and muttered cursing. The door was slightly ajar, so he took a peek inside. There, he saw Edgar sitting in his bed, with his tools on his lap, tinkering with the gate key.
"You're supposed to be asleep," Sabin said to Edgar as he came in.
"I slept for a little. I've noticed that I haven't gotten that disturbing dream anymore. I think it had something to do with the arrival of Rantacore, or maybe that night with Terra," Sabin looked at him, scowling. "No, it was nothing like that. Ah-ha! There, with a finishing touch, yes... I've finished it. Now, with the right adjustments, I can pick points in time or space to go to. At least I think that it bends time, I'm not sure if that is truly the case, but it does seem to have all of the properties that something like that would need," he fiddled with a final piece.
"Good, brother. Now go to sleep. Think of Terra, and how good it will be to have her back." Sabin told his brother, who was on an engineering-high.
"That is a fine thought. Ok, I'll try to rest, for your worry's sake," Edgar put his tools on the floor, and placed the gate key on his night stand next to Terra's picture.
"Good. I'll tell the Chancellor not to worry anymore either."
"What good would that do?" Edgar asked, winking.
Sabin grinned. "You're right."
With that, he exited and Edgar settled down to go to sleep.
Celes peered into the dark.
"Locke!!! Locke?!?" she called down into the crevasse. She was still tied to the rope, so she thought it would be alright to see how far she could climb down. She climbed steadily down the incline for what seemed like hours. Just as she seemed to be getting to the end of the line of rope when she saw a faint light below her.
"If I could just get a bit more rope..." she said to herself, as she loosened the loop about her waist. "Whoops- too much!" she said, and she slipped off of the loop. "Aagghh!!" she yelped as she fell.
Luckily, the fall was not far, and she landed in a pile of sand.
"Oof! Hey- where's Locke??" she looked around, wondering where someone who fell down a hole could go. "Lo-o-ocke!"
Again she noted the light which had been under her, and was now in front of her.
"Maybe that's a way out." she thought.
She walked warily towards it, and the closer she got, the more it looked like a door. And, when she finally arrived there, she found it was a door -- a glass door to be exact, which explained the light, for it came from the other side. She found the knob, and opened it.
Before her spread a vast hall, with rows and rows of bookshelves reaching almost as high as the ceiling. In another corner of the hall, there was a pile of books yet to be filed, and nestled among the books in that corner was a desk, a messy desk at that, and another door. The room was well lit by what Celes could only assume was magic, for there were no candles or light bulbs.
She made her way through the maze of books and to the other door. She opened it, and inside she saw Locke sitting on a chair with a strange figure beside him. Locke's arm was bound in a sling- most likely from the fall. Celes was relieved that he was only lightly injured.
"Locke!?" Celes shouted, and ran to him. He sat up, surprised, and embraced her with his free arm.
"Hey. Is this your fiancee?" the mystery person asked Locke.
"Yes, she is," Locke answered him, and then turned to Celes. "Celes, meet Gaspar. He's a... Historian?" he asked the old man.
"Yes, that I am. A very old historian."
Celes looked at the strange man, who donned a bowler hat on his head. He looked Celes in the eye, then looked at Locke the same way.
"No, neither of you are in the Eternal's line. Hmm," he went back out into the big hall. They both followed him, Locke limping a bit from another injury.
"Gee, I didn't know that we had so much history within our 2000 year recorded history," Celes said as she gazed at the extensive volumes of tome. Gaspar turned around.
"That is because our history is much longer than a mere 2000 years," he said to her.
"It is? How can that be? How long is it anyway?" Locke asked.
"The history of mankind on our planet is 14,700 years. This is the year 14703, and I've lived through 10000 of those years," he said in a droll voice.
"B-but how?" Celes asked, a little exasperated.
"This place, this cave, has a connection to a place known as "The End of Time." It is locked in time and space, so no time passes while you are in it, but outside it time travels on. I am able to find out what is going on the world by tapping pillars of light into the outside world, and they come back with the information I need."
"So, we are in the end of time right now?" Celes inquired.
"Yes indeed, You catch on quickly, Celes. I used to have access to a way out of here, but since the technology that enables that to happen is no longer in existence, I'm pretty much stuck here."
An incredulous look came over Locke's and Celes' faces.
