The Creation of Heaven and Earth Chapter 10
"Don't you ever sleep?" Relm asked as she laid down on the bedroll Ayin had set out for her. Interceptor slowly settled down onto the ground beside her. The animal kept an untrusting eye on the moonlit figure that was keeping watch. The group had been running for what seemed like hours. Night had long since fallen and only when it was at it's darkest did Ayin agree to Relm's constant demands to locate a place to rest for the night. They had discovered a thick grove of trees off to the side of the road. The rays of the moon floated through the canopy of leaves and provided enough lighting that lanterns were not needed. The smell of salt in the air and the sound of waves colliding with the shore indicated that they were somewhere near the coast.
"No, I have nightmares when I sleep." Ayin replied.
"Nightmares about what?" Relm inquired.
"The kinda things you don't like to discuss to total strangers." Ayin replied ending the conversation then and there.
Relm shot Ayin a questioning look. "What's with you?" Relm began. "You risk your life to get me away from those Imperial goons and now..." she shook her head. "What's with you?"
"I saw a young girl being carried away by Imperial soldiers. Knowing them, they were probably going to behead you before the sun went down. You're too young to have your life taken away like that." He answered. "I figured saving you would be my good deed for today."
"So that's why you beat at least six Imperial soldiers senseless and had your chocobo" she motioned toward Nico, who had curled up on the ground and fallen asleep, "wreck a fruit stand. You've got a hellastrange idea of what a good deed should be."
"Look, I don't ask you to understand. You should just be grateful that I saved your hide." Ayin shot back, his voice cracking like a whip. "If you're not, I'll happily hand you over to the Imperials the minute I see a patrol."
Upon the sound of those words, Interceptor sprang to his feet and bared his fangs at the bounty hunter. A deep menacing growl cut loose from the animal's throat as he stepped toward Ayin.
"Calm down, Interceptor." Relm commanded. "I doubt he was serious." With those words said, the dog backed away but his gaze remained steel locked on the bounty hunter.
'If you only knew, little girl.' Ayin thought to himself as he turned away from the two. "Of course I wasn't serious," he said aloud. "Because of what I did to those soldiers, if I turned you in, one minute later the executioner's blade would be slicing my neck." That said, he stepped over to a gnarled oak true and leaned against it. As he crossed his arms across his chest, he began to think. 'What in the Goddesses name am I doing? What I did back in Albrook is going to bring down every single Imperial battalion on the continent down on my head. And for what?' He cast a glance with his good eye back toward Relm and Interceptor. 'Some kid and her dog.' He quickly looked away. 'Why? Because I'm seeing ghosts everywhere I look.'
"What did you do to get yourself arrested anyway?" Ayin questioned.
"Nothing that I could tell. The minute I got off the boat, I was meet at the docks by a bunch of those goons in Imperial uniforms. They called me by name and said that I was under arrest for entering territory that was occupied by the Empire." Relm said.
"You're a Returner?"
"Huh?" Relm was getting confused now.
"I've heard rumors to the affect that anyone who was associated with the Returners should be arrested on sight if they're spotted within Imperial Territory." Ayin answered. "So, are you a Returner?"
Relm nodded. "No." She paused for a second. "But you could say that I've had my dealings with the Returners in the past."
"Great." Ayin muttered under his breath. 'This situation just gets better and better.'
"My name's Relm by the way." Relm's soft voice worked its way through Ayin's thoughts.
"Whuzzat?" he replied. He looked over at her to see that she had sat up and was absentmindedly petting Interceptor.
"I said my name's Relm." she repeated, raising her voice a little. "Just trying to break the ice."
"Nice to meet you Relm." Ayin muttered back.
Relm stared at Ayin for a minute. "Um..." she finally said. "Y'know, when someone tells you their name, it's kinda rude not to tell them yours. Good manners and all."
"I've never had much use for good manners." he replied.
"Fine....whatever." Relm replied as she laid back down.
"It's Ayin." his gruff voice fell upon her ears.
"That's it? Just Ayin." She replied. "No last name?"
"Ayin is all you need to know." he answered.
