Hello to anybody reading this. I know I said the next update would be up in the next few days and that was well over a week or so ago now. I admit that's more than just a few days and therefore I'm sorry if anybody's been waiting on this chapter (wishful thinking). Anyway, I've decided that in future that all updates will come at a slightly slower pace to give my brain a little bit more of a recharge. I find that if I finish a chapter and jump straight into the next one that I burn out A LOT faster and struggle for inspiration and motivation. So from now I'm going to take about a week before I even start writing a new chapter which itself takes about 3 or 4 days itself with my workload. But hey, if it means the chapters are better to read once they are posted then it's worth a bit of an extra wait right?
Anyway, back to the story. As we learned in the last chapter, Zidane is awake appears to be back to normal. Now he and Steiner are en route back to Alexandria to try and help Garnet and the others, the only question is, can they get back in time? Let's check back in with are friends in Alexandria and see what's going on with them. How is Garnet and how are Cid and Hilda?
The wedding of Queen Garnet and Lord Randle was drawing ever nearer. The event was to happen on the Friday coming which was now only two days away and Beatrix was becoming ever more anxious. Steiner had not yet returned from the Outer Continent yet and time was quickly running out. They'd previously agreed that he needed to be here for the wedding if it did indeed have to happen to support Garnet and that he should return with or without Zidane. H had promised that he succeed in his mission and would return with Zidane and together they'd find a way to help poor Queen Garnet. But with every hour that passed now Beatrix lost further help that this scenario would come to pass. All she could hope for now was that Lord Randle kept his promise and released Regent Cid and Lady Hilda before the wedding.
Garnet had since seen Cid and Hilda since agreeing to wed Randle in return for their safety. She'd spoken to them only very briefly in a secret meeting which occurred in the middle of the night in the town square. Sneaking out of the castle hiding under a white rope and accompanied only by Beatrix.
Flashback – The meeting
Garnet was wearing her white rope to cover her face and also dressed in her white and orange outfit like she'd worn during the adventure. She always loved wearing this costume, it brought back so many fond memories for her about the times she and her friends had all shared together as they journeyed across the globe from one continent to another. But now she was wearing it for another reason, simply it was the same reason why she'd chosen to wear it on her 16th birthday when she was trying to escape the castle for first time; it was good for looking inconspicuous. Oh God, that night when she'd first met Zidane and embarked on her journey, it all seemed like a lifetime ago now when in fact it had only been little over a year.
They had managed to slip out of the castle undetected (there were plenty of guards around but she's managed to remain out of sight whilst Beatrix ordered whoever they came across to go and patrol somewhere else) and now they were out in the town heading for the main square. This meeting had been arranged the day before, Garnet had demanded to see Cid and Hilda BEFORE the wedding to make sure that they were okay and Lord Randle had agreed. Now here they were, in the middle of the night in the town square where it had been agreed for the sides to meet one another at 3:00am. Garnet and Beatrix reached the meeting point and saw 6 dark figures on the other side of the square.
They walked forwards cautiously, making sure they were prepared if any of the strangers make any sudden movements. Nothing of the sort happened however and as Garnet and Beatrix drew close they managed to make out who it was in front of them. In the middle stood the unmistakeable frames of both Cid and Hilda, but they were all surrounded by 4 burly looking men who were clearly guarding them. When Garnet realised that they were she gasped and shouted
"Aunty, Uncle, it's you!"
"Hush Garnet, we need to keep quiet," warned Beatrix cautiously, but Garnet was no longer paying attention to her. She rushed forward and embraced Cid and Hilda, pulling them into a tight hug which they both returned. She was so relieved to see them.
"Garnet," whispered Cid into her ear. "It's so good to see you again."
"Yes indeed it is," agreed Hilda in her other ear.
Beatrix caught up to the trio and quickly made her presence felt to the 4 guards who all stood around them and were eyeing the hugging trio closely. The knight gave every one of the man a brief but cold stare and rested her hand on the hilt of her of her sword. Body language like that made it clear that she was ready to fight each and every one of them if need be. She doubted any of them would actually try anything though, she knew that they knew her and her fierce reputation as a warrior preceded her. It would take a brave man indeed to pick a fight with the infamous General Beatrix.
The four of them got took the hint and slowly stepped away from Garnet, Cid and Hilda. They each halted about 10 feet away, close enough to still make their intimidating presence felt but out of earshot of any conversations. Beatrix followed suit and walked away as well. She wanted to make sure that Garnet and her aunt and uncle were able to have some privacy for this emotional reunion.
"Aunt Hilda, Uncle Cid, are you both okay? He hasn't hurt you has he? How has he been able to hold you both hostages like this?" asked Garnet franticly. She let go of them both and looked at them both closely. They both looked to be fine physically, just a bit weary and rough, like they'd both not slept properly in a few days.
"Oh Garnet dear it's been a very rough couple of days I admit," sighed Hilda shaking her head. "We're both fine let me assure you, it's just we've been sick with worry over you because Lord Randle and his fiendish plans.
