Part 8: Highway to the Forbidden ZoneWith Gash gone, the only thing that Edge can do is head to the caravan, so he points Roderick east and flies off towards the horizon. Remembering what the seeker told him about keeping the dragon out of sight, Edge dismounts before he gets too close and walks the rest of the way.
The caravan seems like a modest dwelling of nomads - three huts, a few carts, and boxes of supplies piled here and there. As Edge walks through the gate, he sees a young boy sitting on the ground and playing with something, so he decides to approach him and make an easy friend.
Of course, Edge hadn't counted on the kid asking him a completely nonsensical question.
Kid: You're coming with us, right?
Edge: What? Uh, no, not really...
Kid: Gee, that's no fun!
Luckily, the kid takes Edge's stammering in stride, and goes on.
Kid: My name is Enkak. Nice to meet you, Mr. Hunter!
Edge did just say he wasn't a hunter, right? Looks like Enkak's friendliness comes from him being a very special child.
Leaving the kid to continue playing (Edge didn't see what it was he was playing with, and prays that it's not dried coolia dung), he decides to head for the nearest hut to see if he can find someone mentally competent to talk to.
And I don't accept Imperial currency. There's nothing for your kind here.
"Be careful what you wish for - you just might get it" seems particularly apt at this moment. Undaunted, Edge tries another one of the huts to find a mother and daughter sewing together, and before Edge can even open his mouth to ask for help,
Why don't you leave us alone?
The bitterness in the woman's voice sends Edge reeling, and he stumbles back into the daylight. The visit to the caravan has been nothing but a disaster so far, and the hostility of the gypsies' reactions is beginning to frighten him. Was this all part of a plan Gash had? Did he deliberately tell Edge to keep Roderick away in order to separate them, knowing the gypsies would kill him and leaving the dragon ripe for the taking? For one insane moment Edge is gripped by a compulsion to flee, but he fights it off. Summoning his courage and putting one last bit of trust in Gash, he steps to the final hut and opens the door.
At least he's asking a question and not shooting...
Here's the moment of truth...
Gash may not be able to cut his sleeves correctly, but at least he didn't sell Edge out.
Man: I thought you were with the men that were here earlier...band of theiving bastards. Sit down, won't you?
Edge gratefully takes a seat, and begins telling the man his story.
Man: Craymen, eh? Typical Gash, whenever he sends someone here, there's trouble right behind...I'm not sure if one of them was him, but I did see a group of men here that fit your description, 3 days ago.
No, not really!
Man: They seized weapons and antidotes. I'm sure that explains why you've been getting dirty looks all day. They went north...to the Forbidden Zone.
Edge: Forbidden Zone?
Man: To the north, there is an area where a gravity storm blows. It surrounds a ruin from the Ancient Age, but you'd be crazy to go there.
Crazy like a FOX!
and horrible drooling creatures with razor sharp teeth roam there. That is why some call it the Death of 1,000 Pieces.
...Just let Craymen go there, the monsters will extract your revenge.
Edge: I don't care, I'm going. I've got to take at least one shot at Craymen myself...
Man: Well, I'd take you there myself, but I need to protect my people. But we'll do our best to aid you. I'll tell Baicah to sell you something from his secret stash.
Man: He's an expert on the Ancient Age. He may look shady, but he is a man you can trust.
Edge: Thank you.
Man: Don't mention it. One more thing...if you come back in one piece, please sell us whatever you find. Those men took everything. We need weapons and medicine.
Edge bows deeply in gratitude to the man for his help and respect for his hardships, then goes to see the shopkeeper Baicah, who is thankfully now a lot friendlier.
I'm Baicah. Nice to meet you. If you got some rare items, show them to me. I'll pay good money for them.
Before they get down to business, Edge decides to ask Baicah about his destination.
Baicah: You're really going to the Forbidden Zone?
Baicah: I see...then be careful entering the gravity storms. The Imperial forces are probably on the other side.
Baicah: They say the ruins in the Forbidden Zone control gravity. The one who awakens those ruins will be transported far beyond the gravity storms.
Edge and Baicah chat for a moment more about Baicah's reluctance to become a hunter, and Edge takes his leave of the shopkeep, to see the caravan leader he talked to earlier sitting by a fire.
Hey, he finally introduced himself! He says Edge is welcome any time as long as he doesn't cause any trouble, which is fair enough. Before leaving for the Forbidden Zone, Edge asks him how the caravan actually came to be.
An'jou: We left our dying homeland. Actually, we were forced out by those monsters. We have traveled in search of a new place to call home, and...we're all that's left now.
With that depressing tale echoing in his ears, Edge leaves the caravan to rejoin Roderick, and the two of them head north to the Forbidden Zone.
The Forbidden Zone - an ominous mass of gray clouds swirling over a churning pool of dark water. The place is unwelcoming as it is,
and becomes less so the second Edge and Roderick arrive. Edge has no idea where the voice is coming from, but regardless, it is not saying things he wants to hear.
Shift to Warning Level 1
The sky TRANSPORTER will be sealed.
With that, the seven stone wedges that were originally around the base of the odd structure go shooting off in all directions. It looks like Edge will have to find the wedges and replace them before the device will reactivate - but as soon as they start off, they are attacked.
A group of Lazara Skimmers appears, zipping along the surface of the water and chasing after Edge and Roderick. Luckily, they do not repel head-on attacks very well, so Edge maneuvers Roderick in front of them and unleashes a volley of his new, more powerful lock-on lasers. The three above water are quickly disposed of...
which causes the three that were still lurking underwater to rise to the surface, exposing themselves to the dragon's firepower to be similarly disposed of.
