The Master of Lionel: Chapter One – Thoughts from the Day After
Disclaimer: I don't own the rights to Final Fantasy Tactics, Squaresoft, or any related product. Just my own copy of the game.
This is just something I sort of wrote on a whim, mainly to play out a scenario that I've often pondered, and wished that Squaresoft had built into the game. Basically, what would have happened if Ramza had accepted Draclau's offer to join him rather than battling him. Enjoy.
Leaning against the edge of the balcony that protruded out of the north tower of Lionel Castle, Ramza Beoulve sighed heavily, adjusting his chin to a more comfortable position on his crossed arms. It had been a rough night, not just due to all the fighting, Gafgarian's death and his confrontation of words with Draclau. If anything, all that should have made sleep all the more easy to obtain, but his thoughts had kept him up.
Have I done the right thing, accepting Draclau's offer? The thought had been running through his mind all night, eating at his conscience. After much tossing and turning he'd been able to fall asleep, but even his dreams were haunting. His father, the great General Balbanes had been there, on his deathbed just as Ramza remembered. He had told him to be strong, to live with honor and principle, but something else that had not been in the real version occurred in this one. A warning, of dark times to come, and to be sure to fight against this great evil.
Then his father had passed away, but then a dark shadow filled the room, and behind his father what at first appeared to be an image of the great St Ajora appeared, but then it had morphed, changed before his eyes into a deformed version, a monster of incredible evil. What was even more surprising was that neither of his brother's reacted at all, as if they could not see this threat. Ramza reached for his sword, but as his hand touched the hilt he froze, unable to move as the creature descended, towards his father. Then from outside the window something else appeared; flames. They consumed everything around him, until there was nothing Ramza could see other than the flames, and the darkness. As the flames too began to fade to darkness, he had heard his father's voice again, this time saying to him, "Beware."
That had been when he'd woken up in a cold sweat. He'd pondered over it, and many other things all morning, and yet still he didn't have an answer. I just want to do the right thing.
A knock on the door behind him brought Ramza's thoughts back to reality. Turning his head and looking back into his bedroom through the balcony entrance he called out, "Yes?"
The door opened and Malcolm, one of his fencer knights that had come here with him to Lionel entered, followed closely by Rad. Pausing for a moment, the two moved somberly towards the balcony entrance and stepped out onto it next to Ramza who had returned to staring out across the countryside. Malcolm waited a moment, then realizing that Ramza was waiting for him to speak, said, "Good morning sir. Sleep well?"
"Not particularly, but I'll get over it."
Malcolm nodded. "Sir, about Mustadio I-"
"I know Malcolm, but right now we can't do much about it. Believe me, if I could get him out of that cell just now I would, but he did threaten Draclau after I agreed to help him fix this country. Angered or not, attacking a Cardinal is not something that can be easily forgiven. I'll talk to both him and Draclau later, see if I can convince him to accept an apology from Mustadio. It'll work out."
"If you say so sir. It's just…"
Ramza turned his head to gaze upon his companion, then asked, "What is it Malcolm, speak your mind. I'm not my brothers, you know that."
"Of course sir. It's just that I have some doubts as to whether this is the best course of action. War will be upon us any day now, and this strange conspiracy is getting deeper and deeper. Lady Agrias agrees."
Agrias. She'd been ecstatic last night when she'd learned of Ovelia's departure, and only after much reassurance and persuasion had Ramza been able to settle her down and keep her from grabbing the first chocobo mount she could find and racing off to Zeltennia after her. Over the last few weeks Ramza had begun to trust and respect the female knight more and more, her courage and loyalty was certainly something for other knights to imitate. It was more than that though, he liked her as a person as well, when she let duty drop on those rare moments.
Lifting himself off the balcony edge now, Ramza turned and faced the two young men. "I'm not quite sure about this either Malcolm. In fact, I'm not sure about anything just now, other than the fact that we need to find out more. Hokuten and Nanten may already be poised against us, if the Church and the Temple Knights came against us as well… well let's just say that it's better to know what our options are before we go making enemies out of everyone."
Again Malcolm nodded. "Yes sir."
"One more thing Malcolm, could you locate Agrias for me, I'd like to talk with her before I go meet with Draclau."
"Of course sir." With that Malcolm turned and departed, leaving only Rad behind.
