THE CRAVE GAMING CHANNEL
V'lanna
 

The Adventures of Wedge - Part II
 By: Andrew Wong
yawmin@leland.stanford.edu

Well, here‚s the sequel to The Adventures of Wedge. I would recommend you read the first part before attempting this one, as a lot of the material here comes straight from my previous story. Enjoy.

  


Chapter One - Guardia

 
King Guardia gazed out from his bedroom window fixedly. His only daughter, missing. And by all rumors she ran off with some spiky-haired redhead. He sighed.

 „I know she‚s growing up... but it‚s hard to let her go. Aliza... I‚ve tried so hard. Am I to fail now? Am I to lose her after taking such care?š He shook his head and sighed again.

 „Your Majesty!š The Chancellor burst into the room, out of breath. „Monsters!š

 „What? That‚s impossible. The Mystics haven‚t threatened at all since the War ended a thousand years ago. What are you babbling about?š

 „Your Majesty, I know it sounds crazy. But a large group of monsters - at least twenty- has formed up on Zenan Bridge, threatening to attack both the Millenial Fair and the Castle itself in protest of the celebration.š

 King Guardia frowned in disbelief. „That‚s insane. If they split their forces in any way our soldiers will wipe the floor with them.š

 „In normal times no! But because of the Fair almost the entire army is on leave, and we have only a skeleton force manning the Castle. We don‚t even have enough fighters to risk a raiding party. We only have enough men to adequately defend Guardia Castle. We might possibly be able to defend the Fair, but only if we sent all of our fighters and left the Castle undefended. The monsters know this, and plan to start a massacre at the site we don‚t defend. The citizens will go nuts if we allow this to happen - if any of them survive!š The Chancellor stared helplessly at the King. „What do we do?š

 King Guardia paced over to his favorite chair and sat down. With a finger, he traced the faded outline of the embroidery on the upholstery - his daughter‚s first, unsuccessful attempt at sewing, done to try to please her daddy. That minor debacle had turned her to other paths in life. „Send one messenger to the Fair. The fastest you‚ve got. Tell him... tell him to tell the people to evacuate to the Castle. Hopefully we can get them here before the fighting begins. Send a couple of soldiers to escort them in as well. They may lose their homes, but perhaps we can save the people.š Even as he spoke the words, he knew it was futile. Only the quickest and strongest could make it through Guardia Forest before the monsters arrived. The elderly, the mothers... the children... they would be annihilated. And there was nothing he could do about it. „Hurry! I want that Fair cleared NOW!š The Chancellor jumped, and ran out of the King‚s bedroom.

 „Nadia... be safe...š

 

*****

„People of Guardia!š the man wearing the royal insignia on his chest bellowed. „You are in grave danger! Go now to Guardia Castle if you value your lives. This fairground will be under attack in less than half an hour!š He moved off, repeating his injunctions loudly. Some people began quickly running in the direction of the Castle, others milled around dazedly, and some - the foolish - left to see if the rumor was true. Three men, clad in blue, looked at one another somberly in the entrance to a tent.

 „Monsters... who would have ever thought!š The first shuddered delicately, paling. „I don‚t know about you two, but I‚m not sticking around for them. I‚m outta here!š He ran off, stumbling and sobbing in his haste. The remaining two stared after him.

 „Never thought Piette was THAT much of a pansy,š muttered the first. „He brags about the one time he beat up that inventor girl‚s robot, but he gets cold feet at the prospect of a real fight. What do you think about this whole monster deal, Wedge?š

 „That guy sounded pretty serious to me. Let‚s go corral him and ask him a few questions.š The pair moved off, in pursuit of the man in the royal insignia. They found him earnestly talking to an old man with an enormous weapons collection by his side. „Sir, you must leave. You are in grave danger! These weapons are replacable, your life is not.š The messenger pleaded with all his might, but the old man was like a rock.

 „You don‚t understand, young one. Some of these weapons - well, let‚s just say if they got hold of some of these weapons Guardia Castle wouldn‚t stand a chance even with its full army defending. And you two youngsters, what do you two want?š This he addressed to the two men in blue who had approached during the conversation.

 „We wanted a chance to speak with this man here.š Wedge indicated the messenger. „My name is Wedge, and my compatriot here is Vicks.š

 The messenger turned to them. „You are still here, good sirs? Monsters are on their way! You must flee immediately!š Wedge made a calming motion with his hands.

 „Hold on now, sir. How many monsters are there? What types? Magic-users? Is it an organized movement, or simply a mob?š

 The man with the insignia began to looked flustered. „I know not! I simply know that they are many, perhaps two dozen, and at least a third are heading this way!š

 Vicks spat. „Pah! No more than eight to ten, then. Between my magic and your sword, Wedge, we should be able to rip their guts out and use them for jump ropes. Speaking of which... where is your sword?š

 Wedge smacked his forehead. „Oh no! I left it with Norstein when I began to work with him - it didn‚t fit in with the rest of our costume. Damn!š

 Just then, the old man coughed and spoke up. „You are going to destroy the monsters? Take this, then.š Reaching into a large chest behind him, seemingly at random, he pulled out a slender sword, slightly curved in the blade. A heron was engraved on the hilt and another on the blade. „While without inherent magical properties to it, this blade has been forged with magic, and so is nearly indestructable. It will come in handy, I think.š Wedge put his hand out cautiously and grasped the hilt. The grooved hilt fit in his hand as if he had held it for years. Experimentally, Wedge cut and thrust at the air. The balance was perfect.

