CoN 20th Anniversary: 1997-2017
Blood Brothers (FF6 Fanfiction)

Posted: 1st November 2013 00:09

*
Dragoon
Posts: 1,706

Joined: 7/4/2003

Awards:
Member of more than ten years. Member of more than five years. Major involvement in the Final Fantasy VII section of CoN. 
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Blood Brothers

Prologue

"Thou wouldst be foolish to dismiss the power of forgiveness." – Sir Richard Baramoure, ca. 547

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The world once was fresh and vibrant, teeming with life and happiness, its people living in relative peace and harmony, despite the constant threat of the Empire... yet amidst the serenity was a man stricken with fear and anger.  He lashed out at his father, killing him in a quake... he wanted the power – feared losing it – and met his peer in combat, falling in disgrace and guilt.

His life was nearly forfeit, his body broken and his lungs filling with blood... and yet somehow he survived, pressing onwards toward some unknown goal.  He refused to surrender, and soon his tired legs carried him to healing; or at least, healing of the body.  What ravages his own choices had wrought on his emotions were known only to him, and he soon cast off the bonds of his old life, wandering alone in search of no one... and nothing.

And nothing was what he found.

Finally, in the wake of Kefka's holocaust, a great palace to the art of war arose in the wilderness north of Kohlingen, a towering Coliseum where fighting and warfare were rewarded.  He had no home, no family, and no life to live... so there he went, and there he stayed, fighting on to the last breath.

Now, in the center of that arena, his opponent lies silent as he stands over him, shoulders drawn high and tall in proud victory, the golden sash of a master flowing in the breeze as with his loose blue hair.  There, at the center of the fans' adoration, stands Vargas, gladiator amongst gladiators.

But victory is a hollow reward... and he yearns for a more fulfilling goal.


Presenting: the third and final chapter in the "Dragon's Head" series. The final order:

Dragon's Head
1) Blood and Honor
2) The Unforgiven
3) Blood Brothers


This chapter is, really, more of an epilogue to the entire series, wrapping it up in a nice, neat blow, so don't expect the fast-break action of the previous two... this one's much more perspective-and-emotion-driven as I put an end to the storyline.

As with The Unforgiven, there's a small chance I might go back later and do some revisions, but that's not actually likely; I can't think of anything to add nor take away.

All that's left to do with the series now is go back and revise Blood and Honor into my modern style; I expect to start on that over the next few days, and try and have it finished by the end of next week, if not sooner. In the end, it'll end up gaining a prologue and epilogue, and some material will be changed and moved around in the interest of culling out plotholes.

All told, the Dragon's Head series takes up - at present - about 44,000+ plus words; a short novel, if you will.

--------------------
~Status Report~

* Completed... Dragon's Head
* Completed... Soldiers of the Empire: Disciples (release pending)
* In Progress/Undecided... Of Love and Betrayal
* Planning/Assembly... Where it all Began
Post #205329
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Posted: 1st November 2013 00:15

*
Dragoon
Posts: 1,706

Joined: 7/4/2003

Awards:
Member of more than ten years. Member of more than five years. Major involvement in the Final Fantasy VII section of CoN. 
Quote
Chapter 1

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“You're sure I can't convince you to stay?”

Vargas glances aside at Cicero, his lip crooking as a smirk pulls it up.  “More than sure.”

The beast of a man pulls his travel bag up then and slings the strap deftly over his shoulders, balancing the weight before heading to the door... but as he reaches for the knob, the small, annoying voice behind him calls out, “Vargas!”

Turning to face him with a raised brow, Vargas stands silent as Cicero lowers his arms to his sides, gazing on the master with genuine regret.  “You will be missed.”

Vargas, himself, wonders what, exactly... the endless bloodshed?  The victories?  The rain of gold coin brought in by the daily gate?  None of that would be missed... not to Vargas, anyway.  Ever since magic went away, the games have changed... every cut and slash painfully real and permanent.  Pointedly, he asks, “What will be missed, Cicero?  Me... or the receipts at the box office?”

Pleased to see the small man's surprised reaction, Vargas crooks another smirk, tilting his head forward to him.  “Goodbye, Cicero.”

He leaves then, not even caring to give the man a second look... no, since the out of immediate healing had been removed, the games just haven't been the same, each bout much too close to the permanence of death for his liking.  It had been hard enough to pull back when the healing was there for the taking... it's even harder to keep from accidentally slaying his foes now.  Given the choice, he would rather leave this life behind than continue succeeding in it; the price has just become too high.