"Yes, we are both fine so don't trouble yourself worrying," said Cid speaking now. "It's you we should be concerned about. Garnet dear, please tell me what we've heard isn't true. Tell me that you haven't agreed to marry Lord Randle after all?"
Garnet confirmed their fears by slowly nodding. Cid and Hilda were both left flabbergasted. Garnet tried to explain the situation to them.
"Cid, Hilda, please believe me when I tell you that I only agreed to marry him because I have no other choice, not because I want too. He said that if I didn't agree to marry him and make him king then he'd… he'd… he said I'd never see you both ever again!"
Garnet began to well up but continued on.
"He said he'd hurt you both and that if I tried to expose him for what he really is then nobody would believe me. He left me with no choice but to accept his proposal because I could never forgive myself if anything happened to either one of you."
Hilda pulled Garnet into another hug and then began to wipe the tears out of the poor girl's eyes.
"Hush, hush dear we've already told you, don't you worry about us. We're not scared of that brutish man or his threats. Now tell us, what else has been happening with you? How is our sweet little Eiko? And did you have any luck finding Mr Zidane on the Outer Continent?"
Garnet began to further explain about everything that had been going on, how Eiko (who Garnet had kept in the dark by telling her that Cid and Hilda were just on vacation) was coping, about what happened on the Outer Continent when they'd gone to find Zidane and what was going on now back up at the castle.
"So Zidane's out of the game, at least for now anyway?" asked Cid sighing.
"Yes, I'm afraid so," answered Garnet sadly. "I haven't given up on him though. As soon as this is over I'm going to head out and look for him. I don't care if that means I have to give up the crown, Zidane means more to me than being Queen. I'm going to find him and help him no matter what."
"That's nice to hear," said Hilda. She still looked very downbeat though because of current circumstances. She tried one last time to convince to change her mind.
"Please Garnet dear, don't marry that deplorable man. Forget about us, we're not worth it. And anyway, I doubt he'll actually go through with that threat even if you do refuse him. Just tell him no, tell that swine that you won't allow him to get his grubby paws on the crown of Alexandria."
Garnet responded by shaking her head again and then reiterating what she'd said earlier.
"I can't do that Aunt Hilda," she explained sounding very sad herself. "I know that he isn't bluffing, I believe he truly will hurt you both if I refuse him and I could never possibly forgive myself I allowed any harm to come to either of you. How could I ever explain it to Eiko? No, as dreadful as it will be I know that must do this. Because once I marry him he'll release you both and from there we can try to find a way out of all this. I know if I speak out now nobody will believe me because Randle is so well thought off by many. But maybe they will if the both of you back up my story and say that Randle did indeed kidnap the both of you. People aren't likely to think that both the Queen of Alexandria and the Regent of Lindblum are lying."
"Well it looks like that's our only option then," said Cid with resignation in his voice. Just after he finished speaking one of the four guards began to approach them. When he only a few feet away he stopped and spoke very quietly.
"Times up. We agreed to 15 minutes and you've had that. Say your goodbyes because we're taking you back to Lord Randle."
Garnet looked towards her Aunt and Uncle. They nodded in response to the guard and then both turned to look at her.
"Well I'm afraid we need to go now Garnet. I guess we won't see you until this bastard wedding happens I suppose. That's only the day after tomorrow isn't?"
"Yes," answered Garnet. "Part of me wants it to just come now to get it all over with. Another part is dreading it like nothing I've ever dreaded before."
Hilda pulled Garnet into farewell embrace and whispered in her ear once again. This time she said
"Stay strong Garnet dear. I know you're made of tough stuff and that you're more than a match for that ghastly man. Just because you've agreed to his demands doesn't mean you have to let him walk all over you. Never forget who you are, you are the Queen of this great nation and ever since you came to the throne you've done your parents proud."
"Hear, hear," echoed Cid as he himself pulled Garnet into a hug after she and Hilda broke apart. The trio then said their final goodbyes before both the guards and Beatrix came forward and stepped in between them. Cid and Hilda were surrounded by the guards who ushered them away into the darkness. Beatrix likewise led Garnet out of the square and back towards the direction of the castle.
It had been very relieving for Garnet to see them both again and discover that they were fine. She'd been worried sick about them wondering if Lord Randle or his goons had ruffed them up whilst they had them held prisoner wherever it was they'd been being kept. But she knew that if they were ever to be released properly and their safety to be absolutely guaranteed then she'd have to go through with this wedding. There was no other option, nobody could help her out of this situation.
Well actually there was someone, and unbeknownst to her, he was on his way right at that moment.
Phew. Another chapter done. So sorry for the delay, just been mad busy the last week so I struggled to find time to write (as usual). I hope this chapter was worth the wait and if it wasn't I apologise. The next few chapters where the inevitable event that I've been building towards occurs will be more exciting I promise. I also will include Eiko and some of the characters again in upcoming chapters. To be honest I completely forgot all about them so that's why they've all been absent for a while now, but they will come back into it I promise!
Like I stated at the top, updates will now be occurring every week or so from now on, just this update was a few days longer because I was busy with college work. Until the next chapter, see ya!