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Afterstorm

by Sherick

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Chapter 22

Chapter XXII: The Final Battle

The Royal Guards stood outside the city walls, leaning against their pikes so that they wouldn't fall asleep. One of them nudged the other to wake him up.

"Hey, hey, look!"

He looked up. "What?" Long way down at the beach, a large boat landed anchor and many people were jumping out.

The Aquadalin came awake in a snap. "Guards! Guards! Get everyone, we're being invaded!"

By the time Dornim along with Sabin and Setzer led the first few groups, soldiers were already rallying together down at the castle.

"So much for a surprise attack," Dornim muttered.

"Oh, I think this is good enough surprise," Sabin assured.

"Right, let's go!"

At that signal, Returners were jumping out of the ships onto the shores. "Remember to give cover to Celes's group," he added.

They were still far enough to stop and let many more join them for now. God, I hope we can do this...

Celes's party came on the opposite side of the island. The island of Vector had changed. When the world was in balance, it was a great island with cities surrounding the palace. Now there was just the city and rows of mountains behind it.

The team comprised of Celes, Locke, Mog, Otoshi, and Terra, who was streaking through the mountaintops in full Esper form, quick to take down anyone in the way. It was hard for the others to keep up.

Nearing the back of the castle, a small group of soldiers gathered what seemed to be a back entrance. They held weapons at the ready. Terra spotted them and leaped up for a charge. They immediately cast high-levelled fire spells at her that made her hit the ground. Celes, right behind her, shot out an equally powerful ice attack unto all guards, knocking them flat, but not ending it.

They got back up and ran a charge with their swords, some possessing battleaxes. Terra also got back up and stood unflinching. With a flick of the wrists, magic flew once again unto the attackers, this time levelling them flat. They didn't get up this time.

It was almost surprising how quickly the Imperial Army assembled. It also did not take long for all the Returner ships to unload. By now, Dornim had figured the pros and cons for both sides: the Returners had quite a larger number than the Imperials. However, the Imperials-the real Imperials-were more experienced with the use of magic, and many were experienced warriors with knowledge of the landscape, and not to mention all the bloodthirsty mercenaries, and small groups of strong monsters.

But Dornim's favorite advantage wasn't the number, but the actual warriors. Of course there was he, and Setzer was helping as well, but not much could beat Sabin's ferociousness as he attacked the opponents; and probably the best advantage was Siegfried, whose grace, swiftness, and godly accuracy could awe the mind. Unfortunately, in this great mess of fighters it would be impossible to spot Klee'on, if he could even survive.

It seemed like hours of fighting; the moon had begun to set, but the Imperials set up huge flames near the castle. He swung his claymore at an upcoming soldier, killing him swiftly. He leaned over for a bit of rest, and looked up toward the palace. It just about astounded him.

Standing in perfect silhouette in front of the flames, Klee'on, Dornim's uncle, stood with pride in sparkling armor, only spoiled by blood of adversaries. He spotted Dornim eventually, double taking, and then without hesitation ran up to him. Dornim tried with all his strength to bring his sword to bare, but felt as though he couldn't. When he looked into Rama's face, he didn't see a demented, bloodthirsty killer, but rather his old Uncle Klee'on from when he was little.

His uncle smiled. "I ne'er dreamed this ‘ere would happen."

Dornim chuckled. "Yeah, small world."

"But ain't it a bit pointless?"

"Ain't what?"

"This," he motioned to the battlefield around them. "I look and I see pointless causes."

Dornim straightened up. "No, I don't find it pointless, fighting for something you believe in, Uncle. That's what always made you so different."

Klee'on stared down at him in amusement. "You really ‘ave grown up, eh kiddo?"

Dornim snorted and looked around...then he heard his uncle whisper, "Mistake..."

He felt a strike to his head. Klee'on lifted his sword, and Dornim his claymore to deflect. But it was to no use; Klee'on's much greater strength hit it out of the way. Rama grabbed his nephew around the neck and lifted him up. "And just like yer father, you die for a pointless cause."

Dornim reached for his concealed blade, but couldn't reach. He felt the breath leaving him, and his uncle applied more pressure. Out of nowhere, he felt another strong tug.

