Chapter 6

Celes took her seat across the long table from Cyan and looked down its length to Edgar, who stood facing the window with his hands clasped behind his back.

“Your Majesty?” Cyan prompted.

Celes had to smile. No matter that Edgar had told him a hundred times to simply call him by his first name. To Cyan, meetings in the Figaro war room called for formality.

Edgar turned. “As the two of you can no doubt guess, something serious has come up.” His expression reinforced his words. “Several persons have gone missing in the vicinity of Kefka’s tower.” He raised a long wooden pointer and indicated the map which lay on the table. “The disappearances happened in these five areas - all, as you can see, outside the perimeter our troops maintain and thus, by my own words, my responsibility.”

Celes nodded. Edgar had left it unsaid that one of those disappearances had occurred within a day’s walk of Tzen. “We shall have to increase the perimeter.”

Cyan absently stroked his mustache as he considered the map. “I still hold that the only answer is going into the accursed place and cleaning it out once and for all.”

“We do not have the resources,” Celes said. Figaro’s troops were spread thin already, and increasing the perimeter would itself weaken them to dangerous levels. Trying to clean out the ruins of Kefka’s tower was simply impossible.

Cyan shook his head. “Then we must make do with those resources. That tower is a spawning ground for all manner of creatures.”

“But, Cyan, you and I both know that-”

“I know only that-”

Edgar cleared his throat. “I’m afraid such measures will not solve the problem,” he said quietly.

Celes turned to Edgar. Wordlessly, he handed both she and Cyan a single sheet of paper. Her eyes widened as she read what it contained. “Edgar, is this genuine?”

He nodded. “Indeed, it is, I fear.”

Celes looked back at the report in her hands. Posted only yesterday from one of the outlying guard stations around the perimeter of Kefka’s tower, it described an incident so fantastic that had she not known the troops to be under Cyan’s command, she would have thought it a joke. According to the report, a soldier had been ‘sucked in’ to something that the others couldn’t see, right before their very eyes. Though they had searched the area carefully, they had been unable to find any trace of him.

It was so absurd, that... And yet, if it were possible, it would have seemed familiar. “Cyan, do you remember when you were being assailed by Wreksoul?” Celes asked.

“I do.” Cyan paled noticeably at the mention of that name.

“And that, during the battle with the demon, Strago cast what he called a ‘forbidden spell’ to banish it?”

“I was not able to take part in the battle, but it occurred in my own mind. I remember it clearly.”

Edgar, nodding, interrupted. So he’d already thought of it. “And the effects of that spell?”

Cyan shook his head. “Surely you don’t suggest someone employed esper magic against our outpost? Magic is truly gone from the world.”

“Magic is a funny thing,” Edgar said. “Now I don’t claim to be an expert on magic, but I do consider myself something of a student of history. This is hardly the first time we have been absolutely certain that magic was gone from the world, you know.”

Cyan crossed his arms over his chest. “How could it continue to exist?”

Celes sank deeper into her chair. “The thing about magic, is that it is magical. We simply don’t understand why or how it works - I don’t even think the espers knew that.”

“Exactly my point,” Edgar said. “We must consider the possibility that this... may be magic of a sort. How this can be, I have no idea.”

Celes nodded. Magic. The battle with Wreksoul had been so surreal, so terrible, that it was hard to remember the details. She, Edgar and Strago had been... drawn into Cyan’s mind and soul. It had been Strago who had finally defeated the demon which held Cyan a prisoner within himself.

And the spell he had cast to banish it was not unlike the effect described in the report.

Edgar was still talking. “Therefore, I can think of only one person who might possibly give us some insight into this-”

“Strago,” Celes said at the same time as Cyan, though he had added a “Your Majesty.”

“Exactly. The reason I have called you here is because someone needs to inform Strago of what is going on and accompany him to what was once the tower to investigate it.”

Celes eyes brightened. She had a lot on her mind, and as serious as this was, it would be a chance to get out of Figaro for a time. “My knowledge of magic is more practical than academic, Edgar, but I might have something to add. I would like to volunteer.”

Edgar raised an eyebrow.

Yes, Celes mused, it would do her good to get away from the castle. Away from paperwork. Away from stuffy meetings in stuffy rooms. Away from... Ghaleon. Perhaps she could vanquish the strange feelings she had for him - the uneasy, yet undeniable, attraction she felt. How could she even consider such a thing? Betraying Locke was unthinkable-

“Unfortunately, Celes, although you might have something to add, I cannot send you.”

