Tamzen Marie Baker
Author's note: Part of the fascination I have with Tactics involves its characters, and what I have done is taken the basic storyline detailed by the game and fleshed it out to give the characters more depth(and added invented twists of my own). Although my story runs parallel to the game, I have taken some liberty with my interpretation of events. Enjoy!
The whistling hovered over the open space as the wind lifted a piece of light brown hair from her face. Throwing down the bent blade of grass, Ovelia plucked another one and began to softly blow again. Her friend and longtime bodyguard stood beside her, blonde hair twisted down her back, brown eyes darting around, ever alert for danger.
Ovelia sighed and let the second piece of grass flutter to the ground as Agrias looked down at her. "Is something the matter, Princess?" she asked.
"Nothing out of the ordinary, I suppose, "she intoned, glancing up. "Why don't you sit down Agrias?" The young knight hesitated. "Please?" Ovelia implored.
Agrias was actually glad to rest her feet, and she looked inquisitively at Ovelia as she picked another blade of grass to make a reed flute again. "The young girl at the monastery taught you that, didn't she?"
"Alma," sighed Ovelia wistfully, "The only friend I've ever had."
"Now don't say that," said Agrias, turning to look at her with a smile. "I'm your friend too."
Ovelia only sighed louder and longer, resting her chin on her knees. "I know...but it's not the same. You don't have any choice-you're supposed to protect me. And me, I'm always a loner." Neither girl had noticed the appearance of a young man from behind them. Ramza came from the inside of the fort and sat on a rock by the gate, silently observing the Princess and her bodyguard, and just within earshot of their conversation. "I'm merely a pawn," Ovelia had continued, her eyes sweeping out over the landscape before them-a figure in someone's ridiculous political struggle. It's not fair."
"Many things in life are unfair, Princess-"
"Ovelia," conceded Agrias. "I used to wonder, when I was a little younger than you, why everything in society had to be so set...I'm a loner too, Ovelia."
This was quite a mouthful for Agrias, who never spoke much of her past, and she stood up to look around again, sensing a presence behind them, as Ovelia made herself another reed flute. "I miss Alma."
"So do I," spoke up Ramza as Agrias caught sight of him. He walked slowly over and bowed to Ovelia, who merely waved her hand at him.
"Stop. Sit down, both of you." Ramza cheerfully obliged, but Agrias turned full circle first, sharp brown eyes searching, before she finally settled down again. No one said anything for a few minutes and Ramza plucked a blade of grass to make a flute too. "You...you know Alma?" Ovelia finally spoke up.
"She is ...a friend of mine," Ramza answered, not quite ready to give away his identity yet.. He blinked his sky blue eyes once, then twice, and turned to look at Ovelia and Agrias. "Alma and I...we're very close...." he trailed off and changed the subject a bit. "When I was younger, I felt like Delita was my brother."
"I don't understand him," said Ovelia. "Whose side is he on??"
"Neither," replied Agrias before either of the two could answer. "He is a loner, same as us three." Ramza looked carefully at Agrias, wondering what secrets lay behind those warm brown eyes...he'd admired her from the first moment they'd met, such a fearless young woman, yet so seemingly internally strong.
"Do you have any family, Agrias?" questioned Ovelia rather suddenly. For awhile there was silence. Agrias looked out from under her fringe of blonde bangs to the sweeping green plains before them, the tall grasses waving up to meet the sapphire blue sky, her vision growing distant, blurred, taking her to another time. The pain in her face was evident to both Ovelia, and Ramza, who reached out a hand to touch her shoulder in a gesture of comfort, friendship. Her face softened and she turned to look at her friends again. "Of course I do...My parents both served the royalty before me...my younger brother...he didn't agree with this path, left home, became an artist in some village...I haven't seen him in a long time."
"Do you miss him?" Ovelia questioned.
"Sometimes," she answered, "but as I said before, I am used to being independent, alone, just as you and Ramza are."
"I wonder if Delita is lonely among his new friends, "Ramza wondered out loud, then blowing into his reed flute. "My father taught us-me, Delita, Alma, Teta-to play the grass. And Alma taught you."
"Teach Agrias," requested Ovelia, her hazel eyes sparkling.
"I don't-" started Agrias.
"Must I order you to learn?" teased Ovelia and Agrias smiled. Ramza went to sit behind Agrias, then, reaching around her, plucked a blade of grass and bent it slightly, then blew into it.
"You try," he said, carefully positioning the thin green blade between her fingers. "Blow," he commanded. Agrias leaned forward, loose strands of blonde hair tickling Ramza's hands as he helped her.
"I can't do it!" she exclaimed, bursting into a fit of laughter as Ovelia crawled on her hands and knees to sit in front of her, pale chestnut hair swept back from her face by the wind. The pretty young Princess collapsed in a fit of giggles as Agrias blew the grass right out of her hands. "Arghh!!"
This prompted a laugh from Ramza too, who, plucking another piece, whispered in her ear. "You can do anything you set your mind to." Ramza didn't see the shy smile that painted Agrias' face, but Ovelia did, and she leaned eagerly forward as Agrias blew again. TWEEEE....
"Oh, it tickles!!" she exclaimed and all three of them burst into laughter, falling into each other, lost in a rare happy moment. As they quieted down and reality came rushing back, no one spoke, and all three lay side by side, on their backs, gazing up at the cloudless sky, at peace...
"I think friendship is something worth living for," said Ramza, closing his eyes and stretching his arms behind his head.
"I love you both," whispered Ovelia, "My friends..."
"Each of us a single whistle in the wind..."said Agrias softly as the wind blew quietly around them.
Agrias' words rang through his head as he watched her slice their last foe to the ground, and Ramza fell to his knees, burying his face in his hands, as the execution site swam around him. "Without a doubt, I believe you!" That's what Agrias had said when Gafgarion had revealed him as a noble. Ramza looked up, his blue eyes revealing his torn inner self, as Agrias helped him up. "Please," he implored her, "don't think badly of me because I am a Beoulve."
"I don't, Ramza...being an individual is more important, and I know you weren't privy to your brothers' scheme."
"I wish I knew who, or what, was behind this mess...it's got to be someone above Dycedarg, maybe even above Larg and Goltana."
"Our first responsibility is making sure Ovelia is alright," said Agrias, and then she turned and walked away, not revealing her true feelings even to her friend. That once again she'd failed...
The scene repeated it self endlessly, mockingly, inside her head. "No one can control me!!" she yelled. "No one can tell me what to do!"
And Vormav's haunting reply. "You? You're not Ovelia! You're not even a princess! You're just a substitute!"
Locked into her cell, Ovelia stood up on shaky legs and surveyed her surroundings. "I am still me..." she whispered as she gazed down at her plate of untouched food and thought of Delita. Even though he'd been verbally as cold as the other two, she'd sensed something beyond his icy exterior. There was a sensitivity in his gray eyes, maybe even a touch of concern? But what did it matter anyway? she thought, tears beginning to stream down her face as she lifted her gaze to the single ray of sunshine streaming in the single high set window. This was a war and she was merely a pawn. "I am merely a chip in their pile! And if what they say is true, I am nobody at all!"
Sobs shook her small form and on hands and knees she once more lifted her gaze to the sun, whispering, "God help us poor sinful children of Ivalice." At this she collapsed on the floor, her usually strong demeanor crumbling into 1,000 pieces...
Delita stood just outside the locked door, hands folded neatly behind his back, watching Ovelia through the window of her cell as she lay crumpled on the floor, the sound of her weeping just barely audible through the door. He knew he shouldn't care, but for some reason, he wished he could find some words of comfort to offer her. "No," he said aloud to himself, turning his gaze away from the door. "I cannot get involved that way-she is only a pawn to help us bring down those troublesome royals and nobles...I can't care-" As if to counter, an inner voice seemed to answer him back. Who are you? Haven't you lost your identity as much as she has? "I know who I am!" he hissed at himself. "I'm Delita Hyral and-"
The sound of his own name spoken aloud brought more memories rushing back...Teta's voice as she called to him from atop Fort Zeakden..."Delita..." Delita leaned against the wall, closing his eyes and losing himself as he heard her voice speak to him as if it were his own. "Oh, Delita...don't let her become another tragedy...don't you realize how you've lost yourself in this senseless mess? Both you and her, two of the same type, both going against the tide...her words echo your very own."
"I know," he answered softly. "That we will let no one control us-"
"You are both so alone-"
"Oh, please, my Teta," he said sadly, shaking his head and closing his eyes. The sounds of reed flutes played by himself and Ramza on a summer day...the sight of Alma and Teta dancing to the funny sound as the breeze blew and the sun warmed their faces, their merry laughter echoing across the courtyard. But Teta was gone now... He opened his eyes and turned to watch Ovelia through the window again as a single tear slid down his cheek. "I won't let anything happen to her...I promise..."
"I regret I can't help you-I wish I were born a man." Alma's steadfast blue eyes haunted Ramza's memory.
"Don't be silly-You're the only one I trust."
