Final Fantasy 9: Black Mage No.421 - Supposed To Go This Way

Story by McT, D1oMo6Y2o01

It had been almost a week since No.421 was brought to Ignaz Barril, one of the more disreputable smithes in Lindblum.

As far as the Black Mage had found out, Barril was so disreputable mainly because he sold weapons. ANY weapons. To ANY costumer. He didn't care if the costumer was a twilighted figure asking for the most efficient way to blow up a whole village, or a kid that barely could hold the sword it purchased. As long as they paid, Barril forged them what they wanted.

It didn't particularily worry No.421, because he had no idea what all this talk about weapons was about. Sure, he knew that the things in the dark room around him were called "weapons", but their true purpose stayed unclear to him, other than them being made, then sold. His main concern was to do everything right and not anger his master. He had a million questions, but ever since he came here he barely had dared to talk. First time he did, Barril reacted very suspicious.

"Since when do you guys talk?", Barril had asked, his voice uncomfortingly loud.

"Don't tell me those two swindlers have cheated on me again!"

"What kind of Black Mage are you, anyway? Weak-looking as you are!"

It seemed like the smith vented all the frustration of his life into the ongoing questions. At once 421 had been quiet again, timidly listening to his master's ranting and watching him walk up and down, gesturing with annoyance.

After a while, though, the huge man had calmed down. He went back to his daily work, barely even paying attention to the Black Mage anymore.

Barril also had shown him around the forge. There were actually four rooms: The forge itself, that dark, sticky room only lit by the fireplace that 421 had gotten to know when he first came here. Then, behind a wooden door almost hidden between the shelves of weapons and forging tools, was Barril's private housing; a room containing a bed, some cupboards, as well as a small kitchen and two more doors leading to a storage room and a place Barril had called a "toilet", which puzzled No.421 a little, since all Barril did with it was going in there from time to time, locking the door from the inside. Must have been a good place, though, since whenever Barril re-appeared from it he had a little smile on his face.

421's place was mainly the forge, though. All he was needed for was keeping the fire alive, and maybe the one or other helpout with sorting the finished items into the shelves. The rest of the time he watched Barril carefully, trying to gather every bit of information he could get. He watched when iron, wood and magic were put together to a unique piece of armor or weapon. He watched, from a dark and hidden corner, when costumers came, and he almost could swear he saw a tiny amused grin on his master's lips whenever someone came in to stare unbelievingly at the Black Mage and then back at the smith.

The first night came, and while Barril went to lie down in his bed, No.421 sat down in a corner he found to be quite comfortable, to go to sleep, too.

He had been surprised when his master actually put together something like a bed in that corner after he saw that the Black Mage, in fact, had to sleep, too. It was made from a big, square crate sawed to the right height to step into easily, but it was comfortable non-the-less, filled with some older pillows and a blanket. No.421 also was surprised that Barril didn't mind to share his food with the mage, and while quietly sitting at the kitchen table and eating some of the delicious soup he got offered, some of the fright from the big, gloomy man melted away.

* * *

"YOU stay here", Barril growled as he walked towards the staircase that led up outside. "I'm off to get some food and supplies. Don't do anything stupid... and if someone tries to break in while I'm gone... kill them."

The *thud* of the hatch leading to the Business District of Lindblum seemed to underline the last sentence as the smith left. No.421 looked up at it, hearing the rattling of the chains when his master locked the entrance to the forge.

When everything was quiet, the Black Mage sat down on a chair next to the anvil and large oven and looked around the room, waiting.

'Mr. Barril really isn't that bad, after all', he thought. 'He didn't do anything to me so far... unlike those creatures in the forest...'

He absentmindedly stared at the counter in front of him. 'The forest... I wonder if the others are okay..? If Ruben and Fohlen have found them..?'

The mage's stare wandered up to the hatch to the outside. He wished so much to go out there. See more of that huge city. The great buildings he had seen. All the people. And he couldn't get his mind off the other Black Mages he had left behind in that forest, either. Had it been right to just leave that place....?

Outside, he heard the sounds of the nearby market. Shouting and chatting. The noises of carts, animals and also the ongoing repairs. All that... life?

To get closer, he went up the staircase and sat down right underneath the hatch. Putting a hand to the wood, he listened closely.

'Why can't I..? Why can't I go outside..?'

No.421 quietly shook his head. He was sure Ruben and Fohlen did have their reasons when they had told him to hide from the people. He had noticed the looks on the faces of the few who had come in here. He remembered the looks on Ruben's, Fohlen's and even Mr. Barril's faces when they first saw him. But he still didn't understand. If he'd just go outside, say "hello" to some of the persons he'd meet, what harm would that do..?

His amber eyes glowed a little more intense as he considered breaking the door open to have a glance, just a tiny glance, into the world out there.

But he didn't do it.

'No... no... I promised to not cause any trouble... I mustn't disappoint Mr. Barril.'

He lowered his hand that was still pressed to the wood of the hatch, and slowly went back to the chair in the room.

Something... something would happen. It surely was all supposed to go this way.

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