"Damn! Another miss!" Mustadio roared from his perch atop the rotting mast. The magically charged projectile had landed within inches of its intended target, an enormous summoned demon.
As his bloody fingers slipped into his pouch to find another bullet, Mustadio took a brief assessment of this, their final stand. The demons were swarming through the once tight ranks like a plague of locusts, but his perception was altered by the throbbing in his chest and the cold chill he always felt when the tide turned against them. To him the battle crept along as if a time-altering portent had been cast over his allies. In fact, the illusion was a common sight for the young sniper, who had learned to perceive battles at this arduous pace to allow him to pick the best shot amongst the tangled combatants and blinding magical eruptions. However, in this terrible slaughter, the sniper's gift was a cruel curse. Every deep-biting slash of the demons' claws and every death scream from a slain comrade would stain his senses for what seemed like hours. The gun was reloaded.
The bullet, rimmed in mystic lightning, was halted in mid-flight by the soft eye tissue of an ultima demon. The demon roared in anger at the impact, but those roars changed to howls of agony as the bullet discharged its thunder. Mustadio turned his head to select another target a second before the ultima demon lost its own head in a shower of sparks.
On the deck of the airship the fighting was savage. To Mustadio's surprise Ramza was not barking out orders to the troops, but had instead moved to defend his sister from the viscous talons of the demon warriors. Orlandu had not taken command either, however, his sword called out orders for all foes to die beneath it. Demon fell over slain demon as Orlandu screamed vows of blood to his dead fathers and their fathers. It was terrifying for Mustadio to see the "Thunder God" in his full glory, yet it was more frightening when he realized that Cid had abandoned his broken shield and instead held a bloody gemstone in his off-hand.
"A Zodiac stone," Mustadio mumbled finishing his reload. "Rafa, your back!"
Rafa felt a warm shiver run down her spine as St. Ajora, fallen arch-angel, drove her jagged blade through Rafa's unprotected back. Rafa felt little pain as she slid off the blade and fell to the deck, where she looked into her brother's dead eyes before passing away herself.
Mustadio fired just as Rafa hit the floor, too late to save her and far too late to save the slain Malak. The bullet hit Ajora full in the chest, but the angel just smiled with that face that looked so much like Alma's. Then she unfolded her wings, preparing to leap up to the mast.
The terrified Mustadio could only stare into the fiend's black eyes and tremble. He would have been shredded by Ajora's leaping strike had it not been for the arrival of the reserve soldiers from their staging area beneath the deck. Ramza's "Truth Legion" composed of regular troops, and led by Beowulf and Reis, charged the blood-soaked angel. Ajora called off her attack on the young sniper and spun to face the six new arrivals.
Mustadio started to reload...
Demons had cut off Cid from Ramza's main force and had begun to take their toll on the mighty "Thunder God." Ramza himself had bested all of the demons attacking Alma and was moving her towards Mustadio's crow's nest. In the sniper's eyes his friends seemed like dancers waltzing obliviously towards unspeakable danger. He saw the foreign man that had joined their cause hold high his strange blade, signaling another one of his devastating attacks. Quick even to Mustadio's trained sight, Cloud's sword slashed a demon repeatedly, never once slowing as the foul beast metamorphosed into the stone gargoyle from whence it was summoned.
Mustadio fired at a demon that was attempting to assault Cid's back. The bullet hit home, but the demon only growled and resumed its charged. Excalibur, never blood-stained, the holy blade of the heavenly knights, found its place in the demon's temple and its howls were deafening.
"Mustadio! Look after Alma, I must join my men," Ramza yelled from the deck. Alma was still dazed from her ordeal with Ajora, but she looked up at Mustadio and then at her brother.
"Please, go," she begged Ramza.
Ramza charged into Cid's area of the battlefield, swinging his Chaos Blade in unison with the sword he had taken from his mortally wounded friend, Agrias. Agrias had told him as she died to "go forth and save Ovelia, save the queen from the daggers of those that would harm her." So he had named the beautifully deadly blade 'Save the Queen' in remembrance of the oath he had made to her.
"Alma, you must not leave the shelter of this mast," Mustadio called down to the cleric while reloading his pistol. Ramza would never forgive me if you were to be hurt." Mustadio knew Alma was unselfish and would see her leaving as a violation of Mustadio's promise. Alma would feel guilty for bringing Ramza's rage down on Mustadio, but, at this point, she felt it hardly mattered.
"We are all going to die here, Mustadio. I'm sorry, but Ajora is here because of me, and I will stop her myself."
