Shades of Gray Chapter 1
By Neyon Karowitz
Edgar had not expected Setzer to arrive so early. He had arranged their meeting for that evening, and to prove he wasn't losing his memory he'd had the chancellor validate it. So when Terra had notified him that Setzer was looking for a place to land his ship he had a reason to at least be somewhat surprised. Of course, Terra's interruption hadn't deserved the reply it had gotten, and he'd spent at least five minutes trying to apologize for it before he decided to take care of Setzer's situation and let the problem with Terra blow over. The apology process wasn't exactly as easy as it sounded - Edgar had gotten several similar lectures the first two years they were married, while Terra still lived and worked at the orphanage in Mobliz before finally giving the job to someone else and returning to Figaro. Edgar figured Terra would cool down after a few minutes alone, while Edgar delt with Setzer.
The only problem was that Setzer wouldn't just land. He had to have it placed somewhere where he was sure it wouldn't be damaged. After several minutes of arguing, Edgar finally convinced him to land behind the castle, "Where the Chocobos won't be working," he had said, with a wink to Locke, who rolled his eyes in response. Setzer had reluctantly agreed.
When he landed, Setzer revealed he'd saved Edgar the trouble of notifying the other mining captains by picking them up for him. The first to exit the ship was Sabin, more out of necessity than anything else - Sabin liked to have his feet on the ground; flying was not his bag. The next to exit was Relm, the young girl raised on the Magi island, followed by her adoptive grandfather, Strago, and her father, Shadow. The ninja no longer wore his "official" uniform - the mask had been removed as a show of courtesy and trust between him and all the others around, not to mention the fact that now that Relm knew who Shadow was she would have none of his hiding himself. Relm was now a very independent fifteen-year-old, which made it very hard for anyone to argue with her. Next was Interceptor, Shadow's dog, now, to his owner's great distress, a housepet, mostly thanks to Relm as well. Last to exit were the former Doma soldier Cyan Garamonde and the forest boy Gau, now a young teenager dressed similar to Sabin, followed by Setzer, Arcia, and Gogo. The mimic carried a curved, red katana, unusual since Gogo had never before bared any sort of weapon of that type.
"This is an unusual surprise," Edgar greeted the pilot. "So may I ask why in heck are you here so early!?"
"Awww, Edgar, you act like you're not glad to see me!" Setzer laughed, winking and elbowing Edgar in the side.
Edgar rolled his eyes and gave Setzer a sarcastic grin. "Don't tell me you left those Moogles in charge of my mining organization."
Setzer laughed nervously. "Well, you can't trust everybody, you know, and..."
"SETZER!!" Edgar groaned.
"Only joking! I've got some of my top men on it. Don't worry so much! We've got great news for ya. Well, Gogo's got most of it, in his pocket."
Relm, however, had already entered the castle, followed closely by Interceptor. She was sneaking down the halls when she ran into Anna.
"Hi there!" Relm said, bending down to look the four-year-old in the eye. "I'm Relm! What's your name?" The little girl stared back silently, as if afraid. Relm looked behind her, where Interceptor sat, acting as a guardian, just in case the tiny green-haired child suddenly turned into some kind of ogre or other beast. "That's Interceptor. He's my father's dog. My daddy's the great ninja Shadow. What's your daddy's name?"
"Egur," the child slurred.
"Edgar?" Relm laughed. "Your daddy's name is Edgar? Do you mean King Edgar?"
Interceptor cocked his head, as if hearing something, then moved to Relm's side, looking past the child down the hall. Terra, now adorned in a simple tunic, was walking down the hall straight for Anna.
"That's Terra," Relm said.
"That's right," Terra laughed, picking up the child. "How are you, Relm?" She turned and stepped back some. "And Interceptor."
Relm patted the dog on the head, and he relaxed. "I'm fine, Terra. Is that your baby?"
Terra laughed. "You can't tell? This is my daughter, Anna."
"It's been a long time since I've seen you," Relm replied. "How old is she?"
