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Reflect and Reveal

by SpacemanSpiff

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The faint light of the candle was not nearly enough to make his soul any brighter. It danced across his face and off stone walls sending shadows stretching throughout the small room. It wasn't as cozy and forgiving as he always hoped it would be when he came back to Baron after a long mission. For its size it could've served well as a dungeon cell, but that wasn't what the problem was here. The room was fine. It served its purpose just as anything else, giving him a fine bed to sleep his nights in. Nights that recently seemed to be getting longer and longer, but he had himself to blame for that. If he could only force these troubles from his mind then he wouldn't wake up in the middle of the night like this, he wouldn't have to fight for the rest he surely deserved.

The cold stone wall seemed more inviting than the flowers that stood stagnant in the vase between them. He watched as their shadows wisped around the grey canvas, the tick-tock of the clock beating much like his heart; steady and fast. A small drop of nervous sweat actually escaped his brow and rolled down his cheek. The faint tickle as it crawled across his skin sent a shiver down his spine...and he knew it could only get worse.

"Why am I so nervous? It's only a mission, just another job for His Majesty, like always." Cecil tried so hard to reassure himself, though it never seemed to work. Tomorrow he was going out again on another mission. But this one would not be like all the rest. There would be no reward for this, and he knew it all too well. Something was terribly wrong. He could feel it deep in his bones, that hint of wickedness rocking gently within, just to assure him that it was there.

Cecil found himself nearly falling asleep in the palm of his hand as his head rested in his fingers, arm propped up on the table before him. He was awakened by the creak of the wooden chair he was sitting in as he shifted his weight around in it. His eyes opened, but begged to be closed again, the bags weighing heavy on his eyelids. He wanted to sleep but he couldn't, not with all the questions he had constantly stirring his mind. They poked and prodded at him as though he were a wounded animal, tested by the foul beaks of circling vultures. He feared he would never escape this mind's prison that he had fallen into; bars too thick to give any hope in any shape or form.

"If I go through with this...what will I have to say for myself?"

His whispers reached out to nothing, nothing but the emptiness that he was beginning to feel inside of him. He was so alone, alone with this pain that was stinging the back of his mind, telling him what he didn't want to hear, what he didn't want to believe. Things were becoming harder to understand in recent days and he was hoping it was just something he could quickly put behind him. But the more he thought about it, the more sleepless nights he endured, the realizations began to sink in. This was not going to go away.

The quiet scratch of wood on the stone floor pursued Cecil's chair as he stood from the table and made his way to the washbowl, a mirror hanging silently above it. He carried the small candle he had lit as the flickering shadows followed him across the room. Upon reaching his destination, the candle was immediately rested on the small table before the elegant carafe was lifted and tipped over, a still stream of virgin water filling the washbowl as he so desired. Nothing felt better than the refreshing cold splashing over his calescent face, crystalline drops falling freely from his cheeks. His eyes searched through the rippled waters for something to soothe him, but he only found his own quivering reflection. It seemed to force his eyes up into the mirror before him, his dark features half cast in shadows against the candlelight.

'So frail that man in the mirror seems...' Cecil thought to himself, recognizing his apparent angst in his own face. He didn't expect to be pulled down by such malaise, but he tried hard to push it aside as he straightened his stance, still keeping his eyes locked on his reflection. He wasn't going to let this get to him, for he was a knight and would never let such things trouble him. It was in the code of the Dark Knights of Baron to put foolish emotions aside, emotions such as these that festered on his soul. With a calm confidence he softly spoke to the man in the mirror.

"I am a Dark Knight. A Knight held under the Order of the Dark Sword. By its grace and the power vested in His Majesty, I am deified above all other knights within the kingdom of Baron. It is my duty to serve and protect my King, no matter the cost of others beneath him, including myself. My judgments are second to His Majesty's orders. Never shall I betray my kingdom, for it is everything that I stand for. If need be, my life shall be sacrificed for the safety of my kingdom, for that is my duty. I am a Dark Knight."

It was the oath he had taken under the dark sword of Baron, the final words he had given to the King just before receiving his chivalrous position. The same words were etched into the coat of arms hanging just above the stairs leading down through the tower outside his room. It was what he had become, and he would never forget it.