 „Old man, I cannot pay you for this... but we work for Norstein Bekkler, I‚m sure he will pay you with an advance on our salary...š Wedge stopped as the old man waved him off unconcernedly.

 „If you succeed in defeating the monsters, you will have amply repaid me. My name is Melchior. I live on the eastern continent - come visit me anytime...š With that he turned around and began packing weapons into his chest, handling each with practiced care.

 „All right Wedge, let‚s go. You‚re the tactician, what do you think we should do now?š Vicks snorted. „Personally, I‚d say we just go out there and maul them. We‚re only outnumbered four to one, good odds for any Imperial soldier.š Wedge shook his head.

 „Normally I‚d suggest using hit and run tactics within the Fair itself. We‚re heavily outnumbered, we don‚t know what type of enemies we‚re facing and we can hide better among tents than in the open plains. Still, there are still a bunch of poor saps wandering around the Fair, thinking that this is just going to be some new attraction. We can‚t endanger them. But I hate to suggest a full frontal attack, especially seeing as you don‚t have the physical invulnerability that I do.š Wedge pulled a small green stone out of an inner pocket, which twinkled faintly with its own light. „And even though you‚ve been practicing your magic with me and charging up this little baby, I don‚t know how much of a magic attack I can withstand.š

 „Hmph. We don‚t have much time, Wedge. We need to stop those monsters now.š Vicks frowned. „These people... have been good to me. They welcomed me as a stranger, took me into their homes, and taught me a new life. I owe them, Wedge.š

 Wedge nodded. „You‚re right, of course. Here‚s what we‚ll do. Come on, there‚s no time to lose.š Slanting the sword across his back, Wedge took off at a dead run towards Zenan Bridge, with Vicks not far behind. As they went, Wedge outlined the battle plan and Vicks slowly nodded and grinned.

 

*****

„Gaaaah! Death to the Humans! Their puny shells will be our supper tonight!š

 „Muhahaha! They cannot resist us! We are the Mystics!š An undisciplined band of monsters filled the air with their chilling battle cries. Several of the smaller, quicker monsters had already claimed their first prey, those citizens who had been foolish enough to „go see the scary monsters.š Emboldened by their easy success and confident of their ability to crush any opposition, they had neglected to send out scouts or keep a lookout. The troop of monsters moved on in a straggling group towards the Millenial Fair, and passed a small grove of trees, unaware they were being watched.

 „The fools.š Vicks snorted. „There, in the rear. That small Imp dude. He can use magic, and he‚s about at my level. I‚d say he‚s the biggest threat at the moment. What do you make of the rest?š

 Wedge squinted. „He‚s pretty well guarded by three henchmen. I can take them, but I don‚t know how fast. You‚ll have to duel the magic user on even terms. Do you think you can handle it?š

 „Yeah, leave it to me. I‚ll batter and fry his ass and serve him for lunch. I‚m worried about the remaining monsters though.š

 „Don‚t worry about them. After you take down the mage, concentrate on keeping yourself alive. I‚ll draw the attention of the rest of the monsters.š Wedge took a deep breath. „Are you ready?š

 „Say the word, boss.š

 „GO!š With that, Wedge took off at a sprint towards the rear of the enemy column. Whipping out his sword, he attacked the first henchman, who was still oblivious to any threat. Wedge focused his fighting spirit on the sword, honing the edge down to the atomic level and beyond. With a great shout, he walloped off the head of the first henchman without any difficulty. With the return slash, he opened the second henchman from navel to nose and jumped backwards to avoid the sudden gout of innards. The third henchman, alerted to Wedge‚s presence, threw a massive fist at Wedge and knocked him into the rest of the monster group. From that point, the battle became a general melee as Wedge cut and slashed at eight targets at once.

 Vicks, while Wedge had been effectively occupying the rest of the monsters, began his battle with the Imp mage. He raised his right arm, balled his hand into a fist and extended his thumb and pinky finger. Then, chanting sonorously, he began to rotate his wrist back and forth. „Destruction of nature gather in flame! FIRE!š A green aura enveloped Vicks briefly, and flames leapt from his left hand. The ground beneath the Imp burst into flame, blackening the Imp into a figure of char. Vicks grunted.

 „That wasn‚t so tough.... Aaaigh!š The Imp was far from defeated. It had been caught off guard, but now it rushed Vicks and bowled him over, disrupting his concentration. In its high, squeaky voice it called out „Filthy blood of revenge, inject! POISON!š This time the Imp was the one surrounded by the green halo, and Vicks doubled over in agony, retching.

