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Chapter 10: Swinging for The Stars


Garnet walked carefully along the edge of the tower roof, the night air rustling her cloak like birds wings behind her. The night was cool, the air brushing her skin like tickling fingers as she looked out over the vast space of the kingdom, most of the houses dark at this hour, everyone either in bed, or finishing up late night chores. The play was probably still going on, and Garnet didn't need to think hard on where her mother was right now. She'd always been a stickler for players and their performances, and "Canary" had been one of the most talked about plays in a long time. Of course she wouldn't have moved from her seat, not even to look for her own child.


Zidane ran after her, chuckling like a kid at the chase around the tower pagoda, watching Garnet slow to a walk, and look out over the kingdom, her eyes dark. "Got ya!" He cried, panting slightly from all the running. Garnet looked back at him with a small smile, the evening wind brushing the cloak off her face, strands of her dark hair fluttering like bride's veil as she stood, a soft smirk on her lips. "Oh did you?" she said coyly, climbing up on the stone wall guarding the drop off of the roof, watching Zidane walk up to her, his eyes wide at her dangerous perch. 
He looked at the squat wall, and at the deadly drop behind it, and Garnet's slender feet balanced on a cornerstone, with no protection from the deadly drop
"Is that safe?" He asked warily, eyeing her footing "What if you fall? You'd die when you hit!"
Garnet smiled, watching Zidane carefully. "I shan't...I know what I'm doing." She said. 
Right then, she pitched backwards off the roof, arms folded across her chest like a normal diver, and Zidane cried out, running to the edge to try to catch her, hands reaching for her, just in time to see her fling across the courtyard below, swinging on a rope used to hold up streamers, and laughing her damn head off. He chuckled, watching her swing into the night like an escaped angel, her cloak wings in the darkness.
Steiner watched the two would be lovers carefully, making sure that boy kept his hands to himself: he'd  been young once, he knew all about that kind of thing. But Garnet wasn't just a kitchen girl, or a market maid: she was royalty, and needed to act like it for once, before she got really hurt. And running off into the night with strange boys was not the sort of thing she should be do-
"Good god!" Steiner cried, seeing Garnet pitch off the roof, the wind fluttering her cloak like wings, an angel fallen from grace to hit the ground. He grabbed the edge of the wall, leaning over as far as he dared, horrific images flashing through his mind of the impact...and spotted Garnet swinging out across the crowded courtyard, laughing like a git. He snorted, angry at himself, and at Garnet... then he spotted the ropes, stretched across the courtyard and tied to the castle walls...
Garnet had never felt more alive: the wind rushed through her hair on each swing, and she felt like she was really flying, free for the first time, her feet swinging out into the night. She did raise her hood back up with her free hand, just in case anyone on the ground was watching, and might possibly know it was the wayward princess swinging overhead like a madwoman. 
A scream broke her fantasy, and she looked up to see Zidane tumbling after her, clutching his own rope to catch her as she swung out again. She laughed, letting her momentum carry her forwards, landing with a light jolt on a fabric roof, unharmed, laughing at the night, her eyes to the stars.
Zidane thudded next to her, holding his thigh. "Oww..damnit..." He swore, having had landed hard on his side. Garnet chuckled "Smooth going there, guy." She teased, sitting up. "Hey..what's under here?" Zidane asked, looking at the fabric beneath them. Garnet shrugged, her eyes alight. "Wanna find out?"
Steiner did not want to do this: it was the last thing in all of Heaven he would've chosen to do as sport, but he had to. Someone had to catch Garnet, and it might as well be him, since everyone else seemed to be completely stupid in that regard. He tied the last rope to the back of his armor, and let go with a jump, flinging forwards, flying over the roof Garnet and the boy sat on, and crashing into the tower above it headfirst.  Wood crumbled, and Steiner hung from a hole in the roof, stuck. It was highly embarrassing. An owl landed on his head, and hooted into the night, scraping its feet on his helmet. 
Just Aces. 
He could hear laughter, and knew that, once again, Garnet had gotten away. 
Edited by Philip Ellwell

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I love it!

I really get the feels that Garnet is a naughty princess lolol


I haven't played the game in years, but the nostalgia rush I'm getting is real!

Next up! The stage scene and bomb explosion lmfao (p.s. have you seen Queen Brahne's bizarre fan dance when the prima vista airship was blown?)

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I love it!

I really get the feels that Garnet is a naughty princess lolol


I haven't played the game in years, but the nostalgia rush I'm getting is real!

Next up! The stage scene and bomb explosion lmfao (p.s. have you seen Queen Brahne's bizarre fan dance when the prima vista airship was blown?)

Not yet: I'm going scene by scene. 

Brahne's pretty bizarre, though, even for a FF character. 

