Categories > Games > Final Fantasy 9 > Fleeing Dragons

Detours and Deserts

by Myshu 0 reviews

Eiko makes a request Zidane can't refuse. Jerad thinks his way through an alien desert.

Category: Final Fantasy 9 - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Action/Adventure, Crossover, Fantasy - Characters: Eiko Carol, Zidane Tribal - Warnings: [!!] - Published: 2007-01-14 - Updated: 2007-01-15 - 4252 words

There's a legend about a thieves' code of honor, and that's exactly what it is: a legend.

Doesn't mean a thief can't be a good person, though! Just, uh, most are kinda bad.

7. Detours and Deserts

A trip through a gate was like watching a whirlpool through a kaleidoscope while riding a roller-coaster. It was the feeling of being caught in a tsunami, cold, breathless and at the whims of the tides of the universe, that jammed Jerad's stomach into a knot and up his throat.

He tumbled out of the tunnel in space-time, all his senses listing badly towards the floor of what eventually came into focus as another dark cave. He quickly found his wits, glasses, yesterday's lunch and his missing slipper and stood with the others, drawing in the supposedly alien environment.

This cave was built in rocky clumps, like a mountain's dumping ground. A beam of golden light broke up a cluster of pebbles near the ceiling, and that was it for illumination. Behind them, the gate shrine was quiet and motionless. Ahead, dirt and stone filled every accessible corner.

Before anyone could comment on either the disquieting darkness of the shrine or the apparent lack of exits, the former erupted in a grinding, smashing clamour. Jerad jumped blindly backwards into Myshu as the entire tripod crumpled into itself and fell to pieces, raising a cloud of dust and an impossibly loud echo.

Jerad caught a sneezing attack, and to answer this Myshu grunted and tossed him aside. Eventually the air cleared, the chaos settled and the aftermath became obvious. The gate shrine was irreparably destroyed, scattered over its rune-etched base in a hundred cracked, tarnished pieces.

The three stood shock-still for several moments. Jerad swallowed a bead of panic. Myshu glowered at the wreck, her anger indecipherable.

Magus stared at a silver coordinate ring that had rolled onto his toe and blithely remarked, "Looks like that was a one-way trip."


Right in through the window. It was an obvious yet challenging entryway, his favorite kind. In his days with Tantalus there was never a window too lofty for him to reach.

He'd already scoped out that windowsill on his last visit, when she wanted to show off her new bedroom and everything (and she meant /everything/, from the silk bedsheets to the frilly coat hangers in the wardrobe.) Not that she was the materialistic type, really. Eiko was a sweet girl... on certain levels. Her most shining quality was the often confounding way she always spoke her mind--and always knew what she wanted. She could have been a burden on any other parents, but Regent Cid and his wife had plenty of room to indulge their adopted daughter--and frankly, after what Eiko had gone through to save the world, she deserved a little spoiling.

When she had been boasting the sterling and coral "hope chest" her new mother gave her, Zidane had been scouting the balconies surrounding her room and the parapets poking like mushrooms out of the tiered gardens, plotting a fantasy infiltration.
Now was as good a time as any to test it out, he figured.

Zidane had to stand outside the gates and trace the contours of the castle with his finger for half an hour before pinpointing that exact window again, and the sun was already plummeting down the other side of Lindblum by the time he had wound his way up the castle's lower levels, never minding the sentries that kept the public out of the way.
"They don't call it Lindblum Grand Castle for nothing," he'd remarked once.

Solid ground was about fifteen yards below as he inched along the craggy footholds in a brick wall. It wasn't too hard to scale the castle from the inner courtyards, especially since guards didn't hang around waiting for people to climb the walls.
Zidane loved doing what the guards didn't expect.

He was just six steps away from his target, but they were pretty big bricks and /damn/, that stitch in his side was gonna kill him. Swinging from sundry ledges and crenels didn't exactly spare him a moment to pop a potion, so he had to wiggle around the nagging bullet wound. Maybe he picked a bad time for a crazy stunt, but his ego wouldn't hear that.

The delicate hook latch on the window was already loose. His brick-and-paint-scuffed boots met plush red carpet, and he was in. "Piece of cake," he huffed and sagged to the floor, his hand already digging a flask out of his pack. A few swigs and deep breaths later, he was feeling smooth again, so he decided to poke around the room.

