The Zodiac War

By Blade

Chapter 1: The Heretic King

"It's been five years since the Lion War; I should think that the church is done with hunting heretics, sire."

Delita gave a weak smile and replied, "You have no idea, advisor, but then again, the truth is always hard to find." King Hyral paced about in the newly built castle his servants had constructed for him. "Are they really trying to accuse me of both heresy and blasphemy?"

"Sadly sire, yes, but as far as I can ascertain, but the accusation is purely political...The church is merely vying for political power."

"So..." Delita sighed, "if I do not recant this so-called statement I am accused of saying, I will officially be excommunicated and dethroned by the papacy of Glabados..."

"That is correct, sire, this will not look good in the public eye...the people need you now my Lord, more than ever. They need a ruler, but they also need the guidance of the church, especially for recovering after the 100 Year War. Both sides would lose power, and the people would lose respect for the church and the throne."

"Power-hungry bastards...they put me in a fix alright, but recanting any statements I have made would make me seem weak to the people..."

Delita began to pace as he searched in thought for a solution,"Damn, I hate to lie, but I've done it for years, why is it so difficult now? Something...something from the past is keeping me from lying...Ramza? Ramza--where are you when I need you?"

"Sire...Master're brooding again..."

"Oh....!! Um...sorry Advisor, my mind was drifting..."

"Sir, this is no time to be thinking of other things, what should I tell the ambassador to the church, what is your statemen—,”

The advisor was cut off by a loud clang of the main door of the hall.

"--Open up!! Delita Hyral, you are accused of high treason, blasphemy, and heresy, you are under arrest by the orders of the Holy order of the Knights Templar---Should you resist arrest we are ordered to execute you on-site!"

"What the bloody hell!? The Templar is after my head! How can the church possibly explain this..." Delita roared.

"Sire, I do believe now is not the time to ask questions... we must leave, immediately!!!

The Advisor rounded up a squad of the king's very best knights and ushered the king to an underground cavern beneath the castle complete with a Gold Chocobo stable just for such an emergency.

"Sire, quickly, mount your chocobo and hurry; we must escape to a secret location in Goland, I will disclose more information later."

Being shoved into an unknown destination wasn't something Delita liked to do, but what choice did he have, death at the hands of the church? Clicking to his steed to follow the knights, Delita wondered if the series of events and bloodshed that led him to the throne were for nothing.

As they rode through the woods, he felt the memory of his hands, sticky with the blood of Queen Ovelia, his former lover, creep into his mind. He cringed at the thoughts that invaded it and became utterly crushed by the rushing despair and guilt that followed.

“And now, I finally stand accused…”

Coming to a large-mouthed cave, the party decided to release the chocobos so they wouldn't be tracked. It was also decided to set up camp inside the cave, as the Advisor had a map of the coal-cavern at the ready. They then entered the spacious depths of the once-filled coal mine, and set a shelter for the king.

The stress could be heard in the king’s voice as he addressed the knights, “So, Advisor, now that I'm no longer considered a king by either the church or the people, I would prefer to know the names of those who would care to save my life. I only know you advisor, merely by title...what is your true name? Oh, and because we are under cover here, simply call me Delita from now on, no formalities, please.” They could almost sense a release of sadness as he said his own name.

"Very well, sire-um-Delita, my name is Gildenstern, and I would gladly give my life in exchange for yours, your nobleness..."

"Please Gildenstern, no formalities, we are undercover here, and who are the knights I am graced to have in my company?" This of course, he had said half-heartedly, as he trusted no one.

"Well sir, there are several here: Master Beowulf, Dragoon Lady Reis, Holy Knight Lady Agrias, and Master Azmar, ex-temple knight..."

Delita almost smiled at the irony, living as his old friend Ramza once did, on the run, "So...I'm not the only heretic around here am I? A Holy Knight and an ex-templar how very intriguing."

"Sire...,"Agrias explained, "Azmar and myself, we abandoned the holy order because it was corrupt and we could no longer partake in such dark dealings."

"So those lucavi are at it again, eh? Well, I am grateful to you protecting my life....Albeit, something tells me we have met before.....Well, speak up, Azmar, you seem to be the quiet one here..."

"As Agrias had mentioned we both abandoned the order when we realized they were once again searching for the lost stones of the Zodiac, we told them they were foolish to do so since the last bearer of the stones was a heretic named Ramza Beolve who died five years ago. They refused to listen and claimed to try to resurrect the Zodiac Braves, babbling about destroying the monarchy, apparently they have succeeded..."

"You have spoken a lot in a very short amount of time Azmar, being a templar knight must have been very educating for you.... Especially in the ways of the so-called Zodiac Braves."  Delita tried to pierce the sneaking suspicion that he’d met this man before.

"To my knowledge Master Delita, I do not think they possess any of the stones, as far as I am concerned, the stones are buried with the knave Ramza's bones."

It hurt to think others thought of Ramza that way, but when Azmar spoke, Delita thought he could discern a faint wry smile on the hooded Azmar's face, but due to the dark cave, he saw very little of what he suspected. Still suspicious of the somewhat familiar faces of the two he prodded on...

"Azmar, why do you wear a hood in a dank dark cave, even at night? It puzzles me..."

"We are bound to our order to wear hoods as monks in a monastery to hide ourselves and remain humble even in darkness...besides, I retain scars upon my visage that are hideous to the eye, you would dislike them." Azmar seemed to counter his every word.

"I have seen many things grueling in my life, Sir Knight, but I do respect your need to be hidden, heretic or otherwise.... As for Lady Agrias, you retain something of a familiar face as well.... Do I know you?" Delita decided to attempt a cut at a less durable link in this chain of secrets.

"It is a mystery to me, my Lord, albeit I have known about your exploits for quite sometime." Nothing suspicious in her tone either.

"As have Reis and I as well." Beowulf added. Thwarting Delita’s conspiracy theory completely.

"It seems to me, sire, that with all the time you spent in the public eye, there may have been dozens of familiar faces that you may remember..." Gildenstern interjected, adding insult to injury in Delita’s suspicion.

"As you say," Delita looked at him apprehensively, as if the man was dispelling the strongest spell Delita could throw at them. The oddest feeling of familiar faces surrounding him kept creeping into his mind. These thoughts however, were finally driven away due to the fact that there were several things and events that needed to be planned out accordingly. And Delita had to plan them.

Chapter 2: The Return to Orbonne

"I have decided that this 'plan' of theirs to obtain the Zodiac stones and world domination must be stopped at all costs, I for one, may not believe in the legends that these crystals hold power, but I do acknowledge the potential political power they yield." “The supernatural and ghosts are for fools and cowards,” he wanted to add.

"Very well, your Majesty," Gildenstern replied, "But how are we to achieve this?"

Delita was resolute, "First we find Ramza, then we'll find the stones..."

“I'm not sure if you're dead or alive Ramza, but I will find you, even if I have to fight in another Lion War just to do it.”

Daylight rose and fell, with the same calm pallidness that Delita was used to observing, as he was always alone when he slept, never trusting others.  With the morning, Delita awoke to see the shadow of Azmar's hooded figure standing just near the mouth of the cave, standing watch. His cape and cowl cut an intimidating figure, then swiftly Delita witnessed the silhouette of Azmar draw his sword. Delita was on his feet in two seconds and reaching also for his sword, but for different reasons of mistrust. In a heartbeat before he could draw his sword from the sheath, Agrias grasped his hand.

"Shhhhhh..... They'll hear you," she whispered.

At that point Delita's ears were cued in on the conversation between Azmar and a certain stranger.

