Cuttingmoon57 here, and back with another chapter of The Tainted Grimoire. Hope you enjoy!

Disclaimer: I do not own Final Fantasy or anything related to it. If I did, FF12 would already be getting a direct PS2 or PS3 sequel. I also don't own any other anime, manga, or game that I take elements or characters from.

Suggestion: Head to Final Fantasy Wikia for information or images of the main cast if you'd like to see pictures of their appearance. They remain virtually unchanged in my story. (Other non-canon characters will be described.)

"Blah" = talking

"Blah"= thoughts, writing, sound effects, or flashbacks

"BLAH"= Yelling

(Blah)= scene change

"Blah"= quote or short poem (cause I thought it would be nice. Poems are in Kubo Tite's blank verse style and are heavily influenced by him).


(Northern Part of the Caravan)

"GET DOWN NOW!!!"

Without hesitation, the family of four immediately followed the directions of the loud, feminine shout and fell to the dust ridden rock that comprised the ground. No sooner than they had dropped, a powerful, steel arrow shot directly over their heads, missing them by a hair's breadth. The projectile collided with the abdomen of a Baknamy, knocking the creature back at least a foot as a familiar crimson fluid spurted from the wound.

Though badly injured, the green monster desperately regained its composure and attempted once again to attack the family, pulling its fist back in preparation for a punch. The father found courage enough to turn around and try to guard his wife and children with his own body.

"Crap…" The young Hume woman cursed inwardly; hastily pulling out another metal arrow from her quiver and hoping against all hope that she would make it in time. The arrow rocketed out from her solid white Nail Bow with the same force as the last, holding all her rescuing intentions in its sharpened head.

Her hope was sorely misplaced, though, as the arrow only nicked the mask covered cheek of the goblin. The monster continued on undaunted, his form only inches away from the father's, when the massive head of sledgehammer connected with his own cranium in a way reminiscent of the swing of a baseball batter…

…who had just scored a home run…

"FOOORRREEE!!!"

The Viera swinging the blunt weapon called out while following through with her swing. The long-poled sledgehammer crashed through the abdomen of the Baknamy, the same spot where the steel arrow had lodged itself into its midsection, driving the projectile straight through the monster as well as knocking said beast high into the air. The creature flew a good twenty feet before landing, a small cloud of dust rising upon impact.

"Whew, I'd say that's a good twenty or so feet, wouldn't you Kirsa?" The adolescent Viera remarked with a childish smile, releasing an impressed whistle as she eyed the Baknamy sail away. She doned the uniform of Clan Falzen: the artistically woven ivory shirts, elbow length metal gauntlets, loose black pants tucked into armored black boots, and an ankle-length white cape with a hood draped down her back to complete the look. Her neck-length white hair and dark skin complimented her short stature, which was no more than five foot three.

"Forget that! Where the hell were you, Gertie!?" The bow wielding Hume female, obviously irritated at her partner's tardiness. In comparison to the young Gertie, she was much older, somewhere in her early twenties' and towering at six foot four inches. Much like the hammer wielding girl, she sported the traditional outfit of the Falzen as well. Her bright red hair stopped at her shoulders.

"Oh calm down, Cherry!" Gertie smirked, stressing the woman's handpicked nickname based off her vibrant crimson locks. "No harm done, right? They're all safe and sound." She slung her weapon over her shoulder, a sledgehammer attached with a handle longer than the length of her own body.

Kirsa sighed in unwilling agreement.

"Please return to your vehicle. It's much safer there." She ordered the family, who immediately did as they were told. The woman then approached her Viera clan mate and placed a hand on her shoulder. "Listen, Gertie, we are Clan Falzen, the most successful and disciplined female escorting clan in East Loar…we have a reputation to uphold, so no fooling around!"

"Alright, alright…" The young Viera sighed, before perking her ears up only a second later at the sound of a familiar woman's voice.

"Kirsa…" Andie Kelt called, approaching them from the path with a slight jog and brandishing a large, ornate knife in each hand. Gertie, upon seeing her leader, dropped her sledgehammer with a loud thud and embraced the blonde's midsection, burying her face into her abdomen. She ruffled the young girl's tresses while smiling. "Hey to you too, Gertie..."

