What Makes A Hero Chapter 3
Igros, Capital of Gallione
Ramza spotted the highest pinnacle of Igros castle, and sighed heavily. He could practically see Dycedarg's learing face, glaring over Balbanes' still form. "Last time we came home, we got less than a warm welcome." Vincent grimaced.
"Home? Oh, I don't think of this as home." Ramza said absently.
"Well, you know what I mean. What do you consider home then?" Vincent asked.
"Nowhere." He said simply. "Home has to be a place you care about. I don't care about any place we've been to. That's why we were leaving."
Vincent switched topics. "Just what are you planning to do to Delita?"
"Why do you ask?"
But Vincent knew him better than that. "We killed plenty of women during the Lion war."
"I never enjoyed it!"
"You think I did? You think Delita did? Right now, you're reminding me of Wiegraf."
"Maybe so. But Wiegraf was in the right, you know. Until Velius took control of him, he was in the right..." Then, they were at the gate.
"State your name and business!" A female voice shouted.
"Ramza and Alma Beoulve, here to assert our authority!" Ramza shouted. There was a moment of silence. Then, the gate started flying open so fast Ramza thought the chains would break. Once it was above his head, a female knight came flying out of the opening.
"Oh my god! I can't believe you're alive!" She threw her arms around him. Ramza pushed her away far enough to see who it was.
"Clara? You're still with the Hokuten?"
"Yes. After you sent me on my way," she said with a trace of bitterness, "I came back to Igros. Zalbag had heard that I served under you, so he took me in. I was mad at you for a while, but I started blessing my luck when it seemed like you all died at Orbonne. But, why did you come back here?"
"We didn't plan on it. But we need men to dethrone a mad tyrant, and command of the Hokuten is almost my hereditary right."
"A mad tyrant? You don't mean Delita!"
"What kind of king kills his queen?" He said bluntly.
"What do you mean? It was a riding accident."
"Ovelia, maybe you better explain." Ramza stepped aside, revealing Ovelia's weak figure.
Clara's jaw dropped. "This is too much. You'll have to talk it over with Zalbag's top men. I'm assuming you don't want to see any of Dycedarg's people?"
"You assume correctly. I'll see them after dinner this evening."
"Um... There's one other item you need to know about. Just before he went to kill Dycedarg, Zalbag told us that if you survived and he didn't, he wanted you to take care of his son."
"His SON?!" Ramza's jaw dropped.
"Zalbag had a son?" Alma asked, more calmly.
"You didn't know? He's about two years old now."
"Who was the boy's mother?" Ramza asked, regaining his powers of speech.
"Alicia, one of the knights who served under Agrias. She died in the Lion war."
"Wow. This is certainly a surprise."
"He was... rather promiscuous."
"What does that mean?"
"He bedded well and often." Alma elbowed him in the ribs.
The thought was foreign to Ramza. "Sounds nice. I wonder how he managed it."
"Well, when you're not allowed to get involved with the male knights, and you can kill normal guys with your bare hands, who else are you gonna go with? Besides, that goatee was simply to die for!"
"You too?" Ramza asked, scratching his beardless chin.
"Everyone too." She blushed a little. "Really, I'm surprised he only had one kid. You want to meet the boy now?"
"Well, yeah. Of course." He nodded.
Clara turned around, then stopped, spotting a pair of eyes peering around the corner. "Oh. And he's already here. Come on out." The boy stepped out into the hall, then walked forward nervously. Ramza kneeled down, to appear less imposing. The boy walked up to him, then kneeled down himself, his eyes bowed to the floor.
"Hey, no. Don't do that." Ramza easily lifted him to his feet. The boy looked extremely surprised. "What's your name?"
"Balbanes, sir." He said quietly.
'Of course.' Ramza smiled. 'At least Zalbag had some respect.' "I'm very glad to meet you Balbanes."
"Thank you sir."
"And I'm not sir. Just Ramza. And this is Alma." Balbanes stood back and bowed to her.
She laughed. "Well. Looks like Zalbag drilled some manners into him. You could learn a thing or two, O master warlord."
Ramza ignored her. "I'll have dinner in his chambers, wherever they are."
"Right where Zalbag used to be."
"Very well." Then he turned back to Balbanes. "Well young sir, I'd like to hear all about you."
"Really?" Balbanes asked, surprised again.
"Sure. I'd like to hear about your parents, specifically." With that, they walked off down the hall.
"So Ramza won't be joining us?" Whitman asked, nervously looking at all the Hokuten seated in the main mess hall. "I mean, we killed some of their brothers and sisters..."
"What, you need Ramza to take care of us all the time?" Roberto asked him.
"No." Whitman said, P.O.ed. "I just think he might have stuck around to break the ice, at least."
