Summary: After bidding farewell to her twin brother, Reina Lucis Caelum is resigned to surviving ten long years of darkness awaiting his return, but with the rest of the royal line gone, all of Eos seems determined to dump Lucis in her lap: crown, ring, and all. It's a shame that no one thought to mention her estranged ancestor with an affinity for daemons who seems to know more about her than she does, herself.
Series: Part 2 of the Shattered Dreams Series
Art: Art by Gabriele-b on Deviantart
Sountrack: Search "Remnants || FFXV" on Spotify
Of Endurance (A sort-of prequel from Regis' perspective)
Fragments (One-shots and prompt-fills that fit with this series)
Fractured (Part 1 of the Shattered Dreams series)
Author's Notes: This story is a complete tale in and of itself, but it's also a sequel to Fractured. While it should make sense on its own, there is some context in the previous installment.
Final Draft / Update Release Notes: If you're just starting this fic, disregard this note. If you have read any part of this story before September 24, 2018, read on (Or not, I mean, it's your life. You do you, man)...
All big edits/updates are finished and posted! This means: 1, the story and writing are at least marginally better and 2, that some of the stuff you have already read has changed.
The whole beginning of this fic has been majorly rearranged. I still recommend re-reading the whole thing to fully appreciate the improvements, but if you would like a breakdown for skimming:
ch 1 : Cut crap, minor changes
2 - 4 : major changes and/or entire re-writes
5 - 8 : minor changes but have been chronologically rearranged
9 : minimal new material, but the changes are character-significant
10 - 11 : minor changes
12 : Okay, I didn't rewrite this, but I may as well have, because it was really bad and I don't know how you let me get away with that. Seriously, guys. Major edits, content is predominantly the same.
13 : minor changes
14 : minor changes, but the changes are character-significant
15 : entirely new
16 - 18 : minor changes
19 : some important tone/character edits that you may or may not even notice but they're important, okay?
20 : small-ish content edits
21 - 25 : minimal changes
A lot of what you will notice (or not, idk) is that stuff that used to be here is not here anymore. There is no more Tenebrae or trip with Aranea, all of the drama with Gladio has been cut, and many interactions with various side characters (ie, Libertus) have been reduced. If you're wondering why something you liked was cut, the answer is, almost unanimously, "because it was shit." No, seriously, it's actually because it wasn't contributing to plot or character development in any way. There are so many characters that could be written about during this time frame, given that Square gave us approximately zero information about any of them, but it's simply not realistic to try to fit everyone in here. The trade off is 1, a hopefully more tightly-woven story and 2, I focus more closely on the four main characters (Rei, Iris, Ignis, and Cor) and their developments throughout this period.
Also, once the rest of the story is finished being beta'd by my fabulous beta and goes through last-pass edits, I will probably go back to twice-weekly chapter updates, because no one (myself included) wants to wait 47 weeks (47 weeks?!) to get through this fic. To be fair, 23 weeks is a long time, also, but whatever.
So... cheers. You're welcome. Happy reading.
19 August, 756:
She had been five years old when the Gods had promised to take her brother away. Nine years later she understood it would mean his death. Fifteen years later he did, too.
Today, they made good on that promise.
As the light from the crystal faded, she was left completely and utterly alone for the first time in her life. For two thousand years, the Caelum family had fed them death after death, one monarch at a time. Reina had never known her grandfather. They had taken Father three months ago; she still wished it had been her, instead. But the Gods had some other plan for her. She didn't know what, she only knew that it was.
In her hand, the weight of the Ring of the Lucii dragged at her; the cut on her cheek stung and bled sluggishly. Before her stood her twin's friends, the expressions on their faces, stark as they stared at her, obvious even in the dark—shock, confusion, fear.
In ten years she would see Noctis again. But it didn't matter.
He was already dead.
"Keep them safe," Noctis had said. "Until I get back."
Reina didn't shed a tear. Inside she felt cold; not that terrible ache she had once felt at the loss of her father—her best friend—that pain was a distant memory. This was resignation.
This was how it had to be.
"Well, well, well…"
The steady click of boots against metal drew their attention. And there strode Ardyn Izunia. The Accursed. The Usurper.
Reina's naginata was at her feet. When she reached for it, she kept her eyes on him.
"The Chosen King begins his Ascension. His path to claiming the crystal's power, finally underway. I must admit, there were several times when I feared the four of you would fail to get him all the way here. That would have been so disappointing…" He had a languid sort of walk. "Killing him as a mortal will bring me no satisfaction, you see."
Ardyn made a slow circle around the crystal. Reina and the others turned to face toward him as he did so, not willing to have that snake at their backs.
"Now he shall have his power and his ever-faithful retainers will bring him straight to my doorstep when he does… but you, Princess…" He paused, having walked a half-circle so that he stood in front of Reina while the other three stood behind her. His gaze made her skin crawl when it settled on her. She adjusted her grip on her naginata.
"There really is no use for you, anymore, is there? You've performed your part admirably—brava—but now you're just one more Caelum in the world… and we simply cannot have that, can we? Your brother will be the last..." Ardyn stepped forward. At the same time, so did Ignis, pulling her back so she stood behind Gladio and Prompto as well.
