Ch 2, part 6
"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 fan fiction. There is no profit being made from this story.
The Dreadnaught Warship arrived in Palamecia in record time. It landed right next to the castle, where there was a clearing. The Dark Knights put up a bridge from the deck of the ship to the castle courtyard, making it incredibly easy to access the castle itself. Cantirena was ready to face Mateus right then and there, but she wasn't ready to question his methods. She still heard the screams of the townspeople who learned to trust her, who she in turn betrayed, just like she betrayed the citizens of Fynn. Their screams echoed in her thoughts, and while she prayed to the Goddess for forgiveness, she felt none of the divine love Minwu spent a lot of his time teaching her about in years past.
Cantirena crossed the bridge, and there he was in all his glory, waiting for her. "Your Grace, may I present to you, the Dreadnaught Warship," she announced the moment she was on solid ground. She bowed before him.
"Marvelous," Mateus said in awe. It was as if he couldn't believe what he saw, and yet, there it was right there in front of him. "Stand, Princess, you have done exactly what I expected of you, and even more. You must be exhausted after all your hard work." He extended his hand to her. "Come, let me welcome you home."
"Why thank you, Your Grace," she said, standing up. She took his hand. Would she have what she sought after? What ended up costing many lives? Would she finally have his love and acceptance? "I… I am home."
"You must be excellent in leading the commoners," Mateus said as he led her through the main gate of the castle. "Completing that task was supposed to take another week and a half, and here you are, with it completed way before my deadline. You must tell me your secret."
Cantirena shook her head. "Oh, Your Grace, please, I have no secret. I only did… what I was taught."
"And what was that?" he asked again. "Your lifelong teacher was that of the great mage, Minwu, correct?"
"That's right," Cantirena looked at the castle all around her. Yes, it was fit to be the capital of an Empire. It was a lavish place, covered with beautiful decorations that glittered like gold. "Minwu was my teacher. When I had nothing else go on and no other way to proceed, I fell back on his words. Treat those less fortunate kindly, to understand their suffering… and to ease their pain. I had them work in shifts, so they would be in top shape when they did work. I had them fed, so they would have the strength and energy to stick with their work…" All of a sudden she had a hard time keeping her tears back.
And then I abandoned them to let your Dark Knights slaughter them, she thought angrily.
"So, you treated the refuse like they mattered, and they responded in turn," Mateus said, smiling slightly. "Your methods obviously worked, otherwise I would have called you a liar for telling me that spoiling your workers would give you results."
"Your Grace," Cantirena was going to say something, but she stopped herself.
"Well, my princess, I suppose I should show you around my castle, as it is your home now, too," Mateus laughed, looking at her. "What's this? Are you not happy that I have given you everything you wanted? You have traveled outside your home, you have come to the land you yearned to visit all this time, and you hold the hand of the man you have longed for."
"I am overjoyed, Your Grace," she answered, looking up at him. "Everything I've ever wanted is here."
"And, yet, you bear such a scowl," Mateus said, reaching to touch her face with his other hand. "I frighten you. You tremble the more I look at you. Tell me why."
"I could never fear you," Cantirena said, fighting back every urge she had to beat the hell out of him. "I could never fear the man I love. That wouldn't make much sense, now would it?"
Mateus nodded. "Perhaps you really are just so drained from all that has transpired that you absolutely must rest. This is all right. You will have your coronation later. I could not stand it if you were to hate me for any reason. I must admit… I have a fondness for you that I cannot hold back." He pulled her closer and reached down, kissing her ear. "And now that you're home, I can give it to you."
She melted at that idea, leaning against his glittery golden armor. "Your Grace," she whispered, her cheeks red with blush. "I… would be honored…"
"You're good enough at controlling the commoners that you could easily outrank everyone else in my army other than myself," Mateus said quietly. "You will be the most powerful woman in the world at my side, as long as you listen to me. When this war is over, you will be my bride and my Empress. Help me end this conflict, and you will have that which you most desire."
