*Title from Stand By Me by Florence + The Machine
Characters: Lunafreya Nox Fleuret; Cindy Aurum; Gentiana; Iris Amicitia
Other characters: Ravus Nox Fleuret; Noctis Lucis Caelum; Prompto Argentum; Ignis Scientia
In a matter of days, the Kingdom of Tenebrae is to sign an armistice, ending a long and bitter conflict with Niflheim. Ahead of the ceremony, Princess Lunafreya, heir to the Fleurian throne, sets forth from her homeland to formalize the union of states through her marriage to the Lord Noctis of the imperial province of Lucis.
The offer of peace, however, is no more than a ruse to lower the Fleurian shield, and the imperial army takes the crown city and its sacred crystal in one fell swoop. En route to her destination, Luna is shocked to learn that she, her brother the king, and her betrothed are believed dead.
Overnight, the dream of peace has faded into a distant memory. Her world crumbling around her, Luna has naught but her resolve and her loyal companions to see her through the trials to come.
|||THE TALE OF THE CHOSEN QUEEN, SAVIOR TO THE STAR|||
There was fire. Heat. The kind that felt like it would consume you, the kind that blasted in your face and made you squint, the kind that buffeted through you and pushed you back.
Lunafreya had felt fire before. Had been confronted with heat so blistering you couldn't see through it.
But this—this was different.
This was not some overly hot summer day. This was not some bright campfire. This was not some out-of-control wildfire.
No. This was Luna, standing before Ifrit, her brother's cape around her shoulders and the weight of years sinking into her bones.
This was Luna, going to reclaim her throne.
She grit her teeth and, swiping a hand across her brow, focused on the enemy in front of her. This would not stop her. Her friends were already moving, heading towards the Astral, and she made herself follow.
The flames climbed higher around Ifrit, the heat feeling as though it could singe her even twenty feet away. Through the crackle of flames, she heard the tinkling of crystals as her friends summoned their weapons and flew into battle. Luna continued forward. It would take a lot to kill this particular enemy. With a wave of his hand, Ifrit caused a burst of flame that pushed her friends back, but Luna didn't stop. This was her castle. This was her reclamation. He would fall, just as all the other enemies they'd faced had fallen.
Summoning her weapon, Luna prepared to charge, only to hear a warning shout as Ifrit raised his hand once more, and fire consumed her vision.
She fell back, feeling the crackle of flames on her, this time, and rolled frantically to put them out, her weapon falling back into the nether. "Luna!" She didn't have to worry, however, because Cindy appeared at her side, tamping out the last of the flames from the cloak, hands moving swiftly, surely. "Hang in there, sis," Cindy commanded, and, once the flames were gone leaving only smoke, looked her in the eye long enough to say, "Stay there. We'll keep him busy."
Cindy raced back off as Luna dragged herself to her feet. There was another yell, through the crackle of flames, as Gentiana called her, "Luna! Over here!" She gathered herself, still panting, the echo of fire still on her shoulders, and made her feet move.
"Quickly, before he strikes again!"
Luna's faltering stride wasn't going to get her there in time, she knew, and she hated the way her insides shrunk at the thought of death, here. But then Iris, always right on time, appeared and, with an arm around her shoulders, practically carried Luna the last feet. Cindy appeared on Gentiana's other side, and Ifrit raised his hand again. "Here it comes," Cindy warned, and she and Iris pulled her and Gentiana's heads down, sheltering behind the rubble of the steps.
The flames, like molten lava, shot by over their heads with as much speed as if it came from a rocket's tail. They huddled together there, waiting for the fire to cease, but as soon as it did, Cindy and Iris raced off again, "We got your back, Luna." Gentiana folded a potion into her hand, the stopper already removed, and summoned her own weapon, "Drink, then join us."
She hurried off too, leaving Luna to down the potion in one gulp, and haul herself to her feet.
Luna faced Ifrit, letting anger rouse her from the thoughts of what was to come. "Let's go!" she yelled, and charged.
|||BEFORE THE FALL|||
Outside the windows, she could see the cliffs and hillsides of Tenebrae, lit by the midday sun. It streamed into the throne room, from either side of the chair where Ravus sat.
Luna stood before her brother, raising her head under his scrutiny, with Cindy, Iris, and Gentiana slightly behind her. She wished, in some portion of her mind, that Ravus would be able to speak to her as he used to, to laugh with her as a prince and not King. But he did not, and though his eyes were protective—as they always were around her—his voice was clear, formal.
