Fiction Fragment Fridays: Returning Hope (Chapter 4 – Part 2)

Continuing on with Final Fantasy: Returning Hope!

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”.

Vargas (Front)       Sabin - Action
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The base of Mount Kolts was foreboding. There was a path, but it was thin and steep. They would have to go single file, and the chocobos would have to be left behind.

“They’ll be okay, won’t they?” Terra asked as they dismounted.

“They’ll be fine,” Edgar promised. “They’re extremely smart birds, and well-trained. They’ll stick together and make their way back to the forests to the west of Figaro Castle. There’s a stable master there who will take good care of them.”

Terra nodded and turned to her chocobo. She nuzzled her face into its feathery cheek and whispered a quiet, “Thanks for everything.” The bird cooed softly at her and ruffled its wings in reply.

“Okay, are we all set?” Locke asked. He was looking warily up the path, to a spot about a hundred meters away where the air suddenly became very foggy.

“Ready,” Edgar replied, voice steady. He pulled the auto-crossbow from his back and held it at the ready in front of him.

Terra nodded and began clenching and relaxing her fists in preparation. She looked back at the chocobos one more time and they squawked at her once before turning and trotting off together. Terra silently wished them a safe journey.

They headed up the mountain cautiously, Edgar at the front, ready to sink an arrow into anything that attacked them. Locke was at the rear; he’d produced two long, curved knives from his pack and was twirling them around his fingers while keeping his eyes warily on the fog. Terra walked in between them, no physical weapon on her, but continuing to clench and flex her hands. She tried to watch all directions at once in case either man found himself in trouble.

Though the path was steep, slowing their ascent, it wasn’t long before they began to approach the wall of fog. It was a little disconcerting, to be sure. The misty whiteness hung in front of them, still and silent, as though an invisible wall was holding it from sinking down any lower. It was thick as well; even Terra’s excellent eyes couldn’t tell what was beyond it.

Without meaning to, the trio had stopped in front of the white wall, hesitant to proceed. From somewhere above, a small rock fell with a gentle, echoing clatter, and Locke jumped. Eventually, just when Terra was starting to wonder if the men had gotten cold feet, Edgar took a deep breath and choked up on his auto-crossbow.

“Keep close,” he instructed. “And watch your footing.”

It was an odd sensation, Terra thought. She could make out Edgar’s body in front of her, and she could feel Locke’s presence behind her, but everything around them was a void of white and shadow. They shuffled along very slowly now, taking care that their feet continued to land on solid stone. For all intents and purposes, they could have been climbing the mountain with their eyes closed.

Terra stopped suddenly. Preoccupied, Locke stumbled into her. Edgar whipped around at the sound.

“What’s wrong?”

Terra’s eyes were narrowed, staring at a spot some fifteen feet to their right. “I saw a shadow…”

Given the nature of their journey, Edgar and Locke decided to take the claim very seriously. They raised their weapons, eyes darting to where Terra was staring.

Cautiously, her arms raised out in front of her, Terra began to creep forward to where she’d seen the movement. Eventually, gingerly, the fingertips of her left hand met rock; her right hand met open air. With Locke and Edgar creeping along behind her she examined the rock wall – and the absence of rock wall – with her hands. She noticed that minuscule movements in the air displaced the fog from the area where there was no rock.

“It’s a cave,” she deduced. With the men sticking close to her sides, she began to move into it.

They walked very slowly at first, feeling along the walls to guide them, Terra now in the lead. Soon, however, the fog began to clear. Gradually a wide tunnel appeared before them. It was dark, but without the fog their eyes were able to adjust. Terra conjured a small flame in her hand to help guide their way.

“I’m…I’m not sure which way he went,” Terra stammered when they came to a fork in the road. “But I’m sure that the shadow I saw was a large man.”

Edgar nodded gravely. “Alright,” he said. “We’ll try the right path then. I’ll lead, Locke will keep an eye behind us, just in case. Terra, you keep the light going.”

