Chapter 3

"Only the Chosen can save our Star and its inhabitants," The Messenger stated as she stood before the Chosen King's three companions. The faces of the three humans clearly showed their despair and desperation. Humanity was losing against the Darkness.

"There must be something we can do. There has to be," the desperation in Promto's voice was evident to all. The three friends could not find Noctis even after months of searching. Gentiana revealed to them Noctis was alive and well in Insomnia but never once had he come to them. They'd called out for him, begged even, but their friend avoided them.

When Gentiana first arrived to reveal that Noctis fled from his duty, the King's companions could not believe it. Noctis would never do such a thing, they denied. But as time passed, they realized the truth of the Messenger's words. Noctis had in fact abandoned them all.

It had hurt… It still did. Maybe if Noctis had come to his friends at least, they could have talked about it. Maybe Prompto would find it in himself to understand. But Noctis never had.

"Can't you choose someone else? Like me? I'll do it!" Prompto begged. He was afraid of dying of course. But what else could he do? If he could prevent the death around him, he would, no matter the cost to himself. The people were dying. The friends he'd made over these ten years, the people he'd met... Most had perished already. And Cindy…

The blonde man shook the thought of the Hammerhead mechanic from his mind. He didn't want to think of her right now. That wound was still raw. And what he might feel was nothing compared to Gladio.

The Shield stood with them but it was as if he was not all there. Gladio's head was down, eyes downcast. He hadn't spoken, or even eaten, much at all these last few days. It was like he was a zombie, all life gone from him. Both Ignis and Prompto were worried.

The Messenger was quiet after Prompto's outburst. She opened her mouth to speak but then hesitated. Ignis noticed her reaction.

"There's something," Ignis stated.

"Whatever it is, please tell us," Prompto implored.

Gladio did not say anything but he raised his head to look at the Messenger. Gentiana looked conflicted but then spoke.

"A last resort. It is not… Ideal," the voice of the Messenger was always so serene and calm despite their dire situation.

The Starscourge continued to take over everything little by little. There were not many places left that were free of its influence. Alitissa had fallen as had any strongholds in Tenebrae. Whatever people survived were likely hiding out in any kinds of shelters they could find. They might be able to survive for a while that way. Lestallum seemed to be one of the last places left with a larger population of humans but it was not faring well.

The Daemons had grown out of control since Ardyn had been defeated, maybe because they had felt threatened without him. But nothing had come of that. Soon, the Messenger had told them, the Accursed would return in his physical form. If he returned, Ardyn would consume the rest of this world in Darkness at the behest of the corruption.

"So there is another way?" Ignis sounded hopeful. But he knew there must be something to it if the Messenger had not spoken about it until now.

"What would we need to do?" Gladio finally spoke, his voice hoarse. He'd suffered through too much tragedy in the last few weeks. First it had been his girlfriend. A single power outage, for just a brief minute, had been enough to allow the Daemons entry into Lestallum. It had been the woman's death sentence. Gladio had been looking for Noctis at the time. He returned to find that they had already cremated his girlfriend's body. Just a week later he'd accidentally learned from a friend she'd been expecting and had been planning on telling him as soon as he came back.

And now, just three days prior, Iris had just been killed attempting to protect her friends. She'd failed, the only survivor making it to Lestallum only to perish the next day from the Scourge. He'd only been a kid, barely sixteen. He'd screamed as the disease spread through his body and he eventually vanished in a cloud of miasma. Somewhere, another Daemon likely arose.

Gladio had been unable to handle the deaths of those he loved. He had raged against the injustice of it all, screaming himself hoarse at the world and even Noctis for dooming them to this. He was bitter. He felt his life as a King's shield had been wasted. He'd protected not a King, but a coward. He would have died for Noctis in an instant as was his duty. He would have taken his place if he could have. Anything to save his friends and family from such a miserable fate.

Ignis too had lost many friends. He and Monica spent a fair bit of time together, discussing rations and how to make the best use of them to feed so many hungry mouths. She'd been slaughtered just a few weeks ago. Cor too had finally been taken down, losing his title as the Immortal two days prior. All the glaives Ignis fed and helped train over these many years were gone. Looking back on them all, Ignis felt such sorrow.

All three of the King's companions had lost pretty much everyone they knew over these last ten years, most in the months after Noctis abandoned them. Every life had been a blow to their hearts. They had once survived on hope that the Darkness would not last. That they would be saved from it. But now that hope had been crushed.

"Whatever it is, we'll do it," Prompto promised when Gentiana remained quiet. "We're dead anyway. The Daemons have gone berserk. Noct… Noct's not coming to help us."

They had suffered under the darkness for ten years. They couldn't take it anymore. This was not how humans should live. They needed the light once more.

"We can't live like this. Food has pretty much run out. Our defences are almost gone. The people are rioting in our last stronghold. There's no rule of law... There's almost nothing left to save," Gladio bitterly added.

Lestallum had pretty much fallen already. The stronghold was done for. Perhaps there may be a chance for it but they needed Noctis for that. And he was nowhere to be found.

