Those Left Behind
Story #3: Orpheus' Dilemma
The Love That Transcended Life
A Final Fantasy Tactics fanfic
By Tenshi no Ai
I don't own the characters and locations in the game that are presented in this work, Square-Enix does.
I understand that he loves me. I love him too, and our time together has been, for the most part, wonderful. But there are more important things than clinging to each other and futilely promising that everything will be okay as long as we're together.
I'm selfish, but I have to be realistic too.
Of course I want to stay with him. More than anything, I would love to raise a family and grow old with him. However, I also understand that he could have a life where he doesn't have to sacrifice as much to have an equally fulfilling life.'
-0-He was late!
The boy ran, pumping his arms by his sides as he flew out of his dormitory, his bag flying from its strap around his left arm. The ends of his fine, flaxen blond hair shifted and bounced around his ears as he dashed across the campus, too busy cursing his roommate to notice the majestic white and blue buildings that made up Lesalia Imperial Academy.
That sodding little idiot! He never wakes me up on time! If the professor drops me, I swear I'll...
He had good reason to worry as he dodged other students and the occasional faculty member. His seven-thirty in the morning class was one of the most sought after courses in the semester's catalog. It was an elective called Magical Manipulation, and under and upperclassmen fought to get into the class. This boy, an underclassman, was extremely lucky to get into the class. He knew this, and so he soundly blighted his roommate's name with every curse imaginable as he jumped over a bench in the courtyard and landed cleanly onto the well-manicured greens. Someone screamed at him, but he just ran faster.
While the class had always been popular for the nobles that did not wish to pursue a career in the military, after the spring semester of Pantora forty-eight the list of people who wanted to take the class exploded. Everyone was talking about how fun the class was, how great the professor who had taken over the course was, et cetera ad nauseum. It had been the boy's first try to get the class in his fall of Pantora forty-eight schedule, and somehow he had gotten into the class.
His roommate didn't, however, and in revenge he was never woken up on time.
It was down to the final sprint now as the boy jerked the door to the magic building open and flung himself inside the spacious hallway. The class was the second door to the left, and he approached the door with sweaty hands. On the other side, he could hear the teacher lecturing about essences and he moaned. As gently as he could, he grasped the doorknob and turned it slowly, pulling the door open in the same manner. Practically tiptoeing, he entered the classroom and softly closed the door behind him.
Not one of his classmates turned to glance at the tardy student; their eyes were riveted to the front of the room. The professor merely glanced at the boy while continuing his lecture on the sensitivity of the vertices on an elemental essence.
The boy sighed as he slipped into an available seat in the back row. There were no slackers in this class. After taking out a notepad and a Goug-made pen, the latest fashion for a noble, he focused on the pertinent information the professor recited. He was kind of understanding about the points of an elemental essence and how they could be used to shape the spell, but not completely. In the front row, a girl raised her hand. There were a lot of girls in the class, and not just because of their natural ability to use magic.
After the professor nodded at her, she lowered her hand. I think I understand, but could you show us a demonstration?
The professor looked at all the expectant faces staring at him after the girl's question, and he smiled. That's a good idea, he spread out his hands in front of him and a glowing sphere of blue and white appeared between them after a moment's concentration. This is the essence of ice magic, he explained over the whispers of how beautiful it looked.
The boy was stunned as his professor shifted one hand under the self-contained essence, using the other hand to point out the points on the sphere. The man lightly pressed the top of the ball and the essence responded, making the appropriate indentation at its top while its sides expanded. After a few such demonstrations of poking and prodding, the professor finally pulled at the top point of the essence, which spread open like a rose in hasted bloom.
All the students cheered at this, and the tardy student could hear one of his classmates in front of him exclaim excitedly to her friend. See, that's why I made you join this class! Isn't Professor Kadmus so amazing?
-0-After all his morning classes, Professor Beowulf Kadmus left his classroom and headed to the stairs of the building, climbing up to the offices on the top floor. He passed by some of the other professors heading out to lunch, greeting them with smiles that didn't quite reach his dark eyes. No one seemed to mind, though. After all, everyone knew he had been a knight in the war, which was finally in peace negotiations now due to the bedridden Sir Balbanes Beoulve. Who knew what horrible things he had seen during his tour of duty?
He reached his floor and entered his office, a flicker of surprise appearing on his face before he smiled sincerely. Elly, I thought you had a class now.
The woman named Elly grinned at him, standing upright from her former position of leaning on his desk. In a few minutes. But that lot gives me such a headache that I've been thinking of skipping.
What sort of professor says things like that? Beowulf teased, walking over to stand next to her. I thought we could go to that concert at the square tonight, unless something's come up?
No, nothing at all. It starts at six, right?
Mm. And then afterwards we could go to that restaurant on Fifth.
That sounds splendid.
Beowulf opened his mouth to say something in the affirmative, but the noon bells chose that moment to ring throughout the university. Dimly, the bells from the local church could be heard, as it was close by. Elly lightly bit her bottom lip at that, muttering more to herself, Oh, how irritating. I guess I'd better go toss myself to that pack of cuars now. She shook her head, long blond hair bouncing around in waves as she started towards the door. She stopped when he placed his hand on her shoulder, turning her head to look at him quizzically.
Before you go... he leaned in and kissed her on the lips, pulling away slightly after a minute, for luck, he whispered against her mouth, and she smiled.
I could use all the luck you're willing to give, considering how popular you are, she murmured back, stepping away from him. I'll see you soon, Beowulf.
He smiled and raised his hand in acknowledgment, and when she closed the door to his office his brandy-colored eyes flickered like a flame disturbed by a slight breeze.
--Alright then. I'll see you tomorrow morning, then--
But it passed and everything was right in Beowulf Kadmus' world again.
Beowulf's name appeared for
the last time a few months before
the end of the Fifty Year War.
Many knights who returned early
from the war often had trouble
fitting into society again.
The knights that could often
wished for nothing more than
peace, working in jobs that
At this time, those knights spread
through the calm parts of Ivalice.
There were a number of cities
that had jobs to offer.
And Lesalia was no different.
Chapter 1: The Lost
Many of Ivalice's oldest and most respected families lived in Lesalia Imperial Castle. The only other castle city that drew in as many aristocrats was Zeltennia Castle, but the nobles that lived in Lesalia tended to pride themselves more on their intricate generational trees that all somehow linked them to royalties past and present. Whether due to sycophantic tendencies or business, many barons, viscounts, earls, and even a few marquis and dukes made Lesalia at least a part-time home.
Lady Amelia Darrow, wife of the earl of Plucelia, prided herself on being born there.
She smiled lightly to herself now as she stared out of the window in the parlor of her childhood home. The lone stipulation in her mother's will over the inheritance of the stately home was that she stayed there at least half of the year. Her husband was more than willing to let her to live there year-round, asking her to keep the children as well. He visited once or twice a year, preferring to live in his native Plucelia, a tiny region to the southwest of Riovanes Castle. They were both delighted with the arrangement, and theirs was probably the most well-ordered marriage of convenience in Ivalice.
Their marriage produced three children, two sons and a daughter. Both sons were currently in school in Igros. Her daughter was eleven, of age to attend boarding school, and honestly Amelia wasn't sure if she wanted her youngest child to leave her too. The thought of being alone in her childhood home at thirty-three seemed somehow anticlimactic to her. But for now she was far from lonely, and her smile widened to prove this as her eyes caught sight of two people walking towards the manor on this blustery January afternoon. The people soon disappeared from her vantage point, and a few minutes later she could hear the door creak open. With her small lips stretched in the widest smile to grace her face in years, she stood up and walked from the parlor to the vestibule, each step tiny but well-placed.
As she entered the sparse but comfortably decorated entrance hall, she was greeted by the younger of the two people. Good afternoon, Mum!
Don't shout, Caitlyn, Amelia murmured, walking over to her exuberant daughter and patting the girl's head, brushing off some snowflakes from the dark brown hair that was so much like her own. I can't believe you went out without a proper cloak, she fussed lightly. The young girl shook her head vehemently at this.
But it's no fun to go out in the snow all swaddled up! It's much nicer to let the snow fall on you, and to catch them on the tip of your tongue... At her mother's darkening look, she grinned disarmingly. A-and, Sir Uncle lent me his cloak when the snow began to fall a bit heavily.
Amelia shook her head at this, thick locks of hair falling over her shoulders. So then, you let your uncle freeze? Next time, child, think of how others feel. She glanced at the other entrant, who was trying to stealthily escape. And Beowulf, if you're going to take her out on walks, do make sure she's well equipped for it.
Now it was her brother's turn to smile charmingly. Sis, you make it sound like we were going off to battle some large monster, not go on an hour-long walk.
Whatever. Caitlyn, Cook has lunch ready for you.
As soon as her daughter left, Amelia sighed. You really don't mind that she calls you that? If you tell her it bothers you, she'll stop immediately. She took quite the liking to you.
Beowulf shrugged. It doesn't bother me. Sorry about the cloak.
I really should be thanking you. With her brothers off in school, she's become rather lonely, she gave her younger brother a searching look, I suppose we both have.
It's nothing, really. You've raised her very well.
I suppose I'm used to it, Amelia grinned, though it looked a bit uncomfortable. How're you feeling now? Better?
Her younger brother looked embarrassed now. From that bout of the flu? Yeah, don't worry about it.
The grin dropped from her face as she approached him, placing her hand on his upper arm. Not that. I mean about your Miss Dular. Are you coping well?
Define coping well', Sis, the rude retort was at odds with the smile that he seemed determined to keep, I'm fine, and lunch sounds really good right now, he walked away, letting her hand slip from his arm. At the end of the parlor he glanced back, an innocent look now gracing his face. Are you joining us?
In a minute, little brother, she answered quietly, watching him disappear into the hallway. Every time she brought up the reason why he was here, he always brushed her off with a flippant remark and changed the subject. While this was certainly in character for her dear brother, she couldn't help but push. It was her duty as his elder sister to bother him incessantly until he told her how he really felt.
But the standard had been set during their first conversation.
Ever since he had arrived, in the last days of Pantora forty-seven, Amelia had been in an absolute tizzy. The last time he had visited, she had found him sitting innocently in the parlor, wearing that horrid Holy Knight uniform. This time, he hadn't even the energy to knock on the door. That's what the chocobo did, tapping its large beak against the nice oak door. He was lying on her doorstep.
The flu, the chemist had stated. She'd wanted to slap him. Anyone with the ability to discern the difference in temperatures could've come to that conclusion. Plenty of fluids and rest, he had ordered.
The rest didn't seem to be a problem, seeing as her brother had been unconscious during the doctor's exam.
After a couple of days, he seemed to be coming around. He muttered things in a guttural tone, then drifted off again. Amelia was fine with this, it showed he was still among the living. She shooed away her inquisitive and too-helpful daughter and watched over Beowulf exclusively.
On the third day, she woke from a nap in her uncomfortable chair to a hoarser version of her brother's voice. he mumbled a few times, causing his sister to remember the contents of his last letter, the one that enthusiastically stated that he was engaged with his lovely Miss Dular. Where was the girl now, Amelia couldn't help but wonder, and why wasn't she with Beowulf?
On the fourth day, her brother was awake and coherent when she awoke from her slumber. Sis, nice to see you again, he smiled, then coughed.
I would say the same if you were the picture of health. Your chocobo saved your life, dear brother. At Beowulf's blank look, she remembered that he had a fairly bad memory and he -was- currently ill as well. The chocobo that took you from Lionel to here, which would be Lesalia if you can't quite remember...
Right, right, I remember now. My old room?
Newly fixed up so you wouldn't infect anyone else.
he looked distinctly less than amused, and my things?
Amelia gestured vaguely behind her. The nice piece of luggage and the bag. There was silence between the siblings as he nodded, then she took a deep breath and asked, Why are you alone, Beowulf?
An odd look flashed in his dark eyes and he rolled over, his back now to her. Can we talk when I'm feeling better, Sis?
I'd like to know what happened to my future sister-in-law as soon as possible if I could, little brother. This was said quietly, a hint of a razor's edge in her tone. It was never in her to leave well enough alone.
He began to cough again, a long session of hacking from deep within clogged lungs. Reaching out with a mug of lemon tea, she offered it to him but he waved it away, his back still obstinately to her. She's...she's dead, the words were forced up roughly through his raw throat, and I really don't want to talk about it right now.
...Of course, the brunette whispered, taking his words as gracefully as she could. She rose from her seat, an antique she was ready to use as firewood after days of sitting and worrying in it. There is a cup of tea on the table next to you. I think you should get some rest now.
He didn't say anything, and when she leaned over his still form she saw that he'd drifted into a restless sleep.
The expression on the noblewoman's face hardened as she walked into the hallway, deliberately passing by the dining room with barely a glance inside. That was something that was typically Beowulf, something she had never cared about her younger brother.
He was always very good at drifting away from the harsh things.
-0-Snowflakes spiraled prettily from the gray skies, aimlessly falling upon the imported shingles and remodeled buildings that made up Lesalia's Upper End. No two flakes were exactly alike, but they all succumbed the same way to gravity. The shapes of each snowflake reflected off of foreign-made windows, and when reflected through the contemplative eyes behind one window each flake took on the same deep tint like that of an expensive after-dinner brandy.
She should've been here to see this.
Beowulf often indulged in these sort of thoughts. Everything he looked at with those dark eyes, no matter how mundane, how absolutely common it was, often made him think of her. Her, and her reactions.
I think she would've liked it. The snow blankets the town very nicely. I wonder if she would've liked it better than Bariaus Valley?
The thought brought the barest glimmer of a smile on his face. Places were simply places to him. In the end, there was always some horrible price to pay for the honor of staying there. But he'd liked the valley. He had a lot of good memories there, all of them with her. Maybe that had been the same with her.
I think she would've liked the valley more. She always seemed more fond of being outdoors, or maybe it was because of...
