Dark Skies over Palamecia

Ch 9, part 5

"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 5

The lady Airu woke abruptly as if the dream she had snapped her from what was a mostly disjointed, terrible sleep. She was lying in a bed, her body aching and sore. She didn't have the strength to move. As she looked about the room, she found it to be familiar. It was the same one that Mateus had her taken from, the day she was sent to the slave camp. Everything inside it was the same, except for one thing.

She wasn't the same.

A nurse was sitting at her side, reading a book. The woman was clothed from head to toe much like what Airu remembered the Mysidian people wore. It had been a long time since she came into contact with anyone from Mysidia, though the last time it happened; she found them to be stern and somewhat strange, but overall very nice people. It was for a political gathering right after she married into the Palamecian family. They came to detail the situation in Mysidia, which was rare for any of the magic people to ever do. Her husband, the previous Emperor, gave them food. The crops in Mysidia were not there that harvest season. Airu remembered very well that she was all ready pregnant with Mateus by that time. Airu let out a barely audible sigh when remembering that. Life was much simpler when she was still pregnant.

When the nurse looked away from her book, she noticed that Airu's eyes were open, though only about half way. "My lady," she said. "His Majesty has given me strict orders to look after you." The woman had an accent, like Airu expected. "You must be able to walk and present yourself before your birthday. He has said that if you are not ready before the celebration, then…"

"…then you will pay the price," Mateus' voice finished from the doorway. "What did I tell you about notifying her of your situation?" He walked in and held up his hand like he was going to charge a spell right in the nurse's face. "I have no room for those who disobey my orders."

"Have…. Mercy," Airu said, reaching up to Mateus. "Emperor, have… mercy…" Her voice was weak. He could sense her sadness. She did, after all, refer to him by his title and not by his name. He smiled.

"If you like her so much, I can let you keep her as your attendant," Mateus said, putting his hand down. "Be thankful the former Queen has deemed you worthy of living. You will serve Lady Airu until your death. Is that understood?"

"Yes, Your Majesty," the nurse whimpered softly, bowing so low before him that her forehead almost touched the floor. Watching her bow, it reminded him of Cantirena bowing before him when he first spoke to her. It made him somewhat nostalgic for those days, when victory over the rebellion was so close. He missed his lovely toy.

"Now," Mateus said quietly. "Mother, your attendant will help you dress so that you may come dine with me. When we tried to feed you before, you seemed to need more rest than nourishment. So, come with me so that we can put something in your system. Something that will bring you back to your former radiance would be the best, yes?"

Airu had to play her cards right if she wanted to live. Part of her wanted to die, but now she had someone counting on her. The servant girl would be put to death the moment she was not there to save her. "Yes," she said quietly, "Sounds… lovely."

"I knew you would see it my way," Mateus said, once again extending his hand to her. "As long as you understand the circumstances as to why you are here, there will be no difficulties." He lifted her so that she would stand, and then pulled her in for a hug. He knew that was a great way to get on his mother's good side. "Oh, that's right. I didn't tell you that I've chosen a bride, did I? A lovely young girl with beautiful blue hair, she's a vision of purity and elegance."

"Bride…?" Airu asked. "Blue hair?" The image of Candice came to her mind, but then, she remembered what Paul had said. There were other girls with blue hair in the world, too. There couldn't be that many, considering it was so very rare a hair color.

"Yes," Mateus said. He was beaming, though it was hard for Airu to tell if he was being genuine about his happiness then or not. "Unfortunately, she is not here, so I cannot introduce you, but that will change by your birthday. She will be attending the tournament in your honor, you see. You will meet her then."

When I kill her teacher and claim her for my own… forever… he thought, knowing that without the shadow of a doubt that it was a fool-proof plan.

Airu could only ask one thing. "Does she… love you?"

What an irritating question! Mateus thought angrily. If you were anyone else…!

"My bride adores me and cannot wait to come live here with us in our palace. She's all ready come to visit. Stayed a whole week. The poor dear didn't want to leave me, but she has things to do at home before she comes here," he explained. His voice was like sugar. He spoke so sweetly that Airu had a hard time from feeling sickened by it. "I'm so excited to have her come home to me. I miss her very much."

As she spoke, she found it easier to speak again, like her voice was coming back to life the more she used it. Words came much easier. "She sounds like the perfect girl," Airu said carefully. "I am happy for you, my son… my Emperor."

"Oh, Mother, just wait until you hear the tiny scampering feet of your grandchildren through the halls," he said. "You will have want for nothing more than to hear their laughter."

Children… Airu thought worriedly. As much as I want grandchildren… you… you would not make the best of parents…

"What is that look for?" Mateus asked. "Are you displeased?"

"Heavens, no," Airu said. "I only worry for your sake. For you, and for the great Palamecian Empire." She pulled away from her son only to sit back on the bed. "If we are to dine, then please, allow me to dress before you escort me anywhere. I… I fear I am not ready to face the castle in my current condition." She closed her eyes. She needed time to think without being stared at like she was.

"Very well," Mateus said. "Your handmaiden will assist you. I will not dine without you, Mother. We must be a family for the new heirs that will surely be on their way very soon."

"Yes, yes. Children need steady families," Airu agreed, watching Mateus turn to leave the chamber.

"And remember, servant girl… if anything happens to my mother… you will be the one to endure the punishment," Mateus said, walking out the door. A guard who stood out in the hall shut it the moment the Emperor was no longer in the room.

After a few moments passed, Airu shook her head in disbelief. "I have to get out of here," she said quietly. "I need to get away…"

"But, milady," the servant girl whispered, "You would be hunted by the Emperor."

"I would," Airu said with a nod. "Help me dress, err… what should I call you, miss?"

"My name is Lina," the girl said. "My sister Leila said she would return… but she has yet to."

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