"Commander, these Baknamy are everywhere. Can we really protect all these people…?" Kirsa asked with falling confidence, before Gertie interrupted her mid-sentence.

"Of course we will, Cherry. Nobody gets left behind while we're on the job!" The rabbit eared teenager remarked with her usual childlike naivety, releasing her superior and retrieving her sledgehammer with a bounce in her step.

"Well said, little lady..." The Clan Falzen leader agreed while chuckling. "…perhaps you could learn a thing or two from her?"

Kirsa simply huffed.

Suddenly, the soft but audible sound of a flute being played filled their area, the peaceful music echoing off of the rocky walls on each side of them. The three women scanned the area persistently after hearing the noise, though all were unable to locate the source. They all then gripped their respective weapons and assumed defensive stances.

"What was that sound?" Gertie asked.

The music began to fade, but was replaced by another more significant occurrence. From caves and other makeshift hiding places along the canyon's walls, Baknamy of varying heights gradually made their way down to the floor, hopping and pushing over obstacles before eventually encircling the trio.

"Is there no end to them!?" Kirsa proclaimed, the three girls backing up and forming a circle.

"Hmmm…" Andie pondered aloud, the monsters closing in one step at a time. "…nineteen versus three, huh…"

Her eyes narrowed at the goblin only yards in front of her.

"…Talk about bad luck…"

Chapter Twelve: BAD LUCK

"It's about time we got some action." Ensei exclaimed in eagerness, hopping from the cart with a midair twirl before landing next to the duo.

Cid looked to his left and right, noting a prepared Hunter and Parivir respectively, before facing ahead with an air of determination.

"Let's roll."

The Clan Gully trio shot off at an almost blinding speed to the others, darting in an out of the long chain of wagons that comprised the caravan in front of them. Cid, the slowest of the three, noted his Parivir companion's inhuman speed in comparison to his own; though this failed to surprise him in the least. Rather, Cheney's own agility, which the Rev attributed to the hunter's Blue Magic, surprised him far more.

Cid was glad at his clan mates' speed, as it would just allow them to take care of the problem with relative ease, the difficulty further downplayed by Clan Falzen's influence.

Unfortunately, he failed to notice a pair of piercing eyes overlooking his clan's wagon from the cliffs above…

…and the several pairs of eyes behind them…

"Well that's no fun…leavin' us behind like that 'n all." Sir Loin commented while hopping out of the wagon. Luso and Kanin followed him, the fighter turning around to help Hurdy down as well. "I was hankerin' for a lil' action as well."

A loud yawn from the direction of the cart alerted the group, before everyone realized there was no cause for alarm.

"What…she's still sleeping, even after all of that?" Luso asked in an annoyed tone, peering over the slumbering Adelle from the side of the wagon.

"Aye, lad." Loin answered. "These lil' naps of hers usually last even longer than this. There's a reason she's called 'Adelle the Cat'."

The brown haired boy simply sighed while Kanin giggled to herself.

A comfortable silence then pervaded the space of a fifteen minute margin, everyone wandering off to perform any needed tasks. Luso closed his eyes and began to muse on what Ensei had told him about Aura earlier that day. Kanin and Maria played with Auggie's Dreamhare.

Hurdy decided to play a tune for everyone, bringing out his Aona Flute and holding the instrument up to his mouth. He drew in a mild breath and placed his lips onto the flute, preparing to blow…

A loud musical sound pierced the relative silence over the area, most likely originating from some type of woodwind instrument. The shuffling of feet was then heard from the top of the cliffs above them, though that was drowned out by the sound.

"Ahh!" Luso yelled as most of the people around them covered their ears. "Don't you think that was a little off key, Hurdy?"

"But…that wasn't me, kupo…" The Moogle responded hesitantly.

"What? Who was it…?"

