Any beliefs expressed throughout my story are not my own. They are simply unique to the characters and their personalities. Just wish to clarify that.

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.

"Blah" = talking

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

"BLAH"= Yelling

(Blah)= scene change


Baron Beltorey pedaled down the grand staircase into the main dance hall of his Chateau, taking in the sight of it all while he attempted to reign in the disorderly state of his outfit.

He reached the bottom soon, into the delicate professional hands of two female seamstresses waiting there for him, one middle aged Hume and the other a kindly elder Nu Mou. Both had been with him for quite some time, always assembling and mending his outfits. Never letting him so much as leave the house without 'looking the part' of the Baron of Grazton. He couldn't complain, though. They'd always been there to chat with him, and even give him different perspective in some of his executive decisions.

With a nod from both women and a pat on the back, the Baron veered to his left and through a set of double doors. Lying within was a medium sized meeting room, spacious enough to accommodate the fifty or so reporters and journalists that had come to get the scoop on the kidnapping incident.

Just like he thought. This was going to spread like wildfire.

Voices called out repeatedly, earnestly as he made his presence known and moved towards the stage at the head of the room. Three scarlet lounging chairs were placed there, two of them already occupied.

In the first sat a beautiful Viera with long, snow white hair, her figure wrapped in a forest green dress. To the side of her stood a Nu Mou Scholar, quiet and taciturn. Beltorey gave a gracious bow to Francesca and Coryn as he ascended the stage. The second, also, was a familiar face. Deep blue, shoulder length hair framed cerulean eyes and the porcelain skin surrounding them. As usual her dress was some pattern of purple and white, this time the former with flowery designs of the latter. The Baron made a mental note to have his seamstresses whip her up something different one day.

He gave a bow to her as well, and Illua von Zoldycke returned with a respectful nod.

The interview session began as he took his seat, and all three were met with a flurry of questions. Not that he could blame the reporters. This was probably going to be the biggest story of the year.

Surprisingly, Illua received the first question after the group had been quieted down. "Lady Illua. Upon further investigation of the crime scene, a number of reports have confirmed that the kidnappers took refuge in one of your company's old warehouses. Do you have anything to say at this?"

"Highwind Shipwright hasn't had affiliation with that particular warehouse in many years." She explained calmly. "We had since moved operations to more profitable locations like Moorabella and Flugoris. Though, had I known our company's past property would be defiled by brigands and thieves, I'd have torn it down myself." Everyone's faces seemed pleased by the answer. "Still, what's done is done. I'll have it demolished immediately."

"Not so fast." The Baron interrupted, and all eyes turned to him. "There is no sense wasting a building with such good structural condition. If you would allow it, Lady Illua, I would like to take personal ownership of the property. I have a mind to convert it into something useful for our community."

His suggestion was met with applause, and Illua gave him free reign to do as he wished with it. In truth, the Baron hated making deals like that in the public eye. To him, it made it seem like an action was done to improve his standing rather than for the good of the people. She'd already agreed to tear it down, though, so no back room deal would have sufficed.

The meeting raged on, questions no focused mostly on the Baron. His experience, how the kidnapping played out, the identity of the captors. The latter, amongst other information, he didn't feel he was at liberty to reveal, and so only dissuaded such questions with the vocal equivalent of a shrug. In truth, he knew Khamja's influence in the ordeal, but he wasn't certain if now was a good time to expose them. Not until he found out more information on them.

One reporter brought up a particularly interesting question. "For Lady Francesca. Reports reveal that one of your company's ships, the Mercantile 05, was commandeered and stranded in the middle of the harbor the same night of the Baron's rescue. Do you believe there is any connection between these events?"

The Viera didn't hesitate. She'd prepared for something like this to be brought up. "I would not rule it out. Both the degree of damage and the complete absence of cargo point to pirate involvement, which Grazton is notorious for. A small band of them could have succeeded, since the captain on board was the only one equipped to deal with an attack. Who is to say their main force wasn't the group that kidnapped the Baron? He would fetch quite the ransom."

