-A New Age-

Holy. Crap. FINALLY! Thank you to all who have reviewed, for I assure you, your encouragement hasn't fallen on deaf ears! I had a writers' block, then school bogged me down. You know how it is.

The play Tantalus performs in this chapter is inspired by one of Shakespeare's plays. That's all I'll say, I hope some of you will know it. ;) And sorry if I get some names or other things wrong, it's been a while since I've played FFIX...

On with the show!

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Months passed. Then years. Colin never did visit. And the teddy bear never spoke again.

Ten years went by. Eventually, both Colin and the bear passed out of Myria's waking memory. But she had changed. She was sixteen years old, and had grown out of her childhood naivete. She became aloof, even brooding. Many would attribute it to the emotional rollercoaster that is teenagehood, but a twinkle in her eye hinted at an ambitious, even sinister nuance to her moods.

For the most part, however, she got along with her parents. The adventures Zidane and Dagger had given them a reference for talking with their daughter. Myria trusted their wisdom. She was taught fighting skills by both her parents and her friends. Soon, Myria became antsy. Despite the fact that Zidane and Dagger prided themselves on their tales, they would hypocritically not allow Myria outside the castle, much less Alexandria, to gather her own experiences. She wanted to be respected by her parents, but also feared that her time was coming.

During that time, a mysterious vigilante had been dashing through the nights, leaving crooks and vandals tied up for the Alexandrian guard to pick up. The guard wanted the capture of this individual, despite the obvious good intention that came from them. The posters had a markup of what the captured criminals described as a feminine figure with an opaque, crystal-like mask attached to a helmet with two long drooping feathers on either side. It was said to wield blades like dragon teeth on its knuckles, and move like a shadow. The reward was reasonable enough to attract attention.

Later that year, a new show was going to hit Alexandria. The new Prima Vista was making its debut after the last one was abandoned for its old age. The newer model's design and build was overlooked by Cid himself. It was made from the richest wood, the planks almost wet with its sanguine pigment. It was built more slender and streamlined, with large rotors oscillating beneath it. The ship had a much bigger stage, and included more set. The only think the same was the resting mermaid on its prow.

The day finally came. The Vista Redux, as it was called, guided itself silently into Alexandria and to the castle theater dock.

The royal family was there to greet it among the many nobles and commoners who cheered wildly. The ship docked with an audible shudder. There would be a few moments before the play was ready to begin, so the crowd amused themselves with trivial banter until then. Myria was in the princess's seat, overlooking the crowd and the large ship. She then tilted her head down.

Dagger happened to glance at her to make sure she was alright. She saw the peculiar expression and suddenly felt something like deja vu hit her. She furrowed a brow.

"Something the matter?" she asked.

Myria looked up, startled. "N-no." She said. "I'm fine mother, just a little tired."

"Did you stay up late?"

"No...not really."

"Well, I found your window open again this morning. You have to rememeber to close it or else someone or something could get in, like that vigilante,"

Myria shrugged with a small, hidden smirk. "Yes, mother, I'll try and remember."

The final curtain drew, and there was Baku. Even after ten years, he hadn't changed much. He was still as whiskered and rotund as ever.

"Ladies and gentlemen, nobles and rooftop viewers, and the forever enduring roses of our royal family," he bowed, "tonight we present for you: 'Caliginous Love'!"

The crowd deluged them with applause. The house lights dimmed, and the spotlights illuminated the stage. Two figures emerged from stage left, a man and a woman.

"Marcus!" the woman shouted toward the man. He spun around.

"Lydia!"

She stopped before Marcus.

"Well?" Marcus asked her.

She shook her head, then lowered it.

"Lydia..." he said, shaking his head. "How can I trust you if you keep failing something so simple?"

"She simply will have none of you, sire."

"Well, dammit, that's just no good. In a week's time I want you to go back and try again."

"Marcus...why do you keep after such sour grapes?" Lydia protested.

"Because her kingdom is sitting on a fountain of wealth, yet she either doesn't know or doesn't care to share it. I will make her," he hissed.

Lydia's face belied her distraught emotions. Coldy, she nodded and spoke, "If it is your wish, sire. I will try again," then took her leave, exiting the stage.

"Perhaps a gift will suade her. A lovely, precious gift, nothing like even the finest diamonds. I know of one jewel..." the actor trailed off, but no sooner had he finished the stage began to fill with stage smoke. Then the audience. Then the mist engulfed the entire auditorium, and it was soon very difficult to see your own hands in front of your face. Queen Garnet had become very anxious, not sure if this was part of the play, and Myria had grown concerned as well.

Then, in the corner of her eye, Myria saw a figure emerge from the mist before her mother. In a gleam and a swipe, it had severed the jewel from her mother's neck and escaped in a blur. Dagger clasped her bare neck, her teeth clentching in fury. She then turned to her daughter and began,

"Myria, I want you to go to your chambers an-" she stopped, seeing only an empty throne. Dagger then picked herself up and marched toward the castle doors and threw them open.

"SOUND THE ALARM! I WANT ALL ENTRANCES TO THE CITY BLOCKADED! NO ONE MAY LEAVE OR ENTER THE CITY UNTIL THE FALCON CLAW IS FOUND! KNIGHTS!"

Beatrix jogged up at her Queen's command, followed by Steiner who clanged and clammored to the Queen and knelt at her feet. "Yes, ma'am! We will be sure to retrieve your pendant." Beatrix calmly asserted. The two then saluted simultaneously and darted off.

Behind Dagger, a curly-tailed simian dropped down. Dagger turned around slowly, allowing her vulnerability to surface only around her love.

"Zidane, I swear, we're going to bolt that thing down once we get it back." She then fell into his arms.

Zidane chuckled. "Even then it'd probably find a way of losing itself."