The bed was made up slightly crooked and populated with stuffed animals. Beside the grand oaken wardrobe, a phonograph sat on a wooden case with its glass door left open, spilling discs over the floor. The curtains were as richly crimson as the rugs, and bore swooping gold floral patterns. A band of porcelain angels covered the top of a thickly-varnished dresser.
He noticed the dirt on the carpet from the flower box he crawled over to get in, and felt vaguely out-of-place in all the finery. His quarters in Alexandria Castle were simply furnished with old trunks and trinkets from his travels that didn't sell for beans in the market, and his closet was stuffed with plain and casual wear. Sure, he liked to brag and joke about living in the castle, and back in the days with "the guys" they'd all dream of a life of luxury, but once he got it he suddenly... didn't want it. Didn't want to change.

Eiko was another matter, adapting to a higher class with all the grace of a princess, which was little surprise considering Dagger was a big role model to her. Meanwhile here he was, a dirty-blonde rake on the brink of a drinking problem, trekking potting soil over her bedroom that he just broke into. This looked pretty bad.

"Nooo!" shrilled a little girl outside, just down the hall, "It's not for three HOURS. I can hardly BREATHE in that thing and I'm going to be stuck in it ALL. NIGHT. Can't we just hold off for a little while?"

"You'll do as Lady Hilda says and get dressed right now," some prim old woman responded as both voices drifted closer to the door. Zidane cursed under his breath and stepped into the wardrobe, shutting himself in between a pile of tiny shoes and a rack of petticoats.

A flustered nanny exploded into the room with a little girl in tow. The child's heels found purchase in every nick the floor could offer as she tugged hard to free her clamped wrists. She was writhing and her overalls were smeared with oil and there was grass in her purple hair--and Zidane watched through the crack between the wardrobe doors and grinned. The tomboy in that little princess wasn't going down that easily, after all.

"Noooo I'm not ready! You can't make me! It's my birthday!" Eiko squealed, corkscrewing in place defiantly.

The nanny's grip didn't relent a bit. "You can take your bath and get dressed on your own or I certainly will make you!"

"..." Eiko stalled, suddenly a dead fish on the line. The nanny cut her loose and Eiko dropped like a sack, pouting where she lay.

"Be quick, now. Lady Hilda won't have you late to supper again." The nanny vanished as brusquely as she appeared.

Once her caretaker was out of sight, Eiko sprang to her feet and steamed, "Who does she think she is?!"
She stomped to the wardrobe and wrenched it half open. Zidane threw himself behind the opposite door in the nick of time, and thankfully Eiko was too caught up in her own storm to notice the scuffle of shoes and lace.

"Oooo, I hate these stupid dresses!" She yanked out a starchy blue number and tossed it onto the bed. "All scratchy and terrible!" She proceeded to hop out of her shoes and overalls while Zidane groaned quietly and buried his face in his elbows.

"I'm going to grow up to be a dressmaker! My dresses are going to be beautiful and--" Her shirt caught on her nose. "--/umfortable/ and then I'll make that dumb old bitty wear these itchy things on her /face/."

He sighed and slouched into some barely cozy position, stuck in the closet while the sounds of a bath played in the adjacent room. He had to catch himself from humming along to Eiko's bubbly rendition of "The Linden Train Comes Rolling In" while he waited.


"T-The gate! It's ruined! How are we getting back? We're trapped!! What are we going to do?"

Magus waved the two towards a far wall. "Stand back," was his only warning.

"What? Why--"

Myshu corked Jerad's flurry of questions with a glare. Magus held his hand out to the cracks of sunlight in the ceiling, a hot ball of black light forming in his palm. Jerad watched in obedient awe as the magic orb shot from the wizard's hand and punched a booming hole in the roof, turning a cluttered window into a gaping door.

"Holy /shit/!" Jerad swore around coughs, swimming through a new wave of dust to admire the magician's demolition work. "You just blew that up with your /hand/!"

"You've really gotta get used to this magic stuff, greenie." Myshu darted over his head on nimble wings and ghostly wind, taking herself straight outside. Magus followed on light, effortless strides. Jerad clambered over the clunky stones to catch up.

They emerged in a sea of sand, pale and endless in all directions. Arid gusts kicked sprawling dunes over one another as far as the eye could see, and to the far side the sun was dipping into a deep red canyon.

"The hell is this," Myshu grumbled.

"It's a desert," Magus was helpful.

"Dear God," Jerad breathed, the only one visibly concerned, "There's nothing in sight for miles. No shelter, water, civilization..."

Myshu ripped the Dragon Tear out of her pack and planted it in the sand. "Gimme that damn feather."

