There is at least one item in this story that some of you won't agree with, where I state that Locke's hometown is Narshe. With permission, I borrowed this tidbit of information from "The Thief's Tale" written by Margaret Rennie. If you've not read it yet, I highly recommend it!
Of Moogles and Men
by Mike Thomas
Chapter 1: A Walk in the Woods
Narshe was so beautiful this time of year. Locke had always thought so. The mountains seemed to never lose their snow crusted caps, but down here in the valley, the seasons ran their course. From the icy grip of winter, to the birth of spring, through the heat of the summer winds whipping up from the Figaro desert region, and finally to Locke's favourite...autumn. It was cool mornings like this that he could spend hours walking and leaving all his cares and worries behind. Eventually though, the tortured memory of his Rachel would creep back into his mind, and once again he would set himself to the task of finding the Lifgiver. The Phoenix.
There were rumours and legends that the Phoenix had been locked away deep in a cave. Still, no one seemed to know where. During his journeys, Locke would meet many adventurers and scholars who whole-heartedly believed there was a phoenix relic left over from the War of the Magi, but no one knew any more than that. All the libraries and the scrolls had proven useless up to this point. The information that he purchased from other explorers always ended up leading to dead ends, and Locke needed a break from the disappointment. He had received a letter from Arvis a few weeks ago requesting that he come to Narshe for a visit. Locke decided that a trip to his hometown might help refresh his resolve, and maybe even give him a lead on what to do or where to go next.
Sunlight streamed through the holes in the canopy overhead and played through the fog that hung lazily in the air. The tall trees on either side of the wide path were limbless until about thirty feet up where their wide boughs were covered with gold and amber leaves. The cold air from the north had not yet swept down to the lower Narshe valley, so the leaves hung on tenaciously as the occasional breeze chased and tumbled through the branches. It took his mind back to more innocent days when he himself had run like the wind through this very woods as his mother looked on from a picnic blanket. His father had chased him until they both fell exhausted into a pile of leaves. These woods were still full of happy memories.
Locke continued at his leisurely pace, replaying some of his happiest childhood moments in his mind. Lost in the euphoria of times gone by, he was suddenly jolted from his nostalgia when he heard a low mournful cry from somewhere up ahead. He swiftly took to what few shadows the trees provided and quickened his pace to find out what was going on. He silently made his way forward until the tree line ended at the edge of a large clearing. Locke could see a small spring fed pond with a tree that had fallen in and was being held afloat by its limbs stuck on the bottom. On the tree was something small and white, and it seemed to be the source of the noise. Locke waited and listened to see if there was any other movement in the area. When satisfied that he was the only one there, he made his way over to take a closer look.
The "thing" was only about as tall as Locke's waist and it had a pink pom-pom on top of its head. There also appeared to be wings fixed to its back. It had to be a moogle, but what would one be doing so far away from the caves? It was rare enough to see a moogle in the mountains of Narshe, but to see one down in the valley was unheard of! Locke was very cautious about approaching the creature since they were lightning fast and known for their ability to master all sorts of weapons. But, another little whimper caused Locke to throw caution to the wind. He had failed to be there for someone else when they needed him, he would not make the same mistake with this little guy.
Carefully, so as not to shake the moogle off the tree, he began to edge his way along the slippery bark. The pool of water was as deep as Locke was tall, and he was not ready for a swim. He called to the little moogle to warn it that he was coming and not to be afraid. The little creature didn't stir, only moaned. Locke moved on forward, and by the time he reached the moogle, he had decided that his first course of action would be to get it to dry land. Perched over the water in its current condition was probably as dangerous as whatever might be causing it pain.
Locke pulled his jacket off to wrap around the moogle. As he leaned over the little critter, he felt something sting him in the back. The pain was sharp enough that it caused him to gasp. The moogle sat up, took one look at Locke and jumped into the water. At this point, he knew he had been led into a trap. He twisted to try and pull the dart out of his back, but his muscles began to seize. Slowly his body started to lean backwards and his vision blurred. Time seemed to slow. He saw the green of the forest, the earth tilting, blue sky, then suddenly felt the jolt of cold water. His mind screamed for his muscles to move, but they wouldn't respond. His pack began to drag him down and his vision continued to dim. Darkness enveloped him.
Chapter 2: Where Am I?
..."Hurry up, Locke. We're almost there!" Rachel was certainly rushing
him along, and he couldn't keep from stumbling over things. No matter
how hard he ran, it seemed he was always moving slower. Finally they
reached the edge of the cliff, and the view was breathtaking. The river
murmured and gurgled between the rocks below as the sun, in its final
moments, painted hues of purple and orange across the sky.