"The decreed hour is come." He sat with both hands on the arms of this throne, the cape around his shoulders and the collar flipped up. In his white hair lay the prongs of the crown. "Set forth with my blessing, Princess Lunafreya."
She bowed low, as she knew she should. The toes of her boots were freshly polished, but next to the white marble of the dais, they were still rough and unsuited for the court. "Thank you, Your Majesty." She spoke, not raising her head, but taking a deep breath. She rarely ever called him anything but his name. This was too formal, too strange, to be her departure. She wanted to go up there and hug him goodbye, to feel his arms squeeze once before letting go, because no matter that he was King and could not show weakness, he loved her, and never enjoyed it when she left. She wanted to not have to leave in the first place.
"Take your leave, and go in the grace of the gods." Ravus finished, his voice final, his face grave. Luna rose from her bow, and met his eyes once again. They were still her brother's, even if he spoke to her as King and not as family. But that didn't mean she forgave him. "I shall," Luna let her gaze fall from his, and turned on the spot. Something in her was rankled, yes, but she tried not to show it in her stride. Iris quickly stepped out of her way, and Luna continued down the steps.
There was a sigh behind her—she heard it, and knew it was Gentiana—and felt Cindy's eyes on her back, but her friends waited a moment, and bowed to Ravus before following her.
Luna led the way out of the throne room, her steps slightly quicker than usual. The door creaked shut behind them, leaving Ravus in an empty room.
The elder Fleuret looked after his sister, exhaling slightly, hands curling into fists.
This was not how she should set off.
"Well, Princesses will throw Princess hissy fits, I suppose."
"I used so much time teaching her royal protocol for nothing, then."
"At least it's over, right, Luna?"
She kept walking down the steps. Her friends followed, as she knew they would. Luna only stopped when Drautos' voice called, "Your Highness," and she turned to see not only the guard, but her brother too.
Ravus made his way down the steps, his left arm held close to his body by the gold elbow brace that he'd worn for years, and Luna's heart twisted at the bags under his eyes. Ravus had never looked like that before he'd been King, before he'd been bound to Vigilatus' barrier, to sustain it using the Crystal. Her friends continued a few more steps, but Luna stopped, a soft sigh escaping her. "Ravus," she muttered, and went back up towards him. Gentiana, Cindy, and Iris stopped too, looking back up after her.
Her brother stopped as she came up to him, his shoulders seeming to be weighed down by more than the crown. "I don't want to leave too much unsaid." He held up a hand to stop her from helping him down the last stairs. "You give a great burden to those who go with you." He began, and Luna spread her hands, the words hurting only because she wanted reassurance, not reprimand. "I am not the only one with a burden, King Ravus."
Ravus stopped and addressed her friends, but she didn't look away from him. "I don't ask you three to guide my little sister," his eyes flicked to hers, "Only that you would stay with her no matter what comes."
"Of course, Your Grace," Gentiana murmured, dipping into a graceful curtsy.
"We'll get the Princess to Altissia even if we have to carry her all the way there." Iris affirmed, a smile in her voice.
"What she said," Cindy said, shrugging a shoulder when Luna looked back at her. Luna just shook her head, and said, "The motor's going, we can't stay forever.
"Drautos, he's in your hands," Luna sent the words at the guard, turning from her brother, only to be stopped by Ravus once again.
"One more thing," Luna turned her head to look at him. "Be sure to give your betrothed my best wishes." She swept back up to him to give an exaggerated curtsy. "And give mine to Emperor Iedola, as well."
He raised his brows at her, as though to say, That's what this is about? "We have our guests from Niflheim well looked-after."
"And Noct is as well," Luna said, knowing Iris' older brother and Ignis would be accompanying the Oracle to Altissia.
But Ravus was done with the niceties. "Be careful. This is one journey you can't derail."
She held her head higher. "How could I?"
Her brother faced her, and his shoulders lost a bit of their royal posture. "I just need to be sure you're ready for… all this change." Ravus, forever the overprotective older brother.
"If I'm not prepared by now, I'll never be," Luna said, and turned to go. It'd been years since she'd started training. It'd been years since they'd been children together, years since their mother and father had been murdered. She had grown in more than age, no matter what Ravus thought. Going to Altissia wasn't going to kill her. Marriage wouldn't be the end of her. Why was Ravus so cautious? She was perfectly capable of both diplomacy and journeying beyond Tenebrae. Luna could stay, could help Ravus with the peace treaty. And keep those Niflheim brutes honest, too. She clenched a fist. With the threat of two Fleurets wielding the magic of the crystal, how could Niflheim try anything? But no. She was to leave, get married, he was to take care of the treaty. That was that.