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Chapter 11: "The truth is..." 
Zidane's fall was less than graceful: with an "Oomph", he landed on his gut, right in the orchestra pit. Garnet's idea hadn't been so great after all: here, anyone who cared to look up could see him. 
The musicians didn't really seem to care, going on with their song like nothing had happened, just about blasting him off the balcony with loud trumpet blares.
"Crap...where'd she go?" He looked around, but besides him and the players, the balcony was deserted. Garnet had gone first, so she'd possibly taken off again on another game of tag. 
"Owwww!" Zidane moaned, as something heavy knocked him to the ground...something heavy that giggled...wait..
"Oops...heh heh..." Garnet giggled again, getting off Zidane's back. He sat up, unamused, rubbing a sore spot on his head where he'd smacked the floorboards. When he opened his eyes, Garnet was, once again, gone. 
"Well well, wasn't she a pretty one?" The trumpeter said, tipping a slightly saucy wink at Zidane. He blinked, not really sure how to react to this (And slightly wondering if the trumpeter was flirting with him, which sadly would not have been the first time a older man had hit on him). 
"Never mind that...requests? Waltz, polka? Anything at all?" A short, fat violinist interrupted, his face red. His fingers flew across the strings, a jaunty polka just ending. 
"Uh..uh.. Moonlight Serenade." Zidane stammered, caught off guard. As the band started up, the conductor stared at Zidane. "Hey man, what are you doing here?"
"N..nothing, sorry, i'll just.." Zidane looked for an exit, and spotted the balcony doors. "Bye!"
Garnet ran into the music room, about knocking over a slim lady standing near the door. "Whoa! Whut the?!" She spun, dizzy, but caught herself on the edge of the door frame.
She turned to Garnet, more than slightly irritated "Hold yer horses there, girlie, ya ain't the only person alive, ya know. Ya about knocked me on my face!"
She strode over to her, peering into her eyes. "Whut kinda cattle ya chasin' ,darlin'?" The devil himself after ya?" She frowned. "Ya should at least say yer sorry."
Garnet shook her head "Please..pardon me... I was in a hurry, you see, and..." 
"..and here I am, fixin' to make my big entrance, and ya about knock me into next week!"
"I'm sorry..." Garnet said softly. 
"Hmph....I can forgive ya. Name's Ruby, darlin', what's yours?" 
"Ah..." Garnet hedged. 
The door swung open then, Zidane striding in. Ruby perked up. "Hey, Zidane, ya see the way she hit me?!" She chuckled, "This cowgirl's wilder n' a buckin' bronco!"
Zidane tried not to get annoyed, but a touch of irritation crept into his tone. "Just let me talk to her, Ruby..I've been chasing her all night!"
Ruby aquinted "Come again, pardner?" 
She got in Zidane's face "Didn't ya hear whut I was sayin'?!"
Garnet took this moment to get out of Dodge, running out the side exit as fast as she could.
"Hey!" Zidane, turning to see her go. 
He glanced at Ruby, apologetic, "We'll talk later, Rubes, I gotta go!"
Wthout another word, he took off. 
Ruby watched him go with a smirk. "that boy...he keeps thinkin' with THAT head, and it'll all be over fer him, sooner or later."
Zidane finally caught up with Garnet in a small room past the prop area, where she stood facing the wall. "Whew..." He said, catching his breath. He chuckled. "Looks like you've finally made up your mind."
Ugh..that took forever....really had to improvise, but I got her! 
Garnet turned to face Zidane "Do you....do you work on this theatre ship?" She asked softly. 
Oh crap, did she figure it out?!
He scratched his head. 
Garnet frowned. "As....you've no doubt suspected...the truth is..." 
She took a breath "I'm...I'm actually..." 
She sighed, and shoved her hood back, exposing her face (not that Zidane didn't already catch a glimpse before this). "I'm...Princess Garnet Til Alexandros, heir to the throne of Alexandria."
Zidane blinked, but said nothing. 
"I...have a favor I wish to ask of you.." Garnet said softly, her cheeks flushed, as if she was either hot from the hood, or blushing, Zidane wasn't sure which. 
He gasped, as Garnet lunged forward, taking his hands in hers, squeezing "I..I wish to be kidnapped...right away!" 
"What? I...huh? I don't...." Zidane struggled, trying not to let his real emotions show
Holy crap, she WANTS to be taken?!
Edited by Philip Ellwell

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Chapter 12: Hatchaway Escape


A sudden knock at the door interrupted their moment, as a guards rough voice called through the keyhole, the knob rattling. 
"Please..." Garnet whispered, cringing in fear from the sound, "they've come for me..."
"Princess? Are you in there? The door's locked!"
Everything finally fell into place: Zidane smiled. "Aha! So that's what's going on..." He struck a pose, trying to look heroic. "Leave them to me." He boomed. 
Garnet took a breath, relieved. "Thank you... you have my gratitude." She said softly.
Zidane nodded, then knelt on one knee, bowing. "I shall hereby do my very best to kidnap you." He swore. Garnet barely held in a giggle, but nodded, solemn. 
The door breaking in ended this little scene, as a knight rushed in, red faced, sword at the ready. Zidane got to his feet, standing in front of Garnet, as if to protect her, staring down the knight.
"What the bloody hell are you doing?" The knight snapped, revealing himself as Cinna. "Come on, we don't have time!"
Zidane sighed. "Don't worry, princess; it's just my friend." 
"Oh? R..really?" Garnet squeaked, still a little shaken by the whole thing.  "Sorry..he just startled me..."
"Don't worry, I'd be shocked to see his face too!" Zidane cracked, earning a box on the ear from Cinna. 
"That's low, man... I wash every day." Cinna snapped, as Zidane rubbed his head. 
More knocking interrupted this foolishness: "Princess? Hello? Are you there? I hear voices!"
"This way...hurry!" Cinna hissed, ducking back into the doorway he'd come from, motioning for them to follow. 
Just as the door closed behind them, Steiner finally kicked the door in, rushing into the now empty room. "Princess?" 
One look around told him everything he needed to know: Garnet was, once again, gone.. and this time she wasn't alone. 
After a pell mell dash down a hall, the trio ended up in a closed off room, full of pipes and boilers, but with only one door. 
"Where have you been?!" Zidane heard, just as the door closed. 
The guards must've gotten the door down.... they don't sound happy.
"Cinna, what gives?" He said suddenly, taking a quick look around, "This is a dead end!" All he could see were dirty papers scattered on the wooden floor, tattered maps tacked to the walls, and several dozen piles of junk and broken metal shards. They could probably fashion makeshift weapons out of the junk if it came to it, but Garnet didn't look like a fighter, and Zidane was hardly a marksman. 
Cinna chuckled. "Thought this might happen." He walked to a table in the center of the crowded room, and knocked on it. "Open!"
The table swung up like a hatch, revealing an exit from the room. Garnet's eyes got wide. "What in the heavens?"
"I set up an escape hatch, in case things got bungled." Cinna explained. "'Cause they always seem to get screwed when Zidane helps out." He added, playfully. Zidane wasn't amused. 
"Princess?" Steiner's knock made the door rattle. "Princess, answer me!"
"Hurry! Jump in side!" Cinna whispered, shoving Zidane towards the hatch. "We have no time!"
Garnet held back, her eyes darting from the door to the hatch, scared. Zidane held out a hand. "Do you trust me?"
"Princess?! Open the door!" Steiner was kicking the wood, cracks shooting through it. 
Garnet looked at Zidane's offered hand, and took it. "Yes..." she whispered, holding his hand tightly in hers. 
Together they jumped, followed closely by Cinna. 
Steiner finally got the door open, and rushed into the room, spotting the open hatch at once. "She must be down there... there's not another door." He mused, eyeing it. 
"I..I'll go first, s..sir." The knight with him stammered, eyeing the drop. A mis-timed jump jammed him in the hole, his armor caught. 
"What are you doing? This isn't playtime!" Steiner snapped. 
"Captain... I'm stuck!" The knight wailed, his face scarlet with shame. 
Steiner ran from the room, leaving the fallen knight to flail like a turtle. 
Once he was gone, the knight stopped moaning, and chuckled. "Heh...dumb ol' ox bought it."
Edited by Philip Ellwell