As he looked across the beauty that was before him and the beauty at
his side, Locke searched for words to express his feelings. "Rachel,"
he said. "I think I'm really falling for you." And he turned to face
the love of his life.
Rachel moved her gaze up from the river below and replied, "Yes, dear,
that's exactly what you're doing." And with a mighty shove, she sent
Locke off balance over the edge of the cliff.
"NO. Help me, Rachel!"
"I'll help you. Just like you helped me." She responded with a sneer
as Locke plunged toward the river...
The murmuring got louder and louder, and the scene disappeared from view. The darkness was slowly replaced with light, and Locke struggled to get his eyes open. His eyelids seemed thick and heavy, as if they had been glued shut. He tried to swallow, but his mouth was parched and his tongue was swollen. The murmuring continued to grow louder.
Locke slowly sat up and looked around only to find more than 20 pairs of eyes looking back at him. He had been lying on his back in a bed of straw. He was in a cave, and the room was massive. The smell of pitch and tar hung heavy in the air as hand-made torches burned on poles placed sporadically around the room. Locke struggled to wrap his brain around what was going on. His thoughts were thick and sluggish, which seemed to match with how the rest of his body felt.
Finally reaching a crouching position, Locke realized that the murmuring had stopped and he was the center of attention. After spending an entire lifetime keeping a low profile, being silently watched by these moogles was very unsettling. He casually brushed his hand against his side to check for his daggers, and was not surprised to find them gone. His boot knife appeared to be missing, as well as his pack. A slow scan of the room revealed that this was probably their main sleeping quarters. There was a large amount of straw and hay that looked to have been packed down in areas. He could see the pool of water that they used for their drinking source, and then he finally spotted his pack sitting beside a wall on the other side of the crowd.
Everything had been carefully taken out and laid beside it. Two young moogles had his daggers and appeared to be sparring with them. Locke stood, reached his hand forward and said, "Please be careful...". But decided better than to finish the sentence since three spear tips were suddenly pointed at and almost touching his chest. He backed up, dropped his hand and the moogles resumed their position of watching.
He had to think. Moogles were not known to be aggressive creatures. Protective, yes, but not aggressive. The irony of probably being the only human ever drugged and kidnapped by these peaceful, reclusive creatures almost struck him as funny. But for the life of him, he couldn't figure out why they would do it, and more specifically, why they would do it to him. None of this made sense. Locke leaned back against the wall of the cave, wincing when his wound made contact with the solid rock. He could feel that a poultice of some kind had been applied to the place where the dart hit. "Peaceful", he grunted, "but dangerous".
How was he going to communicate with them? They didn't speak his language, and he certainly didn't speak theirs. He had to find a way out of this. With a heavy sigh, he slumped down the wall to a seated position, and began to doodle in the dirt at his feet. The moogles suddenly became very excited and crowded around to see what he was doing. And that's when the idea struck him...
Chapter 3: The Plea for Help
Luckily, Locke had gotten more than his fair share of creativity from his mother. His ability to draw was almost as good as his ability to pick pockets. To figure out why he was here, he decided to start with the trap that the moogles had set.
He drew a circle closely resembling the pond and then made a figure of tree jutting out into it. Looking around close by, he found some clumps of moogle fur that he fashioned into a ball, hoping that it would pass for a moogle. He then set it on the drawn tree. The moogles stared at it for only a moment before one of them hopped up in the air and chirped a 'kupo'. He stepped forward, pointed to the clump of fur, and then proudly banged his chest. To further emphasize his point, the moogle laid down on the ground and made the same moaning sounds he had made earlier. "Great", thought Locke, "So it's your little neck that I want to wring."
Happy that he had been able to communicate this much, Locke pressed further. He pointed to himself and then used his fingers to walk up to the clump of moogle fur on the ground. Locke then picked up the fur and cradled it in his arms much like he noticed one of the young female mothers doing to her own child. The message seemed to come across just fine. One of the other moogles flittered forward on its tiny wings and patted his hand as if to say, "We know you only wanted to help. You are a good person for trying to give aid." The others nodded their heads causing their pom-poms to bobble back and forth.
He then pointed to the wound on his back, shrugged his shoulders, and pointed to the ground in front of him. He was hoping that the moogles would understand that he wanted to know why he was shot and brought to this cave.
The moogles turned and began conversing with one another in an attempt to figure out what to tell this man, and how best to go about it. Some chirped and nodded while others shook their heads and fluttered around. Locke watched for what seemed like half an hour before the noise died down and one moogle stepped forward. The moogle motioned to Locke with its little furry paw, and set off toward the other end of the cavernous room. Locke stood and followed with the other moogles trailing closely behind.