Magus passed it over. "You think it's going to tell you where to go from here, do you?"

"It better!" She kneeled over the relic and repeated the exercise from Jerad's apartment, beseeching the Dragon Tear's guidance through the Phoenix Pinion. It responded to her clipped psychic call with a flicker of orange in the pit of the crystal ball. The tongue of flame danced and wove patterns into itself for a minute before narrowing to a singular shape.

The three studied the cryptic sign. "It's... a bird?" Jerad speculated.

"It's an arrow," Magus sounded sure.

"It must be pointing to the right way to go!" Jerad realized.

"Yeah, but..." Myshu trailed off, her gaze tracing the arrowhead's path. It pointed straight up, into the wild blue nothing.

Jerad stared lamely at the empty sky. "I... don't get it."

"That wasn't very helpful," Magus drolly noted.

Myshu stood, snarling at the relic. "Why you smartass little...!" She reared her leg back, about to punt the Dragon Tear into orbit, but Magus scooped it neatly out of the way with a telekinetic touch. It settled safely in his arms while Myshu's foot connected with the sand.

"That's enough of that," the wizard chided.

"That thing's fucking with us," Myshu spat. "Where the hell are we going now?"

"We could start by following those vehicles," Jerad offered.

"What?" Myshu squinted at the boy, then into the northern horizon, where a chain of metal churned steadily across the dunes. "What're those things?"

Jerad tilted his glasses for a better glimpse. "It looks like a convoy. It's probably heading to a base or something. Y'know, a place we can stop and rest?"

Magus was already three steps ahead of them, walking to catch up with the apparition's tracks. Myshu slapped Jerad on the back and plodded onward. "Good thinking, beakerhead. We might keep you after all."


Eiko was mercifully quick about getting washed up, and by the time she was nearly dry and buttoned up, he was slipping out of hiding and ready to pounce. Eiko was going to pick up a hairbrush from the nightstand when a big set of hands clamped over her eyes. The terrified shriek at the top of her lungs froze at her captor's chipper voice.

"Who's an old lady now?"

"Eeeeeeeeee!" Like a giddy squirrel, she bounced free, twirled around and tackled him with a hug. "Zidaaaaaaaane!" She then skipped back a step and slapped him in the same beat. "I was getting dressed, you big pervert!"

He flinched and barely started, "I didn't see anyth--aah, ahh!" before Eiko pinched his ear, scolding, "You big spook! I was about to scream bloody murder all over this castle, then you'd see your tail in Papa Cid's dungeon before you knew what hit you! How did you sneak in here?"

He finally pushed her off, grinning with wicked pride. "Hehehe, trade secret."

Eiko stamped a foot earnestly. "Well you've got some timing, Zidane Tribal! You were going to miss me turning nine years old and more lovely by the day!" She exaggerated a charming pose. "Did you get me anything for my birthday yet?"

"Er," Zidane floundered, scratching the back of his neck, "Not yet, but--"

"Good!" She snagged him by the wrists and dragged him to the bed so fast his knees buckled over the edge and he fell into a sit. "I know just what you can do for my present!"

He immediately wished he had lied.

Eiko scratched through the drawer under her nightstand and produced a letter, which she slapped into Zidane's hands. "Read this!"

Zidane turned the paper over, bemused. "What? What is this?"

"Oh just read it, you dummy!" Eiko insisted, patient as ever.

"Dear Miss Eiko..." he complied, and then digressed into mumbling. He looked up. "This is from Morrison. Isn't that one of your moogle friends from Madain Sari?"

"Yeah, yeah! Keep going."

Chimomo has a cold, but Momatose is looking after him. Everyone else is doing fine. I hope you are well, too. We moogles are always thinking of you, Miss Eiko.
We're greatly concerned for the Eidolon Wall. Just yesterday Moco noticed the murals looking a little drabber than usual, and today it's horrible. There's some kind of strange lichen growing up the walls, covering the murals. They're literally falling apart. We all sense a terrible energy about our holy shrine, now. I do not wish to cause you distress, but we all would be greatly relieved if you could come visit the village and help us lift this curse.

Take care,

Zidane blinked. "He thinks it's a curse?" he wondered neutrally.

Eiko waved her arms dramatically. "Isn't it horrible? And to make it worse, Papa says I can't go!"

"I'm sure Cid has a good reason..." Zidane hedged, wary of how he was about to be tied into this.