 „All right -urk- you bastard. You‚re going down.š Pitching his voice higher in a different chant, Vicks staggered to his feet, wiping the spittle off his mouth. „Scatter your chilly sharp blades! ICE!š A hailstorm suddenly engulfed the Imp, cutting and slashing with gale-force winds and tiny shards of ice. Each small sliver, which would cause significant pain to a human being, was like a dagger to the Imp‚s small form. It fell to the ground, gushing bile from every wound. Vicks hobbled over to the quivering corpse and spat on it. „Pah! That‚s for you, you son of a motherless goat. Erk... ugh...š Vicks vomited once again. „I‚d better take care of myself while I still can. Heavenly lights, carry me to a fountain of power! HEAL!š A brilliant white glow surrounded Vicks, and when it faded Vicks stood upright, unharmed. „Now let‚s see how Wedge is doing.š

 Wedge was holding up very well. If he had not been invulnerable to physical attack, though, he might have been torn to bloody shreds. Already he had felt the claws of a Naga-ette rake across his unprotected back or had been thrown back by the punch of a henchman too many times. Still, he had cut down half his assailants, and as Vicks finished off the Imp mage Wedge plunged his sword into another Naga-ette‚s heart. Quickly wrenching it free, ignoring the spurt of viscous fluid that accompanied the blade, he spun to face yet another attacker. Behind him, he heard Vicks chanting. „Vicks... no! Don‚t! Don‚t draw attention to yourself!š But it was too late. Two of the remaining three monsters disengaged from Wedge, and ran at Vicks. Wedge swore, but as he cut down the last monster Vicks shouted, „Strip away the ground with glistening blades! BOLT!š A spear of light fell from the clear blue sky, impaling the first monster. The second, however, leapt over the still-smoking corpse of its companion and tore at Vicks. Vicks‚ robes ripped, and the monster‚s claws came away red. Vicks screamed and crumpled to the ground.

 „VICKS! NOO!!š Wedge‚s temper burst. He pointed the tip of his sword at the monster and flung his anger out throught the blade. The monster screamed - a scream that was suddenly cut off as its head detonated in a ball of fire. The rest of the body fell at Vicks‚ feet. Wedge hurried over to Vicks.

 „Vicks... you brave, foolish man. I was doing all right. You shouldn‚t have risked yourself for me. Are you all right?š

 „It‚s nothing. It‚s only a scratch, and I can heal myself. Life‚s refreshing breeze, blow in energy! CURE!š And with that, miraculously, Vicks‚ wounds closed themselves until no evidence remained of Vicks‚ injury except the torn and bloodied robes. „See? I‚m tougher than year-old goat jerky. What now, boss?š

 Wedge scratched his head. „Well... perhaps we should go to Guardia Castle and see how they‚re getting along in their battle. The messenger did say that only part of the monster force was heading for the Fair. And, seeing as it is Fairtime, I don‚t know how well Guardia Castle is defended. What do you say?š

 Vicks shrugged. „Maybe we‚ll get paid for taking down those monsters, anyway. These guys had no gold on them. I‚m game if you are.š

 „To Guardia Castle, then.š

 

*****

King Guardia stared out the window. „The only thing we have to be thankful about is that this group didn‚t attack the fair. With these monsters, they could have easily massacred everyone.š Even so, the royal messenger and his escorts had barely gotten in with most of the townspeople when the monsters arrived on the scene. Great cow-like beasts, skeletons, mace-wielding monsters, and other horrors roamed outside the walls of Guardia, seeking entrance. As they wandered they trampled the bodies of several more of the townspeople who had arrived just too late. King Guardia still heard their screams, their pleas for mercy and aid as the monsters tore them apart. He closed his eyes. Nadia had not been among the townspeople who got into the Castle. „We‚re also lucky none of them are magic users. We‚d be chopped liver if they were. How are the archers doing?š

 The Chancellor shook his head. „We‚ve downed a good half-dozen of them, sir, but we‚re nearly out of arrows. The strongest and meanest ones are still out there, too. Nearly a dozen. We may have to risk a sortie soon, sire.š He hesitated. „I will go and form up the soldiers, your Majesty.š

 „No.š King Guardia straightened and turned to face his Chancellor. „No. It is my duty, as King, to lead my troops into battle. I will form them up myself. Bring my sword and armor.š As his Chancellor still hesitated, the King fixed him with a glare. „Go, I said! Obey your King!š Unhappily, the Chancellor bowed his way out of the room. King Guardia turned back to the window. He stared out over the battlements, over the field where he would soon fight... and would soon die. His eye caught movement at the edge of the forest. His heart sank. More of his citizens, come to their deaths. He could not bear to watch, but he could not remove his gaze either. Two men. Two more deaths on his hands. One of the men raised his hand and pointed to the monsters, seemingly saying something to his companion. Then, to Guardia‚s surprise, the air between the man and one of the great cow-beasts ignited in a flash of flame. Bellowing, the burned monster charged the two men. A glint of light showed in the hands of the second man, who leapt into the air and stabbed the sword deep into the animal‚s skull with an audible crunch. The beast swayed and toppled over, but the two men already were moving against the rest of the monsters. Hope suddenly sprang up into Guardia‚s heart. He hurried out of the room, calling left and right for his soldiers. Perhaps they would survive after all.

 „Destruction of nature, gather in flame! FIRE!š Vicks burned down another skeleton, as Wedge cut a mace in two with one slash of his sword and severed the wielder‚s head from its torso with the return swing. „Wedge, I don‚t know how much longer we can hold out. There‚s still seven nasty baddies coming at us, and I‚m almost out of MP. I‚ve got one spell left in me, and I need to save that for a cure.š Vicks shook his head in frustration.