He couldn't finish the thought. If he did, then he would spend time wondering if it was nature she liked more, or him. Sometime...sometime he would've liked to ask her which it was. Even if she had been with him that very moment, so many dorma away from Bariaus Valley, he still would've liked to ask her, just for fun.
They should've been having lots of fun today. Today was her birthday.
I wonder what we would've been doing today. Shuffling around in the snow and seeing the town completely covered in white, or would we have even bothered to get out of bed?
It wasn't in Beowulf's general mindset to worry about would-have-beens and should-have-beens. He chose a path and tried his hardest not to look back, only giving into the temptation when he was about to change paths again. But right now it was terribly important for him to ponder the details of what would've been her twenty-second birthday. He'd pushed her away when it came to his own. Now that he thought about it, why had he? It would've been that much longer they would've spent together, that much longer he could've recalled now.
He was tearing himself up with all these thoughts, he knew that much. Bloody ripping himself to shreds, even. He didn't mind it so much, though. It was what he deserved for being the one left alive, the one she'd thrown her own life away for.
It didn't surprise him very much to find that he was enjoying his self-imposed purgatory.
The snowflakes danced before his eyes, clumsily disorganized in their performance but propped up by their enthusiasm. In his mind's eye, a memory was being played, one with the image of her holding his hand and shyly asking if he had the time to watch the sunset with her.
The sound startled him, and immediately after he regained his bearing he felt ashamed. For what, he wasn't quite sure. He took a deep breath and glanced out of the window again, finally seeing the snowflakes dancing merrily before him. Come in, he called without turning around.
Ah, so you were awake, said his sister cheerfully as she entered his room. I've got something I think you might like.
He turned around at this, hope lighting up his eyes. Riovanes Sweets...oh, his enthusiasm disappeared as soon as he saw the paper in her hands. She giggled as she gave it to him, charmed by how he could become that little boy that she had devoted so much time into raising. Glancing at the notice, one of his eyebrows raised at its contents.
Lesalia Imperial Academy now looking
for new professors to start the new term.
Magic, Battle Tactics, Weaponry.
Please apply in person.
Am I that much of an inconvenience? he wondered aloud. His sister shook her head fiercely at this.
Not at all! It's just...I think it's a good idea for you to focus on something. You seem so gloomy lately, brother. Gently, she touched his shoulder and he glanced at her, a dullness to his eyes. Of course I understand why, but I don't think...certainly, you still have much of your own life left.
I wonder what she would've said if I told her that I was going to become a professor. He chuckled, drawing a put-upon look from Amelia. And if I said that I've been focusing on you and Caitlyn?
Oh, that's not even a proper excuse. You still find ample time to sit around and mope. I'd think that it'd do you good to be surrounded by energetic young people. She smiled, her green eyes alight with excitement as she said, I think you'd make a fine professor!
The gloom that had firmly settled over the man seemed right now as if it had never existed. But big crowds make me nervous, Sis, he grinned.
She scoffed at this, waving her hand in a dismissive gesture. Oh, now you're not even trying. You've been in war, it's the same thing here. A preemptive attack and every student will immediately respect you. Keep attacking and don't let those brats regroup and toss you about, she grinned almost viciously as he stared at her in shock, that's how the professors taught in that aristocratic school I attended, although sometimes we still got the better of them.
...I bet you were leading all the students in revolt, he said lovingly, shaking his head in amusement as her grin grew wider. I suppose it can't hurt to try. But I don't have any credentials.
Hm...during the interview, just mention that Father used to work there, she looked thoughtful. Beowulf said nothing, although old memories about his childhood dampened his good mood, they really like hearing about that sort of thing, especially if you layer on how you've been trained in magic by both the war and the Church. After all, Dad was a professor of magic. Glancing at him, she frowned slightly at his foreboding expression. Will you do it?
...Why not? It's worth a try. She's right, what I'm doing isn't healthy at all. Beowulf nodded slowly. Alright, I'll try.
Besides...it'd be disrespectful to Reis if I just wasted away the life she saved...
-0-...And this is the process in which a spell is fueled. Can someone tell me why a physical liquid like ethers would help replenish the purely endurance-related factor of magic power depletion? Beowulf Kadmus looked out at the room full of students after his question, his expression benign.
A few students raised their hands while others looked down at their notes in either a real or staged attempt at finding the answer. He pointed at one boy in the front row. Well, um...because it's like a potion. It's healing an injury.
Beowulf smiled encouragingly. That's a good start, although I just said it was purely endurance-related'. He noticed a girl in the back of the class who was timidly holding her hand up next to her head. Do you know the answer, miss?
An ether artificially stimulates the areas in the body that regulate levels of magic power, tricking the body into thinking that it has more than enough power to expend on magic, the girl glanced up at her professor's expectant face and blushed, and that's why the main side-effect of ether abuse is exhaustion, because sleep is the only natural way the body has to replenish its magic.
Beowulf was about to say more, but the bells rang and he smiled instead. Good job everyone, and I'll see you on Thursday. The students jumped up from their seats and left the room in a flurry of gathering materials and friends, leaving him alone in the classroom after a few scant minutes. He kept the self-satisfied smile on his face as he left his room, making his way to his office on the top floor.
It surprised him how much he enjoyed teaching. Initially he had a few misgivings. He'd never attended school himself, forced to scrounge for knowledge because of his mother's severe apathy towards him, so he hadn't know anything about the environment of an academy. His sister had regaled him with stories of her own boarding school years, and his resulting feelings afterward were mainly of shock and morbid curiosity. While she was called a noblewoman now, it certainly seemed that she was anything but in her younger years.
The surprise he felt after receiving a job as a professor of magic at the prestigious university was only rivaled by the amazement he held regarding his students. They were polite, intelligent, and for the most part more than willing to learn. Beowulf supposed that it was due more to the intense drilling of manners that most children of aristocrats received during their childhood than anything having to do with him, but he was grateful all the same.
He felt like he was finally making up for all the horrible things he had done in his life.
Here in Lesalia Imperial Academy, he was given the opportunity to teach cadets and regular nobles alike how to properly use magic. They didn't have to learn it as he did, a last-ditch attack to save his own life. And, God willing, they would never have to learn the more creative ways to murder another human with magic like he had to. In many ways, teaching wasn't so much different from his last role as a leader, except that there was more talking involved. He liked to talk, so it worked out well.
He often imagined that she would've liked his new job.
-0-Smile, little brother. You look like a bore to be around right now.
Really. Can I go back, then?
A touch put off by Amelia's tone, Beowulf refrained from saying anything more. The two were walking arm-in-arm towards a stately, newly-renovated manor a few blocks from their home. The warm July evening had prompted the elder of the two to suggest walking over instead of arranging a chocobo-drawn carriage, even if the hem of her elegant evening gown risked being ruined by the brisk walk over. For his part, Beowulf hadn't wanted to go--he hadn't even known about the party in the first place--preferring to relax in the wake of his summer break from the academy. But his sister was very persuasive when she wanted to be.
--Oh, I see how it is, I certainly do. You come crawling to me, take up residence here again, get a job with my help, and then when I ask you for one simple favor you suddenly think that you have the right to refuse? Hah, that's very funny. Get dressed--
Unfortunately, this wasn't one of those times.
He sighed, drawing a glare from her. Oh, this is shaping up to be one of the better nights of my life, he grumbled to himself as he caught the first glimpse of all the nobles gathering at the front door of the mansion. At least the last time I went to something like this, it was with someone who appreciated me.
From the walk up to the front door to entering the grand estate, the former knight endured countless introductions with people he had never even heard of but were all apparently the elite of Lesalia's nobility. As soon as his elder sister mentioned to a friend of hers that he was her handsome bachelor of a brother, it seemed that there was a growing amount of young women at the edges of his peripheral vision. A few ventured forth, and he couldn't bring himself to be any more than coolly polite to these ladies. He caught the concerned glances his sister kept sending him, and she never strayed far from his arm, helpfully deterring many of the eligible women from pursuing more than an introduction. He appreciated this, and in return he became more receptive to the evening's festivities.
Every time he was introduced to someone, he wanted to turn and introduce Reis to them.
I don't think she would've liked this, though. He smiled absently at something his sister told a friend, unable to keep from sinking into his usual thoughts. There would've been no reason for her, for either of us to be here. Probably wouldn't even have known about this unless Sis dragged us along. Though, it would've been a good excuse to pull out that Holy Knight dress of hers...
his sister hissed while shaking him, disturbing a pleasant image from a memory only a year old. He looked at her questioningly, and she merely tilted her head up, gesturing for him to look ahead. Slightly perturbed, he looked over and the incessant chatter seemed to drain from the room, leaving only the sound of his heartbeat in his ears.
It wasn't that the woman was particularly beautiful. She was very pretty, what with the gold curls flowing down to her waist and bouncing around her generous figure, though a certain amount of stress pinched her face. Sea-green eyes conveyed a sense of self dignity, though not so much that it would be considered cold. Her gait was measured and full of confidence, her head held high as if to counter her relatively short stature.
He didn't know why, but there was something about her that reminded him of Reis.
She approached them and, although she had glanced at Beowulf, her full attention was on Amelia. Lady Plucelia, she curtsied after using the older woman's true title, I'm surprised to see you here. You don't come to these soirees as often as we would like.
You'll forgive me, but an evening with my family is often enough for my old body, considering the attention they demand, the brunette joked. Beowulf wasn't sure what to make of that, but it strangely put him at ease. His sister seemed to like this woman. Oh, let me introduce you. Elly, this is my brother, Beowulf Kadmus. Beowulf, she caught his eye, and he frowned in confusion at the odd look glimmering within her olive eyes, this is Ellyce Oaks.
It's a pleasure to meet you, Professor Kadmus, Ellyce smiled. Beowulf smiled back, his first true smile of the night.
A pleasure to meet you, Lady Oaks... wait, how does she know... Excuse me, have we met before?
Her smile widened, showing white teeth behind coral lips. No, I've heard a bit about you at the academy.
Something clicked inside his mind. Oh, so you're a student, he figured out aloud, and was immediately taken aback when she began to laugh.
No, no...though I do appreciate the compliment. I'm a professor as well, of battle tactics. I've been there just about four years ongoing now.
I see. Battle tactics? Were you a knight once?
Not at all. It runs in the family though. My father used to serve for the Touten, and my younger sister... her expression soured briefly before she shook her head and tried to smile, well, currently she's a knight at Saint Konoe Academy. With all the stories Father tells, it was easy enough to seek a job having to do with that sort of thing. Are you a knight?
It was Beowulf's turn for a dour look to fall upon his face. I...used to be.
Oh, I see. I apologize. It must've been very difficult for you.
War is difficult for everyone, naturally, he glanced around the room, dark eyes taking in the extravagance of the party, well, mostly everyone, he amended, a sardonic little grin punctuating the remark. She laughed in such a way that it was obvious she laughed often, appealing to something inside him.
It's certainly true, though a bit sad as well, the woman shook her head slightly in amusement before suddenly frowning. You'll have to excuse me, I was actually looking for my brother through this lot, and it seems I have a bit more searching to do. She smiled again, murmuring, Good night, Professor Kadmus.
Good night, Professor Oaks, he said, watching her take her leave and meander into a large crowd of various nobility. She seems like a very nice woman, he thought as he glanced over to his left and realized that his sister had left during the conversation. That's odd, he shrugged mentally and went off in search for her, feeling much better about the night than he had before.
If Reis were here, I'm sure she would've liked Miss Oaks as well.
-0-Lesalia was not a place adversely affected by the summer. Indeed, it often defied the standard ideal of heat and sunshine, letting the rain dominate the season's customs. In this manner did the summer fade into autumn, and Beowulf and Ellyce's friendship bloomed into something unusual.
Contrary to the persona he showed, that of the charming and confident fill-in-the-job-here, he was unsure of himself when it came to women. He got along well with many, if not most of them, and he wasn't shy at all. There was just something in him that made him pause. Part of the reason why he had such a high regard for Reis was because he didn't feel as if he needed to step back and assess the situation.
She was just right there, somehow vulnerable and independent all at once.
He hadn't figured out what had initially made him think that Ellyce was in any way similar to his lost love. They didn't look or act alike. Reis had been mostly sedate even right before her death, a depth to her actions and feelings that surprised and intrigued Beowulf. Ellyce was quick with her words, moderating her easily stoked emotions with a self-possession that was admirable. What was harder for him to admit, especially to himself, was that it was also attractive.
She was attractive in a way that Reis had never been.
It bothered him. It honestly did. The woman he had once planned to marry hadn't even been gone for a year, and yet he was thinking of replacing her with another...
No, Ellyce isn't a -replacement-, he argued with himself as he stared out of the window of his room, she's just a friend right now. A good friend. And Reis can never be replaced. Ever.
Just because she's not here doesn't mean that she's gone.
It was an odd thought, but a very true one. It was easier for him to admit that he still was in love with her. She'd been taken away from him so suddenly that he'd never gotten any closure. She was still a very real part of his day-to-day thoughts, ones that skirted the surface of his mind and sometimes fooled him into turning around at the sound of light footsteps, or to spread out an arm across his pillow for her head to rest on.
He looked down. Balancing on the windowsill was his heirloom, the pitcher-shaped stone with the Aquarius rune engraved into it. It was taken out during the one time he opened her suitcase, and he had closed it immediately afterward. Somehow, he felt as if going through her things would violate her privacy. But he felt no qualms about taking out the first gift he had given her. As far as he was concerned, it was still hers. He just wanted to look at it.
Beowulf called out, lifting his gaze from the strangely hypnotic waves that glittered on the stone. He'd never noticed it before, but the stone felt as if there was magic lurking within it.
Amelia entered his room, quietly closing the door behind her. The smile on her face was nervous, unlike the confidence he was so used to seeing on her attractive face. Hello, Beowulf. How are you?
Well, that's strange, he thought while watching her carefully. Fine. And you?
Well, I'm somehow still alive. I received a letter from Thomas today, she answered, a bit of maternal pride seeped into her unsure smile, he and his brother will be visiting during their winter break.