They swarmed in from the steep cliffs beside them, barely giving anyone time to react. Somewhere between twenty to thirty green, humanoid monsters with worn, dingy clothing and grey breathing apparatuses attached to their faces surrounded the clan's wagon in the blink of an eye. Out of those few dozen, however, one was significantly different in terms of color, with purple skin and a gilded mask. Mixed in with them were a variety of brown-hued wolves. All Baknamy and canines were all in attack-ready positions.

"Ah, what's going on?" Auggie questioned dreamily, waking up from a small nap after dozing off recently. He scanned the Mist traces around him. What he assumed was Sir Loin, Kanin, Maria, and Hurdy checked out just fine, if the size differences and shapes the Mist inside them took was any indication. The figurative Mist blind spot that was Luso was also quickly recognized as was Adelle Mist signature.

Though the Nu Mou was quite perplexed about the other two dozen Mist signatures surrounding them…

"Stay in the cart, Auggie…Maria…" Loin commanded over his shoulder to the two. "…and see if ya can wake Adelle." Maria did as she was told, scooting over to the slumbering cat-themed girl and nudging her shoulder repeatedly.

The Seeq turned back to the Bard, the White Mage, and the new Fighter.

"Don yer weapons, boys and girls..."

Without a moment's hesitation, Luso, Kanin, Hurdy, and Sir Loin each drew their respective bladed weapons, staffs, and instruments. The Lanista of the group narrowed his eyes slightly, sizing up the monster group's manpower with a quick glance.

"…Look's like we got us a brawl after all…"

(With Cid, Ensei, and Cheney)

"Air Render!"

"Sonic Boom!"

"Iai Blow!"

What once was massive forty Baknamy, Wolf, and Luchorpan front line barring the Gully trio now contained a sizeable gap amongst its formation due to the combined efforts of the three. Cid charged into the gap left behind and released another Air Render which plowed into two more beasts. Unfortunately, this action caused the monsters to close in around him.

Two Baknamy rushed the blond Revgaji from opposite sides, the group of beasts apparently attempting size up their foe. The Rev stretched his arms out and caught each goblin's fist in his respective hand.

"Whirlwind…"

The creatures struggled to break his grip, but it was all too late. Cid made a large spin to his left, gripping each monster's fist tightly as he continued to pick up momentum with subsequent rotations. The Rev then released his grip while spinning, causing the Baknamy to be flung back into the crowd.

"This is getting us nowhere!" Cheney proclaimed to his allies, popping off a few more arrows into some nearby wolves.

"We know." Ensei replied. "But it's not like we can just leave them here and go ahead..."

A musical tone resounded suddenly in the far off distance, alerting the White Monk, Parivir and Hunter.

"Aye, Ensei!" Cid called out, throwing out a few more devastating punches at the monster horde. "What was that sound?"

"Not a clue, but it came from the direction of Luso and the others." He replied. "You think it may have been Hurdy?"

"Doubt it. Hurdy's a much better musician…" Cheney added with a chuckle.

"Either way, we have to clear these guys out fast…" Ensei remarked with a serious air, holding out his blade in front of him as if taking a kendo stance. "Get out of the way, you two…"

After turning his attention toward the samurai, Cid's eyes widened as he recalled what the man was about to do next. The Revgaji then began clearing his way through the monster crowd, dodging punches and bites while laying out blows wherever he could. His main focus, though, was to escape from the center of the group, where he was certain Ensei would strike.

"Yeah…that should be enough to use it now…" The bearded man remarked inwardly, taking note of the bright yellow glow the blade of his Saishuu Kirihana emanated. He released a deep breath from his lungs and concentrated, holding the katana out in front of him perpendicular to the ground and rotating his wrist, the sword circling with it. The monsters looked on, before a sizeable group of ten decided to charge the Parivir in his moment of stillness.

The beasts drew ever closer as Cid and Cheney sped out of the ever imminent line of fire. The Revgaji new what was about to come.

(With Luso and the others)

"Come on, Ms. Adelle. Please wake up." Maria pleaded, nudging the silver haired girl's side in desperation. Auggie sat beside her in the wagon, peering over the female's shoulder.

"Hrah!!! Off with ya!"