Turning to look at the young squire now, Ramza said, "So Rad, is there something on your mind as well?"
"Well Ramza… sir," the late formality bringing a chuckle to Ramza's face, "I'm just wondering if all this was worth it."
Ramza watched Rad for a moment, then said, "You mean about Gafgarian." It was not really a question.
"Yes. I mean, we turned on him to protect the princess, fought against him and then you were forced to kill him last night. Now we're here working underneath the man Gafgarian was serving in the first place. Was it all really necessary?"
Ramza paused a moment, then turned to look back once more across the countryside. During his time as a mercenary under Gafgarian, Ramza and Rad had found time to bond as those who fight together do. The result had been that titles such as 'sir' had been lost, and it had not been until after Rad had learned the truth about Ramza's noble origins that the honorific title had returned, though Rad was still struggling with it. At first Ramza had protested, but his persistence had finally forced Ramza to concede.
Finally, after a minute of silence, Ramza replied, "That's something that has been on my mind this morning too Rad. I'm not sure if I have an exact answer just yet, but I think that yes, it was necessary. Our goal was the protect Ovelia, and had we not turned on Gafgarian, he would have killed her. Later, while he offered me a chance to redeem myself, it extended to only me and only because of my rank. He would have killed you and the others, and that was just something I couldn't allow. Draclau at least is taking us all in, and that's the small difference that makes all the difference. Does that make any sense?"
"Yeah, it does make sense Ramza…sir."
"Good morning Ramza, sleep well I hope?"
Bowing as he approached, Ramza replied, "As best as can be expected your Holiness."
Cardinal Draclau nodded, chuckling deeply for a short moment. "Very good. Come, let's have breakfast in the main dining hall, and I can begin to explain to you our mission, and the role I would like you to play in it."
"Yes your Holiness." Ramza then turned to walk towards the dining hall side by side with the Cardinal. Truthfully Ramza was not quite sure if he liked the new role that was being shaped up for him, even if he had yet to hear it, but he had to at least keep up the niceties for now. A Beoulve would do no less.
As they walked, Draclau continued, "Do you know if the Lady Agrias will be joining us? I took the liberty of inviting her as well."
Without looking at the Cardinal, Ramza replied straight-faced, "I think she might very well." His conversation with Agrias this morning had been intense. She had once again brought up her concerns, and the desire to depart to Ovelia's side. Ramza though had pleaded with her to stay for now, in no small part for the fear that she might be seen as an enemy. The men escorting the princess would not know of the recent change in allegiances, and might very well see Agrias as a threat. Thus, until Draclau could at least get the word spread of the new circumstances, it was best for everyone to stay at Lionel. Eventually Agrias agreed, with far less begging than Ramza had expected in fact.
Reaching the dining hall, Ramza parted from Draclau's side and made his way around to the right side of the table, taking a seat several places away from the table's head where Draclau was now seating himself. He didn't want to sit next to the man, partly because as they had walked Ramza almost felt like he sensed something ominous about the Cardinal, the same feeling he had gotten from his dream last night.
Several minutes passed in silence before the servants began to bring food and drink to the table. When breakfast was ready and served, Draclau sighed slightly, then said, "Well, I guess Agrias decided not…"
He broke off as he spotted the young female knight enter the room from the opposite side. Ramza turned his head in her direction, and froze. Agrias was dressed… well far more femininely than he had ever seen her. It was true that they had traveled together on the road for many nights, but she'd always kept on a light layer of mail whenever he'd seen her out of her armor. He had been too much of a gentleman to view her while she rested. Now though she wore a tunic and skirt and while they were quite casual, she still wore her usual boots, it was still more feminine than he'd ever seen or thought of her before.
"Welcome to my table Lady Agrias. Did you sleep well?"
Agrias nodded, and forced a smile. "Yes, your Eminence. Quite well." She then turned her gaze towards Ramza and gave a far less forced smile, and took a seat across from Ramza on the left side of the table. From their conversation earlier Ramza knew that her answer had been as false as the one he'd given Draclau, but then again like him it wasn't something he expected to actually discuss at the breakfast table.
Draclau meanwhile continued as he cut himself a piece of ham, "Excellent. Now that you are here, I'd like to ask both of you what you think about the current state of Ivalice. Ramza?"
