Three stories of Final Fantasy 6, part three; Worshippers of insanity chapter 2
Didya miss something? Here's your ticket back to part 1!
Sabin awoke because somebody was knocking on the door.
"Wha'zit?" Sabin grumbled.
"Rise and shine, lover boy! We have a cult to finish off!"
Setzer and Locke went into the room and smirked at the sleepy prince.
"What are you doing here in your own room, all alone, by the way?" Setzer merrily asked.
"You're all mad..." Sabin grunted and got out of his bed, only dressed in a pair of grey, loose pants.
"Hey, you won the shyest heart of all, and we don't get to tease you?" Locke grinned.
"Go and get equipped or married or whatever..." the prince muttered and rubbed his face with his hand.
"A little embarrassed, are we?"
Sabin glared at them.
"Are you two going to be like this for the rest of my life from now on?" he asked.
The prince groaned silently.
A while later the whole group met on the Falcon, even though Sabin had been bothered with the chancellor's pleas to stay. Out of the question.
After considering it, Relm had decided that Interceptor wasn't in the condition to climb mountains and sneak around inside of a labyrinth filled with triggers. So to many in the castle's despair she had decided that it was better that the dog stayed there. Not hearing any protests from the soldiers and servants, even though many had been grieving.
There seemed to be a bit of a split attention being shared by everyone on the airship. Sabin and Terra exchanged tired glances several times before she had enough.
"For God's sake, we'll be an easy prey if we don't concentrate!" she snapped at the rest of crew after yet another furtive, mischief filled glance from Strago, "you never acted like this about Locke and Celes!"
"But that wasn't any surprise!" Relm grinned, "except for Edgar, of course..."
"Right!" Sabin said, managing to once again push away all his worries, "so we have to focus on saving him so that we can give him the next shock of his life."
That brought everyone to laugh, except for Gogo, of course. As usual, his eyes simply smiled a little in the thin crack between the two veils of his.
That's it. Don't worry about the captured friends. They are alive and well, and we're going to save them just like that. Focus on that.
"So, let's discuss how we're going to do this," Terra said, smiling, "and stop being silly, guys."
Setzer cleared his throat.
"So, we have three entrances. That shows that these people more or less wants to be found, or at least wants that people -we- should fall into their traps in the labyrinth. But we have Maduin's help, and I have gotten us four yarns each, and that must be enough for the whole lair. There can't be endless tunnels, unless they've dug themselves below the surface of the planet itself. And I doubt they've had that kind of time. In need, we'll just turn back."
"What if they find and cut our yarns?" Celes pointed out.
"I will try to keep up making a simple map as we walk on," Relm proudly said, "as an insurance." "Still, this is almost at the same rate as Kefka's tower," Strago grimly pointed out, "and we lack some skills this time. But is that going to scare us, eh?"
"Nope!" everyone resolutely said.
"Good. Now then, where are we going in?" the old man said.
"There's two entrances on the outer side of the ring and one inside of it," Setzer summed, "and if you'd care for my intuition we should take the inner."
"Sure, why not, mister Gambler..." Locke murmured.
"Art we ready, then?" Cyan grimly said, "is everyone equipped?"
"I think we're as ready as we'll ever get," Sabin concluded, "let's go."
Setzer went over to the wheel and turned the key. With the familiar drone, the Falcon began to rise towards the sky.
They were off.
Most of the crew went downstairs to rest and to try to prepare themselves psychologically for what awaited them. Sabin walked away to the stem of the airship, silently watching the ground below turn into ocean.
He didn't have to turn around as he heard the footsteps. He recognized the sound of Terra. Was that how it was being in love? Always knowing when the other one was close by? It was almost as his closeness to Edgar, and yet completely different.
Once again, his mind slipped over to Gogo, even though Terra's presence called for attention. Absentmindedly, as if asking for forgiveness for that he couldn't concentrate on her so much as he wished to, he wrapped his left, muscled arm around her shoulders.
But ever since Edgar disappeared, Sabin had been unable to stop thinking about the clothed mimic. He couldn't let go of the thought about how Kefka had lost his brother. Couldn't stop imagine what kind of despair and shock the poor man must have gone through when he realized who had sent him to his doom. And then having to watch Kerr... no, he had been Kefka. The one who had used to be Kefka was Gogo now. They had all agreed on that. Having to watch Kefka's madness and his pleasure of killing... knowing that what once had been a part of him no longer was human.
But he still had strength to live on.
Sabin looked over his shoulder to watch the figure in the bright clothes, standing by the railing with his back at the wheel. The winds played with his robes, made the feathers on his helmet wave, swing.
He had always looked somehow alone. Even in the heat of battles. But right then, Sabin thought that he saw something else. A flame of determination had always been somewhere inside of Gogo during the battles in the World of Ruin. But the one that Sabin sensed now was somehow different. Not less strong, but something was different. He couldn't pinpoint exactly what it was, but it was... something.
"Hey Sabin!" Setzer suddenly called, "get over here and take the wheel! Gogo, come here!"
The prince let go of Terra, puzzled. Together they went over to the wheel as the clothed figure and the owner of the airship went over to the stern, looking down at the propellers.
"Something wrong?" Terra called as Sabin put his hands on the wheel.
"I can't seem to reach full speed!" Setzer called over his shoulder, frowning, "and there's something with the sound of the engine..."
"Come on," Gogo muttered with his usual, muffled voice and hurried downstairs, followed by the albino man.
Sabin and Terra watched them go.
They were silent for a moment. Then the woman of them took a deep breath and released it slowly.
"You coming back to Mobliz afterwards?" she mumbled.
The prince looked down with a warm smile.
"I'm pretty sure about that I will," he said.
Terra smiled a little without looking at him and wrapped her arm around his waist, almost tentatively. She wasn't really used to the situation, and Sabin understood that. He wasn't either. This wasn't the best time to fall in love in. They needed some peace to realize it all. He just hoped that loss of his frustration wouldn't change what he felt for Terra; that she wasn't simply somebody he needed to lean onto for a short while.
No. No, no.
He had thought that she was beautiful and a great company for a long time. She was smart and strong too. And he loved her. Indeed.
Carefully he placed an arm around her shoulders and squeezed them for half a second. It felt nice to have her there.
Behind them, unnoticed, Relm stood in the stair, peeking up through the hole in the floor.
"Well?" Celes grinned.
"Just holding one arm around the other one," the young artist whispered.
She scratched her head and began to smile as she kept watching the couple.
"Somebody get my sketch pad and a pencil!" she hissed, "hurry, hurry, hurry!"
Her grandpa chuckled in a low voice as he handed her the tools and she immediately began to work on a picture.
"Hey Relm," Locke said with raised eyebrows, "I remember you making a sketch of me and Celes after we got the Phoenix. You promised us a painting."
"You'll get it when the kid's born," Relm mumbled, absentmindedly, "and that goes for the two of them over there too..."
"My, my, my..."
All grins disappeared as Gogo and Setzer came out of the machine room, however. Relm was the only one who didn't care the slightest.
"Art there any problems?" Cyan asked.
Setzer pursed his mouth and Gogo shook his head.
"Seems like I should have exchanged a cable a couple of weeks ago," the gambler reported, "we won't crash, but we'll be a bit slower than usual."
"Don't you have any new cable to replace it with?" Strago wondered.
"No, sorry. I'll need to get to Narshe to get one. They use the same kind of cables in the engines of the machines pulling the wagons in their mines."
He shrugged his shoulders.
"Well, I believe that we'll be at least one and a half hour later than planned, maybe even more. Let's just see it as a bit more time to prepare ourselves."
"Optimist..." Strago muttered, but didn't really mean to be rude.
In the end it actually took them about two hours more than planned. But finally they landed by the dark tower. It stood silent and abandoned, looking grim even in the sunlight. The ground around it lacked vegetation, as if the earth itself loathed the tower.
None of the warriors said a word to each other. They only went off the Falcon and began walking towards the mountains.
"Do you guys think there'll be any guards?" Locke thoughtfully said as he began the climbing walk up on the rocks leading to the cliffs above, "or will they just let us walk in?"
"Who knows?" Strago said and looked over his shoulder, "hey Gogo, what do you think?"
But the mimic just helplessly shook his head.
"Great..." Locke muttered, "well, we'll just have to stay ready for anything."
"And as you know, that was a very strong 'anything'."
"How far from thee can Sir Maduin reach, Terra?" Cyan asked.
"One moment," Terra said and stopped climbing to close her eyes safely.
'How great is your reach, father?' she thought.
'Not very big, I'm afraid,' Maduin answered, 'even if I really strain myself only about ten feet from you.'
"He can't scan the area," Terra reported, "we'll have to try the old sneaking and being on guard."
The whole crew gravely nodded.
After half an hour of climbing they reached a plateau, and two paths on both sides of it. It was quite clear from the looks of the weak, trampled grass and the loss of stones lying around that the paths had been used much for some time. But on the stone ground there were no footsteps to follow in any direction.
The group of warriors assembled on the plateau to regain their breath.
Even if they had climbed a long way, the top of the tower was still above them.
"Well, where are we going now, then?" Celes asked.
"Splitting up is out of the question," Setzer grimly said, making everyone nod gravely.
"Come on, gambler," Locke said with a small smirk, "feel us out of this situation!"
Setzer snorted, but began turning his head to look at the two paths. After a few turns he pointed at the way to their left.
"As good as any direction," Sabin said with a shrug of his shoulders, "and this is when we should begin to sneak, right?"
"Seems like love has planted some patience in you," Setzer grinned and began to walk.
They walked slowly, Locke and Setzer in the lead. Every turn of the cliff and path was passed with outmost care.
After one more half an hour, Locke held up a hand as he looked around another sharp corner.
"What is it?" Relm hissed as she and all the others stopped.
Locke shook his head, rolling his eyes.
"It's the good old cult, walking around in silent trance before a cave."
"How many foes art there?" Cyan asked.
Locke pursed his mouth, watching the group of robed figures.
"You know what," he muttered, "I have a bad feeling that there are more cultists in this mountain than we have considered."
"How many idiots can there be in this world?" Setzer growled.
"You should know that, you've probably fooled a few when playing cards with them," Sabin absentmindedly teased.
"Remember how they ran like sheep when we defeated that magician on top of their tower?" Celes pointed out, "I believe they work like weak animals hiding together behind somebody who's strong. If we can defeat their leaders, maybe..."
But they all knew that sooner or later they'd had to see to that the whole cult left the face of the earth, forever. No one would be safe until Kefka and all who followed him were gone.
