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CoN 20th Anniversary: 1997-2017
Lunar Song, A Final Fantasy IV Novel

Posted: 15th September 2011 19:37
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Returner
Posts: 6

Joined: 15/9/2011


First of all, I'm new here on CoN, but I am by no means new to the game of writing. I've been writing for some years now and was compelled to write this fiction because, well... I love Final Fantasy IV more than can possibly be justified (almost 20! Woot!).

In any case, I would love for you to take a look at this and post it. I've already finished book one, and am currenly in the process of writing book two.

This is the prolouge for Book One: The Sword and the Sinner.

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A Priori; What Comes Before

That day was the coolest day in many, the first day of autumn after a stifling summer. The leaves of the trees were still painted green in defiance, the last sign of rebellion against the coming of winter, but it was in vain. Soon the leaves would turn red, orange and gold, falling to the ground only to shrivel up into brown. lifeless nothings.

Through the early morning fog traipsed a small troop of nobles, a court of uncommonly fair and attractive individuals, several on horseback, the rest on foot.

In the lead was a tall, blonde man with a large beard, mounted upon a black stallion. He was wearing robes of rich red and blue, a golden diadem circling his pale brow. He had a kind, noble face with grey-green eyes that sparkled with laughter.

He was accompanied by two women upon white mares, both of them blonde.

One was taller, with ashen hair cropped so short that it hung in a bob about her chin. She wore the emblem of the Black Magi upon her leather vest, and sat with a proud, ridged back, her sapphire eyes glinting with confidence. Beside her strode a very tall man with a stern expression upon his face, which would be pleasant to look at had it not been so severe. His hair was worn very long, the color of wet sand, falling down his back in a loose pony tail. His amber eyes shone with dignity that only a noble Dragoon of Baron would dare possess.

The other woman was petite and shapely, her hair a flowing blonde mane about her slender shoulders. She rode bare back, a diamond pin upon her own vest, signifying her rank among the White Magi. Her own sapphire eyes, so like her cousin’s, shone with intelligence and courage. Beside her mare strolled a broad jawed man with an amiable face, his eyes a pale green, the color of sea-foam, and shining with the vigour of life. He was stocky, with short, perpetually messy dark brown hair, which stuck out among his fair companions. He, too, had the dignity of a Dragoon.

Behind them was a small entourage of soldiers, and though they were not wearing heavy armor on this routine excursion, all were armed. All wore stern expressions on their faces, despite the fact that they should not fear an assassination so close to Vangrad, the capital city of Baron, which surrounded the Palace, more like a fortress than an opulent mansion. Had they been farther away, closer to Petuin, a city under the control of Troia and run by the anit-Baroni group Brier Rose, they may have reason to fear, but as it were, Thomas XVI of Baron felt they were overreacting. This was no more than a morning stroll for His Highness, who loved to survey his lands and greet his people.

Suddenly, the woman with the mane of hair froze, glancing over at the King with a startled expression, her heart-shaped face resplendent in the pale morning sun, “do you hear something, Mi’lord?”

The King of Baron pulled back on his reigns, staring into the trees that they rode beside. Holding up a Wyvern-skin gloved hand he silenced his escort, keen to take the advice of fair Joanna Farrell, known for her sharp senses. As he sat as still as statuary, barely daring to breathe, he heard what he thought to be the sobbing hiccups of a small child rising from the depths of the little wood. Dismounting, he motioned for amber eyed Richard Highwind and kind faced Matthew Farrell to follow him, departing from his guard and stepping into the shadowed wood.

The three companions found themselves suddenly plunged into a world where monsters roamed, preying on the weak and young. Overhead the leaves and branches of trees extended to form a patch work canopy of green, brown, and crisp blue. Beneath them was thick foliage and a carpet of long decaying leaves, trampled by the monsters and wildlife that inhabited the wood. They traveled a little way, and froze at the base of a great, gnarled oak.

The tree had to be ancient, for it was as wide as a castle turret and nearly as tall, unnaturally so, for an oak, in fact. Its roots protruded from the ground, a sign of a long-ago storm, forming a small cove, which was likely inhabited by the smaller, sneakier wildlife of the woodlands. Its leaves were fast changing, perhaps a sign of the wisdom of the tree, which instinctively knew, after hundreds of years, that there was no point in fighting the change of winter.

The sound rose again, this time nearer. It was Matthew Farrell who discovered the source when he looked down, spotting the form of a crouched toddler in the small cove. Tactfully, he knelt down, extending his hand as if to signify that he was not a threat, and speaking very softly, “you can come out. We’re friends. We’re not going to hurt you.”

Still whimpering, the child emerged into the early morning light.

At first the three men could not breathe, because this darling child bore a strong resemblance to two people they had not set eyes on in an excess of nine years, but the moment he crept into Matthew’s arms to sob desperately time began to move again.

He was a darling boy, no more than two, with wide, staring emerald eyes that trusted with a glance, as only a child’s eyes could. He had blue tinged lips set on his cloud-pale face, and wavy ringlets of snowy hair that clung to his dirty and tear-streaked face. Tiny fingers dug into the material of Matthew’s shirt, entreating help.

“What’s wrong?” Matthew asked softly, brushing his fingers through the boy’s hair in a way that suggested he was the father of a small child.

“Toady! Toady no come!” the boy wailed, conveying such despair that Richard cringed, his usually stony features conveying the greatest sympathy for this child, who had so obviously been left to die.

It was the King, to the surprise of both Richard and Matthew, who spoke to the boy next, deigning to soil his robes as he knelt in the dirt and took the boy from Matthew’s arms. “What is your name, little boy?”

“Cecil,” he sniffed, something about the King calming him, his green eyes still leaking tears.

“Cecil,” the King repeated in a soft, admiring tone ,”would you like to come home with me?”

“But… But Daddy! Toady!” the boy protested, shaking his head vehemently; why did it seem children care so deeply, even for those who hurt them?

“Cecil… When they come you’ll be safe at my home,” the king said, knowing all to well that no one would come for dearest little Cecil ,” then you can go back home.”

“Oh,” Cecil paused as if to think, and then nodded, “okay.”

Richard and Matthew exchanged a meaningful look behind the King’s back, and followed him as he led them back to the troop. The angry look on their faces disappeared when they saw the boy held tightly to the King’s chest, replaced with confusion and concern.

“Sir…,” the still-young First Lieutenant Darias Baigan II began, but the King silenced him with a look.

“This child is to be cared for. He is to be fed and cleaned and given a room in the nursery when we return,” the tone he spoke in made it clear that the King was taking full responsibility for the boy. “He belongs to Baron now.”

“What am I to tell my father, sir?” Lt. Baigain asked the King.

“Tell the Lord Captain that we have a new addition to our happy family. Tell him that Cecil Harvey is to be treated with the same deference any heir I would produce would be treated with,” the King took a moment to gently brush a strand of hair out of the sleeping boy’s face. “As I have already said, he belongs to Baron now.”

No one asked what the King meant. It was clear enough by looking at him.

Richard and Matthew exchanged another look, but did not dare to speak. They knew after the fiasco with His Highness’ wife the King would never remarry. Perhaps, they both thought, just perhaps, this was Fate. In some twist of destiny this boy arrived to fulfill this purpose.

Baron surely must be blessed beyond all other nations to receive such a gift, Matthew decided. The innocence in those green eyes was surely a blessing.

Richard, more cynical, was not so sure. He thought the boy could prove to be a troublesome burden to them all. After all, he had the same strange, features as that man.

How the Fates above laughed at the men who were both, in their own way, correct.
Post #197420
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Posted: 15th September 2011 19:43
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Returner
Posts: 6

Joined: 15/9/2011


Author's Commentary: Ah the notorious Chapter One, The Advent, the chapter that turned my life into a FFIV-infested ... thing.

All in all, though, it wasn't a bad thing. I can now quote the game's script in my sleep.
------
The Advent

Above and below extended a universe of swirling galaxies, spirals of colors in a world of inky blue-black. Light, however, rippled across the surface, pulsating waves of light against the smooth crystal surfaces of the wall, floor, and ceiling. The light emanated from a large, prismatic jewel that sat upon an altar, blue as a sky, frozen in place forever.

At the foot of the altar knelt a man, his hands folded in prayer, two guards standing stoically by his side. He was an older man with brilliant red hair, resilient against the gray of age, wrapped in the folds of a massive cloak, a gnarled oaken staff resting on the floor by his side.

The perfect silence he was steeped in was all at once shattered by a battering ram, which shook the foundation of the room, causing the crystal to flicker. The two Magi guards beside the Elder turned their heads to stare at the doors, trembling under the force, and then looked back to the kneeling man, who now stood, his staff grasped in white knuckled hands. His timing was perfect, for as he stood, the door gave a last, great groan, and fell to a floor with a resounding thud.

Into the room walked a demon.

He was garbed in armor filled with the taint of darkness, black as hell, his helm the image of a monster from the deepest depths of the Underworld, adorned with monstrous and unwieldy horns. The sword he held in his right hand was the size of a dragon’s fang, obsidian black and dripping deep crimson droplets, defiling the sacred altar of The Crystal. His armor made a soft clinking noise as he advanced, amplified into a harsh grating noise through the dead silence of the chamber.

He was followed by a small group of fair-haired, pale skinned men, garbed in red tunics and body armor, which barely made a noise as they drifted behind their leader.

“Relinquish the Crystal or face the same fate as your brethren,” demanded the man in the black body armor.

The young white mage recoiled in shock at the sound of his voice, his pale blue eyes widening in response. It was not so much the demands he made, those were only to be expected of pirates, but the sound of his voice that had caught the young man off guard. It was not a harsh voice at all; in fact, it was calm and rather pleasant to listen to, a kind sort of voice. On top of this, the voice was young, and the white mage realized with a jolt that this pirate was just a kid, younger than himself. The white mage exchanged a glance with his sister, and he could clearly see an expression on her face that mirrored his thoughts.

