Ch 3, part 1
"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.
CHAPTER THREE BEGINS
Salamand was a small community made of small brick houses, covered in a thick blanket of snow. Each of the chimneys in town had a small trail of smoke coming out of them. There were a few snowmen made by the children around the houses, and the inn smelled of fresh baked bread. Even though Minwu said earlier that the Empire was in control of Salamand, it really didn't seem that way. The town looked as peaceful as any other, like it wasn't a part of this world which was strangled in the middle of a war.
Women were pretty much everywhere, tending to the children. When Clarisse took a moment to look around, she realized that there were no men anywhere in Salamand.
"Hey, Minwu…" she said quietly.
"Yes?" Minwu asked. He was headed for the largest house in town.
"Does something seem a bit off to you?" Clarisse asked. "Like, maybe… some people are missing?"
Firion scratched his head. "I see a whole lot of women and children, but…"
"There's not a single man here," Minwu said. "Yes. I can see that. We should go quickly to see Josef."
"If he's even there…" Clarisse grunted.
In front of the biggest house in the village was a woman wearing light armor. Her hair was up in a ponytail, and she had a look of dread on her face. As Minwu approached her, she had an expression of abject fear across her face.
"Strangers!" she cried. "Strangers have come again!"
Suddenly the front door of the house opened and out stomped a large man with big hands, ready to throw punches. He had not a hair on his head, save for that of his tiny mustache, and he wore a green poncho. He was taller than anyone Firion or Clarisse had ever seen. "Damn Imperials! What more can you take from us?!" he roared loudly.
"Well met, Josef," Minwu said, extending his hand.
"…Lord Minwu?" Josef asked, immediately dropping his hand, which was in mid-punch. "So Princess Hilda finally decided to act, now that her land's been taken? What a selfish bitch."
"I would refrain from insulting her so," Minwu's voice became forceful. "We have not come just on the behalf of Her Highness, but of the entire force. Kashuon and Fynn have combined their efforts to stop the Empire, and we have come asking for your support."
"What support can I give?"Josef asked, trudging back into his house. "Come on in. If nothing else, I can serve ya some tea to warm ya from the inside."
Clarisse, Firion, and Minwu all followed Josef into his house, and after they were all inside, Josef closed the door. The house was big, though it felt very empty. He had them all sit at a table and put out a very old-looking teapot and four teacups.
"I can't give ya much," Josef grunted, "But far be it from me to not show some hospitality."
"You don't have to do anything for us," Firion said. "That's not what we're here for."
"Unfortunately, boy, I can't give you any information at all," Josef answered. He put out a little canister full of sugar and a few spoons, too. "So I will give you this before I tell you to get your butt back to your princess and protect her before the Empire makes its next move and takes your leader, all right?"
Minwu had never seen Josef act so nervous. Normally, he was the most laid back person. Josef was well known for being a very loving, happy man. That's when he noticed that something else was missing from the house.
Where is his daughter? Minwu thought. Then it occurred to him that maybe, just maybe, the Imperials took the one thing that was most precious to Josef and kept him there in town to prevent the other women and children from leaving and getting help.
"What are you waiting for?" Minwu asked. "It would be rude to refuse Josef's hospitality." He poured himself a cup of tea, and after pulling down the part of his turban which covered his face, he drank the tea. It wasn't something he was used to doing, but he did it anyway. Even living in the castle, Minwu did not participate in a lot of the customs royalty were exposed to. He much preferred to stick to his books and scrolls in privacy. Well, until he decided to take on the job of teaching a student. Then he didn't mind being bothered so much.
"Something isn't right," Clarisse said quietly. "He's not acting very normally."
Firion looked over at Josef. "Hey, Josef," he called to the older man. "Come sit down with us. You look like you could use a break yourself."
"Nah, boy, I can't drink that tea," Josef said brashly. "Only tea I drink is made by my Nelly. Tastes way better than mine."