None of them wanted to speak out what all of them thought about.
What if there's too many for us to take on? We have no magic this time...
"Do you think that we can just walk past them, like last time we encountered them?" Terra asked Locke, trying to pull herself together.
"Probably... or else they are the ones asking for it."
He turned around. After a moment of considering the odds everyone nodded. They had to somehow get in to save their friends. In peace or war... there would surely be battles at some point. In any case, they would get in.
After getting their weapons ready they went around the corner to see what Locke had seen.
It was another plateau, and a great opening in the cliff behind it. And there were cultists. Just walking around in line, their faces hid by the shadows of their dark hoods.
The group of intruders had reached the plateau before there was any reaction from the fanatics. It seemed like they were a little more alert than those who had been by the tower in the dying world.
"The sinners!" a voice from below one of the hoods hissed, making all of the silent figures look up and with growls draw thin daggers from somewhere inside of their robes.
"Now this should get interesting!" Sabin growled.
"Remember the poison!" Relm snarled with her own dagger ready.
One of the first fanatics reached the sinners and almost managed to give Locke a cut in the arm before both the married man and Cyan ran their weapons through the madman. But that didn't make any of the other robed men reconsider.
For once Sabin wished that he was better with a sword. But he had never mastered that weapon. Now, however, a little distance from the foes hadn't been too bad. His short knuckledusters forced him to go far too close to his enemies than was healthy considering what kind of tricks they used. As three of the robed men leaped at him at the same time, he found himself with two cuts on his shoulder and three more on his arm before he had fended the attackers off.
His comment about it wasn't meant for the common knowledge.
"Sabin!" he heard Terra shout before he stumbled and fell.
"Don't loose focus!" Celes yelled as the green-haired woman was about to run over to the unconscious prince.
Terra hesitated for a second. But the cultists didn't care about Sabin anymore since he was down, and she had to realize that she'd only make things worse by blindly rushing to his side. So she clenched her teeth and kept fighting.
A robed figure rushed at her, and she raised her sword...
His weight and force threw her backwards, and she dropped her weapon. But the sword did not fall to the ground since it was stuck inside of the fanatic. He growled and sobbed in shock and pain, trying to get a grip of the weapon that had torn his clothes and flesh. But even as he tried to pull it out, he fell. He kicked desperately in agony a few times, as his blood floated out over the ground like a red ocean of death.
Terra just stared at him, paralyzed by the sight. She had killed so many corrupted monsters and humans, but now she felt as awful as she had done that first time, alone in the mines of Narshe. Then she hadn't remembered that she had killed many times before, it had just went well by instinct when she was attacked by a couple gigantic rats.
For a long while she had been watching their bodies in horror, shocked by what her hands had done, holding the short sword.
Scared, confused and alone. Just staring at death, which she had brought.
The cultist kicked one last time. A weak whisper escaped his lips, then he became still forevermore.
That was the last thing he ever said. He whispered the name of the madman that almost had destroyed his world completely. The madman that he was prepared to die for. The madman that he with pleasure and happiness would bring back to new bloodied and evil glory if he ever had had the power to do so. And now as he was dead, his hood seemed to loose it's shadow and show a face half hidden by a blond beard. But below the hair was a man maybe about thirty years old, his grey eyes staring at nothing. Just a few seconds ago he had just been a cultist, just a dark robe that had to be defeated. But now he was a dead man. A person. More of a person than he had been as he lived a short moment ago.
Terra felt a tear trickling down her cheek. She had to cry for this man that she had killed. He had worshipped complete evil; he had probably been mad too. But she had to cry for him. Pity him and his corrupted soul.
What carried a human being to such depths of madness? Prepared to kill and die for the glory of a madman, the glory of complete destruction?
Terra didn't know, she didn't want to know...
She had promised herself never to kill again as she had watched the world begin to recover. She had always hated it; even when she had fought the shadowy demons of Cyan's tormented mind she had silently wished that she hadn't been the one to end the lives of the dark creatures. Never would she fight because she enjoyed it or willingly on someone's order. No, only when she was forced into battle she would fight. From the first moment in Narshe's mines, she had hated it. Loathed what she was doing.
But it had to be done...
She wished that Sabin had been awake, and that the moment had been different. That he'd smile with one of those snorts and tell her to pull herself together. To stand up for a while longer. Or something else. Anything at all. Just as long as it was he who told her that. Like only he could.
'Look out!' Maduin shouted at her.
She ducked before any thought had had time to fly through her mind. Within the same heartbeat she spun around with one leg stretched and kicked the balance from another fanatic's control. He fell with a surprised shout, his daggers falling from his hands without harming anybody alive. One of them was left standing in the dead one's thigh, though.
"May the gods have mercy upon thy soul...!" Cyan muttered and ran his katana downwards.
Neither Terra nor the fanatic himself had time to realize what happened before the swordsman had fulfilled his mission. The man in the robe died immediately.
"Art thee well, Terra?" Cyan gravely asked and kindly took her hand to help her stand up.
"Yeah, I'm fine... thanks," she answered, but could by no means fight back the bitterness.
How she detested the bloodshed...
"I knoweth that 'tis hard," the swordsman said, touching her shoulder with his hand, "but we must never give up."
Terra tiredly nodded. Then she suddenly fell, because Cyan had thrown her aside with a growl. Even though her world began to spin as her palms exploded with burning ache when hitting the ground, she heard him hiss of anger and pain. Then there was another gurgling and growling of a dying man. Terra whirled around, afraid that Cyan was the one loosing his life.
And he was falling, with his last katana run through the crag of yet another anonymous robe. The two men hit the ground.
With a half strangled scream Terra got up and caught her friend's shoulders. He was far too heavy; she had to hurriedly lower him to the ground to avoid dropping him.
"Aye, I am well..." he whispered and closed his eyes.
His fingers lost the hilt of his katana, and the cultist fell aside.
With great relief Terra noted that the swordsman only had a light cut in his right side, by the height of his elbow. He was only drugged, not dead.
"Terra and Cyan alright?" Gau howled and leaped over to the young woman's side.
"Yes, he just got a scratch," she calmed the once wild boy.
"Good, we've almost won now!" he growled.
Terra looked up in surprise just in time to see Setzer, Locke and Celes make a simultaneous attack. The gambler was throwing his cards at four cultists, confusing them with light cuts as the married couple rushed...
The half-esper looked away with a shudder, still hearing the awful sounds above the general shouting.
"This is it!" Strago growled and gave his last foe a hard knock in the back of the hood.
Then the old man hurried over to his granddaughter, who was examining Sabin's wounds together with Gogo.
Ironically enough the two strongest warriors of them were the only ones that had been drugged.
(OK, I'm aware about what most of us have to say about Cyan and "greatest warrior of Doma with the strength and courage of a hundred men", but he's at least supposed to be one of the stronger, right? author's note)
Terra, knowing that Cyan would be alright, hurried over to the bigger crowd.
"How is he?" she worriedly asked.
"He'll be fine," Strago said with a calming smile.
"Yeah," Relm said, reaching for a pocket, "I think that this should do the trick..."
She brought out a small, red glass-bottle and pulled out the cork by taking it between her teeth and dragging her hand and head in different directions. She looked up at her wake friends.
"And you better hold onto him, just in case," she said.
"Young lady, what is that?" Strago asked, suspicious.
"Oh, come on," the artist sighed, "don't you want to wake him up?"
"Do you have any better ideas?"
Strago sighed and placed his aged hands on Sabin's limp arm. Gogo took the other arm, and Terra grabbed the prince's shoulders, sitting on her knees behind his head.
"Okay, get ready..." Relm said and reached out to carefully open Sabin's mouth.
She held the bottle above his lips and slowly changed the angle of her hand to pour three drops of a thick, brown liquid with bright red spots onto her friend's tongue. Then she threw herself backwards.
Two seconds passed. Then suddenly Sabin's eyes flew open, and Gogo was helplessly thrown aside. Terra and Strago managed to keep the prince down even without the mimic, however.
"Argh!!" Sabin more or less roared, desperately scratching at his throat and lips with his free hand.
"Calm down, it's alright!" Terra shouted at him.
The prince tried to speak, but only a gurgling sound passed his lips.
"What did you do to him, Relm?!" Locke shouted as he, his wife and Setzer came hurrying to see what the commotion was all about.
"Here, give him this," the young girl calmly said and after digging around in her backpack handed Strago a flask of water.
Sabin ripped the flask from the old man's surprised grip and almost bit off the cork before his lips touched the liquid. Water flowed down his cheeks and neck as he fought to swallow all of it at once. As it was all gone he sat up straight, shivering but calmer.
"I think..." he gasped and coughed, "Relm, I think that that is supposed to be served with a lot of food to go with it."
"It is," the artist grinned, "but grandpa won't let me cook..."
"I'll try it in a proper way when this is all over," Sabin muttered with a tired smile, "apart from the explosions it tasted pretty well."
"I just don't believe it..." Setzer smiled and shook his head as Relm dragged him, Locke, Celes and her grandpa towards her next victim; the warrior of Doma.
"I guess I missed most of the action," Sabin said and massaged his forehead, "what happened?"
Terra bitterly looked around at the silent, lying robes. The cultists had been twice as many, but they hadn't been warriors. And their clothing wasn't suitable for battle; it made them clumsy.
"As usual," she muttered.
She noted that Gogo had gotten to his feet and quietly watched the thin line of grassland between the oceans in the south, which could be vaguely seen between two mountaintops. He looked like a statue. She couldn't see his eyes since he was mostly turned away, and anyhow it had always been hard to judge what he thought about.
Terra realized that he hardly had spoken at all since they left for the mountains. Ever since he had unveiled himself to his friends and they had accepted it, he had been opening up. Dropping his way of drawing back from them. He had begun to talk more often, being even more of a friend.
Terra hoped that he wouldn't end that now and turn back to the silent mimicker he used to be. Perhaps it had been unwise of him to pretend to be his brother. Maybe that had struck him harder than he had thought it would. She remembered how he had been shaking afterwards, and how pale his face had been.
But he didn't seem vulnerable now. Only silent and still.
"Gogo...?" Terra said, almost unable to speak.
He didn't react.
"Gogo, are you alright?" the half-esper said, managing to use her voice properly this time.
At first, it seemed as if he hadn't heard her. Then he looked around.
"Don't worry," was all he said with his muffled voice.
After that he once again turned to the horizon.
She almost startled when Sabin's hand softly landed on her shoulder.
