Power of the Stones Part 3
By Sid Palmer
Asuglav had no trouble entering the inpenitrible fortress of Bethla Garrison. He simply had one of the guards, who was a member of his sect, let him in. As Asuglav, his representative that ranted, the guard, and one other echoed down the narrow, poorly lit, stone hall that comprised the prison block, they spoke.
"I understand that you have undertaken considerable risks in assisting me. You will be rewarded for your labors," promised Asuglav, almost impossible to see with his gray attire blending in with the walls. After walking a few more yards everyone came to a halt at the end of the hall in the deepest and most forgotten part of the fortress.
"This is the one you want, most people don't even know who's in here, actually nobody really knows anyone is in here. I bring food and water down here so I know, but I think the rest of the world has forgotten," the guard paused for a moment, "Well I should be going before someone up top notices I'm gone. I hope I have helped as much as possible, sir." The guard then quickly and nervously dashed off.
"As soon as you have a chance, make him disappear," Asuglav ordered his representative.
"But, my master, he helped us," puzzled the representative.
"We can't afford to have people run around and talk about everything that we do, understand?" Minced Asuglav.
"Of course, my lord," the representative submitted, downtrodden.
Asuglav brushed cobwebs off of the rusting door handle and turned it to find it locked. Asuglav whispered a curse to himself. It was a prison, of course it was locked. Angry with himself he raised a hand with bent fingers, causing the lock to groan and creak as the bolt was forced into it. Then he pushed at air with his hand forcing the door to fly open and slam into the cold wall next to it, breaking its top hinge and standing lopsided.
"Wait out here," Asuglav commanded the others. The room within was nearly pitch black. In one corner a pile of rags contained a woman who seemed to be cowering. Bits of broken poetry were strewn across the floor. The walls were home to mosses that thrived in the damp, earthy air. The moss was home to colonies of insects that periodically scampered across the ground. Otherwise the room was empty.
"Queen Ruvelia," alerted Asuglav.
"Who are you," the woman peaked out from her clothes.
Asuglav spoke eloquently,"Only your liberator, your savior, your light at the end of a long, long, cold, dark tunnel, but perhaps we will become companions. I wish to free you from this prison. During the short time that you ruled Ivalice you kept it in a tight grip. Any attempt by the people or nobles to infringe upon your reign was sharply put down, until Princess Ovelia came to Lesalia with Nanten forces and Goltana had you put here."
Ruvelia stood up now with her rags draped about her. She had chestnut hair that had begun to grey. The darkness she had lived in seemed to have preserved her beauty. Her tall figure suggested that she had been born to have power. She broke the silence with a voice full of anger, "When I was first brought here I was still given the luxuries due me, but one day I was taken down here and left to disappear."
Asuglav answered her, "That was when Delita came to rule Ivalice."
"Who is this Delita?" Questioned Ruvelia.
"Nobody, a commoner who won the will of the people," replied Asuglav.
"This is a disgrace!" She exclaimed.
"But we digress. I'm here because I need people like you that truly understand power and how it is to be used. Though I have power I want your help. In exchange I offer you the power of this," Asuglav held up one of the stones that had been stolen by him from Ordalia as it began to glow.
"A Zodiac Stone," she stared.
"Unbeknownst to you these contain the power of Lucavi. I shall give you a demonstration," proclaimed Asuglav. He called the other man, who had a stone from Ordalia, into the cell. He was dressed similarly to Asuglav, but in green. Asuglav held the shining stone upto his face.
Ruvelia whispered loudly in suprise, "Duke Barinten!" Then after a pause, "But I thought he was killed in the Riovanes Massacre!"
Asuglav grinned under his hood. "He was!" he said, suddenly raising his voice, "The stone he now carries has reforged his soul with that of Lucavi. Accept the stone and take your rightful place with us as a ruler of Ivalice and a god among men."
Barinten spoke with a refined voice,"You will possess unimagineable strength and a knowledge of all creation. You will have the experience of a hundred thousand lifetimes."