"The price of this will be death," Gentiana finally spoke, her voice ominous. "Not of one but of all. Even the Gods will not be spared in this. A death of memories awaits them. They shall rise once more but they will not be the same… The one you see before you will also be no more, her memories erased."

Gentiana's eyes opened then, staring into the eyes of the Chosen's companions, "yet this path may still not succeed. It may all be for naught and the Star will remain barren forevermore."

The three men hesitated at her answer, shocked at the price.

"Give us some time. Noctis may rise up to fulfill his duty yet. We must attempt to find him again," Ignis finally proposed. "If we do not… This may very well be the only option left to us, if only to allow life to continue on."

"Let's hope it doesn't come to that," Prompto gulped. Everything would die? Would such a price be worth it then?

Gladio said nothing, seemingly almost uncaring.

"The Messenger prays that you will succeed. She too, does not desire what will come if the Chosen does not heed his Calling," Gentiana said and then disappeared from in front of them.

They didn't find Noctis. They didn't even manage to make it to Insomnia. The Daemons were too powerful, too frenzied.

It seemed there was no other option left.

"There's no other choice, is there?" Prompto sniffled, eyes wet as he leaned his head back against the wall. He was bandaged up, hiding the claw marks that covered his skin. He'd been lucky to make it back to Lestallum alive. All three of them had. Their journey ended with the friends dragging themselves back home while every other person who'd tagged along with them had been killed.

Gentiana was here again. Just to let them know the Gods were going through with their final option. The death of all. All in the hopes that the Starscourge would be defeated and life would continue after them.

"The world can be saved still," Ignis said, wincing as he shifted to a position that would hopefully ease the aching in his body. "If this works, perhaps those that come after us will not make the same mistakes."

"If they are anything like us they would," Gladio scoffed.

"The Messenger would like to apologize. She grieves for what will be lost. For others and for herself," Gentiana bowed her head before she left.

The three friends stayed in the building they'd chosen as their shelter as finally Lestallum fell to the Daemons. They could hear the screams of the people mixed in with the roar of the monsters. If they were not so hurt, they may have tried to help. But they could do little in their state. And perhaps it was the despair taking over that they did not even attempt to get up.

All they could wait for was death, either by the hands of the Daemons or by whatever path the Gods were soon to take.

"... Think I'll see my parents again?" Prompto asked, his voice a whisper. He paused, and then said a little louder, "Cindy too. And Aranea. And… Maybe the little girl who was always excited for my pictures. I miss her. I miss them all."

That little girl had always been able to put a smile on Prompto's face with her optimism and cheerfulness. She'd been killed though, as had everyone else he knew in this place save the two men currently beside him. Maybe Aranea had survived but he hadn't seen her since Biggs and Wedge died. She'd gone off without a goodbye and never returned.

"I want to see Iris. And my dad," Gladio finally spoke up after a minute of silence, "and Cor. He owes me money. He was supposed to last till the end."

"I wonder if I will see my Uncle," Ignis mused despite the fear he was feeling. One that was enveloping all of them in that room. "And the late King. He always treated me much like a father would. I never did tell him how much I appreciated his guidance. And perhaps I will finally get to see the parents I was given no opportunity to know."

There was a sudden thump at the door that interrupted the friends. A growl, low and sinister, erupted from somewhere outside. Something waited outside their door. A faint scream then rang out, perhaps another person falling to the Daemons.

Prompto shuddered and scooted his body towards his friends. The three of them moved together until they were side by side. Prompto latched onto the hands of the other two as another loud thump echoed in the room. The door began to splinter under the strength of the beast waiting for them outside.

"This... Is the end then?" Prompto could feel the panic growing inside him. He didn't want to die like this. Torn apart by some monster.

"I suppose it is," Ignis whispered and then added, "... I am glad I had the opportunity to get to know the both of you. I regret things must end this way."

"I feel the same. You guys are pretty alright," Gladio added with a sad smile, "I wish things could be different for us. My kid would have had some awesome uncles."

"You guys…" Prompto responded, feeling a tear fall down his cheek. "Thank you both for being my friend. I'm so grateful you guys were in my life. I could have never become the person I am today without you.. Or Noct."

"If there is anything after this... I guess we'll see him there. He's gonna have groveling to do. I don't hate him but..." Gladio trailed off, unsure of how to explain his feelings.

"I think I understand. I could never hate him. Disappointed though, yes," Ignis sighed, running a hand through his hair. A nervous habit he'd rid himself at one point as it would ruin his hair.

"He should have come to us. It would have been nice to see him, at least once," Prompto added softly and then said to the man that was not here. "I wish you'd come, Noct..."

The three men flinched when the door was hit again, splintering even further. The Daemon roared, trying to fit its head through the widening gap. The men in the room could see it's eyes, staring directly at them. It would reach them soon.

Before the men could move to make a pathetic attempt at defending themselves, the Daemon whimpered and retreated. It was a bit of a surprise when it stopped its assault of the door and things became quiet.