She adhered, but as they started down their chosen path she couldn’t help feeling anxious. Neither man’s eyes were as good as hers and she worried that the shadow-man would pop out and attack before either of them saw anything happening. If only she’d seen where the shadow had gone, they’d know where to focus their attention! She found herself obsessively turning back and forth to make sure that neither of the men had been silently murdered while she wasn’t looking.

“There’s light up ahead,” Edgar announced quietly. It was only a tiny light at first, but they soon found themselves coming back out into the mountainside.

There was no fog here; only clean, crisp mountain air and the bright mid-day sun shining down on them. There was a rickety-looking bridge creating a path from one ledge to another, and when Terra looked over the edge she saw that the fog was below them, masking their elevation.

A flash of movement brought Terra’s eyes back up to another cave opening at the far end of the rope bridge. “There!” she hissed at the men. “Someone is in that cave!”

Eyes narrowed, Edgar lifted his auto-crossbow and dashed across the bridge. With a cry of alarm Locke ran after him, and after half a second of surprise, Terra followed.

“Edgar, hold up!” Locke cried. “This bridge might not be safe!”

As though his words had been a prophecy, the air was suddenly filled with the sickening echo of snapping wood as a foot-board broke. With a yell of alarm, Edgar disappeared from sight. Locke hit the bridge with full force on his stomach and threw his arms out, barely snatching Edgar’s flailing hand out of the air. The force of the catch jerked both men forward. Locke quickly looped his feet around the rope rungs of the bridge to stop himself himself from being yanked through the hole as well.

“You idiot!” Locke bellowed.

“I’m sorry!” Edgar’s cracking voice wafted up.

Helpless as to what she should do, Terra dropped to her knees, scraping her legs on the weather-beaten wood, and began hauling on Locke’s legs. “Hold on!” she cried, panicked. “I’ll pull you back!”

“You can’t!” Locke grunted as she nearly ripped his legs from his body. “The two of us together are too heavy!”

She was about to argue, but just as she opened her mouth another ear-splitting crack filled the air.

Locke had just enough time to twist his head and look at Terra with wide eyes before the entire bridge collapsed beneath them.

The moment of the drop seemed to last forever as Terra’s heart raced, but the fall itself was all too fast. Before a second had passed they were hurtling through the layer of fog. Less than a second after that, the wind passing by her ears began to burn. Half a second later they’d come to a very sudden, extremely jerky stop.

For a moment Terra thought they’d hit the bottom and died. Then she realized that her right hand was still locked in a death-grip on Locke’s pant leg. Further below, looking as though he might pass out from fright, Edgar was still dangling from Locke’s arm. After a few seconds of tense silence, Terra took note of the strange position she’d landed in and looked up to find that the leather belt she’d wrapped around her waist to carry a pouch of seed for the chocobos had caught on the thick branch of a tall tree. They’d been saved by a lonely tree growing in the middle of the mountain. Edgar’s hanging feet were less than five feet from the ground.

“What’s this tree doing here?” Terra asked aloud, examining their surroundings. The tree’s great brown body and spindly green leaves were the only color amid a sea of gray.

“Do you honestly give a damn?” Locke replied, laughing out loud with near hysterical relief. “Hey Edgar, think fast!”

Edgar had half a second to prepare before Locke dropped him, but he managed to make the landing with both feet. “Hey!” he cried, though he too was laughing nervously. “You could have broken my legs!”

“It’d be more than you deserve, you idiot!”

Terra was laughing now too. She couldn’t have said why, but it felt so right. They’d almost died, but been extraordinarily lucky…should that really be so hysterical? Disbelief of the situation buzzed around in her head, and yet she couldn’t stop the strange giggles.

With Terra keeping a firm grasp on his leg, Locke swung himself to another branch. He tossed down Edgar’s auto-crossbow – which had gotten tangled in the branches – and helped Terra to safety. Together they descended the large tree that had saved their lives, and Terra promptly gave the trunk a huge hug. She only released the embrace when Locke spoke.

“What is it, Edgar?”

The young king’s brow was furrowed as he examined a piece of wood from the fallen bridge. He ran his fingers along the break, which was straight and perfectly smooth through the first three quarters of the depth of the board.

