Bone. Blood. Pain. Iron. Grit.
Fighter blinked the sand out of his eyes and tried to stop the flashing coloured lights and the roaring sound in his ears. He spat dirt and blood, tried to sit up but the pain was simply too great. The realization swept over him like an icy wind: He couldn't defeat the Lich. He had failed. Failed as a swordsman, failed as a Light Warrior, but worst of all, failed as a friend. Black Mage was dead, and Fighter had failed him.
The icy wind grew colder. The lights flashed brighter and the roaring didn't diminish. It filled his ears, filled the whole world with its thunder, but it was the scream that made Fighter force himself to turn around.
There, instead of the Lich, steam hissing from its joints, was a train.
There weren't many trains in the world. They were a new technology, but they were based on something that Fighter had heard of, but never seen. His face lit with joy -- this had to be the Doom Train! The Doom Train was such a potent eidolon that only the very powerful could summon it. Black Mage was the most powerful wizard Fighter knew (notwithstanding that he didn't know very many to begin with.)
"Black Mage! You're alright!" Fighter leapt to his feet and looked around wildly, but Black Mage was nowhere to be seen. With a groan, the train began to move. Fighter watched the windows of the pullman cars slide past him, then caught a glimpse of blue mage robe and pointy straw hat. He began to run, "Black Mage! Don't go! Wait for me!" The train was moving faster now and Fighter broke into a sprint, trying to catch the handle by the pullman door. He caught it and swung himself up one-handed.
* * * * *
"Fighter?! What are you doing here?"
Fighter plunked himself down into the seat opposite his best friend and beamed at him, "Hi BM! Are you surprised to see me?"
"....that's one way of putting it," Black Mage winced.
"That was really cool, how you summoned the Doom Train and squashed the Lich like that!"
Black Mage frowned, "What are you talking about? Do you realize where you are?"
"We're on a really cool train! I've never been on a train before!" Fighter enthused. He looked out the window at the vast sea of stars spreading out around them, "Wheee! We're goin' on a holiday!"
The stars hardly seemed to move as the train sped through the sky. Fighter asked incessant questions about it: Why they didn't seem to move, why they were there... Normally Black Mage would have stabbed him quiet, but his heart just didn't seem to be into it right now. Besides, he doubted that it would do any good. He looked out the window, watching as the kingdom they had left behind dwindled into the distance.
"Now approaching Luna Station." They both startled and looked around, for no conductor had appeared and the voice seemed to have come from nowhere at all. The train began to slow, then came to a halt. They watched the other passengers disembark, then Black Mage and Fighter stepped off the train and looked around.
Fighter whooped and threw up his arms excitedly, "Oh BOY! We're on the moon!"
"Er... yeah," said Black Mage hesitantly. Before them was an enormous circus fun house. "Why is there a carnival on the moon?"
Fighter ran forward with all the eagerness of a big puppy, "C'mon, Black Mage, let's go!!" Black Mage shook his head and followed.
Inside the tent was a hall of mirrors. The other passengers were looking at their reflections and laughing over what they saw.
"These mirrors show you as you truly are," said a voice from behind them. They turned to see an affluent-looking merchant smiling easily. "They show you your foundation. For example, I was a just employer and a fair merchant."
Fighter smiled and nodded, then glanced at the mirror just behind the man. He did a double-take, then got that look that Black Mage always called "the puzzled puppy." He looked back at the man.
"You, sir," the merchant was saying, "Are obviously a wizard of great puissance..." Black Mage frowned; if this guy was calling him a pussy, he was asking for a Hadoken sandwich. "And importance," the merchant continued, "Clearly you could have held the world in thrall." Black Mage smirked - that was more like it. He glanced at the mirror behind him and smiled at what he saw: The mage reflected there was mighty indeed. Then he frowned and turned back to look at Fighter. Fighter looked even more puzzled. Black Mage peered around him to the reflection in the mirror behind him. Oh now, come ON...
The merchant had also turned to Fighter, "While you are a master swordsman, clearly one of the greatest warriors who ever lived."
"I'm a Light Warrior," Fighter said, glancing back and forth between the man and the mirrors.
"And clearly a great hero," the merchant continued, "Valhalla surely awaits you. Good luck to you both." The man clapped Fighter on the arm and would have done the same to Black Mage, had the sudden dagger not changed his mind.
Fighter stared from the retreating man to his own reflection, to Black Mage's reflection, to Black Mage. "I'm confused," he announced.