"Tsk tsk tsk. So loyal, aren't they?" Ardyn said. "So foolish. Perhaps they would like to watch."
He lifted one hand and purple fire flared. That was magic. None but the royal family and the Oracle's line should have been able to use it. And Reina had never seen anything like this—magic congealing into a great black sphere. It split into three; each orb moved in the air like a living thing to engulf each of Noct's friends: a body-tight cage that left each occupant wincing and struggling pointlessly for freedom.
"Now then. Where were we?" Ardyn considered the nails on his right hand. "Ah, yes. Killing the princess. I remember, now."
He extended his hand and a blade materialized there—more magic he shouldn't have had. She was still holding her naginata, but now she wondered what use it would be. This creature—whatever he truly was—held his own brand of power that she knew nothing about. And she had nothing. Not even her brother's magic, now.
"Reina—the ring!" Gladio managed a few words, though each of them sounded a struggle.
The Ring of the Lucii. She was still holding it tight in the palm of her hand, half-forgotten. The other half of her had been hoping that everyone else had forgotten. She opened her hand and looked down at it. Hadn't it been larger? It had fit her father and his hands were twice the size of hers—now it looked small enough to fit comfortably on her finger.
Still, she hesitated.
Ardyn took a step forward. Then another. His blade was bare in his hand, lifting, preparing for the blow that would end her life.
What if I let it happen?
If she was dead… she would be with her family. If she lived now, what did that mean for her? A lifetime alone.
Reina took a step back from Ardyn. He had already said he meant to let the others live. Once she was dead, they would be free. And so would she.
Her eyes darted across their faces—Noctis' retinue. But he had asked her to keep them safe. Keep everyone safe. And Father had trusted both of them to do what was right for Lucis in his absence. How could she turn her back on that? How could she take the coward's way out?
She was the only one who knew—the only one who saw visions sent by the Gods. If they hadn't meant for her to use that, why would they have given it to her? Why would they let her glimpse the future if she wasn't meant to share it?
"Use—it—!" Gladio shouted.
Ardyn's blade swung. Reina's naginata clattered against the metal floor. Time stopped.
The ring did fit.
She wished it didn't.
Fire spread, like molten steel in her veins. With a cry she fell to her knees, not even feeling the pain of bone against metal when everything else was ablaze.
Thankfully, that initial burst was all she felt, as if the kings only wanted her on her knees before them. And she was before them. When she found the strength to lift her head and look, they glowed around her—armored suits of blue fire, just like Noct's magic.
:So you have come to bear the ring, Reina Lucis Caelum.:
The words rang out, a terrible booming sound more in her head than her ears, making her teeth ache.
:But our power is not for you. Though you are of royal blood, you were meant to bear your burden without our aid.:
Reina pressed her palms against the cold metal bridge beneath her—was it really still beneath her? Was she even in Niflheim, anymore? Was she even in Eos anymore?
She tried to make her mind work through the pounding in her head. Not for her? She had known that much her whole life—if the Gods had meant for her to wield the power of the crystal, they would have given her the same magic her brother, her father, and every other Caelum before her had. Instead they had given her a scant shadow of the same: the power to mix potions and the curse of seeing the future. But what did they mean, 'bear her burden without magic'?
"I have not taken the ring to make my load lighter," Reina said, gaze turned downward. It would have been so much easier, so much simpler, to have just… not… tried. "A choice of life or death was laid before me. I do not choose life lightly. I choose it knowing that it means lifting this weight on my own… not accepting the release of forever-sleep."
:You judge your life to be so valuable? Choosing life is not a selfless decision.:
Reina shut her eyes. "Then kill me."
All they had to do was let her go, send her back without the magic and watch Ardyn's blade slice through her collar bone. She would be finished. She could finally set down all the weight she had been carrying. She could finally be with her father again and rest easy in the knowledge that Noctis would join them when his time was through. It would have been so… easy...
Her eyes snapped open; her heartbeat ceased. She knew that voice. It was the voice she heard in her dreams, the voice she played in her head over and over again, for fear that one day she would forget it.
:She is of royal blood. Her life is too precious a thing to be taken lightly. She safeguards the future as any king would.:
"Father…" Reina breathed, hardly daring to believe her ears. It was precisely what she had hoped and feared—hoped that his spirit was a part of the ring, that by wearing it she would be with him once more, and feared that all her hopes would fall apart in the face of the truth.
:She will not burn by our power, young king. But she will not wield it, either.:
:Returning her without is identical to killing her yourselves. He will kill her, with certainty, and her death would come of this decision.:
Reina still wasn't breathing. She couldn't believe it—she wouldn't allow herself to believe it.