Ramza got up from his perch at the window and paced around his room at the camp outside Dorter Trade City. "I am such a fool," he muttered, shaking his head. "How could I ever allow her to get involved? But how could I ever turn over Simon's book to get her back?" Ramza shook his head, the thought of it all making him feel a little sick to his stomach. Leaving his room, he walked down the hall and knocked softly on Agrias' door, hoping that her sense of reason might be enough to calm him down.
No one answered so Ramza carefully opened the door and looked in. Agrias, who'd been sitting by her window, jumped up and turned to face Ramza as she heard him enter. Her blonde hair hung loose and her face was as pale as his own. She took a deep breath to compose herself as Ramza closed the door behind him and walked over to where she stood. "Is something the matter, Ramza?"
"I feel so lost, Agrias!" he exclaimed, throwing up his hands. "Like everything that ever meant anything to me has been ripped away-" It was at this point that Ramza suddenly realized how pale Agrias looked, as if she'd been crying for hours, and his tone turned to one of concern. "Agrias...are you alright? No offense, but you don't look terribly well..."
"Ramza, I'm such a failure," she burst. "First Ovelia, and now Alma-I was supposed to protect her and they took her away fro me-"
"You can't blame it all on yourself!!" exclaimed Ramza, reaching out to place a hand on her shoulder. "You can't let this corrupt society burn you from the inside out! It's not your fault-"
"No, Ramza," she said, turning away. "There's more that you don't even know..."
Ramza was silent for a moment, not quite knowing what to say to that. "Reading that book...made me completely lose my faith-"
"Me too," she whispered.
"But, the faith I lost was faith in the church-I still have faith in the world and in the people that live in it. I have hope that we can find the good in people and find a way to stop this senseless war and whoever is behind it. But if we give up and call ourselves failures now, is there anyone left to do anything? If everyone out there who has hope and faith was to give up right this instant? Then all we'd end up with is more senseless deaths like Teta's, Miluda's, Simon's-"
"My mother's," Agrias added, interrupting his rant. Ramza didn't say a word, but looked at her inquisitively, willing her to go on. "Four years ago-I was 17, and it was my first year on the Queen's honor guard, working right alongside my parents in the end of the 50 year war. Even then, the very beginning of a new conflict was evident-Queen Ruvelia was pregnant with Orinas and Ovelia was visiting from the monastery. We were awakened in the middle of the night by cries of fire..."Agrias closed her eyes, as if telling her story had brought her right back to that awful night. "The fire was really only a distraction to the real threat-an attempt on the Queen's life."
"Apparently someone didn't want that third child born."
"Yes...My father was the first one to arrive and he had taken on two knights-a hooded figure went to attack the Queen and on impulse I jumped in front of the blade. As the knife dug into my side I sliced the robed figure-my mother came running in. I was wounded badly and she came over to try and help me, not realizing the downed hooded figure had drawn a sword. As she bent over me, he came at her, ready to slice downward and right through both of us-it happened so fast I hadn't the strength to yell-it was all I could do to roll out of the way...the last thing I remember was more guards entering and then I passed out."
Agrias had been speaking very quickly and stopped now for a moment to gaze up at the ceiling, tears filling her eyes. "You don't have to go on-" started Ramza.
"No, I need to," she said, pushing a stray piece of hair out of her face. "I've never talked to anyone about it...I've buried it for years...when I came to, my father told me that she'd died instantly...he and I became very close as I recovered, but when I returned to the Honor Guard, he decided to leave it. Soon after that, I became Ovelia's personal guard-"
"But Agrias, you saved Ruvelia's life-and Orinas' too-how can you possibly blame yourself?"
"I don't know who else to blame-I wish there was some way to stop all this senseless killing...I'm so afraid that they'll kill Ovelia or Alma or you-that's why I don't talk about my past-"
"That's why I don't get close to people...Delita, Alma, Teta-they were half my world..." Ramza's eyes too now filled with tears and he reached toward Agrias. She leaned her head on his shoulder as the tears flowed freely down their faces. "It's OK," Ramza whispered as he smoothed her hair down. He'd never realized how delicate she really was...how delicate any single life was...and how easily it could be swept away...And as they held each other in grief for all those who had died, they each knew that nothing would stand in the way of their quest for the truth...
"Dear God...lately I'm not even sure if you exist, but if I'm sitting here talking to you, then I guess I still have some small ray of faith left..." Ovelia trailed off and surveyed her surroundings. Although the floor of the old church was stable, there was no ceiling and the walls had given way long ago, leaving pieces of crumbling red brick everywhere. The warming breeze of spring penetrated the damp air this early morning as Ovelia sat solemnly in the ruins of Zeltennia Castle's Church, pondering her own fate and that of those around her. "Please bless and watch over Alma, Ramza, and Agrias-they're all I have left. They are so far away and I am so alone. And, God, I wonder why I've been made to suffer this way. A long time ago I would have thought it was because I'd done something wrong, but now I believe maybe it's because I've done something right." Ovelia sighed and looked down at her folded hands, her light brown hair lifted and blown around in the wind. "It's the good people that carry your torch...I only wish I had someone who understood and-" she trailed off in mid sentence as she heard an approaching footfall.
"So here you are..." came Delita's voice as he came up the steps. "Everyone was looking for you." Ovelia looked down at her hands again. "Something wrong?" Delita watched her intensely for a moment and then, trying to lighten the mood, gave a low bow. "Oh, I shouldn't talk to a Princess in such a way."
"By your leave, your most gracious majesty!" he continued to mock as she turned away.
"...please stop," she said. Delita realized that he hadn't offended her so much as he'd hurt her feelings.
"...sorry...," he said, stepping closer. "I apologize."
"What are you going to do with me?" she suddenly said, not even looking at him. "I'm not Ovelia, you know. I'm worth nothing to you-not even worth keeping me alive." At this point she buried her head in her knees and Delita struggled for something to say, Teta's face filling his mind.
"Yes, you're not Ovelia," he said, turning away from her. "We don't even know your real name or even if you're a noble or a commoner..."
"What did my life mean all these years?" she wondered out loud, lifting her head to gaze out through the ruined wall. "raised as a substitute?....ha, ha, amusing, isn't it? A princess must live her life quietly in a monastery away from the capital...I'd often wondered why only I had to live like that. But if my suffering would keep Ivalice in peace, then I thought I could endure it. What was all the grief and isolation I suffered for?!" Tears began to roll down her face and she buried her head again.
"You and I are the same...," began Delita softly, nearly echoing Teta's words, "Miserable people forced to live false lives, Always being used by someone. Try hard and you'll be rewarded they say..." he shook his head in disbelief. "Lies...only those close to the top are rewarded without trying-It's the way of the world-most people have to act out the roles given them..." he trailed off, his voice wavering, and raised his fist in the air. "Then again, most of them haven't even noticed they're acting. No way I'd do that-I won't be used. I'll be the one using! Those who used me must pay for what they've done!!"
Ovelia could hear the pain and betrayal in his voice as if it were her own, and took the momentary pause to interrupt. "What will you do?" she asked, finally looking up at him.
"Trust me. Ovelia," he implored her, turning to look at her and reaching his hands out. "I'll make a country worthy of you! I'll make your life shine-" he came closer, down on one knee by her side. "Let me guide you!" Ovelia didn't answer at first, but another tear rolled down her face. Delita put an arm gently around her shoulders and she turned to gaze into his gray eyes, now also misty with tears.
"Should I trust you?"
"I won't betray you. I swear by my dead sister, Teta-so please don't cry." Ovelia's response was to wrap her arms around his waist and rest her head against his chest. Delita was momentarily startled, but then pulled her close and they sat there in silence, holding each other, and feeling as if they were one and the same...
"Ramza, you are not alone! You have friends! Allies who'd risk their lives." Olan turned his chocobo away to gallop off as Ramza heard Agrias approach from behind. "I'm one of them!" he called back as he left and Ramza looked down at the ground, not knowing how to feel.
"Do you trust him?" questioned Agrias as she stopped by his side. The rain that has earlier been a downpour was now lightening and the clouds were beginning to break up.
"He...he said that Orlandu was his father-in-law."
"What does that have to do with anything?"
"Orlandu was my father's best friend...I somehow have this feeling that he might be able to help."
"Really?" said Agrias. She and Ramza had taken up the rear of their party as they marched on to Fort Yardow. "Do he and Olan know about the High Priest's plot??"
"They're investigating it...Agrias, I want to trust Olan, but it seems so hard-everyone seems to be out for personal gain."
"But some of us want to help others," put in Mustadio as the fort came within sight. The tops of the summer green trees were starting to wilt in the August heat and offered little shade to the weary travelers.
"I know," said Ramza, his blonde hair falling into his sky blue eyes as he shifted the bag on his back. "But it's hard when your own family is involved in the evil. Olan told me to run because my brothers are after me."
"But you can only run so far before you need help-" added Agrias but a shrill scream from the fort interrupted her. Immediately the group dropped their packs, pulled out their weapons and went charging forward.
"Help me!!" called a young girl's voice. She ran with light steps from the fort, turning only once to unleash a line of lightning from her fingertips.