"When is that news?" Black Mage said automatically, but it lacked his usual venom. He too was puzzled by what he saw in Fighter's mirror. He had seen the heroic warrior, yet he knew darned well that Fighter was anything but.
"That man said he was a kind employer, but when I looked in his mirror I saw that he shorted his employees' wages and worked them like slaves. And he cheated his customers by selling them cheap junk at inflated prices."
"Sounds like every merchant I know," Black Mage smirked, but he was thinking.
"He said I was a master swordsman and we both know that's not true coz I still haven't worked out the sword-chucks yet."
"Right, where's the ale pot? I have to take a drink coz you said 'sword-chucks'," Black Mage sneered.
"And anyways," Fighter continued, "When I look in the mirror, all I see is a brain-damaged semi-retarded guy who didn't pay attention in class."
"Because that's what you are," Black Mage said, staring at the reflection of the mighty hero.
"Right! That's okay, coz I try real hard anyways," Fighter said.
Black Mage shot him a sharp look, then glanced guiltily at the mirror behind him. The image was wavering. "Er.... about my reflection..."
Fighter scratched his head. "Yeah, see that's why I'm so puzzled. I think I must be seeing illusions."
"....Not you," Black Mage said softly. The powerful wizard in the mirror had dissolved, fading into fog that cleared to show him... exactly as he was. He stared at it, feeling bitter. "...and if I didn't have my magic, I wouldn't have anything going for me at all," he whispered.
"But you do have your magic and you're pretty good with it, so its alright," Fighter said brightly.
Black Mage stared at himself in the mirror, taking in the ragged, unwashed clothes, the covetted hat, the lumpy bags of holding, and the overall geeky appearance. He was as thin as straw and about as strong but his will more than made up for it. He'd been good at magic and getting better at applying it. He thought of the Dwarf King's obstacle course and smiled -- there was no better purpose for Hadoken. Not even Red Mage had been able to argue.
"Last call for boarding."
"Darn! C'mon, BM, the train's about to leave!"
"Its too bad the other Light Warriors aren't here," said Fighter as he watched the stars, "I bet they wish they were with us right now!"
Black Mage looked up from his cogitation and cocked an eyebrow, "Why?"
"Coz we're having a holiday! We're getting to see all these really neat places!"
"I suppose you could call it that," Black Mage said absently, "Now shut up, I'm thinking."
"Sure thing, BM! Are you thinking about swords? I think about swords when I'm thinking." Fighter fell silent for several minutes, then began to sing quietly, "Swordy swordy swordy sword! They're sharp, they're shiny, they're swords!"
"What did I just tell you?"
"You told me to shut up, BM."
"So why aren't you doing it?"
"Sorry, BM." Several more minutes passed. "I think the train's slowing down, BM."
"Now approaching Mercury Station," the mysterious announcer intoned.
"Yup," Black Mage looked out the window, tapping the sill thoughtfully, "Hm."
Fighter looked around at the other passengers. Most looked apprehensive; a few were weeping. "It doesn't seem to be a very popular stop," he said in an undertone.
"I'd imagine not," Black Mage replied, watching as the pullman door opened. For the first time, a conductor entered the car. They watched as... he? she? moved slowly down the row of seats, checking tickets.
"Are you a mage?" Fighter asked as the conductor approached, "You look sort of magey, coz your face is kinda obscure and your eyes glow. My best friend's a black mage and he's got glowy eyes and my other friend's a red mage and he covers his face though he uses a scarf but he doesn't have glowy eyes..."
"...And I got another friend who's a white mage though I suppose she's not really a friend coz we hardly ever see her and I really don't know her too well..."
"Fighter, that's not a mage."
"...But she doesn't cover her face or have glowy eyes - I wonder why that is? She's still a mage though, at least Black Mage says so and he should know coz he's a mage himself. That's him there, Black Mage, he's a black mage, he's my best friend."
The conductor nodded slowly, "This is his stop."
"Oh cool! Is it like a resort? This must be one of those surf'n'ski places, coz its really hot over there and its all snowy and such over there. The last place we went to was sort of like a circus only they didn't have any oliphants. C'mon, BM, lets go!"
"Not you, son," the conductor said, pressing Fighter back into his seat, "This isn't your stop."
Fighter was immediately distressed, "But... but... Black Mage is my best friend! If this is his stop then I have to go too! He's my friend and he can't use swords and he needs me to protect him and I already failed him once..."
"Fighter, its okay," Black Mage interrupted quietly, "I'll be alright."
Fighter wilted, "But.. Black Mage... what if... something happens?"
