Ch 13, part 2
"Dark Skies over Palamecia" – a Final Fantasy II alternate universe
Disclaimer: Square Enix owns all Final Fantasy II characters, places, and references found within. Original characters and interpretations belong to the co-authors of this fan fiction. There is no profit being made from this story.
King Gordon sat upon his throne, looking more than worried. Cantirena approached him, and a few steps in front of the king, she bowed before him. "Your Highness," she said, catching his attention. "I must speak with you."
"Oh, Cantirena," he said, smiling in return. "Rise, child. Tell me what is on your mind. I figured there was a reason why I haven't seen anything of you or your teacher the last few days. There had to have been some reason as to why you weren't reporting to me."
She bit her lower lip. She was afraid that the newly crowned king would call her crazy.
Out with it, if you have something to say…
Mateus' voice in her mind only agitated her. She pointed to the south. "I've been on the roof of the castle. I have seen the clouds building over Palamecia even from this distance," Cantirena said. "I can't… I can't think that this is some random passing storm…" she shook her head sadly. "Have you heard from the team you sent to Palamecia to check on the grave a few days ago?"
That's when a figure leapt down from the ceiling. He was clad in all black, save for a yellow scarf. "That's the million gil question isn't it, Canti?" The ninja removed his hood, revealing it was Fynn's very best spy, Paul.
"Paul?" Cantirena asked. "Why can't you enter a room like a normal person anymore?"
"Are you kidding? Ever since taking the Rat's Tail to the baby Wyvern at Deist, I've had some severe shifts in power. I'm no mere thief these days, my girl, I'm a full-fledged ninja now." He put his hands on his hips. "Either way. I'm here to report on the status of the Palamecian Expedition team that was sent from here three days ago."
"Go ahead," Gordon said. "Please. I wish to hear of what happened."
"Everyone that went with me is safe and sound, even though some have spoken of forces they could not see around the castle… like there were spirits haunting the place or something like that," Paul said. "I did make out with a few priceless artifacts from the castle this time, so you can sell those to the highest bidder and use it to build the defenses of the kingdom, there, Your Highness." He motioned to behind him. "I got 'em all in the treasury before reporting to you. Only request I have is keep the sword in there on hand – if something does happen in Palamecia, we're going to need the one sword the Emperor would be weak to."
"What do you mean," Cantirena asked. "There is a sword the Emperor is weak to?"
"The Blood Sword," Paul answered her simply. "It was created with the idea of slaying the Goddess' chosen, the royal people of Palamecia, back during the war to found the country itself. The Demons hoped to use it to strike down Palamecia the First. It appears that there was something special about their blood which made the Goddess favor the Palamecians instead of any other humans at the time, or, that's what I read the last time I had any time to research the matter."
"The Goddess favored them," Gordon repeated it quietly. "I wonder… why?"
The Palamecian royal family was descended from one man, who loved the Goddess more than any other. Palamecia the First built his country atop the highest mountains in the world, saying that if he upheld his faith in all he did, then even a community in such a desolate place would survive due to her bounty and grace. Mateus answered that in Cantirena's mind. For a moment, she thought she felt his hand on her shoulder, but when she looked down, there was nothing there. He was descended from a race of people, fleeing for their lives from persecution from the outsiders who wanted the Goddess' people to die…
Cantirena wondered if the reason why he told her that was to answer Gordon's question, or if he was bragging about his heritage. "I might have an idea as to why that is," she said, hesitating. She thought about everything Mateus' voice whispered to her, and she knew, based on that fact, that she wasn't just hearing his voice. He was right there with her, somehow. She never knew that part of Palamecian history, but he would have known. He lived his entire life there. He was proud of who he was.
"Speak up, then," Gordon said. "There is no reason to be nervous around me. You know I see you as family, Cantirena."
"Yeah, if you know something we don't, you might wanna put it on the table," Paul said.
Go ahead, my lady. Tell them what I have told you.
