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The White Cloaks

by Djibriel

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He was completely dressed in white robes, which was probably a must in his profession. He looked up from behind his simple desk to greet his new client. He stood up, walked around the desk, and shook my hand. 'Welcome. You've been told why you're here, and you've been told where I fit in the process. Is everything clear to you?'

I nodded.

'That's great. Take a seat. Just for the record, your name is...?'

I found it suddenly a little difficult to remember my name. Panic shook me. Then I remembered. 'Paul. Eeh....Paul Rosebaum'.

The man in front of me searched trough some papers. 'Name's Eriel, but you knew that. Let's see if I can find your record...ah! Here.' He took out a blue envelope and opened it with his finger. He took out a few pieces of paper and swept his arm over the desk. A bunch of other papers and important-looking documents were thrown off.

I looked surprised at the chaos of this organization. Eriel shrugged at my frown. 'Desperate times calls for desperate measures. Here's your file.' He turned them over so I could read them and waited for me to finish.

'Quite the unusual trip you made, Paul. We don't see a lot of people with that kind of a history, let alone people without any intention to do so.'

I had put down the paper and waved at him. 'It's not like I really had a choice. Can we get this over with? I'm looking forward to the Rest. Life has been hard on me.'

Eriel dropped him charms. He straightened his back. 'Talk, then. We need your experiences. This file is not enough. Everybody who passes through here has to explain his motives, but I think yours will be exceedingly useful. Start.'

'I was born in South Figaro. My father...'

Eriel cut me off. 'Please, start where it gets interesting. Start where it starts to concern us.'

'Okay'.

South Figaro is a nice town. It's nothing really amazing, but it was the town that I was born in. It was the town where I lived. It was MY town, if you understand me. You read in my file that I was single, young and healthy of mind and body. So when South Figaro was threatened, I wanted to help. I joined the Temporary Defence.

It's funny how dates keep swimming through one and another. There were times I could have dreamed about the day the Empire of Gestahl invaded South Figaro. Not anymore.

But it happened. Looking back, I realize that we never had a chance to stand. The Impirial Army was greater in numbers and better equipped. There were even a few MagiTek Armored soldiers to aid the foot soldiers. And our side...we were just a bunch of scared townsmen, more often armed with tools than with weapons. Our general moral was low: even though we badly wanted to keep the Empire out, rumors ran through the city that the King had fled over the Sabil Mountains and had found refuge in the dirty hole of the Returner base. Some explained that the King had to live, others called him a coward. And the Returners themselves were regarded with even less respect. Where were they when we needed them? Weren't they supposed to fight alongside us, against the Empire? Their numbers was generally thought to be about 500. We really could have used them.

My death wasn't that big of a deal. An Impirial Soldiers ran at me, while I waited for him to reach me with the small sword in my hand. He charged and I blocked his first hit; then he swung his blade from below, at my side. I clumsily blocked it, lost balance and fell. Before I could get up he had pierced my throat. The pain was terrible and unbelievable and the wound still haunts my dreams. Then I died.

I re-woke as a spirit. I didn't even have a body or anything, just ....a point from where I could see. A gentle wind blew my along my path. It wasn't the real wind, I could see that from the trees and the grass that bent the other way then I drifted. I could do nothing, hear nothing, smell nothing. I don't understand why I wasn't scared. Must be because human instincts had left me along with my physical body.

You have heard countless versions of this story, I suspect. I was blown south. I was blown to a mystical place on the Eastern borders of the Kingdom of Doma, a Kingdom that no longer exists. I was blown to the place the people called the Phantom Forest long before Vector was founded. There, I was to take the trip to the other side. There, I was to board the Phantom Train.

Now that I'm dead, really officially dead, I can tap into the knowledge of the dead. That's why I know so much I never knew. I know, for example, that the Phantom Train was originally a cargo train between Doma and the Kingdom of Zar, a kingdom that has been destroyed in earlier times. I know that the train was eventually brought to a permanent halt by the hands of two train robbers called Baram and Clyde, who killed everybody who rode that train and escaped with a huge sum of money. I know that the train was forgotten by all, and was finally used by....I don't know. Used as a gate to the other side.

I met other spirits there, but I did not recognize them. They were all ... alike. And yet different. I boarded the train, and I waited. More spirits were blown to the Phantom Train, and it became fuller. Not crowded, because spirits don't actually occupy any space. There were other entities as well on the train. Black entities, whispering and seducing to join them by getting off the train and be immortal. Demons too, taunting and torturing those with a guilty conscious. Spirits that refused to get off and had ridden the train back and forth for decades. Other things too, twisted and evil, servants of the train or merely neutral. You know this. I evaded them all the best I could.