I'm wondering if you're planning on courting Elly, she suddenly said, her tone demanding, I think it'd be a good idea if you are.
Her brother frowned. What brought this on?
The fact that I'm not blind, Amelia retorted, errantly pushing back locks of her brown hair from her face. You seem to have an interest towards her, but you aren't pursuing her. Why?
Why do you think? Annoyed at this impropriety, he turned around to face the window again.
She made a movement as if to reach out to him, but instead she bit her lip. I'm sorry. I know that your Miss Dular meant a great deal to you. But...do you honestly think she would've wanted you to sit around and deny yourself a part of what makes life worthwhile?
His frown deepened. Which would be?
Now his sister was getting annoyed as well. Living, little brother. A family of your own. Moving on and letting her finally rest. Don't you appreciate her that much?
That was too much for the man. Beowulf spun away from the window, eyes flaring with something desperate. I don't appreciate that she's gone!
Then don't! she shouted back, hands clenched at her sides. But you have to realize that you're alive, that you have a lot of your life left to live! You told me once that she sacrificed her life so that you could live on. How could you ever say that you respected her when you dig her up in your mind every day?
He wanted to shout, to scream that he hadn't asked his beloved Reis to do a damn thing for him, much less throw away her life for him. Ever since he found out what she had done, he had thought of what would've happened if Buremonda's spell had hit its intended target. It should've, he maintained, and he would've gladly died so that she could live. Even if she had felt the same way regarding herself, it mattered more that he was the one the spell was supposed to have hit. She should've lived!
But every time he opened his eyes, he was still here.
He was still alive.
I'm sorry, Amelia murmured, breaking into his thoughts, I just want you to be happy. If I felt that you were happier drowning in your memories, I would leave you alone, her voice took on a pleading tone as she gazed up at him, her eyes filled with concern and worry, but look at yourself. I'm sure that even you have figured out that you're not happy like this. You're reaching out to Elly, and I think it would be a shame if you stopped now.
I'm not asking you to forget, I'm asking you to move on.
Is it really that easy? Beowulf wondered uneasily. Unsteadily, he nodded. Let me...let me just think about it. I...just let me think.
Of course. With remarkably clear eyes, Amelia turned and left his room, leaving him to his thoughts.
Move on? That's almost like...like shoveling that last bit of dirt on her and walking away. Such a wonderful, amazing woman...and that's all she gets?
His heartbeat was rapid as he turned back to the window, picking up the stone and rolling it around in his hand. Letting go and moving on made him strangely uneasy, even though he had long accepted that she was never going to tilt her head and give him one of her tiny, cherished smiles again. However, this was almost too painful, almost unnecessary in its coldness.
It was closure.
But I know Reis would've wanted this. She'd expected the same for a much lesser inability than the loss of life. He hadn't let go then. Now...now it was different.
And that hurt.
I still have my life to live.
When it came down to it
I knew I had to move on.
And in the comfort of the large bed in his childhood home, he dreamt.
Chapter 2: Those Who Forget, Those Who Are Never Forgotten
She was interesting, Beowulf decided. Beautiful and interesting.
Currently he and Reis were in Lionel Castle's shopping area, which consisted of a long street in front of the town's south entrance. They had just eaten and were now in the process of looking for a cloth shop. It was embarrassing for him, the leader of Lionel's military and resident of the largest city in Lionel, to claim that he had no clue where this shop could possibly be. He had racked his brain for some spare memory about the shop's location. Surely he had strolled by it while on patrol?
Frustrated at his poor memory, he glanced to his right again, where Reis placidly walked beside him. She had a blank look on her face, on par for her from what he could tell. Still, even with no expression, her profile was very pleasant. Her hair and clothes swayed in time with her graceful walk, and he wondered how she'd learned to keep such a measured stride. It seemed almost battle-ready.
Just like that punch she threw at me earlier, he thought while smiling at her, she's nothing like just a mindless drone from Murond. She's just too interesting.
Her momentarily blinking in confusion was the only warning he received before she glanced up at him, large light brown eyes shimmering with curiosity. she asked in a deliberate manner, her pale lips forming the single-syallable word almost carefully. The image of the tip of her pink tongue moving behind her white teeth was one that was going to stick in his mind for days, not to talk of her luscious lips...
What am I thinking? First thing's first. He smiled sheepishly as he said, Nothing, I was just trying to remember anything that might help us. Though, an explanation of why he needed to look at her while doing so wasn't forthcoming at the moment, to his dismay.
She kept her eyes on him for a long moment, her expression displaying slight dubiousness at his words. she finally said, turning her gaze before her once again. Beowulf really wasn't sure what to make of that. Not for the first time he wanted to take a look inside her mind; he definitely wasn't going to get any insight on her inner workings with simple conversation just yet.
There were people everywhere on this fine spring day, and he briefly entertained the thought of asking someone for directions to the hidden cloth shop . Certainly they'd finally get somewhere with their search. However, he was still clinging onto the idea of looking somewhat good to her. Plus, he didn't want to part ways with her just yet. Perhaps he could get her to open up somehow. She was capable of acting out of her normal persona; he'd realized that when she had greeted him earlier with a punch and then proceeded to yell at him.
Hopefully I won't purposefully inspire -that- anymore, he thought while surreptitiously glancing at her again, not if I can help it at least. I just need something to say, something... It's a nice day today, isn't it?
...Oh, -that's- bloody original.
She looked back at him again, appearing to be thoughtfully considering his question. It is, isn't it? I really like days like this, she smiled faintly.
Wow, she responded well to that, the thought flitted through his mind while he blinked in surprise. Isn't it like this in Murond this time of the year as well? he asked, trying to capitalize on this opening.
The interest in her eyes dulled. I suppose. I didn't go out all that often.
...Well, that's alright. You can always do that here. Especially if we can't find that shop today, he amended to himself.
...That's true. Though... An odd look formed on her face, one that looked to Beowulf as if it were of some sort of shy embarrassment. I'm not really interested if I'm by myself.
Beowulf ruthlessly suppressed the urge to put his arm around her. She was as skittish as a wild chocobo, and there was the good chance she might hit him, run off and tell Buremonda. That didn't look like a pleasant itinerary for the afternoon. Reis, I'm sure you'll make lots of friends, he assured her instead, wondering if it were prudent for him to volunteer his services, and I wouldn't mind going out with you any time you wanted.
She blinked in surprise before reddening slightly, a tiny, embarrassed smile lighting up her face. I couldn't impose on you like that, she murmured, not after today.
He supposed it was a good thing she hadn't caught the other meaning in his offer. Don't worry about it, he laughed. It was so easy to do so with her around. I'm a Shrine Knight, at the beck and call of all church members, at her inquisitive expression he smiled widely, especially a pretty cataloguer like you.
Amazingly, while she looked extremely flustered, his bold flirting didn't seem to scare her off. ...That's...if those are the services you render, then...I'm a bit surprised there aren't more cataloguers around for you to cater to. While the delivery was flawed, at the end of it she seemed very calm, even employing something of a smirk.
He didn't know what to say, but he was sure it had something to do with how she was the only cataloguer he was interested in catering to.
God, what an interesting woman...
Beowulf awoke slowly, surrounded by the dark of his room. There was only the sound of his shallow breathing in his ears as he stared at the ceiling and thought back on the dream he just had.
His lips curved into a small, sad smile under the cloak of the night.
She definitely was.
-0-Leaves of red and orange fell around Beowulf's form as he briskly made his way from the academy to his home. It was early afternoon, cloudy and breezy, and he didn't feel all that put out from having his afternoon classes cut short by some assembly. He didn't know if he had to attend as well, and truthfully he didn't care at the moment. The leaves that danced and swirled aimlessly in the air looked better than anything he'd have to see inside the auditorium anyway.
Reaching his home, he strode through the atrium, his footsteps clacking softly on the wooden floor. Out of curiosity, he looked into the small parlor where his sister normally spent her days. She was there now, bundled in a soft cream blanket that went well with her indoors dress of light blue with white trim. Beowulf, good afternoon, she said, smiling. She waved him over with the book she held in her right hand. Join me for tea.
With good cheer he did as she asked, sitting down across from her at the small table. What's that? he asked, pointing at her book. Shrugging, she put it down on her lap.
Middling to good poetry collection. She wrapped the blanket around her body tightly. The better ones are written by knights, can you believe that?
He was about to respond when one of the maids, a young woman with blond hair tied in a bun, entered the room and made her way over to their table, depositing a silver tray full of matching tea implements. Cecilia, go get another cup for my brother, Amelia paused, and the sugar as well. Young Cecilia did as she was told, coming back in a minute with the cup and a sugar holder. With a quiet simplicity, she poured the tea into the two cups, bowed, then left.
Beowulf watched the maid leave. I didn't know you hired another maid.
She was recently fired from the Dosserey home, and I'd been wanting to hire her for some time, the elder of the two shrugged as she delicately lifted up her cup. One woman's stupidity is another's gain.
You really don't like any of your neighbors, do you? he commented, scooping sugar into his cup.
Should I have to put up with such insufferable idiots? That's the problem with the nobility, she took a small sip from her cup, setting it down and reaching for a biscuit, they don't test for the actual quality.
Experimentally, he took a sip from his cup and deemed the tea sweet enough. Would any of us really pass, Sis? His tone was light, yet the question was anything but.
She paused from her small bites into the gingerbread used in conjunction with wintertime teas. Honestly? Probably not. So then, what should separate us from the commoners?
he glanced at her, the red of his eyes dull with the low lighting, we're not any different from them. He could see in her eyes that she didn't care, and he focused his attention on his tea and the biscuits. There was a quiet moment between the two siblings, a rare one indeed as they were both talkative people. Beowulf finished off his cup of tea and his sister poured him another one. He scooped in more of the finely ground sugar, itching to fill the air with something. So, where's Caitlyn?
At her tutor's.
Shouldn't she be in a proper school by now?
Amelia sighed, looking years older than her early thirties now, yes, but...I don't know. It's really my own inability.
'Your own'? You can't choose a school for her?
No, that's not it, not exactly...
Beowulf leaned back in his chair, frowning slightly in confusion. But you sent your sons away to school. What makes your daughter any different?
The smile on his sister's face was one of sad embarrassment as she pulled on the ends of her dark hair. I'm a bit lonely, little brother. I guess I'm holding her back with that, and she's never complained. And quite honestly, I don't want to mold her into the perfect little noblewoman.
He looked at Amelia with gentle understanding. Well, I'm here, so you don't have to feel too lonely.
That's kind of you to say, but I'm always afraid that you're going to leave again, she smiled with some of her usual sharpness at his blank expression, pathetic, isn't it?
He shook his head, dispelling her worries with one of his good-natured grins. Don't worry, Sis. I don't have a reason to leave.
-0-No man in Ivalice could be as lucky as Beowulf Kadmus thought he was. After all, he was dating the very gorgeous, very enchanting Reis Dular.
Although he had initially thought her to be shy, it appeared now that she was actually just really reserved. Whatever it was, it had to do with the lingering streak of resistance he observed in her demeanor. She was obviously not going to just fall into his admittedly open arms.
That just attracted him even more.
She was across the table from him, silently going through her meal, a light vegetable soup for lunch. That was another thing he had noticed about her, that she didn't eat very much. He wondered if this was because of the fact that he always insisted on paying for their meals.
That's kind of cute, he thought in an amused tone as he took a sip of tea, she's stubborn, but she's not overbearing about it. I like that.
He hadn't found anything to dislike about her yet.
Are you enjoying your meal, Reis? he asked as she reached over for her own cup of tea. She looked up at him and smiled slightly.
Yes, it's very good. Did you enjoy yours?
Yeah, I did.
Her smile grew a bit wider. That's good, she replied before finishing off her soup. He smiled at that. Conversation was starting to become a mainstay with them, and what conversation it was. Although she didn't say very much, she always seemed interested in what he had to say, and always had something to ask about. Occasionally she was even witty, although he had wondered if that wasn't actually a normal part of her personality. After all, with the way she often drifted away in her thoughts, she must've had something interesting to think about.
It was strange for him to analyze another person this way. Usually he concentrated on his own thoughts and problems. However, there was just something about her that innately drew him to her. He wanted to know more about her, and the way in which she was so taciturn only interested him even more.
She said yes, and the resulting dates led up to this moment.
And she's still amazing, he nodded to himself, and she likes me. God, I'm lucky. What are you thinking about? This was a random question for him, but he honestly wanted to know. Reis was visibly surprised at the question, slightly frowning in a way that seemed more to herself than a reproach to him.
Well, I was thinking that I was going to really dislike going back to work, her eyes flickered up to his face for a bare second before she gazed into her teacup. I'm having such a nice time right now.
He was happy that she was satisfied at the moment, but also concerned about the matter of her work. Buremonda had told him the barest details regarding why she was being transferred over, that she was a cataloguer who could translate ancient Ivalician dialects. What's wrong with your work?
She grimaced, looking unhappy as she looked up at him with those captivating eyes. It's really boring, she confessed, filing away books back in Murond was more exciting.
Oh, I'm sorry to hear that. Beowulf studied the slight distress in her facial features, noting the way her lips were thinned and the overall tightness of her cheeks. What are you doing, exactly? It's just translating, right?
Yes...I guess I'm just complaining unnecessarily, she sighed, still looking downcast, I should be grateful that I was even chosen.
Hm, what can I say? I think I understand how you feel. Sometimes my job gets on my nerves too, he attempted to put a cheerful spin on his words, but it was hard to hide the bitterness he had, still had after all these years.
Heaven wasn't worth the price of his job.
Oh, really? Light brown eyes looked up at him expectantly, and he felt obligated to try and cheer her up, even if his example had very dark undertones. Why, exactly?
Because I'm actually extremely indecisive.
Oh, really. I can't stand having to make life-or-death decisions immediately, if at all. Sometimes it's hard just to decide what to have for breakfast, he grinned at her incredulous expression, but don't tell anybody. I'm trying to keep morale up.
