Dark Skies over Palamecia

Ch 4, part 9

"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.

Part 9

Emperor Mateus, sitting on his throne, hadn't moved since he sat there after leaving the Dreadnaught behind. He slept there fully dressed, and while many of the servants were worried about him, they dare not bother him, lest they end up in the dungeons, or worse. When the door to the throne room creaked open, he opened his eyes very slowly to see who it was.

"Yes?" he asked of the man who stepped through.

"Pardons, Your Imperial Majesty, but we've received urgent news from the Dreadnaught!" the man said, bowing his head. "Rebels have destroyed the ship, and what's worse… the Empress cannot be found."

Mateus sat up. "Excellent," he said. "You may go."

"But, sire-"

"Is there more?" Mateus asked, putting his head against his hand.

"There is nothing else to report, sire," the messenger said, looking down at the floor.

Mateus then asked, "Do you have anything you'd like to tell me?"

The messenger nodded, but he was obviously afraid to say anything.

"Speak up," the Emperor said. "There's no use in just standing there."

The messenger looked back up at Mateus. He took in a deep breath and said, "It's… it's about the Empress, sire. Reports have stated that at the time of the explosion, there was an airship flying above it."

"And?"

"And… it's possible that rebels have kidnapped Her Majesty."

Mateus nodded. "Yes, that is possible. In fact, it's very likely. There is no use in a man like you speculating about what has transpired. It is your duty to carry messages, not to strategize. Only men in power have the right to think. Please, avoid wasting my time any further in the future by sticking to your duty while I stick to mine." He then waved his hand dismissively. "I am a tolerant man. I will let you get back to work. So, please, be on your way."

"Yes," the man fell to his knees and bowed. "As you command." He then quickly picked himself up off the floor and left the throne room via the door he came in through.

Mateus smiled. …not like I didn't know this all ready. He thought. Just wait, my dear… I will come for you soon. I'm sure you feel terrible about being taken from where I told you to stay, but do not worry. I am not mad at you. He looked around the throne room, finding it exactly the way he left it before he dozed off.

"Prepare a meal," he said loudly, knowing that someone would be listening. He hadn't eaten much, and an Emperor could not conquer an entire world on an empty stomach. "On second thought… a cheesecake would suit better than an entire feast."

Minwu used the age old technique of establishing a room with hanging cloth in the rebel base at Altair, so that he could watch over Cantirena without anyone staring at either of them. The two main rooms in the base belonged to that of the Princess and the King, and he was not going to take either of them out of their beds to make way for his student. Cid held Cantirena while Minwu set everything up, while Candice and Clarisse set up a bed for Cantirena to lie in.

Cantirena did not wake during the flight, and when Cid put her down in the bed, she didn't even seem to feel it. She slept so deeply that nothing around her made her react, no matter how much anyone spoke to her at any point. Minwu felt terrible about having to cast a sleeping spell during the escape, but his spell did not last this long during any other circumstances where he used it. Something was wrong to have her sleep so much and so deeply.

"Minwu?" Hilda's voice came from on the other side of the cloth wall. She came through an opening. "So, you've found her!"

"Yes," Minwu replied, though it was not his normal tone. He was not just preoccupied, but he was nervous and his mind was all over the place. "But, as you can see… she is not herself right now."

"Take as much time as you need," Hilda said. "I had a feeling you'd need to take care of her when you brought her home. But I am happy for you." She walked closer, passing Cid, Clarisse, and Candice as she came to Cantirena's bedside. "Gordon has told me a lot of things about your recent adventures, Minwu. You know, he really has grown up. He is… very much like that of his brother now."

"I'm glad to hear it," Minwu said, not really caring about anything Hilda had to say.

"But there are more important things to talk about," Hilda said, looking at Cid. "Are you ready to talk about this now, or do you want to wait?"

"How important to do you think it is?" Cid asked, reaching to put a hand around Candice. "Because I told my girl that we needed to talk when we got settled down, but-"

"I don't think it'll do any good," Minwu snapped, "Because, as you can see, Cantirena is practically comatose." He glared at Hilda. "Can this not wait?!

"I'm afraid that if we wait too long, we won't have the chance," Hilda said, putting her hands on her hips. She looked down at Cantirena and noticed that something was glowing faintly. "…wait. Minwu. What… what is that?"