"Gerroff! Gerroff!" His uncle shouted. One of the only people with similar build as Klee'on, Sabin had grabbed him in his own headlock. Rama back head butted him in the face a couple times with his helmet. Not even reaching up to wipe the blood from his lip, Sabin tore off Rama's helmet and threw it onto the ground.

Klee'on used one arm to elbow Sabin in the gut. With that pressure taken off, Dornim reached again for his concealed blade. This time he found it. Using the exposed end, he thrust it back-nicking himself in the process-and stabbed ever so fortunately through one of Klee'on's armor openings. He let go.

Now Sabin turned him around to stretch his fist back and hit him in the face very hard. "For Cyan..."

Blood already splattered from Rama's nose. "For Edgar..."

He heard a disturbing sound with the next punch. "And for whoever else you already killed."

He let Rama drop, but not before kneeing him in the stomach. Sabin, feeling avenged, stepped away with a remorseless look of anger. But Dornim wasn't done.

As he looked into his uncle's broken face, he kicked hard in the chest. "For my father, and me!"

He walked away, still looking back as his uncle lay yelling in pain as he slowly died without honor.

Having broken into the castle, Celes's party raged through. Celes had a good remembrance of the schematics; Otoshi had a near perfect recollection. It didn't seem like long before they had made it to the brightly-lit main hallway, from there it was just straight into the throne room.

There was an antechamber before the actual throne room. The five of them stood for a moment in front of the door. After those moments of looking to each other, the door opened itself. They stepped back, as Emperor Vector and Commander Vulkrum came eloquently through the doorway, the former in fluent decorative robes, and the latter in the ever-welcoming colors of the Kefka-esque suit. "Well what do you know!" Vector said most graciously. "Visitors, at this hour?"

"While your very own people are being destroyed by mine?" Vulkrum added.

"Good point," Vector granted.

"Utam!" A quiet voice came from the back.

Vector looked toward it quizzically. "Who is that?"

Otoshi approached. Awed disbelief filled Vector's eyes. "Otoshi! Dear sister, I thought you were long gone."

"I've been looking for you, Utam, I knew you weren't dead, they had said you were alive!"

They embraced. "What is this all about, Utam?" she asked. "Why are you doing this?"

Vector stared blankly at nothing. "I don't know."

"Then let it end."

He looked back to the others, then back to his sister. "Let's go home." Hands interlocked, they entered the throne room.

When Locke tried to follow, Vulkrum got in his way. "You aren't going anywhere."

"It's over, Vulkrum."

"No!"

Celes joined him. "Your king is in their contemplating a way to end this war, you have nothing left."

"I have my sword!" he barked back.

"But nothing to fight for," Mog said, the first thing he had said since they arrived.

"I have myself!"

"And to what cause?" Terra asked.

Vulkrum stared daggers at them. Terra looked into his eyes, knowing what to expect through the make-up, but it was different. Kefka never had that flame in his eyes. Kefka hated for the sake of hating...this man had a purebred loathing.

In great speed, he unsheathed his sword and struck down at Locke's. Vulkrum wasn't very tall, but he was taller than any of them were. Celes joined in with her weapon. Vulkrum expertly duelled both of them. When the opportunity came, he knocked Locke back. Mog ran up with his metal spear. Mog ran the element of surprise and knock Vulkrum against the wall. Terra got out her weapon as well, dropped from her Esperian form, and once Locke got back up, they all forced their blades up to Vulkrum's face.

He stared at them, knowing he was defeated. His weapon dropped. "Kill me," he said. "I was defeated, now kill me."

Terra looked at Locke who looked at his wife. She looked deep into Vulkrum's face, and then got an idea.

"Maybe in a minute, but first..." she used the cape she wore to wipe away his facepaint. He did not resist. She squinted. "I think I just figured out something. You're Mauvi's son, right? And you say you're also Kefka's." She saw them give her quizzical looks. "How old are you?"

He looked at them, then reluctantly mumbled, "...Twenty."

And that almost made them all stumble. Twenty? Terra thought. He looks and acts too old. Locke is almost thirty and he acts eighteen.