"You said the Blood Sword was created to destroy the royal family of Palamecia, right?" Cantirena started. "It wasn't made by demons. History may want to tell you this, but in fact, it was humans who made that blade. You see, Palamecia the First, before he declared the land in the mountains to be where he wished to build the Holy Land… he was fleeing for his life, leading people across the world to try to get away from a community of outsiders who wanted them dead." She closed her eyes. "If this story that the Emperor whispered to me while I was at his side rings true, then it also sounds like another piece of this world's history that most everyone has forgotten."
"…what's that?" Paul asked.
"I am a student of Mysidia, and there is no tale in the history of Mysidia more heartbreaking than that of the exodus of the Magi from their home. The people who believed that all magic was music, all music was magic, and that the Goddess should be upheld in all things," Cantirena said sadly. "The outsiders wanted to eradicate the Magi, and those who didn't want to die fled from Mysidia. Those who remain in Mysidia now are not the original tribe that founded the Holy City. They raped the women that remained…" She turned away from both Paul and Gordon. "…if I'm to believe all the things I've seen on my journey, then I have reason to believe that the Palamecian royal family were once of the Magi tribe." Her eyes watered as she said it.
"What's wrong, Canti?" Paul walked up to her, putting his arm around her shoulders.
"The Magi were divided into two tribes somehow. One group who passed through the Angel's Tunnel, who lived according to the ancient ways, and… those who managed to make it all the way to the desert, following Palamecia the First, where things changed," she said between her sobs. "Both of you… have been alone because of the struggles of your ancestors…"
"Minwu and… my Emperor," she said, walking out of the throne room.
Paul started to chase after her, but Gordon put his hand up to stop him. "Don't. The poor girl is hurt in ways we can't imagine, Paul. We can't do anything for her, except protect her from anyone who would try to come for her," the young king said wisely. "She needs time to mourn so she can move forward. Based on what I've heard from both of her sisters, she did indeed love the Emperor with all of her heart. Cantirena… is much like I was after my brother's death. Any mention of him sent me into wails of sorrow. We can relate to her, both you and I – but there is no way to know how she's feeling. Everything impacts us humans in different ways…" He sighed. "I hate the fact that my ancestors were the type who worshipped the sun instead of the Goddess… I just know the ancient Kashuonites took part in hunting the Magi. And now we reign, but…"
"Sire," Paul said, reaching into a pocket to pull out a scroll. "There is more than what I reported to you… if you would let me give you this. It is from the Palamecian Parliament. I was told not to read it, but it should be given directly to you."
"Oh!" Gordon exclaimed, taking the scroll. He opened it up and read it, then with a disturbed look on his face, he read it a few more times. "…oh shit. Cantirena's warnings may just be the start of what's to come next."
Paul cocked his head to the side.
"This message says that Parliament members are vanishing one by one, overnight… the people believe that something is going on within the center of the castle where the Emperor's grave rests, but there's no one who is willing to investigate…" Gordon said. "They fear it is the Emperor's spirit, unsatisfied with death, trying to take everyone in his land to the underworld with him, so that he may rule over them there."
"Is that even possible?" Paul asked.
"I'm not sure what's possible anymore," Gordon said, closing the scroll. "Do we send aid?"
"Yes, of course," Paul said. "If he's going to devour Palamecia from the inside out, we should put a stop to it. If he's not going to stop until he finds what he's looking for, then we should confront it before it gets too big for us to stop. Unless, of course, we just decide to torch the palace itself… that's always an option."
"Hey! Hilda made be burn down Altair! I'll be happy to set Palamecia ablaze!"
"That's not the answer, it never was the answer, Paul!"
"Maybe you should have been there to tell Hilda that, then! Maybe if someone from this royal family would have stayed by her side when she needed them the most, she wouldn't have felt the need tell me to burn down the town we used as our base and then to kill herself, and her father who was abed, with my sword," Paul snapped at the king angrily. "Maybe if someone actually cared back then about who we were supposed to look after-"
"I… did blame myself for Hilda's fate, but… at the time there was nothing I could have done for her," Gordon replied. "What matters is what we need to do now, Paul. There is no going back. We can't save Hilda no matter how much revenge we take in the present. We're not going to be able to revive her!"
