Dark Skies over Palamecia

Ch 5, part 10

"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 10

Princess Hilda lacked any real manpower to do much of anything, but she was tired of sitting there and doing absolutely nothing with her time. She paced about her throne room, remembering when Minwu was going through all of the maps and scrolls on the nearby table. She used to have his constant companionship. She looked at the other throne, which belonged to Gordon. She used to have him by her side, too. Then she remembered Cid, and eventually, her beloved Scott. She was all alone.

Suddenly, her door bust open, and Paul walked in. "Well, hello there, Princess," he said, bowing before her.

"Paul," she said, smiling. "Rise, please. Tell me, what news do you bring?"

"Honestly, your highness, I wish I had something to report of use," Paul said, standing back up. "Turns out that there's a crashed airship at the base of the mountains near Paloom, and there's absolutely no one in it. Paloom is nothing but a pile of rubble, too."

Firion… Hilda thought sadly. Did I send you… to die?

"It seems like we've been backed into a corner, princess," Paul continued. "I don't know what to do anymore."

"There's not many of us left, and I've been sitting here on my ass for the last week waiting for something, anything to do," Hilda said, hanging her head. "I'm a failure, Paul. This rose… it will not bloom." She felt the sting of tears in her eyes. "Paul… we're done."

"No, milady," Paul said. "You aren't."

"Have you no good news whatsoever?" Hilda asked. "Every turn, we're dying like flies. There are so few people left here in Altair. We're terribly defended, we're running out of supplies, and… no, Paul, there's nothing left."

"We still have Minwu. He's headed for Mysidia. Surely he will find something there, princess," Paul said, trying to cheer her up.

If everyone saw you like this, they would also give up hope, Hilda. You can't show these feelings to anyone. You have to have a strong face, Paul thought. You were the one who told me the Wild Rose will bloom anywhere, even in the ashes.

"Wait," Paul said. "Princess, I have an idea!"

"An idea?" Hilda asked. "I would hear of it. I'm open to anything."

Paul looked around the room. "We set the town of Altair on fire," he said.

Hilda gasped. "Wha… what in the Seventh Layer of Hell are you even… how the FUCK could you even suggest that?!"

"I thought you might say that," Paul said gently. "We take all the refugees to one of the destroyed towns. Paloom or Galtea, for instance. If the Emperor himself was on his way to claim Cantirena, then he must know that this is our den. He would think that the Rebellion is dead. This means he won't come for you."

"So, you're suggesting that we give the tyrant what he wants," Hilda said, shaking her head disgustedly. "You're more crazy than he is."

"I don't think that's possible," Paul grunted. "But give me the benefit of the doubt, eh? We get all the people out of here and we torch the place. I have a few uniforms lifted from the carcasses of the dead Dark Knights on hand, so…"

Hilda couldn't believe what she was hearing. "When the Emperor comes to find out what the fuck happened, you're going to sneak onboard his ship. Again." Her royal tone was gone. She sounded like a normal every day person now as she slumped down onto the floor. Her dress ripped a little bit more, but she didn't even care.

"Bingo!"

"Paul, can I ask you a simple question?" Hilda asked, having one of those the-fuck-are-you-even-doing expressions on her face.

"What's that?" Paul asked. He was grinning from ear to ear.

"Have you got some sort of death wish?"

Paul shook his head. "No, not particularly. But maybe protecting the ones we love gives us something that might seem like a death wish to someone who has never felt anything like that before." He put his hands on his hips triumphantly. "Princess, it's because of this that I can tell you with absolute certainty that Scott didn't have a death wish when he raced out into the battlefield the afternoon Fynn was attacked. He wanted more than anything to protect you, to save you from dying. Me? I guess you could say I've found that same thing that… that… well, I'm willing to die if I must to ensure she survives." He then winked at her. "Don't worry, Princess, it's not you."

Hilda laughed a little. "I don't want another to lay down his life for my sake."

"Princess, you are the symbol of the rebellion, and thus, the symbol of freedom," Paul said, shrugging. "People want to put a face to concepts. They've always done this. So, don't take it personally the next time someone wants to fight someone thousands of times more powerful than they are to make sure you can live another day, all right? They're not doing it to depress or even impress you. They want out of this mess. They want more out of life than they have, and they believe that you are where it's going to come from."