 „Don‚t worry about it, just stay behind me!š yelled Wedge, who was concentrating on not letting any of the monsters flank him and get to Vicks. „Damn, where are those Guardia soldiers!š As if on cue, the gates of Guardia Castle swung open and a column of blue charged out of the castle, with a glittering silver figure leading them. The monsters, upon seeing them, roared and as a unit charged the Guardia army. The crunch when the two collided was sickening. Three more monsters fell to stabbing pikes, but the remaining four were carving bloody gaps in the Guardia ranks. Then Wedge joined the fray. Turbocharging his sword with his own fighting energy, Wedge flung himself against the massive bulls and the huge mace-wielders. Within seconds they had all fallen in a flood of guts and slime. Panting, Wedge surveyed the battlefield. Then he saw the silver figure on the ground, no longer gleaming bright as he had as he left the Castle. „King Guardia... no! Vicks, get over here.š

 Vicks hurried to the King‚s side. „Damn, this is bad. Let‚s hope I can do this. Wedge, back off. I don‚t want anybody else sapping the strength of this spell. Life‚s refreshing breeze, heal from the sky! CURE 2!!š Vicks held out two fingers like a victory sign and thrust his hand at the King. A searing white light blinded Wedge, who covered his eyes with his hand. When he was able to see again, King Guardia was feebly attempting to sit up and Vicks was sprawled on the ground. Wedge rushed over and began shaking Vicks. „Vicks! Vicks! Are you all right?š

 Vicks‚ eyelids slowly fluttered open. „No, Drill Sergeant, I didn‚t eat all the shrimp...š His eyes rolled back up into his head as he fell unconscious once more.

 Wedge glared at King Guardia, who was being helped up by two of his surviving soldiers. „This man saved your life, and helped save the Fair, and now he needs help. A bed. Food.š King Guardia nodded.

 „Of course. Squad A! Stretcher detail! Bring this man to the infirmary.š Six soldiers ran up in synch, picked up Vicks gently, and bore him into the Castle. King Guardia watched them go in, then turned to Vicks. „I owe you my thanks, sir. You say you saved the Fair? You defeated the second group of monsters?š Wedge nodded. „Then it seems I owe you two for more than my life.š The King paused, thinking. „I saw you two fight. You have the look of veterans to you. I am in need of a Captain of the Guard... and his assistant. Would you and your friend like the job? After the Fair, of course. I wouldn‚t want to take you away from your entertainment.š Wedge smirked, but held his tongue. „So, what do you say?š The King held out his hand.

 Wedge thought. „I can‚t speak for my friend, but as for myself... you‚ve got yourself a deal.š He and the King clasped hands.

 

*****

It was three months after the new Captain of the Guard and his associate, the new Elder Mage, assumed their positions. Only the unexpected return of Princess Nadia - with a new boyfriend! - and the false trial of the King had caused a greater stir. Just as surprising was the fact that the two lovers and their third friend, Lucca, had learned the use of magic. So the new Captain of the Guard and the new Elder Mage took on a new responsibility: tutoring the three teens in use of magic and weapons.

 „Dammit Wedge, I don‚t LIKE being called Elder Mage. It makes me feel older than a sequoia next to a weed.š Vicks walked down the hall with Wedge, on their way to yet another training session with Lucca, Nadia, and her boyfriend Crono. „I mean, couldn‚t I be called Vicks, Grandmaster Mage or Vicks, Supreme Wielder of the Mystic Arts or something? Elder Mage, pah! I feel like I need a long white beard and a gnarled oaken staff.š

 „Trust me, Vicks. It could be worse.š Wedge, now dressed in the Castle‚s utilitarian blue and silver armor, stopped near the courtyard where training sessions were usually held. He suspected Vicks had a crush on Lucca, and that this was a source of his complaining, but he wasn‚t about to say anything indiscreet about it. „At least it‚s not „demonš or „evil warlockš or something.š

 Vicks snorted. „Yeah, whatever. Let‚s just get on with the session. Hey.... there in the courtyard, talking to Nadia, Lucca, and Crono. That‚s somebody I don‚t know.š

 Wedge‚s lips curved up in a smile. „Spekkio!š

 Wedge raced into the courtyard, followed by a flustered Vicks. „Spekkio, it‚s good to see you! What‚re you doing here?š

 Nadia flipped her ponytail back over her shoulder. „He says he‚s here to see you. He was nice enough to spar with us, and all, but he still as arrogant as ever.š She took the bite out of the last statement with a smile directed at Spekkio.

 „Yeah, that‚s right kid.š Spekkio‚s booming voice showed him to be the same rilesome old self as ever. „I see you got yourself some new duds. They look better on you than that weird blocky thing you had on when you got here.š

 „Uh... hello, Guardia to people! Who is Spekkio?š Vicks looked from Wedge to Lucca to Spekkio and back to Lucca. „By the way, you‚re looking nice today, Lucca.š

 „Why, thank you, Vicks.š Lucca giggled.

 Spekkio chuckled. „Feisty pair, aren‚t they. Anyway, I‚m here to talk to you, Wedge, about getting yourself out of this dimension.š

 Wedge frowned. „I thought you said you weren‚t able to transport me out. Only the Esper who originally sent us out of Narshe could do that.š

 „Yeah, I remember. But new things, they do always be comin‚. By some means I don‚t understand, a couple of new Espers have come into being. Two, in fact. And they‚re twins.š

 Crono‚s eyes widened, as Lucca said, „Masa...?š and Nadia followed with „Mune...?š

 „Hah, quick kids. Yeah, Masa and Mune. They also seem to have some temporal/dimensional way of moving around. Problem is, they‚re not in this time period. And Time Gates are no longer stable enough to transport humans. I can still go through őem, and Gaspar (that‚s the Old Man you met, Wedge) can go through őem cause he understands how to work them. But none of you can, unless you‚ve got some funky new gizmo that I haven‚t heard about.š

 Lucca clapped her hands together. „Oh, what a coincidence! Just last night I finished the Epoch Mark II! Faster, sleeker, gets more miles to the gallon...š She sidled up to Vicks. „And it seats five... perfect size for a family, eh, Vicks?š she purred. Vicks gulped.