After catching herself, Celes went on. "Well, that's still too old. The Emperor gave Mauvi to Kefka when I was fourteen or fifteen. That's not enough time."

"So what're you saying?" Vulkrum grew anxious.

"Vulkrum, you aren't-you can't be-Kefka's son at all. You're Gestahl's."

He raised his eyebrows. By now they had all let down their weapons. He slowly walked past them, looking quite numb, thinking about it. Celes whispered to Locke, "Let him go, he's probably going to just sit there. We have to see what's going on."

He nodded and they all headed toward the door.

Gau knew he had the chance now. No one had yet come to feed him or watch him or anything. He could barely something going on outside. In the uncomfortable position with his lower body hanging up, he stretched his arms back into a "hidden" pouch in his trousers to bring out his gift from Shadow.

He looked once more to the door, and then used the knife to severe away at his bonds. After he untied himself, he pried off the manacle on his ankles and jumped up. He would have stretched or exercised a little bit, but there was no time. He ran and opened the door. He had to find Relm.

As he ran through the prison hall, someone jumped at him. Pinned down against the floor, Gau recognized his attacker as the incarcerated Imperial who he had confronted outside.

"Where ya goin', boy?" he said quietly, almost hissing.

"I don't have time," Gau said irritatingly. He threw the attacker off of him and handspringed up. The traitor hadn't been ready for him. When he tried to attack again, Gau was ready. Quickly yet silently, he grabbed the man's arm, twisted it up, and then launched him into the door. His head hit the corner right where the stone wall pointed. Gau had not meant for that to happen. The man fell down, crying and clutching his destroyed nose. Feeling sympathetic, Gau put his two fingers to his neck, applied pressure, and watched the man pass out. He threw him into the prison room and closed the door. Now he would go to find Relm.

After being released from Vector's service, Relm had been made to serve a slightly small barrack of middle ranked soldiers. Every once in a while one would come on to her, but there was always some others who would shun him off. This was one of those times.

One soldier, seemingly drunk, put his arm around her. She wasn't frightened anymore though. He said some things to his friends and laughed drunken. He smoothed her hair with his hand. Eventually two or three came up.

"Alright, that's enough," he demanded.

"What? Nuttin' wrong wit having a little fun, eh?" He giggled again.

"There is a war going on, Lieutenant! Our fellow soldiers are risking their lives and dying!"

"Well, if'n we're all gonna die, I might as well have some fun first." He smiled sleazily and his friends laughed.

"Give her here!"

"'Ey!" he moved back. "I decide what to do wit the bitch, alright!" Now it was getting fierce. Another soldier, smaller than the others, came forward as well.

"What? Get back, punk!" The drunken lieutenant reached clumsily for his sword. The small soldier brandished his own and stabbed the lieutenant. The room fell silent.

Then they jumped at him. He attacked them all, eventually dropped his weapon, and then went at it physically. As some tried to pass her, Relm turned around and toppled a table over at them. She kicked another in the groin.

After they were all down, the small soldier came up to her. She stepped back, ready to get into fighting position. "Relm."

She looked inquiringly. He took off his helmet. "It's me, Gau. C'mon, let's get out of here!"

Upon entering the throne room, there was an eerie feeling of desolation. Everything seemed to have a red glow, and a small gust could be felt. Terra looked straight forward to see the thrones, when she saw the limp form of an Aquadalin flying towards them. They moved out of the way as it slid against the floor. Terra turned it over...Otoshi, dead.

Terra closed her eyes to make herself not shed tears. Why? She thought. Why does this keep happening?

They all looked back up. Vector was levitating in the air, swirling the red glow and warm wind with his robes twirling. He lowered, his eyes glowing.

Terra just noticed a sound that had seemed so ominous going out. Vector had been laughing.

"Utam!" she yelled. "What...what have you done?"

He looked down at her, regaining his breath. "We had a little...disagreement about the motivation of the Empire."

She curled her fists; she had had enough. She began to run at him. He thrust out his hand and she made a sudden stop. She couldn't move. The others fell down as well. Vector touched down and walked toward them. He paced in front of them.

"Let us see," he said, "who's first?"

