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by Jared Milne
Strago was a young man of twenty-one. Powerfully built, with a bushy brown beard and hair, he had just finished his training as a Blue Mage. He was sitting at a meeting of the town council.
"Who? By Tiriel, tell us!" the mayor said, although he shared Strago's uncomfortable suspicion.
"Hidon, the alchemist." Strago shook his head sadly.
"That maniac?!? But we ran him out of town ten years ago!" Gungho said in shock.
"Hidon was making experiments with new life forms. He could easily have been responsible for things with weird tracks and sulphorous smells. We ran him out because of his experiments, remember?" Strago said this calmly, as if challenging anyone to deny his claim.
"Well then, we have to stop him. Otherwise, he'll kill off everyone in Thamasa!" the mayor answered, wringing his hands worriedly. He remembered Hidon's threats of revenge when the council banished him.
"I will go. I am a trained Blue Mage. I can learn the attacks of any of his creations and use them against them."
"I'm coming too, man! Don't think of leaving without me!" Gungho leapt up from his chair impetuously.
Strago smiled. "All right then. By your leave, Your Honor, we will depart tomorrow morning." The mayor nodded.
Strago and Gungho packed food and camping equipment, as well as weapons and armor for their trip. Strago was dressed in a suit of strong leather armor and carried a heavy shield that would allow him to deflect almost any blow. His flail hung at his belt, and a dagger rested in an armpit sheath under his right arm.
Gungho had heavier equipment. In heavy plate mail and carrying a huge battle sword, with shield and helm, he looked like a dashing Knight of Doma. Many women in Thamasa were madly in love with him. The huge man cut a dashing figure.
The two headed south out of Thamasa, following a trail. Strago had cast a petty magic spell to track the monster, and they travelled for a brief while. As they paused, preparing for a midday meal, they noticed a rustling in the bushes. Drawing their weapons, the two men were hardly surprised as three men, and a massive chimera leapt out of the trees.
One man picked up a rock, charged it with ki energy, and threw it at Strago. Big mistake. The rock bounced off Strago^ñs chest, but he was young, strong and healthy, and easily withstood the blow. He analyzed it carefully. Excellent. Dropping his flail as a purple and blue aura surrounded him, he picked up another rock and threw it at the man. The man wasn't as lucky as Strago. He fell, dead, on the ground.
Gungho drew his sword and readied his shield. The two men came at him in combination, one throwing a stone, the other coming in a jump kick. Gungho deflected the rock easily. He swung his sword almost casually, badly wounding the bandit who attempted to kick him. Finishing him off with a quick slash, Gungho quickly engaged the remaining Iron Fist. Gungho easily finshed the man off.
The chimera was still to be dealt with, however. Water and wind combined as its deadly Aqua Rake attack drowned the both of them. Gungho was knocked back by the force of the blow. Strago dashed forward and struck it hard, causing its heads to roar in pain. A claw blow wounded Strago then, and as the chimera raised its eagle head to peck him, Gungho fired a bow right into its neck. Caught off guard, the chimera was dazed. Strago used its own attack against it. Water and wind drowned the chimera, finally killing it.
Both men tended to their wounds, and took the gold on the Iron Fists' bodies. They took also the two tonics that two of their enemies had. Gungho took a knife made of shining mithril from the belt of the other. He smiled in satisfaction.
Strago, on the other hand, was feeling giddy. His training as a Blue Mage had paid off! The Revenge technique he had been taught hadn't been used, but his new powers, which were known as Lores among Blue Mages, would certainly be useful in battling any minions of Hidon.
The two returned to Thamasa and chartered out a small boat. They crossed the waters leading to the island of Ebot's Rock. Eventually, arriving at the foreboding place, they hesitated. Could they even hope to come out alive? Steeling their nerves, they entered anyway.