He draws nearer another door in the row of suites, and its plain wood draws him out of his musings, knowing that behind that wood is a fair beauty waiting for him... his beauty.  With a smile on his lips, he's about to reach for the doorknob when it opens of its own accord, the woman inside stepping out into the hall until she halts in her step at the sight of him, flaring red hair falling into her eyes with the sudden stop in motion.

With one hand she brushes back the locks while the other closes the door, a warm smile on her lips as she asks, “So, you're ready to go?”

Vargas nods, watching her step towards him and gaze far up into his eyes.  “I've told Cicero my farewells.”

She smiles back, giving him a gentle nod, then wraps an arm about his waist with her free hand, the other hooking a thumb under the shoulder strap of her own bag as they head for the front desk together.  As they leave, Vargas can't help but smile, musing to himself how good it'll feel to leave this place behind... all the death, all the painful memories, and especially the ever–growing despair about it, hanging overhead like the pall of a storm cloud.  This place had long ago stopped being a monument to the art of war... now, it's a monument to despair and death.

But, as Rika's arm tightens about his waist, he smiles a bit wider... at least one good thing had come of the place.  A thought occurs to him: he long had lived by the creed of a long–dead master... “No opponent is to underestimated.”  He realizes he had underestimated the ones in his heart: loneliness, bitterness, guilt, despair.

Abruptly he leans over and kisses the top of her head, the scent of her hair sweet in his nostrils as he lingers a second, musing that there is – indeed – no healing magic quite as powerful as love itself.

––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

The blonde hulk steps forward and pauses, taking a moment to draw a deep breath and ready himself for the trek ahead... the wilderness of Narshe is nothing to be trifled with.  Even after the fall of Kefka, the wild beasts continue to roam free and numerous, each more dangerous than the next the longer you stay among them.  If the first doesn't get you... there's a good chance the next one will.

That being true, this man is nothing to be trifled with, either; the twin brother of King Edgar Figaro: Sabin Figaro.  And what's more, he knows it... if there's a creature out there capable of overwhelming him, he hasn't met it yet.

He chuckles – curious in itself given there's no one's around to see it – and adjusts the travel pack on his shoulders, squaring the fit for a long hike as he focuses on his own thoughts.  “Well, Duncan... it's done.  Kefka's dead.”

A smirk curls his lip high to one side.  “Hope you got tea ready when I get there.”

And with that done, he takes his first steps into the wilderness, leaving behind the makeshift raft on the beach's sands in favor of the untamed plains before him.

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Having crossed forests, plains, harsh storms, and the sea itself on their way to this tiny shack in a clearing, it's curious that Vargas and Rika pause now to peer at it, he standing with crossed arms as she fingers the bag on her shoulders.  Leaning towards him, she keeps her eyes on the shack as she asks in a quiet voice, “Do you think he knows we're here yet?”

“Knowing him,” Vargas mutters back, pursing a corner of his lip in thought.  “He probably does

“And you would be right

They spin about to face the third voice, then immediately relax and grin as they see the beaming, wrinkled old face of Duncan, the old master standing haughty with his hands on his hips, proud to have snuck up on them.  Stepping forward, Vargas calls out warmly to him, “Father!”

Laughing as he approaches Vargas with open arms, Duncan quickly closes the gap and grabs up his son with a tight embrace, heartily slapping the wide back with open palms.  “Hah hah, my boy!”

Laughing himself at his father's exuberance, Vargas pats Duncan's back, his voice rumbling warmly as he states, “It's good to see you, too, father.”

Duncan soon pulls himself away from Vargas and glances to Rika, beaming as widely to her as he has to Vargas.  “Ah, Rika...”

He steps over and offers his hand for a shake, but she surprises him by taking him up in a warm embrace of her own, breaking with the tradition of student–teacher relationships to give him an almost daughterly hug.  Slowly he returns the embrace, patting her shoulders more gently than Vargas's, nodding as he sighs and remarks, “As lovely now as when I last saw you.”

“And you're still every bit as excitable!” she exclaims, drawing herself away with a smile.

The old man chuckles, glancing between the two of them.  “Can ya blame a man for bein' sentimental in his old age?”

Vargas smiles wider, stepping over.  “Not at all.”

There's a short pause as Duncan grabs Vargas's shoulder and gives it a squeeze, grinning up at his son, but he quickly breaks it, looking between the two of them and holding his palms in the air.  “You two must be beat!  Come on in, settle down; I was just about to put stew on the fire!”