Even thought they had no idea who she was, Ramza could tell from the line of lancers coming out the door that she was terribly outnumbered. Yet, they were no match for Ramza and his friends and the battle was quickly ended. "Are you alright??" Ramza asked as he put his sword away and he and Agrias walked over to her.
"I am Rafa, Heaven Knight, and I thank you very much for your assistance." Her dark hair was covered by a white hood and she was attired in an outfit of the same fluttery fabric. Her green eyes flashed with concern as she reached out to grab Agrias' arm. "You're wounded."
"Agrias, are you alright?" asked Ramza in a distracted way. "You should go clean that up."
"I was just going," she headed off to the nearby stream and Rafa led Ramza into the now deserted fort as his friends went to collect their belongings from where they'd dropped them.
"So you escaped from Barinten, but Malak didn't come with you because he didn't believe you?" Ramza asked after she had given him a quick explanation of why she was being attacked by the soldiers.
"Barinten wants only one thing-to be king. They call him 'Weapon King' for making strong weapons and training many wizards."
"There is one who incites the Grand Duke who is of the royal family," he said, "killing Larg and Goltana set the stage for him to become a regent-"
"Why do you keep fighting being branded a 'heretic'?" interrupted Rafa, looking up at Ramza from her perch on an old broken crate. Ramza didn't answer so she continued. "I think I know why...but no one will thank you for beating him."
"I'm not fighting for thanks. I'm fighting for honor and pride as a Beoulve-"
"That's a lie...you aren't that noble. You can't ignore injustice or evil in front of you."
"You flatter me. I'm not that good." Ramza sighed, then looked over at her. "But what are you going to do? I must go to Riovanes to save Alma. But you barely escaped from there, right?"
"I must get my brother out," she answered, looking down as a piece of dark hair slipped from her hood.
"Why are you two fighting?"
"We're 50 year war orphans. I'll never forget those days looking through garbage and dead bodies for food. That's when Barinten saved us. I believed in God then."
"Barinten built orphanages for the war orphans. But, he provided training to 'gifted' children to be professional assassins...you must be those children."
It was now Rafa's turn to sigh. "We, Golthanas, have secret skills of the family...my Heaven skill and my brother's Hell skill. These two skills differ from magic...Barinten wanted them. But the family elder refused him. So he burned our village..." Images of the scorching fire and burning houses, the smell of burnt flesh, filled Rafa's mind as she blinked back tears. "He decided that if he couldn't have them, he'd erase them from this world. He probably was excited when he found us among the orphans."
"You tried to escape when you found out the truth."
Rafa looked away, lost in old memories, in false ideals..."We yearned for him to be like our real father...but even then..."
Ramza didn't answer and suddenly a voice called out. "So this is where you've been hiding?" A small frog hopped into the room and Rafa jumped up in alarm.
"Listen, Ramza," the frog addressed him. "Hurry to Riovanes Castle-or your sister will be dead!"
"If you touch Alma, I'll show no mercy!" he threatened.
"Rafa, you'll be coming too! Resist and Ramza's sister'll die because of you! " Rafa could just imagine Malak's grin at this order.
"It's not fair! They have nothing to do with us!" she burst.
"This is not a warning...it's an order!" And with a zap, the frog disappeared.
"Let's go, Ramza!"
"Sorry, Rafa," he said, shaking his head. "You had to do this because of us..."
"It's not your fault. Don't worry."
"What was that noise?" called Mustadio as he and Agrias ran into the room. Ramza quickly explained.
"It seems like no matter where we turn, people who have nothing to do with this are being hurt and dragged in," said Mustadio sadly.
"Even if it's only a handful of us, we will never give in," said Ramza defiantly.
"I'll tell everyone to get their stuff together," said Mustadio and Rafa followed him out.
"Ramza, are you alright?" asked Agrias as they followed them out. Each event seemed to push him a little closer to some unknown edge. "Is something bothering besides the usual things? Are you ill?"
"I don't know," he sighed. "I'm just at a loss for words. I never realized what a mess I was getting myself into. I just want to stop the senseless killing and abuse of power. I just want to believe in goodness again-to believe in God again. Because right now I don't feel that a God could ever let such horrible things happen." And he breezed by her without another word, leaving her to wonder what would be the final blow to push him over the edge.
Alma sighed and twirled a piece of her pale brown hair around her finger. Time was a curious thing...when you were miserable, it seemed to last forever. And yet, all the good times that went by so quickly, seem so far away, and yet so close, that they might have been just yesterday. "If only I'd known what life was like now," she said to herself, "I would have appreciated those happy moments a little more." Alma thought of Ovelia and Teta and said a quick prayer for both. Will I be trapped in here forever? she wondered. Someone rescue me! Brother...
Alma's train of thought was interrupted by her cell door crashing open. A horribly wounded soldier stumbled in and as Alma tried to help him, he told her to run, and then died. Alma raced out of the room and down the corridor, ending up in the main meeting room. She looked around, startled and horrified, at the dead, blood smeared bodies. The red trailed across the floor in a line of staining crimson. Her breath caught in her throat and a tear came to her eye as a groan from the floor startled her. "Uhn..."
Alma raced down the steps and towards the table, going down on her knees next to a badly beaten young man. "Are you alright?!"
"S...sword...where is it?" he mumbled. "Must...beat...him...Please...give me some light. So dark...can't see a thing..."
"Don't worry. No need to fight anymore," she attempted to comfort him, laying her hand over his.
"Tell your brother...the stone...has 'evil power'...He's not...my father...the power made him...Lucavi..." cough....
Alma realized he was fading fast and another tear spilled over and ran down her cheek. "Please don't try to talk..."
"What Ramza said was true-The world will end...if we don't kill him...Tell everyone...not time to fight...must cooperate." Alma was confused. Kill who? father...Vormav? she wondered. "Wh, where's my sword?" he mumbled. "Can't move...my arms..."
"Don't worry," soothed Alma, knowing she had to give him one last moment of peace. "I saw 'his' body in the hall. My brother killed him. So you don't need to fight."
"Really? That's a relief...," the young man replied, a sigh shaking his battered body. "The stone is...in my jacket. Give it...to your brother..."
Alma reached into his pocket and pulled out a smooth, polished stone and watched it shimmer in her hands. "I'll be sure to do that," she replied softly.
"Ugh...tired...sleep...just rest now...," he mumbled, the light going out of his eyes. Alma bowed her head, holding back a sob and suddenly a voice called out.
"Who's there?" Vormav entered the room with long swift strides, coming to rest at the top of the stairs. "So here you are. I'll send you to the other side too." He took a step closer, a malicious glint in his eyes. "Don't fear. You won't suffer..." He suddenly seemed distracted and looked up at the ceiling, thinking-Velius was killed? "Your brother has the Devil's own luck..." He grinned an eerie grin. "Now, come here..." Alma backed away as Vormav stepped closer and suddenly the stone in his hands glared with a brilliant light. "Why, why is Virgo responding? You...can't be...very nice! I didn't expect to meet you here!" He looked at Alma in a new light and took rapid steps toward her, grabbing her by the wrist. "I thought it would take 100 years to find you! I never dreamed you were the one!"
Alma looked at him with a mixture of confusions and fear and backed right into the table. "Stop!! Let go of me!!"
"No need to fear. I won't kill you," he said very simply. "Now come here!" He kneed her swiftly, knocking the wind out of her, and then, lifting her up, vanished from the room. The stone she'd been holding dropped lightly to the floor...
Ovelia woke with a start, an almost shriek dying in her throat, her heart racing and her palms sweaty. "Alma..." she whispered. Somehow she had a connection to her only real friend. She jumped out of her bed and went racing down the Castle corridor barefoot, throwing open the glass doors to the balcony. She stood on the balcony, her heart hammering in her chest, a single tear sliding down her cheek. She looked out to the countryside-Ivalice stretched before her. The pale glow of a crescent moon gave an eerie shine to the long green grass lilting in the wind, turning it a gray, almost shimmery, color. The water of the nearby river was as dark as the night sky, and even though the world seemed at peace, Ovelia felt the pain of everyone around her. "Alma..."
Soft footsteps behind her made her turn as Delita came out and looked at her, half concerned, more curious. Delita wondered what she was doing out here at this hour of night-obviously something had upset her. "Ovelia...?"
Ovelia did not answer him, but turned away, her hands resting on the railing of the balcony, and gazed out again into the dark night.
"I heard you running through the corridor," he attempted to explain, coming to stand behind her. He ran a hand lightly down her arm until it rested over hers. She shivered in the cool night air and stood stiffly in his almost embrace. "Don't you trust anyone?"
Ovelia whirled around to face him, her light hazel eyes shining with pain. "After all that's happened to me, how could I possibly trust anyone here?" A tendril of pale brown hair fell across her face in the light breeze of the wind as Delita gripped her shoulders and looked her square in the face.
"You know you can trust me! I promised to protect you..." he trailed off as they continued to gaze at each other and then reached up to brush the stray piece of hair out of her face. "I care about you...I would give my life for you..."
