Chapter 1

Ghaleon took a deep breath, relishing the scent of the cool morning air. The road was empty, covered low to the ground with a thin mist that wafted between magnificent conifers. Nothing moved but the mist, and all was silent. Here was a place untroubled by the cataclysms of Figaro, or the constant war and strife of Jowston.

His hands dropped to his sides. It took everything in him not to fall to his knees.

He was home.

For two years, he had been away from Lunar. Every day, faced with the constant reality of other worlds, he had imagined it a finer, more glorious place than ever.

Now, returning to it, he found it more than met his expectations.

It was, he reflected, only proper that Althena's world should be the most beautiful and peaceful of any. Her hand had kept Lunar on a course that other, unguided worlds could not hope to match. He had seen the results of the choice she and Dyne had made - chaos, war, madness, destruction.

But all that was in the past.

This time, Ghaleon would not fail.

He would restore the order of this world. He knew he had the power. Seeing Lunar, comparing it to the other worlds upon which he had been stranded, he knew he had the will.

They would try to stop him again, of course.

Ghaleon held up his palm, and studied the True Rune emblazoned upon it. This time, there would be no stopping him.

In fact, he was looking forward to their attempt.

Vengeance was such an ugly word for it. When next he saw Alex of Burg, he would simply be... returning a favor.

Ghaleon smiled.

A part of Ghaleon’s mind reminded him that he was now alone, that Celes had come through the void with him but was no longer there, that he had left the relic weapon unguarded.

It didn’t matter.

He was home. When next he left, it would be as an almighty god, with no need for mere mortals to carry him between the worlds.

He knew precisely where he was, for he had been here often enough before. The road between Meribia and the Transmission Spring of Vane. A half hour’s walk would bring him to the fork in the road, where one branch split off toward Althena’s Temple. Another twenty minutes down the main road, and he would be home indeed.

At a thought, he could have appeared in Vane’s guildhall.

But this time, he wanted to walk.

He did not look back. His feet moved almost of their own accord along the road. He hardly noticed the time pass as he walked, single-minded, toward the entrance of Vane. His eyes scanned the clear sky, searching for some sign of his true home. But there was nothing.

Perhaps, he thought with sudden worry, Lemia had decided to move the city away when it took to the skies again. Vane had orbited Althena’s Temple to protect it. Now, that need was gone, for the true form of that temple had crashed into the sea.

But in any case, the Transmission Spring would still function. Even if Vane had been moved all the way around Lunar, it would be within reach. He continued on his way, deeper into the forest.

Ghaleon was surprised at how thick the forest had become so close to where the Grindery’s advance had been halted. He knew the duel between Vane and his magimechanical fortress had damaged the surrounding land - so close to where they had fought, surely there would be some sign?

Perhaps the reversal of his bid for godhood was the answer. He had drained much of the life from the area around Althena’s Fortress, and when Althena had restored that area (and, unknowingly, Ghaleon with it), she might have repaired this damage as well.

Once again, he wondered how she could have ever thought she was unneeded.

Soon, he would convince her otherwise.

He passed by the fork in the road. The main path was hardly as well-traveled as he remembered it, but the way to Althena’s Temple was almost completely overrun. If he hadn’t know its location so well, he probably never would have spotted the few cobblestones which remained between the thick underbrush.

He frowned.

Such growth could not occur naturally, not in two years time.

Had Althena’s power destroyed this path even as it restored the forest?

He would surely find the answers in Vane.

Now, he hurried along the road. He must puzzle out this mystery as soon as possible. He could not entirely force troubling thoughts from his mind. If no attempt had been made to clear that path, what did that say about the leaders in the region? With his own bid for power ended, there had been no major crisis facing Lunar, nothing to occupy their attention. It was difficult to imagine that Mel and Lemia would allow such a thing in their lands.

The road curved abruptly to the right. That was not the way to Vane.

Ghaleon raised an eyebrow.

Rather than follow the winding road, he plunged into the woods. It was not so far that he would run into any difficulty.

Or so he thought, until he was halted by a cliff.

“What madness is this?” he whispered, looking up it. There had been nothing like it before. How could so massive a change have occurred in the geography?

Ghaleon’s eyes widened.

The cliff was the edge of Vane.

It had never risen again to the skies.

His gaze followed the course he had expected it to take, and beyond the sky to the heavens and the Blue Star.

In the back of his mind, astronomical calculations which he had learned when he was little more than a child began to work. The position of the Blue Star, the smaller stars barely visible around the edges of his vision... there was only one possible conclusion.

Ghaleon slumped to his knees.

He had truly been away too long.