"Look into the stone and you will understand," Asuglav offered bringing it closer to her. With a look of fear in her eyes she stared at them and slowly brought her eyes down to the now almost blinding light emitted from the stone. Immediately, Ruvelia's eyes widened and her face went slack. The stone seemed to be communicating with her. Then she stretched her hand out and took it in her fist. A fierce wind blew up and began buffeting the lopsided door open and shut. Screams and whispers permeated the air. The representative pressed himself against a wall and covered his face with his hands in terror. A bright flash lit the hall.
Lesalia Imperial Capital
"How in the the hell did you get in here?!" Delita wondered.
"I've spent years in this castle. I know every secret passage that exists, and I have finally grown bold and stupid enough to waltz in here and challenge you myself," Agrias proclaimed.
"You have no idea how long I've waited for this day. With your death your kind will be gone. The last fool that is so narrow minded, that she unconditionally gives her mind and body and soul to the defense of royalty. Look at your life! You exist only to serve and be used by others, and you like it! The day of the old guard is dead and outdated and so are you. You and your kind disgust me," spat Delita.
"Is nothing sacred to you! Are you so selfish that you are willing to destroy the foundations of this country to satisfy your own whims. You think that you have strengthened this country? Its become a festering hulk under your rule. Your way will only lead to the final fall and corruption of this nation," said Agrias with equal ferocity.
"Then there is only one way to settle this dispute," Delita reasoned.
"Indeed," agreed Agrias, and they both drew swords. "This is payment for Orinas' death," vowed Agrias.
"What are you talking about? Orinas is not yet dead," Delita stared at her.
"What?" Agrias wondered in disbelief.
At that moment the chamber doors slammed opened and an escort of Shrine Knights barged in. Distracted for a moment Delita looked at them and then remembering turned back to find that Agrias had already left. The knights marched up to Delita and from their midst stepped a church heresy examiner.
"Delita Hyral," began the examiner, "in my official capacity as a heresy examiner I am placing you under arrest on suspicion of heresy."
Delita gave him a confrontational stare causing the knights to tense up. "What are the charges," he ordered.
"Past associations with the convicted heretic Ramza Beoulve and the murder of a church official," the examiner notified him. Delita stood rigid with every muscle in his body contracted and quivering. He took deep breaths, but nobody noticed them. The examiner raised his eyebrows and said slowly, "I have the authority to have you subdued if it is necessary,"
Delita replied in a stony voice, "I'm quite able to leave on my own." Surrounded by an unfriendly escort, he was taken away.
Murond Holy Place
"Do not worry, Agrias, once Delita is executed Orinas will return to his proper place. I certainly have no wish to harm him," Assured the head elder of the Glabados Church. Agrias stood in the office of the elder, which had a burgundy couch on each side and a large oak desk behind which the elder sat. His chair was of brown leather and looked extremely comfordable. On one corner of the desk was a covered lamp, quill and inkpot, and several papers. The wall behind him was bookshelfs brimming with books, most on various theological subjects. The elder had cloudy blue eyes and cheeks coved with wrinkles so that they resembled plowed fields. Cloudy white hair skirted his head, but the top was bare and shiny. His eyes caused everyone he looked at to believe him gentle no matter what emotion he expressed.
"You must watch Delita at all times. He's endlessly resourceful or lucky, I haven't figured out which," Agrias warned.
"There is no need to become so frantic over the matter. If it will calm you down, go to the execution and watch over it yourself. Beside, I will have two of the Church's most dependable men there. Ah, here comes one of them now," the elder reassured her. Agrias looked on in amazement as the man stepped pass the heavy door.
"I saw you die in front of my own eyes," Agrias insisted.
"I should of, but the clerics of this church found me and brought me back to health. Still, to this very day, I am certain that I would not be here now if it was not for my faith in God," said the man, Zalbag Beoulve.
"Did your brother know?" Agrias asked.
"No, by then he had already died, and most have not noticed my existence since then, its better that way I think," replied Zalbag.
"But Ramza......" Agrias trailed off.
"Nothing, he would have been glad, you redeemed yourself in his eyes," she substituted.
A hurt feeling entered Zalbag's eyes, "I was a fool, Dycedarg pulled my strings like a kite, Ramza was right about him..."
"Enough talk of heretics," the elder said in a harsh voice, "as for the execution, it will go smoothly, you'll meet the other man at Golgorand. I've had enough of you're whining, Agrias, now go." He waved them off with the gentle look he always had. Nelveska Temple
"Enough, Ruvelia. Stop killing people. You must learn to use your power in moderation," Asuglav commanded.