"But, Paul… I cannot just… give freedom. Maybe save them from tyranny, but not just hand them the freedom they want," Hilda said, looking at the floor. "It's not something that you can just give."

"I'm afraid that the common man may never understand this concept," Paul said. "So, do you want to get this underway, or are you going to sit on your rump yet another day, waiting for word from Deist or from Mysidia?"

The door burst open and a messenger ran in. "Princess Hilda! We've received a message from Deist!"

Paul rolled his eyes. "…speak of the devil."

Hilda stood up. "Please, by all means, messenger."

"The island nation of Deist has been defeated by the Palamecian Empire," the messenger said quietly. "The ship the Emperor is on now heads west."

"To Mysidia!" Paul shouted. "That's where Minwu's headed!"

"Confound it all," Hilda said quietly. She had no time. What was she supposed to do now? Was Paul right? "Fair enough, messenger, you have done your duty. Carry on."

The messenger bowed his head and left the room. Paul looked at Hilda.

"We gotta buy him time, Princess," Paul snapped at her. "If the Emperor gets Minwu, we're all fucked."

"Royally," Hilda agreed. "Fine. I want you to take the townspeople to Galtea. If you find someone who is a part of us, have them report to me immediately. Tell the mayor there that we will give him as much compensation as we possibly can to hide those who live here... We set fire to the village in an hour."

"As you wish," Paul said, bowing his head. He left the throne room

"I hope this works," she whispered. "I… really hope we can distract him enough to get him off Minwu's trail…" She took the crown off of her head and put it on the floor. "For this, I'm going to have to become something other than who I was raised to be." Hilda put her foot on top of the crown and smashed it under her heel. "I'm going to have to die." She looked up at the ceiling sadly.

Scott, when we meet again in Heaven… I hope you will understand.

Minwu led the girls up through the mountains, though there was no path that was easy to follow. He constantly had a hand on Cantirena, no matter if she was in front of him or behind him. His foot placement was always cautious, which slowed progress even further. He could tell she was not made for this kind of hike. She felt weaker the further up they went, and night was quickly approaching. They'd been climbing all day and she had a hard time reaching from rock to rock.

"You'd think because questing is such an important part of Mysidian culture that there would be a path or something," Candice said. "Minwu, doesn't everyone take the same path to Mysidia?"

"No," Minwu said, helping push Cantirena up further from below. When she grabbed onto a tree root that was sticking out, she managed to pull herself onto another ledge. "You must understand, Candice…" he said between breaths, "That this land is constantly changing. That is why… no one has been able to invade Mysidia. The anti-technology barriers, the land itself warps in and out of distortion… it's all to protect the Holy Mecca."

"I thought the name for it was the Magic Kingdom," Clarisse said. She was doing quite well climbing on her own.

"Only people who have lived in Mysidia know of the real name for it," Minwu explained. "The land is considered the holiest place on Earth. The Goddess herself was once seen there, and that is why the city was built there. To preserve it as it was when she visited. Or, so the legends have said."

"It feels like we're climbing up a cliff," Cantirena said weakly. "This isn't a mountain at all, teacher!" She sat on the ledge, backing away to let them have more space to climb up to it. "Why… are we climbing up a cliff?!"

"Because there is no other way into the jungle," Minwu answered her. He grasped onto the same root and pulled himself up to the ledge, and then reached his hand down to Candice. He looked to see that the ledge was just big enough to fit one tent. "We'll set up camp here, ladies. We do not have the strength to proceed further, and we need to be under shelter before night falls completely."

"Why?" Candice asked.

"There are creatures who will smell the scent of a human out here," he said. "Start a fire. I'll get out the pot. I'll cook tonight." Once he saw Cantirena's face, he walked over to her. "I know. It's not easy. Bear with me."

"I was going to have to do this anyway," she said. "Because I'm your student, you were planning on taking me to Mysidia. Because of that, I see this as my test. I have to pass it. I have to make it to Mysidia with you… I have to be worthy of being your student…" She tried to smile, but it didn't come out right at all.

