Chapter 2

Jowy gasped in a breath. The sheer amount of magical energy within that rift was astonishing. He couldn’t even begin to imagine what would happen to anyone who was caught inside without strong barrier spells. It would not be pleasant.

“That was certainly... unusual,” the Star Dragon Sword said.

Jowy nodded.

He glanced to his side. Locke had survived within the rift once, which was almost incomprehensible to Jowy. Even with all but five of the True Runes, he had felt the twisting magical forces inside almost too strong.

Locke had survived, perhaps, but he didn’t look in very good shape.

Jowy knelt beside him. He’d apparently blacked out inside the rift and drifted to the opening unconsciously. Perhaps that was what had saved him - most magical effects worked on both a physical and mental level.

Jowy placed his hand on Locke’s shoulder.

The other man was bruised and scraped, but he was definitely alive. His eyes opened.

“Are you all right?” Jowy asked.

Locke blinked, then lifted his head a little. He looked himself over, then met Jowy’s eyes. “Hell no,” he said.

That brought a faint smile to Jowy’s face. “You’ll live,” he said, extending his arm.

Locke grabbed it and hauled himself up. “You’re probably right. It was a whole lot worse the first time through.” He grimaced, probably at the memory. “So where are we, anyway?”

That was not a question Jowy could answer.

He looked around.

Another world. Until a short while ago, he hadn’t even known they existed. Now, he was standing on one. The pristine wilderness didn’t look all that different from the mountains around Kyaro - a bit warmer, perhaps, but that was all.

The Star Dragon Sword floated over. “While I cannot answer your question in terms which would be particularly comprehensible, I can say that we appear to be illuminated by reflected light from Ceralune, the large moon. Interestingly, its position indicates that this world is at present in a state of tidal lock with it.”

“Well that’s a big help,” Locke said. “Got any of that in a language I speak?”

“Not really, no.”

Jowy held up his hand. He could ask the sword what it meant, and how it knew about this world, but there would be time for that later. “It doesn’t matter. Wherever this place is, it doesn’t change the fact that we have to find Ghaleon.”

There was a sound behind Jowy. He whirled around. The King Dragon Sword leapt into his hands, and he raised it to ward off any blows from the intruder.

“Ghaleon went south,” said the woman - Celes, he presumed - who had aided him against Ghaleon. “He went... home.”

“Celes!” Locke shouted. He ran to her and pulled her into his arms. They kissed.

How long, Jowy wondered, before Jillia and he would be thus reunited? Watching Locke and Celes, though he only barely knew them, made him want to keep his final promise more than ever.

But he had his duty.

It had brought him to this world.

Reunion would, must, wait.

His eyes went back to his two allies. Celes’ eyes were filled with tears, but her smile was one of pure joy. Locke pulled her closer and kissed her again.

Jowy looked away. He must wait. But oh, that the wait might be over soon!

He could not yet be at peace. But perhaps these two who had helped him finally could. When their second kiss broke, he strode over to them.

Locke looked over his shoulder.

“I want to thank you for all of your help,” Jowy began.

Locke cut him off. “I’m the one who should be thanking you. If you hadn’t shown up when you did... hell, I might never have gotten Celes back.”

“Locke is right,” Celes said. She extricated herself from his arms and nodded to Jowy. “We owe you a great deal, sir. You have our thanks.”

“You’re welcome.” Jowy looked at the two of them. He shook his head. “I think that the two of you would have found a way, whether I’d involved myself or not.”

“I wish to go on record as disagreeing with that assessment,” said the Star Dragon Sword.

Locke and Celes laughed. Jowy didn’t think it was joking, but he didn’t point that out.

The sword gave a little sniff at what it perceived as mockery and floated away.

Jowy became serious again in an instant. “Why did Ghaleon let you go?” he asked.

“He is home,” she said. “I suppose he didn’t need me any longer - me... or this.” She held up the strange device Locke had wielded against Ghaleon. Jowy had never seen its like, but its power was impressive.

Ghaleon had made a mistake. Jowy understood the desire to return home, for he felt it strongly himself. But he had fought that desire for five years. Ghaleon, evidently, had not. Losing his only means of traveling between the worlds would cripple him.

“What do you intend to do now?” Jowy asked.

“Go after Ghaleon,” Locke said immediately. “I’m not gonna let that bastard get away with what he’s done.”