They walked past pools of water, and delicate formations made of crystal. Some were beautiful far beyond any that Locke had seen during his treasure hunting. They finally reached another large room where a lone figure stood in the middle. On closer inspection, Locke found that the figure was nothing but a large doll. It appeared to be similar to a sparing dummy he had seen in a martial arts training center where he had decided to help them out by lightening the load of their cash box. The only difference being that this was a large and hideous thing. It was not of human form, though it stood on two legs. The head was large and similar to a pumpkin. It was crested by many small hornlets and had large ears on either side of the head. Two small eyes were on the front of a broad face, and a mouth full of teeth snarled from underneath them. Most noticeably were two large fangs protruding from both the top and the bottom of its mouth. The body was very bulky and, many of its attributes reminded him of a rhinotaur, only different.
The lead moogle called another moogle over to him and they spoke for a few moments. After that, the moogle motioned to the doll and then back to himself. He then made a scary face and clawed the air. "Okay. I get it. You're the monster." Locke said as he pointed at the little moogle and then the doll. The moogle nodded its head, and then pointed to its eyes and shook its head as if to say "no". Locke didn't fully understand until the little actor closed its eyes and stumbled around clawing the air, but not hitting anything. "Oh, I see! You're telling me that the monster can't see!" He leaned over and touched the monsters eyes and then touched his own eyes and closed them.
This excited all the moogles in the room. They jumped and fluttered their wings and chirped their praise to the human that they had finally managed to train. The lead moogle then quieted everyone down with a few loud, sharp 'kupos', and then had his assistant step forward carrying a little twig. The lead moogle resumed his position of stumbling around and clawing the air while the other moogle placed the twig on the ground. The assistant then stepped on the twig causing it to snap at which instant the "monster" turned its head and then ran toward the other to attack. It took only moments for Locke to figure out that this creature the moogles were so concerned about was an auditory hunter.
He could now see why he was chosen by the moogles as opposed to other people who came along the path that day. His ability to hide and move quietly is what caught their attention. There must have been moogles scattered all through the forest just watching and waiting for the right person to come along. His thoughts were then broken by a tug on his pants. Locke looked down and saw that the moogle was trying to tell him more about this foe. The moogle tapped the skin of the dummy and then tapped the rock below it. "I had already figured that he'd have tough skin," Locke said thoughtfully. That must be why the moogles need help. Their weapons don't seem to be of much use against it.
From the back of the crowd, the two young moogles that had been duelling with Locke's daggers came running forward with his pack and weapons in hand. They offered them up to the adventurer, and Locke took them and outfitted himself. He walked up to the dummy, whipped out his daggers, and with a scissor motion chopped the head completely from the body. The moogles jumped and cheered and then grabbed his hands and fluttered off down the hallway leading him toward the exit.
There was to be a battle, and Locke was about to meet the enemy.
Chapter 4: Tracking the Beast
The brood of moogles and their trained human emerged from the cave a little after dawn. The bulk of the group stayed behind sending three of their warrior/hunters with Locke. They would serve to guide and protect him as they made their way to where the monster resided. Locke struggled to get his bearings, and as best he could tell, they were somewhere on the Northeastern slopes of the Narshe mountain range.
After a two hours journey, the moogles began to slow their progress and become more cautious. Edging up to a small rise, they motioned for Locke to follow, and they peaked over the top. Locke was not prepared for what he spotted down in the valley. There were a couple of buildings enclosed within a wall. Guard posts were at the northern and southern entrances, but there seemed to be no activity in the camp.
Locke's blood ran cold when he realized that the Imperial symbol was on the gate. "You're right," he told the little moogles. "There are monsters down there, but more than the one you described." Locke bore no good will toward the Empire, seeing as he held them fully responsible for the disappearance of his mother. Any chance to hurt the Empire was welcome.
As for what kind of facility this was, he had only one guess. From what the moogles had described, it had to be a genetic research facility. During his travels, he had heard that the Empire had done work on different species to "improve the quality of life" for others. Make a stronger horse to pull plows, chocobos that can run faster, cows that give more milk and things of that nature. It was not a leap of faith to believe that they also had facilities with the sole purpose of creating weapons of war.
Locke began quietly picking his way down the mountainside. He had to assess the situation and see how many guards were at the posts, how many patrolled the grounds, and if there were any unguarded entrances he could use. He decided to circle the entire perimeter looking for entry points and collecting all the information that he could.