They traveled through the maze for over a week, living off food that Gungho magically created. As a Red Mage, he could hope to do such things. They met many dangerous foes, but overcame them all. Eventually, they were becoming discouraged. They were about to return to Thamasa and report their failure, when they mistakenly went down a junction they had not crossed before, thinking it was the way out.
Eerie silence surrounded the two men. They looked around carefully. A palpable sense of evil was in the air. They drew their weapons, Strago holding the lantern in his left hand.
A flicker of movement caught his eye. He turned. Something out of his worst nightmares leapt at him. He slammed it with his flail, alerting Gungho to the danger. A hideous monstrosity lay at his feet.
"WELL, FOOLS. WHAT DO YOU THINK OF MY PETS?" a hideous hiss was heard. The two men turned nervously. A disgusting beast stood before them. They knew instinctively it was Hidon, but they were horrified. He had experimented on himself! The ^„pets^ñ swarmed around him, growling.
"Prepare to die, fool!" Gungho shouted. He raised his sword and dashed at the foes, chanting rapidly. A wall of searing flame burned the Hidonites, killing several of them.
Gungho then engaged in a furious melee with several of the beasts. He killed many of them, but more piled on him, and he knew that he would soon be doomed.
Strago realized that too. He concentrated, remembering the Aqua Rake attack used by the Chimera. A wave of bubbles splashed over the monsters, drowning them and blowing them off Gungho. The wounded man stood up. He bled from several wounds, but his armor had protected him well.
Strago raised his flail and swung at the nearest Hidonite. Its skull shattered under the blow, and a Stone attack finished off another. Hidon, growing impatient, entered the fight. A wave of dark energy splashed over him, but he could not absorb it. Hidon then scuttled over to him, and stamped on him with its spiked legs. Gungho wounded it in the side, and the badly injured Strago then used his Revenge attack. A huge gash opened up in Hidon^ñs side. The beast roared in anger, and seemed prepared to unleash a final attack which would decimate the two men.
It never got the chance to. Strago's Stone attack knocked its head back, and the wave of energy, the Grand Train attack, spread into the cavern walls. A massive quake was beginning.
"YOU FOOLS! THE WHOLE ISLAND WILL SINK! SOMEDAY, I WILL GET YOU FOR THIS!" Hidon was buried under falling rocks as the two wounded men stood up painfully. They would have perished were it not for Gungho chanting a rapid Warp spell.
The island sank beneath the waves.
After the battle and the sinking of Ebot's Rock, Strago settled into a peaceful existence. He lived quietly for forty years. The incident with Clyde Arrowny disrupted his life somewhat, but he had gotten someone he could truly love out of it; his adopted grand-daughter Relm. He dearly loved her, and nurtured her artistic gifts until she had become a great Artist. Not a simple portrait artist, but one of those greats whose paintings could come to life.
Ten years passed then, and the two lived quietly in Thamasa. Then, their lives had been turned upside down by a young treasure hunter, a magic-using young woman, and Clyde. They had saved Relm from a fire caused by the Fire Eater, one of Hidon's last experiments, and he was indebted to them.
But after that, he had gone with the treasure hunter and the woman to the mountains west of his home, and discovered the Espers. Then, the peace of Thamasa was ruined forever by the incursion of the Empire and that cursed man, Kefka. Strago barely knew General Leo, but he knew, when he was at the man's funeral, that the general had been one of the greatest men ever to walk the face of Orannia.
Now, Strago and Relm had joined the treasure hunter and the mage, as well as their unusual companions, on their quest to stop the Empire. At the Floating Continent, the world was nearly killed, and was dying even now.
Now, as Strago sat in the Falcon's passenger room, he was wondering whether he was too old for adventuring. Age had made him physically feeble and slow; his once thick brown hair had turned to thin and white, and he had shrunk by a full foot. His mind was still sharp, however, and he had learned a great deal about Red Magic, Black Magic, White Magic, and even Gray Magic from the strangely glowing stones. He had also learned a great many Lores, and could be considered the world^ñs foremost Blue Mage.
