Here We Go Again
All through the night Maxim and Selan raced towards the lighthouse north of town. Emotions battled within them as little was said. Their silence, perhaps, was unfortunate for neither encouraged the other and their hearts were not protected from the corruption that attacked their thoughts. Anger, fear, bitterness and wrath were at work.
One might suspect that the weather would be stormy as well in order to parallel the situation they were in, just like it happens in most stories, but I will not take that liberty here. The night was clear and warm. Maxim and Selan paid little attention to it, however, and understandably so.
And so they came to the northern lighthouse. Their hearts froze as they saw this pinnacle stretch towards the sky from a piece of rock that jutted into the calm sea. It appeared dark to them that night. It had been made to warn of danger to those on the sea, not to see the dangers that came upon it from its own shore. Still, it's light pierced the open sea with its hope of rescue.
And so they rushed to the lighthouse and then up its flight of stairs. They could not remember how many stairs they climbed, nor how many rooms they passed by without seeing their child, but they ended up near the top of the lighthouse and saw Jeros lying in a cradle at the far end of the room without anyone else around.
Perhaps the thought of this being an obvious trap should have crossed their minds and lead them to more caution, but Selan only thought of bringing her son into her arms and started to rush towards him. Of course, a figure, Idura, appeared before her blocking her path to the child.
"Don't move. I can reach Jeros much quicker than you can," Idura threatened and Selan could only follow his directions, reluctantly. Maxim then slowly came to his wife's side. "The proud parents are here, I see…"
"Is Jeros okay?" Selan asked, concerned for her son's well-being.
"Don't worry, your child is just fine…for now, at least," Idura said as another smirk curled his mouth.
"What did my son ever do to you?" Selan screamed out (acting much more like a mother than perhaps a commander would at this point).
"Nothing, I must admit. But I am under orders from a certain Someone to ensure that your bloodline ends, Maxim." At that a defiant cry came from the little boy, so close to Idura's grasping hands.
"My…bloodline," Maxim wondered aloud.
"We don't really need to talk in depth, now do we? I'm not much for small talk. Although, it must pain you both to feel so helpless when your child's life hangs in the balance. Not only that, but you, Maxim, are the reason that this child's life will be taken from it."
Selan took a quick step towards Jeros and his captor, but Idura put a hand on the baby and yelled, "Don't move! His fate will be grim no matter what you do, but one step more and you will be haunted by this image for the rest of your days!"
Both Maxim and Selan were confident that Idura did not stand a chance against them, but would they be quick enough to save their son at the same time? His protection must come first, whatever game Idura was playing. So they relaxed their stance once again. And so Idura let go of the child.
Selan's mind raced, but she felt helpless, a feeling she was not accustomed to. Here was a child, entrusted into her care, at the mercy of another person, while she could only watch--watch and hope. All Maxim could think to do was to cry out within his mind, to pray for some sort of wisdom.
Idura began to laugh once again, saying: "How amusing it is to watch you both struggle like this. You have no control over the fate of one that you claim to love so much. You're not as powerful as you would have others believe, it seems. Well, it is getting late and…"
But he was cut off as a flash moved past him. As he looked down at where the child had been he saw nothing and then turned in disbelief towards Maxim and Selan, who were a bit stunned as well.
That quickly turned to relief when Iris appeared next to their side, Jeros safely within her arms. Selan cradled Jeros, comforting the frightened child within her arms and by her soothing words. Meanwhile, Maxim turned his attention towards Idura.
Idura had just enough time to draw his thin sabre, but in two strokes Maxim had thrown it from his hand, knocked him down, and positioned his own sword at Idura's throat, rage coursing throughout his muscles. Iris was watching to see what would happen next and Selan finally looked up, began to say something, and then stopped before the words came.
"You would show no mercy, but you shall receive it, Idura. Tell whoever sent your sordid soul that he has failed. And that while he tries to hide behind others, I'm coming to end this now; I'm coming for him," Maxim said before adding, "Now, leave!"
Idura scrambled to his feet and when he was at a safer distance he dusted himself off, straightened up, and shouted, "That will be the only mercy shown between us, Maxim, I assure you of that" and then vanished from the room.
Maxim then went to check on Jeros and Selan. "Is he alright, Selan?"
"Yes, honey, he seems to be all right, except being a little frightened," Selan answered back.
"I doubt that will last long in your arms, Selan," Maxim offered as he hugged them both close, planting a kiss upon Jeros' forehead, as the young child was falling into sleep, comforted once again.
"Iris…," Maxim said as he bowed before her. "Once again I am in your debt. I will never be able to repay you."
"Good to see you again, too, Sir Maxim," the dark haired lady said as she slightly bowed her head to Maxim.
"What is going on, Iris? I had my journey just like you said I would. I've met people and trouble in many places. I defeated Gades and brought peace to the world. Or so I thought. What is it now that Idura is talking about? Who is his boss and what does he want? You said that I was meant to fight Gades and I defeated him. Why did this not stop there?" Maxim asked of her, as Selan kept turning her attention from Maxim to Jeros to Iris.
