Road to Peace: Chapter Eight

Counsel of One

soft morning sunlight filtered through the small, round window and danced across Locke's face, waking him from a restless sleep. He sat, staring at the sheets laying in a heap on the floor, and let the drowsiness melt from his body. After a few minutes, he stood, yawned, and, snatching up the pile of cloths he had left on a chair in the corner, began to dress.

Moving his luggage away from the door, he started out the way he had come the previous night, down a long, windowless corridor to his left. He soon found himself back in the main hall, light spilling in from the main entrance at his left. As he started outside, the fresh scent of wet foliage tickled his nose, beckoning him into the gardens. He smiled.

The bright mother sun sat low on the horizon, accenting the scarce wisps of cloud skidding along the light blue sky. A crisp breeze sent the leaves rustling, and as he walked along the small dirt paths, listening to the myriad chirps of birds as the danced among the dew-tipped leaves, he felt all his trouble and anxiety lifted from his shoulders. He understood why these gardens had been made, they were a sanctuary from the world outside, a place to revile in the peace and tranquillity of nature, and forget the baron land beyond. And he prayed that one day the entire world would once again be this beautiful, for he would be sure every generation remembered how precious this land truly was, and to never take it for granted.

When he finally returned to the castle, a small figure ran out to greet him, and he smiled the instant he recognized who it was. "Relm!" he cried, as she jumped into his arms. He laughed joyfully, setting her down on the dirt path. "What have you been up to?"

"Painting, for Owzer." She replied with a giggle. Her eyes sparkled in delight. "Come on, they're all waiting for you!"

Locke blinked as she began to pull him toward the castle. Who's waiting for me? He wondered, though he could take a guess. And as she led him through the entrance hall and into the main dinning room, he saw he was right. At the end of the dinning table sat Cyan, strait-backed, his black hair pulled tightly into a braid. To his right was Celes, soft yellow hair flowing over porcelain skin, and to his left was Sabin, face as hard as ever. Locke grimaced when his eyes met those of Sabin's; the man just wasn't the same.

Beside Celes, Strago crouched in his chair, his face worn and wrinkled, and his long white beard trailing across his bright red jacket. Relm had quickly jumped into the seat beside him, and beside her Gau fidgeted with his soft leather outfit, the top open to revile a thin, rib exposed chest. It seemed comfort and luxury had yet to change him.

At the opposite end from Cyan was Setzer, lounging in one of the hard wood chairs, his head bowed. The way he sat looked quite uncomfortable, and yet he seemed content. At his right was placed another chair, empty, on which his legs were crossed at the heels. Locke assumed the extra place was for Shadow, in case fortune had bid him to come.

Locke took an empty seat beside Sabin and a man dressed in a dull green uniform, his light yellow hair combed neatly to one side, and a large dimple marring his left cheek. Locke did not recognize the man.

"Now then, shall we begin?" Cyan said from the head of the table. Not waiting for an answer, he continued. "This is Commander Dromier, tactical adviser to General Hagan of the Tzen army." He gestured to the man in green sitting beside Locke. "He has come to bring the king news of a fleet of Kefka's followers, who have disembarked and are heading northward in this direction." Dromier nodded agreement.

"What do you want us to do?" Setzer asked, lifting his head.

"Nothing, at the moment." Dromier replied in a deep voice. "Until we have discovered their intent, there is nothing we can do. But if we find they pose a threat to Doma or the surrounding territory, we ask that you help us in fighting them back."

"They know as well as we do," Celes began, appearing regal in an embroidered white gown that hung on her in ways that took Locke's breath away. "Any aggressive act they pursue will be fruitless. Their forces are far too weak to conquer even Doma's recovering legion. What hope can they have in attacking this castle, without internal aid?"

Dromier blinked. "Our thoughts exactly, General sir. I was planning on bringing it up later, but we do suspect the fleet is relying on assistance from inside Doma castle. They could simply be a distraction to allow whatever lays behind the walls of Doma time to gnaw away at our core, until it is simply a matter of breaking our weakened blockades and laying siege. Since we have all but ruled out any outside influences, it seems the only logical option, unless they are simply stark raving mad."

"That wouldn't surprise me." Locke mumbled.

"Perhaps not." Dromier said, turning to Locke. "But we must assume they have at least some wits about them, or they many not be as easy to defeat as we anticipated."

"Of course." Locke glanced at Sabin, but the man was lost in thought, his eyes seeming weary and detached.

Cyan was about to speak again when a wommon in a white uniform came rushing into the room. She bent down beside Cyan and said something into his ear, and as he listened his face seemed to grow more and more surprised. Finally, she straitened and dove out the door again.

Eyes wide with amazement, Cyan rose with his palms flat on the table and addressed the entire assembly in a surprisingly level voice. "The fever has broke." He said calmly, and on all but one face the same shocked expression as was on Cyan's bloomed. Dromier, however, looked about quizzically, yet in their joy no one noticed.

Sabin sprang from his chair immediately and all but ran out the door, while the others stared after him, dumbfounded. "Can we see him?" Relm asked finally, breaking the silence which had fallen apon them all.

Cyan looked at her, smiling. "I don't see why not. Though perhaps we should wait a bit." He glanced down at Sabin's empty seat, and, shaking his head as though riding himself of some confusion, sank back into his own.

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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