Still avoiding Celes’ requests, we went to the Coliseum to see how it worked. Ultros was working there as a receptionist, just as a goofy footnote. An imperial soldier there told us that he had told Locke to “talk to the emperor twice,” with that capitalization (as though implying he didn’t mean the capital-E “Emperor” of Vector), saying it would lead to some legendary treasure of the Emperor’s.
Kyle and I ignored this lead, and I’m not sure why. True, Kyle and I are prone to ignore the whims of the plot when we get an airship, but we also have the Marathon rules telling us we have to recruit party members as soon as they’re available. Honestly, the only reason we went to the Coliseum in the first place was because it was closest and might have led us to Shadow. (As you can tell from our fruitless trip to the Coliseum, Kyle and I weren’t looking at a walkthrough at the time: we simply knew that every party member was up for grabs somewhere and so we wouldn’t be violating the rules by enjoying things without spoilers.) Nevertheless, Kyle and I chose to go to Maranda to track down Cyan instead of Locke, even though we’re not a fan of Cyan. I’m not sure why. Some mysteries are lost to time… although it may be that Maranda was the first town we found while flying around the world at random.
When we arrived in Maranda, we learned that Cyan had already left. We also found Lola, the girlfriend of the wounded/ill soldier who had formerly been living in Mobliz, the town that had been destroyed by evil god laser. Ah ha ha, ha, ahhh… this is awkward. To make matters worse, it seemed she was still receiving letters from her fiancé, and Celes recognized the handwriting as being Cyan’s (how she did this, I don’t know. I can’t say that writing has played a very prominent role in the plot of FFVI up to this point. Was she spying on messages intercepted from Doma back in her imperial days?). She concluded that he had been keeping up the ruse that Lola’s fiancé was still alive to keep Lola happy. The pigeon delivering the letter appeared (what, in our psychic vision??) to go to the town in the north end of the continent, past Jidoor.
We stopped off in Jidoor in hopes of finding Locke, but has no luck there either. However, we did hear that a painting of the Emperor had been put up in the artisan’s house at the north end of town, which might have explained that cryptic hint from earlier. We also heard a rumour about a little girl, probably Relm, hanging out inside the collector’s place, so we cut off our plans to follow Locke or Cyan to track her down instead.
In the collector’s house, Owzer’s, we found the lights off, and heard a voice from an unknown figure that pushed us off the staircase. Reading the diary of the collector, we learned about the hidden light switch nearby, and made our way up to the painting of the Emperor, where we found a letter saying that “The legendary treasure sleeps where the mountains form a star.” Presumably Locke had gone off to this unknown location, but that could wait until we had tracked down our Beastmaster.
There was no sign of Relm in the house at first, but during our meticulous search of the paintings, a painting of the “lovely lady” in the corner attacked us, and revealed a hidden door. In the basement, we were pulled into another painting, where a blade dancer enemy attacked us with her, uh, her cats. An even more annoying section of the game had doors kicking us out of other paintings. Shit, Relm gets clever and irritating when she’s found a good hiding spot! Later, she tried to murder us with floating chests, smashed onto our heads! To add to the irritation, virtually the entire party had learned a full set of spells from our Espers, so if we didn’t get a new party member or Magicite soon, Kyle and I were probably going to make some bad choices just to fill time.
At the heart of the corrupted mansion, we found Owzler had been transformed into some kind of clown puppet, and Relm was trying to tend to a painting of the Goddess. I presumed this was the Goddess of the Warring Triad though I turned out to be incorrect in the long run. I was also incorrect in the short run, as Owzler to reveal that a monster called Chadarnook had taken over the painting, so it wasn’t really a painting, either!
Chadaranook attacked us, and after a few rounds the goddess image became a darker image with thorns, though it’s hard to say if this was “the real” Chadaranook or perhaps Chadaranook appearing as a distinct aspect of the Goddess. It changed form back and forth for the rest of the battle. After a while, just as we were beginning to lose, some… tapir appeared and restore our two surviving, sleeping party members. I’m still at a loss to explain this, so if anyone wants to give it a go, I’d appreciate. It doesn’t seem to have been a Desperation Attack?