Sir Loin swung his Greatsword Xankbras in a wide, right to left arc parallel to the rocky ground beneath him. The action slashed through the chest cavities of two Baknamy and the jaws of a wolf, quantities of blood spurting forth from each creature. The rest of the monsters surrounding them put a few feet of distance between the Seeq and themselves.

Luso smacked the side of a wolf's head with the flat of his sweep blade, causing the canine to stumble over and loose a few of its teeth in the process.

"Hurdy! Battle Chant me!" The boy barked as two more wolves charged his position. The pom-pom sporting musician, standing behind Sir Loin, did as he was told and played out a rather lively tune on his flute. A small red glow surrounded the Fighter as the muscles in his arms and legs began to visibly tighten under his yellow, sleeveless overalls.

It was obvious to Kanin that Luso, Hurdy, and Cheney's group training sessions in Camoa were now about to show the fruits of their labor.

The two wolves sprinted in, each aiming for one of his arms. Luckily, Luso had experienced combat with canine monsters like this back in Targ Wood. He played the footage back in his mind whilst the creatures drew ever closer, his Atmos and Sweep Blades held out in front of him.

One wolf escaped from its forward momentum and shot off to the right in mid-run, leaving the second wolf fanged dog slowing down in its continuing straight charge. It then began to swivel around in an effort to rush his side, the second canine now speeding up to match its pace.

"A joint-flank attack, huh?"

The brown haired boy kept his position, waiting in earnest for the monsters. The bee-lining second wolf got to him a split-second earlier than the first, an action which played out well for the Fighter in the long run. Luso sidestepped the dog with the skill of twelve years of kendo training. The second canine attempted to shift its weight and grip him with its incisors, but that idea was silenced as the first collided into its side, unintentionally digging the claws of its forepaws deep into its flesh.

Luso backpedaled for a few seconds until he reached Kanin's proximity, his eyes focused on the hound's collision. He had been half expecting, half hoping that the two would collide, but the eventual fight the two dogs had was more than he could have wished for. The two actually ended up taking each other out of the fight, clawing and biting the others body into a state of paralysis from injuries.

"Nice work, lad." Loin commented, taking another swing at another group. "Didn't even have to dirty yer hands."

"Thanks." He replied curtly yet sincerely, preparing for the next small wave. His muscles were still tensed from the Hurdy's musical enchantment.

"HELP!!!"

Maria's scream echoed throughout the area before abruptly ceasing strangely, as if being drowned out by an outside force. Everyone's heads shot around toward the source of the scream. A soft lullaby resounded around the wagon, accompanied with a multitude of transparent astral projections in the form of common sheep. The ghostly lambs began to glow and soon the girl collapsed onto the cart's floorboards, loosing consciousness.

"Sheep Count! Everyone cover your ears!" Sir Loin roared, everyone except for Auggie and the slumbering Adelle heeding his command.

The astral sheep also surrounded Auggie, though he failed to blackout like the girl had. A magical, hexagonal-type cylinder was projected around his form, and from the outside, he seemed completely unaffected inside.

"Astra?" Loin queried inwardly. "When did that guy get an Astra up?"

The Nu Mou climbed off the wagon and scurried away from Sir Loin and the others as far as his old age would allow him, covering his ears as he did. He knew for a fact that his Astra wouldn't hold up for much longer and with so little Mist in this section of the trail, he was pretty much useless in this fight as it was.

"Perhaps I should have taken up Beastmaster training." He remarked, managing a slight chuckle. His Dreamhare hopped only inches behind him. "I'll leave this fight to all of you."

"Kanin! Hurdy! Go after him and watch him." Sir Loin commanded, the musician and White Mage following his orders. Around ten or so of the monster squadron began to chase after the three. The Seeq was about to warn them when suddenly, another four Baknamy and decorated Luchorpan descended from the cliffs and onto and around the wagon. Though similar in body structure to regular Baknamy, the four were all more extravagantly decorated with stolen jewelry and all carried different types of shields. Atop the purple-skinned Luchorpan's shoulders was a gray-furred Moogle Animist with flute in hand.