Cantirena had been standing in the hall listening to everything. She leaned against the wall until her legs couldn't hold her weight anymore before sliding down to the carpeted floor below. At that point, she hid her face in her arms, unable to do anything but cry.
The Demon King remains behind, and I am affixed to you… nothing else could be expected, my lady… If I'm not mistaken then he will continue to take the souls of the living around him until he has the one he's looking for. He cannot take physical form on his own. He needs a host.
"…Iluia won't stop until he has what he wants," she said through her sniffles. "That means there's only one possible explanation for this. He's looking for…" She put her hand over her heart. "…this."
The stone I placed within you…
"He took control of me… it was frightening. I couldn't stop him. The Demon King was going to have me slay Minwu and my sisters… I… there was nothing I could do!"
The Stone of Iluia is too powerful for men to look after, especially if there is weakness in the hearts around it. The Demon King is able to manipulate feelings and use them to his own devices…
"Then why did you get affixed to me, when the Stone of Iluia is supposed to hold his soul – not yours?"
My lovely lady. Are you telling me that you don't understand what happened while we were in the inner sanctum of the palace? When you were convinced that Minwu was leading you, I was not in control of my body. I thought I was, but I wasn't. It was not my choice to put the stone inside your body. I didn't want to give up that raw power, only to put it into you. He let me speak to you, let me lead you along. But he controlled where I took you and what my body was doing. He knew they were coming for me. My time on this world was all ready coming to an end and he didn't even let me see it coming. By the time it was all over, I took Firion's sword from him and ended it all on my own. I couldn't… let you… I couldn't watch you suffer like that.
Cantirena shuddered. "But you're here. With me. You stabbed yourself and you… are still here with me."
Cantirena, I told you before that I am no longer who I was before… I am within the Crystal Palace in Abburoth, one of the countries of Heaven. This is not the full extent of my being. You don't have to suffer through all of this. If… you would only take your life, I could save you from the Demon King. I could bring you here with me, my love, and this war would all be over. Let me take you home. You have gone through enough.
"You want me to…"
Come home to me.
"…take my own life?"
Only a few seconds of pain, and you will never have to suffer again.
"That's why you're following me around like this?!"
Come home to me, my love. You belong at my side. You know it as well as I do.
"There are people in this world who are suffering because of what I've done and you want me to leave them like this?! The hell is wrong with you?!" Her screams became so loud that it caught the attention of those in the throne room and down the hall. "Get the hell away from me!"
Listen to the sound of my voice. Sleep, my lady. Fall into the realm of dreams.
Soon both of her sisters and Minwu came running to find Cantirena curled up on the floor, unable to react to any of them. Her face was read as if she had been sobbing for a while, but her eyes were half-open and unblinking.
"What happened?!" Candice asked. "See, Claire? I didn't want to leave her alone. I expected something like this!"
"You didn't know this was going to happen," Clarisse snapped. "Shut up. Stop focusing on being right and start focusing on doing what's right instead."
"She left the room while I was still asleep," Minwu said. "I've no idea why she's out here to begin with."
"She came to me to give a report," Gordon added. "But when things got a little too personal, she left without even saying goodbye. She ran off in tears."
Minwu shook his head. He lifted Cantirena up into his arms. "Until this is resolved, King Gordon, I am not going to be able to attend my duties as Royal Mage. I… I can't do it."
Gordon nodded. "Take as long as you need. She needs you to be there for her, or she's going to fall further from where she is now to a complete mental shutdown. We don't want that."
"I don't care what anyone says," Candice said. "I'm guarding that door myself."
"That's fine," Minwu said, carrying Cantirena back to their chamber.
"I will also take shifts with you," Clarisse said. "You can't guard the door constantly."
You may all love her, but she will break to my will.
"Shut… shut up, Mateus…" Cantirena muttered quietly.
Minwu looked at her face. "Is there nothing I can do?"