Chapter 19Chapter XIX: Hero's Demise
Afterstorm's first mission had to be planned out and delivered in privacy. Cyan racked his brain for days trying to decide an assignment that would bring good cause, but at the same time be simple enough to start out the new task force.
He stared out his window from atop the island bastion. Edgar paced behind him muttering to himself, obviously considering and discouraging possibilities mentally aloud. They had had a discussion earlier that made Edgar think more carefully about their choices.
Now Cyan, staring out at the sea, but not really seeing anything, didn't even notice the steamship sailing into the dock.
David set anchor at the main port, and was approached by Returners who helped him unload equipment from his steamship. Mog stepped out of their way and looked up at the tall fortress. He had never seen this place completed, but now it seemed like an old memory. He sighed. He had wanted to come back, but never under these conditions.
He remembered his mission, and hastily set for the fort. They had said Cyan was in command, so he was more than likely busy at the moment, but everyone was here now. He felt more comfortable around Cyan anyway.
One of the guards outside the commander's office knocked. "Commander Garamonde! There's a-er-person here to seeeEEEEH-!"
The door slammed open. Edgar and Cyan barely saw as Mog darted through the doorway, with the guard stumbling behind him. Edgar grabbed the hasty Moogle and held him still. "Sir," the guard said, bewildered by the small creature, "I couldn't stop him, he-"
"'Tis all right," Cyan reassured him. "He is a friend." The guard saluted respectfully though looked oddly to Mog.
Once he left and closed the door, Edgar bombarded Mog with questions. Mog quickly explained everything, the Imperial takeover at Narshe, and Umaro's sacrifice to save him.
"Then, there is but one thing left to do," Cyan said grimly after moments of silence.
Mog looked up at him. "You mean it? You'll go to Narshe?"
"Well of course we will," he said with a little amusement at his little friend. "It's a free land that has been ruthlessly conquered by our enemies."
"Plus," Edgar added, "our new team needs a new assignment; this is just what we made it for."
Mog grinned and started a series of questions. "What is this team? What do they do? Can I help?"
"All in good time," Cyan reassured him. "Maybe you should meet them first."
A ship transporting Afterstorm left the Returner port at sunrise the next morning. The journey would take a few days, but not as long as the one Mog had made before by raft. He told of the house he had seen ruined, and discovered to whom it belonged, and they in turn told him what happened to Relm and Gau. Mog was brought up to date on many events happening lately, including the formation of Afterstorm.
Days later, the vessel arrived on the townless shores of the Narshe country. They had come with all of the Afterstorm team, which was twenty-nine all together, and an extra guard of twenty, and with Mog, fifty all together, all armed appropriately for having small numbers. They also carried magicite, in case worse came to worse and the Imperials used their own magic.
They began their trek west to the mountains. They took rest at midday, ate, rested, and made out battle plans. Cyan sent four scouts ahead to see if there were any patrols ahead of any sort. Sometime later, they returned.
"Sir," one saluted. "There is no trace of Imperials far as our eyes could see. It should be safe from here ‘til Narshe."
Cyan took a drink from a canteen. "Alright, good job, men." They saluted and went off.
He turned round to Edgar and Sabin, who were having a small meal while looking at old maps.
"So, hath we succumbed to a decision?"
"Yes," Edgar answered. "We decided to stealth through the mines. With Mog, we know them better, giving us the edge."
"Then we can surprise attack them, and force them to surrender Narshe," Sabin concluded.
"Hm," Cyan considered. "Simple, but probable. Alright, tell the others and we'll be off in a tick."
Once again they continued westward. It became close to evening. After several more kilometers, scouts were again sent off, this time they would report what defenses the Imperials had taken and figure the best tactic around it. This time Cyan paced around a separate set up, no fires aloud to be lit. It took much longer than before for scout reports. Too long.
He heard the steps first, then voices with the sound of jingling equipment. Cyan lent his ears closer.
"Everyone," he called out, "get ready, the fight is beginning!"
They all strapped on armor and weapons, moving over the hills...
And the Imperials yelled as they saw Afterstorm approach, readying arms; already prepared for battle. It was a trap. To the extent, though small flanks were forming, there was little to stop the Returners from retreating had they wanted. Cyan stood in front with his saber out. He let out a battlecry, and let his team know to charge forward.
But as soon as they charged, the Imperials, rather than charging in turn, stood and extended their hands. Out came a barrage of calls as multiple spells materialized from their hands to the Returners. Despite its great number, many of these mercs were untrained or unfamiliar with how to control magic, sending their spells worthlessly to the ground. It reminded Edgar of the first time he saw the Asassens, throwing spears flimsily into the sand of Figaro.
Taking the allowed time, the Returners returned with a volley of spells, much more perfect and deadly from certain few who had used it for years, slaying many. As they had feared, it had become an unorganized battle of magic, just like years past. Flame, lightning, water, ice, and other spells flew by. Finally the battle came to melee, many already hurt or killed by the far-range blows. Cyan raged at the front, slashing through, seemingly just to get to the other side. Edgar tried to keep up, but fell behind the old man. He looked around but could find no sign of Sabin, Celes, or Locke.
