|The Libation Bearers
Author: Autumn Shadows PM
Nine years after Zidane went back into the Iifa Tree. All is well and good until Lindblum is attacked by a mysterious phenomenon: the stealing of souls. But the main question is: Does the mind really rule over the heart?Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Adventure - Chapters: 14 - Words: 56,030 - Reviews: 20 - Favs: 2 - Follows: 1 - Updated: 06-27-08 - Published: 07-28-07 - id: 3688256
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
The Libation Bearers
There was silence. Zidane Tribal awoke with a start at the sudden realization that the sun was shining on the outside of his window. He sleepily raised his head and looked down to find a mess of papers below him. Once again, he had fallen asleep on his desk the night, or was it morning, before. He felt a pain in his back and groaned. It had happened too many times before and he had always vowed he'd never do it again. Of course, those promises were always broken. His deadline was approaching soon and he needed to finish script. He groggily yawned and pushed a lock of hair away from his face. His tail lazily rose and stretched.
First, he examined the writing below him. A smile formed on his lips when he noticed that he had written "the end" on the paper below. He then noticed the uncapped pen. He silently cursed humorously at the fact that the ink possibly dried throughout the long hours of the night. He picked it up and shook it a bit, realizing that there was no longer any amount of fluid left. The ink had caked in the barrel. He then threw the pen in the trash bin next to his desk where other balls of paper were thrown.
Zidane then gathered the papers in an orderly fashion, taking note of the numbers on the top of the pages. He then remembered that all he had to do was get the script edited and revised with Ruby. Other than that, he was finished. Seven years as a playwright was a tough job. Besides that, he was still young and had a busy schedule every night. For a person of the age of twenty-five, Zidane was pretty accomplished. He had written five bestselling plays in both Alexandria and Lindblum. Many from other villages, towns, and cities, had come to see his creations. Being proud of his work was tough too. He had been a thespian in the past but he found himself to be nitpicky about too many things.
Perfection was the best way to describe his writing. Zidane had been noted as a master writer that was often on the same levels as the classical writers. His plays were always performed in the royal court of the Alexandrian castle where people came every weekend to watch. There were plays four times a week. Ruby's company performed on two of those nights.
Ruby had formed a company nine years ago. Zidane had helped her when he made it back to Alexandra two years after. His plays were all love stories that many people enjoyed watching. They were especially popular with young women; a breakthrough in fine arts history. Plays used to only be popular with the elderly, but lately, many younger viewers had come to watch. Perhaps it was because he was young himself.
He had stopped performing when he started writing. There was so much inspiration, actually. Zidane often found himself bringing his writing materials wherever he went just in case he found something interesting while on the streets. Life was the base of his research. Not only did he learn something new everyday but he always discovered something ancient; something eternal. People changed, yet they still stayed the same. Why was it only recently that he was touched by such a feeling?
A knock interrupted his thoughts. He perked up and turned around to face the doorway.
"Come in," he said sleepily.
A maid opened the door and shyly walked inside. She carried a small basin with a towel underneath it. Zidane tried not to watch her but carefully examined her. From the looks of it, she looked no older than sixteen. Her frame was small and skinny and her hair was neatly tied up in a bun. He recalled that she had brought in his washing water a couple times already. She was a nice young girl and she was always very polite.
"Your washing basin," she stated obviously.
"Thank you," Zidane thanked her simply.
He chuckled as he watched her leave. It was nine years ago when he was her age. Over the years, he had grown wiser and calmer. The age of twenty-five was still young. However, he was definitely not a kid anymore. Of course, that was the new issue. Many other men his age were already beginning to start their own families. More were already married. His lifestyle had caused the very idea to be forbidden. There was also another problem.
He was in love with someone else.
Zidane walked over to the vanity and picked up the small, white towel. He gazed into the mirror and examined his face. Before proceeding to scoop water through his hands, he looked out of the window towards the tallest balcony. The queen resided in those quarters sometimes and he often strayed away from his work to watch her.
They had known each other for nine years. It was definite that she was the first girl he ever truly fell in love with. It was also possible that she would be the last. Throughout the years, she had changed as well. Her body grew thinner and fragile due to the fact that she rarely left the palace for the exception of the frequent trips to Lindblum. She was also more exhausted every day. On the brighter side, she was more confident in her decisions and was never afraid to order people around. Zidane admired her power and respected it just the same.