When no one spoke, the pirate continued, “please. I’d rather not shed any more unnecessary blood.”

No one moved. No one even breathed.

Sighing sadly, the man raised his sword and took a threatening step forward, though none of his subordinates moved to assist him. The White Magi’s sister began to cast a spell, but the black clad man had eagle eyes. He raised his sword over his head and slashed in a downward arc, facing the casting Black Magi. The White Magi would have laughed at him had a sinister looking wave not bloomed from the tip of the sword, sending his sister hurtling into a wall and knocking her unconscious.

“Will you surrender?” he asked, and now that he was closer the Magi could hear how hollow his voice sounded, even from behind his mouth plate.

The Elder, his dark brown irises grim, stared this Dark Knight in the eyes “, I will never surrender. Not as long as I still draw breath.”

The brigand ‘tsk’ed, raised his left hand, fingers outstretched, and said in a cold, angry voice, “sleep.”

Like a snake, a sleek, black gas uncoiled from his open palm, weaving around them both and sending them into a deep, dreamless slumber.

Eyes leaden, the white Magi fell to the ground, his last sight as he drifted off into slumber was that of the Dark Knight’s blood stained hands gripping the Crystal and snuffing out its light. As he finally closed his eyes, he could have sworn he heard the Dark Knight mutter to the Elder, “Forgive the transgressions of the Red Wings.”

XXX

Everyone in the kingdom of Baron knew of Cecil Harvey.

Sir Baigan, Captain of the Royal Guard, said he was a celebrity among the women, an ideal of perfection for the men, and an idol to admire for the children. Really, they only knew him because of his positively outlandish appearance and his blood stained and darkened armor.

Cecil hated the attention.

His greatest ambition in life was to quietly serve King Thomas XVI of Baron, his savior and his Lord. He wanted to spend his days with his two best friends, or up in the air with the Red Wings. He wanted to live a quiet life away from the public eye, but Fate had not dealt him such a pleasurable hand. Thus, he had been unwillingly thrust into awkward celebrity.

The sound of his armor striking the stone floor resounded through out the hallway as he climbed the steps, ascending to the very top of the Northwest Tower. It was here that Cecil had taken residence since he was old enough to be able to dress himself without the aid of a maid. It overlooked the lake and had a view of the twin moons, which Cecil relished because he felt somehow more at ease closer to the sky. The room was not large, but it was the only home Cecil could remember.

Underneath his footsteps was an echo, another pair of leather clad feet following him up the winding staircase to the very precipice of the tower. They belonged to Cecil’s cohort since that hot summer’s day almost eleven years ago, when the two had finally settled their differences to rescue a head-strong young lady from the monster infested woods outside of Baron Castle. Cecil had been nine, his companion, Kain Highwind, ten.

“I want the details from you,” Kain ordered in his mature voice, his words suggesting this was not a request but a command.

“And you shall,” Cecil replied, “but away from hungry ears and prying eyes,” he added promptly as they passed a gaggle of maids undoubtedly on their way from cleaning Cecil’s bedchamber; he was well-known for his prowess with a blade, not his cleanliness. They whispered while casting the pair furtive glances.

“Indeed,” Kain snorted derisively as Cecil at last thrust open the heavy wooden door to his chamber, stepping into the deeply shadowed room.

“So, tell me of ‘The Red Wings ferocious atrocities,’” Kain began, closing the door behind him and leaning against it, his arms crossed over his chest.

“Is that what the Mysidians are calling it?” Cecil asked, his voice high and forcefully conversational, as he began to unbuckle his plate armor which, though difficult to remove alone, was not impossible.

Kain stared at him, patiently waiting for his friend to continue speaking.

“It was awful,” Cecil said in a rush after a painful pause. He removed his shirt, which was soaked with blood; though there were no dents in his chain mail to indicate that he had suffered any kind of blow. “I had to … to kill women, Kain. Many we… slew… were no older than I was when I received my first true Dark Sword.”

“Only fifteen,” Kain asked, aghast.

Cecil nodded stiffly, and then spoke again, his voice full of barely contained anger, a monster seething just beneath the surface, “those damn Mysidians… So determined to protect that foolish Crystal that they-they jumped in the way of our blades just to serve as obstacles. One would think that if your village was being raided you would have the good sense to hide – Pirates aren’t known for their mercy.”

Cecil had taken a roll of gauze from the old oak wardrobe that sat at the foot of his bed, the only other piece of furniture in the room. He began to carefully wrap his torso, which was covered with hundreds of pale, white lines that must have once been very sinister lacerations. Lacerations much like the ones that now lined his arms and pectorals. They were not deep cuts, but Kain and Cecil both knew what they were, and their shallow appearance bellied a sinister nature. These wounds were the self-inflicted curse wounds of a Dark Knight.

“You had to use it,” Kain said coldly, staring at the blood soaked bandages that now crisscrossed Cecil’s chest.

Cecil was not sure Kain had ever truly forgiven the King for making him take up the Dark Sword, not after the reaction Cecil had to one the first time he had wielded one in battle. It had been against enemies of Baron, the same enemies who had kidnapped Cecil and killed Kain’s parents, but nonetheless; there were two months of Cecil’s fifteenth year that he was wont to remember. Kain told him he had been catatonic, and when Cecil had at last woken up he had been sitting in a bath of ice-cold water, feeling as if his soul had shattered and surrounded by the concerned faces of all the people most important to him.

“I did,” Cecil admitted bitterly; he had only done his job. Kain should know he would do anything for the King.

His mood lightened considerably when Kain was practically bowled over by a large form slamming itself into the door with all of its might. It was only Kain’s Dragon Knight reflexes that prevented him from having the heavy door slammed into the back of his head.

“By the hair of Gaelach, Cid!” Kain cursed, his eyes narrowed at the man who had so urgently forced his way into the room.

Cecil’s lips twitched into a smirk at the embarrassed look on Cid’s face. The grizzled man rubbed the back of his head and muttered, “didn’ see ya’ there, Kain.”

Cid was a man who had probably been quite fit in his youth, but now he had a large gut, protruding to accompany his barrel chest. He was only five feet and six inches, but filled smaller rooms with his great width and uncanny warmth. Much as his spirit dominated a group, so his large, bushy, auburn beard dominated his face; with the brilliant exception of his two, tiny black eyes, which always shone with explicit kindness. All Cecil’s life Cid had been there, a support system for the man with no proper family.

His two calloused hands took Cecil by the shoulders and he began to violently shake the young Knight, “say it ain’t so! Say they didn’ give my babies to some ruffian who don’t know his aft from his port!”

Cid quickly ceased his playful shaking when he saw the look on Cecil’s face.

“Aw, geez, kid,” he muttered sympathetically in his gruff voice. “Man… Don’ cha’

worry! You’ll be gettin’ back on my girls in no time flat! I don’t trust those goons of yours without you!”

Neither Kain nor Cecil could bring themselves to tell Cid that Cecil regaining control of the Red Wings was not what worried them. That the two of them would have to go off again on the morrow to slay a beast in a distant cave, surely just a plot to get them away from the Castle so a new Lord Captain of the Red Wings could be selected.

“Well, you better hurry,” Cid suddenly said, tactfully changing the subject in hopes of lifting Cecil’s mood. “Yer’ both expected to be at the banquet celebrating the Crystal’s conquest, ya’ know.”

Cecil almost groaned. He wished he could take supper in his room. He hated any social event, most significantly those that required him to wear court dress; fortunately, tonight’s event was not one of the later.

“You two ought to be going,” Cecil told his companions. “I’ll join you once I’ve finished dressing my wounds.”

Cid smiled encouragingly and shuffled off. Kain was a bit longer, pausing at the threshold to cast Cecil a meaningful last look before he swiftly descended the stairs, shutting the door behind him.

True to his word, Cecil dressed his wounds and selected a new shirt to wear. It was not a difficult task. Cecil had made a point of limiting his worldly possessions as part of his pay for his Knightly duties was room and board. Clothing, admittedly, was not a priority of his. Cecil had never particularly cared for appearances and found favorable first impressions to be a waste of his time. He quickly pulled on his only pair of decent boots beside his riding boots, carefully inspected his pants for signs of blood, and replaced the tiny silver ring he usually wore on his left hand’s middle finger. Satisfied with his appearance, he decided to descend himself and (reluctantly) attend the banquet.

He grabbed his sword from off of his bed, strapping it to his belt and dashing out of the door, taking the stairs two at a time. He nearly collided with several of the staff on his way to the sprawling Banquet Hall, but was spry enough to dodge them. He scampered into the Hall, finding Rosa and Kain both waiting for him.

Kain had shed his grim expression from earlier to favor his usual cocky half-grin. His hair, customarily in pony tail high atop his head, was falling around his shoulders. Cecil, who had known the late Sir Richard well, was oft stunned by how much Kain resembled his straight-nosed, stone-faced father, except that his hair was ashen blonde, a trait he had inherited from his mother.

Rosa drifted over to Cecil, looking radiant as always, her form dripping with an appeal Cecil could not explain even to himself. “Come on, let’s go sit down,” she urged, taking his hand and dragging him along.

He cast Kain a pleading look, but the Dragon Knight ignored him, his lips twitching into a reluctant smile. He followed them to their customary seats at the end of the Hall, closest to the doorway and useful for quick getaways. Rosa, as usual, sat between them. Kain had Cecil, though best friends, were also rivals, and their discussions could get quite heated at times. It fell on Rosa, the neutral party, to play the referee.

“Who is that?” Cecil suddenly hissed to his two friends.

Rosa’s pale green eyes lighted on the hulking man who had entered the room, biting her lower lip in disdain. Kain’s eye’s narrowed into dangerous amber slits, and made a noise in his throat that sounded suspiciously like a growl. Cecil took this to mean he was bad news.