But then it all started to go wrong. The train started to move, but something in the air, something inside the Phantom Train told me that there was something horribly wrong. The air vibrated with negativity, and I hid. I just wanted to keep on riding the train and get out on the other side. I was in the seventh car, and it was pretty early on the journey that they passed.

Three living men had boarded the train, accidentally. They didn't talk. They didn't seem very close to each other, as if they had just met or if they had been arguing. When they had passed, I sensed their energy, their vitality. It still hung in the air. Without a thought, I followed them. I just wanted to be around them, around their energy. But they were fast, and I couldn't catch up with them. Suddenly, something dark yet friendly entered my mind. Something that messed with evil things every day, but had managed to keep doing his necessary job for an unthinkable span of time. The Phantom Train spoke to me. He spoke to all of us spirits. He told us there was a problem: three living men had been misplaced and were now walking trough the bowels of the Phantom Train. The voice was not to be disobeyed. His simple request to restore the natural order of things by taking the life from the three men was perfectly logical. And so I headed for the three men to take their lives.

I was the first to reach them, but I was kept at a distance by something. The Phantom Train told me to wait. Apparently I had them trapped. They walked around the car and noticed they had to go back. I waited for them in the entrance. I tried to explain the situation to them, tried to say that the natural order of things had to be preserved and how terrible the consequences were would they stop the Phantom Train. But the only thing that passed my undead lips in a horrible voice were the words: No escape.

N.o. e.s.c.a.p.e

I tested the ability to set things on fire, given to me by the Phantom Train, on one of the men to stop them. Fire would kill them. The oldest man caught the fire ball on his shield and recoiled.

N.o. e.s.c.a.p.e

Then one of the men destroyed my ethereal body by slamming a pillar of light into me, destroying the sacred powers that were granted me to find my way to the other world. I collapsed in that very entrance. Behind me, two of the men climbed the stairs to the roof and one of them leapt from car to car to escape the wrath of the other spirits. I heard the other spirits warning them, trying to stop them.

N.o. e.s.c.a.p.e

What exactly happened then is still a mystery to me. How had they been able to escape? I may never know. Only one thing, roared above the winds, caught my attention and froze my mind in horror.

"We need to detach the rear train cars!"

Unheard by the living, the screams of horror from all spirits, wraiths and ghosts on the rear train cars were terrible. It stung my like a heated blade. In a terrible race against three men only moments away from the lever, all creatures started moving towards the three men, determined to stop them from doing the unthinkable. To this day I'm not sure if they knew then or know now what they were about to cause at that time.

It must have been a very simple thing. One of them had stepped over to the lever, pulled it the other direction it was and then had gone outside to see if it worked. My own horror when I felt the car slowing down was immeasurable. Never had I felt so much panic. The air was brimming with it. Eventually, the last cars of the Phantom Train stopped. I was denied access to the other world. I would never Rest. I was trapped.

How long did I exist there, non-existent? How long was I living there, without living? Without anything happening, without any human thoughts, it's hard to tell. Maybe a month. Maybe half a year. Maybe more, maybe less. The other ghosts left the Train, weeping and moaning, cursing and stumbling, carrying their bodies to other places. I don't know what happened to them. I'm not interested, either. All I did was remain there. Until finally, the world changed around me. A tremor cleaved the forest in two parts. The Lake of Life emptied in the crack. There were explosions all around me, and the world was ripped apart. It was the day Kefka moved the Statues and destroyed the world. After two days of rumbling and shifting, the world calmed down and another long period of silence started. The second period was longer, but it ended eventually.

There was a song in the air, suddenly. I noticed it with interest, but I grew scared when I noticed I was moving. I had been still for such a long time that movement was alien to my ethereal mind. I was pulled. The melody was dark and terrible, but I moved towards it anyway. Like breathing, I just did it. I flew west this time, towards a tower. It was a huge tower, standing inside a natural ring of mountains. Men in robes marched around and when I tried to look in their minds, I was halted. I don't know why or how, and I don't think it's important.

There were bodies all over the place, around the Tower. With the sweet promises of power and immortality on their lips, they lured me. Suddenly, I experienced something terrible and strange: feeling. I was cold. For no moment after my death had I felt something, but now I was cold. The coldness was terrible, and I shrieked and thrashed, but I couldn't go.

