Ch 1, Part 2
"Dark Skies over Palamecia" – a Final Fantasy II retelling
Disclaimer: Square Enix owns Final Fantasy II and all original 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.
Altair had taken in every refugee without question. The town hall was converted into a shelter filled with living places for all who escaped Fynn earlier that day. Clarisse didn't see the princess immediately. Something else pulled at her heartstrings, and Clarisse had to do something about it. She and Firion stopped to help set up beds for a group of children who were now orphans due to the tragedy at Fynn. She and her sister turned sixteen that year. Technically, she was an orphan now, too, now that she stopped to think about it. Her heart broke to see little ones barely of school age, who were left without a family. When she looked at Firion's face, she could tell that even though he was not physically shedding tears, his heart was filled with an unfathomable sadness. It was a no-brainer. He was an orphan before all of this happened.
"You have such motherly instincts for one so talented in battle," Firion said to her once they had a moment to themselves. "The mighty lady warrior stops to take care of orphaned children. It sounds like legend."
Clarisse shook her head, leaning against the wall. "The battle earlier was no legend, Firion," she replied almost angrily. "You can't joke about things like this."
"I'm not joking with you," Firion said, putting a hand on her shoulder. "I wanted to brighten your mood a little."
"My parents were slaughtered in front of my own eyes! My sister could be dead! Don't ask me to smile!" Clarisse yelled at him. "Brighten my mood? Has your brain been smashed out of your head by a Black Knight? Should I go back to Fynn and retrieve it for you?" Even though she was yelling at him, all she wanted to do was curl up into a ball and cry.
Firion crossed his arms. "Take a look around you, Clarisse. Everyone around you lost something out there. I finally had a family after my parents died of the dreaded Plague, and you're all that's of it. That we know of. We're all hurting." He looked away from her. "But what Minwu said gives me a little hope. He cast a spell to bring her back after she fainted. She could have escaped. She might be hiding in one of our old hideouts in town, or maybe she's hurt so she can't make it past Galtea." He shrugged, heading towards a big room in the back of the building. "We really should talk to the princess, though. She knows more about this whole thing than we do."
She agreed with that. Together they walked through the large hallway leading to one room that had two chairs set up against the wall. It was a make-shift throne room on one side, and over to the side was a table covered in books and maps. Minwu stood there, shifting through all sorts of papers with a very determined look in his eyes. The rest of his expression was hard to determine, considering his mouth and the rest of his body was covered by his turban and robes. Princess Hilda sat on her throne as if she was thinking about everything that had happened. She had her head in one hand, trying to sort herself out. Clarisse remembered Minwu telling her that King Gilbert was abed earlier.
"Oh!" Hilda was shocked to see both Firion and Clarisse both up so soon. The moment she gave them a slight smile, they both bowed before her in respect. "Rise. I'm glad to see that you're both healed up. Altair has not pushed a single one of our townspeople away here. While Fynn may no longer be where we live, our home is where our heart is. You can live here in peace if you know our password, Wild Rose."
"Wild Rose," Clarisse repeated it. "…why is that the password?"
"Because the wild rose is the symbol of Fynn and its royal family. No matter how harsh the condition, the wild rose can bloom anywhere," Princess Hilda explained. "And we shall bloom."
"Your Highness," Firion said, looking up at the blonde woman before him. She wore a shimmering silk blue dress which had been ripped during their escape. Her hair was now scraggly and in knots, and half of her crown was broken. Even so, it did not damper her beauty. She still looked regal without the fancy trimmings. "I wish to fight in the rebellion!"
"Heavens, no!" Hilda said as if she was scolding him. "While I appreciate your enthusiasm, the way you are right now you will be throwing your young lives away. You are both strong and strong willed, but I have the two of you walking into a suicide. Stay here and mourn those you have lost."
"But there's a chance that my sister could still be alive!" Clarisse said loudly. When she realized that she just shouted at her ruler, she bowed her head and added, "Forgive my outburst, princess."
Hilda thought nothing of it. "Emotions will run high at a time like this. You are more than welcome to have your feelings and express them. Some of the stragglers who have come behind us have said there were captives being pulled together on the outskirts of Fynn. Those who were not killed and did not escape in time were in the possession of the Empire's knights." She said it, trying to keep a straight face. She could have cried at any moment. While Hilda told her people to show their emotions freely, she didn't live to it. "It is very possible that your sister is being held captive with the others. Who knows what the Palamecian Empire wants with our quiet country?"
Clarisse remembered very clearly that back a few months ago, that there was a gathering which took place in Fynn. She didn't have much to do with it, as she was not in the castle that day. Cantirena, however, was spending time with Minwu in the castle's library that day. When Cantirena returned from the castle at the day's end, she explained how she got to sit in during a meeting with Minwu. She seemed so excited about it, even though the meeting between royal families of various nations sounded incredibly boring to Clarisse. One of the people Cantirena said she had met was a prince from the land of Palamecia, among others. This was the first time Clarisse had heard the name of that country since that day.
"Palamecia?" Clarisse repeated the name of the country aloud. "They were in Fynn a few months ago, right? There was a prince who represented Palamecia there. I know for certain that my sister mentioned it."
"That is right," Minwu said, coming closer to stand next to Hilda's makeshift throne. "She was able to speak to him for a little bit after the meeting. I've never seen her like that around anyone before or since. They had a pleasant conversation. I'm sure that if the prince comes in contact with her, he will listen to her." He then crossed his arms, looking over at Hilda. "I'm afraid that I did not manage to get my sacred text. There is no other copy of it in this world."
