Ch 2, part 7
"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.
It was no easy task for the human-kite to follow along the tail wind of an enormous airship like the Dreadnaught, but Paul managed to do just that. He glided with it until the warship landed outside the grand castle of Palamecia. He wished he could just start throwing bombs from the clouds, but that wasn't going to work. He couldn't carry enough bombs, and there was no way a few ninja-spark scrolls were going to do any kind of damage to those walls. As he was making his decent, he noticed there was a tiny little village outside the wall. That's where he would hide until nightfall. He was a man of the night, after all. And what a night this was going to be!
He fell into a thicket, and while he wanted to yelp in pain, the nearby Black Knight guards kept him from doing so. So while he was uncomfortable and being poked in every region of his flimsy body by the thorns, he kept his trap shut and waited.
He saw a lot of women toiling the fields nearby, of all ages and races. They were working in the rice paddy and tending the crops of the soil, never given a break. In the few hours that he waited there in the thicket, he saw at least two ladies fall over from exhaustion, and he watched them beat the fallen until she got back up to work or until they were declared dead.
This is what's in store for our ladies if that mega-tyrant is allowed to take over our world?! Paul thought in disgust. It only strengthened his resolve to do some good for the rebellion while he was here. The men are made into soldiers, and the women exist purely to sustain them… What a load of shit. Sorry, Empy, but I'm not gonna let you do this. No way, man. Women are gentle creatures who deserve love and adoration, I mean… hell, you were brought into this world by a woman! Would you do this to your own mother?!
As it turned out, one of the ladies who he watched fall over was indeed the former Queen Regent, Lady Airu, who had probably the most sorry expression on her face of any of the women he saw. Paul was taken in by the woman's beauty, and as he watched her work, he figured she had to be some kind of royalty. Most of the girls working that field looked as if they wanted to cling to their lives desperately, while Airu had more on her mind than making sure each of the plants in the soil were tended well. Airu was the only woman there who was aged that much. Perhaps she knew her time was short, and that it wasn't worth fighting anymore?
As the sun went down, all of the women were allowed to put down their spades and take off their aprons to head to the shack in the center of the little village. The guards no longer cared about watching them do what they were doing, so they went off to drink themselves silly. Paul used the cover of night to sneak through the village, until he passed a window of the big shack.
Inside, all of the women were laying down on the floor. They had beds made of ragged blankets and piles of rotten-smelling hay. As he passed the window, he noticed that older blonde woman sat up, lit one solitary candle, and started reading. It seemed that in all that happened earlier, Airu was allowed to keep the book she was reading while staying in the castle. She read it with a passionate expression, like it was the one thing that kept her clinging to life.
A few moments later, another girl sat up next to Airu, looking at the book with her.
Paul looked inside the window, studying the second girl who looked very familiar. The girl had curly blue hair, something that was a bit of a trademark for Minwu's star student. Had he found her, finally? Oh, would that take a load off of Minwu's shoulders to find her home when he got back from Salamand! Paul smiled as he called out in a whisper, "Cantirena? Is that you?"
Both Airu and the blue haired girl turned to look at the window, and both were equally freaked out by the fact that there was a man in all black looking at them through the window.
"Cantirena?" Airu asked. "I've never heard that name before."
The blue haired girl shook her head. "My name is Candice…"
"Oh," Paul said sadly. "I'm very sorry, ladies, I…"
"Have you come from across the sea?" Candice asked. "Have you brought an army with you to set us free?!" She seemed so hopeful.
"Forgive me," Paul said. He frowned. "How I wish this was the truth, but no. I am here in the service of the Wild Rose Rebellion."
"You're a spy, then?" Airu asked. "Come to sneak into the castle to learn everything you can, I take it?"
"That's right," Paul nodded. He wasn't going to hide it. Man, that old lady was sharp. "I'm an Emissary of Her Highness, Princess Hilda."
"If this really is the case," Airu said. "I wish to tell you something you might find more valuable than anything you learn by risking your life in that castle." She brought her book over to the window to show Paul. "This land is cursed, young man. It has been since this country was founded. I didn't know anything of it until I came to live here, but… I have been reading a Palamecian history book which explains everything. You see, people didn't live here naturally. It's not a forgiving climate or landscape to inhabit, as you can plainly see. However, people migrated here after there was a conflict on the main continent. The original founder of the land, Palamecia the First, came here and built himself a castle to establish a new kingdom in the name of the Goddess Cosmos. He was a devout follower of her teachings and wanted everyone in the world to accept her as the one true deity of our world. But the creatures who lived in this land did not like that, and a war started between the demonic creatures and the humans. Using the power of the Goddess, the demonic forces that wanted to obliterate the people who had come to live here were sealed away into a stone called the Stone of Iluia, named after the head of the demons who faced Palamecia the First in deadly combat. Before dying, the Demon King Iluia swore revenge on the humans who sealed him away. It is of my personal belief that the Demon King still lives within that stone and… somehow… it corrupts the minds of those who come near it."
