Author's Note: Following the trend of mid-fic breaks, this is a short side fic when I should be filling the rest ofRed as Snow. Spoilers for FFX, Yunalesca.
This one's because Farli'sNew Moon reminded me of yet another underdeveloped character in FFX. If you're reading this, Farli, hope you like it.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
There is a pool of pebbles in Zanarkand. Yunalesca never tells any of her visitors where it is, not one. Those who do not belong have other matters to occupy their minds. Those who do will visit for themselves in the end. So why rush?
The first and final trip of a newborn Fayth concerns a descent through layers of liquid upon liquid until they come to rest at the very bottom, joining countless others who have gone before. Yunalesca does not warn them of the journey because they will find out on their own. When the time is right. When they are ready.
After each Summoner departs to offer Sin a fresh body, Yunalesca crouches on the waters of the pool and studies the Fayth-figure in her hand. Her father taught her that towering humanoid forms were best to bind a spirit with, but Yunalesca has long grown tired of his lessons. Stone is stone. Smooth rocks are her preference; in a pinch, she uses what she can find around the ruins. Once she even had to resort to a chip of mortar off the stairs.
That was shameful, and she does not like to talk about it.
Hello,she says to the new addition, watching the pyrefly force boil over the surface of the pebble she has tied a Guardian's blood around. Are you ready?
They never reply.
Each time lacking ceremony, Yunalesca tips her hand down and lets the rock tumble into the pool with the barest of splashes. A few of them spin end over end in their descent. Others merely sail. Their arrivals disturb nothing in the bristle-coating lining the bottom of the pool; one pebble added blends in with all the rest, lending its pyrefly-ripple to the death song playing out underwater.
Afterwards, Yunalesca sits near Zaon's statue cross-legged, hair spread in a mantle around her, and speaks to him in case he will respond. She likes to think of it as her way of keeping in touch. Just because they are both dead does not mean that they can let these things slide.
Communication is important in a relationship. That was what her mother said when Yunalesca was still a young girl coming to get her bangs brushed out of her eyes. Communication between partners was needed in any relationship, the older woman said, working the thick-toothed comb into her daughter's hair. That had been so few years ago that Yunalesca still misses the feel of fingers on her scalp, tugging the locks firmly into place.
Or was it a few hundred?
The technical date does not matter. Yunalesca does not like to nitpick. Zaon said once he loved her because she is willing to forgive him for his temper, his brashness, and didn't she forgive him when he forgot that banquet the other night? Yes, Yunalesca says to his statue, I did, you're very right, Zaon I won't change a bit from how you love me.
To pass the time, Yunalesca tallies lives. The Guardian she put in the water just last week was a rugged individual who, Yunalesca told Zaon later, reminded her of a rather vocal bear. He did not look as if he had trimmed his beard for months. And how did he manage to survive Mount Gagazet without any kind of shirt?
Characteristics of distinct individuals can be difficult for a mind to organize when there have been so very many. Yunalesca thinks that she found a dark grey stone for the bear-Guardian, almost black. It was frozen into ridges like waves, jagged as the tattoo on the man's chest.
What a marking that had been. That memory, at least, was distinct.
Zaon, do you remember what that tattoo was of?she asks.
It was so familiar, Zaon. I think I've seen it before.
Do you know what it was?
Zaon does not answer, so Yunalesca goes back to looking for pebbles.
Binding spirit to stone is a basic rote. She has become practiced enough that she could weave Fayth-ghosts into the very walkway of Zanarkand itself, but Yunalesca retains a certain practicality for the dead. If you didn't have reverence, you had nothing.
The Summoners of the last years have forgotten that. Some of them stare openly at Zaon's statue even as they trek mud and blood and fiend-ichor over the glass paneling. Yunalesca knows that Zaon does not mind them doing this. Yunalesca knows that Zaon would not want her to argue with them about it, so she only smiles no matter how filthy her visitors are. Reminds herself to tidy the mess when they have gone.
Do you think I could ask them to remove their shoes first?she says to Zaon even while she is brushing the plaque clean. Once wind and water would both have joined to gladly serve her in this chore, but Yunalesca does not remember how to whistle for them except to ask them to kill.
Small magics. Those are all that is left to her to spin, white spider in a white web of mummified secrets.