"What does it matter when we are invincible," Ruvelia spouted arrogantly.
"You are wrong, we are quite mortal. In a small fight we are unbeatable, but no one can defeat an army alone. That is why camouflage remains our greatest weapon," Asuglav corrected her.
"Yes, yes, are we ready to go?" Ruvelia inquired.
"It will be fun to see an execution, perhaps Delita will scream at the final instant," hoped Barinten.
"How odd it is that people are still put to death in the very spot St. Ajora was killed," Ruvelia commented.
"Indeed, let us depart and witness the first sprouts of the seeds we have sown," concurred Asuglav.
"They shall be reaped soon," Barinten added.
"And we are the scythe," smiled Ruvelia. The three left for Golgorand side by side, Asuglav's gray in the center, Barinten's green on one side, and Ruvelia's red on the other. The dark trinity set out to oversee the execution of Delita at Gorgoland Execution Site.
Gorgoland Execution Site
The dawn sky was painted with purple and pink pastel colors. The morning dew had already begun to evaporate. The blade of the guillotine was clean and ready for its meal. Zalbag and the other man sent by the Church stood on the grass near a wall with a group of soldiers. Delita was being ushered, hands bound behind him, toward the center of the enclosure where death awaited. Agrias pushed him along. Delita looked as if death had already claimed him, the execution was only to make it official. Delita was pushed up the steps to the raised platform where the machine sat, and his neck and wrists were padlocked into the stocks. Agrias backhanded Delita for good measure. Then she grasped the chain that released the blade and began to pull it. Sensing a vibration, she relaxed her grip on the chain, "Did you feel something Zalbag?"
"No," he replied, "pull the leaver and be done with it. Delita, I'm sorry it must be this way."
"Damn you, Zalbag, I thought you were dead!" Cried Delita with indignation.
With that Agrias grabbed the chain and....
This time the sound was unignorable, the sound was like a score of knifes cutting the air and sending it sceaming.
"What in the blazes of all hell is that!" Zalbag exclaimed.
The sound intensified until even the blades of grass bent away from the resultant wind. Then it came into view causing all eyes to focus on it. It was ancient and talked of only in tales of an old civilization. The wood it was made from had a reddish tint. There were three masts, each with several sets of whirling propellers. It was a functioning airship.
"Its like some mythical beast," whispered Agrias. As she continued to stare, Delita snatched the key to the padlock Agrias tucked in her belt and began to try and insert it into its hole without dropping it. Through the wood of his stocks, Delita could feel the half triggered latch being pushed out of the way by the blade above him. From his vantage point he couldn't see the airship, all he knew was that the noise was assisting the blade to vibrate the latch out of the way faster. Zalbag, in disbelief watched as Ramza and Olan climbed down from the airship using a rope ladder.
"Get out of here now!" Zalbag ordered his soldiers.
"But, Sir," came the reply.
"I said now, and close the gates behind you!" He shouted. The soldiers, bewildered, did as they were told, and left before identifying Ramza.
"Ramza, why are you here?" Asked Agrias, dumfounded.
"To stop you from killing Delita," Ramza notified her.
"Why?" She puzzled, "Once he is dead Ivalice will be ruled by Orinas as it should be. I know you have always wished for that."
"Stop blinding yourself, Agrias," urged Ramza as the airship pulled away, "the Church is just using you to put itself in power and establish a religious state."
"Is this true Zalbag?" Asked Agrias. Zalbag only gave her a cold stare in response.
"Damn the Church," she howled in anger with her teeth barred.
"Blasphemer! Quiet, girl!" Exclaimed Zalbag.
Agrias went to Ramza's side and whispered to him, "Its good to see you again, Ramza." Delita was able to insert the tip of the key into the lock, but he couldn't make the right angle to force it all the way in.
Against the clear morning sky appeared Asuglav, Barinten, and Ruvelia, standing on top of one of the walls.
"I was hoping to see you again, Ramza, but not here," stated Asuglav, displeased.
"You have done quite enough, Beoulve," Barinten added.
