Dark Skies over Palamecia

Ch 10, part 8

"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 8

Galtea was buzzing with activity. People of all ages were gathered in the center of town around Prince Gordon. There were cheers from everybody to support him from all of them. The sun was just starting to come up, and Gordon north, in the direction of Fynn castle. It was perfectly visible from where he stood. He didn't have time to wait for Minwu. He was ready for it all to be done and over with. Fynn was going to be theirs by the end of the day, regardless.

Ricard came from the east, lifting his spear to command attention. "Your Highness," he called out, catching Gordon's attention. "Firion and the girls have finished their preparations. We are ready to commence."

"All right," he said with a nod. "People of Galtea! Be you of Fynn, Altair, or any other place, lend me your aid! We will take back the capital this very day! Palamecia will govern us no more!"

There was a roar from the crowd. They lifted their weapons, from pitchforks to swords all tempered by Master Tobul, as they watched Gordon climb into the canoe Minwu gave Firion at the very start of their journey. Soon, they were aboard their own homemade rafts following Gordon's canoe. He stood at the front of it, holding up his spear in his left hand. Behind him was Firion and Clarisse, rowing, and in the back was Candice, who held up the white flag of Fynn in one hand, and the beautiful red flag of Kashuon in the other. Leila and her crew of ten pirates were on a few rafts to the side, and Cid was leading a few on his own, too. Paul and Krystal both were on rafts, ready to do all they could to help in the fight.

"You ready for this?" Candice asked in one moment where she caught Clarisse's eye.

"I've been ready for this the day our home was taken from us," Clarisse answered her quickly. "The day my adopted parents were murdered in front of me… the day my little sister went missing… everything about my life changed the day Palamecia attacked Fynn. It's going to change again, this time for the better."

"We'll make Fynn all better, so when Cantirena and Minwu come home, they can live their life in peace," Candice said, smiling. "So they don't have to fight anymore."

Firion said from behind Clarisse, "We put this plan off for days looking for them, and they haven't shown up yet." He was rowing, too. "Yo, Gordon."

"Yes?" Gordon asked. "Is something wrong?"

"Not that I've noticed, but I tend to be slow on the uptake," Firion said, laughing a little at himself. "I just wanted to make sure you're ready to do this. I don't hear you praying or begging anyone to lend you strength to see you through this, so… I just wanted to check on you. That's all."

"Thank you for your consideration," Gordon said, not even turning around to look at him. His eyes were locked on the prize. "But I can't always rely on the strength of others. I've resolved to live my life on my own strength, because in the end, that's all I'll ever have. The moment I start to rely on anyone else… they'll be taken from me."

Firion never stopped to think about it that way. "I'm sorry," was all he could bring himself to say.

"It's fine," Gordon said. "Worry not, Captain Firion, everything will be fine. I have faith in all of us."

"If you don't have faith in times like these, you don't have much else," Clarisse thought aloud. They were crossing Lake Fynn. Every other time she'd been on a boat in the lake, she was fishing. She remembered all of those lazy, peaceful days of her childhood in Fynn as she took a few seconds to look around at her surroundings. The vibes were completely different, but the place was the same. Lake Fynn had not changed, nor would it ever. Just the events around it changed as time passed. In a way, it was comforting to know that the place itself was not different than it used to be. It gave her hope that things could be just as peaceful as they were before, and with that in mind, it strengthened her resolve that much more.

I'm here to avenge you, Mother and Father, Clarisse thought. I'm here to protect you, Cantirena. It will always be our home, no matter where you go.

For a split second, Minwu felt his life force slipping out of his body. His eyes opened and closed without him being able to control them, yet he was unable to see anything. He was both hungry and thirsty, but did not wish to partake of anything. He felt hands touching his skin, but he knew not who they belonged to. Minwu heard voices around him of different volume and tone, though he could not make out whose they were. His body was limp and could not move on its own.