Recalling fond memories of his father's hearty stews, Vargas grins wider, all too happy to take him up on the offer.  Adjusting the weight of the bag on his shoulder, Vargas reaches over and wraps an arm about Rika's shoulder, drawing her close as he gazes on her.  “We would be glad to.”

A knowing smile creases Duncan's lip as he looks at the couple, then spreads wider as he leads them to his home, regaling them with a story on the way in, laughter soon filling the tranquility of the clearing as he tells the punch line.  Above them, the late evening sunset begins to fade to twilight, bringing with it the quiet sounds of the untamed wilderness, and soon after, the peaceful quiet of well–earned rest.

––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

Sabin picks his way through a maze of underbrush, following a natural trail as he thoughtlessly makes his way through the small wood, trying to remember where his old master's house had been, exactly... the last time he was here, he and his friends had found it almost by accident, having caught glimpse of a wood roof amid the trees from the deck of the Falcon.  Momentarily, he marvels at the remarkable regrowth of the planet, having dumped this woods down around Duncan's house and making it that much harder to find it again.

Here – unlike on the Falcon – he doesn't have the benefit of a bird's eye view, and as he steps past a tree he has to shield his eyes from the bright midday sun, as bright today as it's ever been.  Glancing up at it, he wonders how much longer he'll be wandering these woods today, and whether he's already walked past the house without realizing it...

“Should've asked Setzer for a ride,” Sabin muses, kicking himself as he shakes his head with a frown.  “Would've saved myself a lot of trouble.”

But, as he steps past a particularly thick growth of brush, he sees the edge of a clearing ahead, and narrows his eyes, peering at it as he approaches with a quickened pace.  Soon, he reaches it and looks about with gleeful relief: he's found it!

Pausing a moment to take in the view, he draws his eyes over the tall wood roof and down the frame of the door, then over the empty windows of the cabin, momentarily feeling some pride at his accomplishment... but then, he wonders, where is he?  “Has he gone off into the woods to train?”

He glances about for signs for habitation, when a woman with flaring red hair then steps out from behind the far wall, cradling a basket of fruits in both her arms.  She doesn't seem to notice him immediately, and he pauses to observe her, taking in the detail of her plain brown tunic, fair beauty, and fit build... but as he peers at her face, he notices a scar running the length of her chin to behind the ear, on the right side of her face.  He wonders what manner of beast gave her that mark...

He begins to approach her, but then halts in his step with a start as he sees an all–too–familiar form step out behind her, the other man's eyes cast down to the ground as he walks... neither has seen him yet.  He stares at the man in stunned silence, disbelief robbing him of words... it can't be!  Not after all this time... Vargas can't have survived their battle on Mount Kolt.

And yet there he is, carrying a heavy bundle of twigs and small logs on his bag, bound in thin cords to be used as firewood.  Sabin is still gazing in stunned silence when the woman looks up to him and abruptly stops, retreating backwards a step with a gasp.  Behind her, Vargas glances up to her back, wondering about her surprise, when he looks up himself and halts, staring back at Sabin with equal disbelief.

The two lock gazes, unable to move nor speak for a long moment – the only sounds coming from the forest around them – when a fourth figure enters the clearing and looks around, drawing the attention of the other three.

There, Duncan comes to a stop and stands, drawing his hands up to his hips and gazing about at the two opposing sides, his demeanor quiet and just a touch bemused as he declares, “Well... isn't this awkward?”


This post has been edited by Zephir on 8th November 2013 23:41

--------------------
~Status Report~

* Completed... Dragon's Head
* Completed... Soldiers of the Empire: Disciples (release pending)
* In Progress/Undecided... Of Love and Betrayal
* Planning/Assembly... Where it all Began
Post #205331
Top
Posted: 1st November 2013 00:23

*
Dragoon
Posts: 1,706

Joined: 7/4/2003

Awards:
Member of more than ten years. Member of more than five years. Major involvement in the Final Fantasy VII section of CoN. 
Quote
Chapter 2

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Glancing between father and son, Sabin steps towards Duncan and waves a hand to the son, stating, “Duncan... that's...!”

“My son, I know,” Duncan replies, nodding as a smirk begins to spread over his face.  “You look like you've seen a ghost... again

Pulling the bag off his shoulders and holding it by the strap, Sabin draws nearer to Duncan as he looks to Vargas, addressing him, “I thought you were dead!”

Bashfully, Vargas turns his head slowly to Rika, his eyes heavy with the sudden memory of regret and his lip crooked downwards in a slight frown.  Gazing up at him, Rika watches as he then looks back to Sabin, his voice quieting in somber remembrance as he gives his reply.  “It's a long story...”