Relm raised her head and looked at the large man. "Thanks...I think." She replied. 'Damn he's weird.' She shivered slightly as a cold breeze danced across her face. "Say." she called to Ayin. "It's getting a bit chilly." She began rubbing her shoulders in an effort to warm herself. "Mind starting a fire."
"No." he said flatly. "The smoke would give our location away."
She was about to protest but decided against it. She figured that Ayin, whoever he was, would be too bullheaded to listen. With that thought still burning into her brain, Relm slipped into the embrace of sleep.
"You'll forgive me for being blunt, Sir Gabbiani, but my forces are in dire need of a vehicle of the Falcon's reputation." Zimeon addressed the gambler in a rather bored tone, sounding somewhat like someone ordering food at the Casino's restaurant. "And we will take it from you, with or without your consent. Understood?" Zimeon kept his back turned toward Setzer and Locke, both of who were held in place by two large soldiers. His tone was bored and it seemed that he was more intent with studying his fingernails.
"Didn't your mother ever teach you that it's rude to talk to someone with your back turned?" Setzer muttered.
Once those words were out of his mouth, Zimeon whirled around and his hand shot out catching the gambler by his throat. The Emperor then pulled his face within inches of Setzer's. A hellish fury burned in his eyes as he hissed at the white haired man. Setzer's blood turned to ice as he watched a change appear over Zimeon's face. What had once been a plain and forgettable visage was now an image of several lifetimes worth of rage and animosity. The face of a man was replaced with a near demonic doppleganger.
"No. My mother never taught me such things. My mother was a drunkard and a whore who choked on her own vomit and died when I was merely a child. As for my father, he was no closer to me than a stranger." The Emperor released his iron grip on Setzer's throat and stepped back, calling upon his reason and strength to calm the demons that had been enraged.
Gasping for breath, Setzer could swear that he was able to feel indentions in his neck where Zimeon's fingernails dug in. 'God above.' he thought as he stared at Zimeon, who seemed to be trembling with rage. 'I definitely tore the bandages off a sensitive wound.' He cast a glance toward the Falcon where several soldiers had already begun to load various supplies in the lower decks of the airship.
"Well, he's got all the courtesy of an enraged behemoth." Locke mumbled through his swollen lips as Zimeon walked away.
"Doesn't he though?" Setzer replied. "Got any clue as to what their planning to do?"
Locke shook his head. "Not the slightest. I'd would have said that they'd try to convert it into some sort of bomber or something." he shoved that theory away. "But no...from what I've heard they've already have more than enough working IAF units, so scratch that."
"No, the way they've been talking I'd think that they're going to use it as a transport of some sort." Setzer thought.
"A transport? To where?" Locke replied.
Setzer cast a glance over toward Roke. The assassin had relaxed his stance, or so it appeared. The autocrossbow rested in the crook of his arm and still remained pointed at Locke and Setzer. "That, my friend, is why we should watch and listen."
"And then make our escape." Locke quickly added. When he did, he saw the new Emperor speaking to a strange figure dressed in black robes.
Edgar let the report slip from his fingers and glide down onto the desktop. As it touched the wooden surface the king let out a weary sigh. He leaned back in his chair and fixed his gaze on the ceiling. The spy's report said that there was no sign of any Imperial Naval Force gathering in Albrook. Such news would have pleased Edgar in the past but not this time. With it came word that, while there was no naval activity taking place in Albrook, something was going on there. Imperial soldiers were placed on alert to be ready to move out at any time. The report also brought back no word on the whereabouts of Sabin.
"Zimeon..." Edgar said and then he sat there, his thoughts lingering on that name for a moment. A great general during the twilight years of the Empire. As far as Edgar was concerned he should have died with the Empire. Yet fate did not see it that way. Fate had decreed that Zimeon would be sent to some far away outpost by a jealous Kefka before the Second War of the Magi began. Days before it began, Edgar remembered. Zimeon would survive the war so that he could bring civil unrest on this land once again. Zimeon would survive so that he could have his troops ambush his brother and then he personally would bury the knife within Sabin's heart.