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Chapter 13: A Near Escape


The trap door lead to lower floors of the castle, and past that, back into the ship. They landed in  the massive boiler room that heated the place. Garnet carefully hopped from pipe to pipe, suddenly glad for years of ballet training for posture and balance. Zidane made it most of the way, only tripping twice.
"Man...you're really an athlete, huh?" He panted, glancing at Garnet. "If you keep this up, I might just fall for you." He stood up, smirking a little. 
Garnet wasn't impressed. "This is nothing. I've been training to escape the castle, after all." She scoffed. "I can handle a few jumps... I'm not made of china." She sniffed.
Zidane, unperturbed, grinned, a hand on his hip. "What a waste. If only you weren't a princess..."
Garnet rolled her eyes, fixing a loose strand of hair back under her hood. "We've no time for idle banter," she snapped. "Come, let us move on, before something befalls us both."
"Aye, aye," Zidane said, only half sarcastically, snapping a crisp salute hard enough to impress a Red Wing captain, assuming one was there to see it, somehow.
Far from impressed, Garnet rolled her eyes again, and started off, walking around the creaky boilers of the ship, and delicately skirting a few pipes, as they belched steam.
"In here..." She said, pushing open a door. She walked right into the metal clad chest of Steiner, who grunted.
"Aha!" He cried, poking a finger in the air. Zidane rolled his eyes. "Princess, I, Steiner, have come to your rescue!" 
This was declared loudly, like he expected wild applause or music to play. Neither happened
A Pluto Knight came up behind Garnet, trapping her arms behind her back. "You needn't worry, your Highness," he said, "you're in good hands now."
"This will be remembered as the Pluto Knights' finest hour!" Steiner crowed, smirking at them all. "Something for us to finally be remembered for."
"Heh heh..." The knight behind Garnet chuckled, loosening his grip. "Just relax, dear princess... we'll get you outta here in no time."
"W..what?!" Steiner cried, glaring at the knight. Upon closer look, he didn't look like any of the hired knights on the guard... or anyone he'd ever seen before.
"You're not one of my knights!" He cried, drawing a sword.
"You can just...leave the princess..." Zidane said, winking at the others. Cinna smirked, Blank getting a firm grip on his blades' handle.
"To us!" They cried. 
"To us? Like hell!" Steiner cried, lunging at Zidane with a thrust, the blade missing him by inches. Blank slapped his blade against the floor, egging him on, and Steiner foolishly fell for it, rushing like an enraged bull. 
Hidden safely and comfortably behind a cooled boiler, Garnet watched all this placidly, silently hoping Zidane and his crew won: this had been more excitement than she'd known in her whole life in the castle, and she hated to think it was over so suddenly. That, and Zidane wasnt' that  bad...she didn't want to see him run through by Steiner's blade. 
Blank blocked a clumsy swipe by Steiner, hissing as the blade swiped his forearm, bringing thin blood. A swipe sent Steiner stumbling back into a shelf, a jar there tipping, falling, smashing...
And Oglops falling everywhere, hopping about madly. 
The Pluto Knight's yelled, running away from the things, tripping over each other in their haste.
"Now's our chance!" Zidane yelled, taking off, "Come on!"

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Chapter 14: Tragedy and Acting (Or Just Tragic Acting...)


