Oooh! Here's where I put my obligatory disclaimer! clears throat
The Sharra does not own Legend of Dragoon or any other stuff that… uh, doesn't belong to her. Please don't sue. She has four cats.
"Saltwater and Blood"
By The Sharra
Prologue: These Sins
"For the life of me I cannot remember
What made us think that we were wise and we'd never compromise?
For the life of me, I cannot believe we'd ever die for these sins
We were merely freshmen…"
-- The Verve Pipe, "Freshmen"
Vellweb had been alive and bustling once, but time had worn away its glory until it was nothing more than a broken memory. It smelled to Rose of decay, violence, and merciless ambition that, like the city, had been doomed to fall and crumble to dust. 'How appropriate,' she reflected, rolling the small glass object between two fingers, 'that Zieg appear dressed as that man.' The recollection of his strong, smiling face twisted with such malice caused the warrior to hunch forward, doubling over as if gripped by a sharp pain. She banished the sight of him from her mind's eye, clutching the bead in her hand so tightly she thought it might break.
Diaz had liked to say that history was written by the victors and in a sense, he was right. What he hadn't realized was that history shifted and changed over time until it was warped into a mere semblance of the truth. 'He died a human 'hero'?' She ducked her head as a soft chuckle escaped her lips. It was an unfamiliar sound, strange and yet welcome in spite of the bitterness that colored it. History could have its heroes and its villains. Rose wouldn't try to change their 'truth', instead choosing to hold the reality of it close to her heart. This past was hers to remember and hers to regret. There had been more to her back then-the Campaign had been more than a man named Zieg. It had been Frahma, Charle, Michael, Diaz, Syuveil. Belzac. Shirley.
"I don't like to be alone. Where is… everybody?"
"Anybody… just satisfy me."
'Forgive me. You were right back then, when you said those words to me. No, not just then. Now. There was no reason for me… to judge you.'
"You just don't get it, Rose. You never will, even if you live to be a thousand. Swallow down your judgment because I'll be fucked if I'm going to listen to it. Take your pity, take your self-righteousness and get out."
"What will you do?"
"Me? Well, after I finish off Frahma, I'll take a nice trip to hell. Syuveil and Damia have been waiting too long…"
The blue bead in her hand was a nondescript thing with a hole drilled in the top so it could be worn as a pendant; semispherical, it was edged with gold that was so tarnished by the passing of years it appeared almost black. As she continued to turn it over and over, however, it caught the light of the late afternoon sun. Small bits of light caught the glass, picking up bits of green and turquoise that made her think of the waters Damia had so loved in life. To think that something so precious had almost been crushed beneath her careless feet…
"You found that in his room, right? Beneath that Divine Tree thing-it."
"Kanzas was seeking salvation. That's the reason why he decorated the Divine Tree in this way…"
Rose straightened as the silver-haired Wingly girl's arrival jerked her from her daze. Meru leaned forward to peer at the ancient bit of jewelry as she reached the top step, focusing an oddly intent gaze on the trinket Rose had found beneath the sculpture in Kanzas' tower.
She wasn't in the mood to deal with curiosity and idle questions, and Meru would be able to provide an abundance of both. No, there were more important things she could be thinking about right now. 'So many mistakes, Rose.' "I don't know what you're taking about," she murmured, reaching to unfasten the buckle of her belt pouch so she could tuck her newfound treasure safely out of sight
The scantily clad Water Dragoon merely snorted and waved a hand at her. "Hey, you're lying and you know it." Meru plunked herself gracelessly onto the step beside her, not the slightest bit bothered by the fact that she might be disturbing Rose's peace and quiet. She stretched her arms high over her head and let out an earth-shattering yawn that caused her somehow unwilling companion to edge away slightly. "Thought you might want to know," she garbled out around said yawn, "that Kongol finally woke up. You know, that Kanzas guy hit him really hard? Must've, to do that to a Giganto. I thought Miranda was going to go nuts or something, what with the way she was pacing until a minute ago-I think she's sweet on him." There was a brief pause as she reached up and behind to tighten the silk ribbon binding her hair. "Kongol. Not Kanzas. If she liked a ghost, that would be really weird."