 „Er... ahh... this thing will help us get home sooner? Let‚s go then!š Vicks ran off, with Lucca in hot pursuit. Wedge collapsed laughing.

 

*****

After a short jaunt to the Middle Ages in the Epoch Mk II, Lucca, Crono, Nadia, Wedge and Vicks all went to visit Glenn, previously known as Frog. They found him in the main hall of Guardia Castle, chatting with Queen Leene.

 „Ah, Crono! Lucca! Marle! őTis good to see you all once more! And who might these two gentlemen be?š Glenn bowed to Wedge and Vicks.

 „This is Wedge and this is Vicks,š said Lucca. „They are trying to get home, and need Masa and Mune‚s help to get there. Can we borrow the Masamune?š

 „But of course, madam.š Frog pulled the sword from its sheath and stuck it blade-first into the Castle‚s flagstones.

 „Oh, Glenn,š said the Queen. „I wish you wouldn‚t do that when you show off the Masamune. It costs a fortune to repair those tiles.š

 At that moment, the Masamune began to glow, and as it shone brighter it separated into two swords, which then coalesced into two strange-looking beings clad in white.

 „Well well...š said Masa.

 „...we have visitors.š replied Mune.

 „Whatcha guys need?š the two said in unison.

 Wedge stepped forward. „My name is Wedge. My friend here is Vicks. We don‚t belong to this dimension, and we‚re trying to get home. We heard from an Esper named Spekkio that you might be able to help us.š

 Mune frowned. „We can...š

 Masa frowned as well. „...but then again, we can‚t.š

 „You see...š

 „...we can most definitely get you out of this time and place...š

 „...but we don‚t know where you‚ll end up.š

 „You may end up in a dimension where life is nonexistent...š

 „...or in a place where human life is reviled and hunted...š

 „...or back in your home.š

 „We can‚t be sure.š

 „Pah! We have to take the risk.š Vicks stepped up next to Wedge, nervous and quite obviously not looking at Lucca. „Uh... I really want to get home, and... uh... well...š He glanced at Lucca, who winked at him. „I REALLY REALLY want to get home. Please!!š Nadia giggled and Crono grinned openly.

 Masa looked at Mune. Mune looked at Masa.

 „Ok, if you really want to.š

 „We‚ll give it a whirl.š

 „But in case we don‚t return you to your home dimension...š

 „You‚ll need to seek out one of the trans-dimensional Espers.š

 Wedge frowned. „I thought there were no Espers left that could cross dimensional planes. Spekkio said so. And he also said that no Esper can return me home except the one that sent me away.š

 „Spekkio‚s an old goat. He doesn‚t know everything.š

 „But there is only one trans-dimensional Esper powerful enough to send you back.š

 The twins spoke as one.

 „Bahamut.š

 Wedge nodded. „Bahamut. I‚ll remember that. Vicks, are you ready?š

 Vicks eyed Lucca, who seemed on the edge of tears now that it had finally sunk in through her besotted mind that Vicks was going to leave her. Nadia hugged her close.

 „First Robo, now Vicks! It ain‚t fair!š Lucca wailed.

 Vicks turned around, red-faced. „Er... yeah, I‚m ready to go.š

 The twin Espers merged back into one... but this time, instead of the sword, they became a massively muscled monster, who looked a lot like Spekkio, except tan instead of blue. „Then prepare to ride the winds of time and space! Whoooooosh........š

 The world disappeared in a purple haze.

  


Chapter 2 - Ivalice
Mustadio peered at the strange device again after the man who the machine had mysteriously transported to that place had gone. „That was... interesting. Hey, wait a minute. There‚s a slot for a second stone over here... őLibra‚?š

 Ramza came over and looked at the slot as well. „Yes, I believe you‚re right. Orlandu?š

 The old swordsman nodded, and drew forth the Holy Stone Libra from beneath his armor. Carefully, he inserted it into the slot with Libra‚s markings and hastily stepped back. Nothing happened.

 „Hmph, maybe it‚s broken. Woah!š The machine had begun to move, whirling about even more rapidly than it had the first time it was activated. This time, though, a vortex began to form near the base of the machine, whirling in synch with the machine. Suddenly, the machine stopped dead. The vortex snapped into focus, revealing a purplish... hole... into nothingness.

 „Uh... ok...š Ramza backed away from the machine, signalling the others to do so as well. „I hope it‚s not about to attack us, we‚ve got enough problems as it is.š Even as he spoke, the hole spat two blurs out into the room and closed with a resounding crack.

 Wedge sat up, shaking his head groggily. „Agh.... this is getting repetitive.š He dazedly looked around the room. „Vicks? Did you make it through?š Finding the still-unconscious Vicks by his side, he suddenly became aware of the four other presences in the room. He hastily got to his feet.

