Fiction Fragment Fridays: Returning Hope (Chapter 8 – Part 3)

Continuing on with Final Fantasy: Returning Hope!

Since this chapter is particularly long, I’m going to wait until I’ve posted each part of it on this blog before posting the complete chapter on FanFiction.net.

Reminder: If you’re looking for the previously posted parts of the story, go to the “Categories” drop-down banner on the left banner of the site and choose “Final Fantasy: Returning Hope”.

Commander - DeadCyan - Action
*Spites via http://www.videogamesprites.net

Inside the main wall of Doma Castle two sentries were crouched, peering down at the chaos below them.

“It’s hopeless!” said the first. “We can’t keep them out!”

“So it’s finally happening,” moaned the other.

“Lose not ye faith,” came a third voice from behind them. “The battle is not yet lost.”

The sentries’ hearts leapt as they looked up with reverence at the man behind them.

Cyan Garamonde, retainer to the Doman throne, was the man all Doman men aspired to be. He was the definition of honor, strength, and bravery. He wore the dark navy uniform that was traditional to his position with great pride. He was like a father to the younger members of the Doman military, and treated them all with as much care and concern as he did for his own young son. Even his pure black ponytail and mustache – untainted by the silver of middle-age – exuded his regalia, kindness, and confidence.

“They’re reaching the walls, Sir!” cried one of the sentries.

“We don’t have enough men!” cried the second.

Cyan thought calmly for a moment, gently caressing the hilt of his sword. It was a samurai-style blade that he treasured as a symbol of his place at the right hand of the king. “Imperial soldiers are overconfident, yet cowardly,” he announced. “If we fell their commander, they will surely flee.”

The sentries’ eyes lit up. “Sir Cyan! Let their commander have it, Sir!”

With a rugged smile of assured victory, Cyan stepped up onto the castle wall and projected his voice so that the Imperials attempting to scale the wall looked up in alarm. “I am Cyan, retainer to the king of Doma! Prepare yourselves, for I am your worst nightmare!”

To the surprise and amazement of the men below, Cyan leapt forth from the wall, sword drawn, a battle cry on his lips. His booted feet connected with the shoulders of a shocked Imperial trooper who fell to the ground with a cry of pain while Cyan propelled his body and landed softly in the center of the fray.

There were Imperial and Doman soldiers on all sides, swinging swords with reckless abandon, but the Imperial Commander was not difficult to pick out of the crowd. He was wearing a gray and black uniform, as opposed to the brown of the troops, and he was shouting commands from the rear of the battle, as close to safety as possible.

Cyan wove through the battle like a dancer on stage. He ducked and dove among the warring parties, and when an opportunity arose he used well-aimed jabs to take down enemy soldiers. When he was within thirty feet of his target, the commander noticed him ghosting ever closer.

“Do you come for me, Doman scum?” the commander bellowed. He brandished his sword with a violent wave.

Cyan slid through to his target as he replied, “It is not you that I come for, Imperial scum, but your blood!”

To any other Imperial soldier the commander may have looked confident and brave, but Cyan could see through the facade. This man was terrified. He’d never stood against an army that could challenge him. He’d likely spent his career to this point burning townships and recruiting children.

“I give you a single chance to take your regime and flee,” Cyan offered, though he knew his generosity would not be accepted.

The commander’s fear clouded with anger and cockiness. With a cry of rage he flew toward his tormentor.

Swords met with a clang of steel, echoing across the battle field like screaming birds of war. Cyan’s face was serious as he thrust and parried, while the commander’s was contorted with fury. Cyan’s steps were fluid and graceful, while the commander’s were heavy and clumsy. It was not long before a swift strike of Cyan’s finely-honed sword flung the commander’s blunt blade from his hands.

Though the fear returned in full force, the commander stood tall and put on a brave face. “You’re all going to die, you know,” he hissed.

With a single horizontal thrust, the samurai sword slid through the commander’s chest like it was butter. “Not on my watch, Imperial dog.”

Cyan turned to the battle, his sword stained red, as the commander’s body fell to the ground.

A nearby private looked at the scene and his face drained of all color. “The Commander is defeated!” he cried in alarm. “The Commander is defeated!”

Chaos reigned as the Imperials realized what had happened and began to flee like pups with their tails between their legs. The Doman soldiers cheered and gave chase for a few minutes until Cyan raised his sword to the sky and called to them.

“Brothers! Return now to thy inner wall! Walled up inside, we shall wait out our enemy!”

———

While the battle at Doma was raging, Sabin, Shadow, and Interceptor made their way through the Imperial camp. Sabin had made the decision – since the attack was already taking place – that he would take his time and cause as much damage as he could on the way through. Presently, he and Shadow had dumped several crates of food into the river that ran through the base, soaked the gunpowder for the Magitek missiles, and snapped the poles on several tents.

They were sneaking up on a large fellow in a dark green and white uniform at a command outpost when the Doman attack force began to solemnly mill back onto the base. A single soldier trudged up to the command outpost, wringing his hands as though expecting to be scolded.

“General Leo, Sir?” he spoke after clearing his throat. “The citizens of Doma seem to be playing a waiting game, Sir…”

From where he was hidden behind a tent, Sabin peaked out in interest. He had heard of General Leo before and was keen to get a better look at him. The man they called the ‘Honorable Imperial’ was a tall, muscular man who held himself like a king. His blond hair was cropped short to his head, his mustache well groomed, and his eyes showed a man who was, if possible, the exact polar opposite of Kefka.

“So that’s their strategy,” he responded, thoughtful.

The soldier suddenly straightened his stance, brought his boots together, and set his face. “General, Sir!” he said with as much conviction as a man could have. “We’ll go back, Sir! We’re ready to attack the castle again! Just give the order!”