Terra smiled and shook her head. "Four. Edgar and I married just after the end of the war, at the same time as Locke and Celes, remember?" Interceptor yawned, causing Terra to pause for a moment, then she continued. "And Anna Bradley Figaro - this little troublemaker - was born a year later."
"Does Locke have any kids?" Relm asked, with a wry grin.
"Not yet," Terra mused. "I don't know if Celes wants children."
"What's wrong with children!?" Relm shouted, with obvious over-enthusiasm. Interceptor yawned loudly.
"That's not what..." Terra began, but she was promptly interrupted when she finally noticed the black boots standing behind Relm. "A-hem... Shadow."
Shadow nodded. His face was scarred beyond recognition, if you had happened to know him before he became the ninja known as Shadow. Terra - or anyone else for that matter - was not quite yet used to speaking to the warrior minus his mask, which used to conceal his entire features. And this was only truly applicable if it was possible to get used to speaking to Shadow.
"Did you come alone?" Terra asked.
Shadow shook his head. "With Setzer. Something about a meeting with Edgar." He acknowledged Anna with a simple hand gesture. "May I...?"
Terra, five years ago, would have either run screaming to Locke or one of the others or tried to destroy Shadow with a well-aimed fireball or lightning bolt after such a request. However, no longer did she have the use of such powers at her fingertips nor the desire to use them on the man now Relm's caretaker and only family minus Strago. She gently handed Anna to him. The child leaned her head on Shadow's shoulders and stared deep into the ninja's eyes. Shadow said nothing, only stared back, then about half a minute later gently handed the baby back to its mother. "C'mon Relm." Shadow walked off back the way Relm had come. The girl curtsied and followed, and Interceptor yawned one last time before rising from his haunches, scratching his ear, and loping after the pair. Strago entered from the same way a few seconds later.
"Well, well, Miss Branford," the old wizard said, with an air of sarcasm.
"That's Missus Figaro, sir," Terra replied, returning the comment with equal sarcasm.
"Well, well, your magesty," Strago balked. "Picky, picky about names, aren't we?" He leaned on his walking stick. "And how is Figaro five years after Kefka?"
"Strago, please don't say that name."
"Oh, please, Terra. What's the old saying, 'Name of a fear can turn...'; no, that's wrong. 'Fear of a name only increases the fear of the thing itself,' or something like that."
"Well, that may be, but just don't say it too loudly," Terra replied. "Edgar's not a fan of that name, nor is anyone else."
"KEFKA, KEFKA, KEFKA!!!!" Strago roared at the top of his lungs. His voice echoed throughout Figaro Castle, as well as the surrounding desert, more than likely. Terra found herself on her knees, one hand clasped to her child's ear in a grip that a Rhinox couldn't pry loose, pressing the child to her chest. Anna's eyes were wide, staring at the strange old man.
"Yep, I still got it," Strago laughed.
"Got what?" Terra asked, forcing her way to her feet. "You scared the wits out of me and probably more out of the baby. What do you still 'got'?"
"I'll let you know when I figure that one out." He laughed loudly, mostly to himself. By now Edgar, Sabin, Locke, Celes, Setzer, Arcia, Gogo, Cyan, Gau, Shadow, and Relm were all standing in or near the exitway Relm and Shadow had just used. A few were giving the assembly strange looks. Terra lifted the baby up to her arms in a more comfortable position for them both then led the group to Edgar's study, where the chancellor was waiting. Once the group was all seated, Edgar leaned forward to begin the proceedings.
"Well, everyone, since you came early, I suppose you all know what the meeting is about."
"All I know," Shadow replied, "is that you've got us all mining and somebody finally found something."
"Well, then, you know about as much as I do," Edgar replied. "Since you made the discovery, Setzer, let's hear what you've got."
"I believe this is more Arcia and Gogo's discovery than mine," the gambler replied. "I'm just the supervisor, she's the miner who dug up the stuff. And Gogo's kinda wrapped up in all this, just like he's always kinda 'wrapped up'!" He laughed at his own joke. He was the only one laughing.
