Chapter 10

Jowy sighed.

“It seemed like a good idea at the time,” the Star Dragon Sword said.

“Yes. At the time.” Jowy reached out and took the sword’s hilt in his hand. Forced to choose between the ruined city and the ruined fortress, he had chosen the fortress. The sword had agreed. After all, such a mighty edifice would have suited Ghaleon’s arrogance.

They had, it seemed, chosen wrong.

There had been no sign of Ghaleon in the huge metal citadel called the Grindery. There was nothing there but long-broken machinery, an overgrown garden, and the bones of four great dragons, each of them larger than any Jowy had ever seen. Even the scavengers seemed to have deserted the place.

And like it or not, Jowy had needed rest. Many of his Runes were still drained from his last battle with Ghaleon, a few even from the battle with Leon before it, and the adrenaline which had kept him going for a time had long since passed.

When, hours later than he would have thought, night fell, he’d decided to spend it atop the fortress. Though he hated to waste the time, he had to admit the sleep, brief as it had been, had helped him greatly.

He sighed again and kicked at the last, glowing remnants of the fire he’d made.

“We should try the city now, and hope we aren’t too late,” he said.

The sword didn’t answer, which he took for agreement.

Now that he had rested, his Runes were all restored. But Ghaleon’s own magic would also be at its full strength. True, Jowy had won last time, but he’d had help. He couldn’t know for certain that he would win again, even if he used the forbidden power of the Beast Rune.

But win or lose, he had to try.

Although he was loath to use up any of his powers, he couldn’t afford to waste any more time. He called upon the True Wind Rune and was carried up into the air. It did not take him long to reach the ruined city using its power.

He landed in the main plaza and looked around.

There was no sign of Ghaleon, even in the magical spectrum. The only magical signature Jowy could see was one that, though powerful, was only a small fraction of Ghaleon’s.

But even if this one wasn’t Ghaleon, he might know where to find the greater power.

Jowy picked his way through the rubble-filled streets. Whatever had happened to this city, it had certainly wrecked havoc upon it. More of Ghaleon’s work, perhaps? Or something else?

It didn’t matter now, though.

Jowy looked around again. He entered one of the more intact buildings, what he assumed was a house. Inside, the mage he had detected earlier was laying on a worn-out but once splendid bed. He was old and feeble looking, but Jowy knew better than to drop his guard because of that.

Slowly, the old man sat up. He looked around, his eyes unfocused.

“Greetings, sir,” Jowy said.

The old man’s head spun. He moved faster than he let on, it seemed. “Who are you?” he asked.

“My name is Jowy Atriedes. I am looking for a man named Ghaleon.”

The old man blinked. Blinked again. Then he shook his head. “Ghaleon’s dead. Dead. Everyone’s dead, now. My old master lives only as...”

Jowy waited, studying the old man’s features.

His rueful smile faded, and he paled. He looked up at Jowy. “Ghaleon... lives?”

“He does,” Jowy said.

The old man got to his feet. Again, he moved faster than Jowy would have imagined, grabbing Jowy’s hands. “Then... I spoke to him in truth? He was no phantom?”

So Ghaleon had been here.

Jowy nodded.

The old man hung his head. “No. Impossible.”

Jowy’s voice was gentle, but firm. He put his hand on the old man’s shoulder. “Ghaleon is alive. And I must find him.”

“Yes! You must find him. Before he... he finds Althena. I told him how. I-”

“That’s all right,” Jowy said. But from the way the old man spoke, it was quite possibly far from all right. “Where has he gone now?”

The old man shook his head. “I don’t know. I honestly don’t. But you’ve got to find him! If he finds her, he’ll... I don’t know what he’ll do now. It’s been... so long.”

Jowy frowned. He had to know where Ghaleon was. Now more than ever, it was crucial. If Ghaleon specifically meant harm to someone on this world, Jowy had to find him before he could commit any greater evil.

“Find Althena,” the old man said, his voice suddenly clearer than it had been. His eyes focused on Jowy’s face. His cracked voice took on an almost jaunty confidence. “You have the word of Nash, Premier of the Magic Guild of Vane, that where Goddess Althena resides, Ghaleon will come.”

“You have my thanks, Premier,” Jowy said. He bowed. “Where can I find Goddess Althena?”

Nash returned the bow, then frowned. “If I could tell you, I would. Seek the answers to the south, at Althena’s Temple. Perhaps you’ll find them there.”

Jowy nodded. “I will.”

Nash smiled. “I wish you luck, young man. I can sense your power - you may be able to stop Ghaleon.”

He paused for a moment, and Jowy thought he would slip back into his former, half-awake state. Even if he did, he’d already given Jowy a vital clue. Perhaps the only clue he would need. But Nash did not begin rambling again.

Instead, he said, “I can only pray that someone can stop him.”