The man was massively tall, even among the Baroni, whose men averaged at six feet. His skin was the same smooth, luminescent cloud pale as Cecil’s, but it stretched over an inhumanly tall frame. Hair unnaturally wavy was tamed into staying away from his eyes through what could only be a feat of magic; it was the color of ash and tumbled down his back in lustrous waves. His eyes were cold and hard, the color of two amethyst jewels, glinting cruelly from his broad face. He was talking with forced civility to Baigan, who appeared to be very animatedly explaining something.

Then his eyes locked with Cecil’s, and ice slid down the Dark Knight’s spine. He momentarily forgot where he was, his body shivering violently as old, familiar and half-forgotten fear crept into the back of his mind, along with a deep feeling of personal betrayal.

He shook his head to dispel the feelings and break eye contact, trying to push the nagging feelings to the back of his mind. He didn’t know this man.

Did he?

“That’s Lord Golbez,” Rosa answered his forgotten question, “but everyone in Court except His Highness thinks he’s…”

“A creep,” Kain said bluntly.

Cecil was too distracted for the rest of the meal to properly respond to his comments and queries. Instead, he spent the entire banquet avoiding this Lord Golbez’s stare, picking nervously at his food, finding he’d lost his appetite.

After supper he muttered words of excuse, stating that he was much too exhausted for dessert, and that he must rest for his journey tomorrow. Rosa and Kain both stared after him, but they had known him long enough to realize that he just needed to be left alone.

Once in the darkness of his bed chamber, Cecil threw his shirt onto the floor, unfastened his belt and cast it to the ground, and removed his boots. Exhausted, he closed his heavy, cotton curtains to block out the waning daylight and flopped onto his bed, closing his eyes to at least try to feign sleep.

For Cecil Harvey, however, sleep seemed impossible.

His mind whirred with too many questions, accompanied by an unexplained feeling of rage at this Golbez individual. Still, that was not what most bothered him. What haunted him, the foremost thought in his tumultuous mind, was Mysidia.

Blood had already stained his hands before Mysidia, but those he had killed had been pirates and vagabonds. His victims in Mysidia had been innocents, and worse, he’d led others to murder as well. And what had it all been for? What had been the justification? A Crystal. A jewel that shone with a gentle light, harmlessly floating in the Magi village. What right did Baron have to do this? What kind of man was he to let them? And now he wasn’t even in a position to do anything about it…

Hours passed and Cecil could not sleep, the same questions, the same guilt surfacing within him again and again. He could only come to one conclusion about himself. At last, he ripped off his sheets and tore open his curtains to let the light of the twin moons flood over him, spilling into his stone room, illuminating every corner. Still frustrated, he began to undress his wounds, uncaring that they were cursed wounds which still seeped blood. So deep within his own thoughts was he that he only realized he had company when two, delicate, yet strong, hands pressed to his chest and a warming sensation rushed through his body.

“Rosa-!”

Before him stood the white magi, her long, blonde hair free from its usual restraints, falling about her shoulders in golden waves. She was clothed in her archery garb, a sign she had gone out to the range to clear her head and vent her frustrations. Cecil favored her this way, found her to be her most attractive, outside of the arraignments of court; when she was her natural, tom-boyish self; was it not the reason she alone could run with Kain and Cecil?

“When these wounds happen, you need to come to me,” she chided, but then added more gently. “I wish you wouldn’t use that terrible sword at all.”

“You know I must,” he reminded her.

She nodded, but bit her lip, a sure sign she was worried.

“Rosa-,” he began, but to no avail, she cut him off.

“Cecil, what happened in Mysidia? How did-“she paused, took a deep breath, and them spoke “-how did you lose the command of the Red Wings?”

He turned from her, and she marveled at the way his naked skin shown in the moonlight, almost as if he, himself, were a crystal. She wondered if he realized it, or if he was just as oblivious about this as he seemed to be about everything else concerning himself.

“I killed them, Rosa. I killed them all. I- we stole what was theirs. Where is my King, I wonder, the man who saved me from death and kindly raised me here, at no gain to himself? He would not have ordered this,” Cecil sat upon his bed and cradled his head in his hands, staring at his bare feet. “And I am such a fool, Rosa, for following these orders. I’m so dark now – so corrupt that I have become a coward, unable to disobey orders that should not be followed.”

“You are no coward!” Rosa objected, but he ignored her anguished comments, staring into her eyes instead.

“What is this armor doing to me, Rosa? When…” he trailed off, and when he spoke again his voice was very small, “when did I become a murderer?”

She kneeled before him, took his calloused, but somehow graceful, hands in her own, and placed them over her heart, “this heart would not beat for a villain, Cecil. You are a good man.”

They stared at one another for a very long time, deep emotion stirring behind his emerald eyes, as if he wanted to speak, but he did not.

At last he pulled away, the battle within him ceasing to rage as he stood and opened the door for her, speaking softly, “you should go. It’s late, and we both must sleep.”

She hesitated, and then spoke, “why must you go away again when you’ve only just arrived?”

Cecil sighed tiredly,” it’s just to slay a beast, Rosa. Kain will be with me, so all will be well. We’ll be back before you know it,” he assured with a weary smile.

She took what she could get, squeezed his hand reassuringly, and then ran from the room.

Cecil, shutting the door behind her and drawing shut his curtains, sunk to his bed and finally fell into a deep and dreamless sleep.

XXX

The Cecil who woke the next morning was different from the Cecil who had fallen asleep the night before. Perhaps it was because he had resolved in his heart to be loyal the king. Perhaps it was because he no longer cared.

Whatever the reason, Cecil Harvey was soundless metal suit of armor who walked down the hallways of Baron to meet his friend. He bore this punishment with silence, making no noise, giving to indication that he even cared to all the guardsmen who stared at him with their curious eyes.

He met Kain, equally silent, and the two, sword and lance in hand, made their way from the castle into the pre-dawn hours before sunrise.

XXX

With the advent of airships man’s greatest dream has been realized, but he is a creature seldom sated, and so he set his sights upon heights higher still.

Stripped of his position, the Dark Knight Cecil and his companion, Master Dragon Knight Kain, set out to slay a monstrous beat and deliver a ring to distant Mist.
Post #197421
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Posted: 15th September 2011 19:45
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Returner
Posts: 6

Joined: 15/9/2011


The Unwitting Felony

It was amazing to think that the city of Vangrad was alive this early in the morning. Its streets were already packed with silent, grey people, bundled up in drab cloaks to guard against the early morning cold. Cecil and Kain entered through the main gates. They were well enough known that the gatesman had no need to inquire into their identities; he simply opened the gates, which made nary a noise as they rose to allow entrance.

Vangrad was always characterized in the propaganda of Troia as a cold, impartial, and nearly vacant city of stone which slept under a churning gray sky. Really, nothing could have been further from the truth. Vangrad was colorful and beautiful, several public parks giving the city a lively and welcoming feel, and the river running through it became a symbol of its rhythm and vibrancy. Even this early in the morning, when everything really was a bit gray, there were flashes of color. The rogue smile of a dancer and the ruffle of her magenta skirts, the violet cloak of a bard hailing from Damcyan billowing in the wind, the smell of the first baked goods from Dorian Grey’s… They all combined to give the visitor a whisper of an idea of what the city might be like during its most active hours.

Cecil and Kain stepped through the crowd gathered in the south square (there to await the set up of a group of skilled minstrels who had come from a city to the north, likely the Dark Knight’s outpost of Necrograd), past the marble fountain which slowly bubbled pale blue water, and took a sharp turn to the west, stepping onto a side road where the buildings were pressed very closely together. Unlike some of the smaller, impoverished, foreign cities the two soldiers had been to Vangrad was spotlessly clean. Baron had such clean cities, perhaps, because it had developed indoor plumbing nearly two centuries ago, a whole century before everyone else in the world. Baron was known abroad as the most advanced nation in the world, clearly reflected by their mantra of ‘progress, peace, and prosperity.’

The Dark Knight and the Dragon Knight stepped into the smallest, cheapest shop in the greater Vangrad area, signified by the half rotted signpost and crumbling steps. The two men typically gave this shop their business for all their supply needs because the goods were at a lower price and of essentially the same quality.

“Masters Harvey and Highwind!” graciously exclaimed a bent old man with a waterfall of a gray beard and kind, watery eyes, “Another hunting trip, young lords?”

“Hello, Mr. Finnigan,” greeted Cecil mildly, carefully closing the creaky old door behind them. “I’m afraid that this is a hunting trip of a different sort. Do you have a small supply of salves on hand?”

Finnigan nodded, “is there anything else you desire, masters?”

“Yes,” Kain added from behind Cecil, stepping out of the shadows to stare at Finnigan. “Do you happen to have equipment for camping?”

The old man nodded again, raising his eyebrows, “you’re going far, sirs?”

“Just up to Mist,” Cecil commented offhandedly, fingering his coin purse in anticipation of the purchase and frowning at how light it felt. “Apparently there is some manner of beast there that requires slaying.”

The village of Mist, far to the north of Baron, was an inconsequential little place. It was so much so that it had never been on a map and even Baron, who brought weaker cities under their protection by assimilating them into the empire, had not interest in it. It was rumored to be home to a clan of Men who had Magic flow through their veins instead of blood.

Finnigan scuttled off to retrieve their purchase from the storeroom, as it was clear the conversation was now closed. Kain placed a hand on Cecil’s shoulder “, I’ll take this purchase. I’ve not managed to drain my family fortune yet, my friend.”

Cecil was about to remind Kain that this was his mission and thus his financial burden, but the old man returned and Kain paid before he could object.

