About Being Kingby Lockpick
Entire Fiction (2008)
Edgar wondered if he was perhaps the only person who was sorry to see Kefka go.
The other adventurers, who'd sat with him around the table in Figaro Castle's dining hall, had all seemed to be riotously happy—giddy, even. Terra had started crying those happy-girly-tears a couple of times, but even she wound up laughing, celebrating, and toasting with the others. And why not? Why shouldn't she? The world was right again. The sky was blue in the day, and the stars shone in the night. The grass was green, the breeze fresh and clear. Everything was coming back to life. To an outsider, it would look like the start of a bright new future, just waiting to unfold.
To Edgar, it was the beginning of the end.
The celebratory dinner had been unavoidable, of course. How could they not celebrate? They had experienced the apocalypse and survived, and then they had undone it. They had defeated a god. They had accomplished the impossible...
And now it was all done and over with.
Edgar had graciously offered his castle as a place to celebrate and every member in the party had been extended an invitation to stay a night or two before departing. Most of them weren't taking him up on the offer—Setzer was taking all of them to their respective homes in the Falcon. Sabin had declined the ride, but he was still leaving that evening with the rest—he was going into town to see Duncan , and then he was going back to his traveling and training.
"See if we can't find Vargas, maybe," he'd told Edgar thoughtfully. "Didn't seem right when he ran off after that fight we had. Kinda want things to be okay with us again."
Locke and Celes were staying the night, however—Locke had always gone where he pleased, traveling the world over and over, free as the wind, so he was leaving from the castle itself to see where life took him. As Celes had nowhere to return to, she was going with him.
That just left Edgar, who was staying the night and then some.
Luckily, he'd always had great control of his facial features. He'd smiled as he said goodbye to his comrades—his friends. He had watched Relm amble off across the sand towards the Falcon, with Interceptor trotting faithfully by her side and Strago lagging behind. He had endured a hug from Terra, bowed at the waist to Cyan, and then waved cheerily to the rest as they all piled onto the ship that had been his home for the past six months.
"Are you going to miss it?" Celes had asked Edgar, as they watched the Falcon take off, sailing away on the wind into the night sky.
"Don't be silly," he'd answered with a warm smile. "I'm perfectly happy at home."
He hadn't mentioned that the home he favored had just flown away—and he'd probably never see it again.
To an outsider, he would have looked like the perfect host, the perfect king.
But privately, Edgar knew he was a prisoner.
Edgar and Locke were on the tallest tower of the castle, looking down at the desert. Celes had already retired for the night, and Sabin had gone his own way a few minutes ago. Edgar felt an unnatural sense of foreboding, watching his twin brother's form vanish over the edge of the horizon. It was probably just due to nostalgia, he chided himself. After all, the last time he'd stood on this tower and watched Sabin leave him behind, it'd been ten years before he'd seen him again.
"So where will you go now?" he asked Locke. "No more Returners, no more Empire to fight, and all the world's greatest treasures have been hunted..."
"The world's changed, Edgar," Locke pointed out with a soft chuckle. "Geography and stuff. All the maps I ever had are useless now, so I'll have to make new ones. Kind of neat, though—I get to see it all over again."
"You think Celes would enjoy that?" Edgar asked. Years of self-training kept every trace of envy out of his tone.
"Well, if she doesn't, she's always free to do what she likes." There was a comfortable silence, and Locke asked, "What about you? Gonna get hitched and settle down?"
Edgar didn't say anything, at first, just looked out at the dark horizon. He could already see that life laid out before him. There would be a few balls—in Jidoor, probably—and his council would marry him off to someone he didn't know or like. He would eventually get his wife pregnant, and she would do the majority of the parenting while he tended to his duties—such as paperwork, or helping to rebuild what had been destroyed. He would be lucky to get enough time alone to think, let alone tinker with his machines. He would get the occasional letter from Sabin, but never a real visit, not really—Sabin hated the castle. There wouldn't even be any more balls to Jidoor—there would be little point in going if it wasn't to find Edgar a wife.
And so it would continue...day in and day out, the very same thing. No fighting monsters, no testing out the things he built. Locke would visit him, perhaps, but Edgar wouldn't really have time to enjoy his company. He would have to live for his duties as a king, for his people—and he would have to see those duties out until his last day alive.
There was no escape.