"Miss Arcia, your name is?" Edgar asked.
"Um.. Yes. Arcia Zanthis, former sergeant of the imperial army, if that matters."
Edgar mused over this for a few seconds. "Well, we have a lot of former imperials around - I'm sure you recognize the woman to my right."
"Yes, sir. General Celes."
Edgar nodded. "So, what did you find?"
"We have come down to a thick layer of mysterious red stone," Arcia explained. Gogo removed the stone from his robes and passed it down. When it reached Edgar, the chancellor handed him an eye scope to examine it more closely. "The slab of this stuff is about fifty feet thick downward and who knows how wide. Beneath it and protruding through it are stone structures of some ancient civilization. Also, made from the same red rock, we found the sword Gogo's holding." Gogo passed this down the line as well. Edgar decided it was not required for him to examine the blade, and passed it over for the chancellor to do so.
"What is this stone?" Edgar asked.
"We did some experimenting with it on the way here," Gogo replied. "And I've come to a conclusion. Do you have any Magitek Armors left somehow lying around?"
"Magitek?" Celes asked. "Maybe. We had retrieved a few and stored them in the lower levels."
"We need a blast test," Gogo replied. "If my theory is correct...."
Since she and Terra were the most experienced with their workings, Celes volunteerd to pilot the Magitek in the test. Said test was made up simply of Celes charging up the armor's weapons systems and hitting the stone sample Gogo brought with a powerful, magic-based attack. Seemed simple enough, but...
"Why do you want me to blow it to smithereens?"
Gogo shook his head. "I have a theory. This island has always been a source of high-power magic... at least before K..."
"C'mon, say it," Strago beckoned.
"Before Kefka." Gogo shook his head. "I'm surprised he never went after it or at least looked into it. Now that we've found this stone, perhaps that's a clue as to why magic was once concentrated on this island." He set the stone on the target platform, then stepped aside. "Fire when ready."
Celes shook her head, then moved the armor into position and charged up the Magitek. It was hard to believe the machine still operated after Kefka's defeat and the crippling effect it had on magical power and beings, such as herself and Terra - the stripping of their magical powers and Terra's alter ego. However, that was not a problem with the machine. It ran without a hitch, powering up with a flame-red glow.
"Fire Beam, initiate," Celes said, nervously.
No matter how used to the machine she had once been, five years plus without experience to it made her totally unprepared for the kickback of the beam. Celes found herself pushed a few feet back as the flaming cannon burst from the machine and slammed into the tiny shard of stone.
And vanished into thin air.
"I don't believe it...." Celes said in total shock.
The tiny stone was now glowing with a red light similar to that of the beam.
Edgar and Arcia stared dumbly. "Did it just... absorb the Magitek beam?" the latter said.
"Yeah, looks like it," Edgar replied. "What's it mean?"
"What does it mean?" Gogo repeated. "It means we can store magic energy. If Kefka's death has the same effect, eventually, on the Magitek as it did on Terra and Celes and the Espers, perhaps we can use this stone to store magic energy before it's all gone for good. If we store enough, perhaps we could use it to restore magic... or even give it to those who cannot use it naturally. And if we give enough, those of us who have lost more than others...." The mimic's gaze drifted to Terra and her child. "Perhaps Terra could regain what she lost."
Terra said nothing.
"But where are we going to get that much magical energy?" Strago asked.
Gogo shrugged. "I said I had a theory, not a plan."
"That puts us back at our start," Cyan groaned.
"So what now?" Gau asked. His voice had changed in the past five years, gained some of Cyan's regality. "What is this rock called?"
Setzer shook his head. "Dunno. Gogo, why don't you name it? You seem to know a lot about it."
"Well, like I said, it's all theory," he replied. "But 'this rock', if my theory is correct, has the potential to make dreams come true."
"Sure sounds like it!" Celes said, jumping from the Magitek cockpit. "So what are you gonna call it?"
Gogo crossed his arms. "Dreamstone."
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