Kain and Cecil stepped back into the early morning length, a pack full of their new equipment slung over Cecil’s shoulders (which he had insisted on carrying because Kain had made the payment). They needed rations yet, but the city was starting to awaken and Kain and Cecil had yet to eat. It was with this in mind that they set out for the nearby Dragon’s Maw Pub.

When they set foot in the ill-lit and smoke-filled room they were met by the usual chorus of cheers as the men and women around the room raised their glasses in greeting. Cecil and Kain both smiled back, unable to help themselves surrounded by so many familiar faces.

“Why, if it isn’t the two young lords!” gushed a plump woman with wildly curly strawberry blonde hair and perpetually rosy cheeks. “D’in think I’d ever see ya’in here this early! Will it be the usual, boys?”

“Yes, Miss Joy,” Cecil replied with uncharacteristic warmth in his voice as he set down their supplies on the worn wooden planks of a secluded corner of the room.

Miss Joy, the hostess, went off, bubbling to anyone who would listen about her ‘two favorite boys.’

“We should be out of Vangrad by midday,” Kain told Cecil, “which is sooner than I’d anticipated.”

Cecil didn’t reply. He was too busy watching the trio in the corner farthest from them. One of them was assuredly Lord Baigan, even though Cecil could only see the back of his shaved head. He was talking heatedly to a crooked looking man draped in a maroon cloak. What looked like a blue claw protruded from beneath the folds of the fabric to grasp a tankard of pale ale. The last was Lord Golbez, looking very much like a Chocobo would were her to be stuffed into a songbird’s cage. His amethyst eyes stared down at Lord Baigan as if he were contemplating frying the man for some unknown sin.

Again, a feeling of nagging familiarity overwhelmed Cecil, but this time he was able to push it from his mind and turn his face away, though with no small effort. Kain, meanwhile, had followed his gaze, but turned his amber eyes back to Cecil when the Dark Knight tore his eyes away; “Lord Golbez truly bothers you, doesn’t he?

“Yes,” replied Cecil, removing his helm to place it upon the table, “I feel as if-“

But he was silenced by Miss Joy, who was bounding toward them, miraculously balancing both food and beverage in her arms. “Order’s up, boys!” she called to them. “Two beef stew, a pale ale, and a milk!”

“Thank you, Miss Joy,” Cecil told her as she placed their food upon the table.

She smiled genially, and them bustled away to shoo away some men who were after her cooling pie.

Cecil had sworn off alcohol in his fifteenth year when he had flooded the castle’s dungeons. It only turned him into a complete fool. He didn’t have a very high tolerance for the loathsome substance. Kain, however, was tolerant of nearly any amount, and made a point to remind Cecil that there was nothing wrong with a glass or two at meal time. It was so diluted, he claimed, that it wouldn’t even give Cecil a happy buzz. Cecil knew, however, that if he had one drink and innumerable amount would follow, and he would quickly drink himself into oblivion.

Golbez was not brought up again, and the two continued with their meal in peace. They finished their preparations, and left Vangrad around midday, just as Kain had predicted.

XXX

Cecil Harvey and Kain Highwind were naïve, mused the man inside of the maroon cloak, seated directly across from Baigan. How foolish to assume that he did not see them enter and depart. They were too far away to hear any of the fool Captain’s powerful boasting, thankfully, for he was revealing minute details of their plan, and, unlike the other customers in this dingy establishment, they would know well enough what they were speaking of to stop them.

Beside him stat Lord Golbez, staring at Baigan with greed apparent in his eyes; the hatred this man possessed for Cecil Harvey was a boon. It was a glorious thing that could be utilized for The Cause, and Lord Golbez was certain to know that. All they need do now was to plant the Chimera Seed within him and wait for the opportune moment to enact their plan. It was all going rather smoothly now that the obstacle of Cecil Harvey was removed from their path. Naïve he may be, but his sense of justice would never allow him to procure the remaining Crystals in Baron’s name; and The Crystals were everything.

“All that’s left to do now is convince His Highness to launch the attack,” Baigan said with a sneer, “and I don’t think that shall be a problem.”

“Indeed,” agreed Lord Golbez in his velveteen voice, carefully folding his hands in front of him, the vaguest ghost of a smile upon his face. “Then the announcement will be made tonight, I trust?”

“No,” the maroon cloaked man said, his voice much like steel claws running themselves along a slab of slate. “We must wait for the conformation of Lord Captain Harvey’s death. The Council of Regents will never allow it otherwise. They think this journey one of redemption for their favorite member.”

Baigan frowned, “I never understood why his death was such a necessity. I believe Lord Harvey too difficult to kill, and wonder if this is all a waste of your precious time, Milord. No mere Dragon can slay that man, most especially when you’ve foolishly sent Lord Highwind with him.”

“I had no choice!” croaked the cloaked man viciously. “Captain Highwind overheard!”

“Enough,” Lord Golbez commanded, fire flashing in his eyes. “Cecil Harvey is a liability. Of all the men in Baron that may have been a threat to The Cause he was the only one who seemed immune to my … persuasion. This would not be a problem were the man not so noble,” he said the world disdainfully “, but as it is he could prove himself an irritation. I am curious, Lord Baigan, why you seem to so fervently believe he cannot be killed.”

Baigan sighed and admitted, reluctantly “, he is a virtuoso. His instructors at the Academy in Vangrad constantly complained of his laziness, but I once overheard him telling Lord Highwind that he only ‘slacked’ in order for the two of them to graduate in the same year. His instructors in Necrograd never reported a problem with him; in fact, they said he was bound to enter the service as an officer.”

“You have seen him in combat?” Lord Golbez queried.

“No, but I have seen the results,” Lord Baigan was bitter at the memory. “He decimated an entire militant Troian Elitist Group, and the only wounds he suffered were inflicted by the power of the blade he turned upon them.”

“If the Dragon doesn’t kill him, Milord,” the cloaked man assured his frowning lord, “the challenges he faces in Mist are certain to.”

“They ought to,” Lord Golbez rumbled. “I do not need opposition from someone who could become formidable.”

“Yes,” Lord Baigan’s expression brightened, as if he had remembered some cheerful fact. “That noble fool is not apt to harm a peasant.”

“Excellent,” Lord Golbez stood. “I must go inform our compatriots of this favorable news. I will see you when we sup.”

Shortly after that Lord Baigan excused himself, likely to go brood over the deep misfortune of his life and his hatred of Cecil Harvey.

Finally, the cloaked man was left alone with his ale.

XXX

For miles to the north, east, south and west extended a vast wilderness. Mountains loomed to the north, gazing down upon the golden plains with their dark and ever watchful eyes. To the east was the plain, and then beyond that the temperamental sea, her waters sparkling gleefully one moment, then turned turbulent the next. Southwards lay the forests of Baron, one of which Cecil had been discovered in over eighteen years before. Then, to the west, rested a brief desert, which soon gave way to oceans of green grass, waving in the friendly breeze.

Cecil and Kain traveled to the north, towards the wall of mountains, beyond which was the Valley of Mist, and the village that was their destination. They were nearing the end of their second full day of this journey, and the duo had set up camp at the base of one the hills in the hilland directly preceding the mountains. The day’s kill had been meager, but they still had plenty of dry rations, and so they were less likely to die of starvation than of boredom.

Cecil silently tended the flames of their fire while Kain cleaned their kill, Cecil was not known for his camp food; or any food, for that matter. It really was better if Kain did all of the cooking. The sound of his dagger against the flesh of the beast and the crackling of the flames were the only noises that penetrated the stillness of their campsite. Suddenly, Cecil raised his head to stare at his companion, “Do you think we’re doing the right thing?”

Kain halted to return Cecil’s gaze, “Is that what you’ve been thinking about all of this time? Our orders?”

Cecil took out a small, gold ring, encrusted with rubies, from the satchel lying at his feet, laying it in his palm and holding it up for Kain to see. “What can be the purpose of this?”

Kain stared at it for a very long time, but then shook his head, “I have no idea, Cecil”

Cecil replaced the ring among their items and said nothing. He stared at his hands for a moment and then resumed tending the fire, his mind wandering to events long past, as it oft had a tendency to do in silent moments. The thought of how unbelievably painful it had been to lose the Red Wings was the first thought to surface; Kain was lucky, to still be able to touch the sky. Then he suddenly recalled how he’d been ordered here as if it were a mercy from the King to send him on this wild goose chase.

Not for the first time, Cecil wondered what had happened to his lord.

“Listen,” Kain finally said “, just take this chance, Cecil. I know how you feel about the King, but…” he closed his eyes and inhaled sharply. “Just do it.”

Cecil didn’t argue. He didn’t feel like being angry with Kain at the moment, but something told him that this was all some mind game that the king was playing with him. The king, his king, was dead.

The rest of the night was largely uneventful. Kain prepared a tasteless stew, they ate it and some overly salty meat, cleared up, and then prepared for nightfall. Cecil took first watch, stooping over the fire, which he kept as low as possible as not to wake Kain. He stared into the darkness, fingering his silver ring, which he had taken with him, though he did not wear it underneath his armor. He no longer had to look at it to know what its appearance yielded to the eye. Simply feeling it, worn smooth through the years, was enough to bring him comfort.

It was his oldest worldly possession. He’d been found all those years ago with this dangling from his neck upon a small chain. Cecil knew, somehow, that it was his mother’s, though he had never been sure why he felt this way. Once, Rosa had asked him about it, and had told her, though afterwards he’d felt foolish. Rosa had told him that he must feel her love for him in it, but Cecil dismissed this. If his parents had loved him then why did they leave him all alone in the forest? Why did they abandon him?

He was pulled from his musings by Kain, who was ready to relieve Cecil of his duty. Cecil, still holding his ring, fell into a dreamless sleep the moment his head hit the bed roll.

