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Chapter 82: Saints and Sinners

...and Germonique went unto the ruler of the Ydorans, and offered to lay the Saint at their feet. Though the Magistrates were eager to see the Saint laid low, Magistrate Solidor was troubled by doubt and guilt. He asked Germonique, "Are you not of his disciples? Are you not his closest friend, his ally, his brother? Why would you offer us this Saint that you adore?"

And Germonique answered, "Aye, I am his friend, his ally, his brother. But all my talents pale before his; all my gifts are shadows before the blessing of his light. Put an end to him, that the deserving may earn their rightful place."

And so the Magistrates, blinded by their greed, were led to tragedy: and so the Disciple, blinded by his envy, was led to betrayal; and so the Saint, blinded by his love, was led to his doom, and humanity to their Fall...

-"The Betrayal of Germonique", the Gospel According to Germinas

What Ramza spread before him on Daravon's dining room table was not just a life's work: it was a life's chronicle. There was the Gospel itself, time-worn and fragile, its dense clusters of Ydoran runes half-obscured by yellowed pages and old stains. The hand that had written these runes had done so in a cribbed, narrow style that strained his eyes. But he had to keep reading, even if he didn't understand what he was looking at, because Simon's neater hand was everywhere: in the margins, annotating this section, numbering one paragraph or another so he could expand upon his thoughts in the pile of slender journals that Ramza had uncovered hidden among everything else.

There was too much in front of him to be sorted out in one night's mad reading. But bits and pieces lingered on his memory, long after he was done.

How many men have died because they held a book like this?

I could figure it out. We probably have the records. We Inquisitors are a meticulous bunch. I always thought it a little odd. How can such militant fanaticism coexist with such intellectual discipline? Perhaps I see opposites where there are none. Perhaps the two strains of thought reinforce one another. Perhaps I would rather think about the nature of Inquisitors than about my own misdeeds.

I killed the woman who last owned this book. I did not swing the blade that struck her down, but I found her. Ten years she kept this tome a secret; I followed whispers and rumors, tavern talk and lovers' confessions, until I found the book beneath her floorboards, and consigned her the care of the Templars.

It is the purpose of an Inquisitor to find the truth. There were rumors of one last extant Gospel, one remnant of the betrayer's words. It was my duty to find it. But she was an old woman, and her last heresy some decade past, and I have the Templars' report in front of me. No fire, no hammer, no knife, and no needle could make her speak. And if I had not gone looking for her, she would have kept her peace. She would still be alive.

So. She's dead, and I'm alive, and I hold the Gospel of Germonique. And her death has earned me such credibility among my peers and superiors that even Zalmour no longer questions me. I told them we must study this text, and learn its secrets. We must be able to see the lies that have infected Ivalice, and weed them out. And we must constrain their contamination to one strong, worthy, and exhausted soul. A retired Inquisitor, living out his days in solitude.

So. Her death bought me the time to read this text. And in spite of my avowed purpose, I wonder. What lays within? What truths, what lies, and what miserable things in between? For what did that woman die? For what did I kill her? For what did Germonique betray our Saint?

...not just Ancient Ydoran. The text is in a dialect I'm unfamiliar with, vowels and consonants shifted over several places, nothing quite fitting together right. Every fresh translation is an effort...

Is it strange to admit I'm disappointed?

Months of work, and the Gospel is simply mundane. Germonique speaks only to the day-to-day toil of life as a low-level official in the Ydoran service in Gallione, until a brilliant mage named Ajora came into his life in pursuit of rebels in the mountains. No claims that the true demons traveled in the Saint's employ, no lofty claims of other gods or knowledge forbidden to the public. His account is rather sympathetic, in fact: Ajora is a little cruder in this telling, if no less pithy, but his ideals are inspiring...

"...Germon, these bandits are as Ydoran as we are."

"How you can say that? Look what they're doing."

"Raiding the town. Compelling obedience by the sword. Growing fat off the honest labor of people they threaten to cut down."

"What you're saying is treason."

"Uncomfortable truths often are."

...no claims of divinity, either for or against the Saint. The Saint and his disciples travel all across Ivalice and beyond, to every part of the Ydoran frontier, doing their best to help the people. I see the roots of a Zodiac Brave Story here, but there are no Stones, no miracles, no demons. Above all else, this is a human tale...

The more I read, the more I find the Church's fear of this text bizarre. Certainly this should be a forbidden volume, painting a human portrait of a divine figure, but the vehemence with which copies of the text are destroyed always implied to me it must contain some deeper revelation. Is this all there is? An account of the Saint as though he were only human? Is this what we've killed for? Is this what she died for?

...but none of the Disciples were men of lackluster ability. Germonique's rank may have been low, but surviving reports from his posting indicate he was a man of tremendous administrative abilities, and the Saint's own history as a mage in the Ydoran military is well-documented. The other Disciples were similarly gifted. Germonique has only hinted as to why...

