Dark Skies over Palamecia

Ch 12, part 8

"Dark Skies Over Palamecia" – a Final Fantasy II retelling

Disclaimer: Square Enix owns Final Fantasy II and all FFII characters, places, and references found within. Original characters and interpretations are all owned by the co-writers of this fan fiction. There is no profit being made from this story.

Part 8

Firion was confused. As he held Clarisse's hand and walked through the darkened hallways, he wasn't sure of what to do. They kept going forward in hopes they would find something. Clarisse used her free hand to call forth an orb of light to avoid crashing into anything. He felt hopeless as they kept making twists and turns. Which way did they go? Which way were they supposed to go?

"I don't know what to do," Firion said quietly. "We've been at this a while, and it only feels like we're getting more and more lost." He tried to keep his spirits up as he thought aloud. "Too bad Canti's not with us," he continued, forcing a laugh. "We'd have her blow a few holes in the walls until we find daylight outside. Eventually we'd escape by default."

"As amusing as that sounds," Clarisse almost whispered. "As the walls would crumble, the floors above us would crash on top of us without the support, Firi." She shook her head. "Logic."

"What? Were you taking lessons from Minwu, too?" Firion snapped.

She just rolled her eyes. "Are you saying I couldn't have figured that out otherwise?"

Suddenly a door opened nearby.

"Be silent," an angry male voice snapped. The figure that stepped out of the door came to the light in a few moments, revealing himself to be the Emperor of Palamecia in all his glory. "The royal mage ordered you to leave the castle. What are you doing here, Emissaries of Fynn? Why are you breaking political protocol so blatantly?"

"You know damn well why," Clarisse snapped. "I'm here to save my sister!"

"Oh… I had no idea she was in imminent danger," Mateus said smoothly. "Forgive me. I must see to her safety as the second most powerful person within the Palamecian Government. Tell me, do you know if there are any assassins in our midst we must be worried about?"

"No, but I do know you're just as dangerous as any assassin," Clarisse said, drawing her sword. "Where is Cantirena?! We know about the Lamia Queen you had pose as her, you tyrant."

Mateus shook his head. "I was protecting Cantirena from those who would hurt her when I had the Lamia Queen stand as her double. You, my lady, must also be protected. Come. I will see that you are reunited. She is here, further down this very hall." He extended his hand to her. "She will be delighted to see you."

"Thanks for telling us where she is," Firion said. "Guess we don't need to bother with you anymore, Empy."

Mateus pointed his staff right at them. "I offered to take the lady. Not you. You're a pathetic protector, young rebel. You couldn't see to the needs of your sisters, or the lady you cherish. I will show you mercy, at least."

"Don't bother!"

The Emperor turned his head to see the door behind him was open, and Cantirena walked out of the door. Something about her seemed very off. Her eyes were much darker than the usual crystal blue. While it certainly looked like her, and her aura was very much hers, it was clear to all present that she wasn't the same Cantirena everyone knew her to be. She walked up to stand next to Mateus.

"My lady, what are you doing up?" he asked. "Go back and lay down before you overexert your delicate self."

She put her hand up, beginning to charge a spell. "I will eliminate my enemies on my own," she said emotionlessly. "Do not bother with showing them mercy. They don't deserve it."

"Canti?!" Clarisse asked. "That's… that's not you speaking… We're not your enemies, even if you are in the service of another country."

"I understand so much more now," Cantirena said. "About the bitter kind of place this world is. It's nothing more than an empty cesspool of hatred. Love and justice are fake. They aren't real. They don't move mountains and they certainly can't save anybody. You and your ilk… deal in forsaken love and corrupt justice. You can't possibly stand against anyone that knows the truth." She looked directly into the eyes of her older sister. "What? Are you so overcome with shock and disbelief like I was when I figured this all out? Mercy is a misnomer. Fight me, sister."

"I couldn't! I can't!" Clarisse said sadly. "I can't fight against you. Especially with you being unarmed! I'm a knight of Fynn now. I must embody honor… and justice."