All eyes turned toward the Moogle, before he performed a sharp snap of his fingers. The Luchorpan reached down below it and lifted the unconscious Maria up with a single arm effortlessly, a testament to its strength.

"Sorry, I must be off gentlemen." Proclaimed the Moogle cockily. "The Lady does have an appointment to keep after all, kupo."

The Luchorpan lowered itself in a crouch, preparing for its inevitable jump up the cliff face. Luso, Sir Loin, and Kanin all abandoned what they were doing and began dashing towards the purple goblin, but it was already too late.

Slash!

The Luchorpan's sinewy arm that was holding Maria dropped to the wagon's floor in an instant, said girl dropping with it. Green-hued blood spewed forth as it let out a disturbing shriek from the pain and hopped from ledge to ledge up the cliff face, leaving behind its four, shield bearing lackeys. The Moogle atop the beast scowled as he eyed the single perpetrator.

"Sorry, that appointment will have to wait."

Yellow eyes flashed, silver hair glistened, a combat knife shimmered in the sun, and a black cat's tail waved in a small wind as it rested atop the girl's shoulder. Every non-monster figure stared at her with either relief, admiration, or fear.

"Never thought that Adelle the Cat would be one of this girl's bodyguards…" The Animist muttered aloud from his safe position. "How did you escape the Sheep Count?"

Said girl turned and raised her head towards him, a confident smirk crossing her face as the ribbon in her hair glowed while swaying with the small draft.

"Who knows…guess it's just your bad luck, huh?"

A furious look crossed the Animist's face as he brought his flute to his mouth.

"Perhaps…" His voice was calm. "Unfortunately…I don't believe in luck."

He blew into the flute and produced the same sound that he had previously, before vanishing in a bluish-white light from the shoulders of armless Luchorpan.

"Of course…the bastard had Faerie Shoes…" Sir Loin grumbled inwardly. His thoughts were then silenced as the remainder of the large squadron of wolves and Baknamy began to grow more violent at the sound of the flute, growling and howling at the party.

"So that Moogle was the one controlling them?" Luso realized, assuming a defensive stance like the rest of them. "We need to go after him."

"Later, boy." The Lanista commented. "Now, we focus on the task at hand."

The remainder of the swarm of monsters began to prepare for a rush on their position. Luso and Sir Loin stared down ten or so Baknamy and wolves, while in the wagon Adelle prepared for the assault of the four shielded Baknamy surrounding the wagon.

"Come and get it, boys." The silver haired girl remarked cockily.

The four shield bearing goblins charged from each major direction at once, hoping to press her between their shields. The agile girl leapt with a back flip high into the air, completely avoiding the attack and positioning herself above the green, humanoid monsters. As gravity took its course and she plummeted down feet first, the instinctively raised their shields above them, creating a makeshift roof.

"First, let's get the lady out of there." The girl thought to herself while still midair, reaching into her back pocket and retrieving a gray, spherical object. With a sharp toss, the orb landed in a gap between the shields and rolled down them like a marble, landing on the wagons floor. She landed directly in the center of the four shield roof, just as her gray orb took effect.

The ball exploded and produced nothing but ivory-tinted smoke, completely enveloping the wagon and the movements of all inside. In between dealing with whatever creatures came his way, Luso managed to sneak a look over to her. He could make out various noises and the distinct ringing of knife clashing against shield. A few seconds later, and two separate figures rushed out of the smoke, leaving holes in the large, billowing grey cloud.

First, the clan's chocobo shot out and scurried to any safety it could find. Luso assumed that its harness had either been unhitched or slashed in frenzy, the latter of the two making more sense. The second was merely a silhouette of a female with cat ears carrying a body while leaping out gracefully from the smoke. The silhouette became clearer, though, as it landed only a few feet in front of the boy.

"Nice to see you again, Luso." Adelle proclaimed, holding a sleeping Maria in her arms and flashing him a smirk. The smoke around the wagon began to clear, thanks to another slight draft pouring over the area. It revealed the four Baknamy, all searching around for the girl frantically.

"Go take her someplace safe." The brown haired fighter ordered, bringing his two blades in front of him. "I'll handle these guys."