:This power is not meant for her.:
:Then she will bear my own—as she should have done in the first place.:
Reina watched, tongue-tied and completely frozen. From the darkness a form materialized, as if from fog or tiny pinpricks of color. Her eyes fixed on his shoes and, though she tried, she couldn't bring herself to lift her gaze. It hardly helped that the shoes were as familiar as the face: rough-textured with a regular pattern, like the skin of a snake, and covered at the top by a precisely fitted pant leg— black with a narrow pinstripe. But something was missing. No gold metal braced beneath the right shoe. No black leather strapped across the shin. And when he took a step forward, there was no clank of metal, no regular click of a cane.
He held out his hand to her. She followed the line of his arm, unwilling, but swept along all the same, up the pinstriped arm of his suit to the flow of cape that covered from the elbow to shoulder to the steel pauldron with inlaid gold. And just above, past a high collar…
In the months since they had left Altissia, Reina thought she had run out of tears to shed. Now she proved herself wrong. They fell in hot, steady streams down her cheeks and she couldn't have stopped them if she tried.
"Father…" Her voice cracked, though it was just a whisper.
That smile! Gods—it was the only thing she had wanted to see for three months!
Reina gave a wet sob and buried her face in her hands and shook her head, not even trying to stem the flow of tears so much as she tried to hide her face.
"Reina, my dearest daughter. You have grown so strong… and I am immeasurably proud of you. But I must send you back."
Of course. She couldn't stay—the world out there was waiting for her. Ignis and Prompto and Gladio and all the people she had left behind in Lucis. However much she wanted to, she couldn't remain here with her father.
She ran her hands over her face, wiping away tears, and rubbing her nose before looking up at him again. He was still smiling—melancholy, but smiling anyway—and holding his hand out to her. It took all the strength she had to not start crying again.
"Take my hand, my dear. This time, I shall lend you my strength."
She couldn't find her voice anymore, but she lifted her hand and put it in his, half expecting to find nothing there—just another dream—but instead she felt his palm beneath her fingertips, smooth and warm. His hand closed around hers and, with a hearty pull, he hauled her to her feet.
The world materialized around her once more. She stood in a place frozen in time: at her feet was the naginata she had just dropped; two feet above her head was Ardyn's blade, bearing down. Behind the snake himself were Noct's friends—Ignis, Prompto, Gladio, all frozen as they stared at her, willing her to just do something.
And beside her stood the one hundred thirteenth king of Lucis.
In this world, his form was fog—transparent and intangible. He lifted his hand and wove a shield around them: a hemisphere, thin like glass but more sturdy than stone. Then he stepped behind her, still holding the shield in place, and spoke in her ear.
"Take hold of my magic. It is yours, now."
She lifted her hand and grasped the strands of magic that held the shield in place. His fingers brushed hers, but she felt nothing—like touching dust in a sunbeam. On her hand, the Ring of the Lucii burned bright.
Her father lowered his hand, moving it past her arm as if to touch her, then closed it into a fist and dropped it to his side.
"You are ready, Reina…" his voice sounded in her ear, but she could feel him slipping away.
Panic rose in her chest.
She couldn't do this. She couldn't hold her own against Ardyn with magic she had never used. She couldn't put Lucis back together on her own. And she absolutely couldn't go on alone after having had one more taste of his presence.
"I am with you, always."
His voice was like a whisper of the wind, this time. When she turned to look he was gone.
Ardyn's blade crashed against her shield. A look of surprise flashed across his face, only briefly before it turned to anger. But still Reina hesitated.
What was she supposed to do? She could hold onto the shield that her father had built, but could she really do anything else? Could she do enough to get the four of them out safely?
You are ready, Reina…
Her father's voice sounded in her mind, so close that she couldn't tell if it was her thought or his. She shut her eyes and ground her teeth together as Ardyn swung against the shield again. There was little choice. Unless she meant to give up, she had to do enough.
Reina dropped the shield. Ardyn toppled forward, momentarily off balance, and she took advantage. Lightning leaped from her palm. She shouldn't have known how to call it—she had never held magic like that, not even on loan from Noctis—but somehow it came, anyway, without being known, without being learned. His body flew, propelled backward, and struck the railing on the far side of the crystal.
"Ah, the power of kings. I should have known..." he sounded more exasperated than anything else. "No matter, I will—"
Did he ever shut up?
She decided not to wait and find out. Feeling more than knowing how, she called ice up from his feet through his legs until the whole man—or whatever he truly was—was frozen solid. It wasn't the end of him. Not even if all the kings of old had granted her their power would she have been able to accomplish that. But perhaps it would buy them enough time.
The purple fire remained, holding Noct's friends. Reina spread her hands and consumed it with blue flames until each captive was freed.
"That. Was. Awesome." Prompto said.
"Knew you could do it." Gladio grinned.
"So, you wield the ring's magic, now?" Ignis inquired, stooping for his fallen cane.
"I suppose I do," she said. She didn't tell him that the kings had argued over whether to give it to her, that in the end it had been her father's power she used. She didn't tell them she had seen him at all. Somehow she didn't want to. That was just for her. "But we must leave this place. Come quickly. We return to Lucis."
"But the Crystal—" Gladio began.
Reina shook her head. "No time. He won't be frozen forever."
And besides, the Crystal was massive. They had no way of returning to Lucis with it. Something told her it would find its own way back, someday.