...I see. I'm surprised...I'd think that a leader would be decisive and willing to make hard decisions quickly, as she said this, there was confusion lurking within her sepia gaze, you seem like the type who could, I think.
He sighed dramatically. I know, and most of the time I can, but sometimes even a leader has a moment of weakness, keeping up the pretense, he couldn't help but let an embittered thought run through his mind: Not as many as I do, though, but you're the only person I can trust with that.
The look on her face was unbelieving. If you say so, but...you're so confident, so it's surprising... she looked down, that expression still on her face, especially for you...
Everybody has a side to them that would surprise anybody else, he looked at her penetratingly, inwardly surprised when she stared back steadily, especially you.
Lightly, she ran her tongue over her lower lip, wetting it and catching his complete attention. Even though he thought about it often, he hadn't tried to kiss her yet. For all her vaunted intellect, she was as innocent as anyone who was a ward of the Church should be. I don't know about that, she looked at him, and the thought that she seemed lost crossed through his mind not for the first time, I think I'd like that, though.
You will, he replied, his gaze moving upward from her enticing lips to her soulful eyes, I'm sure it's as incredible as the rest of you. This was said lightly, and something in him wanted to reach out to her as she looked down, slight embarrassment crossing her face.
In the early morning darkness that flooded his room, Beowulf sighed and rolled over onto his back. The memory was an odd one to dream about, considering how mundane it had been in the course of their relationship.
It bothered him.
-0-In the tiny, casual restaurant known mainly for its exquisite desserts, the sight of Ellyce Oaks sipping delicately from a cup of cocoa topped with cream was startling. Perhaps this had to do with the clientele, none of them who sat with the ramrod-straight poise that she held in the cozy booth. The drab interior contrasted with her flowing, elegant dress that fit her figure well. It was obvious to all who glanced in her direction that she didn't belong in such an environment.
She glanced at the man sitting across from her, a smile flitting across her face as she observed how happy he seemed with his slice of caramel lace cheesecake. Is it really that good, Beowulf?
Smiling boyishly, he looked up at her. Better than that. Are you sure you don't want a slice, Elly?
Some of her natural dignity melted away into something truly beautiful within her sea-colored eyes. Oh, please don't tempt me. It looks lovely, but I'm afraid I'll never fit into my dresses after one slice.
Are you sure? he teased, taking a bite of the decadent dessert, watching as her eyes seemed to light up as the morsel passed between his lips. It's very good...
You're incorrigible, she mockingly turned her head away from him, taking another sip from her cup. Really, it's as if you were trying to seduce me into worshipping at that sweets store your sister says you frequent.
He grinned. It's better on this side. But, whatever you like, Lady Ellyce.
Have you heard? The voice was female and loud, coming from the booth behind the noblewoman. They say that Sir Balbanes has become almost too ill to keep on the battlefield.
Beowulf lost his grin as he stared into Ellyce's narrowed eyes, the both of them awaiting some other bits of news. They didn't have to wait long, as another female voice jumped into the fray. Yes, it's such a pity. The cold, isn't that right? I remember hearing that he developed symptoms of that dreadful thing in forty-seven, over a year ago.
Yes, the summer of it, I believe. Oh, it's a good thing this war is winding down anyway. There's a rumor that peace talks are going to start up within the next year. And if not, at least Sir Zalbag and Sir Orlandu are still able to protect us.
Ellyce's eyes narrowed into dangerous slits. I quite hope they leave you to rot, you sodding useless bints. At that blunt announcement, the other booth quickly became quiet. With anger brimming in her eyes, she looked at Beowulf. I'm sorry, but can we leave now? I'm worried that idiocy is catching.
he answered, surprised over her sudden emotional change. He finished the thin slice of cheesecake in two bites, then stood up and held his arm out to her. Shall we go, Elly? Silently she took his arm, and they walked to the entrance of the tiny establishment and collected their coats, separating only long enough to put them on before walking into the snowy evening.
she whispered. Beowulf glanced down at her. What irritating things to hear.
He frowned in concern, untangling his arm from hers only to wrap it around her shoulders. She rarely allowed this in public, but right now she merely sighed. What is it? he asked kindly.
Pursing her lips, she kept staring forward. Those women expecting to be protected without lifting a finger. All they know how to do is squeal for a man to save them, really... she glanced at him, uncertainty bright in her light eyes, it almost makes me regret all those terrific rows I had with my sister over her becoming a knight.
I think that just shows how much you care, not wanting her to go into the war and all, he replied, hazy memories at the edges of his mind reminding him of his own entrance into the war. But, do you think she can do it?
Scoffing in a very unladylike way, her eyes narrowed. She's the only one out of us Oaks that can. Father's already had his turn, Mother's too delicate, our elder brother's a right coward, and I... she turned away, taking a shuddering deep breath, really, I'm the same as those women from earlier. So then, she's it by default. It's just that she's too full of soppy ideals about how justice and honor will always pervail. One day she'll fail and have to reevaluate her ideas, and then maybe she'll be more realistic. Until then, we're better off separated.
Beowulf smiled, looking up at the falling snow. It sounds like you really admire her, he chuckled as he heard her scoff again, and I think you're strong, just like...
Reis? Just like Reis? Is that it? No, I don't think so. Reis never would've shouted things like that, not out of spite. She would've had to be a lot angrier...she was a quiet, determined sort of strong.
'Just like'...? Ellyce was looking at him now, and he reflexively smiled at her.
Just in a different way.
And, to be honest, I don't like it as much.
-0-She had soft hands and a tentative touch that lingered at the sides of his face. It was pleasant, but not as much as the feel of her lips on his own. He let her control the direction of their kiss, inwardly amused at how it hadn't taking any coaxing at all. That was something he'd noticed after he'd returned from Zaland, that she seemed more forward than before. Although she'd been vague about what had happened while he was gone, he knew it had something to do with Tingel's son.
Well, whatever happened, the thought rose up as she began to playfully fence with him using the tip of her tongue, it seems to have done her a lot of good.
Her hands began to run down from his face to his shoulders as the moment began to wind down, a chaste kiss their encore before pulling away entirely. As his eyes began to open, he watched as her night-drenched face bloomed from an uncertain little pursing of her lips to a much more comfortable smile that lit her entire being up. Seeing this made him smile widely, and he reached up with his right hand and cupped the side of her face, a trill of pleasure running through him as she leaned into his hand.
In that moment, everything seemed so clear.
As he began to softly stroke her cheek with his thumb, watching her close her eyes in response, he wondered when everything became so easy. He had liked her from the first minute, when he had witnessed her coming right behind the thief with her luggage, and how she'd kept her eyes on him as she moved over to watch from behind a corner. He could appreciate a person with common sense. Only a bit later he began to sympathize with her loneliness, and he couldn't help but try to ease that. When he had thought about it later, he wasn't sure if he'd done it out of pure kindness or because he'd always wanted to try for a relationship with the enigmatic girl.
Did it matter now?
He wished that she would open up to him more, but he could also see that she was unsure of herself. The Church wanted simple pawns, so naturally they weren't going to help her emotional growth. He wasn't going to fault her for that; instead, he was going to try and help her. Together, they'd see who she truly was.
What does she think of me?
He shifted uneasily at the thought, scooting closer to where Reis sat on the stone sill with her back to the wall. His arm was going numb. She opened her eyes and stared at him curiously when he removed his hand, her eyes shining in the moonlight, and he grinned at her and patted her on the head. Reaching out with his arm, he was inwardly pleased when she moved up to him, leaning her head on his shoulder as he wrapped his arm around her shoulders.
It was right then, as they both stared out towards the giant hill in the distance, that he resolved to tell her how he felt about her. Maybe she felt the same way, but was too nervous, too worried about his own reaction to say anything. Maybe she didn't feel the same way he did.
He hoped to hear her low, melodious voice murmur those same words back.
Through his bleary eyes, he saw the snowflakes fall past his window. In the distance, bells tolled to announce the hour to those unfortunate enough to be outside. Beowulf closed his eyes again, sinking back into a soft, dreamless sleep.
Two in the morning...what a horrid time to wake up...what day is it, anyway...
Suddenly, he sat up, eyes wide in growing horror.
It's the last day of November...
Such an unobtrusive date. A day just like any other to many people throughout Ivalice. But to Beowulf, it was a very important day, a day of tragedy that he couldn't remember but still felt deeply.
Today was the one year anniversary of Reis Dular's death.
-0-Isn't the lake so pretty when it's frozen over, Sir Uncle? Caitlyn Darrow asked excitedly, pulling Beowulf over to sit by what was in the spring and summer months a haven for various birds. Taken in by the young girl's enthusiasm, he allowed himself to be tugged over to a tree near the lake's edge.
Yes, it is. But what happens to all the birds once the lake freezes?
Caitlyn stared up at her uncle, a look of surprise etched upon her young features. Oh no! I've never even thought of that! She stared out at the lake, where a multitude of children and teenagers were sliding along the ice, falling over more often than not. T-they're okay, right? Quickly she whirled to face her uncle again, thick dark brown locks flying behind her uncovered head. Sir Uncle, the birds will come back, won't they?
Ah...I'm sure they'll be fine. Although he taught classes to children just a few scant years older than his niece, Beowulf didn't really know how to deal with children. It hadn't helped that his students were all bred to be young adults practically out of the womb. Caitlyn was different, as her mother wanted her to have a personality. Although she was as well-mannered as a proper child of nobility, she was easily excitable.
The girl examined her uncle's face for a long moment, her face bordering on a suspicious glare before she broke out in a dazzling grin that seemed to brighten the clear January day. That's wonderful! And they'll be back come May or June, though... she tugged at Beowulf's sleeve, a serious expression on her face. Where do they go?
Somewhere warmer, I suppose.
Wouldn't you, if you were a bird? he said, grinning, and she nodded with wide eyes.
That's true. It's always so cold here, and Mum always makes me wear a cloak. But don't a bird's feathers keep them warm?
There has to be an end to her questions soon, he thought reasonably. I'm sure it's only a mild protection.
Did the birds stay around in the wintertime in Lionel, then? She flinched when she caught the blank expression on his face. Oh, I'm so sorry. I wasn't supposed to ask anything like that. Mum always says, Caitlyn, don't bother your uncle with those sorts of questions. He might not like it, so don't be a nuisance to him.'
He felt colder suddenly, and drew his cloak more tightly around himself. You're not a nuisance, Caitlyn, he smiled reassuringly at the small girl, but she didn't warm up instantly to this like she usually did.
But still, you didn't like the question, she replied, her dark green eyes showing overwhelming depth for a twelve-year-old. Was it really that bad down there?
Her innocent question made him drop the smile. Instead, he patted his niece on the head, a pensive expression making him look every bit his twenty-nine years. There were some parts that were bad, and some parts that made up for the bad parts, he explained to the girl, who nodded attentively, that's why I came here in the first place, because all the good parts...went away, he ended vaguely.
The girl seemed to be considering something. I overheard you and Mum talking once, a year or so ago, about a Miss Dular', she looked away, not wanting to see if her beloved uncle was looking at her reproachfully at the mention of the name, not to talk of the admitted eavesdropping. Was she the good part?
Beowulf closed his eyes, wondering faintly if all kids were that observant. The best.
...Oh. I'm sorry, Sir Uncle, I just--
No, don't worry about it, he quickly interrupted, noticing that the child seemed to be on the verge of tears. He stroked her long hair, waiting for her to calm down before suddenly asking, Do you want to hear about her?
She gazed up at him with hesitation lurking just below the surface of her dark eyes. Is it really okay?
Of course it is. She would've loved to meet you. Now, what should I start with?
Was she very beautiful, Sir Uncle?
Extremely. She had golden hair past her shoulders--
Golden like your hair?
No, a bit darker. And she had light, creamy skin and caramel-colored eyes--
Like the candies at the sweets shop?
Exactly. And she was very tall and slender, and very graceful, he caught the girl's odd expression and stopped remembering. Is something wrong, Caitlyn?
His niece frowned, trying to figure out her own words. Sir Uncle, you sound like you liked her very much.
I loved her very much, he softly corrected, and the young girl's frown deepened even more at this.
Do you still love her now?
Unsure at what the girl was trying to get to, Beowulf only nodded. It was too hard to deny that he still had strong feelings towards his lost love.
The dreams had seen to that.
Caitlyn's face went blank as she thought over her uncle's nonverbal answer. Finally she spoke, her voice soft yet somehow it was easily heard over the loud cheers and cries at the nearby lake. Even if you're courting Lady Oaks?
Even if I feel this way, I still have my life to live, he tried to explain to her, to himself, I have to move on.
His niece didn't respond, lowering her gaze to her lap. However, he could see the lingering disappointment in her profile, giving her a sad sort of maturity. How sad, wrapped in sad tone, this whisper fell from her tiny lips, adults make things so easy.
She stopped calling him Sir Uncle' that day, and Beowulf was pretty sure he understood why.
-0-Before that night, it had been easy. Just don't touch her inappropriately. He had lots of self-control, compounded by the fact that he didn't want to scare her off. They had plenty of time to get to that point. He had found out from Chiroseau that she hadn't even known what a date' was until a few moments before they went out. She was too innocent to do anything, and he was going to wait.
That night, he realized how wrong he'd been.
Now, a week later, they were talking again. She was by his side with that small smile on her face. That was all he had wanted in the first place from her.
--You say that...as if I hadn't enjoyed it as well--
What a way for her to complicate things. He wasn't going to deny that he'd wanted her that night. He had thought she'd wanted the same because, for a man with admittedly poor memory, he could easily recall the feeling of her pressing up against him, her soft utterances as he cupped her breasts. Hearing her validate this only made him wonder why he was holding back.
When she had looked at me, her eyes...
It was irritatingly confusing to him how she could do one thing and say another later. It was all the more reason to wait. Barring her clinging onto him and moaning his name into his ear, he could hold out for a long time.