A different place, but the same time.
Heavy footsteps trod down the hall, until he came out of the covered walkway into the night air: King Leo, dressed in a flowing robe trimmed in fur, souvenirs from his many hunts. His beard, a dark shade of pink (that was highly rumoured among chamber maids to be dyed to hide grey), was cut into a mane under his chin, and googles shielded his eyes.
King Leo took a breath, and looked over at the guards assembled on the roof. They all watched him, silently. One man amongst them struggled, and received a punch to the gut for it.
"Tonight... I shall finally see my beautiful daughter, Cornelia, betrothed to Prince Schneider!" He exclaimed, grandly. An evil sort of smirk crossed his lips, lifting the corners of his moustache.
"And then... the prince and his kingdom will be mine!"
He threw back his head, and chuckled; a long, drawn out burst of humourless laughter, purely evil to the ear.
Underneath the full moon, two guards dragged a man before the king, arms held back to prevent all escape.
"Your Majesty," the first guard, whose name was Zenero, called out.
"We have caught an intruder," the second, named Benero, trilled.
The king took a step forward, a smirk on his lips. "Why, my poor Marcus..."
He chuckled, watching Marcus struggle, pure rage emblazoned on his features. "Hark, lad: no matter how much thou dost treasure Cornelia, no matter how deeply she might believe she doth love thee..."
A smirk, emerging into a deep, throaty chuckle. "...never shall I see her marry a peasant such as thee!"
A bell tolled, its ton mournful, and slow. "When yon bell strikes three, under the axe thou shall be!" King Leo declared, as Marcus shuddered in revulsion at the king's sick joy.
A second peal rang out, carrying doom in its echoing cry.
Zidane led the way through the rooms, each full of gears and hissing pipes, things easy enough to trip over if not careful.
Finally, the last room ended in boilers and turning gears, a total dead end.
"W..what now?" Garnet panted, slightly winded from the long dashes up halls and among pipes. Far from out of shape, she still wasn't used to non-stop sprints. "We cannot go any further...we're done for!"
Zidane was looking around the sparse room, glancing at the odd, rounded doors above, and the platform on the ground beneath it. It looked very much like they rose up to the doors, and lead out. "Hmmm..."
They both jumped a little at footsteps headed their way: Garnet took a breath, preparing to be caught, and Zidane balled his fist, feeling his muscles tighten, his back coiled, ready to jump...
Cinna ran around the corner, red faced and breathless: "Zidane! Get on Number Two!" He hissed.
Zidane stared for a second: Number Two? What in the world...
He got it then: The platforms rose up through the trap doors, which could only mean.. they were under the stage? It was a long shot, but all they had going at the moment.
"Got it," Zidane said, rushing over to it. He stepped up onto the wood, wincing as it creaked under his weight, and held out a hand. "Princess, this way."
Garnet seemed hesitant, but took his hand, stepping up next to him. Zidane smiled: "Looks like things are working out after a-"
Steiner hurried into the room, out of breath. He knocked Cinna aside, and grabbed for Garnet, but it was too late: the platform began to rise, the doors above opening, the soft murmur of a crowd echoing. The doors closed behind them, and, once again, they were gone.
"Aces.." Steiner stamped on Number One, and fell onto his knees as it jolted to life quickly, shooting up into the doors, and out into the night.
The bell tolled again, and King Leo smiled. "Furthermore," he began, but a sudden crack cut him off: the doors to the rising platform had swung open, and two people were suddenly raised into the middle of the stage.
For, you see, the whole thing was just an act, a false performance put on for the gathered crowd: Zidane and Garnet had just inadvertently crashed the second act of "I Want to Be Your Canary", right during the King's speech.
What the... Princess Garnet?!  Thought Baku, who was playing King Leo. He stared at her, shaken for the moment.
"Guys, improvise!" Zidane hissed, as the second platform raised, revealing a red faced Steiner.
"Huh?" He looked around, clearly as confused as the cast was. "What's all this nonsense?"
At this point, Marcus broke free of the guards, and rushed to Princess Garnet. "Cornelia!" He cried, grasping her hands in his, smiling at her.
"Uh..." Garnet said, blinking at him. She was completely lost, and the crowd was waiting to see what happened. In her box, Queen Brahne shifted, clearly growing restless.
"Marcus is Cornelia's lover, sentenced to die by her father's order," Zidane hissed in her ear.
Garnet nodded: putting on a high, simpering voice, she clutched Marcus' hand. "Oh...Marcus, my love!"
"Good...you're doing great!" Zidane urged. "Keep it going!"
Steiner stared at everyone like they'd lost their minds entirely.
"I did study drama, you know..." Garnet whispered, trying to hide a giggle.
"Okay, enough chitchat guys... keep it goin', Brahne's still watchin', after all, " Baku said,interrupting this bit of flirting on Garnet's part.
The men of the troupe shot off a quick salute, and went back into character.
"Oh, Marcus..." Garnet sighed, as the orchestra sang with violin's, hoping to cover the slightly awkward pauses with the score. A few royals shifted, but settled back down, as the romantic scene went on.
"I wish to never leave thy side...prithee, lead me from this place," Garnet recited. Zidane had to admit, she knew her lines well. He was half convinced she was really Cornelia.
"See, King Leo?" Zidane called, "Thou shouldst give them thy blessing!"
Baku walked across the stage, with a toss of his head. "Never!"
He turned to Garnet, glaring. "Never leave his side, tho sayest?" He asked, his tone icy. He spat. "Bah! Foolish banter! I'll not allow it!"
King Leo turned to Steiner, and nodded. "Cornelia shall marry none other that this man - Prince Schneider."
He stepped forward, smiling. "Is that not so, Prince Schneider?"
Steiner went red, shocked. "M...Marry the princess? Me?!"
King Leo nodded. "Aye... and this traitorous crew, I will put to death!" The guards rushed forward at his words, grinning.
Marcus socked the guard in the face, taking him down in one go, while Zidane delivered a swift kick. Both guards were down, rubbing sore bodies, and moaning. They limped away, off stage.
King Leo strode forwards, taking Garnet's hand: "Pray, sweet daughter, come home to the castle with me."
Garnet struggled. "Nay, father, I shan't return!"
King Leo growled, tugging on her arm. "Cornelia.. trouble me no more." He let go, staring off into the crowd. "This wedding is for thine own welfare. Be mindful of that."
Marcus strode forward, fists raised. "Not if I can help it!" He crowed. "Now is my moment of vengeance! For my parents, and for my love, Cornelia...beautiful Cornelia..."
He drew his sword, the crowd gasping. "I shall cut thee down, and spill thy blood!"
Garnet ran forward, the sword plunging. The orchestra started up, playing dramatic music. Zidane rolled his eyes at the overtly corny score, but kept silent.
Garnet fell to her knees, gasping. "Nghh..."
"No..Cornelia!" Marcus cried.
Garnet flopped onto her back dramatically, a hand falling open by her side. "Mar..cus.. forgive me..I still love my father..." She stilled, trying not to breathe too deeply to hold the illusion of death.
King Leo and Steiner fell to their knees, crying out "Cornelia!"
Garnet realized she had more lines, and moved slightly. "P..prithee forgive my selfishness, Father... and spare my sweet Marcus..." She let out a sigh, dropping her head.
Zidane shook his head, really holding back a laugh at the horribly corny scene, but appearing to be saddened by this "tragic" death before him.
"What have I done?!" Marcus wailed, "Am I never to hear her loving voice again?"
A sob. "Am I cursed to never again feel her soft touch!?" He stood, hands clenched. "O, cruel fate! Thou hast robbed me of all I treasure!"
"Marcus, no!" Zidane yelled, as Marcus swung the sword, and plunged into his side. In reality, the blade slid by his flesh, hidden by the costume.
Marcus fell to the ground, with a gasp, and lay still.
In her box, overlooking all of the stage, Queen Brahne nodded her head. "Oh, my... this year's show is splendid!"
Tears welled up in her eyes, and she bawled at the tragedy of Marcus and Cornelia. "Waahhhhhhhh! Why did she have to die? Why!?"
Composing herself, the Queen blew her nose. "Hmph...now..where could Garnet be?"
Tears overwhelmed her again, and she sobbed. "Oh...how tragic..."
Edited by Philip Ellwell

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Chapter 15: The Jig, up. 