"Are you alright?" he asked, concerned.
Terra sighed, turning to him to avoid looking at all the bodies.
"Will it ever end?" she bitterly said, "I hate these battles...!"
He straightened up and carefully pulled her into a hug.
"I know, I know," he mumbled, calmingly stroking her hair, "but we'll go through these last ones, alright? These are the last battles. Next time someone else will have to take care of it, I promise. We'll go through this, together as always."
Terra leaned her head against his chest, glad to hear him saying that. She had needed it. Now she couldn't understand how she had been able to keep fighting without this dear support before.
Well, when you have to you can do it...
She looked up at Sabin and managed to smile.
"Thanks a lot," she said and reached up to touch his lips with her own.
"Anytime, Terra," he smiled back and held her even tighter.
A half strangled scream announced that Cyan had awakened. What he said was nothing that was suitable in the vocabulary of a noble warrior.
"But hey, it works, right?" Relm innocently cut in.
It took Cyan a few moments to recover.
"Hey lovebirds," Locke called with a warm smile, "are you ready to enter the nest of the morons?"
"Well?" Sabin said in a low voice.
"I'm fine. Thank you," she answered.
They stood up.
"Then let's go," Setzer said, juggling with two of his yarns even as he walked towards the entrance of the cave. "Wait, let Maduin check if it's safe!"
Terra hurried past the others and stopped by the cliff beside the opening.
'It's your turn, father,' she thought.
'One moment,' he smiled, 'and my best wishes to you and Sabin, my girl.'
She smiled carefully, feeling a short sensation of coldness as he left.
"Good thinking," Setzer said, a bit embarrassed over his lack of care.
All of them awaited the result.
'It's safe, at least as far as I reached,' Maduin reported, 'I'll be circling around and warn you for anything suspicious. Just don't walk too fast and everything will be fine.'
"Follow me," she gravely said.
Setzer secured a knot around a dead bush's trunk a few feet from the entrance, pulled it a couple of times to check if it was safe and then nodded.
"Let's go," he said, and his friends silently agreed.
None of them noticed that the one of them dressed in bright yellow, green and red clothes threw one last concerned glance towards the arisen Serpent Trench before he followed the others into the darkness.
Silent robes walked in a line back and forth in the stubborn sunlight on one of the southern plateaus.
Even the sky was sinning. It should be dirtily red brown, and the sun should be almost unable to pass through the dark clouds. Like the master had decided. But now it was clear and blue, and the clouds were white and fluffy. Revolting against the master's will.
But it should be all changed, oh yes. Soon, when the greatest sinners were dead and their blood painted the master's altar, he would return and claim the world as his. Bringing true glory to the ones who believed in him and smash the worthless untrue, bringing them to their knees.
The walking came to a halt when another robe emerged from the darkness of the cave. All dark hoods turned to that one. This new robe was slightly different than the others. It had blood-red stripes on every edge of the cloth, and black, twisted embroideries were on its arms and back.
"The sinners entered our labyrinth one hour ago," the high priest announced with a smirk in his harsh voice, "strangely enough they have been able to avoid the traps so far. Should that continue, they might reach the temple hall within a few hours. In any case, we have preparations to do."
The dark hoods muttered in cruel triumph.
"Today the blood will give the master strength," the high priest continued, "soon he will return! Come, we must prepare."
He turned and went back into the darkness, and the lower trustful ones followed him. All walking in line, imitating his exact movements to avoid all the unseen triggers. Imitating exactly, mimicking every move. Perfectly.
But even though they served a great master, all of them must have lacked skill of counting. Otherwise they should have noticed that they seemed to be more numerous than usual.
"My yarns are out," Setzer muttered, "someone give me one..."
"How long have we been down here?" Locke concernedly said as Celes handed the gambler another tight heap of smooth thread.
"A couple of hours, I think," Strago said and dried his forehead with a handkerchief.
They weren't running out of torches nor yarn so far, but they had taken so many turns in the dusky world that none of them had any clue about where they were. Relm bravely tried to keep up drawing her map, but she had used up more paper than she ever had thought was possible. Even though she tried to keep it small.
The labyrinth was much bigger than Kefka's tower, and even though there weren't any giant monsters the size of the place was enough to make the warriors nervous.
The traps were also rather unpleasant.
They had been battling a few times, but less than expected. Maduin always warned them for ambushes, but there had only been four of those. And then they had only face small groups of cultists, who had been the ambushed ones thanks to the esper.
"Stop," Terra said, for what felt like the thousand time.
Her friends breathlessly watched her as she sat down on one knee and picked a pebble from the ground. Then she slowly raised her hand, listening to her father's advices.
She threw the small stone, and it hit what looked like ordinary ground.
A perfectly hid net erupted from the smooth wall, swung over the path and then disappeared up into the darkness far above before anyone had time to react.
"Good grief..." Cyan muttered.
"They wouldn't have pulled me out of that one alive," Locke mumbled and rubbed his forehead, "I would have died of shock."
"Wimp," Relm sighed, with no real spirit.
All the traps had one thing in common, which wasn't a surprise. They weren't meant to kill. There were small spikes with numbing or sleeping poison, nets and snares, but nothing that would leave anyone with any greater wounds. People were meant to get trapped in the labyrinth, not die there.
Terra stood up and began walking again.
Eight traps of random sort later they took a well-deserved rest before continuing.
Edgar looked up with a frown as he heard the clinking of a key in a door. There seemed to be far too many people in robes outside of the cell... something was happening, and he wasn't sure if he liked it.
"The time approaches," one of the several robes standing by the door said, "you will come with us."
"Your charming company calls for more proper guests," Edgar coldly said, "something found below a rock, for example."
It was a lousy insult, but he was exhausted and weakened after the time in the cell. The food wasn't exactly made to give strength, and the circumstances provided little sleep. The only one who was able to sleep well was Shadow. But on the other hand, sleep wasn't really the proper word. Unconsciousness suited him better.
A couple of times a cultist had come into the cell and given the assassin something to drink from a small, dark bottle. Shadow was far too dizzy to provide any fight, and had just drunken even more of the drug that robed his senses. The fanatics wanted the clever man to stay in suspended mode, in case he had any tricks left. There had been nothing Edgar could do to help; out of reach.
Shadow was pulled to his insecure feet by two of the cultists, and one of the others freed the assassin's wrists from the chains.
"This is just wondr... won... wonderful..." Shadow slurred with dizzy bitterness as he was more or less dragged out of the cell.
"And what about her?" Edgar growled, nodding at Kanai as two robes grabbed his arms while his wrists were freed.
"You don't need to know that, sinner," one of the anonymous figures sneered.
"Like hell I don't!" the king of Figaro snarled and desperately tried to get his arms free.
Kanai's fear filled eyes was tearing his soul into pieces. She was paralyzed with fright, fearing both her own and her beloved's faith.
"The master himself will choose her doom," another robe impatiently snapped, "now come!"
"Edgar!" Kanai hoarsely whispered as he was violently forced away from her.
He almost broke his own neck trying to look around at her, trying to give her some calming gaze before the thick door was slammed shut between them.
Edgar clenched his teeth. He loved that woman, for the first time he really loved someone like that. Kefka had seen to that her first husband died, she had lost everything. And now he, her new love, had brought her into this hell pit just by being her company. If she died, it would be his fault. Damn! Kanai!
But no matter how Edgar struggled, he couldn't get free. Too weakened.
"Drink this, sinner."
"Whaz...? Again?" Shadow slurred.
"Shadow, for all the gods' sake!" Edgar snarled as a green bottle was put by the assassin's cracked lips.
But the man in black helplessly swallowed whatever kind of liquid it was that was poured into his mouth. The robe with the drug moved back.
Shadow blinked and shook his head.
"Damn..." he muttered, harshly.
When he looked up at Edgar his eyes were focused and clear, but it seemed as if he still had little control of his body as he made a desperate attempt to break free.
An antidote, but only for his mind.
Edgar could only with sadness watch the horrid regret rise in the assassin's eyes as he finally to the fullest could realize what had happened.
Shadow said nothing, but his eyes were filled with burning rage. And he couldn't use his hands to live out his thirst for revenge.
"Kupo... Edgar, Shadow..." a weak, cute voice mumbled.
The king almost tiredly turned his head and found Mog hanging with his short arms in a fanatic's hands. But what was behind the cultist and the moogle made Edgar's throat thicken.
"My gods..." he whispered.
Even Shadow stared with disbelief and shock.
Five cultists dragged Umaro down the corridor. The yeti seemed even dizzier than Shadow had been, stumbling and not even trying to get loose.
"Come on," Mog yelped with tired anger, "he's not even six years old..."
No one cared.
The four prisoners were brought down the corridor and through some other torch lit tunnels before reaching an enormous, well-lit cave.
"Damn it..." Shadow growled, the only one of the prisoners who had seen the cavern before.
Umaro was too drugged to even know what was happening, but Edgar and Mog stared with disgust and horror at the great statue of Kefka, the irons on the wall and, most detesting, the altar before the throne.
"You're mad, but you already know that, don't you?!" Edgar growled as he was pushed up against the wall by the irons by the statue's left side.
No answer. The fanatics silently closed the irons around his wrists, trapping him by the wall.
"Psychos!" Mog snarled.
He was far too short and was left hanging a few feet above the ground as he was put in place.
Shadow said nothing. Umaro neither, but that wasn't much of a surprise. The yeti almost had to crouch, since all the irons were at the same level.
Then the fanatics turned and walked away, back into the side tunnels by one of the long walls.
"What's happening?" Mog blankly asked, twisting as he in vain tried to get free.
"I'm afraid that the others are coming for us," Shadow bitterly said, "straight into the trap."
"What?!" Edgar choked, "not that too! They can't!"
Shadow gave a bitter chuckle; the first laugh Edgar ever had heard from him.
"If those madmen don't kill me, Strago will," the assassin muttered, "and I'd really prefer the old man..."
"But who asks for my opinion nowadays..."
Edgar's eyes wandered over the empty floor. It was huge. Like the whole cave. There was room for hundreds of people on the clean swept ground. And beyond it was a great opening in the wall, much bigger than the ones by the long walls. There was darkness past the big entrance... for the moment.
"No, no! For all the gods' sake!" Edgar whispered as he saw a distant, flickering light staining the pure shadows.
But no matter his prays a green-haired woman stepped out of the duskiness, followed by a muscled man holding a torch. And behind Terra and Sabin were all of those people that Edgar knew as his dearest and closest friends; the ones he had been fighting Kefka with. The ones he trusted with his life. The ones he had to get away from the danger before it was too late.