Returning to their explorations, Edge finds the first of the wedges lodged in a remote part of the Forbidden Zone.
Accessing it with Roderick causes it to shoot across the water's surface,
eventually coming to rest and re-integrating itself with the transporter system.
His task clear to him now, Edge resumes exploring the mysterious area, and is accosted by a few more groups of Lazara Skimmers...
before a group of full-fledged Lazara swoop in from behind.
There's a safe zone in the rear of the Lazara formation, so Edge heads there to take refuge,
but as soon as he does, the Lazara initialize an evasion system which causes Roderick's lock-on lasers to miss completely. (So much for specializing in ATT to power up the lock-ons, eh?)
Even though the lock-ons are useless the gun remains effective, but taking an entire gauge to kill one enemy is too slow - not to mention that spending too much time in the Lazaras' rear causes them to whip the dragon around to their front and unleash a devastating Laser Storm attack. Waiting on the Lazaras' sides, where their damage potential is much less, to charge up the gauges and swinging around to the front to unleash lock-on attacks to their weak points ends up being the riskier yet more effective tactic, and subsequent groups are downed with minimal casualties.
With effective combat strategies for both sets of enemies, Edge finds the rest of the activation wedges without difficulty, and once the final one is sent whizzing back towards the central hub,
has been broken. Commence reactivation.
The mechanism begins to spin, and when Roderick enters the effective range of the transporter, both dragon and rider are propelled high in the air - so high that they rise above the clouds and into the blinding sunlight.
Blinking furiously, Edge sees a few blobs off in the distance, and when his eyes refocus and the images resolve themselves...
I've finally caught up with him...
There's nowhere to hide in the sky, however, and his prey is hardly caught unawares.
What!? They're mythical... No matter. Bring it down!
Before Edge can deal with Craymen himself, there are two escort ships in the way. He cannot see a weak point, and to make matters worse, the ships are constantly shifting position to move the dragon within range of their attacks. Thanks to Roderick's high AGL power he can charge a gauge in the time it takes the escorts to move within range, so he's able to launch an attack and then dart back to safety before the escorts can do anything about it.
The lock-on volleys are doing less damage than Edge would like, so he decides to try directing Roderick to use his newest Berserk technique, Laser Storm (very similar to the ones the Lazaras were using on Roderick a few moments ago).
It works decently, but seeing as how the dragon's SPR power is so low, it stands to reason that the berserks won't be that powerful. Still, Roderick remains quite capable of dealing damage, and a moment later...
Then I must swat this pest myself... And the true battle - the one Edge has been yearning for since the moment he saw his captain die - is on.
This fight will not be easy, however. Craymen's ship is powerfully armed,
and if Edge stays in one place for too long,
poor Roderick takes the brunt of the punishment. After taking a few hits, Edge sees the inherent flaw in Craymen's attack pattern and begins to exploit it.
Normally, behind the ship is the only safe haven, as Craymen's gunners fire tracers at the dragon any time he ventures to the sides or in front. That quickly changes, however, as staying behind the ship will cause the gunners to ready a powerful Homing Mine. But, until the mine is released, the gunners are too busy dealing with preventing it from exploding prematurely to man the machine guns, so Edge is able to dart to the side once a mine has been readied, unload volley after volley of lock-on lasers in safety, and retreat to the rear once the mine has been uselessly released until a new one is prepared. After a few moments of this,
and the ship starts scraping the clouds in order to protect the mine bay from attack. Due to Roderick's newfound quickness, the sub-cannon never gets a chance to fire, as Edge only brings the dragon in range long enough to unleash more lock-on volleys.
After a few more exchanges of fire, the crew manages to reload the Homing Mines, and the ship resumes attack altitude. The constant damage Roderick has rained down upon the ship is taking its toll, and soon...
Wasting no time Edge swoops in close, leaps onto the deck, and gun drawn, heads for the bridge.
He finds a mangled, bloody body in the captain's chair, but it's not Craymen - it's his first mate, Arwen (not to be confused with the braless Liv Tyler character of the same name).
Edge: Craymen! Where is he?
Arwen: You fell for our trap. He should be at the Tower by now.
You have done well, tracking us down. But it ends here. She will finish you.
Their conversation is suddenly interrupted by a blinding flash and a roar of flame. Edge just manages to dive aside in time - Arwen is not so lucky.
Edge regains his footing in the ruined bridge, his body aching and his ears ringing from the blast, still wondering what Arwen's final words meant. Who was the "she" he referred to?
Edge runs like hell to remount Roderick - looks like any conversation with the mysterious girl will have to happen in the sky.
I don't want to fight you!
Girl: His enemy is my enemy.
Edge: Do you mean Craymen!?
The other dragon suddenly fires a lock-on volley of its own, eliciting cries of pain from Roderick.
Edge: Don't make me attack you! Why are you on Craymen's side!?
Girl: There is no need to answer.
And with that, a new battle is joined. The dragon being ridden by the ancient girl is tough,
but its entire tail is a weak point, and Edge uses this knowledge to repeatedly unload volley after volley, stopping only when his gauges run out.
The enemy dragon proves surprisingly maneuverable, moving so fast that it seems like it can manipulate space-time...
and putting Edge and Roderick in its sights to deliver powerful attacks. Still, the speed and power of Roderick are too much.
That's great to hear, thanks.
With a flash of white light, Atolm and the girl are gone, along with all the remaining space on the first CD of the game.