"Wow, whatta show!" Puck cried, jiggling from foot to foot, applauding loudly. 
Vivi sniffled, but turned it into a sort of cough, wiping at his eyes in a pretend allergy attack. "Yeah...so sad," He muttered. He looked up, as Marcus lamented about life and death on stage.
"I'm glad we climbed all the way over here....how 'bout you?" Puck asked, his eyes shining as he watched the action on stage. "Huh? How about it?" He poked Vivi in the ribs.
"Ow..quit it," Vivi snapped. 
Puck opened his mouth to reply: his eyes got wide, and he took off, racing along. "Whu oh! Look out!"
Vivi glanced back in time to see a near platoon of Pluto Knights racing towards him. He took a breath, and dashed off, trying to keep up to Puck, and failing, falling behind a good ten feet. 
"Stop, you!" A Pluto Knight called, hot on Vivi's heels, fists clenched. 
The crowd turned to watch, cheering on the Knights, while booing Vivi, who felt a hot stitch up his side, his breathing ragged. He wasn't used to running like this, and it was catching up to him badly. He deeply regretted never running with the local boys when they played games, or going on walks to work up leg muscle.
Puck made a evasive maneuver, and somehow did a flip on the wall, flying over the Knight's helmeted heads, and landing at a run, taking off with ease: Vivi merely dropped to the ground, and shimmed under their legs, taking off after him. "Wait! Puck!"
"No time, slowpoke!" Puck cried, jumping a chain, and getting loose in the crowd. Vivi felt his left foot stumble, and down he went, right on his face. Pain blared, and blood oozed from a cut on his cheek. 
"Fool!" Puck yelled, running along the edge of the audience box, nimble feet dashing along the thin ledge, outraged people swatting at him as he ran. He picked up speed, passing by Vivi, who was picking himself up off the ground, sore and tired. "I'm outta here!" 
His voice held a nasty tone, and Vivi watched him go, upset at losing what he'd thought had been a friend. 
Vivi glanced back, and saw three new guards joining the fray: "Fury!!" One called, nonsensically. "Get back here!"
"Puck, I hope you step on a nail!" Vivi yelled, taking off, wincing at the cut on his cheek. 
Meanwhile, on stage, King Leo was bawling, bent over Garnet's body. Garnet was holding her own, taking breaths so shallow her chest didn't move, and keeping her eyes still. Playing dead was, honestly, quite easy, she though. 
"Forgive me!" Leo cried, daubing at his eyes. He couldn't quite get any tears going, so he just kept his handkerchief to his eyes, hiding them from the crowd. 
"Princess!" Steiner wailed. He was rather enjoying this theatre thing.
"Leave me alone!" Vivii shouted, suddenly racing past, the Knights hot on his heels. 
Vivi raced around the gathered actors, jumped over Garnet like she was just a lump (A fact she didn't approve of one bit, as the deepening frown on her face showed), and cowered next to the wall. Zidane blinked, this new development quite interesting to him. 
"Don't you come any closer!" Vivi warned, hands raised. He raised his arms, and thrust them forward: the sound of flame crackling echoed, and suddenly small balls of fire shot from his palms, sizzling menacingly. Highly short of hitting their intended marks, the Pluto Knights, the fireballs flopped, and landed directly onto Garnet, who jumped up with a cry, flailing. 
"Ow, ow, owwww! Hot, hot hot.." She moaned, trying to get her cloak off, the pretty fabric going up like a Roman candle. She finally got the clasp open, and tossed it away, the flames setting in on fire as it flew through the night air. 
For a moment, the flaming robe was a fairly pretty sight, as it burned away to nothing. 
Garnet stood up, and blinked, shocked: everyone could see who she was. The jig was well, and truly, up. 
"Zidane...it's time!" Baku intoned. He took off, dropping the King Leo outfit as he went, the beard nothing more than sheep fluff, dyed and styled. 
"Princess Garnet, let's go," Zidane said, taking her hand. "We're outta here!"
"What?!?" Steiner yelled, jumping to his feet. "Just what in blue blazes is going on here?!" He shook his fist. "What are you up to, boy?" 
Garnet whirled on him, fists clenched. "Steiner...don't follow me anymore!" She said, eyes flashing. "I'm sick of it. I'm not a dog, to be chased down."
"Captain, sir! We await your orders, sir!" A Knight boomed, cutting her off. Garnet gave him a look, clearly annoyed. 
Steiner blinked. "Well...uhm....err...you...you see...." he babbled.
He took a breath, composing himself. "Princess! I'm afraid I can't comply!" 
Garnet scoffed, hands on her hips. "Stubborn as always, aren't you?" She turned to Zidane for back up. 
"Yeah... stubborn!" Zidane broke it. "Come on, Princess. Let's ditch Sir Rustalot here, and get going."
He took off across the stage, Garnet close behind. She couldn't hold back a giggle as she ran: it echoed on the night air. 
"Princess, wait!" Steiner yelled. 
"Hey, kid, you okay?" Zidane had stopped to help Vivi, who was sitting on the stage in shock. 
"Y..yeah..yeah.." He shook his head, standing. "Just tripped is all...."
"Princess... I...I can't allow this! I can't allow you to go!" Steiner cried. He motioned to his guards. "Seize them! Seize all of them at once!" 

