Author's Note: Bit of a silly Halloween idea playing off a tongue-in-cheek headcanon/running joke between me and a friend of Lute and Knoll from Sacred Stones being Lysithea's parents and featuring a Fódlan version of Halloween. Finally managed to write a new fic after like two months, so this is the first thing I've posted here that's actually new writing. Please read the first two paragraphs in Jeralt's voice. Also, wow, I can't believe Lysithea doesn't have a character tag yet.
As the Red Wolf Moon becomes the Ethereal Moon and the Blue Sea Star vanishes again into the darkness of the heavens for the winter, the people of Fódlan, in times long past, feared that the disappearance of the Goddess' home from their sight signaled the weakening of Her protection. Fearful of the long nights to come and the evil lurking in them, they marked the moon's end with revelry and, hoping to trick malevolent spirits into passing them by, decorated their houses and their shops and dressed themselves in ghastly costumes on the Setting Star's Eve.
In all of Fódlan, it is said that the Setting Star's Eve festival in Derdriu, capital of the Leicester Alliance, was grander than any other, even those held in Enbarr and Fhirdiad...
Derdriu, Duchy of Riegan, Leicester
Red Wolf 30th, 1172
Dusk settling over Derdriu's old town and the tall masts of ships in the harbor swaying in the cold breeze billowing off the Sea of Sreng, Lute grasped her daughter's hand as they strolled along the market street packed with street vendors and throngs of costumed festival-goers. The shops and stalls were decorated top-to-bottom with jack-o'-lanterns and woven webs and plaster bones, and smoke rose into the evening sky from bonfires lit in the larger plazas.
Nominally, her and Knoll's reason for taking leave of Ordelia territory had been the meeting of the Alliance Roundtable to begin in a little over a week, but this had been the reason she had insisted on making a family trip out of her business in Derdriu. It had been many years since she last had the opportunity to visit the city on the Setting Star's Eve, and she had greatly missed the extravagance of the adorably spooky decorations and incredible variety of food and wares for sale in the markets, with vendors coming from as far away as Almyra and Sreng. Lysithea was old enough to truly appreciate it now, so to be able to share it with her was a bonus as well. She had even prepared matching costumes, witch's hats and artistically tattered robes, for the two of them to wear.
She felt Lysithea tug on her cloak. "Mom, mom."
Stopping and turning around, she saw her daughter pouting and pointing at a stall serving pheasant sandwiches. She suddenly realized that in her excitement and curiosity she had gone from stall to stall, surveying the wares in detail and asking each proprietor a barrage of technical questions about their dish or craft, all while neglecting to actually buy any of them. By now she was quite hungry, and she could only imagine Lysithea was as well.
"Oh. Of course. It's been some time since we ate, hasn't it?". The line for this vendor was mercifully short, and it took only a few minutes before it was their turn to order. She peered at the pounded slices of pheasant frying in the pan, but it appeared to be utterly typical Derdriu-style pheasant. Given that, she skipped the questioning and simply asked for two sandwiches.
"With extra berry sauce, mom", Lysithea added, tugging on her clothing again. Lute peered over the stall's counter; berry sauce wasn't typical in the traditional Derdriu-style preparation. Fortunately for them, this vendor appeared to nevertheless have a jar on hand.
"With extra berry sauce", Lute repeated. A few moments later, the proprietor handed her the sandwiches, half-wrapped in paper, and she paid, handing one to Lysithea in turn before they started walking again. Seeing her about to take a huge bite out of it, Lute stopped her.
"It's quite hot", she said, kneeling down and blowing on Lysithea's sandwich. Her daughter frowned, clearly embarrassed, as she stood up again. "It wouldn't be good if you burned yourself, you know?".
"I-I know that. Of course it's hot. And I could blow on it myself, mom. Hmph!". Pouting some more, she did just that, as if mainly to prove her point, and then took a small bite as they started walking again.
"Ok", Lute said, unfazed. The thought crossed her mind that, given how she acted now, Lysithea's behavior would likely be both unbearable and utterly fascinating by the time she was a teenager. She bit in to her own sandwich as they walked, glancing around at various stalls and making mental notes of more she wanted to come back to.
"After this I will buy some sweets", she stated after they spent a few minutes quietly strolling again. "Maybe poppyseed donuts. I saw a stall that had a very pleasant looking preparation of them."
She glanced at her daughter's face. Seeing her eyes light up at her mention of buying sweets, she smiled and started humming to herself.
Lysithea went to take a bite of her donut, pausing just before taking a bite when she noticed her mother staring at her. Like the sandwich earlier, it was piping hot, just out of the fryer. She blew on it, not wanting Lute, who by all accounts was the strangest adult – no, strangest person – she knew, to embarrass her yet again with her eccentricities, and took a nibble.
Her mouth curled into a little frown. It wasn't bad, but she had expected it to be sweeter, and the slightly gritty texture of the poppyseed filling didn't make her much more enthusiastic about it. Still, given it was, she had decided, her mission in life to sample every type of sweet known to Fódlan, she felt satisfied for having tried it. She wondered if it was one of those 'mature' flavors that only adults fully understood.