“This plank was cut,” he announced. There was a gleam of anger in his eyes. “I think someone tried to kill us.”

“But why?” Terra asked.

The voice that answered her was deep, cold, and unforgiving. “Because you dared to scale my mountains.”

Their heads turned, surprised, up to an alcove of rock above and behind the tree. There, crouched like an enormous cat ready to pounce, was a huge, bulging man. His skin and thin ponytail of hair were dark, and the only clothing he wore was a loose pair of black pants. His arms were massive and his muscles twitched and bulged as he stared down at them with hate in his eyes. “Sabin sent you, didn’t he?” he snarled, baring his teeth.

“Who’re you?” Locke retorted.

The murder attempt momentarily forgotten, Edgar posed a different question. “Sabin? Is he here?”

Locke pushed his friend aside and stepped forward, pointing an accusatory finger. “You were shadowing us earlier, right?”

Even from here Terra could see the man roll his eyes. “Brilliant!” he mocked. Then, to their surprise, he placed both hands at the edge of the outcrop and pushed off with mighty force. He propelled himself over them and landed a few feet away on the other side with a foreboding thud. When he stood up to his full height, Locke visibly gulped. The man was even bigger than he’d looked; at least twice the size of Edgar.

“And how unlucky it is that you should have to run into me!”

Edgar got one shot off before the man rushed. The arrow was aimed perfectly, but the man was very fast and very agile. The shot bounced uselessly off the rock wall behind them. The charging bull went straight for the king, but missed when Locke yanked his friend out of the way. While he was distracted, Terra threw out both of her arms, but the fire merely licked at his heels as he leapt to a large rock out of reach. If he was surprised by her use of magic, he didn’t let on. Instead he bowed, grabbed on to either side of the rock – which was almost as big as he was – and began to lift. He hoisted it above his head as though it had no more heft than a wooden chair.

“Watch out!” Terra screamed to the men, but to her surprise the bolder came hurtling straight for her. In a panic move she raised her hands and screamed. The rock exploded brilliantly, showering everyone in shards. Terra and her comrades shielded themselves, but the huge man stood still and allowed a few shards to mar his skin.

“Enough!” he cried, his face clearly wrought with anger. “Away with you!”

It wasn’t magic, of this Terra was sure, but the technique he used then was powerful, beyond what most humans were capable of. He swung his fists, up and down, back and forth, and he created wind. Or perhaps he commanded it… It was hard to explain. Regardless, a mighty wind was conjured where a moment prior there had been nothing. Terra’s dress whipped around her legs and she had to squint her eyes against the sting of the rushing air. Again and again he swung his arms. The wind grew and grew until Terra started to stumble backward. A muffled yell, barely audible, made it to her ears. Leaning into the wind as much as she could, she raised her arms above her head and looked over to the tree. Locke and Edgar were there, hanging on for dear life, Edgar’s cape whipping so violently that it looked like it might rip from his shoulders.

Come on! Locke mouthed, reaching one hand out as far as he dared.

She tried, but the wind tripped her, pushed her off course, and she soon found herself on the ground, nails digging into the rocks in a desperate attempt to stay still. She tried to raise her palms toward the caller of the strange wind technique, but every time she tried she was pushed back even further. Locke was shouting, though there was no way she could have heard him, and Edgar looked one step away from letting go of the tree and running to her.

Terra was just about to shout to them not to move – not that they would have heard – when a large pair of bare arms wrapped around her waist. Before she could twist around to see who the arms were attached to, she found herself being hoisted into the air and carried, as though the wind no longer had any effect. Locke and Edgar were staring in shock, but the new stranger dropped Terra next to them and turned before she could see his face. She stared, instead, at his body. He wore only a loose pair of blue pants and a sleeveless white top, and although he wasn’t freakishly enormous like the other man, his arms were muscular and very large. A short shock of spiky golden hair stood straight up from his head, and the muscles in his back were tensed.

“Give it up, Vargas!” his angry voice exploded over the wind.

“Is that you, Sabin?” Vargas laughed cruelly. He saw that his attack was having no effect and lowered his arms.