One body, mangled, beaten, destroyed earlier in a pointless fight lay in a circle of candles. Men were chanting. They bound me to this body, and once again I was corporeal. They sent me to the highest regions of the tower, and there I waited. They pressure of waiting seemed to be heavier than before, and I grew impatient. Now and again, thieves would climb the tower. They were killed, and some escaped. I didn't care. When finally the tower brimmed with true activity and there were enemies to fight, I was excited.

Once again, my ...passing wasn't a big deal. I tried to attack and casted a Death spell, but before I was finished, there was a girl. She was blonde, this much I remember. Nothing more. She sent light into me, and suddenly I was alive, Alive again. For a moment I was ecstatic and had there been time, I would have kissed the ground she walked on out of pure gratitude. There are no words, in no language I know, that could possibly begin to describe the happiness I felt at being alive again. Then, an unbearable feeling raced trough me. I know now that this was because of the long-dead composition of my body, which could under no circumstance be truly alive. My organs had rotted, my veins were gone. The wind howled in my carcass, and I died.





'And then you checked in.'

'Yes', I said. Eriel frowned at the content of the papers he was looking at, and scribbled something at the end of the text. He looked up and smiled. 'An amazing journey'.

I looked at Eriel, and realized that even if he was a manager of the dead, he wasn't flawless. 'Don't glorify it. Although I had no comprehension of feelings of sadness, pain, loneliness..., anger....I can describe that year by those words.'

Eriel held up his hands in the air as if to protest or to silence me. 'Didn't mean to offend you. There's still some paperwork to be done. I want you to make sure this data is correct, nothing special, just your age of passing and those things. Place your autograph here...' He pointed. 'And there, there, there and there.' I looked at him. This was the moment.

'These people from the Phantom Train, the three that caused the horror. Are they here?'

Eriel frowned. 'That's classified.'

I leaned back. 'In that case, I won't sign anything.'

Eriel dropped his boyish charm as well as his business-like approach. He stood up. 'Are you a fool? Because only a fool would...this is unheard of.'

'That may be so. But what is also a fact is that I had a chat with several other "guests" in the waiting area. There are several who also deserted the Phantom Train. They are eager to talk to these these men. We have their names. Clyde Arrowny. Cyan Garamonde. Sabin Rene Figaro. They demand justice.'

There was silence.

'There are, without a doubt, more here who deserve the right to correct unspoken wrongs. They will support us.'

Eriel was calm on the surface, but I wondered what he was thinking. This 'calm' exterior didn't look or feel a lot like his previous behavior. 'Don't you see that we can't have this information to be public knowledge? The afterlife would become a constant war zone.'

I felt anger rising, and I slammed my fist down on the desk. There was a loud thud, it surprised Eriel. While he was looking more and more uncomfortable, I noticed that my hand didn't hurt. 'THEY CONDEMNED ME!', I roared, and I felt good about the fact that Eriel was now looking...scared? I saw him move his hand under his desk. A slight movement with his hand, upwards. Eriel has pushed a button.

I realized I was going to need my comrades in the waiting area, and I turned towards the door. 'It's locked', Eriel said. I was disgusted by the content in his voice. "I've got everything under control, so just sit back", his voice said. I tried to open the door, and noticed it was indeed locked. I turned.

'Open this door', I said.

'No', replied Eriel.

The door opened. Two guards came in, flowing blond hair. Both were dressed in the same white robes as Eriel, but instead of a bunch of unsorted papers, they carried flaming blades which were sheeted behind their belts. The fire didn't appear to do anything to the guards or the robes they wore. 'A troublemaker?', the left one informed.

'A revenger', Eriel said. I looked at Eriel for a second and realized that I hated him. I hated the whole afterlife, in fact. I leapt at one of the guards and punched him in the face. Before I could strike another, I was effectively grabbed from behind with both my arms twisted behind my back. I thrashed and squirmed to be released, but I was powerless against the guard. 'JUSTICE!', I screamed at Eriel. 'I'LL FIND THESE MEN! I'LL FIND THEM AND SHOW THEM...AAGH! I'VE GOT AN ETERNITY!'

While Paul Rosebaum was carried off by the guards, still screaming and insulting, Eriel looked at the mess. He gathered the papers which lay across the floor and examined his next client. Aisha Grassland, he saw, and noticed she had been on the Phantom Train as well. He sat behind his desk and announced over the intercom that Aisha Grassland, I repeat, Aisha Grassland could come in. When she came in, he stood up and walked around the desk. 'Welcome. You've been told why you're here, and you've been told where I fit in the process. Is everything clear to you?'

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

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