The Gathering Chapter 7
The Irony of it All
Throughout the World of Balance, word of Sabin's coronation spread like wildfire. The first of the towns to hear of it was Kohilegen, the only town to share the continent with the kingdom of Figaro. The Order of Light overheard this from some vagabond at the bar and went to the Inn to inform Terra and Rydia of the news. They learned that Terra had since regained consciousness but was still a bit seamy around the edges, not to mention her head which was still throbbing.
"Terra, great news!" Cecil said. "A coalition of Returners found Sabin and brought him back safely to his castle!"
She wanted to smile but her nightmare wouldn't let her.
"We have to get there as soon as possible!" she urged to them all
"Great!" Edge said, anxious to see one of his descendants.
"No, you don't understand. Something bad's going to happen! I just know it!"
Rydia, still at her bedside, shook her head. She didn't know what to tell them.
"Then, what are we waiting for?" Cecil vocalized, being the sole voice of leadership that he was. "Let's go!"
"I wish we still had the Big Whale!" Golbez commiserated as they all left the inn of Kohilegen.
"Relax," Rosa assured them. "Cid's aware of our lack of transportation. "That's why he built a chocobo chariot to get us to the castle."
"Good ole Cid!" Terra commented reminiscently.
As they ventured across the burning sands, they all took notice of large blue stars in their atmosphere, leaving them wondering what the significance of all this was.
Letting out a series of explosive coughs, Locke Cole pulled himself up to the shoreline. His weatherbeaten attire was soaked to the bone and his hair was clumped with seaweed. The last thing he remembered was a large, serpent-like creature emerging from the oblivious depths of the ocean and swallowing (or did it just cripple?) Jared's unfortunate vessel. Locke had only one thing on his mind.
"Kyria..." he moaned, then regurgitated from the amount of seawater he unknowingly ingested. "Kyria!"
His crawling soon advanced to standing erect once again as he searched aimlessly around the shores for any sign of the sylph or wreckage from Jared's ship. What he found was the most unexpected in the world.
"This is a mirage," he told himself, walking up to the blade that was vertically embedded into the sandy beaches. "Hey, there's a note."
Aware that it was real, he took the crumbled piece of paper off from around the hilt. Its message was short and sweet.
There was a time shift last night, so I had to go home. I'm sorry. Please accept this gift in return for the adventure you had shared with me. Thanks for the memories!
It was made of the same material his last artifact was made up of. Placing it into his now-empty sheath, he climbed up from the shoreline to see where he was. In the distance, he saw a large, lively castle.
The castle of Figaro.
In the lofty heights of the Narshe mountains, a figure exited the mount of rock through an aperture created by Imperial mining. A figure that was dressed in a polychromatic attire which told passive observers how high he ranked in the field of magic. But looking around, he knew that there were none in these regions left to impress. None, that is, until he picked up the faint glow of airship lights through the swarming clouds of snow and ice. Why, he thought, would one come to Narshe of all places?
Then again, what did that matter? Even as the two strangely clothed individuals exit the ship for a house in the now-abandoned community below, he realized that this would be his passport to the continent of Figaro.
It would only be a matter of time.
Neither the airship's operators nor the additional complement of a moogle, yeti, and black knight, were aware of the presence of this cryptic traveler as he boarded the Falcon in stealth. His senses tingling. His mind racing. His intentions lingering...
Baki was on his own now. The Baron or someone else must have cast a spell on his men, one that brainwashed them into turning on their faithful navigator. He was barely able to get away himself.
So, he was alone to defeat the Baron himself.
He continued his way up a long winding staircase toward the essential spire of the entire stronghold. When he got there, he found the main chamber empty. He walked up toward the throne and spun it around to face him, but it too was empty. Figuring his quest was a lost cause, he began to turn back the way he came in but saw Shauku standing in the doorway.
"Who are you?" Baki said.
"Look closely at me, son. Do I remind you of anyone?"
A small glance was all it took to give him comprehension.
"Shauku, but it can't be! You've been dead since the War of the Wizards!"
"So sorry to disappoint you."
The Baron soon leered over Shauku's shoulder, smiling.
"You," Baki said, pointing at the Baron's face, "took my mentor's life."
"Everybody dies, Mr. Jabari. Well, almost everybody."
