Within Holy Walls

By Tenshi no Ai

(C) Square Enix

One: What Lies Inside

-0-

"He, The Son of God: Translations of the Words of St. Ajora, Volume VIII by D. Alder Ulderam," I whisper, although no one would be in this storage room at this time of the day. "Though it isn't as if there aren't enough of you around...you belong right here." I place the tome right beside its brother, Volume VII, on the lowest shelf of the bookcase. Casting a wary eye at the chest of newly printed--and reprinted, as the case may be--books on my left, I can see that I'm little more than halfway done with the newest shipment from Lesalia. At this rate, I'll easily be done before the suppertime bell.

Well, done with the Lesalia shipment, anyway.

I rub at my eyes, which are a bit strained from scanning through the fancy calligraphy often scrawled along the covers of massive volumes since just after the morning meal. Or maybe they're strained because I've been doing this type of work since I was adopted by the Church here in Murond Holy Place, I'm not sure.

I guess eight long years will do that to anyone.

Standing up, I can't help but notice how silent it is in this building. It must be nearly noon now.

I wonder if it's a sunny day outside?

It doesn't really matter, but it's been a long time since I've gone out for a breath of fresh air...

--tmptmptmp--

I pause. Somebody other than myself is here?

Oh, it's probably one of the priests. Or maybe it's one of the other cataloguers for the other storage rooms. There's a lot of them recently, filling up the other rooms. I'm the only cataloguer who works on this floor, though.

I work best alone.

"Miss Dular? Miss Dular, are you here?" The voice is feminine, one that I cannot easily place. Then again, I really don't talk to many people here, not like I could if I wanted to. The Shrine Knights are always busy, and the priests and mages are, as well, and...well, I have a job to do here too.

Besides, what else is there to talk about these days other than the war?

"Miss Dular!" Closing my eyes, I walk out from between the shelves surrounding my person, feeling a vague sense of concern. She seems to be looking for me very determinedly.

Why?

"Here I am," I say quietly, not seeing the girl at first. A small figure pops out from behind a bookcase further down the row. She looks young, especially with her round face, blond pigtails and the regulated white cloak with red trim for white mages, which seems almost too large for her small frame. She must be a recent trainee. They used to be a rare sight, since most of them go straight to the battlefield, but...I guess some of them would rather not see death all the time.

"Oh, you are Miss Dular?" She smiles widely at me. "It was a blessing from Saint Ajora that I found you so quickly! The High Priest wishes to see you at once!"

The High Priest wants to see me?

Considering that I don't make myself known at all, I'm a bit surprised he would even know of my existence among the hundreds working and living here in Murond. That doesn't sound like a particularly good thing. "Should I get cleaned up first?" I gesture to my long-sleeved white blouse and forest green dress loosely draped on my body, knowing that the dust here in the library is attracted to bright colors. It's too bad that I happen to like wearing those colors the most.

"I...err..." The trainee is at a loss for words. I can't help but take pity on her...she seems so helpless.

"Never mind. Please take me to High Priest Funeral's office." I try to smile a little, which calms down the young girl. Seemingly happy that she didn't have to make a decision, she leads me out of room, up a flight of stairs, over to the other end of the main hall, up several flights of stairs, and down yet another hall to a door being guarded by two Shrine Knights. They don't look any higher than Knight Blades in rank.

I can't help but think that, if an intruder managed to get past the whole regiment of Shrine Knights, both Divine and Temple, throughout the city proper, how would these two bar the intruder from reaching the High Priest?

My guide seems unnerved as she addresses them. "Er...hello, ah...I was told by the High Priest to find Miss Dular, and I've found her..."

One of the knights looks at me, no doubt seeing a disheveled young woman covered in dust. Now I wish I had coaxed the girl to give me time to clean up. It's not every day that I'm called to visit my employer...

A smile flits along the knight's lips, and I feel like hiding even more. "Yes, we've heard." He pulls open one of the grand oak doors and nods for his partner to do the same. "Right this way, miss."

My guide scampers out of my way. Wow. That's not really a vote of confidence, is it?

I try not to acknowledge either her evident nervousness, or the curiosity in the quieter knight's eyes...or the slight leer on the other knight's lips.

What's that for?

I step inside the vast office, trying not to wince as the doors slam behind me.