That which I most desire? Cantirena thought, letting Mateus pick her up off her feet to carry her deeper into the castle. When I was young and stupid, I thought all I wanted was to serve at your side as Minwu serves Hilda back home. She clung to him as he carried her, but she didn't look at any more of the castle as they passed. I wanted to help you bring about world peace that you spoke so passionately about at that council, and… here you are… killing innocents by the thousands… and here I am, in your arms, letting you. What… what the hell is wrong with this world?! What… what the hell is wrong with me?!
"I know you quite well," Mateus' voice interrupted her thoughts. "What you want isn't quite world peace. You have powers surging through your body that even Minwu noticed the moment he met you the first time. Anyone that can sense magic can sense your powers. You are very magically inclined. The winds become blades in your hands, the heat in your body become fire at your fingertips. You must use these latent powers, my princess."
Minwu did say I have powers unlike any he'd ever seen in a child, Cantirena thought. I heard him talking about it with my parents. I might have been in the room I shared with Clarisse, but I heard Minwu telling them that I had powers that needed to be tamed. So, I started studying magic with him the next morning. Classes at the castle, unlike any other girl in the entire town! It was amazing.
"And by using these Goddess-given powers, you will become the Empress of everything the sun touches," Mateus added. "You aren't like any of the other girls in the entire world. You're different. You're special. You deserve to rule."
"I… don't think I could rule," Cantirena said, "Your Grace, I am astounded you would even claim that I'm capable of such."
"Nonsense," Mateus said. He put her down on her feet when they had come to Mateus' private quarters. "You are destined for greatness. Come with me, and I will show you everything." He walked along until he came to his bedside, and then motioned for her to come with him.
She suddenly felt a surge of dark power from somewhere around here. It wasn't coming from Mateus, though the Emperor did carry dark powers within him. When she looked up above the Emperor's headboard, she saw a large glowing stone. It surged with darkness unlike any she'd ever seen before.
"You have laid eyes on the Palamecian Royal Family's sacred treasure," Mateus said gently. "The Stone of Iluia. It has graced our family since the day our country was founded and grants us with powers unlike any monarchs in the world." Then he looked at Cantirena. "And will only amplify your own."
"You… want me to… amplify my powers, Your Grace?" Cantirena asked.
"It will lead you to your destiny, my love. Let it," Mateus continued, leading her onto the bed. "Let it lead you to places you've never been…"
"Your Grace," she said, finally starting to pull away. That energy scared the hell out of her. "Please don't make me do this!"
"Are you refusing me?" Mateus asked. "I thought you wanted to share my bed. You did long for me, did you not? Come, let me give you what you've desired, princess."
"I didn't ask for this," Cantirena cried. "I didn't want this...!"
Mateus snatched her shoulder and pulled her until she sat on his lap. "But you did ask for this. You've wanted to be close to me since we met. How could I deny you, after you've done so much for me?" He kissed her ear again, knowing the effect it had on her. "You should tell me why you've come all this way, if it wasn't to be with me. Those feelings you had when you first met me, do they mean nothing? Of course not. You killed innocents to get where you are. To prove to me exactly what you would do for me, you slaughtered your own countrymen and forced prisoners of war to build my warship. You have proven yourself worthy of joining the Palamecian royal family. You are just as driven as the rest of us… we're going to take over this whole world, and you're going to give me your assistance."
"Your Grace, I… I would love nothing more than to assist you," Cantirena whispered, "But I do not believe I should… get near that darkness."
"Don't be," Mateus replied, continuing to kiss her ear. "Come with me. Share my bed."
Overcome by her drive, she couldn't help herself. She turned to face him, kissing him. At last, Mateus had her where he wanted her. The caresses, the kisses, the whispers of passion between the sheets were all a distraction. As she lay at his mercy, the darkness from the stone on the wall surrounded them both. While Mateus slowly made love to her, it seeped in like a slow moving poison.
Hours later, after they had finished with the dirty dance, Mateus ran his hand through her hair. "Sleep as long as you need," he said almost sweetly. She was barely coherent, and hearing him tell her to sleep was enough for her to slip off into dreamland. "It will be quite taxing on your body and you will not be ready to use it for a while. But when you are ready, this world will tremble before your powers mixed with that of the Demon King's."
The Demon King has sought revenge on this world for being sealed in that damned stone by servants of the so-called Goddess… Mateus thought. And now, I am one step closer to achieving his revenge…