"Take care on the long road," Ravus jerked forward again, as though to grasp her hand, as though he didn't want to say goodbye. "You carry the Line of Fleuret with you."
Luna didn't have a reply, but felt his hand come to rest on her shoulder. He drew her into a too-brief hug, squeezed her once, and then, looking deep into her eyes, said, "Walk tall, little sister."
The road was long, the sky wide and open. There were miles that still lay ahead, and miles from where they'd started. No retinue, no imperial guards, no too-helpful servants. Just her and her sisters, and the open road next to the rolling hills and empty sky.
Well, her and her sisters, an open road, and a broken-down car.
Luna sat against the grill on the Regalia, Iris standing beside her, trying to wave down one of the infrequent passing cars. The sun was hot, the asphalt hotter, and the Regalia wouldn't move.
Iris let her hand drop as they were again ignored, and sighed. "I guess hitching our way there is out... Thought the people were supposed to be friendly outside the city."
Gentiana, still behind the wheel, composed as always even in the heat, responded, "The kindness of strangers is a fickle friend."
Luna, still kneeling at the back of the car, saw Iris' shadow move as the guard stretched. "Guess we're pushing her!"
Cindy, laid out spread-eagled on the other side of the car, moaned, "I've been pushed already... to the brink of death."
Iris' voice contained little sympathy as she came back around to hit Luna's shoe with her own. "Oh, you aren't dying. There's the auto shop down the way, remember? Won't take long to get there." She helped Cindy up. "We just gotta do the heavy lifting first!"
Luna dragged herself to her feet too, and they moved to the sides of the car, with Gentiana still behind the wheel to keep the wheels forward. "I thought that was the car's job," Cindy moaned to Luna, but Luna just shrugged and got in position. "I mean, technically, yeah."
"Let's go!" Iris already had her hands braced. "Ready..."
She and Cindy exchanged another glance but at Iris' enthusiastic "Push!" they complied. Luna dug her boots into the road and heaved against the windshield. It began rolling—at a measly snail pace. "Why are cars so heavy?"
They crept on. It seemed to get hotter, at least to Luna's estimation, and they'd barely made it ten feet. "This. Sucks."
"You wanted a fairy tale beginning, huh, Luna?" Iris puffed, but her voice was cheerful.
"A good reminder of the harsh realities of life," Gentiana said philosophically, which was really her only way of speaking.
"Don't start, Gena, you're gonna make me think this is an omen," Cindy said, then, with a glance at Luna, hurried to add, "Which it totally isn't."
"Nope, no omens here!" Iris agreed, and Luna thought, exasperated, that she barely sounded tired.
"If you're so... unaffected," Luna began, "Then maybe you can push it yourself, Iris."
"Oh, ha-ha, just 'cuz I'm the official bodyguard doesn't mean I'm some brawny rockhead," the Amicitia said.
Cindy, glancing back at her, said, "You didn't even notice when I let go right there."
"You didn't let go."
"You weren't looking!"
"Ladies, all this talking is not going to make your job any easier," Gentiana cut in. She was so unruffled by all this. "I think it's your turn, Gena," Luna panted.
"Be fair!" Iris yelled back, "We just switched."
"And, anyway," Cindy said, "It's my turn, Luna."
Gentiana inclined her head, which meant that Cindy was correct, but Luna wasn't about to concede the point. "This is going to kill my manicure," Cindy went on, but Luna knew she was just saying that on principle. Cindy didn't really care about her nails. But she considered it her job to lighten the mood, as she always had.
Luna watched her advisor fumble with the phone for a moment, and asked, "Any luck?"
"It appears we are out of service area."
Cindy groaned dramatically, "This was supposed to be a short jaunt into the countryside! How much farther?"
"I think you're mistaking kilometers for meters," Luna said, and Gentiana tapped the map with her forefinger. "We're not misreading the map."
"Hammerhead is close, though, right?" Iris asked.
"In comparison to the rest of the journey, Hammerhead is close." Gentiana offered, and Luna screwed up her eyes in annoyance. "The world is a big place."
"Filled with great wonders," Gentiana agreed.