Many years ago, Yunalesca was capable of greater feats than ritual. It is important for her to remind herself of this. Once she knew how to cause fire to spark in a hearth with only a glance, raise a tree from sapling to ancient with a snap of her fingers. Winds danced for fishing ships upon her call. The blitzball players out on practice would whisper eagerly to one another when they saw Yu Yevon's daughter walking upon the waves as if water was nothing greater than a sandpath, silver bells jangling around her ankles
Magic gloried to be harnessed by her demand. Life itself poured from her palms. Now she knows only the cantrips of the dead.
It is hard to remain in Zanarkand without the man she loves. Sometimes Yunalesca thinks about letting go of the weary, dust-covered ruins and fading into the Farplane. Zaon is not impatient with her for taking so long to come to him, because Zaon loves her, but sometimes Yunalesca is impatient with herself.
None other remains in Spira who might know the spells which sever life from a body without losing too many pyreflies; Yunalesca does not trust this duty to the Summoners who come with bloody feet to her chamber. None of them seem to be willing to learn small magics. All of them only know the higher ones, seek ways to defeat Sin. They want to grow stronger. No one wants to be bothered with the finger-rotes that animate fiends to strike from the floor like snakes, or how to draw pyreflies into themselves and let them nest like baby arachnids burrowing.
Are Spira's people so bored with death?
Half-forgotten memory is bothering Yunalesca. She frowns, tilting her head to the side as a bird might once it has heard the wrong song in the air. Zaon hates it when she wrinkles her forehead like that; he kissed her brow laughing once, teasing her about premature aging.
A long time ago, there existed a woman who cared nothing about Sin.
Or am I thinking of myself?
Oh.Yunalesca is surprised. No. Impossible. She is confusing herself with one of her own visitors. A human woman and her son. Yes, the woman had demanded Yunalesca give the binding stone to the boy, hadn't she? Yunalesca had warned them not to let the Fayth-figure touch another rock lest the spirit attach itself to a piece of mountain, a boulder, or another equally immobile object. A Fayth deceased would leave the stone inert, but the risk until the confrontation with Sin was very great indeed.
But the woman had ignored her. The request had been insisted on. Presumably they had both died in the fight with Yu Yevon, which meant that the unorthodox situation was moot now.
They had left together, the child carrying his mother clenched tightly in his fist. Yunalesca sat by Zaon's statue for a handful of hours afterwards as the pyreflies swarmed around them. If we had had a boy, do you think he would have been like that? she asks.
Regret becomes wistfulness, and from there into fancy. He would have your nose, Zaon. And your mouth. You have such a wonderful mouth, especially when you smile, and memory was enough to have Yunalesca laughing for hours in the ruins, the pyreflies weaving the ground into beach around her.
Don't hide it. No, I see you trying not to smile, Zaon. I know it's there.
Perhaps it was last week that Yunalesca had performed the ritual for them, and that bear-man had been the year before. Or was it the other way around?
All unimportant. The only thing that matters is that the pool remains to tally up the Fayth-stones fed to it. Yunalesca does not tell her visitors of it, not a single one, and the pyrefly dream swimming in the shallows grows slowly closer to the surface with each passing year.
It looked like a rainbow, Zaon. Do you remember the time we saw one over the stadium? It was beautiful.
You told me it put color in my hair.
You've always been so sweet, Zaon. You know just what to say.
Yunalesca has not thought about what will happen when the pool is full of rocks, the water run out the top or buried deep within where she can no longer see it. She has no idea how many lives it would take to fill it. That way lies madness, and she must be careful not to let herself fall victim. Careful, very careful.
It is hard to remain in Zanarkand without Zaon there, but Yunalesca tries her best. She knows that he has such faith in her, so how could she let him down?
She does not think about Zaon's body twisting, Aeon's shape rippling as her father possessed him. She will not consider if her father meant it mockingly when he thanked her for the gift of new flesh. She will not think of how she might be helping her father. Yu Yevon abandoned his city, so it falls to the daughter to maintain it. Spira must have its hope.
It is so easy to bind life to stone. Yunalesca does not know why she is the only one left who remembers such a paltry spell. It is such a little thing that it surprises her even now when no one else seems to know it. She talks to Zaon about her disappointment because it is important to keep in touch, and because she is trying so hard.
Pebbles. You can fill an entire pool with thousands of stones until time wears away even an ocean, just by repeating these small magics.