A few moments passed, and Minwu felt warmth seep into his skin and soothe the pain within his wounds. It was the most comforting warmth he'd ever felt. Was the Goddess giving him a new chance at life, or was the Emperor of Palamecia mocking him to revive him enough to torture him again? He didn't know. He knew it must have been some sort of white magic. Nothing else could create such a sensation. His wounds slowly sewed themselves up and his heart found a restful pace to beat, unlike the heavy thumping which was the only sound he could hear for almost as long as he could remember.

His eyes closed again, and he was able to take in a deep breath. Minwu was restored, though his mind and body were still exhausted from the beatings even if he no longer felt the stings from the lashes. It didn't hurt anymore.

"Am I… dead?" Minwu heard his own voice ask aloud, though he wasn't sure if he was the one who said it or not. His eyes still weren't able to focus very well. There was light around him, perhaps from torches on the walls or a fireplace nearby. It took more of the healing magic before his vision came back to the way it was supposed to be, and he found Cantirena kneeling over him with her hands over his heart.

"Don't move," she whispered, the pale warm light steady in her hands. "You're still in bad shape."

"Did he bring me to you so you'd serve him?" Minwu asked weakly. "Did you… beg for my life?"

"Actually, no," Cantirena said gently. "I woke up here, alone, and you were next to me… bleeding all over everything. I decided to do what you would do in the situation and put my spirit to work. Try not to move too much. I'm not done yet."

"…where is… he, anyway?" Minwu asked. He was still dizzy, so he wasn't going to sit up anytime soon, but he was coherent enough to try to assess the situation.

"If I knew where Mateus was, I would tell you," she stated simply. "Last I saw him, I was trying to kill him. I must have dreamt that, because I don't remember most of what happened to make me draw my magic against him. Truthfully, I don't think I'm a match for his magical prowess, considering he has the Demon King in his body." Cantirena pointed her fingers together, making a sort of triangle shape. The magic was a bit more intense now. Instead of casting a revival spell, now she was putting all her effort into healing him completely.

"You are his antithesis," Minwu said quietly. "He fears your capabilities, because you have the power which rivals his. The power of the Goddess could match the powers of the Demon King in combat. If Mateus himself is not aware of it, then the Demon King surely is. He would make you his servant to prevent you from turning those powers against him. He probably just sees it as yet another gem in his crown to add to the others which comes from making you into his Empress."

"Minwu, I…"

The door opened nearby and in walked Lady Airu. The moment she was inside, she closed the door behind her and locked it. She was quiet in her approach, until she reached the foot of the bed.

"Minwu," she said in a hushed volume. "I need your help, if you can manage."

"Lady Airu!" Cantirena said. "You hold tight here, Minwu, I've got a Queen Regent's ass to kick."

"Hold!" Minwu said, "What a coincidence, my lady, because I need your help… if you can manage."

"Wait a minute," Cantirena said hesitantly. Once the healing spell was finished, she turned her attention to Airu completely. "You want me to be your son's bride. Whatever the hell it is you want, you have to promise me that you won't force me into the relationship just because it keeps your son sane, or whatever."

"My dear, I do not wish to force you into anything. On the contrary, he wanted me to help me persuade you into it. He thought perhaps my backing would make you accept his offer easier than… well… what happened. The truth is that I wish to free my son of the possession, but he will not let me be free in the palace unless I act like I support his plans completely," Airu explained softly. "And I told him I was coming here to check on the two of you, to see if you were ready to accept his offer… Cantirena, he had Minwu tortured to within an inch of his life. I don't want to force you into anything but if you want Minwu live, you should accept his offer."

"I won't accept any trade like that. You said you don't want to force me into being with Mateus, and then you say that?" Cantirena asked. "You think I'd give up my love for Minwu like that? Because if you do, you're wrong. I love Minwu, Lady Airu. This is not up for negotiation."