He glanced at her as they walked back to the church. Her hand was small and warm inside his own, their entwined fingers instilling a sense of calm that he had missed. Even though he'd been frustrated and even angry with her, all those intense feelings drained away now that they were together again.
But it doesn't mean that this makes everything okay, he sighed inwardly, I don't want to deal with something like this again.
She gently squeezed his hand. Is everything okay, Beowulf?
I'm just thinking, brandy eyes watched her expression shift from curious to worried, I really don't want to go through this again.
I know, she replied softly, neither do I.
Letting go of her hand, he wrapped his arm around her shoulders and glanced at the church in front of their alleyway, dark and silent in the night. There was the comfortable feeling of her arm snaking around his waist as they slowed down their pace. Reis, I don't want to sound like I'm lecturing you, but I need you to know that it's not fair to me if you make all the decisions in your head without telling me anything. I know you're trying, this last line was said quickly as she frowned, and I'm proud of you, but would you be able to condone having your feelings tugged around without knowing why?
A stricken look crossed her youthful face, and Beowulf instantly felt horrible for continuing this line of discussion. Their dinner had appropriately skimmed the reason for their separation, instead focusing on more mundane factors in their lives. He hated to dwell on things, but he also wanted to bring his point across.
Even if it hurt her.
Despite the pain lingering along her features, she was still looking at him steadily. I know...I understand, bringing up the arm that wasn't around his waist, she touched his face lightly, and I'll keep trying.
He hugged her to him then, kissing the top of her head. That's all I need to know, he whispered, knowing that her sensitive ears would pick up on it. I'd better go. I've got an early morning tomorrow. As he loosened his grip on her, she initially allowed him to pull away but placed her hands on his chest, causing him to look at her in curiosity.
Before you go... she tilted her head up slightly, peering at him somewhat nervously through half-lidded eyes, will you kiss me, if you don't mind?
You don't have to ask, he muttered, a bolt of guilt running through him at how cautious she was being. Lowering his head slightly, a testament to her odd height for a female, he kissed her softly, cupping her face in his hands briefly before running his fingers through her silky hair. It wasn't a passionate kiss, but in its own way it was more satisfying to the man who was used to going place to place, never staying too long in any one location.
It was an embrace that made him feel as if he belonged somewhere.
With a tinge of regret, he pulled away, placing a kiss on her forehead. How about dinner on Monday, Reis?
She looked at him, a peaceful expression spreading over her gentle features. Alright. I'll be there.
Within his childhood home, Beowulf didn't bother to open his eyes. Instead, he sank deeper into his blankets, all the while thinking about the oddity of his dreams. He was used to dreaming up the memories of his stint in the war, the murders he committed for the Church. Because of those terrible memories, he had always shied away from sleeping for too long. But these memories, these pleasant and innocent dreams...
In some ways, he would've preferred his old dreams.
-0-Are you nervous? Ellyce asked, giving a cursory glance at Beowulf's clothes. She reached out and adjusted his collar, then ran her hands down his sleeves in an attempt to get rid of any stray wrinkles.
He was giving her an amused look when she looked up at him. Not next to you, I think, he teased, quieting once she narrowed her eyes in irritation. Is something wrong?
Normally self-assured, right now the noblewoman was fidgeting with her hands. It's just this whole thing, she looked up at him imploringly. I just really want this to come together well.
Beowulf had never met the Oaks family before. Although he had been dating Ellyce for nearly five months now, he'd been ambivalent about the idea. She had finally extended an invitation to her home, one that could not be denied. At least, that was what his sister had stated with a raised eyebrow. And he knew exactly why his sister had given him such an bland look.
It was time for the Oaks family to judge if he was the right man for Ellyce.
With a strong chord of reluctance being plucked to the rhythm of his heart, he allowed his girlfriend to groom him into the image of the kind of man her parents would love. To his credit, there hadn't been much done to either his looks or his personality. He was grateful that much had gone unscathed.
--My father is really proud of his part in the war. I know how you feel about it, but try to tolerate it. Enjoy it, even. Please?--
It was going to be a long night.
The first half of the evening went well. He was properly introduced to Sir Isodore Oaks, Lady Matiluda Oaks, and Lord Brunshild Oaks, the parents and elder brother to Ellyce. Her mother issued many apologies, as her youngest daughter was unable to attend due to her specialized training to become a Holy Knight and part of the Royal Guard. These titles were supplied by the honorable father himself, who then asked Beowulf about what part, if any, the younger man had played in the war.
This was the segue into the second half of the evening, which in Beowulf's humble opinion would've been better if it had never existed in the first place.
When he came home at a half past nine, he brushed off his sister's questions and strode towards his room. He didn't want to talk about it, he didn't want to think about it. All he wanted to do was sleep.
-0-He loved looking at her, especially with the afternoon sun glittering through her golden hair.
I love sunny days. The sound of Reis' voice was soothing to him as she gazed upward into the blue sky that blanketed Bariaus Valley. Brandy eyes watched in contentment as she turned to him, asking, Beowulf, do you want to move into the shade?
He favored her with one of his boyish smiles. Don't worry about me, love, I'll survive, his eyes wandered from her face to the endless blue above them. At least it's not too hot, he brushed at his black uniform derisively, wishing that their trip into the valley hadn't been so impromptu. But she was looking at him in that way, with that smile, and it was always nice to spend some private time away from any prying eyes back at the town...
Or I'm just a sap when it comes down to it, he thought, discreetly glancing at the woman who sat beside him and soaked in the calm atmosphere. Come to think of it, have I ever denied Reis anything?
There was an impish smile on her face when she turned away from the skies again, instantly piquing his interest. Her long hair, tied up behind her head in a tail that rocked back and forth like a golden pendulum, swung over one shoulder as she leaned down and kissed him roughly on the lips. Not missing a beat, he reached around her slim waist and pulled her down on top of him, running his hands up and down her back as she cupped his face in her soft hands. After a few minutes she pulled away, her breathing heavy as he slowly opened his eyes and took in the blush that had spread on the face above him.
I thought you might be bored, she said as a way of explanation.
Why would I deny anything to a woman like this? He grinned as he lifted his head up, placing a kiss just below her small nose. I'm still bored. He said, trying to pull her down again, immediately loosened his grip when she wriggled in it. Instead, she settled beside him, resting her head on his chest and slinging one arm over his chest. They laid like that for what felt like moments, minutes, hours.
Not long enough.
She placed her lips in the crook of his neck, kissing the edge of his jawline. I wish we could stay like this.
We will, Beowulf whispered back, we'll stay like this forever.
Chapter 3: The Brave
My dreams tell me of a past
I once reveled in and how
much I've truly missed it
If these memories are like
a fate that I can't avoid, then
why should I go against it?
But what should I do now,
and why do I feel as if the key
to that is in my memories?
He smiled ruefully as he tried to draw up lesson plans for the next week, surrounded by the comfortable ambiance of his office at the academy. However, his efforts were hampered by his constantly wandering mind. His thoughts constantly strayed to one location, time and time again over the months, gaining significance with the passing of time.
Why do I keep having those dreams?
It was one thing to keep Reis in his heart and move on with heavy feet. At least then he'd eventually move on, even if it took a while. And he had moved on already, what with his new job, new girlfriend...
His feet were working just fine. His heart was still stuck, though.
Why are these memory-dreams appearing in chronological order, anyway?
That was the part that was really bothering him. It was as if his mind wanted to run through all the way to the end--
--and he didn't know if he really wanted to remember that now, over a year after it had occurred. Wasn't it already enough that he had chosen to become a heretic and left the Church? Wasn't that punishment enough to know that he had run away from the chance to exact justice for her?
He sighed, tapping his pen against the blank piece of paper in front of him. It was already April, the start of the new school year, and he'd been assigned more classes than a professor starting his second year should've been given. He would've used his lesson plans from the last semesters, but with the different types of magic classes under his wing this time around he wasn't able to cut corners.
Damn, and I really wanted the chance to think about all this without having to worry about time, he thought with some irritation, it's getting too hard to pay attention to things these days. And Ellyce...
The thought was cut down before it could go any further. With just the thought of that name, Beowulf could feel the pressure on him to make all sorts of commitments that he preferred to wait on. And some of them were ones he didn't even want to think about.
Ellyce Oaks was a good woman, but she was no Reis Dular. Not to him. He'd felt more for the latter in two months than he did for the former in seven. Seven months in, and he had wanted to propose to Reis. He wasn't sure how long it would take before he felt the same for Ellyce, but he knew no one was willing to wait that long.
And he was sorry for that.
-0-Her eyes were solemn as she stared into his. Beowulf, have you ever felt...as if you were unable to do anything at all?
The man frowned, shifting his hold on her as she sat on his lap. They'd been meeting in his office due to the fact that Bariaus Valley was out of question with the arrival of the torrential rains of late fall. Why do you ask? he queried, studying her blank face. Lately she had been acting strangely, or rather, asking strange things.
--Do you...do you think it's a good idea to act on one's feelings alone, even if it means going against established rules?--
He was a bit suspicious.
Well, I... she made a face, embarrassment tinged with a very real desire to know, and his curiosity overtook his already mild suspicion, I always like knowing new things about you.
I usually feel like I can't do very much, he answered, his arms encircling her small waist, I'm only human, after all.
Her eyes flickered with some odd emotion, and he could've hit himself after he realized what he had said. With the knowledge that she had been resurrected by a dragon's blood and essence, she wasn't so easily convinced of her human status these days. Are you saying that because you're a human, there are things you can't do, or because of
Beowulf said nothing for a minute, trying to weigh which answer would have her less likely to brood. Well, both, I'd think, he said, reaching up with one of his hands and stroking her shoulder-length hair, I can only imagine how much more easy it would be to get my point across if I could only breathe fire, he grinned encouragingly, and after a moment she seemed to relax and smiled back, I know what my limitations are, and I know that the only person I can truly control is myself.
You affect me as well, she murmured, leaning against his chest. He laughed lowly at this.
But in the end, you make your own decision, love. I wouldn't want to control your thoughts and ideas.
Neither would I, her voice was soft and strangely profound. Even if that made everything easier, it wouldn't be you, would it?
Such a mundane dream, Beowulf could only think as he reached around the bed and threw his blankets back onto him without opening his eyes, but now that I think about it, about a week later she asked me...she told me she wanted me to stay over that night. Huh. So maybe that's why she asked all those strange questions in the first place.
As he fell back into a restless slumber, he realized that there wasn't much left as far as the memories went.
-0-She was waiting for him, her eyes slitted like a cuar's as she gazed at him from her seat in the parlor. Dark brown locks of hair spilled from the top of her head down, pouring over her shoulders, curled ends covering the bust of her favorite green dress that matched her olive eyes. She sat primly in her favorite chair next to her favorite tea table, both antiques from a daintier time a century ago. Surrounded by her beautiful furniture and lovely features, Amelia Darrow was truly a noblewoman in this moment.
But she had never been concerned with being noble when it came to her family.
she gestured to him when he froze at her gaze, come here.
Hesitantly he stepped inside his sister's den, immediately wary. What else could he do, though? Yes, Sis? he asked, invoking his familiar name for her in an attempt to stave off the inevitable bloodletting.
I want to know why.
Are you just playing with her? Do you realize how this reflects upon you?
I'm not ready for that. Not right now, he answered flatly, then shook his head and looked away. Why do you care? She hasn't said anything yet, you know. She's not as impatient as you.
Annoyed at that jab, she tucked a lock of hair behind her ear. That's because she's more noble than that, even though everybody's telling her she shouldn't expect much from you by now.
Are you one of them?
I will be soon if you don't do anything, Amelia muttered. What is this, Beowulf? What's stopping you?
The emotion behind his brandy eyes was decidedly bland as he looked over in her direction. I don't love her, Sis.
Oh, you don't love her. Wow, little brother. You say that as if it means something, her tone was nothing short of derisive as she clenched her hands in her lap.
Doesn't it? he asked sardonically. Amelia laughed, falsetto high and harshly grating, the action itself irritating him immensely.
That's my brother, always idealistic. Wouldn't it be wonderful if the world turned on his romanticism? Standing up, the woman glared at him, anger emerging from a source beyond the subject of this talk. Stop being so selfish and look at the consequences of the situation for once!
Beowulf was incredulous at the charge. Recovering quickly, he shot off a glare of his own at her. What's so selfish about thinking that she'd have a terrible time married to someone who doesn't love her?
His sister scoffed at this. Do you honestly think she loves you? We're not raised to marry for love. We're just breeding chocobos to ensure the survival of our family lines, after all. But you always want more, don't you?
Of course I want more than that, he replied, his face showing how perplexed he felt that she would ask such a thing. Do you think I want to live such a sad life?
'Sad life'? she asked, her tone wavering with the shock that appeared on her face. Suddenly, rage distorted her normally attractive features. No more pathetic than being a man who keeps running away! Look at yourself! You run away from here to the war, away from the war to the Church, away from that to the place you started from, her eyes were wide with disbelief as she continued, where will you run to now, little brother? Where? At the rate you're going, you'll die at the edge of the bloody world!
No matter how sad my life may seem, at least I'm the one who stands her ground.
Beowulf paused from his next retort as her words reached him, and the growing anger in his dark eyes seceded as he looked away again. His eyes wandered the nicely-decorated room, suddenly tired from the spat. He had always hated arguments; it had always bothered him to ride an emotional wave when he felt that most disagreements could be worked out in a calmer manner. It was one thing to talk and another to hurl invectives at another, especially at someone as precious to him as his elder sister.
But it didn't mean that he was going to roll over for her. He had that much pride. You're the braver one, he stated frankly, noticing that she had relaxed slightly at the comment, but I'm not you. I like her, but it's not fair to either one of us. She could find someone who appreciates her more than I ever could.
His sister was skeptical, her face blooming with beauty as her anger seeped away. I've seen you two together. You treat her more nicely than any other nobleman could.
He closed his eyes, exhaling through his nose. I treat everyone nicely. And maybe it's time she thought of expanding her search from just the nobility.