She was also single to that very day. Over the last five years, especially recently, many suitors came by the palace to try to woo her. Being independent, Garnet had refused all. Of course, Zidane was well aware that there would come a day when she would have to accept. He hated the thought but unlike the days of his youth, he understood that she had to keep her place. He had to keep his.
Sighing at the thought, he finally scooped a fair amount of water with his large hands. It was cool and comforting against his face. He had already grown used to the service given at the castle: fresh water was always available, the food was always hearty yet healthy, he was able to get simple transportation, and there was that ample amount of privacy. Each day was a luxury. Of course, he never really flaunted it like how he thought he would when he was younger.
Another knock sounded on his door. He hurriedly picked up the towel again and rubbed his face gently. He beckoned the visitor as soon as he set the towel down and quickly combed his hair.
"Sir," said a tall knight.
Zidane quickly recognized the man as Adelbert Steiner himself. He smiled and motioned Steiner to come in. Despite the tense they faced years ago, they had grown close. Steiner, over forty, was almost like a father to him. Zidane reached for a ribbon so he could tie his hair.
"Good morning, Steiner," he said calmly. "What brings you here this morning?"
"The Queen requests your audience," Steiner answered. "Miss Eiko arrived here this morning."
"Eiko?" Zidane echoed with wonder. "How strange. She usually lets us know when she's coming. She never really just comes uninvited ... not that she isn't but ... that's something different."
"So it seems," Steiner said thoughtfully. "But her majesty was urgent about the whole matter so you must come immediately."
"Will do," Zidane agreed.
Without another word, he followed Steiner out of the room and into the hallway. The palace was quiet since it was still early in the morning. There were only a few maids out. The palace had been renovated in the past year. The hallways were extended and there were many new amenities too. There were too many newfangled inventions such as the autobuggy. A parking garage was built just for the supply. The kitchens were also reinvented and more organized. It was strange that the palace used to be so old fashioned compared to the one in Lindblum. Now, they were almost comparable in size and technology.
The throne room was also a lot larger and, of course, more majestic. As they entered, Zidane looked around, gazing at the new stained-glass windows. Garnet sat in her throne with casual clothes. She wore a simple red, long-sleeved, cotton shirt with a long light brown skirt. Her hair was shoulder length and held up to one side with a single gold bobby pin. She wore eyeliner and red lipstick to match her outfit. It suddenly registered in Zidane's mind that she had matured quite a bit in looks as well. Her facial expression was very solemn and calm yet friendly at the same time. She really has this whole Queen thing down, Zidane thought with amusement. Garnet turned to him and smiled. With that, Steiner bowed and left the room, leaving them alone.
"Zidane," Garnet started with a short sigh. "How have you been? It's been a while since we last talked."
"Yes," Zidance agreed. "Our busy schedules just never seem to match lately, have they?"
"No, not at all," Garney chuckled. "But it seems that I may need your assistance lately. Eiko's sudden visit startled me this morning."
"It's possibly Lindblum, isn't it?" Zidane assumed.
"Probably," Garnet nodded. "There is no other reason why Eiko would be here. By herself to add."
"She came here by herself?" Zidane asked with surprise.
"With some guards, of course," Garnet clarified. "But without Aunt Hilde or Uncle Cid."
"I see," Zidane sighed. "If there's ever a situation when Cid can't leave the palace ... it must be very serious."
"Exactly. That's what's making me worried," Garnet looked away towards the doorway. "Eiko arrived here really early so I asked her to take a rest for now. I asked the maid to send her in just now. That might give us some time."
"Some time?" Zidane repeated.
Garnet slowly faced him again, her expression changing to something sadder. Zidane recognized the expression as something familiar, something he had seen before. Of course, that was the look she used to give him when they were younger. That was also the look she first gave him when they first saw each other after two long years. Her eyes grew deeper and she pouted slightly.
"We ... never talk anymore, do we?" she confirmed. "I was hoping that maybe we could spend more time together?"
"Your majesty," Zidane started. "I'd be more than happy to oblige. Of course, I can't really interfere much anymore. Your position as the queen is really something I've been considering for a while. I just ... don't want to get in the way."