He went to Locke. He reached into his pocket and brought out a small black book. "Let us see. ‘A thief with little common sense, thick-headed, serves no threat.' Hm," he snorted, "can't see what she would find in you."

Locke made as if to hit him; Vector casually moved and hit him back. He walked next to Celes. Once again he read from Kefka's journal. "‘Traitorous little witch...'"

This time Locke jumped at him. He closed the book with one hand and grabbed Locke's arm in another. Also casually, he snaked around to Locke's back and twisted his arm up. Locke yelled. Terra closed her eyes as she heard the sound.

Vector loosened up, then picked up Locke by his arm and threw him against the huge metallic door. Vector walked past Mog, and to Terra. He opened the book-which he had kept marked with his thumb-and read to himself. After a few seconds he threw the book over his shoulder.

"I need something to have fun with." He kneeled down. "Come on, Esper." He raised her chin with his finger. "Show me the power."

She closed her eyes and moved her head back. This made Vector mad. He grabbed her and threw her, knocking her against a stand of decorative plants.

Locke, clutching his arm, propped himself up against the doors. "Leave her alone, fishface!" he yelled.

Vector turned around and shot out blue bolts of lightning at him. He screamed out as he was electrified.

Vector looked back to see that this upset Terra. He turned back around and shot Locke again. Terra raised herself up, hair covering her face. In a flash of blue light, she was once again in full Esperian form. Vector half-smiled as he felt the jolt of power. They charged at each other, suspended in the air-similar to the way he and Kefka had in the dream.

Terra retracted and flew up past the throne, up the staircase to the side that led to the roof; he followed. Once sure they were gone, Celes and Mog hurried over to aid Locke.

The scene at the top of the palace showed Vector standing over a fallen Terra, back in human form again, blood dripping...

Vector laughed in amusement and twirled his knife around as Vulkrum walked up the stairs towards him. "Well hello there, my valiant commander. Come to view over your army's great success?"

Vulkrum barely gave a look backward to the battle below. "How come you didn't tell me?"

"Tell you what?" Vector asked innocently with a smile on his face.

"You said that Palazzo was my father, well he isn't!"

Vector smiled wider. "Yeah," he snorted. "Gestahl was your dear old dad, wasn't he?"

"You knew? And you said..."

"Exactly what I needed. What we needed. What if I had said you were Ministroa's son? What would we have gotten? Some old Imperial loyalists. But as the son of Kefka we obtained everything we needed, Fanatics, Anrolio, Imperials, and anyone else who was ballsy enough. Plus you pulled the make-up very well, that put a lot of fear into everyone," he added. "That is the key to everything."

Vulkrum remembered invading cities, the head of the army, the looks in the eyes of everyone. They weren't scared of him; they were terrified by the memory of Kefka...

"You liar..."

Vector just laughed. Vulkrum gritted his teeth.

"Now, now, my child, let us prepare for our upcoming victory." Vector turned to return to the throne room. Vulkrum launched at Vector, his sword already in his hand, and yelled as it finally plunged right into the scaly Emperor. He stared right into the Aquadalin's eyes. Vector limped down and fixed his eyes on Vulkrum's. Then Vulkrum heard him snort.

Vector pulled out the blade from his side. Whilst Vulkrum looked in bewilderment, Vector kneed him in the stomach and elbowed him in the head, knocking him on the ground.

"You...missed," Vector said, breathing rather heavily, but not bleeding. "You traitorous, little, arrogant, blockheaded, backstabbing son of a submariner."

"You're the one to talk," Vulkrum said, crawling away from Vector. "Even though you seem to hate him so much, I can't think of anyone to compare you with better than Kefka." Vulkrum spat at Vector's feet.

Vector once again did not become angered. "You can take that to your grave," he said. He shoved Vulkrum with his foot, until he was in front of the stairs that led down from the terrace. Vector waved at him as his pushed him once more, all the way down the steps...that led to the bottom of the palace.

Vector picked up Vulkrum's sword. "You forgot your sword!" He threw it up and over the staircase. He drew out the blades he had in his arsenal and threw them also over the staircase; not caring whom it hit down below. "By the way, it ain't my fault your mum was a loose little tramp!"