"Ivalice will be mine once again," put in Ruvelia not wanting to be left out. All three jumped from the twelve foot high wall and landed on their feet without an effort. Both sides faced their opponents, Ramza-Asuglav, Olan-Barinten, and Agrias-Ruvelia.
"Careful, they're not human," Ramza warned Agrias. Her face paled as she understood, and looked at them with a different respect.
"I thought this was over," Agrias remarked to herself.
"I see you have found some friends. Well so have I!" Asuglav commented in a sardonic tone, meet Duke Barinten and Queen Ruvelia."
"So that's where the stones you stole went," reasoned Ramza.
"That's very perceptive of you, Ramza. Shall we proceed with killing you all?" Polled Asuglav.
"Let's," and, "I agree," came Barinten and Ruvelia's answers. Both sides began to approach each other. Delita pushed the key halfway into the lock. Bending his wrist so far had cut off his circulation and his hand began to ache. The latch above him gave a little more.
As Zalbag and the other man observed, the two sides smashed into each other. "Witness the power of hell!" Yelled Barinten hysterically as sent a string of energy coursing through Olan's body. Olan pulled himself together and held up his sword in time to meet Barinten's with a clang. Barinten turned the ground below Olan to mud causing him to fall on his stomach. Olan swiped at Barinten's legs, but he easily hopped over the sword, and plunged his own into the mud Olan had been in a moment before. Olan kicked Barinten's weapon out of his reach.
Delita pushed the key into the lock and turned it just enough to keep it there while he let the blood flow back into his hand.
"Remember this!" said Asuglav who sent an explosion crashing into Ramza. He went flying back. Ramza picked himself up, and assaulted Asuglav, twirling in the air at the last second and coming down on Asuglav locking swords with him. Asuglav used his power to force Ramza back and laughed. Ramza came at Asuglav again as he stood sure of himself. This time Ramza ducked, went behind Asuglav and slashed down his spine.
"Ahhh!..... That's good, Ramza, perhaps you are better than I thought," admitted Asuglav.
Delita began to turn the key.
Ruvelia sidesteped Agrias' thrust and took off a lock of her hair. "I could do this all day," Ruvelia boasted.
"You're the Queen. I can't fight you," said Agrias.
"Good, then it will be that much easier," Ruvelia smirked and waved her hand causing the earth around Agrias to rise imprisoning her and causing her sword to fall outside of the barrier.
Zalbag decided to take action and replaced Agrias. "Let's see how you fare against me, demon spawn," he challenged her. Without warning she attacked making a slight incision in Zalbag's right arm. He inhaled in surprise and counterattacked hitting nothing. By sheer intuition he ducked under Ruvelia's attack from behind and piledrived his body into her in desperation. A "huuunnn" sound came from Ruvelia's gut. "My you're fast," groaned Zalbag.
Delita unlocked the stocks, pushed them open with his wrists, and pulled himself out as the blade swished to where he had been a moment before.
Olan dodged Barinten's energy strings and approached. Giving Olan a bitter smile, he pulled out a gun and its trigger. Delita pushed Olan to safety and cut Barinten deeply from shoulder to waist with Agrias' sword. Barinten covered his chest with his arms, and with a shocked look on his face, disapeared.
Zalbag threw a rock at Ruvelia and in the time she dodged it he went behind her and brought the hilt of his weapon down on her head with all his might. Ruvelia fell to her knees and disappeared.
As Asuglav prepared to kill Ramza as he lay on the ground, Delita stabed at him to no avail. "I've wanted to see you dead for so long," Asuglav spoke to Delita with a thick hatred in his voice. Asuglav attacked with a ferocity Delita had never dreamed of. As soon as Delita blocked a stoke another came allowing him no time to retaliate. "Clang, klack," went the swords until Asuglav pushed Delita back with force. Asuglav slammed Olan and Zalbag into a wall sending them into unconsciousness, and walked toward Delita trembling with the anticipation of murder.
"One moment," came a voice. The other Church man walked into the field revealing his identity.
"Impossible, it can't be!" Exclaimed Asuglav in disbelief.
The man was T.G. Cid. "You've played with these youngsters long enough, now you duel with me," he ordered Asuglav.
"You'll be sorry you said that old man," promised Asuglav.
