The Creation of Heaven and Earth Chapter 7

Victims of Changes

By NeoKefka

Dragonhead sat down hard on the improvised bench. It was nothing but a thick log balanced on a pair of stumps. He sat outside the office of the harbor master, unmasked and dressed in plain clothing. His 'hunting uniform' was stashed away in the bundle that lay by his feet.

He let out a breath and leaned back against the wall of the building, which groaned in protest. Ayin jerked away from it and stared at it. The structure looked like it was locked in an eternal struggle to stay standing. The building was a rickety structure made of hastily nailed together boards that were weather beaten and cracking.

The big man leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees and his stubble covered chin on his fists. With his good eye he studied the throng of people that were milling about on the waterfront. The sound of their voices mixed with the rhythmic slapping of the ocean waves against the stone docks, becoming a hypnotic symphony. Twilight had begun to set in, only slivers of orange could be scene dancing on the horizon.

'Once again I'm leaving my home town.' he mused. He had gone to his old house only to find it collapsed, no longer a home for man but a home for vermin. He had left this place so many years before after an argument with his father. He had disapproved of Ayin's friendship with Clyde and Baram. He had yelled at him, saying that this would lead to their ruin.

Ayin closed his eye, if only his father knew how prophetic those words had been. His family had disowned him, he had betrayed his friends and he was running from his past. 'I'm a disease.' he told himself. 'I poison everything I touch.'

He tried to cure that disease back at the inn but something deep inside wouldn't let him. Was it the monster that created this disease he had become? Or was it the coward that gave rise to this monster? The coward that didn't want to be sacrificed to destroy it.

'Why?' he questioned himself. "Why don't you just die?"

"What?" A startled and puzzled voice cut through his thoughts. Dragonhead's eye fluttered open and he beheld a middle aged man, who eyed him suspiciously.

'Did I say that out loud?' he called upon everything he could to hide his embarrassment. "Err… sorry." he muttered, his voice sounding like the growl of a bear. "I dozed off." he continued as he sat up straight. "Had a dream."

"Yeah...whatever." the dock worker drawled, unsure of what to make of the bounty hunter. "Anywho," the man finally said after a few seconds. "We've been able to make the necessary arrangements, so you can bring your bird on board."

"Good enough." Dragonhead answered.

"Jus' one thing." the man grabbed a slip of paper from his shirt pocket, examined it and the stuffed it back. "It'll cost ya some coin."

"Nothing's free." Dragonhead bent over and picked up his coin pouch.

"If you don't mind me proddin' mister. That is one helluva scar you got there." the man pointed to the side of Ayin's face.

"Bit my cheek while eating." he answered, ending the discussion then and there. "How much?"

The dock worker glanced down at the piece of paper than stuffed it back in his pocket. "Three hundred." the man said, his thick accent slurring his words.

Dragonhead fished out the amount and handed it to the man. As soon as the coin passed from payer to receiver, the edges of the bounty hunter's lips curled up into a smile. "Don't spend the part you plan to steal all one place now."

The man froze in his tracks and looked down at the bounty hunter. His mouth opened, but no words came out. If any did, Ayin imagined they would be along the lines of, 'How the hell?' But instead the man simply parted the payment from the excess and handed the coins back to the big man.

'Gotcha!' The smile, perhaps the first one he smiled in weeks, remained on his face as the man told him the boat for the Northern Region's was leaving in thirty minutes, then made a hasty retreat back into the shack. The man's body language had given him away. 'Perhaps that'll teach him,' the bounty hunter thought for a minute, 'but I doubt it.'

The bounty hunter stood up, gathered up his bundle, and began to muscle his way through the crowd. In the distance he could see another boat coming toward the docks, smoke pumping out of the single stack. He could make out a few shapes on it, one of which was a pair of children playing with a large dog.

*  *  *  *  *

Kalas stared through the gossamer veil of steam that rose from the warm soup that Katarin set before him on the table. The smell of herbs and spices assaulted his nostrils, reminding the young man how hungry he was. He snatched up his utensils and began swallowing spoonfuls of it, slurping loudly each time, some of the soup dribbling down his chin. There was slight giggle from Terra's direction. Kalas looked up from his meal and grinned sheepishly. "Sorry."

Terra waved the apology away. "Don't bother. It's nice to see you remembered your appetite."

Kalas downed another spoonful and wiped his chin with the back of his hand. "How could I forget?"

