Chapter 13

Ghaleon smirked to himself as he left the servants’ dining hall. When he had expended a gil on a bottle of wine worth not half that, it had been simply to win favor with Celes. How could he have guessed how much more it might be worth to him?

Oh, yes. It was a gil well spent, that was for certain.

Born in another world?

He was surprised to hear that of the green-haired young lady who had been dining with Edgar the night before. At the time, Ghaleon’s opinion of ‘His Majesty’ had dropped precipitously when he’d seen this... Terra.

Now he was not so sure.

Undoubtedly, there must be more to her than a pretty face, strangely colored hair and a decent enough figure.

Yes, one did not cross worlds for such as her.

Ghaleon would hardly have crossed a boulevard in Vane for such as her.

Not... if there was nothing more to her than that.

But if there was, then how much more? How much did she know of traveling through the worlds?

Questions which he could not answer unless he spoke to her. So speak to her he would. She was surely the last key. She would be able to tell him all he needed to know.

No.

That was an unwarranted assumption.

Few things in life were as easy as asking by chance the right question. Few things indeed, when life itself served as a test of his worthiness for godhood.

On the other hand, perhaps he could see the hand of fate in this, if he looked closely enough. That hand, pushing him to his rightful glory, could be the reason it seemed so unthinkably easy.

But fate, like Ghaleon himself would when he was a god, helped those who helped themselves, not those who relied on it for aid.

Ghaleon knocked on the simple wooden door of the guest room.

“Who is it?” Terra Branford asked - after, Ghaleon noted, she had already opened the door.

She was clad in a sheer silk nightgown, no doubt a gift from the king. Had Ghaleon’s taste considered physical attractiveness alone, he supposed he could have understood said king’s obvious interest in her.

He idly wondered how far that interest had gone after he’d left the night before.

“It is I, Ghaleon. Court musician to His Majesty, King Edgar.” He bowed, just as he had on their prior meeting. Such ostentatiousness often impressed the simple minded.

Contrary to his assumptions, Miss Branford did not, in this case at least, fall into that category. “Oh,” she said.

Her hand went to the door as if to close it, but Ghaleon was quicker. He leaned casually against the frame, so that if she did wish to shut him out she would have to crush his fingers to do so.

As it generally did, this proved an effective deterrent. “I wish to speak with you,” he said.

No matter how little he thought of this woman, he had to keep in mind that she apparently had little better opinion of him, and that she most certainly had the ear of the king.

That, too, could be useful.

Or dangerous.

“All right.” She slowly took a step back.

Ghaleon began to hum under his breath. Such subtlety often went undetected by the person he was manipulating. Hopefully, he wouldn’t need to employ more overt means of persuasion.

But he had to know!

Celes had said this woman, this green-haired, addle-headed fool, had been born in another world. If such a thing were true, and from the way she’d said it Ghaleon thought it most likely was, then Terra Branford could be the key he had been looking for.

“I do not mean to be abrupt,” he said, making his words conform to the rhythms of his music, “but I simply must ask you - Miss Branford, is it true that you are not of this world?”

She gasped and took another step back, this time more out of shock than politeness. “What... do you mean?”

Ghaleon smiled as gently as he could manage. His speech was now completely lyrical, practically a song itself. “I have been told that you were born in another world. My intellectual curiosity demands that I discover what was meant by such a statement.”

The healthy flush left her face and she went completely white. “I don’t know what you’re talking about!” she said, and ducked past him into the hall.

Ghaleon spun after her. “Then I must give you my apologies, for I had been misinformed.”

She stopped, perhaps, he thought, realizing she’d entered the hall wearing rather less than appropriate attire. “Oh.”

“Might I at least inquire as to what would have given Miss Chere such an impression?” he asked.

Slowly, she turned back to face him. Her every move was tense. Ghaleon wondered if he’d been too forward. But no, she’d reacted in a similar manner the night before. Perhaps his oft-relied-upon melody did not have the desired effect upon her? At length, she answered his question with one of her own. “Celes told you that?”

“The subject came up in conversation,” Ghaleon said.

Terra Branford might, by Ghaleon’s reckoning, be rather less than mentally gifted. That did not, however, mean she was entirely without intellect. Celes, presumably a friend, had told Ghaleon something, and thus, she had decided he must be at least slightly trustworthy.

Ghaleon had to fight to keep his smirk from returning. Terra was more transparent than the nightgown she wore.

“Then I suppose I could tell you what I know.”

Yes, she could. She must.

“I was...” Her voice trailed off. She eyed him warily. “I was born in the Esper World. My father was an esper himself, and my mother a human who had stumbled through the gate.”

Ghaleon raised an eyebrow. From what he’d learned of these espers, he would have guessed such a thing impossible. But a whole world of them? That was even more extraordinary than Miss Branford’s unusual parentage. “What is this Esper World?”

“It is... it was... a world the espers had sealed away a thousand years ago. But it’s gone now.” She glanced toward the open doorway. “Now, if you’ll excuse me-”

He was hardly going to do as she asked. “Gone? How?”

Terra took a step back. “It was destroyed by Kefka, of course. How can you not know..?”

Ghaleon sighed inwardly. Perhaps he had made a mistake this time. Had he underestimated this woman so much that he had let slip a critical lacking in his knowledge?

No, if this other world’s existence was not widely known, then its destruction could not be the opposite. “I am, obviously, familiar with the destruction wrought by Kefka, but this particular facet was unknown to me.”

“Oh.” She tried to step past him into the room. “I’m ever so sorry, but I have nothing more to tell.”

But there was so much more he must know! “Travel to this world, how was it accomplished?”

Before Terra could answer, a man in the uniform of a Figaroan Royal Guard officer veritably burst through one of the doors down the hall. “Terra,” he said abruptly, “could you tell me where I might find Edgar?”

Ghaleon recognized the man. Captain of the Royal Guard. He’d apparently been away for some time, as he certainly had not been seen about the castle.

“In his quarters, I believe, Cyan,” Terra answered, her manner far more relaxed now that someone she trusted was about. “You look upset. What is it?”

“I have no time to explain,” the Captain said.

Tsk, Ghaleon thought. To speak so to the King’s favorite paramour was surely impolitic. Hopefully not too impolitic, considering his own too-exuberant questioning.

Despite the Captain’s protestations to the contrary, he answered Terra with a shake of the head. “It’s Strago. He’s... he must speak with Edgar immediately.”

Ghaleon raised an eyebrow. He had heard of Strago Magus. A fascinating old man, if what he’d heard was true. If the mage were here, conversing with him might prove fruitful...

Miss Branford was quick to see the worst, though, as she had seemed to be ever since Ghaleon had made his presence known. “There’s nothing wrong with Strago, is there?”

Perhaps she was right to see the worst, for the Captain lowered his head. “He may be... dying.”