Fiction Fragment Fridays: Returning Hope (Chapter 7)

Continuing on with Final Fantasy: Returning Hope!

Now that I’ve caught up to what I had already had written and posted on, I’ll be posting these new bits on both sites. If you’ve never been to, 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”.

celesLocke - Steal
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Locke ran like a ghost, his footfalls as silent as a snowflake. He quickly rounded a corner and maneuvered his way down a skinny alleyway, where he stood stock still in the shadows. Several years of experience fighting the Empire had taught him a certain level of stealth.

“Where’d he go?” came an angry voice from the road.

“I think he went this way!” replied another. The two sets of footsteps faded in the distance and Locke released a sigh of momentary relief.

“Yeah…” he mumbled to himself. “Better get to Narshe on the fly.”Read More »

Fiction Fragment Fridays: Returning Hope (Chapter 4 – Part 1)

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”.

Edgar - Shocked Locke - Steal Terra - Blink (Left)
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Edgar ran.

By the time Locke and Terra reached the chocobo stable he was already on his mount and dashing out the door. As hastily as they could they grabbed their own steeds (Locke almost fell from his again) and urged them into the fastest run they would allow. They never quite caught up, but they managed to keep a clear visual on Edgar as they all sped north.

With the speed of the chocobos at their side it wasn’t long before the small house began to appear against the backdrop of the mountains. It seemed to be in good repair to Terra’s eyes, and she found her mind wandering, wondering if upkeep was one of Sabin’s duties as a disciple.

Edgar reached the house first and was off his chocobo and in the front door before Terra and Locke arrived. When they finally walked inside it was to find Edgar sitting on one of three single beds, clutching a small, clear vase of bright blue flowers.

“He was here,” he whispered, though of course they’d already known that. He held up the vase of flowers and there was a look of pain on his face. “These were his favorite flowers…our mother used to put them in our bedrooms at night so the smell would soothe us to sleep…”

Locke and Terra walked into the room and sat down at either side of Edgar.

“I’m sure he’s alright,” Locke assured him. Terra wondered quietly how he could say such a thing when there was no way he could really know.

No one knew what to say, and so they sat in silence for several long minutes, until the quiet was finally interrupted by the soft footfalls of another chocobo arriving out front. Edgar’s head shot up and he barely managed to shove the vase at Terra before he was out the door. Gazing at them with a strange feeling in the back of her throat, Terra gently set the flowers down at the head of the bed before she and Locke followed.

The newcomer wasn’t who Edgar had hoped for. He was an older gentleman with gray hair, who looked rather surprised to find people here.

“Oh!” he said, adjusting his glasses and dismounting his chocobo. “Who’s this now? Friends of Master Duncan?” He gave a sad little shake of the head as he said the name. “I’m just here to pick up a few things for his wife,” he explained without being questioned. “We moved her back into town, you see, to try and take some of the stress off.”

Locke waited impatiently for the old man to finish before he spoke. “Actually, we’re friends of his disciple, a man named Sabin. Do you know where we might find him?”

Edgar’s face was beaky as the old man removed his glasses and cleaned them on his shirt while thinking. “Well,” he spoke slowly, casually, neglecting to register the urgency on the younger peoples’ faces, “The talk that’s been going around is that young Sabin and Vargus have both disappeared. Not even the missus knows where they are, and she’s in a right awful state over Vargus, being he’s her son and all.”

Both Edgar and Locke were practically shaking over the old man’s calm and painfully slow response. Even Terra, despite herself, was shifting her weight back and forth, longing for the old man to say something useful.

“Now, they could very well be anywhere, doing anything,” he continued on, pushing the newly-smudged glasses back on his nose. “But if I were to wager any money, I’d say they’d gone up into Mount Kolts to meditate on the situation. Master Duncan would take them up there for training and the like, you see.”

Now that the information had finally been spat out, Edgar looked ready to make a run for it again. Locke held him back with a firm hand on his shoulder. “Thank you very much,” he told the old man. “We won’t keep you any longer.”

Terra nodded politely at the old man, who looked remiss that the conversation was over so soon. They gathered up their chocobos and began to lead them calmly away from the house.

“Let’s go!” Edgar insisted. He tried to leap on his chocobo’s back while Locke gripped at the back of his cape.