Quill pens scribbled down the insightful perspective furiously. The Baron was told of Cheney, Anrias, and Vili's sting on the ship and the reasons behind it, but he surmised the Viera wouldn't be aware of that. Or perhaps she did know somehow, and was covering for them? His eyes widened ever so slightly, but he schooled them back. She had to have some knowledge of the poached cargo on that ship. So who exactly was she covering for?

Before he had time for further conjecture, the final allowed question had been taken and the room hushed to hear it. From the stage, Beltorey could see a Nu Mou hop onto the chair so he could see over the crowd, and his lips parted into a smile at seeing the man's familiar face.

"For Baron Beltorey." Anrias began, managing a grin of his own. Even under the gaze of Francesca silently warning him not to reveal anything he shouldn't. "We've heard almost everything on your hardship, the possible identity of your captors, and a few of your future plans. But the people of Grazton….no, of the Loar Republic, want to know. Who was it that braved the storm and rescued you?"

The Baron's smile evolved into a smirk. He levered himself out of his chair, walking to the very edge of the stage to proclaim. "Clan Gully. That's who."

Spreading the news!


Kain Kimahri

Sun, Moon

No matter which one's up

It's always a good time for killing

Chapter Sixty: Head to Horn


"Thank you, Belmont, for arranging this press conference." Francesca said, walking side by side the Baron as he guided her to his front door. Coryn walked a little ways behind them, and nearly all the reporters had since returned to spread the news around their offices. "It is a relief to have cleared up any misunderstandings."

"Indeed." He responded with a bow, pulling the door open for her in a show of courtesy. "And about your proposal. I would be more than happy to sell some land in the Zeldei Forest to you. I'll have the paperwork drawn up as soon as possible."

She nodded in thanks, then signaled for Coryn to follow her. The two spared the man one last farewell before moving through the courtyard. It'd been four days since the attack and subsequent kidnapping, and the manse as a whole was finally beginning to get back into shape, the duo noticed. Statues cleaved by intruders' swords were being replaced by delivery men as they walked by. Windows were treated in a similar manner. Unfortunately there was nothing to be done just yet about the blood stains on the grass.

Francesca looked up as she reached the wrought iron front gate. Two guards standing outside eased the gates open for them, but what had caught her eye was the luxury gondola anchored in the canal before them. The vessel was sized more like a water carriage, painted a solid black with gilded embroidering. Crimson red curtains shielded the interior from eavesdropping eyes, but one could make out the faint silhouette of a head within.

The shirtless rough Bangaa standing on the sidewalk before the craft, presumably its pilot, gave them his best attempt at a bow before speaking. "Greetings, Lady Francesca. My benefactor has provided an escort for you." Both stood still at the revelation, and finally Coryn inquired further.

"We have no prior knowledge of any escort. Who is this benefactor you speak of?"

The Bangaa turned in response, ascending the boarding ramp and pulling back the crimson curtain. A strand of Whisperweed could be seen sticking out from his right ear. "She awaits you within."

Coryn hesitated at the answer and opened his mouth to demand more information, but he stopped as Francesca wordlessly moved forward. She looked over her shoulder, once again motioning for him to follow, and he sighed in defeat.

They entered soon after and were met with an even more extravagant inside than the exterior already suggested. Lush, silken pillows lay strewn about a polished, mahogany floor. Velvet seat cushions surrounded the perimeter, encircling a large coffee table holding tea sets and incense jars which immediately assaulted their senses.

Illua von Zoldycke sat on one of the left cushions, taking a sip of this tea. "I've been waiting for you two. Come, take a seat." She said without looking to them. A pause followed, and eventually the duo suspiciously took their seat on the opposite side of her.

