Chapter 14

Ghaleon closed the last of the records and took a step back.

He had never suspected.

Oh, perhaps there had been a few times. A piece of information here and there which he had gathered in his travels through the worlds that led him to such a conclusion. But he had dismissed that as mere nonsense.

But it was not nonsense.

It was, if these records were to be believed, entirely true.

What were now many had been one.

And would be one again.

The world he had lived in was just a tiny fraction of the whole. A piece of a puzzle that perhaps no one in all Lunar had truly understood.

Even, he suspected, Althena herself.

“But now, I understand,” he said aloud. There was no one within the listing ruins of the Fortress of Althena to contradict him. “And I have a role to... play.”

He laughed.

The one who could play all sides against one another. The Player. Prophesied from the end of the old world to be the beginning of the end of the new.

He was bringing them together.

And, if he so chose, he could tear them asunder.

His choices would shape the world which replaced this one. The others had their roles to play, yes. But he was the first, and he was the most important.

It was he who would play the strings of fate.

How terribly fitting.

But first, he must find Althena. She was in danger. His duty to protect her had never ended, even when the Four Heroes were no more and she had tried to reject what she was.

And she was not a Goddess. Her life would not come to an end naturally, but it could be taken by another.

Her guardians, the dragons, had been destroyed. It was necessary, of course. But now, he had to become her guardian.

Now he knew, not only how her wisdom could have failed her, but how great a failing it had been. She, and with her the world, was in grave danger already, and who else could she turn to for aid?

No one.

Only he, Ghaleon, the Player of Prophecy, was fit to be her guardian.

He teleported from the ruined Fortress, high into the air.

He hovered there, surveying the world of Lunar. Althena’s world. No. It was no one’s world, for it was not a world at all. It was but a fragment.

For now.

When all this was done, there would be a true world. And that would belong to him. He would persuade Althena to reign at his side. Their wisdom need not be divine. Their power would be. Wisdom could follow in time.

He smiled again.

But he was getting ahead of himself.

First, he must find her.

He stretched out his magical senses, probing the air for the signature traces that Nall would inevitably have left.

Ah, yes.

“So you decided to take your guest to her, but denied me that right?” Ghaleon narrowed his eyes. In time, he would punish the white dragon for that insolence. But intentionally or not, Nall had shown Ghaleon the way.

No doubt, he’d thought his speed would hide his trace. But even a great dragon was not that fast.

Ghaleon extended his thoughts, following Nall’s trail.

He frowned.

So Althena yet remained sequestered in that pitiful hamlet, hmmm?

Truly, he must deliver her from such a fate. She deserved far better accommodations than the disgusting hovels of Burg could provide, and far more stimulating company than that of mere peasants.

His company.

Ghaleon’s body followed the path his mind had already walked, and he stepped forward onto the ignoble island ground.

The stench of the ocean surface, far worse even than in Meribia, assaulted his nostrils. He had been away a long time, but not so long as he would have liked. He loathed this island.

“Best, then,” he said, “to conclude my business here as quickly as possible.”

He continued to follow Nall’s magical signature. It was stronger here - he had passed not long ago.

Even stronger, though was the black aura of the man, Sephiroth. Ghaleon had never seen an aura quite like it. It radiated a kind of dark magic he’d never seen before. The more he looked at it, the more disturbing it became. Almost as though something inside was moving. Thousands of somethings. Crawling somethings, trying to find their way into his mind. A living aura?

Ghaleon shivered.

What manner of man possessed such an aura?

Best not to find out. Stealth would seem to be in order. It should not be too difficult. He had come this far undetected.

Ghaleon closed his magical eyes as much as he safely could. He would need warning of an impending danger, but he could not bare to look upon Sephiroth’s aura any longer. Already, the thought of what he had seen tore at his mind.

It did not matter.

He had to find Althena.

He had to find her soon, before Sephiroth found her.

Enemies, Ghaleon knew from long experience, could be, and often were, everywhere. Even those who should have been allies were often blinded into becoming foes.

But sometimes, enemies could be blinded into becoming allies.

He smiled again. “It will be... most interesting.”