Road to Peace: Chapter Twelve

The Building Storm

With the wind at his face, Cyan stepped out onto the broad, stone balcony and looked over the Gardens toward a broad horizon. His expression was pinched in worry.

A setting sun cast long shadows on the ground below. Cyan stared into the distance, feeling the cool breeze touch his dry, old skin. In the silent calm, he could sense an impending storm, like the smell of rain on a breeze. And now there was nothing to be done but wait.

"Sir," came a hushed voice from behind. Cyan turned, faced a tall young man in Doma livery. "The king sends for you, sir."

King Desmond; a thin, selfish, weasel of a man who bore no outward resemblance to the former ruler of Doma, his cousin. Cyan grimaced at the thought.

Nodding, Cyan waved the boy away. He closed his eyes, lowered his head. This was the beginning. He suddenly felt his knees give way and braced himself on the rail. What is wrong with me? I am a soldier! I have no time for weakness.

The king seemed agitated when Cyan entered the thrown room. He stood in the corner, conferring with one of his advisors, their heads together and their voices pitched low. When he noticed Cyan come in, he crept forward to greet him, shake his hand, and pat his arm. Cyan cringed at the cold touch and hid a grimace.

"My liege, you wished to see me?" Cyan spoke roughly, his teeth clenched.

Curling a finger through his long black hair, Desmond nodded thoughtfully and beckoned for Cyan to follow. He spoke as they walked toward the dais, on which his bejeweled ivory thrown sat like a pinnacle to his greed.

"Cyan, my friend," his voice was like sandpaper grating against his throat. "You have always been loyal to my family, protected both my uncle and cousin through hard times."

In due modesty, Cyan rapped his arms behind him, looked to the far wall and said softly, "I have done as best I could, sire." But Desmond spoke over him.

"I have been told that a fleet of eight ships is heading toward Doma. They come from Tzen, but bare the flag of Kefkian rebels." He gave Cyan a quick, side-ways glance. "Have you heard nothing?"

Cyan blinked at the sudden tone of accusation in the man's voice, turned to him quizzically. "Sir?"

Stopping, the king stood with his chin up, faced forward arrogantly. "You're friend, Edgar. How is he?"

"Sir, were you not informed of his, ah… escape?"

"Oh, yes, of course," Desmond said wistfully. "It must have slipped my mind." He shot Cyan a cold, dark glare, then stepped up to the dais, sunk into his thrown and began to stroke a small black dog that jumped into his lap.

"I want you to find him." He continued pointedly. "Gather a search party and sweep the entire island."

Cyan attempted to hide his shock. "But sir," he protested, "that could take months!"

"Do it!" The king spat. "Quickly, I want him found! And brought to me the minute he is."

Irritated, Cyan clenched his teeth and avoided meeting the king's cold stare. "Yes, sir. But if I could just ask…"

"No questions!" He rose from the thrown. "Go, now!"

Hiding an exasperated look, Cyan bowed low and strode down the long walk and out into the front hall, flexing his hands in anger. He was also a bit worried. Why would the king want Edgar so urgently? What is so important that we must search him out like a stupid beast? He only needs a bit of air to get his thoughts back, I'm sure he'll return soon.

* * *

The wind blew violently, sending dusk colored clouds skidding across the horizon. The prairie of stiff, dead grass blew in waves like the sea, heaving and receding for miles on end. It lay like a blanket on the land, stark brown beneath the obscure orange sky. Inside the garden, it had been hard for Cyan to believe that life outside was still dead and barren, a mass of drab gray hues and arid soil. He coughed in the dust kicked up by his Chocobo, tugging vainly at the cloth covering his mouth. It provided only scant protection.

Turning his head to the side, he peered at the small group of soldiers behind him. They trudged along solemnly, eyes down, shoulders slumped to the harsh wind. Cyan wondered if they even knew why they had been pulled from their utopia, to wander the empty land like ghosts in hell. Far in the distance, he could still make out the spires of Doma, looming majestically over a flat skyline, silhouetted by the scant, eastern twilight. His gaze followed it longingly, a disappearing refuge in the last light of day. He sighed.

Captivated by the castle's beauty, Cyan jumped a clear foot off his saddle when Celes touched him, a light tap on the shoulder. She raised an eyebrow and smiled at him coolly, but he could see within her deep blue eyes the same aching that gripped his own heart.

As if startled by the sudden intensity in his gaze, Celes turned away quickly and looked off toward the setting sun. "May I ask," she began, glancing at him sideways and fiddling with the reigns in her hands, "why are we headed toward the coast, when there is so much more land to cover in the east? Shouldn't we be covering the wider ground?"

Cyan gazed into the distance, squinted and pointing forward as if aiming at something on the horizon, but the direction was uncertain. "Toward a small port, not a few days journey from here. His majesty seems to have a hunch as to Edgar's whereabouts. He figured on sending the main search party out there to investigate."