"That won't be necessary." She replied.

"What? Why not?"

The Baknamy spotted the trio and immediately began climbing out of the wagon towards them.

"You'll see in…two…one…"

The following moments after that left everyone in a stunned state as their eyes glanced over to the clan's wagon…

Well…what was left of it after it had exploded.

Luso's eyes widened with fright as the pungent stench of burning wood and Baknamy flesh became more prevalent with each passing second and the light of the flames danced across the evening ground.

"You blew up our wagon…?" The shocked disbelief echoed in his voice.

"Well....I'd like to think of it more as…saving a life…"

(Meanwhile)

"And that's how you take out the trash..." Ensei remarked coolly, letting out a calming breath whilst resheathing his katana back into its holster. A large, smoldering imprint lay before him on the ground, the remains of the attack leaving the ground charred in front of him with small columns of leftover Mist billowing forth from it.

Cheney and Cid poked their heads out from the rock they had hid behind and began to survey the area. The technique was apparently devastating, the path of the attack having cut a large swathe through the ranks of the beasts. Most, if not all of them lay either dead or badly burned and whatever was not too injured had already begun to escape in sheer terror. From what the Hunter could tell, though, the burns were not the results of flames.

His memories shot back to the night of the poaching operation bust, more importantly the mild Mist burns on Kanin's hands after she had strained herself healing the Mamatrice. Though similar in some ways, the White Mage's burns and the ones on the monsters were strikingly different.

It was the first time that Cheney had ever seen Saishuu Kirihana's First Dance, and it had been unlike anything he had seen before.

"Cid…what was that just now…?" The huntsman asked, his eyes focused on the damage that lay in front of him.

"You're a Mist user, are you not, Cheney?" The blonde Rev queried with a serious air.

"At times…" The brown haired bowman answered. "Only my blue magic requires it."

"I see…." Cid's voice was low. "There was a rumor that I had heard in passing, though I paid it no heed. But now…it seems that it could very well be true…"

The White Monk continued on, turning towards the Hunter.

"No matter what the circumstances…make sure you never come into contact with the blade of that sword….or it will eat you alive…"

Cheney could not tell whether Cid had meant that figuratively or literally, but something told him that he was better off not knowing.

"You guys can come out now. It's safe." Ensei called, waving curtly to them. The bowman and the Revgaji came out from behind their hiding place and made their way towards him. Cheney eyes locked onto the Parivir's hands, which had similar burn marks on them…just like those of the dead monsters. "Oi, Cheney. You got any Ethers or anything?"

The huntsman nodded and tossed him a small, palm-sized bottle from his bag. The bearded man hungrily chugged down the green fluid after uncorking it, downing the entire drink in one gulp. He tossed the empty bottle back to the Cheney, who placed it back in his bag as was his policy with items. Why throw it away when they could possibly refill it later?

"I'll probably have to see if Kanin can heal these later." He said, looking down to his hands.

Suddenly, a powerful shiver ran up and down the spines of both Cid and Ensei.

"I don't think it's getting that chilly out here." Cheney joked lightly.

"I'm not cold." Ensei retorted. "I just got the feeling that something terrible happened…like…like…"

"…like I just lost a major investment?" Cid's words neatly finished Ensei's thought process.

"Yeah, that's the feeling." The katana wielding warrior agreed.

"Well, it was probably just your imagination." The Hunter assured. "I mean, what are the chances?"

Ensei and Cid glanced at each other before simultaneously shrugging. Cheney was probably right…

…Oh how wrong he was…

(With the rest of Clan Gully)

"I still can't believe you blew up our wagon…"

"Well....I'd like to think of it more as…saving a life…"

"IF YOU GUYS DON'T MIND, WE COULD USE SOME HELP HERE!" Sir Loin roared, his Xankbras arcing downward and leaving a chest length gash on the front of a Baknamy. Two more monsters, another goblin and a wolf, took either side of him and charged, the goblin grabbing his left arm and the wolf sinking its teeth into his right side's flesh.