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Chapter 16: Sudden Chaos 


"You've got to be kidding...." Zidane moaned, as Steiner lunged for him, sword flying over his head as he managed to ducd at the last second, avoiding a nasty beheading. The blade took a few stray hairs, but otherwise did no damage. "Damn!" 


"Hold on, I've got i-" Garnet cried, right as Steiner knocked her down, out of the fighting area. She skidded into the wall, bumping her head on the backdrop, which tore down the middle. "Hey! You brute!" she cried, rubbing her scalp. It wasn't bleeding, but that was hardly the point.

"Stand down, princess... I don't want you harmed," Steiner said, glaring. Garnet crossed her arms, and shot him a look, getting back on her feet. "I'm not some delicate flower, Steiner... I'll fight...you won't stop me." Her fists clenched. "You should know this by now."

"Gangway!" Vivi cried, as something blazing hot whipped by, setting boxes alight as it went: a fireball hit the two guards, and they ran off, screaming for water. Vivi panted, fists balled. 


"Holy..." Zidane swore. "Where did you learn to do magic?"


"Stand down!" Steiner yelled, arm swinging in for a slash across Zidane's chest, the moment perfect to catch him off guard. With a grunt, he dropped his sword, blood trailing down his arm  from a light gash on his wrist: Garnet stood in front of him, dagger blade stained crimson.


"Stand down, Steiner," she said, her voice cold. Steiner looked into her eyes, and didn't see the frail princess he'd sworn to protect in that moment: he saw someone else, someone stronger, a rebel, a fighter. A stranger.


"I.it's j...just a fleshwound..." He said, his voice tight with pain. "Medic..." He stumbled, and hurried off, defeat fully admitted. Zidane nodded, smiling, as Garnet sheathed her blade. "Well done, princess. Your first victory."

Garnet nodded, eyes blazing. "It was only the first of many," she said.



"Stabilisers configured!" Cinna declared, nodding at his work. He looked up at footsteps, Blank peering in. "Engine room is good to go," he said. "What now?"


"Alright," Said Cinna. "We're ready."


He tipped a crisp salute, an odd one involving a sort of slash across the chest, the salute of their band. Blank returned it, nodding. 

"We're movin' out on the double!" Baku declared. "Roger that!" Blank cried, nodding. 


"About damn time...my arse is sore from all the waitin' around..." A crew member griped. 


Blades started up, whipping the delicate night wind: a groaning echoed, sounding at first like a sigh, then a scream, as wood and steal screeched into motion. The ship rocked, lifting slightly to hover, preparing to set sail. The blank eyes of the angel figure head stared into the horizon, as if to search for their destination ahead of time. 


Cries of shock and surprise came from the crowd, as the ship lifted, the angel almost seeming to grin at being aloft after so long in the dust and darkness. 

"What? What is this madness!?" Queen Brahne screamed, squinting as light flooded the stage. "This isn't part of the show! What cheek! I'll not stand for improvising set pieces!"


She turned to the tower opposite her box, guards already loading canons. "Fire at will! Teach these fools a lesson for their cheek!" She shouted, jabbing a pudgy finger repeatedly into the aIr, the wind sending debris and ticket stubs flying. "Fire! Fire!"


"Fire!" The first canon shot off, a fireball soaring into the night, the enraptured audience below, finally aware of the dangers happening, racing for cover. A series of canon fires echoed in the night, as seven fireballs shot in rapid succession, all at a fuming Queen's orders. Her face turned red and green faster than a stoplight, as she screamed demands and hollered orders. 


A canon ball crashed through the scenery, chains whipping. "Duck and cover!" Zidane screamed, "The old Queen's off her nut!"


"Don't talk about my mother like th- Yeeeek!" Garnet's scolding was cut off, as she jumped aside to avoid being hit by falling stonework, which shot to the stage like shrapnel, leaving them all with small cuts on any exposed skin. 


The chains whipped through the air, the fireballs some sort of trap, made to capture and destroy attackers. They caused more damage to the castle than they did the airship, stonework crumbling, murals shattering, and glass exploding into a paniced, screaming crowd, running for any cover they could find in the chaos. 

"Good god!" Zidane cried, as he kneeled next to Garnet, who was partially in shock at such destruction. "We've got to move, now!"


More canons fired, exploding into the night. "Take them all! Leave no survivors!" The Queen roared. 


"Ahhhh!" Garnet's cry echoed, as a bolt slammed into the stage, splintering it like balsa wood, fragments shooting into the air to rain upon the grounds.

The Queen stuttered, hearing her cry. "G..Garnet...my Garnet..no..."


Chains wrapped around the ship, halting its flight: the stone angel came flying at the boxes of royals, as the bow tipped down sharply, crashing into them. Screams and cries filled the air, as people scrambled for cover. 

The impact of the ship rocked the castle, walls tumbling in its wake like toy models, bricks smashing windows in deadly projectiles. People ran everywhere, panicking, desperate to escape this sudden barrage of destruction and mayhem.

The angel swung, smashing halls and dashing doors, people flung into the air by her wake. The audience climbed onto the roofs of the castle yard, hoping to escape the wrath intact. 


"No! No!" Queen Brahne roared. "They can't get away! Stop them! GARNET!!!"


"We have to hurry!" Zidane cried, helping Garnet to her feet. "This isn't going to end well if we stay."


For just a moment, Garnet's gaze locked with the Queen's, who stood in her balcony, red faced with rage. Time seemed to still, as mother and daughter stared at each other. Garnet blinked, and nodded. "Right...she'll tear up the whole city if allowed."


"Princess..." Steiner, of all people, stumbling over debris. "You can't stay here!"


"No, really, Captain of the Obvious?" Zidane snapped, dodging another falling stone fragment.


"Get them! Get them! Fire the weapon!" The Queen screamed. 