Edgar shook such thoughts away. "No, not until I see his body will I believe that Sabin is dead. Not until then."
"Your majesty?" came a well mannered voice from the doorway.
Edgar glanced behind him to see Cyan standing there. The king motioned for him to enter. "Forgive me Cyan. I was just going over the report our field agents brought back."
"I hope that they hath brought us cause to celebrate." Cyan replied as he stepped inside.
"If only that." Edgar stood to his feet and shook his head. "No, old friend. They bring us cause to worry. While there seems to be no confirmation on the naval fleet, there is word that something major is going on in Albrook." Edgar stepped toward a chamber window and nudged it open. A few stray wisps of his hair were caught in the breeze that slipped into the room. He took in a lung full of fresh air before speaking again. "Zimeon knows I'm watching him." he began, his head lowering. "He knows that my spies are reporting to me on a daily basis, so he's letting just the right amount of information bleed out." He sat down in his chair again. "Just enough for us to know that something's going on but not enough for us to figure out what and how to prepare for it." He began to massage his temples. "He's trying to drive me insane." He opened his eyes and looked at Cyan. "And I fear that it may be working." He paused for a moment before continuing. "I'm tired old friend."
"The responsibility that the mantle of leadership brings is indeed great my lord." Cyan said.
"Truly." Edgar said. He then looked at Cyan and asked. "I don't suppose I could interest you in a slightly used mantle."
Cyan cracked a slight smile. Even the clouds of war gathering overhead could not completely extinguish the king's wit. "No my liege, no. My place has been by the king's side, not upon his throne. It has been that way for many years in my life." Cyan turned away but added. "However, I shall keep you in my prayers, my liege. You and the entire kingdom."
"Thank you Cyan." Edgar said as his friend left the room. "Perhaps that shall help me get some rest tonight."
"The supplies have been loaded into the deck of the Falcon, my Emperor." Palleon announced. "Excellent." Zimeon said as he turned away from the robed figure he had been speaking to. Locke kept his eyes trained on that robed man. There was something about this person that made Locke wary. He kept to the shadows, just barely within reach of the firelight. He was close enough to know that the man was there, but one couldn't make out any real features. Something that also caused Locke to worry was that more than once, he saw something other than this man move in the shadows. Something was hovering around him like a hawk or watchdog. Locke couldn't put his finger directly on it but there was something about this man that set off alarms in his mind. Something was telling Locke that this mysterious third party was a greater threat than Zimeon could ever hope to be.
Locke's thoughts were interrupted as the shout of "Load up!" flew through the air. The group of soldiers began to move toward the Falcon. Setzer glanced to his left to see Roke motion toward a pair of guards. One of those guards nodded and began to walk toward Locke and Setzer.
Locke saw the two guards as well and before they were in ear shot he quickly turned to his friend. "Setzer, listen to me. Whatever it is these guys need the Falcon for, we can't let them have it. "
"So how are we going to take it away from them? Hope a meteor falls from the sky and crushes them all?" Setzer replied.
Locke glanced back at the two guards, who were drawing closer with each step. "There's no "we" about it. Once we get close to the Falcon, I'm going to make a break for it. While they're distracted, you get aboard that ship and get it the hell outta here."
"And leave you behind? It is NOT going to happen." Setzer shot back.
"Sorry, can't hear you." Locke replied. Setzer felt his blood turn to ice as he heard those words. He had seen Locke act like this before. Once his mind was set on something, it would take divine intervention to sway him. Even then it would be incredibly difficult.
One of the guards stopped in front of Setzer and aimed at him with an autocrossbow. "Lace your fingers behind your head." he ordered. Setzer complied moments before he felt the hands of the guard roughly grab him by the shoulders and lift him up into a standing position. With a forceful shove, the guard moved Setzer forward.
'Don't do it, Locke.' Setzer pleaded with the heavens as he was moved closer toward the Falcon. He could see it in his friend's face. He could see that Locke was keeping track of the distance between the two of them and the airship. 'For God's sake, don't do it.' he begged his friend, even though he knew he could not hear him. The airship looked to be no more than fifty yards away. Ahead of them lay Zimeon and Roke. To their left lay an entire battalion of soldiers preparing to board the Falcon. To their right lay the seemingly endless expanse of the Veldt and behind them were the cliffs that soared over the ocean.