Luso instinctively made a bee line toward the Seeq, the effects of Hurdy's Battle Chant still influencing his body. The boy perceived the wolf as the greater of the two threats and veered himself towards it. The wolf, though seeing the Fighter coming, bit even harder into Loin, the portly Lanista letting out a horrid scream.

Luso stopped just as he reached the wolf, avoiding a collision into the side of the beast. He brought both of his blades above him and swiftly plunged them into the wolf's fleshy tissue. A painful howl erupted form the canine's maw as it dislodged its teeth from Loin's side and slumped down onto the ground.

With the canine gone, Loin could now focus on the Baknamy, which was thrown off of him within a moment's notice and neatly cut by his Greatsword.

The Seeq placed his hand onto his side and covered the bite wound, falling onto one knee in the process. Adelle jogged over to his side, gently laying Maria down on the ground next to him. The silver haired girl examined the wound closely after moving hand. The bite wasn't too deep, but it had penetrated his dermis, the most painful layer of the skin.

"Smart move, Luso." Adelle commented inwardly. "If you would've pushed the wolf off, it would've torn the flesh off of dad too."

"Is it serious?" Luso asked while staying ever vigilant.

"He'll be alright." She uncorked a potion and handed it to the Seeq, who then downed the concoction hastily. "Go find Kanin and the others. I've got everything under control over here."

"Right."

……………………………..

A Baknamy swung his fist at Kanin, who ceremoniously parried the punch with her staff. Then, using the momentum of her following twirl, smacked the goblin dead center in the head with the crook of her staff.

Hurdy and Auggie kept a healthy distance from the front line of the battle. With the lack of Mist in the region, the Sage was as good as useless and Hurdy was supplying his White Mage clan mate with a Battle Chant.

"Auggie, how many more are there?" Kanin asked, landing on top of a wolf after a high jump. The Nu Mou surveyed the area with his 'sixth sense', counting around nine Mist signatures which he assumed were monsters.

"I'd say nine…" He hesitated for a moment. "Wait! There are two more heading directly this way…and they're quite large."

"What!?"

The moment Kanin let her guard down, a wolf pounced at her, drool flying from its mouth as it drew ever closer. The girl had hardly any time to turn around when…

"Fire…"

Without warning, the canine erupted in a short burst of flames, scorching through its hide. It followed the stop, drop, and roll principle; rolling along the ground in a desperate attempt to put the fire out before it passed out from the pain. The smell of charred flesh overtook the area.

"Who's there!?" Kanin called out as she and Hurdy looked around.

A single Paladin brandishing a beautiful Knightsword and a Black Mage with rod and gray covered book in hand descended from the cliff face surrounding them. All eyes were locked onto the two figures as they approached the group, a refined air around them.

"Are all of you alright?" Raven queried, his Save the Queen shimmering in the evening sun.

"Ah, Raven, was it?" Auggie responded while turning his head in the direction of the Mist signature. "All of us are quite healthy, though a tad exhausted."

"Hmm…I see…" The Paladin's eyes darted over to the group of eight remaining monsters, some trembling and stepping back in fear at the sight of him. "Say no more."

He snapped his left hand fingers curtly.

"Crow…dispose of these vile beasts…"

Silently, the Black Mage closed the small, gray colored book he was reading and placed it into a bag on his person. He stepped forward in front of the group and raised his rod above his head while simultaneously grabbing an Ether from his bag with his left. He downed the magic replenishing fluid, tossing the vacant bottle to the side, and in a still, quiet voice he said…

"Thundara."

A bright yellow, mystical energy began to gather above the heads of the cluster of monsters, glowing more radiant with each passing second. Suddenly, the Magic was released in what could most simply be called a bolt of lightning.

And judging by the painful roars from its targets, a powerful bolt at that...

Hurdy and Kanin both winced slightly as the lightning spell decimated the bodies of four monsters: two Baknamy and two wolves. The remaining four monsters stared in shock at the raw power of the bolt, before giving into instincts of self preservation and escaping with their lives.

"Is everyone okay?" Luso called out breathlessly, approaching the group after a long sprint. "Was that lightning before!?"

"Hey, Luso!" Hurdy exclaimed. "We're alright. Mr. Raven and Mr. Crow saved us."

