Maxwell stared down at the body for a few seconds. His chest rose and fell, and the Materia blade shook in his grip. Hesitantly, he reached out with his free hand, and he gave the moogle's chest a prod. The wet fur was still warm, but the muscles underneath were lax. He held his hand there for a few moments, waiting, but he didn't feel the chest rise or fall once.

Finally, the bangaa stood back up straight. He kept staring at Isaac's bloodied body for a few moments. The hat had fallen down over the moogle's eyes, and a grimace was stuck across his mouth. The long, thin gash along his neck was surrounded by sticky blood, and a few drops were still dripping down his chest. The bangaa knew that Isaac had suffered more wounds during their battle, but they were harder to identify now that the moogle wasn't moving.

At last, Maxwell shook his head, and turned away. He bunched up his legs, and then jumped. There was still a fight going on at the Palace, and while he was certain that the Queen could handle it, it wouldn't do to risk anything.

The bangaa flew over the abandoned city, occasionally letting his gaze wander down to the path of destruction he and Isaac had left. In some places, it was hard to see; just a few gouges or small scorches along the rooftops. In other places, though, the piles of rubble were still smouldering from flames extinguished by the rain.

Finally, the bangaa reached the base of the staircase that lead up to the Palace's square. He started up, figuring it would be safer to walk up as opposed to trying to jump on the slick stairs. He moved slowly, casually twirling the Materia Blade in his hand. It was almost done…

As he placed his foot down on the next step, though, he froze in place, his eyes going wide. His grip tightened on the hilt of the Materia Blade, and for several long seconds, he just stared off into space. All the while, the blade shook in his grip, his knuckles cracking.

Abruptly, the bangaa shook his head, and started walking up the stairs again. A slow grin came across the Worldwyrm's face as he moved. He'd been able to watch everything happening as Maxwell had done it, and every moment had been delicious. He'd seen all of the openings that the bangaa had left open, and watched each time as Isaac let them pass by. He'd watched the moogle's will gradually crumble, until Isaac was lying in the mud, barely even looking at Maxwell as the bangaa cut him down.

Yes, all of it had gone just as the Worldwyrm had hoped. Admittedly, Maxwell had put up a bit more a struggle over who got control of the body than he'd expected, but it was a minor oversight. He just had to remember that Maxwell wasn't a normal humanoid; that bangaa had been blessed with a fair deal of power, and he knew how to resist.

That said, the Worldwyrm didn't plan on letting Maxwell have control again anytime soon. Hopefully, the time locked away would weaken his will. The Worldwyrm's grin widened as he stepped up onto the main platform. He started walking past the scenes of the battle between Llednar's forces and Clan Nutsy. He didn't bat an eyelid at all of the guards that were still unconscious from the fight. They'd already proven they were useless; they would be no help in protecting the Queen.

The Worldwyrm finally sheathed the Materia Blade as he reached the large crater in the ground where Marche had slain Llednar. The bangaa let his gaze wander around, and his eyes finally settled on his spear, lying on the wet path where he'd left it. He walked over and grabbed it up, smirking at the familiar weight as he twirled it from hand to hand. It had taken some practice to get used to fighting with the weapon, but Maxwell's instincts and memories had proven very useful in that department.

The spear came to a sudden stop at his side, and he turned towards the Palace, beginning to walk over. He hadn't gone more than a couple steps before he froze. He'd noticed something out of the corner of his eye. He turned very slowly, and he couldn't stop himself from licking his lips as his eyes fell upon the twin Avuir blades. They were lying on the path with Isaac's discarded bandolier. As the bangaa's eyes roamed over the worked weapons, the blue and red blades and silver and gold hilts and twin amethyst pommels.

