The Meaning of Rue

I own few things. If I owned Threads of Fate, I'd own a lot more.

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Rue stepped into the cave, looking warily around. So far the dungeon had been free of monsters, but he could not afford to let down his guard. True, five years had passed since his fight for Valen's {relic}, and he had gotten a lot stronger, but still...

The {relic} he was hunting for now was one called Askaram's {relic}- Klaus had found some information on it five years ago, and had called Rue back to Carona as soon as he had gotten it. The information had been very sketchy, but by following what few leads Klaus had had, and by diligently searching for five long years, Rue had finally found the entrance to the lair in which Askaram's {relic} had been hidden.

"Soon, Claire, soon..." he had whispered to himself and to the spirit sleeping within him, saying the words like a prayer. The {relic} was close, he could almost touch it...

But first he had to find it.

The cave Rue had stepped into was one of the strangest he had ever seen. It was like an upturned bowl, perfectly smooth on the inside with no cracks or visible imperfections that Rue could see. The bowl was made of some dark, opaque stone that seemed to suck in all of the light around it- and despite that, Rue could still see everything in the room as clearly as though it were day. Not that there was much to see-there was nothing but a glassy black obelisk in the middle of the room with three concentric circles of inlaid gold surrounding the floor around it. Rue stepped forward cautiously. Supposedly, inside that obelisk was the {relic} he had been looking for these past five years...

He stepped forward, his footsteps echoing loudly off the floor and ringing against the unnaturally smooth walls of the black glass cave. He came closer and closer-still nothing attacked. Finally he stood in front of the obelisk. It was tall, standing ten feet high before tapering to a four- sided point at its very top. The glassy black surface was dark and dim.

"Maybe this is the {relic}?" Rue wondered. He reached forward cautiously and placed a hand against the dark stone. It gave underneath his palm, covering his hand in cool blackness. Rue jerked his hand free; slow ripples flowed across the black obelisk as it moved over the space his hand had left behind, and eventually the obelisk became still. Rue looked at his hand; there didn't seem to be anything wrong with it. Cautiously, he pressed against the stone again. The obelisk welcomed him coolly, doing nothing as he stepped forward, eventually pushing his entire arm into the obelisk's cool black depths.

"Funny. It feels like my arm's in water..." Rue mused as he moved his arm around, feeling around for anything that could even vaguely be a {relic}. He jumped when his fingertips brushed against something warm in the coldness. "Is that it?"

He pressed against the warmness and felt it give slightly; feeling up, his hand pressed against uneven contours of more warmness, eventually moving up a slender column, and then a strange, irregular surface.
"What is this thing?" He wondered. Then, "Is it the {relic}? Maybe I should pull it out..."

He was loathe to let go of his sword, so he felt around in the obelisk's cool blackness until he found a part of the warm thing that he could grab easily with one hand. Stepping backwards, he slowly pulled the thing out of the obelisk. The obelisk offered no resistance, sliding off his arm without a trace.

Rue's hand appeared; a flesh-colored column was within his grasp. As he pulled a bit more, a chin, and then a face appeared out of the blackness. He gasped, the sound echoing so loudly in the still chamber that it sounded as though all the air in the world had rushed into Rue's lungs.

"It's a woman!" He realized in shock, and hurriedly he took a more careful grip on her, pulling her more gently from the black obelisk with both arms instead of just one hand. He was so intent on pulling her out carefully that he didn't notice how the black obelisk folded and then collapsed, forming a heavy silken dress and a long black veil that covered the woman's entire body. The only part of her that Rue could see was the woman's face. Ethereally pale, her features were the pinnacle of perfection. Long, thick black eyelashes graced her face like a pair of dark wings. Her nose was perfectly straight, leading down to full, sensual lips that were almost a blood red against the ivory skin of her face. Rue gazed at her, wondering who she was.

Her eyes suddenly snapped open.

"YAAAHHHH!" Rue yelled in shock and dropped her, his heart hammering violently in his chest. Had it been possible, his hair would have turned even whiter than it already was. The woman rose gracefully to her feet, regarding Rue with new-gold eyes that seemed to focus on him like the lenses of a machine.

"Who are you," she asked in a low voice that rolled around the cavern like soft thunder, "to interrupt my long sleep?"

Rue gathered his composure and got to his feet. The woman was very tall, forcing Rue to bend his head nearly all the way back to speak to her. He said, "I'm Rue. Are you the {relic}?"

A faint smile of amusement quirked one side of the woman's full lips. "Am I the {relic}?" She mused softly. "In a manner of speaking." He voice became louder as she declared, "I am what remains of the Aeon Askaram-and I am the {relic} called Timshel."

Rue's spirits soared. Here was the {relic} he had sought for so long! But..."How can you be an Aeon and a {relic} at the same time?" He asked, puzzled.

"I am what remains of Askaram." She corrected gently. "The small bit of her soul that stayed behind to watch over Timshel, her greatest creation." She touched her chest, closing her eyes. "The making of it cost her life. In its own way, it is as powerful as Valen's Dewprism."

"I thought nothing was more powerful than the Dewprism." Rue said, frowning.

She looked at him, tilting her head. Her black veil shimmered in a light that did not exist. "You're not quite...human, are you?"

Askaram reached forward with one pale, elegant hand and swept off Rue's hat with one flick of her hand. Rue tensed, gripping his sword.