“Thankfully, we've got plenty of time to tell it,” Duncan states before anyone else can say anything.  He then takes a quick glance around at the other three and reaches an arm out to Sabin to declare, “You've had a long journey, Sabin; come in, rest!  I'll have dinner served up in just a jif'.”

Finally walking up next to the old master, Sabin lowers his voice as he leans closer, muttering, “Duncan, he tried to kill you!”

Tilting his head towards him, Duncan gives him a sarcastic smirk, mumbling back, “I know... I was there

“Then why...?!”

“I've forgiven him,” Duncan quickly replies, cutting him off, then looks to the couple and sighs before glancing back to Sabin, remembering the promise he'd made to Vargas... he would let his son tell the story.  “You've been gone a long time, Sabin... a lot's happened since the last time you were here.”

Sabin looks back to the other two and pauses, studying them again as Vargas lifts the bundle of wood from his back and lowers it carefully to the ground beside him, his expression contrite as he catches Sabin's gaze... a lot, indeed, if – as he assumed – he had found himself a girl.

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Shaking his head as he lowers the warm cup of tea, Sabin swallows and looks up at Vargas across the table, setting the cup gently down before him.  “Hard to believe you survived a fall that steep

“Cheating death seems to run in the family,” Duncan remarks with a bemused tone, bringing the large pot of warm stew over and setting it down with care on the table between them.  He pauses a moment to stir the broth with the oversized ladle, drawing a deep breath as he smells the aroma of the concoction and letting it back out as a heavy, pleased sigh.  “Especially where it comes to high falls.”

Sabin glances up at Duncan, amazed by the old man's jocularity with the subject... even more amazed by the old man's capacity to forgive.  If it were himself in that position...

Shaking his head again, he then looks over to Rika as she watches Vargas and Duncan pour themselves out a large bowl of the stew, and abruptly sits forward, politely offering his hand.  “Y'know, I don't believe we were introduced...”

She smiles back and takes his hand gently, giving it a light shake.  “Rika Terral.”

“Sabin Figaro,” he answers, his eyes falling unavoidably on the scar along her face.

“I know,” she quickly replies, a wry smirk on her lips.  “You and your brother's reputations precede themselves.”

“I'm afraid to ask what that means,” Sabin answers with a crooked smile of his own.

Duncan chuckles as he sits next to Sabin, cradling the bowl in his hands.  “It means she recognizes a student of mine when she sees one... and the stories I've told her about you.”

Sabin glances between her and his master then, narrowing an eye in thought.  “You've met before?”

“Rika's a student of mine from before you arrived at my doorstep,” Duncan states, dipping and stirring his spoon into the bowl of stew as he glances at her with a smirk.  “One of my best ever.”

“I had a great teacher,” she remarks, giving Duncan a smile as she ladles herself a bowl of the food.

Shaking his head, Sabin attempts to grasp the stream of revelations and news as they come in... a lot, indeed, has happened that he never knew about.  He looks to Vargas then, and nods his head up slightly, asking, “So how did you meet her?”

Again bashful, Vargas sits back, the bowl in his hands warm as he looks aside to Rika, stirring the warm liquid with the spoon as he smiles gently.  “That's also... a long story...”

“Well, we have the time,” Rika remarks, sitting back down with a full bowl as she sips the broth, testing its heat against her tongue.

Vargas shrugs, staring down into his stew with uncharacteristic shyness, feeling like he's suddenly become the center of attention.  “...Wouldn't know where to start...”

“The beginning is usually the best place,” Duncan states, catching Vargas's eye as he fills his spoon, watching him pause as he then imbibes of the food.

Vargas looks back in his father's eyes a long moment, stirring the stew in his bowl, then sits forward as he draws a spoonful and tastes it, chewing softly on the meats and vegetables before swallowing, gathering together his thoughts in the silence as he stares at the table, all three waiting on him to continue.  Finally, he sets the bowl down and lays the spoon in it, then glances around himself at the other three.

“Well... we all know what happened on Mount Kolt between me and father... and what happened between me and you, Sabin,” Vargas starts, folding his hands together in concentration after waving the back of his palm quickly to his old peer.  “After I fell down the cliff face... I came to about a half day later, just barely more than dead.  I don't really know how, exactly, but I found a way to get back down the mountain, then found my way back to civilization... broken and ashamed.”

He pauses to sigh, the silence over the table broken only by the quiet sounds of spoons dipping into stews, Sabin's arms crossed furtively across from him.  “I don't think you ever knew how humiliated I was after our battle, Sabin... we were friends, you and I.  It didn't take long for me to realize how wrong I'd been...”