Ovelia seemed momentarily startled by this sudden declaration, and then, relaxing in his embrace, opened her mouth as if about to speak, knowing not what to say. Delita tilted her face towards his and kissed her once, very slowly, and then, releasing her, turned to go. The moonlight cast shadows around the balcony, the light playing in and out of the corners, and Ovelia, on impulse, grabbed his arm and pulled him back to face her. "Delita...I..." but her words were lost as their arms found each other again and they were lost in another kiss...
The sky was just beginning to turn pink at Riovanes Castle. Malak lay motionless on the ground with Rafa seated beside him, her hood billowing back from her head in the wind that seemed to whistle around them. Ramza stood off to the side, and Agrias, Mustadio and the rest of the party were just out of sight.
"Brother, look...it's dawn. Remember how we used to chat until dawn about things?" Malak didn't answer and Ramza had a feeling that he wasn't ever going to...and the first ray of sun stole over the nearby mountains, shedding light on the three figures on the roof. "I wanted to travel with you. We were going to Golthana's hometown after the war...Remember? Brother...say something..." Rafa buried her head on his motionless arm, too numb to cry, and Ramza looked away, thinking of Alma, to see Agrias and Mustadio coming up the long flight of stairs.
A sudden vibration of the Scorpio stone in Malak's robe startled both Rafa and Ramza. "What's this?"
"It's responding to...Rafa's spirit?" Ramza wondered out loud, taking a step closer. "It grieves Malak's death...Wiegraf's despair and resentment summoned Velius...Then-"
"You, too grieve his death? Thank you..."
"No, Rafa...it's..." Ramza struggled, a new realization beginning to overtake him. The stone glowed a brilliant red and the heavens seemed to open up. Brilliant light flooded down through the clouds to surround Rafa and Malak and Ramza had to turn away to keep from being blinded. "What..."
The light vanished as quickly as it had come and Malak groaned. "Brother... Malak!!" cried Rafa.
"Rafa...? Where am I...? What happened...?" Rafa threw her arms around Malak, hugging him with all her might, thanking a higher power that she didn't realize she still believed in...
"Brother...brother, I'm so glad..."
"That hurts, Rafa..." Malak said, laughing, his old sense of humor coming back. Rafa helped him to stand as Ramza stood there dumbfounded and Agrias and Mustadio emerged onto the rooftop.
"Malak!" cried Mustadio in astonishment, running over to help Rafa assist him. Agrias came to stand beside Ramza as the other two helped Malak to walk a few steps. "You're...alive!"
"And feeling a little achy...but none the worse for the wear!" said Malak with an almost smile.
"What happened?" asked Mustadio. Rafa shook her head in amazement.
"Somebody called me...I don't know..." Malak struggled to remember. "I've never heard that voice..."
"All the same, I am glad I didn't lose you!" said Rafa, throwing her arms around him. "Are you really alright?"
"Like I said, I just feel a little tired."
"Ramza..." started Rafa as she let go of Malak who was now able to stand on his own. All eyes turned toward Ramza whose face had suddenly gone ashen colored. "Ramza??" she said in alarm. "What's the matter??"
Ramza looked at Rafa for just a moment and then his friends watched in horror as his eyes rolled back in his head and his whole body went limp. Agrias jumped forward to catch him as Mustadio went racing down the stairs calling for the chemist. The world seemed to move in slow motion as Agrias sat back on the ground, cradling Ramza's head on her lap. "Oh Rafa," she said, looking up at her new friend in obvious distress. "He's burning up! I don't know what to do!"
Rafa walked slowly down the hallway, her soft shoes hardly making a murmur on the hard marble-like floor. Malak and Mustadio had just finished the dinner she'd made and gone into the other room to try and get some extra rest, but Rafa couldn't sleep. Rad, their squire, stood watch outside the door to Ramza's room and Rafa stopped to greet him. "How is Ramza doing?"
"Not so well," Rad whispered, "The Chemist says she has no idea what's wrong-it's not poison or any other common ailment-but Ramza only seems to get worse and worse. Chemist says if the fever doesn't break by morning, she can't predict whether Ramza will make it through this..." Rad couldn't even finish the sentence but Rafa's own mind did for her. alive...
"And Agrias?" she said, swallowing an emotion that threatened to strangle her.
"Hasn't left his side for a moment...every now and then I hear her talking but I can't make out what she says. She looks exhausted, Rafa-maybe you can convince her to take a rest-I'm plenty awake to keep an eye on him and so are you."
"Thanks Rad-I'll stay for a moment if you want to grab a bite to eat." Rad smiled at her gratefully and walked off quietly down the corridor, leaving Rafa alone to peer into the room. Ramza lay flat on his back on the bed, a blanket covering him up to his waist, tossing his head back and forth every few minutes. Agrias sat on a stool by his bed, her hand clasping his, her worn, tired face, gazing steadily at him. Rafa couldn't stand the thought of losing another person she cared about. She'd lost her parents, her hometown...and almost lost Malak too. Just the thought of it was enough to bring tears to her eyes. She sat down outside the door, trying to decipher Agrias's words as she heard her begin to speak.
"Ramza...I don't know if you can hear me..." she started again, then, looking up to the ceiling, paused as if to consider her words. "You can't leave us, Ramza! Everyone cares about you! We need your help!...I don't know what's the matter with you...I have this feeling that it's something...in your mind...or in your soul...or maybe your heart..."
Agrias let go of his hand and stood up to walk over to the window, where Ramza's bag sat on a ledge, holding their incomplete collection of Zodiac Stones. "These stupid rocks...are they evil?" she wondered out loud, thinking of the hideous monsters that had become of some people who wielded their power. "or...are they good?" Malak's resurrection came to mind. The young knight took Ramza's hand again as she sat down.
"Ramza, do you still believe in God?? I do...but that doesn't mean I always understand why things happen...I've lost so much in my life...my brother...my mother...Ovelia and Alma....I can't lose you! Not here, not now...I don't know how I could possibly go on without you! You have become my closest friend..." Agrias stopped again and directed her next comment upwards. "Oh, please, God, grant me this one small favor..." She looked down at Ramza again, tears now filling her eyes. "Ramza, please come back to me! I need you..." She buried her head on his shoulder, her hand still clasping his, dissolving into quiet sobs.
Mottled light of a bluish color filled Ramza's vision as he struggled to open his eyes. He sat for a moment, on the ground...whatever kind of strange ground it was...and tried to make some sense of his surroundings. He couldn't see very much for the bluish light also seemed to create a kind of fog, and anything he could see was blurred in the distance. Ramza realized, as he used his hands to brace himself in an attempt to get up, that he felt rather sick to his stomach. Where had he been last? Riovanes Castle... "Rafa?" he called, turning around in a full circle. "Malak?...Agrias?...Mustadio?" he called his friends names, not receiving an answer. "Where am I?"
A rush of wind seemed to come from somewhere far off, almost toppling Ramza, and he turned in its direction to see a figure approaching. "F...father??!!" he breathed, not able to believe his own eyes. "You...I...am I...??"
"You're not dead, Ramza," his father answered, coming to a stop a foot in front of him. He gestured to where a small bench had suddenly appeared, and the two sat down. "You're just...somewhere in between...I suppose-" Ramza opened his mouth to question his father further, but a wave of his hand silenced him. "That's not important."
"Then...why am I here?"
"You're looking for something, aren't you?"
"The truth," Ramza answered quickly. "I...I don't know what I believe anymore. I don't even know if I believe in God."
"Some questions cannot be answered even in a lifetime, son," his father said thoughtfully. "And others, you always know the answer to, even if you can't bring yourself to say it aloud."
"Father?..." started Ramza. "The Zodiac stones...what are they? Are they good or evil? And who made them?"
"Ramza, I cannot tell you anymore than to say 'the power is in the beholder, good or evil'. The rest I must leave up to you. You must decide who to trust and who to depend on. You must decide what is worth fighting for. There are many answers, but you must search to find the one that will bring true peace to those around you."
"But I don't understand! I don't know who is really controlling everything! And Alma! I need..." But his father had already risen and walked off to disappear into the blue mist.
"They are counting on you Ramza-return to them."
The bench disappeared from under him and Ramza felt himself falling, his head growing heavy, his eyes forcing themselves closed, as he heard a voice. "Ramza, please come back to me! I need you..."
Ramza slowly opened his eyes to see the rocky ceiling of a room in Riovanes Castle. Agrias still rested her head on his arm, her hand clasped in his, and Ramza reached his free hand across the bed to touch her shoulder. She lifted her head in surprise and as he sat up she wrapped her arms around him. Ramza placed his arms gently around her as he heard Rafa's voice calling for the chemist and the rest of their friends. "Agrias..."
"Shh...don't talk!" she said, pulling back to look at him, using the backs of her hands in an effort to dry her tears. "I can't believe I almost lost you-"
"Ramza!" cried Rafa, coming into the room followed by the Chemist who began to look him over. "You are ok!"