As he sat up on the deck with the group, his heart ached for Thamasa. He wondered desperately if his friend had survived. He turned to Setzer.
"To Thamasa, please." Setzer looked at him, and nodded, turning the wheel. The group landed in Thamasa. The fourteen companions got off and entered Thamasa, Strago and Relm leading. Initially, Strago was happy to be back, but he was horrified, seeing Gungho wounded after hunting Hidon. The awful news struck him like a thunderbolt. Hidon was alive, and had brought back Ebot's Rock! The news was horrible. He was determined to set off to avenge his wounded friend. He took control of the airship and landed there himself. The companions followed him.
Relm was insistent: "I'm coming!"
"There's no way. Hidon was a mutant before you were born. Before any of you were born. If you wish to turn away, I understand." Strago said to all his friends.
"Life is all risks and gambling. I would be mad not to ante up in this game!" Setzer insisted.
"Kupo!" Mog insisted.
"Thou art my friend. We shall all accompany thee." Cyan said, with a look that showed he would not be swayed.
All the other heroes expressed similar opinions.
Strago sighed. "All right. You are all my dearest friends. But be warned: Hidon and the Hidonites are dangerous foes. They will kill us all if they can, and I wish to fight Hidon one-on-one." Strago would not be dissuaded from his course of action.
"The old fuddy duddy will get himself killed." Relm muttered as the heroes entered into the dungeon.
Lighting a lantern, Strago and the party went through the winding passages, collecting coral to feed the chest, just like Strago and Gungho had fifty years ago. They fought and defeated many foes, until eventually, they reached the cavern where Strago and Gungho had battled Hidon twenty years ago.
"HOW CONVIENENT. IT'S GOOD TO SEE YOU AGAIN, OLD MAN. I SEE YOU HAVE BROUGHT PLAYMATES. I KNEW YOU WOULD COME SOONER OR LATER, SO I HAVE PREPARED A WELCOMING COMMITTEE!"
A horde of Hidonites came into the party. Powerful magic and light flashed through the cavern as the heroes battled the monsters. Strago readied the Magus Staff, ready to fight his old foe.
Hidon's beams blasted into Strago. The old mage was not as tough as he once was, and he winced as the beams laced into him. He cast a rapid litany. A huge fireball slammed into the beast. It roared in pain and reached down to bite Strago.
Strago barely dodged the blow, chanting again. A huge wall of water washed into Hidon. The beast gurgled as it was choking on the water. A lighting bolt followed, shocking Hidon to the bone.
"I WEARY OF THIS, OLD FOOL! YOU AND YOUR COMPANIONS WILL ALL PERISH HERE AND NOW!" Hidon screamed in rage. His dark energy crashed into Strago, and he picked the old mage up in his fangs, bit hard, and spat him across the room. He moved in for the kill.
That last blow had hurt more than Strago would admit. Stars swirled around him as a Cure spell was cast. Reinvigorated, he initiated the Revenge Lore. Huge fang marks tore into Hidon.
The beast was now badly wounded. It reached into itself, for the final attack. It had waited a long time to perfect this technique. The triangle of energy smashed Strago hard. The Grand Train technique was devastating and almost always fatal. However, Hidon, in his arrogance, had made a fatal mistake.
Strago was nearly killed, that much was true. However, he had learned to analyze monster techniques despite a haze of pain, and he could still do so. The Grand Train technique was no different.
"Game Over, Hidon." Strago smiled weakly. The purple and blue aura surrounded him.
"NO! NO! NNNNNNOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" Hidon roared in fury as his own attack was turned on him. He began to melt and disintegrate, screeching in fury.
The weary Strago collapsed. It was over. Around him, the heroes had each killed at least six Hidonites, and all were dead. Relm walked up to him.
"What was that about, Grandpa?" she asked.
"Nothing, dear. Just some bad blood I have waited fifty years to settle." The heroes returned to the Falcon. Strago looked back at Ebot's Rock again. Now, for Kefka...
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