Tilting his head down as he tries to force away a tear – the painful memories flooding back in a torrent – Vargas closes his eyes tight and frowns, steadying his voice as he continues.  “...How evil I'd been, killing my own father.  I turned my back on everything after that... I didn't deserve this power, this training... my heritage.  I turned myself into a vagabond, wandering aimless and purposeless... no home to return to, no friends to turn to.”

Opening his eyes again, he casts his gaze aside, looking to the floor beyond the table, unable to meet their eyes.  “After Kefka destroyed the planet, I found myself wandering in the wilderness north of Kohlingen and came across the Coliseum... and for some reason, I went in.  I won battle after battle, glad to take out my frustrations on the other gladiators...”

Shaking his head as he looks back up at Sabin, he catches his eye as he leans slightly forward.  “It's taken me almost a year to realize I was fighting against myself, trying to kill the demon I had become.”

Sabin tries to meet his gaze, but has to – at length – turn away, unable to watch the seething pain in the man's eyes... he had never in all his years known Vargas to express such agony, and now that he is... it makes him uncomfortable.  Across from him, Vargas watches Sabin look away, and casts his own gaze down in reply, letting a pause fall between them... when Rika then takes his hand in hers, holding it gently.  He looks up at her, meeting her eyes, and his expression softens as fond memories return to him.

“That's when I met Rika,” he starts, gazing in her eyes as he runs gentle fingers across hers.  “She helped me realize some things... helped me start the healing process.  She's the one who told me father was still alive, and encouraged me to come back home and talk it out with him.”

Having brought his gaze back to the couple, Sabin then looks aside to Duncan, his arms still crossed.  “And you forgave him for what he tried to do to you?”

Duncan tilts his head aside to Sabin, giving him a sarcastic smirk.  “He's my son.  Of course, I forgave him.  Besides...”

The old master sits straighter, drawing himself up tall and proud as he adds with a smile, “I'm still here, aren't I?  The way I see it... no blood, no foul.”

The old man then chuckles, causing Sabin to shake his head in disbelief... incredible!  He marveled that he should ever have such a capacity to forgive... but Duncan then sighs, and sits back into his chair again, idly stirring the stew in his bowl.  “Besides, I... kinda felt like it was my fault to begin with.”

“Your fault?” Sabin asks, incredulous.

Looking back at him, Duncan nods, a slow and pensive acknowledgment accompanied by a less–than–enthusiastic smile.  “If I had been clearer about my intentions regarding my successor... my boy might not have lost control.”

Sabin shakes his head, then stands and turns around, facing the other way as he sighs... such an astounding turn of events; for almost two years now, he's believed in a different version of the story... one in which a power–mad, evil son betrayed his father and tried to slay him to gain that power.  Now, that entire story had been turned upside–down, replaced by the tale of a man who grieved in a greater pain than Sabin had the capacity to understand... even hearing it told, he still can hardly believe it.  “That's a hard thing to do, forgiving murder...”

Nodding his head aside, Duncan's voice turns somber.  “Well, it helps that I had some prior, personal experience with it.”

Sabin furrows his brows, trying to digest the words, then spins about, looking at Duncan, who gives him a wry smirk.  “Vargas ain't the only one who tried to bump off his old man.”

Sabin's jaw drops open as he points a finger, stunned by the revelation.  “You mean you...?!”

Duncan nods quietly, the smirk still on his face, while Sabin scoffs and spins back around, running a palm through his hair as he takes a step towards the window.  Behind him, Duncan's voice regains some of its former strength, raising in volume to conversational levels again.  “It didn't work for me, either... you could say it runs in the family.”

Sabin turns and watches Duncan glibly chuckle, then shakes his head and glances between father and son before waving a hand at his master.  “Why didn't you tell me any of this when I was here the last time?!”

Nodding, Duncan starts, “I made a promise to Vargas...”

...And Vargas finishes for him, catching Sabin's eye.  “I wanted to settle the matter between us personally, Sabin... in my own way.”

“But, there's no time like the present, they say,” Duncan remarks, taking a sip of his tea to wet his mouth.

Shaking his head again, Sabin puts his hands on his hips as he looks around at the three, simply dumbfounded.  “Frankly, I'm overwhelmed... shocked, really.”

“Then trade shock for hunger,” Duncan remarks, waving a hand at the pot between them.  “You haven't even filled a bowl yet.”