"Halt, in the name of the church!" Azmar shouted, the voice seemingly altered by its hoarseness.

"Sir Knight, we have no business with you, we are in search of the king to see if he might have hid himself among the caves here."

"You are sorrily mistaken if you think the king is here, I was given orders to hold my post here just in case the king might try that tactic."

"You were given orders? By whom? What templar rank are you?"

"The specific person to whom I answer to is classified, as to my rank, I outrank you, boy! Templar Holy Knight, First Class."

"Oh my God! I apologize sir! We were just following our given orders! We shall just check in the other caves then! Please don't report me!”

"Just do as you're commanding officer orders and begone from my sight!"

"Yes sir!"

What Delita heard next was the sound of men mounting and riding away, then he saw Azmar sheath his sword and step inside the cave.

Delita's thoughts were awash with false suspicion, “And to think I thought he was an assassin…”

"Your Majesty, we must leave quickly, they will be checking their commandant's orders to see if my orders stand, when they find out I'm a hoax knight, they will head back here looking for us."

Delita thought for a moment, "Then where should we go? The caves were our main hiding area for assassins, but now that the church knows about this place, they will litter it with Templar Soldiers." Somehow he wasn’t quite sure Azmar had led them himself.

Delita looked at the knights for an answer, they were thinking, but none could come up with a solution, the church had posted a lookout for Delita in nearly every town by now. And hiding in the forest could only result in death by the church’s deathsquad.

It was Azmar that suddenly spoke up, "I have an ideal place for us to go, one where even the church itself will never even look."

It was then that Azmar related that Orbonne Monastery was abandoned save one lone priestess named Amla, he then proceeded to tell them that she was a close friend of his and would allow them sanctuary to suit their purposes.

“It shouldn’t take long to ride there, as long as we avoid open clearings from here.”

Beowulf glanced carefully to spot any soldiers, as any encounters would spell trouble for them. When all was clear, the knights slowly stepped out of the cave. To Delita's surprise, Beowulf gave out a strange gargling cry, something similar to a turkey. Suddenly five feral chocobos appeared out of the forest.

"Sir Beowulf, you didn't tell me you could call animals?"

"I'm a hunter, sire, this is what I do." He solemnly replied.

Mounting his chocobo, Delita proposed, "Very well then, let us be off to Orbonne Monastery."

"I recommend sir," Agrias interjected, "that we take a forest path to Orbonne, this way we cannot be tracked or spotted."

"I am truly indebted to you knights for all your help. I will do my best to reimburse you for your deeds." Once again, there was a slight tinge of sarcasm and mistrust in Delita’s voice.

They were soon off and running toward Orbonne, through Goland woods and Lesalia across the river and to Orbonne. And just as Azmar had said, it was abandoned, or at least it appeared to be. The church gate was completely sealed off, leaving no entrance past the high wall gate.

Delita began to wonder if this were a trap.

"Sire, permission to infiltrate the monastery," said the female Dragoon Reis.

"Granted, it appears that perhaps Amla may not be aware of our arrival."

Azmar replied, "As I said she is the sole resident in the monastery, and spends most of her time in the cellar studying the Germonik scriptures, I have not seen her much."

“Sounds suspicious to me…”

With that, Reis, crouched down and leapt at a staggering height landing expertly upon the top of the monastery roof and stepping down into the ceiling entrance. A few minutes later and the gate covering the main entrance to the inner sanctuary of the monastery was opened. The party stepped inside the monstrous church and just as quickly the gate rolled shut upon them sealing them inside for the time being.

"Sire, I request to take leave and find Priestess Amla."

"Azmar, be careful, the rumors of this sanctuary being cursed may be true, if not the ghosts then the rotting boards and knotholes." He stated under his breath, “Or my sword, if I don’t cut you first, traitor.”

A few moments later, Azmar returned to the main hall with Amla at his side, deflating Delita’s suspicions of him. She was swathed in a pure white mage robe with only slight crimson outlining the hood, making her seem holy to the eye.

"The light is too dim in here," she announced, "let there be light, Holy!"

Suddenly a bright light blasted out of her hand and flashed up to the ceiling. The whole room lit up, everything that seemed rotted and withered appeared to be freshly built as if the whole dreariness was a facade, and light flowed out of the seemingly browned out stained glass, making Orbonne Monastery anew again.

"There...that's better," she smiled. Her smile was genuine, kind, and seemingly filled with an ancient wisdom of what the world was and her part in it. Something Delita hadn’t seen since Teta was...

"Sire--stop staring!!!" Gildenstern scolded.

"Eh---oh! Sorry about that."

"I'm truly flattered sire, but we must get down to business..." Amla's voice had a fluttered laugh in it, much to Delita's enjoyment.

Then suddenly Amla's tone became serious, almost as stern as Azmar's, "We must prepare for the worst the church has in mind, it is not the Zodiac braves the church wishes to summon. It is the lucavi and the damned spirit of the bloody angel Altima that is Ajora. The lucavi are able to manipulate the church and should they capture the King, the throne as well, they are well versed in black magick, so they could easily replace Delita."

"I don't believe this! Lucavi!" Delita erupted in disbelief showing a bit of his true colors, "You actually think the church is acting at the behest of some invisible demonic force? I really don't believe in such nonsense! The only thing the church is good at is parlor tricks, and manipulating the sheep that is the inhabitants of Ivalice!"

"Nonsense sire?" Azmar interjected, "When the power of these stones if they should combine would create a massive vortex to the underworld of the dead sucking all living things into it? You call this nonsense?"

To Delita's amazement, Agrias, Beowulf, and Reis actually concurred with Azmar and Amla. Agrias stated grimly, to-the-point, "It was that easy for them to try to kill you without being accused of murder and track you down, this without the stones, imagine the power they could obtain with them. Even now it's only a matter of time before they find us again, if they see Azmar they will know we harbor you, Delita."

"I still am not convinced, but you have made your point about removing their power from its source, the Zodiac Stones."

Amla finished the discussion, "It was foreseen that we all would be involved in this new war, the Zodiac War. Because we will eventually obtain the 13 stones once again, the Lucavi will find another way to get the power to release Bloody Angel and the death gate."

"Sire," Gildenstern asked, "I do not know what lies ahead of us, but as far as I can tell, we must eventually face the enemy, war or not. And it is truly a pleasure serving with a former Black Knight like yourself."

"So now I'm demoted to Black Knight eh?" Delita said with a cold laugh, "It's about time I started using my sword again, that crown was getting awfully heavy to bear...."

"We are glad you could serve with us, Delita," Reis and Beowulf chimed in.

"Delita, when we search for the stones, be prepared for evil to strike swiftly," there was an air of caution in Agrias' voice.

Delita nodded, if not for her sake.

After a brief rest in the sanctuary of the church, Amla led the party down several flights of stairs, through a maze of library books, to a small chamber where she picked up five smooth stones out of an underground well.

"These stones are blessed by holy water to protect us from the undead, since the rest of the stones are jagged, in the well, we cannot use them. I shall bear one, as will Azmar, Reis, Agrias, and Beowulf."

"Why must I not be able to bear a stone?" Delita asked, still not convinced.

"You do not bear any because you do not believe,” Amla’s words struck a nerve in Delita’s soul, “but now, quickly, evil is upon us up at the gate!"

"What! How would you know this!"

"Come and see!"

Chapter 3: The Legend Fulfilled

The party ran up the flights of stairs and ran out to the now open gate.

"Who opened the gate?" Delita was puzzled. He didn't believe in magick, yet it was occurring right before his eyes, all his possible assailants that knew his whereabouts were with him at his side.