Minwu looked down at Cantirena. He saw the glowing, too. He reached down and pulled the hair from Cantirena's face to see the purple gem in the center of her forehead. He had no idea what that was or where it came from. It was never there before. "What in the world… is that?"

Candice bent over. "That's the same mark the Emperor has on his forehead!" she said. "I remember! I saw it plain as day! He has that same purple gem on him, in the same place."

Minwu shook his head. "Why… is my Cantirena… wearing the same mark… as the Emperor?! Can somebody explain this?" He looked ready to blow the entire place sky-high.

"That's easy to explain," Paul's voice came from the opening in the cloth wall. "Here ya go, Minwu. Have some nice, healthy reading. I've been carrying this book since I got it because I get the feeling you're the only one who can put this to any use." He handed the book Airu gave him right to Minwu. "I've read it during my downtime, and I get the feeling that mark pretty much cements the poor girl's doom."

"Paul, now's not the time for your jokes," Minwu said, looking at the book. He opened it and flipped through its pages. "Th-this is a Palamecian history book… these are forbidden outside of the borders of Palamecia!"

"Yep," Paul said. "I told you I'm a master thief! …but in all actuality, I did not steal that book. It was given to me by someone who knew what the hell she was talking about." He put his hands on his hips and kept explaining. "Turns out the Emperor sent his own mother to one of his slave camps. The same night I picked up Miss Candice over there was the same night I met the former Queen Regent herself dressed as a slave, sleeping on potato sacks and hay. But she still had her regal qualities… The lady Airu was up at night reading that book, saying that it held the secrets that the Empire has guarded for years… or something like that." He pointed at the book. "The mark that your girl's got on her head, and the one that the Emperor's got on his? Yeah, that book says something about it being a 'mark of ascension'. It means that the powers that rule the royal family of Palamecia have accepted her as a part of the ruling dynasty…"

"So this means she really did marry the Emperor?" Minwu asked.

Clarisse stood there with her jaw wide open, unable to even digest that question. There was no suitable response that she could think of.

"Oh I don't think it has anything to do with being married, though the way the Dark Knights treated her and spoke to her, it's very likely that they did tie the knot during her stay at the palace," Paul said. "As well as… other things, I'm sure. Having lived in Palamecia before, I can tell you that the Emperor wouldn't have a lady around if he couldn't bed her."

Minwu held his hand up at Paul and started casting something, but Hilda slapped his hand down to keep him from releasing that spell.

"PAUL!" Cid yelled at him, knocking him upside the head. "Did you have to go that far?! What sort of father-figure wants to hear that about their daughter, huh?! Ya lousy, no good-"

"I'm not going to sugar coat anything, and Minwu needs to know the truth," Paul said, stepping away from Cid. That bump really hurt. "But, anyway. Minwu. Read the book. I don't want to give away any spoilers, but I get the feeling that Emperor is not the heart of the conflict here."

"What do you mean by that?" Hilda asked.

"That book describes a conflict that took place during the founding of the Palamecian Empire, between a servant of our Goddess Cosmos – that being good ol' Emperor Palamecia the First - and the Demon King Iluia," Paul said. "The powers of Cosmos were able to seal away the Demon King, trapping him in a stone. Cosmos told her servant that the family of the Emperor was charged with keeping watch over that stone, so it's been kept as a family treasure in a secret location ever since. But, the way the book tells it, the Demon King is very well alive and is able to use his dark powers to influence those around him. Airu even said it herself, that she believes the Demon King is working through her son, because apparently, he used to be a very kind and gentle prince before he became possessed."

"I believe that," Minwu said. "The first time I met him was during a council in Fynn. He was at peace. A young man of great promise and destiny…" he took another look at the stone in Cantirena's forehead. "So. This mark. It-"

"I'm getting to that," Paul said. "That mark is not because she's been made into their Empress. That mark is the brand of the Demon King himself. Minwu, Cantirena has that same dark power that the Emperor does inside her body, and… it's very possible that it's eating her alive."

"You're joking," Clarisse said, instantly feeling tears running down her face. "You're… you're full of shit, Paul."

"I'm not," Paul looked at her. "I wouldn't joke about this to the man I consider to be my closest friend." He shook his head. "I'm not like that, and Minwu knows it."

Minwu sat down, looking through the book further. "Leave me," he whispered.

"All right," Paul said, walking out.

"I will read through this book… and figure out what I can do to break this possession," Minwu said very quietly. "You will leave me to think. All of you. Now."

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