With the wind disappearing, Terra leaned forward to look at Sabin’s face. Though the body shape and hair style were very different, she was surprised to see that the face was Edgar’s through-and-through. The eyes, in particular, were absolutely identical.

“Vargas, why’d you do it?” Sabin cried. His hands were clenched into shaking fists. “How could you do in your own father like that?”

Vargas’ face twisted into an ugly sneer. “Fool!” he screamed. “He made the mistake of choosing you as his successor! He snubbed me, his only son!”

Sabin’s shoulders slouched. “No! You’re wrong! You were the one he chose!”


Sabin shook his head and Terra saw pain on his face. “Our master wanted you to be his successor, not me. He appreciated your spirit…”

Vargas’ whole body was shaking, his face darkening with the rush of blood. “Enough of your lies!” he shrieked, his face contorted with rage. “Now have a taste of my Blizzard Fist, you bastard!”

Terra saw it coming and quickly wrapped her arms around the trunk of the tree. The winds came in one enormous, continuous gust that was as frigid as ice water. Tears sprung to Terra’s eyes as she struggled to see if Locke and Edgar had managed to hold onto the tree. In a moment of panic, when she couldn’t immediately see them, her fingers began to slip.

But it ended almost as quickly as it had begun. Locke and Edgar had lost their grip, but had only flown a few feet before the winds dispersed again. When Terra looked she found that Sabin was only a couple of feet from Vargas now, fists held high in a boxing stance. Vargas was rubbing his chin, his eyes fierce.

“Ahh, Sabin…the Master has taught you well.”

“I guess there’s no avoiding this.”

Vargas raised his hands in a mimic of Sabin’s stance. He was so enormous that Terra couldn’t believe Sabin didn’t tremble.

“Fate made us train together, and fate will send you to your doom!”

Vargas began to charge. The spectators tensed in concern, but in one split second Terra saw a wave of calm and confidence pass over Sabin’s face.

“Blitz technique!” he bellowed. His voice echoed all through the mountains.

Vargas stumbled, and for the first time since he’d appeared before them, there was something other than rage on his face. Terra thought it looked like…fear.

“W-what the-?” he stuttered. “H-he already taught you that?!”

It was an amazing sight; Terra’s eyes flew, trying to follow the movement of Sabin’s fists. Locke and Edgar stared so blankly that it was clear all they saw was a blur of motion. It was hard to watch, but it was also hard not to. Vargas’ head snapped back and forth; his chest, stomach, and arms moved in strange ways with every landing of Sabin’s fists. It was impossible to tell whether it was the last hit that did it, or if Sabin just realized eventually that it was over.

Vargas’ body, beaten to a pulp, dropped unceremoniously to the ground. For a moment Sabin stared at it as though he expected the man to jump back up, but when nothing happened he slowly lowered his fists.

“If only you hadn’t been in such a rush for power…” he said quietly. There was genuine pain in his voice.

The silence was deafening until Edgar could no longer hold himself back and shouted, “Sabin!”

Sabin jumped a mile, as though he’d forgotten anyone else was there. “Big brother?” he replied, spinning on his heels.

The two blond men wasted no more time in sprinting toward one another. Their laughter filled the mountains as they clapped each other on the back and examined the changes that time had brought. Terra was again struck by how identical the two faces were.

“The brothers are reunited!” Locke cried jovially.

“Brother, yes…” Terra smiled and approached the reunion. “At first glance I thought he was a bodybuilder who had strayed from his gym!”

“B-bodybuilder?” Sabin exclaimed. He burst into laughter. “I think I’ll take that as a compliment!” he roared. Soon, however, he turned back to Edgar with a concerned look. “Anyway, brother, what are you doing here?”

“We heard about your Master’s murder,” Edgar explained, looking a little sheepish. He glanced over at Vargas’ body. “We, uh…came to rescue you.”

Sabin guffawed at the irony of it, but there was also a joyous gleam in his eyes. Clearly, Terra thought, the idea of his brother rushing off to save him made him happy.