After an extended fight, we turned to a walkthrough after deciding that things had gone on too long for a boss at this part of the game. In doing so, we discovered the Goddess form was (effectively) immune to damage since it would restore HP on being killed, and so we would have to double up our attack on the Demon form instead. It turns out there’s some (perhaps accidentally) cut dialogue explaining this fact. Search the linked page for “Owzer,” the character’s SNES name, if you want to find it. As I write this it’s currently his first line of cut dialogue. On clearing the fight, we learned Relm had been commissioned to paint the painting after Owzler had been inspired by a piece of magicite he bought at auction. The magicite turned out to contain the Esper Lakshmi. Relm joined the party, Lakshmi gave us Curaga, and everyone won.
Inside the Auction House, we decided to pick up the magicite we had skipped earlier in the game. We bought the Golem Magicite without much trouble, and Kyle also bought also a Hero’s Ring, hoping that if there were less items on sale, it would increase the odds of the other piece of magicite showing up on later bids. It showed only two bids later so he might have been right The Zona Seeker Magicite taught some important magic very fast (Osmose is a favourite of ours since FFIV, and it came at x15!), and Golem… well, Golem fulfilled our Marathon obligations.
Went north to Zozo, where we redid the entire dungeon from the World of Balance before finding out we had gone in the wrong direction. Can’t blame anyone but ourselves. After teleporting out, we talked to a guy on the ground for a de-ruster that would get us through an upper apartment… and into a mountain? Zozo, man. I don’t know what else to say. I mean, there’s a small cleft north of the building but shit, I’ve stopped questioning how things work in this town. We climbed the mountain and found Cyan, who ultimately confessed about his forged letters to Lola. After the conversation, he rejoined the party, but there was still one mystery: his treasure chest. We ignored it at first to go fight the Storm Dragon. This was one of the Eight Dragons we had heard about earlier, and it was living in the nearby caves. It didn’t last very long after we applied a few buffs. As for the chest, it was unusual: an intro to machinery books (eh?) and FFVI’s infamous “Bushido in the Bedroom” porn magazine (or possibly a Kama Sutra-style guidebook?).
Returning to Maranda, Lola admitted she knew her boyfriend was dead but was empathizing with the sender. After exchanging a few words of comfort anonymously, Cyan snuck an apology letter to her into her pile, and left the story at that.
Veering off to the Opera House, we found another of the Eight Dragons waiting for us there, on the stage, with the band still playing in the middle of the apocalypse. “All our critics died!” Kyle provided by way of explanation. You could only get there by flicking a switch from the Celes sequence, which would have previously ruined the play by dropping you onto the stage. Very clever, turning a gag and former failure condition into the solution for a future puzzle! As for the drago— …Final Fantasy VI, that is a DINOSAUR.
As for the Earth DINOSAUR, we ran into problems immediately when we realized that Relm, who we had swapped in as the rest of the party was maxed in their Espers, had no spells at all. Also her Sketch of the Dinosaur cast Thunder. It’s not a dragon… it’s not Earth-aligned… I have some words for you, my friend. Kyle did manage to get everyone into the air with Float, though he had to do so over and over thanks to the Dinosaur’s “50gs” ability, which grounded everyone. Without Strago we couldn’t hit the Earth Dragon’s Aqua Breath weakness, either. Nevertheless, Kyle pulled through the slog and won a Magus Rod for Relm.
From there, we dutifully and with no real enthusiasm followed a lead of Cyan’s to locate Gau on the Veldt. Before we found him, however, we sidetracked to the cave that had once led to the Serpent’s Trench, where we found Interceptor, who guided us into the back. There, we found a camp full of poachers (if you can call them that with the law dismantled), and learned that they had helped raise Gau back in the day. Past them, we located a chest through a hidden passage that was guarded by a Death Warden, a skeletal foe that didn’t last long against Raise. “Cheating!” Kyle proclaimed. Death Warden dropped a claw for Sabin.