He kneeled down against the rail and watched the battle. It was relatively hard to tell what was happening, but he knew they would win. In a few more minutes, his secret team of Aquadalins would emerge from the sea to back-attack the Returners and win the battle. . Everything played out so brilliantly, just like this, he destroyed everything that could have opposed him. Even narrowing his great army of the human scum that he knew would lead to betray him. It was such a pity, though, that the kid had to go and get himself killed, they could have been such a great team together. Vector and Gestahl...just like the old days.

He waited. But they did not come.

Apprehensive, he stood up. He heard something behind him, and then, "You shouldn't have given up your weapons."

He turned in time to duck Terra's sword. He grabbed her by the neck and tensed in. "You, die already!"

Something hit his arm, hard, making him retract. Then it jumped on him, making him trip, and roll down the stairs, wrestling with the being.

In the battle, Dornim felt beaten. It had started to rain an hour or two ago, destroying torchlight and hazing the battlefield. The numbers of their army was dwindling, with low morale and magic points to the survivors. He hid behind a rock formation to find Setzer and a few others already there. "What's going on, Commander?" Setzer asked.

"I don't know, can't see a bloody thing in all this."

"Aye, I can't do much neither in this. I'm afraid that..."

"Yes, I know. But we need to try, if nothing else then for revenge. Think of all they've done, to Edgar, to everyone."

Setzer sighed and looked down. "Alright then. Let's us get going." He jumped up and gestured the others to come with him. "It's almost light, methinks that'll be helpful."

The Imperials were also low on morale and magic, for the most part, but they still had the upper hand. The rain started to cease and the clouds slowly parted. Sunlight showed a hill to the right-hand side of the palace...with a single cloaked being atop it.

Dornim lost his breath, the whole of the armies looked up.

It was the one they had known as Gogo.

As the sunlight grew, others were visible as well, many others. It was eerie how near silent it became. Finally, Gogo made a hand gesture that made all those behind him to charge, as he did as well.

Setzer hooted really loud, and the battle went back on, this time the tables turned greatly in their favor.

Vector opened his eyes, his whole body feeling broken. He was lying in the mud, having fallen all the way down the stairs. He tried to inhale a few times, but noticed blood was caught up in his throat. He looked over, and saw the boy he could identify as Gau lying unconscious and bruised all over. Vector tried to reach over the wring his neck, but couldn't find the energy. "Well," he whispered to himself, "at least I'm alive."

"Wrong..."

The last thing he saw was the cold eyes of the mislead soldier he had betrayed, and his sword.

Dawn broke, showing the battle ended. Terra, along with Relm, Celes, Mog, and Locke, had come from the palace to a very cheerful army of Returners. Meds checked her out, then went to Locke. She was told the whole story. Gogo, the mimic from an enigmatic past, somehow had ventured to the far ends of the world to form his own small army. It turned out there had been other surviving Moogle tribes on more remote continents, who had gladly joined in, along with others such as stranded Returners, Imperial resistance, some of the older orphans Terra had known, and a very odd muddle of monsters that were somehow tamed and used to fight back against the former Colosseum beasts.

Terra spotted him/her standing near the edge of a pond, watching it serenely. She had yet to figure anything out about the being.

She walked up beside him/her. "I don't know how to say this...but thank you."

"It's alright," Gogo spoke in a voice that almost sounded disguised, being non-gender specific. "Anything to end this. War is never good, so you must avoid it whenever you can, but if the time arises, you cannot back down."

The saying sounded pretty nice to Terra. "I only do what I can," Gogo continued. "Hopefully now I may finally leave."

He/she turned and walked away. Setzer was also coming toward Terra. As he and Gogo passed, their eyes met, and as Gogo walked on, Setzer stood dumbfounded, then shook it off.

"Well, they found Gau; he was at the very bottom of the stairs, a long fall. But he survived; they say he'll be okay. No sign of Vulkrum or Vector."

He looked around at the battlefield. "All's well that ends well..."

Terra smiled at the though. Lies...

Caves of Narshe: Final Fantasy VI
Version 6
©1997–2017 Josh Alvies (Rangers51)

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