"You did fight Gades and defeat him. But, your fate has changed. If you had died when you defeated Gades, peace would have returned to the world. But you survived, you married and now you have a descendant. You were meant to die in that tower, but I…" However, Iris could not finish her sentence; she seemed too distraught. Maxim was confused by this, for Iris was never short on composure.
"I was meant to die?…" Maxim tried to interject, lost within Iris' words.
Regaining herself Iris continued, however, "The flow of time is changing. Even I cannot see where it is leading us and what is to come. I can assure you that it is time for you to go. No later than the first of the month. What Gades brought upon this world is but the first drop. The smell of rain before the storm rages. To protect your loved ones, you must fight again."
"But who?" Maxim asked. "Is there someone stronger than Gades?"
"If in fact you have the power to change your fate, you will one day find out that truth, Maxim," Iris responded in her usual, mysterious fashion.
"And I don't suppose that you can offer me any guidance on where to go or what to do next?" Maxim wondered.
"Good-bye," Iris said and then vanished from the room. Maxim even wondered if Iris would want to tell him anything, if she could. There was something distant about her this time.
"I'm going with you, honey," Selan quickly said, anticipating Maxim's concern.
"No, you cannot. You must stay with our son. It's different this time, now that we have a child. His safety is our responsibility foremost. I must go to protect you and Jeros, but you must stay here and protect him," Maxim said in his best authoritative voice.
"Lower your voice, Maxim," his wife warned him as their son slept. "If I were an ordinary mother I could wait with our son for you to come back. But you know better than anyone else that I am different and that I just can't do that. I know how to fight. I want to fight. And you are going to need my help."
"But we cannot take him with us. And who knows how long it would be before we return…if we even do," Maxim said with hope in his eyes, still knowing what his wife would do. She did not fulfill that hope after only a slight pause.
"I cannot live in fear and regret, and I cannot leave you, that much I know. I can't just wait for destruction to come upon us, eating its way through others first, hoping that it has had its fill when it reaches our borders," Selan said as tears formed at the corners of her eyes. "But…"
"But what?" Maxim asked as her held her and his son close within his arms, never wanting to let go.
"We will come back to Jeros and lead a quiet life in a world at peace, Maxim," Selan smiled as she nestled her head into Maxim's neck, their sleeping boy between them.
"Why do I ever think for a split-second that I can stop you once your mind is made up? If only we knew where to go next and how to keep Jeros safe," Maxim thought out loud.
"Must we leave him, honey," Selan said gently looking at her son. "There must be a way to bring him with us, while keeping him safe…" she offered with the hope that she knew would not stand.
"Both him and us would be more unsafe if we took him along, however differently I would wish it so," Maxim answered. "I love you, Selan. Right now I don't really understand everything either, and I know but a part of that which stabs at the heart of a mother upon leaving her child. My mind says that it doesn't make sense…all that we are doing, but we know, deep down, this is the right choice."
"Auntie, you are the only one I can trust in looking after Jeros for me," Selan said with a hint of concern etched in her eyes. "You raised me most of my life and I know you share that love for Jeros as well."
"Don't worry about Jeros; of course I will do this if you feel you must leave him. But, why you, Selan?" Selan's aunt, Tejal said brushing a piece of black hair that had fallen in her face. "Why do you have to fight, again?"
"My fate is tied to that of Maxim's, Auntie," the commander responded.
"My only hope at Jeros' birth was for you to have the ordinary happiness of a mother, you know," Auntie responded as she grasped both of Selan's hands and smiled at the woman before her. "I see the resolution in your face, though. I have come to realize the burden you feel for those you fight for. It is a way you show your love. And so, I will be happy to watch over Jeros and do what I have been blessed to do. I will take care of Jeros as if he were my own just as I did you, my precious Selan."
"Thank you, Auntie. I'm counting on you," Selan said as they shared an embrace. "You will need to get away from Parcelyte for awhile. I don't think Jeros is safe here. I was thinking you could travel to Armour Island across the south bay and stay there for awhile. I am sending my best soldier, Trystan, to travel with you and to protect you both. But you should travel as common folk, and…"
"We'll be safe, I'm sure, child and we can work out the details in a little bit, you need some time with Jeros, I can tell," Auntie responded, trying still to calm Selan as she had done so many times in her childhood panics that usually involved verbal ramblings.
"I know," Lady Selan said as she let out a sigh. "It's just easy to worry. I'm going to miss Jeros so much."
"Well, he gives you both a great reason to come back safely."
"Knock, knock" came the sound from the front door. Maxim was busy with Jeros, who was sitting on both of his biceps, as if they were a riding horse bouncing up and down. So, Selan opened the door, only to be surprised by the familiar faces of two knights on the other side. She welcomed them in, which also included an extra blessing for Maxim, whose arms were quickly growing tired of Jeros' new game.