She finished the donut, her craving for sweets not quite satisfied despite her feeling, after a whole sandwich and a whole donut on top of that, completely full. She cursed herself for being too prideful to accept her mother's suggestion of getting a single donut to share.
They stopped in front of another stall and Lute set about studying each and every trinket on display. Lysithea looked at them herself, the single eye-like design on some of the pendants suddenly unnerving her.
"This is cute", Lute said, picking up one of the creepy pendants. "It reminds me of a Mogall. What sort of meaning is attached to this design?".
"Ah, in Almyra, we call it nazar. It is said it wards off evil", the stall-keeper replied, and her mother listened intently as he answered her follow-up question about the artisanship behind the pendants. After their conversation, she reached into her coin purse and handed over a few silver pieces before draping the pendant around her neck, and they began walking again.
"Mom... W-What's a Mogall...?". She knew for sure she would regret this, but she just couldn't fathom how something that her mother likened to that pendant could be considered cute, and her curiosity got the better of her.
"It's a kind of monster spawned from the demon king", Lute answered matter-of-factly, as if that sentence alone wasn't frightening. "It has a round body like a single giant eyeball-", it just kept getting worse. "-and countless tentacles trailing behind it that are used for absorbing food. They tend to attack their prey with arcane magic". Lysithea gulped. It took a moment, but Lute noticed her worry.
"It's fine. Their natural range doesn't include anywhere in Fódlan. You'll never meet one, unless you seek it out yourself" she said, ruffling Lysithea's hair. That put her at ease a little, and she nodded. "...Ok."
They paused in front of a building, its facade especially lavish in its decorations. A young woman, cheerful looking in a way that was incongruous with her face, painted an eerie gray with darker gray scales painted on her cheeks, and her pitch-black robes, stood by the front door, and a handwritten sign hung above it reading University of Derdriu drama club fundraiser HAUNTED HOUSE, the last two words heavily emphasized with larger capital lettering.
"Good evening!", she chirped, glancing at them and pulling her cloak closer around her as a gust of wind blew down the street. Lysithea grabbed at her hat, fearful the wind might blow it off her head. "One adult and one child would be eight silver pieces."
Lysithea tugged on her mother's hand and Lute stopped in the middle of taking the coins from her pouch to look over at her. "Is something wrong Lysithea? It probably won't be too scary."
"I-I'm not scared, mom...", she replied unconvincingly. Lute kept her eyes on her, a slightly concerned look on her face, but when she didn't admit her fear went back to fishing the silver pieces out and handing them to the attendant. "Thank you! Have fun!", the woman said, opening the door and greeting the next person in line as Lysithea steeled herself, Lute leading her through into the front hall.
Even with the last bit of evening light streaming in through the door, it was dark inside with only a few candles to illuminate the room, and that small amount of light reflected oddly off of shattered mirrors lining the walls. The floorboards creaked loudly as they walked, and Lysithea jumped as she heard the door slam behind them and the handful of other customers who had followed them in. She clung to Lute as they turned the corner.
Faintly, a screeching, out-of-tune violin began to play. Entering the parlor, they found a table perfectly set for an extravagant dinner, a large roast pheasant as its centerpiece surrounded by bowls of sides and neat place-settings.
The chairs, however, as they soon saw, were strewn around overturned on the floor. In the flickering candlelight, it became apparent the tablecloth was stained red. Perhaps from the mostly empty bottle of wine sitting on it, or...
The violin grew louder, though it still had no apparent source.
Lysithea shivered, glancing from side to side. She had to find the violin, but she didn't dare step away from her mother.
They reached the door at the other end of the parlor and, seemingly on its own, it swung open for them. The music was growing louder still as they passed through it and turned on to a long, dimly-lit corridor, doors on either side barred with wood. As they walked further, percussion was added to the mysterious violin.
They walked the length of the corridor, finding a door on their right hanging open, a steep, narrow staircase beyond it. By now, the source of the 'percussion' they heard had become apparent.
Someone, it seemed, was behind the doors they had passed by, beating on them with their fists.
The stairs groaned as Lute set foot on them ahead of her. Lysithea hesitated, but, taking a deep breath, forced herself to follow. The staircase felt a little unsteady as they ascended it, the boards that creaked and moaned with each step seeming like they could collapse at any moment. It felt like an eternity before they reached the top of the steps, opening up on to another corridor.
The music, and the tortured beating coming from behind the doors, had faded by now.
A single door was open, and they walked through it, finding themselves in a an odd room lined with clothing racks, heavy cloaks hanging on them. Lysithea heard a gust of wind blow through the room, rustling the cloaks.
At first she saw it out of the corner of eye. When she dared look clearly, she saw the cloaks moving as if they had a mind of their own, seeming to creep closer to them.
Lysithea had finally seen enough, shutting her eyes tight and clinging closer to her mother. The rest of the haunted house, up and down staircases, around corners and through corridors, passed as a blur of noises, and she whispered to herself all the way, reminding herself it wasn't real.