"Yeah, his old lady said no! She wants me to stay put because, 'It's not proper to miss one's own birthday party,'" she quoted bitterly. "Can you believe it? It's only the most sacred thing ever and it's in trouble and Mother's worried about being /proper/. And you know these parties take forever and a whole week! And by then they're gonna have some other lame excuse for not letting me go because they're always babying me! It's so unfair."

Zidane shrugged. "I'd love to help, but what do you want me to do? They're not gonna listen to me."

In truth, Cid was a pretty reasonable guy. Beyond reasonable, actually. Zidane practically talked him into a free airship, once upon a time of war. His wife, however, turned the last man that crossed her (incidentally, her husband) into an oglop. Dagger was one thing; Zidane wasn't quite ready to invite the wrath of another woman in power.

"No..." Eiko sighed thoughtfully. With an idea, she perked back up. "But if I can't go, you can go for me!"

"What?" Zidane choked.

She hopped in place and clapped her hands in prayerful entreaty. "Oh please please please! It's not like it's on the other side of the world--"

"But it kinda /is/--"

"We've been there like a million times! And you can say hi to the Black Mages and Genomes and everything and it'll be even more awesome than sneaking into bedrooms like a thief because Mother says if you don't cut that out Dagger's never gonna let you marry her, y'know."

Zidane was bowled over. "Uh..."

Eiko again took his hands, pleading in her uniquely commanding way, "Great! You're gonna go check it out and tell me everything and help Morrison and the others, huh? I'm a poor little damsel in distress, here! I totally need you to come to my rescue. It's gonna make up for breaking in here without a present. So you'll do it, right?"

His tail twitched and he smiled uncertainly, won to the idea, if not her logic. "Of course."


"I've been thinking, about what happened to that gate."

Nightfall was seeping into the desert, toiling almost as hard as the prevailing winds to rub the convoy's tracks out of sight. By the time all the stars had filed into the heavens, however, the trail was no longer necessary. Hours of hiking revealed a colony of twinkling lights in a cliff-shielded valley, and the three wanderers gratefully approached the looks of civilization in the otherwise bleak wasteland.

Jerad kept talking, to keep his companions' looming silence at bay as well as keep himself alert. "That gate shrine fell apart as soon as we used it. From the looks of it, it hadn't been used in years, maybe a whole lot longer."

"There are lots of gates like that," Myshu indulged him, "They're all over the galaxy. My homeworld keeps a directory of all the active gates we've found, but that's only a fraction of what's actually out there. There's no telling how many there really are, old and broken like that one back there."

"Really? But who invented the gate shrines? Somebody had to create them all in the first place."

"Mystery of the universe, kid. Older than time."

"Amazing... So, do you think every planet has a gate shrine? Active or not?"

"I dunno, probably not. Geez kid, your questions are gonna drive me batshit."

"Sorry. I was just thinking--"

"Maybe you shouldn't do that so much. It's annoying."

"Hey, I'm trying to help, okay?! I was thinking that maybe the Dragon Tear is still pointing us in the right direction--it's just not being direct."

"No shit?"

"Yeah, just bear with me a second. What if the Phoenix is on a planet that doesn't have a gate shrine? Or any kind of gate at all? So instead of giving us the coordinates of a planet we can't get to with the gates, it gave us the gate coordinates of the nearest planet that does."

"Which would be this sand trap?"

"Yeah. So now it's trying to direct us straight to the Phoenix's planet, which is why it's pointing at, uh, the sky. What do you think?"

"I think I might leave more of this thinking stuff to you, kid."

"We'd need a way off this planet, then," Magus continued Jerad's line of reason.

"That's great, except I don't have a spaceship stuffed up my ass." Myshu turned on Jerad. "Do you have a spaceship up your ass, pipsqueak?"

"Well, no," Jerad faltered, "But I'm... I'm sure we might find something that could help us here."

"Fuckin' brilliant," Myshu scoffed, maintaining the group's air of pessimism, and they trekked the rest of the way in silence.


They waltzed straight into an open settlement. It was one broad, flat avenue lined with shiny huts and boxy warehouses. Adobe and steel clashed at square angles to bring buildings and roads out of the sand and rubble. Purring trucks and metal-plated buggies wiggled along ruts in the oily clay, their wakes redolent of petroleum, alcohol and flowers. In a funny way, Jerad was reminded of an old mining town.

Voices chirped, screeched and roared from tin shacks to stout stone houses, their owners ambling about as perfectly humanoid...

"Aliens..." Jerad walked in slow, meandering circles, eyes wide and wondering at the foreign market. It was busy with neon lights, tribal banners and people--but these people...