"Settle down," Edgar murmured finally. "Doesn't sound so bad. I suppose I might."
He heard Locke draw in a breath, and then let it out slowly. Locke and Edgar had been friends long before this whole thing had started, and Edgar would have easily said that besides Sabin, Locke knew him best. The thief seemed to know that Edgar was unhappy, now, too, and clapped his shoulder with rough hand.
"It'll be all right, Edgar." He grinned, a little. "When I'm making my rounds exploring, I'll keep the castle on my list."
"I know." Edgar nodded, almost imperceptibly. "Thank you, Locke."
"None of that," Locke said briskly. "I'll get bored if I don't come around once in awhile." Locke reached up and slid one hand over the top of Edgar's head, ruffling his hair. "All right. I gotta get up before the sun, so I'm gonna hit the sack. Don't stay up too late, Ed."
But Edgar did stay up late. It was cold, and he was tired, but something kept him on that tower—the same place he'd tossed the coin so many years prior. He felt—like something big was coming. Like...it would be a really bad time to go to bed. So he stayed awake—and he thought. About his adventures, about his new friends, about the strength he'd found inside himself to live in a broken world.
The strength he'd needed, to live as someone besides a king.
For a whole year, the world had been a living nightmare. It had been hell. And Edgar—or Gerad, as he'd called himself—had been involved in a gang of thieves, away from his castle, his friends, and everything he'd ever known. At first it had been kind of scary, kind of depressing, but—it hadn't taken him long to figure out what he'd been missing as a king. He got to choose what he ate, and from where. He socialized with whoever he wanted, regardless of class or gender. He woke up when he chose to and went to bed when he chose to, and if he wanted to stay up to watch the sunrise and sleep until noon then there was nobody to stop him. There wasn't even any paperwork to do. He'd told himself he'd been sticking with the thieves to get back to his castle, and to survive, but it had been so much more than that—he'd loved that life. Excitement and danger and most importantly, freedom. Freedom...
Edgar had been so ridiculously happy to see that Celes and Sabin were alive. Her hope had been contagious, and before he knew it, he was reuniting with all of them—not just Celes and his brother, but his real honest-to-God friends, like Locke. And everything had been so perfect...until they'd taken out Kefka. Now everyone was leaving him, alone in his golden cage, and for the most part, they weren't looking back. They had their goals and hopes and dreams, had their own paths to follow, and he wasn't a part of that.
It was his own fault, really. He'd willingly accepted the chains that bound him to the throne, had been holding his wrists out for the shackles when he'd flipped that coin. He'd had no choice. For all his brother's muscle, Sabin just wasn't strong enough to be a king; during the last days of their father's life, the wayward prince had barely been able to compose himself long enough to attend dinner. And with that poison eating away every day at their father's strength, what was Edgar supposed to do? Refuse the man his dying wish? It just wasn't possible. Edgar had learned and accepted early on in life that he would have to give up the things he wanted, and that incident in particular really drove it home.
Edgar had given up his father to the Empire, however unwillingly. And he'd given up his brother, for the knowledge that he would be happier outside the castle. He'd given up the idea of freedom, willingly accepting the chains that bound him to his throne. He'd given up his right to find his own marriage partner, and the right to make his own laws and choices—he was in fact little more than a figurehead when it came down to it, because he'd been young when he took the throne. His council would forever think of him as a prince trying to do a king's job, and they had all the real power these days...
So after he'd given up his father, his brother, his freedom, his choice of partner, and his power, what else did he have left to give his kingdom? His friends? The rest of his life? It wasn't fair.
He hated being so lonely.
His chain had been cut—for a year, he had not been a king. And he'd learned what he was missing, had gotten a good taste of it. Now, the idea of being shut up in this stupid castle, in the middle of nowhere, playing the marionette for a bunch of old fools—for the rest of his life!—it terrified him, honestly.
Edgar didn't want to go back to this life.
The night had grown cold, and dark. It was a new moon, so only the light from the castle below aided Edgar in seeing. But though his wide eyes had fixed on the horizon, he really wasn't seeing a thing—he'd frozen up in shock, as an impossible thought struck him.
There was always the option of simply not doing it.
They'd never be able to find him, if he really wanted to stay hidden. They hadn't been able to find Sabin, had they, not even after he'd sent people out looking all across the world. If Edgar really, truly wanted to, he could change his name and just...leave.