"Move it!" One of the guards barked. The burly figure emphasized his words by shoving the buttstock of his autocrossbow into the small of Locke's back. Locke cried out as pain dashed up his spine. He stumbled forward and landed on his face. He huffed loudly as he laid there, stirring up a small cloud of dirt as he did so.
Setzer and his guard came to a halt and turned to face the fallen captive. Locke's captor moved toward Locke angrily. The guard had his autocrossbow leveled toward the thief as he towered over Locke. Locke stirred and managed to roll onto his back but gave no indication that he was going to stand. The agitation that was flowing in the guard's veins became visible on his face as he moved his foot back a few inches. Setzer looked down at his friend and realized that his friend was bracing himself for what was coming.
The guard's foot shot forward and struck Locke in the side. Locke nearly cried out as the steel toed boot struck his already injured ribs. He could swear the he felt the bruise forming as he flopped to his side. He shut his jaws tightly and tried not to let the cry escape past his lips. He wasn't about to give these bastards the satisfaction of hearing him scream.
"You gonna get up now or am I gonna have to give you another?" The guard threatened as he drew his foot back again.
"No..." a hoarse whisper slipped between Locke's teeth. "No..." he repeated as he fell onto his back. "I'll get up. I'll get up." That said, Locke used his legs to awkwardly move himself into a crouching position. His hands were still behind his back as he sat there.
Setzer glanced to his left and saw that many of the soldiers had turned to watch the spectacle taking place. 'They're lookin' right at him.' Setzer thought as chilling sweat began to slither down his neck. 'If he tries to run...' a hard knot formed in Setzer's stomach as realization hit him. 'It'll be suicide.' It was then that he caught the look in Locke's eyes. 'Don't do it.' Setzer tried to beg his but he was too frightened to speak. 'You won't survive.'
Locke started to stand and as he did, Zimeon began to shout something toward the guard. But words came too late as Locke's newly freed hands came up. The guard's eyes bulged as both fist collided with his stomach. He doubled over, gasping for air, only to be driven completely into the ground as Locke brought his fist down onto the man's neck.
Setzer reacted instinctively, not thinking for a moment about his personal safety. He whirled around and seized his captor's weapon arm just as he was about fire on Locke. The guard gave a strained grunt when Setzer twisted the man's arm around as he pulled the trigger, sending a swarm of crossbow quarrels into the blackness. Setzer turned back toward Locke who was standing there, trying to decide between fight or flight.
"Run." a half shout, half growl escaped from Setzer's throat as he clamped his other hand on the autocrossbow. He snarled in pain as his opponent delivered a sharp kick to the knee.
Locke watched his friend struggle over the weapon for a sliver of a second before turning to run. He would be cut down if he headed toward Zimeon and Roke. The same would happen should he try to force his way through the soldiers. If he headed further into the Veldt, they could easily track him down and capture him. There was only one other option. Spinning on his heel, Locke turned toward the cliffs and broke into a run. His heart pounded violently as he ran with all the strength and speed his legs could muster. There was a hundred yards between him and the cliffs. If he could reach them in time, he could climb down them and escape.
The word, Locke realized, being 'if.'
Setzer stumbled as his opponent pulled harshly on the autocrossbow and then turned sideways. The inertia caused Setzer's grip on the autocrossbow to tear away and pitched him onto the ground. As he tried to stand up, a foot came out of nowhere and struck him across the chest. The foot then continued to push him back down to the ground. Setzer attempted to struggle but frozen in his tracks as the distinctive "click clack" that accompanied a ready to fire autocrossbow filled his ears. The gambler looked up and saw Roke's feral visage staring down the sights of his autocrossbow.
"I said something to you up there in the Falcon. You remember what I said?" Roke asked. "I believe I said that if you try to escape then you're gonna die." He shook his head and flashed a venomous grin. "Take it personally."
Setzer's ears filled with the shouts of the soldiers who had begun to chase after Locke. He glanced over to see his friend was still charging toward the cliff's edge.
