Fiction Fragment Fridays: Returning Hope (Chapter 8 – Part 4)

Continuing on with Final Fantasy: Returning Hope!

Now that I’ve caught up to what I had already had written and posted on FanFiction.net, I’ll be posting these new bits on both sites. If you’ve never been to FanFiction.net, I urge you to take a look. There can be a lot to wade through, but I’ve been known to find some gems in there.

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”.

cyan
*Spites via http://www.videogamesprites.net

Late into the evening, Cyan stood alongside a Doman sentry, peering toward the Imperial base in the distance.

“The base seems to be bustling with energy, Sir,” observed the sentry. “Something must be up.”

Cyan nodded solemnly, eyes narrowed. “If there is, I’m sure we’ll find out about it soon.”

A handmaiden came quietly up the stairwell with a tray of bread, meat, and water. “Apologies for the lateness of your meal, gentlemen,” she said while struggling not to yawn. “A few of the girls are tending to the wounded, and the rest of us have had to serve the entire castle ourselves.”

Cyan smiled charmingly and gave a small bow before taking the tray. “Your service is greatly appreciated, m’lady.”

The middle-aged woman flushed and gave him a ‘get out’ gesture before skipping back down the stairs.

Cyan turned and placed the tray on the stone wall in front of them. The sentry made to grab a piece of meat, but stopped himself when he noticed that Cyan made no move to eat. His stomach grumbled, but he stood stoically beside Cyan while they continued to stare out into the night.

Cyan examined the Imperial base with his jaw clenched. He wondered what all the sudden commotion was about. Whatever it was, he was confident that it wouldn’t be good for Doma. There was something else that was bothering him as well, but he couldn’t quite put his finger on it. Something about the scene in front of him was unsettling and wrong, somehow.

Eventually the sentry’s constitution broke and he snatched a piece of meat, shoving it in his mouth hungrily. Cyan didn’t seem to notice or care, so he also grabbed a piece of bread and a glass of water. He shoved a bite of the bread down his throat, but before he could bring the water to his lips, Cyan’s hand reached out and grasped his arm. His grip was painfully tight.

Cyan had just realized what was bothering him. Approximately a mile upstream from the castle, a doe and a fawn lay dead, collapsed in the shallows of the river.

Cyan snatched the water out of the sentry’s hand and held it up to the moon. With the help of the soft light he could make out a very, very faint pinkish tone that would have otherwise gone unnoticed.

“This is…poison!” Cyan choked.

The sentry dropped the rest of his bread in shock. He ran to the inner edge of the wall and let out a strangled cry when he saw that the two guards at the gate below them were sprawled face-first on the ground, their dinner scattered around their bodies. “What low-down, contemptible-!” The sentry struggled for strong enough words.

“Our liege!” Cyan cried, panic rising in his throat. He took off at a sprint before the sentry could reply. He took the stairs two and three at a time and ran, groaning in horror, past the bodies of soldiers that now littered the grounds.

Cyan crashed into the grand hall with a bang that echoed through the halls. The king was on his hands and knees in front of his throne, gasping for breath. The crown had fallen from his head and topped down the three red-carpeted steps in front of him.

Cyan sprinted to his liege and skidded to a halt in front of him, helping him into a sitting position. “Your Excellency!” he exclaimed. “Fear not!”

The king looked up with eyes that could no longer see. “Who’s there?” he croaked. The harsh tone of his voice explained why Cyan had heard no screams or cries of pain.

“It’s Cyan, Excellency…”

“Indeed,” the king replied. He smiled a smile that was wracked with suffering. “My sight is…going fast…can’t see a thing…”

Cyan looked down at his liege, panicked, unsure of what to do about this impossible situation he had found himself in. “Excellency! You must hang on!”

The king coughed a loud, sputtering cough. There was something akin to a laugh hidden amongst the hacking and gurgling. “Cyan,” he soothed, a thin line of blood dripping from his mouth, “You have defended this realm since my father’s days…” He took another fit of coughing that sprayed droplets of blood onto Cyan’s shirt. “Thank you…but it’s over…our kingdom is through…”

“Not yet, highness!” Cyan exclaimed with pain.

“I…fear for your family…” Another spray of blood, this time much thicker. “Uh…chest on f-fire…”

“Save your strength!” Cyan pleaded. “Don’t talk!”

“Go!” demanded the king with a final violent cough that emptied his lungs of a wave of red fluid. “Run to your family!”

“Highness!” Cyan cried. “Highness!!” He shook the body violently and with denial, but the king’s eyes had closed for the last time.

“Sir Cyan…”

The hand on his shoulder made Cyan cringe. He hadn’t heard the sentry come in behind him.

“There have to be some survivors in the castle,” Cyan whispered.

“Shall we split up, Sir?” asked the sentry.

Somewhere in the back of his mind, Cyan knew that the sentry wanted to give him the privacy to check on his family alone, and he appreciated it.

