Chapter 33

Ghaleon gulped down a breath.

He had been unprepared for the monstrous power Atriedes had unleashed. This was a kind of power that Ghaleon could not begin to comprehend - primal, unfocused, brutal. Exactly the opposite of his carefully studied sorceries. And those sorceries had availed him nothing before it. He had read of the Beast Rune, but he had never imagined it could be so terrifying.

He shuddered. It had been a very long time since he’d been truly afraid. He did not like the experience.

His wounds were deep. The next blow would have killed him.

And time was short.

Choking back the blood that threatened to gag him, he whispered the words to a simple healing spell. The severity of his wounds was such that only rest would truly repair them, but this would have to do for now.

He was still painfully short of breath. Yes, he would have to pay close attention to his wounds.

But he did not have time to do so. Not now.

Escape!

He could not remain in this world until the next chance to leave it. Another year, perhaps more - what if Atriedes found him before then? With that power, Ghaleon was not sure he would escape a second time.

Ghaleon pulled out the pocket watch he had purchased in Figaro. Thankfully, the tiny mechanical device still functioned - it and dear Celes were the only mementos he had cared to bring with him from that accursed place.

He flipped open its case.

It was already time!

Which meant there was no time for subtlety.

Celes and Mr. Cole had backed away from Atriedes - an unusually wise decision, in Ghaleon’s opinion. The bloodlust the man had displayed was not the sort that discriminated between friend and foe.

“Celes,” he said, “it is time to leave.”

She spun around, sword in hand.

“It is... time to stop... playing games.” He extended his hand toward Locke Cole and the Relic Weapon. The same magical bonds that had held Mr. Cole before the battle latched around him, and the weapon flew into Ghaleon’s hands. “We leave now, or he dies.”

“I will not-”

Ghaleon pulled the trigger. The Relic Weapon’s beam arced across the ground, leaving a deep groove.

“One... last... chance,” he said. He met her eyes. The satisfaction of killing Mr. Cole was motive enough for Ghaleon. He would happily carry out his threat if Celes continued to resist.

And she knew it.

“All right, Ghaleon,” she said, hanging her head. “I’ll do what you ask.”

“No!” Locke Cole said. He struggled against the bonds. “Don’t worry about me, Celes. Just don’t let -”

“Oh, do shut up.” Ghaleon sent a wave of pain through Mr. Cole’s body. “Now, my dear, we will be on our way.”

“Yes,” Celes said, closing her eyes. She stood beside him and held up her runic blade.

Ghaleon pointed the Relic Weapon at the point where the rift was possible and fired. The beam cut through the air with a terrible whine, just as it had when it had struck the rift in Figaro.

Ghaleon shut down the beam. He grabbed Celes arm and pulled her forward.

She looked back to Locke Cole, still straining against his bonds and frantically shouting her name. How very touching, Ghaleon thought. And how very pointless. “Goodbye, Locke,” she said. “I love you.”

Ghaleon pulled her into the rift.