Trucking along, we have part 4 of Returning Hope, Chapter 1. Because of the way the points-of-view are divided this is technically parts 4, 5, and 6, but I didn’t think it necessary to divide the remainder of the chapter into so many separate smaller parts. This will therefore be the last part of Chapter 1.
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”.
*Spites via http://www.videogamesprites.net*
An evil chuckle. A foreboding sound that chilled her through to the bone. A voice that made her cringe internally.
“Uwee hee hee…my sweet little magic user…” he whispered, stroking her cheek with an icy cold finger. “With this slave crown I’ll practically own you.”
She felt the object being placed on her head and struggled, but the restraints held and she could scarcely move. And just like that she found that all control of her own mind and body was forfeit. She could see, and she could comprehend, but she could not control.
He took her to a field. Dozens of Magitek soldiers stood at command in their giant armors. At his command, she climbed into the armor he had readied for her and prepared for battle. Her hands and feet moved of their own accord, acquiescing to his every demand. She tried with all her might to close her eyes against the death before her, but even her eyelids would not accept this simple request.
“Yes!” he cried, his voice betraying his enjoyment of the slaughter, ” Kill them all! Burn them all up! Show me your power!”
Now they were at the head of a great fortress. Others stood with them, though she could not turn her head to examine them. She knew there was a beautiful woman with long, pale hair, and a tall man with a stout body. Before them was a strange old man in glamorous garb. This one spoke to the mass of soldiers who stood below, hanging on his every word.
“We stand on the brink of a major breakthrough!” he told them, “In the days to come, we will witness the total revival of Magic!” The soldiers cheered madly. “It is our destiny, mine and yours, to take this mystical force and use it to claim what is rightfully ours! With our new-found abilities, nothing can stand in our way!”
“Hurrah!” the soldiers cried, “Long live Emperor Gestahl! Long live Emperor Gestahl!”
Her heart ached. It was all wrong. All terribly, terribly wrong, and yet she could do nothing to change it. No one noticed amidst the excitement when a few solemn tears fell from her eyes.
The cheering of the soldiers in her nightmare gave way to a different set of noises. At first, Terra couldn’t tell if the clanging echoes were real or just in her head, which was pounding ceaselessly. Barely conscious, she opened her eyes part-way and glimpsed a mysterious sight. There was a young man in tattered pants and a tight blue shirt. His leather-booted feet were in a wide stance and a blue bandanna held back his scruffy brown hair. From her vantage point on the floor, Terra could not see his face, but he was holding a dagger that seemed to be dripping blood. Surrounding him on all sides were short, strange little creatures that she could not identify. They appeared to be small white bears, however from their backs sprouted tiny pink wings. Could she be seeing things?
“Back with you!” the young man yelled.
A voice came from beyond the crowd of little white creatures. “We want the girl, thief!”
The young man’s posture stiffened. “That’s treasure hunter, you bastard!
“Come on then you little punk!” another voice demanded.
Terra wondered if she was still dreaming, and before she could call out to the young man she found herself retreating back into a dead faint.
It may have been only a moment later, or it may have been hours; she didn’t know for sure. However, when she awoke for the third time that night she found yet another change of scenery. As she slowly regained consciousness, she found herself gazing into the bright blue eyes of the young man from earlier. At first she began to panic, but she found that looking into those friendly eyes made her feel safe and comforted.
“Back with us now?” he asked. His voice was playful and kind.
“Who…who are you?” Terra asked.
He raised her neck, helping her to sit up on the hard stone floor. “The name’s Locke Cole,” he introduced, “Arvis sent me along to help you out. Luckily I found you just before the miners did.”
She coughed and found that her ribs ached but nothing seemed broken. “You…saved me?”
“Save your thanks for the moogles,” Locke insisted, winking, “They really helped me out of a jam.”
Terra didn’t ask what he meant by the word “moogles”, but in her mind’s eye she saw the funny little white creatures from earlier.
The confusion on her face hinted Locke off to her ignorance. “Yeah…Arvis told me that you have amnesia…” Suddenly he jumped to his feet, putting his gloved hands on his hips and grinning like a maniac. Terra almost jumped back in surprise. “Well don’t worry!” he insisted loudly, “You’re safe with me! I give you my word as a man that I will not leave your side until your memory returns!”
Terra blinked a few times and her mouth dropped a little. “I…um, okay…” she stuttered, “I guess…thank you?”
Locked grinned and gave her two thumbs up. Terra couldn’t help but think that he was a bit off.
“Well, we’d better head off then,” he said, his demeanor suddenly turning all-business.
Terra stood slowly, taking in the aches in her body, but not finding any serious wounds. Looking around she saw that they were surrounded by rock walls on three sides, the fourth side being the route they’d obviously come down. “Head off where?” she inquired, raising an eyebrow.
Locke wagged a finger and winked at her again, then turned to the far wall. Running his hand along the stones, examining them carefully, he found a small circular stone that made him grin and pushed it firmly. The stone slid, almost mechanically, into the wall, and there was a deep rumbling as the wall itself split in two and grudgingly swung outward.
“A super-secret pathway into and out of town,” Locke explained, “We should be able to make it away without being seen.”
Cautiously following him outside into the cold and the dark, Terra saw the lights from the town a mile or so off. Grunting, Locke slid the secret door back into place.
“Where are we going?” Terra asked, shivering against the cold.
“South, to Figaro Castle,” Locke replied, dusting off his gloves, “The king there will give us shelter while we plan our next move.”
“And then, what is our next move?” Terra inquired, “I…I don’t understand what’s happening or why I’m involved in any of this. What is happening to me?”
Locke’s face was kind with concern. He smiled a gentle smile and reached up to wipe a tear from Terra’s eye. “I know,” he told her, “I’ll try and explain as much as I can on the way. It’s a bit of a hike.”
She looked up at him and didn’t know what to think, but didn’t think that refusing to go with him was reasonable.
“I’ll come then…” she agreed, “It’s got to be better than waiting here for people I don’t know to try and capture me for reasons I don’t understand.”
Locke grinned happily. “Alright then! Let’s head a little east first then. I’ve got a tent there with some extra clothes and you look frozen.”
“I’m Terra,” she said suddenly, remembering, “By the way…Terra Branford.”
“Nice to meet you Terra. I think we’re going to become good friends. You’ll see.”