"He seems perfectly fine," said the chemist and then proceeded to talk in low tones to Rafa as Mustadio and Malak entered the room.
"Too many close calls these days," exclaimed Malak as they both grinned. "Geez, what would we do if you croaked on us? You think we could defeat that nut, Vormav, on our own?"
"Hush, Malak!" smiled Rafa. "We should all let Ramza get some rest."
"Wait," said Ramza, "I need to talk to you all first. I...I trust each and every one of you here, so I'm going to tell you what happened, even if you don't believe me." He then proceeded to try and explain his "dream", or "encounter", not quite sure how to refer to it, and then gestured to his bag with the stones. Mustadio grabbed it and brought it over to the bed. "You're all seen the power in these stones...both good and evil." Rafa and Malak exchanged a significant look and the others waited for him to go on. "I think... we need to find out who is behind this plot, and maybe even why they want the Zodiac Stones. And I think Delita may know..."
Ramza walked slowly into the church, still feeling the effects of his recent illness, and hoping Delita had gotten his encrypted message. He knelt down in front of the altar and closed his eyes, thinking of Alma, his father, the dream...and the feel of Agrias' hand clasped in his. He felt Delita's presence as his former best friend entered the room and knelt beside him, also closing his eyes. "A 'heretic' coming to church...pretty bold..."
" I have no time," Ramza said, cutting straight to the chase, "So, I'll ask you straight out. Why did the High Priest send you to Goltana?"
"You came to Zeltennia to ask me that?" Delita scoffed. "Fine, I'll tell you. My duty is to assassinate Goltana and Orlandu..."
"What...!?" Ramza burst, opening his eyes.
"Shh...lower your voice," said Delita, not wanting himself or his friend to be caught. "This is the real plan...We're trying to incite those dissatisfied with the government to revolt, thereby causing people to distrust the government even more. Both armies will try to put down the revolts, but won't have enough soldiers. Then what? They'll finish things trying to break the deadlock."
"All the recent revolts were the High Priests' plan," Ramza realized out loud. "And to stop these, both armies are heading to Bethla. Everything is as you planned..." Ramza suddenly felt how much Delita was involved in this and wondered how far these people would take their scheme...
"Not quite yet. Because...During the battle, Larg and Goltana will both be killed by someone." Delita looked over at Ramza to see if he would react but he did not so Delita looked at the floor again. "Of course, the leaders will also be killed...Nanten's Orlandu, Hokuten's Zalbag, and Dycedarg...Losing their leaders, both armies will stop fighting and turn to peace..."
Ramza looked over at Delita now, stunned by this plan, and then looked down again as he spoke. "Then, the church will become the 'mediator'..."
"And the people will support the Church entirely." Delita said with smug satisfaction. "They even threw in the Zodiac Brave Legend."
"But the Zodiac stones..." Ramza started, wanting to explain it to his friend.
"Right now, you're the Church's biggest obstacle."
"Aren't you trying to get the stones also?"
"I'm not working for the Church!" Delita declared, standing up.
"What do you mean?" Ramza said, looking up at him, suddenly confused.
Delita looked down at Ramza, completely serious. "It means I'll kill you if I have to." He paused for a moment and looked forward again, lost in his own thoughts. "Don't worry. Our reasons may be different, but we want the same thing. As long as we want the same thing...we won't be enemies."
"Come with me..." Ramza started.
"Sorry, I can't. She needs me." he mustered, finally revealing a speck of true feeling.
"Prince or Princess," he said, trying to cover up his feelings. "It doesn't matter as long as they are easily controlled. The High Priest's plan calls for a puppet government."
"You're just using Ovelia for your own ambitions?"
Delita knew that wasn't true either. "I...don't know. But..."
Ramza stood up at this point and looked Delita with interest. "But what?"
"I would give my life for her." he remarked softly.
Delita looked at Ramza then, his eyes betraying him, and Ramza knew he spoke the truth. "Is that strange?"
"No. I believe you." There was a moment of silence and then sounds came from outside the church.
"Ramza! The Church is surrounded!!! Come out quickly!"
"That voice...It's Zalmo!?" The two friends hurried out of the church to face another battle that was quickly ended with them fighting together for once. After the battle was over, Ramza stood with Delita and his friend Balmafula outside the church.
"Ramza...take care. I will do what I have to do...and I suppose you will too." Delita and his friend strode off, leaving Ramza to wonder what he should do next. The answer came quickly enough as his group raced to stop the brewing fight at Bethla.
"The real Cid and Ramza have escaped."
"Good..." said Delita as he pulled his sword from the fake Cid's back. "Pray that Ramza will take care of the rest." He walked out of the room and down the corridor of the Castle that was now his, pondering his own fate. It wasn't that he liked killing people. Sometimes Delita wasn't even sure how he'd gotten so involved in this mess in the first place. If it hadn't been for Teta's death, he might have just become another general in some branch of the Hokuten army....Delita's thoughts trailed off and he felt the aching sting of loneliness come back. Strange, to be surrounded by people, and to feel more alone than he ever had in his whole life.
Delita came to stand on the balcony, the same balcony where he'd kissed Ovelia several weeks ago, and looked out over the horizon. The sky was overcast, with rolling gray clouds that seemed to shove themselves right up against the purple hued mountains. The sun was nowhere to be seen and a chill wind whipped across the plains this late November morning. "Delita?" he heard Ovelia's voice as she came out onto the balcony.
He didn't want her to see him in such a bothered state. "Leave me alone."
Ovelia did not leave but marched right over and grabbed him by the arm. She pulled him until he looked at her and then she spoke to him, her eyes narrowed in either anger or concern, Delita couldn't tell. "Your eyes are the same color as the sky today..." she began and he did not say a word. "Delita...you always want to be there for me...why won't you let me be there for you?" Delita still did not answer, but pulled his arm from her grasp and looked away. "I...I remember what you said....about the two of us being the same kind of person....Delita...I'll be in my room if you need me." She walked away without another word, leaving Delita to argue with himself.
"Why do I continually push her away...if...if I know I love her?" he wondered out loud. "Is it because I am afraid of letting someone get as close to me...as Teta was? I even pushed Ramza away in the end..." Delita knew that he was so close to the top that he could taste it. With Larg and Goltana gone...who was left for him to defeat? "I just want to use those people who used me..." But Ovelia was not like the others.... He turned away from the balcony and started down the corridor to Ovelia's room. He pushed open the door and strode into the room.
"Delita?" Ovelia said with surprise, getting up from her seat by the window where she'd been writing. Delita had the strangest expression on his face, that Ovelia could not remember ever seeing before. "Are you alright?" She came closer to him, reached up with a hand to touch the side of his face and he pushed her hand away. "It's ok, Delita...to depend on someone else for a change-"
"Ovelia...I am too scared of what could happen if, even for a second, I did not appear to be strong. I have people fooled, too, people think I am strong. But I am human."
"Delita...I don't understand," she said, stepping back to hold to gaze at him at arm's length. "What are you so afraid of?"
That loving you would be my downfall...Delita swallowed and looked at the ceiling, his answer unspoken. "I don't know..."
"Delita...I never thought I would be able to say this, but I know it to be true. I love you. With every day that passes, with every word you speak, with every embrace we share, I love you more and more. And I can't believe you would ever do anything to hurt me."
I don't want to believe I could either..."Ovelia..." he paused.
"Delita, you want me to trust you...but why do you never trust me? with your thoughts, your feelings. You keep everything bottled up and one of these days you're just going to explode. And maybe I won't be around to help you pick up the pieces." She turned away and took a step towards the window, completely disheartened at his strange display. "I have never seen you act like this. You're usually so confidant, so smooth-I know something is wrong."
Teta died 3 years ago today..."Ovelia...be my wife."
"Whaaatt??!" she exclaimed, whirling back around to look at him. "Delita, you're not thinking straight. Go to your room, get a rest, let me take care of you for once-
"You already have-" he said and he pulled her back to him, gazing into her eyes, his hands resting in the curve of her back. He watched the nervous expression on her face, and then suddenly took her face in his hands, kissing her with such a passion that Ovelia thought she would fall over.
"You're insane..." she whispered.
"I would guess that the wisest thing for us to do is to go to Limberry," said Ramza to his friends. They had taken refuge at a small town outside Zeltennia. "They may be holding Alma there."
"Agreed," said Mustadio. "Rafa, do you need some help with dinner?"
"That would be appreciated." Malak joined the two as they went in search of some wood to build a fire outside and Agrias retreated a few feet away, pulling out a small book and beginning to write. Ramza was left seated with Orlandu, across from each other, on two plank benches. It had been a hasty escape from the castle, and now that they were alone, Ramza was curious to learn what Orlandu remembered of his father. Yet, before he even had a chance to question him, the older man began to speak.
"You have become quite a fine young man, Ramza," he said, his blue eyes twinkling just the slightest bit. Though Orlandu was much older than the rest, his still lived up to his Thunder God Cid image, his white hair and fiery expression giving a god- like look to his already stately presence.