Poor Germonique.

Shouldnt write taht .Should blot out. Had a bit to drink.

But I can see it hapening. He is truste as no other is. Ajora tells him everything, show hm everything. Gets his help. But Germon doesnt want to help with this.

Should write over my drunken ramblings. Can't bring myself to. Records of truth. Important.

Deeper into the text, and it reads more like a journal than a Gospel, and this entry has taken months of work to decode in any meaningful way, and I'm still not sure of dozens of nouns and verbs and

No, no denial. It's still there, even in sketches.

The Saint and his Disciples roam from place to place, all across the frontier. In the other Gospels, they battle demons, perform miracles, and unite the people in the faith of the true God. In Germonique's account, they humbly help as best as they're able. But there have been little hints of other business. Money paid to this official here, or a message passed along to a local lord there. Germonique writes in the wake of an unpleasant task. There is a tone of confession to this writing. I have tried my best to do it justice.

"How...many people...afraid of us, can't stop us, too strong, too popular...sold...location to...Ydorans. Message from...riots in Bethla after execution, we...Ajora says...only way...Ydorans too strong, have to bleed them...sacrifice for a better future...tired."

"He would burn this world to ashes and call it justice. I have to stop him."

Germonique's name is now synonymous with betrayal. No, synonymous is too weak a word. Church theology holds that Germonique's sins are a microcosm of all mankind's. That was why he Judged the world as he did, and obliterated our greatest civilization. That is why all mankind must be converted to the Church, and seek atonement. If the man most loved by the Saint could commit him to such a fate, how could mankind be any better?

The official Gospels all hold that Germonique's betrayal was one of envy; that he allowed his friend to die because he hated being in his shadow. You will never hear any true member of the Church admit that Germonique's motives are entirely unknown. He did not return to the Disciples to share his motives, and the men who conspired with Germonique did not survive Judgment. Every part of the account we have is a fabrication.

I keep thinking back to how Germonique first joined with Ajora. How he was drawn by his idealism and his power, how he wanted to speak the truth no matter the cost. How his writing glows with anticipation those first few months of travel, as they help far and wide across the world, doing the occasional favor for the local powers. How bitter he grows, as he realizes that the good they do is an excuse for these other deeds.

Hard to compare with historical records. So much has been lost. But Ajora's rise to Sainthood came at a time of great unrest for the Ydorans. Rebellions within their ranks and without. Locals looking to retake control of their cities and nations. Religious zealots looking to overthrow the pantheistic nondoctrines of the Empire. Warlords and generals hoping to found their own dynasties. More than a few names can be found both in the historical records and Germonique's Gospel.

Is this the supreme heresy that the Church needed to crush? Is this what that woman had to die for? Is this what I killed her for?

The cask is half empty, and my thoughts are clear.

I finally understand why the Church so feared the Gospel of Germonique. I think I may have always understood, though I lacked the words to explain it. For the Church is a merchant, though its goods are stranger than ordinary fare. Like all religions, the Church deals in truth. But any scholar knows how many different truths there are; how victor and vanquished will tell the tales of their battle quite differently, as will torturer and tormented of their encounter. Truth is a mosaic, only fully understood when you have all the proper pieces in all their proper places.

But the Church—especially a Church like ours—insists on a monopoly on truth. Its truths cannot be understood as pieces of a larger whole. They are the whole. They are the mosaic. And if the viewer finds the mosaic ugly, the fault must lie with them. How could they find truth ugly?

To be honest, I believe in the Saint more today than I did when I first read the Gospel. What matter that Ajora is a man, who joked and jibed and drank, and was tempted by sin? What matter that Germonique's betrayal may not represent the sins of all mankind, but is instead a clash of ideals? The Saint of Germonique is a man, with flaws and foibles, but virtues, too. If the Gospels of Balias, of Bethla, of Zeklaus, and of Mandalia tell me one thing, and Germonique alone tells me another, why can I not find the truth in their agreements and contradictions? The Saint may be the chosen of God, but he was born a man. His Judgment upon us may be more honest, in that way.

But such a view of truth would bring the Church to ruin. Because to see it that way would be to see men as the arbiters of their own fates, free to interpret doctrine as they see fit. To give man that power would be to sacrifice the Church's authority. If we do not determine what is true, and right, what do we determine? So we maintain our monopoly. So we interrogate, intimidate, torture and burn.

I see men worth admiring in Germonique's Gospel. I see men willing to make difficult, dangerous, damning choices in order to build a better world. I envy such men, because I know I am not among their number. I let the woman who last owned this Gospel burn. I hid in my Monastery, content with my little rebellion, pretending not to know how damned my Church was.

But even now I cannot stop the whispers. Because I do not believe that if the yoke of the Church was thrown off, men would stand on their own. Mankind longs for that yoke, because the yoke is purpose of its own. Minotaurs may labor long and hard for other men, but they gain shelter and food in doing so. Freedom is a wilderness of danger and uncertainty, and I do not believe men have the will to wander it. I do not believe that most men, knowing the truth is in their hands, would seek it out.

