Dark Skies over Palamecia

Ch 1, Part 5

"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.

Part 5

Bafsk smelled like a mix of coal, tar, and metal even from inside the airship. It was very obvious when Mateus' ship landed. Mateus noticed that Cantirena had fallen asleep next to him. His head ached, as if lightning was surging through it. His visit here to check on the progress of his Dreadnaught Warship was going to have to be quick. He needed to get back home to his castle to rest. He tapped Cantirena on the shoulder.

"Rise," he ordered, stepping off of the bed.

Cantirena hardly knew what was going on. She hadn't had the time to really relax, so when it came along, she took it. Before she had the chance to assess her situation, she rolled off the bed and landed on the floor with a thud. "Many pardons, Your Grace," she said, pulling her dress on properly. She didn't want things exposed that shouldn't have been, after all. "I did not mean to-"

Mateus lifted his hand, and she stopped speaking. "You need not explain," he said curtly. "You wouldn't be of much use to anyone if you are exhausted. Now, there are a few things I wish to address before we start on the tasks that I need done here. When we are together in public, unless I give you permission to, you are not to speak…" Then he cracked a tiny grin. "But when we are alone, I do not mind hearing you."

"Understood," Cantirena said, bowing her head.

"Otherwise," the Emperor continued, "I've brought you here to lead the construction on my warship. You will be put in charge, and upon its completion, you will come to Castle Palamecia and report to me directly."

"You want me to lead, sire?" she asked.

"I'd expect nothing less of a Palamecian princess," Mateus said, stepping closer to her. "Which is what you will be if you can lead this effort with minimal accidents."

"My lord, I am honored, but I am not sure if I-"

"The law states I cannot marry anyone but royalty," he added. "If I were to make you into royalty, then…" Mateus looked away from her. "…the possibilities are endless."

Did he just say that? Is that really what I heard? She thought curiously. That was a warped confession, but… but…

Cantirena smiled at that idea. She wished she could run up to him and hug him, though she knew that wasn't the best idea. "Your ship will be completed with no mishaps, my Emperor. I swear it. This world will know of your great glory!" She grabbed the hood she took from Fynn and placed it over her head.

"Excellent," Mateus said. "Come, there is some things I must do before I leave." He opened the door to outside the ship, and they walked up the stairs up to the top of the hull.

Mountains towered above the tiny village outside. It looked no bigger than Galtea. Right next to the little town was an airship that looked like it could eat about two thousand of the little one they were standing on right then. And he said it wasn't finished yet?

Cantirena followed him as he walked down the steps down to the ground. He was greeted by a large group of workers, who looked like they were being forced to bow before him at swordpoint.

Of course they weren't going to bow before him willingly, Cantirena thought. He… is trying to take over the entire world. As she looked into the group, there were children not over the age of five in there. Child labor, too? I know it's the most effective means, but… Her heart ached for the children.

Mateus turned around to notice that she was eyeing the crowd. "Does something trouble you?" he asked. "This is your workforce. People of all sizes to do all sorts of tasks…" he put his hand on her shoulder. "If you cannot do this, tell me now. I will find some other to lead this team."

"No, sire," Cantirena whispered. "I gave my word."

I promised to serve Mateus, she reminded herself. This is nothing. At least he isn't killing the children. He hasn't taken swords to the young ones. Dictators in our history have done much worse than my Emperor.

"Dutiful workers," Mateus said loudly to address the group of workers who were on their knees. "Your Emperor is pleased with the work thus far on the Dreadnaught Warship, but time runs short. I need this finished within the week. I leave the Dark Princess here to lead. Her words are my words." He nodded. "Do not fail me. If this is not completed in a week… all of you, including my emissary herself… will pay the price." He then turned away. "I leave."

"My lord," Cantirena said quickly.

He turned and glared at her as if to remind her where she was. She did say she wasn't going to speak while in public with him without his express permission. "I leave."

Cantirena bowed before him.

You haven't even told me what needs to be done to finish this. I've never built an airship before! She thought angrily. You've given me malnourished, exhausted, unskilled prisoners of war for workers! I love you more than I can say, but even I know… even I know that you're sending all of these people to be slaughtered!

"Do what I have charged you with, and you shall have your reward," Mateus said, walking back onto the smaller airship. Everyone heard the propellers flutter heavily in the wind before the airship took off, which was when all of the workers were allowed to stand again.

But… how will I actually manage to do that? She thought, standing back up.

"Milady Princess," a dark knight said behind her. "As the Emperor's personal eyes and ears here, please let yourself take comfort in the fact that we work all of them as hard as possible to get the maximum amount of output."

Cantirena shook her head. Something had to be done about this. "Is this how the Emperor wishes it to be done?" she asked.

"No. This plan was started by General Borghen," the guard answered.

"Wait! General Borghen?!" she couldn't believe her ears. That man was her sister's personal teacher. He actually survived Fynn? Impossible. If he had survived Fynn, as a member of the Royal Guard, he would have gone with Princess Hilda and her entourage. Cantirena put her hands on her hips. "If Borghen made the plans, then they are not the Emperor's plans. I am aware of what the Emperor desires, and I will direct the plans from now on. Is that clear?"

"Yes, Princess," the guard said, giving her a salute.

Cantirena had a lot to process but not a lot of time to do it in. It was time for that brain that Minwu always commended to be put to use. How would Minwu accomplish something that Hilda ordered in such strenuous conditions, if she decided she was going on a warpath and wanted to take over the entire world? She tried to imagine her teacher's constant calm mindset. He never got upset at her for anything, no matter how much she goofed up. Cantirena needed that inner strength.

Minwu's words echoed in her mind. The first rule of being a white mage is to love all people, no matter who they are or where they are from. We are all creations of our Goddess Cosmos, and we should all be treated as such. If you see someone in need, you help them. Now, I don't know if you want to be a white mage, but if you want to be, you must take this rule to heart.

"All right. I want a status report. Show me what's been done and what needs to be done," she said promptly. "In the meantime, let all of the workers rest. Allow them a meal and a nap during our downtime."

"But-"

She growled, "Listen, soldier, if we're going to appease His Grace and have the least amount of mishaps in this endeavor, we need the people to be in their top condition. If they can rest and eat, they will work much better than they will now."

"Milady-"

"My words are the Emperor's words!" Cantirena yelled at him. "You would not talk back to the Emperor, would you?"

"Never. Many pardons, princess, it's just that we have never been led by someone who stops to feed the workers before," the guard said carefully. "Please, forgive me."

"Perhaps this is why you've never made much progress," she grunted at him. "I know that the Emperor would appreciate it if people would willingly work for him and accept him as their ruler, instead of him having to force them."

Though, with the way he was… I'm not sure if he'd actually care if he had to force them or not. It's less about him right now, more about saving the people who he's practically threatened to kill if they don't finish this project before his deadline…

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