"Did you really think we wouldn't notice a new threat bigger than Gades making a move?" the familiar voice of Sir Guy of Tanbel boomed. "Or that we wouldn't want a part in it?"
"Greetings, Sir Guy and Sir Dekar," Selan interrupted them with proper hospitality. "Please come in and have a seat," she added as she offered them hugs and a kiss of greeting as well.
Maxim walked over and after handing Jeros off to his mother, planted two hearty hugs on his fellow warriors. "Long time, no see, boys!" he exclaimed.
"Peace be with you both," Dekar offered back.
"Now, let us provide you with some rest and you can provide us with some tales before the talk turns too serious, Guy," Selan recommended.
"How is the "Vanquisher of Gades" doing these days, Maxim?" Guy asked the more humble warrior of the three.
"You know I hate that title, oh great Titan of Tanbel, Sir Guy," Maxim jabbed back.
"I've always liked the sound of that," Guy bellowed back, trimmed with laughter.
They were gathered around the dinner table, full to their stomachs with cooking and laughter, when Guy decided it was a good time to bring up the topic he had greeted them with.
"Yes, but this one is not be your fight. Our son, Jeros, was kidnapped and almost killed at this new threat's request and so we will stop at nothing to protect Jeros and the world which he will grow up in. Your swords (and yes, your axe) would be of great help, but I will not ask you to leave your homes again," Maxim called out.
"First off, they are all my fight, Sir Maxim," Guy quipped back. "Second off, did you not help me when Hilda was kidnapped? And thirdly, let me tell you something. I'm not going for you. I'm going because of those in my life that I have to protect. This goes beyond Jeros, Maxim."
"I've heard that you still haven't married that someone of yours to protect. I mean, talk about slow," Sir Dekar offered with a laugh.
"Ha, what do you know about love anyway, Dekar? You don't even have a girlfriend!" Guy retorted back.
Proudly, Dekar answered, "My love is my sword!"
"Painful," Guy responded, raising one eyebrow.
"Count me in," Dekar yelled to Maxim as he pounded the table in front of them with the palm of his hand, causing their drinks to slosh within their cups and the silverware to clank against the plates laid before them, housing the remains of a just-finished meal.
"Who do you have to protect, Dekar?" Guy asked with a smile.
"Family, friends, and those I have never met before who can not protect themselves, Sir Guy," Dekar answered with all seriousness in his voice, which was a rare feat for the warrior.
"I must say, fellows, this is exactly how I had hoped that it would turn out," Selan added.
"So where are we off to, Maxim?" Dekar asked, turning his attention to the red-headed warrior once again.
"There's no point even arguing, is there honey?" Maxim asked his wife. "I was hoping you and Guy might have an idea on that," Maxim answered with a smile as the two other men broke out in laughter.
"Just like old times, I see," Guy bellowed.
"Well, Bound intelligence has heard rumblings of activity on the Ustark Continent. Not just the usual rumblings, either. Strange things are happening. Beasts are growing out of control in some of the remote places, many people say. It might be worth checking out. Ships sail there from Aleyn all the time," Dekar of Bound Kingdom shared.
I cannot bring myself to describe the moment of departure for Maxim and Selan from their child, Jeros. It would break your heart upon hearing the first sentence of that sad time, and even now it weighs upon mine, heavily. It is something that goes far beyond any words strung together and is best left for those who have experienced something similar. Yet, all they would do, after coming together to discuss such an experience, is nod to each other. And so, I will simply nod and let him who understands nod back.
Maxim dried the tears of Selan as he held her body close to his, while all four warriors awaited the departure of the ferry to Aleyn. You could see the settlement in the distance, to the northern side across the River Agghys. After the ferry ride one followed a dirt road towards the town, all the time white-capped peaks from the Unicorn mountains.
They were so named because of the snowy-white color year round, as well as the long, narrow peak that extended from the western edge of the mountain range. Local stories of the mythical beast galloping through the forests, and even reaching the outskirts of towns were very plentiful.
And so the ferry departed Parcelyte to cross the Agghys. Selan lay her head against Maxim's shoulder, exhausted from the struggle within her against leaving her son. Maxim was lost in thought, perhaps towards his precious son, towards his battles with Gades on their previous journey, and perhaps towards the unknown future once again, but most probably a mixture of them all. While Guy and Dekar had staked out a small area towards the right side of the rig, had their swords drawn and were ready to duel once again. Dekar had just invented a new, "unbeatable" move that he would not stop blabbering about, whereas Guy was intent on shutting him up.
Not much changed from the game...I had Guy and Dekar come to Maxim and Selan's home instead of the couple starting on their quest and the two guys meeting them at the forest shrine. Everything else was just expanding upon the game, with some personal details (of course) placed in the story.
AngelSpreckles...I had actually debated whether to do FOD before this or not...since that was my first intro to the Lufia world and I loved it. I did write some chapters to that game a long time ago. There is a long way to go before I get to that point of the Lufia story, though.