Asuglav went for Orlandu's middle, but it was blocked. Then he tried to bring his weapon down on Cid's head, but it was easily deflected also. Orlandu sliced into Asuglav's left shoulder causing him to stagger back and use his force. T.G. Cid stood unmoved.
"What?" Said Asuglav, confused. He thrusted at Orlandu in rage, but it was dodged and Asuglav's sword hand was wounded. Unable to hold his sword he faced Cid. Orlandu drove his sword through Asuglav. At the same time, Asuglav wounded Cid with a dagger in his left hand. Asuglav pulled the sword out and both fell to the ground.
"I didn't realize.....," gasped Asuglav and he disappeared. The sun had risen high into the sky and the morning had gone.
Zalbag had regained consciousness and was the first to be at Orlandu's side, "Are you all right Count?"
Ramza slowly joined them, "Cid, Zalbag! But..."
"Its a long story, but we are both still alive. I was certain you were the dead one. I'm sorry, Ramza, for not listening to you and following Dycedarg like a blind man. I just wish I could have saved father," said Zalbag putting his face in his hands.
Delita ran up and kicked Zalbag in the head causing him to sprawl on his back. "How dare you let me be executed!" Exclaimed Delita pointing Agrias' sword at Zalbag's exposed neck.
"Stop," came the voice of Agrias, who had managed to climb out of her prison.
Delita turned to her, breathing deeply from the adrenaline flowing through his arteries, "I am the King, I do not follow your orders, you follow mine!" He shouted. "I control you all, you will never do anything to me, I will make sure of it!" Delita looked at Ramza and calmed down. "Except you, Ramza. I would never be able to control you. Lucavi was not able to control you and perhaps God himself could not force you to do his bidding." Delita dropped the sword and fell to his knees starring at the ground.
"Ramza," Orlandu whispered.
"Is there anything I can do Cid?" Ramza asked.
"I'll be allright, I've had worse. This old man is not ready to die yet," Orlandu promised.
"How were you able to withstand Asuglav's power?" Agrias inquired.
"I think... with this," Orlandu concluded reaching in to the folds of his clothes and pulling out a stone. "Take it," urged Cid, "you'll need it more than I. It's your only protection against that person, thing."
"He calls himself Asuglav," Ramza replied with a furrowed brow.
"Asuglav!" Zalbag said in wonder. "That's the leader of the Deidic Sect. This is what the Church has been waiting for. A direct attack against the Church destroys any possibility of it being non-aggressive. Its now an enemy of the Church and its time to declare war on this false prophet."
"He wanted to kill Delita though not the Church. He must be afraid of the popularity he has." reasoned Ramza.
"He knows that I have too much power to challenge in a physical or political battle," Delita proclaimed.
"No matter," Zalbag brushed aside, "he attacked me and Orlandu. That's enough."
"Ramza," Orlandu called, "the stone I gave you, it once was a part of a special sword that your father owned. I'm not sure where he would have put it, but it would be in your family's mansion in Igros. It may be the weapon you need to put these demons to rest. Make haste for they may return at any time."
"We had best leave now, I think we need to disappear for a time," Ramza advised.
"They are not coming anywhere near me," stated Delita pointing at Zalbag and Agrias.
"I'll stay and look after the Count," Agrias relented.
"I have other matters to attend to," Zalbag agreed. Ramza nodded and taking out a small gun fired it into the air sending a red streak from a magic bullet through the air.
The chopping noise returned as did the airship with a rope ladder hanging out. The ancient hull of the vessel of the sky was covered in a red varnish which had aged to a cross between a rust and burgundy red with the brown of the original wood. On the bow extended an intricate carving of a delicate maiden. An expression of hope rested on her face. Her arms lay at the sides. Gashes covered the carving and all sharp ends, especially the wingtips had been worn away. From the rear of the airship protruded great fanblades of a sort previously unimaginable. Untold numbers of similar blades also spun around the masts, providing lift. There were also a few fans on the side of the airship to turn it, however, it was slow in turning. If one looked closely he could see red splotches on the back blades. Square holes cut belowdecks through the massive hull pointed to the possibility of cannon being used, but there were none on board and no evidence of there ever being any. The holes were shut at the moment.