"You won't fight someone unarmed?" Cantirena asked. "Very well." She put her hands together, creating a sword with her magic. "I even have the same weapon as you. Come at me. Fight me!"

"You don't even have training in the sword, Canti! You're a mage… I'm a knight! I will not strike down anyone who is weaker than I am!" Clarisse shouted. "I can't fight you!"

"Then I suppose you have to perish…" Cantirena lifted the sword, rushing at her older sister with all of her strength. Clarisse parried the blow easily. "Fight me!"

"I won't forsake what I hold dear," the older sister said gently as she kept her blade up to keep Cantirena's sword from landing on her face. "I won't forsake you."

"I don't care what bonds we've shared in the past!" Cantirena shouted. "It's over!"

"Would you honestly say that to Minwu? Maybe you can give me up so easily, but there's no way you'd say that same thing to Minwu, and you know it's true," Clarisse said. "I thought we meant more to you than this... Something you could just throw away on a whim… Cantirena, I pity you."

"Don't," a voice said from behind Firion. "Because I know that's not Cantirena's voice."

Firion smiled widely. "Minwu!" he shouted happily.

"Cantirena believes in the power of love more than anyone I've ever known, and I can tell you that it has made her both stronger and smarter in the ways of magic… and other things," Minwu said as he came to Firion's side. "Tell me, Mateus. What did you do to Cantirena? Was it another session of lovemaking under the Stone of Iluia like before? Is it the same type of spell? No…" He reached into his pocket and pulled out the crystal, causing Cantirena to freeze within its gentle light. "…there's something else, isn't there?"

Mateus shook his head carefully. "What do you think you know?" he asked. "I've gained control of two of the most powerful pieces on the board in this game, and I'm about to collect even more…"

"So you've put yourself into her body as well, Demon King?" Minwu asked. "This is quite the dilemma."

"Yes…" Mateus answered quietly. "…and if you wish to save her, you'll need to know how to use that crystal effectively. What do you know of its use?"

Cantirena's body pulsated before falling onto the ground.

Clarisse threw down her sword, bending down next to her younger sister. "No!" she cried out, pulling Cantirena's head onto her lap. "Canti, everything's gonna be fine now."

Cantirena opened her eyes slightly. "…he's in my head…" she whispered. "I can't fight him."

"You can!" Clarisse said. "You can fight him. We're all with you!"

"That's not enough…" Cantirena said quietly. "You're gonna have to… kill me…"

"You're kidding," Clarisse said, tears streaming down her face. "I'm not going to take your life! Everyone back home needs you. I need you."

Mateus pointed his staff at Clarisse. "I will protect what belongs to me. Cantirena is mine now. Before, it was a mere possession spell. This time, I think even she knows the truth about it."

"Like hell," Clarisse said, hugging Cantirena close to her. "Firion! Take him out!"

Firion nodded. "You're going down, Empy!" he yelled, drawing his blade.

Cantirena's eyes closed again. "I can't stop him from taking control of my body, Claire… the Demon King… he's inside me now… I'm so… so tired…"

As Firion ran at the Emperor at full speed, Minwu leaned down over Cantirena. "Stay awake. You can't sleep. The moment you go unconscious, he'll be able to take over again." He looked at the crystal. How was he supposed to use it now? "I have the crystal. Where is the Stone of Iluia?"

Cantirena pointed at her chest. She was having a hard time staying alert.

"In your heart?" Minwu asked. "What does that mean?"

"Ah, ah, ahh… my lady, you can't spoil the secret," Mateus called out as he deflected Firion's blows with his staff. "Come now, boy, have you no more in you than that? If you want to stop me, prove it!" He threw a Firaga at Firion, knocking the young rebel off of his feet. "A waste of my time." When he reached down to take Cantirena with him, an arrow zipped between Firion and Minwu to hit the Emperor's hand. "Gahh! An arrow?! Who-"

"That would be me," Candice said, saluting him. "Sorry I'm late, Minwu. Paul's escorting Ricard out to the airship. All's clear behind us."

"Perfect," Minwu said. "Cantirena… my love, come with us."