General Leo lifted a hand to beg silence. “Patience, soldier,” he commanded. “The Domans now have advanced knowledge of our intentions. If we attack now, we’ll be sacrificing too many lives needlessly.”

The poor soldier seemed determined to prove himself after the recent failure. “But General,” he insisted, “I’m ready to lay my life down at any time for the Empire!”

Leo went silent for a moment before responding in a voice so quiet that Sabin could barely make out the words. “You’re from Miranda, right?”

The soldier stumbled a little, taken aback by the question. “Y-yes, Sir…why?”

Leo walked slowly around the soldier as he spoke. “And your family lives there as well? Fall in battle and I’ll have to deliver the bad news.” He stopped moving and gave the soldier a pained look. “What shall I say to them?”

The soldier opened his mouth to speak, but closed it again and lowered his head, unable to come up with the words.

“You have a life to go back to someday,” Leo said gently. “Don’t throw it all away for nothing. Emperor Gestahl wouldn’t want that.”

“Y-yes, Sir…” the soldier stuttered.

“General Leo!” came a winded voice. “General Leo!” A second soldier came sprinting toward them, waving a sheet of paper. Gasping and sputtering, he stopped in front of the General, practically keeled over, and thrust the paper forward.

Leo grabbed the paper and read through quickly, his face dropping as his eyes moved down the page. “It’s a carrier pigeon from Emperor Gestahl…he summons me. I must return immediately.”

The soldier’s faces dropped unhappily, but they responded immediately: “We understand, Sir.”

Leo sighed and nodded. “Right. I’ll leave Doma in your hands.”

Both soldiers saluted with genuine respect. “Yes, Sir!”

Leo gave them a knowing look, like a father examining a pair of teenagers who had been known to cause trouble. “Okay, just…don’t jump the gun, please?”

“Sir! Leave it to us, Sir!”

Leo and the two soldiers walked away together. Sabin turned and whispered to Shadow – a habit he’d picked up even though he rarely received a response. “So that’s General Leo, hmm? He could almost be my friend, if he weren’t my enemy.”

Confident in their ability to move on without being spotted, the pair and their black hound quickly and quietly hopped from tent to tent until they found themselves wedged between a stack of crates and the Doman river. While they hovered at this hiding spot, Sabin thought back to what he’d learned during his history lessons back at Figaro. From what he could recall, the Domans had originally settled on this land because of the river, which was many miles long and flowed from a large, fresh water source. They had built their castle directly on top of the river, constructing many separate waterways so that the fresh, clean liquid passed all throughout the structure before flowing through to the other side. It was, in truth, the lifeblood of their entire settlement.

Sabin was about to move from the crates when Interceptor let out a low grumble. He had just enough time to duck back down before Kefka came into view. He was chuckling maniacally to himself, which made the hairs on Sabin’s neck lift. He stopped next to the river and laughed out loud.

“Now that Leo is gone…” he squeaked gleefully. He burst into laughter again before he could finish the sentence.

Sabin’s eyes narrowed.

“Kefka!” Leo’s strong voice rang out as he strode into view. “The Emperor has ordered me to return home. I don’t want any trouble here while I’m gone!”

Kefka’s sneer suggested that he would have liked nothing more than to jump at Leo and snap his neck in one movement. “You loser!” he teased childishly. “I’ll take care of this whole situation in no time!”

“Don’t be pompous!” Leo shouted angrily. “And don’t forget that they are people, just like you and me!”

Kefka made a sound that seemed suspiciously like a raspberry. “We need not spare those lands that gave rise to the Returners!”

Leo scoffed in disgust, but evidently decided that the argument wasn’t going anywhere. With a last glare of disdain for Kefka, he turned on his heels and stomped off.

Kefka’s insane eyes watched him go. He uttered a hateful, “You just go off and pretend to be a good boy…”

Within moments, a red-in-the-face lieutenant came jogging up to Kefka, looking panicked. “K-Kefka, Sir!” he bravely spat out. “Some of the soldiers are claiming that you’ve dumped poison into the river!”

“Of course I have!” Kefka screeched back.

Sabin felt the blood drain from his face. A similar reaction was visible on the face of the lieutenant. Even Shadow tensed visibly from this information.

“B-but,” the lieutenant stuttered, “General Leo said-”

Kefka’s face contorted with rage. “He is no longer here! I’m in charge now!”

“But, Sir!” the lieutenant was nearly crying. “Some of our people are prisoners inside the castle! If you poison the water-”

“I have poisoned the water!” Kefka shrieked. “Take ‘em all out!”

“That’s inhuman!” Sabin burst out. He stepped from his hiding place, visibly shaking with anger.

“Uhn?” Kefka muttered, surprised and seemingly confused. “Silence!” He glared at Sabin and Shadow as though they were rats that had wandered into his tent.

“Who the hell are you?” demanded the lieutenant.

“How can you do something like this?!” Sabin exclaimed.

Kefka yawned, waved a hand in boredom, and turned to walk away.

Sabin’s face flushed crimson. “Kefka!” he shouted. “Wait!”

Again, a round of laughter that pierced the ears of anyone within range emitted from Kefka’s hideous face. “Wait, he says!” he snorted. “Do I look like a waiter?!”

“Soldiers!” the lieutenant screamed. “I need soldiers to me, immediately!”

The ground vibrated beneath Sabin’s feet as the closest soldiers came running toward the argument. Sabin readied himself for a fight. Sabin and Interceptor joined after only a moment of hesitation. As they readied themselves to battle their way out of the Imperial base, Kefka ran off, screaming joyfully..

“Hee hee! Nothing beats the music of hundreds of voices screaming in unison!”

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