“Yes, it’s a terrible thing that’s brought us together,” Sabin eventually sighed. He looked to Vargas as well and the pain returned to his eyes. “I’ll miss them both terribly.” He shook his head suddenly and turned back to the others. “But that wasn’t really what I meant, brother. Why are you here, away from Figaro?”

“We were on our way to the Sabil Mountains.”

Sabin nodded slowly, shooting glances at Locke and Terra. “To the Returners’ hideout, no doubt?”

Edgar and Locke nodded.

Sabin raised his eyes to the sky and thought quietly for a moment. “I’ve been watching from afar,” he admitted, “Hoping that the world might regain some of its sanity… At this rate Figaro will be reduced to a puppet state.”

“No!” Edgar exclaimed. He shook his head angrily. “Our time to strike back has arrived! The Empire will pay for all it’s done!”

Sabin’s eyes dropped to meet Edgar’s and the two brothers gazed at each other for a long time. Terra could only assume that they were both thinking about the past…about their father…

Eventually Sabin broke the silence. “Think a ‘bodybuilder’ like me could help you in your fight?” He winked at Terra.

Edgar, in spite of himself, looked surprised. “You’d join us?”

Sabin nodded, his face grave. “I’ve been sheltered away here, studying, for too long.” His gaze returned to the still body of Vargas and a sad smile appeared on his face. “Besides, I think Master Duncan would rest easier if he knew his disciple played a part in bringing peace to the world.”

Edgar couldn’t keep the grin off his face. He happily clapped his beefy brother on the shoulder. “Come then,” he said joyously. “We’ll need a guide down the mountain. And also,” his eyes glanced toward Terra, “There is much to talk about.”

Fiction Fragment Fridays: Returning Hope (Chapter 2 – Part 2)

Since I’ve decided to start working on this project again as a way of getting my word count up, I’m going to keep posting bits of this for a while. Enjoy!

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”.

Edgar - FingerTerra - Blink (Left)       Locke - Laugh
*Spites via

“Almost…there…” Locke panted. “Just over…this next dune…I’m sure of it this time…”

Terra raised an eyebrow. Although she wasn’t nearly as exhausted and uncomfortable as Locke seemed to be, she reached up to swipe a bead of sweat from her forehead.

The climate had changed dramatically throughout their journey. On the second day they’d reached a moderate zone at the bottom of the mountains. Once here the temperature began to rise exponentially as they headed south. On the third day Terra had to shed Locke’s jacket as they traveled alongside a babbling river. On the fourth, they left the forest behind for warm, wide-open plains. By the morning of the fifth they’d passed into the desert, the scorching sun beating down on them mercilessly. It was here, somewhere, that Locke claimed they would come to Figaro Castle, but Terra was beginning to doubt his sanity. All she could see in any direction was endless golden sand.

Terra hadn’t asked any questions since that first night, making it a very long and awkward journey. Locke had attempted to prompt her a few times, but mostly they had walked in silence, stopping only to sleep and eat dried meats and fruits from Locke’s pack. It had been very uncomfortable for Locke, but necessary in Terra’s eyes. She was as yet unsure what she should and shouldn’t say around the young man. Did he know of her affiliation with the Empire or didn’t he? If he did, was he still helping her out of the goodness of his heart, or was she really a hostage? And if he didn’t, what would he do if she told him? Would he continue to help her, or would he leave her for dead here in this awful wasteland?

Her heart and instincts told her she could trust him, but good old fashioned fear kept her from risking it.

“Oh thank the bloody maker!” Locke sighed from the top of the dune. “We finally made it!”

Part of her (the part that was hot and tired) suspected that he had contracted sun stroke and was gazing lovingly down at another particularly large dune. She was therefore genuinely surprised when, upon reaching the apex of the mound of sand herself, she found what could only be described as a fortress, plunked right in the middle of the desert.

It was both beautiful and extremely impressive, its thick black stone contrasting against the endless golden sand. The outer wall structure ran all the way around in a perfect square, with a tall, circular tower rising up from each corner. Up through the center of the structure rose a fifth square tower where one could stand and overlook the entire fortress and the sands beyond. From a pole on this central tower flew three flags, though at this distance Terra couldn’t distinguish the designs.