"I will endanger you… it's better I remain here…"

Candice shook her head, snatching Cantirena's arm. "Stand up, damn you. I don't want to ever have to come back here to rescue you again, all right? You're coming home right now so we can throw you your fucking wedding all ready." She pushed Cantirena into Minwu's arms. "Take her. We'll do this."

"You can't use the crystal," Minwu said.

"Like hell I can't," Candice snapped. "It's a holy stone, right? Well if we are who the legends say we are…" she snatched the crystal out of Minwu's hands. It instantly grew much brighter in her hand.

"It's reacting to you!" Firion gasped. "Claire, you do it, too!"

Clarisse put her hand on the crystal, and the light only intensified.

"Gahh," Mateus groaned. "What… what is this light?!"

Minwu noticed that Cantirena was falling limp against him, and before her eyes closed again, he put her hand on the crystal, and the light was so bright that no one could see around them.

There was a voice.

Pieces of the Goddess assembled, along with the most holy of all artifacts in our world… will dispel all evil... Let the world be free of the reign of the Demon King, Iluia! I will take the Darkness into myself now… there is no need to worry about the Darkness inside you anymore, my children.

The first one to open his eyes after hearing that was Firion. He found the three blue haired sisters lying together, and Minwu holding onto Cantirena's hand, passed out nearby. Across the way from them was Mateus, sprawled on the floor as if he was lifeless. He picked up his sword, slowly moving over to where the Emperor was lying. He rose the blade up, like he was going to ram it through the Emperor's heart for once and for all, but as he started to thrust it down, he stopped himself.

I… I'm not you, he thought. I can't kill anyone defenseless…

"Will you… not end this cycle of evil?" Mateus' voice asked. "All I've done in this world… I don't… I shouldn't be here… I was weak and fell to the will of evil…"

"I thought you were asleep," Firion answered him. "I… I can't kill someone who can't defend himself. It's wrong."

"No, Firion, you need to do what's best for you and the world," Mateus said. "To save this world, to avenge your family and the town you were raised in… go ahead. Before…. Before she tries to stop you."

"You mean, Canti?"

"If she finds out the Demon King is gone, she may try to save me. The dear loved me and I… betrayed her innocent affection…" Mateus closed his eyes. "I am ready to face the afterworld. I couldn't bear to see her beautiful face marred with tears anymore… I deserve to die just for destroying her alone, forget the rest of my empire and all the other nations of the world."

"Mateus, you are the… you are the ruler of Palamecia. Without the Demon King inside you, corrupting you, then you can lead the country. You can help it heal…" Firion said sadly. "And we'll help you do the right thing... I know that's what Cantirena and Minwu would want. I know for certain! Prince Gordon… well, King Gordon now, he would totally give you all the aid you need, and we'll be able to straighten all of this out. You don't have to die! Dying accomplishes absolutely nothing!"

"All you've done is made my heart ache further. Please, Firion. Run this blade through me. End this nightmare all ready. I can't take much more. I need… to be with my family… my mother, my sister, and even that of the father who I believed hated me more than he hated anything else. Let Palamecia's corrupted bloodline end here."

Firion shook his head. "Stop it! If you want to make up for what you've done, you have to live to atone for it!" he said sternly. "You have to live! To apologize to the ones you've hurt yourself, to help those who survived your wrath, and to govern the land that is rightfully yours!"

Mateus sat up, looking over at the three blue haired girls laying just a few feet away from him. "I destroyed that which I sought to find…" With a quick slip of his hand, he grabbed Firion's sword. "Fare thee well, my princess. If I may be blessed to see you again in the next life, I will not waste my chance…" He took the blade, and before Firion could stop him, he rammed it into his heart and fell back into a pile of his own blood. "…I will... cherish you… always…"

"Mateus, wha…" Firion pulled his blade out of the Emperor's chest, wiping it off with his cape and placing it back in its sheath. "I didn't… I wanted you to… you just… had to…" He couldn't hold back his tears. Firion wailed very loudly as he kneeled next to Mateus. "It… it wasn't your fault!"

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