A faint flicker fetched Cecil's eye as the candle started winding down the wax, a delicate twinkle off the tip of a dark horn jutting out from a shadowed corner close to the table. As Cecil approached, the chest quietly resting there in the corner became discernible within the darkness. Atop the chest sat his helmet, which emanated a pale glow against the light of the candle, creating an eerie demeanor. He could understand how such a visage could strike fear into the hearts of men.

Cecil picked up the devilish looking piece of armor, its complements sleeping peacefully within the chest. His eyes gazed deeply into the dark hole that was its face, the light glimmer from the dark steel creating an endless void inside of it. For a moment he wondered why it had to be so dark, why it had to look so evil. The thought was brushed aside quickly as he heard the rustling of sheets at the other side of his room. The woman he had left sleeping there was stirring.

"Rosa..." Cecil whispered through the shadows. She gave no response, evidently still deep in her dreams. Cecil simply smiled as he could only imagine what sweet dreams she must be having, "Though I may be a dark knight, you will always be my light to come home to."

He continued to smile as he glanced back at the somber helmet in his hands, only to find a pale face staring darkly back at him. Within the blink of his eyes it was gone, but the image still lingered in his head a few seconds more. He nearly could've sworn that he had actually seen someone's face in his helmet. He was nearly afraid to hold it until he noticed the small sliver of light peeking through the shade over his window. He quickly denounced the apparition as the morning sunrise playing tricks on his weary eyes.

"Another sunrise I've been astir to see," Cecil said with a soft sigh. He certainly enjoyed seeing such a beautiful sight from the heights of his tower bedroom, the vast lands of Baron ignited under a golden sun. But this morning it meant that it was time to face this ordeal he had been dreading every sleepless night, "These are the trying times we must live through. If I can't get through this then I am not fit to be a dark knight at all."

Cecil bent down, gently laying his helmet next to the chest at his feet, trying his best not to stir his love still asleep. Quietly he opened the iron casket, the dark armor he had come to live within sitting intimately inside its funereal home. He stared for a moment, wondering if he should dare put on such wicked looking armature.

'Is this truly who I am?'

The thought crossed his mind swiftly and he just as swiftly threw it out the window. He could not defy the King, no matter how he felt about it. His judgments came second to His Majesty's orders. He began to find it silly that he was caring so much for the armor he wore.

'I sound like a woman complaining of her clothes.'

Cecil laughed inside, letting go the worries he had before as he began to quietly remove the pieces of his armor from the chest. The pieces fit like a human puzzle on his strong build, the shadowed plates creating a dark harmony upon his body. As quiet as he was quick to slip the pieces on, Rosa remained still on the bed across the room. He could see her gentle curves upon the mattress through the touch of light sneaking into the room. Cecil left his gauntlets in his boots next to the chest along with his helmet and sword as he tip-toed over to the table he had been sitting at earlier. He took a tender flower from the vase, a ruby red rose, immaculate in its beauty, and he walked over to the bed.

Cecil simply watched her as the soft breaths escaped her pristine lips, the look of an angel upon her face. She was nothing short of perfect and he loved her more than anything else in the world. The thought of having to leave her sight was disheartening, but he knew she would always be here waiting for him. She always was.

He laid the rose on the pillow next to her, his gift for leaving her alone yet again in the morning. Though she never said it, he could only imagine that it must be depressing not to wake up with the one you love in the morning. He left her with a soft kiss upon her cheek, the warmth inviting to his cold lips. For a moment more he watched before turning for the door.

Cecil grabbed the rest of his armor, strapping his sword to his side before heading for the stairs. Just as he was walking by the washbowl, he caught his reflection in the mirror. He saw a stronger man than he had before, a man who was ready for what he was about to face. Though he didn't realize it, there was a slight smile creeping out of him. He quickly blew out the candle still burning bright against the receding darkness as he moved with silent speed down the stairs, the blackened wick smoking relentlessly into the morning air. It would be the last time the light of the candle, its valiant burning flame, would meet the morning sun.

Caves of Narshe: Final Fantasy IV
Version 6
©1997–2017 Josh Alvies (Rangers51)

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