“What?” She looked up, startled from her thoughts.

“Without your magic, you are far from powerful enough to survive the rigors of Kefka’s Tower, much less protect Strago. I do not mean to insult your swordsmanship, but I need a consummate warrior under the circumstances.” Edgar turned. “Cyan?”

“Of course, Your Majesty.”

Celes bit her lip. The fact that Edgar was right did not lessen her disappointment.

“By your leave, Your Majesty, I shall prepare my things.” Cyan rose and bowed formally.

“Godspeed, my friend,” Edgar said.

Cyan bowed again and strode from the war room.

Celes rose from her chair to follow him.

“A moment, please,” Edgar said, motioning for her to sit. “There is a matter I wish to discuss with you in private.” He took the seat across from her.

“Of course. What is it, Edgar?”

“There was more to my decision than what I said. The fact is, Celes, I need you here more than ever. We are going to have to bolster the garrison around the tower, and possibly expand the perimeter. I’m putting you in charge of that.”

At least she would be doing something more useful than pushing papers. It would be difficult to coordinate this action with their forces so thinly spread already, and Celes welcomed the opportunity to perform a service that would require her time and energy. “I will begin immediately,” she said, pushing her chair back.

“If I may have but a moment more.” Edgar smiled and held up his hand. “There is another, less weighty, matter I would like to discuss with you if I may.” He leaned across the table. “Celes, have you encountered the new court musician?”

“Ghaleon? Why, yes. Yes, I have.”

“Then you must have noticed that he is... somewhat unusual.”

Celes stiffened involuntarily. “Of course he is unusual, Edgar. He is a musician of surpassing ability.”

“That is undeniable.” Edgar shook his head. “But it is more than that. There is something about the man makes me uneasy. I have no reason to suspect anything of him, but everything in me tells me that there is more to this humble player than meets the eye.”

Celes, too, had observed that there was more to Ghaleon than met the eye. But everyone had secrets, not all of them bad. Why did Edgar have to assume the worst? “If you are so distrustful of the man, why let him stay at the castle?”

Edgar raised an eyebrow. “Quite frankly, because I wanted to observe him more closely.”

“Such paranoia is really quite beneath you,” Celes said, unable to hide her annoyance.

“Perhaps, Celes, perhaps.” Edgar appeared to be considering his next words carefully. “Tell me, have you heard him play a tune that went something like this?” He cleared his throat and began to hum.

Somehow she recognized the melody. “Yes, he did. Ghaleon said it was his favorite. Quite lovely, isn’t it?” Just the thought of it made her smile.

“Indeed.” Edgar paused. “And did he, after playing it, make some request of you?”

“As a matter of fact, I believe he did. He asked to see the survey report on the ruins of Kefka’s tower.”

Edgar again raised an eyebrow. “And did you grant that request?” “It is public knowledge, Edgar,” Celes said defensively. “Of course I did.”

“And you do not find it at all odd that he wanted such information? Why in the world would a musician care for such a report?”

“Why would he care for underground ruins, for that matter?” Celes asked. “Ghaleon is a man of many talents. His interests are not limited to music any more than yours are limited to governing, or Cyan’s are to swordsmanship.”

“Underground ruins? What do you mean?”

Oh, dear. She hadn’t had a chance to tell Edgar, and now hardly seemed like the time. “Only that Ghaleon wished to accompany Locke on his investigation of that ancient castle, and that, since Locke was not indisposed to the idea, I agreed to clear it with you.”

Celes shifted uncomfortably as Edgar searched her face. At last, he spoke. “I... see.”

“Did I presume too much?”

Edgar shook his head. “No, that is... quite alright.”

Celes breathed a sigh of relief.

“However,” Edgar said, “I want our agents in Jidoor and Albrook to look into Ghaleon’s rather nebulous claims about his past. Please see that this order is relayed with the next dispatch.” His face softened in a smile. “If you think my suspicions so unfounded, Celes, then, by all means, lay them to rest. But if you do learn anything significant. I will need to know.”

“Very well, Edgar,” Celes said. Such paranoia was most unusual for him. Perhaps he was just tired. She knew that feeling, certainly. “If I discover anything that warrants your attention, I shall inform you immediately.”

“Excellent, Celes. I thank you.” Edgar rose. “I shall bid you goodnight, then.”

As Celes watched him leave the room, she asked herself why she had defended Ghaleon so fervently. She should have shared her own perceptions with Edgar. But something held her tongue.

It was, after all, just speculation. No need to worry Edgar any further.