Ch 10, 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.
Minwu did as he was bid. After he was dressed in the clean servant robes provided, he did not leave Cantirena's side. It was obvious to him that even after all this time, she knew where she was going. He followed her though the elaborately decorated halls. For anyone seeing this castle's interior the first time, it was always a dizzying experience. He couldn't believe how much gold there was everywhere, even lining against parts of the wall and the furniture. Everything shimmered like it was to be some sort of heavenly palace, though those Minwu crossed paths with thought very differently about it. The servants who were bound to court members all looked down at the marble floors. None of them cared about the extravagant building they lived in. Many of them wore chains or leashes, and only moved when they were drug in the direction their masters wished them to go. Minwu wore no chains, but he knew that if he got the idea of exploring, that was going to be the first idea on anyone's mind.
Cantirena said nothing to him as they walked, but every now and then she stopped to make sure he was still there with her. She was deathly afraid of someone else claiming him as their servant, and then she would never see him again. She had no way of keeping him safe if someone else took him from her. She needed his companionship now more than ever.
"My Empress has come home," Mateus said from his throne, causing everyone else in the palace to turn and look directly at him. Cantirena kept walking towards him, Minwu following close behind. "A glorious day for all of Palamecia," he announced. "Bring a feast, my love is hungry."
"Many pardons, Your Grace," Cantirena said, looking up at him from the center of the audience hall.
Everyone in the court turned to look at her instantly. There were murmurs, very similar to when she stood before the Circle of Mages. She hated that feeling of being stared at. She wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible.
"I'm not going to eat," she said, shaking a bit from her nervousness. "I wish to retire instead."
"Then do so," Mateus said, giving her a nod of agreement. "Minwu, please, escort my lady to our quarters. I have business to finish."
"Minwu?" voices from the court echoed in question. "What's a rebel doing here?"
"Quiet!" the Emperor roared loudly, standing up. Everyone in the room except for Cantirena and Minwu were bowing before him instantly. "That man belonged to the rebellion, but Altair is nothing but dust, and Fynn the second capital of the Palamecian Empire. It only makes sense that, after serving a princess for so long, he comes into the service of this court, serving another royal lady as an attendant and an advisor."
"I'll buy him from you, Empress," a voice said behind her. "I'll buy the great royal mage of Fynn from you, at any asking price."
"Anything that twat will give you, I will double that!" another voice said from across the room.
"He'll make a wonderful addition to our brothel, he's so beautiful! He'll make me richer than I all ready am!"
"Hold your tongues!" Cantirena shouted angrily. The room fell silent. How dare they even suggest such things? She loved Minwu with all of her heart. There was no way she would ever, ever think of selling him like a slave!
Minwu was surprised to hear such a tone from his closest companion. What they said really got under her skin, he thought.
"I do not value your gold, your stock, or your businesses. There is nothing you could give me that has as much value as Minwu does to me. Minwu is mine. You try even touching him and I'll have your hands chopped off!" Cantirena turned to look at Minwu, taking his hand. She felt her eyes burn with tears. She was afraid that maybe Mateus would accept a terrible idea like that, considering he hated Minwu quite a bit. Minwu hugged her, offering silent comfort.
Let me protect you for once, she thought, because right now, I have far more power than you do.
Mateus clapped enthusiastically. "Brilliant," he said. "You carry the tone which belongs to the Empress of the mightiest power in the world." He stopped for a moment, and his tone turned cold. "Sir, you who owns the brothel, will you step forward?"
One of the men clothed in colorful robes came out of the crowd, dragging chains with beautiful girls behind him. "I am he," the man said. "Would any of my girls tickle your fancy, Your Imperial Majesty?" He had a voice that reminded both Minwu and Cantirena of Borghen. He was a sniveling man who would fight for the scraps of at a royal man's feet, no matter the price or the self-humiliation.
"You have brought tears to my Empress' eyes," Mateus said.
"Forgive me," the man said, bowing so low that he drug three of the girls on his chains down with him. "I did not mean to-"
"There is only on suitable punishment for one who brings tears to the eyes of my Empress," Mateus said again, resting his head on his fist. "Remove his eyes."
"What? But, but, forgive me, sire, I did not mean any offense!" the brothel owner cried as two guards grabbed his arms.
"Wait!" Cantirena said, stopping the court once again. "The man needs his eyes if he is to be of any use to you or your kingdom, Your Grace." She looked away from Minwu, still holding on to him. "I believe that there is a more suitable punishment for him."
"You are the one he offended," Mateus said gently. "If you wish to give him his punishment, then please do so."
Minwu frowned. What was she going to do now? This court was nothing like the court of Fynn. It was more ruthless and violent. In Fynn, slavery was illegal on top of everything else.