It was a test, and Ramza knew it. Of course knowing it was a test didn't necessarily mean he knew the correct answer, and the Cardinal would know if he tried to improvise. That left of course nothing to say but the truth. "Well, at the moment the conflict between Larg and Goltana is coming to a head, and that means almost certain war. The problem is that people still remember the 50 Years War, and all the suffering that caused. Another war so soon will only serve to further weaken the people's trust in the sovereignty. The appearance of the Death Corps in Gallione not too long ago is proof of that. It just means that regardless, more people will suffer for whatever agenda Larg or Goltana have."
The Cardinal smiled. "Exactly. Agrias, is there anything you'd like to add?"
Agrias shook her head. "No, I think Ramza summed it up best. It's clear though that the Royal Family is not in control, and that Larg and Goltana merely wish to use the Prince and the Princess to their own ends."
"Correct. So, what must be done to prevent this? Since the people can't turn to the Royal Family, we intend to have them turn to the Church. When the time is right the High Priest will move to mediate the situation, and peace can be restored. We also plan to bring in the Temple Knights to help maintain the peace and allow for a greater deal of equality between the aristocracy and the commoners. That's where you will come in Ramza."
Ramza just blinked. "Me? What would you ask me to do?"
Setting down his fork and knife so that he could press his fingers together, Draclau answered, "You possess one of the Holy Stones. We plan to implement and reform the Zodiac Braves to help bring relief and comfort to the people so that they might trust and believe in the Church more. As you insist on holding onto the stone for the time being, I have decided that you will become one of the twelve braves. You will become a Holy Knight."
Ramza just sat there open mouthed, speechless. A Holy Knight, him? It didn't quite seem possible and yet…
From across the table Agrias clapped her hands together and said, "Congratulations Ramza, it is truly quite an honor. I remember my own ascension to the rank of Holy Knight."
Ramza nodded, and smiling said, "Thank you Agrias, and you too your Holiness. I truly appreciate this honor you have chosen for me."
The Cardinal nodded. "Good, then it is all set. Your ascension to knighthood will take place this evening before dinner. Afterwards we shall have a feast to celebrate."
Ramza blushed. A feast in his honor, that was more than he truly needed. "You are too kind your Holiness. However, may I discuss another matter with you?"
"It's about Mustadio. What do you intend to do with him?"
The Cardinal paused halfway into a bite from his eggs and stared at Ramza for a moment. Then he resumed to eating his egg, and upon swallowing said, "I understand that he is your friend, but an attack on a member of the clergy is unforgivable. I'm afraid I have no choice but to have him executed."
"What!? Executed! You can't!"
"Ramza," Draclau interrupted, a hint of anger in his voice, "do not forget your place, despite whatever honors I may have chosen to bestow upon you. Show the proper respect."
Taking a deep breath in an attempt to calm his outrage, Ramza replied far more quietly, "I apologize. However, I beg you to reconsider. I know his actions were wrong, but he is an Engineer of Goug. I know I can convince him to apologize and aid us, and he would be far better to us and the Church alive."
"There are many Engineers in Goug Ramza. One less will make little difference, and while I'm certain you believe you could convince him to aid us, the Church does not take such actions lightly. It is best to make an example out of him, I'm sorry."
"Yes, make an example out of him, but by sparing his life. Show the people of Ivalice that the Church forgives those who repent and ask forgiveness. Besides, executing him may very well alienate other Engineers. At least keep him alive for now, until we can see if sparing him will be better than killing him. After all, once he's dead we can't take it back."
For a long moment Draclau's eyes locked with Ramza's, as the two men's wills clashed. The Cardinal then pulled his eyes away and stared down at his plate, apparently in deep thought. Finally he looked back up and said, "Your words hold some truth in them Ramza, far more than I would expect from one your age. Very well, for the moment at least, I will not have Mustadio executed. However, he will remain in the dungeon, and if, in the end, it is decided that he must die, you will be the one to see that the order is carried out. Understood?"
A cold glare emanated from Ramza's eyes as he stared at Draclau. However he then lowered his head and replied, "Very well. Thank you."
With a taint of longing on her face as she stared out at the stars, Agrias Oaks sighed. Ramza's ceremony had occurred hours before, and the feast was still going on. It had been a fine ceremony, bringing back memories of her own, of the scared young girl no older than Ramza was now shaking in her armor as if she were about to be asked to reach into a basket full of snakes. Yet Ramza had seemed so calm, so collected. Perhaps that was just an outward facade though, similar to the one that many had said she'd carried during her ceremony.