The Worldwyrm remembered those weapons. They were the weapons that, centuries ago, the Hero Gaol had used in battle against him. He remembered the frustration of fighting against them keenly. The red weapon bit sharper than any dragon's claws, and the blue one had let the human move faster and survive more brutal attacks than any creature that small should've been capable of. Any warrior that carried those blades was a force to be reckoned with…

The Worldwyrm grinned slowly, and walked over to the two weapons. He snatched up the red blade with his free hand, and shivered as he felt the muscles in his wrists tensing. He slipped the sharp weapon into his belt next to the Materia Blade, and then reached for the silver hilt of the Avuir Blue.

He tensed as he gripped it, staring down at the blue steel. Even after all of the fighting and the mud, its flat side was smooth and reflective as a mirror. The bangaa blinked slowly, watching himself in the blue weapon.

The grimace on the bangaa's face slowly faded into a simple, neutral expression. He glanced over towards the palace, and then started walking towards the doors. As he drew closer, the bangaa glanced up, hearing something. Through the heavy doors, he could just make out the sounds of roaring, and occasional keens of pain. There were crashes and thumping, and he immediately knew that there was a fight going on. The odd part of it, though, was the soft sound that dominated all of the cacophony. It was a strain of music, being played on a violin.

Grans. So that's how they managed to get past the Queen's monsters. Well, he would deal with her.


Thomas leapt back. For the first half of a second, the jump was controlled; after that, there was a roar, and then the ground where he'd been standing burst apart. A shockwave of air rushed over the moogle, buffeting him and blowing his wings out backwards. He managed to land with one foot on the ground, but his ankle twisted awkwardly as he tried to keep his balance, and he collapsed.

The moogle rolled back, bouncing occasionally on the floor as the totema's steps sent vibrations through it. When he finally came up to his feet, Thomas turned to face Adrammalech, narrowing his eyes at the totema.

The great dragon pulled up short, watching the moogle carefully. Despite how long the two of them had been fighting, the totema didn't show any sign of tiring. There were a few small dings in Its scales, but they only made up very mild surface damage. Thomas wouldn't have believed that It had been fighting if it weren't for the aching in his muscles and the bruises and scrapes covering his skin.

Thomas took a very long moment, and then let his eyes flick over towards Famfrit again. The other Totema hadn't moved since he'd managed to stab It. It was breathing, but It still lay in the same growing pool of blood.

"You are impressive." Thomas returned his attention to Adrammalech as the voice of all bangaas spoke. The dragon was drawing Itself up again, preparing to attack. "It would be better for you to fold now, though. You grow weary."

"I've been weary since we started fighting, kupo," Thomas retorted, trying to sound more confident than he felt. "Surrender isn't an option, though. Surrender means death."

The dragon lowered Its head and narrowed Its eyes, preparing to charge. Thomas raised his knives, and was just settling into a crouch when there was a loud bang from behind him. He tensed, seeing Adrammalech's eyes rise up to look behind him. A look of surprise crossed Its face, and Thomas immediately turned on his heel.

The main doors leading into the throne room had been banged open. A tall figure, almost three times Thomas's height, stood there, its chest heaving. Rainwater was dripping from it, along with a few small splotches of blood that still needed to be washed clean. It held a long blue blade in its right hand, and its left arm was clutching a large bundle to its shoulder.

It took Thomas several long seconds to recognize the figure as Maxwell. As soon as he did, though, the moogle felt a horrible, yawning terror opening up in his guts. He watched as the bangaa shook his head a bit, shedding more water from himself, before he casually dropped the bundle from his left shoulder down to his side, and then let it fall to the ground. As the bundle splayed out, Thomas realized that it was Grans.

The bangaa began walking towards Thomas, slowly raising the Avuir Blue in his hand. It took the moogle a few breaths to remember to raise his knives, preparing for the bangaa's charge.

Even as his knives came up, though, the bangaa's weapon was slamming into them. The force of the blow forced Thomas's feet to slide a few feet back, and almost knocked the moogle onto his back. He staggered, his arms pinwheeling to keep himself standing as the bangaa came in for another strike.