Cantirena let go of Minwu, but as she walked, she turned to him and motioned for him to follow her. She went up to the brothel owner. "Making me cry isn't exactly a capital crime," she said. "I am as human as the rest of all of you, and that means I have emotions just the same. However… bragging about your becoming rich because of you selling the bodies of those you own? That is detestable." She looked up to Mateus for a moment. "Even with his eyes removed, Your Grace, he will still continue making money by selling the girls on his chains." Cantirena crossed her arms. "This will not do. Filthy pig, your brothel will be destroyed. As for your slaves?" She snatched the chains from his hands and threw them on the floor. "Your slaves belong to the Empire of Palameca."
"But… but what will I do if I no longer have my brothel?!" the merchant whined.
"I couldn't care less what you do," Cantirena said. "But I have spared you pain and blindness for the rest of your life. You should be thankful that I'm not heartless."
I must commend you for your tact, Minwu thought. Selling the bodies of others regardless of the circumstance is indeed wrong on moral levels, and on legal levels where we are from… I believe I would have made the same choice.
"Empress," the merchant said angrily. "I would rather be blind for the rest of my life than without my brothel! I have collected these girls from the slave labor camps, and without me, that's exactly where they will go! You have condemned them back to their terrible fates that I spared them from! I gave all of my girls a better life! How could you even…!" He struggled to get his arms free from the guards, but he was weak. Cantirena guessed that this merchant was weaker than Borghen was.
"He is raising his voice to the Empress," Mateus said, annoyed. He waved his free hand dismissively. "Remove his tongue and his eyes for being an ungrateful wretch."
Cantirena growled. "I spared you bodily harm!" she shouted. "I saved you from-"
Minwu noticed the guards were coming around the merchant and he slowly pulled Cantirena away from the scene. He put his hand over her eyes so she wouldn't have to see the bloody mess of two daggers removing the merchant's eyes and severing of his tongue.
"Day one among my court, and you've made your presence known to all," Mateus said proudly. He climbed down from his throne, and all of the people below bowed as he walked in front of them. "My lovely Empress, you are a merciful woman. I know that your home country did not have many of the customs we do here in Palamecia, but we do not mind that." He then gave a stern glare to Minwu. "You've done well, Minwu. Please, before she must see any more horror, take her to rest. This is not the place for someone so gentle."
Minwu shook his head. "I do not believe this is the place for anyone with a heart," he said quietly. "But, yes. I will have my lady retire before things get any worse."
Mateus reached over and removed Minwu's hands from Cantirena's face. "It will hurt less as time passes. This is a cutthroat place. It is common for people to die on a daily basis in this court. It is fitting for those who deal in broken love and forsaken justice, is it not?" He reached under her chin, forcing her to look up at him. He could tell her resolve was growing a little weaker, just by being around court members and their dark, selfish natures. "You cannot save everyone, especially those who do not wish to be saved. That man would rather keep at his evil to keep his wealth than to keep parts of his body. Fear not, now he will never spy another pretty girl or convince any man to consort with them… that is, if he lives through the amount of blood he has lost."
She felt a single tear slide down her cheek. Cantirena once wanted to come to this land to lead it down a path of prosperity. Seeing this unfold before her eyes was nothing short of a nightmare.
"I know," he said. "This land is corrupt, more corrupt than any place in this world…"
And whose fault do you think that is?! Minwu thought. Who do you think allows slavers to exist in the first place? And to allow the selling of another's body? You are the problem with Palamecia, Demon King Iluia! You're the one who has allowed all these atrocities to fill the place that was once known as the Holy Land.
"I beg your leave, Your Grace," Cantirena said softly. "I can bear no more of this travesty today."
"Yes," Mateus agreed. He bent down to kiss her forehead, right where the jewel of ascension used to be. "Go, rest. I will come to see you later."
Minwu led her away. The maids down the hall told him where to take her. Minwu assumed it would be the royal bedchamber, and if he was right, he would be able to find that Stone of Iluia that Cantirena spoke of sleeping under the last time she was here. That was his plan, anyway. Let her rest and then investigate as much as he could before he was caught.
"Minwu," she said, pulling him from his thoughts. "I was scared in there."
"You sounded quite forceful," Minwu said.
"I… I was not going to let them take you from me…" Cantirena said. "I would have put them to death if they tried." She sniffled a few times. "What's come over me, Minwu?! I was willing to kill them if it meant keeping you all to myself! I have to keep you safe…"
"Do not fret over me, my lady," Minwu answered. "Even if I were bought and sold, my heart still belongs to that of Fynn. I would still do all I could to help the Wild Rose Rebellion, no matter where I am or who I'm bound to."
"…I don't want you to serve the rebellion," she said, tightly clinging on his arm. "I want you to serve me!"