"Thank you, sir," said Ramza, looking at the floor. Ramza was not one to be easily embarrassed, but he had a certain respect for Cid that did not have for anyone else he had ever known...except his father. "I...try to do what I feel is right..."
"You have Balbanes' spirit," he mused. "Your brothers....they are not of the same type."
"I apologize for their actions, sir."
"Ramza, we are to be allies now. You may, with ease, call me Cid. And you have no need to apologize for your brothers' selfish motives. You have done all you can to do right by your family, and it is not your fault if they have little pride and honor. Further more, your father would be most ashamed of them were he still alive. He always seemed to have more affection for you and Alma. Sometimes I think he knew your brothers weren't as sincere as they'd like everyone believe."
Ramza sighed and finally looked up at Orlandu. "I know you have not seen me for a very long time, but did you keep in touch with my father? I mean, in the years right before he died?"
"Actually, we wrote letters very often. Letters we shared with no one else. Your father and I had a very strong and trusting friendship in these treacherous times, and it's a shame that I had to leave the letters behind in the castle. But no one will find them where I have hidden them, so maybe some day I will be able to show them to you."
"I would appreciate that," Ramza said with a smile. "Sometimes it feels like my life has been nothing but a whirlwind. I mean, when I was younger, life was simple, even during the war. It was me and Delita-going to school, looking out for our sisters, playing games...But when father died, some of that happy spirit seemed to fade from Igros' castle. My brothers always had disdain for me...maybe because I was father's favorite...I don't know. When I lost Delita at the battle at Fort Zeakden...I lost a part of my childhood, a part of myself. He and I had always promised never to let anything come between us, yet before my eyes, something as silly as class created a terrible chasm between us. When I found out he was still alive, I almost lost my mind...but then I realized that he was not the same person I'd grown up with. I look at him now and see all these other things...I see things he never wanted to be, but that he has become anyway. My whole family was torn apart because of the selfish motives of others and Alma is in danger because of things beyond her control."
"How much is in our control?" Orlandu interrupted him. "We like to think that we control our futures, but I watched how easily I went from Goltana's most trusted advisor to his worst enemy. It showed me that half our fate lies in those we decide to trust, and in what we choose to believe."
"I think that's why my brother left," added Agrias, snapping her book shut and tucking the old pen between its pages as she came to sit with Ramza and Orlandu. "He didn't believe in serving royalty and couldn't bear to see our family torn apart by political conflicts. He told me when he left that he needed peace of mind...and that when I was ready, I would know where to find him. Maybe...maybe after this is all over...I will find him, and we will talk."
"When I get Alma back and when we defeat Vormav, I would like to just disappear into the countryside. Cid is right-I have done all I can to defend my family's honor, and once this war is over, I don't want any part of royalty or nobility. I'll leave that to our good friend Delita."
Ovelia stood at the window, wishing it was warmer outside. She'd never been fond of the dreary winter weather, especially when it was too warm to snow. Her thoughts drifted to Delita and she smiled a small smile. To be married?... Ovelia wondered if she was crazy. "I suppose I still have time to change my mind," she laughed aloud to herself. "But I love him, so why would I?"
A scuffling and a muffled scream outside the door to the room grabbed her attention. "Where did he escape to?" a harsh voice called. Ovelia walked closer to the door to listen.
"You search over there!" another voice called out.
"He was wounded trying to escape! He must still be near!" a voice called.
The door opened with a slam and shut again and Ovelia jumped in surprise as Olan limped into the room, bowing, and then as he tried to come closer, fell to his knees in pain at her feet. "Olan!!" she cried with alarm. "Are you ok!?" She bent down quickly to touch his shoulder in concern. "What an awful wound. Be strong..."
"Ovelia, your Highness..." he started, looking up at her. "I must tell you..."
"Don't speak..." she said, a worried expression crossing her face.
"Please, listen to me...My stepfather Orlandu didn't murder Lord Goltana ...suspected of conspiracy, my stepfather escaped Bethla with Ramza Beoulve...Now he's fighting to stop the High Priest's evil plot..."
Ramza...I wonder how my friends are..."I trusted Uncle not to start a rebellious movement," she said, shaking her head sadly. She opened her mouth to speak again and was interrupted by a fierce pounding on the door.
"No good!" a voice called. "The door won't open!"
"Highness!" another voice called. "Are you safe?!"
"Please! Open this door!"
Ovelia looked down at Olan again with an anxious face. "Then...who? Who killed Lord Goltana?"
"It was-" he began but the door flew open and two knights rushed in.
"Your Highness...Are you alright?" asked the knight, glancing back out the door. "Here he is!"
Ovelia looked to the door as Delita entered. "You there," he said calmly and evenly to the knights. "Leave this room."
"I said, leave this room!"
"I'll not say it again!"
"Y, yes.." the knights said as they scurried out of the room, closing the door behind them as Delita's friend Balmafula entered. The two came to stand on either side of Olan and Ovelia continued to kneel in front of him, her hand on his shoulder.
"You...traitor," hissed Olan, looking up at Delita.
"Oh, please," he said, kneeling beside him and looking him in the eyes. You know you wanted this too. Look around, do you see anyone who's really saddened? You should thank me for 'killing' your father...now nobody will be after him."
"Stop that nonsense!" he exclaimed.
Ovelia stood up at this point and turned her startled eyes to Delita. "Why, why did you do such a thing?" she exclaimed.
Delita stood up and looked at Ovelia without a trace of emotion. "I told you I'd make you into a real monarch."
"You liar! You're just trying to use me!"
"You don't trust me?" he said very evenly, not breaking her gaze. Ovelia didn't answer him, only stared back, wishing she could see inside him to know if he was speaking the truth. And just a moment ago I was declaring my love for him aloud..."Well...Ovelia?"
Ovelia finally broke the gaze to look down at the floor. "I'd like to trust you...but..."
"I must talk to Olan," he changed the subject. "Go to your room."
Ovelia looked at him once more, her eyes now pleading. "Please...be gentle with him..."
"OK, I promise..." Ovelia turned and walked down the stairs, out of sight, but, thinking twice, she opened and shut the door, making it sound as if she'd left, and instead, turned back to listen to the conversation from her concealed place below.
"I don't care," said Olan as he heard the door close. "All I wanted was to clear my stepfather. Do it in one deathblow..."
Delita looked down at him and almost shook his head. "What are you talking about? I can't have you dead."
Olan looked up at Delita, not comprehending. "What am I worth to you alive?"
"You'll work under me."
Olan laughed and a pain shot through his side. "Don't be a fool. I refuse, even if it means death!" he declared defiantly.
"You cannot refuse." Delita turned and walked towards the window, lost in thought for a moment. "I'll bring down the Hokuten and build Ovelia's kingdom. Of course, I'll kill the High Priest. I'm not his dog." The other two were startled by this sudden declaration.
"Are you serious?" said Olan. "What the hell...?"
"I'm sure you know I'm right. What I'm planning to do is completely justified. A former squire, now in control of knights, and restoring order to the world. It's easy to understand. This is the 'hero' the people have been demanding."
"For that, you're going to take advantage of everything?" said Olan incredulously.
Including me thought Ovelia, and bearing no more, she turned and ran from the room, not caring if they heard her, as Delita's last words echoed behind her. "Is that wrong?"
"Is that wrong? Is that wrong?" she sobbed aloud, now alone in her room. "To tell someone you love them-to make someone love you, when in fact it is only a lie?" She picked up a crystal box and threw it against the wall and watched it shatter into a million pieces, the shards dancing and hovering in the air for just a moment before they scattered across the rug. She threw herself across her bed, her whole form shaking with anger, pain, fear, and still, unbelievably, love... "How can this be? How can it be only an act? Those embraces, those kisses...they were real, weren't they? Or has this only been another delusion, invented to keep me from ever having any sanity, any peace of mind?!! I love him!" She stopped for a moment and tried to take a deep breath, and only succeeded in choking on her own tears. "No, I loved him. There is a difference."
The door opened without a knock and Ovelia buried her face in her arms as she lay on the bed. "Why are you crying?" Ovelia did not answer him. "I know you heard the entire conversation...Ovelia...don't you realize that I'm doing it all for you?"
Ovelia lifted her face from the blanket and stared at him coldly, yet her eyes gave away her true feelings. "Oh, Delita...scheming and killing and lying? That is not the way to build a kingdom...no way to build a trust...no way to build a love. I thought I loved you...but maybe you are not the person I thought you were-"
"Please-" he said hoarsely as she buried her face in the blanket again. "Ovelia...I can't...explain it to you...I..." I can't explain that you are the one thing that is most dear to me..."this means everything! The kingdom! You! Me! Ruling side by side!" He walked over to the bed and sat down beside her, his hands touching her hair, her back. "Please...please look at me-"
"Delita," she said, sitting up to glare at him with a tear stained face. "How can you be so cold and calculating one minute-And yet so warm and caring the next? I can't live with this dual version of you! I just can't!"
"I promise you," he said, gripping her shoulders, his gray eyes gazing into her hazel ones. "It ends here...no more plotting...no more scheming....no more killing...won't you trust me, just one more time?"