“Calm down for a moment,” Locke demanded, his voice firm. “We’ll go, but I want you to breathe for a few minutes first. You’re too wound up, and that’s not a good state to be in if we’re going to be climbing a mountain!”

Edgar made a face and fussed like a child for a moment, but then he squeezed his eyes shut and concentrated on taking long breaths and slowing his heart.

Locke turned to Terra. “Now,” he said to her, “I want you to decide for yourself whether you’re coming with us or not.”

Terra was taken aback. Why would she not go with them? “What do you mean?” she questioned.

“We might be following a murderer into those mountains,” Locke told her bluntly. “If the man in town is to be believed, a murder who killed his own father. It could be very dangerous, and we can’t drag you into it against your will. It’s not your fight. We could rent you a room in town and-” He stopped because Terra had a strange smile on her face.

“Is that all?” she said. “I’m in danger from the Empire anyway, so this is really no different.” Locke opened his mouth to speak again, but she cut him off. “I’m coming,” she insisted. “You two might need me to save you again.”

With his eyes still closed, Edgar grinned. Locke’s lips twitched upward a little and he nodded.

Terra didn’t say anything out loud, but she felt warm inside. Locke’s concern had sparked a strange flame and changed her views on her presence in this situation. This wasn’t all about stealing the Empire’s best toy, or recruiting a magic-user to the Returners. Locke genuinely cared for her safety as well.

“Okay, Edgar spoke up, opening his eyes and taking one last deep breath. “I’m calm, I promise. Can we go now?”

Locke scrutinized Edgar for a minute and then nodded. “Okay, let’s head out. Keep your auto-crossbow at the ready.”

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

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”.

Edgar - FingerLocke - DeadTerra - Cast
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“No, no, no, no, no,” Locke groaned. He pulled a blanket up over his head. “I refuse. Leave me here to die.”

Edgar shook his head. Terra, who had no idea why Locke was so cranky this morning, sat on the edge of his bed and watched with interest as Edgar ripped the blanket back down from his pale face. Locke moaned in protest and curled up into a ball with his arms over his head.

“You promised this wouldn’t happen!” Edgar accused angrily.

“It’s a cruel fate that I can’t escape from!” Locke shot back, his face turning green. “It’s not my fault!”

Terra’s curiosity got the better of her. “What’s wrong, Locke?”

“He’s sick,” Edgar explained with his arms crossed. “He’s always drinking too much and letting himself get sick.”

“Oh,” said Terra. Was that all? She looked sideways at Locke for a moment and then reached up and placed a hand on his forehead. His skin was clammy, but she held contact.

“What’re you…?” Locke began, but cut himself off.

Terra’s hand had begun to glow, softly at first, and then as bright as an open flame. Locke fidgeted nervously, trying to pull his head as far back into the pillow as he could, but he soon relaxed as a pleasant, warm feeling fell over him. The light began to die away and Terra pulled her hand back.

“Better?” she asked.

Locke’s eyes were wide. “Completely!” he exclaimed, practically jumping from the bed. “What did you do?”

Terra shrugged a little. “Healed you? I don’t know what the limitations of my powers are, but I thought it might help.”

Edgar shook his head in awe. “You just get more and more amazing…”

“Not really,” Terra mumbled, looking down at the bedsheets. She liked helping, but she didn’t like being gawked at as though there was something strange about her.

Locke saw where the conversation had gone and caused a distraction by throwing his pillow hard at Edgar’s head and taking off at a run down the hallway. Terra couldn’t help but let out a little chuckle as the king took off after him.

A few minutes later Locke was nursing a rapidly-bruising forearm while Edgar paid the innkeeper for their night’s stay. Terra wondered, with a raised eyebrow and a small smile, if either of them were even as old as they looked.

“Did you hear the awful news?” said a man at the back of the room to an older maid.

Terra turned her head in interest.

“What’s that, then?” the old maid asked.

“Master Duncan’s been slain!”

“No! You must be mistaken! That can’t possibly be true!”

“But it is, my dear woman! And what’s more, his son and that disciple of his have disappeared as well!”

“My gracious…whatever do you think could have happened?”

“Well…this is just between you and me now…but I’ve never much trusted that son of his…power-hungry, you know?”