Locke was halfway down the dune by the time Terra stopped staring. She followed him at a quicker trot than usual, sand sneaking into the crevices in her boots. She was as eager as he was to get in out of the unforgiving sun.

“Hey!” Locke was calling to the guards when Terra caught up to him. “Open the gate, will you? We’re dying out here!”

The guards were squinting in the sun and holding their crossbows at the read as they walked closer, but Terra saw that one of them was grinning. “Ah, it’s you!” he chuckled. “Get lost in the desert again?”

“I don’t get lost,” Locke snarled, but there was a good-natured tone in his voice. “Just let us the hell in already!”

All three guards laughed out loud now, but they signaled to a fourth who was on the inner side of the large, cross-hatched steel gate. It creaked open slowly and the guards ushered Locke and Terra in, snickering the whole time. The gate clanged back down behind them once they were safely inside.

They were in a great courtyard lined with potted plants and bustling with people. Terra tried to look around – her eye caught a man with a cart selling fresh bread to a crowd of laughing women and children – but Locke continued to stride purposefully forward. She had to jog alongside him to keep up.

“What’s the rush?” she asked. As she trotted along she turned with interest to watch a man with a chest plate teaching some young boys how to properly swing a sword.

“The king will be wanting to see us immediately,” Locke explained.

Clamping her mouth shut, Terra once more wondered if she wasn’t truly a hostage in all this. With a stab of panic she wondered if the king would have guards waiting to toss her in the dungeon and Locke was leading her straight to them. For a moment she hesitated, but she barely missed half a step before she continued along. The castle gate was shut; it wasn’t as though she could make a run for it now.

Locke led her into the main building of the castle, down hallways covered in beautiful carpets, up staircases lined with flowers and burning lanterns sprinkled with sweet-smelling incense. They passed through many doorways guarded by men in full, shining armor who carried large spears or swords. Some, like the guards at the gate, clutched crossbows to their chests. Terra’s eyes darted in every direction, but there was simply too much to be seen. She realized after the eighth or ninth passageway that she couldn’t remember how to get back to where they’d started.

By the time they came to a pair of large, ebony doors that could only be the entrance to the throne room, Terra’s heart had begun to beat irregularly. What was going to happen in there? She had little idea, and the thought of not knowing made her clench her fists until her fingernails bit deep into her palms.

Locke strode confidently past the guards – who didn’t give a second glance – and pushed the huge doors open just wide enough for the two of them to walk through.

The first thing Terra noticed was that the large room had an exceptionally high ceiling, but soon her eyes were drawn to the lavish decorations, the carpets and wall-hangings of crimson and gold. At the far end of the room stood two gorgeous thrones, the arms and backs of which were carved in intricate designs, with the seats covered in plush red velvet. The thrones, however, were both empty, as was the rest of the room, save for one tall man standing over a table littered with scrolls and maps. Terra relaxed a little at the absence of any guards.

The man at the table looked up at their arrival and Terra found herself surprised to see that he was rather young. She’d been expecting a man of age and wisdom, but this man couldn’t be more than thirty – not that much older than Locke or herself.

“Locke!” he cried, smiling. “You’ve returned!”

Terra stood resolutely on the spot as the two young men strode to meet at the center of the room. The greeted each other like the best of friends, shaking hands and patting each other on the shoulder. This man did not fit at all with Terra’s idea of what a king should be. He was tall and lean, with bright blue eyes and long golden hair that was pulled into a braid and hung halfway down his back. His navy and silver clothing, complete with a cape that billowed down to his ankles, were certainly regal enough, but they were wrinkled and dirty in several places. Though it was barely noticeable – he’d clearly attempted to clean himself up after whatever he’d been into – Terra’s eyes were sharp and she got the distinct impression that he’d been working with some sort of mechanical grease…not a very likely sort of thing for a king to be up to.

The king looked over at her suddenly, the smile on his face gone and replaced by a look of interest. Terra started to straighten her posture subconsciously, though she’d already been standing at rapt attention.