The vessel climbed high into the air as the cutting sound increased. Ramza, Olan, and Delita went to the center of the deck walking awkwardly to find Mustadio at the helm. Mustadio seemed like a different person at the wheel. Normally reserved and soft-spoken he stood on the deck with feet spread apart giving the occasional order to fellow engineers and pointing to different parts of the ship. The wind kept his blond ponytail flapping behind him. All in all he would have looked like a dashing pirate captain if it wasn't for the blue and yellow horizontal stripes of his clothing and his lack of physical substance.
Upon seeing the three men Mustadio returned to his normal self, his appendages going as close to his body as possible and slouching slightly, but he still pointed and gave orders.
"So, they got to you in time," he relaxed.
"To finally see this thing coasting through the air, its beautiful," wondered Delita, "How did you find me?"
"Olan remembered that you were going to use a stone, after we learned what happened to you, and so we found Mustadio and so on," Ramza explained.
"This ship was the only way we could get past the Shrine Knights," Olan added.
Mustadio yelled, "Everyone lash yourselves into your airsaddles, preparing for forward thrust." Then to the three, "Most of the fans start slowly so they don't send you flying, but the ones in the back go immediately to full speed causing you to get pulled into the fans on the back. Something's wrong with them. Its only when they first start up, then I can control them. The airsaddles are boxed in seats that you tie yourselves into. I had to bolt them onto the deck after the first little "accident"." The three went to the rows of boxes and lashed their waists and chests into the seats. Mustadio had a kiosk of levers to the right of his position at the wheel to which he tied himself. He then pulled several of the levers evening out their assent and pulled several more. The airship surged forward pressing all against the back of their boxes. After the ship returned to a comfortable speed Mustadio gave the OK and the three returned to him.
"Why don't you just have people go belowdecks?" Questioned Ramza.
"Oh, I suppose I could do that, but people still need something to strap into, it mise as well be up here where its accessible," Mustadio defended himself, "This machine is really quite amazing. It seems that one can attain flight by replicating the wings of birds and turning them through the air at high velocities. But that's not the craziest part. The direction that one moves through the air can be controlled by the way these iron wings rotate. They don't even seem to be made of iron howev...."
"That's enough Mustadio, you'll have plenty of time to look into that later," Mustadio grew silent at Delita's command, "look at it, is there not a more grand design to show Ivalice's greatness to the world than this flying machine. Never shall Ivalice need to fear war again with this as its vanguard. Ivalice and I will remain secure in a golden age once this guardian traverses the world laden with Ivalice's banners and forty heavy cannon. Mark my words, forty heavy cannon! Why the mere sight of it in the distance will send entire armies scattering in shameful flight!"
"Don't worry Ramza, this airship is meant to be a defensive tool only. It has the power to keep a lasting peace," Mustadio assured him.
"How is your father doing, Mustadio?" Olan asked.
"Oh he's fine, wanted to ride with us, but I wouldn't hear of it, the last thing I want is him breaking his hip or worse," explained Mustadio.
Ramza interrupted, "Well, now that we have said our hello's, shouldn't we start thinking about what to......," In midsentince a blur went through the air and Ramza disappeared from in front of the others. He tumbled over the side of the airship. Olan and Delita looked over to find Ramza hanging onto the rope ladder. One of the sides had snapped from the tug and only one rope now held the rungs on which Ramza was dangling.
From below the airship a flying beast came into view. It was covered in slick greenish-brown skin with fat lips pulled back in a hideous sneer. Its eyes sunk back into a prominent forehead. Somehow the creature was able to keep pace with the airship with its humongous segmented and clawed wings, each one as big as its own body. The body was sparely muscled, but still contained enough strength to crush any human and was held tightly together.
"You surprised us before, it will not happen again. Asuglav has sent me to take care of you all. Lucavi has a special place reserved for you in hell!" Mocked the demon Barinten in a voice that sounded more like several whispering voices.
Mustadio had prepared his gun, after joining the others, using gunpowder from one bag and a metal ball from another and aimed it at the demon. Barinten spit a liquid on the weapon causing it to corrode. Mustadio dropped his gun and ammo in surprise. Ramza caught the small bags, but the smoldering gun flew away.