An ugly smirk crossed the older sibling's face. Please. Her family's already lost one trading mark, what with the younger one doing that whole knight business. Ellyce is really their only chance to get into the higher echelons of Lesalian society.
And I'm acceptable? The Kadmus name isn't that great. Surprised at the dark look Amelia threw at him, he looked away. I didn't mean that in a bad way, he muttered.
Mum, remember? Everyone knows it. The brunette threw up her hands suddenly, exasperation clearly marked on her face. Brother, you really have a way of diffusing people. I give up, sighing heavily, her eyes looked weary to him. So then, if you feel you can't marry her, why are you wasting her time? Twenty-six for a noblewoman is forty for a commoner.
Beowulf turned away, not letting his sister see the sudden reluctance glittering in his eyes. Like I said before, Sis, he said softly, you're the braver one of us.
-0-Beowulf opened his eyes, annoyance crossing his face. Throughout the years, he'd learned to sleep through people talking and various loud noises, but even he stirred at a good kick to the shin. The first thing he focused on in the dark of the morning was Reis' hair spilled over their pillow. When he sat up and looked over, it was apparent that she had never woken up when he came to her room early in the morning. He sank back down, feeling both relieved he hadn't woken her up as well as a bit miffed that she hadn't even turned around in her sleep.
God, that makes me sound like I'm needy or something, he sighed inwardly and stretched, gritting his teeth when his feet painfully smacked against the footboard of the short bed. Dammit, I hate this bed.
Reis didn't wake at the sound, and when he looked over at her again it was obvious, even in the dark, that she was in the midst of a deep sleep. Her features, normally youthful, seemed to take on a confident maturity that the twenty-one-year-old only hinted at every so often. This new bit of knowledge enchanted him into keeping his eyes on her, wondering what else he could discover in the silence of the morning. Her lips were parted, and strands from the thick locks of hair she normally wore beside her face fell over her mouth and chin. Reaching over, he brushed the strands away gently, making them accentuate the curve of her jawline instead. She moved slightly at his touch and he froze, his contradictory feelings of not wanting to disturb her and wanting her to acknowledge him rising up again.
When it seemed that she was still asleep, he let out a breath he hadn't been aware of holding. He moved his fingers away slowly, drawing his fingertips along her cheekbone before pulling his hand away entirely. There was a soft smile on his face as he gazed at her for a moment, then he slowly moved up to her, trying not to wake her. Her back was pressed up along his chest before he knew it, and it was a simple reflex that brought his arm around her waist, a blanket away from feeling the soft texture of the sleeping robes she wore. He closed his eyes as he breathed in, the alluring scent of her hair instilling a sense of peace in him as he held her closer to him.
Oh, don't want to get hit again, he remembered drowsily, moving his leg over hers underneath the blanket. Hope that works.
The last thing on his mind as his mind sank into a warm, dreamless sleep was a feeling of complete comfort, a gentle happiness, and the quiet of the early morning.
Beowulf awoke in his bed, not bothering to move in any sort of way. Instead, he laid there and thought. In his mind a set of scales swung one way, then another, full of logical reasoning and arguments and counter-arguments.
It was a while before a clear decision came to his mind, but he knew it had been made a long time ago.
-0-When it came to relationships, Beowulf Kadmus could not boast of a good record. He couldn't even claim much of a lengthy one, though that was more of the war's fault than his own. There had been three women altogether, and out of that two had disappeared out of his life.
It was a breezy May afternoon when he decided to end his relationship with the third.
...I see, Ellyce Oaks said after the pause after Beowulf's announcement. They had been having tea at a small cafe when he looked her in the eye and stated that it would be better for the both of them if their courtship ended. Although her aquamarine eyes were slightly dulled, her face betrayed no overt emotions.
He frowned at her short answer. Are you alright? There were mixed emotions blubbling inside him at her decidedly lukewarm reaction. Even if there hadn't been much in the way of love between them, he felt that she had seemed to like him enough to at least be a bit more depressed over this. What was the point of feeling guilty otherwise?
Tilting her head, she stared at him with equal parts amusement and annoyance. Did you think that I couldn't see this coming?
He wasn't sure what to make of this. You have a point there, he conceded. They hadn't been talking very much since the dinner at the Oaks' manor.
She looked down into her teacup, long curls of blond hair shifting over her shoulders with the movement. I thought as much, glancing at him, she attempted a smile. May I ask why?
What a good question, he thought edgily. There were lots of reasons, but only one of them would be considerate of her feelings. Looking at her calm face now, he couldn't tell if that would really matter. Before I came here, he started, leaning back in his chair as he continued to search her face for some sign that their relationship had meant something to her once, I lived in Lionel. I've told you that, I think, and she nodded, her face full of dispassionate attention. He sighed. While I was there, I met a woman and we fell in love, his tone was bitter when there was no reaction to Ellyce's face.
--Do you honestly think she loves you either?--
He looked away, wanting nothing more than to finish this as quickly as possible. She was my fiancé, but she sacrificed her life to save me. And would you ever do the same for anyone, he almost added in his bitterness.
--So then, if you feel you can't marry her, why are you wasting her time?--
Seems like I really wasted her time just like you said, Sis.
Then he looked at her face and saw her wide eyes, her open mouth, the pity etched along her face, and that was when he realized that maybe he was looking for an excuse to lessen his own guilt. Dear God, she murmured, I'm so sorry to hear that you've gone through such a loss.
I thought that I would try to move on, instead of wasting away, but... he shrugged a bit, not looking at her, I've overestimated myself, it seems.
Not at all, she replied, and when his eyes met hers she was smiling encouragingly, you're doing just fine. You're helping children become more responsible with magic. Sometime in the future, you'll see that what you've done is perhaps save the lives of others. Isn't that more than enough?
But then, you... confusion marred his face, I know that you're looking for someone to marry. I've wasted your time--
she raised her hand, silencing his protest. Her encouraging smile shifted into something darker, tinged with bitterness. My sister, she said something once. She said that if her only purpose was to marry and have children out of obligation, then dying would've been worth more. At the time I thought that she was being a spoiled little brat who was running away from her obligation, but now... Shaking her head, Ellyce looked away, the dark smile now a grimace, continuing with, A life of obligation isn't a life. Why should I chain myself to something like that, even if I am nobility?
Beowulf studied her for a minute before shaking his head. I don't know, but I know that I don't want to put anyone through that either.
She looked at him, the corners of her lips quirking up into a small smile. You're terribly kind. That's why I liked you from the first. You don't act like a noble, and...no. She stood suddenly, staring down at him. I'm glad I had the opportunity to get to know you better. Good day. She bowed, then turned around and walked away.
There were a few things about Lady Ellyce Oaks that had gotten under the younger Kadmus' skin. Her occasional bursts of anger, her average height that meant that he had to bend over a lot to kiss her, that strange love she had in complaining about all sorts of people without discrimination.
That she wasn't Reis.
But as he watched her leave, her posture straight, her head held up high, her walk steady, all he could see was a woman who could be called noble'. A woman who, even after hearing him end their relationship, still tried to reassure him that he was living the right life. She'd done it with a smile on her face.
Suddenly, he realized why she had reminded him of Reis that first time.
-0-Being in such close proximity to Goland, Lesalia often received the backlash of the harsh snowstorms that formed in the miner's town. When added with the cold winds from the Larner Channel in the north, Ivalice's capital was a miserable place to live in during the winter months. Although the true harshness of the sleet and snow occurred during late December to March, a deluge of rain was common from as early as August onwards.
Beowulf didn't mind it, though. It suited his current state of mind.
As he made his way through the academy on this November day, the rains fell, drenching his cloak and soaking through his boots. The massive bodies of water that served as puddles could not be avoided, and he splashed through them with little hesitation. He was beyond being deterred by the nasty weather.
His mind could do that job better than any mere God-inflicted situation.
Since the memory of a morning with his beloved Reis, there had been no others. From the mild spring to the warm summer, from the promise of blue skies to the resignation at the darkening storm clouds, he had been anticipating another dream. In his waking hours, the image of Reis Dular was beginning to fade bit by bit, leaving him desperate for another perfect memory, another vivid dream. It had been April when he dreamt of her last, a long six months since he could fully recall how she had felt in his arms.
He knew that this obsession with his fading memories was affecting him. Whether he was dreaming of her or not, it seemed to always drag him down. He was slower to smile, more willing to keep his own company. His sister could barely offer more than strained pleasantries to him after she heard of his dissolution of his relationship with Ellyce, while his niece seemed to always be considering something when he saw her.
And even if I had perfect memories of Reis, that wouldn't be enough.
The rains fell, and he felt as if the heavens were sympathizing with him.
Making his way to the front of the school, he decided on taking another way to his home. It was longer, but he wasn't in the mood to deal with his sister's disapproving glances and his niece's new taciturn nature. Huddled up in his now useless cloak, he made his way down the street, turning right at the darkened street, just a dark figure trudging through the cold, silent night.
Bells rang loudly and he looked over to his right, startled out of his newly characteristic brooding. There was a church here, the side of it shadowed and ugly in the night. Out of a sudden surge of curiosity running through his veins, he walked up the street until he could see the front of it, then walked up until he was at the small doorstep that led to the large doors of the nave. Even though it was in the nice section of the city, its simple design had nothing on the church in Lionel Castle.
There was a paper notice on the door. Beowulf walked up the doorstep, his eyes unable to make out the words in the absolute darkness that shrouded the holy place. He held up his right hand next to the notice, willing a small flame to appear between his thumb and forefinger. The light was substantial, easily revealing the contents of the small paper.
The Glabados Church mourns the passing of
Holy Priest Verden Buremonda, who had faithfully
followed the Holy Father's word from
November 2nd in the year of Our Lord 955 (Pantora 15)
to October 23rd in the year of Our Lord 989 (Pantora 49).
May he receive his rightful place by the side of
Our Heavenly Father and His Blessed Son.
Is that so... Beowulf murmured, feeling a vague sense of vindication but no joy. He had never found pleasure in death, not even if the person in question had done a heinous thing to him. However, he could appreciate this.
I wonder what was wrong with him. Maybe he killed himself...
There was no pity at that thought, just morbid curiosity. God certainly worked in mysterious ways. As an afterthought, he pulled off the notice from the door and tucked it deep within his pockets, making his way back to the path that would lead him home.
-0-He was sore. God, he should've known that bastard would've been protecting himself.
Buremonda was staring at him, disdain in his eyes. Painfully, Beowulf glowered back, his head swimming from the spells permeating through his mind when he had unlocked the Don't Act spell. He knew he should've gone for the Don't Move one first. His muscles were twitching from the reflected Bolt spell and he wanted nothing more than to collapse, but the Don't Move sheath that held him was still in effect.
Well, dying while standing doesn't sound too bad, he attempted to joke to himself, makes me look more like a man that way.
Did you think that I wouldn't take measures to protect myself? Buremonda asked haughtily. Though he couldn't even move his facial muscles, Beowulf tried his hardest to look as if he didn't care.
Somehow, that seemed important to the Temple Knight at that moment.
Was worth... he coughed, his lungs feeling as though they were burnt. Secretly, he wondered if they were, ...a try. Another spell...layered...
It took too much energy to say anymore, and he knew that the priest could see that. Ah, would you be talking about the sluggishness you might be feeling, or the disorientation? You really shouldn't have the skill to unlock the basic Don't Act or Move spells, but just in case you did I decided on...insurance, if you will, Buremonda slowly shook his head in a pretense of disappointment, and Beowulf suddenly wanted nothing more than to take that smug priest down. You're planning to take Reis away from me. Did you really think that I wouldn't use every spell in my repertoire in order to prevent such a thing?
Don't talk about her as if she was your possession, Beowulf thought angrily. With some difficulty, he attempted to focus on the current situation, coughing again as he did so. Impressive. Are you done recounting your sins?
I hadn't even started. Don't be so presumptuous to-- he stopped suddenly, and Beowulf frowned mentally at this. Was something else happening? After a long moment, Buremonda turned around and began to walk towards the place he had been standing when the knight had entered the room. This is my sin, this spell I am about to cast. It is a forbidden spell, one that the Lucavi were said to have used on their victims. A spell that can transform humans into mere monsters.
A slow feeling of dread began to drag within Beowulf's chest at those words. With his mind still in disarray from the multitude of spells pulling at it, he knew he had no hope of deflecting it...if he ever had one to begin with. He didn't know anything about the more ancient spells in Ivalice's past, not to talk of the immense entwined patterns that would have to be undone to weaken such an unholy spell. You'd forfeit your soul to get rid of me? Don't you think that's going a little too far? His throat constricted, dry from the fear he held about Buremonda's irrationality.
He wants Reis that much? He would forsake the teachings of Ajora for her? God...I can't protect her like this, I can't...
The priest glanced at him, his expression blank. No, I don't believe this is going too far for her. For Reis...this is the only thing I can do for her. He opened the book and flipped through it until he found the page he was looking for. The circle around you will increase the accuracy to perfection. If there is even a little bit of a beast's potential in you, you will transform. Frozen in that state, I will call on your knights to dispose of you.
What can I do, Beowulf wondered frantically, his calm nature overtaken by his deeper need for survival, how can I get out of a plot like that? No one will know it's me, and Reis...even if she's suspicious, she won't be able to do anything. He'll...oh God, I haven't lived through the war for this!
Trapped in his thoughts, he didn't hear anything else. Not from Buremonda, not from the doors of the church library. There was only his fear-filled thoughts and the rhythmic pounding of his heart.
Even if I die, I need to protect her, I need...
In perfect stillness, his outward face was dispassionate as dark energies swarmed around Buremonda's body. He could feel them from where he stood, twisting and pulling through his very psyche as the ends of the spell drifted past him. It was crawling over his skin, his soul, violating his being with just its presence.
A thick mass of black burst from Buremonda's outstretched hands, hurtling towards his prone body. Beowulf wanted to close his eyes, to turn away from the sight of the spell aimed towards him. He just wanted that if he couldn't have anything else.