Illua kept her eyes closed, calm, sipping every so often as the large gondola eased into motion down the waterway. The ladies eased into polite conversation at that, speaking on current profits, future business ventures, the weather. A few laughs were even shared between them, and Coryn had to remind himself that, in reality, he knew these two were anything but friends. If anything, it established a lot of common ground. But perhaps that's what being antagonistic to each other for so long did to people.

The gondola rounded the corner into the business district within the half hour, and the mood began to grow sour as Illua asked her first question regarding the press conference. "The meeting today was quite insightful. Your theory of a pirate attack was quite ingenious as well."

"I can only lend my idea to past figures." Francesca didn't falter at the subtle accusation, and took a sip of her tea. "This wouldn't be the first time a mercantile ship was looted. I am thankful, though, that you were able to dispose of all the evidence in time."

"Indeed." Illua paused to mix some cream in her cup. "Lest those with prying eyes see too much and tarnish our good names. This clan is beginning to become a thorn in my side, though, I admit."

"Is one small group so difficult to deal with?" The Viera asked. Carefully.

"Their number is insignificant. It is their…information network I'm concerned with."

Coryn remained quiet through all of this, keeping a careful eye on Illua. Francesca made her first unsure pause of the entire conversation, and came close to stuttering. "What do you mean?"

Illua took another sip, then kept her eyes closed. "They had exact information on what ship the supplies were on and the length of time it would be docked." She reached beside her, and Francesca and Coryn's eyes traveled to a sheet of paper on the couch beside her, unaware it had been there the whole time. She placed it on the coffee table, and Francesca's eyes glanced fearfully at it. It was the shipment order she had allowed Cheney and his company to take. Had they really been such fools to have left it there? The blue haired woman continued as the Viera and Nu Mou looked up. "It's quite simple. Clearly they must have an informer." Her voice was even, along with her face. "Would you happen to have an idea as to who?"

"I'm afraid not." Francesca attempted to cover up by taking another sip of tea, but she fully recognized how late her reply had been. There was no doubt. Illua knew something. And now it was her task to eliminate further damage. "Whoever is leaking information, though, I assure you I will find and deal with them. Thoroughly."

Illua smiled, which made the Viera all the more wary, and her eyes flashed an intimidating golden at the same time. "I know you will. For you know very well that if you defy us, we'll crush you without a second thought."

The gondola stopped soon after that, just in front of the Jytras Mercantile Grazton Branch building, and the pilot lowered the boarding ramp to allow Francesca and Coryn off. The Viera and Nu Mou issued one last wave, then turned around and began towards the building.

"She's onto us." Coryn said, speaking what both already knew as they pushed through the doors and completely out of the boat's earshot.

"That is of no concern now. We are already far enough." Francesca replied, "Duelhorn will arrive tonight, we will meet them, and after years of preparation, the first phase can finally commence."

The black vessel waited until the two entered, then began down the street once more, disappearing around a corner. Illua sipped at the last of her tea cup, then reached down to pour herself more. After that, she brushed back her hair, and spoke into the Whisperweed earpiece that had been obscured by her bangs.

"Was everything clear, Kain?"

"Crystal."

Even without the earpiece, she could hear his voice from the gondola's backside, his arm strength suitable to propel the boat by himself. She continued. "What do you make of them?"

"The broad's lying through her teeth. I can see her fear from back here."

The blue-haired woman couldn't restrain the smirk at her underling's blunt nature. "Then it's settled. As one last precaution, I'll have you investigate our informant's findings personally. Figure out what we'll be dealing with."

"Sir, one minute before we dock."

The man's head rose, angling towards the door. "Understood. I'll join you shortly." He heard footsteps in the hallway outside growing more distant, and when the informer was gone, he levered himself off his bed to a standing position.

Moonlight cascaded down, squeezing through the porthole of his cabin to dance on his silver locks. A number of knives were situated on his person, some hidden in the sleeves of his dusty olive green ninja garbs, others in plain sight around his waist. He threw a worn cowl over his shoulders, ragged and frayed all around the ends that fell next to his sandals. Then, he gave the moon one last longing gaze and bid the cabin a silent farewell.