"If it's you, Zidane, you never get in my way. In fact-!" Garnet stopped when the throne room doors opened.
Eiko Carol walked in briskly and daintily. Over the years, she had grown taller and was even competing with Garnet's height. Her violet hair was pulled back in a pair of low pigtails. Her horn had been surgically removed due to the fact that eidolons were no longer summonable. She wore a half-pleated yellow dress with pink trimmings on the pleats and the collar. She wore matching pink earrings and a necklace. Zidane felt a little happier seeing her since the last time he talked to her was during her fifteenth birthday in Lindblum.
"Zidane!" Eiko chimed. "I'm glad you're here!"
"Well, I'm glad to see you!" Zidane said cheerfully. "Her majesty called me in just this morning."
Eiko gave Garnet a teasing look as Zidane said 'her majesty' and quickly faced Zidane once again.
" I hope that you're not too busy today," Eiko said more seriously. "Apparently, I have a huge favor to ask of you."
"What would that be?" Zidane asked.
"I need you ... and Garnet to come to Lindblum today," Eiko answered suddenly. "We're in trouble. We've been having some strange phenomena lately. Our Soul Jewel was stolen the other day, we found a group of guards in the castle. Trapped in a mirror."
Zidane and Garnet looked at each other in confusion.
"A mirror, you said?" Zidane asked.
"At least their souls were trapped in a mirror," Eiko answered. "Their bodies were nowhere to be found."
"Creepy," was all Garnet could find to say. It surprised her that her commoner vocabulary still crept in from time to time.
"It's been happening all week in Lindblum," Eiko continued. "One of our ships was stolen yesterday. Before I left, everything was all right. The guards trapped in the mirror claimed that their bodies were taken out to the south on an island. At least, that's what they heard the perpetrator say. They're not headed here for Alexandria so I assumed that I could ask for your help."
"I could go," Zidane offered. "The queen should stay here just in case."
"That won't be necessary," Garnet countered. "I'll have the guard at high security all over the city. Beatrix and Steiner could take care of things here."
"That works," Eiko nodded. "Personally, I think it will be safer for you to leave just in case something happens here. I don't think that will be the case though."
"Well," Zidane reached back to scratch his neck, "I guess I'll have one of the messengers deliver my draft for me. I'm sure that Ruby will appreciate it if she gets it today."
"Where else have these people gone?" Garnet asked. "Have they hit any other village or town?"
"No," Eiko replied.
"I see," Zidane murmured. "But what's really starting to bother me now is the fact that the jewel is gone."
Eiko looked at him curiously.
"Really?" Eiko inquired cautiously.
"There are a lot of legends about that jewel," he continued. "There was even a play written about it." He scratched his head. "I can't seem to remember the title though."
The three were silent for a while until Garnet clapped her hands together.
"You mean … "The Necromancer"?" Garnet asked.
Eiko looked in the other direction for a moment and thought to herself. Zidane noticed her strange behavior but decided to go against asking what was wrong. He understood that he said something to bother her. Zidane didn't know much about the jewel but of the fact that there were many stories people told of it. The Soul Jewel was believed to be used to revive souls from bodies during ancient times. Is it possible, Zidane thought, that it really has that power? He decided to put the thought aside. There was something fishy going on but he kept his mouth shut. Garnet looked at him too; giving him the expression that she was thinking the same thing.
"Well then!" Zidane proclaimed with false enthusiasm, "I guess we should pack lightly and get going."
"Right!" Eiko agreed cheerfully. "Garnet, can I go with you to your room? It's been ages since I got to hang out!"
"Sure!" Garnet chuckled. "Go on ahead!"
"Yay!" Eiko skipped on ahead. Zidane and Garnet waited until she was out of sight before they looked at each other again.
"She's hiding something," Garnet said softly.
"I know that," Zidane replied with an equally low voice. "But she's still Eiko."
"It's strange," Garnet sighed. "I know we should trust her but … it's hard when she won't even confide about the real problem."
"We'll just see how it goes then," Zidane said thoughtfully. "I'm sure that she and Cid have their reasons. However, you and I have to keep this to ourselves."
"Right!" Garnet agreed happily. "I'll do just that!"