"Delita Hyral," a dark clad ruffian shouted, "we are ordered to kill you on sight, prepare to die! Anyone else who is with him dies as well!"

"You think a threat like that is going to frighten me, you malicious mongrel, my sword will drink your blood this night!" Delita roared Death Sword drawn.

Swords were drawn and the battle cry was sounded. There were 15 soldiers altogether, making each warrior outnumbered by two. Agrias had the luck of being surrounded by four of them.

Agrias quickly pointed her sword to the sky, "Strike the ground and those upon it with fear, Thunder Sword!" And with that, a huge series of electric sword strikes seemed to come up from the ground and fell each dark knight about her. But to her horror, each knight that lay dead slouched up and had a red glare in their eyes.

"They're not dying?!" Delita said through several sword thrusts to a knight's abdomen.

Amla speculated, "These knights aren't even human at all, they are the undead. Everyone with a stone, bear it out, now!"

With that everyone who had a stone took it in their hands, then Amla chanted out, "Evil with a human mask, reveal yourself Revenants of the past."

Immediately a holy light flashed across the field, nearly knocking every dark knight over, but what truly happened made Delita a true believer in the Zodiac...

All the Black knights' armor melted away revealing them to be translucent beings known only as Revenants or evil spirits.

Delita tried to slash at his assailants, but now they were untouchable and were throwing electrical charges at him.

Suddenly, Amla stepped in front of Delita and touched the ghost with the stone, which just as suddenly phased out the ghost and glowed a strange crystal blue hue.

"What did you do? Why is that stone glowing?"

Amla smiled, then turned to the rest of the group, confusing Delita even more.

"No time for questions, everyone, quickly raise your stones to the sky and repeat what I say!"

Holy stone, keeper of the power,
I shall guard you with my heart,
destroy the evil and death sower,
and you shall reveal your part.

Immediately the stones each glowed with rainbow colored hues and a blue flame surrounded each creature and burnt them to oblivion. Leaving nothing but the warriors alone.

"Why were the stones glowing, what power did they have?" Delita was in shock at what he just saw.

Azmar explained, "these are 5 of the 13 Zodiac Stones, apparently they came to us in our time of need."

Amla stated, "The need was great enough, so each of the stones transformed into the Zodiac Stones, each representing a member of the Zodiac Braves. You shall know if you are a true Zodiac Brave if the stone in your hand glows and contains a symbol of the Zodiac."

Delita, still doubtful asked, "What does it mean to be a Zodiac Brave? And you say there are 13, I thought there were only 12...Plus with the exception of driving away the dead, what else are these rocks good for anyway?"

Agrias was quick to answer his first question, "You've never heard of the legend of the Zodiac Braves who defeated the great demon/angel and protected our land? Those who saved this land were an obscure band of men and women who came from different eras and places to defeat the lucavi....if you're a Zodiac Brave you must fight in the Zodiac War."

Reis followed up, "The legend also said that a dark and vile man who humbled himself for his friends and trusted in those he cared for would become the 13th Zodiac Brave."

"But we only have five of the do we know who the braves are? And what about the other 8 Zodiac Stones?"

"Delita, stop asking so many stupid questions....," Azmar snapped, startling him, "if you haven't noticed we already found five of the Braves as well as the stones."

“As if you could ever pull rank on me…” Delita slightly sneered, so no one would notice. The last anyone had ever treated him like a commoner was…

"Azmar's right, the stones reacted as soon as we used them, so with the exception of yourself and Gildenstern, we five are braves." Beowulf spoke with a mystical finality.

"So what Brave are you Beowulf?" Delita asked sarcastically.

Amla answered his question patiently, "Beowulf is Taurus, Azmar is Leo, Agrias is Libra, Reis is Sagittarius, and I myself am Virgo..."

"So what am I, dumb-arsius?" Delita quipped, feeling left out.

"Sire, I hardly think this is a time for jokes, we have to eliminate this threat to Ivalice." Gildenstern said scoldingly.

"Very well....sigh...we will go find the remaining stones and put the church back in its place."

That night sleeping in a monk's quarters, Delita had a lot to think about before he fell asleep. "It's been so long since I've been treated like a commoner, I feel so different, yet I feel liberated, as if the guilt that led me to the throne has dissipated. Apparently what my knights say is true, much to my discovery. So they are in fact, Zodiac Braves, but what makes me suspicious is that they are simply dragging me along some false expedition for a pile of stones that glow in the dark for all I know. But when they spoke of what sign each represented I got to thinking about Ramza....he once said he was a Leo, I wonder if Azmar knew of him at all.”

“No, that's foolish, from the looks of it, Azmar really considered Ramza a heretic even after what the Villagers said of him.”

“The last time I ever saw Ramza, we fought side by side at the top of a church steeple in Bervenia. I shook hands with the only man I ever truly trusted that day. Yet for some reason I feel I can trust all the men and women in my company right now, even more than I could trust my own sword. Blast. More than that, I feel like, as much as I’ve never cared to admit, that I can trust Azmar with my own life. My life, which I’ve never trusted to anyone, in his hands like. . . . . . . .Ramza.”

“I--I feel sorry for him being scarred all over his face. He must be truly ashamed of his face. But someday I wish to look upon that face and say that he truly is a man of brave stature, and I will do everything in my power to keep him alive, we shall protect ourselves. Zodiac Brave or Former Black Knight and King, I will owe my life and my sword to Azmar, and if he fights in this Zodiac War, I shall fight with him.”

Chapter 4: To Become a True Knight

The next morning Delita met his party outside the Monastery setting up provisions for the journey ahead.

"We must head east for Murond Holy Place and then take a ship towards Alexandria, the other stones will be found there." Azmar said matter-of-factly.

Beowulf once again called a flock of chocobos as he had before and they rode across the great Ivalice Plateau.

As they reached the great Cathedral of Bervenia, Delita was given unbidden thoughts of his friend who paid a great price to be a hero when everyone he ever knew betrayed him.

He bit his lip, “How many people have I misled to get where I have in life? The one moment when I could have been a hero instead of a selfish bastard.......Teta. She always loved me no matter what, but she was innocently killed right before me.” Delita remembered the helplessness he felt.

“From that moment on I never trusted in anyone else, the fool I was, but then there’s Ramza. He was my opposite in every way. And he had every right to be angry at the world for having his only family destroyed and....then he...” Just then, a fiery guilt spread over Delita's body as if he was drowning in a sea of blackness.

"Ovelia, she was just like Teta, I saved her life for...what, just to be used like a rag doll for a game of politics, she was my ace and I used her frequently. Then I killed her, even though she tried to kill herself, bloody fool I was to bring flowers and a sword. Why? She did nothing except live her life as a princess ought to, we even played mind tricks with her to make her think she was never even a princess at all, she was the true heir to the throne. Even the little two-year-old boy was a ploy of Larg's to gain power. But I killed both of those hyenas didn't I? In fact Goltana wasn't even related to the royal family at all. Everything the people believed in was a lie. I believed a lie!”

“That I could truly be a righteous king found in the history books, and the church silencing permanently that loudmouth Durai. But perhaps he was telling the truth? Was Ramza really alive? He may still be, but will I ever face him again?”

Delita grimly smiled, “I'm bloody glad I gave up the crown, now I see clearly...I am the fool Ramza, I was corrupted by my own hate for Ivalice and the dumb selfish bastard sheep that live in it. I was the fool thinking I would make right a world so pompous it was filled with pustules and parasites. But the blood I meant to shed spread forth onto innocence and now I am just a monster like all the others I killed. Teta forgive me....”