The next morning they woke and set out before dawn. By midday they had reached the entrance to Mist Cave and took a brief break before descending into the darkness. Mist Cave cut through the mountains they would have otherwise had to scale. It served as a shortcut that effectively cut a month off of their journey. It was the sole route to Damcyan, the country of wealthy traders, and was worn from frequent use by the Merchant’s Guild.

The minute Cecil stepped into the cave an energy crept up the back of his neck. Instinct told him they were not alone here, though the presence he felt was neither malignant nor benign. It was almost as if it were trying to gauge their character and determine whether or not it was going to give them passage to Mist. Kain apparently did not feel it, but the presence made itself known once they reached the end of the first bend.

“Men of Baron, leave this place,” it rumbled in a voice like a waterfall.

Cecil could have sword he felt the mist rising from the underground river constrict about them, but he shook off the feeling and pushed on thought the half-light of the beast’s lair. At last it seemed they would reach their destination, but they were halted again by the voice, which spoke with anger evident in its deep voice, “I said leave! Do you mean to ignore my warning?”

“We must deliver this ring to the village beyond,” Cecil told the voice as he placed his hand on the hilt of his sword, not sure what he was expecting.

Whatever it may heave been, it was not the beast that condensed to solid form before them.

It was a Dragon, ten feet long and four feet thick, floating above them. Its body was long and serpentine, translucent white with long tendrils swirling off its narrow face and disappearing into the thick fog that had enveloped them. From the darkness shone forth a pair of glassy blue eyes, filled with wisdom, intelligence, and righteous fury.

“So be it,” it growled, and Cecil felt a pang of guilt stab his heart as he began to doubt himself (not for the first time).

Guilt had a time and place, however, and Cecil knew that this was not it.

The beast charged at them, its massive body uncoiling with frightening speed and grace. Kain launched himself into the air as Cecil rolled sideways, casting their equipment into a far off corner of the chamber. He narrowly avoided the snap of the Dragon’s jaws. Fluidly, Cecil drew his sword, turning it upon the beast with deadly agility and accuracy; it let out a bellow of pain as the dark blade sank into its flesh. Rounding on Cecil, it lashed out with its whip like tail, but the Dark Knight was too quick, and somehow managed to jump the thing, though garbed in full body armor. Elegantly, he landed; crouching as the tail rebounded, blasting past his head and becoming embedded in the cavern wall. Cecil took the brief respite to focus his energies, suddenly glowing violet with the darkness, his body filled with sudden aggression and hatred, coiled coldly within his stomach, a viper ready to strike. A grunt of exertion burst from his lips, and he sliced clean through the end of the Dragon’s tail, which gushed silvery steam instead of blood. Roaring in deepest agony, it was too distracted to retaliate when Kain landed upon it with his usual graceful ferocity, pushing his lance in and pulling it out in a matter of seconds, his terrible velocity making this no easy feat.

Then, it dissolved.

Kain’s muscles did not relax, nor could Cecil force himself to calm. A look passed between them.

It was only their reflexes that saved them from the attack as they both dove to the rocky floor. Coming down on them from above, Kain blocked the Dragon’s attack by using his lance to force the Dragon’s face away from them; his lance becoming the only obstacle between them and the monster’s gaping maw. Cecil saw his opportunity and thrust his sword upward through what he could only pray was a vital organ of this monstrosity. When it groaned feebly and went slack, its eyes loosing their light, Kain and Cecil struggled from their position beneath its massive carcass, sword and lance still clutched tightly in hand.

Panting, Cecil stood, not saying a word. He could feel blood seeping down his abdomen and was leaning on his sword for support. Kain gathered their scattered supplies from the floor, turning to his friend and tossing him a healing tonic.

Cecil caught the small, green, vial with one hand and uncorked it with his teeth, downing the vile tasting liquid in one gulp. Instantaneously, relief flooded through hid body, and he felt the heat of generic magic begin to stitch up the gash on his stomach. “We should move on.”

Kain nodded and the two companions stepped into the light, out of the darkness of the burrow. Cecil squinted into the sunlight even through his visor, shielding himself with his arm, guarding himself against the thorny pain of the sunshine.

They were at the top of a hill, overlooking the twilit village of Mist, which slept unassumingly below them. It was less than an hour’s walk away. Together, the two companions set down the hill, the waning rays of daylight glinting off of their armor. After days of travel and the harsh battle they had only just conquered this was like a stroll in one of Vangrad’s many parks.

After a while, Kain tossed Cecil the gold ring and flashed his friend a smile, “now for the easy part.”

Cecil laughed, the dark cloud over his heart dissipating for the first time in days. He removed his helm, allowing his sweaty hair to tumble out into the cool early springtime breeze. “Indeed, my friend. Delivering a bauble is nothing. Perhaps I will yet be returned to my post.”

They were almost to the base of the foothill now, and thus to Mist.

Kain smirked, “I told you not to be worried, did I not?”

“Indeed you did! I can hardly believe I-!”

At the moment they drifted into the village the ring began to glow scarlet, burning hot. Cecil dropped the thing onto the ground in shock, recoiling as it shot a pillar of flame that spiraled to great heights, the womb of beasts shaped like spheres and forged of fire. They descended upon the village, sitting it swiftly ablaze.

When Cecil heard the first scream his palms began to sweat and his body to shake. He found he could no longer stand as a wave of remorse more potent than any he had ever felt overwhelmed him. All he could think was ‘No, not again! Please, Gaelach, no!’ Vaguely, he was aware Kain was speaking to him, and only became aware he was sobbing and crying out when Kain shook him violently.

“More innocents,” he blubbered incoherently. “Kain”, he pulled away. “We have to-! I can’t-!”

He made his way through the village, unsure of which woeful screams to heed, but at last he found one he was drawn to; the screams of a child.

Cecil felt as if the God of Justice were dead. If he were alive surely he could have prevented this – this atrocity. Surely, if he were alive, he would have sent Cecil some sign, any sign, that the accursed ring was evil. He cursed the star he was born under as he found what he was looking for.
She was a girl, no more than eight years old, weeping over the corpse of a woman. Her green hair clung to her face, which was flushed, her eyes puffy and red from her tears.

“What happened?” he asked, crouching by her, not even aware of Kain behind him.

“Someone-! Someone killed Mommy’s Dragon!” She sobbed, clinging further to the woman; her finger’s digging into the cloth of her shirt.

Cecil paled as her words sunk in. He had felled the Dragon. He had killed this girl’s mother. He alone was responsible for having orphaned this girl.

“I’ve heard of these people,” Kain commented, and the way he spoke, as if she was some lower being, bothered Cecil. “Conjurers. They can call upon beasts called Eidolons to come to their aid in battle.”

“Then that Dragon…” Cecil shook his head, suddenly full of resolve that he should have found in Mysidia. “It was…”

“Well,” Kain raised his lance above his head as if to strike the girl “, we must be thorough.”

“No!” Cecil sprung to his feet, placing himself as a shield between them. “She’s a girl, Kain! Do you mean to tell me you can kill her?!”

“You mean to tell me you could disobey and order?” Kain asked.

“Yes!” Cecil exclaimed. “If it means… If it means this!” He frantically motioned about him. “If it means killing Dragons and making orphans! I won’t be used again!”

“You… you killed my Mommy,” the girl muttered in a voice dripping with hatred. “You… you murderer!”

“No!” he turned to her, the hairs on the back of his neck standing up; something was coming. “I did not know! I-!”

“Get away!” she shrieked. “I HATE YOU!”

All at once the ground exploded.

Cecil did not know what happened, but he was jarred from his feet and thrown violently to one direction, away from Kain. Tossed about like a doll, he slammed into a tree as the earth beneath him crumbled and rose, distorting the landscape.

This attack, this earth rending attack, was clearly meant to kill him.

Still thrown off-balance, Cecil did not see the rock that fell from one of the newly formed cliffs above; if he had he likely could have dodged it. As it was, it tumbled from above and hit him upon the side of the head, knocking him clean out.

His last thoughts before slipping into oblivion were that, if he were to die, it was a death deserving.
Post #197422
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Posted: 15th September 2011 19:48
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Returner
Posts: 6

Joined: 15/9/2011


Into the Darkness

He woke, and his first thoughts were numb as he struggled to sit. Reasonable thought had long since escaped him, and it was replaced by the most base of instinct. How long had he been unconscious? Where was he? What of his injuries? These were his very first thoughts, but as he came to himself he became aware of other things, such as Kain and the girl.

Suddenly panicking, he swiftly stood, only to sway and fall onto his buttocks, a wave of nausea threatening to overcome him. It took all of his self-control not to curse when he realized he’d suffered an ankle sprain, likely a very bad one, from the way it throbbed. He placed a trembling hand to his temple, realizing he could have been hurt more gravely as he surveyed the landscape about him.

What ever this area had been before, it was now a rocky cliff face. Trees had been displaced by the maelstrom of rocks and dirt, and were now waving goodbye to life with the gnarled fingers of their roots. Cecil trembled at the thought of what may have happened to Mist, both because of the fire and this newfound calamity, which was surely of a magical nature.

He felt distinct relief when he saw the unconscious form of the girl nearby, her chest heaving with slow, even breaths. He saw no sign of Kain, however, but was not decidedly worried over his friend, whom he was quite sure could take care of himself. No, right now his concern was the girl, and, secondarily, himself. She needed shelter, and it would be very difficult to defend her with only one good leg and, he discovered as he touched his forehead and his hand came away stick and red, a gash on his forehead.

He sighed when he realized there was no chance of getting back to a Baroni city, for the newly formed mountains were too steep for him to climb in his condition, and with a girl on his back. The next closest city was Kaipo, and that was across the vast desert, which he had even less of a chance of surviving than the mountains. Having no choice, he at last made a decision to chance the desert, though he had no idea how far away from it, or near to it for that matter, he was. The rubble could have carried them for miles, for the chasm and cliff face behind them seemed for the world to not have an end; and though he was still in Baroni territory (Damcyan began where the grass receded into sand) he was cut off from Lesser Baron, the center of the empire, and would not be found by even a scout ship.