"Great!" Zidane felt warm for a moment. It had been a while since they ever shared something secret. "You should head on to your quarters now. I believe that someone is expecting you."
"It's been so long since we all traveled together!" Eiko cheered.
The three were in the middle of the streets in Alexandria. The crowd was large, as usual, and with Garnet in her commoner clothes, she succeeded in the lack of attracting attention. Zidane always marveled at the fact that with just a few changes in wardrobe, no one seemed to care for her. Secretly, he wished she was still in her royal attire so they wouldn't have to push around the others. Still, she was stunning in her simple red shirt and long, brown tartan skirt. Her shoulder length hair was neatly pinned to one side.
Zidane was also a bit hidden with his own change of clothes. It wasn't unusual for him to be recognized in the streets lately. He wore a simple white, long sleeved shirt with a simple vest and simple jeans. His feet were adorned with casual traveling boots. To finish off his outfit, he wore a pair of non prescriptive, shaded spectacles to hide his eyes. They were at the height of fashion so it was not strange for him to walk around with them on.
Eiko was the only one that didn't change clothes. Her presence in Alexandria was rare and the public wasn't aware of what she really looked like anyway. Walking side-by-side with Garnet showed off her true height. Zidane realized that she really was Garnet's height. At her age, she was very slender and willowy yet she possessed the curves to attract other young men. Zidane chuckled to himself at the thought. If it were nine years ago, he would have tried to win her heart if he saw her in that fashion. Eiko is fifteen now, Zidane thought. My, how the years fly.
"Maybe when this whole mess is done and over with," Eiko started to suggest,
"Maybe we can all hang out here in Alexandria together like this."
"Why Alexandria?" Garnet inquired. "It's a lot more interesting in Lindblum."
"I guess so," Eiko sighed. "But I'm there everyday. It's boring."
"Then maybe we could travel somewhere else," Zidane added. "I miss going to Treno. Ruby and I were planning on recruiting a theater group there to help promote our plays more in the world."
Garnet perked up at the statement.
"You mean, you're both planning on moving to Treno?" she asked slowly.
"Just for a few months to get things started," Zidane answered nonchalantly. "Of course, this is the place to be for plays. It's just that the night life … uh, you know, the life in Treno is expanding. Lately, more and more people are moving there. The arts are becoming a big thing there too."
"Doctor Tot would love that!" Eiko sighed.
"A few months?" Garnet repeated. "You can really start a group in just a few months?"
"Sure!" Zidane replied. "It's really not that hard. We've been getting requests all over the world for our license approval. There's so many aspiring actors too, you know? Treno has an expanding number of them. There are enough people to play parts. Ruby and I just have to go there and monitor the theater and set construction and coach the actors for the first couple shows. That's all there is to it."
"Amazing," Garnet said with awe. "Pretty soon, you'll have your own sort of enterprise."
Zidane's eyes sparkled as he gazed at her.
"Enterprise?" he mimicked. "Aw, I wouldn't exactly call it that."
"I wish I could see you do that," she sighed.
"I can't do that," Zidane answered. "That would be bad if the queen were to be absent for several months."
Immediately, he realized what she meant. Zidane opened his mouth to say something to protest his statement but Garnet cut him off.
"Oh, you're right," she agreed. "It's just … silly."
Again, if it were nine years prior, Zidane would have happily asked her to come along. Zidane thought amusedly of his selfish, yet helpful self. Still, whether or not if she liked the idea, Garnet would have still refused. Looks like Garnet already grew up a long time ago. Compared to me. He chuckled again. I guess it's true. Girls really do mature faster than boys. With that, Zidane placed a hand on her shoulder.
"It's just a thought, Your ma-! I mean, Dagger," he reassured her.
The sound of her former alias made her heart skip a beat. Garnet felt her face flush. It was too long since anyone ever called her by her commoner name. Zidane winked at her and continued on foreward. Garnet giggled and ran after him. Eiko, surprised at their quick change in behavior, quickened her pace.
"Hey, you two! Wait for me!"
