Ch 1, Part 4
"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's land was barren. It used to have fields that stretched between the rivers of the north to the ocean directly to the east. Now it was full of all sorts of monsters that had been eating all the crops and using the foliage as shelter to reproduce. Clarisse wondered where all the typical normal animals had gone until Minwu made a comment about how animals are more sensitive to the world around them than humans are. Putting the clues together, it was easy to guess that they had all fled somewhere. The Palamecian Empire had to be stopped. Even the land itself was suffering because of this war.
This is no mere political bout, Clarisse thought as the three of them hacked their way through what used to be a rice paddy. There were some weird creatures that looked like gigantic hornets that stood on their hind legs swarming everywhere. The entire world has been turned up on its head. She frowned, but it filled her with more resolve. If you're hurt, Canti… oh Heaven forbid I find you hurt.
"Over the bridge and through the forest," Minwu said, "We'll come to the village of Galtea." He looked at both Firion and Clarisse. "The two of you look tired, and we've not traveled far. Perhaps we should rest."
"No!" Clarisse and Firion responded at once.
"Such determination," Minwu said gently. He wondered how far that determination would go. He used his staff to cast a barrier around each of them to help them resist any poison effects that the leg-biting vines and hornets tried to inflict with their bites and stings as they crossed the bridge.
After that, it was a quiet walk. They slew all the monsters who came their way, almost effortlessly. With the combined swordsmanship of Clarisse and Firion paired with Minwu's magic, they felt unstoppable. These monsters were chump change, though they knew for a fact that the knights that tore up the town were nothing to snort at. No one in the entire town could stop those things.
Galtea was not that far. They'd been walking for about half an hour before reaching the small white picket fence that surrounded the village. Minwu said he was going to go to one of the shops before the y left to Fynn, while Firion and Clarisse went to the inn to wait for him to finish his business.
"It used to never be so stressful to travel between towns like this," Firion said, sitting down at a table. "I never thought… ever… that it would be hard to go between Altair and Galtea."
"You… left the town before the attack?" Clarisse asked, sitting down across from him at the table.
"I guess you didn't know that I was born in Salamand, huh? My parents were travelers before we came to live in Fynn. I got to see all sorts of places when I was a little kid. My dad was a cartographer. He made maps and sold them to the people he met on his travels," Firion answered her question. "I didn't leave after my parents died, but yes, I did travel with them." He was starting to feel hungry. "Hold on a minute, Claire. Lemme ask something." He got up from his seat and went up to the innkeeper. She didn't look a day over twelve. "Hey there, little one, can I ask you something?"
The little girl was barely taller than the counter she worked at. "It's 10 gil to stay the night."
"That's not what I meant. I was wondering if I can order any food from you. I have gil to pay for it, if you're open," Firion said, though he wondered how someone who looked so inexperienced would be able to prepare a meal for incoming customers.
"Sorry, sir, but I don't have any food for you to order," she said weakly. "The person who went to get supplies for me from Fynn didn't come back this morning."
Firion frowned. "Oh, sweetheart, that's terrible."
The little girl tried to force a smile. "Don't worry about me, if that's what you're doing. My daddy got really sick yesterday and now I'm running the inn for him. The townspeople here are all aware of everyone's situation, and since there's fewer than twenty people in this entire village, we all come together like a family." She then pointed at Firion. "I've got an idea! Will you go to Fynn for me and get that lazy ingredients deliveryman back from town?"
Clarisse turned to see Firion's response. He swallowed and said, "Sure."
Firion, why are you going to break that girl's heart? Clarisse thought, watching him from the table. You can't honestly tell her that he's alive in Fynn right now! …there's no way in hell she doesn't know about what happened!
A few moments later, Minwu came in. "There you are. I've been looking all over the village for you," he said, catching both Clarisse and Firion's attention. "Listen, in case something happens to me, I want you to take this." He handed a backpack to Firion. "This is an item pouch. It can hold every sort of thing inside, but it can only hold a limited amount of items. Use it to put extra weaponry in it or to carry herbs and potions, or special things you may need to keep safe."
Firion nodded. "Thank you, Minwu."
"What do you mean by 'every sort of thing'?" Clarisse asked curiously. "It sounds like it holds everyday ordinary stuff."
"No, you see…" Minwu reached into the bag, and pulled out what looked to be the end of a canoe. He kept pulling for a few minutes until he revealed that, yes, it was a full canoe which easily was big enough to hold four people. "…it can hold larger things, like this."
"Whoa!" Firion exclaimed. "That's really neat."
"Yes," Minwu said, putting it back inside the backpack. "It will make your travel effort so much easier if you have a place to put these kinds of things."
"Oh yeah, I agree," Clarisse said with a nod. "If we've gotten all we can, let's head up to Fynn all ready."
Minwu stopped them for a moment once they walked out the door of the inn. "There is something else I wished to tell you. I met a refugee of Fynn who says there is someone who escaped the Empire's hold for prisoners, but they were too wounded for traveling."
"Then Cantirena might be there, waiting for us!" Clarisse shouted. "We must go, now!"
The three of them walked outside Galtea's borders, and when Firion was about to walk to the west to circle around the mountain so he could reach Fynn, Minwu had a better idea. Lake Fynn was right there, not even a five minute walk from the village of Galtea. He pulled out his canoe and sat it on the water. This was going to be much quicker than walking. Once they crossed the lake, they were only mere steps away from the cobblestone streets of Fynn.
"Home," Firion breathed out, watching Minwu take the time to put the canoe back in the item pouch. "Honestly, I'm afraid to go back in there."