Deeper into the cave, we discovered Shadow, injured and in need of our help. Again. We also located the Ichigeki, the sword that “someone” (again, Shadow) was looking for at the Coliseum. Of course, there would be no recruiting Shadow at the Coliseum if he was bleeding out in some cave, so obviously we’d have to complete a few more steps to get him back in the party. Noting a save point, we took it as we debated why the monster that had hurt Shadow hadn’t eaten him yet. Kyle pointed out that Interceptor was there… after walking off through the cave to find us. Kyle then pointed out the fact that we’re probably supposed to see Shadow is a badass who wouldn’t be killed in a situation like that, and not as an incompetent who kept ending up nearly dead without our help, which is how we actually saw him.
Shadow’s attacker turned out to be a Behemoth King, which – okay – is a pretty good excuse for being knocked flat on your ass if you ask me. After killing him, another one showed up, yellow this time, which turned out to be Undead. The implication may be that the Behemoth King came back to life, but the transition just doesn’t imply that for some reason, instead implying that the Behmoth King died and the undead Behemoth King walked into the room in a remarkable coincidence! Unfortunately for us, the Behemoth King was unusually resistant to Holy, which we learned to our misfortune with Cyan. Nevertheless, it wasn’t a very difficult boss – Relm even won a Behemoth Suit.
The party flew Shadow back to Thamassa, despite passing numerous towns in the process. Why? We get no explanation for this. But how convenient: it turns out Shadow had memories of him leaving Thamasa to become an assassin, and we saw this in flashback. Apparently, when he left town, he left his daughter behind. Relm, presumably. I don’t even have to get into the detailed theory to guess that, though the game apparently provides if you look deep enough. More on that in a second. Back in the present, Shadow bailed on us, but we tracked him down to the coliseum and fought him (bare…handed?) for the Ichigeki. He joined up. His rejoining the party wasn’t even that big a deal, and I can’t help but think the devs put him there to advertise the coliseum when they could have easily had him join in Thamassa!
Further clues about Shadow’s background are supposed to be revealed should you go to inns with Shadow. But here’s the catch: Kyle and I apparently never used inns from this point on, since we could heal on the airship! No, Kyle only started to see these scenes while he was grinding between sessions, and he helpfully described them to me over the internet, telling me about Shadow being named “Clyde,” and running off with a man named Baram to become robbers. Looking at the wiki, it seems there may have been even more dreams, but Kyle only grinded for so long, and only so often with Shadow in the party.
Having been driven off course, we returned to the Veldt to fetch Gau (bitterly, let me tell you), though it took a while, and we ultimately had to check a walkthrough to learn that we had to go to the Veldt with a party of 3, since the game had Gau rejoin you using the normal Rage mechanics, which required you to do the same.
At this point, we had run out of our leads on party members (although judging from my notes, we must have temporarily forgotten that Strago had joined the Cult of Kefka, as we went looking for him in Thamassa). Instead, we returned to Terra to see if she would prove more receptive to us now that we had both an airship and several returning party members. During this stretch, we gave Gau a few moments in the limelight, if only to give him Cura just in case we were ever forced to use him and he died, forcing him into a “Joe” role once again.
Terra wasn’t having the easiest time on babysitting duty. It seems her two teenaged wards had managed to get pregnant. There’s also some drama in here about the new parents being estranged from one another, but it has to take something of a back seat when Humbaba attacks again. The party fought the monster off, Terra joining us in Esper form to defeat it for good. After this, Terra decided to rejoin the party, realizing that she was feeling love for the children and wanting to save the world for their sakes. She left the teenagers in charge. I’d argue that they maybe have enough on their plate with a newborn on the way, but considering you’re off to save the world… eh, it’s all right, you go ahead.