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The Return

by Nathan Bounds

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Chapter 17

Relm awoke and missed the smell already. Breakfast. There wasn't one.

"Grandpa?" Relm called out frantically. Strago was old. Relm hoped he hadn't died in his sleep. She crossed the room to his bed. It was empty. He was just out somewhere. Relm went down to the kitchen to fix her own breakfast.

By lunchtime, Relm was staring to worry again. She visited the Elder and asked if he had seen Strago.

"Yes," he said. "Just this morning. He took the town boat out to Ebot's Rock. Why? Is something wrong?"

"What's he doing at Ebot's Rock?" Relm screeched. "He's an old man! You can't just let him go out boating to a cave full of monsters. You stupid...!" She went on and on, adding specially selected words here and there.

"My goodness!" the Elder said in astonishment when Relm was finished.

"You'd better pray to The Creator that he's alive," Relm finished powerfully but quietly.

When Strago wasn't back by nightfall, a search party was organized.

Chapter 18

Leo awoke in a distantly familiar place.

Graticus stood before him, waiting for that last Bolt 3 to wear off.

When Leo was fully coherent again, Graticus spoke. "You have become a mighty warrior."

"Who the hell are you?" Leo bit out savagely.

"Don't you remember me? I'm your old friend." Graticus put his arm around Leo. "Your old buddy. Remember? The one you abandoned." Graticus hugged Leo. Hard. Leo could hear as well as feel his right shoulder cracking.

Leo stammered. "A-a-abandoned?"

"You remember. And, if you'll recall, you abandoned everyone in your life."

"No! I didn't! I never abandoned anyone! I'm a good, decent person! Leave me alone!" Leo was crying now.

"People are good liars. You convinced yourself that I speak of someone else. But I speak of you, Clyde Arrowny. Or do you prefer Shadow?" Graticus pulled down his cowl for the first time. The face was scarred, but discernible nonetheless. It was the face that had haunted Shadow for so long, so long that he had changed his name and severed all ties. But that face was back. Minus the blood, it was the way Baram had looked the last time Clyde had seen him. The dream floated back. "You know what they'll do to me if you leave me here." But Clyde left, refusing to kill him mercifully. Now Baram had returned. But he was no longer the true Baram. He was Graticus. Clyde winced as he thought of what must have been done to Baram to make him this way. The MagiTek infusion was obvious. But first they must have broken him. Broken his spirit, crushed his soul, in essence, killed Baram and brought around Graticus. The hateful side of Baram that he had only let out when necessery to save his life. Now it dominated.

"Baram..." Clyde didn't know what to say. "You killed Baram. You let him lay there on the Veldt, by the river. You let them catch him. And then, after they captured him, they created me. I'll let you dwell on that while you sleep. Graticus disappeared into thin air, and the lights went out.

Clyde sat there, and finally entered a troubled sleep.

"If we jump, we'll end up on the Veldt. Dangerous creatures down there," Clyde said. Clyde and Baram stood on Barren falls. "So, do we jump?" "You crazy?" "Why not? We have to get out of here somehow, and we are cornered." "You're not cornered, you're dead," said a new voice. "So we finally have the great train robbers of the century. I hear you were planning to rob the Doma train next. So much for that." An arrow shot through the sky. Clyde dodged it easily. He drew his sword and lunged towards the Figaro Chancellor. Baram moved towards two of the four soldiers accompanying the Chancellor. The soldiers held their ground until Baram was almost close enough to let them know how his breath was. Suddenly, they struck. The first one lunged while the other sliced. Baram rolled under the slice attack. When through with the roll, he got up on his knees and poke the lunging soldier with the end of his sword. As the blood flowed, Baram sliced at the other soldier, missing by bare inches. He got up and kicked the bleeding soldier out of the way. Baram jumped into the air, using the Dragoon Boots he had stolen as well as some knowledge of the ancient art. The soldier looked around but saw Baram nowhere. When Baram fell from the sky, the soldier didn't even know he was dead until the gatekeeper to the Golden Land told him. The other soldier was cringing on the ground. He wasn't mortally wounded, but the cut was deep. He struggled to his feet and moved towards Baram, who was standing over a bloody mess. The soldier sent his sword in a high arc over Baram's head. Baram brought his sword up and met him halfway. They held their swords locked together in each other's faces for a moment. Baram let the soldier get his sword closer, allowing Baram's left hand to get closer to the soldier's neck. Their swords remained locked. Then, suddenly, the soldiers grip slackened, and he got a dead look in his eyes. He fell forward as Baram pulled his ring blade (Extending Ringblade For Only 500 GP! Yes, You Read Right, An Extending Ringblade For Only 500 GP!!!!!) out of the soldier's neck. He moved closer to the edge of the falls in case he had to make an emergency escape. Clyde had finished off one soldier and was now working at the Chancellor. The last soldier charged for Baram, his sword extended. Simple mind, simple solution, Baram thought. He got ready for the charge to hit. But at the last second, the soldier ducked and pushedhis sword upward in a zig-zag-zog line along Baram's body. Baram doubled over in pain and fell over, his head already over the edge. Clyde pulled his sword out of the Chancellor and rushed to the aid of Baram. He impaled the soldier through the back. The soldier fell on Baram, and they both slid over the edge. Clyde jumped after them.

Clyde awoke the next morning to his first day of torture.

Chapter 19

Terra, Mog, Gau, Umaro, the Figaro brothers, and the Figaro Castle staff stood at the base of the mountain which encircled the entire Kefkanian Tower. They were stuck, and had soldiers at their heels.

Edgar was able to walk, despite the hole in side. He lagged behind even the people carrying Sabin in the litter. Terra stayed back with him.

It had been an hour since their escape, and they had decided to scale the mountain. Sabin and friends were having a little trouble with the litter. They tried various Cure spells, but the limited capabilities showed through. As they continued upward, the soldiers got closer.

A couple of hundred feet upwards, they found a cave that they could hide in for a little while. They stayed there the night.

Terra woke up, shivering. She heard footsteps near. She looked around, but in the darkness could see nothing. Suddenly, a hand covered her mouth, and she had to force herself to stay calm.

"It is I, Cyan." He let her go.

"How did you get here?"

"They've kidnapped Lola. I need your help to rescue her."

"What about everyone else? I just can't leave them here."

"Mog can take care of them. Just come on."

"All right. But let's leave a note for them not to come after me." Terra wrote the note and left it on Sabin's litter. Then she left with Cyan.

Chapter 20

The blindfold was finally taken off of Celes. Celes looked around and found herself in a cave on Triangle Island. In front of her stood a familiar but mysterious creature.

"Gogo!" she exclaimed.

Gogo spoke as he/she/it always had. The voice disguise had always made Celes laugh. Now, after two years, Celes could barely hold her laughter when she heard Gogo speak. Gogo spoke in a high voice Celes associated with her fifth year Advanced MagiTek teacher.

"Kefka has returned," Gogo said. Celes stopped worrying about giggling at Gogo's voice. Her mouth ran dry as chills went up her spine.

"Kefka? But we killed him."

"He has found a way to return. He has killed Strago."

"NOOOOOOOOO!" Celes cried out.

"I have gathered you two together to help me get final vengeance against Kefka."

"Two?"

Setzer walked out of the shadows. "I got swallowed by an Eater," Setzer said. "I found Gogo down here."

"This is a start," Gogo said. "Well, we better get going before anyone else gets hurt."

"Right on," agreed Setzer.

"Let's go kick some ass!" Celes said bitterly, wondering what Kefka had done to Strago.
Caves of Narshe: Final Fantasy VI
Version 6
©1997–2017 Josh Alvies (Rangers51)

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