And then there was the color of gold before him.
Something slammed into him, and suddenly magical energies thrust cruelly into his abused body as bursts of aquamarine flared out from in front of him, crackling madly within the enclosed space. He fell, the ground hard as he collided onto it. There was a weight on his abdomen. Painfully, he opened his eyes and lifted his head. A sheaf of gold was spread over his chest.
He sat up, breathing raggedly through clenched teeth, and lifted the woman up so that her head was level with his shoulders as he cradled her body. He shook her lightly. Reis, are you okay?
Her eyes were closed, and they remained so as he continued to shake her. There was the tiniest smile on her face. He hated it. For some reason, it looked ugly with her delicate features, making her look cruel. He knew she wasn't cruel, not at all. And if she was, it was towards someone who deserved it, like Buremonda. But not him. He didn't do a thing to deserve her cruelty, much less that smile. Unabashedly, he pressed his right hand on her left breast, waiting for the inevitable beat of her heart.
With growing horror, he ran his hand up to her slender neck, pressing his fingers at the warm spot just under her jawline, searching for a pulse. Reis, wake up, he demanded, hysteria straining his voice as he called out her name again.
He shook her again, harder, tears forming in his eyes as he did so. he pleaded softly, holding her to him tightly, you have to move. I can't tell if you're alive if you won't move, his voice was wavering as he began to stroke her hair, the feel of her silken strands lost on his gloves.
There was a light glimmering from one of her hands, the same color as the electric bursts from earlier. He glanced at it, the surprise he felt when he saw it was from his family heirloom not enough to pierce the complete despair that tightly wound around his being like a second skin. The light grew in intensity with each pulse until a sudden burst flooded the entire room with light. Instinct forced Beowulf to bring up his arms to cover his eyes, letting her drop onto the cold floor.
This action saved him.
When the light receded and he brought down his arms, there was a gigantic monster in front of him. Deep purple in color, it brought its head up and opened its jaws, revealing rows of thick, sharp fangs. Its wings flapped as it stomped its feet upon the stone floor, cracking it with the force of its weight. It was a dragon, a type of which he had never seen before.
He whispered. That...that can't be...
The dragon's tail whipped around and he tried to move away, but the large appendage struck him firmly in the chest. He was thrown into the air, and when his head smashed into the corner of a bookcase he instantly blacked out.
Beowulf's eyes widened as he flung himself up in his bed, his breathing uneven in the shock of the dream. Slowly he brought his coarse hands up to the sides of his face, his fingertips massaging his temples as he tried to get his bearings straight.
His Reis...a dragon?
Suddenly, an overwhelming sense of relief flooded through his body as he lowered his head and covered his face with his hands.
Beowulf Kadmus had cried a few times in his life, all from various shocks in the first years of his participation in the war. He didn't cry when he had thought his love was dead, not once in the nearly two years since her supposed death. While there was a throbbing heat behind his eyes right now, he didn't cry, only letting his sudden joy run through him.
I'll find you, Reis. I know you too well. There's no way you would've let yourself get killed.
Chapter 4: Finding My Love
I still think it's quite possibly the dumbest thing I've ever heard, and I'm sticking to that, little brother, Amelia Darrow muttered darkly as she gently sipped her tea. Across from her, Beowulf Kadmus looked up from the gingerbread biscuits that accompanied the tea and smiled widely. Sickened by this, she turned away, her face reflecting her annoyance.
Look, I know that it sounds a bit strange, he paused just as she coughed pointedly, only smiling wider at her interruption, but it's what I remembered. Reis became a dragon and now she's out there, all alone and trapped within that body. He dropped his smile, adopting a pleading look in its stead as he earnestly said, I have to find her. I've already let two years pass by without doing anything and I've been miserable. Now I know it's because I've always known that there was nothing to move on from.
His sister raised an eyebrow at this. If it's been two years, don't you think that perhaps a hunter has already caught her?
A dark look crossed his face and he turned away, looking out at the window beside the antique table. Has anyone ever told you that you're too negative for your own good?
Draining her teacup, Amelia reached for the teapot. If you don't consider all the outcomes, you deserve whatever happens, she glanced at him while she poured her tea, you should know that, of all people. What kind of knight are you, anyway?
he corrected, stung by her comment but not showing it, I gave that up the day I became a heretic.
Then, what are you?
She shook her head as she sipped her tea, glancing out at the snow falling in front of her window. For December the weather had been relatively mild, with the city having not suffered through a heavy snowstorm yet. And Caitlyn wants to fill the void that you and Sir Balbanes will leave behind. The mention of his niece and the deathly-ill Heavenly Knight was enough to get Beowulf's full attention.
What do you mean, Sis? Frowning slightly, he gulped down a biscuit. Caitlyn wants to become a knight?
Amelia nodded resignedly, I don't like it, but she wishes to serve like her dear Sir Uncle' once did. Beowulf smiled at this.
She's calling me that again, huh?
Yes, as soon as you had told her that strange story of your Miss Dular becoming a dragon and how you were going to save the woman. That's what inspired her, frustration was apparent on the elder sibling's face as she glared at her brother and nearly yelled, Beowulf, please refrain from telling my daughter these things!
Chastened by his sister's evident dismay, he said nothing, only pouring himself another cup of tea and scooping sugar into it. he started after a sip of his tea, I'll be out of here by March.
The academy wouldn't let you leave the term early?
Will you be stopping by every now and then afterward?
I'll try, he paused, taking a sip of his tea, then looked at his sister. Can you try and find me a house in the meanwhile? I'll give you whatever money I earn for building and upkeep.
Amelia dismissively waved. I won't let you keep a dragon here. You're better off on the outskirts of town, she glanced at him, and even if there was a cure, I'm not so sure about you keeping your fiancé under my roof, thank you very much.
He was embarrassed at first, but then something clicked in his mind. A cure...I was so concerned with just the task of finding her... hurriedly he stood up from his seat, quickly saying, Excuse me, there's something I want to check. She waved again, more interested in her tea now, and he quickly made his way up to his room. Once there, he strode to the piece of luggage in the corner of his room, beside his modest desk, and opened it. A glint was the first thing he saw. He pulled out the stone and held it up in front of his face.
She had been holding it in his memory. It had been glowing just before she transformed, and he also remembered that the flash of light that occurred just when she appeared before him was blue. Why, if the darkness around Buremonda had been uniformly black?
Maybe it did something. Maybe it changed the spell.
But Reis had transformed, just like the priest had promised the spell was created for. The Lucavi spell, he had claimed.
Maybe the stone and Lucavi are connected? I thought they were just a myth, though.
He was sure he was missing something here. Something vital. The colors...black wouldn't easily turn into blinding aquamarine so easily...
Maybe the stone is a conduit that changes whatever passes through it. She still changed, though...but even if the spell itself didn't change, maybe its type did...?
Is that possible?
He was starting to get a headache over this, but it seemed right somehow. Sitting down at his desk, he glanced at the small, water stained paper that lay on top of various records from the school. The proclamation of Verden Buremonda's death was blurred but still legible.
Dates and a stone with a Zodiac symbol engraved on it.
Okay, he shrugged mentally, naturally they're connected. The Zodiac's based on birthdays though...
November 2nd in the year of Our Lord 955
...and he's a Scorpio. Figures. So the caster is a Scorpio, and the victim is...
Beowulf frowned, looking at the stone in his hand with something akin to fear.
Reis was a Pisces.
What is this thing? I've heard about the mythological Zodiac Stones' the Zodiac Braves held as they fought Lucavi. Could they have really existed? And if so, why would this stone accept a Lucavi spell? Are there more of these...of course there are. There were twelve Braves, one for each sign.
Scorpio. Pisces. Both water signs. And if there were other Zodiac Stones throughout Ivalice, then there was a cure out there. Something that could free Reis from the curse of a monster's body.
The last water sign was Cancer.
-0-The last day of the school year at Lesalia Imperial Academy couldn't come fast enough for both the students and teachers alike. Many of the children were planning on transferring to Gariland in order to bolster their chances of getting into a safe position among the Hokuten and Touten militaries. For the most part, the professors were tired and awaited the three week rest before the start of Pantora fifty's school year.
And some, like Beowulf Kadmus, were leaving the academy for good.
He cleared out his office with a heavy heart. Although he was still in the throes of joy over his realization that Reis was alive, the fact remained that he had enjoyed his job as an educator. Even if he had been using it to try and move past his old life as a knight, he found something in the job of teaching others. He wasn't sure what it was, but it was nice.
Come in, he called, sitting at his desk and glancing through a few papers that had been on his desk. As the door squeaked open, he shrugged to himself and crumpled them up.
Hello. You're still not done with that?
Beowulf turned at the voice, already feeling better. At his door stood Ellyce, who was carrying something in a long box. Yeah, I thought I'd just put it off until today, smiling, he motioned her over. Since their breakup, they had maintained a good friendship. Once there was no longer the prospect of marriage looming over his head, the pressure he had felt over the last few months of their relationship vanished and he found that he valued her more as a friend than as a girlfriend.
She smiled in return, lifting the box in her arms. It's too bad you won't stay. Your sister tells me that you're going to become a hunter and her daughter is going to become a knight. There must be a lot of changes at your home.
True. Caitlyn's already left for Gariland.
So soon? I thought that Gariland will be starting later this year in respect of Sir Balbanes' death.
It is, but she's going to Igros first to see her brothers, and they'll accompany her to Gariland.
I see, Ellyce nodded. There was a moment of silence before she looked down and realized that she had something in her arms. Oh! I came down here to give you this.
Beowulf glanced at the box she was holding out to him and took it, mentally calculating its weight. It was a lot heavier than he expected it to be. Putting it down on his bare desk, he opened it and was surprised to find an elegant sword in a delicately crafted scabbard. He stood as he gingerly lifted it from the box, grasping the silver hilt and unsheathing the sword, admiring the ancient engravings on the blade. His last sword, a Defender, had been taken away when he became a heretic. I don't know if I can accept this... he started to say, but stopped when he noticed the younger woman shaking her head.
Rune Blades are expensive on the market, unless you happen to have the spare twenty thousand gil in your pocket. She offered him a small smile, her eyes shining mysteriously. My father liked you, so once he heard about the whole hunter business he asked me to give it to you. It'll help, what with the type of knight that you were.
...It seems as though this belongs with your sister, not me, he said uncomfortably, sheathing the sword. The professor of battle tactics rolled her eyes at this.
She's going to be knighted as a Holy Knight within the year. You should know that a Holy Knight's skills are based on physical strength, not magic. And besides, my father plans on giving her a knight sword...if he can ever find that thing, her expression was soft as she looked down, smoothing out the simple clothes she wore at the school, it should serve you well.
For a moment, Beowulf felt a deep regret weighing on his heart at all the things he would have to leave behind. His job. His sister. His friend. It just seemed like too much to sacrifice in order to find his ensorcelled lover, no matter how much he loved her.
But sometimes, one has to take some steps back in order to run forward and jump into a new future. He couldn't do that if he was unwilling to move at all.
A sincere smile spread across his face. Thank you.
-0-The Fifty Year War officially ended in June of Pantora fifty, due to the efforts of the late Sir Balbanes Beoulve on the original treaty process. The citizens of war-torn Ivalice breathed a collective sigh of relief at this, as many of them had been born during this period and had only known war. It was time for the people to enjoy peace, whatever that abstract concept meant to them.
For his part, Beowulf Kadmus had been enjoying his own peace as he made his way through the country, spending most of his time in Zeltennia and Limberry during his first year as a hunter. These were the places he had spent many of his years as a knight affiliated with the coalition forces of Ivalice. Limberry in particular had been demolished from their lengthy invasion by the Ordalians, but the people there had been stronger for it and dutifully rebuilt their region under the war hero Marquis Mesdoram Elmdor. Zeltennia was a little better, the people there bolstered moreso by the honorable Holy Swordsman Cidolfas Orlandu rather than the head of the region, Duke Druksmald Goltana.
While traveling through Limberry, Beowulf happened upon a village of master hunters. After he befriended a few of them, he was told a story about a dragon who descended upon the village a year before, one that not even the elder master hunters had even seen before. Not only was its hide a dusky purple, but when one of the hunters struck it with a Holy Lance it had been healed by the resulting Holy spell. Apparently confused by why the people who had been attacking it would suddenly heal it, the dragon left. The hunters of this village, appropriately chastened by the dragon's actions, christened it the Holy Dragon' and vowed to leave it be.
While he was sure she was deserving of the title, the hunters were also tight-lipped about the dragon went, leaving Beowulf with nothing more than a new name for her.
He came around to west Ivalice during August, stopping at Dorter Trade City to drop off his kills at the fur shop. Even though it was early afternoon when he finished his business in the town, he decided to stay for the night and leave for Gariland to visit his niece the next day. As Dorter was a bustling place full of merchants and travelers, he headed for the bar and kept his ears open for information. The tables were full so he sat at the bar, ordered Zeltennian beer and listened.
After some time somebody sat on the stool next to his. Fovoham beer, he called for in an authoritative voice. Momentarily distracted, the hunter glanced to his left and saw a knight with sandy blond hair who looked vaguely familiar. As his memory was fairly poor, he looked away and focused on eavesdropping again.
A little pathetic to find out information this way, he groused to himself, but no one's talking about a Holy Dragon' yet. Maybe when they're drunker...
Beowulf? Is that you?
The named man looked at the knight sitting next to him again, once again struck by how familiar this person looked. Yes, that's me, he said slowly, observing how the other man's hazel eyes lit up even though they seemed tired. I'm sorry, do I know you?
This newcomer smiled. Wiegraf Folles. From the operation in Bervenia. It's been a while, hasn't it?
Beowulf's eyes widened at the name. Taking a closer look at the uniform the other man wore, he recognized it as the uniform from their days in Bervenia. He had a similar one at home. Sorry. How did the...Knights of Death thing work out?