"Get out of here! It's a trap!" he shouted.
"Edgar!?" Sabin called, throwing the torch aside.
"Stop! Leave immediately!" Shadow growled.
"Kupo! Do as they say!" Mog yelled, "go back, hurry!"
"Go back?" Locke called, holding his sword in a 'I'm not going anywhere' style, "you're out of your minds. Have you any idea what we've gone through to get here?" "It's a bloody trap!" Edgar desperately shouted, "get out of here!"
"Look out!" Terra yelled, "from behind!"
The ten intruders spun around as one person by the woman's call.
"Great..." Setzer hissed and backed as everyone else, holding his cards ready but saving them for the moment being.
In terror Edgar watched his friends move backwards into the huge cavern, followed by a group of at least fifty cultists armed with thin daggers.
"Well, there's only half a hundred of them," Sabin growled and balled his hands into fists decorated with clawed knuckle-dusters, "we've seen worse, haven't we?"
"Have no read books?" Gau snarled, "never say that! Go bad!"
Nice to see an enlightened one, isn't it?
"I fear our young friend speaketh the truth, my comrades!" Cyan growled.
From the four entrances, two on each of the long walls robed figures hurried, all of them armed with two daggers each.
"In a circle!" Celes desperately commanded, just like everyone else knowing that it was pointless.
There were at least four hundred fanatics surrounding the ten warriors.
They formed a circle anyhow, holding their weapons stubbornly.
'Good powers!' Maduin moaned in horror, 'by the holy Phoenix, Terra, forgive me!'
'It's not your fault, father...' she bitterly thought, 'we walked into it...'
"There's no use fighting, sinners!" a hoarse voice called out.
It was three more cultists. But their robes had black embroideries and blood-red edges. They stepped out in front of the four prisoners, hiding their hands in the wide sleeves of their clothes.
"Oh, and who might you be?" Locke coldly said, pushing Relm and Gau into the center of the small, surrounded circle.
"We are the high priests of the great master," the right robe said, sneering, "now drop your weapons and succumb to the superior power of Kefka. Fighting is useless."
"I think I've heard something similar a couple of times..." Celes hissed between clamped teeth.
Setzer threw a glance around his company.
"Gogo, do something for all the gods' sake!" the gambler harshly whispered.
But there was no answer. The mimic didn't even hold his sword properly, as if he'd already given up.
"Gogo!" Relm growled, "please!"
Nothing. It was as if he wasn't really there. As if he didn't remember or understood that he was the last hope for his friends and himself.
"If you won't give up there's always the hard way, of course," the middle high priest said.
The robes drew closer, the small group of outnumbered heroes backed tighter together.
Gogo was the first one to go. He was pushed down and dragged away; hardly even resisted.
His friends had no possibility to help him.
The mimic's backpack was thrown aside, then his back hit the cliff and one of his guards closed the irons around his wrists.
They were only nine left.
"Touch my wife and I'll make you wish you never saw a sharp piece of metal!" Locke growled and parried a pair of daggers.
Celes was by his side, with her own sword ready to protect him too. She managed three times. Then somebody got a grip of her arm and she disappeared into the ocean of dark robes. With a piercing scream of rage Locke blindly threw himself after her.
The married couple put up a real fight, but there were four fanatics on each one of them to bring them to their place by the wall.
And so they were seven.
It was a complete chaos. Terra tried to stick close to the others, but the circle was helplessly split as the cultists pushed on, without caring for the weapons the warriors fiercely insisted on using. Even if one enemy got a cut in his leg and stumbled, that didn't bring him away. It simply turned him into a pillow, pushed forward by his uncaring companions.
"Sabin!" Terra shouted and tried to see him somewhere among all the bodies surrounding her.
She could hardly breath, they were all trying to grab her from all directions, no escape, no possibility to defend...
All of a sudden she was out of it, stumbling forward between four of her enemies. They held her arms, too strong for her to break free.
She lost her breath as they threw her back into the wall after ripping off her backpack, lifted and pressed her hands against the cliff...
Coldness surrounded her wrists, and she was trapped.
Even though she knew there was no point she desperately tried to rip her arms free, not caring about that she made her wrists burn by scraping them against the harsh metal encircling them.
Strago was dragged out of the massive, growling crowd, the ones who had taken him captive surely wishing they had kept away. But as the four fanatics and the old man came past the silent high priests, Strago suddenly stood still. This surprised the cultists so much that they also stopped for a moment.
Relm's grandfather looked at Shadow, strangely calm. The unveiled assassin looked back, silent.
"Clyde Launreah," the old man said, "and why am I not surprised?"
"Hello, Strago," Shadow muttered.
"I'll kill you when I've got my hands free," Strago said, strangely lazy.
"I'm looking forward to it," the assassin replied, just as idly.
They had no time to continue their rather bizarre conversation since Strago was forced into place by his guards.
Setzer knew his cards were worthless since there was no place to throw. He dropped the metallic game pieces and pulled a dagger. One cultist fell before the gambler also got completely outnumbered.
"Sabin!" Terra called again, and she wasn't alone.
"You sons of rats..." the prince slurred as he was dragged/pushed/carried out of the commotion.
He was bleeding from several wounds on legs, arms and chest, blood ran from his nose and mouth. One eye was already swollen after a bad hit. He had been a hard catch. But now he was defeated too.
A couple of fanatics carried Relm to her irons, having to put up with both her foul language and knowledge of unfair battle (she was in that kind of age, you know). But after all, she was a young girl and they were grown men. No matter how good she was at pinching and scratching, it didn't help her much.
Cyan was in even worse shape as Sabin, also more or less carried into the place that the priests of madness had chosen for him. But with that strength, it takes rough treatment to take you down. Sadly.
The brave man's right arm didn't look like it was meant to look. Cyan gritted his teeth in pain, very close to screaming, as the cultist mercilessly forced even his broken parts into the unpleasant position.
There seemed to be a bit of confusion going on.
"Where is the boy?" one of the high priests growled.
A bewildered mumbling was the answer.
"Where is he?" another one of the three great fools snapped, "find him!"
With a roar Gau leaped up above the heads of the many fanatics, and before anyone had time to react he was on top of the middle high priest, tearing and biting the dark robe into pieces. The hood fell back, revealing a face that could have belonged to any man. A trader, a sailor, a farmer, anything. Short, not very thick blond hair, a normal sized nose, no scars after fights. But his eyes were as empty as the captured cultist's, the nothingness still visible through his surprised anger as he tried to defend himself against the raging, thin but strong fighter. Gau had the upper hand.
For about five seconds.
The young man still had cloth between his teeth as the attacked one's two companions managed to rip the attacker away from him.
As the last warrior was put in irons the high priest stood up and with his face pale with rage pulled his hood back into place to once again become an anonymous robe. Well, a very torn anonymous robe.
Terra's blood was beating the inside of her head, the roaring almost turning her deaf. Her wrists hurt, her father cried in rage inside of her mind. But above all the noises and feelings was the one, painful realization; they had lost. They were lost. In the hands of the Cult of Kefka. The followers had managed what their unbelievably powerful master had failed to; they had won.
"You little scoundrel...!" the middle priest hissed.
Then he cleared his throat and straightened up properly.
"Well then, brothers," he smirked and raised his hands in triumph, "it seems that we are victorious!"
"For the glory of the master!" the two other high priests called out.
"For the glory of the master!" the fanatics chanted.
They moved. From what had been a commotion of hundreds of bodies they moved into several lines on the floor, all turned at the high priests. As soon as everyone was in place, they sunk to their knees, completely silent.
"I'm so sorry, princess..." Locke mumbled through clenched teeth.
"No, no, no..." Celes whispered and shook her head.
"Sabin?" Terra said, hardly able to speak.
He slowly turned his head and looked at her past Gau and Cyan. Somehow he managed to smile a little, but it was a bitter smile. His attempt to make it comforting failed completely.
"Silence!" the left high priest snapped, "it is time to announce your crimes and sentences, sinners!"
"Excuse me?" Mog snarled, "are you idiots playing or are you really this stupid?"
Terra tried hard to keep from chewing on her lower lip. There was no escape now, they had no possibility to save themselves. If only she still could use magic! But she couldn't...
Why didn't Gogo do something!? He was the only one who possibly could stop the madmen from killing all of those who had put an end to Kefka's tyranny. Why didn't he say something, why didn't he try to fool them?! Why didn't he imitate his brother and command someone to take his veil off, to free him and... and what? Walk off, get new lives? Anything! Gogo!
Terra couldn't see the mimic; he was on the other side of the statue. And that was in the way of her sight.
The hundreds of silent hoods turned, following the three high priests as they moved over the floor, closer to the line of prisoners on the statue's right side.
"Setzer Gabbiani," the priest who had been to the right of the middle one said, almost chanting, "master Kefka's empire made you rich, providing you with a good life. And you turned your back at the great master anyhow, ungrateful. Betrayed his trust."
"Kefka never gave me a penny," Setzer snarled and continued with a rising level of shouting, "and even if he had I would have cut his bloody throat anyhow!"
"Silence, sinner!" the middle priest growled.
A hand hit the gambler's forehead, violently throwing the back of his head into the wall. He became quiet. Not unconscious, only knocked out for a moment. As the priests moved on he raised his head again and darkly glared at them.
"Locke Cole," the left priest coldly said, "you were a powerful man among the Returners, spying on the master's faithful troops and with childish tricks trying to confuse the warriors of the one true cause. And if that wasn't enough, you freed a convicted traitor who should have died long ago."
"And wasn't it sweet?" Locke hissed, "I'd gladly do it a thousand times again! My only regret is that I never got to see your so called 'master's' face when he heard about that his prey had escaped!"
"Locke!" Celes hoarsely whispered as her beloved husband received the same treatment as Setzer.
"And Celes Chere," the priests mercilessly went on, "you were..."
"Celes Cole, if you please," the retired magitek-knight coldly said, with hate making her voice tremble slightly, "if you haven't noticed, I am happily married to this spy here."
What did it really matter... it was just one last desperate fight to at least anger their executioners.
"You shall die by the name the master knew you by, Celes Chere," the middle priest snapped.
"You're disgusting, but perhaps I don't have to inform you about that?" the woman emotionlessly said.
The middle priest's hand covered her mouth, so hard that her cheeks turned white. She tried to throw her head aside, fighting to get free. But it was impossible.
"Let her go, you...!" Locke snarled before the right priest silenced him in the same way.