An idea struck Delita as he pondered his fate,“And yet....perhaps I may redeem myself with Azmar. I will protect Amla, Azmar, and all my allies if I must--they are my only friends left. Zodiac Brave or not, I promise you, Ramza, Alma and...Teta, I will not abandon these friends I've been given."

Just then a thunderstorm broke out high above the large Cathedral in Bervenia snapping Delita from his grim thoughts. Lightning pealed across the black sky exposing a large black figure with demonic wings unfolded standing at the top of the Cathedral Steeple.

"Up there! Is that an Archaic Demon?" shock filling Agrias’ voice.

"I think he has been summoned to seize one of us, perhaps one of us Braves," Beowulf was grim.

"We must destroy this being, even if it means one of us gets killed," said Amla quickly, and then without hesitation she chanted out.

Warriors of Light make Haste
Take off in Flight! Float!

Immediately the entire party shot up in the sky to the roof of the Cathedral to fight the dark being. Its wings and muscles were ripcord and caused a strong wind to blow across the roof, making it difficult for the party to remain on their feet. The sad rain started to pour in rivets making visibility nearly impossible.

The demon croaked, "So you're the Zodiac Braves eh? I'm here for your leader, him! The Hooded one! I sense you have the most courage! I'll take you!"

With one swift swoop the demon dove at Azmar. Azmar rolled causing the monster to miss, but the second swoop left Azmar with a torn cape. Delita looked to his sides for his allies, but they were already in the fray trying to catch the demon when it wasn't moving about.

Beowulf swung his magick sword just within range to cast Slow on the demon, making its swoops more predictable. Reis managed to get the pounce on the demon driving her spear into its lower back, but this didn't slow down the black monster much.

Agrias hit the being with Stasis Sword only to be swatted away like a rag doll. Slow wore off and the demon picked up surprising speed. Such speed that it snatched up Azmar in its massive claws like those of an eagle. Azmar plunged his sword into the demon's side several times struggling for a release.

It didn't look as if the demon was even reacting to any sword strikes at all. It even seemed as if the monster was merely distracted by the pokes and drives of the sword. It was nearly off the roof when Delita saw it. Only a few more seconds and the demon would escape beyond their reach, with Azmar in its deadly clutches.

Delita snapped.

Ignoring the slippery shingles of the roof he ran, jumping from ledge to ledge along the top of the Cathedral, blinded by rain and brandishing a gleaming black sword, Death.

He screamed,"I MADE A PROMISE!!!"

He dove right to the edge of the roof and drove the sword expertly into the heart of the demon. Biting and clawing, the demon gasped out its last desperate screech. Then the creature plummeted down to the floor of the Cathedral, but not without releasing Azmar.

In frantic desperation, Delita plunged his sword in the side of the roof as an anchor and reached out trying to grasp Azmar.


Just barely he managed to grasp him by the ankle.

A stiff, cold wind blew suddenly, but Delita didn't care, he made a promise to protect his new allies and he was going to keep it.

Incidently, looking down at Azmar he noticed that the hood had blown away, revealing not a scarred knight, but oddly enough a scruffy blonde warrior, hardened by war, but not a blemish on his face. Not borne of hatred or mistrust either.

Another surprise, the face reminded Delita of someone he knew....Then the face changed to an old smile that Delita knew and loved dearly.


It was all Delita could do not to laugh for joy and let go of him, but with a great effort and some help from his friends he hoisted him back up. It was then that Delita recognized the face of the priestess who helped hoist he and his long lost friend back up.


Chapter 5: The Truth about Five Years

Alma silently smiled as she slowly took off her hood to reveal her face. Delita was in definite shock, but overjoyed at the same time. Two people whom he thought were long since dead for over five years have ended up alive and well.

It only took a few minutes to climb down off the roof when the whole group was sitting quietly under a countryside tree watching the chocobos graze.

"How--? How are you--? How can you be--? Your Alive!" Delita stuttered in utter disbelief, etiquette and proper speech leaving him completely.

"Sadly what Olan said a long time ago is very true--the fact that I and several of my comrades went to Murond Death City and battled the supposed Holy St. Ajora, ended up being a demon lucavi known only as Altima. Many of our men were killed in that battle. The only survivors of that war are Alma, Reis, Beowulf, Agrias, and myself.”

“Demons, Holy Stones? You coming back from near death, what is going on?” Delita was perplexed.

Ramza saw the confused look on his face, but continued,"It is very apparent that the five of us that remained together after that battle are the first five Zodiac Braves. I know what you're thinking Delita, we don't know if you are a Brave as well, but we have been watching the church and you for the past five years in the guise of Templar and Holy Knights.”

“Then we served as your elite personal guards, at first Beowulf aided us in joining the Templar to spy on the church to see if they would make any advances towards you or the stones. But it was Gildenstern who mostly aided us in becoming your personal guard.”

“Gildenstern, you had a hand in this charade?”

“Yes, sir,” he smiled meekly.

“Very well met, then, I’ve once again underestimated you,” he happily clapped his former advisor on the back, almost causing him to drop his glasses.

“I had met Gildenstern years ago when he was a simple Calculator, he had aided us several times never even falling victim to one of his equations. And I trusted him very closely, like I would trust you.”

Delita smiled, “I never thought I was even capable of being trusted, thanks, Ramza.”

“When I found out he was the Advisor to the king, it was only a matter of time getting him to pull the right strings and getting myself and my friends into your elite bodyguard. This way we could better protect you and keep an eye on you. I'm surprised you never even recognized mine nor Agrias' faces, since you saw both of us last time we shook hands at the Cathedral."

“Now that you mention it I do remember seeing Agrias at Bervenia Cathedral.”

Delita was silent for a moment, taking in all the information as to Ramza's whereabouts for the past five years, but then a certain aspect of Ramza didn't add up, nor did something to do with Alma; he was confused, so he asked, "I figured out that Azmar and Amla are Ramza and Alma spelled backwards, but what I don't understand is this, since when has Alma become so knowledgeable of prophesy and the Zodiac Stones, and since when has she become such a powerful Priestess?"

"This I can answer," Alma said, "When I was kidnaped by Meliadoul's father and for a brief moment possessed by Altima herself, some new Holy Powers awoke inside of me to help fight in the battle and heal those wounded, so I am no longer a cleric but a priestess. Also the brief bond I had with Ajora led to granting me the ability to see into the future at least in a blurry state. I am not always accurate, but it seems as though I fall into a trance and speak riddles from what Ramza tells me, as if not I but someone else is speaking the words out of my mouth. I usually relate these messages to Ramza and with his knowledge of events he can usually figure out the puzzles I say to him."

"That leads me to my other question," Delita continued, "why didn't you tell me you were alive for the past five years?"

Ramza replied, "We weren't sure whether revealing who we were to you was really a good idea considering how things were, everyone and the church considered me a heretic. Revealing that I had sanctuary or pardon from you would jeopardize the throne, and you'd be hunted as a heretic as well, but seeing the current events, I believe that's no longer necessary. I apologize on behalf of all of us for leaving you in the dark, Delita."

Chapter 6: From Black Knight to Holy Paladin

"No Ramza, it is I who should apologize, I obtained the throne through ill-gotten gains, manipulating and ultimately killing Queen Ovelia. And now I have her blood stained on my hands, how can I ever obtain absolution from you or your friends?" Delita felt it necessary to confess his distrustful twisted nature to his friends.

Ramza looked at Delita for a moment, reading the sincerity in his eyes and the sadness on his face, then he slowly drew his sword, careful not to alarm Delita with harmful body language, then swiftly drove his sword into the ground, hilt facing up.