"I'll be alright. You know me, I've always got a way. I'll be fine."
"Are you sure?" Fighter's voice was very small now, and his eyes were very big.
"Yeah, I'm sure," Black Mage said, and looked out at what awaited him, "Whatever they have in store for me, it can't possibly be worse than having to travel with you." He strode off the train.
Fighter looked from one side of the train to the other, looking out both windows. The remaining passengers gazed at him, some with sympathy, some with puzzlement, some with contempt. He ignored them all.
"He'll be alright, won't he?" he asked the conductor. His distress was clear in his voice and face. "Only its hot as hell on that side of the station and its cold as.. as.... its cold as hell on the other side. And nobody seemed very happy to be here." He looked around again, but found no comfort in the watching faces -- only sympathy and sadness. He looked at the conductor again, "He'll be alright, right? He's a Light Warrior, so he's bound for glory. Right?"
The conductor nodded, "He certainly is."
Fighter stared out the window of the train, but the stars held no more beauty for him. The journey that had promised excitement and adventure had left him inconsolable.
Someone touched his shoulder. Fighter looked over to see a small, delicate hand, then looked around into the face of a young woman with strange markings on her neck. "If that was his stop, he must not have been a very nice person," the tattooed lady said gently.
"Since when did that matter?" Fighter replied indignantly, "He was my best friend!"
"Well, cheer up. The next stop is coming up soon." The woman wandered away as the train began to brake.
Venus Station opened onto a broad, grassy plain. A little distance away, the plain rose up into a steep, perfectly round hill. Fighter frowned -- the top of the hill appeared to have been propped up on pillars. There seemed to be a party going on inside. Fighter sighed - parties were much more fun when Black Mage was around to get into trouble. Still, he had nothing else to do...
Fighter smiled and nodded at the people who greeted him, which seemed to be practically everybody. The hall was crowded and he recognized other people from the train, all welcomed as warmly as he. Food and drink were offered to the travellers, and beautiful young ladies and men came forward to be their companions. The convival mood was uplifting to everyone but Fighter. What he wanted just wasn't there.
He milled around, squeezing his way through the throngs of revellers, bumping into people and apologizing. He tripped on the edge of a rug and stumbled, catching a nearby shoulder to stop his fall.
"Hey!! Why doncha watch where you're oh ye gods..."
"Put me down!"
"I can't believe it! Is it really you?"
"Stop hugging me, you idiot! Look at this, you've made me spill my beer and it was a fresh pint, too."
"But I thought you were at the last stop? How'd you get here?"
"Ah, heh heh, there's a really funny story to that..."
"Why don't you tell it to us, handsome?" They both turned to see a girl gliding up to them. She was tall and very slender, with large liquid eyes above prominent cheekbones. She threaded her arm through Black Mage's, not seeming to mind that she was nearly a full head taller than he was. "We like to hear stories of victory," she cooed.
Black Mage preened, "Well, its certainly one of my better stories. I mean, even the dwarfland stuff doesn't match this one..."
The girl fluttered her long eyelashes and inhaled fetchingly, "If you've been travelling, you must be heart-sore and in need of comfort."
"Have you eaten? Have some fruit?" She offered them a platter of sliced fruits and cheeses.
Fighter waved it away, "Aw, gee, that's awfully nice of you, but we ate before we left, right BM?"
"Er.. yeah..." Black Mage's eyes hadn't left the fruit -- sliced apples and pomegranates. Now he looked up at the girl: Her prominent cheekbones seemed a little too prominent, and through her clingy gown, he could count every bone. "How long have you been here?" he asked sharply.
"Oh, a hundred years, a thousand years," she replied lightly.
"That's what I thought," Black Mage snapped. He seized Fighter's wrist, "C'mon, Fighter, we're leaving."
"Sure thing, BM!" Fighter scrambled to keep up as he was dragged through the throngs, "I wasn't hungry anyways, but it didn't look like the food here is any good. I mean, everybody looks so skinny."
"Some paradise this is," Black Mage muttered as they hurried across the grass towards the station.
"Aww, this isn't Paradise, BM! Everybody knows what Paradise looks like."
Black Mage stopped and turned to look at Fighter, "Oh really? You think so?"
Fighter beamed, "Sure! All the walls are hung with rare swords and there's beautiful sword maidens with flying hats and swords and there's lots of warriors with swords..."
Black Mage shook his head and got on the train.
"What do you think the guys are doing right now?" Fighter asked, still staring out the window. The lights from the train reflected in his eyes.