Mustadio had no time to protest her departure before he heard the unmistakable sound of a spell being cast. It was a very powerful one...an Ultima! The angel, now covered with more of her own blood then with the blood of her foes, had unleashed a wave of greenish magical force against Beowulf's forces. The men and women in the regular army fell dead almost instantly, some flinging themselves off the side of the airship to stop the tortuous pain. Reis and Beowulf immediately ran to check on one another, and finding each other well, turned weakly to face the murderous deity.
"Fools." Ajora said simply.
With a shattering backhand she dispatch Beowulf.
She drew back her claw again to strike down the weakened Reis as well...
Reis made no effort at defense. She stared at Beowulf's prone corpse and cocked her head as if in bewilderment. The dragon soul that still burned inside her could not comprehend such a death for her beloved. She was a dragon after all, despite having a human body, a body which she created when she spied Beowulf hunting foul creatures near her cave. She had feared that his sword would pierce her heart as quickly as had his noble charm and she hurried to assume a form more pleasant to his eyes. But now, her love was dead, dead after he had accepted her in her true form (even though he mistakenly thought that she was a human transformed into a dragon, he still loved hre and sought to 'cure' her). Reis no longer had need for human eyes. The new ones were ancient and dark, eyes that had seen the work of centuries fall to dust. All this came in an instant, the instant before Ajora would deliver her killing blow. Reis locked her gaze with the fallen angel and Ajora was powerless to complete her attack. The dragon's eyes were so full of hate. For a moment Ajora thought that she had seen a reflection of her own eyes in the black pools of Reis,' but before she could realize her error the flame was enveloping her.
Mustadio couldn't believe what he saw. Reis was flickering between human and dragon forms, spewing crimson flames at the angel. The intense heat that rose from Ajora's ignited body washed over the entire airship and the few remaining demons were incinerated as well.
"My God," Ramza whispered to Orlandu.
"The Flames of Hell...she's remembering what it was like to burn in them." Cid replied peering into his Zodiac stone with a look of disgust on his scarred face.
Reis' flames had succeeded. The loathed Ajora fell to her knees.
A minute passed without event and the war party could not see any signs of movement from the smoldering corpse. They had sacrificed too much, but Mustadio knew that they would have sacrificed everything to wipe such an evil presence from Ivalice. Ramza especially...he lost his entire family, save Alma.
Ramza held his swords high and declared in a wavering voice, "the war against evil is finally ov--"
"--I need more power..." croaked the dying Ajora.
"No!" Cid cried. "The stone is reacting!"
Indeed it was. Mustadio could see the color of the stone changing from its normal dull green to a brilliant hue resembling Ajora's horrible Ultima spell.
"She will be...reborn," Mustadio said, placing his head between his hands. He could do nothing more than that. A dark pall had fallen over his heart
What followed was a terrible display of Ajora's true power. Bolts of the purest energy, cast from her dying body like fishing line, struck the airship in hundreds of spots at once. Reis was struck down where she stood weeping and she fell with her arm around Beowulf. Altima was in its true form now, but the energy field remained around it like the remains of a cocoon. It raised up its new arms and felt the power surge through them. Then it pushed them out suddenly, launching the energy outward in a tremendous wave.
Mustadio had no time to descend from his perch before the wave destroyed the mast of the ship and sent him flying towards the deck. He hit with such force that he could feel his breath shoot from him like a bullet from his pistol. It was a agonizing moment before he felt a new breath rushing in to take its place. His shooting arm was shattered beyond mending, but he took no notice because the pain in his back hurt ten times more.
Cloud was first to find his feet after the shockwave hit. He picked up his blade and immediately felt the awesome surge of anger build as he reached the end of his tolerance for pain. Using the pain as he used his sword, Cloud prepared to eviscerate the towering devil. But the devil had other ideas. It crossed its enormous metal-clad arms over its chest and began to chant.
Cloud's blade struck out to connect with Altima's chest.
"By Zodiac you came and by Zodiac you leave...Degeon!" bellowed the angel.
Cloud was gone.
Mustadio could barely see through the tears and blood mingling in his eyes, but he made out the forms of his allies forming into a tight band for the final battle.
Ramza stood proudly, brandishing his twin blades. He had found the "truth" and was willing to destroy it now and for all time.
The "Thunder God Cid," Orlandu, was at his right side. He had put the now useless stone back into his cloak and now held his legendary sword with two hands, all the shield he would ever need against evil power.
Alma had returned from where she had ran, the Murond Gate, and had brought back the rear guards: Meliadoul and the giant Worker 8.
Meliadoul smiled wryly at Cid, informed by his scars about how the battle had progressed thus far.
Worker 8 looked down upon Mustadio's broken form. There was a booming sound as the inner locks on his chest plates were flung wide and his massive torso opened with the whine of steel on steel to disclose a powerful cannon.