Baki couldn't take anymore of the Baron tongue-lashing his mortality and ripped his lance from his sheath, holding it in their direction.
"I'm not about to let you get away with it, either. Stand and defend yourself, you demented miscreant."
"Flattery will get you no where," the Endbringer said on behalf of the two of them.
Upon saying that, the Baron stepped in front of him and raised his hands to the air. He murmured something that did not sound like good news to Baki.
BREEZEKEEPER! IVORY GARGOYLE! LAVA HOUNDS!
In pronouncing those three summon spells, beams of blue, white, and red energy shot out of his hands and went to the ground, spiraled upward, and began to form the creatures. Upon all of them being formed, the Lava Hounds were the first to lunge forward. Baki was surround by three of them. One attempted to pounce on him but Baki swung his lance in its direction, barely finding the strength to push it back. The other two were also about to move in, one of them attempting to connect with his flesh. Baki thought it was time enough to use his own magic.
For a split second, a staff materialized in Baki's hands, projecting a blast of pure hellfire to jump off and hit the Lava Hound that was in the air, shattering it to pieces. The wand then vanished, leaving him to repel the other two satanic canines. He then turned to his blue magic to fend them off.
Both of the creatures reverted back into swirling strands of red energy and the Breezekeeper did the same, going back into the palms of its summoner, leaving only the Ivory Gargoyle to fend for itself. No longer enraptured by summoning sickness, it moved forward but cautiously. Baki would not be intimidated by its size and swung left, right and, center. The blades clanged off of the creature's hard body, denying the weapon entrance into its chest cavity. It grabbed Baki and threw him across the chamber, with the Baron sounding worried that he did that. He had every right to be, since Baki was on the rebound of the gargoyle's rancor.
The second Baki felt his back break across the pillar, he also felt safe. He landed on the ground and got back to his feet just in time to see his aggressor wince back in pain. Now in the middle of the throne room, it was time to put an end to this ambush.
The Ivory Gargoyle was reduced to the size of Baki's foot. Looking down on the winged being, he laughed and then stomped the creature flat.
"Gustha has taught you well, Baki," Shauku said in a tone that was not quite praising but not quite ridicule. "But it is far from being worthy enough to stop me."
Now, it was the Endbringer's turn.
FORCE OF NATURE!
The floor beneath Baki began to stretch upwards and form something. Baki was about to cast Counterspell when Shauku anticipated it.
Baki clutched his muscles and fell to his knees, feeling powerless. By this time, the summon spell had succeeded completely and went towards the Wizard Attendant, striking him hard in the chest, sending him sailing out the window just beyond the throne. Assuming that Baki had plummeted to his death, the Force of Nature looked over the side to gloat. Instead, it witnessed Baki hanging onto the windowsill, straining his muscles as much he could to prevent himself from falling. It was time for Baki to finish this, once and for all.
WALL OF BRAMBLES!
From out of the exterior wall of the castle, there jutted out enormous desert vegetation that encased itself around the creature and Baki grabbed onto the thorns which protruded from the wall, lifting himself back to its level, still casting spells of his own upon the Force of Nature.
"No! No!" Shauku pleaded, savoring the bitter taste of fear for the first time.
However, he was not about to get any mercy now, and Baki brought his lance up, breathed confidently, and slashed the creature with his lance, ripping its torso wide open. The swamp thing screamed and then died, while Baki heard a similar moan of suffering from Shauku. He threw himself back into the throne room to see both the Baron and the Endbringer on the ground, struggling for breath.
"It's over, Shauku."
"Yes," he said. "For you!"
Catching Shauku's grin, Baki was filled with rage and ran to him, his lance in hand and a gleam of homicide in his eye. Then, he threw himself in the air, somersaulted clockwise, and came down to Earth, ready to end Shauku's life with an appropriately timed laceration.
The Wizard Attendant was not made aware of Shauku's true motives until it was too already too late. They, as well as everything else in the world of Corondor, became trapped in a time freeze. Still life threatened the inhabitants of the land when the boundaries of the space-time continuum broke through to new barriers. Not even Baki's eyes were capable of movement until his midair juxtaposition faltered. He and the Endbringer witnessed the stony interior of Castle Sengir warp, ripple, and quick to dissipate in to an entirely new void of nightmarish tangibility.