"You'll be fine." Clara told him. "Sure, some of them aren't too fond of you. But just picture yourself in a Nanten hall. This is a lot better, right?"
"I guess so."
Just then, Vincent held his head, being careful to avoid impaling his hand on his summoner's horn. "There's something not right about the magic here... Something, with the stones?"
"The stones?" Mustadio asked apprehensively. Most of the people in the hall continued eating, oblivious to the odd exchange.
"There's something new... Is it, Leo?"
"The Leo stone?" Rad spoke up. "It got out of Murond?"
"What do you mean "it" got out?" Mustadio demanded. "Doesn't it need a human to activate it?"
"Maybe it found one." Rafa said quietly.
"Its getting closer..." Vincent whispered hoarsely. Then, a brightly glowing object floated in through an open window. Still, most people ignored it until it began to gather energy. Ghost like forms floated in and out of the stone in the typical Lucavi fashion. A huge energy explosion rocked the room. Standing on the main table stood a huge, humanoid, white lion.
"Battle formation!" Rad screamed. Vincent jumped behind him. Whitman unsheathed his Kiyomori, and Roberto readied two flails. Beowulf and Reis prepared to attack from the right flank. Mustadio, Rafa, and Malak prepared to attack from afar. Ovelia backed to the far end of the room. As the Hokuten scattered, the lion growled in a feral tone.
"The will of the heirs has summoned me... Where is the child?" No one knew what he was talking about. "You must give me the child, or you will face the wrath of Gablazar, the devil!" No child was forthcoming, and the mass of Hokuten moved in for the attack, so Gablazar got the jump on them. The Zodiac Stone monster charged forward, sending several knights flying through the air.
Rad led Ramza's men forward, pulling out his Oberisk. "Stand aside people, let the big boys through!"
Gablazar turned to watch them. "I have no quarrel with you..."
"Oh yeah?" Rad demanded. "Well I've got a quarrel with you, Lucavi!" He charged forward, driving the huge spear head at the monster.
"Lucavi? You have no clue, do you?" Gablazar asked scornfully, easily sidestepping the blow. Roberto darted forward, slashing his two giant flails into the monster. Gablazar sent him flying with a simple backhand slap. "Very well. You force me to put you out of your misery." The monster began to advance on Whitman and Rad, but then it stopped and sniffed the air. "Those who served the traitor are here..." He turned toward the left side of the mess hall, where a group of middle aged knights formed a defensive circle.
"Hey." Whitman nudged Vincent. "Aren't those mostly Dycedarg's old soldiers?"
"Yeah. Why is that important?" The white lion charged the circle of knights, completely ignoring Rad's faction. It began to slaughter them almost with glee. Where it had merely pushed the others out of the way, blood flew everywhere now.
"Should we really try to help them?" Rad sighed.
"Ramza would." Whitman sighed as well.
"Bahamut's already on call." Vincent told them.
"All right. Until the big boy gets here, let's give him all we've got!" Rad, Whitman, and Roberto charged forward, while Ovelia threw up Barriers around them. Rad was the first to reach the fray, and his Oberisk stabbed deep into the monster's side. Gablazar counterattacked with a vicious claw rake. Rad almost collapsed, but he managed to muster the strength for a vicious slice of his own, cutting down to the meat of the bone. Roberto darted back and forth, throwing fire balls at the monster. Whitman circled warily, trying to find a good opening to strike.
Beowulf came from out of nowhere, doing nowhere near as much damage as Rad had done, and seemingly taking even worse in return. "You fools!" Gablazar roared. "Give it up! Let me go about my business!"
Beowulf said nothing, but swung his sword upward. Energy crackled from it, and the others recognized the telltale signs of his Shock technique. A huge explosion erupted underneath Gablazar, and he was almost knocked off his feet. He quickly looked back and forth between the old Hokuten knights and Ramza's soldiers, before continuing to attack the Hokuten.
"He just doesn't learn." Whitman growled, preparing to rush forward again.
"There's no need. He's here!" Vincent said happily. A tremendous roaring sound was heard outside, and a huge blast of dragon fire disentegrated the roof and slammed into Gablazar. The incredible heat set his fur on fire, and he roared in frustration. The old Hokuten knights finally pressed their advantage, surrounding the monster, and slashing at him mercilessly.
"Why can't you understand?" He roared, then growled low. "The time was wrong. I must go now, but I will return." With that, he vanished into a large white explosion. The Leo stone clattered to the floor, but then began to float toward the window.
"Don't let it get away!" Rad shouted. He jumped for the stone, but it was too late. It floated out the window, then rocketed into the sky.
"So how did it get out of Murond?" Ramza asked after hearing the whole story.
"That's what we don't know." Vincent sighed. "Maybe the energy of our other stones summoned it here."