"Delita...I don't know if I can-" As always, her response was cut off as his mouth found hers and Ovelia felt herself go limp in his arms. Yet, would a kiss be enough to make up for the pain I feel? Could I ever find it in myself to trust him again?
Rafa sat on the steps of the inn outside Limberry watching the rain pour down. The silvery gray drops turned the normally dusty road to a slippery mess of brown that ran in rivets down the street and the air seemed so cold that Rafa felt it should be snowing instead. Perhaps it would, when it got a little darker, colder and later. From her perch she could see the candle light of some of the rooms along this side of the inn. She could see Agrias sitting at a table writing again and Ramza pacing around in the room next to her. She watched the light in Malak's room go out and listened for his footsteps, knowing he would find her out here.
"Geez, Rafa, aren't you cold?" he said, sitting down beside her.
"Not really...it's quiet out here...peaceful. I was just using the moment of solitude to think." She watched a drop of rain slide down off the overhang.
"Do you want me to leave you alone?"
"No, I don't mind your company."
"What are you thinking about?"
"Old memories," she sighed. "Malak...if we ever get out of this mess, I want to go back to visit Golthanas' hometown. I want to see my past...Do you realize how much this war, these political and religious struggles, have ripped away from us?"
"That is true, Rafa," he said, placing a hand gently over hers. "But we should be grateful we still have each other."
"I know," she said, looking up at him with a small smile. "After all the terrible things that have happened, I didn't think I really believed in God anymore. But brother, someone, something, brought you back to me. You were dead. You were gone. And something made you live again."
"I know. I lived it and still I cannot explain it. Those stones have a unfathomable power, and maybe Ramza is right when he says the power is in the beholder."
"Ahem..." interrupted a third voice. The siblings looked up to see Meliadoul's long face in the doorway. "I couldn't help but overhear you passing by...do you mind if I join you?"
"Of course not, sit down," said Rafa.
"You know that I lost my brother." she began abruptly. "I wish the stone had brought him back to me. But some things are meant to be and some aren't."
"Lia, I understand how you feel-"
"Maybe you do. I know you two have had much taken away from you, as have I. The stones...are not predictable. Yet, they wield power beyond anyone's comprehension. Power that can corrupt an unsuspecting soul. Power that can destroy life as quickly as it is given. That is why I have joined you. To prevent what happened to my brother...from happening to anyone else."
"That is noble of you," said Malak.
"I only hope it helps to dull both the pain and anger in my heart," she said in a hushed voice, a tear welling in her eye.
"Maybe it is those who act so negatively on their anger," mused Malak," who summon Lucavi. And it is those who act out of love and peace and the goodness of their hearts, who summon things that are good."
"In that case," said Rafa," It is up to us to retrieve those stones before something else terrible happens." The three then fell silent, all sharing a private grief and solitude as the silvery raindrops turned to dancing white crystals.
A knock came at the door, and Agrias snapped her book shut, already knowing who it was. "Come in." The soft glow of a single candle provided the only light on this cold January night.
Ramza wandered in and sat down on the edge of her bed. "What are you writing?"
"What's the matter?" she said with a laugh. "Can't sleep?"
"It's snowing," Ramza answered, avoiding the question.
"Is it?" said Agrias, rising to go and look out the window. Indeed, little white flakes were dancing past the window, covering the ground with a newness that seemed to make the grime and sadness slip away. "I love snow," she said. "It used to snow a lot when I was little-we lived up north for a few years, me and my brother, with my grandparents until we were old enough to live at the castle with my parents. I used to love to just sit outside and try to catch one on my tongue."
"It never snowed much at Igros' Castle," said Ramza," maybe three or four times a year total. But I remember one year when I was about 9, when it snowed so much they closed the school for two days. Delita and I helped our sisters build a huge fort in the snow and then we all went sledding down the hill behind the inn. It was a lovely winter."
"It's funny how everything always seems to remind us of another time."
"I wonder if memories are the only thing that keep me going." said Ramza thoughtfully. "I have little left in this world except Alma and the friends I've made along this journey."
"My father taught me, after my mother died, that one can't live in the past. He said that it was right to always love and treasure the memories in our hearts, but that we must always keep moving forward, living each day to the fullest. Because...you don't know if any one day could be your last."
"I guess I try to do that too," said Ramza. The two fell silent then and stood side by side at the window, watching the snow quickly turn heavier and blot out all of their surroundings.
"You know why I like snow so much?" Agrias broke the silence. "No two flakes are alike. And of course, everyone knows that. But what's so special is the way the wind blows them all around, just like life blows us around, until everything is so blended, you can hardly tell one flake from another, just like people's lives become so intertwined. But still, when it comes down to it, each flake, each person, is their own."
"Is that what you meant," he said, turning to look at her, "when you told me that you didn't hold my name against me? Because...I am me, and no name would change me as a person?"
"I suppose...this conversation is getting way too philosophical for me. I apologize for starting it! So, Ramza, what's bothering you?"
I don't seem to have the words to put it in. "Nothing, really," he said, walking away from the window and pacing around the room a bit. "Just couldn't sleep."
"Oh," she said, leaning back on the bed and stretching her arms above her head. "I guess...it's hard to be calm when we're stuck here in an inn and there's so much going on around us."
Ramza sat down next to her and sighed. "But I know there's nothing I can do until the storm passes...truth is...I just couldn't bear the thought of another night of sitting alone in the dark thinking...do you mind if I stay awhile?"
"I don't mind your company," she smiled. "And if you don't feel like talking, that's o.k. too." Ramza's response was to blow out the candle and lean back beside her. They were silent for awhile and the room was quiet and lightless, there being no moon to shine in through the window.
In the darkness, Ramza's hand found hers and they intertwined their fingers. "You know," he whispered as they drifted off to sleep, "I think I believe in God...at least, a little more than I used to."
Olan stared at the ceiling of his cell below Zeltennia Castle, wondering if he'd ever see the light of day again. He'd begun to lose track of how many days he'd been stuck down here with no faces to look at except those of the doctor and the jailer who brought him his food. Olan sighed and felt a sharp pain go through his side. He still hadn't fully recovered from the deep stab wound inflicted the day he'd tried to clear his father's name. "Someday..." he said aloud to himself. At least hearing a voice, even if it was his own, made him less lonely. "I will see the light of the sun again and I will treasure each day that its rays shine down on my face. And I will write the truth of this story...so that everyone may know that Ramza and his friends are the heroes...Ramza...I wonder if he's ok..."
"They've gone to Orbonne Monastery," a soft voice came. Olan had been so lost in his own thoughts he hadn't heard the soft approach of the Queen's footsteps. "They are following Vormav to Murond..."
"Murond!!" exclaimed Olan, sitting up in alarm and hurting himself once again. "God, they could be killed." Father had told him all he'd learned from Simon about the wretched place.
Ovelia slipped a small key on a chain from around her neck and unlocked the door. She came into the cell, giving Olan a dark navy cloak. "Delita has gone to Orbonne to see if there is anything to be done. Can you walk alright?" She helped him to stand and then on impulse, gave him a hug. "I am so sorry, Olan. I would have come for you sooner, but I had to wait until I was sure Delita trusted me again."
"What do you mean?" he said as she helped him down the corridor and up the stairs to the left wing of the first floor.
"Come, I will take you to my room. You will be safe there for the time being." Olan's eyes felt as if they were burning from the small amount of daylight streaming in through the windows. It was late afternoon, almost twilight, and the castle was eerily quiet.
"What month is it?"
Ovelia stopped and looked at Olan who had started to walk on his own now and had to smile. "It is the last week of March and you have been trapped in that wretched cell for 2 and a half months." She looked away in what Olan suspected might be shame as she opened the door to her room and then, letting him enter, quickly locked it behind them.
"So...what do you mean? Delita trusting you...?" Olan sat down on Ovelia's bed, extremely grateful for the comfort as she brought him a plate of some real food. Imagine, him being served by a Queen...Olan smiled to himself at the irony.
"That day you came to see me, injured? I overheard the entire conversation. Olan ...I love Delita...there is nothing I can do to stop myself from feeling that way. We were married last month. Delita is king now. But I am living with a soul tortured in conflict... I do not know whether to trust him. I have tried to find the truth, but Delita covers his footsteps very well...and kills anyone who knows the truth. Thus, I do not know much. But I do know that you have done nothing wrong."
"What are you going to do?"
"Nothing right now...you may stay with me as long as you'd like, and when you feel strong enough, I will help you to escape."
"I don't know how to thank you," he said, rising and coming to stand beside her.
"There is no thanks needed. I am only following my friends in their quest to do what is right."
"Ovelia...I appreciate your kindness...and I cannot tell you whether or not to trust Delita. But I can tell you to fear for your own life if you get in his way."
Ovelia whirled around from where she'd been looking out the window to look at Olan incredulously. "Well...I suppose only time will make that decision for both he and I. I would like to believe he has changed, as he said he would. No more plotting, no more killing...I would like to believe that he has gone after Ramza to help...but I cannot be sure. And so, the one I love most dearly...may also be the one I have most to fear from."