He sighed and replied, "When I joined the Templar with Beowulf, I learned I wasn't actually a  heretic, that I believed in what God could do. It didn't matter how many men and women I had slain with my sword, as long as I carried out God's means he would forgive my gravest sins, and that I was doing God's work, and not the work of the church. I knew the truth, and would be willing to kill and die for it. So, I drove my sword into the ground and swore fealty to God that whatever happened to me, I would always be following his works and doing his will. I know it sounds crazy but my sister and I believe this; as do Beowulf, Reis, Agrias, and Gildenstern."

Delita thought for a moment, the sincerity, peace, and desire for friendship was still strong as always with Ramza, but the naivete was gone for both of them, and Delita knew Ramza always spoke the truth, informed or otherwise.

"It's not so crazy, Ramza," Delita spoke with a settled tone, "I, like you, have always wanted freedom from my own mistakes; forgiveness for my sins,” and he genuinely did, “although it is not always easy to be granted from man, it seems even easier to let the burdens of guilt fall on God, I...need to believe myself, Ramza....I want to swear fealty as well..."

The faith he had in himself would never spread to others if he didn’t grow himself.

"Draw your sword, Delita, and drive it into the earth."

Delita drew his black sword "Death," he had called it. He believed it to kill nearly any living being with one swipe. But now it seemed to feel weak in his hands. Brittle, as if about to shatter into a million shards of steel. Then, without a moment's hesitation he drove it lengthwise into the ground with all his strength, pushing his entire being into the sword. Strangely the hilt was at level with Ramza's sword, making it seem like Ramza had so much more strength than himself, that he could drive his own sword even deeper without even trying...this made Delita feel weak.

"......Drop down to one knee, and...swear..," Ramza continued.

Delita did so, then opening his mouth, which felt dry and parched, " so swear...."

"I do so swear--to God and to my compatriots that I shall uphold his word and his orders, should the church betray me or hell destroy me--I shall love my God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength, and by this sword I drive into his earth I make my oath of fealty, I shall love and protect my neighbor as my own soul--I so swear this..."

Delita repeated the oath softly at first. Then, with every piece of the oath he seemed to gain strength. When he finished, he felt the guilt leave him, and he didn't feel as weak anymore. There was a moment of locked and intense silence as Delita, perhaps for the first time in his life, prayed to a God he hardly knew or had faith in, but maybe this would change. At last Ramza drew his sword from out of the ground and spoke, Delita still at one knee, leaning on his black sword:

"Sir Delita Hyral," Ramza addressed him, then tapping both Delita’s shoulders with his sword said, "Rise, no longer Black Knight, but Holy Paladin."

Something grand and mystical began to occur, the sword driven still in the ground glowed with a mysterious white light. The Light for but a moment blinded Delita. As his eyes adjusted, Delita crossed himself and with a smile, stood. He glanced at the sword which was no longer black when he drove it into the ground, but now it was white silver with strange rune markings of the 12 symbols found on the Holy Stones inscribed on the sword, each a symbol of the Zodiac.

"Delita, look at yourself," Ramza said with a smile, "you've change not only on the inside, but the outside as well." With that Ramza showed Delita a silver reflective shield. Delita was shocked at what he saw, not quite sure as to what Ramza had done to him. His armor had changed from a dull brown-black color to a solid white armor with a silver cape to replace his blood red cape.

He now realized that this was an act of God and that he was destined to defend the honor of his friends. He grasped the hilt of this strange new sword and felt the firmness of it, then lifted it out of the ground. It was strong and yet light as a feather, as if it were part of his arm. He never thought this would ever happen in his life, ever.

"I think I will call this blade, Legend," Delita pronounced.

Alma stepped towards him among the applauding fellow-knights, "So you've become a Paladin now...yet it remains to be seen whether or not you are a genuine Zodiac Brave, this sword claims to say otherwise as it has the 12 main symbols engraved into it, yet I don't see the 13th?"

She examined the sword further, yet again the sword flashed a strange brilliant light. The light hit her in the eyes and she became totally silent, possessed by some unknown force. Her eyes were closed when she spoke,

"Braves and Knights, listen carefully of what I speak, a large quest lies before you..."

All eyes and ears cued in on what the mysterious voice that spoke had to say.

"You must first find the next two stones and their bearers, one, is a reliable ally you shall find, albeit obscure, and the other with the heart of a crystal. Complete the cycle and the time gate shall then open..."

Chapter 7: The Quest Ahead of Them

Alma opened her eyes and nearly collapsed, but Ramza caught her.

“Are you alright?” he asked his sister intently.

“…no worse for wear.” She replied.

Speculating what to do next, Ramza came up with an idea, "We already have five Zodiac stones and their bearers...we have two more to look for, that makes seven, the numerical value of a cycle is seven...! If we find the two stones and their bearers…”

“We're going to jump through time, just like our old friend Cloud did!” Alma finished.

"Who's Cloud?" Delita asked, "And what do you mean time jump?"

"Cloud was an ally of ours who was summoned into the past by a strange time machine that Besrodio found. Unfortunately the machine broke after pulling Cloud through. He was trapped here until Altima sent him back to whatever era he came from. You may get a chance to meet him. I remember he was an excellent swordsman. As far as jumping through time is concerned, I'm not quite sure where we may be going and what for, but I do think it's for the rest of the stones and their bearers."

"Oh so that's it, I thought we were going for a joyride through time--while a bunch of lucavi are trying to hunt us down and kill us!!" Delita spoke with a sarcasm that chilled even him.

“No! I’ve changed, I can’t think like that anymore, I have to trust…” Delita realized he was speaking out of fear, “Sorry Ramza, I…”

“No need, Delita, you did have a point. We have to watch out for those demons.”

"Well, we won’t exactly be time-traveling right away," Alma finally was able to speak again, "we should first focus on finding the two stones....I think I know of a person who may hold both of them, in fact, for the past ten years, they were believed to be stolen heirlooms of her family's."

"Hers?" Beowulf said curiously.

Alma continued, "For numerous months while Ramza studied at Garland Officer Academy, I went to a type of nobility school for girls. I made friends with the girl who would be Garnet Til' Alexandros XIV, we went everywhere together in school.” Alma twittled her fingers and smiled when thinking of her friend.

“In fact right now she is the current Queen of Alexandria. She once showed me two stones that she had in her possession an aquamarine and a garnet, her favorite. I looked at them closely and they had the symbols of Pisces and Scorpio on them. I asked her what she thought they meant, but she was unsure...a few days later she said that someone had stolen her stones, she was really upset about it.”

“That seems to be how we ended up with the stones for a time, when they vanished after the battle I had wondered where they all went. The time I spent with Altima inside my body gave me a sixth sense as to how to identify the holy stones and where they were, even sometimes disguised as regular smooth rocks. I had only heard just recently that Garnet had found her two stones again and was celebrating with a play by the Tantalus Theatre Troupe in Alexandria.”

"So that's why Ramza told us to go to Alexandria! He knew the stones would be there!" Delita seemed to have a renewed excitement for travel in search of these stones, it was definitely better than worrying about a bunch of demons hunting them down.

After a long pause, Beowulf spoke up, "the sooner we get to Alexandria, the sooner we evade the lucavi. So I say we should leave Bervenia now, I'll round up the chocobos."

After the brief rest under a huge tree, Ramza, Delita, Reis, Beowulf, Alma, Agrias, and Gildenstern mounted their chocobos and left Bervenia heading southeast along the southern tip of the Finath River to where they knew the river would open out into the Great Black Sea. Little did they know that dark shadows were following them at incredibly high speeds. The shadows were moving at such a fast rate that they created a windy blur out of the corner of Delita's eye.