"Stop this madness!"
Cyan's voice was thick with pain, but his eyes glowed with rage.
"There be no point with these torments!" he growled, "Kefka is dead!"
"That is not for you to decide, warrior of the fallen Doma," the middle priest coldly said.
The swordsman was pale with rage, unable to speak of his disgust.
"Celes Chere," the high priest holding her head repeated, "you had the honor of fighting by the master's side, but you betrayed him. And then you didn't even have the pride of taking your rightful punishment."
Even though they could speak again, both Celes and Locke were kept quiet by nothing more than the pure disbelief and loathing.
Sabin was next. He glared darkly at the three robes as well as he could with his one and half an eye. The one that had got hit was almost swollen over, he could hardly see with it.
"And prince Sabin," the middle priest growled, "you tried to stop the master on his quest to take down the kingdom of Doma. And apart from that, you teamed up with your treacherous brother after he had betrayed and even dared to make fun of the great one."
"Well, sue me," Sabin growled with a husky voice.
And he spat.
Hit the middle priest's already torn robe's chest.
Because of Sabin's fresh wounds, even a non hand-breaking hit hurt enough. The prince groaned and for a second he was about to loose his consciousness. Terra almost bit off her tongue. Her lips formed her all too newfound love's name, but the high priest's growling drowned the weak sound.
"You," he snarled, pointing at Sabin with a hand shaking with rage, "you will be second!"
He turned at the not very silent Gau. The young man was making sounds eerily similar to an angry animal, but it was impossible to decide which creature he was imitating to express his feelings.
"And you, wild child," the priest said through clenched teeth, "you who was free like the wind, you choose to follow the dirtiest paths of all; the one going against master Kefka. That choice condemned you as soon as you first thought about it. And apart from that, the fact that you dared to attack the master's finest servant will make you the first one to die."
The assembled cultists muttered in low anger. Gau said nothing.
Cyan's eyes should really have been able to kill any man. And since the shadows of the hoods hid the priests' faces, one could assume that they risked to look away, not meeting the cold gaze. Because those eyes were not healthy to look into, not even if you were completely mad and corrupted.
"Cyan Garamonde, you..." the left one began.
"May I assume that I should with honor have died by thy master's poison, just like my liege, my beloved wife and son did?" Cyan coldly said.
"At least you should have surrendered to the master's troops instead of deepening your crimes by joining the Returners," the priest said, untouched by the enraged sarcasm.
The swordsman of Doma said naught, unable to produce any words suitable for his hatred.
Terra stared straight forward as the three priests went on to her. She already had a clue about what her "crimes" were.
"Terra Branford," the middle priest said, "you had the highest blessing of all. You served the great master personally. But then, what did you do? Turned your back at him, your treachery even worse than Celes Chere's."
"Your death will..." the priest continued.
"I know, we all know," Terra snapped, "my death will be the most painful, master Kefka will see to it, yada, yada. But he won't come back, can't you understand that he's dead?! He's gone!"
Her world exploded with pain as her face was hit. She thought she heard her friends call her name, as if from very far away.
When she next opened her eyes, the three priests had moved on to the other side of the statue. She couldn't see, but she could imagine Edgar's handsome face turn to stone.
His crimes weren't hard to guess either.
"King Edgar of Figaro, you created an alliance with master Kefka's empire, all the time working with the Returners behind the master's back. Then you even dared to throw him into the sand of your worthless country before fleeing like a coward."
"Such a clear view of the truth. Sadly, you don't see it at all, you idiots!" Edgar snarled, which was followed by a not too surprising sound of a hand hitting a face and a head hitting a stonewall.
Shadow coldly watched the three priests, silent even though his weak hands turned into fists as his sins were listed.
"Shadow, the assassin," the right priest said, "you worked for the master's empire many times, took whatever task you found worth the money you was paid. Yet, that wasn't enough to secure your trust, and you began taking jobs for the Returners instead. Your choice of employment has forever condemned you."
Shadow said nothing as the priests stood there. But when they moved on towards Mog, the assassin opened his mouth.
Maybe it was Shadow's calm voice, or perhaps they were just curious. Anyhow, the priests allowed him to continue.
"You might think that betraying Kefka was the worst thing I've ever done. Personally I believe that my darkest sin was to leave a woman alone when she would have needed me. I thought I would protect her by fleeing from those who were searching for me. But I left, I even took her dog with me on the run. I never even knew that she was pregnant. And when I found out, I ran away again. Maybe because I still felt hunted, or maybe because I was afraid to face her upset father."
A bitter smile touched his lips for a moment, then it died as he went on. His voice was the only sound to be heard, strangely enough.
"And then she died. And I wasn't there. I didn't even find out until far too late. I'm still surprised that Salea's father didn't hunt me down and cut my blasted throat."
Upon hearing the woman's name Relm became rigid all over, staring at the man in black. He bent his neck and looked back at her, bitterly.
"I'm sorry, Relm," Shadow said, "I should have been there."
Relm tried to say something, but the only thing escaping her lips was a trembling, weak sob.
"Clyde Launreah..." Strago lazily sighed.
"Be still!" the middle priest impatiently interrupted.
The prisoners clenched their jaws, knowing what approached for every single one of their friends that the mad priests passed.
"Look at this!" the middle said in disgust and waved at Mog and Umaro, "a moogle and a yeti, fighting the great master. Even the nature itself makes unwise choices, when that best should know that the stronger should rule all."
"Psychos..." Mog growled again.
His growls were always charming. Too charming to be convincing.
He got hit anyway.
Umaro didn't even react when his "boss" groaned of pain in a weak voice. The yeti was still too drugged to know what was going on; apparently the madmen didn't want any problems with his strength.
"You sadistic monsters!" Relm screeched.
That was the final drop.
"Foul villains!" was the first thing Cyan shouted.
"Scum!" Terra snarled.
Those choices of words were the most tactful ones to be heard. If I would write down the other insults, this story would be rejected without further notice.
Umaro said nothing, but he was almost unconscious anyhow. Apart from him, Gogo was the only silent one of the prisoners. He stared at the floor with empty eyes, loose limbed like a zombie. It was pretty clear that he was the last ray of hope. And that had for some mysterious reason ceased to exist.
None of his friends could understand his behavior, and for the moment being none of them cared either. Their shock and horror had turned into mindless rage over what was happening out of their control.
Neither the priests nor the cultists moved or said anything as the screaming of desperate anger continued on for several minutes. It was as if they didn't hear or cared.
But finally there was a reaction.
A thin dagger cut through the air and stopped two inches from Strago's left eye.
"Enough!" the right priest who held the dagger growled, "be still or this old man will suffer even more before dying!"
"You blasted..." Strago snarled but then clamped his teeth.
Reluctantly the others also gave up and fell silent. They were all going to be killed; they didn't want any of their friends to suffer more pain than there would be anyhow.
Gogo still hadn't moved a muscle. Relm who was just beside him looked at the quiet, clothed man. But the prayers for help in her eyes weren't even noted.
"Well then," the priest said and hid the dagger in his cloth again, "Strago Magus-Arrowny, you should have kept up the good work with bringing the espers to master Kefka in Thamasa. But no, you choose, like all of your foolish friends, to step up on the wrong path."
Cyan wasn't the only one whose eyes should be able to cut through iron. Maybe it was only wishful thinking, but it almost seemed as if the priests moved on a little faster than from the others.
"And you, Relm Arrowny," the left priest coldly said, "just imagine what heights you could have gained by offering master Kefka your services. Instead, you threw your young life away on the darkest of sins; fighting against the master."
Relm clamped her teeth to stop another flood of insults. She was very pale; the fear and recent explosion of rage had begun to drain her strength.
"Leave her alone," Gogo suddenly said, "she's just a kid."
Everyone of the prisoners except Umaro startled over suddenly hearing the muffled voice again. The mimic's eyes carried no emptiness, but a strange sadness, as he looked up and watched the three high priests.
"You speak of Kefka as your master all the time," he said, "it's truly sad..."
"Silence!" the middle priest snapped.
Gogo's head lowered again, tiredly.
"Very well, let's hear it," he muttered.
Those of his friends who could see the mimic stared helplessly at him. What was he doing? Giving up just like that? Why didn't he... didn't try to... wouldn't even...
His behavior did not touch the priests.
"You're just a mysterious warrior whose background is unknown," the middle priest said, "but that is irrelevant when facing your sins. You fought on the Returners' side against the master, and therefore you are also guilty of the gravest crimes."
Gogo made a strange sound, but with the veil almost strangling everything he said it was impossible to judge whether it was a sob or a bitter laugh.
"I didn't... tell them?!" Shadow whispered, exchanging an almost shocked glance with Edgar.
"I think you said they already knew where he was..." the king whispered back, just as bewildered.
The assassin smiled bitterly, almost in an insane way.
"Gods, what a laugh..." he hissed.
They don't even know? They don't know that!?
Terra almost began to laugh madly, the bizarre fact topping the despair and terror she experienced. It was simply too much, they knew almost everything except that their master had a twin brother!
'Calm down, my girl,' Maduin sadly whispered to her.
'Why, father?' she replied, close to hysteria even inside of her mind, 'why would I calm down?!'
'I don't know, Terra, I don't know... I'm so sorry for all this.'
Her father's sad voice nearly turned the mad laughter into tears instead. No, no, no, no... this can't be happening! Good gods...!
Somehow, she didn't know how, she managed to fight it back.
The three priests backed away from the silent Gogo.
"Well then," the middle one smirked, "you are all without doubt guilty of these dishonorable crimes. But cherish your sentence, sinners, because every drop of your blood will bring the master one step closer to his reclaiming of this world. And you, wild boy, have the honor of being the first one to give the great one your life force."
Four cultists in the front row stood up and approached Gau.
"Hey, take me instead!" Strago growled, "he's so young!"
"Kill me first, you bloodthirsty morons!" Sabin shouted.
"Let him be! Take me!"
Nearly everyone of the prisoners was praying for mercy upon Gau. But of course neither the priests nor the four cultists cared about that.
Gau was freed from the irons, but was immediately grabbed by hands and feet instead. He snarled, kicked and screeched as they carried him towards the altar, all in vain.
His back hit the cold rock.
Umaro was too drugged, Gogo didn't move. All the other trapped heroes were screaming and shouting, desperately begging for the young man's life.
The chains clinked and new irons surrounded Gau's wrists. Even though he tried to kick like mad the chilly metal soon encircled his ankle joints too.
Gogo slowly raised his head.