Sighing, Sabin then steps quietly back to his chair, sitting down gingerly as Duncan continues to gaze on him and adds, “You can sort it out for yourself later... all we're doing is giving you the truth of what happened.”

Slowly he takes his bowl in his hands and grasps the ladle, stirring the pot a little before filling it to serve himself, glancing quickly to Vargas, who returns the look with sincere interest.  Perhaps, Sabin muses, if the old man can find it in himself to forgive... he can, too.

––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

Later that night, Sabin finds himself wandering the cabin as Duncan turns down for sleep and Rika cleans herself up in the washroom, leaving him and Vargas to each other's thoughts.  He's still trying to digest the enormity of the earlier conversation, all the various threads of truth and belief that contradicted each other... at length, he shakes his head, and looks up to sigh.

There he pauses, seeing Vargas standing outside in the twilight, looking up at the sky with his hands in his pockets.  Curious, Sabin watches him a moment, then purses his lips as he approaches the door, deciding to join him.

Outside, Vargas is quietly gazing up at the moon and stars, watching them roll imperceptibly across the sky as he loses himself in thought, ruminating over the numerous memories and cold truths of facts the day's conversation had forced him to relive; the truth be told, he still can't fully forgive himself for his actions that day.  If it hadn't been for his outburst against his father, none of this might have happened, and he and Sabin might still be friends... perhaps even comrades in the fight against Kefka.

Of course, that being true, he might also have never met Rika... perhaps fate is equal parts cruel and generous, he muses.  He abruptly recalls the words he spoke to Sabin that day... “Fate has made us train together, and fate will send you to your doom!”

He draws a heavy sigh... it was almost him that day who was sent to his doom... in more ways than just the physical.

The soft padding of footsteps behind him catches his attention, and he twists about to see Sabin approach quietly, his own hands in his pockets.  His voice is quiet into the darkness, saying, “Sabin...”

“Taking in the view?” comes Sabin's quiet reply.

Looking back to the sky, Vargas again sighs, giving a slight shrug.  “Thinking.”

Sabin comes to a stop next to him, following Vargas' gaze and nodding.  “There's been a lot of that today.”

Vargas lowers his gaze back to Sabin, looking in his eyes as he starts, “Sabin, I truly am sorry–”

Sabin, however, removes a hand from his pocket and waves it in the air, interrupting him as he shuts his eyes and shakes his head.  “No, no, you don't need to apologize to me.”

He then pauses, watching Vargas's expression softening as he considers his next words, quickly running back over the situation in his mind.  Finally, he gives a weak smile, again nodding as he continues, “You've made good with your father.  That's all I need to know.”

A weak smile of his own spreads in return, and Vargas nods back.  “Thank you, Sabin.”

A quiet rattle sounds from the cabin, and Sabin looks back to see a shadow flickering through the washroom window.  Vargas follows his gaze, but Sabin is the one to speak, glancing at Vargas to ask, “She seems to have helped you discover a lot of things.”

Catching Sabin's eye, Vargas smiles wider – genuine and warm with tender emotion.  “She has.”

He then gives a shrug, blinking his eyes long and slow.  “I might still be lost if it weren't for her.”

Sabin studies the emotion in his eyes, recalling the pleasant memories of their youth... smiling brighter at the visions of them; it's been far too long since he's been able to recall them with any fondness.  “Do you really love her?”

“More than life itself,” Vargas answers without hesitation, softening his voice.

Sabin nods back, then pulls his other hand from his pocket and places it on Vargas's shoulder, giving it a brotherly shake.  “You hold on to that.”

“Always,” Vargas answers with a nod.  A short silence falls on them, when Vargas offers his right hand, his eyes never leaving Sabin's.  “Friends?”

Memories of their almost brotherly relationship return to the eye of Sabin's mind then, and he gives a warm smile as he takes Vargas's hand, gripping it firmly.  “And perhaps more.”

The door to the cabin then opens, interrupting their conversation as Rika steps into the doorway, adjusting her robe.  “The bath is ready when you were.”

Vargas and Sabin look at each other, but it's Sabin who waves his hand.  “You go first; I take my showers cold these days.”

Vargas gives him a knowing chuckle, then turns about and starts for the cabin, when Sabin abruptly touches his arm.  “Oh, Vargas...”

He pauses, looking back with curiosity as Sabin nods to Rika, lowering his voice to a near whisper.  “If I might dare a personal question... how'd she get that scar?”

Vargas glances at her, then lowers his voice in kind.  “I gave it to her.”

Puzzled, Sabin narrows his eyes and furrows his brows, while Vargas nods his head and blinks, adding, “It's another long story.”