"Something tells me we're not alone, Ramza, lets branch out and lose these Creeps."

"Reis, Alma, Gildenstern, come with me! Beowulf, Agrias, you follow Delita! And split up!" Ramza barked.

The groups split up into two pathed underbrush sections each circling about, trying to reach an open area with no overhead brush for the shadows to hide in. Ramza's party thought they had found a clearing to fight the monsters in when suddenly a massive Creeps swelled like a wall surrounding them.

"Master Ramza, this doesn't look good," Gildenstern commented.

"We'll have to find a way to break through..." Ramza said as he slashed at the shadow, which when it was cut at seemed to repel his sword strikes like a rubber band. At this point, even the chocobos where nervous, bucking off their riders and running through the shadow since no chocobo could be harmed by darkness.

"I'll find a way out," Reis said as she took two bounds and tried to out-jump the shadow. But the giant Creeps created a large rubbery ceiling trapping the warriors.

"Alma! Try Holy! Maybe that will work!" Ramza encouraged.

"I'll back her up!" Gildenstern cast a quick calculation casting both Haste on the party to keep them going and Slow on the shadow, which functioned to buy them time.

"Light in Darkness, pierce this dome, Light of life, make your presence known! Holy!" A huge column of light erupted from Alma's hands as she said this but the light was caught like a baseball and bounced around the dark room.

"It casts Reflect?" Ramza was surprised but unmoving and about to attack again when he heard a muffled cry from outside the black Creeps wall.

"Pierce this darkness with your light--Legend!" A white gleaming slice appeared in the hide of the giant shadow and there was an immense cry of pain. A huge hole now appeared where the slice was made and outside was Delita in his white gleaming armor.

"Good to see you're still alive! Now hurry! This thing's about to collapse in on itself!"

The group quickly rushed out to what they thought was freedom but instead came to realize that a second Creeps shade was beginning to slither around them like a boa constrictor.

"No way out..." was all Ramza could manage to say as the shadow began to close in on the group. It was about that time when the party began to press up against themselves for support forcing their blades outward to try and pierce the dark thing. When out of nowhere a chain ladder dropped out of the sky above their heads. A loud shrill whistle directed their attention upwards when they saw floating just above the shadow--a giant airship!

"I-I thought airships didn't exist..?" Delita stammered.

"Well, you coming aboard or what?" boomed a loud voice.

Ramza didn't know what to make of it but it was the only option, "Come on guys! Let's get out of here!"

Delita set up a defensive stance, "You go first, I'll back you up.."

With that the party quickly climbed up into the floating vessel, Delita being the last one coming aboard was slashing away at the tendrils of the shadow.

"Eat holy sword, Creeps!" as he fired an energy wave at the creature with his sword. This made the creature run around in confusion.

Chapter 8: The Princess and the Thief

A large rotund pig-creature stepped out onto the main deck after the party settled down. It spoke with a hearty laugh, "So, do you have this kind of luck everyday? Or is it us who are the lucky ones?"

"Thank you, sir, for pulling us out of there; we owe you a great debt." Delita said formally.

"Sorry, I'm not the one you should thank; I was napping while this was going on. My right-hand-star is the guy you owe your lives to."

"Who are you talking about?" Delita asked.

"My star pupil actor, pulled your butts out of the fire for sure, Zidane's the man!"

"Actor? You mean you belong to the legendary Tantalus Theatre Troupe?! I didn't know you had an airship?" said Ramza.

"He doesn't just belong to the troupe, he's big enough to be the troupe..." said a cocky two-bit voice behind them.

"Zidane, will you cut it out for once, I am trying to lose weight."

The party spun around to see a short, yet strong looking young man, yet strangely he owned a tail, which was swinging about casually. "Yeah right, the only weight you're trying to lose is me off the side of this ship."

"So you're the one who saved us?" asked Alma inquisitively.

"Yeah, so, you ask as though it was a bad thing." Zidane remarked, then after looking Alma up and down, noting her figure, said, "So, you guys staying a while?"

Seeing where the conversation was going the pig followed up, "my name is Baku, the top-banana, that's Zidane, and then there's Scarlet, Blank, Marcus, heck you'll meet 'em later..."

The party began to finally settle down and clean themselves up. It was a long ride south to Alexandria, so the party had plenty of time to talk to the acting crew. They seemed to get along very well. Ramza and Beowulf went to check out the head engineer, Cinna, to see how in the world the ship worked. Reis had taken off her armor and was sunning herself, much to the pleasure of Zidane, although he was more interested in Alma who was taking in the breeze from the ship's upper deck. Delita and Gildenstern were taking a grand tour of the theatre portion of this customized airship. Gildenstern said, surprising Delita, "If I wasn't you're personal advisor, sire, I would truly like to be in the acting business. The theatre seems to be my dream."

"Well, Gildenstern," said Marcus behind on the stage, "we could always use another actor in this troupe, but you're gonna hafta learn that it ain't always easy to act a part."

Delita looked at Gildenstern and said, "when this so-called war is over, I promise you, you will get to fulfill your dream."

Gildenstern looked pleased, "Thank you, sire, you are an honorable man."

Inside the captain's quarters Baku was chasing Agrias around the room, "Come-on baby, we're meant for each other--"

Agrias drew her sword and said, "this is a holy sword, it can cut things very easily, you don't want me to cut yours, do you?"

"ulp Uh um....just a kiss?" Baku pleaded.

"LEAVE ME ALONE!" Agrias shouted and stomped out of the cabin.

"Hey wait, honey, I love you....!" Baku ran after her.

"I DON'T DO PIGS!" she shouted back.

"I'm not a pig, I'm a gentleman! Come back!"

The day very quickly turned into night and the troupe was preparing for entering into Alexandria. "We understand," Baku said in one of his actually serious tones, "the Glabados church almost arrested a few of my men just for playing a comedy at Igros castle. We owe them big time."

"The reason behind our going to Alexandria," Ramza stated, "is that Queen Alexandros possesses two of our Zodiac stones, which we'll need to fight in the upcoming Zodiac War."

"So it's a gem heist, eh?" Baku commented, "there's a little secret about us that you don't know is that in some countries we're thieves. We just need to get in and get out before the Queen realizes."

Zidane suddenly interrupted, "Baku, that's not necessary, Garnet and I are close and I can get you guys those stones.....for the right price."

Beowulf growled at Zidane, who grinned greedily, Delita sighed then replied, "Name your price...."

Zidane grinned, he was looking at the former King of Ivalice, and they were overflowing with money. "Five million gil..." he said, "in advance."

Delita looked at him reluctantly, and then said, "A deal is a deal, those stones are more important to us than any Gil we currently have." They shook hands to seal the deal and Delita gave Zidane the money.

The party knew that the play would begin in a few hours or so, so they hurriedly ran down the main street of Alexandria, towards the main castle entrance. Two guards blocked the way to the palace, but Zidane quickly showed them his official Guardian pass, which immediately let him through, but the party had to stay behind for lack of trust.

Seeing the problem, Agrias spoke, "Is Lady Beatrix there? Or Sir Steiner? We wish to see the captains..."

The guard blew a small whistle which summoned another guard, "Ask for Lady Beatrix or Sir Steiner, the madam wishes to speak with them." The other guard ran off quickly, then, a few minutes later Beatrix and Steiner both came and spoke with the party.

"Lady Beatrix, is that you? I've not seen you in ages!" Agrias said, excited.

"Nor I, you, Agrias, it's been so long, how are things in Ivalice?"

"Yes, Agrias, tell us what has become of you since the Lion War." Steiner added.

