Ch 9, part 3
"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.
Palamecia was the driest place in the entire world without a doubt. Working tirelessly in the fields outside the palace, all of the female prisoners of war had been gathered and condemned to slavery under the orders of the Empire. Anyone over the age of six years old were sent to the camp, while those too young to work were often sent to death. It was in this hell pit that the lovely former Queen Regent Airu found the darkest parts of her heart. The blue haired girl who kept her spirit up was long gone now, but she was left in this thankless hole to die. She lost count of how many days it had been since she watched Paul take Candice away. Just focused on picking new vegetables that she would never have the chance to eat herself, Airu felt her life force fade away over time. There was nothing to live for anymore.
Soon she was stopped by a hand on her shoulder. No one had ever interrupted her work before, so it came as a surprise.
"Have you thought of your sins?"
Airu gasped, turning around to see Mateus was standing there behind her. Even though she was on the verge of death, having eaten nothing but a slice of bread every day since she was brought to this camp, she tried to keep her bearings in front of him. She hadn't uttered a single word since she prayed for the Goddess to look after her son the night Candice left. Her voice was not audible at first, though her mouth moved just a little. She had so much she wanted to say, but no will to force it.
"You may return home," Mateus said coolly. "I do not see a reason to punish you further if you understand the sins you have committed, Mother."
If Airu had any moisture left in her body, she would have cried. She wanted to cry, it was plain to see on her face. The Emperor extended his hand to her and she stared at it, confused.
"Come," he said. "Take my hand."
The woman stared at her son's face. All she had was questions. Why would he even bother to come see her, unless it was some sort of plot? Airu knew the kind of man Mateus had become, no matter how gentle he was trying to be right there. This was just a mask for something much more sinister. It took all of her strength to utter one single word. "No," was the only thing she could say. After managing to speak that, she fell back onto the patch of plants she had been tending to, weakly grunting as if the fall hurt her back more than it should have.
"No?" Mateus asked. "You wish to remain here as a slave?" He stepped over so that he could stare down into her expressionless face. Her eyes revealed that she was no longer the headstrong woman she used to be. Airu was broken, inside and out. "I would rather not have you die, Mother."
"…leave… me…" Airu struggled to speak. Her throat was so dry, her vocal cords so sore from not saying anything for so long. "…to… die…" She closed her eyes defiantly, refusing to allow him his satisfaction of having broken her. "…alone…"
Mateus shook his head. He snapped his fingers, calling a few of the guards to his side. "Carry her to the palace. I will not allow the Queen Regent to die so pointlessly," he said. Mateus watched the guards pick up his mother together. They tried to make her stand, but she wouldn't do it.
"Your Grace… the woman refuses to stand."
"I told you to carry her. It is your duty to obey your Emperor." Mateus stated it without any emotion at all. "Must I repeat myself?"
One guard picked her up and carried her across his chest. Airu's face was devoid of expression, though her eyes were half-opened. She had no thoughts, no words. The only thing she felt was despair. The once strong woman wanted nothing but to die in the heat of the desert kingdom she grew to love so much over the course of her stay there. Airu would have rather died because of Palamecia's heat than live as some tool for her son's malicious conflict on the world.
"It is time to eat our midday meal… I want a roasted chocobo. What say you, Mother? A glass of wine, a plate full of pasta, and served on top of it, the large, tender breast of a chocobo? And to finish it off, a glorious chocolate pastry. Doesn't it sound perfect?"
"…kill… me…" Airu answered his question so very quietly. He could barely hear her plea. "…let… me… die…"
"That is no way to speak to the man who spared you from a life of slavery," Mateus said, reaching over to put his hand in her blonde hair. He gripped it as hard as he could, forcing her to look at him. "You will live, because I deem you worthy of living. I rule this world and all in it. I decide who lives and who dies. You will live and you will be thankful for the opportunity." When he let go of her hair, he watched her all ready darkened eyes become darker. He was pushing her further down into that spiral of hatred, and Mateus was well aware of it. His mother was now his puppet, and even if she wanted to die, she would not be allowed to. "Now, Mother, there is something I would like to tell you. Your birthday is quickly approaching, and I've decided that the whole country will be on holiday during your celebration. We will have a tournament in your honor. You will be honored and the whole country will sing your name, even before my own for that time. So, be prepared for it!"
"No…" Airu whispered.
"What was that?" Mateus asked. "Was that a 'thank you for honoring me, my beloved son'?"
Her head only sank slightly to the side. She wanted to scream at him at the top of her lungs. Mateus was more cruel than any other being she'd ever known, in both fairy tales and during the course of her life. What kind of mother was she, to allow this to happen to her only child?
"That's it," Mateus said gently. "Come, let us dine on the finest food available…"