"Well, my legs don't care what wonders are out there. They hurt." Cindy shifted her grip on the car, and Iris' voice, slightly strained now, came from the back, "Keep pushing!"
They attracted a few stares.
Four girls pushing a sleek, black car into Hammerhead station, one of whom collapsed with groans of protest as soon as they were next to the gas pump, another who, in spite of the heat, looked as composed as if nothing had gone wrong, a third who had tossed off her jacket at some point leaving only her dotted crop top and showing off her impressive muscles, and Luna, who fell into the shade like she'd never seen it before.
However, this left her on the side away from where they were greeted, so her only warning for the approach was the sound of Cindy sitting up.
"Hey, ladies, we were expecting you guys hours ago!" Luna stood as Gentiana turned, meeting the slim figure of a blond young man probably Noctis' age. His voice was light, cheerful, and undeniably country. With his sharp gloves and the goggles around his neck, he looked like a mechanic, which Luna sure hoped he was.
"Now," he mused, "Which one of you is the princess?" He raised his eyebrows at Cindy, and smiled, offering her a hand up, but she brushed it away and stood herself, winking instead at Luna.
"That would be me," Luna corrected, and the guy's gaze immediately settled on hers. "Aha!" He blushed slightly, and moved around the car to meet her. "Congrats on your wedding, Your Highness."
Luna shook the hand he offered. "Not quite official, yet." She said, but the guy waved that away. "I'm old friends with Noct," he said, "I know he's been crushing on you forever. Might as well be official."
There was a tightening in Luna's stomach. She hadn't seen Noctis in... years. Sure, his dog, Pryna, carried letters between them, but the last they'd seen each other, had been when Niflheim occupied Lucis. It wasn't a memory she treasured. Noctis had chosen to stay behind, despite Ravus' offer of protection. He couldn't leave his father, or his country.
"Sorry for the delay," Gentiana transitioned smoothly, "We experienced some... unexpected difficulties."
"Oh, I'm not the one you've got to apologize to," he said back, "Gramps'll be the one who'll want an explanation." He dipped down to look at the car briefly, scanning the Regalia's sides and tires as if checking to see the damages.
"So then, you're—" Iris began, and he looked up at her.
"Prompto, yeah. Cid's grandson, and Noct's best friend!" He grinned at them. "Did Gladio tell you I'd be here?"
Iris nodded. "He told me we could trust you and Cid, yeah."
"Aww," Prompto said, looking up at her. "Gladio really does care!"
Luna grinned, and Iris did too, but the Amicitia raised her hands and amended, "Well, what he actually said was 'Cid'll fix your car, and Prom will drive you nuts, but they won't tell anyone who you are.'" The Argentum's face fell comically, and Cindy laughed this time too.
Luna remembered that she did know Prompto; or at least, she knew of him. Noctis' letters which Pryna carried back and forth between them were often brief, but oftentimes were accompanied by pictures—of him, of Gladio or Ignis, of scenic views of Lucis or candids as they travelled, healing Starscourge—and Noctis had told her that his friend had taken them. Prompto must have been the photographer. From what Luna could gather from Noct's letters, they were very close.
"You got that right," came an aged voice from beyond Prompto, "Now get that car in here before I turn to dust, Prom!"
Prompto jumped, and turned as an old man who could only be Cid appeared. Luna recognized the man, even though his face was twice as wrinkled and his clothes much more grease-stained. Cid Argentum, one of her mother's three closest friends, along with Aura Leonis and Clarus Amicitia. "You know this one's not some beat-up ol' clunker, yeah, Princess? Ravus must'a mentioned it." His eyes met Luna's, and he scowled slightly. "Princess Luna."
"Pleasure to meet—" she began, but Cid waved her hand away, "No need to be all formal, missy. You're not a princess here any more than I'm a king. I knew your mother, back in the day..." He moved past her, eyes on the Regalia, but his tone remained rough, "And you're not ready for that title yet."
Cid ran an appreciative hand down the Regalia's hood as he spoke, but he paused and shook his head as he passed Luna, like he was somewhere else. Luna didn't have a response.
The mechanic continued speaking, but he wasn't looking at Luna anymore. "She's gonna take a while. Y'all bring her in and run along."
The old man tracked back into the garage, leaving Luna's group and Prompto behind. His grandson took a step as if to follow him, only to sigh and then turn back around to them, a smile back on his face. "What he said. I'll help y'all bring it in."