'Soa save me.' Forcing back a sigh, Rose tucked the bead away and securely fastened the flap of the small purse. "I don't want to listen to your childish gossip right now!"
The words were harsh, but Meru could hardly take offense when the woman uttering them sounded so very tired. "If that's what you want, I guess," she remarked, leaning back on the crumbling stair and shifting her weight onto her palms as she did so. She snuck a ruby-colored glance at her cold friend and tilted her head slightly to one side, as if considering something. "You know, I bet you have a lotta fantastic stories."
Rose felt her lips tugged into a slight, distant little smirk. It felt so strange to smile, as if one wouldn't quite fit on her face. "No. I've never been much of a storyteller."
Meru lurched forward without warning, sprawling quite comically over Rose's lap as she fumbled for the belt pouch and the bead inside it. "C'mon! Just let me see it for a second!"
The other woman's eyes bugged out and she grasped at platinum locks, giving the beribboned ponytail a good, hard yank. The Wingly flopped back onto her backside with a short yelp of pain. "Do you mind?" Rose snarled, tugging the hem of her tunic back down with her free hand. She released her hold on the other woman's hair abruptly.
It wasn't all that surprising that Meru did little more than grimace and rub at the back of her head. For a dancer, she was fairly clumsy. When one fell flat on their face so often, they became used to silly little things like 'pain' and 'bruises'. "Do you mind letting me see, then?"
'Soa save me,' Rose thought a second time, allowing her hand to drift back to the small leather purse. Moments later, the young performer had that precious bead she'd so coveted. She watched as Meru squinted down at it, the girl sucking thoughtfully on one tooth as she slid her fingers over warm glass and smooth metal.
To the Darkness Dragoon's dismay, her… friend actually tossed the bead high into the air before reaching out to catch it. Rose reached out in an attempt to snatch it, but the other's quick hands caught it before she was able to. Apparently she wasn't all that clumsy… "This wasn't his," Meru stated seriously, smoothing her fingertips over it once more, almost lovingly. "It belonged to her." The first one chosen to wield the Blue Sea spirit-- that miserable girl sitting alone in her tower, wondering where everyone was.
Rose reflected on a fierce man with storms in his eyes and a lonely young woman torn between two worlds and, at that moment, found she could do little more than nod. "You're a Wingly. I'm not surprised you managed to sense it."
"Sadness." She folded both hands tightly about Damia's beloved pendant, closing her eyes against the bright light of the sunset. "And a lot of love."
It seemed to Rose as if she were trying to part the veils of time with whatever mysterious power she might happen to possess. Of course, that was impossible, but at that moment, she wouldn't have been at all surprised if Meru realized exactly what had happened so long ago.
"Be a pal and tell me a story, huh?"
"It doesn't have a happy ending, Meru."
"Yes, I'm afraid to die. But the worst part about it is that I'd be alone in the dark forever. I-- I don't think I could stand that."
"Hn. If you die, I'm going to have to go to Mayfil and take your soul back from the Death City myself. You'd drive them insane."
"Well-- they might keep you!"
The Wingly's smile was slow and knowing, and as she slid the sphere of glass back into Rose's hand, it seemed to the human that she was suddenly wise beyond her years. "That's okay. Don't tell Al, but I've found out that most stories don't end with 'happily ever after."
As the last golden rays of the sun dipped below the horizon, Rose took a deep breath and began her tale. She didn't know why she was telling this to Meru of all people. All she understood was that, at this moment, she wanted someone to remember in case she herself forgot. For now, it was important and that was what mattered.
"Kanzas was the first of us and Damia the last…"
All right, there we go. A bit of a crappy prologue, but it is up and it is done. And that's something, I suppose. Plus I got to stick a bit of my bias toward Miranda/Kongol in there and that's always worthwhile…