Doors, cleverly concealed by the iron scrolling on the castle, rolled aside to reveal a massive canon, easily two or three cubics across. The black maw of it leered at the stone angel, as it swung again, knocking in stables, and sending horses screaming into the night. 

"FIRE!!" Brahne shrieked.


With a deafening explosion, the massive thing shot off the largest projectile anyone present had ever seen, which sailed into the air with a whistle, before breaking into a living, breathing fire spirit. 


"No! I shan't allow this!" Steiner screamed, jumping into the thing's path. "Face me, demon!"


"Steiner, no!" Garnet screamed, but nothing could stop him. 


Vivi shot a ball of ice at the creature, which weakened, but didn't stop it. Zidane wavered, and finally shot in for quick attacks, dodging flames, and blocking Steiner from further damage. 


Finally, the creature expelled its last attack: With a massive rush of heat, it exploded, sending flames roaring over the stage, ship, and castle grounds. 

Edited by Philip Ellwell

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Chapter 17: Fire in The Skies


"Yes! Yes! Take that, fiends!" Queen Brahne shrieked, flipping her fan and grinning ear to ear. "That's what you get for ruining my play! For trying to steal my daughter!" She did a two step on her balcony, giggling like a school girl, as the ship went up in flames from the attack. "That should show you!" She danced with glee at her good work, proud of how strong her military could be. She never once gave a thought to the fact Garnet was currently on the ship she was so adamant about destroying.


The stone angel soared through the flames, not to be deterred, but her gait noticeably tilted downwards, as the bowsprit descended. Smoke billowed, as the ship sank from the lofty heights it had obtained only minutes before, headed for a romance with the ground that would leave everyone in worse shape then ever. The angel grounded, smashing several chimneys to bits, and taking off a church steeple.


"Come on, come on, you've got to fall," Brahne muttered, tapping her foot impatiently. "Let's see it, old thing, stop teasing so!" She pouted, her face red. "I've got to stop you...." Her voice dropped, honest emotion slipping into her face, something that rarely happened. 

She grinned to see the ship listing, its flight stopped by the fires raging along the sides. Smoke billowed into the night, obscuring the moon, and darkening the scene, much to Brahne's annoyance. "No!" She pounded her fist onto the balcony, hard enough to shatter her fan to bits.


"Direct hit!" Zidane screamed, as the ship tilted, scraping rooftops with a horrific grinding noise, slates and bits of tile shooting off into the night like shrapnel, cats screeching off in terror. "We're losing her!" He held onto a railing in the deck, watching the night race past, the stench of fire and smoke thick in his nose.

An explosion rocked the hull, Garnet wincing at the blast, as she held onto a beam, watching the chaos: it had been a long night, and now it was ending by her being shot from the sky like a duck after the hunter's bullet strikes. The sense of freedom she'd felt only minutes before drained from her all at once, as she spotted her mother in the castle balcony, at this point looking like only a miniature figure on a toy stage.

The ship limped lower and lower, falling through low clouds towards the ground, rising and falling like a dying bird: inside, the steam making him scream to be heard, Cinna was trying not to fall, as the ship shook around them. "We're gonna crash! It's game over!" His feet pounded the pedals that turned the main propeller, but the hull damage was too great, the wind against them. They sank like a stone tossed into a pond, the wind whistling past the holes in the siding. 

Blank went rushing by, trying to keep pipes from blowing with damp rags, as the hull gave a shudder, the side portholes of the deck shattering. Crashing through the last of the clouds, dark trees rushed up to meet the ship, as, with a terrible grinding crash, it hit the ground, the stone angel flying into a dozen pieces, as the unyielding earth tore the front of the deck off. 

As the fire glinted in the distance, Brahne clenched her fists, tears blurring her vision at the corners. "Garnet... I never imagined you would do such a thing.." She took a breath, her rage melting at the idea her daughter was truly gone. "Perhaps you're not such a helpless little girl anymore, after all..."

She straightened, glaring. "Zorn! Thorn!"

They two jesters appeared at once, by her side. "Yes, majestic one?" The trilled. 

Brahne huffed. "Is our little experiment ready yet?" She waved a hand in her face, regretting destroying her fan with the heat of the night at full blast now, the fires racing scatteredly along rooftops not helping at all.

Zorn did a little hop, his voice higher than usual with fear at the fires burning along the skyline. "Yes, majestic one, it is combat-ready."

"Easily terminate Princess Garnet it can, majestic one," Thorn added, pointing a finger at nothing.

Brahne's face went red with rage, as she whirled on the two. "I need her alive!" She screamed, spraying spit like a bull. Zorn and Thorn dropped into repeated bows, muttering about how useless they were, thinking it was okay to kill Garnet.

Brahne offered no denial. "Bring her back at once, do you hear? At once!"

She turned to look out at the raging fires, and smiled. "You can't just fly the coop, my little dove...."


"Hurry up and put out this fire!" Cinna snapped, "I can't carry 'em all by myself here!"

He tossed another band member outside, with no regard to their safety, snapping "What the hell are you doing, having a laugh? The whole ship's gonna burn up!"

"They're all looking for Garnet...she's gone," Zenero explained. He frowned. "Can't find her anywhere...."

He glanced at the ruins of the ship, fire burning merry hell along the once lavish deck. "Maybe she fell off...got squashed under the wreckage...."

Cinna slammed a palm into his face. "Great...this is great! First we kidnap her, then we kill her!" He groaned, hanging his head. "We'll all hang for sure...."

Zidane swung from a tree, having jumped at the last second: beyond a few cuts and bruises, including a nasty kink in his tail that would swell before too long, he was unharmed. He jogged over to Cinna, smirking. "You look like hell."

"I'm surprised you even made it, Zidane," Cinna said, "You jumped? Are you nuts?" 

Zidane crossed his arms with an eyeroll. "I didn't jump, okay? I got thrown out when we hit." He glanced at the wreckage. "Everyone okay?"

Cinna nodded. "Yeah...we've all got the Devil's luck." He chuckled, darkly. "But if we don't find Princess Garnet, we're dead meat."