Dagger looked up. "Speaking of lost, do you know where Myria is?"

Zidane furrowed his brow. "Hmm, nope..." he trailed, now applying a thumb and index finger below his chin as he searched his brain.

"Could you look for her? I've gotta get out of this damn thing," she bunched up her dress and sighed.

The monkeyman gave her a peck on the forehead and threw an 'Of course' behind him as he bounded off.

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The boy skipped across the rooftops like a frog over lilypads. He juggled an iridescent, multi-faceted object in his clutches and couldn't get over how easy it was to snatch such a valuable royal heirloom.

'Thought that Queen had more to her than that.' He smirked.

The smirk was thrown from his face as a sharp pain peirced the back of his skull. He was propelled forward and over his heels into a field of roof shingles. He slowly lifted his indignant, bruised face from the crater he had made. He spat blood from his mouth, then bolted around to face what had struck him, only to observe a silhouetted, masked figure towering over him.

"Give it back," was all it demanded.

The boy looked at the figure, then to the pendant he grasped in his hand, then back to the figure. He then deliberately reached out to offer the pendant back. As the masked figure came close to grab it, the boy smirked and kicked a broken shingle into its face. The figure cried out as the surprise knocked it off its feet.

Not wasting any time, the boy fled. He dropped to the streets below to try and obscure his location in the crowds of Alexandrians. 'Who, rather what the hell was THAT?' he thought to himself, looking behind him as he ran. This turned out to be another mistake. His thoughts were once again interrupted by a blur and a sharp pain, this time to his lower throat region. He opened his eyes and stared down a long leg to the masked demon he thought he had evaded. He then grasped the foot that was pinning him to the wall.

"Give it back," was all it demanded.

"What the hell..." the boy muttered, followed by a groan as he felt a deliberate increase in pressure on him. He noted that the crowd had encircled them and were delighting themselves with the spectacle. No one of course, had the figurative balls to intervene.

"Come on, can't we make some sort of mutual agreement?" he said, shuffling slightly. Now, of course, the boy was genuinely worried. But this fueled the need for diplomacy, and a distraction.

The figure breathed out a laugh. "An agreement?" a distorted, feminine voice asked rhetorically. "Yea, you give me the pendant, and I'll let you go without a sound beating."

The boy squirmed more. "Why, so you can claim it for yourself? I've seen the posters! You're no different from me!" he spat.

With that, he withdrew a vial from his pocket and threw it at the masked figure. The vial burst and smoke billowed all around them. The figure was suddenly swept up and fell on its back once again. It stood up immediately. "Damn, smoke screen," it said, fanning the smoke from its face before leaping skyward onto the rooftops.

The boy had since booked it over the neighborhoods of disfigured adobes. He reached a decrepit belltower and decided to hide in it until he could catch his breath.

He crept into the dark turret, looking up toward the bell, which was about 10 feet above him. He sighed, and hid himself among discarded planks of wood that were propped every which way. While his breathing slowed, he took out his shiny treasure and gazed at it.

Suddenly, the turret roof seemed to explode as someone dropped in from above. They landed with a thud, knees bending completely as they absorbed the impact. The figure rose slowly, unfurling itself. The boy sat frozen in the shadows, his eyes like saucers when he saw that same masked face lift itself from the torso. The face rotated, scanning the room for any sign of its target. The boy was saturated with adrenaline, but he couldn't make up his mind whether or not he feared this creature. He knew if he revealed his location he'd lose his mission and a probably a few days in the hospital, but he wanted to understand what he was feeling, too.

"HYYYAAA!"

The figure looked up sharply as another one descended with two shiny daggers before it. They collided against the masked figure's claws with a clang, and both figures recoiled to regain footing.

"Be you human or monster, fiend?" the daggered one shouted.

"Monsters belong under beds, Zidane, but if you interfere, you'll find their company much more amicable," the masked figure retorted.

Zidane lunged at the figure, and their blades locked with a cling. "Oh? And just what would I be interfering?" he asked. He lifted their blades up, then took the opportunity to swipe at the figure's midsection. The figure dodged gracefully with a tumble to the side.

"Justice! That boy with your beloved's pendant is probably miles out of the city by now. I would have caught him!" the figure returned.

"How did you know the pendant was stolen by that little creep? Are you an accomplice? And Alexandrian guards aren't that incompetent. Not all of them. I hate to break it to you: your vigilante work is fascinating to me, but not necessary."

"Give me a break," it chuckled. "I have no need for accomplices, except for Lady Justice. I've caught more thieves and murderers than all of your troops combined, so don't think you can bullshit me. If you truly think my work is 'unnecessary', then you don't give a damn about this country at all!"

"How dare you..." Zidane began, then he lunged at the figure once more, but stopped short of an unexpected obstacle that had lept between them.

The boy stood before Zidane, arms spread. "Don't come any closer!" he ordered. His eyes darted beside him and snatched up a jagged piece of debris that had fallen with part of the ceiling. He held it before him in a defensive stance.

The figure was taken aback. 'Why would this boy try to defend me? Crazy kid.' Yet somehow, this situation was familiar.

Zidane sheathed his daggers and held up both gloved hands. "Hey now, I'm honestly not trying to hurt anyone here. I just want the pendant and my little girl back," he stated, moving toward the boy.

"I said STAY BACK!" the boy shouted. He lifted his weapon above his head to bring it down on Zidane's skull, but his hands were caught above his head. He struggled, but resigned when the masked figure, who was holding his clasped hands, stood before him.

The figure let go of his hands, then brought its own beneath its ruby mask. It flicked something, and the lower portion of the mask dislodged from the helmet.

The figure lifted the helmet off...

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TO BE CONTINUED! AHAHAHA! I'm ebil. Hope you enjoyed this one, stay tuned!