"But, if you're stuck here, then we're stuck here too??" Locke asked, hoping that he was wrong.
"Of course. Unless someone finds a way to bend time once again, we're stuck together for an eternity. Don't worry, you will find plenty to do. Its taken me over 1000 generations to write all of these volumes. Why don't you two set a spell and read them? That might help pass a few hundred years," he said dryly.
"But what about my rope?" Celes said, turning to the door on the other side of the hall. Only now, it was no longer a door, but a glass wall with a knob on it. "Hey-- where'd the door go??"
"Like I said, we are stuck here until someone travels on the back of time."
"Hmph. I could have sworn that map said that it would lead to boundless treasure," Locke said.
Celes looked about her again, and realized something. "Locke, this is the treasure. It said, "The greatest treasure in the history of the world." It's the history, Locke! Maybe, if we can learn enough about our real history, and find a way out of here, think of how it will benefit the world!" Celes said to her partner.
"Think of the money!" he said, with visible dollar signs in his eyes. Celes glared at him. "Ok, donations? Fine, toll-free... But, first, we have to find a way out, don't we?" Locke said, put out.
"Hey. Maybe you might find a way to, buried within my volumes. You never know, I know so much, I might have known how to leave at one time."
Locke looked at Celes.
"Well, Gaspar, direct us to the best place to start," Celes said.
"Here. They say it's best t start from the beginning. This is volume one of the concentrated edition. I just finished these. They don't have all of the detail that the other books have, but a lot of that stuff is unnescisarry. Have fun," he handed them a big, leather-bound book. Celes looked at Locke, and they opened the book.
"Chapter one; the beginning..." she said aloud.
Clyde, Relm, Strago, Interceptor and Birdie approached South Figaro.
"Birdie, I think it would be wise to let us off here. The good citizens of South Figaro might mistake you for an evil monster in the distance," Clyde said to the flying creature.
"Yes, that's a good idea, Clyde. I'll land here."
Birdie descended, and let them off. He followed them by foot, crooning a bird-like tune. When they reached the city proper, they had Birdie wait outside. He didn't mind; there were plenty of fireflies and luminescent monsters for him to chase.
"What side of town did you live on, Clyde?" Strago asked.
"I lived on the east side of town -- the poor part, but I'm not sure if my parents still live in the same house. I'd better ask around," Clyde said, heading towards the pub. They all entered, even Interceptor.
"Hey, buddy, no dogs allowed inside," a bouncer said to Clyde.
"He won't make any trouble," Clyde said then tried to brush by the bouncer. He wouldn't move.
"No dogs. I hate them stupid animals, and I've got no extra love yours either, or the likes of you if you don't get it outta here! And, no punks allowed..." he said glaring at Relm.
"Hey, I'm no punk, you reject from WWF wrestling! I'm almost 14 years old, and I could hold my own in places that would make this bar look like a candy shack!" she shouted.
"Listen up, if you don't get this mutt and little shit outta here, I'm gonna have to throw them out myself!" he stepped up to Clyde, ignoring Relm, who was still yelling.
"Did you just refer to my daughter as a 'little shit'? Did I hear you right?" Clyde said angrily.
"Yeah, you got a hearing problem? I did. And now I'm gonna throw them out!" he picked up Relm by the arm, and kicked Interceptor out of the door.
"Put me down! You know, your place always used to let us in before--" Relm said as she was bounced out onto her butt. "OW!!" she said when she landed, and rubbed her backside, flipping the bouncer the bird with her free hand.
Clyde was enraged.
"You wanna pick a fight now?" the bouncer asked, noticing Clyde's notably disturbed face.
Clyde said nothing.
"I'll take you down, wimp!"
Clyde did look kind of wimpy- he had bundles of clothes on from the cold night, so he looked like a skinny guy in a bunch of big clothes on. Clyde finally pushed him out the door. The bouncer jumped around, punching air, readying himself for what he thought would be an easy fight.
Clyde emerged, having thrown off the extra clothes, now with a black tank top on, and his old black Ninja pants. His strong upper body tensed in anticipation and anger, his lithe biceps rippling and his broad shoulders held straight. The bouncer turned to face Clyde with arrogance, and then noticed his change in stature. A whiteness washed over his face at the sight.
"Let's begin," Clyde said, in the dark voice of Shadow.