The men felt something, similar to a pulling sensation. They began to feel tired, like the energy was being sucked out of them. Was this the work of the Astrals?

"I'm scared…" Prompto said, as his eyes became heavy. The urge to sleep was becoming too strong for him to resist.

"As am I," Ignis admitted.

A sigh, then Gladio's voice, "same but… Maybe we'll see them all again. Hopefully somewhere without the Darkness. In a place where we are not constantly living in fear."

The men became silent then, terrified but accepting their upcoming demise. They still wished so fervently that things could have turned out differently for this world. They held each other's hands tighter, finding comfort in the presence of one another, as their eyes closed. They did not open again.

And so Noctis found himself in a world where he could live. Where he did not have to offer himself up for Eos. Where he could do whatever he wished. The only cost of his desire being all life on Eos.

Still unaware of what went on, Noctis continued his search for signs of life. But his search would yield nothing no matter where he looked.

Years passed and the world began to dry up. Grasslands and forests became deserts. Buildings crumbled and the world became covered in dust.

No life was ever found by Noctis, other than his own.

The King of Eos lost count of the years that passed. He screamed, he shouted, he begged, he apologized, he cried. Nothing answered him and none of his desires ever came to pass. The man wondered if this was how Ardyn felt in his own seclusion. But Noctis was alone longer, far longer than the Accursed was.

The sun became a source of anger for Noctis. He began to shun it, preferring to linger in the darkness. He cursed it and everything it had cost to bring it back.

The Chosen's life was a long one, thanks to the remnants of the Crystal's power that lingered within him. No matter what he did, he could not pass into the Beyond. Like Ardyn, his body would return after a time. He would once again awaken in the barren world no matter how much he wished otherwise. It was as if he was barred entry into eternal rest. All he desired was to follow his friends into death, but to no avail. When he now wished to die, the world rejected him.

The man went mad from his grief and loneliness. Thousands of years passed. By then, the man could barely speak, barely remember his friends or his past life. He began to believe this had always been his life. That the world had never looked like anything else but a barren wasteland.

Noctis continued to search, but he forgot what he was looking for.

One day, far, far into the future, the Crystal finally awakened from its dormant state. Light began to suffuse its being and it's unearthly azure glow returned. It had finally recovered.

One again, souls could pass into the Beyond from the mortal realm. The Crystal began to seek out the last of its power, draining the life from the only living creature left on Eos. The being did not struggle, but embraced his approaching demise. Noctis just closed his eyes in relief as he felt his body give in.

The Chosen King's soul returned to the Crystal and was ushered into the Beyond. And with it the last remnants of power the Stone needed returned to it.

The Crystal shone bright, casting a wave of light across Eos. With it came a brief rain that covered the world. From this life giving water, the first hints of life began to erupt from where it had once been barren.

In a place full of life, where grasses, trees and flowers grew as far as the eyes could see, where friends and family awaited him, Noctis awoke.

The Chosen looked at many people around him. He could not recall who they were but recognized that they were familiar to him. A man, an older one with silver in his hair and kind green eyes, knelt down beside him. He placed a hand on his shoulder and somehow Noctis felt as if things would be better now.

Eons upon eons later, the Six Gods re-emerged into the world of Eos, reborn anew. The planet was lush with greenery and full of new kind of life. The Astrals held no memories of their previous lives or of humanity. The development they'd undergone as their previous iterations was undone. Their growth, their feelings, their past selves. It was all erased from their minds.

Shiva was once again a God holding no care for the creatures below her. She had lost the ability to love that had only taken root thanks to Ifrit's kindness in another life. When betrayal had hardened her heart, the last Oracle had thawed it. But even those memories of that young woman were gone. Ifrit too, felt nothing but brief curiosity at the mortal creatures. A time in the future, he may once again make the same mistakes.

The Gods knew of humanity. They knew the history of their planet thanks to the Crystal and glimpsed the beings they were once. However, they no longer had the ability to feel what their previous selves felt or even recall any experiences. They had regressed to a time before humanity had changed them, for better or for worse.

All they felt was a need to fulfill their duty. To watch over Eos and the creatures that inhabited it.

Wasn't quite able to write something for Noctis's birthday but I at least got this done for today. Happy belated Birthday, Noctis!

Also, sorry Noctis. This actually might be the most tragic thing I've written so far for you. But no one really had a great time in this.

If anyone is curious, I am still working on finishing all of my posted WIPs. I have the outline done for the last chapter of Switch. Might not be done for quite a while yet though.

A fair bit of the last/next chapter of Revenge, Humanity and Family was finished but for differing reasons, the entirety of all three need to be redone and I just don't have the drive to do that. Hopefully one day. :/

I have some ideas for a continuation for Guardian and Voices so I've been mulling over what to write with those. I still want to redo and expand The Accursed and have occasionally been looking back on that. I also have about four other one-chapter stories started and might post those someday.

There is a lot of stuff I want to work on but I don't have much time, especially lately. Hopefully I can get some of these done though!

Thanks for reading! :)