Trials of the Valiant Chapter 13
By The RPGenius
Duegran waited in the swamp, nervous and annoyed with himself. What on Earth had possessed him to make Zigolis Swamp the rendezvous point? Why hadn't he written 'Town Square' or a street name on the job proposition? Ramza probably hadn't even seen it, and then this whole elaborate trap would be for nothing.
One of Duegran's men on lookout suddenly ran over to him. "Sir! Ramza and his group are coming this way!"
Duegran was considerably relieved. Apparently, Ramza had taken the bait. "Good! Now remember, we're all here because we're supposedly going after a gang of cons who have been attacking people. Ramza is unaware that we were the ones to hire those ruffians to cause trouble in the first place, so don't lead him to suspect that! No one is to attack Ramza and his group in any way until we arrive at the location. If there are any mistakes made, you will be killed before you know you made them. Understood?"
* * *
Boco was in a foul mood. He intensely disliked having to trudge through swamps. The smell and the muck always dulled his appetite, spirits, and good mood. It was hard work trudging through the swamp muck, and having a fully armored man named Ramza sitting on top certainly didn't make things any easier.
Master Ramza also had a very annoying fault: he knew virtually nothing about swamps and bogs. Twice he had directed Boco into patches of quicksand. Thanks to Boco's hard work, he hadn't died, and probably didn't even notice that they had passed through the deadly swamp trap.
As Boco rounded another hill, he saw a camp of humans seemingly waiting for them. Boco judged there to be about thirty humans there, and to his annoyance, no fellow chocobos. Once they had arrived, Master Ramza dismounted (to Boco's relief) and walked toward the leader.
* * *
Ramza walked over to the old man at the center of the camp. Strangely, he felt like everyone he passed was watching him.
The man approached him, looking nervous about something. "Good day, sir. I assume that you're here to help against the, uh, bandits?"
Ramza nodded, and the man continued. "Nice to meet you then. My name is Duegran. Well, shall we get going? Our enemies are in a cave, a couple days' travel from here."
Ramza nodded and replied, "Alright, let's move out. But are you sure no one else might be coming to join us? They might just be a bit late. Maybe if we waited for them..."
Duegran interrupted. "No! Er, I mean, nobody is coming, and we mustnt wait while people are in danger, right?"
Ramza nodded. "Yes, you're right. Anyway, with my people, I'm sure we don't need anyone more. And you do have around thirty men here."
Soon they were on their way.
* * *
Agrias was not pleased. Normally, she didn't really care who Ramza and his friends had to work with on jobs like this, but something wasn't right. They had been traveling for a full day now, and the only person who had spoken a word to Ramza or his allies was Duegran. Usually, the people performing tasks with them were talkative and friendly.
No one else seemed to notice, however, which caused Agrias to question herself. After all, there were plenty of rude people in the world. And anyways, if they were hostile they likely would have shown it by now.
Still, her bodyguard instincts continued to tell her that something here was wrong. She kept her guard up.
* * *
After 2 days of marching, they had arrived at the cave that the gang was supposed to be hiding in. It was well secluded from the prying eyes of the world. So well secluded, that Agrias wondered just how Duegran had managed to find this cave in the first place.
The travelers stopped, all but Worker 8. Ramza had forgotten to order him to stop, and so the steel giant lumbered into the cave. He had almost disappeared altogether into the black cavern before Ramza remembered him.
"Stop, Worker 8!" Ramza yelled, then ran into the cave to retrieve him.
As Ramza was fetching Worker 8, Duegran yelled to the rest of Ramza's group. Agrias's fears were confirmed as he called out, "Now, Ramza and friends, you will learn the punishment for opposing Lucavi!" Turning to one of his Summoners, he yelled, "Now!"
The giant image of Titan appeared and slammed down on the cave entrance. Ramza's allies watched in horror as the cave mouth began to fall in on itself...
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