Cyan carefully laid his king out in front of the Doman throne and placed the crown – a piece of gold and silver that had belonged to the royal family for centuries – on the man’s chest before slowly turning and walking out of the grand hall.

When he thought about it later, Cyan would think that he’d moved so slowly because he was in denial. He didn’t need to rush, because his family was fine. He hadn’t run to them when he’d first discovered the poison, because he was sure there was no way they’d drunk it.

He was in the room he shared with his wife, staring at a pile of blond hair and pink fabric on the floor, before the reality of the situation finally came crashing down on him.

“Elayne…” he whispered. And then screamed. “Elayne!”

He dropped to his knees in front of her and pulled his wife into his lap. He flipped her over so that he could see her pale, lifeless face. Her once bright blue eyes were staring up at him, dull and unseeing. A few drips of blood fell from her lips.

“This…” Cyan whispered, brushing a lock of hair out of her face, “This…can’t be happening…” A single tear fell from his eye. It was soon joined by another, and another. “This can’t be happening! Elayne! This can’t be happening! Elayne!”

Cyan hugged his dead wife close to his body, soaking her hair with his tears, his breaths coming in gasps of disbelief and sorrow.

A sudden realization hit him then, like a hundred punches to the stomach. His head shot up, tears falling from his face as he scanned the room frantically.

“Owain?!” he called, begged, pleaded. “Son?!”

His eyes handed on a tousled pile of blankets at the top of the bed. Slowly, feeling as though his mind and body were moving through quicksand, Cyan laid his wife down, stood up, and trudged, wide-eyed, over to the bed.

The sheets and pillow were drenched with the blood from his seven-year-old son’s lungs.

“Not you too…” Cyan could hardly hear his own voice over the ringing in his ears. “Not you too! Son…you can’t both leave me!” He reached for his son’s shoulder and pulled him over to see his face. Tears of blood had run from the boy’s brown eyes. Cyan stepped back in alarm. “D-dear me…” he managed to mutter before turning and dry-heaving between sobs of despair.

It was only when he heard a gasp and a small wail that Cyan finally looked up. The sentry was trying, but failing, to avert his eyes. The wail had come from a young woman who was huddled close behind him, cradling a tiny baby tight to her chest.

It was looking at this young woman with her baby, and the blunt realization that he would never see his wife and child again, that evoked a sudden and powerful rage in Cyan.

“Impossible!” he screamed as he rose. “Idiotic! We cannot forgive this!” With a range of conflicting emotions flashing in his eyes, Cyan unsheathed his sword. “The Empire must pay!”

The baby began to wail and the sentry opened his mouth to speak, but Cyan plowed past them and took off at a run fueled by hate and grief before anyone could say a word.

—–

Shadow held Interceptor’s muzzle shut to keep him from growling out loud. Sabin struggled to squeeze further into the tiny crevice between the crates where they’d hidden. Imperial soldiers ran in all directions, searching for them. The trio had taken out as many as they could, but eventually they were forced to concede that there were simply too many. Shadow had employed the use of several smoke bombs to aid in their escape from immediate danger, but they hadn’t been able to make it far and now found themselves trapped and surrounded, unable to escape the camp.

We need a distraction… thought Sabin, frustrated.

No sooner had the thought crossed his mind than a different set of shouts began to fill the air around them.

“Another one, through the south gate!”

“Get ‘em!”

“I am Cyan, retainer to the murdered king of Doma, father of a murdered family! Taste my steal, evil, murderous scum!”

It was this last scream that piqued Sabin’s interest. He twisted in his hiding spot to look at Shadow. “We’ve got to help him!” he hissed.

Shadow nodded once and replied simply, “As you wish.”

The nearby soldiers had all run toward the newcomer, so Sabin risked squeezing out of his spot to peak around the wall of crates.

The being tearing through the Imperial soldiers was clearly a broken man. His eyes were wild with pain and anger. His clothes, sword, and the ground around him were quickly becoming soaked in blood as he cut down every man who came within ten feet of him. As his sword danced, he left a bloody pile of bodies in his wake. But more and more soldiers were racing toward him and he wouldn’t last long by himself.

Their advantage was that the soldiers were focused on this man who named himself Cyan. Sabin and Shadow had been all but forgotten.

At Sabin’s call, Shadow released a volley of throwing knives which took down two soldiers via throat wounds, and injured three more. Sabin and Interceptor charged in side-by-side, the former taking out two by breaking their arms from behind, the latter bringing down a third with a vicious chomp to the shoulder.

In the chaos, it wasn’t long before Sabin was able to find his way to Cyan’s side. “May I give you a hand?” he asked cheerfully.

Cyan gritted his teeth and nodded once as he stabbed another soldier through the stomach. “Thank you, whoever you are.”

Sabin pummeled the oncoming soldiers and Cyan cut them down. Interceptor played a gruesome game of fetch and Shadow slunk through the crowd, picking them off one by one. As the Imperial bodies began to pile up, the rest of the soldiers turned tail and ran to find more help.