"Not good, fellow knights, King Hyral was ousted from his throne and is being protected by us. We seek an audience with the queen."

Steiner did a double take at Delita who smiled and nodded.

"Your majesty, we apologize. Guards! Clear the way for his majesty King Hyral! We shall give you audience with her majesty and accompany you." Steiner was overly dramatic and gruff, but he meant well.

Chapter 9: Guardians of Time

Through a series of halls in Alexandria Castle, Ramza and Delita, found themselves in the throne room, shocked to know that Zidane had found a girlfriend in Queen Garnet!

"Your Majesty! If I may ask that you refrain yourself from Zidane and pay attention to current more urgent matters at hand!" Steiner scolded.

"Oh...uhm..." Garnet glowed red with embarrassment, she evaded Zidane's kiss and he fell face first on the floor.

"Erm..." Steiner cleared his throat, "As I was saying, King Delita Hyral is in grave danger from the Glabados church, he requests an audience with you, your highness."

"Very well, I shall speak to you privately," she composed herself, "Steiner, Beatrix, if you please..."

"Yes, your majesty." The knights bowed and left.

Delita began, "You need not call me by my surname, I have taken the guise of a Holy Paladin, at least until I should return to my throne. These are my allies former templar knights, Ramza Beolve, Beowulf Kadmus, Holy Knight Lady Agrias, Priestess Alma Beolve, Dragon Knight Reis, Advisor/Calculator Gildenstern, and you may call me simply Delita."

"You may also dispense with the formalities, Paladin..." Garnet said with a light laugh. "Zidane has already explained to me the importance of the two stones with the Zodiac Markings, I shall give them to you only on one condition....."

"And what may that be, your highness." Delita wasn't quite sure what to expect. Seeing Zidane make out with the queen of Alexandria in front of people was enough.

"That I--and Zidane," she elbowed him in the ribs, "are allowed to aid you in your quest. But before that, he will return the five million gil he swindled out of you...WON'T YOU!!!!"

She raised a scepter and was about to clonk Zidane when he raised his hands up in defense and said, "Aright already!! I'll give him back his gil!!"

As Zidane handed Delita back his money between grumbles, Delita asked, "Garnet? How will you leave Alexandria? Who will rule?"

"I am queen, yes, but I decreed a long time ago that I could travel anywhere I pleased, even privately. Beatrix guards the throne in my stead, plus Zidane is my official bodyguard and has promised much to Steiner's complaints to guard me with his life. So once I receive the two Zodiac stones from my servant, we shall be leaving very quickly. Oh....and where is it exactly that we are going?"

"Ehrm....," Alma thought, reaching for words, "We--that is the Zodiac Braves who possess the stones must find the bearers of the two stones Scorpio and Pisces...they will glow once we find them."

"Ah, there they are...thank you mistress..."

Garnet was given a box, which she opened, inside were the stones. Garnet took out her favorite stone, which was of course, the Garnet. Yet when Alma looked closer, she saw that whenever Garnet's hand passed by the Pisces stone in the box, it glowed a soft blue color. Shocked Alma said in disbelief, "You're one of the bearers, Garnet! Do you realize you're a Zodiac Brave!"

"Apparently because the Pisces stone was glowing, I guess I must be..." she replied complacently.

"Hey, let me see!" Zidane glanced to look at the stones, "but why doesn't the garnet glow when she touches it?" Zidane picked up the red stone of Scorpio, curious as to why it wasn't her stone, then when it started to glow as well, he quickly put it back in the box as if nothing had happened.

Alma did a double take, "Did that Scorpio stone just glow a second ago!"

"Ummmm......" Zidane tried whistling and hiding his hands, "I dunno..."

"I knew it!" said Garnet, "I knew you had to be a brave too, Zidane!"

"Aww, c'mon maybe the rock just had a little light bounce off of it--"

"Stop lying, Zidane, we know you're a Brave, now take your Scorpio stone!" said Alma impatiently.

"Aww crap, I don't wanna go fight in some dumb war!"

"You'd better do as she says, Zidane," Ramza interjected, "my sister won't take no for an answer."

So Zidane picked up the stone which glowed a bright red. He looked at Garnet and asked, "if this was you're favorite stone, why didn't it glow for you?"

Garnet smiled and spoke softly, "It was my favorite because it always reminded me of you, Zidane."

Then, with a feint burst of energy, Zidane, now invigorated by Garnet's words said, "THEN I SHALL DEFEND ALEXANDRIA!!!"

Ramza spoke wryly with a smirk and said, "He's only doing it 'cause He wants Garnet."

A few moments after gathering a few supplies, the party discussed their plans with the newly found stones and their bearers. Steiner was the first to comment, "I regret having to abandon you, my queen, but I trust you are in safe hands with Zidane."

"Steiner, you've been so loyal," Garnet replied, "what I do, I do to protect this world now, as a Zodiac Brave. But we will return."

"For your information, Steiner," Ramza told him, "we will be trying to use these powerful stones and unlock the gate of time, this way we can find the other six stones and braves."

"As far as where the gate of time is," Garnet informed the party, "It is in the highest point in the tower of Castle Alexandria. A time mage forbade me to enter there until I was grown, now we have finally found its use."

"So we'll head up there," Delita said.

"My queen..."

"Yes, Beatrix?"

"We shall protect Alexandria with our lives, I swear that." Beatrix promised very sincerely, placing a fist on her breastplate and bowing.

"Then it's settled," said Garnet with an air of finality, "we will get supplies and use the time gate at once."

Zidane asked Garnet, "How exactly will we know where we're going? Are we all prepared?"

"The stones will guide the way, Zidane, and as for being prepared, I was taught by Eiko all her summons, not to mention mastering my own, I am not totally defenseless." Garnet reminded him.

"Well okay, just so long as you and the other girls are safe..." Zidane acted as if he had every intention of protecting all four women at the same time.

The party headed to the highest tower, which meant a very long flight of steps. But strangely the walls seemed to become crystal-like.

"Something tells me, that the elemental crystal is reacting to our entering the time chamber by sealing off any intruders..." Garnet stated.

"As long as that seal wears off when we get back," joked Delita, "I want to go home just as much as anyone else here."

"There it is...the gate of time..." Garnet said.

The room consisted of a giant circular platform with seven smaller platforms around the edges. In the middle was a trapezoidal platform in which a small groove slit seemed to be engraved. Also the seven smaller platforms had seven markings of the Zodiac.

"Each platform is designated for our seven Zodiac signs.." Alma noted, "with the exception of Delita's Zodiac sword."

"Wait a minute--where's Gildenstern....!" Delita blurted out..

Ramza replied, "Alma and I discussed this, Delita,

nd we realize you seem to have some importance to us, but Gildenstern is not a Brave so he cannot travel through time with us. The people at Tantalus asked if he wanted to work with them in the theatre, and he said yes. I hope you can understand..."

"Very well, we must get going then..." Delita replied.

"Come on! I ain't got all day!" Zidane whined.

"Everybody to their designated positions!" Alma ordered, "Delita, you stay in the middle by that anvil..."

"Now, raise your stones to the sky..."

Nothing Happened.

"I think I know what's missing...," Delita said, "this anvil is for driving my sword into...that activates the gate..."

"We'll try anything now..." Alma said, "Okay put the sword in..."

As soon as Delita drove the sword in the anvil a blue aura filled the room, and each of the Zodiac platforms glowed along with the seven stones. The Legend sword began to emit a high intensity light forcing Delita to drop to one knee and close his eyes...then he prayed.