"It will hurt to see Fynn again for all of us," Minwu said quietly. "But it will hurt worse if we let our pain get in the way of what we come here to do." He stood up, strapping the item pouch on his back. "Let us waste no more time."
Hold on, Clarissa thought. We're almost there, Sis. Hang in there.
The town of Fynn was quiet. So quiet, it almost hurt. There was still blood all over the buildings and the walkways. No one bothered cleaning that up. However, there were no dead bodies anywhere. The only people any of the three could detect were that of the Empire's Dark Knights. Most of them guarded doors. They knew all ready that they weren't going to be able to take those guys down, so they weren't going to bother.
"There's one door over there," Minwu whispered. "It's not guarded."
Without even discussing it, the three snuck through the bushes and waited until no guards were walking around that doorway. They leapt over a brick wall, and ran into the building as quickly as they could.
Inside, it was full of Dark Knights of the Empire, drunk and not paying attention to anything but the mugs of beer in their hands. In the back was a single man wearing a red outfit. Firion darted behind a few of the imperial guards, leaving Clarisse and Minwu to figure out a way for themselves.
"Hey," the bartender said. "Don't get behind the counter. Order like a normal person, would you?"
Firion remembered the password, and whispered it so no one else could hear it. "Wild Rose."
"You're with the rebels? Gods bless you!" The bartender smiled and whispered back, "There is someone down here through this secret door. Hurt real bad. Escaped from the Emperor's grasp. Oh, wait a minute. You know a man named Minwu, right?"
Firion nodded. "He's here with me." He waved to the front of the bar, signaling for the rest of his party to join him back there. "Minwu, this man asked for you."
Minwu stepped closer. "I am he."
The bartender reached into his pocket. "I was told to give you this," he said, putting a folded up piece of paper into the mage's hands. "It's from a magician who calls herself the 'Dark Princess'. Now that's vicious woman with a heart of stone." He then gave the three a salute. "Long live the Wild Roses. I'm heading back to Galtea."
"Hey, since you're heading that way, do me a favor and take some of the supplies in this bar to the innkeeper in Galtea. She's running out of food to feed people in town, let alone customers," Firion said to the bartender, slipping him a few gil. "It's all right. We'll take care of the rest."
"Aye," the bartender gave a nod, grabbed whatever food he could carry, and ran out the front door when none of the guards were looking.
Clarisse rushed into the hidden door, almost falling over her own feet trying to get to the end of the passage as quickly as possible. When she got there, all she found was a dimly lit room with one bed inside.
Someone was laying in that bed. Minwu and Firion came down the stairs. All three of them heard whoever it was cough several times.
"Has my own emissary… turned me in?" the voice asked. Clarisse frowned. That was not the voice of Cantirena. "Gonna… give me to the Imperials? Do me a favor… and kill me first…"
Minwu walked over to the bed and used the crystal tip of his staff to bring a little more light to the room. "Bahamut Almighty," he whispered. "Prince Scott."
"Wait… is that you, Minwu?" the man in the bed asked. Firion and Clarisse came closer to see. The man had long blonde hair and striking blue eyes. He had the face of a proud warrior. "Aye, I am Scott of Kashuon, not that it matters much anymore…" He coughed again. "…damn it all. Minwu, I must warn you. The reason… we were so caught off guard? Borghen… Borghen sold us out. He's… he's a general of the Empire now…"
Clarisse's eyes widened. "What?! My teacher?! You… you must be mistaken, Prince. It could not have been Borghen!"
"Believe… what you will, my words… ring true," Scott said.
Clarisse stepped forward. "I must ask you. Have you heard of my twin sister, Cantirena? She has hair the same color as I. She's Minwu's star student."
"There was a maiden… who we thought had died… she had that same hair color and carried… what must have been a spellbook… The Emperor, he was there, personally… I was surrounded by a group of Imperials, I could not see… by the time I could see again…" Scott shook his head. "The lady was gone."
Clarisse frowned. She looked at Firion, trying to hold back her tears. Firion put his arm around her shoulder to offer some comfort, but there was little anyone could do.
"You must do me… a favor." Prince Scott held out a ring and placed it into Minwu's hands. "My brother, Gordon, this is his… you must tell him to… have more faith in himself. And tell Hilda… that I love her." After a slight pause, he shook his head. "No. Don't carry that last message. The words… of a dying man… would only bring her… such pain. She deserves better… than a life of mourning me."
Minwu put his hand on Scott's forehead. "We will do as you ask, Your Majesty," he said carefully.
"Now, if you'll… excuse me, I…" Scott said. "I am so very tired." He leaned back into his pillow, closed his eyes, and breathed no more.
"We must go back to Altair," Minwu gave the order quietly. "We will do as the prince asked." He took the piece of paper the bartender had given him and opened it. "…this… is… Cantirena's handwriting. These are notes from a lecture I gave three days ago."
Firion was confused. "Wait, he was given that by some Imperial witch, right? Why would she have…?"
Minwu put it back into his pocket. "Borghen," he muttered. "That conniving count knew who she was. Everyone in the castle knew that Cantirena was my pupil. If Borghen slipped a word to the Emperor about her extraordinary potential, then he must have taken her. Giving that sorceress the bartender spoke of this note…" That was what he feared the most. He looked after Cantirena as if she was the daughter he was to never have. She was the source of much of his pride and joy. This would not stand. "…they knew we were going to come back looking for her. Or, Borghen knew that I would come looking for her."