I'm not nervous...

My eyes are drawn to the bookshelves lining the High Priest's walls, and I can't help but notice how many of the tomes are in the language of twelve centuries prior. There aren't many books like those in the storage rooms, although I was taught to read that ancient form of Ivalician letters...

"Miss Reis Dular."

At that grave tone, my attention is torn from studying the bookshelves to the desk just a few feet before me. A shriveled old man sits behind it, clothed in the elaborate holy robes of the Church.

I'm not nervous at all...

I bow stiffly at the waist. Is this is the proper way to greet the head of the Church? I only work here, and the ceremonies and greetings more complex than the ones needed during church are lost on me. "H-High Priest..."

Why am I here?

"You may rise, Miss Dular." I do so, trying to keep my eyes off of his person or wandering over to his bookshelf. I end up staring at the front edge of his desk. That feels like the most proper thing to do, in any case. I can see his hands flip through a book.

Is he going to read a hymn of Saint Ajora to me to test my faith?

If that's so, I'd fail...

"Head Cataloguer Reis Dular. Born February twenty-sixth of the twenty-sixth year of Pantora. Currently twenty-one years of age. Adopted by the Glabados Church of Saint Ajora on September ninth in the year of our Lord nine hundred and seventy-nine, otherwise known as the thirty-ninth year of Pantora. Became an assistant for the head cataloguer at the time." He wheezes out the history slowly, seemingly clinging to every word as if each one was going to be his last.

Well, he is in his seventies...that's almost unheard of in these times.

"...An Urleon Triffre, who retired three years afterward at the age of fifty-seven in the year of our Lord nine hundred and eighty-two, or the forty-second year of Pantora. At that time you became the head cataloguer of Underground Bookroom Level One, and have remained in that position for five years since. Quite an amazing feat to take care of such a large section completely unaided from such a young age. It also says that you've learned to read standard Ivalician and the varying dialects, as well as the ancient form of the language. Very impressive for an orphan girl."

I nod, completely bored at his rambling, meticulous telling of my history and his condescending praise. Why is he telling me something I've lived through?

Why can't he get to the point?

"But, all the same, I've decided to let you go."

I raise my head quickly, staring at the High Priest with what I'm sure is a very shocked expression. "I...I don't quite understand...?"

I'm...being fired?

He raises a wrinkled, skinny hand and I close my mouth immediately.

Did I do something wrong? I've never stolen a book before. Theology isn't my favorite subject, anyway. Did he find out that sometimes I skip mandatory church meetings in favor of work? I...I don't like being around people anyway. And all the the sermons sound the same.

Where am I going to go now? What can I do when there are battlefields all over Ivalice?

"I'm sure you have many questions." I try not to snort in derision at this. "And let me assure you that you are not being let go from employ by the Church."

Why didn't he say that in the first place? Does he like seeing lowly workers squirm? Hardly becoming behavior for the High Priest.

"Instead, you are to be transferred to Lionel Castle to work under Examiner Draclau."

Lionel?

That's south of...

"I thank you for the opportunity, but aren't there more qualified cataloguers...?" I hesitantly form each word and make sure they're all backed by my soft voice, but the look the High Priest is giving me is making the process very painful, so I quickly backtrack. "I'm sorry to question your judgment."

I really don't want to go. Not there.

"As you should be," he responds, indignant. I wince. I've heard of people being named heretics for lesser crimes than talking back to the High Priest himself. "At any rate, prepare for your trip. You will be leaving tomorrow."

"I understand...thank you for this opportunity." I bow insincerely, then turn to leave. It would be a waste of time to ask the specifics of my assignment, with the way I've managed to insult my employer.

Maybe if I wasn't this way, timid and soft-spoken...seemingly shy...

But it's not like I'm shy, not really.

I'm...different.

I just want to be left alone.

-0-

In the dead of the night, I slip out from my tiny room and head over to my...my former workplace, the storage room filled with bookcases of theological information. All the cataloguers live in dorms next to the church, close to our assigned storage rooms. There are no guards wandering about on this nearly moon-less night; the only footsteps, the only shallow breaths I can hear are my own. Still, I move quietly, making sure that I won't be surprised by a stray knight. I'm very used to sneaking out. I can't help it.

I want to go to a place where no humans dwell.