“Oh no, you don’t really think that, do you? His own son do him in?”

“Well I don’t rightly know, my good woman, but if I were that disciple fella, that young Sabin, I’d be watching my back real close.”

Terra was distracted from the conversation by Locke’s voice. “Hey, Edgar? You okay, buddy?” She turned to look and saw that Edgar’s face was blanched white, his eyes locked on the man and the old maid. He looked a hundred times worse than Locke had looked that morning.

With a stab of emotion in her chest, Terra recalled that ‘Sabin’ was the name of Edgar’s younger brother.

Gradually, looking as though he was holding back the urge to vomit, he began to move toward the man and the old maid. “This disciple named Sabin…” He barely spoke loud enough for them to hear, but they both turned at the sound of his voice. “Does he, perchance, look like me?”

“As a matter of fact,” said the man, with a hint of surprise, “His hair is much shorter and he’s rather more muscular, but the face…definitely.”

Edgar began to tremble. He opened his mouth again, but no words came out.

Locke, who had only heard half the original conversation, began to catch on. He stepped forward quickly and gave the man and the maid a serious look. “Where did Master Duncan live?” he demanded.

The man looked suspicious, but the maid saw the green seeping into Edgar’s face and she conceded immediately. “In a little wooden house about ten miles north of here.”

She’d barely gotten the words out of her mouth before Edgar was out the door at a run.

Locke looked at Terra and she nodded at him before the two of them turned and quickly took off after their companion.

Fiction Fragment Fridays: Returning Hope (Chapter 3 – 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”.

Shadow (Left)           Locke - StealEdgar - Shocked Terra - Glance
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The journey was barely a day long with the help of the lovable chocobos. They found the one that had run off wandering a little further south, looking decidedly regretful that it had abandoned its rider. Locke forgave it for dumping him in the sand and gave it and the others a few handfuls of seed before they continued on.

They reached the cave by mid-afternoon and passed through as quickly as possible, as the birds seemed to be frightened of the dark. From there it was a leisurely trot across grassy lands until they came to the port-town of South Figaro just before nightfall. The view was beautiful from here; the clear blue ocean lay to the south of the town, and a vast mountain range, tinted red by the sunset, lay to the north. Terra and Edgar admired the view and took the chocobos to a stable just outside town while Locke, the least conspicuous of the three, ran to the nearest shop to procure some disguises. He returned with a long, dark green robe for Edgar, who would be most easily recognized by the royal crests for his clothing. For Terra he brought a black silk scarf to hide her strange hair color, which had been spoken about enough in rumors to be identifiable.

“There’s a bar attached to the inn,” Locke informed them as they donned their new fabrics. “What say we book a room and have a nice, relaxing drink before bed?”

Edgar looked like he might argue, but he caved at the pleading in Locke’s eyes and the interested look on Terra’s face. “All right, all right. But I’d better not have any trouble hauling you out of bed in the morning, Mr Cole. We can’t afford to be sleeping in.”

Locke grinned, and Terra was sure she caught a hint of mischievousness in the action.

Terra hadn’t gotten to see much of Narshe, and her mind had been too busy during most of her time in Figaro, so she took her time to take in the visuals of South Figaro. It was a lovely little town, busy with people. There was a bustling market district near the harbor; men were selling everything from fish and bread, to knives and swords, while women sold beautiful hand-woven fabrics and sweet treats. There were more children here than there had seemed to be in Figaro, running and playing if they weren’t fishing off the docks with homemade poles. Several large boats with colorful sails, packed high with crates, were docked in the harbor, either waiting to unload or to ship out. Finally, the houses and different establishments were made of either logs or wood paneling, giving a somehow warmer and friendlier feel than had the stone corridors of Figaro Castle.

The bar was busy, but there was a friendly atmosphere about the place and the travelers were lucky enough to snag a corner table as an older couple were leaving.

“What’ll I get yeh?” a busty barmaid asked with a smile.

Terra saw Edgar about to flash his dazzling smile, but Locke noticed as well and kicked him hard under the table. “Three of the house ale, please,” he said while Edgar hissed in pain. The barmaid looked at them sideways, but wandered over to the bar all the same and quickly returned with three large glass tankards.