"If you knew what's good for you, you would leave now," advised Delita trying to stand up to the monster. Barinten gave a throaty whispering laugh in reply. As Ramza began to climb the rungs the demon promptly smacked him with a wing causing Ramza to fall back down a couple of rungs. This caused the rope to begin unraveling where it met the airship's deck.
"Try that again and I will kill you on the spot," threatened Barinten. "After all of this time I still can not believe all of the the trouble you have put me through," thought Barinten as he circled around Ramza.
"Even you could never stop this ship Duke!" Challenged Delita.
"We'll see about that," he scowled and flew above the ship. Ramza took the bag of metal balls and dumped it into the one of gunpowder before cinching it shut and violently shaking it.
"Does anyone have a flint?" Yelled Ramza.
"Here, I always keep one on me," explained Olan tossing his to Ramza. Barinten returned flapping his wings to stay near to Ramza.
"Now you will all die, but I want the pleasure of ending Ramza's life for myself. What are you doing?" The demon demanded. Ramza had been striking his sword against the flint as much as he could and finally a small spark fell on the cloth of the gunpowder bag causing it to flare up. Ramza flung it at Barinten who, distracted, slowed down. "What is...," grunted Barinten before the bag exploded sending metal projectiles in all directions. "Ahhhhhhh," screamed the beast as it became riddled with metal balls in the middle of the detonation. Where Barinten had been a moment before was replaced with an exploding flash and lightening accompanied by a loud boom as Ramza was pulled away from the danger.
The concussion from the explosion had nearly knocked Ramza from the rope as it continued to unravel. From the corner of his eye Ramza saw a glimmer and his hand shot out catching Barinten's Zodiac Stone.
"Got it!" He exclaimed with a grin on his face that was unusual for Ramza.
"Ramza, give me your hand," implored Delita.
"But I'll have to let go of the stone!" Ramza screamed.
"Are you allright?" Delita asked concerned.
"You are going to die! Let go of it!" Mustadio yelled.
"NOOOOOO! It could land anywhere in Lionel," Ramza yelled back. The stone began to glow brightly. Some of the airship's fans began to stop turning, but nobody noticed. The rope was half unraveled.
"Ramza, look at me. Look at me! Forget about the stone," Delita minced.
"Its going to take his humanity away right infront of us!," Said Olan wide-eyed.
"No, let it go Ramza!" Delita yelled. The stone had become blindingly bright and everyone was forced to avert their eyes. A humming sound began to emanate from the object which seemed more like a miniature star than a gemstone. A faint laugh permeated the air.
"OK," agreed Ramza coming out of his madness, "My hand, it won't work. The stone, it feels hot and its getting heavy, its trying to pull me off!"
Mustadio readied another gun and with a marksman's aim hit the stone dead on. It did nothing, the stone was still in Ramza's hand.
Delita looked into Ramza's eyes, "Ramza, don't try to let go of the stone, will it away from yourself." Ramza cried out in pain and the object fell away surrounded with fire and light. Delita grabbed Ramza's arm as the rope ladder broke and pulled him up with Olan's help. They sat on the deck for a minute catching their breath. A jolt caused them stand back up.
"What's that?" Asked Ramza. More fans stopped spinning.
"I don't know," Mustadio answered pitifully, "No, it couldn't be. Barinten must have spat acid on the rotor blade connections. At this rate they'll all shut down and we'll drop out of the sky. I'll try to steer us into the ocean. Maybe we can crash before we go into freefall," Mustadio ran to the wheel as more rotors shut down. "Dammit! The wheel's stuck."
"What can we do?" Asked Olan tensely.
"Olan, get to the bottom deck of the ship, ask the crew down there where the Fan Control Disengage Switch is and pull it. That should give me control of the wheel so I can at least steer the rudder. Hopefully it will be enough," Mustadio informed. "Ramza, do you see the main mast?"
"The center of it is hollow, Wires and cables for controlling the rotors run through it. You have to set the auxiliary power circuit breaker at the top of the ladder inside. You can't miss it; just pull it," explained Mustadio.
"I understand," Olan affirmed and ran off.
"Wait," Mustadio called, but Olan had already gone. Mustadio hung his head.
"What's wrong?" Asked Delita.
"You must pull that switch before Olan pulls his," Mustadio stressed.