"I think they're probably squabbling and trying to one-up each other."
Fighter shrugged and nodded, "You're probably right." After a few minutes he said, "The conductor sure gave my ticket a funny look."
"They probably don't see many like it," Black Mage replied. He opened his eyes as the mysterious voice announced, "Now approaching Mars Station."
They stepped off the train and Fighter pulled a piece of parchment out of his pocket. He looked at it, turning it around a few times, then pointed. "'You are here.'"
Black Mage glanced at it then felt his heart drop into his stomach. He snatched it out of Fighter's hands, "Where did you get that?!"
"The conductor gave it to me!"
"Fighter, do you know what this is?" Black Mage gasped.
"Its a map!" Fighter replied proudly, "Its a magic map!"
A magic map.... a map to magic, Black Mage thought. I know this, he thought as he stared at it, And if I'd paid better attention in class, I'd know what it was telling me.
How did Fighter get a map like this? What was the deal with his ticket? Why did he seem to understand each station, without having a clue as to what was really going on? ...although that last was more easily explained as sheer Fighter stupidity.
"What?!" Black Mage snapped, and looked up. They were surrounded by towering beings, so thick and so tall that they blotted out the sky. They were screaming, but there were so many of them screaming so many things at once, that it was impossible to make out any of it. There was no mistaking their violent expressions though, or the weapons they were brandishing. The sharp, gory weapons. "Shit!!"
"Um, maybe we should run? They've got more swords than me and HEY WAIT UP!" Fighter turned and ran after Black Mage, who was already half way back to the
"Where's the bloody train?!"
Fighter looked around wildly, "I don't know! It was here just a second ago!"
"Alright, we go to Plan B." Black Mage cupped his hands together and they began to glow, "I just hope this works.... Hadoken!"
The fireball blazed, grew... and was lost in the crowd of onrushing demons. Their response wasn't quite what Black Mage had been hoping for: They put their hands together - and some of them had quite a few hands - and in a mighty chorus, thundered "HADOKEN!"
After an eternity, the smoke cleared.
Fighter sat up and looked at Black Mage, whom he'd squashed underneath him. "Its okay, BM, my armour protected us!"
"....fifty thousand million giant fireballs at point-blank range... We surrender!"
"Well, I'm not going through that again!" said Black Mage acidly, "We're surrendering." This didn't have the desired effect either. The demons rushed at the hapless pair, screaming for blood. "This is another fine mess you've gotten us into," Black Mage hissed as they ran.
"Sorry, BM. Gee, where do they fit all those arms? You wouldn't think that the shoulders could take so many bones."
"Shut up and run! Hey!" Black Mage did a double-take, having caught a clear glimpse of one of the demons, "I recognize that one! Hang on, these are the Asuras! Fighter, stop!"
"But if we stop running, they'll catch us and flay us with their swords! And they aren't even clean! I don't want to be flayed with unclean swords, that's not hygenic!"
"Can you not go even five minutes without mentioning swords? Anyways, they can't do anything if we don't do anything." Black Mage tried to remember his courses in magical theory, "They're called the Wrathful Ones, but they're really more active than angry. Really active."
Some sort of strange light appeared to dawn in Fighter's eyes, "Really, really active?"
"Yeah, like any little thing sets them off..."
Suddenly Fighter jumped up and all but danced, pulling a bottle out of his pocket and flourishing it, "I know! I know what to do!" He darted towards the massed demons and jerked the lid off the bottle, spraying its contents everywhere. "Oni wa soto!" he bellowed.
The demons lunged forward and pounced on the small pellets, then fell back, looking strange. Black Mage stared.
Fighter grabbed his sleeve, "C'mon, BM, the train's over here!"
"What? Wait, what happened back there? They're all just standing around!"
They climbed back into the pullman car and flung themselves into their seats. "Phew! That was a narrow escape."
"Yes, but... Fighter, what the heck did you do?"
Fighter beamed, "Oh I just shouted 'Oni wa soto' and..."
Black Mage waved him off, "And threw beans at them, yes. Fighter, that's a kids' ritual, it doesn't actually work!"
"Oh no, I didn't throw beans at them, BM."
"No, I threw them my medication."
Black Mage's jaw dropped, "You ... what?!"
"You said that the demon guys got really, really active and I thought to myself 'that means like hyperactive', so I threw them the medicine that I take whenever I get really hyperactive."
By now, Black Mage's eyes were the size of Frisbees and he was starting to laugh, "You mean... You're telling me... You gave them Ritalin?? The Wrathful Deities are on Ritalin??"