"Really? Thanks, you two."

"Don't bother mentioning it; Crow did all the work." The Paladin admitted, gesturing to his partner.

Luso cleanly sheathed both of his blades and approached the Black Mage, holding out is hand in front of him. The yellow eyed silhouette that was Crow's face watched the boy's outstretched hand as some sort of odd gesture. The Mage, keeping silent, simply walked around the Fighter and passed Raven's side, taking out his book once again.

"What's his problem?" The Grimoire keeper thought aloud as Kanin, Hurdy, and Auggie came closer to him.

"Take no offense. He is just the anti-social type." Raven half whispered to the boy before walking after his partner. "Now where is Lady Maria?"

"She's with Sir Loin and Adelle. Don't worry, she's safe." Luso assured.

"Alright, lead me to her."

Everyone gathered themselves up, Luso offering a hand to Kanin who was quite worn out from the battle and Hurdy taking Auggie's hand as a sort of 'seeing eye Moogle'. It was after a few seconds of traveling that a certain thought returned to Luso's mind.

"I'm probably going to have to explain what happened to the wagon…"

(Northern Part of the Caravan)

"That seems like the last of them." Andie Kelt proclaimed, advancing towards Sothe who sat on a single large stone.

"What's the damage report?" The green haired caravan leader queried.

"We've lost about five wagons to the attack. Some passengers were wounded, but there were no casualties."

Sothe exhaled a sigh of relief.

"That's good. I suggest we move quickly to the Jade Wood and regroup. Make sure to spread the word throughout the convoy."

The Falzen commander performed a curt nod, preparing to walk away when she felt a firm hand grip her shoulder.

"I don't believe that this was simply a random attack..."

Andie continued to face forward.

"Explain…"

"I'm positive you noticed it also, but these monsters…they were all controlled by something…someone…"

"…music?"

"So you heard it too?"

"Indeed. Every time that these monsters attacked, someone was playing what sounded like a woodwind instrument." She proclaimed. "But the question is…who was the musician?"

Sothe paused for only a moment. Something told him that he would regret what he was about to suggest.

"Clan Gully…there was a Moogle in their clan…he had a flute."

Andie turned towards the convoy leader with a sharp twist, their eyes meeting each other's pupils.

"And also…Cid and his reinforcements never arrived to help. Don't you find that odd?"

Her gaze softened.

"As the leader of this caravan, it's not wise for me to be biased. If there's even the slightest chance, then I have no choice…and as your employer, you have no choice as well…"

She remained quiet for a few moments, her eyes now unable to face his. He quietly walked away from her, returning to the smooth rock he had previously sat upon. A grim look crossed his face as he stared towards the ground, his arms supporting his head.

"Tonight…bring me that Moogle…"

A startling declaration from Sothe! What will Andie do?

(End Chapter Twelve)

Character Corner

(Andie Kelt)

Job: Fighter/ Paladin

Height: 177 cm

Weight: 128 lbs

Race: Hume

Hair Color: Blonde

Eye Color: Yellow

Skin/Fur Color: Tan

(Gear)

Weapon: Sun Blade and Sun Blade

Helm: Barrette

Armor: Minerva Bustier

Shoes: Spiked Boots

Accessories: Empyreal Armband

(Likes and Dislikes)

Favorite Animal: Cat

Favorite Food: Anything Sweet

Favorite Drink: Lemon Berry Tea

Fears: Failing to protect a client. Losing a comrade.

Association: Clan Falzen (Leader)

Favorite Color: White

(Trivia)

-Andie Kelt and Clan Falzen are based off of the original Clan Falzen from the Shonen jump manga Double Arts. I thought it a waste that such cool character designs and concepts go to waste, so I incorporated them into the story. Her name is a combination of Commander Kelt, the Double Art's Falzen leader, and Andie Frau, its newest member. (All credit goes to Double Art's author for their creation)

Author's Notes

Alright, a little over six thousand words total isn't bad for an update, huh? Once again, trying to update sooner, but I've been swamped with homework lately.

Until next time, see you.