“You’re an ass,” Edgar muttered at Locke under his breath as the barmaid wandered away, hips wiggling.

Locke simply laughed out loud and took a large gulp of his ale. After a moment Edgar, who didn’t seem to have it in him to stay mad for long, followed suit.

Terra looked cautiously at the glass of honey-colored liquid in front of her. She wondered why it foamed at the top and smelled musty. Eventually she placed the glass to her lips and took a swig. Locke and Edgar laughed at the face she made as she placed the glass back down to the table.

“Maybe we’ll get you something a little sweeter?” Edgar suggested, but Terra shook her head.

“No, it’s fine!” she insisted, not wanting to waste the drink. “I’ll drink it!” She took another gulp to prove her point, and controlled her reaction this time. Then she took another drink…and another. Soon her cheeks were starting to turn pink.

“Woah! Slow down there!” Locke chuckled. “We’ll be scraping you up off the floor if you keep drinking like that!”

As usual Terra didn’t understand, but she slowed down all the same. Instead of guzzling the mug of liquid, she examined it, wondering how it could taste so icy cold and yet still make her throat and stomach feel warm.

The men chatted casually about idle things while Terra studied the patrons of the bar. There were lots of men in filthy work clothes, drinking and laughing loudly, but also a few women. Terra observed that the men and women who were the loudest also seemed to be the ones with red cheeks and noses. The barmaid hopped from table to table, cheerfully serving drinks. Once or twice Terra saw her using her serving tray to smack the hands of red-faced men who tried to grab at her backside.

Terra’s gaze wandered past a trio of older men singing terribly off-key, past the middle-aged bartender who was daydreaming whilst drying a mug, and to the other side of the bar where a man sat alone with a dog at his side. Her eyes stopped here for a moment because he seemed so out of place amid the gaiety. He was dressed almost entirely in black; even his head and face were shrouded in black scarves so that only his dark eyes peeked out at the world. The only color on him came from a golden decoration on the wrap over his forehead, and a set of thick golden cuffs, one on each wrist. At his hip was a long, thin sheath that, presumably, housed a like-sized sword. A full mug of ale sat on the table in front of him, but he did not touch it. And then there was the dog. The dog was enormous and lean, mostly black like its master, but with a dark brown throat and belly. Neither its long, thin tail, nor its short pointed ears twitched as it sat obediently next to its master.

Terra stared at the pair for a long time.

Edgar’s angry voice brought her back to the table. “No, I am not following in his footsteps! I fully intend on returning to Figaro once our tasks are done!”

Locke’s hands were up in the air in defense. “Didn’t mean anything by it, pal. Just making an observation.”

Edgar fumed. Terra guessed that the conversation had turned to the twin brother who had run away from home. Still curious with the little information the handmaiden had offered, she wondered if it would be okay to prod the subject. After a few more gulps of ale she decided it would be fine.

“Edgar,” she posed the question slowly. “Why exactly did your brother run away?”

She had been worried that he’d get angry, but instead he looked rather surprised.

“The handmaidens mentioned it,” she admitted.

Locke looked interestedly on; Terra assumed from the look on his face that he’d never heard the full story himself.

Edgar stayed quiet for a moment, swishing the ale in his mug and glancing back and forth between it and Terra. Eventually, after looking at Locke and finding the other mane staring intently, he sighed and lay the drink down. “Alright, alright,” he said quietly. Both Locke and Terra leaned in to hear better.

“First off,” Edgar began, “Our mother died when we were very young. She’d been sick and eventually the disease took her away from us.”

Locke nodded, apparently having already known this part.

“Then, a few years ago, our father grew mysteriously ill. He’d been perfectly healthy before, and as he was rumored to have been funding an underground rebellion – the early Returners – it was widely suspected that he was poisoned by the Empire.”

Terra drew in a sharp breath.

Edgar continued on, eagerly now, as though he’d been secretly dying to get this off his chest. “Sabin was always innocent and carefree. He focused more on his martial fighting hobby than on things like politics and his royal position. When he heard that the Empire may have assassinated our father, and that nothing was to be done about it, his world shattered.

Father passed on.” Edgar paused here, recalling the painful memory. “And he left behind a wish that the kingdom be divided between his two sons. But Sabin rejected the idea of becoming a king. To have such power, and not even be able to avenge his own father? No. He wanted freedom from the insanity of the world that had fallen on his shoulders, and…and he wanted me to come with him.”