Hilda's face didn't even reveal disappointment. "When it rains, it pours."
"Wait. Is that the book you gave Cantirena to study for homework tonight?" Clarissa asked, putting her hands on her hips. "She wouldn't let it go. She guarded it with her life."
"That's right," Minwu said, nodding. "So that means if she was captured, then-"
At that exact moment, Fynn was full of those fully armored knights. Every door to a building which still was intact had a guard standing before it. The whole place was under martial law. Most of the citizenry who were captured were kept in a single building in the center of town. The only one who wasn't was in the Palamecian leader's tent, sleeping.
At the snap of the leader's fingers, Cantirena's eyes opened. She looked around, confused. There was only one person inside the tent, the man she tried to face off with before she took a dirt nap. Then she noticed that her book was nowhere around, which made her panic a little. She sat up from where she was laying, but found it impossible to stand on her feet.
"With all your amazing potential, you didn't take but one hit from me," the leader said very quietly. "Maybe I should kill you now, and save Minwu the heartache later." He walked over and closed the side of his tent, then turned to look right at her.
"Go ahead," Cantirena said, letting her shoulders sag as much as her mood had. "I don't feel like I should be his student anymore. I don't know what you have me here for."
"It's almost as you don't remember," the leader murmured. "The day there was a meeting right here in Fynn."
"Oh I remember," Cantirena snapped at him. "There was a representative of your country at that meeting. I met him myself. He was the most beautiful man I'd ever seen, both inside and out." She felt herself blush, and her heart skipped a beat. She hadn't thought much about him, but whenever he cropped up in her thoughts, she had a hard time putting him away. "So gentle and kind, the Prince of Palamecia." She put her head down.
The leader nodded. "You sound quite taken with him."
"He's more a man than you are! He wouldn't lead an assault on the country with the smallest military force in the world like some sort of coward." Cantirena said. "I can only imagine that some bully like you locking him up in some sort of dungeon."
"Would you like to see your prince again?"
"…is there a catch?"
"It is a simple question, my lady. Would you like to see your prince again? You admire him so. It would be a crime not to allow you that reunion." He took off his crown which held the large horns up on the top of his head, placing it on a table, then threw off the shoulder cape which made him appear much wider than he really was. His purple robes were lined with golden armor. "Look."
Cantirena lifted her head up, almost ready to cry, when she found the leader's face almost right against her own. His eyes stared straight into hers. There was no denying it, no matter how much she wanted to. "No…" she whispered, "Prince Mateus?! Is… is that you?!"
He shook his head. "No. I am the Emperor of Palamecia now."
"Why? What? I… I don't understand." Her hero, reduced to a mass murderer? It was too much to take. He was the reason she wanted to travel the world in the first place. Cantirena wanted to find him again. In some sick twist of fate, she did find him again, at a terrible price.
"Of course you don't understand. I came to the realization that this world belongs to me. There is only one fit to rule, and it is I," Mateus explained, sitting next to Cantirena. "You have longed for me. I am honored." He reached under her chin, pulled her face close to his, and kissed her cheek lightly. "You're trembling. Do I frighten you?"
Cantirena was divided. The one she wanted to search the world for was right here. He even kissed her! Her eyes watered. Under any other circumstances, she would have given in and let him have his way. But there was her homeland, and her family, too. She didn't even know if Clarisse made it out alive. "How I have wished I would cross paths with you again," she whispered. "I… was going to travel the world under the guise of learning all of the magic there was, only because… I wanted to find you."
Mateus nodded simply. "You would have no one but me?" he asked.
"I never told anyone," Cantirena said quietly. "Not my sister or my teacher. I feared their reactions. No common girl could marry a prince. Minwu is the most loyal of mages and serves diligently to Princess Hilda, but he is never considered as a possible companion for her. The closest I could ever get to you would be like Minwu is to Hilda. But that's all right. I decided that as long as I could see you happy, then I would be happy for you."
He asked, "You will serve me, as Minwu serves Hilda?"
"It is what I planned to do with my life since I watched you leave that day. I would find you. I would serve you." Cantirena turned her whole body to face him and bowed her head so far down that her forehead touched the ground. "I… name you as my ruler, oh great Emperor. I forsake my citizenship of Fynn for you. Allow me to show you my gratitude to you. Please."
Mateus stood up, smiling on the inside. That took even less effort than he thought it would. "I accept you and your ability into my force. Fail me, and I will treat you like any other member of my army."
Cantirena lifted herself just enough to see that Mateus was standing. "Wait…" she pleaded. "…step closer, please."
He did as she requested, and she bent down to kiss his boot. "You will accompany me to my next stop in Bafsk," he said. "But it comes at a price. I have one chore for you to do before we leave."
"I will do anything for my Emperor," Cantirena declared. "You have but to name it, and it will be done."
"Go through this town and kill every last citizen of Fynn you find," Mateus ordered. "…every single one. This country will be an example to all others." He was determined to test her loyalty. "They are at fault for killing your family, not I. If they never rose up against their rightful ruler, then they would not have had to be punished."
Cantirena kissed his boot a second time. "Your will be done, sire."
As she pulled herself to her feet and walked out of the tent, Mateus watched her. He laughed. "Next time, I have to remember to have her give me a blowjob before sending her out to kill her kin."