"…no," Minwu said, making Cantirena look over at him. "My life is of little consequence. However… if he will show you where the Stone of Iluia is, perhaps you can keep him distracted while Airu and I create the crystal we need to destroy it…"

"But- but- if I accept his offer, you know what he's going to do to me, right?" Cantirena asked. "You know he's gonna have his way with me."

"I'm aware of this," Minwu said, smirking just a little. "I'm also aware of the fact that you have enjoyed his touch before, emotional implications or not. Cantirena, what matters the most is not what happens to us on a personal level at this point. We have to do all we can to save everybody. We need to work in a way where we will not be seen. You can give us time. And remember, even if he does do what he did to you last time, we saved you before. I never thought I was going to have my student back, but I did. Your sisters broke the curse the Demon King put on you. Cosmos knows it wasn't me that did it. Though I'm sure if Mateus knew about it, it would be a game changer, too…" He pulled himself up just enough to where his shoulders were not parallel to the rest of his body, so that he might give Airu a stern look. "I'm guessing the way you want me to help you is by creating that crystal. Paul gave me the book you gave him and I have it memorized, but there are still parts that I have yet to solve."

"We will get to that," Airu said gently. "So, Cantirena, shall I speak to the Emperor on your behalf, then?"

Minwu put his hand on Cantirena. "I don't know if I'm making it out of here alive. I cannot make you any promises. But if I do survive, know that my heart is yours."

"You can't just give up, Minwu. Remember what you told me in the forest outside Mysidia? What becomes of someone who takes another life?"

"…yes. We must live for those whose lives we have taken, to do not just our part in helping the world, but their parts as well," Minwu said. "I remember."

"That means we have to get back to Fynn together so we can start rebuilding everything all ready," she said. "Because I'll be damned if I'm going to marry anybody but you, Minwu."

"Even if it is considered taboo? Even if I'm nearly twice your age?"

Cantirena shrugged. "You know me better than anyone else alive. You've done nothing but teach, encourage, and love me since we've met. There's nothing I wouldn't do for you, Minwu. Even if it means now I have to go and distract a man in a way I'd much rather distract you in." She bent down and kissed his forehead, but he pulled her down further into a real kiss. "Goddess, what I wouldn't do…"

Lady Airu blushed a little. She didn't want to look at that intense display of affection. "It's not like you'll be apart forever. Even Mateus is aware of the fact that you go crazy without Minwu. He wouldn't dare jeopardize his chances of having you… but I cannot keep him waiting long."

Cantirena stood up on her own two feet and tried to force a smile, but it didn't come out. "Perfect opportunity to practice my acting, then," she said. "All right, Lady Airu. Tell good ol' Empy that I accept my fate and will come to his side, but also tell him that right now I'm distraught or in an emotional state where I can't handle being around him at the moment. I dunno, make something up."

"…why?"

"I need alone time with Minwu, that's why."

"We've no time for this," both Minwu and Airu grunted at the same time.

"I don't care what we do and do not have time for," Cantirena declared sternly. "I'm tired, I'm hungry, I'm emotionally unstable, and I just saved my true love from bleeding to fucking death. Give me a frickin' break before I break somebody. I don't want to rush into having to run Mateus arms right now. I'm so crabby I would blow the whole thing without even trying."

Minwu chuckled quietly. "My love, you know we can't do it that way. Mateus won't harm you. He'll probably break your heart or your psyche, but I know for a fact that physical harm is not his intent. So be brave for me. We'll get through this."

Cantirena crossed her arms. "Oh all right, fine… Airu, go tell Mateus I'm weeping for his forgiveness." She made a fake sniffle. "Waaaah, I tried to kill the man I don't love because he told me the man I do love is dead, waaaaah. Forgive me for being vengeful, waaah."

"Okay, enough sarcasm," Airu said. "If you're going to act that part, get into position. Minwu, act like death warmed over. You're asleep. Less said between you two, the better."

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