So I translate this Gospel, and I drink my drinks, and I hide away from the world I do not want to change, for fear of what would follow. Because the men and women who've had such courage all met gruesome fates, and I am not their equal.

Hard to translate. Head hurts. Heart hurts.

The War was supposed to be over. Ivalice was supposed to heal. And now Ovelia is taken, made a puppet for the powerful, and I can see Marcel and his ilk bending the bloodshed to suit their needs. Even Zalmour follows their mad course. I do not know how I can stop them.

Ovelia. I did not write of Ovelia. I was afraid to. How could such goodness survive the viper's nest of Ivalician politics? How could she still want to help people, after all she's been through? I bet they're using that against her, even now. Maybe she knows she's a puppet queen. Maybe she thinks she can save people by letting them tie her up in their strings.

Do you know what I hate most? I would not have tried to help her. I would not have tried to teach her. I knew how dangerous her place was, and I would still have left her defenseless, if not for Alma Beoulve.

She is not like Balbanes, but Balbanes would have liked her. She is as relentless as he is. She would not rest. Always snooping in the Archives, asking questions about esoteric branches of history and magic, sharing what she knew with Ovelia. How could I help but help her? If only to correct her mistakes.

A strange pair they make, Alma and her brother. He's not like Balbanes either, save for the kindness. The way he looks at you, only wanting to understand.

I cannot stop thinking of Balbanes. It was only a short partnership we shared, hunting those heretic rebels along the Ordallian battlefront, but I have looked back more and more to those days. The mercy he showed those who surrendered. The determination he shared when we were trapped in the cave. Balbanes would not have tolerated this war. He would not have read the Gospel and refused to share it.

He is dead now. I am alive. Don't I have an obligation to do as he would have done? As his son and daughter still do?

I fear what the Church may do if I strike my own path. But for the first time in my life, I think my fear is outweighed by indignation. I must do something. Perhaps I shall write to Marcel, and beg him to relent. Or perhaps to Zalmour, and help him see reason. But I must do something. The truth must be told, and this bloodshed ended. I am tired of seeing good men and women sacrificed because they have more courage than I do. I am tired of being a lesser man.

There was plenty more to read, but the date indicated that this was the last entry, made scants weeks before Ramza's arrival at Orbonne. Before the Priest had died.

Ramza's hands trailed over the other journals. Quietly, he pushed himself up, and away from them.

He stepped out onto the balcony, where once he and his friends, drunk on liquor and victory, ad looked out into the wild night. The air was still, the darkness still heavy even with a trace of dawn lightening the distant horizon, and Ramza leaned forward on crossed arms and watched the rippling grass. Simon's words played over and over in his mind, mingling freely with Ramza's mirrored thoughts.

How many times had he been plagued by the same doubts that had besieged Simon? The cowardice, the envy, the inadequacy paired with admiration? Hadn't it been just such feelings that led him from this Manor months ago, to seek out Zalbaag? And look where all his striving had led him.

But while he could condemn himself, he couldn't quite manage to condemn Father Simon. For all his doubt and guilt and self-recrimination, the man Ramza had known so briefly had seemed so essentially decent; keeping the peace between Gaffgarion and Agrias, wracked with guilt for letting Ovelia be captured, determined to give some measure of respect to her fallen guards in spite of his injuries. The man had died with apologies on his lips.

No. Not quite right. The man had died thinking there was anything of Balbanes Beoulve in his miserable excuse for a son.

A fluttering of wings in the night: Ramza turned his head as a bird alighted on the balcony railing. It cocked its head and offered a quizzical chirp. Ramza stared at it without quite seeing it.

"Ramza Beoulve."

Ramza's attention snapped in the direction of the voice, his head jerking from side to side. But there was only the bird, its head still cocked as it watched him. Ramza stared at the bird. The bird stared steadily back.

"Did you...?" he whispered, not quite daring to ask the question.

"We have your sister, Ramza Beoulve." The voice seemed to vibrate through the air, undulating out of the bird. It was muffled somehow, as though whoever was speaking was shouting through a wall. "If you wish to keep her safe, you will come to Yardrow. You will bring us the Gospel. You will bring us the Stones."

Disbelief melted in a sudden flare of anger. "I do not serve the Church!" Ramza growled.

"You think we are the Church?" asked the voice. "We are beyond your petty Church. We are beyond you. We are powers vast and terrible, and your sister will feel our wrath if you do not obey. There was a moment of silence, and then, as though at a great distance, Ramza heard his sister's voice: "Let me go!"

"Alma!" Ramza roared lunging to the bird. He caught it easily, his hands sinking into the soft feathers, sinking into flesh that melt and ran like wax. Blood and goo poured through his fingers as the bird collapsed on itself.

"Yar...drow..." whispered the pile of feathered sludge in his hands.