Steeling himself he stood, ignoring the pain in his ankle and his throbbing head, and began to gather whatever equipment he could salvage. He then limped over to the girl with no small effort, crouched as low as he could without falling over, and threw her over his shoulder rather unceremoniously. It would have to do he concluded, whilst gauging how long it would take him to get out of this patch of trees and onto a road. He judged it was about midmorning, by the position of the sun, and determined to at least get them out of the woods before sundown; any grouping of trees can be a dangerous place after dark, and she would be more or less out of harm’s way in an opening. Favoring his left ankle he set out, eager to find some sort of shelter before sundown, though it was unlikely they’d even find a small village this far out in the wilds.

Thankfully, he did manage to reach the edge of the wood before nightfall, and somehow limp up a hill by dusk, even carrying a young girl across his shoulder. From the top of the hill Cecil could see an ocean of golden sand, though he could not decide whether he was happy or fearful at the sight. He determined that he should not dwell on it, and set his mind on making some sort of rough shelter for the two of them, at least for now; he needed to recover some strength before he even attempted to cross the desert.

He also determined that he should not use Dark Fire to ignite the little wood he was able to gather while carrying a girl; he refused to leave her undefended, even if he was not much help in his current state. It was not beneficial to conjure something that would further harm their chances of survival. So he lit a fire with the flint he had saved from their supplies, and became exceedingly grateful he carried his coin purse under his armor; when they reached Kaipo he would be able to buy supplies with the little Gil he had. Cecil lay the girl down and set watch, knowing he would not be able to get any sleep until first light, for he had to tend the fire to keep the beasts away.

Unfortunately, he found it incredibly difficult not to nod off, even with the pounding behind his temple and the steady throb of his ankle, so he was jarred to full wakefulness when the sound of a cart came from the direction of the desert, traveling the road he’d found earlier that morning. His hand flew, involuntarily, to the hilt of his sword, and he struggled to stand, cursing when his ankle gave way and he fell inelegantly into the dirt. Around the bend came a cart drawn by what surely had to be two chocobo, yellow blurs against the blue-black of the starry sky. As the cart approached, Cecil could make out a form sitting at its helm, steering the chocobo toward Mist. He’d no idea what sort of carter would drive after nightfall, but suddenly his hopes soared. If he could buy at least the girl passage to Kaipo, where she could receive medical attention, and possibly a new home, he would die a happy man.

“Hail, stranger!” called the voice of an aged woman as the cart drew steadily closer, causing Cecil to start.

She was a squat grandmother with flyaway grey hair covered by a wide-brimmed straw hat. She peered at him from under it with shrewd, grey eyes “, what’s a youth like yourself doing out in the boonies?” he eyes caught the sleeping form of the girl “, and with a child, no less!”

“Mist has been destroyed by Baron,” he told her in a tone so even it shocked even himself. “I took this girl from that place to try to save her. Please—“

She cut him off with a glance. Her gaze turned appraising as she slid her eyes up and down his form, still splayed on the ground in an unseemly manner. Cecil did not particularly care. He was too tired to care for much of anything except the girl’s safety. “Hurt yourself, did ya?”

“Yes, in the rock slide,” seeing the blank look on her face, he expanded. “The mountains collapsed around Mist. It will be impossible to reach this way. One would have to charter a ship to a Baroni port, and Gaelach knows there aren’t many of those.”

She slid off her cart and went to the back, “then we’ll camp here for the rest of the night; using your fire, of course. Tomorrow we’ll start the drive back into Kaipo. Now way in all of creation your makin’ it there in your condition.”

“You’re not going to continue to Mist?” he asked, bewildered; he had been so certain she wouldn’t believe him.

She chuckled “, not unless you have an airship hidden in that armor of yours. If there’s been a rock slide like you said, there ain’t no way I’m getting to Baron with my goods. I’ll just have to go back to Kaipo.” She paused. “Now help me set up camp. I’ll let you hitch a ride and use some of my supplies, but nothin’ in this world’s for free, boy. You have to work for it.”

Cecil was grateful. Any other carter would have ignored him, or made him spend the little money he did have on passage to Kaipo. When he mentioned it to her, she just waved him off “, normally, there would have been no way in hell I’d have helped you, but this is to repay a debt. Some little bird told me about a rock slide, though, and now I’ll be the only carter in Greater Baron (as the continent was named) not wastin’ my time. I may even get a refund on these goods.”

Cecil wondered briefly at the impact this landslide would have on the world’s delicate economy. After all, the Mist Valley was the only direct route to Damcyan from Baron, and the same inversely. Damcyan was highly involved in trade with other nations, but Baron’s only other neighbor was Troia, and the two were sworn enemies. Concern for his nation gripped him momentarily, but then he remembered Baron’s wealth of natural resources from all the land she controlled. It was possible Baron could become incredibly self-sufficient. He knew she would; after all, Baroni were known for their ingenuity. In the end, the only ones who would suffer were the carters who ran the route from Baron to Damcyan, still a terrible loss.

Then an idea struck him. What if Baron were to extend her hand and use her wealth to build a port? They could then trade with Damcyan as well as countries like Eblan. Of course, she would also use it as an excuse to fund a Navy, and then the Baron Eight Corps would become the Nine Corps…

“What’s your name, boy? By that armor, I’d wager you live down in Necrograd,” her voice pulled him from his musings. “Or at least you did, at one point.”

“My name is Cecil,” he said, choosing not to elaborate.

She raised a bushy eyebrow at him, but said nothing except, “I’m Maude.”

Maude turned out to be a charitable, if slightly salty, woman. Cecil caught her staring at the girl again and again, and at last resolved to ask her about it when they’d settled down around his now happily crackling campfire. “You like children?’

“Yeah,” she smiled, her wizened face momentarily softening. “She reminds me of my own daughter, who’d be a grown woman by now, but that crotchety old bastard took her away with him when she was only six years old.” Her expression soured, but then became inquisitive as she queried. “What about you, Cecil? You got a family? Any kids? You seem to be pretty gentle with her.”

Cecil had never thought about fatherhood before, so the question took him off guard and he had to think for a moment before carefully choosing his answer. “No. I have no kin, and I’m an orphan. I’ve no wife, either, so there are no children.”

“Never had an affair?” she asked with a grin, and laughed as he shook his head, apparently at the expression on his face. “Ah, you’re a good boy. I’d have thought a young man as attractive as you would have been married off by now. All of the good ones go first, you know. That’s why I ended up with the bat that I did.” She chewed her bottom lip thoughtfully. “So then, you’re afraid of commitment, boy?”

Cecil thought of Rosa and then answered. “No.”

He was afraid of the Dark Sword. He was afraid it would become too much of a temptation and that he would lose himself to it again, just like that time five years ago. And what if Rosa were to be in the way? Or any child they would produce? He could not put her in danger. He would not.

“Aye. Yourself then, is it?” she said in a manner that was positively sagely, and Cecil felt as if her poignant grey eyes had stripped him naked to stare at his shameful scars; trophies of his sins. “Never mind. The food’s ready.”

They ate her bland soup without speaking. Maude agreed to take first watch and Cecil obligingly sunk into a deep slumber, a slumber of exhaustion unplauged by his usual nightmares.

He woke to the dawn, and asked Maude, rather indignantly, why she hadn’t woken him for watch. She just cackled good-naturedly, slapped him on the back, and smiled a nearly toothless smile. “What good’s an injured Knight gonna do?”

He really had nothing to say to that.

Less than an hour and a half later he was sitting beside Maude in front of the cart, the little green haired girl sitting in his lap, still unconscious (he hoped she wasn’t seriously injured).

Cecil spent most of the day thinking, as Maude needed to concentrate on her chocobos, and found his mind wandering to the subject of fatherhood. Why he’d never given it a thought before he did not know. It certainly wasn’t because he was still a child himself. Heaven’s no, he’d lost his childhood long ago. It wasn’t because he wasn’t suitable marriage material; Kain had once told him that half of the women in Baron fawned over him as if he were a godling.

Cecil could only suppose he never thought about being a father because it seemed so out of reach; he figured he’d never marry.

Now, while stuck in the vast and unfriendly wilds, he found himself thinking about being a father. He imagined tiny hands reaching out to him, and trusting eyes that looked to him, admired him, that ultimately aspired to emulate him. Suddenly, he was frightened, more frightened than he had ever been before. Cecil had no idea what he would do. He’d no example to teach him how to father a child.

But then, looking at the tiny girl in his lap, he thought about the joy being a father could bring; especially if he had that child with Rosa. It would give him a sense of wholeness he had never had, a reason for being other than empty war, something to fight for. He could fulfill a purpose and find true happiness, but—

Alas, it was just a dream. Cecil would never admit to his love for Rosa aloud (for her own safety, he told himself; denying his feelings for her was not a punishment), and he would never bring himself to love another. It would remain locked within him forever, and Cecil could suddenly see the rosy promise of happiness skittering away on the hot, desert breeze.

They camped underneath a rocky overhang that night, the roof of the blab blackened by the smoke of campfires long dead. The desert nights could drop to below freezing, so finding a good shelter was rather important, and the overhang would help to trap the heat.

Later that night, Maude stared at him as he ate. He was having a difficult keeping fatherhood from his mind, and his struggle must have shown on his face, for she commented “, one so clearly blessed by the Twin Gods shouldn’t have such sad eyes.”

It was not the first time he’d heard something of the like, but he was surprised to hear it in the wilds. People outside of Mysidia and Baron rarely practiced worship of the Twin Gods. “This is just a fluke,” he told her, motioning to his appearance. “I’m no godling.”