The Avuir Blue came forward, and Thomas turned himself awkwardly out of its path. As Maxwell drew back from the attack, Thomas finally managed to set his feet underneath him. The moogle came around to face the bangaa and whipped a knife at him.

Maxwell brought the Avuir Blue up, and Thomas's missile clanged off of it. The moogle backed off as the bangaa advanced, both of them knowing that Thomas was probably too tired to handle a direct assault.

The two of them moved quickly, Thomas giving ground while trying to keep himself from being backed into a corner. The moogle had one dagger out, and was holding a knife in his other hand readied to throw.

Maxwell came forward in a sudden jab, and Thomas ducked beneath the blow. The moogle swept out at the bangaa's legs with his dagger, but the trained dragoon jumped over the slash easily. Thomas saw the bangaa in the air and turned, whipping his knife out at the airborne figure.

The Avuir Blue came around and picked the dagger out of the air easily. As Maxwell landed, he lunged forward, the blue weapon coming around in a sharp chop. Thomas backed up, raising one of his melee daggers to block the attack.

Metal rang off of metal, and Thomas cried out in pain as the weapon was torn from his grip. He staggered with the momentum of the strike, trying to regain his balance. As he heard the heavy thumping of Maxwell's footsteps, though, the moogle changed his tactics. He threw himself into the momentum, and jumped, launching himself away from the bangaa.

The moogle hit the ground in a crouch and rolled, coming back up to his feet. He turned on one foot, getting his remaining dagger back up as he turned to face the bangaa. Maxwell came on hard and fast, holding his blade in both hands. Thomas got his knife in the way to intercept it at the last second, but the strike nearly bowled him over. He turned desperately, trying to summon a throwing knife to keep the dragoon at bay.

As he came around to face Maxwell, though, all he found was a foot coming up. It slammed in under his chin, and the moogle's vision exploded with white spots as he flew up into the air. His body flailed for a few seconds as he flew, and he was dimly aware that his hands were no longer holding the hilts of his knives.

Pain erupted from his shoulder and down into his arm, and his momentum dropped sharply as he slid along the floor. He tried desperately to get his hands underneath him, still not sure where he'd landed.

Just as he managed to start pushing himself up, though, a heavy pressure settled on his chest. The moogle looked up, his vision still not fully focused. He knew even before the hulking mass above him leaned down that it was Maxwell, keeping a foot on his chest.

The dragoon moved his hand carefully, wrapping it around the juggler's neck. He squeezed down with his fingers just enough to keep the moogle in place, but not hard enough to actually restrict his breathing at all. Thomas stared as Maxwell leaned in ever closer, bringing his muzzle down until the moogle could feel the bangaa's hot breath on his face.

There was a moment of silence as their eyes met, Thomas trying to glare at the bangaa through the disoriented haze. Then, Maxwell spoke.

"Did the queen bring you back to life?"

Thomas blinked, and stared up at Maxwell in confusion. The bangaa was givng him the same intense look.

"Kupopo?"

"Did the queen bring you back to life or not?"

Thomas kept staring for a very long second. Then, his eyes flicked to the blue blade, and he remembered a time several years ago, when he was with Isaac at the edge of an icy cliff. He'd been freezing cold, already going into hypothermia, and he was exhausted from fighting. However, he remembered that as soon as he laid his hand on the silver hilt of the Avuir Blue, his mind had cleared, and the aching cold had lifted from his body slightly.

The moogle swallowed, and then muttered, "Is Isaac dead?"

The bangaa's eyes flickered, but otherwise he didn't move. "Yes."

There was another long moment of silence as both of them took in deep breaths, both of them being careful to prevent Adrammalech from seeing either of their reactions.

"The queen healed me. I was never dead, kupo."

Again, the bangaa made no visible reaction. He took a few deep breaths, still holding the moogle's throat tightly. When he spoke, his voice was just above a whisper.