Before she could catch up to them, someone grabbed her from behind. Eiko screamed at the harsh action rousing attention from the public. Zidane and Garnet turned around in alarm trying to see what was happening. Eiko was about to cry for help when a gloved hand muffled her screams. Eiko tried to turn around to see who her capturer was but did not have the strength to move. The kidnapper didn't exactly lock her hands but she still felt the resistance. Thoughts ran in her head, trying to realize what was going on as she was in a state of panic and couldn't think clearly. She calmed herself down, and sorted the thoughts in her head. The feeling was familiar … and she remembered being in that state before.
Eiko concentrated on the sensation. A time spell … stop? Or maybe a status effect spell. Paralysis?
"Listen to me, Miss Eiko."
The voice was female. Eiko resisted to flinch and frowned. There was no way she would show that she was scared. Instead, she listened intently. She realized that they were high from the ground already. Obviously, it was a float spell … a powerful one at that.
"You have what I want," the female continued. "Now, if you hand it over slowly-!"
Before the woman could continue, there was a slash in the air. Eiko screamed and plummeted toward the ground. Before long, she was held again … but gentler then before. The sun was in her eyes so she couldn't see the person who held her. All she noticed was the soft cotton of the coat and the glittering gold buttons. The body was hard and tough; obviously that of a man's. She held on to the person tightly as they both landed on the ground on his two feet. He released her.
"Hey you!" his young, yet bass voice called. "I don't know what you're problem is … but you better stop following me!"
Eiko turned around and sighted the young woman who had previously held her captive. She was a tall, pretty thing with short black hair and gleaming green eyes. She wore brown shorts and a strapless, silk white blouse. She sneered back at Eiko and the young man.
"Don't think you can avoid me, Orestes," she spat.
"I don't know what you're talking about!" he argued. "Don't call me names I can't identify with."
The woman glared at him with passion and leaped away on the rooftops. Eiko felt confusion overtake her as she watched the woman steal away. She reached for her pocket and patted herself down. Still there. The man placed his hands on her shoulders gently, surprising her.
He towered over her. She observed that he was probably Zidane's height, if not taller. However, he was a lot lankier as his slender build was accentuated with this cotton overcoat. His face was partially covered with this gray, wool knitted collar and was framed with dark hair. What really caught her attention was his gleaming golden eyes. As she gazed at him, the color pierced through her heart as if he could read through her. Because of that, her body shook in fear … in the same way it also shook in immediate trust.
"Are you okay?" he asked softly. "You're not hurt, are you?"
"N-no," Eiko stuttered. "I'm fine. Thank-!"
Zidane pushed through the excited crowed and met with her. Garnet followed closely and they watched her with concern expressions. The young man looked at them curiously as if they weren't human. His eyes widened.
"Thank goodness!" Garnet breathed. "I was so worried."
"I'm fine," Eiko repeated with shock still present in her voice.
"Thanks, Mister!" Zidane quickly looked at the young man. "I'm so relieved that you caught up with them on time."
The young man nodded and looked at them carefully. He looked around and then whispered:
"Look, I know you're all in a hurry to go to Lindblum, but can we speak privately for a moment? Perhaps in that back alley over there?"
He pointed to a dark alley where there were no people. Garnet looked at Zidane curiously. Both were immediately suspicious of what was going on. Zidane nodded.
"Right," he said slowly. "Sure, but it won't take long, will it?"
"Of course not!" the man said with pleasantry.
They then followed him towards the dark alley. Zidane, Garnet, and Eiko proceeded through the shadows ahead of him when he suddenly stopped.
"Is something wrong?" Garnet asked.
The man shook his head.
"I think that this would be better explained if I did this slowly," he sighed.
Slowly, he walked in the shading of the dark alley. His eyes were cleary closed and his hands were enclosed in fists. Zidane eyed him suspiciously, watching for any gimmicks or tricks the man might pull. Suddenly, the man's eyes opened, causing a gasp from the two young women. In the darkened alley, his eyes seemed to glow brightly, almost like a firefly in dusk. Zidane shook his head.
"No way, it can't be," Zidane murmured.
"Yes," the young man answered. "It's me. Vivi Ornitier."
AN: Yet another story project! These chapters are pretty long ... but I like the length of them. Please await the next chapter. I hate writing first chapters for specific reasons, you know. Introductions can get annoying sometimes, right? Anyway, All Final Fantasy IX characters belong to their respective owners. I'm not intending any profit. Just spreading the love!