True to his visitor's words, their ship had already docked and dropped anchor by the time he ascended to the main deck. Deck hands scurried about, hoisting sails, setting up a platform to cross to the dock proper. Three figures stood near the center of the boat beside the forward-most mast, relaying orders as they were approached by workers. The Viera Summoner stood quiet, brushing a few strands of her cropped white hair from her face and absently watching the crew go about their business. He decided to occupy the empty space beside her left shoulder.

"Finally, after weeks of travel. We've arrived." His eyes surveyed the stretch of wharf. There were no people in the area, and the dark dilapidated buildings in proximity suggested it'd been abandoned some time ago. A fortunate thing for them. The less people that knew of their existence, the better. "Come. Let us finally set foot upon the soil of Loar."

The boarding ramp went down in a timely fashion, and each of the four crossed over on to the deck, along with three Hume soldiers and a Bangaa warrior, crimson fabric sticking out from their armor and brandishing scimitars.

"The clime is…gentle here." The Summoner remarked to no one in particular, as the group moved onto boardwalk itself. She used her Judicer's Staff, a long purple handle topped with golden crown decorated with lightning bolts, as a walking stick. "The Mist, calm."

Duelhorn Boss: Alys the Ensorceled

"Indeed. A fine place for our campaign to begin." The Viera's eyes shifted at the comment, seeing the faintest traces of a snicker on the Nu Mou's lips. A deep green sash at his waist divided the lavender Arcanist's robe that swathed his hunched form, hood pulled back to expose the ivory mop of hair on his head. The golden Lilith Rod he held stood taller than him, capped with a lustrous green stone. Beady irises, housed in slit like eyes, held the same cerulean shade as the strange jewel embedded at the center of his forehead.

Duelhorn Boss: Duke Snakeheart

"I'm just ready to locate our bearings for the night. This sea air has not been kind to my cover up." The Bangaa beside him stated with a huff, the earring riddling his floppy ears jingling with the motion of his head. An opaque visor crossed over his snout in front of his eyes, his wiry frame hidden under the tight jacket and voluminous pants of a Trickster. His voice was an oddity. The tone and mannerisms were reminiscent of a female, but its actual quality was rather gruff and weary with age.

Duelhorn Boss: Night Dancer

"Of course." The Hume Ninja stated, giving the Bangaa a nod. "But first we'll locate Lady Francesca."

"Oh, good. I caught you right near the dock."

All four of their eyes widened at once, as did those of the soldiers around them, and heads craned slowly around to take sight of a Bangaa Dragoon thirty feet away, sea wind playing with the faded cowl around his shoulders. His helmet obscured his grin, and he spoke again as he came to a stop. "Now I don't have to go through the trouble of hiding bodies. I can just toss them in the sea."

The Hume Ninja was the first to respond, still surprised at the man's sudden appearance and wary of what looked to be a spear wrapped in fabric. "We…don't understand what you mean, sir. We're not from here, and I suppose our ship may have lost its way."

"You can drop the act." The Bangaa countered. "We already knew you'd be docking here tonight, and that you work for Francesca. We've got everything we'll need to justify crushing you." He fiddled with the clothed spear in his right hand held loosely at his side. "So all that remains is who you are."

The Hume paused at that, considering his options, but before he could speak, Snakeheart stepped forward, a malicious grin splitting his face. "Just like I'd expect from you Khamja dogs. Francesca's told us much about you." He took a few more steps, voice coming out in a low hiss. "To think they'd send only one of you to intercept us, though. How…naïve."

The Nu Mou's tone hit a chord in the Dragoon. "Your boss was confident enough to start moving against Khamja, so even I thought one was underestimating you. But after looking at you…" He smirked. "…I should be plenty."

