Ch 2, Part 1
"Dark Skies over Palamecia" – a Final Fantasy II retelling
Disclaimer: Square Enix owns Final Fantasy II and all FFII characters featured within. Original characters and interpretations are owned by the co-writers of this fanfiction. There is no profit being made from this story.
CHAPTER TWO BEGINS
The group of four adventurers departed the small town of Altair, headed east. The group consisted of the young swordsmanship student, Clarisse; her adopted brother, Firion; Fynn royal mage, Minwu; and heir to the kingdom of Kashuon, Prince Gordon. The path to the northern territory of Salamand was a long one, and they had just started.
Enemies were in no short supply. It seemed that every step was going to bring them face to face with yet another goblin or leg-snatching vine creature. Even though Gordon leapt in fear in combat a few times, he was there to cast an odd cure spell when Minwu was busy, as he tried to prove to himself and his party that he could be as useful as his older brother Scott was.
"Exactly where do we need to go?" Firion asked after he cut a leg-biter off of Clarisse's ankle. "Salamand is north. We're headed east."
Minwu rolled his eyes as he pulled out a map from the item pouch. "Look, young master," he said somewhat sarcastically. "Salamand may be north, but we can't get there on foot. We're headed to Port Paloom to catch a ship that will take us closer to the icy mountains Salamand is nestled in."
"Much different than my homeland of Kashuon," Gordon said. His voice sounded like that of a true pacifist. He didn't belong on the battlefield at all. He was a meek sort of man with a very sad looking face. "Kashuon is a place of constant warmth."
"Considering you guys keep the Sunfire, I'm not surprised by that," Clarisse said.
"Kashuon is not the hottest place in our world, however," Minwu said, pointing to another place on the map. There was a land off by itself, made of nothing but a vast desert that surrounded tall, jagged mountains. It was connected to another continent, but just barely by a tiny isthmus. "This place here is. But while you can live in the heat in Kashuon, this island has the driest heat possible. Legend says that this place actually connects to the depths of Hell."
Clarisse gasped, "Is that…"
"That is the island of the Palamecian Empire," Minwu answered her. "Yes."
"So that's where this is all coming from," Clarisse said angrily.
Gordon looked at the map. He was all ready so far from home, and Palamecia was so much further away. "It's terrifying to think a place in the world could actually be connected to Hell itself," he said quietly. "Can you imagine caverns that go down into the earth, full of every sort of demon and devil?" He shook just thinking about such a place. Could his even his battle-hardened older brother have scaled such a place? As much as he idolized Scott, it was hard to believe Scott could go into the depths of Hell with a straight face.
"You're a political man," Firion said as they got out the canoe from the item pouch. "You're not going to be the one who goes in that kind of place. I know for a fact that Princess Hilda would have you with her, helping to look after the people while some elite task force goes in, if need be." He smiled to the prince. "Let me guess. You're wondering if you can live up to your brother's reputation."
"I…" Gordon had a hard time continuing his sentence. Minwu helped him climb into the canoe so they could cross Lake Altair. "…I'm supposed to work for the full restoration of Kashuon, as I am the last remaining member of its royal family."
"You guys were first?" Clarisse said. "Palamecia sacked you guys before they hit us."
Gordon trembled as Firion and Minwu started rowing the boat. "Yes. That's why we had been staying at Fynn castle. We had nowhere else to stay. My brother and I, we were the only survivors of Kashuon Keep. Everyone… they helped us escape. Our servants, our knights… they helped us get to the Chocobo Forest, and while my knight swore to ride behind us, even he could not stand up to the power of the Emperor himself." Gordon wiped his eyes, looking at the water below. His reflection looked even more pathetic in the ripples. "I could not stand up to them. I relied on my older brother for everything, even as we found ourselves at yet another attack at the hands of that… that monster of a man."
"What did they want?" Firion asked.
Minwu nodded. "The National Treasure of Kashuon, the Sunfire," he replied. "It is the symbol of Kashuon itself, and the most potent fire in the entire world."
"I wonder what use the Emperor has for Sunfire?" Clarisse asked.
That question fell on deaf ears, as pretty much everyone was lost in thought by then. Minwu and Firion rowed the boat onward, continuing east. By the time they reached the other side of the lake, they could hear seagulls. The port was not far away at all.
"Paloom is full of shady people," Minwu said once they hit the other side of the lake. "Be on your guard. It's a well known fact that pirates have taken up lodging inside since the war started. We need to find the ferryman who will take us to Poft. Hopefully, we won't fall for any other traps that have caught many other travelers lately."
The Palace of Palamecia was the biggest, most lavish castle in the entire world. Outside it was a vast training ground where men went through very rigorous training before becoming the Empire's very own Dark Knights. Mateus walked through the camp, inspecting everything. While most of the men were prisoners of war brought from other lands and wanted to resist joining his military, they all gave in eventually. Every man had a price. Some wanted gold, some wanted their family safe from harm, and some only desperately wanted to survive. He took in a deep breath, feeling the arid climate around him. It was going to be an auspicious day. Mateus could feel it.
"Your Grace," a man said from behind him. "Another message from Bafsk!"
Mateus took the envelope and dismissed the messenger. As he opened it, he smiled.
The little magic student has exceeded my expectation, Mateus thought. Love is one of the most powerful motivators for mortal humans. It's amazing what they will do for such a fragile concept. He crumpled up the paper and threw it on the ground. I suppose I will have to keep my promise. I did say I would make her a princess, after all.
Mateus walked back into the palace. He never spoke to a servant unless giving them an order, and that was fine with him. He headed to the tallest tower, climbing up the stairs. At the very top, there was a door with one guard in front of it.