Clarisse poured herself a cup and stirred in a bit of sugar. "So, where is she? She sounds like a darling girl, and I would really love to meet her."
Josef gave them a very hard glare, as if he wanted to scare them out of his house and out of his town. He wanted to scream, he wanted to roar.
If only I could tell you without… without fearing something would happen to my beloved Nelly… Josef thought helplessly. If only there was a way…
Firion rose his hands defensively. "I'm sorry, Josef. I didn't mean to make you upset or anything like that. I bet she's really happy with her mother."
Josef walked over to Firion and punched him right in his face as hard as he could muster. Blood splattered onto both Josef's fist and on the floor. "Are you bastards with the Empire, you snot-nosed little brat?!" He gave Firion another punch, this time in the gut. "How dare you say anything about my daughter or my wife! Get the hell out of my house, all of you!"
With that, Minwu and Clarisse dragged Firion out of Josef's house. After healing Firion with his magic, Minwu was at a loss for what to do. He didn't even ask about the Mythril they had come to get, and there was no way they were going to be able to attack the Empire without weapons that could compete with those of the heavily armored Dark Knights.
"Great job, Firi," Clarisse grunted.
"Hey, I didn't know that mentioning his daughter or his wife would set him off," Firion said, straightening his armor to be the way he wanted it.
"I can identify," Minwu said quietly. "This must be about his daughter."
"Yeah, if anyone says anything about Canti, it always catches your attention," Clarisse said, smiling.
The woman from before was standing right there, watching them talk. She still looked scared, but she also seemed curious. When she managed to catch Minwu's attention, she pointed towards the inn and motioned for him to follow after her. Minwu nodded, and the three of them went to the town's inn, where the woman shut them in one of the rooms with her. She closed and locked the door.
"You three… you aren't Imperials, are you?" she asked in a hushed whisper.
"No, we come on the behalf of Princess Hilda of Fynn," Firion replied in the same volume.
"Well… if you are, then I'll tell you what happened," the woman said. "One day, the Emperor of Palamecia came here to Salamand and spoke to Josef. He brought with him a vast army of heavily armored knights. The Emperor wanted mythril. Josef refused to just hand it over. There was a battle, but not many were killed because the Emperor told them not to kill our citizens. The men of our town were taken away, and… to keep Josef from sending any word to anyone else about it, so was Nelly."
"Where did he take them?" Clarisse asked.
"I would assume he took them to the place where the mythril ore is mined, which is in Semitt Falls," the woman answered. "If you have a map, I can show it to you."
Minwu pulled out his trusty map, and the woman pointed to a place where a waterfall fell into a very large lake that might have been even bigger than Lake Fynn, surrounded mountains to the west of Salamand. "That's Semitt Falls," she said. "If you go into the mountains, there's a cave. The mythril deposit is in there."
"Thank you, my lady," Minwu said, folding his map back up. "This information is most helpful in our efforts."
"You're welcome," she said. "Just bring our men and Nelly back with you. Maybe then, Josef will return to the man he has always been. Ever since losing his wife, Nelly has been his whole world. Not having her, he's so distraught, like… like he doesn't know who he is or what to do. And to keep the rest of us safe, he doesn't make any sudden moves…"
"We will do what we can," Minwu said, trying to reassure the woman. "I have lost someone precious to me at the Emperor's hand, so I am very aware of how Josef is feeling right now."
The woman unlocked the door to let them all out of the room.
"Safe travels, friends," she said, trying to smile. "May you find what you seek."
Having to keep your language cryptic like that… that must be terrible, Clarisse thought. Knowing that at any moment, someone could tell your secret and then the Emperor's lackeys could come here and terrorize what's left of the town… She sighed. That's just… I couldn't imagine living life like that. I guess if Fynn had resources for the Empire to exploit, then it wouldn't have been a massacre that day… but it's hard to say which would be better. Losing all that life, or losing the freedom of living the way you want…