The bouncer looked scared, but still, he hat to try and hold his own. He struck at Clyde first, which he easily dodged. The bouncer continued to try and hit him, but Clyde was just too fast. The ninja had had enough now, and decided to strike.
He jumped at the man, boxing him one minute, using a bit of magic another, (he had learned all of the spells, mind you.) He continued on, the bouncer trying every once and a while to get a shot in, but never scoring, his lunges just leaving him open to one extra kick.
Finally, Clyde battered him to the ground. Just as second nature, he unsheathed his knife, the Stunner, and with a gracefully deadly pose, readied to finish the man.
"Dad! Don't!!!" Relm cried. Shadow's old ninja mask had been kept in the pocket of the black pants, and had fallen onto the man's chest during the unsheathing. At that moment he knew what he had become --Shadow.
Clyde withdrew instantly, and walked back to Relm with his hands over his face. The man looked at the mask, and a light bulb went on in his head.
"I knew I recognized the voice when he was angry. And those eyes, I've seen them! The mask proves it! You're -ulp- Shadow!" the bouncer got got up, dropped the mask and hood, and ran away as fast as he could. The crowd that had gathered around discreetly left, and passed on the news to beware of the man who was the ninja assassin Shadow.
"Dad, I'm glad you stopped! Are, are you ok?" Relm said to her dad, giving him a quick hug.
"I thought I could leave it behind... I couldn't.. I almost killed him," he said, disappointed with himself.
"The thing is that you didn't," Relm said at an attempt to encourage him. She knew that her father was struggling with his identity, so she was very understanding with him.
"Hmn. Let's go in now," he said, regaining his composure. He knew he would be struggling with this for a long time about this. Who was he, Clyde Arrowny or Shadow?
They all went inside. No one spoke with with any of them, and they all moved to let Clyde by. Clyde went up to the bar.
"Hello," he said "Do you know a couple named Roland and Diane Arrowny? They lived in the poor sector last time I checked."
The bar tender looked at Clyde, recognizing him as the victor of the fight, and feat gripped him. He thought for a moment, and hesitantly answered his question.
"Arrowny...! Could that be the Arrowny family on the north side of town?"
"North side? Ok, sir. Thank you for your hospitality," Clyde said. The bar tender nodded, but said nothing else.
"Where are they, Clyde?" Strago asked.
"He said the north side."
"But that's the rich part of town," Relm said.
"Let's go and check this out," Clyde replied, leading them out.
All around, they could hear people whispering, 'That's Shadow, the assassin.' It bothered Clyde, but he made no comment. In his mind, he thought that he deserved to be shunned.
They reached the house that someone directed them to, in which the present Arrownys of South Figaro resided. Clyde knocked on the door, and a butler answered.
"Yes, may I help -- Oh my, it's Shadow!" he was about to close the door on Clyde. It seemed that word traveled fast through out the town. It didn't help either that Clyde hadn't bothered to put his heavy coat back on, for with his build and black pants he did look as an assassin without the mask.
"Wait! Could I speak to the master or mistress of the house?" he asked, jamming his foot between the closing door and the frame. The butler glared at him warily, then suddenly decided to relent.
"Wait here. Don't try anything funny."
The butler went into the house to fetch his master. "Sir, the one known as Shadow awaits at the door. He would like to speak with you."
"What would an assassin want with me?" the master of the house said to his wife.
"What would an assassin want with anyone?" she answered.
"I guess I had better go and see what he wants. It's best not to keep a dangerous man waiting."
"I'll come with you."
The both of them went to the door. Before them they saw a man with a teenage girl, an elderly man, and a dog. The lord figured that the younger man was the assassin known as Shadow.
"What do you want me for, assassin Shadow? What is it an evil man like you seeks?" he said, with his lady behind him, and the butler watched warily form the side.
"Are you Roland Arrowny, and is your lady named Diane?" Clyde asked.
"Yes, that is me and my wife. What business do you want with us?"
Clyde's face brightened.
"Do you recognize me? Take a good look."
Roland looked at him thoroughly. "Hmm, you do look familiar."
"It's me, Cly --" Clyde extended his hand in greeting, but the butler sprang out with a knife. He tried to stab Clyde, but Clyde backed off in time, so that the butler missed.
"I'll get this rogue, master! He's an assassin, he probably has a knife in his other hand!"