Cindy pushed him back, however, and said, "Just open the doors for us, will ya? We pushed her this far, I doubt twenty more feet'll do us in."
Luna raised her eyebrows at her, but Cindy just winked as Prompto complied, "Right over here, then!"
Galdin Quay was a bright place, the kind of picturesque beach and dock that one saw in magazines, and Luna thought distractedly that Noctis would probably love to fish there. Cindy was excited as they pulled in, but Luna couldn't think of why, given that they likely wouldn't have time to swim. Gentiana deftly backed up into a spot, and they all took a moment to cast their eyes over the scene in front of them. "Never seen an ocean so blue," Cindy commented, a smile on her face. "Maybe we'd have time for some food before we sail?" Iris glanced at the restaurant with its white décor and the polished waiters, but glanced at Gena quickly, "Not that I don't like your cooking, Gena, I just—"
Gentiana just held a hand up with a tilt of her head. "It's not quite the fare we are accustomed to from Fenestala Manor, I concur." Luna dipped her head to hide the laugh. Noctis had said that Ignis, his advisor, put the food at Castle Lucis to shame, but Gentiana was more skilled with a sewing needle than a frying pan. That was why Gena had designed her wedding dress, not the fancy designer Noctis had ordered his suit from. It was also why none of them ever turned down a chance to eat at the diners they passed, even if it meant they needed to take another hunt in order to replenish funds.
"Hey, Luna," Cindy sidled up to her as the other two began the walk to the Quay, "Think we'd have time to stop long enough for me to paint this? I brought my acrylics…" And Luna understood: Cindy was excited to paint, not to swim. "Would it be a prettier view from the boat, though?" she asked.
Cindy squinted her eyes at the landscape, tilting her head slightly, then shook her head. "No, I gotta be able to get all the shops and the patrons! Plus with the light coming from the sea, it'd look best from here."
"We'll ask Gena when we see when the next boat leaves." Luna promised, and hooked arms with her friend to lead her after Iris and Gentiana.
They strode down the open pier toward the restaurant, and beyond it, the dock. Luna couldn't be sure, but it did seem that there were a lot of people milling around, but then again, she didn't know how popular a place this restaurant was. Maybe this was a normal lunch crowd.
Two greeters welcomed them at the entrance with warm bows, and the couple at a nearby table was digging into what looked like the best-prepared fish Luna had ever seen. She really hoped that they could get a bite to eat before heading out for Altissia.
"I'm afraid you're out of luck."
Luna snapped her head up to see an unfamiliar figure striding right toward them. The man, clad in black and gray with a red scarf to highlight his reddish hair, met her gaze immediately, and a shiver went down her spine. "Excuse me?"
"The boats," he gestured over his shoulder, eyes still on Luna alone.
"What about them?" At her side, Cindy spoke up, her voice tighter than usual.
"Well, they'll not take you forth." The man finally looked away from Luna to turn toward the dock. Luna couldn't be sure, but the design on his hood and shirt looked… almost foreign. Like something she'd seen in the tapestries and paintings at Fenestala Manor.
Luna looked past him, and realized that the crowd she'd noticed earlier was concentrated past the restaurant and at the dock. They looked frustrated, at least to her eye.
"And you know this how?" Iris responded, her eyes still on the man, even if Cindy and Luna had begun to head toward the crowd. Luna looked back at her guard, surprised to see the slightest edge of caution in Iris' shoulders. Gentiana stepped up next to Luna, a quiet solidarity.
"I'm just an impatient traveler, ready to turn ship." And he looked away from them, once again walking, back toward the beach. "The ceasefire's getting us nowhere," the man idly commented, as though to himself. He stopped, as though thinking, but then turned with a movement just slightly too-fast.
A cling, and something came flying toward Luna's face.
She flinched, subconsciously, but Iris' hand came up and snatched the projectile before it could land.
Luna locked eyes with the man, even as Iris turned her palm up to reveal a flattened coin, one of the pressed ones you bought for souvenirs. Iris brought her gaze to bear on the stranger as well, but her voice had lost all congeniality as she spoke. "Some kind of souvenir?" A threat lay beneath her words.
"What?" Cindy ducked behind Iris to stand next to Luna, but it was more to brush her arm against Luna's than to examine the coin. Her eyes looked spooked, too, and Luna felt another shiver run down her spine.