Since that day she'd devoted her life to protecting the Royal Family, to doing her duty as a knight, never thinking about her own desires. Now though here she was, separated from the princess, out of reach of her knighthood save Alicia and Lavian, and with little else to do but to ponder her own life and the events that had brought her here. And the people who had too, the back of her mind reminded her.
Ramza. What was it about the young man that drew her and so many others to him? The small band of troops that followed him was as loyal and devoted as she had seen, and even her own knights were showing signs of devotion to him. So too, she had to admit, was she. Perhaps this was what the late General Balbanes had been like, strong and charismatic. The Beoulves were leaders of men, yet there was something different about this one, something nobler.
A knock came from the door and Agrias turned and said, "Who is it?"
"It's me Agrias, Ramza. Can I talk to you for a moment?"
Agrias blanched. Ramza was here, and here she was in her room wearing nothing but a small night-piece that she had borrowed from a maid as she had no such clothing of her own here, and it was far too chilly even in this weather to be walking about naked. "Umm, one moment Ramza." The robe, she'd have to cover herself with that. There wasn't time to get redressed. Slipping into the robe lying on her bed, she tied the belt and moved to the door, opening it. "Thank you for waiting. Please come in."
"Thank you." Ramza bowed his head slightly and stepped in, noting with a slight blush what she was wearing. Even with the robe on, the top of her chest was visible through the folds, and for the first time Ramza was able to notice the moderate size of Agrias's bust, another thing that the armor had hid. Forcing that thought from his mind though, Ramza continued, "I haven't come at a bad time have I?"
"Oh no, not at all. It's just… I'm surprised you aren't still at the feast. It is in your honor after all." Agrias prayed he hadn't picked up on the eagerness at which she'd denied his question, surprised somewhat herself at how much she rather wanted him to stay.
Ramza sighed, then replied, "Well I never liked parties, especially for me. Besides, I see you left as well."
"True, I'm not much one for parties either. Besides, I just don't trust the Cardinal, not after last time."
"Neither do I, not completely anyway, but what he's saying is right. For now, I think it's just best if we bide our time and see what he's really up to."
Agrias sat down on her bed and cocked an eyebrow at Ramza. "So you think he's not telling us the truth?"
"I think he's not telling us everything. I'm sure what he told us is part of the truth, but he's still playing off the fears of the people to put himself, and the Church in power. Whether this is the High Priest's plot or his own, there's more going on here, and I want to find out what before we try to do anything rash."
"Agreed. Still, I don't quite see how that fairy tale is going to help. I mean I know it's the image of the Zodiac Braves that people have in their minds that the Church is playing on, but it seems like there's more to those stones than they're letting on."
Ramza nodded. "Which brings me to my reason for coming here. Tomorrow morning I'm departing for Goug to see if I can learn more about the effect these stones have on the ancient machines there, and to talk to the Engineers about them. I told Draclau that I'm going to try and bring as many Engineers over to our cause while staying discreet, and he agreed. I don't know though if he fully trusts me yet."
Placing her hands back against the bed and leaning back, Agrias replied, "So you want me to stay here then and keep and eye on things, make sure Draclau doesn't try anything while your gone?"
Ramza shook his head. "No, I want you to come with me to Goug. I'm having Rad stay behind to keep an eye on things. He's just less conspicuous."
"Besides," Ramza interrupted, "if he does try something I may need to break back in here again, and I couldn't have done it last time without your help. If things get desperate, I want your sword there to aid me. I need your help on this one."
If the room wasn't so dark, Ramza would almost certainly have noticed Agrias blushing at his last remark. She had never had a man say he needed her like that before. Oh certainly she'd been asked for assistance, ordered to aid men of all classes before, but never 'needed' like that. Struggling to pull herself together and finally doing so, Agrias nodded. "Of course, I'll be ready to go tomorrow then."
Ramza nodded, then politely saying good night turned to leave. As he reached the door Agrias called out, "And Ramza… thank you."
Turning to look back at her, Ramza replied, "For what?"
"For needing me."
Well there you have it. Like I said above, I just wrote this on a whim after playing some FFT and this was the result. Not sure whether I will, or should keep going with it. Guess that depends on whether anyone wants me to or not. So just review and let me know if you want me to continue or not.