"Yes... But I thought that when we killed Altima, Lucavi went along with it."
"That would be a complicated thing." Vincent said. "But it seemed to think that it wasn't Lucavi."
"What was it then?"
"Well, it was a white lion. And what's on the Hokuten flag?"
"A white lion." Ramza nodded. "Could it be the spirit of some dead Hokuten knight?"
"But why would it attack other Hokuten?" Rad wondered out loud. Ramza, Whitman, and Vincent just gave him a funny look.
"Why would we? Because they killed one of our own." Ramza said simply.
"So maybe this is just a knight that was betrayed by the Hokuten." Vincent hazarded a guess.
"That would explain it, except, why did it only attack the knights that had served under Dycedarg? Even after we hit it pretty good, it paid more attention to them." Whitman pointed out.
"That, I couldn't tell you." Vincent shook his head.
Ramza looked up from the papers he had been reading as a knight walked in the door. He did not bow to Ramza, and from his insignia, Ramza saw that he had been Zalbag's second in command. That would make him the leader of the Hokuten now, pretty much. "Ramza Beoulve?" He asked out of politeness only. Ramza nodded. "My name is Cyran. I served under your brother Zalbag."
"I assume that the gossip has already informed you that I need men to send against Delita?"
Cyran's eyes widened imperceptibly. "Yes, although even after I saw Ovelia, I wasn't sure if it was true."
"It is. I'd like you to lead the Hokuten through Gariland to Dorter, then go up through Goland and Lesalia, and approach Zeltennia from the northern route."
"You don't want us to split up?"
"A certain Thunder God has the southern route covered." Ramza said, smiling a little.
"I see. I take it from your tone of voice that you won't be going with us?"
There was something about this knight that made Ramza want to trust him. "Yes. We'll be going through Fovoham and Riovanes, and then, off the well traveled roads."
"Normally I would flat out refuse." Cyran said, then brought up a hand to silence Ramza's protest. "But normally, a commoner doesn't marry a queen just to get the throne, and then murder her. I'll lead 300 men on the route you described. I don't want to take any more though. Delita hasn't tried to bend us to his authority yet, and I want enough soldiers here to resist if it's necessary."
"As do I." Ramza smiled. "If we succeed, you won't have to worry about that."
"If we succeed, then I have to worry about Dycedarg's faction going imperial on me. None of them believe he killed your father."
"Idiots." Ramza grimaced. "Well, good luck. We'll be setting out as soon as possible. Oh, one further note. We'll be taking Balbanes along, unless you want to leave him here when all of Dycedarg's troops are in command."
"No. He'll be safer with you than anyone else I could imagine."
"Good. I hope to be seeing you at Zeltennia."
"Just don't lag behind too much." Cyran grinned for the first time.
"Well, here we are at the cause of all the nightmares." Ramza sighed, viewing the blasted remains of the former Death Corps fort.
"So this is your special place huh?" Ovelia asked, tired from being in the saddle all day. "I have to admit, I don't look forward to seeing the remains of the Zeltennia church again." Then she turned all the way around, viewing the scene with mild interest. "This is where Teta was killed?"
"Yes. This is where Algus, and Zalbag, created a monster." Ramza grimaced. Ovelia sighed when she figured out Ramza was referring to Delita. He wondered why. "I have to wonder though, if it was Zalbag's fault, or if he just left it up to Algus' discretion, or if they were both following Dycedarg's orders."
"Probably a combination of all three." Vincent said, coming up behind them. "Though I have to admit, I wasn't overly sorry to roast Algus, or to see Delita kill him."
"Why wasn't that enough?" Ramza asked the landscape. But then he asked himself, 'if Algus had killed Alma, would you killing him have been enough? No.' He realized. 'I would have gone after Zalbag too. Maybe that's why he joined up with the Nanten. But that still doesn't explain why he killed so many people who were in no way responsible!'
"Ramza, the night'll go a lot faster if you just get to sleep." Rad said, laying out his own sleeping bag.
"Maybe you're right." Ramza sighed again, tying Boco to a protruding spar. He saw Alma helping Balbanes off the Black Chocobo she had gotten used to riding, and tie it up as well. Like he would get any sleep tonight. He could still picture Teta's blood dripping off the bridge. But he swallowed a small portion of their rations and rolled out his bag anyway.
Ramza woke up just as the moon passed behind some low clouds, snuffing out most of the light that had been shining dimly on the camp. The fire had long since gone out in the cold mountain air. There was nothing that should have woken him up, and he had actually been having a rare, dreamless sleep. Nevertheless, he felt ill at ease. Something made him look toward the small rise where Zalbag and Algus had been standing on that fateful day. It had seemed smooth before, but now there was a small imperfection in the surface, as if a small rock had settled there.