“Seems to be a lot of those these days,” Sabin muses as he steps aside and sighs, giving Vargas a quick, confused glance as the man taps Sabin's shoulder before returning to the cabin, leaving Sabin alone with the stars and trees about them.  At the cabin door, he watches Vargas give Rika a gentle kiss and shut the door, the two of them disappearing behind its light wood as he shakes his head again... so many surprises, so few hours in the day.

He turns his gaze up the sky then, watching the stars twinkle in the sky as he muses what a strange world it is he lives in.


--------------------
~Status Report~

* Completed... Dragon's Head
* Completed... Soldiers of the Empire: Disciples (release pending)
* In Progress/Undecided... Of Love and Betrayal
* Planning/Assembly... Where it all Began
Post #205332
Top
Posted: 1st November 2013 00:35

*
Dragoon
Posts: 1,706

Joined: 7/4/2003

Awards:
Member of more than ten years. Member of more than five years. Major involvement in the Final Fantasy VII section of CoN. 
Quote
Epilogue

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Shielding his eyes from the midday sun as he wipes his brow, Sabin takes a moment to ponder what an eventful two weeks it's been... just a few days ago, he had believed Vargas to be dead, and now, they had begun to plant the seeds of a renewal in their relationship.  He has to smile at the thought, considering even the revival of the world around him... perhaps there truly aren't any wounds so deep they can't be healed.

The bustle of activity around him draws his attention, and he turns to see Vargas and Rika gathering their travel packs together, a quiet farewell being spoken between them and Duncan.  He keeps his distance, letting them converse amongst themselves... there's nothing being said between them that he needs to hear.

Instead, he watches, and waits, when Vargas and Duncan share a quick, warm embrace, followed by a quicker one from Rika to the old man.  The couple then shoulders their packs and starts towards him, their gaits refreshed and ready for the long journey ahead, when Vargas calls out as they draw near, “Well, I suppose this is goodbye.”

“For now,” Sabin corrects, offering his hand.

Vargas takes it and gives a firm handshake, letting a pause fall between them before repeating, “For now.”

Sabin releases his hand then, and takes Rika's in a gentler shake, lowering his voice as he nods his head sideways, pointing it to the blue–haired mountain.  “You take care of this big oaf, y'hear?”

“What else am I supposed to do with him?” she asks with sarcasm, giving Vargas a wry smirk, one he returns with a sardonic nod and smile.

Grinning at the two of them, Sabin then shifts his weight, shoving his hands in his pockets.  “So, when can we expect ya back?”

Vargas looks back at him, then flits his eyes to the sky as he considers the answer.  “Oh... maybe a week or two.”

“We're just gonna grab the rest of our stuff and come right back,” Rika adds, adjusting the weight of her pack for a better fit.

Sabin nods back in understanding, his grin fading to a gentle smile.  “Well, you two take care.”

“Between the two of us?” Rika asks, glancing up at her beau a moment before casting her gaze on Sabin, giving him a wry, confident smirk.  “Everything else had better take care.”

Sabin chuckles, then waves them off as they walk by, turning and watching them leave into the forest, soon disappearing among the trees and brush.  Behind him, Duncan approaches, and stops to stand at Sabin's side, placing a heavy hand on the shoulder of the son of Figaro.  “Ah, there go two of the best students I've ever had.”

Sabin looks aside at him, a crooked smile on his face.  “You mean, 'There goes your future daughter–in–law.'”

Duncan laughs quietly, when Sabin reaches a hand up, snapping his fingers as he turns around.  “C'mon, let's get to work on that firewood... won't be too long before winter's here.”

“Right, right,” Duncan replies, turning to join him.

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Cold, vast... and empty.  That's all the Coliseum is now.

Cicero looks up at the empty stands, long lain fallow and unused, as devoid of life as his treasury is of coin.

“A month,” he muses, his mood dour and glum.  “A month since he left... why did he have to leave?”

He shakes his head, unable to find the answer... was he tired of the winning?  Was he not paid well enough?  Did he need a new challenge?

“Why?” he asks himself.  “Why did you have to leave, Vargas?”

As if on cue, a heavy footstep sinks into the sand behind him, and he spins about to take in the visitor... a grin growing wide and abrupt on his face and glee filling his chest as he rushes over to meet the familiar face.  “Vargas!  You've returned!”

“Only for my things,” Vargas is quick to state, holding up a hand against the little man's blind charge.  “I'm leaving, Cicero.”