He could just leave.
Ah, but no—that was absolutely ridiculous! He'd get homesick, wouldn't he—he'd miss his machines, and his big bed, and...and his people needed him! How could he even think of leaving his people kingless with no heir to the throne? Leave them defenseless, when the world really needed Figaro's help to rebuild itself?
He'd never be able to disappoint his father like that...
But it would be so easy... to just go with Locke, when he left—Locke would take him if Edgar asked for a favor. They could catch up with Sabin and stay with him awhile, and then Edgar could go wherever the wind took him, just like Locke did, just like he himself had once done. His adventures would never have to end. He could travel with Locke, or by himself—make his own rules and live by them. Never answer to anyone.
'But I could never do that,' Edgar whispered to the night air. A cold wind blew in from the desert, and he felt the grains of sand that were carried on the breeze come up and hit his face, almost like the desert itself was trying to give him a wake-up call. Leave? No. He couldn't. There was no heir. No king, no prince. They needed him...
They needed him now. But what about the past year and a half? They'd needed him then, too, but they'd come out just fine... no!
What was he thinking, was he crazy or something? Everything should have been perfect! He'd found his brother and made his peace, and he'd found his friends, and with them he had undone the complete destruction of the world. He should have been happier than he'd ever been—tucked away in bed like Locke and Celes were.
He'd always been the responsible one, after all—the good son, not a troublemaker like Sabin. His father had counted on him with the little tasks as a child, and the bigger ones once he'd grown up a little. He had never gone along with Sabin's crazy plans that got him in trouble. He'd been perfect—they had taught perfection to him. He'd had lessons from day one on how to walk, talk, sit, stand, eat, sleep...they'd even tried to inflict the proper rules of courting a lady on him (that was when he was fifteen and starting to show an interest; thankfully, his father had put a stop to it rather quickly).
And up until he'd met Locke and got involved with the Returners, he'd never complained, he'd never been bitter. He'd always forced himself not to want the things he couldn't have, convinced himself he wasn't missing anything special.
But now he knew—he knew what was out there waiting for him...if he only had the courage to go after it.
If he did not have that courage...he would remain alone.
"But I could never do that," he murmured again, reassuring himself, steering himself away from this crazy notion. He was the good twin, after all. The responsible one. He was too old to be running away from home. "It's just too crazy. I won't. I could never..."
It was after midnight and Edgar hadn't gone to bed yet. He had absolutely no tolerance for the cold—he was rubbing his hands over his arms, breathing on them to get them warm, thinking of Narshe and the mountains and the cold, dark pits of Kefka's Tower...
He didn't think of his warm bed, inside.
He couldn't go there yet.
He wasn't ready.
He'd never wanted to be a king, he admitted to himself, as he paced along the edges of the tower. Being a king was boring, yes, and suffocating, but more than that it was lonely. There had never been anyone close enough to be friends with, and as a result he'd always felt isolated at the castle, and that isolation was a kind of loneliness that was almost impossible to shake without help.
For the ten long years after Sabin had left, that loneliness and isolation had done its best to kill him, and in a way, he really had been dead inside, not living for anything more than his duties and the next maid he'd try and womanize. He hadn't had time to really enjoy himself—to work with machines, or go outside of his castle once in awhile. He had only had time to be a king.
Edgar had already devoted his entire life up until the past year and a half to being the king, for his father, for his brother, for his people. That duty had taken everything from him, and whenever he'd been ready to give up complain he'd remembered his father's thin face as he lay on his deathbed, his brother's tears the night of the coin toss, and his people, all looking to him for help...and he'd bitten his tongue.
Was it wrong to be selfish and irresponsible after half a lifetime's worth of service? Was it wrong to want to be free, be a normal person—something so simple, something outside of being a king? Was it wrong to wonder, laying awake in bed at night with the loneliness so bad his chest ached, Haven't I given enough to Figaro?
Even if it wasn't...
Could he really let so many people down, could he let his father down, all for his own selfish desires?
"I'll never leave." Edgar shivered, rubbed his hands over his arms again. "I could never do that. That's crazy. I'll never leave."
Standing on the top of the tallest tower, Edgar closed his eyes and remembered things he had always tried his best to forget.
"I'm outta here! I'm sick of this place! All this war and fighting over the throne...you said you were sick of it too, right? So let's go! We'll take our freedom for ourselves!"