Then there was the fury of battle. Mustadio's eyes were blinded with blood but he could hear the mighty war cries of the Thunder God as his blade took vengeance for the innocents lost. The sniper grinned when he heard Ramza's warcry followed by the sounds of two swords striking their mark. After the initial assault, there was undoubtedly a counterattack by Altima because Mustadio could heard cries of pain and the hollow laughter of the floating deity.
"Be healed, brave engineer, by God's power," the voice of Alma said softly amidst the commotion of combat.
Mustadio could see again, and the pain, although far from gone, was receding. Alma was bent over him with a look of concern on her face.
"They move this way. Come, we must seek a safer position."
"My gun...get my gun."
"No time, move!" Alma commanded him.
They had barely moved from the wreck of the mast before the fighting pushed its way there. Mustadio fell into Alma's arms and watched the fight with his newly opened eyes. Meliadoul was leading the fight with a blade that looked exactly like the one Ajora had held, for indeed it was.
"Don't ask me how I know this, but I think that sword is the 'Ragnarok,'" whispered Alma.
"What does that mean, 'Ragnarok?'"
"I'm not really sure, but we learned about it in Igros. I think it means...the end of gods, or the end of worlds, or something."
Meliadoul was joined by Cid, who was attempting to circle the deity and put his sword in its back. Ramza was resting at the moment, recovering from the Altima's heavy parries.
"Where is Worker 8?"
"I'm sorry Mustadio."
The battle moved to the bridge. Like dance partners, the swordmasters cut in and out of the fray, resting and then returning for another exchange. Altima was visibly slower than before. The fiend was tiring.
Then came a horrific turn of events. Ramza slashed too wide and missed his target, leaving both of Altima's arms free to both parry Cid's blow and counter with its own. Cid was thrown off by this twist and did not recover from his powerful swing in time to stop the angel from burying its clawed gauntlet deep into his side.
"Finally," Cid announced with a grim smile. "I die how I lived--fighting."
Ramza could not contain his fear. He had seen the world's finest warrior destroyed in the blink of an eye. He backed away.
"A-Alma," was all Ramza could utter.
Meliadoul was not afraid, she was going to murder this god, and then she was going to impale it upon its own sword and laugh. It had taken her brother, now it had taken Orlandu. The equation had to be balanced. Her strikes were fast and were equal in power to even those of Cid. She thrust Ragnarok through Altima's breastplate and chopped its leg off before the enraged wretch could retaliate. Even fueled by anger, though, she knew she was lost. Altima swatted the Ragnarok from her hand and then lifted her from the floor when Meliadoul stooped to pick up Excalibur from the deck. Now she was too close to swing the holy sword. She closed her eyes and waited.
Ramza charged and severed the arm holding Meliadoul aloft. After falling to the deck, Meliadoul rolled to the side to avoid a claw swipe and in doing so, she lost Excalibur.
"You see. I still live despite your puny effort," the Arch-angel taunted. It lifted its remaining hand and said, "Ultima."
However, the word had no strength behind it. Cid had risen from the deck like a Phoenix and, after swooping down on Ragnarok, plunged the god-killer into Altima's black heart.
Mustadio saw this before anyone else, and was also the first to notice that T.G. Cid had fallen dead, this time for good, with a smile of calm on his face.
What followed was an explosion of unholy energy that tore the airship asunder. The official investigation into the Murond Massacre would conclude that everyone in the Heretic Ramza's army was killed, and the Duray Papers would later argue that Ramza and Alma Beoulve were the sole survivors...
However, the unbaised evidence of careful observation says otherwise...
A large university for the study of mechanics and the ruins of ancient technology was founded in Goug ten years after the Murond Massacre. The Founder is known to be Besrodio, the father of Mustadio, but the Besrodio seen attending university digs and prototype tests has not a single grey hair...
A giant iron statue sits in the center of that same university. The students swear that at night, the statue comes to life to dance among the gardens. That is, of course, foolish, but the Founder has been seen talking to the statue. The Faculty is split into two camps: one that thinks Besrodio is mad and another that the statue is the god that magically removed his grey hair.
After the burning at the stake of Olan Duray, a heavenly knight appeared to stop the king's men from murdering the rest of the Duray family. She was said to be an older woman with an immense clawed gauntlet on her hand and a brilliant golden blade slung over her back. She has been the protector of the Duray family for generations and it is estimated she is now 400 years old. The Durays reverently call her the "Goddess Knight."
Gemstones found in the airship where Ramza was said to have battled evil (according to the Duray papers) were being studied in Goug University for their apparent immortality granting properties, but were stolen by thieves and have not been seen since. The Founder has assured the people of Ivalice that the stones were merely a hoax, and had no real powers at all...