Eventually, they stopped, and she dared to open her eyes again, just to peek out and see if they were safe now.
Instead, she saw a figure, its grim face, bearded and scarred, illuminated in the candlelight.
As if he had walked straight out of a church fresco depicting the Battle of Tailtean, the Fell King Nemesis himself rose from a coffin in front of her. Her eyes went wide and she finally broke down completely, letting out a scream.
"Stand back, all of you!", she heard someone shout. Her head snapped to look at the direction it came from, and she saw a women standing there. She didn't recognize her as one of the others who had been following behind them. A sword glinted in the faint light as she drew it. "Go! Don't worry for me or look back!".
They walked swiftly, towards brighter lights ahead, Lute pulling her along behind her. Against her better judgement, Lysithea glanced back over her shoulder as they went, seeing the woman cross swords with Nemesis before they turned a corner into a better lit room and at long last emerged from the building through a back door.
The sky was almost completely dark by now. Lysithea fell to her knees, trying desperately to catch her breath.
"Hmm. It was really quite well done, even though it was easy to see how they did most of the tricks", Lute said. "The scene with the actors portraying Nemesis and Seiros was quite creative and well executed. I suppose you would expect that from a drama club."
"Ah, what did you think of it, Lysithea?", she asked. Not hearing any response besides panting, she looked behind her, seeing her daughter, a terrified look on her face, kneeling on the cobblestone pavement. Realization dawned on her and she suddenly felt guilty. Crouching down as well, she laid her hand on Lysithea's shoulder.
"So it really was too scary for you, wasn't it?". Lysithea nodded, on the verge of tears. "...Meanie! Meanie! You're so mean to me, mom! I-I... I wanted to say I was scared, but...". Seeing her like this, she felt awful. Knoll was always better with children than she was...
Lute wrapped her arms around Lysithea. "It's ok. I was there with you the whole time. Nothing's going to hurt you...". She ruffled her hair again. "And I'm sorry. I mean it. Ok?". Lysithea nodded, still sniffling. "You should say so if you're scared. Don't be afraid to". Another nod. She started humming a little, and Lysithea finally started to calm down some.
She stood up after a little while, stretching her arms. "How about some more sweets. That would make it up to you, right?".
"Mmhm...", Lysithea nodded a third time. "But... I'm full."
"Oh. Well in that case-", she paused for a moment, thinking. "-How about a stuffed animal?". She saw her daughter's eyes light up and grabbed her hand again as they started walking.
"You know, I think I saw one of the Almyran vendors selling them. He said that in Almyra they're called 'Nader bears'... I'm not sure how they expect to sell them in Fódlan calling them that. It's rather odd, really. Oh, I suppose that might not mean very much to you though...".
Knoll sighed. It had been a long day, meeting with students and faculty at the university and, although he certainly enjoyed his work, he was thoroughly exhausted. The sun's light was completely gone from the sky now, the city lit only by flickering lamps and the plethora of holiday jack-o'-lanterns.
Of course, it was just his typical luck that he had gotten lost after leaving and hadn't been able to find the place where he and Lute had decided to meet up. Even as little as he visited Derdriu, he should really have a better grasp of its geography by now. At this rate it would be better to return to the palace – Duke Riegan had been quite generous in allowing them the guest wing of his city residence – otherwise he might wander all night looking for her and Lysithea.
"Dad, dad!", he heard someone yell. Looking around, he was relieved to see Lysithea dashing towards him across the plaza, Lute trailing behind looking characteristically nonchalant. He knelt down as she closed the distance between them and gave her a hug. "How have you been Lysithea?", he asked, and she frowned. "...Mom made me go through a haunted house with her. But I decided to forgive her, because she bought me a teddy bear."
He laughed a little, noticing Lute holding the bear under her arm. "...Well, it wouldn't be good if you couldn't forgive your mother."
"It didn't seem particularly scary to me. But the results weren't as I expected", Lute chimed in.
Knoll shook his head as he stood up. "Lute... Your idea of what's frightening and what isn't is...".
"I apologized and bought her a bear. She forgave me. We're good now". Lute leaned in and gave him a quick kiss.
"Well, I suppose if it worked out then it's fine."
"I'm glad we agree."
Knoll let out a sigh and smiled. "You never change, Lute."
"Maybe", she replied. "Say. There's somewhere else we should go before we return for the night."
The three of them walked north and, passing through the gates of the old town, began to climb the street that lead uptown, the crisp air of the late autumn night around them as they turned on to a side street that soon became a staircase cut in to the rocky hills north of the port. In spite of Lysithea's protests they continued until at last they reached the overlook, gazing out over the illuminated city floating on the water below them.
"It was worth the climb, wasn't it?", Lute asked, glancing at Lysithea looking out in awe. She responded with an emphatic nod before turning to take in the view again.
"...I'm hungry again though."
"I'll buy you more sweets then. But first we'll need to walk back down". Lysithea's beaming expression changed to a pout.
"...I suppose one of us can carry you if you're that tired out."