Ramza slowly drifted back to consciousness, struggling to open his eyes. He ached everywhere as if he'd been slammed repeatedly into something. Finally, he opened his eyes to be greeted with a cloudless blue sky and the warmth of afternoon sunshine. He slowly sat up, collecting his wits and coughing up dust. The scenes of the previous battle suddenly flashed through his head and he jumped to his feet in alarm. The smoldering cinders of Orbonne Monastery, burnt to the ground, was more than 500 yards away and his friends all lay in the grass, beginning to stir just as he had. And when he realized that the form next to his was that of his beloved sister, Alma's, he realized that their ordeal was now over. Vormav was dead, Ajora's resurrection was failed. The world was again safe.
Alma started to cough and Ramza knelt by her side, not even knowing how they'd gotten out of Murond alive. By some miracle...Ramza looked to the sky and smiled. He helped Alma sit up as Malak and Rafa came to stand beside him, dusting themselves off. "I hate to ruin this happy moment," said Malak, "but we'd better move off into the hills. I can see Delita's army in the distance and I have no idea what they're up to."
Ramza nodded as the rest of his friends picked themselves up and started a quick descent into the nearby forested hills. He suddenly noticed that his load felt lighter. "Mustadio! Malak! The stones are gone! The entire bag."
"Ramza...Ramza," said Alma, looking up at him with her identical blue eyes. "The entire area is scorched as if some terrible explosion occurred. The stones are likely buried in Murond, never to be seen again."
"I guess it is better off that way," he said as they moved into the trees. Everyone was quiet, appreciating the fact that they had lived to see another day. No one spoke again until they were at least a mile away, and then Ramza stopped short. "Let's rest here. I'm sure everyone is tired."
There was an eerie silence over the group as Rafa, Malak, and Mustadio went about their favorite task of making dinner for everyone. Most others sat silently, contemplatively, and Alma came over to Ramza.
"Brother...?" she began and Ramza gestured for her to sit down. "Why is everyone so quiet? Do they not realize that the long ordeal is over? We are free! We are all free to go our own ways and live our lives. Brother, we have saved the world!" Ramza sat there, not knowing what to say, completely dumbfounded, and then he began to grin.
"She's right!" he called to all his friends as he stood up. "She is so very right!" Ramza had Alma repeat what she'd just said and everyone started to smile.
"WE ARE FREE!!!!" yelled Malak, and picking up Rafa, swung her around until she screamed. The bard pulled out his lute and began to sing and play. The friends all gathered together, laughing and cheering.
"The world...and our lives...are ours once again!" declared Ramza as he stood with his arms around Alma and Agrias. The celebration lasted a long time...
It was spring again. Ovelia sat in the ruins of Zeltennia Castle's church, facing the back wall, her hands clutching a pink hair ribbon. All emotions were long gone and she felt cold and empty. "God...here I am, back in one of the very places this all began. My friends are gone. dead. Ramza...Agrias...Alma...Orbonne Monastery is destroyed. Delita has initiated an inspection...but I wonder why he did nothing to help. The best souls I have ever known are gone!! And he is still here! Ruling as KING!!" She stopped speaking for a moment and reached to tie the ribbon into her hair. Alma's ribbon... "That ends today. Maybe not all of this is my fault. But I could have stopped him. I always knew he was only using me. I let myself be fooled. But that ends today. Even if I spend the rest of my life in hell for what I am about to do...at least this world can rest in peace. At least no one else will be hurt by Delita the way he hurt his own friends. He could have protected them. But no, he used everyone. To be what? A hero? Well, maybe that is what the world believes. But I know better, God. You know better. And so it will end today."
Delita rode up the steps on his chocobo just as Ovelia finished speaking. He saw her lovely form standing with her back to him and he smiled. He had truly kept his promise to her this time. He had gone to Orbonne, he had had the entire place inspected. He had had all the remains to be found buried. He had set a team to cementing the entire place over. He never wanted to hear another word about it. Now was a time to start over... Delita slid off his chocobo and was silent for a moment, still thinking. It hurt terribly to have lost Ramza and Alma, but he hoped Ovelia would understand. Perhaps, he would finally be able to share his feelings with her, now that this was all over. But did she trust him? he frowned. Olan was gone and he knew it had to be her doing. His blood boiled just for a moment. Was it possible to trust anyone but himself? He didn't know...
"Here you are..." he started, finally taking a step forward. "Everyone's been looking for you." He smiled and pulled a bunch of flowers from behind his back. It was always all for you...he thought. "Today's your birthday, right? These flowers..." Delita was completely startled as she turned and ran at him. He dropped the flowers, going to embrace her and instead felt the sharp sting of a knife in his gut...felt the tip emerge on the other side. "O..Ovelia?" he said as he doubled over in pain. Confusion set in, hurt, betrayal...
"You use everybody like that!" Delita felt hot anger boil up in him. I've changed! he wanted to cry out. Old feelings of anger and power came flooding back at her accusation. Delita looked at her, the one he loved, fighting the worst battle he'd ever fought. Her hands gripped his arms and her face was a tortured image of anger, love...and regret. Regret at what she'd just done? "Now, you'll kill me just like Ramza...!" she realized aloud as he made up his mind. With a last burst of energy, Delita pulled the knife from himself and turned the blade on her, slicing her in the same way she'd sliced him and she crumpled to the ground in near death.
Delita fell to his knees, his head feeling lighter, his heart feeling heavier. He turned to look at the setting sun and thought of his friend. Ramza's remains had not been found. "Ramza, what did you get?" The two had diverged on their paths long ago. Ramza chose to do what was right, opting for peace and harmony. Delita, in his anger, had opted for power and vengeance. But even if Ramza was dead, Delita was sure his soul was resting in peace. "I...I never knew...what life was all about. I thought it was about power. About being the hero. I thought life was about who was the richest, the strongest. But all the power and money in the world can't buy happiness! It can't buy love!! And I had love! And love, love, is what finally changed me...what finally made me realize the true beauty of life...but now, now it's too late...I have killed the one I love and she has killed me...and I have gotten exactly what I deserve." He crawled back to where Ovelia lay, and, knowing he was close to death, pulled her close to him as she opened her eyes. "Ovelia...I am so sorry...I never meant for it to end like this...I love you...I always have...and I always will."
"Delita," she breathed, her eyes filling with tears. Her hazel eyes met his gray ones. "I am sorry too...I never stopped loving you either. I, too, will love you for all eternity." They held each other close, their blood mingling as one, two hearts breaking, two souls leaving this world, two lovers sharing their last moments together. And then they were gone...
Ramza smiled at the sun as it began to peak over the mountain on yet another glorious spring morning. Alma stood off to the side, preparing their chocobos for travel, as her brother said good-bye to some friends.
"It is not good-bye, Ramza," said Rafa, giving him a hug. Malak grinned.
"Mustadio has gone to retrieve his father from Machine City and has said he will meet us at the border in a month. Rafa and I, in the meantime, are going to visit our hometown."
"It will be good for us," she said. "The memories of a past left unfinished may finally have some closure. We will see you soon."
Ramza waved to them as they climbed aboard their chocobos and started out south. Agrias came to stand beside him as Alma called a farewell to them. "And where are you going?" he asked her.
"I am accompanying Cid as far as his castle to retrieve the letters and anything else and then he has said he will come with me to see my brother. I think I know where he is."
"I hate good-byes," Ramza said with a frown and Agrias had to smile as she hugged him good-bye.
"We will all be together by June 1st and then we will find ourselves a place out in a corner of Ivalice where no one will bother us. Friends like the ones we have made along this journey are the kind we keep with us always. The kind that, no matter where the wind blows us, will always find us again. This is not good-bye."
"It is only life carrying us on, and soon we will meet again," he added. "Each of us a single whistle in the wind."
"But through that wind joined." The two friends laughed at their rather silly comparison and Agrias turned to go. Cid was saying good-bye to Alma, and they wanted to get an early start on the day. "I will miss you, Ramza. You are my best friend."
She turned back to face him and they smiled, no words needed, his blue eyes holding her brown ones, and then he leaned towards her to kiss her. She lifted a hand to his face and kissed him back and then turned and jumped on her chocobo, knowing that anything more than that, and she wouldn't be able to leave. "Here's to the coming summer!" she called as she raced off to catch up with Orlandu. Ramza stood watching her until the blonde of her hair and the yellow of her chocobo faded into the distance.
"Ramza," said Alma. He turned towards her and, lifting her up, twirled her once in a happy circle.
"I am so happy to have you back!" he said. "I feel like the world is in balance again. Let us go. There is much to settle when we reach our new home. We must have everything ready for our friends." They hopped onto their chocobos and rode off. On a whim, Ramza turned toward the cemetery and as they passed through he saw Olan.
"Ramza...," said Alma with a laugh. "I believe I just missed my own funeral!" The siblings laughed in amusement as they took off at top speed, their laughter echoing across the plains more swiftly than the wind.
"That's because our lives have only just begun!!"