"Your Grace," the guard said, bowing his head.
"Open the door," Mateus said quietly.
"Yes, sire," the guard replied, doing as ordered.
Mateus walked through to find a room which was well kept. He found the woman who lived in the tower there on her bed, reading a book. She was a gentle beauty, looking like a princess from a fairy tale, even if she had aged well into her forties. Her hair was the same golden yellow which adored the handsom Emperor himself. He didn't say anything as he watched her. She had no idea he was even there. He was annoyed that she didn't pay attention to her surroundings enough to notice he was there in silence. Eventually, he tapped his long scepter on the floor to make her look away from whatever it was that she was reading.
When she did put the book down, she looked over to see him. Instantly, she bowed her head. "I never expected you to come visit me," she sounded not just surprised, but in awe. "What could the Emperor of Palamecia need with me?"
"I want your crown," Mateus answered.
"My… my crown?" the woman asked. "You would take the crown off your own mother's head?"
"You have want for nothing, Airu," Mateus said. There was not a hint of respect in his words, and it hit Airu like a dagger to her heart. "It is a small price to pay to continue living here, where everything is provided for you. Or would you rather not stay here? I can make arrangements." He waited for her answer. "Obey your Emperor."
"I am your mother, Mateus," Airu said, standing up off of her bed. "But I will not take this kind of treatment. You lock me up in the tallest tower of the castle like I'm some sort of political prisoner! Where is the kind and gentle boy I raised? Where is my little prince, who looked so much like his beloved father?"
Mateus shook his head. "You!" he said to the guard who stood at the door. "Take Lady Airu to the civilian village outside the castle walls."
Airu gasped. "But, my son-"
"You will work the fields to help feed my army like all of the other women," Mateus ordered. "The guards there will not know you are, or rather, were, the Queen Regent of the Palamecian Empire. You are just another prisoner of war." As the guard came in to lead her away, Mateus reached over and took the tiara from Airu's head. "There will be a new princess; one who is… useful."
"What kind of scheme are you plotting?" Airu asked. "What will you do to the girl you plan to give that crown to?!"
"It is of no concern to you," Mateus answered. "Take her away." He looked into the golden tiara, which was so lovingly made. The beautiful carvings only brought out the lovely amethyst jewel in the center. His mother had worn it ever since he could remember, but she was no longer serving any purpose by wearing it.
Airu did not fight as the guard pulled on her to take her down the stairs. However, she did cry for her son, and for the country she diligently served since she married into the family. She loved Palamecia for all it was and all it had ever been. She loved the royal family, even if all of the men who came to be born into it were driven mad by the time they were adults. Her husband also shared a similar fate. He showed desire to rule the world, but he never acted upon that desire. Eventually, the late Emperor took to his own study and stayed there until he died of some kind of brain sickness, from what all of the doctors had told her. As she looked upon her son's face that one last time, she vowed that somehow, she would find a way to break the curse on the land, and then men, she loved so dearly. There had to be a way to save her son. She couldn't save her husband, but she had to save her son.
Mateus looked around the room. He wondered what Cantirena would think of this place before he walked out and back down the stairs. With the tiara in hand, he headed to the throne room and placed it on a pedestal next to his throne. Then, he sat down, crossing his legs and losing himself in deep thought. He knew he was a brilliant mastermind. No one in this world could stop him from what he was doing. Everything belonged to him, everyone existed to serve him. Now all he had to do was wait for the arrival of his Dreadnaught Warship and the princess he chose to build it.
There is only one fit to rule, and it is I.
Cantirena, under the guise of the Dark Princess, had been making remarkable progress on the warship she was in charge of building. The people were grateful to her gentler leadership, now that the ruthless General Borghen was gone. The children of Bafsk, who were previously forced to work in the smaller parts of the ship, were allowed to play as long as they did not interrupt the progress of the ship. The adults were divided into two teams that switched off every twelve hours, and they were always fed and rested before they were made to work. Now that the hull had been completely finished, all that was left was building the engine.
I've never built an airship, Cantirena said. Before coming here, I'd never even been on one. I guess love is the best motivator in the world after all! Just wait, Emperor Mateus! You will see.
"How much longer to you expect the engine to take?" Cantirena asked a few of the guards who were overseeing the project.
"I'd say about another full day," one of the guards answered. "Princess, if it pleases you, go take a break. You've pushed yourself further than anyone else working on this daunting project. There is a room in the inn made specifically for you."
"I will take that offer," she said. She had built a resistance to the concentrated smell of tar, but the guards were right. Since she started, she never took a break to rest herself. Cantirena would have rather forced herself into working to death instead of the townspeople. She tried to keep to Minwu's teachings even in her current situation. "If there are any problems, report to me immediately."
Cantirena walked away from the airship slowly. She didn't even make it to town. When the wind swirled around her, she ended up sitting down there. She would have gone to the bed, but no. This was fine. She lay in the grass, looking up at the sky. For a moment, it was easy to forget everything that happened since the fall of her hometown, Fynn. For a moment, she felt like a normal girl again.
Minwu, she thought. My beloved teacher, I… I still think of you every day. Your lessons echo in my memories. Your voice is always comforting to hear, even when you're not nearby.
"I'm sorry I'm not the student you always wanted," Cantirena whispered. "But if you can hear me, I want you to know that… I don't want you to come looking for me. I don't… I don't want you to see me now. Lord Minwu, please."
I could not bear to look you in the eye now, Cantirena thought. I couldn't handle being in your presence after all that's happened. I've always adored you and looked up to you. You'll always be my hero after saving me from that burning building.