“You mean this young woman?” he asked aloud. Terra realized she must have missed part of the conversation during her assessment of his appearance.

The king walked toward her, a very inquisitive look on his face, and stopped with a few feet between them. Terra met his eyes, but his gaze quickly shifted. As she watched in confusion, the young king studied her body from head to toe before turning swiftly back toward Locke.

Terra’s face grew hot and the words came tumbling out all at once. “Hey! Just who the hell do you think you are?”

From the center of the room Locke burst into raucous laughter. The king speedily turned back to face her, his cape rustling around his shoulders, embarrassment clear on his near-flawless face.

“Oh! My apologies!” he gushed. “How absolutely rude of me to turn my back to a lady!” He swept in majestically, and before Terra knew what had happened, he’d scooped one of her hands in both of his and gently kissed the back of it. “I am Edgar, king of Figaro.” He paused and flashed a dazzling smile, which made Terra blink in surprise and puzzlement.

With a snicker, Locke sauntered up next to them and leaned in with a grin. “Surprised someone like me knows a king?” he asked. Then, without so much as a warning, he winked and said, “See you a bit later!” and dashed out of the room, closing the doors behind him.

Terra stared after him, her mouth hanging slightly open, feeling betrayed and abandoned.

“So!” Edgar said, still holding Terra’s hand. “You’re an Imperial soldier!”

Terra’s head whipped back to face the king and her heart sped up. So Locke had known!

“No worries, no worries!” Edgar laughed at the look on her face. “Figaro and the Empire are allies! Besides, it’s not in my blood to harm a lady.” He flashed that dazzling smile again. “Please relax while you are here in my castle.”

Allies? Terra thought. But what about the Returners?

Delicately, she pulled her hand from Edgar’s grasp and gave him an appraising look. “Be honest,” she insisted. “Why are you helping me?” Images flashed through her head; memories that had been slowly returning to her of the invasion of Narshe, of her uncanny reflexes and eagle-eye aim. “Is it…is it because of my abilities?”

Edgar turned from her for a moment, pondering the question. “I’ll give you three reasons,” he announced after a mere moment. Glancing back at her out of the corner of his eye, he held up one finger. “First of all, your beauty has captivated me.” He turned fully to face her and continued before she could respond. “Second, I’m dying to know if I’m your type…” He flashed his grin again and, although he was handsome and confident, Terra found herself cringing internally. “I guess your…abilities…would be a distant third.” He waved this last off as though it was information of no consequence.

Terra was completely bewildered.

“Wh-…what’s with you?”

The change in his facial expression was infinitesimal, but Terra registered the flash of disappointment before Edgar managed to gather himself.

“Well then, if you will excuse me, m’lady,” he said with an unusually steady grin. “I have some important issues to attend to. Please feel free to wander about the castle at your leisure.” He bowed politely before turning to stride, missing a step halfway, back toward the cluttered table. As he walked away he muttered under his breath. The words were likely meant for his ears only, but Terra’s were exceptionally keen and she picked them out of the air easily: “Guess my technique’s getting a bit rusty…”

Terra stared at the king’s back for a moment, hesitated twice, and finally she quietly slipped out through the huge doors. A poorly-stifled snicker met her and she turned to find Locke lounging against the wall. He was attempting, and failing, to control his hysterics.

“Turned him down flat, didn’t you?” he chuckled. “I thought you might. I was hoping on it actually. Little lecher needs a good bit of rejection every now and then.” He was laughing out loud by the end.

Terra contemplated his words, wondering if she should find the situation as humorous as he did, or if perhaps she should be angry. Maybe there was some other emotion that would be suitable for this strange situation?

“Well…” she murmured, thinking about the king’s odd wording, “I suppose…I suppose any normal girl would have found him dashing.”

But I’m hardly normal… she added to herself.

Locke snorted once before pushing off the wall and walking over to Terra with his hands in his pockets, a smile on his face. “Ah, don’t worry about it!” he insisted, misinterpreting her meaning. “He’s an insufferable cretin and something like this every now and then would do him good!”