A cloud of irritation descended upon Wiegraf's weary face. It had worked out fine. I was able to get enough troops for the government to recognize us. They even made me a White Knight, he reached for his mug and took a deep draught of the golden liquid, but even though the war's been over for months, they've been stalling about paying us what we're owed. I'm starting to think that they have no intention of doing so.
What will you do then? Beowulf asked, reaching for his own mug.
Whatever we have to do. We're what the nobles depend upon for their easy lives. Turning away, there was now a somber look in the knight's eyes as he continued, I have men and women that need the money to support their families. I won't let the aristocracy just roll by us like they've always done, Wiegraf smiled slightly, but enough about that. What have you been up to?
A little of this, a little of that, the hunter was evasive. Right now, I'm a hunter.
Hm, I wouldn't have imagined you doing that... Wiegraf seemed to be on the verge of saying more, but he turned to the door just as it opened, letting in some badly needed light. Oh, Sally. What is it now?
A woman in a worn monk's uniform approached them, loosening her gauntlets as she did so. Wiegraf, Milly just reported in. Margueriff needs to be reined in again, the short-haired woman casually glanced from her leader's face to Beowulf's, and she frowned, whispering,
I'll tell you what, you catch up on old times with Beowulf here, and I'll see what I can do, Wiegraf said tiredly before returning his attention to his former comrade. It was good seeing you again. He got off of his stool and nodded at the older man once before exiting the bar.
Beowulf barely noticed, as his dark eyes were solely on the new entrant. Salia, hello.
The monk smiled, though her brown eyes seemed cold. Gracefully, she hopped up on the stool Wiegraf had vacated, taking a sip of the half-empty mug he had left behind. I'm surprised to see you here, she said finally, running a gauntleted hand through her strawberry-blond locks, what's it been, over ten years or so?
Beowulf studied the woman he once knew as a cheerful and exuberant girl back in Bervenia. She hadn't aged as well as she should've, her formerly adorable features now having a lean, dangerous look to them now. It seems so, he answered, breaking his gaze and turning towards his mug. How is Alice?
She died, Salia bluntly stated, it was a misaimed arrow by a Hokuten.
Unnerved by the difference between the Salia he once knew and this warrior, he only nodded. It wasn't terribly surprising, considering that they had been in the war while he ran from it. How are you doing? he asked, keeping his eyes on the top of the bar.
Salia shrugged. I'm alive. Margueriff hasn't forced himself on me yet. Everything's fine.
Beowulf wasn't sure if he had misheard her second sentence.
Oh, you don't know? Wiegraf took anyone who wanted in, no matter if they were brutal murderers or rapists. You know, everyone deserves a second chance, even if they were booted out by Sir Zalbag himself. The monk drained the rest of the glass and slammed it down, cracking it and drawing a dirty look from the barkeep. He'll even give them second-in-command, even if he knows that they can't be trusted. Even if that means that he has to put all the women under his command to protect them, she covered her face in her hands and moaned, I believe in him, but he's gonna get us all killed.
Reluctantly, Beowulf looked at her. But, he's still worth it for you, right?
He has too many problems to care about me. The sadness in her eyes was painful for him to behold as she struggled to smile at him. Sometimes, when it gets really bad, I think about you, she reached out and grasped his shoulder, I want to apologize. I said some horrible things...you're worth more than to simply be a
He smiled kindly. It's in the past. Don't worry about it, he reached over and touched the hand on his shoulder. Just keep surviving and that'd be enough.
Flinching, Salia dropped her hand. God, you're still so impossibly kind, she lowered her tone, I'll be kind back. We're preparing on attacking the nobles in Gallionne, especially in Igros and Gariland. If you have any family there, get them out soon, her smile was dark as she glimpsed the surprise on his face. We do what we have to do. We won't stand being ignored any longer.
Beowulf made a note to warn his niece and his nephews, as they all lived in Gallionne. but do you really have to go so far, he almost asked.
It's completely necessary, she said, more to herself as her eyes reverted back to the flatness from before, I've got to go. I don't want to get harassed if I come back too late.
he said quietly. The Knights of Death monk nodded once before jumping off of the stool and leaving the bar. A disquieting feeling descended upon him then, one that whispered to him that her days, as well as those of her allies, were numbered.
-0-The first year after the Pantora age of the Fifty Year War was named Elria, a word for peace' in the ancient Limberrian form of the Ivalician word. There were troubles in Gallionne during the beginning of the year due to the newly-named Death Corps, but due to the Hokuten army that threat was soon extinguished. Not long after that, there was quiet grumbling over Queen Ruvelia, who was ruling the country after her husband's death, and about her tyranny and how her son meant that she would be ruling for quite a long time. Every time Beowulf stopped in Lesalia, his sister always seemed worried about the recent goings-on, and even her sharp tongue said nothing in dissent about the queen's abusive ways.
She didn't want to die.
At this time, rumors of the Holy Dragon started spreading wildly, and fearless--or stupid--squads of disgruntled former soldiers went out in search of it. Beowulf followed, secretly happy every time a group of hunters were found dead. Reis was apparently more than capable of protecting herself. But soon the rumors decreased, and the hunter soon realized that she had gone into hiding again.
During the second half of the year, the biggest news in every tavern in Ivalice was over Cardinal Draclau's strange death. The former Temple Knight had been saddened about this, although he was also interested in the rumors about a stone with a Zodiac symbol engraved in it being found in Goug. He wondered if it had been the Cancer stone.
The Lion War started at the end of the year, causing the name of the next year to be changed to Rudra', a word for confusion in the ancient Fovohamian dialect. But even with such monumental tragedies like a civil war, Beowulf heard new rumors, this time of the Church's search for stones with Zodiac runes engraved on them.
In December of the first year of Rudra, he took his Aquarius stone and tossed it into the underground passage of Goland's colliery. No Church official was going to stumble upon it there. The reaction by the stone in his memory made him realize that maybe Reis had a connection with the stone. Monsters were sensitive to things beyond human reasoning, and Beowulf sure couldn't reason out the Zodiac stone. He figured Reis wouldn't help but be drawn to the Aquarius, having had such a bond with it. The deepest part of the colliery was narrow, and she would be trapped there.
It had been five years since he had last seen her, and he was desperate.
-0-Out of all the bars in Ivalice, Beowulf Kadmus liked Lesalia's the most.
Back from a recent trip around the north end of Lionel, he was in a bad mood. The path to Lesalia required him to go through Goland, which was in the midst of a snowstorm in August of the second year of Rudra. The town was dead silent when he stopped in, and he found out at the tavern that it was due to a monster invasion. No one knew why all the monsters had been piling into the colliery. Beowulf could hazard a guess. Although there were requests from the town for knights, none had been granted so far. This was with good reason.
The Holy Dragon had appeared.
It was too dangerous for the lone hunter though, so he hurried to Lesalia to find a group at the bar willing to hire him. He had went to his house first, the one that his sister had promised him. It was a good-sized place on the outskirts of Lesalia, in a peaceful forest near the southern entrance. Once it had been small, until his sister had tacked on a couple more rooms. Why he needed all those rooms he didn't know, but at the rate she was having builders come over he'd have a wooden castle in a few years. As he wasn't in the mood for the inevitable argument, he went to the bar after changing into the only spare clothes he had. It was his old knight uniform from Bervenia, which only served to annoy him further.
There were only a few patrons during the daytime, and they were all gossiping over the closure of the Goland mines instead of doing something about it. Extremely irritated by now, Beowulf took a table near the door and ordered the hardest thing the humble establishment had. After an hour, he was feeling a slight buzz and was still angry, but now it was mostly directed at himself and his inability to just fight his way through the colliery full of monsters by himself. Unfortunately, his former skills as a Temple Knight had waned from years of disuse, and his physical prowess simply couldn't handle the multitude of monsters and other hunters sure to be there.
So, he drank and remained embittered.
A young man walked in, but the hunter was too busy with his self-introspection to notice. Not even when the bar patrons started talking about monsters did he look up from his empty glass. But when the young man with the soft voice answered the barkeeper's question with a determined, I don't care about money. I can't leave people in need, Beowulf began to pay attention.
Wow, very impressive! If only Sir Balbanes were alive... the master of the tavern announced, and the hunter noticed the young man slouch slightly at the praise, though it didn't appear to be out of embarrassment.
But there's one even a master hunter can't beat, said one of the gossiping patrons.
His friend looked at him in drunken curiosity. Now, that's a big problem, he enunciated slowly with a thick tongue, what kind of monster is it?
It's called the Holy Dragon, his considerably more sober friend responded, nodding thoughtfully, really unusual...
Are you going? The barkeep directed the question at the strange young man, who nodded at this.
Yeah, I'll just go and see.
There was a moment of conflict in Beowulf's mind. Who decides to just go and take a look through a monster infested colliery? He's either the dumbest person who won't be alive much longer, or he's powerful and accompanied by a few allies. He watched the young man start to amble towards the exit. He looks young, but he also looks like he's been through a lot. I'll take the chance.
Reis, just wait a little longer...
Standing from his seat, he looked over at the young man. If you're going to the coal mines, will you hire me?
I'm surprised I finished this on time. I made allowances for following the layout of FFT to cut down on length--ha!--but I'd like to think it fits well. Final page count for WHW/TLB: 940 pages at the entire series' one-year anniversary!
I didn't want to portray Beowulf as overly depressed, but at the same time it's fairly obvious that he didn't move on. While I tried to be subtle, I'm afraid I might've been too subtle.
It was hard for me to believe that Beowulf set out immediately after Reis' transformation and started hunting for her. The general consensus seems to be that Reis was a dragon from anywhere between four to seven years. He can't be that bad of a hunter--though it's surprising that he doesn't have Secret Hunt' opened--so I thought it would be more realistic if he attempted a life first.
-Many of you will notice the change in the title. The myth of Orpheus and Eurydice is all about losing love due to a mistake, whether it be turning around at the last second, or not staying around for just one more second to listen to the priest who was using deliberately confusing language. For all those wondering why I used Greek names for some of the titles, it's because the name Cadmus' is Greek, after the mythological founder of Thebes who killed off Ares' dragon, planted the first dragon teeth, and was eventually cursed by Ares to turn into a dragon along with his wife. So, Beowulf's entire name is pretty meaningful. As for Reis'... dual-natured Reis Dular' might just be all.
-Though I'm ambivalent about Agrias, I thought that maybe some of the people who like her would appreciate the references to her. Ellyce is a strange spelling of Elise'.
- Who's Salia?' Chapter 14. ...Replacement?' Interlude 2, both parts.
-My Beowulf came with a Rune Blade, but I may have been a little overleveled.
Reviewers (answered in a very tired way)!
Hi, TobyKikami. I'm glad you like WHW, and I've answered the whole mystery with the Aquarius stone. I also want to thank you for your review of Predator. It was never meant to shock, just to shed some light on Dragoner Reis. Hope to see more from you!
Yo, Luna. How was Otakon? I hope you enjoyed seeing Hyde. I'm glad I stayed in California, just because my best friend had her birthday the same day as that concert.
I love most of the Shrine Knights more than I like most of the characters in the game. Argh, romance and FFT don't really mix. I remember exactly two canon couples, and Delita killed Ovelia so that's not too good. While I do think that Ramza could've had something with Ovelia, all he ended up getting was her friend...which was his sister. Meh. The oddest pairing I've read was ReisXAlma, mainly because of how Beowulf was explained as being Reis' uncle. Since I was writing WHW at the time, it was more than slightly disturbing.
Ah, you had trouble at the Balk II battle, with his pets from the Hydra class and his good friend the Chemist. That's where the talented Reis comes in. I just realized that I've never used Thundergod Cid...or for that matter, Agrias.
Thanks for the offer with the bitorrent site, but I'm running a 56k...so prehistoric.
Hello, Hawk of Death! Thanks for redoing your review, I was a little weirded out by its shortness. I generally don't think that Meliadoul would go well with Kletian, simply because Meliadoul strikes me as a true businesswoman', a woman who cares more about her career' and family than the possibility of romance. Actually, that's why I like her so much, because that's a bit rare for a female's characterization in games.
The Burning Misery, video games may not turn your brains to mush, but...wait, I'm not going to argue against games.
You don't have Thundergod Cid during the Velius battle. For that matter, you wouldn't have any of the knight swords either. The first battle that I could think of that you'd have all that would be Dycedarg/Adramelk. That battle was cool...he didn't get a turn.
I find Meliadoul useful with monsters, simply because her PA growth is awesome--only matched by Reis (for girls, anyway.) Concerning what you said about Reis being a gimmick' character I have to say this: what Meliadoul lacks in monster-ownage Reis more than has, what with the latter's inherent Two Swords, Monster Talk, Monster Skill, Train and wonderful stats. With Equip Sword and Auto Potion, Reis is able to wade through monsters and capitalize on their elemental weaknesses while Meliadoul cleans up, and vice-versa when it comes to humans. Beowulf is awesome support for any team, naturally, but those two women are the best special character' team-up to me.
As for your questions (finally!), Kletian is the first battle in Murond Death City. He's forgettable. Sorry, as I don't use Orlandu, I don't know anything about laying on pwnage. I mainly use my generics with either Reis, Beowulf or Ramza.
Because you're the one who commented on it, I have to explain my reasoning for the original title Alpha to Omega'. You probably know that alpha and omega refer to the first and last letters of the greek alphabet, which would've been appropriate for the context of this story.
MavGunloc, you don't get a response because I talk to you on AIM anyway.
Thank you, everyone who read Within Holy Walls and Those Left Behind! A special thank you' goes to all the reviewers, especially the regulars who had to put up with my lengthy responses. This entire series has been blessed with the most thoughtful, intelligent reviewing I've ever seen, which made me strive to match that sort of quality. If anyone has any questions, put up or direct me to an email address and I'll be more than happy to respond. If you're ever interested in my upcoming FFT works, I always try to have that information on my bio page. Thank you, thank you, thank you, and I hope to see you all again soon!