"Are you ready, Thomas?"

If the queen spoke to him he would be dead. If the queen spoke to him he would be dead. If the queen spoke to him…

"Yes."

Without another word, Maxwell stood up. He pulled Thomas up with him, handling the moogle roughly. In a deft movement, he turned the moogle around, and pulled his arms behind his back. The bangaa wrapped his large fingers around the moogle's forearms; holding them together, but giving his wrists freedom of movement. Understanding this, Thomas carefully summoned two throwing knives, and held them concealed between his back and his arms.

Maxwell brought the Avuir Blue around to press against the moogle's throat, and then began walking, pushing as much as carrying the moogle. Thomas stumbled along, trying his best to not stumble and accidentally cut open his own throat on the blade. The two moved quickly and directly for the staircase leading up to the next level, not even pausing as Adrammalech fell cautiously into step behind them.

The trio went up the stairs, moving slowly so that Maxwell and Thomas could time their steps. Above, there were still the sounds of combat ringing out as steel screamed off steal and spells discharged. Throughout it all, Maxwell and Thomas kept their breathing steady, and moved at their gradual pace.

When the two of them stepped up onto the upper level, it took a moment for the combatants to notice them. Marche was in the middle of an intense exchange with Remedi, his knightsword ringing off of her battleaxe in quick movements. Occasionally, small flashes of white light erupted between the two weapons, and the battleaxe would pull away from the sword simmering. Throughout it all, the queen had an amused, if strained, look on her face. Occasionally, she left gaping holes in her defence, clearly intended to serve as traps for the paladin.

Marche remained steady, though. His eyes never blinked, and every movement of his sword was perfect. He knew which attacks he could block, and which ones he could dodge. Occasionally, he even let an attack through, and turned his body enough for his armour to deflect the blow.

As the bangaa and the moogle stepped up, there was a flash of light from off to the side, and then a jagged line of electricity leaped in and exploded against the surface of the queen's shield. Sparks burst from the invisible point of contact, scattering off away from the invisible force field. None of the electricity managed to pass through, but the force of the attack managed to send the Queen stumbling over to the side a step.

When the attack finally cut out, Guinness, the source of the energy, bent over double, gasping for breath. The queen half-turned towards him, but Marche was suddenly in her way again, keeping her distracted from the nu mou. As Marche crossed weapons with her again, Guinness fell back, wiping sweat away from his forehead. The nu mou took shelter behind a column, and then stood there, regaining his breath.

Maxwell and Thomas watched this exchange for a short while, Adrammalech standing just behind and to the right of them. Finally, the bangaa gave Thom a slight nudge, and the two of them moved towards the duelling pair.

Once they had crossed about half of the distance to the pair, Maxwell cleared his throat very loudly. Immediately, both the queen and Marche looked up, their eyes narrowing upon the advancing trio. There was a moment while the two of them caught their breath, their eyes still filled with the haze of battle. As they cleared, though, the queen's face cracked into a smile at the same moment that Marche's clouded over.

"It is done, then?" she asked, not even paying attention as Marche fell back, keeping his eyes on Maxwell and Thomas.

"It is done," Maxwell replied. "The Ultimate of the moogles is dead."

"Excellent," the queen replied, her smile widening. "Now, all that remains is to dispatch with Clan Nutsy, and then we can be done with this business once and for all."

"No."

There was a very long moment of confused silence as Remedi, Marche, and Adrammalech all stared over at Maxwell in surprise. Thomas felt the bangaa tensing behind him, and knew that the fight was about to begin anew. He wasn't sure what Max was planning, but hopefully it was something good…

"You said that once I struck down the last of the line of moogle Ultimates, you would bring my friends back to life. I have done as you asked; now it is time for you to uphold your end of the deal."

The queen's face went through a few very subtle shifts. Her surprised look morphed as her eyebrows lowered, and lines creased the edges of her mouth. "It takes time to revive the dead. I will have sufficient time once we've dealt with Clan Nutsy."