"These freaks look a bit like neiphiti," Myshu observed.
"I was thinking more of mystics," Magus counter-observed.
"You would," Myshu snipped, and the wizard harrumphed into the cusp of his cloak.

Jerad gaped at the anthropomorphic beagle selling a star-shaped vegetable to a child with the visage of a cat. "They're... animals."

The beagle caught Jerad's glazed eye and barked, "You gonna buy somethin' or just stare?"

Jerad snapped out of it and retreated a few steps. "W-what?"

Myshu's gaze skimmed the street, trying to pick out their next destination and a good way to blend into the suddenly fuzzier crowd. She felt a jolt--something very slight, but in her mind deliberate--and when her arm reached behind her and snared the nearest moving thing, she almost wasn't surprised to have caught a wild-eyed stranger.

"Urk," it gagged in a barely male voice, Myshu's hand tight around his neck. He had large, round, flea-chewed ears and a black nose too big for his quaint muzzle. He was reed-thin and gangly at the joints, twitching with escape, excuse or both. His heavy, sandy-furred tail thumped desperately against the ground.

He threw up one spindly hand, laden with jewels and trinkets Myshu instantly recognized. "You picked my pack, you little ratty shit," she seethed. Magus and Jerad turned to watch, in turns intrigued and alarmed.

The thief squirmed guiltily. "Just these!" a quick accent spilled out. "Small fee, I be your guide, show you around, anything you want! I help you get."

Myshu released him and checked her pack.

"Gah." The pickpocket rubbed his sore gullet, relieved to be spared. "Deal?"

"Deal," she gruffly agreed. Magus cocked one eyebrow and said nothing.

"All right, we are cool." The thief thumped his chest enthusiastically. "My name's Boca. I am at your service, for real, man. There ain't nothin' in this town I can't show you."

Myshu nodded. "Good. Take us to an inn."

"Inn?" Boca echoed, and sped on, "Sure thing, right on, man. I know this great pad, good n' cheap. This way, amigos." The alien strutted ahead, urging the party along with a certain nervous congeniality.

"That worked out well," Myshu mused as the three began to follow.

"Are you sure that was wise?" Magus questioned.

"What just happened there?" Jerad frantically asked, "Where are we going? What was he saying? What language are these people speaking? I can't understand a word."

Myshu shrugged. "Hell if I know."

"But--" he sputtered, "You were just having a conversation with him!"

"So?" Myshu rolled her eyes. "Oh, yeah, right. I forget that you're a dumbass."


"It's just TLS, kid."


"It's this... telepathic thing. I forgot what it stands for; fuck you if I can explain it. I can hear what they're saying because I'm a neiphiti and you can't because you're dumb, that's it."

Jerad puffed up a little. "Hey!"

"Magus," Myshu diverted to ask, "Are you having any trouble following along?"


She tipped a knowing smirk back at Jerad. "See? He's got the hang of it. Start shutting up and using your brain, like Magus. Anyway, this street rat said he'll take us to someplace we can crash."

"Oh," Jerad said simply, confounded for now, and shrank to the rear of the group to quietly sort out the many new, strange things he had learned today.


She smelled... burning. She was on her hands and knees on a dusk-dyed gravel bed, the sulfuric vapors making her sinuses cringe.

More alarming than the odor, however, was the distant clamor of metal and beast. She searched the landscape and saw nothing--nothing at all. She moved to the top of the hill, her feet like mud and ash, and a battleground sprawled into the valley beneath her. It was a mesmerizing river of groaning, gnashing and screaming bodies--hideous mannequins throwing themselves on spears and shields, the teeth of giant rust-plated monsters falling shut over their heads. A garden of shredded limbs sprouted around the acrid earth, and no one shed a drop.

Suddenly she was swimming in the chaos, crawling under the heels of tyrant lizards and ducking around shadow-masked men that stabbed through yet never into her. The pebbles were serpents and the clouds were crows, and everything she touched felt like fog.
She breathed her way back to the hilltop and watched the carnage with disquieted detachment, and that was where she glimpsed the other across the gorge, staring straight back at her.

It was a person-something with smooth, white skin and a round face--a woman-something, soft and brilliant and silent above the grey noise of battle, in a plain white shift blotted with blood--it had feather-wings the color of fire, the only color in the whole world--it was a mile away and right in front of her--its right eye grinned wickedly, and its right smiled benevolently--and both cried.

The ground ate her feet and the sky spit in her face and

Krystal woke up.
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