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The Empire is snuffing out Returners wherever it finds them. We must find a way to strike back before it's too late...
- Banon (Leader)
- Locke Cole
- Edgar Roni Figaro
- Terra Branford
- Sabin Rene Figaro
- Celes Chere
- Cyan Garamonde
- Setzer Gabbiani
- Old woman in Vector
- Old man in Vector
- Esper informer in Nikeah (GBA/Mobile only)
The Returners were formed by Banon to resist the Empire's growing influence as they used Magitek to conquer the southern territories and set their sights on the north in the Third Gestahlian Campaign. The Returners station in a hideout in the Sabre Mountains, but their influence is small. King Edgar of Figaro provides funds and resources to the group using Locke as a go-between, but the Returners lack the manpower for open war on the Empire and operate quietly. The kingdom of Doma sides with them, as do individuals in other cities, including Arvis in Narshe. Initially the struggle goes badly for the Returners and their allies, with almost the entire population of Doma perishing in the Siege of Doma. When Figaro is dragged into the war, they quickly lose South Figaro to the Imperials.
Arvis has Locke rescue a former Imperial soldier named Terra from Narshe. Terra can use magic, a power thought mythical, and has been freed from Imperial control by contact with a frozen esper found in Narshe Mines. This confirms for Banon that the Empire's source of power is the legendary magical beasts known as espers. To discover more, Banon and Terra, along with Edgar and his brother Sabin, return to Narshe to defend the town from attack, and the Battle for the Frozen Esper ensues. Narshe guards defend the town while Returners defend the esper against Kefka Palazzo's Imperial forces. After repelling the Imperial force Terra is discovered to be half-esper, and reveals the existence of another realm where the espers live the Empire had invaded, and seized the espers used to produce their Magitek weapons.
Narshe joins the Returners, and with Figaro this gives them the resources and technology to attack the Empire's capital Vector, but they lack the manpower. On their request, Terra opens the gate to the Esper World, releasing several espers that decimate Vector. The Returner-Narshe forces occupy most of Vector while the Empire calls a ceasefire to look for the espers with Terra's help. Terra and her friends travel to Thamasa and help locate the espers and their leader Yura, who soon agrees to a peace treaty with Imperial general Leo Cristophe. The peace is short-lived; soon Kefka attacks the town, and kills Leo and his troops and captures the espers as magicite. The Imperials then invade the Esper World and raise the Floating Continent. Although the Returners destroy the Imperial air force in the battle over the Floating Continent, they fail to prevent Kefka from moving the Warring Triad out of alignment. This triggers the end of the world.
The Returners are mostly wiped out in the global disaster, with the exception of the playable party and, in the Advance and mobile releases, a man in Nikeah who tells the party about the four new espers that can be found. The organization can be said to live on through the playable party in the World of Ruin, but are never referred to as such.
Returner means "to go" or "come back", as to an earlier condition or place.
The Returners are trying to return things to the way they were before the empire's conquests, and return it to peaceful times. In the World of Ruin, the Returners' "spirit" lingers, with Celes saying she wants to return the world to the state before Kefka ruined it. Kefka brings death and destruction, while the party wants to return life into the dying world, finally materializing it in the ending.
The word "returner" is used throughout the game not simply referring to the organization, but many NPCs in the World of Ruin mention their wish to return to the "good old days" (the World of Balance).