Cyan passed through the enemy forces easily. He could hardly believe himself that he had just about made it to the opposite side of the battle. Seeing that all around him had either based by or been stricken down, he allowed himself a moment of rest. That moment was ended when an obnoxious voice called out, "'Ey ol' man!"
Cyan looked to see who was addressing him. Standing in front of him was a man in armor almost as sophisticated as Cyan's, with a war helmet and long sword, with a face that looked as if it had been cleaned for the first time.
"To whom do I have the honor of addressing?"
"General Klee'on Rama, Sir Garamonde."
"Well then, Major, I presume you wish to do battle?"
"Aye, I do." He half smiled and drew his sword up. "But let's us do somethin'. Rather ‘en use the magic as e'eryone else is, what's say you an' I just fight, eh?"
"Agreed," Cyan accorded as he brought his own weapon to bare. At the same moment, they stepped forward and attacked each other with ferocity. As the blades clashed against each other, Cyan felt his opponent's overpowering his own, if only by a little.
He scarcely noticed the battle behind them. After several minutes of dueling, he finally got a lock on Rama's blade and drew it down. He felt Rama use all his strength to bring his blade from Cyan's grasp, but to no avail. Finally, Rama let own arm loose of his weapon and socked Cyan in the face, forcing him back. As he stumbled backwards, Cyan half-tripped, showing weakness. Rama struck down, but Cyan reflexively brought his saber up to block, but without much momentum at all, the blade was set hurdling down the hill.
As Cyan regained his balance, he heard Rama's cry and a prick in his chest. He saw a flash, then was on the ground before he knew what had happened. He looked up and saw Rama hovering like a buzzard. He looked down and saw that Rama's blade had pierced straight through his armor and into his chest. He coughed, then felt a jerk of pain as the realization of being stabbed came to him. Gasping for air while trying to get on his knees, Cyan saw Rama run at him. He didn't have time to react as Rama kicked Cyan hard in the body, sending him rolling.
As Rama came in for another attack, Edgar jumped right on him from the side. He used his own blade against his enemy, parried each time until eventually both of their swords flew out. Immediately, Edgar used fisticuffs to Rama's face. He came back with his own blows to the face and gut. Rama stood up; he was taller and bigger than Edgar, making him stronger and more difficult. But Edgar knew there was no way of getting out.
Edgar jumped on him, hoping to bring him down. Rama fell, but quickly got back up in time for Edgar to kick him in the breastbone. When Edgar tried again, Rama grabbed his leg and hurled him in the air. Edgar landed with a thud, but got up as fast as he could, remembering that Rama was merciless when he had the opportunity. He also remembered Cyan and Rama's vow to not use magic, so he would have to follow the same rules.
Rama charged him, both their armors making a loud metallic clash. Rama got up first. Edgar, seizing the opportunity, sweep-kicked his opponent. Edgar got up and, seeing as Rama tried to go for him again, grabbed him and threw him to the other side. Edgar approached him, but as Rama turned around, he used a short blade to cut Edgar's face. Edgar turned around again, heard the word "FIRE!" loud in his ear, and was sent flying backwards as the blazing spell hit him square in the chest.
He fell on his hindquarters, with the wind knocked out of him, and tried to stand up. He saw Rama as he ran to another soldier, stole his sword and ran toward his opponent. Edgar couldn't dodge. The blade pierced him. He yelled in pain and fell to his knees. Rama looked around, as if wondering if anyone was going to interfere, then he looked down at Edgar. Seeing him falling, Rama lifting his sword...and stabbed him again, this time going straight through the armor and through Edgar's chest. He screamed. He coughed up a wad of blood, and fell backwards.
As he did, Rama stepped on him and pulled out his sword, though the weapon had a blood grove that would have allowed it to easily slide out. He smiled a most sadistic way. He kneeled down beside his fallen opponent. He pulled off Edgar's armor, exposing his blood-soaked tunic. He wrung it on his own hand, letting it seep like water. He then leaned toward Edgar's face.
"I told you I was out for blood. You all should've been warned. Death is all you have now, all you will ever have, for it is yer own fault." He put the hand with Edgar's blood to Edgar's face, and poured it on him. Edgar didn't have enough strength to stop him. "Taste the blood," Rama whispered venomously. "It's the last thing you'll taste. You die for a worthless cause. Yer father must be so proud."
Edgar heard a scream. Sabin flew out of nowhere and wrestled Rama to the ground. Rama cried in pain as Sabin viciously punched him in the face, and then he fought back and got up. Sabin grabbed him, and with his might, suplexed him over the hill. He heard several thuds as Rama rolled down, but did not look.
Sabin sat down beside his brother. He looked him over. "It's alright," he reassured him. "We can help you." He tore his shirt off from under his own armor and used his to stop the bleeding. "We'll patch you up, then you can go home, back to your family and kingdom. It'll be fine, I can do everything here."
He felt Edgar's hand on his arm. "Sabin," he croaked. Sabin leaned down to hear him.
Sabin stared down. Edgar's eyes stared back, though no longer seeing anything. Sabin stopped. He reached over and closed his brother's eyes, kissed his forehead, then set his head in Edgar's soaked tunic and bawled.