The four cultists moved back into their places. The young man twisted like a crazed animal on the altar until the right and left priest grabbed his shoulders and legs to keep him in place.
The prisoners had almost fallen silent, watching in horror filled with anguish.
There was a growing concern in Gogo's eyes.
"Master Kefka, may you gain strength by this sacrifice..." the middle priest chanted and reached into his robe.
He brought out a thin dagger, its blade somehow darkened so that it was almost black. Gau kept struggling, his wild eyes nailed onto the dagger being held above his chest.
"Gogo!" Relm sobbed, "please, he's like a brother...!"
The concerned glistening in the mimic's eyes grew even more, but he didn't say anything.
"For the master!" the fanatics chanted in choir, as if in trance.
"For the master!" the priest shouted and raised his hands, aiming straight at Gau's throat.
Terra hardly forced her eyes shut with a trembling sob. It was too late for her young friend...
The shout cut through the thick air, cleaved the intense coldness of pure despair simply by being completely unexpected.
Among the kneeling cultists, one stood.
There was a surprised and irritated whispering among the assembled fanatics as they turned their deep hoods at the interrupting one. Some of them even stood up to see better.
The high priest put his hands by his sides, clearly frustrated.
"Who are you, who dares to disturb the ceremony?" he demanded.
A hand grabbed the dark robe from within and pulled it as if the cultist was wrapping a cloak around himself. His other hand became visible from out of the long sleeve, the pointing finger waving in a familiar way.
"You should know me," a voice from beneath the hood said, smirking, "tsk, tsk, tsk..."
Then he laughed, a laughter that could cut through the skin, flesh and bone of anyone who was unlucky enough to hear it.
The hood was pushed backwards, revealing a thin, pale face and a mane of blond, well taken cared of hair. A madly red and green feather was peeking up through the hairdo, but how it was kept in place was a mystery.
When the dark robe fell off the man, another clothing was revealed; a crazed composition of bright yellow, green and red cloth.
Two eyes burning with madness gleamed as Kefka looked around with a sneer, his appearance lighting louder whispers among the fanatics.
"Master!?" someone gasped.
The effect was immediate. As soon as the word had made its way through the air all of the fanatics fell to their knees again, hitting the floor with their foreheads.
The middle priest dropped the dagger, his companions let go of the shivering, stunned Gau. All three of them stumbled up in front of the altar, also falling down to praise their master on their knees.
Terra knew that her jaw was close to the ground. And she knew that her friends felt the same.
As if forced, her head turned towards the other side of the statue, at the line of prisoners that she couldn't see. She wasn't the only one staring in that direction.
If Kefka is there, and Gogo is there... then...?
The math didn't really work out, and that was not very pretty.
Kefka began moving towards the altar, and the fanatics around him fell over each other in their attempts to move away and create a path for the great one. He stopped a few feet from the kneeling high priests, his eyes running over the line of staring prisoners.
"Well here we are, all of us..." he smirked, "and isn't it a lovely occasion, my dear friends?"
He was too far away, Terra couldn't see his face properly. She hardly dared to hope.
"Master, we..." the middle priest began, without looking up.
"Ah, yes!" Kefka screeched, "I have to thank you for all that you have managed, well done! Such delight for the eyes..."
He chuckled madly.
"All my sweet little enemies, the great warriors of the world, put up against the wall. Nice and fresh. You have truly saved me a lot of time, my trustful followers. I was looking for them myself, but it seems as if I won't have to bother anymore. Well stand up, my good men!"
All the fanatics rushed to their feet.
"Now then," Kefka continued, turning around to talk to the larger crowd, "I am certain that you are just itching with wishes of me reclaiming the world. And I will, if anyone doubted even for the shortest moment. I will rule again, with your help. You who have been true to me, only you shall have the glory of this world. The others... ah, you know my sayings already, don't you?"
He chuckled again and looked around at the line of prisoners.
"And you look so very surprised, my pretties," he sneered, "did you really think that you could destroy me? Oh, you always were the foolish ones... but as you can see I still live, and of all your so called heroism only this puny scar remains. Such a pity, isn't it? Pity, pity, pity..."
His pointing finger went down his left cheek as he spoke about the old wound. Terra stared at him and almost sobbed of relief.
"Just look at that," Kefka sighed and rolled his eyes with a smirk, "they're so scared they can't even speak out their horror. Revenge and victory, you puny little warriors, can you feel the sweet, sweet taste of it?"
He went over to the altar, past the high priests who almost in trance threw themselves out of his way. As Kefka had his back at the priests and his trustful followers he dropped the hideous grimace of mad triumph for one short second, giving the still pale Gau a calming smile before turning back into the insane man.
The sound of a palm hitting stone echoed in the great cave until Kefka spoke again.
"And this! Marvelous, I love it! Ha! It's just what I had planned for this little group of heroes as soon as I'm done with them. Fascinating, isn't it?"
He turned around again and tilted his head.
"Any questions? Go on, let's hear it!"
There was a silence that lasted for a few seconds before the high priests realized that their opinions were called for.
"Had you something else in store for your enemies, master Kefka?" the middle priest asked, his voice trembling with the excitement of having the great one just a few feet away.
"Good one!" Kefka screeched.
Once more he chuckled madly before continuing to speak.
"Indeed, I have some use for them. Something even sweeter than having their blood painting my altar; I will let them work for us for a while."
He waved with his pointing finger, smirking.
"Ah, you see," he said, conspiratorial, "I'm still recovering from the assault which temporarily left me weak. Soon I will be at full strength, but in the mean time I planned to play a little game with the world before taking over it."
Without turning around he threw out both his arms, making it unnecessarily clear that he spoke about those who were standing behind him.
"Now wouldn't that be simply charming? Most of these assembled friends have important professions in the eastern lands. All of them are well known throughout the world. To put them back in place, but under my mind control, that would be funny even if I don't need them for long. In just one month I will be completely recovered, and then they and the rest of the world's untrue will face my judgment. You have done well, my followers, truly."
He sighed and rolled his eyes.
"However, I fear that you must leave this sacred ground for a while. Troops of Figaro and Doma have received orders to search out and wait by the entrances to these caves. They are on their way, and my powers are not enough to wipe them out for the time being. Therefore you must leave now, before it's too late."
There was an angered whispering going through the lines of the fanatics, considering the fools who wanted to fight the great master.
"Where should we go then, master Kefka?" the right priest meekly asked.
"The troops are coming by ships from the west, therefore you can safely go by land," Kefka informed his followers, "you should hide in the forest to the south, that will be safe until I am ready to step up again."
"Yes, hiding is disgraceful," he said, "but it won't be in vain, my trustful ones. In one month, when the day before full moon, you will go the edge of the Figaro desert, where I will meet you again. Then the world shall bow for me, and you will have the glory by my side. So you better not be late, understand?"
"Of course, master," the middle priest said, almost breathless, "we will come to offer you our eternal trust!"
"Splendid, splendid," Kefka smirked, "now hurry up and get out of here before the fools of Figaro and Doma have disembarked. I'll take care of our friends here and then bring them to their posts."
"Certainly, master!" a choir of breathless voices chanted.
The high priests and fanatics scrambled to their feet. Kefka didn't move as the three leaders hurried down towards the big opening leading to the labyrinth. He still imitated a statue as the fanatics began to walk in two lines after the high priests, mimicking their way into the darkness since that was required to avoid the awaiting traps. Even though it took quite a few minutes before the last robed back had gotten out of sight, Kefka kept still. But when all the fanatics were gone, he raised his right hand, not turning around yet.
"Wait," he said in a much lower voice than the one he had used in the recent moments.
Nobody said a word. The silence lasted for a minute, then one more. Then Kefka finally moved, as none of his followers had come back to check on what was happening.
He turned around, his gaze running over the line of prisoners. Then he raised his hand again and hit his own face with it.
"God, they bought it!" he groaned, "I can't believe it, they actually bought it!"
His hand massaged his cheeks before falling, to the sound of relieved breaths.
"Thank the heavens for thee, my comrade!" Cyan sighed, smiling broadly.
"I don't know if I'll applaud your theater or strangle you for waiting until the last second, when I get my hands free," Relm grinned.
"Thank you," Gau sincerely said.
Gogo took a deep breath and released it very slowly. Then he reached into his cloak and took out a small dirk.
"Now let's get you off that disgusting thing, my young friend," he said.
He carefully took Gau's hand and began working on the lock.
"You almost got me worried before making your move," the Gogo by the wall said, with a smile in his voice.
The other prisoners (apart from Umaro) blinked and turned their heads in that direction. Right. There's two of him. Almost forgot.
Gogo by the altar even smiled a bit bitterly.
"I'm sorry," he said, "but there was the dramatic thing to convince them and I really needed something to force me into action. There."
He bent up the iron around Gau's left wrist and went around the rock to reach the other one properly.
"This might sound stupid," Mog said, "but have you duplicated again?"
"No, no..." Gogo absentmindedly said, concentrating on the lock, "just give me one moment."
He freed Gau's other wrist and then went to work on the two last chains.
As the wild boy finally was free he held onto Gogo's arm when he stepped down from the altar. He stood for a couple of seconds, then his knees bent and he almost fell to the floor. His face was almost grey as ashes.
"It's just the shock," Gogo calmingly said, "sit here for a while and you'll be fine."
Gau weakly nodded.
Lying chained on a cold altar with a madman standing with a dagger above your chest leaves no one unaffected.
While Gau sat with his back heavily against the altar's side, Gogo went over the floor.
"I hope you enjoyed today's show, folks," he said with a small, ironic smile, "because personally I hated it. But since we're at it, I'd like to thank our sponsor..."
He reached forward and removed the veil from the trapped Gogo's face.
"Our very own; Cid the scientist."
"Grandpa!?" Celes choked from her place on the other side of the statue.
"The good part of being me is that almost anyone can dress up like me," Gogo said, "the bad part is that he might need to know a lot about all of us."
"Sorry to keep you uninformed," Cid grinned to the astounded people, "but we needed to have you look shocked at Kefka's appearance, right?"
A few glances were exchanged among the prisoners.
"I think that I'm speaking for all of us when I say this," Sabin slowly said, "I should really hurt both of you for the half heart-attack."
"Ah," Gogo said and walked down the line of imprisoned friends, "let's save that for later, alright?"
He passed the statue and reached up to place his dirk in Locke's hand.
"Here, you'll be better off with it than me."
"Are you alright?" Locke asked as he began to use the dirk, pretty well considering the circumstances.