Quickly enough, I reach a side door--one that leads to the hall where I can take the stairs down to my place. I open this door, normally unlocked, with nary an errant squeak and slip through.

Here I can hear the stunted breathing of knights who want nothing better than to leave their post and retire to their beds. Fortunately, they--three sets of breathing--are further down on my left and a turn to the right, in the main hall. I gently close the door and walk to my right, soon reaching the door that leads to the staircase. I open it--another unlocked door, which tells of the sort of security found here--and take the stairs two at a time, then use the key tucked deep within my sleeping robes of lavender and blue to open the door to my haven.

It may just be a storage room for books, but to me...

I love this place, this room full of dusty tomes and knowledge beyond what we know today. As I spread my arms and twirl around like the child I once was, stirring the musty air so that it nearly overwhelms my sensitive nose, I try to drown in this sensation of being-alone-but-not.

It'll be the last time, I'm sure.

I love working here--I loved working here--because in some weird way, although I was working by myself, I wasn't alone.

Whenever I would walk outside, I would always see a gaggle--or is that a giggle?--of young girls training to be white mages, excitedly talking about a new healing spell, or perhaps a cute knight on the grounds. Knights would walk in twos, talking about how they were happy to not be in the real war brewing outside our little bubble of protection, or how tough the training to become a Divine Knight was. Huddled priests would debate on a particular passage of one of St. Ajora's sermons--perhaps even using a note from that translated volume I was looking at earlier today.

And then there was me. Just me.

I've never been picked on, or treated unkindly in any way. Whenever I talk to someone, they seem to genuinely like me.

But I can't connect with anyone.

The reason lies within me. I'm sure that I'll never understand what it is about me exactly, that essential part of me that marks me as different from other human beings.

In some fundamental way, I'm not aligned with everyone else.

"Goodbye, my friends," I murmur, using a word I've never applied to a human being. "I'll miss you."

I slip out of the darkened room and make my way back to my room. I am quiet coming back, and I remain unseen, unheard, unnoticed.

Like usual.

-0-

"Here is your carriage, miss." A young Holy Knight greets me with these words as I exit the main entrance of the dorms the next morning. "We're going to catch a ship to Goug, then another ship to Warjilis, then a carriage to Bariaus Valley."

"I thought I was going to Lionel Castle," I respond, self-consciously rearranging my powder blue mantle when I catch the weird look the knight is giving me. It's as if he didn't expect me to remember my destination.

"Well, I've heard that as well, but unfortunately you'll have to be dropped off a little sooner than that. It seems that an important emissary will be at Warjilis Trade City, and since I'm the only elite knight heading in that direction..." He trails off as I nod, feeling dejected at this news. "But Lionel Castle will be sending one of their Temple Knights to meet you! That's not bad, right miss?"

Attempting to smile at the news, I can only wonder if he's trying to cheer me up. "I understand. That makes me feel better." Well, I guess it does. "Shall we be off, then?"

"Oh! Er...of course." He opens the door to the carriage and holds it open long enough for me to get myself and my valise through, then slams it and walks over to the front. I hear a faint 'Wark!' and the carriage starts to move.

There are no windows in this carriage, and it makes me feel as if I'm traveling in my very own coffin.

A coffin...being sent back to my homeland.

-End of One-

What inspired this series (completely in Reis' POV, I'll warn you now) was this line, said if you try to remove her from your troop when she reverts back to human form:

"Alone again? And this time I thought I finally found it..."

I highly doubt she's talking about the years she lived as a dragon, although she was alone during those years. And, she's now reunited with Beowulf. So why 'alone again'? I think she's suffered a loneliness that is based on 'being different'--something Ovelia can attest to as well--but maybe something beyond that. Yes, this fic will put emphasis on the love triangle and about love in general; however, I'd like to think that the theme of this story is about the many forms of loneliness and how we attempt to cover them up.

The time period of this story is 'Pantora'. I made it up, just because I was annoyed at the lack of labeling the years. It's the current era, which started when the 50 Year War first broke out. The short, vague period of peace afterward will be named something else, and the era of the Lion War will have another name. There is another way of labeling the year numerically, which the Church uses (with the number starting from some time after Ajora's death.)

Although this is a story where everyone knows the ending, I hope you'll continue to read it anyway! Anyway, thank you for reading!