"What is this?" Luna demanded, her eyes not leaving the man's. Even though it had just been a penny, danger senses tingled in the back of her head. Who in Bahamut's name was this guy, anyway?
"One might call it an allowance," the stranger gave a smirk that, while not entirely off-putting, did nothing to ease the suspicion that he was more than he appeared.
"And who would be allowing us?" Gentiana had glided to stand next to Iris, the two of them effectively blocking Luna from the man. Her voice held no overt hostility, but the hand she had behind her back, dagger shining, did.
The stranger spread his hands with the kind of smile that was not in any way reassuring.
"A man of no consequence."
Luna awoke the next morning in a comfortable bed with Cindy clanging around in the kitchenette of the cabin they'd rented.
In Tenebrae, citizens were woken by the sound of explosions and screams as Niflheim forces invaded the city walls.
She rolled out of bed and pulled on her clothes in time for the meagre breakfast Cindy made, with her friend's music pounding in the background.
In the royal Tenebrae court, the peace talks had ceased, leaving behind only rubble and the corpses of guards. Ravus stood alone against the armored Niflheim soldiers, crystals spinning around him as he summoned magic and his swords. His guards were already deployed, many already dead. He ignored the coldness tightening in his bones.
Cindy'd had the same, beat-up MP3 for as long as Luna had known her, and her friend rarely ever did anything without an earbud in—no matter how much Gentiana complained. She'd even managed to get Luna's advisor to agree to let the music play whenever Cindy had to drive, which wasn't often.
A series of explosions shattered through the cliffs, causing the upper homes to tremble and tumble down, sending screams to join the crackle of flames. The Magi-Tek soldiers cut down any who weren't crushed.
Iris reentered as they finished, and Luna looked up, expecting to see Gentiana behind her, but seeing only the Amicitia. "Where's Gena?" she asked, and Iris shook her head, "I think she's asking about the boats again. She'll be back in a minute."
Inside the throne room, a battle of smaller scale but no less devastating wracked the room. Two figures, engaged in a one-sided war. Ravus' lightning, the sizzling magic summoned through his fingertips, blasted into the General, only to be absorbed by his sword. The man's armor repelled the sparks, and he stomped on, closer and closer to Ravus. But the King could do no more than keep the lightning tearing into him, had no more energy or mana to fight back.
So when the soldier came close enough, deflecting the lightning up into the ceiling, Ravus stumbled, only to be caught as the man's sword came around and slipped into his chest.
With the door's aperture, they all looked over, Iris rising and her mouth opening in greeting, only to stop as she got a look at Gentiana's face. She had a newspaper in her hand.
General Glauca stalked out of the throne room, leaving the crumpled form of King Ravus on the ground where he'd died.
Gentiana's gaze went straight to Luna, however. "What's wrong, Gena?" Luna asked.
Her advisor looked away, and instead gave the paper to Iris, who had risen to meet her. "I saw the paper as I was trying to call Drautos."
"And what's in the paper?" Luna asked, as Iris took it, and scanned the front page, her face going from mildly concerned to frozen in moments.
Cindy leaned to see over Iris' shoulder, and she read the headline aloud. "'Vigilatus... falls'?"
Luna leapt to her feet. "What?!"
Holding up a restraining hand, Gentiana pushed her back. "Calm down, Luna."
"'Calm down'?! Gena, what is this?" Luna shook away her hand.
Inclining her head—forever graceful, forever controlled—Gentiana said, "There's been an attack. Niflheim's army has taken the crown city." She felt her heart skip a beat, the words like a knife.
Cindy was still reading. "'As treaty room tempers flared, blasts lit the sky. When the smoke about the Citadel had cleared, the king'..." her friend swallowed, carefully making eye contact with Luna, "...'The king was found dead.'"
The floor seemed to waver underneath Luna's feet. "No, that can't... Ravus..."
Gentiana's hand came to rest on her shoulder. "We couldn't have known."
Luna flinched, and turned to glare at her. "Known what? The signing wasn't supposed to happen until—"
"Until Altissia, and your wedding, I know," Gentiana agreed. "We had no way of knowing that it would happen early. We have no way of knowing why, either. But every newspaper, every news site, is saying the same thing."
"No," Luna said, and then again, because maybe getting angry would make her chest not feel like it had a hole, "No! That's not true!"
But she sat down, the words unable to convince her, no matter how much she wished they were true. "If only," Cindy said, her voice weighted with shock.