"Freedom..." Edgar closed his eyes and let out a slow breath. "But what'll happen to Figaro if we both leave? What would Dad say?" His eyes opened. "We could never do that to him."
Silence, then: "So...what are we going to do? Which one of us...?"
Edgar smiled grimly. "I have an idea...there's this old Figaroan standby Dad was fond of, when he couldn't decide on things..."
"Oh yeah?" Sabin asked, too casually. His voice betrayed his anxiety.
"Yeah." Edgar swallowed. "We'll settle this with the toss of a coin, shall we?" Sabin didn't pick up on the wry tone of Edgar's voice. "Equal chances, after all."
"Yeah. Yeah, that's fair. Fifty-fifty." Sabin looked nervous. And who could blame him? He didn't know what Edgar knew. He actually thought he had a chance at becoming a king.
He didn't look as half as nervous as Edgar felt.
"If it's heads, you win," Edgar whispered. "Winner chooses whatever path he wants, without any regrets."
He raised his hand high into the air and flipped the double-headed coin.
And the shackle closed tight around his wrist.
It was getting much colder, now, much later—if he was going to do something before dawn broke (or before he froze to death), he would need to do it soon.
This was his only chance. Standing up here alone in this tower it was easy to believe that he might actually do something completely crazy. If he made up his mind, up here, that he was going to go, then he would be able to go. But if he went back down to the castle, there would be plenty of people waiting to stop him, talk him out of it...
Did he really want to do this? Leave everything behind forever? Go into hiding and never come back?
No...the question was not whether he wanted to. He did, he wanted it, he wanted it so bad—
The question was whether or not he could.
If he didn't do this now, tonight, he would be trapped for the rest of his life.
He was supposed to be the responsible one...
Less than half an hour until dawn and Edgar was still on the tower.
There was only one way to really do this, wasn't there?
"There's this old Figaroan standby," Edgar muttered to himself, numb fingers reaching into his pocket for his double-headed coin. "When you—can't decide on something—"
His teeth were chattering. From the cold, naturally. Mostly from the cold, anyway.
"S-settle it with a toss of a coin, shall we?" He rolled the coin between his hands to warm both it and his fingers, then looked down at it—there was his face. "If I see me, then I'll do what I would do, and st-stay put." He flipped the coin over, then—Sabin's face. "And if I see him...I'm going to do it. I'm going to follow him and I'm not going to come back. Oh, God. And I'm the responsible one!"
Edgar flipped the coin.
Dawn broke on the desert's horizon, and Locke figured if he hadn't been so sleepy he probably would have appreciated the sunrise more—it wasn't often he missed one, but this was the first they'd had since Kefka's defeat, and to someone who was actually awake, it would have been gorgeous.
He'd packed his stuff last night, so he figured he'd let Celes get a few more minutes to sleep while he went to say goodbye to Edgar.
"Weird," he muttered, peering out his window. He could see Edgar from where he stood, on top of the tower again. "I hope he's gonna be all right..."
He made his way up the stairs kind of slowly, still yawning now and then, not really in any kind of hurry. He and Edgar were probably the only ones stupid enough to be awake at this hour, anyway, so it didn't matter. He and Celes would be gone hours and hours before the first maid even started thinking about waking up—the entire castle had stayed up kind of late, after all...
"Hey," he called to Edgar, once he got to the top of the tower. "What's up? You're up awful early." Or maybe he just hadn't slept. He was still wearing last night's clothes...Locke's boot scraped something as he took a step closer to Edgar, and he stopped and backed up. Edgar's coin—what the hell was this doing on the ground...? Sabin-side up, too, so all the dirt had gotten on Edgar's mug.
"You dropped this," Locke told Edgar, picking up the coin and holding it out.
Edgar turned to Locke and took it, putting it in his pocket. "Thanks."
There was a long silence. Edgar was the one to break it.
Edgar opened his mouth, paused, and shut it again. He let out a slow sigh, and took one long last glance back over the horizon. His eyes stayed there for a very, very long time. Then they closed, and he shook his head.
"No," he whispered finally, voice soft and pained, very quiet against the desert's wind. "No. It's nothing."
When Locke left later that morning, Edgar watched him out of sight. The last Locke saw of Figaro Castle was its king, still standing at the top of the tallest tower, watching him disappear over the horizon.