He rose to his feet even before it started glowing, quickly locating the Masamune and drawing it. Roberto was the next one up, and he silently pulled out his flails. Then, the stone flashed brightly, and streams of energy began flowing into it. "Troops, get ready!" Ramza roared. A none too friendly laugh was heard, and a narrow burst of energy blinded him for a second. When his eyes readjusted to the darkness, a very large figure was standing on the rise. A very large, white figure.
"Gablazar!" Rad shouted, picking up his Oberisk. Ramza took a look at the length of the monster's arms, then sheathed the Masamune and drew his own Oberisk.
Gablazar growled menacingly, his bulging form casting odd half-shadows in the darkness. "Give me the child." His throat rumbled simply, a finger pointed to where Balbanes was cowering against Alma. Ramza viewed the sight with horror.
"No! This is my brother Zalbag's only son! I'll never let you have him!"
"Make this easy on yourself, and surrender immediately."
"You're mad, devil! Everyone, battle formation! Eeaaaaaagghhhh!!!"
"Eeaaaaaagghhhh!!!" Came the answering cry. Ramza and Rad charged forward, their huge spears leveled at the monster, Roberto swinging his flails behind them. Out of the corner of his eye, Ramza saw the rest of his crew charging forward, Rafa and Malak in the lead. Suddenly, a blue beam of light began to shine from the sky. "Jump!" He quickly shouted. "Everyone else, stay back!" Malak jumped backward, but Rafa seemed not to hear him, and he realized she was already concentrating on her unique brand of magic. Rad and Roberto rocketed skyward as the large blue explosion of the Ultima spell raced toward them. Making a snap decision, Ramza jumped backward, pulling Rafa out of the way of the spell, and grinding them both roughly into the dirt upon landing.
"Huh? Why'd you do that?" Rafa asked, surprised.
"Uh, there was a very big explosion just now, if you didn't notice."
"So? Normally you just assume the monster will die before we do."
"Well..." Suddenly, Ramza was knocked to the ground as Roberto barreled into him.
"Hey Ramza," Roberto brushed some flowing blood off his shoulder, "feel like giving us a hand?"
"Sorry." He said quickly, then charged back into the fray. Gablazar swung his huge limbs with surprising speed, catching Ramza full in the chest. Ramza jumped back, then used both hands to drive the huge spear into the monster's side. 'I sure wish T.G. Cid was here. But then, I didn't exactly count on running into a Zodiac Stone monster. Besides, I beat Velius without him.' As Rad stabbed just as hard from the other side, the monster roared again.
"Why do you refuse to understand? Do you want to make my suffering even worse? Do you want Delita to win?"
"What?!" Ramza gasped, taken aback. "What do you know about..." He trailed off as Rafa's heaven magic surrounded Gablazar, blasting the monster repeatedly. It roared it's frustration again, then disappeared in a white explosion. But this time, following the explosion, many bolts of electricty began flowing into the ground. A sink hole formed, and the ground began to crumble inside as it spread. "Crud! Jump again, people!" Ramza shouted, launching himself into the air. The crumbling of the ground sped up, and the chocobos snapped their tethers to come to the aid of the people. 'Oh, that's reassuring.' Ramza thought sarcastically as he began to descend.
Then Vincent's chocobo panicked as an especially large piece of rock fell. Rafa and Malak were thrown off the back, and Rafa fell into the gaping pit as the ground she was laying on collapsed. Ramza adjusted his angle of descent, and tried to hurry his fall through the air. Once he got down into the hole itself, he used his spear against the wall like a paddle on water to catch up to Rafa. He grabbed her hand, then jammed the Oberisk into the near vertical rock face. He clenched his teeth at the tremendous strain placed on his arm, but the spear held, and then they were simply hanging on. "Well," Rafa gasped, still breathless from the fall, "that was quite impressive. But I have to wonder what's going through your head lately."
Ramza lifted her up to the spear, so he wouldn't have to hold onto her with one arm, and the spear with the other, which was starting to hurt. "Don't ask me. I'm wondering the same thing."
"Well, I never thought we'd be fighting him again." She said, changing the subject. Ramza began to wonder when the others were going to get them out, when a rope was thrown down to them. He gestured for her to grab on first.
"You mean you. That was the first time I'd fought him."
"No, I mean us. You'd fought him before, but he was a little different."
"What? You didn't hit your head, did you?"
"Don't be a fool Ramza. Take the A and the R off the end, then see what you've got." Then, the rope started moving up.
'Take the AR off the end of what? Gablazar? Well that gives you Gablaz. What's the big deal about... I am such an idiot! It was staring me in the face the whole time! That's why he wanted Balbanes! Gablazar knew... no, its...'
"Ramza! I'm... fighting you?" - Zalbag
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