"Why do they even need to be dealt with, my queen? Now that the Ultimates of the moogles, the nu mou, the viera, and the humans are dead, it is nearly impossible for them to fulfil the Prophecy of Five Bloods. You are as good as invincible. You need not fear their interference. You have won the war."

"Not until they lie dead!" she snapped back. "They can still make this world imperfect! They can still make things difficult for Mewt!"

"You mean your son?" Maxwell asked. There was something odd about the way he corrected her, and Remedi certainly picked up on it as she immediately clarified.

"Of course my son. What are you trying to imply?"

"You seem more obsessed with ensuring that this world remains 'perfect' than with ensuring your son's happiness. It's an odd thing from his own mother."

There was silence for a good while after that. Everybody's eyes were trained on the bangaa, watching him, and waiting for his next move. He, however, simply stood there, keeping his blade pressed flush against Thomas's neck. The moogle was breathing heavily, staring at the queen. Fortunately, she was more preoccupied with the bangaa than him right now. At this range, all she had to do was say one word and…

"Maxwell," she suddenly said, her voice low. She spoke in a commanding tone. "Finish off Clan Nutsy and the traitor." She nodded down at Thomas, finally acknowledging his presence. "Once you have, I will bring your friends back to life. I swear that to you."

Thomas felt Maxwell tensing behind him again. When the bangaa spoke, his voice was rough, occasionally letting his hiss slip into it. "Tell me. Do you swear on the life of the princcce?" When the queen didn't respond, the bangaa slowly nodded. "You can't bring the dead back to life, can you? Eileen was right all along. Our only chance is to strike you down."

And then things started moving very quickly.

The queen lunged forward, her face a mask of rage as her battleaxe came around and down. Maxwell turned, and in a quick motion, he threw Thomas away from himself, towards Adrammalech. The great dragon was already drawing Itself up, preparing to charge.

Thomas got both of his knives out, and landed on his feet from the bangaa's throw only a few metres away from the Totema. He charged in at the dragon, hoping to catch It off-balance.

Maxwell turned back to the queen, and the Avuir Blue rose up. It intercepted the battleaxe, deflecting its blow. The bangaa stepped sideways, and then carefully moved around the queen, not even trying to strike at her force field. She turned, trying to follow him.

Thomas jumped as he closed with Adrammalech. The dragon swiped out at him, trying to slice at the moogle with Its enormous claws. Thomas turned himself in midair, rolling his body and grabbing onto the thickly-muscled wrist. He used the grip to pull himself up and onto the dragon's arm, placing him just short of Its face.

The queen got her axe into position, and then swung it back at Maxwell. The bangaa leapt back, letting the strike pass by, and then he charged back in, bringing the Avuir Blue around. Energy began building along its edge, and all of existence started leaning in towards the tip of the blue blade.

Thomas brought his free hand forward, and whipped a knife point-blank at Adrammalech's face. The dragon simply lowered Its head, and the hard scales along Its forehead deflected the weapon. As It brought Its head back upwards, It opened Its mouth, and Thomas saw a bright light gathering in the back of Its throat, preparing to rush upwards and consume him.

The queen tried to step back, but she was still off-balance from the powerful swing she'd made against the dragoon. As such, when Maxwell finally bellowed out, "Ultima!", her force field took the full brunt of the attack. Energy exploded from the point of contact, and all of the light and sound in the room dimmed for a moment as the blue weapon dragged along the solid, invisible surface. There was a long moment when everything seemed to freeze, and then suddenly everything returned to normal, and the queen was sent stumbling back, completely off-balance.

Just as that terrible light began pouring forth from Adrammalech's jaws, Thomas heard a voice crying out from just to the side. Out of the corner of his eyes, he saw dark energy flaring up from beside one of the pillars. Abruptly, the air all around the moogle and the dragon grew cold, and Adrammalech's eyes widened as ice abruptly formed in Its mouth. A massive hunk of ice filled Its mouth and wrapped partway around Its snout, effectively plugging Its mouth.