Iris turned to Gentiana, though. "What else do we know?" The black-haired woman shook her head. "Then we have to go find out for ourselves."
"Go back to Tenebrae?" Cindy looked over from her contemplation of the sunshine outside.
"It could be dangerous for us there," Gentiana warned.
"Might be dangerous for us here, too," Cindy shot back.
"Luna," Iris interrupted, "Should we go back?"
The princess looked up at her. Her brother, her kingdom. Her family, her home. It was dangerous to return.
Luna didn't give it a second thought.
As they left Galdin Quay, the sky turned dark, and it began to rain. Fitting, Luna thought, because the sunshine of the early morning had felt fake.
Cindy and Iris tried to stay positive. Gentiana tried to keep them from speculating. Luna… Luna swallowed her anger and her fear and everything else and pushed it down deep, in the hopes that the tightness in her stomach would be for nothing. But there were imperial dreadnaughts flying overhead, and the radio spoke only of the confusing news, and an inspection point stopped them before they could make it to Vigilatus. "We'll go around," Iris offered, "If we can't go through."
They found themselves on a rise, Vigilatus still obscured by the low mountains, but even from here, Luna could see smoke—what she had before thought was cloud, but now looked too dark and straight to be anything else.
Cindy had her phone tuned into the radio station. And it offered no comfort. "As to ceasefire discussion between the two nations, all provisional terms have been suspended in light of recent developments." Luna closed her eyes. She held onto the hope that whatever came next would not spell the destruction of her home. She knew it was likely to. It was still raining.
"Moreover, in the wake of the news of King Ravus' death," Luna felt Gentiana and Iris look at her, "We have now received word that Crown Princess Lunafreya and the Oracle Noctis have also been pronounced dead." She shuddered, and sucked in a harsh breath. Noctis…
Cindy gasped too, and looked at Gentiana for instruction, but Iris overrode her, "Keep it on!" The blonde hesitated, as Gentiana bowed her head, but Luna let the grief tearing at her insides come out, and it came out angry and short. "Turn it off." Her breath came in short pants, her hands shook ever so slightly, but Luna just stared out at the landscape. She knew loss. She knew grief. She had felt it before, learned to deal with it. Why did this hurt so much, then? Why was this worse, even, than her parents' murder? Her brother, her fiancé, her home, all gone in one fell swoop. She just needed to… she just needed to…
Luna just needed to hear it from someone she knew. She needed to know if it was true. How it could be true.
Imperial dreadnaughts appeared above them, but Luna reached for her phone anyway. The line connected as the planes passed, and it was only her breathing that echoed back at her. "H-hello?" She couldn't be sure what she'd heard, not with the planes' engines. "Aura?" Please?
And then, a familiar voice. "You made it, right?"
Luna screwed her eyes up, hoping to hold back tears. "Aura, please tell me you know what's going on."
"Tell me where you are first." Scratchy, over the line, Aura's voice came across more rough than Luna was used to, but she knew the Marshal's cautiousness well enough to not be surprised. "Outside of Vigilatus, no way in."
"Good," was the terse reply, and Luna felt her anger rise back.
"Aura, just tell me," Luna kept her voice from rising, however, "Just tell me if the radio's right and if my brother and Noct are dead!"
After a too-long pause, she finally responded. "I'm going to Hammerhead. I'll meet you there.
"And… they're right, about the king."
Luna flinched, physically, her fingers tightening around her slick phone, eyes going back to the retreating backs of the imperial dreadnaughts. They were going back to the capitol. They were bringing more troops to plunder her home. Her home, where her brother's corpse now lay, likely without anyone to bury him. Without anyone to care. She tore her eyes away, a sick feeling in her stomach and an even worse pain in her heart. Ravus… she hadn't even said a proper goodbye. She hadn't thanked him. She hadn't been there to help him. She hadn't known.
"Luna, listen. I'll be in Hammerhead, and I'll explain everything there. I need to move, there's too many Niflheim forces here. Please, hurry and meet me there. They'll kill you if they find you, you know that, right?" She nodded numbly, then made her mouth work, "Yes." It was still raining. Not the comforting type of rain, either, the dampening, miserable type that soaked into your clothes and seeped into the ground so you couldn't even walk without getting caught in the mud.
Luna couldn't bring herself to say anything else, so when the line went dead, she just lowered the phone from her ear, eyes still trained on the mountains that hid her home.
Gentiana approached, silently, behind her. "What did the marshal have to say, Luna?"