"A doll of Valen." She murmured, gazing at the blue stone on his forehead. It still sparkled brightly despite the Dewprism's destruction. "You've survived this long-but then again, Valen never did anything in halves."

She handed his hat back to him, making Rue ask suspiciously, "You're not going to attack me?"

"What's the point?" She asked. "As I said, Valen did nothing in halves. There is no doubt in my mind that you could destroy me if you so chose."

Privately Rue felt that he would never be able to destroy such a beautiful woman.

"But you're not here to destroy me, I think." She said, tilting her head. Her amber eyes, Rue noticed, glowed softly with their own slight. "Otherwise you would have shattered the obelisk with that great sword of yours."

Rue glanced at his sword, and then back at Askaram. "You're right," he said. "I'm not here to destroy you. I'm here to, um..." He paused, not knowing how to phrase his next few words. "Uh...use...the {relic}."

Askaram looked at him, amused. "Use me?"

That didn't sound right. Rue rubbed the back of his head, uncertain as to what to say.

"Interesting." Askaram sat down, reclining in a chair that Rue couldn't remember seeing-had it just appeared? "Why would a doll want to use my powers?" She motioned at him. "Please, Rue, sit."

Rue looked around and was surprised so see that a small black chair had suddenly appeared out of the air behind him. He sat down and nearly jumped out of his skin when the material of the chair shifted subtly, shaping itself to an almost embarrassing familiarity. He squirmed, uncomfortable, and the chair became slightly more normal. Askaram regarded him coolly, although the amused smile had reappeared on her lips.

"Why did you come after me?" She asked, looking steadily at him.

Rue hesitated a moment. "It's, um..." He looked down at the floor. He had never expected to actually talk to an Aeon. "I..." He looked up. "I want to bring Claire back to life."

"Ah." Askaram nodded. "Resurrection. I see. And why do you want to bring her back to life?"

Rue tried to explain. "She died-when she shouldn't have. Doll Master killed her when she tried to...help me..." He looked down at the floor, shame burning in his chest.

"You feel like it's your fault." Askaram said knowingly.

"Yes." Rue closed his eyes, biting his lip.

"You want to set things right."

"Yes."

There was a long silence. When Rue opened his eyes and glanced up, Askaram was leaning back in her chair, looking thoughtful.

"Let me ask you a question, Rue." Askaram said, tilting her head. "What would you do to bring this Claire back?"

What would he do...? What hadn't he already done? He had traveled the world, all the oceans, gone to the highest mountains and the deepest caves...

"And once you did bring her back, what would you do?" Askaram asked, regarding him evenly. "Go back to the life you once had, pretending like nothing was wrong?"

Rue hadn't thought that far. "I guess." He said, shrugging.

"And another thing, Rue." Askaram lowered her head slightly, looking squarely into his eyes. "You're a doll. You don't age. She will."

"I don't care." Rue said shortly. Did Askaram think he was really that shallow? He hadn't gone through ten types of hells just to turn back at Claire's first wrinkle, whenever it came.

Askaram didn't seem to hear him. "In fact, Rue, since you're a doll, you won't die. Not naturally, anyway."

Rue frowned, confused. "What does that-"

"Suppose you do use my power to bring Claire back." Askaram said, looking at him piercingly. "Suppose you do go back to the life you once had. You won't live happily ever after, you know-because Claire is human, and she will die in the course of time."

Rue's heart stopped beating, and all his blood seemed to turn to ice.

"You have, what-fifty, sixty, seventy more years together?" Askaram asked softly. "And that's if a monster or an illness don't carry her off. And then you have the rest of eternity to spend alone."

Rue shut his eyes, clenching his fists so tightly that his gloves creaked. That future hadn't occurred to him either. For the first time, Rue realized that he actually had a very little idea of what he was doing.

"Of course..." Askaram tilted her heal, making her veil rustle. "I could make you alive."

Rue's head snapped up, his eyes opening in an instant.

"You could grow up and age like every human on the planet...like every living thing." Askaram mused, her golden eyes going slightly out of focus as she gazed off into the distance. Rue suddenly became aware of how lonely she must have been- years and years had gone by, and all of her peers were dead except for her. She had to know what it was like to live alone, and how welcome death would be for her, if it ever came.

"But if I do that, Rue-" She turned to look at Rue, her golden eyes refocusing. "That's all I'll be able to do."

"You won't be able to bring Claire back?"

Askaram shook her head.

Rue bowed his head, shutting his eyes. Either him or Claire...

He sat bolt upright and looked straight into Askaram's golden eyes. "If I got another {relic} could I-"

"No." Askaram cut him off. "My {relic}, Timshel, and Valen's Dewprism are the only {relics} that have the capacity to bring people back to life, and to turn what is inanimate into what is real. In that way," Askaram smiled, "Timshel is as strong as Dewprism."

Rue couldn't appreciate the finer points of the {relic}. "So either Claire comes back to life...and I watch her die..."

"Yes."

"Or I become human...and lose Claire forever."

"Yes."

Weight seemed to press down on him, crushing the inside of his chest. Rue clutched his head in his hands, pressing his forehead against his knees. He couldn't...a choice like that...

What was he supposed to do?


A/N: Now for an extra-special something: like in the actual game, you choose the outcome! Quick-the happy ending, or the sad one? Rue's fate and his happiness are in your hands...