Gogo sighed and shook his head.
"I really, really need to sit down..." he said.
As Locke got his right hand free, Gogo sat down by Gau's side. His face had begun to turn even paler than the young man's had been, and his hands were shaking.
Gau patted his friend's shoulder, apparently feeling much better than before.
"Just shock," the young man calmingly said, "sit here and be alright."
Gogo managed to smile a bit as his friend mimicked him.
Locke hissed triumphantly as he could remove his other hand from its bounds. He turned to Celes.
"Look, not to be rude," Edgar called, hearing the married man's movements, "but my fianc‚e is sitting in a cell all alone and scared half to death!"
"Yes, I understand," Locke absentmindedly said, "but even though good ol' Gogo sent the morons to the outside you better not go alone. Just give me a second."
To be honest he couldn't really care about Edgar and his lady for the moment being. It was truly egoistic, but Locke could only think about his own love. Everything else came in second place.
Celes threw her arms around his neck as soon as she was free, Locke dropped the dirk and held her tightly as they kissed each other almost feverishly, whispering promises of never getting into anything more like this again. Those who could see them watched in warm silence as the lovers kept holding on for a moment. Then Locke slowly released Celes and picked up the dirk again, hurrying over to Setzer as Celes ran towards the pile of backpacks.
"I don't want Edgar to rush off alone," the treasure hunter told the gambler, "and I guess you and Mog are the only ones who are unoccupied with other things for the moment being."
Setzer nodded with a small smile. Locke got him free quickly, and the two men went over to the anxious king together. Meanwhile, Celes hurried over the floor with a backpack in her left hand and a bottle of healing potion in the other.
"Here, Gau," she said and threw the bottle into the young man's hands, "give Gogo something to drink."
'Are you still there, father?' Terra thought, wary of his long silence.
She heard a deep breath. Then Maduin spoke to her again.
'Yes. Quite frankly, Gogo shocked me pretty badly...'
'You don't say...'
"Hey, calm down!" Setzer called as Edgar almost pushed Locke off balance after being freed.
The king didn't listen. He ran into one of the tunnels, and the gambler ran after him with a smiled sigh.
Celes put a bottle of healing potion by Cyan's lips while Locke took on Cid.
"This should help off the pain," the blond woman calmingly said, "we'll take care of your arm as soon as it has begun to work, alright?"
"I thank thee..." Cyan muttered and gratefully drank the curing drug.
The man with the dirk hesitantly watched the line of prisoners. Cid was on his way to check on Gogo's state.
"Well..." Locke said, "which one of you members of the newfound family should I free first?"
"Relm!" Shadow and Strago said simultaneously. (Hmm, that's a lot of S...)
Gau was helping Gogo to hold the bottle that Celes had given them. The mimic was swallowing small parts of the liquid, slightly convulsively.
"You really did well," Cid said, calming, "if you hadn't done it we would have been in grave danger, as you assumed."
"To be honest I was on the brink of snapping too, all the time," Gogo muttered.
He leaned back, and Gau lowered the bottle.
"I had been planning what I should say," the mimic said with a smile drained of any happiness, "but most of it just flew away. I improvised half the time."
Cid heavily sat down, chuckling and shaking his head at that bizarre fact.
He looked around as he noted that both his tired friends were looking in the same direction.
Relm stood silent before her father. Locke stood beside Shadow, not to be in the way as he worked on the unveiled assassin's irons. Shadow said nothing.
As he was released Locke had to help him sit down, otherwise the man in black would have fallen. The drug still kept his body in a weakened state. Relm sat down in front of the assassin and Locke hurried on to her grandpa.
Father and daughter silently watched each other. Mog wished that he hadn't been so close, it felt as if he was intruding. But they ignored him, anyhow.
"I'm sorry," Shadow finally said.
Relm's gaze fell to the floor. She couldn't look at him, and she couldn't even explain to herself why that was.
Gau wanted to help her, but felt that he wasn't called for. So he kept still, silently watching his "sister" and her father.
"Are you mad at me?" Shadow asked, his voice making it clear that he wouldn't blame her the slightest.
Relm didn't move at first. Then she slowly shook her head, without looking up.
"No..." she whispered, rather weakly.
Then she suddenly threw herself forward, swung her arms around his neck and pressed herself against his chest. Without saying a word, she just held onto him.
Slowly Shadow raised his weakened arms and placed them around his daughter. As Strago sat down beside him and put his aged hand on Relm's back the two men exchanged a careful glance and then nodded.
"But get a real job, for heaven's sake, Clyde!" Strago whispered from the corner of his lips as Shadow looked down at Relm's hair again.
The man in black chuckled exhaustedly with a nod, and Shadow was no more.
"How are we going to get Umaro out of here?" Celes concernedly pointed out.
"Relm's hot sauce might help him too," Sabin grinned, swallowing the potion the blond female warrior held by his lips, "it'll take him a while to recover, but it should do the trick."
"You're just plain cruel, Sabin," Terra tenderly said, "he's a yeti, you know."
"Aww, it'll only make him stronger..."
Her head snapped up as she heard the voice calling her name.
"Edgar!?" she tried to shout, but her voice was too hoarse to take it.
All that left her lips was a whisper.
She heard the sound of running feet, and then she saw his face in the small opening in the door. A few drops of sweat trailed paths in his dirty face, but it didn't matter. His eyes were glowing with relief as he saw her. He was alive.
Kanai's heart danced away, skipping a few beats of the almost shocked joy of seeing her lover again.
"I'm alright, we got help, everything will be fine," he said, all the things he wanted to tell her falling over themselves.
His eyes went aside for a moment, as he was talking with someone who was with him.
"Can you open the door?" he asked.
"Hey, stress out..." another man's voice chuckled, "and please move aside for a second so that I can see what I'm doing."
Kanai couldn't help chewing on her lower lip as the sound of something small and metallic in a lock could be heard. Then there suddenly was a thump, as if somebody had thrown himself aside, landing on the floor.
"There!" the other man said with a laugh.
The door swung open and Edgar rushed in, caught Kanai in a tight embrace and kissed her fully on the mouth. A longing kiss with the explosion of relief, and the passion he had held back until now. It was so intense that she was completely stunned at first, the heat his lips lit inside of her roaring around her very soul, paralyzing her for a moment.
And when she finally found fair control of her body again, the chains made it impossible for her to wrap her arms around him and pull him even closer than he already was. It was true torture.
"It'll be alright, we're free, my love..." Edgar whispered against her burning lips.
Kanai tried to whisper his name again, but her words just turned into an exhausted sob of relief. Edgar moved back a little and examined her face, all the whirling feelings and things he wanted to tell her twisting in a confused mess inside of his eyes.
"Are you alright, love?" he asked.
"Yes, Edgar," she whispered, tears escaping her eyes as she finally could drop all the horrible tension she had kept within for several days, "thank God you're alright..."
Edgar smiled tenderly and sat down on the cot beside her, holding her as tightly as he dared without breaking something inside of her. When he was beside Kanai instead of in front, at least she could reach up to caress his cheeks with her hands.
"I was so worried about you, love," she mumbled, kissing him back.
"Excuse me," the other man's voice said, rather embarrassed, "I hate to break the moment, but this place isn't suitable for romance. One moment, please."
A hand carefully encircled Kanai's right forearm, and a dirk was placed in the lock of the iron keeping her bound. She looked at the helper, finding an eerily pale man with a few scars on the sides of his face. He was dressed in a long, deeply brown jacket and his hair was almost shining in light grey. But he seemed far too young to have grey hair...
When he looked up with a calming smile Kanai noted that the iris of his eyes were slightly red; she realized that he was albino.
"This is Setzer Gabbiani," Edgar smiled, "Setzer, lady Kanai of Jidoor, the future queen of Figaro. I don't believe you've met."
"No, but it's an honor to finally meet the only woman in this world who can smash our great Casanova king to his knees," Setzer grinned and winked with one eye.
"You're also one of the Warriors, aren't you?" Kanai said with a smile, "I'm glad to meet you, Sir."
"My pleasure. There, one down, one to go..."
Edgar took Kanai's soar wrist between his hands and carefully massaged it to get the feeling back to her hand.
"How did you get out of there?" Kanai wondered, leaning at Edgar.
"Kefka himself, who else?" Setzer chuckled.
Kanai startled and stared at him. Edgar cleared his throat.
"Ah, there's something that none of us are fond to talk about..." he said, a bit sheepishly, "you see we have this mysterious man, Gogo, in the troop... I guess you know that already."
The woman of the three nodded, frowning.
"Well," Edgar said and cleared his throat again, "this might take a while, but he's Kefka's twin brother."
Kanai blinked. Setzer stood up with a sigh and bent the last iron open.
"If you care for my opinion I think that you should tell her all that someplace more cozy, Edgar. Let's check if there's any more prisoners and then get out of here."
"Good idea," Edgar nodded and stood up, helping his love to her feet.
They went down the tunnel and looked into the few cells. No one. Every small, dirty room was empty.
"Well, I guess we were the only guests they expected," Edgar said as they went back towards the big cave.
"Ah, yes..." Setzer absentmindedly said.
He tried not to walk too close and disturb the king and his lady. The way that Kanai and Edgar resolutely held their arms around each other even as they walked was surely showing of very strong care, but for Setzer who was outside of it and therefore easily felt a bit intruding it was plain embarrassing.
As they reached the cavern where their friends dwelled, they found Cyan lying on the floor with Locke and Sabin holding on to his shoulders and left arm. Celes stood ready with bandages and a piece of Gogo's cloak to use as a sling. Strago was just sitting down on his knees by the swordsman's broken arm.
"Wait, you morons, that'll never do!" Relm exclaimed, "you need something to support his arm!"
"Yes, but we don't have anything to..." Celes began, but the young girl left her father and rushed over to the pile of backpacks.
After a few moments of searching she found her own pack, and opened it.
"I always take them with me..." she muttered as she dug around in the sack, "just in case. Ah!"
Triumphantly she brought out three of her brushes, all of them blessed with rather long, fairly thick shafts. She hurriedly gave her tools to Celes and then backed off again, returning to Clyde.
By now everyone was free, and all of the friends were grimly waiting for Strago to pull Cyan's arm into place. When such things are on the roll, it's hard to concentrate on other stuff.
"Ready?" the old man gravely asked.
Cyan nodded, clenching his teeth around another, smaller piece of Gogo's cloak. Indeed, the mimic happily sacrificed his clothing for his friends...