 „I mean you no harm. At least, as long as you mean none to me or my friend here.š Wedge spread his hands to show he had no hostile intent. „Can you tell me where I am?š

 Ramza exchanged looks with Orlandu and Mustadio. „This is Goug Machine City. My name is Ramza, this man here is Orlandu and he is Mustadio. The man next to Mustadio is his father, Besrodio.š Ramza indicated each man as he spoke his name. „Who are you? And where did you come from? I hope you won‚t run off like that other guy who came through that machine.š

 „My name... my name‚s Wedge. My friend here is Vicks.š Wedge knelt next to Vicks, who was starting to come around. „Goug Machine City...š His heart sank. „I‚ve never heard of it. We must be in the wrong place.š He looked up at Ramza. „We‚re trying to get home. You see, we‚re from another dimension...š Everyone‚s eyes widened as they listened to Wedge‚s story.

 Orlandu harumphed at the end. „That‚s an impressive tale you spin, son. What makes you think that we‚ll believe it?š

 Wedge‚s eyes grew tight with anger. „Sir, I acknowledge I may not be the most wholesome soul on the face of this planet or on many others, but I will not lie.š

 Besrodio cleared his throat. „I think that there is certainly a possibility that his story is true. Look at their clothing, their weapons, their manner of speech. Nothing at all has ever been seen like it - I should know, I excavate in the mines all the time and I‚ve never seen anything so outlandish. And his manner does not appear to be one of a liar‚s.š

 „That means only that he may be a very skillful liar.š

 Ramza raised a hand to stay Orlandu. „It is true that I... that we have been betrayed more times than I can count. There is very little trust left in me. What are you going to do now, then, now that you know you are not home?š

 Wedge raised his head defiantly. „I‚m not giving up yet. I was told by... someone who knows that I must seek out Bahamut.š The four natives looked at each other in shock.

 „Bahamut... Only the most powerful of Summoners can call upon the mighty Bahamut.š Ramza shook his head. „And I have no one in my party so strong. There may be some rogue Summoners, though, that have developed such strength. They may be hard to find, though, and even harder to convince to help you.š

 Vicks interrupted. „I don‚t give a cartload of regurgitated Easter Eggs whether or not your MOM is a powerful enough Summoner to bring on Bahamut. We‚re gonna wander around this goat-kissing dimension until we FIND a Summoner strong enough. And when we do find him, I‚m gonna be pissed off enough that he WILL summon Bahamut or I WILL tear his lungs out and use them for bagpipes.š Orlandu snorted.

 „You, sonny boy? You look like a pansy! A moth-eaten Uribo could do for you in five seconds.š

 Vicks grinned. „I don‚t think so, Grandpa. I‚ll have you know I‚m an Elder Mage and my friend here swings a fairly nasty sword. We can take care of ourselves.š

 Ramza pushed his way in between the two men before the arguing escalated. „Orlandu, calm down. Anger won‚t help any right now. You say you‚re a magic user? I could use you in my party. We were ambushed a few days back and they took out my Black Mage, so we‚re a bit shorthanded on the offensive side. Your friend can come along too, there‚s always room for another blade. You help us fight our battles, and we‚ll try to capture all the Summoners we come across. Deal?š

 Vicks nodded. „Deal.š

 „Oh, and one more thing,š Ramza said as the two friends got to their feet together. „The first time you betray us, I will kill you. Make no mistake about that.š

 Wedge met him stare for stare. „I wouldn‚t have it any other way. Count yourself in for the same deal.š Orlandu snorted again, but held his tongue this time.

 „Very well, then.š Ramza walked out the door. „Let‚s go.š

 

*****

Wedge lost count of the battles that followed. It seemed that the entire land that he had found himself in was bathed in blood. Monsters, bandits, and bands of mercenaries roamed the countryside freely. Ramza‚s small band continually gained and lost followers as defeated foes took the offer to surrender and join Ramza instead of certain death, and then fell beneath the blade or claws of another enemy. During all this time, both Wedge and Vicks gained in strength and experience, but never were they able to capture or recruit a Summoner with enough strength to summon Bahamut. One day, though, Ramza came up to Wedge.

 „You‚ve done well with me as a fighter since you came. However, I‚ve been noticing a certain plateau in your skills lately - you‚re not getting any better with that sword, and you haven‚t developed any new techniques lately. Your friend, the mage, is still slowly learning spells, but you...š Ramza shook his head. „There is no room for dead weight in this party.š

 Wedge‚s face darkened. „I will not abandon Vicks. And I will never give up my search for Bahamut. Try and stop me from coming with you, and you‚ll leave this spot with far fewer men than you began with.š

 Ramza held up his hands. „Easy, don‚t take my meaning wrong. Here. In the last town I bought these.š He handed Wedge a pair of swords, shorter than the one he currently used. „These are Short Edge swords. Used by ninjas. We will see if you can learn to be a ninja; you‚ve already got the basic hand to hand skills and the quickness to be one. Now you must develop your own techniques anew. Learn, and you stay. Fail, and you go.š He turned on his heel and left then, without giving Wedge a chance to say more.

 Wedge stared at the two swords. „Learn or leave, is it. Very well. I accept your challenge.š He slung the two swords across his back. „I am now Wedge the Ninja!š

 That night, as they slept, the sky was rent by fire.

 

*****

„King of flames, burn the earth into cinders! IFRIT!š The chant rose high above the grunts of monsters and yells of mercenaries. Flame seared the ground and dissapated, revealing a fiery demon who roared and sped off into the night. Beneath it was a patch of oily char that signified the end of one of Ramza‚s men.