After a moment’s thought, Celes nodded. “Stopping Ghaleon is our most important task right now.”

They were determined, and both had rendered invaluable aid to Jowy against Ghaleon. But Jowy could not accept their help. Even with their aid, he had needed to use the Beast Rune’s power. If he had to employ that cursed Rune, it was better that no one else be endangered.

Yes, there was only one choice.

“I thank you again,” Jowy said, “for all your help, and for your offer to help further. But I must deal with Ghaleon, alone.”

“What? Why?” Locke asked.

Because I do not know if I will lose my soul, and I do not wish you to lose your lives, Jowy thought. But he did not answer.

“Look, pal,” Locke said, pointing his finger at Jowy’s chest, “I’ve got a score to settle with Ghaleon that’s a whole hell of a lot older than yours. And-”

Celes put her hand on his arm. “Locke, please.”

He turned to her.

“I believe I understand,” she said. “We would only hold this man back. He and Ghaleon must settle their accounts... and we, ours. There are other dangers, and I fear for our friends back home.”

Jowy nodded. “Ghaleon is not the only evil at work here. There are others, enemies whose role I do not understand and have not had the time to learn. Luc and the Star Dragon Sword called them espers-”

“Espers!” Locke’s eyes widened. “You’ve seen espers?”

“I have,” Jowy said. “You know of them?”

“Not just of ‘em,” Locke said. “One of them, at least a half-esper, anyway, is a good friend.”

That was certainly... unexpected. Jowy wasn’t sure what the espers wanted, or why they had worked with Leon Silverburg in the first place. He hadn’t even considered the possibility that Locke and Celes, too, knew them.

But that did not change the decision he had come to. If anything, it strengthened it. “If that is the case, it is all the more important that I deal with Ghaleon myself.”

“And what of us?” Celes asked. From the way she returned his gaze, he suspected she’d already guessed what he had in mind.

“The two of you should return home. Consult with your friend about these... espers. It shouldn’t be too hard to send you back, not with the Rune of the Gate.”

“Not to hard to send us to a world you’ve never been to?” Celes asked.

Jowy blinked. “I’m sorry?”

“I guess we hadn’t told you yet, huh?” Locke said. “We’re not from your world - or this one, either, not with that big moon up there.”

Jowy supposed he shouldn’t be surprised. Their accents were more than a little odd, and Ghaleon clearly was not a native of Jowy’s world. Locke had even said that he’d gone through a rift before. But Jowy hadn’t realized what he meant by that.

Was it possible to send them home?

He supposed it was. Some of his Runes granted mental powers - he should, at least in theory, be able to see Locke or Celes’ conception of their homeworld, and use that as he would his own.

But Jowy had never made extensive use of the Rune of the Gate. Nor had he even begun to try mind reading.

“I can try,” he said. “But it might be dangerous.”

“Is there another way?” Celes asked.

“Not that I know of.” He waved at the deep forest surrounding them. “Perhaps there is one to be found here.”

Locke shook his head. “Even Ghaleon didn’t know how to at first. He wanted all kinds of crazy old books dug up back home. And if there’s anybody around here who would know another way, he’d be one of them. One thing he sure is, is smart, damn him.”

Jowy had to agree with that. Ghaleon’s contingency plans had been layered one after another. He would never have let such important information slip by him. Besides, he’d needed Celes’ powers to travel the worlds.

Locke put his arm around Celes’ waist. “We’ll do it,” he said.

“Then think of your home,” Jowy said. He closed his eyes. He could feel the power of his Runes stretching across the gulf between he and Locke, entering the other man’s mind.

Hills. Forest. Mountains.

A desert.

A castle in the desert.

A place called... Figaro.

Jowy opened his eyes. “I’m ready.” He hoped.

“OK,” Locke said.

The Rune of the Gate glowed, and a shimmering portal appeared behind them.

“Are you sure you’ll be allright, Locke?” Celes asked. “The energy in the void is incredibly powerful.”

“That?” He laughed. “I’ve been through this twice now, remember. Even figured out how.” He clasped the small green and red crystal hanging from his neck. “Around here, the magicite still works.”

“Are you certain, Locke?” She asked. “What if something goes wrong?”

He grinned. “A treasure hunter would ask, ‘What if something goes right?’” he said, and kissed her before she could say more.

They stepped through the portal, together.

Jowy wished them luck.