Terra smiled back at the blonde man. 'There he goes again.' she thought to herself. 'If I didn't know any better, I'd almost say I was talking to Edgar.'

Katarin walked back into the room carrying a mug of hot tea. As she set it down in front of Kalas, he pointed to the nearly empty soup bowl. "This is good. My complements to the chef."

Katarin laughed softly. "I'll tell Duane you liked it."

"Duane?" Kalas raised an eyebrow. "You mean you...."

"No." Katarin answered before he could finish his sentence. "I couldn't cook if the fate of the planet depended on it." Katarin gave a soft laugh before  she turned from the two of them and left the room.

"Duane was raised in a home where cooking was considered women's work. He's a little embarrassed about it." Terra told him. She began to massage the palm of her cut hand. It had begun to itch a few minutes prior and was on the verge of driving her crazy.

"Anything wrong?" Kalas called out from the other end of the table.

Terra left her hand alone forcing herself to ignore the itch. "It's nothing." she leaned back in her chair. "Now, what can you tell me?"

Kalas looked up from his food. "Like I said, it won't be much."

"Every journey begins with a single step." she quoted the old saying. "We don't need a lot, just enough."

"It'll be a miracle if I could give you that much." he commented before beginning. "Like I said. Eight years ago, my 'life' began. I was a blank slate, everything erased." He took a couple of deep breaths before continuing. "I woke up in the cargo hold of a ship where I was discovered by the captain. He accused me of being a stowaway." Kalas shrugged. "I guess I was." He looked down at the table studying the wood grain. "He had me thrown off."

Kalas could remember how he felt that day. He awakened from a dreamless sleep to a world that saw him as a hindrance, piece of trash that should be thrown away. He walked of the ship asking for help and found none. A crowd of people all around him and yet he had never felt so isolated.

"There was no place to go other than the streets, and so to the streets I went." he continued. "I lived in alleyways or abandoned houses if I was lucky, stealing money or food." he gave a little snort. "Needless to say, I wasn't to good at it. And that's what got me in trouble. I stole money for food one night, hadn't eaten in days. Unfortunately," he sighed. "I stole money from the wrong guy. He tracked me down with two of his associates and beat me senseless." Kalas winced slightly as if he was remembering how much it hurt.

"What happened to you?" Terra asked as traces of concern lined her face.

"Thankfully, I had a guardian angel watching over me." he said. "While they were attacking me, the town doctor and two of his friends, one of which was Nikeah's sheriff, was returning home from a wedding. They saved my hide."

"The doctor took me to his home and I was laid up for about a week, unconscious." Katarin came to retrieve Kalas' dishes. He held up a hand to stop her and mouthed. 'I'll get it.' The young woman nodded, then pointed to an open doorway through which a stove and a sink could be seen. Kalas nodded in return and Katarin left.

He turned back to Terra and continued. "When I came too, the doctor and his wife made me an offer. They would get me off the streets and give me a home. All they wanted in return....." he paused for moment, "was a son." He continued. "Their son was an Imperial soldier, he had died on the battlefield. I guess the two of them felt that if they couldn't have saved him, they'd help me find out who I was."

"The three of you became close." Those words came from Terra's direction. It was a statement, not a question. She could tell by the way his face brightened when he spoke of them.

"Like this." Kalas held up two crossed fingers. "We became a family, and in the time I was there I decided that even if never found out who I was, it wouldn't matter."

"So why..." Terra stopped in mid sentence and bit her lip, regretting even letting that much of the sentence out of her mouth.

Kalas swallowed a lump in his throat and shut his eyes tightly trying to block the tears that wanted to escape. "They're dead. My 'father' had a stroke and passed away, his wife died of a broken heart a few days later." He took a few deep breaths to calm himself. "Her last words to me were to search the world. Find some key, some clue to who I was. Three days ago I boarded a boat to do just that."

"Something happened to the boat during the storm, right?" Terra said, taking the words out of Kalas' mouth.

"Exactly. Last night we hit that storm. Lightning struck the boat, fire broke out and there was an explosion. All the survivors were able to make it to the life boats, but I got separated from the group in all the chaos." his hands made a sweeping motion around the room. "And here I am."

Terra looked at him thoughtfully before speaking. "Kalas." The blonde man glanced over toward Terra as repeated the very same words Locke Cole said to her nearly eight years before. "I'll stay with you until your memory returns. I promise you that much."

