Ch 2, Part 2
"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.
Paloom smelled of the sea. Ships with all sorts of banners waited in the harbor to travel about the world as their sailors deemed fit. The wind blew much harder here than it did near Altair. Near the town's gate stood a woman in a chainmail bikini wearing an eyepatch, asking people who came into the port if they wanted to catch a ride on her ship. Firion couldn't believe how pretty the woman was. He was red all over, and his heart couldn't stop thumping loudly. He wanted to talk to her, but Clarisse just kept him nearby with one yank on his beaded scarf.
"Minwu said this place is full of shady people," she reminded him. "I am not losing all my gil and weapons to some slut that wants people to ride on her ship. I'll bet she wants another kind of ride." She couldn't believe she was having to drag her adopted older brother away from such a display. "Gosh, Firi, it's like you have no common sense when you see a nice pair! Typical guy!"
Minwu shook his head. The drives of youth had never made much sense to the mage, but he figured it was because he was raised in a much different society than the one here. He missed Mysidia for a few moments after watching Firion and Clarisse's dramatic exchange. "We're looking for a ship with Cid's banner on it. He owns the ferry system between Paloom and Poft," he said. "He has an eagle on his crest."
"I wonder if that means I'll be able to meet the man of the skies myself," Gordon thought aloud. "He sounds like a passionate fellow." He kept very close to Minwu, as he never did like exploring strange places. All of the hustle and bustle of a town known for its pirate problem
"Passionate is a good word to describe him," Minwu agreed. "He wanted to further the technology of Fynn for defensive purposes. He worked day and night to invent his signature airship, which took the hull of a water-bound ship and gave it the ability to fly. After it was finished, he left Fynn's royal court and decided to live as a free bird. Once he touched the sky he so longed for, that was it." He scanned each and every one of the flags on the ship until he saw the one he was looking for. "There, that's the one."
The group of four approached that specific dock, and there stood a woman with long purple hair. Half of it was up in a frilly green bandanna. "Hiya, folks," she said with a smile. "What can I do ya for?"
"Do you work for Cid?" Minwu asked.
"I sure do," the woman said. "You want a ride up ta Poft, then?"
"That's why we're here," Firion said. He had Clarisse let go of his scarf so he'd be able to look at the lady who was standing on the dock. "When do you leave?"
"We leave tomorrow mornin', bright and early, sunshine," the woman winked at him. "It'll be 60 gil for each of ya. You got the coins?"
Minwu reached into his pocket and pulled out a handful of coins. "Here," he said. "Have 300 gil. Keep the change. We will come tomorrow at sunrise, then." He turned to look at everyone in the group. "We have the rest of the day to ourselves. Come along, we should check our inventory and prepare for tomorrow's journey." He led the group to the inn, which was set in the dead center of the port.
The woman who stood at the dock watched the four very carefully. She looked up at the crow's nest of the ship, where there was a man wearing the same color bandanna she was. "That one matches the description, wouldn't ya say?" she asked him.
"Aye," the man in the crow's nest said with a nod. "Dat one dere's da one they got the bounty on, fa sure. Da Emperor 'imself is lookin' for that one. 'E'll pay one 'eavy ransom for that pretty one."
"And did you see the man in the turban? He had quite the heavy purse," she said. "I say we've hit a gold mine, Pluie."
"I dink so, Miss Leila," Pluie answered. "Dat fake flag was your best idea ever!"
Cantirena's eyes opened to find that she was not where she passed out. She remembered lying down in the grass and staring up at the sky, not on a bed underneath a quilt. She looked around the room she was in, only to find a man sitting at the table in the far corner of the room.
"Ah," the man said. "I was beginning to wonder if you'd actually worked yourself into a coma." His voice was raspy and low, and he spoke with a slur that made him sound drunk. "Not to worry, though. Your ol' pal Borghen has you covered, missy."
"How dare you speak to me in that tone," Cantirena sat up, totally forgetting she no longer had her hood on to hide her identity. "I am the emissary of His Magest-"
"What did the Emperor pay you to betray your one and only mentor?" Borghen asked, hitting the table with his glass. "Jewelry? Powers? Money? What did it cost for you to turn on everyone you loved and everyone you ever cared about? Minwu must be so proud to know that his chosen protégé has turned into… well, you."
"You have no right to talk about Minwu!" Cantirena shouted.
"And, quite frankly, m'dear, neither do you," Borghen said, filling his glass up yet again.
"…you betrayed us first," she said angrily, pulling herself out of the bed. "It was because of you that everyone felt safe right before the massacre happened."
"Aye," Borghen replied, nodding at that. "You're going to wish he had killed you in Fynn. The Emperor is not a man, at least, he doesn't process emotions like a man. He's a monster. He might be the prettiest-looking this side of Deist, but I promise you, inside, he's the most evil person to walk this world." He took another shot and slammed the glass down on the table afterward. "No matter how much I drink, I cannot kill the memories of watching him burn innocent children to ash in front of their parents who were powerless to stop him. That… that told me everything I needed to know in one fell swoop… My hometown was going to suffer the same fate, and it was my fault." He looked over at Cantirena. "Missy, he will have you kill innocents, if he hasn't all ready. And if you refuse his orders, he will kill you. I don't care if you're his emissary or his new princess or his personal whore. You're just another cog in his war machine."
