Continuing on with Final Fantasy: Returning Hope!
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Nobody bothered to ask Sabin how he seemed to know exactly where the Returners’ hideout was located; the wearied travelers were simply too grateful to have him as a guide. When they found themselves at the secret cave entrance that night, Edgar and Locke readily admitted that it would have been a two-day hike taking the path they knew.
A young guard, hiding in the shadows behind a large rock, popped up in surprise as the group approached. “King Edgar!” he exclaimed in shock. “What are you – I mean, please come this way!” The eager boy, whom Terra guessed was no older than fifteen or sixteen, ushered them happily down a short tunnel and through a thick wooden door.
“Ah,” Locke sighed, stretching. “Good to be ‘home’!”
Terra had to admit to herself that she was a little impressed. You could hardly tell you were inside a mountain. The tunnel opened up into a fairly large cavern that was furnished with a very long wooden table and many chairs. A makeshift bar was set up in one corner and an older couple were nestled there, doling out mugs of some sort of steaming, delicious-smelling stew. A number of other tunnels were partitioned off with more doorways; one of them was hanging open and Terra spied a group of small beds. The walls were lined with boxes of supplies and dozens of posters with revolutionary sayings, motto’s, and ideals emblazoned across them.
“This way, Sir’s and Madam,” said the young guard again, hurriedly. “This way, please!” He led them past the stew bar, past the long table, and through a door in the very back of the cavern. It was a study of sorts that housed several large shelves, packed with books.
An older man with long, wild white hair, swathed in a pale yellow cloak, turned from the shelf where he stood. He’d been flipping through a very large, very ancient-looking volume.
“Ah!” he said, surprised at the sudden arrival of so many guests. “King Edgar! This is a surprise!”
The young guard ducked away, presumably to return to his post, and Edgar stepped forward. “Banon, there is much to discuss,” he announced. He opened his arms wide in greeting as he spoke.
“Yes, yes…” Banon agreed. He placed his book on a shelf and moved to meet them. “There must have been some interesting events for you to land here with Locke and…” His eyes scrutinized Sabin for a moment. “Your brother?”
Sabin nodded respectfully and no further questions were asked. Instead Banon’s gaze wandered to Terra.
“And who is this lovely young lady?” he asked, though by the way he was looking at his hair it was clear that he already had some idea.
“Terra Branford,” Edgar answered for her.
“Hmmm…” Banon mumbled. “Yes…the girl who can talk to espers?”
Terra opened her mouth, ready to defend herself if need be, and explain that as far as she could recall there had been nothing resembling a conversation with the creature in the Narshe cave.
Edgar interrupted her. “It seems that the Empire had complete control over her.”
“Yes, yes…” Banon replied, his eyes boring into Terra’s. “Carrier pigeons brought word that she wiped out fifty of the Empire’s best soldiers in mere moments.”
The blood flew to Terra’s face, and then drained just as quickly. “That’s a lie!” she screamed in horror. She turned to run from the room, desperate to escape Banon’s steady gaze, but Locke and Sabin caught her on either side.
“Terra,” Locke whispered to her as she struggled against them. “It’s okay…”
“Banon!” Edgar cried, a hint of disgust in his voice. “She doesn’t remember anything! And even if she did, she wasn’t in control of herself! She’s a victim in all this!”
But Banon wasn’t listening to Edgar; he was still staring steadfastly at Terra. “Stay where you are!” he demanded, his voice suddenly loud and firm.
The authority in his voice caused Terra to freeze and slowly turn around, her eyes wide. She was surprised to find that the look on Banon’s face had changed…he looked desperate, and very, very old.
“Perhaps you may have heard this story,” he spoke quietly while taking a few steps forward. “Once, a long time ago when people were pure and innocent, there was a box they were told never to open. But one person’s curiosity was too powerful and one day he stole away and opened the box to see what was inside. In doing so, he unleashed all the evils of the world…envy…greed…pride…violence…control… All that was left in the box was a single tiny ray of light…hope.” As the word left his lips, a like emotion flickered in his eyes. “You may not realize it yet, but we now confront those evils within the Empire, and you may be that last ray of light…our only hope.”
Shocked and confused at the bluntness of his statement, Terra stumbled backwards into Locke. He caught her around the shoulders and gave them a gentle, reassuring squeeze.
“Banon!” Edgar admonished, but his voice was small. It was clear that his opinion on the subject was similar to the old man’s, even if he wasn’t quite so straightforward about it.
This time Banon reacted to Edgar’s voice, and for the first time since he’d noticed Terra, his eyes moved away from her. “Leave me now,” he all but whispered. “I am…very tired.”
Locke gave Terra’s shoulders another comforting squeeze and she let out a breath she hadn’t realized she was holding.