Things did not go according to plan. Upon reaching a hiding spot close to the main entrance, Locke noticed that there seemed to be no activity anywhere in the base. It was highly unlikely for the Imperial scum to leave a post unguarded. The gates were still locked, but it seemed that no one was home. After he and the moogles made two trips around the surrounding area he was convinced that it was safe enough to try and enter the facility.
Not being brazen enough to walk right up to the front gate and knock, Locke circled back to where he had seen a small drainage ditch coming under the wall. Using as much caution as he could muster, Locke began to pull debris away from the entrance so he could get inside. The moogles had not made it clear if the monster was caged or lose, inside or outside the compound. He was taking no chance on alerting the beast to their position.
After a short time, the way was clear. One of the moogles hopped forward and advanced into the tunnel spear first. Locke thought it was an excellent idea since the moogle could move about a little more freely in the closed in space than he could. In a matter of seconds, the moogle dropped back down into the ditch on the other side and motioned for Locke and the others to come on through.
Slipping down into the ditch, he pushed and wiggled his way under the wall. When he was through, he slowly stood and surveyed the grounds. A gruesome sight was waiting there for him to view. All around the compound, there were mangled bodies in their later stages of decomposition. Many scavengers had made their way in to feed on the remains. Not all of the scavengers had made it back out alive. There was something truly violent held within these walls, and Locke was beginning to wish that he had never communicated his willingness to help the moogles.
Locke slipped his pack off and pulled out an extra bandana. He folded it over once and wrapped the cloth around his face tying it in the back. The putrid smell was almost more than he could stand, and he was hoping that the cloth would help cut back some of the stench. With that done, he quietly slipped the pack up onto his back and looked at the structures inside the wall. There were two moderately large buildings and two guard shacks on either end of the compound.
With one last look back at his exit, Locke turned and crept toward the guard shack on the northern end of the facility. The moogles followed, ever mindful of their surroundings. Within minutes, they arrived at the shack and eased through the gaping hole where the door used to be. Only splintered fragments were left clinging to the hinges that used to hold the large wooden door. The inside fared little better, but Locke was happy to find one ammunitions chest left untouched. He quickly picked the lock and began to load some of the contents into his pack for later use.
Leaving the guard shack behind, the small crew made for the closest building. Once again, Locke didn't worry with having to pick the front door lock since some creature had managed to tear the portal off its frame. The interior of this building looked like a science facility that had barely survived a small tornado. Equipment and documents lay scattered about the room. The broken bodies of the scientists lay by the wall in a myriad of positions. Dents in the wall testified to the way the beast had violently thrown them against it and then left them to die. Most looked like they hadn't even moved after the initial impact.
One young lady, who looked to be about Locke's age, was still gripping a manila file folder in her hand. Locke gently pried the hand open and retrieved the folder. The tab read "Journal: Specimen 419". He opened the journal to the middle and began to read:
04.08.199 Our initial plan to limit 419's vision turned out to
hurt more than it helped. Instead of becoming more
dependant on our commands, the creature has turned more
angry and aggressive. Two trainers were killed today.
04.09.199 It appears that the lack of sight has increased 419's
ability to hear. We have begun testing the volume level
at which the specimen can distinguish sound. Needless to
say, it is much more sensitive to noise than we are, and
we have moved it to a special padded cage to decrease the
noise in its home.
"Well, at least they're not totally without heart," Locke thought to himself. Skimming forward, he found the last couple of entries, and began to read.
05.20.199 Vector has answered our request with some new
technology. Today, we received a device called the
Cognitive Reasoning OWNer (we call it The CROWN for short).
From what we understand, placing the crown on 419's head
will allow us to project mental images directly into its
brain, which in turn, should allow us a higher degree of
control. The device is in test stage right now, but we
look forward to trying it.
05.22.199 The first test has been a success. We sedated 419 and
fixed the CROWN to its head. After reviving it, we sent
some pre-programmed commands to the crown. We were able
to make 419 do some basic functions such as standing,
sitting raising its arms. Unfortunately, there is little
else we can do with the pre-programmed signals. To do
anything more complicated, we will have to use the "Master
CROWN" to capture our thoughts and transfer them directly
to the "Slave CROWN". We have a few more bugs to work out
before we attempt the test.
05.25.199 I am currently writing this from the limited safety of
Lab T1. Something went terribly wrong today. During the
test, 419 managed to pull the crown from his head and go on
a rampage. Some of the others think that John, the wearer
of the master crown, might have gotten nervous and thought
about what 419 could do to get loose. Whatever the reason,
we are in extreme danger. We are cut off from outside
communication and gods only knows how long it will be until
Vector sends supplies back this way. I will discontinue
Journal entries until I have a better idea of what is going
Unfortunately, that was the last entry. It wasn't hard to guess what happened next. The beast ripped the door apart and then continued on its rampage in this building. Locke doubted if anyone had made it out alive.