"NO!" a shout came through the air and a hand violently caught a hold of Roke's wrist. Roke jerked his head up to come face to face with Zimeon. The Emperor's face was cold as his eyes bored into Roke. "We need him alive." he hissed. "Kill him and your blood will be spilled as well." Zimeon's gaze ran across the Veldt until he caught sight of Locke. "His friend however..." Setzer's felt the ice form in his veins as Zimeon completed the sentence. "no longer serves me." He released his grip on Roke's wrist. "Do what you do best animal."
A demonic look washed over Roke's face as he turned away from Zimeon and stepped in the direction of the cliffs.
Setzer looked up at Zimeon with disgust. "If he dies, then I have no reason to help you."
Zimeon didn't even look at Setzer as he spoke. "Terra Branford. She lives in the village of Mobliz with at least thirty or more children." Setzer's eyes widened as Zimeon began to name his friends one by one. "Celes Chere. She lives in Kohlingen as do close to a hundred other people." Zimeon finally turned his gaze toward Setzer. "Take one look into my eyes, Mr. Gabbiani, and you will see a man who will wipe out an entire village just to kill one person." A perverse grin attempted to curl across his lips but his face remained stoic. "So you see, you have many, many reasons to help me."
Setzer wanted to reply by saying "You're bluffing." Yet, the gambler caught a glimpse of Zimeon's eyes and that proved the Emperor was serious. Setzer turned away and watched in desperation as Roke dropped into a firing position. He wanted to call out to his friend, to warn him of the approaching danger but his vocal chords seemed to be paralyzed.
Locke's body screamed in protest but he continued to run toward the cliffs. There were only a few more yards to go. He could make it. He could make it.
Roke brought his autocrossbow up to his shoulder and began to draw a bead on Locke. Other soldiers had begun to issue orders to stand down and give Roke a clear shot.
A few more feet. That was all Locke could focus on. He was oblivious to everything else around him. If he could just make those last few feet.
Roke's finger tightened around the crossbow trigger and a single quarrel tore free. The projectile screamed through the cold night air as it devoured the distance between it and Locke.
Locke had only a few steps to go before the arrow struck home. Blood splattered from the wound as the quarrel caught him just below the shoulder blade and tore into his chest. Gasping in shock, Locke was spun around as he tried to grasp at the quarrel. Pain exploded in every inch of his body and his strength began to disintegrate. He had only a glimpse of Setzer's pale face before his knees buckled and he stumbled over the edge. The vision of Setzer was soon replaced by the image of the white capped waves crashing against the rocks. Locke's ears were filled with the sound of the seas as the waters rushed up to meet him.
Author's Note: Woo boy, I've got some explaining to do, haven't I? Well, let's just say that I had a head on collision with good ole writer's block and the free time draining responsibilities of college. Add to that the fact that my internet access is dependent solely on whether or not I'm in college, I have tendency to disappear from the net somewhat frequently. But, that's not the main reason why I haven't updated this story in so long. Well, it's just that I don't really feel like writing this story much lately. When I started writing this story, I had only the faintest idea of what I wanted it be like and just wrote it as I went along. This lead to some problems, because I do feel that there are some well written parts in here, it's just that they're connected with parts that are flimsy, poorly constructed, or all together just pulled out of my ass. I've become stuck in a corner with this fic, because of what I've already written and how it conflicts with what I eventually wanted to write. Hopefully I can repair this without having to go back and completely rewrite these ten chapters. If not, I may not finish this fic, which really hurts, because people have been giving me nothing but good feedback (mostly undeserved) on it, and I really don't want to disappoint them.
So, for now, consider this fic being "on hiatus", not canceled. If you would like to help me with this little jam I'm in, by all means, e-mail me. I haven't abandoned fan fic writing entirely, and am currently working on a new story based in the World of Imagination fan verse that other authors Nanaki, Nightsong, Mox Jet, and Cain have been basing works on, and I hope that story will have better luck than this one. Look for that sometime in the future.
Keep it cool
Final Fantasy 6 Fanfic