Locke sat up straight in surprise. “Really?” he asked.

Edgar nodded. “We made an agreement; the toss of a coin would decide. If it was heads, he’d win and we’d both leave Figaro behind together and find our own way in the world. If it was tails…we’d both choose whichever path we thought was best, no hard feelings and no regrets.”

From here, Terra and Locke could easily deduce what had happened. The three of them sat quietly for a minute, each imagining or remembering it in their own way, and Edgar took a long drought of ale.

“But I guess it all turned out, more or less,” Locke said quietly.

Edgar nodded. “Except for one thing.” He smiled sadly at the questioning looks of his companions before explaining: “There have been plenty of regrets.”

After a few more moments of silence the men began to speak quietly and casually again while Terra turned Edgar’s words around and around in her head. What exactly did he mean? Did he regret that he hadn’t gone with his brother, or perhaps that he’d let his brother leave? His attitude toward his duties would have her believe that he regretted allowing himself to become entrapped in the world of politics. This, she felt, she could at least understand a little. To be forced to play at allies with the very people who had murdered your father…the idea deeply unsettled her stomach. In fact, she felt a little ill.

Her hand flew to her mouth and she forced herself to swallow though the taste was horrifying. The men weren’t paying attention, so she quietly pushed her mug away and took a few deep breaths to settle her stomach. She closed her eyes for a moment to steady herself, and then slowly opened them.

The black-clothed man and his dog were staring at her.

Surprised, Terra stared back with wide, unblinking eyes. The man didn’t blink either, didn’t even move an inch. Terra wondered why he was suddenly so interested in her, and with a note of panic she wondered if he recognized her. Was he from the Empire?

Locke noticed the look on Terra’s face and turned in his seat. “See something you like?” he called sarcastically to the stranger.

The dark eyes didn’t turn toward Locke’s voice, but after a moment they turned back to the still-full mug of ale. Half a second later the dog turned away as well.

Locke’s face reddened. “At the very least you could give me a response!” He began to stand up, but Edgar hauled him roughly back into his seat.

“Are you crazy?” he hissed. “Do you know who that is? That’s Shadow!”


Edgar shook his head, the look on his face suggesting that Locke was exceptionally stupid. “Shadow is a famous mercenary-for-hire,” he explained in a low whisper. “He’s a money-grubbing madman. Rumor is he’d slit his mamma’s throat for a nickel!”

Locke raised his eyebrows and swallowed visibly. “Best to steer clear of him then…” he admitted while glancing at Shadow out of the corner of his eye.

Terra, however, was staring openly now. He was mysterious enough, for sure, but she didn’t get an evil feeling from him. She wondered if Edgar’s words were an exaggeration, and she felt a twinge of apathy for the man. People seemed to think she was dangerous too…

Fiction Fragment Fridays: Returning Hope (Chapter 3 – Part 1)

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”.

Edgar - Shocked Locke - Shocked          Terra - Glance
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She’d done it. She hadn’t wanted to hurt anyone, but she had let instinct take over, and instinct told her to protect the men who had protect her.

The flames that had erupted from her palms began to slowly die down, revealing a scorched and twisted mess of metal in their wake. Terra gradually lowered her arms, leaving the last of the fire to burn itself out, and turned in disgust from the smoking, stinking heap.

The look on Edgar’s face took her by surprise. Rather than looking relieved, she found him staring at the smoldering fires with eyes as wide as saucers, his jaw hanging slightly open.

Locke was hoisting himself from the ground, rubbing his head and stretching to peer around Edgar’s chocobo. “What’s happening?” He blinked a few times at the pile of melted metal and then up at Edgar’s shocked expression. “W-what’s the matter?” he asked in concern. “Edgar, you look positively spooked!”

“D-did you see what I just saw?” Edgar stammered.

Locke glanced back to the receding flames and then, oddly enough, started to examine Terra from every angle. “You loaded for bear, kid?” he asked, and Terra realized he was looking for the weapon she’d used to cause such destruction.

“She’s amazing!” Edgar exclaimed suddenly, startling his chocobo. He turned his wide eyes to Locke’s. “That was magic! Magic!” He said the word as though it meant something both holy and terrifying.