Kalas's gaze crossed hers, the look in his eyes telling her "Thank you."

*  *  *  *  *

The Falcon soared through the sky over the Veldt putting on an extravagant air show for the celestial audience that watched them from the purple curtain above. It truly lived up to its title, because every cut and every turn it made was as graceful and elegant as its avian namesake.

'Too bad I'm not able to enjoy it.' Setzer thought. On any normal occasion he would have felt invincible as he piloted the ship. But this was far from a normal occasion. The gambler could still feel Roke's gaze burning into his back, could still feel the autocrossbow aimed at him, ready to turn him into a pin cushion at the slightest trigger pull.

Roke had ambushed him and Locke back at the hangar and demanded Setzer take him and his 'associates' to an undisclosed location in the Veldt's coastline. Setzer would have refused if not for two things. The first was the tattoo the men had on the arms. Only one class of Camelot's soldiers had the insignia tattooed on their arms. Those soldiers were the New Empire's elite assassins, and the gambler had heard of this Roke character. The glint in his eyes confirmed the rumors. This man had killed before and was not above killing again.

The second card in their favor was Locke. It was an old ploy but it worked, either Setzer relented and did as they said or they would kill Locke. And to show that they meant business, the men had beat him senseless, right in front of him. Setzer glanced over his shoulder to where his friend lay bound. One side of his face was severely swollen and his lower lip was split.

Roke took his gaze away from Setzer and peered over the side of the Falcon, but his aim remained on the gambler. The assassin scanned the coastline for a brief moment before finally locating what he was looking for. The man got up, stepped over to Setzer and jabbed him in the shoulder with the point of the crossbow bolt. The gambler flinched as the point stung his shoulder. "Land near there." The brown haired man pointed toward an orange glow on the ground below, a signal fire.

Setzer twirled the steering wheel in his hand until he was over a clear space and eased the Falcon into a smooth as silk landing. Once they were on the ground Roke motioned toward a rope ladder which lay rolled up on the deck.

As if on cue, his two toadies grabbed the rope ladder and threw it over. Roke backed away from Setzer. When he stood next to one of his men, he let go of his white knuckle grip on the autocrossbow, and held the weapon by only its trigger guard. He handed it to the man on his right. "Keep an eye on them both, if they make an attempt to disarm you or escape, don't hesitate to kill them." he said before descending down the ladder.

'Yeah that's smart' Setzer though bitterly as he stepped toward Locke. 'Kill me and who's going to repair the Falcon?' The men stood like statues, their eyes following Setzer. The gambler knelt by his fallen comrade. He carefully placed a hand on his shoulder and nudged him.

One of Locke's eyes, the one that wasn't swollen shut, fluttered open. "So,' he said, his voice sounding like a hacking cough, "what did the other guy end up lookin' like?"

Setzer shook his head and smiled. 'He's all right or he wouldn't be cracking bad jokes.' Setzer pointed at one of Roke's men with his thumb. "He ended up looking like that."

Locke was able to catch a glimpse of the man, a black haired thug. "Damn!" he exclaimed quietly. "Did I go after him with a sledge hammer or something?"

Setzer chuckled slightly and was about to answer when someone called from over the side.

"The Emperor wishes to speak with the hostages."

Setzer and Locke both gave a start the moment they heard the words 'The Emperor.' 'First we're captured by their best soldiers and now we're being taken to meet the Emperor. Something big is defiantly going on.' The gambler stood up and held his hands up as the two men advanced on the pair. The brunette thug roughly grabbed Locke and hoisted him into what could pass as a standing position.
The two climbed down the ladder and turned around. Locke and Setzer were greeted by the sight of at least thirty soldiers.

One figure, dressed in a cape with white hair walked along side the Falcon, apparently admiring the majestic ship. "Amazing," he said. "we have hundreds of air units equipped with the latest technology and yet they cannot reach the altitude this boat can." He tapped on the side with his knuckle. "I was told once that this vessel nearly reached as high as the stars."

"It might have." Setzer trying to sound less afraid than he actually was. "Who wants to know?"

The man turned to reveal one of the most unremarkable faces Setzer had ever seen. "Allow me to introduce myself. I am the Emperor of Camelot, Zimeon St. Cloud."


Chapter 8

Final Fantasy 6 Fanfic