Terra nodded, though she didn’t understand at all.

“Come on then!” Locke trilled on, patting Terra on the shoulder. “Let’s go pay the handmaidens a visit and get you some more suitable clothes.”

Day 1, New Adventure

It has been a loooooong day.

I got up this morning at approximately 1 am. Never a good way to start the day, but there you have it. I grabbed a shower, and tossed my luggage in the car while my husband was (groggily) getting his shower. Together we went in to wake the baby, and were surprised by her happy acceptance at being dragged out of bed in the middle of the night. The little bugger.

Then we drove to Halifax, a three hour drive in the middle of the night. Always a good time. 😛

Waiting at the airport was the worst, because while I was waiting to head down to security all I could think about was saying good-bye to the baby, which just made me feel more and more ill as the time went on. Strangely, once I’d said my good-bye and gone through security I felt much better, but up to that point, I definitely wanted to barf. Luckily the baby took the good-bye well. Don’t know if that makes me happy or sad.

Going through security was fun. (Ha.) I ended up having to take off my boots because apparently they have metal in the heels. Huh.

On to the flight deck! I’ll tell you, the airplane was not what I was expecting. Maybe it’s because I’d only ever seen the inside of an airplane via Hollywood representation, but I was amazed at how small it was. I’ve heard all the usual complaints about cramped seats and lack of leg space, but just the overall size of the plane itself really surprised me. I felt like I was in a toy. Really.

The flight itself was reasonably enjoyable. Contrary to my previous beliefs that I would be struggling not to vomit everywhere, I actually really enjoyed the takeoff. It was neat watching the ground disappear beneath us, and when we hit the clouds it was like a sea of fluffy snow in every direction. I wish there had been less cloud on the overall journey because I didn’t get to see much else, but it was still pretty neat. My only real complaint about the entire flight was the descent…not because of turbulence or anything like that, but because my ears felt like they were being stabbed by a hundred screwdrivers. I expected my ears would probably pop, since they pop just going over Kelly’s Mountain (hint: it’s not a high mountain), but I wasn’t expecting the level of pain that I experienced. O.U.C.H.

So I landed in Toronto and did the whole thing over again, except the second flight was longer and I was seated next to an exceptionally overweight man. I don’t want to sound mean or anything, but the guy’s arm and side-fat were spilling over into my seat and making me very uncomfortable. I can only imagine how he must have felt, squeezed in a seat that is far too small for him. Because of this little issue, the second flight was not as enjoyable as the first, but I occupied myself by watching Deathly Hollows Part 2 and an episode of Just for Laughs. This time, when we were descending, I tried chewing gum to help with my ears. It didn’t help. Even now, 7 hours off the plane, my ears still hurt and feel like they’re full of cotton. I’m getting a shower after I finish this post and I’m praying the steam helps clear my head because goddammit, ouch!

The camp itself is definitely a bit of a culture shock for me. As I mentioned before, I’ve never had the dorm experience, so I’m going to have to get used to things. The room is small, but nice, and there’s a women-only exercise room that is well-stocked. The dining area made me a little uncomfortable, simply for the fact that I don’t know anyone and the tables are meant to seat 4-6. I ended up sitting at the only table for 2 and shoveling my food in as quick as possible so I could get out of there. I’m not one for eating by myself, but I’m also not the type who can just stroll up to a group of people and ask to eat with them. Double-edged sword. In any case, the food was pretty good. There were several choices of veggies, meats, deserts, etc., and there’s also a “bag-it” room where you can get things like pre-made sandwiches and wraps, fresh fruit and veggies, yogurt and pudding, etc etc. It shouldn’t be too hard to find things to eat each day, is what I’m saying.

And now I’m sitting in my room, wondering what to do with myself for the rest of the night. I’m pretty exhausted, but I don’t know if I’ll be able to sleep. The hot shower might help with that, I suppose, but it’s also still really light out. It’s hard to believe that back at home it’s almost 11 pm. I’ve been awake for 21 hours. Yikes. Maybe I will try to go to sleep. 😛

Tomorrow continues the adventure! Wish me luck!