Muttering something about a wild goose chase, Celes shifted in her saddle, a simple, worn down seat about as good as any farmer's, and nudged her mount right, trotting around to flank the party. He shook his head. Strange wommon. In the back of his mind, he knew he judged her too harshly. In the past, before the fall of the empire, he had yearned for something to happen, for her to slip up, get kicked out of the fray. But no matter how carefully he had watched he had never seen her slack, never show any sort of residue feelings for the empire. And now that age was gone for good. But he still couldn't admit his suspicion—his immature fears—not even to himself. They killed the king! And my family…. He hung his head, stared blankly at the rhythmic bouncing of his reigns. Oh god, my family.

A flash of light snapped Cyan's gaze back on the horizon. The entire party came to a halt without anyone giving an order, and everyone fell silent. Lightning has once been all but uncommon on these arid plains, striking frequently and with the great strength of the heavens behind it. It would bring rolling storms that bore no rain, jet-black tornadoes that moved with the sinuous grace of a serpent, waves the height of mountains and earthquakes that seemed to last for hours. But all that was over, the confusion had been put to rest with Kefka.

Celes was back at his side in a moment, giving him quizzical looks through a tattered dust rag. Her voice was muffled, but he got the impression she was asking if he thought it might be rain.

He shook his head, more in amazement then opposition. "Impossible. It hasn't rained in months."

"Ever since the world was restored." Celes had removed the rag from her face, revealing lips that were pressed in consternation. Her shining blue eyes, cast downward, were lost in thought. But what she said was true. A great draught had gripped the land ever since the battle with Kefka; one that had started people questioning whether or not the planet could ever heal itself. Everyone had tried to hold faith in that rain would eventually come; that they would no longer have to irrigate their crops from the rivers, and that the diminishing water supply would soon be renewed. Yet it had been hard; their efforts to mend the broken land seemed fruitless.

And despite their attempts, it looked as if the world were giving up.

Another burst of light broke the gray skyline, straight ahead. Almost inaudible, a deep rumble floated back to the party on the wind, breaking the silent awe in which they stood. A hum of conversation bubbled up from the group immediately, shouts of thanks to no one in particular, amazed sighs, and debates over whether or not the storm would bring rain.

Cyan turned in his saddle to survey the men behind him. Expressions of pure joy stared him back, gleaming with excitement and eagerness, eyes wide as saucers. They were completely oblivious to the wind that tugged at their cloths and hair, or the dust that hit their uncovered faces.

"I can't be so optimistic." He admitted in a low voice, turning back to Celes.

Celes nodded solemnly, leaning forward in her saddle and squinting toward the direction of the light. "The distance may be wrong, but I think it's coming from Doma's supply port." She pointed a short span north, aligning an eye with her arm. "If I'm right, then I think we should head that way, and come at it from the south. Along the shore."

"If your right, then we'll be heading straight into a storm." He arched an eyebrow, kicking his mount into a walk. She kept right at his side, sitting her saddle like a solder about to enter battle; face hard, shoulders back, and a look of determination in her eye. A portion of her face was highlighted orange by the setting sun, and he could tell she was holding something back. "What's wrong?" He demanded, cringing at the harshness in his voice. She didn't seem to notice.

Slowly, her gaze turned to face him. She seemed to be fighting back tears, her expression stone cold yet strained, liquid eyes glistening in the scant light. She took a deep, shaky breath. "There's something… residual in the air. An energy, or a… spark. Something that tingles the back of my neck." She quickly looked away, long blond hair brushing past armored shoulders. Visibly, she attempted to compose herself. "I can't explain it. But what I do know is that that's no storm, and we should be very, very cautious."

Taken aback, Cyan opened his mouth to say something, stopped, thought twice, then laid a hand on her horse's side. "Perhaps we should return to inform the king, before we make any rash moves."

"There isn't time." Celes said stubbornly, grabbing his arm and fixing him with a hot, piercing stare. She seemed surprised by her own directness and hastily released him, coughing deliberately to clear the sudden, awkward silence.

Cyan didn't think he had ever seen Celes so unsure of herself. As long as he had known her, she had always been in control of her emotions, even around Locke when most girls would be batting their lashes and acting the fool. It was one of the things that aggravated him about her. But now, for a reason unknown, she had lost that control, and Cyan was left in a strange situation.

"Why?" Was all he could manage to say.

Adjusting her position uncomfortably, she sucked in another breath and raised her chin, looking hard into the distance. "Edgar is there. I feel him."

Go To:
Prologue || Chapter One || Chapter Two || Chapter Three || Chapter Four || Chapter Five || Chapter Six || Chapter Seven || Chapter Eight || Chapter Nine || Chapter Ten || Chapter Eleven || Chapter Twelve || Chapter Thirteen