“Thank you for your assistance, Sir,” Cyan offered. “Any enemy of the Empire is a friend of mine. I am Cyan, retainer to Doma.”

“I am Sabin, of Figaro,” Sabin replied with a small bow. “Now, let’s scram!”

Cyan’s eyes flashed with anger. “But what of my home, my family, my friends?! I must have vengeance!”

Sabin could only guess what this man had gone through due to Kefka’s cruelty, so he spoke gently. “Look,” he said, “If we stick around any longer, those soldiers are going to come back with the rest of the regiment.” He placed a hand on Cyan’s shoulder. “You can’t have your vengeance if you’re dead. Come with me, join the Returners, and you can make a real difference.”

Cyan’s face went through a multitude of emotions, but when he heard the yell of soldiers returning he made a quick decision. He nodded.

Sabin returned the nod with a smile. “Great,” he said. “I’ve got an idea. Come on over here.” He grabbed Cyan’s hand and dragged him off to a large tent.

Right where he’d expected them to be, totally forgotten by the Imperials in all the confusion, were two shiny, newly gassed Magitek Armors.

Cyan’s eyes went enormous. “Sir Sabin!” he cried. “What in the world are these?!”

“I’ll explain later,” Sabin insisted. He was already climbing the ladder to the armor on the left. “Relax and just climb in!”

“Art thou sure it is safe?” Cyan asked nervously, gazing up from the bottom of his own ladder.

“Of course it is!” Sabin lied. He settled down into the driver’s seat and took a quick look around at the control panel. “Hurry up and hop in!”

As anxious as a cat treading water, Cyan climbed up and into his own armor. He looked down at the controls and gulped. “Thou art sure?”

Sabin rolled his eyes and kicked the engine into gear. “Yes, Cyan, seriously!”

The tent door swished open and Shadow and Interceptor came running in. “They’re coming,” Shadow announced.

“Sir Sabin!” Cyan cried. “How didst thou engage the engine?”

Sabin tested the limb control levers while he replied. “Kick the big lever to the far left of your feet!”

Cyan stuck his head down toward his feet as though he didn’t believe the pedal was really there. The engine roared to life a moment later, and both the armor’s arms flew up in the air as Cyan jumped in surprise and hit the levers with the back of his head.

“Sir Sabin!” came the cry again. “How might these abominations be manipulated?”

Sabin groaned, his patience wearing thin. What was this guy about?! “Thou art such a pain in the… Oh confound it all!” he exclaimed. “I’m starting to talk like you!” He shook his head, took a breath, and gave a stern look at the other man. “Now listen. Just use those levers located by your hand. It’s not difficult.”

“Here they come,” Shadow announced, peaking outside.

Sabin manipulated his armor as close to the ground as he could. “Okay, Shadow,” he said. “You and Interceptor hop up on the shoulders.”

The crash that happened a moment later almost knocked Interceptor right off his precarious perch. Sabin’s eyes flashed to Cyan and he groaned miserably. Splintered crates and bits of ladder had flown in every direction as the Magitek Armor stomped clumsily forward.

“Hey!” exclaimed a soldier. “What the hell are you doing?!”

Cyan’s face flushed bright red. “C-can’t stop now!” he cried as his armor stomped along.

Sabin gaped in horror. Shadow actually let out a soft chuckle as the soldier ran screaming from the rogue Magitek Armor.

“Well,” Sabin finally sighed, “Let’s just bust through then.”

Interceptor howled in joy as they followed Cyan’s path of destruction. Supplies were scattered and smashed by his inability to maneuver a straight line. Soldiers ran off in surprise and fear as he accidentally activated the flamethrower in the left hand and lit up four tents. Sabin cried with laughter when two soldiers in their own armors confronted them and Cyan, in his clumsy panic, managed to empty his entire missile volley into them.

“Cyan, you goon!” Sabin shouted in hysterics. “Keep your fingers away from the button panel and follow me!”

Amid shouts of every type from the remaining Imperial troops, Sabin stomped straight through anything in his path. Cyan stayed uncomfortably close behind as they burst right through the rear gate of the camp. Shadow and Interceptor hopped down from their ride and Cyan climbed haphazardly down from his armor, shaking like a leaf.

“Can’t believe we made it this far,” Sabin muttered to himself. To the others he asked, “Hey, how do we get to Narshe from here?”

“Only one route,” responded Cyan. “First, through the forest to the South.” He pointed to the black mass of trees in the distance, barely visible in the moonlight. Shadow nodded in agreement.

“Alright, it’s decided then.”

Before leaving the Magitek Armor behind, Sabin rotated it 180 degrees so that it was pointing back at the Imperial base. In one quick movement he palmed the entire control panel before leaping to safety over the back of the machine. A barrage of weapons exploded forth from the arms, creating a wall that the Imperials wouldn’t dare approach any time soon.

After dusting himself off, Sabin stood up with a grin on his face and raised his arms to his cohorts. “Let’s get going!”

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