Cantirena sat back down on the bed. "I… I know that," she said gently. "I know I'm just his puppet…"
"You, unlike many who have come into his service, have the chance to escape," Borghen said. "I will let you go. Hell, I will take you to where the rebels are gathering on my airship. Go back to Minwu, pretend like you were a prisoner of war, and blame all the deaths that you've caused on me." He stood up from his chair and walked closer to her. "You're a pretty little thing. You do not belong here." He smelled of the strongest whiskey. He was a shriveled up husk in comparison to the man he used to be when he was still in charge of the Royal Guard in Fynn. "Great Mage Minwu will take care of you as he always has. You will be safe from the Emperor with Minwu."
"I miss my teacher so much," she said, "But I can't go back to Minwu. Not after what I did in the name of the Emperor. I… I belong to Emperor Mateus now. I made the decision when I first met him months ago, back when he was just the Prince of Palamecia. I would serve him as Minwu serves Hilda. When the opportunity presented itself, I took it."
"Minwu would forgive his star student of anything. He loves you," Borghen said. He was trying so hard to make her see. He didn't want her to lose her innocence, when she had given it up willingly all ready. "I know for a fact that he loves you enough to forgive you of anything. If Clarisse had ever done anything like this, I… I would still welcome her home."
"How dare you even mention my sister?!" Cantirena shouted. "You're terrible!"
"I'm not so terrible that I would forsake everything I loved because of love at first sight," Borghen said, finally getting angry. His fat, pimply face got redder the more Cantirena spoke to him. "You're lucky I have a heart, or I would've raped you in your sleep! I had the perfect opportunity!"
"…I hate you."
"You have a damn good reason to hate me," he said. "I'm a gutter slime of the highest order and it was because of me that your parents were slaughtered right in front of the Goddess and the world to see." Borghen sat next to her on the bed. "I'm a dirty, no account traitor. I should be hated and punished for what I did. I don't want you to become what I am. I would rather die knowing that a tender little thing like you is safe at home and will grow up to be a happy woman, surrounded by people that love you."
"Even though what you did got my parents killed," Cantirena added.
"I apologized for that, didn't I?" Borghen asked, glaring at her. "Go home. This is not the place for you."
"General," Cantirena said, looking at the floor.
She asked, "Why are you not in Salamand? Were you not ordered to go there, even before my arrival?"
Borghen was visibly pissed at that question. "Do you honestly think I want to go up there and bribe the man who's running that town into mining mythril for the Empire? He didn't want people to die in our attack, so he let us control the land without a fight, but… I don't want to go to Salamand. I'll put it off as long as I can."
"You're a coward."
"You think I want to show my face to my brother and my niece after not only betraying the kingdom I trained in, but my hometown?" he asked, getting up. "I know my orders, missy, you don't have to remind me of them. I'll give you one last chance. I'm leaving right now. I will take you home if you want."
"…just… just go," Cantirena said, not looking up. "I… I will remain."
"No matter how much you think you love the Emperor… he does not love you, and he never will," Borghen said as he started walking out. "You can't change a man who sold his soul to the devil in exchange for power."
The door shut, leaving Cantirena alone by herself in the room that was barely lit by a few torches on the wall. She fell back over onto the bed, hiccupping into the pillow until it turned into a full-scale wailing. She let everything out that she'd been holding in until she fell back asleep around twenty minutes later.
Minwu snapped to attention. He was looking through the scrolls of Paloom's magic shop when he could have sworn he heard Cantirena's voice call out for him. He had every white magic scroll in their inventory all ready mastered. He was holding a fire scroll, wondering if he should take it with him. He never cast any destructive magic in his past. Everything he'd learned was for the purpose of taking care of others, or healing. As he thought about it, he remembered that he did use black magic to help before. Water was how he put out the fire that Cantirena had been trapped inside. Hearing her voice gave him the resolve to buy the fire scroll and keep it with him. He had a feeling he was going to need it in the icy fields of Salamand.
Cantirena, Minwu thought, taking the scroll up to the counter to purchase it, You need not worry. I will find you and bring you home. Just hold on, wherever you are. Know that my search will not end until I have either saved you or… have died in my search.
"Oy, there ya are!" a sweet female voice called from behind Minwu. When he turned to look and see who it was, he found the lady with the bright green bandanna and purple hair waving at him. "Been lookin' for ya everywhere! Somethin' came up, so I came to give ya a refund."
"A refund?" Minwu asked curiously. "Is something wrong with your ship?"
"Nah. There's a storm ragin' up north. Poft's been hit by a storm unlike any we've ever seen, and 'cause of that, we can't sail up in that direction," Leila said, putting the 300 gil into Minwu's hand. "Ya'll might wanna find another route. I know it'll take longer than goin' by sea, but there's a mountain pass just north o' here. Why don't ya'll hike up north?"
"Hmm." Minwu nodded at the suggestion. "Thank you kindly, milady. We will consider it." He left the magic shop after placing his new scroll in the item pouch.
"Heh," Leila laughed. "The boy's will love this one! Saddle up, sea dogs, piratin' works just as well by land!"