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by wyvern14

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Part 1 (2008)
Part 2 (2008)
Part 3 (2008)
Part 4 (2008)
Part 5 (2008)
Part 6 (2008)
Part 7 (2008)
Part 8 (2008)
Part 9 (2008)
Part 10 (2008)
Part 11 (2008)
Part 12 (2008)
Part 13 (2008)

Chapter 2

Of darkness and secrets

It was dark as to be almost palpable. Blackness covered the sky like a thick blanket and the shadows dancing by the fire were long and dramatic. Sitting close to one another, the holy knight and the boyish prince spoke in hushed tones.

"Rosa assured us she would be fine, no scars will even remain. Provided she wears gloves to avoid cold bites, her fingers will stay nimble."

Cecil looked long and hard at him, as if he was searching for something in his expression that would prove his suspicions. His comrade sighed, glancing down at his hands, which he twisted relentlessly on his laps with nervousness.

"That's not the point, the wounds themselves are nothing. Was she... ever like this before?"

Their eyes met, and the paladin found himself realizing how young the ninja looked at this very moment. Always before, the prince had been brash, quick-witted, inflated with himself and courageous beyond reason. His nose usually looked up, his hands firm on the handle of his blades and the clothes billowing around him with the winds of his eagerness.

Right now, he came across as vulnerable, hurt and worried.

It's the mask. He can hide behind it but without it, his face betrays him.

Cecil started to review his opinion of empty-headed show-off and acknowledge the person behind the silken veil. The usual fašade had hidden much more than simply skin, indeed a whole different aspect of the young man. He smiled reassuringly, patting his shoulder.

"She was ever the spirited kid, way back. Upfront, decided, speaking her mind. Why, she used to act like you Edge."

.....................................................................................................

Thin lips twisted into a lopsided grin as he listened to the knight's stories, recounting how the green-haired mage had forced the bard prince into action, how brave and trusting she had been to follow her mother's killer in his quest to help the world, how snide she had held her own against an Antlion, waves of scaly monsters and blood-crazed avians.

"And when we came face to face with Golbez in the dwarves' crystal room and thought it was the end, I felt my sword slip from my grasp. His monster's breath took all heat from the air, made my eyes water and close despite themselves. I was about to give up, when the wind picked up, whipping my face and something touched my face. Someone was feeding me medicine and everything felt cold, then her voice pierced through and all I could hear was get up Cecil, get up! It was rough, but she forced all of us to stand up again and face death right on, simply with her attitude and a penetrating voice."

As he spoke, his eyes stared at the source of their discussion, lying on her camp bed within the open tent. Her curls fell over her face, covering her blankets and glowing like fresh new leaves greeted by sun.

"For her, it's not just about revenge or retribution for her losses. She was always wise beyond her years and while we don't exactly know what happened to her during her time in the underworld, I can feel something inside her changed. Her involvement is quite personal, but not selfish. If anything, she acts like the banner of the weak, striking forward as if nothing held her back."

The ninja followed his gaze, looking at her still form, deep asleep. Inside, something squirmed in jealousy at having missed everything about her before he met her, but the feeling quickly passed. This is what had shaped her so.

So mysterious, so deadly, so beckoning... No wonder my whole being sings whenever she's around. I would follow her to the ends of the world and back even if she doesn't want me to.

.........................................................................................................

The wise paladin's gaze turned back to his, locking on Edge until he blinked. Maybe it was the reflection of the flames on his sharp cheekbones but a flush seemed to creep from neck to ear. The ninja looked down, mumbling something.

"My instincts tell me she won't want us to mention what happened, Cecil. Then again, I can't just let us do something like that the next time we camp; I doubt she would hesitate to make me catch on fire!" he spoke half in jest, trying to uplift the gloomy conversation.

I couldn't stand watching her hurt herself again. Is she losing control, or is something taking over her? Gah, I can't think straight!

"I very much doubt she would put you or anyone else here in danger voluntarily, no matter how much you might sometimes irritate her. You're quick to react, and dependable. Watch over her, but don't restrain her. She's feisty yes, but her energy keeps us all going. I know you'll do the right thing if anything comes up, just as you did tonight."

Is he saying this to make me wallow in self-reproach if I fail, or actually trusting me? Who am I kidding; I would act without thinking anyway!

"Thanks, Cecil..."

The pale-haired knight got up, looming over him from the side.

"Don't look too far for answers Edge. We're all high-strung ever since we landed on the moon, and the tension is so dense. It wouldn't do you any good to stay up all night brooding over this. Get some rest, we've still got a long way to go."

Scratching his unruly hair, red-tinged and dusty, he nodded with a quick smile and got up himself. Despite their leader's good words, he knew sleep would be hard to find this night.

The moon used to be a friend, back home. I remember looking up to search for comfort, admiring its pure light and sense of eternity. Now, the dust reminds me of death and corpses, silence and memories left in the dark.

Kain took the first watch once Cecil and Rosa went to their corner of the tent. The summoner still slept peacefully, and passing her cot to get to his, the prince knelt and tucked a rebel strand of hair behind her ears.

"I'll protect you, I'll watch you, even if it's the last thing I do. I..." his barely audible murmur died when Rosa turned in her sleep.

Don't slip away just yet, hold on to yourself. We'll get out of this madness yet and then maybe you...

She stirred, and he almost jumped in surprise. Her shoulders seemed to shake under her blankets and Edge tucked them around her to keep her warm. He moved away and lay down at the other end of the tent, eyes half-closed and turned to the stars outside, wishing for sweet dreams.

.........................................................................................................

Lightning crackled and spit forth from every direction, over a blazing background. A shape seemed to swirl, almost dancing like a fairy in a grove. Shouts, no, piercing cries a few octaves too high reverberated in his ears. Then, he could vaguely discern the same coming toward him.

Wisps of smoke rose from her long fingers, while sparks and sky fury animated her long mane. Hair coiled in spirals and claws, snatching at the emptiness and embracing the dark mist like lovers. She walked on living flames, licking her calves, and cloaked in never-ending combustion. Opening her eyes, she darted twin embers as bright as the sun on him, something primal echoing within, and then shrieked to his face. The high pitched roar turned raw, as a varicolored inferno came from her lips and engulfed him.

Edge woke up swallowing a scream.
Caves of Narshe: Final Fantasy IV
Version 6
©1997–2017 Josh Alvies (Rangers51)

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