"She's… going to Hammerhead." It seemed simplest—maybe easiest, actually, for Luna to face—to start there.
"And… the king?" Iris came up, too, close enough to comfort if need be but still far enough away that Luna could not glance at her.
Cindy's boots slogged through the mud to join them, but Luna didn't respond. She couldn't. She opened her mouth to, but found the words lodged in her throat, and just shook her head, finally looking away from the cliffs to stare at the ground beneath her feet instead.
Gentiana's quiet hand came to her shoulder, and, without saying a word, Cindy wrapped her in a one-armed hug. Iris caught the phone from her hand, just as it slipped from Luna's fingers.
It was still raining.
There was one gate out of Vigilatus that was open, unguarded.
Only one, and it was full of rubble and felt like a ghost town, with the doors blown off their hinges and the fences falling apart.
It was here that Noctis exited Tenebrae's capitol. He had walked from the city, down through the town and the burning houses, past the corpses and the soon-to-be corpses, hiding from Magi-Tek and daemons alike. Every time he closed his eyes, Noctis saw the events playing back. Fire, and screams. Magi-Tek soldiers blasting through everything in their path. A roaring daemon. His guards dying. Losing sight of Gladio as his bodyguard ran to help a family, and not finding him again. Aranea… Noctis flinched with the thought of the deaths. The day had been an eternity, every hour a year. The world had been turned on its head, and here he was. Nothing familiar in sight, nothing but open road ahead—except for the two blurs that came out of the wilds, straight to his side as though they had homing beacons installed.
Pryna and Umbra greeted him as he exited Vigilatus, their fur smooth and familiar, and Noctis felt himself smile, in spite of everything. They nuzzled his hands and whined their pleasure at seeing him again, but Noctis knew that if they were both there, then that must mean…
On Pryna's back, held in place by the black pack he had ordered for her, was the notebook, and Noctis unclipped it, the worn red cover comforting in ways he couldn't describe.
A comfort, and a curse, because Noctis knew that in the burning city behind him, Luna's brother lay dead, and because he had no idea if Lunafreya was still alive. Prayers for her safe arrival in Altissia had been sent, sure, but there was no guarantee that she would be untouched by the horrors that had occurred since she'd left Tenebrae. He could only hope that she would continue to Altissia, as he also had to do, in spite of how much he wanted to stop and take a nap. There was still a responsibility laid on his shoulders as Oracle. It would not go away. The duties before him remained, and Luna had hers.
When Noctis looked up, Ignis had appeared, as he so often did, out of what seemed like thin air. His advisor, the Messenger, said nothing, but Noctis stood anyway, and slowly unclenched the fist that held the Ring of Fleuretes. He hadn't let go of it for hours. It was cold, so cold, no matter that he hadn't let go of it for hours. No matter that it had been worn again and again that day. No matter that it was meant to be the thing that would save them, that would give Luna the power to defeat the starscourge, it felt dark, and so cold.
Ignis nodded at him, once, eyes still closed, and Noctis tucked the ring back into his hand. Those who had died to get the ring here… those who had died to get Noct himself, out of Vigilatus… their sacrifice would not be in vain. He would bring the ring to Luna. He would complete his job as Oracle.
Noctis stepped forward, eyes up, out of Vigilatus, and on the road towards the Astrals.
A/N: Here it is, the FFXV remix that you all asked for-oh wait, none of you asked for this? I wasn't bombarded with people saying 'oh you should totally switch the characters in FFXV so we have Luna as MC and get to see HER character arc'?
Oh right, it was just me.
So this was entirely written for my enjoyment, and it took much too long to be a short fic and seeing as I am not opposed to writing another chapter, this isn't complete yet, but it depends on how y'all like it and whether I ever get enough free time to write..
Thank you SO much for reading, a kudo or a review that tells me that you read this would mean soo much to me, but thanks either way!
So, I got to be a Latin nerd and change some of the names with this AU, so:
Vigilatus= Latin for awake, awareness (as the capitol of Fleuret, to complement Insomnia, the capitol of Lucis, because insomnia means sleeplessness)(Thank you to Anichame for correcting me!)
Aura= Latin for soul or breath (a replacement for Cor Leonis, let's just pretend he doesn't exist, because cor means heart in Latin)
Come talk to me on tumblr, under literally-in-too-many-fandoms!
Also posted on Archive of Our Own, under My5tic_Lali!