 „All forces, attack!š Ramza gave his orders and plunged into the fray himself, engaging a pair of renegade knights. Wedge drew the two Short swords. Yelling wildly, he attacked with both weapons, inflicting massive damage on all that came near him. He cut down a Bull Demon and looked around for Vicks.

 Vicks had begun a magical duel with the enemy Summoner. „Land of all that lives, suppress the rebels! DON‚T MOVE!š Vicks pointed his finger and the Summoner‚s feet suddenly seemed to be glued to the ground. „Silent light, shield me from evil! SHELL!š Vicks raised his hands, and a green nimbus enveloped him. „Hah, try and break through that, lady.š But as he began chanting again - this time for a Silence spell - the Summoner completed her casting.

 „Master of Creation, impart thy aid! RAMUH!š An old man appeared out of nowhere, and raised his staff high. Bolt after bolt of sizzling electrical energy spat from it, shredding Vicks‚ Shell spell - and Vicks himself.

 Time stopped for Wedge. „VIIIIIICKS!! NOOOO.....š Figures rose up in front of Wedge. Screaming like a banshee, he cut through them with a savagery that surprised even the most bloodthirsty monsters there. In a whirlwind of scarlet and black rain Wedge reached his friend‚s side. Gently he knelt, and cradled Vicks‚ head. Immune now to the battle around, Wedge began to cry.

 

*****

„It‚s over.š Ramza walked over to where Wedge still knelt. „How is he?š

 „I‚ve used every potion, every phoenix tail I have. He‚s dying.š The rasp that tore out of Wedge‚s throat left it dry and raw. „Go away.š Ramza nodded, and walked several paces back, though he still watched Wedge closely.

 „Vicks... I‚m sorry. I wasn‚t close enough. I didn‚t attack the greatest threat first. I was too caught up in trying to kill off everything else first. I put my goals for getting home in front of your personal safety. I... I... I can‚t make any excuses to you... I‚m sorr...š The words trailed off into inarticulate sobs.

 „Wedge.š The whisper was barely audible. „That‚s not true, and you know it. I shouldn‚t have been so cocky, it‚s been a failing of mine. You know that. Anyway... it‚s my time to go. But when I do, I‚m going to leave you a little present. Promise me... promise me you‚ll take it and use it, with no regrets. Promise me...š Vicks breathed his last, and was gone.

 Wedge screamed. A primal, soul-rending scream that poured out his hatred and defiance for the evil fate that had cost him his dearest friend.

 Ramza walked forward again. „Well, aren‚t you going to take his final gift?š

 Wedge looked up. Vicks‚ body had disappeared. A bright emerald crystal shimmered in its place.

 Ramza nodded. „I thought this might be the case. A soul with such a powerful attachment to someone or something - in this case, you - sometimes would rather remain behind as a useful object than go carefree into oblivion. This crystal is the essence of Vicks‚ soul. In reality, as long as the crystal is with you, Vicks is with you.š

 Wedge put out his hand. Trembling, he took hold of the crystal. Suddenly, the crystal began to shine brightly. Wedge felt a burning sensation in his chest, put it down to sorrow - then realized the pain was not internal. Spekkio‚s gemstone was also gleaming. Slowly, both stones merged with Wedge‚s body, throwing off a green incadescence so bright Ramza had to avert his eyes. When the light faded, Ramza looked back - and gaped.

 „You... you‚re young!š

 Wedge stared at him. „What?š

 „If looks are any indication, you‚ve lost ten to fifteen years of age. You look only about twenty years old now!š

 Wedge smiled wanly. „Thank you... Vicks... well, I don‚t feel any different, at least...š Then his smile pulled downwards into a frown. „Wait a minute. That‚s not true. I DO feel different. My blood... tingles...š

 Ramza grinned. „Looks like the gift keeps on giving. Vicks may have imparted some of his ability to cast magic to the crystal, which then bestowed it upon you. Try it.š

 Wedge tentatively pointed a finger at a bush. „Uh... FIRE!š He felt a surge, but nothing happened. „Maybe not. I can‚t seem to even light a small flame - YIII!š Drops of fire fell from Wedge‚s hands and set his boots aflame. After a mad dance around the campsite, Wedge succeeded in kicking off his boots, which burned to cinders.

 Ramza, after he stopped laughing, came up to Wedge. „Looks like your chant for a fire spell will have to end in őflame‚ instead. It happens sometimes, that spells are different for different people. Oh, and the main reason I‚m here, other than to offer condolences - we‚ve captured the enemy Summoner.š He beckoned and walked away, leaving Wedge with a hollow feeling in his gut but with a renewed sense of purpose.

 

*****

„She says her name is Wei. I‚ll leave you two alone to talk. But I‚ll be nearby, in case you need anything... or she tries anything funny. And in case this does work...š Ramza hesitated. „I want you to know that I have been proud to have you as part of my team.š Ramza strode away, leaving Wedge with the Summoner.

 She looked up at Wedge defiantly, her long black hair cascading around her battered face and crumpled clothes. „Go ahead. Do your worst.š

 Wedge glared at her in fury. „You will listen and you will listen to me NOW. You killed my best friend in the entire world. I would like nothing better than to rip your lungs out and use them as bagpipes. But I‚m not going to do that. My friend‚s last wish was that I continue what we had begun, and I‚m going to honor that. You will summon Bahamut for me. You will then constrain him to do my bidding. If you refuse, I will use your body for a jigsaw puzzle. Do I make myself CLEAR.š Wedge leaned down and stared the Summoner in the eyes. The sheer animal rage in them made her cringe.