Snakeheart's scowl formed from the comment, and this time the ninja returned the favor, holding a hand out for him to back down. "My name is Maquis the Phantasm, the field commander of Duelhorn. We do not wish to instigate a fight right here, however we will oblige if necessary. Regardless of your skill, you are heavily outnumbered. We will not pursue if you retreat now."

Kain paused, then began to chuckle. Maybe he could have some fun with this after all. "Really? That seems a poor decision on your part. I am one of their division commanders. It'd be a shame not to kill one with the odds so heavily stacked, right?" His shoulder plates shrugged, and he turned completely around, beginning to walk off. "Ah well, though. Only came to scout anyway. If that's what you wish, I guess I'll just head back and—"

His body stopped, and he just barely caught himself as something strange force attempted to drop him to his knees. The area around him began shining an almost black purple, and the ground began rattling. It grew stronger as the seconds rolled on, but he was able to gather himself more and more, and stand upright once more. He craned his head around to spy the Arcanist's outstretched staff, glowing the same hue as the space surrounding him.

"Ah, so you can withstand this much, huh?" The Nu Mou sniggered cockily, licking his lips in anticipation.

"Snakeheart…" Maquis warned. He planned to continue, but the Night Dancer's words came out before he could add anything.

"Hold on, Maquis. We'd be fools not to jump on this chance and take out one of their leaders." His hand reached to his belt, where a number of box shaped pouches hung. He retrieved some of the contents of one, five playing cards. "A preemptive strike like this could spell victory for us down the road."

Maquis paused to consider the thought. He scanned around him, noting the soldiers already gathered bringing their scimitars up, and more flowing in from the ship as they spied the visitor. He turned to Alys, who's steeled face returned with a nod and whose hands brought her staff to the ready. He retrieved to kunai knives of his own, spinning them around his fingers, then gave the nod. "I only want the four of us to handle this. Everyone else will not engage under any circumstance. You're no match for this kind of opponent."

The Night Dancer nodded, as did the respective soldiers, then he burst into a run. Kain smirked as the Bangaa came in low, arms arcing in blurs upon reaching a halfway point to him. The five cards he had procured spun forward like throwing stars, and just as they reached Kain's position, the Dragoon felt the effects of Snakeheart's gravity lift. The two actions were completely in sync, so that he didn't receive enough time to completely avoid the cards. Rather, he brought his guarded arm up to intercept, and four of the five cards lodged within its plating.

Before he would have time to consider how sharp they were, the old Bangaa was upon him in some sort of leaping, spinning kick. His spear came free of its cloth wrappings, and he spun it in front to cut off his leg. Somehow, though, the old man adjusted himself in midair, bringing the leg in and touching down on the cobblestone unharmed. He rolled forwards, pushing up with his hands and vaulted over the Dragoon. Kain altered his momentum to catch the Trickster on his new landing zone, but his armor proved too restrictive to catch such a fast opponent.

The Night Dancer landed, spun, and then pressed for close combat. Kain let his eyes shut completely just before, and then stepped forwards as well. Fists flew and spears flowed like water as the two exchanged in their daring contest of acrobatic ability.

From the first few strikes he'd received, the Dragoon understood there'd be no way he could tank the power coming from his opponent's palm thrusts. His movements, intricate dodging, rapid strikes; he'd been on the receiving end enough to know these were the kind of movements only Monks could perform. He was forced to dodge more often than he'd liked, but this way allowed him to score more effective counters, and soon the Night Dancer found himself on the defensive.

The butt of Kain's spear swept around from the right, smacking the Trickster's jaw and knocking his head away. Before he could gather himself, the spear's head was already twirling around to slash his throat. However, when it would have connected, there was a sharp, metallic sound, and the spear deflected upwards. Maquis filled the gap between the two, his own knives just recovering from the attack's recoil.

Kain didn't let the block throw off his mindset, and he quickly recovered the spear, twirled it around, reared back, and then thrust the blunt end forward with all his might. Maquis's knives came up to block, the only thing he could manage during the Bangaa's unusually fast recovery, and the force propelled both him and the Bangaa behind him through the air and off the docks. They hit the water with a clap, small waves spreading out from the impact, but managed to surface soon.