"Wow, my lady, that's some deep stuff," Paul said, "but it's that kind of knowledge that we need to stop this war from going on any longer. Hey, does the book say anything else about the stone, like maybe how to destroy it?"
Airu flipped through the pages. "I believe the only thing that could destroy something like this is a stone of the most holy purity to cancel out the evil sealed within the Stone of Iluia. Perhaps… a crystal would suffice, like the ones spoken of in the fantasy legends, as they were said to be the purest things in the entire world."
Candice came over there to look at the book with Paul and Airu. "Is it even possible to create a crystal?" she asked, cocking up one of her eyebrows. "I mean, how the hell would that even work? Aren't all of the crystals of the past destroyed now, due to wars in the past?"
"If anyone knows how to create a crystal, it would probably be Minwu," Paul thought aloud. "He's the only person I know who would even be able to attempt something that takes so much… I don't even know what the word is for it, but I'm sure Minwu would be able to do it. And if he couldn't do it, he could take it to his council of mages in Mysidia."
"You know the great mage Minwu?" Airu asked.
"Aye, my lady," Paul said, winking at her, "He is another who works in favor of the rebellion, and he's also a close friend of mine." He pushed the brown bangs out of his face, revealing that he had very clear, light green eyes. These were not the eyes of a liar.
Candice smiled at Paul. "Wow… Hey, mister, you think I might be able to come with you to infiltrate the castle? I… I want to join the rebellion, too!"
Paul grunted at that. "You're joking."
"It's not just your war," Candice said, standing up. She almost forgot to keep quiet, considering all the other ladies except Airu and Candice were asleep from sheer exhaustion after a hard day's torturing. "My homeland was sacked pretty quickly, and I don't even know where my father is anymore… So let me come with you to fight, to help somehow. I want to find my father again, please?"
"What do you know of sneaking into castles?" Paul asked.
Airu reached over to Paul. "Please take her with you. She's the only one in this entire village who hasn't lost her spirit. She has kept me company when no one else would. Please, young man, let her put her passion to use…"
"I… suppose I could, if you're asking me to," Paul said sheepishly. "All right, Miss Candice. You can come with me."
"Also, if you believe this text will help the rebellion," Airu said, "Then I want you to take it back to the Princess Hilda that you serve." She put the book into his hands. "You won't find another book like this in the entire world… Palamecian History is not allowed to be studied outside of Palamecia itself. The laws have been put in place for centuries. Take it."
"I… I…" Paul was flabbergasted. Who was this old woman? "My lady, this is… I couldn't…"
"I will do anything in the world… to save my son and the land I love…" Airu said gently. "I will do anything in my power to stop this war…"
"Your son?" Candice asked. "That… that must mean… You must be the Queen Airu!"
"I am, or… well, I was until just recently," Airu said, closing her eyes. "That curse has changed my son, as it changed his father before him. Please, young man, I beg you… find a way to save my son…"
"If I can make it happen," Paul said. "I will do everything I can, too. Trust me."
"Me, too," Candice added. "If I can do anything to end this war, you damn right I'll do it."
"The youth of this world fills me with joy," Airu said, tearing up. "You must go. You're losing precious time by speaking with me." She put her hand on Candice's shoulder. "Thank you for everything. You've been nothing but a friend to me since I met you."
"You've been through enough, Lady Airu," Candice said, slipping out the window to follow Paul. "Leave it to the rebels! This world isn't going to stay like this, I promise you. Place your trust in us."
"I have no choice but to do so," Airu said gently, blowing out the candle. "May Cosmos be with you both and lead you back to safety." She then laid back down with all the other ladies in the shack, taking her place among the slaves with nothing but a prayer in her heart. Guide them, great Goddess… let them help my beloved Mateus find himself back in your light…
Paul was ready to move. "All right, then. Silence from here on in."
"Roger," Candice said nodded in return.
Suddenly, something bothered Paul, so he stopped himself from taking another step in the direction of the large wall that kept the slave village separate from the castle and the Black Knight training grounds. "So, you don't have a weapon or anything, just in case, do you?" Paul asked her.
"I'm a prisoner of war who has spent the last two weeks in a shack full of other slaves. Do you think I would have a weapon?" Candice asked.
"Forgive me for asking," Paul rolled his eyes and reached into his sack. "Take this. It's one of my favorite daggers, if you lose or break it, I will be very cross with you." He handed her one of his twin daggers, which were both decorated in a very draconic design. "I got these in Deist, so, y'know, be careful with it." He held one in his left hand, and offered her one with his right hand.
"It's beautiful," Candice breathed out.
"Yep, sure is. Which is why I will be more than upset if anything happened to it," Paul said promptly. "I got these in my favorite marketplace in the entire world for a great price. Can't ask for anything better than that, now can I?"
"I guess not," Candice said, putting the dagger into her belt.
"All right. Stay close to me. We'll get out of here with all the information and loot we can carry. Now, we're running on silent," Paul said, looking at the wall. This was his test. Typically, he worked alone. But with a place this big, maybe it was best to work with someone else? Maybe? He didn't really know.