Satisfied that he had seen all he needed, Locke steeled himself to enter the second building. Chances were, this is where the creatures were kept. Knowing more about what was within this compound made Locke all the more cautious as he and the moogles exited and turned toward the final building.
Chapter 5: The Monster's Den
Daggers in hand, Locke moved up to the last building and slipped through the remains of the doorway. He found himself in the middle of an aisle that was lined on either side by large cages with bars that stretched from the floor to the ceiling. There looked to have been twelve cages in all before the aisle stopped abruptly at a doorway. Each cage was partially ripped open and contained at least one dead body. Every single one, as far as Locke could tell, was some mutated form of a familiar animal. He thought silently to himself that the scientists here payed a high price for these many crimes they committed against nature.
Locke looked back at the moogles and motioned for silence. All three of them took to the air and silently floated behind Locke as he moved toward the door at the other end of the hall. With each step that he took, Locke could here the sound of slow heavy breathing getting louder. A creature was in this building, and he was hoping that there would be only one.
The four peered into the room, and found that it was indeed the beast. Locke could feel the sweat begin to trickle down the back of his neck. His heart was racing faster than it ever had. He could hear it loudly drumming in his ears. But, the beast sat still giving them no impression that their presence was even known.
Somewhere in the distance behind them, a piece of the building over the doorway came loose and crashed to the floor. One of the nervous moogles squeaked and shot toward the ceiling. The other two followed him as the beast sprang to its feet at frightening speed. Locke immediately sheathed his blades and turned to run. The beast had already begun moving as Locke took off.
The ground seemed to shake with each pounding step that the monster took. Locke sprang toward the bars of a cage and scampered up the side of it. One of the moogles descended on the beast like a hawk, spear tip forward. The beast screeched to a halt and bellowed as the spear punctured its back. Unfortunately, the moogle still held the spear in his hand as the beast whipped its body around. The moogle came loose of the spear and was thrown into the cage beside them. The impact that the little warrior made when he came into contact with the back of the cage knocked him out cold.
The monster continued to pivot on its feet trying to reach the spear in its back. Locke began to horizontally scale the top of the cages over to the cage that the moogle was now trapped and unconscious in. The monster finally reached the spear and snapped it off. It stood still and listened. Trying to find the prey that it had lost. Two moogles hovered in the air, Locke held on to the cage 10 feet directly above the monster, and one little moogle lay silently at the back of a cell. The monster seemed content to wait and listen.
Locke didn't know the condition of the moogle in the cage, but he knew it was possibly very serious. Something had to be done quickly. He slowly sucked in a deep breath of air and closed his eyes. He pictured in his mind what was to be done, and then looked down to the monster below. He released the bars that held him above the beast and pulled the daggers free of their sheaths as he fell through the air. The beast looked upward to try and find where the metallic ringing sound had come from, and as it did, Locke buried the daggers up to their hilt in the monster's eyes. Both man and beast crumpled to the floor, and Locke rolled forward, off of the creature and quickly climbed the cage wall on the opposite side of the hall.
The beast thrashed and twitched on floor for what seemed like an hour, but it finally came to rest. The moogles flew down to check on their companion and Locke slid down the bars to retrieve his weapons. With a mighty pull, he was able to dislodge both daggers, and he cleaned them off with a scrap of cloth he found nearby.
The moogles successfully revived their companion, and they made their way over to Locke. For a long moment, the moogles and the treasure hunter stared at each other. Without words, they conveyed their thankfulness to each other for the risks that were taken.
Before leaving, the hunting party made one last trip around the interior of the compound to check for survivors, for other beasts, and for any sign that something might have escaped. Having found nothing, the group explored the southern guard shack. Inside, Locke found multiple boxes of explosives that the monster had apparently missed during its ravaging. He pulled the explosives and detonators from their boxes and went about to all the buildings placing them. He was going to level this place to the ground so that if the Empire wanted to continue with this type of research, they would have to start from the very beginning.
Finished with setting the charges, the man and the moogles escaped into the hills before the deafening blast flattened every building and wall in the valley. Satisfied that their work was complete, the group headed for home where a huge celebration awaited them.
The feast was a joyous occasion, and Locke was even adopted into the tribe as a full-fledged moogle. After a good nights rest, he was guided through the caves to an area close to Narshe. The moogles bid him good-bye, but from that day forward, they watched over him like he was their own. Even though he never knew it, whenever he was in the Narshe area, there was always a pair of moogle eyes watching and waiting in case their brother ever needed help.