"Yup! ..... y'know, Black Mage.. you're supposed to breathe while you're laughing..."
They were finishing a cup of tea when Fighter first became aware of the singing. He looked up, then around, puzzled. "What's that?"
"What's what?" Black Mage asked absently. He was studying Fighter's map.
"That song. It sounds like somebody's singing."
"You hear it too?" asked a gruff voice. They looked around. The number of passengers was noticeably fewer now. "I can just make it out, but I don't understand what it says," said an old blind man.
Fighter got up and went to sit across from him, "Yes, I hear it. It sounds like someone singing 'Nearer, my God, to Thee.'" Fighter took a deep breath, and began to sing in a voice of surprising richness and power:
"There let the way appear, steps unto heav'n;
All that Thou sendest me,
in mercy given;
Angels to beckon me nearer, my God, to Thee."
"Yes, that's the one," the blind man said, "But what does it mean?"
"Its a hymn." They turned. An elderly lady in a white mage's robe was sitting in another booth. Black Mage stared at her, then at Fighter. Then he looked again at the map.
"Now approaching Jupiter Station."
"What do you think this one will be like, BM?"
"I have an idea," Black Mage said quietly.
"Really? That's cool, coz I haven't a clue!"
"I've been saying that for years."
"Its...... kinda hard to see, isn't it? So bright..."
It was. They were surrounded by shining beings, as tall and as thick as the denizens of the Mars Station. The old white mage pushed past them and walked out among the glittering beings. She knelt down and began to pray. The beings ignored her.
"The Lords of Light," Black Mage said softly, "The Peaceful Ones. The gods of the white mages."
The old woman's voice became shriller as she prayed more fervently. "They don't seem to be paying much attention," Fighter frowned.
"Nope. Too peaceful," Black Mage sneered. Now the old woman was getting agitated. In frustration, she struck at the feet of one of the shimmering giants, then immediately prostrated herself in apology. "They don't notice anything. The other ones react too much and these ones don't react at all."
Fighter looked at him, puzzled, "And these are the gods?"
"Huh!" Fighter looked back at the beings of brilliance and the old woman futilely praying among them, "That explains so much!" They turned and walked back to the train.
"It was a dark and stormy night," Fighter intoned.
Black Mage stared at him in silence for several minutes, blinked twice, and said, "No it isn't. The reason being, we're travelling through space. Its always night, its always dark, and it can't storm."
Fighter shrugged, "It just seemed like something to say."
"Fighter, please don't break my brain. I've only got the one. I don't have any spares."
Fighter sat in thoughtful silence then said, "I wonder if you could carry a spare brain? You could tie them together by the spinal cords."
An image of this presented itself to Black Mage and he closed his eyes in feigned mental agony, "Oh gods..... Brain chucks??"
"Yeah!!" Fighter beamed, "Can't you see it? You could fling 'em around against your enemy and he'd go 'Ewwwwww!!'"
"And then he wouldn't be your enemy anymore coz he'd be puking," Black Mage laughed.
"Right! Its brilliant!"
"Now approaching Sol Station."
Fighter turned back to the window and tried to see what was approaching, "Oh boy! I wonder what this one will be like?"
Someone touched his elbow and he turned to see the blind man smiling at him, "Why, son -- didn't you know? This is Heaven." He stepped off the train and immediately exclaimed at the beauty he could finally see. Fighter watched, then followed him.
All around them, the other passengers were disembarking and stepping forward into the light. Some were weeping, greeting friends and relatives. Some had prostrated themselves before messiahs, saviours and teachers. Some were simply sitting down, consumed in bliss. Fighter watched them all, baffled.
"So... See any swords?" Black Mage asked, coming up behind him.
Fighter shook his head with that 'puzzled puppy' expression, "No. There's nothing. I don't see anything at all. Its just an empty room."
Black Mage nodded. He watched the beauty fade away. The room that was left was ovoid, with a perfectly round hole in the roof to let in the light. That was all. No tapestries hung upon its walls, no tile mosaic nor intricately woven rug decorated its floor, no altars cluttered its space. "Can't get much emptier than this," he agreed.
"Now boarding for Saturn Station," the mysterious announcer intoned. They turned and started back towards the train.
Fighter looked troubled, "I always thought Heaven would have rare swords and sword maidens and warriors and swordsmiths, but I don't have any gold shorts and you don't have your cravat and I don't even see the Frank guy anywhere."
"Huh? What Frank guy? What cravat? What are you talking about and do I really want to know?"