The Dragoon was already on it. He drew in a deep breath, then spread his legs and forced the breath out. Air still came out, but this time it was riddled with crackling golden electricity. The thunder breath spread out in a cone, nearing closer to the sea water, and the two bosses scrambled to leave the sea before they would become electrocuted.

Before they could do anything, suddenly the space around them became very light, like some sort of pressure was lifted off them. Then, their bodies and scant portions of the sea began to float upwards as a light purple light illuminated the small area around them. They found themselves suspended in the air, like they were—

Kain's breath cut off and he turned to Snakeheart just as Maquis realized what happened. The Dragoon smirked as he saw the Nu Mou's right hand extended in their direction. "Not many Arcanists can lessen gravity too." He smirked. "Maybe we can have some fun after all."

"Sorry. Not today." A malevolent grin followed the outstretching of the Nu Mou's left arm. Like before, the gravity began to increase around Kain, but this time the Bangaa saw it coming and wasn't forced to his knees, though it was still a struggle.

"This won't hold me forever, you know."

"It doesn't have to." He peered over his shoulder to the Viera behind him, and Kain cursed under his breath for not keeping tabs on her. Her once blue eyes were now pupil-less, and held a soft glow. She began to chant something unintelligible, even to the Nu Mou right before her.

After five seconds of this, Kain heard a noise a few feet from his back, and the familiar crackling of fire. He just barely managed his head around to see a wide pillar of fire expand, then contract into a large globe around fifteen feet high. The globe took further shape, gaining some sort of humanoid form, but its result was anything but. A massive horned beast, reminiscent of some sort of massive satyr, occupied the space, wreathed in flames that didn't seem to damage it in the slightest.

The Ifrit let out an ear-splitting roar, enough to shake the dock below it, then spread its armor-plated arms. Fire exploded outwards in every direction, billowing and rushing, consuming everything that it touched. Kain's scream projected as well, but couldn't be heard over the source of the blast. Eventually, only a smoking crater was left in its wake, the silhouette of the beast hidden behind the fumes, and it continued to growl menacingly.

Snakeheart cut off the gravity magic on Kain at that, taking a few deep breaths from having to hold it so long, then spun on Alys, who seemed both a nervous wreck and enraptured in some sort of strange trance. As her eyes began to turn red, however, his own eyes widened, and he called out to her. "Cut it off, you fool! Don't let the thing overtake you!"

His yell had a delayed effect on her, but eventually broke whatever had froze her. The crimson receded, and she dropped to her knees, clutching to her Judicer's staff to keep from falling flat. The beast vanished in the same fashion it had come, releasing a final roar to remind everyone of the overwhelming power it had unleashed. The Nu Mou checked upon Maquis and the Night Dancer, both still suspended in his gravity magic, and with a nod from the former, he ended it. The two swam and climbed upon the dock, walking over to join their comrades.

"Good work." Maquis remarked, offering a hand to Alys as he approached. "Are you alright?" She nodded after some time, taking his gesture, and rose to her feet.

Then, all four as a whole turned to the crater. Much of the wood had been torn away in the blast, leaving a gaping hole whose edge was rimmed with black and isolated pockets of flames. Kain's body, as charred as the edge and armor vaporized in places, lay just in front of it, seemingly having leapt forwards to avoid some of the blast. His spear was nowhere to be seen. They approached with some caution, Maquis gesturing for them to remain back as they neared.

Upon inspection, he was surprisingly well off for the lethality the explosion seemed to have, but before he could examine anything else, Kain's voice caused him to jump, intermingled with some raspy chuckling. "Not bad, Duelhorn. Not bad at all."

"How are you…how are you still alive?" The ninja's mask managed to hide evidence of his surprise.