"Why is that?" Ramza inquired.
"The auxiliary power will keep the rotors running. When Olan disengages the rotor control it automatically cuts power to them. Basically, we'll die. Now let's go," Mustadio urged. He and Ramza ran to the main mast where Mustadio opened a small hatch. White gas fluttered out. "Yea, it must be acid," Mustadio confirmed, "There isn't too much. You should be alright." Ramza squeezed inside.
"Get out of my way!" Olan blundered as he jumped down another set of stairs. He ran to a couple of engineers eating dried beef while talking. "Do any of you know where the....uh....theeeee......disengage is?" He uttered desperately.
"Which one?" Said an engineer, choking on his food. Olan made a whirling motion with his finger. "Oh, the rotor disengage. Yea."
"Well show it to me," Olan expressed angrily.
"Couldn't hurt. Sure."
The inside of the main mast was absolute dark except for a few slits of light. Ramza couldn't stop from coughing from the gas that worsened as he went higher. Ramza had to use his hands to find each rung of the ladder which buzzed with motion from the fan blades. "Uh," he grunted after hitting his head. Ramza began feeling around for the switch. "Is this it?"
Olan and the engineer entered a room at the back of the airship. Pillars of gears turned each other, making continuous pinging noises.
"Here it is," pointed the engineer. Olan ran to pull it, but was held back by the other. "What are you doing!" The engineer squealed wild-eyed.
"I have to pull it!" Olan spat back.
"You'll kill us all!" The other replied with the same voice. Olan threw his head back into the other's. The engineer lost his grip and Olan disengaged the rotor control.
"There," he said satisfied.
Every rotor began to stop. "Oh no, if Ramza restarts the fans....," reasoned Mustadio, "Everyone hold on to something." Mustadio held onto the wheel which he noticed was no longer stuck. Delita took hold of the lever kiosk.
Ramza found what he hoped was the switch and pulled.
All of the still functional fans slowly came up to speed except the ones in the back, which as usual started at full power, shoving the airship forward. Everyone held on except for three unlucky crewmen who shaken off and were sucked, screaming, into the fans in the back. "Son of a bitch!" Cursed Mustadio at the ship.
Ramza and Olan rejoined the others as Delita talked to Mustadio, "Are we all right now."
"I can move the wheel now, if that's what you're asking," Mustadio answered turning it to the right, "I don't have control of the rotors now so I can't use them to turn us, but if were lucky the rudder will give us enough turn to land us in the sea and not the land," Mustadio replied. Another jolt caused the airship to shudder.
"Now what?" Wondered Delita.
"We've started to lose altitude," Mustadio blurted. The airship began to descend faster and wind attacked those on board. The bow of the airship was nearing the line of land and water. "Brace for impact!" Mustadio warned. The ship streaked past the land and violently smashed into the ocean sending everyone on the deck flying off, some being broken on the masts and fan blades. Those strapped into the air saddles were knocked senseless and drowned.
Beach South of Bethla Garison
By the time Ramza and the others had awaken on the beach the day was nearing its end. Everyone pulled themselves from the cold frothy water and shivered until Olan started a small fire from dried driftwood and the flint he took back from Ramza. For a while they sat on rocks or wood and stared at the flames.
"So much for the invincible airship," Olan moped. Delita stood up and began to kick at the sand.
"At least we know where it landed," reasoned Mustadio.
"What about the acid?" Questioned Ramza.
"The water neutralized it, there's nothing to worry about, there. I think, with enough resources, the airship could be reclaimed," Mustadio explained.
"It will be restored. You can be sure of that. No matter how long or hard it will be, it will be salvaged," Delita promised or threatened.
"From what I've seen and heard, not even half the crew made it here alive," Mustadio informed grimly.
"Will we ever be free of these evil things? Of their greed and recklessness. Of their cold inhumanity," Olan wondered.
"As long as humans possess such traits? As long as the potential to be what they are remains in us? I certainly got a lesson about that today," Ramza thought.
They noticed Delita staring out across the sea and turned to look. They all stared at the sun as it set on the few feet of the main mast that had remained above the water.
"What do we do now?" Someone blurted. They just remained as they were, staring out across the water, silent and sad.
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