Diane screamed, and drew closer to Roland, who watched them fight with steely eyes. He didn't trust the assassin, but there was something about him that kept him from aiding Sam in the fight against him...
The butler lunged again. Clyde was surprised; the butler was quite good with a knife, but not as skilled as he. But, Clyde was not about to hurt a man who was only trying to protect his master, who happened to be Clyde's own father. Relm wanted to help, but she had come in unarmed, as had Strago. Neither could help in a physical battle.
"Call him off, please! I refuse to fight; I only seek to speak!" Clyde asked his father. But Roland was still trying to figure out who Clyde was. Suddenly, Clyde found himself on the ground; the butler had tripped him up while he was distracted.
"Die, assassin! Like how you kill your prey!!" The butler had him pinned, and he was about to plunge the knife into Clyde's chest.
Clyde cried out, "Dad! Call him off!!!"
Roland finally recognized his own son's voice.
"Sam, stop!!" Roland yelled. The butler stopped -- a little late. Clyde had moved just enough that the blade jabbed him in the ribs, which stopped the blade from going any further in to any vital organs. The butler quickly pulled out the knife and got up.
"Owh..." Clyde groaned in surprise, and put a hand over the open wound.
"Dad! Did he hurt you?" Relm said, pushing the butler away from her father.
"What is it, Sir?" the butler asked.
"The assassin, Shadow. He's my son," Roland said in disbelief.
Relm helped Clyde up, hunched over a bit, hiding the wound from sight. He was still dressed in fighting clothes, so he was shivering in the night air. Diane stepped forward.
"Clyde? Is it really you?" she approached him slowly, and took a good look into his eyes. Clyde tried earnestly to smile, though he was cold and in pain, but it got her attention. Recognition washed over her face. "My boy's come home!! Oh Clyde!" she raced to him, and hugged him, tears in her eyes.
"Hi, Mom. I'm glad to see you too," he hugged her with one arm. He felt a wetness on his face, and realized that he too was crying with joy.
"My god, Diane! Get the boy in the house!! It's freezing out here, and he's got that cut on his side," Roland said, rushing out and pushing all of them in the doorway. Relm thought it funny, hearing her father referred to as 'boy.'
Roland sat them down in the parlor, and sent Sam to fetch some food, clothes and bandaging.
"Clyde. My my. Where have you been all of these years? The last time I saw you, you were a boy of 14. What's happened to you in the last 16 years? What about that Shadow thing?" Diane cut in.
"Roland, don't' be so inquisitive. First, let him introduce his companions," she smiled at Clyde.
"Thanks, mom. The dog is Interceptor, he's mine. The older gentleman is Strago Magus, from Thamasa. He's a monster hunter and blue mage," Clyde said, gesturing to Strago with his free hand.
"Welcome, sir. You were one of the people who helped save the world, weren't you?" Diane asked Strago.
"Yes, I was. But so was your Clyde, only in disguise as Shadow," Strago said, also shaking hands with Roland.
"Ahem," Relm said, eager to be introduced.
"Oh, yes. This young lady was also part in saving the world. Her name is Relm Arrowny, my daughter," Clyde smiled with pride. Relm stepped forward to her very surprised grandparents.
"Clyde... I'm surprised. Hello, Relm. How old are you?" Roland asked.
"I'm 13 years old, sir," she said as politely as she could.
"Relm.. What a pretty name. You're quite a beautiful young woman," Diane continued to speak with Relm, and Roland talked to Clyde on the side.
"I hope that you were married to her mother."
"Yes, I was... Actually, I had a son too, but well..." Relm overheard Clyde speaking.
"Dad, why don't you tell them the whole story," she said to him, in the encouraging way that she always was to him. Clyde had known that it would be hard seeing his parents again, but Relm always seemed able to give him enough courage for anything.
"Ok.." Clyde went on telling the same story he told Terra earlier. (Ch. 2)
"..And so that's how it began. After I traveled around for a few years, I forgot about everything. Then, I heard about the problems with the Empire the last time I was in town. Edgar, Terra and Locke tried to speak to me, but I didn't want anything to do with them. I wanted to take care of the empire on my own. I knew that they were a threat to peace loving people, and I secretly didn't want anyone to end up like my shattered family. So, I continued on, and I worked with the Returners on and off until the world of ruin.."