Chapter 10: A Dawning Future


Then the party seemed to have awakened up from a deep sleep. Delita was the first to get up, yawn, and scratch his seemed as though he had been sleeping for....years? He looked one seemed old at all. Zidane seemed to be the least eager to get up..

"Juss-lemme-shleep a lil' longer..." he said between snores.

BAM! Garnet hit him on the head with her Mythril Rod.

"OW, I'm up--I'm up!" Zidane rubbed his head.

"Where exactly are we--?" Reis asked.

"From the looks of the animal tracks--I'd say an Ancient Forest." Beowulf speculated.

"I think it best, if we find our way to civilization." Agrias said.

"Good idea--but what's that? Do I hear drums...?" Delita asked.

"Native drums, coming from that rocky canyon peak beyond the forest..." Beowulf said, checking the ground for chocobo tracks.

"Let's head that way.." Ramza said.

Beowulf made a slightly altered call than his usual chocobo call, but it still summoned a series of wild chocobos for them to ride. "We'll get there faster this way...follow me."

The chocobos were a lot faster than what they were use to, because they were able to follow the trail of the drums very easily. When they came to the foot of a large case of stone-carved stairs. They looked in amazement to the left of them was an enormous crater.

"Something really big must have crashed there...." Ramza said.

"Something Ultimately huge, I'd say." chimed in Zidane.

As they climbed the large steps they found out that not only were there natives there, but also a large white airship that seemed to run on fire propulsion. On it's side it said simply, "The Highwind."

A large red furry beast came bounding toward them. Delita was ready to draw his sword when the beast spoke...

"Newcomers....don't be alarmed, I am Nanaki, guardian of this...Cosmo Canyon. Bugenhagen had foreseen that 8 travelers in odd clothing not of this world would come here."

"He--speaks?" Delita said in confusion.

"We've been expecting you--please come sit by our meeting fire."

"Well, seems friendly enough--" Ramza said dryly.

"Weird craters, ancient forests, and now talking animals, that's just great!" Zidane said, rather annoyed at his situation.

The party walked over to the strange fire where only Nanaki sat, strangely referring to himself as "we."

Nanaki was motionless, "stare deep into the flame all of you and tell me what you see."

Zidane was pissed, "I see nothing but a hot fire, you crazy redcat!"

"Look hard--he's there......"

Then, even after they blinked, the red flame turned into an iridescent blue with an image of an old sage projecting from it.

"You've never met me before, but my name is Bugenhagen, I have foreseen the coming of the Zodiac Braves for some time now; I will tell you many things this night for which you are to ponder, an ally many of you may know well will be returning to you...but be watchful as he must be guarded, he is unstable at this point in his life, and must learn redemption and forgiveness. He must face both his greatest love and his greatest hatred. You must make him into the Zodiac Brave he was always meant to be, even beyond death. He thinks he was destined to defeat his greatest foe, yet it is his foe who must defeat himself. Just as he must slay the heart inside himself for bloodshed and vengeance. Ponder the words, which I have spoken and use them well, they will aid you in the defeat of your enemies. I can no longer aid you any further except that when the time comes and you find the next three stones, you must go to the city of ancients, you will find your next quest there."

"One word: whoa!" was all Zidane could croak out.

"So you now have your current quest on your hands," Nanaki said, "Bugenhagen has directed that I give you these three smooth stones to aid you on your quest, they will not help you right away, but hold onto them for when the right time comes."

"I'm curious," Garnet asked, "whose airship is that floating over the canyon?"

"You will find out for yourselves in the morning. For now, rest, eat, or prepare yourselves in any way you deem fit."

The sun in this strange new land seemed to shine brightly even at sunset. But since everyone seemed to be refreshed from the seemingly long nap in the time gate. No one was sleepy. Agrias went up to the armor shop to get her armor repaired. Beowulf and Reis, out of curiosity went up to the telescopic deck to watch the stars at night.

Ramza and Delita, out of sheer boredom decided to go out and duel like they used to in Garland Officer Academy.

“Never thought I’d fight you again, Ramza!” Delita drew his sword in a defensive stance.

“Hmph, you were good back then! Let me show you how I’ve improved.”

The two crossed swords for a moment, then used the repelling force of the blades to get some distance between eachother.

“Hyah!” Delita brought his sword down heavily on Ramza’s, putting pressure on his forearms.

“Normally I could break a man’s forearms with this attack, but you seem to let the blow come!” Delita smiled, “very good!”

“Don’t think that’s the only attack I can do!” Ramza slid his blade off of Delita’s and used the hilt to push Delita backwards.

“Ungh!” Delita began to stagger backwards.

“Hurgh!” Ramza pressed his attack, trying to knock Delita off balance.

Delita saw the situation and turned it to his advantage, rolling off the ball of his foot, he spun behind Ramza and was about to give a clean hit to Ramza’s armor.

Ramza brought his blade over his head, defensively blocking the blow. Following through, Ramza backed into Delita and got underneath his center of gravity, flipping Delita over his back.

“Hmph!” Delita smirked as he kipped back up, just in time to parry another swing from Ramza’s sword.

“You’re better than I thought!” Ramza smiled as Delita moved closer to him, swords locked, Delita slowly was bringing his sword down on Ramza’s hilt, trying to knock the blade out of his hands.

Ramza countered the pressure by pushing upwards. This forced the blades out of both their hands.

“Well, I guess it’s a tie,” Ramza laughed.

“You guess?” Delita smirked picking back up the weapon.

“Well, for your information, I would have won against anyone else.”

“Oh, really?” Delita and Ramza laughed as they walked back to the huts.

Alma followed Nanaki up to a little hut where she asked him about his strange culture.

“So what is that massive crater?” Alma queried.

“That is what was left of a creature that was once created by the planet to defend it from destruction. Once it was no longer needed, it posed a threat to the planet, and so a great warrior sought to destroy it. He managed to do so, and his prize was a weapon of unlimited power."

"Interesting story," Alma marveled, "Have you heard the old story about the Zodiac Braves?"

Elsewhere, Garnet and Zidane found the time alone advantageous for relaxing under the stars together, not to mention a little affection here and there on Zidane's part.

Resting under a cool pale moon was Delita's favorite part. He asked Ramza, "You know, I just only recently realized, I like your sister..."

Ramza looking a little skeptical replied, "So you want me to give you permission for courtship?"

"Nah, I don't need your permission, I just want to know if you mind that I like her. I mean, she's your sister."

"And I'm your friend, I don't really care, as long as Alma's feelings are mutual and that you don't betray her...."

"This time around...I don't think I'll ever betray anyone ever again." Delita smiled. This was the first promise he would most definitely keep.

The moon rose to its zenith and everyone seemed complacent and content in this place called Cosmo Canyon, the air was cool, even for a desert-like area. Fireflies floated out of the large cave that was built under the entire hut structure, which made the whole place seemed like it was full of peace.

Reis stood next to Beowulf on a balcony overlooking the canyon, then abruptly placed her hand over Beowulf's, this startled him at first, but the two remained silent drinking in the night.

"Mmm," Reis smiled, taking in the view, "It's been so long since I've seen a moon so full."

"Really?" Beowulf asked, half in nervousness, half in anticipation.

"Yes, but.." Reis turned to look deep into his eyes, "I didn't think that we'd be together for so long."

"There must be some reason. After all, we are together now, aren't we?" He smiled.  After a moment's thought, she turned and glanced at the stars again.

Meanwhile, Alma stood watch along side Nanaki when she heard a mournful cry echo in the night.

"What was that!?" She said, a shiver running up her spine.

"That is the cry of a man who lost his only love trying to defeat a foe he never truly faced," Nanaki said grimly.

Blade's Fanfiction