 „V... very well. It will take me time to prepare the spell. Loose my hands, and I will begin.š

 Wedge eyed her. „At the first hint of betrayal, I will rip out your tongue. Then I will...š

 „Enough with the threats. I know when I‚m beaten. Comes with the mercenary territory.š She somehow found the courage to stare Wedge in the face.

 Wedge looked at her a moment longer. Then he stooped and quickly cut her bonds. She slowly got to her knees, massaging her wrists and ankles.

 „All right. I will begin now.š Closing her eyes, the Summoner held out her hands and began chanting. Wedge sat down to wait.

 A flare of brilliant light woke Wedge up. Thinking he had been betrayed, he half drew his blades, then forgot them as he saw the form before him. A massive dragon, enclosed by an aura of light, stood before him.

 „Summoner. What dost thou require.š The dragon‚s voice fell from its jaws like an avalanche, blended with an authority and majesty unrivalled by anything Wedge had encountered before.

 Wei indicated Wedge. „This man, my captor, requires your services. Speak with him.š

 Bahamut turned his eyes on Wedge. „Your need.š

 Wedge closed his mouth. „Er, ah, well, you see, sir...š He proceeded to relate his entire story about his dimensional travels to Bahamut, leaving nothing out. „So you see, I was hoping you would be able to help.š

 Bahamut stood silent for a while. „Your problem... it is unique. It interests me. Nothing has interested me in a long, long time. This, more than anything, drives me to give thee my aid. This Summoner here,š Bahamut indicated Wei with one enormous wing, „cannot constrain me. None are powerful enough to hold me to their bidding. I come when I choose, I fight when I choose, I destroy when I choose. And I choose now... to help thee.š But as Wedge‚s heart leapt, Bahamut spoke again.

 „This dimension, however, is not my strongest. I can but attempt the crossing of time and space. I will make the effort, but I can guarantee naught. Art thou ready to go?š

 Wedge nodded. „I am.š

 Bahamut spread his wings wide, and opened his gaping mouth. Lightning crackled around his fangs as he inhaled, and a ball of light and energy began to coalesce in his jaws. „Farewell, young Wedge... the best of luck go with thee.š The ball of energy suddenly seemed to expand as Bahamut launched it at Wedge.

 The world was obliterated in light and pain.

 


Chapter 3 - Eblan
The man awoke to a blinding headache... in the middle of a battle. Many men and women, clad like him in ninja garb and wielding ninja weaponry, fought against a force of monsters, equal in number to them but far outmuscling them. Only the ninjas‚ agility and speed was allowing them to hold their own. A pair of ninjas, one male and one female, raced by the man to engage a force of ogres. The man sized up the situation, and decided that the two needed help. He unsheathed his own two swords and ran up to support them. Hacking and slashing, he downed two of the ogres when he heard a cry go up from the female ninja. One of the ogres had gotten in a heavy blow to the male ninja‚s skull, knocking him completely unconscious. The woman was trying to protect him, but she was all alone in a sea of enemies. The man did not hesitate. Rushing in, he fought with an aptitude and ferocity that allowed him to singlehandedly eliminate the enemy force. Such was his battle skill that no weapon seemed to bite upon him, no blow would do him damage. With his aid, the tide of battle slowly shifted in favor of the ninjas. Then, it was over, with the monsters fleeing in disorganized rout. The woman instantly knelt beside the still form of the downed man.

 „My King...! Are you all right?š she cried.

 „Uhhh.... urk....š the King groaned. His eyes rolled back in his head, and he fell unconscious again.

 „At least he lives. Our healers will tend to him.š The woman raised her head. „Thank you, Master Ninja. What is your name?š

 The man opened his mouth... and shut it again. He rubbed his forehead. „I... I can‚t recall.š

 The woman shrugged. „You must have taken a blow to the head during the battle. It can happen; the punch of an Ogre is not to be taken lightly. But the skill with which you fought! It is unparalleled, even in my family!š

 The man shook his head. „Your... family?š

 The woman looked at him oddly. „The Royal Family of Eblan. I am the Queen, and this is my husband the King.š The man stared at her.

 „Eblan...?š

 The Queen stared piercingly at him. „You must have taken a worse blow than I thought. Yes, the Kingdom of Eblan. We are a nation of great fighters, located on the edge of the ocean. Do you remember now?š

 Something the Queen had said stirred a wisp of memory in the man. „Remember? Something... my name? ...Edge? No... not quite right...š

 „The name is fitting, though. Until you regain your memory, we shall know you as Edge... and we shall adopt you into our Royal Family, for the bravery and services you have rendered us today. Welcome to the family, Prince Edge!š

 Men now began to approach the trio of fighters, many bloodied and many others bearing stretchers. Still others bore cloths, to cover the dead. The Queen hailed one of the stretcher-bearer groups, calling for them to come and care for their wounded king. She left with the stretcher, leaving the newly minted Prince standing on the field.

 „This still isn‚t right... but I might as well make the best of it. After all, why look a gift horse in the mouth?š Laughing, the Prince headed off after the stretchers and the Queen... and into a new life.

 


Fin P.S. Hmm... doesn‚t Bahamut exist in this dimension too? Let‚s see if Squaresoft gives me enough room to make a #3...

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