"Ah, I've heard this story. On the floating continent, Shadow saved everyone by pushing the statues out of alignment, breaking Kefka's power," Roland said.
"Yeah, that was me. Anyway, I helped defeat Kefka along with all of them. And after, since I had been to Thamasa again, I decided to get my act together. I went back and told Relm everything. She was very understanding, and it's been almost like old times ever since."
"What an interesting time you've had. So, you just happened to be in the neighborhood, and you decided to drop by?" Roland asked.
"Yeah, and Relm really wanted to meet you. And... ohh.." he suddenly felt dizzy, and brought his hand up to his forehead, his eyes tightly closed with disorientation. He had forgotten about the wound on his chest, which was still bleeding. His mother started fretting.
"It's ok, mom. I just feel a little dizzy..." he tottered a bit again.
"Where's Sam? I told him to get some bandages," Roland went to look for the butler.
"By the way, mom. How did you and dad get so much money?" Clyde asked.
"When King Edgar ascended to the throne, he encouraged people to invent and patent. Your father finally submitted some inventions, the biggest ones were the Movie camera, and an experimental thing called the T.V. I thought it had no practical use, but the guys at the patent office said differently. Along with a bunch of other little things, we've made lots of money. Even though we had so much success, Roland was down, because he wished you had been around. For a while, we thought you were dead, but then someone came thorough town saying that they had seen you somewhere far away," Diane said. Roland reentered with a note in his hand.
"Sam left this: "I've disgraced myself by attacking my employer's son. I am going off to look for the sacred grove, then maybe I can make a new life. Goodbye, Sam."
"Sacred grove?" Relm asked.
"People around here have been speaking of a great grove of mystical trees. They are said to have great power, especially the biggest one," Roland said to his granddaughter.
"That sounds like a good place for some adventurers like us to check out. What do you think, Clyde?" Strago asked.
"I... think I'm gonna lie down now..." Clyde said. He rolled his eyes, then passed out onto his mother's lap.
Edgar woke up the next morning. He sat up and breathed a breath of fresh air. He had regained most of his strength, and the bruise above his eye was beginning to heal.
"Ahh... Terra, here I come," he looked at her picture which always sat on his nightstand. He still was a little sore, but a bit of adventure would put him back in shape.
He washed, dressed and ate as he normally did, and found Cyan, who had insisted on coming with him. Together, they proceeded down to the armory.
"What might thou be looking for?" Cyan asked.
"I left the Atma weapon in the Phoenix cave after our adventures were over. I was looking through some texts in the library, and I found an ancient parchment left in between the jacket of one of the books. It said something about a mystic sword down here, somewhere in between one of the cracks. It said on the west wall, south of the border... What border?" he looked, and there was a painted line, faint , but there. He looked around in the cracks. He found that the cementing between a couple of bricks was a loose packing of mud which crumbled easily. He cleared the dirt away, and reached in. He grasped something.
"It feels like a sword hilt," Edgar said. He pulled back, and it slid out. It indeed was a sword, the blade was covered in a leather sheath. Edgar took it out of the sheath and marveled.
"It's made of the same substance as Terra's ring," Edgar stated, giving it a quick swish. The blade of the sword shimmered in rainbow colors, a kind of iridescence shone from it. He handed it to Cyan.
"'Tis the lightest blade I've ever held," he swung at a sword against the wall. When the blade hit, nothing happened at first, then the other sword split in half. "It cut through steel!! Dost thou intend to use it? I do say that, you may not be best suited to use such a sword."
"Ha, ha... I've been working on my swordsmanship. People have said that the Figaro family has had the best swordsmen in the land. I've been practicing," Edgar said with a wink. He noticed a name etched on the hilt. "Hmm, a name. It says.. M..E..L..C..H..I..O..R? Who's that? Well, whoever he may be, he's formed a wonderful weapon," Edgar said, taking the sword and putting it in his own sheath.
He and Cyan proceeded to gather armor, relics and various supplies. Edgar donned the Paladin shield, and took a hero ring and a ribbon. He put other relics into his pack, lest he need them. He also brought some extra armor for Terra, and found a light sword for her. Cyan found the Genji armor and shield, and he already had the Sky Render with him.
"Let us depart?" Cyan inquired. Edgar nodded in consent. He set the gate key to the setting it had originally been on; the way to Terra. The portal opened, and they stepped in.