"One, two, three!" Strago hissed, holding Cyan's arm.
He pulled. The swordsman's eyes flew up in pain, but the cloth in his mouth helped him to keep from screaming. Celes hurriedly sat down, and Locke held Relm's brushes against the warrior of Doma's upper arm while the blond woman began to wrap up the damage. Meanwhile, Sabin removed the cloth from Cyan's mouth.
When Celes finally was done and had placed her friend's arm in the sling he could carefully sit up. Sabin was ready with another bottle of healing potion to help off the pain.
"Are you alright?" the muscled, blond man asked as he held the bottle by Cyan's lips.
"Yes, I thank thee..." the swordsman muttered.
Terra touched Sabin's shoulder when there was no more potion left. The prince looked up and turned his head as the woman with green hair with a warm smile pointed.
"Oh, right," Sabin said and stood up with a grin, "hey bro', you almost made me crack up totally when you disappeared!"
Edgar chuckled and squeezed Kanai's shoulders.
"Sorry for that," the king said, "I'll try to avoid getting kidnapped again."
Edgar and Kanai met Sabin and Terra halfway over the floor.
"You know what," the prince said with a twitching smile, "there's something I want to tell you, but maybe you better sit down."
The king raised his eyebrows.
"What have you done now?" he suspiciously asked.
Sabin chuckled and took Kanai's hand.
"Lovely to see you again, my lady," he said and turned his head at Terra with a warm smile, "this is Terra Branford, our group's finest warrior and my fianc‚e."
"Your what?!" pretty much everyone (except the poor drugged yeti, of course) exclaimed.
Terra was rather speechless herself as Sabin with a laugh lifted her from the floor by her waist and then pulled her into a hug.
"Well?" he whispered in her ear, smiling with a grain of mischief.
'Go on, say it!' Maduin warmly laughed.
The half-esper wrapped her arms around Sabin's neck and kissed him with a dancing laughter, trying to be careful and mind his wounds.
"But ask me properly someplace more romantic, okay?" she said, smiling tenderly.
"Good grief..." Edgar muttered.
But then he smiled and shook his head.
"May I suggest that you have the double-wedding after having the army of Figaro arresting my followers?" Gogo said with a small smile.
The waves upon waves of happiness and relief running through the room were apparently even able to wash off some of the emotional exhaust the mimic suffered from.
As Kanai saw him she turned tense from top to bottom, even though she had been warned completely shocked to see a living Kefka.
"Only his twin," Edgar calmingly repeated as he sensed her nervousness, "he's on our side."
Gogo managed to stand up and nodded at the woman by Edgar's side.
"Quite right, my lady," he tiredly said, "me and my brother hadn't the best relationship during those last years of his life."
He rubbed his face with his right hand.
"Are you ready to leave?" he asked the world in general, "I'd like to get out of here."
"Maybe we should just check the other tunnels," Setzer suggested, "to make sure there aren't anyone left that needs help getting out."
"One moment, please..." Relm said, nervously.
Sabin looked in her way. Then he gave a shout.
"Duck, everyone! And cover your ears!"
"Say 'ahh'!" Mog demanded.
"Urrhhh...?" Umaro growled.
Relm swung her red bottle in front of his face. Most of the thick liquid hit the yeti's fur, but a big drop disappeared between the fierce jaws. Relm grabbed Mog's paw and ran for both their lives.
One second passed.
Then the whole cave, probably the entire mountain trembled.
Umaro's giant fists disappeared deep into the floor several times, causing small earthquakes.
It took him a few minutes to calm down, and then he almost collapsed due to all the power he had used in his desperate rage.
"Kupo, you okay now, big fella'?" Mog asked.
"That's a 'yes'," the moogle concluded, "now let's check the tunnels and then blast this place!"
There were three smaller tunnels, apart from the one with the cells and the big one leading to the labyrinth. Celes, Locke and Strago took the one beside the prisons. Sabin, Terra and Mog picked the right one on the other side of the cave, while Gau, Setzer and Relm went into the left.
The few people left in the big cavern patiently awaited.
It took some minutes before the three groups returned, almost simultaneously.
"Only small sleeping chambers," Celes reported.
"The same here," Sabin called as he stepped out in the larger space.
"And they aren't exactly too fond of furniture," Relm grimaced, "let's just get out of here."
Locke and Strago helped Clyde to his feet, and supported his stumbling walk. The drug holding on to his body wouldn't be removed by something even stronger than Tabasco.
All of the people in the cave walked towards the exit. But Gogo suddenly stopped.
"Wait a moment," he said and made everyone turn around, "there's something I have to do."
He walked back to the other side of the altar, grabbed the back of the throne standing there and lifted it, seemingly without much resistance from weight.
He didn't say a word, didn't scream or shout. And that was really creepy.
Pieces of wood flew in all directions as the luxurious chair hit the altar. Gogo threw the remains on the floor and took a deep breath.
"There," he calmly said, "now I feel much better."
Everyone was silent at first. Then Celes slowly began to clap her hands. One by one the others joined in.
Gogo even smiled as he passed the floor, accompanied by the applause.
"Thank you very much," he said and bowed shortly.
With a smile Terra lifted the piece of yarn lying dropped on the floor and began following it back. Her friends walked behind her, Sabin was by her side with his arm around her shoulders.
Since the yarn showed the way and all the traps along that path were already disarmed, it took the group only about one and half an hour to reach the outside.
There wasn't a single member of the group who didn't breath deeply and relieved as they felt the sun and wind on their faces. The sun shone from a clear sky, and even though the winds were a bit chilly on this height it was wondrous.
The Falcon patiently awaited the tired but happy people as they reached the plains of the valley.
"Oh yeah," Cid said and reached into the crazed robes he wore, "here, Setzer."
It was a black, wired cable. Maybe a bit dirty, but otherwise it was in good shape.
"Correction," the scientist said and winked with one eye, "the cables you need in the Falcon's engines can not only be found in Narshe, but also in the machinery of Figaro. And they get pretty worn and are thrown away, but I found one and replaced yours in the airship."
"Why you..." Setzer sighed, but took the cable with a smile.
"I had to win any time possible," Gogo said with a shrug of his shoulders, "a chocobo can't beat the Falcon even if I wasn't going as far as you."
"Hey, how did you do it, Gogo?" Relm asked as they walked through the high grass, "and where in the whole world did you get your clothes?"
"Getting in was easy," the mimic smiled, "I figured the cultist we caught didn't need his holy robe down in the prison, so that costume wasn't hard to get. Then I simply dressed up, went up into the mountains and followed a group of fanatics as they went into their lair. Now there everything almost fell, because I came just in time before they entered the labyrinth."
He snorted and shook his head.
"But the hardest part was to make me look like my brother again," he said with a chuckle.
"You wouldn't believe how hard it was to cut that mane of a hair he had!" Cid sighed, "he hadn't cared much about it for thirteen years, you know."
"Tsk, tsk, tsk..." Relm sighed and shook her head, making everyone chuckle.
"And regarding this," Gogo said and grabbed his right, wide sleeve, "I owe you a curtain, Edgar."
"A curtain?!" the king choked.
"So you mean," Edgar slowly said, "that you fooled I don't know how many madmen that you was their master, almost scared me and all my comrades here half to death and saved the day dressed in something usually hanging before windows of my castle?"
Gogo reached out and picked the feather from his head. On close up, it looked pretty strange...
"And a piece of paper painted red and green."
"I would say you're crazy if I didn't think that it would really hurt you," Sabin grinned.
"Ah," the mimic smiled, "that's alright. I kept telling myself that twice every fifth second through the whole show."
They went onboard the Falcon and Setzer replaced the damaged cable before starting the engine. Then he simply pushed "auto-pilot", going north. The airship got to fly without anyone driving it, since neither Setzer nor anyone else had the nerve to do something that complicated for the moment. Everyone was completely caught up in the task of silently staring at nothing, maybe holding on to someone dear and cherish true relief.
But after half an hour the albino man managed to pull himself together and went up to change the course slightly, continuing north northwest towards Figaro castle. Taking that route seemed safer, since Setzer didn't feel like allowing the sight of his ship awaken doubts in the many cultists' dark hearts.
One month later, the day after full moon.
Gogo looked up from the book he was reading when there was a knock on the door.
"Come in," he said.
Cyan showed up in the door, and behind him was Setzer.
"Well?" the mimic asked and stood up, "did it work?"
The gambler and the swordsman nodded.
"I came straight from Figaro," Setzer reported, "the cult went right into your trap."
He pursed his mouth, and Gogo understood.
"How many killed themselves?" the mimic tiredly asked.
"Many," Setzer grimly said, "but a lot got caught too. Edgar hopes that at least a few will regain their sanity if they just get out of the large group, so he's been placing them alone in every cell available in the castle. Doma and South Figaro will also take some. At least they'll never get a chance to bother us again."
"I do hope so," Gogo said with a bitter smile, "because even if they could fall for it again I fear that I'll turn mad too if I ever put up that show again."
He shrugged his shoulders.
"So, any brighter news?" he asked.
Both the two other men's grave faces cracked up with broad smiles.
"Indeed," Cyan said, and Setzer sent a small card dashing through the air into the elbow rest of Gogo's armchair.
The mimic took the card and looked at it.
"My, my, my..." he mumbled, smiling, "so there really will be a double wedding..."
He stood up.
"Then let's go, my friends. Can't have those twins and their brides waiting for their guests, now can we?"
"Personally I believe they don't give a straw about if we show up or not," Setzer grinned as they walked through the corridor to find Cid, "they're about to go totally crazy for each other. They'll get married even if none of us make it in time."
"Then we better hurry," Cyan smiled, "I would never get over the shame of not being present at Sir Sabin and king Edgar's weddings..."
"Go figure..." Gogo chuckled, "a pity I don't have any more proper clothes."
"We have curtains in this castle too," the swordsman of the three pointed out with a rare laugh.
"Don't push me, my friend."
Half an hour later the Falcon rose to the skies above Doma, and began soaring southwards.
The sun shone through the few clouds on the sky and reflected in the propellers of the airship. It also shone on the silent, empty tower in the east and on the abandoned plains and bare plateaus where the madmen had been walking not to long ago. The only creatures now dwelling around there were birds, building their nests in the rooms of the tower and close to the caves leading into the labyrinth. But no creature was foolish enough to enter the darkness, by instincts knowing that it wasn't safe.
The worshippers were gone, and in the future only the dark tower rising in the valley would remind the people of the worlds of the evil that once had been dwelling above them.
In a future of peace.