A cold shock coursing through him – in stark contrast to the unfettered joy of just a moment ago – Cicero slows to a walk, and eventually stops before Vargas, unable to comprehend.  “But... why?!”

“This life isn't for me,” he coldly replies, looking around at the empty stands.  “And from what I hear, neither was it for your patrons.”

Shaking his head, frowning with sad eyes at the towering man, Cicero can only repeat the tired personal adage, “The games were thriving!”

“If you have to make a game out of death,” Vargas states, measuring out the words with careful, heavy purpose.  “...Then you've forgotten what it means to live

Vargas turns to leave, but Cicero is quick to grab his arm, pulling him feebly back towards him.  “Wait!  Vargas, we can prosper again!  With you in the arena, the people will return!  Don't you see, the games must continue!”

Vargas finally pauses in his step and draws a long and heavy sigh in the silence, then looks down to the small man at his side, his face expressionless.  “I'm sorry you can't understand, Cicero.”

Pulling his arm free of the man's grasp with a gentle motion, he then nods his head towards him, blinking long and slow.  “Farewell.”

Shaking his head as Vargas leaves, Cicero can only stand and watch, helpless against the crumbling of his empire around him.  His breath ragged and stuttering, he pleads quietly into the air, beginning – finally – to see the futility of the situation.  “Wait... come back... it... it can be right again...”

Vargas – his greatest champion – then rounds the corner of the double doors at the arena's entrance, disappearing from his sight once and forever, his last chance at a resurgence departing him.  Alone in the arena, Cicero's hands drop to his sides, the weight of defeat finally crushing down on his shoulders... it's over.

It's finally over.

His gaze lowers to the sand at his feet, and he sees a curiously regular shape beneath it.  Stooping low, he feels in the dirt, and soon fingers the sharp, metal edge of a weapon, and searches for the hilt.  Removing it from the sand, he then holds it up, the dirt falling from it listlessly as he inspects it... a short sword, still clean and polished, if slightly dirty; he soon recognizes the shape, and the mark on the bladeguard: Luna's sword.

Holding it up, he then watches a flash of light gleam from the blade, drawing a streak from the tip to the hilt, its cold metal speaking to him, looking into his soul... its gaze friendly and inviting.

"When thou hast lost everything... what is there left to live for?" – Sir Richard Baramoure, ca. 547

~ The End ~


...And there it is. Nine years in the making.

Though, honestly, this chapter in the series came together in just two, three days: all four chapters of it. Apologies for any logic gaps... this one had only a light outline; I wrote much of it just off the seat of my pants. The Unforgiven received similar treatment throughout its development... a big part of the reason it fell off the map; I ran out of ideas after hitting a wall.

At any rate, the series is completed, pending only a complete revision to Blood and Honor so that the changeover from my old style to my new isn't so jarring.

Again, the final order in the series:

Dragon's Head
1) Blood and Honor
2) The Unforgiven
3) Blood Brothers


...Where each of the titles counts as a chapter in the series, further subdivided into smaller chapters therein. When I get back to it, Where It All Began will receive a similar treatment, though I'll be changing the differences between "installments" and "chapters". Honestly, though, don't expect any forthcoming developments with WiaB... as it turns out, that sucker is going to be a saga of epic length; potentially as large as an 800-1000 page "A" format paperback. It'll take some time to flesh that back out again, plan it, and prepare it for serious work... right now, I want to finish OLaB - if possible - and then get to work on the continuation of my other forthcoming novel.

A final notice about this work versus a pending one:

Said forthcoming novel will also deal with the story between Vargas and Sabin; any contradictions and differences between that storyline and this one are simply explained: this storyline and the one presented in the novel are occurring in separate timelines, or realities if you will. Some of the characters even behave differently; the Cicero, for example, in the storyline of the novel, is slightly different than the Cicero of this one, and the circumstances of the Coliseum change.

Notice:

Well, the artist I targeted for a cover and title covers has gone silent (I suppose in prep for TFF, or possibly just Life), so I'll just go ahead and post those two pdf's. There are two versions: one in my proprietary, 7x9 size (it's actually 6.86"x9"), and one in traditional, U.S. Trade Paperback "A" Format size (the small ones you see on commercial bookshelves).

[ 7x9 Version ]
[ "A" Format Version ]

This post has been edited by Zephir on 27th December 2013 20:28

--------------------
~Status Report~

* Completed... Dragon's Head
* Completed... Soldiers of the Empire: Disciples (release pending)
* In Progress/Undecided... Of Love and Betrayal
* Planning/Assembly... Where it all Began
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