“Aye, perhaps not, but my ex-husband would have said that you were Gaelach’s very reflection, though perhaps a shade or so darker.” She smirked. “The fierce little Red Moon, everyone knows, is Gaelach’s Airship. Red is the color of his flag because it is the color passion; it’s why the Baroni painted their airships red.”

Cecil, of course, already knew that. “What does that have to do with anything? How can I possibly be a reflection of the God of Justice when I’m…” he trailed off.

“What? A Dark Knight? A Pirate who raided Mysida?” she snorted derisively.

He stared at her in shock.

She rolled her eyes at him. “You may not be flying Baron’s flag over your head, but you’re clearly the one and only Dark Knight who led the Mysidi Raid. You have a guilt complex. Besides, ‘man of Baron’ is written all over your face. Baroni have a feeling to ‘em that I can’t really put clearly into words.” She sighed deeply, and then waved it off. “Anyway, you’re Gaelach’s reflection not because of how you look, but because of the way you act. Not many men would have saved that little girl. Not many men would tell a carter, let alone a woman carter, about rock slides, or even help her set up camp with a swollen ankle, and doing more than their fair share, at that. That benevolence, that inherent kindness, is at Gaelach’s core, even if he has a reputation for being a bit frosty at times. O’course, the fact that you wield that,” she motioned to his sword, “makes you darker; Gaelach is a being of light and cannot hold within him darkness. You, on the other hand…”

He said nothing, staring at his gauntleted hands. Usually the reasons given to him for ‘being a reflection’ of one of the Twin Gods was simply a reason of appearance. This woman was pointing to his character and highlighting traits he did not see within himself at all. Cecil did those things because it came naturally to him, not because of anything good inside of him. It simply was. And even if they were good deeds, he was sure that when every man was judged for his sins at the end of time, the Twin Gods would cast him into the Underworld, for his sins far outweighed any good he’d done on this world.

“For the record, it’s what a man does about his mistakes that matters, not the mistakes he’s made,” she said softly after a meditative moment.

Cecil promised himself, not for the first time, that he would stop Baron no matter the cost to himself.

XXX

They reached Kaipo by dusk the next day. Here, Cecil offered to pay Maude, but she refused him and was even kind enough to point him in the direction of the one of the cheaper, but more cleanly, inns in town.

When he arrived, the single maid on staff saw the girl and began to fuss over her. She caused such a ruckus that the inn keeper came to scold her, but he took one look and the girl and immediately offered Cecil a free room, medical supplies, and meal. Cecil turned down the meal, insisting he didn’t want to impose.

So it was that he found himself in a private room on the Inn’s second floor, overlooking the moonlight waters of the Kaipo Oasis. At last, he was finally able to tend to the girl and lay her down in a bed to recover. He was about to tend to his own when he felt eyes on his back, and turned around to discover the girl, staring at him with wide, green eyes. They were glistening with tears, and an expression of fear mingling with hatred was etched upon her face. It caused Cecil’s already bleeding heart to further fracture, and he turned his face away from the fading light of her innocence.

“I know it doesn’t fix it, not does it take away your pain,” he said in a gentle voice, one that he had to will not to waver “, but I want you to know how sorry I am. I – I don’t even know your name.”

He looked at her to find that she had turned away from him, and found that he couldn’t blame her. “I know that it makes no difference to you, but my name is Cecil.”

He turned away from her again and began to work, trying to swallow the pain that was trapped in his throat.

He removed his armor plate by plate and frowned at his thread bare shirt and sweat stained grey silk doublet. They wouldn’t do for much more than travel, and if he were to stop Baron he would need allies; powerful allies. In order to garner these allies he would have to look more than presentable. Unfortunately, all the clothing that would make the right impression was back in his wardrobe at home. Running a hand through his hair, Cecil resolved to buy at lest a decent doublet tomorrow, though he doubted he’d enough time, nor the funds, to seek the help of a proper tailor. He supposed he’d have to go for presentable and earnest, then.

Taking off his traveling boots he examined his ankle. It seemed to mending well enough, but it would do no good to strain it any further. What he needed was rest. All he could do now was spread a soothing salve over it and bind it with gauze to set it.

As he finished, the sound of footsteps dashing frantically up the stairs and the echo of clanking armor greeted his ears. Every muscle in the Knight’s body tensed, and he grabbed his sword from where it sat beside him on the bed, unsheathing it and standing just as the muffled shouting of the inn keeper grew loud enough to discern.

“-can’t. Nothing is in there. Storage, it is. No! Stop! You’ve got no jurisdiction here!”

But his protests apparently fell on deaf ears, for Cecil’s childhood tormentor forced his way through the door, flanked by two obviously green guardsmen.

Cecil’s first thought was that he could easily defeat them, even with the obvious disadvantage of his swollen ankle. If he defeated Pangdorr the other two could be subdued quite simply; they weren’t apt to put up a fight after the apprehension (or potential disembowelment) of their Lord. His second was that they clearly weren’t expecting to see him here, by the looks of shock evident upon all their faces. He’d no idea how long he’d been gone from Baron, but apparently it had been enough time to declare him dead. That meant that their target was this girl, whom he was certain had Called whatever monstrosity had caused the rock slide at Mist. Were they truly that determined to destroy every last Conjurer?

Pangdorr took his presence in stride “, Lord Captain Harvey, had over the girl and we can all go back to Baron. Now harm will be done.”

“I’m afraid,” Cecil said in a voice that made the two guardsmen blanch “, that I cannot do that.”

“Then you are a still a fool,” Pangdorr snarled, pointing the tip of his blade at Cecil, provoking his men into charging forward.

Cecil bypassed the charging guards with a quick sidestep, forgetting about his ankle in the heat of the moment. They’d built up enough momentum that they tripped over Cecil’s bed and landed in a messy pile on the other side. Cecil used their diversion to dodge Pandgdorr’s downward slice, hit the man in the face with his right elbow, and drive him back out of the door and down the stairs. He knew two guards so green would not have the gall to kill a little girl, and would decided to pursue the fight rather than stain their hands with innocent blood. Spinning, Cecil locked swords with Pangdorr in order to stop a wild slice from hitting the nearby maid. He pushed the man back violently, causing him to lose his footing and tumble out over the threshold. Cecil placed the tip of his obsidian blade at the fallen Pangdorr’s neck. A moment later his guards stumbled into the street, having miraculously managed to untangle themselves. Neither was foolish enough to attempt to cross blades with a seasoned war veteran and Dark Knight.

“Get out, and tell the King that he will soon have a threat to contend with. I will not allow him to take any more Crystals,” he spat at Pangdorr’s feet, Withdrew his sword, and slammed the door in their faces.

When he spun around, rage still boiling in his veins, he was met by the jolly and rotund face of the inn keeper. “You just bested Baroni soldiers! You, neighbor, are a hero – willing to take on the Empire!”

Cecil, taken aback, shook his head “, no. I am just a man ensuring the safety of this inn and that little girl. Good night, sir, and thank you.”

He returned to find the girl sitting up. Her green eyes lighted on his form when he entered, eyes full of wariness and curiosity. “I’m Rydia,” she muttered shyly.

“Rydia,” he shut the door and walked to the edge of her bed to kneel at her feet. “It’s very nice to finally meet you.”

“You saved me, even though you didn’t have to…” she looked into his eyes, and he realized that he’d torn the very fabric of her world to shreds. “You really didn’t mean to kill Mommy or burn the village, did you?”

In the light of her forgiveness, Cecil felt the burden of his darkness intensify tenfold. “No, I did not.”

All at she slung her arms about his neck as far as the would go and buried her face in his chest, soaking his doublet with her tears. Gaining courage, he placed one hand on her back and another in her thick, green tresses. After a silent moment in which he simply held her, he said in a manner he hoped was soothing “, I promise that I won’t let anyone hurt you ever again. Rydia, I will protect you.”

“Promise?” she sniffled, staring up at him from the stronghold of his arms.

Another moment passed and they both entered the safety of their own beds, though Rydia’s voice soon penetrated the darkness. “Cecil? Can I sleep with you? Only just this once?”

“Come here, Rydia.”

And so Cecil went to sleep with the girl nestled into his chest.

XXX

Kaipo was a mid-sized town under the rule of Damcyan. It’s north was bordered by a lush oasis which irrigated the town through a series of channels that cut the city into neat, geometric districts. Palm trees lined the street sides in neat rows, and buildings were made of thick, white clay that gleamed underneath the heat of the sun. The people of Kaipo were all tanned from the constant exposure to sunlight and wore coarse, but brightly colored, fabrics. Instead of farming, the lowliest members of society herded goats or sheep, living in the broad, dusty desert under the sparse shade of cypress trees.

On the third day after arriving in Kaipo Cecil finally felt his ankle was healed enough to go out, and so he set out to replenish their supplies with the little money he had left. He could no longer continue to tarry here, for Baron was a nation that did not waste anymore time than needed in preparation for its operations.

Even if he did not need to pay for the room they inhabited food and drink were still a necessity, and his purse felt unsatisfactorily thin. Rydia was still sleeping when he left, and he left her in the care of the maid, whom he instructed to assure her of his safe return when she woke.

Cecil stepped out of the inn into the still cool early morning of the city, though the humidity of the oasis kept it from becoming too cold. His hand comfortably on the hilt of his sword, the Dark Knight traveled through the tightly packed homes of the southern most district. Eventually, he emerged into the central market place, which was packed full of robed people, even early in the morning.

It was while leaving with his supplies that Cecil overheard two old women discussing the latest bit of gossip in hurried whispers.

What first piqued his interest was the description the tall woman gave of the Lady, who had apparently been found by a shepherdess collapsed in the desert while she was driving in her sheep “, fair as the desert moons, they say, with hair spun of sunlight and the body of a godling.”

“And she was found by a shepherdess?!” the other, a rotund dark-haired woman, placed her hand over her mouth, her dark eyes dancing with excitement.