"You weren't going to be ready for this for a few years yet," Minwu said. "Typically, we train for this before bringing our students on our journey back home." He reached into the item pouch and tossed the tent to Clarisse, who was able to set it up without any issues. "You have had no outdoors training, you don't know what to look for, and your body is weak because you have had no chance to build up your endurance." He then set up a ring of stones that he had collected and pointed at it. "Go ahead. I know you want to."

Cantirena pointed her finger at it, and a spark of fire shot from her finger to make just enough of a fire to use with Minwu's large black pot. "Tee hee," she giggled.

"You know, that confuses me," Minwu said as he pulled out the stinky banana-looking fruit from before. He peeled it and mashed it against a cutting board, then tossed it into the pot. "I was hoping to lead you down the path of a white mage, but I've not seen you cast a cure spell since I found you inside the Dreadnaught."

Cantirena frowned. He was right. She had forgotten how to do it, but she didn't want to tell him that. "You can cast more cures than I could ever attempt," she said. "But I can defeat attacking monsters. I'm not completely… useless, right?"

"Of course not," Minwu said. "I think I'll throw some more things I've found while on the path inside the pot, too. Call it Winding Mountain Stew."

Candice sat down, watching the fire under the pot. "The tent's all ready for the night."

"Good." Minwu took berries and other fruits he collected from the item pouch, mashing them up, and tossed them into the pot. "This will be the best thing for you all. After you sleep with this in your body, not only will you gain a surge of strength, but any wounds you've incurred during the day will heal. These berries here? They're mixed into a solution to make potions."

"So potion-makers have to come all the way out here to gather things to make their potions?" Clarisse asked as she walked out of the tent.

"No, I suspect there are foraging herbalists who do that to sell to the alchemists," Minwu replied quietly. "But either way, you will need to rest. The hike does not get any easier."

"You keep saying that," Candice thought aloud.

"Yes, because it's true."

All of the berries, herbs, and fruit melted together inside the pot over the low heat. It smelled almost like the filling of a fruit pie. Minwu stirred it around carefully to ensure nothing burned or stuck to the bottom of the pot. The longer the three girls waited to eat it, the better it smelled.

"Wow…" Candice said. "You were right. It doesn't stink anything like what it did before."

"And you didn't want to believe me," Minwu said. "I have been through these lands twice. I know of how it works, even though it always changes."

"That means… you came here before you took your robes," Cantirena said.

"Yes, though I was far younger than you when I made my first trip through this place," Minwu said. He found the four bowls in the item pouch and began to serve everyone. "My teacher had to return to Mysidia for an urgent matter, and with no family to stay with, I came with him."

"That's right," Clarisse said as she sipped the mixture from the side of the bowl. It was like a thick stew broth with a sweet aftertaste. She never had anything like it before. "You mentioned that those from Mysidia were not born there."

"And I am no different," Minwu said very quietly.

"Then, where were you born?" Cantirena asked, eating some of the soup.

"I do not know," Minwu replied. He didn't look like he wanted to continue that conversation. "My teacher found me, alone, on an island. I was little over three years old, living in a shipwreck. I fed myself using the herbs around the ship. He said that the Goddess saw fit to save me for an important purpose. So he took me in and raised me until we reached Mysidia."

"Have you spoken with him since you left?" Candice asked. She finished everything that was in her bowl, and boy, did she feel great. It not only tasted delicious, but it filled her up very quickly. Her body was filled with a gentle warmth, and she felt like curling up to sleep almost right that second.

"No. Once I completed my graduation process and decided to take up the white robes, I bid that man farewell," Minwu continued. "And I know how wrong it is of me to say, but I hope he has passed before I return."

"You hate your teacher?" Cantirena said. She looked like she was on the verge of tears just hearing that. "How…? If he was anything like you are to me, how in the world could…?!"

"My dear student," Minwu whispered. "He was nothing like I am to you. If he had you as a student, I am sure he would have taken every advantage of you. I would not trust that man with any girl, or any child for that matter." As he spoke of his teacher, his eyes looked like they surged with hated. Abject, unchecked hatred. It was unlike anything Cantirena had ever seen from him. "You would hate him if you knew the truth. You would hate everything about him, and probably demand to see him dead, if not kill him yourself with your own magic."

If he is still alive when we return to Mysidia… I hate to think on it any further.

END CHAPTER FIVE

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