"You know, Black Mage. That time when you played the Criminologist at Peach Tree, and the guy playing Frank yelled out 'The mage you are about to see has no fuggin' face' and we all fell about laughing."
"That wasn't a guy, that was a chick! Couldn't you tell by the hips and hooters?"
"So what you're saying is," said Black Mage as they reached their booth and sat down, "Your idea of Heaven is like Valhalla with 'Rocky Horror' as the floor show?!"
"Well, yeah... Isn't everybody's?"
"Black Mage? Who's singing?"
"I mean, there's no one left on the train but us and we're not singing, but I can still hear someone singing. Do you hear someone singing?"
"So who's singing?"
"Its the Universe, Fighter. The Universe is singing, and everybody hears it differently."
Fighter pondered that, "Do you hear the 'Nearer my God' song?"
Black Mage shook his head, "No."
Fighter frowned. It wasn't usually this difficult to get an answer out of Black Mage. "What do you hear?"
"'He leads you where otherwise, you would not go.'"
Fighter frowned again, "That doesn't make much sense."
"It does to me. Unfortunately."
"Saturn Station. End of line."
They stepped out into utter blackness. Beneath them, a vast abyss swirled, sucking stars into the blackness at its heart.
"So this is the soundless, boundless, bitter sea," Fighter said quietly.
Black Mage turned to stare at him, "Now how did you know THAT?"
Fighter blinked at him, "I saw it in one of your school text books. I was dusting one day and it fell off the shelf because you never put your books back properly."
They watched the abyss for a while more, then Fighter asked in a soft voice, "What does your song mean, BM?"
Black Mage grimaced. He didn't really like the answer to this. "It means I couldn't have gotten this far without you."
Fighter thought about that, then nodded, "I understand."
"Yeah. Your books were always falling off the shelves. One of them talked about how we have three selves that make up our soul, and one of them's self-centered and ego-y and makes all the decisions, and the other one is all childlike and simple and sees a lot of things that the other self misses, and I always thought that was kinda like us."
Black Mage stared at him for a long time. "Maybe you should be the one wearing this robe," he muttered.
"Nah, I wouldn't want to wear a robe. It'd get tangled up when I tried to swing my swords."
"So if I'm the kid self and you're the decisions self, who's the third self? Y'know, the divine one?"
Black Mage grinned, "The way our luck's been running? - probably Black Belt."
They thought about that then both started sniggering. Fighter shook his head, "Nahhhhh. Black Belt couldn't be the third self. He'd get so lost, he'd come back to life again."
"Heh heh, yeah." Black Mage fell silent then looked at Fighter again, "So you've finally figured it out?"
"Figured what out?"
Black Mage shook his head, "You amaze me, Fighter, you really do. Well, you'd better get going. Train looks like its about to leave."
"BM? What's so special about my ticket?"
Black Mage cocked an eyebrow, "A round-trip ticket on the Phantom Train? That's pretty special."
"Am I special?"
Fighter put his hand on Black Mage's shoulder and faced him, "You'll... You'll be okay, right?"
"Yeah, I'll... oh geez, don't start crying... I'll be fine. I know where I'm going."
"O-okay... Goodbye, Black Mage."
"Bye, Fighter." Black Mage watched his longtime companion walk back to the train alone. Then he looked at the map. He could trace the route that he and Fighter had taken to get here, but it was only one of many possibilities; there were others. One of them led from here, straight through the realm of the destroyers, through the hell realms, and back into the manifest world.
He grinned. He knew exactly what to do.
As the train pulled away from the station, Fighter watched with streaming eyes as his best friend spread his arms, the sleeves of his robes flapping like a dark angel's wings, and leaped into the swirling abyss.
* * * * *
"Fighter! C'mon, wake up! Snap out of it!"
"Huh?" Fighter blinked and looked around. Someone was shaking him awake. This was unusual; normally someone was stabbing him awake. "Oh, hi, Red Mage. I had a really neat dream..."
"No time for that! We need you now! Its time for the ol' alley-oop!"
Fragments of memories were dissolving rapidly as Fighter tried to concentrate on what Red Mage was saying, "The ol' whatty-what?"
Red Mage rolled his eyes. Now how would Black Mage have phrased it? - ah yes... "Sword! Stabby! Bad man!"
All copyrightable characters and settings are copyright © Square Enix and Brian Clevinger. Copyrighted materials are used without permission but with a lot of affection and respect. The overall story is copyright © Katzedecimal. Permission is given by the author to copy this story for personal use only.