“M-m-magic?” Locke stuttered. He looked at Terra, and then back at the destruction behind her. He was looking with new eyes this time. His eyebrows raised and his mouth dropped open in realization, his face now a mirror of Edgar’s. “She used magic?”

“Terra…” Edgar barely whispered. “Where in the world did you learn…?”

Terra’s face was hot and her heart was fluttering like a hummingbird’s wings. She clenched and unclenched her fists, confused and upset, completely insecure and unable to speak. What had she done wrong? She’d saved them, hadn’t she? What was the problem? Why were they looking at her that way?

“I…sorry…I…” she whispered, her voice cracking painfully. “I…I just…”

The pain on her face registered something in Locke and he shook himself out of his own bewilderment. He shoved past Edgar’s chocobo and rushed to grab one of Terra’s hands. “No, no, it’s okay!” he promised frantically. “I’m sorry…I didn’t mean to make such a big deal out of it!”

“Me either!” Edgar insisted loudly. He hopped from his chocobo and rushed forward as well. “It’s just that I’ve never actually seen magic before…where did you…?”

Locke cut him off at the strange look in Terra’s eyes. “Look, Edgar…Terra can use magic and we can’t, and that’s it! She’s still our friend, and frankly we could use her help. She certainly saved our hides just now!”

Terra’s heart fluttered again, but for new reasons this time.

“You’re right, of course,” Edgar admitted. “This doesn’t change anything, naturally. She’s still just Terra.” He grinned at her, his smile genuine and sincere.

She let her face break into a smile and allowed instinct to take over once again. “Thank you Locke!” she cried, wrapping her arms around him for a quick, tight embrace. She squeezed once, firmly, before releasing him and giving Edgar the same treatment. “Thank you Edgar!” By the time she stepped back again both their faces were red as roses.

“Stop swooning!” Locke hissed under his breath at Edgar.

“You stop swooning!” Edgar hissed back.

The voice was distant, but they all heard the enraged shriek coming from the direction in which Figaro Castle no longer stood.

“Perhaps we should move on?” Edgar suggested urgently.

With everyone in full agreement, they quickly saddled up on the remaining two chocobos – Locke squeezed on with Terra – and took off to the south-east as fast as the birds would allow. Kefka’s furious screams eventually faded into the early morning air.

“He’s scary,” Terra observed quietly. She couldn’t stop picturing his abnormally pale skin and blood-like makeup.

Her simple observation caused Locke to chuckle, but there was little humor in the sound. “He certainly is.”

They rode in silence for several long minutes before Terra spoke up again. “Where are we going?” she asked.

“Through South Figaro and then into the mountains,” replied Edgar. “There’s someone I’d like you to meet.”

“Another Returner,” Locke explained. “Our mentor, Banon.”

“He will surely like to meet you,” Edgar said, smiling at the thought. “Especially with what we now know. Your magic just may be the key to winning this war.”

“Magic…” Terra rolled the word around in her mouth. It sounded familiar, but ultimately meant nothing to her.

“Terra has magical powers,” Locke said, mostly to himself. “According to Arvis, that esper seemed to…react to her. Could there be some connection?”

Terra thought about it for a moment, but nothing came to her. “I haven’t the foggiest,” she said honestly. “I didn’t really think about it. It just seems completely natural to me that I have the use of this power. It’s like breathing.”

Edgar frowned. “But no human is born with the sort of power you seem to have, and-”

Terra’s face had fallen again and Locke was glaring daggers at the king.

“I apologize,” Edgar said quickly. “I just meant that you’re very unique. I’m sure the Empire will be coming after you, and if they get their hands on you again…well, it won’t be good for anyone.”

Terra imagined the death and destruction her powers could cause under the influence of another slave crown. “What should I do?” she pleaded.

“You want to understand all of this, right?” Edgar asked. “Then I think we should consult with Banon. He is very wise.”

Terra didn’t reply, but after a moment she gave a quiet nod.

“Alright then. There’s a cave in this direction that will take us to South Figaro. We’ll make our way there and rest for the night.”

Fiction Fragment Fridays: Returning Hope (Chapter 1 – Part 4)

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”.

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

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.”