The queen fell back, knocked completely off-balance by the strike of Ultima. Two columns groaned, and their surfaces splintered slightly as her force field came into contact with them. She just managed to get her feet underneath her, and she turned to face Maxwell. Her eyes narrowed on him, and she started raising her axe again. She was just about to charge forward at him, but she stopped very abruptly, her eyes widening as she felt something wrapping around her left foot. She glanced down, and saw a black tendril reaching up and coiling around her ankle. She stared at it for a solid five seconds, not understanding. No power could penetrate her shield. She was the only thing that could let anything pass through… She blinked, and then stared up at Maxwell as she recalled. She'd given him a portion of her power. He was penetrating her shield by using her own power against her.

Thomas took the opportunity to leap back and off of the dragon's wrist as the great beast rocked Its head back and forth, trying to shatter the ice in its mouth. Just as It reached up to claw at it, though, Marche streaked in, his knightsword swinging in at the dragon's exposed side. Adrammalech staggered back a step, bringing Its powerful arms down to deflect the blow. Marche kept up his assault, forcing the dragon back step after step to keep the knightsword at bay.

Maxwell quickly summoned more tendrils, wrapping them around the pillars on either side of the queen for support. The inky blackness reached for her, passing through the shield as though it weren't even there. The queen thrashed, swiping out with her battleaxe at the approaching tendrils. She held out for a moment, but then one of them coiled around her right forearm. As it yanked that limb out to the side, her remaining arm and leg were quickly captured. She was yanked out spread-eagle, her eyes wide as she glared at Maxwell. All of her considerable muscles began bulging as she pulled at her shadowy bindings, already beginning to strain them with just her brute force. Knowing that he wouldn't have much time, Maxwell took a deep breath, and then focused on the Avuir Blue. He'd only ever done this with a spear before, but he figured the magic-attuned blade would pick up on it quickly. He was rewarded when the blue metal darkened somewhat, and then began dripping dark, oily shadows. He kept focusing on the weapon as he raised it, and began advancing on the queen.

Thomas stared, watching as Marche battered Adrammalech back step after step with powerful, brutal strikes. The dragon was moving sluggishly, having trouble lining up Its attacks with the added weight of the ice in Its mouth and the awkward angle it forced It to hold Its head at. Its powerful arms and sharp claws were useless for anything more than blocking attacks, or occasionally keeping Marche at bay for a second. Very quickly, It was backed up against one of the columns lining the room, and there It tried to make a stand. Much to Thomas's surprise, though, the paladin simply threw himself forward, dropping his sword. He didn't even try to strike at It; instead he just grabbed at Its arms, and through brute force managed to yank both of them up and to the left, keeping them at an awkward angle. For a second, the two of them stood there, struggling against each other. Then, quite abruptly, Adrammalech's entire body twitched, and Its struggles stopped. An instant later, a dark figure appeared, standing carefully between the paladin and the dragon. Marche stepped back, and the dark figure followed a moment later, ripping a katana dripping with dark blood free from Adrammalech's neck. Vili jumped back lightly on her feet, her chest heaving, and the dragon toppled over with a deafening crash.

The queen watched Maxwell carefully, observing all of his movements. He was stepping slowly, keeping his eyes fixed on the blade. It was clearly taking a lot of concentration for him to maintain the charge of her energy on the weapon. The spear she had given him had been specifically designed to amplify dark energy. The Avuir Blue was nowhere near as attuned. He couldn't maintain the charge necessary to actually strike at her while paying attention to everything going on around him. Slowly, she grinned, and glanced over at the axe still clutched in her bound right hand. It was made entirely of dark energy that she made. With a deft movement, she flicked her wrist. The weapon started falling, but then rose up on its own, guided solely by her concentration. She turned her gaze upon Maxwell. That smile on her face widened, her eyes narrowed, and she gave a slight nod.