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Chapter 18: Local Flora and Fauna Puts Up A Hell of A Fight


From then on, there was little to do but try and look around, in the hopes Garnet had landed close by: the forest offered little in the way of scenery, as everything that wasn't trees dripping in moss were pits of brackish water, and the odd small creature. Zidane had some fun whacking them with his sword, as none of them gave much of a fight, and were quite easily dispatched, leaving meat for a meal later, and hide for tarps, if they were needed.

And it kept his fighting arm loose.


The air stank of rot and decaying meat, making Zidane wrinkle his nose. Dead things littered the waterlogged holes, and he tried to step carefully; A wrong move would suck you down into the dark recesses of the water, and god knew if anyone would hear you, let alone be able to come to your aid. These types of places weren't ever meant for man to stride around in them, but what could you do?


The thought that Garnet was truly dead lurked in the back of his mind: he tried to ignore it, like a bothersome itch, but it gnawed at his brain as he trudged through the muck, occasionally calling out in case she was close by. The only answer was the caw of birds.


A cry caught his attention: it was close, coming from a murky gulch ahead. Zidane snuck forwards, hand on his sword hilt: it sounded big, whatever it was, and the last thing he needed was prematurely dropping his sword mid fight. Screw ups like that got you killed, and he'd rather not die this early in life, with all the women, wine, and stealing in his future. 


He snuck close, trying not to startle whatever it was: his boots sank in the muck, making him wince, as he crept closer. Vivi lay on the ground, staring at something ahead. Zidane crept closer, tapping him on the shoulder lightly. Vivi jumped like a fire had been set under him, as Zidane hastily hissed a "Quiet! This place is full of monsters!"


"S..she's in trouble...big trouble!" Vivi choked out, making Zidane frown, hands on his hips. "What? Who's in...."

It dawned on him, suddenly, and he rushed past Vivi into the clearing ahead, sending a spray of brackish waster across Vivi's face. He wiped it away, sniffling. He followed behind, slogging through the muck.


Zidane skidded to a halt, staring. "...what the hell? What is that thing?"

Sprouted from the ground like some sort of vile flower, a massive plant was arching tendrils along the gully floor, making sickening noises as it burbled in the thin water covering the thin roots. Inside, hidden by cage-like branches under a thick cap, Garnet lay on her side, scratches marring her cheeks. Zidane drew his sword, as the plant moved towards him, defying all logic and plant science in one go. His heart rammed into his throat on seeing Garnet, and barely stilled when he saw her breathing shallowly. 


Steiner was at the side of the thing, whacking it uselessly with the hilt of his sword.. "Release the princess at once, you fiend! I'll see you hun..err...i'll see you picked like the weed you are!" He slapped it with the flat of his blade. "Overgrown milkweed! Corpse Flower! Sap filled dandelion cast off!"

The plant didn't seem too fond of this name calling, and swiped Steiner aside, sending him reeling into a muck hole, face first. He struggled for a moment, bubbles frothing the filthy water. Zidane sighed, and hurried over, yelping as a vine swiped at him. He barely jumped over it, his knees cracking on the landing.


"Like it's gonna really listen to you," he griped, hauling Steiner upright. The once proud captain was coated in mud and weeds, and smelled like the sewers on Thursdays, before they were flushed clear. Zidane wrinkled his nose. 


"I'll kill it...I'll weed it!" Steiner cried, hauling out his sword. Zidane took a stance, blade at the ready. "Come on, then...time to weed out the trash!"

Slightly proud of his terrible one liner, he swung, slicing a vine clear off. Green fluid bubbled from the now useless appendage, as the plant gave an almost human like cry, making him wince. It didn't last long, as Steiner was sent flying again by newer, tougher vines, sprouting off the things sides. Zidane sliced and sliced, ichor coating his gloves as he ruthlessly attacked the plants' roots. With a defeated groan, it shuddered, and collapsed into a shuddering ruin, withering into a small husk, Garnet nowhere to be seen. 


"Princess?" Steiner got to his feet, shakily, his knees weak under him. "Princess?!" He cupped his hands around his mouth, calling out for her until it echoed along the branches and trunks surrounding them, with no reply. 

"What the hell?" Zidane scanned the area, squinting in the gloom. "Where'd they go?" He glanced at the ruins of the plant, but it was gone, leaving behind a few bubbles in the murky waters of the bog. 


Vivi shook his head, fists tight at his sides. "She's gone..." His tone was lifeless, as he walked over to the water, glaring at his reflection in the scummy surface. "I...I was too scared to cast any spell," he confessed, trembling.  "That monster's probably gonna eat her!" 


Steiner groaned, face buried in his hands, ignoring Vivi. "How could I let this happen?" He wailed, punching a rotting tree trunk. "How could I let this happen?!"


"Don't worry," Zidane said, trying to defuse the situation. "She's not dead..."


"...yet," he added, under his breath. He swallowed back a bitter taste. "That monster was only a minion, by look of it. He's probably gonna take her to his master."


Steiner looked up, eyes bright, mouth tightly in a frown. "That means the princess might still be..." 

He snapped his fingers. "Come! We must go find her at once!" 


Steiner started walking off, leaving Vivi and Zidane behind. Zidane rolled his eyes. "Give me a break..."


"Woa, what?" Vivi cried, startled by rustling in the trees. Branches snapped, sending leaves tumbling, as something heavy crawled rapidly across the tops. With a loud snap, they gave way, a plant of vines and branches dropping right onto Vivi. 


He struggled, but the thing wrapped thick tentacles around him, dragging him into its warm embrace, swinging back up to the treetops like a rabid monkey. 

"Holy.." Zidane swore, drawing his sword. "Steiner! Help me!"


"What am I to do?!" Steiner wailed, pulling at the few tufts of hair that escaped the confines of his helmet. 


"Fight like a man, for once in your stupid life!" Zidane cried, as he jumped forwards, lunging at the creature's side. 

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