“Yes!” exclaimed the other, clutching her friend’s hand in both her own. “And she keeps muttering a man’s name over and over again. They say that he’s her lover, a Lord from Baron!”

The heavy woman drew an audible breath. “Tell me more, dearest!”

“I have it on a very reputable source that his name is Cecil Harvey,” at this Cecil’s heart skipped several beats.

The other’s eyes widened even further, and her cheeks flushed with surprise. “The Dark Knight, Cecil Harvey? The one who massacred Mysidia!?”

Cecil froze. Perhaps enlisting help from other countries would be more difficult than he initially had thought. If even the common people knew his name, surely those in power would. Treating with them went from difficult to impossible, and his heart sank. Still, he would not give up. Baron must be stopped.

The bony woman nodded gravely “, yes. The latest news out of Baron is that he’s passed away.”

“Serves him right,” the other woman sniffed, placing both hands on her hips. “Say, do you think she went looking for him?”

It was at this point in their conversation that Cecil left, moving a far away from them as possible. After a frantic moment, Cecil stopped, realizing he’d absolutely no idea where she was. Taking a deep breath, he reached out to tug on the sleeve of one of the many citizens in the market. A man with blonde hair turned to face him, looking confused when he saw the one who had hailed him was not someone he recognized.

“Forgive me, but I have a question. The Lady the shepherdess rescued, where are they keeping her?” his voice sounded too frantic, and he wondered if the man would snap at him.

Instead, his face softened, and he smiled kindly. “The young Lady is staying with the Shcliefers in the north district. It’s a modest mansion with a domed blue roof. You can’t miss it.”

“Thank you for your time, sir,” Cecil inclined his head and then set off to the north.

He reached the district in the heat of noon, and found that his ankle throbbed from walking, but he could not quit and go back when he was so close. The north district was spread apart, inhabited by the rich merchants of Kaipo. In the country of Damcyan, nobles were often the families who had been in business the longest. The rich here, Cecil realized, could not possibly be as rich as those who lived in Damcyan’s capital city of Saffrom, and so their palaces must be much more grand than those found here.

It did not take him long to find the mansion he was looking for, and he reached up to knock on the door, which was flung open before his knuckles even touched the wood.

“If you’re here to bother that poor girl, then leave!” squawked the voice of an elderly man, who began to slam the door just as quickly as he’d opened it.

Cecil stuck his foot out and stopped him from shutting it.

“She doesn’t need any more company, sick as she is,” snapped the voice.

Cecil pried open the door. “No! You don’t understand! I am the Cecil she speaks of! Please–!”

The man ceased all attempts to resist and opened the door completely. Cecil found himself staring at a man with a full, greying brown beard and hard, but wise, green eyes. “You’re Cecil?”

“I am. If she came here looking for me, I would very much like to see her,” he said, ignoring the skepticism in the man’s voice. “Please. Rosa… Rosa means so much to me.”

The man suddenly pulled him inside, moving with a speed surprising for someone of his age. “Listen, boy, she’s very sick, so even if you’re there in the room with here, she won’t see you. About all we can do right now is wait for her to die.”

“What!?” Cecil, completely unrestrained and not at all thinking clearly, grabbed the man by the shoulders; his vision flashing red, his heart thundering in his ears. “No! There is a cure for every sickness! There must be a way to save her!”

The old man stared at him for a moment, “you really do know her, don’t you?” He shook his head dismissively. “There is a way, but the chances of saving her are slim, as her condition is already advanced. You’d have to go to Damcyan, receive permission from the nobles to go to the place where the cure is, get the cure, and come back in five days. After that, I don’t think there’s much chance of saving her.”

Cecil released the man and turned away, biting his lower lip hard enough to draw blood “, what do I need?”

“A Sand Pearl,” the old man replied “, but, like I said, you’d have to get permission from the Damcyan royalty to go and get it. It’s in the Antlion’s Den, and Antlion’s are so rare that the common people aren’t allowed to see them.”

“Then I’ll do it,” he resolved, turning back to face the man.

“She’s back this way,” the man said with a sigh “, but you shouldn’t stay long if you want to make it back in time to save her.”

He led Cecil down a hallway off to the left and opened one of the side doors to reveal a small room with only a single bed. On this bed was the form of a woman, a form Cecil recognized without prompting.

Though his heart had been thundering in his ears before, now it stopped cold.

She was flushed, clearly fevered, her skin glistening and slick with sweat. Her blonde hair was plastered to her face.

He stumbled to her side and fell to his knees beside her, running his hand along the length of her jaw tenderly. It made his heart ache just to look at her, and he placed his forehead against hers, his fingers trembling, his jaw taught.

“Rosa… Rosa, hold on,” he muttered. “I promise I will save you. I promise I will come back to you with the Sand Pearl.”

After a silent moment he stood and walked from the room, past the man and down the hall. He heard the old man trailing after him. Without a glance back, Cecil exited the mansion and returned to the inn, where Rydia was waiting for him.

“Cecil, what’s wrong?” she demanded as he walked into the room, speaking in the manner typical of all women, no matter what their age.

“I have to go to Damcyan, Rydia,” he explained. “A friend of mine has fallen ill, and I must go entreat the help of the nobles there in order to save her.”

“Then I’m coming with you,” she insisted, placing her hands on her hips and daring him to defy her with his eyes.

“Rydia, it’s dangerous, you can’t-”

“No!” she said indignantly. “I can use magic, Cecil! I can help you!”

He stared at her a long moment and then nodded, ” fold the clothing the maid gave you and place it on my bed. I’ll finish packing, and then we’ll be off.”

He’d only conceded because there was no arguing with a woman when she spoke in that tone. There was no way he could have won that argument.

They left after a brief goodbye and set out within the hour, after gathering their supplies together. Cecil had packed his armor away in their supply bag, but he had slung his sword about his waist. He would not go out into the desert unarmed, no matter how “well-traveled” it was.

According to the Inn Keeper they were heading for a cavern several miles to the north, the only route to Damcyan from Kaipo unless they were to charter an airship. Though Cecil relished the idea of flying through the air, chartering an airship involved Baron, and Baron’s military, no doubt; there were very few commercial airships, even in Baron. He could not risk Rydia, or himself (for as long as Rosa was in danger, he could not die – he was the only one who would save her), by taking them up in a Baroni airship.

The two companions were slow, at first, but Cecil soon remedied this by picking up Rydia and carrying her in his arms. Even if his paced slowed because he was carrying both his youthful charge and the equipment, they made faster time because Cecil did not constantly have to stop walking to wait for her to catch up to him.

To Cecil’s surprise, they had reached the cavern’s mouth by nightfall the next day without event. They set camp in the cool green near the entrance, where Cecil taught Rydia useful things, like how to pitch a tent and start a fire. In return the girl told him wild stories about the Eidolons her people could conjure. Cecil decided to return her stories that night with one of his own as she prepared for bed.

“Long ago,” he began “, there were two brothers who were born to the Sky and Night. They were both very great men, though one was forced to stay in the Heavens with his parents, while the other was called to roam the Earth in search of his fortune. This is a story of the younger of the two brothers, Gaelach, the Father God of the Baroni.”

“One evening, the brothers were communicating through the scrying glass in Heaven’s Crystal Palace and the great lake that would later become Lake Baron. Breithe said to his brother ‘there is a tribe in the south who has the potential to become great teachers and mystics. I would like you to go and teach them my Arts.’

‘But, brother,’ Gaelach objected ‘, I do not know your ways.’

‘Read the arcane tome you received from Night, our father, and you will understand. Tell my people, these Mysidi, that they are only to use my Arts for practical reasons, never for war. Tell them to preach peace to the other seedling tribes of the world, and charge them to teach those with potential in my arts,’ Brethie instructed his brother.

‘I will do as you ask.’

And so Gaelach set out for the land across the sea, where he found a tribe of dark-haired people who buzzed with the energy called ‘Magic.’ He spent many years teaching them his brother’s ways, instructing them in his edicts, and living among them. Soon, they came to know his brother so well that he passed to them the Crystal of Fire so that they may commune with him themselves. When he at last left them they were no longer a tribe of nomads, but a small village; four-hundred and ninety-six years had passed.

He returned to his land to find that he was no longer alone.

A city of stone rose up along the banks of the river, and though it was crude it was certainly advanced. No where else in the world was there a place like this, possessing the refinement of society. Still, they were crude. Gaelach resolved to teach them of morality, of honor, of warfare, and of justice.

They were not so unwise that these people, the extremely hardworking Baroni, could not recognize a God when he walked among them, and so they worshiped Gaelach and learned the lessons he had to teach.

Gaelach lived among them for only a quarter of the time he had lived among the Mysidi, but his people learned much, and they loved him dearly. When he left, they did not weep, as the Mysidi had, but rejoiced for him, as he was finally allowed to return home, to the arms of Sky, his mother. They were pleased that he had loved them enough to teach them of his ways, and so they threw him a grand going away party. They still celebrate this festival today during the longest night of the year in the dead of winter, when the Royal Family of Heaven stays out at night to smile down upon the people of the world, their children.”

Rydia had fallen asleep by the time he’d finished with his tale, exhausted from the long journey, though he’d done most of the work. Smiling, Cecil began his careful vigil, and only allowed himself to rest when the Twin Moons had set and the first rays of light peered though the distant eastern mountain peaks.
Post #197423
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Posted: 15th September 2011 21:49

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Member of more than five years. Contributed to the Final Fantasy VI section of CoN. 
zomg double post!

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zomg spam! KNOCK IT OFF.


This post has been edited by Neal on 18th September 2011 00:21

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Posted: 15th September 2011 22:33
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Quote (Blinge Odonata @ 15th September 2011 21:49)
zomg double post!

Ah ha! But I read the site bylines, and I know that I'm allowed to double post to add content, which is exactly what I've done. happy.gif
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