In the silence after Adrammalech's collapse, there was a sudden sound of rushing air. Then, there was the horrific sound of flesh parting. Thomas turned away from staring at Marche and Vili and the totema's body, and he nearly fell over as he saw Maxwell.

The bangaa stood, swaying on his feet, with the Avuir Blue still clutched in his hands. The dark charge of energy he'd had on it had already disappeared. His eyes were no longer focused on the blue weapon, though. Instead, he was staring with dull shock at the massive, dark battleaxe, its head buried deep in his chest.

The only sound in the entire throne room was the bangaa's heavy, rough breathing. With each exhale, the sound grew more haggard and wet. Finally, after what felt like an eternity, the Avuir Blue dipped, and then slipped from his hands, clattering on the floor. He staggered back half a step, as though trying to keep himself standing. Even the queen didn't move as Guinness ran over towards the bangaa, the sudden movement seeming to have broken the spell on the nu mou. He grabbed the bangaa's arms as he went down to his knees, still staring at the axe embedded in his chest.

White light began building around Guinness, but it stopped a moment later as the nu mou shook his head. It was clear that it was only the nu mou's strength that was keeping the body from flopping over as he slowly laid it back, laying it out.

Thomas could feel his heartbeat in his ears, roaring in the silence of the throne room. His eyes were locked on the bangaa's body, entirely motionless. A pool of blood was beginning to grow out around him, staining Guinness's fine purple robes. Sure, he and Maxwell had never gotten along. In St Ivalice, Thomas had felt almost certain that he'd hated the larger boy. Even in Ivalice, he'd hated the bangaa's strength and confidence, and that cold, unfeeling look he could summon at a moment's notice. But still, Maxwell had been the last thing tying him back to St Ivalice. Suddenly, he was alone. Frighteningly alone, with nothing familiar left in the entire world.

"He was brave."

Remedi's voice echoed in the otherwise silent throne room, and Thomas, Marche, and Vili all turned to look at her. Guinness was still leaning over Maxwell, slowly reaching to close the bangaa's eyes.

"A brave, powerful fool. Regardless of who wins this war, they will sing songs about his—"

Her voice was lost as Guinness suddenly spun around and raised both of his hands. He roared out a command word for a spell, and lightning erupted from his palms, rushing forward in blinding lines towards the Queen. She didn't even react, waiting for her shield to take the blow. She was not the only one who was surprised when the bolts of lightning actually thundered in and slammed against her chest. She was thrown back by the electricity, and Guinness stood up, feeding more energy to his spell. The queen writhed in position for a moment, occasionally letting out a jittering scream of pain.

Abruptly, darkness burst outwards from her, washing out from the queen in a wave. It slammed into Guinness, and knocked him back half a step. The nu mou lost his concentration, and his spell cut out.

Remedi was already standing up again, holding a hand out as the last of the electricity arched in towards her. Abruptly, the energy bent and gathered in her open palm, concentrating there. It formed into a tight ball of writhing, blinding energy, trying to break free from her control. The queen herself looked wild; there were dark red burns drawn across her pale skin, and her red hair had broken free from its well-tended arrangement in places. Her eyes were wide and furious, and her voice thundered as she spoke.

"One nu mou, one viera, and one human during the War of Ambervale. One moogle out in the city at Maxwell's hand. One bangaa just now at my hand. The Prophecy of Five Bloods is fulfilled." Her chest heaved once, and then she roared out, "Beg for your lives."

She turned suddenly, and whipped out the hand that held the ball of energy. Lightning, tinged with Remedi's dark energy, rushed out from it in a straight line directly at Vili. The viera fell back a step, caught completely by surprise as the energy thundered in towards her.