"I'm a Dragoon." He sniggered, finally beginning to move. Maquis stepped back with each twitch, finally rejoining the three bosses behind him as Kain came to stand, working out the kings in his arms and legs. "We hunt dragons for a living. You think I wouldn't have protection against fire?" He gave his body a once over. "Still, your Summoner did quite a number on me. So what else do you guys have?" They all stood paralyzed at the question, but eventually gathered themselves and their weapons as Kain's stance split apart. "Nothing, eh? Well then, I guess that's the end of you. Time for me to go all out."

The Dragoon split his stance even further and when he looked up at the four, it sent a chill ripping through each one of them. But something strange happened at that moment, before he could act upon his preparation.

A piece of paper clung to his arm. Then another on his opposite shoulder. One by one they followed, drifting down from sky, the amount increasing with every second. Latching onto his body like they were soaked. And for some reason, always in some place where a previous sheet wasn't covering—

"I recommend you keep your peace." Kain's mind went off just as a voice did from behind the four bosses. Two figures appeared, a beautiful Viera in a blue evening dress with a thick fur coat and a Nu Mou scholar with his hand extended, the other holding a ragged tome open. The Nu Mou continued. "Lest you do something regretful."

"You really think your flimsy paper can harm me?"

"Shall we find out?"

The Bangaa locked eyes with him, neither tearing away for a few moments. Then, Kain relaxed his body, returning to an upright position, leveling a smirk visible from part of his Ifrit-damaged helm. "Alright, I'll withdraw for now." He glanced to the Viera. "So I guess you're cutting ties with us here, Francesca?"

"Jytras Mercantile will no longer associate with you. Too long have I assisted your warmongering organization, biding my time for the opportune moment to strike back." She stated, arms folded across. "As you crawl back to your leader, tell her this. We of Duelhorn now officially declare war on Khamja."

A quiet filled the space, sea wind blowing around, and then suddenly Kain began to laugh. It started out slow, then grew to a maniacal level. He spoke as he finally composed himself. "Yeah. Yeah, that's good. That's really good. I've been looking forward to a war like this for years." He pointed a finger at her. "You better bring it to us, you hear? Don't you back out." He licked his lips, and if the others didn't know any better, they'd have sworn his eyes gained dragon-like slits. "You better show me a good time. I'll be waiting for it."

Then, he turned around, and began walking down the docks. The four bosses kept their weapons up, not trusting him for a second. Just before he disappeared from eyesight, he stopped and talked in a calm, even voice.

"Oh, and our leader has a message for you as well. Your days are numbered, Francesca."

With that, he moved forward out of the influence of a nearby streetlamp, and into the pervading darkness, taking Francesca's sureness with him. She didn't show it, however, definitely not as the four bosses turned to her, dropped to a knee, and bowed their heads in reverence. Maquis spoke for the quartet. "We made sure to hide our full strength from him." His eyes hardened. "Justice shall be carried out, milady, and soon enough this accursed country shall be wiped of war."

Francesca nodded, then turned around moving back towards the docked ship, speaking over her shoulder. "That can wait. What we need right now is strength, for justice is nothing without it." The bosses rose and followed her as she let her eyes peer out over the Sea of Ewohl. Four more galleons identical to the one beside them drifted inward, their hulls bearing the emblem of Jytras Mercantile and their flags waving around two jagged crimson horns, seemingly covered in blood, intersecting on a white background.

She eyed them for a moment, then motioned for the bosses to follow. "Come, there is much to be done."


AN: And there we are. So yeah, the change of pace I mentioned was that Clan Gully wasn't featured once in the chapter, and that I got to focus on another front I've been setting up for some time.

For those of you who've played and remember the game, in this story Duelhorn won't be a cool but ultimately disconnected side storyline. They'll be big instigators of the main plot down the road, and feature prominently in the coming chapters. I'll do my best to keep them in character (and try to keep from going too overboard with eccentric characters like Night Dancer).

Next chapter will be returning to Gully, and a special treat many of you have been waiting for. Don't miss it!