Just as it would have hit her, Marche dove in front of her, holding his shield out in front of himself. There was a moment where he hung in the air, electricity coursing over the surface of his shield as he sheltered Vili from the spell. The shield slowly grew lighter and lighter, the steel going from blueish grey to red, to orange, before reaching a blinding yellow. The acorn design across the front of it fizzled, and then disappeared amongst the heat.

The shield burst, exploding into several pieces that went flying across the room. Marche called out, and was thrown backwards by the momentum. His body slammed into Vili, and the two of them fell in a heap.

Guinness had just managed to get up to his feet, and he stepped forward, beginning to gather his energy. He stepped over Maxwell's body, standing between it and the queen, and raised his hands.

The queen was suddenly in front of him. The words to his spell died in his throat, and his eyes widened in surprise as she rushed him. He fell over backwards in surprise, scrabbling to try and get a spell off.

In response, the queen simply raised her foot, and then brought it back down lightning fast on his kneecap. There was a horrendous crunch, and Guinness roared in pain. The queen kept her heel planted on his shattered knee, grinding her weight down upon it to keep him from escaping or concentrating on a spell.

It was at this moment that Thomas joined the fight. He rushed in, whipping a knife at the queen's head. She turned sharply, pulling her foot away from the nu mou. She raised a hand, and there was a flash of darkness as she deflected the missile.

Thomas kept the barrage up, summoning knife after knife and making sure there was a constant stream of missles heading for Remedi's face. He had to keep her moving, had to keep her from talking at all. One word was all it would take… one word…

Abruptly, she lunged forward, ducking beneath one of his knives. Thomas cried out in surprise as her hand reached out, and he tried to backpedal away from her. The slightly burned fingers came forward, and dug firmly into the cloth of his shirt. As they started pulling on him, he yelped out, and brought one of his knives down on instinct.

The queen screeched, pulling her hand back as a thin red line opened along her wrist. She hugged it to her chest for an instant, before looking up and glaring at Thomas.

Their eyes met, and Thomas felt a breath fill his lungs as he drew his hand back, a knife already in it. She was raising her uninjured hand, and he could see the muscles flexing as she raised one finger towards him. Adrenaline screamed through his veins as his hand whipped forward, nearly spraining his wrist as he tried to get that knife in the air.

As his hand arched forward, she opened her mouth. He closed his eyes, wincing and looking away as his fingers opened, and he felt the hilt of the knife leaving his hands at the exact same time as her voice rang out in his ears.

"Dispell."

As the knife spun through the air, there was an almost imperceptible ripple through the air, running from her over to him. It hit him in the chest without him feeling it, but he still staggered back, staring down at himself.

He looked up at the queen just in time to see the dagger slam into her chest. As she began falling back, though, his head rocketed back, his nose flattening against his face and blood spattering from his nostrils. As he started falling back, there was hideous cracking noise, and a dozen bones broke all across his body. The moogle took one last step back, placing him just on the edge of the stairs leading to the lower level. He teetered there for an instant, trying to maintain his balance.

Abruptly, he was thrown backwards, and his voice came out in a thin, wheezy whimper of pain as his chest opened, and blood splattered from him.

He fell through the air for a moment before his body hit the stairs, and he rolled. He didn't feel most of it; he was too far gone at that point to feel much of anything. His body flopped and rolled down, coming to a halt at the stairs.

He lay there, eyes wide, and chest heaving as it begged for air that wouldn't come. He could just feel blood dripping from his mouth, leaking from his nose, pouring from his chest.

It was just as the blackness was consuming that he heard footsteps running past him on the floor. He didn't pay them much attention; he was too focused on a second set of footsteps moving more slowly. He felt more than saw somebody kneeling down next to him, and a hand reaching down to grasp his shoulder.

Thomas, with the little bit of strength he had left, managed to turn his head. He couldn't raise it enough to see much, but what he did saw reached past the pain and the shock in his head. He saw a leg, bent in a crouch. The leg belonged to a moogle, and the fur was brown.